London mayor’s office calls last-minute legal bid to halt CS11 cycleway ‘disgraceful’
Peter WalkerMon 18 Jun 2018 07.00 BST
Westminster council has been accused of political game-playing after it emerged that the Conservative-run local authority had made a last-minute legal bid to block a new cycle route despite it being supported in a public consultation.
The council’s decision to seek a judicial review to halt construction of the long-planned scheme risks further poisoning its relations with Sadiq Khan, a week after Westminster also sunk the London mayor’s flagship plan to pedestrianise Oxford Street.
Khan made no immediate comment, but a source from his office said the cycle route had significant public support and “shouldn’t be held up by petty political posturing”.
The argument centres around what is officially known as cycle superhighway 11 (CS11), the latest in a series of routes designed to separate cyclists from motor traffic. Earlier schemes have proved wildly popular with riders.
Planning for CS11 began in 2016 when Boris Johnson was mayor, and Khan was criticised for long delays because of an impasse over how it would pass through Regent’s Park, despite a consultation on the scheme winning 60% support.
Construction was due to begin next month on the first section of the route, which would make cycling significantly safer on the huge Swiss Cottage gyratory system, where cyclists currently have to contend with up to five lanes of one-way traffic. It could now be delayed again by Westminster’s move.
Transport for London, which leads the scheme, was told last week that a campaign group was seeking a judicial review against it.
Led by Jessica Learmond-Criqui, a lawyer and longtime opponent who has used campaign tactics such as putting young children in pollution masks to claim CS11 would increase smog levels, the application cites grounds including misleading cost-benefit assessments and failure to consider the impact of displaced traffic.
Westminster has since issued its own claim, believed to be on similar grounds, although details are yet to be filed.
The mayor’s office source said: “The fact that Westminster councillors are now trying to stop a new cycle route being built just weeks after pulling the plug on Oxford Street improvements is disgraceful.
“There is an urgent need for safer cycle routes into central London and there is an equally strong case for pedestrianising Oxford Street. The idea that Westminster council think they can hold the rest of London to ransom is totally unacceptable.”
The council’s move was condemned in a joint statement by the London Cycling Campign and Living Streets, which campaigned over Oxford Street.
They said: “By its actions, Westminster council is putting people needlessly at risk of harm for purely political reasons. We urge it to put people’s safety first and stop attempting to wreck efforts to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on London’s roads.”
A Westminster spokeswoman said the council fully supported the provision of safe cycling, but that “residents are overwhelmingly opposed to the cycle superhighway 11 proposals. In particular, they have raised concerns about the impact of traffic displacement on congestion and air quality in the streets adjacent to the proposed route.
“We have been in discussions over the last two years with TfL about residents’ concerns but, despite assurances, we have yet to receive any further information about the wider impacts of the scheme and how these may be mitigated.
“As TfL is starting to proceed with the Swiss Cottage section without our support for the scheme as a whole, we have been left with no choice but to back our residents and to legally challenge the scheme.”