1,000 attend 'die-in' protest at Transport for London HQ

Speakers call for better infrastructure, truck safety improvements

by John Stevenson   November 30, 2013  

Image6

Around 1,000 people braved the late November chill last night to take part in a vigil and die-in protest outside Transport for London headquarters.

The demonstration comes after the cyclist death toll for 2013 reached 14 in London, with the most recent six fatalities occurring in a two-week period earlier this month.

Demonstrators called on Transport for London to act quickly to improve provision for cyclists on London’s roads.

They called for London and its boroughs to spend the same per person on cycling provision as the Netherlands - £33 per person per year instead of the current £1.25 spent in the UK.

Organisers are also demanding a ban on vehicles whose drivers cannot see adjacent road-users; and a full London-wide segregated cycling network to be built urgently.

Nazan Fennell, whose daughter Hope was killed two years ago by an HGV while trying to cross the road, spoke at the demonstration and later told BBC London: “There needs to be regulation on lorry access to busy urban areas.

“It should be made compulsory that they have safety equipment fitted. Equipment that would cost around £500 would have saved my daughter’s life. Nobody should lose a child.”

At the beginning of the die-in, organiser Donnachadh McCarthy said: “We Londoners are going to join the Dutch, and follow them until we get our roads safe.

“So I respectfully ask you now, London cyclists and pedestrians and drivers who have come to join us today, to lie on the pavement with your bicycles, turn on your lights and let them flash in the memories of people killed and injured in the last eight years.”

In an interview with the BBC he said: “We want a real budget, at the moment we’re getting crumbs.”

Mr McCarthy said that there were no representatives of cycling or pedestrian groups on the board of Transport for London.

he said: “We want an integrated cycling network in London within five years and we want a say at the top table.”

Leader of Southwark Council Peter John agreed that cyclists should be represented on the board of TfL.

He said: “If we are going to follow a Dutch-style approach it will mean re-defining and re-planning how traffic moves around our capital, in a way that we haven’t really had before.

“That needs strategic overview, that needs the mayor to bring councils together... and he needs to do it soon.”

TfL’s managing director for surface transport Leon Daniels said segregated cycle routes would be built over the next 10 years.

He said: “We are all shaken by the recent spate of deaths on the roads, and our sympathies are with all the friends and families of those affected. The protesters are rightly demanding safety should be at the top of our priorities. It is.

“That’s why we are investing nearly £1 billion in upgrading the existing superhighways with greater segregation, introducing major new segregated routes and backstreet quiet routes, and overhauling dozens of junctions to give more protection to cyclists.

He added: “Delivering such major improvements will take time, but we are working flat-out to do so. We and the mayor have set out our plans and the first major improvements, such as the segregated extension of the Superhighway to Stratford, are now being seen.

“Over the forthcoming weeks and months Londoners will see many more improvements as the investment we are making bears fruit.”

But Andrew Gilligan, the mayor of London’s cycling commissioner, said the protesters were “deliberately asking for things they know neither we, nor any administration, can give.”

In a posting on Talk London before the demo, he wrote: “One of the demo’s demands is for a “ban on any vehicles whose drivers cannot see adjacent road users” – in other words, a ban on lorries.

“This would, of course, cripple London’s economy, empty the supermarkets and throw hundreds of thousands out of work overnight.

“Maybe the die-in people just haven’t thought about their demands. Worse, maybe they have - and are deliberately asking for things they know neither we, nor any administration, can give, so we can then be accused of selling out.

“The problem, I suppose, for the diers-in is that we have a highly ambitious cycling programme. What can they ask us to do that we’re not doing already? ... We promise to do a huge network of cycle routes by 2016 – so the demand becomes for an even bigger network, to be finished even sooner.”

19 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

It seems to me that there is a clear implication in Gilligan's comments - unfortunately echoed by someone who really should know better, Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize, that this was some form of nihilist-anarchist demonstration.

It was not. Looking around I saw the full spectrum of London's cycling community, from couriers through to commuting City lawyers and accountants etc like myself. There was no chanting, no disorder, few banners, no sign of the Socialist Workers Party or "Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism Mao Tse Tug Thought". Several LCC luminaries were there (though I didn't see the CEO).

It was all very well behaved, quiet and respectful. The police had it all under control and there was no evident ill-feeling. We all wished each other a nice weekend afterwards.

It is just dumb of Gilligan and MCA to imply that we want to bring the economy to its knees or to frighten non-cyclists away from joining the cycling community. I think we all know that cycling is, statistically, relatively safe - safer indeed than many other activities - but it is not subjectively safe and it is not as safe as it should be. If other major world cities can aspire to zero cyclist deaths, and in some cases achieve it, so can London.

posted by Paul M [294 posts]
30th November 2013 - 17:42

like this
Like (23)

I don't think we could expect anything less from Boris cheerleader Andrew Gilligan...

posted by congokid [81 posts]
30th November 2013 - 18:27

like this
Like (12)

I meant to add that in spite of the constant digs at 'cyclists' in every corner of the media, there is an enormous untapped demand for cycling in London and elsewhere.

All the annual big events, from London-Brighton to Bike Week demonstrate this again and again.

But it is hugely dependent on having the right infrastructure in place that means people can feel safe while doing so.

What makes Gilligan's stance so disappointing is that he views this approach as a 'knee-jerk' reaction, just like his master.

posted by congokid [81 posts]
30th November 2013 - 18:32

like this
Like (14)

What a malicious and misleading interpretation by Andrew Gilligan regarding the demand that a “ban on any vehicles whose drivers cannot see adjacent road users” means a ban on lorries.

It does not.

It's a demand that lorries (in this example) are fitted with blindspot eliminating technology and mirrors. Such as the newest style mirrors and cameras where this isn't fully covering blindspots.

Cheap and proven technology, which is probably less than £1,000 per lorry.

He just lost a massive amount of respect with that rhetorical red herring.

posted by jacknorell [168 posts]
30th November 2013 - 19:49

like this
Like (14)

I can't be bothered reading the rest after the fourth paragraph.

Why just ask for London.....It should be the WHOLE of the UK that gets £33 per head....

I am not going to comment further, because it'll just explode what already has been a difficult debate

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8151 posts]
30th November 2013 - 21:29

like this
Like (15)

@Gkam84
Because the London movement is just about themselves, the rest of the country gets pittance and London gets £900 Million, Leeds was lucky, we got... £20m

posted by Leodis [120 posts]
30th November 2013 - 21:36

like this
Like (10)

What a Terribly English protest. Why do I feel that had it been held in a 'warmer-blooded' country, it would have lasted a lot longer, been a lot louder, rowdier, and would have properly stuffed the traffic for the entire evening? As it stands, just how inconvenienced were London's private car and truck users? Probably no more so than a run-of-the-mill RTI.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [366 posts]
30th November 2013 - 21:36

like this
Like (14)

Leodis wrote:
@Gkam84
Because the London movement is just about themselves, the rest of the country gets pittance and London gets £900 Million, Leeds was lucky, we got... £20m

I wasn't going to say that, but you are bang on.

Its all about making London better, cycling a little safer, but to hell with the rest of you....

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8151 posts]
30th November 2013 - 22:19

like this
Like (9)

Gkam84 wrote:
Leodis wrote:
@Gkam84
Because the London movement is just about themselves, the rest of the country gets pittance and London gets £900 Million, Leeds was lucky, we got... £20m

I wasn't going to say that, but you are bang on.

Its all about making London better, cycling a little safer, but to hell with the rest of you....


I agree with you up to a point... But a) there are loads more cyclists here per head; b) the opportunity for (further) modal shift is greater because the congestion and cost of public transport should make cycling an easier sell; c) all the politicians are here, so if you convince them in London you've convinced the whole country; and stuff.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [642 posts]
30th November 2013 - 22:35

like this
Like (8)

Gkam84 wrote:
Leodis wrote:
@Gkam84
Because the London movement is just about themselves, the rest of the country gets pittance and London gets £900 Million, Leeds was lucky, we got... £20m

I wasn't going to say that, but you are bang on.

Its all about making London better, cycling a little safer, but to hell with the rest of you....

Yeah bloody people that live in bloody London bloody protesting outside bloody Transport for bloody London headquarters asking for bloody London local government to make changes to cycling infrastructure in response to a spate of recent deaths in bloody London. Bloody Londoners, they're always so bloody London centric.

posted by mbthegreat [8 posts]
1st December 2013 - 1:30

like this
Like (21)

If you want to see this in your city, join its cycling campaign group like LCC and help make it happen. There should be a list of them at http://www.cyclenation.org.uk

posted by a.jumper [655 posts]
1st December 2013 - 9:43

like this
Like (7)

most friends and associates who don't live in London find the city a total headf*ck to even visit, let alone try cycling across Wink

London desperately needs proper cycling infrastructure because rising numbers of inhabitants placing extreme stress on the existing public transport places cycling as the ideal transport solution for the masses, as long as its is made safer for less experienced cyclists.

posted by hampstead_bandit [96 posts]
1st December 2013 - 10:27

like this
Like (5)

mbthegreat wrote:
Yeah bloody people that live in bloody London bloody protesting outside bloody Transport for bloody London headquarters asking for bloody London local government to make changes to cycling infrastructure in response to a spate of recent deaths in bloody London. Bloody Londoners, they're always so bloody London centric.

Which is the exact attitude that turns alot of the country against stupid idea's like lying in a road for a little while, not even at a time or place where it makes a difference. Yes outside Transport for London....but why not Bow roundabout?

Most Londoner's seem to be unaware that its not just their infrastructure that is not fit for purpose and that people get killed elsewhere in the country.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8151 posts]
1st December 2013 - 10:57

like this
Like (7)

Gkam84 wrote:
mbthegreat wrote:
Yeah bloody people that live in bloody London bloody protesting outside bloody Transport for bloody London headquarters asking for bloody London local government to make changes to cycling infrastructure in response to a spate of recent deaths in bloody London. Bloody Londoners, they're always so bloody London centric.

Which is the exact attitude that turns alot of the country against stupid idea's like lying in a road for a little while, not even at a time or place where it makes a difference. Yes outside Transport for London....but why not Bow roundabout?

Most Londoner's seem to be unaware that its not just their infrastructure that is not fit for purpose and that people get killed elsewhere in the country.

Well I think his point is that your losing sight of why the event came about, and who it was aimed at. I understand your point, but given this was a protest about the six random deaths of cyclists in London to the chief of London infrastructure, the Mayor of London, starting to widen the debate to the rest of the UK would highjack and dilute their point.

Yes, they could go to Parliament and make the same protest, but they would just say "its a London thing, go see the man over the river!" I don't that Londoners do lose sight of the fact that there are issues in other areas, it's just we have a whole separate political assembly that is set up to deal with these things, whom we vote and pay for who should be trying a bit better than they are.

The benefit for you is that if it works in London is that they may take it elsewhere.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [977 posts]
1st December 2013 - 11:55

like this
Like (10)

The LCC did organise a space 4 cycling ride on parliament in the summer. This one was TfL specific as they're the ones slopping a bit of blue paint on London's roads on the basis that it constitutes infrastructure when coroner's have gone so far as to suggest it creates a false sense of security. This protest involved pointing the finger directly at TfL with a number of specific demands.
http://lcc.org.uk/pages/why-safer-lorries

Whilst the protest involves a number of London specific issues they could just as easily be seen as relevant to the country.
There was a good cross section at the die in and the more cycling moves towards the mainstream, the greater the likelihood of progress, not just for London but the whole country. However, it will be one step at a time

posted by arfa [358 posts]
1st December 2013 - 12:54

like this
Like (8)

I'm just getting the feeling lately that there are two separate groups of cyclists forming in the UK, those who cycle in London and those who don't and neither could give a toss about the other.

London are out to change ONLY London while everyone else wants the whole country sorted out.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8151 posts]
1st December 2013 - 14:04

like this
Like (7)

That may be the case but until we get a sensible person to spearhead a national cycling campaign (please Mr Boardman, your country needs you) we have to struggle on with whatever traction there is. London is gaining this because a bike is one of the cheapest and most efficient ways around a criminally polluted city. The fact that the inexperienced are dieing is rightly shining the light on how there is a massive lack of coordinated sensible thinking and vehicles continue to kill with abandon. The real scandal is how many pedestrians get taken out but that again is another story.

posted by arfa [358 posts]
1st December 2013 - 14:20

like this
Like (9)

Gkam84 wrote:
I'm just getting the feeling lately that there are two separate groups of cyclists forming in the UK, those who cycle in London and those who don't and neither could give a toss about the other.

London are out to change ONLY London while everyone else wants the whole country sorted out.

I honestly don't understand this. When Scots did their pedal on Holyrood thing did you object that they weren't worrying about the whole of the UK? The UK has different consitutent parts, Scotland, Wales, England, NI, and London (which, personally, I don't truly regard as part of England, rather as a place in its own right).

In addition to national campaigns, people are allowed to campaign for changes in their own region, surely? Especially given we have devolved government, and different regions have different conditions.

Also, London is, in fact, different. Inner London has seen notable declines in car ownership over the last decade, while everywhere else in the country has seen a substantial increase. Inner London is one of the very few parts of the country where only a minority of households have a car.

If you wanted to complain that the national media gives disproportionate attention to London stories, I'd concede you may have a point, mind.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [503 posts]
3rd December 2013 - 10:45

like this
Like (4)

I really find some of the attitudes on display here weird.
1. This was a London protest about London deaths on London streets outside the office responsible for the design of London streets. The fact that six people have died on London streets in three weeks is not a UK-wide problem, TfL is not a UK-wide organisation.
It's a wholly appropriate response to a localised problem organised by a local organisation. If Manchester, Liverpool or Cornwall are facing similar issues, there is nothing stopping their cycling orgs copying the idea or doing something else. And I, as a cyclist, would get behind them doing it.
Instead, here, we have presumably non-London cyclists mithering on about sodding Londoners. Nothing's stopping you getting your own thing going, and trying to rain on our "die in" is not only manifestly stupid and callous but also counter-productive.
2. That's because where London leads, because we have all the politicians and big organisations to do with road design here, the rest of the UK follows. That may not help the issues we have with rural roads immediately, but it will help with our other cities. I personally think the more cities and towns form their own cycle orgs, the more protests we see across all our cities, the harder we are pushing. So stop moaning and start shouting.
3. In the absence of a currently strong national body (CTC, Sustrans - neither are forceful enough IMHO), we do what we can. Would I like to see a properly funded "Cycling England" style body being enabled to take on national issues? Yes. But I'm not sodding waiting until we get one, and neither should anyone else.

posted by PsiMonk [10 posts]
3rd December 2013 - 13:26

like this
Like (4)