As the council moves towards legalising cycling in Park Hill Park, I’ve been asked if the Croydon Cycling Campaign thinks this is an important change worth fighting for. It’s a difficult question to field, as opening up the route via Park Hill is hardly going to open up the flood gates to hundreds of people cycling through it into Croydon. However, context is key, and given the context, it’s crucial.
The Sustrans Connect2 route aims to connect up green spaces across the centre of Croydon, creating a pleasant and attractive (albeit slow and indirect) route from east-west, passing through the very heart of Croydon. This is a route for leisure cycling, particularly for parents travelling with children
Without such links, parents cycling with children will be reduced to the kind of conditions they are at present. Unsurprisingly, the only photo I can find of young children cycling on London’s roads mixing with traffic, had to be photoshopped. This clearly isn’t the future for cycling.
Croydon needs places where adults can take their children to learn to cycle. They need routes they can practice cycling with, and be able to make real journeys into the town centre accompanied by their children in safety. Child obesity rates in Croydon are soaring with a lack of exercise a major contributor. Air pollution is severely damaging to the delicate developing organs of our young. We have to get people out of their cars and onto bikes.
Cycling in parks is a key part of making this vision happen. I fear some residents picture a small local park like Park Hill being overrun by racing cyclists. This route will never appeal to fast, racing or even commuting cyclists however. This will appeal to adults with young children, the elderly and children cycling to school:
The sustrans connect2 route is perhaps the only significant cycling project Croydon Council has attempted in the past 8 years. It’s a simple route, not changing too much, not costing much and not impacting on much. Resistance from residents on the adjacent road has dragged it out for years. Compare the impact of this scheme on local residents to what the residents by the fiveways flyover are facing. Years of disruption, noise, air pollution and some will even lose their homes. Getting people cycling will be much less disruptive in the long run than continuing support for our mass driving culture.
Opposition to this scheme also puts future schemes at risk. It’s demoralising for staff at the council working on the project and discourages councillors from attempting more cycling projects in future. So my plea to local residents and friends of Park Hill is this: Please help support us in our vision to make Croydon a safe and pleasant place for the future. We’ll all benefit in the long run.