An Extinction Rebellion and Stop Killing Cyclists protest has delayed work to remove the cycle lanes that have been placed in Kensington High Street, which are being torn down after just seven weeks.
Kensington and Chelsea council announced that they would be removing the £700,000 cycle lane after receiving just over 300 complaints, but the decision has faced by a lot of opposition, including by the likes of Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart and BBC Radio two presenter Jeremy Vine among others.
The number of cyclists using the stretch of road in Kensington High Street, which leads into central London, has doubled to around 4,000 people each day according to some reports, raising questions about why the council has made the decision.
A spokesperson for the authority said that it has received 322 email complaints from residents about the cycle lane – the population of the borough is around 160,000.
When the council’s contract workers arrived at the scene on Wednesday night (December 2) to remove the lane barriers, they were met by protesters who stopped them.
The protesters blocked the lane and prevented the removal of the fixed bollards that are in the road.
Demonstrators then moved onto the nearby offices of the Daily Mail and Mail Online, to protest articles run by the news organisations opposing cycle lanes.
The council previously said the scheme was opposed by Kensington Business Forum, the Kensington and Chelsea Chamber of Trade and Commerce and disability group Action Disability K&C, which it says was concerned about the impact on its members.
But in another twist, the Business Forum released a statement saying that its views had been misrepresented.
A statement from the organisation, said: “The views shared with Kensington and Chelsea are of local businesses and not that of our executive committee.
“Regrettably this has been represented, in certain public forums, as our opposition to cycle lanes. This is not the case, but the views of local businesses (both for and against) who provided feedback to the Kensington Business Forum for this current scheme.”
In response to protestors blocking the work, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, Councillor Johnny Thalassites, wrote an open letter, calling for the people to “consider others.”
He said: “Last night, workers from our contractor Conways were forced to halt work on removing the temporary cycle lane from Kensington High Street, by Extinction Rebellion.
“The action taken will have cost our residents money, was conducted purely in self interest, and was nothing more than another PR stunt.
“They saw an opportunity for themselves, and decided to hijack a local issue and debate.”
According to the council leader, the authority received 1,000 emails, with 58 per cent supporting the cycle lanes and 42 per cent against.
But of those 1,000 Cllr Thalassites added that 69 per cent of the people who identified themselves as living in the borough were against the scheme.
He added: “We decided to end the cycle lane trial because it wasn’t working. Residents have told us so, businesses have told us so.
“On top of that, this period is vital for businesses and they have made it clear to us that this is not the time to be experimenting, when, frankly, our high streets are facing their toughest test in decades.”
“This isn’t just about shops, deliveries, and access. It is about jobs and livelihoods.
“This isn’t the end, we are still listening, and we are still looking at ways to improve cycling provision, long term – but our focus is likely to shift to alternative schemes that have a positive impact for our residents.”