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RBKC’s environmental action plans won’t work

RBKC’s environmental action plans won’t work

Kensington and Chelsea council are consulting on their environmental action plans. We’ve looked at them, and when it comes to making roads and transport greener, they simply won’t work. There is plenty about ‘encouraging’ active travel, but no set targets to actually make our dangerous, traffic-dominated roads safe enough for everyone to be able to walk and cycle. Our borough’s roads have some of the worst road casualty statistics in London. 

Promoting active travel to council staff and encouraging schools to have sustainable transport (STARS) plans are meaningless without safe infrastructure like pedestrian crossings, low traffic streets and protected cycle lanes. RBKC need to act urgently to make our streets safer and more people friendly, so that people have the choice to travel without a car if they are serious about cutting emissions from roads. 

Respond Now!

If you live, work or study in RBKC, your voice counts! Please take a few minutes to complete the council surveys before 13 February.

For a quick response

We suggest responses below for the first survey, on Air Quality. It’s followed by a survey on the Climate Emergency action plan, which has very similar actions for transport, so you can give similar answers to both surveys. But please respond in your own words as you see best.

To what extent do you agree, or disagree, with the vision set out for our Air Quality Action Plan?

We suggest: ‘Strongly agree’.

Reading the six objectives for the Air Quality Action Plan – to what extent do you agree, or disagree, that these objectives are right for this action plan?

We suggest: ‘Strongly agree’. However, see below for a vital comment about “Encouraging active travel”

If there are other objectives you think are missing and would like to see included, or if you disagree with any of the proposed objectives, please explain in the comment box below.

We suggest: ‘I disagree with limiting yourselves only to “encouraging” active travel. It must be enabled by making roads safer for walking and cycling.’

In general, to what extent do you agree or disagree that the actions listed in each section are right for the action plan? 

We suggest: 

    • ‘Many of the transport actions won’t work without a safe, high-quality cycle network throughout the borough and more pedestrian crossings. 
    • It is pointless just ‘encouraging’ council staff to use active travel; ‘cycle training for children and adults to learn to ride safely and increase confidence’; promoting sustainable travel to school; e-scooter hire; cargo bike deliveries when there isn’t adequate infrastructure for people to do those things safely. 
    • The priority actions should be about installing safe walking and cycling infrastructure across the borough.’

To understand quite how non-existent RBKC’s “network” for active travel is, have a read here

Looking at the six broad themes in the Air Quality Action Plan – to what extent do you agree, or disagree, that each of these themes is right for the action plan?

We suggest: ‘Agree’ for all.

If you have any final comments about the Air Quality Action Plan, please explain in the comment box below.

We suggest: ‘For reducing emissions from road transport, this plan is very weak. What’s needed is a bold plan with specific, measurable and time-bound targets to create an environment where walking and cycling are a valid option for everyone. That should include targets to:

    • Create a borough-wide network of safe, high quality cycle infrastructure
    • Address dangerous junctions and install signalised pedestrian crossings on every arm
    • Reduce traffic in all neighbourhoods so that walking and cycling are safe for all ages (traffic has been going up in RBKC – and unlike other London councils RBKC has no targets to reduce it)
    • Make parking a cycle easier and cheaper than parking a car.

There is also no recognition from the Council that electric vehicles (EVs) pollute, but they do – with deadly small particulates from their brake pads, tyres and from the road surface erosion caused by these heavy vehicles. The Council’s own reporting shows that these particulates are a big problem in our borough – but they are totally silent about it in this action list.  We need fewer cars, not just different cars, for road safety, active lifestyles, community as well as air quality.’

In the Climate Emergency survey only: How can the Council support you to act and tackle climate change in your local area and reduce your carbon footprint? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

We suggest sharing your own experience of barriers to walking and cycling in the borough and what would enable you to use active travel or public transport more.

Thank you for taking the time to respond! 

If you have time, you can read on to see our full response to the plans as Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea.

Our response in full

The transport actions in RBKC’s Air Quality and Climate Emergency Action Plan lack meaningful actions or specific, measurable targets that could reduce transport emissions. And many of the ‘actions’ in both plans are either impossible or pointless without a safe, high-quality cycle network throughout the borough, as well as action on dangerous junctions for walking. This applies to T2, T5, T6, T10, T11, T15, T21. For instance ‘cycle training for children and adults to learn to ride safely and increase confidence’; or school travel plans; or school streets; or ‘encouraging’ council staff to cycle; or e-scooter hire; or cargo bike deliveries.

To be effective, all of these actions would depend on the council taking robust action to address road danger and make the borough’s streets safe for walking and cycling. A mention near the end of upgrading cycle routes (T23, T24) is welcome but vague – it does not set any standards or measurable targets to attain. It is also misleading as it does not refer to what the current routes actually are: a total of 9km across 200km of road, and half of the 9km having failed an RBKC/TfL audit.  So the existing routes have an almost zero percent chance of covering a journey that someone may want to make from start to finish. The same is true of cycle parking actions in T8, T9 and T20. And in the Air Quality Action Plan, Public Health action P6 “Reduce the need for cars by promoting clean air walking and cycling routes’ ‘ – is useless without delivering safe cycle and walking routes.

Transport and active travel

In response to specific transport actions

  • “T1: Reduce emissions from Council Fleet by reducing the number of vehicles and electrifying remainder of fleet” should include using cargo bikes where it will deliver operational needs.
  • “T3: Review Grey Fleet and encourage staff members using personal vehicles to switch to electric vehicles and public transport.” This should include cycling and scooters. There should be a review of vehicle use that places vehicles at the bottom of the transport hierarchy, regardless of whether they are electric or not.
  • “T8: Remove parking bays and replace with trees and cycle parking”. There should be a defined objective to reduce on street car parking, e.g. by at least 2-5% per annum over the next 5 years. This will increase cycle storage provision, improve the flow of buses, increase green spaces, planting and improve public spaces.
  •  “T10: Build on existing programme of School Streets” – school streets need to be linked with a usable network of safe – and in the case of main roads, protected – cycle routes. School streets need to be built on with infrastructure to ensure they are sustainable (automatic bollards) and incorporated into permanent public realm improvements.
  • “T12: Review experimental 20 mph scheme to decide whether it will become permanent.” This is the agreed speed that urban streets should be limited to, therefore this should be made permanent. However it needs to be reinforced with street design to induce lower speeds and reduce through traffic, as well as greater enforcement.
Localised Elections

In response to ‘Localised solutions’ actions

We support many of these ideas, but they should not be instead of planned or proposed schemes that are part of a London network, such as cycle lanes on High Street Kensington and Holland Park Avenue which form strategic networks not just for RBKC but the whole of London.

  • L1: The council should support developing WestWay as a key East West active travel corridor. It could also support a local consolidation hub for deliveries 
  • L2: Transport for London has designed a scheme already in the form of Cycleway 10. The council should commit to link the planned TfL White City/Shepherds Bush cycle lane with a protected cycle lane along Holland Park Avenue/Notting Hill Gate with Westminster/Bayswater Road – this would be particularly helpful for Imperial students, one of whom was killed on the Hammersmith & Fulham stretch last year, and NHS staff.
  • L10: Portobello and Golborne markets should be fully pedestrianised with only residential/trader access as part of a place-based design approach to the public realm and reducing car journeys in the borough.

What we are asking for

In response to this highly inadequate action plan, we ask that the council adopts specific, measurable targets that will not only enable sustainable active travel, reducing pollution and carbon emissions, but reduce the borough’s terrible rate of deaths and injuries on its roads. Only by making walking, cycling and public transport safe, convenient and attractive, while disencentivising car use and ownership, will harmful vehicle emissions start to fall.

By 2026, we ask the council to commit to: 

  1. Create a safe borough-wide cycle network, to the highest government standards, including segregated cycle lanes on certain busy roads such as those identified in the TfL Strategic Cycling Analysis, so that people of all ages and abilities can cycle safely. It should link schools, homes, high streets, health centres, parks and leisure facilities.
  2. Remedy the most dangerous junctions in the borough to high standards and provide pedestrian signals at all signalised junctions.
  3. Remove dangerous through traffic from residential streets by creating low traffic neighbourhoods for all residential areas in the borough.
  4. Create at least three people-friendly high streets that make walking and cycling safe on major thoroughfares in the borough.
  5. Make it easier and cheaper to park a cycle than it is to park a car everywhere in the borough.

The following actions could also be included:

  • Draw up plans to redesign borough roads to reflect the new hierarchy with pedestrians, cycling and public transport prioritised
  • Address air pollution from the Great Western Railway and Westway in North Kensington.
  • Pursue improving rail links in North Kensington
  • Improve flow of buses by reducing parking on residential side streets and/or introducing bus gates to prioritise buses over through traffic
  • Replace poor quality cycleways on residential streets with a programme of low traffic neighbourhoods, which make whole areas safe for all-age cycling.
  • Low traffic neighbourhoods should have planned pilots, prioritising where they are most needed (e.g. North Kensington has some of the worst air quality and highest concentrations of schools)
  • Empower council wardens to enforce new Highway Code changes that prioritise pedestrians and cyclists, with a programme to target junctions and crossings
  • Review the residents’ parking programme with the aim of reducing short local car journeys, by introducing localised controlled parking zones
  • Ensure there is no waiting list for secure cycle parking
  • Deliver an expanded network of Santander cycle docks across the borough
  • Roll out a borough cargo bike hire scheme
  • Work with the NHS to deliver social prescribing of cycling and NHS cycle programme
  • Set a target to improve access to public transport (PTAL) with a minimum PTAL for all parts of the borough. This minimum should be higher than the lowest current score with plans and strategy to bring all parts of the borough to an agreed standard.

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