Kensington cycle lane bollards that have caused traffic chaos for weeks start to disappear


London Mayor Sadiq Khan today went to war over the cycle lane causing chaos on High Street Kensington – and is trying to get it put back as he declared war on a Tory council

Sadiq Khan today sided with left-wing Extinction Rebellion activists and launched a plot to reverse the destruction of a ‘disastrous’ cycle lane by seizing control of the road from the Tory council trying to remove it.

The Labour Mayor of London has gone to war with Conservative-controlled Kensington and Chelsea Council who began ripping bollards up on High Street Kensington before XR supporters glued themselves to their van, forcing them to stop last night.

He 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. 

Mr Khan is now expected to apply to convert 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. If Kensington Council objects, the final decision would be made by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, according to the Evening Standard.

The Mayor of London stepped in this 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 last 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.’ 

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

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 this morning, following their removal

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

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 

Workmen last night managed to remove 38 plastic bollards on Kensington High Street before left-wing demonstrators glued themselves to their van, forcing them to stop

Workmen last night managed to remove 38 plastic bollards on Kensington High Street before left-wing demonstrators glued themselves to their van, forcing them to stop 

Traffic was flowing freely along the west London high street at rush hour this morning

Traffic was flowing freely along the west London high street at rush hour this morning 

While some bollards remain today, defiant Kensington and Chelsea council bosses have confirmed the removal will continue

While some bollards remain today, defiant Kensington and Chelsea council bosses have confirmed the removal will continue

Workmen last night managed to remove 38 plastic bollards on Kensington High Street before left-wing XR demonstrators glued themselves to their van, forcing them to stop.

But defiant Kensington and Chelsea council bosses today confirmed the removal will continue.

A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We are meeting with the contractor to discuss the best way forward. We hope that the work will not be disrupted.’  

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 told MailOnline today 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, last night glued themselves to a work van which was removing the bollards that have caused weeks of misery for drivers navigating the the west London borough. 

In a letter today, 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 the west London borough

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 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.’

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

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

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

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 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

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

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 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

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

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 

Extinction Rebellion protesters stop workers from ripping up the unpopular cycle lane on Kensington High Street

Extinction Rebellion protesters stop workers from ripping up the unpopular cycle lane on Kensington High Street

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

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

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

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

XR activists joined forces with campaign group BetterStreets4K tonight 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

XR activists joined forces with campaign group BetterStreets4K tonight 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 

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

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

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 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 

‘We would like to see the cycle lane remain until the end of the current lockdown on December 2. 

‘However, we believe that this scheme needs to be removed swiftly as soon as we exit lockdown, to allow businesses along the High Street a period of unimpeded business, in the run-up to Christmas, and following the very real difficulties they have faced during the coronavirus restrictions. 

‘Kensington High Street is simply not the correct location, and we must act in the interests of our constituents.’   

Speaking on the decision Cllr Johnny Thalassites, Lead Member for Transport, said: ‘The cycle lane was a trial scheme to help those hopping on bikes during lockdowns and encourage shoppers to the High Street. Businesses and residents have told us loud and clear that they believe the experiment has not worked. We are listening.

‘By removing the temporary lanes as lockdown lifts, we hope to help get the High Street moving again and give our local economy the best possible chance of a good December.’

Tom Frost, Chair of Kensington Business Forum, said: ‘We support any project which helps our business community and commend the Council’s efforts to design and implement the temporary cycle lanes so quickly under a government directive.  

‘Like many others, we hoped the initiative would be a success. Unfortunately it has not helped our High Street businesses attract customers at a vital time for them, so it is good news that the lanes will be removed. 

‘As a community we must protect our local business operators and the temporary cycle lanes have given us valuable information for potential future schemes.’

Michael Stone, Chairman of Kensington and Chelsea Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: ‘The cycle lane in its current form is detrimental to business on Kensington High Street and beyond, and we support its removal. 

‘The pre-Christmas trading period is vital to many businesses and I encourage everyone to stay safe, shop locally, and support your local business community.’

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