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The mass die-in of cyclists outside Transport for London's offices, 30th November 2013. Photo: Catherine Nelson.
The mass die-in of cyclists outside Transport for London's offices, 30th November 2013. Photo: Catherine Nelson.
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Join us on Saturday to demand Roads Fit For Humans!

Donnachadh McCarthy

13th November 2014

A year ago six London cyclists were killed in a horrendous spate of road violence, writes Donnachadh McCarthy. A demonstration this Saturday will mark their deaths, and demand Government action to improve road safety and reduce traffic pollution - moves that could save over 210,000 lives over the next decade.

The UK spends a pathetic £2 per person on cycling safety, compared to the £28 spent per annum per person by the Dutch government.

A truly unique and dignified protest event will take place this Saturday on Oxford Street - The National Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence.

November marks the first anniversary of last year's awful spate of six barbaric cyclist killings in London. These deaths led to a massive peaceful 'Die-In' protest organised by a new spontaneously formed grassroots pressure group called Stop Killing Cyclists, outside Transport for London's HQ.

The event was broadcast all over the world. Despite this, Boris Johnson, local councils and the government have failed to make any meaningful investment in Britain's cycling or pedestrian safety since then.

The UK spends a pathetic £2 per person on cycling safety, compared to the £28 spent per annum per person by the Dutch government.

A funeral procession for the 26,000 dead on our roads in 10 years

Stop Killing Cyclists is marking the anniversary by taking the protests to a national level, by taking a coffin mounted on a horse-drawn hearse, in a funeral procession from Bedford Square down Oxford Street to Marble Arch. (Full details below)

There, the coffin will be placed on a catafalque and the protesters will then lie down on the ground surrounding it, to represent the millions of UK pedestrians, cyclists and motorists who have been violently killed, maimed or poisoned over the last 10 years by our lethal motorised traffic culture.

This will be followed by a rally, where victims, doctors and grass-root safety campaigners will address the crowd. A coalition of pedestrian, environmental and cycling safety groups is endorsing the event.

While over 26,000 cyclists, pedestrians and motorists have been killed in UK traffic collisions over the last decade, the real death toll from our motorised traffic culture is far higher.

Transport CO2 emissions are also killing people, by their contribution to the 4 million people, as the UN estimates, that have died over the last decade due to climate change.

A litany of health damage and premature death

The NHS estimates that 50,000 people were killed by traffic pollution alone and Professor Garthwaite, from University of London, calculates that up to 400,000 may have died through physical inactivity due to lack of cycling infrastructure.

Hundreds of thousands more people across the UK are living with disabilities, lung and heart diseases caused by traffic pollution.

And finally, there is a national obesity epidemic with over 25% of adults clinically obese and 30% of children overweight or clinically obese, as millions are afraid to cycle to work or school due to the lack of cycling infrastructure.

This litany is clearly intolerable in a civilised country. There is hardly a family that the toll of death and disease from our motorised transport culture has not touched.

A report in the Lancet estimated that 4,500 lives could be saved in London alone every year if we moved to a pro-walking and cycling culture like they have in Holland. Extrapolated across the 60% of the UK that is urbanised, this would result in about 21,000 lives saved every year!

Another 60,000 people in London would be saved every year from living with disabilities. Breast cancer, heart diseases, depression and even dementia would be radically reduced.

Making roads safer for people to cycle or walk also has major equality implications. Over 50% of poorer households, 65% of pensioners and 40% of working single people do not have a car.

Whilst car-running costs have come down, public transport costs have consistently risen higher than inflation for the last decade, forcing more working people into transport poverty. Cycling and walking can help people escape such poverty, as well as increasing health and longevity.

Our demands are reasonable

The National Funeral & Die-In protest's full 10 demands are:

  1. Stop the killing of children - set up national, multi-billion pound programme to convert residential communities across Britain into living-street Home Zones to abolish dangerous rat-runs.
  2. Stop the killing of pedestrians - establish 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 - introduce and enforce 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 - invest £15 billion in a National Segregated Cycle Network over the next 5 years.
  5. Stop the killing by HGVs - ban trucks with blind spots by making safety equipment mandatory and strictly enforce current truck-safety regulations, to reduce levels of illegally dangerous trucks down from estimated 30% to less than 1%.
  6. Stop the killing without liability - introduce a presumed civil liability law on behalf of vehicular traffic when they kill or seriously injure vulnerable road-users, where there is no evidence blaming the victim.
  7. Stop the killing from lung, heart and other diseases caused by vehicular pollutants - make it mandatory for particulate filters that meet latest EU emission standards to be fitted to all existing buses, lorries and taxis.
  8. Stop the killing at junctions - introduce pedestrian crossing times long enough for elderly disabled to cross. Legalise filtered junction crossings by cyclists with strict legal priority for pedestrians and carry out urgent programme of physically protected left-hand turns for cyclists.
  9. Stop the Killing from Climate Crisis caused by CO2 emissions - all transport fuels to be from environmentally-sustainable, renewable sources within 10 years.
  10. Focus on Life! Transport governance must make 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.


The National Funeral of the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence
is a clarion call to people across the UK to unite to bring this carnage and environmental destruction to an urgent end. It is being organised by grassroots activists and so is dependent on grassroots support.

Please help spread the word about Saturday's protest and help make our roads fit for humans once again.

 


 

Action:

  • Please sign up on the Facebook event page to let organisers know how many people are coming.
  • If readers are members of any environmental, road safety, community groups, trade-unions, student-unions, pensioner groups etc, please ask them to email their members about the protest.

Event:

  • Gather at Bedford Square London WC1 from 12.00 noon on Saturday 15th November. WE will set off at 1pm, proceeding west along Oxford Street to Marble Arch.
  • Full details on the website: www.stopthekilling.org.

Safer Oxford Street Campaign: saferoxfordstreet.blogspot.co.uk/

Donnachadh McCarthy is a Co-founder of Stop Killing Cyclists and Co-organiser for Stop The Killing. He is a freelance eco-consultant and journalist and long-time campaigner on a range of eco-issues. His latest book is The Prostitute State.

 

 

 

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