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Hundreds to ride for safer streets in Oxford tonight after cyclist's death on Tuesday

Safe space plea comes after Claudia Comberti was struck by a bus after falling from her bike

Hundreds of cyclists will take to the streets of Oxford tonight to call for safer roads following the death of a woman who had been cycling on Botley Road on Tuesday, with campaigners saying that “private cars and vans do not belong on our city’s roads.”

Claudia Comberti died after she was struck by a bus operated by the Oxford Bus Company just after 2.30pm on Tuesday afternoon. According to Thames Valley Police, the 31-year-old had fallen from her bike moments beforehand.

Detective Sergeant Gavin Collier from the force’s serious collision investigation unit, said: “Having collated evidence from a number of sources, at this stage it is believed that the cyclist sadly fell from her bicycle just prior to the collision.

“Investigations remain ongoing to establish the cause of the incident, however we do not believe it was as a result of any interaction with another person or vehicle."

Ms Comberti, originally from London, was close to completing her DPhil dissertation at the University of Oxford. One of her supervisors said that her research into the impact of climate change on indigenous people in the Amazon had been recognised as important by the United Nations.  

She was a regular visitor to the Broken Spoke Bike Co-op, which in a blog post said: “She embodied that which we try to create and nourish — a love of the world and its people, the outdoors, a zest for life, of living what you believe.”

On Wednesday, 100 cyclists rode from Carfax in the centre of Oxford to the location where she was killed to install a ghost bike in her memory, with Broken Spoke’s blog post highlighting ongoing concerns about the safety of riders in the city.

“Ten people ghosted Claudia’s white bike down Woodstock Road to Carfax before the procession to Botley, riding two abreast in the centre of the lane as it is safe and legal to do,” it said.

“Unsurprisingly we were met with blaring horns, dangerous overtaking and aggressive comments from people inside vehicles as we rode to commemorate the friend who was killed on the road not 24 hours earlier.”

The post continued: “This type of response from drivers is a daily occurrence. This is ‘normal’. We accept this. We all have stories of near-misses, injuries and insults experienced while cycling.

“The roads are dominated by cars while cyclists are marginalised, abused and even killed. But when the everyday violence of this really hits you, like it hit us when we lost Claud, it is a wake-up call.”

Broken Spoke added: “Regardless of the specific circumstances of Tuesday afternoon, if a cyclist stumbles on the road, just like if a person stumbles on a path, there should be space for them to pick themselves up without being killed.

“This is our message: cyclists need space, they need to share a wide lane with other bikes not buses which are some of the largest vehicle on the road. No matter how strong a cyclist you are (and Claudia was very strong), you don’t stand a chance against a bus.

“Buses are not the problem; they are an important alternative to private vehicle use, but they too need their own lane.

“Private motor vehicles which pollute our air, clog our streets, and cause many thousands of injuries and deaths every year need to be de-prioritised. That’s what park and rides are for. 

“Private cars and vans do not belong on our city’s roads.”

More than 200 people have confirmed on Facebook that they will attend tonight’s Ride for Claudia, which starts at Broad Street at 7pm.

The event’s Facebook page says:

Dress in bright colours, gold leggings, neckerchiefs, hats, wigs ... wear a party!

Bring noise makers: horns, bells, instruments, drums.

Everyone and anyone welcome. Especially those affected by Tuesday's tragedy, whether you knew Claudia or not.

We are doing this to feel safe on the roads.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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