High Street Kensington cycle lanes should be reinstated, says Mayor Sadiq Khan

Ross Lydall
·4-min read
<p>The cycle lane in Kensington High Street prior to its removal</p> (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

The cycle lane in Kensington High Street prior to its removal

(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Sadiq Khan today called for the cycle lanes in Kensington High Street to be reinstated after a survey of residents found almost two to one in favour.

The Mayor’s intervention is the latest twist in Transport for London’s dispute with Kensington and Chelsea council, which ripped out the segregated lanes in December just seven weeks after they were completed.

The lanes, which used plastic wands to allocate space for safe cycling, had been installed with £320,000 of public money given to promote cycling and walking over car use as the capital emerged from the first wave of the pandemic.

City Hall said today that the research, by ICM Unlimited and involving phone interviews with 1,000 residents across the borough, found 56 per cent supported the lanes and 30 per cent were opposed.

More than 4,000 cyclists a day were counted after the lanes were installed – more than double normal levels. The Tory council removed the lanes, in the face of protests from borough teachers and pupils, after receiving 322 complaints from residents and two business organisations.

Mr Khan said: “The ripping out of the new cycle lanes last year was not just an unacceptable waste of money, but went against what everyone could see: that the safe space for cycling on Kensington High Street was working.

“Cycling numbers were up, bus journey times down, yet the council were swayed by a few loud voices committed to the status quo.

“What this poll shows is that their residents want to be able to cycle along Kensington High Street and other main roads across the borough. I urge the council to make the right decision and work with TfL to reinstate the cycle lanes.”

The cycle lanes were removed after seven weeks by the council in DecemberElliot Wagland
The cycle lanes were removed after seven weeks by the council in DecemberElliot Wagland

The survey shows that 40 per cent of respondents “strongly support” protected lanes in Kensington High Street, and a further 16 per cent “slightly support” them.

But 23 per cent “strongly oppose” the lanes and seven per cent “slightly oppose” them.

TfL also said that the street was one of the worst in the borough for road danger, with nine cyclists and six pedestrians having been seriously injured in three years.

The council is reviewing its decision at a meeting on March 17, without the involvement of the lead councillor who ordered the lanes to be scrapped.

Imperial College London was one of 70 organisations to back the lanes, which were used by students and staff travelling between its South Kensington and White City campuses.

Professor Neil Alford, associate provost at Imperial, said: “Imperial would welcome the opportunity to work with [the council] to reinstate a trial cycle lane.”

A Kensington and Chelsea spokesperson said: “We have asked the Mayor of London to see the questions and the methodology behind this survey because our residents have raised concerns.

“We have received complaints that questions were leading and it was not clear which organisation the survey was being run by.”

Earlier this week, a row broke out between the Mayor’s cycling and walking tsar Will Norman and Tony Devenish, the Tory assembly member for the area.

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Mr Devenish claimed TfL was seeking to “blatantly push support” for the cycle lanes, against the council’s right to decide what happened on its roads.

But Mr Norman said it was the second occasion the council had blocked major safety schemes, after its refusal to allow protected lanes on Holland Park Avenue, and said it had been responsible for wasting public money as a result.

Today’s survey found that 70 per cent of respondents supported safer cycle routes in the borough, with 14 per cent of residents opposed.

A total of 59 per cent supported protected cycle lanes on main roads, with 28 per cent opposed.

The study’s executive summary said: “Age and proximity to the High Street are important factors affecting support for the introduction of protected cycle lanes on the High Street, with residents aged under 40 significantly more likely to be in support and those living 0-1 miles from the High Street showing the most opposition.

“Men are more likely than women to travel in the local area by driving, which could explain why they are less likely to support cycle lanes on main roads despite the fact they are more likely to cycle themselves.”

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Justin Abbott, chairman of Better Streets for Kensington and Chelsea, said: “Some inaccurate claims were made when the safe cycle lanes were removed, and we would like to thank TfL for commissioning professional research.

“The findings are in line with our own research which has shown an extraordinary level of support for safe cycling lanes on this vital route from thousands of individuals and over 70 organisations - including the two major NHS Trusts that serve our residents and over a dozen local schools.”

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