The fight against the cycle lanes clogging up our towns and cities has recorded a major victory as councils begin moving to scrap them.
Bosses at local authorities across the country are starting to remove the lanes as concern grows over traffic gridlock and ambulances being delayed while responding to 999 calls.
The Mail on Sunday has learnt that ‘pointless’ bollards have been removed from the high street in Worthing after West Sussex County Council decided to ditch the majority of its new £780,000 cycle lanes after just seven weeks.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that bike lanes on Kensington High Street in London – described as ‘disastrous’ in last week’s Mail on Sunday by actor and local resident Nigel Havers – are also to go.
‘Pointless’ bollards have been removed from the high street in Worthing after West Sussex County Council (pictured)
They were introduced in the first phase of the Government’s controversial £2 billion ‘active travel’ plan which critics say is being rushed out during the pandemic with catastrophic results.
The developments come as it emerged that:
- Traffic surveys revealed that the number of cyclists in Worthing actually fell by 20 per cent in the two weeks after the initiative was introduced in September;
- Lanes are also being torn up in Crawley, East Grinstead, Horsham and Shoreham after residents complained that they were barely used and had brought traffic to a standstill;
- A cycle lane in Greater Manchester was removed after just 48 hours and in Filton, Gloucestershire, a new route was scrapped after five days;
- Other areas where cycle lanes were scrapped include Lancashire, Tyne and Wear, Derby and Kent.
The U-turn in Kensington was hailed as a boost for campaigners across the country who are fighting to remove cycle lanes amid complaints that they have resulted in traffic chaos.
The council have decided to ditch the majority of its new £780,000 cycle lanes after just seven weeks (pictured)
Last night, Mr Havers said: ‘Well done to The Mail on Sunday. 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. They just don’t work and I think the Government needs to re-evaluate its thinking.’
More than 3,000 residents and businesses signed a petition calling on the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to remove the bollards.
The scheme caused two-mile tailbacks on a vital arterial road in West London, and disability groups said taxis and cars were unable to drop passengers off safely at pavements. Residents also noted that it was barely used by cyclists.
Johnny Thalassites, the council’s transport chief, confirmed the bollards would be removed from Wednesday, adding: ‘Businesses and residents have told us loud and clear that they believe the experiment has not worked. We are listening.’
Felicity Buchan, the Tory MP for Kensington, said she had received a vast amount of correspondence from concerned constituents, with ’96 per cent of comments against and only four per cent in favour of the scheme’.
She claimed that the council had faced immense pressure from Transport for London to roll out the new cycle lane but that it had ‘miscalculated’ its impact.
The fight against the cycle lanes clogging up our towns and cities has recorded a major victory as councils begin moving to scrap them (pictured: bollards being removed)
Meanwhile, a top motoring legal expert has said that if there are going to be millions of new cyclists on our streets, they should be registered like drivers and face the same punishments if they fail to follow the rules of the road.
Lawyer Nick Freeman said cyclists should have to wear a specially numbered tabard similar to a car number plate which would allow police to easily identify who was on a bike.
The solicitor, who is nicknamed Mr Loophole for defending celebrity clients using legal technicalities, added: ‘Compulsory identification is vital so that cyclists who break the law can be brought to account.
‘Not least those who fail to use cycle lanes when the option is available.
‘Cyclists have long called for their own road space. It has been achieved at exorbitant cost to the taxpayer, yet they remain empty.
‘Part of the problem is that a militant voice has emerged among some cyclists – a voice which shows arrogance, entitlement and utter contempt for any kind of regulation.
‘Some cyclists believe they are immune to legal compliance – witnessed, not least, by the number who jump red lights.’
However, a Government review into registering cyclists in 2018 concluded that ‘the costs and complexity of introducing such a system would significantly outweigh the benefits’.
These crazy green schemes are why black cabs like mine are ending up in taxi graveyard, writes ex-cabbie ANDREW CARTER
Think of Britain, and the black cab is as iconic as Big Ben, fish and chips and red post boxes.
But, sadly, the taxis – and their thousands of drivers – are on the brink of extinction.
Wave upon wave of punitive green schemes unleashed by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, have made it almost impossible to earn a living driving around the capital’s streets.
It was already a perilous situation, but the pandemic has seen work dry up completely because, frankly, no one is going anywhere.
City offices are empty, because most people are working from home. There are no crowds of tourists, no foreign business travellers, no pub-goers, parties or nightclubbers trying to get home.
Railway stations and airports are practically deserted.
But now, at a time when thousands of cabbies most urgently need their help, this Government is driving a final nail in the coffin by rolling out thousands of miles of badly designed cycle lanes.
The sudden closure of hundreds of roads to traffic has already brought chaos and congestion to towns and cities across the country.
Central London is gridlocked and threatens to get worse once we come out of lockdown this week.
Because even when the Covid crisis is finally over, life will not return to normal for cab drivers or anyone else who makes their living on the roads.
The overnight transformation of our streets – without consultation – means that taxi journeys will take much longer and cost punters more money.
I am afraid that this will make hailing a black cab an unattractive option for ordinary people.
After all, if you went to a pub and suddenly it cost £9 for a pint and took twice as long to pour, would you go back there again?
These new cycle lanes, with bollards separating bikes from vehicles, have slowed traffic to a crawl and some areas are at a standstill for most of the day.
This was all rushed out under emergency powers granted by the Government at the start of the pandemic.
Infuriatingly, some of these new bike lanes have popped up right next to existing cycle routes.
The worst example of this is on Park Lane, where just 100 yards away there is already a bike route cutting through Hyde Park.
I totally agree that there should be segregated cycle lanes to separate bikes from cars, vans, lorries and buses.
Before I fulfilled my boyhood dream of becoming a cabbie in my 40s, I used to cycle 25 miles a day from my home in Essex to work as a printer in the East End.
I know how vulnerable cyclists feel in rush-hour traffic, but these new lanes are just punishing anyone in a vehicle – and they are the ones who pay road tax, not the cyclists, who are few and far between in the lanes anyway.
It was with a heavy heart that I decided to give up driving my beloved cab earlier this year.
By the time I quit, it was actually costing me money to go to work. I lost £200 in my final week behind the wheel, working 12-hour days to try to make ends meet.
I know I am not alone. Official figures reveal that about 160 cabbies have been quitting each week during the pandemic.
The number of licensed taxis in the capital fell by a fifth from 18,900 in June to 15,000 this month.
Of those remaining, only 20 per cent of cabbies are still driving their vehicles, according to the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association.
This comes amid the relentless expansion of faceless taxi-hailing apps that push our earnings well below a decent wage.
Not far from where I live in Essex, there is a field full of black cabs. The firm that hires them out to drivers has left them parked there until demand picks up again.
But I’m sorry to say that many cabbies I’ve spoken to don’t think that they will ever get back behind the wheel.
I have now taken a zero-hours contract job driving a van for the NHS for £11 an hour, working with five other former cabbies who also gave up the trade this year.
Once I pay my bills and feed my kids, at the end of each week I have only £40 left over.
To become a cabbie you have to love it, and I really did. The best part of the job was meeting and talking to interesting people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world.
But I know I will not go back to driving a cab. Not now. Why would I want to take that risk, given that Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan seem intent on erasing cars from Central London?
I feel quite sad about that. When I was made redundant as a printer seven years ago, I seized the opportunity to become a cab driver.
I spent thousands doing The Knowledge – a series of tests that must be passed by all black cab drivers before they can get a licence to work in the capital.
I painstakingly learned 320 routes and 25,000 streets by heart to get my licence.
While these are the hoops that the licensing authority makes you jump through to become a black cab driver, that same licensing authority is now closing off roads to taxis, practically forcing cabbies like me out of a job.
So far, councils have been handed £250 million to chuck at cycle schemes, and the plan is to spend £2 billion by 2025.
We’ve already seen dozens of local authorities having to remove their new cycle lanes because they have caused huge traffic problems.
Before they spend another penny, I’d like to see town planners actually speaking to all road users and coming up with better ideas.
Because without a drastic rethink, I fear that London’s black cabs will go the same way as the gondolas in Venice.
They will be hailed by tourists outside Madame Tussauds and the Tower of London for a bit of fun, but they will become too expensive for everyday use.
BBC broadcaster JEREMY VINE tells anti-cycle lane actor Nigel Havers: Scrap them and I’ll swap my bike for a Chelsea tractor… let’s see if that stops jams!
I made a mistake on my commute to work this week.
On Wednesday, dopey at 5.40am, I took a right instead of a left and then made a bad decision and ended up on the main flyover of the A4 heading into London.
This would not matter if I was in a car – but I was on a bicycle.
Because it was very early, there were not many vehicles, but those that passed me were doing up to 60mph.
I was lit up like a Christmas tree but my modest 12mph on this uphill stretch of overpass meant I was effectively barrelling backwards towards the oncoming cars, and in the dark I wasn’t sure they could tell.
I survived. At some point the mad mile calmed down and I was back in a more normal road layout.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Which is when it struck me – what I’d just done was trespass on space designated exclusively for motor vehicles.
Had I been knocked off, there would not have been even an ounce of sympathy. ‘He shouldn’t have been there.’
There was a time when every road in our cities was like that.
In a painful altercation with a cab driver recently, where I had to point out I had the right to cycle in the same space as him, he bellowed back: ‘Cars were here first!’
When I told him the first penny farthings arrived in the 1880s, and the first car journey was not until 1894, he replied ‘Your dancing’s crap as well’, which I assume was a reference to my time on Strictly.
Can I tell you why I cycle? At 6ft 3in, I could eat as many jam doughnuts as I wanted. For years I binged on croissants and crisps and just got thinner.
Then, in my mid-40s, my metabolism slowed and I became large and miserable. I remember crawling after my young child while playing at home and feeling, for the first time, a thick fold of skin on the back of my neck.
In protest I left my utterly ineffective gym (I can’t blame them – I never went) and decided to make my seven-mile commute my daily exercise.
After years in cars, trains and buses, getting a bicycle was a revelation – like getting wings.
Suddenly I could move around the city I live in and time my journeys to the minute; rapidly, I dropped from 15st to 12st.
Whoever said a bicycle is ‘a flying machine powered by muffins’ got it bang on.
In Central London, the average daytime speed of a car, pre-Covid, was 7.8mph. On two wheels, I average 9.8mph.
So my modest little bicycle, costing less than £200, is faster than a £200,000 Maserati.
But as I cycled, I got angry. I got angry every time I saw that a fellow commuter cyclist had been killed – the victims often young, smart, professional women, their lives suddenly ended by a truck turning left.
I got angry as I began to grasp the unacceptable level of physical danger I was exposed to as impatient drivers pushed past me or turned across me at lights and junctions.
I got angry as I watched car adverts that made breaking speed limits look sexy and boasted of safety features which protected only the driver, not the person they hit.
Then came a ray of light. The thinking time brought by Covid led councils across the country to install pop-up cycle lanes.
I was deafened by the sound of pennies dropping everywhere – councillors suddenly grasping that the more we widen our roads, the more people drive.
The more people drive, the more road death, obesity and pollution there is: motor vehicles kill five people a day, whereas bicycles kill one or two a year.
One of the most astonishing statistics tells us that motorists in London drove a total of 22.6 billion miles in 2019 – across only 9,000 miles of road!
So we know that if we pave over the whole of Britain, it will just create one monstrous traffic jam, and the inescapable conclusion is that road space needs to be taken from motor vehicles and given to more active forms of travel… yep, cycling foremost. What could be less contentious?
Silly me. I simply didn’t reckon on the opposition. I didn’t see the sheer fury on the horizon.
In my own neighbourhood, a respected Catholic priest said a cycle path would ‘do more harm than the Luftwaffe’, while his church notices announced: ‘There is much to pray about in the world, and the 10.30am daily public recitation of the Rosary in church will also be praying for success in turning the plans for the CS9 [cycle lane] away from the High Road and the church.’
A local councillor gleefully reported how a resident told her that Chiswick – one of London’s most pleasant suburbs – had become ‘like Belfast during the Troubles’.
In a hilarious video that went viral, three local politicians complained that the cycle lane would ‘destroy the village feel of Chiswick’ – uploading the footage before they realised their words had almost been lost in the din of passing trucks.
When Hackney asked a former civil engineer, Councillor Jon Burke, to overhaul its approach to transport, he acted with gritty determination, creating multiple cycle routes and so-called LTNs (Low Traffic Neighbourhoods).
For his pains, he is frequently abused on social media. ‘F*** off, get the f*** out from Hackney, you d***head!’ tweeted a motorist angry that a full nine minutes had been added to his journey home.
The heavy planters that now block Hackney’s rat-runs are constantly vandalised, and Burke received one note which read: ‘Open all roads now or we will get violent. We intend to burn down your house while you are sleeping.’
Somewhat more civilised, the actor Nigel Havers has also waded in. Havers, known for his role in Chariots Of Fire, misses the days when his local high street was like a scene from Ben Hur.
He wrote in this newspaper last week that his ‘brisk morning walk’ in Kensington had been ruined by ‘the smell of pollution wafting from hundreds of cars, vans, lorries and buses stuck nose-to-nose’.
He blames ‘these dreaded new cycle lanes which have caused havoc across the country’. Nigel, if I may.
The dread you speak of was felt by anyone travelling down your lethal high street before the cycle path arrived – unless, of course, they were encased in two tons of protective metal.
Even now, barely one per cent of London’s roads has any kind of segregated cycle space, and I think you’ll find the last time there was ‘havoc across the country’ was during the Second World War.
Crucially, traffic jams are caused by traffic. If you must shake your fist at the cause of the pollution, shake it at the cars. It’s the chariots that are smoking, not the bicycles!
Let’s do a deal, Nigel. You rip out the safe cycle path and we cyclists will swap our bikes for exhaust-burping, child-crushing SUVs. Then we’ll head for your borough and see how that reduces the jams.
Make no mistake – cycle lanes will save lives. But it will take a while before they start to be used by the number of people the critics demand they see. We didn’t wait till planes were in the air to start building airports.
In the meantime, we all need to be patient. I own a car and probably drive a paltry 300 miles a year, but when I am behind the steering wheel I understand the terrible feeling of impotence that afflicts all city drivers: this thing says 120mph on the speedometer, so why I am going at only 15mph?
Here’s the deal. I’ll stay off that flyover if you’ll just give me a single protected lane between my home and work. That way, we can all be happy. And hopefully stay alive.