Campaigners last night managed to halt work due to start removing cycle lanes from Kensington High Street. The protesters, from Stop Killing Cyclists and Extinction Rebellion climbed onto a lorry owned by contractors Conway. It was the first of five nights of planned work to remove bollards which had been placed in the road just a few weeks before in order to segregate cyclists from other traffic.
The protesters claim that the council has succumbed to pressure from Lord Rothermere, the billionaire non-domicile proprietor of the Daily Mail newspaper which has its London office in Derry Street just off Kensington Hight Street. The Daily Mail has been campaigning hard against cycle lanes and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, and had commissioned local actor Nigel Havers to write a piece complaining about increased congestion.
The evening action followed on from an early morning ride on the lanes by around 200 cyclists in a protest organised by the local Fox primary school. Seven local schools and colleges support the new cycle lanes which are being removed even before the end of their official trial period.
The Council claimed that the Local Business Forum supported their decision, but campaigners have checked with some of the businesses who told them they hadn’t been consulted. Imperial College is the largest local employer and they have not been contacted by the council and are in favour of the new road layout according to campaign groups.
After a stand-off of about an hour last night, Conway workers agreed to leave for the night, and the protesters gave them their lorry back. The campaigners wanted to delay the start of the roadworks while they seek a judicial review of the Council’s decision to remove the lanes. Today the Mayor announced his support for the campaign and said he was looking at what options were available to the Greater London Authority including clawing back a huge £320,000 grant the Council received to install the lanes, as well as considering whether the road could be brought under GLA control as a red route – this would require the co-operation of Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary.
Tonight, a second protest has just been dispersed by police citing CoVid regulations. Although they accepted a risk assessment was in order and the protest was being carried out with masks and social distancing in place, they claimed that the local authority had not had sight of the risk assessment and that therefore it was unlawful. This sounds questionable – a great round up on current pandemic protest law has been published in a letter to police forces by BigBrotherWatch and Liberty.