Schoolchildren stage protest as council rips out cycle lane built with government cash

John Dunne and Ross Lydall
·3-min read
<p>About 100 cyclists covered in tinsel rode along Kensington High Street this morning</p> (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

About 100 cyclists covered in tinsel rode along Kensington High Street this morning

(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Schoolchildren and their parents have joined last-ditch protests aiming to prevent cycle lanes being ripped out, only weeks after a £313,000 Government-funded trial began.

About 100 cyclists covered in tinsel rode along Kensington High Street on Tuesday morning in a “festive joyride” organised by Fox primary school and pleaded with the Tory council to think again.

It came as Londoners were urged by the capital’s transport chief to continue to walk or cycle rather than flooding back onto public transport when the Covid restrictions in the capital are eased from midnight.

John Andrew, 47, who takes his seven-year-old son Jamie, to Fox in his bike, said: “The confidence has built up in Jamie since the route was made safer. Why not give its chance? Just because a few drivers complain it’s ridiculous.”

The campaign was boosted when Royal Albert Hall became the latest major employer to describe the cycle lanes as “essential” – and as Giro d’Italia winner star Tao Geoghegan Hart wished the protesters luck.

He urged Kensington and Chelsea council to “please avoid regressive road infrastructure action” and said London roads “are for all users to share & enjoy safely”.

Contractors were filmed in High Street Kensington on Monday night, sparking fears that work to remove the plastic wands had started a day earlier than expected. A council spokeswoman said this morning that the contractors were in fact resurfacing bus stops.

The lanes were only introduced from September 30 by the council after it received Government cash to encourage cycling and discourage car use.

But it said they would be removed from Wednesday after complaints from 322 residents and two local business groups.

Dr Ashok Sinha, chief executive of the London Cycling Campaign, described the council as a “rogue borough” and said it was taking “shameful, callous and retrograde action”.

He said: “[It] should not be able to ignore the needs of its children, keyworkers, residents and the broader needs of Londoners simply because a few privileged people don’t much like cycling.”

Andrew Hurn, 42, who rode from Chiswick with his daughters Sofia, seven, and Lucia, five, this morning said: “It’s a shocking route on a road not built for cyclists. The bollards have helped - they give the kids confidence.”

Tutor Sophie Russell, 53, rides to work in Kensington Square with her King Charles Spaniel Flossie in the basket. She said: “It’s ridiculous they have only just put the bollards in. It’s been so much safer. They need to give it a chance.”

<p>Tutor Sophie Russell, 53, rides to work in Kensington Square with her King Charles Spaniel Flossie in the basket.</p>Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd

Tutor Sophie Russell, 53, rides to work in Kensington Square with her King Charles Spaniel Flossie in the basket.

Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd

Claire Bonavero, 46, rides to school with daughter Nathalie, nine. She said: “I have written to my MP twice. Once to congratulate them on the bollards and once to complain that they are being taken it. It’s so disappointing, it’s such a dangerous road.”

Craig Hassall, chief executive of the Royal Albert Hall, and co-chair of the Exhibition Road cultural group, said: “I feel strongly that the investment in this innovative approach must be allowed adequate time to be properly tested.”

Mr Hassall said safe travel routes were “essential” – and would become more vital when Piccadilly line trains stopped calling at South Kensington for more than a year from next February to allow the station escalators to be replaced.

He said: “Cycling is key as we work to encourage local audiences from London to visit the hall.

“We want to encourage active travel and particularly discourage travelling here by car to promote health and wellbeing, reduce pollution and tackle climate change.”

Kensington and Chelsea council was approached for comment.

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