bikesalive

Cyclists and other people in London actively resisting oppression by motor vehicles

Month: January, 2012

Next Kings Cross action: Monday 6 February

As some of you will already have heard, the next pre-announced Bikes Alive event is at Kings Cross again, on Monday 6 February. Please copy this graphic and use it to promote this event as widely as possible!

News of further promotional resources – and indeed other news – will follow very shortly; but this quick posting is to give everyone as much notice as possible, now that the date is confirmed.

And remember, if you want to be on the e-mail list to get direct messages from Bikes Alive from time to time, please e-mail bikesalive@london.com and ask.

If you’re on Twitter, you can keep up to date by following @BikesAlive, and by watching out for #bikesalive.

 

Monday 23 January action: resources & networking

MAP/FLYER FOR MONDAY

Please copy this map and use it to promote Monday’s event!

Keep in touch:

If you want to be on the e-mail list to get direct messages from Bikes Alive from time to time, please e-mail bikesalive@london.com and ask.

If you’re on Twitter, you can keep up to date by following @BikesAlive, and by watching out for #bikesalive.

On the day:

Please try to arrive promptly by 6pm. The numbers are likely to be even higher than on the first Bikes Alive event (which involved around 200 people, including pedestrians), and it’s obviously very important that we try to stay together, for maximum impact. We need to make it clear that the current lethal priorities of Transport for London will not be tolerated, and if the only way an existing road system can be made safe is to take it over and exclude motor vehicles – at least for an hour! – so be it… We assume that the police presence will be as friendly and accommodating as it was last time; though if you were to have any problem then you should ring some helpful local solicitors (Hodge Jones Allen: tel 07659 111192).

And remember that we’re expecting pedestrians (including many Kings Cross locals, who also suffer from the current road system in the area) to be part of the action. So please don’t be too cycle-centric, and be prepared to move – or not move – at a pace which suits them too! Since we’re trying to change the balance on our roads to a more human and more humane one, do come with a smile on your face, and in good voice.

Don’t forget to use the weekend to spread the word to all your cycling friends! If Bikes Alive continues to grow, we can target more places, more often – but that depends on you.

Bikes Alive meeting confirmation (et al)

THURSDAY’S BIKES ALIVE MEETING

The meeting of Bikes Alive supporters, announced earlier, is confirmed for 7pm, on Thursday 19 January, in Housmans Bookshop (5 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, London N1). The meeting is for planning and preparation for the action next Monday, for a bit of strategising about Bikes Alive and similar actions in the future, and – with any luck! – for some sharing round of tasks.

SOME OTHER SNIPPETS WHILE THE OPPORTUNITY ARISES…

1) Poster artwork

For those of you having problems with the poster artwork – promoting next Monday’s action – which was circulated with the last mailing, it’s now available in PDF format (as well as in the earlier ODT and PS formats). Anyone wanting a copy of this (or of the earlier ones if you didn’t get the mailing), should e-mail BikesAlive@london.com with “ARTWORK” as the subject line, specifying clearly which format(s) you want, and the file(s) will be sent to you.

2) TfL and Corporate Manslaughter

For an excellent round-up of the situation at the lethal Kings Cross junction, including complaints of Corporate Manslaughter lodged with the police against Transport for London, see this item on the very wonderful local website: kingscrossenvironment.com/2012/01/16/tflcorporatemanslaughter. It also gives chapter and verse of many instances of TfL brazenly saying that the rate of vehicle throughput is a higher priority than safety.

3) An eye-witness report

We received an interesting eye-witness report this evening – from, yes, Kings Cross.

It’s impossible to move around Kings Cross of a day – and I do, every day – without seeing drivers chatting on their mobile phones, blocking box junctions, ignoring advance stop line boxes for bikes, jumping red lights, and generally behaving dangerously; it really is a daily occurrence, and the danger is primarily visited upon others. Police, on foot and otherwise, are a common sight around Kings Cross. When’s the last time I saw any motorist being pulled up for lawbreaking around Kings Cross? Not once in the last 10 years – which presumably has at least some statistical significance.

This evening I saw a cyclist stopped by police outside Kings Cross station for not having adequate lights on their bike. Now I certainly think that cycling around after dark without decent lights is bonkers; however, the danger in this instance is primarily inflicted on themselves. And it seemed pretty clear that the cyclist wasn’t just being told not to be stupid, but was being booked. I wonder how many motorists behaving illegally there were passing through Kings Cross during the interminable time the policeman spent dealing with the one cyclist? But then, it seems that in the eyes of much of society these days, including much of officialdom, a crime committed while sitting in a metal box out on the road isn’t a “real crime” – certainly not the type of crime that’s worth putting serious resources into clamping down on.


And lastly – please try very hard to arrive by 6pm sharp for the action on Monday 23rd…

We Ride Again! On Monday 23 January

IN BRIEF: [but see below for much more information]

The second pre-announced Bikes Alive action is another “forcible (but non-violent) traffic calming” at Kings Cross, from 6pm to 7pm on Monday 23 January.

There will also be a planning meeting – almost certainly near Kings Cross at 7pm on Thursday 19 January. Details to follow but book the date!

Below is more background and news about this plan, and details of how you can help.

NEWS IN DETAIL

1) What’s Bikes Alive?

Please read earlier postings!

2) What next, when next, why next?

The first Bikes Alive event at Kings Cross on 9 January was by way of an experiment, being organised by the tiniest number of people, with negligible resources, from scratch, over the holiday period. We were overjoyed that 200 people (cyclists and others) got involved, that many people thought it a great idea, and that it got quite a lot of media interest.

Although some Bikes Alive publicity talked of the possibility of weekly actions, this seems a bit overambitious initially. We needed time to consult and to catch our breath. We thought that, at the moment, a fortnight’s gap would give us enough time to build mobilisation, but wasn’t so long as to lose momentum.

And also, we wanted to see whether Transport for London would come out with their hands up.

So what was TfL’s response? Well, TfL boss Peter Hendy (who’s paid in a week as much as some Londoners have to live on for a year) happened to be interviewed on BBC Radio London on the evening of the first Bikes Alive action. And what did he have to say? How did he give address the issues? He was straight to the point – he said the demonstration was “stupid”. (He did also talk in passing about the need for training – though not, it seems, of the people in charge of road layouts.)

Well, Bikes Alive is convinced that there are plenty of Londoners “stupid” enough to head back to Kings Cross again, this time in even bigger numbers: Monday 23 January it is!

3) Our demands

As explained before, the aims of Bikes Alive – which we share with many other campaigners – are to rebalance priorities on London’s roads in favour of people: in favour of their health, safety and sanity. And we believe in taking action to achieve this. We accept that TfL, even with the best will in the world (ahem), couldn’t change London overnight. But they could start making things better rather than making them worse. That just takes political commitment and some steps in the right direction.

(The first step – though only a first step – at Kings Cross could be to institute a major lane-wide cycle-only route straight across the junction from Grays Inn Road to York Way, site of the last killing of a cyclist at Kings Cross, with the lane starting well before the junction and continuing into York Way. This initial demand seems to be gaining a consensus amongst locals, including both elected councillors and cycle campaigners in the area. It could be instituted now, while TfL is re-aligning the pavements and making minor changes at that point. Such a first step would be the minimum necessary evidence that TfL can move in the right direction. For more detailed background on this, see for example kingscrossenvironment.com/2012/01/07/why-did-tfls-killer-junction-not-measure-up-to-tfls-own-london-cycle-design-standards, kingscrossenvironment.com/2012/01/09/tfl-improvements-may-make-things-worse, and aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/how-smoothing-traffic-flow-is-needlessly-causing-death-and-serious-injury.)

4) Mobilising – what you can do

An e-mail to groups and individuals in touch with Bikes Alive will be sent shortly, announcing the 23 January date and pointing people to this website. But increasing the numbers requires everyone enthused by this to join in the mobilisation.

Can you make sure that you send a note to every cycling website and blog you know? Can you contact local cycling, environmental, pedestrian, etc, groups in your part of town? Why not put up a poster in local cycle shops? It’s not a problem if people receive the information more than once from different directions!

Ask people to
(a) Keep a regular eye on this website for updates.
(b) Send their e-mail address to bikesalive@london.com, so as to receive news directly.
(c) If they’re on Twitter, to follow @BikesAlive to be reminded when there’s fresh news.

We’re planning a meeting of active supporters of Bikes Alive, it’s expected to be in the Kings Cross area at 7pm on Thursday 19 January. Again – watch this website for confirmation of the details: there’ll be news here as soon as we have it; sending out messages takes longer! The meeting will deal with plans for the next action, and also look at longer-term strategies to build Bikes Alive.

Lastly, if there’s time at this end, those of you getting an e-mail shortly might find some artwork attached that you can use for posters promoting the next action.

5) More reports of the first action

We’re grateful to people who’ve pointed out further coverage of the first Bikes Alive event, in addition to the ones referenced in earlier posts:

mylondondiary.co.uk/2012/01/jan.htm#bikes
www.camdennewjournal.com/news/2012/jan/cyclists-bring-junction-standstill-rush-hour-protest
london.indymedia.org/articles/11427 [note the video link on this]
www.demotix.com/news/998205/bikes-alive-protest-safer-roads-cyclists
earthfirst.org.uk/actionreports/content/bikes-alive-action-kings-x-tomorrow
www.citizenside.com/en/photos/politics/2012-01-09/47907/bikes-alive-want-to-keep-the-cycling-tracks-of-london.html
www.cyclechat.net/threads/bikes-alive-kings-cross-protest.93263 [this includes another new video]

More coverage of Monday’s event

Some people have asked about press coverage of Monday’s event.

It was rather typical of the way the cash-strapped mainstream press seem to work these days: quite a few major articles plugging it in advance (based on our press releases, a bit of research, and a few phone calls); and then no money to send reporters to actually cover it. (Although there were lots of journalists present, as already reported here, they mostly weren’t from the main national press.)

However, this can be very helpful in terms of getting the word out to people we haven’t already managed to make contact with – more useful than reports afterwards of course… Every one of the advance mentions we list below was identified by at least one person at the demonstration as having been how they knew about it – even the live BBC Radio London piece only three-quarters of an hour beforehand had at least one person leaping on their bike and charging across London to join in!

The known examples of significant advance mentions were those in the Independent, the “mini-Inde” called the i [yes, a silly name], the Morning Star, and the Evening Standard (all of them on the Monday itself). Links to the on-line equivalents of most of these stories are given here (the on-line and print versions were virtually identical in each case):

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/cyclists-plan-blockade-of-deadly-junction-6286999.html
www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/113903
www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-24026283-families-unite-in-appeal-for-action-to-cut-cycle-deaths.do

The BBC London programme, which included almost 10 minutes on the topic (with about half that time taken up with a rant by a Bikes Aliver), can be found – for a few more days at least – at:

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00n2pk8

The replay this generates runs from around the end of the 5pm news, and the Kings Cross / Bikes Alive item starts only a couple of minutes into this.

Other advance mentions include in one of the local papers covering the Kings Cross area. And at least three local papers are more or less guaranteed to have significant reports later this week: the Camden New Journal, the Islington Tribune, and the Ham and High. Anyone in the area who sees these could usefully send in letters for next week’s editions, to keep the story rolling.

And lastly, a few more websites with coverage, to add to those listed previously:

planetsave.com/2012/01/10/bike-protesters-in-london-hold-1st-organized-protest
now-here-this.timeout.com/2012/01/10/cycle-protest
www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/latest/531378/cyclists-protest-over-london-road-safety.html
www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16007
road.cc/content/news/50020-bikes-alive-blockade-kings-cross-tonight-aims-put-pressure-tfl

No doubt there are plenty more, but this will have to do – unless anyone spots anything particularly dramatic and sends a message about it to bikesalive@london.com.

Monday 9 January 2012 (and onwards…)

Thanks to everyone who attended, supported or publicised the event on Monday evening.

Around 200 people (and several charming dogs) were present. There were plenty of cyclists, and also lots of pedestrians involved. It took a while to get going – partly because some key people were busy with the media, partly because the most picturesque bike took a while to erect, and partly because of the excellent lack of leaders.

A good number of police were also present, and plenty of mainstream and less mainstream press.

Once people got out onto the road, at about 6.15pm, self-organisation and semi-organised chaos won through, and the demonstration made itself felt. Several parts of the Kings Cross road system were at least intermittently at a standstill between then and just after 7pm. A subsequent re-run of radio traffic reports from the time of the demonstration confirmed that, for instance, between 6.30pm and 7pm traffic coming into Kings Cross on Euston Road was backing up to the Euston Underpass.

A few attributes of some well-known campaigners were newly discovered (newly, that is, by at least by some of those present) – such as Jenny Jones’s whistling skills, and Tamsin Omond’s ability to loudly lead a chant at a blockaded road junction.

The police behaviour was pretty reasonable; they no doubt had no more idea of what to expect than the event’s kind-of-organisers did.

The following links to stories and (especially) pictures and videos which appeared online in the 24 hours after the demonstration give a fair idea of the nature of the event.

news.fitzrovia.org.uk/2012/01/09/road-safety-protest-brings-kings-cross-to-a-standstill
www.londonlovesbusiness.com/news/cycle-protest-brings-kings-cross-to-a-standstill/1450.article
www.guardian.co.uk/uk/gallery/2012/jan/10/bikes-alive-protest-kings-cross
www.demotix.com/news/996605/bikes-alive-protest-road-safety-junction-near-kings-cross
www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2012/jan/10/cyclist-pressure-westminster
www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxsYkw2Emc8&feature=youtube_gdata
www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoP7oHE_Awc&feature=player_embedded
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iI_HGdH0i0&feature=player_detailpage
www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=QAvAo_3iXo4
kingscrossenvironment.com/2012/01/10/a-taste-of-freedom-for-cyclists-and-pedestrians-on-kx-roads/
kingscrossenvironment.com/2012/01/10/cyclist-poet-at-kings-cross

There needs to be a little more time for assessment of what happened, in order to have some sensible strategising for the future.

To those of you impatient for the next Bikes Alive event to be as soon as possible, there are two points to remember…

Firstly, there’s a great deal of time and energy involved in publicising and promoting an event like this; the existing “team” definitely can’t do it again on its own. If there were just a few people who were seriously committed to putting in the concentrated burst of work needed to push out the word about the next public event, then it could happen very very soon. (But it’s crucial that successive events grow rather than shrink. Monday’s did turn out to be just big enough to be worthwhile; there’s no point in another one of this sort that isn’t likely to be at least as large.) Issues of frequency and regularity are important to get right in terms of building on this week’s momentum, and decisions on these matters need to emerge within days. Will you be part of what emerges?

Secondly, not all Bikes Alive events need to be the same sort. There’s lots of scope for guerilla actions, unannounced, with much smaller numbers, in self-organised groups, able to spring a surprise road closure which could be very effective if the time and place were well chosen. But when any of you do this, remember to get word out to the media very quickly afterwards (otherwise much of the point is lost), and remember to tell the rest of us, by e-mailing the news to Bikes Alive and other campaigning groups – that way we’re all inspired to do more of the same!

Lastly, if there are people enthused enough by Monday to be willing to meet face to face to work on future strategies, and take on tasks, they need to be prepared to have that meeting in the coming days. Are you willing and able to meet at short notice? Contact bikesalive@london.com.

London Cycling Campaign (LCC)

There have been some comments and questions about the relationship of Bikes Alive to the London Cycling Campaign (LCC).

Frustration about some of LCC’s tactics (as referred to in the page about the origins of Bikes Alive) – combined of course with existing frustrations about the traffic situation in London – led to the launching of Bikes Alive. Though of course there was and is appreciation of all the useful work the London Cycling Campaign does.

When Bikes Alive was starting out, and e-mails were being sent to all manner of interested groups to try to involve them in the first action on 9 January, LCC was naturally amongst those approached. A couple of weeks beforehand, they were asked whether they would support the event, or – if not – whether they would at least tell their members about it. And they were urged to respond, with any comments or questions, irrespective of their support or otherwise for the event. That e-mail was definitely received by LCC, but to this day no reply of any sort has been received by Bikes Alive.

(However, many local LCC groups and activists have been very supportive, though – of course – opinions vary greatly and some LCC members have strongly criticised Bikes Alive’s approach. But at least they’ve engaged in unacrimonious discussion in a comradely fashion.)

So, LCC’s decision seemed to be to ignore Bikes Alive and to refuse to engage with it officially. But it then transpired that they were not ignoring it; rather, some of the “officer class” at LCC were going out of their way to slag it off when talking to other parts of the cycling community.

The day of the demo

The most recent news on the LCC front emerged on the day of the first action on 9 January when, just hours before the event, Bikes Alive had an urgent message from Transport for All. (TfA is a well-known and well-respected London campaigning group who work to ensure that everyone, irrespective of their abilities or disabilities, has access to safe and accessible means of travel.) The previous week, TfA had decided to support the 9 January event, given the common interest in calming and restraining traffic, and in putting people’s needs first. Bikes Alive was excited by mutual recognition of the common ground, and there was talk of trying to get cycling groups to support possible future TfA demonstrations over issues like the removal of pedestrian crossings. One of the Bikes Alive press releases about the 9 January action, sent out a few days beforehand, included – with permission – a supportive quote from TfA. But the message from Transport for All to Bikes Alive on the day of the demonstration announced that TfA was withdrawing its official support at the last moment.

So what has all this got to do with LCC? Well, piecing the story together from a number of sources, it seems pretty clear that the LCC office approached TfA on the morning of the demonstration, and “lent on” the TfA’s Director. They apparently argued that TfA should not associate itself with Bikes Alive, on the absurd grounds that our allegedly extremist anti-car stance implied that we would oppose the right of people with disabilities to use cars! In their haste, and perhaps in a last-minute panic, the TfA didn’t wait to try to clarify anything with Bikes Alive but just announced – both to Bikes Alive and to their own contacts – the withdrawal of their support. (It’s important to stress that Bikes Alive is not making any accusation that TfA acted in bad faith.)

A number of people associated with Transport for All nevertheless took an active and supportive part in the demonstration, in their individual capacity. But it did mean that there were far fewer wheelchair users involved in the demonstration than had been anticipated.

Bikes Alive remains, as has always been the case, keen to find as much common ground as possible with other cycling campaigners, so as to ensure that different approaches and different styles of campaigning can be as complementary as possible – just as we hope to work with other direct actionists whose causes overlap with ours.

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