Could Richmond Park Remain Traffic Free Post COVID?

As The Royal Parks launches its Movement Strategy – a series of trials seeking to restrict cut-through motor traffic on park roads – Richmond resident Alice Williams muses over the prospect of a traffic-free Richmond Park…

Lead image: Matt Gibson / Getty Images

An unexpected benefit of the prevention measures taken by local councils during the Covid-19 pandemic has been the restriction of motor vehicles in the largest of London’s Royal Parks, Richmond Park.

It has always been a striking place to visit. As soon as you step through the gates, it’s easy to feel the value of the expanse of rugged green space and the possibility of fresh air.

And now, the vehicle ban means that experience is no longer blighted by the sounds and smells of London’s infamously slow, relentless road traffic, and the park’s famous deer now seem even more abundant.

‘The vehicle ban means that experience is no longer blighted by the sounds and smells of London’s infamously slow, relentless road traffic’

That well-known maxim – drivers hate cyclists; cyclists hate pedestrians – has been turned on its head now that the car is no longer a threat. As a regular runner in the park, I instead welcome the sight of the cyclists zipped up in lycra, puffing up the hills.

With neither of us emitting mechanical noises or air pollution, we can more happily co-exist, even exchanging smiles when we stop to admire a stag arching its neck to reach the foliage of the old English Oaks.

Could Richmond Park remain traffic-free after coronavirus?

Could Richmond Park remain traffic-free after coronavirus? (Photo: Simon Wilkes / Unsplash)

The clear benefits this restriction has brought, particularly at a time when health is well and truly on the agenda – leaves a strong case for making this a permanent move.

There are concerns the restriction is leading to an increase in traffic in the surrounding roads. Parking has become harder too as people driving to visit can no longer make use of the car park. Isn’t this a problem in London all over though, not just around parks? Would it also not be a worthy pay off?

I have found having to drive around the park only adds a few minutes, albeit we are not yet at a pre-lockdown level of road users. If the move did become permanent though, I suspect I would be the first of many to be encouraged to make more journeys by bike if I could.

Who else can see the benefits of permanent restriction of motor vehicles through our glorious Richmond Park? Who would like to have this feeling of stepping into a truly peaceful nature-haven a permanent option for respite from our busy and nature poor London lives?

About The Royal Parks Movement Strategy

Words: Victoria Purcell

The Royal Parks charity launched its Movement Strategy in early July, announcing details of five projects it intends to trial later in the year to restrict cut through motor traffic on park roads.

Reducing the volume of cut-through traffic has long been an aspiration for The Royal Parks and, due to the Covid-19 crisis, the parks have been fully or partially closed to motor vehicles since the end of March. While this means that many of the trails are actually already in place, they will not formally start until the car parks are fully reopened and will last for six months.

The trials are as follows:

  • Bushy Park: Restricting all through-traffic with a partial road closure between Teddington and Hampton Court Gates
  • St James’s and Green Parks: Closing the Mall and Constitution Hill to traffic on Saturdays, in addition to the regular Sunday closures
  • Greenwich Park: A full-time closure of the Avenue to cut through-vehicle traffic
  • Hyde Park: Trial closures of North Carriage Drive permanently, and South Carriage Drive on Saturdays, in addition to the regular Sunday closures
  • Richmond Park: Reducing cut-through motor vehicles while still providing access to car parks (more details to follow)

‘It is clear that the role parks play in the health and happiness of our cities has never been more important than it is now, and for that reason we are accelerating the implementation of a series of trial projects across six of our parks,’ said Mat Bonomi, Head of Transport for The Royal Parks.

‘Our parks have been a lifeline for Londoners during the pandemic and, with more people than ever walking and cycling in London, these trials will be a chance for Londoners to continue to enjoy new car-free areas of the parks.’

The start date of the trials and consultation period will be announced soon. To stay informed, sign up to the Movement Strategy mailing list at