An independent survey has found that almost twice as many people who live in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) support having a protected cycle lane on Kensington High Street as those who oppose the idea – leading Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to urge the local council to reinstate the pop-up cycle lanes it ripped up in early December, less than two weeks after they had been installed.
According to the survey, commissioned from ICM Unlimited by Transport for London (TfL) and conducted among 1,000 residents, 56 per cent backed having a protected cycle lane on the road – one of the most dangerous in the borough for vulnerable road users, with 15 cyclists and pedestrians killed there in the past three years – with 30 per cent against it.
Other findings of the TfL survey were that 70 per cent of RBKC residents support safer cycle routes throughout the borough, against just 14 per cent who are opposed to them.
More than twice as many residents, at 59 per cent, back the council introducing protected cycle lanes on main roads in the borough, compared to 28 per cent who oppose them.
Emergency cycle lanes on either side of Kensington High Street were removed by the council just seven weeks after they were installed, following a high-profile campaign against the infrastructure orchestrated by the Daily Mail group, which has its offices on one of the side streets running off the road.
The council’s decision came despite the route being used by 3,000 cyclists a day, and protests led by a local school and the London Cycling Campaign, as well as direct action by Stop Killing Cyclists which briefly prevented contractors from removing the wands that marked out the lane.
News that the lanes had been removed was said to have sent Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who last year hailed “a new Golden Age for cycling” and encouraged councils to provide pop-up cycle lanes as part of their response to the coronavirus pandemic, “ballistic.”
The council is due to revisit its decision on 17 March, and in the light of the survey, Mr Khan urged the council to reinstate the lane, saying: “The ripping out of the new cycle lanes last year was not just an unacceptable waste of money, but went against what everyone could see: that the safe space for cycling on Kensington High Street was working.
“Cycling numbers were up, bus journey times down, yet the Council were swayed by a few loud voices committed to the status quo.
“I admire RBKC’s commitment to putting their residents first. What this poll shows is that their residents want to be able to cycle along Kensington High Street and other main roads across the borough. I urge the Council to make the right decision and work with TfL to reinstate the cycle lanes.”
The results of the survey were also welcomed by local campaigners, with Justin Abbott, chair of the volunteer-run group Better Streets for Kensington and Chelsea, saying: “Some inaccurate claims were made when the safe cycle lanes were removed, and we would like to thank TfL for commissioning professional research.
“The results show that, despite having had only the briefest of glimpses of the benefits of enabling people to travel safely by bike, residents already support changes that will make our borough greener, safer, healthier and happier.
“The findings are in line with our own research which has shown an extraordinary level of support for safe cycling lanes on this vital route from thousands of individuals and over seventy organisations – including the two major NHS Trusts that serve our residents and over a dozen local schools.”
He added: “They are concerned not only for the benefits to us all that active travel brings, but also for the wellbeing of their key worker staff, many of whom may not happen to live in the borough but must travel on our roads to educate and care for us.”
As road.cc pointed out when Cycleway 9 was launched in 2017, Kensington High Street is a missing link on what will otherwise, once complete, be a protected route that will take cyclists from Brentford to Barking via Westminster and the City.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.