“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.

 
 
 
 

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