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May 26, 2023 / / Blog

26th May 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 328: BBC Bike Bureau with Anna Holligan and Kate Vandy (and Jack)

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Anna Holligan and Kate Vandy

TOPICS: “Just two journalists building a mobile studio on two wheels”


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 328 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Friday 26th of May 2023.

David Bernstein 0:28
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern are 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 1:03
I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to this episode of the Spokesmen podcast in which I talk with BBC correspondents Anna Holligan and Kate Vandy and the formation of their mobile news gathering studio, the BBC bike bureau. A glitch scuppered our first chat so I’m not able to produce a companion video version of that conversation but I have been able to rescue a short segment that I will place on YouTube as a clip and the audio is at the end of this episode. The segment features Jack, an elderly British gentleman living in The Hague and who saw Anna as we were recording. He was thrilled at seeing a BBC reporter next to a cargo bike, and he politely butted in. Not that he knew Anna was part of a three-way chat, of course. But he soon did and Jack became the first person to be interviewed by Anna using the new kit on the BBC’s Bike Bureau …

Kate, where are you because I know you’re somewhere gorgeous? So So tell us where you are. And and make us jealous.

Kate Vandy 2:24
I am in Sydney at the moment, which is my hometown and I am lucky enough are very lucky. The BBC sent me here for six months to work. I’m going to be covering the Women’s World Cup and a few other things while I’m here. But it is autumn going into winter and each day is 20 degrees. 22 degrees and blue sky and bright sunshine. So it’s pretty good.

Carlton Reid 2:49
It’s actually quite nice and Newcastle. To tell the truth it’s we’ve we’ve come into spring it’s beautiful. And then same question to you Anna. So what’s the weather like in I’m assuming you’re in The Hague at the moment I am in

Anna Holligan 3:02
The Hague is beautiful. It’s a beautiful sunny day, I’ve just done the school run, hopped off my bike and dashed inside to speak to you.

Carlton Reid 3:09
Yeah, cuz when you came on, because we record this, and this is just audio. But I did get a wee bit of Anna’s. And it’s like, it’s almost like I don’t recognise we are close on type thing. I don’t recognise you away from a bike. You know you’re in, you’re in a real room. It’s like over that we have that Santa. Cuz normally I just see you with a bike. Anna. How weird is that? That you are basically in my mind. And I’m sure lots of people you’re associated with your cargo bike.

Anna Holligan 3:34
It’s funny, because before I came to the Netherlands, I was just a hobby cyclist. But here, it’s just something that you do so naturally, and that you start to incorporate parts of your life on the bike. And that’s kind of been the evolution of the bike bureau in part.

Carlton Reid 3:49
Hmm. And we will get onto that because you talked about the bike Bureau at So where were you when you’re in Leipzig, weren’t you so that was like a week ago, fellow city so so tell us about what you were doing in Velo city.

Anna Holligan 4:01
So I was talking about the evolution of the bank bureaus. So how it came into being. So starting off with Kate and I growing on a cycle tour of Europe, looking at Europe cycling revolution. And during that trip, we filmed with some parents who were using electric cargo bikes. And then Kate and I started to think well, wouldn’t that Empress actually be so perfect for what we do too. So it became something all about enabling multi skilled digital first mobile journalists like us to do our jobs in the most cost time and climate efficient way. And so that’s what I was really talking about, but but also the the journey that has brought us to this point of having such a revolutionary pioneering model to show people and the way in which I’ve been using it and kind of trialling it and finding out the stories that really lend themselves to being covered by the bike Bureau because it takes us right to the heart After breaking news and places where traditional radio and satellite vans and trucks I wouldn’t be able to get to with all of the kids on board. So that was kind of what I was talking about. And it’s really interesting as well with that kind of audience because they are are already so enlightened when it comes to cycling, but then to be able to bring something brand new to them inspiring, innovative. Yeah, it felt really, it felt like it was a validation of something that case that I have been working on for so many years now.

Carlton Reid 5:34
But you were talking to a very friendly audience there, obviously, who a would know who you were B would be absolutely, you know, dialled in on the benefits of cargo bikes in cities. What about an audience that isn’t as friendly as that? Can you imagine going to, you know, another conference and discussing how mainstream Do you think this this project you’ve got going is and that’s both that can be both to both of you, in fact that that particular question?

Anna Holligan 6:03
I think Kate has already had some interesting conversations with with colleagues about this.

Kate Vandy 6:08
Yeah, I mean, we’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by how many people are super enthusiastic when they’ve seen the project. So we kind of think this has the potential to be really mainstream, and hopefully one day really ordinary, and just something that everyone has the possibility to do. Of course, it wouldn’t work in every single city. But if you if you look around you, you know, I’ve been living in Brussels for years now. But if you look to Paris, Barcelona, Vienna, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and further away, the cities like Vancouver, Melbourne, in Australia, Bogota, Tokyo, Taipei, I mean, so many cities in the world already offer the infrastructure in which something like this could exist. So I just think, what we’re doing, we’re hoping we can lead the way and show people that there’s really simple solutions to kind of change what they’re doing in their everyday life. So our hope is that it becomes super mainstream, as quickly as possible,

Carlton Reid 7:04
you kind of you kind of need it to be a bike friendly place. So you think

Anna Holligan 7:09
if you look at this, just from the perspective of the BBC News, content priorities, first of all, as journalists, they’re all about delivering for our audiences, the best journalism being the best at live news, breaking important stories, but then missing audience challenges too. So tackling news avoidance, reaching younger and underserved audiences, and building trust through transparency. And the bank Bureau has been seen and kind of understood by people as the perfect vehicle to be able to do this because we can show people how we are gathering news, how we’re going live from a bike, and one of the other priorities is about creating a fun and friendly and collaborative culture. And for me, this is the embodiment of the the bike Bureau, and there are so many places which are already suitable for riding an electric cargo bike. And over the years, Carlson, you’ll be familiar with these arguments, you know, it’s too hilly, the weather’s not good enough. Well, the fact is, an electric bike flattens or hills and I have written around Edinburgh on a non electric bike, and I know how desirable that is. But also weather wise, because I have been using this for more than two years. Now, I’m not doing it for fun, I’m doing it because it is the most obvious and practical choice. And what I want is for women, especially in journalism to be empowered in the same kind of way. So for getting to the kinds of stories where it wouldn’t have been possible with another mode of transport. And most of the time, I don’t have another pair of hands. So when there’s an explosion of a block of flats, I don’t want to park miles away in a dodgy neighbourhood, and then walk four miles with all of the kit, I have a bike that can now do all of that for me. And when I’m trying to cover two stories, two different sides of time when a farmer’s protests later on climate protests with water cannon, the only way to get to the scene of those breaking news stories when all of the roads around the climate protests were closed down by police was by bike and then I had everything I needed there. So I think, of course, in cities, there are challenges and we as Kate has said, we’re not trying to say hey, look, here’s the answer the kind of swiss army knife for all of the challenges that we face, no trying to be a more sustainable broadcaster. But actually in showcasing the potential of the bike Bureau it opens up so many more ideas and possibilities and it can inspire people in lots of other ways to think about they’re guessing how they’re doing their jobs. And I’m not just talking about in in journalism there and what we Kate and I are trying to do is is have one of these ideally in in suitable bureaus around the world once we have showed the possibilities by actually using it. So giving this tangible example sorry, okay, go ahead. Yeah, no, I was just

Kate Vandy 9:57
gonna say I think you know, we also have a responsibility Ready to look at how we work and live each day as people and as broadcasters, and I think the biochar is a really good way of showcasing that, you know, what changes can we make, we don’t want to just lecture people or be seen to, you know, flying is part of our job as well. But I think this is us showing that when we have control, we can make changes. And what I really hope and I know anecdotes as well as that, there’s just inspires people that see it and to just to step back and think, What small changes can I make each day that might make any have an impact on the environment positively, and also, all these other things. And I mentioned a really important as well, like empowerment, flexibility cost, or, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of different things going on with it.

Carlton Reid 10:46
And I mentioned speed there, because the police have got bikes, you know, they they get to incidents quicker. And then the squad cars, emergency services, you know, the paramedics use bike for that reason. So you could probably get to a story quicker than many other of your colleagues and maybe competitors, you can actually speed somewhere and get to the story quicker.

Anna Holligan 11:13
Our colleagues will be our competitors and colleagues will be inspired to hop on a bike of their own in the future, actually, to all be racing, they’re on two wheels.

Carlton Reid 11:23
Because Jon Snow, I mean, I remember interviewing him and that was one of his things he said, this is when there was like, you know, a producer of camera, sound, you know, electricians etc. And it’d be like a big squad of people would have to arrive places, but he would say he would get to incidents on his bike far quicker than his crew could ever get there, then he would start his interviews and or you know, you’re sending the prep. So that’s that’s the potential that you could get to places pretty darn quickly.

Anna Holligan 11:54
Jon is not alone in that respect.

Carlton Reid 11:56
Let’s talk about the bike itself than so we can geek out and I have I have been shown around the bike. You showed me around the last time we talked, but let’s kind of go round virtually and discuss it again. So it is a cargo bike. It’s the same cargo bike that we are familiar with. Is that right?

Anna Holligan 12:16
Yes, it’s the same cargo bikes. So this is my personal bike that we’re using for this project.

Kate Vandy 12:22
And it’s an electric cargo bike just to point out for people, especially on Twitter who seem to think it’s not, it would be awfully heavy for Anna to pedal around. Otherwise, it isn’t.

Carlton Reid 12:33
It’s got a bucket on the front in effect. And normally you’ve got your daughter in there. Yes. Yes. But you’re telling me the last time that you can actually fit all these kids in and your daughter? Yes. So

Anna Holligan 12:47
the idea was, I started doing things with news and my daughter on the side, pretty much as soon as I invested in the cargo bag, after we had filmed this documentary and realised the game changing potential in work and life. And so just within a couple of months, I was picking her up from school popping her in the bike to cycle her home, and then doing a live from just outside the school gates. And there is video evidence of this on the BBC. And then it was kind of like a playpen. And there was enough space for both of those vital parts of my life. But then, as we and especially Kate has seen more potential to do more with this vehicle we’ve built over the years. But we still want to keep it really manageable and small. And we’re mobile journalists, we’re mostly using our phones for broadcasting. But we wanted to build something that could allow us to go further and stay on air for longer. But that all still kind of fits into a backpack and can be transported from my bike to other bikes, because we have to be really clear about this. I use an electric cargo bike that I chose, but in theory, we’ve designed a bike bureau that can be transported to any bike and not even just an electric bike, you know, if you’re if you’re much fitter than I am, and you’ve got some strong side muscles, then in theory, this could be a regular a regular bike,

Carlton Reid 14:17
huh, so you can get on your gravel bike, and you can go off road and you can go and do some weird and wonderful stuff just as long as you’ve got the kit in your backpack.

Anna Holligan 14:25
Yes, that’s something we’re working on. Exactly. Because the bike is kind of like the frame at the moment. And we have all of these arms and lights coming off it. But yeah, the idea is and it is kind of morphing all the time as we are learning lessons from the work that we do with the bike bureau. But the idea is that in the future, you can use any bike it wouldn’t have to be a cargo bike electric or otherwise. And Kate wise, this is yeah has been so much trial and error. So I think Kate is well placed to talk through how it has gone from being me with a kind of selfie stick to something so much more sophisticated, which is the boat bureau?

Kate Vandy 15:04
Do we want to go through the kits? Sorry? I’m slightly interrupting our flow. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 15:08
No, no, totally. I mean, basically start with maybe the solar panels and the folding solar panels.

Anna Holligan 15:15
Do you know what we could just bring up the actual bike pure peace. I have like a photographic memory now of all of the component parts. But if we want to be really like technical, then it’s good idea to have the list in front of us. But I can talk about how we dial up while Kate looks for the kit list. I could talk about what we use in terms of broadcasting. So from our phones, we have studio capabilities through Lucy live going through to the radio studios directly, and we can choose which studios or which programme, and then we’re connected to go live on air. And with TV, we use the Live View mobile app, which I think was developed in partnership with the BBC. So when the phone is attached to the bike, it just gives us studio capabilities from anywhere in the field literally now, going to places that would have been out of reach in the past. And

Carlton Reid 16:10
5g network. So basically the 5g network as I’ve extended where you can get to

Anna Holligan 16:15
well and and being on wheels and two wheels instead of 4k.

Carlton Reid 16:18
Have you got the list then? I do? I do. Apologies. So that’s okay, so so we’re gonna we’re gonna start with the solar panels so that you need extra power. Yes, yeah. So

Kate Vandy 16:31
one of the big things that’s really helpful, I’ve seen Anna work, you know, not for 24 hours, but you know, really, really long days in the field on her own. And I know one of the biggest things that was going to be a help would be a solar panel with an energy bank, because otherwise you’re sort of scrambling around for battery packs, or trying to find sockets, when actually you need to be outside broadcasting live. So that was the main thing that we wanted to find a sort of lightweight solar panel attached to an energy bank where Anna could charge her laptop, could charge her phones, which have at least two phones on her when she’s broadcasting if not three. And we could also charge lights, microphones, very important coffee pot. So

Carlton Reid 17:17
very critical as equipment, coffee.

Kate Vandy 17:22
For journalists, getting coffee, coffee is probably number one. So that bank, obviously if it’s not a sunny day, obviously, that’s fine, because we can already have had it pre pre energise and fall for when she goes out to work. So that should last at least a day, if not longer, depending on what she needs to charge. And so then, we have this desk now, which is amazing. And it took us quite a long time to find didn’t find a lot of looking. And we’ve looked at building our own, we’ve been designing different ones. And then and I came across this amazing desk, which is like a suitcase, and you unclip it and pull it up. And it can then be set to whatever height you want. And it’s really sturdy and really strong. So we’ve got that as well in the middle of the bike. And to that we’ve been attaching small rigs with magic arms. And on the end of those are the shoulder pods. And on the shoulder pod, the phone is placed. There’s a possibility to place light at a microphone. But we’ve been using wireless rode mics for now. And I think that’s it, isn’t it? And some likes as well. Ring likes, we’ve got attached at the moment. Yeah, and

Anna Holligan 18:39
we’ve got the radio mics as well in case we want to be able to move further away. And I’ll tell you what, this, there will be people who are perhaps not so familiar with the potential of bikes and broadcasting. But actually, it’s if it was a gimmick, and we’ve read the good and bad comments if it was a gimmick, this is not something that I would have been using for two, three years. And a few months ago, there was sadly a train crash 12 kilometres from here in Bruges Houghton. And I had to get to the scene of breaking news as quickly as possible and they wanted me an hour and a half an hour. And I thought okay, there’s no way I can cycle there. I’m just gonna have to hire a car because having a bike to do my news and from my life allowed me to get rid of my car. So now I rely on rely on green wheels and various other car

Carlton Reid 19:36
sharing short term rental

Anna Holligan 19:38
car shares, they’re really big here in the Netherlands. So I took one of those instead. And as soon as I got there, I was just wishing that I had my bike. I thought you know what, I should have just waited I should have waited another half an hour and I’ll be there with my bike because on that day I was having to borrow charge from colleagues. I was having to drive back and forth. to a cafe to get a decent charge up, it was an absolute nightmare. I didn’t have anywhere to edit, it was sunny there was I hadn’t managed to carry drinks and all that kind of thing. And for me in that moment, I thought, you know, I want everyone to have one of these, I want to this isn’t about gimmicks, it isn’t about, hey, look what we can do. And sustainability for sustainability sake is not worth anything to us on the ground. But the, the, the way in which this allows us to do our jobs, that takes away the danger, the hard side of it, and it’s already hard enough being on air constantly for radio and TV, providing digital content. So to have a vehicle literally, that helps to manage that load is just so empowering. And it allows us to do more on air, because we’re not having to worry about going back and forth for for charging and drinks. And you know what it does need and Kate and I we have to discuss this maybe off air is a toilet. That’s the only thing that’s missing

Carlton Reid 21:08
because it doesn’t have a toilet. So that’s the kind of same kind of revealing.

Anna Holligan 21:16
Yeah, so it’s if I hadn’t say, oh, sorry. No, no, no, go ahead.

Kate Vandy 21:21
I was gonna have to say there were a few people asking if it was actually an April Fool’s joke when we posted it on Twitter. And I have to let them down. It actually is not a joke. But again, with Anna, you know, it’s, we just want to make sure people understand this is really sincere. I mean, this is something that the majority of time we’ve spent researching this has been our own time. And as Anna mentioned, it’s her own personal bike that she’s allowed us to experiment with. And, you know, it’s been a real passion project for us. And we just wanted to make something as best we could with what we could find. And yeah, just that it’s sincere, and it’s not a joke. And hopefully, it can only get better from here, really. And hopefully we you know, we’d find even better solutions to the kinds of things we’ve been, we’ve been looking for

Carlton Reid 22:05
the things that you’ve said your research was including that table. So what do you use the table for? But you haven’t, you haven’t explained what that was for what what exact quantity and type table comes out of a suitcase? But what do you use it for?

Anna Holligan 22:17
laptop and then editing mostly. But yeah, so it’s a desk. So you can have your laptop on you’ve got the coffee, the curves. But for editing in the field. So if we wanted to edit on location, we don’t have to go and find a desk in a cafe we can do it from from where we’re standing. So that’s a really but also like, if there’s a complicated story, you need to have some notes in front of us, containers, and data have a laptop at eye level.

Carlton Reid 22:46
That’s brilliant, actually, yeah, I’m thinking I need a concertina type table that I can just get out my

Anna Holligan 22:52
part. And the thing is, we’re still working on this. And we want to also be really clear about that, because this is a pilot project, but it’s also just a prototype. And as we’ve been building every time we’re like, hey, you know what, we could get a solar panel that’s more, that’s neater, that can be folded up or rolled up. And so we want to incorporate a bit more 3d printing to try and get exactly the right dimensions to fit with what we need to do and have the kit built into a box that then supports the desk and the woman is very portable, it’s very modular, so it can be folded up. But I think in a year’s time, the bite Bureau will look very different from the one that we’re looking at are talking about today.

Carlton Reid 23:35
I’m gonna cut to an ad break right now.

David Bernstein 23:37
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Carlton Reid 24:47
So we’re back with talking about the bike bureau with Kate Vandy and Anna Halligan. And when we did this previously, we had a we had a few tech glitches, which means we can’t do the whole thing. But you you actually, what I’m not gonna say it costed you in a cost. You, you, you were you were welcomed by an elderly gentleman who was very lovely, who was wonderfully surprised that you were there on a bicycle and that you were the BBC. So tell us about Jack.

Anna Holligan 25:23
He thought he was dreamy, it must have just been the most surreal moment. He’s taking his dog for a walk, by the way, he was on a bike and he was 82. He is amazing. And he came out of the corner of a canal. And there I was with the bike Bureau, BBC Randy on the laptop. He was just a bit astounded, I think. But it was, it was such a fortuitous meeting, because Jack was just he saw us like that. And instantly, he could grasp the concepts. And we were talking about broadcasting to younger audiences and connecting to younger audiences being transparent and authentic in the way that we gather news. But here is this lovely old guy saying, hey, you know what, this makes so much sense.

Carlton Reid 26:06
Now, I will probably play audio, I’ll supply some audio in here of Jack and I’ll put the clip on YouTube because we can work and there was enough non glitch that we could capture that bit. But it was wonderful. And we were sitting there you know, I was in Newcastle. Obviously you were you were live with with Jack yourself. But then and Kate was in Sydney. And we were just sitting there thinking this is really cute. This is nice. This is beautiful, that you’re so accessible.

Anna Holligan 26:32
I think that has been something that has grown and is still it still feels unusual. And we welcome that if it helps audiences to feel a connection and to be able to understand and connect with what we’re trying to do and see that this is authentic, and that we are working from a grassroots level in creating this. And it’s something that I have been really conscious of over the last few years using the bike that audiences who have traditionally been showing us avoidance or been AMSI. The mainstream media just feel as though this is something different that they can embrace in a way that sometimes when you go into neighbourhoods, they don’t want TV crews there. But when you’re coming with a biker when they feel as though they already know you chatting to them as as a one to one as a normal person, then it makes our job so much easier because we don’t have those same barriers to break down because they see us as as humans on bikes rather than Cairo journalists who are going to tell them the news, which is something that BBC has moved far away from already, but audiences don’t with see that and so the bike is such a great way to access those people and those stories that might have been hard to reach in the past.

Carlton Reid 27:54
Now I know you’ve got to rush away, perhaps you’re you’re you’re busy BBC journalist, you might have to go to live in like three seconds. I don’t know, I know you gotta go away. So I just want to ask one final two, two final questions. And the second one will be please tell us how we find you on social media. But the first question, and this is straight to Kate, in fact, and that is so Anna’s talked about, you know, epiphany on the cargo bike. Your epiphany on a bicycle is a bit older than that. And you’re a bit more of a kind of spandex lycra kind of person or to tell us your kind of

Anna Holligan 28:31
proper cyclists. Okay, yeah,

Carlton Reid 28:34
I was, I was trying to be as polite as possible there. So tell us about your cycling, Kate, how you got into it and how you’re in it right now.

Kate Vandy 28:44
Well, I mean, I love cycling and bore people to death with my Instagram stories. And here I am cycling somewhere else every other day. But I’ve always been I’ve always been a cyclist. I used to do triathlons as a teenager and university student. But I’ve really returned to road cycling and gravel riding in Belgium where I’ve been living for five years. And I’m racing in, in a league there in the Belgian league. And I’m a member of a cycling club actually, which is aimed at getting women into cycling, which has been amazing. I think they founded this cycling club in Brussels two years ago. And it now has over 300 members and it’s all sorts of women all sorts of bikes. Meet on Sundays and have a fantastic time. So yeah, I do a bit of bit of racing but of serious stuff, but also really love cycling with whoever will cycle with me.

Carlton Reid 29:41
That’s wonderful. And thank you ever so much for your time today. So for ending today’s episode, how about we’ve even though we know where we can find the kind of videos but tell us your social media handles and anybody who maybe, I don’t know maybe it’s new to this and actually hasn’t seen And the bikepath videos that you do and so how do we how do we access both of you in, in the virtual world. So

Anna Holligan 30:09
Kate’s has been really instrumental in setting up our social media. And then making sure we’re actually posting from there because there’s so much going on, it’s hard to, to what we want to do is create a space or what we’re we are now doing is creating a space purely for bike Bureau content. So people who want bike Bureau and not don’t choose from the cycle first can confine this because it’s a very separate entity. So bike Bureau, we are at the bike Bureau at bike Bureau on Twitter, and same on Instagram, I think, Kate,

Kate Vandy 30:42
I think it’s at good news cycle on Instagram

Anna Holligan 30:46
cycle. Because and also, that’s something else that we have kind of in the pipeline, but we’re working on something along those lines, but can’t reveal much more just yet. So and then Dutchies from the psychopath is just on my psychopath. You know, no matter how much I try and pause and say it properly, it’s just psychopath. I really have to work on that. So it’s actually it’s from a cycle path a gesture from my regular Twitter. And it’s, you know, the funny thing about that is that it’s just three news stories done by bike, but because the psychopaths here are so incredible, so many people watch, and I don’t I’m no offence taken that I know, people are not coming from me. They’re not coming for the news. They’re coming mostly for the views. But if we can just sneak some news in there on the site, then that’s great. And I think it’s also helped to show people what more can be done because we are the first journalists to build a bike Bureau for news broadcasting and actually be using it for lives for news gathering. And in a country full of cyclists, the fact that no other broadcaster has done this here in the Netherlands, let alone anywhere else. It makes us feel really proud. Actually, it’s kind of like we’re blessing our child out into the world to see how it will find its first steps and we are at a very early stage.

Carlton Reid 32:11
Before I cut to the outro. Here’s the bit with Jack in The Hague. You’re actually recognised as the bike reporter. Even in the Netherlands, even having a bike and being reported is different to people, Dutch people.

Anna Holligan 32:29
And how crazy is that in a nation of cyclists where they carry surfboards on bikes? We’ve got a young gentleman taking his dog for a walk on the bike. I ended up Yeah.

Jack 32:45

has a cute little doggy. We almost can’t Campos going through the middle of all of COVID. And they look like lost souls. But

Anna Holligan 33:11
I’ve taken a wrong turn must have taken.

Jack 33:16
I’ll say maybe you thought it was

Anna Holligan 33:21
nice to meet you. We’re just doing a podcast for Carlton talking about our setup, which is not actually something that’s been done anywhere else that’s quite excited to show this to you. Thanks so much. That’s really nice to

Kate Vandy 33:39
include that in the article as well. It’s a damn good idea.

Anna Holligan 33:45
It’s very useful for many All right

Jack 33:55
what’s your name?

Anna Holligan 33:56
Nice to meet you.

Jack 34:00
Congratulations to the BBC on innovation.

Anna Holligan 34:06
Thanks for the word. Thank you.

Jack 34:09
Did you come up with the argue

Anna Holligan 34:11
Kate case and I came up with this idea. This is Pete here so

Jack 34:19
I shall go back to my Dutch life and say the BBC is everywhere now.

Carlton Reid 34:26
Jack? Jack is obviously a Brit. What are you doing in the Netherlands? You’re gonna live there.

Jack 34:34
I was tricked into coming over here because my wife said oh, I can live in England. And of course she lied like a trooper. So I sort of gave up the ghost retired and said okay, I like coffee terraces and there are plenty of them. So I can live in a place with coffee terraces. This bicycles Jack, one thing to me.

Carlton Reid 35:05
And bicycles Jack plays with bicycles.

Anna Holligan 35:09
Jack is on a foldup Dunlop bike, a foldable. Right? And dog walking at the same time and walking the dog. He asked how you how old you are

Jack 35:20
82 This is

Anna Holligan 35:25
how recycling is still so

Jack 35:30
yes, we could do so

I also have a step which does 60 kilometres an hour, and but it’s not legal. So that’s why I’m on this.

Anna Holligan 35:52
It’s just incredible like your AC to this is one of the about cycling in the Netherlands that it just keeps you young, you could be 16.

Jack 36:01
If you’re going to produce things like this that can get to places that the BBC doesn’t normally go to, then that is a wonderful thing. Yes,

Anna Holligan 36:12
I want to hug you but I will. I’m so nice to have your input because this is exactly what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to be really transparent. We’re trying to get to places people aren’t able to get to and bring these types of stories. So you’ve actually just been the first interview that we’ve done, I think from the bike period. So congratulations, Jack, Down.

Jack 36:38
This is Thank you, Jack, an unexpected pleasure. You’ve made my day and a few more. Keep it up and you’re definitely on the right path.

Anna Holligan 36:51
Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Say over here. And finally.

Carlton Reid 37:01
Thanks to Anna Halligan and Kate Vandy there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 328 of the spokesmen podcast brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles, show notes, and more can be found at the dash The next episode features the maker of a classic 1950s cycling jacket and the Swiss factory which makes the jackets fabric. That episode will be out in the first week of June. But meanwhile, get out there and ride …

May 11, 2023 / / Blog

11th May 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 327: LTN Bollards Have Not Created Jesmond Ghetto: In Conversation With Dr. Tony Waterston

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Dr. Tony Waterston

TOPICS: Jesmond’s LTNs discussed on the Tour de Jesmond family-friendly bike ride


Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to Episode 327 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Thursday, the 11th of May 2023.

David Bernstein 0:28
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are 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 1:04
Hi I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to a hyper-local edition of the Spokesmen. This podcast is normally international in scope but today I’m riding on my home patch with Tony Waterson, a retired consultant paediatrician. I joined him on the Tour de Jesmond, an annual family-friendly bike ride around the streets of this leafy suburb in the northern English city of Newcastle on Tyne. Back in March, with only a little forewarning, the local council blocked some residential roads to through motor traffic by installing a bunch of bollards, creating a low traffic neighbourhood in East Jesmond. The creation of an LTN in the neighbouring suburb of Heaton attracted almost no negativity but there’s been an uproar in Jesmond. There have been two roadside demos against the East Jesmond LTN and later in the show l include audio of some of the objections raised by folks who live here. There has also been vandalism of measuring equipment and a private Facebook group quickly amassed a membership of 700 often very angry residents. Those opposed to the LTNs include a smattering of 5G conspiracy theorists, chemtrails believers and anti-vax folks, much to the annoyance of those residents who simply want the bollards to disappear and who hold no truck with those who claim that Jesmond is set to become a 15-minute-city concentration camp. I’m not exaggerating here, One media article, in all seriousness, claimed in a headline that the LTN had led to the ghettoization and sterilisation of Jesmond. Dear listener, it hasn’t. I talk about these contentious issues with Tony, who’s part of a group of local child health professionals calling on the council to stand firm. We also discuss the local elections, where the LTN issue probably caused the ousting of a Labour councillor, replaced with a Lib Dem who campaigned on a rip-out-the-bollards ticket. Be aware there’s some loud road noise soon after we start pedalling because we were riding next to the busy Great North Road; the thrum soon fades away as we’re led around quieter streets.

Tony, how many do you normally get on this ride?

Tony Waterston 4:08
I would reckon this is about 50% more than usual. We’re usually I think 20 is about the usual. Okay, this is a big one. We don’t usually have so many children, we usually have two children.

Carlton Reid 4:19

Tony Waterston 4:19
So this is a lot better than usual. And I’m very pleased.

Carlton Reid 4:22
So this is a tour of Jesmond, but you’re getting to a fair bit of not Jesmond.

Tony Waterston 4:28
Well, that’s because we pretty well, we’ve pretty well done Jesmond in the past few years. So but it is beginning and finishing there. But we do sometimes go a little bit into neighbouring areas. But it’s starting here. Always start here and go through a bit of Jesmond in it

Carlton Reid 4:45
Tony, you said your your intro speech that you said we’re ending in a controversial area. The LTNs which is controversial, not to us. Yeah, but controversial to certain people. Who believe we should rip the bollards out. So we’ll just had a local election. Where the Lib Dems, in effect said that’s what they wanted to do they want to rip out the bollards. Do you think that’s gonna? Are they going to carry on doing that, do you think? Are they’re gonna stick to their promises and keep on asking to rip them out?

Tony Waterston 5:20
I think they’re, it’s very interesting because they’re saying two contradictory things, which is that they like and approve and want to have LTN. But think the whole, this whole thing is dumb and they want to start again. And I don’t think those two statements are reconcilable. So I think they’ve done that for political reasons.

Carlton Reid 5:43
So, kind of traditional. Well, sitting on the fence saying different things to different people.

Tony Waterston 5:50
Well, I think it’s, I think it’s a bit sad, really, but it has got them elected. So I think what they’re what they’re, what they’re going to have to do is to try and amend the scheme. I don’t see how it’s possible for two councillors to have it all pulled out.

Carlton Reid 6:07
Well, that they’re lib dems, not a majority council.

Tony Waterston 6:08
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So we’re going to meet them actually to talk about how you might get some members of the community more members in the community behind them. But what kinds of compromises might be possible that will actually help to resolve the difficulties in the community? So but I think it’s going to be very hard for them to actually do something that is actually because the way people,

Carlton Reid 6:42
Jesmond, North Jesmond, is almost by my reckoning, the only ward in the country that has actually done what lots of people have threatening to do, which is vote out councillors who are in favour LTNst. Whereas nationally, the Lib Dems have been incredibly supportive of LTN in many cities. And they’ve been voted in on that ticket. So north Jesmond is, is an outlier. Why do you think why do you think Jesmond is an outlier, nationally?

Tony Waterston 7:18
Well, I think that’s a hard one. But I think the the labour councillors have made themselves very unpopular with that community. It’s always been a marginal seat. They did. There’s been alternating between Lib Dem and Labour for a while. But I think Labour’s very unpopular, because of the LTN. But also from previous schemes. They’re seen as perfidious. So you may wonder how they were voted before because obviously a strongLabour group. Yes. But I think this has become the focus. The council has become the focus of this latest

Carlton Reid 7:59
It would be fair to say that, that there was a massive swing, massive swing, I guess, in marginal I agree. But then there is this massive swing to the Lib Dems. How would how much of that do you think was the LTN? A great part?

Tony Waterston 8:14
I think it probably was, it’s difficult to see what other issues there are, really are open to this extent because I mean, there are plenty of other issues. There was antisocial behaviour, students, bins, but these are the same everywhere. It’s difficult to see any other issue that’s really divided the community to this extent, we did have a previous one we had Acorn Road, which also led to this kind of business. And so I think it’s people remember that as well, possibly, and hold it against the council. So I can’t see there being another issue that would have been so.

Carlton Reid 8:57
So I’ve been doing shock horror, this one, Tony, but I’ve been going recently for some a whole host of different reasons. I’ve actually been using a car to go through Jesmond Road, roads, that people are saying, you know, now totally blocked because of the LTN as though it was never blocked before. Yeah. But all the times I’ve been going through I mean, I went through deliberately once at peak time. Yeah, to see what people were complaining about. And yes, you probably put 10 minutes on the journey. But then just an hour away from peak and you pretty much get through those those troublesome junctions almost straight away. So we are talking about a problem that’s maybe an hour, two hours tops per day. So is that an argument for saying Well, look, yes, there is a potential problem at peak. And what do we do about that problem? And clearly people are suffering. They say they’re suffering enormously. For, for not being able to get through.

Tony Waterston 10:09
Yeah. Well, I think there are three things that could be done. But are real, real, genuine issues. And one is the right turning lane off of Jesmond road to get into Osborne Road, which could be improved. And the council has already said it’s going to improve it. The second is buses, bus services, not very easy. And I think there’s a real concern about all the people who haven’t used the bike, don’t really feel are up to using a bike again, might have a mile to walk, don’t want to really have to be in a car to go around a long way. But really they should be there should be recognition of that. And then at the council obviously finds a different, it’s difficult for the council to do that. But I think that’s an issue is improving public transport. That’s its should really been done before. The third one is the businesses who we don’t know. I mean, I haven’t seen any data on the impact of LTNs on businesses. And I think it’s usually said that more people walking and cycling will be good for business. Yes, but the businesses are very afraid and anxious. So I think something needs to be done. And the council has also said they will do that. The Cradlewell, to make it a more pleasant area. So that the width will show show the businesses that something is being done. And I think probably there should be a bit more data collected, actually, to see you using those businesses. Yeah, using using the usual kind of

Carlton Reid 11:49
Of course people can get to these businesses in the same way they can get before Yeah, we’re where we are right now is on the Great North Road that we’re getting here. All this massive traffic noise. And we’re going into Jesmond here now. So that’s clearly one of the boundary roads near the LTNs. But that’s always been busy. And Jesmond Road always been busy. But these are not. These haven’t been created by the LTN have they?

Tony Waterston 12:14
No. But I think the point, the point is we don’t know whether the main, they have a real fear. You know, the fear may be completely false. We don’t, we don’t know. And I think they’re so I think we’re attempting to reassure them without really knowing what the impact is, is I think they need to be taken seriously rather than just say, Oh, well, it’ll be alright.

Carlton Reid 12:38
So you’ve been a bit of a lightning rod with your role as a former consultant paediatrician and you have written a kind of an open letter on the LTNs, I mean, who was that open letter to. just just literally everybody?

Tony Waterston 12:54
It was really to the pres, all the candidates and the council. It was really to to highlight the the health issues, which are an important part of this. And I think this group of of health professionals has been anxious about this for quite a while and actually had a really ever since this group was set up, which is a national group over the COP26. And did this cycle, I think, and you were on it. That was amazing. It was an amazing event. And that led to really this group of people here in Newcastle feeling that they need to continue to publicise this.

Carlton Reid 13:41
So these are northeast. I mean, they looked at like mainly paediatricians.

Tony Waterston 13:46
All child health.

Carlton Reid 13:47
It’s all child health. And that you wouldn’t one would think would have resonance? You know, we are talking about children’s lungs. Yeah. So do you think your letter in the, in the local newspaper, you’ve had the antis and then you’ve had, you know, this statement that the local childrens’ health headline doesn’t really portray it very well to about you know, conflict, gridlock, etc, etc. And whereas your your statement is, is child health? Yeah. So do you see any of that argument which you’ve, you’ve put forward having resonance?

Tony Waterston 14:29
Well, I think it needs not on one occasion, and to continually be be put, because I think it’s like always with local issues. The bigger picture gets lost in the in the local issues, and in particular, the individual issues for individual people. And they say everybody thinks, Well, my action doesn’t cause pollution. It’s everybody else that does it. It’s because everybody else is driving all the time. So they probably will want other people to stop and not necessarily themselves. But on the other hand, I think it will have an impact. You know, if it’s a drip by drip thing.

Carlton Reid 14:32
We have some very loud people who put their point of view but we don’t even the local actions and wasn’t actually that many people voted. Okay. It was a big swing, but it wasn’t like every single person in Jesmond by any means. So the loud people, do you think they are perhaps not actually representative of the population as a whole, but they’re just very loud. And we hear about them when we see them in the press?

Tony Waterston 15:30
Oh, that’s definitely the case. I think that’s definitely the case. And I think there is an overlap in these very loud ones with the awful group who were at the hustings, which was a very, quite a large group of climate denialists, who were conflating all this with the three minutes city conspiracy theory. So I think there’s a bit of crossover there.

Carlton Reid 15:53
Do you think that it’s actually will turn a lot of people off? So people who might have been consider it as moderates normally? And would have been opposed to the LTN see these conspiracy denialists or conspiracy theorists, climate denialists, anti 15 minutes cities, anti-LTN people and go, actually, I would have supported the anti LTN movement, but because those guys are there, I’m probably going to pull back? Do you think there’s an element of that?

Tony Waterston 16:21
I think so. I think so. And I think I think I think what I’ve always felt about this is that in six months or nine months time, you’ll find that the majority are accepting it. And quite happy, then the small minority remains a small minority are working against it. And I think it will help. I think that came up with the hustings and one person who was part of the resident’s group against it spoke up after this climate denial thing, saying, I’m not one of those, I believe in climate change.

Carlton Reid 16:54
However, I’m still willing to pollute still.

Tony Waterston 16:56
Yeah, exactly. Right. Exactly. But, but I think there’s this way also, there’s real concern they have, which is I think force also that it just displaces the pollution.

Carlton Reid 17:07
Yes, that was gonna be my next question. How do you address because that that is one of the key things is this is worsening climate change? Because you are worsening congestion on the boundary roads, you are then making more pollution. So this is why me as I’m saying, I’m gonna an anti LTN hear me. I am now causing more pollution. And I don’t want to but you are making me. So how do you address that? That argument?

Tony Waterston 17:40
I think it’s I think it’s data. I think they need to be data from the council of road traffic numbers in the surrounding areas and showing that they’re just they haven’t increased or they’re only increased at certain very short periods. And also looking at the pollution monitors, and seeing what they’re saying.

Carlton Reid 18:02
So I’ve looked at the data, because you can get real time data on the Coast Road. Yeah. Both pollution, air pollution and on traffic stats. Yeah. And nobody tends to believe you when you say this, but actually, last year, the traffic was six up to 62% up, probably post pandemic, this year we’re actually post LTN, we’re up to 6% down. But probably that’s across the whole day rather than being peak. So do you think any amount of data will actually shift people? Or is this data only really going to convince the council that they’re doing the right thing?

Tony Waterston 18:42
No. I think like you said before, there’s some people wouldn’t be convinced the majority, I think, well, and I think it needs to be the thing is, it’s not always easy to get information out to people, because people are very selective in what they read. So I would hope that the council would actually this is where they need to really get going with some local information flow, possibly through people’s doors.

Carlton Reid 19:11
Do you think there’s been enough consultation? Because again, that’s one of the things that, you know, we want consultation, we know what that means. It tends to mean, we actually want to rip these out. Yeah. And you know, if you give us a consultation that will ask for the veto is what they’re actually after. But do you think there has been some mistakes made?

Tony Waterston 19:30
Yes, I think so. I think I think you have to admit that there were. And I got some ideas about how it could be done. And in fact, after, after the Acorn Road business, the JRA which I was chair of them, the Jesmond Residents’ Association did put out a report on the consultation process. But basically, I think that I think it’s never going to be possible under the present circumstances of democracy to do have local local consultations because a lot of people don’t use the media that the council puts out information. So the best way probably would have been to put them through the doors. If they did 3500. They said, a lot of people say always say they didn’t receive. So, and I personally did put on arrange a meeting at the library at least a year ago, about the LTN that had about 15 people at it. So it’s it’s difficult to get information out and people will always say they didn’t see it. Probably should have been more local meetings.

Carlton Reid 20:40
We have varied, me and you and a bunch of other people who were actually on this ride. And other people who were anti measures for streets for people. And we’ve been on various panels. Yeah, I think it’s since 2016. Yeah. So the fact that people are saying has been no consultation, the council has been talking to people and getting their opinions for a number of years. Probably even before 2016. So when you when you quiz people about that, they say, Ah, okay, the counters only consulted special people only consulted the pros. Do you see any validity in that argument?

Tony Waterston 21:21
Well, I think that people this is back to a general concern about people being unaware of what goes on and local democracy. And for example, there used to be group constants used to have four meetings a year in local areas. And they stopped those completely now. And also city, City Life [newspaper] is less frequent. And they’re also used to be Jesmond Residents’ Association newsletter, which is also stopped. So I think the channels have got less, and I think people feel less connected, generally with local democracy. So these are excuses. But I think I think that the council probably needed to have recognised that they needed to be a special effort to either do letters to doors, or to have local meetings.

Carlton Reid 22:10
As we have seen the most effective thing to do is actually put the bollards in. Because you can do any number of consultations prior to this, and it’s all airy fairy. Bollard goes in, and then all hell yeah, send it back. That’s what the trials were for, you know? Yeah, we’ve got to do these to actually see what it’s really like.

Tony Waterston 22:31
I know. But I agree. But I think the risk is that, if the opposite is, if the opposition is very enormous, then they do feel they have to do something about taking it out, which will be disastrous. And I think in future, we need to use a more representative democracy system, such as the citizens’ jury or citizens’ assembly, when you’ve got a very contentious issue that we

Carlton Reid 22:54
We did have that we had a bunch of people, the city, employed people to talk to residents, about their concerns and come up with ideas. And they brought in experts in who took those concerns. So that was us. It was a small citizens assembly.

Tony Waterston 23:10
They weren’t was there wasn’t there an attempt to get the local population representatives involved in what was happening? I think we don’t have a good system at the moment. It needs to be improved. And I think there needs to be some experimentation with

Carlton Reid 23:27
Are you know, kind of calling for what many people are, in fact, calling for Swiss-style, canton-style referendums?

Tony Waterston 23:35
No, I don’t think referendums are good, either. Because it’s not a yes or no issue. But I think generally, people need accurate information, to help them to decide, can be the needs to be a real effort to get the people involved, who are not normally participating in these discussions which is what a citizens’ assembly …,

Carlton Reid 23:57
But that’s what it has done. I mean, the bollards have got people talking, you really cannot escape the fact that that was literally in your face. Yeah. And it has, some people are going to be very anti, but many people are certainly on certain roads, which are now very quiet. Yeah, I know, previously, you know, awful roads to drive up or cycle or walk up there just to be nice. And in a few months time after the trial, people are gonna be just going actually, I’m not going to stop or put my head above the parapet and say I’m in favour of this because you’ll get screamed down. Yeah, but they’re gonna be in favour because it just it just obviously makes where they’re living nicer.

Tony Waterston 24:36
Yeah. Well, I think you and I agree on that. But it’s the it’s, I don’t think there’s much of a dialogue going on. I think it’s, it’s people shouting and not many people listening. And, and that’s not very good for a local area to have that kind of angry angriness. The, the level of anger has been extraordinary and I’ve tried a few times to get have been through a dialogue and haven’t managed to do that. Yes. A proper dialogue.

Carlton Reid 25:04
Yes, it has been very difficult. And I mean, one Facebook group, private group, 700 people, but only if you’re anti it, you can’t join if you’re not. And they’ve been slagging me off something rotten and I can’t do much about it

Tony Waterston 25:20
The things that have been said have been quite disgraceful, yes. And it’s really sad to see that happening. And the meetings that have been held haven’t been an opportunity to bring out the facts, because it needed to be meeting when all the facts were presented. And that hasn’t really happened to a general, to a general audience, and I think if you tried to do it, now, it will be very difficult that we’re gonna have to concentrate on getting across this.

Carlton Reid 25:48
We’re going to leave Tony there for a second, and hear from some of those opposed to the bollards. But first, here’s my colleague, David, with a short ad break.

David Bernstein 25:59
Hello, everyone. This is David from the Fredcast. And of course, the Spokesmen. And I’m here once again, to tell you that this podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles, the good people at Tern build bikes that make it easier for you to replace car trips with bike trips. Part of that is being committed to designing useful bikes that are also fun to ride. But an even greater priority for Tern, is to make sure that your ride is safe, and worryfree. And that’s why turn works with industry leading third party testing labs like E FB, E, and builds its bikes around Bosch ebike systems, which are UL certified for both electric and fire safety. So before you even zip off on your Tern, fully loaded, and perhaps with a loved one behind, you can be sure that the bike has been tested to handle the extra stresses on the frame, and the rigours of the road. For more information, visit to learn more. And now, back to the Spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 27:08
Thanks, David. And as mentioned before the break, it’s time to hear from some of those residents who are very much opposed to the LTN. I caught up with them at the first roadside demo. And you can watch all of the interviews on a half hour YouTube film I made of the protest letting residents speak their minds. Llink in the show notes.

Jesmond anti-LTN 1 27:30
Just because they cut Jesmond in half. Any traffic wanting to go into town now is either gonna go one way or the other. And if they’re going from the other side of the bollards, then really they’ve got to go come out onto the Coast Road. And if they’re going, if they’re going south or potentially into the city via Sandyford Road, then they’re gonna go along Sandyford Road, whereas in the past, they would have come down here or longer.

Carlton Reid 27:58
But residents can get to every property in the in the street, yes?

Jesmond anti-LTN 1 28:04
I would have thought so, yeah.

Carlton Reid 28:05
So the things that have been stopped, the council would say, the Rat runs the people who don’t?

Jesmond anti-LTN 1 28:12
Well, they would say that they say they’re conducting a consultation, but in my view, it’s a window dressing exercise. They’ve decided what they want to do. They’re not really very interested in whether people want it or not. And they won’t be very interested in whether the people have objected to it or not.

Carlton Reid 28:29
Do you think any of that is caused by the LTN? Or is that something that might have existed beforehand?

Jesmond anti-LTN 2 28:35
Well, ccertainly traffic existed here beforehand. But anecdotally, I would say this traffic jam was two or three times as long as it normally is, at this time of the day. And that’s a direct result of the LTN.

Carlton Reid 28:47
Okay, what would you like the council to do? What what’s what’s what would be your idea?

Jesmond anti-LTN 2 28:52
I would like them to do what it says on the sign. Consultation, there was zero consultation about this LTN. The council will tell you otherwise, but there was not a consultation. Clearly some form of LTN might have some form of advantage. But this is draconian. And it’s ruining people’s lives.

Jesmond anti-LTN 3 29:11
And I just feel that I’m fenced in. I can’t move about, you know.

Carlton Reid 29:17
You’ve got grand …

And I’m presuming here that these are your grandchildren.

Jesmond anti-LTN 3 29:20
These are my grandchildren. They’ve got to go to school. So they live in Southeast Jesmond. The school is in West Jesmond. It’s about a mile walk, which is fine if you haven’t got anything else to do apart from just take the children to school and not go to work and do other things. And if the weather’s good, but if the weather’s going to be you know, it’s bad, it’d be horrendous, you know, I just feel kettled at the minute you know, I don’t want to rule the road in my car, I just want to participate in life in the community of Jesmond.

Carlton Reid 29:49
You say “kettled”, which which has the connotation of “I can’t physically get out.”

Jesmond anti-LTN 3 29:53
Wel, I can physically get out.

Jesmond anti-LTN 4 29:55
Simply because they’re channelling all the vehicles on the streets, so you get massive tailbacks. That means you’re getting more pollution, if you really believe that the combustion engine is really harmful, which Ie personally don’t.

Carlton Reid 30:07
You don’t believe that combustion?

Jesmond anti-LTN 4 and 5 30:08

Carlton Reid 30:08
Would you put your mouth over that exhaust pipe on that car?

Jesmond anti-LTN 4 30:12
Of course not.

Carlton Reid 30:12
So it must be harmful then… Let’s get back to riding along with Tony Waterston.

Tony Waterston 30:19
Yeah. And the thing is, Carlton, that what worries me is it’s going to derail the future developments in Jesmond because there are plans underfoot for a low traffic street, or School Street, and also a low traffic neighbourhood in West Jesmond. So, and I’m afraid that one of the councillors said I think at the last meeting that when asked if there were any further plans, that not at the moment now,

Carlton Reid 30:52
Prior to the election, so election out of the way, they can probably be brave enough to do it. Yes.

Tony Waterston 30:58
Well, I hope so.

Carlton Reid 31:00
Because at the end of the day, the city council has got to improve air quality. It’s a legal requirement that failing. And one of the simplest and easiest ways of doing this is by reducing the amount of motor traffic which LTN’s don’t do that instantly? But all the data, all the scientific studies done to date seems to suggest that it certainly isn’t making things worse. And a lot of the claims that people are saying, you know, using anecdata, yeah, it’s just not panning out.

Tony Waterston 31:33
Yes, though. Well, I think that’s why the needs to be wider discussion, this comes back to climate change, really, with a bigger group and the community as to what measures need to be done to reduce emissions for the benefit of clean air and for the benefit of avoiding 1.5. Or keeping within 1.5, I should say, and I think a lot of people aren’t really, I think, haven’t thought about the methods that you can use to reduce motor traffic, and what’s realistic and what isn’t. And obviously, there are measures national government could make, which it’s not doing, and there are measures local government can take. And this is there seems to be one of the most used, that local government can can take. It’s quite difficult to actually bring in a stick that that works. So I think this this debate, it’s important for people to realise that this this is part of the bigger picture.

Carlton Reid 32:42
Thanks to Tony Waterston there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 327 of the Spokesman podcast brought to you in association with Tern bicycles. Shownotes and more can be found at The next episode out really very, very soon will be a chat with the BBC’ss Anna Holligan and Kate Vandy and the formation of their mobile, news gathering studio, the BBC bike bureau. Meanwhile, get out there and ride …

April 10, 2023 / / Blog

10th April 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 321: I Cycle Therefore I Am — Book Chat With Authors James Hibbard and Max Leonard

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: James Hibbard and Max Leonard

TOPICS: From highbrow psychedelia to being defined as a cyclist — discussing “The Art of Cycling: Philosophy, Meaning and a Life on Two Wheels” with author James Hibbard and blurb supplier and author Max Leonard.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 326 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Monday, April the 10th 2023.

David Bernstein 0:28
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are 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 1:03
I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s longer than usual show, one hour and 45 minutes, I talk with ex professional cyclist James Hibbard, author of The Art of cycling a lyrical book on philosophy and a life lived on two wheels. And joining me in a sort of tag team was fellow author Max Leonard, who supplied one of the blurbs for James’s wonderful book. I am honoured today to be joined by two authors, one of whom Max Leonard is actually on my timezone. So Hi Max, and whereabouts are you Max Today

Max Leonard 1:49
I am in sunny East London.

Carlton Reid 1:51
It’s sunny in Newcastle as well you know we’re living the dream here in the UK at the moment, not in the UK and not on our timezone. We have another author another cycling connected author because we’re all cycling connected authors here at James Hibbard. So hi there, James.

James Hibbard 2:09
How you doing Carlton? Very good to actually be on the podcast and it’s sunny as well in Northern California. Although that’s probably a little less funny than a less surprising than sun in the UK.

Carlton Reid 2:20
Now, people on this podcast, we have a frequent number of guests from Southern California who I always joke and say what’s the weather like there? Because I know it’s going to be you know, the worst that’s going to happen is they might have to put arm warmers on you know bad that literally is generally the worst they have to do

James Hibbard 2:37
up here it’s actually been a bit a bit bad Carlton it’s been bad in Northern California here it’s been like like rain like I never recall since childhood so it’s not it’s not always saw

Carlton Reid 2:49
you on I guess it Northern California is different isn’t because most of the guests who are regulars on here are Southern California. Oh, we’re gonna be do get more weather that we get a lot more

James Hibbard 2:58
and we’re going to be talking a lot hopefully about California. And yeah, I think we can dive into some of the big cultural differences

in fact, between southern and northern California when it comes to cycling culture, okay.

Carlton Reid 3:09
So at first I want to I want to because we’re going to be doing a tag team sort of here or a Madison you know, thrown off kind of thing here with with me and Max, we are going to be ganging up a little bit on on James and we will talk about it because it’s James as in effect, Second Edition, so paperback edition of his book, rather than that that first paperback hardback version of his book. But let’s get to max. First of all, Max, I’ve done numerous stories. Well, at least two on your Kickstarter books, including one of which I know you’re working on now on a famous California mechanic. So you can tell us about that. But can you first of all, tell us about you’ve done other books, you’ve done a kind of a cycling climbs book and what and why cyclists are attracted to going up against gravity. And you’ve also done a book about the last rider in a race I almost want to say lose it there. But of course the the person’s last in a bike race isn’t a loser at all. So to ground us on this this show by first of all, Max telling us about

Max Leonard 4:17
your books. Okay? Yes, my first in inverted commas. Proper book was called lanten Rouge, the last man in the Tour de France. And that really does exactly what it says on the tin. And the last guy in the tool was given the nickname the lantern Rouge. The Red Lantern, probably after the lantern that used to swing on the back of a on the back of a train to show the guard that every character has passed through. And I think it was a kind of underdog thing given by the fans. It was never an official Tour de France classification. They didn’t like it because they thought it you know celebs I did failure and it took the shine off the winner and took the focus off. But actually, I thought, you know, cycling is a nice road cycling is a team sport and you have all these other aspects to the story, you’ve got, you know, self self sacrifice. You’ve got, you know, working for your leader, you’ve got the teamwork aspect, you’ve got sort of horrendous injuries, you’ve got incredible stories of really great cyclists who’ve managed one way or another, to come last. So really, that was digging down into, you know, trying to subvert the ideas of success and failure. And, you know, take a look at what we mean when we think about those things. And, you know, for in a lot of ways, if cycling, cycling race is just a publicity game, then, you know, the last guy in the race gets a lot of publicity, then he’s really done done a dozen responses and, and guys use people used to hide a hide behind cars and you know, lose time deliberately to try and get last place.

Carlton Reid 6:04
Right, and then and then your gravity book.

Max Leonard 6:06
Yeah, well, it’s called a higher calling. And this is maybe where we’re getting kind of more into Joneses kind of territory, because high calling was was the subtitle is, cycling’s obsession with mountains. And, and that end is really trying to work out why we like going to the mountains and why we like doing something that’s so difficult in a way. And so that breaks down into a few different things you can say, Well, partly there’s the kind of, you know, competition thing. So I, I went to a mountain in the south of France, but the bonnet in the Alps, which is the highest mountain, the highest road passed in the Alps, or at least, that’s what the signs say, and how to try to dig into, you know, the kind of competition of Tour de France and the dirt Italia and all the beautiful history, but also the natural environment you’re in the kind of the training that goes into it, and people who are around there and and the history of the place, and all the different things that make mountains such sort of special obsession for cyclists.

Carlton Reid 7:12
And the Alps and mountains and bikes comes into the jobs Bradbrook really he was, he was a big champion of cycling in Europe, wasn’t he? Yeah, it

Max Leonard 7:23
gets Brian was he was a, a strange character, who I heard of, because he he he made what is the kind of the definitive text on wheel building, or at least it was back when people used to actually build wheels and not just buy them ready made it from a factory. And he was a California cyclists to kind of a mentor to people like Tom Ritchie and other frame builders in the area, and he died in 2015, I should say so. So if you were alive now he’d be he’d be 90 or so. And he wrote, he wrote in the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Sierra Nevada and all these amazing places in California and just took his road bike into the dirt in ways that people in the 50s and 60s 70s 80s just didn’t really do, I’m talking about before mountain biking, before mountain bikes were invented, and definitely before gravel bikes and all of that. But he also would come to the Alps every year for 50 years, and do kind of exactly the same route, or pretty much but depending on the weather, each time staying in the same places and taking pictures in the same place at the same place for 50 years in a row. And he left behind this amazing archive of photos and ride reports and stuff like that. And he was he was pretty influential and into it big in the bike industry to his own sort of weird outsider kind of way. So he he worked with a local company in California not far from where James is called avocets and came up with all sorts of stuff that they then put on the market

Carlton Reid 9:07
and local computers and and all sorts of things like that.

Max Leonard 9:11
Exactly. He was a was the guy who came up with the idea of riding trendless tires, which people thought was crazy when when he when he he proposed it and everyone else had some tread on it. He said you know he was a real kind of engineers engineer and he proved to Avocet and then to the rest of the industry that that be you got more traction from a from a trendless tire and that you can actually lean further at least you know if you’re talking about a perfect tarmacked road anyway so so yeah, he was really interesting guy and I remember seeing these photos of him years ago and being blown away by this. He was six foot five and so he had a bike frame that was about I think we had a 65 centimetre frame with a head tube as long as as long as my arm basically and There it is, then there’s pictures of him in the Alps on on gravel roads before they’re all tarmacs and just, you know, sort of expanded the idea of what cycling could be for me.

Carlton Reid 10:10
And what stage are you at with that? Because you you were successful in your Kickstarter. So what stage are you at now?

Max Leonard 10:15
We are just finalising the layouts and spreads and it goes to print in the next few weeks. So it is it. The hard work is almost done. But it’ll be a while till it’s out. It’ll be around in your sometime in the summer.

Carlton Reid 10:34
And then there’s, there’s a slight link there in that, you know, you’d unmade up roads, cycling in the Alps. Sunny cycling in the mountains, is a link to another one of your books, which is also kickstarted, which was like the rest of fellowship?

Max Leonard 10:51
Yeah, exactly. And probably the context of these these photo based books is I decided that I started a publishing company a few years ago, and have just by accident, I guess or by luck come across these amazing archives of photos and things. The rough stuff fellowship was, they’re known as the oldest, the world’s oldest off road bike club, founded in 1955, in a pub in Leinster, which is in Herefordshire, not far from the Welsh Welsh border. And that it seems funny to think about it, but back then the idea of off road, they call it rough stuff. And actually, the roads themselves can’t have been, you know, lots of them in very good quality at all. So the idea that they’d go off and seek the kind of byways and bridle paths and that kind of thing. Really set them aside from cycling of year and they would not, they’re very non competitive, it was all about camping and enjoying the outdoors and that kind of thing.

Carlton Reid 11:54
And also masochist, there’s an awful lot of masochism, there wasn’t that there was still like, you know, there were quite happy to walk up stuff, which was

Max Leonard 12:05
one of the founder members, he, his famous, infamous quote from him says, I never go for a walk without my bike. And so I think basically, that, you know, they just wanted to get out into the great outdoors. And you know, we’re happy pushing their bikes if if it meant that they could go across, you know, pass in the Lake District, or through a field or up on the walls or the Fells. And, again, they left behind this incredible, I say, left behind, the club is still going strong. But you know, over the past 50 6070 years, they’ve created an amazing archive of beautiful pictures of people carrying their bikes through fields, essentially.

Carlton Reid 12:48
So that masochism, and the outlier ism is definitely going to be picked out here when we’re talking to James because James is the author of and I’m going to just name the whole title here and it’s subhead, the art of cycling, philosophy, meaning and a life on two wheels. Now I’ve given before before we came on air here, I gave maxed, complete carte blanche to jump in whenever he wants to on this. But I have got a bunch of questions for James as we go through here, but I’m going to start by by by maybe describing before I even come up with the first question I kind of described because I’ve read James’s book is fascinating. It’s wonderful. I know it’s been shortlisted for a bunch of awards. And this as I said before, this is like the paperback edition that we’re talking about now, because the hardback clearly has been successful. And the publisher who’s the publisher,

James Hibbard 13:54
it’s quick, it’s in the UK and Pegasus in the United States, we’ll be publishing the hardback on May 2 of this year. So it’s the first American edition.

Carlton Reid 14:03
So I’ll just describe it to people. I mean, I want people to go out and buy of course and read it for themselves, but I’ll just give it a brief thumbnail sketch just kind of philosophy for Dummies, but we’ve added spandex. And then you’ve got this challenging three day ride with two of your fast mates. So you’ve got two, two former pro cyclists because you James, you’re from a pro cyclist in the US, right? So there’s this it’s this kind of interplay between the history, mostly of Western philosophical thought there’s some Eastern stuff, there’s certainly a fair bit of Zen stuff in there towards the end of it’s only Western stuff. Then it’s that it’s almost like why we cycle there’s a definite section there and that the pain and the suffering and the masochism definitely comes out there and then the kind of the almost the owner ism comm comes out there and how cycling attracts perhaps a certain kind of person. And but then you’ve got this, this, this, just it’s a narrative of how I’d like to say enjoyable, but of course it’s cycling. So it’s not enjoyable. It’s just something that you suffered with fellow riders. So there’s you leave your wife and your young child, and you go off and you haven’t written for a long time. And they’re 10 years, since you’d written

James Hibbard 15:32
at least 10 years since I’d written seriously. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 15:35
So it’s there’s a nice die certainly associate myself with that period of not riding and then getting back into because you’re like, basically training to go on a training ride, right? So there’s, there’s that huge segment of the book is power hub in Canada, but it’s probably the biggest segment of look is actually this narrative of this ride in California, with with with your your mate. So that’s basically what the book is about. It’s a very long book, very interesting and fascinating books. I’m not belittling, like there, but I’m kind of trying to precis it anyway. But first of all, because there are bits in there, that I’m when I’m reading this I know parts of where you are, because you’re Morgan Hill. Yes, indeed.

James Hibbard 16:20
So yeah, really a little bit south of San Jose is where I grew up. So that that gives you any

Carlton Reid 16:25
Morgan Hill is is um, you say in there, it’s like it’s saw the convergence of cycling and the counterculture and as soon as I read that, I thought of Gary Fisher. I thought of mountain biking I thought of Grateful Dead right and and their connection with cycling and then Morgan Hill of course, you have I’m sure you must all the time. When you go riding you must see Mike’s in yard. And and the specialised Indian riders who go out and suffer. Every lunchtime

James Hibbard 16:55
I did and actually spent some time working

working for specialised as well. So I know, I know, Mike. And certainly that whole sort of ecosystem that Max was alluding to, of really a counterculture meeting, cycling, is very much grounded in the Bay Area, the peninsula companies like Richie Avocet, specialised in Mike’s vineyard, Jim genties, and Jiro. So this whole sort of confluence of 1960s counterculture meets European road cycling. And and I think that that was certainly a pre Lance Armstrong era, and very much an era that that influenced me through my first club. And the shops owner, who I mentioned in the book named Terry Shaw. And this whole sort of ecosystem of looking at the Kony manual and juniors ride rollers in small gears, a very sort of, I think, lost lost art view of what the sport of cycling is, in a very sort of describing

Carlton Reid 18:05
the book. The coding manual is, yeah, SEO and I dot dot, dot, dot, dot, then in Italian, purely translated book, so but just tell people who don’t know what the coding manual is.

James Hibbard 18:16
So it’s this, when there was very, very little information on what European cyclists were doing. The Kony manual was a training manual that was translated from the Italian into English, and essentially, was the only sort of insight window into into how it was that that European cyclists were so much better than American cyclists, right, when there was this sort of continental European mystery about the sport, the sort of first insight in I believe, was the late 70s, that it first showed up in the United States. But this was the sort of of manual that that was up there with, okay, how does how to all the great Italians, how does even sort of great Belgian writers, how is this being done, and this the coney manual versus sort of proxy insight into European cycling at a time when there was this very, very little knowledge of what was was actually being done from a physiological perspective.

Carlton Reid 19:16
So just bringing Max back into this in that the reason I’ve connected you to is because I got a press release from from your publisher in the US asking me to, to write about this book, and I needed to go back and said, Well, yes, I’d like to get more information. But what jumped out at me of course, is that because I know Max, and Max is one of the names that’s on the blurb of your book, and he is on the press release. So it’s like oh, well, Max, I you know, I’ve been in you know, in rooms writing with Max in on the same publication. So let’s Max in here. So Max, what What is your connection? And you could even maybe even read out your blurb But you’ve said for for James But But what? What is your take on James’s book? Maybe you want to like maybe change my precis into a different precis?

Max Leonard 20:10
Oh gosh, well, I don’t have the blurb in front of me actually, I was I was searching high and low for my physical copy only, but I do have I do have the PDF, thankfully. So I managed to brush up on it again before coming on air but it’s just a coincidence that James and I are published by the same guys and in the States. But James wrote to me, I can’t remember when but you know, back when this before it was published in hardback and said, he really appreciate me giving it read and quiet and, and I did and while I gave it and read and I was just sort of enchanted by the way that it mixed together, the kind of personal story and the stuff that’s very grounded in in him and, and his his journey through through being a pro cyclist and became perhaps becoming a bit disillusioned with that and then picking up a biker gang and then going on this, this ride down the coast of California with the kind of wider things, you know, wider questions of life and bringing all these different philosophies into it and, you know, slotting names that I knew a bit of but not very much about, you know, Nietzsche Vidkun, Stein, Sartre, you a bit bit about Sartre actually, but but, you know, bringing them in and making them applicable both to cycling and into the kind of things that happen to you and your cycling, and whether that’s physical or emotional, or, or, you know, the kind of the pain that you’re talking, you’ve talked about Carlton already, but also, I think that I liked, particularly in the you know, I spent a while on a bike over the years, putting out different things and quite nice things about mountains and history and that sort of thing. I guess, but my higher calling book, you know, trying to ask the why of why we why we like mountains, that kind of thing. But one of the things I always thought about cycling was was that, you know, you know, you say I’m gonna get on my bike, and I’m gonna go out and, and think about something, maybe I’m stuck on something at work or something like that. And you got enough to two minutes, you don’t think about anything, you know, your brain has completely, completely wipes and then you come home, and then usually to me, it happens, I get in the shower, and then I suddenly have a brainwave. But but the idea of not thinking, I think is really super important. And that’s something that James comes to very quickly in the book and kind of explores, I don’t know what you think about that, James, with, there’s more more you can say about the kind of perverse attraction of not thinking?

James Hibbard 22:49
Well, I think, I mean, I keep sort of bringing it back to California culture. And I think what’s very interesting about the current cultural moment, that’s, that’s very California, but it’s very spread Absolutely, globally, is the sort of internet and this hyper rational belief that everything that can be accomplished, and the things that are most significant and most pressing, all have very tangible, rational answers, right? Where sort of what we’re talking about in terms of thinking is, in fact, price so highly in our in our current cultural moment. That what we’re talking about and trying to describe in terms of sort of using Zen or using Nietzsche or a figure like Heidegger, this idea of not thinking, because you’re so engaged in the physical world. And then the tangible is, I think, increasingly being lost by always being online and plugged in, and what tends to be valued things like writing code, or being productive. And I think that that while those are very, very important, and have certainly been emphasised, by 2500 years of Western philosophy, you’re losing a lot of what it is to be human by thinking that that is the only important experience of what it is to be alive. So I think that that the art of cycling could have been about playing the violin, it could have been about digging ditches, it could have been about chess, anything that just really pushes you back into the tangible world and not this world of rational abstraction.

Carlton Reid 24:30
That tangible world, which you describe in the book, and you talked about how cyclists are very much concentrating on the moment and and yes, as as Max was saying, you know, you almost think about very little, but when you’re what you don’t you don’t see cyclists generally on their phones, looking at screens, bringing it back to that, that that point you’re raising, right, but you do see motorists on this. Unfortunately, you see motorists on their, on their screens, very frequently, so there’s something about cycling and not just the fact you’re on skinny tires. And if you crash, you’re gonna hurt yourself, there’s potentially something more about cycling, the VIS serial aspect of cycling, that where you you’re really not enveloped by anything right very close to nature in a way that you know, even a sports car, a driver of a sports car is not connected to nature in that way. So what is it about cycling that makes you not be attached to your screen? Whereas in a car, you are you potentially you want to be attached to a screen. So because you think it’s so boring that you can just do it without having to pay attention?

James Hibbard 25:39
Well, I think I think if you you think through let’s go back to car. I mean, you’re absolutely right. But let’s go back and not lumped cars all together, let’s think about 1960s MG with a manual transmission being driven on a mountain road with a convertible, right, that’s the sort of one spectrum of driving an automobile. Another would be driving a Tesla down Highway 101. In California, right, you’re completely isolated, you’re your temperature controlled everything else. along that spectrum. I think that what’s what’s interesting to think about is this idea of how mediated it is, right your your experience in your interface with the automobile and, and hence with the road. So in one instance, you’ve got a manual transmission, and you’re trying to sort of feel through the gearshift, you’re having to sense what’s going on on the road surface. And that’s coming through direct actual mechanical interfaces rather than some computer system. So I think that that you just keep on that spectrum in terms of things either being mediated through different computer interfaces or not. And the bicycle is, of course, even less mediated than even a bike with di two and electronic shifting is less mediated than, for example, that mg. So I think that the amount of feedback that you’re getting from the environment, and whether that feedback is direct, or run through some other system to make it ostensibly easier to control or handle, is really the the way to start to think through that this idea of mediation, I think is huge when you’re operating a vehicle that’s hurtling through space, what that vehicle is telling you and how.

Carlton Reid 27:34
Because you make the point in the book about how you know speed, we all like speed, cyclists don’t like speed and logic like speed, but it’s not in the real world, you know, we are very often going very fast in our car, in an aeroplane or whatever. But we’re divorced from that, right. Whereas on a bicycle, you’re not divorced from that speed, you you’re potentially in spandex. You are that you as you say the two square centimetres of rubber is, you know, you’re gonna hurt yourself, if you fall off, or if you get in a car, you seem as though you’re going to ride 70 miles now I’ll survive that.

James Hibbard 28:07
Right? Right, the lack of of feeling that there’s consequences in a car is certainly different than, than when you’re on a bike. I mean, you you sort of 35 miles an hour on the descent feels like 85 miles an hour easily in an automobile. So yeah, this sort of sense of existential threat and consequences is on a bike is massively different than, than that of being in a car, particularly being in a modern, modern car with air conditioning and everything else. You’re just you’re, as you say, absolutely divorced from the environment in a way that you’re not. You’re certainly not ever on a bicycle.

Carlton Reid 28:51
And you make a good point. I hadn’t actually thought of this before about why, you know, people might say the pros, preferred tubular tires. And you’re describing that very well. And you’d like two or three paragraphs of it, just it just you feel the curve. You feel everything much more because of that particular profile. Right. And I hadn’t really thought of it in that way before. It’s like, yes, you should, is daft to have a tubular tie for all sorts of reasons. But you just described as like, yes, but the feeling you get from a tubular tie is unlike the control you feel you have, right.

James Hibbard 29:27
I mean, it’s just to sort of illustrate I mean, a tubular tire has a round profile that’s glued to the rim, whereas a clincher has a U shape. And you can just sort of think as you’re leaning a bicycle over, having a very consistent round profile as the bike is is leaned over to a greater and greater extent as opposed to a U shape is hugely advantageous to just have a sense for you’re not you don’t have a changing profile along with the change in the angle of the lean of the bicycle. which is a massive advantage. And yeah, I mean, I love the feel of a beautiful Italian made tubular like nothing else. The way it rolls over pavement and just resonates. Max, what

Carlton Reid 30:12
do you what are you writing on? Was did that resonate with you? Is that the were you like nodding your head heading? Oh yeah, I’m at my tubeless this afternoon. Are you? Are you a tubular rider? Are you a clincher rider? Are you a gravel bike? You want the fatter? What are you?

Max Leonard 30:28
I’m just trying to think I don’t think I’ve ever written a to the tire. Unless it was on a higher bike a track bike somewhere. But no, I’ve only ever had. clinches and latterly on my gravel bike, I’ve got tubeless but no, I, I mainly ride a what was it a kind of pretty traditional steel framed road bike with with rim brakes and you know, everything tried and tested and it’s a it’s a nice it’s a new frame and it’s stainless steel and it’s a it’s it’s pretty advanced in a lot of ways but but that’s my main ride and then I do have a gravel bike. So that’s that’s tubeless and that has squirted gunk on me all difficult situations when I would have preferred to mate well, when I’ve had to put a tube in and, and deal with it like that. So far out in the world. There was nothing else to do. But um,

Carlton Reid 31:29
so as any one of us on this podcast is a is a tubular fan. I’m with you there, Max, I’m not writing to you.

James Hibbard 31:36
They’re a royal pain. So there’s no there’s no in many ways they’re they’re indefensible.

Max Leonard 31:42
It’s funny, I don’t I don’t know when high end clinches came in, in the USA because working on this Yoast Brand Book has has it when he was writing right the way through the 60s in the 70s he would be taking his his road bike out onto the dirt roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains with tubular tires and and then every Wednesday they’d have they’d call them patching parties. So everyone and they’d have they’d have like an assembly line of people doing jobs because to men that cheapen the tires, because obviously, you know, you’re pretty likely to get flat if you take a road bike out onto a dirt or gravel or rocky, rocky road but but I think the rough stuff fellowship who also like to take their bikes on suitable places, they always look to be riding them to be riding clinches with an inner tube. So maybe it was just the hot kind of higher end of clinches that didn’t come through in the States or maybe they’re just a different culture.

James Hibbard 32:47
Yeah, I think it was really a higher end closers that didn’t show up until about 2003 2004. To be honest, I mean, anything that one would want to race on. I mean, I remember it being very late for higher end clinchers. And that used to be a situation where, yeah, train on clinchers race on tubulars was sort of the, the go to through I’d say about like, man, like 2004 2005 I did it pretty late.

Carlton Reid 33:14
So So James, I want to I want to drag this back to your book, and I will drag us back to philosophy, even. But I want to start I mean, because because there is I’m gonna I absolutely want to get in and there is depression in your book. There’s suicides in your family in your book, and I absolutely don’t want to to not talk about them because they’re important parts of your book. But I’d like to talk about something that I don’t even even know how much you’re paying attention to this but as a former pro I’m guessing you must have at least a thought on this. So you talk about Lance Armstrong era in your book obviously and the doping parts of it but that that era you know famously and you describe the Moser the our record where you almost like date the how technology took over cycling your data from like the Moser, our successful beating the max record. But the Lance Armstrong era is when when I think what most people recognise that really has come to its absolute peak. When it’s very regimented. It’s fixated on equipment there’s there’s there’s doping. Oh, martyrs. There’s Mod all these sorts of marginal gains, you know, with which again with the sky team took to it instead of, but we’re now in the era, a different era. We’re in the era of pocket char. Who’s a throwback to mercs that riding on gut instinct and pain and strength. You know, the blood and guts kind of writing that maybe you grew up on because you in your book, you describe it about how much you you grew up on that kind of European fantasy of nine Tene 50s cycling, so I’m not going to bring into the into the philosophical realm. So my question is, is pocket char, if you are paying attention to to his feats right now, which are just super, super dominant. So is he an example of nature’s own image, not the Superman, as you quite rightly point out in your book, but overmatch

James Hibbard 35:25
that there’s certainly athletes that fall into the category. I’ve I think that as I’ve moved away from sport, I’ve become a little bit more measured in terms of an athlete’s ability to fully sort of fulfil. Nietzsche has overmatch category, I think that that there has to be a measure of of artistry in it as well. And I think that poker chart comes close on that front, I think that only time will tell sort of what, if anything, is is fully legitimate. And I still worry a little bit about that in the back of my mind about the sport. So I’m, that’s why I’m a little bit guarded. But certainly his sort of style of racing, I think, is refreshing, and absolutely good for the sport. As opposed to sort of what we were talking about, and what you alluded to the sort of sky Armstrong, not just not merely the doping, but as you mentioned, a very sort of marginal gains obsessive approach to the sport that makes for very boring viewership or not emotional racing, sort of just a game of power metres and attrition. So I think that that he’s absolutely closer to this sort of Nietzsche and ideal. But sort of given my distance to the sport, I always remain a bit a bit sceptical, and these things take as we’ve seen, not just the years, but sometimes decades to fully come out. So I think the the jury is still out a little bit to be

Max Leonard 37:03
honest, it’s very, it must be very difficult being being like a, like a sort of mid or late career pro cyclist at the moment, if you’re, let’s say, you’re like 28, or, or 30. Right? Because Because, because like because there’s this new generation of just totally come and blown everything away. And it’s like, they basically they have let anyone else have a chance and Pikachu is is obviously one of them. And but you know, you there’s Evan pool as well, right, even Tom Pidcock there’s just guys that seems, you know, pretty neat other level and kind of training and stuff that they do is,

James Hibbard 37:46
yeah, there’s a whole there’s a whole group of guys about a five to eight year age band that just appear to have been totally leapfrogged over. I mean, we went from like, yeah, Valverde to

Carlton Reid 37:57

James Hibbard 37:59
With with I don’t I don’t know the math off the top of my head for birth years there. But it there’s there’s a sort of a big, big, I’m being a bit hyperbolic there. But a pretty big goals in terms of, as you mentioned, Max, yeah, guys that are 28 to 3435, who just apparently that that generation just didn’t have the the talent and bubble that you see for, for some of the younger guys,

Carlton Reid 38:24
that probably just doesn’t seem to have a troubled background. So it’s relatively reasonably famous that, you know, the best athletes, or the perhaps the best entrepreneurs, the best of everything, tend to have some sort of damaged, family background, personal background, and that’s what makes them strive. Is that something that you recognise, James, is that something that?

James Hibbard 38:50
I think? Yeah, I think that I think it’s a double edged sword. I mean, I think that certainly a sort of troubled background driving someone’s succeed, properly can can sort of be spun into fuel. And, but I think there’s a razor thin line in terms of that fuel turning self destructive. So I think that that for some number of people, it works and some number of successful athletes, it works at least for a given period. But then I think that there’s there’s also I recall seeing years ago, and obviously this is extra convoluted by the matter of, of doping, but some East German studies about the psychological profiles of elite athletes, that sort of just found almost the opposite, that being calm, level headed, good family background, able to deal with setbacks. Well all of these sort of pretty straight laced psychological profiles actually succeed as professional athletes at a higher rate than the sort of pro Both characters who might turn bad childhoods or ill psychological health into results in their given sport. So I think that that’s a definite double edged sword.

Max Leonard 40:12
It’s an interesting one because I had a guy speak recently cool them think he’s a doctor Dr. Lou Hardy, Professor Lee Hardy. He’s a climber and as it was a became a top level sports psychologist and he was part of various studies where he was where he made it made a distinction between, quote unquote, normal Olympians ie those who just, you know, maybe get a bronze medal or maybe even a gold but don’t do it over and over again. And and the kind of multiple med medalists the people who produce and who, who outstrip up their own achievements year after year. And and his his conclusion was that yes, there was this kind of element in, in, in a lot of their parts, there’s a common element of having a really a troubled childhood or some kind of, you know, something missing that they were trying to make up for.

James Hibbard 41:12
I think that that’s an interesting distinction, I think makes sense. I mean, you can think of, for example, the American swimmer, Michael Phelps, who has been very candid about some mental health struggles after his retirement certainly fits that that category of super Olympian. So I think that that distinction seems super interesting to me, Max and spot on, as you sort of run through the laundry list of

Carlton Reid 41:39
James. That’s that at that point, because in your book, you’re very open about the depression. Yeah. And the mental health issues you went through. So again, without wishing to spoil the whole book, were you to this? Can you just summarise it? And talk about what you you mentioned in the book? And also, was the book cathartic for you? So did it actually help your mental health? writing it?

James Hibbard 42:12
So it’s a tackle that one tackling that one? First? I would say? Probably not. I think that that there’s this idea in terms of writing that.

I think perhaps writing that is not for public consumption. Can can be cathartic. But I think that when one is writing with the idea of the knowledge, contract sign, things like this, that a book is going to be consumed publicly. I think that there’s an entirely different mindset that a writer brings to it. And you have to move away from personal, perhaps indulgent catharsis, to sort of hopefully artistic success and something that’s pleasurable for a reader. So it ended up for me definitely, unfortunately, not being cathartic. But in terms of in terms of sort of general mental health, and the way I’ve thought about it and approached it. I think that the two, the two things that I’ve pursued very vigorously my life have been cycling and philosophy, where I certainly had the idea that I was going to be an academic philosopher for a time. And I think that both of those things, in retrospect, I was trying to outrun a lot of my own demons, and it’s difficult to tell the extent to which those demons are situational or environmental or genetic. As you mentioned, there certainly is a history of depression and suicide that runs through my family. And I think that that one one is struggling with mental health. Everyone is familiar with with Rene Descartes and this idea of Cartesian Dualism, and you certainly run into that on a minute by minute basis when you’re really struggling with with depression, you sort of think well, is this owing to some genetic predisposition constitution and the way certain neural chemicals are being taken up in my synapses? Or is this something that that I can think or snap my way out of? And, and, unfortunately, the snap my way out approach, as ridiculous as it sounds, to any sort of person who’s suffered with depression or mental health, there’s an odd temptation to it. And you can sort of think that, geez, if I just try harder, there’s some way out of this thing. And it’s, it’s a very tricky, bizarre thing to navigate. And I think for me that the thought was for me Initially, if I’m just a successful enough athlete, everything will feel better. And there’s something very tempting about having depression, having anxiety, and going and riding your bike for five hours and a difficult training session, you’re just exhausted, you’re no longer anxious, you’re no longer depressed. So I think that that the sort of obsessive nature and the striving of sport sort of kicked the ball of my mental health challenges from the first sort of, I confronted in my my late teens, kicked at much, much later. And then I saw some of those answers in the same things and philosophy thinking that boy, if I if I merely understand things, things are going to be different in my mind, and my outlook is going to be entirely changed. If I somehow grasp philosopher XYZ in some fundamental way, this will shift my my brain and hence my relationship to the world and in a very basic way that will be beneficial. And the the gist of the book is, both of those don’t work well.

Carlton Reid 46:10
You describe that very well, in the book, and you’ve certainly got a background that I didn’t have, in that you seem to have conversations with your parents and your father about sugar from a very early age your father, you can’t see any cycling background to the rest of your family. philosophy comes very much from your your father’s you are having deep conversations, and it seems from like 10 years old, with your father on philosophy, but is that right in saying your cycling is a disconnect with your family, but of course, the philosophy has come from your phone.

James Hibbard 46:48
Yeah, there’s more definitely more familial continuity with philosophy. My father studied philosophy under a relatively renowned Heidegger scholar in the 60s who came from Germany at Stanford. So very much a familial connection to particularly German philosophy through my father. And generally the fact that he was around the sort of Bay Area 1960s counterculture where this sort of whole idea of not just philosophy but philosophy, changing your mind and changing your perceptions, right, this sort of can Kizzy Timothy Leary, guided ideal of what thinking could do. And that reality,

Carlton Reid 47:35
as well. Yeah. Not just

James Hibbard 47:37
not just thinking but yeah, absolutely. Yes. bound up with with with psychedelic drugs and but sort of what I was exposed to it was a sort of, I suppose high brow psychedelia. Where, where? Yes, certainly, like drugs were discussed, but sort of in service of reality, not being what it appears on the face of it. And in retrospect, I’m not sure how useful this is to convey to to kids, to be honest.

Carlton Reid 48:12
But you see, you’ve come from a milieu which discussed drugs. Yeah, I’m not saying you took LSD, or your family took LSD. And then you went into a sport that was famously certainly in the era that you were in and you were disgusted. Yeah. That you’ve seen discussed that frequently. Not just in your own book, but forward. Other books, right. The Paul Kimmage book, right. So there’s drugs have suffused both parts of your world potentially and you haven’t partaken of either.

James Hibbard 48:43
That’s funny. I’ve never really connected the two to be honest. I’ve always thought of, I guess just performance enhancing drugs just being on a different planet than then sort of anything psychedelic

Carlton Reid 48:57
Mind Mind enhancing drugs. Yeah. So what is body? Mind enhancing?

James Hibbard 49:03
Yeah, I just, I honestly, never really thought of them in the same sentence. And yeah, to be candid to begin, and like, while I was a teenager, I did with a good high school friend

took psilocybin and thought it was very interesting, thought that it was nothing I needed to return to continually it was not the I don’t know if you’re familiar, I mentioned Alan Watts, the sort of English popularizer of Zen, who had a long standing Barry of radio programme. He sort of, there’s a quote from him that I always remember when it comes to psychedelic drugs which was you know, once you get the phone call, you hang up you sort of have this experience, you realise that that reality is not constituted as the way your your teachers and your mentors and your parents and and the sort of local Lions Club would How do you believe If and then you take that information and live differently and hopefully better in a more sincere way than then everyone going to a nine to five job. And that was the sort of message that that I’ve received not only growing up, but also was was the one that permeated the cycling culture that I found.

Max Leonard 50:19
I think that’s really interesting, because because I think that the sense that you get, at least partly in in the US is that cycling is a is a kind of rebellion, isn’t it, it’s kind of against the, against car culture. And it was a very much a subculture for a long time. And from what I’ve read, and people I’ve spoken to, you know, Northern California was, you know, a kind of hotbed of, of cycling, and in a country that didn’t much care about it for for a long, long, long time. And, but I you know, I went to Palo Alto, which is not far away from where you are, last year to talk, guys and, and just as, it’s kind of, like, magical, and you’ve got these amazing mountains, and it’s beautiful, and like, like we’ve seen the sun shines most of the time. And then you’ve got these, you know, you’ve got the kind of rebels of cycling you’ve got the Gary Fisher’s and the and the Tom Richards and Joe breezes and Charlie Cunningham of the guys who invented a new thing and had like, kind of amazing attitude that comes through in New York, that part of California and so many different ways, but I was Why do you think cycling and and you’re a part of California and has been such a fruitful kind of thing?

James Hibbard 51:36
What is it? First of all, I think it’s very much changed. I mean, I think that that that sort of counterculture was allowed to flourish before Google and Apple and and sort of the financial pressures have come to dominate the Bay Area and the Santa Clara Valley and Palo Alto. Now to such an extent that I think that sort of counterculture is is really being greatly squelched. So I think that was, first of all, a sort of cultural snapshot moment from, say, the 50s, through perhaps the early 90s, if you’re being generous. But I think that the reason that that, that that confluence of factors allowed for cycling to be the sort of counterculture thing was, first of all, the the number of universities that are very close proximity. There’s Stanford University, obviously, in Palo Alto, University of California at Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, San Jose State. So there’s a huge clustering of of universities and the sort of energy that comes from young people in universities and the counterculture. And I think that going back to psychedelic drugs, there were even a lot of government experiments about the usages of the usage of LSD for more nefarious purposes. Those were done at the Palo Alto VA. People like Ken kz, were very famously involved in some of those experiments. So going back to colleges, I don’t know if if this is the case in the UK, but almost all psych experiments throughout the 20th century were done on college undergraduates, including psychedelic drugs by the US government. So I think that that’s an interesting compounding historical factor that drove some of this.

Carlton Reid 53:40
And interestingly, the Yes, Max, the absolutely the amazing cycling culture of the Bay Area is just Yes, it’s amazing. But you’ve also got almost counter to that, in that Palo Alto, is the home of vehicular cycling. So John Forrester, that’s where he was was nabbed for cycling on the sidewalk at one point, which then leads to a huge movement of, you know, rejecting bike paths, you know, for for a good time in America. And you could almost argue that America or that that part of America has given Yes, and mountain biking and counterculture of cycling, but it’s also given you 2030 years of not going down the Dutch route and not asking for bike paths because we’re policemen pulling over a cyclist John Forrester in Palo Alto.

Max Leonard 54:37
Interesting, interested know that I didn’t know that.

James Hibbard 54:40
I didn’t know that either. It I’m not I’m not surprised, though, in a lot of ways, because I do think that what’s what’s difficult to pin down, I suppose about any complex intellectual problem or cultural area, but the number of sort of competing threads and To weird enigmatic things where you try and sort of pin something down as being bike friendly hub. And then you have an example like that sort of pushing all against it. And I think that that those sort of enigmas are throughout the the Bay Area’s DNA in a lot of ways.

Carlton Reid 55:20
I guess because you’ve got, yeah, you’ve got both pro and con there at the same time, because it’s such a rabid bicycling culture, you’re gonna get both sides of it. And at this, at this juncture, I would like to cut for an ad break. So I’m gonna go across to my colleague, David, who also happens to be in America.

David Bernstein 55:36
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Carlton Reid 56:47
And we are back had Thanks, David. We are back with James Hibbard, author of a philosophy book, a cycling book, a book about a nice trip with his mates, going to almost credit card touring because you sent your your your stuff ahead and you you didn’t carry stuff on your bike. So you sent stuff ahead, James. And we also had Max Leonard, who as we heard in the intro is an author of a goodly number of fantastic books on a wide range of very Catholic interest you’ve got on cycling, I can’t even think about thread that pulls them all together. James, I want to because we’re talking about your book is is philosophy book. Nietzsche is probably one of the philosophers that may be cyclists, if not understand, the most certainly quote the most because you know that that quote, the famous quote, you know, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Well, that’s that’s a Nietzsche, quote, to link it to max. Nietzsche, of course, also loved suffering in the high mountains, so that there’s that kind of link. But Nietzsche was also appropriated by the Nazis and not his fault, but he was appropriated by the Nazis. So maybe he’s not the best feller for cyclists to follow. After all, I give, give, give the maybe the positive sides of Nietzsche, and why we should discuss Nietzsche.

James Hibbard 58:16
So I think the positive sides of Nietzsche are immense. I think that that his Nazi appropriation was very unfortunate. And he’s someone who’s easily appropriated owing to his style. You sort of thumb through Nietzsche and you can you find some examples certainly have his anti anti semitism. And in fact, his concerns about Germans in Germany. So Nietzsche is an interesting character on that front. But where where I think Nietzsche is truly fascinating is when you look through the history, and the sort of thrust of 2500 years of Western philosophy. It’s increasingly from Plato on driven by this idea of abstraction. So you walk into any sort of intro to philosophy class, and when Plato or Platonism is explained, it’s essentially like, Hey, you can have a table, this table here in front of us, the professor knocks on and touches, is going to eventually rot and decay and go back Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, but the idea of a table is solid and everlasting and immutable, and beautiful in a way that any actual table never is. So you end up with ideas and concepts being more important, and in some ways, more quote, unquote, real than an actual table. And I think what’s very interesting is this is allowed I would for tremendous success and scientific progress, because you’re dealing with with concepts. But implicit in that is also a sort of denial of things that are that are nearest tangible, actual things, actual tables made of wood in front of you. And you can see this same sort of, of tendency, certainly in Silicon Valley. So I think that this idea that philosophy doesn’t matter or some silly, useless discipline is is just on the face of it not true, you can see that that idea is in fact, massively important to this day, this idea of the abstract and intangible mattering more than the tangible so we’re Nietzsche comes into this is Nietzsche diagnosis this right at the at the end of the 19th. Nietzsche just to orient everyone who might not be the sort of familiar Nietzsche dies, and very symbolically in the year 1900. So Nietzsche sort of sees the end of famously not only declares God dead, this sort of Judeo Christian, true belief in God, but also senses that this platonic Christian denying of the world and of bodies is is an incredibly dangerous tactic. And in fact, one that is the hallmark of, of modernity. So I think that that Nietzsche is interesting for for a number of reasons. But that is really the crux of where I wanted to engage Nietzsche, this, this desire to what he do what he calls overcome metaphysics, overcome this idea to that, that the abstract matters more than the tangible. So cycling is tied in here and as much as it’s clearly a very tangible thing to do. And, and a very Nietzsche and thing to do and as much as demands presence. It demands a tangible visceral engagement, rather than an abstract one.

Carlton Reid 1:02:11
They don’t get on a bike, because he would have liked bikes, wouldn’t he? I mean, if he died in 1900, How old was he died about he died,

James Hibbard 1:02:20
he died relatively young and was in a sanitarium. He famously debated what what took place with him, but he spent the last the last decade of his life in the sanitarium under the essential conservatorship of his sister, Elizabeth, so

Carlton Reid 1:02:38
I’m just I’m just trying to roughly black out but he must have been

James Hibbard 1:02:40
he certainly saw I’m sure he saw early bicycles, but I don’t think there’s any evidence that he actually ever rode one.

Carlton Reid 1:02:49
His is because if he’d been frightened the right time to be it’d been 30 years old. Yeah, roughly, ya know, when when bicycles first came on the scene, so he he would have been right before getting on, he wouldn’t be surprised. He hasn’t. He

James Hibbard 1:03:01
was in ill health, he had poor eyesight, he had poor digestion. So I think that’s the other interesting thing autobiographically, about Nietzsche, is that for all of his talk about sort of virility and physical strength, he was, in fact, a relatively sickly individual from from the time he was a professor. And that’s why he left his professorship in fact, was just poor physical health, sort of going from from one spot in southern Europe to another sort of looking for better air or general recuperation

Carlton Reid 1:03:41
mountain air.

James Hibbard 1:03:41

Max Leonard 1:03:43
He was a big aficionado of the mountains wasn’t a and and a big Walker, I think I think he was very much embodied in that sense is that he you know, walking and thinking were quite well interconnected for him

James Hibbard 1:03:57
walking, thinking, hiking, all all of that. So certainly, yes, fresh air, physic Alpine physicality, we’re, we’re, it’s all sprinkled throughout his writings. There’s also

Max Leonard 1:04:09
the kind of, I didn’t know much about Nietzsche before I read James’s book. But you know, he’s a kind of easy caricature as well. And there’s a re cycling sort of element to it. Like, I’m just I’m thinking about Henri de Mirage, the guy who started the Tour de France, and this idea of of, you know, surpassing yourself and going beyond your abilities and the Tour de France, the first sort of the ideal race is something often quoted by Henri de grandes because I’ve never found the actual quote so it could just be apocryphal but the perfect order France be one where only one guy crosses the finish line, you know, that is stripped away everyone else and everyone else has fallen by the wayside and you know, expired because they’re, they’re not strong enough, and there’s this one sort of thing. Uber men’s guy is gonna it’s gonna win. I think it’s obviously kind of caricaturing and you know, using the, the perception of Nietzsche that without actually knowing much about him, but I think it’s all quite feels quite relevant and close, doesn’t it to a certain attitude? It’s like,

James Hibbard 1:05:20
No, I think it certainly does. And I think that that it’s funny, I mean, the, from the Tour de France to sixth day racing to sort of, I’ve heard about, you know, dance contests that go on for 72 hours straight or something, it seemed like, like it was in the air in that era, this sort of whole going to one’s absolute physical limit, physical exhaustion, these sort of feats of endurance. And yeah, I couldn’t agree more Max in terms of them being very, sort of self overcoming, Nietzsche in. And I think that’s what’s key to understanding Nietzsche, I think it’s easy to read Nietzsche, poorly, and sort of think that it’s this sort of outward process of winning or beating other people or succeeding as a capitalist or something, something awful like that. But for Nietzsche, it’s very artistic and very self overcoming as opposed to beating out a system.

Carlton Reid 1:06:26
And then you mentioned in your book, James about the style and his style was important to Nietzsche, they managed to define what he meant by style.

James Hibbard 1:06:35
So I think that what he means by style is very much what we’re talking about in terms of not just doing something on a sort of external basis, not merely succeeding, not merely looking at your your power metre and winning l’Alpe d’Huez, but rather attacking with one kg to go doggedly after having been dropped and then winning. Right. It’s, it’s, it’s sort of how something is done that matters to him. Because you’re taking your own will and imposing it upon yourself. So I think,

Carlton Reid 1:07:12
isn’t there like a, sorry, isn’t there like a quiet, you just described this in the book as well, there’s this, there’s quite a lot of, you know, underdog stuff in cycling, and the person who comes second is actually more important, more famous and more lauded in cycling than the person who comes first by pure, you know, skill. It’s the one who strive and fail, right, so the failure is quite a big thing in cycling.

James Hibbard 1:07:40
I think that maths can speak to this too, from from his first lantern Rouge book, and as much as I think that there’s, there’s something very French to say about that, about not, not respecting, not being obsessed with just the winner, but the sort of perennial second place, even the the final finish are in the Tour de France, and sort of really respecting that. And I think that there’s something that perhaps Max can even speak to that is very intrinsic to French culture, and French racing, cycling culture around that. I mean, it seems like there’s a perennial Tour de France contender who never quite succeeds who’s always French.

So I think there’s something culturally to that

Max Leonard 1:08:30
that’s that’s funny. I hadn’t thought of that but I can see I think you’re right and you know, the most recent example would be Tebow Pino and well and that the poor guy was never really given a chance he was so over it’s such such a passion there you know in French cycling style gets so much energy exposure and pressure heaped upon them I think and and you’re right for every for every jacket on Catia. There’s there’s a Roman Pulido who is the eternal secondaries coming on behind him and the US for lunch and Rouge it I don’t know how that how it really happened it I think it was a sort of spontaneous I think the underdog feeling is is pretty is British as well, I think we’d go for the underdog whereas in in the in the US I think might be sort of more straightforwardly rooting for for the winner but but in Britain we like the underdog in France. The lantern roof definitely came about in the first 10 years of the tour. So it happened pretty quickly. It was it was pretty much there before world war one as far as I can tell, though, I haven’t found the first reference to it in print. But the French public really took it took it to heart They you know, they would make a Red Lantern and give it to the rider for the last stage into Paris and the carrot or the carrot along with his teammates would hang it over his head

Carlton Reid 1:10:10
so it was it was it always proudly from from the from the get go so it wasn’t like a shame mark of shame it was I’m carrying this proudly was that early

Max Leonard 1:10:19
know it from it seems so and and then sort of post Second World War you’d get with the kind of explosion in not just cycling media but all media you know with with the with the kind of mirrors sprint and those kind of picture magazines and then the radio and then TV with with media and with the sponsorship that came in the last guy it would would become quite famous and he’d get invited to all the post tour. criteriums. So, you know, these, were talking about a time and you know, the Domestique the team riders would be making really, really terrible money compared with the champions or even with a, you know, anyone else and so they’d get to earn you know, maybe their whole year salary in a couple of weeks after the tour or you know, or more than that. So, so it became very attractive and it became it became identity I didn’t never know completely positive feelings about it ever and left definitely people that felt ashamed come last but but you know, on the other hand, that say you’ve got a guy who, who, thinking in 1993, a guy called Jackie do wrong, who won the Tour of Flanders in an incredibly long break, which that was his his main major achievement in his career. But then he became lanten Rouge in 1993. After a terrible, terrible crash in I think it was stage three, and was fighting along injured and it became became a matter of pride. But he stayed in the race and, you know, pushed on to the end. And actually, he was a sort of very mercurial character always attacking and he got the the convertibility prize as well. So in that particular year, the lantern rouge, the last guy in the race got to stand on the podium at the Sean’s Elisa alongside none other than Lance Armstrong. Yeah, I think it’s in for the French public as well, I think the French, you know, proletariat always had a, you know, stick when I put the government or the you know, the rule is the authority is that kind of thing. So I think there might be an element of that, and it take

James Hibbard 1:12:46
well, and I do think it’s interesting, I think you hit the nail on the head Max in terms of, of American culture, as opposed to either British or French culture on this front. And I mean, we sort of keep, we keep dancing around it to some degree. But I think that what’s what’s very interesting is the way the sport changed, not just in the Bay Area, but sort of demographically, in a post Armstrong era. I mean, the sport went from what we’re talking about, sort of in Northern California to being the sort of from being this sort of counterculture exercise, too. I’ve heard cycling described as the new golf amongst like venture capitalists in in Palo Alto, and things like that. So I think it very much changed. And I think there was a particular cultural moment, that was far larger than cycling, that you can sort of put the Armstrong era under the heading of write you sort of, I think, now with a little bit of distance, we can think and reflect back about not just someone like Armstrong, but a general, let’s say from, you know, the late 90s through arbitrarily here or something like 2005 2010, this sort of Nike driven, when it all costs Bernie Madoff type, cultural moment. That was perhaps American lead, but certainly global. It and I think that that’s an interesting way to start to think about the Armstrong era, in a perspective that transcend cycling,

Carlton Reid 1:14:24
because in your book, Jamie, you mentioned that the biggest insult, you could say to an American, is it you’re a loser. Absolutely. That’s that’s like, and that brings like the Trump thing, you know, when when he says, you know, you’re a loser, that that’s where that’s coming from that there’s a very loaded term, whereas what we’re discussing before about you can be the loser you can be the lantern Rouge in in a European perspective, and that’s absolutely fine. And there’s, there’s lots of examples of, you know, heroic failures have been, you know, loaded, whereas you’re saying in the American culture, it’s winner takes all that’s it. Yeah. Ah, no, I

James Hibbard 1:15:00
think that that is absolutely correct and and very insightful to even invoke Trump in this instance, it and I think that yes, the sort of American game of winner take all capitalism was applied to the sport of cycling with the US Postal Service Team to disastrous results. And I think that when you do a little bit of digging about who the backers of that team were, it also becomes very apparent. I mean, they’re, they’re American Finance billionaires. So I think that there’s a very particular American, we are going to win by whatever means necessary ethos that was applied to the sport of cycling, for the first time. And sure enough, a lot of Tour de France is were won in scare quotes. But I think that that particular moment, obviously, was very damaging to the sport, and in very matte, very damaging, culturally. And I think we’re still sort of backing our way out of that, in a lot of regards.

Carlton Reid 1:16:10
But as we’ve mentioned before, the pocket child thing is that the air is, is cleaning that yeah, is almost making that just a bad membrane. You know, we have, we have a mercs of today, right? Doing superhuman stuff, Nietzsche and stuff. But without the drugs without the marginal gains, it almost seems as though you could be on any bus, right? Who cares? What, on you know, who cares where they wash their duvet? Or that, you know, they take the shower? You probably doesn’t need that, you know, he doesn’t need a pocket chart is just a superhuman. He’s just an Uber man. Right? Yeah,

James Hibbard 1:16:43
no. And I think that that’s absolutely great for the sport, that that’s that’s the case. And you’re right, that he’s he’s on a Colnago. And not, there’s not some huge push in terms of this is the newest, greatest lightest bike. It’s I think that’s nothing but good. In an era where super bikes are now costing 10 or $12,000. I mean, it’s great.

Carlton Reid 1:17:09
In the book, you do you do make the point that you’re you’re on the cusp of this era, where people were still riding bikes that are custom built for them. And then you came in and you’re, you’re the bride that you did with your mates across California was on an on your last bike, which was carbon, but you kind of you remembered the days of steel, and, and, and and maybe even experimenting with certain materials, but then carbon comes in, and how much do you think carbon has killed? The aesthetics, the feel of the road, that all of that kind of romantic stuff that you talk about in your book, but carbon potentially has killed a lot of that and it’s just a mass produced Chinese product?

James Hibbard 1:17:57
I think it has to some extent, I think it’s kind of unfortunate. I mean, I remember just images of Ernesto catalogo shop or, you know, consulting with mercs about the our record bike and things that were just beautiful where bicycle frame was bespoke individual come sort of thing rather than merely a commodity. sort of put into context. I turned professional with a team called Shaklee in 2000. And as soon as the ink was dry on the contract in the fall, we sent our measurements for custom steel frame sets, with aluminium frames for the road, or for the track, which were also custom. But I think that was about really near the end of that, and probably one of the last professional squads to be on Handmade Italian steel frames, which is American rebadged. rebatch is American but Italian made. And I think that obviously you can’t get away with that with carbon frames any longer. And yeah, just as you say, the fact that sort of, they’ve become a bicycle frame has gone from this sort of magical thing that is that is made by a particular builder for particular rider to a commodity. It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s also difficult to claim that a steel bike is objectively better from any performance metric. Perhaps you can make an argument about the way it resonates over the road and things like that certainly durability but if you’re looking to so where do

Carlton Reid 1:19:40
you stand on this? Are you a carbon guy? Are you a old school steel guy? What are you where do you sit on the spectrum?

Max Leonard 1:19:49
I I have I have owned I’ve owned bikes in in most most common materials. I was just started thinking about bamboo and Things like that can be bought in aluminium, steel carbon, and I’ve enjoyed them all I now have two three beautiful steel handmade friends and I think the aesthetics of it is it will always something will always look right to me about a steel road frame with with a horizontal top tube. I’m lucky that I think the bikes in my size are the best looking bikes I think the proportions of even that kind of thing are all All right, but one of my bikes actually made made by a company called spinner in Santa Barbara. So not Yes,

James Hibbard 1:20:47
I know I know spinner frames Well, yes, those are beautiful.

Max Leonard 1:20:51
Yeah, is it a beautiful bike but but I didn’t get to go and see see them and talk to them about it in person but but with my feather, which is my road bike that was made up by Ricky feather in Yorkshire and to be able to go and chat with someone and see the workshop and at you know, actually, the it’s a 54 centimetre square frame it’s in some ways it’s not remarkable that I was there from the start. And we talked over everything and considered everything and took in the input and thought about the angles and materials and you know, little tiny little custom bespoke things that he wanted to do that that’s what what makes it it’s made it special. And I just realised actually talking to some guys about it realise that that bite now is 10 years old, which is incredible. And it still feels just as good and fast. And I love riding just as much and my carbon bike I never had the same connection to it was objectively it was a faster and lighter and all of those kinds of things, but but it just didn’t feel feel the same emotionally.

Carlton Reid 1:22:02
So steel is real. So this this obsessing over equipment and this this is also in your your book. James, you talk about, you know, the feeling of the sizing of God as going to be writing like the kind of merch, right, you know, every millimetre has got a count on your bike, and you clearly were obsessive. And you talked about how obsessive Yeah, yeah, and all of the equipment choices. You are making your time now that you mentioned before about cycling, being the new golf or golf also attracts that creative feeling, you know, people you know, choosing the right goal, fine. I know what the description of what these things are called. But anyway, the right kind of, you know, golf bits that you hit the white ball with, you know, it also attracts the same kind of obsession with it with equipment, but that that also attracts oddballs, outsiders and outliers. So both golf and cycling attract those kind of people. Is that fair to say? I fair to all cyclists that.

James Hibbard 1:23:10
Yeah, I think that no, I think that’s it’s an apt

comparison. And I don’t I’ve look, I’ve increasingly sort of as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the sport of golf. So I don’t want to sort of poopoo on it by any means. But I think the reason that I sort of invoked golf there was the fact that I think that there’s there’s some socio economic things at play, where I think that certainly I would not have become a bike racer, as a junior, if a sort of entry level bike that I could raise a local cat for criterium, Junior criterium on cost $4,000, it just simply wouldn’t have happened and I was outgrowing them every six or eight months. So I think that from a sheer sort of who is going to be included and brought to the table of development as a young junior I’m a little bit concerned about the bicycle as eight or $10,000 commodity and the the sort of club system in the United States where you would get a hand me down by that all has sort of languished and been been superseded by coaches and and everything has to be paid for. So I think that we’re talking about equipment, talking about elite development and and anything else this sort of question of demography and inclusion looms large and and I just want to make certain that it doesn’t become a sport for the elite and I don’t think that cycling has ever been True traditionally, a sort of elitist sport. It’s been a European sort of working class sport. So you’d be

Carlton Reid 1:24:57
in favour then of the UCI bringing in old The regulations to stop technology

James Hibbard 1:25:02
Oh, I think whatever happens at the elite level, that’s an even Enough playing field. I think at the at the pro level, everyone’s being given bikes by suppliers. That’s not a problem. I mean, I’m concerned about the about the 11 or 12 year old whose parents saunter into a bike shop, looking for something that’s that’s, or even looking at the used market for something that’s a capable bike, and it’s just cost prohibitive. So I think that that’s, that’s where this conversation about equipment, really where the proverbial rubber meets the road. And I worry a little bit about some of those costs, and, and bicycles as expensive, merely expensive commodities.

Carlton Reid 1:25:44
So so let me bring it back a little bit to philosophy and anti cycling at the same time, and I’m just gonna quote you some Yeah, on your book there. James. So this is a quote from you. Cycling is at once profoundly social, and a tensely an intensely attractive to loners, and outsiders. So that’s what we are before anyway. So this sense of alienation of feeling cut off not just from one trues one’s true self, but from society, pulses through the very veins of existentialism. So why does it pull through the veins? Why is cycling? Can cycling be likened to that.

James Hibbard 1:26:27
So I think that, let’s go back to like, I’ll give you a sort of personal story to sort of illustrate this. I remember being like many people were at this age, I don’t know what it’s called in the UK, but in in what we call in the United States middle school. So I think I was maybe 12 or 13 years old, in seventh or eighth grade. And I remember, we were sort of on and I described this in the book, but the school I attended, there’s a sort of like elevated area with basketball courts and a chain link fence, which in retrospect, looked rather almost prison yard like, and I thought the whole thing was kind of kind of stupid, we had to do stupid things that I thought were either inane or, or boring or both. And we were positioned, though from this vantage point above a relatively large Boulevard that connected San Jose and Morgan Hill. And I remember seeing a pack of cyclists behind their team car on, I don’t know what must have been 11 on a weekday, and not just being attracted to it, but being attracted to the fact that they seemed far freer than than my life. It was a weekday, they weren’t stuck in commute traffic, they weren’t going to algebra class, they were on their bicycles going 35 miles an hour behind the team car. And that struck me as just the absolute epitome of freedom. And looping it back to philosophy, existentialism too. And just to sort of bring listeners up to speed existentialism is a predominantly French, but also German, essentially postwar philosophical movement that’s very concerned with human agency and freedom and questions of meaning, sort of in the in the wake of the Second World War. How do we create meaning in this after this? I don’t know what can only be described as moral atrocity for humanity. How do you sort of go on in the wake of every cultural norm being shattered in the face of that? And and sort of people like John Paul Sartre say that it’s in our absolute freedom. So there’s a clear sort of through line for the freedom that sort of being described by the existentialists the the freedom that I saw on the sport of cycling, and the freedom that I think is a very, particularly probably you guys can correct me if I’m wrong, but particularly American, sort of counterculture idea, this sort of wet Old West, hyper freedom. Reality is what you make it idea, all of those sorts of things were swirling in my head, and I think, brought me to the sport of cycling for that reason.

Carlton Reid 1:29:32
James, he talked about freedom. And in the beginning, the book you talk about, when you first got on a bike, it was like flat Yeah, that’s a very, very common, a very common way of describing riding, so that that freedom is is obvious when you’re going down, you know, a sinewy beautiful road ride in your neck of the woods. Yeah, in Northern California, but that that team comes Yeah, and bunch of riders behind being you equated that to free. When you read your book, that description of your youthful cycling experiences when you brought in the Olympic programme and all that kind of stuff is described talk to me like a monk. Yeah, you weren’t in a cult, you you you were not free, you are very much going along in a prescribed programme, following you know, a biblical texts in effect. You know, the Kony manual, what you mentioned was a religious experience. You were you were a monk, if you described your your your ascetic lifestyle, you know, and you took away the bike that is basically a Zen monk, you are you are just doing stuff that a religious order would do. No, you’re that wire is that’s very astute in that that team car? Well, I think what’s

James Hibbard 1:30:52
interesting about that is in the difficulty with with the American concept of freedom writ large is freedom to do what you sort of freedom is the sort of openness. And then the question quickly becomes, oh, shit, what do I do now? What do I do with this newfound openness? And and unfortunately, the responses are far more. And you see this throughout existentialist informed fiction and film, the responses are far more difficult to sort of formulate anything coherent on the other side of that freedom, then the sort of the wrestling against it is that is the easy part. So as you say, Yeah, I think I was able to escape the sort of restrictions of being an adolescent and attending school, I was able to move to the Olympic Training Centre. And to me that felt like that exit from the life of my peers felt like freedom. But in fact, it was far less free probably than than what my peers were doing at the time. It was very nutrition based sounds like

Unknown Speaker 1:32:08
prison. It was,

James Hibbard 1:32:09
I think the models that were imposed at the time by the Cycling Federation were very Eastern Bloc, it was essentially let’s let’s put several 100 Junior talent identified through competition or physiological testing or whatever else, put them into a proverbial meat grinder. And at the end of this, we will have one world champion. And at the junior and youth 23 level there, there were some world champions that came out of of that may loo but unfortunately, there were a lot of also a lot of other rather talented athletes that that washed out of that system. Looking back now, it’s just I was essentially like, an endurance track rider who could who could ride a kilometre or Team Pursuit. So relatively short events, and looking back now at at training logs and things that I kept. There were times where I was literally doing 35 hours a week on a bike plus strength training, plus additional ergometer workouts. So it was just it was absolutely crazy by today’s standards. And like I say, very attrition based staring at rollers and we were not to drop below 90 RPM or or the coach would admonish us it was lots of going so hard. I threw up and collapsing in the shower after rides and just wondering how I was possibly going to do the next day of training.

Carlton Reid 1:33:44
So are you still cycling?

James Hibbard 1:33:46
Very little, very little. I’ve got got a young son. I’ve had problems with my eyesight, so and some corneal transplants. So I basically have have just taken to running and the occasional day on the trainer. So not a whole lot to be honest. Because your

Carlton Reid 1:34:05
family is clearly important to you. Yeah. In the book, you mentioned your wife, you mentioned Graham, your child Yeah. Frequently, they’ve clearly grounded you and have suffused your life with something above and beyond the kind of the meaning that you are maybe trying to get by being a competitive cyclist.

James Hibbard 1:34:27
Absolutely. I think that that, for me that the entire sort of trajectory of the book is back to not just the tangible, but back to being capable of loving things in the tangible world. Without fear. I think there’s a lot of people that sort of escape. Escape the realities and the impermanence of the world through either trying to achieve things or through it desiring things that stand outside of space and time and are thus safe. And I think that the sort of confidence to love and return to the world is really the primary thread that I hope to convey in the book. And I think, frankly, the only, for me at least the only conceivable way forward.

Carlton Reid 1:35:23
Now the note that I made when I was reading your book, and I, of course I’m plagiarising here is I cycle, therefore I am. Because that’s what it is across as it’s like cycling is it certainly was for that part of your life, something that defined you. But you’re not showing you’re not you’re no longer cycling, no longer defined, you know, and I

James Hibbard 1:35:50
think that I think it’s very easy to, for young athletes to be defined by their sport. I mean, you sort of think of the incredible sort of feedback that one gets, as a young athlete in almost any sort of town in America. I mean, I remember being on the cover of local paper when you’re 1415. And you just sort of assume this identity, and it’s the sort of shorthand identity that is sufficient, and you’re recognised for it, and everything feels good in a very superficial, straightforward way. And I think that a lot of the mental health challenges that that sort of athletes confront after they’re done with their sport, is shedding that identity. Because it’s, it becomes so baked in, and sort of coming up with a new identity away from your sport is not an easy process.

Carlton Reid 1:36:49
So when you’re on that TV programme, but the Oprah Winfrey style TV programme of Trinidad and Tobago, and you were described as an American cyclist, and you got this big kick, yeah, I had been called an American cyclist it defined, what are you now if you are if you’re on the programme today, how would you describe yourself?

James Hibbard 1:37:11
I’d hope to be not easily defined other than by my relationships with the people that I’m closest to and care about. I think that sort of the moniker is like that. And this is perhaps where I show show some of my cards, I suppose, politically, or economically or something. But I think that that sort of monikers, like that, that are easy to categorise, are sort of always end up being reductive and dangerous and work real well if you’re trying to sell yourself as an identity in a sort of hyper capitalist system, but I think that they’re dangerous and dehumanising. So I think that perhaps writer I’m a little bit more comfortable with, but beyond that, I think that that it’s it’s dangerous territory,

Max Leonard 1:38:06
it’s, it’s tough, isn’t it? I think that, you know, you can invest? And I did and do and lots of people do, you can invest so much in the idea of being a cyclist with inverted commas, right. But then that can get back and get taken away from you in so many ways. Like, if you’re a pro, then then your career may, you know, come come to an end, I had a, you know, a pretty, like, long term injury, that meant I didn’t ride my bike for eight years. And so suddenly, okay, I’m not exactly just, what am I? It’s quite a, you know, it’s, there’s a hole to fill there. And it’s probably the same about being a writer because, you know, quite a lot of the time, the vast majority of the time being a writer, you’re not actually writing enough, right. A point Yeah. No, well, and and I think, you know, cite the idea of it’s the cyclist has been, you know, kind of embellished and garnished and it’s been marketed to us as well. And then you know, as as a kind of lifestyle, but it’s not, it’s not, it’s not an easy path to stay on, even if, you know, with everything going in your favour,

Carlton Reid 1:39:24
because we’re technically not cyclists right now. Where assets where we’re sitting, we are not cycling yet. I certainly me and Max, we would if somebody had to say what would you Yeah, I would say I’m a cyclist. But yeah, you’re not doing it right the second time. So why are you a cyclist? You’re not physically doing it now?

Max Leonard 1:39:45
No, I’ve never shown somebody to talk about as a party because you’re always the guy that you people can talk to about, you know, the, you know, what’s wrong with their breaks or what kind of like they want to buy or that kind of thing for us is, you know, is that the a foundation of the dangerous opposition between cyclists and motorists, because I bet that, you know, the majority of cyclists, a lot of cyclists anyway, know how to drive a car. And quite a lot of people who drive cars also ride bikes. And yet

Carlton Reid 1:40:15
somebody generally wouldn’t say they were like, if they’re away from the car, they wouldn’t say, I’m a motorist, it wouldn’t define wouldn’t define them, whereas cyclists, it defines them. Many, many signs.

James Hibbard 1:40:25
And I think what you raise Max is dead bang on. I think that that as potentially sort of banal as it sounds, the sort of people coming up to you at dinner party or cocktail hour and asking about your breaks or your training or whatever else. And I can certainly vouch that when one’s highly competitive cyclist or a pro that’s only exacerbated tenfold. So So that sort of whole sort of idea of this is, your entire identity is I think that the real danger for any, any elite athlete. And I think then

Carlton Reid 1:41:06
it is a philosophical problem, if you’re identifying as one thing is that something that the philosophers can talk to us about?

James Hibbard 1:41:15
I think it’s both a philosophical problem, and also a psychological one. from a philosophical perspective. I mean, I used I think I used the word a few sentences ago sort of reductive, where you can sort of say that you’re sort of this is a thread, particularly in in Sartre, but you can sort of think of any person sort of being defined by one character quality, or one aspect of their selfhood sort of working well to exploit them in some way, but not really fully grasping every element of their humanity. And I think that that certainly applies here. And I think that that Sartre was astute on that front, as were many of the existential, it’s this sort of idea of there being an essential quality about a particular person. So I think that that there is something philosophical to say, and it highlights some of the dangers that that existentialism points out to the previous 2500 years of philosophical thought,

Carlton Reid 1:42:31
James at that point, and that that seems like to be even though I want to carry on talking and I could certainly absolutely talk to both you and Max for many more hours. I think we have got to stop at some point we do. Thank you. First of all, Max, if you can tell me more tell the listeners where they can get hold of your books and then we’ll come to James and get the exact same so websites all that kind of stuff, where can we get your book

Max Leonard 1:42:58
you can get my books in the proverbial all good bookshops and also the big online ones that I would urge you not to buy from going buy from an independent bookshop. But if you want to buy direct from me which is brilliant because it means that a lot more of the money of the cover price goes into my deserving pocket. You my my publisher website is is an it is a Lowe’s I wish I’d chosen a company name that people knew how to pronounce or spell but i s o l a And on there you can find the books that I wrote for other publishers and plus the ones that I’ve published myself including the Yoast soon, and raster fellowships, stuff like that

Carlton Reid 1:43:45
brilliant and James where can we get the art of cycling philosophy?

James Hibbard 1:43:48
So the art of cycling is available. As Max said, all good book shops in the United States is published, will be published on May 2 by Pegasus books, and is already available in both hardback and softcover in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia from Quercus books,

Carlton Reid 1:44:06
thanks to James Haven and Max Lennar there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 326 of the spokesman podcast. Show Notes and more can be found at the hyphen the next episode, I talk with BBC journalists, Kate Vandy, and Anna poligon. Meanwhile, get out there and ride

April 6, 2023 / / Blog

6th April 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 325: Benchmarking Bicycling: How Good Is Your City For Cycling?

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Rebecca Davies, Malcom Davies (not related)

TOPICS: Drilling down into the cycling ranking system City Ratings from People for Bikes

Rebecca Davies, People for Bikes — Malcolm Davies, Trek


Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to Episode 325 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Thursday, April 6, 2023.

David Bernstein 0:28
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are 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 1:03
I’m Carlton Reid. And on today’s show, I’m talking bicycling benchmarking with Rebecca Davies, programme director of the cycling ranking system city ratings, which has been assessing the bicycling friendliness of cities since 2017. And that’s an international initiative from a US Bicycle Advocacy Group people for bikes of Boulder, Colorado. And joining Rebecca, from here in the UK, is bike industry veteran Malcolm Davies, of Trek based out of Milton Keynes. You two I’ve got a complaint to make. I don’t know who wants to take this. Malcolm who’s in the UK or Rebecca, who is in Boulder, Colorado, but my complaint is your website or the website for city bikes, the city ratings says put your city in here and get the details on it. I put Newcastle in and I got not a sausage. So I’d like to register a complaint. What do I do? What does Newcastle have to do to get on the city ratings programme to make cycling and Newcastle better?

Rebecca Davies 2:11
Yeah, that’s a great question. So we have an option on our website, there’s a form that says add my city. And anyone can navigate to that form and then enter a little bit of information about the city they want added. And then we take that into account when we update results in the future for the city ratings, so typically annually. So that would be the best way to get your city added. We try to add as many as we can. So there are limitations sometimes but but that’s the that’s the best way to do it.

Carlton Reid 2:45
Well, it is phenomenally comprehensive. I’m not really complaining. Because it’s something about Newcastle’s going to have to get escaped on and actually do because the comprehensive in that London is very comprehensively covered. And we will get on to that. But first of all, Jen and Rebecca, tell us who you are because you’re the program’s director for city ratings. Yes. People for bikes programme.

Rebecca Davies 3:09
Yeah, yeah, that’s correct. And the city ratings programme director, so I spend a lot of time on on the data, and both generating the data and helping people understand the data and working with my colleagues to communicate how the data connects to changes that cities can make to improve bike networks in their city.

Carlton Reid 3:34
Oone of your colleagues is Jen. So I do apologise for saying Jen in that reply to you because Jen, I have talked to them before. From from from from people, for buyers. So just for those who don’t know, what people promote, is you are an American organisation. So just give us a thumbnail sketch of what people provided. And perhaps more importantly, or as pertinent anyway, is when you get your cash.

Rebecca Davies 3:58
Yeah, so it’s kind of a two part answer to that question. So peopleforbikes is National Bike advocacy organisation based in the US. And we were both nonprofit organisation that does bike advocacy, and but we’re also a trade group for the bike industry. So we have over 300 industry members who support our work. But we’re supported both both by the both by the industry members and then also by grants and charitable donations that allow us to expand the scope of our advocacy work, including our data driven infrastructure analysis work represented by the city rating.

Carlton Reid 4:41
And Malcolm I know where you fit in here. But let’s you tell the listeners where you fit in here. What Why, why isn’t Malcolm Davies on this show with Rebecca?

Malcolm Davies 4:52
Yeah, sure. So so I’m Malcolm Davies. I’m a longtime Trek bicycle employee. Worked for trek since the early 80s. Early 1990s recently retired fairly recently retired. And I now look after advocacy and trucks initiatives around getting more people to ride and making it better for people to ride their bikes.

Carlton Reid 5:15
John Burke, Trek’s John Burke, has been a massive, massive bicycle advocate and pushing the industry forward with organisations like people have a bike. Is that a fair characterization? That that John was massively into advocacy before maybe other industry leaders were?

Malcolm Davies 5:36
I think that’s a reasonable characterization. Absolutely. Yeah. I think John has been a real presence in the industry for many, many years. You know, certainly, in my tenure, it was always something that he’s been very passionate about continues to be passionate about, continues to speak publicly about and tries to motivate the industry to do more to you know, to enhance the experience of cyclists the world over.

Carlton Reid 6:05
And Malcolm, you might be retired, but you will keep your finger on the pulse, you will know intimately that the bike industry is not exactly doing very well at the moment. So we need more bums on seats, we need more people to get on bikes probably than ever before, because because we’re kind of in the doldrums here.

Malcolm Davies 6:23
I think it’s an it’s an interesting time. I mean, I think we all know that the industry had a real uplift as a part of something that people could do during the COVID crisis. And then there’s been a bit of a lull since I think you and I have been in the bicycle industry in the UK and internationally for a long time. And we’ve seen these peaks and troughs many times before. They’re not they’re not unusual to us or many colleagues. That really reality is I think that if you look at the user data, people actually riding that has not dipped, people people went out and they maybe bought some bikes, but they literally apologise My dog is kicking off. So I think that people are out there riding bikes, and I think there is good usership data that shows that. So you know, let’s not get too disheartened that the industry is having a bit of a bit of a downturn having had a big boom, it will come back more people all over the world are seeing the bicycle as a good solution for their, their transport needs, their leisure needs, whatever it is, and they are they are using bikes and riding all the time, which is great, we want

Carlton Reid 7:28
more we might ask it on more but in your role, your Trek person or a bike,

Malcolm Davies 7:34
I am attracted I am try and employed by Trek to look after their European advocacy initiatives and represent track in various places in the industry,

Carlton Reid 7:45
and apart from Trek supporting and being a massive supporter of people for bikes was any greater involvement on the city ratings programme from track?

Malcolm Davies 7:57
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that work, we work together I’ve worked for you know, over the last couple of years with Rebecca and the team in in the US to try and figure out a way that we can do what they’re doing in the US and make it useful and meaningful. So you know, we talked to right at the beginning about great deal of detail are in and around London, that was something that was very much driven by us and by me because I think you know, as you can imagine saying rating of London is kind of meaningless when you have such a big geographical space, both in terms of number of people who live there, but also the way that it’s structured. And you and I know that writing in one place in London is very different to writing in another and so I wanted to get into the detail a bit to make the analysis more meaningful to people and so we focused we focused our efforts on London we focused on the West Midlands we focused on for Manchester,

Carlton Reid 8:59
when all those cities have had put in have invested in bike infrastructure so Manchester with with the Beelines and Chris Boardman and all that kind of stuff. West Midlands with with a mayor is very proactive on on active travel and then of course London famously well starting with Ken Livingstone, then Boris Johnson and then the current Mayor Sadiq Khan is also pro so those those that’s the reason that you’ve gone for those cities. It’s not you know, low hanging fruit, this city could be great if they did this. It’s they’ve put an infrastructure, we’re going to focus on them.

Malcolm Davies 9:37
I don’t think that’s necessarily correct that we because they’ve put in the infrastructure because we know for a fact that some areas of London have put in the infrastructure and done an excellent job if we talk about Hackney or we talk about Waltham Forest, for example. But if we talk about you know, our friends, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea we can clearly see though that they’ve done nothing and they’ve done their best to avoid it. So you know, There was some there was some considerable value in understanding the detail and being able to present the detail in a way that people could say, Well, look, look what happens here and look what the experiences are. You know, this is by no means. And I think Rebecca would certainly confirm this, we’re not, we’re not saying this is definitively how cycling is in a, in a, in a situation in a location, we are saying, Here’s his way of measuring what we currently have. And you can definitely challenge that measurement, you can definitely challenge that output. But it’s a way of making a comparison and seeing how things sit. We can also say, if you look at some of our scores, compared to many US cities, we’re we’re in pretty good shape. But if you start looking at you know, as we know, that cities in the Netherlands or in Denmark or elsewhere, on the European mainland, we’re we’re also way off the pace in many areas. So it’s a it’s a way of promoting a conversation or provoking a conversation. I should say that we’re looking at here. Started,

Carlton Reid 11:03
Rebecca, People for Bikes has been doing this since 2017. So this, this is basically an annual thing. So the information that’s on the website is current as of end of last year. Yeah. 2022.

Rebecca Davies 11:19
Yeah, correct. We updated results for the locations in the UK. It’s actually the beginning of 2023. But But, yes, yeah, we generally released results annually. And we had a separate release for US cities and other international cities in this past year, but in the future, we’ll combine those and release results and update them all at the same time, once a year.

Carlton Reid 11:49
Now, let’s get on to some American cities in a moment, but just kind of like sticking to European cities. See, you’ve got the number one is actually the Hague. So I’m going to you can tell me what this means. But I’ll just I’ll just say the numbers for now. So the Hague is just under 89. In the city rating, that’s out of 100, I’m assuming you tracked 84, Amsterdam 82. And then, you know, coming almost out of nowhere, rather, famously, is Paris, which has got 82, which is two, to hundreds of appoint a joke as close to Amsterdam, which is an amazing transformation that Paris has made. So in your tracking since 2017, can I go back? And can I graph Paris’s trajectory and see how in effect, they’re there, they’re about to overtake Amsterdam.

Rebecca Davies 12:47
So we unfortunately don’t have the international data for that whole span of time. Because when we started, we started with us smaller set of US cities. And then we grew that that number over a few years. And then just a couple years ago, we started adding international cities to the data. So we don’t have as much of a time horizon, unfortunately, for international cities, but it’s definitely something we’ll be able to build up now, as we update the results for these places annually. So we’ll get to start to see that change over time. Although we had, we have run Paris a couple times before. And you could see the improvement, you know, as it really tracks with a lot of the what we’re hearing, as far as you know, anecdotes and stories and reporting out of Paris about everything that’s being done. And I was lucky enough to have the chance to, to see a lot of that and I visited in late 2019 to see a lot of the change underway. So yeah, so it was it’s really been a great example of, of a place that’s that’s changing quickly. And is that is reflected in our city ratings scores, but it was just just under over a relatively short period of time.

Carlton Reid 13:59
I was throwing out just a whole bunch of numbers that which which in effect are quite meaningless at 84 is what what does it mean? What does 82 mean? Berlin’s got 77? Tell me exactly, I mean, looks like see, London has an average of 49. As Michael was saying, some borrowers are going to be much higher than that happening, you know, pleasantly high that but just generally what what are those figures mean? How do you get there? And and who was doing it? Who was physically looking at these, these data points?

Rebecca Davies 14:36
Yeah, so those are all great questions. So So there are two main inputs to our city ratings this year. And that’s a community survey where we asked people how they feel about bicycling in their city. But the biggest input is a metric from what a tool we have called the bicycle network. analysis. And we actually didn’t steal the community survey in all international places. But we did field it throughout the places we measured in England. So England has that combination of this community survey where we asked people what they think about bicycling where they live, and combine that with our our network analysis measure. But most of the other international locations, we just did the network analysis measure. So there’s a slight difference there. The network analysis was worth 100% of the score, for instance, in a place like the Hague, but worth 80% of the score in the boroughs and cities of England. So that’s just some context there. But as far as that network analysis, the bicycle network analysis, so what it is, is a piece of software, essentially, custom software we, we built, some years back, back in 2017, it was completed. And it essentially evaluates the quality and connectivity of bike infrastructure in a given area. Usually, that area is a city or borough that we’re looking at. So it’s saying, you know, given the conditions on the road, whether there are you know, how many lanes are there for cars? Are there safe crossings? What’s the speed limit? Is there any bike infrastructure, what kind of bike infrastructure, it takes all of those things into account, and then either assigns the street as low or high stress given those other factors. And then it of course, includes things pads too, that might be disconnected from the street, but are but allow bikes. So so it evaluates every single, every single path and streets throughout the given area? And then it says, Okay, well, well can people bike from where they live to places they need to go using only what we consider to be low stress or comfortable bike routes. And when we say comfortable, we really mean for the average person, not necessarily the average person biking today, but the average person in general. And we know there are a lot of people who don’t ride bikes, because they’re, they feel unsafe, right, because of the conditions on the road. That data, there’s not enough bike infrastructure, or it’s not sufficiently separated from motor vehicle traffic. And so, you know, they don’t get on a bike. So we want to think about what gets those folks on a bike. And so that’s the standard we want to use for what counts as comfortable, high quality bike infrastructure. So so it runs that analysis saying, Okay, if you start from the area, if people start from the area they live, and they want to get to their school, or their job, or the grocery store, can they make that trip on a bike, safely and comfortably, and if they can, the software rewards points. And if they can’t, it doesn’t, it can repeat this calculation over and over throughout a given area to get to eventually aggregate into this total score. For the whole for the whole region. So that’s essential. So a 100 in our network analysis would mean that you could start from anywhere in the city and get anywhere else using completely safe connected comfortable. bikeways that’s what that would mean. And in practice, we don’t know city scores 100. But the best get into the low 90s. Yeah, upper upper 80s. As we see here, yeah, almost almost 90. But

Carlton Reid 18:25
if Sorry, sorry. If if this was a motoring advocacy organisation, but imagine history is completely flipped. And, you know, bicycles are in the ascendancy and is the bicycle lobbyist groups who are doing this. If this was a motoring lobby organisation, do you think there are any cities that are at 100? For motorists, you think all cities are at 100? For motorists? Where is siping? In the pecking order? Do you think?

Rebecca Davies 18:56
I love that question. I’ve never received it before. And, you know, in some ways, it’s kind of interesting, because you might think, well, it’s the opposite. But that’s not really the case. Because there are we know that And research shows that when you make cities safer for people riding bikes, those improvements make cities safer for people who walk and people who drive as well. A lot of the improvements that that make a road safe are important for for people who drive too. So if we’re saying that a city that’s good for driving is a city that’s safe for driving, where we don’t have a lot of negative outcomes, you know, fatalities or serious injuries, then that actually that wouldn’t be you know, often some of the same cities that are good good for bicycling these things are not inherently at odds. Now I see. It’s the goal was Well, we, we don’t care about safety outcomes. All we care about is how fast somebody can get somewhere. You know, that’s a different that’s a different measure. But um, But even then, you know, having cities that move cars quickly, sometimes are also cities that have at times have a lot of congestion. So, by what by which I mean, maybe you have built your roads to make it easy for cars to go as fast as possible. But the reality is, if that means a lot of people end up driving, then that actually slows everybody down, because now everybody’s driving, and the car is congested roads congested. So

Carlton Reid 20:29
it, could you have a city, that’s 100, the motoring and 100 for cycling as well. I know this is all theoretical. But just think of it as like an experiment or a thought experiment. You know, could you have a city? That’s fantastic for motoring, and fantastic recycling at the same time in some sort of weird utopia?

Rebecca Davies 20:52
Yeah, yeah, I think so. Because it’s really at the end of the day, you want people to be able to move between different modes, safely and comfortably. To know that no matter what way they’re getting around, that it’s going to be safe. And they have efficient options, enhance efficiency, you know, whatever, whatever combination of modes that is, you know, you want them to be able to have an efficient trip. And I think, an efficient and safe trip. And so all of those things need to work together, all the modes need to be complementary in order for that to happen. So, so yeah, I think I think the ideal is a place where all of those things work together. harmoniously. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 21:37
So yeah, I’m thinking of, say somewhere like Los Angeles, but with loads of bike paths, so I’m gonna flip it to Malcolm. And because Rebecca, were kind of we read European, so we kind of probably have a slightly different perspective on you know, how you you kind of have cars and bicycles interacting on perhaps even mediaeval streets? So Malcolm, the same question to you really? Do you think you can have a hyper connected car city, just as the same as you got a hyper connected bike city? And could you even have that in Europe, considering you know, we’ve our cities are already built, and you probably can’t have that hyper connected car city.

Malcolm Davies 22:20
I think, you know, the word record didn’t use perhaps what was she was alluding to as balance isn’t it, you’ve got to find a balance between the different modes of transport. And that’s all modes of transport and all the all the ways people get around, from walking, to cycling, to cars, to public transport, if you really wanted to have a utopia city, let’s say all of those things would have to be in balance. And what you have right now, is an imbalance, right? Because you have, you know, access cars, you have x, you have congestion, you have inefficient public transport, you have inefficient and, you know, high risk, in many cases, in infrastructure not suitable for people to ride on. So I think you can, I think you can make a difference, you can massively improve the, the transport network for people walking and cycling, and even for public transport. But in order to do that, you are going to face the reality that you’re probably going to take some space away from cars from automotive. That doesn’t mean though, that you’re going to make it worse for for cars, because actually, what you’ll do by getting more people onto bicycles and walking and into public transport is you will take cars off the road, so there’ll be fewer cars, yes, there’ll be less space, but there’ll be significantly fewer of them. So you know, I, I actually think you can make a difference in that way. And I think there are a number of, you know, a number of examples all around Europe, they’re even examples in in in England, and the UK where that’s happening, and you’re seeing the benefits. And, and what you’re also seeing is that the people who live there, the residents really like it, they’re really they love it. They’re really happy with it. And when you don’t, you know, one of the things we always say is, do you ever see the people of Amsterdam or Copenhagen or Utrecht, asking to take away that bike paths? And I don’t think I’ve ever heard that happen. No one’s really doing that. And so there is there is value in that conversation. But it is a hard conversation, because you are starting from a premise that if you want to make more bicycle infrastructure or walking infrastructure, you’re probably going to have to take some space away from automotive.

Carlton Reid 24:34
Rebecca, that’s kind of not what you were saying. But do you want I do want to come back to that one, because because what Malcolm is saying you need to take space away from motorists. And you were saying no, you can have you can have both you can have great motoring infrastructure and biking at the same time. To

Rebecca Davies 24:47
be fair, that might be there might be a difference between Europe and the US.

Carlton Reid 24:52
I would like to tease that out. Exactly. I’d like to find out. Is that a European perspective and me and Malcolm come at this at a different way, Rebecca. And do you come at this from a US perspective? So, so talk me through that.

Rebecca Davies 25:07
Yeah, I, you know, I completely agree with everything Malcolm saying, and I think it is true. We have roads in the US that are far too wide. Even some of our neighbourhood streets are just absurdly wide. It’s, it’s kind of crazy how wide some of our streets are. And we know that wider streets lead people to drive faster, which results in poor safety outcomes for all road users. And so we do need to rethink, rethink how we reallocate space. And you know, I’d even argue a city that we definitely think of as a very car centric City, Los Angeles. And it’s true that it can be hard to get around without a car there. It’s not necessarily a great city for driving, I’ve lived there. And I’ve spent, you spent a lot of time sitting in traffic on highways, and there are a lot of roads that are pretty frightening to drive on. And it’s not always very efficient to drive. And, in fact, often it isn’t, but it’s just your only choice. So I don’t think it’s a city that’s working well for cars, either. And it would it would be just such a fabulous city for bikes, you know, if it had the bike infrastructure it needs it’s it’s flat, it’s sunny, it’s beautiful. It’s actually quite densely populated. Despite despite being spread out, in many ways, it’s, there’s a lot of high density in certain parts. But yeah, I mean, I definitely think that conditions are different, you know, because a lot of US cities were built, when, you know, the car was already around and access growing, you know, growing and accessibility. As far as affordability to a lot of people, a lot of cities were built around cars and really subsidised driving and continue to subsidise driving through how the city is designed. So I think there’s a difference that way and kind of what we’re starting with, and, and I’m envious of cities that were of the cities that you know, developed. to a greater extent before, you know, cars were was widespread because some of their conditions are better suited for more multimodal transportation. But But I definitely agree that there has to be a reallocation of space. In order to achieve that that correct balance, it’s very imbalanced in a lot of cities that have given 90 Over 90% of the travel space to driving alone. And that hasn’t resulted in great outcomes, it’s resulted in congestion. It’s resulted in lack of choice for people when they you know, really their only option is to drive. Yeah, and I wouldn’t say it’s, it’s not it’s not making for an efficient system. So, yeah, so I think I think we’re very much aligned on on that. And, and then and the needs in that regard are similar between cities around the world. But there are certainly different starting points, given that a lot of cities have very different kind of designs.

Carlton Reid 28:04
For sure, now, I know that on your website, you talk about road diets. So you know, that’s that’s something that is, you know, what you’re talking about there about, you know, reducing road weights, can you have some very wide and we’re gonna be talking about stroads, and what and what that means to a European, which we’ll, we’ll probably don’t come across that term as much as an American does. But first of all, I’d like to go across to my colleague for an ad break.

David Bernstein 28:28
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Carlton Reid 29:39
Thanks, David. And we’re here with Malcolm Davies. And we’re here with Rebecca does not relate to you. So no, no. The same second name completely different geographic. Okay. Just just to get that settled. Now, before the ad break, I was asking, Rebecca, about stroads and rode diet. So first of all, for anybody who’s who’s unfamiliar with that term strode, Rebecca, can you can you tell us what that means?

Rebecca Davies 30:09
Sure, yeah. So a stroad is the idea that, you know, you have some roads are built, or in theory are built more for moving cars more quickly, like a highway, that has limited access, where there aren’t many ways to get on the highway, you know, there’s, there’s on ramps here and there, but you can’t, it’s not that, you know, not every street allows you to access that highway, might cross under it or over it, but doesn’t necessarily get you on. So there’s there’s limited access roadways, and then their streets, which tend to be in more densely populated areas, and our, you know, facilitating travel for shorter distances and slower speeds. So, you know, these are places that maybe maybe it’s a street grid, with lots of intersections, and so there’s a lot more activity on streets. And the idea with a stroke is that it’s a kind of unfortunate combination of both of those things, and not achieving either of their aims very well. It’s a road that’s built in many ways, like a highway, and that it’s supposed to try to move cars quickly through an area, but it’s not limited access, it has a number of intersections with other streets. And so so you end up with this, this sort of the worst, worst kind of combination, where it’s quite dangerous, because it’s built for moving cars quickly, but it actually might have a decent amount of activity it might have, you know, shops or residences along the street and intersections along the way, a lot of intersections, and those often might not have very safe controls on them. We see there quite a few roads in the US that don’t have don’t even have sidewalks. So, or if they if they do the distances between crossings are so far that people just crossing the middle of the street, you know, they could be crossing a 567 lane road. And that’s very, very dangerous. So yeah, so they just make for a really both inefficient and kind of unsafe type of roadway. And that that hasn’t decided whether it’s a street or a highway.

Carlton Reid 32:19
And does the road diet does that cure a city of stroads Is that something that is anti stroad?

Rebecca Davies 32:27
and it’s can help rethink you know, what that space is meant to be? I think it’s important for people to be intentional about what that road needs to become. Whether it’s that usually Yeah, get turning it more into a street and thinking about what its main purposes, you know, is its purpose to move cars quickly, or is its purpose to help people travel locally in the area and support the surrounding land uses. And it’s the land use piece, I think is really important there to you know, how you build cities along these roads. And so it’s both about reallocating that space in a thoughtful way, and implementing other safety improvements. So it might be that you reduce the width of the road, you convert lane, one lane that isn’t needed into a protected bike lane, for instance. But there are other improvements to like slowing, like changing the speed limits or adding more safe crossings, so people don’t have to so people don’t have to cross in the middle where there is no crossing. So there’s a variety of ways to improve it to improve that kind of roadway. But certainly some of these overbuilt, overly wide strobes. You know, they just have so much excess capacity that rethinking how some of that space is used is is often an important step.

Carlton Reid 33:52
I want to come back to Malcolm in a minute, and we can dig down into some of the city ratings for for the UK cities. I’m mostly familiar with Manchester and worth, obviously with London, not quite as familiar with Birmingham. But first of all, I’d like Rebecca to talk to you about it because you’re in Boulder, Colorado. I’m assuming I haven’t looked at the figures of your city ratings on on your website. But I’m assuming you’re in the top city in the US are certainly in the top three. And if I had to name the top three cities in the US in innovative hospital, if I wasn’t out to North America, then I’d also add Montreal but if I’m just going purely for the US then I would choose Boulder, Colorado, Davis, California, and Portland, Oregon. As as the top three cities and I know Portland, Oregon, has kind of faltered in the last few years. I know Davis, California has you know, obviously was was incredibly, very bicycle friendly in the 1960s 1970s and for various reasons. Hadn’t been quite so busy. And that Boulder, Colorado is the one that’s taking off is that, again, is that characterization that I’ve just said there does that does that reflect any form of reality at all?

Rebecca Davies 35:11
Those are definitely all leaders, I would say, a lot of boulders, but builders, it is a good city for bike by US standards. And a lot of its network of paths was actually built a few decades back. So it got a bit of a head start. It will say, you know, Boulder has a lot of these kinds of roads that that need to be addressed in the same way other US cities do, you know, these kinds of arterial roads that like we were talking about with strokes that are, too Why don’t have enough safe crossings aren’t really safe for biking. So it has plenty of those. The city actually recently introduced a plan to focus specifically, their their transportation work on those arterial roads, because we know those are the ones with the worst outcomes, and that people don’t feel safe biking on, however Boulder has the benefit of having invested in a network of off street paths a few decades back, and continue to build upon that path network. So so if you’re travelling places that are along that path network, you know, you can have some really wonderful, you know, bicycling opportunities, and experiences, the challenges those, those paths don’t go everywhere in the city. So So, so definitely, it’s a leader, but also still has plenty of work to do. Similarly, Davis invested, you know, was an early leader and investing in their bike, a bike lane network and has continued to do so. And so that’s reflected in our city ratings. And, and I do, we do generally, generally try to compare across cities of similar sizes, because they have both because of how the analysis works methodologically it’s, it’s it, for instance, small cities tend to score a little higher in the ranking. So that’s just something to keep in mind when you compare between cities that are a very different size. But yeah, among larger cities, Portland, definitely one of the leaders in the top 10, but it has it it is it is behind some other large cities in the US. Its neighbour to the North Seattle has in the last few years just kind of crept ahead by a few points in our rankings. And so you know, it’s kind of fun, fun, when you can kind of pull that sort of friendly competition out of the data and see how cities, you know, move together or how one moves ahead, and Seattle’s kind of pulled ahead in in recent years, San Francisco is also a bit ahead of ahead of Portland at this point, but

Carlton Reid 37:44
any other cities that are totally maybe people that obviously heard of the cities, but wouldn’t put them down as a, you know, an up and coming bicycling city? Any surprises in the data?

Rebecca Davies 37:57
You know, it’s a good question. There’s, there are some cities that are doing all the right things and are making great progress, but aren’t very high in our rankings. And that can be because, because, you know, they’re they’re very much in there, their work is underway. But also some of them are starting from a harder starting point. So for instance, Austin, Texas, is a city doing a lot of great work to build out their bike network. But you know, the city also started from a tough place in terms of you know, it’s a very, it’s a very large city that’s experienced a tonne of growth, and has a lot of starting from a very car centric infrastructure landscape. So has the cities built some phenomenal, some phenomenal bike paths, and we’ve seen them climb up in our ratings, but but because they’re starting from that, such as tough spot, and and, you know, a lot of their momentum has been more recent versus cities that might have done some of their investments some decades back, you know, it’s just not as apparent because they’re not, they’re not in the top 10. And it’s going to take a long time for a city like Austin to get to the top. But there’s a lot of great progress being made.

Carlton Reid 39:13
Okay, let’s come over to this side of the pond. And let’s talk to Malcolm about Malcolm, how much are you familiar with let’s let’s rather than talk about London and Manchester, which I’m familiar with. How familiar are you with West Midlands? And what’s been happening there?

Malcolm Davies 39:32
reasonably but not not massively, I would say. Yeah, I mean, obviously, there’s there’s quite a good amount of effort going on. There. Isn’t there there is

Carlton Reid 39:43
politically that I mean, I’m sure that comes up at high on any rankings is when you’ve got the political leadership taking an interest. Well, that’s that’s the absolute critical step you need. So West Midlands has that?

Malcolm Davies 39:56
It does. It does. And that’s undoubtedly making something roads, but it also shows up that they probably are only really just getting started. So you’re not necessarily going to see that in the data. I mean, a Coventry is a good example that I used recently in another conversation where they scored pretty low in Coventry in the birthplace of the bicycle as we know it. I know for a fact that there is there are some really good things going on in that in that city and in that part of the West Midlands,

Carlton Reid 40:26
but it’s what we have, as the, as the Adam Tranter, who’s kind of doing great things. But you’re right, it’s it’s from a low start

Malcolm Davies 40:36
it Yeah, exactly. But, you know, this is not a definitive statement of what your community or city is necessarily doing. It’s, it’s a way of measuring where things sit. It’s almost like a snapshot, snapshot in time. If and I think you’re right, right, right. Right back to the beginning, when you talk talking about Paris, if we looked at you and I and perhaps went to Paris 10 years ago, and, you know, tried to get on a bicycle in it, and pre the bike share system that they had, even when they had it for quite a while you took your life in your hands. And it’s only in the recent past when you’ve seen massive infrastructure investments, but initiatives on the part of Anne Hidalgo, the Parisian mayor, that huge transformation. So I think we have to be very conscious of those kinds of conversations when we’re saying to a community or a city hall that you only scored 30. Too often. For me. This is a snapshot in time. It’s a challenge in a way it’s so it’s a way to start a conversation, which is, which is all you need here.

Carlton Reid 41:49
Malcolm Well, we both came in into the industry when I mentioned before about John Burke being being a champion of bicycle advocacy because that’s now a mainstream in the industry is that what you do in the UK Bicycle Association is hugely into into Bicycle Advocacy. But these organisations when we came into the industry, we’re not anywhere near as in touch with with bicycle advocates as they are now. So my question is, from an industry perspective, do you see do you think you can you can track where there’s lots of good built infrastructure, you sell more bikes? Can you get as granular as that? Or is that just too hard to track?

Malcolm Davies 42:33
I think we can get that granular on what the industry lacks is where bicycle jobs and bicycle sales, because that’s what we’re talking about, where they where they have enough data and enough data in detail to match that into geographical space. I think we’re actually quite fortunate in the UK in as much as the Bicycle Association, Great Britain has a very good set of data that they’ve been working on that that does describe very well where, where the bicycle economy is. And I think that’s quite valuable. So overlaying that kind of data with, you know, the data that that Rebecca is presenting here, or being for bikes presenting here will be will be interesting. And we need that’s the next kind of phase of the kind of work we need to do. Because I think we know politically, of course, economy matters. You know, that’s what politicians want to have a successful community, they’re going to have to have a strong economy. And if we can,

Carlton Reid 43:34
you can line the two maps up. You could say, Look, if you put the infrastructure in the industry support infrastructure or support, advocacy, in general, this leads to a recognisable uptick in sales.

Malcolm Davies 43:47
Yes. I mean, and what in some ways that can be a negative for the industry, right? So I can sit in a room with a with a bunch of local politicians and say, we should have more bicycle infrastructure. And the first thing they’re going to say to me is, well, of course, you’d say that because you want to sell more bikes. It’s been interesting for me, one of the things we did here was we rated Milton Keynes, because that’s our hometown, but there’s track in the UK, that’s our hometown. And I’ve had a couple of conversations with local politicians in the room. And you know, the community of who has a vested interest in cycling, and it and it sparks a conversation it it talks, it gets people talking about okay, well, how do we improve the infrastructure from an active travel standpoint, which is really what we care about. And what does it mean to to the economy? What does it mean for our for our community for us, its people who live here.

Carlton Reid 44:40
Rebecca, I know that Trek does have its fingers very heavily in the bike share pie in many US cities and perhaps even worldwide, but just talking about bike share in general because because Paris if you if you kind of like try and work out where did Paris is Bike revolution come from? Well, many people, myself included would would certainly put Velib. You know, when the when the bike share was put in that seemed to have some sort of transformation. Just getting more bikes more visible, because many more people because it was made Democrats, Democrats, bikes, you can get more people on bikes with a bike share scheme, is that something that ranked highly in city ratings, if a city has a bike sharing, it’s guaranteed to get X number of points, and it will lead to some sort of exponential rise in cycling overall.

Rebecca Davies 45:38
Yeah, so we currently the ratings does not include measures related to bike share or other access to bikes themselves, we actually used to include more measures in our city ratings, we had a variety of data sources we use to measure multiple different facets of bicycling, which is really interesting to see this sort of different views. But we found a couple challenges. And one of the main ones was that when you you’re measuring bicycling, and a lot of different ways, when you want to talk about well, how do you improve your score, it ends up being quite a long list of things you could do to improve your scores. And there are you know, I always say there’s 1000 Ways to Improve bicycling, you know, but you kind of have to focus on a few at a time to really, it’s really kind of centre, your, you know, sending your work and, and be effective in a given area. And so we decided to make our city ratings very narrowed and focused on the infrastructure in a city or the infrastructure on the ground, not not including Bikeshare stations. So but we do actually, as an organisation, we have a programme called the better bike share partnership that is focused on bike sharing, specifically equitable access to bike share, so ensuring that the way Bike Share functions, it is accessible to all kinds of people throughout the city. So we definitely recognise that as important part of the whole kind of ecosystem and bicycling. And similarly, another another piece we don’t measure, but that we know is so important is bike parking, just the availability of bike parking. And, you know, I would, I would love to see a similar ranking system that’s for bike parking in cities, sort of what am I dream extensions of this? One day? But yeah, but we did the readings is very, is very focused on infrastructure on the ground, because we wanted to communicate that that is a major priority, and that we’re not going to see the kinds of shifts in vice clean that we want to see until you know that infrastructure gets built. But that said, we recognise all of these things are very complementary and important to just supporting people in enabling them to, to, to ride so yeah, so definitely very supportive of cities that aren’t investing in their bike share systems, as a way to help get get more people riding

Carlton Reid 48:05
that before, you’re also saying that you’ve only got a certain amount of international data here. So you obviously started to 70, with with American cities, and you’ve been growing with the European statistics. So this is maybe a tough question for you to answer. But the city of Seville in Spain, rather famously, almost overnight, not quite overnight, almost overnight, you know, lay down a bicycle network and in your ranking systems, you wouldn’t weren’t doing it that when they were doing it, but if they hadn’t been doing it, when you were doing your rankings, they would have gone, you know, from this very low score, presumably to a very high score in the space of you tracking over a year. So do you see any indications that there are potentially more Seville’s out there, cities that are willing to just flip and just completely change overnight? Or do you think this is going to be a very long term over 30 years? Kind of timescale?

Rebecca Davies 49:24
Yeah, you know, I want to say there are tonnes but there, you know, there are a few there aren’t that many. There are a few that are kind of positioned like Seville to to make a quick change. And I think annual Paris does, again come to mind is just one that’s that’s really made that kind of rapid pace of change. But then there’s a lot that are looking at these longer, these longer time horizons. And actually, a lot of our work some of my colleagues work that’s complementary to mine is to work with cities that show That promise towards being able to make rapid change, and, and help provide them tools and resources to get on that different trajectory to get on that, that faster trajectory. Because we know that there are a few things that that help cities kind of move from that long term horizon to that shorter term horizon. And that’s, you know, building political will, that’s supporting advocates, so that they can hold leaders accountable. And also supporting changing public sentiment so that people understand why these investments are being made, and how it will benefit them over time, so that they’re supportive of the project. And then of course, finding the dollars if they aren’t there. I mean, the dollars to invest in the infrastructure, so you have to have all the right ingredients come together for that kind of rapid pace of change. And we’re definitely seeing that in a few cities known the US that, that movement towards that. And, and some cities that have made a lot of progress in a relatively short period of time, but, but if they don’t have the political will, the political leadership there to do that, you know, it’s it’s, it’s very, very hard, if not impossible to move at that that rate of change. So it’s really important that that groundwork is laid, and I’d say, a lot of places that have the potential to move quickly are in that political will building capacity building stage, but they’re getting closer, definitely getting closer. And, and, and there, there are a few cities, I can think of that we are seeing a relatively good pace of change. So Cambridge, Massachusetts has done a lot of work around implementing policies to build out there to support building out their bike network and investing the financial resources, they need to do that. And we’re and we’re seeing that change happening, you know, their score is going up. And so you see those kind of signs of places that are starting to move more quickly. And I’m hopeful that in 510 years, you know, we’ll we’ll have a few more of those examples like Seville that that have have have proven they can make a lot of change in a relatively short period of time, but still more places in that sort of groundwork phase, and we’re working with a few cities to try to try to get them on that faster growth trajectory.

Malcolm Davies 52:24
Call? No, I would, I would add, I would add to that, that there are cities in England for sure that you see quite significant mood for change. You know, I’m thinking about Oxford, for example. It’s not part of the ratings. But, you know, you’re seeing you’re seeing political will there, you know, make change quickly. Even some of the London boroughs in Hackney, Hackney didn’t used to be a great place to be a cyclist and it seems to come out of the out of that in the very recent past. So, I think there is, there is traction there. And there are examples all over the place of things can can be better and when they are made better, people want that they like it.

Carlton Reid 53:04
Okay, that’s a very positive note. I’m going to end there. Thank you very much to Malcolm Davies and to Rebecca Davies. Not related. We kind of like established that used to collect a genetic test you just never know some some common ancestor so thank you ever so much for spending the time talking to me today about the City Rating scheme Rebecca where can where can people find out what’s give me the website basically of where people can find out about where their city or where they can complain as I started where how they can complain to get their city on the city rating system?

Rebecca Davies 53:44
Yeah, thanks. City ratings at peoplefor is the website where they can see all the results. And yeah, submit that and my city form to us and we’ll try to get to get their city ranked next time we update the results.

Carlton Reid 54:02
Thanks to Rebecca Davies and Malcolm Davies there and thanks to you for listening to episode 325 of the Spokesmen podcast. Show notes and more can be found at In the next episode, already in the can, I talk philosophy and cycling with authors James Hibbard and Max Leonard but meanwhile get out there and ride.

March 31, 2023 / / Blog

31st March 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 324: Bike lanes empty? Prove gibe wrong with this €199 window-mounted traffic counting camera

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Kris Vanherle of Telraam

TOPICS: The Telraam traffic counting system uses a camera and AI to work out exactly what’s going by on the road. And it’s not just for professionals, you can buy one for your window and start measuring traffic 24/7, perhaps to prove that your road suffers from excessive speeding. Telraam’s developer Kris Vanherle of Belgium here describes his neat new system and whether it could be used to counter those tabloid newspaper columnists and others who claim that bike lanes are empty.

Kris Vanherle of Telraam


Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to Episode 324 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Friday the 31st of March 2023.

David Bernstein 0:28
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are 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 1:04
If counting sheep makes you sleepy, imagine how difficult it must be to count cars and cyclists. Boring Yes, but such traffic surveys provide essential data. I’m Carlton Reid, and today I’d like to introduce you to a different way of measuring road use. away that’s more accurate than the pneumatic tubes, you’ll often see stretched across carriageways, but which don’t measure very slow moving, or static motor traffic and aren’t even so hot on recognising bikes. The tell ramp system uses cameras and of course, a AI to work out exactly what’s going by on the road. And it’s not just for professionals, you can buy one for your window and start measuring traffic 24/7 Perhaps to prove that your road suffers from excessive speeding. This morning, I talked with tal rams developer Kris Vanherle of Leuven in Belgium. And I started by asking him to describe his neat system. And whether it could be used to counter those tabloid newspaper columnist and others who claim that bike lanes are empty. Kris there’s a there’s a today there’s a report in a in a British tabloid newspaper. And it’s very frequent kind of complaint. But it’s about empty bicycle lanes. So this particular right wing commentator is basically banging on about bicycle lanes being empty. Now you’ve got a product there that that might help to either prove or disprove that. So what’s your product?

Kris Vanherle 3:08
So our point is called Telraam. It’s it’s a small IoT traffic counting device. Actually, Telraam is a Dutch word. Funny word of play of words, because tell means counting. And is window and it’s the device what you put on the window. It’s you make your window Accounting window, but also telling them as a word in itself in Dutch is abacus. So it’s a nice play of words. So that’s, that’s our, what we do. So basically telling them is a small, low cost, traffic counting device which is owned and hosted by private citizens. So typically, traffic counting devices are used and deployed by professionals and so industry professional but also policymakers, local authorities, just to monitor traffic, what we’ve made first with the Raspberry Pi system, and now with a with a new custom made, hardware and software is a commoditized, let’s say cheap or affordable traffic counting device to also allow anybody to just start counting with with a very simple device. And indeed, like you said, that helps to objectify any discussions on traffic flows are either on there’s too much car traffic in my street, they’re speeding. Bike lanes are not being used, like this example. With data it’s just there so you can have you can at least have a discussion about data rather than gut feeling.

Carlton Reid 4:32
It’s that private citizens but that really interested me when I looked at your product information because yeah, this is not some is you there is like a professional version. You know, you can you municipalities can can get this from their own uses. But this is very much you could you might have a road that you’d quite like to your municipality to close off. You can put this in your window and then you can save that municipality. Look, we’ve got you and X number of cars coming through X number of bicycles coming through why don’t we do this? Is that the idea because because many bicycle advocacy groups already go out there manually counting this stuff. So you’re basically bringing something that that would manually counted and you’re doing this with, with AI in effect.

Kris Vanherle 5:20
Yeah, that that’s partly the objective. So just for some background, so I’ve been working as a traffic engineer over 15 years. And why we started with this project, because out of the frustration of lack of data, so we are either the technical data is lacking, and you basically need data to give property advice, or it’s usually expensive. So we started with this project to make it affordable. And our angle was to work with citizens because like you mentioned, local debt is a very hot topic, and local residents are very much willing to contribute time voluntarily to collect this type of data. Like you said, people can’t manually I’ve even seen people who have done origin destination studies with licence plates. It’s also I mean, people invest time are gorgeous, we should give them the tools to do it properly. So that so that the default so that the data which is being generated is actually useful for policy advice. We offer the device for private citizens, but we do want to work in a collaborative way. So actually, our model is to work with local authorities, and citizens together. So the most common model that we basically have is that we have a discussion with a local authority, they want to do something in their, in their jurisdiction on traffic, like closing a street, low traffic neighbourhood, for example, slow street, but they want to monitor before and after. So they buy devices from us. And we support the local authority to deploy these devices with citizens. So you get the dialogue immediately between the policymakers and the citizens. But apart from that, it’s also possible to just for a parameters to buy a sensor and start this discussion with with the local authority based on their data. So it’s a bit double. So we’re still professional with local authorities, but also enabling directly to towards citizens.

Carlton Reid 7:11
And how much is the product for one product for one person, one private citizen, how much they’re going to pay?

Kris Vanherle 7:16
Yeah, so we’re trying to distinguish. So if, because we really much in favour of grassroots organisations. So if you just want to buy a device that says no strings attached and simple, it’s one at 199 euro, which is still expensive, but if you compare to other ethical techniques, it’s like, three, four times more cheaper compared to limited use, for example. But if you work for a local authority, we set up a full project, we do engagements, we do, we have much more analytics in the dashboard. And then we’ve got the model, right? Where we are more or less, I think, maybe two to 400 euros per device all in. And that’s basically a model how we tend to survive. So provide professional services to local authorities, but give the devices for free via these local authorities. So they can contribute to the to the ethicality. And it works

Carlton Reid 8:06
as well for their for the telecom. So yeah, like a connection. Yeah,

Kris Vanherle 8:11
yeah. So the old device used Wi Fi for data connectivity, but the new device is using a SIM card. But that’s, that’s included. So for the private citizens, we want to make this one of cheap and we’re basically subsidising and because we’re the one off cost just for grassroots organisation. So the 199 is, it’s actually less than what we want, it’s costing us but we want to support these girls with initiatives are revenue models more from the project that we do with the local authorities, and provide more support and ethics and so on. And this is the model that we tried to build also trying to bridge this gap between citizens and local authorities because local traffic very antagonistic.

Carlton Reid 8:53
A minute ago, you mentioned pneumatic tubes, which are, which is often how, you know these these rubber strips that are laid across the road. There’s a bit of a box next to them, which is counting traffic. Now that’s been relatively controversial in the UK recently, in that somebody discovered that for a low traffic neighbourhood, it was in London, the traffic counts potentially could be out, because the pneumatic tubes don’t measure static traffic and effects of it if a traffic jam, you know, the cars are not going anymore, whatever, like I’d know five kilometres an hour, they don’t get counted. So it’s clearly a problem. So your product is solving that problem.

Kris Vanherle 9:39
Yes, in part. So I mean, again, this is technology. So it’s got limitations, but like you mentioned Dometic tubes. It’s been, let’s say the industry standard for a long time. I mean, I’ve I’ve bought this type of data many, many times and I know the limitations like you mentioned, slogan in traffic is an issue and because it depends on timing of signals, so if it’s really slow Although it cannot distinguish between a car passing by or it’s like a single pulse. By counting as an issue as well, I mean, there are two tubes which include by counting, but because they are less heavy, the signal which you get from the kinetic poses is less, so the accuracy is lower. So, these are all issues with pneumatic tubes and there are more, we’re trying to solve this indeed without without garlic, so its chemical based system. But that doesn’t mean it will be 100% accurate. Still, there’s still a trade off between cost and accuracy. But slow, slow going into effect for sure it’s not an issue because it’s taking objects and it is going faster, the objects are going very slow. But the object will be recognised. In fact, I think actually accuracy will be higher, if the traffic is slow, because there’s more frames where the object is, is in the view.

Carlton Reid 10:47
So the accuracy of this, you can track this just by setting your your product up on a window, and then at the same time, at a fraction of a moment in time, you then physically count. And then you tally the turn, and you say, you know how genuinely accurate this is, and you found that it is accurate.

Kris Vanherle 11:10
You can so what we have with, especially without a new device, there’s a screen on top of it. So and it gives you life counts. So if some some when some object passes by, so a car that skin cycle or glass vehicle, you will see the counter increasing. So and that’s also I think, for us important to have this transparency. So we are expecting an accuracy of 90 95% for cars and 80% ish, maybe a bit more for for bikes, it will depend on the locations we’ve tested in length on different sites. But it’s also useful for people in the field to have a device to can just validate and cross check, okay? The device on this period of time is indeed counting on a typical day, and you can do some manual validation. So this type of conspiracy for us is really important because it’s often lacking with with other technologies. So primitive tubes, we know that in some cases, it doesn’t work. In some cases it doesn’t. So you don’t know if you can rely on the data. In some cases, yes or no. In our case, what you see is what you get them and if you don’t work on your site, you will at least see it on the on the screen.

Carlton Reid 12:15
Now the advantage, I’m guessing of it, and we discussed the disadvantages of pneumatic use. But the advantage of it is, you know, their lateral there on the ground, and nothing can really obscure them. But presumably your product has its camera based things could obscure them so that there must be an optimum placement. style. So if you had it in somebody’s window, and say the bike lane that you’re trying to measure is frequently blocked by you know, traffic, car traffic and buses, and you can’t actually see the cyclists See you then that’s where your product isn’t quite so good. So how, what is the optimum placement of your product?

Kris Vanherle 12:58
That’s a good point. I mean, like you said, metal cubes. And basically you can assault anywhere where there’s where there’s room. In our case, you have to indeed, you’re limited by like a free field of view of the street. So there’s a few rules of thumb. So what we always recommend is, first of all, your first or second floor window, so not the ground floor, so you’ve got a bit of a downward angle. So that that that negates or avoids having blocking objects passing by. So that’s that’s one thing very clear, need to have a clear field of view. So no trees, preferably no parked cars in front. And not to this bit not too short, not too distant. So I mean, the houses which have like a small garden in front, like five metres or something perfect, because then you’ve got like a very nice view of the street. Now, we are very much aware that this is a limitation. So when we do a project with a local authority we have we’ve got a full onboarding mechanism candidates applying, and they upload a picture where they would instal the device, you’ve got clear instructions on what suitable sites? And then we evaluate if this is a suitable site. Yes, no, and be allowed to inform them? Yes, I mean, it will work on your site. So you can you you’re eligible for a device so so at least we have some control where the device is installed on locations where the count should work. Now, based on our experience, now we are working for two, three years now, I would say that about two thirds of the candidates that we get that probably eligible. So in most cases, if you have a clear view view of the street, the device should work

Carlton Reid 14:33
the product that you’ve got there 199 euros for the consumer, I’m assuming a bit more for local authorities, but when you when you place them either by the private citizen or the local authority, buying a bunch of them, and you place them in a window. I’m assuming there’s some sort of algorithm that you’ve got, which in This prevents double counting. If you’ve got a street and you’ve placed five of these counters next to the street, you’re not going to get you know, the counting the bike bicyclist five times the motorist five times, it kind of knows where it is where the device knows where it is. And it knows if there’s another device 500 metres away, it doesn’t doesn’t count those. So how do you how do you square that?

Kris Vanherle 15:26
Okay, that’s important, because the way we’ve set up our system is that you’ve got one device with a single code segment, what we call a code segment is not the full state, but the street, which is divided by the next intersection. So in principle, the road ethic on the street segment is the same on the full street segment, except for people who should be somewhere on the street segments or incidents, or anybody who’s not transit, basically. So we, we don’t really deploy multiple devices on a single segment, we just take one device, or if we have a volunteer as one device in a seat next segment, and we report the volume of this segment segment on a map public map for this segment, so we don’t really do this, for five devices on a single segment, it’s been done for validation purposes. So then you can take an average, for example, or you can make some small distinctions between a location a bit further up the segment and put it down. But they should be very, very much similar in terms of volume. So yeah, there’s no way of double counting in that sense. If we have to segment two devices on the same segment, we report the average of the of the of both devices on the segment. I think I didn’t mention this explicitly, but we tell them is on one part, this traffic counting device, the sensor, but it’s also an open data platform. So if you sign up with with Telecom, you are also sharing your data and we reporting that on on our website. Landing Page is basically a map with all this data.

Carlton Reid 16:58
So where where have you had your product placed in internationally where where has been counted so far? So

Kris Vanherle 17:08
we started three years ago, but earlier and mostly belted, because we live a Belgium based but gradually we have done some studies internationally. So we had we had a big European project in 2019 to 2021. That was in Dublin, Cardiff, Barcelona, Madrid and Ljubljana we’ve had a nice project in Berlin as well with with across with organisations like I can biking advocacy group, we’re deploying about I think, 100, it’s in the Berlin area. in Utrecht, Netherlands, we’re working with a governance. So again, it’s about 150 200 orders of magnitude. So gradually, also reaching the highest of of Europe, not just Belgium,

Carlton Reid 17:56
how have the results been used? Do you know how they’ve been used?

Kris Vanherle 17:59
It depends, it really depends on the use case. So I can give a few examples. So in some cases, it’s it’s really about monitoring the impact of an intervention, so an intervention low traffic neighbourhood, or whatnot. So anything which is changed, which would expect some fundamental changes to the traffic flows, and then you’d mentioned three, four months before the intervention, three, four months after you direct typical traffic before intervention, typical tactic after the intervention, you could just make comparisons. And that’s super useful. And because what’s typically be done is the stopgap measures have been dealt with the main roads, but for the small underlying roads, like the most smaller essential roads, that really being assessed when you have a change in the circulation plan or installation of a low traffic neighbourhood. And you want to understand if there’s not to say, spillover effects to adjacent streets and so on. So with this, because it’s cheap, you can you can really blanket an area with these devices. And you can do typical perfect pre intervention and typical African post intervention. So that’s, that’s one case. Another case is speeds, that’s also a good one, we have had a very nice case in Louisville, but there’s more which are similar. Where there was an issue of compliance to speed limit of 30 kilometre per hour. So you could really see from the telecom data that compliance was like 50%, half of the cars were driving faster. And there were two interventions. So one intervention was this this digital sign with your speed when you’re passing by, so you could really see when this intervention was done, because compliance increased from I think, 50% to 60%. So these things actually work, apparently. But then you could see a second adventure it was installation speed bump, and then you could see compliance with the speed limit, go to 95%. So, those are examples of how the data is being used to demonstrate the effects, impact of off interventions.

Carlton Reid 19:57
You know, one of the complaints from, from people Is the surveillance society we have here. And you know it capturing numberplate. It’s not what you are. But you’re not capturing numberplates here, you’re literally just there’s a lump going past at a certain velocity. And you are statistically measuring that. So there’s, there’s no, there’s no arguments here. Nobody can say this is surveillance society, you’re just counting numbers and the speed of the things that you’re counting. Yeah,

Kris Vanherle 20:23
exactly. And I mean, that’s really important. I mean, everybody says it, but it’s really genuine. And privacy is important for us. So it’s really, it’s really a thing. So we deliberately don’t do tracking, we deliberately don’t do number plate commissioning. We just do counts. So basically, what’s what’s coming out of the of the traffic counting device is the same type of data you would get from a pretty metric tube, a manual count, whatever, it’s just automatic, long, long duration, and there’s just much more data. But that’s the type of data which is being spit out of the device. And this is enough to do any quite some useful impact analysis of transformation. So yeah, obviously, when you would, when you do something with Ghana based systems, and especially if you give them citizens, you’ll get into controversies we’ve had our share of controversy has been every time we explain how the other device works. So it’s an example of edge computing. So the images which are being collected from the from the camera system, I instantly process on the device itself. And it’s just count data, which is going to our cloud. So you still images leaving the device, it just count data. So these types of things are very important to reassure users and stakeholders nearby. That text, no surveillance,

Carlton Reid 21:45
the objects that you are capturing, and you know, just just counting immediately and not sending anywhere else. And can you differentiate between a car, a van, a lorry and HGV a large truck, a bicyclist, a pedestrian, maybe even a cargo bike user? How how granular is your data?

Unknown Speaker 22:07
Yeah, very good question. So we’ve been working up to now with the Raspberry Pi based systems, we’re not the new flashy device you see now. And the old device categorises in four categories, so pedestrians, bikes, and cars and large vehicles, that classification is quite rudimentary and simple. So basically, it’s using Object properties. So for example, axis he have an object, so pedestrians are very narrow and very tall. So x axis ratio of the object is four. So it’s likely pedestrian while cars wide and not at all. So axis ratio is 0.5. We use a few other parameters to then classify that those objects but there is there is a clear risk of misclassification. So for example, the motorcycles and bikes there would likely be in the same category with the new device, it’s different. So it’s it’s immediate AI commission. So when you see an object and an object is associated, okay, this is clearly a bike or a pedestrian. So while we were now still bundling them in the same four categories, in fact, the device can see more categories. So you’ve got car, you’ve got no longer two wheelers. With the old device, the bikes and motorcycles with the distinction has already added. There’s pedestrians and then what we have now as large vehicles will be categorised in lorry so trucks and tailors, buses, and light light trucks. There’s still a risk of misclassifying cars and vans because yeah, sometimes they just look physically the same. But in terms of

Carlton Reid 23:39
like, what do you call an SUV? I mean, that’s that could be a van.

Kris Vanherle 23:44
So that actually actually the risk of misclassification with a new device is the same as a human would have. So if you’re counting manually, you would say, Well, is this event of an SUV? It’s the same time type of doubt that this device, but other than that there would be no clear misclassification?

Carlton Reid 24:00
And what about a scooter? Because that’s clearly a use scenario that many cities either want to clamp down on, or increase. So do you measure scooters, so these these push scooters,

Kris Vanherle 24:10
motorcycles, so for sure, but again, speed pedelec it’s a good example. So you’ll get to see the the blurrier area of very high end and fast electric bikes speed pedelecs which almost look like it’s good and you’ve got these electric scooters as well, which are more coming down from the scooter towards the bike as they insulate the grey area. I can’t tell for sure how the device will look or counters because sometimes they’re really physically look look quite the same, but anything which looks like a scooter will be counted as a motorcycle. So

Carlton Reid 24:48
the terminology I should I should I should I should have clarified that so when I meant scooters, I mean, the stand on things, steps that propelled you.

Kris Vanherle 24:58
So how would you what would you call them just apps like these small, small wheels, and basically walking on driving on pedestrian walkways, right, or

Carlton Reid 25:11
when you measure them, and you spot them tricky.

Kris Vanherle 25:15
Again, you don’t, it will be difficult to make a distinction between pedestrian and bike in that sense because they are small. So you might get missed out to the to the bulk of an object which is passing by is there is a person which is on the step, and the step itself is quite small. So, if the device misses the step, it will not see it, and it will go to this as a pedestrian. I think it’s a bit too early to make any definite statements on that we’ll have to see we just launched a new sensor. And we’ve tested extensively before, but these are specific cases which we have not had any definite validation on. So we’ll have to see.

Carlton Reid 25:53
So you mentioned a few times the old raspberry pi version, and the new version. So talk me through the history of this when when you first had this idea, your first product, what year was it? Was it for instance, crowdfunded Kickstarter, whatever, to your, your current product. So So talk me through the history of your product,

Kris Vanherle 26:15
the origin, the needs of why we started with this project was was because of relaxed data, affordable data. So we started with that from within the company where I work, which is a spinoff from the University of K Leuven, with a research can’t like, not too big. And we basically said, let’s try this, let’s let’s try to make something with it as a pie and see if it works, what studies and we did a small pilot here in Louisville. And, to our surprise, I mean, there was two key outcomes there. So to our surprise, it worked fairly well, because we made something very simple, with actually available off the shelf hardware and software. So we were wondering, why isn’t this being done before. So that was one. And the second thing is that we had no issue whatsoever, finding people who wanted to host the sensor and do some debugging and developing with us. Now, I appreciate live is a bit of a special university town. But still, I mean, we had I think 250 candidates for 100 devices, and it was like this to find them. So that made us think, Okay, this is a model which could work. So if we can further debug and improve this device, we will definitely find people to host something like this. So that was 2019 2020, I would still call this a proof of concept, we have a bi based system over time, and we did support it and also did the European project and Dublin guidance and so on, we basically came to the conclusion that if you want to reach a large audience, we have to detect the sensor. So they have a bio based system is nice for techie, tech lovers and enthusiasts who want to go to the pain of installing this because it does require some, some technical, know how Wi Fi configuration installation. So pretty soon, we have chosen to go down the path of making a dedicated sense of hardware for for this purpose, which is focused on ease of installation, to also be able to reach anybody who just want to count ethic and I mean, prefers not to go to the pain of installing it has been a buy. And so that’s been done for the past two and a half years. And it’s been a long road. We have also had research funds to do that and some development funds. And we only just launched, I think two months ago with with the new sensor. And now we really ready to scale up with this new device. So we’ll still support the Gatsby by base system because we also tech lovers and we’ve got a nice community of tech lovers and we really want to support them. But for the future, we will definitely look at the new sensor because it’s simpler, user friendly, and we will be able to reach a much larger audience for the public.

Carlton Reid 28:58
I’m going to I’m going to cut to an ad break now I’m going to go across to my my colleague David in America but I will be right back with his I do hang on there for a second. Take it away, David.

David Bernstein 29:08
Hello, everyone. This is David from the Fredcast and of course the spokesmen. And I’m here once again to tell you that this podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern build bikes that make it easier for you to replace car trips with bike trips. Part of that is being committed to designing useful bikes that are also fun to ride. But an even greater priority for Tern is to make sure that your ride is safe and worryfree and that’s why Tern works with industry leading third party testing labs like E FB E and builds its bikes around Bosch ebike systems which are UL certified for both electric and fire safety. So before you even zip off on your Tern, fully loaded and perhaps with the loved one behind it you can be sure that the bike has been tested to handle the extra stresses on the frame, and the rigours of the road. For more information, visit To learn more. And now, back to the Spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 30:18
Thanks, David. And we are here still with Kris Vanherle. And Kris is from Leuven. And I want to dig into Kris, I want to dig into your because you mentioned a couple of times now that you are you’re, you’re a traffic engineer, basically. And I’m assuming that’s exactly now. So what does that job entail? What have you been doing? How does this improve maybe the life of fellow you know, the people who are who are doing your job now? And is that product taking you away from that job. So that’s three different questions.

Kris Vanherle 30:53
15 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen the the space of graphic data being evolving immensely over this last 15 years or so. Cell phone data, for example, let’s start with that. It’s been I mean, when I started my job, I think cell phones weren’t weren’t even that prevalent yet. And casually. Cellphone data was being recognised as something useful for doing origin destination tracking. So you know, where people are coming from where they are going to super useful to, to calibrate different models, for example, which then allow you to do an ex ante analysis and try to model on before and before we do an intervention, how traffic would behave, if you would do an intervention. Before that was all speculation and theoretical. That type of data has really, really evolved. And it’s like now the standard go back to Google traffic, for example, is a product which provides origin destination data, travel time data, which is usually usually interesting, and has really changed the environment of traffic engineering, allowing different models to be much, much better.

Carlton Reid 32:00
Now, basically, that that’s using the Bluetooth on a phone to basically measure where people are going to and from it knows probably where people are just by speed, you know, they’re on a bicycle or in a car. And then it’s the origin destination means, you know, are they genuinely doing one mile trips? Is that Is that what you mean?

Kris Vanherle 32:18
Or they live in this area and go to that area where they work. And it’s generating congestion in between? Because there’s so many people coming from there and who choices for example, why are people or why are people taking a restaurant, for example, those things you can all make visual. Now. I mean, at the beginning of of when this data was useful, there were sincere privacy concerns which completely justified but by now you have topped with data products, which all are hashed and anonymous, and non Nice. So it’s much safer and clearer now. But still, sometime, it’s a bit creepy. But this type of data are extremely useful to calibrate traffic models, which you really need to give to make corporate data and appropriate and policy advice. So we had the epic moments 50 years ago, still, but they were scarcely calibrated, and they were to get the best. But now, I mean, definitely much more performance much more accurate. Now, the point where I want to come to and my time is still important and useful is that this type of origin destination, which is floating garden is one super useful, but it’s still just a sample. So you still you will will not have all traffic, which is having a cell phone in the car, for example. So you will not it will not provide you absolute values on a specific site. So that’s still valuable to collect them to calibrate models. And secondly, this is still just cars. So we have achieved to calibrate effort models for cars properly now, in the traffic engineering world. But bikes, bike models, only scratching the surface at this point. And, and we already know that route choice behaviour and so on with bikes is completely different. The steepness of the hill, the quality of infrastructure, the perception, or the heel safety, those are all things which are influencing good choice of of bikes. And there’s there’s definitely a capsule to get that right. And we tell him, you know, we’ll have to have accounting data not just regarding also for bikes. So it will allow to get to make the next step, let’s say and also get good corporate traffic models with with bikes. So you can do also proper policy development, which is supported by data, not just for cars, but also bikes.

Carlton Reid 34:36
And then the one of the other parts of that question was are you still doing the traffic engineering? I’m always like, taking you away from that field.

Kris Vanherle 34:47
Yeah, yeah, I’m completely consumed now by Telraam development. So I mean, we so Telraam was started as a project from within TML we we did this epic engineering but because it’s that was consultancy, Telraam as a product, so we spin it off as a different company, because it’s completely different. And I would say we’re in our own startup life and trying to get this product as good as possible. So it’s a completely different focus, to a development firm with development, use management, and so on. So, yeah, I’m, unfortunately, I’m not really doing much anymore. When I when I, when I’m lucky, and I can do a workshop with data analysis, then I can dive into the, into the telecom data and do some good old data analysis, which is really fun. So if I get the chance I come to it, but it’s more for the colleagues from from TML, who were working with a data and third parties,

Carlton Reid 35:42
TML. What’s TML?

Kris Vanherle 35:45
TML that’s the agency where the traffic engineering Bureau where it was within the spinoff from the key. So the colleagues.

Carlton Reid 35:52
So you guys, because your background, as a traffic engineer, you know, this product is going to be incredibly useful around the world. You know, this is not something that you’ve come from the world of tech, and you’ve brought this to an alien world that you are from this world, you know, this product, it will be incredibly useful.

Kris Vanherle 36:13
Yeah, yeah, that’s correct. And, and that’s why, but I’ve grown to understand over time, that’s why I at first, I didn’t understand why tech world hadn’t already done this, because it’s not that hard. And the use case is very clear. So while we came in from the immediate the application side, and we had to learn the back, let’s say, so we had to learn how this technology works and work with partners, but the application for us was evident. And we also can see it and the development towards what we think is definitely the most applicable use case. So simple, cheap, and very specific on a very specific type of traffic, counting data. So on the specific sites, no intersections, no origin destination, because once you go down that route, you’ll get you’ll end up with high end system, which will cost you multiple 1000s of euros per device. And we think there’s definitely a use case for her first cervix, very simple, low cost epicanthic. device.

Carlton Reid 37:10
So talk me through it because you said it. This is like two months in which you’ve you’ve had this the the newest iteration of your product, where do you see your company going? How many devices do you think you’re going to be able to sell to a to private citizens and be to local authorities? So what’s what’s your Give me your business plan, so not just your business? Product history, your business plan? If you don’t mind, Kris,

Kris Vanherle 37:36
we’ve seen what the current has been by this system that we’ve gotten a lot of attention from Belgium. But we’ve also seen that it’s, it requires all support. So we were a bit reluctant and hesitating to go international with this, because we want to be closer to be able to provide support. So. So while we’ve been having a lot of questions, in the meantime, while we were still working with it has been a buy and developing the new system, we have been holding back a bit on international inquiries. Now we’ve got the new sensor ready. And it’s not, I would say 90% validated, we still need to check off a few things. But we just want to open the international tab, let’s say and want to roll out as fast as possible and as many as possible, because the need is there. So if you if you’re asking me for numbers, I am hoping to deploy at least 2000 a year but rather looking at several, I mean, five to 10,000 additional new devices per year being deployed worldwide. We’re having a focus because we’re based in Belgium on Benelux or Belgium or the Netherlands. But we have somebody who’s working for us already in London. So UK will be a focused market to expand. And we already also getting some inquiries from from the US. So hopefully, we can also quickly built on that and serve that market. Now in terms of the distinction between the private citizens and the local authorities. I think that’s really the crux that’s really important for us. So the way we have gained traction in Belgium is always via a single citizen citizen who bought the device and made a lot of noise about his device and his data for the local authority, which then initiated local authority to set up a project. And then we can help to local authority or a commercial client consultancies working with a local authority to set up a network of of devices. And that’s really crucial because we like I said, halfway, I think we are almost subsidising the individual ones we want to make make it really cheap for the enthusiasts for the cars, fruits initiatives. We want to keep them but our sustainability is dependent on projects. So networks of, of devices for it’s for these commercial clients, consultancies and local authorities. So we really hope to go in, find that we’re looking for partnerships for example, large organisations who have have access to a big community who would buy these devices from us, we provide them a management platform and management tool to, to basically manage the fleet of devices in the community. But give them device for free towards volunteers. So that’s a bit the model that we were hoping for to achieve.

Carlton Reid 40:19
Took me through your dashboards, I know, tech people get really excited by their dashboards. So when you instal this, or when you when you when you when you upload the data when you’re not you, but when the device uploads the data to the cloud, and then it’s all graphed and mapped, and what have you, what do you see? So can you see not just numbers, this is the number of people who’ve cycled walked, driven past your window, we also get like peaks. So there’s a graph there showing you at 5pm you’ve got a massive amount of car traffic, bum, bum, um. So what what is your what are your stats show?

Kris Vanherle 40:57
Good question. So I invite you and your listeners to go to our website, because basically those things are all open. Also, there’s a private dashboard, but there’s also a very big public website. So I’ll just go over what’s what’s there. So we report the total numbers by day and by hour. So just to sum up of the cars pedestrians and, and the four categories. But like you mentioned, there’s also an interface where you can select a time interval, for example, three months, four months or four year, and then it calculates a typical traffic volume for this period, a typical traffic volume for a weekday or a weekend. And that, like you said, that will demonstrate these these typical patterns. So the short morning peak and a bit more prolonged evening peak. So those are interfaces, what’s also reporting on speeds and so we report the speeds of passing cars in bins of 10 kilometre per hour, we’ve also changed it to miles per hour for UK. So that’s also possible. So that will give you an idea on what what they share, or what are the speed profiles, let’s say of cars in your street. And finally, the VAT five. And speed is like a traffic engineering concept, which I have to explain. So if you would have 100 cars, and you would sort them by fastest to the slowest. It’s the 85th fastest car. So there’s 15 cars driving faster and 84 driving slower. So the V 85 gives you a good indication of what we call free flow speed. So how fast you guys drive when there’s no congestion. So on a disagree indication of how our streets are typically used by cars in terms of speed. So those are all in the open dashboard and in the private dashboard. So the telecom user has got a bit more extra analytics, for example, a monthly report with big peak hours last month has to have to increase last month to the to the to the previous month. So a bit more extra gimmicks, which are useful for the individual use of it, the core thing is that everything is open. So that also if you’re not at a telecom device owner, you can still interact with the data, you can do analysis yourself if if you want and we encourage that.

Carlton Reid 43:05
So traffic census as has been carried out since the dawn of motoring, you know I’ve I’ve, I’ve looked at various statistics down down the years of, you know, the usage of roads, and even of 1920s and 1930s, bike paths, etc. So censuses have been carried out since the dot. But they’ve always been this, you know, they pick a date, they pick up probably a 24 hour period. And that can be very, very misleading because it you know, do you do it in the winter? Do you do it in the spring, do it in the summer, or you tend not to do it, you know, loads of times, because it’s just so expensive, because it’s manual. Counting is phenomenally expensive and complicated to do, what you’ve got is a system that is 20 477 days a week, every single week of the year, blah, blah, blah, it’s just constant. So you’ve got much, much more robust data there that will build up. And I know, like, folks is the the Bicycle Advocacy Group for Edinburgh, has been doing traffic counts and traffic sensors for a long time. And they do it manually. This is going to I’m sure would excite them because it will be an adjunct to the database built up over many years. But instead of just doing it on a certain day, they’ve now got it every single day.

Kris Vanherle 44:31
Yeah, that’s correct. Yeah. What’s important is to know that because people think of data accounting data and data candidates in traffic counting today, but that’s not the case. So you’ve got different types of traffic counting. So for starters, you’ve got this floating Carta, which I explained from the cell phone site, but also the point location so and maybe supplies do what you would expect, would expect but all All these different types of traffic entered into on a single site are valuable. So even manual counts are still valuable. Although they are fragmented to show they’re very scarce. So either it’s expensive, or it’s or it’s very one off. But it’s still valuable because in some use cases, you really need it. So for example, if you want to optimise traffic lights, to want to know which site needs to have the green light alarms, and so on. For that type of thing, you need queue lengths, for example, to monitor queue lengths, is usually difficult, even with high end optical systems. So for those type of applications, you still need manual counts. But that being said, for two traffic counts for for for a long period. What well, we used to work with, like you said, every Tuesday of every Tuesday, every two or every two weeks, do a manual count, that’s gone, those times are gone. And either weapon or metric tubes or in the future with Telecom, that just the sheer volume of data will will will blow away even the bit more accurate manual counting data, which is much more fragmented. So yeah, it’s indeed, it’s indeed, the potential of a big change in mental mental change of evolution in terms of how we collect difficulty data on specific sites.

Carlton Reid 46:20
And @fietsprofessor, the on Twitter, he had a very, I think he did a an academic study on this, but he also did it on Twitter, and he kind of like, showed the video of this. So he had a camera above a promise intersection in Amsterdam. And then he talked about swarms, and flogging, and he showed how, you know, bicyclists just flock through this particular intersection, whereas cars are very regimented. You know, in narrow trails, bicyclists were going everywhere. So what that suggests is, as we know, there are an awful lot of bicyclists in Amsterdam. So does your system cope with high use bicycling city, where if there’s 10,000 cyclists going through an intersection, it can count that even though they’re flocking together? How do you count the ants?

Kris Vanherle 47:20
Yeah, that’s a very good question. And it’s very important to realise how you should tackle those issues. So in short Telecom, the sensor is low cost device, it’s not made for counts on intersections, because like you said, You’ve got you got flux, you’ve got everything, which is going, one going left going, right. I mean, if you do anything with it’s just impossible, I mean, it’s not impossible. But if you want to do those counts, right, you need the high end camera system, which will cost you five to 10,000 euros just for a single site. So we’ve deliberately chosen for, let’s not, let’s not try to fix that problem, because it’s just too complex. But you can fix the problem. If you focus on a bit more simpler sites, which are just seat segments where you have bikes passing by left, right, left, right. So it’s very clear that object is passing to one side and exiting the other side. And if you’ve got a bit of a downward angle, you can just basically see all object passing by. And that’s a face a much more simpler setup where AI systems can much easier more easily cope with. So if you would have such a situation, what we would do is not monitored the intersection, because it’s too difficult, but just take the branches, so maybe even a few sights on the branches. So you know, the absolute volumes on on, on the branches. As long as you don’t have like, I would say, a big cycling haze or something where you have like 567 people, not side to side, and maybe even swapping positions. I mean, that’s a nightmare. But just one or two side by side, as long as they’re clearly segmented. So like different objects, and it will go it will count those devices. Again, I just want to point back out about some technology choices that we’ve made. Our core focus is it has to be simple, simple to instal and, and cheap so it’s affordable. I mean, anything that you describe now it’s all solvable with technology that will just cost you a tremendous amount of money so you can indeed make a camera system and we should to an online image conditioning system and then will you have to pay for every object that you I mean, it’s all possible but will just cost you a lot of money.

Carlton Reid 49:47
Yes, now I think that’s what @fietsprofessor did. They basically tracked it and then they used AI to count every individual and in that and it was it was a highly complex and probably expensive thing to do. So, Kris, thank you ever so much for taking the time today to talk about this system. So give us the where can people buy these from, your social media stuff get? Give us all your information of how we can find you.

Kris Vanherle 50:14
Yeah. So first of all, first up our website. So, I think if you go to the website, things will become very apparent, you can also engage with the data. There’s much more two links on what the device is like. And there’s a webshop. So you can if you want to devise yourself, I mean, that’s the way to go. If you want to push for that, let’s say you do this with my local authority. I’ve got to reach out to us via the website, and we’ll see if we’ll see if of course it is possible. So that’s our website. I think that’s the first place to go. We’re active on Twitter. Our handle is telraamtelraam two times next to each other. So that’s the probably the social media that we’re using the most. We’re not on Facebook, not on Instagram, and LinkedIn obviously, if you want also telraam. So that yeah, that’s how to find anybody interested, reach out to us via our web form. We are ready to go with our new sensor.

Carlton Reid 51:16
Thanks to Kris Vanherle there and thanks to you for listening to episode 324 of the Spokesmen podcast. Show notes and more can be found at I’m still waiting to with BBC journalists Anna Holligan and Kate Vandy who have yet to take delivery of a rather special outside broadcast unit: a tricked-out cargo bike. This will be the bike bureau, a mobile news gathering studio like no other. I’m hoping that chat can happen some time next month, meanwhile get out there and ride.

March 24, 2023 / / Blog

24th March 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 323: Bike Advocacy Woes In Motor-mad Malta

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: James Craig Wightman

TOPICS: Flush with EU cash Malta is deepening its car dependency by building wider roads, dystopian flyovers and paying just lip service to sustainable modes of transport. Urbanist bike commuter James Craig Wightman shows Carlton Reid what it’s like to live on a tiny island that’s being eaten alive by car use.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 323 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show is engineered on Friday 24th of March 2023.

David Bernstein 0:28
The spokesman cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are 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. Turn 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 1:03
I’m Carlton Reid. And that buzz you may be able to hear is the buzz of a sleeper train. I was a few minutes ago in Syracuse or Sicily. I was waiting to start the journey to Rome. It’s now started, and I bushed after a 75 mile folding bike ride from the ferry port at Pozzallo. I got there from Malta, and today’s show is all about the amazing car centrism of this 16 mile long by nine mile wide, Mediterranean island. My guest is British aviation executive James Craig Weidman, a 30 year resident of Malta. He took me for a bike ride and infrastructure Safari bike ride around the island trying to work out which bits of very wide bike paths were actually usable. I gawked at the multi lane highways and superfluous flyovers on this tiny island. Please be aware that there are some loud noises on this podcast including roaring engines on a racetrack road and daytime firework bombs at a saints feast day. Here we go. So let’s just let’s just fixate on the ground here. So we’re in st Julian’s, which seems to be like the hotel

James Craig Wightman 2:37
right December what I try and do they’ll take you far from nice touristy bits and bits please don’t get to see

Carlton Reid 2:48
so we’ve seen two cyclists already. Mountain bikers obviously out doing a trail somewhere. Okay. But that’s that they were part of that point. 7% And they were the first people we saw So we’ve seen a healthy proportion of the multi cycling population that

James Craig Wightman 3:11
we had years ago we had

Carlton Reid 3:15
Oh, you’re increasing. That’s that’s positive.

James Craig Wightman 3:17
I mean, at least it’s keeping up the top of the

Carlton Reid 3:21
water I mean, horrible thing to say here. But is there a decreasing of those numbers by killing?

James Craig Wightman 3:29
Not really actually very rarely fatalities? I think so. Perhaps because we’re candy back to repeat ourselves.

Carlton Reid 3:44
And you know where the danger spots are? You’re not going to go on the I mean, I’ve been motorways those so you could go on those major highways and we will because there are no other way sometimes getting through right oh, just knit behind you that because the car coming. The motorists do you think you’re freaks? Do they think what the hell is that up ahead? Or they just

James Craig Wightman 4:13
Yeah, it’s very much like the UK anywhere to where Britain when he wrote the Empire I think inherited the same

Carlton Reid 4:25
approach. But James, you’re now in the EU so you should be more Dutch. Oh, yeah. Well, and and maybe even Italian and German you should be more European in your in the country’s appreciation of cycling. Okay.

James Craig Wightman 4:45
Yeah, we should

Carlton Reid 4:49
see you when you are new getting me out here and you’re telling me to you know which roads to avoid and go this way and you were saying Google Maps doesn’t route you so bad You see the bees this path that way on the end isn’t is it marked so a lot of these things are just actually lucky yeah that’s it that’s a UK cycling sign oh now on a metal cycle track okay

Unknown Speaker 5:16

Carlton Reid 5:21
on the what sorry say that again and and tell me what that is

James Craig Wightman 5:30
it’s basically the natural kind of here which

Carlton Reid 5:37
is it volcanic what is it that doesn’t look like limestone that’s that’s weird you’ve

got an incredibly noisy generator Why is that

James Craig Wightman 5:58
so bad percentage of edible fish

Carlton Reid 6:05
so it’s still a mark cycle I’m gonna come on to a what an effective road? Sunday work so writing Sunday it will that make a difference? Well well, Jane, I’ve been impressed so far. You were you were you were you were telling me Porky’s about how bad it is here. This is this is okay. This is something

could I mean this is is this going somewhere to somewhere? No. So it’s nice, but it’s leisure but this is not something you could use going to work or anything? I mean, how many people are living here? 500,000 people?

James Craig Wightman 6:51
It’s roughly that Yeah, yeah, we’re just we’re just on the edge of Hoffman.

Carlton Reid 6:55
Is that is that one of the reasons why it’s so hairy and dicey on the roads and that there’s the the density of people here is just immense.

James Craig Wightman 7:05
There is there is an increase in density but we’ve got a big problem because we’ve made it easier for people to drive we’ve made wider roads rather than narrow one where everybody’s is narrowing roads make people come down and slow down. We’ve actually increased the widths of them sometimes at the cost of cycling lanes

Carlton Reid 7:22
to cycle lanes that were there had been ripped out

James Craig Wightman 7:26
thinned down to almost nothing and you’ll see a couple more of those today.

Carlton Reid 7:29
And when we’re saying when you’re saying cycle ends you mean paint or you mean concrete thinking okay? So even the what would be considered to be one of our word crap Yes. cycling infrastructure has been made crapper

James Craig Wightman 7:41
Yes. Very much. So yeah. Okay.

Carlton Reid 7:45
There are policies to say we want to increase cycling it’s just that their lip service very much. Right. But when we’re coming down here, and I was saying, Yeah, this is like really quite high quality and then you were telling me Porky’s because we need to go Dutch here. Yeah. The very fact that you are now or you have been for many years EU? Yeah, that should be really really ramping up. It is a no pressure from say the EU to say come on Malta, you’ve got to you’ve got to do more Dutch. Unfortunate and more perhaps,

James Craig Wightman 8:20
this changing now they’re starting there’s been a big push the last couple of months, wrote up the orgonite. The cycling organisation here for does that stand for? Groceries? motifs for bicycle. Ah, okay. So very simple, very, very iconic, you know, you know exactly what you’re getting. But they’re also pushing now for active funding for the pushing for walking as well. They have protests yesterday. We’ve got foot scooters. They were brought in by the government trying to layer on anything that they can put in the system where they don’t have incentivized cars. Government policy not

Carlton Reid 8:59
not to incentivize, but then they will realise the roads which incentivize the cars

James Craig Wightman 9:04
when they bought in footswitches. Rocha was one of the groups that said you need to do these docked, not adopted it, looked around, see them scattered all over the place. And the reason doctors wouldn’t work for the government was they’d have to take away parking space from cars. So you know how that goes. And here it’s the trolley, you can try and move one parking space. It’s

Carlton Reid 9:29
such a nice, we’ve hardly because there is only a finite amount of space in the city and it’s quite a lot of tight.

James Craig Wightman 9:38
It’s actually made snacking a lot more difficult. Because as we’ve increased parking, we’ve increased the number one way street.

Carlton Reid 9:45
It’s chronic one way streets here are chronic,

James Craig Wightman 9:47
and there’s no conscious load. Or I’m going to show you one contract robots the only one I know on

Carlton Reid 9:52
the controller as anaemia where cyclists can go up the other way. Technically, that’s

James Craig Wightman 9:57
not allowed. No contract loads move by direction on sheets. So you can’t wiggle your way through towns or cities. You can’t look up on Google Maps. So you’re either going to look at a car group, which is going to take up the main road, which is illegal for scooters anyway. Or you’re going to take the pedestrian route which is going to take you up and down one way streets normally anyway. Your skirt you know, it’s really it’s a bit of a mess. Should we?

Carlton Reid 10:22
Yeah, are we going across town bumping up we’re going up to town we’re getting out of town. Because you brought me to the best straightaway come in. This is when our next habitation here so people could use this, but I’m presuming it doesn’t go very far.

James Craig Wightman 10:40
But it’s quite nice. If not unless you’re soaking trainer at the Marine Park, but not over the top. It’s probably not picking up my TV. Anything.

Carlton Reid 10:54
Right? No, don’t tell. Tell me a bit about yourself. Why are you here? How long have you been here? Two years. Wow. That’s a long time.

James Craig Wightman 11:06
It is different issues like that.

Carlton Reid 11:08
So where were you originally? Where are you from?

James Craig Wightman 11:10
Born in Scotland. Right? bonnybridge I networking for British Aerospace. Right. as well. moved around quite a bit in London. And then eventually found myself here.

Carlton Reid 11:24
Okay, you’re definitely showing me the best of the best here. Yeah. That’s nice. We’ll come straight out of the hotel there and haven’t really. I mean, there’s been a couple of motorists popping along, but nothing nothing serious. Yeah. And we’ll get to the serious bit soon, I guess. Yeah. So 30 years ago, you were still working for British Aerospace or car back now. We’re going turning right. So we’re gonna hear okay. Aviation though still? Yeah, yeah. Oh, okay. You’re still working in the aviation industry then. Okay. Yeah. luchar airport, or?

James Craig Wightman 12:06
I was starting to pick up on the other side. Uh huh. The most invading army supply in Libya? For the oil industry. Yes, yes. But we started buying for the good guys and stuff. Correct. Okay. fun places like South Sudan are ordered nicely. But we recently started my season four on transport. So we were flying in areas to the mainland in Spain, and then flying at the moment with Amelia, which is a marketing slave.

Carlton Reid 12:58
And then your colleagues think you’re a bit of a weirdo turning up on a bike because they’re going to be absolutely besotted with their cars

James Craig Wightman 13:05
probably parched. There’s two of us

Carlton Reid 13:15
but then we can hear motorbikes revving and that genuinely sounds like a genuine race track of the top there. And you call that the coast road.

James Craig Wightman 13:23
Gotcha. We’re gonna go and see.

Carlton Reid 13:25
So describe the roads policy here because because I’ve been being ferried around the bus because I’m here with the British gonna travel rides on their AGM. And we’re just, you know, five, six miles away from but that’s the way we’ve got to be a lot of the time. And so we do pass these major major highway six lane highways in the centre of town and we’re still getting stuck in traffic. That hasn’t alleviated anything, but the motorways that are not motorways, but in northern name. Oh, hey, guys. So Tarik gutting upgrading your road network infrastructure, Malta. So infrastructure Malta is the department agency that that could make your life easier. Okay, so we’re not concentrating because we are now on a pretty busy road. Not that many cars coming and stopping for us. And we’re now off again. But basically we’re we’re parallel to the coast road here on a residential road

so these motorcycles here, they look recreational to me. Yeah, they don’t know not going to work then going up and down. Round around. I mean, if you did do a round if you went the coast road the whole way. Yeah, that’s like 50 miles.

James Craig Wightman 14:53
No, no, no.

Carlton Reid 14:58
Oh, so they’re going nowhere. Yeah, they’re genuinely going nowhere. Okay?

James Craig Wightman 15:03
You’ll see as we go along, but there are photographers strategically placed, taking snapshots, people riding their bikes, I thought we

were gonna hit it too.

Carlton Reid 15:22
Are we genuinely gonna get take our lives in our hands. At least at this point, I’m going to do something quite weird. But bear with me and we’re going to cut for an ad break. We’re going to go across to my mate David in America.

David Bernstein 15:36
Hello everyone. This is David from the Fredcast and of course the spokesmen. And I’m here once again to tell you that this podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern build bikes that make it easier for you to replace car trips with bike trips. Part of that is being committed to designing useful bikes that are also fun to ride. But an even greater priority for Tern is to make sure that your ride is safe and worryfree. And that’s why turn works with industry leading third party testing labs like E FB E, and builds it bikes around Bosch ebike systems which are UL certified for both electric and fire safety. So before you even zip off on your Tern, fully loaded and perhaps with a loved one behind, you can be sure that the bike has been tested to handle the extra stresses on the frame and the rigours of the road. For more information visit to learn more. And now back to the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 16:46
Thanks David and unless straight back into into Lolita we are just on the edge of Pembroke here with James and now we’re going to take our lives into our hands James and we are going to go on the coast road but it’s a Sunday so we’re not taking the lives into our hands as much as we would on a weekday Are you really offended

James Craig Wightman 17:09
pointing in the right direction and we didn’t want knowing that we didn’t want him that he wants to do it

Carlton Reid 17:31
James I want to start not hearing you here probably

looking around here because we okay yeah

James Craig Wightman 17:50
we’re gonna go to the hole

Carlton Reid 17:52
oh that’s a Ferrari just going past using it as a racetrack

we on this is now a psychopath. Okay, so we are now on. There’s a solid white line to my right. And fatness 123456 Roadies. And they’re using the painted bike path on the other side of the road. Recreational routes are here Yeah. Hey. Nice to go that fast because there’s so many cars here. So we’ve got a solid white line on the right hand side there. And we’ve got title bikes and both of those views are nice down to the the Knights of Malta towers. In fact, I’ve got a whole bunch of more roadies here now it’s a more roadies thing though that that point 7% is we’ve met every cyclist on the island yeah

Unknown Speaker 19:07

Carlton Reid 19:11

mean that’s basically the rumble strip to tell motorists Don’t go in there painted bike lanes

I feel protected James you know that’s that’s round the roundabout at least. You know, normally that that would actually be it would stop at the roundabout that expect you to go across without paint. Ah, so at least we were protected with paint there around the roundabout. So that’s that’s tick. Right. So going downhill here the road has now gone to dead Two lanes before it was one lane and cars are going in and out of each other not overtaking sense of me going fast along the road here recreationally rather than going anywhere I don’t think using a bit of a promenade because saying the right okay oh okay that’s confusing okay but let’s do on a bike path so it’s all

it’s difficult to talk to James because it’s not nice I’m used to this it’s okay I’m not worried but it’s not pleasant let’s let’s put it that way it really isn’t that you wouldn’t put tourists on here for instance you know tourists would know like to do this but there’s almost a third lane for the for the bike path. Oh, I’m now on the rumble strip. Oh, that wasn’t nice. And you having to look to the right to see what’s coming nothing

you kind of just gone straight ahead there cyclists Yeah.

We have another group of roadies, I guess Sunday I guess.

Doctor just had a Ferrari going past and its exhaust was literally spewing flames things and this road doesn’t go and motorcyclists are just go very, very fast on it for the hell of it.

Mary’s race try. And James are telling me before that was going to be photographers. And there they are. A big corner here and another group of Roadies. 12345 1010 roadies, including somebody on a iron carbide gain. I thought times all right. Bunch of roadies, why would they be on here and why would they want to go on here and that’s where the photographers are hanging on the corner and watching and they’ve got a big lenses on taking photographs of the motorcyclists going around. Stay. There’s a whole bunch of motorcyclists that all guys mainly that’s the same roadies that were going that way. Yeah, those roads are going on this road that the motorcyclists are going on and going round around why

I, I am genuinely

each other and the cyclists are with a going round in the same row, the same racetrack. So this is going nowhere to nowhere. Yeah. Is it just going up and down? It goes up to support. But will the cyclists go up on this route and then come back? Yeah. Okay.

You’ll be getting a bit of a flavour here.

Unknown Speaker 24:16
Listening to this. And

Carlton Reid 24:17
believe me, unless you turn this up full volume and put in spatial stereo headphones. You won’t be getting what I’m getting, which is just a cacophony of noise. It’s the same Roadies. There we go. Same but

same muscle cars now coming past but let me just describe this on a normal day. So on a on a standard day, middle of the day, you wouldn’t find the motorcyclists coming around as

James Craig Wightman 24:56
well because they will probably be stuck.

Unknown Speaker 24:59
They’ll be lots of work. He places Okay, time to get stuck so it wouldn’t move as fast.

James Craig Wightman 25:04
Okay, we’ll go this way the country get away from this noise. Yeah and then we’re back on horrifying

Carlton Reid 25:14
Do you know I on Twitter you describe how murderous yeah Malta is and how awful it is. And I just think oh yeah, of course he’s just just exaggerating. And this I’ve never seen this before in my life. Yeah. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Nice. Yes, no, no, no, I now totally trust you. So we’ve lost the paint protection, and we’re now having passed by 1-234-567-8910 roadies, the same guy on the TT bike. So that is the same I mean, I recognise the bikes now. Same guys. And they’re in the middle of the road, they’re doing the doing primary position. They’re indicating where they’re going versus lying down. But again, I’m assuming they’re gonna go to this roundabout up ahead and they’re going to turn back again and do the same route which I’ve seen them on now. At least twice

so the roadie regardless Yes. Now they’re coming back on the same road doing through and off the time trial is now coming through he was the head before now he’s in the middle and they’re doing through an ops speedy speedy on the tarmac coast road beautiful surface road I’m not complaining here coming off the road James has taken us off and we’re looking where we’re going and we’re now parallel to that road ah, James so much more pleasant and we’re just metres away from that road but now I’m looking at potentially meet motorists on here but I’m breathing easier already. Yes, that’s nice. That’s nice.

James Craig Wightman 27:14
It makes it easy to drive the number of people selling a car something like something like 96%

Carlton Reid 27:30
Yeah, I’ve obviously noticed that yes, yes.

James Craig Wightman 27:35
Of course we’re not the kind of country where you’ve got space where you can have my feeling offended

Carlton Reid 27:42
me as you’re saying it makes sense to be like Sicily and to have a scooter to do those journeys it just makes no sense to have a little run around car to do those journeys so just just let’s let’s describe Malta to people who don’t know Malta so north or south, east or west. How many roads are there what how far can you go?

James Craig Wightman 28:02
This tree is apparently this 3000 kilometres

Carlton Reid 28:06
right wiggly wiggly wiggly country lanes which are metal yeah yeah.

James Craig Wightman 28:19
When we got people using Waze here it got worse they started using the back roads

Carlton Reid 28:25
Yeah, now sometimes it’s easier so north or south how what’s the distance I’m sorry

Okay, so we’re now we’re going to country lanes and we’re going quite fast so that race car culture

Unknown Speaker 28:50
it used to be a beautiful

James Craig Wightman 28:55
day was told that you come down previous tree now it’s it’s the country Yeah.

Carlton Reid 29:06
Yeah, I can hear and see them it’s not cheap. Now to put these roads in so where’s the money coming from? Yeah, I was guessing that but you know without there’s no me provisos when you when you get cash like that to say okay, we’ll give you the millions but you’ve got to put in you know, decent bike infrastructure

Well, yes, there’s there was a murdered journalist down in Valetta. knocked off the car bomb. Really where? Gosh, so glossier was was basically blown up I won’t say who won’t, but there was some semi jailed for it. won’t say

Unknown Speaker 30:03
so yep.

Carlton Reid 30:08
And we’ll start up there that’s Rabatt yeah

James Craig Wightman 30:18
the big time and in fact, I’m here is

Carlton Reid 30:24
I’m gonna rebound is a beautiful mediaeval town

James there was no rhyme or reason to that a certain time that was just totally random as far as I could tell. So basically we started ahead one or two bangs nobody batted an eyelid. I was like, start what was that? And then a few seconds later, and amazing Barrows break off from the faster and more coming down to round two okay. I mean, if you’ve got PST PTSD from like, a war zone, this is gonna be pretty triggering.

James Craig Wightman 31:14
Have a hangover

Carlton Reid 31:17
so this is basically normal profess. This is just lots of noise to tell people that the fest is on Yeah. So the fester let’s put that on tape on the festival professors. It’s a religious festival. Yeah, there are 360 churches throughout Malta, each one will probably have its own patron saint. Everyone’s hoping. Yeah, those are the saints a certain day they’ll probably have a procession. And so today and Rabatt it’s its turn. And this is an annual thing. Yes. So this is the only time we’re about we’ll have this this is this is today

my ears have been bombarded today James basically, a from the the cars and the motorbikes coming pass extremely fast. And I thought, you know, we’d get some bit of a respite from that. By coming into a mediaeval town, and whatnot, we’re getting even louder. So these are loud plays Moltres whereabouts are we right now? Sorry, is behind us? Yes.

James Craig Wightman 32:27
So we’re heading we’re heading in. We’re on the outskirts of the Taj, which is part of the three villages. There’s a Tod, called San media. But we’re heading into a car.

Carlton Reid 32:40
And this room was this road built.

James Craig Wightman 32:42
This is built that last two years. Okay, and

Carlton Reid 32:45
where did the money come from?

James Craig Wightman 32:47
Okay, so it’s 85% in us, DOD. And the rest of the 15%. Government. So

Carlton Reid 32:55
European Regional Development. And let’s describe what this is. So we’ve got two and a half metre direction or bike path parallel to the road with green and green green tarmac, so in many, many respects, it’s it’s up to EU standards. Yeah, this is good. And you’re complaining about this at

James Craig Wightman 33:19
all? No, no, no, that’s fine. Although there are the bits of it, which need tweaking?

Carlton Reid 33:24
So basically, they put some good stuff in. Yes. But they need to complete it.

James Craig Wightman 33:30
Yeah, they didn’t connect it up. And they haven’t really signed it. So you’re very lucky to find your way around it. If you can find it.

Carlton Reid 33:39
Do tweak it. Yeah. Initially will be to assign it to people. We’re not telling you where to go. Like you wouldn’t do that. But road.

Unknown Speaker 33:48
Yeah. Yes. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 33:52
Because this is this is much wider than what we’ve heard before. Yes, yes,

James Craig Wightman 33:55
yes. Although what we had before was a two lane road with a pretty wide carriageway. And you could, you could freeway it all the way from Indiana virtually all the way down to here. And this will actually take you almost really almost up to Moscow. On the back end, Alia as well, if there have been kerastraight is a major place you’d want to get to

Carlton Reid 34:19
as a family as a tourist or whatever. Yeah. And then the central road.

James Craig Wightman 34:26
It also links up to places like Dingli. So you’ve got an alternative route to the back of theory as well. So it’s quite an important route. Really. But then you get to the end of this bridge across

Carlton Reid 34:43
your carriageway Park. That route has taken us away. And then we’re done. We’re done with

Unknown Speaker 34:48
what we’ve just done. Yeah. Yeah, you know what to

Carlton Reid 34:51
do. That’s it, your local unit materials and I haven’t got Google Maps because they don’t work. And I’m like, Where do I go?

James Craig Wightman 35:01
I think it’s a good place for me to start selling maps in my retirement.

Carlton Reid 35:06
I’m going to be staying with you because Yeah.

James Craig Wightman 35:10
Okay, so avoiding all the cars. We’re going to take a short ride down here in a right turn. do minor potholes. So little double double turn back there on initial residential road which I’m sure you would never know is here. Hiding behind the heck we have. We have a footbridge. You It’s a lovely 90, a lovely 1970s footbridge. But you’d never get a cargo bike around. There’s probably a limited use.

Carlton Reid 35:48
So on the plans for this that just was on the plan. Nowhere and presumably people said Where would people go? Yeah, why don’t you do

James Craig Wightman 35:59
apparently apparently there’s going to be a crossing that or there was going to be a crossing there but it’s never materialised. And we had rather than rotor who’ve done some really sterling work in trying to raise awareness of things like this, have had regular meetings with with, you know, the authorities, particularly infrastructure in Malta, and pointed out these failings and nothing got done.

Carlton Reid 36:25
That’s money from the EU. Does the EU not come along and say I’m doing this way? Why aren’t you going to do this bit?

James Craig Wightman 36:33
Nope. We’ve tried that. But it didn’t seem to wake anybody up. Wiggling through we’re gonna wiggle through this quaint little footbridge. Big missing? Yes. Yeah. Good. Good. Well, honey, really, it’s such a small investment to begin with a couple of signs. Oh, yes, yes.


Yes. Yes, yes, it’s this bit here. We’re gonna go to the end of it, it goes through through the end of the talk. And, in theory, it’s supposed to carry on to the next bit of Roku and I’ve done but we’ve not seen any an indication of that happening.

Carlton Reid 37:41
That night again, my mouth is open here in in Malta, so I’m sure people can hear the thundering traffic. We are at masa junction and it’s like a very modern version of Spaghetti Junction. We have got roads going over roads going over roads, flyover overfly, but we’re actually on a bike path underneath which incredibly wide so so credit there to infrastructure, Malta, underneath the flyovers we’ve had some nice planting. But then just why on earth? Have we got roads like this? And what might the problem be? With roads like this?

James Craig Wightman 38:22
We’ve actually got seven flyovers here. Master junction was always a problem, because there was a lot of traffic getting stuck here by one set of traffic lights. So which allow traffic to dissipate downstream by the way. But it was basically a vote winning ploy to free up traffic to Moscow. And yes, now you can drive much, much faster to Moscow, but it means you get to where you’re going much quicker at the same time as everybody else. And the problem with that is that little villages who want one way streets and tiny, so no restriction can’t cope with all the traffic now arriving at them. So while people say their trip is quicker on master junction, it then takes them more time when they get stuck at the villages.

Carlton Reid 39:08
So you said vote winning there. So just explain the kind of political system you have here that Matt makes the position of the 2021 junction when it was when it was open. So what what is the political system here that is allowing and I’m going to call this lunacy.

James Craig Wightman 39:25
Okay? It’s a partisan system. There’s two main parties, and thereafter every vote that they can get. So elections tend to be a giving election rather than a strict austerity one. And basically, everybody is scared to touch cars. The government has stated publicly that he’s not going to descend devise or do anything to hurt cars, or to stop people buying or owning

Carlton Reid 39:54
one second because just the city site, seeing bus that you would see everywhere else we go someone scenic, and they’re going around the city on the mass. I wonder if the guides are saying, you know, this is our wonderful miles or junction here cost this much. Isn’t it wonderful? And people on the blog, we want to fly it. I mean, why are you telling me this? Anyway? Sorry, Sorry, I interrupted that just are seeing that coming across same tourist saying there’s normally you would take tourists away from this kind of stuff. Yeah, you wouldn’t show them this stuff. Sorry, sorry,

James Craig Wightman 40:25
national pride, in fact that the end of this cycling is transmitted for offices. And there are no actual signs telling people how to get on to the cycling. So quite often, you find some poor lost cyclists on what is eventually the dual carriageway, which everybody hates, obviously, but you know, you can’t really blame them, because there’s nothing telling them how to get here. So it’s really just finishing off. I mean, there’s, there’s a lot of things that could be done. There. Little tiny things, little tweaks, that could make it really good. But then again, as you say, he’s skiing against the backdrop of seven flowers, you know, perhaps we really need, which is actually encouraged more and more people to drive drive,

Carlton Reid 41:08
because even if you put the best bike infrastructure in the world here, and this right now is phenomenal bike infrastructure, the signage, okay, I’ll grant you that. But from the width we have, well, let me talking how far away we are going, I’m going to count this out, that’s about a metre to three, that’s five metres. So we have a five metre by directional bypass green, fantastic world class brilliant, but you have seven flyovers, you have seven roads crossing over it. So you’re gonna get a you know,

James Craig Wightman 41:41
you know, where the the emphasis was on building this junction where they’re emphasising car use. But at the moment, in Malta, we’ve got something like 96% of all car trips, a single person, one person on their own, just driving. So it’s a huge, huge number of cars, particularly during the week when people are going to and from work, just monetizing the car.

Carlton Reid 42:05
So again, is this EU money? This was this is majority funded by the EU. Yeah. And they’ve taken that 85% out of their 15% and created this. And I said before, when we’ll get when we’re cycling through it, it’s like, it’s quite dystopian, yeah, this is this is Taiwan, on steroids. You know, this is this is this is it. We’re a small country here, Malta is tiny. And we’ve got infrastructure that you’d expect in Los Angeles, that is, lunacy. But nobody sees that as lunacy here.

James Craig Wightman 42:41
There are a few people but few and far between unfortunately, and they’re not listening to this. There’s some really good experts on on sustainability like Dr. Murray retired from the University of Malta, Geography Department of Sustainability. So I’m really trying for years to try and get people to understand that we need to cut down on cars, we need to free up space in our towns and cities. There isn’t one parking metre on the island. You can park anywhere or you can park anywhere. So you know, there’s nothing there at all does this identifies people from driving? So obviously they do.

Carlton Reid 43:20
Yes, yes. Well, well, welcome to Malta if you’re an absolute moto freak, because you’ve got everything you could wish for. You’ve got every flyover that will speed you to the next traffic jam. Thanks to James Craig Whiteman. There and thanks to you for listening to Episode 323 of their spokesman podcast, show notes, and more can be found at the Piper And also like to thank visit Malta for hosting the AGM of the British guild of travel writers. Away from its dystopian road system. Malta has some real treasures. Most people fly to the island, but I got to Malta by train and ferry using the Omio travel booking app, hopping between stations and riding up Mount Edma. Even on a folding bike, of course, the next episode of The spokesman podcast brought to you in association with 10 bicycles should be a chat with BBC journalists, Anna Harlequin and Kate Vandy. I say should because they’re still awaiting delivery of a rather special outside broadcast unit. A tricked out cargo bike. This will be the bike Bureau, a mobile news gathering studio like no other. I’m hoping that chat can happen later this month.

In the show you’ve just listened to I shortened the audio I captured of the Daytime fireworks at Rabat’s festa and if you’re up for some bonus bangs listen on?

Unknown Speaker 47:10

Carlton Reid 47:25
so NFM normal for Malta

Unknown Speaker 47:27
that was just

Carlton Reid 47:35
with the like the bangs are you don’t like

February 21, 2023 / / Blog

21st February 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 322: Seeing Sensors With Philip and Irene McAleese

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Philip and Irene McAleese

TOPICS: Talking smart cities, road surface data and more with the cofounders of light and data company See Sense.


February 5, 2023 / / Blog

5th February 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 321: Sustainability in action: In conversation with Vaude CEO Antje von Dewitz.

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

Antje von Dewitz

GUEST: Antje von Dewitz, Managing Director, Vaude, Germany

TOPICS: Vaude was on the road to being green long before Antje von Dewitz took over the running of the company but she significantly ramped up its corporate sustainability.


Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to Episode 321 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday, fifth to February 2023.

David Bernstein 0:27
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern are 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 1:13
I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to the 300 and 21st episode of The spokesmen podcast in which I chat with Antje von Dewitz, Managing Director of German hiking and biking company Vaude or as you will soon find out how it should be pronounced, “Faudi.”Anyway, in this 40 minute conversation, we talk about Vaude’s stellar green credentials and how sustainability is now baked into the Vaude way of doing things. Can you please tell me that the correct German pronunciation of your company name because I’m pretty sure that we get it wrong here. But just tell us how you pronounce it.

Antje von Dewitz 1:51
Okay, the correct pronouncing is “Faudi” and Vaude is the pronunciation of the two first letters of my last name von Dewitz V and D and in German, you would say Vaude? Yeah, and I’m not necessarily we don’t know how to pronounce it, because that’s a very current problem. People say also Vode and Vouder and Fouder, but the correct pronunciation is “Faudi”.

Carlton Reid 2:18
yes, thank you for that. Now now. We definitely pronounced I’m saying we hear the North American market, certainly the UK market will be pronouncing that with a with a hard v. So it’s not that so we can now pronounce your company name correctly.

Antje von Dewitz 2:37
I’m glad to hear that.

Carlton Reid 2:38
You make a tonne of stuff. So you make outdoor kit, basically. But bikes. So tell me about your bike kit and how long you’ve been making bike kit, whether it’s been you know, from from when the company was founded?

Antje von Dewitz 2:54
No, it was not when the company was founded. The company was founded in 1974. And we started out with backpacks. That was the first product backpack and climbing gear. And about 10 years later, we started with bike first product was bike pioneers, because coming from the main competence in back making backpacks, the switch to bike pioneers what’s not so far we require the same sort of competence. And we started with, with waterproof, backpacks, waterproof, on machines, so we have live production here also, in Germany, where our headquarter is for making bike pioneers, how big

Carlton Reid 3:40
is bike in the company, how bigger share is bike in amongst all of your, your outdoor range.

Antje von Dewitz 3:49
So we have a turnover at totally 150 million euro from this year from last year on and bike is is about 45% of that. So it grew really heavily in the last years. Especially so because we started out as being an outdoor company so 10 years later, we started with bike products and and especially during the last three years, the bike segment was was growing very strongly because of a new mobility, the urge of people going out outdoors also with a bike during Corona so so we are almost up to 50/50 outdoor and bike

Carlton Reid 4:30
and is that is that where it’s going? It’s that’s the growth part of your business.

Antje von Dewitz 4:35
When I said the last three years, I was not really correct because the last year especially was not so good of a bike here because I was probably in the UK also like this. There were a lot of bikes in the market and and at the same time the bikes couldn’t be sent out so there’s a lot of liquidity problem in the with the bike dealers. So and as as having bike apparel and bike pioneers and bike backpacks, this is the last, the last product and a big change. So if the bikes are not being sold, the other products are also not being sold. But I think last year was a very special year. In general, I think outdoor and bike will now grow at the same pace. Because we are in times of, of, of almost crisis every year. And in times of crisis, people go outdoors, and people tend to look for their little escapes. This is why I think bike and other people look for that at the same time plus bike is also what people are looking for in terms of a new new mobility, a new greener and more sustainable mobility. So I think both both segments will know this at the same pace.

Carlton Reid 5:57
Hmm. I have looked at your your company’s CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility report where you do say you’ve got a mobility plan. So I’ll get onto that shortly. But first of all, I’d like I mean, I have been very close to wear your bass because Jo Beckendorf, the journalist when I used to get left with him on going to and from bike, the bike shows in Friedrichshafen, he would often point out where your bass so I know you’re very rural. So you’re you’re basically you’re not far from Friedrichschafen, you’re you’re you’re near Lake Constance or Bodensee. But you’re in a very, very small village. So just describe where you are.

Antje von Dewitz 6:43
We’re close to the Lake Constance, which is this Swiss Austrian German border. So we’re in the very deep south of Germany. And when I look out of my window, which I do right now, I see the little church of our little village, where we are, we’re in in the middle of the, on the countryside, close to the Lake Constance, which is a good side, which is a bad side for a company who needs insert infrastructure. But which is a good site for a company with employees that are outdoor and bike freaks, because that’s a really beautiful part of Germany, where you have great outdoor experiences by bike where you can greatly go biking in the mountains or at the lake.

Carlton Reid 7:23
So it was founded by your father it basically in a hops barn on a farm. And then you grew from that.

Antje von Dewitz

Antje von Dewitz 7:32
That’s, that’s true. So we are now at Oba Eisenbahn. And 50 years ago, he founded the company, one smaller village, little close to here, Otter eyes and bath. And indeed, in a farmhouse, in summertime, when the hop came in, we had to take all the all the work yet the warehouse had to be cleared for the hub possible to be to be stored there. And two months later, all the products could return to the warehouse within this farm farmhouse, so that was a very special founding story that God has there.

Carlton Reid 8:12
So you’ve grown up with this company? Quite, quite literally, you’ve grown up with this company.

Antje von Dewitz 8:17
That’s true as I was two years old when the company started.

Carlton Reid 8:21
Yes, now, so let’s talk about you. So you’ve managed the company, since 2009. But describe your career before that, because you have a doctorate. And then you have a member of all of these incredible German sustainable business associations are all that the sustainability stuff that we’re going to be talking about, is very much embedded in your corporate DNA for you personally. So tell us a little bit about you and where you’ve come from, from that two year old girl who saw the company founded and how you’ve, you’ve grown into the company.

Antje von Dewitz 8:58
Yeah, I think part of the story and part of understanding my my way of life is growing up here at the village site. We were kind of an outsider, or I felt like it’s growing up, because it’s very rural countryside. And the farmers here don’t at that time, they looked quite critical at entrepreneurs. So growing up to be not a farmer’s daughter but a daughter of an entrepreneur. Was was strange, the people to me and in the class were saying, oh, probably he exploits people, he exploited probably children to grow his business. And I grew up to know that confidence. That trust is something you have to earn trust you can earn by transparency, and to lead a company you have to earn trust in order to feel good. And in order to earn trust, everything has to be alright. Word wild. And this is something that that never left my mind. And when I grew up and I didn’t want to overtake the company I firstly, I wanted to work in NGOs like Greenpeace or WWF. To take, take responsibility in keeping this planet a livable planet. And so it was a surprise for me when my last traineeship that I did, after a lot of traineeships within NGOs and media and in all sorts of organisations, and my last traineeship, during my studies was at Foudy and it hit me like a surprise that if I wanted to overtake responsibility for a livable planet, then I I’m here at the right spot, with a broad set of responsibilities not only in making the products but also in caring for the working conditions about worldwide and caring for the working conditions here at the headquarter in overtaking responsibility in the whole supply chain and in also politically as an enterprise. So, so that’s, that’s why that’s why I ended up in the country in the company of my father, which also benefited me very, very well because I’m a very enthusiastic outdoor lover.

Carlton Reid 11:26
What kind of stuff What what are you what are you doing outdoors?

Antje von Dewitz 11:30
I, I bike, and I hike, I love long distance. So for example, last last year, when I turned 50, my birthday present to myself was a three year three month a three month hike through the Alps, with with my backpack and going from heart to heart every day, 1000 metres height and 15 kilometres distance for so total, I was I walked 4100 kilometre and 60,000 metres in height. So that’s, that’s something I love.

Carlton Reid 12:13
And use it obviously all of your own products.

Antje von Dewitz 12:17
Yes, I use not all of them, but I really love to use them. I love to have them in. In practice, yes.

Carlton Reid 12:25
Okay, now, so 2009 When you came in and started managing the company, and then did you start straight away at making the company climate neutral. So it took until 2012. When when you got there, and then you’ve been a Climate Neutral worldwide since 2022. Last year. But describe how what you had to do when you joined the company to make that switch.

Antje von Dewitz 12:54
When I joined the company that was directly after my studies in 1998, I first worked in marketing and I firstly i i was the product manager for for new bags for modern bags and packs. So that’s the part where I started it. And when I overtook the company, that was in 2009, as you just mentioned, so that was much later. And I already knew a lot about Saudi and the way of our day. And so I was not the one that introduced sustainability to God, we had a long history already. And we had the history that we had and great, great singular proud projects. For example, we had a whole collection made out of mono material, and a whole network of industry partners that could first of all, take the returned one goods of this mono material collection, and then turn it into new products. So we had a closed loop recycling. But when when we looked at it when I overtook the company, and my my biggest goal was to turn this company totally into a green direction. We said okay, this way was not successful. The singular products had a lot of effort for us produce a lot of effort for us producers, a lot of work a lot of cost, but we didn’t get back so many use products. So the closed loop never really closed. And for me, I was very convinced that if we want to go a greenway if we want to overtake responsibility holistically, it would not be the answer to do this in one project and another project but we would have to do this totally entirely. So we started out with analysing Where is where we have responsibility and where should we where should we act? And we found out that we have two different ways. Two different points where we should overtake responsibility One is here at the headquarter at Foday, here at the South in Germany, and the other one is in the entire product cycle. So when we started out here at the headquarter so where we were our business unity is where meanwhile 650 employees work. And that was at a time in 2009 when the consciousness for sustainability was not very high, very high neither at our with our dealers or clients, or customers nor here at the headquarter with our employees, they were very sceptical because they saw the more work bureaucracy that would that was growing with sustainable work and, and they were not sure if this was more than a marketing idea. So there was a lot of scepticism. So we started out by a few things in the beginning, turning the coffee to fair trade coffee, or finally get a grip on on the real, the garbled, how to collect the garbage here, and stuff like that. And at the same time, we started out with emails, emails as the European management team, how to how to collect and measure all the emissions that you have all the emissions and consumptions that you use at the headquarter, so all electricity, oil, stuff like that, and, and we measure this day by day by day for the entire year. And then we were able to find out, okay, where do we have the greatest emissions at the headquarter and then we began programmes to cut them down. So we changed our energy to, to renewable energy we had, we have the whole roof of full with photos with solar panels. We cut down on our catalogue with the paper catalogue at that time was the most important marketing tool that we had. And but we saw that this is also the second biggest source of emissions. So we cut we cut that turned only to digital versions. And every use of paper was from then on in 100% recycled paper. And we found out that mobility is the third biggest cause here of emissions. So we created a whole mobility programme, where the best parking lots are not for the people of the management. But for the people that share their car, for example, we got ourselves a pattern, a whole bunch of E bikes to lend out to our employees so that they could use the bike to come to work and created showers so that they get a shower and they come with a bike and stuff like that, to get people to make people consider a choice not to come with a single car but to come by bike to come by bus to share cars. And so we cut down dramatically on these emissions from from ability to and in 2012. When we cut down I think by 70% of all emissions at the whole headquarter. We decided okay, from that point on, we will still work on emissions but at the same time, we will also compensate so that that means that since 2012, we are Climate Neutral at our headquarter.

Carlton Reid 18:19
You pay for offsetting?

Antje von Dewitz 18:22
Yeah, that’s right. We pay for offsetting we, we have a partner my climate and that means that all the emissions that at the headquarter we cannot, we cannot prevent. They are. They are turned into into monies. And we spent money on projects or climate friendly projects. But this is only the headquarter and then the biggest part was in the product cycle.

Carlton Reid 18:49
That’s good. Because the product cycle isn’t, you know, you make some stuff in southern Germany, but the bulk of your stuff is made in mostly in Vietnam. So, right, how tough is it to green, the supply side of your business? So?

Antje von Dewitz 19:07
Yeah, it’s, it’s a huge task. It was it was an even huger task in 2009. That was why it was so important also, to have the whole team behind this idea. It was very important for us to show it at our headquarter that we really mean it seriously and that it’s good that it feels like live quality to support sustainability. So stuff like the green mobility concept at our headquarter was strategically important to get our team on track and to fight for this idea of sustainability worldwide. Because this was a real big transformation process that we had to start on. We even though at that time in 2009, we were a rather small company with 50 million euro turnover. We still had a huge complexity. We had about 65 production sites we work with, we had about 150 materials suppliers we work with, and our task force, our self chosen task was to transform all of them, we created an own label, green shape. And that is until today, like metal label, that means only in terms of materials, only certified materials and the highest standards can approve to be green shape. And in order to get to the certifications, like blue sign, for example, we had to ask our all of our suppliers to please audit in terms of blue sign, which is quite expensive when audit costs 20,000 euros per year, and then you have to act on all the findings. And we were a rather small, small brand, that means they didn’t make the big business with us. So in the beginning, it seemed like to be a really, really big task. And many of the production side sets etc. once said to us, that they wouldn’t do this for us this was too much work, or they said okay, we do this for you, you pay the money. So we and so it was a difficult task on that one cent and one hand to turn them to to convince them and the outside and it was a difficult task on the inside. Because for our product manager, the task of Product Management totally changed. Before that time, they could just choose any material and they can just choose any design. Now, in order to follow green shape, they have to start the design by showing that the design they have chosen is recyclable is is able to be repaired, then they have to choose the material. And in the beginning, they said okay, but we only have three materials that are anthracite fabric, do you want to make us You want us to make products from just three different fabrics? That’s not impossible, it’s impossible. And they said, it’s the sales team says very clearly to us, it cannot cost more because the consumer is not willing to pay more for sustainable, but it costs so much more. How can we ever solve this. So it was very, very difficult to get a grip on how to deal with these existential conflicting targets. But we made it step by step.

Carlton Reid 22:22
No change in that consumers, it’s now a selling point. So this this green shape, your label is now something you can use to actually earn more money because you can sell more products because you are a greener company. Is that something that you now see consumers coming to you

Antje von Dewitz 22:40
for? Yes, I see two points I’ll come to the consumer in a second. First is that that the start was very difficult and it’s still difficult, but in the beginning it felt like okay, we will never be innovative because we have such a huge mountain of work to go step by step and this has changed completely our our very strong focus on sustainability has become an innovation pusher. We now make pipe pioneers from from a plastic garbage we make functional apparel, from recycled tires and so on and so on. We really this this has has been an enormous pusher on innovation innovation for us. And for the consumer. In the beginning, we always heard the consumer doesn’t ask for that. And it was slowly slowly changing step by step it was changing. And now especially in the especially when the Friday’s for future where we coming something of a thing, the conscious the global, the European consciousness was rising very highly in the end the the will to overtake responsibility as a consumer was was you can you could feel it that there was no more interest. And and now in terms of Corona again. So and and the more the global crisis, different global crisis are being evident for consumers out there, the more the the willingness to, to first of all overtake responsibility for themselves in their consumption. And secondly, also to pay a little bit more for that is rising, you can really feel it. So it helps us a lot to be recognised as a very sustainable brand and to picture have a have a credibility as a sustainability, T brand. That helps us a lot to to to always grow stronger than the rest of the market.

Carlton Reid 24:43
I’m gonna interrupt Antje there and go across to my colleague David for a quick commercial break.

David Bernstein 24:48
Hello, everyone. This is David from the Fredcast, and of course, the spokesmen. And I’m here once again to tell you that this podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles, the good people at Tern build bikes that make it easier for you to replace car trips with bike trips. Part of that is being committed to designing useful bikes that are also fun to ride. But an even greater priority for Tern is to make sure that your ride is safe, and worryfree. And that’s why Tern works with industry leading third party testing labs like EFBE, and builds it bikes around Bosch ebike systems which are UL certified for both electric and fire safety. So, before you even zip off on your Tern, fully loaded and perhaps with the loved ones behind, you can be sure that the bike has been tested to handle the extra stresses on the frame and the rigours of the road. For more information, visit to learn more. And now back to the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 25:58
Thanks, David. And let’s get back to Antje of Vaude. So green shape is your own certification label that you use. But then yes. If then you go green button, which is a that’s a national scheme. Yes, fabrics, the National diamond scheme for fabrics then you’ve got when you’ve mentioned my climate before, which is a Swiss certification scheme. And then you’re also a member or you get certification from fair wear. So that’s like, you know, fair trade almost making sure that the your your supply chain is the practices are, are good practices. So just describe how those certification schemes fit into your business.

Antje von Dewitz 26:51
Okay, as you just mentioned, green shape is our own, it’s like a metal label, which is, which is, I think the highest standard that is any certification out there any standard out there, because it’s very broad and very, very deep. What in order to become a green shape product, and almost 90% of our whole product is in green shape, in has green shape label. And when three years ago, the German government said they want to also make a metal label the green button, we got green shape recognised as, as, as being. So every product that we have that has the green shape label automatically gets the green button label of the German government because our it’s stricter than, than the green button. So that does that. And you mentioned fair aware, fair wear is also included in green shave. So all of our products are farewell products, that means all of our productions 100% Our audit are being audited by by in terms of green affair where so that’s that’s that’s the very strictest labour or standard for working conditions worldwide in the textile industry. So if you look for fair products, you have to look for fair wear

Carlton Reid 28:28
textile production, no, no sweatshops, that kind of thing.

Antje von Dewitz 28:31
No sweatshops? No, no, don’t children, no work of children. They are in fair where you have to fight for existential wages, that means wages that that, that you can not only minimum wages, but living wages, wages that help people to really survive with the family and not to send the children to work but send the children to school, that that make it possible to have a lot of real life with a family. So that’s much higher than just minimum wages. And that’s something that every every brand that is part of fair wear has to work for to really reach this. So it’s a very strict and and good standard, because it’s a continuous work in progress that you have to prove year by year through the out audits and other also through the audit for your own company. So we are audited every year. You have to prove that you really give the best and you really put a lot of effort and in supporting all the companies the production sites to make to create good working conditions to you can

Carlton Reid 29:47
be more profitable if you didn’t aspire to the standards if you didn’t have the fair wear. If you didn’t have to meet those, those those criteria. You could in more money.

Antje von Dewitz 30:02
Yes, that’s that’s rather strange, isn’t it, it’s much more difficult and much more expensive to overtake responsibility than not to do it. That’s a strange road we’re in. But it’s true. But from an economical point of view, it’s still it’s still worth to, to follow this sustainable path. Because it helps your brand image, it helps to really focus on a good way. It convinces your own team that they’re working for purpose. So it helps you to get to get good team members of your own team, it helps you to sell your products more and more. So it helped, it helped us to grow stronger to be a really strong brand and a strong company. And but at the same time, we needed this growth in order to finance the transformation, which costs so much. So.

Carlton Reid 31:06
So going back to your your, your very, very beautiful rural location, on your online on your website, on four, you’ve got a specialist website, just on your CSR, your corporate social responsibility. It says I’m quoting here, due to our rural location, most employees have to commute longer distances to work. Now, we can’t force anyone to give up their car. But we can provide incentives. So what are those incentives?

Antje von Dewitz 31:40
The incentives is I mentioned that before a little bit. The incentives are not fun of a financial thought. But they are the best parking spots for people who share their cars, for example. So we, in eight years ago, we just sort of made 60 parking spots disappear. And made in the inner circle of our of our campus here, where we have our company, there is now a green area with a climbing wall and No, no 60 parking spots. So we have not so many parking spots here. So park a parking spot something really valuable, you have to walk a long distance from from another place to here, if you come late in the in the day, so a close close to the company parking spot is something very valuable, the best parking spots are for the people that share their car. So that is an incentive. And an incentive not to take your own car is when you come by you can you can without cost you can lend the bike here from us with with E motor so you can get over the hills, it’s very hilly region and get here then you can shower here, you can you have a parking spot, close to the company under the roof to park your own bike. And we have also you can also acquire a bike very, very cheaply. Because we have connections and you can use the connections together to to own a bike by yourself. So we help people to get good bikes, and to ride the bike. And it’s become some sort of a social incentive to because here are a lot of bikers. And it’s sort of the status of your bike here. And not so much the office status if you have a big car. And we also have some sort of mobility lotto, so every week with the help of a coincidence generator, somebody is chosen. And he is he or she is asked Oh, so how did you come to work today. And then if if it’s in a sustainable way by bike or by bus or whatsoever, he gets a nice price and a nice award. And is and it’s shown in our intranet with a nice picture in a winning pose. So it helps to keep the the topic of green mobility in everybody’s mind. And it helps to get get out little incentives to to make people think about or change their way of coming to work.

Carlton Reid 34:26
Because that’s slightly easier. If you were in an urban location you you’d have lots of bike paths, you’d have lots of buses and trams and all sorts of you know what Europeans come to expect, but you’re not in an urban location. You’re out in the farmland. So that must be tougher for you than it would be for if you were in in a large city.

Antje von Dewitz 34:47
You know, that is true because in the beginning, we didn’t even have a bus stop here. So no buses were were coming to our countryside. So we also had to lobby and to cooperate with The local bus provider and the city and the country to to make it possible that we have a bus that is coming here to the company. So I guess you have other tasks or tasks in first of infrastructural nature, if you’re a company that is sustainable in the countryside, because there is not often not a lot of infrastructure here, we have to provide

Carlton Reid 35:22
infrastructure, you had to have bike paths close to your place.

Antje von Dewitz 35:25
And now since I think five years, we have bypassed Yes.

Carlton Reid 35:31
And was that because where you’re situated, so the municipality or the locality put these bike paths in? Because you were lobbying for this? Or they’re just putting these in? In general? No,

Antje von Dewitz 35:44
that was part of a bigger plan. So we were just very happy that we finally got them.

Carlton Reid 35:51
Right. Okay. Now, so that’s, that’s, that’s the travel that you can, you can sort of almost control but business travel is much more difficult to control because obviously, if you’ve got to, you know, plants, you’re having to fly to Vietnam, etc. But talk about your, your policy, because on the CSA report, it talks about how, you know, car travel, you know, cannot be made by car, if it’s over 400 kilometres, and then if it’s, you know, 600 kilometres, and, you know, you’re not going to fly, you’re gonna go by train, especially within Germany, Switzerland, or Austria. So how do you police that

Antje von Dewitz 36:36
it’s, it’s a, it has become a rule that we won’t take a plane within Germany, or the German speaking countries, we all take the train, and how, how did we manage everybody to go on this check, by taking this route very seriously, for the whole management team, so I don’t take the plane, I take the I take the train to Berlin, and that’s, that’s the travel of about eight hours from here. And we just got very used to use this time very efficiently, we work in the in the train, we have very normal business meetings in the train, and it has become, it has become sort of a normal situation for for all of us, you have to understand that for us. Since since last year, we are climate neutral in the, for the whole for everything worldwide that we do, that doesn’t mean that we have with that we managed to get all emissions down to zero, but we are working on this very, very heavily according to the science based targets, and the rest that we cannot prevent, we compensate. But that means that every emission counts for us and and we take this so seriously, because we understand we understand the serious situation of the climate change. And we we the whole team is very often talking about it, we talk about the crisis that is out there, of the of the very serious situation, we are really dedicated to keep this planet alive for our children and in the coming generations. So every time we can overtake responsibility, it is clear that we do this, it’s it’s just become normal. And it’s sort of observed that we would take a plane if we can take a train. So so with the same with the same with the same responsible approach, it is very clear that that we have a canteen here that serves vegetarian food, okay, we have one day left where we where we eat meat, but the rest of the days are a vegetarian, because this is something where we can act where we can to overtake responsibility to not to cut down on emissions. And I think it’s still it’s still I make it probably sound too easy because this has been a transformation process for us to in mobility and in eating. But it’s for our day and for the whole team of our day. Everybody understands it that it’s clear a clear step of our day because it makes so much sense because we’re dedicated to sustainability but dedicated to keeping this workplace this world a wonderful place. So everybody is like okay, we understand it’s still not easy. We still sometimes hate it, but we understand. So that makes transformation process within the company easier.

Carlton Reid 39:39
Because you’re you have very strict policies that appears on on a business travel trip. You should only get a taxi for instance, if there’s a few of you and there’s only a certain distance you can go in and a taxi and then you’re meant to be using Bike Share, Scooter share whatever in cities, so that’s embedded in your mobility policy, the fact that when you go somewhere on business travel, you’ve still got to travel in a sustainable fashion.

Antje von Dewitz 40:12
Yes, that’s true. Yeah. And I never take a taxi, I always take the subway or walk. When I when I get into town, that is the end that also has become normal. Because it’s a normal for you.

Carlton Reid 40:30
But what about people coming into the company that where they get, you know, expense accounts where they will track fly everywhere, they’ll get taxes everywhere? Is that strange for other people? Are you changing people? How do people who are coming into your company, look at your policies,

Antje von Dewitz 40:50
and it was more difficult for the people who who already have been at the company because for them, it has been a trend transformation process they had to do. There was a lot of discussion why they should now not take plane anymore, or why they shouldn’t take a taxi or whatever. For people that come into Fody that come newly into voting for them. It’s they have chosen Foudy as their favourite employer because we follow values that they support. So it’s much easier with new employees that have chosen us very consciously than it was in the beginning to change policy for the people that already worked here.

Carlton Reid 41:28
Thanks to Anjou von Dewitz of Vaude there and thanks to you for listening to episode 321 of the Spokesmen podcast, brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles. Show notes and more can be found at The next episode will be a chat with another inspirational business woman but meanwhile get out there and ride.

January 25, 2023 / / Blog

25th January 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 320: Get SUVs Off Our Streets: In Conversation with Critical Mass musician Dan Abrahams

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Dan Abrahams

TOPICS: Musician Dan Abrahams has written a couple of jaunty protest songs, one about oversized cars and another about getting around safely by bike. Both are accompanied by great videos, one of which stars a young girl riding her bike, alone, in Edinburgh before being joined by Critical Mass riders.


Dan Abrahams Music

Bikes for Refugees, Scotland

The Spokesmen, Brussels episode


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 320 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Wednesday 25th of January 2023.

David Bernstein 0:27
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are 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 www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:03
I’m Carlton Reid. And welcome to the 320th episode of the spokesmen podcast in which I chat this episode with Dan Abrahams. Dan is one of those loosely involved with Edinburgh’s critical mass. And he’s also a musician who has recently written a couple of jaunty protest songs that I think will resonate with the audience of a cycling podcast. Both are accompanied by great videos, one of which stars a young girl riding her bike alone in Edinburgh, before being joined by Critical Mass riders.

Carlton Reid 1:44
Dan, thanks for talking to me. You’ve got a new video out today. So let’s talk about that first, I’m sure saying that that’s probably the thing that’s fresh in your mind. So you’ve given quite a few car brands, some plugs? There haven’t been

Carlton Reid 2:02
any idea? Yeah, I was expecting a few more, you know, Aston Martin or whatever. So

Carlton Reid 2:07
why pick on those? I mean,

Dan Abrahams 2:11

mean, I’ve got to be honest.

Dan Abrahams 2:15
I think there’s way too many big cars as I put them, but I think when I when I say that I think people understand what I mean, you know, the kind of fuge city four by fours SUVs, which are just so enormous physically. And also, you know, the engines are so powerful, they have absolutely no place in a city, probably even in the countryside. You know, they’re not that they’re not designed to work on farms. They’ve just been designed as luxury cars. And I think they shouldn’t be allowed. And I think it’s ridiculous that people

Dan Abrahams 2:48
are charging downtown in them. They’re so dangerous, like, you know, kids are literally obscured. You know, when you when you put a kid in front of, you know, the bonnet of one of these cars,

Dan Abrahams 3:03
the person at the front cannot see that kid. They’re so big.

Dan Abrahams 3:08
And this song is just basically to poke fun at them, you know, and, and the choice of the brands is kind of more to do with rhyming than to do with any particularly bad brand. You know, they’re all just as bad as each other. They just want to sell expensive cars. So yeah, the choice of the brands is purely just for alliteration and rhyming.

Carlton Reid 3:33
See, you’re in Edinburgh. Yeah. And I believe Edinburgh. On the TomTom index is basically every single year it winds up being the most congested city.

Dan Abrahams 3:44
Is that right? I didn’t, I didn’t know that.

Carlton Reid 3:47
Yes, Edinburgh is the most congested city in the UK year after year after year. In the TomTom index, I’m TomTom is using you know,

Carlton Reid 3:56
sat nav data, right. So this is not like, you know, people standing up on the side of the street. This is your genuine, you know, computer from computer data, right.

Carlton Reid 4:08
So you’re living in the kind of city where you cars aren’t gonna go very fast anyway. Yeah, the city centre. So yeah, there is no point having these big things and perhaps even big cars are part of the reason why there might be congestion.

Dan Abrahams 4:21
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I am surprised that I’m surprised the TomTom index hasn’t been surpassed by Google Maps index. But yeah, that doesn’t really surprise me. Edinburgh is really bad for congestion.

Dan Abrahams 4:35
I mean, I guess I’m quite surprised that London is not at the top but I guess it’s kind of when you think about Greater London maybe that makes sense. But yeah, in the middle of Edinburgh

Dan Abrahams 4:46
it’s it’s crazy especially like the road which is just off for my road. It’s kind of the route into Edinburgh from the south. And you know, it’s it’s kind of four lanes chock a block because

Dan Abrahams 5:00
You’ve got the two lanes of parked cars on either side. And then yeah it’s just chock a down this major shopping street actually, with people trying to like you know, go about do their local shop. It says chocca with cars and yeah, a lot of big cars.

Carlton Reid 5:15
Hmm. But then you also have a very good and I suppose I don’t you told me was very good the tram system which is relatively new

Dan Abrahams 5:23
the tram system basically takes you currently from the airport to the middle of town. So that’s the main to use a bit like it does serve some areas of Edinburgh but effectively it’s a kind of airport shuttle

Dan Abrahams 5:39
which there is also a bus shuttle to the airport which is faster and cheaper than the tram.

Dan Abrahams 5:45
But the tram extension which probably you’ve heard about, it’s kind of been like an ongoing fiasco is because due to open in the new year, that will be that will be really good because it will go then from the centre of town to the north to the shore through Leith. And when that’s opened, it should be really good and

Dan Abrahams 6:08
should be really good thing for the people in Leith who’ve been suffering the tram works for like

Dan Abrahams 6:13
10 years or something ridiculous.

Dan Abrahams 6:16
And with that, there’s also a bike lane going down. Leith, which at least is like the big region in the north of Edinburgh. And there’s a big bike lane going down there. And it’s got its faults. There’s lampposts in the middle of it. There’s ridiculously tight turns and kind of crashes with pedestrian areas. But still, it’s a bike lane.

Dan Abrahams 6:39
Which is, which is good. So yeah, there’s there’s positive things happening.

Dan Abrahams 6:44
There’s other bike lanes being made. But the pace of change is

Dan Abrahams 6:50
beyond slow. It’s kind of you know, all these parties have been elected in last May, the council, the council, the parties, which had the most votes, were all parties, which said, we want to have more active travel, we want to make infrastructure to enable active travel.

Dan Abrahams 7:08
Yeah, the convener of the transport convener, and the council is saying stuff, like, we’re gonna have a plan by the end of the year. And we’re thinking, you’re gonna have a plan by the end of the year. So if it takes six months to make a plan, and your you know, your term is four years, then you know, what hope do we have to get these things built?

Carlton Reid 7:32
And then you are it is there such a thing as the organiser of critical mass in Edinburgh, because of course, there are no organisers. But I, I really want the people involved in critical mass in Edinburgh put it that way.

Dan Abrahams 7:48
Yes, I’m involved. And I think, actually, you know,

Dan Abrahams 7:53
at the start, we kind of came under some criticism from some people for, like you say, basically organising it, you know, I think critical mass and Edinburgh at the start was,

Dan Abrahams 8:05
well, many years ago, it was like you say it was a kind of spontaneous thing with no official organisers. And it was on the last Friday of every month at, I think 5pm. So pen of peak traffic time, Pete kind of this is going to piss off car drivers time. And when we restarted it two years ago, we decided to make it on a Saturday at 2pm to make it family friendly, to make it a bit less antagonistic against car drivers,

Dan Abrahams 8:37
and became under fire from that there’s some people who saying that’s not critical mass. And, you know, we were doing we started social media stuff. And we were kind of organising it and publicising the route before, to make it accessible to people so that they can join midway, they could know how long it’s gonna take, wherever they’re going to manage it. People are saying that’s not in the spirit of critical mass, it’s meant to be spontaneous. But our view is like,

Dan Abrahams 9:03
we think this is a really effective way of showing the support for cycling, which exists, but it’s kind of silent because people, you know, too scared to get on their bike, or, you know, they’re just the silent majority who wants more bike infrastructure, but, you know, they’re not making a fuss about it.

Carlton Reid 9:21
And isn’t it more almost more of a kiddical mass in that case? Because Kiddical Mass is almost based on that, you know, publicising the route, obviously having lots of kids there, because that that will be the name.

Dan Abrahams 9:36
Yeah, I mean, we’ve done we’ve done a couple of critical masses as well. Now. Yeah, maybe it’s more like that. But I guess the point is that we don’t really

Dan Abrahams 9:44
we’re not really mind what the tradition of Critical Mass is, like, we respect that. There’s been like a long history of like people making great protests, but what we wanted to focus on is to be about making accessible and getting people to come and get him not

Dan Abrahams 10:00
Just the usual white middle aged males to come, but to get like people of all types to come and feel welcome and feel safe,

Dan Abrahams 10:08
you know to do that ride, which is and feel safe to doing that, you know, rather than in

Carlton Reid 10:16
the bike video Yeah. Which is where where I found you from your sister.

Carlton Reid 10:23
Was that shot on a critical mass? Or did you just do that on a different day? Yeah, you did that. Yeah. So

Dan Abrahams 10:33
that’s the kind of like that video is a total sort of smashing together of my music life and my sort of bike activism life. And

Dan Abrahams 10:45
my, my friend,

Dan Abrahams 10:49
who’s a big cycle campaigner, his daughter and their family agreed to take part in the video. And they had this idea that

Dan Abrahams 11:00
it would be her riding around the streets of Edinburgh, and you know, being really scared that it’s not safe to cycle of course, it’s not safe for an 18 year old to cycle by themselves in Edinburgh. But it’s something which people doing in Amsterdam, or in Holland, and then slowly more and more people would join her. So basically what we did was on the day, the day before critical mass, we filmed the kind of solo shots of the girl riding around Edinburgh. Then on the morning of critical mass. I got a few pals together and we shot the scenes were kind of a trickle of other cyclists start to join her. And then yeah, at the start of the critical mass ride we basically did a shout out and said

Dan Abrahams 11:42
Hey, everybody, we will want to you know film some shots please let us know if you don’t want to be in the shots are kind of go to the back of the critical mass. And we’re just going to do a few few shots. So basically, we are the little girl came to the front of the credit commerce and I was on like a Tern bike riding right in front of the critical mass and the cameraman was sitting on the back of the Tern back facing backwards towards the critical mass of

Carlton Reid 12:07
GSD. Is that the type of Tern bike?

Carlton Reid 12:12
it’s the it’s probably the most popular one. It’s like the electric cargo bikes. Electric wave. Yeah, like all sorts of fittings on the back.

Dan Abrahams 12:21
Yeah, it was basically like a kind of bench on the back. And it was like, Orange. Yeah, I don’t know what the name was. Yeah, but really cool bike anyway. And cool organisation called bikes for refugees and Edinburgh. Lent that to me because they had that

Dan Abrahams 12:38

Dan Abrahams 12:39
And they bikes refugees is an organisation Edinburgh who takes like old disused bikes and fixes them up for refugees to donate to.

Carlton Reid 12:51
So then you spliced it all together?

Dan Abrahams 12:54
That’s fine. Yeah, splice it together. And then part of the narrative was the kind of the girl going to Amsterdam and discovering what cycling could be like, in a kind of ideal world. And

Dan Abrahams 13:10
that obviously was going to be very expensive to to do in film. So I

Dan Abrahams 13:18
got an animator to kind of realise those sections.

Carlton Reid 13:23
Because that means the same animator, presumably who’s done the car. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah.

Carlton Reid 13:30
And then

Carlton Reid 13:32
what do you do with the films apart from putting on YouTube? Because I’ve seen them on what how do you physically promote them? How do you get them out there?

Dan Abrahams 13:40
It’s a great question.

Dan Abrahams 13:44
I am just doing my best to get them seen by as many people as possible. And for me, that’s been social media and

Dan Abrahams 13:55
you know, kind of sending them round bicycle organisations hoping that they might share them cycling UK

Dan Abrahams 14:03
shared our streets video. And

Dan Abrahams 14:07
I employed a PR company to help me with the streets video, but I’m afraid to say they didn’t have much success, for whatever reason. But I really want

Dan Abrahams 14:19
you know, more than the usual, like cycling campaigning group to see them, you know, the idea is that they can have catchy pop songs, and people might come across them who are not into cycling, and they might actually get hooked by the music first, and then then the message kind of hit afterwards, you know?

Carlton Reid 14:41
Yes. And then tell me about your music. So how are you?

Carlton Reid 14:49
How are you? You said you’re, you’re merging the two lives together there. But tell me about your music part of your or your life there. Yeah.

Dan Abrahams 14:58
So I mean, you mean more

Dan Abrahams 15:00
Generally or specifically for the songs,

Carlton Reid 15:03
generally so so so we’ll just Yeah. The second part. So talk about the music part. So

Dan Abrahams 15:12
I mean, I was an engineer for about 10 years and

Dan Abrahams 15:18
working for a company who was doing kind of sustainable technology stuff. So it was like we worked on a wind turbine, and then we’re working on some hybrid vehicles and

Dan Abrahams 15:27
the music was always on the side. And then this year, for many reasons, I decided to kind of take the plunge and do music. And my music in Edinburgh is a mixture of stuff apart from the cycling songs, which is kind of like a kind of one off special thing. I play in folk bands. So I have a group called Dowally who we make, we make music

Dan Abrahams 15:56
in the kind of traditional Celtic vein, but we were kind of more progressive, modern, kind of feel. And we do a lot of stuff for archive films. I also have a band called Wayward Jane who play more like old time Americana music of banjo and fiddle and double bass. And then I also play jazz soul have a band called the Foo Birds who do that kind of thing. So it’s, it’s a real mix of stuff. And the cycling songs is kind of

Dan Abrahams 16:26
I knew that my bands wouldn’t probably be into that. So I kind of decided to do that as, as myself as Dan, Abrahams, which is kind of a first for me.

Carlton Reid 16:36
Now, you’re not from Edinburgh?

Dan Abrahams 16:37
No, I’m from originally from Sheffield. Yeah. Yes. Yes.

Carlton Reid 16:41
So how can you remember was it through that job that you had described before with uni?

Dan Abrahams 16:45
And then the job? Yeah. Alright. Okay. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 16:48
Because the the video the streets video?

Carlton Reid 16:51
Yes, it’s very Edinburgh based. But it can be any city that that it’s not, it hasn’t. It’s not like grounding it completely. Only in Edinburgh. Is it?

Dan Abrahams 17:01
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I think that’s the idea that anyone could could could feel like, you know, that looks like my city totally unsafe to cycling. And, you know, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all you know, cycle mass together and, and live with less cars. And that that was the idea behind the section right at the end of the video, where you basically see critical masses from right around the world, which is the idea was to kind of zoom out and be like, this is a worldwide movement. You know, there’s stuff going on right around the world, in Africa, in South America. And I didn’t manage to get any footage in Asia. And for now, it’s not true. There was some in Nepal. And, and, and Europe as well. So.

Dan Abrahams 17:48
So yeah, that was yeah, I hoped I hoped. I think, I think that was that was cool. Because I think, you know, it kind of it spoke to people, you know, right across the globe, which was really nice.

Carlton Reid 18:01
If you go back to, you mentioned that there was a bit of conflict there between how you’re organising your critical mass, and how traditionally, it’s organised, you know, last Friday of the month, yeah.

Carlton Reid 18:16
Bang on, yeah, commute time, which is kind of, you know, the raison d’etre. But if you’re doing it when you’re doing it, that doesn’t stop somebody else doing it at the quotation marks here the traditional time. So could you have two critical masses? In Edinburgh?

Dan Abrahams 18:33
I mean, you probably could, but I mean, do you know

Dan Abrahams 18:39
getting these things organised this? You know, it takes the we’ve got quite a lot of people involved, you know, designing the flyers, printing the flyers, putting them up and doing social media, you know, organising stewards first aid. You know, we don’t sort of like, we don’t take it lightly to sort of do things well and safely. So

Dan Abrahams 19:03
if people were up for organising your Friday one, they’d be welcome to and, but, you know, I guess they need to find the people to

Dan Abrahams 19:12
do that.

Dan Abrahams 19:14
And I guess there’s a good thing about consistency is like people know that it’s going to be at that time in that place. They know that they can always turn up and how many really getting their done. We’re getting about 250 a month.

Carlton Reid 19:27
That’s really good.

Dan Abrahams 19:28
I think it’s good. Yeah, I mean, we kind of our benchmark is Brussels, just because

Dan Abrahams 19:35
right at the start we were in touch with some of the people involved in critical mass Brussels and they gave us some tips and advice, and they’re getting 1000s of people at their ride. So you know, when you compare yourself to that, then 250 Doesn’t seem amazing, but when you’re on the road, it feels great, you know?

Dan Abrahams 19:54
Huh, because I mean, that comes across in the video how it’s like it’s liberating to be on it

Dan Abrahams 20:00
And people say that, you know, exactly people say that when they’re on the ride, it’s like, it’s like, wow, this is what our roads could be like, This feels amazing to be on my road, because it’s my road as well as the car drivers roads, but, but I feel totally safe, you know, and we’re, we’re playing music and loudspeakers, you’re chatting to people, you know, meeting new people, there’s people who’ve borrowed bikes to come on the ride, and they’ve come off the ride. Having like, three offers of bikes, like they, you know, they go on the ride, and someone saying, I had to borrow a bike to go home, I don’t have a bicycle. By the end of the ride. Multiple people have said, I’ve got a spare bike, you can have it, you know, so it’s like, I know, there’s a big cycling community on like Twitter and stuff, but it’s actually great to have the cycling community meet once a month in person, and, you know, chat to each other.

Carlton Reid 20:52
There is I mean, Edinburgh is one of those cities with just that does have a very active cycle campaign.

Carlton Reid 21:02
Outfit team organisation, one of you and I call it your spokes.

Dan Abrahams 21:05
it does many, many. Yeah, it does a fantastic. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 21:10
So is there any meshing there between you and spokes?

Dan Abrahams 21:14
There is, I mean, spokes are great, they always share. Like, they always like, kind of promote our rides, and they sometimes come at the start of the ride to kind of sell their maps, they have these amazing maps of like, cycling routes, and Edinburgh.

Dan Abrahams 21:33
And also, you know, I think it’s just,

Dan Abrahams 21:36
there’s a really good synergy between organisations, like spokes, who do the really hard, laborious work of like going to council meetings to give deputations and, you know, meeting with counsellors and doing that kind of behind the scenes work that has a good synergy with critical mass, which is the kind of like,

Dan Abrahams 22:00
let’s be on the street, having a physical presence, you know, having showing the counsellors that look, what are the cyclists who want to be riding on the roads, if only it was safe to do so.

Dan Abrahams 22:12
In your face? Yeah. minor thing.

Carlton Reid 22:16
So tell me about your any future projects. And that way, you’re going to merge these two, you know, the Dan Abrahams two worlds. So you’ve got big car out today?

Dan Abrahams 22:27
Yes, big streets was three months ago. So

Dan Abrahams 22:32
ideas for projects, I’m sad to say that, that’s, that’s the kind of

Dan Abrahams 22:40
the kind of that’s the kind of cycling songs for the moment.

Dan Abrahams 22:46
I’ve had some people get in touch saying that they’d be interested in collaborating to do some more cycling songs. So definitely, that’s possible in the future, but actually, I’m going to be releasing some more sort of Dan Abrahams and his emotions songs. So less cycling more sort of,

Dan Abrahams 23:07
you know,

Dan Abrahams 23:09
just about, you know,

Dan Abrahams 23:12
love life and that kind of thing. So, maybe less interesting for the cycling community. But, but, you know,

Dan Abrahams 23:21
hopefully, people will like that music too.

Carlton Reid 23:24
Okay. And tell us about how you got into cycling, because your sister won’t mention her full back.

Carlton Reid 23:34
Now. I’m just thinking when I was speaking to your sister, and

Carlton Reid 23:38
then she was in my piece she didn’t want her second name. Okay. But of course,

Carlton Reid 23:45
it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise I wonder what her second name might be.

Carlton Reid 23:52
But she’s clearly into cycling, you’re into cycling. So how come that the Abraham’s family is into cycling?

Dan Abrahams 23:58
Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, my

Dan Abrahams 24:02
when I said into cycling, I don’t actually do cycling for leisure. Like I don’t go occasionally go out for for kind of bike rides have fun, but for me, like bike cycling, is just how I get around, you know, and my interest in cycling is about

Dan Abrahams 24:18
you know, protesting for people to be able to use the bike as their means of getting from A to B, you know, a cycle everywhere cycle to my to I cycle to gigs on my bike, or wherever on my bike. Whereas my sister and my dad, cycling is like, it’s a sport. It’s about on the weekend going out with the group and how fast are they going? And have they got the latest gear and stuff?

Dan Abrahams 24:43
So it’s it kind of bothers him obviously, my sister’s into like, the campaigning side of it too. But I think it was it was kind of just chance the we all kind of got into it. I guess. We were brought up me and my sister you know

Dan Abrahams 25:00
Thinking about, you know, social and environmental issues in the world. And I think

Dan Abrahams 25:09
just sort of both separately

Dan Abrahams 25:12
came to the understanding that,

Dan Abrahams 25:16
you know, cycling is just such an easy solution to so many problems in the world, like it says, in our streets, song at the end, you know, pollution, hurt people’s health, mental health, congestion, climate change,

Dan Abrahams 25:36
air pollution, you know, tyre pollution, all these issues become easier when more people are cycling. And

Dan Abrahams 25:49
I’ve lost track of what was gonna say,

Carlton Reid 25:53
you kind of on your, on your family and how you Cycling is a good solution.

Dan Abrahams 25:57
Yeah, you know, I was, you know, I was working in a in a tech company for 10 years, you know, on kind of this like solutions like with for reducing co2.

Dan Abrahams 26:08
But I think at the end, I was really quite frustrated that the technology was taking so long to to mature and get commercialised. But at the same time, all these sort of just absolutely. Basic solutions, which just about political will, they’re not about technology

Dan Abrahams 26:27
being so slow to kind of be become realised.

Dan Abrahams 26:33
Apart from in Holland. So, yeah, and I think I think I think, you know, masochistic, you know, it’s the same kind of thing in Brussels, although I think they’re further ahead than in Edinburgh.

Dan Abrahams 26:47
So, I think so yeah, she kind of combines her sport, sporty cycling with the kind of, you know, getting, you know, the kind of community and campaigning cycling thing. Whereas for me, it’s kind of, I don’t I don’t have any lycra or anything like that.

Carlton Reid 27:05
Thanks to Dan Abrahams there. By the way, Dan’s sister, Alison, was featured in the Brussels episode back in November last year. Thanks for listening to Episode 320 of the spokesmen podcast brought to you in association with turn bicycles. dance videos are embedded on the shownotes at The next two episodes will be with inspirational women in business. But meanwhile, get out there and ride

January 8, 2023 / / Blog

8th January 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 319: German word for beer diluted with lemonade is “cyclist” — oh, and Jim was probed by robots

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Jim Moss and Donna Tocci

TOPICS: Kidneys and beer. For an hour. Really.


Does cycling have a drinking problem?


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 319 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Sunday eighth of January 2023.

David Bernstein 0:27
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern are 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 1:02
happy new Yeah, it is when Yeah. And it’s really it’s a real big struggle to say there’s 20 It’s 23 Isn’t it done. And it’s it’s happy new year, and it’s 2023. We’ve been doing this since 2006 or later, the podcast has been going since 2006. And you guys were on from relatively early. So we’ve been doing this an awfully long time. So just happy new year for this incredibly strange year that we now have in the future. In effect, we are 2023. So we have with us, Jim, and Donna. So Jim and Donna, welcome to the show, Donna,

we have been discussing what we’re gonna be talking about on the show today. And we have realised that me and Donna don’t really have any major bodily traumatic episode to recount. Whereas, whereas

a certain attorney might have something including, you know, being probed by robots.

You’ve been probed by robots. Jim, tell us about your robot probing.

Jim Moss 2:14
And just to clarify things quite quickly, it was not a sexual activity.

Carlton Reid 2:21
Never said it was Jim, you went there.

Jim Moss 2:22
I know. But I know that several other probing does not mean. Yeah. And we’re and we’re off and running for the new year. That’s right.

They found that I had two large growths in one of my kidneys, and large meaning baseball size and golf ball size. I tried to send new records, you know, me always wanted to be number one. And, but I didn’t quite make it I found out.

And so I went to I think it’s called a nephrologist, who looked at the scans looked at me and said, We’re removing your kidney. And 15 days later, I was in the hospital for 26 hours where they took out my right kidney by a robot DaVinci Robot, phenomenal surgeon. I mean, just a really nice guy I got enjoyed him. Even when I came off the drugs. sort of interesting, I have six holes in me three for the robot, one for an assistant, one for a camera, one where they actually remove the kidney. It’s almost like a tic tac toe board

Carlton Reid 3:50
video to get a video of it after it’s been, you know, die scanned with it. You know, with cameras, there must be an episode you can put on YouTube.

Jim Moss 3:57
I actually asked him. And he said, we don’t save them unless you request them. And I said, I mean, I really I would have watched it now. I wouldn’t have watched the first couple weeks. But now you know that you pretty much healed up pretty much. I think I would have watched it. It’s quite interesting just to hear him talk about and I’ve He keeps looking. He says you have all sorts of questions about how we did it. You don’t really have that many questions about what’s going to happen to you. I know what’s going to happen to me. I’m going to heal up and fall down again. And his response was, you should fall less.

Carlton Reid 4:34
Have that. Did he have that same advice for another one of our beloved members?

Jim Moss 4:38
Yeah, yeah. I think Tim needs to learn how to fall maybe that’s it. I fall. I’ve had a doctor tell me that I bounced better than anybody else he’s ever seen. I put it on my resume. Yeah, we were mountain biking, knock myself cold. And he’s a neurologist. He said you bounce better than me. No. So

Donna Tocci 5:02
we digress. How are you feeling now? I’m okay.

Jim Moss 5:06
I’m great. I really am great. I it’s, you know, there’s a lot of muscle there layers there, even though in my case they weren’t that prominent. And so those lower layers are still healing, but the scars are great. In another couple of days, I get back to full activity, although I’m full is gonna be a different definition for a while.

Carlton Reid 5:28
But I’m happy can when can you get back on a bike?

Jim Moss 5:31
Well, I was told I could get back on a trainer Thursday. And so yesterday, Friday, I went down to the basement where I had my trainer, and I set everything up. And then 20 minutes later, I still hadn’t been able to get my leg over the back. Or to get on.

Carlton Reid 5:53
Like a road bike hooked up. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you could just I mean, I’m not saying go and get one. But you if you had a like, a one that’s not quite so strictly road shaped. You could perhaps get on one of them. I mean, a lot of recuperation. You know, even when cyclists they recuperate on exercise bikes.

Jim Moss 6:12
Yeah, I even put a stepladder next to it. I’m still figuring out how to pull it off. Because once you get out of balance, there’s just anyway, so that should have been videotaped. But so I’m going to try again. Maybe this afternoon, I have another idea. involves two milk crates, one on either side, and a pulley system. So

Donna Tocci 6:37
I think you need maybe big cushions on either side. Oh, yeah.

Carlton Reid 6:43
And then you get the advice from from from the table. Yeah. So Donna, you were you were mentioning you’ve brought Tim’s crashes up? Because if we go back in the archives of this show, we could probably have quite a few hours of discussions with with Tim about his crashes. So so tell us what what do you know about his latest escapade?

Donna Tocci 7:08
Oh, only unfortunately, I haven’t talked with Tim but only what I know from his

from his Instagram feed, which anyone can can check out it’s Timothy V. Jackson. But he had another crash where he needed a new hip. And he had a fracture near his knee. So he had to have some pretty big surgeries was in the hospital for quite a while. And but his home and is okay, let’s let’s go with that. He’s home and, okay, now.

Carlton Reid 7:50
Well, our best wishes to Tim because his his his Instagram, um, be quite gruesome at time, when he does show us his injuries. So sometimes he shows his shots of him with his hand in the air riding his bike and they look great. They’re not going to offend anybody who might be squeamish, but then he will show his his injuries and he has had a lot of injuries that are best wishes, temporary recovery. And also he gets on his bike. Really, really soon. Now. What have we been doing over the last time was we talked over the Christmas and the New Year so So Donna, first what I’ve actually been doing, you’ve been out on your bike March what we’ve been up to.

Donna Tocci 8:35
Now we’ve discussed this, I’m a fair weather person, and it is cold here. So no, but my better half has been on his trainer and out on the new year’s ride and all of that. So I support that. And but, but no, I am very much a fair weather outside person. So we will will reiterate that but but good holidays. I actually not for this podcast, but I have been diving into my ancestry on So that’s that’s a good insight activity for me for the winter. But But yeah, oh good. And hope everyone out there is having a good new year so far and a healthy one. And looking forward to doing more of these podcasts in the new year.

Carlton Reid 9:25
While I’m while I’ve got you both on and we started talking about medical stuff there, and this will interest people I guess, everywhere. But certainly where we are in the UK we have a socialised medical system where you don’t have to worry about crashing your bike or having nephrologists poking around you with a with a machine because it’s you know, it’s paid for by the state but well by people we pay for it via you know, very, very standard National Insurance. Now, what about in the US it is a worry that you mustn’t crash your bike because you’re going to have loads of injuries. So somebody like Tim, you know, he’s crashed lots and lots is that he’s just uninsurable? I mean, how do you guys cope with your medical system for, for what he’ll be quite routine? So Jim first, I guess?

Jim Moss 10:18
Well, the The fortunate thing in my case right now is, is that I’m over the age of 65. So the government, the medical programme, Medicare picked up 90% of it, and then I have a supplemental policy that picked up the rest. But for somebody like Tim, it would be purely private health care. And that would be something that he would pay a monthly premium for, that could be anywhere from, you know, $300, and he writes a big check to get out of the hospital, or, you know, $5,000 a month, and he writes a smaller check to the hospital. And, and, and for years, you know, because of my activities, I couldn’t afford to write the check to buy the, the insurance,

Carlton Reid 11:12
for skiing. So things are dangerous, you just can’t insure yourself. Yeah.

Jim Moss 11:17
In there, in the past, you filled out these forms, once they found that you took risks. And I was a pilot. And I’d been above 20,000 foot climbing, and I had skied out of bounds. And I was a rock climber. And, you know, I was quoted $15,000 a year with a $15,000 deductible one time.

Carlton Reid 11:42
So the crazy thing is, if you’re doing those kinds of activities, that means you’re going to be fitter than the average person less likely to keel over and die of a heart attack, I’m guessing than the average person because you’re getting out there, and you’re doing very active stuff. So if anything, the insurance companies should be like, supporting that, but they don’t operate out that they just operate on pure figures that they get, I guess,

Jim Moss 12:05
yes. And even more importantly, the law got passed, federal law got passed 2000 2002, something like that, that allows the health insurance company to exclude high risk activities. And so things like skiing, I mean, going up to your local ski hill, and skiing, those injuries can be excluded in your policy, if they notify you in advance, indoor rock climbing or going to a gym, all those can be excluded. So it’s something that you need to pay attention to, or you may have, you may think you’re covered, and you may have an injury and find out that you’re writing while you do the writing checks, or you’re dodging, you know, bill collectors. So if you say, and I’m not so sure cycling is covered in those things that is included, but mountain biking, I know can be so

Carlton Reid 13:06
yeah, I just know from like, when we’re getting travel insurance. Yeah, myself, for my son it yeah, these things are very often is great. And certainly racing of any sort, you’re always gonna be excluded from insurance, from those sort of things. But can I ask Donna, um, Jim’s gonna come in on this as well, but they’re just Do you think any of this that kind of, you know, thought in the back of your mind, well, I can’t afford to crash my bike, I’ll just drive to the shops, you know, I can’t afford to, you know, to go along the dirt road or on the road and have any sort of injury? I’m going to protect it in the car. So is that potentially just the the insurance the medical system you have in the US? Could that potentially be putting people off? Doing things that are not protected by steel exoskeleton?

Donna Tocci 13:56
Just speaking in a very general way, not for everybody? I don’t think so. Because I truly don’t think unless I’m so sorry, Tim, unless you’re someone like Tim, you don’t ever think you’re going to crash or you don’t ever think that you’re going to get hit by a car. You may say I’ve got my helmet on, maybe even, you know, jacket or something like that, or any other kind of protective items. But until it happens, most of us I it’s it’s human nature, right? That’s not going to happen to me. You know, and you’re not thinking about insurance. So Could someone think about it? Sure. But in general, I don’t think so. That’s just my opinion. I don’t know Jim, you could have another one.

Carlton Reid 14:45
So not knowing any names here. We’re not saying this is Tim. But if there was somebody liked him in another sport, maybe somebody maybe somebody who just scared for instance, or one of the adventurous board? Would they be thinking? I can’t do this? Because I’ve had 10, catastrophic excursions to the to the local hospital, and I can’t be insured anymore. And I can’t do this. So, so yes, for general people, they might it might not be but what if you’re like a super athletes? Would it stop them? In the gym? Or?

Donna Tocci 15:23
Sorry? If you’re a professional athlete that No, probably not, because you may have sponsors, you may have whatever, but you may be part of a team that has a team, you know, has, has a team policy, but I think if you were a general, you know, like me, who, goodness, you don’t ever want to see me out in the snow but and has had several, several accidents, you would probably have bills. And you know, just as Jim said, you know, you may be paying off monthly and think, you know, I’ve already had two spills and had to go to the hospital, and I’m still paying for them. So I think I’m gonna sit this season out.

Jim Moss 16:08
Yeah, once, once you’ve had one, you’re constantly thinking about the cost. On the second one. And let me even give you a better example, when I was working in the ski industry, we looked at pre employment, physical tests, not physician tests, but a physical trainer who athletic trainer type of person, who would see if the employees who are getting hired had ACLs or not. In the ski counties, there are hundreds, hundreds of people who have torn their ACLs can get around fine and can afford to get them fixed. Because it’s just too expensive. And they don’t have any health insurance. And so we were testing because what would happen is they come on board, they get a ski job. And three weeks into the season, they would have a fall and workers comp, you know, the health insurance, if you’re employed would pay for your ACL surgery. And so that was a I mean, it was you call it a scam. But it’s the simple fact that, you know, people if they don’t have the insurance, even if they do have the insurance, they don’t have enough money to pay the deductibles their share of insurance. So that

Carlton Reid 17:39
yes, you’re sort of saying that if you if you get enough of these, say crashes or injuries, then in effect, you you’ll be uninsured. For the insurance. All right. So you’re uninsured, you’re going out on the hill, you’re doing whatever thing you’re doing in the full knowledge that if you crash the next time you’re bankrupt,

Jim Moss 17:57
yep. The number one reason why people individuals file bankruptcy in the United States is medical records. Number one reason you know, they get injured somehow tax. Excuse me. You said

Donna Tocci 18:12
you’re full of fun facts. That’s the number one.

Jim Moss 18:18
When am I not full of fun facts?

Donna Tocci 18:21
That’s the sad one, though, you know, like, that’s just sad.

Carlton Reid 18:27
So we are having this to live there is no club asking that is because it is a live discussion in the UK at the moment because our health service for political reasons is being is falling down. And an awful lot of the podium call it conspiracy theories. I think just the very big worries that were one of the reasons is because an awful lot of politically well connected people want to actually have an American medical system. And it’s just it always has surprised me that that’s where you’d want to go because what Jim was saying there about the bankruptcies, you know, these things are often brought up as scare stories, but they’re not scare stories. They’re kind of they’re out there. They’re real. And you guys are crazy.

Jim Moss 19:12
You know, I

Donna Tocci 19:15
for a lot of reason.

Carlton Reid 19:17
Yeah, they are scare stories. And I think the people who are pushing to have our medical system are those that are not looking at the financial, personal financial costs, either because they have not understood them, or they have enough money, it doesn’t matter to them.

Donna Tocci 19:39
Or they have they are invested in an insurance type company, they’re going to start you know,

Carlton Reid 19:49
it’s also a libertarian type of thing like the, you know, the government, the government or whatever you want to say it as they shouldn’t have a say A in such a thing that I don’t understand that but that seems to be a thing?

Jim Moss 20:07
Well, it’s, I think that you could probably find somebody that would call themselves every type of political name, who is for and or against every health insurance opportunity the United States is currently looking at or has looked at. In the United States nowadays, I think that the political designation we attach to somebody’s not based on how they really think, but how they want to be perceived. So, you know, it’s okay. Yeah, it’s it. I mean, yes, Libertarian, the government should stay out of my life, until they look at the cost of triple bypass, you know, liberal, we should take care of everybody, until they realise how many people really, really are sick, conservative, and that no more of my money should go to take care of anybody else. But me. You know, whatever, whatever your opinion is, you’re welcome to it. I took an oath to defend it. But it’s scary. I mean, I have the most phenomenal policy supplemental policy. And it was based here again, on a fluke, I have taught part time in the State College, school education system for years, and I qualify because of that, for what’s called pierra, public employee retirement account health insurance. And it’s unbelievable. So 18 years teaching one course a year qualified me for that. And I have this supplemental policy. That’s just, I mean, it’s everyone who I know is just amazed at it. It’s it’s fantastic. You know, and here, again, a fluke, a fluke found this issue and a fluke paid for it.

Carlton Reid 22:09
So we were straying. I guess for some people, we’re straying way too far into politics, recycling. Yeah. But before we go any further, I would like to invest pass on I know, Jamie already responded to it. But we have had a message from Tim. And he said he couldn’t couldn’t make it on the recording today. Unfortunately, he’s had an utterly sleepless night due to, as you can imagine, from what we were discussing before injury issues, and he says he’s feeling really way, way, way sub PA. So hopefully, we’ll get him back on a future show. And he can talk about his latest injury so we can add it to him to the archive. Or, you know, by all means, Google on the hyphen For Tim Jackson’s many, many escapades where he talked about his crashes, his his falls, and his track injuries, and all sorts of stuff like that.

Donna Tocci 23:05
And I do have to say, he’s a good healer, and we’re thankful for that. Yes.

Carlton Reid 23:10
He’s always back on his bikes. He’s like he has these major crashes. But there he goes. He’s back on his bike within a couple of weeks. And normally he does Jim doesn’t the use case images of him on the trainer first. So good thing to have.

Jim Moss 23:23
Yeah, he posts them from the hospital. That’s what blows me away. I couldn’t, I didn’t even know how to get my thumbs to work, let alone a phone and yet he’s posting pictures laying in bed all drugged up. So he is at a person.

Carlton Reid 23:41
And before we do go on to talk about some topics, I would like to bring David in here just to segue into a very brief commercial break.

David Bernstein 23:52
Hello, everyone. This is David from the Fredcast, and of course, the spokesmen. And I’m here once again to tell you that this podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles, the good people at Tern build bikes that make it easier for you to replace car trips with bike trips. Part of that is being committed to designing useful bikes that are also fun to ride. But an even greater priority for Tern is to make sure that your ride is safe, and worryfree. And that’s why Tern works with industry leading third party testing labs like EFBE, and builds it bikes around Bosch ebike systems which are UL certified for both electric and fire safety. So, before you even zip off on your Tern, fully loaded and perhaps with the loved ones behind, you can be sure that the bike has been tested to handle the extra stresses on the frame and the rigours of the road. For more information, visit to learn more. And now back to the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 25:01
We are back with the first show of 2023. And we are with Donna. And we are with Jim. And we had a message even from our buddy who falls off his bike blogs can. Now now, in the show notes when we discussed what we’re going to talk about on the show, we put names on and and we say you should go read this. And one of the pieces that Jim flagged up, and it was also I’d seen on social media a lot. And it was a good time for this particular piece to go online. So it’s by Gloria Liu. And it’s in it’s in I’m assuming it was in the magazine as well, it might not have been made to go online. But anyway, it’s in the health and nutrition section section and it just says, Does cycling have a drinking problem? And now I haven’t done a word count, but it’s a massive, massive article. It’s not just like a quick slug bear at all. It’s huge. And Tim was actually was on social media was saying he actually had we don’t think he’s in the piece, but he think we think he might have contributed. Cuz he’s teetotal isn’t me, Donna isn’t that he’s like eight years he’s been? That’s what he says on social media. Yeah,

Donna Tocci 26:22
yes, he has. He says here on his LinkedIn posts, if anyone wants to read it.

Carlton Reid 26:27
LinkedIn, I was wondering, okay,

Donna Tocci 26:29
is that he spoke with Gloria Liu for this piece. Since I’ve been sober for more than eight years now and have first hand experience with both sides of the good slash bad alcohol coin. Kudos to Bicycling magazine for allowing Gloria the column space for this article. Yeah.

Jim Moss 26:46
It’s it’s a massive article she just dwells, dives into every aspect of it. And right,

Carlton Reid 26:54
Jan? And Jan first. I mean, when when was actually published, I mean, I’m assuming that was kind of like timed for a time where you might have more alcohol, and then even more alcohol than you would have, normally. But whenever an article has a name for this phenomenon, but whenever a magazine or newspaper has any headline, with a question mark, you can invariably just say, No, you know, that’s the answer to that generally. And but in this particular case, do we think Cycling has a drinking problem, Donna?

Donna Tocci 27:32
For a lot of group rides, and things like that they do end with a couple of beers. Is that a problem? Maybe. I know, when I was going to Interbike in Vegas, I was I was tend to hang out with a lot of folks, including a lot of bike messengers, and there was a lot of drinking, but that was kind of the culture. And again, culture equal problem question. So, you know, it could be the same with runners as well, which is an industry that I am very well in ingrained in, you go out for a group run, you come back, you have a couple beers. You do pub crawl runs. So it is definitely there and

Carlton Reid 28:20
had done a how different is that? You said mentioned running? How different is that to? Just at the end of a workday? You do exactly the same with it. Your your your fellow workers. So I was wondering how different might that be from just basical social stuff. So this is just a this is an issue? It’s an issue for every single sector of society, not just a small subset of cyclist?

Donna Tocci 28:50
Yeah, and the article is talking about that there. You know, to quote this, it’s in the bike shops where customers steal tip mechanics and six packs. It’s an industry trade shows where people are drinking in their booths at cyclocross races, gravel races, where aid stations offer whiskey shots. Okay, that’s me, but but, so maybe, you know, she’s talking about much more part of not just what I was talking about that social piece after we’ll go have a beer after a run or a ride that is usually in her in currency and in marketing and all of that, and that would make it very different than, hey, let’s go grab a beer after work. That’s, you know, to equate it to, you know, a, you know, a job in an office or something like that, where, hey, you wrote a great byline, here’s a beer, we’re not going to pay you for it. That doesn’t make any sense. So yeah, I think it’s it’s ingrained Is it a problem? Again, question mark. Jim, you’re saying something probably sure

Jim Moss 30:05
you want a good ski tune, you bring a six pack with you. You want a good bike tune, you take a six pack with you? Well, in my case, since I’ve already worked on the bike, it usually takes a case. But it’s just part of the outdoor industry. I knew one ski tuner who I mean, and this guy was one of the best in the world, who didn’t shrink the beer that one gave him and would just stack it up. And then at the end of the ski season, he and his friends would go camping for a week. And they would have a pallet full of beer to drink. Oh, I mean, literally, that’s how much beer he was tipped. But he was smart enough that he, you know, shared it. So is it any more any less, I do drink more when I’m with friends, I don’t drink that much at home by myself. But I don’t drink that much anyway, two to four drinks a month. You know, and that can be who knows why shifted to that. But But I don’t think Cycling has any more of a problem other than one small aspect. And that sponsorship, everybody goes someplace after an activity. And bars are the number one place because we can talk, you know, we, we could go to a library, but then we’d have to sit, sit and look at each other. You know, we could go to a park. But nobody’s going to bring us food. So yeah, bars are the place we go because they offer everything we want to do at the end of activities. But we have sponsorships in cycling. If you look at the back of a jersey that says you know or order the front, nine times out of 10. And I count both of these. There’s a brewery and there’s a law firm. The brewery wants you to stop by after a ride and the law firm wants you to call him if you get hit by a car. Cracks me up. And I’m putting on cycling events now. And the first thing we get a list of is what brewery or what you know, liquor distributor, whoever can we get to give us money? Because they want cyclists they they want softball players though? They want runners, they want all those people because probably because of the activity, they can drink more with less issues? I don’t know, maybe? Or maybe they just do drink more. Is it a process?

Carlton Reid 32:45
I mean, most most of the article seems to I mean, it does mention other forms of alcohol. But it is basically about beer, which almost has its self limiting aspect to it, you get lots of shots, you know, you don’t you’re not going to pay for for much after that. But you have quite a few beers, and you’re going to be up putting that out. And that’s going to take your time away from that alcohol. So it’s just a beer is that less of a problem than say, spirits,

Jim Moss 33:15
beer, that several studies and at least one book have proved, is the reason why we exist. You know, since water was going to kill us in the Middle Ages, and before that beer allowed us to survive. So I mean, yeah, just beer does it, you know, contain the plague or whatever.

Carlton Reid 33:39
But I mean, second thing, cyclists tend to be certainly a certain level of cyclists, they tend to be pretty much fitness. certainly aware, and they will know the damage that alcohol can do. So we’ll self limit and you know, they’re not going to be the 10 I’m assuming here. And I’m asking the questions, not assuming I’m asking questions. Would that not just be you’re not gonna have such a natural problem because Cypress or fitness freaks and they’ll just limit

Jim Moss 34:05
but they also limit carbs. And they limit you know, protein and they limit sugars, they limit everything. You know, it’s you know, and if they if they have more beer than whatever, they’re going to limit something else. If they have a doughnut in the morning, they may have less beer in the evening. So so it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what the name of the carrier is. What matters is what is inside, you know that you put in your mouth. Right sugar is 25 times more addicting than cocaine. Okay, I can have a doughnut or I can do a snort. What

Carlton Reid 34:48
does cycling have a cake problem? Right? You know when we can’t get enough of that cake? Right?

Donna Tocci 34:56
I have a cake problem.

I would say Yeah, right. But, you know, so I’m looking through this article and they’re talking about, you know, the bike scene and, and bike mechanics, being women and feeling pressure to be one of the guys and go out and drink and get drunk. And and I could see that. But to your point, would that be in any other industry as well, I don’t know. And but there is a, there is a person here talks about a cycling team out in Kansas City that they don’t go for drinks after ride, like because of the health reasons, just as you’re talking about people gain weight, cognitive, you know, all of that hurts their health. So the article really does go back and forth a little bit on you know, that, yes. And, you know, cardiovascular disease and heart failure and stroke, and you know, nobody, nobody needs that. So, so it’s interesting, but I also wonder, you know, is it is it the younger group, as well, you know, when you’re trying to make a name for yourself, so you’re going out and you’re doing all of these things? I don’t know. But I do think that if you are prone to have a problem that just as you said, Carlton, it, you could find it anywhere. You can find it in running, I know at the end of races, there’s beer gardens, there’s, you know, we just we don’t go to a pub, you go to a quote unquote, beer garden, because it’s right there at the finish line. You don’t even have to go anywhere for it. So I think if you’re, if you’re prone to have a problem, or be on the verge of having a problem, yes, there but you could find that anywhere.

Jim Moss 36:49
Yeah, post ride post run. spaghetti dinners are more dangerous for me. I mean, first of all, it’s bad piece.

Carlton Reid 36:59
The piece mentions, you know, checked historian so she didn’t come to me. And, and that’s my views on this as a cycling historian. I would have told her one thing, and that is in Germany. There’s a drink called shandy is no, like a mix between lemonade and beer. What would you call that?

Donna Tocci 37:21

Jim Moss 37:22

Carlton Reid 37:23
That’s really well, that’s a standard drink across in here in Europe. But it’s called Shandy. So if you’d ask for it in a public basically limits your your amount of alcohol, so you might have a full pint. But half it’s party more. It’s gonna be lemonade, and it’s quite sweet drink. Well in Germany, that’s called Radler. In there are any German speakers in the audience, they will know that Radler actually means cyclist. So the German word for diluted beer is cyclist and where that came from was there was a there’s many places where it’s attributed to but it’s basically 1870s 1880s When Radler as a drink as a kind of drink first appeared in Germany with that name. And it was meant to be I think it’s Bavaria, where bar which was attracting lots and lots of cyclists in the 1870s. You know, everybody’s on their bikes going out to places and drinking. And the Publican had ran out or was running very low, low on beer. And so we knew those 1000s and 1000s of cyclists were going to be appearing that day. So he told his staff, well dilute it with lemonade. And they did this. And the cyclists loved it because it wasn’t a full beer. It was just half a beer, which meant they could drink a bit more and be hydrated. And so the German word for this particular drink, which is a phenomenally popular drink, everywhere in Europe, you know, Snady stroke Radler is bicyclist cyclist. So there you go. There’s a historian that could have actually contributed to this this this particular article.

Jim Moss 39:08
Well, here in the United States, we would call it a softball. It’s when the United States you know, something was developed because groups of people came in we call it a softball.

Carlton Reid 39:22
I mean, I’m spell that incident ball as the ball.

Jim Moss 39:29
Softball is, you know what we all play. You wait until at least the beginning of the first inning to have a beer. You don’t wait till you get done at the end of the game to go to a pub, you start drinking when the game starts. On some cases, there are lots of serious softball players don’t want to get you know cards and letters. But there’s all sorts of sports that drink and this one just got named after cycling because the that’s just coming into town. If it were trapped leads coming through, they’d probably have that, you know, word for an awful concoction of lemonade and beer.

Carlton Reid 40:11
It’s nice, you should try it.

Donna Tocci 40:14
Well, in the article, she says that a 2017 report by sponsorship monitor Ieg estimated that US alcohol companies spent 74% of their sponsorship dollars on sports and not only mainstream spectator sports like football, but also participant participatory events, like five K’s triathlons and cycling races. So, so, Jim, you know, you’re right. The, the example of the the jersey? No, no, that is that that’s true. So yeah, I interesting. It’s a great article. And I think that people should, should read it and see, you know, what, what their thoughts are about this? And but it’s you pay your Do you pay your bike mechanic in in cases of beer, or 12 packs or six pack?

Carlton Reid 41:08
And maybe bike mechanics should be asked? Would you rather have the cash?

Jim Moss 41:10
Yeah. Yeah. And maybe you should ask, How much do you drink? You know, do you think you have a drinking problem? Should I be contributing to this drinking problem? You know, when when you get invited to have a beer at the end of the day, and you watch the other mechanics work on bikes with a beer next to him? Are they having one before they go home? Are they having six before they go home? When you see that

Carlton Reid 41:42
post that post activity, right? Yeah, in skiing gym, which is your skier, it’s a relatively strong culture to have alcohol in the middle of the day, perhaps when you’re still on the slope, you know, gluwein and all this kind of stuff. Now, I’ve also found that crazy, you know, skiing is hard enough, and I’m going to equate cycling, isn’t it? These are hard enough activities to do sober. Nevermind, a little bit drunk. So skiing while inebriated seems to me to be absolutely crazy. Yet, it does seem to be a cultural thing where you will have alcohol on the slope. Oh, it’s

Jim Moss 42:18
it is in skiing, it’s even worse. And I can give you a couple quick examples. One in Colorado, it’s against the law to ride a ski lift, intoxicated, and yet, we sell beer and wine and drinks at mid mountain and top of the mountain restaurants at every resort in Colorado. So you can’t get on the lift drunk, but you can use the lift to get up and get drunk. Right and it is a an absolute defence. If you are loaded to any ski injury lawsuit you may have, you don’t you won’t get a dime. And in the 70s and 80s, you knew that this guy was a great skier because he carried his own Bota bag, you know, the little fake Italian bags, leather outside that carried wine. And you would ski down the hill. And you know how good of a skier you were was based on how far away you could shoot the wine from your boater bag into your mouth and share with your friends. And, you know, somehow it got refilled at the bottom of the hill and you went back up again.

Carlton Reid 43:29
So this is where I’m kind of go with it is that I don’t think this is a cycling problem. The headline is de cycling have the problem. No, it’s society has the problem. And you can link you can go to lots of activities where people are probably being tipped with with six packs. And people are drinking during the the downtime during lunch before they carry on doing that activity skiing being I would say as a prime example because it is so embedded the alcohol in it really, really embedded in that particular activity. So I’m just saying yeah, cycling isn’t special here. Right? Society is doing and more importantly, cycling.

Jim Moss 44:10
Yeah, whatever the sport is not the sport. It’s the individual. Okay, if you is a cyclist or softball player or a skier or a professional tiddlywinks player, need to figure out what your relationship with alcohol is and whether or not that’s good or bad.

Carlton Reid 44:29
I’ll come in today in pairs. So why would you do a incredibly dangerous activity like skiing or cycling in any way impaired? Why would you do that? Because you

Jim Moss 44:41
don’t have enough guts to do it sober.

Donna Tocci 44:43
Well, you’re saying for you, you truly have the disease. You have a problem? Yeah. And so maybe what we can all do as part of the site. The sports industry, if you will, is give people the choice right if you want to tip your bike mechanic, give him you know, 10 bucks, 20 bucks, whatever or her or them and let them decide how they want to spend it. If they want to go and buy, you know, a six year for the rest of the mechanics, then they can do that. And

Carlton Reid 45:16
yeah, talking about tipping again, this is out of my comfort zone.

Donna Tocci 45:18
Okay, so sorry. But, but also, you know, and same thing with events, you know, so if you’re gonna have a quote unquote beer garden at the end of an event, and you’re giving away Hey, you get, you know, a nice event pint glass with your beer, we’ll give the pint glass if somebody orders a seltzer water to write, you know, so make it more inclusive. And give people that choice. And if somebody really is struggling, because they have that that disease or they’re on the borderline, make it easier for them to say no.

Carlton Reid 45:57
But might not also be easy to say no, if there is no availability. So what Jim was saying there was if you’ve got mid station and at the top if you’ve got copious amounts of alcohol, isn’t that a bit crazy? Should we not be limiting it a bit more always that nanny state and you shouldn’t be limiting it. It should be up to individuals.

Jim Moss 46:18
Now we’re back to a political discussion. I’m not going to touch that one.

Carlton Reid 46:26
Nope. Okay.

Donna Tocci 46:28
And I think we need Tim I think we need him for a further discussion on this. And maybe we have this conversation again, or a similar conversation when we can have Tim for a little different perspective.

Carlton Reid 46:42
I’ve not done this event, but there is an event. I mean, it’s talked about, you know, hand hand ups, you know, in cycle races and stuff. And we have something similar. There’s an event or there used to be an event, I don’t think it’s run now, there used to be an event called the Real Ale Wobble. And that was a mountain bike event, from way back in the 80s. It’s a very old event. And I’ve never actually done it, but I’ve been to the place where it’s done it and it’s very small place in mid Wales. And it’s basically a pub in a pub a publican started this off. And it’s basically you, you start this race, and every checkpoint, there is a real ale, to to imbibe. And then clearly by the end of this, you’re probably not able to balance on your bike much anymore. So clearly, that was a that was an event that was specifically tying cycling, and the the physical action of drinking while you were cycling, that may be similar to the handout. In cyclocross,

Jim Moss 47:45
we have dozens of those around here. There’s one where and motorcyclists are big on this one, but I’ve seen it in cycling now, where you go to each bar, hand you a card from a deck, and you have a beer, and then you hop on your motorcycle, you hop on your bike, you go to the next

Carlton Reid 48:00
motorcycle, your motorcycle, you mean motorcycle, that’s a that’s a, that’s a vehicle that goes on public highways, right? Can you possibly have that, oh, it’s

Jim Moss 48:10
every day. And at the end of the run, you may have gone to 10 bars, and you take your 10 Playing cards and come up with the best poker hand that you can figure out after X number of beers on a bicycle or on a whatever, and I’ve done it on bikes, it’s a phenomenal game. Especially if you can win a couple 100 bucks with your poker hand

Carlton Reid 48:35
to discuss that this is potentially a social, you know, across many different sectors. But what’s what’s taken, you know, the driving under the influence has been made socially unacceptable, whereas in the 70s, you know, it was acceptable to drink and then get into it, okay, we’ve made it socially unacceptable. So is this something that has to happen in drinking, while taking part in sporting events should also become that’s just socially unacceptable, that’s just, we don’t have to be woke or anti woke about this. This is just society will eventually say that that’s not a sensible thing to be doing. And we won’t do that anymore. In the same way that you know, driving under the influence is also seen in that kind of, you know, you can crazy to do this category,

Jim Moss 49:22
but it won’t because it became socially unacceptable here in the United States, because of the damage to other people. In in, in cycling, you know, I mean, you could crash into another cyclists. But if you crash into a car or a tree, you’re the one that’s going to get injured so nobody cares. It won’t create any society woes or backlash.

Carlton Reid 49:51

Donna Tocci 49:54
I don’t know that nobody cares.

Jim Moss 49:58
The people that Who check you into the hospital care?

Donna Tocci 50:02
Yeah, but think about it too. So if you’re, you know, in Carlton’s example of going from, you know, L to L, and, and the name is, you know, expects you to be wobbly at the end, right the room. In some cases, those people are going to pack their bike into a car and then drive. Right. And so, you know, if you go to this real ale wobble or any other, you know, let’s ride from bar to bar to bar and have drinks, or drink after a mountain bike ride on a Sunday, most of those people are going to get in cars. And not great

Jim Moss 50:46
that transition from a bicycle to a car is where it goes from fun activity. normal activity, socially acceptable activity to a non socially criminal activity. I guess you can get a you can lose your driver’s licence here in Colorado for riding a bicycle drunk. Yeah, is your driver’s licence? Yes. And we have bicycle

drunk. And you can lose your driver’s licence for riding a horse drunk. And we

Carlton Reid 51:25
had I think many jurisdictions around the world will will have pretty similar if you have a driving licence, you can have it taken away if you’re caught drunk, or another form of transport

Jim Moss 51:35
on a horse. I, that one’s the one that stretched me. So anyway, and we have a case, we have a case where a guy was convicted, and the appellate court upheld it. And both riding a horse drunk and riding a bicycle drunk. So

Carlton Reid 51:48
there is of course, these jokes. Like cartoons in there often that these are like 1890s and early cartoons, but they’re basically often brought out when driverless cars I talked about because we’ve had driverless cars in effect for a long time, because farmers when they’d get drunk on the with their horses, they would just get in the back of their cart, and the horse would know exactly where it had to go. So you had a driverless car back in the 1890s. Just because the your horse knew exactly where home was. And you could just get in drunk and off, it would go.

Donna Tocci 52:24
Okay, I just looked it up. Because Google knows everything. In my state, it is not illegal and does not have Oui conviction consequences to drunk or drug impaired biking. Really, it is a terribly reckless thing to do is what? Yeah, so

Jim Moss 52:45
if you want to ride your horse, yeah, go to Connecticut. Massachusetts, Massachusetts. scuze. me the best.

Carlton Reid 52:51
So definitely. Yeah, yeah, one of the old ways of finding it if somebody is drunk, so a police officer, before that you have breathalysers that we’ll be just asking them to ride on site. So walking in a straight line. Whereas on a bike, if you’re drunk, if you’re really drunk, surely you’re gonna fall off. If you are able to actually balance a bike and go in a reasonably straight line, you can’t be that drunk. Whereas this is all similar advocate stuff here. I’m not advocating any of this. But if you get into a car, it’s somehow different in that your cocoon, possibly very, very warm. You have music, you have all these distractions. So you shouldn’t be driving while drunk. But cycling while drunk is somehow kind of okay, because the very fact you are staying upright means you’re not actually that drunk. What do we think about that?

Jim Moss 53:44
I agree with you, but boy, are we gonna get cards and letters? And I’m sure I mean, we have all met in our life. Somebody who is constantly loaded. You know, who I was sitting in the courtroom one time talking to the sheriff who’s there, you know, as the guard who said, Yeah, we had to call flight for life because a guy blew a point five, three, on a breathalyser when he got brought in.

Carlton Reid 54:17
point that’s high, I’m assuming

Jim Moss 54:19
Oh, that’s five times higher than Well, point. Oh, eight is against the law to drive this guy blue. 8.53. That’s That’s mean. That means he is drunk his entire existence. You can blow that much unless you’re you’re walking around and a point two, which is, which most people be unconscious of point two.

Donna Tocci 54:44
Yeah, I was gonna say how was he even alive? Right.

Jim Moss 54:47
And that’s why they call flight for life. You know, they didn’t take UAV you know, he was going to live. And so but there’s those people out there. They just wake up, loaded and maintain that. So they could probably ride a bike for a while. But they’re the exception to the rule. And for a cyclists yeah for cyclists is seriously a cyclist he can’t ride a bike loaded. But he does provide entertainment and YouTube videos or he Tiktok videos.

Carlton Reid 55:18
Mm hmm. See, when you get that wobble or go back to the word wobble, you’ve, it’s kind of a death spiral, you’re gonna fall off your bike, where do you see drunk people, but they’re actually keeping a straight line when they are reasonably straight line when they’re riding because as soon as you start that wobble, that wobble doesn’t end anything else apart from nine times out of 10 a crash, although the drunk cyclist basically cures themselves because they crash whereas a drunk motorist, you know, can actually keep going.

Jim Moss 55:49
Although there is a new bike that I just saw press release about that won’t crash the three wheel? No, no, a three wheeler, two wheel electric bike that has, you know, a pewter that keeps it upright. So now you can be totally Blotto. And, yeah, so

Carlton Reid 56:05
it’ll get you back.

Donna Tocci 56:07
I mean, the flip side of that is that’s more enabling.

Jim Moss 56:12
Sure. So isn’t that

Donna Tocci 56:15
or maybe makes the case for the cycling have a drinking problem if somebody is creating a bike to stay upright? If you can’t, yourself? But But

Carlton Reid 56:24
wouldn’t that just be for people with balances us in general, rather than drunk people with balances?

Jim Moss 56:29
Sure, we always create. So So beer was created, and ended up being a lifesaver, because you could drink beer and not die of some disease. That’s how to

Carlton Reid 56:42
boil water. Why

Jim Moss 56:45
didn’t you know? But they didn’t know about, we’d

Carlton Reid 56:48
have to put hops in it. And you’d have to put barley in it, you could just boil the water, but they

Jim Moss 56:53
didn’t know that in the 1500s of 1300s. That, you know,

Carlton Reid 56:57
it’s accidental just that the beer being healthy is just Well, yeah. Boiling is doing it. Right.

Jim Moss 57:03
It just happened. They didn’t know that there were germs. They just knew that people who drank beer seem to live. And so everything in life can also be turned into an addiction a problem. You know, rock climbing evolved into bungee jumping, involved into static jumping. And I had a friend die because you know, static jumping, meaning your rope does not stretch. And you take this great big swinging jump, and you know it’s harnessed. Right?

Carlton Reid 57:41
Hey, yay.

Jim Moss 57:43
It’s sort of you find videos on it happens a lot in Utah, where you have great big cliffs and arches and you can take this giant swing underneath an arch.

Carlton Reid 57:55
Does that do amazing things to your whole body when you hit that?

Jim Moss 58:00
Well, you try and do it in such a way that you curve into that, you know, point of, you know, no more stretch. And I’ve not seen a video of anyone over the age of 35 doing it

Carlton Reid 58:17
for obvious reasons. Yeah.

Jim Moss 58:18
I mean, it’s such a big thing in the state of Utah that the attorney for the Utah State Lands attorney and I became friends because it became an issue then he finally got to the point to say look if they want to died, let them die. So anything can become a problem. You know, what was used to get out of to cross the canyon to get to better lands to grow food evolved into rock climbing.

Carlton Reid 58:53
Jim, have you still on the hell site that is Twitter? Are you are you migrating to Mastodon what you

Jim Moss 58:59
I’m on Mastodon and I’m on Twitter and I’m on stimuli. I’m not even sure what mass I mean, Mastodon I’m learning stimuli. I’m not even sure what I’m doing there. But I thought I would try them all because I wanted to grab recreation law. Yeah. To hold on mice. Yeah, yeah. And so I’m posting to it. The best way to find me is recreation-law,

Carlton Reid 59:24
and Donna. So I still see you on Twitter and I have got a mastodon but I really don’t think I’ve done one one posting. I’m pretty poor. That’s why I’m sticking with the health side. Are you sticking with the hellsite? What are you what are your thoughts on that?

Donna Tocci 59:39
For now? Yes. So you can find me on Twitter at DonnaTocci and also on Instagram.

Carlton Reid 59:47
So thank you ever so much for being on today’s show. And Jim, and as I said, this has been show 319 And the next episode because this was this is like Can I show that almost shouldn’t be here because I did say in the last episode that the next show will be with somebody who’s talking to Critical Mass person who uses the world of song to actually get across his message about getting more people on bikes so that will be the next episode rather than this. This this interim episode talking about kidneys and literally were the only subject to talk about was my kidneys and so it’s been excellent for the our first show of the year. So next episode will be critical mass, but meanwhile, get out there and ride