Thousands protest in London, Rome for cycle safety

Thousands of cyclists staged protests in London, Edinburgh and Rome on Saturday to draw attention to poor road safety and a lack of provisions for bike lovers in the key European cities.

Some 10,000 cyclists braved pouring rain in London and 3,000 turned out in Edinburgh, according to organisers, who said they were England's and Scotland's biggest ever pro-cycling demonstrations.

"If we take Holland as an example, the majority of people cycle and that's what we want here," Suzanne Fogg, a trustee of the London Cycle Campaign, told Britain's Sky News.

"So many people want to cycle and they just don't feel safe, so this is about making the streets feel safer and more inviting for cyclists."

Protesters dressed in outfits from Lycra to fancy dress crowded streets around London's landmark Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square, halting traffic to demand concrete pledges to ensure road safety.

Pro-bike groups staged the events under the umbrella of the Cities Fit for Cycling initiative launched by the Times newspaper ahead of local elections in Britain, where 26 cyclists have died on the roads this year.

"We've reached a point where the nation's attitude to cycling is really sharpening because of global warming and overcrowded cities," said Rhoda Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the campaign.

"People recognise that cycling is one of the only sustainable ways for us to move about crowded urban spaces, but so many people feel it's also a deadly way to travel."

Protesters in Rome, also affiliated with the Times campaign, said they were likewise looking to the Netherlands as a model.

"There's a civil war going on on the roads," said Paolo Bellino. "This is a necessity that has been put off for too long. In the Netherlands, pro-cycling policies were adopted 40 years ago. We're 40 years behind," he added.

"Policy in this country is made for drivers," said Alberto Fiorillo, one of the organisers of the Rome demonstration near the Colosseum.

The Italian protest was entitled "Veni, Vidi, Bici" -- a play on words using the Italian word for bike in the famous saying attributed to Julius Caesar.

Bellino said the latest Italian cyclists slain on the roads were a 54-year-old cyclist run down on Friday near Naples and a 14-year-old boy hit in Parma.

Protesters lay down in memory of slain cyclists on the Via dei Fori Imperiali built by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini through the Roman Forum, calling for the busy thoroughfare in Rome's historic centre to be pedestrianised.

Organisers said more than 2,500 cyclists have been killed on Italy's roads over the past decade, with Rome and Milan showing the highest accident rates.

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