Cycling in the Royal Parks

Tour de France floral display in St James's Park

Whether you are going to work, making a leisure journey or just out for a ride, a trip through the parks is a sublime cycling experience – certainly preferable to getting stuck in a traffic jam or on the tube.

Cycling is allowed only on the roads and specific paths in the parks. These are shown on maps at park entrances. However, children up to and including the age of 10 are allowed to cycle on all paths.

Be considerate!

Pedestrians have priority over all other users of pathways, even in areas designated and marked for other purposes. You are asked to use these pathways considerately, especially when passing.

Kensington Gardens

A young cyclist on the Broad Walk in Kensington Gardens
A young cyclist on the Broad Walk in Kensington Gardens

The layout of gardens and park round Kensington Palace was redeveloped by Stephen Switzer and Charles Bridgeman in early C18, followed by William Kent, who created the Long Water and the Serpentine. The Broad Walk and the Round Pond were created in mid-C18. Mid- and later-C19 features include the Italian Garden, an area of fountains and sculpture at the north end of the Long Water, c.1860 and the Albert Memorial, 1863-72.

As well as the road in front of the Albert Memorial, cycling is allowed along the Broad Walk, Palace Walk, Mount Walk and Studio Walk. That means you can ride north-south up the west side of the park and east-west across the south of the park.

The Royal Parks considered allowing cycling on the path along the north side of the Gardens, parallel with the Bayswater Road. But they were unable to find a way to slow down cyclists descending the hill from Victoria Gate to the Italian Gardens or to prevent conflict with pedestrians entering the park at Marlborough Gate. So they abandoned the idea.

When planning a ride through Kensington Gardens, bear in mind that they close at dusk and that, shortly before they close, the only way out can be through cycle-unfriendly gates.

Hyde Park

The site of Hyde Park was enclosed by Henry VIII as a deer park, having previously been monastic land. Originally c.248ha, the site dwindled to c.138ha, partly through the development of Kensington Gardens to the west (q.v.).

The park was first opened to the public in 1637. Landscaping was undertaken c.1730, for Queen Caroline, with the creation of the Serpentine and Long Water, made from damming the River Westbourne.

Rotten RowToday, you can cycle easily into the park using special crossings of Bayswater Road (at Albion Gate and Stanhope Place), Marble Arch, Park Lane (from Upper Grosvenor Street), Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge (at Albert Gate), or from the West Carriage Drive or Victoria Gate. You can ride the entire way round the park along a designated cycle route (North Carriage Drive – Broad Walk – Rotten Row – West Carriage Drive). You can also cycle along Serpentine Road and the paths to and from the Old Police House. Please note that you are not allowed to cycle along other paths – though at least one of our members would dearly like to take a short cut through the Dell.

The path alongside Rotten Row (shown in the picture) can be heavily used by fast-moving cyclists at peak times. But you can now avoid this path by using the South Carriage Drive, which has mandatory cycle lanes for most of its length. A new crossing of West Carriage Drive links on to the road in front of the Albert Memorial.

There are now cycle parking stands close to the Lido Café and the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain. Sites have been identified for further stands, which will be put in when funding is available. There are also cycle hire stations at several of the park entrances.

Green Park

Cycling through Green Park in winterGreen Park was probably first enclosed by Henry VIII, together with St James's Park; but its adoption as a park was c.1660-62, when Charles II had avenues planted, and had a snow-house and ice-house built in 1660 (the mount for the ice-house remains, opposite 119 Piccadilly). First known as Upper St James's Park, it was used in the 18th century for military parades.

There is a cycle route alongside Constitution Hill (the other side of the horse ride) and thence behind the Canada Wall (pictured right) leading towards the Mall.  This route can sometimes be blocked by the 'media circus', however, or by groups of pedestrians.

Many cyclists fancy riding up and down the Queen’s Walk, along the east side of the park. This is not currently allowed north of the side entrance to Lancaster House. Peter Brett Associates have now compiled a feasibility report on cycling along this path. This report will be issued following consultation with Royal Parks' senior management team.

St James’s Park

The crossing of Marlborough Road
Cyclists crossing Marlborough Road
The site of St James's Park was drained by Henry VIII c.1530 to make it the park of St James's Palace, with deer. It was remodelled by Charles II c.1662, with a formal layout incorporating both The Mall (with double lines of trees), along the north-west boundary, and a rectangular canal extending for c.900m between Buckingham House and Horse Guards Parade.

While The Mall has survived, the park itself was drastically remodelled by John Nash, with planting advice from William Aiton of Kew, 1828-29. The central feature of St James's Park is the lake, with sinuous contours and an island at each end.

Admiralty Arch
The Royal Parks  tried a number of measures to keep motor vehicles out of the cycle lane through Admiralty Arch. Finally they found one that worked.

Today you can enjoy views across the park and avoid much of the traffic by cycling along Horse Guards Road and along the service road to the north of the Mall, known as the Horse Ride.  The Royal Parks have made a number of improvements to this latter route, including an easier crossing of Marlborough Road and a cycle lane through Admiralty Arch.

Although the traffic management scheme along Birdcage Walk has certainly reduced traffic speeds, many regard it as a missed opportunity for putting in cycle lanes.

The north-south path across the bridge would certainly make a direct cycle route between the Broadway area of Westminster and St James’s. But the narrowness of the path and the number of pedestrians make this impracticable at present.

Regent’s Park

Having been a Crown Estate since 1539, the area of Regent's Park was by end C18 largely farmland. Schemes to develop the area as a public park (first named Marylebone Park) were considered from c.1809, and from 1812 until c.1830 John Nash's plan of 1811 (with modifications) was implemented, the public area being opened 1835 as The Regent's Park.

The Broad Walk in Regent's Park
The Broad Walk in Regent's Park
Until recently you were only allowed to cycle around the Inner Circle and Outer Circle, which you had to share with a lot of fast-moving traffic.

Following a pilot scheme and extensive public consultation, the Royal Parks continued an experiment to allow cyclists to use the Broad Walk between the Outer Circle, near the entrance to London Zoo, and Chester Road. Although there is currently little prospect of continuing the route northwards across St Mark's Bridge, the Royal Parks are looking at an extension southwards towards the Marylebone Road. This is likely to be across the grassed area known as Marylebone Green rather than through the formal Avenue Gardens.

The Hub sports centre in Regent's Park now has cycle parking stands outside. You are not currently allowed to cycle there, but we are seeking to persuade the Royal Parks to allow this.

Local transport groups have campaigned unsuccessfully in the past to have the Outer Circle closed at various points to motor vehicles. Most recently they suggested a closure outside the London Zoo, creating an area restricted to pedestrians, cyclists and authorised motor vehicles.

Further Information