Conservative MP for Don Valley Nick Fletcher is no stranger when it comes to criticising cycling infrastructure, having previously attacked 15-minute cities with conspiracy theories in Parliament before telling a disabled veteran that cycling infrastructure is "rarely used". This time, Fletcher has compared Doncaster to a "ghost town" after the unveiling of new active travel routes in the city, and condemned the transport decisions in Parliament.
Speaking at the House of Commons yesterday, Fletcher criticised the increase of active travel routes in Doncaster city centre.
He said: "Active travel is an important policy for this government. Cycle paths are one part of that programme. However, when cycle paths are designed poorly, as is the case in Doncaster, they can be detrimental to the town and to the city.
"Can we have a debate on disastrous town planning and what can be done to reverse this trend before cities like Doncaster become ghost towns?"
Leader of the House, Conservative MP Penny Mourdant, replied saying that the Government is committed to ensuring that half of all journeys in towns and cities are either "walked or cycled" by 2030, and enable more choice about how people get around.
"That's good for them, that's good for the environment. We have invested over £600 million into active travel which is a record amount of funding, with further investment coming in this financial year," she said.
"But it's only a good thing if the local authorities are spending that money well and things are being designed well," she added, before saying that she will make sure that the 'relevant department' hear Fletcher's concerns and take steps to mitigate them, as she concluded the short-lived debate.
Cycle paths, pedestrianisation and poor bus planning are slowly choking our wonderful city centre. Only a Labour council would mess up what should be a great addition to the way our community enjoys getting about for work or pleasure. 🧵2/3#decadesofneglect pic.twitter.com/4BUSJGvWcG
— Nick Fletcher MP (@NickFletcherMP) September 14, 2023
Earlier this week, Doncaster Council and South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) unveiled new active travel routes in the city centre. The £1.6 million project is aiming to provide over 800 metres of cycle lanes, linking South Parade with areas such as Bennetthorpe and Hall Gate.
Fletcher also shared his speech on Twitter, writing: "I am truly concerned about the effect badly planned and designed cycle paths are having on our town/city centre in Doncaster."
"Cycle paths, pedestrianisation and poor bus planning are slowly choking our wonderful city centre. Only a Labour council would mess up what should be a great addition to the way our community enjoys getting about for work or pleasure."
"I asked the Leader of the House today for a debate in Parliament on how to reverse this trend before our beloved Doncaster becomes a ghost town."
In February, Fletcher, the first Tory MP to represent Don Valley in Doncaster, used known conspiracy theories about 15-minute cities while speaking in Parliament. He demanded a debate on the "international socialist concept of so-called 15-minute cities", and said that the schemes could "take away our personal freedom".
"Sheffield is already on this journey and I do not want Doncaster, which is also a Labour-run socialist council, to do the same," he added to laughs and jeers in the House of Commons, but was backed by Penny Mordaunt who said concerns about these kind of policies are legitimate.
Fletcher also penned a thread on Twitter, which was fact checked by Reuters' Nick Hardinges who noted that in the case of Oxford there would not be any physical barriers in the six proposed trial zones.
A sitting MP has raised his concern over 15-minute cities while speaking in the House of Commons.
I don't know how much of a grasp @NickFletcherMP has on the concept (& the misinformation surrounding it), but I do have some fact-checks that help shed some light on it... 🧵
— Nick Hardinges (@NickHardinges) February 10, 2023
And then a few months later in May, he was once again a part of controversy after claiming that cycling infrastructure in his Doncaster constituency is "rarely used" and "takes away from drivers and pedestrians".
The reply came after a road.cc reader had sent Mr Fletcher one of Cycling UK's pre-written letters regarding funding for local cycling infrastructure.
In the letter, the MP said that he "would have to disagree that the cycling needs of the residents of Doncaster are being ignored" and that the city centre is "filled" with infrastructure that is not used and "takes away" from other road users.
"I am a disabled veteran," the reader who had sent the letter to Fletcher told road.cc. "Previously, in 2022, I had written to Mr Fletcher regarding problems with disabled scooter and wheelchair access to certain parks and recreational grounds in the village where I live. A letter which Mr Fletcher simply chose to ignore.
"This time Mr Fletcher found the time to reply to my letter. Please note that Mr Fletcher has never been seen riding a bicycle anywhere in the district and doesn't give any evidence supporting in his reply!"
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after completing his masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He also covers local and national politics for Voice Wales, and sometimes writes about science, tech and the environment. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him riding his bike on the scenic routes, fighting his urge to stop pedalling and click photographs (apparently not because he's bonking).