Rollerbladers are rocked by parks ban

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The Independent Online
CLARE GARNER

The Royal Parks Agency banned rollerblading in four of London's parks yesterday and decided to restrict the sport to specific areas in others.

On the grounds that parks are "primarily for pedestrians", the agency has turned four of the capital's eight Royal Parks - St James's Park, Green Park, Regents Park and Greenwich Park - into no-go areas for in- line skating, as it is officially called. It has conceded limited access to roads and cycle routes in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and given a free rein in Bushy Park and Richmond Park.

David Welch, the agency's chief executive, would ideally like skaters to go elsewhere. He has urged them to seek out "alternative, more suitable venues" for their sport.

"The Royal Parks are primarily for pedestrians and, although we try to accommodate as many activities as we reasonably can, we cannot let any single activity dominate a park to the detriment of other park users," he said.

Davina Weir-Willats, spokeswoman for the British In-Line Skating Association (BISA), branded the ban "undemocratic" and "unfair". She said: "Skating can appear intimidating to pedestrians, but is, in truth a safe and enjoyable past time with, on the whole, a good safety record."

The clampdown follows a summer in which unprecedented numbers of skaters took to the parks. Earlier this year, a cyclist, Mark Welch, 26, died after being in a collision with a skater in Hyde Park.

The agency has promised to follow up the recommendation of the coroner at Mr Welch's inquest, Dr Paul Knapman, to seek stronger powers to deal with anyone whose behaviour interferes with the safety and enjoyment of other park users.

However, Ms Weir-Willats said the restrictions flew in the face of Dr Knapman's recommendations which included the assertion that rollerbladers had as much "right" to be in the parks "as a nanny with a pushchair".

The new arrangements in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens will be monitored and reviewed after six months. A code of conduct for skaters in the Royal Parks has also been amended to include the new restrictions.

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