A year ago today a young man I knew became another statistic. One of the 16 cyclists killed on London's roads last year. Two-thirds of which were (like him) killed by HGVs. The majority of these deaths (like his) happened after large vehicles turned across the cyclist's path.
Dan Cox was 28-years old, a magnetic ball of energy whose potential was enormous. He had been working on a show with the artist Andy Holden at the time of his death and had recently curated a show at my gallery. Dr Simon Sullivan, his tutor at Goldsmiths said: "Dan was without doubt the most intellectually gifted student I have taught at Goldsmiths... Dan was also able to communicate with clarity, generosity and a kind of joie de vivre the difficult ideas the rest of us were grappling with."
The driver of the HGV that collided with Dan has since been charged with an offence related to not having a required mirror (one of the near-side wing mirrors was missing).
Dan Cox came to work part time as an intern at our gallery. I didn't know Dan very well at all at the time of his death. We'd had lots of conversations and shared hundreds of ideas and discussed art, cinema and food (a lot), but nothing really too personal. Apart from having an incredible intellect he was also hysterically funny. A few days before he died we had gone to see a show at the Tate and talked over future projects we could work on together at the gallery. He was always so excited and I loved bouncing ideas off him. We never made it to the show (Gaugin I think) as we stayed in the café talking about numerous ideas.
If there is one person I have met in my life who had potential, it was him. Within minutes of meeting him I just knew I wanted to work with him. Within weeks of hiring him I asked him to work as a curator on a show we had coming up. And within months of knowing him, he was dead.
The artist Daisy Delaney and I went to his funeral. She didn't know him well either, and I think we both felt a bit as if we were gatecrashing, but we just felt we had to show how much our gallery loved him and missed him. So many artists, filmmakers and general creatives at our gallery had a brief but shining piece of Dan and we wanted say thank you.
The funeral was packed to the rafters with his close friends and family and probably some people like Daisy and I, who knew him only briefly. If a funeral could be described as 'perfect' then this one was. Dan had so many friends whose lives had been better because he was in it, for however short his life was.
I was knocked off my bike for the third time over 20 years ago and I haven't cycled in London since. I figured no amount of protection can protect you against stupid drivers. But is it really too much to ask that London lorry drivers are forced by law to have some form of cycle-awareness training? That cycle-awareness becomes part of the driving test?
Dan's 'ghost bike' was placed where he was killed at Dalston junction. If you live near there you can't miss it as it's always covered in flowers, garlands and Christmas lights. It's five minutes from where I live and whenever I drive past, which is most days, I think of that funny little guy who was just adored by so many people. I never really noticed ghost bikes before, like much of London, everything eventually just blends in. But now when I see one, I think of all the people who must have loved that anonymous person who has become yet another statistic.
Today, his mum, Christine Cox will be setting off at 4.30pm from 54 Lower Clapton Road, and be joined by friends of Dan, as well as other wellwishers. The group expect to arrive at Dalston Junction at 5pm, where they'll stop to pay their respects at the ghost bike put there in memory of Dan.Then they'll continue to Camden, expecting to reach the Edinburgh Castle pub (where Dan worked) towards 7:30pm.
As Christine says: "If we could get lots of cyclists to join in too perhaps that would help draw attention to the needless loss of life on our roads and in particular to the senseless loss of our beautiful boy."
Andy Holden's wonderful show 'The Dan Cox Library for the Unfinished Concept of Thingly Time' opens on 17 February at Cubitt gallery. I saw it last year in Cambridge and apart from being a great show, it is a fitting tribute to Dan.
The London Cycling Campaign 'No More Lethal Lorries' appeal aims to reduce road danger to cyclists. You can find out more or donate here.
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