Protest highlighting pollution closes Oxford Circus

Thousands of protestors brought Oxford Circus to a standstill on Saturday afternoon (November 15), with a horse-drawn hearse leading a march through Oxford Street to highlight air pollution and cyclist deaths in London.

Organised by campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists, the march began at Bedford Square before the horse-drawn hearse paused at Oxford Circus for a two-minute silence to remember those killed in London by road collisions, as well as the 50,000 UK patients estimated to have died as a result of transport pollution over the last decade.

The 'Die-in' protest at Marble Arch (photo: Brendan Delaney)

The ‘Die-in’ protest at Marble Arch (photo: Brendan Delaney)

The march later ended at Marble Arch, where protestors led by a bagpiper held a mass ‘die-in’ and placed the symbolic coffin on a Dutch-style catafalque.

The campaign group unveiled 10 demands at the protest, one of which urged authorities to ‘stop the killing from lung, heart and other diseases caused by vehicular pollutants’ and to ‘make it mandatory for particulate filters that meet the latest EU emission standards to be fitted to all existing buses, lorries and taxies’.

In addition, the group are seeking all transport fuels to be from environmentally-sustainable sources within 10 years.

According to Stop Killing Cyclists, the march is one of the first large-scale protests in the UK to raise the issue of traffic air pollution as one of its main concerns.

Another demand called for the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street – a policy also recently supported by London Assembly Member Stephen Knight, partly due to air pollution concerns (see story).

The horse-drawn hearse leading the march on Saturday (November 15) along Oxford Street (photo: Brendan Delaney)

The horse-drawn hearse leading the march on Saturday (November 15) along Oxford Street (photo: Brendan Delaney)

Speakers included Professor Brendan Delaney, Kings College London; Tom Kearney, campaign group Safer Oxford Street; and Caroline Russell, Green Party transport spokesperson.

In his speech, Professor Delaney said: “This car culture is destroying our bodies through pollution and inactivity as much as it destroys lives through so called accidents and our environment through emissions.”

The Professor of primary care research added: “I spend my working life dealing with the end results of our collective blindness to the hidden killer. Diseases of inactivity will break our national health system in the coming decade. We have to stop.”

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