Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander recently accused central London borough councils, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, of “holding the rest of the city to ransom” when it comes to making cycling enjoyable and safe. Kensington and Chelsea Council removed its only protected cycle route, on Kensington High Street, after just seven weeks while having blocked any progress on other routes; and Westminster has for years refused to build any protected cycleways at all, even taking Transport for London to court to avoid building Cycle Superhighway 11 in 2018.
These two boroughs have historically been extremely hard places to persuade the relevant authorities to make cycling enjoyable and safe. This isn’t just bad news for the boroughs’ residents: it means that while thousands of Londoners can use safe cycle infrastructure inside other London boroughs, they’re thrown to the wolves during ‘through-journeys,’ for instance, riding from Tower Hamlets to Richmond. LCC and its members are working hard to make cycling in these boroughs an easy choice, not for ‘only the brave.’
Campaigning for a Cycle Safe Westminster
LCC’s campaigning is hugely dependent on the work of volunteer-led local groups. Our Westminster group is newly invigorated, thanks to several women who joined after starting to cycle during the Covid crisis. Georgia is one of them, she tells her powerful story in this video:
The group is making the most of Westminster City Council’s decision to introduce 11 kilometres of temporary, painted bike lanes in 2020. They are campaigning to make the lanes permanent, protected and part of a joined-up network. You can support their Cycle Safe Westminster campaign here – please take the action and share it far and wide!
Westminster has long had the worst ‘killed and seriously injured’ cycling statistics in London, such as 70 serious injuries in 2019. Drawing attention to these numbers is one way local campaigners are pushing the council into action.
Friends and allies in our campaign
LCC’s Westminster group are also working closely with allied campaign groups Westminster Healthy Streets, and London Living Streets. Together they’re making a great case for safe and fun active travel, meeting with councillors, officers and the ‘great estates’ like The Crown Estate who are behind the recent changes to Regent Street. Initiatives like Soho’s al fresco dining areas, and timed closures and the proposed Oxford Circus pedestrian plazas, are rightly reclaiming space from motor traffic – now the council must make them friendly to cycling, too.
Campaigners take action in Kensington & Chelsea
If you were one of the 3,000 people who took our Kensington High Street action in December 2020, thank you. LCC has been standing alongside Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea, who have just relaunched their judicial review against the council for the removal of the High Street Kensington bike lanes. Better Streets felt they had no choice after the council refused to listen to them or to a coalition of more than 70 organisations, institutions and businesses who were calling for the lanes to be left safely in place. Instead, councillors held a meeting in March to ‘revisit’ the decision They have written an open letter to the council explaining their decision:
“We take no pleasure whatsoever in being forced into this course of action. Your continued inaction on this matter however leaves no option… This route is used by thousands of people by bike each day on a road you know to be dangerous and for which you acknowledge there is no practicable alternative. It is a stark gap in a continuous route that would otherwise span almost the entirety of London.”
A big opportunity for change in 2022
In both boroughs, there’s a huge opportunity to bring change as we approach next year’s local elections. This year’s GLA elections saw the majority of incumbent Tony Devenish, a Conservative London Assembly member (and Westminster councillor) who has actively campaigned against cycle infrastructure over and over, slashed from 14,000 to just over 2,000. The biggest swing away from Devenish was in the wards that Kensington High Street runs through. Public attitudes to active travel are changing. As the May elections approach, LCC will be making it clear that if you want to be elected in central London, you need to think about bikes, active travel and reducing car use.
We’re going to be pressing ahead with our #ClimateSafeStreets campaign, with an eye on the 2022 elections. Many more exciting developments on how we’re going to get our message out are to come from us in the remainder of 2021.