Author: Carlton Reid

January 16, 2022 / / Blog

16th January 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

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


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Industry veteran Rick Vosper

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


Rick Vosper’s Bicycle Retailer articles.

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


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

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

Carlton Reid 1:10
Thanks, David. On today’s show, I’m talking bike boom stuff with industry veteran and former specialised marketing director Rick Vosper, author of some outstanding analysis pieces on In this hour long show, we discuss whether the bubble has indeed popped. Yes, this is an inside baseball chat. In other words, a deep dive into what you might consider to be of abiding interest to industry types only. But as Rick explains, the bursting of the bike boom bubble, reverberates widely, and could even destabilise global bicycle advocacy efforts. This is therefore a potential concern to cyclists in general.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know, inside baseball,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a redneck, sell that one to me.

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

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

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

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

Rick Vosper 10:10
Yes, absolutely.

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

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

many of the companies that actually

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cervello, Santa Cruz

Focus, GT. Yes.

Carlton Reid 16:44

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 23:47
Perfect competition.

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 24:11

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

Even longer, huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 25:27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 29:00

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s the downside of that?

What’s the downside of perfect competition?

The downside is nobody makes any money.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a lot of the people drinking beer are cyclists.

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

Trek and Specialized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rick Vosper 33:45
Yes, although

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

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

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

There are a lot of alpha people on those rides.

Carlton Reid 34:40
Including Mike himself.

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

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

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

CSG and that’s they bought Mike’s Bikes

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

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

Now, Specialized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 37:36
How very diplomatic of you.

Rick Vosper 37:39

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rick Vosper 39:10
It is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now consider

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

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

Then to make matters worse,

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

brilliant answer at the time. But anyway,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the bike companies.

Electric bikes are more expensive than pedal only bikes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they’re being very successful with this model.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transcribed by

January 11, 2022 / / Blog

11th January 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

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


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Mark Stevenson aka Guitar Ted of

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


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

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

Carlton Reid 1:10
Thanks, David. And on today’s show, I’m talking with Mark Stevenson of He tweets and blogs as Guitar Ted and on one of his tweets earlier today he mentioned that some folks across there in America have created the gravel riding hall of fame. Now, to those who know about the history of gravel grinding, Guitar, Ted is one of the key figures from the early days. So here’s hoping he gets to be one of the first inductees. Here’s our 45 minute chat from earlier today. First of all, Guitar Ted, or Mark, what we’re doing today, Guitar Ted, Mark, Guitar Ted, Mark?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Stevenson 22:17
No, it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 22, 2021 / / Blog

22nd December 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

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


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Andrew Phillips of Orb




Sinewave lights


Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to episode 289 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Wednesday 22nd of December 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 26:04
And your dog.

Andrew Phillips 26:06
And our dog. Exactly.

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 28:04
Just normal for Italy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 13, 2021 / / Blog

13th December 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

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


HOST: Carlton Reid

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

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


John Stewart’s article in The Telegraph:


Carlton Reid 0:15
Welcome to Episode 288 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Monday 13th of December 2021.

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

Carlton Reid 1:10
Hi, I’m Carlton Reid and today’s show is an interview with veteran anti roads campaigner John Stewart. He’s been causing a fuss on social media over his controversial views on low traffic neighbourhoods or LTNs. Controversial because of his long history of campaigning against motor traffic, and also because he’s the chair of the Campaign for Better Transport. Now, he penned a polemic in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, which was headlined, “LTNs are ineffective, and inherently infai.” Rather than engage with him on Twitter, as many have done and I was kind of going to, I thought I’d get him on the show. And as you’ll hear in this episode, which is just shy of an hour, we establish he’s not against LTNs which push motor traffic onto motor roads. But those which he says, push motor traffic onto boundary roads, and where many people live. Now I do in this episode, talk about many studies, which show the opposite. But anyway, here is John Stewart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Stewart 9:35
I am I

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

radical solutions to the transport problems that we face.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Stewart 14:15

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

John Stewart 14:28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

have come from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Stewart 31:49
Okay. I,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

who’ve done

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But why would you want cars to go everywhere?

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

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

that there would be held for a lot of people, but in the end of the day, I don’t think you can, you can put

a minority of people, particularly in London, it’s a big minority of people living on a main road is about 720,000 people, the size of a city, you can’t give them sheer hell all the time, so that others could get a relatively pleasant environment.

Carlton Reid 42:55
With the article you wrote in, in The Telegraph, so your own organisation has come out and said, you know, these are your personal views, because people are now saying they want to quit the Campaign for Better Transport, you know, tear up my membership card, all that kind of stuff. Yeah.

John Stewart 43:15
Yes, some, some are. Some are God. I don’t know how many in total, but some certainly a few. Handful certainly are. Yes.

Carlton Reid 43:22
So campaign for better transport has has, in effect distanced itself from that article, and saying, you know, it’s your views? And of course, you’re entitled to have a view that’s contrary to the organisation that you chair. But do you think that that’s a position that can last for very long if you’re, you’re in effect, opposed to what your organisation stands for? And they’ve posted a blog post in which says this is our opinion on LTN? We’re very much in favour of them.

John Stewart 43:54
Yes, I saw the blog post. And actually, I was obviously in contact with the people that campaign for better transport this morning, I saw the blog post, I saw the tweet, and I actually liked it. And I made a point of liking the tweet because I wanted to reinforce what they were saying.

Yes, I think it’s, I think it’s quite credible for me to stay as chair, I still have a different view on this. If I’d if I had a different view on the

on the basic thrust of where the organisation is going, if I didn’t share the values of the organisation, that would be very different. But I don’t think that this is in that category.

Carlton Reid 44:35
Hmm. Nowt you have taken and you’ve been very good to respond to most people who’ve come on to you and you have, and you’ve basically said the same tweet to a lot of people, which is, you know, you’re in favour of cycling infrastructure, in favour of more pedestrianisation, you’re in favour of bus lanes and you’re in favour of road user charging, but many people have said but what

you’ve not giving us is the actual data. So you’ve said

that that LTNs are (a) unpopular with many people. And and (b) they’re not effective. And people have been saying to you show us the data show us where that that says that because we’ve got the data here that says the opposite. So why haven’t you answered people?

John Stewart 45:22
Well, I think I have but but let me let me say that. I think that’s the question that took me aback, because I’ve gone through the data with some care, because clearly, you’re not going to read an article or something like The Sunday Telegraph without going through the data. First. I got through the data with some care. And it was absolutely clear to me that although as we were saying earlier, although there’s not overspill on to all the boundary roads, virtually every LTN, has overspill or to some of the boundary and Main Roads. I kind of took that as a given. I didn’t think I needed to prove that. And I assumed that particularly some of the really specialist, people who were who were challenging me had had a regulator as well.

Carlton Reid 46:12
But how do we know it’s from the the LTN is because all motor traffic has gone up during the Coronavirus crisis. So it could be just that it’s just you know, there is more traffic on the roads full stop it.

John Stewart 46:24
That’s why COVID makes it a bit difficult. But I’ve looked at in some detail at what some of the consultants have done, for example, sister who have who worked for Lamberth, and who were a very credible consultancy who I’ve known for the aviation days, and they have made a really big attempt to try and take account of the COVID situation. Now, I think they recognise with all recognise that, you know, they may not have been able to completely, but they tried to take account of that and even so, they are showing, in some cases considerable increases in traffic on boundary roads around the LTN. And it’s that is that data which I thought people would have read. Now I this morning, I kind of tried to collate some of it and put it out on Twitter, and just encourage people themselves to go through all the data and to go behind the headlines. I think it is true to say that some of the councillors not all but some of the councillors who have presented the data in the best possible light because they want to keep the LTN. Now, you know, that’s what organisations do. But I’ve said to people today on Twitter, if that’s the data you’re reading, go behind it, go behind it and look at the individual roads, because that does show and does back up. But I think what I’m saying is that many of the boundary roads are suffering adversely as a result of the LTNs.

Carlton Reid 47:56
But only if they’re residential. So we’ve established that that was your beef. So if it’s a if it’s a road that is in effect, so like the Eastern Avenue, so that’s, you know, we have no houses

at all, no residential areas against there are many roads like that in London, so you’re not against LTN that have boundaries against one better word motor roads. It’s only where they are on main roads that have residents. Is that right?

John Stewart 48:27
Residential is the key thing. That’s that’s right. We years ago, UK Noise Association, we did a competition to find the noisiest road in the UK. And we deliberately excluded motorways, probably all the noises wrote in the UK. But we deliberately excluded motorways, because we were only interested in roads where people lived. And that continues to be my position. Yes.

Carlton Reid 48:50
So let’s come back. We’ll finish on this. Because this was also one of the key things that you did mention in your Telegraph piece. And we have touched on on this show already. But we need to come back to because it was the unfairness bit which which i i stopped you from talking about so road user charging. Now one of the complaints against that is if you’re looking at something that’s inequitable, well road user charging, you know, if you’re rich, you’re gonna be able to afford road user charging, no problem. So how do you solve the inequity? That’s that’s inbuilt into road user charging?

John Stewart 49:25
Yes, it’s been built. And I think what you’ve got to do is, first of all, take at least some of the money and put it into public transport. So the fares for people using public transport come down significantly. You’ve got to put some of the money into rehabilitating space on main roads as well as side roads for people walking and cycling. You may also have to tighten the parking rules and you certainly will have to reduce

speed limits

because you’ve got fewer cars on the roads that they’ll speed up, that the critical thing I think, I would say is that I think road user charging will be fair, or as fair as it can be. If for your typical person, he or she is spending less than transport overall during the course of the year than he or she is now.

That means people will be using public transport much more, but we much cheaper, but the total family budget spent on transport will be less than it is now, if we can get to that situation, we’ve got to a reasonably fair situation.

Carlton Reid 50:41
So, John, many of the points you’ve touched on, and it’s slightly curious like this, in that people, most people I would say, are going to be in total agreement with you on about 90% of what you said. So it literally is just that LTN pointd. And I think we’ve now dug down into it enough to find out. It really isn’t LTNs per se, it’s only the Boundary Road. So that’s your your your main concern. And I guess a lot of people would also have very similar concerns to Boundary Road also in that most people want the traffic reduced on the boundary roads also.

John Stewart 51:17
They do. And that’s absolutely right.

Yes, it’s certainly an aspiration. But for most people, I think that’s absolutely right. Because a lot of people, a lot of us, as we were saying earlier, using bad roads, particularly their main roads, you know, we use them to stop and go to school and work and everything else. So a lot of people are interested in less traffic on the boundary roads. But But I think it’s there’s a difference between those people and the people who are actually stuck living on those boundary roads on those main roads all the time, for whom it’s an absolute imperative.

Carlton Reid 51:54
Hmm, I think we can agree on that. I think nobody would want to, to live with that much pollution and that much noise. We I think we can all agree on that for that for definite. So thank you ever so much for talking to us today. Because I saw all of this bubbling up last night, I saw you answering people, I almost, in fact, I did do one or two tweets. And then I thought, no, I think I’ll just rather talk to you rather than just come up with like a pithy comment which many people have come out and just being totally against you, I thought I’d actually talk to you and find out a bit more of a nuanced view, especially with your background, because maybe many people are just looking at the organisation you know, they they associated with you, and then haven’t looked back to your, your background to which most people are going to be subscribing to your background and where you’ve come from. So thank you ever so much for for coming on and explaining your point of view.

John Stewart 52:46
Thank you, Carlton. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.

Carlton Reid 52:49
Thanks to John Stewart there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 288 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The next show is an interview with ultra cyclist and bike product entrepreneur, Andrew Phillips. That’ll be out next week. But meanwhile, get out there and ride …

November 22, 2021 / / Blog

22nd November 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 287: Chris Froome and Hammerhead CEO Pieter Morgan


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Chris Froome and Pieter Morgan

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



Next Ventures


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Froome 22:26
Correct. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 22:28
So how was that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Froome 28:50
Yes, yes.

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

Chris Froome 29:20
Certainly, certainly.

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

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

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

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

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

November 14, 2021 / / Blog

14th November 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 286: COP26 SPECIAL — The Transition to Zero Cars


HOST: Carlton Reid

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

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

LINKS: Forbes article


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 11:56
Yeah, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mohamed Mezghani 38:58
UITP is 156 years old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henk Swarttouw 50:51

Carlton Reid 50:52
So it’s …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 53:36
I do!

Henk Swarttouw 53:38
But we don’t.

Carlton Reid 53:40
Your official position is …

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

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

Henk Swarttouw 55:45

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 1:06:36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 1:20:10
A hockey stick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 29, 2021 / / Blog

29th October 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 285: Ride For Their Lives


HOST: Carlton Reid

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Mark Hayden 3:29

Carlton Reid 3:30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 13:47

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 17:21
So trust medics, well,

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 19:23
Nice. rainiest day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Camilla Kingdon 19:59
She was.

Carlton Reid 19:59
On a road in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Mike McKean 25:34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 27:29
And how

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 32:53
Come on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Group 34:48
We missed you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Janet Poon 38:47

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Reid 42:22
riding into work also.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Group 47:28
Bicycle medic Okay,

Carlton Reid 47:33
yeah, sure the bicycle

Nathan Elliott 47:36
and resuscitation anyone so far?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Fin Craig 49:08
I’m Fin.

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

Dr Fin Craig 49:11

Carlton Reid 49:12

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

Group 49:18

Carlton Reid 49:18
and where are you from? And

what do you do?

Dr Fin Craig 49:20
Great Ormond Street palliative care consultant.

Carlton Reid 49:22
Okay, and do you normally cycle the cycle to where cycles work?

Dr Fin Craig 49:25
I cycle everywhere but I don’t cycle for fun. I cycle for transport.

Carlton Reid 49:29
See everybody I’ve talked to so far all the doctors on the trip are saying roughly the same. So there must be an enormous amount of doctors at GOSH riding?

Dr Fin Craig 49:38
No, there’s not Well, there is a fair number of people I don’t think it’s doctors necessarily. It’s multi professionals and probably more than, a lot of doctors that drive.

Carlton Reid 49:49
Is that changing?

Dr Fin Craig 49:51
I don’t know. I think it needs to the hospital there’s a lot more cyclists I think since lockdown. But I wouldn’t say it’s predominantly talk to us. I would I would say it is amongst doctors, it’s probably the more middle grade junior staff. I was going

to send consulted doctors, even before the pandemic, junior doctors, and all

the allied professionals much more. So I’d say it’s probably more physios. You think likely? We’ve got a good yeah. Okay, there’s only two people in my team, that cycle

Carlton Reid 50:22
has been notice a change, though, in the last say, three, four years, if you’ve been riding in that long if you see more people coming into work now on bikes.

Dr Fin Craig 50:32
I don’t know because I, it’s that’s hard to tell because I lock my bike somewhere where most people don’t lock their bikes, that

Nick Martin 50:38
there are more people cycling into. In general, we know that. Racks are used a lot more, got more racks, we’re getting some data to show these few more people. So I’m not sure if they’re all.

Carlton Reid 50:52
Okay, in general. So right now, now I’ve come to you. I’m out of sync here in the in the group. But so who

Nick Martin 50:57
you are Nick Martin. Okay, what are you doing head of sustainability at? Gosh.

Carlton Reid 51:02
See, that’s one of the other things that people have been telling me. And they’ve been impressed with the saying there’s, there’s more and more sustainability officers in hospitals. And that can only be a good thing, because you’re basically telling people to get on their bikes. Is that one of the things you tell people to do, or advise them to do?

Nick Martin 51:17
Don’t tell anyone. Yeah, I mean, no people have made, made their own minds, especially the pandemic is very useful thing to avoid, you know, getting on trains and tubes, when people were a little bit worried about what the consequences might be.

And when to check, it was less than

Unknown Speaker 51:35
a good gateway opportunity for people. And then we’ve set up a group. In fact, this ride came out of a little group we set up to support people to get themselves actively into work during the pandemic. And this, this whole idea came out of that colleague, Vince, and then Mark Hayden, the intensivist. We took it from there. So that was all around helping people get into work. And then what should we do with cop? And then let’s write the essay.

Dr Fin Craig 52:01
And we have three we have this really good effort, gosh, called cheer app, which encourages sustainability dare points for riding and that sort of points, everything I’m Mager on it should load up.

Nick Martin 52:13
So the hospital recently declared a climate emergency. So we have a target to get to net zero by 2030’40 emissions, we can control 2040 for the broader emissions, things like that tie into the ability for staff take it into

Dr Fin Craig 52:27
pieces. A lot of us have got into this so like you report your actions every week, because today’s Friday it might be time so I’ve been reporting more than 12 weeks. So I have to say my exercise of exercise five days. I’m switched off my computer my monitor my charges my lights, heaters and fans. I don’t have a printer. Now active travel can I start commuted everyday this week. Okay, so I’ve muted tune from overdue I’ve done loads of points. I’ve done 10 Miles five times this week. Yeah. Plastic pledge I managed to stick to my plastic pledge. I haven’t gotten meat free this week. Sadly, because of eating I haven’t TerraCycle but I learned all about Terracycling from this app. I didn’t know you could TerraCycle blister packs for medications. So now you know when you you put your pills out one of these right it’s written been bring it best way bring it to Superdrug and they there was a way of tetracycline so they separate the foil from that. Yes. That is recyclable. And you know in a month at home we’ve got an absolutely not monster about three months massive bag to be recycled. I didn’t know about that. And people don’t know about this. Have I used three cups reusable cups and bottles. Yes, everyday this week. Have I had outside breaks? I think this counts as five days outside breaks. My I’ve done up to 70,000 steps, right for their lives. How many kilometres Have you cycled this week? I’m going to say 90 plus and then I submit it. And hopefully that will go in and then we have a leaderboard. I’m quite good at staying top of the leaderboard. And if you win if the top of the leaderboard month to get a 10 pound gift voucher or place of your choice, well no, there’s a choice of three or four. Not getting them in the garden centre with the moment wanted to garden centre. Nice, okay, we’ll look at

Nick Martin 54:15
that. But then this app shows how your personal well being and your, you know, opportunities to contribute to the environmental broader picture are integrally

Carlton Reid 54:24
linked. So that’s all nudge nudge technology, basically, people are then going oh, I don’t do that.

Dr Fin Craig 54:32
Yeah, totally. And it’s become the norm in our family now but but only since getting this app and as you can see, I’m at the top of the leaderboard at the moment. Vince is a real competitor of mine, I have to be quite careful in

Carlton Reid 54:46
any events because he’s been so far ahead. Thanks to all of the right for their lives riders and thanks also to Jo Rogers and climate acceptance studios for inviting me to join them the right way side is at the climate acceptance forward slash ride for their lives. You could donate your rating miles to them via Strava or an email as they aim to collect as many lives as possible before they reach Glasgow. But meanwhile, get out there and ride.

October 4, 2021 / / Blog

4th October 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 284: Brum to kick out cars


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Cllr Waseem Zaffar

TOPICS: 45-minute interview with Birmingham’s city council’s transport lead Waseem Zaffar on the day the council launched its radical and potentially transformative transport plan. The UK’s motorway city is to prioritise people over cars, including adding more protected cycleways. If Britain’s Detroit can do it, any city can do it! This interview was used for a news story which appeared in The Guardian.


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to episode 284 of the Spokesmen cycling Podcast. This show was engineered on Monday 4th October 2021.

David Bernstein 0:25
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA. Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information check out our website at And now here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the Spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:11
Birmingham City Council has just launched its radical and potentially transformative transport plan. The UK is motorway city is to prioritise people over cars, including adding more protected cycleways. I’m Carlton Reid and in this 50-minute episode we hear from Birmingham city council’s transport lead Waseem Zaffar and the very personal reasons why he converted to pedalling from being a petrolhead.

If Britain’s Detroit can prioritise people over car, any city can do it. This interview formed the basis for a news story which I wrote for today’s Guardian and here’s Waseem.

Waseem, thank youever so much for for talking to me and thanks oOf course for for sending through the plan which is no longer a draft plan. It’s a real thing coming up

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 2:13
Absolutely long time coming. But we would have loved to have adopted this a lot sooner but the pandemic created some challenges particularly around resources and our priorities as a as a council is slightly shifted but in between we did have the emergency Birmingham transport plan which followed the same four key principles of the the development transport plan.

Carlton Reid 2:35
Now I’m going to compliment you here in that I could have written this. Tthis is the plan I would have written. I mean, I might have been a bit more radical here and there but not a great deal. So that says to me it’s quite radical.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 2:48
It is radical because Birmingham needs a radical shift in how people move across our city. We’ve we’ve got major challenges, we’ve got major environmental challenges, you’re know, our challenges around air quality are very well publicised, we’ve got major challenges like climate change, where the biggest gas emissions contributor in our city and across our country is transport more. More importantly, even that those are really important or more important than that Carlton, we have major health inequalities. So I see this less of a a transport project, but more as a project making our communities and our neighbourhoods a lot healthier through active travel, getting people at their cars and those short journeys and getting people walking, getting people cycling. You know, we’ve got the scooter trial as well. And this is all a shift from single occupancy private cars towards more sustainable transport then buses. You know, the the tram is really important to us. But it’s he hasn’t got the coverage anywhere near the coverage that we need. And local trains are really important. We’re expanding on them, but they’ve got nowhere near the coverage that we need. So the busses are absolutely vital I sit here, we have to give them the level of priority that that they need. So this this, this plan is about giving busses a greater level of priority in our city. And I’m absolutely convinced once we start to get this delivered some aspects we’ve been trialling through the emergency Birmingham transport plan. But once you start to get this delivered that the key principle driven across communities and start to recreate places in our neighbourhoods, which are more friendly to people over cars, we will see a real shift in how people’s patterns — there will be a cultural shift to more walking and cycling, which will make people live fitter and healthier and longer in our city.

Carlton Reid 4:37
Now you have the draft plan went out to public consultation you had 619 responses from individuals, 44 from organisations so just go into that 619 is that really representative because that’s 619 people in a city of lots of people?

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 4:57
So, Carlton, it is always a challenge in how people respond to our consultations. The council carves out consultations on a variety of things, often statutory consultations, and we don’t get anywhere near the response that we need. Obviously, some of the biggest consultations we’ve carried out have been linked to transport and environment, the Clean Air Zone was a 10,000+ response consultation, we had over 6,500 responses on our bus survey that we did a consultation that we did. So, you know, we were out there, we were talking about the Birmingham transport plan, we, we received a lot of local, regional, national and international coverage on this too. So we didn’t in a way, hide this consultation behind loads of pages on our website, this was very much out there. And and I’d like to think I’ve been very, very much out there myself, not hiding behind council officers, or the stakeholders talking about these plans, because these are, these are plans. I mean, you know, obviously the a lot of people have been part of this, but these are politicians, we’re making the decisions and, and I always believe firmly that popular unpopular politician need to front of these decisions.

Carlton Reid 6:09
Now that in the report to cabinet, you say the response to those 619 responses and the 44, from organisations, were largely positive, including on the things that potentially you might think if you were incredibly pro car wouldn’t be so popular. So the cycling infrastructure, the walking infrastructure, and buses, all of these were actually quite popular. So what does that say about the kind of the trope out there that you can’t do these kind of things, because they’re not going to be popular?

So, Carlton, in the three and a half years I’ve been in this job tThe thing I’ve realised is that the challenge and the heartache is generally with the disruption that projects cause. Once you start, people, communities start to see the benefits of a project. They … And the long term benefits are probably they are very, very supportive. So I think it’s sort of looking beyond the actual delivery and implementation of a project and looking at the benefits that really work. I don’t know there’s people out there who you know … Our blue cycling lanes are probably the most one of the most popular things that council’s done in a long time we’ve got going on, I was talking to at the Ruth Cadbury MP at Labour Conference. She’s originally from Birmingham, she visits her mum in Birmingham, and she’s the chair of the all party parliamentary group, we’re walking outside, and she was travelling on those blue cycle lanes recently, and she was extremely positive about them. So I think people in our community as citizens of Birmingham, want these changes. It’s just whilst there’s all this work taking place in our city at the moment, and obviously the games the Commonwealth Games have been a catalyst for investment and a catalyst for change. This quarter, there’s quite a lot happening, which is creating some disruption, but I can assure them that you know, as we end this year, those projects will start to come to an end and then people will start to see the benefits on me so I think people are starting to understand because we’re out there talking to as many people as possible about the long term benefits of projects I think they are starting to get more support or what we’re doing and obviously there’s there’s some projects like the low traffic neighbourhoods in and we’ve seen the the issues in Kings Heath which some which are very very popular in some quarters and not so popular amongst others, but it’s about getting the balance right and ensuring that we do everything possible to bring everybody on this journey with us. And you might have noticed we’ve launched the consultation formal consultation for the the temporary measures in Kings Heath and also move forward to the expansion of the the the low traffic neighbourhoods over other areas and Kings Heath and Mosley too so where we one thing that certainly happens, around transport gets communities talking, it gets people you always got an opinion about a change in the way a road or a piece of highway currently exists or is moving into to a new way of doing things. So people always have an opinion.

Hmm very loud opinion sometimes now how much different is this plan compared to the 2020 draft one, in wording, how much has been changed?

To be honest with you because we’ve got we’ve got considerable support not just from people but also from key stakeholders it’s it’s the key principles are literally the same. The the project is this plan is very similar to the draft plan. The obviously COVID creating massive challenges but the one opportunity did create is we could we tested out some of these principles. We tested our low traffic neighbourhoods, we tested out pop-up cycle lanes. We tested out the city centre segment and you know that That gave us the ability, I’m not saying first time around all of those things absolute perfect, but when we start to embed them in permanently, we will get very, very close to the ideal, the ideal project with respect to that. So there has been that that mass opportunity but because and we’ve also obviously rolled out the Clean Air zone since then as well, which has been really successful in its first few months and I know it’s gonna get it’s going to success levels are going to increase and increase and increase until we don’t need a clean air zone. So it’s very, very, very similar to where we were.

Okay. So the current fuel shortages on the news all the time at the moment that it shows how reliant we — I’m saying we, people in general as it’s it appears from the media – are on on petrol and on dotting around in private cars, and how scared the government clearly are upsetting motorists. So the transport plan was clearly written long before the current woes but there’s all that TV and media coverage does that, does that keep you awake at night thinking I’m going to get so much stick here, when we start delivering on the ground.

This is one of the original motor cities — the car will always have a role within Birmingham. But it’s it’s the issue is the over reliance of coal in our city, particularly the overloads of single occupancy journeys in our car in using car and the fact that we’ve got 300,000 journeys every day. These are pre COVID figures obviously 300,000 journeys every day by car, which are less than one mile. That’s that’s not how I want Birmingham my city. Progress I want, I want people to be able to look going back to the health inequality I referred to earlier, I want people to be able to walk and cycle those journeys, enjoying their communities, enjoy their neighbourhoods enjoy the space around them. And for that, you need that that cultural shift. One of the things we’ve realised, particularly in the pandemic, people want clean air. And if we want to get cleaner air, we have to shift the way that we move across the city, there is no two ways of it. So whilst there, there are projects on the clean air zone that have made me very unpopular in the north of the city where I live in and represent, the A34 highways project made me unpopular. But I often say I didn’t, I didn’t come into politics to win popularity contests I came into politics to change lives for the better. And I’m convinced projects such as the Clean Air zone, which will save lives. It will ensure that kids who are currently living six months less in our city because of the levels of air pollution will grow up fitter and healthier. I’m convinced that Perry Bar in the north of Birmingham will be one of the most connected neighbourhoods around with segregated cycling, a new train station, a new bus interchange, a bus rapid transit route and bus priority like no other place in Birmingham, these are the changes we’re making to people’s lives that is just a start because this transport plan is about a vision for the foreseeable future. And looking at how we can create similar changes right across the city. So whilst at times I you know the the challenge and the criticism, and the trolling does have an impact on me, I’d like to say if he didn’t have he didn’t have an impact on me. But I look at the long term benefits. And this is about no matter what hugely privileged position to be able to change my city for the better. And this is my city, this is where I was born. This is where I’ve grown up, I’m the proudest Brummie there is and this is where my family will and my kids will grow up. And I you know, I want to look back at this exciting period of my career and say I was I was able to play a very small role in making Birmingham, that amazing place that it will be coming forward.

You’re not taking an all-modes or equal approach here. You know, you’re not boosting all modes, you know, adding cycleways but leaving motoring intact, you’re actively talking about reducing motoring. So that’s not just bold, isn’t that electoral suicide for a politician?

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 14:38
Carlton, if we’re going to reverse the health inequalities, if we’re going to tackle air quality, the 1000 people dying prematurely every year in Birmingham, because of air pollution if we’re going to become carbon neutral by 2030, there has to be some radical, bold and brave steps. And this Birmingham transport plan is one of them. I’m convinced I speak to people who drive, their challenges to public transport system isn’t good enough. People who use public transport tell me that isn’t reliable enough. So if we can increase the reliability of the public transport system, if we can get more zero emission buses, which we’re working on, we’ve got 20 hydrogen buses, we’ve got a bid for 200 through the Zebra route. You know, we got the greenest buses in Birmingham, we get more reliability in the bus services, people will decide to give up on their cars, people will decide to leave their cars at home and travel by by public transport. So I’m convinced that this is this is the right time for Birmingham to be making these bold moves so close to the games, the HS2 round the corner, we need to provide these integrated public transport solutions rather than making decisions, as we have for decades, which prioritise cars over everything else. And, you know, we’ve ended up with the gridlock city, we’ve ended up with the challenges that are referred to and with 150,000 more residents expected over the next few years here in our city iIf we don’t have this cultural shift away from private car and reduce the reliance of private car, we’re going to end up you’re if it’s gridlocked, already, God forbid what our city will look like, moving forward. So this change is needed, it will happen. And I’m convinced the people of this city will not will will not oppose these plans, electorally, or in any other way.

Carlton Reid 16:42
So you said “brave” and you said “bold” and then in the plan itself, there’s “radical,” there’s “transformative.” There’s “seismic.” These are scary words, for most people, because people don’t like change, even if it’s maybe potentially could improve their lives. It’s just they like to see things that they’ve always done. So why have you used such an effect triggering words in your in your document? Could you have not sugarcoated it a bit more, bring in the change slowly, perhaps even by stealth? So people didn’t notice the changes?

Carlton, when you put yourself forward for public office, when you put yourself forward to represent the people of a city like I have, you put your head above the parapet and you do that understanding the consequences. I’m I’m absolutely confident. I’ve got some of the best officers in local government working with me. I talk to stakeholders all the time, I talked to communities all the time, I listened to people who are critical of these plans and I listen to people who are supporting these plans. So I’m very routed back to where how this will impact on people. I absolutely believe that there’s two things a politician has to do. One you have to be open transparent, honest with people so sugarcoating is not the way I do things. I have to you have to front the decisions you’re making, you can’t hide behind council officers, you can’t hide behind press officers, you need to be a decision that’s got your name on it, you need to be able to sell it and convince people and if you can’t come to sell it and convince the people you should not be making that decision. And that I believe that you know those are very, very important values of how I operate as a politician. And and you know, I’m I also absolutely live what I what I say you know, I absolutely believe in in these things. I believe that the right things for for for, for me, my family who live in in the city, for my constituents and for the wider city. And I think you know, it’s like the clean air zone on leading up to the clean air zone, leading up to the clean air zone, my inbox was full of people challenging and criticising the project and they have every right to do that because I absolutely believe in freedom of speech and I believe in democracy which is about challenging and holding people to account, I believe in that. But with the level of the complaints diminished literally the moment we launched because a lot of people were obviously comparing the clean air zone onto the congestions on London’s thought they’re all going to be impacted by rather than just the polluting cars being impacted by by that project. And I’m I’m convinced that the the initiatives within this will bring about long term benefits to our communities and they will understand that

Were you a convert all these ideas or were you in your youth, were you a bit of a petrol head or have you always been this way minded?

So, Carlton, you couldn’t get me out my car four years ago I was I would, I would take those journeys less than one mile by car. I hadn’t been on a on a bus since my university days. And I never cycled never, ever cycled until the summer of 2018. So when I started to look at the consequences that people that the decisions I was making, that the impact that that was having on me and my health, I’m a Type2 diabetic. And my health was really diminishing a few years ago. And then I started to know … My father was a taxi driver in Birmingham. In 2009, February, he suddenly died at the age of 54. And every day, I think about the consequences of a him and his job being behind a wheel of a car, earning a living from me and my mum and my siblings to put bread on the table. How that led ultimately led to his untimely demise. Now he was his health, he was a Type2 diabetic, we had the under control, his health conditions pretty good. Just went overnight. So I absolutely think about this and I know one of the biggest groups that’s challenged me in the city has been taxi drivers. Before I became a councillor, I was a trade union rep for taxi drivers in Birmingham. And I often talk to them about the impact that sitting behind a wheel for the long hours they do in polluting areas has on their health, this is about reversing their health inequalities and making them live longer and stronger and healthier lives. So I’m absolutely a convert. I you know, there’s still a lot more I could do I could walk a lot more ironically, I was at Labour Conference. And I did a remarkable amount of steps during that during the conference which I found fascinating. I could do a lot more steps around you know, walk, I could do a lot more cycling. But I have absolutely, you know these changes will will will make people in our city healthier. No one needs to tell me about the health inequalities in our city because I represent the ward with the lowest male life expectancy. I represent the ward which had the least amount of resilience amongst its people and led to it being very badly hit during the COVID pandemic. We have to change people’s lives and this is one way of doing it.

Hmm. So you mentioned the Labour Conference there but the policies you’re bringing in perhaps bizarrely are actually an awful lot of them you can find in the Tory manifesto now so you know Labour and and and Tories maybe agree on these things it doesn’t doesn’t always happen in you know Tory councils and it has been the Labour councils that have been taking in effect Tory policies or the way that the Tories are now allowing councils to do these policies if they so choose so there’s there’s no conflict there’s no right or left in this any more, is there?

So I always say in politics we agree on a lot more than we disagree on. The Conservatives have taken different positions so the Birmingham Conservatives are very much opposed to our plans; they they are convinced that car needs to remain king in our city. They that’s their position they they’ve been opposed to the Clean Air zone to be repurposed to the emergency transport plan they opposed to the burden of transport plan and the principles within that they’ve taken a certain position and i’m i’m not a fan of Boris Johnson no no no prizes for guessing that right but one thing I I’ve got where I do agree with Boris is his views in some aspects on our active travel I know as a mayor of London he did a you know a lot of good stuff around that and I genuinely think your man Andrew Gilligan absolutely understand the importance of the shift from car to more sustainable mode of transport. So I think the the Conservatives nationally understand the importance of this better than the Birmingham Conservatives who I think

So can you not just hit them over the head with “this is what your leader says guys, why you opposing this, this is what your leader says, listen to your leader.”

I often do in the council chamber, stopped asking me questions. But then a totally different place and Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands and he’s stuck between the two. He’s done some good stuff around active travel too. But I know he he his position on the clean air zone shifted over time is is now more opposed to them supportive of it. But I think the local Conservatives are more concerned about what’s going to happen in the May 22 elections in Birmingham, rather than making sure our communities are living longer and fitter and healthier lives. So they’re more their price right now is the politics rather than the people of the city, which is a shame, because I’d rather all the parties came together to work on this very, very important agenda.

And I’m not saying you’re gonna get voted out here, because what you’ve said there before was these can be electorally popular, but theoretically, could all of this be reversed if the council flipped in 2022?

So we introduced Birmingham’s clean air zone on because we there was a ministry of direction and our modelling showed the only way to address the ministry direction was through the introduction of a CAZ D. The ministers signed that off the ministers and civil servants absolutely said this is the right way to do it. Local Conservatives right now are promising the people of Birmingham they’re going to reverse that. I don’t know how they’re going to do it. I don’t know what modelling they’ve done, what alternatives they’ve have got, [wards?]. So they can promise they’re in opposition, they could promise anything and everything. But ultimately, the people of Birmingham will see beyond those false promises. The people of Birmingham will vote for a council and a political party that’s delivered for them and vote for a political party that has the right vision at this particular time for Birmingham because these things are needed based on urgency is absolutely the right way to work. And I’m convinced we will once again when comprehensive we’ve got a two thirds majority in the council chamber and I I can’t see that changing

so before it was him, you mentioned low traffic neighbourhoods and the ones you’ve brought in with the segmentation plan where each you know, part of the city is going to be different you can’t use it as a as a through route every segment would it be fair to call the central Birmingham one big LTN?

Um, it so the central Birmingham we’re prioritising cycling walking on public transport. And in essence, that is, that is the the, the key thing of a low traffic neighbourhoods. So there’s various versions of low traffic neighbourhoods, the version in Kings Health, two very different to the version and Lozells that I’m implementing where low traffic neighbourhoods are one, one way circulars that reduce the traffic flow in residential areas. And you can you can’t technically say that the city centre segment is about, it’s certainly about reducing car through traffic through travel. So he is reducing, he is in essence, reducing car journeys through through the system. So you could say it’s a low traffic neighbourhood. Yeah, you could, you could say it’s one big, low traffic neighbourhood.

Local press supportive, critical, neutral?

Em, depends depends on what gets the clicks these days. But I think there’s there’s been a lot of support for for some of these initiatives. And for some that has been challenged, you know, the, the you I still, when we launched the Clean Air zone. We did, we did a lot of media. How many interviews I did that particular day. It’s a record that will never ever be beaten. And I still remember one particular thing I did and that was the ITV central programme that did from the Fiveways Island at a hotel on the Fiveways Island, we spent the whole half an hour talking about the importance of cleaner air, improving air quality in the wider environmental challenges and I was I just walked away thinking thank you that was brilliant that is exactly that, how we need local media to support not just our efforts but to to really push forward the the environmental challenges and the health challenges that we’ve got in our city. I’ve also sat for a number of hour long audience phone callings with with BBC Radio locally. And that’s been very, very difficult. But I’ve sat down and listened and I’ve gone back and I’ve listened and I’ve responded as best as I can. So we’re out there we’re very open and you know where we don’t just have to hide behind the decisions and the policies that I bring forward. But I think people are starting to understand the importance of them. Hmm.

Now in the, in the in the plan, I can only find one I might have might not have got this there might be somewhere else but I can only find one of autonomous vehicles, many other places. And even if you listen to Grant Shapps at times, you know, autonomous vehicles and, and electric cars, but certainly autonomous vehicles, you know, that’s the future. That’s that’s what’s going to rescue us, that’s going to be the thing that gets everybody out of their cars, because they’ll just be these autonomous cars darting around. But you see, you have mentioned it and you’re you say, you know, the technology is being developed in part in the Birmingham region. But then you haven’t made it on autonomous vehicles there. So would it be right to think that you’re quite ambivalent towards how quickly these can actually be brought in? And certainly not within, you know, the nine year framework you’ve got to work to

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 30:45
That technology is, is developing really, really quickly. And I’m really excited about all sorts of developments and autonomous vehicles is certainly one of those. I think we are we’re absolutely on board, we’re absolutely committed, working very closely with the combined authority and transport systems with a combined authority, and other partners, the local university of looking at how we can benefit from being a 5G pilot city as well, looking at how better communication can can also help some of the technological advances that will be made. So absolutely, we’re not trying to water the future for autonomous vehicles, we’re actually excited by it. And maybe if we had asked you to write this transport plan for us, you would have made it far greater than we have.

Carlton Reid 31:37
No, no, I’m pretty much dead against it. I don’t think we’re going to exist for all sorts of different reasons. Anyway, maybe trucks on motorways, but that’s it. So so one of the things that you’ve you’re saying there is the removal of footway parking, which absolutely is another one of those, you know, touching the third rail, sort of things. But doesn’t that require national legislation, and I know that, you know, the 1834 Highway Act gives people the powers but you still need central government to back you up here.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 32:09
Absolutely, we need central government to back us up in two ways, give us extra powers, and, and also give us the resources to to implement some of these things. You know, parking on on pavements is is something which blight a lot of communities. And I sometimes get really frustrated, particularly with those people who have accessibility issues, or moms have got problems with their babies, and I’m causing the way he just frustrates me, angers me. And I’ve always said, the amount of space that we waste with parked vehicles is also a major challenge. So as we move forward, we want those extra powers. But I also think this plan will help reset the relationship between the citizens of Birmingham and car. And I hope people will become less reliant on cars. And you got some households with no cars in the city, you got some household with four or five cars in the city. And that is the sort of place we really absolutely need to reset that. So hopefully, people won’t need that amount of cars in a household and we could start to get away from God. I remember reducing a coin is I sold my car back in I think 2018. And I sometimes have to drive and borrow my wife’s car, other times I walk cycle, get the bus or even get an E scooter. So it’s about how we can manage and design our lives in a different way. Where is the whole focus in cars? But yes, the pavement, we do need those extra powers from government to be able to do a lot more. And I think it’s

Carlton Reid 33:49
A case of just sorry, it’s just him. Isn’t it a case of just getting the police on board because the powers are there. You can get you can you can book motorists for obstruction of the footway, if the police are involved it when it’s you know, civil enforcement, that doesn’t work. But it’s when the police or the police generally around the country have problems from London where the rules are very different. They can enforce this should they choose to do so. So if it’s, you know, local politicians, say to Westminster police right from now on you, you give somebody a ticket if they’re parked on the pavement, so what more powers Do you need, the powers are there they’re just not currently use by the police.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 34:29
Carlton, I’m not sure if my Sergeant who 10 years ago had twice the number of officers he’s got now. I’m not sure I could tell him to go and book those cars parked in the pavement or find those people who are creating major.

Carlton Reid 34:46
It had a lot of money we’re seeing if you started booking people for parking, the payment. It’s so endemic, you’d be in billions in credit very soon,

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 34:54
But they just made the lot the cuts that we’ve had to the Wes Midlands Police and police forces up and down this country has, has really hindered their ability to do some of the very important basic things that they need to be doing. I’m somebody who’s, I’ve made it very clear, I will never criticise police officers, because the politicians have made decisions have really hindered their ability to carry out this carry out the service that they want to do, and they can do so. You know, I meet regularly with senior police officers, I’m meeting the Police and Crime Commissioner next week. And we’re talking about some of these issues that you brought up, but there’s a real lack of resources. You know, I’ve got a serious issue right now around the enforcement against poverty scooters, you know, which which is, which is a challenge in our city. But again, where do where do I get the resources to the police to be able to do that. So I think that the government really need to look at how they’re resourcing the police in the wider public sector to do the things that desperately need in our community. The answer is called dancer is a clear style of government investing into our communities and investing into neighbourhood policing. The way that the last Labour government did, that was the level of investment we need in our in our policing.

Carlton Reid 36:18
Hmm. So that your plan says the growth in the number of vehicles on the road needs to be contained. That’s pretty explosive. But isn’t it every English persons right to drive where they want when they want? You’re taking away with you’re taking away people’s freedom.?

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 36:40
So I’m not stopping people from driving. The clean air zones hasn’t stopped doing we’re driving into the city centre, the the city centre segments will still you could still get to everybody on the city centre bar the one or two extra expansions on the pedestrianisation that we’re making the the low traffic neighbourhood, we bought it, you can still get to every single house or shop within the city with the exception of small pedestrianisation we’ve done so we’re not stopping anybody. But what we’re saying is we need to rebalance the use of car. And one way of doing that is looking at other alternatives. So right now you can you can, you can walk, you can use a variety of different modes of public transport, you can use e-scooters, you can hire a West Midlands bike share about a cycle on the West Midlands Bike Share project. So there’s a whole range of alternatives we’ve got to increase the obviously the cycling issues due to infrastructure, particularly segregated cycling to make it safer for people to do so we’ve got to improve the reliability. So the alternatives are there, and the alternatives grow and grow. So we’re not stopping anybody from driving. But we’re just encouraging them to look at modal shift in particular modal shift to more sustainable modes of transport.

Carlton Reid 38:08
So if the if this plan doesn’t get voted through so that’s that’s option three, what’s going to happen to Birmingham?

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 38:17
I’m very confident that this plan will be voted through by the Cabinet because this is not me on my own who’s worked on this project I’ve got the very strong support of the leader of of the Council and all my cabinet colleagues and in fact, I’ve got support from the Labour group and the Labour Party who are absolutely determined that this is the right decision at the right time for our city and decisions which are absolutely needed these days no other alternative and I’m confident that the people of this city when they start to witness on live the benefits of this project will actually appreciate that we will be making the right decision for the city of Birmingham

Carlton Reid 38:58
And that’s a key point we’re seeing so when so I noticed there’s a something called I like the fact they’ve got two words in here, the Birmingham transport plan delivery plan. But when I read through that I couldn’t actually see the when I didn’t see you know, when physically these things are going to be put on the ground. And for instance, is the segmentation plan is that all going to go in overnight like like happening gained, or are these things going to be built and done over a longer period of time.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 39:33
So we want to deliver a lot you know, we’ve got some quick wins. And as I said earlier, the emergency transport plan and the the active travel resource that we’ve got from the government has enabled us to trial some of these things out. So some aspects of these will be implemented really, really quickly. We’re looking at making a lot of the pop-up cycle lanes that we introduce permanent very very quickly. The city centre segments I think will move really quickly. And I think, you know, obviously, embedding all the changes in at the same time can be challenging. But we will, you know, there’s a likelihood a lot of that can happen really quickly because we’ve trialled out a lot of this through the emergency transport plan measures. But the low traffic neighbourhoods will, you know, there’s been some, it’s not been all straightforward, and we need to, we need to ensure that we do, right, and we do with the people of Birmingham rather than to the people of Birmingham. And I’ve always said, we will engage, engage, engage, and then through the engagement called design and co produce, and then carry out the statutory consultations or we want to work with local communities to get this absolutely right. So some things will happen really quickly, some things will take a lot of time. And but I’m very confident that the key principles around this plan will, will be we’ll we’ll kind of keep us focused on what we’re doing and how we’re doing in the city. Resources are really important. So getting there and some of these things cost a lot of money to deliver. So you know, we’ll go with the big and bold government every opportunity to ask them for the resources to be able to do this, I’ll actually go back to Boris, I’m confident that Boris and Grant Shapps and Andrew Gilligan will understand that Birmingham was actually on a on a journey that they will support. So a Conservative government and a Labour council working together to deliver this could be could happen for the next couple of years that this conservative government’s in office.

Carlton Reid 41:38
I’ll go back to the when I know it’s difficult because it is something that has to be worked through and there is a plan for the plan. But when I did that Guardian article, and as a couple years ago when did that Guardian article, so the the deputy mayor of Ghent when I asked him what you know what, what would be your advice to Birmingham when they’re doing this this traffic segmentation plan and I’m sure you remember he said, as well as you know, you’ll hear birdsong and you gotta bring every with you blah, blah, blah, blah, it was you’ve got to do it overnight. You just got a you can’t pussyfoot around you can’t take six months to do this, you do it overnight. So that the segmentation plan is that something that you think might have to be done in the same way you do. Sunday Night is when it’s done and Monday morning is when it is all in place.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 42:32
So Carlton, in the in terms of the segment plan most of you I think, is already in place through the through the the the short term measures we brought in during COVID it’s about making it permanent very quickly. So I think a lot of the citizens this will not come as a surprise when we recently launched a consultation around this I think some of the residents and some of the people visiting our city would thinking these are further measures that we’re bringing in there are some further measures from the original so I know my officers are working very closely with a wide range of stakeholders I know they’re spoken to people in get and other places too. But Birmingham is different so we will make the right decision but I absolutely understand what the what the Ghent deputy mayor saidy and if required we will do that. But I think most of the segments are already in place.

Carlton Reid 43:31
And those those segments that are there and it is generally that ring road that’s kind of great fantastic for those those segments and they’ll eventually gain the the clean air and and health benefits, etc, etc. But isn’t it the suburbs? Isn’t it like, you know, the 7, 10 miles out, that’s where the real car use takes place. So So how are you going to affect change, in Erdington and in places that way beyond the city centre?

Cllr Waseem Zaffar 44:04
That’s a very valid question. And this transport plan is not by the city centre, these transport plan is about the entire city. And I know historically at times the local authority has been perceived or possibly rightly solid to be very city centre focus. And the citizen is absolutely important. You know, you create employment, there’s a massive visitor economy. And there’s there’s this great private sector there. And our city centre is is one of the best city centres in the country. It’s a fascinating place, but I want clean air in every single neighbourhood in Birmingham. I want active travel in every single neighbourhood in Birmingham. And to do that we’ve got to expand the basis on the measures around recreating neighbourhoods and ensuring that we support initiatives right across Birmingham is really really important. So actually travelling every every neighbourhood, expanding our segregated cycling infrastructure right across this city so it doesn’t come to a stop at a particular place or at least starts when you get close to the city centre, we need to ensure that it goes right across the city and public transport, zero emission public transport right across our city. So the we’re introducing a number of cross city bus routes. But the most important bus route in Birmingham is not a bus route that actually goes into the city where it’s the 11 route that goes across in a city Birmingham, right all the way around is the longest route in Europe. It goes past 300 schools. Now I don’t want the bus providers to be putting all the clean green buses coming to the city centre and putting the old polluting vehicles on that 11 route on the 8 Route which is also goes across the inner city run the city of Birmingham, I want our green especially that’s why when when Boris announces the zebra funding for buses moving forward, I want to ensure that when Birmingham gets those 200 hydrogen buses that I’m confident that we will get we’ll put some of those onto the 11 and the Eighth Route to ensure that we’ve got zero emission buses operated there. So this is a this isn’t a plan for the city centre. This is a plan with some key principles or how we’ll move forward in the delivery of our transport projects right across the city and I want to ensure that we’ve got a good balance of investment right across this city. So no no neighbourhood is left behind.

Carlton Reid 46:36
Thanks to Councillor Waseem Zaffar. There’s a photo of him and a link to Brum’s plan and my Guardian article on the show’s website which is at Later this afternoon I’ll be talking to multiple Tour de France winner Chris Froome and Pieter Morgan CEO and founder of Hammerhead — that show will be in your feed real soon but meanwhile get out there and ride.

Transcribed by

September 19, 2021 / / Blog

19th September 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 283: Autonorama


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Peter Norton

TOPICS: US academic Peter Norton, author of the classic “Fighting Traffic,” talks about his new book “Autonorama” which details the historically-resonant threat to pedestrians and cyclists from driverless vehicles.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 283 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 19th of September 2021.

David Bernstein 0:25
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson, USA, Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information, check out our website at And now, here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:10
I’m Carlton Reid and one of the perks of my job is get my mucky little paws on books before they’re published. A few months back I read the new book by US technology historian Peter Norton and he promised me the first of what will be many media and podcast interviews. And this is it. Peter is an associate professor in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia. You’ll likely know him from his classic book “Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City.” As you’ll soon hear, Peter only wrote a book per decade so it was a rare treat to get my hands on a pre-publication copy of “Autonorama,” an historically-resonant warning about driverless cars and how the tech bros need to get cyclists and pedestrians out of the way. I got an early copy of Peter’s book so I could write a cover blurb for it. Janette Sadik-Khan also penned one. The former commissioner of New York city’s Dept. of Transportation wrote that Peter’s book shows that “safer, more livable cities will be achieved not by the tech in our cars, but by our actions on our streets.” Amen. And here’s Peter.

Carlton Reid 2:42
Peter, I have I’ve had a copy of your book in digital form.

Carlton Reid 2:48
It’s a few weeks ago now. And when I read it, it was absolutely fascinating, as I would expect, of course, from you. And then I was just looking now, at the date of this book right now is going to be probably October ish, I think when it comes out. But that’s 2021. Your last book, which I’d like to talk about first actually was 2011. So you’re basically doing a book every 10 years, is that right?

Peter Norton 3:14
Well, that’s a that’s a small data set for a trajectory plot there. Let me add also that my first book actually came out in 2008. And the paperback came out in 2011. So if you saw 2011, then then you saw the paperback.

Peter Norton 3:33
So I don’t know what my trajectory is. I do have another book project now but I don’t have an expected date for it to come out yet. And, you know, I, since there’s other work involved besides books, I don’t I’m not confident giving you a sort of mathematical projection.

Carlton Reid 3:56
Well, what we’ll look forward to it in 2036 it’ll be worth the wait.

Carlton Reid 4:02
so what what is it what it tell us what you do? You know I could do this in the intro, of course, but why don’t we hear from the man himself? So what do you do when you’re not writing books?

Peter Norton 4:14
Most of the time, I’m teaching and that especially means grading papers. I have a lot of students they write and I read their work and that’s really the biggest part of my working time is is that um, and when that’s not happening, then I really enjoy some of the other things that I get to do. Like, for example, you know, talking to you is is a delight.

Peter Norton 4:39
talking to other people. One of my favourite things is when an advocate of some kind comes along somebody who thinks that walking should be normal, or cycling should should could really make a big difference in terms of sustainability and affordability.

Peter Norton 4:57
When those people come along, transit, advocates

Peter Norton 5:01
and they say that they find what I’ve done useful. Well, that really brings me joy, because you know, they’re the ones actually doing something I just write about it,

Carlton Reid 5:10
Because you are one of these authors, who will be perennially paraded in effect, because what you wrote about when I would like to talk about that even you’ve been on the show before, I think we absolutely should. We should talk about your your first book and where you’ve come from, because that kind of feeds into the into this, this this next book, your new book.

Carlton Reid 5:32
But you’re paraded because you talked about something which happened in the 1920s 30s 40s. But it’s absolutely still with us today. They said there’s a dominance of a certain four wheeled thing. So “Fighting Traffic” brought into the public sphere that jaywalking is not a natural thing, it was an invention. So I don’t want to pigeonhole your book to say that’s all it’s about. But you could say that’s one of the good takeaways is it’s bringing that history of jaywalking, being motordom creating that. That’s why a lot of people quote your work.

Peter Norton 6:16
I think that’s a useful way to sort of distil it down to something very elemental, and, and concrete and specific. Because while jaywalking is obviously just a very small part of the story, it really captures a lot of what has been missing from the story.

Peter Norton 6:36
So the story that we get in the States especially, is that car domination, which you know, is ubiquitous, is the effect of mass demand of a free market of, of democracy of values, such as individualism, and freedom, and so on. And sure, there have been critiques of that dominant narrative. Since automobiles began. That’s still the dominant story. The USA is a car culture, this is what people want. And, you know, in the end, they got what they wanted. And so we get jaywalking says, Well, now Hang on.

Peter Norton 7:21
There was a time when few people drove and walking in the street was normal, and that had to be denormalized. And once it was denormalized, well, then actually, part of the motive for getting a car was that the alternatives were getting worse, not just the walking, but also riding a street car, taking the bus or riding your bike, all of those got harder as they inevitably do when you have an environment that favours driving. And that that fact of course, then complicates what it means when people say they prefer to drive Well, you naturally prefer to drive when all of the alternatives have been, you know, impaired, so much. So yeah, I think I think that’s a nice way to capture the the gist of “Fighting Traffic.”

Carlton Reid 8:11
I don’t know how much this comes across in the US. But in here in the UK, we have this huge issue, and it does go mainstream now and again, in the mainstream press, low traffic neighbourhoods. And then when you start talking to people who are very much not in favour of low traffic neighbourhoods, you just see this just amazing mindset of they really cannot imagine not being able to get places in their car. And just a slight thing, like putting bollards in the way of where they used to driving, they can still get into these these areas, but the narrow driveway a little longer. They use all sorts of arguments, including, you know, well how are disabled people going to get around. And they’ve never been interested when you look at their social media and disabled people before but they, you know, use this, they also use air pollution. It’s just it seems to be such a favourite of people in favour of motoring. It’s a strange one, but they talk about how cars when they’re standing still in traffic jams are incredibly polluting, so we must have them moving freely. So free up the roads, and then we will have no more pollution. So these these arguments come out just

Carlton Reid 9:29
so frequently, it’s been taken on board by these people so so carefully, and they regurgitate this, but there’s just no imagination of a life without a car. So how on earth Peter, are we going to have a different future when there are an enormous amount of people, probably even worse, where you are, who really cannot imagine a future without automobiles?

Peter Norton 9:59

Peter Norton 10:00
Carlton, there’s a word you used, I think three times in that question, imagine or imagination. And I think that’s exactly the key. So a failure to imagine is exactly the, you know, for. First of all, I should say that the people who wanted to sell us car dependency recognise that imagination is essential. And they helped us imagine futures, where car dependency is liberating. And they were extremely good at it. And I think we have a lot to learn from the people who sold us car dependency about how you make different futures. Imagine it imaginable because they excelled at it. Now, when you have generations growing up in a car dependent environment, well, it’s not too surprising that, you know, if that vehicle that they depend on literally depend on is threatened. Now, this becomes a source of anger or opposition to to even elementary reform, like putting in a bollard to make the space more accommodating to anything except driving.

Peter Norton 11:18
So, yeah, that opposition is, is there. And yet at the same time,

Peter Norton 11:26
we know from harder and experience from the past that that these kinds of obstacles can be overcome. I think one way to do it is to frame it correctly. So you can frame

Peter Norton 11:41
the change we need to make as taking away driving. But we can also frame it as giving people choices.

Peter Norton 11:49
In it’s interesting fact that the Netherlands ranks very highly on places where people like to drive, I got a top rating on that from

Peter Norton 12:02
some app company. But

Peter Norton 12:06
at the same time, you have choices. And I think one of the reasons why the Netherlands scores high on places to drive is that the people who are driving or driving by choice, they don’t have to drive there. And that takes off everybody off the road who is there by compulsion, and makes the, you know, the driving experience and experience of choice? Well, if we give people choices, then,

Peter Norton 12:30
you know, we I mean, we can frame this as now you can choose to walk now you can choose to ride a bike, and yes, even now you can choose to drive so that that’s another possibility. I’d like to offer one more.

Peter Norton 12:45
Which is that when it became quite clear that cigarette smoking was shortening people’s lives, often by multiple decades. And this is going back to the 60s especially the tobacco companies were very good at framing that as a threat to people’s preferred way of living. And their advertising helped delay the transition by presenting cigarette addiction as pleasurable. And what people have gradually figured out, at least most people is that even more pleasurable than enjoying a cigarette when you’re addicted to a cigarette is not being addicted at all. And of course, that transition from a state of addiction to a state of non addiction is a very difficult one.

Peter Norton 13:35
But in the end, that destination of being addiction free, has a liberating feel. And that extends even to being free of your car dependency, as long as you have the alternatives that you need for that to work.

Carlton Reid 13:51
So your latest book

Carlton Reid 13:54
is very much extrapolating forward on on car dependency.

Carlton Reid 14:01
Let’s go into the book. First of all, it was called “Autonorama.” Why the no, but why is it auto no roma and not autorama?

Peter Norton 14:10
Well, it could be Autorama because autorama was the name of some shows, automobile shows that were put together in the USA in the mid 20th century. And this all goes back to the word diorama you make something vivid three dimensional experiential. I mean, this is an immersive experience before you know video games gave us immersive experiences. There were these giant shows. And the the American automobile companies in particular General Motors excelled

Peter Norton 14:42
at these shows, and General Motors hit on this in the biggest way back in the late 30s when they developed a famous show called Futurama combining the words future and diorama you’d like you’re travelling to the future.

Peter Norton 14:59
This was their way of making a future of car dependency, both vivid and apparently liberating, because after all, it’s a model, it doesn’t have to really work. And now, to get to the word autonoma, which is you know how I choose to pronounce it, I can’t correct your pronunciation because it’s not even a word. I just made it up. But when we in, in 2015, note, said again, said again, so I write a net again. So I get it the way I say it is Autonorma, Rama, which is like autonomous.

Carlton Reid 15:37
Okay. yes, right? Yes. So it’s just a matter of new cars autonomous driving does come a lot into into the books.

Peter Norton 15:45
Yes. And so “Autonorama” is a fusion of autonomous and futurama. And I’m claiming in the book that this is the fourth generation of a sales spectacle of a futuristic fantasy. It’s being presented to us to influence us, and to, frankly, deceive us about the feasibility of car dependency.

Peter Norton 16:10
And so the book argues that there have been really four waves of this each about 25 years apart, so roughly 1940, 1965, 1990, and 2015. And in each one of the these waves were presented with a futuristic spectacle of car dependency made possible by the latest technology. And the people presenting these spectacles recognise the power of imagination, and they help us imagine these futures, not in ways that are realistic, but then in ways that are persuasive and attractive. So it’s called autonoma, Rama, because I’m trying to argue that while it looks like the last 10 to 20 years of this futuristic spectacle has been about something that’s fundamentally new. I think it’s really the same show. It’s it’s a retread of a show we’ve been seeing for over 80 years. It’s, and what makes it seem new each time is it’s dressed up with technology that’s brand new until this time, above all, it’s machine learning, LIDAR, and so on. But it’s what matters isn’t so much the technology, but just that the technology is new enough and dazzling enough to lead us to drop our scepticism a little and believe that anything’s possible. Arthur C. Clarke said one…

Carlton Reid 17:49
Do you not think that …?

Peter Norton 17:50
Go ahead.

Carlton Reid 17:52
Sorry, Peter, that the scepticism

Carlton Reid 17:56
wasn’t there, say four or five years ago in the mainstream?

Carlton Reid 18:01
I just I just get much more

Carlton Reid 18:04
inkling from the press now that that there does seem to be more scepticism. So people like you and me who have been sceptical about autonomous vehicles for a number of years, are now becoming a bit more mainstream. And if things like you know, even just recently at the,

Carlton Reid 18:20
at the Paralympics in Japan, where, you know, a certain form of autonomous bus, ran into a blind athlete, what these these things are just terrible, terrible stories. And then the head of Toyota comes out and says, Well, you know, autonomous vehicles, you clearly haven’t got a future, certainly with the current technology. So do you think the technologies and the sorry, the, the scepticism around the technologies is catching up to where it should be, which is these technologies are nowhere near ready for for human consumption?

Peter Norton 18:56
Yes. In other words, the degree of the extravagant promises that were ubiquitous five years ago, are scarcer now. And the promises are more modest now. But what hasn’t changed is the same basic claim, which is that the technology is coming. It may take a little longer than we thought. But it is coming and it’s the technology that will determine what we do not we who will determine what the technology does. And companies are very smart about adapting to these, you know, these disappointing or these broken promises and the disappointing news like the one you just referenced from the Olympics, the Paralympics

Peter Norton 19:43
and for example, right now Waymo has been building up a reputation for itself as the people who are actually today, in 2021 every day of the week, delivering

Peter Norton 19:57
fully autonomous driving or

Peter Norton 20:00
For riding experiences in Arizona, and this way of framing it, in other words, we’re doing it right now is deployed in a way to sort of

Peter Norton 20:15
expose people like me and you as the Luddite naysayers, that that, you know, they would like to characterise this as, in other words, then they’ll say, you know, the the somebody will say, Well, you know, can this ever really happen? And we must says, we’re doing it right now. It’s, it’s bogus for a lot of reasons that you already know. But it’s rhetorically very effective when they can say we’re doing it right now.

Carlton Reid 20:42
What are you doing?

Carlton Reid 20:42
What are Waymo doing? What are Waymo claiming and not able to actually stack up?

Peter Norton 20:47
Yeah, so Waymo can, in fact, pick you up in Chandler, Arizona, and then take you to another destination in Chandler, Arizona, in a vehicle that has no driver, including no so called safety driver, the person who you know, is there to supervise the vehicle and take over in the event of an emergency, there’s not even that. And now, of course, the vehicle is under constant monitoring, and the passengers are in close communication and so on. But it really is autonomous, in that specific sense that there’s nobody operating the vehicle who is in the vehicle. Now, I think this is a sort of

Peter Norton 21:45
And of course, then the the operation costs, the overhead are very, very expensive as well. And this is all because it’s operated at a loss by Alphabet Incorporated, the company that owns Google. And, you know, this is this is another words, they’re paying a lot of money to get a claim of credibility across. It’s not a profitable business model or anything close. Also what makes Waymo possible is that it operates in a — I’m I was about to say town, but it doesn’t hardly is recognisable as a town — in an in an semi urban environment, in which there are almost no pedestrians because it’s so unwalkable The streets are enormously wide. You know, there’s ample there’s a left turn, you know, two or three left, turn lanes, right turn lanes everywhere you go.

Peter Norton 22:46
In other words, they have to have a highly contrived environment. And this, to me is another repeat of history. Because to make car dependency work, the environments, urban environments had to be completely reconstructed, just so you could move each person in their own 100 square feet of of automobile space and park them when they got there. And so what Waymo is proposing implicitly, they’re not saying this, of course, is sort of rebuilding America again, or the world again, around what the vehicle needs instead of around what people need.

Peter Norton 23:23
Now, I know you have a lot more that you could probably offer about what what makes Waymo more an illusion than a reality and I’d love to hear it. But

Peter Norton 23:45
An extremely influential public intellectual named Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast that’s hugely popular and he has an episode called “I love you, Waymo.” And it really presents Waymo as delivering us from every imagined and real evil in the urban environment. It’s It’s It’s really the vehicle as a magical deliverance, again, presented by a very eloquent and appealing intellectual in a way that makes it seem credible. So that’s, you know, an illustration of the fact that public relations is a really big part of this as it always has been.

Carlton Reid 24:27
So, yes, we haven’t got conditions like

Carlton Reid 25:06
It’s a natural conclusion? That’s that’s where the technologies have to go. They have to say, “Well, okay, we can’t see everything. But if we just chip your, your cap, if we just chip your trousers and we just chipped your phone, if we’re just chip everything, then everything will be found in future” will be fantastic if we chip everything?

Peter Norton 25:24
Yeah, that’s certainly what we’re we’re hearing, often implicitly, sometimes in explicitly that this is where we have to go to make this work. And

Peter Norton 27:33
I’m laughing, too, it’s almost incredible, how we will go to such elaborate lengths to solve problems at the high tech end of the spectrum, only when we could solve them at the low tech end, or already do solve them. At the low tech, and there’s a, an expression I’ve taken to using with students where my students are all engineering students. And so I draw a line at the on the board. And at one end, I write high tech. And at the other end, I write low tech. And I circled the high tech end. And I say, if you’re only looking at the high tech, and you may be missing something really useful at the low tech and and to help them overcome the bias against low tech, I say, why don’t we call this high sosh, like, if it’s high tech, then high social, or high social would be the better counterpoint rather than low tech, which sounds like, you know, something primitive or

Unknown Speaker 28:34
simple. So I think we’re missing the low tech end of the spectrum. It’s not being a Luddite, to say it has a lot of value, or a lot we can value in it. And often, the low tech end can help us make the high tech end work. You know that a lot of the most useful systems we can have in the world, combine high tech and low tech instead of pitting them against each other.

Carlton Reid 29:02
There is a technology Peter that you mentioned in “Fighting Traffic,” your first book, and you mentioned it in this book, and I believe we haven’t discussed it before, but that is the speed governor so the speed limiter so this is technology that you would think would be a preamble, a precursor I should say really to autonomous driving if we’re really gonna have autonomous driving well the next stage should be let’s let’s let’s take over some of the takeaway some of the human element and put speed governors in cars and that technology as you’ve discussed it in both books is not exactly brand new that you’ve been able to have speed governor speed limiters since early 19 hundred’s so why haven’t we gone to that stage? Why? Why are we missing out quite a critical stage which would actually have unbelievable speed, safety benefits if you had every car, GPS speed track.

Carlton Reid 30:00
Or in previous technologies just literally speed governed?

Unknown Speaker 30:04
Well, you know, the the early version of that the speed governor from the 1920s, which a lot of city people in America were calling for is a way to make streets for pedestrians device that would make it impossible to drive faster than 25 miles per hour. I think there’s a lot to be learned from why that was so zealously fought by the automobile interest groups. And I am pretty confident I know why, because they read their own statements to each other. And in effect, they said, people have to pay a lot of money for a car. And that means they wanted to do something that other vehicles don’t. And that one thing that cars do best relative to the other vehicles of that era, is go fast. And so if you make it impossible for the car to go faster than say, an electric streetcar, well, then people will just keep taking the electric streetcar. Why would they, you know, pay a lot of money for an automobile. And I think that basic reason is still with us. I mean, one of the biggest obstacles to among many obstacles to the autonomous vehicle future that’s being sold to us is that an autonomous vehicle can be extremely safe. If it doesn’t matter how fast or slow it goes. But, you know, the people who want to make a go of this in a business sense, know that no one will pay money to ride in an autonomous vehicle that has an average speed of eight or 10 miles an hour. So that, you know, the speed is is is, you know, essential from a business point of view. In the US in particular, it also was sort of built in to our urban geography, it because of engineering standards.

Peter Norton 31:58
I mean, it to an American audience, often the first objection I’ll get when I criticise car dependency is people will say, well, it’s a big country with long distances. And this is, of course, a kind of a silly claim, because what the distance that matters is not the distance from one coast to the other coast. The distance that matters is the distance between your home and your workplace, or your home and your school, or the shop and your home, or whatever it is those distances. And those distances can be extremely short. But in the US are our, our highway engineers, when they look at the fact that the time it takes you to get your to your destination, is the product of two factors, namely the distance and your speed. the only factor they actually worked into their calculations was speed. In other words, they never bothered with the distance. And they never made any serious effort to ask, how can we keep our destinations, close enough together, that we will save you time on your way to work? Instead, they said, How can we get you travelling faster? Now, it’s the same problem, how much time does it take you to get to work, but they chose to attack it only from one side of that equation and not from the other. And because they committed themselves immediate a public responsibility to fight what they called delay, delay being travelling slower than the speed limit, then every time you were delayed, the problem had to be solved at public expense by adding new highway capacity that would let you go the speed limit again. And as a consequence of all of that, we already have destinations so far apart, that you cause anxiety, when you tell people that we made in need a future where you go slower.

Carlton Reid 33:53
Your definition when you when you’re saying use high social instead of low tech. That’s kind of interesting and worthwhile. It doesn’t seem to be something that people would tend to use apart from, of course, advocate, because you mentioned the phrase before you I term Luddites, so you know, autonomous vehicles, speed, even

Carlton Reid 34:22
capacity of roads, and making roads fit for whatever car whatever motor vehicle is on the road at the time, for instance, Tesla’s now this is all progress. And Peter, what you’re doing, and if you say things like, well, we could use public transport and we could use bicycles, or we could walk that’s anti-progress, that’s not moving forward. We already have got that.

Peter Norton 34:47
What’s interesting about that, it’s a great question. And it’s actually one of the reasons why I thought, why don’t we call low tech high social, because then we can sort of try to characterise social

Peter Norton 35:33
As you know, for ‘Autonorama’ one of my inspirations is Rachel Carson in “Silent Spring.” And her book was highly critical of the high tech,

Peter Norton 36:24
you know, “Silent Spring” is a reference to a future where there are no songbirds because of chemical pesticides. Well, there equivalents of that for urban mobility, like,

Unknown Speaker 36:37
you know, a future where we can have parks that you can walk to, we can have playgrounds that your children can walk to safely without you having to drive them to the playground, children going to school, these are attractive images, like songbirds are that, you know, high tech, incidentally can help us get to because there’s a place for high tech in a sustainable, Livable Future, there’s a vital place for high tech and that, but it’s then again, a question of making sure that we are the ones choosing the tech that we need for our chosen purposes. And not, and we don’t turn into people sort of waiting for tech to happen to us, which is how it’s getting framed right now.

Carlton Reid 37:25
Are you worried about the Apple Car? Because that, you know, every time they do Apple do take on a technology, they they pretty much transform it in their own making, and make it incredibly popular? Or do you think they will be burned just as, as other companies have have actually been burned in this this this space? Because clearly they they’ve lost? An executive just recently has gone to another company for I think,

Carlton Reid 37:52
and and they haven’t brought out this this is this much vaunted car, despite working on it for a long time. So do you worry about Apple? Or is it thing you’ve got no real worries?

Peter Norton 38:04
Well, I do worry about all of these companies, including Apple, and maybe apple in particular, for the reasons that you mentioned, they’re very good at this. You know, the iPhone is something that people feel an attachment for, which is unlike, you know, the phones we remember as kids, which you weren’t strictly, you know, utilitarian objects.

Unknown Speaker 38:26
I also worried because not just Apple, but also the companies to get apps onto your phone are very good at commanding our attention. And a lot of the thinking around autonomous vehicles right now is that they can be profitable if they’re really massive data collectors. And that’s what has made the iPhone profitable for many companies. And it can also make a sort of Apple Car. What some people in the industry call the ultimate mobile device, a device we will be as attached to as our phones. Now, part of your question is, will this will they actually succeed at this and I actually don’t think autonomous vehicles will ever succeed at being anything like what they’re represented as to us as as something you know, you’ll be able to summon it anywhere, anytime. And it will take whisk you away to your destination, right away the way all the public relations shows. But the fact that I don’t think that’s possible. I don’t want that to distract us from the fact that the pursuit of that goal can be really, really destructive. In other words, you may never get to the goal. But the destruction in the wake of that effort could be profound. And I mean, I think history is trying to teach us that because in America, we’ve been pursuing a city where you can drive anywhere at any time without delay and park for free when you get there, we’ve never achieved that city. And yet we’ve never stopped pursuing it. And in pursuing it, we have really destroyed the pre automotive cities of America and turned the post automotive cities into kind of car dependent energy, wasteful, vast expanses of pavement. So I think we could we could repeat history, we’re at risk of repeating history, because the unachievable promise of the autonomous vehicle may lure us along a path of extravagant spending over use of energy. Carbon emissions, I mean, the list goes on.

Carlton Reid 40:45
Peter, many people, and this is where the Luddite comes in. Many people have said, you know, technologies will be unachievable. And then lo and behold, they become achievable. And the Luddities are proven wrong. And before you said somthing about choice, and how, if only you had the choice of a form of transport, so the Netherlands, you’ve got lots of choice, and you choose whichever transport mode you want, whereas other countries, you know, there’s really ones, it’s monolithic, only one

Carlton Reid 41:14
transport choice, really, because that’s been designed. But autonomous vehicles, if they get it right, and if we are wrong, and where we are proven to be Luddites and Apple, a miraculously in in a year’s time, 18 months time comes out with a product that is just genuinely the real deal? Isn’t that something that could potentially

Carlton Reid 41:39
make bicycling and walking, perhaps not public transport, but certainly those two modes, that can be a golden age for those modes, because you get rid of the nut behind the wheel, you get rid of the most dangerous part of the motor vehicle. And that’s the human driver. So surely, why is you as a technology, intellectual or technology academic? Why are you not saying we can do this, but maybe have parameters in so we steer in a certain direction?

Unknown Speaker 42:14
That’s a wonderful question. And so rich possibilities about about how to approach it.

Peter Norton 42:22
So I mean, first of all, in any book about the future, and “Autonorama” although most of the actual text is about the past, that’s there to help us get the future. Right. So the book I think of is fundamentally being about the future. And I think every author of such a book has to admit they may be wrong. And I, I admit, I may be wrong about autonomous vehicles. But I think, I think the weight of evidence is overwhelmingly on the side that says,

Peter Norton 43:33
There was a an article that came out maybe three or four years ago, by Adam Millard Ball, where he concluded and the conclusion he presented the conclusion with extremely high confidence that autonomous vehicles will return streets to pedestrians and cyclists and even children playing games, because the vehicle will be programmed to avoid injuring those people at any cost really. And here’s that, to me, this is a perfect illustration of why we have to study history or we will get the future wrong.

Peter Norton 44:59
autonomous vehicles would either be mostly stopped in cities, and therefore no one would pay a penny to ride in one. Or they would operate only in wastelands like Chandler, Arizona, where no one walks anyway. So those two alternatives I think are equally unlikely. And here’s here’s where history comes in.

Carlton Reid 45:23

Peter Norton 45:23
Go ahead.

Carlton Reid 45:26
Well, there’s your future. The future is every single place in the world looking like Chandler, Arizona. In other words, you get rid of the pedestrians, you get rid of the cyclists, because they’re the ones holding back progress, Peter!

Peter Norton 45:39
Exactly. And and, Carlton, I do believe that it’s possible. In other words, it is possible that, that to make these things work, they will, you know, they being policymakers, engineers, corporate interest groups, and so on, they will make sure that

Peter Norton 46:54
designed with such that the pedestrian comes first that automatically you have a pedestrians paradise neglects the fact that the laws, the engineering standards, the social norms, and so on, are all subject to change from the groups with the most at stake and with the most influence. So motordom’s response, the automotive interest groups response to the fact that their drivers were getting into deep legal trouble and deep financial trouble every time they hit a pedestrian and to the fact that the newspapers were were demonising vehicles and their drivers wasn’t to say, well, we have to make cars that only go 10 miles an hour or something like that. Their response was to change the social norms. The jaywalking campaigns were part of that, to change the laws, and to change the engineering standards, such that now, you know, in a typical American city or suburb, a pedestrian wouldn’t even dare try sometimes to even exercise their legal right at the typical American crosswalk, especially on the fringes of a city, you see people waiting patiently at a marked crosswalk where they have the right of way, while drivers just race on through. So I think you’re going to see the same thing with autonomous vehicles. In other words, the autonomous vehicles will, there will be ways to make sure the pedestrian gets out of the way might be an obnoxious noise or a flashing light could even conceivably be cameras that ultimately have facial recognition in them. They’ll make sure that the laws are a certain way.

Carlton Reid 48:40
China already does that.

Peter Norton 48:41
That’s right.

Carlton Reid 48:42
The Chinese already have that. They have that right now. If you if you jaywalk, you can be instantly fined.

Peter Norton 48:50
Right. So China decided at some point they wanted a national automobile industry and suddenly the you know, when you have an authoritarian country like China, the that can be a policy that’s implemented quite quickly. They promoted that industry in part by becoming changing from a country where everybody cycled to everything into a country where it’s hard to walk safely and where you are treated like you know, an enemy of the state if you if you exercise, a little resourcefulness just to get across the street. And that may, I hadn’t thought of that illustration, but that may be the ideal illustration for why the Malcolm Gladwell Adam Millard Ball thesis won’t stand up. I think the other illustration is historical.

Carlton Reid 49:40
Do you know, I’ve never actually thought about this because this autonomous driving is very much a tech bro thing is very much Silicon Valley. Google. Apple. Now we’ve talked about them. We haven’t talked about China. Do you know is this something that never come up on your your LIDAR and then China will

Carlton Reid 50:00
What is China doing with autonomous vehicles, you know, they’re ahead in so many other ways. If this was a viable technology, you’d think they would be at least equal to the Silicon Valley Tech bros, or potentially even further afield, especially because there are, as you said, there are authoritarian country, they can do what the hell they like with their streets, whereas in some respects, even in auto-dependent USA, and then the UK, there’s still gonna be some kickback, whereas in China is gonna be no kickback, if they want to do the whole system where it’s gonna be autonomous vehicles, they can do autonomous vehicles.

Peter Norton 50:37
Well, I’m not privy to a lot about what’s going on there. Besides what, you know, I can pick up fairly easily in journalism, but

Peter Norton 51:01
an example I spend some time on in the, in the book is a 2010 movie that was co produced by General Motors, China and its Chinese partner, SAIC used to be Shanghai AutomotiveIndustries Corporation,

Peter Norton 52:08
Maybe not so much in the vehicle, if not in the vehicles themselves, then in the technology, the world would need to have these vehicles.

Carlton Reid 52:16
I can imagine they would also chip if, literally, you know, we we worry about this is like, Oh, you know, we’re gonna have to have chips on our phones. And then of course, we’re gonna have to have chips in, you know, embedded in our skin. We’re in China, that wouldn’t be a problem. Yeah, everybody who’s born, there’s your chip. And then all of a sudden, you’ve got a system where Yeah, China has got autonomous vehicles, no problem, because everybody wouldn’t be a

Carlton Reid 52:40
better dream come true for an authoritarian regime than to have not only chipped people, but they’re also travelling in vehicles that can be tracked, their location is known at all times.

Peter Norton 52:52
You know, it, it really is an authoritarian’s dream come true. Which of course is ironic, because car dependency was sold on the claim that it was personally liberating.

Carlton Reid 53:04
You talk in your in your book about “transport sufficiency,” what’s what’s transport sufficiency?

Peter Norton 53:10
I’m presenting transport sufficiency as the alternative to a sort of transport perfection. Now, obviously, perfection sounds more attractive than sufficiency. But that comparison changes when you recognise that transport, perfection is actually never achieved. It’s frequently invoked and frequently promised, because that has a way of opening up wallets of opening up public money for roads and so on. But it’s never actually achieved. And the result is actually kind of worse than transport sufficiency. Because in the pursuit of transport perfection, you get all kinds of nuisances, that are, you know, worse than transport sufficiency, and that are ubiquitous in the US, such as, for example, you know, buses, if they come at all come once an hour or something like that, or walking means walking next to a six lane highway, and having no place to cross and so on. So transports efficiency is saying, Well, if we forego perfection, then we have possibilities that are actually very attractive. This, incidentally, is another case where I want to give the credit to Rachel Carson, also to to Jane Jacobs, who were saying very much the same thing. They didn’t use the that vocabulary. But Rachel Carson, for example, was in effect saying, if you give up the dream of, say, pest free agriculture, where you have no insect pests at all, then you can actually do some quite wonderful things, you know, by crop rotation, varying your crops, you know, finding the suitable, the crop right crop for that

Peter Norton 55:00
environment and so on. Jane Jacobs was offering a version of that same kind of message, namely, the perfectionist visions of the planners was never really achievable. And the pursuit of it was destructive. But if we sort of agreed that it’s okay to have, you know, a mix of, of building stock, some of which may be a little decayed. And it’s okay if we have people who sometimes find it frustrating on the sidewalk, because there’s so many people walking and so on. If we accept those things as part of the deal, well, then we can take take that as a serious possibility as an alternative that looks very attractive compared to the pursuit of perfection, we never actually approach.

Carlton Reid 55:48
Also in your book, I’m now I’m going to pick out because I I’m lucky enough to have been sent an advanced copy. And I’ve, I’ve read it, and I picked up it, so I’m not gonna just pick out bits and throw them at you. And you’ve got to explain to us to everyone who’s listened to this. So you wrote “a city optimised for drivers keeps not only drivers dissatisfied, but everyone else, too.” So explain that.

Peter Norton 56:16
Well, this is actually related to the previous point, namely, a city optimised for drivers is ultimately unachievable for the simple reason that

Peter Norton 57:34
you will find that you can live further from work and maybe save yourself or rent or get yourself a lower price on your house. If you choose to live another 10, 20, 30 miles from your daily destinations, which in turn means more total driving, it means more people coming into the city from a wider radius of origin points, and all needing a place to park their vehicle all day. And so it’s a kind of a treadmill, where the more you accommodate drivers, the more driving there is, and therefore the more effort you have to take to accommodate them. And if you the ultimate example of this would be Houston, Texas, where if you you know do a Google image search for Katy freeway, which is interstate 10 near Houston. You see, I think it’s now 26 lanes of congested traffic. Which, which is it makes the most dystopian dystopian science fiction seem, you know, mundane by comparison. So it’s, it’s it’s an absurdity.

Peter Norton 58:46
And, you know, that’s the point I was just trying to make.

Carlton Reid 58:48
But 28 lanes will fix it.

Peter Norton 58:52
That’s right.

Carlton Reid 58:53
One more will fix it. We’re just looking for that sweet spot.

Peter Norton 58:57
Exactly, yeah, one more lane is what it’ll take.

Carlton Reid 58:59
So both you

Carlton Reid 59:02
and I, we, our research interests often coincide. Mine from the UK angle and from the US angle. But they often talk about or look at eventual dystopias and and but you when you’re reading the literature of the 1920s, 1930s, it’s full of optimism and and ditto for for here. So I’m I’m currently reading lots and lots of literature, from that time where modren was going to be perfection. It was you know, we weren’t going to ever reach

Carlton Reid 1:00:00
That’s basically where we’re coming we’re the Grouches is here, we’re, we’re the, the boring old Luddites, or not even Luddites. We’re the boring old people pointing out that, yes, you can have this technology, but it won’t actually do what you say it’s going to it’s going to do. And we did have to look at history to kind of prove that in all this optimism.

Carlton Reid 1:00:24
Now really ever we’re just stuck in traffic. Yes, this this, this is a freedom machine. If you’re the only one driving it, as soon as everybody else has this fantastic technology, it ceases to be practical.

Peter Norton 1:00:39
Quite so. You were reminding me of a word that might be applied to both of us as well? That’s very common, maybe more here than there naysayers were the naysayers. But yeah, certainly, if you compare the utopian visions of the 30s, or the 40s, or the 50s, with what we have now, it is profoundly disappointing. I think this compels us to ask why do we keep falling for these techno futuristic fantasy lands that can’t be achieved? And that was a question that was very important to me in autonoma? Why do we keep falling for these things? And of course, one of the arguments in “Autonorama,” is that we actually do get sceptical after each wave of these things. There’s a credibility gap that sets in

Peter Norton 1:02:33
inspire gets applied to make us believe futures that are both undesirable and unachievable?

Peter Norton 1:02:40
Well, then then we’re being manipulated again.

Carlton Reid 1:02:42
That sort of reminded me of a like a visual joke like, you know, you know, “Punch,” Punch, there are satirical magazine in the UK, I’m pretty sure it from them. So it’s there’s a, there’s an illustration of a horse and cart, a drunk farmer. And I’m sure this has been used in the US as well, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with this trope. But the farmer is drunk, leaning back, in effect, asleep in the in the back of his, his vehicle of the day, his character of the day driven by a horse, but the horse can actually get him home from the pub. So these technologies of autonomous vehicles, I’ve actually been with us before, you would just have the horse would take you home from the pub drunk. So nothing that they’re really dreaming of now are something that we couldn’t have done using other forms of technology previously, and you kind of make that point in the book where you say, and I’m quoting you here,

Carlton Reid 1:03:43
where “walkability, cycle routes and basic transit are so much less expensive, that even if we diverted a 10% of the funds now going to building, maintaining and policing roads, and and the future of these roads, means we can actually start to see beneficial trends in a year or two, never mind in 10, 20 years.” So that’s where we need to be brave and actually funding technologies

Carlton Reid 1:04:11
that work, that are proven to work,

Carlton Reid 1:04:15
but maybe not sexy.

Peter Norton 1:04:18
I love the way you put it. In fact, that opening analogy really ought to give us pause because that farmer’s horse, got the farmer home, even if there was an inch of snow and it was sleeping, and it was night. All of which would have made it you know, a technical nightmare to sort out at the best high tech companies r&d divisions today. It’s true that you know, the resources necessary just to make walking practical and cycling practical and to give people more reliable and better bus service and so on are not that significant. And he would finally give

Peter Norton 1:06:23
You know, yeah, that would be restoring choice to people and technology could be part of it. Because one of the reasons why we over built roads is that, you know, the excuse was, it’s not practical to charge people for their road use by the actual cost of each mile, their driving, that would require, say, a toll booth on every mile of road, and everybody would have to stop and get coins out of their pocket to pay the toll. And therefore, we’re gonna go with the gas tax instead. And the gas tax was this incredibly clumsy and stupid, low tech way to create a funnel of money for roads that became a self perpetuating treadmill of road building. Well, technology can let us undo that. So I’m being a high tech fan here and saying, why don’t we, you know, charge people and then put that money into giving people choices.

Carlton Reid 1:07:14
Do you see any? Because you mentioned many times in both books, how the automakers basically got everybody else to pay for their infrastructure, you know, society paid, governments paid on their behalf. Do you see

Carlton Reid 1:07:32
that happening with autonomous vehicles, because if we are going to have autonomous vehicles, and we know that the technology they’ve currently got aren’t going to be sufficient, they’re going to have to have a remodelling of the streets, which we’re going to have to pay for at the end of the day, it won’t be the automakers and never has been the automakers. And it’s never been the users, the motorists either. It’s always been society as a whole. Do you see in for instance, in the latest Biden’s infrastructure bill, you know, how much of that is actually going to subsidising all of these tech dreams?

Peter Norton 1:08:06
Well, I can’t speak very specifically about Biden’s infrastructure bill because I have some homework to do to get better acquainted with the details. I only have the headline level information about it. But what I can say is absolutely the costs, entailed in accommodating and enabling autonomous and other highly automated vehicles on the roads has already been getting picked up by the US taxpayer in a big way. And this goes across parties and administrations. At the end of the Obama administration, there was a smart cities competition where one US city got a enormous amount of money to promote.

Peter Norton 1:09:37
autonomous vehicles are coming in. It’s our job in the Federal Highway Administration to help it happen. And she announced large sums of money for that. And without even checking, I think we can be certain that there are substantial public funds from US DoT even under Mayor Pete for

Peter Norton 1:10:07
So yeah, these interest groups, these trade associations and lobbies are simply too powerful for that not to happen.

Carlton Reid 1:10:16
So, Motordom Mark II?

Peter Norton 1:10:18
Yes, I think we still have Motordom and in fact, the Motordom club is expanded to include tech companies.

Carlton Reid 1:10:25
Peter, as always, it has been fascinating. Your book was excellent. I was kindly asked to write a blurb for it. That’s why I got an early copy, in which I hope I was as glowing as I ought to be. Because it was a fantastic book, and a very, very good follow up to “Fighting traffic,” like the kind of the next stage. So tell us, when’s it gonna be available? Where is it going to be available from tell us all of that detail.

Peter Norton 1:10:57
So the press is Island press, and Island press says it will be available October 21.

Peter Norton 1:11:06
A nice feature of the book’s title is that you won’t get a lot of irrelevant hits. If you type in the book’s title “Autonorama,” it t ought to be the first thing that comes up on any search engine. And it will be available through essentially all the book channels that people are already using.

Carlton Reid 1:11:28
And that’s all Now, where can you find more about you, because you’re not on Twitter.

Peter Norton 1:11:36
I know, I have a an About Me page on my department’s website, my department being the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia.

Peter Norton 1:11:52
I think if anyone searched just for “University of Virginia” and “Peter Norton,” it would probably come up near at or near the top.

Carlton Reid 1:12:01
So you’re proving yourself here to be that Luddite.

Peter Norton 1:12:05
Well, you know, I recently had a friend who so use of social media, I had a journalist friend I like very much recently tell me I have to be on Twitter. And then in the next sentence, he said, but I lose an incredible amount of time on it, I have to say, so I’ll consider joining the twittersphere. Again, but you know, I have some

Peter Norton 1:12:31
costs and benefits to to consider.

Carlton Reid 1:12:34
Yes, I wouldn’t encourage anybody to do it. Because it is can be a time sink, and you do tend to talk around in circles. But at the end of the day, it is good to, to have like,

Carlton Reid 1:12:49
cuz I use it the other day, in fact, for a Forbes article, in that I was taken on a whole bunch, I don’t know why they’ve adopted me, but a whole bunch of anti low traffic neighbourhood folks have adopted me as their bet and one of the name I have mentioned why I’m the one at the moment, which they’re there that they’re piling in on me. And so I try and win when I take them on. You know, it’s like, this is not radical, you know, a low traffic neighbourhood is not radical, you know, the Romans had low traffic neighbourhoods. 600 years ago, the York Minster had low,, these are bollard, these are not you know, the throughout history we’ve had, you know, motor carriages restricted. This is not unusual yet all the mass media and these people are seeing this as this incredible, new and novel to them dystopian future where you can’t go exactly where you want in your motorcar. So I take these people on, and I try and move it on. So because it’s not a very radical concept, they consider it radical. I just say, well, let’s just ban cars.

Carlton Reid 1:13:56
They then flip their lid, because that is just something that they haven’t is like, Whoa, we just thought we’re talking about you know, just a few bars here. Now this this lunatic is talking about banning all cars. Now, of course, I don’t have any power in it. I can’t do anything about this. But just mentioning that concept that that is your future and I kind of scared them. I hope it just nudges the Overton window for them, just nudges up a little. So they then think that LTNs or maybe they’re not quite as crazy, or as radical as we think because this nutter is talking about banning all cars. So maybe we will just keep quiet. Mostly you’re talking to the wind, you’re not gonna convert anybody people have got their their rigid points of view and I don’t know why they even start arguing about it. But there was a glimmer, it was two or three posters, who when you actually started chiselling away, and you actually showed them because they one particular one came on and was very anti LTNs but then

Carlton Reid 1:15:01
I started talking about highway removal. And how it didn’t lead to Carmageddon, there didn’t lead to congestion everywhere. And then I showed them a photograph of this particular the poster child of highway removal in South Korea and showed them how it is now a park today. And their argumentation had been about how all LTNs was shoving

Carlton Reid 1:15:27
all the heavy traffic onto these major freeways where there was actually lots of houses next to it. But when I showed them, like other countries have done this, they actually came around to this concept, and I just got one convert from this argumentation, I would consider that to be a success. So some Overton windows might be nudged open, but then one person who was anti LTN is gonna think ‘Well, actually, there is a different future, because South Korea did that.’ So that’s why I use social media and and I don’t mind spending time arguing with people, even though 90% of them, you’re not going to change their mind, you might change 10% of people’s mind. And perhaps those 10% could be an important 10%.

Peter Norton 1:16:15
Well, I am delighted by this story, and you’ve given me something to think about very carefully. I read that piece in Forbes, by the way, and I absolutely loved it. And the reason I saw it is that I am on social media. I saw it on Facebook. And I recall your sort of attention getting statement in that post, which was the first sentence is been banned cars are approximately that. So I loved the deliberate provocation that that was that was amusing. And I shared, of course, I shared the article because it’s it’s it’s common sense presented bbsolutely refreshingly. Well, yeah, I think I’ll give it a try.

Carlton Reid 1:17:09
Don’t blame me though.

Peter Norton 1:17:10
No, no,

Peter Norton 1:17:11
if I if I ended up

Carlton Reid 1:17:12
I didn’t, I didn’t.

Peter Norton 1:17:14
Yeah, if if my career stalls to a halt, because I’m constantly tweeting, or, and so on I’ll take full responsibility. And you have that on Zencastr.

Carlton Reid 1:17:27
Thanks to Peter Norton. There’s a photo of him and a link to “Autonorama” on this show’s website at Next month, I’ll have a chat with Lachlan Morton, who, as I’m sure you know, rode this year’s Tour de France by himself, but meanwhile … get out there and ride.

September 12, 2021 / / Blog

12th September 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 282: Veloforte


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Marc and Lara Giusti

TOPICS: A 50-minute chat with Veloforte founders Marc and Lara Giusti.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 282 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 12th of September 2021.

David Bernstein 0:25
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fred cast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesman cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information, check out our website at And now here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the Spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:10
Bear with me as I sample a smidgen of fresco energy chew along with a little chunk from a hazelnut coffee and cocoa flavoured Tuscany-inspired treat. That’s more like a pan forte than your traditional energy bar, which let’s face it is often on the functional spectrum, rather than a foodie one. I’m just gonna taste this, hang on.

Carlton Reid 1:37
Yep. Oh, that’s mint

Carlton Reid 1:39
Oh, lemon it’s also mint and lemon. It’s got the consistency of kind of Turkish Delight. It doesn’t taste like Turkish Delight, but it’s got the consistency of Turkish Delight. And that’s Fresco from Veloforte. And made in small batches, Veloforte is from London. The products I’m enjoying here are made with natural time-tested ingredients, not fancy schmancy gloops. I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s 50-minute show I’m talking – and eating – with Veloforte founders, Marc and Lara Giusti. Their brand is now five years old. And unusually for an energy bar company, its halo products have won numerous Great Taste awards. After we’d finished recording, I was kindly sent an all-products sampling box and I can exclusively reveal — well, not very exclusive — but I can reveal that everything in Veloforte’s range is super tasty, including the Fresco there which is now half chewed. Let me just open the Mocha so the Mocha is hazelnut coffee and cocoa

Carlton Reid 2:59
and it’s like a pan fortre I’d have I’ve have had a few before so I’m just tasting this one now.

Carlton Reid 3:07
So if you’d like pan forte, at Christmas or whatever you would like Sienna-sourced products well I guess you’re like this. Let’s taste this one.

Carlton Reid 3:21
Yeah, okay. That’s also

Carlton Reid 3:25

Carlton Reid 3:26
I’ll cut this audio out. Yeah. Okay, I’m now back in, I’ve cut the sound out of my chewing there. But that was also tasty, very, very tasty. Because these products are made from real food, not fillers. There’s like big objects of hazelnuts in the Mocha I can see on my desk here. And there are none of the bloating and you know those emissions-related problems that is common with other some other gels. Anyway, here’s my chat with Marc and Laura. I started by asking about the surprisingly long history of pan forte

Marc Giusti 4:04
Way back in a sort of Roman legions before even there’s evidence of

Marc Giusti 4:13
essentially fruits, nuts, berries, honeys, those sorts of produce being pulled together by

Marc Giusti 4:22
in this case the Roman legions as they marched through Europe.

Marc Giusti 4:26
And using these ingredients to sort of fortify the armies the soldiers you know, the the teams as they marched through the land.

Marc Giusti 4:37
And of course, what that became them was a sort of a dough really a mixture of, of these different ingredients brought together. But as time went on,

Marc Giusti 4:47
began to include all sorts of herbs and spices and in a new and interesting foods as they went through different lands and countries. So ginger

Marc Giusti 5:00
And cinnamons and you know, a whole host of fruits and who knows what.

Marc Giusti 5:05
And as this happened, the, the fruits of stops being, if you like, a fortifying dough for, you know, the plebs and the masses. And it started to become a bit more of a speciality it started become the almost sort of pharmaceutical away because of the the gingers and other spices that had some healing benefits in and they were finding that, you know, the the soldiers and the generals and the and the leaders were, were, you know better for it. And so it sort of started to become something of a speciality in this special food for,

Marc Giusti 5:39
I guess,

Marc Giusti 5:41
higher, higher and higher up the food chain, so to speak. And then as many hundreds if not a couple of 1000s of years have moved on, it’s now really seen in Italy as a as a classic delicacy, largely centred around the area of sienna. And around Florence, you can find it everywhere in Italy, of course, but it’s sort of central gravity seems to be that sort of Tuscan food. So that’s the snapshot and, and the reason that’s connects to to us is that my family’s from Florence, Lucca near Sienna. And there’s a long history of panforte to being a

Marc Giusti 6:25
Well, it’s true many Italian families were panforte is a thing that your, your nonna, your grandmother teaches you how to make. And if you if you don’t know how to make it, then you know you need to.

Marc Giusti 6:39
And it’s a staple, really, and of course, the the the recipes for these are very closely guarded sort of family secrets. And that’s the backdrop to how it’s in. And I guess our lives and

Marc Giusti 6:54
Laura, as well, over the years has developed an incredible capability as an award winning baker, not only

Marc Giusti 7:04
also for heart, lung, respiratory specialist as well. And so combining those skills, this provenance of food,

Marc Giusti 7:12
our interests for creating

Marc Giusti 7:16
natural ingredients, natural foods for, for sports context, that’s essentially the the moons were coming together, it looks a little bit like that. And when when, when the moons coming together, gosh, there’s so slowly at first, because we didn’t invent the recipes in order to create a nutrition brand. It was it was actually that was that’s where we ended up the the beginnings of this was just really to help fuel me on my own sort of cycling adventures. And I was sort of sick to death with this was around 2017, I think

Marc Giusti 7:51
2016 maybe 2017 I was fed up with all of the typical synthetic nasty gloop in tubes that we’ve all had to suffer for years that you know, you’ve most bike shops, or wherever you might get your food.

Marc Giusti 8:05
And all of it pretty unpleasant, all of it

Marc Giusti 8:09
was impossible to understand the what’s in it, let alone what it’s supposed to do, or how to use it. And so it was for me a case of I wanted to find something, I could trust him and something that I wanted to eat and something that I understood. And

Marc Giusti 8:24
so Lara turns around says, Well, I’ll make it for you. I know exactly how to do that. I know, from my home, as I said, from herbs of medical, years, 20 odd years.

Marc Giusti 8:33
And that side of her life, was saying what I understand recovery in the human body and performance perfectly. I also understand how to how to make this stuff at an award winning level. So why aren’t we making it for you, so it started there. And then of course, I’d have too much in my pocket, no doubt here and there. And we’d hand it to friends and friends and hand it to their friends. And all of a sudden, we were staring at an opportunity to develop the brand.

Marc Giusti 8:59
And it kind of built its own path. Really, my past previously was 25 years brand strategy for all sorts of international brands. So we sort of converged that thinking and Lara’s skills with the foods and creative metaphor.

Carlton Reid 9:19
And from what you’re saying, it sounds like you, you you, you issue and you don’t have in your ingredients maltodextrin which is the kind of the basis for many

Carlton Reid 9:30
foods out there.

Lara Giusti 9:30
No, Carlton, we don’t use any highly processed ingredients at all. So what was important for me when I’m curating the range when I’m building any new products is that you almost want to be able to make it yourself in your own kitchen, be able to open your own cupboards and get your dried fruits, get your plant based syrups your Maple syrups and your nuts and be able to you know create these incredible incredibly powerful and delicious

Lara Giusti 10:01
recipes at home. But we do it for you, of course. And so it’s important for me that you understand what’s in the recipes that your body understands how to digest what’s in the recipes. So we steer away from any sort of synthetic ingredients or heavily processed ingredients and try and keep it as natural and as simple as possible.

Carlton Reid 10:20
Does that not I mean that the reason companies use is apart from the fact that maltodextrin a one point was an incredibly cheap ingredient

Carlton Reid 10:28
was that long shelf life and then that’s, that’s their benefit. So what is your how’s your shelf life compared to one of your your

Carlton Reid 10:39
competitors who are using these other ingredients?

Lara Giusti 10:42
So that is obviously that lots of things that we taking into consideration when we do make new products. But when we started with the bars, we knew that pound 40 was highly appraised for its shelf life, that’s how it would live in the Roman legions packs as they would storm across the countries. And so and it has natural preservatives in it. So it has a fairly high sugar content. And as we know, from jamming, it’s a natural preservative, you don’t need to add any artificial preservatives to that, to maintain a shelf life. The bars themselves are fairly low in water content. And so the moisture is trapped within the dried fruits within the bars. And so there’s nothing really to grow any mould or or affect any shelf life. So we have now up to 14 months on our bars have natural shelf life, too.

Lara Giusti 11:35
So rather than refrigerators refrigerated, they cope amazingly from 40 degree heat down to you know, minus two degree heat.

Lara Giusti 11:45
The they maintain their texture, and they’re the most fantastic portable fuel.

Marc Giusti 11:52
And it’s the same with with the chews, with the gels with hydration with our protein shakes, none of the ingredients include anything synthetic or or preservative based or additive based. And then all of those have somewhere between 12, 16 and 18 months shelf life. So it has not been mean we just simply don’t subscribe to the I guess the thought that we need to pump the products full of convenient ingredients from a manufacturing point of view

Marc Giusti 12:26
In order to either gain margin or to gain sort of shelf life, when you can have what or if you did we believe that you you have a huge issue with your quality, the provenance of your ingredients, the digestibility of the ingredients.

Marc Giusti 12:40
It’s it’s just not necessary from our point of view.

Carlton Reid 12:43
So how about expense wise? So have any of these facts that you’re using real ingredients rather than the maltodextrins of this world, does that make your product more expensive?

Marc Giusti 12:54
Well, it certainly makes it more expensive to produce. It’s much more complicated for us, you know, we don’t just go and buy, you know, n litres of gunk and stick it in the steel vats and you know, job done. The the the issue for us is absolutely that we want to know where the food is coming from. We know to some level even understand who the growers are, I know we have an absolute

Marc Giusti 13:18
focus on the provenance, the quality, the taste, the efficacy, the digestibility. And the experience, we will talk about three different things natural, powerful and delicious. And unless those three things are true, we won’t make the product.

Marc Giusti 13:34
But yes, that makes it harder for us to source it makes it harder for us to to ensure that we have the same. So for example, a batch one batch of dates might be more squidgy and moist than another batch of data. So all sorts of sourcing issues become a problem for us that we need to manage. And we do very well.

Marc Giusti 13:53
It doesn’t necessarily translate to more expensive on the shelf. But yes, there are absolutely some products that you could buy materially less. You know, there are some very well known brands who do 60% off sales pretty much all day every day. And and and that’s fine. But that’s not really where we’re not coming from that place.

Lara Giusti 14:14
It’s reflective on the cost of their raw ingredients so we don’t stint on quality on anything. The peels that we’re using our bars come from Sicily, they are candied in the most traditional way we want to stick to the heritage of our of our roots really, and we don’t want to compromise on quality and that means that we do put more cost base into the manufacturing side of it.

Carlton Reid 14:40
And where are they manufactured now?

Marc Giusti 14:42
So all over we did the very beginning was the kitchen quite literally and we turned our house.

Marc Giusti 14:49
It was a case of I think we had the cleaner and all of her friends turning up into little white hats and blue nets and so when they were doing the cutting in the mixing and the wrapping

Marc Giusti 15:00
And we had Laura and I making in the kitchen and it was, you know, quite a homemade affair. We then moved that to our own facility. We’re very modest facility in North London. And then since then as we’ve started to scale a business where we now have, you know, I guess you might call grown-up facilities with all the sort of BCR ratings and you know, Informed Sports qualifications and everything else that you need these days to have a really compelling nutrition product, and it’s all in the UK.

Carlton Reid 15:33
So I’m going to ask you about that so so an athlete can have faith in your product because

Carlton Reid 15:41
the certain product that might be in other companies products definitely won’t be there. So that’s all accredited?

Marc Giusti 15:47
Yeah, so the the main thing with the whole banned substances thing is that you know, where something is made, particularly for using facilities that have all sorts of other people’s products in them to you know, set some ingredients can cross pollinate if you like, or somehow infiltrate and, and also some people will want to add these products in or these ingredients to their products. So, Informed Sport came about some number of years ago now to try to give athletes that confidence that the foods that this particular product or brand or this particular product, have got us a rubber stamp accredited, you know, it’s safe to eat this banned substance assured also no banned substance or short

Marc Giusti 16:33
label and also we have, whether it be celiac or whether it be vegan, whether it be brcc throw BRC a ratings and that’s about so quality and cleanliness and

Marc Giusti 16:47
a whole load of traceability, traceability of food markers that the food industry have put in place for self regulation as well as for for more legislative record regulation.

Carlton Reid 17:00
And so cos you’re producing with for want of a better expression, real food, that’s what attracted people like Ashley Palmer-watts and Justin Clarke of LeBlanq to your brand, how did you meet them?

Marc Giusti 17:14
So that came about because of, and we’re very fortunate in that, because our food is very high quality. And we I’d argue we’re really the only all natural brand you can buy from in terms of the range of, you know, before, during, and after your exercise your sport, be elite or pro. Because we have such a high, highly regarded quality products, we get to meet and get introduced to quite a lot of very

Marc Giusti 17:45
serious sports people, everyone from Formula One racing drivers to tennis players to, you know, cyclists, runners and all sorts of people. And part of the,

Marc Giusti 17:55
I guess, introductions we get are people who are doing interesting things, you know, creates introductions with interesting people. And

Marc Giusti 18:02
I think when you’re probably somebody like Ashley, and when you’re at the highest end of your, I guess the food industry and you see a brand, changing the way that that the bits industry, in our case, sports nutrition, operates and starts to provide products to a quality level that you would normally expect from in a professional kitchen or in the restaurant quality foods, you know, with the only nutrition brands with one, I think more than 10 or 12 goal, Great Taste awards now.

Marc Giusti 18:31
And so we managed to, I guess reach a level of

Marc Giusti 18:35
recognition in that space that that piece, some of those chefs interests and we’re getting those introductions all the time.

Marc Giusti 18:42
And through our retailer and our eventing over networks, you know that these,

Marc Giusti 18:49
in this case, LeBlanq cycling events, they came to know this they saw our story they recognise it was very much in tune with what they were trying to do and and Lara is I guess you like the solution to the on bike part of the LeBlanq story. And if the if Ashley is looking after the off bike piece, how do they assure the same gastronomic qualities on the bike and that’s where Lara and her food comes in.

Carlton Reid 19:13
Mmm. And you mentioned there about retailing. So how how do people get hold of your product?

Marc Giusti 19:20
Well, mostly it’s direct to the website. So predominantly, we are a DTC brand as it’s called and people come to the website they order and you know we deliver.

Marc Giusti 19:30
Otherwise, we’ve got a whole bunch of

Marc Giusti 19:33
independent retail and large retail outlets, you know, sports shops, gyms,

Marc Giusti 19:39
health clubs in all sorts of different shapes and sizes of those all around the country as well as internationally. And there are you know, we’re growing it although it’s very modest still we are growing our footprint into Europe and into other sort of international regions. So it we are not hard to get hold of

Marc Giusti 20:00
It’s hard these days is things like Brexit, and also getting it to be delivered on time when you don’t own the logistics, you know, but but we’re easy to get hold on, it’s not a problem.

Carlton Reid 20:10
Hmm. So yeah, I was I was expecting mainly website, because that’s where everybody gets their stuff from now.

Marc Giusti 20:18
It is i think i think one really important thing, though, is that we’re not we’re not trying to be exclusively, sort of the website, only the, we believe that every channel be it Amazon or be it our website or be it your local bike shop or be it,you know, the gym, you go to, you know, in any number of places that we should be readily available, we should be accessible to you there in the best way that we can be. And that’s very much our plan.

Marc Giusti 20:44
The convenience side of it and the affordability side of it comes in because often when you when you buy sort of onesie twosie items from a bike shop on a Saturday morning before you ride out, for example. And that isn’t really a very effective way for you to manage your nutrition requirements you might have for your, you know, the weeks ahead. So inevitably, people come to the website, they buy boxes of their mixed bars, or their, you know, gels and powders or whatever it might be that they’re looking for. And it’s a much more efficient and effective way for them to manage their nutrition. And we have a subscription programme where you can do that. So you can come and say, I’m training for the marathon, or I’m training for a sportif, or, I don’t know, I’m a professional tennis player, and I’m training every week, whatever the scenario is, and we can build a subscription model around that for you to say, Well, this is the kind of product that you need on these weeks. And this is a sort of cadence new engineer delivered in and we tried to put that together for you.

Carlton Reid 21:43
Do you ever regret calling it Veloforte, which then, you know, solidifies it into cycling when it could have been like something like Sportforte, or just more general?

Marc Giusti 21:54
It’s a conversation that I’ve had with myself many times. No, is the short answer.

Marc Giusti 22:00
The. To me,a brand strategy is very much about

Marc Giusti 22:05
giving brands meaning, right, they can be called whatever you want to be; Google when it first came out was you know what, what does it even mean? Nobody understands it, if it has a, it needs to be given meaning. And what we find is that the provenance of where we started, which was very much in cycling very much to help in a very high endurance and high consumption needs to have this sort of food and to have the quality of the foods.

Marc Giusti 22:31
And that that is sort of set behind you know how we can also feel your marathon or your outdoor swimming or your

Marc Giusti 22:39
tennis playing or whatever it might be that you do

Marc Giusti 22:42
is just a straight line from there, there. There is really isn’t a downside. And an often I see when you talk to cyclists, of course, they they appreciate the name velo being in, in the brand. When you speak to non cyclists, they often don’t actually recognise it or think of it as some sort of exclusive cycling word.

Lara Giusti 23:05
Velo be seen as velocity. So you’ve got velo strength, so velocity, speed and strength.

Lara Giusti 23:09
So it’s really, you know.

Marc Giusti 23:11
So I think it’s a it’s a, it’s a fair question. But I I don’t think it’s something that’s going to limit the business at all. And I think it’s a story that we want to tell you know, that’s where we started.

Carlton Reid 23:23
And Peloton is kind of proving at the moment that you can have a very, very cycling word, and it doesn’t really matter, because you can sell running, even though you’re a cycling brond originally.

Marc Giusti 23:35
And people’s active lives now, like cycling is not only one of the largest consumers of our kinds of products as a as a category, but it’s also now becoming ever more part of certainly UK at least and it’s true, of course, in Europe and all around the world, but it’s becoming evermore a part of people’s active lives. And so you’re seeing brands and names and terminology, you know, bleed across different sports. I think it’s a it’s one of the sports that enormously impressive feats of, you know, human endurance come from those sports. So I think it can only be a good thing we would, we would only be looking for those provenance points if we had called it something else. So it seems to come more naturally from the name.

Carlton Reid 24:22
You mentioned pro sport then what what sprang to mind was pro cyclists, clearly and obviously, are very often

Carlton Reid 24:32
anchored to particular brands of energy food and everything else, of course, but for instance, like the Gabba jersey, you often get pros will use

Carlton Reid 24:44
a Gabba jersey, but they’ll take off the Castelli stuff. And and do you know I don’t want you to spill the beans in it. But do you know of any pros that are like they’re sponsored by one brand, but they don’t taste? They don’t like that crap. They want your

Carlton Reid 25:00

Marc Giusti 25:00
I’d say in the low hundreds would be my actual answer to that are of pro cyclists who like our food very much and need to put it in a different bottle.

Carlton Reid 25:13
A different packet? Yes, yes. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 25:18
Yes. So you, you are the gabbeh of the well,

Marc Giusti 25:21
I would like I would very much love for us to be the Gabba I’m absolutely sure I would be I’m not sure they quite the Gabba yet. But yes, we’ve seen that at the time. And I think it’s also the case that people need to have confidence in their digestion, right. So there’s, it’s not just that our food is delicious, or, or just that it has some natural ingredients, there’s a, it plays a very important role in the on on and off bike, or whatever sport you’re in,

Marc Giusti 25:50
kind of regime. So it’s very much more about health and wellness, rather than just simply performance, you know, there and then at the end of the moment, so, where how people eat, you know, what they choose to have on a Monday morning versus, you know, a training session versus a recovery session?

Marc Giusti 26:08
Are all it’s all part of the same discussion. And so it seems it would seem odd to say to somebody, you know, only eat natural foods, you know, at certain times and eat a lot of synthetic foods and other time that just seems

Marc Giusti 26:22
particularly also as it’s very commonly the case that synthetic ingredients, cause so many sort of gastro issues for people in one of the most common stories is people saying my county jails is never tell me go funny or, and many other worse stories than that.

Marc Giusti 26:38
And, and our ingredients have completely eliminated that we have none of that. None at all.

Marc Giusti 26:45
It’s it’s simply because our bodies know how to digest those sorts of ingredients and sugars and the ratios that we put them together in.

Carlton Reid 26:54
because of the long provenance compared to the short providence of maltodextrin. etc.

Marc Giusti 26:59
Yes, exactly.

Lara Giusti 27:01
It’s not just the maltodextrin. It’s all the artificial sweeteners that go into so many products, it’s been proven now to completely wreck your gut biome. So we stay clear of anything like that. And we only use natural ingredients throughout. So we know that we’re going to keep your, your you know, your internal bacterias on track and keep your gut happy. And that motivates you to go further. If you’re not having to worry about cramping and needing the toilet, you’re going to concentrate on running faster, longer, riding harder. And that’s what you’re wanting to do want to enjoy your fueling, so you can enjoy your sport.

Marc Giusti 27:37
Yeah, and we see a lot of that a lot of people say, I don’t like them, so I don’t use them say a gel, say or powdery chalky bars that they’ve, you know, perhaps bought from elsewhere. And what that means is that they don’t feel when they should do it sort of try to work around, and lo and behold, they start to bonk, and then all of a sudden, they’ve now got to recover from that rather than, you know, maintain their

Marc Giusti 28:02
I guess their performance. As I was saying there’s a there’s a balance to be had. And, you know, before, during and after. And our food allows people can because normally when people are making food for themselves, they they’re looking for the highest quality, natural, you know, clean, good stuff to eat out there.

Marc Giusti 28:19
And so why would you then go buy a bag of synthetic gloop and chuck that in your tummy just because you happen to be on the bike. You know, it just seems a strange thing.

Lara Giusti 28:26
When you’re pushing the body the hardest, why would you put the rubbish in then?

Carlton Reid 28:31
Yeah. Yes. Laura, you mentioned that the microbiome there. And I’m kind of familiar that because I’ve got a medic daughter and I’ve got a doctor wife. So let’s let’s let’s talk medical stuff for a second now because that that intrigued me right at the beginning there when when your medical background was mentioned, so so tell us a bit about that.

Lara Giusti 28:52
So I trained many moons ago as a physiotherapist and specialised as a cardio respiratory physiotherapist. And that meant that I was working on intensive care units with people with long term lung disease, but also working with people who have cardiac operations and, and getting rehabbing them back into health, which included working with a fantastic team of nutritionists of occupational therapists of sports therapists. And that really enticed me into looking more into nutrition than I’d ever really done before. And so I did a Master’s in that and decided to focus my attention more on the nutrition side, and as Marc said, I

Lara Giusti 29:42
love my baking as well. It’s sort of a stethoscope in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other

Lara Giusti 29:49
end so I managed to put both of my talents and my passions into one place by developing this sports nutrition range, which really does

Lara Giusti 30:00
allow you to feel the way that your body wants to feel.

Carlton Reid 30:05
Hmm. So so let’s talk through your products. Now you’ve got a, you’ve got a bar

Carlton Reid 30:10
line, you have a gel line, and then you’ve got like a post exercise energy shake line, what else are we missing here? What are you.

Carlton Reid 30:19
So Lara wil take you through the, how each of them, I suppose do the job that they were but as a sort of range of bars, a range of chews, a range of natural gels, a range of hydration, which is sort of electrolyte powders, and a sort of performance protein recovery shakes range.

Lara Giusti 30:40
Really, the challenge was how to create a range that we say it’s from trainers on, to trainers off, or cleats on to cleats off. How are we going to make sure that you’ve got what you need, when you need it in a portable fashion, that means you’re never going to go hungry, and you’re never going to bonk or hit the wall. Because you’ve always got Veloforte in your back pocket or in your running pack.

Lara Giusti 31:05
So yes, we started with bars, and started just with three bars and then extended the range, we’ve now got eight in total, including to recovery focus bars, which can contain complete protein. And we try and use the most easily digestible protein. So in our thoughts of protein bar, we use egg whites, which is quite unusual for recovery and protein bars on the market. Right now we use egg whites because your body is the highest digestibility store is really fantastic form of protein without all the additional facts associated with it. And we use nuts in all of our our bars, which give a baseline of line of protein alongside the natural carbohydrates from the dried fruits and the syrups. That means that your energy sustained, so you get a nice boost from the sugars in the syrup in the bars, you get a prolonged energy release from the fructose from the fruits and from the proteins from the nuts. So you don’t just get this boom and crash which is so common with the maltodextrin based products, which is just one type of carbohydrate. We try to span it across forms of carbohydrates and also include low level proteins in the majority of the bars as well to keep you on an even keel.

Lara Giusti 32:24
So they’re the bars.

Carlton Reid 32:26
Sorry, sorry, before before you go on, you mentioned egg whites, so then that just immediately went all vegan? So do you have a vegan option as well?

Lara Giusti 32:35
Absolutely. So we have a vegan recovery bar as well called our Mocha bar, which is totally delicious, as well as obviously on point for nutrition that’s made from a blend of pea and brown rice proteins. And you need both of those to complete a complete a complete amino acid profile. And it’s important to have that complete profile because when you’re trying to rebuild your muscles, you need all of those nine essential amino acids that your body can’t produce itself. And so we use a mix of hazelnuts and those two plant based proteins to give you that extra protein boost in the recovery bar from Mocha.

Carlton Reid 33:11
Okay, so sorry, I think you’re about to go into gels.

Lara Giusti 33:13
So yes, gels.

Lara Giusti 33:16
Again, steering clear of the synthetic sugars, we use plant based syrup. So we use a mix of data at Maple syrup and brown rice syrup. And they’re flavoured with real fruit juices and with spices and so they’re really a lovely texture. They’re like a maple syrup textures. They’re not thick and gloopy. And they’re not super runny. They’re quite small in size. So instead of carrying a 16 ml hydro gel that is commonly available, our jails have just 33 mls. And so you get the same carbohydrate load from a smaller packet that you do from one of these larger synthetic packet. So they’re easy to carry, they’re easy to swallow, you’re not faced with this huge mouthful of gel. And they taste fantastic because they’re flavoured with natural ingredients.

Lara Giusti 34:05
And then

Lara Giusti 34:07
hydration mixes and quite difficult to come up with a hydration mix that is chemical free. What you’ll find in lots of hydration is that they’re a little tablet form so they’re heavily compressed. And they’ll use chemical compounds, magnesium sulphate and sodium chloride and sodium sulphates in them to up your electrolyte balance. Obviously they’re they’re lab based made ingredients, not natural occurring ingredients and finding agents and binding agents and then you need effervescent to make it fit in your water so it dissolves and all of those things are together. Really, what are my experience of them give you a sore tongue after a day in the saddle because the effervescence sort of eats at the side of your tongue and they’re overly sweet and overly flavour too.

Lara Giusti 34:59
With what are termed as natural flavourings, but really what that means is that say if something’s like a blueberry flavoured hydration tablet, they might have never seen a blueberry in its life. But there are natural occurring ingredients that when they put together will create a blueberry type flavour. So what we don’t, we don’t use any of those at all our hydration mixes are based from freeze dried coconut water, which gives you natural potassium, Pink Himalayan salt for really clean sources sodium, and then they’re flavoured with freeze dried fruit powders, and with herbs and botanicals. And so we use the freeze dried fruit powders, they’re picked at their prime, they’re rapidly frozen to trap in all the nutrients and then their ground. And then what happens when you add them to water is that they just reconstitute and you get the wonderful flavours and the colours and the textures of the fruit as well. And so altogether, it’s an extremely natural way to rehydrate and to add electrolytes into your nutrition plan.

Lara Giusti 36:07
So that’s the hydration, and then the chews.

Lara Giusti 36:12
looking at the marketplace, what I tend to do when I’m looking to create a product for Veloforte it needs to hit a function, it needs to taste amazing, it needs to have the right nutritional profile and it needs to challenge what’s already there on the market. So if you look at choose currently, you either get jelly beans, or you get wine gum type cheews, and both of those are very sticky in texture, they stick to your teeth, that’s not good for your dentine. And so what I went about to do was to create a very soft, textured chew that would just almost melt in your mouth rather than stick in your teeth. And so our Veloforte chews

Lara Giusti 36:52
are lovely and soft. Again, they’re made from natural sugars, beet sugar, they’re made from fruit juices and spices and there’s nothing artificial in there. They sit really nice in your tummy. And they pack a really good energy punch as well. So a pack of chews will give you 42 grammes of carbohydrates. And we have natural electrolytes in there, again, from Pink Himalayan salt. So they’re going to keep your energy sustained, and your electrolytes on balance. And they’re really easy to take, easy to carry, and then won’t pull your fillings out as well.

Marc Giusti 37:25
All of these as thinking not just in isolation too. So you know, our belief is that whether you want solids or you want liquids, or you want to choose or you want, you know, protein shakes will come into it in a second,

Marc Giusti 37:37
you should be able to have all of those and furthermore, to be able to sort of coexist.

Marc Giusti 37:43
I guess sort of happening not only from your palate and tummy point of view, but also as a performance perspective, from your electrolytes to your sugars to your proteins and some

Marc Giusti 37:54
And then the shakes.

Lara Giusti 37:55
And then the shakes are our latest release. Super proud of those. Again, lots of bad press about recovery shakes and protein shakes about the texture. They’re often sort of gritty, sandy textures, they often give really bad gastric side effects of bloating and wind. And so I went to create two different recipes one for our plant based customers. So our Nova recovery protein shake is made of a blend of pea powder, brown rice and pumpkin to give a complete amino acid profile. And that’s flavoured with cocoa and freeze dried banana and has all your electrolytes in there that you need to recover. And also we’ve added some adaptogens to our recovery shakes, we’ve got Macca in our plant base shake and we’ve got a ginseng in our low lactose whey based supershape which is flavoured with super berries in antioxidant rich and I chose to use adaptogens because they’re well known to help to combat the stress that your body goes through when you exercise vigorously. And what you need to do is to try and calm everything down and to rebalance yourself after your heavy sessions. And so the Macca and they didn’t seem go hand in hand with the proteins and the natural carbs to really give you effective recovery.

Carlton Reid 39:16
Some well known energy bars you can be really really very very hungry to eat them in an emergency.

Carlton Reid 39:25
Which I have done in the past when I’ve been incredibly hungry at a hotel late at night or something I will dig into my bag and find the energy bar that I’ve stashed that 10 years previously but Justin from LeBlanq was saying you having to fight people off from eating your product as almost as a snack as as a genuine food. So do you deter people from this, do you recommend that he This is a food is this is this like you don’t have to be going out for a three hour ride to eat your product you can eat you can eat this is just a this is a yummy bar.

Lara Giusti 39:59
You could eat absolutely as a yummy bar and if they’re brilliant breakfast replacements, if you haven’t got time for lunch, you know you’re eating on the run. And they are high carbohydrate products and they’re designed to fuel you to energise you. And so I wouldn’t say you know, sitting on the sofa and eating three in a row is what we generally recommend, but we have customers who chop them up and serve them at dinner parties

Marc Giusti 40:24
Yeah, we do

Lara Giusti 40:26
you know, they are they are wonderfully delicious as well as nutritious and and and very versatile.

Marc Giusti 40:32
There’s nothing about them from a performance point of view, if you’d like from a sort of fats and sugars point of view if you like that, the next and bad news to have at any time we just naturally if you’re that we’re building arrange around active lifestyle, so if anybody’s eating, you know, snack food and staying sedentary, then that’s not quite the right way to be using our products. But yeah, absolutely, it’s the case that we mean all of us in our own way, and nibbling on these things, thankfully, we get we get good access to them all the time. And funny enough, there’s a bit of a story that when when we were making them at home,

Marc Giusti 41:08
because it would be we’re baking them in essentially within trays and we would have to take them out and cut them and you cut the sort of the edges off so that you get a nice clean shape that you can then cut the bars from rather than having the wobbly edges.

Marc Giusti 41:22
And so those cuttings so the off cuts became like a currency between friends and family and people would literally come around and say can we have some of those off cut things and we would have bags and bags and bags and bags of these things don’t really know. So we would just give them away.

Marc Giusti 41:39
And you know, that was just proved to us that these were truly delicious. And so yes, they they span and that’s part of that point about the diet and and that’s pretty much what the Veloforte brand wants to do for our customers is to say you know, no matter what you’re where you are in kind of the day or in terms of your lifestyle, we want you to be able to open the cupboard and see that you know when you want to go out for a run or when you want to go out for a ride or when you want to sit at home and relax or when you want to recover or when you want to give some for the kids or whatever the perspective might be that that we’re able to give you the confidence that this is you know so much better choice than conventionally we’ve been able to find you know in the shops.

Carlton Reid 42:21
Mmm. Now I’m sure we have people listened to this where they will also have problems with rumbling tummies no doubt and we have whetted their appetite for for what you’ve been talking about. So how can people

Carlton Reid 42:37
because you haven’t you have a taster box is that how you get people is there’s like

Marc Giusti 42:42
There’s a bunch of things I guess we try to say too, because a number of our customers they already know what you know bars and gels and drinks and and protein shakes are and so they understand the context of it and so of course they can choose whichever ones they want. For other customers who are you know, just getting started or they’re not really sure which ones they like, but a bunch of different packs, we have a starter pack which is a if you like it kind of best off, you know, here’s a couple of interesting that will give you a chance to you know try essentially the range without having a whole range in there. And then on the other hand, we’ve got something called a complete pack which is a one of everything of the entire range and and almost everywhere in between and as I was saying before you can go to any of the product pages you can say okay, I have one of those or three of those or 10 of these or a mixture like that and compile yourself off a little box.

Carlton Reid 43:32
Marc, how much are those packs? How much of those two different packs?

Marc Giusti 43:35
So the, gosh off the on my head?

Lara Giusti 43:40

Marc Giusti 43:42
And the complete pack I think it’s £35, £38 pounds … I need to double check it

Lara Giusti 43:53
But they are they offer good savings as opposed to buying individual products. One of our best selling packs is our family box bar which is 50 bars and you think goodness me 50 bars, that’s a lot of bars. But it’s a good mix of all the flavours and that offers a 25% saving over the cost of buying them individually. So we do for our customers who want to order large there are there are perks to that too.

Carlton Reid 44:22
Sorry, Lara sorry, what are the flavours of the bars?

Lara Giusti 44:26
Of the bars? so we have the first three flavours Classico is based on a panforte Margarita recipe which is Marc’s nonna’s recipe which is where it all began. So it’s a citrus fruits, almonds and honey. And then we have a De Bosco which is red berries pistachios and almonds and Choco which is dates and cocoa and almonds. And then we have a ZenZera which is stem ginger and pistachios that’s delicious really good for your digestion. We have a Venti which has sea salt in it so great fuel

Lara Giusti 44:59
electrolyte replacement as well. It’s like pecan pie meets salted caramel, it’s totally delicious. We have Forza which is a one of our protein recovery bars which is made from apricots, almonds and fennel. And fennel gives a nice sort aniseed kick or try to do with all the recipes is use spices to accent the fruits. Because what I want to do is to stimulate your tastebuds stimulate your saliva and your digestion so the minute you put it in your mouth, because then your body’s getting ready to digest something. It’s not a synthetic flavours. It’s not not something your body’s going ‘ugh, this is horrid.’ Some of you actually want to be in so that’s the first stage of your digestion. So we use spices in all of our bars. You’ve got the Mocha bar, which is your coffee and chocolate and your protein and he’s on that so that’s like a Juan absolutely delicious. And then we have our Pronto bar which has a little bit of caffeine in it as well for if you need an early morning pick up and that’s figs, pistachios and lemons. So there’s plenty of flavour choice to be had something for everybody in there. And also if you’re out in the long run, if you’re doing an ultramarathon, or if you’re doing a long sportif, then you’ve got a full range of flavours to keep you motivated because being motivated by your fuel actually helps you to eat and helps you to go further. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 46:18
All sounds absolutely gorgeous, and definitely having problems with tummy rumbling. So Mark, I stopped you and I think you’re just gonna get me the price head you’ve gone into your website to get it.

Marc Giusti 46:26
Yes, the complete pack is £38.99, the starter pack is £18.79 and you can get some smaller packs for example, the chews are £6.99

Marc Giusti 46:38
and the gels £7.50 the drinks £5.25 so this price range is all over the place and and you can if you subscribe as well, you get an all sorts of benefits of we have a rewards programme. We’ve got discounts on the subscriptions as a bunch of other ways that we try to help people if they’re doing training programmes and so on. So there’s it’s much more flexible than just simply the list price. If you take a moment to have a look at the site, it’ll explain.

Carlton Reid 47:05
Brilliant, thank you and how do people get into would tell me your website. Tell me your social media. Tell me tell me all your contact points.

Marc Giusti 47:13
So is the website v e l o f o r t e dotcom. The same is so just @veloforte for Insta and Twitter, and Facebook.

Carlton Reid 47:27
Thanks to Marc and Lara Giusti. There, and there’s a photo of them on the show’s website at Our next episode features American academic Peter Norton talking about his soon to be published, future-facing book Autonorama but meanwhile, get out there and ride …