Hosted by David Bernstein & Carlton Reid since 2006 Posts

May 23, 2022 / / Blog

23rd May 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 297: Stop motorways, remove parking, boost bicycling, says Sweden’s Climate Law Inquiry

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Anders Roth

TOPICS: This show is a 37 minute conversation with the secretary of Sweden’s Climate Law Inquiry. 44 page English-language summary starts on p. 41 of this PDF.


Carlton Reid 0:09
Welcome to Episode 297 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Monday 23rd of May 2022.

David Bernstein 0:22
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school, or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:00
Thanks, David. I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to the spokesmen. This episode is 35 minutes or so with Anders Roth of the Swedish Environmental Institute. He has just handed the Swedish government with recommendations from the Climate Law Inquiry. Now Anders was Secretary of that inquiry and worked with a team of six on the radical for some recommendations, including boosting, bicycling and critically reducing car use through the removal of parking spaces. And the radical, definitely radical for some pruning back of national road building. I began by asking Anders to introduce himself.

Anders Roth 1:48
Well, I’m a mobility expert at the IVL, the Swedish Environmental Research Organisation, or Institute. So and I have been part time working for the this climate law inquiry for since last autumn.

Carlton Reid 2:06
So when when they appointed you wouldn’t they know pretty much what you’re going to say?

Anders Roth 2:13
Yeah, I think so. Because me and my colleague, we wrote them a report of suggestions for what they could focus on for the next part of their inquiry. And apparently, they found that quite good, because then they asked me to join them. So I guess they knew pretty much what I was going to focus on.

Carlton Reid 2:37
So it’s no it’s no surprise what you’ve what you’ve come up with.

Anders Roth 2:41
No surprise at all. Also, it’s I must say that this is the part of the investigation. We are a team and it’s not really my suggestions. It’s the person that leads the investigation, the inquiry, and that was the former head of the what’d you say last to loosen the lungs served in Swedish.

Carlton Reid 3:06
But is that Anders Danielsson?

Anders Roth 3:08
Yeah, that’s right.

Carlton Reid 3:10
Right. So he was the governor of Västra Götaland yeah?

Anders Roth 3:15
Yeah, that’s right.

Carlton Reid 3:16
So you’re basically the Secretariat, you’re the person behind the thing.

Anders Roth 3:21
We were six of us doing the work in different fields here.

Carlton Reid 3:26
And the million dollar question is you’ve come up with these recommendations. But does the government have to implement them?

Anders Roth 3:34
No, they don’t. They can do whatever they want. And and also, this inquiry was really, what do you say? They asked for this inquiry, when their government look different when we have different parties or political parties in the government. So this government, we are not sure if they are fond of all the suggestions. Of course, you never know that. Because the procedure is that you, the government send this inquiry for out to a lot of other organisations and companies for to hear their view. And when they get their answers, they decide what to do with the suggestions that we come up with. That’s the normal procedure for inquiries i Sweden.

Carlton Reid 4:23
You said that, that the complexion of the politics has changed in Sweden, but when it was originally brought in, it was seven out of eight parties agreed on this, to have this inquiry.

Anders Roth 4:35
Well, I guess that that was seven of eight. Yeah, I guess you’re right.

Carlton Reid 4:39
Can you give me a brief introduction to your main findings and what you say Sweden is going to have to do if it’s going to be carbon neutral.

Anders Roth 4:51
I’ve been focused on transport issue. So that’s what I’m going to tell you here. But the main point of our inquiries that

We have to focus stronger on on steering towards transport efficient society. Today, we have a lot of politics and measures for introducing electric vehicles. And that’s important. We also have strong measures for biofuels into the transport sector. And that’s also important, but that’s not enough. And if you tried to introduce too much of biofuels, you will do that in non what you say, it won’t be good enough on a global scale, you will have a lot of sustainable problems with that. So you have to have a no a policy that takes down the need of, of fuels in the beginning. And that’s what’s lacking. I would say in Sweden, for a long time, we need better policies for transport efficient society with measures that takes down the, say, the demand for for transport in the first place.

Carlton Reid 6:05
So in other countries, and I’m guessing in Sweden also, there’s there’s been over the last 5, 10 years, there’s been a big push to get bike lanes to get, you know, better walking facilities put in. But in your in your view, do you think that almost no good, unless you also stop motoring being quite so efficient. So if if you if you build loads of bike paths, and if you build loads of pedestrian infrastructure, that that seems to be fantastic. But if you don’t also, at the same time, reduce the amount of motoring the facilities you build, for active travel will not work?

Anders Roth 6:50
Well, they will not work as good as you think. So you often need what do you say a package of measures where you have both carrot and stick? And that is something that the would you say the transport research is quite a lot of result that points on that. And that’s what we point out. Also in our inquiry, for example, we have this with extended urban environmental agreements where we think this could work Excellent. Where you have you state go sing with money and support, as you say, public transport and bike lanes and other things that enables people to change travel mode. But on the same hand, you need also restriction measures for car traffic, otherwise, you won’t get the same effect from it. So that’s a main measure. What do you say? Point from our inquiry also, you need both stick and carrot. And therefore, it’s important that we have national measures. And that we have goals that says that it’s not okay for car traffic to to increase all the time. And we shouldn’t plan for that. That’s what we do today. And that’s, that’s wrong to do that.

Carlton Reid 8:13
And what about road building? Where does road building come into that?

Anders Roth 8:18
Well, if you plan for car traffic, and also lorry traffic to increase all the time, then it will be more economical viable from economic from what you say, socio economical view to build more roads. And therefore, ways if, as we suggest in the inquiry that you shouldn’t plan for that you should plan for a decrease in traffic instead, you won’t get as many road projects.

They won’t get beneficial from a society point of view anymore. So you won’t build them. You will and you.

You have money that you could do other things for instead, that will be better for the climate.

Carlton Reid 9:05
Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Sweden have lots of private roads, and communities

own their roads? And they can they can do things with their roads that in other countries they couldn’t do Is that correct?

Anders Roth 9:19
That’s small roads really. And so that’s not

that’s not a big thing. The big roads are really controlled and build and so maintained by the state.

Carlton Reid 9:31
The big roads have to be fed into by the little roads. So could there be more small communities? For instance? Yeah, maybe take the recommendations you’re making and actually restrict on that. Do you see any future for restrictions on not just the national major roads, but also, the more local roads?

Anders Roth 9:53
Er, no, I don’t think so. I think this will, on the other hand, be an opportunity for smaller roads.

They can get more money for,

for measures that could be beneficial. For more active travel, for example, we have roads, on the countryside that are quite dangerous to bike on, because there are no side space for bikes or walking. So it’s It feels very unsecure to bike or walk there. And if you then build them, you take money from the big roads to the small roads, you could, you could improve the possibilities for active travel on the countryside. So I see, on the other hand, a better future for small roads here. And I think that’s important also, from an acceptance point of view. Because often you end up with measures in the cities, and you perhaps forget, tend to forget the countryside, and then you get the big problems when you when energy prices go up, and fuel will get more expensive.

You get sort of the yellow [jackets] you know, problems with the acceptance among people living on the countryside.

Carlton Reid 11:09
Because because Sweden does have a very high number of electric cars, yeah?

Anders Roth 11:14
Well, we have a high number of new sales of electric cars, but still, the total number of electric cars is low. And that’s also what we say, even if we

have a high sale, new sale of electric cars still in, in 2013, most of the vehicle kilometres driven will be non electric.

That’s why the well, we have to do all things to get sustainable here.

Carlton Reid 11:46
Now, I know this is an almost an impossible question for you to answer politically. But because you kind of mentioned beginning there that that there has been this change in, in political complexion in Sweden. However, in your gut, what do you think will happen with your recommendations? Do you think they will be put into law and actually carried out?

Anders Roth 12:12
Well, of course, I hope they will. Because otherwise, I am me. And my colleagues wouldn’t be involved in this inquiry. But really, I don’t know, we’re going for an election year this year. So I think at least I hope there will be a good debate and discussion about that, because we need this to get sustainable. We can’t just go on on two legs for the transition. We we need the transport efficiency scientists well.

Carlton Reid 12:44
So do you think that the climate law inquiry will be very difficult for politicians to argue against? Or could they just not argue against it, but just completely ignore it? And like sweep it under the carpet?

Anders Roth 12:59
Well, that could be a case, but I hope not it will happen. But really, I don’t know. We will see. And then we’ll I will try and my colleagues will try to discuss this and try to explain why we have this recommendations. And I know they’re still other researchers and organisations as well that that have wanted this suggestions for a long time. And at least I think that are some suggestions here in our inquiry that are perhaps have a broader one set acceptance to be and that perhaps is helpful, I think,

Carlton Reid 13:39
Would it be correct in saying that because of the kind of energy that you have in Sweden, that transport may be compared to other countries actually more important component of of reducing

carbon emissions then then other sectors?

Anders Roth 13:56
So in Sweden, this is much more important than perhaps in other countries? Yeah, I think you’re right there because we transport stands for a big part of our climate

emissions in Sweden, so therefore, it’s much in focus.

Carlton Reid 14:13
How big a part, Anders?

Anders Roth 14:15
I beg your pardon?

Carlton Reid 14:17
What’s the percentage how important?

Anders Roth 14:20
It’s about 1/3 of the climate emissions comes from transport or a little bit more even.

Carlton Reid 14:28
Putting it putting your your sucking your finger and putting it up in the air to see you know, where the winds blowing from? Do you see this being popular? Do you see the climate law inquiries findings? To be something that most people in Sweden will say yes,

we should be doing this I mean, I’m thinking of things like you know, the the flight shame, you know, movement which which which which started with you and and has spread around the world and you

had to get more long distance train travel instead of flying. So it, I’m assuming that these measures are probably going to be more likely to be popular in Sweden than perhaps in other places again, is that is that? Is that fair to say that? Am I putting words in your mouth there?

Anders Roth 15:15
No, I’m not sure about that. Because so far we haven’t seen the same movement about car travel as we had with flight shame. So I think the still could be pot. Well, it’s not that easy to implement such measures. But on the other hand, I know when when we see

when when we ask people in different cities in Sweden, what they think about car restrictions, generally they are not there is a majority for car restrictions if you just do them in a proper way. But the debate tends to sometimes be dominated about for from interests that are perhaps not that general.

So it’s it’s an important measures for the politics to have measures that are would you say

Pro that are reflecting all of the people even the those that are not here in the debate, I would say

so you don’t see a movement just yet for car shame you’ve had flight shame was very successful. You don’t see car shame low. I haven’t seen that yet. Well, I’m not sure you need really need the car shame movement, either. But you need a better understanding for why actually, we can’t just drive more, and think that’s okay.

Carlton Reid 16:53
But why? Why why wouldn’t there be a movement for car shame? Why Why would flight shame

take off, in effect take off? So well, compared to what why is that crazy? Why is Why is thinking car shame? is crazy. Whereas flight shame isn’t crazy.

Anders Roth 17:10
Well, actually, we have talked a lot about driving less for I would say 30 years since we we have campaigns about this different cities, her work this. So it’s if you ask people, is it good for environment to drive less? I think most say yes. But on the other hand, to to point back to yourself and say, Well, should I do it as well? Well, that’s step two. And we are not really

at that stage yet. But perhaps we will soon. And I really don’t know.

Carlton Reid 17:49
Let’s, let’s circle back to you again, Anders, where we came in, so your mobility expert, what is your your research being about what would explain explain your research background?

Anders Roth 18:02
Well, we have done and May, I have been involved also in a lot of projects, for example, about parking, and the importance of parking policies to steer traffic and to promote mobility services, such as public transport done, and also car sharing. So that is one of my field. Also, my colleagues have been quite into infrastructure planning and why infrastructure planning from the national level is often in to say, coalition with the local planning and local goals from Citizen municipalities. So that is two fields. And I used to be also the environmental manager for the second city for the Traffic Authority in the second city in Sweden. So I’ve been responsible for, for example, a congestion charging scheme in Gothenburg in parking policy scheme, environmental service scheme and some other works as well. And I’ve worked a lot with also environmental vehicles, biofuels, and so on. So well I have a quite a broad field of experience, I would say from 33 years of of this in this field now.

David Bernstein 19:28
Hey, everyone, Excuse the interruption, but this is David from the Fredcast and the spokesmen. I just want to take a few moments out of the show to talk to you about our sponsor, Tern bicycles at That’s t e r n, like the bird Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. And today, I want to tell you about their new Quick

Unknown Speaker 19:59
haul ebike the Quick Haul is a compact ebike and it’s it’s optimised to make life in the city just a little bit easier, a little bit more convenient, and a lot more fun. It’s a compact ebike and it’s going to handle most of your daily trips around town, it’s rated to a hefty 150 kilos, or for those of us Americans 330 pound Max gross vehicle weight. And it’s got an ecosystem of modular accessories. This is really cool, by the way, so that it can be customised for any job. different setups are going to help you carry a load of cargo, maybe an extra passenger, and that could be a small adult, a child or even your dog or cat. Now despite its longer wheelbase, and its hefty cargo capacity, it’s shorter than a regular bike. It’s a compact design, plus it’s got 20 inch wheels. And that makes the quick haul easier to manoeuvre on urban streets, or maybe even in transit hubs like train stations or bus depots or even ferry terminals. It also includes turns vertical parking parking feature, which is really cool, so that you can just roll the bike into a small elevator or park it in a corner of your apartment. Now, the quick haul is also shareable by literally everyone in the family. It’s equipped with an adjustable seat post and stem so that it can fit riders from 160 to 195 centimetres or five foot three to six foot five, but it also fits writers 145 to 180 centimetres, which is four nine to five foot 11 When you put on the shorter seat post now Josh Hon, who is turned teen captain, and also somebody both Carlton, and I have known personally for a very long time, don’t ask me and Josh how long we’ve known each other. Josh is serious about ensuring the safety of turns bikes and its riders. So that’s why he and his team ensure that every Tern bike is designed and independently tested to ensure rider safety. That’s why they use respected independent testing labs, and why they sourced their motors, their drive trains and their batteries from German industrial powerhouse, Bosch, it just doesn’t get much better than that. So for more information about the Quick Haul, or any of turns wide range of bikes, just head on over to tern That’s t e r n We thank turn for their sponsorship of the spokesmen podcast. And we thank you for your support of turn, and also for allowing this brief interruption of the show. Now back to Carlton, and the spokesmen.

Anders Roth

Carlton Reid 22:53
The other cities are catching up, maybe to your experience, like Paris, famously, is now catching up. And one of their biggest ways of catching up is restricting parking spaces. Yeah. Do you see that as something that that will be successful? If you restrict parking, all the other modes go up?

Anders Roth 23:12
Yeah, parking is definitely one of the most important tools that you have as a city, you have a

would you say your mandate is big on parking for most cities. And it has a great potential to really shift modes if you do it in a good way. And also, it’s not just shifting modes, you could also take down the the ownership of cars in the series. And that is also important from an environmental point of view and also from a city point of view, to use the this to say the space in the city in a better way. And actually we have new new actors in this. It’s not just the municipality that works with this, but also property owners that see that they understand that parking is something that could be beneficial for they if they not have to build too many expensive parking lots.

Carlton Reid 24:15
Mm hmm. And what about bike lanes? What what Sweden doing in the building of hard infrastructure for cyclists,

Anders Roth 24:25
mostly in cities, I would say and some cities working quite well with this. We have for example, Uppsala and Malama. That is good biking series in Sweden. So

I would say that biking is on

not perhaps steep but nevertheless up going trend.

Carlton Reid 24:49
Is has been very pro cycling for many years. Yeah, that’s like it’s laced with cycleways Uppsala.

Anders Roth 24:55
Yeah, they are good. They are working on this but also you see that

The general trend that junk people tend not to bike that much anymore.

And so well, you have good result in some cities, but also on the countryside, perhaps you see that people bike less? So? Well, it’s not something that is happening just by itself all over Sweden.

Carlton Reid 25:25
Is that is that partially because of I mean, you’ve you’ve you’ve obviously got a slightly more severe climate than as in weather.

Certainly compared to the UK, so a car is comfortable has a roof, air conditioning, you know, you’re comfortable year round, public transport. Also you have a roof, climate conditions around bicycling and walking, you’re open to the elements. So is that one of the reasons why it’s not popular? Just maybe the weather?

Anders Roth 25:55
Well, it could be one reason, but it’s not all of the answer. Because if you look at different cities, where the different circumstances as were there, we can find both cities in Sweden and Finland that has a very tough climate, but still a good promote a good share of people that to taking the bike. So it’s other factors that really will make the difference. If you do it attractive enough.

Carlton Reid 26:27
The Netherlands doesn’t really have a car industry. You know, there are no major car manufacturers in the Netherlands. And that’s that’s often touted as perhaps one of the reasons why

they’ve been able to have a relatively successful a very successful bicycling culture. And whereas Sweden does have a car industry, very famous car industry, how much of the recommendations that you’re making,

will actually get a kickback from the car industry? Mentioning no names in Sweden? Well,

Anders Roth 27:07
I don’t know that remains to be seen still from from our suggestions, but well, it they are the car industry in Sweden, they have a strong influence of the national politics. No doubt about that. But still, I think many cities and municipalities, they are not that affected of the car industry. So they could they are free and could will do their own policies without being affected by the car industry. So it’s more into I would say what the local politics in cities really decide that matters.

Carlton Reid 27:50
Hmm. Yeah, I’ve talked to lots of people in your kind of position around the world in which that that’s a very frequent

point in that, you know, we often talk about national policies. Yeah, in fact, it’s municipal policies, which are the thing that makes the difference. However, I always bring it back. And we have to, we did kind of touch on this earlier is, that always leaves the countryside, the rural areas out, because they tend to be much more conservative, much more car focused. And you can’t, then you can you can cycle you can walk, you can have good public transport in cities, which is great for people who live in cities. But you go outside of those cities, and the conditions become incredibly bad very quickly. So how can how can local local areas benefit from what cities are very much now at the forefront of?

Anders Roth 28:47
Well, I think we have some projects at my work where we try to implement different mobility service on the countryside in connection with the public transport. Because it’s expensive to have public transport services on the countryside where not many people travel. But if you can do that in a more efficient way, and at the same time to give people better possibilities. I think that could be one way. And as I described earlier, we had this with extended urban environment agreements, we have a project where we try and try to have something that we called

Rural environmental agreements instead of where we try to focus on both mobility services, but also like having your distant office promoted in a way that gives you a chance to have a better way to have handle your day to day go to work situation and local services.

So I fully agree we have to do projects and make steps forward on the country. So

might as well, otherwise there will be a big problem for general policies as well. And what I said about the car industry, of course, we had policies that have been affected by the car industry, for example, we have the would you say, Well, you could have a company car with the tax deductions we. And that has been beneficial, of course, for the car industry. But that has recently been.

Actually, they change that in from the environmental point of view, good way in the latest year, so it’s not that beneficial anymore.

But But still, you could have countries without car industry that have policies that promote owning and driving cars. And Norway’s a good example of that, where we have enormous of money put into if you buy an electric car. And actually there are investigations done that shows that before 2018 1/3, of electrical cars bought in Norway, it wasn’t replacing diesel or gasoline car, they were just increasing the to say, the car ownership in Norway. So instead of sitting in the bus, you bought an electric car and use the bus lane, with you electrical car making problems for the bus that you used to travel with. So that is GM, something that we tried to

talk about and make research about that you you have to think of policies that that could both stimulate new technology introduction, but without having those negative effects of increasing car demand.

That’s a problem for the politics to have those two minds are two things in mind at the same time.

Carlton Reid 32:00
How about stimulating electric bikes and electric cargo bikes? That’s that seems to be working in many places around the world, when you when you give the same kind of incentives as you give to E cars, electric cars to E bikes, that leads to basically the program’s very quickly

reaching a capacity because people really, really want these things.

Anders Roth 32:22
Yeah, we are I agree. And we seen that in Sweden, also from the research that actually, you do, you have quite astonishing results where you, you have a new travel with electrical bike, and you replace car travel. But some years ago, we had a premiere for that in Sweden, actually, and that was a big political debate. And there was a lot of discussion about this was really useless money.

And I think that could be something actually, deep below the Swedish I don’t really know. But there was a strange debate, I think, anyway, because there wasn’t any results that this was bad.

So it was more like an instinct to the debate, I would say you can’t really give cyclists money for biking. That’s ridiculous. Many people thought that. And I thought that debate was strange. Is the recommendation in your report to have electric bike subsidy? We haven’t gone into that. Actually. We have just some questions that we focus on. But do well. We do that recommendation. In other words, you say suggestions and reports.

Carlton Reid 33:49
Okay, so the inquiry had to make its recommendations about a week ago. Is that right? Yeah. And that now it goes it basically gets presented to the government. And they then they officially publish it and say this is our policy or is what what’s the progress for it after and after it was handed in?

Anders Roth 34:10
Yeah, well, we’ve handed in to the climate and environmental

Secretariat last week, they will look at it and I think they will wait for another inquiry as well. That also touches on the same subjects, not transport issues, but other issues that we had on in our inquiry, and then there will sound this arch. I don’t know we call it remise and Sweden. They will send it out to a lot of other organisations to hear what the broader society in Sweden thinks our suggestions and after that, they will

they will look at the answers and they will decide what will happen what

Carlton Reid 35:00
suggestions they will put in for the parliament for a new laws and Anders how, how radical are your recommendations?

Anders Roth 35:12
Well, I think on a scale from one to 10, I would say seven eight, perhaps some of the recommendations are, I would say quite radical to the policy that we

have today, but they are not. They have been long discussed among people working with this. So they are not too radical from, I would say, the the general discussion among

scientists and people working with this, but they are quite changing the policy that we have today. So, in that case, you could call them a bit radical, perhaps, perhaps not radical. That’s not I don’t know if that’s the right word, but they are changing the policy of that we have in in a quite distinct way I would say thanks.

Carlton Reid 36:08
Thanks to Anders Roth there. For an English language summary of the recommendations Anders and his crew made in the Swedish climate law inquiry, go to and this has been episode 297 of the spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association with Tern Bicycle. Thanks for listening. And watch out for the next two Dutch-themed episodes popping up in your feed real soon. Meanwhile, get out there and ride …

May 8, 2022 / / Blog

8th May 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 296: Explore Your Boundaries

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Marcus Stitz and Mark Beaumont

TOPICS: This show is 45 minutes with round the world cyclists Marcus Stitz and Mark Beaumont discussing their “explore your boundaries” bike-boat-ferry tour of Argyll, Scotland.


Carlton Reid 0:05
Welcome to Episode 296 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday, eighth of May 2022.

David Bernstein 0:21
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. Good people at Tern committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kinds of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t-e-r-n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 0:56
Thanks, David for that intro with our new sponsor, and welcome to the show, which is 40 minutes or so. With round the world cyclists, Marcus Stitz and Mark Beaumont. I’m Carlton Reid and I met with Marcus and Mark in Oban, Scotland before they set off on a week by boat and ferry trip around Argyll I was in town after my own little tour around the region, which Marcus helped organise. Thanks Marcus. And as you can tell from the clinking of cutlery, and a little bit of muzak we met for breakfast in a cafe — so where are we? Cafe Shore in Oban andyou’re about to head off you to on a bit of a wee trip whereabouts are you going yhis morning and you getting a boat that I hear yes sir physically can not ferry a boat.

Mark Beaumont 2:03
Yeah, really sorry to go it’s hard to go far. And I got all the hours without going on a boat. I mean, the mainland is beautiful. But you know, by by school it’s always just amazing when you when you when you go across to to the islands especially smaller islands which are you know, I guess less often explored by bike and when they are it’s often by Roubaix adding double bikes like we’ve got for this trip, you know, lasers to you know, really explore the, the complete range of terrain and I you know, I absolutely love as part of the world my my first memories were in a guy my dad was a, you know, a dairyman further down on the mainland. So my first memories were looking over to the isle of Gigha. And, you know, whilst they then grew up in other parts of Scotland, it’s it’s always pretty special to come back.

Carlton Reid 2:59
And then how long as this trend, so describe netting markets and markets describe what exactly are you doing from today? Because this is you doing this over a number of months only there’s not like,

Marcus Stitz 3:09
yeah, so we’re doing it over like it’s it’s nine days in total. The distance roughly is about 900 kilometres with like, a few bits and let’s and so this first part of the tour will take us we’re taking a boat, the charter boat, but actually which is also available to other people won’t be doing the same. We’re just wandering over from Quinn and harbour to the northern end of Juba. And then we’ll be staying recycling across Juba. And then we’re staying on Isla tonight. And then tomorrow we’ll be taking a ferry from Port askaig on Isla, over Caliente to open and then we’re taking another ferry over to Mo and then we’ll be cycling tilba mui. And then we’ll have a few votes on Sunday from Toba Mali to the Isle of coal. And then another ferry journey to Tyree from coal and then another boat trip back to

Carlton Reid 4:08
small boat trips on this then says there’s possibly definitely more

Marcus Stitz 4:11
because more and more kilometres and on peviot. But like, it’s interesting, because when I design as when we had to look at it, so the Argyll boundary is actually even more extensive because there’s so many little islands so you know, if you would want to add any of those in there, you’ll possibly spend 30 year cycling, boating around. But the idea behind creating the route is that it’s it’s accessible to most people. So the 72 private charters we have and, and the other parts of the world are quite interesting as well. So I’m going to be doing another three days of filming with Jenny Graham, which will involve kayaking across Loch Lomond and taking the Highland explorer train for shore journey as well. And then the last bit I will be mostly on the bike actually, that’s going to be where we’ve been mostly cycling. And we kayak journey over back to the moon.

Carlton Reid 5:08
So you’re really showcasing the region by doing everything you can.

Mark Beaumont 5:13
Yeah, I mean, the genesis for this project came out two years ago. Now, when Marcus and I are both living in Edinburgh, in the heart of lockdown, wanting to explore that concept to live by, you could go while staying close to home. So they explore your boundaries concept started on the second of January when we did a ener, D deep snow sort of an epic sort of ride slash pushing our bikes through the Pentlands and around the fact before, and it was quite cool that concept to an area that I know very well, Marcus may as well. But see if they are in unfamiliar ways. When When, when locked down was at its sort of feet, you know, we weren’t allowed to cross our council boundaries, and nobody really knows where their council boundary is. I mean, you might notice that the bins change colour, but you know, it’s not normally a thing unless you’re a counsellor. Well, actually, we’re recording this, on the sixth of May. So maybe today, people do care about where their council boundaries are, because it’s been the council elections being have been, but normally, it’s not really a thing. And so, Marcus, and I got all the GPX routes for the council boundaries in Scotland, and I just started to quietly encourage people to, you know, stay local, but, you know, go on adventures. And I think there’s something wonderful by giving a narrative, rather than just going on a bike ride, you’re, you’re actually instead of forcing yourself to stick to a line or to create a route, and then explore your boundaries, there’s more than metaphor than just a physical route, there was very much about sort of pushing yourself and having a great adventure. And that series,

checklist included, was not the only thing that you’ve got to move on.

So they say the first, the first four or five, explore your boundaries were all in central banks of Scotland. And the more we did, the more people seem to sort of latch on to that concept. And he posted the roots and commute and encourage people to explore their own areas. But the council bind us in the central belt of Scotland are all day lights or two day rides and most when you start to consider birth share, or, you know, I guess or our guy on the aisles or the high end, these are, these are much, much bigger challenges. And so when the Argyle is an area that I’ve explored last Marcus has explored law, but to take that concept of exploring your boundaries, and to try and come up with a route or a concept which would hopefully inspire other people to go on adventures was a bit more challenging and that’s where Marcus comes into his own. He’s an absolute sort of genius when it comes to to route setting and we’ve brought Jenny into this project. I think it’s fantastic that you know, we can split it into basically three 3d explorers and I think that’s more realistic for how people actually go on their adventures. You know, we’ve just taken Friday’s off and I adventure all days and then Sunday and you can go back to your job on a Monday having had this you know, extraordinary adventure across lots of islands and terrain. So this this will be our most challenging explore your boundaries yet for sure. It’s been challenging to even plan it and Marcus has done the heavy lifting on that but it’s it’s gonna be a tonne of fun, but it is it is continuing the series that is continuing this required dictate that idea I mean, people you know, Baglan rose people, you know, want to swim in every laugh. And, you know, I think for a gravel bike rider this concept and started are plenty three routes around, around around around each boundaries. It’s quite tantalising because uh, you end up taking your bike to parts of Scotland and the country that you wouldn’t normally have residency

Carlton Reid 9:26
and you’re gonna need fuel for this ride. Don’t let me stop listening to people going to work and this is your would I be right in thinking you both do this? This is your living. This is what you do. You ride your bike and you get painted

some of the time some of the town’s

clean have you guys make your money?

Mark Beaumont 10:00
Marcus, you go first.

Marcus Stitz 10:06
I guess for me, it’s, it does change. But I think the core concept of what I’m doing so I do three things, which is bike packing in Scotland, then my own stuff, which is under my own name. And then I want events as well, but they don’t really call it to come into this one. But I think most of my book is, has to work with, I think the overarching theme behind it is to get more people out on bikes, and also to offer them sustainable tourism alternatives, but really give people the tools to do it, because I think it is really important to, to, yeah, have offers for people so they can, they can get around the country in a different way. And so that’s the overarching thing about it. There’s, it’s a mixture of, I do a fair bit of filmmaking. So this this project is, is a good example of where I’m kind of jointly doing the filming, I’m doing the editing. Then I do, I do write and photograph as well. And then I’ve just written the book as well. And I think parts of this route is going to come into a new book I’m working on at the moment. And then there’s also a few companies I’ve worked with on a regular basis. So Schwalbe has been supporting us for quite a number of going go

Carlton Reid 11:28
check tires, knew the exact tire I was riding on my Brompton.

Marcus Stitz 11:31
Exactly, yeah, yes. Possibly, possibly like I’ve seen. But so they’ve been super helpful. I, I I only work with with partners from the industry where I think I’ve got a good feeling but loganair so swell, but it’s quite an interesting thing. What I really like is their ethos of sustainability. So as a company they’re trying as much as possible. And the other thing for me as I speak German to my portfolio of companies I work with is sometimes also companies which obviously

Carlton Reid 12:07
Mark is eating his porridge.

Mark Beaumont 12:15
yeah, so I was talking in Leeds when he a business I’ve worked for him for 17 years going from here to there. And that’s partly where

Carlton Reid 12:24
the money from so like you’ve gotten things on CDs and then get told to them to like to inspire.

Mark Beaumont 12:29
I love I love the opportunity to do events and talks, but it’s not it’s not my bread and butter. So you know, there’s a lot of a lot of athletes who do spend their lives but I don’t I run a early stage investment firm. So my my background and if you feel that people knew me as I was a bike rider, you know, it’s like learning the planet twice. Not there’s worse things to be known for but, and why I spend my time doing is as an athlete. I work for GCN I made a documentary recycling network. And these days that really accounts for one or two big projects a year major documentaries and then filmmaking with workers and you know, markets under sells himself there. His real skill debt is the exacting filmmaking you know, he’s a one man immediate shelter insofar as he can do the stills, the photography, the filming was wrong, you know, on the FBI, she has an extraordinary skill set when I was racing GB Judo last year, you know, he built that beautifully and ended the day. So, you know, to have that, to have that skill set to capture and share stories is amazing. I can’t I can’t do that. But but the other side of my life, which is just as important as writing mics is on the partner, an investment firm, and we we are impact investors, we focus on climate change solutions, clean technology, food and water security. You know, I’m a farmer’s son, and you know, I’m interested in the stuff I want to talk to my kids about are the big challenges in the world and trying to back science and technology, which is, you know, creating, creating creating solutions, global solutions for you know, stuff that keeps me up at night. We’ve also got some some healthcare lights thrown in there. So I realised sort of, we’re mixing two very different sides of my life, but I don’t I would I ride the bike because for a decade, right, a very fulfilling and successful career. You know, as an adventure athlete, I enjoy making training great each year and break records and do worldfirst I will always be an A, I love riding my bike. I love having the ability to push myself and hopefully inform and inspire others to go there and push their abilities. But it’s not it’s not my me work. I We do it if we do it by, or nothing from it, because I absolutely love adventure. You know, I absolutely love adventure. And this is a very meaningful part of my life, but in the next 20 years of my career, you know, will be different to the last 20 years of my career. And if I can, if I can back, if I can back up all ecosystems, businesses that are making a positive impact in the world, then that’s just as meaningful, as, you know, adventures like, you know, exploring wildlife.

Carlton Reid 15:31
What difference that may have until, to your to both

of those aspects of your life,

Mark Beaumont 15:37
I think the biggest difference was I didn’t want to be travelling. So if you think, I mean, I’m

Carlton Reid 15:46
Aborad? Here is OK?

Mark Beaumont 15:50
just mean time and time away. I don’t mean, I don’t mean where I mean, in my 20s, I would do expeditions that weren’t six, nine months. And, you know, we’ve been away with the BBC and filmmaking all over the planet for long periods is a completely different equation to get to help. And so, you, the racism projects I take on now all tend to be a month, as opposed to, you know, the last time I was away for a month on in was during the world media days, five years ago. So yeah, I still, I still feel like their confusion itself as hard as ever. As and in terms of my if you get geeky, like my numbers, my view tonight, my, my, my performance on the bike now, you know, I’m arguably a stronger rider, and I was gonna wait when I say drive the world, but I’m training for different thing. I’m going faster, but I’m not, I’m not going eating Vegas. In the summer, I’ll be doing Race Across America. And, you know, we’re, so I’m doing things on the ground. But when I don’t travel by nourishing yourself in different directions, as an athlete, I’m still learning I wish I’d known in my 20s Why No, no, you know, nearly 40 I love that. But, you know, my priorities are very different with, you know, two beautiful daughters to, you know, a different work life

balance. And also,

I’m not, I’m not, I’m not a freelancer in the sense that I can just go and ride my bike every day, you know, I’ve got a business to run. And I am in love with bands, I get balanced out with great adventure. And you’re

Carlton Reid 17:26
going to be when you’re running around with Marcus, or you’re going to be doing business deals on your phone

half way up a mountain.

Mark Beaumont 17:34
Marcus is pretty understandingly, Marcus has a great idea. And we’ve done so many projects over the years. So he doesn’t understand that, you know, I’m often chatting about, you know, because Because to be fair to market mark is massively interested in. He’s incredibly well read and very interested in the science, the technology, the innovation, you know, the things that we’re addressing, so we often end up riding our bikes talking about, you know, sustainability, talking about, you know, innovation in businesses and, you know, behaviour and all these things, which are absolutely what we’re trying to do at yields, which is the rest of my kind of my work. So I’m not, I’m not one of these people who’s entirely distracted the whole time and, you know, trying to go do me milk when you’re riding your bicycle, but I do see it as the same. The same thing. You know, when I’m on my bike, I often think I don’t meditate, but I do ride a bike, when I’m riding my bike, I’ve got time to think I’ve got time to talk to friends, I’ve got to really come up with ideas. Make connections. So it’s not like I draw a line, then I leave my laptop and go, Well, you know, I’m not doing that. And, you know, I’m very passionate about what I do on the investment side and very passionate about what I do on that adventure side. And thankfully, my guess is it’s very liquidy to conversations about where it’s going to be so he’s not yet hit the big red button and said sharp marks they’ll start talking about innovation.

Carlton Reid 19:03
Right? So Marcus has now quit with the information they’re polished up that breakfast is already great. For now Mark has got so we’re gonna we’re gonna

like we’re shuffling between each other. They’re not I want to come to

you though, and then just talk about and come either you’ve adopted Scott or Scott was adopted you What have you learned in Scotland? Where’s your background? Obviously, you cycled around the world

on a singletrack bike

what point did Scotland impact on your life?

Marcus Stitz 19:43
There were two points. So I came to Scotland over Sunderland actually, I studied how the year in Sunderland and others using using the train connection from Newcastle up to Edinburgh a number of times just to visit Scotland because it’s such a beautiful place and then I did an internship In 2005, in New York and had basically had a month to spare. So 2005, okay. And having been up to Edinburgh, I knew about the fringe, and afford like this quite opportunity I was at university back then create opportunity to get a summer job in Edinburgh and see what it’s like. And yeah, so I did a managing a box office in 2005, doing the bridge. Loved it, it was great. And I think this is kind of really shaped my view of Edinburgh as well, because it’s such an international town, very open minded, it’s like it’s, but it’s also traditional at the same time. It’s fairly Scottish. So, and then I kept coming back for years doing pretty much the same. Either being at university, or then I worked in New Zealand for a while. And then after, after living in New Zealand, for a while, I decided I’m going to go come back to Europe. And as, as I’ve been to Edinburgh, beforehand, for a few summers, I have, it’s just a natural choice. And yeah, this is how I ended up in Edinburgh, worked in the arts for quite a while. And then I had a bit of a career change in 2012. And started as Head of Marketing at Scottish swimming. And that was very much I think, part of the the session behind it was also, how can I use my skills based in the arts to work somewhere else was that they do something for a long, long time? Haven’t you become a bit tunnel vision. And the other reason was also, I just just wanted, yeah, it was just a theatre, it’s just change up that general life change a little bit. And the good thing about that job was it was it always has, it was a two month, a two year contract. Initially, I wanted something that has a limited timeframe, because I had this idea of cycling around the world in my head. And so that gave me the opportunity to say I’m going to do this, I’m really going to focus on that Korea pilot. For two and a half, it ended up being a little bit more than two years. But then there’s a break. And that point, it’s going to be cycling around the world. And then I’ll do whatever I’m going to do afterwards. I didn’t really think about that before I left so and and that’s kind of our ended up and which was interesting. So it’s been 34,000 kilometres cycling around the world. And there was very much with a focus already. I knew I wanted to do something different afterwards. And I was literally looking at houses safely managed in different countries. What’s the attitude just slightly? How do different countries use cycling as a tourism as a, as a travel alternative? countries like New Zealand are very interesting, for example, when it comes to that. And so when I came back from the Vanderbilts group, and this is why this trip was really interesting, I ended up in Fort Ellyn on Isla, there was the first part of Scotland as because I took a real ferry over from Northern Ireland. And the last four days cycling and Scotland really caught home the idea this is an amazing country, like we’ve got so much opportunity here. And we’re just picking it just, it just needs us and it needs fresh ideas and needs. And it’s people behind that really, that really pioneer ideas. And that’s kind of where the idea of bike packing started and all the work I’m doing why now?

Carlton Reid 23:22
And does it work? Does the

Tourist Board think wow, this has really boosted our numbers? Or is it something very niche? Where do you think it fits into the


Marcus Stitz 23:32
It has a big it was very niche when I started doing it has massively, or at least noted, notably changed in the last two years in the pandemic? I think beforehand, and then also with the whole discussion about sustainability. I think people now do realise things need to change and they also realised that they haven’t changed quick enough. Still, I think the ecosystem in which we’re operating now is a very different one. I think we’re still I just did a destination Leadership Programme at the university to kind of backup my my my skills a little bit. And it was really interesting. I think there is a there is a real there. But there’s a very significant lack of acknowledging that people don’t know what cyclists want to his business don’t don’t have an idea. And I always think if you tell them that and you make it very clear to them, they’re really receptive. I’m yet to find any business whatever, we don’t want any cyclists to visit us because they you know, they arrive late and leave early they eat loads of brilliant light from from, you know, from from what people actually spend the community and the way how would they expect it? It’s just I could not think of anything better for our community.

Carlton Reid 24:53
They don’t really know busing me in loads of food. Are you in a big camper van? No, you’re basically by If you’re good to the local economy

Marcus Stitz 25:02
yeah and you don’t need even your infrastructure is minimal what you need when you don’t need any parking spaces for people overnight. Thanks for like this. So and I think this and this also like, I think people cycling in terms of food, they can only take so much alibi if I recognise that I’m around the world for three days if you’re doing it self support, that is the maximum you can take. So, you know, you’ll end up buying your stuff in local shops, and which I think is a really nice thing to do. So yeah,

David Bernstein 25:31
hey, everyone, Excuse the interruption, but this is David from the Fred cast and the spokesman. I just want to take a few moments out of the show to talk to you about our sponsor, turn bicycles at That’s t e r n, like the bird turn. Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. And today, I want to tell you about their new quick haul ebike. The Quick-haul is a compact ebike and it’s it’s optimised to make life in the city just a little bit easier, a little bit more convenient, and a lot more fun. It’s a compact ebike. And it’s kind of handle most of your daily trips around town, it’s rated to a hefty 150 kilos, or for those of us Americans 330 pound Max gross vehicle weight. And it’s got an ecosystem of modular accessories. This is really cool, by the way, so that it can be customised for any job. different setups are going to help you carry a load of cargo, maybe an extra passenger, and that could be a small adult, a child or even your dog or cat. Now despite its longer wheelbase, and its hefty cargo capacity, it’s shorter than a regular bike. It’s a compact design, plus it’s got 20 inch wheels. And that makes the quick haul easier to manoeuvre on urban streets, or maybe even in transit hubs like train stations or bus depots or even ferry terminals. It also includes turns vertical parking parking feature, which is really cool, so that you can just roll the bike into a small elevator or pocketed a quarter of your apartment. Now, the quick haul is also shareable by literally everyone in the family. It’s equipped with an adjustable seat post and stem so that it can fit riders from 160 to 195 centimetres or five foot three to six foot five, but it also fits riders 145 to 180 centimetres, which is four nine to five foot 11 When you put on the shorter seat posts now Josh Hon, who is Tern’s team captain, and also somebody both Carlton, and I have known personally for a very long time, don’t ask me and Josh how long we’ve known each other. Josh is serious about ensuring the safety of Tern’s bikes and its riders. So that’s why he and his team ensure that every turn bike is designed and independently tested to ensure rider safety. That’s why they use respected independent testing labs, and why they sourced their motors, their drive trains and their batteries from German industrial powerhouse, Bosch, it just doesn’t get much better than that. So for more information about the Quick haul, or any of Tern’s wide range of bikes, just head on over to That’s t e r n We thank turn for their sponsorship of the Spokesmen podcast. And we thank you for your support of Tern, and also for allowing this brief interruption of the show. Now back to Carlton and the spokesmen.

Mark Beaumont 28:55
A big a big part of a conversation is about how do you get good information out that allows people to know how to access these areas. I mean, it’s nearly 10 years since the wildfire Gao so you know we’re sitting here and open. Wildfire, Gao started, Karen Toobin came up with that sort of project with myself and others and I spent 12 days exploring this beautiful area, but a big conversation that came up. It’s a real case of you know, build it and they’ll come because until you build a narrative, give it a brand. You know, we’ve seen that in other parts of Scotland. I mean, here’s, you know, the adventure coast up in the north coast of Scotland then see 500 You know, these, the putting putting locations on the map, and then giving people credible information in terms of how to get there. So it’s one thing saying that the islands on the west coast of Scotland are beautiful, but you’ve actually got to help people in terms of how to get there with their bikes. So you know, during the connections with you know, the trains from London for example, you can get sleeper train up on a Thursday night or a Friday night and wake up and you’re you’re ready Did you go? Or how did you get the bus with? You know, with bike spaces on it, you know, how do you go from Glasgow, to central belt of Scotland, you know, to these parts, you know, what’s the ferry network, like, it’s not rocket science, but equally, it’s not. It’s not information you’re born with. So a lot of the narrative over the last sort of 10 years has been paid up a credible information, which is not just picture postcard, this is a great place to, you know, take your bicycle and communities that you want to explore. But, you know, what’s the toolkit? How do you do it, and when I say build it, and they’ll come, when we started the, you know, the wild about a girl project, you know, 10 years ago, it then got picked up by Visit Scotland and amplified. And I think we knew, and we needed to start creating content, we needed to start, you know, putting out infant information before, you know, other organisations went, Oh, this is great. It fits our it fits our agenda as well. And it’s, you know, it’s very clear whether you’re talking about, you know, public support through, you know, destination tourism, whether you’re talking about businesses, you know, whether you’re talking, there’s the rising tide floats, many boats, there’s a lot of interest, but I think it’s leadership is having people who actually have the idea is to get people together and put out credible information.

Carlton Reid 31:17
You guys have got to go, you’ve got a boat to catch it. And that’s your own boat.

Mark Beaumont 31:21
I don’t know, this is quite fun, I could go on a bit longer.

Carlton Reid 31:25
Well, you need to plug your stuff now. Sounds good on Marcus, and you’ve got a book we have close to actually physically coming out is your book and tell us about your book.

Marcus Stitz 31:33
Oh, it’s actually in the printer, which is great. So there’s no changes any longer, which is a fabulous thing. So it will be coming out on the seventh of July as the publishing rate. And the books called Great British travel rights. And the idea behind that this is again, what Mark’s just been saying, I think you’d like whoever whiting’s been such a fast growing thing, sport, whatever you want to call it, especially in the UK. And my idea was like to write a guide. But I also want to portray to people who are behind the voice of thought and clever, clever avoiding if you if you take a very poor definition has been a long it’s been around since people have written their bikes. And cars, they’ve always been started travel books, and then we had tonic. So I portrayed 25 people and their favourite routes with them.

Carlton Reid 32:26
And Jo Burt.

Marcus Stitz 32:28
Yeah, we’ve got Jo Burt. So this like marks and as well, Jenny, then Amelia McKenna. She’s a, she lives in the borders, and she’s really a champion when it comes to like their favourite rides. Is that pretty much? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it’s, and most of them, most of them are where the people look for as well. So it is in their own path.

Carlton Reid 32:49
Similar to this, you’re doing so it’s like it’s more your boundaries, but gravel rides close to home?

Marcus Stitz 32:53
much. Yeah. And there was a very, very interesting theme that came, which I didn’t really think about at the beginning when I started researching it, but it came to very, very well that the reason why a lot of people picked up quell bikes in the UK, this was during lockdown, because those are the bikes do, you can write them from your front door, and they’ll get you anywhere, pretty much, you know, they’re kind of a good alternative between a road bike and a mountain bike. So you can you know, you can do the odd bit awkward to it. So, ya know, there’s of quite, quite BowTech, then there’ll be a documentary about this as well. So I basically filmed and photographed those roots, and all the pictures, selection of the pictures made it into the book. And now I’m working on the film, which is we must, hopefully a really nice portrayal of how diverse and how interesting the prevalence scene is. And there’s two things about the book as well as so the sustainability theme is in there as well, I, I often thought that a lot of white books are very much focused on costs. So I did the research and most of the data accessible by public transport. But some of them people need to avoid a little bit longer to get to the start point. But that was one of the key ideas. And it’s also there’s a 60 or 58/42 ratio of men and women and because I always felt like cycling is such a male dominated sport, especially how it is portrayed in the media. And I really want to navic That’s the huge opportunity of gravel riding because I think it’s huge. It has started from from a very different starting point. So and I’ve got two women of colour in there as well. It’s just I’ve tried to try to portray, I think cycling is really diverse. And it’s a really interesting activity because it is really accessible. You can you can write, you know, you can buy you can buy a bike for 200 pounds, and you can have fun, avoid some of the routes on it. And that was the idea behind it. So yeah I’m really looking forward to it.

Carlton Reid 34:49
And where can people preorder who’s, who’s the publisher basically?

Unknown Speaker 34:53
Ao the publisher’s Vertebrate. They can pre order it on Adventure or through us Without let’s they’ll be available on

Carlton Reid 35:02
And just standard plug your social media. So where can people I’m sure they do follow you anyway.

Marcus Stitz 35:06
yeah, that’s, which is a Yeah. So they can follow me. I think it’s like Twitter and Instagram, which are the two main channels, it’s quite cool to have, which is a bit that thing long back to my German data sets, I said Kult loanee Was that I never saw. It was basically a name, I’d given myself myself and acquainted with each eight in Germany I did for 12 years. And that was our DJ name. So it was so nice. I think there must have been the first time when I used to return via Instagram wasn’t born by then. But then I kind of adopted that handle across all channels, and the authority just by typing in markers sticks. Yeah, there’s easy and if they are single speed to this Google Search still very clearly binary,

Carlton Reid 35:51
excellent. And coming for us to know where What do you want to plug in the name of projects you’ve been doing that you want to just talk about all your social media would want to

Mark Beaumont 36:01
Buy Marcus’s book? Well, what have I got going on? There’s Race Across America happening in June, I’m not sure when you’re going to put out this, this conversation. But that’s going to be an interesting race. So with GCN, my I’m doing as a pair, and my race partners, a guy called Jonathan Schubert, who’s a time trial specialist. So that’s been a lot of focus and training this year, and the epic coast to coast and we hope to break the record, from West Coast East Coast going just south of Los Angeles to Baltimore, we’ll hope to get across America in about six and a half, seven days. And that’s not self supported. You’ve got a truck behind you. Yeah, that’s that’s an absolute all a race. It’s absolutely at the sharp end of performance very, very different to these, these these backpacking adventures. And that’s the GCN film I’ve got, I’ve got a book coming out in the summer, all about sports psychology, cycling psychology. So I wrote a book a couple of years ago with Laura Penhold, my performance manager called endurance, which was kind of all the frequently asked questions I’ve been asked over the last 20 years about how to go further. And the chapter that I think I enjoyed the most. And I felt there was a lot lot more to say was psychology and mindset. And one of my key contributors for that was a San Francisco based sports psych, called Dr. Jim Taylor. So when the when the when the insurance book did well. The publishers came back and said, What would you write about next? And I said, Well, could we take that chapter and really develop it? So we’ve just finished writing, writing that and we all know that to be a good bike rider, you need to train physically. And we all know that. Mindset, emotions, identity, are a huge important part in terms of our performance as well. But even though we know that we don’t really do anything about it, it’s just sort of are you born with it? Is it just experience, but there’s no, there’s no way to train that really the way you train physically. So Jim brought a huge amount of knowledge, having worked with top flight, US teams in skiing, and cycling and triathlon. And I brought my life of experience. And it was really interesting working with somebody who could bring, you know, a language and a way of describing what I’m very interested in, you know, I’ve always felt like my ability as a bike rider is not because of who I am physically, is actually your ability to think your way through the task and, you know, endure in the simplest sense, so yeah, looking forward to that command in summer.

Carlton Reid 38:46
So that’s in July, August. It’s actually meant to time as

Mark Beaumont 38:50
so yeah, I’ll probably come out just after Marcus’s book, publisher GCN GCM. Publishing. Yep. Okay. Yeah, my first books were all Penguin Random House. So the ones which are the expedition books, but my last two which are more How To books information, books are published through GCN.

Carlton Reid 39:08
And then Twitter it’s MrMarkBeaumont.

Mark Beaumont 39:11
yep, I’m dead easy to find. Just like Walmart. There is a mark Beaumont who paints horses and there’s a mark Beaumon, who’s a music journalist, I often get tweets. I often get tweets from people really annoyed that I’ve slagged off their rock band. And that’s not me.

Carlton Reid 39:28
What’s that on your arm?

Unknown Speaker 39:30
So Supersapien. So super Sapien. So it’s a glucose monitor.

Carlton Reid 39:34
And so that’s normally for diabetics?

Mark Beaumont 39:37
Yeah, it was born out of people with type 1.

Carlton Reid 39:39
My wife went and she’s not diabetic, which is a diabetic doctor. So she often wears stuff like that. Yeah. This is now the tech for athletes to wear.

Unknown Speaker 39:47
Yeah, exaclty. you can see my croissant and porridge is kicking in at the moment. So I was when I met you this morning. I was actually very low. And for everyone listening we’re looking at graph right now. I’m, and there’s a massive spike as I’ve fueled now. And whilst I’m in sort of a passive recovery mode here, that’s all fine. But if I was to go into a performance mode, this is exactly the same graph, but with a different range on it. And I’m now in a space where I should get on my bike and start pedalling. But if I’d done that an hour ago, under fueled, my performance would have been suboptimal. So yeah, no, so it’s called a super sapien, it’s, it’s very much about, you know, 15 years ago, people geeked out on heart rate, and then people geeked out on power. And, you know, layering on top of that, and understanding of what’s happening with your, you know, your energy systems is super dressed for that,

Carlton Reid 40:36
well, you’ve had some breakfast, you know, go right.

Why would you do that? You geeking out on the graph there when when the human physiology which is full of off? Well, you think,

Mark Beaumont 40:47
yeah, I mean, there’s an intuition about it, there’s a there’s a common sense element. But we’re not as objective as you might hope we are like, when you’re when you’re shattered, when you’re sleep deprived, when you’re pushing yourself through ultra endurance. You know, if you have a physiological bonk, if you hit the wall, it’s normally correspondent with a nutritional crash. And people don’t feel because their legs feel people feel because their gut feels normally. So the psychology and the nutritional side of cycling. Cyclists just want to cycle and they think it’s all about how strong their muscles are. But actually, they take care of themselves if the mindset and the nutritionist is correct. So I don’t think we are, I don’t think we’re as good as you’re suggesting we are at knowing ourselves. And I think we should never, we should never rely on data to the point where we lose sort of the ability to sort of listen to our own body. But it’s very, very, it’s very, very useful and helpful to have some science behind that. I know when I’m racing. In a ram, I’ll need about 110 grammes of carbohydrates an hour to be able to sit at 260 watts. You know, I know, I know, my numbers. And so it’s pretty clear, then backing that up if I’m under fueling. And so yeah, maybe that would kill the fun for some people, but I’m in the business of, and I have been for my whole career of trying to break down barriers, like people, you know, criticise me for ruining a good bike ride by going too fast. But I’ve always been trying to not just break records, but create leaps in performance. I try to do stuff that’s not been done before, not because I’m trying to beat other people, but because I’m very, very interested in what’s possible what my personal best is. And so data data is really helpful. And sort of, you know, I genuinely do wish I’d known some of this. When I first cycled around the world 17 years ago, I mean, back then I really was a wild man adventurer, and I trained much better than than I did 1520 years ago, but so part of the evolution

Carlton Reid 43:00
Thanks to Marcus Stitz and Mark Beaumont there. And thanks also to you for listening to Episode 296 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast now brought to you in association with Tern Bicycle. Watch out for the next episode popping up in your feed real soon. But meanwhile, get out there and ride.

April 21, 2022 / / Blog

21st April 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 295: The best electric car is a bicycle — in conversation with sustainability scientist Kim Nicholas

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Professor Kim Nicholas

TOPICS: This show is a little under an hour with Professor Kim Nicholas, an American sustainability scientist based in Lund, Sweden. She’s co-author of a new study which ranks the 12 best ways to reduce car dependence in cities.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 295 of The Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on 21st of April 2022.

David Bernstein 0:24
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 0:51
Thanks, David. And welcome to the show, which is a little under an hour with Professor Kim Nicholas, an American sustainability scientist based right now in Lund, Sweden. But before we get into this great episode, I have some thanks to give, and a welcome to make. Those of you who have listened to the show for a wee while will know that our long term sponsor has been the American online retailer, Jenson USA. Amazingly, they’ve been our title sponsor since 2008, two years after the show started. Now, 14 years is a long time to retain the same sponsor. And we are so grateful — that’s me and David — for Jenson USA’s support over those years. But all good things must come to an end and Jensen is now taking its leave. But we’re not. And I am thrilled to report that we have a new title, sponsor in Tern Bicycles. You’ll know Tern, of course, from the GSD electric cargo bike and other modern classics. Tern is a longtime friend of the show — co-founder, Josh Hon has been a guest several times — and so it’s a great fit. Tern’s support will enable us to continue producing the Spokesmen podcast. We’ll be working with Tern on intros and audio bumpers, and all the other things that podcasts do with their partners but, for now, let’s get started with today’s show, which is my conversation with Professor Kim Nicholas co author of a new study, which ranks the 12 best ways to reduce car dependence in cities. Before we get into the paper that you you’ve co authored with, with Paula Cuss, I first came upon you, because you had this viral placard-stroke-poster because you’re a climate scientist. So tell me what that that placsrd-stroke-poster said.

Kim Nicholas 3:30
That was from my first climate protest in 2014. It’s based on a framework I’ve been teaching for a long time, and it’s almost a haiku of everything you need to know about climate change boiled down to five statements. So “It’s warming. It’s us. We’re sure. It’s bad. We can fix it.”

Carlton Reid 3:51
Yes. And then you’ve you’ve taken that haiku. And you then made a book out of it in effect. So under the sky we make as your latest book. So is that would I be right in thinking that is an expansion upon that, that that number of linked very short sentences? Is that is that the expansion of it?

Kim 4:12
Yes, I do use that framework in Under the sky We Make. I also organise the book by facts, feelings, and action. Those are the three secret ingredients we need to actually tackle climate change. And I talked about the facts of how we know that it’s warming, and it’s us and that scientists are sure I deal with some of the emotional impacts in the feelings because it is really bad. And that’s something that’s tough to face. And we need coping skills and ways to face it in order to do the work and find purpose and meaning and doing the work. And then the majority of the book is focused on evidence based action. So what does research show actually works to make a fast and fair transition to a fossil free world and how can all of us be a part of making that happen?

Carlton Reid 4:59
I think I don’t think I’m totally out of the ballpark here. But it just seems that in the last six months, perhaps a year, perhaps even after, don’t look up the movie, we’ve seen more climate scientists actually taking quite direct action. Would you say that’s right? Is it something is that? Is that a sign of desperation that more climate scientists are not just saying, you know, yes, here we can fix it. And and this is the yes, it’s we’re sure, elements of your hatred, but also, the but we can fix it part has been ignored.

Kim Nicholas 5:37
I think it’s fair to say there’s increasing frustration and even desperation among climate scientists and climate experts, we’ve really had the scientific knowledge that we need to tackle this problem since almost my whole lifetime, or before I was born. And the fact that we’ve done so much additional research and crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s and gotten the error bars down to these tiny margins, and done what science can do to point out the problem, which is basically burning fossil fuels and destroying nature. Point out the solutions, which are getting on clean and renewable energy and transforming to a sustainable system of food production. We know how to do those things, but governments and people in power are not making them happen. And it’s really increasingly terrifying to feel like we’re standing by and watching those warnings, and that evidence being ignored. So I think that people are getting really compelled to speak up and take more direct and personal action so that we can try to sleep at night and say, Look, we didn’t just stand by and, you know, let society failed to act when we knew what to do. So I think you’re right that people scientists are getting more directly involved.

Carlton Reid 6:54
Now I’m gonna be this — normally I’m a smug cyclist, but I’m actually gonna be a smug motorist here now. So right this second in time on my driveway is an electric car. It has been charged from the solar panels on my roof. So I’m incredibly smug in that, you know, I’m not powering that the car from from dinosaur trees, I’m absolutely just going from the perfect renewable, the sun. So that’s why I’m kind of smug here. However, if if people like me and the millions of people like me, actually just thought, well, we’re going to solve the climate crisis by doing what I’m doing here. Now, that’s actually going to lead to another problem. And that is, you know, mass car use if everybody starts driving around because they think that being friendly to the to the planet, by being smug and having an electric car with a solar power, charging it, all that does is actually lead to other problems. So how can you square that circle as a climate scientist?

Kim Nicholas 8:03
So your electric car being charged by solar panels on your roof is the second best kind of car. It’s definitely better than a fossil powered car. But the best kind of car is actually car free. So this is what our new study is focused on. With Pollack, who’s you know, we start from the the understanding that, actually to meet climate and health goals and to reduce inequalities and to make cities safer and more livable, and more beautiful. We actually need to reduce cars themselves, electric cars are a big step forward from a climate perspective, compared with fossil cars. And all cars need to be fossil free. But actually, the biggest benefits and gains will come from reducing unnecessary cars as much as possible. So that was the focus of our new study.

Carlton Reid 8:52
So let’s, let’s talk about your new study. This bubbled up for me. I know two, three days ago, I know you’ve had a you’ve had the paper, then there was a conversation piece. And then as a guardian piece. So this is bubbling up in many different places. And this is me, this was me, that’s going to bubble up for people to this total points, you’ve got that I would like to go through that like point by point and let’s let’s go backwards until we get to V key ones that you think what cities should be, should be doing. But first of all, yeah, one of the kind of overriding things. And this perhaps is counterintuitive to too many people is it’s not so much what national governments do. Most of the work on climate is actually being done, or reducing cars for it. Most certainly is being done by local governments by municipal governments. So is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is that a neutral? Should there be more national government stuff anyway? Where do you where do you sit on that particular angle?

Kim Nicholas 9:56
Well, we definitely need much more National Climate Action, we know that government’s current pledges are most likely not sufficient. And if they are barely sufficient with the most optimistic assumptions to meet the agreement of the Paris Agreement, so are to meet the climate targets in the Paris Agreement. So, countries are not doing enough, especially historically high emitting countries like the UK and the US. Those national governments need to do much more, there are about 20 countries who have been slowly reducing their greenhouse gas emission. So that is good news. But that needs to be stepped up much more. At the same time, there are several 100 cities more than 300 cities who have been reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. So just by the numbers, we see that cities are actually doing a better job of putting policies and practices in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And it doesn’t let national governments off the hook. But it shows that there are important climate actions to be taken at every level of government and really in every place, because ultimately, to stop climate change, we have to humans have to completely stop emitting carbon dioxide and adding it to the atmosphere. So to do that, every city has to do that every sector, every industry, every country, so it’s a lot. It’s a big job. And we do need everybody to help out.

Carlton Reid 11:17
I might be wrong on this, globally, but from a UK perspective, it seems that cities are able to do this, because they have leaders in the UK, it’s kind of these these effects voted in members, so elected members who some of their biggest portfolios are transport. So that’s why cities are quite progressive on this, because the things that that mares tend to have control over is, you know, things like getting cars out of their cities, is that a fair reflection globally? Or is that just Am I just looking at purely as a UK thing.

Kim Nicholas 11:57
So our study focused on Europe, which, in the EU, we have a mission to deliver 100 Climate Neutral cities by 2030. And that is very soon as you know, it is less than eight years away. So it’s a big job. And there are many cities that are interested and have signed up. But basically no city that is on track to do it yet, or is has all the policies or practices in place to make it happen. So it is the case, though, that our study found in Europe that local governments were key in implementing these policies that actually did work to reduce car use. So what we studied was, where has car use actually been measurably reduced already in practice? So not just models or projections, but actually, where has this already worked on the ground? And we found that more than three quarters of these cases, the initiatives were led by local governments.

Carlton Reid 12:56
I kind of mentioned globally there and you brought absolutely back to the focus of your study, which is a you But let’s actually geographically ground you here. So where are you talking from today? And where did you originally come from? Because your accent is not we’re you’re speaking from?

Kim Nicholas 13:15
Fair enough. I grew up in California in a town called Sonoma, which is about an hour north of San Francisco. And my PhD was actually about the impact of climate change on the wine industry, which is the lifeblood of that region and connection for my family and part of that landscape and history. Then in 2010, I moved to loon Sweden, which is where I’m speaking to from today. So I’m a sustainability scientist at Lund University.

Carlton Reid 13:41
I know Sonoma I have cycled in in the Sonoma Valley. So yes, it’s a beautiful part of the world. Let’s, let’s talk about your study now from it from a slightly different angle in that when there was a tweet, I don’t know if you’ve answered this or not. But in one of the tweet threads where you mentioned your study, and you gave the link to the original paper, Henk Swarttouw of the European Cyclists’ Federation, said, yeah, they’re all great. All those those, that those those 12 things you’re talking about, but you’ve missed one. And what you’ve missed is cycleway networks is bike infrastructure, basically. And it’s either you or somebody else. I can’t remember who kind of then kicked back on that and said, well, actually, so we didn’t if it was you who entered that, but can you enter it now? I mean, is the number 13, 14 Whatever is it, you know, get more people on bikes?

Kim Nicholas 14:37
No, it’s not. And I did answer that tweet. And I think it’s a really important finding from our study, which is that the most effective thing we can do to reduce cars in cities is to focus on that outcome directly and to use both carrots and sticks to reduce car use and increased public transport, walking and cycling. So there’s been a lot of focus, and especially policymakers and elected officials really like to focus on carrots on more good stuff. Here’s more bus routes, here’s more cycling lanes, pedestrianised streets, those are all wonderful. And those did feature in many of our top strategies, which I know we’ll get into more in a minute. But the important point is that those carrots alone are not sufficient to overcome the entrenched infrastructure and incentives, which today favours car use. So to really move the needle and to get people out of cars, and using other forms of transport, which is what we actually have to do to reduce emissions for climate change, to protect public health to make cities and streets safer and more livable, we have to actually reduce car use along with increasing sustainable mobility. And to do that you need to tackle both of those at the same time.

Carlton Reid 15:54
So I know this is tough, but let me just think about the percent terms of how big a carrot versus how big a stick. So in percentage terms, what are the different sizes there between those two tools?

Kim Nicholas 16:09
Let’s see. I’m just looking at the table. Now. I mean, I think it’s quite hard to make an apples to apples comparison, not least because so we screened nearly 800 studies and cases to look for initiatives that had already attempted and succeeded to reduce car use. And we ended up finding 12 different ways to do it, and almost as many different ways of measuring the reduction in car use. So one, you know, kind of wonky conclusion from our study, which is relevant for researchers and people planning interventions. So city planners and policymakers is, please, please, for the love of all that is good and holy measure kilometres travelled per person per day in these different modes, because that is what we can actually convert into emissions. And we can talk about health and climate savings. A lot of these studies measure things like one that we’ll talk about was about using an app for sustainable mobility. And they said that a very large percent of people who use the app reported in the app that they had reduced their car use, but they did not report by how much and you know, if they skipped one, you know, five minute trip to the store down the street versus a year of long car commutes? That’s a very, very different impact for, for climate and for traffic. But we can’t tell from the data. So I guess I’m hedging and not really answering your question.

Carlton Reid 17:47
Oh, cuz I was I was wondering like a 20%, carrot, 80 percents. But you’re, you’re you’re being you’re being a scientist, and you’re giving giving very complex?

Kim Nicholas 17:59
I’m kind of I’m kind of opting out of that one, because our data, unfortunately, don’t really let us say so. Well, I mean, maybe it will be more obvious when we get into talking about each measure. Because, um, I mean, one, one carrot that is really effective as a carrot is mobility services for universities, or commuters. So basically giving free transport passes and linking transport with shuttles for students at a university or for commuters at a workplace that is quite effective.

Carlton Reid 18:33
So that’s been done in sort of interrupting them, but when that’s done, and when that was done in Davis, California, you know, the very, very good bike network that was in use, you know, since the late 1960s. In Davis, very well used over many years, when, when they introduced a free bus service for for academics, I believe, even for people who live in the town or the city. Bike use just, you know, just got cut off by the knees. So it’s that sort of thing. So your mind, you know, think you’re doing great by, you know, making public transport for free. But then that actually cuts out a helpful form of transport. So how do you again, how do you square that circle?

Kim Nicholas 19:21
Well, I think you’re just reinforcing my point, Carlton, which is to beg researchers to please actually report the kilometres travelled by mode share, because as you say, if an initiative it succeeds in getting people off of bikes and walking, which is an even healthier and lower emission form of travel than public transport, which is also very good. But you know, if you’re switching a cyclist to a bus rider, as opposed and you haven’t reduced driving and all you really haven’t done anything for climate or health, so we really need to be able to measure those directly. But I mean, what I can’t say from our study is that we identified these 12 have measures that have demonstrably worked to reduce cars. And were able to report that in some quantifiable way. The metrics vary between studies, but they’re clear that they do work to actually produce cars. And again, the most effective ones that reduce cars the most for the largest population are for the largest proportion of the city are those that combine carrots to make sustainable mobility, walking and biking and public transport cheaper and easier and more accessible, and simultaneously use sticks to restrict and charge for driving and parking.

Carlton Reid 20:36
So you mentioned their apps for sustainable mobility. That’s actually number 12. So we’re gonna do like a pop countdown here. So in at number 12, is apps for sustainable mobility. And you mentioned there belanja that had a developed an app that bang, bang, got people out of cars, but only a slight amount, I mean, these things, because it’s not the be all and end all. It’s just partly, in many cities actually doing just one or two of these things. And if a city did all 12 of what you’re saying, if we just reduce car use overnight,

Kim Nicholas 21:17
I would love to visit the city that implements all 12 of these measures. That would be amazing. I mean, yes, I think it would be you know, the more we know from previous research that policy bundles are more effective. So in other words, having a comprehensive approach, taking combining different measures. So for example, including something to do with prices, so that you’re steering people towards the healthy and sustainable choice with prices, it shouldn’t be the cheapest option to do something that pollutes, simultaneously having information campaigns and public goods and services to provide alternatives like safe and attractive walking and cycling and public transit. Those are what really works.

Carlton Reid 22:02
And on that note, we could go straight into personalised travel plans. Because that definitely involves some of that. I know that from from Sustrans in the UK has has done these very successfully done them. But they’re phenomenally expensive, because you are literally going to one put one on your one on one. And then you know saying to them, Look, did you realise there’s a bus right outside your door? That kind of granularity, but that’s phenomenally expensive to do that one on one?

Kim Nicholas 22:34
Yes, so we looked at several different kinds of travel planning. And the number 11 was personalised travel planning, which you just mentioned. And number 10 was school travel planning, for example. And those are carrot only measures. So they’re making it cheaper and easier to use public transport and offering advice on how to walk bike or take public transit to school or work or wherever you’re going for the personal use. So those the personalised travel planning reduced, car use about six to 12%. And pretty similar for the school travel planning that was five to 11% in less cars used to drive kids to school. So that’s substantial and worthwhile. But again, I think those measures and we don’t have an example that perfectly compares to this, but combining that with restrictions to discourage car use, while providing good alternatives would make those much more powerful.

Carlton Reid 23:36
So that’s, that’s the level and 10 Nine is car sharing. I know. I’ve talked to a number of people who are bike advocates, in fact, who have gone on to found car sharing clubs and what and one of the ones that was basically 70s and 80s, which is quite as quite successful Claire Morrisette of Montreal, who … the main cycleway through through Montreal is named for her. And she founded a car club. And she did that exactly even as a bike advocate. She was doing that to reduce reduced cars and then a number of other people I know have done it in more modern times. But is that what you mean by car sharing? So car clubs, you know rental cars, is that what you mean?

Kim Nicholas 24:27
Exactly as a car sharing would be a scheme where members can easily rent a car that’s nearby for a few hours, there would be a car let’s say on the street or in a parking garage, maybe a few blocks from your house. And as a member, you could use an app to unlock it and rent it and borrow for a few hours. So maybe you’re going to IKEA or doing a big shop or you need to take a special trip or whatever. So the idea would be that it helps helps people that when it is good for them producing cars. It’s when people actually had their own cars and choose to get rid of them because they don’t need them anymore. And they only use the car when they really need it from a car sharing service. So if that’s the case, then we found that can have a big impact. So the the places that have done that are Bremen, Germany, and Genoa, Italy. And there, they found that having a car sharing car replaced 12 to 15 private cars. So that’s obviously really good news for space in cities. And that’s something that often gets left out of the discussion. But, you know, the This is one reason that electric cars are not the answer to sustainable mobility, because there’s still cars and cars are still pretty inefficient ways to get people around, they spend about 95% of their time parked on the street, and or wherever they’re parked, they’re taking up that space. In Sweden, the estimate is that a car uses 100 square metres of city space. And when you think, okay, that’s an apartment size, we could certainly find a more beautiful and you know, beneficial use for 100 square metres than some parking garages and parking spaces on streets. So the parking issue I mean, car sharing can really help if it’s actually reducing the total number of cars. The issue with our sharing, though, is that there’s some other research suggesting that it has the potential at least and may induce the opposite effect. In other words, it might induce people who don’t have cars to start using cars more because there is a car in the neighbourhood that’s so easy and frictionless to use. So to reduce emissions and to reduce car use. Overall, we have to be sure that we’re designing programmes that effectively do that and encourage people to replace their previous cars with a car sharing car.

Carlton Reid 26:51
And extrapolating forward. The same could be said for autonomous cars, in that that could actually lead to a huge uptick in the number of car journeys. If you if you if you make a car use frictionless, which which autonomous driving would do, then you just massively increased driving.

Kim Nicholas 27:09
Yes, we didn’t look at autonomous cars in this study. But other studies have, indeed found that and there was a study in the last year on the ride hailing services Uber and Lyft. In the US that found that cities car use increased in cities that had Uber and Lyft. Especially in particular, with higher income households, it tended to replace transit. So unfortunately, those ride hailing services seem to be increasing card use and increasing emissions rather than reducing them.

Carlton Reid 27:44
So number eight, we’ve kind of discussed this already in the example you give it and here is Catania. So this is mobility services for university where they they’ve given a transport public transport pass to to students who we talked about that. But then why is university travel planning which is in at number seven? Why is that different to personalised travel planning and school travel planning?

Kim Nicholas 28:12
Well, it seemed to work better that seems to be the reason it was different. So number seven, and eight were both to do with university as you said, and providing students with a free public transport pass and shuttle connection reduced car commuting by 24%. And they combined stick and carrot of reduced parking on campus, and then discounts and improvements to transit and cycling and infrastructure and advice on how to use them reduced car commuters, by the whole university populations of staff and students by up to 27%. There were several different places that that combined those initiatives.

Carlton Reid 28:53
Hmm. Yeah, so University of Bristol did rather well there. Six workplace travel planning, is that in with number seven there, or was that gonna be a bit different?

Kim Nicholas 29:08
It’s a similar idea. So removing parking, and that’s the stick and then combined with making it easier and cheaper to use public transport and cycling. So with physical infrastructure, cycle lanes and infrastructure, better public transit, and also advice on how to use those things. They’re the studies that looked at that site up to an 18% drop in car use.

Carlton Reid 29:36
Number five is a one that I’m quite familiar with in that when I cycle in Nottingham on the very nice wide cycleways when I use one of the rental bikes in Nottingham ditto, it’s all been paid for by this method. So in at number five is workplace parking charges.

Kim Nicholas 29:56
And it’s interesting that you are actually benefiting from that That’s nice to hear and Mmm, yeah, exactly. So the most successful was in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. So they reduced card commutes by employees 20 to 25%. Where I mean, basically a number of studies have shown this, that it is just really nonsensical to provide free parking for workplaces, that that’s a basically a subsidy to driving. And when you price those parking spaces are often worth 1000s of dollars per year. And because City’s space is limited and precious and could be used for other things, and it really makes a lot more sense for to charge, you know, the cost for those parking spaces. One different study that we didn’t look at here, but previously has shown that you don’t only have to, I mean, something that works very well is to make the full cost visible. And for example, you can cash out employees, I mean, people, unsurprisingly, don’t like the idea of having to pay for something that they’ve previously always gotten for free, and suddenly it cost them 1000s of dollars. I mean, often what blocks climate action is a small group of outraged, very vocal, sorry, often middle aged men, our research shows is often the group that does that. So you can reduce a opposition to climate policies, by for example, offering people to cash out, so instead of saying, Okay, we’re not going to charge you, you know, $2,000 a year for this parking space, for example, you could say, we’ll give you $2,000 a year if you don’t use this parking space. And, or we’ll give you a credit equivalent value, or we’ll give you free public transit, if you don’t use your parking space, or a credit towards which you could use to buy a nice commuter bicycle and save storage and showers at work. So there are different ways you can structure this so that it would be politically popular and also effective.

Carlton Reid 32:00
Yes, politically popular is the holy grail there, because these things very often aren’t politically popular. how familiar you are with UK internal politics on the NHS. But when about two, three weeks ago, free parking for members of the NHS, who were obviously worked very hard during the pandemic was removed. So doctors and nurses had their free car parking removed, and there’s a huge fuss about how terrible this was, and how all political parties that there was, this wasn’t a, you know, a left or right thing, all political parties were pretty much in favour of giving doctors and nurses free car parking. And so I made, you know, a cynical comment at the time saying, Well, okay, where are the free bus passes? And where are the free bikes? And nobody can understand that. It’s like, well, you would, it’s just obvious to give doctors and my wife is a doctor to give doctors free parking. But nobody, as in I suppose in the in the cashing out equivalent that you said, nobody is saying we should give people free bus passes or very, very infrequently. Give them free bus passes, and free bicycles to doctors that that just doesn’t come up as conversation because it’s, it’s politically just doesn’t register. So that politically unpopular thing, how can you make something that’s incredibly politically unpopular popular?

Kim Nicholas 33:33
Yeah, great question. I mean, I think there’s a really important discussions to be having, because we know that we have to reduce over dependence on cars in order to meet climate targets and health targets. And then we do need to be having these discussions of okay, well, what is a valid use of a car? Who gets to drive and what should we prioritise? I think there’s a very strong argument that people who are dependent on cars for mobility and social inclusion, so those who have disabilities, for example, that require a car, I think that’s a very valid use case for a car. And I can understand if there are doctors and nurses and other essential workers who have to be at work, you know, before public transit is running or work long shifts, maybe that is a good use for a car, but then I think we should be having those conversations explicitly. And you’re absolutely right, that there are ways to incentivize sustainable mobility that could actually improve health which last time I checked, doctors and nurses are very keen on doing. We know that active transport is much better for people’s both physical and mental health. And to actually, you know, move more is one of the key ways to address a lot of the health issues that we have today. So I think there’s a lot of scope for making those improvements.

Carlton Reid 34:52
And for the record my wife cycle to work today despite having this we’re despite having smug solar power panels charged In her electric car, it is really her car. She still cycled to, to work. So it is possible, even if you are in many other respects potentially being a doctor being normally assumed to be car dependent. So

Kim Nicholas 35:15
to her, I approve. Yes,

Carlton Reid 35:18
yeah, thank you. I think she’s doing for fitness to tell the truth, I don’t think climate comes into it. It’s very much a fitness and health anyway. mobility service for commuters that sounds like this is number four. That sounds very much like travel planning.

Kim Nicholas 35:36
Yeah, the difference there that made it even more effective is that it was a collaboration between local government and private companies to provide free public transport passes to their employees, and to connect those transit stops to the workplace directly with private shuttles. So they made it really seamless and then promoted it. And that actually was quite a big reduction, 37% reduction in this year of commuters driving,

Carlton Reid 36:03
you add all these percentages up, and that they’re getting to be like 200%. Three, we need we need a city to do every one of these. And then you have minus cars, it’d be great.

Kim Nicholas 36:15
It’d be wonderful. I mean, this is the issue that, you know, some studies measured employees as a population and measured school, children’s and measured University, either staff or students or both. So measured geographically who’s coming in and out of the city. So there are different metrics. But I agree that I mean, this also shows there’s a lot of scope for, for example, employers and schools and universities and hospitals, to engage and to lead these initiatives and to collaborate with local government and other stakeholders to actually put these things into place. So we don’t have to wait for someone else to do these things. There are opportunities already today.

Carlton Reid 36:55
Hmm. Right. And here, you’re coming to be a bit more radical. And this is definitely politically unpopular. And that is when you it’s you’ve said it limited traffic zones, which is a software of saying banned cars, basically, and used Rome as one of the examples there. So why Rome.

Kim Nicholas 37:15
So Rome was the case that we found that is actually implemented this and reduced traffic 20%. During so basically, the design of their policy was to restrict car entry in certain times and certain parts of the city centre only to residents. So you can’t drive a car as a way of getting from point A to point B through the centre of Rome. And that worked to reduce cars by 20% through in that whole city centre area during those times. And it also worked, even when it wasn’t in place. So even during the hours where that wasn’t the case, it was still 10% less cars and less traffic. So that was quite effective.

Carlton Reid 37:55
So we’re restricted how with automatic camera recognition that number plates with barriers, what worked in Rome, and what what do you suggest cities should do?

Kim Nicholas 38:10
Oh, good question actually don’t have the answer to that, at the top of my head. The specifics of how they implemented I think one part of the equation that was important for Rome was that they use the violation fines to finance their public transport system. So again, coupling, the stick to the carrot is a really important way of gaining public acceptance, because I think cities need to make the case. And I mean, the the piece that I wrote for the conversation, my editor called an evidence based rant against cars. So there’s plenty of evidence of you know, why is it that cars are a problem? What is it that’s unequal and unfair about the way that cars are used, especially in cities today? So we have that evidence. And I think people in positions of power need to use it to make these arguments of look, you know, the current system is really unfair, that it’s generally a small number of people who drive the most, and those tend to be the wealthiest. So it’s increasing inequity, the way to make things better is to reduce over driving by those who drive the most and use the funds that that raises, to make sustainable mobility more affordable and more accessible and better for everyone

Carlton Reid 39:25
that you’ve mentioned that Rome there, and then I’ll just do a quick search there because I can’t find Paris. So Paris is normally used by lots of people, including myself as like the poster child. For a lot of these policies, like the moving car parking places and stuff, and that, you know, the 15 Minute city, but you haven’t got Paris, so why haven’t you got Paris?

Kim Nicholas 39:47
No, I agree. I’m also a bit surprised. I think it’s a function because I think the 15 Minute City is a brilliant idea and it’s very effective. And it’s a way of integrating many of these different instruments and policies that we have Talk about these car reduction strategies. And I think the only reason it didn’t come up is that it didn’t fit our search term. So to screen these 800 cases and papers, we looked for studies that had specifically set out to reduce car use as an objective, and combine that with something demonstrating measured effect of how successfully they did that. So it must have you know, there wasn’t something published in English, after the year 2010 That specifically said it aimed to reduce car use and measure that reduction, or else we would have caught it in our study. So somehow Paris slipped through the cracks there.

Carlton Reid 40:39
Hmm. So we need some more studies done on Paris because they do seem to be doing many of the things which you’ve which you’ve, you’ve mentioned, they’re certainly they’re doing very well on certainly planning to remove car parking spaces and then de mer and held algo saying that this has to do with with equity reasons, and female equity reasons, and all sorts of stuff like that. Whereas mostly it’s men who are doing the bulk of the of the driving in Paris, and she wants to, you know, make a fairer transport system. So yes, we need more studies from Paris, or France to No, no, no Paris to come in. So we’ve mentioned parking there for Paris, but that isn’t number two. For you, so parking and traffic controls, why is parking such a, an emotive issue for a start? Because that does seem to if you look at, you know, local newspaper, I don’t know what it’s like in Lund, Sweden, but it’s sent if you look in local newspapers in the UK, you know, parking does seem to be one of the major stories, you know, for for local newspapers, you know, you remove somebody’s parking, and that’s, you know, three weeks of solid news for some newspapers, because it leads to incredible friction. So, so talk me through parking and how that can be parking and traffic controls and how that can be done and and politically managed.

Kim Nicholas 42:08
Right? Well, I think a lot of it comes back to the equity issues that you were mentioning a study by Felix Kritsa, and others found that in Berlin, car, users use three and a half times more city space than non car users. And a lot of that is through on street parking. So basically, it really is an equity issue, that the parking spaces for people who are over using cars, takes away limited space that others also need and deserve. And what Oslo did, which is the the example for this number two parking and traffic control was remove parking spaces that were formerly in the city centre and alter traffic routes. And replacing this space that had been dedicated to cars to car free streets, bike lanes and walkways. And that was really successful. So it reduced car use 19%.

Carlton Reid 43:02
But going back

to where I started with on that, in that is you’re touching the third rail, you know, you’re touching a live wire, basically, by removing parking, so so maybe looking at maybe just not so much something you’ve studied, but how Paris is doing and just the way that they’re doing it, you know, incrementally so they’re not doing it, you know, overnight, removing every single parking space, but they’ve got a goal to remove parking space. Is that the way to do it? Do you think to do it almost by stealth? Because if you actually said we’re going to remove, you know, half the parking spaces in this city, it would just be politically unpalatable.

Kim Nicholas 43:43
I think it’s actually important to make the case publicly and to share the data on how unequally distributed driving is in the UK 40% of the lowest income households don’t have a car, whereas almost 90% of the highest income households do. So privileging driving is really privileging those who already are the most privileged. And I think that’s a very tough case to make.

Carlton Reid 44:09
You’re right. But I mean, you even though you’re right, when when that comes into the letters in the pages, and it comes into the like the shock jocks talking about this, it always, you know, said people, you know, hard working motorists. And when you point out to these people, actually, you know, the poorest people really are not in cars. It almost as though they haven’t actually thought about that. It’s never really they’ve already figured that out that the very poorest in society really aren’t in cars.

Kim Nicholas 44:42
Yeah, that’s right. And I mean, we see from the data that when you reduce over auto mobilisation when you free cities from unnecessary cars, they become nicer places to live and work and they become actually better for everyone there. The air is easier to breathe. There’s More conviviality and interaction on the streets, people actually get to know their neighbours and use the outside space because it’s not given over to cars. I think something that really struck me, a good friend of mine actually bicycled from Stanford where we were studying to the southern tip of South America over two years. And he had an incredible journey and met so many people along the way, and was hosted by people and gave talks along the way. And when he did that same when he crossed the US by bike, he said he could never find people because they were never visible, they were always in their cars, the only place he could actually meet people and talk to people was either at gas stations or grocery stores. So I mean, when you think about the way that cars divide society and separate people from their neighbours, they actually have a lot of really negative effects. And the cities that have succeeded in reducing cars report really positive benefits from the way that the streets look and feel from the business that are thriving, they’re from the way that actually space is used in a much more inspiring and beautiful way. And the way people have more time to do the things they want, because they’re not stuck behind the wheel of a car,

Carlton Reid 46:17
not just behind the wheel of a car stuck behind the wheel of a car with a roof on. And with Windows and with air conditioning and with your own music and etc. It’s that you’re enclosed, you’re in a you’re in a little bubble, which is perhaps one of the reasons why your friend didn’t see people because they’re they’re inside an enclosed space. But might in the beer an argument. I’m not being totally serious here. But might there be an argument for in effect, going back to the original motorcars, which were ruthless, and you could then talk to people? Okay, they were doing 90 miles an hour, so maybe you can’t but but it’s that it’s that enclosure of motoring. That’s one of the big problems. And we actually if you if you remove the roof, and you made all cars into convertibles, in effect, that might actually that might actually be a social good. Outcome helped me out how serious Am I

Kim Nicholas 47:17
I’ve got it, let’s remove the roof of ours, let’s shrink them so that instead of 95% of the weight of the car being the car itself, rather than the person you’re transporting, so let’s make the majority of the vehicle actually the person themselves. And let’s make them run on your energy so that you’re actually exercising at the same time. You know what we’ve just invented the bicycle, the bicycle is the perfect car. In all seriousness, and something we didn’t look at, in this study that didn’t come up in our in our search terms, but that other studies have found is really effective is electric bikes, those can really replace cars. And the research has shown that people do tend to use them to replace cars rather than just avid cyclist cycling more, for example. But having an electric bike can make it more feasible for someone who lives a bit further from work, or maybe who has a family and needs to pick up kids and groceries that might be difficult by car, or sorry, excuse me by bike, it can really extend the capacity of what a bike can do. And then you also have the social benefits of you know, being actually physically present on the street and able to talk to your neighbours.

Carlton Reid 48:32
Mm hmm. Yes, I wasn’t mean totally serious, I guess. Because yeah, you’re right. A bicycle is a much more convivial tool, and then even the nicest of convertible sports cars. So now let’s get on to number one. And I’ve used an example. And that is London has come on in leaps and bounds with they have got very, very good protected bikeways we’ve got a very good city bike share scheme, there’s all sorts of things you know, a lot of the roads in London are now you know, majority of them actually cyclists whereas used to be majority of them were motorists. It a lot of it, I think you can absolutely tie down to your number one thing here and that is a congestion charge, charge motorists for coming into cities.

Kim Nicholas 49:25
Yes, make the cost of driving visible because at the moment, a lot of the costs are hidden. Society pays a lot of the costs of driving in the form of pollution and traffic and delays and accidents and health and climate change. Whereas we really need to make it more visible that the polluters should be paying for using this polluting technology of a car. And when you do that, like in congestion charges, London reduced centre city traffic by 33%. So that was by far the most effective of intervention in our whole study, because that was for the entire region, the entire geographical area of the city. So not just a certain population of workers or university staff or so on, but for the whole city.

Carlton Reid 50:13
So that also answers Henk Swarttouw’s point of do you need to put bike lanes in everywhere? Well, yes, maybe, but potentially have more use is actually just reduce the amount of driving by making sure the polluter pays.

Kim Nicholas 50:33
Yeah. So again, this was an example of linking carrots and sticks. So the majority of the funds raised from the congestion charge in London has been used to fund public transport investments. So again, that’s the kind of thing that really makes it possible to gain political support because people recognise that is fair, okay, if we’re charging for polluting transport, we want to make it easier and cheaper and more accessible to use non polluting transport. So directly linking the fees from one to support reducing the cost of another is something that increases legitimacy because people perceive, understand that connection there.

Carlton Reid 51:15
But many cities actually give you discounts, or perhaps even a don’t charge at all if you’re an electric car. So that’s not the polluter isn’t paying there at all, because they’re not polluting that source. So you think electric cars should also be charged here, because they’re their car shaped object.

Kim Nicholas 51:34
They want to be bicycles, right? They’re just on the journey to bicycles. Well, I mean, that’s a little bit of a separate issue, those congestion, the incentives to make it cheaper to use electric cars are designed to speed up and incentivize the transition, which doesn’t need to happen to make all cars fossil free. So I think it does make sense to have to make it economically advantageous to drive an electric car because we need to turn over the fleet of cars. The problem is that that is happening far too slowly at the moment to make a big dent in emissions, especially by 2030. And we know from science that we globally have to cut greenhouse gas emissions about in half, by 2030, to avoid catastrophic climate change, so we actually need to retire fossil fuel infrastructure early in order to do that. That means closing down power plants and pipelines and cars and things that run on fossil fuels ahead of their planned lifetime. So I do think it makes sense to have incentives to switch to Fossil Free cars. But we also need to be thinking the best car is actually a bicycle or a bus or a train or walking or not a car at all. And how do we prioritise people, not cars at the centre of cities?

Carlton Reid 52:50
Hmm, yes. And that’s, that’s a good note to stop. Actually, I do like that definitely prioritise people and the car. The best kind of car is a bicycle. Yes. So where can people find this paper? Like I’ll in the show notes, I’ll give the links to everything. But let’s give an audio one. So right now. So where can people find the paper? And then if you could also tell us where people can find you?

Kim Nicholas 53:17
Sure. Well, I’ve been tweeting an awful lot about it. So you can certainly find it on my Twitter. I’m ka_Nicholas, on Twitter. I’ll be writing about this paper in my monthly climate advice column, which is called we can fix it and you can subscribe over on substack. Those are probably the best places to find me. Okay, and the paper itself, or the paper itself is published in case studies in transport research and the conversation UK has the piece that’s called the 12 best ways to get cars out of cities, ranked by new research, and then the Guardian ran a condensed version of that over the weekend. Yes.

Carlton Reid 53:58
And we are now looking for a city to implement at least 10 of

Kim Nicholas 54:07
you are going to I will ride my bicycle there from Luna, if it’s anywhere in Europe, and I would love to see it. So please, please cities. I would tell me if you’re doing this and I would love to visit

Carlton Reid 54:20
Thanks to Professor Kim Nicholas there aand thanks also to you for listening to episode 295 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast now brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles. Watch out for the next episode popping up in your feed real soon. But meanwhile, get out there and ride

March 27, 2022 / / Blog

27th March 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 294: Building a Better World — an Activist Planner’s Network Analysis of Bike Lanes in Paris


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Marcel Moran

TOPICS: This is a show about network analysis, specifically of the coronapistes of Paris but also how the University of Californina Berkeley has a strong history of what’s known as “activist planning” where there is an acknowledgement that scholars will want to build a better world. With Marcel Moran, a PhD Candidate at the Department of City & Regional Planning University of California, Berkeley

LINKS: Marcel’s study on Paris. Marcel on Google Scholar. Marcel’s website.

Marcel Moran in Paris.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 294 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on 27th of March 2022.

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
Thanks, David. And welcome to the show, which is a cerebral hour with Marcel Moran of the University of California at Berkeley in San Francisco. Marcel has a new study just out on the bike lanes of Paris, especially those which popped up during the Coronavirus lockdown. Remember that, at least became known as Corona beasts. And critically, they’re still active and are still boosting bicycling in the French capital. We also talk about network analysis, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds, and a whole bunch of other bike advocacy stuff, including how UC Berkeley has a strong interest in the activist planner, and acknowledgement that scholars will want to build a better world.

So Marcel, thank you ever so much for talking to me today. And I know today is also as you’ve just told me, this is the ICO publication day. So congratulations on your publication. So So tell me what we’re going to be talking about here because this is about Corona V. PC. Yes,

Marcel Moran 2:28
yeah, no, thanks for having me on. Today, my paper came out in the journal transport findings. And it’s called treating COVID with bike lanes. And what I wanted to do was I wanted to put Paris’s kind of growing network of, of bike lanes, and particularly how they short circuited their process for it in the context of COVID to kind of rapidly expand it. I wanted to put that into spatial context, I wanted to understand the quality of those new lanes and how they relate to the network that existed before the pandemic.

Carlton Reid 2:57
So why, why Paris? I mean, obviously, I know why Paris because Paris was was the poster child, for these pop ups during COVID. It was one of the first to really go for it. But by the same token, you’re not in Paris. So why Paris,

Unknown Speaker 3:14
unitary, I’m based in Northern California, although I moved, I moved to Paris for the project. So the reason why Paris, Paris has been getting a lot of press under the leadership of Mayor Hidalgo in terms of over the last five years or so really increasing their standard bike lanes outside of the pandemic, why find Paris to be such a useful case study is because Copenhagen and Amsterdam and German cities have been kind of studied to an extreme degree in terms of their very effective bike infrastructure. But Paris is actually you know, not really considered or hasn’t been considered a bicycle Haven, and anyone who bike there, you know, prior to 2015 would would never categorise it as such. And so I think Paris is such a useful case for other planners and urbanists around the world, because its rate of change has been so dramatic, and it’s starting place not that long ago, is quite similar, actually, to where many cities find themselves where there’s some level of bike infrastructure, but many, many gaps and many, many shortcomings. And so it’s actually much more relatable, no one can turn into Amsterdam in a period of five years, but what Paris has done in five or six years actually is much more attainable for the rest of the kind of transportation audience. And I also I find that you have this kind of interesting social construction changing to where per regions are now presented with this new kind of streetscape. And you’re just seeing the growth and ridership take off as well. Hmm.

Carlton Reid 4:47
Now in your in your paper, which I have, which I have read because it’s quite a short paper. It is yeah. Yeah. It’s short and sweet. But it’s fascinating and and what I liked about your Paper was you’re absolutely talking about, you know, the network capabilities here that the way that plugging gaps with with some of these routes, and you kind of you talk about the, again, the Dutch style network approach, but just explain that, but it’s not just about working in some great bikeways on, you know, really Rivoli, you’ve got to have bikeways, where you’re not going to be expecting loads of people, because you’ve got to fill in those gaps. So explain that, that that network approach that is the key to all of this. This is

Marcel Moran 5:34
this is a nuanced part of bike planning, and what I really wanted to shine a light on in this paper. So there’s increasing evidence that what matters to riders in terms of their willingness to bike in a city is not the overall length of a bike network, it’s not the overall amount of kilometres of a bike lane. But it’s how interconnected each lane is, meaning how many lanes overlap with other lanes, which then provide cyclists with a continuous path to reach their destination, where the greatest percentage of it is within bike lanes. And for big key at intersections, they can transition from one bike lane to another bike lane. And so when I was reading about before I moved to Paris, I was reading about Paris, increasing the length of its network. But the question I had was, but how is it changing the density of its network? How are the number of connections changing? And so what I did was, Paris has a very robust public data platform where they share information. And so going back to 2005, I looked 2005 to 2020. For every single lane segment that was installed, I calculated how many other lanes that connected to at the time it was installed. So you’re making this kind of time specific calculations, you say, okay, in 2006, how many other lanes were available that could connect to in 2007? Exactly, you know, etc. And what I find is that there’s this increasing trend of connectivity in Paris’s network that’s completely accelerated by their Corona, bike lanes, or what they call Corona piece days. And so the bike lanes that came in during the pandemic are not just protected to a greater extent, that was another thing I found, they’re not just more bi directional to a greater extent, but they connect to a hot they average a higher number of interconnections with other lanes. And that’s really going to kind of supercharge the benefit you’re going to give to prison cyclists.

Carlton Reid 7:36
So given that Deeth, it’s a loaded question him, but do you think that really thought about this? Because I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna frame that question a little bit. Because here in the UK, and I guess in other places, there were some pretty daft bike lanes put in. Yeah, you know, why even? Why did you do that? It’s almost as though they were, you know, some local authorities, certainly in the UK, were almost just ticking boxes, and just putting a bike lane in which pretty much just annoyed motorists in many respects, I know it annoys motorists where you know, where you put them in? A really strategic roads, where you probably didn’t expect any cyclists would put us in there because there wouldn’t be the network connection there anyway, it will just annoy people. And also you just think they probably haven’t thought this through and then the rip them out. So the question is given given that as a as a preamble, do you think Paris actually got it? Right? Because they were thinking in network terms? Do you think when they put those bike lanes in, they were the right places?

Marcel Moran 8:39
It’s such a great question. And so I would say yes, and the way I answered that question was, because I know the year in which every single bike lane was installed, I could map how the network changed and grew over time. And so what I do is I create for these for different time periods, 2005, to 2009 2010 2014 2015 2019, and then 2020. And what you see is, you see the spatial decision making of Paris’s bicycle planners changing where their first decision spatially was to create this kind of ring of lanes around the periphery of the city. But what’s so interesting is the second time period, they’re actually doing exactly what you’re describing in England, they’re just doing a number of very short lanes. They’re not interconnected, really at all. And they’re not necessarily primary routes. And what’s so gratifying about looking at the 2020 map, is they really focused or you can tell I mean, what’s so interesting is, you could spend three months interviewing planners, or you could spend three months mapping it like I did, and you’re, you’re, you’re revealing the decision making that they did. And what happened in 2020 was they made all of these connections from Paris’s periphery to the city centre, doing long connected bike lanes that then filled really meaningful gaps. And there’s also there’s another I spent November in England, and there’s so there’s another important thing difference I found between London’s bike lanes and Paris is that so much of the bike planning in London emphasises these kind of quiet ways. Were explicitly choosing non busy commercial streets to kind of build up the cycleways. And what’s so fascinating about Paris and which I think is works better is Paris emphasise its grandest boulevards, which are full of destinations that cyclists want to reach. So the challenge I had in London was, you’re diverting cyclists, basically away from the kind of commercial civic and other destinations they’re trying to reach. But Paris said, we’re going to choose our primary streets, a that are the most direct pass between major points of interest, but be they’re also giving cyclists the kind of, they’re giving cyclists kind of the grand real estate that cars otherwise have enjoyed unfettered. And so I think Paris really, really thread the needle in terms of the kind of spatial thought thought process. And you can just see it in the map that it’s all these key routes from the outer Paris to the centre along the sand from major destinations, like Ray publique. And plus the Concorde. And really the left the Left Bank got a number of important north to south routes as well.

Carlton Reid 11:17
So this is this is textbook how you do it, then.

Marcel Moran 11:20
Mm hmm. Yeah, I mean, it’s really this is, again, why I think Paris is such a great case study is because they’re, they’re, they’re improving the network in an incremental fashion. And they’re there, they’re starting to benefit from this increased network effect over time, where because they laid the groundwork, starting in 2005. In that decade, they’d laid the groundwork for this kind of initial network that was starting to have some network coherence. In the last 10, the last seven years or so, they’ve really, basically looked hard at this and emphasised quality, connection, and location. So that’s the challenge when I hear when I read articles, or hear people or your cities boasting about the length of their network, the length doesn’t tell you that much. Right. And so you’ll see this a lot like Milan has this ambitious new plan for a bike network. But I don’t want to just know the length of it, I want to know where it’s taking, it can take cyclists to what level of comfort it provides to riders, and how each lane relates to the pre existing lanes. It’s the same way like we what we have to do and sometimes bike planners and bike scholars don’t think about this, is we have to think about this, how you would think about a road network, right? A road network that was very disconnected from itself, and full of dead ends and cold attacks and gaps would be really non functional. And sometimes we don’t apply that scrutiny to bike networks.

Carlton Reid 12:53
Absolutely. Bingo with a capital B, absolutely. With a capital A. at now, do you think do you have strong confidence that because of all that, what you’ve just said there, that these are the pop ups and the ones that in the previous years will last the distance? And again, I’ll kind of frame that by the UK example in that a lot of them did disappear, possibly because the motorists were moaning. So the council’s just, you know, they, they just they just lost faith and they just didn’t have the guts to keep going. But also because potentially they were actually not in the most brightest of, of places anyway. But nothing as far as I know, nothing has actually been removed from Paris. So Paris is unique in that it hasn’t taken these things away after the the the lockdowns have been over. So did you do you have confidence that they will stay around?

Marcel Moran 13:53
You know, it’s so interesting because Persians are not are not foreign to protesting by any by any regard. So I think there’s a few things happening that that bode well for Corona P stays in Paris. One is that mer Hidalgo, in her first term, doing really bold action in terms of sustainable transportation was handily reelected. And so she’s now serving in her second term. And since then, she had her administration has released an even more ambitious plan, a cycling plan for for Paris to be finished by 2026. And by 2026, the idea is that basically any major street in the entire city should be bikable should have some kind of bike infrastructure. So you have the political kind of leadership of Paris behind us and she has a wonderful team of planners. The other thing that’s happening is that per regions are taking to cycling like these, these facilities are being used in great number and so there’s a number of different ways you can measure this there are there are electric electronic counters. People that use apps like Strava, actually, or pat Harris, and Google Maps are having their data kind of passively collected and aggregated. Apple is doing things like this where they’re aggregating, transportation by mode. So we can see that cycling is increasing. And I think from a lot of evidence is getting more demographically diverse. The other thing is that, unlike the kind of London situation, this is a really key difference. So in London, the boroughs have much greater control over the bike lanes. And so if you’re biking from one borough to the next in London, you can kind of see a difference not only in the amount of sight of bike lanes, but in the quality. And so you can see that some are broad and well painted and protected, and others are slivers that give cyclists, hardly, hardly anything. And the difference is that in Paris, it’s been a centralised programme. And so if you’re in the left bank, or you’re in Bellevue, Bellevue, or you’re, you’re over by the Eiffel Tower, or wherever you are, the bike lanes are much more uniform and consistent. And so you’re not having this kind of patchwork level of quality. They’re not entirely can they’re not entirely consistent in terms of penetrance. For every neighbourhood, there’s some very wealthy neighbourhoods in the west side of the city that don’t have as much coverage. But there’s a more kind of uniform standardised approach that lends itself less to localised politicians at the neighbourhood level kind of creating problems or having those removed like you’re seeing it in the at the borough scale. I think the I think the final reason I don’t see them being removed is that since 2021, ended, Paris has actually gone back to its standard construction processes for bike lanes, and ploughed forward. So one of the things I noted in my paper is that the corona piece days are different in terms of construction. And so the the basic difference is that pre pandemic parents would use these long stone slabs to protect a bike lane to create it will be called vertical barrier. And that took heavy construction, you had to saw open the concrete place those in RE, you know, saw open the asphalt and so you would have this kind of big construction scene. And so the important difference for the corona pieces was they could be installed in a matter of hours, where they were staggered, concrete blocks placed on the sidewalk, not not cut on the road, not cut into it and kind of sealed and then you had plastic posts. But what gives me confidence that Paris is going to plough forward is that once the corona pee stay phase ended, and we realise we’re in this endemic kind of situation with COVID. They’ve kept going with the standard construction processes, bike lanes and and all 2022. So far, we’re in late March, they’ve been increasing the kind of standard construction bike lane. And so I don’t think there’s any signal either politically in terms of the bike activity, or in terms of the planning process. I don’t see any slow slowing down, particularly with the Olympics coming up.

Carlton Reid 18:09
Yeah, good point. I guess cyclists and and and prisons in general, have got Baron Haussmann to thank for many of these these as Coronavirus, because Paris does have some pretty mammoth li wide roads, it’s almost American in there. They’re weird, they are really sharp elisee that you can fit in, you could fit in Olympic sized bike lanes on that road and not take any way any real genuine space away from pedestrians or motorists. So you’ve got some pretty stonkingly wide roads in Paris. Does that help that you do have the space? If if you have the political will? You absolutely have got the space in Paris?

Marcel Moran 18:56
No, it’s absolutely true. And you can think of Ave de la opera as another prime example. I mean, it’s a massively wide street. And yeah, and this goes back to the to the kind of period between the 1850s in the 1880s, where you have this house musician of Paris with these broad avenues and the standard row row construction. The benefit is, is that there’s more room for the city to work with in terms of adding bicycle infrastructure without removing all of the car centric infrastructure out. That said, one of the things I was able to do with historical street images is asked the question, what are these Corona PCE days replacing? Because that’s another thing that’s sometimes left out of our conversation about bike lanes, you could say we’re adding in 47 kilometres of current pieces, which was my count based on public data and some observation, but the question is, what did those 47 Come in the place of where did we just take a painted bike lane and add a barrier? Or did we make a new bike lane? And so what I found was you had to street uses being replaced on street parking and mixed traffic. And so what’s interesting is Paris is not doing this painlessly in terms of motorists. They’re not just saying, Well, we have so much room, we can, we can keep all of the street uses equivalent. And so what’s interesting is there’s a scholar who, who talked about like, we’re at what he calls a mobility stalemate, that in a big dense city, to give any one mode of transportation space, you have to inherently take it away from a different mode, right, we have this kind of stalemate. And Paris is no different even with the really broad avenues. And so one way you could think about the corona PhD project, and the broader kind of bike bike lane project in Paris is that it’s the largest parking removal project in the city’s history. And what’s interesting about Hidalgo is administration is there actually don’t shy away from that rhetoric in terms of explicitly noting that there part of their work is to remove parking every year. And there are Scandinavian cities that have emphasised that explicitly, that’s harder to do in American cities. I think that’s true in the UK as well to kind of have this explicitly thing. But what parents has done it, I just want to make sure to get the numbers right here. So half of the corona pee stays replaced traffic lanes. So you’re taking away a lane that was used by cars, by taxis, by by trucks, and then a third replaced on street parking. And then there’s a kind of remaining 18% That just narrowed the other existing lanes, but half so half of these are removing car lanes for travel. And so it’s not, it’s not true that there’s been no kind of driver opposition or resistance. There. Certainly there have been some mass press articles, like in The New York Times, have been quoted with with certainly dissent towards these because they’re not just because the streets are wide doesn’t mean someone’s not losing out. Now, I think that the challenge, of course, is this becomes much harder on a narrower Street. And obviously Paris is full of narrow, narrow streets as well, that are that are on the sides of these grand avenues. And so what you’re seeing what the corona peace days is that they emphasise the grand avenues, where there’s actually more room to work with, although a number of them occur on smaller streets and they removed basically, there was a an on street parking lane and a traffic lane. And that the traffic the on street parking lane was completely removed for long sections of these lanes. So they’re, they’re doing the work and not shying away from the thorniest parts of bike planning.

Carlton Reid 22:39
See, I’m imagining some very, very angry French people on shock jock style radio stations, calling it an absolutely going ballistic over that. Can I know exactly what what happened? Yes. I mean, you take the slightest, you know, Breath of a liver of some space away from a motorist in the UK. And I’m guessing pretty much in the same it perhaps even worse in the US. Yes. And you will get a metric tonne of abuse from partly from the standard people who would you know, naturally come down on you anyway. But there’s just mass media would would also come down on anything like this. So this is always the difficulty for planners in the UK is interesting, be interesting to see how that how you think they’ve done it in Paris, is the abuse that plans will get death threats, they will get genuinely they have to call the police and because people will be out to genuinely kill them. So how do you think Paris? Maybe they have gone through that and they’ve just they’re just toughing it out? Or is there something else that’s happening in Paris that that they’re there, Hidalgo administration is able to just ignore that, or maybe doesn’t get it? So what happened? exactly have they managed to do it?

Marcel Moran 23:59
It’s so interesting. And, you know, every weekend i i stayed in Paris for last fall, and every single weekend, there were mass protests. But then we have the yellow vest movement. But by the time I was in Paris, the protests were all about COVID. And they’re about vaccine mandates and the and that they had this kind of passing Utair, this digital pass that you had to keep on your phone to enter into cafes and bars and those types of things. And that that was drawing the bulk of the ire from from protesting prisons at that point. So it’s a little interesting, I think, in some ways, because the COVID politics became so inflamed, in some ways, the bike infrastructure kind of had a smoother path, I think. I mean, right, exactly a little under. There’s a few things I think Paris has done strategically during this rollout that in some ways can mollify the worst criticism. One thing is that they’ve emphasised low delivery loading zones. And so one of the things you could see with the fresh Paint on Parisian streets that had had these Corona pieces installed is that somewhere on the street designated delivery loading zones have been installed. And that that can be one of the biggest critics of removing on street parking, or all the deliveries that have to take place. Obviously Paris is known around the world for it’s mixed use street life. Every street has a cafe and a bar and a restaurant and a store and those types of things. And so urban freight deliveries are a constant kind of piece of a Parisian Street. And so I think, taking that street use very seriously and not removing that the same way that kind of personal on street parking was removed. I think that was a key piece. The other thing that Hidalgo has said in her interviews around a lot of her policies is she makes this very interesting gendered argument. And she says, if you look at who owns cars in Paris, and who travels by other means, particularly transit, it’s the it’s largely men who own cars. And it’s largely it’s a majority of Parisian transit riders are women. And so in some ways, she has felt comfortable making these changes, because she knows what constituency she is fighting for, and fighting for the rights of non car travellers, who very often we know are lower income, more often minority and more often women. And so it’s been interesting to see her not shy away from that criticism and reframe it in a way of providing more transportation equity. Now, certainly, there’s no, it’s not criticism has not been absent. I think what’s been interesting is, I think the timing of her reelection, the release of the 2026 Bike plan, and the continuation of the standard bike lanes following this Corona peace day period, indicate to me resolve in City Hall to keep going. And I think what’s also happening is, you’re seeing the kind of this 15 minutes city idea come to life, which is that you’re seeing many more parents use cargo bikes, and they’re dropping off their kids to school in these and shopping for groceries and these. And you’re seeing you’re kind of seeing Parisian culture slowly embraces infrastructure, if you’re in some neighbourhoods in the morning, for the morning commute, the morning rush, these bike lanes are full, and there’s real traffic, if you’re so there’s a Sebastopol, which is the kind of major North South route in the right bank of Paris, which basically goes from the river sand to Garda Nord, the main northern train station. And that’s this wonderful long protected bike lane. I mean, there’s real there’s real traffic in that lane of all types and groups of people using that to commute to get to work to get to school to get to their errands. And so I think she had doggo is counting on the support and use of these lanes as drowning out the the smaller level of criticism.

Carlton Reid 28:02
Hmm. And you’ve talked about protected bike lanes, but you’ve also got protection by or separation by time. So going back to the the deliveries, so HGVs trucks that I’ve got to make deliveries, isn’t there some form of they brought in, you know that deliveries have to be done at a certain time. So it’s separation by time of day, is that something at work?

Marcel Moran 28:31
This varies by street, but you’re absolutely right. So there’s a number of neighbourhoods that have pedestrianised sections. But the timing in which that they are pedestrianised, either by signage, or by physical barriers, generally, is basically mid afternoon through the evening. And so mornings are when the streets are allowed to be used by Dubai delivery vehicles. And so in the right bank, there’s a number of these kinds of wonderful, like, right by Sondre Pompidou, there’s this wonderful corridor of restaurants and bars and shops and all these types of things, that’s pedestrian eyes in the evenings. But if you bike through in the morning, as I would have to do to get down to the centre of the city, you would see that full of these kind of delivery good trucks. And so that’s one of the things that I think American cities never do as well is saying, we can modify street uses by time of day and not just by not make a 24/7 rule. We in the US, we tend to have this kind of all or nothing approach where like time squares now pedestrianised in New York City, but it’s pedestrianised 24/7 This large chunk of it. But of course we could do this with much more nimbly, if we use the if we use the time of day to our advantage. And San Francisco is actually starting to do this with with these kind of major commercial districts where you’re pedestrian using it from lunch basically, or 4pm. Excuse me onward through the evening, which means It’s access for goods delivery during the day. Parents is doing that more often for pedestrians less often in terms of bike lane, no bike lane by time.

Carlton Reid 30:12
Mm hmm. Okay. Now, I’m sure there’s there’s there’s, you can explain this but data nodes I’m presuming here. Again, I’m going to go back to connectivity here. data nodes are going to have some sort of mechanism or quote in some some way of working out network connectivity. So the work that you’ve done, there isn’t just, you know, there’s lots and lots of lines on maps, yes, is on your PDF. But the must be quite apart from just a whole bunch of, you know, squiggly lines, there must be some sort of programme there. Data knows, like you use to say, this is a percentage or whatever, however you measure it connected, a road network, the motorist, you know, okay, that’s 100% connected, right? So is there such a quote that you use? And tell me about it?

Marcel Moran 31:04
Yeah, absolutely. I hope this study can be kind of a case that others could apply the same methodology to cities they live in, should the data be available. And even if the city doesn’t provide this data, there’s a wealth of data from sources like OpenStreetMap, that you could export and do this type of analysis. So network analysis is a scientific field on its own, that, that others and I’d followed in their path, I certainly not the first to do this, and others have tried to adapt to transportation planning, and particularly bike planning. So there’s actually a range of network statistics that you can run on a bike network, there are these things called small world networks, where you’re looking at actually like, how lanes, how lanes interconnected and more kind of complex way, like which lanes have the most connections to every other lane, that type of thing. And sometimes in a city like Paris, you could, the simple way to think of this is if there’s a grand avenue that has a bike lane, and then you have lots of little bike lanes that branch off of it, you can kind of realise that that Grand Avenue is the key and link and that entire network. So there’s many ways to kind of do this, the software I use very specifically, is I used ArcMap, which is a which is a private company called ESRI that builds this, but most people that have some kind of university subscription or access can use it. There’s also there’s QGIS, which is open source and very popular among the kind of GIS academic community. So there, you certainly don’t have to pay for this if you don’t want to. So the question I was doing was, I tried to make it as simple and replicable as possible. And the key thing I did was time. So what happens with most analyses of bioclean networks that I wanted to, I wanted to change slightly is most networks are analysed at one point in time. So you would look at the bike network and 2020. And you would say, how interconnected is it? Or you could say, what’s the average length? Or how, what’s the branching logic, those types of things, what I wanted to do was actually create a statistic for that for each year, so you could get the longitudinal change in that. So basically, the key number for me was a year of installation. And then from there, what I did was I basically turned back the clock to the very beginning. And so for each year, I’m creating a time specific connectivity. Figure, and very specifically, it’s for each lane segment, how many other lanes it intersects with. And so that’s as complicated as it gets. And then what the what I’m able to show is that over time, the number of lanes that have a higher number of connections that share keeps growing, and the number of lanes that have zero or just one connection, that share keeps shrinking. So that’s as complicated as I did it. There are certainly much deeper network analyses approaches. What but the key for me with this entire paper is I always want to create, I always want to do statistics that are legible to the general public and actionable to planners. And so if you’re a planner in a different city, trying to wrap your head around the connectivity of your network, it’s not more much more complicated to how many lanes is each lane connecting to which then is going to create this system that gives riders the most continuous path from their destination. And we know that that tends to really matter when you survey riders about what they’re looking for is that they want protected bike lanes, and they want interconnected by clans. And so that’s I use ArcMap I use carto a bit I did not use QGIS but that’s certainly available for those who want for free platform. And these were all shapefiles that I that I downloaded from Paris’s open data platform, they’re available to everybody to I never want to use proprietary data that other researchers can’t get their hands on.

Carlton Reid 35:12
So any planet in any city, worth their salt could fire up all these different software platforms could analyse their own city, and you know, without, you know, press the Where do I put bike lanes button, they could get the same information out, and then it comes down to well, they probably know where they’ve got to put these in this isn’t rocket science, right? It becomes down to you know, what do you value? That is what you you spend the money on? So you know, its budget, and its its political will? Yeah, it really is. It’s not it’s not it’s not geographical? These aren’t problems of where do we put these things in? I think people would probably know and then certainly the tools that you know how to put them in, it’s just we can’t get them in for the very well known reason. That’s That’s

Marcel Moran 36:00
absolutely right. And there’s this interesting kind of thing that happens, where there’s been a lot of work thinking about where should bike lanes go and trying to determine that based on where ridership is the highest. There’s a this counterintuitive problem without logic. In the end, the phrase goes, you don’t build a bridge based on where you see lots of people swimming. And so the idea is that we may want to build bike lanes where we’re already seeing lots of people biking, because we believe there’s some kind of latent demand to bike in that place. But we may also want to build bike lanes, where we don’t see lots of people biking, because they’re not biking there because they don’t have a protected way to do so. And so sometimes planners can walk themselves into the trap of only providing bike lanes on these kind of lower traffic streets where cyclists already are. But the idea is the planner can actually intervene on the highest traffic streets where actually there’s probably the most benefit to cyclists the same way the motorists are getting the most benefit. And so there’s a little bit it’s exactly what you said, there’s little question where bike lane should go. And a simple way to think about it is the bike network should be equivalent to the road network, right? Like we should not have this huge distinction between the road network and the bike network. People want to reach all destinations of a city safely have be a bicycle the same way people in cars want to be able to reach all destinations of the city. And so in some ways, the challenge and this is what Paris is proposing for 2026. And I’m really excited to track this. The challenge is to Say not Where should bike cleanse, go and bike infrastructure. But where Shouldn’t it be? And that’s it that there really are very few places we shouldn’t have safe bike infrastructure. And so the idea is to say like, let’s make these two networks closer and closer to equivalence.

Carlton Reid 37:50
Now, the digital twin concept, where you construct a basically a version of your city, in in a computer, and then you run the various models. I mean, presumably, that that can also you can you can build a bike network overnight. If it’s just in your in your computer, but the problem comes down to Yeah, it’s actually physically putting them in that that tends to be a problem again, so I’m kind of giving planners a lead out here. planners know what you got to do. This is not a planning problem. This is always a political problem.

Marcel Moran 38:32
Yeah, it tends, it tends to be a budget and political problem. What I would say is, there’s some really interesting data being leveraged in the transit planning field right now that I think is applicable also to bike planning. And so there’s there are these cool platforms. Remix is one example. Where it allows and a digital and a browser based platform, it allows transit planners to pilot a new bus route, just as an example on their screen. And then the the, the software pulls in all this interesting information in terms of density and demographics and population. And so it says, Okay, if you build the bus, let the bus route here, you have 100,000 people within a quarter mile radius, and this would really serve low income riders in those types of things. And you could do the exact same thing with your bike planning. You could say, Okay, we want bike planning, actually to be built in a really progressive way. We want to emphasise because we know car ownership is lower among lower income residents. We want to emphasise bike planning, right in our poor neighbourhoods, and we want to link them to employment centres into libraries into universities and all the types of things that a person wants for full, full civic participation. And so they’re certainly in large cities, there certainly are decision points for planners to make and they can think in terms of bike lanes, because they’re not going to have a full network, a full network that’s equivalent to the street network overnight. So I understand there’s a need to prioritise. And, and, and I’m, I’m the person sitting in the audience Maxine, you know, kind of charting this, but I understand the realities of being in the trenches and the difficulty of neighbourhood opposition. I don’t want to I don’t want to minimise that at all. And so I think the challenge for planners is, what what are you going to prioritise? Who are you going to prioritise everywhere and their decision, their decision points you can use to aid that process. And I think, I think kind of income is a huge one, I think, air pollution and so you seeing a lot of European cities, they’re very explicit that their bike plans are about curbing air pollution. You don’t see that as much in American cities where the idea is about cutting traffic and, and and climate change and those types of things. But local air pollution can really can really be one way to approach this. And so I think planners have a kind of range of options and ways in which ways to prioritise this. It’s exciting to see Paris, do this at a scale that is bringing the entire city

Carlton Reid 40:58
with it. Hmm. So Paris, that must be a pretty exciting place to go. I mean, presumably, you got funding? Did you get funding for this? Yeah, I’m

Marcel Moran 41:08
really lucky. So I’m a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley. And I have I’ve, I have funding from my university, which has been really generous. Berkeley also has given them a shout out this wonderful Institute for European Studies. And I’ve been really fortunate to receive their grants. Before this trip, I did a research project in Vienna, Austria, and this year, I’ll be travelling to Stockholm, Sweden, with grants from from that institution. So only good things to say about my research support at Berkeley.

Carlton Reid 41:39
So you weren’t like a like a 19th century artist in a you know, starving in a garret somewhere. You were funded. Second, but you had an exciting time, fantastic place here for you to be but also kind of an awkward time to be there too, because you’re obviously studying, you know, infrastructure that’s put in place during COVID. But you’re there during COVID. So it was also an awkward time to be there. Yeah,

Marcel Moran 42:02
I mean, the fall of 2021. I was very lucky to thread the needle between searches and these COVID waves. And so the time the three months I was there. The past any tear system was present. And basically all destinations were open, I could go to the museums, I could go to restaurants, I could go to office buildings, I could rent co working space. I could travel on public transit, there were no kind of curfews there is no, I mean, I will say the Parisian lock downs from what how they were described, which does sound quite terrible. And people really were kind of scarred from the, you know, the limited access they had. And they were, they had to hold these notes and show notes to police officers that they want to go to the grocery store, that type of thing. I think what was so interesting is there are a few other pieces of Paris’s kind of transportation COVID response that aren’t in my paper that I certainly experienced. So one is that they expanded a lot of sidewalks for the benefit of pedestrians. So in the shopping district of Monterey, you had you didn’t have Nessus there were some new bike lanes. But you had these kind of bald plastic bollards that were allowing sidewalk traffic to spill into the street for these kinds of really dense shopping districts. You also had a lot of pedestrianisation new pedestrianisation and it was called this kind of Paris programme respira or clean air brief. And so in mind where I lived in a neighbourhood, there were a number of streets that had metal fencing that closed off a lot of side streets and number of streets that schools were on that completely closed off those streets to automobile traffic. And so you’re kind of seeing these streets returned to cafes, and children could play on them and parents could wait there to pick up their children. And so it was a multi prong approach obviously I dug into the bike side but that wasn’t all there was also there they’re increasing tree planting I mean there’s it’s a really kind of all of the above strategy in terms of tackling carbon emissions air pollution and what we call Vision Zero which is trying to reduce pedestrian and bicyclist and road fatalities and so it’s all working together. I think for those who have not been to Paris in a while and are interested in the kind of cycling experience you will be blown away by by your cycling experience there it’s certainly there is room for improvement and the city has has noted that in its new plans I mean they have they have a ways to go but it’s so satisfying to see it in motion.

Carlton Reid 44:42
What about scooters because because Paris does have it’s not just bikes and it’s not just they’re relieved the Bikeshare which I think was almost the catalyst for a lot of this you know believe when they put that in. I you know I was there from the beginning when I when I first started using believers and then just I’ve definitely Seeing the blossoming of that scheme has been fantastic. Very similar to London in many ways in that you’ve got bike sharing, and certainly, certainly a certain demographic, it’s certainly I would say Paris, it seems to be more tourists than it is in London. But anyway, so you’ve got scooters, yeah, as well.

Marcel Moran 45:20
Just watching it, rather than scooter. But so there’s a few things happening. And what I think what you’re seeing is, you’re seeing a number of different what we call micro mobility devices, shared bikes and scooters, you’re seeing them at different price points and vehicle form factors. So there’s valiev, which is yeah, the world’s basic one of the first real large municipal Bike Share systems. And then you have a number of electric dockless bikes. So lime has a really large presence in Paris, where you can rent these, these dockless bikes, then you have scooters, you have some scooters, that have shocks and and better brakes, and all these types of things. The the quality of the equipment on the scooter side has really improved since those launched a few years ago. And what I think what’s wonderful, the way I would describe it is you have this positive feedback loop, where you have an increasing number of options for people to travel not in the cars, that’s bringing a number of people into the fold into the biking tent, what I would say, it’s also giving them the point of view of taking a good hard look at the bike infrastructure. And so that’s creating a bigger and bigger constituency that is going to be supportive of more bike lanes, and then more bike lanes are going to draw more people into non car modes. Do you have one other Paris feature that’s actually supercharging people’s interest in bikes or to others, I would say one is strikes on transit. And so there is this period, where during the during COVID, where you had a really large transit strike, and you had more ridership of shared bikes and scooters than has ever happened in Paris, because these you know, these private firms track their ridership. And so you had this explosion of, of transit usage. I had friends in Paris who said this is my first time taking it but I have to get to work and Paris Metro isn’t running, you have to imagine a number of those riders were first time riders that are otherwise now going to be interested in using this. And the other thing you have happening besides the transit strike is that France also created a COVID benefit around a bike repairs. And so there was a voucher effectively or a rebate you can get I don’t I don’t want to miss the number of I think something like 40 or 50 euros. And you could you could have that paid by the government to fix up your bike. And so people that had long had bikes kind of wasting away in their basement or garage or hallway, could take those and get those fixed. And so you have all these types of things, bringing more people into the bike world, they’re going to be more sensitive to and demanding of bike infrastructure, more bike lanes are going to bring more people into that fold. And so, I mean, it’s just I needed to get there last year, because I just knew the timing was so unique in terms of this major world city, on its way to becoming a major biking city. And it’s, it’s thrilling, it really is. And it’s you know, it’s wonderful for all the other reasons Paris is wonderful.

Carlton Reid 48:20
Your academic, so you shouldn’t be saying it’s wonderful, it should be you should be measuring this, who cares, whether it’s one or not, you know, you’re you’re passionate, you’re totally, totally

Marcel Moran 48:31

Carlton Reid 48:34
But this is what I want to get onto because I have read your CV, your your academic CV, you are clearly you know, this is not our you know, one time a bit of research you’ve done and you’re going to go on to you know, completely different sectors, you are invested in this space, it’d be fair to say and we’re at the end of this conversation and when you’re new give your I’ll put the CV and the nose so people can see the breadth of stuff that you’ve done in this in effect this this you know, micro mobility and in Bike Share and and bicycles basically, and some pedestrian stuff that you’ve you’ve done. However, when you as I picked you up with when you said you know how wonderful this is and that maybe you’re a little bit too much invested in this fear. So how much of your your your academic rigour is actually maybe influenced by the fact that you’re really passionate about this. So my question is, how removed Are you from this academically when you are clearly very passionate about this and it’s almost the you know, the academic versus the activist, but that also means you may be not quite so dispassionate as somebody who is isn’t interested in this at all, and can look at it from that point of view. So describe the activism versus academic aspects of your work and your outlook.

Marcel Moran 50:10
It’s a really fantastic question. And I will, I will 100% say that I bike and take transit everywhere, both in Paris and wherever I’ve lived. I’ve always thankfully, I’ve been lucky to live in large cities with ample transit, Boston, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Vienna, Paris. And so there, there are two answers I have to that. One is that Berkeley, where I’m based, UC Berkeley has a strong history of what we call the activist planner, and the advocate and advocacy planning, where there is a there’s an acknowledgement of the drive of the scholar to build a better world. And that motivation featuring into an influencing the scholarship. And so it’s not something that I shy away from. And the way I would describe, there are two ways I would kind of turn that on its head to, I think, make it sound more logical one is that if you take if you take what I’m doing, and we compare it to some other discipline of study, let’s say I was studying hunger, I was studying food food insecurity in the world, no one would be surprised to say that I was anti hunger and pro food security, right, that would say, I’m studying this, I want to study this, you know, deliberately and logically. But of course, my goal is for there to be less hunger and therefore be to be more food security. And so in the realm of transportation, what I see is I see a car centric transportation system in the United States and in some European cities, that has led to corrosive air pollution that has led to runaway climate change and carbon emissions and has led to, you know, scores, unreasonable levels of pedestrian fatalities. And so I don’t look at that dispassionately, I look at that as as alarming trends that need to be solved and need to be improved. And so that is a driving core of my work. I think of my work is ABC, anything but cars, because I see cars as specifically responsible and and central to what ails a lot of city life. So the other way I would I would put it is that this happens a lot sometimes in public meetings where you have someone say you have someone on a Board of Transportation arguing in favour of a bike lane and someone say, well, aren’t aren’t you a cyclist? Don’t you have some kind of conflict of interest fighting for this bike lane? And the way to always turn that around to say, well, are the rest of you car owners? Like do you car do car owners have this kind of conflict of interest, that we would say it’s a little suspect for a car owner, to be arguing against a bike lane because it serves their interests. So in some ways, people seem to be a bit more, a bit more sensitive to someone having a kind of sustainable transportation ethic, and then then wearing that that muddies the research where we worry less about someone who’s, you know, driving a polluting SUV having any kind of ethics, so So I don’t shy away from I’m a bike advocate in San Francisco and a member of the San Francisco bike coalition, I appear at city hall in favour of bike infrastructure. So I see the advocacy and the scholarship being beneficial to both that said, it’s really important to me that the work the academic work, and this is not my first paper, it’s really important me that the academic work stands on its own. And so I tried to be incredibly explicit about the methods, the materials I’m using, the conclusions I’m reaching, they’re they’re quantitative, they’re replicable. For many projects I’ve done, I’ve posted my original datasets on my website so that other scholars can download that I’m always willing to share the data. And I always source where I get it. And so I don’t ever want the work to have any type of Asterix next to it. And I don’t believe it does. My work, thankfully has been cited so far by other scholars, which is, which is always a really nice piece of validation. And I’ve worked with with planners and communicated my findings to planners. That said, I think that any dispassionate view of transportation systems in the United States would take some level of alarm around the status quo and believe that status quo to be unsustainable, so that’s my position.

Carlton Reid 54:30
Hmm. So on that topic, tell us how people can read your academic work, hopefully, free, so they can they can click into some of your papers that doesn’t have to have an academic subscription, and also, on this particular paper, so can people get this particular paper that you’ve written on Paris? In a free form?

Marcel Moran 54:57
Absolutely. Yeah. So um, and this paper also This paper is open access. So anyone can read the full text, they can download the figures, they can see the citations I’m citing, all for free, there’s no subscription needed. It’s, it’s in the journal transport findings. If you go to findings, that’ll take you to the journal page. And this article is called treating COVID with bike lanes, design, spatial and network analysis of pop up bike lanes in Paris. A simple way you can find this is just going to my website, it’s www dot Marcelle That’s my first name last, where I have all my articles all available to read without any library subscription, I have all the PDFs, anyone, anyone can read those. And so Berkeley has worked hard to help it scholars publish in an open access way. So there’s actually a library fund I take advantage of and that fund can pay for the open access fee that journals require. And then so I can make sure my work is available to the general public. This is all available. Marcel My email is provided on my website. It’s always fantastic to have people reach out that have questions or they want to do a similar study where they live. I’m thrilled to hear that tip thing. I have a profile on Google Scholar, you can just Google my name on Google Scholar Marcel Moran. And you can see everything, everything I’ve written. So it’s all available for free without any barriers.

Carlton Reid 56:26
Excellent. And that’s very comprehensive. Thank you. However, one more last thing, how can people because we reached out to me on Twitter, so how do people contact you? via other social networks? Specifically Twitter? Yes.

Marcel Moran 56:39
Yep. So I’m on Twitter. It’s Mark at Marcel E. Moran, ma RC e l e m o ra n. That’s my Twitter profile. I’m on LinkedIn as well. I have a UC Berkeley email address that’s on my website. You can contact me via email, Twitter, Twitter’s totally fine. You can send me a direct message. And I’d be happy to talk to planners, advocates, researchers and everybody in between.

Carlton Reid 57:07
Thanks to Marcel Moran, and thanks also to you for listening to Episode 294 of the spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association, as always, with Jenson USA. Watch out for the next episode popping up in your feed real soon but meanwhile, get out and run

February 28, 2022 / / Blog

28th February 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 293: Beacons with Kevin Mayne


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Kevin Mayne, Chief Executive, Cycling Industries Europe

TOPICS: 40 minutes or so with Brussels-based Kevin Mayne the Chief Executive of Cycling Industries Europe, the bike industry advocacy group. We talked beacons. You know, the detection or connection tech I’ve been banging on about since 2018, and which potentially has ethical and safety ramifications for all forms of cycling, and just getting about as a pedestrian for that matter. Kevin puts my mind at rest, at least from an advisory groups point of view. I’m still not too sure the bike industry is fully cognisant of the concerns myself and others have got but hopefully the industry’s enthusiasm for the latest tech will be the tempered by those who have the interests of ALL cyclists at heart, not just those who can afford to sport detection tech.

Previous episodes on beacons:

2018: Historian Peter Norton – author of “Fighting Traffic” – discusses the historical, ethical and mobility-centre issues that such a call raises.

2018: Roger Geffen of Cycling UK
Chris Star of Australia’s 3CR community radio station
Technology writer Max Glaskin
Lloyd Alter of
Caspar Hughes of Stop Killing Cyclists.

2020: Cyclist Detection Tech With Tome Software CEO Jake Sigal And History of Road Equity With Historian Peter Norton

March Bike Sale


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 293 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on 28th February 2022.

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
Thanks, David, and welcome to the show, which is 40 minutes or so with Brussels based Kevin Mayne, the chief executive of Cycling Industries Europe, the bike industry advocacy group. Wwe talked beacons, you know, that detection or connection tech, I’ve been banging on aoutt since 2018. And which potentially has ethical and safety ramifications for all forms of cycling, and just getting about as pedestrian for that matter. Kevin does put my mind at rest, at least from an advisory group’s point of view, I’m still not too sure the bike industry is fully cognizant of the concerns myself and others have got but hopefully, the industry enthusiasm for the latest tech – which I sometimes share – will be tempered by those who have the interests of ALL cyclists at heart and not just those who can afford to sport detection tech. Not everybody’s got an iPhone, or can stump up for helmets or bikes or whatever else that now or in the very near future may broadcast positional info, so you don’t get squished by inattentive motorists. This is now the fourth podcast I’ve devoted to this underreported topic, go check out the others, including with transport historian Peter Norton. And Tome Software’s Jake Seagal. I’ll link to those previous episodes in the show notes at the But here’s Kevin Mayne, he starts out by explaining why he reached out to me.

Kevin Mayne 3:01
I reached out because I’ve seen all the chat and social media. And I’ve seen some of your own commentary. And I’ve seen a kind of narrative developing that everything around kind of beacons on bikes feels negative, and almost feels as if certain people in the bicycle industry have been somehow selling out some advocacy and safety values. And that deeply disturbed me. Because not not too much beacons on bikes, but the general and broad principles of connected bike the many things we can do with connected by including connecting to other vehicles, but also infrastructure and and to each other things that I’ve been battling to get on the cycling agenda for six or seven years now. And see many many positives. But I also see that as being in the room, when the sort of automated and connected vehicles conversations happen, is the biggest safety net our industry and our community could possibly have. Because certainly from the European work and a bit from the kind of us work I see this is happening in a kind of research bubble. Policymakers are desperately relying on kind of research and proof of concept and case. And just to give an example, I mean, the US last budget for this space was 162 million euros. And at the start of this programme, there wasn’t a single vote, cyclists voice in that conversation. And if that bubble develops its own narrative on what’s needed for cycling to be safe. Or in their terminology, vulnerable road users, which is a term that I hate, then we are at great, great risk. So my concern and I reached out to you because I know you’re one of the people that’s got to report it on this is to say it Just think we’ve got the tone wrong on this. And I think we need to balance our concerns with also what the opportunity is.

Carlton Reid 5:09
I understand that, and I understand absolutely the logic of feet under the table, just the fact that you’re in the same room where it’s happening, kind of thing. Totally understandable. But using that same logic, you’re you’re around the conference table with all these automotive concerns with the big pot of cash. That’s also one side of the table. Could not the cyclists voice at that table? Eventually say, Yeah, we’re here. We are in the same room with you at the same table. But we don’t think this will work. And here are the reasons why. So you’re at the table you’re being listened to. But you actually say, Yeah, but guys ain’t gonna work.

Kevin Mayne 5:57
Yeah, I mean, we, we run the risk of being an irritating kind of mosquito in that room. And that we are the voice of doubt. But if you take the other approach regard this as kind of, I know, we need a kind of code on sanitaire where we don’t touch this stuff, then we’re not even the mosquito. And the key thing about properly structured research is that the voices in the room have a certain degree of equality. It isn’t just the ones who bring the big bucks. But there is a need even to be in that room to kind of be willing to say, look, we’re we’re having a technology discussion. And what I found in the past was, you know, the conversation would go along those lines. Yeah, yeah, there’s a role vulnerable road users, we don’t want to run you over. But this is a tech session. What have you got? What can you bring? And what is your kind of technological agenda. And we might agree that our technological agenda is to make sure that nothing really really dumb happens. But we do need a passport. And in reality, there are some good things happening on kind of connected bike and connected tech, that are not all about beacons on bikes and some potential mandatory thing further on downstream. We’re in a fantastic project called the bicycles 90 s project, with OTS standing for intelligent transport systems. And for example, we’re looking at a lot of passive systems in the Netherlands and Denmark, where, you know, what historically would have been a bicycle counter, could now be a bicycle trigger. So as you approach the traffic lights, the traffic lights, no, there’s a cyclist, great in the Netherlands, Denmark, Flanders, okay, if you’ve got brilliant bike lanes and those kinds of facts, but there are potential future applications of those things on camera detection, a lot of very, very good artificial intelligence, Nova and develop that can clearly identify a cyclist from background traffic. And we can, we can bring a lot of that content to play. Without a lot of the kind of what I will call the red lines, we will not Crus around mandatary beacons, or you weren’t in the right place. We can also use an awful lot of detection and data and connected bike to improve the quality of infrastructure. And, you know, the infrastructure is going to be fundamental to the automated cars as well. Because basically the text not going to work. So there is there will be a battle for certain pieces of infrastructure maybe to be dedicated, or to be automated or to contain certain loops, or even have restrictions on them. And so we have to be part of the infrastructure conversation. Currently, the infrastructure conversation is going on away, because urban access restrictions are actually not saying bring automated cars, they’re saying bring no cars. Hmm. And someone has to bring that conversation into the room as well going wait a minute, we just talked to 100 cities 100 cities want less cars, they don’t want automated cars. And so we have to be that foil. And the big difference to where we were perhaps five years ago is you know, our industry is currently pretty hot in terms of policymaking, both in the US but particularly in Europe. We have access like we’ve never had before. And that puts us in a lot of platforms where we’ve never been before. Not you know we don’t have a quality with the car industry but we’ve we’ve moved an awful long way.

Carlton Reid 9:49
Kevin who’s we?

Kevin Mayne 9:52
I mean, first off, you know the association’s carry that voice but what we you know what we read present for the first time, maybe in 200 years, is we represent happening technologies that are regarded as extraordinarily useful. Step one, the E bike, very popular, a lot less intrusive than the E car cheaper, more accessible, and you know, outselling the cars by multiples of 10 to one in some countries, etc. We have the cargo bike. Now that logistics future of Europe is a complete and utter mess. If we don’t shift freight from its current structure, cities can’t take the trucks. There is not an EU policy document on urban mobility in the last five or six years, there hasn’t been a reference to cargo bikes. So and cities, as cities bring in urban access controls to solve safety, air quality congestion, those issues. The bikes are the vehicles that slip through the net.

Carlton Reid 11:01
What are pedestrian organisations? Do they have a seat at this table?

Kevin Mayne 11:07
Not that I can see. And I think that worries me a lot. But but they’re even perhaps worse than we were a few years ago, where if you ask the question, what tech Have you got? You know, there isn’t a product development process there that acts as a passport. And I think certainly I feel a very strong moral obligation to kind of represent, you know, the non motorised. I hate the phrase railroad users What the How to be, to some extent the voice of the others.

Carlton Reid 11:39
Isn’t that potentially a good reason why pedestrians aren’t there, because we’re all pedestrians, very often not seen as a user group in their own right, even though there are of course, pedestrian associations that that do lobby for these kind of thing. But might might the pedestrian element not be there, I’m gonna ask them this, but out of choice, and that they don’t want to be there for the reasons of that I might be quite cynical.

Kevin Mayne 12:08
Yeah. And possibly, I mean, I haven’t chatted to people. I was 21 about this recently, because I’ve been, you know, to some extent managing our own agenda. But there is equally I think, in some sectors, there has been a sense of almost where, again, parts of our sector where they’re going, this is nasty, it’s corporatism, you know, might we be selling out if we enter those routes? And, you know, I respect those views. My own view from cycling point of view is, that’s not the best choice for us. But we have to respect that to a certain extent.

Carlton Reid 12:46
So I cannot I do absolutely understand that if you’re not in the the room where the decisions are made, where the decisions that then get passed on to the policymakers, and they get rubber stamped, then you just don’t exist, you know, you do not exist as an entity. Yep. And pedestrians absolutely have long fallen down on that and similar extent, but to a lesser extent, cyclists, also. So I do understand that. But do you also not appreciate that? Yeah, I understand your talk about E bikes, and cargo bikes, etc. These are expensive products. Whereas the simplicity of being a pedestrian, the simplicity of being a cyclist on an incredibly simple, cheap machine is you don’t need that tech, you don’t have to have your phone connected. So you can see the speed on your, you know, your your, your lovely $2,000 machine, etc, etc, etc. So it’s the very simplicity yes, that might be a problem, but it’s also an absolute beauty of the simplicity.

Kevin Mayne 13:55
And, you know, the key point is the mature advocates and we have to, we have to bring the best of it. You know, these are tough environments. We have to bring the best and most professional of our community into some of these spaces to get maximum impact. You know, people are good speakers who have good knowledge, good knowledge of the data and the arguments. But in bringing those people in the room, they speak for our whole community. You know, I sit in some of these sessions wearing the bicycle industry badge. But I have talked this all through with our colleagues at European cyclists Federation where I used to work I have my own roots in cycling UK are never going to let that go. If we start sending people who are so in love with the tech they forget where we are, then we have Yes, we are a risk to our own community. And we’ve agreed amongst us and also including canopy others. There are some red lines that we all share. Not all companies share that they may want to sell the tech and they have great ambition and they see customers but as representatives of our sector, we’re very clear, no additional obligations. So no obligation to carry a mobile phone obligation to be chipped. And we have an absolute killer argument, which is children. We’re not like drivers in cars where you would let you, you know, any parent who has ever tried to stay in touch with their teenager via mobile phone, and knows how many times that’s not possible because of battery, I turned it off, I dropped it in the palm data that knows that this tech is not reliable in the hands of children. So

Carlton Reid 15:38
forget five year olds cycling on public roads, and obviously not four year olds three years.

Kevin Mayne 15:43
We’re not going to chip children or pets or animals in order to allow the car the cars to drive all over us.

Carlton Reid 15:52
So these are these red lines, I guess stems as though we are talking on pretty much on the same wavelength. And my red lines,

Kevin Mayne 16:00
no, but I mean, I’ve got two others I’ll share with you. Second one is location. I mean, a lot of automated driving other techniques will have a sense of it, it’ll work perfectly if you’re all in the right place. We know 101 reasons why a cyclist may not be in the right place. And the big red flag of race was when there was a tech one of the early Tesla deaths in the States. And the police report said the woman was not crossing the road at an approved crossing point. And anybody who’s sensitive to this throws their hands up and goes no, no, that’s that’s absolutely right. We were not going to recreate the circumstances under which jaywalking came into existence to support car safety. And there are many reasons why are even more so in countries with poor infrastructure, why the cyclist might not be in a convenient by blame. And the third thing we will not accept is any obligation to retrofit you know, there are multi millions of bikes in the system now that are never ever, ever going to be tech and I think use brushed it well and emotionally about the kind of love of cycling. But it’s it’s also the love and simplicity of that equipment. So where we’re, we’re absolutely in line with the concerns we think. And we see other people like League of American wheelman have done some publications around their own sort of red guidance on what’s acceptable and what isn’t. And I think it is better that we step up and tell the world very, very broadly what we can and can’t accept. So the red lines

Carlton Reid 17:40
that we we we talked about, and it sounds as though we kind of agree on do not risk going into the room going and getting your feet under the table. And then you’re accused of being you know, the 1930s phrase of cyclists being prima donnas, and disparaged. Because official cycling officialdom is seen as not to be terribly helpful.

Kevin Mayne 18:10
Yeah. I mean, I think we were, I mean, we move on, we’re, we’re not walking around rooms, we’ve been invited into making posturing speeches, were in there, and others are in there, and colleagues and colleagues in the US are in the opportunity to be in research environments, where you are there, but you have a you know, if you’re good at your job, you have a sensitivity and a subtleness and ability to get your points on the table. But you’ve always got escalation. So now I can always walk out of a research process or take my team out and go to people at the European Commission, Drug Safety Unit or other areas and go look I’m sorry, I have to whistle blow. What is happening in here is unacceptable. And that was when maybe we always have to have a nuclear option where you really are not a good player. Right now we’re nowhere near that. Right now. We are in conversations where to be brutally honest, say on automated driving, that the technology and the programmes are. Some are let loose under very poor regulatory regime in the States. But in Europe, they’re at baby steps. And, you know, we’re more able to say things like, you know, what, you Yeah, intelligence speed adaption so that people don’t speed is acceptable to everyone. Now you have the technology now. We could save X 1000 lives a year now. We’re quite keen on those parts of your technology. When can we have them? And you know, there is a almost a very, very experienced road safety expert quietly whispered in my ear after I said, you’re bound but this is schizophrenic You know, you have people sitting on one side of the room on behalf of major motoring companies saying, AV AV need the research, this is going to be kind of game changing. And when when they’re asked, Well, why don’t you release kind of level one, level two, now, the marketing head comes on and goes, is not ready yet. And there is of the parts of that industry is absolutely tying itself in knots. And there’s very, very little evidence that that technology is ready to be released into the wild, even in terms of very controlled pilots. So you know, we’ve got a long period ahead of us 10 years plus maybe 15, where we could be inside conversations about what is acceptable and what isn’t, but also challenging the kind of benchmark assumptions, because what happens in these research bubbles is, you know that there’s a drive to get the tech tested. The people from more of a policy background can say, Yeah, but what’s the comparison? Could we for the same amount of money? Could we get mode shift? For the same amount of kind of for less policy implementation? Could we do something on speed limits. And so we can be passed in very mature conversations. And we don’t have to slap people in the face with a kind of set of red lights. And I’m happy with this new record it it goes out there to certain extent, I want to give people confidence, the kind of cycling sector doesn’t need to sell out in order to be part of this conversation. Hmm, we do. I think we, you know, on a beragam, we do know what we’re doing. Naively wandering into this space, this has been a concerted effort by a serious group of people in the lobby space to say, we should be on the inside track of this conversation, not shouting from outside.

Carlton Reid 22:05
So the lobby space, as you intimated earlier, is different to the industry space. And as you intimated, also earlier is the industry wants to sell stuff. If you’re the maker of a very high end bicycle, you kind of got you got a fairly good interest to want to keep that owner alive. And you want to market that tech to that owner. Yeah, yeah, all you know, futuristic tech probably gets sold to very rich people to begin with and classify anybody you can afford a 2000 Euro dollar bicycle, as as intrinsically rich, then you’re going to want to introduce that technology, you’re probably going to want to sidestep, you know, fuddy duddy officials like you and go straight to Ford as as tome software has done and get this tech out there. And then it’s taken away from from people like you, or is that not the case, as the industry got less power than we might imagine?

Kevin Mayne 23:07
No, I think actually, I mean, what’s important is, to some extent, how this is regulated. And I’m particularly interested in how the car space is regulated and how the vehicle car interaction is, is regulated. I still believe the products are going to come. I have enough people now that I’m talking to some of whom are members who’ve got fairly advanced vehicle to x technology, as the jargon calls it and believe confidently, they can do bicycle car interaction to a high level of accuracy. Equally the conversations we’re having with them, they’re saying, Yeah, but you understand what our kind of policy positions are. And they’re like, Of course we do. That’s why we joined. That’s why we’re in this conversation. And we if we don’t understand we need you to explain it to us. Do I believe that there are no Tesla equivalents on the car side or people in the bike world that go out there? Well, we’ve already seen on E bikes, there were a group of companies that were happily willing to allow American speed bikes inside the European regulatory regime. And it caused us a lot of embarrassment with the regulators. But we doesn’t mean that our kind of position on this stuff wasn’t I think, right? Just because they were people pushing the boundaries. And we with the broader industry, when if suddenly you look at CIA’s membership, but when I look at the community, we work with economy, and I look at the national associations in many countries. Now that these are not cowboys. They take their industry very seriously and they take the reputation of the industry very seriously. And keen to get things right. But I do know, I mean, just as we might say, on helmets, or on bicycle lights, or on other tools on the bikes, there are people who, like the certain gadgets, they like certain accessories, it makes a big difference to them to feel safer. And I would give an example, very purely myself, that I would say, I 100% agree, for example, with all the conversations that we have around the world on the role of highways, it just so happens, I’ve lived for the last 30 years in rural areas. And when I ride a bike in rural areas, I’m often in the dark without street lamps, I choose to wear have high vis, it makes me feel safer. That doesn’t mean for one moment I’ve ever advocated for mandatory IVs. And I’ve ever wished to overstate the kind of actually what it achieves. It just makes me feel safer. And I have friends who have said, you know, can’t you guys come up with something we can put on our bikes, so the cars don’t run us over? Because they know I work in the industry.

Carlton Reid 26:01
So in the garage there, I’ve got a brand new month old Cannondale, that kind of cone let me have and it’s got a radar on the back. Yeah, it’s got all sorts of daylight running light, it’s got low, it’s bristling with tech. In other words, that cycling Weekly put it on its front cover, as you know, this is the bike of the future, etc, etc. So this this clearly this connected bike, you know, with all equipment on is kind of what consumers high end consumers at least, and certainly large parts of the industry think of as, as the future you know, you can you can you can make more money by having an equipped bike, etc. But is this not just also, you know, it’s only for one kind of cyclists, it’s for the high end cyclists, and yes, there’ll be some trickle down. But we were talking about, you know, these kind of cyclists, people like maybe me and you, and others who probably listened to, you know, podcasts, etc, and read the cycling literature, or just get a tiny 1% of the actual number of cyclists out there. And by actually, looking at this tech, and, and adopting this tech, there’s actually a danger, you know, 1015 years hence, of, we’ve made too much tech. And we’ve kind of taken away from what bicycling actually is for the majority of people, and we’re actually harming what the majority people want to do with their bicycles. Yeah.

Kevin Mayne 27:38
I think that’s classic kind of journalistic fallacy. Because you we live and some of us live, and I bet they’re in a world where we are presented with the products at the leading edge, we are talking to the brands and the companies about the things that excite them. And clearly, there’s a degree of you know, pro endorsement or whatever else, then you go and actually study your industry figures and your sales figures. And you study the consumer research that says, you know, a high proportion of consumers in many countries don’t even know the brand of their bike, that they are buying a usefulness, they are buying a lot of the basic values. And we’ve just done some consumer research not just released yet, but really implies that the bicycle boom of 2020 2021 was trembled by the simple pleasure of riding a bike. Some of those people chose to ride to buy ebikes and there’s been some price inflation, partly about supply chain, but a lot of people went back and refresh their mechanical bikes at the same time. And if you move away from where we’re exposed, you know the high end brands with their kind of tech that’s very focused at the kind of more sportive cyclist you know, some of the nicest connected technology I’ve seen has been in for example, in Sweden, you can buy a bicycle which has a whole load of connected technology for riding around on but it does things like connect you to your insurance company in detects the same you know, is your bike moved? That is someone tried to force your lock. You’ve done a few 1000 kilometres is about time you had some new tires. And it’s doing some stuff that yeah, it’s it’s more high end, but it’s actually promoting convenience and reliability. And we know convenience and reliability have a big impact on people’s perception of cycling just a bit difficult. Now, bicycles have punctures bicycles, if you have to repair your own bike or find a special shop that doesn’t happen a car so we can do more. You know, the, you know, the last 20 years we’ve seen you know, really good reliable puncture proof ties, for example, which take away a lot of consumer protection. auctions where the bicycle is just a basic daily utility, much like a family car run around. And that’s even more important when people go for car free families or when they for use technology like cargo bikes. So I think, you know, it’s really important that the brains excite a certain part of the community with a certain, the lightest, the fastest. The shiny is the ones that wins the most races. And I totally love what many of our members do in that space. And you know, you’re the brands are obviously there and the visible. But I see for the development of more cycling, we can be really, really excited about some of the just very easy facilitation of cycling. That’s also possible now that wasn’t there a generation ago.

Carlton Reid 30:51
Kevin, I also get excited by by this technology. And I can see that it can actually also bring people into cycling, if for instance, they feel as they’re going to be safer. If they’ve got tech, they’re going to come into cycling. I absolutely recognise that. However, when you have that, that that technology, and it sounds fantastic. I’m probably in the market for that. It’s like yeah, great. Why wouldn’t I want to be bristling with as much in effect radars and beacons. So, you know, I personally never get hit fantastic. For me, as a rich, privileged cyclist, however, does that not bring further and greater risks to the people who are not rich, privileged cyclists, that’s what I’m trying to get at is, people will never have this technology, but they are the bulk of the people out there cycling.

Kevin Mayne 31:49
That is the whole point of this conversation, is that we are inside technology conversations at European or international or global level. So that we can defend the interests of every single person who not only rides a bike today, but might want to ride a bike in is to skate. And dumb things happen in techno bubbles, when technologists are not challenged at the point of development, and they’re not offered up these perspectives. And that person on a horrible bike is also someone like me, with a bike I buy on eBay, and I buy a new another one every two or three years for leaving stations, because I’m afraid it’s going to get stolen. And I’d like maybe that to be better. But those bikes are as much part of the world even if some experienced cyclists, or people who would spend a lot of money as they are of the people, you talk about the high end. And I really worry that there’s some kind of caricature that the thinking people in the biking in his industry, have no love for that space. If you look at what cycling industries, policy positions are on any subject, we start with, what does it take to get more people cycling, number one, safe conditions, more infrastructure? When we go in our lobby to the European Union, we say look, there’s some interesting things can happen on tech. But by the way, we want you to spend 10 billion backing up member governments on building safe cycling infrastructure. So we are absolutely categorically clear that conditions on the ground lead. And then we ask ourselves, how can we help. And we can help in two ways. One is we might have some tech that makes people more confident or make cycling more accessible. Or we might have some financial models like bike sharing that make cycling more affordable. So that’s one part so we can help get people on bikes and more of them. And we also have a really important role to defend. There are other industrial sectors who are, you know, if if we get it wrong, they’re not our friend. And there we have a role to speak for this whole community. Some of the cycling citizens groups, the advocates, the more traditional groups, some of us is in industrial able to see him for the first time ever, really, we’re bringing an industrial voice to these conversations. So I can put the CEO of a large bicycle Corporation in a room with policy makers and have him or her say what I’m telling you now that this is we understand what it takes to deliver more cycling in Europe. Hmm.

Carlton Reid 34:47
Philip crease has a very pithy phrase when I’ve interviewed him about that subject and that is detected, not connected. So is that is that what Would that be something that the kind of the phrase that it almost sounds as though that’s where you’re coming from detached

Kevin Mayne 35:07
homes, on this stuff? I mean, we’ve done a few Villo cities together on the kind of where’s the smart tech taking us? And, you know, I think we’re pretty much in consensus. And the detected is interesting, because again, it doesn’t require entirely cars, there’s, there’s good things you can do with infrastructure and cameras and other technologies. And I mean, one of the examples I use is, you know, if you’re not counted, you don’t count. We can’t actually say, on a European level, how many kilometres are done in Europe by bikes, we can make estimates of how many Europeans cycle from consumer surveys and censuses and those kinds of things. And, you know, we’ve been bold and now extrapolating those figures and saying, Look, we think these are our numbers. And, and I’ve ever speech from people in our CIA summits saying back to us, wow, thank God, the last two years you brought data. That’s what we need. And with that data, we can make arguments and we can make economics. And thank you for coming and doing that.

Carlton Reid 36:17
So you talked about infrastructure a minute ago, and we obviously talked about the whole of this half now, we’ve been talking, we’ve been talking about the tech side, give me a like a potential percentage of how important these things are in your world. So how important is tech compared to how important is a physical curb separated? cycleway? So what how much time would you devote to these elements?

Kevin Mayne 36:50
Right, well, we just to clarify, I mean, we also partner with ECF, and others in the advocacy community, but we would, I mean, I did an estimate for our board and said that, you know, probably, even in kind of revenue terms, 70 80% of our work is on what will make cycling grow. Then within that, when we get the chance to make the arguments, you know, we lead every time with better infrastructure, better infrastructure, better infrastructure, and even our work on the European recovery programme. And when we, we asked for minimum, you know, billions to be spent on infrastructure, versus now a little bit on purchase premiums, and a little bit on innovation. But it was, you know, it’s you’re talking about kind of five to one or more in terms of the kind of ratios, and that’s just European stimulus funding, most money and infrastructure spent by national governments. So you know, we’re really, totally clear that it’s infrastructure first. And all the work that I did in the last two years on European recovery from COVID, huge proportion of that was on, let’s preserve the cycling streets, let’s preserve the pocket bike lanes, let’s get them made permanent, let’s get them segregated. Let’s get them high quality. And it’s a constant thread, totally backed by our industry.

Carlton Reid 38:22
So you don’t the kind of the corollary to that is you don’t think that, or if this did happen, you you have an immediate pushback to this, you don’t think that say the automotive interests will just say, well, forget bike lanes, we don’t need them, you know, forget all of these things. Because if we’re going to have connectivity, we’re going to have detection, you no longer have to worry in the future about motorists hitting you as a cyclist. Because we’re gonna have this tech, you’re still gonna be saying? No, that first and then maybe.

Kevin Mayne 38:53
I mean, the interesting one is you take the Dutch cyclestreets concept. Interestingly, not some countries feel uncomfortable with it, but it’s kind of 20 kilometres an hour, dedicated streets. Cyclists get priority, motorists are treated as guests. And in some urban cores, you’ve even got smaller you know, you go down to sort of 10 kilometres now cars are allowed access for access only and safely pedestrians and cars can all mingle. And if that is done well, you can gain enormous amounts of not quite dedicated infrastructure very, very fast because the implementation costs are very low. And you look what’s happened in Paris with say Rivoli in Rue Rivoli has effectively been clean of cars. So, gaining streets whole streets is a huge opportunity for us. And what’s interesting in the kind of automated vehicle discussions is I don’t think it’s a question of any but I think the least likely solution is the car industry comes and says we can all mingle happen No, I think our bigger worry is they will actually be saying you’ve all got to get off. Because many governments are not yet ready to allocate the space that’s needed for cycling and pedestrians and public transport. And the kind of dedicated AV lines, worrying me more. And also a lot of what’s happening on very small scale logistics, which is these kind of mobile pods, which are currently being put on to cycle lanes and on pavements as kind of tests and the things are adept. I mean, I feel sorry for you with your guide dog, you know, faced by something that looks like an AR two d two from Star Wars coming down the pavement, carrying a package for a logistics company, an absolute nightmare, but because these things don’t work in the road space and because they kind of embryonic tech, governments kind of go well let’s test it on a few pavements. And yeah, we genuinely we and the pedestrian movement and others, you know, we’ve got that, because again, we can say, actually, let’s look at the cost effectiveness and safety and reliability as compared to for example, cargo bikes. And the cargo by wins absolutely every time. Every time non negotiable. It works on speed, it works on safety, it works on volume, works on health, and we can win every single argument compared to those kinds of tech.

Carlton Reid 41:34
Thanks to Kevin Mayne there and thanks also to you for listening to Episode 293 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association as always with Jenson USA. Watch out for the next episode popping up in your feed next month. But meanwhile, get out there and ride …

February 5, 2022 / / Blog

5th February 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 292: What Would Jesus Ride? An Audience with the Pedaling Pastor


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: G. Travis Norvell

TOPICS: Travis Norvell is the pastor of Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. On twitter he’s the @pedalingpastor. We talk about cars, parking lots, what Jesus would ride and Travis’ new book Church on the Move.


Print book



Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 292 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on the 5th of February 2022.

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 spokesman. 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 1:09
Thanks, David. And welcome to the show, which is just over half an hour with Travis Norvell of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He’s the @pedalingpastor on Twitter, as in pastor in church, not pasta in Italy. And we talk cars, parking lots, and what Jesus would ride. We also chatted about Travis’s great new book, Church on the Move. You’re not religious? No worries. The book is evangelical mostly about bicycling, walking, and public transit. So Travis, you’ve been the pastor of Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Minneapolis for 10 years. And your Twitter handle kind of gives it away in that it’s @pedalingpastor even though you’ve got one too few, many Ls. But anyway, pedalling, pedalling. Has anybody wants to follow you, and you’re from England. Don’t put an extra L yet you won’t get Travis. So @pedalingpastor kind of explains why we’re going to be gonna be talking today. But you’ve written a book, and I’ve read that book. But before we go, to talk about that excellent book, tell me about the weather where you are right now because my, my understanding is it kind of gets cold there.

Travis Norvell 2:31
Oh, yeah. I mean, today, it’s right now it’s negative two Fahrenheit, and a windshield will be negative 20 throughout the day, so it gets pretty cold. Yeah,

Carlton Reid 2:39
yeah. And I’ve seen photographs on your social media of you been wrapped up pretty warm, and you know, full on, you know, gloves on the handlebars and and you’ve got to have spike tires, all this kind of stuff. So you’re gonna be riding year round. Yeah.

Travis Norvell 2:56
Yeah, me year round writer. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s it’s fun, though. It’s fun. Once you get started, you know, your body creates enough body heat, you get warmed up pretty quick. Yeah,

Carlton Reid 3:08
You’re part of Minneapolis, cos you’re only a couple of miles from where George Floyd was murdered aren’t you?

Travis Norvell 3:16
Yeah, yeah. George Floyd. The murder site is about about a mile and a half north of where I live, and about two miles east of where the churche is, yeah.

Carlton Reid 3:26
Mm hmm. Are you riding from your home to your church every day? Is that is that kind of what you’re using your bike for? You’re using your bike for everything?

Travis Norvell 3:35
I use my bike for everything. Yeah, when we first moved here, I had a Volkswagen and I loved it. But the heater in it went caput, and I was tired of putting money in it. So I sold it. And the story is, you know that, that it’s happened on a Sunday that the heater went out? And I was preaching a sermon. It was basically on how do people? How do you sacrifice something so other people can experience joy for the common good. And my daughter who was 12 at the time, I went to tell her good night. And she said, Hey, Dad, I was listening, thinking about your sermon today, which is, you know, totally unusual for a 12 year old, I understand. But she said, you know, what are you willing to sacrifice so others can experience joy? And that just that just floored me? I felt like a complete phoney. And I said, you know, honey, I don’t know, but I’ll have an answer for you in the morning. So the heater in the car went out. And I decided I was just gonna start biking, walking, taking public transit full time. And that was you know, that was nine years ago. So I use my bike for everything. You know, go to the store, go to the Good work, good library entertainment. My wife and I we go out on dates. We ride our bikes. Yeah. It’s it’s kind of endeavour.

Carlton Reid 4:47
That’s kind of a preview of your first chapter because you mentioned that that’s that’s how your book begins about that. Yeah, yeah. Here we go. Tada. Now another thing that’s in that first chapter, which tickled me and which I’ve told you I’d tickle me when we’re emailing this. And it kind of describes your your community as well. And so I’ll just I’ll just quote it back to you. You’ll know of course very well. But you’ve got to explain what you mean by this because I love it. So you say your congregation of mostly quirky people who live at the intersection of the television shows the Vicar of Dibley and Northern Exposure. What do you mean by that?

Travis Norvell 5:25
Well, you know, every meeting that wherever in, I keep a little journal, and I’m like, when do we cross the Vicar of Dibley line. And last night, we had a weird a two hour meeting, and we made it all the way to an hour and 23 minutes before we crossed it. So we it, you know, it’s hard to really pinpoint, but there’s always some point where we segue into like, over these minute details, that don’t really mean anything except to us. And we start, you know, not bickering, but having these deep conversations on. How, what is the sentence of this motion going to actually look like? You just kind of devolve into it, or you know, you’re sitting in the middle of a meeting. And someone just comes up with the most off the wall question. And then it feels like you’re in an episode of Northern Exposure, like somebody just walked through the door. And, you know, like, they you know, that all they have is a pair of shorts, one and nothing else, it just feels one of those kind of weird meeting. So that’s what I was talking about the congregation that way, it’s, you never know what’s going to happen. There’s always going to be somebody that’s going to have some kind of off the wall, comment to say, but then they’re also going to be this, you know, kind of loving, compassionate people at the same time. So it just makes for a very interesting day at work. Yeah,

Carlton Reid 6:36
Yeah coz both those programmes, they’re they’re definitely quirky, the people involved, but there is absolutely tonnes and tonnes of warm heartedness in both shows, isn’t that right?

Travis Norvell 6:46
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah, this is the kind of beauty of everyday people, you know, kind of, in the midst of bizarre circumstances, but then also just common everyday things you see,

Carlton Reid 6:59
As I said, you’ve written a book, titled Church on the Move, a practical guide for ministry, in the community. And I do want to ask you in a minute about, you know who that book is for. But first of all, tell us about your personal journey. So in the book, you talk about in your college years being hit, you’re running a bike, getting around, and you were hit by a beer bottle, thrown by some, some yield, and then you kind of said, I’m never going to get on a bike again. And then, you know, fast forward a few years, and you’re actually at a funeral, give giving the funeral. And then you said the person you were, you were eulogising, at this burial service was a lifetime cyclist, and that kind of got you inspired again, so tell me about that journey.

Travis Norvell 7:50
Yeah, you know, I grew up in a on a, on top of a mountain in a country on a, you know, in the middle of country on a dirt road. And I loved riding bikes. But to get to the nearest place to ride a bike safely, you know, had to go off the mountain and then down to town. And, and I just loved riding bikes. I just, you know, as a kid, I just, it was something I love to do. But there wasn’t like a real, there wasn’t a biking community in my hometown. And there wasn’t really a safe place to really ride. I mean, I don’t know how many times almost got hit, as a kid, just people taking corners too fast and running through stop signs and such. And then when I was in sixth grade, though, our patrols you know, there’s the there’s the people at public schools, who stand is crossing guards for people across the street into the school. Our patrol group, we went to Washington DC for spring trip. So we got on a bus and we drove eight hours to DC. Everyone else is looking at the, you know, the DC, all the monuments in Washington, DC, but I was amazed, because that was the first time I ever saw a separated bike lane. And, you know, I was 12 years old. And that’s all I wanted to talk about. And I came home and my parents like, what do you think a DC I was like, Mom, dad, they have these bike lanes that are that are separate from the road and people ride on them. And they can go all over town and and they were they were just like, Yeah, but did you go the Washington Monument? Yes, yes. But there were these bike lanes, and they just kind of rolled their eyes at me. So I’ve always had this as a dream to be in someplace like this. But it just never would work out. And then I’m at the I’m doing the funeral. And one of the family members is talking about this guy. And he said, you know, he was a really kind of bizarre person. He rode his bike year round to Providence, Rhode Island, and he would ride it in the winter and he had these special tires. And everyone just kind of chuckled at him being you know, centric person. And I’m sitting there going, you can ride you around your bike and you don’t have you don’t have to have a bike lane. So that that just started then I was off after that. And I kept trying. And I just couldn’t but just never did work out when we moved to New Orleans. I thought I finally found that you know, this, this city, it’s flat, it’s compact, it’s easy to ride around. It’ll be no problem at all. And then I started riding but the one thing I didn’t think about New Orleans is a subtropical climate. So every day at four o’clock, it rains pretty much, and I would get stuck in these rainstorms unprepared. And there was a real boundary that was crossed, because it’s so hot and humid there, I would I would go into a parishioners house, and I would just be covered in sweat. And one time I go to visit and and the person that I’m visiting says, Can I get you an extra shirt? It just felt like a really odd boundary to be in, not to say, you know, kind of an odd place. So I said, Can I just sit by the fan instead? So So, so I kept trying it there. And then when we finally came to Minneapolis, you know, that’s when my daughter preached a sermon. But there’s also this great biking community in Minneapolis, and they were just a lot of people, the people that bike shop, when I told him the perennial bike shop, when I told him what I was wanting to do. They just, you know, took about a half hour and walked me through how you’re going to do winter biking, the, the gear you need, the problems you’re going to have and here’s, you know, Blessings for your ride. So it was just a, it’s been a very supportive place.

Carlton Reid 11:15
In those two years that you’ve spent in Minneapolis in your community. You’ve used that many of those anecdotes in this, this this book church in the loop. So it’s this book for your community is this book for and it could have been for the Vicar of Dibley equivalent in the UK, you know, vicars who are wanting to, you know, ride around their parishes who this book is for?

Travis Norvell 11:41
Yeah, I mean, the primary audience is, you know, pastors and vicars and priests. That’s the primary … that’s who I wrote it for. But the other part of his is, I think a lot of other people can find some inspiration from it. But just because it’s just a way for people to get to know their neighbourhood, by riding your bike by walking by taking public transit. If you take that way of transportation, you’re just exposing yourself to so much more in the community. You’re making yourself open for new relationships. So even though it is geared specifically for parish priests, and pastors, it has a broader appeal in a lot of ways. So I’m hearing from community organisers. Also, just hearing from from people, nonprofits, you know, how do we get to know our community better? Well, here’s, here’s a great way to do it.

Carlton Reid 12:37
Now there’s a whole chapter in the book about parking lots. And how to depend I mean, this is for me, as a as a UK resident, I don’t get this quite so much, but we don’t Yeah. And I know that you get that in America, and basically how auto dependent churches have become. Tell me why being automobile dependent, isn’t good for a church. And, and I know you do mention many anecdotes in the book about but so what can be done with parking lots instead. And this is, of course, a parable for everybody, not just for churches, but just describe your thinking around that.

Travis Norvell 13:20
Yeah, you know, parking lots. They enable … well, first, I should say, you know, most churches in America, city churches in America before WWI they were all built around our being accessible for walkers, bicyclists, and people that took the streetcar so that none of these churches had parking lots. And for you know, think churches for 1,900 years did not have parking lots. This is a recent phenomenon. And then what happened when churches became auto centric, and in parking lot dependent, they became disembodied from the neighbourhoods that they serve. So before you had everybody within probably a 20 minute drive, or walk or streetcar, ride, attending church, but a car enables you to drive 45 minutes to an hour. I’ve heard from some people that that right into church, so rather than a neighbourhood church, you become a church that’s in the neighbourhood, but nobody from the neighbourhood attends. And so it just becomes this kind of vacuous place, and then a parking lot just increases that. So you tear down houses in the middle of neighbourhoods. So you can have parking, which is a parking lot, just a temporary storage of an automobile at maximum a few hours a week. And it just creates these barriers between the church and the community. And it enables people to just kind of slip into the church community for an hour or two a week and then slip back home to their house. wherever they reside, but there’s also kind of some psychological and I would say spiritual parts of this as well, let’s say that you count the number of churches that you pass on your way driving to church, the number is going to be here in America is going to be quite large, regardless where you are. And let’s say that you’re the church that you’re at, you kind of get in a disagreement with someone, it’s so easy with a car to say, You know what, I’m just going to go to the next one, I don’t have to worry about it. But if you are walking, biking, taking a bus, to a place, you’re kind of committed to it, you’re gonna have to work out through workout some of those feelings and emotions. And you’re gonna have to learn how to get around, get along with people that you don’t really maybe you wouldn’t invest your time with. If you’re in a car, it just creates a little bit ease of way of getting out of relationships. And I think that’s a that’s a bad move for churches for faith communities for any kind of, you know, neighbourhood organisation. Hmm. So, so that’s why I think parking lots, you know, are not exactly the best investment of space and money for faith communities. But I think there’s things you can’t let’s say you have like a gigantic parking lot, there’s things you can do. You know, here here in Minnesota, somebody started what’s called the straw bale gardening movement, where you just basically grow vegetables in a straw bale that has some fertiliser, and it’s just some nitrogen really … in one parking spot, you can grow enough to feed a family of four for an entire year. Or my thought is like, don’t think of ’em as church parking lots, think of them as church plazas. In a way that’s just more than just temporary storage of automobiles, but it’s a place where people can gather, you can have farmer’s markets, you can have basketball courts, you can have soccer pitches, you can have arts, marketing, just there’s so many things you can do other than just store a car.

Carlton Reid 17:03
You know, look, you talk about how one parking lot of a church where there was some hoops, basketball hoops, yeah, put up. And then that was deemed by the church elders or by whoever, as Oh, that’s, that’s just not good use of this space. And then they came along and and chopped it down and how unChristian, that is when you’ve got a lot of kids there. And people using this as a community space. And then you you take that away again, that’s that’s kind of unChristian.

Travis Norvell 17:36
It is it’s totally and you know, that was the that was one of the highlights of my youth was at basketball court. We loved going there, we spent so much time there. And they it this was a perfect place to a parking lot was for people from the outside of the community to drive into park their cars, go to worship and to get in their cars and leave. But the parking lot for us was a basketball court. And we all lived in the community. And it was our place to go and hang out. And rather than try to see how these two could be combined the church and in the basketball court, the church only saw it the only imagination they had was this is only for cars and cars only. And it’s it’s disturbing. Our Sunday morning worship. So once one day we were out playing and as we were leaving, we saw a guy come with a blowtorch and cut the basketball poles down and we just you know we just started crying it was it was terrible. Yeah. I just thought that was a poor imagination on their part. Hmm.

Carlton Reid 18:40
So cycling, I mean, your book it majors on cycling, but there’s definitely tonnes of walking in there. And and transit is in there a lot too. So all of those ways of getting around not in cars. Good way, as we know, of really seeing and experiencing a locality. Now driving can be doesn’t have to be but certainly saved a lot of times is quite selfish. It’s even. And you mentioned a poster that you put up the seven deadly sins. You could say driving everywhere actually has quite a few of the seven deadly sins. So you’ve got sloth, obviously. Yeah, there’s some envy in there plenty of times when you’re looking at the you know, the other car and you want to upgrade and stuff. Definitely a lot of pride in that. So again, we’re coming on to the unChristian stuff about driving here. I’m not trying to put too much in your mouth, but anyway. So my question is, What would Jesus drive?

Travis Norvell 19:45
There’s a whole campaign about this. Maybe 10 years ago, there was a minister who came up with an idea what would Jesus drive and you know, obviously, they came up with a, a Prius at the time, some kind of, you know, hybrid vehicle, but you know, I don’t I think Jesus would drive it all. You know, I think that he would, obviously he liked he loved to walk. We read the gospels, but I think Jesus would be out there on a bike. I think Jesus would be walking, I think Jesus would be taking public transit because he wanted to be around people. So he would, that’s the best way to be around people. He wanted to be around those in America, a lot of times that people on public transit are people who can’t afford to have a car. There are people who are trying to struggling through life. And I think that’s definitely where, you know, Jesus would be hanging out at the bus stops hanging out the rail stops and would be on those places rather than in a car. Yeah. And I think that he would take the money that he would have put into a car and put it to better use and for the common good. Mm hmm.

Carlton Reid 20:51
Now as as somebody who has studied this professionally, as in I did religious studies at university, I would say yeah, I’m, I’m pretty much with you there. Apart from the smiting the Romans, but all that kind of stuff, but anyway. So continuing this seven deadly sins theme, another another sin is wrath. So getting angry, people get angry. And we know this people get angry driving in, in cars now I have I, I put this in my in my Roads Were Not Built for Cars book actually has a whole chapter or a whole section on people getting angry, but, and I mentioned that I’ve seen nuns driving at me aggressively, you know, about to knock me off my bike. It says something about driving turns mild mannered, goodly people into something very different. And you mentioned in your book, the very famous Disney cartoon Goofy, where he turns into, you know, Mr. Wheeler, after being really you know, Mr. Mr. Walker, see becomes like this, this, this this horrible person when he gets behind the wheel of a car. So how can we, how can we be made to recognise that we shouldn’t be Mr. Wheeler, the selfish, angry wrathful Mr. Wheeler, we should be much more like the mild mannered, kindly. Mr. Walker?

Travis Norvell 22:25
I think it takes a lot of intentionality on the driver’s part, you know, the big I think the driving disconnects you from life, it puts you in a, you know, in a steel box, where you can have, you know, temperature, temperature control, and you have also, you know, aroma control, depending on how what sense you want emitted in your car, you also put in this in this box, whatever, music or podcast or whatever you want to hear, everything’s controlled about it. And so you’re so disconnected from other people. And studies have shown you once you go over about really 15 to 20 miles an hour, you can’t read another human face. So people, rather than just humans, it’s almost like they’re transformed into objects. So the intentionality on the driver’s part has to be so much but, but I mean, people just get in a car and just drive I don’t think there’s much intentionality at all. The I in the book, I talk a little bit about, you know, the Vatican came out with the rules for drivers. People dictum, and, and we’re talking about that the Vatican had to say that, you know, that drivers should occasionally pull over on the side of the road and pray that prayer, just to kind of just to kind of break up the monotony. And, I mean, think about that, what other what other task, does the Vatican say, when you’re in the middle, you should probably stop about every half hour and pray.

Carlton Reid 23:53
I picked that out of your book, I definitely highlighted that. So the diktat said, “when driving a motor vehicle, special circumstances may lead us to behave in an unsatisfactory” and and this is amazing, “and even barely human manner.” I mean, just wow!

Travis Norvell 24:11
It is wow. Exactly. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 24:14
But that’s never really I mean, that’s, that’s just a, you know, a tiny footnote, it’s never really expressed out loud. So as you said, right at the beginning there, you know, about that guy who did the eulogy at the funeral is the you know, you’re seen as pretty peculiar people. So to be a pedalling pastor, is seem to be peculiar.

Travis Norvell 24:39
It’s peculiar, and it’s even peculiar within my own profession. You know, I have a little licence plate I had made for $6 that just says clergy on it. And I put that on the back of my bike and ride it around. And the reason I did that one time I was, I mean, I like cars. I’m not gonna say I’m not I’m not anti car. They’re parts of motor vehicle. Was it I love my dad used to work with him all the time. And that’s what I spent most of my weekends doing was helping him rebuild engines. But here I was sitting at a stoplight, and another person of the clergy pulled up, and they were driving a car, well name it, but I knew that car very well, and it costs $65,000. And as they pulled away, they had the clergy sticker on it. And I thought, okay, what are we saying about our profession, that this is, this is how we, this is what we are projecting, you know, presenting to the world. So, you know, I so even within our own profession, when I show up to events, there’s there starting to be some other people ride bikes and on Twitter, you know, I found some people that around the nation that are doing this, too, and especially, you know, in the UK, there’s more. But still, we’re viewed as a little bit peculiar that why would you ride a bike to, you know, to for a pastoral visit, or to a conference or to appreciate event? Hmm,

Carlton Reid 25:57
I mean, doctors get the same, district nurses get, anybody who chooses a very practical method of getting around gets the same stick really to be hit with your peculiar for doing something that’s actually incredibly sensible.

Travis Norvell 26:14
And, you know, in the middle of, you know, the climate crisis. Here’s a way that okay, until there’s, you know, full electrified vehicles, which I don’t think solves much problem. But until then, here’s something you could do right now that would cut emissions that would make you happier, and make you healthier, and would put you in better touch with your community. And yet, it’s still not adapted as this, you know, cure all which I think the bikes a miracle is a miracle machine.

Carlton Reid 26:43
Hmm. You also wrote that, in the book that bike lanes are not just for privileged, Spandex-clad, Lycra-clad speed-racing bicyclists, but I’ve still remember when we’re talking, when you’re talking before I had this image of our own bird was couple of years ago, maybe a bit more than that of an African-American church who were complaining about bike lanes being put in outside their church. And they were almost saying this is a racist thing to do. Because all you’re going to get is middle class white guys coming past that African-American church and how bad that was. And I found that quite odd. But there is this, it’s almost a stigma of this as a middle class white thing to do, even though the great majority of people on bikes are actually poor people. But there’s a stigma attached to the fact that bike lanes are for white middle class, people. So how do you square that circle?

Travis Norvell 27:50
Yeah, I mean, it’s tough. It’s tough. Very much. So. And the article you’re talking about, I believe, was in Washington, DC. And I think that’s something that bicycle advocates need to think about, you know, is kind of these undertone racial themes that are running through it. And I had a, that’s the churches in DC, if you look at there, there are, you know, historical, African-American churches that are still present in areas where the membership of the of those congregations can’t afford the gentrification of the neighbourhood. So they’ve had to move away. And so I have kind of a very soft spot, that soft spot in my heart that we need to create a lot of space as much as possible for African-American churches and other churches in those regards that need to have I would hope that we would give them more leniency when it comes to bike lanes. You know, there’s ways you can work with the community, though we can a bike lane be for a few hours on Sunday, can it be can parking be allowed in it? I mean, I think there’s ways that the bike community and churches, African-American churches could work together, rather than being you know, it’s a it’s either or it can be both and in that regard, but for me, the the, you know, the part where I started seeing racial justice and bicycling happened in Atlanta, Georgia, when I got off the bus, was going to the Martin Luther King centre, and there’s Ebenezer Baptist across the street where he was where he was pastor, you know, there’s a bike lane in front of Ebenezer Baptist Church. And I started thinking, Okay, what is the connection between bicycling and social justice and racial justice? And you start thinking about it, okay, in America, the civil rights movement was, you know, a movement but it was, you know, as a movement based on the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which, if you think of in America, that was the greatest moment for bicycling, walking and public transit in a America that the African-American community organised and for a year plus, they walked, they took bicycles and they had community carpools to get to work and do errands. There’s a wonderful picture of a Montgomery city bus empty. But it’s surrounded by African-American kids on bicycles riding around it that was taking place during the Montgomery bus boycott. So So I think that if we look historically into this, we can see that bicycling primarily and walking in public transit can be ways for us to form new relationships in our divided democracy. Hmm, that’s, that’s right. That’s the best way I try to square that circle.

Carlton Reid 30:44
Hmm. You describe your parish as a bikable parish, not not not because it’s veined with bike lanes. But just because you can get everything in your locality. So like the famous now famous, you know, the 15 Minute city? Yeah, where everything everything is is is close. But you also discovered by using Excel documents and Google all sorts of different tech that you discovered of where your people in your community live. You found that the 75% of your community also lived close to the to the church. So are automobile centred churches getting it wrong?

Travis Norvell 31:33
I think so. Yeah, I think so. You know, and a study came out, but in Baylor University, which which I quote in the book, you know, most people drive 15 to 20 minutes to church, that you know, it, they’re already not driving long distances, they don’t live that far away. And it’s usually that 25% of people that live far away, it’s how churches have kind of imagined, that’s their target audience, which, which I think they got it wrong. Our target audience is the people within the that 15 to 20 minute city, the 15 to 20 minute neighbourhood. Yeah, and it’s great. And let’s, let’s use the parking lots, then if we have parking lots, let’s use those for the people who live far away, you know, where we’re at with what’s called a welcoming and affirming church, we are, you know, LGBTQIA+ affirming congregation, you may not be able to find that in a community that’s maybe 40 minutes away. So let’s reserve our parking for families and individuals who are looking for a more inclusive neighbourhood mean more inclusive faith community, let’s save our parking spots for them and really concentrate on those within the walkable, bikable, public translatable parts of our neighbourhood. And I think if a lot of churches did a Google Map survey where they put in their directory, and then you can pin each address, I think they would find a great majority of their congregation would would be within that 15 to 20 minutes circle and to begin with, so focus on that, and leave the parking spots and other other places for people outside that circle.

Carlton Reid 33:15
Of course, many people would, even if they live just five minutes away by walking, prefer to drive. You how’d you get around that?

Travis Norvell 33:26
Well, you know, we haven’t really succeeded that. Well. Judson I mean, I’m trying, I’m trying it, it’s it’s tough. But however, you start to see it happening slowly. You know, when I first started this experiment, my kids were mortified, and thought that this meant that we were going to walk or ride or take the bus everywhere. And I said, Look, this is my experiment for my job. You know, if y’all want to join me, you can when you want to. And, you know, it took a few years, and then all of a sudden, you know, my, my kids started riding bikes with me everywhere. And then they started realising that, you know, we don’t need to have a driver’s licence, we don’t need to be have a car to go around the city and hang out with our friends. In fact, they actually found that they were a little bit freer than their friends who were car dependent because their friends who were car dependent had to either get permission from the parents for the car, or they had to get a job to help pay for the car. But my kids, they were able to do otherwise. And then my wife started after a couple of years. One day she just came down one morning she had a cup of coffee and she said okay, I’m going to do it. And I said do what and she said I’m going to start biking to work and it just kind of slowly happened within my family but then also the I’ve noticed church people there’s been a few Sundays in the summer when I went out and we had there was no place there no other spots for bicycles everyone had at their was taken up all the bike parking spots, and there were more people walking. I’m just hopeful that you know, little by little we can we can try to change things. For example, But I’d say that recently, the one thing that I’ve been noticing is, I haven’t really done a good job of myself myself promoting bicycling, walking, taking public transit, as a viable option for transportation, for health, and for community engagement. And that is something that really changed during the pandemic. You know, because biking was one of the great ways we could get around and be together as a community. So we started doing bike tours of the neighbourhood. And you could tell that there’s, we’re gaining some momentum on trying to be less car dependent.

Carlton Reid 35:35
Hmm. Travis it’s been fascinating talking to you. Where can people get your book and spell out your pedalling pastor name for people who, who don’t realise that there isn’t two L’s in it in the American spelling. So tell us that. And then I want to finish actually on on a prayer. And if you don’t remember your own prayer, that’s in the back of your book, and you can’t flick through it, then I’ve got it written down here. But anyway, first of all, tell us where people can get the book, what you are who you are sorry, on Twitter, and let’s let’s finish on that prayer.

Travis Norvell 36:10
Yeah, well, you can find the book at That is, that’s the press that published it Judson Press, that’s the American Baptist press. You can also find it on Amazon. It will be on bookshop and other kinds of independent places, but the best place would be actually just to go to Judson Press in order from there or to, you know, order on Amazon. If you you can find me on social media on Twitter primarily at @pedalingpastor and the prayer. Do you mean the prayer for sidewalks?

Carlton Reid 36:43
No. No that “may your wheels always spin true” that one

Travis Norvell 36:49
May your wheels always spin true. May your brakes always grab. May drivers always see you, and may the smile only riding a bike can evoke, always remain on your face. Happy riding.

Carlton Reid 37:03
Thanks to Travis Norvell there. And thanks also to you for listening to Episode 292 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association, as always, with Jenson USA, watch out for the next episode popping up in your feed later this month. But meanwhile, get out there and ride …

January 16, 2022 / / Blog

16th January 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 291: Bike bubble has popped says industry analyst Rick Vosper


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Industry veteran Rick Vosper

TOPICS: Any bursting of the bike boom bubble will reverberate widely and could destabilise global bicycle advocacy efforts. This is therefore of potential concern to cyclists in general, argues bike industry veteran Rick Vosper.


Rick Vosper’s Bicycle Retailer articles.

Carlton Reid’s bike boom of the 1970s article on


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 291 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 16th of January 2022.

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
Thanks, David. On today’s show, I’m talking bike boom stuff with industry veteran and former specialised marketing director Rick Vosper, author of some outstanding analysis pieces on In this hour long show, we discuss whether the bubble has indeed popped. Yes, this is an inside baseball chat. In other words, a deep dive into what you might consider to be of abiding interest to industry types only. But as Rick explains, the bursting of the bike boom bubble, reverberates widely, and could even destabilise global bicycle advocacy efforts. This is therefore a potential concern to cyclists in general.

Rick, um, I know your industry background, your long industry background, and and that people who’ve listened to this or regular listeners to this show people who doesn’t disrobe before, probably know some of your background, because you’ve been on the show before and you’ve told people, but for new listeners, that people who don’t know who Rick Vosper is, and his illustrious background in the industry with a bunch of companies that everybody knows, can you give us a thumbnail sketch of where you’ve come from, in the industry, maybe where you are now even and that can be geographically to.

Rick Vosper 2:48
Industry wise, I’ve been in bikes since the summer of 1980. I was in and out. In addition to the bicycle industry, I’ve had a parallel career in advertising. But within the bike industry, I’ve been director of marketing for specialised bicycles and four cervello bikes and a couple of other smaller companies. Right now I’ve got a little consulting business I do that is almost entirely bike industry business. So companies come to me when they want to bring a brand to market or are having problems with a brand.

I can do that in my associates can do everything from writing ads to producing websites and so forth all the usual marketing kind of stuff.

Carlton Reid 3:29
And geographically, where are you?

Rick Vosper 3:36
South Arkansas. My wife has family here. So I was a California kid most of my life and I’ve moved around the country since chasing jobs. But we have a granddaughter here. And so that’s where we are.

Carlton Reid 3:49
Because that’s not like Waterloo, Wisconsin, or other places that are kind of out in the sticks but bike industry central, you’re not bike industry central there at all.

Rick Vosper 4:00
No, not hardly. We’re still two hours outside of Little Rock. And about four hours from Walmart land. Where all the bike development in Arkansas is happening.

Carlton Reid 4:12
And there’s tonnes of stuff happening there, isn’t there, actually with with Steuart Walton. How do you pronounce it? Is it just Stuart and it’s just a strange spelling, Steuart Walton?

Rick Vosper 4:23
I believe it’s just Stuart.

Carlton Reid 4:25
Now, one of the things you didn’t mention in your very brief thumbnail sketch of who you are, Rick was and what I want to talk to you about. And I’ve been a regular reader of yours for a long time. But you do these these fantastic articles.

In bicycleretailer, normally they’re quite long. The latest one is shorter than normal, I would say. But they’re just incredibly cerebral. You’re absolutely using your your background with the various companies and the various people you’ve you’ve dealt with in the industry. So you’re a real

You know, inside baseball,

kind of guy. And these articles are get a lot of traction on on certainly within the industry. And I’m sure because it’s a public facing site, then then people outside of the industry too. So the latest one, there are clearly many, many requests for articles on bicycleretailer, but the latest one really piqued my interest. Because bike boom stuff. And basically where you’re, you’re talking about potentially the end of the bike boom, which which is, which is I guess, you know, everything, you know, anything that goes up has got to come down, I guess. But is that the case? Right? Does it have to come down? Or do you think we’ve got another year two years of growth? What have we got?

Rick Vosper 5:46
Well, depends on who you ask. The nobody knows what’s going to happen because the market is being driven by COVID. And people who had not been cyclists previously, are flocking to bike shops in record numbers, and buying lots and lots of bikes. In fact, more bikes than the than the factory side of the industry can produce.

Carlton Reid 6:06
So who’s telling you it’s going to be the boom’s continuing? And who’s telling you?

It’s not you’d have to name names that have you don’t want to, but just maybe the types of people that kind of the sectors that are telling you.

Rick Vosper 6:19
There are there are two theories at work. The first is that what I talked to retailers and I, we have a whole closed Facebook page where we do nothing but talk about what’s going on in the industry, retailers are telling me that in fourth quarter of 2021, sales declined to the levels they were before COVID. So the 2018 2019 levels. The other theory is that the people who bought bikes in 2020, and 2021 are going to be back and they’re going to bring friends with them. And demand is going to continue to accelerate. I don’t happen to buy that theory.

Carlton Reid 7:00
But there is there is the potential there that because you were mentioning the the channel was was chosen many ways in that factories couldn’t produce, as you said, factories couldn’t produce enough bikes to meet the demand. So might there not just be that latent demand there that couldn’t

you couldn’t meet that demand during the pandemic, because you couldn’t get the stock now the stock is coming. You know, Wouldn’t that just be instantly sucked up by the people who wanted bites but couldn’t get them?

Rick Vosper 7:30
It certainly could. And that’s one of the variables we’re trying to look for. Right now, when people on the supplier side of the industry, look at their forecasts, they’re saying some of them are sitting senior executives at very large bike companies are telling me that by May of 2022, there should be inventory at suppliers. That’s an addition to the inventory at bike shops. So they’re forecasting May of 2022 supply will eventually catch up with demand.

Carlton Reid 8:02
Now before anybody I mean, people might have tuned into this and think, Ah, they’re just talking about industry so I’m gonna tune out again,

can like, express how this is actually potentially important for consumers too, because the more people who buy bikes and carry on buying bikes, touch wood, the whole

sector rises and that benefits everybody. So the more people bicycling, the more people getting on bikes is a good thing for everybody. So this is not just an inside baseball chat we’re having here. This is something that could impact everybody who gets on a bicycle either recreationally or transport. Would you say that’s a fair reflection of why people should be interested?

Rick Vosper 8:47
It absolutely is. More people on bikes make cycling better for everybody, including people that don’t ride bikes.

Carlton Reid 8:54
Yes. How so? Sell that one to me, Rick.

I’m a redneck, sell that one to me.

Rick Vosper 9:02
Like my neighbours, you’re saying?

The idea is the more people are buying more cycling culture flourishes. That has implications for how cities are built. It has implications for fitness levels, for anti obesity, and for all the things that your listeners know are great about bikes. And the more of it it is, the better it is for all of us. And even the people even your redneck motorists benefit, when there are fewer people in cars, they may still curse the bikes that in their opinion are blocking the roadway. But at the end of the day, there’s going to be less density of traffic and that’s better for the people in cars too.

Carlton Reid 9:50
I would I would tend to agree there. So then it’s that also means it’s a bad thing then potentially if the industry goes down, because there’s less less than

marketing dollars to be pumped into advocacy, or pounds or, or euros. You know, this is a global industry. So we need more bums on seats basically.

Rick Vosper 10:10
Yes, absolutely.

Carlton Reid 10:12
So going back and this is you said before you’re 1980. So this is clearly before your time, but you will absolutely know this because these are all, you know, industry tropes. So the last boom, the real big boom, and I’m not I’m not counting mountain bikes or BMX here, because they were big, but they weren’t as big as this. So the 1970s bike boom, you know, when it went from virtually nothing, just a few million to like 15 million bikes. So almost, within six months, it just went through the, through the roof. But that that did fizzle out, it did die. And so I wrote in a article, looking at

the lessons from that potential lessons that we could learn from today. However,

many of the companies that actually

came out of the bike boom, some of them weren’t founded, you know, to benefit from the boom. But they’re just people were turned on by bikes. And then some of those people actually found the companies that we basically dominate the industry now. So Specialized is a post bike, boom, 1974 ish company; Trek is pretty much a bike boom, they were there a little bit beforehand, but, you know, their growth was certainly the bike, boom, post bike, boom, kind of, you know, growth, and then Cannondale, and even you can Giant, you can say, because of, you know, King Liu, you know, had to, you know, stop his, his fish farm and go and do something else. So he came from the from the bike boom, too. So, do you think, if even if we do have, the bike trade does go down, we do have a dip, that there’s potentially some interesting things underneath the water that could be happening. So whenever you get more people into a sport, we’ve got an activity during the bike boom, that can actually refresh the gene pool in many respects. Do you see anything like that potentially happening?

Rick Vosper 12:10
Well, I think two things. The first is, I don’t see the the boom that we currently have been experiencing continuing into 2022.

What I’m saying is, there’s going to be a massive amount of inventory of dealers, shelves, and wholesalers by May. And there just aren’t the number of consumers demanding bikes that we’ve seen in the last couple of years. This puts us back into a scenario where there is more more inventory in the in the industry in the channel than cars, consumer demand will support. And that means dealers are going to be stuck with tonnes of inventory on hand, they’re going to have to discount it in order to bring it out. This is a nice thing for cyclists because they can get bikes for cheaper. But it’s a little hard on the mechanics of the industry.

Carlton Reid 13:00
So that’s always a difficult topic to talk about when it isn’t inside baseball chat. And we are revealing that there are probably going to price is also almost like a self fulfilling prophecy of you. If you then tell people that our prices are going to go down in three months, they may just hold off any bike purchase, they were gonna make, you know, now. So there’s always a danger of basically talking about this actually creates it.

Rick Vosper 13:30
It absolutely does. In fact, when we go back, let’s say 10 years,

where, right after the Great Recession worldwide, but particularly in the United States, we’ve been importing about 12 million units per year in bikes with wheel sizes, 20 inches and larger. And this does not include electric bikes, which have their own their own playpen. We’ve been importing about 12 million units to the United States per year.

And that has always been an oversupply historically, again in the last 10 years. And consumers have been trained to wait a couple of months and they know prices will go down now, in 2020 and 2021. That was not the case. It was if you want to buy come into the shop now and maybe you can get it

I’m forecasting an increase in supply that’s not matched by demand.

So to your question, yes. Consumers may choose to wait, but that isn’t anything they haven’t been trained to do by the industry going back to the to the Clinton administration.

Carlton Reid 14:42
Hmm, no, totally. So savvy consumers have tended to to wait because they know there’s going to be this this turnover where you’re going to get the discounts appearing at this time for next year bikes. Mm hmm. That’s not good.

So, I used to edit BikeBiz. So I founded it in fact. So I was incredibly connected to the industry at one point, I am absolutely no longer quite so connected but still very interested, of course. And then I see things that have really changed the industry, you know, really radically in the in those few years since I’ve been away and I’m one of the things that’s happened recently has been the entrance of Pon. And Pon has been steadily buying up companies over the last number of years. They’re basically a car retail company in Europe, and they’ve been buying all these bicycle brands. And tell us about their October I think, $800 million. So what do they do with that $800 million? And how important do you think it is that Pon is now really muscling in on the scene?

Rick Vosper 15:58
I think it is tremendously important and it’s one of the biggest changes in the industry in the last 15 or 20 years. We have a new player who has come out of basically nowhere and is now the largest supplier of bicycles in North America. Have bike shop level bikes, not like Kmart or Walmart level bikes. What Pon has done is was unexpected and it is absolutely game changing

to the extent where the new Pon lines which would be Cannondale

Cervello, Santa Cruz

Focus, GT. Yes.

Carlton Reid 16:44

Rick Vosper 16:44
Schwinn is not part of the cycling group package. So it’s a different it’s a different division of Dorel, and only the brands in CSG, like sporting group division, or were sold to Pon.

Carlton Reid 17:01
So, the bike shop bikes basically not right, not the supermarket, right?

Rick Vosper 17:05
Right. Correct. So this makes Pon suddenly a 900-pound gorilla in the industry. They have the potential to displace Giant as the number three brand. If you consider the constellation of Pon brands, which in addition to the brands I name from the US they have an outstanding portfolio of European brands, including Focus, which is a soup to nuts, very high end, European brand that’s starting to get a little bit of traction in the United States, and Kalkhoff and others

specialise in the in the e-bike side of things.

Carlton Reid 17:45
Absolutely going vertical then are they going to go into really buying lots of bike shops, you know that the retirees the people who founded their bike shop in the bike boom of the mountain bike boom of the 1980s and now you’re looking to retire is it gonna be a whole slew of them bought up by Pon?

Rick Vosper 18:03
Not necessarily by pawn there are three bike companies actively buying up mic shops. And as you suggest, a lot of times the scenario is the owner got in in the 80s or 90s. They’re looking at retirement now. bike shops have historically been very hard to get value for when they’re sold to a new owner. But this will change now we have three companies, trek specialised and now pawn, who are competing to buy up key bike shops in major major market areas.

Trek, for instance, own somewhere between 100 and 200 bike shops in the USA just owns them outright. Mm. Specialized is playing catch up. Recently.

Recently, Trek has been buying up shops that were former Specialized dealers and turning them into Trek dealers.

So the objective is to own a bike shop in every key market in the United States. And depending on how you depending how you count it, there’s about 10 of these that include Northern California, Southern California, Colorado, Pacific Northwest and so forth.

But Pon is entered in Pon has the deepest pockets of in theory of any company in the industry. They can buy any bike shop they want. It’s just a question of how much they want to and what their strategic growth is.

You have to consider that with the Pon brands and let’s just use the American facing ones, which is Cervello, Santa Cruz, and now the Cannondale Sporting Group, Cannondale’s Cycling Sports Group, which is Cannondale and GT and so forth. All those brands have the same existential problem. They can’t get into enough good bike shops to give the brand’s traction in the market. So the solution is we’ll just buy the bike shop as well as you

as well as sending our sending our products to other bike shops.

Yeah, it’s gonna take a lot of shops to be purchased for Pon to achieve a significant market advantage over say Giant, which is currently the number three brand in the market. But their pockets are deep. They have shown the same pattern of behaviour in Europe, in the car hire market and as well as in the bicycle business.

Carlton Reid 20:28
Potentially Rick Sorry, sorry, I’m sorry, interrupting you. I’m gonna come with a question and just have to blurt out. Potentially this is a good thing for everybody.

Because the bike trade, the bike industry has been played for 120 years, and we were talking a long time of the route to market has mainly been through independently owned bike shops, but they’re atomized, you know, they do their own thing. They’re hard to control. They’re hard to professionalise, because they’re doing their own thing. Sometimes that has strengths. But that also has very, very obvious weaknesses. It’s like it’s a cottage industry kind of thing. But with Pon, and all of these other companies are presumably going to be trying to compete with Pon that potentially could have say three or four big groups who then own and probably professionalise bike shops. So wouldn’t that just be an overall good thing, er, for consumers?

Rick Vosper 21:34
It could be a good thing depending on what they do. On the other hand, there’s going to be less variety in the market. So you have to be like an automobile dealership in the United States, you go to the Ford dealer, you go to the Audi dealer, you go to Mercedes dealer, and you see that brands stuff. But consumers particularly in the United States are accustomed to having a choice of brands when they walk into a store. Now you have to, you have to ask the the analogy I always use is an English pubs.

Where you have tied houses that are beholden to a brewery that owns or is taken up a position with with the individual pubs, and then you have a few independent pubs, and more often necessary to create a healthy ecosystem.

In fact, in the in the UK, and now in the United States, you have the Campaign for Real Ale, supporting traditional independent pubs.

Because consumers like getting different kinds of beer, and in this case, different kinds of bikes. And healthy industry is one that has a whole bunch of involved and profitable players in it. That’s good for everybody.

Carlton Reid 22:48
But can you be can it be profitable if there are so many players so that’s probably one of the weaknesses of beer also, it’s very, very cheap to become a bike company even cheaper to become a bike shop but certainly cheap to become a bike company you just go to Taiwan you buy a bunch of your your bikes, you get the stickers put on, boom, you’re you’re you’re a bike brand. So because the entry level getting into the bike country is so cheap in comparative terms, just the same as you know, it’s very cheap to become a you know, a micro brewer and launch your brand that way into the beer market. But it then makes so many beers so many bicycle brands that nobody makes any money.

Rick Vosper 23:36
It’s absolutely true. In fact, the bicycle industry is now literally a college textbook example of an economic principle called …

Carlton Reid 23:47
Perfect competition.

Rick Vosper 23:49
Thank you. Thank you. I had a senior moment there and I appreciate you filling in for me.

Carlton Reid 23:54
I’ve done my research, Rick.

Rick Vosper 23:57
Hopefully you’ve been reading my articles on that.

Carlton Reid 23:59
I have. No, this this is my research. My research is reading your articles.

Rick Vosper 24:05
Well, thank you for that. That’s that’s very flattering. I know you’ve been in this business for almost as long as I have and …

Carlton Reid 24:11

Rick Vosper 24:11
… I read all your stuff.

Even longer, huh?

Carlton Reid 24:16
No, no, I’m only kidding. 1980 beats me, I was I was at

1989 when I first kind of started writing about bicycles. So no, you beat me by nine years. I was only kidding.

So tell me about perfect competition, and beers and bicycles.

Rick Vosper 24:37
Bikes and beer go together like ham and eggs. They just do, don’t they?

But in a state of perfect competition, you have a whole bunch of players, none of which are strong enough to begin imposing pricing premiums on the market. And one reason for this is the barriers to entry as

point out are very low. It’s easy. We could we could have a bike company called Rick and Carlton’s Bikes, or Carlton and Rick’s Bikes in about six months.

If we hire the right people, we dump the right amount of money into it. And the cost to enter is

less than a million dollars to be an established bike brand. In fact,

some of the some of the Walmart folks have created their own bike brand.

Carlton Reid 25:27

Rick Vosper 25:32
Viathon, yes, it’s initial direct to consumer reach was not particularly good. And it’s now being sold through the Walmart website. And we’re talking bikes that are, you know, two or three thousand American dollars. They’re top quality stuff. They’re composite bikes that were designed by competent people in the industry.

It just remains to be seen how many people want to buy a $3,000 bike from Walmart. But the point is, the barriers to entry are low. That means that even if some players are squeezed out of the market go bankrupt and the brand ends, the brand could be resurrected by somebody else or another new brand can come in and begin making inroads in the market. The most significant example of this that I can think of in the last 20 years, has been the Electra line.

They began as an outlier selling very comfortable bikes to folks who are not traditional cyclists, they were extremely successful and trek eventually bought them and it’s now part of trucks light up. Hmm. That’s an example of how low barriers of entry makes it easy for new brands to come into the market.

Carlton Reid 26:44
So it’s good — I’m being devil’s advocate here on on all of these questions — so that’s good, that you’ve got, you know, lots and lots of brands, because that’s where you get innovation from, you know, marketing innovation, not not not not just

technology innovation. So it’s good to have loads of bike brand, do you think?

Rick Vosper 27:05
I think if there is a healthy number of bike brands in the market, where consumers are getting a lot of choice, innovation continues to be encouraged. And the companies are making enough money that they can continue to survive. I don’t know exactly what that number is. When we look at people who track bike brands and bike dealers, there are about 60 to 100 brands that are currently active in the US marketplace. 100 being even the smallest, smallest bike brands where you might have a handful of dealers in a local area. But 60 some is usually the number that we look at that your listeners would go, Oh, I’ve heard of that bike brand.

Carlton Reid 27:50
Mmm. See, in car terms, you know, you’d struggle to get many more than about 10. You know, you could you could keep going, you probably get up to 20 If you really, really struggled. But you’ve basically got maybe five of the ones that you use, you’d see on the roads constantly. Whereas, you know, bikes, if there are 60 to 70, perhaps even more bike brands, that’s too many bike brands. It’s too damn easy.

Rick Vosper 28:15
Well, too many for whom? Consumers, consumers ultimately decide which bike brands they want to buy.

And enough consumers we look at there are some relatively minor, just outstanding bike brands out there. And I’m sure you could name some of you think about it think about, think about Pivot or Factor.

Carlton Reid 28:39
Pivot pivot. Actually, if you’d asked me Pivot would have been the one i’d’ve plumped for there. Yes, I absolutely agree.

Rick Vosper 28:45
I was kind of chumming the waters because they are both very popular brands

that have very strong followings. They’re differentiated products. they market themselves intelligently and they make just outstanding bicycles.

Carlton Reid 29:00

And they also have founders who are still with the company who are notable founders.

Rick Vosper 29:11
Yes, these are people who are in the position that Trek, Specialized, Giant were in 30 years ago.

And they, they bring fresh blood into the market, they bring innovation and they bring customer choice. So consumers don’t have to get a Specialized, Trek, Giant or Cannondale bike.

Carlton Reid 29:34
And that’s something that’s attractive to lots of people. They don’t want to be seen on the top three, top four, they want something that’s a bit out there. Just because you know, you want to go on your cafe ride you want something to talk about, yeah?

Rick Vosper 29:48
That’s exactly it. And that’s part of the reason what we have perfect competition is it is easy for for new brands to establish themselves.

So what’s the downside of that?

What’s the downside of perfect competition?

The downside is nobody makes any money.

Carlton Reid 30:07
Yeah, sounds like the bike industry.

Rick Vosper 30:09
Yeah, pretty much. The famous saying, which I call Hendrix law, is the way to make a small fortune in the bike business is to start with a large one. Yeah, that’s almost universally true. But then this is an enthusiast category. And one of the things I love about bikes, as an industry is it’s full of people who really are passionate about bikes. If we were

no, I don’t know, computers or airlines are other examples of perfect competition, it wouldn’t be as much fun.

Yeah, you know, ultimately, at the end of the day, bikes are all about fun, both for the people who make them and for the people who ride them.

Carlton Reid 30:51
Maybe the analogy with beer is carrying on here, then, you know, because there’s lots of them. They probably don’t make much money individually. But they’re doing it because they’re enthusiasts and they like making beer and talking to other beer people probably. I mean, you could you could pretty much say that’s that’s the bike industry?

Rick Vosper 31:08
I have a little bit of experience with micro breweries. And I tell you, that is exactly right. You have the you have the two or three mass conglomerations of beer brands. And then you have dozens if not hundreds, or 1000s of small, let’s call them enthusiast brands, where people are just making beer because they really like beer. And fortunately for them, people like drinking beer.

And a lot of the people drinking beer are cyclists.

Carlton Reid 31:44
Yes. Now, we mentioned before, I mentioned before about founders of companies. And then you mentioned

Trek and Specialized

Trek isn’t owned by the founder of the company, but it’s in the same family. Erm, Specialized is still owned,

at least partially, so Meridaowns an unknown chunk of it, but most of it, but then then Mike Sinyard, who has owned it since he founded it in, was it 1974?

He owns it, but potentially, he will be out of that business sometime soon. Do you think …

Rick Vosper 32:28
Well, eventually, we’re all mortal.

Carlton Reid 32:30
Well do you think that company will radically change? Because Mike Sinyard has put an absolute stamp on that company in many different ways? You know, the way it operates, you know, legally and how it sue’s how many people so many other things that that’s that’s that’s a trademark Sinyard move, isn’t it? Do you think Specialized will be a completely different company, when somebody else takes charge and Sinyard is no longer in charge?

Rick Vosper 32:56
Well, I first my first job in the bike business was lifting boxes in a warehouse for young hippie named Mike Sinyard in in 1980, so Mike and I go way back. And he is absolutely the motivating motivating force in that company.

And when for whatever reasons, Mike is no longer there, it will de facto become a different company. There’s a culture of innovation there. That’s very strong. There’s a culture of marketing that’s very strong. And Mike is very deeply involved in in both the product and the marketing sides of the business.

Carlton Reid 33:32
And the people he tends to attract tend to be real hardcore riders and want to go out on that famous famous lunchtime ride with with with Mike there, too.

Rick Vosper 33:45
Yes, although

this is an enthusiast category bicycles are. And if you go to pretty much any bike company, they have a lunch ride, it’s serious throwdown time. And

Specialised, it’s just made more of an institution of it than some of the others. Hmm. I remember on the lunch ride, and one day they had a couple of professional road racers who were in town to visit the factory. And they went on, they went on the ride and when everybody got back, the professional cyclist says, do you guys always go that hard?

Probably said, ‘Yes, we do every day’. Good for you, you know.

There are a lot of alpha people on those rides.

Carlton Reid 34:40
Including Mike himself.

Rick Vosper 34:43
Mike himself does the ride, does finish this respectfully, respectably, and probably continue doing it until the day he can’t do it anymore.

Carlton Reid 34:55
So tying two things together here, in fact, three things: Mike Sinyard,

bicycle retail and Pon, you had this quite — it might not be incredibly hilarious to anybody outside the industry but to people in the industry this is this is — quite a funny thing happened if they if they want to nark Mike Sinyard that is in that Pon came and this is actually before it took over

CSG and that’s they bought Mike’s Bikes

which is a famous chain of 12 bike shops were famous of the one of the things it’s famous for is it’s being a Specialized retailer. So do you have any inside skinny on what happened there and how annoyed Mike might have been?

Rick Vosper 35:42
I do not. I wasn’t privy to the deal before it happened. I read about it in Bicycle Retailer like along with everyone else in the industry. But for sure, it was a major shock in Morgan Hill where Specialized has its headquarters

Now, Specialized

decided to immediately remove its line from the Mike’s chain;

Giant stepped in and is now sort of the caretaker brand for those 12 Mike’s stores

which, for those who don’t live in Northern California, has very professional highly respected very successful line of stores

they have — they being the spokespeople for Mike’s bikes and for Pon — have said no we have no we have no no intention of changing the bikes brands in the stolen bike stores. But I think you’ll have to put a little bit down to just public relations it’s impossible for me to believe that a brand decides upon would have purchased a chain of bike shops that don’t want to put Pon own bikes into those bike shops.

Carlton Reid 36:53
It’s also the way that Mike Sinyard reacted is also indicative of how

potentially dictatorial he is and how idiosyncratic he is in that any you know accountant run business would not have done what he did. You wouldn’t, you would just go ‘oh, that’s business’ and then you would just carry on selling them bikes. You wouldn’t remove your bikes from as you said an incredibly successful well respected bike chain would you?

Rick Vosper 37:26
I personally would not but I’m not Mike Sinyard, if you want to know Mike’s thinking about it I suggest you ask Mike

Carlton Reid 37:36
How very diplomatic of you.

Rick Vosper 37:39

you have to remember I’ve worked Mike on two different times and about 20 years apart. One is a kid lifting boxes in the warehouse and the other is his director of marketing globally.

Carlton Reid 37:54
But it’s very it was very Mike, wasn’t it, to do what he did? That is just, and who else in the industry would do that? If anybody described that and didn’t name any names and said, ‘right who did that?’ you’d go well Mike Sinyard in yet so he’s kind of famous for for taking things incredibly personally but that that I guess is just to bring it back to well let’s let’s look at the accentuate the positives here is that he’s incredibly passionate, and he’s so passionate, he probably is willing to lose a tonne of money just to, in a fit of pique.

Rick Vosper 38:29
Mike is a very passionate man and a very passionate cyclist.

Carlton Reid 38:33
And that comes through in the brand as well I guess. Okay, carrying on accentuating that positive so if if the leader is that passionate people who you know want to buy bikes and go what that must be an incredible bike brand because you’ve got this owner here who’s an absolute crazy fanatic on bikes.

Rick Vosper 38:50
And he hires people who share his passion.

Carlton Reid 38:54
Yeah, that was interesting to see that with with with Mike’s bikes and and the way that he kind of reacted to that that was that was something else wasn’t it? That was that was again that’s another indication of the bike industry is very different to normal corporate America, isn’t it?

Rick Vosper 39:10
It is.

Cycling is an enthusiast driven category and that’s true both on the supply side and the retail side and on the consumer side.

Carlton Reid 39:19
Getting back to the bike boom, almost sticking with with Specialized in many ways, and that is just an anecdote really is.

So the counsel, the Chief Counsel at Specialized and he does many other things that Specialized and I’m sure you know him very well. Margevicius. I don’t remember exactly when this was but it was probably at the height of the boom. When you could you travel again. During the pandemic, he was probably one of the first people out to Asia from the from the industry. I was really surprised to see him out there. But he was out there, basically browbeating

Asia and saying you’ve got to build more bike factories

We haven’t got enough capacity here. Now, I’m sure the Asian

bike factory owners would love to, to make more bikes for Specialized and for all sorts of different companies that all go roughly the same factories.

But it’s a quid pro quo. You can’t just an American executive can’t just come across and say just you know, instantly build more factories, because that then leaves them

in potential problems when there isn’t a boom in 2022. So do you know if

Margevicius he says but much of his his his demand for more bike factories did that did that pan out were more bike factories built magically by Asia?

Rick Vosper 40:46
in the sense of creating new foundries, footprints factory footprints, that takes years to develop them bring bring to reality, what is more simple is add another shift to production, or build another line on the factory floor. And I think Bob, who is another guy I’ve known for almost 40 years,

Bob was very effective in bringing that message to the to the factory owners, but it’s not as simple as just building another bike factory there’s two things involved here. The first is bicycles Yes, you can make another factory if you want to, to to build frames, but you still have to have the components and parts and and then equipment to be put onto all those bikes. So you can’t build a bike new bike factory and expect it to be in business very long. If you can’t get more components out of your model and the other component manufacturers you know Selle Italia make saddles on some very large percentage of bikes sold in United States. And if Ssell Italia doesn’t build a new factory, then, you know, Carlton and Rick’s new bike brand can’t have bikes made no matter how many new factories they build.

The other question is, how many bikes are enough. And as an industry side guy, I take the position that we have had too many bikes in the market for the last 10 years.

And absolute absolute boom in consumer demand, which you and I have already touched on in this conversation.

There. We don’t need that many bikes. We don’t even need as many bikes as we’ve historically been getting.

Carlton Reid 42:33
So the boom that we had during the pandemic is it was it it partly a boom

just because the industry has actually been quite, you know, selling relatively low number of bikes anyway. And so anything that that that hit that would make it into into a boom. But then that makes it kind of like an artificial boom. If you didn’t if you’re what you’re saying is what you’ve been making too many bikes anyway.

Rick Vosper 43:02
It’s a little more complicated than that. And you’ve twice used the phrase inside baseball to describe what I do in the industry. Well, we can we can really geek out on this as much as you want. One of the reasons there weren’t enough bikes in 2020. Well, the obvious one was there became a surge in demand as people wanted fun, outdoorsy recreational things they could do during the COVID. But the real reason was that 2019 was a record low level of imports to the bike industry. In fact, in 2019, were the fewest bikes imported since 1982.

To the bike industry, so at the end of 2019, suppliers had very little inventory on their shelves, dealers had very little inventory on their floors. And when COVID first hit, everyone was calling Asia trying to cancel orders for 2020. And it wasn’t until the dealer started calling up saying we’ve got people coming in here who want to buy bikes.

It wasn’t until that happened that the suppliers tried to turn things around. So one of the reasons 2020 demand looks so big is because the supply of bikes to fill that demand was so small.

Now consider

your consumer you want you want to buy a bike and let’s say you want to buy $1,000 mountain bike.

Well, you get on the phone you call the first shop in town. And they say we don’t have any mountain bikes. They say okay, and you call the next shop and the next shop and the next shop. So there’s this sort of phantom demand being built up. If the consumer calls 10 bike shops, the apparent demand for that $1,000 mountain bike is 10 times what it really is.

Then to make matters worse,

The dealer say, Okay, I’m going to order 50 bikes, or 100 bikes in the hopes of getting 10 or 20. Because the suppliers can’t fulfil. So I’m going to place really large orders and hope I’m going to get some significant fraction of that.

This is one reason well, where dealers are placing orders for bikes into 2023 and four components into 2024. One of the one of the questions is, we know there is some increase in demand for bikes. But how much is the real increasing consumers interested in purchasing? It may be distorted, you get this sort of Dutch tulip bulb speculation going on in the market.

Carlton Reid 45:44
Because we haven’t really in previous times, there’s been an awful lot of venture capital has flooded into the bike industry. That hasn’t been that much this time. It might be an indication that, you know, the the markets actually think yeah, that the boom isn’t genuinely there.

Rick Vosper 46:04
I don’t know that there is more VC money floating around the bike business than usual.


it’s, it’s tough for a venture capital company to justify investing in bike brands with a relatively low return on investment, that those those brands actually get.

The typical VC attitude when you see new capital coming in and buying a bike brand, or buy a chain of bike stores or something is we’re gonna take this company and we’re gonna run it like a real business, and then profit. It’s sort of like the underpants gnomes theory of economics, where you just started up, you do it right, and then magically profit appears, and historically, it never has.

So we have, one of the reasons bike brands tend to tend to flip a lot is precisely that they if you go back to Schwinn in the mid 1990s,

where the company went bankrupt, and went through a whole series of owners over the next 10 or 11 years, before it ended up being a mass market brand, under the Dorel umbrella, which was the company that own Cannondale and GT, in addition to Schwinn.

So venture capitalists are only attracted to the bike industry that they think they can fundamentally change how it does business. And the laws of perfect competition just don’t work that way.

Carlton Reid 47:43
So I was going to I was going to try and interrupt you that I didn’t, I wanted you to carry on but I was going to say

is, is there any point at looking at the industry in 10 years hence, because so many things can change. But just just if you look at if you extrapolate from today, so you’ve got

you’ve got a whole bunch of bike brands, with the owners coming up to retirement name, no names, and you’ve got Pon coming in, which isn’t a VC funded business is in it for the long run, because it’s they’re run by some of them by buying through, yes. But they’re also you know, retail people, and then they they absolutely know this, this market, they’re not going to be burned, because they they know it’s a perfect competition area. But is there any point at looking just think what can what will happen in this industry in the next 10 years, because the internet hasn’t killed off, you know, that was it would have been sitting here 10 years ago, we’d probably start with the internet, it’s gonna kill the whole industry off, you know, won’t be any bike shops in 10 years. And lo and behold, there are bike shops, probably not that many different from from from just a few years ago. So but But what do you think? What do you think the industry, any of the trends that are happening now with the Pon’x of this world with and they’re going to be something significant in the next 10 years?

Rick Vosper 49:01
Well, there’s there’s a couple of questions in that, Carlton.

First is the question of what’s gonna go on with Pon. And if they continue what they’ve done in the automobile business and other businesses in Europe, yes, they’re going to make themselves into a major player. So that being will be a major shift that

the brand car right now, Cannondale is the number four brand. And with all the money and additional brands, it’s very likely that the Pon group of brands will displace Giant in the number three spot. To your larger question about will the industry fundamental change fundamentally change?

That’s a real good question. I spend a lot of time thinking about that and people pay me lots of money to think about it. But

what I see happening is, we may get a little stratification of bike brands, we already have Trek and Specialized at the top.

And maybe we have Trek, Specialized, Cannondaale. And perhaps Giant, although Giant hasn’t been willing to purchase bike shops, so that the top level of the bike industry in the US anyway, will be bike brands that also own retailers that are vertically integrated. And those will be the guys making lots and lots of sales, there’s nothing to suggest they will be making more profits on those sales.

except to the extent that you know, retail becomes a revenue stream where it kicks back to the company bottom line, instead of going to the independent retailer. But that’s, that’s not going to move the needle on the stock gonna change the EBITDA, or the earnings before interest, taxes, [depreciation, and amortization.]

It’s not going to change the EBITDA of the companies that much. It’s still a low margin game game, as long as it’s an enthusiast category with low barriers to entry and the other things as we’ve discussed, it’s going to be it’s going to continue to be a low margin game.

Carlton Reid 51:04
I thought you might have actually had at that point mentioned electric bikes, because we you mentioned them before, but then parked them to one side. So you almost say they’re almost a different category. They’re not they’re not bikes, they’re e-bikes. They’re they’re the you don’t you don’t mix the two together.

And I have actually asked this to Mike’ Sinyard in in the,

in the corporate meeting room at the HQ in Morgan Hill. I don’t think I’ve got an incredibly

brilliant answer at the time. But anyway,

companies like Specialized, and Cannondale and all the other brands, they’re making their money. Right now, all bike companies are making their money from from electric bikes and not from for want of a better phrase analogue bikes,

that that kind of suggests that you get the money is going to go where your development is going to go where the money is being made. So in the end of that 10 years, which I posited, there, might there not just be, you know, the enthusiasts so people who have listened to this podcast, probably who mostly pedal their bikes and don’t have pedal system, I’m not being too rude here. I’m sure lots of people have pedal assist bikes, including myself. But I’m just kind of generalising might not that fundamentally changed the industry in that you have the industry is an E bike industry. It’s no longer a bike industry and bikes and lock downs. Like you know, the standard pedal only bikes are actually this small niche, typewriter, kind of ownership it category, you know, everybody else has got PCs. Okay. There’s some people still typing on on typewriters, do you not see that changing in within the next 10 years?

Rick Vosper 52:52
What’s happening in E bikes, I’m glad you brought the topic up because they are their own world. So when we when we look at import figures of bikes, they don’t include e-bikes. And the reason for that is very arcane. It has to do with how the Department of Commerce tracks bicycle sales and E bikes sales. But what’s happened in E bikes in the last several years is you’ve begun to get the kind of market segmentation that we get with regular bikes only it’s exciting new category that more and more people are coming into. You have sort of three tiers of the bike business. The first is the ones that are sold exclusively on Amazon and they may be $1,500 or something, or $500. You have then the tear that is being sold Consumer Direct or through automobile sales, styled dealerships for companies like red power and Pedego. And then you have a bike sold in bike shops, which are usually starting at about $2,500 and going up from there, so the market is heavily segmented by price.

You are correct that E bikes are the only really fast growing major category within bicycles. The others are gravel bikes and cargo bikes. But the e-bikes eclipsed all of them. Every bike company wants to be in the e-bike business in a big way. The question is, how much market share will e-bikes ever get in comparison to pedal-only bikes? And nobody knows the answer that when we look in other markets, specifically in Asia and India, and Europe, they have all had a steadily growing adoption rate and then one year the thing just takes off and the business doubles or triples.

That may that may or may not happen. In the United States we can have a whole conversation about how the US market for e-bikes is fundamentally different than the European market. It was particularly on the Benelux countries, in Germany, less so the UK.

Carlton Reid 55:01
I mean 60% Now we’re now approaching 60% of the market in yes in Benelux Germany, Netherlands, where, you know, we are rapidly seeing traditional bikes, traditional pedalling bikes becoming a much, much smaller category. And that being the case, bike companies are making their money from electric bikes. And that’s what’s keeping an awful lot of bike companies afloat right now is electric bikes.

Rick Vosper 55:27
I’m not sure I completely agree, it’s certainly the most profitable segment.

For the bike companies.

Electric bikes are more expensive than pedal only bikes.

The margins are not particularly any better than they are for the pedal only

for the pedal-only segment, because there’s intense competition around the electric bike business too. And that’s keeping prices down. And what tends to happen is the prices are staying the same, but the quality of what goes on the bike or is getting better and better every year. So similar trajectory to standard bikes.

However, the question remains to be seen is will we win, and will we get that hockey stick curve with electric bikes in the United States, you’ll notice that the UK has been a little more resistant to electric bikes, they’re either far behind or they’re they’re charting their own path relative to the European, the EU nations.

Carlton Reid 56:30
Oh, very much so. But the potential is there. And you see this from like the, the kind of shops that actually sell electric bikes are often completely different to your standard bike shop, they are electric bike shops, they’re not bike shops, and they don’t sell anything. Whereas a bike shop might sell lots of traditional bikes, and electric bikes, you get these new category of retailer that really only sells

electric bikes. So there’s there’s this is the potential there for a bifurcation that the industry actually splits apart.

Rick Vosper 57:05
We have and I alluded to this earlier, where you have

you have two dominant bike brands at slightly lower price point to point, price points, Radpower and, and Pedego. Now Pedego, sells their bikes exclusively through Pedego dealers. So it’s a freestanding electric bike shop that only sells Pedego bikes, just like you go to your Audi dealer, your Ford dealer, your you know, Mercedes dealer, whatever.

And they’re being very successful with this model.

The there are also independent electric bike dealers, they may sell several brands of bikes of electric bikes, and they’re taking on the traditional bike shop and fighting it out with them for who the electric bikes go to. So yes, there’s a very real possibility that e-bikes will eventually split the industry. However, to date, they have not done so.

Carlton Reid 58:01
But it also that not only will they split the industry like that the companies themselves will be different. Potentially, the consumers are very different. And that’s that’s a potentially good thing in that you bring a whole bunch of brand new consumers in into cycling, even though it’s not actually cycling, it’s e-cycling?

Rick Vosper 58:20
Well, absolutely. As we said earlier, more people on bikes is good for everybody. It doesn’t matter whether those are skinny tyre bikes, fat tyre bikes, or electric bikes.

Carlton Reid 58:32
Because they need the same infrastructure. So yes, your bike paths in your city does not what people are on as long as they’re on bicycles that have to be pedalled in some way shape, or form, whether they’ve got a battery boost or not exactly correct. So that is potentially something that the industry will be very different in 10 years than just because of electrification. Quite apart from that all the things that are going on, you know, that maybe people don’t really see very much, you know, that the vertical integration of the industry.

Rick Vosper 59:07
So the there’s two things that work with electric bikes. The first is will they increase the increase the size of the market? Yes, absolutely. And the where the market share is which channel of distribution is going to evolve over the next 10 years. But at the same time, all those major bike brands are going to continue selling pedal only bikes, they’ll just add electric bikes to their to their quiver.

And if we, if we look among, in addition to very high end electric bikes from Europe, the best electric bikes, best in terms of highest price, best quality are all coming from the traditional bike brands right now.

Carlton Reid 59:47
I think that’s the question I was asking Mike actually, I was asking him how much of a bicycle company will Specialized be, you know, in that, you know, might it actually evolve in exac … as a historian

In exactly the way that car companies came about, so most, most car companies started life as bicycle companies. And when it became very apparent, early on early 1900s, that there’s much more money to be made in automobiles than it was in bicycles. All of these bicycle companies morphed into becoming car companies. So my question to Mike and also say, yes, my question to you, it was, well, aren’t all these specialists what we think it was bicycle companies now, in 10 years, they’re not going to be bicycle companies that are going to be motorised bicycle companies.

Rick Vosper 1:00:41
I’m not sure. I’m not sure that’s the case, particularly not in the United States. But for sure, they will be more electric more electric in their product offerings than they are now simply because the category is going to grow.

And that’s a positive thing is bringing cash into the industry is getting people on bikes who are not on bikes before everybody’s happy.

Unknown Speaker 1:01:05
Thanks to Rick Vosper there. And thanks also to you for listening to Episode 291 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you, as always, in association with Jenson USA. Watch out for the next episode popping up in your feed next month. But meanwhile, get out there and ride.

Transcribed by

January 11, 2022 / / Blog

11th January 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 290: Launch of Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame with Guitar Ted


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Mark Stevenson aka Guitar Ted of

TOPICS: Today’s Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame launch, and more.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 290 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Tuesday 11th of January 2022.

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
Thanks, David. And on today’s show, I’m talking with Mark Stevenson of He tweets and blogs as Guitar Ted and on one of his tweets earlier today he mentioned that some folks across there in America have created the gravel riding hall of fame. Now, to those who know about the history of gravel grinding, Guitar, Ted is one of the key figures from the early days. So here’s hoping he gets to be one of the first inductees. Here’s our 45 minute chat from earlier today. First of all, Guitar Ted, or Mark, what we’re doing today, Guitar Ted, Mark, Guitar Ted, Mark?

Mark Stevenson 1:57
Would probably be easier just to go with Mark.

Carlton Reid 2:01
Tell me first of all, I know I’ve asked you this before because you have been on the show before you’ve been on the show quite a few times. I went back and I found you 2007 was the first time you were on the show. So you’re a long time show participant. But haven’t had you on since 2018. However, but you have been on the show before. So I know to have asked you this before but Guitar Ted, why?

Mark Stevenson 2:26
Well, when I was younger, and I listened to rock and roll music, and like most of my peers, and my father was very much you must buy American and because he worked in a factory and all that. Well, much of the rock’n’roll that I listened to at the time was not made in America. So I became attracted. This is back in the 70s to the music of Ted Nugent. So and I saw I listened to in high school. So my friend started calling me Ted head, because that’s all I listened to. And then that guitar Ted thing kind of grew out of that, because I played guitar as well and still do. So that’s where that came from.

Carlton Reid 3:10
Okay, and that you are refreshing my memory because I now remember that. But for anybody new who’s coming to the show, and of course, I would expect them to go back and listen to the back episodes and listen to when you want, etc. And so to talking about that, and that this is what we’re gonna talk about today. You were on because the guitar Ted that we all know and love is absolutely not just embedded in the gravel scene, but I would certainly say was one of the core people right back there. Early 2000s on the gravel scene, so that is why we had you on the show to begin with because you were at Interbike and you were there to do gravel bike stuff for a bike shop for yourself. What are you doing when we when we met back in 2007 at Interbike

Mark Stevenson 4:00
in 2007, Carlton, I probably would have been doing stuff for, which was the site that covered the then still quite new 29 inch wheeled mountain bikes. I was kind of pivoting into more gravelly things as you say, at the time and I had a you know, a blog site that covered that kind of thing as well. And then eventually I phased out of the mountain bike stuff and phased into more gravelly things and so now I’m actually part owner of riding gravel calm a site that covers the gravel theme.

Carlton Reid 4:36
Hmm. Now that has come to dominate the world of bikes and I don’t have to really go back to the transcripts for those early shows to realise that we were probably taking the mick we are probably like pulling your leg quite a bit about how this is just you know, the same old same old and it’s just the bike industry. You know, marketing this, this this bike to There are more bikes. But it has come to be an absolutely massive category. And when I look at a road bike, I don’t in fact, I don’t look at a road bike anymore. I think, well, I want to grab a bike for current riding, I want to do sure I want to, I want to mix it up. So that category, which you have very, very early on, has pretty much taken over the world, hasn’t it?

Mark Stevenson 5:23
It seems to have, you know, you bring up a great point, Carlton. Originally, when I was looking at this sort of thing, back in the late 2000s. My idea was that the road racing bike that you would find in most bicycle shops at the time, was the wrong kind of road bike. It really was geared so much towards the racing side of the spectrum that it left out a lot of the versatility that I thought that would make a road bike more appealing to the average cyclist. And I felt that the gravel bike, so called, was the perfect vehicle to bring back the versatility to bring back the appeal of the road bike to a wider audience. And I never really thought that the term gravel bike was the right way to name these bikes. But that’s what it has become. So that’s what it is.

Carlton Reid 6:17
It kind of stuck. It kind of end. And those that’s kind of because you said an Iowa. Yes. That’s where you are. So we’re about to you in Iowa right now.

Mark Stevenson 6:28
I mean, in Waterloo, Iowa, which is the home of John Deere tractors, if I suppose some people might know about that. It’s the northeastern part of the state smack dab in the middle United States, in farm country.

Carlton Reid 6:42
I guess for here in the UK, we kind of go on to almost tracks, you know, like forestry tracks. That’s where you do your gravel riding probably. Whereas I know, a tonne of states across there. And I’m presuming Iowa as well. Your road network, you know, is it is a huge part is actually gravel. You know, this is this is why there’s such good bikes where you are and in many states because you know, huge mileage is can be done on genuinely on on gravel unmade roads basically.

Mark Stevenson 7:18
Absolutely, yes. And part of that stems back to history. Back into the 70s, late teens, late 1700s, when the United States was first getting started, there was a an act of Congress called the Northwest Territories act, I believe it was called. Anyway, it set out the way that America was going to colonise the North American continent going forward. And part of that was to grid out the states and counties and townships, with roads so that the land could be accessed in by farmers and by to soil out for schools and towns and whatnot. And so that philosophy pretty much was imprinted onto the landscape of the United States early on, and therefore we have all these mileage is that you spoke of. So for instance, in Iowa, we have upwards of about 70,000 miles of dirt and gravel roads, whereas the paved part is only about 46,000 or so.

Carlton Reid 8:23
Huh? So you’ve got a whole tonne of choice there. Absolutely fit, you can go on tarmac on asphalt. But you wanted to utilise these roads which are not being utilised because it kind of tough you can do on a road bike, a standard road bike, but it just wasn’t as good. So how did you? What do you do to those first bikes to change them into gravel bikes before the industry started doing it?

Mark Stevenson 8:49
Oh, yes, well, there were there was a thing called a cyclocross bike, as you know, and are familiar with their that allowed for a little bit larger volume tire. Of course, the UCI mandates a 33 millimetre tire, but a lot of these bikes will take a larger tire than that. And so we use those we used mountain bikes, we use pretty much whatever bike we could get our hands on that was comfortable and in good order and could take a wider tire. So you would see all sorts of bikes out there in the early days.

Carlton Reid 9:20
And have they evolved? Have they evolved as much as you thought they might have done it or they evolved even more than you thought? Have they done? How’s the industry done with this baby of yours?

Mark Stevenson 9:32
Well, I think that overall, if you look at it from a wide angle view, I think that it’s done a wonderful job with it. Most of these bikes are can be quite racy, even on pavement. In then they’re also adept at the unpaved parts as well. So that was kind of my overarching vision back then, and I think the industry has done a very good job of translating my ideas. and others into that what we see today, but there are some things that do surprise as you know, as you know, in the bike industry, there’s always the outliers. And that’s strange little things that happen. So there’s full suspension, gravel bikes, there’s gravel or gravel bikes with, you know, electric motors in them. I never dreamed that would happen. So there’s there’s definitely some things that are that are unusual that grew out of this.

Carlton Reid 10:27
Hmm, yes, I’ve had a wee while I had a Canyon electric gravel bike.

Mark Stevenson 10:34
Oh, how did you like that? A whole lot of fun?

Carlton Reid 10:36
Yeah, it was good, you liked it, I enjoyed it. I’ve got to admit, I do like the sweat aspect, and the real grunge aspect of gravel riding. So I probably would prefer not to have an electric bike for that particular mode. So I can see it much more. I picked off me for like a transport by rather than that there’s a gravel bike, however, each each to his own everyone. Everybody wants to do their own thing, which is absolutely fine. So there’s a whole bunch of events that that really took this scene and and exploded it like the early days of mountain biking, I guess, with you know, the Repack? Yeah. What what would be equivalent of to the repack in in gravel terms?

Mark Stevenson 11:31
Well, we can, we can probably point to a lot of early events that existed. But did they have this sort of influence that a repack had, for instance. So, you know, there were people riding on mountains, with bicycles before repack, and maybe they were doing their own little events, but we really don’t know that. Because it didn’t start the dominoes to fall, so to speak. So I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the events I’m going to mention were the very beginnings of gravel scene because there are other events. But, you know, I was involved with a fellow by the name of Jeff Kirkove who’s still in the bicycle industry as an employee of Ergon, I believe. And he and I started an event called Trans Iowa. Kind of an outgrowth of what Jeff had been doing it a time, which was individual 24 hour mountain bike events. And his vision was to cross the state of Iowa on gravel roads, on mountain bikes, and do it in a sort of, is a outgrowth of some of the ultra mountain bike events that were happening at that time, like the Great Divide race and others of that ilk. So we did it on gravel. And that perked up a lot of interest, because we kind of did it at a very opportune time in history. So a lot of people were just getting online and joining forums and finding out about things that they’d never knew about before. And here, we put this thing out about trans Iowa in 2004, late 2004. And it caught the attention of a lot of people. And we were contacted about how we did this, what was this about This looks exciting? Can we do things like this ourselves? And so we disseminated that information, some people that came to our event actually went out and started their own, like events to ours. And it kind of started the ball rolling, and it was like, you know, taking a little snowball on the top of a mountain and watching it go down. And the next thing, you know, is an avalanche. And, and, you know, probably 6, 7, 8 years later, there were so many events, we couldn’t count them anymore. And of course, not all of those were a direct outgrowth of Trans Iowa. But, you know, the early ones were definitely we shared our rules a lot of people and, and are the ways we did things with a lot of people. And I’m sure that what we did was a great influence on that on those kinds of things. So yeah.

Carlton Reid 14:02
And where geographically where where was it all clustered? Or was it clustered at all? Was it was it maybe a bit like mountain biking, which we tried a few different spawning points, and then they kind of met together a few years later, and perhaps even know that they were working on these things? Or where did it geographically gestate?

Mark Stevenson 14:23
I would, I would say, Carlton that it just stated mostly in the Midwest of the United States. So the states that are if you took a map of the United States and cut the middle third out, that’s probably the the heart or the the womb of travel. Right? You will, and then it grew from there. I mean, it didn’t take very long and there were people in Florida doing it and there are people in Southern California doing it and I’ve got contacted by folks in Australia and folks in in the UK that were interested in it too. So it didn’t take long for it to to get going and Different parts of the world but for sure, for sure the vast majority of events in the early days were in the Midwest.

Carlton Reid 15:07
How soon did the bike industry latch on to this co-opted? And do you think they did it cynically? Do you think you know, because they famously quiver bikes, and you’ve got to have like, you know, your next bike. So this is just the cynic would say, Well, this is just an opportunity to just create another bike that you’ve got to go out and buy. So how cynically, should we view this? Or should we view this as No, this was pristine territory, and the bike nerds got into this because they they loved it, and that it kind of grew from that way. So So give us a bit of a flavour of the industry and meeting gravel riding.

Mark Stevenson 15:48
Okay, well, I think a lot of the industry influence and interest grew out of the early gravel events that some of the industry people were attending. For instance, there were a number of people that worked for Quality Bicycle Products, which is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that did a lot of the early gravel events. And some of those folks were starting to think what kind of a bike could we made that would do this better. And then eventually, Salsa cycle started testing those kinds of bikes at different gravel events in the Midwest. And they were, to my knowledge, the first ones to market a gravel specific bike in 2012, I believe that was, and certainly there was an outcry of, oh, yes, you are just trying to make us buy another IQ. You know, there was a lot of cynicism around it, you’re, you’re very correct in pointing that out. But and a lot of people thought, well, it’s just a cyclocross bike. And so there was a lot of going back and forth until things, you know, shook out once these people started riding on gravel in different places and back roads in different places, they realise that, you know, like I mentioned before, it’s a road bike with greater capabilities. And I think a lot of people were offended by the term gravel and gravel grinding and thought that that was a trigger to the cynicism. And I believe that’s probably correct. If it had been called an all road bike or something of that nature, I think it would have been better accepted off the bat. But be that as it may, the industry started to finally jump on board with the gravel bikes, I would say probably 2014 2015 was about that point, when you started seeing companies actually, besides salsa actually starting to market that kind of a bike. And then five years later, well, if you don’t have one of those in your line, it’s crazy.

Carlton Reid 17:47
So it wasn’t just you know, the next year, it wasn’t 2018 There was still a few years. People are chewing this over. Yeah.

Mark Stevenson 17:55
Oh, yes. You know, when we started Trans Iowa, the first one was 2005. And so I would, you know, there was a good seven year period without any gravel bikes there. And by that time, there were lots of events. And as I mentioned, before, people were using whatever they could get their hands on, that would take a bigger tire. So we would see mountain bikes, full suspension, mountain bikes, even, we would see cyclocross bikes, we would see older rode bikes that took bigger tires, you know, back in the day that rode bikes did take better tires, and so that we would see some a fair amount of older road bikes on the gravel roads back in the

Carlton Reid 18:30
day, a long way back. We’re talking now we’re talking like, you know, pre 70s and pre 60s, pre 50s. A long, long with is that, is that what you’re talking about? Like the original, like road bikes? Like, Tour de France, you know, 1905 road bike is that we’re talking about?

Mark Stevenson 18:46
Sure. Yeah, I mean, that’s, you know, what we did in the, in the 2000s, with the bike cyclical industry did in the 20 teens, was pretty much modernised that idea of the road bike that existed in the early 20th century. Really, I that’s what I believe, you know, with better materials, a little bit of the Tweak of the geometry here and there. But you know, with those big volume plus tires, and you know, with an aim at going anywhere on that bike. And as I tell people often I believe a gravel bike is the kind of bike you use anywhere between full on crit racing, all the way up to mountain biking and everything in between there is what what a gravel bike is for. So if you can find that path or that road, that’s what a gravel bike can do. And it doesn’t have to be paved, but it could be and I think that the industry kind of, I don’t think they consciously did it, but I think that’s what they did is they they modernise that old road racing bike.

Carlton Reid 19:53
And the did seem to be, there’s two strands here in that in my garage. It’s actually my wife’s bike, but it’s a It’s a it’s an old road bike. It’s a custom built, it wasn’t custom built for her, but he just bought it off somebody 30 years ago. But that’s got 19 millimetre tyres. Oh, yes. Punishing man is so close to the frame is because there’s a huge trend in in cycling 70s and 80s of just going, the smaller the tyres that you know, the faster you’re going to go. And then there was all sorts of journals and boffins coming up with studies saying actually, it’s not that the rolling resistance is the same with a fatter tyre you get the comfort you know, it goes as fast if not faster on a bigger tyre. So there was that trend in the bike industry already wasn’t those of going to bigger volume tyres, and then the gravel thing, so it kind of they met in the middle. Yeah?

Mark Stevenson 20:49
I would agree with that. Carlton, I think that we went too far in one direction and like the bicycle industry often does this, where there’s a trend that starts and then it’s pursued to the gnat’s eyebrow, and it’s too far in one direction and we have to pull it back and I think gravel bikes, we’re definitely that pullback and we’ll probably see gravel bikes go too far in one direction as well and long you know in the future and we’ll have to pull back again but that’s kind of the way the bicycle industry seems to work. You know, now I can point to mountain bikes at this point. I think mountain bikes are very extreme end of the geometry spectrum right now with a very slack choppered out front ends and the stubby stems and everything you think back 25 years ago, stems were 150 millimetres long, and now they’re 30 millimetres. And so I think the road bike did that as well. And I remember those skinny, tired rode bikes they were brutal to ride on. I had one with a 19 millimetre tyres on my goodness, I think I punctured on a single piece of gravel sitting on the tarmac one day, and I thought that was crazy. So that was one of the things that kind of pushed me towards wanting a bike that had the bigger tyres.

Carlton Reid 22:07
Yeah, I guess people thought they were going faster. But that’s just because there’s so much pain 19 millimetre tire, which it was not a comfortable?

Mark Stevenson 22:17
No, it

Carlton Reid 22:18
was like, two, right. So now what we’re talking about today, and why contacted you because I saw a tweet from you. And I jumped in and said, Well, come on, you’ve got to be in this. So tell me about what I contacted you for. So you don’t on gravel riding Riding gravel There’s a Hall of Fame. So tell us about that.

Mark Stevenson 22:43
Yeah, so a few folks in the cycling scene here in the United States decided that this gravel cycling thing is really big. And you know, there’s been some people that have been involved in it, there’s been some technical innovations that should be recognised. There have been have been events that have come and gone that should be recognised as helping to get this ball rolling. And we want to create a Hall of Fame for that. And so today, the gravel cycling Hall of Fame was announced, it will be eventually a physical place that you can go in Emporia, Kansas, which was the home of the Dirty Kanza, which is now called Unbound Gravel, one of the bigger events in United States. And nominations are open. Now, if you go to the gravel, cycling Hall of Fame website, you can nominate people yourself that you feel should be in there. There’s certain parameters that you have to follow to do that, but that’s all there on the site to look at. And, yeah, it’s kind of exciting to see where that will go. I was talking offline with a good friend of yours, Tim Jackson, who and he was mentioning, you know, some ideas he had about this. And I said, Yeah, you know, when you take on the idea of a hall of fame for anything, that’s a big responsibility. So I feel like the people who started this, you know, really have bitten off of quite a bit. I hope they can handle it. Because this could go in a lot of different directions, but we’ll see how it happens. I I’m not involved in and as you as you probably can tell, but I know a lot of people think I should be in it. So that’s why you probably

Carlton Reid 24:34
you’re right, because so Tim pitched in. I pitched in, I guess the Twitter feed is on that thread is now now probably more people are pitching in saying, Well, you know, yeah, I think what Tim was saying was you can’t really have this without you on there. And I certainly I would I’d back that up and that’s mainly because the first person I heard talking about this scene, you know, back in Those that mid 2000s was you? And it was this gravel. What are you? This is a Yeah. And it was it was certainly new. And it was yeah, it was new and it was you. So absolutely you should be you should be in there. So it’ll be crime if you’re not in there. Especially with you know, trans Iowa and and and popularising it to people like me. Back before the before the industry, I latched on to it. So yes, so now the mountain bike Hall of Fame and there’s a road bike holder friends, all sorts of different awards for the mountain bike Hall of Fame is in the the museum. Which Joe Breeze and a whole bunch of, of the mountain bike pioneers. They run so there’s like a physical location for it. So you mentioned that where is the actual place in Emporia? Kansas? Where where’s Is there a physical building? In somebody’s garage, or just head?

Mark Stevenson 26:05
Yeah, I think my understanding right now, Carlton is that it’s, it’s an idea at present, and that the physical place, what will happen in the future, I don’t know where we’ll be in Emporia. But I would imagine it’ll be downtown somewhere. So in that city, that’s been the home of a gravel event since 2006. So they’ve been around gravel since the early days as well. And so it’s probably a good place to be having the the popularity that unbounded gravel has and influence that that event has, so that that all makes sense to me. It’s in the middle middle part of the United States, where we talked about already where gravel kind of grew up. And so that part makes sense to me. And, and I get all that, but as far as an actual place that doesn’t quite exist yet, as far as I know.

Carlton Reid 27:01
And I might be paraphrasing you here, but I’m pretty sure on that day, the Twitter thread that we had going there, you were saying one of the the impetus for this is this, this history needs to be written about these things, and far better to have this accurate history, almost curated by by this, this, this this thing that you’re pulling together, you know, there’s there’s body so it’s almost peer reviewed, in that there’s gonna be a bunch of people, and you can tell us who those bunch people are now, in a second who are behind this thing. But in effect, they will be saying, well, this person should be in this person shouldn’t be in. And then there’s all sorts of academic you know, tooing and froing. Of of actually nailing down the actual history of this. So having an organisation like this is a good way in almost an academic way of working out the truth. Behind formations. Yeah,

Mark Stevenson 28:04
Right. Right. Yeah. If you think about the mountain bike Hall of Fame, as a, as a parallel to what is going on with the gravel cycling Hall of Fame, it makes a lot of sense, because, you know, there was all that back and forth about who invented the mountain bike. And was it Gary Fisher? Was it Joe Breeze? Was it Tom Ritchie? Well, who actually did this? And so amount by Hall of Fame kind of helped sort all that out. You know, who did the first races those kinds of things. And my, my, I’m, I’m a big fan of history. And I think it’s, it’s got a lot of value, as far as, you know, reminding us not only of the past, but why we’re where we are today. And if you don’t have that history, in a hall of fame, or written down somewhere, then people will remember what they want to remember. They may not be remembering the truth, they may be making up their own narrative. Whereas if you have a history book with accurate information, you can say well hold on a minute. This is what actually happened right here. And so then people can learn. And I think that’s important. Not only for cycling, but for all sorts of things that we do in life. So I think that the idea of the gravel cycling Hall of Fame is a great idea and the people that are behind it are LeLan Dains and Toby DePauw, both those individuals were event promoters. Back in the day LeLan worked with the Dirty Kanza, which became Unbound. And Toby did a grassroots gravel event in Illinois back in the day. And then Kristen Legan, who is in the industry with Shimano, she’s also on that board. And there’s a couple other industry people I can’t think of right now [it’s Steve Driscoll]. Neil Shirley’s another I know he’s a media person as well. And I can’t think of the other person’s name at the moment. But they are the main people who started this. When you nominate someone, they have a supposedly have a cast of between 25 and 30. People in the media in the industry, in events, promotions that are going to review who gets nominated, and from that committee will then select who gets in the first class, which will be announced. Believe it I don’t have this information in front of me, I’m sorry, but I believe it’s in April, early April, I want to say and then they are going to be actually installed and banquet that will happen right before the next unbound growl, which is the first week of June. So I don’t know who those 25 to 30 people are in the industry, that are going to be sitting down and looking over all this information that’s going to get sent to them. But I you know, I have to trust that the founders chose wisely and they have their hands firmly grasped on the handlebars of this thing. So they won’t go off into the weeds and, and we’ll see what happens.

Carlton Reid 31:09
Cool. Now, um, it’s kind of a hackneyed phrase. But jumping the shark, here is the creation of a Hall of Fame. That jumping the shark moment where, in effect, gravel making has peaked. And this isn’t a sign of Vim and vigour. This is a sign of like, almost, you know, old age maturity. But in a bad way, in that, you know, that this is this is this is not a good thing is no longer a young sport is kind of what I’m saying is it’s almost becoming you know, it’s past its adolescence, it’s now going into old age, potentially, these kinds of things can can can make people think, Oh, well, that’s not the next big thing, is it? There’s no got a Hall of Fame there. It’s like that kind of, you know, this is that old people stuff. Is there a danger? Do you think of this? Actually, yes, it’s good to have the history written down and peer reviewed. But alsosuggests that this is no longer a new thing. No longer exciting. Could this be the actual the death knell of gravel cycling? That would be coming no longer trendy put it that way?

Mark Stevenson 32:23
Absolutely. I think it’s all of that in it’s all of that in a lot of ways. I go back to my little conversation with Tim Jackson earlier today. Tim mentioned that, you know, we have to be careful not to lampoon this thing, because there’s a lot of people who think this is new, it’s new to them, they just came to gravel cycling, and in the last couple of years. They’ve never heard of it before till then. And so I think we’re still pulling in lots of new people. Listen, I thought gravel jumped the shark, you know, five, six years ago. And I thought, well, this is it. It’s over and look where we are today. And and is one of the categories that that the industry people say is still growing. One of the few categories. Probably the only one that really does it is is the electrified bikes. So yeah, I mean, I don’t know what to tell you, Carlton, I, I think in a lot of ways, it has jumped the shark. And I think a lot of people are going to say that and feel that especially people that have been around it, as long as I have that, remember the old days. And there’s going to be people who just found out about this today, because of this announcement. And well, there’s a Hall of Fame for this thing. I’ve never heard of it, what’s going on here? You know, and but another driving factor, I think, too, is and we haven’t mentioned this is, you know, where do you ride a bicycle? And where is it safe? And I think that’s one of the major factors of why gravel Cycling has become as big as it has today’s because it’s so hard to find a place where you can simply enjoy a bicycle ride without fearing getting run over by a vehicle. And gravel Cycling has kind of you know, made that choice. And aware, you mean an awareness of that choice to people let’s put it that way. Um, you know, a lot of people weren’t aware that there were 70,000 miles of gravel roads in Iowa that you can go out and ride you can ride that really, they thought they had to ride on pavement, and well you don’t have to you can get out you can get out of these, this path of these vehicles and enjoy nature and enjoy a bicycle ride without thinking you’re going to get killed. And I think that worldwide that’s taken root, it’s amazing, you know, but you know very well how that is in in the UK, where, you know, riding on the roads is is fraught with danger. So this this backroad cycling thing becomes a rather appealing thing when you find out that you can get away from that, I think and I think that’s something that we need to think about here too, that that keeps them gravel cycling niche going

Carlton Reid 35:04
it’s also a worrying thing for those reasons but because also that’s where mountain biking came from if you talk to Gary Fisher if you talk to Joe Breeze, then a lot of their their conversations are exactly the same as you know you, you have the freedom basically what do you mean by the freedom in its it’s not just going downhill, you know in jeans and a plaid shirt and you know workman’s gloves and big boots on the repack. It was the freedom to get away from from motorists to get away from from cars. So gravel biking, had that kind of impetus. So isn’t that a reflection of how crappy with the asphalt and side of the planet is in that we’re always cyclists are always running away. They’re always riding away from from those big beasts and and isn’t that kind of unfair because where where the police that have been asphalted are the important places because, you know, this, this half of the state might only have asphalted roads, but they can be the important roads and the ones that aren’t asphalted. The reason that are asphalt, asphalt is because they’re not quite so it’s great to ride on them. But they’re not as important those roads. So this is a this is a reflection of of society being askew,

Mark Stevenson 36:27
I couldn’t agree with you more, Carlton, if you hit the nail right on the head, you know, I would like I would love if gravel cycling as a niche died, because we were able to ride on roads without fearing our for our lives, I’d love that, I would think that would be wonderful. We should be able to ride our bikes, anywhere that we want to with, you know, in harmony with vehicles. But then again, we should have a lot less vehicles to I believe that’s just my personal opinion on the matter. But I you know, hey, I write on asphalt and I live in a town and I have to, you know, share the road with these these big vehicles and how people pilot them. So I completely understand where you’re coming from. And I completely agree with that viewpoint that, you know, it’s it’s kind of a reflection of, of, of a bad situation. And hopefully in the future, we can rectify that, because I think it would not only be great for cycling, but it would be great for a lot of other reasons as well, which I know you’re very in tune with.

Carlton Reid 37:32
I am. So let’s just let’s just carry on digging into this because we’re almost getting into philosophy here. Absolutely. And that is you know, so if what you’re saying is, yes, it is partly, if not greatly part of it is an escape from from getting away from from motorists. So it’s not an intrinsic love of the surface, gravel. It how much it will I see how much of it is how much of it is intrinsic love of that surface? And how much of it is getting away? Because cars aren’t on that surface? Or what do you actually generally do cyclists actually really preferred the asphalt, if truth were told, but because there’s so many cars on there, they’ll stick to the gravel.

Mark Stevenson 38:18
I think there’s probably an element of the gravel cycling public that absolutely loves the dirt roads. And I think that it’s for a number of different reasons. It’s just it’s not completely tied to what’s the surface of the road is it’s where those roads go. So there’s some people who like to, you know, get lost in the country and be amongst nature. And I know if you live in the West, or in the east of the United States, there’s beautiful, beautiful mountain roads that you can ride on. We have beautiful roads here in Iowa that run along rivers and things, you know, and the only way you’re going to be able to do that is is except the roads that go through these areas, which generally speaking aren’t the main roads. And like you mentioned before, that’s why they’re not asphalted. But again, you know, there’s beautiful roads that are asphalted that we should be able to enjoy a cyclist as well. So I agree that, you know, the the limiting ourselves to just dirt and growl is not ideal, and a reflection of the situation we find ourselves in with with cars and trucks in the world. And so yeah, some of that some of that gravel and dirt thing is is something you have to accept to get away from those things. But I think there are people who, who genuinely do like those road services as well. So I think the vast majority, I’m one of them rather not though.

Carlton Reid 39:52
I’ll say that question but I am one of them in that. I actually do like the dirt and that goes back I used to, I used to long before gravel riding. I used to tour in desert. So I every year I would do at least a month in a in a desert and this is in the 1990s. So I’d go out to the Sahara, I’ll do the Kalahari, I did a bunch of American deserts as well and Mexican desert. I genuinely love the water-bound macadam road, the dirt road, and I kind of like the taste of the dust. I live in the UK. So I’ve got to get used to being in tub of mud as well. I’m not so fond of that. I do love dry, dusty roads. So I was asking that question. And even though in my head I knew actually like the logical don’t like getting at the end of the day, you know, you get into a campsite if they’re, if they’re backpacking in the new trendy thing, of course, or getting to the hotel or getting just just riding in a big circle and come back home. They don’t like the dust. I actually like that I like coming in from a ride and being incredibly dusty. That’s a successful day to me. Not not muddy, but But I love that.

Mark Stevenson 41:09
I do too. I’ll be honest, I like that as well. The more dust and dirt that stuck to my legs, the better the ride was.

Carlton Reid 41:18
Yes, saying that if I remember back to my touring days, and this is I have to remember this because I haven’t done some really hairy tours for a long time. Like my let my son do that. Now. I’d like to also the long stretches of asphalt, but it had to be after you’re done tonnes of bumpy stuff. So it’s good to do the butter, smooth asphalt, you know, after you’ve done a load of riding on the dirt, and then it’s the it’s sort of the contrast I like I like the back then I guess that’s where gravel riding really comes into its own in that you can do both. Yes. And this is a bike where excels on both surfaces. And it’s not militating against one surface where the road bike is millet. You don’t want to go on a gravel.

Mark Stevenson 42:02
Yeah, I agree. And this goes right back to where I mentioned earlier, where the term gravel bike is just so wrong, because immediately conjures up in people’s minds. Oh, this bike belongs on crushed rock roads and dirt. Well, I’m not interested in just doing that. You know, it’s kind of When fat bikes originally came around about 10 years ago, and people were calling them snow bikes. And we immediately dropped that term because, well, I’m not going to ride when it’s cold out and snowy. So I don’t want that bike. Well, if you call it a fat bike, now what’s in your mind is a completely different picture. I’m not stuck riding just in cold wet, I could, you know, you could, that that possibility exists, but it’s not just for that. And so I see that whole term gravel like as being detrimental to the niche. But you know, as I mentioned earlier, here we are. There’s no one doing it now. Hmm.

Carlton Reid 43:02
So we’ve been talking about the gravel bike Hall of Fame, which has been announced today, I will provide a link to that. But I read about it first on on Because you provide the link on your your Twitter feed, but I will go to the actual about I’ll do both. I’ll link to both, of course. But tell people so thank you, everyone so much for being on the show today. Tell people where apart from maybe riding gravel where they can interact with you on on the internet, your your social media stuff. Well tell us about all your stuff.

Mark Stevenson 43:45
I’m on Twitter at @GuitarTed1961. That’s my handle on Twitter. So you can certainly engage with me there. I also have been writing a blog mostly about cycling. Since 2005. I post about every day, it’s or Guitar Ted productions, and Google will get you there. And and you can find me there as well.

Carlton Reid 44:18
Thanks to Mark Stevenson there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 290 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association as always, with Jenson USA. It was good to catch up with Mark. And I hope to bring you more episodes with some of our past regulars, including David, Donna, Tim, Jim, and a huge cast of others, others that we’ve had on since 2006. The next episode will be with another industry veteran who’s been on the show several times and that’s Rick Vosper, contributor to and a real expert of where the bike industryhas been and where it’s going. But meanwhile, get out there and ride …

December 22, 2021 / / Blog

22nd December 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 289: Two Volcano Sprint winner and bike entrepreneur Andrew Phillips


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Andrew Phillips of Orb




Sinewave lights


Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to episode 289 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Wednesday 22nd of December 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 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 1:09
Thanks, David. And yes, I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show, I’m talking with bike entrepreneur, Andrew Phillips, who rides and races with his own products. Earlier this year, he was the winner of the Two Volcanoes Sprint, an ultra endurance cycling race, which started in Sicily. And over two and a half days of hard riding, involved ascents of Mount Etna and Mount Vesuvius. He won that race riding his own brand of extra strong carbon wheels. He also founded an LED bike light brand with the USP that the long running front and rear lights stay attached to the bike. His first foray into the world of bike products was the Orb, a bike bottle with integrated LEDs making the bidon glow or flash for side on visibility. Here’s our chat.

Today I want to talk about your bike products. And you have got quite a few bike products over a number of years. But first of all, I’d like to congratulate you, of course, on on on winning the two sprints between two volcanoes. And you use your products for that race. So first of all, let’s let’s talk about that race? Where is it and which which two volcanoes does it go between?

Andrew Phillips 2:42
Yeah, so it’s it’s a race that’s in its third year now. And it runs between Vesuvius and on the outskirts of Naples in southern Italy, and Mount Etna, which is of course on Sicily. And normally it runs that way around from Vesuvius to Etna. This year, it was flipped came the other way started in Etna, or started at the foot of Etna climbed Etna twice, and then finished by climbing Vesuvius, and the finish line was at the bottom of Vesuvius.

Carlton Reid 3:20
And just in case anybody thinks, oh, that’s a nice warm trip you had there in you know, beautiful sunshine. There might have been some time it’s quite cold, wasn’t it? In a blog post you were talking about freezing fingers and all sorts so, so tell us about that.

Andrew Phillips 3:37
I think people hear Southern Italy, and they assume sort of Riviera in summer weather and, you know, beautiful flat, flat coastlines and things like that. But actually, it’s the third year I’ve ridden the race, and it’s been cold every year. I always get wet through and if you’re not, if you’re not ready for it, you can you can find yourself somewhere very remote and very cold,

Carlton Reid 4:05
So how what’s the distance between the two volcanoes this year?

Andrew Phillips 4:09
The race is about 1200 kilometres. It varies from about 1100 to about 1200. That that sort of distance but what makes it a really particularly tough race is the amount of climbing in that so I think there’s about 20 … it was either 24 or 26,000 metres of climbing over 12 100km this year.

Carlton Reid 4:31
This is like the Transcontinental which I’m sure more people are probably familiar with in that you’re self supported; you’ve got your own kit and and you choose whether to sleep or not sleep by the side of the road or in a hotel. So you basically got your own kit.

Andrew Phillips 4:49
Yeah, yeah, that’s right. So it’s a single stage self-supported race, which means when the when the clock starts at the start line, to when it stops at the finish line, you’re on your own, and any moment you’re not on in the saddle pedalling you’re, you’re losing time, essentially. So yeah, the aim, if you want to try and win a race like this, you’ve got to, you’ve got to sleep as little as you can get away with, you’ve got to minimise all those stops for getting food for going to toilet for, you know, absolutely anything. So I think after, at the end of the race, I’ve been riding something like 90% of the time in the saddle, legs turning,

Carlton Reid 5:35
And then other people may think, oh, I’d actually perform better I’ve actually a bit more sleep. So it’s just each rider is going to be they look at this and think I’m probably going to perform better if I do this. Is it or do all roughly have the same sleep patterns? What do you think others riders compared?

Andrew Phillips 5:56
I think, I think I think there’s a real range actually. And you definitely do go faster if you sleep a bit more you start you start getting inefficient when you when you are really sleep deprived, you start making bad decisions. So there’s a really fine balance to be had. And particularly in the longer races. Your your sort of sleep strategy is almost as crucial I think, as your fitness or your route planning although Two Volcanoes Sprint is a fixed route, unlike Transcontinental.

You got to go on the same road, you really have got you’re not choosing your route?

Exactly. Totally fixed route. So you’re you’re following the following the GPX file on your, on your GPS the whole way. Which, you know, there are pros and cons of both. The best thing I think about fixed route races is you don’t end up having to make any decisions about safety versus speed. So the big problem of the big problem of routes that aren’t, aren’t fixed route is, you know, you end up looking at an a road or equivalent and saying, Okay, well, if I go down there, you know, I’m going to save 20 minutes or whatever. But you know, there’s going to be a lot more traffic, and it’s potentially more dangerous. And all these other things come into play. So purely fixed routes can can take that away entirely, but they also take away one of the skills for a for a free-routed race is is the routing itself, the mapping skills and the preparation required,

Carlton Reid 7:37
Because you’re you’re gonna be doing the Transcontinental, you this next year. Is that one of your plans?

Andrew Phillips 7:42
Yeah, I am. That’s right. I’ve been I’ve been trying to ride the Transcontinental for for about four years now three, four years. I first applied in, in 2018. And I didn’t get a place because it’s massively oversubscribed. And a bit of a lottery. So that that was actually 2019 I volunteered at the race. And then that was the that I rode Two Volcano Sprint for the first time. Sort of, you know, looking for something else to something else to ride as I as I couldn’t do TCR I didn’t realise what sort of what a big annual part of my annual part of my life it will become. But yeah, finally this year, so I didn’t get in first year and then two years of being cancelled with a pandemic. Finally 2022, yes, I’m going to ride Transcontinental.

Carlton Reid 8:32
As is my son, of course, Josh is going to be riding that so he’s really Yes, he’s kind of looking at that route now in a bit more more detail. And it is it is you have got to me it does sound quite worrying that you know, you’re obviously gonna choose a road a lot of the time if that’s going to be the quickest way of doing it and even get you dragged along a bit only with with windstream and and traffic and stuff, but it’s not gonna be the safest thing to do.

Andrew Phillips 9:04
Yeah, I mean, one of the one of the skills I think, for the race organisers, and I know Anna Hazlock, who organises Transcontinental is very good at doing this and very keen to do it. But one of the skills, organising TCR is that plays those checkpoints in a way that discourages using larger roads. And actually, some roads, such as E roads in Romania are are banned. But for the most part, you’ve got totally free choice but but by putting those checkpoints so the first one for 2022 is in is in Czech Republic. And then next, you’re going to Passo Gavia in the Alps. And actually you use sort of you look at the you look at the the route between those two, and for the most part you’re you’re not really incentivized to take any take any particularly big road. So I think she’s done a really good job on that this year.

Carlton Reid 10:05
Let’s get back to the Two Volcanoes Sprint, which is before you, you won this year. Your your, your third attempt, but you didn’t read your blog post you didn’t really prepare in perhaps the web would think like, oh, let’s do some big training you’re most trained on the ride itself. Tell us, cos you got married. You got married the month beforehand, and that’s going to clearly dent your training schedule. So so did the fact that you didn’t prepare

Andrew Phillips 10:37
Well, so yeah, firstly, yes, that’s that’s right after so it was another another pandemic delayed delayed wedding reason I finally got got married this year. But to say that I was unprepared isn’t isn’t quite right, because I spend a lot of time on my bike and I I’d spent a bit less time than normal on my bike over the wedding and over, over honeymoon. But, you know, I was still getting out almost every day. But yeah, I then I then, I think that kind of left me rested mentally, possibly more than physically well enough that in the three weeks before the race, I had a really, really intensive training period. And found some found some real form in that in that short time, but it was sort of, you know, it’s backed up by the fact that I’ve been riding every day basically for the last sort of two three years or so.

Carlton Reid 11:38
Where am I speaking to you from, where are you? Where are you based, Andrew?

Andrew Phillips 11:41
At the moment I’m in Southern Italy and we spend most of our most of our time here sometimes to be found back in London as well. But one of the one of the reasons we moved here actually to to get out of London getaway change of scene was was how good the cycling is around here. The small roads in the hills and the weather as well make it a really perfect training ground

Carlton Reid 12:11
Brexit: is that a nasty word? With with licing across there, and well, I’m assuming you’re a UK passport holder.

Andrew Phillips 12:21
Brexit is a nasty word to me. Yes. But but it’s not actually had a massive impact on on the way we live because because we’re both resident here. So yeah, I’ve got I’m a British passport here. I’m not an Italian citizen, but I am an Italian resident. Actually, the main impact Brexit has had has been on my businesses and makes it much much harder to sell into the EU which will come as no surprise to you.

Carlton Reid 12:51
And then when we first started talking and you got in touch you’re basically saying one of the benefits of of you living in that part of the world and being able to take you know night trains and ferries and stuff to the start of the two volcanoes sprint it meant you didn’t have to have any flights so other people are coming in on flights and also worries with their you know, their bikes being broken on those flights and of course with with you taking trains and ferries you didn’t have that worry is that also a potential benefit to know how you did well this week? This year you didn’t have the flights?

Andrew Phillips 13:31
Yeah, absolutely. I think no one no one likes flying. People, people like getting where they’re going. But I stopped flying a few years ago for environmental reasons. And although I live in Southern Italy still the easiest way for me to get to Sicily are the cheapest way anyway for me to get to Sicily for the for the startline this year would have been by taking a plane but yeah, I I don’t think anyone who anyone who travels by aeroplane really finds it a pleasant stress free experience and especially when you’re taking a bike with you. You know you’re you’re wondering whether it’s going to be allowed on with the oversize baggage rules how much extra you’re going to be charged whether they’re going to break it when they’re loading onto the plane, you know, whether it arrived at all when you when you get to your destination, all that kind of stuff. And I think it really takes a lot out of you. So although I arrived on the same day as pretty much all the other riders most of the other riders, which was about about a day and a half before the race start i I’d had a night sleep on on the ferry down from down from Naples to Palermo. Really, really good night’s sleep there’s nothing like a there’s nothing like a sort of gently humming boat to make you not off. And then and then a really easy really easy regional train on the other side and I, I arrived in Niccolo z at the start line, just feeling incredibly serene, well rested. Like I hadn’t, you know, I hadn’t had any travel stress and more than that I’d actually I’d actually had a really nice relaxing trip, you know, without having to be anywhere else or being able to be anywhere else. I could just sit and gather all my energy for the next few days

Carlton Reid 15:29
A parable for life there and saving the world. Not not just ultra races just made you travel there in nicer ways. Yeah, but it is you’re right. It’s just expensive to to take the right way of travelling is often four or five, six times more expensive than just flying there. It’s crackers.

Andrew Phillips 15:53
It is it’s awful. When when we travel to and from the UK. It’s yeah, it’s it’s always several times more expensive by train. And you know, it takes longer and, and all that kind of stuff. At the same time we’ve got we’ve got sleeper services going bankrupt. They used to be a night train from Paris to Milan, but that’s just that’s just gone under yet. Yet. We’ve got chancellors across Europe subsidising subsidising short, short haul flights. It’s it’s a bit of a farcical situation.

Carlton Reid 16:28
Right back to the Two Volcano Sprint and how many, wow many people how many riders are taking part in this race?

Andrew Phillips 16:34
So it’s capped at 100 riders. And I think there are a few there are a few did not start. So somewhere between 80 and 100 riders on the on the start line.

Carlton Reid 16:43
And you’re all dot watching. So you know where everybody is on the road as well as people anybody? You know, any spectators watching you, but you also know where people are on the road.

Andrew Phillips 16:53
So yeah, everyone’s got satellite tracking. And you can check on your you can check on your phone, wherever it is, I tend not to until it gets to the death throes anyway. I find that I’m in a much better headspace. If I just ride my bike and try and enjoy doing that. I think you can you can become quite obsessed with the with the trackers if you’re not careful.

Carlton Reid 17:17
And then I did enjoy this bit in your blog where you talked about your rivals at our at our cafe, and they flag you down and in effect, you thumb your nose and say now I’m going to crack. I’m not going to have that pizza. So So tell us about your rivals, and that particular stop and why you carried on.

Andrew Phillips 17:39
So yeah, this this was, this was about about 30, 36 hours into the race. When we probably covered I don’t know, maybe maybe 700kms. And I knew I’d been I’ve been sat in about fourth place for quite a while I’ve been chasing down these three guys all day. And one of them I passed going up the climb. And he was in, was in quite bad way. He he’d run out food quite long, quite a long time ago, we had this, we had this enormous sort of almost 24 hour period, where we didn’t say single open shop. There were a few opportunities to sort of grab a cornetto, which is the Italian version of a croissant on in in smoke and bars and things like that. But for the most part, you really had the food you had with you for that stretch. And I knew that was coming because I’ve looked at the route and worked out what sort of times I was going to be there. And so I had a lot of sugary food with me, so I was okay. But we sort of we came out of this really sparse patch. And I passed one rider so I was in third place. And then I finally found first and second sitting in a cafe by the road, waiting for some pastor to arrive. And I saw them I saw them as they shouted at me, Andrew, Andrew, stop, stop. We’ve got we’ve got more faster than we can eat come have an eye stopped for a slice of pizza about about 20 minutes earlier. So I wasn’t I wasn’t hungry anyway. But but it wasn’t a particularly hard choice to make. Even if I had been I had I had the open road and the race lead in front of me and I had my two, my two other rivals sat down. So I knew if I pushed on at that point I could I could put a few minutes into them.

Carlton Reid 19:35
But that’s always got to be a worry in that you know they’re refuelling. Yes, you’ve cracked on which is good for your headspace. But you’re also you know, 20 minutes previously one slice of pizza it must be nagging your brain thinking is that actually enough? If I just stop here and fill up and we all start again, you know we would actually might stand a better chance. So how does refuelling how does that play on your brain?

Andrew Phillips 20:00
So yeah, fueling is an absolutely vital part of endurance racing. And, and yes, if you if you get it wrong then then yeah, you can really bonk you can, you can lose a lot of time, but I knew that I knew that I was in a good place. I hadn’t. I hadn’t run out of food and like a lot of guys in that in that long stretch because I planned and taken a lot with me when I’d stopped for my one slice of pizza and also stopped up. When I say when I say stocked up, I’m talking about, I don’t know, 10 bags of Haribo, something like that. So, I’ve I’ve always got I’ve always got a bag of sweets in my in my back jersey pocket, and they’re just constantly going in. So I’m eating, I’m eating all the time. And the one thing that’s that’s hard to get that you really crave, you really miss is proper savoury food. So you know, sitting down for a sitting down for a bowl of pasta would have been more more a mental win for me than a than a physical one. It would have been it would have been lovely to have, but I knew I didn’t. I knew I didn’t need the energy at that point. Because I’d I’d planned at night. I had plenty with me.

Carlton Reid 21:10
You don’t you don’t have to, to sleep a great deal. You know, you’re Yeah, as you said before, you’re trying to minimise that. But when you do sleep, and you want quality sleep and perhaps you don’t want to you know, do the you know, climb into a bivy bag in a in a bus shelter, which I know you guys do do but you got into a hotel. How do you explain to a hotel that I only want to run for like two hours? I’m sleeping and I’m going again how do you how do you kind of express and do they just go Yeah, okay, we get this all the time or do they go they take 10 minutes of explanation to get them to understand what you really want

Andrew Phillips 21:48
Uou get some you get some pretty pretty bizarre looks when asking for that kind of thing. Yeah. Especially when so I rang this i i found this hotel on Google Maps beforehand and rang it on route because you’re not allowed to pre book any of these places. So I rang it was riding and said, Look, I’m gonna I’m going to be with you about 9.30 This evening when I arrive I want to pay and then I want to be asleep in my room five minutes later. I would also like and I know this is a big favour and I’m sounding very pushy now but I’d also like two sandwiches to be waiting in my room for me and then I’m going to be gone an hour later and yes

Carlton Reid 22:34
An hour literally say literally you can sleep for an hour

Andrew Phillips 22:38
I slept for 45 minutes so I was maybe gone an hour and 10 minutes later or something by the time I got in, oiled my chain, passed out got up and gone again.

Carlton Reid 22:48
So the hotels are gonna be just no What the hell is that? What are the what is the reaction?

Andrew Phillips 22:55
Yeah, I mean, I think I think everyone’s reaction at first when you say you want a hotel room for an hour is that you might have some you might have some nefarious nefarious reasons so so it’s a bit of a test of my Italian to to explain it but fortunately I passed the test it’s gonna be a lot harder in in transcontinental I don’t know any, any Bosnian or any of those Balkan languages.

Carlton Reid 23:28
So that’s why it’s just easier just to crawl into your sleeping bag than if you just only sleeping for an hour then then going for that rigmarole?

Andrew Phillips 23:34
Yeah, there’s a really sort of common debate whether, yeah, whether it’s easier, quicker, more efficient to just sleep in a bivvy bag or sleeping bag or by the road or get a hotel. And it’s obviously as you said earlier, it’s quality of sleep versus versus speed. And for me, if I want, if I want pure speed, I will just put my bike down by the side of the road, lie down on the verge and sleep and you know, I’ll get I’ll get 15 minutes or whatever. It’s not a lot. It’s not high quality sleep. But I take it at the point where I’m so exhausted that it’ll do so so if I’m going for speed, that’s what I’ll do. If I want a bit more quality for me. There’s no point having this sort of the halfway house and you know, it’s a matter of preference. Lots of riders will disagree with me, but for me, personally, there’s no point in having the halfway house. If I want quality sleep, I’m going to get hotel and have a really short but good sleep.

Carlton Reid 24:39
And that hotel you booked were the two sandwiches waiting for you? Was everything to your satisfaction?

Andrew Phillips 24:43
There were two sandwiches waiting for me. I had a I had a sort of three, four minute minute delay on the payment front, which I was getting a bit frustrated about but actually they were they were very good. And it wasn’t you know, it wasn’t a fancy place it was, it was a sort of 40 euros a night place somewhere in remoteness Calabria but but they were they were really good it did exactly what I wanted. By the time I got up and left again I was in second place but I knew that that guy in front of me who i Who i then caught, Christian Englerts, I caught within an hour. I knew that he hadn’t slept that night and and I had the edge on him from from that point onwards,

Carlton Reid 25:28
and then describe how you actually finished this because you basically got to you’ve got to ascend, and then come down a bit, haven’t you?

Andrew Phillips 25:37
Yeah, exactly you this this year anyway, you rode straight past the finish line, on the way up Mount Vesuvius knowing that you had, you know, sort of 40 minute climb ahead of you to get to the top of the volcano, and then come back down. So I think for some people, it was a it was a bit of a wrench going going past the finish line. For me, you know, I have my wife there. cheering me on.

Carlton Reid 26:04
And your dog.

Andrew Phillips 26:06
And our dog. Exactly.

Carlton Reid 26:10
He was wondering why you’re not stopping?

Andrew Phillips 26:12
Well, yeah, exacly. He could not understand why I was why I was cycling straight past. It was the first time you’ve seen me in a week or something. So he was sort of running in tight circles and jumping around and wanted to mob me. And it was it was a little bit heart wrenching to keep going. But you know, you don’t want to stop and put your foot down. Because every every second you do, that’s going to make it harder to set off again and get to that summit.

Carlton Reid 26:38
So you’re coming back down. And then you’ve I mean, you’ve got some, you’ve had, you’ve had to negotiate some pretty tough traffic conditions as well, you know, poor quality roads, you know, drivers who have no idea what you’re you’re doing, and you’re trying to negotiate this. So how are you able to cope with it? Is it just pure adrenaline, keeping it going? Or you’re really about to fall off? You’re totally, and any slight mistake and your your toes?

Andrew Phillips 27:09
For me? No, I think every rider is different, I’m quite good at not getting to that point. And I tend to have people, I tend to have people remarking that I look pretty fresh on the finish line. I don’t, I don’t necessarily feel it, but but I don’t, I don’t get to that point where I’m sort of about to fall off my bike. And you know, it’s it’s not really safe riding in riding in traffic when you are at that point. Because your reaction times start dropping. But for me, riding through Naples was difficult at the end, and very unpleasant. And the main way it manifests itself was I had a very frayed nerves and a very short short fuse. So some some car drivers who pulled out on me got possibly a bit more, a bit more of an explosive reaction than they would have been expected.

Carlton Reid 28:04
Just normal for Italy.

Andrew Phillips 28:07
Yeah, Naples is particularly bad, you’ve got these huge, huge sort of pavé sett stones on the ground. So you’re constantly trying not to lose your wheel in the crevices between them. And then you’ve got you’ve got cars who sort of don’t look don’t look when pulling out at around about and you know, off a side road and sort of don’t don’t really treat you as a proper road user. So it can be incredibly difficult, dangerous and frustrating in the best of times. And yeah, at the end of the 60+ hours of near constant riding it’s it’s slightly fraught,

Carlton Reid 28:40
But we’ll get onto your wheels in a second because this but just describe the last few kilometres of the race. What kind of position were you in, you know, How far were your rivals behind? Did you see them going up coming down? All that kind of stuff? And at what point did you absolutely know that you because you presumably it was at the base of the climb that you knew you’re probably going to win?

Andrew Phillips 29:02
Yeah. So from from when I from when I got up and left the hotel on the on the second night. So at that point, I’d been riding something like something like 45, 50 hours, non stop. Bear in mind that we’d got up at 4am on the on the first day as well. So ridden all through the first night, got to darkness the second night, and that’s when I slept hotel then. Then I caught up with Christian who who briefly passed me whilst I slept and we cycled together up to there’s a huge statue of Christ the Redeemer above a little town called Maratea. And it’s the kind of place that you never heard I’ve never seen pictures of but it’s absolutely stunning. I think it’s the second largest, second largest Christ redeemed statue after the one in Rio, the famous one in Rio in the world. So we were we were together for a bit then. And he was riding really strongly and I was looking at him thinking, wow, you know, he’s, he’s still got some legs left on him. But then he started to sort of make make mistakes, you know, Miss turns, things like that. And I could see that the sleep was the sleep is really coming for him. So as soon as I stopped and took a sort of four minute nap at some point, around three or 4am and as soon as I’d done that, he stopped and took maybe 45 minutes sleep, and from from that point, I knew that it was mine to mine to lose, there was still a lot of hard riding, we, we had this we had this climb called Monty Jellison which no one no one could remember what it was called and became known as Mel Gibson to to all of the riders but Monty Gilbertson which averaged something over 15% For love over 1000 metres of climb, it was a it was a really really brutal climb one of the hardest climbs I’ve ever done. So I thought I was going to see him because that was an out and back and I thought I was gonna see him when I when I descended from that and sure enough, he he was there struggling on the way up but I’d sort of I’d sort of taken note of roughly where I’d been at what times and I knew I had about an hour lead on him. So at that point, about an hour lead something like 1012 hours writing remaining. I really knew that I should be able to get it in the bag just songs I could keep moving. And that was that was what it was about for the rest of the day all along the Amalfi Coast, which wasn’t too much of a hardship although the word quite long motorbikes on a Sunday evening and then having having dealt watches coming out to coming out to cheer me on was was a real boost as well. And I even got PAPR episode there was a there was a there was a camera man on a on a moped who came and chase me along the Amalfi Coast and was stopping in labour isn’t taking pictures and things like that. So that sort of kept things interesting. Then yeah, the last the last sort of hour or two through through Naples difficult then then up Vesuvious. And yeah, but by that time, even even if I’d had a pretty bad mechanical eye, I knew it was mine. So yeah, it was it was a great feeling. As you say, after after three, three years, I’m on the only rider now who’s who’s written solo three years. To to get the winner was amazing.

Carlton Reid 32:41
And let’s now talk about your products then because you’ve got your wheels before and and how they survived the pavé it because they’re your own wheels and your own brand.

Andrew Phillips 32:52
Yeah, that’s right. I set up. I set up Zolla, which is Z O L L A, it’s an Italian word. You should really say Zolla. But but in English, it’s it’s more of, as I said, sort of Zola this year, because sort of realised that all of the all of the standard carbon roadwheels we’re just aiming to get lighter and lighter and fewer and fewer spokes. And it it’s really it’s really not what you need for insurance, endurance racing. You know, the difference between 1550 and 50 grammes and 1450 grammes is is not great, but the difference between 28 and 24 spokes is so I want it to build, I want it to be wheels that were really, really strong. But still gave you 95% of the aerodynamic and weight benefits of high quality carbon wheels. So found a really good really good little hub manufacturer called trail Mac, who are actually based in Ukraine, but there are they’re super high quality super high quality manufacturer be making been making mountain bike hubs for the Ukrainian national team for a few years now. And their unique thing is their, their ratchet system and that hub, which has almost almost instant engagement and it’s just super, super robust. So a bit like the sort of Chris King or high-end DT Swiss ratchet hubs, but actually with some design improvements in some ways, and then really high quality carbon, carbon rims, Sapim MC X-ray spokes, and then all hand built in the UK. And the end result is just you know, a wheel that you know, you can you can go through anything on and Two Volcanoes Sprint’s exactly, exactly the kind of race that that you need that for you, you come across all types of services, all kinds of potholes. But you need to be you need to be light and fast. But

Carlton Reid 35:03
how much of a market because I mean, if you’re only selling to trans continental type riders, that’s a small market or is that that that’s fine to have a nice product for a niche market or as you’re saying this is just these are robust wheels that will be good for everyday too. Yeah,

Andrew Phillips 35:21
I mean, I think I think you’re right at the top end it is it is a niche market. But I would see that as like the pinnacle of the pinnacle of the market and you know, if they can survive that then they can also survive that everyday use you know, maybe a heavier club rider or even just a club ride who doesn’t want to have to doesn’t want to have to worry about potholes or that kind of thing. There they’re basically really high quality really high quality wheels and if you want if you want strong carbon wheels, then there aren’t that many places to look and how much are they so are all road 40 mil wheels 950 pounds? Which you know, let’s let’s not get ourselves it’s a lot of money but but actually for the for the workmanship that’s in them I think that’s really really good value

Carlton Reid 36:15
And it’s not your only bike product. So you’ve been doing Orb which would start with I mean this is originally Kickstarter when they the so you describe your product so starting off with the when I first came across you with so the bottle the the LED light in a bottle?

Andrew Phillips 36:36
Yeah, that’s right. I’ve been I’ve been a cyclist my whole life. But um, but I only got into the bike industry about about five years ago, when I when I started looking for a product that would give me side visibility in the city I’d almost been knocked off was commuting on my bike in London, I used to commute every day to and from to and from Westminster. And the number of sideswipes, I narrowly avoided was was just getting ridiculous. And I thought you know, someone must have made a product which is which is that simple LED lights in the lid of a of a bottle of a bike by bid on that you can drink from as normal would be USB charge. And, you know, I could I could put it on be safely seen from the side. And I looked online just to buy it. And it didn’t exist. I just couldn’t believe it’s such a such a simple idea. The been one or two attempts, dum dum before I think I think Topeka done one but it had watched batteries in and someone else had done one. And it was basically basically disposable. Once the batteries ran out, you had to chuck it. And I thought you know, this can’t be the best, this can’t be the best we’ve got I’m going to I’m going to make something better. So yeah, started started designing the orb, which basically has orange LEDs in the lid. And the whole bit on illuminates Right, right in the centre of your frame in the bottle cage. And not only does it make you really visible from the side, but also it highlights that pedalling motion of your legs which something called biodynamics, which basically means that the human brain is innately programmed to recognise biological motion. So a driver or another road user sees sees your legs going round and they immediately know what you are they immediately no that’s about as a cyclist instead of just seeing you know, a sort of a more first light which could be which could be anything

Carlton Reid 38:45
And that that was on Kickstarter so clearly must have been successful on Kickstarter.

Andrew Phillips 38:49
Yeah, exactly. We raised we raised about £20,000 through Kickstarter. Back in 2017, launched, launched the product out almost on time was slightly late but very almost on time a year later. And, and we’ve been selling it since and expanding the brand ever since we’ve, we’ve released we’ve released a number of number of products since then we designed some anti theft lights and released them this year we released we released a city bike with a belt drive. Basically the old brand is all about it’s all about making life easier, more accessible for urban bike riders or not even necessarily urban bike riders. But you know, people who beat people who want to gouge on their bikes want want high quality, high quality products to make them make them safer, more comfortable, happier whilst they’re doing it.

Carlton Reid 39:46
I’m looking at a photograph of your bike on the Two Volcanos Sprint I can see that there’s two or bottles on there. I’m presuming that the the rear LED and the front LED which I can’t see but there must be one there. yours also, the wheels obviously are yours. But what’s the bike?

Andrew Phillips 40:04
The bike is an open mouldframe that I imported directly from the from the manufacturer out in out in Shenzhen, in China. And it’s something that I sort of I feel relatively comfortable doing. Being, well, knowing knowing enough about bikes that I felt I could, I could pick a frame that would meet my needs. And, and knowing enough about manufacturers and importing that it was it was relatively simple. The rear LED lights, as you say, are our our Droid light though the front, which I’m not sure whether you can see in the picture, but it’s a it’s a Sinewave Beacon light from from the US, which, again, is a really, really small startup company. Guy, Dave runs a, designed the light itself, he’s an electrical engineer. This is this is a good example, actually, Carlton of a niche product, which is you know, kind of aimed not quite just for endurance races because it’s also bikepacking. Generally, but but the light is it’s a it’s a dynamo light, which also provides a USB output from the dynamite power on the back of the light. But you can also run it from power banks, which is what I did for Two Volcanoes Sprint. So it’s a it’s a kind of niche kind of expensive product. But actually, if you’re if you’re racing, if you’re if you’re doing if you’re doing certain times bikepacking, it’s absolutely perfect, really fulfils the need and is absolutely bulletproof.

Carlton Reid 41:42
So you’re not hooking up to a dynomo ever, but it is capable of being dynamo-powered?

Andrew Phillips 41:47
Yeah, I have used dynamos in races before. But I didnt in Two Volcanoes Sprint, basically I figured I get away with battery packs. And it was sort of for the amount of power I’d lose with the with the drag of the dynamo it was worth it. Sort of limiting my electricity use a little bit because

Carlton Reid 42:12
I mean, you were talking about food before being something that’s chewing on your brain. But also electricity. And the generation of must also be a major concern to to hook up the GPS devices for a start, I guess the LED lights you’re going to need them if you don’t want to die. And you’re going to see where you’re going. But also things like phones. I mean, if you’re if you’re if you’re only getting one hour of sleep in a hotel over that, that role, how do you physically power the products that you know we all rely on? You need your phone, you need need the GPS, how are you powering stuff?

Andrew Phillips 42:47
Yeah, so it’s another really important part of the of the balance. And that’s why endurance racing is I think thinking about all of these things at once. You know, sleep, power, food, all that kind of stuff. So basically, I have a very USB, USB charging has come along a long way. And you can now charge fully charged at 10,000 milliamp power USB power bank in 90 minutes if you’ve got if you’ve got the right power bank and the right charger. So I know that I know that in my 45 minutes sleep in in a hotel, I can get a basically a whole nights worth of power. So yeah, with that with that shortstop. I had I had all the power I need. I needed and I think I carried I carried maybe 35,000 milliamps with me.

Carlton Reid 43:45
So I’m looking at your bags here. And you’ve got I don’t know what the back one is. But the front pouch one slung between the frame is an Apidura. What’s that, what’s the rear one?

Andrew Phillips 43:56
It’s a it’s a Topeak bag about six six litres, something like that.

Carlton Reid 44:03
So in there you’ve you haven’t got any luxuries but you have got backup batteries?

Andrew Phillips 44:09
Yes. Yeah, exactly. My frame bag basically has has Haribo a couple of tools and USB powerbanks in it and then the saddle bag has a down jacket, waterproof jacket and that’s about it in plus any extra food I need if I’m if I’m going a long way without without shops,

Carlton Reid 44:39
So like emergency energy, or would you have ordinary food in there?

Andrew Phillips 44:44
I basically eat I basically Haribo during a race or, you know, other brands are available. I’m not I’m not that fussy, but for me, it’s gonna be it’s gonna be nothing too acidic because that starts really sort of not only not only feel like it’s removing your tooth enamel but, but also building up the acid in your stomach. But other than that, so long as it’s sort of soft and chewy of some kind, and and made of sugar, then then I’ll eat it.

Carlton Reid 45:17
And then the rest of the year do you completely ignore Haribo?

Andrew Phillips 45:22
Yeah. It’s it’s pretty hard to even see a packet after after a race like that. I’ve got a I’ve got a friend who also races these things. He was meant to be at Two Volcanoes Sprint this year, Robbie, Robbie Britton, who, who swears by Mentos, there’s something like 90% carbohydrate and and not only does he eat them all race just sort of, he’s he’s got a, he’s learned to squeeze the entire packet into his mouth with just sort of flick of his wrist. But, but you’ll also find him eating them year round as well. So not not everyone gets

Carlton Reid 46:02
Now, Andrew, tell us where because you’ve got these two brands are separate, you know, the Zolla and the Orb are on separate websites, so so tell us where people who have been interested in who now want to go and race between volcanoes in Italy? And they desperately need these wheels? Where can they get them? And where can they get all your products?

Andrew Phillips 46:24
Yeah, so the website for Zolla is and that’s Z O L L A and then and then for Orb it’s And yeah, that the main sort of the main the main products on Orb that I use for endurance racing I do us the Orbs, the bottles themselves, that they’re actually really, really good to sort of keep the company at night you know it can be can be a lonely place, riding in the middle of nowhere and in the dark, especially when the nights last 13 hours like they like they do in southern Italy in October. And having having that sort of warm orange glow down in the middle of your frame is it’s very comforting actually. And also helps you it helps you clip in and out. But anyway, the main the main endurance, the main sort of endurance product on Orb is the Droid rear light which which was designed for designed for city riding it’s it’s an anti theft light in that it it clamps to your clamps, your rear seat post, but actually it’s got a 40 hour runtime. So it’s it’s fantastic for endurance racing, and you can charge it whilst whilst you ride. So that’s that’s the reason as you can charge it once you use it. So that’s the reason I raced with it. And it’s also sort of virtually virtually indestructible. So they’re the two endurance related things I’d recommend on the website.

Carlton Reid 47:56
Thanks to Andrew Phillips there, and thanks to you for listening to Episode 289 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Have a great Christmas and a wonderful end to 2021. And that’s it for this year. The show will be back in early January 2022. But meanwhile, get out there and ride …

December 13, 2021 / / Blog

13th December 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 288: Why is anti-roads campaigner John Stewart against LTNs?


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: John Stewart, Chair of Campaign for Better Transport and UK Noise Association and a long time anti-roads campaigner

TOPICS: Veteran nti-road campaigner John Stewart is anti-LTN: why?


John Stewart’s article in The Telegraph:


Carlton Reid 0:15
Welcome to Episode 288 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Monday 13th of December 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
Hi, I’m Carlton Reid and today’s show is an interview with veteran anti roads campaigner John Stewart. He’s been causing a fuss on social media over his controversial views on low traffic neighbourhoods or LTNs. Controversial because of his long history of campaigning against motor traffic, and also because he’s the chair of the Campaign for Better Transport. Now, he penned a polemic in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, which was headlined, “LTNs are ineffective, and inherently infai.” Rather than engage with him on Twitter, as many have done and I was kind of going to, I thought I’d get him on the show. And as you’ll hear in this episode, which is just shy of an hour, we establish he’s not against LTNs which push motor traffic onto motor roads. But those which he says, push motor traffic onto boundary roads, and where many people live. Now I do in this episode, talk about many studies, which show the opposite. But anyway, here is John Stewart.

I want to get into your background in a minute, because it does appear that we we share many interests, and probably we know very much the same people. But you have made this argument that has led to an awful lot of heat and light on on on Twitter just recently, and in the Telegraph, where you wrote an article that has definitely got people up in arms and wondering why somebody who’s an environmentalist can be making these kind of arguments. So I’d like to explore that I’d like to explore why you’re making those arguments. But first of all, let’s go into your background. So let’s let’s let’s show people that you know you’ve got some bonafides is here in the fact that you’ve you’ve been campaigning against cause and effect and certainly ramp and room road building for many, many years. So tell us first of all, your current role in this field, and then let’s go to your history.

John Stewart 3:23
Okay, the current role is I’m a bit of a freelance campaigner these days, Carlton, but I do chair both the UK Noise Association and Campaign for Better Transport. I have also done fairly recently, a lot of work on aviation issues, aviation noise, and then let’s go to your history then. Because I mean, I’m you you one of the organization’s you chaired, and when this is the late 80s 90s was the all London against the roadbuilding menace, so alone, which was basically a consortium of groups. Yeah, it was it was That’s right cause and that’s, I got involved in a campaign for public transport as a local level in South London. And then we across London, we were hit with these proposals for a £13 billion programme, to update

to upgrade roads to build new highways. And of course, that would have caused a lot of destruction, many people’s homes would have gone, parks would be decimated. And this organisation with a wonderful name All London against the roadbuilding menace — alarm — was formed. It essentially was a network of eventually 250 local groups across London, which I which I helped bring together and which I chaired. And we were actually successful. We wrote all the roadbuilding schemes proposed in the programme were dropped, ironically, just before the local elections in London in 1990. Because I think the government of the

day realised that it was good to lose heavily on this issue on this issue alone.

Carlton Reid 5:04
So we’re going to thank you for that, because that clearly would have been genuinely a menace if that had come through. So you that you’re now chairing Campaign for Better Transport. So we’re back explain, I get that. I sort of almost know that better as Transport 2000. Because it’s an early 1970s organisation. So were you also a chair of Transport 200? So how long have you been involved with with this group?

John Stewart 5:31
I’ve been involved with Transport 2000, you’re quite right. It was called transport 2000. Until what sort of the year 2000 Colton. We tried to change the name and in the year 2000, but the members were having none of it. So we struggled on beyond 2000 for transport 2000 And then came up with this terribly compromised, somewhat boring name Campaign for Better Transport, which could really mean anything at all. I’ve actually been involved with it since since the late 1980s. But it’s only in the last. And I chaired it for a short while in the early 2000s. But it’s only recently that I’ve taken on a more full time role. Or yeah, it’s a much more upgraded role in sharing it over the last couple of years.

Carlton Reid 6:20
So you could name drop here with like Michael Palin. Jenny Agutter.

John Stewart 6:25
I can. I’ll tell you a story about Michael Palin, my niece and nephew who were about seven or eight at the time. And of course, they thought their uncle was dreadfully old fashioned because he couldn’t do any of this new technology on computers and things which was just meat and drink to them. I was his old fashioned uncle who came up to Edinburgh from time to time. And then suddenly, they discovered I had met Michael Palin, and everything and everything changed. I was I was a new cool uncle who technology didn’t really matter that he couldn’t do it. So yes, I mean, Michael Palin who was president of Transport 2000 and Campaign for Better Transport for quite some time and actually a very effective and very engaged President.

Carlton Reid 7:11
Explain what the Campaign for Better Transport argues for? Because it was founded by a railway union in effect. So So is it buses and trains? And, and, and that mainly, or has it always encompassed bicycling? Where do you think it stands in, in, in the in the pantheon of organisations?

John Stewart 7:35
Well, you’re quite, you’re quite radical. It was founded in the 1970s, initially, but the real unions and then the old British Rail came on board. And the idea was, and both of them saw, although they had differences amongst themselves, they saw the value in an independent body, making the case for rail. So opening doors that they couldn’t open. So initially, it was a rail body then moved into other forms of public transport. It has tried to take a holistic view on transport, pushing all the time for sustainable transport. But I think over the years is probably done less on walking and cycling, mainly because there were other organisations which specialised in walking in cycling, and it was you know, when you’re an NGO, you want to focus on the areas where perhaps nobody else is campaigning.

Carlton Reid 8:27
So then you’ve got something like this and you can name drop here again with with Stephen Joseph, a very well known person in this fear. So you had Stephen there. I mean, he has pushed the bicycling and walking message a lot more, hasn’t he?

John Stewart 8:40
He most certainly has. I’m certainly in the in the 1990s with Stephen Joseph there and Lynn Sloman is as deputy

Transport 2000 as it was then was making yes was making considerable waves on on walking and cycling and Stephens a bit of a legend in the transport world. He was the chief executive of Transport 2000 for 30 years. And actually it was very, very keen as really as the organisation to take a realistic view on things so that walking in cycling is as important as public transport except perhaps these days with a little bit less work on it, simply because other organisations specialise in it.

Carlton Reid 9:21
And then you mentioned Lynn Sloman, there again, Lynn Sloman is a very well known person in this sphere. Am I right in saying you’re an associate of her Wales-based organisation transport consultancy?

John Stewart 9:35
I am I

again, I’ve known him for a long time and I’m an associate of her of her consultancy, which you probably know Carlton, it does a lot of fairly traditional work of modelling work for the Department for Transport, local authorities and other organisations, but it also tries to push a radical approach

radical solutions to the transport problems that we face.

Carlton Reid 10:04
And then I’m building up your bonafides here, John,

John Stewart 10:08
You’ve got to keep going.

Carlton Reid 10:09
I’m researching you so Slower Speeds Initiative and RoadPeace again two key organisations in this in this world, so you’ve chaired them as well. So you’ve knocked around a bit, John.

John Stewart 10:23
I have I have indeed, yes, in the 1990s. RoadPeacejust started as an organisation set up by the wonderful Briggita Chaudry, whose son was tragically killed in a road crash, she set it up, and she established it as a national organisation. And she also established international organisations for road traffic victims in the early 1990s. So she was looking for people who had,

who worked mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters of road traffic victims, but who had some knowledge of road transport and road danger. And initially, I came into the road data Working Party, which they set up. But then Shortly afterwards, the the chair of road peace moved on. And I chaired road peace for about six years in the in the 1990s. And that kind of led in the late 1990s, to the formation of the slow speech initiative, which brought together road peace, a number of other organisations concerned with road safety, people like Meyer Hillman and

others. And I chaired that. And I think one of the interesting things Carlton is that, you know, there there in the late 1990s, we were pressing for things like a 20 mile per hour speed limit to be the norm and built up areas. We weren’t really getting anywhere. But now, thanks for the work of Rob King and others, it is becoming the norm in built up areas is becoming the norm in Scotland and Wales in many of English cities. And I think one of the lessons, one of the things that tells me is that even if you’re not getting somewhere as a campaigner, keep going, don’t despair, because 20 years later, your work may see, bear fruit.

Carlton Reid 12:12
Mayer Hillman, certainly like carbon credits, all that kind of stuff. He was way ahead of the the field on that one.

John Stewart 12:19
He was he was indeed. I mean, the other thing I did in the 1990s was an extension of alarm in London, which was,

which was something called Alarm UK, as you may know, in 1989, the government of the day boasted it was it was building the biggest road building programme. Since the Romans, it had dropped London, but it was moving on to the rest of the country. Now, it wasn’t quite we didn’t quite say we’ve done London, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go national. But a lot of people and local groups from around the country approached us and said, Look, you want a few people win against roadbuilding schemes, can you give us some assistance. So myself and a few others set up alarm UK in 1990, and eventually did about 300 local groups across the country, each opposing roadbuilding schemes, and with some success of the 600 Odd schemes that were proposed in 1989.

Only about 160 of them were left. By the time the Labour government came in in 1997. And most of the most of the ones that weren’t most of them had been dropped. There were very few still left as live schemes. So that wasn’t that was a very interesting experience at the time of Twyford Down and everything else like that. Hmm.

Carlton Reid 13:44
So, Johh, we’ve totally established your bonafidesin this this area. I’m sure lots of people listening to this will be nodding at home. And just going Yes, yes, yes. Yes. All of this is exactly what I agree with, etc. And then what

isn’t on people’s radar? Because obviously people think of LTNs low traffic neighbourhoods as a good thing. There are other opinions out there that maybe challenge that opinion. You have challenged that opinion.

John Stewart 14:15

Carlton Reid 14:16
Now, let’s go before go into the telegraph piece, would it? Would I be right in thinking that it was originally the tweet from @cutnoise? So from the UK noise Association?

John Stewart 14:28

Carlton Reid 14:29
Which with that got a lot of heat and light about 10 days ago. I remember seeing that kind of flaring up did that did the telegraph piece come from that?

John Stewart 14:38
I think it did. I mean, I The Telegraph approached me and I think they’d seen that piece. And they’ve seen that react the reaction to it on Twitter, and they explored with me well, I’ll be interested in writing a common piece of the newspaper. Yeah, I kind of assumed I just assumed that might be the case because I remember it bubbling up and then it kind of died.

Carlton Reid 15:00
again and then this came this came in The Telegraph yesterday, The Sunday Telegraph, it’s like, that’s a very similar argument or argumentation to, to that when and then you’re clearly you’re a chair of this organisation too. So I kind of link the two things. So without wanting to completely

say word for word what was in the Telegraph? Can you just give us the thumbnail sketch of how you would pitch your your article that you wrote for The Telegraph?

John Stewart 15:31
Well, you’re quite right, Carlton somebody like me, and I said this at the beginning of the article, for the Telegraph, should be a great fan of low traffic neighbourhoods, they should be my Garden of Eden, my Nirvanna.

quiet, peaceful, very few cars. And they are great places no question about it. And the quality of life for most of the residence has increased no end.

My concern, and it’s a concern that goes back some years before the recent batch of low traffic neighbourhoods, but But my concern is, where is that traffic going? Now, we know some of it is disappearing because people are not using their cars and as quite as much as they did. But a lot of it is going on to the adjacent main roads, the adjacent boundary roads. And from noise perspective, from an air pollution perspective. The main roads are the roads, which were the noise problems, and the air pollution problems are greatest. And I had real difficulty in any scheme, however good it is for the residents within that scheme, putting yet more traffic onto the main roads. So that was the concern. That was that was really the pitch to the Telegraph. And I think they they quite liked what I had to say. I think, to add to that, there, there is this fear this feeling and I think it’s probably right, that on many of the main roads, the objections

have come from

a new quarter. I think for the first time main road residents and many of them are from the BAME community are finding their voice. They’re mums and dads who are getting involved in environmental issues for the first time.

Largely because they’re worried about the impact of extra traffic on the health of their children. Their voice I feel is not being heard their voice.

Carlton Reid 17:32
Why is this an either or thing here. Why can’t you have traffic reduction in the LTNs in the low traffic neighbourhoods? And also traffic reduction in exactly these places where people are saying we don’t want traffic here?

John Stewart 17:45
Well, okay, do both reduce traffic in both areas? That would be the ideal, but that’s not happening. That’s happened. The best example of that happening guys is I think 1990s When David Begg was the in charge of transport in Edinburgh, he became very well known, very well respected in the transport world.

There’s a large road from called Leith Walk which goes from the old lease docks right up to the centre of Edinburgh very wide, big main road. And David Begg wanted to start to, we didn’t call it low traffic neighbourhoods in those days, but some traffic calming in the adjacent side roads because they were getting overspill traffic. But what he did at the same time as putting in a traffic calming measures in the overspill side roads, he reallocated the space on the wide Leith walk. So he put in bus lanes, we’ve now got a tram now going to be a tram going down it, he gave more space for pedestrians. So that actually there was very little space for overspill traffic from those side roads nearby. So it can be done. It requires I think somebody with the vision and the tenacity of David beg to do it. My concern is that that is not what’s on the agenda. Right now. It was the low traffic neighbourhoods.

Carlton Reid 19:12
But yes, I can see the logic there. But if, for instance, a number of low traffic neighbourhoods coalesced together, in effect, you’d make more and more and more and more of these things over perhaps five, perhaps 10, perhaps 20 years. All of a sudden, every single road is then gets exactly this treatment you’re talking about so so don’t argue against you know, the perfect you know, go for the good.

John Stewart 19:44
There’s a lot of truth. There’s a lot of truth in that cause and I think my worry, I am speaking to the

mums and dads of parents on the main roads, so getting extra traffic. There say that is a great theory.

but it could mean that they are living with this extra traffic for five or 10 or 15 years that their children who are now

will spend their entire school aged years living with this extra traffic. That’s the worry.

The word, they would need some reassurance that is going to happen much more as good to happen. And be it’s going to happen much more quickly than that. And quite what you’re saying is, I think, has a huge amount of merit. I’m not sure that that’s what some of the proponents of low traffic neighbourhoods are saying they are primarily concerned to get in place.

low traffic neighbourhoods, there’s been very little not not nothing but very little from from a lot of them about the sort of proposals you’re talking about their hardest and low traffic neighbourhoods so heart is elsewhere.

Carlton Reid 21:03
One of the things on social media that that that I’ve seen the argument to you, because a lot of people have come up against you and said they don’t agree. So one of the things you’ve come up with, or one of the things you say you you mentioned, you know, cycling infrastructure. You mentioned, bus lanes, you mentioned all these other things, as in your Telegraph piece also mentioned this thing, which is, but it was obviously a throwaway line, cos I don’t think the Telegraph would actually run this as a full argument, but road user charging, is that not even more ambitious, then a whole bunch of LTNs everywhere in that we know, you know, because you’ve been in this fear that, you know, the Smeed report of the 1960s, you know has been ignored. Every single report that’s ever been done on this has been totally shelved instantly. Government will not touch this with a bargepole, even though, you know with climate change concerns we know they ought to. So is that what you’re actually proposing is is much more ambitious, potentially even unfair to the very communities you’re potentially talking about.

So you’re arguing good, something that’s really perfect when you could be having slight goods now.

John Stewart 22:18
I think there’s just two points. The one about is a bit too ambitious. And the other bit, the question about the fairness.

I think we’re in a new world, as far as road user charging is concerned, and the new world has been brought about by electric vehicles. By their very nature, electric vehicles will not be paying a fuel charge. And the government raises a huge amounts of money from fuel charges, it’s got to find a way of

replacing that money. The obvious way is road user charging. Governments. You’re quite right, Carlton, have shied away from it politically. But I think there’s an inevitability about it, because I think they need the cash, they need the money. Now, if there’s an inevitability about it, I think the challenge then and this is your other point. The challenge then, is how do we bring it in, in in a fair way? And what it seems to me that low traffic neighbourhoods are a little bit of a distraction. But more than that, that divisiveness is not helping to try to get communities, politicians to think together about bringing in this right enormous change of road user charging in a fair and equitable but also effective way.

I believe that’s the challenge that we as local communities, as campaigners, NGOs, or politicians should be facing up to now.

Carlton Reid 23:52
We’ll touch on the fairness. I know you wanted to touch on the fairness of roadway surprising we can we can come back to that in a second. But just just on the point about low traffic neighbourhoods and and the fact that you can potentially join them together, but it’s what what is the alternative? So if you are saying you are against low traffic neighbourhoods, are you therefore in favour of a removing them and be wouldn’t that just diffuse traffic, road traffic motor traffic everywhere, which is the the thing that we’re trying to stop? Okay, it’s not good to have the all this traffic on main roads, because many people live there. 7.5% of Londoners live on these main roads. However, that’s kind of what they were designed for many of them, not all of them, but many of them. And they certainly shouldn’t be on the residential roads. So if they’re going to be anywhere, they’re going to have to go somewhere. So stick them on the bits of infrastructure that they’re at least designed to carry this traffic. Why would you have traffic going diffuse everywhere?

John Stewart 25:00
I think it’s people living and working on main roads recognise that there are different sorts of roads, there always will be a little bit more traffic on them. That’s that’s the nature of them. I think that’s recognised. I think the concern, if we go, I think the concern is, is the amount of traffic that is already on main roads, and and the worry about putting more traffic onto them now, whether you get rid of all LTNs? I don’t know, certainly some of them in my view should go. But, you know, there LTNs put in place 20, 30 years ago, I think we live in the real world, I probably wouldn’t be checking them out.

But I do come back to this point that I think as long as they are there, and as long as they are causing the division that they’re causing, it’s going to be very hard to get people to unite around whatI think is a transformational scheme of road user charging.

Carlton Reid 26:00
Why are they leading to divisiveness because motorists can get everywhere they want to want to go they they’re not banned from every single place in these areas. They just might have to take a longer way around and they can’t go the way they used to going. But they can still get to every single residential property. Nobody’s stopping anybody know why? Why the divisiveness? Why is this a problem?

John Stewart 26:23
Well, I Yes. I mean, I think there’s two problems. One you’ve outlined is, in my view, not a major problem. It’s certainly it’s an inconvenience. I think the big problem is what I was talking about earlier, is the extra traffic on the main roads, and the feeding by a lot of people living on the main roads, that they have got no guarantee that that traffic is going to be dealt with. Therefore, they have no hope. They feel that the situation which they believe is contributing to the bad health of their children is going to be dealt with that that is a divisive bit. That’s a controversial bit. And though and and while that is still there, it is going to remain in my view divisive.

Carlton Reid 27:11
So what about the Mayor’s Ulez? The Ultra Low Emission zones? So where do you stand on them today? Not eventually get traffic off the roads?

John Stewart 27:21
Yes, I think they do. I mean, I think what ULEZ does, I mean, the mayor is doing it for air pollution reasons, I think primarily. But I think what you less than those type of schemes are doing is beginning to introduce the idea of, you know, payment for travel by car.

And I and in that sense, I think they’re not a bad idea. Because when transformational change takes an awful long time. And if you start to be if you start with things like Ulez, then the idea of pay have a bit more to travel on the roads begins to be embedded and possibly to some extent accepted by people. It’s not so it’s not so shocking. It’s not suiting you, in that point, they could be a useful precursor to road user charging.

Carlton Reid 28:14
Are you are you against LTNs in London and specific areas of London? Are you against LTN is the concept anywhere in the UK?

John Stewart 28:25
I wasn’t I’m never very I was never very keen on them or their predecessors called and I remember writing some this goes back to the 1990s.

And at the time they were they were caught they weren’t called LTNs, traffic calmed, traffic cells. And as you’ve probably remember, traffic calmed, a cell of residential roads have side roads, and the traffic was going onto the main roads. And that was kind of the the policy of many local authorities. I wasn’t happy about it. I remember writing something which was called I think ‘Poor show,’ which came out in 1998 was somewhere between a pamphlet and a book. And, and I where I looked at traffic on main roads in the London Borough of Greenwich, and the UK, and there was a particular problem with the noise and air pollution even then, from the traffic. It has been funnelled onto the main roads. I’ve never really been keen on the concept.

And perhaps that’s one reason why I’ve reacted as I have done to low traffic neighbourhoods in London or elsewhere.

Carlton Reid 29:35
Yeah, I can quote from that. So yeah, 1998 Poor Show “transport policy must reject the growing tendency to traffic calm residential roads by increasing the amount of traffic on main roads.” So again, we’ve established you have a long history on this. So this is not something that you know, you’ve done to bait the Telegraph. Just yesterday you have thought about

John Stewart 29:55
indeed, I mean, and it’s difficult to get that across to people who don’t know

To me on Twitter, there’s no reason why they should should believe all that. But, but certainly, this concept of what we now call low traffic neighbourhoods has, has always worried me going back 30 odd years.

Carlton Reid 30:13
So the reason I’m asking you,

is this a London thing is this Dulwich thing, you know, you’re really just really genuinely just campaigning about one. So we’ve established that may not be the case. But if you look at someone like Birmingham, which, you know, my Guardian article described that and it’s not it’s not their description, as my description, it described it basically, even though they did agree with the description is basically a city sized, low traffic neighbourhood, in that they are going to be doing the cells, which you just talked about. They’re not calling it the calling some of the low traffic neighbourhoods, but basically they’re shoving all of the traffic on to they’re not even residential roads. It’s just the ring road. So why would you be opposed to an LTN? If all it’s doing is shoving it onto a non residential ring road?

John Stewart 31:04
That that’s a much more interesting concept. You see, I think, and that’s the sort of thing that similar to Belgium and Dutch cities have done over the years, I think get has done that. I think some some of the Dutch cities have done that. That that in my view is is I don’t know enough about the Birmingham ring road. But I think the probably right, it’s not really a residential road.

In my view, I don’t I don’t have the same concerns about that.

And I think what Andy Street is doing up in Birmingham, is is more sensible and more creative, more imaginative than what has been done in London.

Carlton Reid 31:45
Let’s not give it to Andy because it’s actually Councillor Wassem Zaffar.

John Stewart 31:49
Okay. I,

much like that Andy Street when he was running. When he was running John Lewis’s, let’s give credit where credit is due, Carlton? Yes.

Carlton Reid 32:00
Yes, he is making some good noises. So let’s not take it totally away from indeed, then you mentioned Ghent. And you mentioned, you know, that that’s how they did that, because the UK that @Cutnoise has plugged Ghent just recently in a tweet. And that, of course, is again is that you because the reason that I mean, again, I’ve talked to the Deputy Mayor of Ghent, he said, you know, the god awful lot of abuse, before they brought the traffic circulation measures in, you know, death threats, all sorts of awful stuff, you know, the world is going to end etc, etc. They brought it in the traffic circulation plan a couple of years ago. And then people now come from the street and thank him, because, and this, this will hopefully be music literally music to your ears in that because they can hear birdsong again, and they got rid of the cars. And then they can hear each other talking all of a sudden. So these things can can be both reduced traffic and traffic noise. So if as you said in your Telegraph piece, that’s the Nirvanna that you want, that certainly the noise part of it. Why not just accept that there will be potentially in the short term, some impact, but there’s gonna be an awful lot of fantastic stuff for an awful lot of people?

John Stewart 33:24
They’re all gonna be fantastic, different people. But I think the Ghent thing had had another add another difference. Not only was it a much broader scale of Birmingham type scale,

but but when when these guys were facing their death, strip sets, threats and abuse, they could all do not only with coming up with a creative and potentially effective steam, but affair scheme. And this this is you see what I think the proponents of LTNs can’t argue. They can argue to some extent that they definitely will bring benefits to people living with an LTNd definitely bring some effectiveness and enabling more people to cycle and walk. But they can’t argue the fairness and because they can’t argue the fairness, they are they’re going to struggle in a way that I don’t think the people who can the people putting the schemes in Ghent would have done I think that’s a critical difference for me.

Carlton Reid 34:19
But the surveys that have been carried out and I’m sure you’ve seen on social media, where the local councils have done the surveys and they find the exact same opposition that again got and then probably the same death threats that that gang got and when they bed in people are really really opposed to change. We know that but when you bring these things in even the people who are dead against LTNs, you know, and we’re dyed in the wool motorists and would never want to say they have a support this they want to it and Waltham Forest is a pretty good example of all the things that have been put in Waltham Forest, you know, they had to kick and scream to

get them in. And now if you go and talk to people in Waltham Forest, nobody would want to rip those out. And they weren’t even called LTNs at the time. Yeah. So people don’t want to rip, LTNs or how ever you want to describe them once they’ve bedded in.

John Stewart 35:15
I think what you said about the motorists and some of the local residents, who reposed. They do come to accept them, they often come to like them. I think that’s absolutely right. But I come back to my my point. And actually, the main point of the telegraph article as well, that does doesn’t apply to people on main roads, your right content, it may apply if the traffic just don’t was on the main roads in five or 10 years time. But that is a lifetime away for people. It doesn’t apply to them. That’s where that’s where the concern is going to remain. That’s where the unfairness is going to remain. That’s where the divisiveness is going to remain.

Carlton Reid 35:56
Again, bring back Waltham Forest; Walthan Forest has found it reduced traffic on boundary roads, small amount ,yes, but it has reduced.

John Stewart 36:07
On some of them. That’s right. Not on all of them.

Yes, I think I think what seems to be happening, it’s I know, Waltham Forest was was pre COVID. But I think, and it’s quite different. But it’s COVID is sort of, you know, because the traffic levels changed anyway, it’s difficult to make assessments. But I think what seems to be happening in Waltham forest and elsewhere in certainly in the London LTNs, is that some boundary roads is reduced on other boundary roads, it’s been increased. I, from my own observation, but you know, I have. Studies would need to be done to to back this up. It seems to me that where we’ve gotten LTNs, in areas where there is relatively low car ownership, the increase on boundary roads can be quite small. It’s the it’s the LTNs, where there’s large car ownership, that the LTN that the, the boundary roads, and the people on them can be suffering. That’s my observation from looking at the various

data from the different boroughs. But as I say, work will need to be done on them. So it’s a bit of a mixed picture, but it’s certainly an unclear picture, overall, as yet.

Carlton Reid 37:24
So let’s go to some studies. So I’m sure you’re familiar with the studies that have been done, and most of them are done, you know, by by Rachel Aldred, University of Westminster by Anna Goodman, Scott Urban,

who’ve done

three or four studies out there. Now, on the the, the equity, on the fairness on the the potential unfairness to people of colour is, which is one of the claims, and they just haven’t found that, you know, the studies that they’ve done, and they’ve done it to, you know, down to 300 household, you know, cells, they just haven’t found this at all, if anything, it’s it’s the opposite. Are those studies wrong?

John Stewart 38:03
At, you know, I think they I think they’re credible l researchers. I mean, they are, there’s accusations they’re very close to, you know, the cycling, campaigners, and so on. But I think that I know Anna Goodman, reasonably well, I think they’re, you know, she’s a credible researcher.

I think it’s true. And I think a number of things, original things that come out of the study, which are interesting. I think it is certainly true to say that for a lot of people, including a lot of low income households living within the and including households of ethnic minority people living within the LTNs, they, they have clearly benefited. And in some ways, the LTNs of today are better than the old.

areas that were traffic calmed in the 1990s, because they do encompass much more the lower income areas as well as the higher income areas. I think that’s undoubtedly a finding. I think the other interesting thing that origin Goodman have found is that on main roads, you’re quoting the proportion of people living there,

that there is it’s not it’s not necessarily true to say that all the poor people live in main roads. That was that was something was said, probably the 1990s. That wasn’t quite true. And their research has corrected that.

What I don’t think, though, that their research has properly tried to address is the the attitudes of people living on the boundary roads, where there has been an increase in traffic. They haven’t really properly tried to address that. And if they haven’t addressed that, I don’t think they’re able at this stage to come up with any credible solutions for that.

Carlton Reid 40:00
where you’re going to put these cars? Because as I know, you, you know that there’s, there’s because I’ve seen on your blog where you have mentioned the statistics that I mentioned my guardian piece, which was, you know, 28 million cars 2007, you know, best part of 40 million now almost a doubling in number of cars. So, you know, quart doesn’t fit into a pint pot, etc, etc. There’s an awful lot of motor vehicles out there. And if we just give them free rein to go absolutely everywhere they will, and then everywhere is hell. Whereas if just for the sake of argument, there’s only slivers of Hell, if we put everything onto the Boundary Road, if we say that unfair, okay, it’s unfair, let’s just say that. However, it’s just a small amount of people. And you’re actually freeing up the rest of the city, to the great majority of people. So is the greater good here. Yes, it’s terribly unfair for the people who live on on Boundary Road. And what you’ve got to do is reduce the traffic there, too.

But why would you want cars to go everywhere?

John Stewart 41:09
I fought for a long time as you as you probably no, Carlton I chaired the organisation was looks after residents impacted by Heathrow Airport and its flight path. And don’t his big debate going on right now as the flight paths will be changed, because for it to be too, too good modern technology. And the debate is whether you put the flight paths concentrated all the way sail from the North Sea to Heathrow Airport, in one narrow line. So that a relatively small proportion people get all the noise, but get it all the time, or whether you try to

alternate those flight paths, which means that more people will get the noise, but for less each for less of the time. Now, as you might expect, I’m very much in favour of the alternation. And the respite, I would I really don’t think in the end of the day is either fair, or possibly even credible to put all the planes over a select communities all day long. And I think the parallel, there’s a similar parallel there. I mean, what you’re saying is

that there would be held for a lot of people, but in the end of the day, I don’t think you can, you can put

a minority of people, particularly in London, it’s a big minority of people living on a main road is about 720,000 people, the size of a city, you can’t give them sheer hell all the time, so that others could get a relatively pleasant environment.

Carlton Reid 42:55
With the article you wrote in, in The Telegraph, so your own organisation has come out and said, you know, these are your personal views, because people are now saying they want to quit the Campaign for Better Transport, you know, tear up my membership card, all that kind of stuff. Yeah.

John Stewart 43:15
Yes, some, some are. Some are God. I don’t know how many in total, but some certainly a few. Handful certainly are. Yes.

Carlton Reid 43:22
So campaign for better transport has has, in effect distanced itself from that article, and saying, you know, it’s your views? And of course, you’re entitled to have a view that’s contrary to the organisation that you chair. But do you think that that’s a position that can last for very long if you’re, you’re in effect, opposed to what your organisation stands for? And they’ve posted a blog post in which says this is our opinion on LTN? We’re very much in favour of them.

John Stewart 43:54
Yes, I saw the blog post. And actually, I was obviously in contact with the people that campaign for better transport this morning, I saw the blog post, I saw the tweet, and I actually liked it. And I made a point of liking the tweet because I wanted to reinforce what they were saying.

Yes, I think it’s, I think it’s quite credible for me to stay as chair, I still have a different view on this. If I’d if I had a different view on the

on the basic thrust of where the organisation is going, if I didn’t share the values of the organisation, that would be very different. But I don’t think that this is in that category.

Carlton Reid 44:35
Hmm. Nowt you have taken and you’ve been very good to respond to most people who’ve come on to you and you have, and you’ve basically said the same tweet to a lot of people, which is, you know, you’re in favour of cycling infrastructure, in favour of more pedestrianisation, you’re in favour of bus lanes and you’re in favour of road user charging, but many people have said but what

you’ve not giving us is the actual data. So you’ve said

that that LTNs are (a) unpopular with many people. And and (b) they’re not effective. And people have been saying to you show us the data show us where that that says that because we’ve got the data here that says the opposite. So why haven’t you answered people?

John Stewart 45:22
Well, I think I have but but let me let me say that. I think that’s the question that took me aback, because I’ve gone through the data with some care, because clearly, you’re not going to read an article or something like The Sunday Telegraph without going through the data. First. I got through the data with some care. And it was absolutely clear to me that although as we were saying earlier, although there’s not overspill on to all the boundary roads, virtually every LTN, has overspill or to some of the boundary and Main Roads. I kind of took that as a given. I didn’t think I needed to prove that. And I assumed that particularly some of the really specialist, people who were who were challenging me had had a regulator as well.

Carlton Reid 46:12
But how do we know it’s from the the LTN is because all motor traffic has gone up during the Coronavirus crisis. So it could be just that it’s just you know, there is more traffic on the roads full stop it.

John Stewart 46:24
That’s why COVID makes it a bit difficult. But I’ve looked at in some detail at what some of the consultants have done, for example, sister who have who worked for Lamberth, and who were a very credible consultancy who I’ve known for the aviation days, and they have made a really big attempt to try and take account of the COVID situation. Now, I think they recognise with all recognise that, you know, they may not have been able to completely, but they tried to take account of that and even so, they are showing, in some cases considerable increases in traffic on boundary roads around the LTN. And it’s that is that data which I thought people would have read. Now I this morning, I kind of tried to collate some of it and put it out on Twitter, and just encourage people themselves to go through all the data and to go behind the headlines. I think it is true to say that some of the councillors not all but some of the councillors who have presented the data in the best possible light because they want to keep the LTN. Now, you know, that’s what organisations do. But I’ve said to people today on Twitter, if that’s the data you’re reading, go behind it, go behind it and look at the individual roads, because that does show and does back up. But I think what I’m saying is that many of the boundary roads are suffering adversely as a result of the LTNs.

Carlton Reid 47:56
But only if they’re residential. So we’ve established that that was your beef. So if it’s a if it’s a road that is in effect, so like the Eastern Avenue, so that’s, you know, we have no houses

at all, no residential areas against there are many roads like that in London, so you’re not against LTN that have boundaries against one better word motor roads. It’s only where they are on main roads that have residents. Is that right?

John Stewart 48:27
Residential is the key thing. That’s that’s right. We years ago, UK Noise Association, we did a competition to find the noisiest road in the UK. And we deliberately excluded motorways, probably all the noises wrote in the UK. But we deliberately excluded motorways, because we were only interested in roads where people lived. And that continues to be my position. Yes.

Carlton Reid 48:50
So let’s come back. We’ll finish on this. Because this was also one of the key things that you did mention in your Telegraph piece. And we have touched on on this show already. But we need to come back to because it was the unfairness bit which which i i stopped you from talking about so road user charging. Now one of the complaints against that is if you’re looking at something that’s inequitable, well road user charging, you know, if you’re rich, you’re gonna be able to afford road user charging, no problem. So how do you solve the inequity? That’s that’s inbuilt into road user charging?

John Stewart 49:25
Yes, it’s been built. And I think what you’ve got to do is, first of all, take at least some of the money and put it into public transport. So the fares for people using public transport come down significantly. You’ve got to put some of the money into rehabilitating space on main roads as well as side roads for people walking and cycling. You may also have to tighten the parking rules and you certainly will have to reduce

speed limits

because you’ve got fewer cars on the roads that they’ll speed up, that the critical thing I think, I would say is that I think road user charging will be fair, or as fair as it can be. If for your typical person, he or she is spending less than transport overall during the course of the year than he or she is now.

That means people will be using public transport much more, but we much cheaper, but the total family budget spent on transport will be less than it is now, if we can get to that situation, we’ve got to a reasonably fair situation.

Carlton Reid 50:41
So, John, many of the points you’ve touched on, and it’s slightly curious like this, in that people, most people I would say, are going to be in total agreement with you on about 90% of what you said. So it literally is just that LTN pointd. And I think we’ve now dug down into it enough to find out. It really isn’t LTNs per se, it’s only the Boundary Road. So that’s your your your main concern. And I guess a lot of people would also have very similar concerns to Boundary Road also in that most people want the traffic reduced on the boundary roads also.

John Stewart 51:17
They do. And that’s absolutely right.

Yes, it’s certainly an aspiration. But for most people, I think that’s absolutely right. Because a lot of people, a lot of us, as we were saying earlier, using bad roads, particularly their main roads, you know, we use them to stop and go to school and work and everything else. So a lot of people are interested in less traffic on the boundary roads. But But I think it’s there’s a difference between those people and the people who are actually stuck living on those boundary roads on those main roads all the time, for whom it’s an absolute imperative.

Carlton Reid 51:54
Hmm, I think we can agree on that. I think nobody would want to, to live with that much pollution and that much noise. We I think we can all agree on that for that for definite. So thank you ever so much for talking to us today. Because I saw all of this bubbling up last night, I saw you answering people, I almost, in fact, I did do one or two tweets. And then I thought, no, I think I’ll just rather talk to you rather than just come up with like a pithy comment which many people have come out and just being totally against you, I thought I’d actually talk to you and find out a bit more of a nuanced view, especially with your background, because maybe many people are just looking at the organisation you know, they they associated with you, and then haven’t looked back to your, your background to which most people are going to be subscribing to your background and where you’ve come from. So thank you ever so much for for coming on and explaining your point of view.

John Stewart 52:46
Thank you, Carlton. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.

Carlton Reid 52:49
Thanks to John Stewart there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 288 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The next show is an interview with ultra cyclist and bike product entrepreneur, Andrew Phillips. That’ll be out next week. But meanwhile, get out there and ride …