Norman Tebbit, the Conservative MP and Peer whose father found work by getting on his bike, suggested an annual MPs’ bike ride was cancelled, calling it a “foolish exhibition” likely to increase congestion and pollution.
Baron Tebbit wrote the letter to Ruth Cadbury MP (Lab), in response to an invitation to the annual event, in which Parliamentarians ride less than three miles from the Dutch Embassy to Parliament.
Cadbury, who is the co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, shared the letter on Twitter, with the comment "'On your bike' Tebbit objected to our invitation to join us on yesterdays annual Parliamentary bike ride".
In a letter dated 24 May 2016, Tebbit wrote: “I was sorry to read in your recent circular of your proposal to increase peak hour traffic congestion in central London on Wednesday 8 June.
“Not only is that a nuisance, but by increasing congestion it will increase pollution.
“I suggest you cancel this foolish exhibition.”
Commenting on Tebbit's letter to Ruth Cadbury MP, Sam Jones, Cycling UK campaigner suggested perhaps Tebbit had misunderstood the letter as a suggestion to drive, rather than cycle, to Parliament.
He said: "Lord Tebbit famously encouraged people looking for work to "get on your bike", so we hope he supports Cycling UK's plan for Bike Week starting this Saturday. We're looking to do exactly this and help get over half a million more people onto their bikes and out of polluting vehicles on their daily commute.
"I can only presume that he misread Ruth Cadbury's circular, and thought she was suggesting driving from the Dutch Embassy to Westminster. Hopefully he'll be able to join his fellow Parliamentarians, the Dutch Embassy and Cycling UK next year on the ride and realise his mistake - we'll happily supply him with a bike if he needs one!"
Tebbit was popularly known as “onyerbike” for some considerable time after the 1981 Brixton and Handsworth riots.
Tebbits had responded to a suggestion rioting was a natural reaction to unemployment by saying: “I grew up in the '30s with an unemployed father. He didn't riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking till he found it.”
However, the peer's feelings toward the bicycle seem to be less warm of late. Last week he sent a written question to Parliament, apparently concerned about law-breaking cyclists giving false addresses.
His question was: “To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they ensure that the identity and addresses given by cyclists being issued with fixed penalty notices are not false.”
In response Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon pointed out the application of powers to request an individual’s identity is an operational matter for police.
The Annual MPs bike ride launches Bike Week, which this year runs 11-19 June. Cycling UK says half a million people will take to two wheels across the UK, in a host of events designed to encourage people onto two wheels, from bike breakfasts to buddy ride events. To find out more, click here.