Soubry: On Yer Bike!

Oh Jeez, she’s at it again. After being relative quiet in foot/mouth interfacing our ‘Voice in Westminster ‘ (yes, she really used to say that! Imagine!), Anna Soubry has launched back onto the scene with another  splutter of mouth-guff.

This time it’s around cycling. Let’s get some background out first. Cycling is, right now, seeing something of a renaissance in Notts. Petrol prices are constantly on the rise; the tram works mean it’s often quicker to pedal rather than drive, and hey, that Bradley Wiggins bloke seems like a nice guy, yeah?

We also have a rich history here: not just Raleigh in Lenton, but Beeston had Humber Cycles, which drove many innovations that led to the sort of bikes we have now. Beeston Road Club has been active for over 60 years, with Olympic and Commonwealth medal winners amongst it’s ranks, as well as Sir Paul Smith, who still keeps ties with the club.

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Two Local Icons

So does Anna support this? After all, for all those impoverished fatties out there she can’t stop seeing, it must be ideal: lose weight! Save money! Let’s see what she said when in front of the parliamentary Get Britain Cycling Inquiry:

[Cycling] is just, often, a great way to travel. But I think we just have to accept the limitations of it. And I’ll just say that I never ever even considered taking one of my children on a bike. I lived in Nottingham for the vast majority of my life. Even though we have cycle lanes, you must be joking. I would not put a child on a bicycle in the city of Nottingham. I just don’t think I could have been that brave, or courageous. And the lanes weren’t extensive enough.

Let’s ignore the fact that Anna once again seems to think she’s MP for Nottingham, rather than Broxtowe. She still lives in Nottingham, popping here by her rather large car when she senses a photo-op, so it’s an easy mistake to make. We’ll also put aside the tautology. Let’s deal with the meat of this.

Anna’s position in the government is to speak out on public health. The role means that she should be looking for ways to improve public health in general. An easy way to do this is to promote cycling. She should be lobbying the transport department to fund better cycling access, throw her weight behind workplace cycling initiatives and possibly get in the saddle herself.

I’ve cycled extensively in Nottingham: I commuted there and back daily for several years. I agree that the paths – especially along Castle Boulevard leave a fair bit to be desired, but generally we’re well served. The greatest dangers were idiot drivers using bus lanes. Then Soubs said something that I simply do not believe:

And I’m just thinking that, in a way… I used to make my daughters walk to school. It was very simple, I just refused to drive them there. And this is in the city of Nottingham. And in many ways I think I would have been more concerned about their safety if they had cycled to school, than walking to school. I’m not saying I’m right to feel that, but as a mum looking back, I think that would be right.

A few years back, a fellow Girl’s High School pupil told me how she’d get lifts home with the Soubry children from school and netball practise: and frequently stop to castigate prostitutes for plying their trade on Forest Road. I digress, however.

I think that if you want to lead the sort of lives that most people do, which is when you have to go and do supermarket runs, I’ve never understood how you’re going to do all that [by bike]… So I think you’ve got to look at its limitations as an alternative to public transport, or cars, and so on.

Politicians really enjoy broad-strokes, don’t they? Yes, Anna. I don’t expect you to draft legislation forcing everybody to travel on bikes EVERYWHERE , ALL THE TIME. I don’t want you to make panniers compulsory, or it mandatory to carry around a puncture repair kit at all times. What I would like you to do is support and promote cycling, see how it can be made safer, more accessible and widespread. As the Minister for Public Health, you should be pointing out the simple equation:

cycling

Y’know, promote it, rather than scaremonger.

Many thanks to Rish for the tip-off .