Six ghost bikes send a powerful message to the council

After the shocking deaths of six cyclists so far this year on Norfolk’s roads, campaigners staged ghost bikes at County Hall to raise awareness of the danger faced by people on bikes

On Saturday 30th September as part of a national day of action to demand an end to the needless deaths on our roads, a coalition of local organisations staged six white “ghost bikes” outside County Hall to symbolise the six cyclists who have lost their lives on Norfolk’s roads this year. The groups are collectively calling on Norfolk County Council to take action to ensure no-one has to die just getting about by bike.

The groups include the Norwich Cycling Campaign, Car-Free Norwich, Kidical Mass Norwich, Living Streets Norwich, Norwich Friends of the Earth and XR Norwich, as well as local Green Party councillors.

Six ghost bikes outside County Hall – Photo Claire Bullion

Peter Silburn, chair of the Norwich Cycling Campaign said: “Each of the six white bikes represents a failure to keep people safe on our roads. These six deaths were not inevitable. Cities that have adopted Vision Zero, an approach to road safety that seeks to systematically remove the sources of danger, treats deaths and injuries as preventable. Cities like Oslo in Norway, which adopted Vision Zero in 2015 and recorded no road deaths in 2019.”

“These deaths are not accidents, they are the result of policies that prioritise the convenience of car drivers over people’s safety.”

Make Norfolk safe for cycling – Photo Stuart Beard

Children call for safer roads

On Monday 2nd October, before the full Council meeting, over 70 postcards demanding action were handed to Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport.

Graham Plant accepted the cards from Thomas Woods of Kidical Mass and Peter Silburn representing the Norwich Cycling Campaign.

Thomas Woods presenting the postcards to Graham Plant, with Peter Silburn (left) and Paul Neale, Green Party county councillor (right) – Photo Stuart Beard

The postcards, mostly written by children and their parents, were collected at the Kidical Mass family bike ride held on Saturday 23rd September. The children are asking for more and better cycle infrastructure in Norwich so that they can ride their bikes in safety every day of the year.

Fern Blevins of Kidical Mass Norwich said: “Children today have less freedom than generations before. Sharing the road with heavy traffic means it’s often no longer safe for them to make journeys to school or to friends on their own. This impacts their physical and mental health, their ability to assess risk, and their sense of agency and independence.”

Fern Blevins of Kidical Mass Norwich – Photo Fern Blevins

“So many people – both children and adults – would like to cycle, but don’t feel safe doing so on Norfolk’s roads. And who can blame them? The tragic deaths this year should be a wake-up call to our councillors to prioritise the most vulnerable road users. Installing a network of safe and connected cycleways will benefit everyone.

“These postcards represent the voices of children and families from the Kidical Mass ride, and give an indication of how many children feel let down by car-centric road planning in Norfolk.”

Here are just some of the messages from the children and their parents:

  • “Dear Mr Plant, please improve cycling in Norwich, proper designated cycle lanes please!”
  • “We need safer streets for all!”
  • “When I feel worried or sad I ride my bike and I feel better.”
  • “I want my children to be able to ride to school safely.”
  • “Kids on bikes are the future!”
  • “I cycle daily and risk my life daily.”
  • “I would like Norwich to be the Amsterdam of the UK, so that my son can cycle freely without me having to worry for his safety!”
  • “I find cycling in the city petrifying and it puts me off using my bike. I find the whole experience really stressful. I hate how close cars get. I love cycling but will never go into the city (segregated bike lanes would change this).”
  • “Please – let us feel safe going into the city by bike.”
Laying flowers at the ghost bikes – Photo Stuart Beard

Liam Calvert, Green Party city councillor for Wensum ward said: “It is clear that not enough is being done to keep all road users safe. Norfolk County Council needs to provide high quality cycle routes physically separating those on bikes from the dangers posed by motor vehicles.”

“Where segregation cannot be achieved we need well enforced 20mph limits and a significant reduction in the volume of traffic. This is especially true of the smaller residential streets where through traffic damages communities.”

Video by Stuart Beard

Minute’s silence for the victims of road danger

As part of the day of action on Saturday XR Norwich held a protest ride around the city.

The ride began outside the Forum with a minute’s silence at 11am, coordinated with other cities across the country, in memory of those killed on our roads and demanding action from politicians to make roads safer for people on bikes.

XR Norwich organised a protest ride from the Forum – Photo Peter Silburn

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