With my bike *dressed* for the occasion (see photo), I set off through dense, rush hour traffic to meet up with some of the people who care most about the state of London's streets. International car-free day - in our dreams.
We set off north across the bridge, looping back south and continuing on to the Palestra Building - TfL's head quarters, where we heard speeches from Lib Dem, Labour and Green politicians. Green Assembly Member, Darren Johnson's declaration that "20mph should be the norm" raised a great cheer. Shortly afterwards the very concerned and incredibly well-behaved crowd headed off to work, leaving huge numbers of police standing around - what on earth were they expecting?
The journey back to Islington demonstrated all that is wrong with our streets: congested pavements, dense traffic on the roads and very large vehicles moving terrifyingly fast in narrow streets. Last week 3 pedestrians were seriously injured in Islington. An elderly man at Archway while crossing at the gyratory and two women in separate incidents crossing Seven Sisters Rd. Something is very wrong when this scale of collision and injury is considered "the norm". Surely it should be "the norm" that people can cross the road on foot in safety in London?
Last week I was called by the Islington Gazette to comment on information that more than 30 Islington drivers have been given special dispensation by the courts to continue driving despite having accumulated more than 12 points on their licence, which should trigger automatic disqualification. It must be very disheartening for the Police, who have very little resource for tackling traffic offences, to find that even the most reckless drivers are being let off disqualification by the courts.
Our streets feel like brutal contested space. Until we think of ourselves as people travelling by various modes as opposed to self defining ourselves by transport mode (pedestrian, cyclist or driver) and until TfL start managing our streets for people travelling and not just for vehicles moving, I fear that "the norm" will continue to involve an unacceptable level of death and injury.