Bollards protecting a Kensington cycleway were removed last night despite protests by cycle-savvy kids and adults.
The bollards on Kensington High Street, which were designed to keep cyclists separate from traffic, were ‘adopted’ by children earlier this week after the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea announced plans to bin the cycleway.
The lane was due to be removed on Wednesday night but works were delayed by protestors.
Donnachadh McCarthy, 61, protested on Wednesday night and said: “Kensington Council declared a climate emergency and they’re ripping the only cycle lane they have out.
“This is a red line. We have to be here to stop it.”
McCarthy is a co-founder of Stop Killing Cyclists, one of several groups which opposed the removal of the cycle lane.
Other prominent groups included Extinction Rebellion, the London Cycling Campaign and Mums for Lungs.
This morning, Extinction Rebellion London told SW Londoner: “We went along last night but there was a really big police presence.
“They broke up the group under the guise of Covid as soon as we gathered. We tried making some speeches but they took the microphone and threatened everyone present with arrest.”
Nearby Fox Primary School, whose pupils ‘adopted’ the bollards, also opposed the ban.
Headteacher Emma Madden told BBC Radio London yesterday: “There are so many reasons why this cycle lane is important.
“It’s important in a global picture because of the climate crisis, the obesity crisis and because of air quality in London.
“It’s essential for us as an inner-city school, particularly to help our staff get to work.”
The borough’s cabinet member for Planning, Place and Environment Cllr Johnny Thalassites said that the lane was removed because local residents and businesses did not support the plans.
He said: “Threatening us with legal action or financial penalties will make no difference to our decision, London boroughs aren’t here to be bullied into submission through sanctions.
“We decided to end the cycle lane trial because it wasn’t working. Residents have told us so, businesses have told us so.
“This isn’t just about shops, deliveries, and access. It is about jobs and livelihoods.”
RBKC said that it received over 1,000 emails about the Kensington cycle lane before November 25.
Of these, 58% supported the existence of the cycleway, although 69% of respondents from within the borough opposed the scheme.
Opponents of the cycle lane vented their frustrations in a Change.org petition.
One local signatory, Mallindi Baldassarro, said: “It’s as if the Mayor asked a bunch of primary school kids if they thought a cycle lane would be a good idea for Kensington!
“We’ve lost all the turning lanes, taxis can only pick up at a bus stop now, there is not enough room for two buses to stop at a bus stop, emergency vehicles can’t pass or stop by the pavement, delivery vans also can’t stop.”
John Lawrence, from Brentwood in Essex, said: “All the changes are totally unnecessary.
“Why try to fix something that’s not broken?
“London worked quite well before all the changes, now it’s a total mess.”
In 2019, five cyclists were killed on London’s roads, down from 12 in 2018.
Demand for cycling significantly increased during the pandemic at the height of summer, with fitness app Strava recording a 60% year-on-year rise in July cycle journeys.
Since 2015, the amount of cycle-only track in London has more than doubled and since 2016, illegal pollution levels fell by 94% in the capital.
Featured image credit: Twitter/XRLondon.