Westminster Council has being accused of putting political motivations ahead of people’s safety after it emerged that it is seeking a judicial review of works being undertaken for Cycle Superhighway 11 (CS11) at Swiss Cottage in the neighbouring London Borough of Camden, a route that is proposed to run into the West End.
News of the legal action was broken by Guardian journalist Peter Walker, and comes at a time when the relationship between the Tory-run council and Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan are particularly strained after the local authority last week vetoed his plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street.
The move was condemned by London Cycling Campaign (LCC) and the walking charity, Living Streets, who in a joint statement said that the council’s stance on both schemes “demonstrates the actions of a leadership apparently determined to oppose positive moves to improve roads for those walking and cycling anywhere and everywhere they can.”
They said that the council’s apparent prioritisation of “motor traffic over walking, cycling, business and our health … is in direct contradiction to the council's own policies,” citing a claim in its July 2014 Westminster Transport & Movement report that walking and cycling are "particularly important" to it.
“Once more council leaders have opposed a scheme that would offer major improvements for walking and cycling, and one not even inside their borough this time,” they continued, urging the local authority to follow through on its pledge to improve conditions for people on bike or foot, including through ensuring CS11 is built as soon as possible.
They added: “By its actions Westminster Council is putting people needlessly at risk of harm for purely political reasons.
“We urge it to put people’s safety first and stop attempting to wreck efforts to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on London’s roads.”
Initially unveiled while Boris Johnson was Mayor of London, work to construct CS11 was finally due to begin on CS11 at the intimidating Swiss Cottage gyratory next month.
That’s almost two years after a consultation found 60 per cent support in favour of plans including closing dates at Regents Park to motor vehicles for 20 hours each day, leading campaigners to urge the Mayor to push through the scheme.
According to the Guardian, Transport for London (TfL) has already been notified of one application for judicial review from a prominent opponent of the scheme, Hampstead-based lawyer Jessica Learmond-Criqui.
A source in the mayor’s office told the Guardian: “The fact that Westminster councillors are now trying to stop a new cycle route being built just weeks after pulling the plug on Oxford Street improvements is disgraceful.
“There is an urgent need for safer cycle routes into central London and there is an equally strong case for pedestrianising Oxford Street. The idea that Westminster council think they can hold the rest of London to ransom is totally unacceptable.”
However, a spokeswoman for Westminster Council defended its actions, telling the newspaper that “residents are overwhelmingly opposed to the Cycle Superhighway 11 proposals. In particular, they have raised concerns about the impact of traffic displacement on congestion and air quality in the streets adjacent to the proposed route.
“We have been in discussions over the last two years with TfL about residents’ concerns but, despite assurances, we have yet to receive any further information about the wider impacts of the scheme and how these may be mitigated.”
She added: “As TfL is starting to proceed with the Swiss Cottage section without our support for the scheme as a whole, we have been left with no choice but to back our residents and to legally challenge the scheme.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.