Cycle campaigner Barry Mason dies on holiday in Spain

Indefatigable Southwark cycling campaigner and Surrey Docks Farm manager Barry Mason has died on holiday in Spain.

A report in the Spanish local press suggests that the 60-year-old could have suffered a heart attack whilst swimming in the sea on the coast of Asturias, northern Spain, during a cycle touring holiday.

An emergency helicopter was called to the Rodiles beach in Villaviciosa on Thursday afternoon but a doctor was unable to revive him.

Although Barry Mason lived and worked in SE16, he was well-known to many SE1 residents through his involvement in a myriad of local environmental and transport campaigns.

As coordinator of Southwark Cyclists he led dozens of free open-access rides which started from the Southwark Needle at the southern end of London Bridge.

He also coordinated popular large-scale rides around the deserted streets of London on Christmas Day and overnight on the shortest night of the year.

His organisational skills were also applied to the annual Dunwich Dynamo night-time ride between East London and the Suffolk coast. Each year Barry would arrange a fleet of coaches and vans to bring riders and their bikes back to London in the morning.

He also helped to forge strong links between Southwark Cyclists and Southwark Living Streets, the pedestrian-focused campaign group, so that the two organisations presented a common front on many issues affecting walkers and cyclists in the borough.

BARGES – Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Green Enthusiasts – was another group that Barry helped to set up, bringing together a variety of environmental organisations in the SE1 and SE16 areas.

The proposed pedestrian and cycle link using a disused railway bridge at South Bermondsey also owes much to Barry's tenacity. When the funding was reported to be under threat, Barry led a delegation to Southwark's council assembly to keep up the pressure on councillors to deliver the scheme.

He was also assiduous in monitoring planning applications across the borough to ensure they contained enough cycle parking and other bike-friendly measures. He attended community council meetings in Borough and Bankside, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and beyond, putting forward many proposals for 'Cleaner Greener Safer' funding and arguing the case for cycling.

He was closely involved with the London Festival of Architecture and its programme of architect-led guided bike rides.

He was a member of the development group that raised funds to enable John Constable's Southwark Mysteries play to be staged in Southwark Cathedral last April.

A graduate of the London School of Economics, Barry Mason's eclectic career included two years as head of visitor services at Salisbury Cathedral and four years working in Liverpool.

Later he worked for Southwark Council managing school building projects, including the scheme to refurbish and extend Eveline Lowe Primary School. He was instrumental in persuading the council to install resident 'guardians' on short-term tenancies to live in empty premises while building works were pending.

Barry's no-nonsense approach meant that he was never entirely comfortable in the sometimes bureaucratic world of local government, so after leaving the council he went on to a new career as manager of Surrey Docks Farm.

Determined to end a spate of break-ins that had plagued the farm, Barry was arrested and cautioned last summer after he unilaterally removed a piece of street furniture that was being used as a stepping-stone by thieves – despite his best efforts to encourage Royal Mail to move the box itself and to give them prior notice of his proposed direct action.

His persistence didn't always endear him to local politicians and fellow cycling activists, but he will long be remembered as someone who got on and made things happen rather than just talking about what might be possible.

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