Progress Report! Local Riders Have Beef With Council Over Chopped Ham Lands Trail

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We’ve posted before on the importance of accessible ride spots, particularly in urban spaces, so when we heard via our Forum that barriers had been erected beside a BMX track and jump spot in central London, we took an interest.

The Teddington Locks track is situated in Ham Lands, which falls under the jurisdiction of Richmond Council. While the Council has informed us that the track is not a Council provided facility, it is listed on the Council’s website under the amenities available in the park.

Aerial view of the park (Bing Maps)

Apparently local residents raised concerns that riders were riding along the footpath before turning onto the run in to the jumps – thereby extending the run in and getting up more speed for the bigger jumps, but creating conflict and potential risk of collision with pedestrians.

As a result, the Council has erected a series of barriers between the footpath and the main track, to prevent the footpath being used as part of the run in to the ramps. However, the barriers have been erected inset from the footpath, cutting the length of the run in to the jumps even further than would have been achieved if they just prevented use of the footpath as an extension.

Blue line – footpath, Red line – run in with footpath extension, black & green – new barriers. Thanks to @belgianwaffle1 for the diagram.

We’ve repeatedly asked if there is any scope to reposition the barriers so that they are beside the footpath. This would achieve the separation of walkers and riders and prevent the footpath from being used as a run in, but wouldn’t compromise the area used as a run in that isn’t part of the footpath. Safety without compromising the functionality of the track – surely an all round win?

The council press office told us why the barriers had been installed:

Following concerns raised by local residents, Richmond Council has installed barriers to remove any risk of a collision between cyclists using the BMX area and pedestrians and other users of the footpath. The size of the BMX area remains the same.

Richmond Council Press Office

When asked further whether the barriers could be repositioned, we were told:

The BMX area is not a Council provided facility, it was created without consent from the Council. The Council does recognise it is well used and popular locally, so has no plans to alter the current footprint of the area. However, the Council’s responsibility it to ensure its parks and open spaces are safe and welcoming for all to use and therefore a physical barrier is required to protect those pedestrians using the adjacent footpath from those using the BMX area.

Richmond Council Press Office

Ham Lands is an area of open space adjacent to some of the most affluent and most deprived areas in the country. This image shows the dark green of ‘least deprived deciles’ in the country against the dark orange of the ‘third most deprived deciles’. Go further east from the park and you reach Richmond Park and then some red ‘most deprived’ deciles areas. The BMX track itself is right off NCN4, with the track being labelled on the online map of NCN 4. Anyone can surely look at a map and imagine letting – encouraging even – your children to ride across the green spaces of Richmond Park to access the track at Ham Lands.

While it’s encouraging to hear that the Council has ‘no plans to alter the current footprint of the area‘, one might well worry about what might be done to the topography within that footprint, and it’s discouraging that we’ve not been told of any consultation taking place with riders before these barriers went up. Reducing the run up reduces the opportunity to clear larger features, which one might think might lead to disrepair or injury, which might lead to someone ‘helpfully’ or ‘in the name of safety’ taking a digger to the features and making them smaller. Arguably the barriers have already reduced the footprint of the area by reducing the run in available after you’ve left the footpath.

NCN cycle map

With BMX bikes being a great low cost route into cycling, we should surely be doing all we can to protect tracks like these. We’re also seeing a growing interest in dirt jumping, and can imagine that Ham Lands could be a vital resource for many urban riders looking to stay off the streets and on the dirt. Hopefully the Council will continue to see the value of it and reconsider the positioning of the barriers.

We’ll be sending this story to the Council and inviting them once again to comment on whether the barriers can be repositioned next to the footpath. If you’re a local rider perhaps you could get in touch with the Council and offer yourself up for consultation on better positioning?

Update: Richmond Council Responds

We’ve received this response from Richmond Council:

Thank you for your email regarding the barriers installed in Ham Lands.

A number of ‘near misses’ had been reported to us by the Friends of Ham Lands regarding users of the BMX encroaching onto public paths within Ham Lands.  Therefore the Parks Team reacted proactively to remove the risk/hazard associated with cyclists using the BMX area, interfering or clashing with pedestrians using the nearby footpath.  

To confirm, the BMX area remains the same size and has adequate space for the means of its use.  A meeting is to be held next week with ward councillors, Friends of Ham Lands and some of the users of the BMX track to ascertain if any modifications can be made to ensure the safety for all park users.

We’ve asked for details of the meeting in case any of you wanted to attend or contact the councillors, but we’ve had no response as yet. If you’re one of the users of the track that’s being consulted we’d love to hear from you!

Progress Report!

Thanks to reader @Belgianwaffle1 for heading along to the meeting and providing this update:

The meeting started at 10 with 4 councillors, 1 note-taker,  the operations manager for Richmond Council Parks Patrol, 1 representative for the BMX users and 1 representative for FoHL. There were various discussions about biodiversity and erosion, and the final descision was to move the barrier backwards to the border of the path. 

There were also talks about having hedges or plants to create a physical barrier between the path and waiting area, but no final descisions were made. 

This sounds to us like a sensible compromise. If you’re a rider that uses the area, perhaps you could see if the Council or local park user groups have any projects you can get involved in? Being seen as supporting biodiversity, taking part in planting projects, doing litter picks and so on can only help the riding community be seen as a useful partner to be welcomed to the area, rather than a problem.

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Comments (11)

    Haven’t read the article, but nice work on the headline.

    Super article and thanks for taking the time to cover a niche issue like this and do your own research aswell.

    Great article.

    But… hoping for any degree of common sense out of a Council ?
    Don’t hold your breath. (I’m in Derbyshire and you all know too well the utter fheckwhits they have when it comes to preserving anything to do with mountain biking).

    There is a good solution to this though… build a jump in front of the barrier or even use the barrier as the spine/foundation! Problem solved.

    So they’ve built a barrier to stop the BMXers using the towpath as a run in, thus reducing “conflict and potential risk of collision with pedestrians”.
    But that stretch of towpath from Richmond down to Hampton Court is consistently busy with cyclists of all sorts. So they’ve fixed a potential minor issue on a 100yd section of an extremely busy 8 mile stretch of towpath.
    Great work councillors. Give yourselves a pat on the back.

    What are you talking about, even if you didn’t read the article you only had to look at the pictures

    It’s not the towpath being used, its a different path. Not at all as busy.

    I wish, council threatening to flatten them though :/

    Battery powered grinder, hacksaws are for old folk Matt!!

    “reacted proactively”… Uhuh. Sure.

    Hopefully some actions suggested here wont be acted on as that’s one way to get it all shut down and that will be unfortunate.
    Maybe look at reorganising the layout to work with what you now have. What is good is that the council have recognised the existence on the BMX track and seem to accepting it can stay so it would surely be better to see what can be done within the footprint the council seem happy with and not cause any further problems that may bring about the demise of the whole site.

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