March 23rd, 2021
Better Streets for Kensington and Chelsea by Justin Habbott
ELF has been helping volunteer group Better Streets for Kensington and Chelsea (Better Streets) in their campaign to re-instate a safe cycle lane on High Street Kensington, located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) in London.
Installation of safe infrastructure for those wishing to travel by bike has become a national discussion, with some describing it as a “war on motorists”. That’s certainly not the context in RBKC. Prior to the lane’s removal, and during its short life, it was the only safe protected cycle lane on the entirety of the borough’s 207km road network where since 2013 the amount of vehicle traffic has increased by 50 million miles per year.
RBKC is infamous among campaigners for walking and cycling for its lack of action over decades, including on High Street Kensington where plans have been tabled many times over the years as it is part of the overall London strategic network, and neighbouring boroughs are completing their part.
The lanes were installed in October, 2020 for a trial of up to 18 months, but ripped out after just seven weeks, despite the lanes working very well. ELF wrote a pre-action protocol letter of 23rd December set out seven grounds of unlawfulness of RBKC’s decision.
This challenge was successful, and on 8th January, RBKC wrote to Better Streets to say they would “revisit” the decision to remove the lane on 17th March – when, as predicted, they made the same decision, but attempted to get the paperwork better.
ELF and Better Streets are considering next steps – at first glance it doesn’t look like this decision is any more lawful than the last. The lanes are supported by a huge cross-section of society, from Waitrose to the Royal Albert Hall, to the local NHS Trusts, seventeen local schools, universities Imperial College London and the Royal College of Music – as well as a survey commissioned by TfL showing most residents are also in favour.