Andy Boenau — White Collar Epidemic

13th June 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 330: Andy Boenau

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Andy Boenau — White Collar Epidemic

TOPICS: Andy discusses his urban planning background and his proposed new documentary, White Collar Epidemic.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to episode 330 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Tuesday 13th of June 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
I’m Carlton Reid. And on today’s show, I’m talking urban planning and more with Andy Boenau speaking to me from his home in Virginia, USA. Andy is an award winning filmmaker, and we talk about his background in transportation, and his proposed new documentary, White Collar Epidemic. And if you were last on the show in 2019, do I have to update the profile picture that we use the last time? And I’m gonna say not because I saw you on video a second ago, you look the same. So well.

Andy Boenau 1:40
Well, I was gonna show when you make when you make deals with the devil, when you’re doing urban planning work? Yeah, you get to keep your look.

Carlton Reid 1:48
Yeah, this is why my good looks are still the same. Yeah, no, I completely agree that were the bad ones. We do deals with devils. And we continue to look wonderful. And if we’re going to be talking about a project of yours in a moment, but first of all, I’d like to come on to because people I’m sure will remember vividly that 2019 show we did with In fact, it was about bike share. So that can kind of like give people a clue because you had a bike share book out at that time, didn’t you? That’s what we’re talking about the last time bike. Yes. So how did that pan out? Are you still interested in Bike Share? What where’s your where’s your interests bubbling up right now?

Andy Boenau 2:34
My, the short answer is yes. I’m looking at an oversized poster on an old canvasses an old advertisement from some French magazine propaganda with a cartoonish woman on a bicycle. I still adore not only bicycles, but bicycling propaganda. My

Carlton Reid 2:57
Propaganda? Marketing?

Andy Boenau 3:01
I’m taking back the word I’m taking it back propaganda. Yes, because it’s messaging, like I want to find, I want to find people’s emotions, I want to hook people. Because we’re silly creatures, we like to think that we’re logical. And we’re in so many ways, we’re just not. And so whatever the thing is, whether it’s buying diapers for your newborn baby, or trying to figure out which bicycle is right for you, if you need to be able to connect with people, and so at its core, that’s what, that’s what I do. It’s that kind of messaging. And so my entire career 25 years has been in mobility or urban planning of some kind. And so I developed organically a strong bias for transportation systems where you can walk or ride a bicycle as ways to get around not only because it’s good for the air, good for the environment, those are happy accidents. And for me, anyway, I, I just I want to be able to get around and I want other people to be able to get around without having to be stuck with only one option being a personal vehicle. And so yeah, years ago, when you and I talked, I was working specifically with the bike share company, I was helping them grow out of just doing Bike Share operations at universities and become more of a shared mobility offering where fleets of electric vehicles will be connected, so scooters, bicycles, trikes, low speed, electric vehicles, that sort of thing. But my kind of Northstar and this is both for professional work that I get paid for but just also some fun things like street photography has to do with happy, healthy communities. I am a people watcher. I like to see happy people. I want people to be able to live in an environment wherever they are, whether it’s a city or a suburb, That doesn’t matter, but to be able to be healthy. And what really infuriates me is infrastructure that blocks most of us from choosing healthy habits like walking around here and there riding a bicycle here and there. But we

Carlton Reid 5:18
wouldn’t be right in thinking that you started your career in designing that exact kind of infrastructure. Now, have you kind of rebelled?

Andy Boenau 5:27
That’s a great question I because some would, if they if you just read my career arc on a piece of paper, you would say, Oh, he’s he’s a reformed traffic engineer, because I began my career as just doing traffic analysis. And in a sense, yes, I was, I was the bad guy. But, but I didn’t I don’t think I don’t think it’s that simplistic that traffic engineering, but the people in it are our ministers trying to destroy things around them. What I the reason why my career has taken the path that it that it has is, and what I think why it was different in certain groups that I worked alongside. I didn’t know when I started my career, what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I still don’t really know, I just know that I know, things that I enjoy doing. I know a handful of things that I’m decent at. And when I stack those up, it ends up being unique in this infrastructure, sort of business planning and design. And so as I was going through analysing traffic, for consulting firms, you know, doing these projects for city governments and counties and state DoD departments of transport, I just asked a lot of dumb questions like, Why do we do this? Why do we analyse that? Which options do I use as the default settings? And not not coming from some place of no it on this? I didn’t know. I didn’t know anything. And so all my questions, were always coming from a place of I want to be able to do my work, and pay the bills and not have like, not have to keep going back to my boss. And along the way, these questions kept being answered with forms of, well, this is the way we do it, just because that’s how it’s always been done. And that doesn’t stick well with me. And so I’ve I do like transportation and urban planning. And I’d like, like I said, I’m a people watcher. And so it’s interests me how people move through space. And so the questions that I asked, were never about, I’m going to append an industry or, you know, I’m just going to stick it to the man, I just thought, wow, these these basic assumptions about how we calculate and then put judgement values on how much time it takes people to get around. It’s not really, with the human being at the centre, it really is with the machine at the centre. And it is even hearing myself say it, it sounds silly, it sounds absurd. But that is the heart and soul of modern traffic analysis. And it’s, it’s kind of silly tonight. And so when you disk when you put it, you know, back to why I use the word propaganda or messaging on purpose, when you put these things in just plain language for people to understand how it is that we analyse how people get around, it sounds so bonkers, that you can’t think it’s possibly true. So a human being sitting in a vehicle waiting for say 60 seconds for a red light to turn green, that’s considered unacceptable delay. But if a human being that same human being is standing at the corner of the intersection, and they have to wait 60 seconds to cross the street, that’s considered totally fine. In fact, if they if that person standing wants to complain while they should walk to the next block and wait maybe there’s a shorter wait over there, like go five minutes out of your way or 10 minutes out of your way. So it’s that sort of thing when you

Carlton Reid 8:59
it kind of just kind of started kind of talking to that because before you then segue off into a different subject I don’t think I want to zero in because I’m gonna use your background here in what you were doing and exactly what you said that about the what we would call in the UK a traffic light a stoplight for pedestrians so it’s a conscious decision by the municipality by the traffic engineers at the end of the day to a certain and a certain amount of time for as you said the machine and a certain amount of time for the human so they are presumably doing that a consciously be using figures using data so or is it just a bias in that no, the car should have more time the motorists should have more time more time than the pedestrians. How is that bigger now that that timing?

Andy Boenau 9:57
It’s so there’s a lot in there So, before I tell you about, like how it’s figured out, I think one of the reasons why because this is probably also something in some people’s mind. Well, why would this be? Why would people consciously go along with it? Because yes, there are, there still are in the year 2023 human beings operating the software programmes to analyse traffic. And I think so much of this goes back to the education system where we are trained to conform, not trained to be intellectually curious. And if you challenge how things are done, just the act of challenging it is seen as a you’re now part of an out group, even if your goal is I want to understand how it is we do this so that I, the engineer, or the planner can do my job better. You’re, you’re expected to conform not only at the individual kind of and team level, but then also at corporate levels and local agency level, the municipality level people in these businesses are expected just to just go with the flow. how it’s calculated, is it’s an, it’s another one of those silly things where you if you were to tell a child, a 10 year old, they would say no, that can’t possibly be if there’s these tables that you refer to, to determine whether or not the delay at the stoplight or a stop sign is air quotes, acceptable or not. And they have this genius way of getting us to agree with acceptable and unacceptable, and that is using letter grades just like you got in school. And so A, B, C, D, F, everybody wants an A, and then everybody’s like, Well, maybe if you get a B, okay, maybe not everyone can be an A student, but at least I gotta be. But if you’re getting C’s and F’s, on your stuff, come on, you’re like, No, your parents are gonna start asking questions, right. And so if I’m regularly turning in work, that’s getting D’s and F’s, somebody’s gonna go wait. And he’s got problems here, he needs to get with the programme. That’s how they label intersection analysis. And so if a car only has to wait, you know, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, that’s good level of service, a so good grade, good job. If if the person sitting at the light in a car has to wait a whole whopping minute, that is unacceptable, F. And now if you’ve got an F, what are we going to do about it? Well, what can we do to get this grade up to a, we probably need more space for cars, not just to drive along a corridor, but to stack up at the front of the intersection so that when the light goes green, boom, they can all head off. And so that means of course, more lanes to get people to get cars closer to the front line. So it’s kind of like if you picture the NASCAR. I’m not a NASCAR fan, but like a car race where you have. So I got speaking in an area that I don’t know a lot about, I can picture the starting line, or even the finish line. If you imagine all of these cards next to each other. That’s the kind of thinking behind standard traffic analysis that if if you get a bad grade on your report card, then you need to make more space up at the front, so that you don’t have a queue of people waiting. And what happens when you do that is anybody else on any so any anybody sitting on the car on the side street, they’re having the same issue as the main street, or the High Street, they’ve got to have as little delay as possible. So pretty soon, you’ve got two left, turn lanes, multiple lanes going through, you’ve got a separate slip lane. To the right, I’m gonna have to reverse all these for people in countries where they turn on the wrong side of the road. And then, of course, as you expand the streets, in the intersections, if you’re walking, or riding a bicycle to get around. Now, not only do you have to wait a while for it to be your turn to cross the street. But once you start crossing, like forget the safety implications for a second, just the time it takes you to walk across all of that pavement is wild. So these two things he’s kind of human being on foot or or on a saddle and human being inside of a machine are treated very, very differently.

Carlton Reid 14:33
But isn’t that you described moto normativity? You’ve described carb reign, as some people like to call it but isn’t that 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s maybe thinking and the modern traffic engineer who came after you and the ones today you’re not thinking differently and then no longer using such such crazy? A car brain tables to work things out?

Andy Boenau 15:00
Ah, I wish that it was. So I, I wish that there was reform. I mean, the thing is, they’re each I think, each generation and then subgroups within generations, there’s, there’s some hope put in them that, oh, this group of people, they’ve learned this thing, they’re now enlightened, they will do better. But then what happens is they get to the workplace. And they have a mentor who reminds them either explicitly or implicitly. We’re about conformity, like, go with the flow, this is how we do things. It’s just the way it is, I wish things were different. But this is just the way it is. So all of these decades later, it’s no different. I remember, near the start of my career, there were some I would hear things occasionally, there would be somebody interviewed on something like NPR in the US, you know, public radio, kind of a niche interview with somebody who would have these ideas about a mixture of traffic, calming and livable places, and how great this could be, if we were to reform the transportation industry. And as I got into my career, I started hearing things like, well, younger people these days, you know, the on a Gen X or so the millennials coming up behind me, Millennials don’t care so much about car ownership, they’re more interested in the environment. And so there were these news stories that would pop up, that would suggest, hey, things are going to change, because the next generation, this next group of people coming in, when they get to the office, they’re going to be different. And it’s, it’s just not happening, whether or not they want to, so maybe they care differently about social issues or environmental issues than the people before them. But that doesn’t matter if they’re not putting their ideas into action. What still happens at the office is the same as it ever was, it’s land use rules. And in the United States, we have most of these things are local, local municipal rules that dictate where you can build different types of buildings, different types of land uses. So if you live in a house, you go over here, oh, you want a small house, okay, that’s a different zone, you need to go live in this zone. If you want to have a shop or a market, those belong in this zone over here. And so then the planners have all these rules that lead to car oriented roads, to connect all of those zones. And then you’ve got the traffic analysis that comes behind it and says, Okay, we’ve analysed all the traffic going between these zones, there, back to the letter, the letter grades, we’re not getting good enough grades, we need to add more infrastructure for the cars. And it’s just this never ending thing. Because I think a major part of it is this, this issue of conformity, it’s just, you just are supposed to go with the flow and not stop and say, Wait a second, if we are here to serve the public interest to to deliver infrastructure that is helping people, this thing that we’re doing this process is not helping. So is there a different process that would get to the outcome which we want, which is vibrant places, Healthy Places, safer places.

Carlton Reid 18:14
I want to give you an anecdote, actually. And that this is very personal to me. And when you’re making your point, I was kind of thinking of it and that was there’s a bike lane put in in my home city of Newcastle upon Tyne and it’s a very wide bike lane it’s in many ways it’s it’s a very good bike lane. But what it’s done is made my journey through into into Newcastle City Centre longer if I follow that protected bike lane, and that’s because the stoplight which they put in the middle where before I was in with the traffic and effect when I’m not being vehicle a cyclist about this, but before, there wasn’t a huge amount of traffic on this road anyway, because it’ll be filtered elsewhere. And but I would go with the traffic lights, and I would go reasonably fast now to put this protected bike lane in but at a at a at a junction, there’s like an hour for way perhaps even more stoplight where every thread to go through. So now as a cyclist, you’ve got to wait there for enormous amount of time to cross and then when that goes green, you know you’ve got like just a few seconds, whereas the motorists get loads of time, you know, they get like five, six cars, you know, they get maybe four times the amount of time as the poor cyclists get. So I now no longer use that world class superlative very expensive bike path. I will often use the the road just because the engineers the traffic engineers through their timings of this, these lights have made my transit through that area much much right now. They could if they want the reverse car Rain, they could make it longer for the motorists, and it could be, you know, super fast for the cyclists spending all that money on this great bike lane. And they just my point of view they’ve blown it.

Andy Boenau 20:11
Yeah, I’ve seen that sort of thing in the US also. And one of one of the common bits is, you’ll see, you’ll see things described as bike infrastructure. That is nothing at all. It’s the word infrastructure is just silly to apply there. It’s a stripe of paint on a road, that’s essentially a highway where motorists are going 55 miles an hour, and just right next to the elbow of somebody riding a bike. So you’re never going to a normal person, even a well abled adult is not going to ride there, let alone your wobbly children or wobbly senior citizens. It’s frustrating, because yes, we then if you want to ride a bicycle as transport, you end up finding a different route, even if it is circuitous. And it adds 10 or 15 minutes because you’d rather Arrive alive. And it gets I think it gets to the heart of this issue of why are you what’s the outcome of your traffic analysis and your road design? Is it safety is our number one priority, which many departments of transport or public works? That’s their slogan? Is that really your your mission? Or is your mission to make driving as convenient as possible? And I argue in practice, it’s like, it doesn’t matter what your policy says, if in practice, you are making driving the most convenient thing and not only driving but driving often fast or recklessly that’s that’s the real kicker.

Carlton Reid 21:49
Now on your website if you don’t mind me saying so it almost doesn’t read as though it’s you know, your transportation expert website yet, of course, you you have that on there and you have all your, your credentials, etc. But it’s talking about storytelling. It is almost as though this is like, you know, an actor or writers website. So you right at the top, it says create, distribute and amplify stories. And then you know, the the text below is storytelling, storytelling, storytelling. So why do you think you have to tell stories? And what are the stories that you’re, you’re trying to tell?

Andy Boenau 22:31
That’s a fantastic question. I love that. I learned through so this is this is a shift, since you and I last spoke were my, throughout my career working in planning or, or engineering for transport systems or for for downtown areas, you know, mixing, bicycling, and walking and transit and all those sorts of things. My work was project to project. So it was a specific thing like this corridor, we were, we are doing something on this particular corridor. And the last few years I’ve been freelancing, or as I say, Now storyteller for hire, and all but related to the built environment. But why it’s so important. The very, I’ll tell you briefly why it’s important. And then I’ll tell you how I discovered this. It’s important because that’s how human brains are wired. We I mean, I’m not the first person to say this. Many people have said, humans are Wired for Story, like go back to the cave days. Any point in human history, if it’s just a campfire, if it’s peers getting together, if it’s old friends, if it’s new friends, whatever. Whenever people congregate to or more. We tell each other stories, even if it’s just an itty bitty story. Or if you’re me and you tell a long winded one. That’s how we communicate we we talk to each other. We convey information through anecdotes, we don’t just simply list facts. And that’s it, we’re done. We, and it’s especially true. If we’re trying to persuade someone, then then we absolutely have to integrate stories because that’s what makes somebody turn their head and go, Wait a second what I need to hear more about that, either because they’re delighted by something or they’re outraged by something, or they’re hopeful about something or whatever the emotion is, that kind of stuff comes out of storytelling. So I discovered this because I happened to enjoy advertising. I was fascinated by propaganda campaigns of World War Two from all of the countries that were involved because it’s interesting in the sense that simple things like posters with slogans and and illustrations, were moving people to action of some kind. And this is not only true for war time, but those just happened to get so much attention that it’s easy for people to pictures Don’t think in their mind like, oh yeah, I’ve seen those before. But the same is true or was true for, like, cigarette advertising. Things like four out of five doctors recommend Camel cigarettes. You know, things like that, like, whatever the product is, people who make stuff and need to sell stuff, they understand how to tell stories to get people’s buy, in that case buying behaviour to alter, or how you think about a particular issue or a social issue. So I was trying, as I was learning about that stuff, I was applying it to my technical work. So if I was helping to write a proposal for a traffic study, or in a downtown master plan, you know, long range plan about how you deal with the land use, I started incorporating that kind of storytelling that I was learning about, into the proposal into cover letters into how I did slide design, and it kept working. And I know it was working, because I would ask or go to meetings after we would when when these contracts, and ask questions, so that I could be better the next time. And I

Carlton Reid 26:11
ended up far better for me. Sorry for stopping a bit far be it for me to poopoo that idea. But does this not also say that anecdote beats data. So you can be a traffic engineer, for instance, let’s just say, who’s got this great set of data on for instance, a low traffic neighbourhood and how what we have in the UK, and how you restrict cars. With 21st century traffic engineering, thinking, you then reduce congestion and you improve air, you’ve got the data that says that, however, members that public with anecdote say no, it’s not like that my life has been made hell. So the storytelling, actually Trump’s actuality. So do you not see that storytelling is potentially have problems, you could be spinning lies here, Andy, by using your excellent storytelling techniques when you should be using hard data. So how do you square that circle?

Andy Boenau 27:20
It’s the you’re right, in the sense that any anything’s possible. I mean, the fact that humans are able to speak is wonderful and terrible at the same time. I mean, I’ve joked that I’m an extrovert. And we extroverts think that everything that comes out of our mouth is important. That’s not great. So on the one hand, yes, anything could come out. But I compare this, when I’m when I’m talking about stories, and, and data. I compare this to the voting booth. So if you were to if two different people who played politics, go into a voting booth, and they’re given a piece of paper that has the the same, the same piece of paper, a list of 10 indisputable facts, and they’re asked based on these 10 indisputable facts, which politician is going to serve us better. And these two people will pull different levers. And they’re both convinced that their person, their team is going to address these indisputable facts in the better way. So that’s one way that I connect that idea of data and stories. The other is it’s not I’m not suggesting that people just spin stories without any data. The trick is using data to tell stories. If you what’s really fun, though, I mean, I find I take sick pleasure in trolling people who don’t do this. But if somebody if you catch somebody, like a road designer, or a traffic engineer, or somebody from the planning department, who is making a claim, without data, they see you, you know, they don’t really know what they’re talking about, then it’s extra fun, because you can take what you know to be true. And make some excellent stories. And when I say story, I that is not equivalent to lies that is just simply a narrative. It’s some kind of there’s a beginning middle end, there’s a conflict, there’s a resolution you know, that’s what I mean, when I say story. You you are going to be the most effective when you take some facts and then do something with it. So for example, like one simple thing with with traffic safety in the US. I know and this is it’s it’s not exact every single year, but about 100 Americans are killed in traffic every single day. So that’s that is a stat statistic. I can use that in different ways and in different stories, or another one would be Our local governments, in their zoning rules that dictate where you can live where you can shop, where you do all the different things like they’re very when you look at those, those rules, they’re very rigid. And so if I look at that, I can take a fact. Like, you’re not you’re only allowed to have a certain type of home here. And I can say something true from that data, which is, this is interesting. You outlaw townhouses, or I don’t know, maybe you call it row homes, but narrow attached homes, like a lot, a lot of places in America, outlaw those, when you tell someone that it sounds so ridiculous, it can’t possibly be true. It is true. But if I don’t put it in a way that hooks them that catches them that makes them go, Wait a second, what? It’s illegal to have a townhouse? Well, yes, in a whole lot of areas, it is illegal to have a townhouse. So that’s, that’s the kind of way that I say, use data to tell stories.

Carlton Reid 31:04
Okay, yeah, so I wasn’t saying you can pay using stories. And I appreciate you kind of like, you know, you can use stories for for good, of course, you can, as you say, you know, humans have have use stories forever in a day to get across their point of view, and whether that’s a politician, or in fact, a storyteller. Now, after the break, we’re going to talk about white collar epidemic. But right now let’s go across to David for a brief intermission.

David Bernstein 31:34
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 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, 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 32:44
Thanks, David. And we’re back with Andy Boenau. And we are going to be talking about White Collar Epidemic which is Andy’s forthcoming project. But first of all, I want to go backwards, not not to what we were talking about before the break nd but the awards that you’ve won. So this this white colour epidemic is a proposed film. But first of all, tell me about your previous films, because I see on your on your website, your storytelling website, where it says you’ve 2013 2014 and 2015, you won awards for short films at the New Urbanism Film Festival. So what what were those three films,

Andy Boenau 33:24
those were walk, don’t walk, streets, floatation, and war on congestion. All three were short as I would call them, my documentaries, where I was making up true stories like we were just talking about. Having come out of the World of Traffic Analysis and transportation planning and traffic safety. I know how things are done. I like I know how projects go from start to finish. And so it frustrates me how they move. And so I took that and put it in short film version. So that first one walked don’t walk was essentially that’s what really got me excited about doing these kinds of projects because I realised there aren’t people, especially not that long ago, talking about these issues of how we move around in space, how we use public space in a way that normies would pick up on and understand we were so used to using jargon, like intersection level of service and functional classification. And even even with urban planning, well meaning people like walkability, this is a term I use, there are terms like that, that they get used so much that it becomes almost wallpaper that’s just in the room, and you you kind of forget about it. And so I wanted to take some of these ideas, where I know there’s a problem out there, and it’s gonna get worse unless we intervene. But wait, there is a way to intervene and things can get better in the end because I know I’m I am an intern No optimist, but I know I’m right things can get better in the end.

Carlton Reid 35:04
So we’ve established that you’re wondering how long they’re short films, by the way, how short? Well,

Andy Boenau 35:11
there are between, I think each of them is between 11 and 15 minutes. I think the longest one is 14. Okay.

Carlton Reid 35:18
So they’re not like, you know, Instagram short, they’re not like one minute, they are 1015 minute documentaries. Now, the one that you’ve got your crowdfunding for now, white collar epidemic tool, we’ll start talking about how long do you think that one’s going to be? Is it gonna be longer? Or is that going to be like another 15? minute one,

Andy Boenau 35:36
it’ll be a solid hour. And in fact, at first, I was thinking maybe 70 or 80 minutes, but then I’ve been, I’ve been getting some advice from other filmmakers more much more established filmmakers. And that’s where I settled on an hour is probably the sweet spot from those advisors. And it’s, in part because there’s just so much to pack in. I was, I was talking with a journalist yesterday about this, that there are so many smaller personal story arcs that I’m finding that this, I think long term really needs to be a series. It whether you know how that ends up coming to fruition, I’m not sure yet. But I know what I can control right now. And that is make a one hour long documentary. And so that’s where I find myself and it’s still, this one is different for me, because it’s bringing in an industry that I am not an expert, I don’t have expertise in I do on the infrastructure side, of course, but this is linking to things, infrastructure, and health. And the premise came out of just this. I mean, there were a few things happening a few years ago. And as I was jotting notes in my my personal idea book, I put something I wrote something down to the effect of a doctor prescribes walking, but the patient is unable to fill the prescription. And that note to myself was because I was I was reading articles and blogs that people were sending me about doctors in the United States who were doing just that they were writing prescriptions, but instead of pills, it was for Active Living, it was take a walk once a day, or ride a bicycle once a week. But if you’re in the States, most most of us whether it’s a city or a county, that doesn’t matter. Most people in America, if they get that prescription, and they walk outside of the doctor’s office, and they look at the street, or the the network around them, they go, how can I possibly fill this prescription? There’s no way. So a doctor is going to tell you riding a bike will help treat your anxiety and your depression. But good luck. Yeah, you can’t you can’t do what he’s saying. So doctors no and this, this is what the title might change. But tentatively, this is where it came from. That healthy activity is prohibited by design. So you’ve got on the one hand, this one group of white collar professionals, the medical community, where they’re saying, This is what’s good are these things are good for the human mind. And the human body, and, you know, has to do with movement and getting around interacting with other people being social, they know what’s good for us, then you have this other group of white collar professionals, highly educated. That’s the infrastructure community, they’re saying, nice, try not gonna get it. It gets back to what you’re describing before, even if they do something like put down a white stripe and say, That’s a bike lane. Now, nobody’s using it because it’s, it’s just awful. And so by design, infrastructure does not fit, healthy activity, healthy living or active living. So that’s, that’s kind of the rub. So I want this to be focused on that on highlighting that conflict to show people. There’s a lot that can be done to improve mental health and physical health. But there’s something blocking and it’s not just a something, it’s an entire profession of very smart, well educated people. And it’s, it’s I mean, it’s kind of it’s crushing. It’s so I know the physical types of physical impacts that I already knew about with infrastructure with things like doing traffic safety work for years, crash injuries, and so car on car crashes car on bike, car, and pedestrian, like I understand that very well in terms of physical health. What I’ve been learning a lot about and realising I just had no idea how bad things were. is things like the top 10 causes of death in America. Can all Trump adequately be reduced by active living. So it’s not like going to the gym necessarily and pumping iron and running on a treadmill and then going back home with that, that could be fine. But just it doesn’t even have to be that intense. And so in the US, we have things like, one in two Americans has a chronic disease, and the numbers keep going up. But I think it’s one in three are obese right now. And then something that doctors have been studying for, I think this is going on 25 years, where people who do not live in a neighbourhood that’s walkable as in they can easily walk to say, a market or, or a pharmacy, or

Carlton Reid 40:43
a minute cities. And

Andy Boenau 40:45
there we go, there we go. We’ll be extra controversial and say, people who don’t live in the 15 Minute cities, they’re trapped. The flip would be if they have to take a car everywhere. Those people have higher rates of obesity, higher rates of heart disease, and diabetes, and then and a bunch of other ailments. And so that kind of like the beginning of my career, when I was just asking dumb questions like, why is this? Why do we do this, learning these things about just physical health was jarring to me. Because, sure, it makes sense that if you move around, you won’t, you won’t gain as much weight. But the extent of your body’s damage by not having regular movement was was pretty eye opening to me. And then also, the other thing that I would say, that was really eye opening was just how strongly the connections are between humans being active and their mental wellness. So anxiety and depression are by far the big ones. But then also, other things that are are harder to pinpoint, like cognitive decline, or creativity. They they’ve been researching that. This is to show when people are moving around when they’re active, they’re way more likely for their brains to stay intact for far longer than if they’re just seated and alone and isolated. And it’s not the doctors have answered why behind all of that. But they do know this correlation that these things happen together, that when people are stuck in a car dependent area, they are more likely to experience these bad things. And so that’s why I say like, we hear headlines every year about infrastructure is crumbling. infrastructure is crumbling. And I’m saying that’s only the first part of the sentence the full sentences infrastructure is crumbling our minds and bodies

Carlton Reid 42:42
so in on the you say that infrastructure programmers bodies on the the YouTube video that’s on your your, your your seat and spark pitch there. But under the third one down the third line down it says watch the quest to legalise healthy neighbourhoods, what do you mean by legalise healthy neighbourhoods.

Andy Boenau 43:02
So that’s, that’s part of the storytelling based on data. So in the United States, we have local land use rules for this is this is generally true, where it’s not usually the state level, that tells you how exactly a neighbourhood has to be designed. But at the local level, we have these rules. For example, like I mentioned to you about townhouses where townhouses are often outlawed. Another example would be, you’re not allowed to have a front yard business. So let’s say you have a garage next year, you could be in a single family dwelling, this is not about living in a SkyRise in Manhattan or something like that just in a normal in a normal neighbourhood, you’re not allowed to just have a garage converted to a barber shop, or a nail salon or a tax accountant, you know, something like that. It’s whatever it is, you’re just you’re not allowed, it’s illegal to mix the business with the residential. It’s illegal in in most of these places to have a corner market. So you end up having to drive to the grocery store or to the market. You can’t just walk a block or a couple of blocks to the market, or restaurants or pubs. You can’t have those in neighbourhoods, it’s outlawed by local land use rules. And so what I’m pushing on you I’m using those, that language very intentionally, I want to deliberately remind people, this is not accident. This is not an accidental circumstance that we find ourselves like, Oh, if only our forefathers had thought ahead and developed mixed use neighbourhoods. Now this is active rules that are still on the books today that prevent you from living in a place where you could walk to these things. It’s that’s how I want to legal as in this is part of the What I hope is the outcome of this film is highlighting for people, this huge problem of how infrastructure and health are currently going at each other like they’re in conflict. And I want people to see, there are ways at the local level to make things better. So this is not about who’s president of the United States, or even who your state senators are, this is at the local level, if you make enough noise, you can make change. And so that’s what I want. I’m not this is not about preaching at people, that they should always ride their bike everywhere, even though I think the bike is a wonderful tool to get around. This is about highlighting a conflict that has not yet been talked about in the documentary format.

Carlton Reid 45:47
And when when this documentary comes out this over an hour or adventure series, where’s it going to be distributed? How are you going to be this is like film festivals, where do you see it being broadcast?

Andy Boenau 46:00
It’ll be a, that’s a yes. And as they say, it’s, I want it to be as widely distributed as possible. So I’m going to be if I can raise enough funding for the film festival entries, the more that I’m able to raise the more festivals that I will, I will put it in. But then also, just old fashioned networking, I’m gonna, once it’s done, I’m gonna reach out to as many people in my network about this regularly about this, find some influential people who can help amplify. And then of course, some of the folks that have already volunteered to contribute to it are fantastic people. I mean, they’re, they’re loaded with information on their own.

Carlton Reid 46:47
I’ve seen the list, it’s a good list. And so Chris Bruntlett who’s been on the show, of course, with his wife, who’s Dutch cycling embassy, in Vancouver? Yeah, there’s a whole bunch of stuff. So these are these in the can? Or the are you going to be going to these people, how many of these interviews have you done and how many are still to be done?

Andy Boenau 47:10
They’re, they’re fantastic people. And I’ve had I call, I call the pre interviews with all of them. So we re recorded with every so every person listed on the website, I’ve done a short recording with, because there’s, they have a couple of areas of not just bias, but perspective about some of these, some of the areas that enter that, that are involved in this conflict of health and infrastructure. And I’m not, I wasn’t asking any one of them to be the overall an overarching expert in this issue. But they all bring something very important. So the reason why I have so many people in here is I know that there are so many potential ways that this kind of main storyline of the documentary can go. I also know that 20 different people, that’s I can’t have 20 different storylines, that’s just going to be overwhelming. So I don’t know for sure what the final stories are going to be. So when part of the crowd funding for this, this film is to make it possible for me to as I narrow down the stories, which is one of the things I’m doing right now, to then be able to go in person and do what what you would say, is a traditional kind of in house interview format, with the lean team that I’ve got. So that’s that’s the plan. But all of these folks were and there are even more who have since said that they want to be able to contribute in some way. But we haven’t we haven’t gotten them on film. But it’s it’s fascinating to me that there are so many people who are both in health and an infrastructure. As soon as I give them the pitch of this just this idea that a doctor prescribes healthy activity that another group says Cool story, bro, you can’t get that. It hits them quickly. They’re like yes, that’s true. And yet the industry as a whole is just not budging and and I think a lot of it just goes back to how we’re siloed in different areas like traffic safety is one silo and land use planning is another silo and architecture and cognitive design that an assessment works on that’s another silo. And they don’t interact with each other. They don’t have they’re not incentivized to interact with each other. And, and so because of that, we the human being that just wants to get around, we suffer the consequences.

Carlton Reid 49:47
So this you’re using, and this is a platform I’m not familiar with, because I’ve used Kickstarter in the past seed and spark. So that’s like Kickstarter. Yeah, but do you do you Get your money. Even if you don’t reach the total because of Kickstarter, if you don’t hit your total, you don’t get any money. So how does this one how to seed and spark work?

Andy Boenau 50:10
Seed and spark is very similar to Kickstarter or Indiegogo. It was made specifically for filmmakers. And so years ago, I had done something with Kickstarter. This is one where you need to raise 80% of your goal before it’s greenlit. I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to get there. But it is one of those things like you’ve got to get the vast majority 80% is what you need to get, which for this project is about $10,000. So the goal, the overall goal for this is $12,000, which includes all the production, travel, the interviews, all that kind of stuff, the in person stuff and then be rolled along with some of these stories that are coming out. So this is going through the month of June, we’ve got 21 days left As of recording, so about three weeks. And then and then we’ll we’ll see where we stand. And then once once we get to the end of this, crowdfunding assuming that it’s successful, I’ll be I’ll be well on my way to scheduling FaceTime with these great folks. And then also adding in some, some local stories in in a couple of cities were not people, they aren’t experts in their field. They’re just people who have been on the receiving end of unhealthy infrastructure. And those stories need to be told. So

Carlton Reid 51:35
this is seed and The URL is way too long to actually say this on air. But basically you search for either your name or probably easier because your name is quite difficult to spell.

Andy Boenau 51:48
It’s my forefathers. So I made a slight colour epidemic. You can search for that you could also go to

Carlton Reid 52:01
Thanks to Andy Boenau there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 330 of the spokesmen podcast brought to you as always in association with turn bicycles shownotes and more can be found at the hyphen The next episode features the Midwest correspondent for The Economist, Daniel Knowles. We talk about his new book, Carmageddon. But meanwhile, get out there and ride

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.