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.

West Carriage Drive
The East-West Cycle Superhighway along West Carriage Drive

Today, 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.

Cycling around Park has been revolutionised by the introduction of the East-West Cycle Superhighway along the South and West Carriage Drives. Cycling is also possible along the North Carriage Drive and the Broad Walk, which is shared with pedestrians.

This means that you can ride the entire way round the park along a designated cycle route (North Carriage Drive – Broad Walk – South Carriage Drive– West Carriage Drive). You can also cycle along Serpentine Road and the paths to and from the Old Police House, as well as the path alongside Rotten Row. 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 speed of cyclists on paths shared with pedestrians has been seen as a problem. For this reason, aggressive rumble strips have been installed along the Broad Walk of Hyde Park, as well as Mount Walk in Kensington Gardens.

There are now cycle parking stands close to the cafés in the park, with a do-it-yourself repair station outside the café in the south-west corner of the park. There are also cycle hire stations at several of the park entrances, though those near Marble Arch have been taken out of service because of criminal activity.

Green Park

Constitution Hill
Cycling through Green Park in winter

Green 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.

The East-West Cycle Superhighway runs alongside Constitution Hill (along the former  horse ride, upper photo) and thence behind the Canada Wall leading towards the Mall (lower photo).  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 
The cycle crossing of Marlborough Road
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.
Birdcage Walk
Birdcage Walk

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.

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.

In recent years, a segregated cycle track has been created for the East-West Cycle Superhighway along Birdcage Walk and around the traffic system outside Buckingham Palace.

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. Unfortunately there is currently little prospect of continuing the route northwards across St Mark's Bridge.

Cycle Superhighway 11 is intended to run around the Outer Circle. As part of this project, the Mayor of London proposed reducing through motor traffic by closing some of the park gates at peak times. However, this proposal encountered stiff opposition and the future of this Cycle Superhighway is still in doubt.

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.

Further Information