Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea raising support for High Street cycle lane

Volunteer campaign group Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea is raising support to reverse the council’s decision to close the Kensington High Street cycle lane.

They have raised issues with the council’s reasoning for closing the lane, which has led to an increase of cyclists to 4,000 per day.

The group are particularly frustrated that the trial has ended early as it was supposed to be an 18-month trial period.

Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea Co-Founder Justin Abbott said: “We were very involved with the council to get this one in and seeing it ripped out for no good reason has been a bit depressing.

“But we’ve got some great support so we’re going to fight it.

“What’s astonishing is the manner and timing of it being taken out.”

Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea are asking borough residents to contact the council to show their support.

The lane has already received support from Imperial College and Chelsea & Westminster NHS Trust, which Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea sees as crucial.

Abbott said: “We have not only individual support but also institutional support which you don’t often get when it’s just a cycle lane, but it’s obviously so much more than that.

“Take Imperial College, its campuses are at either end of this road so for their 23,000 students many of whom can’t afford to live in the borough but still go to university in it, this is how they get to class.

“This isn’t some minor detail this is the safety of their daily journey.

“We’ve had so much correspondence from health workers who have to use Kensington and Chelsea’s roads and they’re saying ‘hold on I’ve started to cycle because it’s better for me the government tell me to.’

“’Why on earth have you ripped out the only safe route for me to get to work?’

“It has been rather heart-warming that it hasn’t just been a minor, niche interest, and the support has been very very broad.”

The pandemic appears to have affected the views of people from the borough on the use of cycle lanes and the rise in cycling on the high street shows this clearly.

Abbott said: “I think what’s happened is there has been a bit of a shift.

“There’s always been this sort of exceptionalism that London is not like Amsterdam and during the COVID lockdown everybody started walking on these nice traffic-free streets and they started getting their bikes out and being able to walk around with their kids and they thought oh it is possible.

“They had a bit of a taste of that, they realised it’s a choice that we’ve made and that has impacted people’s views quite a bit.”

The borough now has zero protected cycle lanes again.

Abbott said: “No protected cycle lanes is not an accident, that is the result of a decision across years and decades not to have any.

“So campaigners like me and before me have been campaigning to have at least one and it’s been very hard.

“This time last year they were blocking a parallel route along Holland Park Avenue, Kensington High Street cycle lane had been proposed over a decade ago.”

The council said that it ended the scheme because the Kensington Business Forum and Chelsea Chamber of Commerce wanted it over before shops opened again.

But the Forum have released a statement clarifying that they sent the council the views for and against of local business, not of the council itself.

Kensington & Chelsea Council’s key decision report said there was no formal public consultation on the introduction of the cycle lanes.

The report added: “If we are to remove the lanes before Christmas in response to requests to support the local businesses, there is no time to carry out a consultation on the lanes’ removal.

“As noted above we do know that the cycle lanes have excited strongly held opinions both for and against them.

“For example, by the evening of 25 November, we had received over 1000 emails in the [email protected] email inbox, split roughly 58 per cent for and 42 per cent against the cycle lanes.

“Of people who identified as residents of the borough, the split was 31 per cent for and 69 per cent against the scheme.

“By the end of 30 November, we had received over 2300 emails in total. At least 1000 further emails were received and not yet counted on 1 December.”

Since the decision, the council added they have received a letter signed by 25 residents’ associations, which represent 3,400 households, welcoming the decision to remove the lanes.

Abbott said: “We think the decision was made in the wrong way which is why we’ve started the protocol for a potential judicial review.”

In the last three years 15 people have been killed or seriously injured on Kensington High Street which is higher than average.

You can read our initial story about the closure here.

A link to the campaign can be found here.

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