Eric Pickles turns down Cambridge councillors' car vs bike challenge

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

by Simon_MacMichael   April 23, 2014  

Eric Pickles

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.”

33 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

What is Eric Pickles for? The only time I ever hear of him is when he's said something daft.

posted by Chuck [458 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 20:04


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?

posted by vanmildert [56 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 20:56


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.

The entropy of the universe increases constantly. Carpe diem.

posted by noether [92 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 20:59


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.

posted by IanW1968 [220 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 22:41


Yes I would pay to see that fat Cun- on a bike for sure. Laughing

big mick

posted by big mick [201 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 23:07


What a fat c**t.


posted by Airzound [638 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 23:43


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...

posted by Quince [284 posts]
24th April 2014 - 0:37


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.

posted by Quince [284 posts]
24th April 2014 - 0:49


Everybody stop being nasty to Mr Pickles Angry 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


Rupert's picture

posted by Rupert [138 posts]
24th April 2014 - 5:52


Pickles and Shapps - dumb and dumber

posted by Huw Watkins [84 posts]
24th April 2014 - 8:05


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. Liar

djcritchley's picture

posted by djcritchley [164 posts]
24th April 2014 - 8:26


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.


posted by OldRidgeback [2428 posts]
24th April 2014 - 8:42


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?

posted by a.jumper [770 posts]
24th April 2014 - 9:15


Geez, where I live only the "elite" can afford a car. Most people couldn't even afford a cargo bike, get real Pickles.

posted by drfabulous0 [404 posts]
24th April 2014 - 9:32


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.

posted by BigDummy [305 posts]
24th April 2014 - 10:33


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.

posted by dp24 [196 posts]
24th April 2014 - 10:52


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.

posted by Belaroo [44 posts]
24th April 2014 - 12:19


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.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
24th April 2014 - 13:48


The link to Cambridge News is broken, there's an 'h' and ':' missing from 'http:'. I assume Pickles sold em off.

posted by bazzargh [146 posts]
24th April 2014 - 14:18


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.

posted by drfabulous0 [404 posts]
25th April 2014 - 10:58


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!

posted by Jimbonic [115 posts]
25th April 2014 - 12:54


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.

posted by northstar [1113 posts]
25th April 2014 - 13:11


He's not so much a Sontaran, more one of these...


posted by congokid [194 posts]
25th April 2014 - 16:33


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.


posted by burtthebike [91 posts]
25th April 2014 - 20:14


It was probably 25 years ago that a car last had the chance of beating a bike across Cambridge.

posted by Meanredspider [13 posts]
25th April 2014 - 21:01


Just started reading all of this. I had to look up the 'Sontaran' reference. I now understand.

posted by efail [49 posts]
25th April 2014 - 22:22


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.

posted by Suthisan [11 posts]
26th April 2014 - 5:21

1 Like

Join the campaign

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

posted by timfearn [20 posts]
26th April 2014 - 7:58


If you ever wondered what the fall of the Roman empire was like, I think looking at Britain today might give you an idea.

It seems like government just can't act decisively. Any solutions to obvious problems are explained in a way that tries to convince you with subterfuge. It gets rather tedious after a while.

I'll be glad when the oil runs out, survival of the fittest indeed!

posted by ronin [211 posts]
26th April 2014 - 9:07


Pickles refused the car versus bike challenge. I think the challenge should be run with a tub of lard used to represent Pickles. There is a precedent for this.

Have I Got News For You substituted a tub of Lard for Roy Hattersley when he failed to attend the show.

posted by Recumbenteer [155 posts]
26th April 2014 - 12:02