The shadow transport secretary and Labour Party MP for Sheffield Heeley, Louise Haigh, has addressed criticism from cyclists, campaigners and road safety figures that followed her interview comments about active travel policies, 20mph speed limits and low-traffic neighbourhoods.
Speaking to The Star, Haigh insisted that active travel is "essential for economic growth" and "every pound invested delivers a huge return in benefits", before outlining her stance that Labour "believes it is for local communities to decide" if active travel schemes are suitable, something the Conservatives and prime minister Rishi Sunak have wanted to "dictate to local communities".
"Active travel including cycling and walking is essential for economic growth and every pound invested delivers a huge return in benefits," she said. "The prime minister wants to dictate to local communities where they should and shouldn't have schemes that boost active travel. Labour believes it is for local communities to decide and Westminster should be there to support sensible decisions on boosting active travel, reducing congestion and improving communities."
The comments follow on from her previous words on the issue, in which Haigh said the PM had "demeaned himself" by saying the Labour Party would pursue a war on motorists, argued many of the most-criticised councils that had implemented unpopular schemes were Conservative-run local authorities, and said that if elected there would be no Labour Party diktat that people should walk or cycle more.
Now, she also revisited her answer to the question about if she is a cyclist, to which Haigh originally replied, "God no, have you been to Sheffield?" Suggesting this was just "a light-hearted joke", the shadow transport secretary said it had more to do with her "being unfit and the size of Sheffield's hills".
The answer might not convince all of the critics, many of whom expressed disappointment at the fact the person potentially next to be tasked with heading the government on issues of transport is seemingly unaware of the benefits and accessibility boosts e-bikes can provide.
One reply to her original comments asked: "For god's sake can an e-bike manufacturer please make sure everyone in government or future government has actually tried one and found out for themselves how great they are and how cheap to run?"
While Dr Robert Davis, the Chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum said "this would make Labour less responsible than [Boris] Johnson's government", another person sharing the original article said, with more than a touch of sarcasm, that it was "inspirational stuff from our next transport minister".
Leicestershire Loves Cycling, a campaign group for cycling in the county, added that nobody wants to force everyone to walk or cycle, just that walking and cycling should be enabled to be "the most attractive options for short journeys".
The outlook came as a disappointment to many hoping to see the poll-leading Labour Party take a big step away from the rhetoric of the current government, heard at last month's Conservative Party Conference as Rishi Sunak and transport secretary Mark Harper outlined a 'Plan for Motorists' to end the so-called war on motorists.
Cycling UK accused the Tories of an "ill-fated attempt to win" votes with pro-motoring policies that would risk "undermining" active travel success after a party conference full of words promoting driving-friendly policies and a sparse outing for active travel.
A week later, to the backdrop of Labour's turn to host a conference, the cycling charity called for the party to "demonstrate bravery" by making its new homes plan active travel-focused, ditching "roads-only network" and reliance on cars.
"Labour has promised a decade of national renewal, including building 1.5 million new homes," Sarah McMonagle, director of external affairs at Cycling UK, said in a statement following Starmer's conference speech.
"These new neighbourhoods will also need transport options fit for the future, not the roads-only network that typifies so many recent large housing developments, leaving people with no option but to rely on cars.
"These new homes must have excellent links to public transport, be close to the services people need, and designed and planned so that walking or cycling for short journeys are obvious, safe, and attractive options for most people. Planning permission shouldn't be granted without these elements designed in.
"But we needed to hear more from Louise Haigh about Labour's long-term plans for transport – in particular, taking into account the needs of people and families who don't have access to a car.
"Keir Starmer mentioned the need for bravery, and we now need Labour to demonstrate that bravery by setting out the party's plans for a transport future that gives more people real opportunities to walk or cycle short journeys. That's a far better way to tackle the cost-of-living and climate crises, but also to massively improve our health, wealth, and well-being."
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.