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School principal pays tribute to Conor O’Neill, politician calls for safer roads

A five-year-old boy has died in Belfast from injuries sustained when he was hit by a car while riding his bike. Police are appealing for witnesses.

The incident happened in Rosehead, North Belfast, at around 9am yesterday morning, reports the BBC.

The child, Conor O’Neill, was taken to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children but died of his injuries.

Conor was a pupil at Holy Cross boys' primary school, whose principal, Kevin McArevey, rushed a quarter of a mile to the scene of the incident.

He said: "The entire school community has been devastated by news of this awful tragedy."

"The boy concerned was a lovely child. He had a radiant smile that could light up any room. This is an awful day for the family, friends, staff and children."

Mr McArevey added: "He was playing on his bike, as he normally would, before going to school. His mum, I'm aware, was calling him in for school when the accident happened."

SDLP politician Alban Maginness, who represents North Belfast in the Northern Ireland Assembly, told the Belfast Telegraph: "This is a tragedy that will send shock and hurt throughout the community.

“I want to offer my sincere sympathy to the family of the young child who will be going through a harrowing time.

"I have no doubt that the entire community will rally around them at this extremely difficult time.”

He added that his party was calling for the steps to be taken to improve the safety of vulnerable road users in the area.

"The SDLP will meet with Roads Service in the coming days with a view to securing traffic calming measures that will make the area safer for pedestrians, children and road users,” he explained.

“It is imperative that Roads Service acts quickly on these requests before another tragedy befalls this close-knit community."

Fear of their children being put in danger by traffic is a major factor behind many parents’ decision not to let their offspring play outside.

In 2011, Tim Gill, an expert on children’s play and free time, expressed concern over survey findings from Tata Steel that showed declining use and ownership of bikes among children, who preferred to stay indoors with devices such as games consoles or mobile phones.

He said: “The findings on cycling and cycle ownership paint a worrying picture, not just about children’s exercise but also about their everyday freedoms.

“Not so many years ago, kids both burnt up calories and built up their self-confidence by cycling around their neighbourhoods. It looks like parents today feel the roads are too dangerous for that.

“There’s a message here for politicians; make streets safe enough so that parents can feel confident about letting their kids cycle as part of their daily lives.”

Last month Sustrans launched its Campaign for Safer Streets, urging parents to write to their local MP to demand every child be given the right to a safe journey to school.

A survey from the sustainable transport charity found 41 per cent of parents saying that their children had experienced some kind of “near miss” while walking or cycling to school.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.