Posts Tagged ‘cyclists’

Clean Air – 1990 cyclists and 2019 XR East London

Monday, July 12th, 2021

Cyclists protest, Whitehall, Westminster, 1990, 90-11c-14
‘Let London Breathe’ – Cyclists ride down Whitehall to a Trafalgar Square rally – November 1990

Back in 1990, I rode with hundreds of cyclists from the London Cycling Campaign and others protesting about the terrible air quality in London from Battersea Park to a well-attended rally in Trafalgar Square. Following the rally, some MPs raised the issue in Parliament.

XR East London marches for clean air – 12 July 2019

Almost 30 years on there has not been a great deal of progress – and the statistics now show almost 10,000 excess deaths per year in the city due to air pollution, and untold misery from various respiratory conditions, some crippling. In 2019 XR East London met at Bethnal Green on Friday 12 July to march to Hackney behind a banner ‘The Air That We Grieve’, calling for a rapid end to the use of fossil fuels.

Much of the pollution comes from road traffic, and the already announced end to the sale of new trucks, vans and any other combustion-powered vehicle from 2030 onwards will do a little to improve air quality, but existing petrol and diesel vehicles will continue to be used for many years, though we may see more stringent ultra-low emission zones to restrict their use in cities.

But although the switch to electric will cut down pollutants such as nitrogen oxides as well as reducing climate changing carbon dioxide, it will still leave other harmful substances such as particulates from tyres and brakes in the air. And the carbon footprint is only lowered so long as the electricity used to charge those car batteries comes from truly renewable generation.

Cleaner air in cities also needs us to move away from the car to more eco-friendly means of transport – such as public transport and bicycles. Even electric scooters and electric bikes also have a part to play.

Better public transport means more trains, light rail, trams and buses. The simplest and most cost-effective solutions are probably more dedicated bus lanes and bus-only routes, and giving buses greater priority in traffic. Many years ago I cycled in French cities where buses had priority and motorists (and cyclists) had to give way whenever they wanted to pull out from a stop, and changes like this to our Highway Code and traffic rules would make a difference.

In 1990 cyclists were calling for 1000 miles of dedicated cycle routes through London. We do now have some ‘cycle superhighways’ and ‘quietways’, although many of these – we are now supposed to call them ‘cycleways’ – still involve sharing with often dangerous traffic. Progress is still slow, and there is bitter opposition from some interest groups, particularly black cab drivers.

We need too an overhaul of London’s taxi system, with rules still made in the days of horse-drawn Hackney cabs. I’ve often stood at bus stops in the City waiting for my bus, held up by traffic while 20 or 30 or more black cabs drive by, the great majority of them empty. A move away from ‘ply for hire’ to smartphone based systems summoning a cab from a nearby taxi rank would hugely cut both congestion and pollution in the centre of London.

More at XR East London marches for clean air. You can click on the black and white image above to go to the album with more pictures from the 1990 cyclists protest.


As always I was travelling around London on public transport (I sometimes bring up a folding bike on the train) and as the march neared its end I boarded a bus in the opposite direction back to Bethnal Green where I took the tube back to Holborn, then took the short walk to the University of London’s Senate House, where exploited outsourced workers were holding a noisy protest after the newly appointed Vice-Chancellor Wendy Thomson had failed to reply to a request to meet them and discuss their grievances. You can see more about this at IWGB welcome new Vice Chancellor.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Aldermaston 2008 – 50 years

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

Protesters join hands to surround the nuclear weapon factory at Aldermaston

I missed the first major march to Aldermaston organised by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) and supported by the newly formed CND at Easter in 1958. I was only thirteen at the time and not that interested in politics at the time, but was very aware it was taking place as my two older brothers (both no longer with us) walked the full distance, coming back tired and rather muddy after four days of marching from Trafalgar Square in the centre of London to the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons.

I didn’t go the whole way on the 50th anniversary in 2008, and although I had planned to join the group that were cycling from London I didn’t manage to do so, though I did photograph the cyclists as they rode down Oxford St.

On the Bank Holiday Monday they were cycling from Reading where they had stayed the night along with the walkers, mainly sleeping on the floor in church halls, and I had hoped to join them there for the final stage to Aldermaston. But I got up too late and missed the early train which would have got me there in time – and the next train half an hour later ran late, so I missed their start. Instead I rode on my own along the route that I’d taken on the march there four years previously, finding that on a bike it was rather hillier than on foot.

The Bikes not Bombs group arrive at the Aldermaston bomb factory

Once at Aldermaston, the bike made it easy for me to go to all the gates around the large site of the AWE to take photographs of the protesters there who later moved to surround the perimeter of the base, holding hands around it. And although I’d left Reading later, my more direct route meant I was able to photograph the arrival of the ‘bikes not bombs’ group with their police escort of two cars and several motorbikes.

After making the human chain around the AWE – I think around 4 miles long – and speeches and performances at the main gate it was time to go home, and I got back on my bike for the 12 miles or so to Reading, a slightly easier ride as the wind was behind me and Reading is around 60 metres lower, though the road still had plenty of uphill sections. But I took my time, even stopping to take a few photographs on the way.

Our nuclear weapons programme has never made any sense and the idea of nuclear deterrence has served only to enrich the arms industry. The expense of our nuclear submarines and their warheads diverts money away from more useful areas such as health and education, and the nuclear programme has skewed our power generation to increase electricity costs for us all. It cannot be justified in military or economic terms, but for most of those protesting the most important aspect is that the use of nuclear weapons can never be justified on moral grounds.

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which entered into force on 22 January 2021 prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, Instead of signing this, the British government have announced an increase in number of nuclear warheads – in contradiction to our previous international agreements about the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas, Walter Wolfgang, John Mc Donnell and Japanese peace campaigners

More pictures at Aldermaston – 50 years


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.





Naked Bikers

Friday, October 25th, 2019

I hadn’t gone out of my way to photograph the London World Naked Bike Ride, but the point where all the riders who start at a number of points around central London meet up for the final section of their ride was close to the station from which I get my train home, so it seemed to be worth taking a few minutes to cover the event.

The first London WNBR took place in 2004 but with very little advance publicity – I’d attended and photographed ‘Bikefest’ which it is associated with on the day it took place but remained unaware of it. In 2005 I was out of the country when it took place. So I first photographed this event back in 2006, when quite a few people I knew were taking part.

This year I think there was nobody I knew in the event, or at least no one that I recognised without their clothes on. The ride is billed as “a protest against oil dependency and car culture” and back in 2006 it appeared to appeal to many people involved more generally in environmental protests. The message of the ride has never been very clear to those watching it and I think over the years the participants have changed, and it now seems much more dominated by naturists and has a rather smaller proportion of women taking part. The total number of riders this year, stated to be 1300, was roughly twice that in 2006.

There are some problems in photographing the event. It take place on the public highway, where no one has any expectation of privacy – and indeed people ride naked to make a statement, but some have tried to restrict photography in various ways. Not that this has ever had any effect on the crowds of tourists who the ride surprises who almost to a man (and many women too) get out their phones and take snap after snap.

But while the legal position on taking photographs of the event may be clear, there are problems in publishing the images in some media and particularly on platforms such as Facebook. I try hard to take at least some pictures with discretely placed saddles and handlebars.

I’d had enough after around 15 minutes and didn’t bother to try and follow the cyclists after they had moved off, though it would have been fairly easy to catch them several more times as they cycled around central London. But I went to a nearby pub with a friend I’d met photographing the event, and then on to cover another event. Or at least to try to; I arrived outside the Home Office at the right time on the right day to find no one there. I waited for a bit, checking the details on my phone, but after waiting for 20 minutes caught a passing bus to Vauxhall for the train home.

More pictures from the 2019 London World Naked Bike Ride.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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