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Tim Regester - 15 Oct 2018


The number of cyclists killed is just a small number. The larger number is an estimated 40,000 people a year who die due to Air Pollution from passing motor Vehicles.

Stop Killing Cyclists is a harsh name for a Campaign. Harsh but so sadly, fair. It was formed by veteran Climate Campaigner Donnachadh  McCarthy as cycling is one of the key ways everyone can help cut climate change. After all 50% of all car trips are less than 5km.

The problem is, whilst Parliament voted 2 years ago that the Government should allocate a minimum of £10 per head to create safe cycling and walking routes (together called Active Travel) they have allocated only trifling amounts since, and in an act of outstanding abdication of Responsibility have passed the buck to Local Authorities to fund such changes whilst simultaneously cutting Local Authority Funding.

The upshot is that whilst some cities, such as London, Manchester and Bristol are getting funded safe cycling infrastructure, the rest of the country has no funding at all.

This is of course entirely wrong and reminiscent of the roll out of Broadband where the government could claim 90% of the population had access to it whilst the rural areas were stuck with dial-up. Only this is not about being online for work or leisure or indeed posting on Campfire Convention, this is about lives. 

The number of cyclists killed is just a small number. The larger number is an estimated 40,000 people a year who die due to Air Pollution from passing motor Vehicles. By the way, don't for a minute think Electric Vehicles are the solution. They still produce the most lethal Air Pollution from tyre wear, called Particulate Matter. Sure they reduce Carbon Emissions but they are not the panacea. Replacing every Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle with an Electric Vehicle would be a disaster and the Government know it.

The solution is to get people out of their cars and onto bicycles, or electric bicycles and to achieve this mass transformation you need to build safe segregated cycle lanes so people can travel off the road to work, school, shopping and anywhere else. But this miracle is not going to happen overnight, not with our current Government. 

The demo met at Lincolns Inn Fields, I was roped in as a steward on arrival. I have a lot of experience of stewarding demonstrations. Around 400 people turned up, on all sorts of bicycles and walking. Three generations of one family were there to commemorate the death of their father, grandfather and Brother eleven years ago. Sadly where that happened in Wakefield nothing has changed as it hasn't changed in most of the country.

A coffin was carried in a horse drawn hearse to lead the procession which while not silent, was not chanting but made the point that cycling should be safe and is not and this government has no intention of making it safe.

We proceeded down Temple Place. parting like the Red Sea to allow a Fire Engine to pass through us, sadly the few cars were less than accommodating at first, highlighting how cycling is not, as the London Taxi Drivers Association suggest, a hindrance for Emergency Services. Later as if to emphasise the point the same thing happened for an Ambulance. The vested interest of diesel taxis that are mostly empty, silently killing people with pollution is a major block on expanding the cycling infrastructure of London, as are the London Boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, who both refuse to allow cyclists any priority over their limousine and sports car driving benefactors. 

We joined Cycle Superhighway 2 on the Embankment. This is how it should be done eventually on every main road. Later on I had to cycle back along this and it was an absolute delight. 

The media were, thankfully, taking an interest, probably bored of Brexit and ignoring the simulaneous Far Right Demonstration and Antifa Counter-demonstration. So Donnachadh was busy and they took great footage. 

The procession demonstrated almost every kind of bike possible, from my elderly hybrid to state of the art Cargo Bikes as used by Pedalme and recumbents and many electric bikes. You don't have to be Geraint Thomas to cycle, and you can carry up to 500kg on a cargo bike.

We stopped in front of Parliament, where we staged a die-in. 400 people lay their bikes and themselves down for a few minutes in tribute to those fallen riders over way too many years. It was spectacular and thankfully the road was warmed by the Sunshine.

Then we moved on to Smith Square, home of the Conservative Party, where we had a number of speakers, from personal accounts of tragedy to the Green Assembly Member Caroline Russell to Climate Change to Singers, poets and a scottish lament played on Violin. It was very moving, though a few of us had to work to prevent cars and more Taxi drivers wanting to drive through the demo, bicycles make a good barricade.

The main takeaway for me was meeting Cycling Campaigners and Cyclists from all over, of all ages. An invitation to a guided tour around Walthamstow Village where 4 square kilometres has been transformed into a Mini Holland with startling success. Contacts with Cycling campaigns that are just starting and where my developed contacts can actually be of use. Meeting seasoned Climate Change Campaigners and putting faces to names on the Facebook Group.

The same will happen again next year, I am sure, unless, in the meantime we get an enlightened progressive Government (which sadly the Labour Party may not be as they still cannot see the benefit in investing properly in Active Travel in case it upsets the Unions). 

If this has heightened your interest, google Stop Killing Cyclists, join Cycling UK or find out who is your local Cycling Campaign. If you are a Labour Party member get your NEC representatives to create a policy of allocating £3 Billion per year for Active Travel, abandoning the Fuel Duty cuts and forcing reluctant Local Authorities to act on Air Pollution and Active Travel with legislation and funding.

If you can and you feel safe to do so, please get on your bike instead of using the car.


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