Kensington & Chelsea appoints borough's first Cycling Champion

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Kensington and Chelsea has shown its commitment to cycling in the borough with the appointment of its first Cycling Champion. Now let us hope that this is not just window dressing. The lady herself sounds fine but...

Councillor Maighread Condon-Simmonds has taken up the challenge to spread the cycling message throughout the borough and beyond.

Councillor Condon-Simmonds said: “I’m delighted to be the Royal Borough’s first lady of cycling. Two-wheeled transport is the future for a congested capital both in terms of health benefits and traffic reduction.

"I have been a cyclist for 44 years and prefer to use a man’s bike as the crossbar is handy when I’m carrying it upstairs.”

The Member Champion scheme is the idea of Cycling England and is intended to increase cycling, facilities and training throughout the country via local authorities.

“Cycling England was delighted at the recent announcement of £140m of funding to develop its programme over the next three years”, said Phillip Darnton, Chairman of Cycling England.

"Central to this will be the strengthening of our engagement with local authorities at a senior level and we have been very encouraged at the take up of the Member Champions initiative.”

A champion for cycling can create new opportunities for a council to deliver strategies covering three of the biggest current challenges to our society: congestion, health and pollution.

“I have always enthused about the benefits of cycling” Council Condon-Simmonds added, “this new responsibility will sit easily alongside my general responsibilities as a local councillor and I am happy to extol the virtues of the bike and bring more cycle-friendly ideas to the Royal Borough."

Innovations for borough cyclists include creating a more direct network of cycle routes. A trial will also be undertaken to allow cyclists to use a small number of specified local one-way roads in both directions.

There are also proposals to increase significantly the amount of free parking for bicycles, including pressing into service under-used pay and display bays for bikes.

The biggest problem everywhere for cyclists in the London Boroughs and elsewhere is the fact that the so-called cycle lanes are not separated from the main traffic and that motorist have absolutely no consideration for cyclists.

When, in contrast to that, we see the cycle lanes and paths in mainland Europe Britain really is not a bicycle and cyclist friendly country as far as road provisions are concerned.

If we truly want to have more people, a majority of the population even, take up cycling as a way of getting about, especially to work, going to the stores, to school, and such, we have to have a very close look at the provisions, or better the lack of them, and get some decent ones created, ideally in conjunction with people who know how things should be and who are cyclists. Most cycling facilities, it would seem, are designed by car drivers and not people who ride a bicycle day in day out as a mens of transport. Time those in power listened to the users of the schemes.

© M Smith (Veshengro), April 2008