The Design Gap
I was called a c**t as I cycled home from work yesterday. That this happened is not unusual, but that it happened on Clean Air Day was particularly infuriating. I had spent the day working with the children I teach on a campaign about their right to clean air, about how each of us can take an action to help improve the air we breathe. For example, by walking or cycling as many journeys as we are able.
And yet, at the end of the day, I was once again reminded how incredibly intimidating it can be to try and claim the space needed to do either of those things safely.
I often think of the horrific story I was told by a fellow teacher during my training year. She told me she was leaving the UK as her school community had been traumatised by the death of a pupil outside the school gates. A child in reception killed by a truck as he left school with his mother and sister.
I think of the time when I was at school and we were called in for an assembly about the death of one of our pupils, killed in a collision. And all the other terrible tragedies; the bunches of flowers and white bikes, marking our streets and the families torn apart each time.
It does not need to be this way.
The charity Brake states that five people each day are killed in what are avoidable accidents. It is possible to design our streets to make speeding harder and healthy travel safer. It is possible to engineer our cars to make reckless driving harder. It is possible to change our legal system so that those of us found guilty of dangerous or deadly driving lose the privilege of driving when and as they chose.
Yet these changes need political leadership. They need MPs to push for car manufacturers to stop peddling the myth that our cities are speedway courses, that deaths on our roads are unavoidable accidents and to support the Local Authorities and civic leaders striving to make walking and cycling attractive, convenient and safe for all.
Streets that work for families to get to school, work for our elderly parents to get to the shops. They build freedom back into childhood and community back into our civic spaces.
This is what we should all be striving for.
Unfortunately, I see how challenging it is for Labour’s local Councillors as they work to build healthier communities. Redesigning our streets so that parents no longer have to fear when they cross the road outside their children’s school should not be contentious.
We should not have to experience abuse or harassment for choosing to travel in a way that is least likely to endanger those around us. We should not have to fight this hard for things to be better.
I am working with Labour Cycles to amplify the women working to bring social justice and safety to our communities.
On Wednesday 23rd June, we are hosting a fringe event for the Labour Women’s Conference called ‘The Design Gap’ and women friendly streets. Chaired by Deputy Mayor of London for Transport, Heidi Alexander, our speakers include Professor Rachel Aldred, transport planner Susan Claris and Labour Councillors including Eve Holt of Greater Manchester Moving and Nilufa Jahan, Deputy Cabinet Member for Transport in Newham Council.
Please do join us. Sign up at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0kcOippz8sGNbQ93CPzkb_dL1eHYlt-Wum