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Council officer edited business group’s press statement on removal of Kensington High Street bike lane

Council admits no criteria or metrics were used to assess impact of pop-up cycle lanes

A freedom of information request has revealed that the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) ‘choreographed’ press statements from local businesses when announcing the abandonment of the Kensington High Street segregated cycle lanes.

The lanes had only been in place for seven weeks when, at the end of November, RBKC announced that it planned to remove them.

The removal came despite protests by teachers, parents and pupils at a nearby school with the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also condemning the decision and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said to have gone “ballistic” about it.

The council’s lead member for transport, Johnny Thalassites, said at the time that businesses had, “told us loud and clear that they believe the experiment has not worked. We are listening.”

He said: “By removing the temporary lanes as lockdown lifts, we hope to help get the High Street moving again and give our local economy the best possible chance of a good December.”

Forbes reports that RBKC attempted to coordinate the response to its announcement that the scheme would be abandoned with its head of news editing what was supposed to be an independent press statement from the chair of Kensington Business Forum (KBF).

An initial quote from KBF said: “We had hoped, like many others that the temporary cycle lanes would have been a success but unfortunately due to the current climate it has not benefited our High Street businesses.”

This was tweaked to say: “Like many others, we hoped the initiative would be a success. Unfortunately it has not helped our High Street businesses attract customers at a vital time for them, so it is good news that the lanes will be removed.”

A RBKC spokesperson said: “Agreeing statements with partners, community groups, and stakeholders in advance of announcements is standard practice.”

Computer analysis of Transport for London (TfL) traffic cameras on Kensington High Street has shown that congestion has worsened since the lanes were removed – largely because the lane is now blocked by parked vehicles for the majority of the time.

Campaign group Bike is Best said that following the removal of the lanes, average trip times on a 1.1-mile stretch of the road rose from 5 minutes 39 seconds to 8 minutes 14 seconds for motor traffic travelling eastbound, while westbound traffic saw an increase from 5 minutes 48 seconds to 6 minutes 27 seconds.

Responding to a freedom of information request from the group asking how the council had assessed whether or not the cycle lanes were working, the council admitted: “No criteria or metrics were developed by which the scheme was to be assessed.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 2 years ago
1 like

“No criteria or metrics were developed by which the scheme was to be assessed.”

Which is a kind of emission that the bike land was not going to survive anyway and the seven weeks were just token. 

Daveyraveygravey | 2 years ago

Hey Johnny, how is it going with your "hopes to get the High Street moving again "?!

eburtthebike | 2 years ago

It appears to be a universal rule that local businesses do better when there is provision for cyclists, as the cyclists tend to buy goods in the shops they pass.  With the covid crisis and various levels of lockdown and access to non-essential shops restricted, it would be difficult indeed to separate out the effects of the cycle lane on local businesses.  Besides, the primary purpose of the cycle lane wasn't to benefit them, but to give local people a means of transport which was covid safe, so closing it because it hadn't achieved a criterion it was never intended to meet is perverse in the extreme.

Is it too late to nominate RBKC for the 2020 anti-cycling award?

CygnusX1 replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago

eburtthebike wrote:

Is it too late to nominate RBKC for the 2020 anti-cycling award?

They were already on the shortlist.

brooksby replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago

Popping to a small shop in a car is so inconvenient; much better on a bike, can just lock up practically at the door in most cases and then pop in and then carry on.

(Doing a big shop at a big supermarket is a different proposition, but I very rarely do that sort of shopping...)

Philh68 replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago

Retailers can be their own worst enemy. In my city the CBD was pedestrianised for many years, but large suburban malls and big box outlets took trade away. So they cried out to allow cars back in. So council spent millions updating and putting in one-way traffic as a 10kmh shared zone. Drivers do 20+ and do not give way to pedestrians. Trade is still declining, and it's less pleasant and discourages pedestrians. It hasn't occurred to them that the major shopping mall that shoppers go to instead is just an indoor version of pedestrianised, car-free streets with a convenient centralised parking structure. Not that different to what they had, really.

The belief that car access benefits retail trade is like a religion, an accepted belief that's basically beyond question. What needs to happen is provide evidence, as happened in New York where the DOT analysed the effects of protected bike lanes and other changes in Manhattan and could show the positive effect on retail trade (such as on 8th Avenue where it rose 49%). But the changes need to be in long enough to gather the data…

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