Posts Tagged ‘Stop Killing Cyclists’

Refugee Children, Dead Cyclists & A Squat

Friday, February 11th, 2022

Refugee Children, Dead Cyclists & A Squat – 11th February 2017

Dubs Now – Shame on May

Five years ago, on Saturday 11th February 2017, a crowd of supporters of Citizens UK and Safe Passage joined Lord Alf Dubs at Downing St to take a petition to Theresa May urging her to reverse the decision to stop offering legal sanctuary to unaccompanied refugee children.

The Tory government had been forced into an unusual humanitarian response when Parliment passed the Dubs amendment, and they were then given a list of over 800 eligible children – although there were known to be more whose details were not recorded. And because of Lord Dubs, around 300 have been allowed into the UK. But although twice that number remain in limbo, many in the Calais camps, Prime Minister Theresa May decided to end the scheme.

Lord Dubs speaks

Among those who spoke at the protest before an emergency petition with over 40,000 signatures was taken to Downing St were speakers from four London Labour councils who all said they had told the government they would take more children but their offers had not been taken up.

Dubs Now – Shame on May


Invest in Cycling – Stop Killing Cyclists

Cyclists and supporters met in Trafalgar Square to march to the Treasury on the edge of Parliament Square to call for a significant increase in spending on infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians on our streets.

That week five people were killed on London streets as a result of careless or dangerous driving – accidents are rare, but such deaths are made much more likely by a road system engineered around the needs of car and other vehicle drivers and cutting their journey times through the city. Facilities for cyclists and pedestrians have long been treated as secondary and chronically underfunded.

But these 5 killed, who were remembered in the protest and die-in are a small fraction of the numbers who die prematurely each week in London as a result of high and often illegal levels of air pollution – estimated at around 180 per week, as well as the much higher number of those whose lives are seriously affected by health problems – both figures including many who drive. Powerful lobbies for motorists and vehicle manufacturers have led to the domination of our cities by cars and lorries.

There are huge health benefits from cleaning the air by cutting down traffic and congestion, and also by encouraging healthy activities including walking and cycling. And the main factor discouraging people from taking to bikes for journeys to school, work and shopping etc is the danger from cars and lorries. Better public transport also helps, particularly in cutting pollution levels, and anything that cuts the use of petrol and diesel vehicles will reduce the major contribution this makes to global warming.

Invest in Cycling – Stop Killing Cyclists


ANAL squat in Belgravia

My final event that day was a visit to 4 Grosvenor Gardens, a rather grand house short distance from Buckingham Palace (and more relevant to me, from Victoria Station.) Squatting collective the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians (ANAL) had taken over this house on February 1st after having been evicted from the Belgrave Square house owned by Russian oligarch Andrey Goncharenko which they occupied for a week.

I’d meant to go there a week earlier, but a domestic emergency had called me away earlier in the day from a protest at the US Embassy before a programme of workshops and seminars in the seven-storey squat had begun. There was nothing special happening on the afternoon I visited (though some things were happening in the evening) but I was welcomed by the occupiers, several of whom recognised me, and they were happy for me to wander around the building and take photographs.

Apart from being careful to respect the privacy of some of the occupiers who were sleeping or resting in a couple of the rooms I was able to go everywhere from the basement to the top floor, but the door leading onto the roof was locked, probably to stop any possible access from there by bailiffs. Like many other houses and hotels in the area it has a view into the grounds of Buckingham Palace, but I had to make do with the view from a rather dusty window, or the less interesting view from lower down where windows could be opened.

Few squats have blue plaques – this one for soldier and archaeologist Lieutenant General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers, but more recently it has been in use for offices, business meetings and conferences. The squatters have tried hard to cause no serious damage and had last week turned out some people who had come to make a mess of the place.

There are around 1.5 million empty buildings in the UK, many like this deliberately kept empty as investments, their value increasing year on year. The number is enough to enough to house the homeless many times over. ANAL say that properties like this should be used for short-term accommodation while they remain empty and they have opened it as a temporary homeless shelter for rough-sleepers.

It remained in use for almost month, with the squat finally evicted at 8am on 27th February. As I ended my post, “There clearly does need to be some way to bring empty properties back into use, and councils should have much greater powers than at present to do so. Until that happens, squatting seems to be the only possible solution.”

ANAL squat in Belgravia


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End Traffic Violence – 2014

Monday, November 15th, 2021

A few weeks ago I came to the end of a walk with friends and we stood at a bus stop on the edge of the A3 in south-west London with a relentless flow of traffic moving past in all four lanes in both directions. We were a few yards away on a slip road, but the noise was making my head throb and I could smell and taste the pollution, though I hope the Covid mask I was wearing might filter out some of the particulates. It was a horrible reminder of the mad dedication to traffic which is killing so many of us, poisoning adults and particularly children and playing a significant role in killing the planet through the huge carbon emissions in manufacturing vehicles, building yet more roads and of course burning fossil fuels. Fortunately our bus came earlier than expected.

The switch to electric cars will help a little, and reduce some of the pollution, though not its possibly most dangerous aspect, the particulates that come mainly from rubber tyres and from brakes. And there is still a huge carbon footprint from their manufacture – roughly equivalent to running around 150,000 miles of burning petrol or diesel, and much of the electricity used to power them will come from power stations burning gas or forest-destroying wood.

We can only have a sustainable future if we wean ourselves as a species away from travel, and take what journeys are still necessary by ways that reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible. Going on foot or by bicycle, using public transport and severely limiting the more polluting and high-carbon forms of transport. It means measures such as banning private cars in cities, giving priorities to buses, building more light rail and tram systems, ending subsidies to air travel, stopping new road-building and more. But also it means great changes in our way of life.

It’s something I realised over 50 years ago when I sold the only car I’d ever owned. Something I considered very carefully in choosing where to live and what jobs to take. And something which has constrained the holidays I’ve chosen to take and other aspects of my life, but not anything I really regret. I’ve only ever made three trips by air related to my work – where no real alternative was possible, and only taken two holidays which involved flights.

Of course there are some things and situations where cars are essential. It’s very hard to manage without one for those who live in more remote areas, and some need to. I’ve chosen always to live in towns or cities and have been healthy enough to be able to ride a bicycle or walk. In 2019, George Monbiot wrote for the Guardian a piece with the sub-head ‘Cars are ruining our lives. We should cut their use by 90% over the next 10 years’. Like other posts on his web site its worth reading and goes into much greater and well-argued detail than this piece.

Donnachadh McCarthy

On 15th November 2014 I photographed the ‘Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence’ organised by environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy and ‘Stop Killing Cyclists’. It made its way through the centre of London from Bedford Square going along Oxford St, with a bagpiper playing and a horse-drawn hearse carrying a coffin for a mock funeral ceremony at Marble Arch.

It made the point that while too many pedestrians and cyclists are still killed and maimed by cars and lorries on a road system largely engineered for the convenience of motorised transport, their numbers are dwarfed by the many thousands of premature deaths each year caused by the pollution from road traffic, with pollution levels in many places being well above legal limits. After the funeral, there was a die-in by cyclists more or less filling the hard standing at Marble Arch, and a trumpeter sounded the Last Post.

Here is a list of the demands made by the protesters:

  1. Stop the Killing of Children with a national, multi-billion pound programme to convert residential communities across Britain into living-street Home Zones and abolish dangerous rat-runs.
  2. Stop the Killing of Pedestrians by a national programme to fund pedestrianisation of our city and town centres, including the nation’s high-street, Oxford Street.
  3. Stop the Killing of Pensioners from excessive speed with an enforced speed limit of 20 mph on all urban roads, 40 mph on rural roads/lanes and 60 mph on all other trunk roads.
  4. Stop the Killing of Cyclists, investing£15 billion in a National Segregated Cycle Network over the next 5 years.
  5. Stop the Killing by HGVs by banning trucks with blind spots, making safety equipment mandatory and strictly enforcing current truck-safety regulations; currently around 30% are illegally dangerous.
  6. Stop the Killing without liability with a presumed civil liability law for vehicular traffic when they kill or seriously injure vulnerable road-users, unless there is evidence blaming the victim.
  7. Stop the Killing from Lung, Heart and other Diseases caused by vehicular pollutants with mandatory for particulate filters that meet latest EU emission standards on all existing buses, lorries and taxis.
  8. Stop the Killing at Junctions with pedestrian crossing times long enough for elderly disabled to cross, filtered junction crossings by cyclists and strict legal priority for pedestrians and urgently provide physically protected left-hand turns for cyclists.
  9. Stop the Killing from Climate Crisis caused by CO2 emissions by insisting that all transport fuels are from truly environmentally-sustainable, renewable sources within 10 years.
  10. Focus on Life! with transport governance making safety and quality of life the top priority. Reform all council transport departments, the Department of Transport and Transport for London into Cycling, Walking and Transport Departments with formal pedestrian and cyclist representation.

Again you can read more detail and more evidence in Guardian posts by George Monbiot, available on his own web site such as Don’t Breathe.


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Death at the Elephant

Friday, May 21st, 2021

Cyclists die-in where a cycle bypass would have prevented a cyclist death

When I was growing up in a working-class area of Greater London there were few private cars around. Only one of my friends was from a family that owned a car, and they could only afford it because both of his parents worked. Working mothers were much looked down on in the area at a time when most married women were housewives, and many employers still expected or even required women to stop work when they got married. There were men in middle-class occupations, but even few of them had cars, walking to local companies or to the station for the train to London. Otherwise people walked to work or took a bus or rode a bike.

My father at the time was self-employed, a man who did odd jobs; a little building work, plastering, plumbing, carpentry, roofing, glazing, electrical wiring, painting, decorating as well as gardening and bee-keeping. He worked for people in our area who mainly were as poor as we were; every penny counted – and there were seldom any spare to count at the end of the week. He rode around on an ancient bike, often with a bucket on the handlebars for his tools, and when he needed a ladder or more equipment or materials, left his bike at home and pulled everything on a hand cart.

For us kids, a bike was a great liberation. We played games on them, sometimes rather dangerously, and rode for miles often along busy main roads. But there was less traffic then and it moved much slower. I got my first two-wheeler – old but newly painted – for my sixth birthday, learnt to ride it that day and was then off, at first along our street and its side avenues, but soon much further afield, either with friends or by myself. By the time I was at grammar school I was riding miles out from London as well as cycling to school.

But things changed. It became the aspiration of many if not all working men to own a car – and more and more married women worked to make it possible. Car makers produced more and more cars aimed at a wider market, something that perhaps began in this country with the 1948 Morris Minor and Ford Popular, introduced in 1953, but accelerated in the late 1950s, when Harold MacMillan told us “most of our people have never had it so good.” Though in 1957 it still had to make its way down to areas like that I lived in.

Riding a bike began to be associated with poverty and cycle clips became an icon of failure. England developed a strong anti-cycling culture, with cyclists becoming an object of derision and hate. They cluttered up the road, preventing the free movement of motor cars. It’s an attitude still prevalent among car owners, and one pandered to by our road designers who until recently largely discounted cyclists in designing roads to enable drivers to drive faster. Pedestrians too were something of a nuisance, to be caged off whenever possible and forced to move away from crossing near corners to motorists could negotiate the rounded profiles at greater speed.

We have seen some changes in recent years. The 2005 bombings made many more consider cycling in cities, and increasing concern about healthy exercise has also led to more recreational cycling – if often by people carrying bikes by car to safer places to cycle. And we now have a few segregated cycle routes in London and elsewhere.But London as a whole is still often a very dangerous place for cyclists (and pedestrians.) One reason is the poor design of many large vehicles with very limited visibility for the drivers. Another is road design inherited from years of ignoring the needs of cyclists and the continuing failure to put enough money into developing roads and paths that are safe for cyclists.

The problems are in part political, with a lack of national leadership and many local politicians remain rabidly anti-cyclist and respond to powerful lobbies from some drivers and in particular taxi drivers organisations. In London it was made worse by the local government reorganisations of the 1960s and the abolition of the Greater London Council in the 1980s. Traffic – including the problems faced by cyclists – is one area that clearly needs to be dealt with for London as a whole and not left to the whim of local boroughs as is currently the case. Some have an almost complete disregard for the safety of cyclists.

Stop Killing Cyclists has organised a number of bike die-ins taking place shortly after cyclists have been killed at the sites where they died. The protest these pictures come from was at the Elephant and Castle in Southwark on Wednesday 21 May 2014, following the death of 47 year-old Abdelkhars Lahyani on May 13, killed by a HGV (heavy goods vehicle) whose driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving.

The traffic system here was completely redesigned a few years earlier at a cost of £3 million, but without making proper provision for cyclists. Southwark Council’s transport plan argues against segregation of cyclists and says that including them in traffic is useful to slow traffic flows. While it may do so, it is at the expense of regarding them as expendable.

The protesters marked out a bike ‘bypass lane’ which if implemented would have taken Lahyani away from the dangerous area where he was killed. Many accidents at junctions are caused by drivers turning left and driving over cyclists they have failed to see on their left side, either in a blind spot because of bad vehicle design or simply because they have failed to check their route before turning.

More at Cyclists protest Death at the Elephant on My London Diary


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