A former councillor who worked on transport policy in London for over 20 years has branded a cycling campaign group’s plans to stage a protest calling for safer streets, in the wake of two fatal collisions in the area in the past six weeks, “deeply distasteful”. The retired politician also claimed that attempts to influence policy “in the shadow of tragedy” are “putting people off” riding their bikes.
On Wednesday evening, a protest ride will take place in the London borough of Hackney, organised by the Hackney Cycling Campaign, to “demand safer streets” and an end to serious collisions and fatalities involving cyclists, after two people were killed riding their bikes since September on roads where, the organisers claim, repeated calls for safety improvements over the years have been ignored.
We reported on Friday that residents first urged the local council seven years ago to make Whiston Road, where a 36-year-old mother-of-two was killed on 21 September, safer for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. A 29-year-old man has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving and interfering with a vehicle and is due to appear in court later this month.
The fatal crash occurred less than a fortnight after another cyclist, a 27-year-old man, lost his life in the borough after he was struck by a driver on 10 September on Kenworthy Road in Homerton. The motorist has also been arrested, but has been bailed until December.
Hackney Cycling Campaign is now urging the council to put a traffic filter or bus gate in place on Whiston Road, and for raised pedestrian crossings to be installed on Kenworthy Road to slow down drivers.
A protest ride, stopping at the site of the fatal collisions and featuring speeches at Hackney Town Hall, will take place on Wednesday evening at 5.30pm. The families of the two victims are set to join the protesters.
However, the protest has been slated by one former councillor, who criticised what he regards as the campaigners’ “distasteful” targeting of “the most successful cycling borough in the UK”.
Vincent Stops, a retired Hackney councillor and former lead member for transport who worked on streets policy for London TravelWatch, the capital’s statutory transport watchdog, for over 20 years, criticised the protest on X, formerly Twitter, when it was announced earlier this week.
“It is deeply distasteful to target the most successful cycling borough in the UK, that has done so much to promote and facilitate more and safer cycling, in the shadow of such tragedy,” the former Labour councillor tweeted.
“No death of any road user is acceptable. Over the years, a huge amount of energy and effort has gone into making cycling better in Hackney.”
Stops, who last year in a blog post labelled cycling in the capital a “ruthless and well-resourced minority interest” that has “been allowed to ruin London’s bus service” (despite claiming that he “cycles everywhere”), also argued that protests held in the wake of fatal collisions were “putting people off cycling”.
“Trying to influence policy in the shadow of tragedy like this has resulted in poor policy and is putting people off cycling, not getting more of them to try it,” he tweeted, a day after Critical Mass staged an “act of solidarity” for the cyclist killed on Whiston Road in September.
Jono Kenyon, a committee member of the Hackney Cycling Campaign, described Stops’ response to the protest as “quite extraordinary”.
“Hackney Cycling Campaign pushed for cycle tracks or a filter for Whiston Road in 2017 when Hackney spent £600k of cycling budget here. We were ignored and a young mum has been killed,” he said.
“The reason we are angry is not just because of this senseless loss, but because the same mistakes are being repeated. The council still doesn’t prioritise cycle tracks on main roads and is actively making roads less safe.”
Responding to the retired councillor’s latest criticisms, a spokesperson for the campaign group told the Hackney Citizen that it “strongly rejects Vincent Stops’ tasteless attack”.
“We are not ‘targeting’ a borough; as our name implies, we campaign on cycling issues in Hackney,” they said.
“It would be bizarre and neglectful for a cycling campaign not to address the issue of two preventable cyclists’ deaths in the borough. The families of the two victims will be attending the protest and have expressed support for our actions.”
“We acknowledge that Hackney Council has done more than most London boroughs to enable cycling over many years, including introducing traffic filters, leading to the highest cycling levels in London. Yet the recent deaths highlight that more action is required.
“We are calling on the council to implement the actions that we know will reduce road danger, so that we can move towards Vision Zero as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, Rickardo Hyatt, Hackney Council’s director for climate, homes, and the economy, has insisted that vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists remain a top priority when it comes to road policy.
“We are deeply saddened by news of the tragic deaths of cyclists on Whiston Road and Kenworthy Road, and our thoughts are with their friends and families. Casualties on our roads are neither acceptable nor inevitable,” he said.
“We are aware of the suggestions from Hackney Cycling Campaign but are unable to comment on any potential changes before the current police investigation is concluded.”
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.