Follow the Dutch!

More than a thousand cyclists staged a mass “die-in” in a central London street yesterday evening, calling for improvement of road safety.

Die-In Protest London. Photograph: Rory Jackson/Stop Killing Cyclists
Die-In Protest London. Photograph: Rory Jackson/Stop Killing Cyclists

Protestors lay down with their bicycles outside the Transport of London headquarters as part of a vigil for six cyclists killed over a two-week period in London last month.

The event, organised by Stop The Killing, calls for a ban on vehicles whose drivers cannot see adjacent road users, and a separated cycle network across London to be built.

One of the organisers, Donnachadh McCarthy, said: “We have brought the battle to TfL’s headquarters because these are the people making the decisions. We want representations and we want real funding. We want £600 million a year spent on safer cycling in London.”

Protestors ask each London borough to spend at least 10% of their transport budget on cycling infrastructure. They aim for a similar cycling provision as in The Netherlands, which spends about £33 per person in contrast to £1.25 in the UK.

The proposal was inspired by the Dutch, who used so-called “die-ins” in the 1970s to push for investment in safe transport infrastructure. Prior to the 15-minute “die-in”, McCarthy said: “We Londoners are going to join the Dutch, and follow them until we get our roads safe.”

"Die in" protest in Amsterdam in the 1970s. Photograph by Anna Pietersen
“Die in” protest in Amsterdam in the 1970s. Photograph by Anna Pietersen

McCarthy told me later: “It is a true crime that eight and 80 year olds should be sharing a road with HGV vehicles. This is a human rights issue. Streets should be designed for everyone: children, pensioners, cyclists and pedestrians.” He added: “It is not rocket science, we want a fully incorporated cycling network that caters for all road users within five years.”

This year, 14 fatal accidents and numerous injuries occurred on London roads, which equals the number killed in the whole of 2012.

Map fatal crashes

“Cars cut you off, they don’t look out for you. I think it is despicable that we have vehicles with blind spots on the roads” said Steve Routley, co-organiser of Stop the Killing. “It is time that people stop dying on our roads.”

Organisers McCarthy and Routley handed over a letter with a list of demands for road safety improvements to the Managing Director of Transport for London, Leon Daniels, at the end of the protest. “I was happy the MD had the decency to turn up at the protest, unlike Andrew Gillian, [Cycling Commissioner, appointed by Boris Johnson] who instead of attending, wrote little sadly a blog, saying London cyclists have no demands other than more and faster” according to McCarthy.

Managing Director Leon Daniels agreed on meeting a delegation of the protest next week. He promised segregated cycle routes, which is one of the main demands, would be constructed within 10 years. “Delivering such major improvements will take time, but we are working flat-out to do so” Daniels announced.

TfL said it was spending £1bn on road improvements.

London Mayor Boris Johnson was criticised earlier this month for blaming victims for not obeying the laws on the road. He launched a programme called Operation Safeway, which deploys police officers to 166 key junctions during the capital’s rush hours. Over 2000 fixed penalty notices  were issued to motorists and cyclists in less than three days.

– END.

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