Since we wrote to RBKC about the increased urgency of changes in our borough’s streets we have seen some action, and some promises of more to come – 20mph limits and a safe cycle route bringing life back to Kensington High Street among them. Thank you to all who have made those happen. But as we know RBKC had a huge amount of catching up to do, and while we do see some encouraging signs, we need change faster.
Other London boroughs are doing more, faster – and the transformation of cities such as Paris shows what is possible. RBKC remains right at the bottom of the Healthy Streets league table, with the 2020 results just published showing us second from last among inner London boroughs.
The CEO of the RBKC’s iconic Chelsea and Westminster Hospital has added their voice to calls to RBKC leader Councillor Elizabeth Campbell to step up efforts to make active travel a real option for everyone and has offered to help RBKC put plans in place.
The letter has been made public and we’ve included it in full below as it deserves to be heard.
You can still help enormously by contacting our borough councillors and adding your voice to the call for change. We’ve seen that change is possible, we know that attitudes are changing in RBKC Town Hall, and with your help we can make better, safer, healthier and happier streets a reality.
Dear Cllr Campbell,
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is proud to serve residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, employing over 6,000 staff who live in and travel through most London boroughs. We would like to work collaboratively with RBKC to rapidly develop an Emergency Transport Action Plan within the borough ahead of lock down easing to ensure that key workers are able to travel to work safely.
It is incredibly important for local authorities to be preparing for what will likely be a long recovery, where residents and workers will be travelling differently, enabling pedestrians and cyclists to follow government public health guidance. We welcome recent steps including pilot 20 mph areas and new Quietways, nevertheless RBKC needs to do more to support NHS workers who are choosing to walk and cycle to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. We ask that you urgently consider what more needs to be done to prepare London for post lock down particularly around creating safe transit routes for key workers.
The evidence from Wuhan after lock down is of an almost a doubling of private car use. Without action in the UK, we risk the car becoming the default mode of socially-distanced transport and non-car owners (over half of RBKC’s population) may have to choose between expensive private hire vehicles, crowded public transport or braving the newly-trafficked streets without being able to socially distance. Our hospital staff are increasingly switching to walking and cycling to work in response to the pandemic.
The reasons are many; mitigating risk of transmission, supporting physical and psychological wellbeing, incorporating physical exercise into their daily routine, more convenient or they have always wanted to and only feel enabled now with lower traffic volumes.
We would like to work with you to help create a strategic walking and cycling network:
Use temporary materials on key routes – re-purposing traffic lanes and parking spaces for temporary cycle lanes and widening foot ways to enable safe social distancing.
Create transit priority routes that prioritises public transport, walking, those who use mobility aids and cycling. These should provide East-West routes (including Holland Park Avenue, Kensington High Street, and the Fulham Road) and North-South routes (including Ladbroke Grove, Warwick Road/A3220 and Queens Gate Road) that links up with a London network.
Consider closing some streets and junctions to through traffic, implementing low traffic neighbourhoods – this will ensure that everyone has access to street space areas to walk, scoot, cycle and use wheelchairs without the blight of heavy traffic.
We need to make active travel a real option for everyone, not just the young and fit and use cars and public transport only for those who have no other option.
Infrastructure for active travel enables people to exercise as part of their daily routine and being physically active is an effective way to reduce rates of various chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The WHO and Public Health England has highlighted the importance of increasing the proportion of journeys made by bicycle or by foot. The Prime Minister has told regional leaders to encourage people to commute on foot or by bike to help avoid a dramatic increase in car use after lock down.
We welcomed the Secretary of State’s announcement on Saturday, we very much hope that these initiatives will be installed borough wide without delay.
Chief Executive Officer | Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation trust