Hundreds of cyclists took part in a staged funeral procession in central London on Saturday before performing a “die-in” near Whitehall to call for greater investment in walking and cycling.
The protest, organised by the campaign groups Extinction Rebellion and Stop Killing Cyclists, drew attention to statistics showing that more than 100 cyclists were killed and 3,400 seriously injured in 2016, the most recent year for which figures were available.
Three horse-drawn hearses carrying coffins led the procession from Lincoln’s Inn Fields along the Strand, as signs saying “Asthma”, “Crashes”, “Obesity” and “Climate” highlighted the impact of car travel.
A small child’s coffin commemorated the children and adults who have died prematurely from diseases related to air pollution.
The 10-minute “die-in” was initially scheduled to take place outside the Treasury, but police asked the activists to congregate next to Trafalgar Square due to a separate, concurrent anti-government protest outside Downing Street.
As sombre, pre-recorded funeral music played by bagpipes rang out, protesters demanded an ecological and climate emergency autumn budget with £6bn to be invested in walking and cycling.
“Transport is the largest greenhouse gas-emitting sector in the UK,” Caspar Hughes, an organiser at Stop Killing Cyclists, said. “Cycling campaigning is climate campaigning. The die-in is symbolic of all the people who have lost their lives due to traffic violence, pollution and the climate.
He said the spending review was “laughable” and criticised what he said was a stark imbalance between investment in cycling infrastructure and the expansion of the road network.
Donnachadh McCarthy, the co-founder of Stop Killing Cyclists, said: “With the Arctic and Amazon on fire and tens of thousands of Britons dying from car pollution, it beggars belief that chancellor Sajid Javid is proposing more toxic fossil fuel duty cuts.
“The 2019 budget must be a climate and ecological emergency budget that includes £6bn per year for the creation of a national cycling network and the reversal of the toxic fuel duty cuts.”
Many of the protesters had cycled into London from elsewhere in the UK. Extinction Rebellion called for “massive investment” in safe cycle lanes, which the group said would help protect children from fossil fuel pollution.
Protesters’ other demands included a reversal of fuel tax cuts and the institution of car-free villages, towns and city centres.
“If there were less cars and people cycled more, we would all be healthier,” Kelvin Dane, who cycled from Romford, Essex. “Its quite scary when you cycle in London – it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
There’s too many cars on the road, people are too lazy, they use cars for short distances. Its madness. People should just cycle, it’s very simple.”