United Kingdom

Kensington Council won't reinstate bollards on hated cycle lane

Councillors today vowed not to bring back bollards on Kensington's hated cycle lane despite Mayor Sadiq Khan's threat to take control of the road - as Extinction Rebellion threatened a second protest to save it.  

Work to remove the plastic barriers continued last night and the westbound route it now clear, a day after labourers were disrupted by XR supporters who glued themselves to their van, forcing work to stop. 

This morning the eco-group told MailOnline it would not rule out repeating the stunt again, although a spokesman said it did not currently have any specific plans for further action. 

Yesterday, Mr Khan sided with the activists as he said he was considering all options to reverse the Conservative-controlled council's move - which will also see the road markings reverted to how they were before. 

His options include converting the busy West London road into a 'red route', which would wrestle its management from the Tory local authority and hand it to Transport for London, which he runs from City Hall. 

Under section 14B of the Highways Act 1980, the Mayor can direct that Transport for London take control of any road 'where expedient'. 

However this idea was played down by City Hall today, with a spokesman saying Mr Khan had never specifically mentioned this as a planned course of action. 

The prospect prompted a stern response from the Tory-controlled local authority yesterday, with councillor Johnny Thalassites warning: 'Threatening us with legal action or financial penalties will make no difference to our decision, London boroughs aren't here to be bullied into submission through sanctions.'

If Kensington Council objects, the final decision would be made by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. 

The Mayor is also demanding the council pay back the £320,000 of taxpayers' money used to install the cycle lanes during the pandemic, which have been blamed for huge traffic jams with cyclists seen regularly speeding through red lights at pedestrian crossings.      

Work to remove the plastic barriers continued last night and the westbound route it now clear, a day after labourers were disrupted by XR supporters who glued themselves to their van, forcing work to stop. Pictured is the road today 

The remaining bollards on the east-bound side of the road, which will be removed over several nights this week 

On Wednesday night, Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists tried to stop the 'disastrous' Covid cycle lane in High Street Kensington from being torn up by the Tory council last night following a furious public backlash

Cyclists rode up and down Kensington high street in protest of the closure of the cycle lane
The scene in west London this morning, following the removal of the controversial bollards

Slide me

Before and after: Left, Cyclists rode up and down Kensington high street in protest of the closure of the cycle lane earlier this week. Right, the scene in west London yesterday morning, following their removal

Does Sadiq Khan have the power to take control of Kensington's roads?  

The majority of roads in London are managed by local councils.

But TfL is responsible for the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN) - known as 'red routes' because of the painted red lines. 

Red routes are London's main routes, and make up 5% of the total road length, but carry more than 30% of London's traffic. 

TfL can apply to convert a major road or highway into a 'red route'.  

Under section 14B of the Highways Act 1980 (as amended by the Greater London Authority 1999), the Mayor can direct that TfL take control of any highway or proposed highway in Greater London, other than a trunk road, 'where expedient'. 

The borough - in this case Kensington and Chelsea - does have the power to refuse consent. 

If it does object, the order will then be taken to the Secretary of State who has the power to sign it off. 

But the Transport Minister may be unlikely to overrule his Tory colleagues at Kensington and Chelsea - a Conservative-run council.   

The Mayor of London stepped in yesterday afternoon, claiming removing the cycle lane is 'knee-jerk' that is 'dangerous for cyclists', including himself, and failed to criticise the XR members who stopped the work on Wednesday night. 

He said: 'It's going to lead to more pollution and more gridlock in London. They are now giving an incentive to drive when you could easily use public transport, walk or cycle. We are going to get back the money that we spent on that cycle lane and also consider all other options about that particular road. It's an important road. It's not simply the local residents who need that road to be working efficiently but the rest of us as well.' 

But a spokesman for the council told MailOnline: 'It doesn’t change anything for us, the decision is the same.' 

The controversial cycle lanes, which cost more than £300,000 and were installed in a bid to encourage people back to their offices, had sparked uproar among commutes and locals. 

Residents noted the affluent west London borough had subsequently suffered increased congestion and longer bus times. 

People also complained the cyclists were regularly speeding through red lights at pedestrian crossings. 

A spokesman for the council said yesterday that the cycle lane would be 'removed totally, bollards and road markings', adding the road markings will be put back to how they were before the temporary scheme. 

The work will take four to five nights to complete, having been hampered by poor weather this week.  

The Left-wing demonstrators, who infamously disrupted the distribution of UK newspapers including the Mail and the Times in September, glued themselves to a work van which was removing the bollards that have caused weeks of misery for drivers navigating the west London borough.  

In a letter yesterday, Cllr Johnny Thalassites, Lead Member for Planning, Place and The Environment, wrote: '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.

'However, the reason I am writing today is to say I have the utmost respect for the school teachers, families, and commuters who have dedicated themselves to fighting for something they believe in over the last few days, and I respect and admire the way they have done it. Especially when passions are clearly running so high.

'This is what Londoners do, we welcome free speech and fair debate. But this is also about balance.'

Councillors said the lanes on Kensington High Street would be removed by next week after 'hundreds' of locals complained, with the actor Nigel Havers saying they were causing 'havoc' on an already congested route. 

The Left-wing climate activists glued themselves to a work van which was removing the bollards that have caused weeks of misery for drivers navigating the west London borough

The U-turn was applauded by Tory politicians including Shaun Bailey, who is running for Mayor of London, and MP Felicity Buchan, after hundreds signed a petition saying the route was underused and a waste of public money.  

But XR activists joined forces with campaign group BetterStreets4K last night to prevent the controversial cycle lane from being ripped up by Kensington and Chelsea Council. 

They tweeted their disapproval before organising a rally from 9.30pm which saw masked protesters waving flags being spoken to by police.

In September, the eco-protesters chained themselves to the gates of Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire and blocked access to the presses in Knowsley, Liverpool on the same evening.

The stunt was blasted by Boris Johnson for 'attacking free speech' after newsagents across the country were left empty the following morning. In a speech delivered to the Police Superintendents Association after the protest, Priti Patel said she was committed to helping police deal with 'so-called eco-crusaders turned criminals.'  

The unpopular High Street Kensington scheme, which was introduced in September to get people back to their offices, saw the council receive £313,000 in funding from Transport for London's Streetspace fund.

Chariots Of Fire actor Havers, who is a local Kensington resident, said after the council's U-turn: 'This is a fantastic result that will save lives because ambulances could not get through to reach patients in dire need.

'It will also cut all that nasty pollution from cars stuck in horrendous traffic jams for hours. I now hope that other councils see sense and do the same. Everybody I speak to is angry about these cycle lanes.'

Politicians have also criticised the scheme, with local Tory MP Felicity Buchan and London Assembly member Tony Devenish both declaring they 'hadn't worked' and instead increased congestion.

Will Norman, the Mayor of London's walking and cycling commissioner said the council had blocked three major safety schemes and he would look to recover the money so it could be spent on other areas in the capital. 

He told the Evening Standard: 'They eventually agreed to do this [the Kensington scheme] but they are taking it out before it's even finished. People are dying on these roads. I'm so angry about it. There have been so many collisions and serious injuries that there needs to be a safe route across west London.'  

The scheme, which saw bollards erected on the protected path along Kensington High Street, will be removed on Wednesday

The Left-wing demonstrators infamously disrupted the distribution of British newspapers including the Mail in September  

The Left-wing demonstrators glued themselves to a work van which was removing the bollards on Wednesday night 

The backlash comes after the council, which initially opened up the lanes to encourage visitors back to the High Street, said they would remove the lanes following concerns over congestion, bus journey times and loading. 

Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea also raised concerns about taxis and cars being unable to drop passengers off safely at pavements. In a clip posted to Twitter Ms Buchan, the MP for Kensington, said: 'We're on the verge of Kensington High Street and we've come to see the traffic this morning. 

'I very much wanted the cycle lane on Kensington High Street to work but unfortunately it just hasn't.

'It hasn't worked for pedestrians, it hasn't worked for the elderly, it hasn't worked for the disabled. So very reluctantly, I am asking the council to take out the cycle lane on Kensington High Street.' 

London Assembly Member Mr Devenish added: 'I'd like to thank our residents and residents' associations for working with RBKC to actually look at this scheme.

'It was a good idea but I'm afraid it hasn't worked. And now we need to take it out as soon as possible.' 

In a joint statement, the politicians also said: 'TfL has always placed RBKC under immense pressure to implement a cycleway scheme, and have threatened to take over Borough roads. It is now clear that TfL severely miscalculated the impact of such schemes, which require careful analysis.

'We would fully encourage RBKC to explore expanding their highly successful Quietways programme, and we note the success of other measures such as on Portobello Road. Anything that is done to promote active travel must be safe, fair, and balanced for all road users, including the elderly, children, and disabled.'

The lanes had generated a wave of opposition, with local Tory MP Felicity Buchan and London Assembly member Tony Devenish both declaring they 'hadn't worked' and instead increased congestion. Pictured is Tuesday' protest

Earlier this week dozens pro-cycling protesters from around London pedalled down High Street Kensington in a 'festive joyride' protesting against the route's removal 

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