National Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence
- Videos and Transcripts of the speeches given at the rally following the Die-In at Marble Arch are below.
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Click below on the person’s name to see their speech…
(This page will be updated as transcripts are received)
|Louisa Beard||Opera Singer||Louisa opens the rally by singing an ode to freedom by Handel (Lascia ch’io pianga -Rinaldo – G. F. Handel).|
|Steve Routley||Co-founder, Stop Killing Cyclists||Steve founded Stop Killing Cyclists along with Donnachadh McCarthy in November 2013.|
|Helen Moore||Poet, Natures-Words||Helen Moore is an award-winning ecopoet and community artist/activist. Her debut collection, Hedge Fund, And Other Living Margins was described by Alasdair Paterson as being “in the great tradition of visionary politics in British poetry.” Her second collection, ECOZOA, will be published in spring 2015.|
|Tom Kearney||Safer Oxford Street Campaign||Tom was a pedestrian hit by a bus on Oxford Street and put into a coma. Oxford Street is the world’s most polluted street and London’s most dangerous.|
|Prof. Brendan Delaney||King’s College||How pollution and unfitness diseases are killing/poisoning huge numbers of non-cyclists.|
|Bart Chan||Cyclist seriously injured by HGV Truck in City of London (which has banned segregated cycle lanes on their own streets)|
|Andrew Smith||Professional Actuary||Summarises statistics on the vast range of deaths caused by traffic pollution, crashes and low amounts of fitness due to lack of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure|
|Ted Brown||Campaigner||Brixton cycling activist reads Seamus Heaney’s Poem “Summer of Lost Rachel“.|
|Dominique Vesco||Mother of Marie Vesco||Mother of a young cyclist killed whilst cycling on A23 and who supports “Liability Law” for all drivers.|
|Terry Hurlstone||75 year old pensioner||Arrested in 1992 in Oxford St Sit-down protest against pollution and traffic then!|
|Caroline Russell||Green Party Transport Spokesperson||How Traffic’s climate emissions are killing or will kill people globally.|
|Donnachadh McCarthy||Stop Killing Cyclists/Stop the Killing Coalition Co-organiser||Will read out the Protests 10 Demands and the positive contribution cycling and walking makes to communities across Britain.|
YouTube: Stop the Killing: National Funeral - Opera sung by Louisa Beard
Louisa Beard sings an ode to freedom by Handel (Lascia ch’io pianga -Rinaldo – G. F. Handel).
Steve Routley, Co-Founder Stop Killing Cyclists
YouTube: National Funeral - Rally speech by Steven Routley
“We’ve just taken Oxford Street, and we’re here now, in the name of all the victims of fatal and non-fatal road traffic incidents, in the names of the invisible thousands suffering, and dying, from medical conditions that result from or are exacerbated by the tonnes of pollutants vomited into the air we breath by motor vehicles.
It is a culture that for too long has held the purse strings, has fogged the judgement and has swayed local and national transport policy. It is a culture that is killing us all, and in so many different ways.
Many cities and countries have already proven it is possible to create safe, pleasant transport environments - networks designed for humans, but in the UK we are tragically lagging far behind.
Today we call for an end to the rule of this old way of thinking in Britain, and we welcome a culture that does not accept the rule of the motor vehicle, that does not accept air that isn’t fit to breathe, and that does not accept one single fatality on our roads.
Here’s hoping that everyone finds something of value in the day for themselves, and that we can all move on in a spirit that celebrates life, and that is manifested in the way we build and use roads and cities in the very near future.
Thank you all for your support.”
YouTube: National Funeral - Poem by Helen Moore
Thom’s Co-op Bike Café and Workshop
by Helen Moore
Poem composed for the National Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence, 15.11.2014
This for Ben, bicycle courier dancing on pedals
of a red, single-speed racer… like an Eel weaving
through currents of traffic, he was just as lithe and alive.
This for Ed, born for his Chopper, swapped a life
of adventure to work in the City; yet cycling by fold-up
from Ealing, he loved how the wind played with his tie.
This for Jorie and her chipped green Raleigh, handlebars
decked with Poppies and an old Dutch bell, which tinkled
silvery and warm as her laughter.
This for young Bobbie in 1930 mounting a Sunbeam,
who still at ninety with rheumy eyes and trouser-clips
trundled to the pond with sliced white for the Swans.
This for Anna, learning at forty…. Life begins,
she called, circling the park with her cheerful instructor.
Feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven!
This for Al who dismantled her racer one Christmas –
bike-parts decorating the kitchen, she spent days
tattooing a delicate Ivy design.
This for Charmayne, too skint for the bus, too jittery to cycle
the three miles to college – trucks thundering past
locked her indoors, missing her placement, eating instead.
This for Tash aka Lady Godiva astride a black Triumph –
on a Naked Bike Ride, all vulnerability was belied
by the slogan ‘Less gas, more ass!’ scrawled on her back.
This for Dan dressed in a tiger-suit, puffing with unicycle
up a steep hill – cheered by crowds from the side-lines,
Dan the Man raised a grand to save Tigers in China.
This for Leon, who twice tandemed round Britain;
dreamt of motorways for cyclists and wildlife,
saw the petrol car as the new dinosaur.
This for Thom, beardy mechanic and road-race champion,
one-time member of LA’s Midnight Ridazz –
Thom’s Co-op Bike Café and Workshop was founded for him,
and is dedicated to every unknown traffic victim.
Tom Kearney, Safer Oxford Street
YouTube: National Funeral - Rally speech by Tom Kearney
Text of Tom’s speech can also be found on his SAFER OXFORD STREET campaign website.
I shouldn’t be here today.
When the ambulance pitched up 27 minutes after a 15 ton TfL bus hit me in the head & chest on Oxford Street, I had no pulse from the bleeding out of my ears and mouth and I wasn’t breathing through my two collapsed lungs.
The police had reported me as a fatal.
I shouldn’t be here today. This could have been my funeral too.
But I am just one of thousands here today protesting the lethal conditions for pedestrians and cyclists all across the United Kingdom.
But I am just one of thousands of people who’ve been hit by a vehicle on Europe’s Busiest Shopping Street since the new century began.
But I am just one of thousands of cyclists and pedestrians who’ve been killed or seriously-injured from a collision with a TfL bus since Boris Johnson became Chairman of Transport for London.
And I am just one of millions on this planet who’ve been killed or seriously-injured as a result of our species’ addiction to the motor vehicle in the past decade.
We are not alone today.
There are countless lives who we honour, remember and evoke today who can only be here in spirit.
Those who’ve already passed ahead of us…taken unjustly from the road on which we’re all travelling together.
We’ve lost fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, grandparents, friends and lovers.
People we loved or liked, knew or just knew of, respected or just spent a nice time with have become:
- Unused numbers on our mobile phones that we can’t bear to delete
- Empty places at the dinner table sadly noticed every day
- or a visceral-but-fleeting memory evoked by a song, a smell, a photograph, or an anniversary.
And, having myself been taken to the end of road we’re all travelling on by an Oxford Street Bus five years ago at Christmastime, I found that my spirits only asked me:
“Why are you here? There’s so much more that needs to be done where we come from.
Remember us…because we’ll see each other again.
Remember us…by making it better”
And that’s the thought I woke up to when I emerged from my near death-coma in the new year.
Boris, you can’t ignore us. We’re not dead.
You can see us.
You can hear us.
You can remember us.
Stop the Killing.
Professor Brendan Delaney, Kings College
YouTube: Stop the Killing: National Funeral - Dr Brendan Delaney’s speech
The deaths we hear about are just the tip of an iceberg of disease and Ill health caused by unsustainability of motor-based transport. We do not need traffic in cities. The car culture is destroying our bodies through pollution and inactivity as much as it destroys lives through so called accidents and our environment through emissions.
Londoners suffer disproportionately from respiratory and cardiovascular disease linked to pollution. When we get those awful days when the air is thick and people come into my practice complaining of asthma, streaming eyes and coughs, it’s not ‘air from European factories’ it’s the diesel particulates and nitrous oxide from our taxis, buses and HGVs that is to blame. London breaches EU clean air limits and the average Londoner dies 5 years early because of this.
Yesterday was world diabetes day. Inactivity is a prime cause of diabetes, estimated by the international diabetes federation as 70% of cases or 150 million extra cases worldwide over the next 20 years. Inactivity is also linked to excess rates of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia and depression. I spend my working life dealing with the end results of our collective blindness to the hidden killer. Diseases of inactivity will break our national health system in the coming decade. We have to stop.
Can we make a difference? Of course we can. 2.5 hrs of moderate intensity exercise per week can lower the risk of diabetes by 20%, breast cancer by 10%, depression by 7%. We can’t blame the victims by berating people for being inactive and telling them to join a gym. We have to create an environment starting in our cities that sustains health. This is the key point of the recent report by the Mayor’s London Health Commission. We need people walking and cycling as part of their daily lives. introduction of Dutch style sustainable transport would save 7.5 thousand years of healthy life per year in London and perhaps 5x that nationally.
However, our current traffic-centric urban environment prevents this happening. Roads clogged with pollution spewing vehicles put people off walking. My work colleagues won’t cycle 5 miles across London as they think they will get killed. There is no point in telling people that you are four times more likely to die of inactivity than of under the wheels of a truck, one is immediate and the other is a lifetime risk.
That is why we are here, for all deaths AND for all the hidden victims, the future heart attacks, strokes and cancers. Stop killing us!
YouTube: Stop the Killing: National Funeral - Bart Chan’s speech
When you come face to face with death and come out the other side alive, it’s only natural to question what is the meaning of this life.
The more I think about it, the more I realise we’re not on this planet to make money for the sake of accumulating possessions and chasing transient pleasures, but instead to be kind, compassionate and caring to others, helping where we can and respecting the delicate balance of nature.
All of us have a responsibility to be our best selves, to take care of our bodies and minds so we in turn can help look after those less fortunate and more vulnerable.
Unfortunately, our government and elements of our society do not always have our best interests at heart. We are sold the lie of convenience and instant gratification as we forget how our selfish desires impact on others.
I thank you all for coming today, because clearly you are some of the many in this city striving for the greater good - wanting to affect a transformation that sees London become a true beacon for clean, active healthy transport and an example of where the strong protect the vulnerable.
This demonstration is so much more than just about calling on govt to do its duty and protect vulnerable road users with smarter policies and well-thought out infrastructure. It’s about asking those in power and influence to picture this greater good of a healthier city with its citizens’ well-being and quality of life set as the priority, not an afterthought.
I’m talking about being conscious of everything that we do. Thinking about what we eat, how we get about and what kind of legacy we will leave the next generation when we’re no longer around.
The simplicity of the bicycle is just one symbol of the sustainability needed if we are going help save our polluted planet and our ailing healthcare system. I’m only standing here because of the incredible work of our doctors and nurses, and I strongly believe the NHS is worth fighting for.
Ultimately, there is no external enemy to fight, it is only ourselves, for if we, as a country, can conquer our laziness and desire for excess, then we have a chance of saving what is most important to leading a truly happy life - our health. And as a truly healthy and happy society it should become apparent that one of the ways to lead a good life is to tread lightly and leave this earth in a better way than we found it.
So let us go forth and transform ourselves into agents of peace. Let us show that there is no war on the roads and that the harmful emotions of fear, anger and hated swirling out there can be conquered by empathy, patience and boundless compassion.
Let us show those in power that we care for the whole of society, that we can work together for the greater good of humanity’s health, happiness and wellbeing.
Let us remind our elected representatives that protecting human life is a divine duty, one which recognises that a single life is more valuable than all the diamonds and gold in the world.
As a man only alive because of the dedicated duty, care and love of others, I urge you all to be the change you want to see happen. Find balance among the chaos, know your true self and I’m certain we can find a way to attain an enlightened state of existence in our city, country and world.
Thank you. Ride free, ride happy!
YouTube: Stop the Killing: National Funeral - Andrew Smith’s speech
Andrew summarises statistics on the vast range of deaths caused by traffic pollution, crashes and low amounts of fitness due to lack of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.
Ted Brown, reading a poem by Seamus Heaney
YouTube: Stop the Killing: National Funeral - Poem read by Ted Brown
The poem in general is about the death of Seamus Heaney’s 7 year old niece: She was riding her bike when she was hit by a person driving a van; She saw her aunt across the road and went to say “Hello” (poem transcript and adapted description text is from Prezi HERE).
The Summer of Lost Rachel
Potato crops are flowering,
Hard green plums appear
On damson trees at your back door
And every berried briar
Is glittering and dripping
Whenever showers plout down
On flooded hay and flooding drills
There’s a ring around the moon
The whole summer was waterlogged
Yet everyone is loath
To trust the rain’s soft-soaping ways
And sentiments of growth
Because all confidence in summer’s
Broke down last May when we laid you out
In white, your whited face
Gashed from the accident, but still,
So absolutely still
And the sun set merciless
And every merciful
Register inside us yearned
To run the film back,
For you to step into the road
Wheeling your bright-rimmed bike,
Safe and sound as usual,
Across, then down the lane
The twisted spokes all straightened out,
The awful skid-marks gone
But no. So let downpours flood
Our memory’s riverbed
Until, in thick-webbed currents,
The lift you might have led
Wavers and tugs dreamily
As soft-plumed waterweed
Which tempts our gaze and quietens it
And recollects our need
YouTube: Stop the Killing: National Funeral - Dominique Vesco’s speech
Dominique is the mother of Marie Vesco, a young cyclist killed whilst cycling on A23 between London and Brighton. An audio-only version is available HERE.
My name is Dominique Vesco and here is my husband Jacques. We are French , living in France and, I apologize, my English is not very good.
We wanted to be here in London today to share this event with all of you in memory of our daughter Marie Vesco.
Let me tell you a sad story. Marie was killed 6 and half years ago while cycling along the A23 between London and Brighton. She was cycling along this busy road with a dozen of friends because the cycle path they were following disappeared and they had no other choice.
At a junction of this road her bicycle was knocked by a car, she felt on the road; the second coming close behind ran over her. Marie was dead but the drivers of both cars have never been prosecuted.
My life changed on the 4th of June 2008 at 11 pm when the phone rang. My husband answered and I knew immediately that something terrible had happened. No cries, no shouts. I was just destroyed. I couldn’t realize that my 19 years old girl full of life was dead.
She lived in London, she was a student at the London Uni, she had a job and lots of friends in London, and now… She was dead.
It took me months to realize she would never come back home to celebrate her 20th birthday with us.
It took me years to accept her absence.
Now I’m resigned: she has gone. I try to live with the BEFORE and the AFTER.
Nobody deserves such a pain and all our children have the right to live.
Stop killing them please.
YouTube: Stop the Killing: National Funeral - Terry Hurlstone’s speech
Terry Hurlstone, now 75 years old, protested at the dangers of Oxford Street 42 years ago. He is a founder member of Friends of the Earth. The Romford Record wrote an article about his appearance at the National Funeral: Rise Park activist speaks at Oxford Street ‘die-in’ protest
42 years ago about 150 of us, young liberals, Friends of the Earth, environmental campaigners, we decided to make an exhibition of what was going on on Oxford Street. We marched along Oxford Street.
We had a very large heavy chain and we found two lampposts opposite each other, and we locked the chain to the lampposts, and we stopped traffic in Oxford Street!
It took the police half an hour with an acetylene blowtorch to remove and open up Oxford Street again and about 50 of us were arrested. I was deemed to be one of the organisers - there were 4 of us - I was fined rather more heavily than the others.
There was a bit of an outcry. Dear old Peter Hain, now MP, who was with us, he organised an appeal and our case was taken up by very prominent lawyers and in the appeal court, on the second day of the hearing, the police withdrew from the case and we were free and we had not a blemish on our characters!
That was 42 years ago. Now, I’m now getting pretty decrepit as you saw, so I am really pleased that all of you turned up today to carry on the fight.
So I want to say one final thing: many of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today were won by civil disobedience.
Keep on campaigning, bombard Boris with our demands to make London a safer place.
YouTube: Stop the Killing: National Funeral - Caroline Russell’s speech
Caroline Russell has lived in Highbury since 1992. She is a walking and cycling campaigner who successfully made the case for 20mph limits on main roads in Islington. She works part-time for the national walking charity Living Streets. She was elected in 2014 as the councillor for Highbury East ward, Islington and holds the only opposition seat to Labour’s 47 seats across the borough.
3 mins on how traffic CO2 emissions are killing now and future generations
Thank you for inviting me Donnachadh.
It is very clear that everyone here gets the problem. That you have all turned out on a damp November Saturday to participate in this extraordinary, moving and inspiring event organised by Donnachadh and team (and Thank you Donnachadh) is testimony to that.
I’ve been asked to speak on the impact of Carbon Dioxide emissions due to road transport.
So, what is the problem?
Over the last 50 years, through human activities – particularly the burning of fossil fuels – we have released so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that heat is trapped in the lower atmosphere and the global climate has been affected.
Each of the last 3 decades has been successively warmer than any preceding decade since 1850.
Sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting and rainfall patterns are changing. Extreme weather events are becoming more intense and frequent.
The WHO has concluded that by 2030 just 15 years away, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
So what is causing the problem?
One fifth of carbon emissions are road traffic related. So traffic is responsible for a proportion of these deaths and many more in future.
CO2 emissions from road transport increased by nearly 23% between 1990 and 2010.
Without the economic downturn growth could have been even worse.
Transport is the only major sector in the EU where greenhouse gas emissions are still rising.
Our transport system is road dependent, with congestion, air pollution and road danger making our towns villages and cities unpleasant traffic dominated and unnecessarily dangerous places to live and work.
A solution - is staring us in the face. Everyone here knows it.
We need a radical shift in transport planning so that our transport system protects both our health and our planet and works for the common good.
We must show political imagination and commitment and we must:
• Have the conversation about what cars are doing in our cities
• Prioritise active travel (walking and cycling)
• Provide affordable, efficient and comprehensive networks of public transport to reduce the need to use private cars in the first place
• Reorganise freight to keep big trucks apart from people
• Fit construction lorries with the latest kit, with trained drivers and abolish piecework rates
If I was mayor for a day, I’d insist on every lorry in town having a banks-person and that they move at walking pace.
In the meantime, Stopping the killing is not negotiable.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sought to emphasise one key fact: we have the means to tackle climate change, we just need the political willpower to make it happen. The Green Party has that will power and I hope this event gives politicians of all parties pause for thought.
We must stop the killing.
YouTube: Stop the Killing: National Funeral - Donnachadh McCarthy’s speech
Donnachadh McCarthy is the co-founder of ‘Stop Killing Cyclists’. Here, he closes the rally with a speech followed by 3 cheers and a bike lift.