Our five goals for Better Streets in Kensington & Chelsea
When we started we had two other goals. One was to introduce a 20mph limit across the borough, and the other was to roll-out “School Streets” across the borough. We still need these; the 20mph limit has been introduced, but is not enforced, while after a good start RBKC is being left behind other London boroughs in the speed of rolling-out School Streets.
A safe walking and cycling network
Create a safe borough-wide cycle network so that people of all ages and abilities can make their journeys safely by bike
We want pedestrians and those who choose to ride bicycles to be safe and to feel safe, in RBKC.
RBKC’s own research shows that the biggest factor stopping people switching to bikes is safety.
Their most recent survey asked, ‘What is your biggest concern about getting around on Kensington & Chelsea’s streets?’ and the number one answer was “cycling doesn’t feel safe”.
Across the world, evidence shows the biggest blocker to getting people out of private vehicles and onto bicycles is safety, and the best way to do this is to provide physically segregated bike lanes on larger roads together with a well-structured network on smaller roads.
This enables people to feel safe across their whole journey, not just an isolated part of it.
Historically, RBKC have restricted plans for a meaningful network for cycling to a small number of Quietways. Analysis of the modal share (i.e. proportion) of journeys in the borough since their introduction shows that they’ve had no material impact. It’s not surprising. The routes – found here – are so few and scarce across the borough that they are not likely to cover many real journeys people want to make, and the routes themselves are varied in usability. Would you let a competent 12 year old use them? In almost all cases, probably not.
We’ve been encouraged by early signs of a fresh approach to this.
Building a safe network isn’t as difficult as it may sound, and infrastructure for those cycling, walking or wheeling go hand in hand.
In short this means about half a dozen of the busier and bigger main East/West or North/South roads having new physically protected cycle lanes, and then making sure traffic levels are quieter on the rest of the road network.
The bigger and busier roads needing cycle lanes have been identified over years of strategic research, and include High Street Kensington, Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park Avenue, Chelsea Embankment, Queen’s Gate, Chelsea Bridge Road and Warwick Road/Earls Court Road. They serve not only journeys people make within the borough, but also link up to protected routes that either already exist or are being built by other boroughs – for example, High Street Kensington is part of Cycleway 9 that connects with Hammersmith to the West, and Hyde Park and Cycleway 3 to the East.
But on most roads protected cycle lanes are not needed provided that other measures are taken to reduce motor vehicle traffic, for example by rolling out Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. For example, in the area south of High Street Kensington around Victoria Road – an existing Low Traffic Neighbourhood in RBKC – traffic levels are low and it’s already a good environment for people on foot, bike or wheeling.
This goal is backed up by government policy and a great deal of technical research and analysis (for example, design standards for the network need to meet the requirements of the Department for Transport – set out in LTN 1/20 ). Without it (unless we all just stay indoors) RBKC won’t meet its commitment to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured while walking & cycling (KSIs) by 70% by 2030, against the 2010-14 baseline. This means a 68% reduction by 2026.
At least ten of the action points in the RBKC Climate Action Plan, in the transport section, will be meaningless (eg cycle training, encourage more people to cycle) without a safe cycling network.
113 people were recorded as killed or seriously injured (KSI) on RBKC roads in 2019 Protected cycle lanes reduce the risk of injury to cyclists by 40-65% Equality: the number one thing that will get most women cycling is space separated from motor traffic.
 In line with the Mayor’s Vision Zero targets adopted by RBKC council.
Low traffic neighbourhoods
Remove through traffic from residential streets by creating low-traffic neighbourhoods for all residential areas in the borough
Low-traffic neighbourhoods – LTNs – can make a huge positive difference to an area. In summary, they are parts of a borough identified as small enough that walking or cycling from one end to the other is practical. No rat-running is then allowed through the area, although of course residents can still access their front door. The emergency services are consulted to ensure in their design their needs are taken into account. More on this can be found here.
The concept isn’t entirely new. It’s very widely used in different parts of Europe, and in London, similar schemes have been in existence for years but had not until recently been promoted. Within RBKC the area around Victoria Road is in many ways an LTN already. There is little rat-running, and residents and visitors enjoy quieter and friendlier streets.
We worked with RBKC to explain the strategy of an LTN, and are pleased that they are now endorsed as part of RBKC policy.
We now need to work on specific proposals in the borough. Good, thoughtful design is key.
Although theoretically part of RBKC policy, regrettably RBKC have confirmed to us that they have no plans actually to study any, let alone implement any. This is a huge shame, as there are a number of areas that would be a great fit for low-traffic neighbourhoods with some pretty simple interventions.
Lots have also been mapped out by TfL’s Strategic Neighbourhood Analysis (SNA), as mapped here) – and these should be covered by area-wide and high-quality low-traffic neighbourhoods substantially removing cut-through motor traffic, with priority given to those with the greatest need (i.e. darker green areas in the SNA).
Although “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods” have caught the headlines, in reality, the goal of reducing vehicle traffic and having quieter, safer and more people-friendly roads has led to some great parts of the borough – they just weren’t called LTNs! For example, imagine if there was a campaign to open up Clarendon Cross to traffic, or allow cars through all the pedestrian paths of Lancaster West – there would, rightly, be outrage. LTNs reduce the overall number of car journeys, improving air quality and reducing health inequalities, and cutting out through traffic has been shown to cut the risk of injury on neighbourhood streets in half.
Fix our High Streets
Create people-friendly high streets where walking, cycling and spending time are safe and attractive
We want our main roads transformed into a pedestrian and cycle-friendly boulevards, boosting local business.
We want to change our larger roads from unpleasant motor vehicle carriageways where dirty air, noise and danger put off people from visiting, shopping, sitting in cafes or on terraces meeting friends.
We don’t think, for example, that Holland Park Avenue today is a good example of a thriving metropolitan boulevard. The same is true of High Street Kensington. Or indeed the Kings or Fulham Road. Motor traffic prioritisation has made them polluted, noisy and dangerous places for pedestrians and those on bicycles to visit and enjoy.
But this can change. In Paris, for example, perhaps the world’s most famous boulevard, the Champs Elysees, is now benefiting from a segregated cycle path as Paris tries to restore the attraction of this once great road.
For businesses and shopkeepers we genuinely believe this will boost business, and that’s what the evidence shows happens when streets are made more attractive for people to visit.
RBKC know that our High Streets aren’t what they should be – and commissioned a report from Centre for London to look at the issues. But we already know what the issues are – the Council just doesn’t dare tackle the difficult ones which primarily from too much vehicle traffic, and too much road space allocated to motor vehicles rather than people. Adding a few benches, some plants and perhaps a sculpture is all very well, but if the road itself remains noisy, polluting and dangerous it won’t fix the underlying issues.
Cheap and convenient secure bike parking
Make it easy and affordable to park a cycle everywhere in the borough.
Access to safe bike parking is vital to enable people to make their journeys by bike – highlighted recently in the “this is awkward” campaign.
RBKC is putting in place some bike hangars, but it has very few compared to other London boroughs (or the demand for them) – about 10% of the secure bike spaces of Hackney, for example.
It’s also wrong that car parking is available (immediately, no waiting list!) for £21/year, whereas for a bike it costs £72/year for just one-sixth of the space, and the wait list is huge – it can be years).
The cost of parking a bike shouldn’t be more than a car. Some say “what about the costs of managing the bike hangars?”. It’s a fair question. But so is, “what’s the market rate for renting a parking space in RBKC?” People who don’t own cars are (heavily) subsidising those that do, by allowing them to rent public space in the borough for far below the market rate (road wear and tear, a big factor in council budgets, is also caused by motor vehicles, not by those walking, wheeling or cycling). So it’s only fair that charges are brought more into line. Other London boroughs are already charging just one-half of RBKC for a bike space.
RBKC need rapidly to roll out secure and inclusive cycle parking and keep waiting lists short for those who live in, work in and visit the borough at transport interchanges, town centres, amenities, on residential streets and in council estates and provide shared mobility hubs for bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters, cargo e-bikes (using road, rather than pavement space), as well as shared electric cars.
No More Dangerous Junctions
Work with Transport for London to fix the most dangerous junctions in the borough and provide pedestrian signals at all signalised junctions
Collisions leading to serious injuries often happen at junctions, and addressing the many junctions in RBKC that remain dangerous is vital.
The issue is complicated in part because roads in RBKC are mostly controlled by RBKC, but some are controlled by TfL – and even for TfL roads co-operation is needed with RBKC, while RBKC need TfL co-operation for traffic signalling. It’s hard sometimes anyway getting change, but throw into the mix complexities like this and one can begin to understand why some very obviously needed changes such as those to the junctions along Chelsea Embankment (explained here -LINK TO WEBPAGE ON CHELSEA EMBANKMENT) can take decades.
In summary, our goal is that dangerous junctions must be upgraded to meet government safety standards such as those set out in DfT’s LTN 1/20 guidance. There should be no signalised junctions without signalised pedestrian crossing arms, and the borough should work with TfL to ensure pedestrian crossing lights are installed on all arms of all suitable crossings, with cycle crossing lights and markings should also be considered for junctions being improved at the same time.