Cyclists with Extinction Rebellion flags almost bring traffic to halt in protest against removal of Kensington High Street’s hated Covid cycle lanes after council decided to tear up ‘disastrous’ scheme following hundreds of complaints
- Kensington and Chelsea Council said bollards would be stripped out tomorrow after huge wave of opposition
- Removal of poorly-designed route backed by actor and local resident Nigel Havers, who called it ‘disastrous’
- Today dozens of cycling activists descended on street for ‘festive joyride’ that spilled out into drivers’ lanes
Cycling activists today descended on an exclusive West London high street to protest the removal of its hated Covid cycle lanes after the council decided to tear up the ‘disastrous’ scheme following hundreds of complaints.
Councillors said the lanes on Kensington High Street would be removed by tomorrow after a huge backlash – with the actor and local resident Nigel Havers saying they were causing ‘havoc’ on an already congested route.
The U-turn was applauded by Tory politicians including Shaun Bailey, who is running for Mayor of London, and MP Felicity Buchan, as thousands signed a petition and slammed councillors for wasting £300,000 of public money.
Today dozens pro-cycling protesters from around London pedalled down High Street Kensington in a ‘festive joyride’ that spilled out into lanes used by drivers.
Steven Edwards, 60, a guitar teacher and Extinction Rebellion activist from Camden, North London, told MailOnline: ‘I’m here to protest about the insane ripping out of this cycle lane.
‘It needs to be extended and expanded – I can’t think of anything worse than to remove it. Cycling is beneficial in every possible way. There are big opponents though, including taxi drivers.’
David Lincoln, 53, a community nurse from Islington who attended today’s pro-cycling protest, called for similar lanes to be installed on every major road in the capital.
Today dozens pro-cycling protesters from around London pedalled down High Street Kensington in a ‘festive joyride’ protesting against the route’s removal
Kensington and Chelsea Council said the lanes would be removed by tomorrow after a huge backlash from residents (pictured is today’s protest)
The High Street Kensington scheme, which was introduced in September, saw the council receive £313,000 in funding from Transport for London’s Streetspace fund
He said: ‘Cyclists are a bit of an out group so there’s hostility to them,’ he said. ‘But we’re just people trying to get from A to B. I’d like to see this kept and cycle lanes put on all major roads.’
Other campaigners accused the council of not consulting them before announcing the plastic bollards would be ripped up.
But Roger Lawson, London spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers, pointed out that the residents had not been given a chance to air their opposition to the lanes when they were quickly installed in September.
‘Cyclists complain they were not consulted about the lane being removed but the council didn’t consult drivers before installing it,’ he said.
‘We fully support the removal of this cycle lane. It clearly caused a lot of extra congestion and local people objected to it.
‘Cycling is a minority interest and continues to be so. You don’t solve traffic congestion by putting in cycle lanes like this one, you make it worse.’
Motoring groups and the London Cab Drivers Club have both slammed the lanes for adding to congestion and reducing the number of areas where taxis can pick up customers.
Their removal was hailed as a boost for campaigners across the country who are fighting to remove bollards installed by councils during the early months of the Covid pandemic.
London spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers, pointed out that the residents had not been given a chance to air their opposition to the lanes when they were quickly installed in September. Pictured is today’s protest
Steven Edwards, 60, a guitar teacher and Extinction Rebellion activist from Camden, North London, told MailOnline: ‘I’m here to protest about the insane ripping out of this cycle lane’
David Lincoln, 53, (left) a community nurse from Islington who attended today’s pro-cycling protest, called for lanes to be installed on every major road in the capital. Ilyan Kovatchev, (right) a 54-year-old consultant, from South Kensington, accused the council of being ‘anti-cyclist’
The High Street Kensington scheme, which was introduced in September, saw the council receive £313,000 in funding from Transport for London’s Streetspace fund.
Chariots Of Fire actor Nigel Havers, who is a local Kensington resident, said: ‘This is a fantastic result that will save lives because ambulances could not get through to reach patients in dire need.
‘It will also cut all that nasty pollution from cars stuck in horrendous traffic jams for hours. I now hope that other councils see sense and do the same. Everybody I speak to is angry about these cycle lanes.’
Politicians have also criticised the scheme, with local Tory MP Felicity Buchan and London Assembly member Tony Devenish both declaring they ‘hadn’t worked’ and instead increased congestion.
Zack Polanski, 38, the Green Party candidate for West Central London, said: ‘It’s important everyone is allowed to cycle safely. We need to reduce motor vehicle traffic fast because we’re living in a climate emergency’
The Kensington chambers of commerce called the bollards ‘detrimental to local businesses’, while Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea raised concerns about taxis and cars being unable to drop passengers off safely at pavements.
Attendees at today’s pro-cycling protest included Roy Turner, 59, a public relations consultant from Finsbury Park.
He said: ‘I’m not a cyclist, I’m a person who uses a bike. I’m a car driver as well. Cycle lanes are about freedom of choice to be able to cycle safely using the most practical means of transport to get around.’
Zack Polanski, 38, the Green Party candidate for West Central London, said: ‘It’s important everyone is allowed to cycle safely. We need to reduce motor vehicle traffic fast because we’re living in a climate emergency.
‘We need to make sure that we’re cleaning up our toxic air and that people can cycle without worrying about returning home at night.’
Another activist, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Cars dehumanise people, they make people angry and aggressive. Plus, driving around the city is a complete false economy. It’s so slow. Cycling is the only option.’
Ms Buchan, the MP for Kensington, and Greater London Authority member Mr Devenish said in a joint statement: ‘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 lanes had generated a wave of opposition, with local Tory MP Felicity Buchan and London Assembly member Tony Devenish both declaring they ‘hadn’t worked’ and instead increased congestion. Pictured is today’s protest
The council’s recently U-turn was hailed as a boost for campaigners across the country who are fighting to remove cycle lanes installed by councils during the early months of the Covid pandemic. Pictured is a worker taking down bollards in Worthing
Speaking about 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.’
Nigel Havers said the ‘dreaded new cycle lanes’ had caused havoc in the Kensington area
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.
‘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.
MP Felicity Buchan (left) and Tony Devenish said the scheme had not worked and called for the lanes to be removed
Cyclists queuing alongside the lane during today’s protest on Kensington High Street, a busy route through a popular shopping district