Dispelling myths and disinformation
A lot of the opposition to the Holland Park Ave & Notting Hill Gate scheme is based on myths and misinformation.
Here are some evidence-based arguments in response.
- The cycle lanes will cause congestion
- The cycle lanes will cause pollution
- The scheme will be worse for bus passengers
- The scheme will be dangerous for pedestrians
- The scheme will be bad for local businesses
- Holland Park Avenue and Notting Hill Gate are fine as they are
Myth: The cycle lanes will cause congestion
This myth, often rolled out by opponents of safe cycling in London, has been roundly disproven.
Fact 1: Transport for London’s modelling shows little difference – and is the worst-case scenario
Transport for London modelled the effect of the scheme on journey times here. For sustainable journeys (walking, cycling or bus), most are predicted to be two or three minutes worse (or better) than they are at present. The worst delay could be for other traffic, taking 9-10 minutes longer for the whole route from Wood Lane to Notting Hill, but only in the morning rush hour westbound. But note that this is the ‘worst-case scenario’ – if there is no shift to walking, cycling or public transport – which is highly unlikely. And note that sustainable transport gets prioritised over other modes.
Fact 2: A London-wide study of congestion shows that bike lanes are not the cause
This study for Transport for London shows that roadworks, breakdowns and accidents all play a part in congestion, but the main cause – you guessed it – is too many vehicles on the road (“the scale of traffic demand on the network”). It finds that pedestrian, cycle or bus lane schemes can cause delays during construction, but when complete any delays are “negligible” (page 25).
Fact 3: Cities with a good network of cycleways have less congestion
Bikes make much more efficient use of road space to transport people than vehicles. So it’s not surprising that cities with a good network of cycleways have less congestion. To test this, we’ve picked some random cities and compared the overall length of cycleways in a city with the amount of congestion.
As you can see, the trend tends to be that the more cycleways a city has, the less congestion. London’s position is slightly skewed upwards by its large amount of disjointed cycleways (eg only within a park) which are not particularly useful. The dot would be lower if we were only counting good quality routes consistent with those in other cities.
Myth: The cycle lanes will cause pollution
The graph below shows the data from a pollution sensor on Upper Thames Street, where the main East-West cycleway opened in 2016. As you can see, the pollution has slightly reduced since it opened, to below the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide (40ug/m3). It’s also worth noting that the pollution sensor is located next to the traffic lane. For pedestrians, pollution levels will have dropped further, as they are now further separated from motor vehicles: research has shown that walking away from the kerb can reduce your exposure to pollution by a third.
Fact: Evidence shows that cycle lanes can reduce pollution
The graph below shows the data from a pollution sensor on upper Thames Street, where the main east-west cycleway opened in 2016. As you can see, the pollution has slightly reduced since it opened to within the legal limit (40 micrograms per cubic metre). It’s also worth noting that the pollution sensor is located next to the traffic lane. For pedestrians, pollution levels will have dropped further, as they are now separated from motor vehicles by the cycle lane; research has shown that walking away from the kerb can reduce your exposure by a third.
Myth: The scheme will be dangerous for pedestrians
Fact: The scheme will give pedestrians more protection from the real danger – motor traffic
Much has been made of the danger of pedestrians having to cross a cycle lane. The reality is that injuries caused by cyclists to pedestrians are vanishingly rare – perhaps because anyone on a bike hitting a pedestrian will come off just as badly as the pedestrian. And compared to the deaths and injuries inflicted on pedestrians by motor traffic each year, they are practically non-existent. Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park Avenue are dangerous places for pedestrians – you can see the statistics in detail here. The TfL scheme will provide 15 new and upgraded pedestrian crossings and make crossing side roads safer as well.
Myth: The scheme will be worse for bus passengers
Fact: Bus journeys will hardly be affected and some will be better
While sitting on a bus you may not realise it, but bus drivers spend a lot of time negotiating with cyclists when pulling into bus stops. Often a driver will need to wait for a cyclist before they can stop. By removing bikes from the equation, a bus journey is smoother. The price of this is that bus users need to cross to a floating island to board a bus, traversing the bike lane – but this is only a few feet wide and a zebra crossing provided to give pedestrians clear priority over bikes. Transport for London’s traffic modelling for the scheme predicts that there will be minimal impact on bus journey times (remember this is a worse case scenario) and that some will actually be faster.
Myth: The scheme will be bad for local business
Fact: Walking and cycling improvements have been shown to boost high streets
Here is one of many studies that finds walking and cycling improvements have a positive impact on business, and that people who walk or cycle to a commercial area spend more per month than those who arrive by car. Adding bike lanes and bike parking can actually increase economic activity. A passing cyclist is much more likely to make an impromptu stop at a shop than a passing motorist.
However, most car parking spaces will be maintained on Holland Park Avenue, and after objections were raised by businesses, a proposed pedestrian crossing which would have replaced a loading bay has been scrapped – increasing the overall number of parking spaces.
Myth: Holland Park Avenue & Notting Hill Gate are fine as they are
Fact: Leaving these roads as they are would be irresponsible
- Road danger: There have been 34 casualties on this stretch of road where vehicles have collided with people on bikes or on foot in the last three years. One casualty is one too many. It would be wrong not to act.
- Climate change: The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has the second highest carbon emissions in London.* Having declared a climate emergency, the council needs to enable walking and cycling as sustainable transport to reduce emissions from our roads.
- Air pollution: RBKC has the second highest proportion of deaths attributable to air pollution in the country, primarily through cardio vascular disease.* Walking and cycling don’t pollute – so they urgently need to become safe and convenient for all ages & abilities.
- Physical inactivity: Around 31% of people in the borough are physically inactive, doing less than 30 minutes of activity per week.* RBKC’s roads make active travel unsafe and inconvenient for most people, especially children (who need the most exercise). This has to change.
- A growing population. As the population grows, our roads will become gridlocked if people continue to rely heavily on motorised transport to get around. Walking and cycling are far more efficient, moving many more people in the same amount of space without congestion.
* see page 10 of this document