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.
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.