Killing of cyclists: enough is enough

Polite meetings and symbolic action are having no effect. We need to act. The time has surely come for cyclists to (nonviolently) defend ourselves.

Transport for London (TfL) is quite clear that it is deliberately putting cyclists’ lives at risk (not only passively, but actively by designing dangerous “cycle superhighways”), in preference to re-balancing road usage to prioritise people over machines. TfL says that nothing must be done to slow down motor vehicles.

On the contrary, restraining the inherent violence of motor traffic is essential for a safe and civilised city. Much of the traffic which threatens and poisons us should not even exist in its current form. For instance, there is no reason for most journeys by private car in inner London – other than the selfishness of the driver.

Major changes at busy, dangerous junctions are essential. There must be cycle lanes and cycle priority at places like Kings Cross, irrespective of the slowing of motor vehicles. Traffic lights must be rephased to have longer gaps between conflicting green phases, so that slow-moving traffic such as bikes, and pedestrians, are well clear of the junction before the next vehicles get a green light. This wouldn’t be needed if drivers obeyed the rule “green = go if the way is clear” (not “green = go, regardless”) – but they don’t.

It has been suggested that if TfL won’t make an immediate commitment to such basic essentials, then cyclists and others must take our own action.

So what next?

What if scores, perhaps hundreds, of cyclists decided to come together to peacefully close down a dangerous junction like Kings Cross for an hour? We could – according to taste – ride very slowly round the one-way system, or simply not move at all for an hour.

What if, unless TfL made firm commitments to make changes, hundreds of us returned the following week and closed the junction for an hour again? What if we did this every week until there was a guarantee of the changes needed to make us safer?

And once one junction was made safer, what if we then chose another dangerous junction, and closed it down every week until…

In this spirit, it’s been suggested that on Monday 9 January (the first working Monday of the New Year, and barely 3 months after the last time a cyclist was slaughtered at Kings Cross) cyclists gather at the York Way / Pentonville Road junction, at Kings Cross, to calm (and preferably stop) the Kings Cross traffic for one hour, from 6pm to 7pm.

Will you be there (at least in a supportive role, even if you don’t want to be involved in stopping the traffic)?

Please spread this message far and wide.

Contact “Bikes Alive” on bikesalive@london.com

[21 December 2011]

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