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.”
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.”
These include some far-reaching and intrusive measures, which will cost an unspecified amount of public money and will result in noise, pollution, congestion, and disruption by street works.
We are astonished that The Chelsea Society was not consulted before these measures were announced. We may be able to support some or all of them, but we insist on being consulted before any action is taken in any of the four Wards of Chelsea.
We cannot allow the Coronavirus to be used as an excuse to create a false sense of urgency and 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. We can now be consulted and attend meetings by electronic means.
We have received a letter from Cllr Thalassites, Lead member for planning. Here is his letter, with our comments in square brackets:
Dear Chelsea Society members,
As the borough and the country come out of lockdown, our Council recognises that work must be done at pace to protect lives and protect livelihoods. People’s habits and patterns will be different after the pandemic, and Kensington and Chelsea must adapt to a ‘new normal’.
Nevertheless, we know that putting our communities first will be critical to this next phase. That is why we wanted to respond directly to some of local people’s questions surrounding recent activity.
Changes to roads in our borough – which Government instructed must be made “within weeks”, bypassing ordinary consultation procedures – will be:
(a) Temporary (and only made permanent if a full consultation takes place in due course);[How long is “temporary” and when will the Chelsea Society receive details for consultation]
(b) Funded by TfL (not local rates). [Yes, but this is still public money, and must not be spent unless there is sufficient benefit for the cost]
Our temporary changes to roads in Chelsea are – part closure of Pavilion Road to motor vehicles, which we think will enhance amenity on this beautiful and much-loved local street; [We do not expect many objections from our members to this.]
– and 20 mph speed limits, which we hope will deter rat-running and enhance pedestrian safety in our area. [We cannot see why this should have any effect on rat-running. What data does RBKC have to suggest that accidents have been caused by vehicles travelling at between 20 and 30mph?]
We are confident that these are pragmatic and proportionate interventions. [We cannot agree or disagree until we see the detail] The Council has not proposed a segregated cycle lane along borough roads in Chelsea. [Noted] Our priorities are to keep our communities safe and to help our high streets bounce back. [Our priorities are the same, but there should be no over-reaction to the virus].
The Council is certainly interested to hear Chelsea Society members’ views on current issues. [Noted] Perhaps members would like RBKC to pilot a different approach on borough roads, for example. [We look forward to hearing what the Council has in mind. 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]
We will be in touch shortly regarding a virtual meeting, which we hope can renew this conversation.” [Yes. This is welcome].