I’ve taken some time away from cycle campaigning stuff these past few days, partly to get on with some real work, and partly because I was annoyed at myself.
I went to the Bow roundabout vigil/protest on Wednesday evening, after having written the article calling for civil disobedience at the event. But once there, I found I didn’t know how to start it. There seemed to be few opportunities to change the planned course of events.
The hundreds of people there rode around the roundabout (which had been closed off by the cops for us) and had a minute’s silence. Then after a few megaphone-amplified words from an LCC bod, we were asked to leave as quickly as possible to minimise disruption to the roads.
That really annoyed me. I should have shouted something then. I should have yelled out that I was not leaving. What’s the point in turning up to mourn and protest a needless death if we leave without making a fuss?
But the moment passed and the crowd was moving away. Looking back, I know I’d have got at least a few voices of support from the crowd. Hindsight is always 20/20.
I hung around afterwards there at Bow junction, living the 1960s dream for quarter of an hour or so. The traffic jams cleared within minutes and Bow junction was soon flowing normally.
The protest was a kitten’s meow, not a lion’s roar. Most of the drivers in the queues probably weren’t even aware of what was happening, or even that anything was happening at all.
It’s clear that I’m not the only one who feels frustrated by the polite meekness of these protests. Enough with the British reserve, at long last someone has organised a protest with some growl.
A die-in at TfL’s headquarters opposite Southwark tube station on Blackfriars Road has been organised for 5 to 6.30pm on Friday 29th of November.
The event page on Facebook already has over 700 people claiming they’ll attend. Even if half this number show up, it stands a good chance of being a successful and highly visible, headline-grabbing protest.
I am not a cyclist, I’m just riding a bike
I do think that the protest can be about more than just “cyclists” (there’s that toxic word).
In TfL’s world, everybody who isn’t currently in a motor vehicle comes second to those who are, and this movement could easily widen out to include people with disabilities, parents with prams and pushchairs, elderly people who can’t walk fast, people with asthma and other respiratory problems.
Do we want to live in cities where everyone drives everywhere, places where walking or cycling is dangerous and deviant? Or would we prefer pleasant communities with a wealth of transport options, breathable air and an absence of death-horror-crash stories in the newspaper?
It’s not just TfL, of course – our government is hell-bent on locking us all into our cars and forcing Britain to drive everywhere for everything, all the time. They are predicting that cycling as a mode of transport will stagnate, and will plan accordingly to create the conditions to fulfil their predictions.
Perhaps the Friday 29th protest is just the starter, a catalyst that starts a wider campaign off. I’d love to see a broad amalgamation of people who are angry at the way our cities, towns and villages are all subservient to the dictatorship of the petroleum.
I’ll be there, and I really do hope it’s the start of something big.
By the way, I’ve had nothing at all to do with organising the die-in protest outside TfL HQ, despite rumours to the contrary. I’ll be tackling the “Nazi” thing in a separate post, in case you were wondering.