Cycling UK is seeking legal advice over councils’ “unreasonable” removal of cycling and walking schemes. The move comes after the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s (RBKC) removal of a well-used cycle lane on Kensington High Street in London last week and with West Sussex Council due to remove a popular lane introduced during lockdown in Shoreham.
The decision to remove the Kensington High Street lane followed pressure from the local Conservative MP, Felicity Buchan, as well as the Daily Mail, which is based just off the road.
Boris Johnson is reported to have gone “ballistic” at its removal.
The new lane had seen cycling levels more than double on the road without any recorded rise in motor vehicle congestion, according to London Cycling Campaign (LCC) – although opponents of the cycle lanes, such as the actor Nigel Havers, suggested otherwise.
Meanwhile, in Shoreham, the segregated cycle lane on Upper Shoreham Road is due to be removed even after the council voted to keep it with campaigners saying the decision had been taken even before the project was completed.
That scheme had as much as tripled cycling levels without impacting car journeys with the route serving a hospital and several schools. The lane had even featured in a short film produced by the Department for Transport, showing the benefits cycle lanes can bring to local communities.
Cycling UK has written to West Sussex Council requesting a pause in the plans, and a clarification of the process which led to the decision.
The charity also says that it will be investigating taking legal action via its Cyclists’ Defence Fund as it is concerned that a pattern of removing cycle lanes and traffic calming measures is not just increasing but is being done without proper evaluation of their benefits.
Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore, said: “Cycling UK is alarmed that decisions some councils have made in recent weeks, ripping out cycle lanes, have been knee jerk responses to objections from a vocal minority rather than upon consideration of the evidence and benefits of the schemes.”
Recent YouGov research commissioned by the charity indicated that more than half of the UK population (56%) supports wider roll out of government schemes to encourage more cycling and walking, while only a fifth (19%) opposes them.
“Separated cycle lanes can carry more people in less space, and reduce congestion,” continued Dollimore. “They are good for local businesses, with people cycling and walking into town centres staying there longer and spending more money; and the evidence shows that if you build them, people will use them.
“But changing engrained travel habits doesn’t always happen overnight, so when councils introduce temporary cycle lanes they need to leave them in place for long enough to carry out an effective trial. ‘Who shouts loudest’ should not be the basis of their evaluation.”
Cycling UK says that upon receipt of legal advice, it will consider taking action where cycle lanes that were working for people have been removed either unreasonably or where proper process has not been followed.