Hosted by David Bernstein & Carlton Reid since 2006 Posts

November 22, 2021 / / Blog

22nd November 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 287: Chris Froome and Hammerhead CEO Pieter Morgan


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Chris Froome and Pieter Morgan

TOPICS: Chris Froome’s investment in Pieter Morgan’s Hammerhead.



Next Ventures


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 287 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Monday 22nd of November 2021.

David Bernstein 0:25
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information, check out our website at And now, here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:10
There probably won’t be any Froomey branded bikes but Chris Froome is clearly thinking about his bicycling life after he retires from the pro peleton. I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show I talk with the four-times Tour de France winner about one of his several bike industry investments. Along for today’s chat was Chris’s school mate Pieter Morgan who co-founded the bike tech company, Hammerhead.

Carlton Reid 1:10
Hammerhead’s Karoo 2 cycling computer was designed and developed during the pandemic and has experienced strong sales since it launched last year. Chris Froome isn’t the only maillot jeune wearer to have invested in Hammerhead, although he’s the only one that’s still officially got the jerseys. The company has so far raised $14 million in seed funding half of that from Next Ventures, a sports and wellness investment house co-founded by ex-Nike executive Mel Strong and a certain Lance Armstrong. Let’s hear from Chris and Pieter…

Carlton Reid 2:20
So Pieter, I want to start with you. I’m imagine I’m a prospective investor, not necessarily as tech savvy as Chris over there, but give me your elevator pitch on your company. And perhaps you know, the halo product, Karoo 2?

Pieter Morgan 2:38
Sure. Well, I’m excited to be chatting to you guys today. And you know, I think my perspective for a long time has been that if you look at the bikes of today, the physical bicycle, the technology that goes into it is really outstandingly cutting edge, whether it’s aerodynamics, or material science, or, you know, the way that they’ve been able to create something is spectacularly light to some of the performance bicycles of today. But the thing that’s always been extremely absent, in my opinion, or at least lagging in technology has been the digital experience on the bike. So if you look at the world of cycle computers today, the majority of them use technology that’s very antiquated. And they certainly don’t resemble a lot of the other digital products that we’re getting more and more accustomed to in our lives. So if you look at the, certainly the digital experience, and let’s say, a Tesla car, or, obviously the iPad and its ecosystem, it really is a much more modern and capable and powerful digital experience. And so my view has been that by bringing a more modern, powerful, capable digital platform to the bike, there’s a huge opportunity to use the software then to solve a lot of the most important and challenging problems for cyclists. And you know, one area, for example, is in Maps Navigation. So by building a computer that’s as powerful as ours is, we’re able to start to deliver much more insightful and powerful maps navigation experience, which ultimately put cyclists on much safer routes. It allows cyclists like Chris, who are racing in major races to start to get some insight around the road ahead. So upcoming climbs and elevation and things like that. And so where we are in the journey is we’re building this computer we have recently shipped it, I guess earlier this year, we started shipping, the crew two, which is the current generation. And we’re really excited about the fact that we see a huge future of software and functionality that we are currently working on and currently building so we’re shipping software every two weeks. We have some really exciting features and functionality coming down the pipeline and and really excited about it all. So I’d say that’s the the story in a nutshell.

Carlton Reid 4:46
I’ll have to turn mine back on to it must have been a good week ago since I’ve been I’ve been using it so turn it back on I might get some updates. That’s cool. Chris, you are investor. So tell me why did you invest and also perhaps, what the Karoo actually does for you that maybe other GPS handlebar devices don’t.

Chris Froome 5:12
Right? Yeah, um, I think first

Chris Froome 5:14
and foremost, just taking a step back. I mean, obviously I’ve had had a decent length career in cycling. I’ve been a professional for the last 13 years. And I’ve always, almost almost continuing on from what Piet was saying, I’ve always felt that it just doesn’t make sense that the information we’re getting on the head units and basically how the head units display the information has been basically instilled in the stone age’s. When everyone’s got smartphones, everyone’s I mean, the technology does exist out there. And it just doesn’t, hasn’t until now hadn’t been transferred into that, like into the cycling market. So I think when when when I first saw the crew to launch, first got my hands on it started using it, I was just I was blown away, I was just like, this is a completely different experience from from anything else I’d used on the market. And I think that’s when I wanted to get more involved with the company. I mean, just it started off I guess from from a team point of view, making the introduction to isn Israel startup nation. Where Hammerhead now who Hammerhead now has a relationship with and obviously they supply all our all our head units for racing. But then more than that, I wanted to be involved in giving feedback, giving them basically the information of exactly what we wanted to see, while we’re on the road racing and training, obviously. And I think that’s, that’s where discussions sort of picked up about how I could get more involved in the company. And yeah, I mean, there was there was an opportunity for me to to invest and that was, yeah, I mean, I think I jumped at it. I felt felt as if it was a great match. I mean, I I do love my my tech my I love my equipment. I love tech I love I love everything to do with riding a bike and if it’s if it’s if it’s going to help help the cause

Carlton Reid 7:30
You like looking down at your handlebars, you’re kind of famous for ‘what’s Chris looking at now’ ‘oh, he’s looking at stats and stuff.

Chris Froome 7:41
So that’s a bit of a misconception. Yeah, I mean, I think I’ve got quite rounded shoulders. So naturally, my gaze is just in that direction. It’s not that I’m actually staring at anything. But I mean, it does help obviously having good information to look at then it does give me something to look at. But it’s, I find it actually quite uncomfortable to lift my head higher. So it’s, yeah, a little little misconception there.

Carlton Reid 8:07
Oh, right. Okay, that’s news to me. Thank you. And then Pieter, tell us about how you started this company. Because it’s it’s a bike ride across America. With your your business partner. Now, Lawrence. So what were you in Lawrence doing riding across America for a start?

Pieter Morgan 8:24
So yeah, so certainly the I’ll start a little bit before that even and then I’ll get to that story. So I grew up in South Africa, as I think you may know. And Chris and I actually went to high school together in Johannesburg. So we had known each other from Johannesburg, and the high school kind of cycling club, if you will, so. So my love for cycling, it goes back a very long time. And I came over to the United States for university. And it was actually one summer then in college when I rode from New Haven and on the east coast of the United States to San Francisco. And Lawrence actually wasn’t on that ride. He came to the States a little bit after that, but that ride was was really quite informative for me, because I spent 63 consecutive days on the bike, you know, riding across the states, we took a very roundabout route, if you’re trying to figure out why it took me so long. But, but it was a it was really a spectacular trip, I think we averaged a little bit over 100 ks a day. So nothing too crazy, but a fair amount of riding. And it was during that experience that I was struck by just how important it is to get navigation rights on the bike the trip, tragically, actually. So the trip actually took place, I think for two or three years. And there actually, I think two people killed on the trip, you know, in accidents with vehicles, which obviously was very tragic. And you know, that experience combined with just my own challenges of, you know, some days finding ourselves on interstate highways and you know, places that aren’t optimised for cycling really left me with this profound sense of just how important it is. To solve navigation for cyclists, and that then became obviously a broader mission now with a crew computer. And Lauren’s my co founder, actually went to the same high school that Chris and I did in South Africa. And he had come over to the United States for graduate school. And fortunately, he and I had complementary skill sets. So he also was a passionate cyclist, and we joined forces moved into a small house together and started building the first product. So we jumped right into it and, you know, have been able to, I guess, build on early successes and you know, get to where we are today.

Carlton Reid 10:34
Can I ask a really techie, non-cycling techie question here? And that is mapping. Why in the UK, and I’m sure everywhere else, it’s perfect. But why in the UK, do you not use OS mapping?

Pieter Morgan 10:47
So it’s interesting, the so dependent obviously, mapping around the world is quite idiosyncratic meaning each country has its own. Its own mapping realities and a country like, certainly your city like London, let’s say the roads are obviously very ancient and very, very higgledy Higgledy Piggledy, as a result, as compared to say, a city like New York, which is much more of a grid pattern layout. So each, each city has its own idiosyncrasies. There’s obviously also a variety of different data sets that are either good in one country, but might not be good another. So if you look at say, the Waze product for certainly car navigation, it performed spectacularly in some regions, and will outperform Google Maps in some areas, whereas in other countries, it will really not know where it’s going. And so we have the same reality in terms of our product, we are using the OSM base map globally, although that is, you know, and that’s the open, you know, open street maps product as the base dataset. But what we’re doing on top of that is then, essentially developing our own data set that will allow us to over time, provide a more and more insightful and accurate set of guidance for cyclists, our expectation is much like Waze, we will start to leverage the insight of the community both through heat maps, so where people tend to ride, but also through active input. So people essentially giving us feedback on you know, what roads might be good or what roads aren’t good, and then incorporating that into the guidance. So. So it really is, you know, in some cases, in some countries, I’d say it’s, it’s outstanding today. In others, it’s a little less accurate, but I will say that holistically, I think it is the the finest product from a cycling navigation perspective on the market today, but certainly a lot more that we’re working on.

Carlton Reid 12:35
So I’ve got more questions for Chris as well. But I’m ready to dig down into this one. And so okay, not Oh, yes. But what about OpenCycleMap, Open Street Map? Surely, that’s open to everybody?

Pieter Morgan 12:48
Yes. So that is what we’re using as our base status as the challenge then obviously becomes taking a dataset like that into developing it into a, you know, accurate navigation product in real time on a bike because as soon as you take it onto the bike, it obviously doesn’t have a native internet connection. So everything you’re doing, you’re doing offline on the device itself. So that means there’s a large storage problem there of needing to essentially store map tiles, which are the visual representation, in addition to the underlying street network data or trail network data. So we are using that data set. And then the I guess, the technical work that we’re doing on our end, because to your point, it is an open source dataset is were then building on top of that, you know, essentially navigation algorithm, we’re packaging it and storing it in a quite a unusual and I think, effective way, and starting to inform that dataset with our own insights. And that’s something that will increasingly happen over time.

Carlton Reid 13:47
Hmm. Okay. Because that would have been kind of my wish list. If you had to come to me, I’m, I’m not anyway, could be described as an athlete. But if I had just to use abilities, like, you know, when I’m using an iPhone app, then it’s just nice to be able to switch to the the map that you kind of comfortable with, and that can be at different stages of a, you know, a rural versus a city journey, just to be able to just switch out the map. And anyway, Chris, let’s come to you. So there are Hoy bikes. You can’t move in the UK without falling over blummin’ Boardman bikes. So any interest in having a Froomey bike brand or Froome Bikes or something something with your name on it?

Chris Froome 14:30
Not no plans in the near future? That’s, yeah. Recently this year, I got involved with another sponsor of the team actually. Factor, Factor. Yeah. Also a British band. But yeah, certainly no plans at the moment to to get involved in any sort of public transport schemes. I mean, there’s there’s a lot out there already. But yeah, no, no plans for the moment.

Carlton Reid 15:00
Okay, so you’ve invested in other companies? Are you looking to get more hands on in the future with those investments that you’ve made, you know, not not just, you know, with your technical prowess, but business, you know, actually try and do something different in the world of cycling. With your business skills.

Chris Froome 15:23
I mean, I’d like to think obviously, as, as I get closer to the end of my career, I could potentially get more and more involved with with the companies that I’m invested in. I mean, obviously, I bring a lot to the table in terms of actual usability of the products and feedback and product development. But I have to say that the business side of things is completely foreign. To me, that’s a whole new field that that I’m hoping to learn more about, by having these investments and being involved in, for example, quarterly quarterly board board calls. And certainly something I think beyond my cycling career, beyond my cycling career, something that I could be more involved in.

Carlton Reid 16:11
Okay. And Pieter, you’ve just re-signed? You mentioned it before, but you just re-signed a deal with Israel Startup Nation. What does that do for you? Because when we you founded? 2013, 2014? So what does that do for you, as a company as a relative newcomer in this space?

Pieter Morgan 16:32
So it’s, it’s done a tremendous amount for us, I think, the guidance that we’ve gotten from Chris and folks in the team has been extremely helpful. When we develop the climber feature, which shows the insight into the upcoming climb, we certainly leveraged a lot of insight from Chris and his team. And their insight certainly enabled us to make a much better feature than would have been possible without it. So I think there’s a huge value in the insights that we get from from Christ and his teammates, I think beyond that, there’s an awesome testing environment that it exposes us to so having the product on all of the ISN bikes in all of the races, does put it through its paces to an extremely high degree. You know, we were watching the Paris-Roubaix race relatively recently. And that was obviously quite a wild one with, you know, the conditions of the day. And it was super cool to see the product in that environments going through it and ultimately surviving to get through to the other end. So I think there’s a huge testing aspect to it too, which allows us to, you know, identify anything that needs to be improved on the product, as well as inform our development of subsequent product. So that’s, that’s also huge. And I think the third piece that’s most exciting, or probably perhaps most enjoyable, is it’s just deeply gratifying to see our product being used at these these levels of the sport, I know that our team is certainly enthusiastic about cycling. And, you know, they were watching very closely when, for instance, Mike Woods was competing for the kingdom mountains, Jersey, with the crew and his handlebars. And that was getting a lot of coverage in the Tour de France this year. And so there’s just a huge, you know, amount of, I guess, pride that comes from doing work that ends up at the highest levels of the sport. So it gives us a tremendous amount, I do hope that we are able to give as much back to the team. But we certainly feel we get a tremendous amount from the relationship.

Carlton Reid 18:25
I love the climber feature, I thought I would hate the climber feature. Because it’s telling you what’s coming up. And I’ve got I’ve got all these hills to do. And then when I’ve used it, it’s like, I love knowing exactly where I am on the ascent that that actually improves my, my enjoyment, because I’m not, I’m not getting to fall flat and then thinking, Oh, I’ve done it. It’s like, No, I know, this is a false flat. And psychologically, I find that incredibly useful. Chris, was that something that you helped develop the climber bit?

Chris Froome 18:56
I was just gonna say ‘welcome, welcome to my world’. Going up some random climb in the Pyrenees that you don’t know if the false flat is actually the top or if it carries on or anything else. I mean, obviously, having having that kind of information right at your fingertips, knowing exactly how far it is to the top of the climb, what kind of gradient you’re doing, really helps you mentally to sort of put a little, I guess, checkpoints on the way up the climb. Little points where you can see you get a little breather, for example. And you can kind of just tell yourself mentally okay, if I can just hang in to that point, I’ll recover a little bit then I’ll be okay for the last last little bit. So I mean, it’s it’s incredibly important having that information. And that was something that I personally had had quite a lot of input into, I think, in the in the first few months of the building up to the Tour de France.

Carlton Reid 19:51
Well, thank you for that because that is my favourite feature. Now do you use it in a race? Because presumably when you’re doing an incredibly famous Tour de France climb, you pretty much know every single inch of that climb, and you’ve recce’d it many, many times. But do you still potentially look down at the Karoo, even when you know it inch by inch?

Chris Froome 20:13
Yeah, definitely, I mean, almost going back to, to what what we’re just talking about now is even though you know, a lot of the roads, and I have to actually tell you that we don’t know, most of the roads that we race on, I mean, we might know, for example, afterwards, or some of the more famous claims that you do sort of every every second year or something like that. But there are a lot of new claims that we don’t know, and we just don’t have the time to go and record all 21 stages. So there’s a lot that we don’t know. But even even when you do know it, it just sort of helps mentally to be able to see it in front of you and to see see the little little bits of respite or to at least prepare yourself if there isn’t any respite coming up and you can just just crack on with it.

Carlton Reid 21:02
And Pieter, is they those datasets, the with the inclines on that’s all you can you can suck that up pretty easily. How accurate are those those things on the Karoo, the inclines?

Pieter Morgan 21:16
So yes, so we take the the data, obviously, that exists. But what we have done is we’re starting to get into cross referencing it with other data sets. So instead of let’s say, just taking the OSM elevation data, we’re starting to, to combine that with data sets that might confirm or you know, indicate that there’s an error in the in the first dataset. So there is some complexity in doing that. And I think there’s, you know, you certainly will notice, in some cases that the data is slightly wrong. So for instance, where I write frequently in New York, if I go over the, the George Washington Bridge, yet, you know, represents me is riding, I think, on the level of the river, which obviously isn’t entirely true, but it’s either get some idiosyncrasies like that, that are inaccurate, but generally speaking, it’s pretty accurate that will only get more accurate over time, because what ultimately we will do is corroborate the dataset with the GPS positions of the riders and, you know, then adjusted over time. So it starts to become a much more like Waze dynamic and tuned data set if you want to put it that way. Hmm.

Carlton Reid 22:21
Okay. And, Chris, I believe you’ve just paid your first visit to Israel.

Chris Froome 22:26
Correct. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 22:28
So how was that?

Chris Froome 22:29
Amazing, actually quite, quite educational being being over there. I mean, for most of us, all that we see of Israel is when when when it when it reaches the headlines in this there’s normally a bomb going off somewhere or some some tragic event. So I think we have quite a warped perception of what what Israel is actually like, being there with the team this time around. It was, I mean, I was I was there in 2018 for the start of the Tour d’Italia. But to be honest, we, when you’re in race mode, you go from your hotel room, onto the bike back to your hotel room, to the dining room. You don’t you don’t go out and walking around or getting to experience the city at all. So this time was was was definitely the right time of year that we went there. And we were able to go on all the all the different sort of tours of the system.

Carlton Reid 23:24
Do you think, of course, of course, because I should have known that because I was actually there on that. So I was actually watching in fact, I was with your Factor guy on the first. Yes, Rob was was showing us around on that particular stage anyway. So where do you go in Israel? I’ll tell you why. I’m asking this. I wrote the Berlitz Guide to Israel. So I I’m very familiar with Israel. So okay, so where did you go?

Chris Froome 23:49
So we started off in Jerusalem a few days a few days, looking around the city learning about the different the different quarters of the old, old, old city went to went all the different sort of attractions. We went to I think we went from there. Then we went down to Tel Aviv did some of the sort of more touristy things down there sort of tour of the food markets and Jaffa to learn learn a bit about Jaffa and the old port in Tel Aviv. And we went to the Sea of Galilee for a couple of nights where they’ve just just hosted the first Ironman event which that that was fascinating, actually quite nice cycling up there as well. That’s right on the border of sort of Syria and Jordan. And that was that was fascinating as well. It’s got its own history up in that area. We did a few team building events around there for going to right down the other side to the Dead Sea where we did some mountain biking. And then then we finished off the trip with going back to Tel Aviv.

Carlton Reid 25:23
And that sounds like a great trip. You’ve you’ve done. I mean, it’s a very small country, obviously. But you’ve done a tonne there. So, what was Sylvan [Adams] there? What’s it like to have a world champion as a team owner?

Chris Froome 25:36
Pretty, erm. Yep. I mean, the thing is, he obviously gets he gets cycling. I mean, he’s, he’s been a world champion himself. He gets training, he gets nutrition, that whole side of things as well.

Carlton Reid 25:48
So does he half-wheel you?

Chris Froome 25:51
He does, he sort of lets lets it known that he trains, that he’s fit. Yeah, especially when we’re all unfit. And we haven’t been training. But no, it’s it’s actually really good fun having a team owner who, who gets involved as much as he does.

Carlton Reid 26:13
Like, I mean, that’s why he created or co-created the team, of course, to, to explain that this is a startup, literally a startup nation. And as you were saying before this, you know, it’s not a bomb around every corner. Look, look at Liverpool, you know, we had a bomb, you know, just two days ago. So Israel was not what people read it in the news, but he also is doing lots of stuff for cycling in the country itself. So there’s, there’s a velodrome with his name on there’s there’s bike networks in Tel Aviv, did you go on any of the Sylvan Adams bike network?

Chris Froome 26:45
I did not actually get to see that. Maybe it sounds like you know more about that than me. What, what was that about?

Carlton Reid 26:50
I won’t go into the full details cos he is a bit cheesed off with the municipality because they haven’t been as fast expanding the network. So he seed funded it. He gave them you know, a fair bit of cash. They then named the network after him. So it radiates from where he lives, basically down to Tel Aviv. And then he expected them to then massively expand it and they haven’t. So the last time I spoke to him, he wasn’t that happy with with the Tel Aviv mayor, that maybe don’t go into that. But, I mean, it’s just doing so much for cycling. And of course, the team is this massive PR drive, not just for sports side when you’re involved in but but all different aspects of cycling. So he’s really interested in cycling as a whole.

Chris Froome 27:40
He is He is, I mean, we did get to go and see certain projects that he’s been involved in down there. You mentioned one of them the Velodrome, for example. I mean, just just fascinating, because it wouldn’t have had facilities like that. If it weren’t for his involvement, and now having obviously a pro tour, World Tour teams are an Israeli well to a team, it gives all the youngsters a little bit like what what teams guided for, for British Cycling 10 years ago. So it’s, it is this sort of, it’s this vehicle now that it says to up and coming young, young, aspiring cyclists. If you guys are good enough, and you put in the hard work, this is where you can, this is where you could end up and I think we I was blown away just by how many people came out to come and sort of show their support? And how many how many kids are actually into cycling over there in Israel? I mean, that’s really good. I don’t think that would have been possible if it hadn’t been for his involvement.

Carlton Reid 28:45
Hmm. Do you? Have you met Ran Margliot? Do you know Ran?

Chris Froome 28:50
Yes, yes.

Carlton Reid 28:52
Because he’s, I mean, he’s still across there at the moment. I mean, he obviously the the team before it became Startup nation was built, you know, around a little bit of a kernel that he you know, started with his his his partner because he was the first Israeli pro team rider really, it wasn’t he was like, so he a lot of it can come from from him even before Sylvan was doing stuff with pro teams. So he’s been a big catalyst in Israel.

Chris Froome 29:20
Certainly, certainly.

Carlton Reid 29:23
Pieter, let’s go back to you. Do we have any more tech stuff to come you can you give me any any secrets here? Have you got any? You know, you’re talking about the updates before what what updates have you got to the software? That kind of stuff? Give me, give me some give me some tech secrets.

Pieter Morgan 29:38
Sure. So I think one of the things we’re really excited about shipping in the next couple of weeks is really a big update to the operating system visual. So if you’re familiar, obviously with the iPhone platform, when it goes from say iOS 14 to iOS 15. That brings with it a lot of fun, you know, visual improvements. A lot of the time, and we’ve got a similar release coming before the end of the year, which we’re really excited about. And that brings a new control centre to the product we’re calling it which is essentially a, you know, menu structure that allows one to navigate the product much more easily. And we’re also shipping a really nice update to the to the desktop, if you want to call it that the sort of homepage, visualisation. So it’s gonna make the product feel and look totally new, which is really exciting. And I think, you know, much more polished than it currently does. So I think that’s a release that’s coming before the end of the year that I’m really excited about. We have gotten great feedback from some of the folks in our advanced testing group on that. So we ship software to a variety of advanced testing people about two weeks before we ship it to the general public and, and they’re busy testing that as of Thursday last week, and that’s certainly been very well received. So I’d say that’s a big one. That’s shipping soon.

Carlton Reid 30:57
Any hardware stuff. So anything new on the, you know, Karoo 3, maybe?

Pieter Morgan 31:03
So we, we certainly are always working on hardware stuff in the background, but we don’t have anything launching too soon. The Karoo, the Karoo 2 is still relatively early in its lifecycle that we only started shipping it in, I think February or so of this year. So trying to it’s been, it’s a relatively new product. But now we’re certainly working on future products and some exciting partnerships that we’ll be able to announce going into next year.

Carlton Reid 31:30
Thanks to Pieter Morgan of Hammerhead there and thanks also to Chris Froome and to you for listening to Episode 187 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. And that’s it for this month. There will be another couple of shows in December but meanwhile, get out there and ride …

November 14, 2021 / / Blog

14th November 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 286: COP26 SPECIAL — The Transition to Zero Cars


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: US Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon; Greater Manchester’s transport commissioner Chris Boardman and the city region’s mayor Andy Burnham; the UCI’s Advocacy and Development Manager Isabella Burczak; Susan Claris and Stephen Edwards of Living Streets; Ed Miliband, UK Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Mohamed Mezghani, Secretary-General of the global public transit organization UITP; European Cyclists’ Federation president Henk Swarttouw; Heather Thompson, CEO of the New-York-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy; Bronwen Thornton, chief executive of pedestrian organization Walk 21 and European Cyclists’ Federation CEO Jill Warren.

TOPICS: COP26, cycling, walking, transit and electric cars.

LINKS: Forbes article


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 286 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 14th of November 2021.

David Bernstein 0:25
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information check out our website at

Omnia El Omrani, Global Youth Coalition for Road Safety’ 1:04
Your Excellencies honourable delegates youth advocates. Today marks the launch of the Glasgow Declaration on the Acceleration of the Transition to Zero Cars and Emissions.

Carlton Reid 1:17
Transition to zero cars? Hey, that wonderful mistake was heard by the negotiators, delegates and VIPs attending the main plenary session on transport day at COP 26 in Glasgow, and I was there too. I’m Carlton Reid. And of course the Egyptian Doctor charged with welcoming folks into the cavernous room meant to plug the Glasgow Declaration on Accelerating the Transition to 100% Zero Emission Cars and Vans. But I don’t suppose many people notices the omission. Or should that be emission? Anyway, the room was packed with politicians and representatives from car manufacturers such as execs from Ford, GM, and Volvo. But do you know who wasn’t there? Execs from bicycle or train companies or execs from walking, cycling and transit organisations? Shockingly, the COP26 transport day focused almost wholly on electric cars and trucks. Cycling, walking and travelling on trains and buses were climate-friendly forms of transport that were not on the agenda excluded from the high level discussions. However, pretty much as an afterthought, a line on active travel and transit was tacked on to the end of the the Glasgow declaration — that long thing that I said before — But you’ve got to wonder what the UN and the UK Government were thinking when they listed the priorities for this 26th Conference of the Parties. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its recent report, we have to reduce motoring, and boost bicycling, walking and other climate friendly modes of transport. Instead, as you’ll hear, a bunch of car execs were allowed to yap on about how apparently they will save the planet by selling people loads of shiny new cars. Now, this is a long show a touch under two hours. But I wanted to pack everything into the same episode and it really is packed. I shoved my microphone under the noses of loads of people in the badge-only zone at COP26 and at a UCI event in the centre of Glasgow. Next year, Glasgow of course, is going to be hosting pretty much every … in fact every World Championship event from the UCI so you’ll hear from US Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Greater Manchester’s transport Commissioner Chris Boardman and the city region’s Mayor Andy Burnham, the UCI’s advocacy and development manager, Isabella Burczak, Susan Claris and Steven Edwards of Living Streets. Ed Miliband, UK shadow Secretary of State for business energy and industrial strategy and a recent convert to cycling. Mohamed Mezghanii, Secretary General of the global public transit organisation UITP founded in 1895 It’s quite a long one that one; European Cyclists’ Federation President Henk Swarttouw; Heather Thompson, CEO of The New-York-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy; Bronwen Thornton, Chief Executive of pedestrian organisation Walk 21. And last but not least, the European Cyclists’ Federation CEO, Jill Warren. First, let’s hear what the car executives were allowed to say when they spoke at the transport days plenary session. Up first is Kristen Siemen Chief Sustainability Officer, [cough, cough] excuse me, for General Motors. Then there’s Hakan Samuelssonn, CEO of Volvo cars. And last is Ford’s Global Director, Cynthia Williams.

Kristen Siemen, GM 5:25
So at GM, we see a world of all electric, where everyone can be part of it, and everyone can enjoy the benefits of an electric vehicle. For us, that means a portfolio of vehicles that crosses every segment and every price point. It’s about having infrastructure and access to charging for everyone. It’s about equitable time at actions so that communities that traditionally have been left behind or disproportionately affected by climate change, are really coming along on that transformation with us.

Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo 6:03
We should also create more attractive products for our consumers, because then the process will be accelerated. And then consumers like electric cars. So, so I think we have come to a point where we should stop in discussing and trying to find other solutions. I mean, the grass is not greener. On the other side, it’s very green on this side. And I think it’s a great opportunity for for the core industry in, in Europe, and for sure, we have come to the mindset, it’s great for our company, this is an opportunity. And and it makes our company is stronger, and we can deliver products, consumers, specially future consumers will love to buy.

Cynthia Williams, Ford 6:56
For Ford, we not only want to build high quality vehicles at scale, but we want to do so in a way that it saves, um. It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for the environment. I think, from an automotive perspective, being able to scale up and bring vehicles at scale that’s needed. Now we need to match our ambitions with our actions. And so to be that’s going to be key for all automotive manufacturers to do so. Moving forward, I think key things that we will need to move this to accelerate the electrification revolution is to continue. We need incentives, incentives are required in order to bring the cost down. And so that we can get more people into the vehicles. It’s keen to leave no one behind. We need infrastructure. We need infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. People need to see infrastructure in order to get in the vehicles and feel comfortable that they can get from point A to point B with no issues.

Carlton Reid 8:05
Are you as staggered as I am that a bunch of car bosses were allowed to pitch for sales at a climate summit? And brazenly say they’ll also need consumers to be given incentives — big fat subsidies then — and, said Ford’s Cynthia Williams there at the end, it should be down to governments to build infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure, in other words, recharging networks. Really, did governments build gas filling stations? No, they did not. And no doubt car companies also want governments to build more road infrastructure.

Carlton Reid 8:45
Funny how car companies and the politicians that support them come over all socialist when it suits them. Remember, this wasn’t a car conference. This was supposed to be a climate summit. Can you tell I’m angry? Anyway … breathe … I’ll calm down by setting up the audio I recorded with politicians and the bike, walk and public transit execs who weren’t invited to speak in the plenary session, but wandered the halls at COP26 anyway. Wwe’ll start with Congressman Earl Blumenauer. Yes, he gave me a bike icon badge. He’s famous for that. And we’ll end with Jill Warren of the European Cyclists’ Federation. So the agenda the top agenda is just electric cars bicycles are missing. what’s what?

Congressman Earl Blumenauer 9:39
Well, that’s not what we do. We’re the US Congress. Our agenda includes electric bikes, and changing policies that are more supportive of cycling, burn calories instead of fossil fuel.

Carlton Reid 9:57
So do you think that’s a huge omission? Got cycling and walking and buses on the agenda here?

Congressman Earl Blumenauer 10:05
Absolutely. Land use, cycling, biking, you know burning calories instead of fossil fuel needs to have more of a focus on.

Carlton Reid 10:16
Okay. So why do you think it is missing?

Congressman Earl Blumenauer 10:20
I think others were more organised.

Carlton Reid 10:23
So the motor lobby is it’s got more money, it’s more organised?

Congressman Earl Blumenauer 10:26
It’s it’s the, the electric cars the new shiny thing which can be transformative and there’s massive investments in it.

Carlton Reid 10:38
As you can maybe tell, that was a grab and go interview with the US congressman for Oregon. I had to catch the politicians as they were passing. But I also set up some interviews such as this one with Chris Boardman, British Cycling’s policy advisor, who also happens to be Greater Manchester’s transport Commissioner. I saw Chris in the badge only Blue Zone at COP26, but didn’t manage to grab him there. Instead, I had to wait until after he had given an inspirational speech at a joint Visit Scotland and UCI event away from the COP26 venue. The UCI of course, is the Union Cycliste Internationale. And the event was a promotion called the Power of the Bike. Here’s Chris. How crazy is it? How bonkers is it? That cycling and walking and buses and trains? Yeah, great event here. But it’s not on the official agenda that the being discussed over the over the road. So how crazy is that?

Chris Boardman 11:45
Yes, it is. Yes, it is. I think it’s not in people’s psyche mainstream as yet. But we’re forcing it in them and had a conversation not an hour ago with Pete Buttigieg.

Carlton Reid 11:56
Yeah, yeah.

Chris Boardman 11:58
Struggle with that about exactly that and saying that him you know, the Secretary of State for Transport America riding a bike, the impact that has when you normalise something that isn’t currently normal, is essential. And he was talking about his boss, liking riding a bike. And that’s what’s needed. And regardless of whatever orbits around it, and the Prime Minister of the UK likes bikes at the moment, and there is the opportunity to actually do something with it.

Carlton Reid 12:23
But it’s still not on the agenda. So Boris likes bikes. Pete likes bikes, Biden likes bikes, but it’s not on the agenda.

Chris Boardman 12:31
It’s not here, but it is on the agenda, you will have read Build Back Better and Gear Change, I’m looking at funding bids and the criteria for submissions. And they all say, and you cannot hide money for bosses. If you don’t deliver active travel, you kind of have one at the expense of the other. And what we’ll find out in the next few few months, is whether the government will hold their ground. And that’s all I have to do. They’ve written a policy, it’s solid, it’s evidence, it’s joined up. And now they have to stand the ground and deliver. And if they do that, we’re living in a step change moment.

Carlton Reid 13:04
So you’re obviously you came into this, as you said in the in the talk there from the sport of cycling, but then became walking and cycling commissioner. And now you’re everything like a rush. But now you’re everything you every form of transport. So I can’t ask you to disciform a form of transport because you cover all of it. But the focus here, the focus here, Chris is on electric — or sorry, here as in not here, as in this building. But here as in COP26 is on electric cars. So how great are electric cars, they’re getting us out of the climate crisis,

Chris Boardman 13:38
I took this job, because the connectivity is critical. So we know that everybody switching from normal cars to electric cars, doesn’t doesn’t do it. In fact, in the short term, it makes it worse because you’ve got to make electric cars and you’re not ready to produce that much electricity and everything else. But it’s it is part of the search. And it’s not as big as part of people think it is. But it’s essential. But you’re about to change fuel, and where the fuel is, and how much there is of it. And if you do that strategically, at the same time you give people a viable, attractive alternative, then then you have an opportunity to really make a difference. So lots of families now are moving to you know, tiny house but three cars, when you can enable them to move to just one car families and down dramatically and have car clubs that genuinely work that are within two to 300 metres at someone’s house, or just open the car with an app. I go and use it for what I want. And I drop it in a space. I’ve just been speaking to the former Deputy Mayor for transport of Amsterdam now mayor have interacted Sharon, I was telling me how she took 1000 car parking spaces out in Amsterdam. And but if you use one of the car clubs, you can park for free. So it encourages people to leave their own cars not to use them if you’ve got to use a car. So she uses an electric bike most of the time, and then and then mixes and matches I think tying into the rest of the transport world is absolutely critical.

Carlton Reid 15:04
So when you’re speaking to Secretary Pete, Mayor Pete were you talking about active travel with him? Was he on message there?

Chris Boardman 15:13
I was talking specifically and only about active travel. And we only had a few minutes. But that was the topic that we were talking about. That was our common ground. And we started talking a little bit about how you’re going to charge for electric vehicles. So you’re not just getting just got free motoring, which they’ve got to do. Because they’re about to have a hole in the tax revenue as well. And the whole world’s got to tackle it. So it’s, it’s an emotionally wrenching time, because we are on on the cusp of massive change, and we could genuinely get it. But it’s not locked down. And it’s not sir. And I think it’s fascinating to be involved. Just very tiring.

Carlton Reid 15:51
Here’s a walk and talk with Andy Burnham Greater Manchester’s mayor. So transport da, Andy. It’s, it’s Car, car car, blah, blah, blah. So that’s not going to solve the crisis, not gonna solve congestion, it’s not going to solve lots of things. So why do you think the government who set the agenda and the UN, why have they gone for car car car?

Andy Burnham 16:18
I did say this to them this coal car, cars cash tree, I said that before, cuz I’m not sure that’s the right, the right sort of framing for this, we should all be talking about public transport. So surely reducing the cost of bus fares rail fares. And actually, if anything, increasing the cost of fares, you know, it’s, it’s the case that it’s much cheaper to get a plane than it is to get a train in this country. And until that’s changed, the economics of this are not going to be in the right in the right place.

Carlton Reid 16:49
So do you think leaders such as yourself, who are doing this, who are well ahead of the curve, considering? It’s not here? Do you think you city leaders, not just you, but all across the UK, and of course, all the mayors that you you meet with frequently? Have they the ones that actually got a bit more power anyway, so they’ll just they’ll just go ahead with with that kind of agenda?

Andy Burnham 17:14
Yes, but we do need the government to support us, we have the possibility of creating within a decade, the UK is first carbon neutral public transport system, our trams already run on renewable energy. And we have a plan to electrify buses now and make them effectively a single a single system. But to do that, it requires the government to step in as well and back us with funding to deliver that system to that to that timeframe. So for me, it’s like, it’s a bit frustrating, because we’ve got the plans, we’ve done the thinking, we’ve done the work, we’ve put buses back on the public control. And that’s a key enabler. Because when you control transport, you can actually then dictate the pace of change in the coming years. So we’ve done all of that. And we’re kind of just waiting to go really. But you know, this is where the government needs to needs to see how Net Zero is also levelling up, you know, they want to level up the country, well, you can make the one on the same thing, you know, you can change great sponsors, public transport system, make it carbon neutral, but actually make it much more affordable for people to use as well. And that’s where these agendas can come together.

Carlton Reid 18:26
And how important is it that you’ve got somebody like Chris Boardman as not just the bike and walk Commissioner, but transport Commissioner, what does that say about your agenda? Well, hopefully

Andy Burnham 18:37
what it says to people is, what’s the message I wanted to send when I asked Chris to take on the broader role that the active travel cycling walking is, is kind of baked into this system, it’s almost the foundation of a modern public transport system. It’s sending the message that, you know, walking or cycling is the natural choice for the first mile last mile, but then you can get on a bus that’s hopefully better and cheaper, and connect with the tram and do your commute in that way. Chris, and I took a commute on Monday morning, actually, using an electric boss and then jumping on one of our new bike, hire bikes. And you know, it was a zero carbon commute, so it can be done.

Isabella Burczak 19:14
So my name is Isabella Burczak, I’m the Advocacy and Development Manager at UCI, ….

Carlton Reid 19:22
So I’ve had a fascinating afternoon, here, outside of COP26. So about a mile and a half away from where the the actual conference is taking place. So tell me exactly what the UCI event has been doing here today. Yeah, so

Isabella Burczak 19:40
the goal of today’s event, which was I mean, I really have to do like kudos to the 2023 World Championships team. And so the idea of this event was to talk about I said, they said the power of the bike, but really how do sporting events, transform cities? How can they bring sustainable development How can they bring that into the community? And then how can cycling also transform cities.

Carlton Reid 20:05
That’s not long to do

Isabella Burczak 20:06
that. Yeah, it’s coming up very quickly. So maybe just in terms of context, so the 2023 World Championships are the first time we’re bringing all the disciplines together into one cycling world championships. So it’s really no bringing 13 World Championships into one into one region because it will be in Glasgow but also in other cities within Scotland. So it’s very much a Glasgow and Scotland effort here. And the idea of the championships actually, so one is hosting the actual event and hosting the 13 World Championships. But actually, there’s a much bigger objective to it. So the bigger objective is actually to transform the nation with cycling. So how can they create infrastructures? How can they create a cycling culture? And how can they use the event to inspire a whole new generation of cyclists that use the bicycle for every reason, so they won’t necessarily be the next, you know, lycra clad cyclists on the street, or they might not be the next world champion, but they may be the next parent that takes the kids to school on a bike or they might be. So really, it’s really encouraging something on an everyday basis.

Carlton Reid 21:09
So I’m sure this this criticism, you’ll have heard many, many times. But when you broach those kinds of ideas, people on social media and elsewhere will say, Well, you don’t promote driving, by getting Formula One noticeboard involved. You don’t basically you have transport, you don’t have sport. So why is cycling different there? Why do you think the sport can influence the transport?

Isabella Burczak 21:38
Yeah, so funnily enough, my, I’d say what I always say is we have this responsibility, within kind of a Global Cycling agenda to promote a sport, which is also a form of transport. So we can’t just focus on the sport. And the idea is, no, if people are afraid to put their kids on bikes on the street, we’re also not going to have future world champions, because there will be athletes coming up and, and riders growing up as riders, but also, between sport and transport, I find there’s also very common agendas. We all want safe roads, we all want education, we want to share best practices. We want cycling to grow within all countries. So whether you’re a writer racing and training, and we heard this in the room, actually, there was a comment from a rider that said that he’s afraid to cycle as a mode of transport

Carlton Reid 22:30
pump track champion, in fact, not just a rider, just like a champion rider.

Isabella Burczak 22:33
Exactly. So I would say the road safety agenda is a huge agenda also touches upon infrastructure. So how do you get more people riding? Or at least how do you decrease the perceived notion of cycling not being safe, because that’s usually the and it was brought up by Hank as well. People don’t take hold because they think it’s unsafe. So we need to create conditions for them to feel safe. So we need to create the infrastructures, but we also need to create a culture. So again, it goes kind of much broader than just bringing in the infrastructures. Yes, that helps, definitely. But we do need to focus on other topics that will also create a culture of cycling within a country. And that’s where really, I would say that UCI steps in to say, Well, we are hosting these events. So saying we’re hosting a world championship and even outside of 2023, we’re hosting an event we’re using money from the government, if private public funding. Well, we also have an opportunity and a responsibility to get more people writing as well. So how can how can we cities that are hosting events then kind of work with the government’s work with tourism boards work with schools to bring more cycling on an everyday basis. And that’s where we get involved in why we’re trying to bridge those two, to three worlds.

Stephen Edwards 23:48
So my name is Stephen Edwards, Interim Chief Executive, Living Streets and we’re the UK charity for everyday walking. So we want more people to walk their everyday journeys. And we want a street environment that is fit for walking.

Carlton Reid 24:03
And that’s the organisation that was founded the 1920s as we were founded

Stephen Edwards 24:07
in 1929, as the pedestrian Association, and we’re very true to our campaigning routes. And

Carlton Reid 24:13
‘Murder Most Foul’ you’re famous for back then. Keep the death machines off the street. I always radical.

Stephen Edwards 24:20
So we we were very focused, but then on sort of looking at things that were getting in the way pedestrian safety. So we were behind the first zebra crossings. In the UK, we were behind the first speed limits in the UK, and we were behind the first Highway Code, as well. And if you look at the kind of things we’re campaigning on today, so we’ve been campaigning, only this year on revisions to the highway code to put pedestrians first at the top of the hierarchy of transport. We’ve been campaigning on crossings to get more crossings and better crossings. So yeah, we’re we’re still doing much of that campaigning work. We’re also doing much much more as well. Working with the UK Government working with local authorities as well to kind of deliver the change on a street by street basis to,

Carlton Reid 25:09
and you’re not here by yourself.

Stephen Edwards 25:10
I’m not here by myself. I’m with Susan, who I will pass.

Stephen Edwards 25:10
I’m not here by myself. I’m with Susan, who I will pass.

Susan Claris 25:15
Hello. So I’m Susan Claris. I’m the Vice President of Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking. I’m also a trustee at the charity and I’m a transport planner by profession with Arup where I lead on active travel, but particularly with a focus on walking, because the tendency is is that cycling dominates discussions about active travel. But with almost one in three trips in England being done by walking walking needs to have more of a voice, it needs to have more attention. It needs to receive more more priority because of the massive benefits that it can bring. Yes, decarbonisation, which is what we’re talking about here today. But the session we did earlier was about the wider benefits. So looking at the health benefits, physical health benefits, mental health benefits, the social inclusion aspects of it, the economic benefits, very clear focus on air quality. So really how walking in particular can bring about healthier people, better places, and a better planet.

Carlton Reid 26:14
Chris Boardman was at your event. So he’s, in many people’s eyes, a cyclist. But he’s much more than that, as we all know. So he is a great advocate for for walking, frequently said, you know, that should absolutely be at the top of everybody’s agenda, and then cycling and then we’ve moved, etc, etc. Because he’s the transport Commissioner for Manchester, not the cycling and walking Commissioner anymore. The transport committee. So how significant is a figure like Chris, and getting across the agenda, which we’ve just been discussing,

Susan Claris 26:55
hugely important. And I think that’s a really positive step that the UK has taken in the last few years is to have what started off as cycling commissioners then emerged into walking and cycling commissioners, or active travel commissioners. And I think it’s a really powerful thing. I think it’s important that they’re not associated too much with sport, because a lot of them come from sporting backgrounds. And we need to get away from the fact that active travel is small, and you have to be fit to walk, walk and cycle. Well, Norman, I think does a great job. He always talks about walking before he talks about cycling, and he doesn’t have that legacy of a sporting background, I guess. But I think having that that local focus or that regional focus, and someone who is there every stage to say, What about walking? What about cycling, because too often, authorities are siloed. And decisions are taken about health or about education, or about older age and transport isn’t considered so to have someone who has a voice, and who is well known as well to keep on saying, but yeah, and walking and cycling is a really important thing. So I think it’s it’s a massively important step forward, to have the have the active travel commissioners.

Stephen Edwards 28:04
Just to add to that, Chris gets walking as well as cycling. I think from our perspective, generally speaking, what is good for cycling is good for walking as well. But ultimately, walkers have secular needs. And there are too many people that aren’t thinking about what a walking network looks like in classes, thinking about what a walking network looks like, putting in place proper crossings, making sure pavements are wide enough and accessible for it accessible by everyone. Regardless of age, ability, you need that space for walking in, you need to know you’re safe, and are going to risk your life when you’re out on the streets.

Carlton Reid 28:42
If we can take it back to you because with your transport planners hat on. And basically what that boils down to what Stephen was actually saying that with networks, do transport planners, you’re gonna have to take on the whole of your profession here. Do transport planners get that cycling is I’m sorry, that walking is a form of transport.

Susan Claris 29:08
And some do and some don’t. And, you know, there’s a learning job to do I think in terms of raising the profile of walking both amongst my colleagues and you know, other professionals. You know, the people who are working in transport now were educated 20 3040 years ago, when I did my degree back in the late 80s, early 90s. Walking wasn’t part of it cycling wasn’t even part of it. You know, I did a master’s in transport and walking and cycling didn’t really feature and we’ve got the legacy of people who have gone through that education system working now. I think the people who are graduated that graduates I see it work who join us now as transport planners, all they want to work on is active travel. So you’ve got a generation coming through who have who have got this, and I think we’re now coping with the legacy of the generation that weren’t brought up with it, but that’s no nothing to say that they can’t actually Get it now for me, active travel is as much a way of thinking as it is to do with design. And it is about always starting with putting walking first, in public transport, it’s about thinking about the whole journey from someone’s home to their destination, not from the bus stop or actually on the bus to where they get off the bus. And, you know, the power of walking for me is, you know, the importance of it as a mode in its own right. But also every other mode will involve walking at some point. So, you know, walking, I think is fundamental to transport planning. And we are seeing a shift. When I joined Eric back in 1993, you know, it was pretend to be a traffic engineer. The fact that I had a background in planning and anthropology was a bit of an oddity, whereas now things like that are welcomed, and it’s transport planning, it isn’t traffic engineering. So we’ve seen a big shift in the profession, I think, in the nearly 40 years, I’ve been working in transport, I think now we need to broaden it. So we have more focus on inclusion, you know, there’s been too much designing for a mythical average, which doesn’t actually exist. And we need to think about how cycling can be for everyone how walking can be for everyone. And that’s what we need. That’s the focus now, and again, I think some people get that for some people, you know, it’s it’s hard to design outside your own experience. And too many people plan for what they know. Because it’s hard to know how an older person might experience the built environment, how someone with mental health conditions finds travelling on transport. And what we need to do is, is to have more, a more inclusive approach to transport to take on board Everybody’s used so that we do end up with our streets and our towns and our cities that are actually for everybody not designed for an average.

Carlton Reid 31:39
So I’m going to ask us to Steven, but I’m probably going to come straight back to you anyway. Or you’re gonna you’re gonna grab the microphone off Steven and say, I want to say something here as well. So I hear what you’re saying. Both of you have both said, that’s really that site, walking is here. Can I go like I’m deciding, you can see where my bias comes from. And I’m walking, but also cycling, and buses and trains are not here. So that’s my stick. That’s that’s the big thing that I’m I’m hitting people with. So yes, you have an event here. And you’ve got Chris there, that’s fantastic. But you’re not on the agenda. So there’s an overarching agenda there, which is a little bit of aviation, a little bit of shipping. That had been announcements the today. But then probably 90% of the transport element. The top level, the high level agenda is not walking is not cycling, is not versus not public transport, it is electric cars. And that’s pretty much that’s feeding into bit electric trucks. It’s electric car. So it’s Car, car car, not blah, blah, blah. how annoyed Are you that you’re not at the top table, you’re way off in some annex.

Stephen Edwards 32:58
So I’ll respond specifically to the point on electric cars. And we’re really, really clear that Living Streets, the whilst electric cars have a role to play. They do not, it does not get away from the fact that you need to significantly reduce overall car use. And electric cars still contribute to air pollution for a particular matter. On tires and brakes, you need to worry about the source of the electricity for the cars in the first place. And of course, electric cars do nothing about the congestion. And the problem we have with road safety in this country were again, to Susan’s point on inclusivity. It’s the most vulnerable members in our society that are disproportionately represented in the KSI statistics we see on road safety from UK Government. So yes, electric cars, but even more, less driving altogether and more walking in cycling, especially for those shorter journeys, which is easy to complete by car by bike. By bike,

Carlton Reid 33:59
the IPCC report was very clear, you’ve got to reduce motoring. And yet this conference just has not had that if anything is complete opposite is no less let’s increase motoring but just have the tailpipe a bit different. So same question to you how annoyed Are you because that wasn’t very passionate. I need more passion here. It was good technical I agree with why isn’t walking cycling trains here

Susan Claris 34:29
what I mean walking cycling is here. We are in the blue zone. So on

Carlton Reid 34:34
the agenda, we’re not You’re not on that final agenda that’s going to get on all those news channels over there.

Susan Claris 34:40
But at least we are here we wouldn’t have been here at previous costs. So it is a step forward. Every pun intended that we are at least here and we are having these conversations not as mainstream as I would like to be. I think the whole avoid shift improve is not full is not understood and people don’t get it so people jump straight to the improve First of all, absolutely we need to avoid, we need to reduce the need for travel, then the shift and walking, cycling public transport, there’s not enough discussion of the avoid here. I absolutely agree with you. I think road pricing should be central to that. One of the things I talk about all the time is, is that we will never realise the full potential of walking and cycling unless we address transport gluttony, which I define as the overconsumption of transport to the detriment of others. So people travelling around in ever increasingly large SUVs, engine, idling, inappropriate speeds, pavement parking, not stopping a red light, all of those behaviours just detract from people walking and cycling. And it’s those we need to address. And they’re politically difficult to address, because it’s not the sort of things that voters want to hear. And I think in terms of why there isn’t a bigger voice, that’s up to all of us, it’s up to the public. And people don’t don’t care enough, or they’re not willing enough to actually have what they see as restrictions imposed on them because they see it as a negative. And I think we need to try and change the conversation around. So not to say that roads are closed, or you know, that you’re banning pavement parking. In some ways the focus should be on actually, you’re making sure that somebody with a double bogey or someone in a wheelchair, can walk or wheel down a street, and it should be focusing on the positive. So in some ways, yes, I am angry about it, because until we address the avoid, but we will you know it we will never get the improvements we should I think a parallel is you know, we talk about for waste, we talk about reduce, reuse, recycle. And the tendency is everybody jumps straight to the recycling and they do their bit of recycling and they think they’re fine. They’re saving the planet save the planet, because yeah, what about cardboard? Yeah, and it’s exactly the same with transport, you know, that same reduce, reduce, reuse, recycle is the same as the avoid shift improve. And it’s the same people who feel smug about doing their recycling, who probably feeling smug about driving an electric vehicle, because I think they’ve done their bit. And we need to get across the fact that actually the avoid is the most important, the improve is last resort.

Carlton Reid 37:04
I was sat working in the media centre at COP26, when at the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar figure. It was Ed Miliband, and I jumped up and grabbed him. So yesterday was the transport day. And the focus was almost totally on electric cars. Whereas you have said, in your book, and in interviews, that cycling is a major part and walking is a major part. And then buses. But COP26 only cars only talked about electric cars.

Ed Miliband 37:38
It’s a very very good point. I wasn’t focused enough on the transport stuff yesterday. But I think it’s incredibly important that as we think about the transition, the climate transition is not simply about replacing every petrol diesel car with an electric car, it’s got to be about walking and cycling, and decent public transport. Because, well, partly for sustainability reasons. But also, because you want you want to give people good alternatives. And you also want to create a kind of better society where people can walk and cycle with all the health benefits that gets and giving people those options. And I think that is really important. I mean, when you think about the UK, I think it’s incredibly important. On the public transport side. I you know, as a constituency MP for Doncaster, one of the biggest unaddressed sort of accident during somebody. One of the one of the biggest unaddressed issues is his bus services, his local bus services and the problem with local bus service is real missed opportunities that wasn’t addressed yesterday.

Mohamed Mezghani 38:46
Mohamed Mezghani, Secretary-General of UITP, the International Association of Public Transport.

Carlton Reid 38:53
It’s been going quite a while now, it’s not a new organisation, 1885?

Mohamed Mezghani 38:58
UITP is 156 years old.

Carlton Reid 39:00
And it was a tram organisation to begin?

Mohamed Mezghani 39:02
Yes, it was born as the European tramway association with the 60 members from nine countries, European countries and then then progressively became the Association for all public transport stakeholders and all modes of public transport in the city and not just mass transit modes but also on demand and shared mobility.

Carlton Reid 39:23
So this is a like the big bus companies the big train compnaies, they’re all members that you represent their interest among the members.

Mohamed Mezghani 39:31
We have 1900 members from 100 countries and our members are the public transport operators. So operating metros and buses and ferries in the in the cities. The authorities the regulators at national or local level means public entities, regulators, the supplying industry, so those manufacturing buses and trains and the IT system, the ticketing system consultants, the academics, and as I said, I mean it’s not just about Mass Transit is really including when I say operators, it’s also operators of bike sharing, car sharing, taxis, also part of UITP.

Carlton Reid 40:09
And I believe you’ve just come from a meeting with the World Health Organisation. So what we’re discussing with them because getting onto a bus isn’t really very healthy.

Mohamed Mezghani 40:18
We are discussing about how public transport contributes to better health because when people use public transport, first they woke compared to those who are using their cars. So it’s good for for health. But also, when you have 50 people in a bus, even if that bus looks maybe, like dirty bus, there are 50 50 people and so the emission per person is much lower than the 50 cars that are on the same road than that bus. So and, and it was interesting to see that the WHO ‘s considers really public transport as a way to improve health and as a way to reduce air pollution. And so that’s why we were having this meeting with them and to see how we can

Carlton Reid 41:09
Mohamed, you know, I know. But it’s not here. It’s not on the official agenda — public transport isn’t, cycling isn’t, walking isn’t, even trains are not on. So how surprised are you at that? And how disappointed are you in that?

Mohamed Mezghani 41:31
Look? I mean, I am disappointed than the positivity surprise at the same time. positively surprised, because when I see the where we were 10 years ago in the cup regarding transport, and how in 10 years ago, we had only two or three associations, or two not to say two or three people representing associations at the club. And when I see now that there are much more mobilisation, we have a transport day at the COP.

Carlton Reid 42:00
This is the first one isn’t it?

Mohamed Mezghani 42:01
Not the first one. Okay, but we have a transport day. And that’s a that’s important. So this is these are very positive developments. But at the same time, I’m disappointed because when I hear the conversation about transport, and yesterday, I was part of the ministerial meeting, Transport Minister meeting, when I hear the discussion is about connecting vehicles. It’s aviation. Yeah, it’s Yeah, but it’s more about electrification, but technology and not not about policies, not about how to give priorities to to the modes, which are less polluting, less emitting more socially inclusive, healthier, etc, etc. So So we still have to do a lot to convey our our message and to make the policymakers understand that public transport can contribute to this to the to fight climate change. And also, when we look to the the national plans, only 30% of them national climate plans, only 30% of them include public transport measures only 30%.

Carlton Reid 43:14
So I’m shaking my head.

Mohamed Mezghani 43:16
So our message is clear 100% of them, all of them must cover public transport. So this is the kind of message we we try to convey. And also now transport in general is representing 24%, more or less all the CO2 emissions in 2030, if we don’t act in 2030, it will be 40%. So and it’s the sector which is seeing its contribution, growing the fastest. So so it’s important that we acknowledge that.

Carlton Reid 43:53
Your organisation has signed the letter. We I think you’ve signed two letters, haven’t you with with the two organisations but the one I’m talking about is the European Cyclists’ Federation, which is now rather exploded, it’s lots of NGOs and organisations and charities have now signed that. So, you represent public transport. So, why why are you getting involved with with cycling?

Mohamed Mezghani 44:21
Because first we we consider cycling, walking and public transport as a green alliance as the really the alliance that will that will help and that not that will we will will make feasible, the reduction of CO2 emissions related to urban mobility. So, and that’s why we joined forces. That’s why we we shared with them a number of messages, a number of values, I would say that we try to promote so it’s not surprised for me it’s not surprised that we are we are coming indicating and together with the with the cyclists the Federation, because both modes are, are clean both modes are sustainable. And, and we would like also that people think door to door when they when their mobility and not just station to station. And so thinking door to door and we know that public transport is not a door to door mode. But if we joined forces with shared mobility with the on demand transport with cycling, then we can offer this and and people if they have a convenient door to door solution, they will not feel the need to own a car not just to use the car but to own a car.

Henk Swarttouw 45:44
My name is Henk Swarttouw. I’m president of the European Cyclists’ Federation and of the World Cycling Alliance. The European Cyclists’ Federation is the European umbrella organisation of cyclists. And then I don’t mean racing cyclists, they are covered by the UCI, but everyday cyclists, leisure cyclists, people who use a bicycle, actually not cyclists, but people who ride bikes that would be a better a better name. But anyway, and World Cycling Alliance is the global alliance of organisations like ours, in people for bikes in North America, continental organisations in Latin America, Africa, South and East Asia and even Australia.

Carlton Reid 46:30
And we’re here at, we’re under the globe at COP26. But I know you’ve done a fantastic letter, which lots of organisations have said how many organisations and so we

Henk Swarttouw 46:41
are I don’t have the actual number because organisations are still signing up and can still sign up. But we are over 260

Carlton Reid 46:48
Yeah. Okay, so that’s a great letter. But it’s a protest letter, basically, because cycling isn’t here. Why isn’t it here? And how disappointed are you it’s not here?

Henk Swarttouw 47:03
Well, let’s start to say the second part of the question. First, we’re very disappointed, of course, because to us, it seems so obvious. And why it isn’t here. I can only guess because I haven’t asked the British presidency who has been setting the agenda. I mean, it’s go to transport day. This is the first time there’s a transport day at COP26. And yesterday, there was a meeting of transport ministers, which is also a first time first time for a COP.

Carlton Reid 47:34
But they’re not talking about cycling. Yeah, or walking or trains.

Henk Swarttouw 47:37
Indeed, and that’s all you need to ask them. But the problem is that cycling is not visible. It’s very visible. No, it’s it’s it’s it’s visible for you. It’s visible for me. It’s not visible for the people in the negotiating rooms. We are not allowed to bring a bicycle into the venue, as you are aware that a cyclist outside and they are showing that we’re here and that’s great. waving the placards or showing the bikes, but I was meaning more general not at COP. The cycle cycle. You know, a good example in London when pop-up bike lanes were introduced during the COVID pandemic. Lots of people complaining look, there’s a bike lane, it’s all empty. And that’s because a bike this takes so little space, it’s transparent, it’s hardly visible. Whereas a congested car lane is very visible. It’s clogged with cars. Has anybody ever asked why a railroad track is empty? 99% of the time? No, it’s a bit the same. The same, the same reason. The other thing is, of course that the economic ecosystem around a bike is so much smaller than the one around motorised vehicle called make money. That’s what he said you can make money but not as much. And there are not as many interests involved. There is no insurance sector there is much less maintenance, there’s no fuel, fossil fuels going into the car. The tires don’t have to be exchanged and checked as often as so around the car around alter mobility there is any gigantic ecosystem. And you know, as well as I do that, about 100 years ago, we took a wrong turn. And we adapted our cities our way of life to motorised transport. Before that. There were omnibuses, there were street cars, trims there were bicycles, people walking, pedestrians, and somehow 100 years ago, we took a wrong turn. And now we have to turn back but as 100 years of investment behind it.

Carlton Reid 49:57
So for that reason, do politicians not take walking and citing active forms do not take it seriously, even though transport is, you know, 24 27% of for emissions, and you could really use that.

Henk Swarttouw 50:13
So it seems so obvious. And for us, it’s a no-brainer, low cost, low tech, high impact. But indeed, politicians don’t see it. What I find, having travelled in Europe talking to politicians is, it’s very much connected to personal experience, politicians who have been cycling themselves, they will see it, walking, walking is a bit different, because walking, I think, is not even perceived as a mode of transport.

Carlton Reid 50:45
No. Do you think if this COP was in the Netherlands cycling would be on the agenda?

Henk Swarttouw 50:51

Carlton Reid 50:52
So it’s …

Henk Swarttouw 50:53
And I don’t I don’t know maybe you know, whether it was on the agenda in Copenhagen. At the top there, which was not the most successful

Carlton Reid 51:03
could have been transport really has done before. It’s been just a little part of the job. Now, this is a full day, as he said, but if it was in a cycling country, it will just be of course, cycling is going to be involved in the on the agenda?

Henk Swarttouw 51:16
Yes. Even if it is, I guess, even if it had been in Ireland, you know, what the Irish government has been doing on walking and cycling, making really indeed a commitment to put 10% of transport budget to what cycling and 10% to was walking. It’s amazing. So and that’s the kind of examples we need. And I think the Irish Minister has said as much yesterday.

Carlton Reid 51:43
But they’ve got greens in their government coalition we have so in the UK, there’s no greens.

Henk Swarttouw 51:49
Now, but I mean, I, I’d love to discuss the British electoral system with you

Carlton Reid 51:53
I know, it’s depressing enough as it is.

Henk Swarttouw 51:59
So so. So let’s not go there. But But of course, the political colour of governments makes a difference. Absolutely. I will meeting the Danish transport minister here tomorrow.

Carlton Reid 52:12
But you see, we’ve got a prime minister in the UK, who’s a very famous transport cyclist, who absolutely gets it absolutely is visible when he’s on his bike, because it easy, he’s a very visible person. So what hope do we have if a cycling Prime Minister can’t get cycling on the agenda?

Henk Swarttouw 52:35
We should always keep hope. Don’t ask me to get into the brain of the British Prime Minister, I have a fair idea about why about about why he is behaving like he does. And he is I know, he is a great friend of cycling, but somehow he and that’s, that’s probably part of the problem. He doesn’t see any political benefits in championing cycling at a national level. And I really don’t know whether that’s his own decision, or his advisors or and that’s but he will be considering that. Not all his voters are that much into cycling, and it’s a fact for every politician is a fact that the majority of their voters are car owners and car drivers. And that’s the whole point. I mean, we don’t even we don’t want to take people’s cars away.

Carlton Reid 53:36
I do!

Henk Swarttouw 53:38
But we don’t.

Carlton Reid 53:40
Your official position is …

Henk Swarttouw 53:42
We don’t want to take people’s cars away. But we want to make people aware that they use their cars for for trips that can easily be done by bicycle 50% of the trips, is short on the five kilometres or 30% even shorter three kilometres, you could walk that distance and we don’t say that disabled people need to take two years bicycles or the Pimlico plumber although he could. But you know, so we are saying that right now 95% of all vehicles being sold, is still fueled by petrol or diesel. Those vehicles will be on the road for another 20 or 40 years, 20 years first in the first world and then another 20 years in the Global South, perhaps. That’s not going to reduce the emissions from the transport sector fast enough. EVS electric vehicles, they are great, but our arrival is too slow. The investment is too high and it will not do anything about a couple of other problems we are seeing in our societies. Public health through inactive inactive lifestyles, congestion pollution, noise pollution, particle pollution, what have you, and also social cohesion. Cars are not good for social cohesion. Cycling is good.

Carlton Reid 55:10
So we’re complaining here about national governments. Do you see there’s more hope in city governments, so city mayors, Anne Hidalgo is a good example. The councillors, in in charge of the Motor City in Birmingham is a good example. Andy Burnham of Manchester is a good example, there are many mauors that have actually got quite a lot of power, mainly transport, certainly in the UK, that can make changes to do you think cities are ahead of nations?

Henk Swarttouw 55:45

Carlton Reid 55:46
And is that a good thing?

Henk Swarttouw 55:48
It’s a good thing. I think that in this case that cities can show the way. There’s a bit of a subsidiarity issue there. cycling’s cycling infrastructure cycling policies are easily implemented. At a local level cycling is more adept to an urban environment offers more of a solution more a direct improvement in people’s quality of life. In cities, cycling cities are better cities to live in. So absolutely what and what Anne Hidalgo, and David Belliard and Christophe Najdovskie are doing in Paris, is absolutely great. And the best thing about it is, if Paris can do it, no other city can credibly say that it can’t be done in their city. So even dad, therefore, it’s it’s extremely important what they’re doing in Paris, and I hope they will continue down this, but also other cities, smaller cities are taking that we know that the biggest impediment for people to take up cycling is concerned about road safety. That’s the biggest single factor. It’s not rain, it’s not hills, it’s not sweat, it’s safety. towns cities who are reducing their maximum speeds to 30 kilometres an hour, 20 miles an hour. It has an enormous impact on safety. And it’s, you know, it’s just changing the signs. It doesn’t cost anything not a penny Well, bid for the signs perhaps but that’s all and a bit for real for for for enforcement. But it’s, it’s very those are, that’s low hanging fruit, quick wins. Easy, easy, easy, is easily implemented easily done low investment.

Carlton Reid 57:29
You said before you didn’t want to take the official position isn’t you don’t want to take cars away from people, so people can keep their cars. But you would be in favour of many more restrictions on cars in city centres at least?

Henk Swarttouw 57:44
Yes, absolutely. Particularly where they are where there is no necessity, where there is a good public transport infrastructure where there is a good cycling infrastructure with a good cycle parking facilities. And I think even that people will find that it is more comfortable, more agreeable, more efficient, to travel by bicycle in those cities. It’s a win win win situation. But we need a paradigm shift to achieve that. But quite a few cities and a growing number of cities are actually going down that path walking.

Carlton Reid 58:25
There are collaborations between the city mayors, which which they come together and they

Henk Swarttouw 58:32
just maybe not maybe not the mayors but at C40 level perhaps, maybe not to mayor’s but we are very much involved and we facilitate our organisation facilitates urban planners from different cities to meet said once it is more advanced than the other, you can learn from each other experiences, best practices, lessons learned, etc. The EU was also actually funding quite a bit of that kind of cooperation. In like, for instance, you may have heard about the hand receiving this handshake project. It’s a good example, where cities are learning from each other but also pushing each other because there is a competitive element here. Everybody, every city wants to be the best cycling city.

Heather Thompson 59:19
Heather Thompson for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Carlton Reid 59:23
However, you’re doing something here because we’re not any longer actually in COP26. We’ve now come across to a different part of Glasgow. You have been doing stuff at COP. So tell me what the ITDP has been doing. across there.

Heather Thompson 59:43
well, I have a number of things. So ITDP supports all parts of sustainable transportation. So we are a big advocate for public transportation, walking, cycling the development of compact city so also focusing on land use, which is fundamental to our sustainability mission, and also efforts that are kind of newer to cities, which makes driving private cars more expensive, less attractive so that people have the incentive to move towards more sustainable forms of transportation. And there’s a big emphasis here at the COP on electrification. So we’ve been trying to pull all of those things together, supporting the move to electrification, because we absolutely need to take fossil fuels out of the transportation sector. But we can’t focus on electrifying private vehicles alone. We have a new study coming out in just a couple of weeks in reaction to all of the emphasis on electrification at COP that shows that we will not meet our 1.5 degree target. If we focus on electrifying private vehicles alone, we need to focus on public transportation, walking and cycling, electrifying all the bus fleets out there in the world, moving to more public transportation, and again, making sure our cities develop in ways that are compact. So I’ve been here advocating for all of those messages, and trying to get decision makers at the city level to adopt those missions. And those those points, as well as advocating at the state and international level that these are fundamental to our climate change mission, but also to more equitable cities around the world. Most people can’t afford our private vehicle, they rely on public transportation, and we need to make sure that public transportation is reliable, convenient, safe, affordable for people.

Carlton Reid 1:01:40
Do you think cities are way ahead of national governments here, because when you only see the C40, all these kind of different meetings, they’re pretty radical and Anne Hidalgo. You see Birmingham in the UK, instituting loads of really positive stuff. And then you look at what happened nationally. And it’s very litrle. And you look internationally here, again, it’s just electric cars. That’s just the norm. That’s not that’s not anything quite radical, whereas cities, why are cities more radical, I guess, then then that national and international governments?

Heather Thompson 1:02:12
I think, absolutely, cities are more radical, and more and more cities are becoming more radical. And I think it’s because it’s, as we say, the transportation sector, it’s where the rubber hits the road, right? It’s where people where leaders actually have to look at their constituents in the eyes and see if they’re actually meeting their needs. And you can’t just make promises that you don’t actually fulfil, you have to you have to meet people’s needs, and people are fed up. Climate change is becoming more and more visible with weather events that that we see in front of us. And you know, we all know that air pollution is tied to climate change, and cities are becoming more and more polluted. Consumption is becoming out of control. So I think people just realise that, that they’ve had enough and they can look to their city decision makers or city leaders or city mayors for change. And that’s why there’s there’s more accountability, and we have more mayors that are actually making a difference in making the change, and hopefully, making the pressure go up to the state provincial level, and then the international level. So I think they’re, they’re beginning to listen, but yeah, there’s so much power at the city level.

Carlton Reid 1:03:29
So you’ve got Mayor Pete, who’s now Secretary of Transportation Pete, is that already making a difference on the ground that you’ve got a former city mayor, who’s now in charge of transportation, can he genuinely move the needle? Or is this so much stuff that’s going to just hold him back?

Heather Thompson 1:03:50
It’s such a good question. He’s been saying all the right things, and certainly advocating for the right things. But, you know, when you’re at the national level, there’s so many more politics than trying to get agreement within our Congress in the United States to actually put more money into the right infrastructure is a challenge. And one of the biggest challenges is that most of the money goes into highways that are not in the city centres. And we know most people live in the city centres, and he was a huge advocate for away. We call in many places Complete Streets. So thinking about public space, walking, cycling, making sure that streets are really built for people and not cars. He’s saying all the right things you’ve got, he’s advocating for the right things. We’re yet to have a decision to really put the money behind all that we have a great infrastructure bill. Hopefully that’ll be met with some other decisions that will that will support that as well. And then we have to put that money on the ground. So it’s still early days. And I really have high hopes that the money will come in the money really We’ll get to the ground in the way that it should.

Bronwen Thornton 1:05:04
I am Bronwen Thornton, I’m Chief Exec of walk 21 and I represent the entire planet because everybody walks.

Carlton Reid 1:05:12
Everybody walks. I agree. It’s a transport mode. But we’re at the transport day and walk ing’s not on, cycling’s not on, buses, on, trains not on, the only thing on are cars.

Bronwen Thornton 1:05:26
It’s a pretty gross generalisation in the technical sense of the term because there are conversations happening.

Carlton Reid 1:05:32
It’s on the fringe, not on the agenda, not on that main policy.

Bronwen Thornton 1:05:37
It’s not in the headlines, it wasn’t a priority for the UK, government. Electrification is a priority for the UK Government. So vehicle centric tech, it’s, it’s the challenge in all these environments, but in, in the, the NGO world that I move in, then it’s very much you have to have a mixture of all those things you have to have, we’re not going to get there on Tech, we can’t wait that long, you know that we have to have it. And so I’m speaking this afternoon, quite opposed to sitting alongside aviation and maritime, you know, like that’s Living Streets had their session this morning, the words aren’t in the headline, but the conversations are there and the activity is happening,

Carlton Reid 1:06:21
How we’re going to move it up. So it gets into the headline into the into the actual gubbins of the policy that actually physically emanates from here.

Bronwen Thornton 1:06:33
Globally, or locally?

Carlton Reid 1:06:36

Bronwen Thornton 1:06:39
So we are doing that all the time we have we are actually way putting out pathways, we have a whole set of global indicators with walking lens. So looking at the existing databases, from a walk in perspective, to see what does it say about walking globally, and to map that and to set some agendas around that walking is everywhere. It’s never going to be in the headlines. It’s not that high tech, high money, it doesn’t have any

Carlton Reid 1:07:04
You don’t electrify your feet do you?

Bronwen Thornton 1:07:05
You can’t. Well, they do have jetpacks and you know, all those sorts of things. I think Honda developed some robotic supports and things like that. I think I mean, the thing for walking and UK is a good example for this, where you start to get champions in cities, you start to put it on the political agenda. And you start to communicate the benefits and where we are working in the Global South. We’re focusing a lot not just on the co benefits, everyone likes to talk about those co benefits and their manifold with health and social cohesion and mental health. But there are transport benefits. I mean, it’s it’s a sensible investment to invest in transport. So Washington metro Washington did a massive study of this of their or their stations and their entire system to look at how they could improve their service. And the singular thing they did was improve walking access and cycling to save cycling access to their stations to underpin the ridership to increase their ridership. They actually did walkable catchment, it seems so basic to us, but they hadn’t done it when they built the metro. And not only did it improve their ridership, which improves their fiscal viability, but it also reduced their what they call paratransit costs, which is their private transport for people with a disability. So it made the whole system more accessible. But it’s a transport solution. It wasn’t a social solution or a health solution. And I am all here for the for the health benefits. But when we want transport to change the way the transport system works, we have to talk to them on those transport benefits because they don’t have the KPI for delivering health and who does done the new heatall Health economic assessment tool. And it’s you know, it’s, again, another big step forward. We’ve been involved in some of the consultation around that and actually quantifying those benefits shifting the paradigm about how what we value and how we evaluate in our systems and in our in our fiscal, you know, decision making. Because the cost, you know, we know, the cost of only having motorised travel travel, it’s not just about decarbonisation. If we only decarbonize as, as my colleague Ron Tolley used to say, if you get hit by a Tesla, it still hurts, you know, and it can still kill you. And it still crowds the streets and occupies far too much, you know, public space per person. Disposable costs, air pollution, you know, whatever line, whatever issue you want to carry, there’s good reasons to do something else. But even if you didn’t want to do it, for all those reasons, even if you didn’t want to do it for those reasons, you know, whether it be for children or old people or whatever, people are always going to be walking. We’re not going to stop walking, you know, we’re not going to be levitating. We’re not going to be, you know, doing all of these things, and we’re going to need it. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 1:09:48
So everybody’s pedestrian. You’re right. Yeah, at some point. So even motorists are our pedestrian. They’re

Bronwen Thornton 1:09:55
just pedestrians momentarily in cars. Yes.

Carlton Reid 1:09:58
So if everybody’s A pedestrian at some point. But a pedestrian once they’re out of that car then becomes potentially to run run over by by the Tesla motorist as you said there. So in Biden’s President Biden’s infrastructure acts that was voted through on Friday. There’s this little little chunk in there, hidden away about decolonization about transformers, because the driverless cars the future connected cars of now can’t see pedestrians they can’t see cyclists. They can see them envision maybe if you’re wearing a white noise, jacket, can’t see all of a sudden you’re wearing camouflage can’t see all sorts of scenarios where they can’t actually the current technologies, even the future technologies can’t see pedestrians. So the US government is funding, transponder style spotting of pedestrians, not the same transponders that are in the lampposts and getting junctions and stuff. So what would be your take on? If you want to be safe in the future, when you’re going to have to have one of these transponders otherwise, it’s your fault if you get hit by car.

Bronwen Thornton 1:11:15
See, it’s the tech solution again, and the assumption that that is going to be the dominant No, no, that’s a fair way off that as the dominant mode, look how long it’s taken, you know, for some of the other new technologies to come on board and as appealing as they are. And there’s two schools of thought around this one is that it will make the system safer, because cars will have to slow down, it will make it more dangerous, because you have to wear a transponder or people the segregation factor will start to come into play and the restriction on pedestrian movements that we saw, historically with fencing and which was, you know, done with alacrity, you know, here in the UK, just fenced them off so that vehicles can move more, it is a big challenge. And it’s not just the US the EU’s current call for proposals under the new horizon 2020 road safety agenda has wearable detection, you know, tech, let’s not call it art, or you know, so they’re also keen to pick up on the tech solutions. But when you look at the global, Lucky look globally, it’s very easy for us to sit here in the UK or look at the US and think this is going to impact everybody, but it’s not. There’s millions of people in Asia in Africa, who are walking every single day 70% of people walk in Africa for their entire journey. So while everyone walks in some respect, you know the volume of walking and they’re not going to have a visa and transponders anytime soon in a lot of those environments so we can we can keep getting high tech here. There’s gonna just have to be i My sense is that those type of vehicles and those types of systems will we be restricted to corridors like trains are restricted to corridors or light rail is restricted to a track

Carlton Reid 1:12:56
But then these corridors suddenly take over the whole blummin’ world just as roads did, and and motorways did.

Bronwen Thornton 1:13:01
Yeah, but railways did it. Railways were contained in corridors, roads is a free network, we’ve always had pathways and movement that’s roads is just part of that it’s just currently occupied by cars. But if you’re going to have something that can interact with the whole system, or bicycles, and people walking, and you know, all those sorts of things, then potentially we end up in that corridor situation. And it comes back down to one of the things that were, we were hearing a lot in the different conversations around. And I think it was on the Saturday conversation with the World Health, climate and health meanings and different people are saying, it’s so much comes down to negotiations of space, where do you put bike lanes? Have why’d you make the footpath, who gets the dominant, you know, the priority in the space, and they’re just their choices that we’re making. And it doesn’t automatically follow that what we currently use that space for will be how we use it forever, you know, just as we, you know, cities were built for human movement. So there was more like Medina’s and things like that. Then we got you know, horse and carriage the streets got wider, and then they got longer and it goes, and these things are evolving all the time. So I could be disheartened or I could be hopeful. And you essentially you feel both, don’t you about this sort of agenda, but it’s still choices that we can make as cities and as citizens about how we use that space in our cities.

Carlton Reid 1:14:18
We’re a bit of a an active travel huddle.

Bronwen Thornton 1:14:21
No, we just suddenly …

Carlton Reid 1:14:22
An active travel huddle. So how do you get on with those guys, those those those pesky cyclists over there? Do you like them?

Bronwen Thornton 1:14:31
Well, she’s a lovely, pesky cyclist [pointing to Jill Warren].

Carlton Reid 1:14:34
Okay, not Jill, how about if she was wearing Lycra, and she was doing 40 miles an hour?

Bronwen Thornton 1:14:39
That’s like saying how do we get on with drivers or train riders or any of those sorts of things? I won’t get into that. Ask him there my argument with you about it at all we have with both parts of the ecosystem. They are we are absolutely all part of the solution

Carlton Reid 1:14:52
Snd sort of coming together and becoming more powerful. If you join and you join with buses. Yeah, so we missing actually made that up on the hoop before the coalition of the missing is what I’m going to describe this is so so I think I’ve interviewed you ITP. Here missing from this conference from the agenda cycling, missing walking missing. So if you’re coming together with public transport and with cycling and with with walking for transport, is that something that has potential for change? Not here, we know not here. But in the future, maybe

Bronwen Thornton 1:15:31
yeah, of course, that is that is the ultimate combination that we need, because as much as we love cyclists, and we’re very happy that they’re part of the mix, we actually want to place a working relationship with public transport, when we talk about decarbonisation is public transport trips that we’re walking can make a stronger contribution. And public transport is a journey extender for a walking trip. Whereas a cycling trip is a different starting point you get on a bicycle, you leave your home, but a public transport trip you get on you leave your home on foot, you travel on public transport for a short journey, or for a long journey, and then you walk again at the other end. So that is definitely the combination that has to be the starting point for the the truly sustainable in all the senses of the term, not just carbon emission sense of the term. But in all senses in terms of usage of space, public health, you know, commercial realism, people don’t shop inside their cars, despite the prevalence of drive through coffee shops. Now, when I saw in Canada all those years ago, it’s just like, you’ve got to be joking. But there it’s minus 29 outside, so you can forgive it marginally. So it is the Nexus that is the thing that is and there is a lot of strong dynamics around that. We’re not entirely missing from this event. We’re not the headline story. We’re not the electric cars, we’re not that person, we’re fine about that. But we are in the conversations and outside this particular version of COP, there is so much good work going on, on these agendas, you know, elsewhere. When you when you look at what countries are doing when you look at what Ireland Ireland is our pinup child at the moment, I’m putting in a ruthless plug because wall 21 is in Ireland next year. But you look at the political commitments that Ireland has made 20% budget and split evenly between walking and cycling. That’s a million euros a day they need to spend for walking and cycling. That’s a commitment that’s translating into change on the ground and changing the way that they they govern their systems to deliver that to to one public transport versus motorised travel, you know it. This is the stuff this is the political commitment. This is the translation of what we need. And when anyone I just sat in the session with Living Streets and people there said, Yes, of course, it’s not for everybody. And I must admit I’m really tired of hearing that. Of course, it’s not for everybody. driving cars is not for everybody. But we don’t say that when we talk about driving cars, we say oh yes, we understand people that are walking, you can’t go very far. And of course, you can’t go very far. But you can go most of the journeys we do, can be done by walking or with a public transport, you know, extender, we always find this way of downplaying and dismissing, you know, the general public transport this or cycling that, you know, and this delusion, the car travel is is a freedom thing, this is the thing that I really like I just like, we all need a car, I’m not a car free person, I’m not in the car free zone. Here, I have four children, dogs and holidays and things I’m fine about their place in the system. But the thing that I always feel is car, people in cars deny other people the choice to walk, deny them, the opportunity, deny them the freedom to walk and cycle. And that’s where their choice and their freedom isn’t a true freedom because it’s unsustainable, because it’s taking away that freedom and choice from from other patrons and

Carlton Reid 1:18:48
equity. Yes, yeah, absolutely. Reason why it should be here, walking should be here. And cycling should be here, these modes, you know, the majority modes of transport in a global

Bronwen Thornton 1:19:00
time. So ITDP launched the Global Cycling challenge yesterday, cycling is here, they launched this, they’ve got cities all over the world. They’ve got, you know, all sorts of partners on board making and talking about walking. So even if it’s not making the headlines here in COP, there is a lot happening outside, you know this one moment in time. And these are really critical moments, no less than to just have opportunity to sit and talk to people in real life like we are doing. But they’re not the only moment. And the most important moment right now is to get some of those commitments. You know, there’s all these agendas and copper, and I’m fine for all of that. But But around all of that around that centrality of ministers and things. There’s so much good work going on. And there’s so much change evolving and happening in cities. When we when we look from where we are, what 21 to 21 years old. The difference between now and 20 years ago is is immeasurable. It’s extraordinary. And we saw a graph the other day we’re doing some review of research bibliometric studies Have walking research. And until the year 2000, it was pretty like low flatline. And since the year 2000, it’s like this bit like global warming, it’s a bit of a worry what we’re mapping there,

Carlton Reid 1:20:10
A hockey stick.

Bronwen Thornton 1:20:12
But it’s doing this is general and we are about we part of a programme that’s going to launch for Research Education Foundation is launching a research programme into walking only, not walking and cycling, not active mobility, not collective nouns which obfuscate meaning walking as a mode of transport, because it’s the it’s not the underdog, but is the under under studied. And so it’s really exciting. They’re launching a whole research funded research programme, to grow the agenda. And what we always think is so critical. It’s not just that there’s lots of knowledge out there, it’s translating it into action, which we all know, is the big challenge. And so through things that we work, I chair, the African network for walking and cycling. And we have a working group there on the nexus between research and action. And how do we translate that and how do we do that? So I, I’ve come to cop here. I live in the UK, it was a lovely train ride. But I don’t invest everything in this moment. It’s an important moment, but it’s not the only one. And there’s so much good stuff happening elsewhere, and growing agendas and things like that, that I’m uncomfortable with that.

Jill Warren 1:21:19
Hi, I’m Jill Warren. I’m the CEO of the European Cyclists’ Federation. We are the umbrella federation for cyclist organisations from all over Europe, we have about 70 members in over 42 countries

Carlton Reid 1:21:32
And Jill where’d you come from? And that’s geographical and your career.

Jill Warren 1:21:38
Yes. So I’m American originally, but I have lived for over 30 years in Europe. I’ve spent time in Germany, Belgium in the UK, currently based in Brussels with ECF. And before joining ECF, at the beginning of 2020, I had spent 20 years in international law firms in Europe.

Carlton Reid 1:21:56
Why did you get into this job?

Jill Warren 1:21:59
Well, it’s it isn’t a million miles away, because law firms lobby for their clients. And there, they absolutely represent their interests in every way you can think of and also in a lobbying sense. And so I was quite familiar with that having worked in Brussels for major international law firms and seeing how they advocated for their clients interests. So I was always a very passionate cyclist. I mean, I never went on holiday unless I can take my bike with me. And being able to combine that, you know, into a career I really love has been an absolute dream.

Carlton Reid 1:22:32
Jill, you’re a media superstar already, because I just saw you on Sky News. Fantastic. What were you saying to Sky News?

Jill Warren 1:22:39
Well, I was talking about how we would very much like to see cycling have a prominent role in these discussions as the solution with potential that it is yeah, instead of all the focus being on the electrification of vehicles.

Carlton Reid 1:22:53
So I’m pleasantly pleased that they’ve interviewed you surprised that they’ve interviewed you because they found you and got you on. So what was their line of questioning? Was it totally see, I can see what you’re saying, but was it totally serious? You were taken seriously?

Jill Warren 1:23:11
I think the catalyst was this joint letter that we initiated, in in the run up to the COP, when we saw that, you know, all of the papers coming out seem to be focusing on the electrification of vehicles, we thought that can’t be we really need to call that out and talk about the need for the leaders here to recognise cycling and to fund it and have policies that will enable more cycling, because it’s a solution that’s available. Now. It’s a solution that, you know, it also has an electrification element e bikes have absolutely changed the scope out there in terms of opening up cycling to people of all ages and abilities. And, you know, it really is a solution that can replace car trips, given that most car trips in Europe are less than five kilometres. So the potential is there. The technology is there. We just need the political will the courage and the funding.

Carlton Reid 1:24:02
Absolutely. Now, it’s great that Sky News have interviewed you. However, it’s not on the agenda. So as many wonderful interviews that I’m sure you will really be doing. TV just just now. All fantastic. All we need all of this. But if we don’t physically get on that all important agenda. It’s like it’s kind of hot air, Jill.

Jill Warren 1:24:26
Yeah. Well, I, I appreciate your point there. But I do think it’s been great to speak to some ministers here to really get our letter in front of them to raise the awareness further, I do think that a lot of them are more progressive than maybe the rest of their governments are. We know that cities are more progressive than their national governments are that their citizens are even more progressive than the than the city leadership is. So we really feel like the people are on our side on this and we just need to keep fighting our fight to get it higher up the agendas and on the agendas stuff. That’s more action is taken, and it’s it’s funded, we have the policies, the funding, all the political will and everything that we need to really turn more of our cities and towns into cycling cities and towns.

Carlton Reid 1:25:12
So Henk was saying before about somebody was complaining about incrementalism. But you could look at this maybe getting onto the next COP agenda, incrementalism in that you’re not here, you’re not on this agenda. But you’ve kicked up such a fuss and garnered so much support, that the next COPs will be totally blown out of the water if they haven’t got walking, cycling, bus, train, because these are these are modes that is like, how could they have missed them?

Jill Warren 1:25:45
They are used by millions of people every day and the potential for millions more and it is such the solution, we need to a lot of the emission of you know, the rise in emissions coming from transport over years. I mean, that’s one area that’s been really tough to crack, it can be cracked. I mean, we saw in the pandemic, how quickly you can make, you know, cycling, enabling infrastructure. You know, overnight, you can make a street car free, you can turn it into temporary cycle lanes or low traffic neighbourhoods or slow streets. And you know, that’s a good start. Now let’s let’s do that, then let’s make this permanent. Let’s, you know, people don’t really want to go back to the way it was before when you’ve done something like that. So we just need more action.

Jill Warren 1:25:45
They are used by millions of people every day and the potential for millions more and it is such the solution, we need to a lot of the emission of you know, the rise in emissions coming from transport over years. I mean, that’s one area that’s been really tough to crack, it can be cracked. I mean, we saw in the pandemic, how quickly you can make, you know, cycling, enabling infrastructure. You know, overnight, you can make a street car free, you can turn it into temporary cycle lanes or low traffic neighbourhoods or slow streets. And you know, that’s a good start. Now let’s let’s do that, then let’s make this permanent. Let’s, you know, people don’t really want to go back to the way it was before when you’ve done something like that. So we just need more action.

Carlton Reid 1:26:28
So Greta, has got blah, blah, blah. And that’s cut through that. Absolutely cut through those three words. So the advocates, outside bicycle every morning, had car car car,

Jill Warren 1:26:40
I had my picture taken with them, it was fantastic.

Carlton Reid 1:26:43
As soon as I saw that, I got to get a photograph of that. That is totally brilliant, you know, going for the zeitgeist. But the car car car element comes in in that an awful lot of the delegates here, some are coming on buses. But then you see on social media, the photographs of fleets and fleets of non electric cars, even though they’re like electric SUVs, shuttling them. And treating politicians are probably in part. So is it just a mindset, it’s just we live on an an automobile dominated planet. And so there’s no hope of getting cycling, walking. Because not even the delegates are using these modes. It’s just everybody. The people who are here during the negotiating are actually car based people.

Jill Warren 1:27:28
Yeah, well, I think that’s true to a large extent. But I do think we have some leading by example. things out there. I mean, look at the Prime Minister of the Netherlands who regularly is seen on a bicycle, he’s not the only one, you’ve got Deputy Prime Minister’s in Belgium doing the same thing. I do think more of our leaders are in favour of this kind of active, sustainable transport. And, you know, certainly Boris Johnson, I mean, he needs to put his money where his mouth is, but but but you know, he is one that’s, you know, famous for the Boris bike. I mean, you have to give them that. And so, I think being a politician at that level, you’re in a bubble anyway, which you’re going to travel in convoys, and all of that kind of thing. So So leaving that aside, I do think you’ve hit a point that the people making the decisions, you know, how are they travelling? And what’s important to them? And, you know, how can we break through that maybe is,

Carlton Reid 1:28:24
that’s why it’s good to see you on Sky News, because maybe in previous years, it would have been well, yes. Like, who cares about cycling, that’s, that’s even the kids or people or people who are not serious. But now you’re being interviewed. I know you’re a serious person. But you’re being interviewed as a serious person, is that a change? You notice that changing?

Jill Warren 1:28:48
I’m sure that there is a change there. I think that we are being taken more seriously, we’re not just these fringe hippie, you know, cycling advocates, activists or something. I think that our voice is being heard maybe more than it was before. And we practice evidence based advocacy, we can show you exactly what that potential is and what you get. If you make your cities more cycling friendly. You don’t just get the emission benefits, you get so much else you get the livability, you get the health benefits, which are absolutely enormous. You know, these, these add up to over 52 billion euros in economic benefits a year in Europe. And, you know, we can show you well, you know, everything that that brings, so we are serious people and we mean it

Carlton Reid 1:29:33
and you’re also partnering with with serious people. So you’ve got like the joint letter that you had, you’ve had new UITP yes signing which, again is very, very good thing to see and progressive because it’s it’s a coalition. Yes. And it boasts a coalition of the missing. Yeah, because you know, trains aren’t here. buses aren’t here, walking site here site and so you’re all kind of in the same boat. That and that you’re you’re missing from from COP. But do you see these partnerships being very positive for the future?

Jill Warren 1:30:09
Absolutely. And I think they’re powerful. We are natural allies, what we want. So for example, when we got together a coalition to lobby for the EU sustainable and smart mobility strategy, what we said was, we want active mobility and public transport to be prioritised, as, you know, the backbone and the modes that we need in our cities. You know, with everything else, back in line behind those modes.

Carlton Reid 1:30:38
And what about because we’re talking about buses there? And you ideally, what about walking? That’s a mode that people not walkers on transport.

Jill Warren 1:30:48
Yeah. It’s something that people tend to forget in that sense. But I would absolutely say that, you know, walking and cycling are at the top of that hierarchy, then you’ve got public transport, then you’ve got everything else.

Carlton Reid 1:31:02
You’ve said that, again, it’s there is a hierarchy, even the car beside the UK, there is a hierarchy, where walking and cycling are actually at the top. So if you’ve got a template of a transport day, surely the UN and the UK Government will go on, let’s look at the hierarchy. Right cycling the walk and put them at the top. Yeah, we’ll have cars right. But it’s not it’s the other way around the hierarchy. The provision has been flipped.

Jill Warren 1:31:30
Yeah. Well, I think it’s less than a hierarchy being flipped and more of what is the most comfortable solution for our leaders. The most comfortable thing is something that looks like the status quo, and electrifying conventionally fueled vehicles is basically let’s change the status quo a little bit. That’s as you know, little disruption is possible. And you know, the the car makers who are the most powerful lobbies I can think of, you know, are happy, everybody’s happy and jumped on. But you know, we’re here to say no, you know, you really need to pay more attention to the things that can make a much bigger difference.

Carlton Reid 1:32:06
Thanks for listening to Episode 286 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. And thanks also to everybody who allowed me to grab them in Glasgow. Some of these interviews made it into my news stories from COP26, published on Search for Carlton Reid if you want to read them, and also search on YouTube for a video I made on my trips to COP26. I travelled there by bicycle first and then arrived for transport day on a sleeper train from London. I’ve embedded that video on the website for this podcast, too. And that’s at I hope you think the extra long show was worth it. But I also don’t plan to make a habit of such lengthy episodes in the future. There’s another show due at the end of the month. Meanwhile, get out there and ride!

October 29, 2021 / / Blog

29th October 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 285: Ride For Their Lives


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Childrens’ health professionals on the Ride for Their Lives ride.

TOPICS: 30 or so childrens’ health professionals are riding from London to Glasgow to deliver a letter to world leaders at COP26. I joined them on day six between Newcastle and Carlisle.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 285 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Friday 29th of October 2021.

David Bernstein 0:25
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by JensonUSA, Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Hey everybody. It’s David from the Fredcast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information, check out our website And now, here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:10
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and today I had the honour to meet with a bunch of health professionals on day six of their ride from London to Glasgow. This is the Ride for their Lives rolling demo and they left on Sunday 24th October from the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. There are a core bunch of 30 or so riders with additional day riders joining from different cities en route. Most are children’s healthcare providers and they’re riding to Glasgow to deliver an open letter to political leaders gathering at the COP26 climate conference. Polluted air causes an estimated 7 million deaths annually, and of course, shares the same root causes as the climate crisis. We discuss this and much more on this episode of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The riders were heading to Carlisle and I jumped between the groups to record audio with as many folks as I could grab as we were riding along or stopping for breathers. We left from Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary in pouring rain and first off I interviewed the CEO of Great Ormond Street hospital Matt Shaw. Well, I thought I did. Well, I did, but the radio mics clearly didn’t like the rain and they turned themselves off without me knowing it. Very gamely, Matt agreed to be interviewed again later in the ride but first here I catch up with Dr Mark Hayden, one of the co-organisers of the ride. Mark was recently awarded as Active Travel Campaigner of the year by London Cycling Campaign, as you soon hear.

Mark, caught you up. Yeah, just through this friends.

Dr Mark Hayden 3:09
Is it? I don’t know. I’m following my little way up. And I’m just looking looking at that. And

Carlton Reid 3:15
it’s a beautiful route now me it wasn’t it Harry coming out of Newcastle was Yeah. But now the rain stopped and you’re now in you know, the, the tires to the side. It’s lovely. It’s beautiful route. Yeah. So, Mark, tell me who you are.

Dr Mark Hayden 3:29

Carlton Reid 3:30

Dr Mark Hayden 3:31
Well, I’m a paediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Consultant in London, which is a bit of a mouthful and largely irrelevant. That major mainly pays my pays my salary and like allows me actually more time than you’d expect to concentrate on what I think for me is the most important thing I can do at the moment, which is dressed addressing the climate health emergency and like, we all know it cop 26 coming up the situation that we’re in, but not everybody is actually doing anything about it. And you know, you do

Carlton Reid 4:05
lots of stuff because you were active travel campaigner of the year. Yeah, absolutely. With the London cycling campaign.

Dr Mark Hayden 4:12
I was surprised I didn’t apply.

Carlton Reid 4:15
Do you do? Yeah. How did you get that award? What are you in London to make people sign up notice?

Dr Mark Hayden 4:23
Well, I think they mentioned this the right for their lives, which we’ll talk about in a bit, I’m sure. As part of that, because it does fit as you know, there is a strong association between cycling, cycling, infrastructure and riding. But the main thing I was really doing in London was initially focusing on our staff at Great Ormond Street at the time of the pandemic, mainly, and getting cycle infrastructure sorted within gosh, so we actually used a mob called cycling UK he probably heard Yep, and they have something called a cycle friendly employer scheme. Have a think I wrote some one of my usual angry letters to an MP or something. I think there’s a MP cycling group. And they wrote back and said, Why don’t you talk to this guy called James pallisa. So wait, I got together with him. And we, we got Gosh, to be the first NHS Trusts to be a cycle friendly employer. And of course, because I always have to overdo things, we made sure that gosh, was a gold cycle friendly employer. So that gave a lot of opportunity for you know, changing structural things like parking is the main thing. You really need showers, stuff like that. But also information sharing and encouraging people and groups that help. There’s riding along all of that sort

Carlton Reid 5:45
of stuff. Your electric bike there, which might be the sound that people hear it is yeah. Is that what you normally like? Or is that your everyday bike apart from

Dr Mark Hayden 5:54
when it gets stolen, which is either if I ever leave it on the street, which I never do anymore, or AFI was on I think Sakura one or something one of the SAS trends rates going north, up the Lee Valley when I got pulled over by a couple of guys threatened to be shanked, and they relieved me of my previous bike, which was a much more expensive one. But it is a better bike. So I’m not sad about that. So is that one

Carlton Reid 6:19
of the things that you do? Gosh, then you make sure that number one? Well, number one, that’s certainly one of the major things is the people who are coming to work on their bikes are going to have somewhere secure really secure. Yeah, especially in London. Yeah, it’s

Dr Mark Hayden 6:32
got to be behind swipe carded stuff system, if their stuff.

Carlton Reid 6:37
So it was a one already have you put that in? Well,

Dr Mark Hayden 6:40
funnily enough, the guy who actually thought of this ride, Vince, is just ahead of us in a group called silky Oh, he’s been sort of working on that for years. You know, he’s sort of been running that for years. And actually, when I sort of got involved with him, there was a lot of secure cycle parking at Gosh, which is an unusual situation. But nobody used to, you know, there was one section that people could easily get into. And that was always full, and all the rest you couldn’t get into, because you have to ask the security guards for the right door to let you in. So there’s all of these barriers, which were the easiest barriers in the world to kick over once you got organised and did something about it. And you organised an active travel group, which we did rather than a bicycle Users Group, which I think are an impediment to everything. I don’t like bicycle Users group, they just focused on cyclists. And I’m interested in active travel. And Cycling is a great part of active travel. But yeah, so it’s for that bit for the cycle friendly employer. A lot of it was stuff I just did by talking to people, and I didn’t need money and I didn’t need changes. So that was fine. But the junction at Holborn where the paediatrician who works at the Evelina, there’s a bunch of Evelina riders riding with us was killed that the beginning of August Yeah, I can’t do anything about that. The you know, that needs to be changed by,

Carlton Reid 8:15
okay. You got this on your your gang right here.

Dr Mark Hayden 8:19
And we’re on Komoot. And, you know, the only people that can actually change that are Camden, and the mayor, and some clever people who understand how to design a junction, which isn’t me. So that was really the next step. And it wasn’t a conscious step. You know, he was just, I’ve roughly got my stuff cycling, I’ve roughly got them safe. And now someone’s been killed. And that could have been one of my stuff. And several Gosh, stuff are being killed near Gosh, and one’s being killed on that junction before. And everybody knows about it. The mayor, Camden, they all know about it. They all know it’s wrong, and they’re not acting. So people are only going to act if they’ve got the money to act, or they’ve got the inclination. So really, that’s when I sort of moved further into the advocacy quite air. And I think that’s really why the LCC gave me this award, which they probably just made up this year. As far as I know, I don’t know. But so the I think it was around the advocacy. That was the main thing,

Carlton Reid 9:26
advocacy in London. Yeah, let’s segue to what you’re saying about Vince. And coming up with the idea for this ride. Yeah. So when did you start planning this? Why did you start planning this? How did you start planning this?

Dr Mark Hayden 9:39
Yeah. Well, I did talk to Vince about we have lost your group. By the way. Let’s just drop the pace then. Because it’s hard for me to ride lead and

Carlton Reid 9:49
no, I’m taking you away from your role there.

Dr Mark Hayden 9:52
So yeah. Should we just talk?

Carlton Reid 9:55
Yeah, shouldn’t we maybe have

Dr Mark Hayden 9:57
a chance? Sara Do you actually you don’t work in the Bristol Children’s Hospital? Do you? Your mum’s cutting in your hair to support your mama? How old are you 79. Your youngest thing is Toby’s 18. And one of our other writers who left us in Sheffield was 18, too. So you might you make our youngest rider, we were just talking about how the ride came about.

Carlton Reid 10:22
It’s the electric bike, you say?

Dr Mark Hayden 10:24
Well, it is to turn it off.

Carlton Reid 10:28
No, no, no, we’re back together. I think almost

Dr Mark Hayden 10:32
no, it’s off now. And you’re right now, nowadays, now I can use my legs to tell me the pace to go rather than my than my mind. I don’t need electricity on the flat. Should we go back to

Carlton Reid 10:45
when So Vince is up ahead? And yeah, so maybe when maybe when did this all come together?

Dr Mark Hayden 10:49
As I said, I just saying what I was talking about is just on the ride the other day, and we were going, when did we think this happened? He goes, I’ll go and look for the email. And he hasn’t done that yet, because we’ve been a bit busy. But I would say it’s about a year ago now nearly a year ago. And the way it came about was the fertile ground of the safe, effective and sustainable travel group, which I was talking about, which is better than a bug because it focuses on how people get to work in any method other than the car, basically, including hybrids, hybrid methods, not hybrid cars. And we were just in that group, and we declared the emergency or we’re about to declare the emergency, which we all know is a bit of, you know, what does it mean when someone does that? So we were sitting in the group going, what can we actually do? What actions can we take that are real? So that’s when Vince said it. We all said, Well, that’s a stupid idea. Because pliers goes a long way away. But about a week or so later, it’s thinking in and people thinking about it. The next time we had the meeting, we said that’s a great idea. And we’ve been planning it ever since. So that’s how it came about.

Carlton Reid 12:05
So it’s always gonna be the cop 26 was the goal. Yep. To tell world leaders that things are going to change. And then there’s a letter from 45 million. So tell me about the letter from 45 million health professionals. Right, which is what you’re carrying

Dr Mark Hayden 12:21
is that, well, we’re carrying a series of messages, really, I mean, obviously, just what we’re doing is a message. And perhaps the most powerful one, because we’re doing it with our bodies. Lots of letters and things like that have happened in the past, I guess the main thing we’re trying to do differently is to get people to read them, and then get people that act on them. Like Greta says, we know what the problems are. We know what the solutions are. None of it is difficult. None of is tricky. We can fix this completely easily. And we could have done 20 years ago. What’s missing is the will. So that letter that you’re talking about is the healthy prescription. And it’s been signed by I don’t know how many people but the the number you’re quoting is the organization’s that have signed up to it and how many people they represent. And that’s basically a very simple letter. And I couldn’t tell you, at this point, the exact wording, but very simply it talks about adjust and rapid transition away from fossil fuels. It doesn’t mention cycling at all, and nor should it because that’s just a method to do that. But in addition to that, the Royal College of Paediatrics of Child Health and we’re cycling with the college president president today Camilla Kingdon, she’s, which group she’s in. She’s in Sequoia group.

Carlton Reid 13:42
Are they ahead of us all behind us?

Dr Mark Hayden 13:43
Good question. I think they I think they’re behind us.

Carlton Reid 13:47

Dr Mark Hayden 13:48
So Camilla Kingdon. She’s a neonatologist at the Everlina, a colleague of the lady who died and she’s the she’s the president, and that college on Monday this week, put out their statement. So we’re carrying that we’re carrying the letter. And we’re also carrying a letter that came from Geneva, from the World Health Organisation. A letter and a report, which came out very closely together, which Dermott who’s the head of head of health, climate change and health at the World Health Organisation cycled from Geneva to London, to give us and then I was lucky enough to cycle with him, from Geneva to from London to almost Oxford where his mom lives. And he turned off left. And so all of those documents represent what we want people to hear. So we’re not trying to say what we want them to hear all the time. We’re trying to direct them to the experts to the adults in the room, and to tell them to listen to them. We’re healthcare professionals. We’re not for Climate scientists, but we know that this is the greatest threat to our patients. And that if we’re not protecting the planet, we’re not protecting our patients. So that’s the simplicity. That’s the synthesis, I suppose of our message. And

Carlton Reid 15:18
if you clean up the air for people to breathe that exactly the same time mitigates against climate crisis anyway?

Dr Mark Hayden 15:27
Well, I can’t. I mean, humankind is very inventive. But I can’t honestly think of a way that you could reduce pollution and make air quality better, but make the climate crisis worse, because they’re both the same thing. They’re both caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and fossil fuels of coal, oil, and its derivatives and gas. So you need to stop doing both of those things. And both of them work together. But the problem in the UK? Well, it’s not a problem. But one of the issues in the UK is making it relevant to people. And, you know, floods and typhoons, and all of these terrible things that are affecting billions and billions of children across the world aren’t necessarily directed, directly affecting people in the UK. But air quality is, but they don’t know about it, they should know about it. It’s again, like the climate crisis has been known about for years. But the truth has not been told. And the focus has not been on the right place. So that’s why we were using air quality because it’s a direct impact on children all over the world. And particularly in the UK, where cops taking part. And our initial target is UK health workers. And then health workers more broadly. We’re not aiming to speak directly to the public, we want to speak to healthcare workers. We want us to all realise it’s our jobs as our colleges say. And then it’d be nice if politicians listened. And even better if the general public felt that we were trustworthy people who were speaking the truth. So I guess that’s the bottom line. So glad I had a battery there otherwise, I wouldn’t have been speaking at the top of this hill.

Carlton Reid 17:21
So trust medics, well,

Dr Mark Hayden 17:24
they trust nurses and pharmacists, I think at the top. medics are sort of not at the top quite appropriately, I think. And that’s why we’re not medics. You know, there’s a few doctors but we’ve got doctors and nurses, OTs and speech therapy, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, pharmacists. We’ve got electricians that work in the States, we got sustainability professionals, we’ve got young people who either used to be or even still our patients of Gosh, we’ve got, we’re not a bunch of doctors cycling to Glasgow, we could have been, that would have been way easier to organise. There are millions of doctors with lycra and carbon fibre bikes that I could have brought along. But I didn’t want to not because I don’t like them. Some of them are my friends. But because we’re not gonna, we’re not going to get people cycling. By sticking to the same old stereotypes. We’re going to get people cycling, by making everybody feel welcome. So that’s really the message and we’re not going to fix old white men like me, I’m going to fix climate change. You know, we’ve tried that look at all of the sort of conservation efforts and stuff that’s failed in the past. The only solution is diversity. So if we weren’t following that, as a principle on the ride, I think it would have been pointless doing the ride.

Carlton Reid 18:59
Well, Mark, I’m gonna I’m going to turn round in a minute, and I’m going to try and get some other people find Camilla. Yeah. We’ll try and get some other groups back there. Brilliant.

Camilla, first of all, we are well, we’re just coming off Route 72. You’re now going into into Corbridge. Is this your first day with the ride? How many days?

Dr Camilla Kingdon 19:18
My only day with the ride. So I’ve come up from London to do Newcastle to Carlisle.

Carlton Reid 19:23
Nice. rainiest day.

Dr Camilla Kingdon 19:26
I know. But you know

what? It’s like, late October. I was actually fully expecting it to be cold and wet. Yeah, it’s not particularly cold. So no, all good.

Carlton Reid 19:34
That’s good. Yeah. Right. Tell us on tape who you are. And you’re the president of an august organisation. So tell us that.

Dr Camilla Kingdon 19:43
So I’m Camilla Kingdom. And I’m a consultant paediatrician, and I’m the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Carlton Reid 19:50
And where do you normally do your doctoring?

Dr Camilla Kingdon 19:51
So I, I work at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital which is in central London.

Carlton Reid 19:56
Sadly, a colleague of yours was killed.

Dr Camilla Kingdon 19:59
She was.

Carlton Reid 19:59
On a road in

Dr Camilla Kingdon 20:01
very near the college. Yes, yes, yes.

Carlton Reid 20:04
Yes. So is that I know this has been planned along before. But are there colleagues who would have known that person?

Dr Camilla Kingdon 20:13
I knew her. So she worked in my hospital. She said her name was Marta Krawiec, yes. She was a consultant, paediatric allergist. And in fact, she and I went, went to Cairo together to run. I was running a conference with paediatricians in Egypt. And they were desperate to hear learn more about allergy. And she volunteered to come. And so we spent, in fact, I saw the pyramids with her. So it’s absolutely heartbreaking. She was cycling through central London. It’s a route that I do very, very frequently. Everybody in London knows that interchange. And I think she was the seventh or eighth person to diet. So it’s absolutely heartbreaking.

Carlton Reid 20:59
Let’s look to the future. The Royal College has got a new policy on climate change. When was that announced? And what is it?

Dr Camilla Kingdon 21:09
This week. So we’ve launched our climate change statement. And this is on the back of us declaring a climate change emergency back in 2020. And, in fact, a group of our members brought it as a motion to our annual general meeting. And of course, it was passed unanimously, it was cleaning out no argument to be had about that. But what was it’s one thing passing a motion, that we’ve declared a climate emergency, it’s another thing to do something about it. And so what we’ve got is, we’d look, we put a call out for volunteers we had at paediatricians volunteer. And so we’ve divided them up into five work streams. And we’ve got a work stream doing, looking at the research in relation to impact of climate change on children, we’ve got another work stream, looking at how we advocate for children and young people in terms of so a bit like the cycle road, you know, this is about raising the awareness about the impact of pollution on children’s health. So that’s the advocacy group is a group looking at international children of the impact on global child health. So we’ve got this series of workstreams. And they’ve all got some targets to achieve. And this was sort of at the beginning of our journey, but we very much see this as a continuous effort in the college over the over the years, you know, until we’ve solved the problem, we’re not going to stop the

Carlton Reid 22:32
work and just cycling hook into that. Well,

Dr Camilla Kingdon 22:35
cycling, of course, cycling hooks into it, because you’re not burning fossil fuel in your engine. And so many of us cycle anyway, to work, I commute to work on my bicycle. And I think this particular cycle ride grabbed people’s imagination, because you know, it’s a good hard slog to Glasgow, you’re putting yourself out of your comfort zone. But you’re really kind of trying to get the message out that the children’s lives are impacted by poor air quality. And, you know, a nine year old died not far from where I live, in fact, in South London a few years ago. No, exactly. And, you know, it was a landmark case, because the coroner ruled that air pollution can be contributed to her death. But there’s a wider issue in as much as this is also about health inequalities because we know that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are more impacted by poor air quality and other aspects of climate change than children from advantaged backgrounds. And actually, sadly, globally, children in the poorest countries where actually they’re probably causing the least impact on the on the planet are the most affected in terms of poor air quality, dirty drinking water, etc, etc. So, this is a real child health issue.

Carlton Reid 23:58
Earlier in the morning, and long before I circled back to talk to Dr. Camilla Kingdon. I had to become disconnected from the group’s after some of my recording equipment fell from the bike. A rider in fluoro, yellow kindly dropped back to be with me. I didn’t know it for about 15 minutes or so. But this was Dr. Mike McKean, a name I was actually familiar with because A, he treated one of our kids and, B, my wife knows him well. My wife is a hospital paediatrician, you see, she should have been on this ride really? Anyway, me and Mike rode in tempo to the town of Prudhoe, where we were expecting to meet with the fast roadies who had gone ahead to buy a replacement tyre following a blowout. Instead, we got to the bike shop first. And what we’re twiddling our thumbs waiting for the group. I use my dried out radio mic to talk first to Mike. And then when the roadie group finally arrived to Janet Poon who had ridden off earlier with my other radio mic. That’s a lot of mics. I know, let’s be professional. Here’s Dr. McKean. Okay, well let’s just walk across here are waiting for the rest of the fast road group to to arrive. We’ll use one microphone because the other microphones up the road there with Janet. No idea where they are. So Mike we have arrived outside. Well it used to be bike highwayman or bike repairman? Giant Newcastle giant Newcastle. No,

Dr Mike McKean 25:29
it’s the two companies. Yes.

Carlton Reid 25:31
So we’re kind of in the cycle area of Prudhoe.

Dr Mike McKean 25:34

Carlton Reid 25:34
And we are waiting for the crew because we’ve had a bit of a mechanical so I’ve had a bit of a tyre. That’s burst. So the crew, I guess, hopefully will arrive quite soon. But in the meantime, let’s let’s talk to you, Mike. So Mike, tell me first of all, who you are, even though I know who you are, because my wife knows you. Anyway, who are you, Mike?

Dr Mike McKean 25:50
So I’m going to Mike McKean. I’m a children’s respiratory consultant at the Great North Children’s Hospital. And I’m also clinical lead for the child health and wellbeing network in the North east North Cumbria.

Carlton Reid 26:01
So that’s basically children’s well being so not just their physical health, but also what they’re breathing, their mental health, their exercise, all of that kind of stuff is that yeah,

Dr Mike McKean 26:12
but also also a lot of is about education to an early intervention, I think. I’ve often thought you know, that, that we we’ve got some fantastic people working in children’s health, all over the country, really. But we shouldn’t forget that actually, the children’s workforce in the UK is massive if you include our social workers, our voluntary sector, but most importantly, our teachers. And I think we’ve all got a part to play in supporting our kids to become as healthy as possible that’s both physically mentally, but also in their learning their education so that they can reach their potential.

Carlton Reid 26:49
And now you’ve been on the ride since day one. So you joined in London, from a pair from your full timer. But you joined in London. So you’ve been riding now for five days.

Dr Mike McKean 27:01
Yeah, this is this is I forget which day it is now, stay six.

Carlton Reid 27:06
And this is the first time you’ve had relatively poor weather because you got a meal. It’s actually dried up now. But you’ve had some poor weather today. Yeah, we’ve

Dr Mike McKean 27:15
had a tailwind for yesterday, which was the long run from Harrogate was nearly 90 miles. So having a tailwind was fantastic. And it was overcast them. But other days we’ve had sunshine which has been been unseasonal, perhaps, but nice.

Carlton Reid 27:29
And how

many people are doing the ride, because obviously, people are joining in each city and riding a bit like me, of course, but how many are in the core group so that people like you when you’re doing it every day.

Dr Mike McKean 27:42
And I think there’s the tea, something 33 of us, I think during the call, and then there’s often another 10 or so riders joining us each day. And then of the 33, you know, they come from all sorts of backgrounds, really, I guess, all focused on children’s health. And so there’s therapists, there’s nurses and doctors, but there’s also charity workers for the children’s hospitals as managers, IT people and and very importantly, now a new a new breed we’re seeing in the professionals we’re seeing coming into the NHS, which is sustainability officers who really are educated and trained in trying to help us develop an NHS service, which is hopefully going to become carbon neutral, or even carbon negative. Now, wouldn’t that be a thing? The NHS is a huge part of the UK. And if that sector and that that working sector was actually carbon negative one day, that would be a great example, because we will know that that climate change is having such a big impact on everybody’s health, and that includes the NHS workers themselves.

Carlton Reid 28:49
So not just NHS workers arriving at work and tootling around electric cars, but you’d hope the sustainability officers are also saying walk more cycle more. It’s not just the the pollution you’ve got to worry about. It’s people’s health.

Dr Mike McKean 29:04
It’s people’s health as a whole and so within an environment in the in the UK, you know, thinking about our ability to cycle and walk to work is quite important and we’ve learnt lessons as we’ve gone along of the country. And you know, cycling from London you know, through London, Oxford, Sheffield, Leeds now into Newcastle, it’s quite apparent that psychopaths are not maintained, they’re not joined up. There’s the so many obstacles in crossing main roads, motorways dual carriageways, and they’re simply kind of cyclists if you like a second class citizens, and therefore that puts people off and involves a little bit of risk and danger too. So you’re going to cycle through a city at the moment you know, it’s initially no way you go in there’s a little bit hazards in the way. But I think sustainability in the NHS is not just about cycling and getting to work. It’s actually in the work environment. So that’s the electricity we use. It’s how we conserve energy, but also how we Bring greenness into our environment. So there’s a big movement about city farms now, and a lot of hospitals looking at kind of green areas within or within them or next to them to help, you know, grow fruit vegetables have pleasant places to come off the know, that’s really good for people’s well being as a whole, not to be confined into brick walls all the time. And there’s lots of evidence to show that actually, for patients, whether it’s kids or adults, actually being in an environment where there are flowers or trees is actually kind of quite important for them. Of course, you can then see green corridors coming through cities, which is interesting. I would say the other thing that that I’d like to raise who’s just been thinking a bit about it with some colleagues on this, right, which one of the best thing about is right, you speak to people who’ve got different ideas and thoughts. And one of the best things that are one of the most important things I’ve heard, there’s really educated me is about education, really. And of course, getting bringing education into our, our children’s lives about sustainability. They get it, in fact, they’re probably teaching us, I must say a thing or two. But across the world, there’s still large amounts of children who are disenfranchised who do not that good education. Sadly, in large areas of the world, it’s often the girls who struggle more than the boys to get a good education. We know that if kids get good education’s that actually systems they can engage with systems and make them work. And particularly, we have to shout out for the girls, we need more girls across the world to be getting involved in education to being educated. And that I think, is where the power of change can come from.

Carlton Reid 31:39
Power of change COP 26 How hopeful are you?

Dr Mike McKean 31:43
I think we now know we got the knowledge. There’s a lot of people who now have a belief. I don’t think it’s wide enough in the in the UK, let alone across the world and people really understanding the problems you’ve got, but also that there’s very positive solutions ahead of us. Am I optimistic? I’ll be very honest and say no, because I don’t think we’ve got that groundswell yet that we need. But, you know, turning a big tanker around takes time, they said, Isn’t it so I firmly believe if we can create the nudges, that will move in a direction that will be better, and hopefully, we can keep doing that each year.

Carlton Reid 32:19
Now, my wife is a cycling paediatrician. So that’s how I already knew your name. So as soon as we were on the road there, because you very kindly dropped back when all my electronics fell off, and it was raining, it was horrible. And the riders went off, and my bike was one of the bits you currently dropped back there. And then we’re riding for a bit and then you said to us, okay, yeah, I know Mike McKee. So I know Mike McKean is a keen cyclist, and my wife told me that so tell me a bit about how keen Mike McKean?

Dr Mike McKean 32:51
not particularly. I’m a runner, now.

Carlton Reid 32:53
Come on.

Dr Mike McKean 32:54
I’m a runner. And, and of course, as you get older, you get bad knees. And my knee surgeon said, you know, you’ve got to be careful now. So mixing it up, has been my what I’ve been doing for the last few years personally. So I’ve been doing some triathlon, swimming and cycling. I cycled to and from work when I can, and probably should do it more and I intend to do more.

Carlton Reid 33:15
But that’s from Tynemouth all the way into Newcastle. So that’s, that’s a canny ride, and you do it on the main road. It’s not a very nice ride, not

Dr Mike McKean 33:23
not always very pleasant. But if I’ve got the right gear, I know where I’m going. Now I know the routes actually does feel very safe now. So it’s just me deciding to do it and making a change and making a mental shift. Actually, I can do it. By the time I’ve actually if you’re driving and queuing and parking, it’s actually probably just as quick and you get a bit of fitness in and do I enjoy I mean, cycling and commuting don’t always particularly enjoy it, I enjoy a run. But cycling out in the countryside is got to be one of the most pleasurable things I’ve learned over the last two, three years. And having you know, and coming to a place like this cycle art and, and giant in Provo, where they’ve got some serious bike specialists who can get you kitted up, but also measured so you can get on a comfortable bike, you know, so people were shouting at bikes with discomfort and I used to I had an old bike that was a row, a bone shaker, I would describe it as. So it was never really a pleasure. You get a good bike that’s well set up. It feels safer, more comfortable and actually more enjoyable. So the last few five days, although been hard work, I would say it’s been a privilege and a pleasure, actually.

Carlton Reid 34:31
And did you know anybody on the ride before you started?

Dr Mike McKean 34:35
Well, I there’s three, three colleagues, two colleagues of mine and myself from Newcastle doing it and but there’s a load of other people who are just cycling in now.

Carlton Reid 34:46
Yes, we have people arriving just

Group 34:48
We missed you.

Carlton Reid 34:50
We’re fast. We’re very fast.

Group 34:53
I assumed you were cycling ahead. So I just went oh It was a little bit. It was hairy, hairy, so I think it was.

Carlton Reid 35:07
Yeah. So Janet, you’ve only just arrived here after you left us a wee while ago and you had the microphone on and off you went and microphone separate fine. So I think we might have started talking. But anyway, tell us who you are. Janet, what’s your name? I’m Janet. And what’s your second Janet?

Janet Poon 35:28
I’m Janet Poon. I work with Gosh,

Carlton Reid 35:31
which is a Great Ormond Street Hospital

Janet Poon 35:34
in London, and I am an electronic paediatric pharmacist. I work for the EPIC system. So I configure the pharmacy side of the aqueous grading system that Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Carlton Reid 35:46
Okay. And the bike you’ve got here. Is that white one over there?

Janet Poon 35:51
Yes. With the pink handles,

Carlton Reid 35:54
yes. Now, how much of, cos you’ve? You always kept up with the group as you’re doing pretty well. But how much riding have you done before in this kind of, you know, fast roading?

Janet Poon 36:04
I pretty much to none to zero because I commute to work. That’s all. That’s all the cycling experience I have. In preparation for this. I did do one 100k light day ride to Westerville North London, like two weeks before this. And that’s really

Carlton Reid 36:20
it. And have you found it?

Janet Poon 36:23
It’s been really fun and challenging times. But I’m really glad I’m in this group, because I think everyone has grip. It’s so elite, and they’ve got so much experience and they just helped me through so much. They taught me how to go uphill, how to go downhill.

Carlton Reid 36:36
How to ride in the rain today.

Janet Poon 36:38
We’ve had pretty good weather. And so I think the fourth day was a hideous word yesterday. It was like the longest of distance of the four days. But all pretty good weather until today, because we’re getting close to Glasgow. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s been really fun.

Carlton Reid 36:56
And you didn’t know people before some people you didn’t know. You kind of you joined here as a big group. Some of you didn’t know. I didn’t

Janet Poon 37:04
know anyone beforehand. We all met briefly and assume corporate projects resume course before the actual day. Mark, the organiser actually had to speak to one of my colleagues to check that I was real busy. You know, I’ve never met anyone before. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 37:19
So why did you join? Why did you how did you for how did you find out about it? And why did you join?

Janet Poon 37:25
My colleague said said colleague and Carlos said our you know, Mark is going right into Glasgow, do you want to join them? Like, yeah, sounds like fun, why not? And then I found out the court that you know, what they’re doing, which is obviously political air pollution. I thought that’s such a great course. And I’ve learned a lot about not just cycling, but a lot about air pollution as well, during this ride,

Carlton Reid 37:47
is because you’ve got sustainability officers who are joining the ride. It’s not just doctors and nurses. And you also have

Janet Poon 37:55
Yeah, we have we have quite a few hedonistic sustainability from different NHS Trust joining us charity heads as well, but mostly because of the pollution pods. So we saw pollution pot yesterday at the Royal Victoria. And is demonstrated they have five in London and five in Glasgow and they all represent like air quality of different cities. But in between, I think Birmingham, Newcastle, correct me if I’m wrong, and one other cities also have a just one port and that port. That pot is like a future version of what our air would be like in 20 years time. We don’t do anything today. And it’s quite eye opening, like when you go into it, even before you go into a pod, you can see the pod is very, like polluted so and just even before getting to report you can smell it yeuck and really nasty. So it’s quite, it’s quite a wake up call.

Carlton Reid 38:46
So we’ve got to clean our air.

Janet Poon 38:47

Carlton Reid 38:49
Not just for the planet, but also kids lungs. In the future. Everyone’s lungs, not just kids’ lungs.

Janet Poon 38:56
Yeah, I mean, we’re all adults with children once and no children will become adults is for everyone.

Carlton Reid 39:02
Yeah. And is that what you’re hoping the politicians, the world leaders will will take away from cop 26 that look, there’s a groundswell of support for this. Come on, get your act together, do something real. And

Janet Poon 39:18
I’m just hoping they’re public. Everyone was status. It’s not just you know about the leaders everyone doing their part and it’s how healthcare professionals we have the closest contact with public and very often it is us who will kind of miss the kind of passing on the baton and letting the children and the patient and family know that how important air pollution is to their health. Even when Ella died, so they they’re the family didn’t realise how how severe how there’s a VA disability and the velocity of air pollution impacts their children and unfortunately, passed away.

Matt Shaw 39:57
So I’m Matthew Shaw I’m an orthopaedic surgeon by background and I’m the Chief Executive of Great Ormong Street Hospital.

Carlton Reid 40:04
So you’ve been with the ride from from London from London. You started at Gosh, Great Ormond Street. Yeah.

Matt Shaw 40:10
Yeah. Indeed, and then we went to Kings Cross to see the pollution pods altogether as riders and then went to Oxford on day one,

Carlton Reid 40:20
right. And how many people were was started off in London,

Matt Shaw 40:24
or I think there’s about 40 of us everyday, this around about 40. We have some cool riders from all the hospitals that ride the whole event. And then we have day riders that come join us just for a stage. So the Evalina hospital, they’ve decided to cycle their idea so that there’s a couple that are doing the whole thing, but a lot of them come for one or two days, which is great.

Carlton Reid 40:50
So this is basically the roadie group. So you’ve got a few different groups and you’re kind of like, named after trees. Which tree is this? Which group is this? Well,

Matt Shaw 41:00
I think it’s changed. I think it’s silky oak. It was originally silky. Oh, then it was Sequoia. Okay, that it was. I’m not sure what we are now a hybrid is what I would say.

Carlton Reid 41:11
The other fast roadies, I heard you got on your Did you know who you’re even riding with?

Matt Shaw 41:16
Yeah, so we’ve got a pharmacist from Great Ormond Street, some intensivist. from Glasgow from Newcastle. A couple of riders from Sheffield. Head of sustainability in Sheffield. Teri, who’s the head of the Newcastle charity? She’s a really keen cyclist. Yeah, so a really good spread of people.

Carlton Reid 41:36
And then how long have you riding each day roughly? Because they’re obviously going to each groups can be a bit different. But there’s this group, the roadie group?

Matt Shaw 41:42
Yeah. It’s around about 100 and 107 to 140k’s a day. And it varies in height between kind of about 600 700 metres to about 1500 metres, which is the biggest.

Carlton Reid 42:01
And have you always been a roadie?

Matt Shaw 42:04
You know, I’ve never been into mountain biking that much. It’s I guess living in London. Regents Park’s relatively nearby. It’s just the natural thing to do, rather than, you know, there’s no easy to mountain bike. So yes, I’ve always been into road bikes, and then

Carlton Reid 42:22
riding into work also.

Matt Shaw 42:24
I’ve got a scooter. I pushed me to Okay, so I haven’t got a car. got into the car about three or four years ago. I’ve got three kids 15, 10 and eight. And it was just, I just wasn’t using the car. So decided that time to go. So yeah, so scooter. I use the electric scooters now that are in London where you can hire them. So which is great. It’s good.

Carlton Reid 42:54
And this ride you’re doing here now, It’s raising awareness of two things. But mainly it’s air pollution. Yeah. And getting to the job, paediatrics its kids lungs. But that also links into the wider picture, which is why you’re going to COP26 of all climate change.

Matt Shaw 43:11
Absolutely. And I think for most people, you know, if you talk to NHS staff, nine out of 10 staff will be really into this agenda, the whole climate change agenda. But I think the way into that, for many is around health. Because I think people always look at the green agenda in a bit of a weird and wacky thing. Rather than mainstream. I think it’s becoming mainstream. But from a health perspective, I think everyone gets it. Especially when you’re monitoring levels of pollution outside your hospital, which is way above what they should be.

Carlton Reid 43:45
So should the NHS be doing more on preventative medicine, you know, preventative stuff, rather than getting somebody into hospital and they’re already

Matt Shaw 43:53
Yeah, well, of course it Yeah. But of course, the long term plan suggests that prevention is gonna be a real key pillar for that. The question is, is how do you catch up, recover and deliver a Prevention Agenda at the same time? And that’s the real challenge that we’ve got. But absolutely, prevention is at the forefront of that plan. It’s just delivering it. And it can’t just be health alone. It’s got to be social care, got to be local government. And it’s multifaceted in terms of exercise.

Carlton Reid 44:23
Have you seen a difference how long you’ve been the NHS obviously came in as a surgeon, so it must be a good 20


Matt Shaw 44:28
Yes. Yeah. 98 turning unqualified.

Carlton Reid 44:31
So have you noticed much of a difference on the issues you’re talking about today? And they changed.

Matt Shaw 44:38
So I think for the last five years, I think things have been slowly changing. And this year, last year, I’ve seen a real shift. It’s cut driver. I think people are naturally attracted to this agenda. I think mud guys slow Sorry, I’ll just get down the mud first. And the bumps

Carlton Reid 45:05
the Northumbrian roads, unfortunately a quite a lot of potholes. Yeah.

Matt Shaw 45:12
Yeah. So I think in the last couple of years, I’ve seen quite a change steady. I’ve seen quite a change. But I think that’s driven by the people, the workforce society. And then I think the NHS has then started to legislate and regulate in relation to that. So we know that, you know, in time, our regulators gonna be looking at what our green plans are. And we’re going to be judged as symmetric. And that’s important, because that will drive change and change.

Carlton Reid 45:46
And when this is handed in, when the letters and and the, you know, the ride finishes, and you hand this in, yeah, what do you expect to actually happen? Well,

Matt Shaw 45:56
I think, you know, this, this action alone, this event can achieve anything in isolation. But I think that this combined with many other things that are going on, and really, I think the public driving change in this agenda. I think our politicians will need to be more ambitious, need to be more upfront about it and prioritise environment more. It’s not a choice anymore. Is it the economy or the environment? It’s, it’s both. And I hope that’s the message.

Carlton Reid 46:35
I left Matt and the roadies just before Corbridge and turned back for home hoping that I’d bump into the final group on the road. And dear listener, I did. They were stood laughing and joking on the corner of a quiet country lane and I could see why they were always the last ones to get in at night serenaded and cheered by the earlier groups

Nathan Elliott 46:59
I’m Nathan Elliott I am the actual cycle mechanic helping helping the teams get get through the day. I am the non medic spoke shed mechanic I’ve literally been helping helping everyone out with literally just the journey so we started off in London, obviously going to Glasgow. I’ve been the one like just helping out on the repairs on the way so I am the non medic

Group 47:28
Bicycle medic Okay,

Carlton Reid 47:33
yeah, sure the bicycle

Nathan Elliott 47:36
and resuscitation anyone so far?

We’ve been good though. We’ve kept all the bikes going everything and everyone’s got their hopes up in the best group. By far this has been the best morale, morale and banter so it’s been very, very good.

Carlton Reid 47:50
Okay, you can see why you got red wine here? Is that what it’s like? There’s no water in these water bottles it’s red win. Now, I don’t know how much to trust you because you said that rain is refreshing and you quite enjoyed it. So but anyway, who are you?

Alexandria 48:07
So I’m Alexandra. I’m a paediatric immunologist from Great Ormond Street Hospital. And it’s travelling on the heels. So rain was refreshing. Yeah, so I’ve also been cycling from London, hopefully to Glasgow.

Carlton Reid 48:23
Yes. And to Carlisle today. And so this is the last group this was at Sequoia Acacia sorry, Acacia. So Acacia is the last group almost having the most fun. But that also means that you’re getting in probably at eight o’clock at night compared to people getting out for

Alexandria 48:42
long long days, but also I think when we’ve made it the whole team, like it’s a bigger group of people every night. So where are you guys

Carlton Reid 49:05
okay, thank you and who have we got here drinking?

Dr Fin Craig 49:08
I’m Fin.

Carlton Reid 49:10
What’s your second name Fin?

Dr Fin Craig 49:11

Carlton Reid 49:12

Dr Fin Craig 49:13
And that’s Fin with one ‘N’.

Group 49:18

Carlton Reid 49:18
and where are you from? And

what do you do?

Dr Fin Craig 49:20
Great Ormond Street palliative care consultant.

Carlton Reid 49:22
Okay, and do you normally cycle the cycle to where cycles work?

Dr Fin Craig 49:25
I cycle everywhere but I don’t cycle for fun. I cycle for transport.

Carlton Reid 49:29
See everybody I’ve talked to so far all the doctors on the trip are saying roughly the same. So there must be an enormous amount of doctors at GOSH riding?

Dr Fin Craig 49:38
No, there’s not Well, there is a fair number of people I don’t think it’s doctors necessarily. It’s multi professionals and probably more than, a lot of doctors that drive.

Carlton Reid 49:49
Is that changing?

Dr Fin Craig 49:51
I don’t know. I think it needs to the hospital there’s a lot more cyclists I think since lockdown. But I wouldn’t say it’s predominantly talk to us. I would I would say it is amongst doctors, it’s probably the more middle grade junior staff. I was going

to send consulted doctors, even before the pandemic, junior doctors, and all

the allied professionals much more. So I’d say it’s probably more physios. You think likely? We’ve got a good yeah. Okay, there’s only two people in my team, that cycle

Carlton Reid 50:22
has been notice a change, though, in the last say, three, four years, if you’ve been riding in that long if you see more people coming into work now on bikes.

Dr Fin Craig 50:32
I don’t know because I, it’s that’s hard to tell because I lock my bike somewhere where most people don’t lock their bikes, that

Nick Martin 50:38
there are more people cycling into. In general, we know that. Racks are used a lot more, got more racks, we’re getting some data to show these few more people. So I’m not sure if they’re all.

Carlton Reid 50:52
Okay, in general. So right now, now I’ve come to you. I’m out of sync here in the in the group. But so who

Nick Martin 50:57
you are Nick Martin. Okay, what are you doing head of sustainability at? Gosh.

Carlton Reid 51:02
See, that’s one of the other things that people have been telling me. And they’ve been impressed with the saying there’s, there’s more and more sustainability officers in hospitals. And that can only be a good thing, because you’re basically telling people to get on their bikes. Is that one of the things you tell people to do, or advise them to do?

Nick Martin 51:17
Don’t tell anyone. Yeah, I mean, no people have made, made their own minds, especially the pandemic is very useful thing to avoid, you know, getting on trains and tubes, when people were a little bit worried about what the consequences might be.

And when to check, it was less than

Unknown Speaker 51:35
a good gateway opportunity for people. And then we’ve set up a group. In fact, this ride came out of a little group we set up to support people to get themselves actively into work during the pandemic. And this, this whole idea came out of that colleague, Vince, and then Mark Hayden, the intensivist. We took it from there. So that was all around helping people get into work. And then what should we do with cop? And then let’s write the essay.

Dr Fin Craig 52:01
And we have three we have this really good effort, gosh, called cheer app, which encourages sustainability dare points for riding and that sort of points, everything I’m Mager on it should load up.

Nick Martin 52:13
So the hospital recently declared a climate emergency. So we have a target to get to net zero by 2030’40 emissions, we can control 2040 for the broader emissions, things like that tie into the ability for staff take it into

Dr Fin Craig 52:27
pieces. A lot of us have got into this so like you report your actions every week, because today’s Friday it might be time so I’ve been reporting more than 12 weeks. So I have to say my exercise of exercise five days. I’m switched off my computer my monitor my charges my lights, heaters and fans. I don’t have a printer. Now active travel can I start commuted everyday this week. Okay, so I’ve muted tune from overdue I’ve done loads of points. I’ve done 10 Miles five times this week. Yeah. Plastic pledge I managed to stick to my plastic pledge. I haven’t gotten meat free this week. Sadly, because of eating I haven’t TerraCycle but I learned all about Terracycling from this app. I didn’t know you could TerraCycle blister packs for medications. So now you know when you you put your pills out one of these right it’s written been bring it best way bring it to Superdrug and they there was a way of tetracycline so they separate the foil from that. Yes. That is recyclable. And you know in a month at home we’ve got an absolutely not monster about three months massive bag to be recycled. I didn’t know about that. And people don’t know about this. Have I used three cups reusable cups and bottles. Yes, everyday this week. Have I had outside breaks? I think this counts as five days outside breaks. My I’ve done up to 70,000 steps, right for their lives. How many kilometres Have you cycled this week? I’m going to say 90 plus and then I submit it. And hopefully that will go in and then we have a leaderboard. I’m quite good at staying top of the leaderboard. And if you win if the top of the leaderboard month to get a 10 pound gift voucher or place of your choice, well no, there’s a choice of three or four. Not getting them in the garden centre with the moment wanted to garden centre. Nice, okay, we’ll look at

Nick Martin 54:15
that. But then this app shows how your personal well being and your, you know, opportunities to contribute to the environmental broader picture are integrally

Carlton Reid 54:24
linked. So that’s all nudge nudge technology, basically, people are then going oh, I don’t do that.

Dr Fin Craig 54:32
Yeah, totally. And it’s become the norm in our family now but but only since getting this app and as you can see, I’m at the top of the leaderboard at the moment. Vince is a real competitor of mine, I have to be quite careful in

Carlton Reid 54:46
any events because he’s been so far ahead. Thanks to all of the right for their lives riders and thanks also to Jo Rogers and climate acceptance studios for inviting me to join them the right way side is at the climate acceptance forward slash ride for their lives. You could donate your rating miles to them via Strava or an email as they aim to collect as many lives as possible before they reach Glasgow. But meanwhile, get out there and ride.

October 4, 2021 / / Blog

4th October 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 284: Brum to kick out cars


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Cllr Waseem Zaffar

TOPICS: 45-minute interview with Birmingham’s city council’s transport lead Waseem Zaffar on the day the council launched its radical and potentially transformative transport plan. The UK’s motorway city is to prioritise people over cars, including adding more protected cycleways. If Britain’s Detroit can do it, any city can do it! This interview was used for a news story which appeared in The Guardian.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to episode 284 of the Spokesmen cycling Podcast. This show was engineered on Monday 4th October 2021.

David Bernstein 0:25
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA. Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information check out our website at And now here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the Spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:11
Birmingham City Council has just launched its radical and potentially transformative transport plan. The UK is motorway city is to prioritise people over cars, including adding more protected cycleways. I’m Carlton Reid and in this 50-minute episode we hear from Birmingham city council’s transport lead Waseem Zaffar and the very personal reasons why he converted to pedalling from being a petrolhead.

If Britain’s Detroit can prioritise people over car, any city can do it. This interview formed the basis for a news story which I wrote for today’s Guardian and here’s Waseem.

Waseem, thank youever so much for for talking to me and thanks oOf course for for sending through the plan which is no longer a draft plan. It’s a real thing coming up

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 2:13
Absolutely long time coming. But we would have loved to have adopted this a lot sooner but the pandemic created some challenges particularly around resources and our priorities as a as a council is slightly shifted but in between we did have the emergency Birmingham transport plan which followed the same four key principles of the the development transport plan.

Carlton Reid 2:35
Now I’m going to compliment you here in that I could have written this. Tthis is the plan I would have written. I mean, I might have been a bit more radical here and there but not a great deal. So that says to me it’s quite radical.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 2:48
It is radical because Birmingham needs a radical shift in how people move across our city. We’ve we’ve got major challenges, we’ve got major environmental challenges, you’re know, our challenges around air quality are very well publicised, we’ve got major challenges like climate change, where the biggest gas emissions contributor in our city and across our country is transport more. More importantly, even that those are really important or more important than that Carlton, we have major health inequalities. So I see this less of a a transport project, but more as a project making our communities and our neighbourhoods a lot healthier through active travel, getting people at their cars and those short journeys and getting people walking, getting people cycling. You know, we’ve got the scooter trial as well. And this is all a shift from single occupancy private cars towards more sustainable transport then buses. You know, the the tram is really important to us. But it’s he hasn’t got the coverage anywhere near the coverage that we need. And local trains are really important. We’re expanding on them, but they’ve got nowhere near the coverage that we need. So the busses are absolutely vital I sit here, we have to give them the level of priority that that they need. So this this, this plan is about giving busses a greater level of priority in our city. And I’m absolutely convinced once we start to get this delivered some aspects we’ve been trialling through the emergency Birmingham transport plan. But once you start to get this delivered that the key principle driven across communities and start to recreate places in our neighbourhoods, which are more friendly to people over cars, we will see a real shift in how people’s patterns — there will be a cultural shift to more walking and cycling, which will make people live fitter and healthier and longer in our city.

Carlton Reid 4:37
Now you have the draft plan went out to public consultation you had 619 responses from individuals, 44 from organisations so just go into that 619 is that really representative because that’s 619 people in a city of lots of people?

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 4:57
So, Carlton, it is always a challenge in how people respond to our consultations. The council carves out consultations on a variety of things, often statutory consultations, and we don’t get anywhere near the response that we need. Obviously, some of the biggest consultations we’ve carried out have been linked to transport and environment, the Clean Air Zone was a 10,000+ response consultation, we had over 6,500 responses on our bus survey that we did a consultation that we did. So, you know, we were out there, we were talking about the Birmingham transport plan, we, we received a lot of local, regional, national and international coverage on this too. So we didn’t in a way, hide this consultation behind loads of pages on our website, this was very much out there. And and I’d like to think I’ve been very, very much out there myself, not hiding behind council officers, or the stakeholders talking about these plans, because these are, these are plans. I mean, you know, obviously the a lot of people have been part of this, but these are politicians, we’re making the decisions and, and I always believe firmly that popular unpopular politician need to front of these decisions.

Carlton Reid 6:09
Now that in the report to cabinet, you say the response to those 619 responses and the 44, from organisations, were largely positive, including on the things that potentially you might think if you were incredibly pro car wouldn’t be so popular. So the cycling infrastructure, the walking infrastructure, and buses, all of these were actually quite popular. So what does that say about the kind of the trope out there that you can’t do these kind of things, because they’re not going to be popular?

So, Carlton, in the three and a half years I’ve been in this job tThe thing I’ve realised is that the challenge and the heartache is generally with the disruption that projects cause. Once you start, people, communities start to see the benefits of a project. They … And the long term benefits are probably they are very, very supportive. So I think it’s sort of looking beyond the actual delivery and implementation of a project and looking at the benefits that really work. I don’t know there’s people out there who you know … Our blue cycling lanes are probably the most one of the most popular things that council’s done in a long time we’ve got going on, I was talking to at the Ruth Cadbury MP at Labour Conference. She’s originally from Birmingham, she visits her mum in Birmingham, and she’s the chair of the all party parliamentary group, we’re walking outside, and she was travelling on those blue cycle lanes recently, and she was extremely positive about them. So I think people in our community as citizens of Birmingham, want these changes. It’s just whilst there’s all this work taking place in our city at the moment, and obviously the games the Commonwealth Games have been a catalyst for investment and a catalyst for change. This quarter, there’s quite a lot happening, which is creating some disruption, but I can assure them that you know, as we end this year, those projects will start to come to an end and then people will start to see the benefits on me so I think people are starting to understand because we’re out there talking to as many people as possible about the long term benefits of projects I think they are starting to get more support or what we’re doing and obviously there’s there’s some projects like the low traffic neighbourhoods in and we’ve seen the the issues in Kings Heath which some which are very very popular in some quarters and not so popular amongst others, but it’s about getting the balance right and ensuring that we do everything possible to bring everybody on this journey with us. And you might have noticed we’ve launched the consultation formal consultation for the the temporary measures in Kings Heath and also move forward to the expansion of the the the low traffic neighbourhoods over other areas and Kings Heath and Mosley too so where we one thing that certainly happens, around transport gets communities talking, it gets people you always got an opinion about a change in the way a road or a piece of highway currently exists or is moving into to a new way of doing things. So people always have an opinion.

Hmm very loud opinion sometimes now how much different is this plan compared to the 2020 draft one, in wording, how much has been changed?

To be honest with you because we’ve got we’ve got considerable support not just from people but also from key stakeholders it’s it’s the key principles are literally the same. The the project is this plan is very similar to the draft plan. The obviously COVID creating massive challenges but the one opportunity did create is we could we tested out some of these principles. We tested our low traffic neighbourhoods, we tested out pop-up cycle lanes. We tested out the city centre segment and you know that That gave us the ability, I’m not saying first time around all of those things absolute perfect, but when we start to embed them in permanently, we will get very, very close to the ideal, the ideal project with respect to that. So there has been that that mass opportunity but because and we’ve also obviously rolled out the Clean Air zone since then as well, which has been really successful in its first few months and I know it’s gonna get it’s going to success levels are going to increase and increase and increase until we don’t need a clean air zone. So it’s very, very, very similar to where we were.

Okay. So the current fuel shortages on the news all the time at the moment that it shows how reliant we — I’m saying we, people in general as it’s it appears from the media – are on on petrol and on dotting around in private cars, and how scared the government clearly are upsetting motorists. So the transport plan was clearly written long before the current woes but there’s all that TV and media coverage does that, does that keep you awake at night thinking I’m going to get so much stick here, when we start delivering on the ground.

This is one of the original motor cities — the car will always have a role within Birmingham. But it’s it’s the issue is the over reliance of coal in our city, particularly the overloads of single occupancy journeys in our car in using car and the fact that we’ve got 300,000 journeys every day. These are pre COVID figures obviously 300,000 journeys every day by car, which are less than one mile. That’s that’s not how I want Birmingham my city. Progress I want, I want people to be able to look going back to the health inequality I referred to earlier, I want people to be able to walk and cycle those journeys, enjoying their communities, enjoy their neighbourhoods enjoy the space around them. And for that, you need that that cultural shift. One of the things we’ve realised, particularly in the pandemic, people want clean air. And if we want to get cleaner air, we have to shift the way that we move across the city, there is no two ways of it. So whilst there, there are projects on the clean air zone that have made me very unpopular in the north of the city where I live in and represent, the A34 highways project made me unpopular. But I often say I didn’t, I didn’t come into politics to win popularity contests I came into politics to change lives for the better. And I’m convinced projects such as the Clean Air zone, which will save lives. It will ensure that kids who are currently living six months less in our city because of the levels of air pollution will grow up fitter and healthier. I’m convinced that Perry Bar in the north of Birmingham will be one of the most connected neighbourhoods around with segregated cycling, a new train station, a new bus interchange, a bus rapid transit route and bus priority like no other place in Birmingham, these are the changes we’re making to people’s lives that is just a start because this transport plan is about a vision for the foreseeable future. And looking at how we can create similar changes right across the city. So whilst at times I you know the the challenge and the criticism, and the trolling does have an impact on me, I’d like to say if he didn’t have he didn’t have an impact on me. But I look at the long term benefits. And this is about no matter what hugely privileged position to be able to change my city for the better. And this is my city, this is where I was born. This is where I’ve grown up, I’m the proudest Brummie there is and this is where my family will and my kids will grow up. And I you know, I want to look back at this exciting period of my career and say I was I was able to play a very small role in making Birmingham, that amazing place that it will be coming forward.

You’re not taking an all-modes or equal approach here. You know, you’re not boosting all modes, you know, adding cycleways but leaving motoring intact, you’re actively talking about reducing motoring. So that’s not just bold, isn’t that electoral suicide for a politician?

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 14:38
Carlton, if we’re going to reverse the health inequalities, if we’re going to tackle air quality, the 1000 people dying prematurely every year in Birmingham, because of air pollution if we’re going to become carbon neutral by 2030, there has to be some radical, bold and brave steps. And this Birmingham transport plan is one of them. I’m convinced I speak to people who drive, their challenges to public transport system isn’t good enough. People who use public transport tell me that isn’t reliable enough. So if we can increase the reliability of the public transport system, if we can get more zero emission buses, which we’re working on, we’ve got 20 hydrogen buses, we’ve got a bid for 200 through the Zebra route. You know, we got the greenest buses in Birmingham, we get more reliability in the bus services, people will decide to give up on their cars, people will decide to leave their cars at home and travel by by public transport. So I’m convinced that this is this is the right time for Birmingham to be making these bold moves so close to the games, the HS2 round the corner, we need to provide these integrated public transport solutions rather than making decisions, as we have for decades, which prioritise cars over everything else. And, you know, we’ve ended up with the gridlock city, we’ve ended up with the challenges that are referred to and with 150,000 more residents expected over the next few years here in our city iIf we don’t have this cultural shift away from private car and reduce the reliance of private car, we’re going to end up you’re if it’s gridlocked, already, God forbid what our city will look like, moving forward. So this change is needed, it will happen. And I’m convinced the people of this city will not will will not oppose these plans, electorally, or in any other way.

Carlton Reid 16:42
So you said “brave” and you said “bold” and then in the plan itself, there’s “radical,” there’s “transformative.” There’s “seismic.” These are scary words, for most people, because people don’t like change, even if it’s maybe potentially could improve their lives. It’s just they like to see things that they’ve always done. So why have you used such an effect triggering words in your in your document? Could you have not sugarcoated it a bit more, bring in the change slowly, perhaps even by stealth? So people didn’t notice the changes?

Carlton, when you put yourself forward for public office, when you put yourself forward to represent the people of a city like I have, you put your head above the parapet and you do that understanding the consequences. I’m I’m absolutely confident. I’ve got some of the best officers in local government working with me. I talk to stakeholders all the time, I talked to communities all the time, I listened to people who are critical of these plans and I listen to people who are supporting these plans. So I’m very routed back to where how this will impact on people. I absolutely believe that there’s two things a politician has to do. One you have to be open transparent, honest with people so sugarcoating is not the way I do things. I have to you have to front the decisions you’re making, you can’t hide behind council officers, you can’t hide behind press officers, you need to be a decision that’s got your name on it, you need to be able to sell it and convince people and if you can’t come to sell it and convince the people you should not be making that decision. And that I believe that you know those are very, very important values of how I operate as a politician. And and you know, I’m I also absolutely live what I what I say you know, I absolutely believe in in these things. I believe that the right things for for for, for me, my family who live in in the city, for my constituents and for the wider city. And I think you know, it’s like the clean air zone on leading up to the clean air zone, leading up to the clean air zone, my inbox was full of people challenging and criticising the project and they have every right to do that because I absolutely believe in freedom of speech and I believe in democracy which is about challenging and holding people to account, I believe in that. But with the level of the complaints diminished literally the moment we launched because a lot of people were obviously comparing the clean air zone onto the congestions on London’s thought they’re all going to be impacted by rather than just the polluting cars being impacted by by that project. And I’m I’m convinced that the the initiatives within this will bring about long term benefits to our communities and they will understand that

Were you a convert all these ideas or were you in your youth, were you a bit of a petrol head or have you always been this way minded?

So, Carlton, you couldn’t get me out my car four years ago I was I would, I would take those journeys less than one mile by car. I hadn’t been on a on a bus since my university days. And I never cycled never, ever cycled until the summer of 2018. So when I started to look at the consequences that people that the decisions I was making, that the impact that that was having on me and my health, I’m a Type2 diabetic. And my health was really diminishing a few years ago. And then I started to know … My father was a taxi driver in Birmingham. In 2009, February, he suddenly died at the age of 54. And every day, I think about the consequences of a him and his job being behind a wheel of a car, earning a living from me and my mum and my siblings to put bread on the table. How that led ultimately led to his untimely demise. Now he was his health, he was a Type2 diabetic, we had the under control, his health conditions pretty good. Just went overnight. So I absolutely think about this and I know one of the biggest groups that’s challenged me in the city has been taxi drivers. Before I became a councillor, I was a trade union rep for taxi drivers in Birmingham. And I often talk to them about the impact that sitting behind a wheel for the long hours they do in polluting areas has on their health, this is about reversing their health inequalities and making them live longer and stronger and healthier lives. So I’m absolutely a convert. I you know, there’s still a lot more I could do I could walk a lot more ironically, I was at Labour Conference. And I did a remarkable amount of steps during that during the conference which I found fascinating. I could do a lot more steps around you know, walk, I could do a lot more cycling. But I have absolutely, you know these changes will will will make people in our city healthier. No one needs to tell me about the health inequalities in our city because I represent the ward with the lowest male life expectancy. I represent the ward which had the least amount of resilience amongst its people and led to it being very badly hit during the COVID pandemic. We have to change people’s lives and this is one way of doing it.

Hmm. So you mentioned the Labour Conference there but the policies you’re bringing in perhaps bizarrely are actually an awful lot of them you can find in the Tory manifesto now so you know Labour and and and Tories maybe agree on these things it doesn’t doesn’t always happen in you know Tory councils and it has been the Labour councils that have been taking in effect Tory policies or the way that the Tories are now allowing councils to do these policies if they so choose so there’s there’s no conflict there’s no right or left in this any more, is there?

So I always say in politics we agree on a lot more than we disagree on. The Conservatives have taken different positions so the Birmingham Conservatives are very much opposed to our plans; they they are convinced that car needs to remain king in our city. They that’s their position they they’ve been opposed to the Clean Air zone to be repurposed to the emergency transport plan they opposed to the burden of transport plan and the principles within that they’ve taken a certain position and i’m i’m not a fan of Boris Johnson no no no prizes for guessing that right but one thing I I’ve got where I do agree with Boris is his views in some aspects on our active travel I know as a mayor of London he did a you know a lot of good stuff around that and I genuinely think your man Andrew Gilligan absolutely understand the importance of the shift from car to more sustainable mode of transport. So I think the the Conservatives nationally understand the importance of this better than the Birmingham Conservatives who I think

So can you not just hit them over the head with “this is what your leader says guys, why you opposing this, this is what your leader says, listen to your leader.”

I often do in the council chamber, stopped asking me questions. But then a totally different place and Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands and he’s stuck between the two. He’s done some good stuff around active travel too. But I know he he his position on the clean air zone shifted over time is is now more opposed to them supportive of it. But I think the local Conservatives are more concerned about what’s going to happen in the May 22 elections in Birmingham, rather than making sure our communities are living longer and fitter and healthier lives. So they’re more their price right now is the politics rather than the people of the city, which is a shame, because I’d rather all the parties came together to work on this very, very important agenda.

And I’m not saying you’re gonna get voted out here, because what you’ve said there before was these can be electorally popular, but theoretically, could all of this be reversed if the council flipped in 2022?

So we introduced Birmingham’s clean air zone on because we there was a ministry of direction and our modelling showed the only way to address the ministry direction was through the introduction of a CAZ D. The ministers signed that off the ministers and civil servants absolutely said this is the right way to do it. Local Conservatives right now are promising the people of Birmingham they’re going to reverse that. I don’t know how they’re going to do it. I don’t know what modelling they’ve done, what alternatives they’ve have got, [wards?]. So they can promise they’re in opposition, they could promise anything and everything. But ultimately, the people of Birmingham will see beyond those false promises. The people of Birmingham will vote for a council and a political party that’s delivered for them and vote for a political party that has the right vision at this particular time for Birmingham because these things are needed based on urgency is absolutely the right way to work. And I’m convinced we will once again when comprehensive we’ve got a two thirds majority in the council chamber and I I can’t see that changing

so before it was him, you mentioned low traffic neighbourhoods and the ones you’ve brought in with the segmentation plan where each you know, part of the city is going to be different you can’t use it as a as a through route every segment would it be fair to call the central Birmingham one big LTN?

Um, it so the central Birmingham we’re prioritising cycling walking on public transport. And in essence, that is, that is the the, the key thing of a low traffic neighbourhoods. So there’s various versions of low traffic neighbourhoods, the version in Kings Health, two very different to the version and Lozells that I’m implementing where low traffic neighbourhoods are one, one way circulars that reduce the traffic flow in residential areas. And you can you can’t technically say that the city centre segment is about, it’s certainly about reducing car through traffic through travel. So he is reducing, he is in essence, reducing car journeys through through the system. So you could say it’s a low traffic neighbourhood. Yeah, you could, you could say it’s one big, low traffic neighbourhood.

Local press supportive, critical, neutral?

Em, depends depends on what gets the clicks these days. But I think there’s there’s been a lot of support for for some of these initiatives. And for some that has been challenged, you know, the, the you I still, when we launched the Clean Air zone. We did, we did a lot of media. How many interviews I did that particular day. It’s a record that will never ever be beaten. And I still remember one particular thing I did and that was the ITV central programme that did from the Fiveways Island at a hotel on the Fiveways Island, we spent the whole half an hour talking about the importance of cleaner air, improving air quality in the wider environmental challenges and I was I just walked away thinking thank you that was brilliant that is exactly that, how we need local media to support not just our efforts but to to really push forward the the environmental challenges and the health challenges that we’ve got in our city. I’ve also sat for a number of hour long audience phone callings with with BBC Radio locally. And that’s been very, very difficult. But I’ve sat down and listened and I’ve gone back and I’ve listened and I’ve responded as best as I can. So we’re out there we’re very open and you know where we don’t just have to hide behind the decisions and the policies that I bring forward. But I think people are starting to understand the importance of them. Hmm.

Now in the, in the in the plan, I can only find one I might have might not have got this there might be somewhere else but I can only find one of autonomous vehicles, many other places. And even if you listen to Grant Shapps at times, you know, autonomous vehicles and, and electric cars, but certainly autonomous vehicles, you know, that’s the future. That’s that’s what’s going to rescue us, that’s going to be the thing that gets everybody out of their cars, because they’ll just be these autonomous cars darting around. But you see, you have mentioned it and you’re you say, you know, the technology is being developed in part in the Birmingham region. But then you haven’t made it on autonomous vehicles there. So would it be right to think that you’re quite ambivalent towards how quickly these can actually be brought in? And certainly not within, you know, the nine year framework you’ve got to work to

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 30:45
That technology is, is developing really, really quickly. And I’m really excited about all sorts of developments and autonomous vehicles is certainly one of those. I think we are we’re absolutely on board, we’re absolutely committed, working very closely with the combined authority and transport systems with a combined authority, and other partners, the local university of looking at how we can benefit from being a 5G pilot city as well, looking at how better communication can can also help some of the technological advances that will be made. So absolutely, we’re not trying to water the future for autonomous vehicles, we’re actually excited by it. And maybe if we had asked you to write this transport plan for us, you would have made it far greater than we have.

Carlton Reid 31:37
No, no, I’m pretty much dead against it. I don’t think we’re going to exist for all sorts of different reasons. Anyway, maybe trucks on motorways, but that’s it. So so one of the things that you’ve you’re saying there is the removal of footway parking, which absolutely is another one of those, you know, touching the third rail, sort of things. But doesn’t that require national legislation, and I know that, you know, the 1834 Highway Act gives people the powers but you still need central government to back you up here.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 32:09
Absolutely, we need central government to back us up in two ways, give us extra powers, and, and also give us the resources to to implement some of these things. You know, parking on on pavements is is something which blight a lot of communities. And I sometimes get really frustrated, particularly with those people who have accessibility issues, or moms have got problems with their babies, and I’m causing the way he just frustrates me, angers me. And I’ve always said, the amount of space that we waste with parked vehicles is also a major challenge. So as we move forward, we want those extra powers. But I also think this plan will help reset the relationship between the citizens of Birmingham and car. And I hope people will become less reliant on cars. And you got some households with no cars in the city, you got some household with four or five cars in the city. And that is the sort of place we really absolutely need to reset that. So hopefully, people won’t need that amount of cars in a household and we could start to get away from God. I remember reducing a coin is I sold my car back in I think 2018. And I sometimes have to drive and borrow my wife’s car, other times I walk cycle, get the bus or even get an E scooter. So it’s about how we can manage and design our lives in a different way. Where is the whole focus in cars? But yes, the pavement, we do need those extra powers from government to be able to do a lot more. And I think it’s

Carlton Reid 33:49
A case of just sorry, it’s just him. Isn’t it a case of just getting the police on board because the powers are there. You can get you can you can book motorists for obstruction of the footway, if the police are involved it when it’s you know, civil enforcement, that doesn’t work. But it’s when the police or the police generally around the country have problems from London where the rules are very different. They can enforce this should they choose to do so. So if it’s, you know, local politicians, say to Westminster police right from now on you, you give somebody a ticket if they’re parked on the pavement, so what more powers Do you need, the powers are there they’re just not currently use by the police.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 34:29
Carlton, I’m not sure if my Sergeant who 10 years ago had twice the number of officers he’s got now. I’m not sure I could tell him to go and book those cars parked in the pavement or find those people who are creating major.

Carlton Reid 34:46
It had a lot of money we’re seeing if you started booking people for parking, the payment. It’s so endemic, you’d be in billions in credit very soon,

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 34:54
But they just made the lot the cuts that we’ve had to the Wes Midlands Police and police forces up and down this country has, has really hindered their ability to do some of the very important basic things that they need to be doing. I’m somebody who’s, I’ve made it very clear, I will never criticise police officers, because the politicians have made decisions have really hindered their ability to carry out this carry out the service that they want to do, and they can do so. You know, I meet regularly with senior police officers, I’m meeting the Police and Crime Commissioner next week. And we’re talking about some of these issues that you brought up, but there’s a real lack of resources. You know, I’ve got a serious issue right now around the enforcement against poverty scooters, you know, which which is, which is a challenge in our city. But again, where do where do I get the resources to the police to be able to do that. So I think that the government really need to look at how they’re resourcing the police in the wider public sector to do the things that desperately need in our community. The answer is called dancer is a clear style of government investing into our communities and investing into neighbourhood policing. The way that the last Labour government did, that was the level of investment we need in our in our policing.

Carlton Reid 36:18
Hmm. So that your plan says the growth in the number of vehicles on the road needs to be contained. That’s pretty explosive. But isn’t it every English persons right to drive where they want when they want? You’re taking away with you’re taking away people’s freedom.?

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 36:40
So I’m not stopping people from driving. The clean air zones hasn’t stopped doing we’re driving into the city centre, the the city centre segments will still you could still get to everybody on the city centre bar the one or two extra expansions on the pedestrianisation that we’re making the the low traffic neighbourhood, we bought it, you can still get to every single house or shop within the city with the exception of small pedestrianisation we’ve done so we’re not stopping anybody. But what we’re saying is we need to rebalance the use of car. And one way of doing that is looking at other alternatives. So right now you can you can, you can walk, you can use a variety of different modes of public transport, you can use e-scooters, you can hire a West Midlands bike share about a cycle on the West Midlands Bike Share project. So there’s a whole range of alternatives we’ve got to increase the obviously the cycling issues due to infrastructure, particularly segregated cycling to make it safer for people to do so we’ve got to improve the reliability. So the alternatives are there, and the alternatives grow and grow. So we’re not stopping anybody from driving. But we’re just encouraging them to look at modal shift in particular modal shift to more sustainable modes of transport.

Carlton Reid 38:08
So if the if this plan doesn’t get voted through so that’s that’s option three, what’s going to happen to Birmingham?

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 38:17
I’m very confident that this plan will be voted through by the Cabinet because this is not me on my own who’s worked on this project I’ve got the very strong support of the leader of of the Council and all my cabinet colleagues and in fact, I’ve got support from the Labour group and the Labour Party who are absolutely determined that this is the right decision at the right time for our city and decisions which are absolutely needed these days no other alternative and I’m confident that the people of this city when they start to witness on live the benefits of this project will actually appreciate that we will be making the right decision for the city of Birmingham

Carlton Reid 38:58
And that’s a key point we’re seeing so when so I noticed there’s a something called I like the fact they’ve got two words in here, the Birmingham transport plan delivery plan. But when I read through that I couldn’t actually see the when I didn’t see you know, when physically these things are going to be put on the ground. And for instance, is the segmentation plan is that all going to go in overnight like like happening gained, or are these things going to be built and done over a longer period of time.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 39:33
So we want to deliver a lot you know, we’ve got some quick wins. And as I said earlier, the emergency transport plan and the the active travel resource that we’ve got from the government has enabled us to trial some of these things out. So some aspects of these will be implemented really, really quickly. We’re looking at making a lot of the pop-up cycle lanes that we introduce permanent very very quickly. The city centre segments I think will move really quickly. And I think, you know, obviously, embedding all the changes in at the same time can be challenging. But we will, you know, there’s a likelihood a lot of that can happen really quickly because we’ve trialled out a lot of this through the emergency transport plan measures. But the low traffic neighbourhoods will, you know, there’s been some, it’s not been all straightforward, and we need to, we need to ensure that we do, right, and we do with the people of Birmingham rather than to the people of Birmingham. And I’ve always said, we will engage, engage, engage, and then through the engagement called design and co produce, and then carry out the statutory consultations or we want to work with local communities to get this absolutely right. So some things will happen really quickly, some things will take a lot of time. And but I’m very confident that the key principles around this plan will, will be we’ll we’ll kind of keep us focused on what we’re doing and how we’re doing in the city. Resources are really important. So getting there and some of these things cost a lot of money to deliver. So you know, we’ll go with the big and bold government every opportunity to ask them for the resources to be able to do this, I’ll actually go back to Boris, I’m confident that Boris and Grant Shapps and Andrew Gilligan will understand that Birmingham was actually on a on a journey that they will support. So a Conservative government and a Labour council working together to deliver this could be could happen for the next couple of years that this conservative government’s in office.

Carlton Reid 41:38
I’ll go back to the when I know it’s difficult because it is something that has to be worked through and there is a plan for the plan. But when I did that Guardian article, and as a couple years ago when did that Guardian article, so the the deputy mayor of Ghent when I asked him what you know what, what would be your advice to Birmingham when they’re doing this this traffic segmentation plan and I’m sure you remember he said, as well as you know, you’ll hear birdsong and you gotta bring every with you blah, blah, blah, blah, it was you’ve got to do it overnight. You just got a you can’t pussyfoot around you can’t take six months to do this, you do it overnight. So that the segmentation plan is that something that you think might have to be done in the same way you do. Sunday Night is when it’s done and Monday morning is when it is all in place.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 42:32
So Carlton, in the in terms of the segment plan most of you I think, is already in place through the through the the the short term measures we brought in during COVID it’s about making it permanent very quickly. So I think a lot of the citizens this will not come as a surprise when we recently launched a consultation around this I think some of the residents and some of the people visiting our city would thinking these are further measures that we’re bringing in there are some further measures from the original so I know my officers are working very closely with a wide range of stakeholders I know they’re spoken to people in get and other places too. But Birmingham is different so we will make the right decision but I absolutely understand what the what the Ghent deputy mayor saidy and if required we will do that. But I think most of the segments are already in place.

Carlton Reid 43:31
And those those segments that are there and it is generally that ring road that’s kind of great fantastic for those those segments and they’ll eventually gain the the clean air and and health benefits, etc, etc. But isn’t it the suburbs? Isn’t it like, you know, the 7, 10 miles out, that’s where the real car use takes place. So So how are you going to affect change, in Erdington and in places that way beyond the city centre?

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 44:04
That’s a very valid question. And this transport plan is not by the city centre, these transport plan is about the entire city. And I know historically at times the local authority has been perceived or possibly rightly solid to be very city centre focus. And the citizen is absolutely important. You know, you create employment, there’s a massive visitor economy. And there’s there’s this great private sector there. And our city centre is is one of the best city centres in the country. It’s a fascinating place, but I want clean air in every single neighbourhood in Birmingham. I want active travel in every single neighbourhood in Birmingham. And to do that we’ve got to expand the basis on the measures around recreating neighbourhoods and ensuring that we support initiatives right across Birmingham is really really important. So actually travelling every every neighbourhood, expanding our segregated cycling infrastructure right across this city so it doesn’t come to a stop at a particular place or at least starts when you get close to the city centre, we need to ensure that it goes right across the city and public transport, zero emission public transport right across our city. So the we’re introducing a number of cross city bus routes. But the most important bus route in Birmingham is not a bus route that actually goes into the city where it’s the 11 route that goes across in a city Birmingham, right all the way around is the longest route in Europe. It goes past 300 schools. Now I don’t want the bus providers to be putting all the clean green buses coming to the city centre and putting the old polluting vehicles on that 11 route on the 8 Route which is also goes across the inner city run the city of Birmingham, I want our green especially that’s why when when Boris announces the zebra funding for buses moving forward, I want to ensure that when Birmingham gets those 200 hydrogen buses that I’m confident that we will get we’ll put some of those onto the 11 and the Eighth Route to ensure that we’ve got zero emission buses operated there. So this is a this isn’t a plan for the city centre. This is a plan with some key principles or how we’ll move forward in the delivery of our transport projects right across the city and I want to ensure that we’ve got a good balance of investment right across this city. So no no neighbourhood is left behind.

Carlton Reid 46:36
Thanks to Councillor Waseem Zaffar. There’s a photo of him and a link to Brum’s plan and my Guardian article on the show’s website which is at Later this afternoon I’ll be talking to multiple Tour de France winner Chris Froome and Pieter Morgan CEO and founder of Hammerhead — that show will be in your feed real soon but meanwhile get out there and ride.

Transcribed by

September 19, 2021 / / Blog

19th September 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 283: Autonorama


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Peter Norton

TOPICS: US academic Peter Norton, author of the classic “Fighting Traffic,” talks about his new book “Autonorama” which details the historically-resonant threat to pedestrians and cyclists from driverless vehicles.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 283 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 19th of September 2021.

David Bernstein 0:25
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson, USA, Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information, check out our website at And now, here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:10
I’m Carlton Reid and one of the perks of my job is get my mucky little paws on books before they’re published. A few months back I read the new book by US technology historian Peter Norton and he promised me the first of what will be many media and podcast interviews. And this is it. Peter is an associate professor in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia. You’ll likely know him from his classic book “Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City.” As you’ll soon hear, Peter only wrote a book per decade so it was a rare treat to get my hands on a pre-publication copy of “Autonorama,” an historically-resonant warning about driverless cars and how the tech bros need to get cyclists and pedestrians out of the way. I got an early copy of Peter’s book so I could write a cover blurb for it. Janette Sadik-Khan also penned one. The former commissioner of New York city’s Dept. of Transportation wrote that Peter’s book shows that “safer, more livable cities will be achieved not by the tech in our cars, but by our actions on our streets.” Amen. And here’s Peter.

Carlton Reid 2:42
Peter, I have I’ve had a copy of your book in digital form.

Carlton Reid 2:48
It’s a few weeks ago now. And when I read it, it was absolutely fascinating, as I would expect, of course, from you. And then I was just looking now, at the date of this book right now is going to be probably October ish, I think when it comes out. But that’s 2021. Your last book, which I’d like to talk about first actually was 2011. So you’re basically doing a book every 10 years, is that right?

Peter Norton 3:14
Well, that’s a that’s a small data set for a trajectory plot there. Let me add also that my first book actually came out in 2008. And the paperback came out in 2011. So if you saw 2011, then then you saw the paperback.

Peter Norton 3:33
So I don’t know what my trajectory is. I do have another book project now but I don’t have an expected date for it to come out yet. And, you know, I, since there’s other work involved besides books, I don’t I’m not confident giving you a sort of mathematical projection.

Carlton Reid 3:56
Well, what we’ll look forward to it in 2036 it’ll be worth the wait.

Carlton Reid 4:02
so what what is it what it tell us what you do? You know I could do this in the intro, of course, but why don’t we hear from the man himself? So what do you do when you’re not writing books?

Peter Norton 4:14
Most of the time, I’m teaching and that especially means grading papers. I have a lot of students they write and I read their work and that’s really the biggest part of my working time is is that um, and when that’s not happening, then I really enjoy some of the other things that I get to do. Like, for example, you know, talking to you is is a delight.

Peter Norton 4:39
talking to other people. One of my favourite things is when an advocate of some kind comes along somebody who thinks that walking should be normal, or cycling should should could really make a big difference in terms of sustainability and affordability.

Peter Norton 4:57
When those people come along, transit, advocates

Peter Norton 5:01
and they say that they find what I’ve done useful. Well, that really brings me joy, because you know, they’re the ones actually doing something I just write about it,

Carlton Reid 5:10
Because you are one of these authors, who will be perennially paraded in effect, because what you wrote about when I would like to talk about that even you’ve been on the show before, I think we absolutely should. We should talk about your your first book and where you’ve come from, because that kind of feeds into the into this, this this next book, your new book.

Carlton Reid 5:32
But you’re paraded because you talked about something which happened in the 1920s 30s 40s. But it’s absolutely still with us today. They said there’s a dominance of a certain four wheeled thing. So “Fighting Traffic” brought into the public sphere that jaywalking is not a natural thing, it was an invention. So I don’t want to pigeonhole your book to say that’s all it’s about. But you could say that’s one of the good takeaways is it’s bringing that history of jaywalking, being motordom creating that. That’s why a lot of people quote your work.

Peter Norton 6:16
I think that’s a useful way to sort of distil it down to something very elemental, and, and concrete and specific. Because while jaywalking is obviously just a very small part of the story, it really captures a lot of what has been missing from the story.

Peter Norton 6:36
So the story that we get in the States especially, is that car domination, which you know, is ubiquitous, is the effect of mass demand of a free market of, of democracy of values, such as individualism, and freedom, and so on. And sure, there have been critiques of that dominant narrative. Since automobiles began. That’s still the dominant story. The USA is a car culture, this is what people want. And, you know, in the end, they got what they wanted. And so we get jaywalking says, Well, now Hang on.

Peter Norton 7:21
There was a time when few people drove and walking in the street was normal, and that had to be denormalized. And once it was denormalized, well, then actually, part of the motive for getting a car was that the alternatives were getting worse, not just the walking, but also riding a street car, taking the bus or riding your bike, all of those got harder as they inevitably do when you have an environment that favours driving. And that that fact of course, then complicates what it means when people say they prefer to drive Well, you naturally prefer to drive when all of the alternatives have been, you know, impaired, so much. So yeah, I think I think that’s a nice way to capture the the gist of “Fighting Traffic.”

Carlton Reid 8:11
I don’t know how much this comes across in the US. But in here in the UK, we have this huge issue, and it does go mainstream now and again, in the mainstream press, low traffic neighbourhoods. And then when you start talking to people who are very much not in favour of low traffic neighbourhoods, you just see this just amazing mindset of they really cannot imagine not being able to get places in their car. And just a slight thing, like putting bollards in the way of where they used to driving, they can still get into these these areas, but the narrow driveway a little longer. They use all sorts of arguments, including, you know, well how are disabled people going to get around. And they’ve never been interested when you look at their social media and disabled people before but they, you know, use this, they also use air pollution. It’s just it seems to be such a favourite of people in favour of motoring. It’s a strange one, but they talk about how cars when they’re standing still in traffic jams are incredibly polluting, so we must have them moving freely. So free up the roads, and then we will have no more pollution. So these these arguments come out just

Carlton Reid 9:29
so frequently, it’s been taken on board by these people so so carefully, and they regurgitate this, but there’s just no imagination of a life without a car. So how on earth Peter, are we going to have a different future when there are an enormous amount of people, probably even worse, where you are, who really cannot imagine a future without automobiles?

Peter Norton 9:59

Peter Norton 10:00
Carlton, there’s a word you used, I think three times in that question, imagine or imagination. And I think that’s exactly the key. So a failure to imagine is exactly the, you know, for. First of all, I should say that the people who wanted to sell us car dependency recognise that imagination is essential. And they helped us imagine futures, where car dependency is liberating. And they were extremely good at it. And I think we have a lot to learn from the people who sold us car dependency about how you make different futures. Imagine it imaginable because they excelled at it. Now, when you have generations growing up in a car dependent environment, well, it’s not too surprising that, you know, if that vehicle that they depend on literally depend on is threatened. Now, this becomes a source of anger or opposition to to even elementary reform, like putting in a bollard to make the space more accommodating to anything except driving.

Peter Norton 11:18
So, yeah, that opposition is, is there. And yet at the same time,

Peter Norton 11:26
we know from harder and experience from the past that that these kinds of obstacles can be overcome. I think one way to do it is to frame it correctly. So you can frame

Peter Norton 11:41
the change we need to make as taking away driving. But we can also frame it as giving people choices.

Peter Norton 11:49
In it’s interesting fact that the Netherlands ranks very highly on places where people like to drive, I got a top rating on that from

Peter Norton 12:02
some app company. But

Peter Norton 12:06
at the same time, you have choices. And I think one of the reasons why the Netherlands scores high on places to drive is that the people who are driving or driving by choice, they don’t have to drive there. And that takes off everybody off the road who is there by compulsion, and makes the, you know, the driving experience and experience of choice? Well, if we give people choices, then,

Peter Norton 12:30
you know, we I mean, we can frame this as now you can choose to walk now you can choose to ride a bike, and yes, even now you can choose to drive so that that’s another possibility. I’d like to offer one more.

Peter Norton 12:45
Which is that when it became quite clear that cigarette smoking was shortening people’s lives, often by multiple decades. And this is going back to the 60s especially the tobacco companies were very good at framing that as a threat to people’s preferred way of living. And their advertising helped delay the transition by presenting cigarette addiction as pleasurable. And what people have gradually figured out, at least most people is that even more pleasurable than enjoying a cigarette when you’re addicted to a cigarette is not being addicted at all. And of course, that transition from a state of addiction to a state of non addiction is a very difficult one.

Peter Norton 13:35
But in the end, that destination of being addiction free, has a liberating feel. And that extends even to being free of your car dependency, as long as you have the alternatives that you need for that to work.

Carlton Reid 13:51
So your latest book

Carlton Reid 13:54
is very much extrapolating forward on on car dependency.

Carlton Reid 14:01
Let’s go into the book. First of all, it was called “Autonorama.” Why the no, but why is it auto no roma and not autorama?

Peter Norton 14:10
Well, it could be Autorama because autorama was the name of some shows, automobile shows that were put together in the USA in the mid 20th century. And this all goes back to the word diorama you make something vivid three dimensional experiential. I mean, this is an immersive experience before you know video games gave us immersive experiences. There were these giant shows. And the the American automobile companies in particular General Motors excelled

Peter Norton 14:42
at these shows, and General Motors hit on this in the biggest way back in the late 30s when they developed a famous show called Futurama combining the words future and diorama you’d like you’re travelling to the future.

Peter Norton 14:59
This was their way of making a future of car dependency, both vivid and apparently liberating, because after all, it’s a model, it doesn’t have to really work. And now, to get to the word autonoma, which is you know how I choose to pronounce it, I can’t correct your pronunciation because it’s not even a word. I just made it up. But when we in, in 2015, note, said again, said again, so I write a net again. So I get it the way I say it is Autonorma, Rama, which is like autonomous.

Carlton Reid 15:37
Okay. yes, right? Yes. So it’s just a matter of new cars autonomous driving does come a lot into into the books.

Peter Norton 15:45
Yes. And so “Autonorama” is a fusion of autonomous and futurama. And I’m claiming in the book that this is the fourth generation of a sales spectacle of a futuristic fantasy. It’s being presented to us to influence us, and to, frankly, deceive us about the feasibility of car dependency.

Peter Norton 16:10
And so the book argues that there have been really four waves of this each about 25 years apart, so roughly 1940, 1965, 1990, and 2015. And in each one of the these waves were presented with a futuristic spectacle of car dependency made possible by the latest technology. And the people presenting these spectacles recognise the power of imagination, and they help us imagine these futures, not in ways that are realistic, but then in ways that are persuasive and attractive. So it’s called autonoma, Rama, because I’m trying to argue that while it looks like the last 10 to 20 years of this futuristic spectacle has been about something that’s fundamentally new. I think it’s really the same show. It’s it’s a retread of a show we’ve been seeing for over 80 years. It’s, and what makes it seem new each time is it’s dressed up with technology that’s brand new until this time, above all, it’s machine learning, LIDAR, and so on. But it’s what matters isn’t so much the technology, but just that the technology is new enough and dazzling enough to lead us to drop our scepticism a little and believe that anything’s possible. Arthur C. Clarke said one…

Carlton Reid 17:49
Do you not think that …?

Peter Norton 17:50
Go ahead.

Carlton Reid 17:52
Sorry, Peter, that the scepticism

Carlton Reid 17:56
wasn’t there, say four or five years ago in the mainstream?

Carlton Reid 18:01
I just I just get much more

Carlton Reid 18:04
inkling from the press now that that there does seem to be more scepticism. So people like you and me who have been sceptical about autonomous vehicles for a number of years, are now becoming a bit more mainstream. And if things like you know, even just recently at the,

Carlton Reid 18:20
at the Paralympics in Japan, where, you know, a certain form of autonomous bus, ran into a blind athlete, what these these things are just terrible, terrible stories. And then the head of Toyota comes out and says, Well, you know, autonomous vehicles, you clearly haven’t got a future, certainly with the current technology. So do you think the technologies and the sorry, the, the scepticism around the technologies is catching up to where it should be, which is these technologies are nowhere near ready for for human consumption?

Peter Norton 18:56
Yes. In other words, the degree of the extravagant promises that were ubiquitous five years ago, are scarcer now. And the promises are more modest now. But what hasn’t changed is the same basic claim, which is that the technology is coming. It may take a little longer than we thought. But it is coming and it’s the technology that will determine what we do not we who will determine what the technology does. And companies are very smart about adapting to these, you know, these disappointing or these broken promises and the disappointing news like the one you just referenced from the Olympics, the Paralympics

Peter Norton 19:43
and for example, right now Waymo has been building up a reputation for itself as the people who are actually today, in 2021 every day of the week, delivering

Peter Norton 19:57
fully autonomous driving or

Peter Norton 20:00
For riding experiences in Arizona, and this way of framing it, in other words, we’re doing it right now is deployed in a way to sort of

Peter Norton 20:15
expose people like me and you as the Luddite naysayers, that that, you know, they would like to characterise this as, in other words, then they’ll say, you know, the the somebody will say, Well, you know, can this ever really happen? And we must says, we’re doing it right now. It’s, it’s bogus for a lot of reasons that you already know. But it’s rhetorically very effective when they can say we’re doing it right now.

Carlton Reid 20:42
What are you doing?

Carlton Reid 20:42
What are Waymo doing? What are Waymo claiming and not able to actually stack up?

Peter Norton 20:47
Yeah, so Waymo can, in fact, pick you up in Chandler, Arizona, and then take you to another destination in Chandler, Arizona, in a vehicle that has no driver, including no so called safety driver, the person who you know, is there to supervise the vehicle and take over in the event of an emergency, there’s not even that. And now, of course, the vehicle is under constant monitoring, and the passengers are in close communication and so on. But it really is autonomous, in that specific sense that there’s nobody operating the vehicle who is in the vehicle. Now, I think this is a sort of

Peter Norton 21:45
And of course, then the the operation costs, the overhead are very, very expensive as well. And this is all because it’s operated at a loss by Alphabet Incorporated, the company that owns Google. And, you know, this is this is another words, they’re paying a lot of money to get a claim of credibility across. It’s not a profitable business model or anything close. Also what makes Waymo possible is that it operates in a — I’m I was about to say town, but it doesn’t hardly is recognisable as a town — in an in an semi urban environment, in which there are almost no pedestrians because it’s so unwalkable The streets are enormously wide. You know, there’s ample there’s a left turn, you know, two or three left, turn lanes, right turn lanes everywhere you go.

Peter Norton 22:46
In other words, they have to have a highly contrived environment. And this, to me is another repeat of history. Because to make car dependency work, the environments, urban environments had to be completely reconstructed, just so you could move each person in their own 100 square feet of of automobile space and park them when they got there. And so what Waymo is proposing implicitly, they’re not saying this, of course, is sort of rebuilding America again, or the world again, around what the vehicle needs instead of around what people need.

Peter Norton 23:23
Now, I know you have a lot more that you could probably offer about what what makes Waymo more an illusion than a reality and I’d love to hear it. But

Peter Norton 23:45
An extremely influential public intellectual named Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast that’s hugely popular and he has an episode called “I love you, Waymo.” And it really presents Waymo as delivering us from every imagined and real evil in the urban environment. It’s It’s It’s really the vehicle as a magical deliverance, again, presented by a very eloquent and appealing intellectual in a way that makes it seem credible. So that’s, you know, an illustration of the fact that public relations is a really big part of this as it always has been.

Carlton Reid 24:27
So, yes, we haven’t got conditions like

Carlton Reid 25:06
It’s a natural conclusion? That’s that’s where the technologies have to go. They have to say, “Well, okay, we can’t see everything. But if we just chip your, your cap, if we just chip your trousers and we just chipped your phone, if we’re just chip everything, then everything will be found in future” will be fantastic if we chip everything?

Peter Norton 25:24
Yeah, that’s certainly what we’re we’re hearing, often implicitly, sometimes in explicitly that this is where we have to go to make this work. And

Peter Norton 27:33
I’m laughing, too, it’s almost incredible, how we will go to such elaborate lengths to solve problems at the high tech end of the spectrum, only when we could solve them at the low tech end, or already do solve them. At the low tech, and there’s a, an expression I’ve taken to using with students where my students are all engineering students. And so I draw a line at the on the board. And at one end, I write high tech. And at the other end, I write low tech. And I circled the high tech end. And I say, if you’re only looking at the high tech, and you may be missing something really useful at the low tech and and to help them overcome the bias against low tech, I say, why don’t we call this high sosh, like, if it’s high tech, then high social, or high social would be the better counterpoint rather than low tech, which sounds like, you know, something primitive or

Unknown Speaker 28:34
simple. So I think we’re missing the low tech end of the spectrum. It’s not being a Luddite, to say it has a lot of value, or a lot we can value in it. And often, the low tech end can help us make the high tech end work. You know that a lot of the most useful systems we can have in the world, combine high tech and low tech instead of pitting them against each other.

Carlton Reid 29:02
There is a technology Peter that you mentioned in “Fighting Traffic,” your first book, and you mentioned it in this book, and I believe we haven’t discussed it before, but that is the speed governor so the speed limiter so this is technology that you would think would be a preamble, a precursor I should say really to autonomous driving if we’re really gonna have autonomous driving well the next stage should be let’s let’s let’s take over some of the takeaway some of the human element and put speed governors in cars and that technology as you’ve discussed it in both books is not exactly brand new that you’ve been able to have speed governor speed limiters since early 19 hundred’s so why haven’t we gone to that stage? Why? Why are we missing out quite a critical stage which would actually have unbelievable speed, safety benefits if you had every car, GPS speed track.

Carlton Reid 30:00
Or in previous technologies just literally speed governed?

Unknown Speaker 30:04
Well, you know, the the early version of that the speed governor from the 1920s, which a lot of city people in America were calling for is a way to make streets for pedestrians device that would make it impossible to drive faster than 25 miles per hour. I think there’s a lot to be learned from why that was so zealously fought by the automobile interest groups. And I am pretty confident I know why, because they read their own statements to each other. And in effect, they said, people have to pay a lot of money for a car. And that means they wanted to do something that other vehicles don’t. And that one thing that cars do best relative to the other vehicles of that era, is go fast. And so if you make it impossible for the car to go faster than say, an electric streetcar, well, then people will just keep taking the electric streetcar. Why would they, you know, pay a lot of money for an automobile. And I think that basic reason is still with us. I mean, one of the biggest obstacles to among many obstacles to the autonomous vehicle future that’s being sold to us is that an autonomous vehicle can be extremely safe. If it doesn’t matter how fast or slow it goes. But, you know, the people who want to make a go of this in a business sense, know that no one will pay money to ride in an autonomous vehicle that has an average speed of eight or 10 miles an hour. So that, you know, the speed is is is, you know, essential from a business point of view. In the US in particular, it also was sort of built in to our urban geography, it because of engineering standards.

Peter Norton 31:58
I mean, it to an American audience, often the first objection I’ll get when I criticise car dependency is people will say, well, it’s a big country with long distances. And this is, of course, a kind of a silly claim, because what the distance that matters is not the distance from one coast to the other coast. The distance that matters is the distance between your home and your workplace, or your home and your school, or the shop and your home, or whatever it is those distances. And those distances can be extremely short. But in the US are our, our highway engineers, when they look at the fact that the time it takes you to get your to your destination, is the product of two factors, namely the distance and your speed. the only factor they actually worked into their calculations was speed. In other words, they never bothered with the distance. And they never made any serious effort to ask, how can we keep our destinations, close enough together, that we will save you time on your way to work? Instead, they said, How can we get you travelling faster? Now, it’s the same problem, how much time does it take you to get to work, but they chose to attack it only from one side of that equation and not from the other. And because they committed themselves immediate a public responsibility to fight what they called delay, delay being travelling slower than the speed limit, then every time you were delayed, the problem had to be solved at public expense by adding new highway capacity that would let you go the speed limit again. And as a consequence of all of that, we already have destinations so far apart, that you cause anxiety, when you tell people that we made in need a future where you go slower.

Carlton Reid 33:53
Your definition when you when you’re saying use high social instead of low tech. That’s kind of interesting and worthwhile. It doesn’t seem to be something that people would tend to use apart from, of course, advocate, because you mentioned the phrase before you I term Luddites, so you know, autonomous vehicles, speed, even

Carlton Reid 34:22
capacity of roads, and making roads fit for whatever car whatever motor vehicle is on the road at the time, for instance, Tesla’s now this is all progress. And Peter, what you’re doing, and if you say things like, well, we could use public transport and we could use bicycles, or we could walk that’s anti-progress, that’s not moving forward. We already have got that.

Peter Norton 34:47
What’s interesting about that, it’s a great question. And it’s actually one of the reasons why I thought, why don’t we call low tech high social, because then we can sort of try to characterise social

Peter Norton 35:33
As you know, for ‘Autonorama’ one of my inspirations is Rachel Carson in “Silent Spring.” And her book was highly critical of the high tech,

Peter Norton 36:24
you know, “Silent Spring” is a reference to a future where there are no songbirds because of chemical pesticides. Well, there equivalents of that for urban mobility, like,

Unknown Speaker 36:37
you know, a future where we can have parks that you can walk to, we can have playgrounds that your children can walk to safely without you having to drive them to the playground, children going to school, these are attractive images, like songbirds are that, you know, high tech, incidentally can help us get to because there’s a place for high tech in a sustainable, Livable Future, there’s a vital place for high tech and that, but it’s then again, a question of making sure that we are the ones choosing the tech that we need for our chosen purposes. And not, and we don’t turn into people sort of waiting for tech to happen to us, which is how it’s getting framed right now.

Carlton Reid 37:25
Are you worried about the Apple Car? Because that, you know, every time they do Apple do take on a technology, they they pretty much transform it in their own making, and make it incredibly popular? Or do you think they will be burned just as, as other companies have have actually been burned in this this this space? Because clearly they they’ve lost? An executive just recently has gone to another company for I think,

Carlton Reid 37:52
and and they haven’t brought out this this is this much vaunted car, despite working on it for a long time. So do you worry about Apple? Or is it thing you’ve got no real worries?

Peter Norton 38:04
Well, I do worry about all of these companies, including Apple, and maybe apple in particular, for the reasons that you mentioned, they’re very good at this. You know, the iPhone is something that people feel an attachment for, which is unlike, you know, the phones we remember as kids, which you weren’t strictly, you know, utilitarian objects.

Unknown Speaker 38:26
I also worried because not just Apple, but also the companies to get apps onto your phone are very good at commanding our attention. And a lot of the thinking around autonomous vehicles right now is that they can be profitable if they’re really massive data collectors. And that’s what has made the iPhone profitable for many companies. And it can also make a sort of Apple Car. What some people in the industry call the ultimate mobile device, a device we will be as attached to as our phones. Now, part of your question is, will this will they actually succeed at this and I actually don’t think autonomous vehicles will ever succeed at being anything like what they’re represented as to us as as something you know, you’ll be able to summon it anywhere, anytime. And it will take whisk you away to your destination, right away the way all the public relations shows. But the fact that I don’t think that’s possible. I don’t want that to distract us from the fact that the pursuit of that goal can be really, really destructive. In other words, you may never get to the goal. But the destruction in the wake of that effort could be profound. And I mean, I think history is trying to teach us that because in America, we’ve been pursuing a city where you can drive anywhere at any time without delay and park for free when you get there, we’ve never achieved that city. And yet we’ve never stopped pursuing it. And in pursuing it, we have really destroyed the pre automotive cities of America and turned the post automotive cities into kind of car dependent energy, wasteful, vast expanses of pavement. So I think we could we could repeat history, we’re at risk of repeating history, because the unachievable promise of the autonomous vehicle may lure us along a path of extravagant spending over use of energy. Carbon emissions, I mean, the list goes on.

Carlton Reid 40:45
Peter, many people, and this is where the Luddite comes in. Many people have said, you know, technologies will be unachievable. And then lo and behold, they become achievable. And the Luddities are proven wrong. And before you said somthing about choice, and how, if only you had the choice of a form of transport, so the Netherlands, you’ve got lots of choice, and you choose whichever transport mode you want, whereas other countries, you know, there’s really ones, it’s monolithic, only one

Carlton Reid 41:14
transport choice, really, because that’s been designed. But autonomous vehicles, if they get it right, and if we are wrong, and where we are proven to be Luddites and Apple, a miraculously in in a year’s time, 18 months time comes out with a product that is just genuinely the real deal? Isn’t that something that could potentially

Carlton Reid 41:39
make bicycling and walking, perhaps not public transport, but certainly those two modes, that can be a golden age for those modes, because you get rid of the nut behind the wheel, you get rid of the most dangerous part of the motor vehicle. And that’s the human driver. So surely, why is you as a technology, intellectual or technology academic? Why are you not saying we can do this, but maybe have parameters in so we steer in a certain direction?

Unknown Speaker 42:14
That’s a wonderful question. And so rich possibilities about about how to approach it.

Peter Norton 42:22
So I mean, first of all, in any book about the future, and “Autonorama” although most of the actual text is about the past, that’s there to help us get the future. Right. So the book I think of is fundamentally being about the future. And I think every author of such a book has to admit they may be wrong. And I, I admit, I may be wrong about autonomous vehicles. But I think, I think the weight of evidence is overwhelmingly on the side that says,

Peter Norton 43:33
There was a an article that came out maybe three or four years ago, by Adam Millard Ball, where he concluded and the conclusion he presented the conclusion with extremely high confidence that autonomous vehicles will return streets to pedestrians and cyclists and even children playing games, because the vehicle will be programmed to avoid injuring those people at any cost really. And here’s that, to me, this is a perfect illustration of why we have to study history or we will get the future wrong.

Peter Norton 44:59
autonomous vehicles would either be mostly stopped in cities, and therefore no one would pay a penny to ride in one. Or they would operate only in wastelands like Chandler, Arizona, where no one walks anyway. So those two alternatives I think are equally unlikely. And here’s here’s where history comes in.

Carlton Reid 45:23

Peter Norton 45:23
Go ahead.

Carlton Reid 45:26
Well, there’s your future. The future is every single place in the world looking like Chandler, Arizona. In other words, you get rid of the pedestrians, you get rid of the cyclists, because they’re the ones holding back progress, Peter!

Peter Norton 45:39
Exactly. And and, Carlton, I do believe that it’s possible. In other words, it is possible that, that to make these things work, they will, you know, they being policymakers, engineers, corporate interest groups, and so on, they will make sure that

Peter Norton 46:54
designed with such that the pedestrian comes first that automatically you have a pedestrians paradise neglects the fact that the laws, the engineering standards, the social norms, and so on, are all subject to change from the groups with the most at stake and with the most influence. So motordom’s response, the automotive interest groups response to the fact that their drivers were getting into deep legal trouble and deep financial trouble every time they hit a pedestrian and to the fact that the newspapers were were demonising vehicles and their drivers wasn’t to say, well, we have to make cars that only go 10 miles an hour or something like that. Their response was to change the social norms. The jaywalking campaigns were part of that, to change the laws, and to change the engineering standards, such that now, you know, in a typical American city or suburb, a pedestrian wouldn’t even dare try sometimes to even exercise their legal right at the typical American crosswalk, especially on the fringes of a city, you see people waiting patiently at a marked crosswalk where they have the right of way, while drivers just race on through. So I think you’re going to see the same thing with autonomous vehicles. In other words, the autonomous vehicles will, there will be ways to make sure the pedestrian gets out of the way might be an obnoxious noise or a flashing light could even conceivably be cameras that ultimately have facial recognition in them. They’ll make sure that the laws are a certain way.

Carlton Reid 48:40
China already does that.

Peter Norton 48:41
That’s right.

Carlton Reid 48:42
The Chinese already have that. They have that right now. If you if you jaywalk, you can be instantly fined.

Peter Norton 48:50
Right. So China decided at some point they wanted a national automobile industry and suddenly the you know, when you have an authoritarian country like China, the that can be a policy that’s implemented quite quickly. They promoted that industry in part by becoming changing from a country where everybody cycled to everything into a country where it’s hard to walk safely and where you are treated like you know, an enemy of the state if you if you exercise, a little resourcefulness just to get across the street. And that may, I hadn’t thought of that illustration, but that may be the ideal illustration for why the Malcolm Gladwell Adam Millard Ball thesis won’t stand up. I think the other illustration is historical.

Carlton Reid 49:40
Do you know, I’ve never actually thought about this because this autonomous driving is very much a tech bro thing is very much Silicon Valley. Google. Apple. Now we’ve talked about them. We haven’t talked about China. Do you know is this something that never come up on your your LIDAR and then China will

Carlton Reid 50:00
What is China doing with autonomous vehicles, you know, they’re ahead in so many other ways. If this was a viable technology, you’d think they would be at least equal to the Silicon Valley Tech bros, or potentially even further afield, especially because there are, as you said, there are authoritarian country, they can do what the hell they like with their streets, whereas in some respects, even in auto-dependent USA, and then the UK, there’s still gonna be some kickback, whereas in China is gonna be no kickback, if they want to do the whole system where it’s gonna be autonomous vehicles, they can do autonomous vehicles.

Peter Norton 50:37
Well, I’m not privy to a lot about what’s going on there. Besides what, you know, I can pick up fairly easily in journalism, but

Peter Norton 51:01
an example I spend some time on in the, in the book is a 2010 movie that was co produced by General Motors, China and its Chinese partner, SAIC used to be Shanghai AutomotiveIndustries Corporation,

Peter Norton 52:08
Maybe not so much in the vehicle, if not in the vehicles themselves, then in the technology, the world would need to have these vehicles.

Carlton Reid 52:16
I can imagine they would also chip if, literally, you know, we we worry about this is like, Oh, you know, we’re gonna have to have chips on our phones. And then of course, we’re gonna have to have chips in, you know, embedded in our skin. We’re in China, that wouldn’t be a problem. Yeah, everybody who’s born, there’s your chip. And then all of a sudden, you’ve got a system where Yeah, China has got autonomous vehicles, no problem, because everybody wouldn’t be a

Carlton Reid 52:40
better dream come true for an authoritarian regime than to have not only chipped people, but they’re also travelling in vehicles that can be tracked, their location is known at all times.

Peter Norton 52:52
You know, it, it really is an authoritarian’s dream come true. Which of course is ironic, because car dependency was sold on the claim that it was personally liberating.

Carlton Reid 53:04
You talk in your in your book about “transport sufficiency,” what’s what’s transport sufficiency?

Peter Norton 53:10
I’m presenting transport sufficiency as the alternative to a sort of transport perfection. Now, obviously, perfection sounds more attractive than sufficiency. But that comparison changes when you recognise that transport, perfection is actually never achieved. It’s frequently invoked and frequently promised, because that has a way of opening up wallets of opening up public money for roads and so on. But it’s never actually achieved. And the result is actually kind of worse than transport sufficiency. Because in the pursuit of transport perfection, you get all kinds of nuisances, that are, you know, worse than transport sufficiency, and that are ubiquitous in the US, such as, for example, you know, buses, if they come at all come once an hour or something like that, or walking means walking next to a six lane highway, and having no place to cross and so on. So transports efficiency is saying, Well, if we forego perfection, then we have possibilities that are actually very attractive. This, incidentally, is another case where I want to give the credit to Rachel Carson, also to to Jane Jacobs, who were saying very much the same thing. They didn’t use the that vocabulary. But Rachel Carson, for example, was in effect saying, if you give up the dream of, say, pest free agriculture, where you have no insect pests at all, then you can actually do some quite wonderful things, you know, by crop rotation, varying your crops, you know, finding the suitable, the crop right crop for that

Peter Norton 55:00
environment and so on. Jane Jacobs was offering a version of that same kind of message, namely, the perfectionist visions of the planners was never really achievable. And the pursuit of it was destructive. But if we sort of agreed that it’s okay to have, you know, a mix of, of building stock, some of which may be a little decayed. And it’s okay if we have people who sometimes find it frustrating on the sidewalk, because there’s so many people walking and so on. If we accept those things as part of the deal, well, then we can take take that as a serious possibility as an alternative that looks very attractive compared to the pursuit of perfection, we never actually approach.

Carlton Reid 55:48
Also in your book, I’m now I’m going to pick out because I I’m lucky enough to have been sent an advanced copy. And I’ve, I’ve read it, and I picked up it, so I’m not gonna just pick out bits and throw them at you. And you’ve got to explain to us to everyone who’s listened to this. So you wrote “a city optimised for drivers keeps not only drivers dissatisfied, but everyone else, too.” So explain that.

Peter Norton 56:16
Well, this is actually related to the previous point, namely, a city optimised for drivers is ultimately unachievable for the simple reason that

Peter Norton 57:34
you will find that you can live further from work and maybe save yourself or rent or get yourself a lower price on your house. If you choose to live another 10, 20, 30 miles from your daily destinations, which in turn means more total driving, it means more people coming into the city from a wider radius of origin points, and all needing a place to park their vehicle all day. And so it’s a kind of a treadmill, where the more you accommodate drivers, the more driving there is, and therefore the more effort you have to take to accommodate them. And if you the ultimate example of this would be Houston, Texas, where if you you know do a Google image search for Katy freeway, which is interstate 10 near Houston. You see, I think it’s now 26 lanes of congested traffic. Which, which is it makes the most dystopian dystopian science fiction seem, you know, mundane by comparison. So it’s, it’s it’s an absurdity.

Peter Norton 58:46
And, you know, that’s the point I was just trying to make.

Carlton Reid 58:48
But 28 lanes will fix it.

Peter Norton 58:52
That’s right.

Carlton Reid 58:53
One more will fix it. We’re just looking for that sweet spot.

Peter Norton 58:57
Exactly, yeah, one more lane is what it’ll take.

Carlton Reid 58:59
So both you

Carlton Reid 59:02
and I, we, our research interests often coincide. Mine from the UK angle and from the US angle. But they often talk about or look at eventual dystopias and and but you when you’re reading the literature of the 1920s, 1930s, it’s full of optimism and and ditto for for here. So I’m I’m currently reading lots and lots of literature, from that time where modren was going to be perfection. It was you know, we weren’t going to ever reach

Carlton Reid 1:00:00
That’s basically where we’re coming we’re the Grouches is here, we’re, we’re the, the boring old Luddites, or not even Luddites. We’re the boring old people pointing out that, yes, you can have this technology, but it won’t actually do what you say it’s going to it’s going to do. And we did have to look at history to kind of prove that in all this optimism.

Carlton Reid 1:00:24
Now really ever we’re just stuck in traffic. Yes, this this, this is a freedom machine. If you’re the only one driving it, as soon as everybody else has this fantastic technology, it ceases to be practical.

Peter Norton 1:00:39
Quite so. You were reminding me of a word that might be applied to both of us as well? That’s very common, maybe more here than there naysayers were the naysayers. But yeah, certainly, if you compare the utopian visions of the 30s, or the 40s, or the 50s, with what we have now, it is profoundly disappointing. I think this compels us to ask why do we keep falling for these techno futuristic fantasy lands that can’t be achieved? And that was a question that was very important to me in autonoma? Why do we keep falling for these things? And of course, one of the arguments in “Autonorama,” is that we actually do get sceptical after each wave of these things. There’s a credibility gap that sets in

Peter Norton 1:02:33
inspire gets applied to make us believe futures that are both undesirable and unachievable?

Peter Norton 1:02:40
Well, then then we’re being manipulated again.

Carlton Reid 1:02:42
That sort of reminded me of a like a visual joke like, you know, you know, “Punch,” Punch, there are satirical magazine in the UK, I’m pretty sure it from them. So it’s there’s a, there’s an illustration of a horse and cart, a drunk farmer. And I’m sure this has been used in the US as well, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with this trope. But the farmer is drunk, leaning back, in effect, asleep in the in the back of his, his vehicle of the day, his character of the day driven by a horse, but the horse can actually get him home from the pub. So these technologies of autonomous vehicles, I’ve actually been with us before, you would just have the horse would take you home from the pub drunk. So nothing that they’re really dreaming of now are something that we couldn’t have done using other forms of technology previously, and you kind of make that point in the book where you say, and I’m quoting you here,

Carlton Reid 1:03:43
where “walkability, cycle routes and basic transit are so much less expensive, that even if we diverted a 10% of the funds now going to building, maintaining and policing roads, and and the future of these roads, means we can actually start to see beneficial trends in a year or two, never mind in 10, 20 years.” So that’s where we need to be brave and actually funding technologies

Carlton Reid 1:04:11
that work, that are proven to work,

Carlton Reid 1:04:15
but maybe not sexy.

Peter Norton 1:04:18
I love the way you put it. In fact, that opening analogy really ought to give us pause because that farmer’s horse, got the farmer home, even if there was an inch of snow and it was sleeping, and it was night. All of which would have made it you know, a technical nightmare to sort out at the best high tech companies r&d divisions today. It’s true that you know, the resources necessary just to make walking practical and cycling practical and to give people more reliable and better bus service and so on are not that significant. And he would finally give

Peter Norton 1:06:23
You know, yeah, that would be restoring choice to people and technology could be part of it. Because one of the reasons why we over built roads is that, you know, the excuse was, it’s not practical to charge people for their road use by the actual cost of each mile, their driving, that would require, say, a toll booth on every mile of road, and everybody would have to stop and get coins out of their pocket to pay the toll. And therefore, we’re gonna go with the gas tax instead. And the gas tax was this incredibly clumsy and stupid, low tech way to create a funnel of money for roads that became a self perpetuating treadmill of road building. Well, technology can let us undo that. So I’m being a high tech fan here and saying, why don’t we, you know, charge people and then put that money into giving people choices.

Carlton Reid 1:07:14
Do you see any? Because you mentioned many times in both books, how the automakers basically got everybody else to pay for their infrastructure, you know, society paid, governments paid on their behalf. Do you see

Carlton Reid 1:07:32
that happening with autonomous vehicles, because if we are going to have autonomous vehicles, and we know that the technology they’ve currently got aren’t going to be sufficient, they’re going to have to have a remodelling of the streets, which we’re going to have to pay for at the end of the day, it won’t be the automakers and never has been the automakers. And it’s never been the users, the motorists either. It’s always been society as a whole. Do you see in for instance, in the latest Biden’s infrastructure bill, you know, how much of that is actually going to subsidising all of these tech dreams?

Peter Norton 1:08:06
Well, I can’t speak very specifically about Biden’s infrastructure bill because I have some homework to do to get better acquainted with the details. I only have the headline level information about it. But what I can say is absolutely the costs, entailed in accommodating and enabling autonomous and other highly automated vehicles on the roads has already been getting picked up by the US taxpayer in a big way. And this goes across parties and administrations. At the end of the Obama administration, there was a smart cities competition where one US city got a enormous amount of money to promote.

Peter Norton 1:09:37
autonomous vehicles are coming in. It’s our job in the Federal Highway Administration to help it happen. And she announced large sums of money for that. And without even checking, I think we can be certain that there are substantial public funds from US DoT even under Mayor Pete for

Peter Norton 1:10:07
So yeah, these interest groups, these trade associations and lobbies are simply too powerful for that not to happen.

Carlton Reid 1:10:16
So, Motordom Mark II?

Peter Norton 1:10:18
Yes, I think we still have Motordom and in fact, the Motordom club is expanded to include tech companies.

Carlton Reid 1:10:25
Peter, as always, it has been fascinating. Your book was excellent. I was kindly asked to write a blurb for it. That’s why I got an early copy, in which I hope I was as glowing as I ought to be. Because it was a fantastic book, and a very, very good follow up to “Fighting traffic,” like the kind of the next stage. So tell us, when’s it gonna be available? Where is it going to be available from tell us all of that detail.

Peter Norton 1:10:57
So the press is Island press, and Island press says it will be available October 21.

Peter Norton 1:11:06
A nice feature of the book’s title is that you won’t get a lot of irrelevant hits. If you type in the book’s title “Autonorama,” it t ought to be the first thing that comes up on any search engine. And it will be available through essentially all the book channels that people are already using.

Carlton Reid 1:11:28
And that’s all Now, where can you find more about you, because you’re not on Twitter.

Peter Norton 1:11:36
I know, I have a an About Me page on my department’s website, my department being the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia.

Peter Norton 1:11:52
I think if anyone searched just for “University of Virginia” and “Peter Norton,” it would probably come up near at or near the top.

Carlton Reid 1:12:01
So you’re proving yourself here to be that Luddite.

Peter Norton 1:12:05
Well, you know, I recently had a friend who so use of social media, I had a journalist friend I like very much recently tell me I have to be on Twitter. And then in the next sentence, he said, but I lose an incredible amount of time on it, I have to say, so I’ll consider joining the twittersphere. Again, but you know, I have some

Peter Norton 1:12:31
costs and benefits to to consider.

Carlton Reid 1:12:34
Yes, I wouldn’t encourage anybody to do it. Because it is can be a time sink, and you do tend to talk around in circles. But at the end of the day, it is good to, to have like,

Carlton Reid 1:12:49
cuz I use it the other day, in fact, for a Forbes article, in that I was taken on a whole bunch, I don’t know why they’ve adopted me, but a whole bunch of anti low traffic neighbourhood folks have adopted me as their bet and one of the name I have mentioned why I’m the one at the moment, which they’re there that they’re piling in on me. And so I try and win when I take them on. You know, it’s like, this is not radical, you know, a low traffic neighbourhood is not radical, you know, the Romans had low traffic neighbourhoods. 600 years ago, the York Minster had low,, these are bollard, these are not you know, the throughout history we’ve had, you know, motor carriages restricted. This is not unusual yet all the mass media and these people are seeing this as this incredible, new and novel to them dystopian future where you can’t go exactly where you want in your motorcar. So I take these people on, and I try and move it on. So because it’s not a very radical concept, they consider it radical. I just say, well, let’s just ban cars.

Carlton Reid 1:13:56
They then flip their lid, because that is just something that they haven’t is like, Whoa, we just thought we’re talking about you know, just a few bars here. Now this this lunatic is talking about banning all cars. Now, of course, I don’t have any power in it. I can’t do anything about this. But just mentioning that concept that that is your future and I kind of scared them. I hope it just nudges the Overton window for them, just nudges up a little. So they then think that LTNs or maybe they’re not quite as crazy, or as radical as we think because this nutter is talking about banning all cars. So maybe we will just keep quiet. Mostly you’re talking to the wind, you’re not gonna convert anybody people have got their their rigid points of view and I don’t know why they even start arguing about it. But there was a glimmer, it was two or three posters, who when you actually started chiselling away, and you actually showed them because they one particular one came on and was very anti LTNs but then

Carlton Reid 1:15:01
I started talking about highway removal. And how it didn’t lead to Carmageddon, there didn’t lead to congestion everywhere. And then I showed them a photograph of this particular the poster child of highway removal in South Korea and showed them how it is now a park today. And their argumentation had been about how all LTNs was shoving

Carlton Reid 1:15:27
all the heavy traffic onto these major freeways where there was actually lots of houses next to it. But when I showed them, like other countries have done this, they actually came around to this concept, and I just got one convert from this argumentation, I would consider that to be a success. So some Overton windows might be nudged open, but then one person who was anti LTN is gonna think ‘Well, actually, there is a different future, because South Korea did that.’ So that’s why I use social media and and I don’t mind spending time arguing with people, even though 90% of them, you’re not going to change their mind, you might change 10% of people’s mind. And perhaps those 10% could be an important 10%.

Peter Norton 1:16:15
Well, I am delighted by this story, and you’ve given me something to think about very carefully. I read that piece in Forbes, by the way, and I absolutely loved it. And the reason I saw it is that I am on social media. I saw it on Facebook. And I recall your sort of attention getting statement in that post, which was the first sentence is been banned cars are approximately that. So I loved the deliberate provocation that that was that was amusing. And I shared, of course, I shared the article because it’s it’s it’s common sense presented bbsolutely refreshingly. Well, yeah, I think I’ll give it a try.

Carlton Reid 1:17:09
Don’t blame me though.

Peter Norton 1:17:10
No, no,

Peter Norton 1:17:11
if I if I ended up

Carlton Reid 1:17:12
I didn’t, I didn’t.

Peter Norton 1:17:14
Yeah, if if my career stalls to a halt, because I’m constantly tweeting, or, and so on I’ll take full responsibility. And you have that on Zencastr.

Carlton Reid 1:17:27
Thanks to Peter Norton. There’s a photo of him and a link to “Autonorama” on this show’s website at Next month, I’ll have a chat with Lachlan Morton, who, as I’m sure you know, rode this year’s Tour de France by himself, but meanwhile … get out there and ride.

September 12, 2021 / / Blog

12th September 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 282: Veloforte


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Marc and Lara Giusti

TOPICS: A 50-minute chat with Veloforte founders Marc and Lara Giusti.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 282 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 12th of September 2021.

David Bernstein 0:25
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fred cast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesman cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information, check out our website at And now here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the Spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:10
Bear with me as I sample a smidgen of fresco energy chew along with a little chunk from a hazelnut coffee and cocoa flavoured Tuscany-inspired treat. That’s more like a pan forte than your traditional energy bar, which let’s face it is often on the functional spectrum, rather than a foodie one. I’m just gonna taste this, hang on.

Carlton Reid 1:37
Yep. Oh, that’s mint

Carlton Reid 1:39
Oh, lemon it’s also mint and lemon. It’s got the consistency of kind of Turkish Delight. It doesn’t taste like Turkish Delight, but it’s got the consistency of Turkish Delight. And that’s Fresco from Veloforte. And made in small batches, Veloforte is from London. The products I’m enjoying here are made with natural time-tested ingredients, not fancy schmancy gloops. I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s 50-minute show I’m talking – and eating – with Veloforte founders, Marc and Lara Giusti. Their brand is now five years old. And unusually for an energy bar company, its halo products have won numerous Great Taste awards. After we’d finished recording, I was kindly sent an all-products sampling box and I can exclusively reveal — well, not very exclusive — but I can reveal that everything in Veloforte’s range is super tasty, including the Fresco there which is now half chewed. Let me just open the Mocha so the Mocha is hazelnut coffee and cocoa

Carlton Reid 2:59
and it’s like a pan fortre I’d have I’ve have had a few before so I’m just tasting this one now.

Carlton Reid 3:07
So if you’d like pan forte, at Christmas or whatever you would like Sienna-sourced products well I guess you’re like this. Let’s taste this one.

Carlton Reid 3:21
Yeah, okay. That’s also

Carlton Reid 3:25

Carlton Reid 3:26
I’ll cut this audio out. Yeah. Okay, I’m now back in, I’ve cut the sound out of my chewing there. But that was also tasty, very, very tasty. Because these products are made from real food, not fillers. There’s like big objects of hazelnuts in the Mocha I can see on my desk here. And there are none of the bloating and you know those emissions-related problems that is common with other some other gels. Anyway, here’s my chat with Marc and Laura. I started by asking about the surprisingly long history of pan forte

Marc Giusti 4:04
Way back in a sort of Roman legions before even there’s evidence of

Marc Giusti 4:13
essentially fruits, nuts, berries, honeys, those sorts of produce being pulled together by

Marc Giusti 4:22
in this case the Roman legions as they marched through Europe.

Marc Giusti 4:26
And using these ingredients to sort of fortify the armies the soldiers you know, the the teams as they marched through the land.

Marc Giusti 4:37
And of course, what that became them was a sort of a dough really a mixture of, of these different ingredients brought together. But as time went on,

Marc Giusti 4:47
began to include all sorts of herbs and spices and in a new and interesting foods as they went through different lands and countries. So ginger

Marc Giusti 5:00
And cinnamons and you know, a whole host of fruits and who knows what.

Marc Giusti 5:05
And as this happened, the, the fruits of stops being, if you like, a fortifying dough for, you know, the plebs and the masses. And it started to become a bit more of a speciality it started become the almost sort of pharmaceutical away because of the the gingers and other spices that had some healing benefits in and they were finding that, you know, the the soldiers and the generals and the and the leaders were, were, you know better for it. And so it sort of started to become something of a speciality in this special food for,

Marc Giusti 5:39
I guess,

Marc Giusti 5:41
higher, higher and higher up the food chain, so to speak. And then as many hundreds if not a couple of 1000s of years have moved on, it’s now really seen in Italy as a as a classic delicacy, largely centred around the area of sienna. And around Florence, you can find it everywhere in Italy, of course, but it’s sort of central gravity seems to be that sort of Tuscan food. So that’s the snapshot and, and the reason that’s connects to to us is that my family’s from Florence, Lucca near Sienna. And there’s a long history of panforte to being a

Marc Giusti 6:25
Well, it’s true many Italian families were panforte is a thing that your, your nonna, your grandmother teaches you how to make. And if you if you don’t know how to make it, then you know you need to.

Marc Giusti 6:39
And it’s a staple, really, and of course, the the the recipes for these are very closely guarded sort of family secrets. And that’s the backdrop to how it’s in. And I guess our lives and

Marc Giusti 6:54
Laura, as well, over the years has developed an incredible capability as an award winning baker, not only

Marc Giusti 7:04
also for heart, lung, respiratory specialist as well. And so combining those skills, this provenance of food,

Marc Giusti 7:12
our interests for creating

Marc Giusti 7:16
natural ingredients, natural foods for, for sports context, that’s essentially the the moons were coming together, it looks a little bit like that. And when when, when the moons coming together, gosh, there’s so slowly at first, because we didn’t invent the recipes in order to create a nutrition brand. It was it was actually that was that’s where we ended up the the beginnings of this was just really to help fuel me on my own sort of cycling adventures. And I was sort of sick to death with this was around 2017, I think

Marc Giusti 7:51
2016 maybe 2017 I was fed up with all of the typical synthetic nasty gloop in tubes that we’ve all had to suffer for years that you know, you’ve most bike shops, or wherever you might get your food.

Marc Giusti 8:05
And all of it pretty unpleasant, all of it

Marc Giusti 8:09
was impossible to understand the what’s in it, let alone what it’s supposed to do, or how to use it. And so it was for me a case of I wanted to find something, I could trust him and something that I wanted to eat and something that I understood. And

Marc Giusti 8:24
so Lara turns around says, Well, I’ll make it for you. I know exactly how to do that. I know, from my home, as I said, from herbs of medical, years, 20 odd years.

Marc Giusti 8:33
And that side of her life, was saying what I understand recovery in the human body and performance perfectly. I also understand how to how to make this stuff at an award winning level. So why aren’t we making it for you, so it started there. And then of course, I’d have too much in my pocket, no doubt here and there. And we’d hand it to friends and friends and hand it to their friends. And all of a sudden, we were staring at an opportunity to develop the brand.

Marc Giusti 8:59
And it kind of built its own path. Really, my past previously was 25 years brand strategy for all sorts of international brands. So we sort of converged that thinking and Lara’s skills with the foods and creative metaphor.

Carlton Reid 9:19
And from what you’re saying, it sounds like you, you you, you issue and you don’t have in your ingredients maltodextrin which is the kind of the basis for many

Carlton Reid 9:30
foods out there.

Lara Giusti 9:30
No, Carlton, we don’t use any highly processed ingredients at all. So what was important for me when I’m curating the range when I’m building any new products is that you almost want to be able to make it yourself in your own kitchen, be able to open your own cupboards and get your dried fruits, get your plant based syrups your Maple syrups and your nuts and be able to you know create these incredible incredibly powerful and delicious

Lara Giusti 10:01
recipes at home. But we do it for you, of course. And so it’s important for me that you understand what’s in the recipes that your body understands how to digest what’s in the recipes. So we steer away from any sort of synthetic ingredients or heavily processed ingredients and try and keep it as natural and as simple as possible.

Carlton Reid 10:20
Does that not I mean that the reason companies use is apart from the fact that maltodextrin a one point was an incredibly cheap ingredient

Carlton Reid 10:28
was that long shelf life and then that’s, that’s their benefit. So what is your how’s your shelf life compared to one of your your

Carlton Reid 10:39
competitors who are using these other ingredients?

Lara Giusti 10:42
So that is obviously that lots of things that we taking into consideration when we do make new products. But when we started with the bars, we knew that pound 40 was highly appraised for its shelf life, that’s how it would live in the Roman legions packs as they would storm across the countries. And so and it has natural preservatives in it. So it has a fairly high sugar content. And as we know, from jamming, it’s a natural preservative, you don’t need to add any artificial preservatives to that, to maintain a shelf life. The bars themselves are fairly low in water content. And so the moisture is trapped within the dried fruits within the bars. And so there’s nothing really to grow any mould or or affect any shelf life. So we have now up to 14 months on our bars have natural shelf life, too.

Lara Giusti 11:35
So rather than refrigerators refrigerated, they cope amazingly from 40 degree heat down to you know, minus two degree heat.

Lara Giusti 11:45
The they maintain their texture, and they’re the most fantastic portable fuel.

Marc Giusti 11:52
And it’s the same with with the chews, with the gels with hydration with our protein shakes, none of the ingredients include anything synthetic or or preservative based or additive based. And then all of those have somewhere between 12, 16 and 18 months shelf life. So it has not been mean we just simply don’t subscribe to the I guess the thought that we need to pump the products full of convenient ingredients from a manufacturing point of view

Marc Giusti 12:26
In order to either gain margin or to gain sort of shelf life, when you can have what or if you did we believe that you you have a huge issue with your quality, the provenance of your ingredients, the digestibility of the ingredients.

Marc Giusti 12:40
It’s it’s just not necessary from our point of view.

Carlton Reid 12:43
So how about expense wise? So have any of these facts that you’re using real ingredients rather than the maltodextrins of this world, does that make your product more expensive?

Marc Giusti 12:54
Well, it certainly makes it more expensive to produce. It’s much more complicated for us, you know, we don’t just go and buy, you know, n litres of gunk and stick it in the steel vats and you know, job done. The the the issue for us is absolutely that we want to know where the food is coming from. We know to some level even understand who the growers are, I know we have an absolute

Marc Giusti 13:18
focus on the provenance, the quality, the taste, the efficacy, the digestibility. And the experience, we will talk about three different things natural, powerful and delicious. And unless those three things are true, we won’t make the product.

Marc Giusti 13:34
But yes, that makes it harder for us to source it makes it harder for us to to ensure that we have the same. So for example, a batch one batch of dates might be more squidgy and moist than another batch of data. So all sorts of sourcing issues become a problem for us that we need to manage. And we do very well.

Marc Giusti 13:53
It doesn’t necessarily translate to more expensive on the shelf. But yes, there are absolutely some products that you could buy materially less. You know, there are some very well known brands who do 60% off sales pretty much all day every day. And and and that’s fine. But that’s not really where we’re not coming from that place.

Lara Giusti 14:14
It’s reflective on the cost of their raw ingredients so we don’t stint on quality on anything. The peels that we’re using our bars come from Sicily, they are candied in the most traditional way we want to stick to the heritage of our of our roots really, and we don’t want to compromise on quality and that means that we do put more cost base into the manufacturing side of it.

Carlton Reid 14:40
And where are they manufactured now?

Marc Giusti 14:42
So all over we did the very beginning was the kitchen quite literally and we turned our house.

Marc Giusti 14:49
It was a case of I think we had the cleaner and all of her friends turning up into little white hats and blue nets and so when they were doing the cutting in the mixing and the wrapping

Marc Giusti 15:00
And we had Laura and I making in the kitchen and it was, you know, quite a homemade affair. We then moved that to our own facility. We’re very modest facility in North London. And then since then as we’ve started to scale a business where we now have, you know, I guess you might call grown-up facilities with all the sort of BCR ratings and you know, Informed Sports qualifications and everything else that you need these days to have a really compelling nutrition product, and it’s all in the UK.

Carlton Reid 15:33
So I’m going to ask you about that so so an athlete can have faith in your product because

Carlton Reid 15:41
the certain product that might be in other companies products definitely won’t be there. So that’s all accredited?

Marc Giusti 15:47
Yeah, so the the main thing with the whole banned substances thing is that you know, where something is made, particularly for using facilities that have all sorts of other people’s products in them to you know, set some ingredients can cross pollinate if you like, or somehow infiltrate and, and also some people will want to add these products in or these ingredients to their products. So, Informed Sport came about some number of years ago now to try to give athletes that confidence that the foods that this particular product or brand or this particular product, have got us a rubber stamp accredited, you know, it’s safe to eat this banned substance assured also no banned substance or short

Marc Giusti 16:33
label and also we have, whether it be celiac or whether it be vegan, whether it be brcc throw BRC a ratings and that’s about so quality and cleanliness and

Marc Giusti 16:47
a whole load of traceability, traceability of food markers that the food industry have put in place for self regulation as well as for for more legislative record regulation.

Carlton Reid 17:00
And so cos you’re producing with for want of a better expression, real food, that’s what attracted people like Ashley Palmer-watts and Justin Clarke of LeBlanq to your brand, how did you meet them?

Marc Giusti 17:14
So that came about because of, and we’re very fortunate in that, because our food is very high quality. And we I’d argue we’re really the only all natural brand you can buy from in terms of the range of, you know, before, during, and after your exercise your sport, be elite or pro. Because we have such a high, highly regarded quality products, we get to meet and get introduced to quite a lot of very

Marc Giusti 17:45
serious sports people, everyone from Formula One racing drivers to tennis players to, you know, cyclists, runners and all sorts of people. And part of the,

Marc Giusti 17:55
I guess, introductions we get are people who are doing interesting things, you know, creates introductions with interesting people. And

Marc Giusti 18:02
I think when you’re probably somebody like Ashley, and when you’re at the highest end of your, I guess the food industry and you see a brand, changing the way that that the bits industry, in our case, sports nutrition, operates and starts to provide products to a quality level that you would normally expect from in a professional kitchen or in the restaurant quality foods, you know, with the only nutrition brands with one, I think more than 10 or 12 goal, Great Taste awards now.

Marc Giusti 18:31
And so we managed to, I guess reach a level of

Marc Giusti 18:35
recognition in that space that that piece, some of those chefs interests and we’re getting those introductions all the time.

Marc Giusti 18:42
And through our retailer and our eventing over networks, you know that these,

Marc Giusti 18:49
in this case, LeBlanq cycling events, they came to know this they saw our story they recognise it was very much in tune with what they were trying to do and and Lara is I guess you like the solution to the on bike part of the LeBlanq story. And if the if Ashley is looking after the off bike piece, how do they assure the same gastronomic qualities on the bike and that’s where Lara and her food comes in.

Carlton Reid 19:13
Mmm. And you mentioned there about retailing. So how how do people get hold of your product?

Marc Giusti 19:20
Well, mostly it’s direct to the website. So predominantly, we are a DTC brand as it’s called and people come to the website they order and you know we deliver.

Marc Giusti 19:30
Otherwise, we’ve got a whole bunch of

Marc Giusti 19:33
independent retail and large retail outlets, you know, sports shops, gyms,

Marc Giusti 19:39
health clubs in all sorts of different shapes and sizes of those all around the country as well as internationally. And there are you know, we’re growing it although it’s very modest still we are growing our footprint into Europe and into other sort of international regions. So it we are not hard to get hold of

Marc Giusti 20:00
It’s hard these days is things like Brexit, and also getting it to be delivered on time when you don’t own the logistics, you know, but but we’re easy to get hold on, it’s not a problem.

Carlton Reid 20:10
Hmm. So yeah, I was I was expecting mainly website, because that’s where everybody gets their stuff from now.

Marc Giusti 20:18
It is i think i think one really important thing, though, is that we’re not we’re not trying to be exclusively, sort of the website, only the, we believe that every channel be it Amazon or be it our website or be it your local bike shop or be it,you know, the gym, you go to, you know, in any number of places that we should be readily available, we should be accessible to you there in the best way that we can be. And that’s very much our plan.

Marc Giusti 20:44
The convenience side of it and the affordability side of it comes in because often when you when you buy sort of onesie twosie items from a bike shop on a Saturday morning before you ride out, for example. And that isn’t really a very effective way for you to manage your nutrition requirements you might have for your, you know, the weeks ahead. So inevitably, people come to the website, they buy boxes of their mixed bars, or their, you know, gels and powders or whatever it might be that they’re looking for. And it’s a much more efficient and effective way for them to manage their nutrition. And we have a subscription programme where you can do that. So you can come and say, I’m training for the marathon, or I’m training for a sportif, or, I don’t know, I’m a professional tennis player, and I’m training every week, whatever the scenario is, and we can build a subscription model around that for you to say, Well, this is the kind of product that you need on these weeks. And this is a sort of cadence new engineer delivered in and we tried to put that together for you.

Carlton Reid 21:43
Do you ever regret calling it Veloforte, which then, you know, solidifies it into cycling when it could have been like something like Sportforte, or just more general?

Marc Giusti 21:54
It’s a conversation that I’ve had with myself many times. No, is the short answer.

Marc Giusti 22:00
The. To me,a brand strategy is very much about

Marc Giusti 22:05
giving brands meaning, right, they can be called whatever you want to be; Google when it first came out was you know what, what does it even mean? Nobody understands it, if it has a, it needs to be given meaning. And what we find is that the provenance of where we started, which was very much in cycling very much to help in a very high endurance and high consumption needs to have this sort of food and to have the quality of the foods.

Marc Giusti 22:31
And that that is sort of set behind you know how we can also feel your marathon or your outdoor swimming or your

Marc Giusti 22:39
tennis playing or whatever it might be that you do

Marc Giusti 22:42
is just a straight line from there, there. There is really isn’t a downside. And an often I see when you talk to cyclists, of course, they they appreciate the name velo being in, in the brand. When you speak to non cyclists, they often don’t actually recognise it or think of it as some sort of exclusive cycling word.

Lara Giusti 23:05
Velo be seen as velocity. So you’ve got velo strength, so velocity, speed and strength.

Lara Giusti 23:09
So it’s really, you know.

Marc Giusti 23:11
So I think it’s a it’s a, it’s a fair question. But I I don’t think it’s something that’s going to limit the business at all. And I think it’s a story that we want to tell you know, that’s where we started.

Carlton Reid 23:23
And Peloton is kind of proving at the moment that you can have a very, very cycling word, and it doesn’t really matter, because you can sell running, even though you’re a cycling brond originally.

Marc Giusti 23:35
And people’s active lives now, like cycling is not only one of the largest consumers of our kinds of products as a as a category, but it’s also now becoming ever more part of certainly UK at least and it’s true, of course, in Europe and all around the world, but it’s becoming evermore a part of people’s active lives. And so you’re seeing brands and names and terminology, you know, bleed across different sports. I think it’s a it’s one of the sports that enormously impressive feats of, you know, human endurance come from those sports. So I think it can only be a good thing we would, we would only be looking for those provenance points if we had called it something else. So it seems to come more naturally from the name.

Carlton Reid 24:22
You mentioned pro sport then what what sprang to mind was pro cyclists, clearly and obviously, are very often

Carlton Reid 24:32
anchored to particular brands of energy food and everything else, of course, but for instance, like the Gabba jersey, you often get pros will use

Carlton Reid 24:44
a Gabba jersey, but they’ll take off the Castelli stuff. And and do you know I don’t want you to spill the beans in it. But do you know of any pros that are like they’re sponsored by one brand, but they don’t taste? They don’t like that crap. They want your

Carlton Reid 25:00

Marc Giusti 25:00
I’d say in the low hundreds would be my actual answer to that are of pro cyclists who like our food very much and need to put it in a different bottle.

Carlton Reid 25:13
A different packet? Yes, yes. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 25:18
Yes. So you, you are the gabbeh of the well,

Marc Giusti 25:21
I would like I would very much love for us to be the Gabba I’m absolutely sure I would be I’m not sure they quite the Gabba yet. But yes, we’ve seen that at the time. And I think it’s also the case that people need to have confidence in their digestion, right. So there’s, it’s not just that our food is delicious, or, or just that it has some natural ingredients, there’s a, it plays a very important role in the on on and off bike, or whatever sport you’re in,

Marc Giusti 25:50
kind of regime. So it’s very much more about health and wellness, rather than just simply performance, you know, there and then at the end of the moment, so, where how people eat, you know, what they choose to have on a Monday morning versus, you know, a training session versus a recovery session?

Marc Giusti 26:08
Are all it’s all part of the same discussion. And so it seems it would seem odd to say to somebody, you know, only eat natural foods, you know, at certain times and eat a lot of synthetic foods and other time that just seems

Marc Giusti 26:22
particularly also as it’s very commonly the case that synthetic ingredients, cause so many sort of gastro issues for people in one of the most common stories is people saying my county jails is never tell me go funny or, and many other worse stories than that.

Marc Giusti 26:38
And, and our ingredients have completely eliminated that we have none of that. None at all.

Marc Giusti 26:45
It’s it’s simply because our bodies know how to digest those sorts of ingredients and sugars and the ratios that we put them together in.

Carlton Reid 26:54
because of the long provenance compared to the short providence of maltodextrin. etc.

Marc Giusti 26:59
Yes, exactly.

Lara Giusti 27:01
It’s not just the maltodextrin. It’s all the artificial sweeteners that go into so many products, it’s been proven now to completely wreck your gut biome. So we stay clear of anything like that. And we only use natural ingredients throughout. So we know that we’re going to keep your, your you know, your internal bacterias on track and keep your gut happy. And that motivates you to go further. If you’re not having to worry about cramping and needing the toilet, you’re going to concentrate on running faster, longer, riding harder. And that’s what you’re wanting to do want to enjoy your fueling, so you can enjoy your sport.

Marc Giusti 27:37
Yeah, and we see a lot of that a lot of people say, I don’t like them, so I don’t use them say a gel, say or powdery chalky bars that they’ve, you know, perhaps bought from elsewhere. And what that means is that they don’t feel when they should do it sort of try to work around, and lo and behold, they start to bonk, and then all of a sudden, they’ve now got to recover from that rather than, you know, maintain their

Marc Giusti 28:02
I guess their performance. As I was saying there’s a there’s a balance to be had. And, you know, before, during and after. And our food allows people can because normally when people are making food for themselves, they they’re looking for the highest quality, natural, you know, clean, good stuff to eat out there.

Marc Giusti 28:19
And so why would you then go buy a bag of synthetic gloop and chuck that in your tummy just because you happen to be on the bike. You know, it just seems a strange thing.

Lara Giusti 28:26
When you’re pushing the body the hardest, why would you put the rubbish in then?

Carlton Reid 28:31
Yeah. Yes. Laura, you mentioned that the microbiome there. And I’m kind of familiar that because I’ve got a medic daughter and I’ve got a doctor wife. So let’s let’s let’s talk medical stuff for a second now because that that intrigued me right at the beginning there when when your medical background was mentioned, so so tell us a bit about that.

Lara Giusti 28:52
So I trained many moons ago as a physiotherapist and specialised as a cardio respiratory physiotherapist. And that meant that I was working on intensive care units with people with long term lung disease, but also working with people who have cardiac operations and, and getting rehabbing them back into health, which included working with a fantastic team of nutritionists of occupational therapists of sports therapists. And that really enticed me into looking more into nutrition than I’d ever really done before. And so I did a Master’s in that and decided to focus my attention more on the nutrition side, and as Marc said, I

Lara Giusti 29:42
love my baking as well. It’s sort of a stethoscope in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other

Lara Giusti 29:49
end so I managed to put both of my talents and my passions into one place by developing this sports nutrition range, which really does

Lara Giusti 30:00
allow you to feel the way that your body wants to feel.

Carlton Reid 30:05
Hmm. So so let’s talk through your products. Now you’ve got a, you’ve got a bar

Carlton Reid 30:10
line, you have a gel line, and then you’ve got like a post exercise energy shake line, what else are we missing here? What are you.

Carlton Reid 30:19
So Lara wil take you through the, how each of them, I suppose do the job that they were but as a sort of range of bars, a range of chews, a range of natural gels, a range of hydration, which is sort of electrolyte powders, and a sort of performance protein recovery shakes range.

Lara Giusti 30:40
Really, the challenge was how to create a range that we say it’s from trainers on, to trainers off, or cleats on to cleats off. How are we going to make sure that you’ve got what you need, when you need it in a portable fashion, that means you’re never going to go hungry, and you’re never going to bonk or hit the wall. Because you’ve always got Veloforte in your back pocket or in your running pack.

Lara Giusti 31:05
So yes, we started with bars, and started just with three bars and then extended the range, we’ve now got eight in total, including to recovery focus bars, which can contain complete protein. And we try and use the most easily digestible protein. So in our thoughts of protein bar, we use egg whites, which is quite unusual for recovery and protein bars on the market. Right now we use egg whites because your body is the highest digestibility store is really fantastic form of protein without all the additional facts associated with it. And we use nuts in all of our our bars, which give a baseline of line of protein alongside the natural carbohydrates from the dried fruits and the syrups. That means that your energy sustained, so you get a nice boost from the sugars in the syrup in the bars, you get a prolonged energy release from the fructose from the fruits and from the proteins from the nuts. So you don’t just get this boom and crash which is so common with the maltodextrin based products, which is just one type of carbohydrate. We try to span it across forms of carbohydrates and also include low level proteins in the majority of the bars as well to keep you on an even keel.

Lara Giusti 32:24
So they’re the bars.

Carlton Reid 32:26
Sorry, sorry, before before you go on, you mentioned egg whites, so then that just immediately went all vegan? So do you have a vegan option as well?

Lara Giusti 32:35
Absolutely. So we have a vegan recovery bar as well called our Mocha bar, which is totally delicious, as well as obviously on point for nutrition that’s made from a blend of pea and brown rice proteins. And you need both of those to complete a complete a complete amino acid profile. And it’s important to have that complete profile because when you’re trying to rebuild your muscles, you need all of those nine essential amino acids that your body can’t produce itself. And so we use a mix of hazelnuts and those two plant based proteins to give you that extra protein boost in the recovery bar from Mocha.

Carlton Reid 33:11
Okay, so sorry, I think you’re about to go into gels.

Lara Giusti 33:13
So yes, gels.

Lara Giusti 33:16
Again, steering clear of the synthetic sugars, we use plant based syrup. So we use a mix of data at Maple syrup and brown rice syrup. And they’re flavoured with real fruit juices and with spices and so they’re really a lovely texture. They’re like a maple syrup textures. They’re not thick and gloopy. And they’re not super runny. They’re quite small in size. So instead of carrying a 16 ml hydro gel that is commonly available, our jails have just 33 mls. And so you get the same carbohydrate load from a smaller packet that you do from one of these larger synthetic packet. So they’re easy to carry, they’re easy to swallow, you’re not faced with this huge mouthful of gel. And they taste fantastic because they’re flavoured with natural ingredients.

Lara Giusti 34:05
And then

Lara Giusti 34:07
hydration mixes and quite difficult to come up with a hydration mix that is chemical free. What you’ll find in lots of hydration is that they’re a little tablet form so they’re heavily compressed. And they’ll use chemical compounds, magnesium sulphate and sodium chloride and sodium sulphates in them to up your electrolyte balance. Obviously they’re they’re lab based made ingredients, not natural occurring ingredients and finding agents and binding agents and then you need effervescent to make it fit in your water so it dissolves and all of those things are together. Really, what are my experience of them give you a sore tongue after a day in the saddle because the effervescence sort of eats at the side of your tongue and they’re overly sweet and overly flavour too.

Lara Giusti 34:59
With what are termed as natural flavourings, but really what that means is that say if something’s like a blueberry flavoured hydration tablet, they might have never seen a blueberry in its life. But there are natural occurring ingredients that when they put together will create a blueberry type flavour. So what we don’t, we don’t use any of those at all our hydration mixes are based from freeze dried coconut water, which gives you natural potassium, Pink Himalayan salt for really clean sources sodium, and then they’re flavoured with freeze dried fruit powders, and with herbs and botanicals. And so we use the freeze dried fruit powders, they’re picked at their prime, they’re rapidly frozen to trap in all the nutrients and then their ground. And then what happens when you add them to water is that they just reconstitute and you get the wonderful flavours and the colours and the textures of the fruit as well. And so altogether, it’s an extremely natural way to rehydrate and to add electrolytes into your nutrition plan.

Lara Giusti 36:07
So that’s the hydration, and then the chews.

Lara Giusti 36:12
looking at the marketplace, what I tend to do when I’m looking to create a product for Veloforte it needs to hit a function, it needs to taste amazing, it needs to have the right nutritional profile and it needs to challenge what’s already there on the market. So if you look at choose currently, you either get jelly beans, or you get wine gum type cheews, and both of those are very sticky in texture, they stick to your teeth, that’s not good for your dentine. And so what I went about to do was to create a very soft, textured chew that would just almost melt in your mouth rather than stick in your teeth. And so our Veloforte chews

Lara Giusti 36:52
are lovely and soft. Again, they’re made from natural sugars, beet sugar, they’re made from fruit juices and spices and there’s nothing artificial in there. They sit really nice in your tummy. And they pack a really good energy punch as well. So a pack of chews will give you 42 grammes of carbohydrates. And we have natural electrolytes in there, again, from Pink Himalayan salt. So they’re going to keep your energy sustained, and your electrolytes on balance. And they’re really easy to take, easy to carry, and then won’t pull your fillings out as well.

Marc Giusti 37:25
All of these as thinking not just in isolation too. So you know, our belief is that whether you want solids or you want liquids, or you want to choose or you want, you know, protein shakes will come into it in a second,

Marc Giusti 37:37
you should be able to have all of those and furthermore, to be able to sort of coexist.

Marc Giusti 37:43
I guess sort of happening not only from your palate and tummy point of view, but also as a performance perspective, from your electrolytes to your sugars to your proteins and some

Marc Giusti 37:54
And then the shakes.

Lara Giusti 37:55
And then the shakes are our latest release. Super proud of those. Again, lots of bad press about recovery shakes and protein shakes about the texture. They’re often sort of gritty, sandy textures, they often give really bad gastric side effects of bloating and wind. And so I went to create two different recipes one for our plant based customers. So our Nova recovery protein shake is made of a blend of pea powder, brown rice and pumpkin to give a complete amino acid profile. And that’s flavoured with cocoa and freeze dried banana and has all your electrolytes in there that you need to recover. And also we’ve added some adaptogens to our recovery shakes, we’ve got Macca in our plant base shake and we’ve got a ginseng in our low lactose whey based supershape which is flavoured with super berries in antioxidant rich and I chose to use adaptogens because they’re well known to help to combat the stress that your body goes through when you exercise vigorously. And what you need to do is to try and calm everything down and to rebalance yourself after your heavy sessions. And so the Macca and they didn’t seem go hand in hand with the proteins and the natural carbs to really give you effective recovery.

Carlton Reid 39:16
Some well known energy bars you can be really really very very hungry to eat them in an emergency.

Carlton Reid 39:25
Which I have done in the past when I’ve been incredibly hungry at a hotel late at night or something I will dig into my bag and find the energy bar that I’ve stashed that 10 years previously but Justin from LeBlanq was saying you having to fight people off from eating your product as almost as a snack as as a genuine food. So do you deter people from this, do you recommend that he This is a food is this is this like you don’t have to be going out for a three hour ride to eat your product you can eat you can eat this is just a this is a yummy bar.

Lara Giusti 39:59
You could eat absolutely as a yummy bar and if they’re brilliant breakfast replacements, if you haven’t got time for lunch, you know you’re eating on the run. And they are high carbohydrate products and they’re designed to fuel you to energise you. And so I wouldn’t say you know, sitting on the sofa and eating three in a row is what we generally recommend, but we have customers who chop them up and serve them at dinner parties

Marc Giusti 40:24
Yeah, we do

Lara Giusti 40:26
you know, they are they are wonderfully delicious as well as nutritious and and and very versatile.

Marc Giusti 40:32
There’s nothing about them from a performance point of view, if you’d like from a sort of fats and sugars point of view if you like that, the next and bad news to have at any time we just naturally if you’re that we’re building arrange around active lifestyle, so if anybody’s eating, you know, snack food and staying sedentary, then that’s not quite the right way to be using our products. But yeah, absolutely, it’s the case that we mean all of us in our own way, and nibbling on these things, thankfully, we get we get good access to them all the time. And funny enough, there’s a bit of a story that when when we were making them at home,

Marc Giusti 41:08
because it would be we’re baking them in essentially within trays and we would have to take them out and cut them and you cut the sort of the edges off so that you get a nice clean shape that you can then cut the bars from rather than having the wobbly edges.

Marc Giusti 41:22
And so those cuttings so the off cuts became like a currency between friends and family and people would literally come around and say can we have some of those off cut things and we would have bags and bags and bags and bags of these things don’t really know. So we would just give them away.

Marc Giusti 41:39
And you know, that was just proved to us that these were truly delicious. And so yes, they they span and that’s part of that point about the diet and and that’s pretty much what the Veloforte brand wants to do for our customers is to say you know, no matter what you’re where you are in kind of the day or in terms of your lifestyle, we want you to be able to open the cupboard and see that you know when you want to go out for a run or when you want to go out for a ride or when you want to sit at home and relax or when you want to recover or when you want to give some for the kids or whatever the perspective might be that that we’re able to give you the confidence that this is you know so much better choice than conventionally we’ve been able to find you know in the shops.

Carlton Reid 42:21
Mmm. Now I’m sure we have people listened to this where they will also have problems with rumbling tummies no doubt and we have whetted their appetite for for what you’ve been talking about. So how can people

Carlton Reid 42:37
because you haven’t you have a taster box is that how you get people is there’s like

Marc Giusti 42:42
There’s a bunch of things I guess we try to say too, because a number of our customers they already know what you know bars and gels and drinks and and protein shakes are and so they understand the context of it and so of course they can choose whichever ones they want. For other customers who are you know, just getting started or they’re not really sure which ones they like, but a bunch of different packs, we have a starter pack which is a if you like it kind of best off, you know, here’s a couple of interesting that will give you a chance to you know try essentially the range without having a whole range in there. And then on the other hand, we’ve got something called a complete pack which is a one of everything of the entire range and and almost everywhere in between and as I was saying before you can go to any of the product pages you can say okay, I have one of those or three of those or 10 of these or a mixture like that and compile yourself off a little box.

Carlton Reid 43:32
Marc, how much are those packs? How much of those two different packs?

Marc Giusti 43:35
So the, gosh off the on my head?

Lara Giusti 43:40

Marc Giusti 43:42
And the complete pack I think it’s £35, £38 pounds … I need to double check it

Lara Giusti 43:53
But they are they offer good savings as opposed to buying individual products. One of our best selling packs is our family box bar which is 50 bars and you think goodness me 50 bars, that’s a lot of bars. But it’s a good mix of all the flavours and that offers a 25% saving over the cost of buying them individually. So we do for our customers who want to order large there are there are perks to that too.

Carlton Reid 44:22
Sorry, Lara sorry, what are the flavours of the bars?

Lara Giusti 44:26
Of the bars? so we have the first three flavours Classico is based on a panforte Margarita recipe which is Marc’s nonna’s recipe which is where it all began. So it’s a citrus fruits, almonds and honey. And then we have a De Bosco which is red berries pistachios and almonds and Choco which is dates and cocoa and almonds. And then we have a ZenZera which is stem ginger and pistachios that’s delicious really good for your digestion. We have a Venti which has sea salt in it so great fuel

Lara Giusti 44:59
electrolyte replacement as well. It’s like pecan pie meets salted caramel, it’s totally delicious. We have Forza which is a one of our protein recovery bars which is made from apricots, almonds and fennel. And fennel gives a nice sort aniseed kick or try to do with all the recipes is use spices to accent the fruits. Because what I want to do is to stimulate your tastebuds stimulate your saliva and your digestion so the minute you put it in your mouth, because then your body’s getting ready to digest something. It’s not a synthetic flavours. It’s not not something your body’s going ‘ugh, this is horrid.’ Some of you actually want to be in so that’s the first stage of your digestion. So we use spices in all of our bars. You’ve got the Mocha bar, which is your coffee and chocolate and your protein and he’s on that so that’s like a Juan absolutely delicious. And then we have our Pronto bar which has a little bit of caffeine in it as well for if you need an early morning pick up and that’s figs, pistachios and lemons. So there’s plenty of flavour choice to be had something for everybody in there. And also if you’re out in the long run, if you’re doing an ultramarathon, or if you’re doing a long sportif, then you’ve got a full range of flavours to keep you motivated because being motivated by your fuel actually helps you to eat and helps you to go further. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 46:18
All sounds absolutely gorgeous, and definitely having problems with tummy rumbling. So Mark, I stopped you and I think you’re just gonna get me the price head you’ve gone into your website to get it.

Marc Giusti 46:26
Yes, the complete pack is £38.99, the starter pack is £18.79 and you can get some smaller packs for example, the chews are £6.99

Marc Giusti 46:38
and the gels £7.50 the drinks £5.25 so this price range is all over the place and and you can if you subscribe as well, you get an all sorts of benefits of we have a rewards programme. We’ve got discounts on the subscriptions as a bunch of other ways that we try to help people if they’re doing training programmes and so on. So there’s it’s much more flexible than just simply the list price. If you take a moment to have a look at the site, it’ll explain.

Carlton Reid 47:05
Brilliant, thank you and how do people get into would tell me your website. Tell me your social media. Tell me tell me all your contact points.

Marc Giusti 47:13
So is the website v e l o f o r t e dotcom. The same is so just @veloforte for Insta and Twitter, and Facebook.

Carlton Reid 47:27
Thanks to Marc and Lara Giusti. There, and there’s a photo of them on the show’s website at Our next episode features American academic Peter Norton talking about his soon to be published, future-facing book Autonorama but meanwhile, get out there and ride …

September 5, 2021 / / Blog

5th September 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 281: “If you look at the tree, you hit the tree”: eMTBing Guiding Masterclass With H+I’s Chris Gibbs


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Chris Gibbs and Jude Reid

TOPICS: Carlton’s wife Jude rides to work on an electric bike but hasn’t ridden off road for more than 20 years. Cue this three-day eMTB press trip in Cairngorms courtesy of Shimano. H+I‘s head guide Chris Gibbs reintroduces Jude to genuine mountain biking while talking about the passing scenery and Shimano’s EP8 leg-boosting e-bike platform.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 281 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show is engineered on Sunday 5th of September 2021.

David Bernstein 0:25
The Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast … since 2006! For shownotes links and other information check out our website at And now here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the Spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:10
Bike fitter and author Phil Cavell recommended paddle boarding as a complementary activity for cyclists a couple of episodes ago. On Friday we took him up on that suggestion, booking a two-hour private tour with a guide. The “we” was me, Carlton Reid, and my hospital doctor wife, Jude. The paddle boarding was great but the guiding left a lot to be desired. There were no safety briefings beforehand or during, precious little instruction, and almost no communication while we were out on the water. To all intents and purposes we were left to our own devices and, if on the beach I hadn’t asked a few key questions, we would have been ignorant of some key techniques. As beginners, we were expecting more. Or maybe we were just spoiled, because we had just come back from a glorious three day mountain biking trip in the Cairngorms; glorious partly because of the Scottish Highlands scenery but also because of some expert hand-holding and gentle encouragement from Chris Gibbs, head guide of Inverness-headquartered international mountain bike holidays company H+I. Chris Gibbs was originally a soundtrack writer and composer — some years ago he went to Japan in search of adventure but instead fell in love with the outdoors becoming a mountain bike guide. For H+I he has led mountain bike tours all over the world during the last decade, He is most at home — literally — in Scotland. Thanks to Shimano, we were lucky enough to have Chris to ourselves, and he made guiding look effortless — as well as being super warm and friendly he was clearly on top of his game; he has several mountain guiding and first aid qualifications and is a bike fettling tutor for Velotech. During lockdown he topped up his technical knowledge, diving deep into Shimano’s dense tech sheets including genning up on the EP8 electric bike platform. Normally a Yeti acoustic bike rider, he joined us on EP8-equipped Merida 160 electric mountain bikes. Our 2 and a half day trip started at Inverness railway station with Chris meeting us with a van …

Chris Gibbs 3:44
Hey, how’s it going? Good to see you again. Hi, I’m Chris. Nice to meet you. Let me grab your luggage, the vans parked just round the coner.

Carlton Reid 3:56
It’s great that we’re getting you to ourselves.

Chris Gibbs 3:59
Well, you say that now? We’ve got a pretty reasonable forecast for the next few days.

Carlton Reid 4:05
And where are we riding? Are we getting picked from the hotel and then going out?

Chris Gibbs 4:09
So we’re basically our own little unit this week. So today, we’ll get up to the office, have something to eat for you guys. And we’ll sort of do an introduction to the bikes, get everything set up and basically faff around for getting everything sorted. And then this afternoon, we’ll go for a little local ride. We’ve got some good trails just out the back of the office and some little secret spots and things that we can just have a play and get used to them. Then tomorrow, I’m going to pick you up and we’ll go down to the Cairngorms and we’ll head down to the Cairngorms there for sort of a day of two halves lots of kind of playing around with the motor and trails that lend themselves to that and then we’ll and then we’ll head out for a bit of a wilder adventure.

Carlton Reid 4:52
And how wild and gnarly is that for somebody who might not be completely 100% — I’m being diplomatic here …

Chris Gibbs 5:04
It can be, it can be as wild and gnarly as you’d like it to be. And it can be as chilled out as you’d like it to be, you know, it’s just us. So we can tailor it to you guys. And if you want to push the envelope, we can certainly find spots. And if you say, ‘Chris, I’d really like to do this really nice sedate ride, and then have a really good coffee,’ we can also do that as well. And we can factor in skills in as well, if you like. That’s totally fine.

Chris Gibbs 5:32
You know what there I actually one of the things I like about ebikes actually, that sort of, I guess the moment that it clicked for me, was I started down powering everything. And there’d be climbs that I would physically never make on a regular bike. And like super technical or super steep or whatever it was things that I wouldn’t be able to achieve. And then down powered e-bike gave me just enough that I was still working physically really, really hard, but suddenly, I was able to make things that I wouldn’t have done.

Carlton Reid 6:03
A little bit extra oomph.

Chris Gibbs 6:04
Yeah, just yeah, exactly that and you’re still using quite a lot of technical skill. And you’re still, you know, your heart rate is still way up there. And that’s when I sort of, I guess had a light bulb went off. This is this is actually really good fun. I think just now on mountain bikes, but all bikes are just this amazing tool for adventure. And you know, it just gets you to places that you wouldn’t see on foot, and you wouldn’t be able to do in a day. Otherwise, obviously, I’m very mountain bike focused. And the kind of views in the places you can get to behind a mountain bike are second to none. And like you say, you can’t, no one ever comes back from a mountain bike ride and feels worse, you only ever feel better. But this is us arriving.

Chris Gibbs 6:54
Cool. Perfect. Let’s just set up some bikes. So Carlton, yours first. At the moment, we’re just releasing some air from the fork. So for Jude is quite a lot lighter than the last person to ride this bike. So we’re just softening the suspension up — basically, in an air fork and shock, the air is acting as a spring. So we’re just getting that set to your weight. And then that way the bike is going to manoeuvre and move over the terrain as best as it can. And be most efficient and most comfortable for you – one more time, stand up as if you’re descending. Yeah, definitely. Brilliant. Let’s have a quick look at the bike. So you’re to turn the thing on it’s here. So with these models, we can remove the battery. So it will come out of here but we don’t need to right now. And you can or you can charge the battery within the bike, either one. Once you’ve pressed and held that for a couple of seconds, you get the display up here, the moment the motor is off, so there’s no assistance, press that arrow, you get one bar. That’s you in Eco mode. [Motorbike sounds]. So Eco doesn’t sound like that, so that’s not Eco, so one bar, and that’s your kind of minimum assistance, two bars that’s you in Trail and three bars, that’s you in Boost. So you’re going to get the maximum power kicking in as quickly as it can. So this is the Shimano EP-8 motor, so the most recent and newest motor from Shimano. So when they were putting this out, it’s a big, kind of big part of it was the fact that it was smaller, sleeker, which means that a bike can be a lot more nimble and a lot more sort of manoeuvrable and playful without all that weight and bulk of older motors in it. It was designed around still feeling like riding a regular bike. So that natural pedal feel. But I guess kind of the way, the way I often think about it is that it’s it’s like you you’re still using your legs, but it’s like you’ve been given really strong legs. And what I really like the fact that is so customizable, so you can power things right down. And if you’re kind of trying to get a training ride out of it. So you definitely can get your own heart rate up. And you can power that right down more or you can boost it right up. So you’ve got maximum power, it’s all working for you. And that’s kind of coming from the the software side of things that you are able to control from the app and from e-tube, and then e-ride can display for you as well. On top of that with this, this bike, it’s built into a 160 travel bike. So it’s a very capable mountain bike, it’s designed for mountain biking. It’s not just a sort of commute up and down canal path near you This is for going up up big mountains and then coming down them again. What I’d encourage you to do up here a little bit, is kind of shift the gears but play around with the cadence you spin. And just see how it reacts to different cadence and different pedalling.

Jude Reid 10:09
Alright, yeah, I think it got the spin up. What’s the left shifter for?

Chris Gibbs 10:17
What’s that? Sorry.

Jude Reid 10:18
The left shifter. Is that the front? No. There’s only one ring at the front.

Chris Gibbs 10:22
On your left is the dropper post remote. And also the display. So that’s to swap between modes.

Jude Reid 10:32
Okay, so

Chris Gibbs 10:35
Well, no, you don’t have a shifter that’s the dropper post?

Jude Reid 10:39
Oh, is it? Sorry.

Chris Gibbs 10:42
Yeah. That’s fine. So when you press that and put weight on the saddle, it will drop, yeah?

Chris Gibbs 10:53
So how does it compare to what you’re used to?

Jude Reid 10:57
Well, it’s nice to have gears.

Chris Gibbs 10:59
Yeah. Like we were saying earlier, it’s as customizable as you want it to be. So if all you want is Eco, Trail and Boost, fine. But as you kind of develop as a rider, and you start to want more from your bike, and to understand a little bit more as well, that’s when you can get into the depths of it. I think now it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish between them. Because like the EP-8 motor is small, small and discreet.

Carlton Reid 11:36
Small as in looking?

Chris Gibbs 11:37
Yeah, yeah, exactly. I mean, frames. Now, some of the most modern is quite hard to tell the difference. And the EP-8 was a much sort of sleeker designed motor than its predecessors. And you look at it and the bottom bracket area, you actually do need to look to notice, and, and we’ve got three bikes all together, so we are hearing them. But if you were to compare this to all the motors, also, you can have different brands, each one sounds a little bit different. And this is significantly quieter. And if you listen now, a bit more gravel, you’re hearing more trail than your motor. So this is all part of the Great Glen way. We’re gonna branch off this in a second. So it’s a tight left, just round the rootball just up here, if the gates closed. Yeah, it is. So following my line again, nice and wide round here.

Jude Reid 12:49
No, I’m not going wide.

Chris Gibbs 12:50
a little bit wider than that.

Jude Reid 12:53

Chris Gibbs 12:57
Do you wanna have a go at that, Jude?

Jude Reid 12:59
I’m not sure I’ll be able to do that.

Chris Gibbs 13:01
That’s OK. So like, you want to keep traction on the bike. So you don’t want to stand up pedal, you want to kind of spin into keeping a bit of weight on the saddle, and just spinning up. So where we are, this is kind of a big local riding spot. So going up to the very top end here, that takes us up to some pretty steep and gnarly trails like half of the Scottish World Cup downhill team practices in this spot. So you often see some pretty, pretty handy riders around. That around that side goes down to sort of a Great Glen Way. And this takes us down to face Inverness. So we could pop down in here, we’ll get a couple of views, some nice, easy descending, and then we can link back into the forest. And there’s a few little up downs and things we can play on and have a bit get a bit of a feel for the bikes as well without jumping into anything super committed up here.

Chris Gibbs 14:00
Okay, Jude. So we’re about to go down a slightly steeper it’s still fire road, but kind of rocky, like you can see. Yeah. So this is the time to make use of that dropper post, get the saddle right out the way Yeah, and just start descending nice and big and open. So like up here, like a big gorilla. So you’ve got loads of room for the bike to move underneath you. So the thing to get used to now you’ve got 160 mm of suspension, so you don’t need to turn around every rock. If you can keep loose in your arms and legs. the bike’s gonna soak it up for you. So just nice and down this line here on the left. Good job. Just here’s perfect. Well done.

Jude Reid 14:43

Chris Gibbs 14:44
No, don’t apologise.

Carlton Reid 14:47
Look back, it’s quite steep.

Chris Gibbs 14:49
Quite steep, quite rocky. The trick to all this stuff and the more and more familiar with the bike you get is looking for far ahead. So look where you want to be. Because if you look at If you look at the tree, you’re going to hit the tree. If you look past the tree, you’re going to sail right past it. I’m sure there’s a lesson for life in there. And just that nice is soft in your arms and your legs, like you’ve got this much suspension in the bike, but you got this much in your legs and arms. So like working with the bike, I almost think sometimes you can just look at everything and treat it like a pumptrack. Really. So with mountain biking, a lot of people look at a good rider and they go, their first response, or their first impression of it, if they don’t, if they don’t ride themselves. They’re like they’re so aggressive. But they’re not aggressive. They’re just really active. So they’re using their body to absorb the lumps and push down into the holes. So their body and their bike and moving loads underneath them. But their head is staying nice and still. And if your head is nice, and still, because everything else is moving, then that’s how you feel really in control. Yeah, when you look at good videos, you see like the bikes are going way out to the sides and over, up and down. But you can almost draw a line from where their their vision and their head stays. Same with good skiers and all sorts. Yeah, perfect. We’re going to continue down here, it’s going to bring us into a really beautiful bit of forest. And then we can pick and pick and work our way sort of back up and over. Yeah, nice one, just move out here. So we want a solid grip of the bar. And we only need that one finger for pulling on the brake. Can you just feel a little bit more control? Let’s take a minute to get used to but you’ll just feel a little bit more stable on the bars. Yeah, yeah.

Chris Gibbs 16:37
The point is to come and have some fun.

Jude Reid 16:39
Yeah. I like the uphill.

Chris Gibbs 16:42
You know it. I’m a big fan of climbing as well, actually.

Jude Reid 16:47
Uphills and wide downhills it’s very much the same.

Chris Gibbs 16:51
I see. So as someone that rode mountain bikes, and has ridden other bikes and hasn’t spent much time on an e mountain bike, how does it like, does it feel like riding a bike to you?

Jude Reid 17:05
And yeah, I mean, yeah, but there’s just that mountain bike feel, isn’t it? You still got a mountain bike feel whether it’s an e-bike or not an e-bike.

Carlton Reid 17:16
You don’t you don’t feel as though you’re riding a motorbike?

Jude Reid 17:18

Chris Gibbs 17:20
That’s and that’s, I think, what I think that one of the biggest strengths of the EP-8 is it does feel like mountain biking, you know, feel it doesn’t feel like you have a motor that’s doing all the work. It just feels like you are pedalling. And then you have as much or as little assistance as you want. I quite like it because sometimes you just feel like it still feels like your own legs just got really strong.

Chris Gibbs 17:48
Have you tried Boost mode yet?

Jude Reid 17:52
Is that number three?

Chris Gibbs 17:53
All three, yeah.

Jude Reid 17:54
Yeah, that’s what got me up that hill.

Chris Gibbs 17:56

Jude Reid 17:58
Fast spin and Boost mode.

Chris Gibbs 18:00

Jude Reid 18:02
Ooh, woah. Went into a tree!

Chris Gibbs 18:09
Did you look at the tree? Good job.

Jude Reid 18:18
Didn’t quite get the hang of that one right.

Chris Gibbs 18:21
Yeah. That’s the thing as well, you know, like, I think, again, with e-bikes, a lot of people go ‘oh, the motor takes away all need for skill.’ It doesn’t. There’s still timing, there’s still and you still do need a feel to ride them or need many, many skills to ride them well. And I think that it is good to come out and find that, actually, some technical sections are still hard.

Carlton Reid 18:48
Our induction afternoon over we were shuttled to our luxurious lodging, the historic Bunchrew house beside the Beauly Firth, a stone’s throw from H+I’s new-build HQ. Chris joined us for the silver service dining and we used those calories on the following day’s ride in the Rothiemurchus estate just outside Aviemore.

Chris Gibbs 19:15
Alrighty, so we’re down in the Cairngorms today, and riding just outside Aviemore at the moment. What we’re going to do for for this morning’s ride is we’re going to kind of pick up some of the really famous and amazing sights of this area, and really scenic trails, but we’re going to thread it and piece it together with all the little local bits of secret singletrack. There’s loads a little punchy ups, nice rolling bits and this area’s got loads of flowy forest trail in it. Later in the day, we’ll head out on much wilder, but this morning gives a great place to test out the engagement of the motor like how quick engages, you’ll definitely notice that kind of quietness of it as well it will give us a chance to play with some of the modes so we can head for some steep, techie terrain, feel how the different modes play out and each one so we’ll kind of find different places that we find more comfortable or less comfortable and how we ride it in different ways. So the trails will lend themselves to showcasing everything that we’ve got working with us today. And firstly, you want a lot of control as you’re going down and up and sort of undulating, so nice to start off in Eco mode. And then as you come around the turn, then maybe flick it into Trail and see how you feel kind of punching up through the roots.

Chris Gibbs 20:28
So technical move coming up

Jude Reid 20:39
Not in the right gear or the right mode, I don’t think for that bit.

Chris Gibbs 20:46
I put that in trail mode and it was nice. This is for here, we’re now on kind of this sort of flowy forest bit up and down, undulating is quite a good place to feel for that kind of pedal feel of the motor. So because you are kind of on and off the pedals and doing little pedal strokes, you get the kind of feeling of that natural pedal from the motor.

Chris Gibbs 21:10
Nice one. You can lead, just keep going down and stop when you get to the wee loch. Lot more confident today. So we’re just coming up to Loch an Eilein, and as we come around here, we’re gonna turn to the right. And there’s a complete labyrinth of routes. So it’s quite good little spot to play around, probably in Trail mode for now. And just see how many of the roots you can burst through. So Loch an Eilein translates as loch of the island. So we’re about to kind of dropped down just into here. And we’ll have a look at the island, which does have the ruins of the castle on it. So that was the Wolf of Badenoch’s castle. This is Badenoch and Strathspey. And if you ever seen Braveheart, the Wolf of Badenoch is the first guy that gets beheaded. Not the most factually accurate film in the world. Yeah, it’s good spot in the winter. Well, this last winter completely froze over. I mean thick is thick enough that people were walking out to it and all sorts, you can swim out inside is pretty overgrown. Now that the stories of this underwater causeway there’s one of these kind of footpath under the water three steps forward five steps to the right, three steps forward kind of a bit like Indiana Jones to get to the castle. Pretty cool spot and it doesn’t take long before you feel like you’re getting out there and not kind of away from from everyone else. Right. Perfect. We’ll continue around the loch. And then I think we’re going to go and pick up something a little bit more adventurous.

Jude Reid 22:57
Wrong gear. Nearly made it.

Chris Gibbs 23:03
Good job

Jude Reid 23:05
Just the wrong gear for that last section.

Chris Gibbs 23:07
Big difference from yesterday. Nice. So now I’ve put you in a much nicer stance for riding, let’s try and get you just a little bit looser as well. So in the next couple of turns, so the bikes always gonna go where you point your eyes. So let’s try and look around and through the turns a bit more. Instead of just turning with the bars, let’s try and lean the bike a little.

Jude Reid 23:27

Chris Gibbs 23:27
So an example, which is being here.

Chris Gibbs 23:32
Right, looking like a mountain biker now. And this is called the Rocky Road. So you kind of know what you’re getting here for. And it’s actually quite a nice little bit of trail because it goes between two different forest forest boundaries here in Rothiemurchus. side over to Inshriach, there’s one split in the trail. And you just need to stay to the left hand side. And you can lead this go up front, and try and have a play with looking far ahead and test anticipate the trail for what what mode you would be in, and also what gear you need. So try and let you know those little steep punch ups through the roots can be in the right mode and the right gear to give you the best chance of success for them. Because I think you’re quite you’ll have quite a lot of fun for this. There’s a nice wide, wide lines around all through the rocks that you’ll see as we go. And when we get to this little stream crossing. That’s where we’ll stop and meet up again. Yeah, if we’re spread out, go for it, have some fun.

Chris Gibbs 24:38
Just watching ahead.

Chris Gibbs 24:40
It’s quite impressive, being that Jude tried to avoid every single rock yesterday, but now she’s riding over the top of them or

Jude Reid 24:49
I’m trying to look ahead and the bike sort of just goes where it wants to go yeah

Chris Gibbs 25:01
Good job again, when we’re in, because you’re in quite a nice little rhythm there, riding well. That’s night and day from first thing yesterday.

Chris Gibbs 25:13
She’s going straight for it. I like it. Look at that. Nicely done.

Jude Reid 25:25
That was fun.

Chris Gibbs 25:25
Yeah, that’s a big difference from yesterday.

Jude Reid 25:32
How reliable is the battery sign?

Chris Gibbs 25:35
How reliable is what, sorry?

Jude Reid 25:37
The battery sign? Because according to this I’m not using the battery at all.

Chris Gibbs 25:41
Oh, yeah. No, that’s fine. I mean, if you’ve been on Eco and a little bit of Trail, yeah. And you’ve got a big 630 watt-hour battery in there. So you haven’t eaten into it yet. Me neither.

Jude Reid 25:57
That’s cool. I’m used to using half my battery on the on the way up to work.

Chris Gibbs 26:03
Ah, OK.

Chris Gibbs 26:03
Yeah, well, we’ve been riding quite efficiently as well. In the spin of things, if we started throwing into Boost and just boosting everything, then you’d find we kind of start to eat into that battery more. But because we’re riding efficiently, we can get quite a lot of mileage out of them.

Jude Reid 26:21
Yeah. And it’s not half the fun is actually getting the workout as well.

Chris Gibbs 26:25
Yeah, exactly. So as you go up here now, we’ve got a couple of little water splashes. There are little bridges at the side but after your last performance I think you need to take the water every time. After you, go for it. Have some fun.

Jude Reid 26:48
[SPLASH!] Oh, thank you! I’m sopping now.

Chris Gibbs 26:52
Ha, ha you just got tidal waved.

Jude Reid 26:55

Chris Gibbs 26:56
You’re gonna have to be faster next time to get him back. It looked quite impressive from behind.

Jude Reid 27:10
He wanted me to squeal, he did it on purpose. However, I brought some dry socks.

Carlton Reid 27:18
You have?

Jude Reid 27:19
I brought dry socks, you haven’t.

Chris Gibbs 27:24
It’s not a Scottish bike ride until you’ve got wet feet anyway. By the time you’ve been through a few streams, smashed your way through the pine trees for an exfoliation it’s practically a spa treatment.

Carlton Reid 27:40
Day three, and Jude now much more confident on the bike we headed into Glen Feshie.

Chris Gibbs 27:50
Right now we’re in the heart of Glen Feshie. So this is a slightly lesser known area of the Cairngorms. But further out from having more, a little bit wilder more rugged, and sort of big open Scottish glen.

Chris Gibbs 28:02
You brought us out here because we weren’t going to go here this morning, we were going to go overlooking Loch Ness. And then we’re driving out here. And you had this brainstorm and you thought, let’s look at the app, you can tell us about the the actual weather app, or you are using a selection of weather apps to then zoom in.

Carlton Reid 28:21
And then you thought, well, it’s going to be weather basically, exactly how we’ve got it. So tell us the apps you were using and and how you use those, you triangulate those three to get the weather for a very, very small place.

Chris Gibbs 28:35
Yeah, I think. I think firstly, it comes from being being local and knowing the weather a little bit. And when you’re a mountain bike guide in Scotland, you get pretty used to looking at weather forecasts and knowing and trying to keep everyone as much as you can in the dry, in the sun, and in all the best places. But I tend to use the mountain weather information service, which is MWIS. And I use an app called Windy, which is a weather radar. And you can put on lots of different parameters of kind of wind, rain pressure, and then I will say use combination of the Met Office and YR as well. So most mornings start with looking at a lot of weather. And over the course of the years I’ve been guiding I’ve become quite a weather geek. It’s almost like a fun challenge to try and keep yourself in this best spot at the best time. But also even it starts to affect how you time a ride. You know, you want to be in a certain place by a certain time to either avoid rain or or wait till it’s backed off and that sort of thing as well. So it’s a weather weather, I guess influences everything we do up here.

Carlton Reid 29:33
So keeping on the apps angle here. So we’re here on a Shimano trip, now Shimano has got two apps when you’re going to show me so we’re a beautiful forest in we’re actually technically we’re not in the sunshine right now. But Jude who fell into the river a wee bit before unfortunately, is is basking lizard-like in the sunshine

Chris Gibbs 29:53
She is drying out.

Chris Gibbs 29:54
She’s drying out. But you’re now going to show us the app. So we’re in the forest and you’re not going to shows the apps that, basically mesh with these machines.

Chris Gibbs 30:03
Yeah, and I guess the thing was with the, with the EP-8 and the full Shimano systems they’re 35 years in the making and the development all sorts of, and they play well, with all the systems on the bike, the drive trains, the motor, the brakes, everything kind of works well together, but particularly this app. So the first one we’re going to look at is E-tube. So e-tube is where it’s an app that lets you customise how the motor behaves. It also would let you look at your Di2 components and run diagnostics of the full system, whether that’s the display, whether it’s the motor, you know, all those individual components, the shifters and everything that goes along with either Di2 or with the E bike motor itself. But this is we were talking about where you can have two different profiles on this. And you might have one set up for max power, for instance, where you’re going out with all your mates, and you want to go as fast as possible up and down everything. Or you might set one massively powered down. And that’s for you to kind of work as a training ride or training profile, or anything in between. So as much as you can imagine, so you’ve got that Eco, Trail and Boost in each profile, but you can customise each one and how it feels.

Carlton Reid 31:15
And how geeky do you have to be to get into the gubbins of that?

Chris Gibbs 31:19
I think actually, it’s super simple, it’s really intuitive. If you can work a stereo, you can work this,

Carlton Reid 31:24
Oh, that’s me out!

Chris Gibbs 31:24
Because I think, you know, this one, it’s got really easy sliding bars, you know, you look at it, you slide across, and you go, ‘Okay, I’m in Eco mode at the moment and I’m going to slide that up so that the power comes in as quickly as possible, or the Eco is as powerful as it can be, I’m using that full 85 newton metres, or potentially you want it to come in later and be a lot slower in how it how the power ramps up. And you can do that across every one of the settings in Eco, Trail and Boost. So you can really kind of customise the feel of the bike. And some people like that I particularly like it quite powered down, so that I’m still working physically really hard. But I’m able to make things that I wouldn’t do if I was on an acoustic bike or regular bike.

Carlton Reid 32:11
And then if you’re on a mid ride, and for instance, the weather came out you were using the apps and yeah, it was totally opposite of what the app told is like, suddenly got sunshine, actually, we’ll go out for a longer ride. So would you just use on the handlebars? Or would you would you actually go to the the app and thinnk I will actually I’ll I’ll, I’ll change the profile on the app?

Chris Gibbs 32:34
So I mean, you could do both, they’re quite easy to switch between. So profile, switching between profile one and profile two, you could do just from the display, and just from the bars.

Carlton Reid 32:43
You do that in advance, you set up your favourite profile

Chris Gibbs 32:47
Exactly right, or potentially halfway through the ride, you go, I want to stretch this motor and stretch this battery as far as I can. So then you could start to come in and really customise that. And it’s just a case of firing up the Bluetooth between the two connecting your phone up and having a look through. You can do a physical connection as well, from your laptop to, to and through one of the ports on the display. But very simple with a phone or a tablet just to kind of Bluetooth and connect on through.

Carlton Reid 33:16
Okay, well we are now getting as you can imagine we are getting a little bit eaten by midges, so we ought to get going again. But let’s talk about H+I as we’re riding through these beautiful woods. Let’s let’s talk about what H+I does, where you’ve been. And if people are looking to book for the Cairngorms, what they can expect, the kind of trips that you do basically, if we talk about that as we’re going.

Chris Gibbs 33:38

Carlton Reid 33:38
Chris, first of all, what does H+I stand for, if anything nowadays?

Chris Gibbs 33:45
It used to stand for Highlands and Islands. Since it became international now it’s just H+I.

Carlton Reid 33:53
So the website, tell us what the website because that is not H+I.

Chris Gibbs 33:58
So mountainbike worldwide. And at the time, that was where it’s now worldwide adventures. So H+I is us as a guiding company and mountain bike worldwide is the landing page to access all those worldwide adventures across 17 locations in the world now. So we have three trips here in Scotland, and that is the Highland Odyssey which goes through the Cairngorms and then out to the West coast and up into Torridon in the big Northwest. We have the Cairngorms itself, which is based here in the Cairngorms for the full week of riding. And then we have the coast to coast which is an East West traverse

Carlton Reid 34:38
Thanks to Chris Gibbs of H+I for the expert guiding and to Shimano for the experience. Thanks also to Sean Stanfield of Fusion Media for setting up the whole shebang. The next episode will feature on-bike nutrition with a side helping of Ancient Roman energy food but meanwhile get out and ride …

August 22, 2021 / / Blog

In conversation with LeBlanq’s foodie founders Justin Clarke and Ashley Palmer-Watts.

22nd August 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 280: Jus, not gels: In conversation with LeBlanq’s foodie founders Justin Clarke and Ashley Palmer-Watts


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Justin Clarke and Ashley Palmer-Watts of LeBlanq

TOPICS: The founders of LeBlanq drill down into their upscale gastronomy-based cycling getaways and why, for them, it’s got to be jus, not gels.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 280 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 22nd of August 2021.

David Bernstein 0:25
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA. Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast. And, of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information check out our website at And now, here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:11
Welcome to the Spokesmen Cycling podcast brought to you in association with Jenson USA. I’m Carlton Reid and today’s show is a 40-minute chat with the foodie founders of LeBlanq, the upscale cycling weekender firm that’s more jus than gels. Events specialist and ex-professional cyclist Justin Clarke teamed up with Ashley Palmer-Watts, the former Exec Chef of the Fat Duck Group, to curate LeBlanq’s joyrides. These exclusive road cycling getaways visit stunning locations, stay at luxury hotels and feature day rides with cycling celebs such as Eddy Merckx and knights of the realm Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins. It’s cycling as the new golf but with knobs on. And want to know how to make the world’s best porridge? Listen on …

Carlton Reid 2:05
Jus, not gels. I love that. That’s a great, that’s a great way of encapsulating what you’re doing there. So tell us exactly and I’m gonna be difficult to know who’s going to be talking here. First, but let’s let’s go for Justin first. So what why what’s wrong with gels first? What’s wrong?

Justin Clarke 2:27
So there’s nothing wrong with gels, provided they taste good, but it’s very rare that they do. And a good meal tends to be the best way to refill if you can. So our belief is that you shouldn’t compromise. If you’re a highly trained professional athlete, then there are certain things that you need to, you know, take out of your life like joy, and, and you know, a diet that actually makes you happy. But if you’re not a highly trained professional athlete, I think that you can, you can exercise Well, you can train well. And you can eat an amazing diet, which is both good for you, but also delicious. So that the point of that line was food shouldn’t just be about calories, or fats or proteins, whatever food should actually be something you enjoy. And that’s, that’s what that line means.

Carlton Reid 3:22
And Ash, you’re kind of famous for producing food that people enjoy. Tell us a bit about your background, your culinary background.

Ashley Palmer-Watts 3:32
Oh, okay. Um, so

Ashley Palmer-Watts 3:34
yeah, I mean, I’ve been a chef for probably, for nearly 30 years actually start very young, working in kitchens. And I spent the last 20 years working at the Fat Duck group running various restaurants and dinner by Heston in London for the last 10 years. And yeah, sort of left at the end of 2019 to open my own place and pursue a couple of other amazing projects, which one of them is is LeBlanq and, and here we are, post COVID coming out the other side ready?

Carlton Reid 4:09
Because the the event we’re going to start, and then COVID got in the way, is that right?

Justin Clarke 4:14
Yes, yes, that’s, that’s why I’m actually in the Isle of Wight right now doing our final, final final checks on the events that is pretty much a year after it was due to be originally so the original dates of the first event were 23rd to 25th of September, the actual dates of the event and now the 17th and 19th of September, so so just inside a year from when it was actually first due to be stage. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 4:42
And Ash, are you a cyclist as well?

Ashley Palmer-Watts 4:45
Yep. Yeah, I have been riding since probably, well, after after the Olympics in 2012 I decided to buy a bike. And that really, you know, sort of got quite heavily into it from there really. And yeah, literally about to go out for a bike ride in about 10 minutes. So

Justin Clarke 5:04
We live the dream.

Ashley Palmer-Watts 5:06

Carlton Reid 5:07
And how did you two meet?

Justin Clarke 5:10
Do you mind if I take this one? So um, because it’s it was a chance conversation. I’ve known Ash for probably about 12 or 13 years, I was one of the team that started Taste of London and then developed into Taste festivals all over the world. But also there was that there was an event that we used to stage down in Western Australia, little tiny place called Margaret River. And at the opening, almost like kind of, you know, the cocktail party and the press reception, and all of those things. Ashley had just been on stage. And he’s just been introduced as one of our amazing chefs that have kind of flown in and, you know, really, really brilliant. And so we’re in this tiny little place and Ash kind of drops in there quite casually said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I brought my bike.’ I was like ‘Wow, you’ve brought your bike from UK, all the way down to Australia. Wow?’ I just said out of interest, what bike is it? And he said, Oh, it’s a Pinarello F8. And this was about four, four and a half years ago. And at the time, the F8 was the absolute top draw Pinarello — it was an absolutely amazing bike. And, and immediately I said ‘At some point, Ash you and I’ve got to do something with cycling and food.’ I’ve been running food festivals for last 20 years. Ashley is one best chefs in the world. We both love cycling, it was just a natural thing. It was a case of when not whether. But that for me. That was the moment that the penny really dropped.

Carlton Reid 6:40
And Justin, how did you transfer from cycling? Because then you went to IMG, which is kind of like a sports agency. So I’m struggling. Why would IMG have a culinary platform?

Justin Clarke 6:53
Yes. So. So I worked originally for the business called Brand Events, which was a almost an event creation business. And so we imagined Taste, it didn’t exist before. That idea that if you brought all the best best chefs from around the cities, one place, you know, set in a beautiful location and have a whole bunch of signature dishes being served. Wouldn’t that be a really nice thing, if you love great food? And it turns out, yes, the answer is yes, that would be a great thing. No. Literally, IMG bought the business of Taste. Actually, it was just at the start of, of 2012 into 2013. And the reason why they bought it is because they could see that the food had gone from being you know, just something that you did in restaurants had become a almost like a media and experiential subject and a passion point. You know, back when we started Taste, no one would regard themselves as a foodie. Whereas nowadays, almost everyone regards themselves as a foodie so it’s it’s IMG certainly isn’t just about sport models, I’ll be faster and etc, etc. So it’s way beyond just sportt. But I’m definitely so food has been a passion point they wanted to get into and Taste was the, you know, the biggest, most successful food festival brand.

Carlton Reid 8:16
This is a question for for both of you. But I’ll go to Ash first and ask you, but maybe Justin, you can you can give your point of view on this as well. Is there like an absolute crossover between your existing clientele at the Fat Duck, or in your new venture, and cycling? Was was there was there like a you had a base bunch of people, you know, this would fit perfectly for? Or were you completely throwing this open? And you weren’t like relying on anybody that you knew already?

Ashley Palmer-Watts 8:53
Well, I mean, from a from a, from a guest point of view, I think, you know, from from when Justin and I were chatting about it in in Margaret River, you know, the kind of the driven character of people that that ride bikes for pleasure, as well as you know, competing, but obviously, we’re all about the pleasure side of it, you know, the people that are detailed and driven, usually top professionals in whatever profession, you know, they, they, it kind of goes hand in hand. It’s it’s, it’s the enjoyment of food and wine and you know, sitting around in a beautiful place and riding your bike in a beautiful place. It just the experience didn’t exist yet. But I think it was fair to say if, you know, I think Justin would agree that you know, we had a very good idea that people this would be something quite special and some really great experiences from a food and cycling point of view. And then of course you add in the the legends of cycling as well and, you know, I can speak from, from my own experience of you know, speaking with Bradley and Sean Yates and Adam Blythe and Matt Stevens, you know, it’s quite mesmerising actually what you know, when listen to the stories and getting access to their experience and vice versa. They love the kind of world of food and chefs and it’s, there’s a kind of real mutual camaraderie and respect between the two, two crossover things really,

Justin Clarke 10:24
Completely agree. Just some, I mean, from my perspective, I had this incredible insight really, which was IMG, hugely famous for golf, obviously, is where IMG was founded with Arnold Palmer and Mark McCormack. And whilst so I was at IMG for probably about nine years. And what I was witnessing was that golf is a pursuit, its popularity, its interest, its money, etc, etc. It was kind of dwindling, it was on the decline. And then ING was also getting big time into cycling and bought commercial the rights to the Giro d’Italia, etc, etc. And I could just see, literally kind of before my eyes that the people who had previously loved golf, was starting to love road cycling. And, and I kind of figured, well, I understand golf very well. And hospitality is built into the golf experience. So these people that we were wanting to target, appreciate the lifestyle can afford the lifestyle. But really, it was one of those things that the reason why they’re not going for it is because it doesn’t exist. So so i was i was just kind of convinced that you know, that moment are met, actually, we kind of have that chat is like, well, let’s go and make it exist. And it’s proven to be true.

Carlton Reid 11:46
Because that was definitely going to be one of my questions. And then it’s the cliche, of course, the cycling is the new golf, but I was gonna go there, and you’ve kind of gone there before I went there, but I’m not done press trips in incredibly exotic golf resort in Portugal, where they, they are gonna have to attract cyclists now or other activities, because that golf has just … I don’t think it was just President Trump, it was, you know, the former President Trump, it was coming before that. But golf has certainly lost a lot of its cachet. So that cliche of cycling being the new golf, you are basically you’re living it. That’s not a cliche at all. You are you’re absolutely plugging into that. Yeah?

Justin Clarke 12:33
Yeah, absolutely. For sure that there’s that there were a couple of other factors that they’ve kind of made the timing of LeBlanq, right. And because then the other part is cyclists. I mean, I was a pro cyclist over 20 years ago. And I don’t speak out of turn, but diet, diet wasn’t actually about eating great food, it was about eating as little as you can and take drugs. That was it. Whereas nowadays, every professional World Tour professional team has their own professional chef, because they understand diet, they understand natural ingredients, how to prepare, timings, portion size, all those kinds of things. So it’s, and also INEOS, or what was Sky, that they did a huge amount of research on the fact that food is a reward mechanism for great training. And they realise that if you actually great food, you train harder. And that’s why jus not gels, because it’s actually you know, if you understand what’s going into it, it makes you feel better. You know, and therefore it’s, you know, you train better, you race better, and etc. And then the third part was that Ash isn’t alone in being a chef who loves cycling, is really a growing trend. And, Ash, I think it’s fair to say that you’ve become the almost like the dealer for bikes is everyone. Everyone who’s a chef who is like ‘what bike do I need to get?’ I need to speak to Ash first’. And you know, you’ve got a pretty much a succession of top-end chefs saying, you know, I am a bit OCD. I do want to get into this, what do I do? Is that right?

Ashley Palmer-Watts 14:07
Yeah, absolutely. It’s quite amazing, you know, people say, it just looks brilliant. ‘I’m gonna buy a bike, what should I get?’ And they’re just like, I don’t think they have an idea of the detailed barrage of questions that that, you know, come back that you need that information to try and get them on to the right thing. But, you know, you’re just trying to save people a lot of time wasting a lot of money. And just urging them to, to do what I didn’t do, because I didn’t you know, I just kind of bought a bike I thought fit, right, but it didn’t. I kind of had a bit of a mishmash of stuff and I bought a decent bike and then it’s like everything you start upgrading and before you know it, you’re on your third bike and you finally got what you should have got in the first place. So but it’s great. You know, you get into such detail. I think chefs love detail. They love sort of nerdy precision and technology and, you know, become obsessed with lightweight everything. And so I think, you know, there’s a lot of synergy between the two. And, and, yeah, and it’s one of the only things you can really do that, that gets you out on your own. It doesn’t matter who you are, because when you got a helmet and glasses on in cycling gear, you know, as famous as some of the guys are, you wouldn’t know who he is cycling past half the time so they can have their own space, their own time, you’re out in the fresh air, and you’re actually doing something that then come back and have some great food and nice bottle of wine. And it all sort of it’s like a little ecosystem really, I think, yeah,

Carlton Reid 15:42
Can we talk about portion sizes, because you’ve talked a lot about taste and enjoyment, but you need to have fuel, you need to have some good carbohydrates that you need to have, you know, if you’re going to cycling, so, do you have a bit more food, a bit more on the plate, than you would if you were doing a different kind of event? I’m asking you how much you’re going to eat on your events?

Ashley Palmer-Watts 16:05
Yeah, I mean, we’ve kind of got different stages planned out for the different meals. But if I mean, on the Isle of [Wight], with our last event up in Scotland, we started making porridge for the guys in the morning. So I said, look, I’ll make the porridge. No problem, blah, blah. But then the other two guys were making the eggs and, and whatnot. And the porridge word spread. And it was just like, I did about 19 different porridges, like, one after the other. And then they were talking about it. And Chris Hoy, he was saying, ‘yeah, some of the best porridge I’ve ever had in my life, like, how’d you do it?’ And I was like, ‘well, I’ll tell you what, 7.30 tomorrow, whoever wants to learn how to make this porridge my way, come into the kitchen.’ And well, you know, we’re doing a little masterclass. And, and I think simplicity. And I mean, porridge for me, personally, is what I would have, because it’s just that slow burner, you know, that’s going to get you from start to finish and then supplement it with some really good natural, actual foods, not not gels. I’m not, I’m not a massive fan of gels. But I’d rather actually something, you know, whether it’s a date bar with pecans, and a little bit of chocolate in it, for example, but actual food foods. But yeah, I guess different people feel different ways. And I think once you start understanding about fueling, especially as a, as a non, let’s say, a food expert or something, I think you’re going to get so much more out of your riding at the same time. So hopefully, your guests can kind of pick up on that as, as they go through the weekend, too.

Justin Clarke 17:43
Yeah, we are also lucky enough to have Veloforte, who, although they do gels, they call them nectars. But it’s it’s a brand that has kind of sprung out recently, which there is nothing artificial and synthetic to it. It is what Ashley just said. It’s natural nuts, it’s fruits, it’s it’s produce that you would eat normally. And many of the riders have said ‘yeah, Veloforte, the only problem with it is it tastes so good that you want to eat it all the time’ — so that there is the practicality of fueling whilst on the bike. But equally, you know that this was my preconception before. Before starting taste, I used to think that food is just a lot of food is that’s not the case foodies appreciate and consider what they eat. And they really select the best so it’s about eating well, not eating huge amounts. And you know that the writing the writing for a weekend of LeBlanq is, you know is tailored to the capability of the rider is not designed to be brutal and break people it’s designed to challenge but it for it to feel an exhilarating escapism, rather than, you know, can’t walk for five days because, you know, gone way beyond the limits and capabilities. So it’s kind of an in that case, the feeling is just it’s about timing is about quality is not actually about involves you.

Carlton Reid 19:09
You whetted my quality appetite, I won’t eat so much I’ll just I’ll just stick to quality. And no more gels on rides only nectars. In the meantime, I’d like to go over to my colleague David for an ad break, so hang on for a second.

David Bernstein 19:23
Hey, thanks, Carlton. And hello, everybody. It’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast. And as always, I’m here to talk to you about our longtime and very loyal sponsor, and that’s Jenson USA at and that’s j e n s o n Have you ever wondered about why does Jensen exists? Why are they out there? You know, the other day I I do things like this, I had the opportunity. And I went to Jenson’s About Us page and I read their mission statement. You know, have you read these mission statements and their corporate gobbledygook and they don’t really mean anything? And I just really liked what they said. And I wanted to share it with you because it’s really apropos of why they’re here, why they’ve been sponsoring thes Spokesmen for all this time. Their mission statement says simply, ‘we are cyclists here at Jenson, USA. And it’s our mission, to help inspire you to get out and ride, experience and explore. Now, it’s not something that we set on the spokesman forever get out there and ride.’ That’s really what it’s all about. This isn’t as I said before, some corporate behemoth that is owned by private equity or a New York Stock Exchange, looking to just squeeze as much money out of you as possible instead, just as they’re loyal and have been loyal to the Spokesmen, they are endeavouring for you to be just as loyal to Jenson. And they do that in a variety of ways. Number one, they’re cyclists like they said, just like you, just like Carlton, just like all of us, and they get it, they get the cycling lifestyle, they understand who you are, and what you like to do for fun, or for commuting or for all the various reasons that you that you’re a cyclist. They get it. And that’s why they have such a great selection of brand-name, late model products, why they offer them at such great prices. And why — and this is really critical — why they have such great customer service through their gear advisors. Their gear advisors are people like you and me. They’re cyclists. And so when you call and you’ve got a question, they’re going to be able to not only answer the question, but nine times out of 10 they’re going to be able to say, ‘yeah, I rode that. And this was my experience.’ And that really is how holistically, they’re really able to make sure that they can take care of you and me and everyone like us; again, whether we’re road cyclists, or we like to go out on our gravel bikes or BMX bikes or mountain bikes, or commuter bikes, Jenson, has you covered. Go ahead and check them out at If you’ve never been there before, if you’ve heard these ads and just have never clicked, go do it. You really will be glad that you did. And of course, if you’ve heard these ads, you know what I’m talking about. So next time you’re looking for something tyres, apparel, tubes, a pump, complete bikes; think of Jenson first And as always, we thank Jenson for their support of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast.

Carlton Reid 22:51
And thanks, David, and we are back with Justin. And with Ash, and Ash, I want to I want to go backwards, if you don’t mind. And that is how do you make porridge? How do you make this porridge that Chris Hoy says is the best ever and you come in come in at 7.30 in the morning, we’ll find out how you didn’t tell us, you kind of left us there. You’ve now got to tell us you understand that.

Ashley Palmer-Watts 23:13
Okay, well, I think there’s a couple of things you can do, one, you really need to shake the box of oats to get all the fine bits down the bottom. So the more fine bits that you’ve got actually in the pan, they become really gloopy and gluey, which you don’t want. So if you want to go the first step is shake the box of oats and only get the oats not the real sort of fine flour.

Carlton Reid 23:36
Not the Ready Brek.

Ashley Palmer-Watts 23:39
Exactly exactly and then I’ll do semi skim milk. Probably go about I don’t know about half an inch over the top of the oats, a little pinch of sugar, a little tiny pinch of salt, and then probably I mean a couple of tablespoons of water and then literally put it on the heat and bring it up to a simmer slowly. And literally, I’m doing this while I’m talking to you over the internet but I’m kind of stirring thin air but you stir it really really slowly rather than you know going hammer and tongs stirring the thing because you’re scared it’s gonna stick, kind of really gently just what you don’t want to do is really mix overmix the porridge because that will just work that porridge into a gloopy mess. Once it’s simmering, then you just it’s a bit like a risotto. You just add a little bit more milk, gentle kind of incorporating stir, let it simmer a little bit more, probably give it about two or three minutes. Then just take it off the heat and let it rest for like minute and a half, two minutes, three minutes, whatever you want to do, make your coffee or tea, come back to it, put it back on the heat, another little bit of milk just to loosen it. Find a little bit of heat, gently incorporating that milk and then into the bowl. And personally, I know it’s the enemy but I love a little bit of unrefined sugar that melts just on the top and that’s the guys in in Scotland, they were like, I’ll have it however you have it and I was like well I do this and it the texture of it is brilliant. It’s like making a great risotto. But if you stir at too much unlike results you’ll get this gloopy mess, so it’s all in the control.

Justin Clarke 25:27
That’s it. That’s That’s your secret out now.

Carlton Reid 25:30
This is gonna be my most popular podcast ever I think because we’re giving away the secret for the best porridge. I will try that Ash, thank you very much. I will I will shake my porridge oats. What about so you’d recommend like Irish like fine cut or is it like a Scottish one or is it the oats are also important you got to tell us that as well.

Ashley Palmer-Watts 25:50
Yeah, I mean, there’s less that’s preference I would say you know some like jumbo some like normal loads. I like the Scott’s porridge oats, the original Scott’s porridge oats they, to be honest, it’s what we used at the Fat Duck for snail porridge and it makes the best porridge for breakfast.

Carlton Reid 26:06
Well, that’s what’s in my cupboard. So I’m a foodie. That’s great. Okay, now guys, you’ve got to tell me about the events themselves. So first of all, tell us about the first one which you’ve had one event so far, then you’ve had a believe a sell-out like when you were made the announcement for the second one that just instantly went bonkers and just sold out. And then you’ve got other events. So let’s let’s go through first of all, the first event that you’ve actually done, how did that go? Yeah, how many people need to have on it? Let’s let’s let’s hear about that, Justin.

Justin Clarke 26:39
Yeah, okay. So so the the first event that that we did was the Surrey Joyride And that was designed to be a single day ride, riding through many of the roads that Adam Blythe who was one of our ride leaders and Joanna Rowsell is a local rider. And it was her training ground that she used to train on to become an Olympic champion. And for Adam Blythe, it was it was the roads that he is the only British winner of the London Surrey classic. So again, he was revisiting roads that he’d actually been a champion on so that the ride leaders were there to almost kind of both, you know, challenge the riders but also relive the moments that were special. And but Box Hill was the kind of the start and finish points. And we did three different distances, five different groups, all of them with a following Aston Martin vehicle, amazing how when you’ve got an Aston Martin following a group of riders, no other car drivers want to have any kind of issue. It’s like wow, the Aston Martin is so um, so that that was the the format we had 44 guests and then we have two of our road leaders per team. So 54 Riders on the road. And then the afternoon was at a restaurant which had come across about four or five years previously, when we shortlist that is one of the best openings in the world is called Sorrel restaurant. It’s got one Michelin star but it’s absolutely beautiful restaurant so that that was the afternoon in Sorrel and Steve Drake, the chef of Sorrel, the special five course tasting menu, and absolutely brilliant, brilliant feedback, great reviews, and people really enjoyed it. And then the the second event which also sold out very quickly was in Perth. Sure, a little tiny, tiny village called Aberfeldy. And we had 20 guests alongside Chris Hoy. And there was there was some chef called Ashley Palmer-Watts who was Ash was actually doing the majority of the cooking for the weekend. But you also worked with the the guys from Ballintaggert in terms of the time or place in it in the trash.

Ashley Palmer-Watts 28:51
Yep. Yeah. So yeah, they we had a local I wouldn’t say how it’s like a hotel with rooms or a restaurant with rooms kind of set up lots of per share, produce all local, they’ve got their own farm etc. And so they cook the Friday night the guests arrived in the afternoon, chilled out for a bit. All met each other. Friday Night was Ballintaggert dinner, which was amazing five courses, sort of showcasing local produce. And then the Saturday was the was the big ride in the morning. So breakfast then the ride, they came back. They had great coffee stuff on the way got back to the to the house. They had massage. Some did some yoga and some stretching. We were pushing on in the kitchen at the time. But but it was a great social kind of Saturday because everyone felt very integrated into the the experience of the house and you’d have guests wandering into the kitchen going ‘oh my God; smells amazing, what’s for dinner?’ and you’re like, well, I can’t really tell you at the moment, it’s all going to be revealed a little bit later. And then down for dinner. And on that event, we were decided that we were going to sort of tailor the menu to the six Olympic gold medals that Chris Hoy won. So he won one in Athens, three in Beijing in 2008. And then two in London in 2012. So I use those cities as inspiration for the style of cooking for those particular dishes. So we started off with a Greek hot and cold grilled Greek salad. And then we went to, into three Chinese dishes, one based around kind of peanut broth called jiangsu, with langoustines, and asparagus from Scotland, and then we’re on to grilled scallops with exo sauce. And then we had this most amazing Highland wagyu, from literally about half an hour down the road. And grill that and it was slightly the Sichwuan glaze and this peanut and cucumber salad. And then back to London for two desserts, strawberries and cream. And, oh, there was a there was a quite a good story, actually, there was a we billed it as seven courses, but Chris only won six Olympic gold medals. So yeah, we made we made that is amazing. We made a little thing of it saying, you know, it was gonna be seven. It’s actually six, because, you know, it’s about the gold medals. And everyone kind of was, you know, laughing a bit. And then after the main course, I went out and, and tapped a glass and got everyone’s attention. And I sort of said, I didn’t say it was six courses. It’s actually seven. But this is a little surprise cos both Chris and I have a mutual friend. And when he heard that I was working with Chris on this ride he said ‘look, when you when you meet Chris the first time you really must give him some some hassle about one of his dishes he does at home, we all take the mickey out of him for it.’ I said ‘okay, right. So what is it?’ He said, ‘they’re, um, mushrooms done on the barbecue stuffed with Stilton cheese. And everyone apparently takes the mickey out Chris for this. And so I said, ‘you know, we’ve got this mutual friend story’. And I said, ‘Look, I’ve done my own little homage to, we’re going to call it the Hidden Hoy cheese course. And he just couldn’t believe it. It was so funny. Because it was I think it epitomised everything from the weekend, it was just this kind of really comfortable, social, friendly, big household of sort of food and drink and really approachable sort of chats and, and whatnot. And then after dinner, we had a brilliant interview by Annie Emerson, sort of sitting down and chatting through Chris’s career and some really sort of poignant parts of his career that that, you know, resonated with a lot of people I think, whilst also tasting the local whiskey from Aberfeldy, which is brilliant. And then the Sunday, got to do all again, go for another ride. Come back for some lovely food. We’re a little bit more casual. We had some wagyu burgers and some sort of chunky chips and a little bit of pannacotta for dessert. So you know, it was just, it was just so good.

Carlton Reid 33:48
All right. What about vegans and veggies? Can they can they come on your tours as well?

Ashley Palmer-Watts 33:53
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it’s, um, we didn’t have any vegans this time. But we did. We did have one full vegetarian who, but I mean, it was fine, which is sort of, you know, I mean, to be honest, in where I’ve come from, and the restaurant I ran for 10 years of vegetarian cooking, we’ll put as much we put as much effort into that as anything else. Really. So yeah, no problem. vegetarian, or vegan is a little bit more tricky. But you know, when

Carlton Reid 34:29
I’d like to go on to the events that are coming up in a minute but first of all why LeBlanq cos I know you’ve got in one event you’ve got coming up you have got it’s hosted by Raymond Blanc, is it associated with what so where’s where’s where’s the name come from?

Justin Clarke 34:45
yeah, it’s um, so the actual name in the original event was always going to be on the Isle of Wight.

Carlton Reid 34:53
Okay. Okay, the Isle of Wight.

Justin Clarke 34:56
There we go. And, and so that There was a bit of toying around with a few different names LeBlanc Tour, Tour de Blanc, etc. So we were just thinking of kind of, you know, going with the white theme in terms of Isle of Wight and, and, and yeah, it kind of went from that, and then it stuck. And then the C became a Q. And then the first chef that I asked outside of, of speaking with Ashley was Raymond Blanc. And they did say, Have you named your event after Raymond? And we said, we know, but it is a nice coincidence. And they said, No, no, that’s, that’s great. So yeah, it was it was mainly around the Isle of Wight been the kind of the catalyst for the idea. But yeah, we wanted to create something that was quite unique, that was, you know, sat there quite differently. We like the the the French kind of connotation of it, because obviously, it’s cycling and gastronomy tends to be deeply rooted in, in kind of French language. And that’s that that’s the reason that

Carlton Reid 35:58
I’ve noticed on the press release here that so it wasn’t just that one event. We’ve got Aston Martin cars, you’ve got Aston Martin cars. So you know, the cycling credentials of Aston Martin? Yeah. Very cycling brand.

Justin Clarke 36:13
Yes, absolutely. It’s when you, when you get to know the guys from Aston Martin, virtually all of them ride bikes, and is the second biggest pastime of all the Aston Martin owners, which is why there were so drawn to what you’re doing. And, and and we all like, you know, beautiful cars and Aston Martin. So the most. We had a bit of both that actually yourself just had a philosophy that one could go for being best in class in everything it does. So the bikes, cars, the food, the destinations, we want to always be best in class.

Carlton Reid 36:50
so let’s talk about best in class future events. So that one of the events that sold recently. So where are you going next? Basically?

Justin Clarke 37:00
Yes, so that the next one is, is with Raymond Blance at his home in La Manoir in Oxfordshire. So that that event is on the fifth of September. That is the event that the it’s 40 places sold out in 15 minutes, which was which was great. The the event two weeks after that is here on the Isle of Wight, which you know, third or third time of asking. So we were originally going to do last September, then April and now it’s this September. And then two weeks of that weather that that event on the Isle of Wight is where we introduced Bradley Wiggins for the first time to our guests. And I’ve known Bradley for a long time I think it was probably 12 when I first met him he incredible athlete, incredible character, real personality that I think is going to embody a lot of what LeBlanq wants to wants to kind of offer as guests but then the final events of the year is going to be in the Champagne region at the Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa and the the rider that we have there is a chap called Eddy Merckx so we kind of figured we you know if you’re going to go for best in class then that there is one undisputed champion of cycling and that’s it so that’s that’s where we’re going to be working with Raymond Blance probably

Carlton Reid 38:19
Sweet, at the it’s sold out when when you put these through to your your your lists etc are there people who are coming time and time again so you’ve got like a core 10 people or whatever who’ve been on every trip so far and are going to be on every trip?

Ashley Palmer-Watts 38:37
Yeah, it’s

Justin Clarke 38:38
It’s interesting because to the call we actually want to create a club is called the Joy Rider’s Dining Club is not about cycling, it’s about joy riding. So yes, we do have natural, you know, founder club members already. And you’re right in your number it is around 10 to 12 that are absolutely you know, ‘whatever you guys do, we’re there.’ But some but equally, we also want to make sure that we mix up the the events, the riders, the talent, the destination. But yeah, we’ll be doing more events next year it will grow and capacities are always going to feel pretty intimate. So rarely above 100 people and you know, the smallest event is probably going to be around about 20, 25 biggest will be 100 people. But what we’re also doing is not just the experiences themselves when when we do the rides when we do the menus, etc. All of that will be shared straight after the event. So you can literally ride the same route so we did you can you can understand what what we ate where we went, where do we recommend so it’s almost like a kind of an advert for amazing places to go and ride and dine. The event just happens to kind of give that place you know, that kind of promotion and visible

Carlton Reid 39:50
I’m sitting on my chair. So you can now tell me how much these things cost.

Justin Clarke 39:56
With the the the event that we’re doing at The Manoir is only £135. That’s that it’s, it’s primarily it’s a breakfast and it’s meeting Raymond Blanc and then it’s been led by a bunch of fantastic pros on some really great riding around the Chilterns. And then it goes all the way up to the place in the, in the Champagne region, which is £3,500. And that’s what that

Carlton Reid 40:21
That’s without travel? So that you got to get there, you get there in your helicopter, yes, and get your Pinarello out of the back?

Justin Clarke 40:29
There we go. It’s um the the the travel point is interesting because but most people who are coming don’t actually want to be I want to say tell they don’t want to fit into the travel arrangements because many of them are travelling already many of them are starting from one point coming to the event going to a different place. So the travel it just became the easiest thing to just exclude it and the experience starts when you arrive

Carlton Reid 40:53
Sounds wonderful. Tell people all of your social media channels. How can they find out about this give us your website give us everything that you tell people about your event.

Justin Clarke 41:04
It’s I mean, in terms of the the the way to describe it is the finest cycling you can possibly do amongst friends in beautiful locations with the best food that’s that that’s the proposition. We found that many people quite like that it’s it’s quite appealing. In terms of how to find out search LeBlanc you go straight to the website at leblanc with a Q or in so

Carlton Reid 41:30
It’s not like a C with Raymond Blanc or the white it’s it’s

Justin Clarke 41:36 But yeah, the Instagram channel is is very healthy. If you want to know the latest of what we’re doing sign up to the newsletter, which you can do via the websites. And that’s that’s the best place but we’ve also got a number of different media partnerships with with Rouleur magazine with the national Times, with Great British chefs etc. So there are many ways in which we’ll find out about. But the best one is go online check out and go from there.

Carlton Reid 42:08
Thanks to Justin Clark and Ashley Palmer-Watts there and thanks to you for listening to the Spokesmen cycling podcast, show notes and more can be found on The next show will be out in early September. It will star my doctor wife in the Cairngorms riding an electric mountain bike equipped with Shimano EP8system. Now, she rides to work on a bog standard single speed electric bike normally, so it’ll be interesting to see how she gets on with this premium bit of kit. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

Jude Reid 43:12
Still getting a workout in an electric bike.

August 15, 2021 / / Blog

15th August 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 279: Bike Portland’s Jonathan Maus


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Jonathan Maus

TOPICS: 16 years of Bike Portland


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to episode 279 of the Spokesmen cycling Podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 15th August 2021.

David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the- And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to today’s episode of the Spokesmen Cycling podcast brought to you in association with Jenson USA. Today’s show is a chat with Bikeportland’s Jonathan Maus. Started by Jonathan 16 years ago as a one-man blog chronicling Portland’s lively and eclectic cycling scene, the site is now a multi-media operation that’s about to get a refresh thanks to investment from a new co-owner. Here’s our remotely recorded, 65-minute chat …

Carlton Reid 1:45
Jonathan, you’ve been doing Bikeportland for a wee while I’m it’s at least 16 years, I believe.

Jonathan Maus 1:52

Carlton Reid 1:53
Um, so people who listen to this podcast are now gonna be able to listen to your podcast, which is great. So there is some news which we will get on to have the expansion of your media empire. But first of all, I’d really like to Kai probably haven’t done a great deal of even though I’ve been to visit you in person, I probably haven’t grilled you in this in this exact way. So this is a This is Your Life. This is I’d like to know more about

Carlton Reid 2:21
the man behind the blog was a blog now I need your input. So first of all, are you originally from Portland, Oregon?

Jonathan Maus 2:32
No, I moved up here with my family in 2004. So a little bit before I started Bike Portland.

Carlton Reid 2:38
And where you from?

Jonathan Maus 2:40
I was living for about 10 years, I lived in Santa Barbara, California, which is on the Central Coast really beautiful places where I went to college as well. So I stuck around there as long as I could, and then ended up having to leave. Because it just got so expensive and ridiculous in Santa Barbara. So anyway, yeah, we found our way up to Portland and I and before that I grew up more in Southern California. So about 30 minutes south of Los Angeles near like Long Beach, California. I’ve always been sort of near the coast.

Carlton Reid 3:09
Okay. And then why Portland?

Jonathan Maus 3:14
Well, we were really like this stereotypical young family in California sort of like pulling our hair out about how expensive things had gotten down there, and how strange sort of the economy and just the community was in a place like Santa Barbara, which is this this super, super, super wealthy area. And then you have like a bunch of baristas, and yoga teachers, not a lot of middle class. So that was a big red flag and we were renting an apartment we’d been renting apartments for you know, for a long time at that point. And we’re just ready to live somewhere live in a community owned a home sort of the whole American Dream stick, you know, and this isn’t for of course, this is before 2008 in the big financial crash when you know, you were still just supposed to buy a house and renting wasn’t wasn’t wasn’t as appealing. So yeah, we we got out the magazines looked at where were cool places to live. And Portland at that point was, you know, always on the top of those lists. And so I thought, you know, it’s still on the west coast, it would still be relatively close to my family in Southern California. And that’s we came up and visited a friend that had moved up to the Portland area and basically went back and a weekend saw a house we liked and bought it and that was it.

Carlton Reid 4:21
Because there is a climate difference. Isn’t there? There’s a bit of difference in weather between where you grew up and Portland.

Jonathan Maus 4:30
Yeah, for sure. But I mean, I feel like at that point, I was just so young. I didn’t really think through the decision that much into somebody. I mean, which we can get to later I mean, I lived two blocks away from a freeway before I became much much of a transportation activist like I am now I would never bought this house so close to freeway Had I known then what I know now but also made to think on the weather thing. You know, actually, the weather in California can be pretty boring Southern California weather it’s it’s always the same. It’s hazy sunshine and mid 70s every single day and it’s I

Jonathan Maus 5:00
I got to tell you, it gets kind of boring. nothing ever changes. You don’t have clouds and seasons and darkness and water from the sky. So I really liked I really liked the climate up here.

Carlton Reid 5:10
Although you have had a heatwave recently, haven’t you? I mean, you might still be having it. Cuz you’ve had some extremes there.

Jonathan Maus 5:15
Well, yeah, of course, of course, nothing. Nothing is normal now. So now we’re getting a lot a lot more that heat and dryness that from Southern California is coming up here for sure with climate change.

Carlton Reid 5:24
Mm hmm. And you said before young family, so so who are you talking about?

Jonathan Maus 5:30
Right, so I had a daughter who was a few years old, in Santa Barbara. And then since we’ve moved up to Portland, my wife and I have had two more kids. So we’ve got, we’ve got a 18 year old who’s setting off the college, we have a 16 year old who will be a junior in high school. And then I’ve got my boy who’s 10 and going into fifth grade.

Carlton Reid 5:47
Right? Okay. And your wife,

Jonathan Maus 5:51
My wife, Julie, yet she works actually for the City of Portland in the signals and street lighting division. So that’s, that’s interesting. She, you know, she mostly when you know that she’s had that job for maybe four or five years. So for the most part, when I was really building bikeportland, and throwing everything into it, and working all day, every day and all night, she was really keeping everything going and, you know, looking over at me, like, you know, what the heck is going on? Why are you trying to, you know, have a blog support our family kind of thing. So it’s who was about four or five years ago that that was kind of, you know, still not, let’s say, working out financially for the for bikeportland. So she was sort of like, Okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna get a job.

Carlton Reid 6:30
Was there any friction that if you were you were doing stuff, potentially quite critical of the city? And here’s your wife working for the city?

Jonathan Maus 6:38
Well, there wasn’t friction. I mean, you know, it’s I guess it’s, it’s okay, that she’s not sort of directly in the department that I cover most, right? So she’s in signals and street lighting, which there is sort of a hard line there. She’s not working on the planning. And if she was in the bike planning section, or she was in the, the, the project section, that that may be a little more awkward, but even then, I mean, she’s a professional, I’m a professional. I think there are probably people at the City of Portland who are aware of that, and they’re kind of like, you know, looking at it with a little bit of a side eye. I’m wondering what’s going on there. But I think as long as we keep it all, all on the up and up, nothing, nothing bad will come of it. I mean, I think the other context of it is is that she got the job after there had already been really a split at the City of Portland and bike Portland. I mean, back in the early days of Bike Portland, we were sort of more like, you know, partners, in a way it was kind of like they saw me more as an advocate, you know, part of their team to help them get their news out. And there was definitely more of a collegial atmosphere. But that had all definitely eroded by the time she started working there. So they’d already built in sort of systems to ignore ignore by Portland and sort of create a wall between us I do not have the same relationship with them that I’d had in the early years.

Carlton Reid 7:51
Okay, now pedal backwards. You’re talking about you got a house in the same house. You got then if you stayed in the near the freeway, is that right?

Jonathan Maus 7:59
Yeah. Yeah, we’re still in the same place been given moved here yet. Oh, four. So yeah. 17 years, I guess now.

Carlton Reid 8:05
Okay. So when you moved to Portland, you and you said before, you weren’t a transportation activist, but were you a cyclist in some way, shape, or form?

Jonathan Maus 8:17
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I’ve been riding bikes since I was a kid. And pretty much even in my professional life. I mean, even in college, I was a big bike rider, I raced a lot of research on the Santa Barbara UC Santa Barbara, road team and as the mountain bike club so I was super, super competitive racer, before I moved up here, and I just want to one of the first things I did out of college was worked at Chris King precision components, which which folks might know that the headset and hub makers, they were based in Santa Barbara, so I was a racer, and you know how it goes in the industry, you kind of just gravitate toward the biggest bike company in your town. So that’s what I did. worked over there. And then after that, you know, I did some PR work freelance for a bit and in the bike industry and and worked for a couple bike brands and stuff. So I’ve been around the bike world, basically, basically, my whole my whole adult life. So yeah.

Carlton Reid 9:07
And that’s how you’re making money before you moved. You’re in the bike industry.

Jonathan Maus 9:12
Yeah, I’d started. I started a public relations media relations firm. And I was working for myself. I had some clients in the publishing industry. So I worked with authors and publishing houses. And I also always maintained a client or two or three in the biking world. And I was really excited. I was I was building that business. I loved it. I kind of was up and coming. You know, I was young just starting out and I had you know, I was working for some companies I really liked. And yeah, that’s what I would have been doing had I not sort of found my way to being a blogger, I would have probably still been having my my media and PR firm because I liked doing that work. It was interesting. It just wasn’t as interesting as by Portland.

Carlton Reid 9:53
So then you started a blog. Yeah, this is like you had a day job and

Jonathan Maus 9:59
Then you start this.

Jonathan Maus 10:02

Carlton Reid 10:02
So what’s the very origins of how you started?

Jonathan Maus 10:06
Right. So when I moved to Portland, I definitely had my eye on the bicycle community and the bike scene here. I thought my first inclination was, let’s let me know I was going to get involved with the bike community. And maybe I’d get into like a nonprofit as like a pro bono client of my PR business, right? That was kind of how I was thinking. So I instantly joined any email list, I could and was really just starting to get to know people kind of like, looking out at the bike rides and seeing what was happening and starting to meet people. And I thought that’s what I would do, I would maybe help maybe a bike org, you know, get online or whatever they needed help with in terms of media relations and stuff like that. I was also like tinkering with building websites for folks and that sort of thing. So that’s how I thought it would get involved. But, you know, one thing just led to another. What happened was, it’s sort of at this, it’s the same amount of time, I started looking into the bike scene here in Portland. And again, for folks that don’t know 2004, 2005 was really like this amazing moment in Portland for cycling. A lot of the groups that are that were known for, and a lot of the like creative street culture that became a lot more well known in the subsequent years was just getting started, you know, like we had an all female mini bike dance team. We had this thing called bike summer and Pedal Palooza, which was this amazing, you know, several weeks of bike events, we had the zoo bombers. So we had some really, really fun, we had a bunch of tall bikes and free bike groups going on. So I came here from California, never having seen anything like that. And I was just blown away. I mean, to me cycling was, you know, who could get up the hill fastest, who was who could be the most aggro on the single track. And then if you wanted to, you know, goof around, you get a cruiser bike and go down to the beach, and maybe pop a wheelie like that was the extent of interesting bike culture that I knew of before moving to Portland, and I got here, and I and I mean, I would look out my front window and there’d be 30 people dressed like bunnies ringing their bells on Easter. And I was like, What in the world is going on? Like, this is really fantastic. And I just loved it. I couldn’t, I couldn’t, you know, we had street festivals. And I’d look up and see clowns riding tall bikes, jousting with each other while they’re on fire, like, stuff really blew me away. And so it was around that time that I got an email popped into this group’s email list that I followed this bike group. And it was someone from the Oregonian, which is sort of the the newspaper of record in Portland in our state. And they said, hey, there’s this new thing called blogs, we’re we want to have a network of blogs. And we thought, of course, since it’s Portland, and this is bike city, USA, we want to have someone write about bikes on our website. So this is the Oregonian’s website, they’re looking for a bike blogger, let’s say. And so I saw that, and I was like, well, that’s perfect. I mean, I’m a, I’m a news guy, I know how to write, I’m doing PR Media Relations, I’m super excited about the bike scene. Absolutely. So I remember firing off an email back to that person and just, you know, really selling myself like, Oh my gosh, I totally want to do this, just sign me up. So they gave me the gig. And so for that was like April 2005. So that was my first sort of experience with seeing my stuff published on the internet. And basically, I would email this person, a few paragraphs about something I did on my bike or some reflection I had about the bike community. And then a couple hours later, it would appear on Oregon live, which was the Oregonian’s old website. And I just thought that was amazing. It was super interesting to me, that whole process of publishing my stuff, and then documenting the local bike scene here. And then once that happened, I really got got into blogging, I was like it just something kind of shifted for me. And I also saw how blogs and sort of the democratisation of the internet and publishing in general, I also saw how that could impact my business as a PR person as a media person. And I started to realise that, you know, I would probably be helping clients start blogs and help clients start telling their story online and in different ways. So I just sort of dove headfirst into the whole online blogging world, and started researching it and, you know, reading up on it and joining a lot of blogs and just reading everything, basically. And so it wasn’t too long after I started doing it for the Oregonian doing this blog for the Oregonian that I realised how just how lacking their tools were like, basically, their whole, their whole format was just really kind of old school once I saw what was happening with typepad, and and blogspot and these other tools that I could just have a few clicks and have my own blog. Right. So my gears started turning, like, you know, basically, why the heck would I do this for the county. And when I could just do it for myself. And I remember, there were a few back and forth where the folks that they were going in were asking me for advice in terms of like, what can we do to make our blog network better. And I was sending him emails with all these lists of things like here’s here’s what blogging is, like they didn’t even have permalinks people couldn’t comment on our blog post back in those early days. And I was getting frustrated that this new bike blog that I started for them, you know, was sort of being saddled by not having the latest tools that I was reading about online. So once I realised that you know they weren’t gonna start

Jonathan Maus 15:00
To take my advice and improve their own blogs on the Oregonians website, I just was like, I’m out of here, you know, so it only did that for a couple months. And then I, you know, like I said, clicked a few times found WordPress, and got a domain just on a whim, I got thinking I might want to be a nonprofit, or I just liked how it sounded. And so that was it, paid $9.99 for the domain, and in July of 2005, started publishing stuff on bikeportland.

Carlton Reid 15:30
And then the design hasn’t changed much.

Jonathan Maus 15:35
It’s really funny. I mean, it, it hasn’t really changed a ton. I mean, I got a free theme. And this is something that you know, Carlton, once they started doing by Portland for several years, and people were paying me pretty good money to advertise on it. I always thought to myself, man, you know, like, I got the mayor calling me I’m getting you know, several $100 ads from people for these banners. And I don’t really have any overhead. I mean, I’m paid, you know, I got a free free design. Basically, I got a domain for $9 a year. And I’m publishing this stuff. I mean, it was just so amazing to me. And I always felt like how that was always so exciting to me that that could happen. So yeah, it’s basically the and I’m still didn’t get this. But I’m still basically using the same theme that I started with in 2005, which, which I think you could laugh that but it also shows you the sort of, you know, how how good of a tool WordPress is and sort of the power of the internet in terms of some guy who at some point, created this theme and put it out on the internet for free. Now, I have to say that I’ve also spent, you know, 1000s of dollars, with web people to tweak it and make it work and make it seem like theme stable and all that stuff. But for the most part, it looks the same.

Jonathan Maus 16:38
And we can get to that later in terms of like, you know, that’s one thing that I talked about with my investor here was, you know, paying for the massive sort of finally getting a massive update and upgrade to the site. So it looks a lot different.

Carlton Reid 16:50
And we will get on to that fantastic news. And it was like, you kind of mean I subscribed to your newsletter, the kind of the insider bikeportland newsletter, you send it every week. So you had this news last week. Just fantastic. And then you sent me another one this week. And I thought I must talk to Jonathan about that. So we’ll get onto that. However, I wanted. I know this because I have been there. And I’ve seen this with my own eyes. And I was just as as you were, I was just blown away when I saw the bike culture in Portland, which is which is something to behold. But for those people who haven’t been to by born perhaps even I haven’t even come across this, this these cultures. Let’s go through them one by one. So I think you kind of mentioned the Sprockettes first, you’ve got a dance troupe or you had a dance troupe? So So

Jonathan Maus 17:38

Carlton Reid 17:40
Tell me about that first. Now we’ll go through each of these little cultural things.

Jonathan Maus 17:45
Right, so so there was a group called the zoo bombers, which were people who would take the Max which is our light rail, and they would catch it, you know, downtown, and they would ride it to the top of this hill that we have, which is right up above Portland, it’s where the Rose Garden is, it’s where the zoo is, right. So it’s a hill right next to downtown Portland. And at some point, someone realised would be fun to take little kids bike, so you know, 16 inch wheels, and they would all pile on the light rail line, the max, and they would pay a buck or whatever, actually, let’s be honest, they didn’t pay, they’d go up there. And again, they met at 11 at night, let’s say right, so it’s a nighttime thing, they go up to the top of this hill, they hike their bikes up to the very, very top in this beautiful park. And they hang out, they get to know one another, you know, maybe haven’t have a beverage or two or whatever. And then they get on their bikes, they walk over to the road. Again, it’s pitch black on their underrun Mini mini bikes. And they would just bomb down the hill. And it’s a really fun downhill, these are sharp corners, narrow roads, really steep, and they would end up back where back at the light rail stop, and then they take the train back to the top. And this became this became like a religion for people. I mean, they would do it every Sunday, you know where to meet in the same way that a critical mass what happened in a city, if you’re in to bike stuff, you know, bike stuff, you could rely on it, you know, there’d be people there, you know, you’d see the same faces there. And these people started to build, you know, really strong bonds and sort of grow the group. And it became a real, it became a real thing. You know, you’d see, BBC did a video on that one point, you know, sort of starts getting attention, right. It’s very, very part of the sort of Portland weird ethic. And it created this whole community, obviously, right. So there were just dozens and dozens people that would show up and you could come in, if you’ve never done it before, they had a whole library of bikes down there, that they would loan out to you. So you could take one of these kids bike. So that was how Zoobombing sort of was established. And then there were there were women that were showing up. And sort of I guess at some point, some of the women thought, Well, hey, you know, what’s going on here, you know, we need to have kind of our own thing. And I think it was the history and again, I’m not, you know, it wasn’t like it’s necessarily inside that scene. So this is just what I’ve learned from knowing folks, but at some point, you know, the women brought up their own bikes, and then there was a party or some event where they ended up dancing on them anyway.

Jonathan Maus 20:00
So long story short, they created something called the Sprockettes, and this was an all female minibike dance team. And it’s just what it sounds like. They have the synchronised dances that they would do and they were all pink, by the way they would, you know, go to thrift stores and get dragged up pink clothing, you know, so think of pink fish nets and skirts and tank tops. And then they had their bikes all painted pink and these little kid bikes for the most part are or BMX bikes, and they would do these really fun dances. So 2005, 6, 7, there was an annual big annual event here that they would do. And then they start getting booked out at tonnes of events. So this becomes a real thing. And they have practices. And anyway, it’s just wonderful. At one point, my wife joined and we went out New Belgium brewing, paid, paid the Sprockettes to go on do a tour all through the West Coast, and got them a bus. And they went and did the New Belgium Tour de Fat events. They were real, really amazing group and just the most wonderful people you could ever imagine. So that was really fun. But that was the Sprockettes. So just try to imagine a city in a culture where something like that could could exist. And there’s all sorts of other ancillary things around you know, the Sprockettes that made them possible just this all kinds of different groups and, and bike clubs and things that were happening.

Carlton Reid 21:14
Was it is it the coalescing of like the keep Portland weird vibe, which is, which is kind of is the city is famous for? and a growing bike culture? Were they feeding off each other? What How come it started like this?

Jonathan Maus 21:31
Yeah, it’s really important. I mean, it didn’t just come out of nowhere. I mean, Portland had a legacy for cycling that I think is definitely unmatched in America. I mean, 70s 80s, you know, in the 80s, we had our mayor biking to work. And there we had, you know, huge Bike to Work festivals in the 80s downtown and just amazing buy in, you know, one of the leading congressmen in the US, you know, United States Congressman Earl Blumenauer, was, you know, previously in charge of transportation in Portland. And, you know, in the late 80s, early 90s, really ushered in, you know, definitely Portland’s era of being the leading cycling city in America and got the first bike lanes the first blue bike lane. So this was a city in Portland here that, you know, you know, we fought, we fought a freeway project, we were the first city to say no to the federal government expanding, you know, a freeway here and building a freeway in you know, giving a bunch of federal subsidy people secure, organised and said, No, let’s invest that money in light rail. So this is a very progressive city when it when it came to transportation. So that’s sort of the legacy that all this culture was really built on, you had, bicycling was just sort of like in the mix here, it was always in the water. And you have this, you know, this travelling, this travelling thing came through here in like 2003, it was called bike summer, and it had gone went to several different cities on the west coast, Vancouver, Los Angeles, other places, and the people that organise that thought it was so much fun that they wanted to keep it going. And I think that was really sort of the the big genesis of a lot of the sort of creative bike culture in Portland. And once you know, 2004 came around, we kept that festival going. And then it was just off to the races. And we had all sorts of interesting, interesting things happening around cycling here.

Carlton Reid 23:08
Interesting, you also mentioned before the jousting,

Carlton Reid 23:13
the tall bikes, the pedal palooza, describe some of that, because it’s some of the people are the same, and some of the people are different.

Jonathan Maus 23:21
Yeah, so just like any healthy cultural ecosystem, you know, people start forming groups, and then people spin off of those groups and spin off of those groups on want to do their own thing. So, you know, we had a group called like Chunk 666, which would have this, it was this really interesting, sort of underground secretive group that had a ‘zine. And they had this big annual thing called the Chunkathalon. And these are people in their garage, tinkering together with welding torches, putting together huge chopper bikes, or just, you know, bikes with three frames welded to each other. So you have to basically climb way up and you’re super tall. And if this chunk catalogue, they would have just these really remarkable in really wild events, where they would be, you know, there would be tonnes of people around and they would, you know, the main attraction was jousting. So they would get these huge poles and on the end of the pole, they’d have like a boxing glove or some other implement, and they would just pedal at each other. And these tall bikes as fast as they could in the person fell over last and the person who stayed up right one, but of course, around the edge, you have hundreds of people throwing beer cans, and, you know, you know, baby plastic baby doll heads and food, and it was just this, you know, fires being lit, some of the bikes were lit on fire themselves. So yeah, that was one part of it. You know, there was another whole group of clowns. There were actual, you know, clowns that would go around and do clowning. And they would, they always had bikes involved with them, there was this house where they would all meet, and every Thursday there was a street festival, one part of town, and there would be a bunch of really creative things happening there around biking, so and the Sprockettes would show up right so and then you have things like you know, pedal Palooza, which is really kind of the engine, which was this several week event where anybody can put a bike event on it on this sort of community.

Jonathan Maus 25:00
The calendar and it really encouraged people to leave their own rides. And that that I think, is probably the most important part of Portland’s bike culture. And this year in 2021, it’s going strong. It’s three months long this year. So it started as a as a as a two week thing. And we were talking 300, 400 events. At the height of pedal Palooza, there’s there could be 10 events in one day, we’re talking every day of the week. And this is everything from let’s go visit a bunch of bakeries on our bikes to let’s all wear the colour teal, and just just go to the park and take pictures of ourselves wearing funny costumes, a lot of them are dance party rides, where you have different DJs. And there’ll be a theme maybe there’s a big one, one of the biggest rides is called Prince versus Bowie, where one faction is Bowie fans with the big speaker system. One faction is both, you know, Prince fans, and they’re all dressed up, like the artist and go through the town, playing music and stopping at parks and other places to to dance and you know, just hang out. So if that’s that’s not even touching the surface of the amazing rides coming up this week, there’s going to be a bike play where a local theatre group has a bike themed theatre act that they go do in different sets around town and hundreds of people will follow them on their bikes to these different scenes in the play that they will act out live. So it’s really amazing outpouring of just creativity. And it’s all centred around cycling, and everybody’s on a bike. And so that’s kind of this environment that has really existed through all these changes in all these years in Portland, and is still going strong today. I’m really happy to say.

Carlton Reid 26:31
So Jonathan, when Yeah, that that description, and it absolutely marries with what I’ve seen. And it’s just it’s unbelievable to see. And it’s fantastic. But do you think there are some people who are attracted by that and become, you know, cyclists, people on bikes? But by the same token, there are some people who who might have become cyclists but thought, ‘Oh, God, I can’t become one of those people.’ Do you think it has a you know, a yin and a yang here?

Jonathan Maus 26:59
Well, I don’t want people to get the wrong idea, when I was just describing are just some of the sort of like, you know, some of the, you know, some of the subculture groups, a lot of this cultural stuff is really broadly appealing. I mean, we have cargo bike groups, we have family biking groups, and we have a critical mass that’s really popular. So it’s really there’s stuff going on that attracts all different types of people. But yeah, I think what happened in the early aughts, so 2006, 7, 8, when this cultural stuff was really front and centre, and it was, you know, bikeportland was really just coming on strong, we’re getting a lot of attention for the bike culture here. It did, I think, probably turned some people off, because the focus was really these subculture groups. And I think a lot of people looked at that and said, Well, I don’t want to go get naked. I mean, we have the largest naked right in the world, hands down. I think at one point, they counted, you know, 17,000 people 12,000 15,000. it shut the city down. It was so big, and so naked and amazing, right. And that’s what I think a lot of people looked at the sort of the, quote unquote, cycling culture in Portland. And they saw, you know, grown women wearing pink skirts dancing with their bikes, they saw naked people they saw, you know, clowns on tall bikes, but that that never really was the full picture, but it had an outsized impact on what people thought about the bike culture. So I think it ultimately probably did turn some people off or it allowed people to have this caricature of the bike culture in Portland that that wasn’t really true. It just happened to be the one that made the most noise. And I think, you know, if you fast forward several years, the bike scene here evolved a lot and has gotten away from a lot of that stuff. I mean, the zoo bombers are basically don’t exist, the Sprockettes, basically not around anymore, pedal Palooza is going strong, but many of these groups have sort of faded out. A lot of people are married now and have jobs and you know, moved away or moved to houses right. A lot of the people that powered a lot of these early groups, it was definitely a cultural phase. So and that was part of it is so things change so much in the bike culture and advocacy scene has evolved considerably. So it was weird for me as being someone who’s documenting all these groups and documenting all this interesting stuff. And it really in some ways really powered a lot of what made Bike Portland I think special was covering showing photos of things on bikes that people never really seen. And then once those things evolved and went away well it was kind of like well then what does bikeportland do then you know, how does it continue to evolve? So we can get on to this next one? I jumped the gun there though.

Carlton Reid 29:23
Well, I kind of want I want to I want to keep to this topic about the kind of the culture or and you’re right there’s it’s very broad culture. It’s not just the pedal Palooza or the Zoobombers is up there is that the critical mass and there is the cargo bike culture. Yeah, I know that. But anybody from the outside, say in Europe, who is into bikes and and perhaps has come across bikeportland as one of the major advocacy, stroke, blog, news, whatever

Carlton Reid 29:54
place to go to see will assume that if they landed in Portland, it’ll be like Amsterdam.

Carlton Reid 30:00
And that every single person, you know, every second person at least, will be on a bicycle. Yet it’s not like that. So tell us about the actual mode share of cycling in Portland?

Jonathan Maus 30:13
Yeah, it’s definitely not not like that at all. I think there was a time between 2005 and 2008, where we had our biggest increases in bicycling mode share. And people should know that for an American city, we’re number one, in terms of mode. Sure, we’ve definitely plateaued, we’ve even lost a little bit. But in terms of big, you know, relatively big, I think we’re one of the top 20 cities in terms of size courses, college towns, where people bike more, but I’m talking, you know, real major metropolitan cities in America, the more people bike to work according to the official data than any other city.

Jonathan Maus 30:48
But it’s America, and that that number means that you’re only at six or 7%, which is really sad, right? When you compare it to the 35% or so in real cycling cities, like Amsterdam, Copenhagen. So yeah, it doesn’t feel like that when you get here, there are streets and places in the morning peak in the afternoon peak after work, that you could see a lot of traffic. But of course, now we don’t even have those commuting peaks because of what happened with COVID. And everybody’s travel patterns are so much different. Um, yeah. So, you know, there was a moment when there was a lot of optimism, and I think that’s part of the Portland biking story. It’s certainly part of the bikeportland story is the first several years of this site when I was doing all these things, and posting all these stuff. And ite just felt like there was this cultural moment, that was super exciting. I think I felt like we would get there, I felt like we were on our way to having 30% mode share. I mean, it was just a foregone conclusion, in my mind. I mean, there was such optimism, I had such confidence. We had someone who was in the mayor’s office, who was a great bike champion, someone who I knew really well, and we did stuff with when the as they were coming up through the ranks, and they got elected mayor in 2008. And we thought, I mean, I thought and I think I sort of have always sort of reflected a lot of the community’s you know, feelings, and in a way, which is, it’s on like, we’re going to get there, we’re going to get 20% 30%. And then we’re gonna have something even more special than Copenhagen, and Amsterdam, because, you know, over there, they like to say, oh, biking is just like a vacuum cleaner. Everybody has one. And I always think that’s just super boring. You know, it’s too bad for them. They don’t have any creative, fun culture, they don’t celebrate cycling. And my thing was always, you know, Portland’s going to have both, we’re going to have the wonderful cultural celebrations of cycling and the fun around it, and all the community around it. And we’re going to have the mode split, to match those other places where you do leave your house and everybody’s on a bike. Unfortunately, it didn’t go that way. The culture has to a large degree has, you know, that moment is over. Our trajectory on mode split is certainly plateaued, if not, you know, stagnated plateaued and is dipped a little bit. So, you know, we find ourself in 2021 in a much different place than I would have expected if you talk to me in 2010.

Carlton Reid 32:57
Hmm, you talked about the 1970s and the 1980s. And carrying through into the 2000s,

Carlton Reid 33:05
for how bikeportland became or sorry, how Portland became a city that could then have a publication such as bike portland. But in my book, Bike Boom, I did talk about how there was you can almost go back to the 1880s 1890s. And and when the streets were first laid down in Portland, which, which is also a factor. So Portland is different to many other American cities because of its street structure.

Jonathan Maus 33:38
So right. Yeah, there are there, there are a lot of factors in that. And that’s true, that one of the coolest things about Portland is this map that I have in my kitchen, I’ve got a I’ve also got down here in my office. It’s an 1896 map of cycling routes in Portland 1896. Produced by it was printed by a local bike club in 1896. That was, you know, almost two decades, maybe 15 years, at least, before the first car was sold in Portland, we had an established map that lists taverns, and everything, it’s got all the best routes, you know, the street I live on is almost right on that map in 1896, as a biking route. So yeah, and then that, that that same sort of grid, you know, was was further sort of, like, you know, solidified with the fact that we had a really strong streetcar network later than a lot of other cities did. And we never broke that grid. We’ve had a boundary around this city, in terms of how growth can happen. So a lot of the same progressive transportation stuff I talked about earlier. We also had very progressive land use policies and development policies. Something people around here is very, very proud of. And that meant, yes, that we had, for a long time, we had a grid of streets, relatively small blocks, you know, that means when I say a grid of streets, I mean you can get on a street and know it’s going to go across town without having to jog all around. So those things definitely helped. Helped or factored in to

Jonathan Maus 35:00
Making us sort of more of a bike city.

Jonathan Maus 35:04

Carlton Reid 35:07
yesterday, we had the IPCC

Carlton Reid 35:10
climate change report,

Carlton Reid 35:13
which has got to be heeded, one would hope, by world leaders. So you may have

Carlton Reid 35:23
thought that you’re not going to get that mode share till recently, but maybe with that report with Cop26, in Glasgow in November, with the world actually finally waking up to the fact that we have got to get rid of fossil fuel technology, electric cars, even if they came on stream, you know, in the next 20 to 30 years, and even if everybody went on to getting electric cars, which we know is pretty much a pipe dream anyway. But even if that didn’t happen, it still wouldn’t solve stuff. So we have got to change the way because we know transport is one of the you know, at least 25% of emissions is transport. And an awful lot of that is road transport. So are you now maybe more optimistic after news like yesterday that something could change? Or do you think people will absolutely bed down and the mode shares you’ve got now are pretty much the mode shares you’re gonna have in 20 years time?

Jonathan Maus 36:19
Yeah, I mean, it’s a mix, I am still optimistic that our mode change can tick back up, and we can, you know, kind of get back to that trajectory that I was so excited about back in the, you know, 2008, 2010 era. Absolutely, if I, if I wasn’t optimistic, it would be hard to continue doing bikeportland have gotta hold out some hope that we can get there. You know, and that gets back to part of the cultural mill you sort of Portland in Portlanders, is that there, there is a tremendous, deep will of activism here in people that, you know, don’t necessarily tune out in situations like this, but they turn out, they go out into the street, they form groups, they join activists in organisations and stuff like that. So I think the climate report is going to hit everybody, you know, everybody’s going to be solid for a few days here and figure out what they’re going to do. But I think ultimately, it’s going to, it’s going to definitely increase urgency of the pressure on local leaders to do stuff. And we’re getting close there. I think, you know, unfortunately, Portland has, in a lot of ways forgotten about cycling, it’s kind of a big thing that’s happened for the last decade, for various reasons, that, you know, the whole conversation around why Portland is sort of forgotten about cycling. But I think you know, it’s going to come back, you can’t keep it down. Cycling is it’s everybody has a bike in their garage here. They’re just waiting to use it, they’re waiting to dust it off and be given the chance to do it in a safe way, in a convenient way. And that’s not that’s not going to change, those bikes aren’t going to vanish. So people love doing love biking here, it’s always been a bike city, and always will be. But it’s going to take some shifts, right, we’re gonna have to not just keep striping, you know, unpainted unprotected bike lanes, while we continue to make driving as easy as it is and easier. We’ve got to actually, you know, do more stuff to discourage driving, which I think the city is doing and the region’s doing, they’re just not doing it fast enough. I think that’s the big new tension is the pace of change. You know, if I’m a politician, I could list off a tonne of things that I’m doing on to to make transport, you know, burn less emissions, a huge, long list, that would sound great. Unfortunately, it’s not enough, right. So it’s about pace of change, and activists and people on the ground want it to happen a lot faster than any politician I’ve seen, really has been willing to stand up and, you know, deem it so, so that

Carlton Reid 38:42
Hold that thought, if you’re if if I was gonna make you, the transport Commissioner, whatever the role would be that would knock heads together and would change. You know, somehow I was able to just know, maybe President Biden comes along and says right cities, you’re going to have to appoint

Carlton Reid 39:00
really good, green minded transport commissioners next week. And you amazingly, were freed because of what the things we’re going to talk about soon. To become that transport Commissioner, you weren’t able to do stuff you were able to boost bikeshare important. How would you do it? Give me your one, 5, 10 year plans, please?

Jonathan Maus 39:24
Well, I think I mean, there’s a lot of things. I mean, you know, there’s got to be a way to sort of up the speed with which we do projects we’ve already agreed to. If you’re talking about one year, five year 10 year, you know, we’ve got a lot the city has a lot of great projects in the pipeline that just are taking too long to get out onto the street for various reasons. And I think by political fiat, someone should be able to stand up and say, okay, whatever paperwork, you know, being problematic, whatever permitting is being problematic. We need to up the urgency on this new bike path or on this new road redesign because of climate change because this is urgent because it’s an emergency. So right there. You

Jonathan Maus 40:00
You could quit, you could speed up a lot of things were already doing. I mean, the other big thing is, you know, stop waiting for super expensive big capital projects and just do quicker things with, you know, concrete barricades. And you can easily go out, what I would do is just do an audit of the central city, let’s say and some of the all the different town centre notes. So even out further away from the central city, audit, the bigger streets, everywhere, we don’t need the excess capacity for driving, of which there are dozens and hundreds of lane miles of just streets that we allow people to drive in that become de facto no go zones, if you’re on a bike, because you’re afraid, you could just stick those into a database, spit out a report. And then you go over to those streets, and you’ve got 1000s of concrete barriers, and you just start, start laying them out and you create mobility lanes, we have to get away from thinking of bike lanes, and, you know, transit, we need to make mobility lanes, in addition to transit lanes, but let’s say mobility lanes, where it’s people walking, it’s it’s scooters, and any other electric device that’s out there. Hoverboards, you know, one wheels, you know, self balancing, unicycles, electric bikes, bikes, there are so many new vehicle types that are just waiting to be used, that aren’t bikes and aren’t walking in our cars, we need to find space, so you you cordoned off a bunch of lane miles of road all around the city, with with concrete barriers, again, that’s a central right now the city is still painting, they’re still painting bike lanes with no protection, that those are useless, people will not use those. And or they put out plastic posts, which are almost useless, and people run into them. And they’re doing, they don’t look nice. And those don’t inspire people either. What inspires people is concrete, you need actual physical barriers. So if we created the whole network of those, and we were strategic about connecting residential areas to destination areas, you would see a massive amount of people get out and start riding. And once people start riding and walking and using their scooters, then you can just basically do whatever you want, because you have this sort of constituencies there. And then the politics changes, right, then you have a lot of people who are worried about taking space away from drivers, all that goes away. And we just we haven’t done those things. And I’m convinced if we even did one of them, if we did one physically protected, really convenient direct route from a major residential area to a major work and destination area, it would, it would just make advocating for the stuff so much easier, because I can guarantee that it would be flooded with people that weren’t driving, it would give everybody something to look at point to and say, See, that’s what we’ve been yelling and screaming about all these years. And that you the city have been so timid and so afraid to do for a long list of reasons, oh, your engineer sake, it doesn’t work. Oh, the drivers will be mad. Oh, the business associations were all these things, all those who melt away? And people go, Oh, I’m absolutely assured of that. And it’s frustrating that, you know that that still hasn’t happened. I mean, a lot of times, you know, I’m definitely I’m definitely a journalist and a media person first and foremost. But the every time I talk about this, I get so frustrated. And I just think Gosh, what maybe I should just go full, full bore into, you know, joining an advocacy crew for something because it makes me so mad. But I also think it’s important to have someone independent and have media so that so so that’s where I am.

Carlton Reid 40:12
Mmm, and let’s get on to that. But first of all, let’s go across to David, who will talk about our show sponsor, take it away, David.

David Bernstein 43:21
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Carlton Reid 44:46
Thanks, David. And we are back with Jonathan Maus, and Jonathan is now going to talk about I’m gonna ask him about the good news that he told his his newsletter recipients last week.

Carlton Reid 45:00
So Jonathan you’ve had an investment.

Jonathan Maus 45:02
Okay, yeah, 16 years in, and I’ve got my first seed funding. So funny. But yeah, so I got, I guess I basically sold part of bikeportland. So through all these years, I basically made this thing survive with smoke and mirrors, it’s never really afforded me the ability to pay myself much at all, or, you know, do any of the stuff like have retirement or any kind of health insurance or that sort of thing. So, finally, you know, I had someone in the community step up after I made a mention of an enewsletter, about how I wanted to invest in some new things to do video and other other things, but I couldn’t afford the equipment. So somebody long story short, stepped up and said, hey, how much do you How much do you need, and this is a wonderful person, that community who wants to support media that they think is pushing for the stuff they believe in, in this case, the person is, you know, really, like, like we said before, wants to, wants to take that, that that line up of, you know, fighting climate change, and getting more people to bike and, and all that stuff. So this person wanted to invest in by Portland, because, hey, they know that operations like like bikeportland, basically can’t survive otherwise. And it’s true. You know, without this investor,

Jonathan Maus 46:14
I don’t know if I would even be talking to you today. I mean, it gets, in some ways, it gets better and more exciting and easier to keep going every year, because you’ve been around so long. But in but in other ways, and other real sort of real life ways. It became harder and harder for me to justify, basically my life’s work without, without enough compensation, without enough financial security, and without enough ability to build it into what I want to build it to. I mean, when I was going back and forth with my investor, all he was doing was talking about things I wanted to do for the site. And at one point, I remember, you know, I think you mentioned something and basically was kind of trying to needle me a little bit and say, I think there’s something else here. And I and I was honest, and said, there is something else there. And that’s the fact that you know, I need to get a raise, and I need to make sure that my family can can breathe a little easier, and that my wife doesn’t have to be, you know, wondering what the hell I’m doing all the time, you know, devoting so much of my life to this to this work. So that’s part of it, too. And so now it’s up. Now that’s the fun part, fun and hard part had sort of a honeymoon of being excited about it. That’s, that’s already blown over. I’m actually now I’m in the phase of really trying to build and trying to do right, by that investment and take Bike Portland sort of to its next next chapters.

Carlton Reid 47:35
So that investor is Mike Perham.

Jonathan Maus 47:39
Yeah, so So. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 47:41
So he’s made his money from software development. And I looked on it on Twitter, you’ve got called Sidekick means the things I don’t know about, but I’m sure people who are into into certain types of software know what Sidekick is, I think he was saying he’s just got his 100 millionth download. Yeah. So he’s, he’s was he he appears to be from his life profile. He appears to be like a transportation cyclist. Yeah. So he’s, he was basically a reader of yours?

Jonathan Maus 48:08
Yeah, Mike’s been a reader for a while he’s, he’s funded the site in the past, you know, he would, he was he was a person who I kind of knew from Twitter, and I just seen his name and email or two. And then he would, he would send a cheque in just randomly out of the blue, you know, pretty sizable cheque. And I always do a double take and be like, wow, this Mike guy really loves the site. This is fantastic. Let me send them, you send them a postcard say thank you.

Jonathan Maus 48:30
And so we really, you know, we really aligned. I mean, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t work with just any investor, for sure. And but you know, Mike, he was just sort of perfect. I mean, we really aligned. He’s an open source software person, he, he never got into the software biz to make a tonne of money. He did it because he loved it. And he wanted to help people do things. And it just so happens that, you know, some of the software he wrote was very, very useful to a number of people. And it’s been it’s valuable. So there you go, he made enough money now where he wants to help help the things that he that he loves. And yeah, I’ll, I’ll never forget when he just said to me, you know, he knew he knows that. He knows what Bike Portland is going through. He’s also a newsie. He’s a news junkie. And he understands that, you know, for instance, in America, well, even even where you live, Carlton, there are a lot of people that fund the media. And depending on who has the most money, a lot of times that media is going to be stronger, it’s going to be able to spread its message more in America, we have a huge problem with that, you know, disinformation and media that’s very partisan. And Mike intentionally wanted to put money into media for that reason, because he knows without without his help, bikeportland couldn’t survive, because there’s just no model for for what bikeportland does. It doesn’t make sense financially. And I’ve I’ve certainly felt that that’s one of the reasons why I was getting to a point of very high stress because all of our advertising is gone. You know, that that’s all goes to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook or or, you know, wherever local businesses are putting their money these days, they’re not spending money on bikeportland like they used to, and so we’ve had to rely on

Jonathan Maus 50:00
individuales subscribers, which is great. But that’s if you want to build a business. And you don’t have the ability to have 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of subscribers, which is kind of a chicken and egg. I mean, people want to see really great content and really, really amazing things from the media provider in order for them to subscribe, but you can’t create that stuff unless you have a lot of money to have reporters. And, you know, so it’s chicken and egg. So, you know, I couldn’t rely just on our great subscribers. So something had to give and take it was Mike, it was Mike. Mike had to get so yeah.

Carlton Reid 50:30
Is Mike hands on or hands off?

Jonathan Maus 50:32
Mike is hands off Absolutely. You know, we we talked, we talked really carefully about that. He he he doesn’t have any, there’s no return technically, right that he has to get, he does own a share of the bike of the pedal town media stuff, which is our parent company, he does own a share of the company. But there’s no sort of like, you know, number that he has to get back technically, in order to you know, where he’s going to pull out kind of thing. So

Jonathan Maus 50:59
he wants to see change happen. He trusts me, because he knows Bike Portland, and he knows what I’ve been putting into it all these years. And we’re just gonna have to see, you know, where that goes to see does he re up. And you know, the next when the year comes up, I’ve already had a conversation with another investor that you know, Mike and I’ve talked about, so someone else after they saw the news about the bikeportland getting an equity investment, someone else in the community stepped up and said, Hey, I’m interested. So I’ve been talking to that person. So it’s, it’s a different, it’s a different era for bikeportland. Now I’m trying to, I’m talking to people to help with the site and do different things. I’ve hired someone to do to do some stuff. And I’ve got a freelance budget. And I’ve upped our game in some other ways. And it’s just going to be a continuation of that now, including the site redesign, despite Yes,

Jonathan Maus 51:48
although, that was another person who was a bit nervous, I probably was a really great web web person who’s who’s does all my tech stuff in my WordPress design. And I was able to email him and say, Hey, you don’t have to worry about the big upgrade and redesign now because we’re good for it.

Jonathan Maus 52:03
And then tell us about the hires than that you’ve made. So because it’s pretty I mean, when I was, you can hear my dog. Sorry, When, when, when I was last in Portland you had Michael was doing, like, reporting for you. So have you got somebody like Michael?

Carlton Reid 52:19
Not really, I have a different person. There’s nobody really like Michael, he’s moved on. Now. That’s gonna be the next person I’m going to be looking for. But what I’ve done is I’ve hired someone named Maritza Arango. She’s really fantastic. The first person I ended up hiring was someone to do like events. So events editor is the position and it’s someone who is, you know, making sure our calendar, our events calendar is full with all the penalties, events, and all the other things that are going on. Because I think a Community Calendar is a real value add that, like Portland can provide. This is a calendar that has, you know, everything on and not just bike rides, but advocacy meetings and everything. So that’s one of her main tasks. But Maritza has also been doing like some social media stuff, and she’s helping me with some of the design things. So yeah, I’m just trying to hire you know, smart people that can that can add value to the site and take some load off me and thinking about everything and having to do everything on my own. But the next hire, I think the big one that’s really going to change the game is going to be more of like an editor position, someone who can be a reporter who knows the issue pretty well, who can go out, get a story, talk to people, you know, do do real reporting. I mean, that’s, that’s always been sort of the bread and butter in some ways of bikeportland is that we can actually do real reporting, that that compares that and competes and compares with the local, the other local media outlets, you know, for our topic for these mobility, and transportation topics. So, you know, when I can find someone like that, if I can find someone like that, that’s going to be huge, because that takes as you know, doing reporting, and doing it right and meeting people’s expectations, which after 16 years are really, really high, Bike Portland really can’t make mistakes. And Bike Portland, you know, people just expect a certain depth, but it’s increasingly difficult to deliver on that depth. If it’s just me, because you know, my, I have a million other things, I need to do that with the site and managing things. So the ability to you know, talk to five sources for an article and, and take a day or two to write something which you know, for most reporters, they’ll take a week probably to do a story if not longer, but my average is probably an hour or two. So that doesn’t really, that doesn’t really work. When when you have the committee looking at you saying, Hey, we really want to, you know, change the narrative, we need you to hold this group accountable. And this agency accountable, that takes work and it’s going to take finding someone and paying them a good rate to keep them around. So once Lincoln have someone like that, it’s going to really, really up our game and change things a lot.

Carlton Reid 54:35
So when you’re talking about some of the things that you think you were doing there, I was thinking like the UK context, and that is we’ve got like, advocacy organisations like in Cambridge cycling campaign, for instance, would be the second biggest campaigning org in the UK and then you’ve got the London cycling campaign again. So it’s all of the things that you’re doing will be coalesced

Carlton Reid 55:00
To bodies with with a reasonable number of volunteers for a start, and then paid staff members, both those organisations have got paid staff members. And it’s like an advocate. They don’t need a Jonathan Maus to hold them together. You know, they they kind of exist above and beyond, you know, a person. So is that something that you think

Carlton Reid 55:29
bikeportland can grow into?

Carlton Reid 55:30
I’m not saying for any second that you’re going to be disappearing, and going away, but just is that written is it needs if this is going to continue in 50 years time? It needs to be not just you?

Jonathan Maus 55:43
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I definitely see that that’s what I want to for not just reasons of my own, you know, mental and physical health, but, um, because of who I am, I mean, I’m a white middle aged homeowner, got, you know, I’m just like this classic person who has sort of, you know, controlled and handled things for a long time. And that is really limiting. That puts up some red flags for me in terms of like, what’s like Portland’s perspective? How do we make decisions about what we cover and how we cover? And that’s limiting? So that’s another big reason why I do actually want to not be as involved. And yeah, it would be great if I could, you know, right now I have my eyes really on you’re 20. I’ve always, I’ve always been this way I was I was really looking forward to your 10. We had a big party, it was a real momentous thing. We launched I think we launched our subscription programme at 10. I forgetting now. But anyway, we all have always had these milestones and 10 was a huge one for me, we got there and we push through 15 was not quite as exciting just because it’s not as round of a number. But the 20 year mark is going to be or I should say, 2020, you know, the 20 year mark of doing this, which would be I guess, 2025. So your 20 is going to be a big thing for me. And I’m really already looking at that as saying, okay, that’s when everything is going to be in the vision that I have right now in terms of what bikeportland is, and I hope by that time, I’m definitely just like, you know, this old codger in the background, who’s, you know, maybe writing an opinion every now and again, or blasting some agency, but I’d love to just see it, you know, being great and happening, you know, without me at that point.

Carlton Reid 57:11
Like a Mark Sani type figure, if anybody who doesn’t know Mark Sani, he’s like the guy that co founded bicycle retailer, the trade magazine in the US, and now just write a grumpy old column in the back

Jonathan Maus 57:22
or do something else. I mean, there’s so many other things to do, you know, I’ve got I’ve got my kids and my family and stuff. I’ve never just have not given enough attention to compare to this this work. So you know, that’s another that’s another big part of it. I’ll have probably grandkids by then. So.

Carlton Reid 57:37
So in year 20, which is four years away, is that right? Yeah. How old would you be?

Jonathan Maus 57:45
Oh, let’s see. I’d be 50 years old.

Carlton Reid 57:48
Oh, that’s a big milestone. So that’s like a 50. And a.

Jonathan Maus 57:52

Carlton Reid 57:53
okay. Yeah, I can I can see why.

Jonathan Maus 57:55

  1. Yeah, it just hit me as I said that, too. So shoot, I’ve got I’ve got for four years now to really get this thing dialled in. So the clock is ticking.

Carlton Reid 58:06
That’s cool. So tell us about apart from the hire that you made, and maybe the changes cuz you’ve got a podcast now. So your your competition all of a sudden. So tell us about the podcast? what’s what’s going to be on the podcast? How often is going to come out? What are you doing?

Jonathan Maus 58:24
Yeah, so the Bike Portland podcast, we actually had one back in, I believe, is 2015 2016, you know, couple dozen episodes. When I had Michael Anderson and Lillian Karabaic, another friend was producing it. For us. It was It was great. I thought we had a good podcast, but they moved on. And kind of the story bikeportland is I didn’t have sort of the money and the ability to keep them around and sort of pay them. So they moved on to doing other great things. And I just had to let the podcast just, you know, phase out. So here I am trying to restarting it. So last month, I restarted it back on my own. And in the meantime, of course, there’s lots of new tools. And the sort of delivery methods of podcasts have gotten a lot easier and better. And everybody’s doing it, of course now. So I relaunched it. And it’s been really great. I’m starting out by just interviewing folks in the community that I think are interesting, or have something important that needs to be shared. But that’s not where I see it going. I’d like to say do it much more often. I’d love to do it once a week. At this point, I’m probably maybe twice a month, hopefully. But what I want to see it evolve into is more of a news oriented podcast and less of a just interview podcast. And again, I don’t see myself as necessarily having to be the host. I’ve already talked to Maritza. She may do one. She’s from Bogota. She’s a native Spanish speaker. So I was hoping that she could maybe interview someone in Spanish. So it’s open to anybody that works for bikeportland. So it won’t always be me doing interviews. I kind of started with that just because it was comfortable and sort of easy for me to just talk to people and record it. But this news podcast is something I’ve really been thinking about a lot in terms of a vision where I want to share original audio, think of it like, I don’t know if you watch I mean, it’s more not necessarily a BBC style, more of like more of one of the cable news shows and in America like maybe Rachel Maddow

Jonathan Maus 1:00:00
Or something where, let’s say I would do an intro, but then I would share audio of like a local press conference or other local newsmaker saying something in a meeting meeting. And then I could, you know, comment, comment on that, and then maybe bring in a guest of recent news, and we would talk about that. So it’d be something that was definitely more relevant in terms of its timeliness, like something that happened a day or two, before we could record something, and the podcast would be more of a news podcast with no more analysis is something that just happened, that to me would be really the ultimate dream. And, and I think that really reflects kind of like some of my visions for bikeportland. In general, I mean, right now, with the amount of tools and how easy they are to use, and just the sort of digital publishing, you know, continuing revolution, all these 15 years, it’s so exciting, because I don’t think it would be that difficult for bikeportland to do, you know, live reporting, you know, remote broadcasts from places or, or even just, you know, turning around news stories and doing video of them. I mean, all that stuff’s really not that far away, it’s pretty close for even an outfit like bikeportland, with our extremely limited budget to do, once you have sort of that minimal equipment buy in, and you got enough skilled people to do it. I mean, you know, with Instagram, live, Facebook Live, right, all these different places to, you know, use our YouTube channel has about, you know, I think around four or 500 subscribers now. So that’s another channel for us, we can put that stuff out there, you know. So that’s what’s exciting to me right now about Bike Portland is that we’ve spent 16 years building all these different platforms. And now there’s the equipment and sort of ease of producing this kind of content, I think is improved so much. And it’s so exciting. Now, we seem to go out there and get the news and figure out how to package it in a way that’s really interesting and compelling and different, and sort of continues to like meet and exceed what people expect from bikeportland. If we do that, I think it can be a super exciting next couple of years.

Carlton Reid 1:01:48
And one of the strengths you’ve always had has been your fantastic photography. So I’ve always been impressed by the photographs you have on your site, and not just the photographs, but also like the galleries of photographs, you’re not just having one, you know, killer photograph, you can then dig down and get loads of photographs.

Jonathan Maus 1:02:05
I appreciate that. Thanks. Um, I mean that that was an intentional thing. I mean, I realised from an early, early, early time, and by Portland, that photographs was something that I can compete on, right, my Portland could actually compete with anyone on photography, I won’t say anyone sorry. I, you know, Reuters, and, you know, AP photographs and war zones, obviously. I mean, I’m still like, you know, sort of an amateur. But for the most part on the topic that we were, that we cared about in the community that bikeportland covers, we had images that impressed people and excited people. And I knew because I’ve been on the internet a very long time, and I understand how the internet works. If you do that kind of content, you have to impress people, people have to look at your stuff and go, Oh, that’s, that’s better. And I know that that’s different. That’s no one’s doing that. And no one was doing the type of photography of bike culture that bikeportland was doing when we first started doing it, right. So that was like an intentional thing that I realised, wow, this is how we can sort of stand and get people’s respect, and have people consider us as a real authoritative, you know, place for news. And that’s Yeah, now I’m trying to basically replicate what I did with still photographs I’m trying to do in audio content, whether it’s a podcast or otherwise, I’m trying to do that with video I’m trying to make, you know, news videos and other videos are helpful to the same level that we did our photographs so that people are impressed by them. And I think, you know, if, if I was able to do that, it’s gonna be pretty fantastic. We’re gonna keep people around. And as you know, the competitive environment online is extreme. It’s nothing like it was when I started when bikeportland started, we were really the only game in town on this topic. I mean, if you want to cool pictures of bike culture, and bike news and stuff, like be counted by Portland, that’s also why a lot of businesses gave us money to advertise, which they don’t know. And the competitive environments a lot different. Now everybody’s got their, you know, social media feeds with a lot of great content. So you’ve really got to, you’ve really got to bring it and that was kind of part of my pitch to to my to any investor, including Mike was like, Hey, you know, we’re competing with people’s established social media networks, where they’re seeing amazing videos and photographs from all their friends. How are we going to differentiate and add value to the community? If we don’t have great equipment, great reporters, super smart people on the cutting edge of what’s going on, we’re gonna have to deliver that to keep people around. And, you know, by pointless nothing if there’s no people around. So that’s what we do.

Carlton Reid 1:04:23
Jonathan, that’s been fascinating. Thanks very much. At this point in the show, I normally say, you know, where can people get in touch with you? What what’s, you know, websites, and we’ve been talking about that throughout the show. Is there anything where we could we could I mean, maybe your personal because you’re on Twitter as in your personal capacity as well as bikeportland. Yeah, so yeah, so this gives a bit give us a few places where they can get get your stuff.

Jonathan Maus 1:04:49
Well, people can most of the most personal stuff I do is on I was on twitter at @Jonathan_mas. So Jonathan underscore maus on Twitter is a good place

Jonathan Maus 1:05:00
to find some of my my stuff and it’s not personal, I don’t do a lot of dogs and family stuff. I do kind of keep it to the topic even on there. So I don’t do a lot of personal stuff online. I don’t do really Facebook or Instagram much personally because I don’t know it’s kind of like the cobbler, you know, has the worst cobblers family has the worst shoes, you know, like I’m on line all day. And so I don’t feel like doing that on my personal level.

Jonathan Maus 1:05:22
That’s the way to find me.

Carlton Reid 1:05:25
Thanks to Jonathan Maus there. And thanks to you for listening to the Spokesmen cycling podcast, show notes and more can be found on Our next show is a half hour chat with the founders of the upscale LeBlanq joy rides. That will be with you next week. But meanwhile, get out and ride

August 1, 2021 / / Blog

1st August 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 278: Genetically redundant at 40: The Midlife Cyclist with Phil Cavell


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Phil Cavell

TOPICS: Talking with Cyclefit’s Phil Cavell, author of “The Midlife Cyclist.”


“The Midlife Cyclist,” by Phil Cavell.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 278 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday, 1st August 2021.

David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the- And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:09
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to today’s episode of the Spokesmen Cycling podcast brought to you in association with Jenson USA. Today’s show is a chat with Cyclefit’s co-founder Phil Cavell. We talk at length about his new and rather excellent book, the Midlife Cyclist. What’s it about? Grow old. Get fast. Don’t die, says a snappy line on the back cover. Now, I’m definitely midlife — the book defines that as plus-40 by the way — but I’m by no means an athlete so the book’s not aimed directly at me but I still discovered loads, including why pedalling circles – that’s often known by the French word souplesse — is cycling’s version of the flat earth theory. Here’s our chat.

Carlton Reid 2:15
I have got two pages of questions to ask you. Normally I don’t I kind of do free flowing stuff, I just do stuff off the top of my head. And but your book was fascinating. And I have made copious notes that i i would admit, I did get two books in the post very kindly, and one I have absolutely slaughtered with blue ink, which is terrible of me to mark a book. But it was fascinating and and we will get onto your book in a second because this is what we want to talk about stuff today. But before we do any of that, I just wanna ask you a bit about you and where you’ve you’ve come from so before we get to your your absolute expertise, let’s go backwards. And if it’s okay with you, when when we go through the chronology, before we even getting into your book, I would quite like to go into your crash, your spinal injury, and then from from what it said in the book, or what you read in the book was that was a big impetus for writing the book. So that’s that’s absolutely

Carlton Reid 3:22
something I think we ought to talk about with your permission. But first of all, I think

Carlton Reid 3:29
I would like to ask you about your second name. So are you by any chance related to Edith Cavell who obviously was a famous nurse in the First World War?

Phil Cavell 3:40
Yes, allegedly. According to my father

Carlton Reid 3:46
So, potentially great, great something?

Phil Cavell 3:52
My great great grandfather’s aunt allegedly — I’ve never done the family tree, Carlton.

Phil Cavell 4:01
So I’m qualifying in there but my father was an

Phil Cavell 4:06
honest, decent person. I don’t think he would have misled us. And apparently there’s not many Cavell’s in the country and we’re all related. Apparently

Carlton Reid 4:17
Yes. It’s an unusual name so that’s why I’ve got Smith it’s like well, you may be you are

Carlton Reid 4:24
either, okay. Yes. Yes. Okay. So that’s something I’ve never asked you and I have known you fell for probably the best part of 30 years. And even before so you are known for cycle fit. Okay. People will will will absolutely know Phil Cavell

Carlton Reid 4:41
and your and your partner Julian — Jules — for cycle fit. But I knew you before that. So I knew you. When this is very late zeitgeisty now to have bike parking. That’s, you know, recognised thing. It’s good thing to have bike parking for people to

Carlton Reid 5:00
To protect their bikes, but that’s what you did. Is that how you got into the industry into this fear by doing that Covent Garden bike park?

Phil Cavell 5:09
Yes, at the age of I was 30 and Jules was 29. I was in the music industry before that, and I’m I’d always made an intention to get out in the music industry. By the time I was 30. I was already racing bikes. At that I’m losing I were racing together, we raced all together. And at 28, 29 I got out the music industry, and we started Bike Park, which is very much our baby really. And so we rented this little building around the back of where we are now in Stukely Street and we rented it for a princely sum of £6000 per annum and we converted it with our extremely good friend Guy Andrews who then went on to found the Rouleur magazine empire. At the time Guy was between jobs, we were all between jobs. The three of us converted the space

Phil Cavell 6:11
that we rented in about three months all by hand. And Guy Andrews was the site foreman, he was Captain Manwairing

Phil Cavell 6:20
Also was,

Phil Cavell 6:21
was a bit I think it was a bigger one, the Scottish was always

Phil Cavell 6:25
saying “we’re doomed., Captain” Jules and I was unfamiliar…. And we just converted it ourselves. And then we it was just all was all one of those things that all you thought through all emotion and tension. And then we open seven o’clock in the morning to 11 o’clock at night, seven days a week.

Carlton Reid 6:46
Would it be fair to say it was ahead of its time and it failed?

Phil Cavell 6:50
Well, you know, it’s the other way around, it failed.

Phil Cavell 6:57
Probably ahead of its time.

Phil Cavell 7:01
Remember, because at the time John Smith had just died, the Labour leader, it was all it was, it was your word is right, as I guide it, you know, John Smith died, I think a couple of days before we opened. Labour leader, it was a very strange times coming out of recession early 90s is a bizarre time.

Phil Cavell 7:21
We I mean, I think I think it’s true to say that cycling, we hadn’t thought right way, when or a little wave, you know, lots of careers.

Phil Cavell 7:29
Lots of people cycling around London, but it’s all based on how inexpensive some works rather than how healthy works. And so we report the wrong wave had we done it to 10 years later, when we did the cycle that we probably would have bought the right wave.

Phil Cavell 7:46
I think that’s true to say, having said that, we didn’t

Phil Cavell 7:51
know I had been

Phil Cavell 7:54
on a lifestyle. All we wanted to do was rate up bikes. And you know, it was very much London cycling based so we didn’t need much money. So we kept going for 9, 10 years.

Phil Cavell 8:04
And you know, we kind of got by on repairing bikes, renting bikes, parking, bike parking, but it didn’t make any money.

Phil Cavell 8:15
You know, it was it was great, actually. It was brilliant.

Carlton Reid 8:18
So we will we will organically come onto Cyclefit just when we when we when we go through your books. We don’t need to go from Bikepark to Cyclefit.

Carlton Reid 8:27
right now. Although absolutely, I totally want to. But I’d like to go straight into your book. Phil and I am going to be quoting snuff back to you. I’m going to be going from like page to page to page even going to like a one point I’m going to three page references at once to pick stuff that that you have repeated. And I thought that’s interesting. I’m going to ask Phil about that. So this is called “The Midlife Cyclist, the roadmap for the +40 rider.” And before we go into into the gubbins of it, and I should say the subhead is who wants to the plus for the rider who wants to train hard, ride fast and stay healthy, but you’ve got some absolutely stellar blurbs on here. So on the front, Phil Liggett says an amazing accompanied verb and I have descended behind Phil, he has an unbelievable early good. downhiller, which you do talk about going downhill in your book quite a lot. I always thought about Phil, when you were talking about that. And then you’ve got Fabian Cancellara. Now, I’m assuming and in fact, I’m not assuming because in the book it says so. So Fabian was a client. So you helped him?

Phil Cavell 9:32
Yes, we joined we sort of in-house bike fitters to Trek from 2012 onwards. So we came there probably the same time that we came to in the same time as Fabian actually, and Andy Schleck.

Phil Cavell 9:49
Radio Shack and the team was very much in transition later to become

Phil Cavell 9:55
Trek factory racing, Trek Sega-fredo so we sort of saw it through those transition period.

Phil Cavell 10:00
We all came together in

Phil Cavell 10:03

  1. Yeah. So we were all fresh in the team. And so we we drove out to the first holding camp training camp in Kalk Bay where we were introduced the theme and became a sort of in house bike fitter to the next four years, and Fabien was one of those.

Carlton Reid 10:23
So there are a few pro cyclists in the book, but mainly it’s not really about pro cycling, is it? It’s mainly about

Carlton Reid 10:31
hardcore amateur cyclists. But you know, who pushed themselves perhaps you do talk about this, perhaps they’re, they push themselves a little bit too hard. And then another quote on the book, which then jumped out to me, and I think I did remember that this guy was a cyclist, but I had to kind of google it just to make sure that’s Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet, who says “I’m determined to grow old gracefully in Lycra. And Phil Cavell has been helping me to do it successfully for years.” So you’ve got a pretty interesting clientele list there.

Phil Cavell 11:01
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. I mean, Gary, I would have met in our music industry days because a very, very close friend of mine was his agent. And I mean, it’s not one of those separation of lives, we just, you know, we only really met and became friends and professionally acquainted, if you like, when I stepped out the music industry and went into the bike industry. And so yeah, I, he’s always been a client for many years as as as his as his wife.

Phil Cavell 11:32
Yeah, so we’ve helped them by fixing issues and things that come up when you keep a middle aged cyclist on the road. So we don’t call it a riding together as well. And when I think Gary looked phenomenal, and I think he really, he really is, is it I think, for me an exemplar of what cycling and for somebody, if they take it up at the right time and do it properly. Isn’t fantastic.

Phil Cavell 11:56
And there are other other 80s music people who are our clients as well. And it’s like, bewildering how good they look. You know, it really is they look amazing. They, you know, they they’ve aged very gracefully, they’re very slim, very fit, and very strong.

Phil Cavell 12:18
I think Gary is an examplar of that.

Carlton Reid 12:20
So an example of this also for the whole book is the quote right at the bottom of the back cover, and that I love this quote. And that’s so that this is what the whole book is about. Basically, it’s it “Grow old.” Period, full stop. “Get fast.” Lovely. Not for me, and then “Don’t die.” So that’s pretty good thing to live by there Phil?

Phil Cavell 12:43
Do you know I’m so pleased you’ve picked that out.

Phil Cavell 12:46
I love that. And I wanted it on the front. And I said, you know, we will put in the cover in the property as well. I’d like this right on a couple of days, right underneath midlife cycles. I want him to be letters. Gold, right? fast. Okay, fast. And I that’s what I want. You can’t do that. Have I on the cover of the book? If you can, so I didn’t get it on the cover.

Phil Cavell 13:09
That’s my that’s my thing. That’s what I said. That’s my very, very small elevator pitch.

Carlton Reid 13:15
Yes, I can understand that. And the “get die” bit, of course, is chapter three. As you say in our emails, the infamous chapter three, the don’t die chapter, which is long, and detailed and fascinating. And you said it’s like, you know, going down rabbit holes. I don’t think it is I think it’s fantastic. I particularly like the first paragraph, but we’ll get into that when we when we I’m going to I’m slipping, you know, non chronologically around the place at the moment, but we will come kind of like chronologically into the book

Carlton Reid 13:48
as we go through. But I would like to say as as you gave me kindly gave me permission. You said I was allowed to talk or get you to reminisce which which can be painful. So 2011. How did you crash?

Phil Cavell 14:02
I was riding home from work and I I hit a pothole

Phil Cavell 14:10
in front of it. I didn’t see it. It was a bicycle lane.

Phil Cavell 14:15
And it’s really encapsulates some of my other interests of something advocacy that the bike lane wins into a lane bus stop. And the bus stop was kind of like tiled where the cycle track went into the bus stop. There was a pothole where the tiles move. I didn’t see it. It was so sharp. And I ended up somersaulting over my bike and landing pretty much in the bus shelter, and it was one of those beautiful British moments where no one said a word when I lay there panting like a beached dolphon. Eventually I have to kind of say, “excuse me, I’m in a lot of problems

Phil Cavell 14:55
Can anybody please call an ambulance?”

Phil Cavell 14:57
At which point someone said “Yeah, no problem, man.”

Phil Cavell 15:00
They called me an ambulance and the ambulance came.

Phil Cavell 15:03

Phil Cavell 15:05
I’d really i’d hurt myself quite badly, although that wasn’t immediately diagnosed at the hospital, but I’d actually fractured my spine in a bad place in a particularly acute and extreme way. And

Phil Cavell 15:20
that’s started a chain of events that culminated in surgery that failed.

Phil Cavell 15:26
surgery that failed and a subsequent infection, and

Phil Cavell 15:31
really just trying to get

Phil Cavell 15:34
back was to resolve

Phil Cavell 15:39
all the time while my spine was getting worse and deteriorating, and the area that was

Phil Cavell 15:48
collapsing on itself, if you like, and then subsequently, so I can cycle through the theory of cycling, I was still working on and off.

Phil Cavell 16:00
I couldn’t find one then after I had more surgery in 2017.

Phil Cavell 16:06
Which was a much more serious nature, but it was what’s called 360 degree surgery. So they go through the front.

Phil Cavell 16:14

Phil Cavell 16:16
like, spaces in your spine, and then they go through the back and, join all that with much bigger surgery. But it was spectacularly successful. And really, you know, even though it kind of worked. So I’ve now got big scaffolding poles and

Phil Cavell 16:32
spacers in my spine.

Phil Cavell 16:35
So you know, mobility is not a very, you know, there’s a lot of structure there. Am I going into too much detail now, Carlton?

Carlton Reid 16:42
No, no, no, you’re going to the some of that detail in the book. And so it’s not. So that’s fascinating. Thank you. And we didn’t you didn’t talk about the crash, the crash was, you didn’t even mention how it happened or any of that. So I wanted to dig down into more detail on that. So yeah, that’s that’s that sounds awful. And the fact nobody’s helping you a great deal was sounds awful, too. So it was until page 254, where you mentioned, this was the impetus for writing the book and the fact that you are fixing in your day job, you are fixing broken cyclists. But here you were incredibly broken, and weren’t even riding at this point for a good few years. So that must have been awful for your your mental health.

Phil Cavell 17:24
I think you’d probably look in retrospect, I think it was often Yes, I think it was I didn’t acknowledge it at the time. And

Phil Cavell 17:32
if you ask my wife, she would say, lost seven or eight years, from 2011 to 2017, 2018 when I have this second seizure.

Phil Cavell 17:46
Yes, so I was having to work with cyclists. I’d kind of at that point, to be honest with you, I had written myself off as a cyclist. And my goals were to try and, and live without pain, not to ride a bike again, that was the sort of what that was, those were my immediate goals. And the way I earned my living was by helping cyclists, so you had to be separation to state and there really is not for me anymore. You know, it’s, you know, I can derive a lot of satisfaction from doing my job. Well.

Phil Cavell 18:18
And, and did you know, and I managed to do that. So I managed to sort of function.

Phil Cavell 18:26
My function is to function efficiently my work even though it wasn’t something I could do anymore. It wasn’t something I used to discuss , you know, I feel it was something which I was vaguely embarrassed about really, you know, I was here I felt a little bit fraudulent on occasion, but this is, you know, I was trying to help him do something that I could no longer do anymore.

Carlton Reid 18:48
Thank you for for, for sharing that that’s a must have been both metaphorically and figuratively painful for a number of years, both physically and mentally.

Carlton Reid 19:00
So thank you for writing the book as the impetus for that. Also. Now, I’m not going to I’m going to pick out three quotes and throw them back at you. And I know where you’re coming from, I was a fantastic way of expressing this when I eventually read these quotes out because I’m a bicycle historian. So I’m absolutely cognizant of exactly what you’re, you’re talking about here, but I’m gonna I’m gonna read the quotes and then you can either defend yourself or not. So it’s basically about the the actual thing that we ride each day and and I think a historical thing called “path dependence,” which maybe we can we can we can talk about. So you say that you’ve spent the “better part of your professional life essentially fitting caveman and cavewoman to a Victorian curiosity.” And by that mean, we mean “that our genome is substantially unchanged in 250, 000 years

Carlton Reid 20:01
but a bicycle’s dynamics are only unchanged since the the Boer Wars,” you’re basically saying

Carlton Reid 20:10
we’re not really fitted for these weird Victorian contractions, that’s page 49, you know, I’ll then jump to page 63. So you’re basically dissing bicycles here. But anyway, “modern bicycles are almost identical in architecture, dimension and biomechanical interface to something that was designed around the same time as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.” And yeah, you kind of mention it. It is kind of weird that we’re riding these carbon fibre bicycles, that actually, the shapes haven’t changed a huge amount. And then page 202. Phil, “Despite how much we love them, bikes are a Victorian daydream preserved an aspect for well over a century because of a speciation event involving the UCI (union cycliste internationale) path dependence, and a huge dose of nostalgia.” Phil, why do you hate bike so much?

Phil Cavell 21:03
I think I say in a book, Carlton.

Phil Cavell 21:06
It’s good that you picked this up actually.

Phil Cavell 21:10
In the book, The bike is good enough, the design is big enough, the Victorians didn’t get that far wrong. Essentially, what I was saying is that the bicycle in a sense has got stuck in the Victorian era, because it’s failed to revise itself in the same way. And I think the example I use in the book is, you know, I’m staring down at QWERTY keyboard that was designed around the same time, Remington,

Phil Cavell 21:36

Phil Cavell 21:38
design around the same time to try and avoid the keys jamming; keys won’t jam any more because we still use a QWERTY keyboard. It’s like a path dependant,

Phil Cavell 21:49
or butterfly effect. We’re now living with the consequences of a failure to revise technology within the way that we interface with it is keyboard, also bicycle. What that means is, certainly with the keyboard, and also the bicycle are the best versions of themselves.

Phil Cavell 22:11
And the answer that almost certainly is no in both cases. The next question is

Phil Cavell 22:16
knowing, you know, because the bicycle is no longer

Phil Cavell 22:21
this version of itself, it’s a nostalgic device that we all love. And no one loves it more than make up and until you know them. It’s really, it’s just not the best version of itself. And the failure to revise it. It’s because of the speciation of and we’ve talked about in the book, where, you know, it’s the opportunity to revise it was kind of was missed.

Phil Cavell 22:44
So, the only reason in the book is one because it’s a lot of science and stuff in it. And now and again, it’s just nice to riff off in a different direction, it’s a bit less challenging. And also to be to add some context, in a lot of people that doesn’t feel great a lot of the time. And that part of the book is is in a sense, saying but that’s okay, you know, you rewrite not feel great some of the time, because, you know, humans didn’t evolve to ride this is our we’ve tried to do is fit something to you, which we think will take the potential into kinetic energy. Is that a rate translation device? No, enough? Of course it is. And because of the heritage and associations over the last 100 years, it’s now romantically, you know, kind of, you know, our DNA, it’s certainly a mine, and that’s fine. But, you know, we shouldn’t run away with the idea that bicycles are a modern, devised and honed over over centuries and decades. That isn’t the case. Cycling dynamics are exactly the same 130 years ago, as it is now, very, very different.

Carlton Reid 24:02
You make a very good point in the book about the UCI, if they had been if the UCI had been in existence in the 1880s, then very possibly, they would have frozen the bicycle at the pennyfarthing and said this is this is it, we you know, we can’t have any more

Carlton Reid 24:21
changes to this, we’ve got to every race on this thing. We can’t have, you know, even kind of even pneumatic tires. And that would have that would have had a path dependence in its own way that would have totally changed many parts of a world history. So kind of good that they didn’t exist. But with the same coronary, you then talk about when they did ban a product so that was when they banned in the 1920s when they banned the Egg recumbent so my question is, do you genuinely think that if the UCI didn’t exist and we’d have been able to design a bicycle in any way

Carlton Reid 24:59
and it could have kind of gone into any direction. Do you think we would all be on recumbents now?

Phil Cavell 25:04
No, that’s not really the point? That’s a good question. Not really the point because it’s not for me to say what would have come after it is only for me to say that nothing came after it. You know, there was an incident in the 20s when the UCI banned the Mochet bike by

Phil Cavell 25:20
that Francis Faure won the Egg record on in the 1920s.

Phil Cavell 25:26
Now it’s not, it’s not for me to say what would have come after, because what that event is, essentially is preserving aspect, what the basic architecture of bicycle is going to be.

Phil Cavell 25:39
I do think Mochet, if you look at Mochet, not much is known about him. But what what, what I would say is that his dream, and I do think he was ahead of his time, was to try and incorporate human power and mechanical power. So you know, the idea that you pedal a bit, and there’s a little electric motor that helps you out, his idea was to revolutionise transport, away from a heavy internal combustion engine, something that was a bit more fitting into a minimalist family life.

Phil Cavell 26:08
And we’ll probably circle right round and come back to that dream at some point, you know, we already kind of our electric filters and E bikes already coming around there, it’s just taken us a lot longer, I would suggest because there was this event froze the designer bicycle.

Phil Cavell 26:25
And it’s only they’re really out of contact with people, you know, not writing something, which is leading or cutting edge, in the sense, you know, of modern computers or, you know, or modern surgical devices, where, you know, maybe you’re designing with a little bit more freedom.

Phil Cavell 26:46
UCI describe what a racing bicycle is. And because competition and racing is so

Phil Cavell 26:53
influential, you can’t deviate from it. So you know, the price that we ride, the architecture is described by racing

Phil Cavell 27:03
formula, like,

Phil Cavell 27:05
and that’s what’s constrains it. Now. What What, what would be if we didn’t have those constraints? I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, yeah, yeah, I think recumbents have got some legs, like he ran over, he had some great ideas. You wouldn’t necessarily design a device, you spent most of your life in the same position as if you were actually in an office chair.

Carlton Reid 27:30
But isn’t there like,

Carlton Reid 27:33
there are ways of actually making the human body on a bicycle or a wheeled vehicle more efficient. And like the famous one is that the head first, where the person I’m sorry, I don’t know that the name and have to Google it, but is physically lying down forwards. The legs are coming backwards. There’s no being, as you say, in the book, constrained by, you know, this Victorian architecture, you’ve got the full gamut of movement, you’ve got to flex a bit, you’ve got everything there. It’s incredibly powerful. It’s incredibly fast because you’re low to the ground. But who the hell would ride it because your your your your forwards? So is it not the case that yes, the bicycle has absolute imperfections in the way we ride it and the way we’re constrained by riding it. But if it had been literally had been allowed to just explode into all sorts of different flavours, then it might have been some really weird flavours and the fact that we actually consolidated and froze it at what does this actually 95% perfect, let’s just keep it at that actually allowed bicycling to blossom.

Phil Cavell 28:38
I think. I think it probably allowed. Yes, bicycle racing is

Phil Cavell 28:45
it’s a game if you like, you know, it has rules. It’s like, you know, it’s like monopoly has rules and you play by the rules and you have an out winner. It’s like a racing is a game of bicycle is part of that game.

Phil Cavell 28:58
And it’s good enough. You’re talking about the Graeme Obree bike, I mean, Graeme Obree. I think he was probably nearly 50 when you broke the world record of doing something like 50 miles an hour bicycle, you know,

Phil Cavell 29:11
simply by capturing human mechanics, human biomechanics better, and then and then making aerodynamic. So I think you’re right, you know, we’ve got we’ve got this whole culture around science being inherited around. So I think it’s very exciting and very emotional. But we we denied decades and decades and decades of people saying, Well, actually, if we just absolutely re

Phil Cavell 29:35

Phil Cavell 29:38
no constraints whatsoever. What, that’s what we can deny.

Phil Cavell 29:43
Don’t do that. What would they do that? And so, if, for example, there was an event, a blue ribbon event, which is a Tour de France, and you can design without strain, just doesn’t matter. Here’s the rule rules are you have to use the human body. Other than that, everybody has that.

Phil Cavell 30:00
I mean, and it was big and the prices were huge. And it was, you know, who knows what we will come up with, it wouldn’t be a winner not be on a standard racing bicycle. It wouldn’t even be in the, in the, in the running the bicycle that one wouldn’t look like a modern racing bicycle if that event existed. That’s what you have to think about. How much of that then spilled out into a consumer product? Unknown, Unknown? No, not for me to think about really only saying from a mechanical perspective, there’s a lot more performance efficiency out there. And you know, it’s not for me to design that.

Carlton Reid 30:41
But it did bring us back to bicycles being perfect again, you do then say but you know, despite all of these, these these known problems,

Carlton Reid 30:51
it is the physios friend. So lots of people are actually brought into cycling, despite these these problems. So why is despite these problems, why is bicycling? Why is the bicycle the physios friend?

Phil Cavell 31:06
It’s true? Yeah, that’s true. Because again, it goes back to being good enough.

Phil Cavell 31:13
Had hip surgery or knee surgery or even ankle surgery. And of course, you know, we see a lot of these people because of what we do. The classical, if you if you get it right, can be a primary rehab by certainly the hip patient. And one of the one of the people are using the book, as an example, Nigel, you know, he was he was, you know, he had a very serious hip injury, very, very serious crash, and very, very difficult. third hip, nail going straight down his femur, essentially running back. He was pedalling at cycle fit, he did it ten days after surgery, and I set him up in a rehab position, we weren’t together going forward.

Phil Cavell 31:55
And, you know, he had a good team behind him, not me. And he was fine. He went back to full strength for four months in that in a three month, four month maximum. In that sense, he used the five squares he had both we really had, I think the physios friend thing is , slightly tongue in cheek with it is not as easy as just saying, here’s a bicycle fit on it, and you’ll be fine. If you’ve had hip surgery or hip knee surgery, it does actually be between really fitted.

Phil Cavell 32:26
Yes, it won’t be load bearing, it doesn’t mean it won’t load points adversely, if you don’t get the knee extension angle, right. And the hip angle, right, all those things need to be considered. And we can be the best rehab or, you know, as good as swimming. Unlike swimming, you are interfacing with a machine and all that needs to be considered.

Carlton Reid 32:48
So, Phil, before we go into chapter three, the infamous chapter.

Carlton Reid 32:56

Carlton Reid 32:57
is it the longest, it must be the longest chapter in the book, isn’t it? It must be before we go into chapter three film so that if you’ve got a few minutes in which to compose yourself, and to do maybe there’s two forms of your yoga, which you talk about in the book, and the square breathing, all that kind of stuff, you talk in the book, you This is your chance, because we’re going to go to an ad break. And we will go across to David, take it away, David.

David Bernstein 33:23
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a longtime loyal advertiser, you all know who I’m talking about. It’s Jenson USA at I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jenson is the place where you can get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices, and what really sets them apart. Because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there. But what really sets them apart is they’re on believable support. When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors, and these are cyclists. I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who who ride their bikes to and from work. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check them out. Jenson USA, they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s We thank them so much for their support. And we thank you for supporting Jenson USA. All right, Carlton, let’s get back to the show.

Carlton Reid 34:48
Thanks David. And we are back with Phil Cavell and we are discussing “The Midlife Cyclist” and instead of what’s on the front cover, I’m going to go to Phil’s favourite quote on the back which would be

Carlton Reid 35:00
On the front, Bloomsbury, please put on the front for the second edition, and that is “Grow old. Get fast. Don’t die.” now that don’t die bit

Carlton Reid 35:10
is kind of leading into the infamous chapter three in Phil’s book and it’s an arguably wonderful title for a chapter. It’s just when I die question mark. Now, I when I was reading the book, I was wondering when these touchy subjects were brought up, and lo and behold, he was a was a whole chapter on it. So despite the fact that Phil is maybe groaning because I think he’s had some feedback on this particular chapter.

Carlton Reid 35:39
But let’s let’s set this up. For the listeners who are all going to rush out and buy your book Phil, but let before they buy the book, and then listen to this.

Carlton Reid 35:48
It basically, you get this bit out of the way? Absolutely, straightaway, as a first paragraph, you’re talking about the risk of cycling. So basically, your risk of dying on a bike by getting killed by one of these or four motorists that we will hear about constantly, is just incredibly slim. It’s like

Carlton Reid 36:10
you got to be pretty unlucky, in effect to die on a bike from from that kind of, of trauma. So what this chapter is all about is not you know, bike lanes not that topic at all. Not they’re not the the dangerisation of cycling topic at all. This is a whole chapter on

Carlton Reid 36:31
how dangerous is it as a midlife cyclist and you can maybe give us a definition of where you you think that starts fail. But how dangerous Is it because there are lots of scare stories out there in the media of, you know, studies that the media, the mass media, the mainstream media, the tabloid press, in effect, have taken kernels of and twisted to basically say you really shouldn’t exercise. You should be a couch potato, because exercise is bad for you. So So take it away on this chapter filled by But first of all, tell us when you say midlife, how old are you talking about?

Phil Cavell 37:07
Yeah, so midlife is the title of the book? It’s a fair question.

Phil Cavell 37:13
Bear in mind that none of us would be even read 35 until probably 140, 150 years ago, and in the ancestral environment, we never made it past 30 or hardly ever vanishingly rare. A midlife, if you were going back 1000 years would be 15

Phil Cavell 37:33
midlife now for this for this book, I think it’s 40, 45. and above, I think, and then 40, and I widen that band, going forward at 90 is still my life, as far as I’m concerned. In terms of things like bone density, and testosterone and muscle density, all these things he could 30

Phil Cavell 37:56
No, that’s not an accident at all. Because in the ancestral environment, you know, you plants to breed and then bring up your offspring, and then hopefully, they will start breeding again. And that will happen by 30, there’s evolutionary pressure in the ancestor of you alive. 30, I think

Phil Cavell 38:15
any evolutionary psychologist listening, this will be coming on death. You know, that’s very broadly, the selective pressure to keep you alive to 30. There’s no selective pressure at all, in terms of genetically to keep you alive to 40, 50. Genetically.

Phil Cavell 38:33
So essentially, this book is about from that moment we become genetically irrelevant.

Phil Cavell 38:38
You know, modern medicine, we’re all still in very good health. But there’s a new study out, isn’t it? It’s just come out. I mean, I didn’t see that study, obviously, it’s just come out, where a third of 40 year old now, and a fourth third of 40 year olds, sort of, you know, serious underlying health condition. Diabetes, high blood pressure, etc, etc. So that kind of, you know, that’s kind of the age group I’m targeting, you know, if you’re not, if you’re not doing something about this, before, it is, you know, you should be thinking about

Phil Cavell 39:13
maybe there’s a long answer to a short question. So I think 40, 45 onwards, Carlton. And the new data research seems to bear that out.

Carlton Reid 39:22
So even though this chapter is quite dark in parts, there’s lots of humour in there at all, and you’re very self effacing in the book, there’s quite a few nice gags in there in quite a tough chapter. And it is hard reading for men. Yeah, it’s probably quite elevating for women because women can it seems can can do what the hell they like, and they ain’t going to come across from from, you know,

Carlton Reid 39:51
pitching over from a heart attack. So would you say it’s fair that women can pretty much got off scot free here?

Phil Cavell 39:59

Phil Cavell 40:01
appears so. Ultimately you don’t don’t want to run away with this and say, okay, and every woman, you know, you could whatever you want, and because you know, there are things and there’s lifestyle issues. In terms of self selecting group, we’re looking at people who seek to exercise moderately, women not seem to be really at risk here.

Phil Cavell 40:23
Right. And much cardiologists who are doing all this research for Gemma Parry-Williams, who featured in the book a lot, and it’s quite excellent.

Phil Cavell 40:33
And Ahmed Merghani, with his research worries me, they’re all desperately trying to find, you know, when some boxes that women are implicated, and they can’t find it

Phil Cavell 40:44
doesn’t mean it or not. It doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. But right now the longitudinal studies can’t seem to find any friends, for veteran women athletes having audio.

Phil Cavell 40:59
So, you know, that’s about as far as we can

Phil Cavell 41:03
see, women are not in

Phil Cavell 41:06
now, I guess that feeds into the next question is with Why? And I don’t know, I don’t think anybody doesn’t know. It’s hypothised, you know,

Phil Cavell 41:19
things like the protective effect of Oestrogen, you know, decades and decades of oestrogen, you know, being used around the women’s bodies

Phil Cavell 41:29
means less atrial stretch Heart of the kinds of stuff, you know, and the fact that women have got two X chromosomes, men have only got one X chromosome, one Y chromosome, a lot of the

Phil Cavell 41:42
immune system information is carried on the X chromosome, does that mean they better?

Phil Cavell 41:48
You know, their immune system for men? Well, yes, they certainly do have better immune system and

Phil Cavell 41:54
or does it men seem to lack a central governor? You know, we think about it in horses, where resources, some resources cannot raise themselves to death. And that has given this this title, central governor is about men, you know, that we lacked the, you know, somehow the capacity or the, you know, the way we will say that in

Phil Cavell 42:17
and stop,

Phil Cavell 42:19
you know?

Phil Cavell 42:21
Or is there some other thing of men’s lifestyles that we store our information and incrementally just layer on inflammation on inflammation, and makes us vulnerable to the problem.

Carlton Reid 42:33
And talking about the cardiologist you interviewed for the book at a good place made to mention that you have got these wonderful experts in there, and an awful lot of them seem to be midlife cyclists to? Is that is that a fluke that they are? Is that how you came upon them? Or is cycling something that they were attracted to? For health reasons? Well, how come you met all of these fantastic cardiologists through cycling?

Phil Cavell 42:59
Well, I mean, most of them I knew before. For Nigel (Stephens) I knew before.

Phil Cavell 43:07
And Audrius (Simiatis) is a client who I met, so you know, obviously I’m pleased to meet these people aren’t are they coming for a weekend chatting? You know, I invite them to come and give a lecture at Cyclefit at or, you know, whatever, you know, so Cyclefit was a driver there, then I would just seek them out, you know, you know, if I was doing research, I was interested in Ahmed Merghant. I called him up and he said like I’m really busy.

Phil Cavell 43:33
You so he I interviewed him both a few times. I wouldn’t go over to sit in the I would go visit in the lobby at Guys hospital and sit there and in the lobby with the you know, with a recorder and just ask him as a question between patients. You know, so Audrius Simiatis he’s a he’s a cardiologist and a cyclist and an immoderate one, he exercises hard. Nigel Stephens isa cardiologist, very well known. European Champion, obviously exercises and immoderately both of those do say, exercise hard, because they enjoy it necessarily, because they think it’s good for them.

Carlton Reid 44:13
I’ll go straight into a part of chapter three, you basically talk about the Lancification of cycling. So it’s again, this is a point that maybe we don’t raise often enough and because of Lance’s doping background would you do point out elsewhere in the book as you are acerbic elsewhere in the book about his doping background, but here you’re just talking about how in 2000 and with you know, his book, “It’s not about the bike” that brought a whole bunch of new people into cycling, a new cohort, more women came in into cycling, partly because of Lance. It wasn’t his Tour de France success, per se. It was the coming back from cancer success. So let’s just let’s kind of park to one side that

Carlton Reid 44:59
doping side of Lance Armstrong and just focus on you know what he actually did for cycling. So you presumably a positive on that side of the Lancification?

Phil Cavell 45:13
I am. I am very positive on that side. I mean to be fair, I was actually quite positive. On the other side for a long time I thought he’s winning 93 in Norway in the rain, you know, was astonishing when he won

Phil Cavell 45:29
absolutely phenomenal.

Phil Cavell 45:32
I think he was younger that year than the junior world Champion. And I’ve got clients who, you know, who were very ill with cancer, and their oncologists, American oncologist had prescribed them cyling.

Phil Cavell 45:48

Phil Cavell 45:49
that’s coming. And so my, my oncologist has told me to get a bike.

Carlton Reid 45:54
An awful lot of people in the bike industry right now, probably wouldn’t be in the bike industry without that, that backstory he. Absolutely, yeah, we’ve got the bike boom now, but we had also, back then we had the Lance boom, so the road bike boom, was was almost singlehandedly down to Lance.

Phil Cavell 46:12
That’s right. That’s right. And it’s just not often is it? I mean, I, you know, I almost was like, there’s an omerta about it, you know, about you can’t discuss this. Yeah, and I totally agree with that. I think that’s right, I don’t think you know, I don’t, I don’t think I would have a business without there. I said, I have a very different kind of.

Carlton Reid 46:29
Let’s change the subject anyway, and get away from that, cos I know that’s a, that’s a red rag to a bull for lots of people, many people might have turned off by now. So let’s,

Carlton Reid 46:38
let’s change the subject. And that is a no no HRV so that’s heart rate variability. So you mentioned that in chapter three is a big, big splurge on it in chapter three. And then you come back to it even further into the book in which you basically say, you know, all the the FTPss all the all that, you know, the TLAs the three letter acronyms in the book, this is perhaps one of the the most important for and we’ve got a stress for an midlife athletes or somebody who’s trying to either get good or stay good on a bike. So So describe to me as a layman and you’re a layman, but describe heart rate variability and and why it’s now considered to be that’s that’s the kind of the gold standard.

Phil Cavell 47:27
Okay, well, heart rate variability HRV is just a measurement of the difference in spacing between your heartbeats. That’s what it is simply, we know we often think our heart is racing, you know, 67 to 130 beats per minute. And the spaces between those beats will be equidistant. They’re not there anything.

Phil Cavell 47:50
And, and the differences spacing carries a lot of information.

Phil Cavell 47:55
Life Science can use that information to improve their performance and their overall health well being.

Phil Cavell 48:02
The context of this book is, is I desperately want you in life athlete, to look after themselves,

Phil Cavell 48:09
be healthier, be more productive, to achieve the goals they set for themselves on the last ride in a tablet, or or a European Championship and roll this book is to say, Okay, if you’re going to do these things, look after yourself. You know, and that really is, despite the as you say, the irreverent humour in the book, there is some irreverence during the book. You know, overall, I hope the message of the book of course, is I want people to look awesome. And the reason I come back to HRV in the mindful slackers chapter, the end, I want to find a way to try and help people feel better. And heart rate variability, the way they do that, and one of my friends, very good friends within the book few times in Mandeville, who is a consultant is, you know, was was was, you know, I chatted about this a few times, he they use eight HRV. Some people take charge in intensive care, or they’re they charted hospital. And it gives some predictive information. And that predictive information is something we can use, I mean, back in the day, going back 40 years or 35 years, and I would get up in my heart rate. And I would do that and I would in the mind working hard and having an indication of how rested I was or how fatigued I was or information was only minimally useful because a lot of endurance athletes are what are what’s called a cardiac or heart just fall through the floor. So you know, a lot of us have heart rates within the 30s and early 40s. So, you know, taking our heart rate even if a virus are not very well in the morning, isn’t an exceptionally useful. However, HRV is a much more honest and nuanced metric. It will tell you how fatigued you are, how rested you are, how ready you are to punish your body with heart opening.

Phil Cavell 50:00
I think that’s true for all athletes. But it’s, it’s especially true for midlife athletes, because we’re intrinsically swimming upstream, swimming against the tide of nature.

Phil Cavell 50:13
So we need to know this important information and have the presence of mind the characters say, HRV is not looking great, you know what I, I shouldn’t think I should go to yoga class, eat properly, you know, hydrate, rest, and then train tomorrow. You know, that’s eminently sensible.

Carlton Reid 50:34
So what that was in chapter three, and it was, but then, because we’re getting done on TLAs, let’s go to the next one. And because you’ve got an interesting bit of research there, and that is functional threshold power. So FTP, a lot of people

Carlton Reid 50:51
who were into their, you know, performance sport, will, we’ll know FTP, but what in the book you’re backing this up with, with research, is the bizarre sounding anecdote or not anecdote finding, I should say, Sorry, that your hardcore amateurs are probably redlining, probably

Carlton Reid 51:13
going through that, compared to pros, and people think, obviously, Pros will be, you know, absolutely at the limit there. And they’re not so so what’s happening there? And what can people do about it?

Phil Cavell 51:26
Yeah, you can all the point they want. The FTP or functional threshold protocol,

Phil Cavell 51:34
is a number which has gained in popularity. And it’s now become the only metric if you like. And the point about this is not to say that FTP doesn’t use or you should use it, or you can reference it. My point is, you shouldn’t be meeting the reference. Because, let’s be honest, at some point, your FTP will plateau, you know, you’re not a robot, you know, you know, so you can’t keep expecting to ratchet up your FTP, you know, it’s not a one way street, it’s either gonna have, and at some point is likely to go down. So, you know, if you make if you view your cycling enjoyment contingent upon,

Phil Cavell 52:15
I think you’re, you know, you’re in for disappointment, there’s a, there’s a broader basket of things that you can look at, reference, your performance enjoyment, that’s really what I’m saying.

Phil Cavell 52:28
With FTP is the one is doesn’t actually, it doesn’t present any physiological markers, and

Phil Cavell 52:36
it doesn’t, it’s one to actually track accurately, and it’s impossible to track accurate, you’re on your own, but you’re not actually a blood. So you know, what you’re doing really doing on your own section. So what what the coaches that I found, and the three or four in the book is that most people, you know, overstate their FTP. And, and if they then use that as a predicate for the training levels, through the year, they end up training, they end up going too hard most of the time. And the, as you say, the this is all just data. And if you compare that to professional cyclists, they spend, proportionally less of their time, anywhere near the line that we do. Their bodies are on tick over. And we’re racing away like a hummingbird.

Phil Cavell 53:27
And that’s, you know,

Phil Cavell 53:29
I told you all you need to know, you know, these guys race for a living and yet they’re nowhere near their red line. We go on living and we’re twice their age and we’re passing off the red limit.

Carlton Reid 53:43
So what can people do what is it just is that basically just don’t overtrain is that is that the giveaway there?

Phil Cavell 53:50
It’s just the structure is different. It’s about saying look at your training, you’re looking at providing and reviewing and if you actually go back to through our my and Jules’ career at Cyclefit, and also in writing this book, let’s go back to first principles. You know, what we design to do, you know, so essentially human are extremely good at endurance, we’renot very fast. There’s no other mammal in the world that we can out run? We can’t even out run a badger you know we’re not great you know what I mean? We can’t there’s no there’s no mammal in this country you know, you can Out Run I mean all me You know, we’re just we’re not far we are is endurance. You know, we write endurance animals we were we were born and evolved to persistent hunt. So you know, those endurance those are the those that go with our evolution in

Phil Cavell 54:46
healing our endurance themes if you like, and all of the coaches I interview with saying the same thing it’s like well, lets you know what you really want to do. Not only the midlife cyclist, but certainly more than the life side

Phil Cavell 55:00
This train, oxidative system, aerobic system, those are the ones you want, you actually want make that the most efficient machine, you can make it before you even think about,

Phil Cavell 55:13
you know, looking at pure high end form. And I think that’s absolutely right. Well, what happens too often on with my clients is that I’ve got, you know, it’s not like I can say that they’re not there to their coach that can come into the sport, absolutely loving it, come to this set up number, and they just want to elevate the FT number, if I will, not necessarily all guys, it’s guys and girls, but, you know, hold on a second. You know, you’re ignoring a whole background there of aerobic capacity training you should be doing, you know, you’re bypassing all time you’re on the red line, you’re not working at the system.

Phil Cavell 55:57
And the coaches data backs it up, they’re looking at they compare their amateur clients with a professional client, that professional clients are more rested, more rested, having an easier time but you know, less near the red line less overtrained, lift higher listed beat us.

Carlton Reid 56:14
So there are some great training myths that you do bust in the book. And I’d like to focus on on on one here. And it’s kind of less like almost two in one. But anyway, and that’s like the pedalling in circles and the souplesse the way that you’re meant to, or that was one point 20 years ago, and it’s still absolutely lingering when you call it the cycling’s Flat Earth movement. And that is the upstroke So are you saying forget the upstroke, upstroke is just a complete non-starter because, if I am right in saying, the hip flexor?

Phil Cavell 56:55
I will start with that presumption. Yes, there are times when you will be pulling away from a traffic lights as fast as you can or you know, start riding a mountain bike race, you will pull up the first few pedal stroke. Yeah. And on top of the climb standing up, you

Phil Cavell 57:14
may also block all that’s fine. I’m not saying you never pull up. What I’m saying is that when you’re pedalling at tempo,

Phil Cavell 57:23
on a climb or on the flat and you’re at your, you know, your your sustainable power, if you like you’re really working quite hard. There is no such thing as a non event. Because going back to first principles, Catherine, you evolved to be powerful in extension. Running, you’ve already got parents playing with ground contact. And ground contract means that you’re going to be using your, your extensor muscles, your glutes, your quads, and your path those your primary extensor muscles. Because those are the muscles that come back to when you come back, maybe a little bit of a hamstring as you push away from the ground. But that’s it. Once you’re free of the ground, that’s when your flex has come in to move the lever system after you take the next ride. So you’ve evolved to have our ground on time, which means you’re extensive.

Phil Cavell 58:17
That’s how that’s just human evolution. And if you if you ride a bike and actually just try and switch off the push down and just pull up your you know, in about 40 yards you’ll realise that’s not good, right? You’re trying to use lean muscle

Phil Cavell 58:35
evolved to fulfil that role.

Phil Cavell 58:39
And one of the you know the hip flexor muscles is is is primary amongst the hip flexors are essentially reflectors and stabilisers. And, you know, the only ever evolved to lift the weight of your leg forward for you can then take the next stride.

Carlton Reid 58:58
And that’s an example of us being harnessed to a Victorian contraption, leading us leading us into bad habist.

Carlton Reid 59:07
It’s a Victorian contraction that as you say in the book is quite constrained. And the motion on the pedalling. It’s not circles, as you say there, it’s basically I think one of the weights when you describe Armstrong’s pedalling technique is basically mashing on the pedal. So just hammering up and down forget the circles. Yes. Now I’m Phil, I’m in absolutely no way shape or form an athlete. I have done races in the past, but I tend to do

Carlton Reid 59:41
24 hour solo events just because I can then get into the top 20 because people just drop out anyway.

Carlton Reid 59:47
But I do remember friends who are athletes, and when they’re trying to get me to train which I never used to do at all, but they would they would give me exercise and they say you should do this. And one of the ones I remember and this is when

Carlton Reid 1:00:00
During the book, I was thinking, hang on, I was told to do this at one point, which is no, you’re quite down on indoor cycling. But anyway, is this an indoor cycling technique where you’re meant to actually use one leg and pull up, you’re actually meant to be training your pull up muscles. And I’m sure a lot of people are probably still doing that. But you’re saying, basically, for God’s sake, don’t do that. It’s giving you no benefit whatsoever. In effect, it’s actually probably harming you.

Phil Cavell 1:00:27
I think, I think you should definitely do one legged pedal drills, if you intend to go and do one legged pedal races. If that’s what you intend to do, then that’s a reasonable thing.

Carlton Reid 1:00:39
I could win them, I could win them.

Phil Cavell 1:00:42
If I agree with you, it’s, it’s essentially

Carlton Reid 1:00:46
not very helpful and possibly can really hurt you. Because the hip flexors are quite a delicate muscle group and they pass through the hip. There’s not a lot of space there. It’s definitely not a muscle you want to over develop. And if you look at the architecture, the architecture architect that part of our body is very, very constrained. hip flexor is not a muscle you want to mess with.

Carlton Reid 1:01:07
So mash, mash, don’t try and do circles. Okay? Now that’s that’s that, if we don’t take anything else from the book, if it’s only one thing we take away, and in fact, I’ve printed actually picked out lots of things I’ve taken from the book. But anyway, if there was only one, then that’s a pretty good one to take away. Yeah. Yep. Another one, which

Carlton Reid 1:01:29
was basically unclipping. And you call that “pedalling paracetamol”? And that’s for people who come to you with all sorts of

Carlton Reid 1:01:37
different issues. And then you do this one simple trick, you know, like this YouTube thing, one simple trick cures, and then you find that that helps a lot of people. So just, in effect, stop being constrained. Is that is that what you’re saying with with peddling paracetamol?

Phil Cavell 1:01:52
Yes. bicycle, the humble bicycle, Victorian architecture, as you said before, it’s what quite constraining, and if you can remove one constraint, and you can give somebody a different sort of feedback from the bicycle. So one of the things we do, someone comes in, they’re injured, or they’ve got a problem.

Phil Cavell 1:02:14
Head problem, kneew problem foot problem, one of the things, we look at the pedal scan, and we see that the scan is very dysfunctional, one of the things we’ll do is take off the pedal, put some flat pedals on, put them in their trainers and sit back on the bike

Phil Cavell 1:02:29
and pedal the new trainers on the flat pedals. And more often than not covering 90% of the time, you just get this kind of transformation in both pedalling activity, motor patterning, but also in their own their emotional mood, like they suddenly feel relaxed, and they feel efficient, they feel powerful, they feel productive. And all you’ve done is you’ve unkept them, frankly, and stop them being able to pull back and pull up.

Phil Cavell 1:02:56
And could they just feel again, they can just start to feel repetitive again. And it happens all the time. And it generally happens with clients who’ve been injured. Not always, by the way, but clients who’ve been injured, and we’re, and we’re trying to rehab them. And it happened the other day, it happened the last week. Last Monday, I had a client ex pro cyclist, and he’s now been sent away with, you know, a couple of months of three times a week, he has to eat for five minutes, either indoors that pedals on his mountain bike without pedals.

Phil Cavell 1:03:28
And he’s going to do it.

Carlton Reid 1:03:29
So, Phil, the the obvious question is, well, why don’t we just unclip all the time?

Phil Cavell 1:03:34
It’s a really good question, because that isn’t isn’t why we have pedals in pedals because they can provide a lot of efficiency having a stiff carbon soul which disperses the the pressure across the whole soul of foot. Pedal holds your foot in the right position relative to the pedal spindle, the maximum efficiency and power and also because you want to move around a bike, and if you’re moving around a bike, you need to have your foot clipped in, you know, it’s very hard to send fast or paddling back or get out the saddle and pedalling in time. If you’re not, there’s plenty of reasons to be clipped in. You don’t clip into pull up your clipping for for stability.

Carlton Reid 1:04:13
Hmm, okay, takeaways from the book. Okay, so I’ve got a little box out here, fill, and we can go through them.

Carlton Reid 1:04:21
And if I just if I just say what it is, and then you give me a quick, why, why you why I picked this up from the book why I think what I think is important, but you tell me why you put it in the book. So don’t drink booze.

Phil Cavell 1:04:37
Because Because ethanol alcohol ethanol is an obligate oxygen.

Carlton Reid 1:04:42
it’s a poison.

Phil Cavell 1:04:45
It treats it as poison and is obliged to metabolise it first, so it recognises as a toxin and it’s very excited about it wants to get it out your body quickly. If you’re trying to train the next day after

Carlton Reid 1:05:00
looked at many things. Your body is still frantically trying to metabolise the alcohol and won’t metabolise the very healthy breakfast you have continues to order all the alcohol. ethanol is not recognised as the body’s fuel is recognised as poison. I should say that. I’ve got no you know, I was a very, very I used to basically drink a lot of red wine. And still would, you know, I’m somebody, I’m a sinner not somebody who is abstemious by nature, we are

Carlton Reid 1:05:30
you have actually made wine recommendations in the book, there’s a couple of points where you talk about Italy,go you know, this particular vineyard to go here. So, yes, you have you’re not totally you’re not a teetotaler from from from day one. You do make wine recommendations, but that’s good point. Okay, so that’s don’t drink booses, but do drink cherry wine, sorry, cherry juice? Why would you drink cherry juice? T

Phil Cavell 1:05:53
hat’s been shown to have some points

Phil Cavell 1:05:56
have some effects in terms of sleep and recovery? So cherry juice is has been shown to be quite beneficial.

Phil Cavell 1:06:06
That was

Phil Cavell 1:06:08
it’s been out for a few years that research. I mean, certainly cherry juice seems to be a bit like whoever was taking

Phil Cavell 1:06:16
on what they it was. A few years ago. Everyone was

Carlton Reid 1:06:19

Phil Cavell 1:06:20
beetroot juice, weren’t they? Same thing.

Phil Cavell 1:06:23
There are certain certain chemicals in the in beetroot and in cherry. It used to seem to have some beneficial effects. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 1:06:31
And it’s also good for sleep, isn’t it? Usually you say it’s

Carlton Reid 1:06:36
melatonin at night and stuff?

Phil Cavell 1:06:38
Yeah. So it stimulates

Phil Cavell 1:06:40
Which which which secretes melatonin, which helps you sleep.

Carlton Reid 1:06:45
Okay, now you’re a big fan in the book of cross training. So you do say you know don’t it’s not Yeah, it’s about the bike but don’t be on the bike all the time. One thing and this is actually something I do all the time anyway. And so you said about walking over uneven surfaces and that’s for bone density. So you know, don’t take just your dog on the canal towpath, you know, go into the woods a bit and get a bit of off roading in. But then you also mentioned something I don’t do that. Maybe I should and that’s paddleboarding so it seems you’re you’re kind of like a big convert into paddleboarding?

Phil Cavell 1:07:20
Yes. I’m into anything? Yes, I think the older you get. It’s almost like the less cycling you need to do to be faster at cycling you won’t be fast at cycling. The older you get the more you’re gonna have to drop out cycling in something else. Your photo you’re fighting bone density sarcopenia which is muscle loss. So your for you need to exchange your cycle sessions with something else. What do you what do you exchange them for? so chaotic walking? That is great man listen describes a great friend of mine physiotherapist because it walking is just a way if you can’t run for one reason or another. Healthy walk is a really good idea. So walking, probably walking poles on rough ground every step it’s different for bone density for balance for strength. paddleboarding is great for cyclists because it works on several things we really add

Phil Cavell 1:08:10
strength, lower trap strength, and also keeps us an extension of not flexed. Or an office chair. We’re an extension so paddleboarding It is really really very good for scientists is almost a perfect antidote sight out one session and put in something else something like a boarding or walking with all or something.

Carlton Reid 1:08:33
Okay, next, you kind of pre dismissive on most supplements but then you do say vitamin D

Phil Cavell 1:08:43
Yes, between these a hormone, it’s not a vitamin. So it provokes the body to do something.

Phil Cavell 1:08:49
And vitamin D i think is without, you know without

Phil Cavell 1:08:55
proselytising saying say you’re watching run out and buy vitamin D, it doesn’t have a role in in provoking middle aged athletes to you know, to increase density things to have some function of the immune system. We live in the Northern Hemisphere, supposedly getting the same sunshine that we used to, you know, seems to make sense, which is long overdue it

Phil Cavell 1:09:19
supplements seems to be what seems to be pretty much universally accepted, I think between these as you get older and still trying to hang on performance.

Carlton Reid 1:09:30
And that than maybe cod liver oil, you kind of you say you take that as a supplement too.

Phil Cavell 1:09:34
Cod liver oil Yes, it’s cod liver oil obviously it’s it’s, it’s it’s good because it is you know your lipids and your blood

Phil Cavell 1:09:45
is HDL but also it is also anti inflammatory because fish oil actually has an anti inflammatory role.

Phil Cavell 1:09:55
So you know, cycling essentially high level Cycling is inflammatory

Carlton Reid 1:10:00
And, you know, he fish oil will actually be a mild anti inflammatory.

Carlton Reid 1:10:06
And then a big I’ve actually put this in caps a big takeout from the from the book which you mentioned a couple of times a few times. And that is sleep.

Phil Cavell 1:10:14
Oh yes, this is a big one. I mean, I, we didn’t go into this enough and I wish I had. But I think the fall asleep is underestimated it’s underestimated with older people, older athletes, we just underestimated we just try and burn the candle at both in and then you know, make a sandwich out of it. It’s just like, we’re into March. And sleep seems to have the thinktel role every year studies and the research seems to suggest sleeps role is more and more crucial. I think midlife people, you know, panting profession, family exercise responsibilities, you know, the first thing that we can get rid of, it’s sleep. So, you know, it’s an extra hour. And we need, you know, we get up earlier, you know, so we sacrifice it willingly to try and try and tick off the rest of its responsibilities. But there seems to be interest.

Carlton Reid 1:11:07
Zwifters have now got a turn away here. Now that turn off now, because you’re not really a big fan of indoor cycling, are you?

Phil Cavell 1:11:16
No, I think I think I’m, I think that’s fair to say, Carlton.

Phil Cavell 1:11:20
Yeah, I can’t deny that.

Carlton Reid 1:11:21
So why Why? I mean, you mentioned in the book, but tell us now why you’re not a big fan of indoor cycling.

Phil Cavell 1:11:27
I’m not a fan of it because

Phil Cavell 1:11:30
I think people go too hard, in a poor position in poorly ventilated rooms. with not enough hydration, it’s just this this alarm authority for me, because an indoor cycling generally and this is an assumption and I might be wrong. But generally speaking, these days, indoor cycling seems to be about going very, very hard and very, very far pain cave stuff, isn’t it? So the even the pain is saying, you know, we’re going to hurt ourselves. Yeah.

Phil Cavell 1:12:04
Yeah. And I to me something star side where the topography in the road and the terrain and limit your effort, you know, you go up the hill, and you’re gonna go down a hill, you know, there’s a natural kind of flattening effect. If you like, your south side, so there’s fresher air and slightly, okay, and, you know, all these things. And there’s something about the way people are wired in or, you know, when they’re really riding hard, I think, form on the bike posture, and then muscle recruitment and their motor patterning. And they seem to kind of fight, right, which itself is completely stationary and mobile, so it’s not moving with you. And that’s what we forget, when we ride a bike out on the trail. You know, that moves us soccer dance, isn’t it, it’s moving and you’re moving, moving together. That doesn’t happen, you move in.

Phil Cavell 1:12:53
And guess which one’s gonna get thought.

Carlton Reid 1:12:55
So there’s a nice quote in there from from Dr. David Hulse. That’s on page 169. For anybody who’s reading along with this podcast. And that is “cycling mile upon mile in scenery.” I thought that encapsulated a lot. It’s like, you can actually go a lot further than you think when you’ve got nice things to look at.

Phil Cavell 1:13:19
What page is that?

Carlton Reid 1:13:20
Page 269. So it’s in one of the it’s in one of the final bits where

Carlton Reid 1:13:29
and I just thought that was excellent. Because it that Yeah, because my son’s just done a video of Scotland, his trip in Scotland recently. And just the the scenery was wonderful. And you’re just looking at it. And it’s probably one of the reasons that video do quite well is because a, he’s done some great drone photography of him and his girlfriend cycling, the weather was beautiful. So you can see for miles and miles, you can see the road snaking away. And you can just think, yeah, I could do 60 miles through that kind of stuff pretty easily. Because it looks so beautiful. So get out there and ride that’s actually the way we end the podcast. But that that is actually something that is quite important that that part of cycling, you lose that, no amount of computer generated graphics can can bring that that part of cycling into reality.

Phil Cavell 1:14:21
I agree with you. Dave Hulse writes beautifully. He writes beautifully.

Carlton Reid 1:14:27
And so yeah, it towards the end of the the book, you’re talking about how your next book in 20 years time when you’re that old is going to be called “The Twilight Cyclist”. So I absolutely look forward to to reading. I get to that age And I’m sure we’ll have another podcast even though I’m sure when we call that of course something weird and wonderful. In the future where we’ll we’ll talk about that book. But let’s come back to the present and the Bloomsbury book, Bloomsbury Sports. £14.99

Carlton Reid 1:15:00
It’s got $20 on the back here. How can people get hold of the book? Phil? How can they get hold of you? What are your social media handles? And give us your

Carlton Reid 1:15:13
website so people can go to your corporate side?

Phil Cavell 1:15:16
Yes. So

Phil Cavell 1:15:20
You can buy the book

Phil Cavell 1:15:23
I’ve got you can follow me on twitter if you want my content.

Phil Cavell 1:15:28
I think it’s just about anywhere you can search me on Twitter.

Carlton Reid 1:15:32
Thanks to Phil Cavell and thanks to you for listening to the spokesmen cycling podcast show notes and more can be found on I know I’ve already said the usual show sign up. But as you’ve heard from Phil and Dr Hulse it bears repeating. So

Carlton Reid 1:15:55
get out there and ride and “there”, of course, is outside …