Haverstock Hill cycle lanes approved by Camden Council

Works are set to begin on the bike lanes in early December. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA

Works are set to begin on the bike lanes in early December. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA - Credit: PA

Cycle lanes in Haverstock Hill have been approved by Camden Council but slammed as a “ludicrous waste of money” by the opposition.

“Pop-up” bike lanes will run along both sides of the road between Prince of Wales Road and Pond Street. A net total of 76 parking spaces will be removed.

The plans did not go to a council meeting but were signed off by the director of environment and sustainability.

The bike lanes will be introduced from early December, when works begin.

The project is expected to cost £541,600 and will be funded by TfL as part of its Streetspace scheme.

The measures will be implemented as a trial under an experimental traffic order for 18 months.

A consultation will be held after 12 months, which would feed into a wider consultation on any plans to make the measures permanent.

Local businesses in Belsize Park and Steele’s Village, already under pressure from Covid-19 restrictions, have warned the removal of parking spaces could “finish them off” due to reduced footfall and sales.

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Camden’s opposition leader has called the move a “ludicrious waste of money” but the council has pressed on with the Haverstock Hill plans as part of a wider set of measures under Covid legislation designed to boost walking, cycling and social distancing.

Citing a 90% increase in traffic since the first lockdown, a council report stated: “Haverstock Hill is well connected by public transport and can be easily accessed without a car.

“Removing parking and reducing the width of the carriageway and replacing this with cycle lanes will reduce the dominance of motor vehicles, discourage car use, provide a safe space for cyclists travelling north and southbound through the borough, and through safer cycling provision make it easier to take up cycling.”

Five of the current traffic islands will be replaced by four zebra crossings and one signal crossing.

All bus stops will be retained in their existing locations. The three disabled bays outside the Royal Free Hospital will remain.

Camden Conservatives’ leader Cllr Oliver Cooper said: “It’s a travesty that Camden has completely ignored the views of over 80% of local residents, the views of local councillors, and the unanimous views of local businesses.

“The government has required councils to consult before implementing changes, but Camden hasn’t consulted at all.

“When almost every business on Haverstock Hill signed a petition against the scheme, the Labour cabinet member has told the businesses to sit down and shut up, because he thinks he knows what businesses need more than the businesses do themselves.

“That high-handed and imperious attitude will mean businesses at threat, vulnerable residents unable to get about, and an unholy amount of taxpayers’ money wasted.

“To spend £600,000 on a harmful scheme that has almost no support is a ludicrous waste of money and shows a complete lack of priorities from Labour.

“Camden has said that older residents worried that they can’t park can now use public transport: a wildly irresponsible suggestion during a pandemic, but one entirely in-keeping with how little Camden has considered vulnerable residents in this decision.

“Removing every single parking space on both sides of the road shows that Camden is not interested in a balanced approach that helps all road users.

“Camden’s extreme position, in the face of overwhelming opposition is unjustified and businesses are right to look at whether it’s unlawful.”

A net total of 76 parking spaces wll be lost from Haverstock Hill. Picture: Polly Hancock

A net total of 76 parking spaces wll be lost from Haverstock Hill. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

In a joint statement, Belsize councillors Luisa Porritt and Tom Simon said: “The Liberal Democrats are committed to improving cycling infrastructure in the borough, but for change to be sustainable it’s important to bring the whole community along with you.

“There are clearly mixed views about the impact of removing all the parking on Haverstock Hill.

“We know that because we have been listening to the community, while the council refused to even meet with local businesses after some warned they may be forced to close.

“We pushed officers to include more nearby shared use parking for businesses and are pleased they agreed.

“The cabinet member could have made the decision publicly, but instead hid behind officials while they made the final decision.

“We hope that the Labour administration will now carefully watch how this scheme operates over the 18-month trial period and remain open to further adaptations if needed.”

Cllr Adam Harrison, Camden Council’s environment chief, said: “Public transport capacity will be down for some time, so we urgently need to provide new ways for people to travel safely. The government and mayor of London are clear we must take steps to discourage the rise in car use we have seen in recent months.

“Making covid-related transport changes on an experimental basis allows us to listen to residents’ feedback and tweak things as we go.

“It is essential to create new space on the borough’s roads, and new places to cross busy streets, in order to meet the needs of the two-thirds of Camdeners who do not have a car. We do not want people to feel they have to acquire a car to get about during covid, not least given the high financial burden this can place on households that may be struggling.

“Since September, I have also being contacted by parents asking for much safer travel for their children. With numerous schools on or close to Haverstock Hill, segregated cycle lanes could create new opportunities for kids to ride a bike to school, improving their health and making Camden a more family-friendly borough.

“The plans for Haverstock Hill also include new zebra crossings and a push-button crossing, helping pedestrians exercise the priority over motor traffic to which they are entitled. We shouldn’t any longer tolerate a state of affairs where it is only the brave - often older men - who use a bike to make local journeys because they are the only ones self-assured enough to vie with cars, vans, and lorries in the same road space.”

READ MORE: Restaurant owner says fears over 60 job losses if Haverstock Hill cycle scheme goes ahead ‘ignored’