On 15th May the Society received a letter from RBKC informing us of their “New and improved walking and cycling plans to help social distancing post-lockdown and were surprised that the Chelsea Society was not consulted before these measures were announced.
These include “Wider pavements, new and improved cycling routes, safe shopping and school streets and speed restrictions which are essential to get children to school, make sure our businesses are accessible and get our Borough moving.” The Council wants to:
- Identify pinch points and widen pavements to help social distancing
- Make the whole Borough a 20 mph zone
- Speed up the construction of planned cycleways, and work with TfL on temporary cycle routes
- Encourage more schools to sign up as traffic-free school streets during drop off and pick up times
- Upgrade mandatory cycle lanes to light segregation, for example on Chelsea Bridge Road
- Provide more cycle parking throughout the Borough for residents and commuters
- Close Pavilion Road to traffic, south of Cadogan Gardens
- Boost the “try before you bike” scheme so more people can trial a new bike
- Introduce a “low traffic neighbourhood.”
We may be able to support some or all of them, but as the representatives of a thousand local people, we expect to be consulted before any such action is taken in any of the four Wards of Chelsea. We wrote to express our surprise and concern at the lack of transparency and consultation by the Council in making these decisions.
RBKC responded by requesting a meeting by Zoom with the Society, which was held on 11th June. It was attended by 41 people including the Leader of the Council, Cllr. Elizabeth Campbell, the Lead-member for Planning, Cllr. Thalassites, and four other Councillors.
The Council maintained that they had been instructed to make these changes by central government and had no time to consult, but we did not find this acceptable. The government has not itself decided on the particular streetworks to be done in Chelsea. These were left to the discretion of the Council, on which the Society should have been consulted.
The Society wishes to strike the right balance between different modes of transport on Borough roads; to avoid unnecessary obstructions; to avoid adding modern signage and other clutter to heritage streets; to avoid unnecessary expenditure on road works and to avoid the noise and disruption which they cause.
With regard to 20 mph speed limits, the Council presented no evidence as to why this should have any effect on rat-running. Nor did the Council present any data to suggest that accidents have been caused by vehicles travelling between 20 and 30 mph. Most of us do not drive around Chelsea at an excessive speed. A few irresponsible people do, but they will take no more notice of a 20 mph limit than they do of a 30 mph limit.
Coronavirus has given central and local government a taste for controlling every detail of our lives, and this may already have gone too far. The Society is not willing to allow the virus to be used as an excuse to take precipitate action with long-lasting effects on our community, without any attempt to involve local people in the process. Consultation need not take long, and the Zoom meeting on 11th June has shown that we can now be quickly consulted by electronic means.