Saturday 17 August 2019

Brother of cyclist killed in road accident criticises 'upsetting' and 'insensitive' event

Neil and (inset) Donna
Neil and (inset) Donna
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

A "die in" demonstration to highlight cyclist safety is insensitive to those who have lost loved ones in cycling incidents, a man who is grieving the loss of his sister in a road accident has said.

Demonstrators lay outside the Dail last night in memory of the 15 cyclists who have died on our roads so far in 2017, and to call for greater investment in safety initiatives.

The event was organised by Cyclist.ie, Dublin Cycling Campaign, I BIKE Dublin, Safe Cycling Ireland and Cycling Without Age as part of their Stop Killing Cyclists campaign.

Neil Fox (37) was devastated when his younger sister Donna (30) died after she was hit by a truck while cycling in Dublin City Centre on September 6 2016. He said that while he is a strong advocate for cyclist safety, he thinks the event and campaign are disrespectful.

Neil, who is from Naul in Co Dublin, told Independent.ie: "I am in favour of anything that raises awareness about cyclist safety and the need for more funding in the area but personally I found this event very upsetting.

"I thought it was clearly inappropriate and it brought up thoughts of what Donna must have gone through and that's just not an image you want to think of.

"I'm conscious that I'm not the only one who has lost someone in a cycling accident and I just don't think the campaigners were trying to understand what we are going through.

"People are grieving and something like this may just add to their pain, there's a way of doing things but I don't think this is it."

He also said that he has an issue with the name of the Stop Killing Cyclists initiative.

He explained: "There has to be some decency, the name makes it sound like people are intentionally going out and killing cyclists.

"I think it's important to remember that the day Donna died there was another family affected, her death will undoubtedly have had a huge impact on the life of the truck driver.

"As a family we bear no ill feeling towards him at all."

He said that he has spoken to some of the groups involved in the initiative to voice his concerns about the so-called die in.

Neil said: "I was told that while they could understand that this could cause hurt and offence, they felt the end would justify the means if it got the government to sit up and pay attention.

"I just think that it's not right and that these are already real tragedies, they don't need to be dramatised."

Neil has been taking part in road safety initiatives as part of Remembrance Week and has met with the loved ones of other people who were killed in road accidents.

He said: "I met people who had lost family members in road accidents and it was a strange realisation that we're all a part of this club that we would never have wished to be in.

"It did bring me some hope and comfort to chat with people who are a little further along this journey than me.

"From what I gather you will never be the same person, you're going to be different.

Anne Marie Ryan and her partner Donna Fox
Anne Marie Ryan and her partner Donna Fox

"They said that there's still moments when their grief and pain hits them but that you learn to cope with it.

"I don't ever want to become bitter or angry because there's no point."

A statement on the Facebook event page reads: "Many of you have been very clear in expressing your desire to add a level of protest to cycling advocacy. ..

"We are sick and tired of the inaction by government, both local & national, when it comes to cyclists’ safety.

"We have been calling for increased funding and resources for cycling, but those calls have fallen on deaf ears, and cyclists continue to be killed as a result.

"On Tuesday, 21st of November, we are joining forces with our colleagues from #IBikeDublin, #StayingAliveat1.5, #Cyclistie, #DublinCyclingCampaign to let the Government know that the issue of cyclists’ safety can no longer be ignored."

The Dublin Cycling Campaign also responded to criticism of the event on social media.

They write on Twitter: "There has been a lot of online trolling since yesterday's vigil.

"Much of the hatred has been so irrational that it leads us to question where it really derives from.

"Who is spreading this message of irrational hate towards people on bicycles?"

A spokesman for the Dublin Cycling Campaign claimed that these kind of events have had proven success in improving safety  for road users.

He said: "Die-in protests, originated in the Netherlands and were effective in creating safer conditions for all road users especially vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians.

"More recently Die-ins in London were instrumental in creating major change in junction design after 3 women were killed by HGV's in the space of a few weeks on the Banks junction and other locations in London.

"The Lord Mayor Sadiq Khan is moving to ban HGV with poor visibility by 2020 to prevent these deaths. He has also carried on the installation of segregated cycle superhighways which has seen a dramatic increase in people cycling in London.

"We chose to do this type of demonstration after much consideration but the Government and previous governments have ignored the safety of cyclists for too long.

"We have 15 deaths this year and its 50% increase on last year death toll. 3 deaths in the last month alone.

"We are aware of the sensitivities of recently deceased relatives being upset by these events but other victims relatives were supportive of our demonstration."

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