The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) has refused to reinstate the emergency cycle lanes on Kensington High Street in a decision condemned by Labour councillors as “completely bonkers", while the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) has called on Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to intervene.
The lanes, one on either side of the street and used by up to 3,000 cyclists a day, were removed in early December, less than two months after they had been installed and despite protests from campaigners and nearby schools among others.
Senior councillors at the Conservative-controlled borough have now voted unanimously not to reinstate the lanes but instead to “Develop plans to commission research” – although not before the summer – which could potentially “lead to a feasibility study in the longer term.”
Prior to last night’s meeting, the volunteer-run campaign group Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea said that all four options being discussed by the council’s leaders were “poorly constructed and misleading,” adding that the one eventually chosen was the “kick the can down the longest road we can find” option.
“The first part of this option is to not re-instate the lanes now,” the group said. “Very obviously, there is no reason whatsoever that the temporary scheme cannot be re-instated while longer term considerations take place – indeed, that is the obvious thing to do, which we have consistently advocated. We are extremely concerned that the option has been misleadingly framed in this way.”
But council leader Councillor Elizabeth Campbell said at last night’s meeting: “It’s pretty clear the consensus is we will not be reinstalling a temporary cycle lane."
In response, Labour opposition leader Councillor Pat Mason said: “Any argument that says we can’t have cycle lanes because it will cause too much traffic congestion is completely bonkers.
“We are going to have to do this under our climate change policy that we passed in January 2020.”
In a statement released last night, LCC Healthy Streets Campaigner Clare Rogers said, “The cycle tracks, even though they were only in for a few weeks, proved a crucial safety measure for thousands of people daily, both on a strategic east-west route for London and for local trips such as families riding to school, on what was, and now is again, the most dangerous road in the borough for cycling.
“Kensington and Chelsea is clearly incapable of behaving as a responsible local authority for this highway, or following its own policies on road safety and the climate emergency.
“The Secretary of State for Transport and Mayor of London must address boroughs like this one, that act against or ignore government, regional and their own policies,” she added.
The council insists the decision to remove the lanes – in response to which, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly went “ballistic” – followed what it claimed were complaints from local businesses and residents.
However, it turned out that some people objecting lived far outside the borough and even abroad, and a Freedom of Information request found that the council’s head of news had edited what was supposedly an independent press release from the Kensington Business Forum.
The local authority also claimed that the lanes created congestion and hindered the emergency services – even though an independent study found that traffic jams had worsened following the removal of the lanes, partly due to illegally parked cars.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.