Kensington & Chelsea’s north-south cycleway proposal (consultation closed 12 June’19)

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) is proposing a quietway cycle route from Kensington High Street northwards via Holland Park to Notting Hill (ref 1).  This is separate – but related – to the Transport for London proposal for an east-west cycleway across Holland Park towards Shepherds Bush and White City.

RBKC has set up a website with descriptions and plans (1), and the consultation itself (2) closes on 12 June 2019.

(The RBKC consultation closes four days before the one for the TfL proposal for a west London cycle route (3), which ends on 16 June).

This post covers:

  • overview
  • a ride along the route, south to north;
  • RBKC existing quietway routes
  • conclusions
  • references

 

Overview

RBKC is proposing a quietway/ cycleway running south to north from Kensington High Street via Holland Park Avenue towards Notting Hill.  It will end at the east end of Blenheim Crescent near Ladbroke Grove, at the west end of what RBKC has designated Quietway Q2.

RBKC’s consultation website has a narrative description, and PDF drawings of the route.  Some of the drawings are provided by Project Centre (4), a west London consultancy.

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(Route map, taken from RBKC pdf map, ref 5)

The route is approximately 2.5km (pdf map, 5).  Along the route, the interventions consist of two raised-table speed humps, 10m of shared-use pavement into a toucan crossing (at Holland Park Avenue), two rebuilds of existing cut-throughs/ modal filters between adjoining streets, and three 1057 bicycle diagrams painted on the carriageways.  The speed limit for motorised vehicles on the roads remains at 30mph.

I’m amazed how little intervention it takes to take RBKC’s ordinary streets and, as if by magic, convert them into a high-class cycle route that satisfy TfL’s new cycleway quality criteria.

I struggle to make sense of the roads chosen by RBKC to create a cycle network. They can only make sense if they are a feeder network in & out of a strategic cycle network along major arteries.  However, nothing has been proposed for the major thoroughfares under RBKC’s control and, until TfL announced the new west London proposal, RBKC objected consistently for cycle routes along TfL-controlled roads.   Other than the shared-use experiment in Exhibition Road, little of RBKC’s own network goes anywhere useful such as Underground stations, museums or centres of education.

Ride along the route – south to north

Kensington High Street/ Melbury Road

The route starts towards the west end of Kensington High Street at Melbury Road (Google map link,6), about half-way between the A3220 Addison Road one-way system and KHS Underground station.  KHS is notorious as being hostile for people walking or cycling.  At the junction of KHS and Melbury Road, RBKC proposes to build a raised-table crossing for pedestrians.  However, for people cycling southbound out of Melbury Road, there’s nothing here to help cross 4-and-a-half lanes of motorised traffic.  The nearest signalised pedestrian crossings of KHS are each 100m away east and west along the road and, obviously, the pavements are not shared-use spaces.   Good luck if you wish to exit Melbury Road and turn right.

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(Two views of the Melbury/ KHS junction, looking eastwards along KHS, and south from Melbury Road)

My feedback to the consultation: sort out the exit from Melbury Road so that southbound cyclists can turn right safely e.g. moving or adding a pedestrian crossing to beside the Melbury junction with shared-use pavement and a creating a toucan crossing for people walking and cycling.

 

Melbury Road/ Abbotsbury Road

Melbury and Abbotsbury are a convenient rat-run between KHS and Holland Park, running to the east side of the park itself.  The speed limit on these roads is 30mph and the council is not proposing to change this.  I note the council’s own webpage acknowledges the high speeds of motorised traffic on Melbury Road

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Along these roads, the council proposes to install two sinusoidal road humps.  The council does *not* propose any other traffic calming measures.

On my trips up-and-down these roads, most of the vehicles that entered the road made the full journey with me i.e. most drivers were using it as a through route rather than accessing the neighbourhood.

I was particularly disappointed by the standard of driving, having to adopt primary position regularly along Abbotsbury Road to prevent death-wish drivers trying to close-pass me by the courtesy crossing island (e.g. at junction of Oakwood Court, map link 7)

My feedback to the consultation: reduce the speed limit to 20mph, and consider neighbourhood filtering to provide access but prevent rat-running.

Crossing Holland Park Avenue  

To continue northwards, the council proposes with TfL to change the signalised pedestrian crossings to toucan crossings, and add a bit of cycle track and shared-use pavement at the top of Abbotsbury Road to access/exit the crossings.

Therefore, there are currently two proposals for this junction at present: this one from RBKC (ref 8)for just the north-south cycleway, and one from TfL that includes its proposed east-west cycleway (ref 9) along Holland Park Avenue.

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(Left, the RBKC proposal for the Holland Park Avenue junction with just the north-south cycleway; Right, the TfL proposal for the junction with its proposed west London cycleway).

My consultation feedback: none – looks ok.

 

Norland Square, Queensdale Road, Princedale Road

The proposed route continues north along these three roads to reach the existing filter at the junction with Walmer Road/ Hippodrome Place.

I haven’t seen much motorised traffic along the streets around Norland Square, probably because the current filters and one-way streets make it effectively a filtered neighbourhood.  The speed limits, however, are 30mph.

My consultation feedback: Reduce the speed limit to 20mph.

 

Filter at Princedale Road/ Walmer Road/ Hippodrome Place

The council is proposing some new bollards and paving slabs (picture below).   Can’t get excited about this.

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Walmer Road/ Portland Road

Today, most people cycling northbound at the filter turn right along Hippodrome Place into Clarendon Close to reach Clarendon Road.

But the council proposes that the cycle route goes 120m northwards along Walmer Road and turns right into Portland Road at the existing filter.

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The current filter (picture above) is a very unattractive block of concrete and hard paving slabs.  Am I being too cynical to wonder if taking the cycle route this way is RBKC’s attempt to use TfL’s money to landscape this area?

Portland Road has a 4.6% gradient, so queue the complaints about westbound cyclists “speeding” down the road terrorising grannies walking their poodles, or eastbound cyclists “wobbling” all over the road as they try to build momentum from a slow start.

My consultation feedback: puzzled by the choice of Portland as the preferred route over Clarendon Close, as this looks like diversion of TfL’s cycling money to re-landscape a poor council filter.  The route favoured today by many people cycling, Hippodrome Close and Clarendon Close, has a flatter gradient compared to Portland Road.  

 

Clarendon Road into Blenheim Crescent

To assist geography, we’re now a few hundred metres to the east of Grenfell Tower.

The upper part of Clarendon Road is relatively wide, especially with yellow lines enforcing no-parking for much of the day. With relatively little traffic, most of the drivers that past me did so at 30mph (and higher) – there’s little here to enforce or encourage lower speeds.

The junction with Blenheim Crescent is poor (picture below), with a huge junction with wide arcs.  It is designed to enable – and encourage – a high speed turn.  The junction needs to be rebuilt, with the carriageway width reduced and, ideally, forcing drivers to stop.

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The cycle route continues along Blenheim Crescent to join RBKC’s existing cycle route QW2 at Ladbroke Grove.  Other than a couple of courtesy islands, there is no proper crossing currently (or proposed) at Ladbroke Grove to join the bits of cycle route together with a safe crossing.

My consultation feedback: reduce the speed limit to 20mph.  Rebuild the junction at Clarendon Road/ Blenheim Cresent to reduce carriageway width and road arcs (increase the pavement space) to slow drivers and encourage them to stop. Join the proposed and existing cycle routes at Ladbroke Road with a safe crossing for people walking and cycling.

 

What are RBKC’s existing cycle routes like?

Although RBKC claim this new cycle route satisfies TfL’s new cycleway quality criteria, it is difficult to see how these few interventions will distinguish it from RBKC’s existing routes.  For example, RBKC’s existing QW2 is largely dabs of painted 1057 symbols on the carriageway.  Where the QW2 route on Hereford Road crosses Westbourne Grove, the council has not provided any safe crossing.

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The new route is similar, as it too lacks safe crossings at Kensington High Street and Ladbroke Grove.

RBKC’s Conservative councillors believe their do-next-to-nothing approach is sufficient, and have been enthusiastically supported by their highways officers with this attitude for years.  When the council first build quietway routes back in 2016, they proudly reported their low-intervention approach (ref 10):

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RBKC has been re-designating back streets across the borough as quietways & central London cycling grid for several years.   The council’s consultations have had poor numbers of responses – the first, Oakley Street, got just 29 responses from the public, residents groups and cycling campaigners (ref 11)

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That hasn’t stopped local residents and heritage groups objecting to them.  This now infamous complaint from the Chelsea Society (ref 12) reads more like a script by the Fast Show comedy team.  (It will be no surprise that the Kensington Society is objecting to TfL’s west London cycleway with similar nonsense).

 

Conclusion

RBKC’s consultation closes on 12 June, four days before TfL’s proposal for the west London cycle route.

I’m still puzzled how this proposal meets TfL’s new quality criteria with so little intervention.  If backstreets can magically become high-quality cycle routes with this little work, then London’s cycle network will expand exponentially.

Have a look at the RBKC proposals and drawings, respond and bump up the consultation numbers!

 

References

 

 

 

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