An employee of MailOnline based at Northcliffe House on Kensington High Street is calling on the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) to reverse its decision to remove emergency cycle lanes there, which led to a protest yesterday morning led by a local primary school and attended by around 200 pupils, parents and teachers as well as cyclists from across West London and beyond.
Meanwhile, broadcaster Jeremy Vine has offered Nigel Havers to swap cycle lanes for SUVs to “see how that reduces the jams,” while Kensington Business Forum has regjected claims it opposed the cycle lanes.
MailOnline employee Łukasz Marek Sielski stressed on Twitter that his objection to the council’s plans to rip out the pop-up cycle lanes this week – just two months after they were put in place – was made in a private capacity, and that he was “not imposing or suggesting official position of any institution.
This is my PRIVATE stand on it. I'm not imposing or suggesting official position of any institution. Anyhow in the current situation as my personal safety is at stake I voice my concerns. pic.twitter.com/QCTD5DE1jV
— ⚪🔴⚪ Łukasz Marek Sielski (@sielay) December 2, 2020
In his message to the council, made via an online tool created by London Cycling Campaign (LCC) which was involved in yesterday’s protest, he said: “I’m head of Software Development, CMS at MailOnline. Together with dozens if not hundreds of my colleagues from Mail, Metro, DMGT, Evening Standard, I paper, Tata and Founders Factory, I commute on bike to our office in Northcliffe House.
“I’ve been assaulted many times on Kensington & Chelsea roads and few times almost lost my life (once on purpose) thanks to dangerous drivers. In our team we have people permanently disabled after being hit by cars while cycling. We all used that lane and it made our journey safer.
“I’m incredibly disappointed to hear that you are planning to remove the cycle lane on Kensington High Street,” he added. “It has proved incredibly popular with key workers like teachers, and hospital staff, many of whom felt unable to cycle on this dangerous road without the lanes, and it is also increasingly used by families.”
Mail Online, plus sister newspapers the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, have been at the forefront of opposition to the lanes, including the Sunday title publishing an article last month by the actor Nigel Havers, who lives locally, in which he claimed the infrastructure had led to “gridlock” and “scenes of utter havoc” – despite pictures accompanying that article showing an almost empty Kensington High Street.
This weekend, Mail on Sunday did however publish an article in support of the cycle lanes, written by the broadcaster Jeremy Vine who rides on Kensington High Street daily as part of his commute from Chiswick to the West End.
In his article, he noted that Havers had written that “his ‘brisk morning walk’ in Kensington had been ruined by ‘the smell of pollution wafting from hundreds of cars, vans, lorries and buses stuck nose-to-nose’.
“He blames 'these dreaded new cycle lanes which have caused havoc across the country’. Nigel, if I may.
“The dread you speak of was felt by anyone travelling down your lethal high street before the cycle path arrived – unless, of course, they were encased in two tons of protective metal.
“Even now, barely 1 per cent of London's roads has any kind of segregated cycle space, and I think you'll find the last time there was 'havoc across the country' was during the Second World War.
“Crucially, traffic jams are caused by traffic. If you must shake your fist at the cause of the pollution, shake it at the cars. It's the chariots that are smoking, not the bicycles!
Let's do a deal, Nigel,” Vine continued. “You rip out the safe cycle path and we cyclists will swap our bikes for exhaust-burping, child-crushing SUVs. Then we'll head for your borough and see how that reduces the jams.
“Make no mistake – cycle lanes will save lives,” he added. “But it will take a while before they start to be used by the number of people the critics demand they see. We didn't wait till planes were in the air to start building airports.”
Vine himself has published his own videos of the cycle lanes in recent days to social media, including this one from Monday in which he broke the news to a mother and daughter who had been encouraged to cycle after they were installed that the council was going to remove them.
The £700,000 cycle lane along #KensingtonHighStreet is being ripped out this week after less than two months. I used it tonight and met a mum and daughter who didn't know it was being removed. I hope @RBKC council might watch this and think again pic.twitter.com/pOG4wCPaZF
— Jeremy Vine (@theJeremyVine) November 30, 2020
Meanwhile, the Kensington Business Forum, which promotes and supports local businesses, insists it is not opposed to the cycle lanes, despite a quote from its chair, Tom Frost, being included in the press release issued by RBKC at the weekend confirming their removal.
In that press release, he was quoted as saying: “We support any project which helps our business community and commend the Council’s efforts to design and implement the temporary cycle lanes so quickly under a government directive.
“The Kensington Business Forum acted as a conduit for local businesses to express their feedback on the temporary lane, with the majority of local businesses opposed the current temporary lane. Local Businesses and Kensington and Chelsea Chamber of Commerce wrote to the council to ask that the temporary cycle lane be removed in time for Christmas shoppers to visit the High Street. Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea also raised concerns about the impact on disabled people visiting the High Street.”
But in a statement published on its website yesterday, Kensington Business Forum said: “The Kensington Business Forum aims to unite Kensington W8.
“We recently passed on the business views, both of those in favour and against cycle lanes, as a representative body for Kensington W8 Business. The views shared with Kensington & Chelsea are of local businesses and not that of our Executive Committee. Regrettably this has been represented, in certain public forums, as our opposition to cycle lanes. This is not the case, but the views of local businesses (both for and against) who provided feedback to the Kensington Business Forum for this current scheme.
“We have numerous ‘green’ projects in development such as our ‘Greening Proposal’, designing and installing living green walls in and around Kensington W8 as well as our ‘Green Champion’ which aims to maintain the green pockets in and around the High Street, such as the Parklets.
“If you would like to share a comment or feedback on the Temporary Cycle Lanes, please do so through Active Travel at Kensington & Chelsea Council,” it added.
— Alastair Hilton (@London_W4) December 2, 2020
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.