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Minister accuses councillors of misrepresenting him on "anti-car dogma" and cycling "elite" comments made last year...

Secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles has declined an offer made by Labour councillors in Cambridge to participate in a challenge to find out whether it is quicker to get across the city centre on a car or bike.

Mr Pickles, who was due to visit the city today, provoked a storm last August when he said that council policies in the city, which has the highest levels of bike use in the UK, favoured an “elite” and disadvantaged motorists. He added that local councils needed to lose their “anti-car dogma.”

Ahead of the minister’s visit today, Labour councillors Noel Kavanagh and Ashley Walsh invited him to race them from Cowley Road to Peas Hill – Mr Pickles in his ministerial car, the councillors on bikes – to show him the advantages of cycling, reports Cambridge News.

Councillor Kavanagh said: “We challenge Mr Pickles to race his chauffeur-driven ministerial car against our bikes to show him how important cycling is to our city.

“Mr Pickles says Cambridge is too ‘anti-car’ but he forgets we should really be aiming to reduce congestion. Promoting walking, cycling and public transport is more important than trying to pit motorists against cyclists for political gain.

“The race will show Mr Pickles that to prevent future gridlock Cambridge will need to switch more journeys from cars to bikes and buses.”

However, the Conservative politician turned down the invitation, and yesterday insisted that the councillors had misrepresented what he had said last year, telling Cambridge News: “This demonstrates to me how the Labour Party has no regard for the public purse.

“The thought I would use a ministerial car to come on a political visit is completely anathema to me – I will not be using taxpayers’ money to make this visit.

“When I made my remarks as regard to cars I said that, in places like Oxford and York and Cambridge, it was difficult to be car-friendly so frankly they are taking offence over remarks that I didn’t make.

“I think it’s a prime example of how Labour are out of touch on two levels,” he added.

For the record, here’s what Mr Pickles actually told Cambridge News last August: “Town halls need to ditch their anti-car dogma. Making it easier to park will help support local shops, local jobs and tourism.”

Speaking specifically about the city, he went on: “I accept there is a historic part of Cambridge that makes it not particularly friendly to cars and that’s the nature of having a very ancient city but, if we don’t put our plans together on how people live and how some of the elite think we should live, we are just asking for trouble.

“While this is not the sole cause of the high street’s problems, it is certainly a contributory factor.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

32 comments

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don simon [993 posts] 3 years ago
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" if we don’t put our plans together on how people live and how some of the elite think we should live"
I like this concept of telling the elite where to shove their ideas.

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piersnewland [3 posts] 3 years ago
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Since when should we take note of what a Sontaran says?

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 3 years ago
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Oh, please, Please, PLEASE put that wobbly bowl of lard on the bike!

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Chuck [588 posts] 3 years ago
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What is Eric Pickles for? The only time I ever hear of him is when he's said something daft.

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vanmildert [50 posts] 3 years ago
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We have this 'problem' in York as mentioned by the big guy. The problem seems to be that whenever any attempt is made to re-route car traffic away from the city centre the car lobby supported by the local press are up in arms. A recent trial restricting traffic ended in failure and legal wrangling in York.

The sad fact is that cyclists are in the minority and need government support for things to change not the unhelpful attitude of Pickles et al.

Excellent comments on the European attitude to cyclists safety in another post - how can we change this in the UK?

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noether [96 posts] 3 years ago
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The present government cannot deny responsibility for promoting eh.... Sontarans to positions were they harm most. At least, this minister leaves his audiences in no doubt about his lack of problem solving capacities and political nous. Makes life so much simpler.

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IanW1968 [318 posts] 3 years ago
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Pickles a such a waste of (a lot of) space.

He's presently doing the rounds making what he's been told are vote winning noises.

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big mick [184 posts] 3 years ago
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Yes I would pay to see that fat Cun- on a bike for sure.  21

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Quince [381 posts] 3 years ago
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Yeah... he said what they said he said. Not what he said he said.

And now I don't know why 'said' is spelt like that. Looks strange. Certainly doesn't rhyme with 'maid'. English is a funny old thing...

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Quince [381 posts] 3 years ago
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Also, I'm not sure what part of 'buying a rusty old second-hand contraption composed of a few bits of welded steel' is considered 'elite'. Many of the bikes in Cambridge look as historic as the city itself. Cambridge's transport system is one of the most rustic, simple and humble I know (in England).

Is throwing the word 'elite' into the same sentence at 'Cambridge' meant to conjure up an army of anti-elitist supporters? Or will walking be considered elitist next? Or standing? Or existing in any other form than a sagging sack of potatoes, with an IQ to match?

Silly Pickles.

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Rupert [191 posts] 3 years ago
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Everybody stop being nasty to Mr Pickles  14 this man needs our help let's get him on a bike so he can lose some weight and enjoy the wonders of transportation under your own steam.

I say stop fighting Mr Pickles and start embracing Mr Pickles with love and caring. Let's all chip together and buy him a bicycle for him to enjoy.

All this anti Mr Pickles is only making things worse, lets change our ways and bring him into the fold of bike riding culture.

join the campaign

MAKE PICKLES A CYCLIST

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Huw Watkins [142 posts] 3 years ago
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Pickles and Shapps - dumb and dumber

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djcritchley [181 posts] 3 years ago
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Promoting walking, cycling and public transport is more important than trying to pit motorists against cyclists for political gain.

... so the challenge is nothing to do with political capital then.  44

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OldRidgeback [2769 posts] 3 years ago
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He's another one who ate all the pies. Yep, getting him on a bike might help his health. He must be a bit of a dimwit. Cities like Cambridge and York don't have much room for cars and keeping motorised traffic out of the centre will be better for all, as well as helping boost the local economy.

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a.jumper [849 posts] 3 years ago
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Rupert wrote:

I say stop fighting Mr Pickles and start embracing Mr Pickles with love and caring. Let's all chip together and buy him a bicycle for him to enjoy.

Mmmm, chips.

Doesn't it fail the laugh test when a grammar-school-educated minister of a Conservative government stuffed with old Etonians accuses ordinary councillors of the worker-owned Labour party of being the elite?

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drfabulous0 [408 posts] 3 years ago
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Geez, where I live only the "elite" can afford a car. Most people couldn't even afford a cargo bike, get real Pickles.

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BigDummy [314 posts] 3 years ago
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Pickles and his dog-whistle stupidity is one of several reasons I'm not a Tory, despite being a privileged and wealthy white male liberal.

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dp24 [203 posts] 3 years ago
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Fat gobshite in "not putting money where his mouth is" shocker.

What Pickles, and others, fail to understand is that cities like Cambridge were not designed for the level of car use it now sees. Sadly, their 'solution' is to pursue policies which attempt to shoehorn as many cars as possible into an inadequate space, rather than actually do something meaningful to deal with the horrendous congestion.

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Belaroo [44 posts] 3 years ago
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Cars in Cambridge should be safe, legal and RARE.
It's frightening that people like Pickles are given any access to an opinion that matters, the man is a landfill of wrong.

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allez neg [496 posts] 3 years ago
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Mmm, let's take the piss out of him 'cos he's fat. Yup, both devastatingly original and a brilliant way of gaining the intellectual and moral high ground.

That said, a train ticket to Cambridge and taxi fare across Cambridge wouldn't cost much (a local bike shop could fund it and get some publicity out of it) so his reason to decline the challenge doesn't really apply.

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bazzargh [152 posts] 3 years ago
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The link to Cambridge News is broken, there's an 'h' and ':' missing from 'http:'. I assume Pickles sold em off.

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drfabulous0 [408 posts] 3 years ago
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allez neg wrote:

Mmm, let's take the piss out of him 'cos he's fat. Yup, both devastatingly original and a brilliant way of gaining the intellectual and moral high ground.

That said, a train ticket to Cambridge and taxi fare across Cambridge wouldn't cost much (a local bike shop could fund it and get some publicity out of it) so his reason to decline the challenge doesn't really apply.

I can't help but feel that although taking the piss out of Fatty Pickles may be infantile and rude, I can still do it and retain the intellectual and moral high ground over Mr. Pickles, he's a plonker.

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Jimbonic [136 posts] 3 years ago
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Hmmm, interesting! I have, literally, just received this email from Policy Knowledge Briefings, telling me what the government - the very same government of which Mt Pickles is a distinguished luminary - are promoting:

"Cycling is a great way to keep fit, and with 70% of women and 60% of men failing to reach even the recommended minimum level of physical activity, the government are keen to promote cycling as a mainstream form of travel for all. According to the 2011 census, 741,000 people using cycling as their main form of transport for getting to work in England and Wales, however, safety concerns may be putting others off.

This timely policy briefing will provide a forum for discussion and debate on the key issues affecting cyclists in the UK and what more must be done to persuade people to cycle as their main mode of transportation.

Key topics will include:
• Creating a Cycling Revolution in Britain
• Case Study: Velocity 2025 – Transforming Cycling in Manchester
• The Health Benefits of Cycling
• Ensuring Safety on the Roads for Cyclists
• Building on the Success of the National Cycle Network"

This has done wonders to restore my faith in the consistency of government policy....

On another note, Top Gear tell me I don't work hard enough and are some sort of subhuman. Now the government is telling me I'm elite. I've never known whether to believe the government or TV, now I'm even more confused!

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northstar [1107 posts] 3 years ago
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Which is all a load of bullshit.......morons here still think they give one toss about anyone not in a motor vehicle?

Nope, you are sub human scum to them when in reality, they are the sub human scum.

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congokid [314 posts] 3 years ago
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He's not so much a Sontaran, more one of these...

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burtthebike [884 posts] 3 years ago
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Get that barrel of lard on a bike and I'll start believing in Cameron's cycling revolution! He reminds me very much of the South Glos cycling champion, similar build, same crass stupidities, drives 4x4 and doesn't ride a bike.

Politicians, say one thing, do exactly the opposite, and they wonder why we don't trust them.

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Meanredspider [21 posts] 3 years ago
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It was probably 25 years ago that a car last had the chance of beating a bike across Cambridge.

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efail [105 posts] 3 years ago
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Just started reading all of this. I had to look up the 'Sontaran' reference. I now understand.

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Suthisan [20 posts] 3 years ago
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When I was part of Pickles so-called elite, 45 years ago, bikes could beat cars as it was easy to match their speed and bikes could take short cuts.

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CumbrianDynamo [44 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

Join the campaign
MAKE PICKLES A CYCLIST

I'm pretty sure if we start a petition and get 100,000 signatures we could get that debated in parliament  4

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