Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 240 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Tuesday 10th of March 2020.
David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jenson usa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com
Carlton Reid 1:04 And now, here are the spokesmen. Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show I’ve got some audio I recorded a little while ago with Tory Fahey, one of the co-founders of bikepacking bag maker Apidura. Want to know what Apidura means? You’ll find out soon but first here’s a shout out to our show supporters, Jenson USA and Sport Suds. Check out the commercial break for my co-host David and his run down of why Jenson USA is the bees knees, and hang around for a giveaway and discount code for the specialist athletic gear detergent, Sport Suds. I’ve done a show with the founder of Restrap bikepacking bags and my son has waxed lyrical about his use of Arkel bikepacking bags but on today’s show I talk with Tori of Apidura.
She and her partner founded the company after competing in the Tour Divide and identifying a need for race specific bike packing equipment. Folks like my mate psychologist Ian Walker, who ride across Europe fast and need robust, but lightweight bags. As you’ll hear, Apidura also has a strong moral compass. Here’s my chat with Tori. You are Canadian. I’m guessing here from your educational background.
Tori Fahey 2:31
That’s right. Yeah, born and raised in in Calgary, Canada. But I’ve lived in London for the last six years.
Carlton Reid 2:39
So we’ll get on to why you’re in London. But first of all, I’d like to ask about the company name. So
Apidura, I can kind of get the dura from durable and the api is from bees because of your logo.
So Latin for bees, a breeze, all that kind of stuff. So why bees
Tori Fahey 3:01
Well, good work to to break it down. That’s exactly right. Why bees?
The real story? Well, the real story is that when I first got into club racing, I had some issues of anxiety and would dress like a bee to overcome that. So the the B has a special place in my heart because it brings back some memories of my really cycling career. And but it’s also a very nice symbol for cyclists because they are light, they travel fast and far. They have a social aspect to them, but they they can also be very independent and interdependent at the same time. So for me it was there’s a very natural connection between bees and cycling. And yeah, there are bees. In the same way as the scientists endurance cyclists travel long distances and last a long time. We build gear to hopefully
Do the same.
Carlton Reid 4:02
Okay, so you talk there about your early racing career. So what was that early racing career and when.
Tori Fahey 4:09
I want to be, I don’t want to make it sound like I was hardcore racer. But
when I first got into cycling, which was really as an adult as a first as a commuter, and as a it was really a utility thing at the start, but that grew into club racing, cyclocross and mountain biking, predominantly. And I guess this was about 20 years ago, that I really got into it, and then got more into touring and travelling by bike in the last 10 to 15 years.
Carlton Reid 4:48
So that was in Canada. So you you you became a cyclist in Canada? Yeah, that’s right. There’s a really vibrant community. In Canada, I suppose. All around the world. There are vibrant
Tori Fahey 5:00
Communities of cyclists. But I feel like Calgary is particularly unique because perhaps because of the harsh climate,
people find ways to enjoy bikes and come together despite the harsh conditions.
Carlton Reid 5:16
Now looking at your LinkedIn profile,
and this is where I found out that you’re obviously Canadian because of your your university background while I was guessing anyway.
And looking at you’ve got a finance background and you’re very, very eminent finance background. So tell me a bit about
Tori Fahey 5:37
Sure, I guess. I was always fairly good with numbers in science and through university. This eventually
guided me fairly practically into the world of economics and finance. Calgary is really an oil and gas town. So there’s a bit of a limited range
have different career options you look at when you come out of university and that was something that fit well with my interest and skill set. I spent about 10 years working in Calgary after leaving University
and enjoyed that. It was a really interesting time to be working in the sector. And but I also had other interests that bubbled up and kind of took over. So it’s, it’s an important part of my life, but it was also something that only represented a subset of my interests.
Carlton Reid 6:35
But clearly, it’s gonna benefit you massively running a business. I think there are definitely some insights that I get out of that.
Tori Fahey 6:43
Within the finance world in Calgary, I was working for a startup. And that was working with other startups. So I think that
gave me a bit of insight in terms of what I might want to do.
What I might not want to do in starting another business. It’s a very, I was working in a very different sector. So
there were a lot of new things to learn in my current
position. But I think it’s, it was probably a window into an exciting world of learning and trying new things and gaining the confidence to be able to learn as I go and find a path that wasn’t necessarily taken before really is starting a business is about that the finance side of it.
It certainly helps. It’s not easy to build a business in this in this sport. We’re in the outdoor industry. So having a good sense for numbers and making sure that you don’t fall into a big trap.
Probably helps you.
Carlton Reid 7:55
So, I’m looking again at your LinkedIn profile here and the current partner
As thing where it says here on your profile a bit was a start up and then it became Canada’s second largest energy sector private equity funds. So energy sector because of Calgary, which you said is is oil and gas place. So you’re a specialist in the finance in your kind of your geographical area. That’s where it came from.
Tori Fahey 8:22
Yep, that’s right. Well, it’s a it’s a strange one because we were really looking at businesses before they started. So it was really around people and understanding ideas and the chemistry to make a business. It’s I think, from an outside perspective, it’s easy to look at energy sector and think of big oil companies, but that’s not what we were working with. We were working with, typically engineers and geologists and understanding the ideas they had to take a business forward and I think, honestly, that’s the the biggest thing
Took away from that experience it was less about finance and it was more about
creating a team and understanding the the different skill sets and ideas that need to come together to make something work.
Carlton Reid 9:16
And where did cycling fit into that if at all was was that a time when you discovered cycling and you used it as part of the business like that the the cliche the cycling is the new golf kind of thing or the world’s completely separate. Cycling
Tori Fahey 9:32
For me it was a way to counterbalance a very intense lifestyle professional lifestyle. I was working a lot and travelling a bit and I needed something to
unwind and to regain some balance physically and mentally. So really cycling at the at the start was commuting and then getting back in shape and bringing some joy and balance back.
into my life. And so it was a separate thing, but really an essential part of being a whole person.
Carlton Reid 10:09
Okay, and then you, you, you, you left that, and then you you then started doing an MBA and then you got into doing
other other educational stuff. So what was the thinking there?
Tori Fahey 10:23
And yeah, it’s not a particularly straight line, but actually, so I left Canada in 2009 to pursue an MBA that partly came about with out of a desire to travel the world by bike.
But my thought in before approaching that was that it would be good to learn a second language. Before travelling the world, all the way I was born and raised in Canada, I was raised in Western Canada, which meant French wasn’t a particular priority. So I hadn’t retained as much as I should have had an idea to move to France.
And learn the language. And in the process of thinking about how I would do that, I came across an MBA school based in France. And it also had a campus in Singapore. And it just seemed like a great opportunity where I could continue to learn and be in a setting where I could meet other people.
And I could work on my language skills as well before setting off on a grand adventure
Carlton Reid 11:30
which is 2011 I can see the countries you’ve been to many of the countries I’ve also cycled in. So that that that’s pretty cool. So Jan 2011 on the LinkedIn profile it says
Tori Fahey 11:43
and then talk me through those trips because that they’re not all in one go. I’m presuming they There are over a number of years. Yep. So and some life circumstances presented an opportunity to pursue something that had interested me for a while which was to cycle the length
I was completely fascinated by the idea of doing a 12,000 kilometre ride. And it was the right moment in my life to do it. So I spent the first five months of the year writing from Alexandria, Egypt to Cape points, Africa. It was amazing and loved it. And I just wanted to keep going. By the end of something like that it’s really difficult to reintegrate into
an urban setting and to sleep in a bed. So at that moment, the tour divide was right around the corner. And I decided it was a really good moment I was in great shape and had a desire to keep going. So I got ready for the tour divide which is actually where
the the story of Apidura restarts, but the tour divide was, it’s a an off road race from Banff, Canada to the border of Mexico 4200 kilometres along the Continental Divide.
It’s 80% off road and has the vertical equivalent of ever seeing six times. So very different experience and something that’s started to bring what had previously been two worlds together and then those two worlds being and my recreational cycling world and my travel and bike touring world.
Suddenly I could enjoy the the regular cycling experience, but also travel places and see new people in places by bike in a very comfortable and joyful way.
I continue to go back to school, I pursued another degree in Public Policy, which was also something that interested me.
And, and following that my other cycling experiences include crossing Europe
in a self supported way, I’ve been through Central Asia, from Pakistan, western China and carry sound and then
So the Caucasus and Iran did a actually our honeymoon was in the caucuses in Iran which was fantastic.
So it’s I guess I’m an all or none person. So I like to go on tour for a while and then come back and try some other things and then go out again and reset.
Carlton Reid 14:22
You mentioned getting married there. I’d like to talk about that in a second because that sounds pretty cute. But go backwards First of all, because I want to see the progression on lightweight bike packing gear. So that Africa trip what what bags were you using for that trip? That was that that was a lightweight, you’re going pretty fast on that trip, the Africa trip.
Tori Fahey 14:42
Actually, Africa was a supported trip. And I think that’s one of the reasons why the tour divide fascinated me so much.
Because when I was travelling with others in Africa, and bags were not a consideration that has its luxuries, but it also has
some drawbacks, and I think there’s a certain sense of achievement that you have to understand that you have. You’re you’re fully responsible for going from A to B, but also having the flexibility to choose your pace and choose your direction.
Carlton Reid 15:18
Right. So Africa, you basically had a vehicle with you taking your bags, you weren’t really thinking about bags there at all.
Tori Fahey 15:28
No, it’s a very different experience in that way. Not thinking, not thinking about bags, not thinking about navigation. I’m just thinking about writing hard. So it was a race. So so when you do the tour divide, what bags are you taking then? This is now self support. And
so I at that moment, basically, going into the tour divide. I had done a fair bit of bike touring prior to that.
in Patagonia and Western Europe, northern Canada, I had done enough bike touring to know that a conventional setup was not going to work for me. And I needed a different bike, something that was better suited for offroad I needed something lighter, so I could travel farther and faster each day. On some parts of the divide. There are some very long sections between services. So it’s either you’re going to carry a huge amount of stuff, or you need to be able to travel fast, so that you can get to your next service point.
appropriately and I chose the faster and farther wrote
I was lucky enough to have a friend base in Calgary, who’d gotten me into backpacking effectively, who helped connect me with some use gear. I also cobbled together a few things myself. So it was a bit of a patchwork of
used and partly assembled gear. But it was a sufficient leap from my prior experience with rockin panniers, that it was clear to me that there was this was a revelation and
the direction the future direction for any travel that I would do by bike. And it was what sparked an idea after that, that maybe you could bring in more modern production technologies and materials to to bring the quality of reckless bags up to the same level that we expect from our bikes. If you think about how much time you spend.
Looking at the details on your bike, what stem what spokes to use, you should spend at least that amount of time on the rest of the details on your bike including your bags, and that you should go beyond what you can do on your home sewing machine.
Carlton Reid 18:00
And think about what other materials and production technologies could make that even better and take the experience even further. Because when I when I post photographs, and I’m a historian, so when I post photographs of 1880s cyclists, they’re not using rack and pannier bags, they’re using bike packing bags, in effect rolled up rolling on their handlebars. So this new people think of this as a very modern thing, but bike packing is, in effect older than if we’re going to call it cycle touring the rack and pannier thing. So, you know, the rolling upstart and strapping it to your bike is very, very old.
Tori Fahey 18:40
Yeah, it’s not a new idea. By any means. I think what is different? I guess there are a few things at work.
I reckon panniers
probably for the last 40 years. Once that came out and worked for people. The industry got a bit sleepy and people
just settled into that being how you carried stuff on a bike. And they forgot that you could do it in a more basic and simple way, a more basic, simple and flexible way.
And unfortunately, it also led to, I think, an idea that you needed a special bike for touring, which is really unfortunate. I think touring can work for a lot of people with a bike that they have, and might be even more like more enjoyable experience than going out and buying a different bike.
Yeah, so the the industry got a bit sleepy. And now I think it’s much more interesting because
there are bringing modern production techniques and modern materials to some old ideas about how to carry has made a big difference. Also, some development in terms of
bicycles and the type of more versatile bikes that you can get adventure bikes and gravel bikes with
Better clearance, capable of slightly wider tires. And the whole adventure and gravel movement has also made the idea of reckless carry more interesting and appealing for a broader range of people. Indeed, so the idea for Apogee Eric came during the tour divide when you were you were cobbling together all of these, you know, these bags and you thought, well, we could do it this way. Is that is that where it came on? on that, that that tour divide? Yep. And even then the idea was not about, oh, let’s make a business to do this. The idea was about trying to get better gear than I had, take it a step further, be able to ride with some friends. But inevitably, you you start to go down a road and you learn a few things and you get more ideas and you learn a few more things. And it was really a two and a half year process of exploring different ideas.
Writing, testing different ideas. And
until in 2014, we opened our doors.
Carlton Reid 21:08
So who’s we?
Tori Fahey 21:11
So the business is owned and operated by me and my husband.
Carlton Reid 21:16
What’s your husband called?
Tori Fahey 21:19
My husband’s name is Pierre.
Carlton Reid 21:21
Tell me about your honeymoon then. And so you were touring together? Yeah.
Tori Fahey 21:25
For our honeymoon, we went to Iran. We took a bought a one way flight to Baku in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan road westward toward Georgia. And I’ve Kasia and then so through Georgia and spent another two months in Iran
slightly unconventional idea of a honeymoon but it worked really well for us and it was also a good moment. This was in 2015. So
it was a good moment to tell him do some really close up product testing.
Carlton Reid 22:00
product testing on your honeymoon, okay. Now, so that was that was while the company has already been going. So the you got married. And the company’s been going for a year at this point, effectively a year and a half.
Tori Fahey 22:15
I mean there was a when you say going, that means
open for business. Really there were a couple of years of work that went into it before opening. By 2015, though we had our first full time employee, so we were very lucky to that our first full time employee was exceptionally competent and helpful. So he basically kept things going while we went from one internet point to another and checked in with the business while we were out.
Carlton Reid 22:50
So tell us about the growth. But tell us about the progression of the business since since foundation through your honeymoon and and today
Tori Fahey 23:00
Sure, it’s interesting that one of the first words that you said there was growth, because it’s a word that gets used a lot when talking about how a business develops or how a brand develops. And I think we do things a little bit differently, largely because of how this came about in the first place that it wasn’t about
making a business or making a job for ourselves. It was about a need to that we had as as writers, and so the progression of the business effectively at the start was just my husband and I.
working within the resources we had bring in some outside resources from time to time to help us unlock
a few doors or to to understand new spaces better. We hired our first full time employee in 2015 and have slowly been
built the team and transition from a company that basically transitioned from making stuff to a company that makes stuff, which is a
big transformation. For a small team like ours, we’re a team of 15. Now,
a third of that is strictly focus on product. And we have a full sample room, we do rapid prototyping, and how we
we’re constantly working on new ideas and testing different ways that we can do the things that we do better. Another third is around service and community. And then the rest of us just make it fill in the rest of the gaps, which are a lot.
We’ve, the team has grown by necessity and also by interest. The more things we do, the more things we discover,
the more resources we need, but I think we’re finally at a spot where
We’re capable to pursue just about any idea that we have, in a way that is exciting. And we feel we have the knowledge to do it. How we’ve held the rest of the business has developed like the the product range. Other things that we do as a business, like our community involvement, the content that we create, these have all how we thought about this is less about growing the business, or developing the business and more about what is our role? Why are we here? What can we add to the community?
We think about what we do something beyond physical product. When we think about what we do as a that we’re members of the community effectively, where do we want as writers beyond physical product, it takes much more than a physical product to make something accessible or fun. You need a whole infrastructure and ecosystem to make that work and that means creating knowledge.
creating and sharing knowledge, storytelling and inspiration, and creating the environment around the physical products that we develop
to really help each of us get more out of the experience.
That’s a very long path around to your question, but is that what you were looking for?
Carlton Reid 26:22
Oh, well, that’s totally up to you. You’ve got to tell me exactly how you you’re doing it from your point of view. So
advertising, are you how are you getting out to people? How are you telling people that Apidura exists?
Tori Fahey 26:36
Um, that’s a good question. Again, this is something that we have
a slightly unconventional approach to. We don’t do conventional advertising.
Because this isn’t about building an empire. This isn’t about
having to grow a certain amount each year or be a certain size.
So for us how to reach people, we would rather build the community and support community organisers like TCR or transatlantic way or the adventure syndicate.
We’d rather put what resources we do have into community building like that, rather than giving it to Facebook or Google and trying to push impulse buying. So advertising money out of said originally would have been well, you know, print advertising, but you’re just saying you don’t even do Facebook or Google, you’re driving traffic that way you’re driving traffic by,
in effect being out there in the rider community. Yes, because I think we try to take our our business decisions in the same way that we would want
other businesses to do as consumers. So my view on advertising is that the world is extremely noisy.
I don’t want to be another brand filling that space, whether it’s on the internet oriented magazine, I see enough advertisements, and I don’t care for it as a consumer. But I do care about when I’m thinking about buying something, I do care about what my neighbour says, or someone I trust, word of mouth is essential for us. So which means that we have to have a very good product to back it up. But ultimately, that’s going to help us sell to the people who are going to use our product. And it’s going to make sure that people are making purchasing decisions for the right reason, not because they saw an advertisement or read something, they are buying it because they know what they’re getting into. And this is something that is going to improve their experience for us because we’re not growth driven, or allowing those sorts of quantitative targets to guide our decisions.
not pursuing an impulse purchase, we have no interest to
convince someone to buy our product only to have it sit and collect dust on a shelf. There’s enough crap in the world. We are about building quality gear to help people do the things that they love. And there are enough people out there who share our values and our mindset
that we we can make it work. So we are content with that and not looking to to take all of the pie for the sake of it or to
Carlton Reid 29:37
to try to push product on people who don’t need it. And then you use ambassadors so so people who are using your product anyway, but doing it
at the extreme level and the fastest level so people who are pretty good at riding bikes, it will it true. The what’s interesting about our ambassador group is one
Tori Fahey 30:00
It’s not most of them came in as customers first. And we have seen in them
qualities that fit well with what we are trying to promote. Part of that is
performance oriented. Of course, it’s nice to see the boundaries of human achievement. But it’s not only about that i don’t i don’t racing is not for everyone. I don’t think that that’s the only thing that matters. We also support writers who are
community building, and writers who are exploring other frontiers, such as,
maybe it’s new spaces or new,
new places to ride new ways to bring other people into the sport. The adventure syndicate is a good example of this. That’s although Jenny and Lee who run the organisation are very high calibre athletes.
They are really community building and bringing young women into the sport and opening their eyes to the possibilities and the empowerment that you get from riding a bike.
Carlton Reid 31:10
So, of course, people can go to apidura.com and can see your stuff. But just describe your range. So let’s have the oral treatment of you selling your range what what are your elevator pitch if you’re if you’re in Dragon’s Den or whatever, trying to raise investment if indeed you ever were because you don’t need to, because that growth thing.
Tori Fahey 31:33
Just telling me about the product, I’m sure so you’re correct that I don’t really have an elevator pitch because we have not raised external capital.
And it’s not something that I we spent a lot of time doing to, to sell the business in this way or so, what we do in this way, and our product range is exceptionally focused. When we think about introducing a new product it needs
To meet a number of criteria, not just being an exceptional product, it needs to add value in some way
to the bike packing or carry community. We’ve got three ranges, three core ranges by country, which is effectively our original lineup, but it has evolved over the last four years.
It’s targeted predominantly at off road cycling
and, and more recreational riding.
The expedition series which is a welded product, we were actually the first brand to introduce a fully welded, fully waterproof bike packing system.
We showed it first in euro bike in 2015, but released it in early 2016. That’s basically for anyone doing long distances, all weather, any conditions, sort of writing and people who need extra capacity, who might be crossing the continent or
Going for any sort of extended trip. And we have a racing series, which is targeted at faster rides audax as well, but people who are travelling in a compact way where every ground matters and don’t need the additional capacity, but just one, they still need to carry something but in a very light and streamlined way. We do have a few other products including we did a collaboration with Rafa back in 2016. Those are sold out now. But we’ve done a few
other products outside of those core ranges, but those are our main products.
Carlton Reid 33:38
Does it pique your interest or annoy you when people are mixing and matching between brands? Or do you think that’s absolutely what people should be doing so they should have an aperture this and they should have another brand for this or what’s your thinking there?
Tori Fahey 33:52
You know, I should probably be bothered by it. But what I think it’s just good if people get out
When people mix and match is actually a learning opportunity for us because we can see where we may not be meeting their needs precisely. And it gives us a reason to think about whether there’s room for improvement on the products that we make, or whether we can think differently about a new product to better suits the needs of the market. So, at the end of the day, whether whether someone’s using our gear or someone else’s gear or a mix of the two, it I think the best thing is that they’re just getting out and riding and enjoying the bike in this way.
Carlton Reid 34:38
I’m going to break in here for a wee bit of a commercial break, first with my co host, David, and then I’ve got an offer for those of you with an American or Canadian mailing address.
David Bernstein 34:50
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a longtime loyal advertiser, you all know who I’m talking about. It’s
Jenson, USA at Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. I’ve been telling you for years now years that Jenson is the place where you can get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices and what really sets them apart. Because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there. But what really sets them apart is their unbelievable support. When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors and these are cyclists. I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who who ride their bikes to and from work. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check them out. Jenson USA
They are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s Jensonusa.com/the spokesmen. We thank them so much for their support and we thank you for supporting Jenson, USA. All right, Carlton, let’s get back to the show.
Carlton Reid 36:16 Thanks, David. And here’s that offer I was talking about. One lucky listener will get sent a 500 gramme zipper pouch of Sport Suds detergent, and one Sport Suds washing machine cleaner. All those who enter the competition will also get a 25% of voucher for spending on sportsuds.com which delivers to the US and Canada only, so you’ll need an address in one of those fine countries. To enter go to the show notes for this episode of the spokesmen podcast it show number 240 and fill in the form. Sport Suds, for those of you who don’t know, is a specialist detergent for athletic gear.
cycle by including Merino base layers. Normal every day detergents are designed to leave things in your clothes after washing things like fabric softeners, anti static additives, optical brightness, and fragrance. All of these leave residues, which bacteria clings to feeds on quickly causing a stink. What you need instead is a detergent free of abrasives and harmful chemicals that removes all of this gunk. When your cycle kit smells like flowers, or like an ocean breeze, that’s a fragrant residue that may actually inhibit the fabric performance and cause the fabric to stink more than it ought to
be your chance of grabbing some Sport Suds or definitely getting a 25% voucher, go to the hyphen.
spokesmen.com let’s get back to the show and Tori Fahey of Apidura.
Tori Fahey 38:08
We assemble in China. We do all our of our design, prototyping and testing
out of London and then with ambassadors worldwide, and we sourced materials globally. Basically, our approach on the manufacturing side was that quality was essential there, there was no question that quality had to be there. This was something you relied on in the wilderness. It was something that needed to meet the same standard as you had with the rest of your cycling equipment. And in the two and a half years that we spent
working on our initial designs and thinking about production, we realised that there were really four things to focus on to meet the quality standards that we needed. The The first was materials, you can’t have a good product if you don’t put good materials in there.
Another was machines and technology, making sure you had the right equipment and environments to to produce to a high standard with the high quality materials you have people in process having very skilled people and the right processes in place to, to make sure that there were checks and
the right system in place to ensure quality and then design. So we chose where could we add the most value, and it was definitely on the design side, we could bring in insights as a user and inform the design that way. And then work with very, very carefully selected partners to fill in the rest and to support and to build around the design effectively. So on the material side, we sourced around the world as I said, because it’s very
It’s almost impossible to find everything that you need in a single place if you are truly committed to having the highest quality
a through the full supply chain assembly. For us, we wanted to be able to bring in different production technologies and leverage some of the work that has been done over the last decades in other sports, in men in mountaineering in luggage. And that meant going to a an assembly centre, where there were there was access to different equipment and the we had the ability to
move around as new technologies become available, and also the ability to integrate different types of technology. And also, people experience matters. For us, China was a good choice because there’s a very deep
labour pool of very experienced and skilled
machinists, both in stitching, welding,
and other technologies. And there’s also the process in place. So we spent a lot of time there. And but we also communicate with them regularly when we are not there in person.
Carlton Reid 41:17
And China’s also somewhere you can cycle.
Tori Fahey 41:20
It is. I haven’t done cycling in western China or in eastern China yet, but I have cycled in western China. And I was watching your son’s videos
on his on his ride back from
the Giant factory. So he’ll have some good stories to tell from that experience is changing fast, that’s for sure.
Carlton Reid 41:42
Yeah, we’re kind of glad he’s out of China now to tell the truth because of what’s happening in Hong Kong and stuff. And he’s now to Kazakhstan and he’s heading towards the Pamir highway. Is that have you done that one before?
Tori Fahey 41:56
I haven’t done the time years when I was in the general
region, a road the Karakoram Highway up through northern Pakistan, and into western China. So, but panniers is definitely on the list of things to do. Looks unbelievable.
Carlton Reid 42:13
It does seem to be one of those highways that an awful lot of touring cyclists head full. It’s like on the bucket list, isn’t it? Yes, I think it’s exceptionally challenging, but the sort of place that really
Tori Fahey 42:29
lets you think about what it’s about, it’s not the sort of place that you can put your head down and go for speed. It’s a place for reflection and understanding all of like, why you’re there. And what there is in the experience beyond the on the bike,
I hope Joshua’s rack holds up on the road out there.
Carlton Reid 42:55
I am slightly worried because when I toured, I did do old school. So I did have
racks and bags were This is in the 1980s. And he’s going absolutely the the bike packing route. He’s going incredibly light.
Way to light, I think, especially for where he’s going now, where you almost need to, to carry spares almost everything on the bike because it has potential breakages. So we are worried now that he is doing that particular route. But there’s just an awful lot of information on the web now. So you can actually you can almost do a google zoom through of the route.
So that you know, when I was doing my my cycle touring there was done it that you were you were literally going out there and not doing it for the first time. But there wasn’t much information out there for cycle tours back then. Whereas now, people have been doing this and there’s all the photographs and the videos and you can access a lot of so you can you can experience a lot of this before you actually get out there on your bike. Yes, I think it’s
Tori Fahey 44:00
easier now than it was even 10 years ago, but certainly 20, 30 years ago, when you didn’t have as much information and like really up to date and to the day, and also to see cyclists, other cyclists out there, I think there are more actual resources along the road. At the same time, I think
there’s also another thing that makes it easier a bit easier now is a mindset and a realisation that you don’t actually you may not be able to find a, a fancy bike shop in rural Kazakhstan, but you will find people who are happy to help and and if you’re open to it, and, and willing to connect with people, and you’re also open to thinking about how your own bike works, and what can work. There’s a lot of ways you can get by a good example of this is even from earlier on in your son’s trip when his North Face bag fell apart.
Actually you can make it work.
You just need to be a bit inventive and wrap a few things around. And it’s not, it’s perhaps not the setup that you would set out with. But there’s always a way and being willing to to think creatively and being open to what’s in front of you. They you can always find a way.
Carlton Reid 45:26
What’s also cute from a parent’s point of view is being able to talk to him so when I did two years away, and my parents would have got a postcard if they were lucky, and they might have got like twice a year a phone call. Now we feel incredibly
out of it if we don’t hear from our son and actually physically see him on a on a Skype type call or FaceTime call like every two to three days. So he is somewhere incredibly exotic, yet at the same time when he gets a Wi Fi connection.
We can talk to him. So again, that is sad is so different from when I was touring and how interconnected The world is and how small the world is, even though he’s, you know, three months away of hard pedalling. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I wonder what gets lost in the experience as well though, if you never quite feel lost or far from home, I, as a parent, I can certainly relate to
Tori Fahey 46:27
how it might feel to not hear from your child for a period of time. And but I think there’s also some kind of beautiful experience from really disconnecting and it’s if you can’t do that in the Gobi Desert, then there are very few places where you can do that now.
Carlton Reid 46:48
Mm hmm. Well, we also feel part of his trip a lot more. I think that’s when he comes back. It won’t be a case of Oh, tell us about that time you went to that temple. I will look at this photograph.
Like, oh, we saw the video. So we were kind of almost semi living it. So that’s, that’s a good experience for us that he’s able to share that stuff, for sure.
Tori Fahey 47:10
And it is nice, especially on something like this that can be transformational or really have a profound impact on your life, to be able to share that experience. Even if you are going alone, to later be able to share those experiences and have someone understand at least at a at a high level, what you’ve been through is really nice. It’s even better if you can write together but this is the next best thing.
Carlton Reid 47:38
Well, that’s where he got his bike packing genes from in that we’ve done quite a few trips together from from a very, very early age. So I’m very proud of what he’s doing because it’s a little bit of his mini me, because you know, that’s what I did his age. And I think that is so cool and a very, very sad way. I think
That my, my 21 year old son is doing something that I was doing at his age on a bike and I feel very proud that I’ve kind of made somebody who is out there doing the same things that I love.
Tori Fahey 48:15
That’s awesome. That’s awesome.
Carlton Reid 48:17
But it’s sad at the same time.
So tell me about your your next trips. What have you got planned? So forget about the journey of your company, what have you got journeys, for you personally. But on a bike,
Tori Fahey 48:32
I’m at a slightly different point in my life today than I was in 2015 when we spent a few months in Iran. Following that we had two children. So I have a one and a half year old and a three year old.
Which means we are emerging from this slightly closer to home, and mindsets and starting to think about adventures with family which have as you as you know from your own experience, you have to consider things in a very different
way, you’re not just thinking about yourself.
Unknown Speaker 49:03
We’ve actually been doing a bit of work with Apidura on this and thinking about fat and travelling with family, and what are the different considerations to be able to share experiences
when you have to consider others in the experience,
we are still working on
adventures outside of the UK, but for the moment,
it’s really things that are close to home. And we’re just starting to get back on the bike with the little ones.
Carlton Reid 49:31
So the kind of the Josie Do you kind of approach or be just take them with you? And you have a trailer on the back? You’ve got a burly trailer or whatever. And they just come with you and you can go, you can still do incredibly exotic trips.
Tori Fahey 49:46
Absolutely, absolutely. I think you need to think about exotic in a different way, at different ages. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.
Again, like we’re incredibly fortunate. There are
A huge range of bikes and other equipment that make this very accessible. And, and information frankly, which also helps bridge the gap between something that might be a dream and feel reserved for others or another time and make it will be accessible and executable, regardless of your circumstances.
Carlton Reid 50:22
But without revealing too much that potentially is some Apidura kid stuff coming along or family of cycling with family stuff.
Tori Fahey 50:32
In the physical and digital sense, yes.
Carlton Reid 50:35
Okay. Talk about the company where that’s going and even though I said let’s not talk about that, let’s talk about that. So where where is the company going?
Is it a company? Are you are you like a limited company? What How is it set up or your
Tori Fahey 50:49
Yeah, absolutely where we’re registered limited company
as you as you do in the UK, and with a real team. As I mentioned, we’ve got a team of 15
And we’re all thinking about the future and where we’re going.
As I mentioned previously, we have a slightly different mindset in terms of how we think about our goals and the future, it tends to be a bit more qualitative. So, where some companies may think about revenue growth, or, or growth in general, for us, growth is a consequence of doing something well,
and it can afford you opportunities that you may not have when you’re smaller, but in and of itself is not a goal. We look at where we’re going in very qualitative ways. We’re looking for where can we apply
our knowledge and expertise in ways that help people experience the world on a bike and what what meet what needs are not being met by
Tori Fahey 52:00
producers in the industry and what can we do to to improve the state of play, for bike packing or for for anyone
who loves riding a bike and needs to carry something effectively.
It that all sounds a bit vague, but I also need to
protect some of the ideas that we have in the pipeline.
What I can tell you is that
we, we are undertaking a lot of product development across the spectrum of cycling from that country and thinking about moving our country forward to
to audax and people who are out on the road and other types of riders in metropolitan areas who may have carry needs that are not being well met by
as well met by our current products as it could be.
Carlton Reid 52:59
commuter line, potentially
Tori Fahey 53:01
Carlton Reid 53:06
But that would that would absolutely be natural to have that kind of stuff.
Tori Fahey 53:10
That’s I think it’s insane when you when you can stand on the any street corner in any metropolitan area and watch cyclists go by with a rack and panniers, one, like a panier on one side, stuffed full or flapping open and sticking out into the road or a heavy backpack. There’s completely a better way. And so I think there’s a huge amount of room for improvement in this area. And it’s it’s something we know well as cyclists and producers of carry equipment.
Carlton Reid 53:47 Thanks to Tori Fahey of Apidura here. Thanks also to Jenson USA and Sport Suds for supporting the spokesmen podcast. And thanks to you for listening to Episode 240
54:00 the show notes, go to the-spokesmen.com for the 239 previous episodes, and to fit in the Sport Suds form
and make sure to subscribe to the show on your favourite podcast catcher for all future episodes. The next show will be an extremely long one, featuring interviews with Palestinian bicycle advocates and a cyclist who rode his bike through Israel and the West Bank to research a stonking great new book. That show will be added in a week or so. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.
Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 239 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was published on Monday the 17th of February 2020.
David Bernstein 0:24 The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.theFredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:09
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid. On today’s show I’ve got an interview with South African academic Njogu Morgan — we talk about modern day bicycle activism as well as how, in the 1930s, the apartheid system used traffic separation to roll out a form of motorist v cyclist segregation, a loaded term then and now. Njogu — I’m I’m presuming that I’m talking to you. But I’m in Newcastle in England, but I’m presuming that you are in Johannesburg.
Njogu Morgan 1:47
Yeah, Yes, that’s correct. I mean, the campus of Witwatersrand University at the moment,
Carlton Reid 1:54
and what I’ve previously spoken to in the flesh when we’ve actually met at conferences. It’s Been at places like Velo-City, hasn’t it? So tell me about your your trajectory through this. What How did you get into cycling academia to begin with?
Njogu Morgan 2:12
That’s a good question because I think it relates to the article we’re going to talk about, I guess first started on this trajectory initially and being having a history of trying to make cycling work in Johannesburg. We’re trying to make Johannesburg slightly more cycling friendly than it is at the moment. Being very frustrated with that. And having all sorts of questions about why the process was not unfolding as one might want, you know, as a very passionate activist. In order to cut a long story short way I ended up in working on a PhD and someone suggested to me that ma one two in terms of the question was thinking about to locate them empirically in an area that I had some sort of interest in about cycling. So that’s kind of how I ended up here.
Carlton Reid 3:11
And then, what kind of years are we talking? So when, because I went, by the way, I met you and haven’t met you in Johannesburg as well, as well as conferences. That must have been about three years ago. I met you in South Africa.
Njogu Morgan 3:26
Yeah, I think that sounds about right. It’s probably around 2017 2016. there abouts. Not sure exactly. But yeah, I mean, I, I started working on my PhD in 2014. And, but had been involved in, you know, in a small way, in some cycling activism in Johannesburg from let’s say, 2011 2012. So there abouts.
Carlton Reid 3:50
Yeah. So I was in South Africa to give a talk on I think at that time, there must have been bike boom. And that’s where you you very helpful. came in and helped out. Now in South Africa, I’m Cycling is is is contested all around the world, of course, but in South Africa, what differences do you have as an activist, compared to say, the activists that you talk about, as you talked to in other countries? So are there race elements to cycling? Is cycling, very much seen as a white man’s thing to do? What what what kind of barriers do you do you face that other people in other countries don’t face?
Well, again, a good question. But General, I’m not sure I can answer it for the whole planet. In terms of what barriers and the context space that we don’t, but I think, yeah, it’s a multi multiple sort of different ways of answering that question. So in terms of the race question, I suppose one way to answer it is I think it’s useful to, you know, think about what form of cycling we’re talking about. And so leisure to sport cycling does have, you know, one might observe, you know, the predominantly white males sport. And but I think in more recently it’s become, you know, it’s divisive diversifying. So you finding people from all sorts of backgrounds and getting involved, I guess, like globally, where it’s become, you know, healthy from one sport, but obviously, socially, economically, that we’re talking about sort of middle class participation. And, yeah, and then in terms of commuter cycling, which is where I focus my research on historically, you know, serving the colonial particularly in the apartheid era and more recently It’s been mainly male watching class cycling practice. And then so that, you know, their perception is that one cycles or to work or wherever they might go, because, you know, perhaps they cannot afford any other way of getting about, you know, they have been here in which they’re, they’re located. And so the the challenges are multiple and emanating from that. Yeah, I guess one of the most significant one is just a historical legacy of the colonial apartheid city that I think there’s been an attempt to reconfigure it, but obviously that will take time. And of course, you were talking about, you know, the very sprawled cities where people would live very far from where they work. So in terms of travelling from A to B, relying only on bicycles it becomes you know, it’s a severe challenge for people often their instances We’re trying to mix modes of transport into the bike train combo or the bike bus. But not really progressive. Yeah, so But in general, that’s where I would start in response to your question.
Carlton Reid 7:12
So I know this is outside your period. So your your period of study is the 1930s. But before that, going back to say the 1890s was the cycling very similar to America and Britain, were cycling prior to the, you know, the bicycle boom of 1896 was very much an elitist, very white. And I’m presuming very few blacks would have been owned bicycles at that time. So what what happened to bicycling in Africa after say, 1900?
Njogu Morgan 7:57
Again, very good question. I didn’t Conflict for the minute, there’s a book coming out, which tells the history of cycling and Johannesburg and that book that’s come out actually in print. But that book goes as far back as the late 19th century, which is a period you’re talking about. But you’re quite right. I mean, what you see in Johannesburg and one can generate, you know, can extrapolate for other urban context and the country. It is exactly as you put it, initially, bicycles are expensive. And, you know, they’ve been imported from European context from North America. And they’ve, you know, like elsewhere, as you say, in the late 19th century that this exciting new machine on the streets Yeah, so from a class and racial perspective than it is mainly the kind of colonial white population that is able to get around on bikes and to some extent, they are late 19th century Early 20th century, a few black workers who can get on a bike, perhaps they do so because A, they’re in the employ of a small business or where they’ve been given the bicycle to, you know, to run errands. And in the same way, perhaps they’re working for, you know, in a domestic space and they’ve been given one to do so. And in fact, one of the early controversies that the book talks about is about 1904 1905. There’s this kind of anxiety about how, you know, people of colour, many black men are riding bicycles in the streets of Johannesburg. And these anxieties are being expressed by sort of the colonial elites, some kind of feeling that the way in which they’re riding maybe it’s a bit dangerous for me, to be honest with population and maybe, you know, going back to this question of affordability perhaps the writing on stolen bikes. There’s a bike theft problem that’s unfolding. And so these are, you know, this pressure put on the municipality to try and regulate and do something about this problem of people of colour on bicycles. And it’s a bit of a long story, but it’s sort of an illustration of, as he put it, you know, there’s this kind of movement, late 19th century, early 20th century, where already the use of bicycles is being racialized and getting enrolled in can really social politics of Johannesburg.
Carlton Reid 10:33
So in the UK, and in America, there was a bit of a crossover period where the middle class elites who were cycling in the 1890s some of them you know, not not many of them, but some of them did carry on cycling so you’ve got like the the CTC types who would then you know, they were motorists as well, but they carried on leisure cycling in South Africa. Was it more a case of the white elites just dropped cycling I could stone and because it’s very visual, obviously a black face a white face, that cycling became very quickly something that, that that’s a black person’s form of transport. And even the people who were like, you know, very fond of psych and the whites were very fond of cycling. Absolutely dropped it because it was well, I’m not black. I can’t be seen on that tool of black transportation.
Njogu Morgan 11:33
Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, I don’t even know why population drops the bicycles immediately like a stone. And but I think as you put it, but I think there’s definitely This is in, you know, over a number of years, this is what happens. You do find this controversy. We’re talking about it and unfolding in 1904 1905. There’s some historical evidence still in the 1910s Through this century leader still getting on their bikes to go, you know, to their leisure clubs, you know to have some cigars and whiskey hands on. But yeah, this is true later on, but their 1930s for sure. At which points, you know, Johannesburg is in the greater region in which Johannesburg is situated. This is gold boom, that happens. So the mines are doing really well. And this allows, particularly white population, that the income rises dramatically. And this is a key moment in which even then, let’s say the middle class, lower middle class is able to afford a car. And at this point, I think this is where I might agree with you. That kind of switch really happens in a significant way by the server World War Two era and it’s very rare to see why person on a bicycle. It’s mainly black males who were were commuting. And of course, you know, Johannesburg has other modes of transport their trans available, and their buses. And this, you know, so these are the options that are that are that are available in the city. But yeah, in general terms, I think you do see this transformation from a racial perspective. And I do think it happens perhaps much earlier in terms of the social elite moving away from from bicycles.
Carlton Reid 13:33
So we’re now coming into the 1930s. And we can start to talk about the chapter of this book that that you’ve written, and I’ll talk about the book in a second. But before we get into that, I would just because I’ve got this top of mind and I know we will be exploring this later on, but I just like to kind of mention there to get your your your opinion. So the vehicular cyclists, some of them have used And this is like American and British vehicular cyclists have said that the kind of the Dutch style cycle tracks which they so hate are like bicycle Bantu stands. In other words, they are you know zones of shame that’s where you go and and you’re corralled off so where the weather bicycle tracks that we’re going to be talking about here from from your paper where they very much seen as almost rolling apartheid you know that these are you’ve got to be penned in these are not tracks built for the safety of these black riders. These are tracks for Get out of my way tracks.
Njogu Morgan 14:49
Yeah. I find it difficult to you know, agree with less like less position. But I think this is what you beginning to see or that this is the history gravitons shows, you know happens in in Johannesburg and actually in in a new, at least one other small town, but 4050 kilometres away from Johannesburg. And we’re the cycle, the work but the cycle track or the cycle lanes are doing is precisely as you put it, it’s really to get the cyclists off the road to clear the road so that the motor cars can move quickly and efficiently.
Carlton Reid 15:29
So this is an extension. So would you say it’s an extension of apartheid? This is like just a white line manifestation of apartheid.
Njogu Morgan 15:40
Yeah, this is sort of the story that the book or the chapter tries to tell. I, you know, it’s sort of to go back to your earlier question about how I find myself in this project. I want to in the course of my PhD work, when I discovered that, you know, this particular road Lumo to have any You had a psycho track, I was amazed and blown away because I had not come across anything yet to suggest that at least, there was this kind of footprint of cycling in Johannesburg in this way. And so I really wanted to follow this story and understand why does this thing appear on the streets of Johannesburg, and of course it does not exist now. What happened to it? So I think the broad purpose of the chapter is really to try to understand why this cycle track appears and eventually why it disappears.
Carlton Reid 16:36
Before we get onto that before we get onto the the actual book and delve into that, that Louie Botha Avenue in greater depth, I mentioned Benji stand there. It’s a loaded term clearly. Could you just define what a banty Stan is?
Njogu Morgan 17:00
So, a bunch of time under apartheid South Africa was a special region often for situated far away from you know, the town centres that was allocated for people of colour to live in. So, traditionally, so, this would be spaces in which, so, under project is this notion that, that there could be this sort of idea of CO existing in the same space in terms of the country and but there would be the country would be allocated especially in terms of different racial groups. So, in general, in the urban areas, there would be, there would be the, you know, the centres of the cities would be like sort of the White City and then around the periphery. And it would be to have township areas, which are allocated for the quote unquote non white population. So the bad bunch of sons fit into this and they’re usually located in a rural areas and but then in the cities, you’d have what are called townships allocated for, you know, again, quote unquote non white people.
Carlton Reid 18:16
So this is a form of segregation
Njogu Morgan 18:21
Yes, absolutely simply that’s spatial segregation by this kind of racial construct. Now
Carlton Reid 18:27
in cycle advocacy terms people people do like to, to separate out bicycles and, and motorists, and they often use the word segregation, you know, segregated cycle tracks, in from your point of view where segregation is clearly a much more loaded term, is that a term you avoid is that a term that does have more meaning for you
Njogu Morgan 18:59
Yeah, I think, you know, obviously working in when working on South African cycling history or talking about cycling in South Africa, I really do avoid the term segregation. Because Yeah, it has a particular meaning that most people here don’t want to engage with. Or, you know, it’s just brings up an uncomfortable past. That’s, I think the country is trying to move forward from
Carlton Reid 19:23
and doesn’t have modern resonance. So you literally have got to avoid it. Avoid people think of this as well. Yeah, that’s where we’re segregating off cyclists, and that’s a bad thing.
Njogu Morgan 19:38
And I think,
yeah, I think it’s really more in terms of sort of evoking you know, the danger of evoking this kind of very difficult past that the country has unfolded, always has gone through, excuse me. So, in, I suppose in policy discussions, I’m talking about myself really, there may try and use it Their terms. So but I think, you know, I don’t want to generalise for you know, for other people, I think the tendency is to talk about, you know, to avoid that term.
Carlton Reid 20:12
So separated, it’s fine segregated is verboten.
Njogu Morgan 20:18
Yeah, I would agree there I think, separated psycho tracks, or, you know, it’s better than saying segregated life, because you’re getting it, he walks that past, but it’s also past that continues very much in the present. Because I think as I mentioned early on, even though there’s been and continues to be attempts to, you know, really reconfigure, for instance, the city form, it’s still the case that you still have this kind of spatial segregation or spatial separation. Listen to me using that word. Still in kind of racial terms.
Carlton Reid 20:54
Yeah. Right. So So now, we can get on to the actual book. So the is I’m going to I’m going to read this out this is the politics of cycling infrastructure, the subhead is spaces and well it’s it’s inequality but with the in, in brackets, and it’s edited by the academics, Peter Cox and Till Coglin, and I was very happy when I got notification of this book to see there was a chapter by you and in fact, you’re the second paper in there and I have read two papers in there one is actually by cat Tia which has got a discussion of cycling in Newcastle where I live which was which was nice to be able to read but then of course this your chapter and it’s Louis Botha Avenue Where did just describe that that the the actual physical characters is that like that’s a long road what’s what’s what is that road actually like in history as well as today.
Njogu Morgan 22:01
Ah, right. Yeah, so Louis Botha Avenue in history was one of the main major links between Johannesburg and the then capital of the area called it Transvaal Pretoria. So it doesn’t mean that the mobility corridor between the two towns. So this is before you’ve been to Johannesburg, so you have a sense of what the town looks like. So, this is before the highways are constructed before many other activities come. So if you are travelling between the two towns and other urban agglomerations in the area, then you would use it and so initially it’s like elsewhere, Todd road full of rocks and so on. But essentially what happens over time is
through the development of Johannesburg.
There are urban suburban developments that emerged alongside Louis Both Avenue. So if you, you know, travelling in the end between Johannesburg and Pretoria, then increasingly over time, you begin to see Long live, what Avenue on either sides is sort of suburban formations that emerge. Yeah, so for for many, many decades for many years, it remains sort of the major transportation corridor between the two towns, but also if you’re, and this is sort of going back to our earlier conversation in terms of this segregation, segregation question. So if you’re travelling from the city centre and northwards in general, when colonialism and apartheid you know, during that era, this would have been you’ve been moving through a white space through a white city. More recently, sort of jumping forward trickling time, obviously the you know, the been other roads that have come into place. So it’s not such an important mobility Korea. You’re from a north to south perspective. And but it’s still quite an interesting road currently. It’s one of the, in the in the post apartheid era, it’s one of the roads where up bus rapid transit system has been has been constructed upon. Its not yet finished two bricks in the middle of the road very much like you’d see in Latin American cities. This this special application for bus rapid transit system. Three x still continues to have a degree of importance in the mobility corridor as a mobility corridor.
Carlton Reid 24:36
So looking at your paper, this particular cycle lane it wasn’t a cycle track with with curb separation or anything it was a cycle lane basically paint, but it was opened on 21st of August 1935. And in previous conversations with you and you’ve you very kindly sent me newspaper cuttings. This was very much inspired by the London cycle track that opened the year previously in say June 1934, which in its turn was inspired by Dutch cycle tracks. But this particular Johannesburg cycle track cycle lane was inspired by the London example. Yes.
Njogu Morgan 25:22
Yes, absolutely. So this is, you know, a period of time in which they did policymakers or the town planners and others in the municipality of Johannesburg, very much an active conversation with with the UK. So they monitoring developments elsewhere. They are going on study trips, as we might talk about nowadays. Yeah, so they’re very, they’re very connected to, let’s say, this British Empire through trying to learn from each other in terms of how you solve These kinds of questions. And I think that’s probably where this example arises from.
Carlton Reid 26:03
Yeah. But they didn’t do a very good job. joga they basically looked at what was done and then use paint instead of a curb. So already from this from the start, it wasn’t very good. What Why do you think it wasn’t very good?
Njogu Morgan 26:21
yeah, you’re right. It wasn’t very good. It was a simple painted line on the road. In one of the pictures, I think we were that you’re talking about, there’s carefully written I think cycle way on it. So it was not very wide. I think it was about 2040 inches inches wide. And then it’s not clear that it actually travelled all along Louis Botha Avenue from the city centre to and I guess we’ll get we’ll get to this to one of the main residential areas where there’s a lot of basketball traffic emanating from and but yes, no, quickly, I think it’s not and I guess we’ll explore Listen, the cost of conversation. But it seems to be initially a quick solution. There’s a moment of severe pressure and demand on this corridor, where, as we mentioned in the 1930s, this this gold boom, and the white population is certainly very well, they can afford cars and so on. And so there’s this hectic competition for road space. And I think at that point, representatives from the city of Johannesburg, the municipality, then are looking for a quick solution to resolve this ongoing road conflict. So it’s, let’s put something down on the road can especially allocate a space for all the different rodeos so you can have a cycle, the cyclists on one side, and then you know, the cars are obviously using the majority of the space. So this is kind of the initial quick solution that appears with much fanfare in 1935.
Carlton Reid 27:56
Have you found any contemporary sources from the users of this this particular cycle lane that talked about how this was an immediate degradation of what they were previously riding on, or is it all this just is just newspaper stuff Have you got any diaries from people any any contemporary stuff
Njogu Morgan 28:19
yeah again very good questions I for that paper I mainly relied on archives to to study so I have not yet spoken to you know, contemporary people about it. But I am in the process of four separate research project in as different towns doing that where the, as he put it there been interviewing very old people who remember cycling to work in a small town where they did put on some psycho tracks. And James
Carlton Reid 28:54
genuine, genuine, sorry, genuine cycle tracks as in with curbs.
Njogu Morgan 29:00
Yeah, yeah, genuine cycle tracks very different from what happens in Johannesburg, which is just a simple painted line. In fact, one of the psycho tracks because there were a few these was designed such that when you’re exiting your residential area, in this instance, again, it was one of these, you know, segregated suburbs for the black population. As soon as you got onto the cycle track, and there was a fence, probably about bicycle high that would then prevent you from exiting the cycle track. So it was a gated cycle track. There’s no way you could if you wanted to write on the road. Wow, this is one instance. That’s that’s
Carlton Reid 29:42
been potentially two ways there. Wow. Oh, that sounds so safe. That’s fantastic. But also, Wow, that is absolutely. I’m gonna use a loaded term here. That’s absolutely segregation. It was a fence.
Njogu Morgan 30:00
a fence. So yeah, as you Yeah, I mean, I suppose from a safety perspective, I mean, there’s no way that a motor car could then unless they wanted to damage, you know, the driver wanted to damage their car could then drive onto that psycho track. So it is safe from that perspective. But at the same time, it’s really restricting the mobility options of of people who are then in the cycle track, which is fenced off.
Carlton Reid 30:25
So how long? Sorry. So how long did that particular fenced off? cycle track last? And how long did the one on Louie Botha Avenue last?
Njogu Morgan 30:39
Yeah, so the research on the fence of one is still ongoing, so I’ll be able to answer you, you know, for profit by the movie. But the Lewy Body one lasts, really through the 60s. And by the 1970s. It sort of becomes this. Some people will remember it You know, once a long time ago, they used to be a cycle track on Railroad Avenue. But at this point, it is really kind of faded away. Now the municipality is not no longer, you know, going taking good, you know, every few years having to repaint it. Yeah.
Carlton Reid 31:16
So, they literally where for a few years, they were repainting?
Njogu Morgan 31:24
Yeah. So the records that I’ve found, which are, you know, the chief truck traffic Officer of Johannesburg in the 1930s 1940s, complaining that, you know, every so often he has to repaint this cycle lane. And he has to do so because, you know, the paint wears off. And one of the major reasons that the paint is right, is because motorists are treating it as an additional lane. So even though there’s this kind of idea that this is idea that the cyclists should, you know, should you use it and the motorists Stay on their section. You, you know, this is evidence of motorists, you know drive on it and it wears away very quickly.
Carlton Reid 32:07
And I’m just reading your paper here. And one point it says the 14 cycle track that the cab died will contain the two wheeled Horde. And that’s again, that’s kind of a loaded term, but it’s also very similar to terms that the white working class were getting in the UK at this time. So the elites in their cars were very much pushing cyclists to that 40 inch. They wanted them to stay away from their fast motor cars.
Njogu Morgan 32:44
Yes, absolutely. And I wish I would have been able to find much more like historical footage just to see what the everyday practices on the road would have been. So one has to rely on pictures and a sense of imagination. But I guess you know, something else. What I think is also going on is I do believe that, you know, so there’s this kind of newspaper narratives that you discover of white motorists complaining, as you say about this two wheel Horde. That does not always stick to the cycle lane that has been allocated to them, you know, partially because it’s not wide enough, partially because there may be a car to parked in front of them. But I really think and I’m convinced of this, that another another dynamic that’s unfolding here is this kind of a micro protest that is unfolding. So this idea that 234 cyclists are riding a breasts and preventing motorists from overtaking them. I do think that there was a sense of Okay, I suppose, like nowadays we may speak of the notion of reclaiming the lane, you know, the critical mass movement, as you know, put forward that idea, I really do think that in That kind of woman’s there’s also a micro protest unfolding on Woodward Avenue.
Carlton Reid 34:06
And how many, how many black motorists were there in the 1930s?
Njogu Morgan 34:15
Very, very, very few. And this doesn’t really change much until the post apartheid moment. I there’s a number that I came across in you know, so, they record keeping and archiving is very good. So, during through the Colombian apartheid era, you know, everything was seen through this kind of ratio constructs. So, even the record keeping of who, for instance, who owns motorcars would be would be kept according to race. And so you can you can look at these kind of records and, and they tell you, how many people own bicycles and how many people own motorcars and also through gender and sorry, through race times and I think in the 1960s Just take this as an indicator. So it’s not a complete exact number because I have to pull it up. And I think that across all Africa across the Union of South Africa, I think they would have been one or 2% of the cars that were on the streets were owned by people of colour, but again, I can look it up to you. So the 1930s, very small fraction of the black population can own motor cars.
Carlton Reid 35:28
So that that protest you’re talking about is kind of a way of asserting some sort of right to the to the land, in effect, by riding along because it’s clearly seen in racial terms, if most 99% bad sound to it, and or 90% of motorists are clearly going to be white, and the same kind of percentage the other way around. The cyclists are going to be black.
Njogu Morgan 36:01
Yes, absolutely. And again, in the historical record, I guess, at this time, people are very shy to use very nasty language to refer to each other. So you’ll find in the white press, you know, white motorists complaining and using a very ugly language to refer to the black cyclists who are travelling on wakeboarder Avenue. So there’s definitely a very kind of racialized term. Transportation becomes very racialized from very early on. And so I think this kind of, I think the chapter it really is an illustration of the kind of broader dynamics that unfold in Johannesburg, where the roots pace really becomes to be seen as a white space. We’ve spoken about this kind of notion of a spatial segregation but also within cities the road purely because it’s mainly the white population that can afford cars and roads really big begin to be understood in this trance. So there’s kind of this broader social struggle. There’s an unfolding in Intel, Africa also and falls in microtones. On on the on the road.
Carlton Reid 37:17
And I’m going to make a bold guess here that white motorists in their fast muscular cars were pretty aggressive to black riders using their motor vehicles.
Njogu Morgan 37:34
Oh boy, yes. And of course this is not. Again, you were speaking in general terms. So this isn’t. We’re not attributing this kind of conduct to every single white motorist or white person who happens to be driving. But yeah, in very general terms, this is what happens and in fact, the Nobel Prize winner scholar His name is keeping my head at the moment. I could see him. Hello, Chris. Yeah, he’s won a Nobel Prize for his literature on racial African dynamics has written about how, in his experience being in South Africa in the 19, so he’s white South African, emigrated, but growing up and living in South Africa, he he’s written very famously, or infamously. But in the 1950s, it was almost a bit of a sport for white people to threatened to run off, you know, black cyclist off the road. So this is not just Johannesburg. It’s really across the whole of across the country. In this other small town that we’ve been speaking about that I’m continue to do this research. In fact, there’s one very nasty incident that happens in the 1950s that’s reported on in the newspapers where two or three cyclists are killed by young white motorists. So the story goes, this white motorists are you know, they’re sort of travelling somewhere. And they happen upon this, you know, black workers and bicycles and the, the newspaper reports that they stop. And they threw rocks at them in other and I think they do hit them and eventually two or three of them but two out of three die. So an ambulance comes and you know, takes this black cyclist to hospital but they don’t survive. So I mean the story is written about and the mayor of a small town at the time, and I get involved in this discussion because this kind of controversy that’s unfolding in springs, but he refers to this, you know, young white boys a first of them as heroes and for doing this. It’s bizarre to me. But I guess you know, that’s kind of the context of the time. So as you say, there’s kind of aggression that between different racial groups is also unfolding on the on the streets on the roads. And so white motorists yes and being differently being very aggressive
Carlton Reid 40:22
and then fast forward to post apartheid era where there are now many black motorist is the same thing happening a black motorists. Happy to do what those white motorists were doing for them. Are they happy to to bully people off off the roads because now the black motorists are the ones with the powerful vehicles.
Njogu Morgan 40:51
Last year again for a few moments, right? connection is excellent. But other than that, to see again, so fast forward to
Carlton Reid 40:59
fast forward to today. Post apartheid South Africa where now black motorists are on the road in great numbers. Are they then becoming the road bullies of a previous era so it maybe it wasn’t the the the apartheid concept that was making white motorists so aggressive. It was the car. So black people are now getting aggressive.
Njogu Morgan 41:25
Oh, boy. Yes. Again, you’ve been to Johannesburg, you’ve been to South Africa. So there’s definitely a sense in which this kind of road culture that has been produced and manufactured in this kind of colonial apartheid era persists, persist, because this is what you know motorists or future motorists have grown observing. Now, if you get into a car, then it means the road spaces, viewer space. So the way in which you conduct yourself you should conduct yourself in a way that It shows that you own or you belong in the space in this space. So there’s definitely that sort of historical continuity and this aggressive practice practices that continue, which still continues to be a source of shock for me. To this day, I mean, the road regulations, you know, went through the national government are very clear in terms of what the road conduct to the expected road conduct. So what is the appropriate conduct when it comes to if pedestrians have right away, they have a green light and the Road Rules there? That’s, you know, obviously the motorists should stop and wait for the pedestrian to cross. But it’s often the case that this will not happen. Instead, the motorists will be wanting to drive even though they’re supposed to not be. So yeah. as you put it, I mean, I think there’s this kind of continuing historical practices where they were road has become this kind of space where people really want Want to express and display their sense of dignity? I believe in addition to this kind of observed practices,
Carlton Reid 43:10
yeah. So in, in the in America and in the UK that the car was, was portrayed as this liberating thing that you know, the freedom vehicle. But in a South African context, it does sound as though it was that but much, much more, because you would suddenly no longer be an underclass if you are behind the wheel of a car.
Njogu Morgan 43:39
Yeah, no, absolutely. And in fact, you’re stealing the words out of our forthcoming book chapter. And that talks more explicitly about this. Yeah, I think in the post parented moment differently, where you’ve sort of had this long history where it’s very clear that kind of individually dignity is often connected through owning a car. I think in a post apartheid moment, I think those kinds of feelings and really exaggerated or much more pronounced in the population. So the idea that you can you know, own and drive across machine preferably a very expensive one, I think has much more power in in this context perhaps than elsewhere.
Carlton Reid 44:28
I’m also thinking here of so I’ve written in Stellenbosch and I’ve been showing the Have you have you written in Stellenbosch on the on the separate
Njogu Morgan 44:37
I haven’t visited
Carlton Reid 44:40
Okay, so there’s the on some of the major roads there is now some there’s one where there’s one particular Dutch style roundabout that is in fact it’s a incredibly good it’s it’s totally separated. It’s absolutely modelled on Dutch roundabout so protected on Every arm. And yet when you ride on this infrastructure, which Stellenbosch is clearly a kind of a white middle class, I might be paraphrasing a little bit too much, or extrapolating too much, but it’s kind of a white middle class area. When you ride on this infrastructure as a white, middle class cyclist in the Netherlands, you would expect the motorists to stop for you, because all of the signs telling them we’ve got to stop. But here on this particular infrastructure, you’re taking your life into your own hands, expecting the motorists to stop because know if you’re behind the wheel of a car, it doesn’t matter if there’s a cyclists on a protective roundabout, you’re going to carry on going through at speed and that’s a white motorist or a black motorist. So there is that culture of of road bullying, that’s incredibly strong and no amount of it seems Infrastructure might actually combat that.
Njogu Morgan 46:06
Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, I think the, the road culture is very, very aggressive. I mean, just to tell you a small anecdote, I was in Chicago visiting family. And my sister stopped to let a pedestrian go through because they had a green light there were you know, she was going to turn. And I was joking to her, what are you doing? for god sakes, you should just drive through and you know, it’s You’re right, because that’s what people do in Johannesburg. So you’re right, I think it will take something else to really transform this culture.
Infrastructure may help. Maybe it will need to be
maybe of the sort that we spoke about early on in the small town, you know, that really governs that maybe really, infrastructure could play a role here. Potentially, if Maybe if it separates people in space and time or different role users, but as, but I think something else needs to happen to, you know, to reconfigure and to transform this kind of everyday practices. So
Carlton Reid 47:15
where are we right now in South Africa in terms of bicycle friendliness? And and that maybe the government actually getting behind this Where? Where do you see it now? Where do you see it in, say 10 years time?
Njogu Morgan 47:36
Yeah, I think currently, perhaps I should just speak specifically about Johannesburg because I have a better sense. I mean, I think the national picture is a bit uneven. There are some towns and cities that are trying we’re trying to do something about promoting, you know, other forms of mobility, whether it’s trains, buses, walking, cycling, and so on. And very specifically in terms of Johannesburg, I think the policy agenda is it’s not where it used to be. When you compare it to a few years ago, I think they kind of, I suppose this test sustained interest not only for cycling, but elephants mobility to reconfigure that has, has gone away slightly. But I guess from a global perspective, I mean, this is common, because we haven’t mentioned this, but there was a, let’s say, four or five year period in which the city of Johannesburg under a different mayor was really pushing the cycling agenda, and putting in a lot of infrastructure, the policies and regulations in place, and there’s this moment of momentum, which was at the time that I was supposed to when I was being an activist, and that this kind of energy seems to have gone away the man Who was a very strong cycling proponent is no longer mayor. And there was a new administration that’s come in place, and there’s a different Mayor that’s come. So you don’t look at policy. momentum. I think things are very quiet. But I do think that, if any, I suppose if experiences elsewhere are any indication, I think this is a moment this is a blip. And I think this agenda will return and I think it will return because the sort of questions of mobility that the previous administration and non state actors were trying to grapple with continue to be present. So issues of traffic congestion issues of people not being very healthy in because of how they move the questions of air pollution. And these are not problems that have gone away. So in one way or another, I think there will be a new entity or a new sort of actors will have to come and grapple with them.
Carlton Reid 50:09
Njogu, hank you very much. I think we’ll, we’ll end it there. We kind of we started in modern psycho advocacy, and we kind of ended in modern cycle advocacy in South Africa. So thank you very much for your time. Thanks to Njogu Morgan there. The book we were talking about, and which contains his paper, is The Politics of Cycling Infrastructure, published January 2020, and edited by Peter Cox and Till Koglin and available for £60 from Bristol University’s Policy Press. There’s a link to that book, and to JoeGoo’s other work, on the show notes which can be found at www.the-spokesmen.com Thanks for tuning in to the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast, make sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts (other podcast catchers are also available).
The next show, supported by Jenson USA, will be out at the very beginning of March …
Carlton Reid 51:17 meanwhile get out there and ride!
Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 238 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was published Monday the 10th of February 2020.
David Bernstein 0:24 The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fred cast cycling podcast at www.theFredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:09 Don’t worry, the Spokesmen cycling podcast is not now a daily show. It’s just that I’ve been recording audio from lots of interesting people recently and some of those interviews including Today’s a time sensitive and need to be published, like well now rather than on this show is more normal twice a month schedule. I’m Carlton Reid. And on today’s show, I’m talking with comms expert, Adam Tranter, who has just become the UK his first bicycle mer. He’s a cove kid, and we’ll be aiming to make Coventry a lot more bicycle friendly. The bicycle mare programme is an initiative of bikes of the Netherlands. And after the ad break, you can hear Laura Laker interviewing Maud de Vries of BYCS alongside the bicycle mayor of Bengaluru, the first he is Adam. So Adam, I do want to talk to you about the bicycle Mayor programme. Absolutely. But first of all, I want to talk about you. So tell us about your business and and the brands you represent. You can absolutely go wax lyrical about all the clients you represent. So so so when did you start your PR business? Who are you representing? Let’s Let’s have a thumbnail sketch of of your PR company.
Adam Tranter 2:35
Okay, so I set up future media in 2008. And that came from a large repertoire of knowledge related to cycling, which, at the time, didn’t have much usefulness in the wider world. But cycling having been a kind of racing cyclist and briefly a kind of freelance cycling journalist cycling was became quite popular in Britain in 2008, from a sporting perspective with the Beijing Olympics, and we’ve been lucky, I think, since the cycling stayed on the agenda through various different things that have happened such as the Tour de France in Yorkshire and the London Olympics and bike higher schemes, all of which kind of generally cycling on the on the map. So we’re doing this since 2008, kind of PR communications and now sort of full service marketing agency and it’s really grown organically. In the same sort of cases, cycling’s interest as a as an industry to where we are now in 2020. We have around 1212 staff and we look after mixture brands across what we described as like active lifestyle, active people. And that’s really cycling, running and actually, you know, cycling as a means of transport which we’re kind of treating separately. We look after brands like Brompton Who very much fit in the category of advocacy and trying to do do better and make cities better for people and by making more people centric to brands like Shimano working on their e bike programme, Evan cycles, which obviously has a very bored potential audience. But we do also still work with the kind of core road cycling audience if you like, last year, we worked for the first year on the Tour de France for PR and social media with with ASO and also working with brands like likkle and wahoo. And so I’m ready. So yeah, I get to like like yourself, potentially get to make a career out of something I’m very passionate about. And gladly that’s kind of moved into a world where it’s about getting more people on bikes and making cycling more normal, which is which is the kind of main focus With me at the moment
Carlton Reid 5:00
sit on that topic. Tell me about the school bus that you you organised last year.
Adam Tranter 5:08
Yeah, so So, I’m a bike nerd and I bought a cargo bike. Which, you know, which really transformed my getting about an I took my kids to school, I’ve got twin boys then it is nearly six, six cents a month. And I started to teach in school, but I can’t provide constant my my wife and I was hurt and on the school and, and people predictably, you know, stopped us and said Wow, what’s that and of course, they’d never seen this type of bike before. Which if you’ve, you know, not visited places like the Netherlands or or Denmark, Copenhagen, etc. You You might not have you know, quite rightly might have seen a cargo bike before. So once we’ve got that out of the way it really what it boils down to is I would love to ride to school with my child I know taking the car for a short journey as well. But I just don’t feel safe. I don’t feel like it’s safe enough or that is something I can do. And that that extended to when I was in like games, my labour Cafe by bike people will go, I’ve got a bike. But I don’t you know, I don’t really use it. And that to me was just so depressing. And the kind of state that we’re we’re in so I’ve seen on Twitter like Macy’s things that people in Galway and in Ireland and in Oxford, and up in I think Glasgow, they’ve created school cycle buses which, which are great. They’re brilliant. They they show what’s possible and they show the desire for children to cycle and they do it in the safest possible way by practically you know, having an adult to child ratio that allows an adult to almost create a new Cycling for children and so they can safely get to school with a lack of safe cycling infrastructure. So my wife and I created what was was first we live in a town called cannibalism or lecture near to near to Coventry. And we created our first and back in October we have 20 kids, accompanied by 20 adults and we created this, you know, massive visual spectacle and peloton, going to school and everybody loved it. And we had a lot of resistance initially from the council and even the police when I’d asked them if they wanted to support us in any way with kind of, you know, mild threats of risk assessments and whether the children would be trained or wearing helmets and everything you could possibly imagine to try and make this more difficult than it needed to be. But we went ahead and did it and now we do it each each Friday. And we’ve got you know, a solid group of 10 or 15 Kids each week really aged between five and nine years. So young kids who normally wouldn’t be able to cycle to school now can
Carlton Reid 8:10
is that a PR thing in that you’re doing it as a bicycle bus now but what you’re actually genuinely like is for the kids to cycle themselves on safe cycling infrastructure, but by highlighting the fact that the current currently because it’s all adults have it to be with them. So that’s what you want eventually.
Adam Tranter 8:32
Yeah, I think there’s a short term need to do the best you can within the environment you have and that was, you know, the community saying I’d quite like to cycle to school and I know I shouldn’t take my car and being a kind of fit and brave 2% of, you know, to set mobile cyclist I was able to do that with my wife is also you know, fairly confident out there mixing it with with traffic, but Really, it’s a really wide appoint and you know, the first one we had and we still get counsellor support. It was a case of showing people the kind of practical difficulties there are cycling to school and the fact that the system has just made it’s just make difficult for people so it really unless you live a stone’s throw, and you can schools or cycle the pavement, you have no chance of upcycled School, which I don’t think and I think lots of other people don’t think is is right. So really demonstrating what was possible. I always think it’s best to show what good can look like to you know, and remind people that this is actually a normal thing and actually the most kind of ridiculous thing was really, you know, the meat you know that local media and some some national media and hopefully covered in falls, international media showed that really cycling school should not be a news story. It should not be a national news story. And that’s the kind of ridiculousness that I want to kind of get across and push public. These are people do think outside their comfort zone and actually take a moment and look at, you know, how, how we got to this stage where people can’t have children can’t cycle to school, which, you know, I think is probably one of the fundamental things you can look at to see how our society is, is doing, like how are they How are the kids doing? And the answer that one is, you know, these kids are being fed in, in in large four by fours. That’s making everyone’s communities a bit worse. So I think, you know, that’s something that that allows allows us to make a point as you as you say,
Carlton Reid 10:42
and how far is Kenilworth from Coventry?
Adam Tranter 10:48
as the crow flies about four miles, so historically, can’t give you the historically, Coventry was always part of what picture as a As a county and then split on its own authority, but you know, you only have to go to the end of my road turn right and right again and kind of in the Coventry Coventry boundary. So so yeah the closest the closest city and somewhere that I spend a lot of time.
Carlton Reid 11:18
So let’s get on to your, your role and this does seem as at least looking at the press release is MB, at least a part of the role quite obviously, is using your comms experience. So getting the bicycle man of Coventry into the media so you you’re going to be using your calm skills to talk about cycling using this as a as a way of, of getting into the media. Yeah,
Adam Tranter 11:51
yeah, I think I think one of the things that sometimes lacked a local kind of level, all around the country is is accountability.
You know, there’s there’s
a reduction in I think local media is really important and local media have been really supportive of what I’m doing, which has really helped. But there’s also, you know, gap because the climate emergency is very much on the national agenda, and over 60% of councils in the UK have declared a climate emergency. Yeah, there’s not really a sensible, informed conversation happening around how that might be achievable. So, you know, when giving examples that you know, when flubby had to be bailed out by the government, there was, you know, radio for one of the spokes people said that flying was decarbonizing, and that went totally, totally unchecked and sort of passed off as as as kind of accepted fact And I think this is, you know, it’s a really difficult I’m by no means a climate change or air quality expert, but do you know that frequently the bicycle is a is a good way of solving some rather complex issues. So, I think one of my job in in the role of bicycle method Coventry is to is to communicate what is and isn’t happening in relating to cycling and you know, walking and just generally, you know, after travel and having more livable streets, to to try and build a conversation around the immediacy of the climate emergency, which is providing a good, you know, a good catalyst for potential change. And I really feel that it’s, it’s really now or never in many ways, but now is the opportunity to get cycling properly talked about in an informed way and properly funded. So yeah, I hope to use my Comes expertise to be able to a political stuff in a in a, you know, hopefully easy to digest manner because I’m not, you know, hopefully can do my job properly. I’m not preaching to the converted, I’m getting new people to think differently about the bicycle and the solutions that can provide. And also yeah holding power to account using the media to highlight both Yeah, action and inaction and hopefully it will be action but as we know, as a lot of strain on the government’s and the traditional approaches to spend more money on road projects, and that that can’t happen. I’ve just been at a bicycle summit, which was really, really really interesting and visited a life of province, who, whose transport expert you know, openly saying, one of our policies is not to make any more bad decisions. So any anything that’s been slated that isn’t compatible with the climate emergency and our goals like can’t possibly can’t possibly be passed through. And that’s an approach that I think is really sensible but an approach that, you know, isn’t happening necessarily in Coventry or other places on the UK were very big, big expensive road projects are still getting built, which isn’t, which isn’t good for anyone long term.
Carlton Reid 15:33
And Coventry is pretty much the poster child for road schemes. You’ve got that awful ring road that pretty much as a motor. I mean, technically, you could go on a bike on there’s not a motorway, but it is a motorway.
Adam Tranter 15:48
Yeah, people are they’re proud of it as well. People are proud of it. It’s I don’t know whether that how much they’re taking the Mickey but they you know people are fairly
Carlton Reid 15:58
passionate about the ring road to come country is known and it is known as the Motor City not just because of that ring road but also because the history of motoring in the city and of course, that came from from from bicycling. So, the reason the automotive factories started in Coventry was the fact that there was these major bicycle factories in Coventry first and the first person to have written about this and a whole book, of course, the first person to bring the Coventry motor industry within the 18 late 1890s was the guy who had a bunch of bicycle companies there first so Henry Lawson. So Coventry has got this amazing history of being about first of all a bicycle city, but then absolutely a Motor City. So it’s kind of ironic yet not ironic that the first bicycle mare is in Coventry.
Adam Tranter 16:56
Yeah, it’s one of my is one of my motivations, actually. Because I’ve, I’m immensely proud of being brought up in being born and brought up in Coventry. And I’ll tell anyone who will listen about its rich bicycle heritage and you know, all the illustrious things that the commentary cycle pioneers did. And, you know, the same pioneers or the companies that these biters founded have also, you know, very swiftly moved into motorcycles and cars as as you know, better than anybody else. And I think I think that’s an interesting metaphor, if you like for what I’m trying to explain to people that we are a country that is totally car dominant country is a city that is almost entirely built around the motor car, of course, it was rebuilt after the Second World War. And as part of that, you know, Kind of peak, getting towards peak car dominance, much of the city’s infrastructure kind of reflects that. But it’s also, you know, it’s got a lot going for itself. It’s an incredibly walkable and bikable City. It’s compact, it’s flat. And it’s also it’s, it’s a city that has changed many, many times, you know, and reinvented itself. And you can. One thing that I think everybody is is agreed on is it can’t keep operating in the same way as we are now. So actually having this bicycle heritage to fall back on and something to talk about and an era of old nostalgia can potentially I think, be helpful, but it is also, you know, the same history just a few years later is also a potential hindrance because we still have a fairly dominant not nowhere near what it was. Still a fairly dominant car manufacturing industry in Coventry you know jankier Landrover, still manufacturer. They have a plant In Whitley in Coventry and the London taxi company makes the new or at least assembles that new electric taxes here so we you know it’s a very important industry both politically and economically but currently there’s no voice for cycling and that’s why I want to be able to to change
Carlton Reid 19:33
to you mentioned rover there take you a Land Rover and of course rover just to bring people up to speed I know you know, but just to bring other people up to speed and and it wasn’t just the fact that Coventry had a few you know, random bicycle factories, the British bicycle boom that happened. It happened because of Coventry so and the American bicycle boom that came you know, very shortly after it came because of commentary. So this guy called more brought In fact a bone shaker across from from Paris. It excited the locals in Coventry they started making them and then you’ve got the first high wheel bicycle eventually came from commentaries of the penny farthing. starly is the father of the wheels bicycle industry was from he was from Coventry, but he certainly settled in commentary and then his his nephew jk starly. Also Coventry then gave us the bicycle we know and love today, which is the safety bicycle the two equal sized parts of the frame that to equal size wheels, all that kind of stuff, the diamond frame so Coventry is absolutely essential to the world of bicycling. So this is this is the kind of the role you’re taking on is a city that’s incredibly known for motoring by most people. Yeah, underneath is as absolutely stellar bicycle History
Yes, there’s definitely there’s definitely something there and I want to kind of capitalise on I was in the Netherlands last week on a the European bicycle mass summit and did all the great things that you get to do when you in the Netherlands including riding a bike absolutely everywhere and you know I was kind of identify their emotions just live it but seeing because of course in the UK we’ve typically you know we’ve still got the safety bike kind of design and parameters but we we’ve you know, we’re very keen on as an industry drop handlebar bikes and kind of, you know, changing the way bicycles have looked over the years battery the rover safety bicycle is pretty much what you know you would describe as a Dutch bicycle now which the majority of people on bikes and the Netherlands used to get around everywhere, so to sort of be stood there in the middle amounts. Now I’m looking at every bike to see that actually this this culture that have been developed outside, you know, former consequences of safe cycling infrastructure. The fact that normal children as young as eight can go and ride on the roads, potentially even on their own sort of 10 or 11, as all, you know, had so much linked to the kind of innovation that Coventry had, and, you know, obviously arrived back in Coventry. And, you know, this morning, Monday morning and I was in the city for a meeting and, you know, right next to ring road, and you know, it couldn’t be further from what I now have experience in the Netherlands but obviously very similar to what they went through and, you know, what, what Amsterdam and what other areas and others have looked like in 1970s a lot like Coventry now. So it gives me hope that if they were able to change it, we’re able to, to change something as well. But it does require, you know, a lot of people to forget everything I know about transport and think yeah.
Carlton Reid 23:08
So that that bicycle mayor’s conference, there’s like 100 members around the world now is that right?
Adam Tranter 23:14
There’s just over Yeah, just over 100 bicycle mares around the world. There’s a lot in both in India and then some spread over Africa as well. This one was just for the European network and I think there’s about 20 of us, including seven new mass which two are also in the Netherlands. So, one from the Hague and one from mine hoeber which I also think is interesting because, you know, the, the, their challenges are also very real in making sure that cycling to school is safe in Eindhoven for example and it would be a place that you typically they go there and go Wow, this is amazing what you complaining about but actually, you know, looking at stats, car uses goes is going up and sort of cycling is decreasing depending on where you are in the Netherlands. So I think that was really interesting obviously to learn from best practices and then also some, some crazy challenges in cities like a stumble, you know, obviously, totally different to Coventry in almost every way and a huge population. So the great thing about the the bicycle matters network is that all of us can now share best practice ideas. You know, I was able to put the Amsterdam bicycle Mayor who’s pretty famous in Amsterdam, you know, deals the city government all the time and as a real ambassador for cycling, about how she’s been able to, you know, approach the role and and what she’s been able to achieve. And that’s been really helpful to be able to share this network of, of expertise, which is where I think the faster it grows, the more valuable it becomes. To the global kind of cycling advocacy community because we are able to take best practices from all over the world and apply them to to different different cities who all have largely the same, the same goal which is to increase modal share and and and get proper funding the cycling and decrease car dominance.
Carlton Reid 25:22
So the bicycle mare programme is an initiative of bikes which is b y Cs and no that that doesn’t stand for anything. It just is just just just bikes. So I will add at the end of after after I finished with you, Adam. I’m going to be playing an interview that Laura Laika actually had with more degrees, who is the founder of bikes and who is the founder of this programme, so I’ll get more from her. But just coming back to to you and in your role. What do you think apart from the comms bit which we discussed, what else can you do in Coventry apart from the prs Go.
Yeah, so I think being able to being able to engage collaboratively with the kind of base with the, you know, contacts that I have already working in the cycling industry, but also my experience in hopefully being collaborative and building bridges with people and as I said to you before, there’s there’s no one really championing, cycling’s cause cause in commentary or even the West Midlands more broadly, except for, you know, the, the council’s themselves, which they’re doing with limited resource and potentially in some cases, limited political will. So being able to engage them and bring ideas together from the likes of, you know, British cycling and cycling UK who I have a good relationship with, and also connecting local businesses as well. So like my Experiencing in the area, but also more nationally, will hopefully show that there is widespread support for cycling. And therefore, you know, it needs to be taken way more seriously in terms of both, you know, output and the funding to create that that output. And I also think that as an a sort of Ambassador role, it’s important to try and, you know, make small but impactful changes, like I’ve done with the school cycle bus. So one of the, you know, one of the first campaigns I want to run is, is a campaign that that really gets people to rethink their use of of the car for very short journeys under a mile or one and a half miles. And, you know, 24% of car journeys in the UK under one mile, which is just total madness, and I think we’re on a path for, for this for driving very short distances as well. to school to be, you know, in feature as socially unacceptable as you know, smoking and other things because it’s just a total unnecessary use of the car. And if I can potentially, you know, one things I’m looking at is creating a campaign to really get people to think about that and do do less and cycle to cycle to school, which them there’s no infrastructure at the moment, really. So I’m working to talk talking to police at the moment about, you know, whether they’ll publicly state that they wouldn’t prosecute children Riding School, which sounds you know, obviously they wouldn’t, but it’s not that obvious actually, in a lot of people are put off by by, you know, the fear of in how to go out by police or, or other people in the community and that’s putting a lot of people off. So, having to, you know, try and put together some smaller but impactful campaigns that can make a little difference and commentary as well. is going to be a priority
Carlton Reid 28:59
and if people are listening This and reading the stories that we’re going to be seeing because you’re a PR man says we love stories. And they’re inspired to, to think, well I could do that in my city or my talent, it’d be great. So how do people actually become bicycle mares of their localities? If there isn’t already a bicycle man so that America is global, there’s there’s this thing so how do they How do they actually become mares? And how did you become the man?
Adam Tranter 29:27
Yeah, so if you’re, if you’re thinking about it, you you should absolutely explore further because it is really a great initiative and you feel like you’re part of something is really, really special. So it’s, it’s, you know, the information out there and bikes who administers schema very, very friendly and really passionate about what they what they’re doing. So you’ll get, you know, a really good response in terms of the practicalities. There are, you know, a couple of weeks in, in certain countries I keep trying not to talk about the Netherlands all the time. But the you know, in certain countries that the local government has actually, the city government have supported a bicycle mass games, they practically said we want this in our, in our city, and therefore, you know, we’ll either partner with bikes or Well, you know, put a call out for interested parties to come forward and they might run some form of informal election amongst a group of people or or whatever might be if there are multiple candidates. In the case of commentary, well, I am and also, you know, a lot of other places where they, you know, there are passionate people, but maybe not passionate people clamouring over each other to do this voluntary role. It’s a case of securing the support of your local community in the forms of written endorsements, which, you know, I was very fortunate to have lots of local support and also some national support as well, from organisations and individuals that cetera. So putting together a case that shows that the, you know, the community wants this and will be supportive in this. And really, you know, there’s a small part of the application process and creating your vision, amongst other things, and obviously lots of hard work that goes into the background of that. But ultimately, that’s, that’s where it gets to the case of making sure you’ve got local support and doing it. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need, you know, support from government officials. So, I’m developing my relationship with Coventry City Council and kind of other stakeholders. It’s not a case I need to be approved by the city and actually one of the really important roles that the bicycle mayor has is to be, you know, independent and also, as I keep saying sort of hold power to account so you know, they were very different to kind of being a spokesperson for cycling on behalf of the Council. My job is to kind of bring all stakeholders together and work collaboratively to the best outcomes. And that’s that’s what I’ll, what I’ll be aiming to do.
Carlton Reid 32:15
Now. I’ve interviewed the the Amsterdam bicycle mayor, the first one then a number of years ago at eurobike. And she was telling me that the idea for the this is before I’d spoke to more about the idea for this came from Amsterdam’s night mauor, as in night, and then m a y o r, rather than nightmare, and maybe it doesn’t sounds quite good in English. It sounds very much different in Dutch. But that’s where it came from. And the nightmare in the Netherlands and the nightmare and for instance, in London, I think is on this huge salary. It’s like hundred and 70,000 pounds a year if you’re the nightmare of of London. So this role that you’ve been God is not something that you’re getting paid oodles of cash for this is a volunteer role.
Adam Tranter 33:06
Yeah, I’m being paid about 170,000 pounds less than that. So it’s very much it’s very much a volunteer role. And it’s very much you know, important grassroots movement. So, you know, I hope that one day bicycle mass around the country and around the world will be you know, seen by city officials as real great resources and you know, there might be opportunity for funding and feature I’m particularly lucky the you know, I work in work in an industry that’s very closely linked with this so and I also have a you know, an element of flexibility in my, my job running the company so I’m able to, you know, devote time to it in and out of normal working hours of course, and we evenings and, and, and we can so it does require us and outlook and, you know, some of the bicycle matters. hired Richard Ingram, who’s the bicycle mayor of Cumbria, so not for city, but an actual entire region. He was the first in the UK. He’s a retired transport planner, for example. So he his kind of semi retirement has allowed him to dedicate enough time to make a meaningful impact, also having the skills and experience so it is at the moment, it is something that you have to have a certain amount of flexibility to be able to do but of course, anyone who’s into cycling advocacy, you know, already dedicates quite a significant portion of time to it. I feel like this is a meaningful channel to be able to kind of do that and hopefully make more of an impact than I would do if it was just me sort of, you know, shouting and being a bit annoyed at the lack of infrastructure. I feel like this could be more impactful.
Carlton Reid 34:49
What about if you get shouted at yourself by say, local councillors who’s to say conflict of interest in that you represent Bunch of brands, might you be using this as a way of promoting those brands in the local media? So what would you say to the conflict of interest? Cannot?
Adam Tranter 35:12
Yeah. So, you know, none of this is is drived and brands and increasing fans, you know, media space majority of the, I actually think that the majority of the cycling industry needs to do more in the space of kind of advocacy because it is the future of where the, you know, where the potential customers are coming from if you can get 2% of modal chatter 6%, for example, that’s going to make a potentially massive, massive dent in in the cycling industry is collective experience at the moment in the kind of current economic climate. But it all of its fairly board so so no one’s pushing individually. products or you know all yes you must be riding this bike as bicycle mouth of whatever or this is a particularly You know, this is a sponsorship
this is purely purely coming from the angle of getting more people on bikes which is good for good for everybody. So, you know, I’m taking this you know, from a personal point of view, I can care less what bikes they’re riding I you know, prefer if they weren’t new bikes from you know, Evan cycles or something I would prefer if people just got on the bike, you know, second hand bike viral charity or the you know, Berman has a bike library or something like that, that that gives people the opportunity to really, really explore the joys of cycling and then potentially, you know, bring them into the bring them into the kind of economic environment of the industry but in terms of my position is bicycle man, I’m not you know, I’m not being funded or Supported or need the blessing or have to account be accountable to certain industry bodies. I’m purely an individual with an interest again, more people on more people on bikes. And it’s, it’s, you know, it’s good for everybody. So hopefully, hopefully that will be a fairly straightforward conversation to have.
Carlton Reid 37:22
That was Adam Trent of fusion media, the new bicycle mer of Coventry. Before we go over to learn more from the program’s founder, here’s my co host, David, with a word from our sponsor.
David Bernstein 37:37
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a long time loyal advertiser. You all know what I’m talking about. It’s Jenson USA at Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. I’ve been telling you for years now yours, that Jensen is the place where you can get a great selection Every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices and what really sets them apart, because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there. But what really sets them apart is their unbelievable support. When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors and these are cyclists. I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who who ride their bikes to and from work. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And, and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check them out. Jensen, USA, they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. We thank them so much for their support and we thank you for supporting Jenson, USA. Alright Carlton, let’s get back to the show.
Carlton Reid 39:04
Thanks David and we’re back on bicycle mares last year at velocity in Dublin. My colleague Laura Laker interviewed more devries, founder of the bicycle mauors programme. And also, she talked to Satya San Qur’an, bicycle mer of Bengaluru. And that’s the official name of Bangalore, in India.
I’m here in Dublin with Maud de Vries who is the leader of the Bicycle Mayors, which is an international global programme to introduce mayors to different cities around the world. Am I correct, Maud? Please tell me about …
Maud de Vries
Almost. So I’m one of the founders of BYCS, which is a social enterprise. And amongst others, we have the bicycle mayor programme, which it’s a network actually all over the globe. So tonight, we’re going to announce that we’re going to have the fifth bicycle mayor in the world. And that’s really, really cool. That’s fantastic. Yeah. Looking forward to that. So what the bicycle mayor’s do i think is they are the real change makers, our mission, the mission of bikes is 50 by 30. We want to get half of all trips by bike in 2030. Because we believe the bicycle transform cities and cities transform the world. So that’s what drives us. And that’s why we think it’s important for us to have as many bicycle mayors as possible.
So you say you started, you founded the bicycle mayors programme, and how did you do it?
Maud de Vries
Well, we started with one in 2016 to be precise. That was Ana and the bicycle mayor of Amsterdam. Yeah, if you remember. And then after Ana, quickly, we had some other ones. And then we thought, you know, we need to pull this because it’s really important. What we saw was bicycle mauors that felt really alone in the cities, you know, because they were working on getting cycling in,
They already existed in different cities in a different guises?
Maud de Vries
Yeah, they were already active as change makers and related to cycling or in different areas. So there were people like they saw the transformative effect of the cycle of the bicycle. And they really wanted to put effort into that and belong to this global network, I think as well
Were they tended to be appointed by the council’s by the local government, or were they sort of self appointed campaigners?
Maud de Vries
Yeah, so we have a two ways – so in Amsterdam, we have a big competition. And that really helps as well because we have so many cyclists already many people think maybe it’s good that I become the mayor because different mayor’s of course have different work plans. But in many cities, we also appoint them and then they need to send in a lot of endorsements, make a work plan, make a video as a big process that goes before that. And of course, we check if this is the right person. And then in the end, we often get help from the Dutch embassies, because they are abroad as well promoting cycling for more sustainable worlds, which is great. So such here for example, you are inaugurated by the by the ambassador of Bengaluru, which was really the I have to say the gen and the Consulur General of Bengaluru.
So for listeners we have with us Satya Sankaran. And if I pronounced your name correctly, you are the bicycle mayor of Bengaluru?
Yes, I am. So Bangalore is this nice, big city in the south of India. And it’s got the same problem that many urban centres have, right. It’s got a lot of [congestion]. It’s got a lot of pollution. And it’s from a developing nation which believes that cars are the future. So it’s a very interesting time to be a bicycle mayor in Bangalore.
Yeah. How did you become a bicycle mayor of Bangalore?
Maud made me a bicycle mayor in Bangalore. Interestingly, I’ve been doing a bunch of things like she says.
The past 10 years I’ve been looking at sustainable transportation and being an activist and campaigning and advocacy in all of those things. But just before the bicycle Mayor programme came in for about two to three years, we’ve been doing a lot of bicycle related related advocacy programmes, popularising bicycle less and more. And then came along this programme. And it kind of amplifies my voice there. You’re doing a bunch of things. And then there’s this whole bicycle Mayor with tips, big network of people and enablement by the organisation.
And what does that enable you to do? You’ve got support of the government?
It does well, so it gives lots of support.
Bikes themselves have a lot of support structures in place in terms of how you can craft campaigns, and what are the tools available to do a bunch of things. And the bicycle mayors themselves also come up with a lot of campaigns, you know, they have ideas about how to implement andbikes just pushes that along as well.
Yeah and BYCS is BYCS. Which stands for it stands for … nothing really
Just bikes but a different way. Just in case people are wondering, you’re referring to bikes, not bikes with magical powers, but bikes.org the organisation BYCS which is what you call your bicycle mayor programme.
Maud de Vries
So how long have you been bicycle mayor?
One year now. Last May, I guess, this May, I finished one year, June, July, 14 months now. Yeah.
And then what you’ve been doing in that time?
Lots of things. And one of the biggest things that I’m here for is the cycle to work programme that I launched. So I realised that while on one side, you need a lot of disincentives, which is very important, and the power of disincentives live with the government. And they are empowered to do that. Yeah. So they need to drive a lot of that what is in citizens hands, it is the incentives that you can give. So I looked at how do you enable incentives. So I identified that a large problem large part of the people who create the problem are in the tech industry in Bangalore, especially. And a lot of the upwardly mobile who buy cars are tech savvy. So I narrowed down on a technology platform, which kind of is a leaderboard. A leaderboard is one of the simplest ways of incentivizing …
Oh, it’s like a competition?
leaderboard. So three companies. Within companies?
Between companies. So I came up with that, and we had a platform where people track their rides to work. And then you make you make a leaderboard of companies, not of individuals of companies. So you drive collective action. If you incentivize individually, only incentivize them along. That’s also part of it. But the biggest thing is how do you collectively increase the number of riders on the road, so you incentivize as a collective. So you put companies on the leaderboard, and the individual strive to make that a competitive thing, the gamified it, the gamified that, so that’s what it is. So we did a nice gamification programme using the leaderboard. And it’s making a huge mark. Now we have lots of users, we’ve completed around 20,000 trips in the last 10 months.
We are adding three new riders every day, for the past eight months, on to the leaderboard, and we want to be hitting 200,000 kilometres this month. And that’s a massive thing. And this is only the ones we are tracking. There are lots of them, we haven’t yet begun to track.
Some people were cycling already, because I guess people are aware that Cycling is healthy for them.
Sure, but what but what the leaderboard does is it incentivizes the non riders to also ride because they the riders go and influence them just to make sure that their company comes up on the leaderboard. So it’s a very useful tool for incentivize, a simple gamification.
That sounds really innovative. And so more Is this the kind of stuff that different bicycle makers are coming up with by themselves and then, or I guess, as a collective, and then of course, you can share these ideas, because I mean, I love gamification, I totally buy into all of that. So that’s a fantastic idea, which I guess can spread.
Maud de Vries
I think it is a great example, Satya and I met also in October, during the bicycle mayor summit in Mexico City. And then together with Areli Carreon, she’s the bicycle mayor of Mexico City. The three of us signed up and will you because we really believe that work, a memorandum of understanding. It’s an official way of saying, Let’s collaborate. And that’s what we’re doing. So we’re collaborating on this idea of creating this leaderboard, which, Satya is creating, we are testing it in Amsterdam, and Areli will be using it as well. So and then, if we if we think it’s good enough, we can scale it, you know, that is one of the examples of a bicycle Mayor coming up with an idea. And sometimes we come up with an idea or product, and then we can share it. That’s the way forward we think.
Yes it sounds great. So you have this mission? How are you going to achieve it, I guess you’ve got all these different kinds of programmes around the world, and you got a sort of collective push that you’re doing something specific,
Maud de Vries
We have a we have a bikes eco impact system. So basically, what we do is we have all these ideas to inspire. So for example, the Bicycle Architecture Biennale or to grow or to be a leader, we have all examples of products or programmes or like things like to be another that we have. And then we channel that a little bit. And then we have a bikes lab, like we have here in Dublin during Velo-city, we’re going to extend that for another three months at Trinity College. And this year, because we want to, we want to have more labs in Europe as well and abroad. And we’re collaborating with the Dutch embassies a lot, you know, to just make sure that the bicycle mayor’s have a place where they can meet people where they can create, like, interesting ideas around insights that they already have, where they can then then test and pilot things in collaboration with their city. And then if it’s helpful, they can scan it.
Yeah. So tell me about the Bicycle Architecture Biennale, which you’ve just had last week, they come straight from one to the other. licencing .
Maud de Vries
Yeah, that’s crazy. So it’s and the second Bicycle Architecture Biennale, we launched the first one two years ago. And we’ve had so much attention around it. Because, you know, I think it’s, it’s a time when people don’t want to only talk about climate change, or air pollution and stuff, but also want to see things happen. And you know, why not invest in stuff that is really good, looks really good. You know, so we thought, let’s give some inspiration to cities and what we now see cities calling us and asking, you know, that bridge that you’re showing, maybe I want to have something similar my city because it connects like this part where we cannot build because people cannot go to the other side of the river, let’s say, you know, if they start developing in there, make sure that people can go by bicycle to the other side of the river where the city is, that’s massive, you know, so that unlocks massive economic, health and social. Yeah, possible. Yeah.
And so what are you hoping to get out of Velo-city? You’ve set up your own kind of side conference almost having you and you’ve invited loads of bicycle mayors over? And how many bicycle mayors have you got? What you going to do?
Maud de Vries
Well, I think in total, there will be six, seven, so not that much. But of course, flying as sometimes is a is a thing. We just talked about the flight from Bangalore to Dublin, which is the thing as well, we believe, you know, that we can only do that if if our impact is bigger than then the CO2 from the flight, let’s say, you know, so I think such a story needs to be shared about cycle to work, because that’s a big, impactful way of getting more people on the bike. I just got a message from friend that Facebook year, you know, so think about it stuck here all day in Dublin. And we really want to change that only ways getting out the class, you know,
Maybe the traffic in Dublin is really bad, isn’t it? It’s one of the worst in Europe for congestion. And
Maud de Vries
You’re totally right, it’s the second slowest in Europe.
And so Satya, you’re here to share your message. That’s why you’ve come to Dublin to share with the other bicycle mayors
So one of the things is to look at programmes which can incentivize people to get on the bike and work with the government to see how we can make such programmes to success and share the cycle to work story one of the things that we want to do is to take it global, the platform is already global of the block.
So you set up your own platform, this is a kind of rebuilt it.
Yeah, just build it. So we have tech partners that I’m working with. in Bangalore. Map Unity’s are delivering the technology.
It’s called cycle to work, but we’re going to rebrand it as bikes to work pretty soon, and we’ll launch it in many more cities, we have to discuss the modalities of which city is ready for deployment. And we would encourage more people to pick it up and run with it. One of the things is to make this, these kind of tech platforms encourage people to get on the bike and commute.
So let’s see how that goes. There’s a lot of stuff, there’s a lot of ground to cover. But we made a very good start. And it’s already seeing the impact. It’s made a lot of impact in the city of Bangalore. And it’s already making waves in other places.
And I guess these tech companies, maybe there’s parallels with Dublin, because in Dublin, a lot of tech companies have their European headquarters here. Facebook, LinkedIn, Groupon, Google, of course, the big one. So but these companies have a huge amount of a voice actually, don’t they? Because they bring a lot of money. They have a lot of employees. So if employees of these companies start cycling, and then maybe find the roads aren’t quite fit for purpose, then perhaps there’s a there’s a push from companies, local governments say what are you doing?
Absolutely. I think one of the key drivers of this is not the government, it is the businesses. So we are incentivizing companies so they can give benefits to employees. So in Bangalore, what’s happening is there are lots of companies which are coming forward and saying, Hey, I didn’t know so many of my people are by biking now. And now I can see them they used to be able to see. So Google and Facebook, for example. There are lots of employees in all over the world who already bike but quantifying them and making sure they count towards the larger good of the city. How do they compete, a lot of back to our programmes are companies specific. And for example, company x does a microloan programme, the people there do not know how many others are doing this.
They are not aware of how many others in the cities are doing that. So one of the thing is to create that visibility, saying that you are not alone. There are right now 183 companies on on that leaderboard. And most of them are from Bangalore. But once you scale, you will see thousands of companies where employees are riding. And it’s just that you can now measure the percentage of your employees who are actually coming by bike and the company can give incentives to transform. So this is kind of a traffic problem is caused by
the economics of the city, right? You have an economy and there are people travelling to work and back. So the problem can be solved by transforming that it’s a negative externality of that company, which can be solved by the company themselves saying that, hey, I’d like you to at least shift 20% or 50% off to the bike.
Yeah. Yeah. Because it’s great for the company as well, because people do who cycle take fewer days sick leave …
They weren’t making any conscious effort to say how you commute, they provision whatever the employee already does. So if an employee buys lots of cars, they go in and encourage more parking spots. So now all they need to do is if a lot of people are coming by bike, he won’t put more bike parking. So you just shift the paradigm a little bit and say, how can how can people commute differently, and you start providing incentives for that. Like in Bangalore, for example, people actually companies give you loans and allowances to buy cars and fill petrol on them.
You get an allowance for fuel. You don’t need to do that. Yeah, so you don’t need to do that you could say, when you come in here, so joining-bonus, take a bike
Or you know, give the money instead, give them a bike instead,
You can opt out of it, but you can still and it’s it’s less expensive to give them a bike and probably they will choose their place of residence based on what you give them. It’s it’s harder to commute short distances using a cab, because it’s physically not possible. So if you give them a bike, they’re probably settled down closer within a five kilometre radius. And the build form shapes itself to accommodate that. Because there are a lot of [opposition?] people who is like that there are a lot of immigrants coming into work, right? You got to the same in your country as well. So when they come in, they’re new, and they’re looking to buy a car. So give them a bike instead, they’ll live differently, and they will commute differently and the new, you change. From day one, when they join the company, you change the pattern of community. That’s incentivization.
Fantastic. It’s really interesting idea.
Maud de Vries
In the Netherlands, it’s the other way around. So the government really lead takes care of all the people that work at the government level, you know, so they give them to incentivize them to help the companies do it. So the companies became bit lazy, I think, you know, so they should get out of their chairs and say, hey, I want healthier and happier employees, you know, let’s get them go get them on the bike. But here in Dublin, that’s amazing as well, the Dublin cycling campaign, what they do, and lots of other people like such a you know, they just go to the companies and ask them, please help us you know, we need to get more people on the bike. And they do. They sponsor they help and have a great cycling to work campaign here in Dublin. I think that’s amazing. Work really big.
Wow. Thank you. Is there anything else you want to say about the bicycle mayor programme or plans for the future me and
Maud de Vries
Maybe what would be good to mention is that we also have a junior bicycle mayor. And that that was really good. It was later and she was a announced a year ago. In the Netherlands. Now we’re going to have the second one. On the fourth of July. Tomorrow morning at eight to 830. We’re going to have a junior bicycle Mayor for Dublin, which is easy.
Maud de Vries
Yeah. It’s so exciting. She’s really amazing. And she has a nice yellow bike, and she wrote a poem about it. So besides from the fact that she will be inaugurated to share her phone, at the lab? Yeah, that’s really good. That’s fantastic.
Yeah. And I think there’s a lot of power in in children saying this is what we want.
Maud de Vries
I think that’s amazing. And all the bicycle mayor’s picked that up as well. So in October, yeah, we agreed on starting a campaign called Cities Fit for Children. Because we believe that cities are fit for children, they are fit for everyone, you know. So let’s create cities fit for children. That is what we call out, go out for so we started that on the, on the Children’s Day from the United Nations.
Maud de Vries
And everybody now is really looking into how to get children on bikes as well. And Satya just reached out to me, in the Netherlans, we have this sort of bicycle bus. And he said, you know, we should have that in Bangalore as well, because of course, it makes kids more safe on the road as well. You know, do you know the bicycle bus?
When you have a group of children riding together, and they’re kind of chaperoned front and back? They do? Yeah, I do. Because it’s a separate machine. It’s not separate bicycles. It’s one machine,
Maud de Vries
One machine, but then they all have individual pedals.
I know like you see on the stag, the hen-dos travelling around town, and children.
Maud de Vries
It reminds me a bit of that. But you know, I think it is great, because right now, it’s really hard. Also, I just heard about an eight year old girl that was killed in traffic here, by bicycle. And these things are just horrible to me, I think we should think about where Amsterdam was 50 years ago, and 10,000 people went on to the streets and say stop killing our children. And that’s really that was a turning point for our city. And hopefully, many more cities will see that if they invest in making Cities Fit for Children. And that would be really good. First step.
Is that Did you see that? Working in India and Bangalore?
Yes, of course. So we’ve had a lot of success in getting children to understand and talk to their parents about this. Because when they, when they are convinced they are they have a lot of power in convincing the adults as well. If you tell an adult what to do, they generally don’t like it. What if their kids tell them what to do, they will kind of be a little embarrassed and actually do it. So but nevertheless, it’s more important for the kids to understand what is the future they are inhabiting, and how they need to start looking at all the things we have come to gotten us to car as the symbol of development fuel vehicle as the aspirational goal, these are all things that are in the past.
Global warming is a reality, and it’s going to hit them. And they need to understand what they are inheriting. And it’s important for them to start getting used to it right now. And I think we need to tell them and they are going to be the focus. And it’s for them that we are having to do all of these things. It’s it’s what we have done in the past, we have to start undoing now. And they need to realise that they need to step up and not go back to what we have done. The more successful we are in doing that, the better it is.
And we seeing this around climate change with children, Greta Thunberg passing off the school climate strikes and how powerful that is.
Maud de Vries
And I think the same thing for a little later became the first vice mayor, you know, and advantage of what she’s doing. She’s a she has actual tools, you know, so she can do something about it. And that’s really good. And that’s what I see happening all over the globe now as well that children want to step up, but they also want to change something you know, and the bicycle is a really good way of changing cities.
Yeah, wonderful. Thank you guys so much. And I look forward to seeing more about the bicycle mayors programme.
Maud de Vries
Hopefully and see tonight at the inauguration of Donna Cooney will be the bicycle mayor of Dublin, and she’s going to be the 50th bicycle mayor on the globe. So they’ll be exciting. Yeah,
Great. We’ve just been talking about your different bicycle mayors around the world. And I thought was so interesting. I wanted to ask you about them again. So you were telling me about your bicycle mayor in Mexico City and your bicycle mayor in Istanbul? Can you just tell our listeners, what you what you’re saying about them, and the impact that they’re having.
Maud de Vries
And the impact that they’re having is grand. And I’m so proud of them. So for example, Areli Carreon, who’s the vice mayor of Mexico City, she’s a great change maker. And for her the bicycle was the reason sort of to feel alive again. She was really at a bad moment in life, and she didn’t have any money, you know. And then by school, she was given a bicycle. And then she started. Yeah, to rehab, she was able to go to work again. And so for her, there was a big, big change maker from, let’s say, depression into a new phase of her life where she really thought this is something that really has a transformative aspect to it. And I really want to dedicate my life to this. Oh, wow.
So from there, she became an advocate.
Maud de Vries
Exactly. Yeah. And she’s like a really influential advocate. She’s one of the top 10 on Wikipedia of most influential women on Mexico. Wow. She is amazing. Yeah. So and just because of her drive, you know, to constantly work on getting more people on bicycles and making more people aware that you to change the rules, you know that they should make it safer. build roads and stuff like that. It’s really amazing. And so we have bicycle mayor’s like Murat Suyabatmaz in Istanbul, you know, if he rides, he has 10,000 people on bikes, just incredible. The Children’s programmes. He does, you know, impacting like, really, really many children’s lives. It’s really grand.
10,000 people on a bike ride? How does that work?
Maud de Vries
Yeah, like for him. He has a grant outreach ready, because he has been working in this. He has been working in the cycling field for longer. And he’s also a race champion. So he has a good outreach as well, as a former racer. Yeah, he said he wasn’t racing bike, and he won championships as well. So that that’s why a lot of people in Turkey know him already. And that’s when he thought, you know, he should start and work with this organisation that has this big outreach.
And I think what you BYCS? What do you mean, your your organisation? You mean? With like our
Maud de Vries
No, yeah, yeah. In total? Yes. You know, so tonight, we’re going to announce the 50th vice mayor. And I think also from such a, you know, the people that we have in the entire organisation right now the bicycle mayor’s the leadership that they show us in, it’s big, they’re impacting the lives of billions, I think, and that’s really, really amazing. And
how is it funded, do these funded kind of roles these guys come in?
Maud de Vries
So right now the bicycle mayor’s do this?
What to go voluntarily, and our organisation is a social enterprise. So what we do is we are from the Netherlands, and we come up with innovations and programmes in the Netherlands and we get paid for that by the government to do that. And the profits that we make from that work, we reinvest into the bicycle main programme. So that’s how we do it now. But of course, we need to be funds, soon to really get to 50 by 30, to really make change happen, you know. So yes, such a can come up with an exciting cycle to work programme, we can help him build and scale it, you know, but then in the end, of course, we need partners, and we need cities, to be interested in this, this as well, and to really help making the change in cities, organisations. It’s fun, it’s like companies. So we need all the help that we can get to really make this happen.
And you were saying that here in Dublin, you you have an installation outside of the main conference, which is open to everyone, obviously, their conferences, a paid event. But you’re going to be sticking around after the conference to kind of share some of the knowledge he was saying, and then hopefully pass that on within Dublin.
Maud de Vries
Yeah, so we’re going to be here from September to end of November, at Trinity College, in Dublin, working with the professors and the city of Dublin, to see you know, what insights do we get, you know, how can we use them to come up with pilots and innovation? So Dublin? And how can we change the situation here, because Dublin now is the second slowest city in Europe. And I think we should change that by implementing a bicycle. So I think we already make a really good start tonight by starting with the new bicycle mayor in Dublin, and tomorrow with a new Junior bicycle mayor, because the junior, of course will be impacting the children is here in Dublin. And I think, you know, building this bikes lab, which is in this case, a temporary facility really can make a difference where people can come together, they can collect insights, they can talk, they can do presentations. So it’s open to all people don’t have to pay a fee, or people don’t have anyone who wants to can do a talk over there. And then in the end, you know, we’ll make this part of something bigger. And we really want to make top down innovations and make it available for the city to implement
While doing the sort of grassroots bottom up stuff from the communities with the mayor’s and selves?
Maud de Vries
Yeah, we’re connected to that. And I think what we are good at is sort of giving them tools like, like, the Bicycle Architecture Bianele, which gives inspiration or the leadership, which is the bicycle mentor network, or, you know, we have lots of other things by bikes to work. And we have the lab where they can then come start me people. And we also have interesting campaigns and stuff, you know, but in the end, it’s like, it’s an idea where we can start this big movement around cycling, with these change makers and all these ideas, and also the tools to really, yeah, make it happen and get the cars out. And the bicycles in.
Thanks to today’s guests Adam Tranter, Maud de Vries, and Satya Sankaran, and thanks also to Laura Laker for allowing me to run that audio which she recorded for our podcast Virtual Velo-city, all episodes of which can be found online for free thanks to sponsorship from the Dutch Cycling Embassy.
OK, so this show is like those proverbial buses — you wait ages for one and then three come along at once. The next episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast will be published on our more normal schedule and, unless there’s something else breaking in the meantime, will be an interview with South African cycling activist and academic Njogu Morgan. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.
Peter Harrison has been staging races in Northumberland for many years, and he’s the founder and organiser of the Cyclone Festival of Cycling, a challenge-ride-based weekend of cycling that’s now been going for 14 years. Peter is also an industry veteran — he was Shimano-man for many years and owns a Newcastle bike shop.
This is rolling audio from a bike ride following part of the route of the Cyclone.
Carlton Reid 0:14 Welcome to Episode 237 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was published on Sunday 9th of February 2020.
David Bernstein 0:24 The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jenson usa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.theFredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:09
The Spokesmen cycling podcast is proudly internationalist. We had an urban planner from San Francisco on the previous show. And in a forthcoming episode, I interview South African bicycle activist and academic Njogu Morgan. But this focus on speaking to interesting folks from around the world often means I’m guilty of neglecting interesting folks local to me. I’m Carlton Reid, speaking to you from my home town of Newcastle. And on today’s show, I go for a bike ride in Northumberland, with a cyclist very well known in the North East of England. Peter Harrison lives about a mile away from me and when I go on club rides, not that often, but it’s with his club, the Gosforth Road Club. Peter has been organising cycle races in Northumberland for many years, and he’s the founder and organiser of the Cyclone festival of cycling, a challenge ride based weekend of cycling has now been going for 14 years. Peter is also an industry veteran. He was Shimanoman for many years, and he owns a Newcastle bike shop now. On our bike ride, following part of the route of the Cyclone, we discuss all of this and much more.
Peter, we’re standing outside the Falcons, the rugby ground and we’re actually at you covered here on a car. I’m not gonna hold that against you, Peter. But you got a sponsored car and I’ll mention your sponsor, so they get mentioned here so it’s sponsored by Wingrove Motor Company, and then a big panel on the side there says the Cyclone festival of cycling. So Peter, how can you get a car?
Peter Harrison 3:04
Well, I don’t actually get it for free to be to begin with let’s put it that way but I do get it at a discounted rate. And the That’s right. Yeah, the
the car is supply because I need it for the event on the event that I created 14 years ago. I would have a request from Newcastle city council to put on city centre racing, which I’ve done for South Tyneside Council
Carlton Reid 3:30
for 15 years. Yeah, yeah,
Peter Harrison 3:32
yep. 2006 I put on a city centre cycle race
for South Tyneside Council, and called the Geordie Grand Prix. And that morphed then into the Cyclone, where after I approached and approached Northern Rock to see that we’re interested in putting on me putting on an event that was a combination of the idea I had was a combination of an event. All rights for non competitive people plus competitive races, which was already putting on the bomont trophy, and also creating the city centre credit. So that’s where it started from 2000 2006 was just the criterium. 2007 was the first Cyclone. So this year will be the 14th Cyclone.
Carlton Reid 4:23
And it started this is why we’re at the Falcons. It starts and finishes here. And I’ve done this at least two or three times, that’s even four times out of those 14. So you start here and how many people do you get starting here?
Peter Harrison 4:36
Well, we get a very between about two and 4000.
What are the what the idea that I had when I created was I sort of had the idea of looking at the Great North Run and thinking right? I want people to ride their bikes instead of running but I’m not going to just give them one distance to do and everybody doing the same thing. So I created four different distances all who are The same route and then peel off at different places. And, and so all abilities all ages, and all levels of fitness could take part in it. But unlike Sagan, someone like the one where you’ve only got the one distance,
Carlton Reid 5:13
so I tell my kids so kids can do it, you know, little seven, eight year olds can
Peter Harrison 5:19
well, interesting you say that because the 34 mile, right? The youngest person ever to do the 34 mile ride was four years old, and young Jake Parker. And so we’ve had them we’ve had some very young kids do it. And the oldest of course, to do the hundred and six was 92. To date, it’s not 92 is that up there? No, no, not quite. I’m getting there, but I’m not quite so yeah, so different distances. I originally that was three distances. And then I took it up to four distances and have an for this year we got 34 miles, 65 miles, 93 miles and 116 hundred and hundred and eight miles. But it’s always stress it’s not a race. And we don’t give positions and its people out to enjoy themselves for the day. And the only caveat as opposed to some other events or some running events is you’re not allowed to wear fancy dress because I don’t want people to know someone dressed as a gorilla and having to be rescued
Carlton Reid 6:23
let’s let’s go from there then because people who don’t know the walls of Northumberland when you say the walls are not permitted, you mean the walls are not familiar. It can get pretty ropey out there and you’re in you’re in pretty pristine countryside with not a lot of cars around which is a huge attraction of course, to describe the route and describe how remote it can get for the guys doing there.
Peter Harrison 6:43
Right if we take the the hundred eight mile route, we’re heading out from from Newcastle from the Falcons and we’re going up and through dinnington up through the towards frontierland but then heading up through Walton once you get up to Well know you’re up to ball and you’re starting to get bolam late you’re starting to get out in the countryside once you pass there then you don’t through Nether when and down towards rough buddy through rough buddy. So you’re getting that little bit more into the country and some spectacular scenery and drug side and of course where you know a very famous place and and then we you head off towards oh and by this time of course you’re up into the achievements and you’re right up and really getting into some remote countryside. From there you’re heading over towards and
just gonna think about this year
Carlton Reid 7:46
14 years Peter Come on I know that I
Peter Harrison 7:48
know. I know the road to well I know so many roads. I’m trying to think where I am and you’re up from Alwinton and you’re over towards towards Elsdon through towards Otterburn and over all the ranges, the army ranges and then you’re up into the Kielder forest and eventually dropping down towards Humshaugh over the Tyne and then back down towards Stamfordham and Stamfordham. And before that, of course you’ve got the last little sting in the tail I put on this one they’ve already done a heck of a lot of climbing that once you get into Stamfordham, but I just before Stamfordham, I mean you’ve got the Ryals, and which are notorious in racing circles as well as
Carlton Reid 8:35
that that killer little, little climbs but they’re killing
Peter Harrison 8:39
Well, it’s a one point it’s a 1.3 mile claim. And the middle section of it is 33%. And evidently I get called a lot of choice names. And on that particular that particular part of the route, but three of the four rates converging go back up the the the rails this The shortest 34 miler doesn’t go up there and we will keep the families and kids away from their small ruling the way that they go so they’ve got an agenda right we’ve got feed stations and situated and village halls around the and the whole of the route and and then there are some unofficial ones such as the one that Whalton where the school bakes cakes and everything else they do an unofficial one and they normally make quite a bit of money for the for the school each year just doing that I just allow them to do what the one and so there’s plenty of places to stop round goal of the roots there’s plenty of the scene is very good but yes, it can get it can be beautiful and sunny and warm down here at the farm. Let’s Let’s go Yeah, yeah. And then we get once you get up into the wilds
Carlton Reid 9:55
because what what time of the air is it?
Peter Harrison 9:57
Well it’s a it’s the end of June. So it has been known for it to be beautiful and sunny down at the Falcons and then actually hail stalling around into the achievements and the key Akilah. And so writers are always warning and it says all in the end the advice and instructions for people taking part making sure that they’ve got a road where the bike
and that they’re doing a right that
they’re doing the right within the capability. So that the we don’t get people getting into real distress, hopefully, and that’s what happens. But of course we do have ambulances stationed at all the different feed stations in case of any emergencies. We do have paramedics going around in cars, we’ve got service vehicles from Shimano going round in case of any mechanic goals. And we also have the Danny g the national Escalade group, which are motorcycle outriders who basically patrol the whole route. And they make sure that the everybody is safe and obeying the rules of the road. And if there are any difficulties can report back and then we’re all linked up by and radio comes back to event HQ.
Carlton Reid 11:26
So you don’t write it down assuming
Peter Harrison 11:29
I’ve written to every one of the root cause but not but no,
Unknown Speaker 11:35
no, no, no, no. My my weekend starts. Well obviously starts weeks before and but we start on the Friday night with the family right down on the time. The time six bridges starting and finishing down here the US burn and right just 10 and a half miles and and 15 and a half miles for kids and families. Just a enjoy themselves it’s all all off road. And when I say off road it’s actually the strange route. So the traffic three and we get very young families taking part and, and we also and people who are just real novices
Carlton Reid 12:19
so like the London to Brighton and rides like that this is something that probably a lot of people this is that one big ride of the year.
Peter Harrison 12:27
Yeah, for a lot of people it is.
I mean, but we do get people who take part in a number of these different I call them challenges. I don’t call them sport ease. I don’t like the word. I think it’s too elitist. But we call them challenge rage. And yes, some of the nican one big right of the year, particularly the families and kids and making it and of course before we
Carlton Reid 12:53
were gonna go right okay, (some of the kids) we’re on the Ponteland road here.
Gonna go past the airport. Is this part of the route?
Peter Harrison 13:02
it well, it’s part of the coming back in. Coming back in Yeah, yeah. So the so we’ll start off on the Friday night to see with the family right. Then the sadhya, the four different rides that I’ve been talking about.
And, and then on the Sunday we have
and races and for some of the top right and in fact some of the top riders in the world. I mean, for example, in 2011 Bradley Wiggins won the Beaumont trophy when it was when it was actuallyg the national road race championships. And Lizzie Armistead, Lizzie Deignen as, she is now she actually won. She won the women’s race and in 2018 both the Beaumont under covers your call it with the men’s and women’s national championships.
Unknown Speaker 13:59
And it was One man’s event was won by Connor swift, Ben Swift’s cousin.
Carlton Reid 14:07
Is the Beaumont part of the Gosforth?
Peter Harrison 14:10
Well, the Beaumont trophy. Is it? Yes, it’s, it’s owned by the gospel through a clip of which I’m chairman. And it’s been. It’s the longest, longest running road race in the UK. And it was it was created 1952 by m, and the trophy was awarded or given to the godless World Cup by a guy called Rex Beaumont n a cycle wholesalers in Newcastle. And it’s it’s been running now, for a while this will be the 69th year, every year every year, we know break and I’ve been putting on for the past 43 years. So it’s been it’s a very well established road race. As I say, we’ve had some of the top. The top writers in the world writing, Wiggins Cavendish, even going back years ago people like Malcolm Elliott, one is m. m. The person who was one of the most actually is a guy called real weather or who’s a ne Lord and re one at five times in in the 60s in the 70s. And he rewrote for JP and he wrote the milk race and everything else. So it’s, it’s so And finally, the very first year it was run. It was won by a guy called Stam blend that was done. Blair was a professional for Viking cycles. And he wanted and in those days that this actually started and finished in Gosford Park and came out, you wouldn’t believe it could do it now, but actually came got the high street and out into the wild from from from there. And that was, of course, the early 50s Very few causes about
Carlton Reid 16:01
when there’s also a lot of conflict between British cycling and the road time trials Council.
Peter Harrison 16:06
Well, well, well, well, no, no.
Carlton Reid 16:11
tandem has gone past Yeah. And
Peter Harrison 16:18
and the British cycling Federation was formed in 1959. And as it was a split it had been the old British legal rate racing cyclist vl RC and they, they they sort of splitting away from the ncu who the time filing because the ncu didn’t want open road races in UK. So for the first it would be the first seven years at the Vermont run. It was actually run under BLC rules.
Carlton Reid 16:57
That event was basically smack bang in the middle of that Particular icon.
Peter Harrison 17:00
Oh, yes, yeah, yeah, very much so. And then, of course, in 59, British, the British cycling Federation was formed. I actually became a member of British cycling in 1961. So two years after it was formed, and I’ve been a member ever since. So, so let’s go
Carlton Reid 17:23
into that long history, Peter. Because I know I take the Nick out of you when your events and stuff and I say you know, you were there in the bone shaker days and stuff. But yeah, have been around a long time. So 61 thing a BC member? And what about a gossip row club man?
Peter Harrison 17:42
Well, that was the era joined the Gosforth Road club. Yeah, I joined it. I joined the Gosforth Road club. It was about the April of 1961.
Carlton Reid 17:50
And I’m going to
date you here. How
old were you?
Peter Harrison 17:53
Well, I was when I was 14. When I joined.
Carlton Reid 17:55
I why’d you join? What is that family thing?
Peter Harrison 17:58
Ain’t no no Wish I was already at school in Tynemouth most played rugby was quite.
Carlton Reid 18:06
You’re not from Newcastle?
Peter Harrison 18:07
No, I’m from Edinburgh. Exactly. So how
Carlton Reid 18:09
let’s go backwards. So why why is a Scot in Newcastle at this time?
Peter Harrison 18:15
Well what happened was and I was born just after the last war and in Edinburgh 42 killed Dr. x still remember the address and and my father was a captain in the Royal Artillery in the last war. He got demobbed in 1946 and my mother and he got married. My father was working, got a job working for OSHA’s brewery in Edinburgh and and became a brewer there. He then got offered a job working and as head Brewer at Robert geocache which is now on Sunday for God is that so No, not no flatter. No. Yeah, yeah. So we came down from Edinburgh. In the early 60s I’d, I’d want to kill the whole of my young life until we came to the castle and fight the first year. Warren New Castle I was sitting the crowd site Primary School wearing a kilt. So So, so anyway, then I went to Kings. And there was a crowd of us kings actually, and some of the friends hadn’t gossip with by this time. And when you heard about the, the Satan Club, which was actually based in the old conservative club rooms, and other conservative party rooms at South Casa and so we went along. Oh, howdy. pretty inexpensive bites. I think mine came from Northern mode as second hand road bike. And because I was playing rugby in the winter, and doing stuff that took care of that, but there was no sporting stuff to do in the summer because I wasn’t really in there, and a cricket and a king’s at the time, there wasn’t athletics. So we joined the gospel through club, and I got immediately hooked. In fact, I’ve still got some school reports where my PE teachers knowing that I was pretty sporty. Sort of lamented the fact that I wanted to race bikes, as opposed to take him any form of athletics because I was a reasonable runner as well. So yeah, it went from there. Did you 14 years
Carlton Reid 21:00
So you joined the club to race
Peter Harrison 21:02
where no club lunch. It was a social thing. It was something to do on a Sunday.
Carlton Reid 21:07
Because this in this 1961 you’re basically this is when Cycling is absolutely dying. Cycling is you know, like Dutch levels of cycling in 1949 by 1969 1970 you’ve got the 2% 1% we’ve got now so it was dying a death so you
Peter Harrison 21:29
No, no, I disagree. It wasn’t dying a death in fact.
Club a very vibrant because it was something for kids to do on it on a Sunday and for all the people that do on a Sunday, because it was it was very little the cycling done on the Sunday. It was always on a Sunday in your Sunday club. Right. And, I mean, we used to be out all day on a Sunday at the age of 15. And I was doing sort of hundred and 20 miles every every Sunday with a club
Carlton Reid 21:56
and how many how many people are going out and he runs how many is in the club right?
Peter Harrison 22:00
Those days there was about about 30 or 40 in the club from as far back as any member. And yes, it was a Racing Club. That’s why it was called the Gosforth Road club. It was actually a spinoff from the Ridley cycling club. Because clubs zoning, and races were only allowed to put teams of four in any one race. And the young lads in there really couldn’t get a risk. So the form the Gosforth Road club, and it
I took his colours actually, which I’m wearing today.
Carlton Reid 22:32
Very white and green, green.
Unknown Speaker 22:35
And it took it those colours from Gosforth urban district council, and the badges actually got urban district council as well. The club badge. So we started on code runs. And there was a there was a few other clubs at the time. There were pretty vibrant around the time the Gosforth was formed or just after, for example, the Barnesbury CC See, the bonds we see see was named after. That was the street that used to meet and in Byker, Barnesbury road, and that’s how the Barnesbury really got its name. The Tyne Electric, who were electricians at Swan Hunters, and that was how that clip gotta stay. We had the Tyne Olympic, then some clubs would try and use continental name. So we have things like the Tyne Velo. There’s a myriad of clubs at the time. Some of them pretty big, but it was all about long social rides in the winter, and then racing in the summer so I started the race as a school boy at the age of 14.
Carlton Reid 23:53
So this is when you’re learning the roads of Northumberland basically, you’ve been taken out into the
Peter Harrison 23:58
wild Yeah, we used to have a guy in the club then Spud Tate and sport would have a map, but he’s back pocket. And we would go where we’re writing and get us to, to remember pubs around where we’re writing it. And you learn all these roads. There was no, obviously no satnavs, no Garmins. I don’t know I still don’t use Strava. And there was nothing like that. On you just you got on and you went down roads. I wonder where this goes. All right, this comes here. And it got ingrained in every single road and no fumbling. No just not familiar but Durham as well.
Carlton Reid 24:41
And you knew exactly
Peter Harrison 24:44
where to go, how long it would take the distances between every every road, every village of
Carlton Reid 24:53
DO you know Peter just noticed that that looks quite new. There’s like a green cycle strip on this major roundabout at the airport. And potentially that’s today with the you got here on the Cyclone?
Peter Harrison 25:05
Well, yes, you do without that British trip accesible is farcical the thing of
Carlton Reid 25:10
it is this is ridiculous. I’ve never seen it before. And it’s crazy, but still it stays there. So that’s that. Yeah, yeah.
Peter Harrison 25:16
Yeah. I mean, I, along with one of the other members of the Gosforth Road road I rode the Tour of Ireland when when I just turned 20 in 1967.
And continue to race through university
and continue your,
Carlton Reid 25:35
what were you doing in university Peter, subjects subject?
Peter Harrison 25:39
Well, actually originally turned to be a teacher. After being a teacher for a few years, I went back to uni again. And by then there was a degree in, in education so I did a Bachelor of Education. The club itself went through a period by by the early. Yeah, the very early 70s. The teenagers who have been in the club together and had all decided to, for various reasons, give it up and or others went to join other clubs. And some of the older ones just popped in. And at one point, I was the only member of the Gosforth Road Club for a number of years and kept it going.
Carlton Reid 26:32
Truck behind (Yeah, yeah.)
On that cut, either. David. David, take it away.
David Bernstein 26:40 Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a long time loyal advertiser. You all know what I’m talking about. It’s Jenson USA at Jensonusa.com/the spokesmen. I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jensen is the place where You can get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices and what really sets them apart. Because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there. But what really sets them apart is their unbelievable support. When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors and these are cyclists. I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who who ride their bikes to and from work. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check them out. JensonUSA, they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. We thank them so much for their support and we thank you for supporting Jenson, USA. All right, Carlton, let’s get back to the show.
Carlton Reid 28:06
So now come through Ponteland and we are away from the road on the road that we just left the face of the road that’s gonna go up to Scotland. So this road here, Will inferi be slightly less busy, should have slightly irate motorists as we get past the little town of pontoon. So Peter, you were telling us about your teaching career before we came through content and then we had stopped talking? So we’re here to turn your teaching career then? Is it so Newcastle?
Peter Harrison 28:37
Well, I started I started my teaching career teaching in northwest Alberta teaching Indians, Blackfoot Indians neski mosun you name it. Now burden
Carlton Reid 28:49
that while you add that you like you emigrated or
Peter Harrison 28:52
and I technically I immigrated as a London Canadian immigrant, but I was only out there for just over a year because I couldn’t ride the bike during the winter. I was still a member of the gossip. And but I yeah, you said my mother used to send out my cycling weekly every week in the post they used to get every two weeks later. And yeah, so I taught there for just over a year. And then I came back. It went over the east to Canada to meet my brother but he decided to go to Australia. They have a long story there. But then then I went from there. And and then in the UK, I taught at various schools, Newcastle. I mean I was head of head of biology at World world will not least. And then in 77, my brother had come back from Australia and decided to change his direction. And we are the restaurant and some health food shops. And you can So we’re way ahead of that time at the time in what we did. Country Fayre, people still remember how to create these little Empire. shops around Newcastle girl says Jasmine, big restaurant sending your castle. And then we sold out. And brother went off to he went off to America at that point. I put money into buying M. Steel Cycles, because that’s what I learned in my lot of my craft, about working on bikes when I was a kid. Because I work for Geoff Dobson at M. Steels when I was a young teenager.
Carlton Reid 30:42
So this bike shop no longer exists to explain. Now that file did a few years ago, when I had been going since the 1890s. A very, very old shop.
Peter Harrison 30:52
Well, yeah, originally it was it was it was the M steel. It was a guy called Matthew steel. Who was attract right the turn of the century and a guy called geoff Dobson. Geoff bought it and the it would have been a very well the late 50s actually asked me give up the RAF and I started work there as a kid on a Sunday when I was about 15 because that’s what we used to go to get our cycling stuff
Unknown Speaker 31:30
and and move various places but yeah, it’s no longer there. But I came out from
Peter Harrison 31:42
the restaurant and health food shops.
Unknown Speaker 31:54
And then I am a full money buying M Steel’s because Geoff wanted and I wanted to business with Dave Yates and Joe Waugh, and we’ll set up a factory building frames and and have the retail side not on the retail side. And then in 86 and I was headhunted by Erol Drew of Madison to go on, really set up the Shimano side of it in the UK.
Carlton Reid 32:22
So he was Freewheel. He was the guy who started Freeheel he then left eventually for america and i believe he’s still in the industry. He’s at Delta Corporation.
Peter Harrison 32:32
That’s right. He’s got Delta Corporation.
Started off him and Brian Stewart started off with a secondhand bike shop. And in West Ham said, no free will. It was three wheel Yeah, yeah. And then he, the booth could come from LSE, London School of Economics. And a little Brian was an accountant. Actually Did all the design work? So when they had the freewheel shop, they started a small catalogue of stuff to sell, not online, but to sell through the catalogue. And they started to import stuff from the UK. So from the US
Carlton Reid 33:19
kind of stuff.
Peter Harrison 33:20
Yeah, yeah. And they started doing a lot of their own branding. They would rebrand stuff. very innovative in the way that they did that Aztec. Yeah, Aztec. Yeah, yeah. Red S. Yes, NuTrak. Lots of lots of stuff like that. And once they got free, we’re going to their new wholesale side of the business. And an 86 middlemore’s had been the same auto import as for the UK, but we’re doing that didn’t have the code to do it. Very well an adult persuaded Shimano that he could do a better job. And this is still
Carlton Reid 34:05
when SunTour and Shimano I would probably equal a
Peter Harrison 34:10
notion to be bigger than Shimano in the UK. Yeah, for bigger I mean some job provided all rally with all our bikes with them when I’m SunTour. And Ron Kitching was the the important and he was a very astute operator was wrong then and then.
So they took
so so when
when the on the wholesale side of it, they decided to call it Madison after Madison Square Garden spent the first six years in part and I went to work for them in 86. And when I was there 20 years we’re a pretty small company. There was this relatively turn over about a million pounds a year. I turn my left it was like 6070 million a year.
Carlton Reid 35:02
So you were Shimanoman for a while. Yeah. Literally your your your job title, but you were like branded as a Shimanoman.
Peter Harrison 35:13
very much so.
Carlton Reid 35:16
And what was that, what was Shimanoman?
Peter Harrison 35:18
Yeah, well, I was in charge of all the technical side, ranging the products and doing trade shows. I mean a jack of all trades at the time working on event, of course, that sort of morphed into working on major major events, and liaising directly with Shimano Europe.
Carlton Reid 35:41
But this time, Shimano is rapidly accelerating past SunTour. SunTout becoming very small. And so Madison stroke free will, is basically riding that wave. I mean, this is a global phenomenon that’s happened and they’re right about it. They’ve got the right brand at the right time. Yeah, you have Sean as you know now you’ve got some honour you’re there you’re the leading distributor because everybody tonight
Peter Harrison 36:07
yeah I mean Raleuigh still had some and Terry Bowles my old boss suddenly now dead Terry and I I took because I knew everybody in the industry or a lot of people in the industry and from retail one thing or another and I took Terry to meet rally and various other people and you know gradually got stronger and stronger hold on Shimano in the UK because first the agreement Shimano had with and with Madison Riley was at rally would handle all the low end stuff. And Madison would only have the middle and high end stuff. But we gradually wean him away from that and of course, having been associated We’re bikes all the time. And interested in the technical side. I wanted us to be not just distributors of the product, but provide that technical backup. And that was why and we’re, well, I sort of with it. The leading person for one of a better word on this. This is how we actually set up a Shimano server send this to me to make dealers have that technical knowledge and expertise. So set up the Shimano service centres, and roll that out through the UK to company dealers, who had already been going to see and somebody who I knew from a racing days and everything else, and then we took a term and of course that’s now being rolled out around Europe. And further.
Carlton Reid 37:55
And then you left Madison. Yeah. Where’d you go from
Peter Harrison 37:59
that? Well, was it What happened was, I was doing technical training because actually, myself and a couple other people in the UK and created the site tech qualification for cycle mechanics. I use my expertise as an ex teacher.
Carlton Reid 38:15
Outside of it sounds Albert shopsmith. Yes. From the association socrata is one of them.
Peter Harrison 38:21
Yeah. I was doing the technical training side of it. And and when it became an envy Q, and Terry, Terry both decided that I should do part of the work for Madison and part art and thought with the Aylesbury Training group, as a trainer and assessor, and I sort of had to live with it. I wouldn’t say I was particularly happy about it, but I had to live with it. So did that for a few years. And then try Charlie around the UK trying to train certain mechanics Who wouldn’t? Interested in businesses they weren’t particularly interested they just won the qualification and got over actively doing not about
12 years ago now.
And Cyclelogical the cycle shop, came up for grabs a number of reasons. And so I just have bought that. But by this time, of course I was
I was over 60
and have the business running under my running into management began with wasn’t helping you it was going control back on there. And then of course, in 2011, by which time I’d already created the cyclone been going for four years. So I was very much involved with that. And then it caused a major crash.
Carlton Reid 40:06
Yeah, tell us about that. Because that was abroad on a .
Peter Harrison 40:13
was actually Yes, I was on a
trip to the Orbea factory, cuz you’re distributing Orbea. And
we’re on a big descent we’re on bikes in the factory. Now whether it was because I wasn’t particularly used to that bike. And just outside Bilbao in the, in the Basque Country, and I am I always be known as a very fast descent. No one was a racing cyclist, very fast. In fact, an ex World Champion said it was a bloody maniac. And he didn’t quite use those words. He said it was very fast. And the break I was on and we don’t know why. And nobody knows why to this day. It happens bike went into a Speedway when I was doing 60 miles an hour. Consequently I came off and ended up in intensive care and Bilbo.
Carlton Reid 41:11
You had a lot of broken bones 30 broken bones. So you’re in hospital across there and then you were medivacced out?,
Peter Harrison 41:21
no, I was it. I was in intensive care and buildbot I was flown back to the UK. I was in the RVI for several months. I mean, I had obstruction vertebrae in my neck, shattered my collarbone. 21 breaks my ribs and broke my pelvis in two places. So I did a pretty good job of it.
Carlton Reid 41:45
And without wishing to say too much, but at that age, they’re pretty major injuries at that age. So looking on the bright side, the fact that you’re a dead fit cyclist probably helped you anyway. Yeah, recovery.
Peter Harrison 41:58
Yeah, it’s Certainly dead. And, and I’ve also had this
I suppose I will do things
and get back from injuries. I mean when I played rugby I was used to injuries as a racing cyclist and I did racer 20 we’re on the road racer 23 years. So quite used to injuries. Yeah. And then I raced as a as a veteran when mountain bike first came in. And in the days of rigid forks, and we read mountain bike race is no days, what about three hours long and will reject folks and I raised a national level four years ago as a veteran, but then from that I had to trade as much as when I’ve been training as a youngster for the road when I wrote race the track as well. Road trucks across.
Carlton Reid 43:02
So you’re dead fit, you still go out on the rides with the Gosforth every every weekend. Your fitness probably helped you with the crash even though the crash was caused by cycling right. But I can’t have been very good for your business and not to give it up in the hospital
Peter Harrison 43:17
for a while for about four years. I couldn’t do anything in the business. In fact, I couldn’t get rid of it because I wasn’t there. And I’d have stuff in it haemorrhaging money for a number of years. We’re going through a pretty lean patch.
Carlton Reid 43:35
Now and this has been a pretty lean pack pizza, it’s it’s been a rough four years, everybody
Peter Harrison 43:41
very rough. And then an actual fight is one of the reasons of course, as you know, some why some have gone down and some of the bigger change. I mean, I used to carry 100 bikes in stock. I think I’ve got four in stock now. I get them in to order.
The one thing that of course it
Unknown Speaker 44:04
costs industry such as online kind of do is to kind of prepare you
Peter Harrison 44:10
for the main stage Oh yeah.
And we’re talking about quite technical stuff.
I mean, just recently did a course on
and the Shimano steps e bikes and do bike fitting
di to diagnostics and all of this stuff. Still, I still get people in the industry, particularly on some of the older stuff. Follow me up and asking me how about this how do you do this comfortable?
Carlton Reid 44:44
Well as the first thing he asked me this morning when you when you turned up and you sold me on this by examiner Specialized Diverge that Specialiaedvery kindly sent me and the first thing you asked me it wasn’t like hi can’t hide. It was like so what Alright, so he’s asking us technical questions about a particular hydrolyze exam go on here and it goes I’m an absolute Luddite when it comes to learning by x i don’t mean by as I get into a bike show I make you I make bikers money Peter on the idea of customer well yeah yeah yeah
Peter Harrison 45:21
you know my workshops are some of the well both at home and at work some of the best equipment around and I’m always getting I’ll go for the latest tools and we should have got the best
Carlton Reid 45:38
says that the saving grace for the bike industry in that you’ve got to have the specialist tools because a lot of stuff you can’t do at home. No, no, you can’t have Yeah, absolutely going to invest in tonnes of stuff and then then, you know, the latest bottom bracket standard comes out your stuff does a home consumer doing these things, whereas like John’s gotta invest in everything.
Peter Harrison 45:57
Well, they give you some idea my tools – and this is apart from things like the cabinets and the benches and the compressor, stuff like this – I’ve got about 25,000 quids worth of tools in the shop. I mean, some of the tools are over 1000 quid
Carlton Reid 46:14
for 1000 quid was a tool that’s 1000 quid,
Peter Harrison 46:17
and some of the bottom bracket tops. Thompson faces. Yeah, so I mean, the tooling is an integral part of it and, and of course the knowledge how to use it. It’s no good having, you know, and what always makes me laugh is I get people coming in the shop. pretty regular basis. Oh, I’ve done this and it didn’t work. But instead, this is how you do it on YouTube. And I go I right fine. YouTube’s one of my greatest allies because people are always going to destroy things watching amateurs shown what I do different jobs on YouTube, then I mean, there are some good YouTube’s on some people like showing you how to actually use the tools that a lot of people won’t want to buy those tools, as I said, because they’re very expensive. And, and then, of course, the latest technology and me, I’m just your bike there, I know you’ve got internal cable routing for your hydraulic brakes. Now, Joe public, knowing how to first of all, read, put a new hose it never gets damaged. First of all, they’ve got to have the tools to really feed the horses through nowhere to go and how to do it, then they’ve got to have the tools to actually reflect the the colours and the persons, etc. and how to bleed the brakes. And the reason I was asking about those mixes smoting was because the brakes that you’ve got on there, you should be what they call the closed system using dot for fluid, which I believe this still are. Shimano is an open system using mineral oil. And there’s a whole load of health implications, particularly with adult fluids using them and because they are highly corrosive, that’s what you’ve got gotten car braking systems, open systems are easier to work with. And Shimano has got patents on a lot of that stuff. So other manufacturers have developed their own systems, as I say, some core systems. I mean, the old avid ones absolutely horrendous to work on doing a reverse bleed with to two sets of
injections systems, just
absolutely different syringes. Sure, there’s a lot to know that what you do.
Carlton Reid 49:05
So the more tech that bikes get it’s harder for consumers. But better for bike shops.
Peter Harrison 49:13
Yeah. And this is a way that the independents have gotten it are the ones who in this savvy,
Carlton Reid 49:20
but does that not also make it that consumers go “oh, sod that” too difficult now? Or do you think it’s like cars? Well, people just do not know how to do a car. They’re quite happy putting it into a garage that’s the way it’s got to go?
Peter Harrison 49:33
Well, yeah, I mean, if you if you bought it, you know, let’s face it, a two or 3000 pound bike, which isn’t uncommon now. And something goes wrong. You don’t go Oh, just took it away. It was a 200. Goodbye. Yes. Not 2000 quid bike, and about like your car. You don’t go. I’m not using it because I don’t know what to do.
And I kind of fix it. You got it fixed.
Of course, a lot of people think that having a bike repaired should be cheap. Whereas, you know, they’ll pay 50 quid for someone just to come out and look at your washing machine. Nevermind do anything to it.
Carlton Reid 50:20
But people pay cars they don’t seem to mind the expertise that like car mechanics are supposed to have. And yet they look down their noses some people do at bicycle mechanics as well you can’t be as as proficient so I shouldn’t be spending 50 quid an hour for this. So you’re going to have that for a long time or don’t change.
Peter Harrison 50:42
That’s it’s an interesting comment that that was a vision because comic comics know for the most part. Yes, you call them mechanics, but a lot of them I just mean is guys, the replace the whole unit whereas with bikes Because of the mix and match, as the school there, were there the kids are gone from. And when it’s mix and match, then the body mechanic has gotten a workout. Whether it’s compatible, if it does work, if it doesn’t work, why all of these problems he’s going to solve. car mechanics don’t do that. If the computer says no, in a car guy in a garbage, then the mechanic goes, don’t know what to do. Whereas a bike shop, you kind of plug in, but you can’t be a DI to diagnostics. You’re kind of plugging your bike to find out that your hangar is bent into Mills, or a chain that you’ve got 10 to chin, because you’ve been clever for you being clever and potentially Chin on a nice v system and wonder why it doesn’t work. More often than not, I’ve only had this chain on three years. Yes. I’ve only had this chain on three years. Why are the gear jumping? Surely change should last forever. What did you said your car? Somebody in a garbage? If they say yeah come belt needs changing it so many miles. You go okay fine. It has to be done.
Yeah, no bike mechanics are undervalued.
Carlton Reid 52:43 Thanks to Peter Harrison. You can get more information on the cycling festival of cycling at Cyclonecycling.com. The 2020 event takes place over a weekend at the very end of June. Thanks to you listening to today’s show. There are 236 others in our gargantuan back catalogue. Subscribe in your favourite podcast catcher to get future shows. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.
Carlton Reid 0:14 Welcome to episode 236 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was recorded on Thursday February 6 2020.
Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to episode 236 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was recorded on Thursday February 6 2020.
David Bernstein 0:24 The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at the Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen..
Carlton Reid 1:09 Hi there. I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show, I’ve got interviews with an India born American urban designer and a Norfolk hospital doctor. The connection? My recent articles on Forbes.com.
The anonymous Dr. X is the cyclist involved in a shocking road rage incident captured by a following motorist’s dashcam.
But first row the interview with Geeti Silwal of Perkins Will. She was one of the prime movers behind getting cars off Market Street in San Francisco.
This initiative is just over a week old and boosted bicycling from the very first day.
First of all, congratulations on on
getting Market Street. I’d like to say I wouldn’t. I’m not going to say closed. Because it’s not closed. It’s only just closed to motor vehicles. It’s not actually as many people say the road is closed, is it? Right?
Geeti Silwal 2:14
That’s right. And it’s not closed to motor vehicles, too, it’s just closed to private cars. So you have, you have the transit and you have commercial vehicles, you have emergency vehicles, and you have taxis still plying. So there are vehicles it’s not all it’s not all vacated for people as yet.
Carlton Reid 2:40
Was there much doom and gloom from media beforehand of saying well, this will cripple the city? Let’s see what happens you know tomorrow and then everybody’s surprised? What’s what’s been the media response before and after?
Geeti Silwal 2:54
Well, the media definitely I think it’s there’s a lot of excitement and there’s a lot of buzz
about really we are reclaiming our streets and we have an opportunity to kind of experience our city in a completely different fashion. To be honest, I personally think that it might not have changed the experience of pedestrians because we have stolen our sidewalks and there are still vehicles kind of moving in the on the lanes. But if you were to walk Market Street today compared to what it was even last week, it just is a huge change because the number of vehicles in the lanes are so few. And fortunately for people like me who love to jaywalk, I could just cross even when there was a red light and not feel that I was going to be hit by a vehicle but just felt so peaceful, so comfortable and just a completely different place. And I think what I’ve noticed is people are actually talking about it on the streets likeif you want to eavesdrop on pedestrians then
And people that are just crossing the street . Everybody’s talking about, ‘oh, I took transit. And you know, this was so fast, it’s so much better.’ So there’s a positive kind of vibe and a response from media and people in general.
Carlton Reid 4:01
And then on social media, I saw lots of photographs
of the day it actually happened with lots and lots of cyclists. So has that carried on as the cyclists have have carried on coming along the street?
Geeti Silwal 4:33
I think we’ll we’ll definitely Market Street has always been a very popular street for bicyclists. So during commute time you do see a lot of people, a lot of bicyclists. I think people will start getting used to the fact that ‘Oh, this is so much more safer’ than trying to kind of avoid Market Street and find other routes to get around. And I think in coming days, we’ll probably see the
bicyclists mass grow in number that Market Street has always been popular so and during commute hours. there’s always heavy
Carlton Reid 5:12
And I better just ask because Market Street is not like some minor side road Market Street is like a spine road through the centre of downtown San Francisco, isn’t it?
Geeti Silwal 5:25
That’s right. That’s right. It is our It is our it is the identity of this of the city and it is the main spine and it had a lot of challenges primarily because there was just so many demands on that street. It needed to serve as a commercial corridor with a whole lot of retail and different segments. It was the main street for financial financial districts, of course, so a lot of vehicles and
and the number of transit routes that actually touch Market Street is phenomenally large.
I can get back to you on the number I don’t have it on the top of my head. But if you consider the entire corridor both at grade and below grade because the BART tunnel runs,
runs along Market Street underground and the Muni, there are a lot of transit routes that run along this corridor. So they’re a lot of people getting in and out of the subway, in the BART and on Market Street itself. So it is there’s definitely a lot of demand on Market Street.
Carlton Reid 6:33
So you’ve been working well, how long have you working for Perkins and Will?
I have been working for Perkins and Will for over 18 years now.
Carlton Reid 6:42
So you’ve been involved with this from the start, because it was like 10 years ago when Perkins and Will got the contract to make changes?
Geeti Silwal 6:50
That’s right. So Carlton, let’s let me just make it a little clear here in terms of our involvement, Perkins and Will was definitely the lead urban design.
consultant that had brought a team of designers and engineers and landscape architects and refining experts together to kind of compete for the Better Market Street project back in 2011, 2010, 2011. And that was that basically did
start the whole item, the whole project was with the premise that Market Street has to get redone because the utilities on the ground are need to be replaced. They are they have lived their life. So why don’t we take this opportunity to kind of rethink the image and the experience of Market Street. So that’s how it really got started. And the city’s agency, they’re different departments of Public Works, the planning department and the transportation department all kind of came together, and collaborated to kind of really rethink all of these different facets of Market Street. What does it
What does the utility want to be? And how can we make it such that it takes advantage of both the grey infrastructure and the green infrastructure? What do what does it mean for transit efficiency on the streets? And how do we improve that? And from an urban design planning perspective, really, it was about what is the look, feel experience and character of the street. So the city kind of brought together a team that could address all of these aspects. And when we were engaged, we were looking at we will not chargeed to come up with one solution, we were asked to really explore the possibilities. So few years of work actually led to
proposing three potential paths for Market Street. And my engagement, to be honest, was not from the very beginning. There was a large team and you know how over three years of full life project people come and go, I was kind of engaged
on the on the latter half of the project.
And I was project managing it at Perkins and Will, along with Gehl architects out of Copenhagen and CMG Landscape Architecture here locally. We were the key design players helping really think about the possibilities and come up with the options of ‘what if we were to prioritise transit on Market Street?’ and ‘what if there was a dedicated bike lane that basically was sharing some kerbs, some kerb to kerb space with transit and vehicles versus bicyclists be sharing space with pedestrians versus cars being limited on Market Street’ — there were very many options we explored. So sorry, this was a long answer. But the whole idea was that we explored a number of options and we came up with three alternatives which then the city agency departments, kind of
chewed on edge and took out another RFP (request for proposal) primarily to look quite look at multiple permutation combinations of these three alternatives and engaged in environmental planning teams that was a large consultant team. We were not involved in that. But that was a second phase to really look at all the fatal flaws and kind of really look at all the trade-offs. So that’s the more recent Better Market Street work that you’ll probably see the website but it really started with urban design explorations back in 2011, when we led the team.
Carlton Reid 10:35
So the people that can really put a kibosh on these kind of projects are retailers because they often underestimate how many people arrive by by transit, by foot, by bike and overestimate how many people arrive by car, very possibly because they arrived in the morning by car. So was any kickback from retailers or perhaps have retailers been
Geeti Silwal 11:02
Right. You know where the Market Street project really concerned itself from building phase to building space and really phase two building phase and we weren’t really talking so much about the ground floor users. But it was it was a known fact that on Market Street there are segments of Market Street where the retail is really not thriving the Civic Center area, the Mid Market area is kind of
not the most active area and we this was actually an opportunity to really look at the experience of the Market Street. So I would say the project did not necessarily concern itself too much with the ground floor retail use but our hope was that the whatever changes we propose what actually work well and these and work in synergy
with the ground floor use to for the regular use retail users or whatever active users you have on the ground floors, they could find a chance to spill out onto them on Market Street and, you know, right now for before last Wednesday Market Street was never a street where you would just sit and linger and enjoy just passerby or watch people and just hang out because it has a lot of traffic and a lot and a lot of movement that
now with the changes of course people will definitely look at an opportunity to kind of really linger, socialise on Market Street. So the hope is that it’ll actually help the active users on the ground floor. And you know, Market Street did not ever have parking so retailers like to have on street parking, because they say that helps them with people
as they are kind of travellers thing, or commuting on Market Street and they want to kind of stop by and call into an on street parking and hop off and run their errand that Market Street never had a parking lane. So that aspect wasn’t there at all to start with so
not a whole lot of conversation around retail pushback as much because I
hope as I did this is actually going to improve the situation for where it is right now.
Carlton Reid 13:32
Yeah, interesting, like a redevelopment. So years ago for Island press of Washington, DC I wrote a book called Roads Were Not Built for Cars. So this particular sentence in your blog, then jumped out to me because I’ll read it back to you said ‘Streets were never meant to be just streams of vehicles. But unfortunately, somewhere down the line streets became synonymous with cars.’ And of course everybody thinks you know that roads were
brought out of the ether purely for motorcars. But of course, as you know, and as I know, because I’ve written a whole book about it, that’s absolutely not the case.
Geeti Silwal 14:12
Absolutely, I have to read your book. I am definitely interested in
reading it. But you’re right. I think, Carlton, you bring up a good point. You know, as urban designers, and urban planners, we have these metrics about streets ingrained in our head about travel lanes need to be 10 feet to 13 feet, parking lanes need to be eight feet wide. And this is the space we need for trees and a five feet wide tree well will actually provide for a healthy, mature trees. What we don’t have in our head is the space and the metrics for human beings. What are the humanist humanistic metrics that we need to keep in mind as we design streets?
For some reason, that’s not given any importance or not given any weighting and we need to kind of rethink that we need to understand what does it take for a large group together, what does it take for a vendor to sell their wares and also have enough space for true pedestrian traffic or movement on the streets and space for somebody to enjoy and watch passers by, just sit and enjoy passers by so
it would be great if we really start qualifying these dimensions and start
making streets about people and and not to kind of I’m not a strong advocate of saying no vehicles at all; vehicles are important. I just feel strongly that these our streets need more democratic spaces and they need to be about
all modes, all ages, all ability, and we need to start designing that way.
Carlton Reid 16:07
Mmm. So this is a manual problem in that the design manual say these things and that’s if you can’t break out of that. So is this something you can break out of this if you want to? You’re working within the current design manuals. How do you get round the manual problem?
Geeti Silwal 16:28
You’re right, you’re right? I think this is codified and street manual design manuals and requirements of bureau of engineering and public works, or everybody seems to have their ask of the space that as urban designers, we haven’t been assertive enough to put our manuals in our kind of ask of the space as strongly so that’s what gets compromised. You get the travel lanes and you get all the flow of traffic.
And you get the you have the space for the utilities. We need to strongly kind of really have advocate for and champion and together some of clear metrics about people and human beings and what is an enjoyable space and where, what space feels constrained, I mean, there are streets around here.
And not necessarily San Francisco, but in general there were, there are four feet sidewalks, that’s just inhuman.
So you’re right, I think there’s definitely a need to, erm.
And there are guidelines, there are guidelines that organisations like NACTO have put together and have come to come up with really good and clear street-design manuals for different varieties of streets. But we need to kind of embed that in our thinking and
Pick that up and practice that more more
Carlton Reid 18:07
And then you also need politicians to go out on a limb here. So, you said that the Better Market Street project, you know, was was set in train, for want of a better expression, 10 years ago
But the very fact that set in train is important, and you can only set these things in train by political positions by by municipal leaders actually wanting to change their streets.
Geeti Silwal 18:34
Absolutely. Political leadership and political will is is very important here and we definitely had a champions on this project right from
head of city planning, John brown, when when he he was leading this project to
I can come back to you with names that not on the top of my head right now, but the head of
EMTA and public works. They were all coming together and they themselves were at …
… were hoping or one kind of having a lot of debate and discussion to make sure that each of the demands, from a utility perspective, from transportation perspective, and from a design perspective, were being kind of met and there were trade offs and conversations around that. But you’re right. I think it needs to be.
It needs, the train needs to be set off, needs to kind of be initiated by a whole lot of political kind of
insight on a political kind of leadership and stewardship and
Carlton Reid 19:41
Including, and especially the mayor?
Geeti Silwal 19:46
Yes, absolutely. Yeah. And there have been very many mayors that have engaged been engaged in this projects in the last decade. And absolutely that it has to come from the mayor but
I would say a lot of responsibility is shouldered by the city agencies and they’ve done a tremendous job in kind of really staying on top of it and making sure that where there was a pushback either from community organisations or if there were either political leaders that were not aligned, they kind of continued to build support around it and and move it forward.
Carlton Reid 20:26
Now I do seem to be doing stories on a rather frequent and rather pleasing frequent basis about you know, the next city to to close streets to motor vehicles so there is there’s absolutely a zeitgeist here isn’t there? There’s something in the water right now that this is happening around the world.
This is not a San Francisco thing, not a New York thing, not a Copenhagen thing. It’s just everywhere, almost.
Geeti Silwal 20:52
And this is not something that is
pioneering or trailblazing in
any way, I think it’s just a little bit of thinking out of the box. It’s existed in Europe for for ever. Streets that are prioritised for pedestrians and bicyclists in an approach and giving them a priority. There are examples outside Europe. I’m and I come from India and the city I grew up in, is Shimla. Which used to be the summer capital of the British Raj and what you all actually did put in place back in Shimla is still is still in place and the main streets in the mall and lower mall area are all pedestrian and closed to traffic. And
those are such enjoyable spaces. So we don’t necessarily need to be kind of really pushing ourselves to think differently. There are really living, beautiful examples all over. It’s just that we need to kind of open our eyes to it and really see the manyfold
benefits of streets that are less about metal boxes on four wheels and more about people and social connectedness and, and finding ways for urban forests that invites the birds and the bugs and the pollinators and really
about making it a place that is connected.
Carlton Reid 22:29
So if you had a blank sheet of paper or if say let’s say you were made mayor tomorrow, and you have a guaranteed a guaranteed 20 year term in which to transform the city, you the absolute dictator of the city and you can do what you want. What What would you do now?
Geeti Silwal 22:49
Great question. Yes, absolutely. You know, I strongly believe in streets
actually being places that create or
leave people with the image of the city they are experiencing. So they are they are the ones that provide the identity of the street. Go to Barcelona or go to whichever city even in Europe or anywhere else, as a visitor your image of the city is your experience on the streets. So streets are occupy about 25% to 30% of the city area. So
finding ways to kind of really figure out how, what is that connective network that needs to prioritise transit and needs to prioritise pedestrians in people is something that all cities should kind of think about. What is that network? It doesn’t mean all streets need to be about really moving away from private vehicles. But what is that what are those corridors or what is that really rich robust network of streets that is that focuses primarily on
transit and focus focuses primarily for making it more walkable for pedestrians and finding ways to put energy and put time and money and invest in those because
beyond parks, streets are the streets ore the public spaces where
city life unfolds itself. So how do we make this a more enjoyable and more pleasant and more comfortable for more people
is something all mayors should focus on irrespective of the length of their term because you’re able to impact positively impact more lives by just making streets more places that instil a sense of pride and dignity in all users, residents and visitors.
Carlton Reid 24:53
I couldn’t agree more but there is this this the tech bros want autonomous vehicles, want driverless cars
in cars in cities, but it does seem that,
going back to like a European ideal, seems to be what’s actually going to get there long before autonomous cars are allowed to drive in cities, you’re going to have civilised, people-friendly cities first, would you agree? Or do you think the driverless cars will will, in effect do what early motor cars did to cities which is rip out their heart?
Geeti Silwal 25:27
Right. You know, I strongly believe that a problem that involves cars cannot necessarily be solved by cars. So yes, autonomous vehicles will be here pretty soon and we need to find ways to how to leverage the positive aspects of that, but
interventions or technology that enables us to experience our streets as pedestrians and bicyclists in a much more pleasant comfortable way
is something that needs to be priortised.
The app based ride hailing
ride hailing apps and and the autonomous vehicles and all of those all of that movement is still focusing on motor vehicles, I feel and yes, there are e-bikes and e-scooters that are providing people other more active modes of kind of getting to their last mile. But
my hope is that the tech world focuses more on active and low carbon kind of modes of intervention and
not have a focus more on on vehicles because the more you focus on one aspect, you get more of it. If you try to make it smoother for vehicles to move around, you’ll probably get you’ll still have a lot of motor vehicles in the street if you focus on other modes and try to prioritise your intervention and
technology on making it much more comfortable and, and safe for other amounts, you probably get more of it. So
we’ll see. We’ll see where this where it goes. But I do think that
problem or challenges that involve cars can’t necessarily be solved with cars no matter what the tech
Carlton Reid 27:25
Thanks to Geeti Silwal of Perkins Will, San Francisco. Before the second half of the show, and that interview with Dr. X. Here’s my co host, David with information on our show sponsor.
David Bernstein 27:39
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a long time loyal advertiser. You all know who I’m talking about? It’s Jenson USA at Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. I’ve been telling you for years now years that Jenson is the place where you can
get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices and what really sets them apart. Because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there. But what really sets them apart is their unbelievable support. When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors and these are cyclists. I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who who ride their bikes to and from work. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check them out. Jenson USA, they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. We thank them so much for their support.
And we thank you for supporting Jenson USA. Alright Carlton, let’s get back to the show.
Carlton Reid 29:06
Thanks, David. And we’re back with Episode 236 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. I often record interviews with people for my pieces on forbes.com. And then I put the audio on this show, but with my next guest, the recording came afterwards. For the second half of this podcast, I’m speaking with a guest who wishes to remain anonymous he got in touch after reading my Forbes piece headlined “Driving ban for motorist who steered into cyclist not using shared use cycle path.” This story came from a tweet put out there by Norfolk Police, which went a little viral on Twitter, probably because the shocking incident in question was captured on camera. Now, as I’m not naming names I shall call the cyclist Doctor X.
Because well you’re a doctor,
Doctor X 30:04
That Yeah, that’s right. Hello Carlton I am cycle for pleasure and for for exercise for sport for competitive sport. And I also when possible
use my bike to cycle to work and it was on one of my regular commutes to work where the unfortunate incident
Carlton Reid 30:33
So tell us about that unfortunate incident so we’ve I mean I’m gonna guess a lot of people have seen the video but let’s let’s have the radio walk through of that video what what happened?
Doctor X 30:45
So, essentially cycling to work and if I can paint the picture, I this is this is regular exercise for me and so I’m as you’ll see in the in the video
cycling at around 18, 19 miles an hour, and in a in a 30 mile an hour zone when a car pulls up alongside me,
single occupant, driver opens the passenger window and starts
shouting and sharing his displeasure that I was on the road when I should have been on the cycle lane
and that’s what it’s there for, you should use it. And,
and I just started to suggest to him actually that I had every right to be on the road.
And at which point he slowed down and then made a deliberate attempt to, er
I’m not sure whether he was trying to knock me off physically or whether it
was just trying to barge me off the road but he essentially aimed for me
whilst cycling along at a reasonable speed,
Carlton Reid 32:12
And you evaded him basically. So it was that evastion that saved you from harm.
Doctor X 32:19
Absolutely. And you’ll see from the clip that I had to take significant and quick, evasive action. I was quite fortunate It was a low kerb. And so that didn’t trip me over, I was able to go right to the edge of the road and, and avoided contact
aware that if I had contacted his car that I’m sure weighs several terms and a cyclist in Lycra was going to come off worse. And so it was just quick thinking, dived off to the left, and managed to avoid it. He clearly didn’t stop, and er
drove off up the road.
Carlton Reid 33:04
But there was a motorist videoing it on a dash cam.
Doctor X 33:07
well, and I didn’t I didn’t know at the time so I turned to
I don’t know, I suppose in such amazement that somebody had done this. And the gentleman in the car behind waved at me and then and then overtook and I thought,
nevermind, he saw it but there’s nothing that either of us can do about this and it’s only a mile further up the road. I find him stopped in the lay-by
and such is my opinion really of riding along that road. I thought ‘here I go again, we’re going to have yet another heated debate about shared cyclepaths’. But, no, he stopped me told me that he drove for a living
He’d got dash cams and was prepared to support me contacting the Norfolk Police, which I did, I’m very grateful to the Norfolk Police, they took a statement.
And used the dash cam video to secure a prosecution.
Carlton Reid 34:21
We’ll kind of get onto the prosecution in a minute in that that potentially wasn’t the best outcome
considering it was, you know, violence with a with a weapon but I’d like to know about that particular cycle path because it was formerly a pavement. It was formerly a sidewalk it was normally where only pedestrians would go and then the council changed it?
Doctor X 34:46
Absolutely so so
it’s a 30 mile an hour zone
and with houses either side and it it is a pavement.
painted, put some top dressing on it, repainted it and all of a sudden overnight it has become
a cycle path lane, and in in the
general public’s eyes. Unfortunately it really isn’t fit for purpose and it stops and starts at every road junction you you have absolutely no priority.
And along this footpath at 7.30 in the morning when people are trying to cycle for exercise, cycling to to work.
There are pedestrians,
walking children to school, you have people walking dogs with extendable leads. You have people queuing at the bus stop and, worst of all, you have
cars coming out of their homes, out of their driveways that they cannot see across the footpath into the road. So you can imagine that trying to cycle along that bit of footpath at anything more than walking pace is unsafe, both for the cyclist, but also for the many pedestrians that use the footpath as a footpath.
So, sadly, it’s not used and as cyclists we use the road, much to the displeasure of a small group of motorists. Now
Carlton Reid 36:48
If that if that was miraculously made better, you had priority, there was protection, you would use that infrastructure. You’re not against using infrastructure.
I mean there are bits of this that route which are good.
Doctor X 37:05
So so a mile up the road, the cycle path
takes a 20 metre detour away from the edge of the road
and is wide, is is protected from vehicles. And all the cyclists use that use that bit of cycle path, because it’s safe, it’s fit for purpose. And it protects the cyclists and allows the traffic to flow on the road and allows the cyclists to cycle at their speed
safely, without detours, without
any concerns really.
Carlton Reid 37:53
So that aggression that you faced on that day
We can pretty much lay the blame of course at that
driver who shouldn’t be doing what he was doing, but also at the Council for doing a bit of a duff job?
Doctor X 38:08
Yes, it does feel as though
that bit of the cycle lane is very much an afterthought and very much aimed at, erm, I don’t know who because if all the cyclists
came off the road onto the cycle path, I am absolutely convinced that we would have complaints from those people trying to walk their children to school, from those people trying to stand waiting for the for the bus to work. Sadly though, the very presence of the cycle lane appears to have given
a small minority of motorists
almost a licence to either use verbal abuse or hooting of the horns; every day, somewhere along there, someone takes exception to a cyclist using the road, and it’s turned what used to be a very stress-relieving, enjoyable ride.
Often I get I find myself getting more wound up, not de-stressed.
Carlton Reid 39:33
What do you think about the fact that the driver got a 12 month driving ban, but not a conviction for assault using in effect a weapon?
Doctor X 39:45
I, I’m not a lawyer, and I haven’t. So I haven’t studied the law and I don’t
know the definition of a weapon. What I do know is that
shot a gun out of the window and missed, or thrown a knife out of the window and missed
I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t have been dealt with with a driving ban.
using a vehicle, as he did,
is an offence is in my layman’s terms using his car using his car as an offensive weapon.
Now, don’t get me wrong, and I’m very grateful that the Norfolk Police have taken some action
based on the dash cam footage. I’m very grateful to the member of the public who submitted that footage but i just i do
we need some clarity on whether a vehicle is a weapon or not. And looking at that footage, it clearly does look like one.
Carlton Reid 41:14
Now on that particular stretch of cycle path, do you think the solution to stopping that kind of aggression from that motorist and others will be just to take away the the cycle markings there? Or do you think they could if they wanted to actually put some good infrastructure in there instead? What what what what would you like the council to do?
Doctor X 41:38
I as as
someone who cycles, a lot of miles, I’m reasonably confident sharing a road with other users.
But there are a whole spectrum of cyclists and
if I had
I wouldn’t I wouldn’t be comfortable with my young children cycling along that that path as it is cars, you know cars can come blind out of their driveways and disaster could strike. So
catering for the
majority of cyclists, I think, that we do need a cycle lane there; it is a potentially quite a busy road. It has been slowed with speed restrictions, but it is a busy road and it is a commute route from
Wymondham in towards Norwich past Hethersett. So it is a popular cycle route and so there is absolutely no reason why with some proper planning – yes, it will be more expensive –
but we should have proper cycle facilities from Hethersett all the way into Norwich. It’s been demonstrated that they can do it, there is a section that we’ve already alluded to that’s fantastic. The reason why that bit is
so good is because there’s a historic oak tree with all sorts of protection orders on that they couldn’t bypass any other way other than spending
a significant amount of money to produce a proper proper cycle path
Carlton Reid 43:39
Because the council did, I was looking at the press reports from a couple years ago, which which said that the council actually downgraded the plan. So there were there were better plans in place for this particular stretch, and they downgraded them.
Doctor X 43:55
Right And well, this
is a classic example of of what happens when you do that. And if you turn the camera
180 degrees from the view that you see of me, you’ll see that I’ve just cycled past a brand new housing estate that’s being built.
And so the, er
For starters they could have, there’s a lot of people they’re building. Could we have done something before? Once the housing estate is built, I can understand it becomes very much more difficult, but we are actively building in that area.
There’s no excuse for not building proper infrastructure.
And two, secondly, and there are going to be more houses, which means more people, and those people are going to be commuting into the main areas of work from Wymondham.
Carlton Reid 44:59
How far is it from Wymondham to Norwich even though I know that …
Doctor X 45:03
it’s a, it’s a perfect distance, it’s a 10 mile cycle ride.
Now, I understand many people may see that as quite a long way but with the e-bike technology and I am either pass or am passed
several times on my journey by people on e-bikes. So, that is the future we have to look at sustainable transport. But if we are unable to share the road
and you know, let’s face it, we are entitled to share the road. But if we are unable to share the road safely, either because of the perception of drivers or because of the physical size and congestion on the roads, then we have to have proper cycle infrastructure. What we can’t have is footpaths with with bicycles painted on the tarmac
Carlton Reid 46:00
Thanks to Dr. x – hjis story was picked up by the local press and I was invited to discuss the case on BBC Radio Norfolk with presenter Chris Goreham.
As you’ll hear, my opinions of the incident aren’t terribly dissimilar to Dr. X’s.
BBC Radio Norfolk 46:20
And now a driver in Norfolk has been banned for a year after deliberately swerving into a cyclist that police have tweeted footage of the incident which happened to be recorded on a dash cam by a following vehicle. It is quite a shocking incident. You can see a car on the Hethersett road between Wymondham and Norwich pull alongside the bike stay there for a little while, and then deliberately swerve into the rider, many have responded to a Twitter post with anger at the leniency of a driving ban and the £300 fine but some have decided that the bike not being on the cycle path which runs next to that road was more upsetting. Let’s talk to Carlton Reid who runs the website BikeBiz [nope!]
And writes on transport for the Forbes website. Thanks for coming on this morning, Carlton.
Carlton Reid 47:04
Good morning, Chris.
BBC Radio Norfolk 47:05
Good to talk to you. This this incident in particular very shocking, very extreme. But from from your your followers, the people that get in touch with you, how typical is this of what cyclists have to face on roads up and down the country?
Carlton Reid 47:21
Well, I guess 10 years ago, it would have been as common as it is now. But you wouldn’t have had the evidence. So nobody believed cyclists that this was happening. The prevalence now of dashcams, both by cyclists using them, and in this case, motorists using them is showing that cyclists were telling the truth all the time, and that they’re having these kinds of awful aggression shown to them for absolutely no, no, just cause so it’s, it’s it’s frighteningly common, unfortunately.
BBC Radio Norfolk 47:53
The issue seems to be that there was a cycle path next to the road that the cyclist quite within their rights.
decided not to use. So I suppose from a, I’ve had this situation recently as a driver and not a cyclist where I’ve been driving along, and I’ve seen a bike on the road when there is a cycle path. And it does make you go wonder why they’re not using the cycle path. But obviously you don’t then take take things into your own hands, because you know, you’re worried about hitting them as it is. So why would a cyclist not using a cycle path when there is one available?
Carlton Reid 48:23
Let’s let’s put a different way first of all — if there’s a parallel road next to a motorway, would you get really annoyed with a motorist who chose to use the parallel road and not the motorway? Of course you wouldn’t. It’s just the choice is there to use the road or to use the motorway. It is the same for the cyclist. There’s no rule to say that you must use that particular bit of infrastructure. This particular bit of infrastructure, as it happens, is poor. That’s why the cyclist wasn’t using it. So it’s called a shared-use path. So it’s not like a dedicated protected cycleway at all. It’s a it’s a
pavement and in fact a sidewalk is as I would say to my Forbes readers and the cyclist who was a fast road cyclist who’s very capable of doing 25 miles an hour, really shouldn’t be on a footpath in effect shared with pedestrians so that cyclist was absolutely correct to be where he was because if there’s pedestrians on that that that path do you really want to be on a footpath, which is a common complaint of why are cyclists on footpaths, well here the cyclist is not on the footpath
and has chosen to ride on the road. Also, because there are lots and lots of driveways coming out. There’s lots of side roads so that cyclist will be impeded the constant length of the Hethersett road if he didn’t go on the on the road, and motorists I’m sure would not want to be impeded every five metres so that’s why the cyclist was there.
BBC Radio Norfolk 49:58
I think it’s really interesting. So
point to this is that we have lots of cycle lanes being put in, in in Norfolk and they’ve been loads of roadworks in Norwich to put them in. But sometimes they’re not necessarily that well designed, are and they’re not actually fit for purpose?
Carlton Reid 50:13
Exactly. If If you design the infrastructure, if you design that the cycleway to be wide, protected with kerbs, for instance. And critically, if it goes past junctions and allows the cyclist to carry on in safety, then I guarantee cyclists will use them, of course they’ll use them. It’s when this infrastructure is poorly designed. That’s why people don’t, don’t use them. So in London, for instance, and I live in Newcastle, actually I used to live in in Norwich, but I now live in Newcastle, but in London when when you go down there and you see the incredibly well behaved cyclists now using the cycleways and they are flocking to the to the wide, protected kerb protected
cycleways and they’re no longer using the roads quite so much. Because they have got very, very good infrastructure. So cyclists will use the infrastructure if it’s good. This particular example in Wymondham is terrible. That’s why the cyclist is not using it. And the fact that the motorist has taken it into his or her own, I’m assuming to him that’s that’s that’s a big presumption and took it into into his own powers to somehow demand that a cyclist use this very shoddy bit of infrastructure and did not get a custodial sentence is amazing because if that motorist outside of his or her car, used a knife to do the exact same thing they’ve done, a car can be a weapon, then they would have had at least six months, perhaps a year in jail, and all they’ve got and I know people think this is an incredible sentence. It is not all that person got was 12 months driving ban, which is
I think to any reasonable person is a travesty of justice.
BBC Radio Norfolk 52:05
That’s the view you’ve had from I know from a lot of your followers on social media, isn’t it that actually when things like this do happen, cyclists are not protected enough and there are a lot of people who would like to have seen a more stringent sentence here.
Carlton Reid 52:19
Well, you’ve got to use the example of a car can be used as a weapon, they frequently are; you often hear people actually being killed deliberately by somebody driving into them,
in many incidents in around the country, so as a weapon, if you wield that weapon, deliberately try and harm somebody, in this particular example, perhaps the cyclist wasn’t actually hit. But just imagine that person was using the weapon of choice was a knife, that that I’m sure all of your listeners will be saying, well, that person should be in jail. If it was a car and then half your listeners may be saying that was that that was perfectly fine for that motorist to do that. They wouldn’t say
thst if that person was using a knife so that the analogy you’ve got to get your head round
BBC Radio Norfolk 53:05
Yeah, I don’t think we’ve got many people saying it’s perfectly fine for the drivers to do that but I take the point Carlton, thanks thanks for joining us I know this has prompted a lot of reaction and not switch join us on the line.
Carlton Reid 53:16
That was me with BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham.
Thanks to my guests, Dr. X and San Francisco’s Geeti Silwil of Perkins Will. Show notes including full transcripts and relevant links, including to our show sponsor, Jenson USA, can be found at the-spokesman.com and you’ve been listening to Episode 236 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast, which has been bringing you eclectic cycling-themed audio since a positively antediluvian 2006.
Thanks for listening. If you’re new to the show, please consider subscribing in your favourite podcast catcher
Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 235 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was recorded on 29th of January 2020.
David Bernstein 0:24 The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at the Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen..
Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi I’m Carlton Reid shivering here in frozen Newcastle but to warm us all up I’ve got a toasty interview with a cafe owner. Well, sort of. Café du Cycliste started as the promotional cycle clothing of a French Riviera-based cycling cafe, but it soon became a brand in its own right, a rather upscale brand. Via some internet audio I spoke with co-founder Rémi Clermont. Tell me, for a start, what’s the weather like where you are?
Rémi Clermont 1:45
Right now it’s quite nice. A few clouds but it’s, it’s sunny. It’s the coldest month of the year though, so it’s not as warm as as we have in spring and autumn but it’s still quite nice. I’m going to go on my bike at lunchtime to ride
Carlton Reid 2:00 It’s kind of nice where you are because it’s really Nice. So so it’s so why are you based there for a start?
Rémi Clermont 2:07
Yes, I forgot to mention, I am in Nice. I’m based there because this is where this is where I lived even before I started cafe basically as my previous job was there. So I was, I was actually already there in nice when I started catalytically. I moved there for a job not a thoughtful person, I moved from my previous job, which was in it, nothing to do with cycling, and I stayed there.
Carlton Reid 2:32
In IT? Tell me more about that. Then what were you doing?
Rémi Clermont 2:38
Rémi Clermont 2:40
I was working for a company called Fortinet, which is essentially doing cyber security software on appliances. They’re they’re Silicon Valley based, but the headquarter for Europe, Middle East Africa and Asia is is close to nice. So I moved there. I was doing marketing for them. So very Far from what I’m doing today, it was a first it’s business to business. So it wasn’t talking to my end users. I was talking to entreprise and I was in a field that was very different. And that’s essentially quite far from from who I am. So this is very likely why I ended up leaving this world and started to disappear.
Carlton Reid 3:22
So so so what was the trajectory from being in the world of it and forming an apparel brand?
Rémi Clermont 3:35
It’s not an obvious one. But I guess like a lot of things in life as there’s always opportunities or things come a bit randomly and you never expect what’s going to happen in the next 10 years. I guess it’s it’s a guy I was cycling with who was called Andre who was my business partner today. And it happened he was the head of this company, at least for the for this region. The world and we were riding at lunchtime or weekends together. So from being my boss, he became a riding mate. And then he left that company and he was in between jobs. And I was a bit, let’s say bored with what I was doing and I wanted to move on to something else. And we had the same passion and, and then, and then it started cafe disabused, he actually invested in a cafe in the hills above nice. And he renamed it cafe music list. And at some point, I joined him and I said, I want to do I want to change something in my life. Let’s start with the job. Because I think that’s that’s what makes me not so happy these days. So I want to do the cycling apparel for your cafe. And this is how it started. It was really a small, small project. No, no plan to take over the world. Just do a small range of clothing. Essentially one big short and two jerseys for the cafe and then the clothing became bigger than the cafe and we moved on to something bigger but initially was just a friend and a shared passion an idea to do some different looking cycling government for our little or for his little Catholic.
Carlton Reid 5:18
See, you saved me asking the question there because that would have been the obvious next question, of course. Why did you name it? Okay, so let me when was this, what year was this, Remy?
Rémi Clermont 5:31
That’s 10 years ago. We started in 2009. Actually, I left my job in it in 2009. And we starting selling caffeine basically some and selling Yes, selling in our coffee in the heels in 2010 to 10 years ago, okay.
Carlton Reid 5:48
And so nice is that when there’s lots of pro cyclists there, there’s clearly going to be a very strong amateur scene so you were selling to those kind of people originally.
Rémi Clermont 6:01
Locals well initially we were selling to to whoever would want to come in the cafe. And very quickly with the website we were it people so this one thing we knew how to do is to build a website and I wasn’t actually a 90 people person but and we started selling online quite quickly so we sold to a few of the customers of the cafe but the cafe was not as cycling centric as you see today with satellite like concept like we have in nice or you see all the world in other places in the world. This cafe was really we call it cycling cafe because it was really on a beautiful road to cycle and it was in front of the front end where everybody stopped to get water but it was like a village coffee place with some tourists, some locals some cyclists It was really a mix.
Rémi Clermont 6:55
don’t even remember what question I’m trying to answer now.
Carlton Reid 6:57
Well, who are you selling to original was it was it the pros who lived there
Rémi Clermont 7:02
Rémi Clermont 7:04
We were selling to the few cyclists stopping in that cafe and we were selling online very quickly. And actually not necessarily in France because what we were doing the aesthetic or the vision of what we were doing was not necessarily appealing a lot to the French origin cyclists in the beginning. So we are selling online first year to the rest of the world, I would say, but that was really a small, small, small scale business. So you know, when we had one or two orders a day, we were happy
Rémi Clermont 7:33
to describe your asset, but that’s what we started out so.
Carlton Reid 7:38
So let me just describe your aesthetic. So this is obviously like a radio programme to tell people without looking going to look on your website to see what your clothing look like just just describing audio terms, the the aesthetic of capital, please.
Rémi Clermont 7:58
Okay, well First thing I would say that I’m not from a cycling background. I mean, I’ve cycled a lot in my life. I’m pretty much Simpson. I’m a kid, but I’ve never raced in cycling, I’ve raced in kayaking, I’ve done all the stuff, but I’ve never been a competitive cyclist. So the aesthetic is not driven so much by the heritage of cycling. And by by by the racing part of cycling. So it’s inspired by all the things the other things are mainly who we are. So we are French, and where we ride and we ride in this beautiful French Riviera, which people might not many people obviously know the French Riviera for the Cannes Film Festival for Monaco, for the beach, the sun and the sea. But the French Riviera, which we call the back country, the VFP is actually the reason why the pros live here and train here is because from this you have 500 metre flatland and then very quickly, your heels and then you are montagnes and then before you’ve done 100 kilometre you’re in the highest mountain, you’re on the corridor ablenet which is the highest paved road in Europe. So basically the playground here is a bit of flatland by the sea, which is beautiful. And then every sort of cycling you can imagine from hills to very high mountain. And this is what drives who we are. And this is what drives the aesthetic of our clothing. So clothing is, is a is very inspired by the outdoor by the montagnes. And by by friends in general. So we also look at the heritage of French government making things like the which you’ll see a lot now in cycling and the what we call the brown stripes, for example, things like that we find inspiration in also sport in other areas, and pure cycling, essentially. And we try to also of course, do it with the other thing we were decided to do is to not necessary City use the same fabric and the same material that’s been useful a long time in second garment and go a bit more premium using all the fabrics, bit more premium fabrics. So the I would say the inspiration and the material we use drive our aesthetics. So when you see someone on the road with our government, and it doesn’t look like the road racer of the weekend, we try to have the technicality of, of the cycling government but not necessarily traditional race aesthetic.
Carlton Reid 10:33
And that if you haven’t, didn’t you as a cyclist as such, and you didn’t have a background in fabrics, or in clothing design, but you founded a company. So how did you actually research all of that side, the design side, the fabric side, and where did that come from? And how long did you spend doing that?
Rémi Clermont 10:59
Yes Good question. It’s a lot of walk essentially it’s it’s the word is research. So I have no background in in. In cycling, I have a background in sport. So I’ve been a an athlete in kayak. So I know what a technical government is. And I understand the technical aspect, but I didn’t know about the fabrics. I didn’t know what garment making. So I just went to ask a million questions to a million different people and spend a lot of time researching visited and getting contact with different factories, talk to them, visiting them, went to all the fabric trade shows, I could find, discuss with every single fabric maker ask all the stupid questions and after 10 years, I hope I ask less stupid question but I still ask them a lot of questions. So essentially starting from the ground and did my research and Learn from all those people that’s that’s how I learned like pretty much like every job but this one I had to I had to learn it very quickly and I had to put a lot of effort so the first three years of the company This was most of my time I would I would spend it on that
Carlton Reid 12:18
and that but I learned from scratch then you before we go into the the kind of the business of your your company anyway, but you mentioned almost in passing that I would like to delve into this is your kayak background. So you weren’t just somebody who went out on the weekend you were a world champion.
Rémi Clermont 12:35
Yes, I did compete in kayak for a long time. I started when I was nine years old. And I raced until I was 27 2003 if I’m right so yes, I racing kayak which is a may very likely whitewater kayaking, so we’re talking kayaking in worldwide water in the mountains which is amateur sport so it’s not like cycling and it’s it’s very likely also what shaped my my love for the outdoors and and also very likely part of what cafe basically is is the way I see cycling for me Cycling is a is an outdoor activity rather road racing is a part of it and it’s a really beautiful and fun part of it to watch and or to do if you if you’re racing, but it’s only a small part for me it’s all about being outdoor. And that’s come from my background, I guess of kayaking. So yes, I’ve kayak for many years. I was in the French team for many years. And I spent initially a lot of my early early years in in that and this is very likely I wasn’t so comfortable in a nightie at a pure IT world because I was very very far from. From who I am. I feel much more at home. Running recycling company in rtsp in Nice.
Carlton Reid 14:04
Any ever ideas to do something in kayaking or is it you found your niche you want to do cycling you’re not gonna do anything for kayaking?
Rémi Clermont 14:15
No, I don’t really want to do anything for kayaking. But, but
Rémi Clermont 14:21
I mean clearly the way I see our sport, as I said is is outdoors. So for me, all of those sports, which I when I was kayaking, I was training in the winter. This is why I fall in love with cycling first because my dad’s a cyclist, that’s always been so I still ride with him today every time I see him. So it comes from my dad and it comes from the fact that as a collector had to add to train for longer hours in the winter and it’s difficult to do pure aerobic training in kayak because the muscles get tired very quickly the upper body with within the contract so you have to do all those things. I was doing a lot of cycling cross country risking and for me all of these sport, have the same route. It’s It’s It’s being outdoor. So I don’t really want to do kayak government in the future but but when I do what I do today I feel like I’m not that far from from from that world Anyway, when I cycled with my dad aka montane and we’re chatting and we’re having a good time together. I feel closer to someone who is actually hiking in the mountain with his dad. Then I feel from Chris room or my racing friends, when actually racing for me, for me, this is what we do when we cycle so I have no ambition to do kayaking, but I have ambition to belong to the same old Mm hmm.
Rémi Clermont 15:48
Carlton Reid 15:50
I’ve seen pictures of so you were telling me that you are not online. But you have the wonderful Emporium you have a wonderful shop in the I’ve seen the photographs of this and it looks amazing and inside. So is that something that is like literally a shop window for your brand? Is that how you see it?
Rémi Clermont 16:15
Yes this is our base. I mean you can see it as a base as a flagship store but you’re right with the way you can see it is. The brand is something very subjective and it’s difficult to put especially on the radio defining a brand is very difficult and but anyway it’s difficult in the cafe in our place, you can actually touch the brand like this is you know, this is the flesh around the bones which was which is what we call the brand but here you can see the body. You can see the you can touch it. So this is this is the most important retail store for us because we have all the one we have one in London one in Majorca but this one is really where you see what this is about, is about so it’s a place when you see we have a cafe. It’s nothing new and The only one in the business to have a cycling cafe. But obviously a cycling cafe means you come and you talk on your chart and you made before the ride, and you meet after the ride. And the social element for us is very important in cycling. In this place, you can get your bike fixed, you can rent premium bikes, which is a new agreement with cervelo. And this year, we’re going to have our rental fleet are going to be beautiful high end cervelo, gravel and road bikes. So you can come and enjoy the French Riviera, on your bike on our bike, and we’ll give you all the advices we have big maps of the region. And we have everything you need to know where you’re going. We have the showers, when you rent a bike from us or where you come for a ride you can. You can get change, you can take a shower there. So it’s really about the experience of riding in our region. And I think that’s a strong part of what the brand is about. So yes, you’re absolutely right. You’re smaller shop. Of course it’s good to have a shop and it’s good that people Touch the product. But it’s also it’s more. It’s more than that.
Carlton Reid 18:04
And this is a different location from where it was founded. Yes.
Rémi Clermont 18:10
Yes, absolutely. The initial one was a bit higher in the mountain. So you have to see you have the hills and you have the mountain. The first one was on the heels. This one, when we simply moved at some, at some point, we wanted something bigger. And we found this place in me. So we moved. We moved it in this.
Rémi Clermont 18:28
But it’s a different place. Yes, absolutely.
Carlton Reid 18:31
And then I mean that some of the photographs I’ve seen you have a large table in the middle with like a 3d relief map of of the area.
Carlton Reid 18:41
So well with all the mountains.
Rémi Clermont 18:44
Yes, that’s one of the beauty of what
Rémi Clermont 18:48
the map makers in France do. They do these 3d maps of pretty much every region of France. So we have this as a central piece in our cafe so that people can actually is easier we can share The people were not going to ride on people immediately understand what the terrain is like the what I just said about the 500 metres of flats and then you in the heels, then people realise because very often people like the the idea of everybody about the French Riviera is only the sun under see that on realise what’s behind. So this map really immediately get the things into context. It’s very important for us.
Carlton Reid 19:27
I guess a lot of people are going to be exploring this and finding this out in in end with end of June, isn’t it? The Etape is coming to your Yes. Are you planning to ride?
Rémi Clermont 19:43
I would love to ride but that I have a very good excuse. I don’t have my ticket to ride. But no, we write this every day. So I’m happy to I’m happy to not write it even it’s not a big issue. But yes, this year this year, our region with I truly believe is the best and if not one of the best area in the world for cycling is going to be the centre of the cycling universe because the Etape du Tour is coming here – it’s starting here with through two stages around nice and then there is the tab the tool which is obviously you know one of the biggest secret supportive in Europe or in the world and and it’s also it’s also a nice so yes, we already we can’t wait to welcome everybody and help everybody out here and enjoy this party with everyone.
Carlton Reid 20:36
Very possibly me also because literally 10 minutes before you we started talking I actually got an invitation to come across on and ride I have done it for I’ve done it once before. But this one I mean you’d look at the the park on this one is like a looks unbelievable where you ride every day and we’re very I’m very jealous, but I’m not gonna be able to see long Because that the attack is coming here and it just looks unbelievable for an attack course it’s just incredible.
Rémi Clermont 21:09
Yes, it’s it’s it’s a tough one. It’s a tough one. But usually the attack the two secrets motive is always always a tough, tough stage. But yes, I think it’s good because in the area, we have so many I mean, the only one that’s really famous worldwide is a Col de Bonnet. Because the two went through it quite a few times. But a lot of the clients here I’m not so famous, maybe it’s good because they’re not so crowded. But we’ll really have world class. You will see when you climb to really this is, this is like serious, serious climbing. Everybody know about alpha us but clearly for me to release is more interesting. It’s more fun, it’s as difficult and there’s five or six different ways you can plan to renew. So there’s a lot to discover. So I’m happy that the tourists coming here because this will put the light on this on those clients on and I think a lot of cyclists will will enjoy discovering those diamond and coming this year or the following years because really we have we have the best here
Carlton Reid 22:15
Remi, you must be very happy this is this is coming you’re going to have the week before the tour you’re going to have 20 30,000 hardcore roadies descending on your on the Riviera I’m presuming you’re a lot of them are going to be coming into your your emporiums. You must be ecstatic that the Etape and then the Tour of course the following week.
Rémi Clermont 22:39
Yeah, the Absolutely. It’s very it’s very, very exciting. Of course. We have to plan for it because that that will be logistically maybe a bit complicated but it’s it can’t be better for us. It is lovely and and really what we like about Cycling is is really is a social thing. So whenever we go to the cafe and we have people coming, we always love to ask them where you going, where can we help you? Where did what did you do? What right did you do? So this is going to be just amazing. And there will be people from from around the world coming just for that. We’re ready to have them and we’re ready to chat with them and to ride with them. We’re going to very likely organise rides every day every morning from the cafe.
Rémi Clermont 23:26
We’re going to do activities obviously,
Rémi Clermont 23:30
a few evening drinks will will publish everything we do in the in the coming months. But yes, it will be really like a big party for us.
Carlton Reid 23:41
So those who are unlucky enough not to be able to come and see you on the Riviera. They can see you in either New Yorker as you said, or in London so that that’s your three emporiums New Yorker, London. Knicks. Yes,
Rémi Clermont 23:56
yes, absolutely. For now we have those three flagship We’re also sending through a few number of selected number of retailers but we have our own shops Yes. in Majorca and nice and London. So everybody’s welcome Of course to visit us.
Carlton Reid 24:13
Nothing in Americas? No, no plans for opening in Portland, Oregon?
Rémi Clermont 24:21
We’d love to be opening there. We have no plan for this coming year. We’ve been growing quite fast lately. And for this year, we had to spend a bit of time on investing into our back office. So things that are a bit less visible from the outside than opening a shop in Portland for example. But that is very important for us to to deliver good service whether it is in in the ordering because we sell a lot online, so a lot. We sell mainly online. So from the logistic point of view The shipping the customer service, a few thing that we needed to improve, to have some solid base to be able to continue to grow because we’ve been growing fast in the last five years. So this year, we decided to essentially focus on on on all the things and opening new place, but for sure, it’s a possibility if we are to open more, I think more and more. We want to be where the writing is happening. London was great because London is always been in the UK and London’s gonna always be a big customer base for us. So it’s very good to be able to be there on the ground and meet your customers in London. But if we are to open more, I think the format of Majorca a nice is maybe more interesting for the brand, which is to meet the customers where where the action is. So if we are to open more, I think it’s going to be more in the like of Majorca but Not for this year.
Carlton Reid 26:04
I’m assuming you’re big in Asia.
Rémi Clermont 26:08
We’re big in Asia. We’re we’re not a big company. So I can say we’re really big anywhere. But part of our market is Asia. Yes, yes. Yes. Yes. I mean, one of the positive for us is that our market is quite widely spread. So we sell in unit for a startup. I think it’s a sample a lot of cycling company. We’re not the only one. But generally speaking for a startup, it’s really good to have a such a spread market, because there’s a lot of opportunities, and you’re not so affected when, let’s say it’s raining in, in Germany, but in the UK, but but yes, Asia represent solid part of all of our sales and mainly Japan.
Rémi Clermont 26:55
Korea, just Japan, Korea and Taiwan Quantum yes
Carlton Reid 27:00
yes not gonna matter because I interviewed the guys from Festka who check bicycle a cell virtually not in Czechoslovakia but and loads in Bangkok is is their biggest overseas market in that the there’s this incredible sky around the airport track a 21 kilometre road circuit basically, and all the rich roadies flock to there and they’re all on $10,000 bikes. And I’m assuming they’re all very nice apparel as well. And because your brand is its high end, it’s it’s it’s up there with the very all of the brands at a very high end. So I’m just assuming that that’s the kind of place where you’re selling quite well where people are buying high end apparel for riding high end bikes.
Rémi Clermont 28:01
Yes, absolutely. It’s happening. We have a retailer in, in Bangkok and we see some online sales in Bangkok and similar things is happening in Indonesia. And that’s all the countries in Asia but yes, also, as you said, Asia has invested a lot of Singapore a lot of cities are massively investing into cycling infrastructures. So of course, this can only help and it’s happening as well in Europe, but not at the same scale sometime it looks like in in Asia, it goes quite, quite fast. So yes, yes, yes, high end bike high end apparel is is clearly is clearly something that people buy pretty much everywhere in the world. So we see there, not so much because we really want to be high end but because because we it’s essentially the cost of what we produce we produce in. In Europe mainly we produce with with European fabrics. European supplier all of our fabrics have trends. We’ve made a few few exceptions but are from Europe and everything is is made within Europe we want to try to avoid as much as possible producing in the Far East. And of course we don’t produce millions of PCs every year. So of course, the cost of work with produce is a bit higher than some of the product you see on the market. So let positioners yes as a you could say a high end brand Yes. So
Carlton Reid 29:31
that that high end market is relatively crowded and then you’ve got people who would wear casterly kind of you know, they had to wearing Castelli and you can see them going around with the huge great past any logo on there that one basically and then you’ve got the Rafa road. And then you’ve got Nicole, so describe you that kind of that, that, that middle you that that The brands that you’ve got in your circle Where do you see yourself fitting in with those kind of brands?
Rémi Clermont 30:08
Hmm there’s a lot of them today. But first I think the overall I think that for the customer it’s really good because one of the reason we started cafe music list and rough I was already existed with existing when we started but there was very limited choice in what you could buy if you didn’t necessarily want to buy a very performance oriented brand. So I find it really good that today as a customer, whatever you like, and whatever your vision of cycling is, you will find something that’s for you. You can buy you know from a source ex Bionicle Castelli or you can buy jersey with for your pineapples on them or you can buy totally understated and beautiful government. There’s something for everyone. One, this is very positive a fine. If I, if I’m honest, if I’m a customer, I’m really happy that I have that much choice. Now from a brand perspective, of course, there is a lot of competition. But I think its first it’s, it’s good because I have been a competitor in pretty much all my life so I have no problem with that I find it quite quite positive. I think what’s important is that as a brand, we have a genuine reason for doing what we do and a genuine story. I think that’s the most important when we when I say the markets to be crowded, the problem is when brands just are just sitting there with no no real there’s no real reason there’s no real differentiation and nothing really new. So I think that’s where that’s when it starts to be a bit difficult because the customer is nice. He doesn’t know why he shouldn’t These brands are these brand everybody’s saying the same thing. Everybody’s pretending they’re having the best possible product. So I think the most important is that that the customer can buy you for for four reasons. So obviously the most important one is the quality of your product, you’re doing quality product, technically efficient, and they’re going to last long. But they also are going to pick a brand because they believe in the vision of the brand that you know, they believe that this is what they want. This is how they see cycling it’s this is who they are. And that’s that’s almost as important for me when I when I buy a product as an actual product both sets together in in the in the decision making for me. So I think the good thing is in cycling, there’s obviously we’re not sitting in the same for example local is a is an interesting Ground is beautiful. It’s founded by by pros, or x pros. And, and, and they’re very dedicated to racing. And it’s, I totally respect that. And it’s very interesting. But that’s not necessarily who we are. So I think that’s very good. There’s different options, different different visions, and the customers can can decide what what he wants or maybe he wants both and you have a bit of one on a bit of the other or maybe he feel what he who is is more caffeine suffused or is more record, this is beautiful. So I think as long as all those brands have a different identity and reason and a story for the customers, then it makes sense, obviously to date as a bit more than that, and it’s competitive. But I think this will this will settle sooner or later so I’m not too I’m not too worried.
Carlton Reid 33:52
And it’s part of your story but that people are buying into is the French Riviera is the the kind of mountains behind you that the whole cafe culture they’re imagining when you’re in you’re going into auction you’re you’re riding out into Box Hill in Surrey, or whatever but you’re also buying into you have I could be on the French Riviera and they’re having coffee in nice is that jumping? That’s part of it.
Rémi Clermont 34:22
Yeah, that’s that’s clearly part of it. But it’s not only that when in cycling, you can cycle for many different reasons. You can. The most obvious one that everybody sees and that’s been the main driver in the market for a while is racing, which is one of the reasons to psycho rate whether you race, you know, competition or world class level or local level. Still racing and even a lot of people who are doing see close 14, in a way racing at their level. But you can you can cycle for all the reason you can cycle for social reason. My dad was 70 years old, or more than 70 years old. Here at rides every other day. You know, he’s not riding for racing, but whenever he rides he goes out and he is chatting with his mates and that’s the same as what I’m doing every now and then I like to ride on my own but I love to ride with people because you know, it’s a social club activities. So you can write for fitness or for health because you want to lose weight because you want to stay fit, you can ride for to travel for adventure, you can write for transport reason, because you need to go to work or you need to go to see grandmother has a million different reasons to write. So I think, the way the way I see it is is caffeine basically is trying to basically appreciate all of those reasons to ride and not just one. So when you it’s not just about the trend, it’s not just about the French Riviera, it’s about the fact that Cycling is bit more speed more than just exercising on your bike for two hours. It’s it’s really, it’s really a lifestyle. That’s that’s more than just racing.
Carlton Reid 35:58
You mentioned a minute ago, transport You’ve just that second there mentioned lifestyle so combine those two I believe you’ve got a cargo bike is that right and that’s how you get around a nice is in you take your you got a son take to school and account yes
Rémi Clermont 36:15
it’s quite a yes I do it’s quite a funny story because when I was kayaking one of my training made from the same region as me he’s starting his started a cycling cargo company in the US called Cuba and I lost track of him for quite a few years and then 12 years down the road suddenly realised one of my best kayaking mate is actually running a cargo bike company in in San Francisco. But anyway this is all I when I get to have a cargo bike and that that’s amazing. Yes, I bring my I know he’s psycho so I don’t need to bring my son to school with a cargo bike anymore but the cargo bike is how we is how we turn the For goods from the warehouse to the shop in Nice. That’s how we replenish the stock in nice but that’s also how I do my groceries. That’s it’s, it’s lovely. You can carry your friends on the back of your bike. It’s we should just stop using cars on your you and use cargo bike.
Carlton Reid 37:17
Thanks to Rémi Clermont of Café du Cycliste. The next episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast will be a rolling interview with Shimano-man. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.
Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 234 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was published on Saturday 11th of January 2020.
David Bernstein 0:24 The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at theFredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and here’s a belated Happy New Year to you for the start of the twenties. Who knows whether they’ll be roaring or not but I know for me personally that this decade will see me getting out on my bike as much as I can, although not as much as my 22-year-old son, Josh. Back on show 231 I recorded an episode about his epic bike ride back to the UK from China, and now we’ve just discovered he’s been chosen to ride the Transcontinental race in July — this is a self-supported race from Brest in France to Burgas in Bulgaria via not the Alps this year but the Carpathian mountains. Before, maybe even during, and after this ultra-audax race we’ll get Josh back on the show but, meanwhile, today’s episode is not about long-distance racing it’s about bicycle infrastructure, and how it can often be installed unevenly, and that’s socially not just geographically. To discuss this I’m joined by John Stehlin, assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Greensboro in America. We talk about his book, “Cyclescapes of the Unequal City.”
John, thank you so much for joining us on today’s show. I’ve got your book in front of me and I will go through it almost page for page and pick out bits that I’d like to talk to you about. But first of all, I’d like to find out about you. So I’d like you to tell us your your academic trajectory, including and starting with your job as a bicycle mechanic at Via Bicycle in Philadelphia
John Stehlin 2:59
Right now. Well, that was I mean, that was pretty formative in the introduction or in the acknowledgments sorry, in the text I like to blame. Also a good friend Joey for kind of hooking me on tinkering with bikes but Via Bicycle was really a sort of a, a major kind of formation. I went in knowing basically just enough to be very dangerous and left knowing quite a bit about both working on bicycles and kind of bicycle history is a shop that basically service bikes everywhere from about 1870 onward.
as a mechanic at that shop, one of the, one of the main parts of my job was speaking Spanish on a daily basis. So a lot there were a lot of this was in the this is in the Italian market, South Street district. Philadelphia, which is now kind of the centre, or one of the centres in the sort of, in the city of kind of Latino immigration from Central America and Mexico. And there are a lot of mostly men, mostly male delivery riders are would be delivering food on bicycles or would be getting to work at restaurant jobs on bicycles. And because of the constraints on their budgets, all they could really afford were bicycles from Target or Walmart. And so they were in kind of constant need of repair or installing a basket, those types of things. And so I came to know them fairly well, at a basically at the same time and you know, I’m kind of applying this frame to myself was the kind of rise of more cognizance of the kind of hipster bicycle moment, right and then there A lot of people, you know, people who looked like me like younger white folks coming to the bike shop getting old road bikes converted into fixed gear bikes, you know, part of this kind of cultural moment a lot of messengers came to our bike shop, bike messengers. And so, it was kind of this, this very complex brew, there are a lot of older retirees, lower income people, people of colour who had lived in the neighbourhood for a long time. Now the neighbourhood was kind of undergoing gentrification, in fact, the, you know, the shop itself actually was recently displaced to a different location because the building that it was in was sold. And so it’s kind of kind of an example of how bike shops are often actually subject to some of the same forces that I’m talking about in the book that that, you know, effect. Residential. You know, that effect patterns. So I didn’t kind of I didn’t think a tonne about that as a potential project. Going into grad school I mostly a part of my motivation for applying to get a PhD was kind of to restart the, you know the, I’d say restart the the kind of academic side of my brain and tried over the course of my PhD tried to keep the kind of mechanical side of my brain going by continuing to work at a bike shop moat for most of my PhD. But then, in my in my PhD I started to kind of take early in my PhD before I had decided on a topic, I started to take note of some of these kind of these moments of battles over bicycle infrastructure as being indicative of a reflective or even causal of gentrification, you know, most notably in Portland, there was a big fight over a bike lane project in Portland’s kind of historic, low income African American neighbourhood just had a long history of displacement through infrastructure projects. And that you know, I did a little bit of field work up there and ultimately didn’t didn’t pursue it because I kind of refocused around the the kind of regional story of the San Francisco Bay Area, but that kind of alerted me to the, the the sort of the politics of space and and infrastructure and this kind of this way of movement that partially became sort of noticeable in cities, precisely not just because it was novel, but because it for whom it was novel, it was novel to see white middle class professional Animals on bicycles not in sort of smaller college towns but in bigger cities and in gentrifying neighbourhoods.
Carlton Reid 8:09
So your book and you call it a monograph in one of your CV. Quite your book, it focuses on three cities, one of them being Philadelphia, but just to go backwards a little bit. You’re not in Philadelphia. Now. I’m assuming I’m talking to you where you are at your current institution, University of North Carolina.
John Stehlin 8:29
Yeah. So currently, I’m at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the geography environment and sustainability programme or department. At the, the book has a kind of complex trajectory because I had done a bit of done I had some Philadelphia, some familiarity with the Philadelphia case from having having worked there. After I finished my PhD dissertation which was focused most specifically On the San Francisco Bay Area, I did some subsequent field work with a small grant from the University of California Berkeley where I was continuing as a lecturer. And I returned to another kind of field site that I had explored early on, which was Detroit. And which was in which was implementing a bike sharing system sort of on the model of, of city bright city bike in New York City, but more appropriately on the model of Philadelphia’s Bike Share system. And at that same time, the San Francisco Bay area was finally expanding its initial pilot, which was basically just San Francisco, San Jose and a sprinkling in between was finally expanding that pilot to the East Bay, which was kind of more properly my everyday field site so it made sense to expand on the dissertation for the purposes of making it into a book
Carlton Reid 10:01
Now your book is US based. But I note from you again from your CV, University of Manchester. So you were in in Manchester 2018. And yes,
John Stehlin 10:12
yeah, it was a one year position at the sustainable consumption Institute. And, you know, it was a it was an, it was quite eye opening Actually, my expertise again, yeah, comes from the United States, and the sort of specific bicycle politics of the United States. And there’s some elements there’s some kind of Anglo North Atlantic commonalities between US and the UK, I in terms of bicycle policy, but also some significant differences. So you know, I did, I did ride a bike around and in Manchester. And when I was there, I was doing I was working on kind of new research that’s going to be coming out quite soon on mobility platform is far more general. And that was, you know, I think part of the impetus for that with my collaborators, Michael Hodson, and Andrew McMeekin was the experience of the mobike, a bike sharing platform that had emerged kind of suddenly in 2017 and Manchester, which was its first European foothold. And then basically as soon as I arrived there in 2018, it had, they had abandon the city for a complex set of reasons that we can talk about if you’re interested, but that was so that was a kind of it was a nice trajectory from looking at bicycling, bicycling with people’s personal bicycles and bicycle lanes into the politics of bicycle sharing systems into this whole new kind of world of the politics of mobility platforms more general and especially micro mobility.
Carlton Reid 11:56
I would like to get onto micro mobility and on to bike share. Because I know it’s a chapter in your, in your book, but just to go back to Manchester. So you were there when mobike kind of rose and then failed, I mean mainly is because of vandalism. And it was just costing too much for the company to have the bikes in this particular city which which also raises issues of one of the bicycles. Why are they getting trashed, which is interesting it right. But Manchester is going to be so Chris Boardman, the cycling and walking Commissioner who was big into mobike. They had two systems that at one time, but they are going to be bringing their own docked version in quite soon so that they’re going to be getting a variety of companies, including the big ones that have done London, Montreal, etc. to come in and pitch for that. So Manchester is changing to you were there at a pretty formative time with Oxford road where you would have been based had the bike lanes were what freshly minted when you were? Yeah. Probably a year old when you were there. So that was changing the composition of cycling in Manchester anyway with lots of students, right?
John Stehlin 13:13
Yes, definitely. And so the mobic was really on the wane. Basically, when I arrived in August of 2018. There was, there was speculation that was pretty well substantiated, that they were going to leave. And it was interesting because I had just come off of doing some field work for a different new project that was continuing to work on bicycle sharing systems in Austin, Philadelphia and Oakland, which is a sort of a deepening of that last chapter so to speak, but then adding in Austin, which was another interesting case, I kind of a more of a sunbelt case so to speak in the United States. parlons. And when I was in Philadelphia, I took a trip Across the river to Camden, New Jersey, which was, to my knowledge, the only place where there was a kind of formal structured partnership between one of the micro mobility providers ofo and the and kind of local community development corporation in Camden. And shortly after I was there conducting interviews and kind of seeing, seeing a kind of a very different context of a sort of a city that by most by most ways of measuring would not have been able to support a doc based system because of the kind of level of investment required for complicated reasons, the Philadelphia system would not have been able to expand over the river just yet, although I think that would, that would have made a lot of sense. So they had this ofo system you Shortly after I left Philadelphia, in July ofo, declared that it was leaving the United States altogether. And, you know, my understanding is that Camden read about it in the newspapers just like everybody else. And their their argument in that case was simply sort of refocusing around, you know, strategically better markets. And so I felt slightly You know, there was a lot of vandalism of mobike and mo bikes and stuff and I know that mo bikes bicycles were more expensive than some of the other firms. But I, I looked at you know, I’m it was maybe a bit more sceptical of the justification of vandalism because there was a great report done by Graham Sheriff and others at the University of Salford that showed that mobike had been kind of paring down its spatial coverage kind of over a long period of time leading up to that closure. And they just also weren’t getting the kind of the usage rates, because they weren’t covering very much of the city in order to cut cut to cut costs. So I think there’s a kind of a bit more complicated story of the of the, that dockless bike story because that that wave has sort of receded in general in favour of the scooters. But to go to the, to go to the Oxford road case, I mean, it was a very interesting case because on the one hand, the Oxford roads infrastructure was was fantastic, right. And on the other hand, was basically present only an Oxford road. So when I would ride to sort of the, you know, the middle class suburb of say Charlton, for example, I would ride in a quite narrow bike lane, there were a lot of cyclists but a quite narrow, you know, quite narrower than in the United States. Actually, it was quite eye opening. And then there are other other parts of the city more low income parts of the city where there were, you know, less, you know, potentially less demand for physical infrastructure, less agitation for it, where you didn’t see much of anything in terms of bike infrastructure. So while I think that, you know, I think that that that was a, it was an impressive piece of infrastructure. I, you know, I think it was still one of those cases of sort of it’s very uneven deployment. And I think that my understanding of board Ben’s approach is that he wants to see it, too. He wants it to be far more comprehensive. So
Carlton Reid 17:30
john, let me just go to your actual book here. So I’ve got it in my hand. And I want to get a definition of here in a second but it’s it’s called “Cyclescapes of the unequal city” — bicycle infrastructure and uneven development and it’s the University of Minnesota press. Now in the book itself, you talk about cycle scape being the discursive space of the bicycle, so expand on that. What is a cyclescape?
John Stehlin 18:01
The cyclescape I’m sort of I’m drawing on some of the literature in human geography and anthropology around kind of bringing the notion of escape. So for instance, a landscape that kind of brings together the materiality of, of the of this space with a kind of experiential and, and discursive component as well, especially thinking about the way that you’re part of what motivated me was thinking about the ways in which being on a bicycle that the kind of materiality of cycling actually calls up, elicits a different relationship to urban space, a different way of seeing urban space, a different way of navigating urban space. Without that was also cut through with not just questions of uneven urban development, right, where where infrastructure existed, what places were cut off or more connected from what other places Is, but also questions of race, class, gender, and more generally, the sort of the positionality of the rider. And so, cycle escape was a was sort of a way of bringing together that, that material, the discursive and they kind of experiential together into sort of into one frame.
Carlton Reid 19:23
So in the book and I’m going to be quoting you at length here, as you described bicycling as being placed or framed alongside guerilla gardening, graffiti and skateboarding as active hacking the dominant code of the capitalist city. Now that describes to me Detroit, down to a tee. I know there’s a lot of guerilla gardening goes on in, in Detroit for a variety of reasons. So describe where you were coming from in in that particular sentence.
John Stehlin 19:53
So, in that sense, I was really drawing from the work of Chris Carlson, who I think I was I was referencing his work and then also I want to say it was Mark Farrell now I’m forgetting I’m scanning my shelf to see if I can see it. But the all of these different ways of thinking and really drawing a lot of ways on the French sociologist Michel de certeau, who posited that kind of a set a set of everyday practices through which people would sort of disrupt the control regimes of the kind of dominant grid of urban space and that was a really it’s a really common way of thinking about bicycling especially coming from messenger and punk and other kind of do it yourself subculture subcultures, which were really really major influences in in bicycling culture, at least up through, you know when I was inculcated into it in the early 2000s. In the case of Detroit, one of the things that initially put Detroit on the map for me so to speak, was I found an article in The New York Times that we was talking about this, you know, about the sort of creative reappropriation of urban space. So, you know, warehouse conversions, guerilla gardening, all of that kind of stuff that was going on in Detroit and and also discussed cycling at length, and made an interesting argument about the politics of cycling where you could the argument and I’m blanking on the man’s name, which I feel bad bad about. He very kindly invited me over to his house when I was in Detroit at one point posited that cyclists, bicycle advocates could make what he said was a kind of tactical retreat to Detroit, where there was plenty of space where call had abandoned the massive boulevards that were now far too large for the amount of traffic that actually existed in the city. And that the sort of the pitched battles over bicycle infrastructure that you saw in New York City and San Francisco and Portland would be sort of solved by just the, the general abandonment of the city. And I thought that was a bit a bit of a strange way of framing a city that the abandonment of which was very uneven, people who were able to leave, and especially over the last 50 years, you know, the the white population were, who were able to leave left, and the people who were left with the kind of decaying infrastructure were mostly people of colour, who who were prevented from leaving by a whole set of reasons having to do a segregation having to do with the The very low values of their of the houses that they owned any sort of resale value to then purchase a house somewhere else, etc. And so this sort of creative reappropriation felt from a kind of another perspective is sort of partying or kind of framing Detroit as a cemetery where it was actually still a site of struggle over race, and disinvestment. And so, nevertheless, there were there were actually a lot of really interesting things going on in the city of Detroit, that, that offended a lot of the assumptions around what bicycling meant, there. There were a number of when I did field work there in 2011, and then came back in 2016 and 2017. There was a massive number of, of black bicycling clubs organised around churches in quote unquote the neighbourhoods. Which in Detroit denotes the areas of the city that are outside the central business district. And what you’ve seen in Detroit over the last, say five to seven years is a massive reinvestment in the central business district the what is called the 7.2. And very patchy reinvestment outside of those areas of few kind of more more gentrifying neighbourhoods such as corktown and Woodbridge, West Village, which I all of which I discuss in the book, and then beyond that kind of ongoing, ongoing abandonment.
And so more generally, what what I was both trying to capture the vitality of bicycling as a subculture and pointing to the limits in this framing of sort of strategic and kind of underground reappropriation of urban space and the way in which that narrative of bicyclists kind of bringing back the city of Detroit in some ways both kind of flew in the face of the evidence, which is that bicycling was was very diverse and actually practised a consciously as a survival strategy in that city. And the the the logical extension of that argument was that it was this sort of the dispossession of certain areas would be the sort of the The Proving Grounds for their re their kind of rebirth through bicycling and active transportation. I thought I, I didn’t, I didn’t know I didn’t agree with that sort of politically as well.
Carlton Reid 25:40
Now, you do talk about vehicular cycling in your book, and I don’t want to touch it exactly right here. But on Detroit when I was there, there were campaigns to get bike lanes put in, but then you look at the roads and it’s like, but there’s no cars on these roads. Why would you actually want bike lanes. When you’ve got A four lane highway here with one car every 10 minutes coming along you have got the whole of the infrastructure here you don’t need it. Now I have been told and you can you can tell me if this is true here that has massively changed now in that those highways like that, the woodwork so I was taking photographs on Woodward what wear those, I could put my bike in the middle of the road and and take a photograph quite happily. And then. Okay, you could see a car coming. But you’ve still got another few minutes to actually take the photograph. Now you can’t do that now. I believe so maybe bike lanes. Yeah, a bit more needed now. But there’s also a very, very distinct in between that the areas as you were you were touching on that, in that some areas. Were still massively current ages and others. Absolutely not. So if you radiate out from Woodward, and you went to say, the Middle East and the kind of Arab areas Well, that was massively car centric and And it was very dangerous to be on your bike at that point. And yet just a mile further towards the CBD, it becomes incredibly safe because there are no cars.
John Stehlin 27:12
Right? Yeah, I mean, so I think what’s in a way Detroit is unexceptional in that regard. I think what’s exceptional is the scale of the unevenness. But I mean, that’s a patterning that you see in a lot of American cities. There. There are streets that due to disinvestment are not heavily used by by cars. But there are not there are not a tonne of destinations around there. So it’s it’s hard to see that as a kind of model for kind of re refocusing transportation priorities, which is ultimately what I’m interested in, right. I think Detroit was also really an interesting case, because when I had done field work there back in 2011, with the I spoke to people at the Southwest Detroit Business Association, who was who were far more of a kind of Community Development Corporation, and they had been major supporters of putting a bike lane in on. I’m the one of the kind of the main thoroughfares in the Latino section of Southwest Detroit, which was actually among, among the places that were far less disinvested than other places in Detroit because of immigration from Latin America. And so, that was a place where there was actually it was vernor Avenue. There was a significant amount of congestion in part because there was still a lot of activity. The my recollection of being there in 2011, verses 26 2016 and then 27 17 is the total transformation of the Woodward corridor especially with the with the building of the M one light rail system which some people call the straight line people mover be with it as a kind of derisive reference to it, you see would where it is now much, much more of a challenge on bicycle, in part because there’s a kind of a complicated jog that the streetcar line does between sometimes curbside boarding and sometimes centre boarding and so that precluded bike lanes on Woodward, which was I think frustrated a lot of advocates. The the street cast, which is just to the west is now this is now where a lot of bicycle infrastructure investment is going in and you’re also seeing a lot of bicycle infrastructure investment on Jefferson, which is the Big Big East. West corridor on the east side of Detroit, really, it’s kind of Northeast to Southwest because of the angle of the streets, but, you know, I think that was a very car dominated corridor, even back in 2011 when I was there and certainly is now and so there is there there is a way in which again, the, the hypertrophy of the streets for, you know, back when Detroit was a city of, of 2 million people does create a lot of opportunities to recapture some of that road space without kind of negatively affecting the flow of traffic. I’d like to see, you know, I think it requires more political well, but it’s political Well, that’s really sorely needed. The ability to recapture road space in places where it does affect the flow of traffic, but also Kind of balancing that against creating other better ways of moving for people who for reasons of where they work or where they live, are for the, for the moment at least going to be needing to use cars.
Carlton Reid 31:17
And many of those areas are quite a problem. The ones out in the absolute
Unknown Speaker 31:21
Carlton Reid 31:22
are where people of colour live who generally in many cities, and this is very much evident in America and less than in the UK, but it’s more class based, don’t tend to get the, the kind of the investments in bicycle infrastructure
Unknown Speaker 31:43
Carlton Reid 31:44
say, a middle class, mainly white area gets, and I guess that also touches on bike share stuff as well. So an awful lot of bike share, set sending the doctor ones you often find that they’re not put in in a Cities equitably they are very much placed in certain areas. So how can how can cities break out of that? And and is it worth their while to do so if cycling in some communities isn’t actually that, that aspirational?
John Stehlin 32:20
Right. I mean, that’s a that’s a difficult set of questions and something I’m still grappling with in the work that I am, you know, a chunk of writing that I’m, I’m still in the process of completing from the more recent work. The short version is investment, right. One of the things about one of the things about Bike Share systems, at least the any bike share system, but especially the station based systems, is once once you’ve put them in, they still have to perform. They still have to generate revenue. Whereas once you’ve put in a bike lane, if it’s something very kind of niche, it might require a different kind of sweeping regime, for example, but once you’ve put in a bike lane, it doesn’t, it only has to prove its value politically right? Because politicians will point and say, well, you took away this parking or you took away this road space and look at this empty bike lane, right, which is we don’t get that same narrative about empty road space. Nevertheless, with with bicycle sharing systems, as they’re sort of currently constituted there is sort of stuck between being bicycle infrastructure, capital investments, and being transit systems. And I’ll speak to the US case which I know better than some others. In the US case, a lot of bicycle sharing systems are launched at least in part with that grants. And the federal grants are basically permitted only for capital investments rather than operation ongoing operational costs. And so operations will be funded from a sponsorship deal ideally, and, and ongoing fare box recovery. And basically, that’s essentially it. There’s small other pots of money that cities and Bike Share systems can tap into grants. That’s the case in Philadelphia, which actually enabled them to expand on on the kind of more restricted system that would otherwise be possible. But they still have to, they still have to perform. They still have to perform as infrastructure. And the reason I compare it to transit is and the more recent work that I’ve been doing, and Austin, for example, the bicycle sharing system, because of the lack of a big title sponsor like a Citibank or like Ford, which until recently sponsored the San Francisco Bay Area system, they had to operate on a around a 100% 95 to 100% farebox recovery ratio. So they they had to be completely self sustaining, whereas the fare box recovery ratio for actual transit is closer to 35 to 40%. If you’re getting 50 or 60, that’s tremendous. And the rest comes from federal subsidies. And so there is a bill that is periodically that is periodically works its way through Congress. That’s called the bike, the bike share transit bill that would read designate bicycle sharing systems as transit that would open up a lot of federal grants federal funding for operations which would enable a kind of different morphology of the system. You could see something this would still require political will, it would still require a commitment to invest more broadly outside of the kind of the central cities. But you could see, you could see the movement toward a kind of transit, a more directly transit oriented system, which systems today are somewhat transit oriented, but, but also attempt to preserve contiguity. But you could see, you could see networks extending into suburban areas that connect to kind of longer distance commuter trains that would potentially open up a lot more usage and a lot of you know, really Reduce car dependence on on that and as well.
So that would be an option with with kind of federal funding. In the case of Philadelphia, I kind of pull out Philadelphia as a potential example in the book, because what Philadelphia did was very consciously attempt, both through capital investment and through outreach to extend the range of the system beyond the kind of usual suspects, so to speak narratives or neighbourhoods, I should say, which were the central business district adjacent, you know, predominantly now gentrifying middle class professional, predominantly white, or, or, or at least turning toward toward that demographic profile, those types of neighbourhoods which you had seen dominated the ridership of bike share systems in places like Washington DC, for example, Philadelphia was very conscious to, to append that and to move beyond that, to move beyond that narrative, and part of what enabled that was local philanthropic money, part of what enabled that was philanthropic, philanthropic funding that funded more generally, an approach toward rethinking how bicycle sharing systems were put in called the better Bike Share.
Unknown Speaker 38:40
The better Bike Share,
Unknown Speaker 38:43
John Stehlin 38:46
And Philadelphia was one of the kind of case studies and so there was a lot of money going into outreach. There was a lot of going a lot of money going into actually understanding how low income people in neighbourhoods of colour in Philadelphia would actually potentially use the system. It changed how I changed how they actually went about planning and designing the systems it changed where the system would be located. So they had an outreach efforts soliciting feedback on particular station locations, beyond just the kind of web based map which was very common in a lot of other cities. And it required shoe letter shoe leather and it required money and the idea was to develop, develop a programme that could then be deployed as a set of best practices for much less investment in other cities. But I think, you know, Philadelphia saw
Unknown Speaker 39:51
John Stehlin 39:53
an incredible increase in the number of low income people and people of colour using their system and I think Part of this story is actually just that efforts, not that one off effort to create a pilot that would that you could then deploy very cheaply elsewhere. But that ongoing effort and the kind of real show of commitment to neighbourhoods that had seen, you know, that had seen neglect infrastructural neglect, right? So I think that’s part of the Philadelphia story that was maybe Annette was maybe unanticipated in the sort of the structuring of how it was anticipated to be a sort of best practices test case.
Carlton Reid 40:36
That sounds really good. It does sound different to how other cities have done it. Because as we know, you’re a white guy. I’m a white guy. And we know that the current kind of truth for cycling is that it’s white, it’s bourgeois. It’s hipsters, it’s it’s the gentrification, which you are talking about, when in fact, the majority users of bicycles, certainly in the US and maybe not in the UK, people of colour. And that often described in that that famous article as invisible cyclists and that they’re out there. There’s a lot of them, but we don’t notice them for for various cultural reasons, and perhaps even physical reasons that they might not want to be seen.
John Stehlin 41:20
I mean, that’s, that’s incredibly important. And, you know, some of my colleagues Daniella Lugo, Melody Hoffman, a lot of other folks have written really perceptive perceptively on this more perceptively than I have, I think. And I think that, you know, part of the invisibility is, or I’ll say I’ll refocus it and say part of the kind of hyper visibility of the kind of middle class largely white professionals or if if not largely white, in a Place like Oakland non black, which I think is an important caveat. The a lot of a lot of that hyper visibility has to do with the kind of novelty of seeing people in an unexpected class position, right, visibly maybe sartorially, visibly middle class on bicycles, where it had been considered to be a mode of transportation of last resort previously, or it was for people who had lost their licence due to conviction for impaired driving, for example, things of that nature or people, you know, who couldn’t afford a car or you know, a variety of reasons, right that it was perceived as some sort of, of lack on the part of the individual that one was on a bike, or it was a kind of lunatic fringe. of the hippie environmentalist, right? That’s how be glossed, and I think the novelty of seeing, seeing the kind of young, maybe slightly stylish professionals, you know, mostly white, suddenly appearing in Central City neighbourhoods that had previously been disinvested. And on bicycles becoming visible. And again, this is that kind of the the cycle escape argument and the way in which there’s the the machine, the machine ik qualities, and I’m coming from science and technology studies with this as well, that kind of inherent properties of the bicycle, lend themselves toward that increased visibility. And then on the flip side, you rightly pointed out that, that there is the narrative of invisible cyclists, which I think partially comes from a sense that or Maybe a tacit sense that it’s unremarkable to see a low income person marked racially using a mode of transportation that’s appropriate for a low income person, right, which is how bicycles were perceived previously
Carlton Reid 44:18
cycling kind of gets it with with both barrels from both ends in that it is for poor people, and also rich people. And these, you know, whichever way you want to attack it, you can attack the cycling from all sorts of different angles in that, you know, this is a porpoise or it’s for people with very expensive cars that have left them at home and are going out treating this as Cycling is the new golf. So you have got both of those streams at exactly the same time.
John Stehlin 44:43
Yeah, no, it’s I mean, it’s quite fascinating. And you also have that’s also the kind of the the story of the American city right now as well. Right? That the, the city that the that the middle class can no longer afford that. That the that very low income people have a very tenuous foothold in still, because of the presence of public housing, which has been disinvested. And and, you know, cities are are working hard to eliminate it and a lot of cases, but it still exists and there are still poor people in cities who benefit from the low cost of bicycling and the the relatively the relative lack of sort of official exposure to instruments of the state right thinking about licencing requirements which don’t exist for for bicycles and I think would be a terrible idea to institute. But going back to, I think you get both the invisibility where it’s not. It’s not unusual to see a poor person on a bicycle, historically, and the hyper visibility were being on a bicycle exposes people primarily people of colour and low income people to to enhance scrutiny. So cases of biking while black, which I think there were findings in Tampa of massive disproportionality in terms of police stops of, of black people on bicycles. While I was doing fieldwork, there was a there was a young black man in the Mission District in San Francisco who was sort of snatched off of his bicycle at his front door by San Francisco Police and there was a pretty large March that I think it was exciting because it included a lot of bicycle advocates, who maybe in their day jobs had not always been on the front lines sticking up for the rights of the poor, specifically, so and that was a kind of an exciting moment. But that overextension I also to to bring it back to Detroit. One of the investments in southwest Detroit was a bridge that crossed one of the kind of the main freeways that cuts Southwest Detroit off from from the corktown neighbourhood. This is the the badly bridge, there was a big big investment was a bike head bridge. And it you know, it’s a really nice piece of infrastructure. And I heard when I was there in 2011, a lot of Latino cyclists were, who lived in that neighbourhood. We’re not using that bridge because of how visible they would be to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which goes to show notionally the border that ice is policing is the Canadian border in that in that location, but it was that exposure whether it was real or not, and I saw ICE agents frequenting taqueria in in southwest Detroit, whether it was whether it was simply perceived or whether it was a real overexposure being visible on a bike on that bridge, that was a that was it was it was narrated to me as a big part of why you didn’t see a lot of usage of that bridge.
Carlton Reid 48:17
I would like to come back to how cycling be structure is us and we’ll come back to that after this short advertising break.
David Bernstein 48:26
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a long time loyal advertiser. You all know who I’m talking about? It’s Jensen, USA at Jensunusa.com/the spokesmen. I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jensen is the place where you can get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices and what really sets them apart. Because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there but what really sets them apart Is there on believable support? When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors and these are cyclists. I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who who ride their bikes to and from work. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And, and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check them out. Jenson USA, they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. We thank them so much for their support and we thank you for supporting Jenson USA. Alright Carlton, let’s get back to the show.
Carlton Reid 49:52
And thanks David and we are back with the show and I’m back here with John Stehlin. And we are talking about cyclescapes of the unequal city. And I’d now like to go into a topic Where will we know as in bicycle advocates know that there’s a huge economic sense of putting in cycle infrastructure. But you do describe that in your book as exclusionary urbanism. John, so what exactly is exclusionary urban ism?
John Stehlin 50:24
Yeah, I mean, so I’ll back up and talk a little bit about what made me interested in that in this emerging business case for bicycle infrastructure. I’m one of it. One of the the reasons that I got interested in this was the the narratives around gentrification and that and that the, the, the, the battles over bicycle infrastructure in North Portland and the albino neighbourhood for example. We’re specifically that we’re not just battles over a gentrified neighbourhood. There were also battles over this having been one of the key black commercial strips in the area that had seen massive demolition in in the context of urban renewal demolition. That was actually then the land was never actually rebuilt because of a change in urban renewal plans. So there was a lot of abandonment, but it was a black commercial strip. And so part of it had to do with that, that business district, so not just a gesture that is not just a residential district in the abstract, but the kind of identity of that business district. And one of the kind of big early one of the one of the places where this narrative had, that the narrative of bicycling being good for business had first achieved really a lot of traction was the Valencia street district in San Francisco. Which is what I talked about in in one of the chapters in my book and the ways in which bicyclists bicycle advocates had to fight to get a bike lane put in on Valencia, it was not determined to be viable based on traffic engineers understanding of traffic flow on that street. in the, in the initial bike plan in the draft that was released in 1997, it was not included. It was signed bicycle route, but it was not. There would be no kind of real infrastructure treatments to it. And so bicycle advocates were predictably angry because it was actually one of the streets that they use the most to get from the Mission District, which was at that time, sort of seeing seeing the early parts of the wave of gentrification that crested in 2001 with the.com boom and then again, After the.com boom. And now is you know, one of the kind of the crown jewels if so to speak of gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area and crown jewels and bicycling as well. They had to fight tooth and nail to get this included in the bike plan, which the Department of parking and traffic the head, the head of which said there would be bike lanes on Valencia Over my dead body. Part of the case that they made was a business case was going to local businesses and saying it you’re going to see more people shopping, you’re going to see more people stopping at your stores popping in quickly because they’re going to be moving at lower speeds because the traffic will be calmed and the mechanism for this was what was known at the time as a road diet. So reducing the reducing the overall width of the story. Not the overall width, I should say, the allocation of road space from four travel lanes to in each direction to three car travel or to two car travel lanes, one centre turn lane and a bike lane on each side notably did not affect parking and that was a kind of a big third rail at that time. So
that was approved, and it became that the success of it was narrated in economic terms as much as anything else. It was also a success in terms of reducing crashes and it was a success in terms of reduce or of increasing the use of that corridor by bicyclist, but it was also narrated in terms of economic benefits, and around 2011 2012 it popped up. It was kind of ubiquitous in discourse on streets blog or from bicycle advocates. About the economic benefits of bicycle infrastructure, right that this was a clear test case of that, too. But bike bike and biking nomics, exactly, as Ellie blue puts it. And you know it. I don’t think that’s wrong, necessarily. Like I think it is easier to make a quick stop and pop into a store on a bike. I think what it does is orient advocacy toward these particular these particular kinds of cases, trying to foster a thriving commercial corridor. And I think it also points toward a kind of limited view of sort of the range of justifications that you might be able to use for bicycling infrastructure. And I think actually the business case, it’s funny, you know, my book just came out, but I think the business case has waned slightly in favour of the safety case. And I talked about this a little bit in the last chapter of the book, but I think it’s become even stronger since I was kind of drafting the putting the final touches on it. I think this because of, especially in the in San Francisco, the increases in cycling injuries, cyclist injuries, pedestrian injuries, cyclists, fatalities, pedestrian fatalities, there’s been a kind of a sudden uptick across the board in the United States. There people are still trying to figure out what the causes of that are. On Valencia Street, you saw a sort of a mass invasion of the bike lane by Uber and lift as a place to pick up and drop off passengers and that creating a lot of problems on that corridor. But the safety case I think, is both more is more valid. It’s more generalizable. It points us towards places like East Oakland where they’re high crash rates.
Unknown Speaker 57:09
Unknown Speaker 57:12
high crash rates, very little infrastructure.
John Stehlin 57:16
A lot more cyclists of colour. And the business case would be a more challenging sell because of its association with gentrification in those areas, whereas a safety case has potentially more traction. Now I do talk about in the book how safety can mean different things to different groups of people. If it’s a safety case that is couched in terms of more aggressive policing of infractions by drivers, I think that’s that’s a non starter for a lot of communities of colour and a lot of low income communities who rightly see police as a threat. So safety is not a non political thing, but it potentially Has wider traction. And notably, the politicisation of cycling injuries and fatalities in the Netherlands and the 1970s was a big part of the backlash against auto auto mobility that led to a kind of more pervasive investment in bicycle infrastructure there. So there’s some precedent to that as well.
Carlton Reid 58:23
So So where does exclusionary urbanism come in?
John Stehlin 58:26
Right? I think the it’s exclusionary or is it urban ism is less about
whether a bike lane leads to exclusion and a bit more about whether a bike lane and bicycle infrastructure investment when pursued for a kind of business oriented strategy reflects an exclusionary urbanism. And so one of the things I talked about in I talked about in the introduction, which is kind of the introduction is doing a couple of things where it sets the stage for the kind of broad regional political economy. of the of the San Francisco Bay Area Philadelphia and Detroit but then also looking at particular ways in which active transportation, both walkability and bicycle infrastructure had been included in quite massive redevelopment strategies, especially in the case of Philadelphia, the sort of the re the refocusing of West Philadelphia, around the innovation economy, and bicycle, bicycle investments in bicycle infrastructure, and again, active transportation more generally being being understood to be a key part of that and what you’re saying is this kind of massive investment, especially in office development, r&d space, around the school river in West Philadelphia and the area around you, Penn and Drexel, really becoming a sort of a second downtown Or you can even say a third downtown in terms of the historical development of the city for Philadelphia more broadly and infrastructure for the creative class. Yes, exactly right. This sort of the innovate the innovation district model, which, you know, that comes, you’re referencing Richard Florida, quite rightly also. The Brookings Institution, and especially Bruce Katz, at the Brookings Institution has been very has been kind of one of the key thought leaders in this realm. And again, it’s like I, I don’t necessarily, I don’t necessarily think that those framings of a more walkable a more by bikable urban space being conducive to the kinds of happenstance interactions that lead to new ideas. That’s, you know, that goes all the way back to Jane Jacobs. But that’s also been shown to be quite an exclusionary model of envisioning an urban future in a lot of places. And you know, that’s like Richard Florida kind of to kind of reorient how he frames his work around this kind of the new urban crisis and the fact that the benefits of the economic engine of the creative class, although I think that there, there’s kind of dubious, statistical compositional elements to the creative class model, those benefits haven’t really been extended beyond. So I’m going
Carlton Reid 1:01:30
to quote you a sentence and it does lead in from what you just been saying that really. So this is your word, as bicycle infrastructure becomes another valuable immunity in the urban portfolio. However, the bicycle fails to meet what many justifiably see as its emancipatory potential. expand on that. So we’ve it’s failing, how is it failing?
John Stehlin 1:01:54
Well, it’s sort of not the bicycles fault. Yeah. This is like one of those one of those tough things
I don’t I try not to accord the bicycle kind of unique causal role in all of this, because bicycling is actually still extremely marginal. And I think that’s kind of my point. You have a situation where I think rightly people see enormous potential for getting people out of cars into an equally flexible mode of movement through space, right? There’s actually a lot of commonality between the bicycle and the car. They’re both quite individualised. One is a sort of furnace into which we’re ploughing our future. And the other has a very light touch in terms of environmental costs in terms of costs to the individual operator etc. Nevertheless, I think it being a kind of niche development strategy in a certain number, a small subset of urban neighbourhoods and a small subset of cities in the United States limits the potential that you that that, you know, that limits its potential. When people talk about bicycling being the most inexpensive way to get from point A to point B. There are a lot of caveats to that, where is where is point A, where is point B? Do Is it expensive in terms of cost Is it expensive in terms of personal risk Is it expensive in terms of time. These are all you know, touch on really, really big issues of of urban form the morphology of urban of urban America and the urbanisation process more generally. And again, I’m drawing for the second the subtitle of the book, Neil Smith’s work on uneven development and what he calls the seesaw motion of capitals. So, capital expanded out into the suburbs, suburbanization wave in the post war era. And now you’re seeing a partial kind of seesaw or a major, actually seesaw motion of capital back into a smaller number of Central cities in the United States. And I think resting our hopes on on the bicycle being able to ride that seesaw motion, rather than deal with the broader structure that has been wrought over the past 70 years, you know, actually more close to 100 years in the United States organised around auto mobility. I think that’s really the next task. It’s a retrofitting the suburbs task, it’s the reduction of the need for mobility and a lot of places that kind of coercive need for mobility in a lot of places. That’s the kind of next task and the and the next move that will require the bicycle Really going beyond the bicycle as well.
Carlton Reid 1:05:02
That’s potentially a good segue then into micro mobility in that order. Mobility has been as you’ve just said, there, you know that the past hundred years that’s been the main driver of the shaping of cities, really. And many bicycle advocates, maybe even not bicycle advocates have long said that will will, bicycles can replace cars. And what’s happened in the meantime, is these tech bro companies have come in, and the birds the lines, and they brought in scooters, and potentially these these electric scooters are more car substitutes or better cars or to use than bicycles. So do you think bicycles are actually at risk of being left behind here?
John Stehlin 1:05:47
Yeah, that’s an interesting question. You know, some days I do, and other days I don’t. I think I think that there’s a lot of interesting potentials in in the Micro mobility story which I, which I touch on a little bit in the, in the at the end of the book, but then I really kind of have dived into head on with my new work, especially with my colleagues at Manchester and then kind of moving forward. Which is that I think that there’s something there’s something good about a shift away from the kind of fetish of the object, you know, the fetish of the bicycle, and a shift towards a focus on this on a particular scale of mobility. And you were also seeing that predating the shift toward the by the shared bikes and scooters and all the rest of it in the there’s a planning paradigm that was coming out of Portland that was also being taken up in Detroit called 20 minute neighbourhoods right creating sort of new focal points within the urban fabric within which people people were no more than 20 minutes walk away from you know, the The quotidian requirements of life, right? Maybe not a big shop, maybe not buying a piece of furniture or something like that, but the sort of everyday needs. And I think that there’s something there’s something positive about refocusing around a scale rather than particular objects. And you’re seeing people talking about small vehicle lanes rather than bike lanes, and I think that sort of broadens the potential for political will. Behind micro mobility. I’m still extremely sceptical of the kind of delivery mechanisms in you know, essentially what shoshanna Zubov calls surveillance capitalism, right or the the is very bubble prone moment. And I think it’s really hard. The example of mobike is a case in point it’s really hard to stake, future future potential mobility regimes on Something that seems quite ephemeral, a thermal ephemeral, sorry, at this point, you know, mobility is ultimately an issue of rhythm and habit far more than then kind of novelty and and speed and kind of constant constant revision. there’s a there’s a phrase in the micro mobility and the kind of mobility platform world more generally, that’s code is the new concrete. And I think, you know, while concrete is, is a carbon furnace in and of itself, building things that last that kind of orient future development is, is I still think I worthy goal. And so, I would, I think that this particular moment is we’re we’re in a kind of throwing spaghetti against the wall type of moment and that concerns For me, is that with incredibly inexpensive, actual physical infrastructure? Right? If you think about the the the scooter right as the physical infrastructure, combined with the data platform, that it doesn’t leave much behind when the bubble bursts in, in a very different way that when the railroad bubble burst in the late 19th century left behind a lot of quite usable track, right, that we now use for on a public basis in a lot of places, or the street car bubble burst and what you are left, what you were left with, until it was dismantled, was quite usable public transport systems. And my concern is that there’s there’s nothing there’s nothing left afterwards that can be used in a more public way. And when you look at when you look at the investments that Uber and Lyft are making in micro mobile, platforms, it’s company that lose money and companies that lose money investing in other companies that lose money and it’s hard to see. The
it’s hard to see, you know what the future holds for that. Now, one thing I will say is that it I think it in a strange way shows that moving people equitably and sustainability sustainably is not profitable. And I think that that’s fine. And I think opening up a conversations around the mat or conversation around the massive subsidies that companies like lime and bird have received in the form of venture capital constantly delaying the need to be profitable, that that subsidy is not much different from the subsidy that moving people should be receiving. From the public sector. Right and that, that kind of aligning that that that subsidy is not bad. That subsidies are needed moving people cost money. It’s a public service.
Carlton Reid 1:11:06
So you’d be a proponent of the dangerous left wing socialist tendencies here. But you’d be a proponent of free public transit, for instance, free Bike Share hires, for instance, that kind of thing.
John Stehlin 1:11:20
Certainly. Yeah. And and the and especially their integration, which I think is enormously important. The the integration and especially in the context of the United States, where it’s, you know, we we are dealing with a, we’re dealing with a land intensive form of urban development, and we’re, you know, I’m talking about Central City neighbourhoods, and the kind of hypertrophic suburbs are another story altogether, and you’re probably going to need in order to achieve that First and Last Mile X Access to transit, you’re probably going to need faster ways of moving than just walking. In order to access where people really do live, while at the same time building up more housing, I would like to see it be social housing around public transit nodes in suburban areas to sort of refocus that development pattern. But when you look at where the places where micro mobility platforms are serving, they’re not they’re not flocking towards out that the edges of transport networks, right, they’re flocking towards the centre, the the centres that already actually have some of the best transport coverage. And I think that that’s that need to generate more trips, which would be, I would say at least modulated under a more kind of publicly oriented type of system.
Carlton Reid 1:12:58
Now on You’ve touched on something in your book that I’ve certainly touched on in my books. And it’s very rarely touched upon in bicycle advocacy circles, if at all, and that is how uncomfortable bicycling actually is to the great majority people we kind of forget, as bicycle advocates, we kind of forget
John Stehlin 1:13:19
that. So I’m gonna again, I’m going
Carlton Reid 1:13:20
to quote your book. So you talked about cycling or bicycles do not shield the rider from the weather from injury due to collisions, often the gaze of other road users, they cost their riders energy and impose risks, meaning distances, measured in bicycle time vary between individual levels of effort. So bicycles are this. Yes, they’re a miracle. Yes, they’re wonderful for for certain people. Yet at the same time, they are incredibly uncomfortable. They don’t shield you, as you said, They’re from the public gaze which is an issue for women. It’s an issue for people for colour, people who Don’t want to be seen. They don’t want to be seen in public a car is perfect for shielding from the public gaze. So bicycling isn’t the panacea that many people think it is for many people. Do you do do you? Would you see that as quite fair?
John Stehlin 1:14:18
Yeah, I think it is quite fair. And
again, I think that the comparison to micro mobility platforms is illustrative. I think part of what what has led to the enormous explosion of scooter sharing is not just that the rides are unsustainably cheap, right. And it’s not just that the the actual physical infrastructure is very cheap, and so it’s easy to put a lot of it in the centre of the city. It’s not just that you don’t have to be responsible for it. Once you’ve ended your ride like you do with a bicycle, which is something theft, you know, you walk outside and you have a, you know, a soggy bicycle to get on because it’s been raining all the rest of it. It’s not just those things. It’s also the
Unknown Speaker 1:15:13
it’s it’s also the fact that
John Stehlin 1:15:18
that it’s easy, right? That it doesn’t require a lot of physical effort that you just kind of get on and go. And for those of us who are seasoned cyclists, we approach it in the exact same way. But it is a kind of a learning curve. And especially I think, it feels like more of a hurdle to be straddling something to that there’s kind of more fit issues in terms of, you know, the height of the saddle, the the width of the handlebars, the distance of the bars of the saddle, all of that. I mean, these are kind of these are things that we take for granted, those of us who are kind of seasons cyclists or those of us who are seasoned bicycle users and don’t think of ourselves as cyclists at all but are very comfortable on bikes. I think that there’s another there’s another aspect to it though, which is that we have it’s driving is also effortful in different ways. driving to work, especially very long commutes is exhausting. It’s mentally exhausting it you know it, I think, I think there’s a fairly good research on on this that I you know, I can’t call call up from memory right now, but the, but I think it in in imposes a psychological cost.
Carlton Reid 1:16:49
Yeah, there are studies that show you it’s the stress levels of a fighter pilot, just just going into driving to work is just as stressful as that.
John Stehlin 1:16:55
So I think that there’s I think that we have to work refocus the sort of discussion around effort of within the broader context of sort of what people’s lives are like today. I talked a little bit referencing the Great British geographer Dorian Massie, who’s talked a lot about time space compression, which is a kind of classic. And in Marxian geography, the way that investments in kind of transport in investments in kind of faster transport create the kind of shrinking world. Of course, it doesn’t shrink evenly, it shrinks between particular points that that are connected to those networks. But one of the things that I think is that you see with bicycle, bicycle usage and walking as well, is people choosing what you might call time space elongation, right? a longer, slower, maybe slightly more effortful mode because of a whole Set of other pressures in their lives that are reduced, right? The journey to work is potentially shorter. If you live and a gentrifying area that are that’s right next to your office in the central business district. There are other kind of pressures on on people’s physical lives. It’s really hard to you know, it’s it’s, it’s hard to do a lot of social reproduction tasks which are enormously gendered, right. child rearing, taking kids to school, doing the shopping, all of the what is called trip chaining that is disproportionately done by women. It’s hard to do all that with conventional bicycles and the bicycles that make it easy to do that are very expensive, you know, 1200 to 2000 and beyond dollars, which, if it’s a it’s a hard sell to somebody who is uncertain about cycling overall and it would be especially Sell to somebody who their built environment doesn’t really support easily doing that. That kind of stuff. I live now in Greensboro, North Carolina, which has a very different built environment from the San Francisco Bay Area, very much car orient, very much more car oriented. Even in the kind of the central neighbourhoods of the city, it’s very hard to do a lot of kind of routine shopping by bicycle, I still do it but the effort, the effort, commitment that it takes, it’s not something that would be easy to ask somebody whose job is otherwise also effortful, or stressful, or who have a lot of other claims on their time due to social reproduction or caring for caring for elderly, relatives, etc. be hard to ask. So I think we need other kinds of options, but we also need a different kind of built environment that exact sort of fewer, fewer mobility, fewer, less coercive mobility and more mobility as as a choice, right?
Carlton Reid 1:20:20
You mentioned Marxist geography. So there are Marxist geographers, can you get right wing bicycle advocates? Or is it inherently left wing?
John Stehlin 1:20:31
I think you definitely can. I mean, we mentioned we discussed a little bit about the
Unknown Speaker 1:20:38
the vehicular cycling,
John Stehlin 1:20:44
way of thinking which was really dominant in the United States, and I would I would hazard the UK as well, in the 1970s onwards, and vehicular cycling basically posited that cyclists were saying Fist when they acted the most like cars, what that meant was riding at speed in the centre of the lane. And a lot of vehicular cyclists were quite reasonable when it came to bicycle infrastructure and a lot of vehicular cyclists were extremely opposed to bicycle infrastructure investments on the basis that they would quote segregate bicycle facilities, and that it would be a slippery slope towards banning cyclists from the roadways. And one of the kind of the fathers of vehicular cycling discourse in the United States, john Forrester, who was a who was a Stanford Stanford avionics engineer, had no particular kind of left wing proclivity proclivities, he was quite centrist or centre right, depending on you know, how, how you measured his pullet his political tendencies, I shouldn’t I shouldn’t use the past tense He’s still alive, I think, um, yeah. But the, but the narrative was very much around personal freedom and he was very suspicious of bicycle advocates who wanted to change what he saw were the kind of the development patterns of the American suburbs that were a natural product of simply choices in the marketplace where many urban historians from, from David Freud’s to kianga Yamada, Taylor have shown how those restructured by you know, racialized lending practices, and so on the red lining story, so to speak. So so I think that there there is a kind of individualistic streak. Occasionally you’ll see arguments and more conservative publications like think I’ve seen arguments in reason for example, that specifically around kind of the, you know, bicycling is good. It’s personal autonomy, it’s just kind of personal responsibility. It is not attached to the, you know, mass transit system or you know, you might call the nanny state or something like that. And you hear this at a kind of vernacular level sometime among sometimes among kind of sensibly quite left wing bicycle advocates who nevertheless see one of the benefits are not even advocates but just bicycle users. One of the benefits of cycling being not being tied to transit schedules, right, the sort of the, the tyranny of the transit schedule, which in the United States, those schedules are quite dismal. Right, I would I bike to work every day because it’s extremely easy. I live very close to campus, I would be able to walk to work, I would love to be able to just hop on a bus some days and and and be at work very shortly or be at other locations. Very shortly but the the, the bus headways are, you know, the scheduling, they’re very long delays, if you miss one bus, you’re going to be standing for half an hour. So it’s again, it’s against the terrain of the existing that the bicycle looks like a kind of a personal freedom I was actually living in the living in the UK really, you know, introduced me to the fact that being able to take public transport everywhere is a form of freedom that I think is very precious and I think is very undervalued in the United States. JOHN, we’ve covered
Carlton Reid 1:24:39
a lot of ground both metaphorical and literal spatial geography this show is all been about and we haven’t even got on to the fact that you’re a college radio DJ. And so we’ve missed out tonnes but we having to load up your book is a fascinating book at psycho escapes of the unequal city. So this is the point in the show where you tell me how how people can get the book and how they can get in touch with you perhaps on social media.
John Stehlin 1:25:05
Right? So, yeah, thank you so much. This has been really great. It’s really exciting. I listened to a lot of these. And now you know, I get to get to kind of hold forth so to speak. You can you can get the book on the University of Minnesota presses website, I think it’s umpress.com. And you can also find me on social media on Twitter at @Jostehlin. And I think that yeah, I think that covers the social media engagement part. But I’m, you know, I’m excited to kind of talk about these issues with a sort of fellow traveller, so to speak, and kind of kind of play about with some of the potential futures that cycling holds
Carlton Reid 1:25:54
at Well, I’ve got to that note, thank you for including my books in your research. So I’m I looked in your bibliography and there, there’s some of my work in there too. So that’s pretty cool.
John Stehlin 1:26:05
Yeah, no, it was great. It was great to finally talk to you and, you know, meet meet the face behind the words or meet the voice behind the words, I guess.
Carlton Reid 1:26:13
Yeah, it’s just a word. Because we’re not having this is not on video. So, john, thank you so much for for taking the time out of your assistant professorship role.
John Stehlin 1:26:26
Carlton Reid 1:26:28
Your, your institution, we did take a while to get in touch with each other. And we kind of like ships passing the night once or twice. And we had a few technical problems, all of which is now or moot, because we’ve had a fascinating conversation a lot longer than probably we both thought at the time. But I’m sure other people will find it equally fascinating as of course, is your book “Cyclescapes of the unequal city.” So john, thank you very much. Thanks to John Stehlin there – tdetails about “Cyclescapes of the Unequal city” can be found on the show notes at the-spokesmen.com. And that’s also where you can get a transcript of this episode and a whole bunch of the previous ones. If you enjoy today’s show, brought to you as always by Jenson USA, make sure to subscribe, so you’re hooked up to get all future episodes and take a shufty at our massive back catalogue. Massive. There are a whopping 233 other episodes to check out, hours and hours of listening pleasure. The Spokesmen cycling podcast has been narrow casting to the world non stop since 2006 been kind of twice a month anyway, however, and wherever you like to listen to the Spokesmen cycling podcast, get out there and ride.
Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 233 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Monday 23rd December 2019.
David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at theFredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and this episode of the Spokesmen Podcast is a bonus show, my little Christmas present for you. It’s an interview with Michael Moure?ek, cofounder of the lustworthy bicycle brand Festka of the Czech Republic. The company was in the news recently with a $35,000 carbon road bike painted to look like porcelain so I called Michael for a chat, and we talk about this particular paint job as well as why one Festka bike recently sold for $100,000 in a charity auction. Festka is co-owned by a billionaire and I’ve just written a story about the brand for Forbes. Check it out at Forbes.com/sites/carltonreid
Michael, tell me about the world. The reason we’re talking to you today and you’ve had some media on this in the last few days is this project that you’ve been working on for like 13 months for this, this Bangkok bicycle collector. So tell me about that before we get into into Feska as a whole,
Michael Moure?ek 2:22
This was a very interesting project for us because we love for this difficult project. And this client was amazing because he gives us a freedom and he just influence us with his life and then we have complete freedom. So we know about him that the collect the bike, so he has a more than 40 full custom bikes, and he also collects the porcelain. So for us, was this like a good idea to works with illustrator named Michal Ba?ák, which is an amazing guy. He did a lot of porcelain stuff. And there was a long time ago in our heads
Michael Moure?ek 3:17
to do something what represent like check porcelain or check glass school. So this was a good opportunity for us. So why they took the 13 months was because the client wants to have a lot of personal details. So we was drawing on the paper, lot of sketches and this just took us like a six months to send him the sketches and discuss every detail so if you sit on the bike, you’ll see that there is a lot of small pictures and everyone somehow it’s connected with his life with his life past the Finally. So this was interesting on one time and I think that this create for him really personal.
Carlton Reid 4:12
do you know Is he going to be riding this bicycle or is this a bicycle for his wall?
Michael Moure?ek 4:16
Yeah, definitely. No no no, no no definitely definitely will be righted by his house. It’s looks like like temporarily cyclists museum. So, so he has a bike display in his house, but he used them the majority of the bike or what I can see on his social media. He writes so and with that bike, he discussed with us mainly about the the riding specification. So the bike is ready to be used so he has handlebars would you normally use nothing fancy There was there’s a lot of stuff, which tells everyone that this biker should be used in the future.
Carlton Reid 5:08
How did he find you in the first place?
Michael Moure?ek 5:10
This project has one exception because normally we do this directly with the customers, the sky. Talk first with our dealer in Bangkok, so somehow it goes through him. But after that he used our client service. Bangkok it’s a good market for us maybe surprisingly, but Bangkok has a very unique thing that there isn’t one only one route where is it possible to ride a bike like this safely? It’s around the airport, which is open it’s it was a great for the cyclist and it’s open 24 hour per day. So, it’s a big city. So it’s every hour, you can met the cyclists there and you can join them. So and this created a specific market because it’s some kind of the socialising so people need to care what they wear for example like in jersey businesses in Bangkok a little bit different in the rest of the world so because you go to ride the bike and it’s the similar like in the Europe we go to the pub, so we want to be well dressed and show maybe our social status wherever. And in the Bangkok somehow. This works similar with was riding the bike around the airport because you met always the same people and you need to show them new new stuff. So it’s it’s it’s changed Little bit business and we have quite a lot customers there and majority of them owns custom by
Carlton Reid 7:10
the basic is it’s a Spectre it’s a standard kind of a I’m saying standard here it’s it’s your your base model and then people then customise from there.
Michael Moure?ek 7:21
Yeah, yeah, actually it’s not based model It’s a race model. So this is the same bike what for example, check track national team use for for the road races and they have also a version of this frame for for the track so it’s very stiff. So this is another thing will show that the clients really want to use this bike because if not, probably will go for the cheapest frame or maybe for the most expensive frame to make the show off. So and hate to say this Really race oriented frame?
Carlton Reid 8:03
Because I’ve seen his social media. I mean, he rides in Europe. So he comes and does like events in Europe as well, doesn’t he? So you may be right, right. And one of them
Michael Moure?ek 8:12
yeah, maybe maybe we didn’t have a chance to meet him during this process, but hopefully I hope that we will meet here in the Europe or during my travelling to Asia.
Carlton Reid 8:27
So this was basically a $35,000 bicycle.
Michael Moure?ek 8:33
Yeah, it is. It is. It’s Yeah, it’s hard to say like that. Because in this cases,
Unknown Speaker 8:42
the price it’s
Unknown Speaker 8:46
it’s, it’s very hard to set up the price because
Michael Moure?ek 8:50
we did this art bike or a bike together with an artist in the past. So there is I don’t know. Let’s say seven. Bye. Like that already from the past, and we always try to choose the artist which has a good value and there is no can predict that his work will be more expensive in the future. So, so far all the bytes what we did in this art edition keep the price or maybe today price is higher levels on the beginning and very often the price for the artwork it’s a higher than the material cost for the bike and for the components
Carlton Reid 9:42
because it and the components front you took the logos off Didn’t you have the of the components
Michael Moure?ek 9:48
with Yeah, yeah, we took a logo, we redesign the strum group said so because in Georgian over there is like a civil sticker and we changes we change that And there was some people from from a solid and I was impressed at how how this looks so there’s so many small details we ask also the lightweight to use like different buildings and etc so so there is a small tuning also on on the components yeah we remove the logo from the seatpost and etc but this is a some kind of the standard stuff what we do because we try to always think about the bike like complete thing so all the components need to play
Unknown Speaker 10:40
Michael Moure?ek 10:43
nothing special for for us like to to redesign the groups and it’s quite common for us.
Carlton Reid 10:50
And how many bicycles are you? customising a year and a how many bicycles are you selling a year so how big is the custom part of your business
Unknown Speaker 10:59
in the past was like
Michael Moure?ek 11:03
when we start like, so we start like a 10 years ago. So then immediately we start to sell our bike. So in real estates took us like a five years to reach the limit to reach the level of where we are today with r&d and production capacity and etc. So it took us, let’s say, five years to develop the product. Then until now It took us another four years to set up the production and all the processes so we wasn’t in a hurry in the past year, so it will change right now. So for example, past two past three years, we keep our production on 200 frames per year. We have a production capacity for 500. So for the next year, we plan to reach higher number on the beginning of the hundred personal fall reframe was for custom,
we start to step by step represent something would we call Core Collection, it’s standard design. Then we have some kind of the limited edition of designs. And these full custom today 70% of our customer by the base design, maybe they change the colour too much with the car wherever. And the 30% of our production is the unique things for each writer
Carlton Reid 12:42
set to tell me how you make your frames because it’s not I mean, most carbon frames are in mold. This is not in mold frames.
Michael Moure?ek 12:51
No. There’s two things. So first, it’s a pupil connection. So which is not so unique but What it’s quite unique or not so usually it’s the filament building cubes what we use because 10 years ago when we start thinking to produce the bike, we we have a freedom because we don’t have any past. So, we was looking to to the future so we were searching what I mean try to guess what the the carbon industry can move in 1020 years perspective. So, so and we took the inspiration for the aircraft industry and in these days was a big hype around the Boeing Dreamliner. And for example, Boeing Dreamliner, main tube of displaying some main was the same technology like v2 A tubes. So in the shortcut for us what is very important is that these tubes are made by the machine by the robots. So if you compare the moulds production It’s the hand made the job. So this is the people will make a mistake because they think that we are handmade company, which is not a true the big brands are handmade because they need to take like 500 or 700 pieces of the pre pregs and they need to put them by the hand inside the moles and it’s quite unhealthy. There is a lot of space for some mistakes and etc. So in our case, the robots do our job they are very precise. They are always in the same mood because they don’t have the family issues and wild party. So they every every day, produce the perfect cube for us. And and then we use the human hands to assembly them so thing that we have absolutely freedom to do any size, what we need. So normally we offer 24 sizes like stock sizes, let’s say and plus the custom one We can change the tube if we need it. So I remember that in the past, we did a few frames for very heavy people. So they don’t have the same job like I use. And in our workflow, it’s quite easy to change up just for them. So this is different way how to produce the stuff from the carbon not so common for bicycle industry. It’s a very niche in the bicycle industry. But it’s very common in the different kinds of industries like automotive aircraft industry or the gas bottles today are made from the carbon and it’s very similar technology like that used for the tubes.
Carlton Reid 15:51
and where are you? The robots are somewhere different and then you get them shipped in and then you assemble where do you assemble
Michael Moure?ek 16:00
We, we produce the tube in the souls of the Czech Republic by the coincidences there in a very small city when I was born and I didn’t know it, we have a company like that there. And these guys are amazing. It was the company was a phone by two students in the 1993, if I remember correctly, and there was a one student who studied like aircraft engineering and the composite material. And the other one was the student who studied robotic scientists, and one professor, put them together and say, one, hey, you should design it to the robots for your colleague. And you should, you should try to do something and they try it. And they found the company. And what is amazing for us is that these guys Build Own robots. So and they also make the programme for them. So if today I need something, they completely control. The they they really control their production because very often people buy some machine but they don’t know who make the software for them. So they they have a lot of possibilities what they can do with them, but not unlimited. And these guys are very unique and the carbon words with that with that possibilities. So today we are very connected even our head of r&d as a table in that company and for the next year you will be employed by the company because it’s it’s better, it’s cheaper for us so, so we are very close. So they do so today we have let’s say free spots on the robot so we can even change everything like an hour before. So so they produce that you for us but we do together the r&d because we need to know What how to make the tube or what we want to receive for the final product. So it’s a very close partnership
Carlton Reid 18:09
and they then making that mainly for aerospace normally
Michael Moure?ek 18:16
they do like like the tubes or beams goes to company who produced robots and these robots working in the automotive industry for example, they do like stuff for military, I saw that they do like the car, RPG from the car horn and stuff like that. Any kind of the product and very often a very high end with some sophisticated needs. So the they do been so which are the base of very precise copying machine, for example. So so it’s hard to imagine But it’s very often it’s looks like a very ordinary product like normal aluminium beans made from the carbon, but they are so, so good that they know how to design the layers of the carbon inside that the product absorb some kind of the vibration for example. So, so, I remember that they did one project for some line production line in automotive industry and they replace the aluminium beam with the carbon beings and the lines goes 15 times faster than before. So, this is a huge impact to their business. So, so they do this kind of
very high end engineering.
Carlton Reid 19:49
So you get the tubes, this very high end engineering tubes and and you then have a factory or workshop where you then put these things together.
Michael Moure?ek 20:00
Yes, yes, yes. So we have we, yeah, so we do own r&d. So it’s, we always need to tell them what we want. So then we receive the tubes from them very often two times per week. And we need to mentor them and put them to the Jake made the lamination around the joints. You know, we need to prepare the carbon for the paint job. We have our own paint job. So we paint them and we do assembly and etc.
Carlton Reid 20:33
And how many people have you got working there and they go
Michael Moure?ek 20:37
to today it’s working for us 18 people. So in the past was a more of as close to 30 when we was really working on the r&d stuff. Now all the team has 18 members,
Carlton Reid 20:52
and tell me about the company. You said before that you were you’ve been you’ve been going for 10 years. Was it was 2010 when you you were founded Yes, yes. And how you say it was you and a business partner
Michael Moure?ek 21:08
It was a me and my friend Ond?ej Novotný it happened that
Unknown Speaker 21:12
Michael Moure?ek 21:15
the real beginning was in the same day when I have a birthday so I was on the bar and Ond?ej was the first guy who came and my parents called me and they asked me to buy a bike so they want to give me the birthday gift the bike and was a funny situation for me because it was the first time in my life in my life when I was in a position to buy to buy because previously I receive always the bike from the team so people pay me for it and I never have a freedom to choose the group said which is the brand the colour and etc. So so I was 30 years old the guy was quite a lot experience with with the bikes and will never bought the bike for himself. So, it was a unique situation for me and it was a very you know Andre in the days was a very curious what brand are will choose and etc and I I told him that I will not going in that way that I will first study little bit worries the the steel tubes right now what is in the offer and then I will select some frame builder who will put the tubes together for me and etc. And he was very impressed with that possibility because he didn’t know it. So he was immediately on the board and actually we didn’t need this bike so so we take a time and we want to make it a nice project for us. So we started travelling we visited a lot of frame builders here in the Czech Republic was in the past it was a nice scene of the frame building. But no one fits to our needs. So we went to the delay. I know the language. I have a lot of connection there so we were the data layer and during the struggling we realised that almost no one has under control all the skills would you need to have if you want to build the perfect bike so it was a guys who doesn’t understand my writers needs they don’t know how to how to transfer them to the geometry if there is one someone who understand what I won, the craftsmanship wasn’t on the good level. If these both things works, they frozen with the designs are in the 80s so so we can’t find the perfect frame of the for us who owns all these so we went back and do the Republic and we want to do this like a project. And so we start to searching for some commitments guys, and we want to build our perfect by just like a project and me falling in love with that would be so different. stabilities and the chariot public is a perfect industry country whereas a lot of like a basic research and basic industry and we saw like the possibilities of high end industry would we we can transfer to, to the simplest things like the bike frame is it So, this is how all these start
Carlton Reid 24:25
and then you Andre and yourself, you you you created a business and then it could you have backing from a billionaire was was that from the start or was that later on?
Michael Moure?ek 24:42
It was later on because
we was we will start we start with a steel. And we on the beginning we can’t imagine that we will jump to the car bonus so soon, but somehow it happened and we we did cover some possibilities in the carbon and titanium as well. And, and we and we, we burn all our money, what we put to the business together as the Andre. So first finance think of our company was through the fund raising so in 2012 we made like own private fundraising project call it 200 and we promised people to deliver 200 carbon frames which we did actually wasn’t 235 remember correctly we produce around the seven day because the production cost was the higher than the price what we promise So, but but it helped us to develop our first carbon frame together with a comeback and Later on with a chicken University and etc. And basically this was the really base of our future. Today, I hope I can say hi in production. And so we show something with that. And we need the money to to fund the company to fund the production. We know that we are on the some direction what we feel that can bring something what is not on the market right now. And yeah, so we need the money for it. So we make this connection with that billionaire guy.
Carlton Reid 26:47
So how do i mean that? That’s fascinating. How do you make a connection with a billionaire guy because that’s not an everyday occurrence with Is he a cyclist? What Where’s interest?
Michael Moure?ek 26:57
No, no A good question
Unknown Speaker 27:03
is happened that
Michael Moure?ek 27:07
one, so so we will searching for it. So it wasn’t like there was no secret that we was searching for the partner. And we was talking with Mr. Zdenek Bakala, which is his owner of the Quickstep team. So it’s a Czech guy who owns the team. And, and we had a meeting with him and he was very happy to when he imagined that he can own something like that, but the we don’t like the people around him. So basically, we say no. And this was a funny because then the Forbes magazine made the interview with us and Mr. Bakala confirm that we say no. In that negotiation So this thing’s maybe go public that we searching for someone and the big guys are interesting to invest to our company. And then one my friend knows these guy and this guy, and he called me if we if I want to set up a meeting with him, so he set up the meeting. We have a one lunch, he asked us about the business. He set up the next day, the lunch again, and he asked us for some question, and we was impressed how good homework he did overnight. So he started the business. He, I don’t know, he asked us for the 15 questions and the 10 questions was perfectly on point. So yeah, so we made a deal with him. Michal Korecký.
Carlton Reid 28:53
Because people do get into the bike industry. Often, often they’re they’re very much into Yes. And they assume they’re going to make lots of money and then they get into the bicycle industry and discover it’s actually a cottage industry in many respects that you don’t make much money in this industry so so is your billionaire mean this is this is Michal? Yes. That this is he’s still happy with with the bicycle industry and with you.
Michael Moure?ek 29:27
Far hard to say. So I think that we have, we have a maybe different vision about about the future because you name it so these guys want to push the business always to the big numbers. And we feel more our potential in this niche, let’s say luxury business, because this was the original idea behind the first car to Create the very high end bike which are perfect in every point of view. So there need to be perfect components. Perfect material. Perfect frame, very nice design and everything you need to be perfect. And this was our revision. Yeah, and we want to keep this so yeah. So so in that we have a different direction. And as I mentioned before, they will be changed in our own struction soon, which will reflect exactly what I name it right now.
Carlton Reid 30:42
So let’s go backwards a bit because you mentioned there your your when your birthday, the bicycle that you could choose and the fact that you were a bicycle racer, and you got bikes given by him so tell me about your bicycle racing career, Michael
Michael Moure?ek 31:00
I remember that when was the Olympic Games in Seoul which was 1986 if I remember correctly I was sick and I saw it I it’s like a flashback when I call to my brother to see the TV and there was a team pursuit race on it and I was so fascinated with the guys on this bike with the full disk wheels and Aero helmet and this skinsuit and this was something but I was like a tour guy living somewhere in the mountains. So I can’t imagine how can happen that someone do this sports, so I forgot it on it. And during the high school, I started there was some discussion and the people asked me what will be my dream job and I say the Pro Cycling and they smile me say I could be Pro racer. So I start to take this stuff seriously. And I become to be one of the best like a junior racer. I get them Medal from the world championship team pursuit. So somehow my dream come true. And I have like a very big results. When I was Junior then I moved from the junior category directly to to the Italy I was racing for small teams and Italy was in these days the small teams was very often the good this team was a connected with the pro team. So first year I was in team was connected with the Mercatona-Uno you know, and then I was on the farm of Mapei. And it was a very interesting experience for me the I need to return back to the Czech Republic to make a military service so I can ride a bike also during the military service but I need to stay here in the Czech Republic and then I stay with that pro continental military team in the end of my career in year 2006 so during that time I was a 10 time champion on the on the road on the on the track so like nothing special
Carlton Reid 33:30
I think it’s quite special so 2006 you retire you’ve been lately you’re the age of 26 so there’s four years but what the gap be so 2006 to 2010 when you found it fast go What were you doing in those four years?
Michael Moure?ek 33:47
Yeah, first I maybe I I quit but I still have a contract. When I quit my I realised that my I will be never like the winner of the Tour de France and etc. was also the complicated situation because I was very often so close to sign the contract, but it was a in these days the the Germany like a very strong economic doesn’t have a pro component to the team. So it was quite complicated situation. So it was a pragmatic decision. So I I say my saved cell that I’m not too old to try something new and one of my friend
Unknown Speaker 34:36
searching for someone who can
Michael Moure?ek 34:40
be ahead of his political campaign because he wants to become to be the major of the proximity. So and I say this is interesting, so maybe this could be like a good restart for for myself. So I say I can I can quit riding the bike in immediately. And I can start to working for you. So and this happened. So the next four years I was working in the marketing. And mainly I did the political campaigns. So something and then I realised that it’s not so good for my karma. So I was looking to, to go back to the site.
Carlton Reid 35:25
And then you found it faster with Ondreh. And now Festka. You told me before means fixie, in effect in Czech.
Michael Moure?ek 35:35
It is but it’s a little bit complicated. The first car it’s it’s a very old check. name for the fixed bike. Perfect See, but it means of the trek bike not the fixie, what become to be popular in over the year 2000 wherever. So and I know this word Because since my trek career my coach or the old writer always call the track bike Festka so and I have this background and there was a free com domain and I never want to put my name on on on the frame because I since the beginning I want to create the project the people will be working together on the frame so it’s doesn’t make sense to put my name on it because it’s not only my work, so yeah, so I just take this again, there was a pragmatic decision so people can there was no connection between this name and anything else. So if you put to the Google it’s works for us and etc. So, so again, nothing special just a pragmatic decision, and I like this word and deed. Make
Carlton Reid 37:00
fixies as well I mean it was that goal was got a good
Michael Moure?ek 37:05
we yeah this is this is all the people think that we started as a fixie, actually it’s a true so on the beginning we made the fixie bike but in reality we made like maybe 10 bikes, like a fixed gear bikes because we give ourself first two years for the studying the business, the cycling market because we don’t have this experience. So we must open to do everything what the clients wants from us. So from this early ages of the first car, we made it full suspension bikes, for example, mountain bikes, the travelling bikes and etc. So and we’ll learn from our mistakes in that so and everything somehow influence us for the future. So the fixie was amazing school for us because there was a client who doesn’t have any experiences of cycling so they asked us for for the things what the experience cyclists never asked for like to like paint spokes. The I don’t know the the they want to have a different letter on the on the settle and it’s a draw so and we wants to fulfil their wishes and and from these days comes this our experience today that we can make gold leaves on the subtle and etc. And we have experienced that this works so it was a good school for us but no business and yeah, there’s maybe 10 people owns the
fixie bike. Right okay.
Carlton Reid 39:00
Now tell me about the Doppler because the Doppler is it’s half its carbon and a half, it’s titanium. So what were the were the different tubes there.
Michael Moure?ek 39:12
This become, actually, this was one of the few things what the billionaire on the board influenced us because he he asked us if he can make the titanium frame I say, again, based on my experience from the racing, I say, okay, it’s not a big deal to do world titanium frame, but to make the perfect titanium by frame, it’s a different kind of thing. So, but luckily in the past was in the Czech Republic, the company named Moratti and it was it’s a company today they produce the, the part for the engine and maybe somebody And for the US military. So again, very high end industry focusing on welding the titanium and in the 90s they don’t have a work. So, they started doing somehow the bicycle parts and they use all the experience and they transfer this to the bike. So, they have a very unique technology. And in 2004, this company bought Honeywell, so they immediately quit the bike production and, and I come back the CEO of this company and he helped us to develop our titanium programme. So we started doing the titanium frame, and then I did a lot of people call me holidays before the Christmas time like now and they they want to have something like a combination of the carbon and titanium something like this. flights do or Enigma, or this titanium blocks and the carbon to plain sight. And I always say that hey, it doesn’t make sense to me because this is the solution what was here a long time ago and it’s always felt like Allen frames, look frames and energised as a matter of the one the glue will be old enough. And there was so many reason don’t don’t do this because one of them rules will be at Invesco that we never do anything without the purpose. And in that kind I need to see the purpose but the people push me and I say okay, I don’t remember it was 2016 during the Christmas and I say I will be thinking about each tube separately. So I saw with the head you and I realised that the to make the carbon head you it’s the much more easier and much more better for the frame than To use the titanium one. So then I thinking about the main joobs top tube and the downtube. And I think that these guys are who by this by our people who wants to have the modern version of the titanium Pike, so they still wants to feel and see the titanium. So the main cubes are from titanium, the bottom bracket, it’s somehow just the holder for the bearings. So, perfect the things to save the way to with a carbon chainstays are responsible for the the power transmission so definitely the carbon is better for that application the titanium as a lot of troubles with the diameter of the capacitor acid carbonic was the perfect solution. Seats days are responsible for the conforte titanium can afford for the perfect come forth and the last things was a seat post and Our solution with an integrated seatpost it’s the weight it’s a 185 grammes wherever all the seatpost with the with the lock for the settled, so we can save a lot of weight on it. So and if you put this together, I think that somehow it’s works and it’s a good frame still you feel the titanium and the weight of this bike. It’s 1100 grammes. So it’s lighter than the luck solution. So yeah, so this is it. So and we, we know how to how to work with identity and how do works with a carbon. So the joints what works looks like Lux. Actually, this is not the luxus the special way how we do this elimination and one of the magic things it’s and so we need to do, the very complicated stuff was How to prefer the titanium for for for that.
Carlton Reid 44:05
And what’s the light? What? What’s the lightest bike that you can do with with a road disc brake
Unknown Speaker 44:11
Michael Moure?ek 44:13
This is always the question of the people asked me for and I my answer is easily 500 grammes, but you need to ask me if this bike will be good or not so, so it’s a it’s always a combination of the stiffeners. The the riding for the bike need to be stable and the high speed which is the weakness of the ultra light frame, etc. So today, I think that the 750 grammes, let’s say, it’s the border and I don’t feel the reason to go below. Low that way
Carlton Reid 45:01
so for full bike you can get that to like 5.8 kilos
Unknown Speaker 45:07
for the full
Michael Moure?ek 45:10
in the you asked me for the disc version so a few months ago we made it to the disco version of the bike and the weight was a 5.6 kilos and still the and the target wasn’t to make the lightest disc bike on the world The reason the target was to make the perfect bike with no
issues so is
all the gears would you need
no light component, the DVD blue
and this crazy things what to do to wait we need to do to to reach the limit. So all the components on it are let’s say stop. One so it’s a 5.6 with a very light tires It was 5.5 But after I decided to use the normal tires for it so I’m so it could be less and in with the with the same bike with the rim brake so it will be close to five I guess.
Carlton Reid 46:19
Now when you mentioned before about when you’re in your your pro career that you couldn’t choose your bag you are given your bike. So pros given bikes, and they can’t choose so they couldn’t, no pro could choose your bike and say I want to ride on that bike because that’s the best bike. They’ve got a ride on on spec bikes, that sounds kind of unfair, that they can’t ride on the best bikes in the world.
It’s a business behind that. So it’s it’s a it’s a change
Michael Moure?ek 46:50
over the year 2000. So in the 90s if you will be the team director and so maybe You will be we will visit me and say Hey Michael, I believe that the with your friend we can win the Tour de France I say okay I believe in your skills and in your writers and what do you want and probably will be asked me for I don’t know 60 maybe 80 frames I will say okay well let’s make a deal today if you are by producer you will never ask me for the quality of the bike you always asked me how much money I can give you. So if you are a good manager, I believe that you are so you’re you’re conditioned condition will be like 300 bikes, not frames but full build bikes, and I know something from 500,000 euros or even close to a million euros per year, like like like the minimum. So this is the this is the condition so What the protein can have right now. So So today on Tour de France, you can see the people who can afford it to pay the rider. It doesn’t mean that these products are the best. It’s nothing against to this product. But this was a one of the best bigger surprise for myself. When I was racer, I lived in the bubble of the Pro Cycling. So I know a lot of brands, but all these brands can afford it to pay the rider. Then I discover a lot of niche brands, good brands, like I don’t know, like a Chris King had said, I always fight with a headset on my race bike. So when I quit, and I discovered there is some guy named named Chris king who made this amazing headset. I never have an issue with that right now. So I’m thirsty. So many nice, nice components, and this company can survive without support to the big race.
Carlton Reid 49:10
So, are you making electric bikes for people? You know, like, where they can fit the battery?
Unknown Speaker 49:17
Is that a great? No
Michael Moure?ek 49:22
definitely it’s a big market for a must production by we the people pushing us to do this as well. So during the Christmas I will maybe it’s happened in the future, we are in we we will be tested the very specific engine in the beginning of the next year. Which is unique because it spreads to every our current frame. So So this seems to be interesting to me that I can Be sure that nothing change with behaviour of the bike or with the feeling with the rider has. And it’s just the option if you if you select any our bike and you just ask us for the engine, like like an upsell or something what is there it will be maybe possible the funnel, what I like on that solution is that it’s just the one and a half kilo which means that the battery has a one kilo so if you want to enjoy the bike without the help from the engine, you just need to keep the battery at home. So in the relative your bike will have just the 500 grammes on the top and when we talk about our 5.6 kilos dispersion bike, so it will be 6.1 still you will have lighter frame We like to bike then the majority of the population. So So this seems to be interesting. Yeah, so there’s a few things that need to be solved. Like the the temperature of the engine inside you, etc. So but it’s looks promising so I think that is 80% change that we will offer this auction in the future. Nothing What it’s my personal taste if you asked me for it, but I understand the clients who lives somewhere in the Alps for example, so there is no where to go. So this support makes sense for them.
Carlton Reid 51:50
So the bicycles you are making, as you said before, they are luxury product. So the people who are buying them Bye bye absolute definition have to be rich. So no, no Go on then.
Michael Moure?ek 52:08
No, no, this is
this is an interesting because if your dream will be to own to the Ferrari, for example or authors car and I don’t know you are you working behind the desk or in the supermarket? Probably you can never afford a car like that. Even if you win the money in the lottery, you will have no money for the maintenance. So for many people, this dream, it’s closed forever, but to have a dream bike from from flashcard say it’s okay so our bike starts at, I don’t know seven 6000 euros if you don’t want to do the compromise You need to be ready to pay somewhere around 10,000 euros. But still, the value of this bike you can enjoy for next 20 years. So basically, it’s just your decision or the priorities. So we have I’m surprised with how many let’s say ordinary people are definitely not Richard people we have in our fiscal family, so it’s not a matter of the money. It’s a matter of preference.
Carlton Reid 53:40
Thanks to Michael Moure?ek there. Links to Festka and my Forbes articles about the company can be found on the show notes at the hyphen spokesmen com On the last episode I had promised I’d be talking with academic John Steylin but this bonus episode bumped that show into 2020. Meanwhile, get out there and ride
In this episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast supported by Jenson USA I talked with US transportation planner Andy Boenau. We discussed his new Bike Share book as well as mobility-as-a-service (MaaS), cycle helmets and much more.
To come ….
Carlton Reid 0:14 Welcome to Episode 232 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was published on Tuesday 17th of December 2019.
David Bernstein 0:24 The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at theFredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:00 Hi, I’m Carlton Reid. And on this episode of the spokesman podcast, I’m talking Bike Share with Andy Boenau, Andy is the vice chair of American Planning associations New Urbanism division, and chair of the Institute of Transportation engineers, Transportation Planning Council. That was a long one. Anyway, he’s also a mobility as a service geek. And that’s mess, of course, and we touch upon that in this show, but we’re mainly chatting about his new book on bike sharing. And it Welcome to the show. Welcome to the spokesmen cycling podcast. Now, before we get into your book, and that’s what we’re gonna be talking about your bike share book, let’s talk about and the same
So, who are you? What do you do tell me about kind of like you can be as, as long as brief as you like here, but give me a thumbnail sketch of of you. I’m looking for people in the context of this programme.
Andy Boenau 2:17
I’m looking to help people live happy, healthy lifestyles, and and i it sounds flippant. I don’t mean that in a just everyone’s going to feel happy all the time. But I’ve been fascinated for a long time about the connection between an overlap between the built environment and how people behave.
I’m not a mental health expert, I’m not a
not somebody that understands the science of the body, why we are the way we are, or how our how our brains work and and how things can make us smile.
But I have been in the transportation business for over 20 years and I’ve seen over the years how the work that
I do either makes things worse or makes things better. And same for the industry around me. So who am I, I’m a person that likes to make up true stories. I, I enjoy people I like people watching.
I made a couple of people. I’ve got two wonderful teenage boys, Drew and Aaron, who I hope will be more propaganda artists,
whatever, whatever it is that their path leads towards. I think both of them are going to end up doing some type of artistic work, which excites me.
Carlton Reid 3:36
You dedicated the book to them, didn’t you? I saw that. I did. Yes.
Andy Boenau 3:41
Yeah. The last book that I did emerging trends and transportation planning was
3:47 was to my dad, who he’s in he was in the transportation business for decades before retiring, and a couple years ago, and like any teenage boy when when I was
4:00 My kids age, I just assumed I’m never going to do the type of work that my dad does. Because he’s my Dad, why would I follow in his footsteps, I’m going to do something completely different. And then I ended up going to get a civil engineering degree that he helped pay for. And then started in traffic engineering. And then over the years got closer and closer to his type of work with mass transportation. And at some point in time, we kept running into each other that would say, that’s an unusual last name. Do you know this other beno? And of course, we did. So.
4:33 Yeah, fascinating in that sense. So when it came time to actually published something I was looking back at, or thinking back on my career and realising Wow, I did not understand fully as a young professional, just how much my dad was pulling for me, which was, I guess it’s the type of thing that you see with age that the kind of thing that a young man might not necessarily see but as you get older and
5:00 You start picking up on those things. So yeah, and then come coming for around this time putting thoughts together around bicycling, bicycling, infrastructure and bike share. One of the things that I’m constantly thinking about whether it’s walkable or bikable infrastructure is the ability or inability for little people to be able to move around. So as I thought back and looking through pictures of
5:30 my van little guys having to hang on my hand or be nearby crossing the street and just teaching them what I saw as obvious like here’s why this intersection is really comfortable to walk across. Here’s why this sidewalks comfortable. Here’s why we feel miserable right now, and why our heads are on a swivel and we’re constantly in a panic and so since since they are very aware of my biases, and they’ve been a part of that kind of
5:57 thinking out loud exercise of the
6:00 The connection between the built environment and how we how we are as humans. I thought, of course, of course I need to have this for them.
Carlton Reid 6:09 So you mentioned a minute ago, mass transportation, but there’s also Mass Transportation as in MaaS. So mobility as a service, which I see from your profile you’re into as well. So I’ve had
6:27 the founders of MaaS on on the show before, but you give me give me your profile of how you consider
6:36 abilities or service working and how it fits into bicycling.
Andy Boenau 6:41
Yeah, good question. And I’m glad that you connect those two because I definitely think that that bicycling and in particular bike share is an important part. And if we, the play on words, I suppose would be mass appeal.
6:54 I would define mobility as a service as
6:59 something that really
7:00 has three key ingredients. And I don’t think that there’s anything newsworthy or shocking about what I think the three ingredients are. But it’s I think it’s important that there are these three, rather than just, it’s car share, or it’s Bike Share. I think I think mobility as a service is something where a customer can with a single app, plan, their trip and the route that they take the path. And then the second thing is they can choose from a variety of vehicles. So that might be a scooter, a bicycle, a car, a bus or a train a plane, you know, whatever the thing is, and that payment collection is taken care of all within that same interface. So there are a whole lot of aspects of that of mobility as a service and public and private combinations and big brands and little brands. But I think that’s the core that’s what’s important is it’s it’s that very customer focused transportation opportunity. Its customer focused in the
8:00 sense that you want someone to be able to easily see all their options and make all the decisions. And then you know, thinking ahead somebody with my bias at once walkable bikable streets and I know the same for you. Bike Share is is a huge part of that because we want bike share at the the lower speed city friendly opportunities, we want that to be an easy and convenient choice for customers.
Carlton Reid 8:26
I mean, we talk a lot about I say talk a lot about Paris and we talk about the changes that have come from there. I absolutely put a lot of that down to believe. I think the changes that that have now become apparent in Paris and that they are amazing changes with a whole load of bike paths and and and banning cars from certain major roads, etc. that has all come after villig pretty much was out there.
8:58 Kind of
9:00 Making the way for all these other changes. Would you say that’s fair? Would you say that that’s happened in North America too? Or is it something that’s still to come?
Andy Boenau 9:08
I think in the denser urban environments, you’re absolutely right.
9:13 I think it, I think it could be it could also you can also make a case that
9:19 the bus in the traditional sense, not necessarily the traditional vehicle that looks like a bus, but mass transit, fixed route buses could also be one of those backbones. I do think, though, that the bicycling is a key ingredient in that and it’s
9:38 unfortunately, it’s not as robust in North America. I think that’s going to change in the very near future as connected and autonomous technology takes off. I’m I know I’m on the fringe of my fellow members of the all powerful bike lobby when i when i support things like autonomous technology, but I really do think that that
10:00 Going to help get people in and back to or in from and back to further remote areas, it’s going to help people that are in the less dense areas in suburbia, connect to transit lines connect to bike share opportunities, where they don’t have them right now, so we won’t have to have, you know, a rural ish county have 5000 bicycles so that there’s enough to reach everybody will be able to bring people in front with autonomous shuttles and, and other forms of shared transport that, again, are hopefully part of mobility as a service offerings and get them in closer that bike share. But yeah, that bike share i think is critical.
Carlton Reid 10:40
That although I would pretty much agree with you there, as long as the the autonomous vehicles didn’t have to interact with either the pedestrians or the cyclists. So it almost sounds as though you’re talking about exterior to the city hubs, where the autonomous vehicles come in from the outside, drop at a hub and then you go on to
11:00 Other forms of mass transport? Is that is that what you’re talking about? Or do you envisage autonomous vehicles interacting in the same space as bicyclists and with pedestrians? I think what you described is ideal. And I think about it in terms of,
Andy Boenau 11:17
I mean, I generally frame mobility, in in terms of freedom, that’s one of my biases, I want people to have the freedom to move around using whatever mode is available to them and what they prefer. So, walking being the primary, the ultimate, if people are able to walk they should be able to walk if people and then the next step from that would be walking on the seat of a bicycle, right? pedalling. So those are critical, those are the fundamental modes of transport and, and I think they should be absolutely provided for. I want people to have the freedom to choose those things. I also want people to have the freedom if they so choose to
12:00 Purchase a big pickup truck or some other personal automobile. The difference is where I say this issue of freedom doesn’t mean you then have the freedom to aggress on everyone else. So if I have friends over and they’re wearing muddy boots outside, because it’s raining, I absolutely want them to be able to wear those muddy boots, if that’s the best part of their outfit to get to where I live, but when they come inside, they don’t exercise the freedom to wear whatever they want. They don’t then tread around the living room with their muddy boots on they leave them at the door. I think it’s that same kind of thing with motor vehicles in dense urban areas. So I think it’s an absolutely compatible kind of belief system to promote freedom of mobility and say, in a dense area. The cars don’t belong in this little area. I mean, at some point, we all agree that you shouldn’t drive on a sidewalk. I don’t think it’s a stretch then to back up a little bit further and
13:00 Say these places where these these intersections in in urbanised areas, they used to be a big deal. They weren’t just where cars were turning left and right. This is where you had the exchange of ideas and commerce and all those good things that we know about cities for thousands of years. So I think to the extent that we can bring people to and from those areas with different types of autonomy, whether it’s shuttles or or trains or smaller cars or pods, I think those details will work out as the technology evolves. But I completely agree that when you get to those lower speed environments, you just it’s it’s dangerous. We know that we’re introducing danger when we mix those speed differentials
Carlton Reid 13:47
So, Andy, are you into carrot or stick and mix of the two or should the never be stick.
Andy Boenau 13:56
I think my stick looks like a carrot.
14:00 I think there needs I think there needs to be both. I think it also depends. I mean, I, I enjoy sometimes taking people’s comments out of context. So I very aware that I could say there should be both. And then I myself will say, here’s a specific opportunity where a stick just isn’t going to work. So I guess we could, that could go that could be applied in different ways. You could talk about policy issues you could talk about when you’re dealing with private property, like if it’s a university campus, that’s that’s privately owned and operated, you know, everything on there as private.
14:38 But I think in general, if you’re talking about changing behaviour, and how we make things, how we make this stuff happen, if you’re a local government, and this is true, I can say this definitely, through most of North America, I’m not sure that how true this is in in European cities, but throughout North America and especially the US, local governments generally controlled
15:00 Their own streets. So
15:02 I think it’s perfectly reasonable expectation if you’re the local public works department, and it’s your job to provide safe streets, clean streets, then if you see something that needs to be done some way to modify your street network to make the streets safer, and more accessible and more accommodating for all your people, all ages and abilities, that sort of thing, then you do it. And I think then the way that you communicate with people is not to say, Hey, we’re going to put out a vote and ask everyone, do you want safer streets? If so, then check this box and we’ll go ahead and put some safe bike infrastructure. If you don’t care about safe streets, check this other box and we’ll just leave it as it is 12 foot wide lanes and 45 mile an hour speed limit. I think if you’re the local public works department, it’s it’s your job to make those things safe. So that’s not a top down kind of oppressive mentality towards infrastructure. That’s
16:00 Those people signing on to make their city a great place. And if the residents who don’t, who live there, don’t appreciate the way that the roads are being handled, then there are a bunch of ways to speak up about that. I think where we misstep with this, the idea of changing travel behaviour is it’s it’s kind of a stutter step where we’ll go forward. And when I say we, I mean advocates of low speed streets and bicycling infrastructure and walking infrastructure,
16:31 will put forward some ideas that we’ve seen online or we’ve seen experienced in other cities. And then we’ll quickly step back when a local business person says, I think car parking is the key. If you lose in a car parking spots, we’re going to lose business. And then we’re very quick to pull back and say, Oh, sorry, didn’t didn’t want to offend anybody. Don’t worry, don’t worry what we said about the bike lanes, it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to put any bike corrals or bike share systems in here. So I think, you know, all the way back to your question, I think
17:00 It’s it’s both it’s you need to have. You need to have policies if you’re the local government to make your streets safe, and then you need to go ahead and take the initiative to do it. If you make bicycling and walking easy and convenient, we know people will do that. We know people inside of a shopping mall, for example, will walk extraordinary lengths. So it’s not the walking, that’s the thing. But
17:26 we can put in tonnes of bike lanes, we can put in wider sidewalks, etc, etc. But if there are people in these, you know, 14 foot high cars out there at the moment, still able to use the streets that were all mixing with. Well, that infrastructure is not going to work so that the stick has got to be used and made quite big. Because it there almost seems to be like a constitutional right in the US to drive everywhere and
18:00 If that’s the thoughts of lots of people that I should be able to drive everywhere, it’s going to be incredibly tough to encourage people into all these forms of other forms of transport. If you’re not using that big stick and actually getting people out of those cars by force. Yeah, you’re right. And I think, well, and maybe it’s not out of the cars, maybe it’s just how they’re operated. I think we, as Americans, especially misuse the term freedom and we miss use the phrase individual liberty, I think more Americans need to consider the non aggression principle. You can purchase, let’s say a Hummer, you know, a really large, oversized ridiculous vehicle, purchase your own vehicle, you have the right to purchase that vehicle. If you live in downtown Washington, DC, you’re not going to be able to drive that thing very far. It’s going to be really challenging to navigate anywhere and
19:00 It could be that the local government where you work decides there are certain streets that are off limits the cars, you don’t have the right to drive that thing, 50 miles an hour on 25 mile an hour streets, you don’t have the right to speed through because then you’re aggressive on other people, you’re introducing a dangerous situation to people around you. So yes, you have a freedom to purchase a thing. But you don’t have the freedom to use it however you want, if it’s going to aggress on others, and then that same line of thinking can be extended towards, you know, what, what type of pollution comes out the back of it? Is there some kind of air quality control in place? So I think there are a lot of things around this idea of non aggression principle that are completely compatible with individual liberty. It’s just we like to abuse that phrase. So whatever it happens to be at the moment that we want, we say, Well, I have the freedom to have that or I have the freedom to say no to that. It’s we have to think beyond ourselves. I mean, there you
20:00 Yes, individual liberty and treat people around you.
Carlton Reid 20:03
Well, Andy, you’re the chair of the Institute of Transportation engineers transportation. That’s a big long word. big long phrase Transportation Planning Council, but i t t p. Wow. That’s that that’s a long meeting just to get people around the table around that. So given you the share of that, but given the fact that you’re for one to kind of like shorten it down into your people friendly transportation planner, how unusual a you now, or do you think the way you’ve been talking from from for 20 odd years, is now coming into the mainstream in your profession? Well, I guess it depends. If you’re asking if I’m normal, it depends who you ask. In terms of the it membership.
Andy Boenau 20:54
One thing that I found very interesting and I’ve told other the others in it, even
21:00 Public This is not some kind of secret conversation that is now being publicly revealed. But there was a period of time when I was seriously considering ending my membership both with the Institute of Transportation engineers and American Planning Association and similar reasons and it was both. I was frustrated with both organisations that seemed to be more concerned about self preservation. And they were just stuffy environments. That was my perception. And that was my personal experience for a period of time.
21:32 And I was approached by one of the leaders who asked if I would help by participating in the Transportation Planning Council, and the conversation went kind of like this.
U 21:45 Andy, there are a bunch of people that I’ve talked with that have expressed similar concerns to you, but as as your concerns, they don’t say them publicly because they’re afraid of consequences. And so they’re alive.
22:00 These people out there, they just need somebody to help pull them together. So that was kind of that’s that was the beginning of a conversation that was fascinating to me and then kind of struck me right back into it.
22:12 Because I was starting to see okay, there are, there are other people who are the scales are coming off their eyes like me. I didn’t. I don’t have my biases about infrastructure and freedom and mobility. Because I’m so smart. I asked a load of dumb questions over the years, so that my bosses didn’t have to do my work for me. And as I was asking all these dumb questions, why this? Why that why not roundabouts? All these kinds of things. I kept hearing over and over again, the answer is we’re what we do this because that’s why we we’ve always done this. Our fathers fathers did this. And so we continue.
22:48 And, and I saw this opportunity where other people were starting to ask those questions, but very quietly, because, you know, they’re concerned about employment. They’re wondering if my what happens if I question my
23:00 Boss, how do I question my boss? How can I do these things respectfully, how can I?
23:05 How can I work for a particular client that is insisting on a certain type of design when I know that design is dangerous?
23:14 And so these kinds of questions were coming up more and more and and I was definitely not alone in that I am not alone and that there are a lot of people that are asking these kinds of questions. And I credit in large part, the internet. I mean, they I say all the time I tell my kids this regularly, the internet is amazing. It’s fantastic. It’s it’s, you see people pile on about how, how social media can be toxic and there are aspects of it that can be but if you if you just keep your attention in the right direction and put those other, you know, close the door on some of the darker areas. It’s fantastic. You can connect with anybody and share ideas all the time. So like you and I can talk about places all around the world that are altering how people move around in dense urban areas and people are exploring ways to
23:58 to convert buses into smaller
24:00 modular autonomous shuttles, and we can see these things and share these things with others in an in a new kind of way. And then coming back to membership of it, you can see All right, here’s an organisation where the mission is how do we advance transportation and serve the public interest? And so that’s what members of the Transportation Planning Council are thinking about is how do we as planners, how do we how do we approach technology? How do we approach mobility as a service? How do we approach things like bike share and you know, whatever the whatever the old and new things are, how do we do all of this in a way that serves the public interest? That’s customer focused?
Carlton Reid 24:37
Okay, similar question coming at it in a slightly different way.
24:44 Transportation engineers, as a body
24:49 are getting younger because the older guys have a naturally retiring. So do you think that refreshing of the gene pool if
Andy Boenau 25:00
You like, will just naturally over time, lead to changes to people friendly infrastructure because the younger guys who are coming through the industry now, I can be much more in tune with your kind of points of view, compared to, you know what you’re saying about? Well, that’s how my father used to do it. You know, 20 years ago, I tell, you know, my people used to do this job, I used to do it. So the new thinking is going to change stuff. I understand what you’re saying. And I don’t think it says it’s, I don’t think it’s that easy. Um, I would like to say yes, I’ve, I’ve encountered plenty of the stereotypical millennial who has ideas about terrible infrastructure. I have. So just anecdotally, I think this is what’s going on young people come out of school and start working as transportation engineers, traffic engineers, city planners. They are excited
26:00 About what they learned in school, they may have been exposed to Jane Jacobs and other people who now are embraced by planners. But, you know, decades ago, these were people who were at direct odds with city planners and traffic engineers. So they come out of the university inspired, excited, they’re going to make things better, they’re going to get more more butts on bikes, they’re going to get people riding the bus again. They’re going to they’re going to retrofit suburbia. And then they start working. And they had, they’re working with nice people who say, Look, that’s, that’s a good idea. It’s just not practical. And then they see project after project where the clients are saying, Yeah, we don’t want that. We want this over here. We need to widen from four lanes and six lanes and it’s there are what seemed to be convincing arguments that that’s what it’s got to be, you know, you’ve got to serve level of service. You need less vehicular delay, that sort of thing. And so then what happens is, the young people coming out of school are trained by Gen Xers. My
27:00 And then even older. So you know, boomers are still on the scene. So you’ve got, you’ve got mentors who still have the very
27:09 car centric design in mind, and they’re training the young people. So I think it’s a mixture. That’s not to say that they’re completely squashed. Some of them I think have been but I don’t think it’s as as easy or?
Unknown Speaker 27:23
Yeah, I just I think it’s I think it’s still going to be, we still have this challenge of persuading people of all ages that this is doable.
Unknown Speaker 27:33
One, one thing that is a little bit exciting and probably counterintuitive, it was to me anyway, is I keep encountering people that are closer towards closer to retirement, who are very open minded to walkable bikable infrastructure. And my feeling is, that’s because they have less pressure. They, they care less about what other people think. So if you’re 16
Unknown Speaker 28:00
Five years old and still on the job, you don’t really care as much if someone rolls their eyes at you about your idea for a protected bike lane, is when you were 25 years old, and you’re worried about what everybody thinks you want to make sure that you stay employed. Right? So I, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting how the generations are viewing
Unknown Speaker 28:22
new transportation opportunities. And the manuals also have to change not just the personnel is the fact you’ve got these very strict design manuals, which tell you, you know, all sorts of different things and if you if you you can’t divert away from these things. So is that something that also takes an awful long time to change? I think manuals themselves do take a long time to change. Yes, and that and that’s one of the reasons why I had so many issues with professional organisations is it seemed like they part of their existence was to simply put out
Unknown Speaker 28:55
these humongous doorstop textbooks that
Unknown Speaker 29:00
That were Delta read and terrible on the environment. You know, they they were methods to make our infrastructure worse.
Unknown Speaker 29:09
So, I think, and this is this is me speaking not a professional organisation that I am affiliated with speaking, but I think in a lot of places, make perhaps every place just start with what you know, is painfully obvious. What when I walk around with my kids in certain areas, they’ll say, I mean, they’re they’re teenagers now, but when they were young, they could point out easily dead, I can’t cross that street, and they were right, or dead. I don’t think I should ride my bike on the sidewalk. It’s too bumpy.
Unknown Speaker 29:43
Kids get this stuff. You don’t have to be a traffic engineer to understand intersection operations and you don’t have to be a a licenced engineer to, to design a comfortable bike path. In fact, it’s probably beneficial. If you’re not if you’ve
Unknown Speaker 30:00
Never seen a manual and you just say, You know what? My bike is about this wide. my elbows stick out here. I need some more space and that like you could figure out pretty quickly a novice could how wide it comfortable bicycle lane should be. So in terms of the manuals, yes, I think
Unknown Speaker 30:18
if there’s one thing you should, you should delay in your professional work. It’s cracking open a manual. It’s just start with what’s common sense what makes sense for people to move around. And then you can easily backcheck is this legal? Oh, yeah, it is legal. Turns out it is quite legal to have a 10 foot wide lane. So let’s get into your book. So we’ve talked about you let’s now talk about the thing that you’ve just written. So I’ll actually work it’s Bike Share, is that that’s a pretty simple title. But I’ll then just read out the subhead and the subtitle on that site planning business models ridership and regulations and I like this bit of the most, most Miss
Unknown Speaker 31:00
Dude form of modern transportation.
Carlton Reid 31:03
So when you say most misunderstood for modern transportation, is that bike share itself? Or is that cycling? Or was that both? Both? My my focus was on bike share, but I’d say I’d say both.
Andy Boenau 31:15
I was getting a little bit of flack for this on Twitter, but I’ll stand by it.
Unknown Speaker 31:19
The point of it is
Unknown Speaker 31:23
we, you know, you talk with anybody about about traffic, and it, comedians have been pointing this out for forever that anybody, anybody that has a driver’s licence is a traffic engineer. And that’s certainly true. Everybody has these ideas about how modern transportation works, what we need, what we don’t need. Now with ride sharing services like Uber and lift, it’s, it’s even more pervasive that everybody’s an expert. And yet, when it comes to bicycling, it’s still kind of the fringe recreational thing, and then even when people visit a major
Unknown Speaker 32:00
metropolitan area in the US, for example, and an experienced bike share for themselves, and then they come back home and they talk about it. It’s, it’s kind of like it’s part of the experience of you know, I went I stayed in this Airbnb, I use this bike share, it was pretty cool. And then I did this other thing. So it still feels like recreation. If you’re not in an area where you’re, you’re able to see this regularly. So in terms of bike share, that’s what I’m thinking about why it’s it’s a misunderstood form of transportation. It’s it’s also things like this assumption that if you put any number of bicycles out to be shared, then it should either work or not, like if it works, then people like Andy were right. And if nobody uses the 10 bicycles in the city with a million people well Bike Share was back sure doesn’t work. That guy was wrong. It’s just people don’t understand its purpose. The bicycling is transport, and bike share how it can and and then in certain ways how it won’t work.
Unknown Speaker 33:00
So that was my thinking along this, I realised that if you’re a traffic engineer, or some type of city planner, maybe maybe your review site plans that you may know already a lot about this, you may be very familiar with some of the things I referenced in here like naccho, or some other design guides.
Unknown Speaker 33:21
One of the reasons that I wrote this, though, was it I kept hearing over and over and over again, and not necessarily by professionals, the same several questions around bikeshare. And so what I wanted to do was put together basically a frequently asked question, you know, my responses to the FAQ for these things that come up over and over and over again, without getting into an academic exercise where I’m researching on my own and then referencing specific data sets, but just getting right to the point of the issues that people bring up. So your book, do you think it’s mainly
Carlton Reid 34:00
About doct bike share, so cities are going to be putting in
Unknown Speaker 34:06
this form of infrastructure probably subsidised or do you see bikes
Unknown Speaker 34:13
coexisting with the the Chinese model of bike share that you know that the Mobikes of this world you know which which in some ways have come and gone but they’re they’re still there in some cities and potentially littering the sidewalk is still a concept that that troubles many cities. So what kind of bike share Do you think you’re you’re talking about in your book so good.
Andy Boenau 34:40
That’s a good question and I touched on each of them
Unknown Speaker 34:45
docked as in kind of the the original heavy anchor bolted into the ground stations kiosks where the payment is and then dockless where it’s just a free for all the free roaming and then the hybrid.
Unknown Speaker 35:00
Which we’re seeing much more of where the technology is in the bicycle, but they’re being parked at hubs. So when I first started jotting down ideas for this, we still in the US had thousands and thousands of the pure free roaming the Chinese model all around. And then by the time you know, by even like right now, today, end of October 2019, they still exist, but they’re, they look very different. And the companies that operate them are thinking about the operations in a very different way. It’s there, they’re not so much on the market exposure
Unknown Speaker 35:40
angle that they were when they first burst onto the scene.
Unknown Speaker 35:44
I mean, it was it wasn’t that long ago, when all of a sudden everybody in the US was saying, whoa, there’s bikes everywhere. And then a few months later, we’re all going Oh, there’s bikes everywhere. because like you said, it was literally it was they weren’t they weren’t useful.
Unknown Speaker 36:00
What I think I mean, I touch on each of these I touch on the different trade offs associated with each type of model, I think for the future of bikeshare. In the US anyway. And I mean, I would, I would assume that this is true just generally because it’s, I think people
Unknown Speaker 36:17
react to the environment around them in similar ways, wherever we are in the world, even in the really, really dense environments.
Unknown Speaker 36:25
We like things that look nice. We, we generally don’t like to see piles of junk. And we generally don’t like to see someone’s yard with debris in it or a place of business or work or worship with junk piled up around it. We kind of like things neat. I mean, even when people park their cars in a gravel lot, they tend to park them in an orderly way, even though that you know, they might be at an apple orchard. And this they still kind of organise where they park so I think the future of
Unknown Speaker 37:00
Bike Share for successful Bike Share, I, I would go further than say i think i would say i the evidence shows we know that these things need to be organised. So if, if I’m going to use if I’m going to be part of a fleet of shared bicycles, I need to know that if I walk down certain streets, certain corridors, it’s predictable, it’s visible, I know where to find bicycles. And I don’t have to pull up my phone, throw out the thoughts and prayers hashtag that I’m going to find a bike somewhere nearby. So I think that free roaming model is behind us. The veil exists exist, yes, but there’ll be the exception. The future is we’ve got this amazing technology batteries are getting smaller and lighter weight. So you can have so much tech inside of a bicycle itself, you know, built in the frames, that we can track them as if they were free roaming, but when it comes time to park them, they’re organised and then now with mobility as a service. Start
Unknown Speaker 38:00
evolve will be able to have these shared mobility hubs where you can have the the organised way to park the shared bike. You’ll also for a time anyway have shared scooters, the mopeds, the autonomous pods, you know, whatever the thing is train station, you’ll have car parking. So I think organisation is is going to be key.
Carlton Reid 38:21
But that was my next question actually. And that is your book is called Bike Share. But the the up and coming thing or not the up and coming It’s absolutely there. And millennials, everybody is on these things in the cities where they are. And almost, I’m saying almost almost Bancshares old hat because you’ve got bird and lime. And the other companies offering scooters, which you just hop on. And they’re like a little car because you just you just you just press a button and off you where’s where’s the bicycle even a bike share bike with
Unknown Speaker 39:00
Electric Power on, you still have to pedal. So that’s kind of old fashioned. Do you not think when you’ve got the burden the lines and the whiz bang scooters out there?
Andy Boenau 39:14
In some ways, it is old fashion. It and at the same time it’s not going anywhere.
Unknown Speaker 39:21
The bicycle I mean, it’s not going anywhere. I think electric scooters have a place. I’m a I’m a fan. I’m a huge fan. I mean no, like I said before, of choice, I want people to have freedom of mobility choice. So there are places where scooters are probably going to be around for a long, long time. I think controlled campuses like universities are big corporate centres. Those are quite logical.
Unknown Speaker 39:45
Certain downtown cores, but then there are a lot of places where it just doesn’t make sense. If I this is coming from somebody who rides scooters when they’re available. I bikes and scooters. One of my
Unknown Speaker 40:00
challenges on a scooter is if if I want to be carrying something in my hand and you know motorists put earmuffs on right now, if I want to have my my drink that I’ve got, you know, the to go cup from the restaurant at lunch, I need to hold that in one hand while I’m writing. I’m not going to do that on a scooter because it’s a thumb throttle. It’s too wobbly. I’m going to fall. If I’m on a bike.
Unknown Speaker 40:23
That’s easy peasy. You know, a bike is bigger, it’s more stable. You can carry groceries on it if you need to. There’s just there’s so much about the bicycle. That is a lot more practical
Unknown Speaker 40:39
than a scooter. So a scooter has a good purpose it It fills a role.
Unknown Speaker 40:45
But it’s not the same. It’s it’s compatible with and different from the bicycle.
Carlton Reid 40:50
Now, here’s the question that I know troubles a lot of cities because they’ve got various rules and regulations against this and
Unknown Speaker 41:00
Their their state their country, whatever and that helmet so where do you stand on the use of bicycle helmets for Bike Share systems in the full knowledge that an awful lot of cities who’ve who’ve put bike share in have discovered it didn’t really work that well because we’re forcing people to wear helmets.
Andy Boenau 41:18
Yeah this is
Unknown Speaker 41:21
the it’s probably the biggest one is probably the biggest elephant the room. I think we can talk about politics, religion and sex more freely than we can helmets.
Unknown Speaker 41:33
That said, I’m happy to add to the list we can talk about all four of those of you like
Unknown Speaker 41:39
I, I don’t think anybody should ever be forced to wear a bicycle helmet. I think we
Unknown Speaker 41:46
the trap that we fall into and and this is especially true in the US and I know Australian cities are suffering from this right now too.
Unknown Speaker 41:53
We have we have this idea this perceived safety of wearing a foam hat
Unknown Speaker 42:01
And in people, you’ll hear this all the time. And I don’t try to argue with this an anecdote about what a bicycle a bicycle helmet saved my life. Let me tell you how maybe it did, maybe it didn’t.
Unknown Speaker 42:14
According to the science behind how those foam hats are constructed, probably didn’t save your life. But I’m not going to tell a person don’t wear the foam hat with the little pieces of plastic on it. I’m not going to say that. If a person feels more comfortable doing that, then by all means, do that. We know that when a government agency forces a person to wear a certain type of clothing, when they ride a bicycle, that fewer people ride the bicycle. And then I think the bigger issue that kind of the ground level issue really for this is it’s not about what you’re wearing. It’s not about
Unknown Speaker 42:55
the reflectivity of your shirt or the type of light
Unknown Speaker 43:00
The hand signals that you use that an intersection or whatever is on your head. The fundamental issue is we have high speed car traffic, mixing with bicycle traffic and mixing with pedestrian foot traffic. Those things shouldn’t be mixing. So if we keep designing streets where it’s easy for a motorist and comfortable to drive 4045 miles an hour, in the same environment, where people are bicycling at about 12 miles per hour, 15 miles per hour, we’re going to always have a problem. And another issue it’s not helmets but same kind of thing that pops up over and over again, is distracted walking. Or, as most of us call it, walking, that distracted walking isn’t the dangerous speeding drivers of the danger. So um, I think the cult of high visibility, Mothers Against helmet, lust children, these are their good intentions.
Unknown Speaker 44:00
But they’re misguided. Fix the streets make the streets good for riding bicycles. And then you’ll see places like Copenhagen where, you know, even in the miserable weather by it by us standards. People are writing all the time, as I say the best protection against you know, the elements when you’re riding bikes on as far as your head goes is where good hair gel. That’s what I do.
Carlton Reid 44:24
I didn’t see that in your book.
Andy Boenau 44:28
But that’s coming next. That’s coming in the 365.
Carlton Reid 44:33
The the tweeted a book that’ll be next. Okay, so who’s your book for Andy, who were you hoping to read your book and who you’re hoping to actually benefit from your book?
Andy Boenau 44:47
I would love for people who I was something I that I included in the beginning of the book was, if this provokes you, to challenge, one thing that you thought was true, then
Unknown Speaker 45:00
I feel like I’ve done something good. Even if you don’t end up agreeing with something that I put aside on purpose, you know, like you mentioned about helmets, I, I’m purpose include that in here and a little bit behind it and then some resources around helmets.
Unknown Speaker 45:14
I want people to challenge what they already believe, so that they’re stronger in their own belief. Or they realise, Oh, you know what?
Unknown Speaker 45:25
I don’t I’m not sure where I formed that belief. But now that I’ve now that I consider this other point of view, I’m leaning this way. If that just happens one time, then then I’m happy. And then the other type of person, if you’re just if you’re asking these questions, because you’re intrigued, and this comes up, you know, Bike Share, especially thanks to the dockless boom in the in the US especially were there. They were everywhere. So many people it’s a mainstream topic Bike Share. Three years ago, I had to explain to people what a dockless bike was or what a bike share programme how that could operate in a mid sized city.
Unknown Speaker 46:00
Now people just get it. They know what bike shares. So if this book can help you have one good conversation with somebody to try to bring, you know, introduce bike share or expand bike share in your community, then I’m going to be thrilled. So those are the types of people that people that are that have some kind of active interest, either they want to sharpen an idea and challenge the idea. Or they’re looking for an opportunity to make their community better. And so you know, whether that angle is public health, or strong local economy or freedom for your kids,
Unknown Speaker 46:37
then that’s, that’s the kind of person that I want to read this.
Carlton Reid 46:42
And when somebody who’s been inspired to put a system in, because they’ve read your book,
Unknown Speaker 46:51
and then they start putting stations in or they put in the hybrid models.
Unknown Speaker 46:56
They’re going to look at where does bicycle usages hi
Unknown Speaker 47:00
Right now, that seems pretty obvious. And then they might ignore certain areas. So they might ignore
Unknown Speaker 47:08
the non middle class areas,
Unknown Speaker 47:13
minority areas. So how do you get a city to put in an incredibly fair Bike Share system that isn’t just in these certain locations where they think it ought to be?
Andy Boenau 47:31
That’s a good question. And it’s something that that planners have been wrestling with for several years.
Unknown Speaker 47:38
for pretty much every types of service. The same, the same conversation has gone on for many years around transit around around mass transit and the bus, where bus stops are and where they aren’t. whether or not their sidewalks around bus stop. So this the issue of giving all people access is really important.
Unknown Speaker 48:00
I’m not the first person to say this, but I like saying it that the bicycle is the great social equaliser, we look back at pictures is great with places like archive.org, to be able to see pictures from 100 years ago where you could tell just from the clothing and the pictures, that very poor and very wealthy people were side by side on bicycles and walking in city streets. It’s fantastic to see that.
Unknown Speaker 48:27
So now, the challenge is the challenge, like you said, is actually implementing so the idea has been around. People have talked around this idea how do you make it accessible to all these different groups? And I think there are a couple of different issues that have to be
Unknown Speaker 48:43
worked out, head on. One of them is who’s operating the bike share programme? And one of the things I you know, I described different business models of bike share. I don’t say I don’t put a judgement value on this one is good and this other one is wrong.
Unknown Speaker 49:00
You just have to understand, wherever you operate in however you operate, you’re going to have a different way of reaching different communities. And especially if it’s a low income area.
Unknown Speaker 49:12
So if, for example, your local government that operates its own bike share, if you’re the city or the county that’s responsible for locating the bike share stations, and making sure that the bikes are there and all that sort of thing. You have to understand that just like mass transit, it’s not going to pay for itself. If you already know it’s just math, right? If you know that this is a low income neighbourhood or a moderate income neighbourhood, there’s just not going to be enough usage. So you might do things like
Unknown Speaker 49:42
for certain you know, if you live in a certain apartment complex or
Unknown Speaker 49:47
however you do if you if you come from a you go to the community college and you show your ID you get discounted passes you can there been measures in place for a long time to have that sort of system in place, discounted passes or you enter in
Unknown Speaker 50:00
code on the back of the bike, and you get free access. And those types of things can be done without any stigma. Nobody has to know that you’re paying less than the person next to you. So you can have, you can have the wealthiest person in your neighbourhood, check out a bike for $8 an hour, and then the person next to them is getting it for free. And the two of them don’t have to know what each other pays or doesn’t pay. So their methods to do that. What what happens, I think where we keep falling short in the us is we go back and forth between who’s operating and who’s making the decisions. Is it public, or is it private? And so, a public agency will say, we want you the private company that’s delivering Bike Share, we want you to service all these areas, which of course makes sense, right? This is these are all members of the community. We want you to cover all these neighbourhoods and we want you to stay in business for three years we have this contract with you. Now if you’re the private business you want ridership you it doesn’t matter
Unknown Speaker 51:00
You What type of person’s writing you know what their personal background is you want people to write, it’s good for business.
Unknown Speaker 51:08
If you’re in a neighbourhood where you’re just not generating revenue, if you’re then it doesn’t make sense to fill it with bicycles. So what cities need to understand is if it’s cut if coverage is the the important issue, which it is an important issue, then you have to take measures to make sure whether it’s your contract covers for that. So you the city are subsidising it, or there’s some other way to make this work for the business because most of the companies if you’re dealing with this on a on a private side, where it’s a private operator, they’re not a charity, they have to make a profit. If they don’t make a profit, then they can’t build bicycles, they can’t fix the bikes, they can’t put them on the streets. You know, they can’t provide Bike Share. So it’s it is a challenge. I think the way that it has to get worked out is is understanding and just talking frankly, about what
Unknown Speaker 52:00
What does it cost to operate bike share? bike share is not free just like driving a car is not free we have in our minds that it’s free, but there are so many expenses behind
Unknown Speaker 52:11
anything that we do related to transportation. One of my reasons for being so optimistic though about bike share and bike share for for everyone, wherever, whatever their socio economic background is, whatever,
Unknown Speaker 52:25
whatever their origin or whichever neighbourhood they happen to be living in, across the US or, you know, anywhere bike shares, is
Unknown Speaker 52:34
being part of mobility as a service to bring it full circle back to what you said at the beginning. Having modes mixed together is far more profitable than one offs. So
Unknown Speaker 52:47
it’s much harder for 10 different companies to be competing for customers, when they’re all providing different modes. They all have different apps. They all have different service areas and fee structures.
Unknown Speaker 53:00
So if you’re a customer, your head spinning, you already have a handful of transportation apps, you don’t want to have to download now a bunch of other ones. So the sooner we get to this, this,
Unknown Speaker 53:12
this opportunity with an a single app, being able to access all these things, the public bus, the private bike, share the public Bike Share,
Unknown Speaker 53:21
the train, food, all these things mixed together. The sooner the better. And it’s profitable for businesses when they can combine those different types of services. So it’s an it’s a perk for employees. So if you’re a big employer in a certain area,
Unknown Speaker 53:37
you can offer these mobility packages to your employees where you’re paying for the system. You’re You’re chipping in month after month to access maybe it’s a handful of cars, and then also bikes and scooters and all these other all these other devices. But that’s that’s one way where we’re going to be able to provide far more coverage for the underserved neighbourhoods is being able to combine these modes together.
Carlton Reid 54:02
Okay, thank you. Now where can people get the book? And how do people find you on on the internet?
Andy Boenau 54:12
Thanks for thanks for asking. It’s easy to find me online. The book is I made a short link that’s that’s easy to find, but it’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble if you search bikeshare book, it’ll pop up in both of those. Shockingly, there was only one other
54:30 and then this is the first pocket sized one it’s a digital one. So it’s gonna it’s going to fit in in phones and tablets of all sizes and abilities so it’s perfect.
54:41 You can find me at Andy beno calm that’s one a easy way.
54:47 You can also find me on Twitter.
54:50 And then the the short link for the book is fitly slash bite Bike Share book.
Carlton Reid 54:57 Thanks to Andy Boenau — he
55:00 gave the links to his book and his social media, but also place them on the show notes at the-spokesmen.com. And on the next episode, I’ll be talking with academic John Stehlin. Meanwhile, get out there and ride