Council bosses are ripping out ‘disastrous’ Covid cycle lanes in Kensington High Street after Tory politicians said the scheme ‘hadn’t worked’.
Kensington and Chelsea Council said the lanes would be removed by Wednesday after after it received “hundreds of emails from residents” opposing the scheme.
The move was applauded by Tory politicians including Shaun Bailey, who is running for Mayor of London, Westminster councillor Tony Devenish and MP Felicity Buchan.
But the council is now facing calls to refund around £300,000 to set up the controversial lanes dished out by the Government during the pandemic.
And the borough’s teachers and cyclists are protesting the decision to rip out the lanes by taking part in ‘festive joyride’ from 8am tomorrow.
This month actor Nigel Havers slammed the lanes in Kensington High Street, claiming that they had ’caused havoc’ in the area.
He said: ‘What is most infuriating about this disastrous, poorly designed scheme is that hardly any cyclists use it.
‘Squinting up and down the road, you are hard-pressed to spot more than one or two at any time. Yet all this space has been given over to them.’
Kensington and Chelsea council is facing calls to refund the £300,000 in Government money following its decision to remove the cycle lanes from Kensington Hight Street. Pictured: Cyclists wait at a traffic light on the cycle lane
Will Norman, the Mayor of London’s walking and cycling commissioner said he would look to recover the Government money so it could be spent on other areas in the capital
The initiative, which was introduced in September in an effort to encourage visitors back onto the High Street amid the pandemic, saw the council receive £313,000 in funding from Transport for London’s Streetspace fund.
Will Norman, the Mayor of London’s walking and cycling commissioner said the council had blocked three major safety schemes and he would look to recover the Government money so it could be spent on other areas in the capital.
He told The Evening Standard: ‘They eventually agreed to do this [the Kensington scheme] but they are taking it out before it’s even finished.
‘People are dying on these roads. I’m so angry about it. There have been so many collisions and serious injuries that there needs to be a safe route across west London.’
While Justin Abbott, chair of local volunteer group Better Streets for Kensington and Chelsea, said there was ‘no rush’ to remove the cycle lanes.
He said: ‘There is manifestly no rush to rip out a safety scheme with no safe alternative on a road that is infamously dangerous.’
Meanwhile Fox Primary School in Kensington announced it had organised a protest ‘festive joyride’ in an effort to show their support for the controversial lanes.
In a message on Twitter the school wrote: ‘Fox Primary School is inviting everyone who wants key workers and kids to have a safe route to school or work to show up for a FESTIVE JOYRIDE up & down the length of the new Kensington High Street cycle lane at 8am Tuesday 1st DECEMBER.’
The backlash comes after the council, which initially opened up the lanes to encourage visitors back to the High Street, said they would remove the lanes following concerns over congestion, bus journey times and loading.
Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea also raised concerns about taxis and cars being unable to drop passengers off safely at pavements.
In a clip posted to Twitter Ms Buchan, the MP for Kensington, said: ‘We’re on the verge of Kensington High Street and we’ve come to see the traffic this morning.
Fox Primary School announced it had organised a socially distanced protest ride in an effort to show their support for lanes
The council confirmed the lanes, which were aimed at encouraging visitors back onto the High Street, would be removed by December 2 . Pictured: A cyclist uses the cycle lane on Kensington High Street
MP Felicity Buchan (left) and Tony Devenish said the the scheme had not worked and called for the lanes to be removed
‘I very much wanted the cycle lane on Kensington High Street to work but unfortunately it just hasn’t.
‘It hasn’t worked for pedestrians, it hasn’t worked for the elderly, it hasn’t worked for the disabled. So very reluctantly, I am asking the council to take out the cycle lane on Kensington High Street.’
London Assembly Member Mr Devenish added: ‘I’d like to thank our residents and residents’ associations for working with RBKC to actually look at this scheme.
‘It was a good idea but I’m afraid it hasn’t worked. And now we need to take it out as soon as possible.’
In a joint statement, the politicians also said: ‘TfL has always placed RBKC under immense pressure to implement a cycleway scheme, and have threatened to take over Borough roads. It is now clear that TfL severely miscalculated the impact of such schemes, which require careful analysis.
‘We would fully encourage RBKC to explore expanding their highly successful Quietways programme, and we note the success of other measures such as on Portobello Road. Anything that is done to promote active travel must be safe, fair, and balanced for all road users, including the elderly, children, and disabled.
‘We would like to see the cycle lane remain until the end of the current lockdown on December 2.
‘However, we believe that this scheme needs to be removed swiftly as soon as we exit lockdown, to allow businesses along the High Street a period of unimpeded business, in the run-up to Christmas, and following the very real difficulties they have faced during the coronavirus restrictions.
‘Kensington High Street is simply not the correct location, and we must act in the interests of our constituents.’
The initiative, which saw the council receive £313,000 in funding from Transport for London’s Streetspace fund, was introduced in September in an effort to encourage visitors back onto the High Street. Pictured: Cyclists ride through Kensington High Street
Speaking on the decision Cllr Johnny Thalassites, Lead Member for Transport, said: ‘The cycle lane was a trial scheme to help those hopping on bikes during lockdowns and encourage shoppers to the High Street. Businesses and residents have told us loud and clear that they believe the experiment has not worked. We are listening.
‘By removing the temporary lanes as lockdown lifts, we hope to help get the High Street moving again and give our local economy the best possible chance of a good December.’
Tom Frost, Chair of Kensington Business Forum, said: ‘We support any project which helps our business community and commend the Council’s efforts to design and implement the temporary cycle lanes so quickly under a government directive.
Nigel Havers said the ‘dreaded new cycle lanes’ had caused havoc in the Kensington area
‘Like many others, we hoped the initiative would be a success. Unfortunately it has not helped our High Street businesses attract customers at a vital time for them, so it is good news that the lanes will be removed.
‘As a community we must protect our local business operators and the temporary cycle lanes have given us valuable information for potential future schemes.’
Michael Stone, Chairman of Kensington and Chelsea Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: ‘The cycle lane in its current form is detrimental to business on Kensington High Street and beyond, and we support its removal.
‘The pre-Christmas trading period is vital to many businesses and I encourage everyone to stay safe, shop locally, and support your local business community.’
While Jamie Renton, Chief Executive of Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea, said: ‘We have around 1000 disabled members who are experts by experience, so it’s good to see the Council listening to our experiences and removing the temporary cycle lanes on Kensington High Street.
‘We were worried about fewer safe places for cars to drop off disabled passengers and confusing layout changes, especially for visually impaired people. We are keen to support cycling and walking but we need to make sure the High Street is accessible for everyone.’
Earlier this month, officials in West Sussex decided to remove the cycle ways that were criticised for causing traffic jams from Crawley, East Grinstead, Horsham, Shoreham and Worthing.
It came as figures showed the number of cyclists in the town plummeted after the initiative was introduced in September.