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Hard-won London cycleway opens on Friday – but Kensington gap deprives cyclists of safe route all the way into city centre

Opening of key route along Chiswick High Road delayed while traffic lights put in place


A temporary (but eventually permanent) segregated cycleway on a major road in London will open on Friday. But the removal last week of a pop-up cycle lane on Kensington High Street by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea will deprive cyclists in the west of the capital of a safe route all the way into the city centre and beyond.

The route being opened in the coming days forms part of what, when it was announced more than a decade ago, was billed as Cycle Superhighway 9, and runs along Chiswick High Road.

Due to opposition from Conservative councillors in Chiswick, which lies in the south east corner of the London Borough of Hounslow, even before the coronavirus pandemic struck, it had been one of the most bitterly fought-over pieces of planned cycling infrastructure in the capital.

The initial proposals for the route had been amended following a second consultation, and work began at Kew Bridge late last year before being suspended as the coronavirus crisis struck.

Those works have restarted recently, but the section being opened on Friday lies further east, running along Chiswick High Road to Goldhawk Road, the border with Hammersmith & Fulham, which installed a pop-up cycle lane continuing eastwards along to Kensington Olympia earlier this year.

While the recent works include bus stop islands as envisaged in finalised plans, segregation of the route itself is by wands rather than kerbs, and while construction was largely completed more than a fortnight ago, barriers have been placed across the route pending the resolution of issues with traffic lights on side roads.

Local website Chiswick W4 reports that Transport for London (TfL) has emailed people who previously responded to consultations on the scheme to inform them of the planned opening on Friday, and that it said that once the route is live, motor traffic congestion – exacerbated by non-related works by Thames Water nearby – should ease.

In the email, Fraser MacDonald of the TfL Streetspace engagement team, said: “The disruption to traffic flow in the local area has been caused by a combination of the construction of the temporary improvements, and some additional works being undertaken by Thames Water in the area.”

Referring to the island bus stops, he said: “Some people have told us they are concerned about the safety of people using the new stops. Others have made clear they are disappointed that in some cases the bus shelter is some distance from the stop.

“Bus stop ‘bypasses’ are in place in several locations across London, including Blackfriars Road, Stratford, Oval and Whitechapel, and were first introduced in 2014.

“Following their introduction we worked closely with organisations such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Guide Dogs, Transport for All, Age UK London, and the London Cycling Campaign to commission independent research to understand how people walking and cycling would interact with each other at these stops, and how disabled people would feel using them.

“This research helped us to refine and improve the design, for example by including mini-zebra crossings to make clear to people using the cycle lane that pedestrians have priority.”

When Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, announced the route back in 2010, Cycle Superhighway 9 – as it was then termed – was planned to run from Heathrow Airport to Hyde Park, where it would then link to the East-West Cycle Superhighway.

In the years since then, the plans have been revised somewhat, with the project split into two phases, and much shorter at each end than originally intended.

Construction began late last year on the opening phase, from Kew Bridge to Kensington Olympia, along roads that lie within the boroughs of Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham, with the second phase seeing the route extended westward to the centre of Hounslow, but not further out to the airport.

RBKC’s opposition to a permanent segregated cycleway along Kensington meant that the route was always going to have a missing link between Olympia and Hyde Park.

However, the introduction in September of that short-lived temporary cycle lane on Kensington High Street have brief – and, as it turned out, forlorn – hope to west London cyclists of a mainly protected route that could have taken them from Chiswick to the City and beyond while being separated form motor vehicles.

Simon joined 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.

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