Youths roaming bike lanes with guns in search of birds to kill. An influx of illegal refugees. Increased risk of fire, unexploded WWII bombs, terrorist plots on a Thames Water pipe and aberrant golf balls attacking unsuspecting cyclists and walkers. These are just some of the concerns raised by a group of petitioners opposed to a proposed cycle path in Kingston, South London.
The London Cycling Campaign says the mile long traffic-free cycle route, paid for from Kingston's £30m Mini Holland fund, which would run from New Malden to Raynes Park on Thames Water land beside railway tracks, will benefit the environment and the community, helping more people who don't want to ride on the roads to cycle and walk more.
However, in addition to concerns over the effect of the route on what has become a local wildlife haven, local petitioners are apparently keen to think of as many reservations to the plans as they can, no matter how seemingly far-fetched.
The petition, titled "Stop the Mini Holland destroying our "Wildlife Valley", which attracted 123 signatures, was started by Peter Vincent FitzGerald Nowlan, who fears the route will become a "Lycra valley" for high speed cyclists.
The London Cycling Campaign, which uncovered the petitioners' specific reservations to the cycle lane, has launched a counter petition, which has attracted more than 200 signatories.
Among the interesting reservations the LCC discovered, are that the route would:
Become a haven for ‘anti-social behaviour’ and threaten people’s safety; that ‘youths would roam the site with guns and shoot the birds’ which would be ‘undesirable for the birds’ and state that ‘public access to [the area] would greatly increase the risk of fire’.
That cyclists and walkers risk ‘being struck by aberrant golf balls’ from the nearby golf course.
That the path would also be an ‘easy target for fly-tipping and litter’, specifically ‘noxious chemicals, asbestos, needles, syringes and other hazardous clinical waste’.
That the nearby railway line would ‘raise serious security issues for Network Rail and users of the facility’. They worry about trespassers, thieves and ‘terrorists targeting the line or signal boxes’.
Other ‘terrorist attacks from disaffected groups or individuals’ are also a concern, given the Thames Water pipes that are in the area.
Among security concerns, are that the cycle path would be used as an ‘escape corridor for criminals, which would result in an increased risk of burglary, assault and anti-social behaviour in the entire surrounding neighbourhoods of New Malden and Raynes Park’. The added criminal activity, it argues, would affect local property insurance premiums.
Another wild, and, the LCC says, arguably racist, suggestion refers to ‘illegal habitation’, claiming that the cycle path would ‘increase the risk of illegal habitation by individuals sleeping rough, or by more organised groups’. There is also apparently a ‘new additional risk of settlement by illegal refugee groups’ too.
The most tenuous by far, is the claim that the creation of the cycle path would unearth ‘unexploded WW2 ordnance’ given the strategic importance of the railway line during the war. The petition argues it is ‘probable’ unexploded bombs are laying nearby.
In response the LCC says: "We believe that these fears are unfounded and the benefits to be gained from the construction of the route would far outweigh any of the suggested possible risks that are being put forward here. The cycle path will be a valuable asset to the local area and would reconnect both neighbourhoods, opening up valuable green space for all ages to enjoy.
"The route would create safe space for cycling and walking, for people of all ages and abilities, making local trips between New Malden and Raynes Park far more accessible. It will improve the appearance of the area and create new publicly accessible space, as well as bring new visitors to the local high streets. What’s not to like?"
"It will reduce the severance in this part of London caused by the A3 urban motorway which it will go under in complete safety and provide a rare alternative to motor journeys in suburban areas which suffer badly from traffic congestion.
"Many other residents from wider surrounding areas are generally very supportive and enthusiastic about the scheme.
Kingston Council describes its vision for the route. It says: “This space will be transformed into a safe, convenient and high quality cycle and pedestrian track, perfect for commuting, educational and recreational uses. The new path will be designed to work with the existing natural landscape, minimising the impact on local biodiversity, and neighbouring properties”.