Hundreds of cyclists took part in a staged funeral procession in central London before performing a “die-in” near Whitehall to call for greater investment in walking and cycling.
The protest, organised by campaign groups Extinction Rebellion and Stop Killing Cyclists, drew attention to the concerning statistics of more than 100 cyclists killed and 3,400 seriously injured in 2016, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Three horse-drawn hearses carrying coffins led the procession, 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 air-pollution diseases.
Many of the protesters had cycled into London from elsewhere in the UK to attend the demonstration.
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.
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.”
Alanna O’Byrne, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, said: “A massive investment in safe-cycle lanes is crucial to protect our kids’ lungs from fossil fuel pollution and crucial in tackling the climate and ecological emergencies.”