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‘Save The Lane’ protest at Kensington Town Hall tonight as council digs in on removal of infrastructure

Kensington & Chelsea insists it won't be "bullied into submission" as Sadiq Khan accuses council of "knee jerk response"...

A ‘Save The Lane’ protest will be held outside Kensington Town Hall this evening against the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea’s plans to rip out emergency cycle lanes on Kensington High Street – but, on a day when Mayor of London Sadiq Khan accused the council of making “a knee-jerk response” to opponents of the scheme, the councillor responsible for the borough’s roads has insisted it will not be “bullied into submission.”

This evening’s protest outside the town hall on Hornton Street, just off Kensington High Street, is billed as a “peaceful direct action” and is being held jointly by the campaign groups Stop Killing Cyclists and Extinction Rebellion.

Last night, members of both groups prevented contractors from starting to remove plastic wands marking out the bike lane on Kensington High Road.

However, further east – and, in what is likely to be an unwitting piece of symbolism, right outside the Dutch embassy – workers were able to remove wands.

On Tuesday, parents, children and teachers from Fox Primary School, which lies near Kensington High Street, were joined by cycling campaigners as they called for the council to retain the lane – with some of the pupils ‘adopting’ the wands that mark it out (the Grinch in the picture below being the Conservative London Assembly member who had last week called for the cycle lane to be ripped out).

But speaking on LBC this morning, Labour Mayor of London Khan slammed the council’s decision not to give the cycle lanes more time to enable their impact to be assessed properly, and also threatened to claw back the money provided to install them.

He said: “Kensington High Street is the responsibility of the council. We are trying to persuade them to do the right thing for the 4,000 cyclists.

“It cost us £300,000 of taxpayers’ money to put this cycle lane in – money from across the country.

“The council have persistently refused to allow cycle lanes in their borough. This cycle lane is working. It’s used by thousands of cyclists. The council is ripping it out because a few people have signed a petition. Many of them are not residents. Many of them are not Londoners.

“What we should do is let the cycle lane bed in for some time. After a few months we can review it. There is nothing wrong about tweaking things or changing it.

“This seems to be a knee-jerk response, which I’m definitely against, and I’m looking to get our money back,” he added.

But writing on the RBKC website today, councillor Johhny Thalassites, the council's lead member for planning and transport, insisted: “Threatening us with legal action or financial penalties will make no difference to our decision, London boroughs aren't here to be bullied into submission through sanctions.”

He said that the council was “still looking at ways to improve cycling provision, long term,” but added that “our focus is likely to shift [away from Kensington High Street] to alternative schemes that have a positive impact for our residents” – in other words, quiet routes on secondary roads.

It’s the second time in less than 18 months that Khan and RBKC have come into conflict over cycle lanes on main roads, with the council last year withdrawing its support for a planned cycleway through Holland Park Avenue at the eleventh hour.

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.

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