Hundreds of cyclists yesterday followed a coffin in a horse-drawn hearse through central London before staging a ‘die-in’ protest outside the Houses of Parliament to call on politicians to make the UK’s streets safer for people on bikes.
The event, called the National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist and First Pedal on UK Parliament was organised by the campaign group, Stop Killing Cyclists.
The group is calling on the government to spend £3 billion a year on cycling – around a tenth of the amount spent on roads in England alone each year.
The procession left Lincoln’s Inn Fields at 1pm, accompanied by a piper playing a Scottish lament, and reached Parliament Square via Aldwych, Strand and the Embankment.
Twice on the way, riders paused to let emergency vehicles pass - first a fire engine, then an ambulance - managing to clear the road ahead of them far quicker than people in motor vehicles would have been able to do.
The hearse was followed by relatives of many of the more than 100 cyclists who die each year on Britain’s roads, with some among the speakers who addressed the rally following the die-in.
“Today we are calling on the government to do two simple things,” Stop Killing Cyclists co-founder Donnachadh McCarthy told BBC London News.
“We want them to invest £3 billion in creating a national safe cycling network so our kids can ride safely to school, and secondly we want the government to reverse the £80 billion of toxic fuel duty cuts to diesel and petrol.”
Stop Killing Cyclists was founded in late 2013 following the deaths of six cyclists on London’s roads in the space of a fortnight.
Its first direct action protest was a die-in outside Transport for London’s headquarters in Southwark, and yesterday’s event was the second time it had organised a National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist.
The previous one took place in December 2014, proceeding along Oxford Street to a die-in and rally at Marble Arch.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.