Hackney MPs put their spoke in for cyclists

Daniel Cox memorial at Dalston Junction © David Altheer
Meg Hillier MP 2011 © David Altheer
MP Hillier. Top, a ghost bike (at Dalston junction for Daniel Cox)

HACKNEY’S TWO MPs spoke out this week for cycling. Both Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) and Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) went to the conference at Westminster Hall organised by The Times newspaper as part of its Cyclesafe debate.

Abbott spoke movingly about cyclist deaths, including the “ghost bike” at the corner of Middleton and Kingsland roads E8 4DA, not far from her home.

Hillier told the conference that she was vice-chair of the all-party cycling group and that Hackney claimed to have twice as many cyclists as any other London borough. She said: “The council has removed a lot of the railings that were barriers to the road, which has made it better for pedestrians and much safer for cyclists.”

This was a simple thing that can be done and did not cost a lot. “But,”she told the 70-plus MPs and others who attended, “it takes a bit of vision. The fact that we have so many cyclists has meant that the council has had to take that view and has done so very well.

“Hackney provides free cycle training. As a middle-aged mother of three, I have been out there and done the training. I cannot describe how happy my husband is that as I take my baby on the back, my precious cargo, I am now much bolder and more confident.

“However, unless I have the outriders with me, I still find Trafalgar Square a little nerve-racking. Nonetheless, cycling around Hackney without the barriers in place is a very pleasurable experience, partly because so many people cycle and partly because of our canal [the Regent’s].

Hillier pointed out that almost 80% of lorries involved in fatalities were construction vehicles, which again raises the issue of training. “Good companies will ensure that their drivers undergo such training,” she said. “We have a big issue about freelance skip drivers. The challenge is to get those who are not so interested in taking up such training to do so.”

“Hackney now has a cycle officer on the council, which is really important. The Times campaign, which I fully endorse, calls for a cycling commissioner, and we have that in an embryonic form.”

* Update Wed 13 June 2012 on the aftermath of the death of Daniel Cox: The driver of a lorry under which cyclist Daniel Cox fell with fatal consequences has avoided prosecution. Loving Dalston can do no better than to link to the excellent Evening Standard report and good analysis by a lawyer-cyclist. Press the emboldened hyperlinks.

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