Police have confirmed that speed limits do not apply to cyclists in Richmond Park, despite years of prosecuting cyclists for speeding.
Ben Aston, who campaigns for cyclists and against motorists with the Twitter account The Department of Parks & Recreation, described the news as its first substantial victory, because police had previously acted as if speed limits did apply.
Aston said: “Nearly all cyclists who use Richmond Park disagreed with the police’s previous position because it was demonstrably absurd.
“Most bicycles don’t have a speedometer and a cyclist travelling at 25mph has the same destructive force as an SUV moving at 4.3mph.
“Plus there were existing laws that covered things like dangerous cycling, so there was no need to focus on speed.”
Nub News uncovered multiple speeding prosecutions that police have brought against cyclists over the past few years, including one cyclist who, in 2015, faced fines and fees of over £600 after riding at 38mph on Sawyers Hill, Richmond Park.
Such convictions could have been unlawful and may be overturned.
Yet Cllr Pamela Fleming, Conservative councillor for South Richmond, has argued cyclists should be subject to speed restrictions.
She said: “Frankly, speed limits are there for safety reasons and should apply to everybody.
“I go to the park often and seeing the kind of speeds that cyclists go, if a child walked out in front of them, that could be quite dangerous.
“It’s important for wildlife as well. A deer can be hit by a cyclist in the same way as it can by a car.”
Fleming claimed that her views had been misrepresented by a recent MyLondon piece.
She insisted: “I’m not anti-cyclist. Responsible cycling in the park is a great thing, but speed limits are important for everybody’s safety, especially for cyclists.”
When asked for their opinions on this issue, cyclists and walkers in Richmond Park were split.
Helen, in her mid-fifties, leads women-only cycle-rides from Ealing with a group called Breeze.
She described Fleming’s views as clearly anti-cyclist and an example of what she views as disproportionate vitriol commonly aimed at cyclists.
Helen said: “I think it’s a misplaced debate. The real issue is, why is somewhere like Richmond Park, a national nature reserve and vital green space in London, being used as a through-route by motorists?”
Helen’s cycling companion Ruth agreed and added: “It’s not necessarily speeding, it’s people who cycle dangerously.
“If someone’s in control and they’re going fast, that shouldn’t really be an issue.”
This view was far from unanimous.
One cyclist said: “I absolutely hate cyclists who think they’re in a velodrome. It’s still a park after all.
“There are times when you can go faster and it would be fine but on the weekends, it’s just nuts. Some cyclists are out of their minds.”
A dog-walker who has been coming to Richmond Park for 30 years said he has noticed the speeding issue get worse.
He said: “Cyclists go too fast, undoubtedly. The park is basically used as a racetrack.
“Cars are a problem, but I’ve seen so many cycling accidents in the last two years. It’s fairly regular that there are accidents or scrapes, near-misses, all that type of thing.
“There are so many people walking, and there are cars, deer, and dogs – the mix is not right for hardcore training.”
Stephen and Sally Maran, a couple on an afternoon stroll, agreed with Fleming that speeding cyclists should be fined.
Stephen, 81, said: “Instead of being a place of leisure place, the park has become somewhere for racers and bikermen who go far too fast. Why shouldn’t they be fined? Motorists would be.
“It was a lot nicer in the first lockdown when cars weren’t allowed in and the cyclists were restricted, but you can’t have that all the time, can you?
“Everybody has got to be able to enjoy the park.”