Last week the West London Borough of Chelsea and Kensington, one of the wealthiest in the country, voted against a Transport for London proposal for segregated cycling infrastructure. Although I don’t live there and it doesn’t affect me directly, I felt despair when I saw the applause after the council announced the decision.
These people are cheering their right to continue poisoning the bodies of young children. They are cheering dangerous conditions for children to cycle to school. This is why I despair. They might think they’ve won against lycra-clad adult males but all they’ve done is exclude extremely vulnerable road users like children from making journeys by bike and denied them their right to breathe clean air. It really shouldn’t be up for consultation at all. The right of children to cycle to school and breathe clean air ought to come first and trump all else.
The proposal involved removing one of four lanes for motor vehicles. It’s hard to see objections to this as anything but extraordinarily selfish. Motor vehicles will still have most of the space. The proposal is merely allocating some of it (a quarter) to a mode of transport that is more efficient and doesn’t pollute.
If you’re not angry yet then wait till you read this next bit. At the meeting where the video in the Tweet above was filmed, someone stood up claiming to be a relative of the dead cyclist, Eilidh Cairns, who was killed in 2009 when cycling in the West London Borough. The apparent relative said if Eilidh were alive today she would have objected to the cycle path. It was a perplexing thing to say – why would anyone campaign for their own death? But the next day the family of the dead cyclist said this person is not known to them and indeed Eilidh’s sister has been a tireless campaigner for cycling infrastructure since the tragic death of her sister.
And if you’re still not angry, listen to this: the council blocked the proposal before the consultation process had finished! The proposal was out for public consultation which the council had agreed to but then decided to block it before the consultation process was over. Personally I don’t think a consultation should even be necessary. People who want to reduce their impact on the environment and on the NHS should just be allowed to do it. There should be no question mark over it at all.
The council says it supports cycling, just not this proposal. Yet the only other suggestion they’ve tabled it to send cyclists down quiet streets which will not be effective in reducing pollution and getting more people out of cars and onto bikes. For high cycling modal share, cycling must be safe and efficient. Without these two things people will drive. The segregated infrastructure is necessary to make it safe enough for an unaccompanied 12-year-old child to use. If cyclists are forced to use winding, convoluted routes then it’s not efficient. This is straight out of Cycling 101. It’s not rocket science.