Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Former health minister Thérèse Coffey claims plan to boost cycling and walking is "anti-driver"

The Tory politician who briefly served as deputy prime minister to Liz Truss opposed the £5m active travel scheme in her constituency, claiming it "fails to deliver and antagonises", and the "woefully bad" consultation "would be deemed unlawful" in court...

Thérèse Coffey, the Conservative politician who for a brief period during the autumn of 2022 served as health secretary during Liz Truss' stint as prime minister, has lashed out at an active travel project in her Suffolk constituency, claiming that it is "anti-driver".

Ms Coffey suggested the £5 million of funding for the Woodbridge active travel scheme would be better spent providing cycling proficiency courses at local schools, improving crossing points for pedestrians and cyclists, and repairing road and pavement surfaces, Suffolk News reports.

Woodbridge active travel project (Beta Streets/Suffolk County Council)

[📷: BetaStreets/Suffolk County Council]

Suffolk County Council says the proposals, including a 20mph zone, shared-use paths, modal filters and footpath improvements, have been designed using a public consultation, stakeholder engagement and analysis of traffic data, in a bid to "to make Woodbridge's streets better-connected and more people-friendly".

> Motorists furious at width of £1.2m cycle lane project claim "utterly absurd" scheme an "attack on your right to drive a car"

"We want to make it easier to choose more active ways of getting around. Increased active travel has been shown to benefit mental and physical health, improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion and noise pollution, and increase safety," the project's website states alongside artist's impressions of how the completed scheme could look.

However, Ms Coffey weighed in on the scheme to suggest that "active travel should support those who want to walk and cycle more readily, but should not be anti-driver", before questioning the consultation.

Woodbridge active travel project (Beta Streets/Suffolk County Council)

"Pretty much every proposal fails to deliver and antagonises rather than encourages," she said. "The survey to gather feedback is woefully bad. It does not set out clearly the different options being considered. I expect it would be deemed unlawful if taken to court. I would consider this consultation to be so bad that it needs to be done again, allowing people to comment far more readily on the proposals being made, including being able to keep a copy of the comments provided."

Woodbridge active travel project (Beta Streets/Suffolk County Council)

The consultation closed on 9 April, Suffolk County Council reporting that it had received over 2,100 responses, with the results and next steps to be made available in the "summer of 2024".

The "anti-driver" rhetoric of Ms Coffey's criticism has become fairly typical of political figures from the party she represents, the Conservatives' party conference last autumn hearing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Mark Harper talk of the so-called "war on motorists" and that they are "proudly pro-car".

> 'The War on the Motorist' deconstructed — looking at the truth behind the myths

Cycling UK expressed disappointment with the strategy, accusing the Conservatives of an "ill-fated attempt to win" votes with pro-motoring policies "undermining" active travel success".

Likewise, Active Travel Commissioner Chris Boardman urged Sunak to "stick with" policies promoting "fantastic" active travel plans. Boardman also admitted that the language of the Prime Minister's announcement, which called schemes such as low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and 20mph zones "hare-brained" and committed to "slamming the brakes on the war on motorists", was "not the language I would choose" and called on the government to also announce "sensational active travel policy".

"It would be good if these things were said at the same time, in my view," Boardman said. "When you're doing just this one thing it doesn't show that that's important here, so I'd like to see them rolled out at the same time to get balance. Everybody wants their kids to be safe, we need to make sure that that's been spoken to, and it's actually in there in the policy, but it hasn't been pushed up front."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

Add new comment

43 comments

Avatar
Hirsute | 1 month ago
5 likes

" Active travel schemes only appear to some to be anti driver because pretty much every other road scheme is anti active travel. "

Avatar
lio | 1 month ago
6 likes

Fake news!  That last picture is from Wellesley Road in Ipswich not Woodbridge.

https://www.google.com/maps/@52.0555374,1.1771637,3a,75y,29.86h,80.12t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sTXs2aT2XhjAkmoTshQr2EA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?coh=205409&entry=ttu

What is Road.cc trying to pull?  When the beige cravats and pearl clutchers in Woodbridge find out you've compared them to Ipswich there'll be hell to pay!  10

(...also Coffey out!)

Avatar
sheridan replied to lio | 1 month ago
1 like

Thanks - I knew that didn't look right for Woodbridge!

Avatar
stonojnr replied to lio | 1 month ago
1 like

Both the pics are from Ipswich, the other modal filter is just off Valley Road.

Only the artists impressions are from Woodbridge

Avatar
mattw | 1 month ago
8 likes

Theresa Coffey is an unevolved dinosaur, and a patsy for partisan  interest groups.

She was the one who brought back measures to end the right to claim historic Public Rights of Way from a deadline date, ignoring consultation and at 5 days notice.

https://www.oss.org.uk/coffey-kowtows-to-landowners-and-destroys-public-...

Current polling is predicting a good chance of her being placed in the dustbin of history at the next election. But it is not a marginal.

Avatar
eburtthebike | 1 month ago
6 likes

"......deputy prime minister to Liz Truss......"

As the ancient Chinese proverb says "Who is the biggest fool, the fool who leads or the fools who follow?"

Anyone dumb enough to even serve in Truss's cabinet is olympic grade fool, and one who was dumb enough to be deputy PM to her is gold medal material.

Avatar
brooksby replied to eburtthebike | 1 month ago
2 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

As the ancient Chinese proverb says "Who is the biggest fool, the fool who leads or the fools who follow?"

I thought it was Obi-Wan Kenobi? 

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 1 month ago
4 likes

brooksby wrote:

eburtthebike wrote:

As the ancient Chinese proverb says "Who is the biggest fool, the fool who leads or the fools who follow?"

I thought it was Obi-Wan Kenobi? 

Now that's a name I've not heard in a long time

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to brooksby | 1 month ago
1 like

brooksby wrote:

eburtthebike wrote:

As the ancient Chinese proverb says "Who is the biggest fool, the fool who leads or the fools who follow?"

I thought it was Obi-Wan Kenobi? 

He did have Chinese ancestors.

Avatar
Pub bike | 1 month ago
11 likes

It is understandable that people who aren't healthy don't understand about the benefits of being healthy and maintaining physical health, and how that can be useful for just getting around without being utterly dependent on having a car.

Likewise these people shouldn't be put in charge of national policy related to health including active travel, even for a short while.

Avatar
stonojnr | 1 month ago
11 likes

Id love to know what she thinks is anti driver about these plans.

Two modal filters, darent even call them LTNs anymore, on minor roads, a kind of cycle route which maybe a very local local desire line route, it does nothing for cyclists trying to pass through Woodbridge, an improved pedestrian/cycling crossing of the very type shes espousing, and some 20mph limits, again on minor residential roads and around schools, exactly where you need them.

its not exactly ground breaking cycling infra, just a few more signs, bit of paint and a couple of extra bollards, how in the hell can you complain about that ?

Avatar
FionaJJ replied to stonojnr | 1 month ago
6 likes

I think the official Conservative campaign strategy is policy is to complain about anything and everything of this nature, no matter how irrational, in the hope most people won't check if it's daft, and keep the media and voters distracted from the long list of things they've messed up. 

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to FionaJJ | 1 month ago
2 likes

FionaJJ wrote:

I think the official Conservative campaign strategy is policy is to complain about anything and everything of this nature, no matter how irrational, in the hope most people won't check if it's daft, and keep the media and voters distracted from the long list of things they've messed up. 

Yep, reality doesn't seem to be very kind to the Tories

Avatar
Argos74 | 1 month ago
15 likes

Ah, Thérèse. Approaching irrelevancy like her leadout train has just fallen away. She's so gammon, she's more uncomfortable with pineapple than an Italian in a pizzeria.

Avatar
ubercurmudgeon | 1 month ago
20 likes

She defended Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch even as they were closing down the News of the World during the phone hacking scandal.

She campaigned for Brexit.

She continued to believe and support the liar Boris Johnson even when most of the rest of his cabinet had resigned.

She ran the leadership campaign for the clearly certifiable Liz Truss and became her deputy PM.

She said people should eat turnips and work extra hours while inflation was skyrocketing and she was the minister for food.

With a track record of sound judgement like that, she is just the person to listen to on active travel infrastructure.

Avatar
mitsky replied to ubercurmudgeon | 1 month ago
5 likes

And on abortion...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%A9r%C3%A8se_Coffey

"In June 2022, Coffey said that, as a practising Catholic, she opposed abortion but did not condemn those who have an abortion. She had previously tabled a motion in 2010 calling for mental health assessments for those seeking abortion, and she also voted against extending abortion rights to people in Northern Ireland. Her views on abortion were criticised by Clare Murphy, CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service."

Avatar
lesterama | 1 month ago
16 likes

She's friends with Liz Truss, the clown former PM who said in her latest book that plenty of environmentalsists are watermelons: green on the outside and red (ie socialist) on the inside. Nuff said.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to lesterama | 1 month ago
17 likes

lesterama wrote:

She's friends with Liz Truss, the clown former PM who said in her latest book that plenty of environmentalsists are watermelons: green on the outside and red (ie socialist) on the inside. Nuff said.

https://newsthump.com/2024/04/16/donald-trump-left-devastated-after-receiving-endorsement-from-woman-who-lost-to-a-lettuce/

Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has been left questioning his future in politics after earning a ringing endorsement from Liz Truss, a politician synonymous with abject failure and having her premiership outlived by a lettuce.

Avatar
IanMK replied to lesterama | 1 month ago
1 like
lesterama wrote:

She's friends with Liz Truss, the clown former PM who said in her latest book that plenty of environmentalsists are watermelons: green on the outside and red (ie socialist) on the inside. Nuff said.

Does red equate to progressive. It's difficult to imagine plans to save the planet that aren't going to be seen as radical by a political party that admit to being conservative. I'm happy to be proved wrong.

Avatar
mattw replied to lesterama | 1 month ago
1 like

TBF close together constituencies.

Avatar
lesterama replied to mattw | 1 month ago
0 likes

So close that Liz gave Therese the Deputy PM role.

Avatar
chrisonabike | 1 month ago
8 likes

road.cc wrote:

Ms Coffey suggested the £5 million of funding for the Woodbridge active travel scheme would be better spent providing cycling proficiency courses at local schools, improving crossing points for pedestrians and cyclists, and repairing road and pavement surfaces, [...]

This is pretty much the "encouraging cycling" of the last n decades in the UK.  It involves "soft" measures*, seeks to divide things between walking and cycling ("let them fight over scraps") and additionally seeks to divert some of the little funding provided away from active travel to motoring (fixing the potholes).

In fact merely getting more people choosing to walk or cycle is actually a boon for ... other drivers!  Those who are "pro car" should be welcoming this (see e.g. frequently supportive and sensible communications from the president of the AA).

* e.g. that do helpful things like training children - but then not providing any place for them *to* cycle, or addressing the fact that cycling is still seen as a children's recreational activity by many adults.  Also: measures which don't address the issues that people don't feel safe when cycling because motor traffic and that cycling is inconvenient, you're pushed to do it in a less-than social way etc.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to chrisonabike | 1 month ago
8 likes

road.cc wrote:

However, Ms Coffey weighed in on the scheme to suggest that "active travel should support those who want to walk and cycle more readily, but should not be anti-driver", before questioning the consultation.

"Pretty much every proposal fails to deliver and antagonises rather than encourages," [...]

"Fails to deliver" would be a good description of the kind of "active travel support" she's proposing.  We know this, because we've been doing it (or not doing nearly enough) for decades.  And it hasn't delivered anything apart from rubbish infra, bungs to local road contractors, conflict with pedestrians and even more more driving.

She is far from unique in this (and it's not just Conservative groups peddling this line either).

It's a paradox isn't it?  As we put proportionally more and more money into the roads, and less into e.g. public transport and peanuts into "active travel" ... we got more driving.  And more congestion - somehow we never quite reached the utopia they showed us in the car ads...

As for "it's anti-driver" - our governments, local authorities, culture and (after some generations) even built environments are overwhelmingly set up to depend on and reinforce mass driving.  Heck - the activity is ultimately subsidised (as in drivers are not covering the total costs of their activity).

Merely suggesting this presents some problems or that we as drivers would benefit from supporting other modes is seen as an attack.  (Seems this is often the case with powerful "majorities" - they're very insecure or touchy!)

However - there is truth in that if we want to address some of the negatives of our motorised society we will have to take measures which many drivers will initially see as a loss or deprivation.  I don't believe we can get change just by adding "nice things" without troubling motorists.  Because motoring is so expensive, space-inefficient and ultimately suppresses other modes.

Avatar
FionaJJ replied to chrisonabike | 1 month ago
6 likes

As the saying goes, "when you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression".

We have become so used to a world built to prioritise driving, that all but the most self-aware will bristle a bit at what appears to be their sacrifice when it comes to sharing public space.

If we are walking and need to cross a busy a street we are used to waiting for the geen man to appear. But as drivers a red light for a pedestrian crossing is something that is making us late.

Avatar
Hirsute | 1 month ago
4 likes

No concept of choice about how to get about. At least we didn't get 'micromanaging people' to walk and cycle as I have read elsewhere. As if only providing roads for motor vehicles to the detriment of people who want to walk and cycle isn't micromanaging.

Avatar
Legin | 1 month ago
3 likes

It's a little known fact that she models her persona on that 1970's toy, "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down".

Avatar
bikeman01 | 1 month ago
3 likes

She looks healthy.

Avatar
IanMK replied to bikeman01 | 1 month ago
6 likes

She has a degree in Chemistry but when she was secretary of State for DEFRA she was asked in an interview what she was doing to reduce her own carbon footprint all she could come up with was recycling. Yes because that's going to save the planet. No leadership whatsoever. She's disingenous and dangerous. 

Avatar
Hirsute replied to IanMK | 1 month ago
12 likes

//pbs.twimg.com/media/Fr0P7i8WYAIWEj_?format=jpg&name=small)

Pages

Latest Comments