Gazette letters: Housmans, Extinction Rebellion, Pentonville and cyclists

Housmans Bookshop in Caledonian Road was burgled recently. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

Housmans Bookshop in Caledonian Road was burgled recently. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Archant

I was pleased you gave prominent coverage to the recent burglary at Housmans Bookshop, which you correctly describe as a not-for-profit shop, writes Albert Beale, Caledonian Road, Kings Cross.

In fact the whole building at 5 Caledonian Road has been owned and operated on a non-profit basis since 1959 - I am one of the building's trustees.

Besides the shop, the building provides a supportive home for many campaign groups.

And can I point out that the shop not only supplies progressive reading matter, but is progressive in the way it operates.

Unlike a certain infamous multinational online bookseller, Housmans staff all earn above the London Living Wage, and the shop pays its proper taxes. So if you pop into Housmans for your reading matter, you're not giving your money to overseas billionaires.

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I'm a young professional in Islington. Like many of you, I've enjoyed/sweated in the warm temperatures in London this summer with some disconcerting questions: this is not normal, how hot is it going to get here? writes Sonja, Islington, full name and address supplied.

Like many of you, I'm also keenly aware of how climate change has caused much, much worse suffering in many parts of the world already, and how this is really only the beginning. That's scary.

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Just like many of you, my default response to those things has been to try and reduce my own carbon footprint, plus occasional attending of marches, signing of petitions, giving money to NGOs. And as you all know, that has not led to much - carbon emissions across the world are still rising, and climate change is still considered a topic for the left-wing hippies, an optional item on the political agenda.

Then I joined Extinction Rebellion Islington. From the first meeting I was convinced, this group could actually make a difference, and through it, so could I. And was immediately convinced: this has an actual chance at making a difference. The media reported on them as a group of trouble-makers who were blocking roads and getting arrested. But I found self-organising teams of passionate people in my neighbourhood, with a non-violent strategy for effecting policy change. At the same time, the movement internally models the type of society that we would all want to see: there is a huge focus on respecting everyone in- and outside the movement, of taking care of each other, and of valuing the contribution everyone can make, whether that is protesting, bringing the cookies, or printing T-shirts. We're a self-organising movement, which is a mixture of creative chaos and carefully planned collaboration, with a lot of different roles for all.

To everyone out there who is frustrated at how little is being done to protect the planet we depend on, I would want to extend a warm invitation. It doesn't take any special talent, hero-qualities, or lots of time to become a rebel.

North London will rise up to urge government action against climate change on September 7 and 8. There will be actions to protest, as well as discussions on solutions to climate change, and family-friendly fun to learn more about the environment and how we can protect it.

Pentonville Prison was built 177 years ago with a capacity to accommodate 694 persons but is currently hosting 1,080, writes Roderik Gonggrijp, Islington Green Party.

Last week, again, shocking neglect and violence was exposed at this institution in the heart of Islington.

Consider the scale of the problem as follows. If the whole of Islington would have the same population density as Pentonville Prison, the population of Islington would be over 750,000 (now 220,000), and every house in Islington would have to accommodate nearly four times as many persons.

If Islington was like Pentonville Prison, it would mean that 250,000 (30 time more than now) of Islington's 750,000 inhabitants would be active drug (ab)users. If Islington was like Pentonville Prison, there would each year be at least 250 (35 times more) murders and 1,500 (20 times more) suicides in Islington.

If Islington was like Pentonville Prison, there would be no children. There would be no privacy. You would not always be able to go to the bathroom without another person watching. Rats and cockroaches would be a common sight.

If Islington was like Pentonville Prison, two thirds of the population, or 500,000 people (as much as 114 times more than now) would report that they feel unsafe.

Scary? It gets worse. In the last 10 years the government has taken away a third of prison staff and nearly half of the staff in probation services. And yet, the government officially states that there actually is room for even more prisoners in Pentonville Prison.

The violence in Pentonville Prison is shocking, but not a surprise. Yes, prisons may have a role in a functioning Criminal Justice system, but currently prisons are places, hidden from view, where people are most likely to exit from (average custodial sentences are around two years) with deteriorated mental health and further reduced chances in society.

Expanding prisons and stricter sentencing is a bankrupt policy and the Conservatives, as well as Labour, continue to be guilty of.

The Green Party continues to strongly advocate that the current prison system is merely a costly burden on society. It does not ensure reparation to the victim or the community, nor does it persuade and enable the offender to become a law-abiding member of the community. Reform, including a drastic reduction of the prison population is urgently required.

As a further letter regarding my misgivings about the safety of what remains of the Highbury Corner Roundabout, especially the crossing outside the Hen & Chickens Theatre Bar at the top end of St Paul's Road, I have noticed that in both directions, at approximately the eye-level of the average person on a bicycle, there is a set of lights, writes Mr J E Kirby, Clissold Crescent, Stoke Newington.

When the main set of lights allows traffic to go across into Holloway Road and likewise on the opposite side of the crossing, when the main lights are at red there is also a red outline of a bicycle, when the lights go to red and amber, the same thing happens, when the main lights go to green then a green bicycle lights up.

If I am correct, when the bicycle light is at red as well as the main set of lights it is indicating to pedestrians that it is safe to walk across the road but does this red bicycle actually mean anything?

The reason I ask is that twice yesterday and again today, when I was crossing the road I saw a cyclist approaching from Holloway Road intending to go down St Paul's Road, but instead of stopping they went straight through. So I ask, does this indication to cyclists have any validity in law or does it mean stop if you feel like it or do cyclists have some sort of exemption in complying with traffic light signals.

If they have good eyesight and can clearly see these signs, then why do they ignore them? I don't doubt that if I was driving a motor vehicle and chose to ignore a red light and hit a cyclist then all hell would break out.

When waiting for a no 30 bus, which does occasionally run, I am waiting at the bus stop outside of St Paul's Church, all too often I see cyclists coming up Balls Pond Road and when the lights are clearly against them, they ignore them, it is the same in the opposite direction.

So please cyclists, obey the rules of the road. If you don't know them get a copy of the Highway Code, you never know, it may save your life. I say this because any serious injury or death on the road is one too many.

So, whatever your excuse, then please remember, it is better to be a little late in this world then to be too early in the next one - wherever or whatever that is.

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