A Chiswick church is urging its congregation to pray for plans for a cycle superhighway to be scrapped.
Father Michael Dunne, of The Church of Our Lady of Grace & St Edward in west London, claims the plan would harm than the church, with the proposed two-way superhighway (CS9) running past its front door on Chiswick High Road.
A statement on the church’s website claims that the pavement directly outside of the church would be reduced by approximately “one third” of its current size, with the highway having right of way.
The church believes this would directly impact upon Sunday Mass congregations, funerals, weddings and Holy Communions, as well as being a danger to children and the elderly.
A request for prayers appeared in the parish newsletter of 1 October, which read: “There is much to pray about for the world and the 10.30am daily public recitation of the Rosary in church will also be praying for success in turning the plans for CS9 away from the High Road and the church.”
Transport for London (TfL) is currently consulting on the plans for the cycle superhighway, which would run the seven-kilometre distance between Kensington Olympia and Brentford town centre.
Cycle campaigners praised the network, which will later extend to Hounslow, for lengthening existing paths to parts of London where cycle infrastructure is “virtually non-existent”.
But Father Dunne wrote on the church’s Facebook page: “We need to highlight how unacceptable it is that the small public space we have needed outside the church to live our community identity for the last 165 years as the Chiswick Catholic parish, should not simply be snatched away from us.
“While clearly TfL do not intend us any ill, it’s nonetheless depressing to reflect that their state-sponsored, tax- payer-funded plans would do our community more harm by removing our capacity for a bridal procession, funeral procession and every other public expression of our Christian identity than the Luftwaffe managed with its wartime bombs.”
Father Dunne’s comments have come in for criticism from The Hounslow Cycling Campaign, who responded: “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 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.”
Brian Smith, co-ordinator of the Hounslow Cycling Campaign, added: “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 CS9 is necessary for the health of the borough’s population.”
If the proposal gets the go-ahead, it would be the first cycle-superhighway in west London. The consultation closes on October 31.