As residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, we are deeply disappointed with your decision to reject Transport for London’s (TfL) plans for safety improvements on Holland Park Avenue and Notting Hill Gate. We were hoping for safer and healthier streets. We were looking forward to crossing the roads more easily with our children and anyone being able to ride a bike. Now this idea seems to have been just a pipe dream.
Why did you reject the scheme before the consultation ended?
We were invited to respond to a consultation and discuss it in a meeting. We were told that you would be neutral and consider all the responses before any decision. But you had decided to reject the scheme before the consultation had even closed. And far from being neutral, it appears that your lead member for this project campaigned against it (Cllr Thalassites, circled in the image below).
How did you reach that decision? You claim, “The vast majority of our residents do not support these proposals”. This statement turns out to be based on 450 emails in a borough of over 150,000 residents. How could you know the views of the residents who participated in the TfL consultation, which had not even finished at that point? How much effort did you make to listen to views from across the borough and not just from the well-organised few who orchestrated the meeting?
A flawed conversation
Many of the borough’s most vulnerable residents are in the silent majority – families with young children, those working long hours, people struggling on a low income, or elderly or disabled residents. All of these groups stand to gain from safer and healthier streets but lack the time and resources to make their voices heard.
You repeat residents’ concerns, but have not tried to address the myths behind them. You talk about trees, which can be replaced (and were to be replaced under the plan), but not about human lives, which cannot. You talk about pollution, when the evidence shows that cycle lanes do not worsen it (and can reduce it). You talk about congestion without admitting that the only way to reduce motorised traffic is to reduce capacity for it and provide sustainable alternatives. This is exactly what the scheme will do, even if journeys slow down marginally in the short term. You need to listen to evidence, not anecdotes, and seek to allay the unfounded fears of some residents.
Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea
Our new group, Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea, will give a voice to residents who want safe streets and clean air in our borough. We’re calling for urgent action which will enable more people to walk and cycle. This will result in healthy and thriving communities. There is overwhelming evidence from major cities around the world that it can be done – so surely it can be done here, in one of London’s wealthiest neighbourhoods.
These families we met support the scheme
Making walking and cycling safer and easier benefits everyone. However, as long-time residents, we’re frustrated by the lack of any meaningful progress to improve our streets. The quietway network you refer to is not a solution. This patchy network does not enable convenient and direct journeys to where people want to go. You need a bold and comprehensive plan which will deliver better streets across the borough. Let’s turn the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea from laggard to front runner in safe, clean and active travel!
The Transport for London scheme is a crucial part of the change we need. It will allow more people to travel actively. It will open up our streets to those who don’t own cars and those who are keen to start using their bicycles. It will make this important public thoroughfare a place for young and old, regardless of income, status and mode of transport. It will make the difference between people coming home safely – or, like Eilidh Cairns, never coming home at all.
By all means sit down with TfL and discuss keeping trees and the locations of bus stops. But please – don’t outright reject these important safety improvements for our streets.
We would welcome a meeting to discuss these issues in person.
Sara French and Jonathan Kelly
On behalf of Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea