This deadly pollution must stop! London cyclists rally for health and climate

| 20th April 2016
Cyclists stage Die-In at Mansion House in June 2015, following death at Bank junction. Photo: Stop Killing Cyclists.
Cyclists stage Die-In at Mansion House in June 2015, following death at Bank junction. Photo: Stop Killing Cyclists.
Stop Killing Cyclists are staging a protest in London on 27th April to demand an end to the UK's intolerable air pollution, writes Donnachadh McCarthy. With an estimated 40,000 people dying every year from filthy air, much of it caused by diesel cars, all are welcome to join in, denounce the government's 'polluters' friend' policies, and insist on swift action to stop the needless deaths.
They appear to have handed Britain's air quality policies over to the polluters themselves - sacrificing our health and our children's futures to short term profits for the fossil-fuel industry, motor manufacturers and road-builders.

Enough is enough. It is one thing for our government to facilitate the monetary exploitation of the UK by the tax-haven elite.

But it is another thing entirely to facilitate the death of tens of thousands of the population for the fossil fuel industry!

The use of poison gas in war is illegal, yet the UK government is facilitating the UK's fossil fuel industry in carrying out mass killings in the UK every year for profit. George Osborne has become the President Assad of the UK.

Over the last number of years, the alarm bells ringing about the transport pollution emergency facing Britain have been getting louder and louder.

In January 2016, leading physicians issued a landmark report into the health consequences of air pollution in the UK, which it put down largely to the rising usage of petrol and diesel vehicle and their pollutants. These include NO2 from diesel vehicles and lethal particulates from all vehicle tyres and exhausts.

The headline annual death rate was reported as 40,000 for the UK, with Kings College London reporting a catastrophic 9,500 deaths in London alone every year. This number includes up to 3,800 of the Londoners who own bikes. Road pollution kills as many people as road crashes and obesity combined

An estimated 400,000 people are living in the UK with incapacitating air-pollution associated diseases. The list of associated diseases is sobering. They include lung cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia. Research by USC revealed that living by heavily polluted roads stunts children's lung development for life.

It has recently been linked to being a cause of asthma. The UK currently has a shocking 8 million asthma sufferers. The NHS report estimated that the annual cost to the NHS was a staggering £20 billion a year or a massive 16% of the total NHS budget.

So what did the government do?

So faced with this barrage of alarming evidence, what did the Chancellor George Osborne and the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin do?

Unbelievably, instead of taking constructive action to clean our air by encouraging walking and cycling, and banning the most polluting diesel vehicles, they appear to have handed Britain's air quality policies over to the polluters themselves - sacrificing our health and our children's futures to short term profits for the fossil fuel industry, motor manufacturers and road-builders.

The government's retrogressive actions on pollution include:

  • increased taxes on cleaner cars;
  • reduced taxes on more polluting cars;
  • DfT (Department for Transport) proposals to close down local street pollution monitoring;
  • lobbying the EU to weaken pollution testing standards after VW scandal;
  • despite taxi numbers in London soaring above 100,000, refusing to allow TfL (Transport for London) to regulate taxi numbers in London;
  • Osborne slashing the already miniscule funding for cycling investment to a tiny pathetic 6% of what Dutch are spending, whilst allocating billions more to road-building;
  • Osborne's cuts to  fuel duty at every single budget despite oil prices having fallen by over a third since 2012.
  • banning the use of camera vehicles by local councils to enforce parking restrictions;
  • refusing to reduce speed limits to 60 mph on M1 and M3 to help reduce frequency of EU pollution levels being breached;
  • proposed raising speed limit on motorways to 80 mph;
  • breaking EU road pollution law safety limits since 2010;
  • found guilty of breaking EU pollution directive by UK Supreme Court in 2015;
  • planning for London to continue to break EU pollution limits until 2025;
  • planning for other major UK cities to continue to break EU pollution limits until 2030 among them Birmingham and  Leeds;
  • lobbying the EU to dilute the road pollution laws that it's breaking;
  • extending first MOT requirement from 3 to 4 years, thus enabling faulty polluting vehicles to be undetected on the roads for yet another year.

George Osborne will do anything his masters in the extremist right-wing billionaire car-obsessed climate-denying press tells him to do. The huge amount the car and oil corporations and the murderous lobbyists for the RAC pour into buying and bullying our political classes pays off yet again - in mountains of dead Britons and yet more oil poured on our burning planet.

So that is why activists from the grassroots campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists (and everybody else!) are staging a dramatic Gas-Mask Die-In outside the HQ of the Department for Transport on Horseferry Road, London on 27th April from 5pm to 6.30pm. The Die-In itself will take place from 6pm to 6.15pm and will close Horseferry Road in front of the Department for Transport for 15 minutes.

All are welcome: cyclists, pedestrians, and yes, even drivers!

The protesters are asking everyone to join us including parents, cyclists, pedestrians, taxi and bus drivers (they suffer some of the worst pollution), the elderly and asthmatics. It is time George Osborne and Co heard from those whom they are gassing to death rather than the oil corporations and motoring lobby.

As the pollution kills us all, pedestrians, drivers and cyclists, all are welcome at the protest whether from London or across the country.

Protesters are asked to bring children's dolls and teddy bears to represent the children whose lungs are being stunted for life or to bring gas masks if they have them or disposable pollution masks. Cyclists are asked to bring their bikes, parents their kids, and asthmatics their inhalers!

The protest's demands include:

  • Fair funding for cycling: Nationally Invest £15 billion in a National Physically Protected Cycle Network over the next 5 years. In London invest 10% of TfL Budget by 2020 in safer cycling infrastructure and a similar investment in all major English cities.
  • Ban all non-zero emission private cars from cities on days where pollution levels are predicted to rise above EU safety levels.
  • Ban all diesel powered vehicles in city centres within 5 years.
  • Ban all fossil-fuel powered vehicles within city centres within 10 years.
  • Instigate a programme of regular car-free days in England's major cities, along the model of Paris.
  • Stop the killing of children - set up a national multi-billion-pound programme to convert residential communities across Britain into living-street Home Zones with an end to dangerous polluting through-routes.
  • Stop the killing of pedestrians - establish a national programme to fund of pedestrianisation / cyclisation of our city, borough and town centres, including the nation's high-street - Oxford Street.
  • Allow city councils and TfL to limit the total number of private hire vehicles in their cities and promote the usage of zero emissions pedicabs with legal pedicab stands etc.

Cities are for living in, not being poisoned to death in. It is time to call an end to this transport pollution genocide now! See you at the #PollutionProtest!



Donnachadh McCarthy is an environmental campaigner and author.

Find out more: 'Stop Killing Cyclists' website and Facebook page.

Event: Join us at the #PollutionProtest Event

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