Yesterday, two incidents in East London left at least one man dead. Students at Queen Mary, University of London were left disgusted and horrified but not shocked. Why? Because our university is situated on the incredibly dangerous Mile End Road. But even this name is deceiving, as Mile End Road is not a 'road' at all - it's a part of the A11. Stretching all the way from Whitechapel down to Bow, it is common knowledge in the local community that crossing from one side to the other presents an everyday danger. The same goes for Commercial Road, also known as the A13, where a sixty year old man was killed in a hit-and-run yesterday.
Yet the tragedy of this man's death is completely unsurprising in light of recent events. Last year Kieran Dhaliwal, a 20 year old student at Queen Mary was killed by a driver in a hit-and-run when walking home from a housewarming party. Let's be honest here: a student was killed by a driver, not by a car - a driver who then made the fully informed decision to drive off and leave him in the road. His death shook the whole QMUL community and proved once again that the area where we work, live and study is completely unsafe. And it is not just Kieran who has been killed in recent years. Philippine Degerin-Ricard, 20, was killed by a lorry driver outside Aldgate Tube station in 2013. Khalid al-Hashimi, 21, was killed in 2013 on Whitechapel High Street after being hit by a bus driver. David Blake, 57, was killed in 2014 by a car driver in Stepney Green. Countless others have needlessly lost their lives within a stone's throw of Queen Mary and all when the speed limit on Mile End road is 30 mph. How many more deaths must the community suffer before the authorities take action?
Now however, Queen Mary students are taking matters into their own hands. After hearing of the collisions yesterday, those running in the university elections stopped their campaigns and put down their banners. In their place they took up paint brushes to make placards, hanging them along the university railings to send a strong message to drivers. Then, they went one step further. Walking slowly out onto the ever-busy A11, they blocked traffic and stood united in the face of angry drivers; making them take two minutes out of their day to consider the consequences of their speed. Because this is what drivers need to do, take a long, hard look at the their actions. No human body is a match for a car, no bicycle is going to do damage to a lorry and you only need to ask any student at Queen Mary to be told of the constant drag races, the never-ending disregard for the speed limit or the everyday heart-in-mouth moments as they try to cross the road. This is a feeling underlined by Mashelle Asim, Vice President Welfare at Queen Mary Students' Union, who is fighting for "speed limit enforcement and road control" as she believes "this is our safety, let's make it our absolute priority."
Today, the signs are still hanging on the railings of Mile End Road. They are emblazoned with many of the usual protests: 'KILL YOUR SPEED, 'SPEED KILLS' 'IT'S 30MPH.' However, what stands out are the words 'SAVE ME' written over and over. This is a local campaign run by Citizens UK and Queen Mary students aiming to increase road safety in Mile End. Tonight, it will come to a head with a demonstration along the A11, with a substantial gathering of people from local mosques, churches, the Salvation Army and other communities joining students at QMUL to protest again recent killings. Undeniably, this will be an emotional journey as here at Queen Mary students are still angry. Yet it is Alex Greenwood, one of the campaign's organisers and the flatmate of Kieran Dhaliwal, who has shown how this anger can be turned into a proactive message: "We are doing this because no more people should have to die because of reckless driving, as a community we have enough power to bring about whatever change we want."