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Council says it “did not manipulate data” after cycling campaigners accused it of ignoring advice in order to controversially shelve bike lane

Kensington and Chelsea Council was accused by campaigners of putting cyclists in danger, as the fight for the High Street cycle lane rumbles on

UPDATE: The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC), the local authority that controversially removed a protected cycle lane just seven weeks after it was installed, has refuted claims from active travel campaigners that it delayed a consultation process and manipulated data concerning public support for protected cycling infrastructure on Kensington High Street.

Last week, campaigners – who in March saw a legal challenge against what they believed to be the council’s “premature” removal of the cycle lane dismissed by a High Court judge – accused the authority of delaying taking action to protect cyclists and claimed on social media that the authority had “manipulated” the results of a survey of local residents to conclude that painted cycle lanes are more popular than protected ones.

In a statement to road.cc, RBKC denied manipulating the survey data and argued that it has not delayed a consultation process on the Kensington High Street cycle lane.

“We did not give any suggestion or timeline for consultation,” the statement said. “The Centre for London (CfL) report did not provide a readymade scheme that we could consult on. Our statement in response to the CfL report was published at the time, which said we would go to the Citizens’ Panel, which we did in January.

“We did not manipulate the data and the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) have not explained how they say we did. If you aggregated the three different types of protected cycle lane together, in the question about which type of lane would make people feel safest when cycling, that would add up to 42 percent, against 14 percent for painted lanes. This is what Rob Whitehead refers to.

“But we showed that two of the protected lane types scored higher than painted lanes. These are distinct questions and when we asked people how they feel about different types of cycle lane more generally, i.e. popularity of painted and protected cycle lanes, the report is very clear that in general 59 percent of respondents supported painted lanes, compared to 42 percent supporting protected lanes.

“On Kensington High Street itself, 43 percent supported painted bike lanes, compared to 31 percent supporting protected lanes.

“The decision not to reinstate cycle lanes was made in March 2021. Later that same year we commissioned research. Reports were then published in March 2022 and October 2022.”

You can read the original article below:

Campaigners have questioned the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) on the future of the Kensington High Street cycle lane, with the council, which has previously been accused of “choreographing” press statements against cycle lanes, replying that they “will have a think about it”, while also allegedly ignoring expert advice and manipulating consultation data for two years.

In December 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, RBKC controversially removed the protected cycle lane from Kensington High Street, just seven weeks into a scheduled 18-month trial and before construction on the scheme had been fully completed, after backlash from reportedly 0.2 per cent of the residents.

Earlier this week, active travel campaigners attended the council’s committee meeting and raised a demand for “no more delays” as they pressured the Conservative-controlled borough to bring back the protected cycle lane, claiming that there was “still no progress towards safe cycling on this dangerous road”.

Rachel, an NHS worker from Kensington and member of resident-group Better Streets for Kensington and Chelsea, said at the meeting: “It's now two and a half years since you took out the cycle lanes. I and thousands of others have to cycle daily on this dangerous road. Where is the sense of urgency? Does my safety not matter?”

> “Shameful, callous and retrograde”: 200 join protest against removal of Kensington High Street cycle lanes

After removing the cycle lane wands, the council commissioned a study by the think-tank Centre for London, with the subsequent report recommending the creation of a protected cycle lane, separated from motor traffic by either wands or raised kerbs, with the latter being the more preferred alternative.

However, RBKC, after cycling campaigners accused it of delaying commencing the consultation process for six months, added an option of painted cycle lanes in the survey, despite being “emphatically not recommended” by the report.

Rob Whitehead, from the Centre for London said: “At no point did Centre for London suggest painted line bike lanes are an appropriate solution to making journeys on Kensington High Street safer and more sustainable. Because they are not. They fail the DfT standard for safe cycling given the volume of motor vehicles. They just don't pass the smell test. Children aren't safe on them, and nor are adults.”

London Cycling Campaign has claimed on social media that the council manipulated the survey results to conclude that painted cycle lanes are much more popular than protected cycle lanes.

> Council officer edited business group’s press statement on removal of Kensington High Street bike lane

“The panel survey results look misused in an attempt to show that painted line bike lanes are favoured. Yet some of your own numbers don't support this. On safety the combined score of the protected options are favoured by 42% of respondents vs only 14% for painted lanes,” said Whitehead.

The campaigners have asked the council for urgent action. However, RBKC replied to them: “We have now done some sort of modelling and design work of what a lane could look like across the street… there are some decisions within that we are going to have to think about.”

LCC further added: “Urgency? What urgency? It’s been over two years since the cycle lanes were removed. No more delays. Kensington High Street needs to be made safe. Now.”

> Campaigners lose High Court case against council over “premature” cycle lane removal

The backlash against the council’s delay comes a month after campaigners lost their High Court case against RBKC over the “premature” removal of the cycle lane. The dismissal of their legal challenge was described as a “hollow victory by a borough that seems happy to put people cycling on its streets in danger”.

Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea, who are also behind the legal action, claimed it to be an “irrational” and “clearly and radically wrong” decision which amounted to an “abuse of power” by the local council.

In March last year, RBKC's refusal to reinstate the emergency cycle lanes on Kensington High Street was condemned by Labour councillors as “completely bonkers”.

LCC campaigner Clare Rogers had said: “Kensington and Chelsea is clearly incapable of behaving as a responsible local authority for this highway, or following its own policies on road safety and the climate emergency.”

> PM Boris Johnson ‘ballistic’ over scrapping of Kensington High Street cycle lane

And just two months before that, an FOI request had revealed that RBKC had ‘choreographed’ press statements from local businesses when announcing the abandonment of the Kensington High Street segregated cycle lanes.

Forbes reported that RBKC attempted to coordinate the response to its announcement that the scheme would be abandoned with its head of news editing what was supposed to be an independent press statement from the chair of Kensington Business Forum (KBF).

An initial quote from KBF said: “We had hoped, like many others that the temporary cycle lanes would have been a success but unfortunately due to the current climate it has not benefited our High Street businesses.”

This was tweaked to say: “Like many others, we hoped the initiative would be a success. Unfortunately it has not helped our High Street businesses attract customers at a vital time for them, so it is good news that the lanes will be removed.”

An RBKC spokesperson said: “Agreeing statements with partners, community groups, and stakeholders in advance of announcements is standard practice.”

> Motor traffic journey times increase after Kensington cycle lanes removed

During the seven weeks of installation of the bike path, cyclist numbers more than doubled to about 3,000 daily along the busy A-road, with Transport for London saying that it had “no discernible effect on traffic congestion”.

However, since its removal, TfL’s traffic cameras showed that congestion had worsened, with average trip times on the 1.1-mile stretch of the road rising by more than two minutes when travelling east, and almost a minute for cars travelling west.

Besides worsening congestion, there are numerous accounts of footage proving how dangerous the road is for cyclists, who have to squeeze their way through the motor traffic on a key route into central London for people coming from the west.

At the time of the removal of the bike lane in December 2020, there were protests by teachers, parents and pupils at a nearby school pleading the council to keep it in place. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also reportedly condemned the decision, while then Prime Minister Boris Johnson was said to have gone “ballistic” about it.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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31 comments

Avatar
Jetmans Dad | 1 year ago
3 likes

It is the use of consultation in these things that really bugs me sometimes (and this is more general than just this specific situation in RBKC). 

If you have a report setting out that protected cycle lanes are a way to improve active travel and make cycliing safer for the riders, whereas painted lanes are not going to do anything to improve either of those things, that should not be overridden by a consultation that shows a majority of the public want the painted lanes rather than the protected ones. 

How has the consultation been controlled for those voting for painted lanes simply because they are a car driver and a painted lane will inconvenience them less than a protected lane would, for example?

My experience as a cyclist in Hull shows that painted lanes (of which we have loads) make very little difference because they are mostly too narrow, too close to rows of parked cars, squeezed in so that there are still two "traffic" lanes and used by drivers as an excuse to leave very little space when overtaking ("He was in his lane and I was in mine" etc.). 

Hence, most regular riders don't use them, rendering them both useless and annoying to drivers ... but public consultations like them because it feels like you are doing something even when it would probably be better just to do nothing. 

And that is before we even get to the impact of all the road "improvements", changes, addition and redirections that happen without consultation. 

Avatar
Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
7 likes

Correction, RBKC have not "refuted claims from active travel campaigners that it delayed a consultation process and manipulated data"; to refute something is conclusively to prove it isn't true. What they have done is rebut the claims, which is to argue against them. It's an important distinction.

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quiff replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

Various dictionaries have refute as to either prove or claim, with Oxford listing the origin as Latin refutare; to repel or rebut.

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Rendel Harris replied to quiff | 1 year ago
3 likes

Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy:

Quote:

Refute: To disprove. This is a success word; to attempt to disprove something is to argue against it or to reject it, repudiate it, or rebut it, but not yet to refute it.

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quiff replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

Sure, but that's a specialist dictionary. Outside of philosophical discourse in ordinary usage, it seems to be accepted that it can bear both meanings (though I accept that may be an evolution) - e.g. Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries.

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eburtthebike replied to quiff | 1 year ago
2 likes

Rendel is right, and common usage is that refute means to disprove, not just argue against.  Some people misuse it, but they do that with lots of words, and it doesn't change the actual meaning.

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Karlt replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
7 likes

Putting my linguistics hat on for a moment - people using a word to mean a different thing to what it used to mean is *exactly* what changes the actual meaning of a word.

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wycombewheeler replied to Karlt | 1 year ago
0 likes
Karlt wrote:

Putting my linguistics hat on for a moment - people using a word to mean a different thing to what it used to mean is *exactly* what changes the actual meaning of a word.

depends on whetehr we are talking about 0.1% of people, or 30% of people I would think.

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quiff replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
5 likes

Meaning is not an absolute; it is altered through use. I was just highlighting that other mainstream lexicographers define it both ways. For the record, RBKC have not proved anything.

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Rendel Harris replied to quiff | 1 year ago
4 likes
quiff wrote:

Meaning is not an absolute; it is altered through use. I was just highlighting that other mainstream lexicographers define it both ways. For the record, RBKC have not proved anything.

Of course it's not absolute, if everyone started calling potatoes tomatoes and vice versa then eventually it would become accepted that the red fruit is a potato and the chip-making tuber is a tomato. However there is a transition period where some who care about accuracy (or are pernickety old farts, depending on your point of view) will continue to point out the erroneous nature of the new usage; that's the point at which rebut and refute are. As an example of the disagreement, the American Heritage editorial panel was split 62%/38% in favour of allowing the new usage, so it's by no means universally accepted. It's not a major hill to die on, admittedly, but it's just annoying when words change meaning not because there is a good practical reason for them doing so but simply because people are too lazy to learn their accurate and correct usage – see also imply/infer etc (to be clear I do not mean that you are too lazy, quiff!).

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quiff replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
5 likes

I'm not dying on this hill either, and I tend to be in the pernickety old fart category. I just looked it up out of interest on a dull train journey and noticed both meanings are listed. I don't have access to OED to see how it's shifted over time though.

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Rendel Harris replied to quiff | 1 year ago
2 likes

Just to be clear again, I was taking the piss out of myself choosing it as a hill to die on! A good summary here which shows it has been disputed for over a century...

https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2018/05/refute.html

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quiff replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
5 likes

Don't worry, I got that. I was also lambasting myself for having picked a needless fight on it. Wish all discussions here were this polite.

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mark1a replied to quiff | 1 year ago
7 likes

It could only happen in the road.cc comments, more than a third on a topic refuting (or rebutting) the use of the word "refute", fine work chaps... 😁

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eburtthebike replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
4 likes

Not strictly relevant, but I thought we'd all enjoy a laugh about words.

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Rendel Harris replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
5 likes

Obviously by the same person who did this one which someone sent me recently, love it!

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eburtthebike | 1 year ago
8 likes

They didn't manipulate the data, just like they  didn't cut corners on the cladding on Grenfell Tower.

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eburtthebike | 1 year ago
4 likes

I was hoping that this council was going to have elections on Star Wars day, but no such luck, they had them last year.

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Car Delenda Est | 1 year ago
16 likes

The council responsible for Grenfell is ignoring safety regulations?

I'm shocked..

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eburtthebike replied to Car Delenda Est | 1 year ago
6 likes
Car Delenda Est wrote:

The council responsible for Grenfell is ignoring safety regulations? I'm shocked..

Just a coincidence, I'm sure.  But I'm not taking bets.

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brooksby | 1 year ago
12 likes

Does this news surprise anyone? Seriously: anyone at all??

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
5 likes

Well, in some parts of London new cycle infra is starting to appear more than once per decade it seems ...

Oh, it's the boro of Ken and Chelsey.  No, only surprised that road.cc bothered to run this as "news"!

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eburtthebike | 1 year ago
18 likes

Stolen from t'web.

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essexian replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
8 likes

If I may add to the Con's side:

2) Might lose me votes at the next election.

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eburtthebike replied to essexian | 1 year ago
9 likes
essexian wrote:

If I may add to the Con's side:

2) Might lose me votes at the next election.

I think the votes of the parents of children at the local schools would probably outweigh the ones they'd lose from petrolheads.

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Rendel Harris replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
2 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

I think the votes of the parents of children at the local schools would probably outweigh the ones they'd lose from petrolheads.

Not sure about that, Kensington is very finely balanced in terms of voting percentages, with 48.7% Conservative and 49.5% Labour/Liberal Democrats. I would guess that parents wanting to cycle their children to school would most likely (though obviously not in all cases) be Labour/LD voters who would say thank you very much if the cycle lane was reintroduced but wouldn't change their vote, whereas the anti-cycle-lane lobby would be more likely to be Conservative and to withhold their votes in protest, so reintroducing the lane could mean the Conservatives would lose some of their support without gaining any from those who traditionally vote for other parties. In any case there's no election in the London boroughs until 2026 so it's not an immediate concern.

 

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wycombewheeler replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
1 like
eburtthebike wrote:
essexian wrote:

If I may add to the Con's side:

2) Might lose me votes at the next election.

I think the votes of the parents of children at the local schools would probably outweigh the ones they'd lose from petrolheads.

especially as those most likely to object are probably passing through the borough rather than residing there.

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Car Delenda Est replied to essexian | 1 year ago
4 likes

More of a Con's con: the poors will have increased social mobility

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open_roads replied to Car Delenda Est | 1 year ago
8 likes

Are Labour run councils any better? Ours certainly isn't - a sea of white "ghost" bikes with vague promises of action yet years pass and nothing changes

The root cause is the willingness of councillors to be honest with local voters about the impact of unfettered car volume growth and the uselessness of local councils. The issue traverses party political divides.

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ITK2012 replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
2 likes

3) Very wealthy residents from less savoury countries will threaten you and your family members if you don't do as they say. 

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