Demanding road safety for cyclists: campaigners from across London gather for “die-in” protest

Cyclists gather outside TfL headquarters Pic: Nicolas Chinardet

Cyclists gather outside TfL headquarters Pic: Nicolas Chinardet

Demonstrators drew attention to cycling safety on London’s roads at a “die-in” vigil last night, when over 1,000 people lay down in the streets with their bikes in peaceful protest.

Campaigners are calling for more money to be spent on cycling safety in London, following the 14 deaths which have happened on London’s roads over the last year. Six of these fell in the space of just two weeks earlier this month.

The “die-in”, organised by cycle safety campaign group Stop the Killing, took place outside the Transport for London headquarters in Southwark and called for cyclists and protestors across London to lie on the floor for fifteen minutes. The protestors included representatives from all EastLondonLines boroughs.

Event coordinator Donnachadh McCarthy said:“We are going to keep coming back and we are going to keep lying down and we are going to keep dying on our streets until we get change for the protection of our people.”

“Cycling cleans our air, cycling creates a more prosperous business environment, cycling doesn’t kill people – it’s safer. Cycling doesn’t emit carbon…We are absolutely a positive contribution to London.”

As Friday’s vigil came to an end, McCarthy presented a list of demands to the managing director of TfL, Leon Daniels. The event organiser called for 10% of the London transport budget- approximately £600m a year, to be spent on improving cycle safety, and for cyclists to be represented on the TfL board.

Steve Routley, who coordinated the protest with McCarthy, said: “We need a fully integrated system in London that caters for all road users, not just a few metres of cycle path here and there.”

He added: “Infrastructure also affects motorcyclists, pedestrians and drivers and they can fall foul of bad planning and of HGVs just as easily as any of us.”

“These problems effect everyone on the road whether they drive, whether they walk, whether they ride, and the roads should be safe for everyone.”

Routley added that Boris Johnson’s “victim blaming” did not help efforts to improve cycle safety and accused TfL of “dragging their heels” on the issue.

Jo Bas-Thornton, from Waddon, Croydon, attended the protest with her 14 year old daughter.

She said: “I’ve had enough of being cut up by careless motorists and nearly squashed by buses or lorries. Every single journey someone endangers my life.”

Peaceful protest at the vigil Pic: Nicolas Chinardet

Peaceful protest at the vigil Pic: Nicolas Chinardet

Five cyclists have died in Tower Hamlets over the past year, with Bow Roundabout noted as a hotspot for collisions.

Mark Lomas, from Poplar said: “TfL have designed death into the Superhighways.”

“TfL spends a lot of time ‘educating’ and advising cyclists because that’s cheap to do, and not enough time addressing the undertaking lorries and buses.”

There have been 14 collisions in Hackney over the past five years, including one injury earlier this year.

Simeon Pereira-Madder, from Haggerston has two children aged nine and ten who also ride. He said: “I’m taking part tonight to draw attention to the sad tragedy of those people-mothers, fathers, sons, daughters – who die just making their way around the capital.”

“It is easy for the press and public to write them off as lycra louts or light jumpers or lesser road users but they’re normal humans like the rest of us and irrespective of the failings of cyclists as a group their safety is inadequately protected by road safety regulations.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has been criticised in the wake of this year’s fatalities for saying that cyclists must obey the laws of the road.

Matt George, from Forest Hill in Lewisham, said: “The last four weeks have shown that the system we have at the moment is designed solely for drivers.”

“Boris Johnson seems more interested in apportioning blame, and chucking out soundbites, than actually fixing the problem.”

Speakers at the event included Nazan Fennell, the mother of a 13-year-old girl who was killed by an HGV in Birmingham, Tim Kearney, a TfL bus crash coma survivor and Brenton Smith, who read cycling death themed poems by Seamus Heaney and Ellen Soffrey.

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