Safe routes through parks and green spaces

The Problem 

We know people generally prefer to cycle away from motor traffic. Where riders must mix with heavy and/or fast moving motor traffic, most people vote with their feet and don't cycle, particularly children and older people. So Greenways are an ideal cycling environment for many people; running through parks, disused railway lines, and waterways, they are away from motor traffic, with relatively little noise and air pollution.

London's Greenways are popular and usage continues to grow. There is a planned network, but it remains incomplete. Much of this network has not been built and so some parts of London have very limited access to it. Some Greenways are poorly maintained and badly connected to each other. Others have barriers that obstruct cycling, even where it is permitted. These barriers are particularly problematic for disabled cyclists and those carrying children and often also obstruct wheelchair users. Similarly some Greenway access points lack step free access or involve steep gradients.

Benefits of Greenways 

London's Greenways are popular and usage continues to grow (by 21% between 2010-2011 on five sample sites). Cyclists and pedestrians use Greenways for a variety of purposes, from exercise to getting to work and to the shops. Greenways are vital infrastructure for local city trips. TfL's 2010 monitoring report found that '72% of greenway users live local to the routes and many use the routes as an alternative to car trips.

..For Cycling

Investment in Greenways is a cost-effective way to widen participation in cycling. Transport for London’s regular monitoring reports provides evidence of substantial increases in use for relatively small amounts of investment. Greenways are vital infrastructure for local city trips. People on bike and on foot use Greenways for a variety of purposes, from exercise to getting to work and the shops. TfL's 2010 monitoring report found three-quarters of users live locally and many use the routes as an alternative to car trips. Greenways also help widen participation. The 2011 monitoring report found that these routes reach out to people who might not otherwise feel able to walk or cycle. They are popular with children, as well as with 'older people, disabled people and minority ethnic groups'.

..For Everyone

Those using Greenways - for walking, cycling, or recreation - experience health benefits. By providing both access to green space and opportunities for physical activity, Greenways support the physical, mental and emotional health of urban children and adults. This access to green space can be particularly important for the many Londoners without private gardens, and those less able or less willing to share space with motor traffic while walking or cycling. 

Greenways can provide economic and regeneration benefits. London's canal and river network has been regenerated through increased usage by pedestrians and cyclists - only twenty years ago most such routes were shut and/or derelict, while many now are thriving. Burgess Park in South London was only a few years ago notorious for attacks on cyclists. Refurbishment has benefited all park users, part of which involved providing a wide and now well-used cycle track. 

Good Example: Mile End Park

Mile End Park has been transformed by its refurbishment at the turn of the century, with improvements carried out in three phases between 1998-2002. A winding pedestrian path and cycleway forms the park’s spine, linking seven different, themed zones, featuring leisure, arts, educational and sports facilities. Along the West side of the park, the Regent’s Canal towpath is open to pedestrians and cyclists. The park is open twenty-four hours a day with pedestrian and cycle routes lit. The routes provide a year-round alternative to busy Grove Road parallel to the East. Continuing investment in maintenance is important for keeping the park safe and popular.

What might this mean at ward level? 

Depending on the local context, it might mean: 

•Access through a park for considerate cycling, perhaps as part of a trial 

•Removal of barriers that obstruct cyclists' (and often wheelchair users') entry 

•Improving facilities e.g. surfacing, lighting and maintaining these facilities

•Infrastructure linking up local traffic-free routes 

•Commitment to facilitating Greenway construction where this is planned or there is an existing local campaign