Sheffield MP Louise Haigh explains cycling comments after backlash over interview
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A Sheffieldhttps://www.thestar.co.uk/ MP has explained her controversial comments on cycling, 20mph zones and other motoring restrictions, including a 'light-hearted joke' which appears to have backfired.
Louise Haigh, the MP for Sheffield Heeley, and Labour's shadow transport secretary, spoke to the Independent in a wide-ranging interview which touched on issues ranging from her past support for Jeremy Corbyn, the Gaza crisis and the Government's decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2.
But it was her comments about the introduction of 20mph zones and other motoring restrictions, aimed at getting more people walking and cycling, which have perhaps proved most contentious.
She reportedly described how the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had 'demeaned himself' by claiming Labour was waging a war on motorists.
Ms Haigh was quoted as saying that many of the councils facing criticism for introducing low-traffic neighbourhoods and 20mph limits were Tory-run, and insisting it was a matter for local people to decide on the appropriate measures where they live.
'No Whitehall diktat'
There would be 'no Whitehall diktat from a Labour government that people should walk or cycle more', the article added.
It described how Ms Haigh drives a petrol Nissan Juke and quoted her as replying when asked whether she cycles: "God no, have you been to Sheffield?"
The cycling website road.cc reported how her comments had dismayed some cyclists and road safety campaigner.
Critics included Dr Robert Davis, the chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum, quoted by road.cc as saying 'this would make Labour less responsible than [Boris] Johnson's government'.
'Active travel essential for economic growth'
Ms Haigh has now explained her comments further, telling The Star: "Active travel including cycling and walking is essential for economic growth and every pound invested delivers a huge return in benefits.
"The Prime Minister wants to dictate to local communities where they should and shouldn't have schemes that boost active travel. Labour believe 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."
Regarding her response to the question about whether she cycles, she added: "I was making a light hearted joke about being unfit and the size of Sheffield's hills."
So-called 'active travel neighbourhoods' have been implemented in the Sheffield neighbourhoods of Crookes and Walkley, and Nether Edge, provoking controversy in those areas.
In September some of the changes introduced in those suburbs, including changes to vehicle access and no-waiting zones, were made permanent. But one road was reopened to motor vehicles after its closure had proved particularly controversial.