I have a friend who works in one of Kingston’s primary schools. She shared a story about a nearby primary school, and its attempt to get Kingston Council (“the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames”) to build a shared-use foot and cycle path to the school.
All good stories begin: once upon a time …
Once upon a time, there was a primary school in Chessington in the grandly titled Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. This was the Lovelace Primary School. The school asked the children “how many of you cycle to school?”. 28 of the children said yes, and lots of others said that their mummy or daddy cycled with them and brought younger brothers and sisters too on bike seats and trailers. The children at the school like cycling, with 40 of them doing Bikeability Stage 2, and the school had set up a bike club.
The parents and teachers of the school think cycling is a good idea, because the children like it. So they suggested to Kingston Council that a converting a pavement in Mansfield Road into a shared use cycle lane would be a good idea. If there was a cycle lane, then more parents and children would cycle to school. Then there would be fewer cars and 4x4s and other vehicles on Mansfield Road, and then there would be less pollution. Lots of parents are driving to the school today, and that makes the people who live around the school unhappy. So building a type of cycle path should make them happier.
(Last, stop sniggering at the back, you’re too young to be cynical).
So the school got together with Kingston Council and made a plan. On 14 June 2016, the plan was presented to the really important councillors who make decisions, at a meeting of the “South of the Borough Neighbourhood Committee”. The important councillors looked at the plan and thought it was a good idea, so they decided that the council’s clever workers should design a public consultation and some designs for the cycle path.
What’s a consultation, you ask? Well, a consultation is when the clever people at the council ask the public for their opinions on a plan. Then, when the public give them feedback, the clever people at the council use the feedback to make the plan better. That’s the idea, anyway.
So is a consultation a referendum thingy? Like the big one last year when shouty grown-ups told lots of lies? No, that’s not what a consultation is supposed to be.
The really important councillors next met on 29 November 2016 at another meeting of the Neighbourhood Committee. The clever people at the council had drawn lots of designs, and worked out who needed to be consulted. The consultation would include the parents of the children, and people living in the streets near the school. The really important councillors said yes to the consultation.
The next time the really important councillors met was on 9 March 2017, and the results of the consultation were given to them. The results of the consultation were bad, and not what the teachers, parents and children had been expecting.
The council had sent out about 150 consultation papers to people living in the houses near the school. But only 25 of the people living in those houses responded:
- 8 were in favour
- 16 were against
- 1 was neutral
The clever people at the council spoke to teachers and parents, and they were in favour. But the council people still decided that
Yes, kids, we’re grown-ups and we don’t understand that gobbledygook either.
So why don’t the people living near the school want the cycle lane? The 25 people who bothered to reply to the consultation gave their reasons.
Get ready, kiddies, you’ve about to learn an important lesson about grown-ups: they’re f*cking selfish when it comes to driving their cars and having somewhere to park. They will make up any bat-shit-crazy nonsense to preserve their driving and parking privileges. For example:
Some of the comments are so silly, they are funny. For example, someone said that the council shouldn’t spend money on a cycle path that would help improve people’s health and reduce congestion, but instead spend the money on things that would improve people’s health and reduce congestion:
So you think Mansfield Road is really small and doesn’t have any spare room, do you? Shall we have a look at it?
Hmmmm … it does seem to have wide pavements, grass verges, a wide carriage way, and all the houses have off-street parking. Apparently, kids, that’s not enough for the NIMBYs.
What’s a NIMBY? When I think of a polite answer than doesn’t involve lots of rude words then I’ll tell you.
Back to story: what did the really important councillors decide to do? Did they treat the consultation as a consultation, and use the feedback to get the clever people at the council to make a better scheme? Sadly, no. They caved into the grumpy NIMBYs. But the councillors did say they would put the Mansfield Road plan as an idea for the future in the “Local Implementation Plan”. The LIP uses money from Transport for London.
When will the children get a cycle path to the school? Nobody knows.
And the mini-Holland thingy? Well, kids, it seems that in Kingston, you only get a mini-Holland cycling scheme if you live in a posh bit of the borough, where the cycle lanes look nice along the river.