Road protesters to blockade London traffic
Sunday 14 May 1995
Reclaim The Streets, an alliance of eco-campaigners and anti-road activists, aims to "cleanse" the street of all signs of motor cars. Their aim is to produce an alternative vision of urban Britain without the automobile, where highway policy is made with pedestrians and cyclists in mind.
The road will be blocked off, decorated with bunting and flags, and turned into an open-air party with live music, jugglers, and fire breathers. One 50ft banner will read "Kill the car - free the city: Reclaim the Streets!".
Drivers trapped in traffic queues will be offered tea and cakes, but they will also be warned about how the car is "wrecking the planet and destroying the city". Sunday, once a quiet traffic day in London, is now almost as busy as an ordinary weekday and in many districts congestion is the norm.
"The message of the event is not simply about blocking the traffic - the traffic is blocking itself. It is about highlighting the freedom from pollution, congestion and danger which can be achieved by creating a street- space without cars," said one of the co-ordinators of the protest.
Protesters believe Britain should follow the example of the Netherlands, where urban planning is biased towards pedestrians and cyclists rather than the car and other polluting forms of transport. They say today's action, plus others still being planned, will spread awareness of alternatives to the car.
Among those involved in running Reclaim The Streets are protesters fresh from campaigning against the M65 in Lancashire and the M11 in East London. Recruits have also been gathered from other anti-roads groups including the Pedestrians Association and Road Peace.
Many of its campaigners participate in the Critical Mass cycle rides through London. Hundreds of cyclists gather in central London on the last Friday of every month to try and create mayhem and campaign for more car-free space where they can ride safely. The idea is now spreading to other cities.
"We want to give our knowledge to the community. We want to empower them to seek their own solutions for their own urban spaces. Most traffic is a result of people passing through an area. The idea of this action is to spread the debate and show that it's possible for local communities to reclaim their streets for their use," said one of the action's co-ordinators. "We've got to tackle car culture. It's all very well trying to stop roads. The real problem is the addiction to the car."
The campaigners have also turned their attention to businesses linked to roads and the motor industry, taking over the offices of the British Roads Federationand disrupting a string of construction companies' annual general meetings. They plan to target car advertising, oil companies and motor shows.
Leading article, page 26
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