Gazette letters: Spiders, cycle law, Uber and Diane Abbott

A red crested pochard swimming in the New River. Picture: WILL McCALLUM.

A red crested pochard swimming in the New River. Picture: WILL McCALLUM. - Credit: Archant

Spider season – the slightest chill in the air and they come swarming indoors to enjoy our home comforts, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

I’ve escorted at least three inch-long spiders back to the garden this week, their legs battering against the glass, pleading not to be released back to where I need them most – the tomato plants.

When I lived on a narrowboat the spiders and I became friends. Each autumn night I would go to sleep while they went to work decorating my windows. If I went away for a few days I’d come back to find that like annoying housemates they would invariably have overstepped the mark, strewing their stuff across the hallway and between the furniture, half eaten meals suspended in mid-air above my bed. If you’re interested in the spiders that have come to share your home for the colder months, visit the British Arachnological Society’s website to find out more.

Woken by a freight train passing through Dalston this week, I decided to enjoy a dawn run. Plodding along the New River I came across a family of red-crested pochards steaming towards Finsbury Park. The RSPB tells me they probably escaped captivity. Twitchers call escaped birds “plastic” – an appropriate word for the bright red beaks of these funny ducks.

A mother tragically lost her life. The young man cycling the fixie-bike that knocked her over, when she walked out into middle of Old Street, is in jail, writes Donnachadh McCarthy FRSA, environmental campaigner, author and founder of Stop Killing Cyclists.

The real culprits, the authorities who fail to design safe streets for walking and cycling, were not mentioned in the tabloid frenzy that devoured Charlie Alliston, who was put on suicide watch.

Some 95 per cent of streets in Hackney are run by the borough, not by TfL. Hackney has a vigorous opponent of installed protected cycle lanes – Cllr Vincent Stops.

In Hackney and Islington, 600 people a year die from pollution-related causes.

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Another 600 die from inactivity diseases and an estimated 12,000 are disabled by transport-related causes.

Every week, people are killed by HGVs as the drivers are blind to what is happening beside them. Five-and-a-half-thousand pedestrians were killed in the last decade by cars. In that time there was one killing by a fixie-bike rider.

What is our government doing?

• It refused to fund a national protected cycling network.

• It refused to make the driving test include cycle safety.

• It refused to reduce transport pollution, despite the Supreme Court ruling it is breaching EU regulations.

• It refused to make HGVs safer.

But within weeks of the Alliston conviction, it proposed a new law on dangerous cycling, even though he was prosecuted successfully under current law.

This new law will not prevent one single death. Over the whole UK, three people per year are killed by bikes, usually when pedestrians step out without looking. Sometimes it is the cyclist who ends up being killed.

Sadiq Khan has launched a new transport strategy to tackle transport pollution and HGV safety, and design streets so pedestrians, people cycling and drivers are protected from each other.

It expands the successful but tiny protected cycle highways network and proposes funding for Hackney to make streets safer for walking and cycling.

The multi-billion-pound motoring lobby is lobbying hard to block the mayor’s plan. The tabloids who demonised Alliston have attacked it for being “anti-car”.

But you can back the plan online. The deadline is Monday. See

Let us ensure the tragic death of Kim Briggs was not in vain.

The Uber affair shows the true nature of the Labour Party in that it is against anything that improves things for ordinary people if it upsets vested trade union interests, writes Christopher Sills, Dunsmure Road, Stamford Hill.

Most black cab drivers are trade union members and Uber drivers rarely are and therefore they must be banned because they compete with trade union members. A few bad apples give then an excuse.

The mayor should have insisted that all Uber drivers had CRB checks and if the company refused, which is very unlikely, the problem could be solved by a by-law saying all drivers of vehicles for hire should be covered by CRB checks.

If they had done this, 40,000 innocent people would not lose their jobs and the public would not have been inconvenienced.

The mayor must back down on the issue.

If he refuses, the government should remove his powers to license taxis in London. It was Ken Livingstone’s irrational decisions that caused the public to demand the abolition of the Greater London Council in the 1980s.

This decision will increase the number of seats the Conservative Party will gain in the May local elections in Hackney.

Diane Abbott MP is on TV telling us cuts to police is dangerous, writes Terry Wood, Deepdene House, Stoke Newington.

Perhaps she could support the police in Hackney and Stoke Newington instead of joining in every event covered by the media in demonstrations against them.