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Let’s talk about The Regent’s Park

22 May, 2020

Pins and tacks found around Regent’s Park

• I USED to take heart from the fact that The Regent’s Park provides a safe green space for hugely diverse individuals communities to rest and play, while respecting each other.

The park is a playground for people of all ages, and it can be a retreat. It also is the best park in central London for wildlife. Now, however, on my rare exercise walks, I’m not so sure.

Recent reports of tacks being deliberately strewn in the road where cyclists are known to go, and a letter in your paper claiming that cyclists in the park reach speeds of up to 50mph, are perhaps the tip of an unpleasant iceberg of misconceptions and entitlement.

As a non-cyclist, I don’t understand why cyclists are the target of so much abuse. They are not all saints, but Regent’s Park cyclists are doing a very good job of encouraging responsible cycling.

I think cyclists are a good thing in the park because, to some extent, they help to calm the traffic. As recent car accidents resulting in damage to historic infrastructure in the park show there is good reason to be concerned about driver behaviour in the park.

As we approach the 200th anniversary of the park, I think it’s time to start a dialogue between all the people and org­anisations that love and use it.

How can we manage the park in a way that respects, protects and balances the needs of all the people who rely on it? And who will decide the future of the park?

What exactly is the role of the Crown Estate Paving Commission? Because, some people may think, it’s not all down to the Royal Parks. Perhaps there already is a forum where these discussions take place?

I can’t help noticing that while many Royal Parks are closed to vehicle traffic, The Regent’s Park remains stubbornly open. This weekend, no-parking signs were removed from ticket machines in the inner circle, leading to confusion and fines.

The super cars, whose drivers love to roar around the inner circle, where at weekends there is often cycling for the disabled, came back, too.

Henry VIII had ditches built around what became the park to protect his deer, and to keep people out. Sometimes I wonder if the powers that be are determined to keep traffic inside the park.

As we stumble towards the “new normal”, does this make any sense? How can we be more respectful towards each other, and ensure a more sustainable future for our beautiful park and all its inhabitants?

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