“It’s a waste of money”: why is Kensington & Chelsea at war with cyclists?

A cyclist passes the V&A museum in South Kensington. Image: Getty.

As the number of bikes on London’s roads climb higher, pressure has been building on councils to get onboard with the Greater London Authority’s cycling push.

An interconnected web of cycling lanes and superhighways has meant the nation’s capital is fast becoming a more cycling-friendly destination, as the authorities seek to cut pollution, congestion and the city’s carbon footprint.

But the Hammersmith & Fulham branch of the London Cycling Campaign believes one west London council is shirking its duty to improve conditions for cyclists – and has instead become an ideological opponent of the city’s push toward greener transport options.

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea recently laughed a public consultation on the proposed new 1.6km quietway route between Shepherd’s Bush and Kensington High Street. The stated aim of the project is to make Holland Road safer for cyclists by installing speed humps, reducing parking areas and removing traffic islands to create more space for cyclists.

A map of the proposal. Click to expand. Image: RBKC.

Kensington & Chelsea councillor Will Pascall trumpeted the plans as the next step in the council’s quietway program. “Cycling schemes and initiatives in our borough have won national awards and our ambitious plans to build on these continue to go from strength-to-strength,” he said. “We have built more than 8km of quietway routes across the borough and we have plans to build more.”

But Casey Abaraonye, co-ordinator of the London Cycling Campaign in the neighbouring borough of Hammersmith & Fulham – a place from which anyone cycling to central London would need to travel through Kensington & Chelsea – said that the council’s proposal would have little effect. He labelled the plans as no more “than a box-ticking exercise”, arguing that the new route would be seldom used and that the quietway program was an attempt to placate the borough’s cyclists by doing the “bare minimum”.


“There’s no safe or decent way of getting to [the quietway], and when you get to the end of it you’re back out onto Addison road,” he said. “It spits you back out onto roads that have high traffic volumes, in excess of 11,000 vehicles per day, and no infrastructure to help cyclists.

“It’s a waste of money.”

Kensington & Chelsea Council’s first quietway routes were completed earlier this year. But they only arrived after the council blocked Transport for London’s plans to transform the borough’s roads into a safe haven for cyclists.

Cycle Superhighway 9 was slated to connect Hyde Park to west London by travelling through the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fullham, and Hounslow. But in 2013, the Kensington & Chelsea Council singlehandedly blocked TfL’s original proposal, which would have created a segregated bike lane on Kensington High Street.

Councillor Pascall defended the council’s stance, claiming any segregated bike lane on Kensington High Street would increase congestion and decrease foot traffic for local businesses.

“We continue to work with TFL about their ideas for a route through West London,” he said. “We are not opposed to cycle superhighways.”

Despite councillor Pascall’s objections, TfL has trudged on with its plan without the co-operation of the council.  Construction on a revamped Cycle Superhighway 9 is slated to finally begin in 2019, and will run from Kensington Olympia station to Chiswick – stopping just short of the problem borough’s boundaries.

The new route for CS9, stopping short of the borough boundaries at its eastern end. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

Abaraonye argues that the council’s actions clearly demonstrate an ideological opposition to cyclists, with its stance putting people’s lives at risk. “Kensington & Chelsea Council needs to recognise that its constituents are not going to prioritise cars in the way they do,” he said. “The notion that a car is a symbol of status is past its best before [date], and [the council] can no longer continue to put the lives and health of people at risk because motor vehicles exist.”

A spokeswoman said TfL was in talks with Kensington & Chelsea council about its future involvement in the superhighway program, however little progress has been made in the past five years.

“We have been working closely with the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, along with the London boroughs of Hounslow and Hammersmith and Fulham, at all stages of the design process,” she said.  “TfL is continuing to work with them to agree the next steps and will seek the necessary approvals from them as appropriate.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was contacted for comment.

 
 
 
 

Wild boar are moving back to Genoa, and not everyone is pleased

A wild boar, c1933. Image: Getty.

Crossing the Ponte Gerolamo Serra in the Italian city of Genoa, I spotted a small crowd clustered by the river wall. I approached, intrigued, and peered over the wall to discover the subject of their delight: a sounder of eight wild boars – the adults sheltering from the heat in the undergrowth, while the juveniles foraged among the foliage that grows in the river bed during the dry summer months.

In any other city, such a sight might have been surprising. But in Italy, and particularly in the region of Liguria, where Genoa is located, the population of wild boars has been increasing at such a rapid rate that these incidents are now common. Across the country, it’s estimated that the population has risen from 600,000 to 1m over the past decade.

But while wild boars may look comically out of place trotting about the city, it’s actually a natural result of the way people have migrated – and the wars they have fought – over the course of recent history.

Making a comeback

A species native to Europe, the wild boar (or “cinghiale”, in Italian) largely disappeared from its historical territories during the 18th and 19th centuries. Their decline was widely attributed to the combined effects of habitat change, competition for space and resources and, of course, hunting.

Wild boars were a prized quarry, revered for their ferocity – and the danger involved in pursuing them. According to local folklore from the region of Liguria, the last truly wild boar was hunted and killed in 1814, in the province of Savona.

After an absence of more than a century, wild boar began to return to Liguria, and to the neighbouring region of Piedmont. A further influx occurred during World War I, when it’s believed that military activities in the south-east of France forced parts of the population back into Italy over the Alps.

Although hunting fraternities were quick to augment this fledgling population with wild boars transported from elsewhere, the return of the species was primarily due to natural causes. From the 1950s onwards, traditional agricultural practices were abandoned as more and more people moved from rural towns into the cities. This meant that large areas of formerly cultivated terraces and pastures were rapidly overgrown, fast becoming dense secondary woodlands.

A city gone wild

This spontaneous “rewilding” has become a controversial issue in the region. Many conservationists and environmental organisations consider the region’s return to a “wild state” a success. But others believe that the encroaching wilderness signals a loss of traditional woodland knowledge and a reduction of biodiversity, associated with the pastures and meadows.


The province of Genoa is among the areas most densely populated by wild boar in Italy, with an estimated 25 boar per 10km². Rewilding processes have brought woodlands to the city limits, blurring the boundary between rural and urban areas. The species has expanded beyond the hinterlands, colonising highly urbanised, densely populated city spaces in Genoa, drawn by the abundance of food waste created by humans.

In 2009, the infamous boar Pierino made his home at Righi, on the outskirts of Genoa, where he was routinely fed with focaccia by enthusiasts. Today, a family of wild boar call the Albergo dei Poveri – a historical hostel for the Genoese poor in the city centre – their home.

But while their antics are often recorded and shared with glee on social media, the threats posed by the presence of wild animals has become a preoccupation for the city’s municipal administration.

Boorish behaviour

Wild boar have been involved in a number of traffic accidents, and have proven to be particularly dangerous when with their young, attacking dogs and even people. The city council in Genoa has put forward many proposals to reduce the number of animals in the city, ranging from forced removals, to sterilisation, increased attention to waste disposal and approved hunts. About 90 wild boar were reportedly culled in 2018.

Needless to say, each of these measures has been hotly debated. Animal advocacy groups staunchly oppose the proposals, and sometimes obstruct the authorities’ attempts to take action, often sending patrols to care for the animals, and even give them names. But other residents are displeased with the animals’ presence in the city, and have consulted with the council on how to address the problems that they cause.

And so Genoa continues to grapple with thorny issues surrounding the presence of wild boar in the city, with the city authorities seeking to resolve a polemical issue that embroils the lives of animals and humans alike. So far, a collective, coherent and communally agreeable strategy has proven evasive; one that considers the need for public safety, hygiene and health with the ethical responsibilities towards to wild boar themselves.

Meanwhile, the animals themselves continue to lounge and forage beneath the Ponte Gerolamo Serra and elsewhere, bringing a little of the wilderness into the city.

The Conversation

Robert Hearn, Assistant Professor in Human Geography, University of Nottingham.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.