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Islington cycling row: Claudia Webbe criticised for removing pledge to cut road deaths from wording of council motion

PUBLISHED: 12:34 08 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:35 21 December 2017

There have been a number of protests relating to cycling infrastructure in Islington. Stop Killing Cyclists held a 'die-in' in Camden Road, Holloway, in September. Picture: Polly Hancock

There have been a number of protests relating to cycling infrastructure in Islington. Stop Killing Cyclists held a 'die-in' in Camden Road, Holloway, in September. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Islington’s transport boss has been criticised for removing a pledge to cut deaths on the borough’s roads from the wording of a council motion.

Cllrs Claudia Webbe and Caroline Russell clashed over cycle infrastructure in Islington at last night's full council meeting. They are pictured in happier times in March, celebrating a new zebra crossing in Highbury. Picture: Islington CouncilCllrs Claudia Webbe and Caroline Russell clashed over cycle infrastructure in Islington at last night's full council meeting. They are pictured in happier times in March, celebrating a new zebra crossing in Highbury. Picture: Islington Council

Cllr Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East), tabled a motion at last night’s full council meeting demanding safe streets for pedestrians and cyclists as a “matter of social justice”.

Debate continues to rage about the safety of Islington’s roads for cyclists. There have been a number of recent protests against the council’s supposed lack of action to improve infrastructure – particularly in light of cyclist deaths this year.

Part of Cllr Russell’s motion read: “This means linking public health outcomes to transport spending and aiming for zero people killed on our roads.”

However, in an amendment made by transport leader Cllr Claudia Webbe (Lab, Bunhill), this was completely removed and voted through by the ruling Labour majority.

Instead, the amended motion focused on the council’s support for “vision zero”. This is part of Sadiq Khan’s transport strategy, and a campaign aiming for zero fatalities involving traffic. However, this was not explained in the motion.

Cllr Russell, who said the “social justice” line came from Islington North MP and Labour’s own leader Jeremy Corbyn, told her: “I’m speaking against you because of the things you have removed from this motion. You have removed something absolutely fundamental.

“It’s about people knowing we are doing everything possible to reduce the number of people being killed on our roads. Cycle symbols have been painted on roads in door zones – where parked cars’ doors can open and knock cyclists off.” Cllr Russell was referring to a row on Twitter over bike symbols painted perilously close to cars in Central Street – in Cllr Webbe’s own ward.

“It’s about our attitude and enabling people to get from A to B on a bike,” Cllr Russell continued. “Cycling is much cheaper than bus or the Tube. We need to make sure people are absolutely safe as they go about their daily life.

“I’m very disappointed that’s what you chose to take out.”

Of her amendments, which heavily focused on traffic reduction, Cllr Webbe said: “This council believes in providing safe streets as a matter of social justice.

Cllrs Claudia Webbe and Caroline Russell clashed over cycle infrastructure in Islington at last night's full council meeting. They are pictured in happier times in March, celebrating a new zebra crossing in Highbury. Picture: Islington CouncilCllrs Claudia Webbe and Caroline Russell clashed over cycle infrastructure in Islington at last night's full council meeting. They are pictured in happier times in March, celebrating a new zebra crossing in Highbury. Picture: Islington Council

“Islington Labour has taken action to address dangerous roads, making Islington more resilient. What’s our role as councillors if we don’t choose to leave a legacy?

“We are a borough of firsts: the first and only to see continuous reduction in car ownership year on year, and the first to impose the 20mph speed limit.”

However, when it came to the vote, Cllr Russell still voted for the amended motion.

She later said on Twitter that she had done so with a “heavy heart”.

There will be another cycling protest on Wednesday. Between 7.15am and 9.15am, campaigners will form a human bicycle lane in “dangerous” Penton Street, up to its junction with Pentonville Road.

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