Was Stop Killing Cyclists right to have its Dublin die-in?

Posted on: November 25th, 2017

Stop Killing Cyclists Dublin die-in

Stop Killing Cyclists was held by several Irish cycling groups. It featured a die-in after several cycling fatalities. But not everyone was happy with the die-in or the event’s name.


Was Stop Killing Cyclists right to have Dublin die-in?


On Tuesday night cyclists and cycling campaigners met outside Leinster House on Kildare St in Dublin.

They were there for a new Stop Killing Cyclists protest and vigil.

The cyclists killed on the roads of the Republic, 13 at the time of the protest, were remembered.

But the protests were also there to make a point to the politicians inside Leinster House – for non Irish readers; it’s the location of the Irish houses of parliament.

They wanted to make it clear something needs to be done about the high numbers of cycling deaths.

Their second point relates to what that “something” should be; moving cycling more to the centre of transport policy with the funding to back it.

During the Stop Killing Cyclists event, there was a die-in. Cyclists lay in the road essentially playing dead.

It is a tactic used a lot in the UK of late. And it is designed to put in the faces of the public, the media and politicians the concept of cycling fatalities – people cycling as part of their daily business dying.

After the meeting two voices emerged.

Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy referenced the event and said his party was joining the push for close-pass legislation. He said the die-in had impacted on him.

Neil Fox criticised the event. His sister Donna Fox was killed by a truck turning left in Dublin city centre in September last year.

Neil believed the event was inappropriate and disrespectful. He said it made him think about what his sister had gone through when she was killed.

And he also felt the name Stop Killing Cyclists suggested other road users intended to kill cyclists.

He made the point that the driver involved in the collision that killed his sister had also suffered.

At stickybottle, while we very much sympathise and understand Neil Fox’s feelings, we feel the die-in was necessary and legitimate. Here’s why:

Cyclists are not being heard

There are now many very committed groups advocating for cyclists’ rights. And some of them are very effective in raising the need for better safety and improved infrastructure.

But there is little sense the Government is taking it in.

There are very few politicians of influence who understand the en masse move to bicycles by commuters; and the benefits it could bring.

The fact cycling can ease congestion, improve health and is kinder to the environment – and that people are moving to in greater numbers of their own volition – seems to have been missed by the political classes.

There is certainly no sense that that message is informing, and being enshrined in, Government policy.

Against this backdrop, cycling groups are well within their rights to become more militant – or even simply more “in your face”. The die-in was an obvious manifestation of the upping of the ante needed by the cycling lobby.

Shock tactics are not new

Since road safety, or public health, campaigns have begun they have become more graphic and even shocking.

Pictures of diseased lungs and cancerous tumours adorn packets of cigarettes.

Fatal road traffic collisions – even with child victims – are dramatised for regular broadcast on prime time television by the Road Safety Authority.

Countless other campaigns directly associate death with the behaviours they seek to address.

And those campaigns – in the form of broadcast advertisements, poster campaigns and newspaper and online advertising – are presented to the public daily.

The families of those who have died from cancer may be upset by pictures of tumours or cancerous lungs on cigarettes packets. It is also tragic that the families of those who die in road traffic collisions would be upset at advertising campaigns, seeking to avoid further deaths, dramatising fatal accidents for broadcast.

But in many cases it is shock tactics that stop people in their tracks and cause them to truly reflect; on their own behaviour and on the changes for the better they might be able to bring about.

It would be strange if the depiction of road deaths in often graphic road safety advertisement was deemed suitable for broadcast on television but cyclists lying down en masse in the road to highlight cycling deaths were somehow classed as acting unacceptably or irresponsibly.

Die-ins will bring cyclists together

Any cycling advocacy group or the mass attendance events they organise have the effect of bringing cyclists together.

This creates a sense of shared experience and a resultant group dynamic.

What cyclists urgently need more is to harness that group dynamic; we need to work much more effectively as a strong lobby group that is so big and effective it becomes impossible to ignore.

The one drawback of so many cyclists having been mobilised into campaigners during the bike boom of the last 10 to 15 years is that there are a lot of cycling groups now trying to be heard.

And a lobby group made up of lots of smaller organisations is sometimes not given the respect it deserves by the media , local authorities and national government.

Anything that helps bring these groups together – and sadly die-ins will likely do that on average once per month – may result in a louder and clearer voice emerging.

The death toll is frightening

So far this year 14 cyclists have died on the roads; with five weeks remaining to year-end. The figure to date is higher than any full year death toll in the last decade.

And only twice in the last 18 years have more than 14 cyclists died on the Republic’s roads. Eighteen died in 2002 and 15 cyclists died in 2007.

Despite the worrying trends; the conversation still seems to be stuck on helmets and hi-vis.

There is little, if any, discussion about how motorists were involved in every cycling fatality so far this year.

Die-ins, especially as turn outs get bigger into the future, should act is an unfortunate and graphic reminder that cycling infrastructure is needed to make the roads safer and for the Garda to pursue at-fault motorists more aggressively.