We note with disappointment the response by Father Michael Dunn of Our Lady of Grace & St Edward to Transport for London’s proposals for a cycle lane on Chiswick High Road. At the Chiswick Area Forum on 26th September, followed up by the launch of a campaign on social media, the Father Dunne claims that the very existence of the Christian community of Chiswick is under threat, that this cycle path “would do our community more harm than the Luftwaffe managed with its wartime bombs.”
We regret the emotive language of this response which we find deeply unhelpful to a serious discussion of an important issue for Chiswick: how to resolve the need to deal with the very real dangers of pollution, congestion, safety and future proofing for our children.
The Mayor’s transport strategy is intended to address these issues; healthy streets designed to tackle the physical inactivity crisis, reduced traffic on London’s streets and better air quality.
The section of road 50m to each side of the church is a particular collision blackspot on Chiswick High Road. Police records show that from 2010-2015 there were over 30 collisions with motor vehicles that injured cyclists and pedestrians, with cyclists making up almost three quarters of the casualties. Admittedly this is not the 32,000 civilians killed by the Luftwaffe (which Father Dunn calls into comparison), along with the 87,000 seriously injured, but it is still an unacceptably high level.
We would like to clarify that the area is currently a public pavement, not part of the Church’s private property. The rest of the community has over the years tolerated the blockage of the pavement by the congregation who gather there to have a chat after Mass every Sunday, take photographs of their weddings etc, with good will and wish that to continue, but CS 9 is necessary for the health of the borough’s population.
Surely it is incumbent on the Catholic church to engage in a sensible conversation about how this area could be shared with the rest of the community, of which pedestrians and cyclists form an important part. Trying to create panic by crying ‘no right of way for Brides in their wedding dresses, ‘no right of way for carrying the coffin,’ seems to us to be disingenuous and does not recognise the serious issues with the street.
Rather than shortening their lives breathing in the polluted air of a current typical Sunday on Chiswick High Road blocked by stationary cars, this scheme aims to reduce car traffic which would prolong the lives of the congregation. Likely usage of the cycle lanes on a Sunday, judging by other schemes, would be families with children. The church has a side door and there is a far safer alternative area for parking hearses and limos on Dukes Avenue; the distance to the main door is barely further and perhaps dedicated parking provision could be made for this. Perhaps TfL can make some modifications to leave a little more pavement space. Before damning the whole scheme, and calling on the congregation to unite against a sensible proposal, it would be good to explore options.
We look forward to working with TfL and the church to find a sensible solution.