HL Deb 09 June 1993 vol 546 cc923-5

Lord Thomson of Monifieth asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to improve the provision of cycle tracks in London's Royal Parks.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, my department appointed consultants to consider all aspects of traffic in the Royal Parks including what scope there is to improve the facilities for cyclists. Their report is expected shortly. We shall consider carefully its recommendations.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, will he bear in mind that the independent review of Royal Parks initiated by the Government underlined the need for a cycle network in the Royal Parks? Will he also bear in mind that many thousands of people now cycle in the Royal Parks for both recreation and as a means to get to work? Yet a number of Royal Parks—Regent's Park, Primrose Hill, St. James's Park, Green Park—have no cycle provision. Kensington Palace Gardens has very little provision and the provision in Hyde Park is rather inadequate. When he receives the report will he do his best to improve the facilities?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, the traffic consultants were appointed following a recommendation in the first Jenkins Royal Parks Review report. Of course we shall consider carefully what further provision for cycling is proposed when the consultants make their report. We support any form of environmentally friendly transport. However, in the case of Royal Parks we have to balance that consideration against our duty to manage the parks for the quiet enjoyment of all other park users.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, will the noble Viscount bear in mind his remark concerning all other users. I am not anti-bikes, but they are a hideous nuisance in most Royal Parks. I hope that cycles are never allowed in Regent's Park; we have enough trouble in Regent's Park and other parks. If we are to enjoy the parks as they ought to be enjoyed we should cut out cycling and skating. Perhaps someone else will ask a Question about skateboards and skating; they are another nuisance in Royal Parks. If cycles have to be in the parks, they should be licensed and taxed.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, our Royal Parks offer many facilities. One can go boating on the Serpentine and on the pond in Regent's Park. One can ride, roller skate, jog, play cricket, tennis, golf and football. One can sail model boats and even swim in the Serpentine. The 46 million people who use the parks every year take part in all those activities, including using the parks for their own enjoyment.

Viscount Craigavon

My Lords, I welcome the positive remarks in the report on the Royal Parks, to which the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, referred. The report states: Nearly 60 per cent. of people questioned in the market research supported separate paths for cyclists". Will the Minister indicate his priorities? When we refer to cycle paths, are we seeking recreational facilities within the park or the creation of convenient routes through the park to connect with roads outside?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, as I said, the Royal Parks have to balance the cyclists' preferences with the duties to manage the parks for the enjoyment of the public. We are keen on recreational cycling and there are a number of tracks, routes and paths. However, the parks should not be turned into fast commuter routes for bicyclists and bicycle messengers to zoom through the park at very high speed. That is not the point. Their place is on the roads.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, when the cycle tracks are available for use, will the Minister arrange for his Ministerial colleagues to use them extensively so that they could learn to back pedal in a much more graceful manner than they have been doing?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, a new cycle track is to be constructed soon around the perimeter of Richmond Park through the generosity of a private sponsor. That will allow recreational cyclists access to areas of the park unreachable from the roads, on a track specifically designed to be sympathetic to the local environment.

I do not cycle around the park. I occasionally jog around the Serpentine. I should be delighted if the noble Lord would like to join me one morning.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, will my noble friend remind the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, that one cannot back pedal a free-wheel cycle?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, my noble and learned friend is, of course, entirely right with that observation.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, we welcome and agree with the positive approach of the Minister. Will he confirm again that the first priority is the safety of families and especially of children in parks? One of the main threats to them, apart from the skaters, is the messengers on bicycles for their business travelling at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour? It would be helpful if those cyclists were constrained.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, recently there have been a number of accidents in the parks through these cycle messengers, not only crashing into each other but crashing into members of the public on paths in the park where cycles should not be. However, the parks offer an alternative range of entertainment for the public and it is important that that is their main priority. Of course, recreational cycling is part of the entertainment. But, as I said, the parks should not become a motorway for cyclists going to work.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, the Minister has just raised a serious point. People who are injured by cyclists have no redress because cycles do not have to be insured. I know that the Government are short of money, but if that is a growing problem will they introduce a national bicycle insurance scheme to cover people who are injured by cyclists?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, makes an interesting suggestion. If he wishes to introduce a Private Member's Bill, I am sure that your Lordships will look at it with great interest.

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