Following the removal in December of the protected cycle lane on High Street Kensington after only seven weeks, today volunteer group Better Streets for Kensington and Chelsea (Better Streets) has given the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) a plan for the council to solve their self-inflicted legal problems, start delivering on national policy, show their commitment to being leaders in active travel, and stand by their declaration of climate emergency.
The volunteer group have been helped by the Environmental Law Foundation, whose pre-action protocol letter of 23rd December set out seven grounds of unlawfulness of RBKC’s decision to rip out the safe protected cycle lane on High Street Kensington. Prior to the lane’s removal, and during its short life, it was the only safe protected cycle lane in the entirety of the borough’s 207km of road.
At present, despite Government policy set out in its “Gear Change” document and elsewhere, the popularity of the scheme and its critical nature as a strategic route in the development of London’s active transport network, there is now a dangerous gap between RBKC and its neighbouring boroughs. RBKC has resisted the introduction of any safe protected cycle lanes in the borough for many years, always finding reasons why it theoretically supports active travel but why the particular proposal was not appropriate.
On 8th January, RBKC wrote to Better Streets to say they would “revisit” the decision to remove the lane on 17th March. With RBKC’s apparent acknowledgement of the unlawfulness of their decision, ELF have written to RBKC to explain the likelihood of judicial review of RBKC making the same decision again.
Better Streets are concerned that RBKC will simply repeat unlawful behaviour. The report published by RBKC in advance of the meeting contains a number of material errors and omissions. Nonetheless, Better Streets hope that RBKC have learned lessons and their proposal will not be ignored or dismissed as it was before, but this time taken seriously as a solution for RBKC to draw a line under their mistakes, and move on together to a greener, healthier, and happier future.
Highlights of the plan include:
Make a fair – and lawful decision on 17th March;
Recognise the mistakes made in 2020, and re-build trust;
Immediately re-instate the cycle lanes on High Street Kensington to provide a safe mode of transport, in line with government guidance;
Start plans now with stakeholders for consultation on the permanent solution for safe cycling on this key route; and
Embrace the vast range of support from organisations across society, and switch gear to start working with our community as a whole to put together what will be RBKC’s first real strategic plan for walking and cycling
Speaking in advance of RBKC’s meeting, Justin Abbott of Better Streets said, “Safe cycle lanes on this road are needed, now. High Street Kensington is used by thousands of people by bike every day, it’s dangerous, there isn’t a practical alternative and there is vast support. RBKC could, and should, re-instate them immediately, which they can do at minimal cost. We can then work with them, Transport for London, the Department for Transport and stakeholders across our community and society to analyse the best long-term design of safe cycle lanes and overall street design for pedestrians and all users of this road.”