Hundreds of people campaigning for safer roads for cyclists and pedestrians yesterday walked along Europe’s busiest shopping as a procession headed by a horse-drawn hearse made its way to Marble Arch, where a die-in was held.
The National Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Road Violence – symbolised by the empty coffin the hearse bore – was organised by the group Stop Killing Cyclists and its off-shoot, Stop the Killing. Leaving Bedford Square at noon, it reached its destination about an hour later.
People out doing early Christmas shopping as well as tourists stopped to watch the march go past, many asking what was going on and adding their support to the campaign to make London’s roads safer for the city’s most vulnerable road users.
Cyclists and pedestrians of all ages were represented at the protest, some carrying white flowers that were later placed on top of the coffin, and many with home-made banners.
Once at Marble Arch, under overcast skies and very light rain, they heard from a succession of speakers, several of whom had been directly affected by being injured on the streets, or through the loss of a loved one.
They included Tom Kearney, who tweets as @comadad, and who has been campaigning for a safer Oxford Street ever since he was hit by a bus – police initially thought he was dead – there shortly before Christmas 2009.
The family of student Marie Vesco, who was killed in Sussex while cycling to the coast with friends a fortnight before her 20th birthday, had travelled from France.
Her mother Dominique made perhaps the day’s most emotive speech, including describing her feelings as she took a late-night phone call in June 2008 to learn her daughter had been killed.
Experts also addressed the crowd, including Professor Brendan Delaney of King’s College London, who spoke of how making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists would lead to people becoming more active and less air pollution.
He said that would not only help avoid thousands of premature deaths each year, but would also relieve pressure on the NHS, a point repeated by actuary Andrew Smith, who began his speech by revealing he cycles each day to his office at Ludgate Circus – site of the deaths of two cyclists this year, both killed in collisions with lorries.
A senior police officer road.cc spoke to put the numbers taking part in the procession and die-in at around 300, and said that the atmosphere had been good-natured, with the main problem on Oxford Street caused by a broken-down bus travelling in the opposite direction.
He added police were impressed with the approach of the organisers, who had worked well with them to ensure everything went smoothly.
The 10 demands sought by Stop Killing Cyclists and Stop The Killing were outlined at the rally. They are:
1. STOP KILLING 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 KILLING PEDESTRIANS – Establish a national programme to fund pedestrianisation of our city and town centres, including the nation’s high-street – Oxford Street.
3. STOP KILLING 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 KILLING CYCLISTS – Invest £15 billion in a National Segregated Cycle Network over the next 5 years.
5. STOP KILLINGS 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 KILLINGS 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 KLLING WITH POLLUTION – 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 KILLING AT JUNCTIONS – 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 KILLING WITH CO2 – Stop the Killing from CO2 emissions from impacts of the climate crisis - all transport fuels to be from environmentally-sustainable renewable sources within 10 years.
10. STREETS FIT FOR HUMANS! – 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.
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.