On the evening of 9th November, six months after our friend Claudia Comberti was killed while cycling on Botley Road, we gathered at the Tap Social to launch The Claudia Charter for Safer Cycling in Oxford.
It was clear from the turn out that marking this moment and taking action to make our roads safer for everyone who choses to cycle is something which many people care about, a lot. Over 100 people filled the brewery which was decked out with decorated wheels, photos, big prints of the charter, and a vibrantly colourful portrait of Claudia herself. There were red neckerchiefs everywhere, worn in every different way and printed with the emblem of the charter.
From a small stage picked out in fairy lights our own Caitlin and Sam told the story of The Claudia Charter so far, encouraging us all to connect with its vision of making the roads feel like a safe space for cycling for people of all ages and abilities. They set out the aims for the charter: greater respect for vulnerable road users, a decisive political commitment to increase cycle safety in and around Oxford, and far safer highways for cycle users. They credited all the people who have got the charter this far and asked everyone present to help turn it into tangible change. As Caitlin said, ‘this is just the beginning, where we go from here is up to all of us.’
We also heard from Cyclox Chair Simon Hunt who shared his reaction in the days after Claudia was killed, waking up in the night head spinning with ideas for change – some of which feed into the charter. He said, ’I have daughters only a little older than Claudia and I can’t imagine anything worse than losing them this way, we need to do something’. He reminded us that campaigns take time and we need to be committed for the long haul.
It felt important, on an evening such as that one, to take time to remember our absent friend Claudia in the fullness of the person she was. Yadvinder Malhi, one of Claudia’s DPhil supervisors, joined us to pay tribute to her and the research she was doing with indigenous peoples in the Amazon exploring the impacts of climate change. Ali Avery, her friend and housemate, shared some moving and poetic words including a quote from Claudia’s housemate from her time doing field work in Bolivia who described her as “una sinfonía de paz, dulcura y fortaleza” – a symphony of peace, sweetness, and strength. We finished the evening as Claudia would have done, sitting around a bonfire with a whisky in hand.
It is beautiful to see this show of love and solidarity from the people of Oxford, as many people said ‘if Claudia was alive she would be here’. It is because she is not, and because no loss of life or serious injury on our roads is acceptable that we must come together to make change.
A massive thank you to everyone who helped make The Claudia Charter and the launch event possible: Claudia’s family who have given support and offered feedback to us every step of the way; the Tap Social for the free venue; Lisa Curtis for producing hand-printed neckerchiefs; the Environmental Change Institute for the use of their meeting space; and, last but not least everyone who participated in the working group: Ewan MacDonald, Cecilia Dahlsjö, Lucy Warin, Lucille Colin de Verdière, David Thomas, Louise Upton, Meike, Sam, Caitlin, and Ellie.
And of course to Claudia, this is for you sister!