Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast
EPISODE 242: A Different World, A Better World, A Bicycling World
Thursday 9th April 2020
SPONSOR: Jenson USA,
HOST: Carlton Reid
Sydney’s manager of cycling strategy Fiona Campbell.
Tim Blumenthal, president of People for Bikes, USA.
PLUS: An audio interview with Automobile Association president Edmund King.
The future for cycling in a post coronavirus world.
PLUS: the president of Britain’s Automobile Association muses that, if car use doesn’t recover after the end of the COVID-19 lockdown, it would be best not to splash £27 billion on building more roads for motorists.
“Motoring Boss Questions Whether U.K.’s £27 Billion Road Plans Can Survive Virus Crisis,” Forbes.com
The University of Massachusetts-Amherst conducted a study that compared bike infrastructure construction jobs with those related to projects that focused only on roadways for cars and trucks. Fastcompany.com
Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 242 of the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable podcast. This show was engineered on April 9th 2020.
David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokes men.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to another roundtable edition of the show. It took a little bit of time wrangling to record a groupchat with my expert guests because, as you’ll hear, they are as far flung as flunging goes. Is that a word? Anyway, I recorded our chat at 10pm UK time last night — that meant it was 7am in Australia for Sydney’s manager of cycling strategy Fiona Cambell, and it was early evening for transportation entrepreneur Robin Chase of the New Urban Mobility Alliance of Washington, DC, and late afternoon for Colorado-based Tim Blumenthal, president of People for bikes. Of course, we talked about sourdough, dogs and social distancing but the main discussion is about the future for cycling in a post coronavirus world. The hook was an article I wrote for Forbes.com where the president of Britain’s Automobile Association mused that, if car use didn’t recover after the end of the COVID-19 lockdown, it would be best not to splash £27 billion on building more roads for motorists. That’s a rational yet radical point of view from Edmund King, and I’ll be dropping the audio from that interview into the second half of the show. Let’s get going.
Carlton Reid 2:46
It is 10 o’clock in the UK for me, but I have got three guests here. international guests from from all across the world well, about two in the US and one from Australia and I’m going to go to the one from Australia first. So Fiona Campbell, tell us a bit more about you yourself. Give us that biography that I did prompt you to give beforehand.
Fiona Campbell 3:10
Hi, Carlton, yes. My background professionally is in it as a mainframe computer programmer. But that was by day and by night, I was doing bicycle advocacy work for a decade before 12 years ago when I started working for the City of Sydney, I’m now manager of cycling strategy, and I have quite a challenge to make Sydney bike friendly.
Carlton Reid 3:37
When you say your bicycle — I’m gonna come in here and ask supplementary questions by the way — when you said bicycle because that was like in a non professional role. You were just literally a bicycle advocate, and then you leaped into being a job.
Fiona Campbell 3:51
Correct? Yeah, I was involved in a number of local bicycle advocacy groups, as well as helping out with writing submissions for the state and the Because the group and then I was on a number of national committees representing the sockless from around the country.
Carlton Reid 4:07
And I even though I’ve met you at lots of lots of different conferences around the world, I had no idea about your computer programming background. So that’s the challenge for everybody else, you’re gonna have to tell us something that that I didn’t know about you yourself. So Robin, so tell us tell us about tell us about Robin.
Robin Chase 4:24
Um, 20 years ago, I co founded Zipcar, which is a car sharing company, and I think was one of the first that raised venture money and dim and used, built beautiful technology and showed that there is a real demand for this and it can scale so there’s a largest consumer demand. Since then, I’ve found a number of other transportation companies, some of which didn’t succeed. So I did one called go loco, that was intercity ride sharing and no one succeeded at that in the US. Then I did a peer to peer car sharing company in France called best car. And we ended up not being the number one and we merged with driving. And I’ve recently co founded my first nonprofit called Numo, the New Urban Mobility Alliance. So really, I’d say yy life is totally devoted to and focused on addressing climate change in urban transportation. And Fiona, I love bikes too, man, my love affair.
Carlton Reid 5:29
I’ve taken photographs of you on a bike. Yes. I that was a London that was Move last year, wasn’t it? So? Yeah. Okay. And same question to Tim. So Tim, you’re gonna have to go right the way back to your your journalism days as well.
Tim Blumenthal 5:44
Well, I am the president of People for Bikes, which has become the largest us nonprofit bicycle advocacy group. I’ve been doing this for 16 years but Somehow the last 40 years have flown by. I started as a cycling journalist, in fact, wrote internationally for publication in in England called Cycling Weekly and Velo in France and Velo News in the United States. And then Bicycling magazine did seven Olympics for NBC as a writer and a commentator, and an advisor. And, you know, it’s just so much has been about bikes. And then 27 years ago, I became the first CEO of the International mountain bike Association, which was happening at a time when mountain biking was growing really, really quickly. And that was both an opportunity and a challenge for existing systems and land managers. And so I ran that for 11 years and people for bikes has been really an awesome experience for me.
Carlton Reid 7:00
And it’s the industry pulling together. So the industry, putting money into, into into grassroot stuff and and paying people to do that.
Tim Blumenthal 7:10
It’s about half industry. You know, it started with that it started 20 years ago where the bike industry said, Look, we either need to work together to improve the conditions for bicycling, or else bicycling is really going to suffer. But maybe 13 years ago, we formed a separate but affiliated foundation. And that has a completely separate base of support 1.3 million individuals, major foundations, a lot of health related foundations. And somehow we’ve been able to serve both the industry and that whole other constituency that I just described.
Carlton Reid 7:54
And I remember getting lots of emails from you, building up that that that million plus subs What a bass.
Tim Blumenthal 8:01
Yeah, well, I mean, you followed it very closely for a long time. And you know, one of the great things about it and I’ll stop quickly here is it’s now much easier to communicate globally. And so we’re working in unison with best practices and best ideas and the most capable people around the world. So we’re we’re learning a lot not just from Europe, but from Australia and certainly from Asia and South America and Africa.
Carlton Reid 8:34
Okay, well thank you all for being on on the show today in our different time zones and it is fantastic to be able to talk to you in all our different time zones and Fiona. I’m going to come to you because it is early morning for you so you’ve got up nice and bright and early and we’re we’re kind of I’m a night owl here and Robin and Tim are shifting into the early evening, or Tim is kind of early afternoon, late afternoon, night, arent you, Tim. But Fiona I’d like to come to you now and let’s let’s go through and find out what people how we are coping and what we are doing in in lockdown if indeed you are in lockdown, I’ve no idea what’s happening in Australia. I’m not not being stopping in the news, what’s happening in Australia. So Fiona tell us, how are you isolating and are you in full lockdown?
Fiona Campbell 9:23
I think similar to other countries and what from what I can read. Similar to the UK, we supposed to be staying at home. And the only reasons to be out are if you have to go for work and especially essential workers, or to get essential supplies, groceries, medicines or for exercise. But when we are out, then there’s the social distancing. We’ve got a metre and a half.
Carlton Reid 9:51
And then you were mentioning before and I’m going to bring this in because Tim had a fantastic Instagram person to mention, but you’re making sourdough
Fiona Campbell 10:00
My husband’s making sourdough. Yes. And just with the circumstances, he’s making extra loaves each day and just distributing that to a few neighbours who we know. Appreciate it.
Carlton Reid 10:12
Oh, wow. That’s fantastic. And Robin, how are you isolating and is your city is that in lockdown?
Robin Chase 10:20
I would describe Cambridge, Massachusetts exactly as Fiona described. And my upstairs neighbour and I have been sharing sourdough loaves of bread alternately for a few nights.
Robin Chase 10:34
Unknown Speaker 10:36
I, I’ve been taking a lot of bike rides, and, and what I’ve been delighting about bikes is I think you are in it in an enforced six foot distance from most people at all times. So it’s been a really great way I’ve gone out with neighbours, where we have kept our distance that had a joint bike ride was very pleasant,
Carlton Reid 10:59
huh you He’ll
Carlton Reid 11:00
get hauled away by the police in the UK.
Robin Chase 11:05
Do you get no recreation?
Carlton Reid 11:07
we get recreation we get like, technically, there’s no limit. They say you can go out once a day that they’re kind of saying but that’s really only like an hour. But now they’re getting quite strict on it. You really mustn’t be with anybody at all you’ve got to be pretty much on your own. So getting stricter on that
Robin Chase 11:27
is six feet.
Carlton Reid 11:28
Yeah, well, two metres we we use. We use the metric so yeah, what I think it’s described in Norway as one biplane. You know, that’s how we’re describing it’s one six foot two metres deep. Yes. There’s got to be a distance between and, and and, Tim, how are you isolating?
Tim Blumenthal 11:52
Well, it’s my experience seems almost identical to what all of you have described. We’ve been working at home for nearly a month. We’re very lucky here in Colorado to have a really great connected bicycle network. Most of it, but not all of it is paved. I’ve never seen boulders bike paths so busy. And this is a place where probably on a per capita basis, there’s more bicycling going on than just about anywhere else in United States. But, and of course, the difference and I’m sure you’ve all seen this is usually that I’m inside working during the day. But now if I can get out and ride or walk even for 45 minutes at two o’clock in the afternoon, it’s amazing how many people are out and it’s really encouraging. We’ve had such a big e bike search here. So the demographic, it’s really broad, a lot of older people and the one big change is the governor of Colorado asked everyone to wear a mask or some kind of face protection when you go out so that that really is only been for the last five days. So the on the path experience has changed a little bit but it makes you feel optimistic about the future
Carlton Reid 13:24
and how wide if you don’t mind me asking how wide your bike paths in in Colorado because that they’re gonna be kind of busy as you’re saying busy but does so busy that you’re quite close to people? No,
Tim Blumenthal 13:37
no, I you know, I would say our typical with is eight to 12 feet somewhere in there. And people are doing a really good job of not getting close. And you know, this is a hub for international bike racers, who historically and always you know, since I’ve lived here and I’ve lived here for 2728 years would be training and big tightly knit packs. But I haven’t seen any of that here. You know, I think people have really bought into. It’s called social distancing. But somebody said to me the other day, it really is physical distancing. Mm hmm.
Carlton Reid 14:19
What about I’m going to ask everyone and I’ll start with you Tim anyway, because we’re on this kind of subject is how a motorist treating I mean, if you if you do have to come away from the bike paths, and you have got to use the roads or motorists, also social distancing physical distancing, or are they going far too fast? Beside you how the motors treating you?
Tim Blumenthal 14:42
I can give you the wiseguy answer. There aren’t any motorists, but you know, our and this is true. I think in the UK and probably in a lot of places in the world. Our vehicle miles driven is probably down 80 or 85%. So the roads Even at five o’clock rush hour and there is no more rush hour, feel completely empty. And, and and wide open and quiet. And yeah, it’s a big change. But the one thing that I have noticed and when I’ve been out in the car is that when you come to a traffic light, people don’t pull up tight behind you, they kind of stay back six or eight feet.
Carlton Reid 15:31
That’s interesting. So maybe the social is the physical distancing is happening in the real world, even in a car. So Robin, same question to you in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Are you are you coming away from bike paths are yours always on bike paths and how are motorist treating this?
Robin Chase 15:47
I want to say that our bike paths you are passing someone
Robin Chase 15:54
four feet away from you for that millisecond, I guess
Robin Chase 16:00
motorists, I also have a dog and when I walk I walk my dog and I would say people are being very polite, that crossing jaywalking in my neighbourhood. Motorists will stop 100 yards 100 hundred feet away, like they’ll slow right up because the streets are empty. And they see you and there’s just no crowding everyone is giving space to other people.
Carlton Reid 16:23
Robin that’s different? That’s that that’s a new behaviour?
Robin Chase 16:26
Definitely new behaviour that there’s so much courtesy. Yeah, I’d say there used to be some courtesy. Now it’s an almost ubiquitous courtesy. And I wrote an op ed in the Boston Globe last week on the on this topic, which was the ways went and did some data did some data search for me and in Boston, the car trips are down are 25% of what they used to be so down 75% and my pitch was to open to close it will be how do we sit appropriately to Open more roads to pedestrians and bikes and close them down to car traffic, particularly along the waterways we have in a long parks to just widen those sidewalks and widen those Park spaces. So people don’t have to be so close that we have this real opportunity.
Carlton Reid 17:16
And you’re successful.
Robin Chase 17:18
it’s maddening. I know. It’s been heavily retweeted in social media and we’ve had a number of phone call emails about it. But both the city of Boston and the City of Cambridge have not acted on it in a City of Cambridge, which I don’t do a lot of local politics. But I did tell the city councillors, here’s what you should be doing. This is what’s happening world round. They have continued to not vote on it, they table it, and they’re basically cowards and hoping to write it out. And so they’re thinking that we can just do nothing and I guess my larger point, which I think proves for all of us, that these shelter at home, it started two weeks, right and then it went to For weeks, and now it’s going to be up to six or eight weeks. And I was particularly thinking about the 1 million schoolchildren there are in Massachusetts, or the hundred and 15,000 homeless schoolchildren in New York City, but to keep children for months on end, stuffed in their apartments is unnecessary and mean. And if we had wider streets and bicycling, I think they could be out and about and keep their social distance. So I think this is an opportunity where we should be absolutely doing it. And it’s very short sighted. I think of the cities to say, oh, let’s just it’s going to end any day. Now. We’re not going to have to step forward to do something.
Carlton Reid 18:44
And Fiona Yeah, I’m sure you must be quite jealous of Tim’s wonderful bike path network in Toronto. But you have had successes in the past and then you had reversals. Have those successes in that your municipality then took away what you, you You brought forth? Has there been any change of view on the ground where you are, for instance, in maybe Robin’s style, trying to open streets up to non car users?
Fiona Campbell 19:21
Yeah, the battle continues. We have been making some progress on getting the network more completed. So, you know, a little bit of progress. And certainly the bike paths that are recreational along the river and around the foreshore at the moment are incredibly busy and really don’t allow enough space for social distancing with all the people walking, running and riding in the city centre. The there’s been more of a drop, of course, because commuting, fewer people are commuting to work, things like restaurants and the whole tourism sector and a sector has all been closed down so a lot of people out of work. So overall according to the city map up mobility index travel overall travel in Sydney is down to just 13% of normal travel on the motorways, the tollways their revenue shows that the traffic on the motorways is only down by 30% so down to 70% I think there are a lot of trucks still trying to restock supermarkets with toilet paper.
Carlton Reid 20:33
And on the recycled toilet
Carlton Reid 20:34
paper was Australia too that was that was a global thing was
Fiona Campbell 20:37
Yes, yes, I’m afraid so.
Fiona Campbell 20:41
So I know that in Brisbane, the their bike counters show that there’s been a doubling in bike trips in this time. So that’s that’s amazing. We most of our counters are not on recreational routes so it’s harder for us to to get that whereas Brisbane they are but overall most of our counters Showing about 60 to 90% of normal use at the moment, which considering the overall drop in travel is pretty astounding and shows that bikes are resilient. That peak though has changed. So instead of having a morning peak from the commuting and afternoon peak, the new peak is from lunchtime to dinner. So some of that is food delivery riders in the city centre, I would say
Carlton Reid 21:24
and Fiona, what about key workers so they’re going to stick to the, the the rush hour times if they’re going to be doing the same job as they’ve always done?
Fiona Campbell 21:33
Yeah, I mean, some of the key workers like at hospitals and cleaners are not a shift workers. So yeah, in the city centre. It’s more finance, industry and tourism. So they’re either out of work or they’re working from home.
Carlton Reid 21:51
we now call these the essential workers of course.
Fiona Campbell 21:55
Yep. So in terms of attitude and being able to reallocate spaces Robins You know, the City of Sydney has been trying to, to do that. And we’ve we’ve tried to pursue it. We’ve got some ideas about where and how. But sadly, the state government holds all the cards, they control a road system, even the so called local council roads are all subject to state government. So so far, we are not getting good feedback from transport for New South Wales. But we hope that that will change. I mean, particularly because we think it’s an economic issue. So as restrictions are gradually lifted, which they’ll need to be to allow the economy to sort of not completely flounder that being able to revive the economy will rely on people feeling safe, being able to socially distance or, as Robinson called him, being able to physically distance and if they don’t have the common sense that there is safe space in the downtown areas and in the shopping areas, they’re not going to be there and that economic recovery will be hampered, which means that they’ll need to overuse the lever of reducing the restrictions. And that will then, you know, potentially mean that the COVID outbreak will then worsen. So it’s really important for the economic recovery, to have safe space. And at the moment, the footpaths are too narrow in downtown areas for people to be able to distance. So it’s I think it’s really crucial for economic reasons, as well as for health reasons to start opening up those streets for better uses. And because the traffic is so low now, now would be the ideal time to do that.
Carlton Reid 23:45
Robin, you wanted to pitch in there?
Robin Chase 23:47
Yeah. When I was writing that article, I was a person who heads the pedestrian efforts for the state of Massachusetts was was editing and one of the things that she He was suggesting to me was that the police? That to close the streets, we have to be really cautious about what, how do we do these closures without requiring police? What what’s the fastest way to do it? That it was? How do we make that safe? And during my brainstorming or last few days, I just want to throw it to Fiona and I had this so here’s my, here’s my dream that works on on some streets. So streets where you have a lane and a half, in one way, or we have parked cars, and enough space that I feel like we could tell all the people who’ve got this parked cars, please move your car out to metres and re park it. And it would be so if I look at the thing of a place it’s very obvious like Brooklyn, Brooklyn has all these one way street cars parked on both sides and it’s effectively two teeny tiny lanes that has a lot of double parking. But so we could create an immediate without anybody doing any striping, cones, policemen, whatever. Just pull the cars out. And so in, in, that’s just one tiny subset of the group. But I thought, well, that’s a really simple one where that exists or in neighbourhoods like I live in, where there aren’t many cars and I try to walk in the middle of the street because I think I’m going to take this back. I still feel slightly anxious and I would definitely not let my eight year old do it without my supervision. I don’t have an eight year old anymore, but how can we reclaim space quickly without requiring a lot of emergency personnel supervision or maintenance. And so just to say, in Bogota, they did 50 kilometres of roads that they quickly expanded to let emergency workers get to work using bikes and E bikes. And a lot of the cones were traffic cones were stolen and they had to shrink that down to fewer kilometres because it was so hard to maintain.
Carlton Reid 25:55
The roads are lots of cities have been experimenting with this. I mean, it’s growing list I mean every time I go on social media there’s a people in social Fiona I’m sure will appreciate this is bicycle advocates in in certain in the UK and I’m sure in Australia put these out there as well how come we can’t do that because you know Berlin’s doing it and Bogota is doing it. And it’s a growing growing
Fiona Campbell 26:21
list, or just you see it happening in so many cities around the world now. You know, really good moves to, you know, that is for sensible reasons and very beneficial. And coming back to that economic argument. Like no city surely wants to be the only one that’s ended up being the one who missed the boat and who’s hobbled their downtown. economic recovery, because people can’t safely move around. You know, like we we don’t want to be.
Fiona Campbell 26:50
We shouldn’t want to miss that boat.
Carlton Reid 26:54
Hmm. Tim, do you want to just
Carlton Reid 26:58
bookmark, bookend that I should say,
Tim Blumenthal 27:02
Well, sure. I mean, we’ve covered a lot of ground in the last couple minutes. And it might be time and, Carlton, it’s your podcast, but to start thinking about how what’s going on now will translate, you know, in the months and years ahead, and for sure, that’s something that we’re doing. We’re, we have close working relationships with a lot of the biggest US cities. And sure, we’ve seen a lot of pop up bike lanes. And we’ve also been involved with the development of new infrastructure investment proposals that may help our nation and our states and our cities achieve key goals. But as I’m sitting here, listening, I’m thinking we still have a fundamental problem if we’re talking specifically about bicycling, and that is all of our countries or most of them. are still really focused on on car use and the cars in the United States definitely King. And it’s going to take a big shift with a lot of elements to fundamentally change that. And, you know, there’s certain numbers that I think about all the time, how many miles Americans drive and how that compares to historical patterns. Another one is, what’s the price of gasoline? What is the relative convenience of driving a car, the average American commute is 26 minutes and about 12 or 13 miles, that’s a pretty long way to ride a bike, even an E bike, unless the conditions and the infrastructure are really, really good. So I have all these thoughts swirling in my head, but I’m gonna leave it to you to help folks sauce or focus me?
Carlton Reid 29:02
Well, that was gonna be one of my questions. You’re right. It is slightly out of sync. But I’m quite happy to go with the flow here. So the question was going to be, and it was going to preface it by saying it’s kind of horrible to try and get positives out of such a negative situation. Because there are, you know, in the UK today, there was 900 people dying. So people are many, many thousands of families are now without their loved ones. So it is, we have got to always remember that we can’t be gung ho about this and say, Well, this is the this is a fantastic feature of God because we’ve got a pretty awful present. However, if we just park that and acknowledge it, but then, you know, do go and leap forward and just say, Yeah, but what does this mean for the future? So if I go straight to Fiona, And ask her is this is this now cycling’s time? Is this now out of a tragedy? Will we get something? Do you think something incredibly different going forward?
Fiona Campbell 30:15
Yeah, I think you’re right that you know that the tragedy in a moment is not just that there are lives lost and jobs lost and people’s livelihoods, and there are a lot of people struggling. And so, you know, obviously, you wouldn’t want to do anything that made that worse. And so we’re not talking about that we’re talking about, given that that is the fact. You know, where can we go from here. And I think for me, we all know that behaviour changes is really hard. It’s incredibly difficult to break habits. And that’s why when you’re doing behaviour change, that that little window when someone changes jobs or moves house is usually one of the few times where you have a better chance of success. And here here, we have global scale disruption of people’s travel habits so rare. The last time it happened in multiple countries was nearly 50 years ago, in 1973, with the oil embargo, which affected the UK and the US and the Netherlands. And that time gave the population you know, again with huge economic costs and all the consequences but that gave the population a glimpse and a vision of what their cities could be like, without being dominated by traffic, you know, clean air, quiet, safe for children for walking for cycling, and socialising more space for people, just like we’re seeing now. But back then, 50 years ago, the UK and the US went straight back to normal. And only the Netherlands use that opportunity from that new vision that that people had got during that time, as well as the the public horror at the human cost of car domination, to gradually make their cities now the envy of the world, the quality of life and human interaction. So I think, to not take the opportunity and to do what the US and the UK did 50 years ago and just not get any lasting benefits out of it would be, you know, really remiss, people are loving this, people don’t want to give up the chance that they can now go for rides with their kids in the neighbourhood.
Carlton Reid 32:23
So before I go to Robin and Tim and ask them the same question, I just want to come back to you Fiona and just ask, Are you getting people who previously wouldn’t have given you the time of day, in your in your day job? Are they now coming to you and say, ah, you’ve kind of You’re right, you’ve always been banging on about, you know, cycling being a solution to any of the world’s ills. And are they now coming to you and saying, well, maybe we should do this. Is that why you’re basing this as we should use this as an opportunity is that because people are actually coming to you who you would never have talked to normally about this.
Fiona Campbell 33:00
Sadly, not yet. But what we are seeing is people like people sending me videos of them riding with their kids saying I’ve never done this before look at all the other parents being able to ride with their kids. I’m getting emails from people involved in cycling and cycling advocacy is saying how can we turn this into some lasting positive change but but not the decision makers just yet only a few odd ones but you know not the crucial ones that need to make the decisions yet.
Carlton Reid 33:32
So Tim, from your bicycle advocacy eyrie, from your kind of like your overview of the whole industry in the US, do you see this now as something that is is going to be a change of guard, an epochal change, is that what you see going forward?
Tim Blumenthal 33:55
I’m not sure about epochal but I you know more people are ridng bikes for sure. And I expect some of them, hopefully many of them to keep riding. For sure. bike. bike shops have been designated as essential businesses in most US states. And the bike shops that are open are doing really, really well with basic repairs, changing flat tires, helping people who have a bike but haven’t written it in the years, and helping people who are brand new to bike riding. So that’s really that’s a positive and that that positive is likely going to continue. But there are all these other angles that are sort of coming out now and I want to talk about just a couple of them. One is I expect that after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides or hopefully is resolved that more people will work at home and it’s quite possible that the number of commuting miles that people drive or the number of commuting trips that people take period will actually go down. Another angle that the panel has talked about is the economic benefits of riding a bike, just the, you know, 50% of the trips that Americans make are three miles or less. And it’s a pretty, relatively inexpensive way to get around for both essential trips and for recreation. One thing that I don’t hear many people talking about, and I’m going to take a risk by introducing it in in the United States. A lot of the people who have died from the virus had pre existing conditions. And unfortunately, what this points to is our personal health crisis. It points to limitations of our healthcare system for sure. But there are a lot of people in the United States a pretty high percentage I’m sure either clinically obese or have cardiovascular issues, and I’m hopeful that that link is recognised and that I’m not too optimistic but that we start paying a little bit more attention to lifelong health and the importance of regular physical activity, because it’s definitely been underplayed card in the United States for really the last 30 years.
Carlton Reid 36:30
It is kind of one of the standard jokes in in the UK is that people get asking people at the exercising and exercising their right to exercise who would have never exercised normally. So it looks in other words, lots of people knew to exercise are actually getting out there perhaps for the first time and this is this is the Fiona’s life change she’s mentioning, So pretend you reckon that with lots of newbies out there That that will translate into long term more use.
Tim Blumenthal 37:06
Yes. And the other thing it’s great for, you know, and this will sound myopic, but it’s great for us because we’ve been working really hard with the government at every level, to build better infrastructure to serve people on bikes and on foot. And too many Americans have never experienced it until now. So now there’s a new appreciation for all the bike paths and the underpasses and the bridges. The one other thing that that’s on my mind is there’s going to be a lot of tension when it comes to transit. And, you know, I’m talking about buses and streetcars and trains, you know, at least in the short and intermediate term, even when restrictions are listed, people are going to be inclined to keep their distance and what that probably means that people will continue to use bikes. And, you know, I really value transit. And it’s super important. And, you know, my son owns a restaurant in San Francisco and depent. And his business depends on transit in San Francisco, just this week is cut 90% of its bus routes, and it’s debilitating for jobs develop potato for businesses. So, you know, there’s so many factors swirling here, that it’s really a challenge to see clearly what’s going to emerge.
Carlton Reid 38:38
I agree, it is we can we can sit at the foothills we can see something is changing. I mean, society is clearly changing. You know, when places like Spain are talking about, like a guaranteed living wage for every single Goal citizen. Well, that’s that’s that’s brand new. And that’s that’s come from this particular crisis. And then you’ve got, I’m hazarding a guess here that may be the US. Now we’ll think about more about well formed a better expression, like the National Health System equivalent for the US. And I know it’s a huge bone of contention across there. But now Surely, with a pandemic, crippling the country. There’s got to be those conversations have got to be taken more seriously. Tim, you think?
Tim Blumenthal 39:40
Yeah, I, you know, I, again, the political environment is really difficult and difficult to talk about.
Tim Blumenthal 39:50
You know, because there’s a pretty big group of Americans who basically feel like, if you don’t make it, it’s your fault, and it’s not government’s responsibility to make up for your personal shortcomings and I’m not sure how productive a discussion that would be right now. But you know, I do think that the personal health angle, the money savings angle,
Tim Blumenthal 40:21
the economic benefits,
Tim Blumenthal 40:25
really, a lot of we don’t have any problems with city leaders right now. Or maybe that’s a little bit too bold a statement. A lot of mayors understand that active mobility is super important. It’s not that expensive to implement, it can be implemented quickly. There’s not a lot of resistance. And if you can change three or four or 5% of all the trips that the citizens of your city make from single car trips, all kinds of good things are gonna happen. I was thinking back to January, February, where I really felt like our nation was finally in a transition point on climate change, where suddenly there was bipartisan interest in Congress to finally acknowledge and address climate change. And I was thinking that 2020 was going to be a great year for bicycling, investment and bicycling promotion and bicycling encouragement, and a important transition year, and then the virus hit. So there’s still that hanging out there, you know, after after the fires in Australia, and the images of icebergs melting. And I think Americans finally and three of the four hottest years in the history being the last three, were starting to get serious about climate change. And now I wonder if that will be pushed aside or simply postponed or god forbid forgotten. Tim,
Robin Chase 42:02
let me let me step in a little bit here and tie those last two points together. I think we, I think the pandemic is giving us an opportunity to make that important switch. But I want to circle to our first question. The question was, do I think after this people will cling to those old behaviours, the new behaviours that they’ve learned? I think that they won’t unless we do some structural changes. And so as I’ve been thinking about this, if it The, the fear of riding on transit, which I think will persist for a little bit and how essential workers get to work, if we put those two together, that’s where I think the rise of ebikes the potential for ebikes is enormous, but we need to give people the road space to do that. And ideally, we would be giving some subsidies for a bike purchase. So I know that in many different cities, they’ve made the shirt bikes for free and some have been adding electric bikes, but let’s definitely down on that giving those essential workers who don’t want to be taking transit who can’t be taking transit someplace because it shut down the road reallocation and start subsidising giving out money for the person ebikes. If we can get those structural changes in, I think people would make more people would make that switch because they would feel safe. And that was a cheaper opportunity. And some of them who were essential workers would not have the experience doing it cheaper, faster, better. The other piece around work from home I’ve been struck by is it is obviously an enormous difference in terms of congestion and air quality and car dependency. If you think back in Amsterdam, long ago, I want to say, eight, nine years ago, they required that those city workers who could do so were required to work one day a week from home. I would think that city, mayors if they have it in their purview should be saying that all workers all’s all businesses who have workers that could work from home, as has been exhibited now, must enable must require workers to work one day from home a week. And that enables us to build some resiliency and of course, cut down congestion by 20% straight out of the gate. So I feel like there’s some things that we can go to or this idea that was talking about now, like, how do we how do people get recreation when they’re in lockdown, if we can tie some of the things that we need to address COVID and this pandemic, in ways that structurally change our future? I think people won’t go back. I think a whole bunch of people do like to work from home, and maybe some don’t. But unless we get employers to do that, on a large scale basis, I don’t see I think people will have to go to work because their floors will say you have to go to work. Or I’d love to transition to bikes and ebikes but in the cities that I live in, everyone will tell you it’s too scary. So how can we tie that to these essential workers and getting people in? How can we make the electric vehicle subsidies that are happening around the world also apply to ebikes, where you get a much larger CO2 reduction bang for your buck for that same amount of money?
Carlton Reid 45:15
So the WHO say, in this particular crisis “test, test test” what you’re saying there, Robin is, “infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure”?
Robin Chase 45:27
Yeah. And I want to make that infrastructure. One last thing we haven’t touched on is delivery. So I want to make that infrastructure. I think broadly about it. Yes, it is, is street allocation, but also taxation and also rules or regulations are a form of infrastructure that we all are bound by. The other piece that’s really making me dejected is I’ve I’ve had this huge drumbeat of anxiety over the last two years about the impact of on demand delivery in urban areas that we are completely decimating our urban retail and it might be something that’s fine. suburban or rural areas. But I think in urban areas, we really want to retain that. And here we are all being trained every single day. I think that’s a behaviour that people will continue to do. It’s easier than now. And so people will continue to get stuff delivered. So again, what can we do today that, you know, puts the finger on the scale on local and environmental things. And so, going down that path, I would love to see that we build out those bike lanes and then we require in dense urban a dense urban areas that we have micro mobility, electric micro mobility, delivery, and maybe you would even charge for delivery per delivery unless you did it by electric micro mobility or unless it came from a local venue, but things to to discourage the I need toilet paper and have Amazon fluid from kingdom come. Like it’s a crazy thing. And we’re all built to be is lazy and cheap. And we have to we have to figure out how to how to curb some of our worst tendencies and make sure that we we, as I say, put the finger on the scale for environmental for small footprint for local at this time as we try to rebuild these economies.
Carlton Reid 47:17
And Fiona, you wanted to say something there?
Fiona Campbell 47:20
Yeah, I think Robin’s absolutely right. So many of those points the the sort of importance of getting ebikes out there and getting people to experience and the essential workers and the infrastructure or just on that ebikes I had a conversation with the national governments Clean Energy Finance Corporation. They’re the ones who take the government money to put into clean energy technologies like wind farms or whatever. And many have found that they have some interest in potentially financing a company who could lease a bikes to essential workers. To help in this time, and for ourselves with the City of Sydney, we we normally run cycling courses to help new people to to get up to speed on on riding safely and confidently. And we’ve had to stop that because of the bans on group gatherings. But what we’re doing now is offering personal bike training for essential workers. So if someone wants to start riding to work, because they need to avoid public transport, then we will have a skilled instructor come to their door and ride with them and give them the training on the way so that we can help people to make that transition.
Robin Chase 48:37
That’s great. Then one piece on ebikes that you just touched on there that I’m really excited about is that the price of them have come down enough that the monthly a year long monthly payment plan for these bikes now equals up to it in US dollars is probably 100 $125 a month which is the same amount as before paying for transit passes. Or fuel for their cars. And so we now can present ebikes for low income or low wage workers are now something that is really comparable to how their current transportation costs for the first year and then after that dramatically cheaper than their existing transportation costs.
Carlton Reid 49:20
Hmm. On that note, I’d like to cut to a commercial break. So take it away, David.
David Bernstein 49:29
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Carlton Reid 50:54
Thanks, David. And we are back with with the Spokesmen and it’s an international panel today we have Fiona in Australia. And we have Robin and Tim iIn the US. I gave Robin Tim and Fiona some homework. And that was to read a Forbes article I wrote on an interview I did with Edmund King, who is the president of the AA, the Automobile Association, and I am going to drop his audio in here so that the interview, I picked out I cherry picked certainly these quotes, but I’m now going to just give the whole interview right here. So here’s Edmond. The media kind of beating a path to your door, I assume?
Edmund King 51:42
Yes, we’ve been very busy because the AA is at the forefront of this crisis. There’s lots of things we’re doing we’re helping the London Ambulance Service last week we had 41 patrols in 12 depot’s across London, helping to fix more ambulance Is, is critical that they almost double the number of ambulances that they’ve got on the roads. So we’ve been helping with that. And next week, we’re sending in far more resources as well to help with that effort. And we’ve said to other ambulance services around the country and we’re in talks with many of them, you know, Can Can we help them we’ve got these brilliant, qualified patrols, they’re all top technicians, top mechanics, they’re not being fully utilised on the roads now. So we want to help they kind of particularly the NHS effort where we can. So that’s one initiative and the other big thing we announced yesterday is that the AA is now offering a free breakdown service to all one and a half million NHS workers during this crisis. So they can just register with a simply a va.com With slash NHS, we then text them the dedicated hotline number. And if they have any problems with getting to work, like car and we will help them. We plan this because public transport is reduced a lot. Many are working long hours working shifts doing an absolutely magnificent job. The NHS is always there for us and our guys and this came suggestion from many of our people, we wanted to be there for them. And already we’ve had thousands register with us and we’ve already done breakdowns rescuing nurses, doctors, etc. So it’s a good initiative. And I think it will be pretty well used though over the coming weeks and possibly months.
Carlton Reid 53:50
Well, my wife’s a doc, so I’ll get her to sign up. I mean, she’s sometimes driving into work and sometimes she’s taking the electric bike. It’s it’s, it’s it depends what time her kind of the shift finishes she’s she’s driving in when it’s very dark at night. That’s the kind of thing but she’s daytime then she’s cycling. And so you mentioned there. What we all can can tell is happening in that is there’s less cars on the road. So you’re getting less in effect business because the people aren’t breaking down too much because it just isn’t so many cars on the road.
Edmund King 54:21
Yeah, although it is faring quite a lot. So Wednesday this week, we did 5600 breakdowns now compared to the typical ones probably have done about 10,000 brake pads. So that’s 35% lower. I actually thought it would be a lot lower than that. And some days it is last weekend was very quiet. And I think that’s because the government gave extra warnings to people not to go out to leisure areas to seaside resorts to parks. And some of the breakdowns we’re getting doesn’t necessarily mean people out on the roads a lot because People who leave their cars for 10 days or two weeks without starting them up, often suffer problems with their batteries and therefore we call down for that one trip where they want to go shopping. On average, we have a device called Smart breakdown. It has a little dongle that goes in your car. And we can actually see what travel patterns are. And before the outbreak, people with smart breakdown we’re doing about eight or nine miles a day in their cars. Currently, they’re doing about one mile a day. So that does show traffic is significantly down despite the government saying there was a little peak at the beginning of this week.
Carlton Reid 55:40
Does that not suggest that maybe people could be walking side by side not even cycling but walking these distances if people’s average trips are a mile that’s that pretty much on essential journeys, isn’t it?
Edmund King 55:55
Yeah, I think the problem is it’s quite hard to panic by when you’re on the cycle. And that seems to be what’s still happening, people are going to the supermarket and buying far more goods than they normally would. And therefore, people are taking the car so that they can fill up the car. Now, hopefully, there are some size that has slightly dropping off. And if it does drop off, then yes, if the distances are that short, people should be walking, they should be cycling, and should be leaving the car at home. But obviously if it’s if it’s a weekly shop, if it’s that one weekly shop, and if people can’t get deliveries because it’s problematic at the moment, that might be the reason for some of those journeys.
Carlton Reid 56:44
Now the prime minister in his briefing the other day, I mean it obviously statistics are very much not complete, but they did show an uptick in in car use last week. Is that the Kind of that stat that the Prime Minister showed or the Department of Transport showed is that exactly this. Do you recognise that stat?
Edmund King 57:09
Well, I think it’s difficult when you look at the government statistics because if you actually go out on the roads, they are pretty empty. I’ve never seen them this empty, they generally they’re, they’re more empty than on Christmas Day. So, you know, we’ve got a lot of essential traffic on the roads and probably more than we normally have because there are more deliveries to the shops. People in it’s not just deliveries of food, but there are more home deliveries as well because if people can’t go to the shops to buy basic clothing, they will order it online so you’ve got more of those home deliveries. In terms of we have seen some peaks when the weather was better prior to last weekend when people were going to the coastal areas or they were going to national parks probably when they shouldn’t have been. But that dropped off at the weekend after though those warnings. I think people generally are following the government advice. There are various rumours around at the moment that this weekend Sunday’s going to be a lot hotter and then Easter weekend people may have already had plans to get away. Normally something like 10 million people in Britain do a driving kind of staycation at least a weekend and there are questions with some of those people if you like still try and follow up with those plans whether it was going to a cottage in the countryside or elsewhere. I mean, our our message is very much in line with the government. And you know, it might seem severe but it really is don’t travel unless absolutely necessary. The reason I say that I’ve seen a couple of incidents this week, there was one in philosophy the other day single car driving too fast smashed into cars. And it called upon all the emergency services and the NHS to come out and waste their time when they could have been doing more important things. So, you know, people going out in their cars does lead to crashes, that does lead to incidents, so people really should restrict it.
Carlton Reid 59:29
So I did an article for Forbes on a whole bunch of experts and I tried to wrap you in as well. About the World Health Organisation could maybe ask a can’t demand but it can ask or suggest that may be for the duration of this crisis that govern national governments actually reduce speed limit. What do you think?
Edmund King 59:57
Yeah, I’m not really convinced that would have much difference at all because traffic is so much lower traffic in our cities is incredibly low. And people should currently be sticking to the current speed limit is slightly worrying. I’ve heard of a couple of police forces that haven’t given out speeding tickets. In fact, they they’ve written to some people saying they haven’t given out speeding tickets because of problems in the current crisis. And I don’t think that sends out a very good message because I think people should stick to speed limits and they’re there for good reason. But when traffic is so low, and you’ve got essential journeys on motorways, with with trucks with deliveries, I’m not sure there’d be any great benefit in bringing in an artificial speed limit
Carlton Reid 1:00:59
but wouldn’t not be the case of Yes, the police won’t save accidents
Carlton Reid 1:01:03
because no one’s on the roads.
Edmund King 1:01:07
Carlton Reid 1:01:08
But they’re going so thorough. They’re going so fast, though Edmund, they’re there. They’re really good. They’re not, you know, there’s anybody going.
Edmund King 1:01:16
Now this is this is a minority of cases. And in those cases, you know, a minority, they would go fast, no matter what the speed limit is, they’re going fast with the current speed limit. So if you change the speed limit won’t change the speed. What what we’ve got to ensure is that there is better enforcement’s and that’s why I think it is wrong to write to people say you’ve broken the speed limit, but we’re not going to prosecute and I, I think that is wrong. But artificially changing speed limits when hardly anyone’s on the road is not really going to make any difference. But those people that are there to speak or speak no matter what the limit is, they speak with The current limits so they would speed with an artificially lower limit. And changing those limits may actually affect the people on the roads who should be on the roads and who needs to get around and are crucial to the national effort of keeping the country running.
Carlton Reid 1:02:17
Hmm. Do you think once this crisis over people will binge drive?
Edmund King 1:02:24
It’s interesting. I actually think once this crisis over, it could have the opposite effects. And rather than everyone jumping into the car and driving off, I think some people might begin to think, do I really need to use my car every day? I’ve got used to walking a bit more or even running a bit more which which people are doing. I found that I can actually work from home pretty efficiently. I can hold meetings at home, and I don’t need to drive up to Birmingham to have that meeting. Because my tech knology shown that I can share my screen I can share documents on my screen, I can see my colleagues. So why should I drive up and down to Birmingham at a great expense? inconvenience to my time. So I I actually think that some companies and and you know, I caveat this because it’s not for everyone and of course, we will always have essential people who need to get to a physical place of work whether on the production line in in the shops, for the emergency services in the restaurants in the pubs, those people will need to be out there. But there are other people that don’t need to be in an office five days a week. And if they even worked from home one day a week that would have an immense potential effect on traffic levels on congestion on air quality, on pollution we all know during halftime On holidays, the traffic is reduced up to 20%, you’re more likely to get a seat on a bus or a train. So if after this crisis, people who can and companies that can allow it would be more open about letting their people work from home maybe one day a week, maybe two days a week, that could make a vast difference to congestion pollution and overcrowding on public transport.
Carlton Reid 1:04:29
Would it not also suggest that the Department for Transport projections historic projections that they’ve did predict prior to the to the to this crisis will no longer be valid, in which case the £27 billion road programme really ought to be looked at again, because the statistics it’s based on supposedly, will not be valid?
Edmund King 1:04:55
Well, I think the world is changing and it’s it’s probably changing more rapidly and The patterns of people working from home and their travel patterns will be changed more this year than they have in the last 50 years. So I think that will need to be reassessed. It’s obviously early days yet, we will still need investment in our transport infrastructure, no matter what happens, you know, we still have potholes on our roads there is still under investment by about £8 billion n terms of that basic infrastructure that that is important to everyone, not just drivers, but more so people on two wheels and people on two legs so we will still need investment. But I think it’ll be interesting to see after this crisis, what what what are the traffic flows have they changed radically, and if they have changed radically and indeed the same with rail travel and passengers on rail and buses If they’ve changed radically, radically and that remains to be seen, but if they have done then yes, like like any transport investment, it should be based on true reflections of what’s happening in the real world. I think it’s early yet predict that but certainly something that should be studied.
Carlton Reid 1:06:21
And the government’s going to be kind of short of cash because it’s it’s it’s it’s, it’s opening up that’s shaking the magic money tree, Edmond and it’s it’s shaking that money down for the National Health Service for the self employed. I’m putting my hand up here to keep us in business. All sorts of rescue packages are being put in place for to keep the economy on the straight and narrow. And if that’s the case, and the government does have less money in the future, my roads you know, might those juicy roads programmes which which always they they put out there You know that the conference once a year, but it’s quite easy to claw that back and bam, you’ve already saved £27 billion just by not having, you know, a tunnel under Stonehenge kind of stuff.
Edmund King 1:07:12
I mean, I do think the government will have some tough choices that the government at the moment is spending like there’s no tomorrow and probably for good reasons safeguard jobs to safeguard the country, basically to help the country keep going. And that that’s with good reason. One must question afterwards, what will the priorities be a lot of money, a lot of extra money is going into the NHS to make it run more efficiently. There isn’t a bottomless pit. There are some big expenditure projects out there. High Speed Rail for one is one that a lot of money. There’s a lot of There’s there’s divided opinion as to the benefits of speeding up those journeys, particularly with more people working from home and using technology, do you really need that extra 20 minutes? 30 minutes. So I think there would be questions there. In terms of road infrastructure, it will still be important for the majority of freight journeys that go by road and there’s very little likelihood of that changing. In fact, to some extent, what we’re finding in society is deliveries by road are actually increasing, not decreasing with the demise of the high street and this was even before the corona virus, those patterns were changing and the fastest level of growth was in the service industry with vans delivering with services being delivered to the to the doorstep. So so that was changing anyway, so we will still need transport investment, but there is no doubt about it. I guess the question is, will it need To be on the scale, or can we afford for it to be on the scale, but it was before this crisis? And I think there’s certainly questions over that.
Carlton Reid 1:09:10
And how about making investment in other areas of transport? So what would be your opinions on it, then if you’ve seen Berlin, Bogota, a number of cities have taken space away from cars in their cities and actually carved out temporary bike lanes, would you be in favour of that happening in British cities?
Edmund King 1:09:35
I think we’ve we’ve got a look a bit further than that. We got to look further ahead than that, that, that those kind of localised policies but if we’re really serious about the future, if we’re serious about the environment, if we’re serious about the switch to zero emissions, low carbon emissions, we we’ve got to be slightly more radical than than even that, and something I proposed in a sub submission to the boost an economic prize was looking further ahead. And if you like introducing kind of restrictions on journeys, but doing it in a way that’s sellable to the public. So that analysis was on the road miles that everyone in the country gets 3000 miles free that they could use in a car. After that, they would pay a charge per mile. If they lived in rural areas, they would get a third more. But the idea of that is to encourage people to think about their journeys. And if the journey isn’t necessary not to make the journey and if they do make the journey beyond those 3000 miles, they’ll pay for it. Now that would help the transformation to low emission vehicles because you’d give incentive for electric vehicles, and it would reduce travel in town and city centres rather than making small changes here and there, which yes can be beneficial on the local change, but something on a national level would have far greater effect.
Carlton Reid 1:11:10
So that was a project you worked. The opposite thing was something you worked on with your wife, wasn’t it?
Edmund King 1:11:15
Yeah, my wife is an economist. So she kept me honest with all the figures and the projections. So it was very much a jewel thing that I worked on the broader ideas and analysis and like my work life, worked on the economics of it and how it would work for the nation. And you know, there is no doubt we will have to change the way we tax transport. Because if if we really serious that after 2035, or possibly even 2030 that all new cars should be zero emissions. Well, what actually means is that the 30 odd billion pounds that the government currently gets in total Have fuel duty and vehicle excise duty, that that will then begin to disappear. And the country needs that money probably in the future in
Edmund King 1:12:11
terms of paying for the hospitals
Edmund King 1:12:13
and paying for the current crisis. And if we all switch to electric cars, the government’s not getting that money and fuel to do so the beauty of road miles is that it can change over time. You can crank up the costs over time as the change goes from fuel duty to electric cars, and it can put charge on electric cars because one of the things no doubt, look at our towns and cities. Yes, you can get rid of some of the air quality problems changing from a combustion engine to an electric vehicle, but it doesn’t necessarily get rid of the congestion problems. And even with driverless vehicles, you know, the vision of hell is that you turn up in Santa Monica in your driverless car, you get If it’s drop you off at the mall, and because there’s no parking in Santa Monica, the car just drives around around for hours on its own without an occupant and then picks you up? Well, you know, air quality might be better. It might be easier for you not not to hail a cab or a bus or get on a cycle. But it’s not good for the city. It’s not good for congestion. So we need some more radical future thinking. And we need that thinking now and I think that’s been one of the problems with government. You know, it’s it’s been working from year to year whereas the world around us is changing the the measures that we’re looking to take longer term to benefit the environment, and rightly so, are going to change the way we pay for transport the way we look at transport. But I’m not sure we’ve had bold enough, bright enough forward thinking on these issues so that we’re ready for them rather than knee jerk reactions and restrictions when it’s delivered. We’ll go to like,
Carlton Reid 1:14:01
so many of those themes that you’ve just mentioned apart from the, the road miles part, were mentioned, at least in passing in decarbonizing transport DfT paper, which is a like a goes out to consultation that, you know, people can input their ideas onto this, but it was announced it was rolled out very quietly by the DfT. Last week, but Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport,did say public transport and active travel will be the natural first choices for our daily activities, and we will have to use our cars less now, you as a leader of a motor organisation, would that not be absolutely the worst thing that could happen to a motor organisation using our cars? Yes.
Edmund King 1:14:48
No, I don’t think so. I think it would actually be better for us because the majority of people are not going to get rid of their cars, but if they use them less and use them more sensibly, then that’s better for all of us. And you know, it’s certainly something that we’ve advocated for for a long time. I mean, you you can still own a car, but you don’t need to use it every day. I own a car but I also have a bike I also have a season ticket for the railways and for public transport within London and I make a decision what what is the best decision for that journey? And some people do find it a bit surprising that the president of VA doesn’t drive into London. All the time, the congestion charge has been going in London, I have paid that charge once and only once. And because it’s not a sensible option for people to drive into London, there is adequate public transport people should use it. So know the world. The world is changing. If people don’t need to use them, Because for every journey they should think about it and substitute other means often it’s good for their health if they walk if if if they cycle if they take a bus for those journeys, but I still think and this is possibly where I differ with others. I think the predictions of wide scale car sharing are somewhat exaggerated and it may be a solution in our bigger metropolitan areas. But I always say you know, if you want to know what people think, get out of London, gota Darby, Doncaster and Darlington, and there’s a different view of life there. And people do tend to be more dependent on their cars and I don’t think that will change in the short term. I think patterns of car use patterns of journeys will change. I think the technology in the cars will change the way will become cleaner and greener. But I think having that car waiting for you outside and studies we’ve done on car dependence. So for, for example, families like having the car outside just in case Johnny or Jessica are ill and they need to be taken to the doctor or taken to the hospital. So it’s that kind of reassurance that dependents sometimes people are looking at and I think that would take quite a while before that is totally changed.
Carlton Reid 1:17:33
And that was Edmund King from the AA. So for the the Americans in our our panel, the the AA is the TripleA, the UK equivalent of the TripleA so clearly, I’m going to come to Tim here first, clearly a motoring Uber motoring spokesperson like Edmund, if even Edmund is saying well, maybe the UK Government shouldn’t spend £27 billion it was going to be spending on roads. That’s some what have an amazing road to Damascus for that particular motoring advocate. So is that something that we should be heartened by? And will it happen in the US?
Tim Blumenthal 1:18:20
Well, I think it could happen in the US. And I do think there is going to be a major federal infrastructure investment programme that traditionally would have only been about one or one and a half percent of the total dollars invested would go to active mobility bikes and people on foot. I think it’s very possible that that percentage could go up. I had an old friend in Congress who his name was Jim Oberstar, and he was one of the leaders in the House of Representatives from Minnesota and he always said Last time I checked, the same people who build roads, you are the people who build paths and trails, you know, particularly paved ones, the same machines, the same materials, and putting people back to work is going to be a priority. But historically, we’ve had really good relationships with AAA in the US, and maybe not a lot of people know this, but triple A, if you’re a member, and a lot of Americans still are. If you are on a bike ride, and you get a flat tire, or you need mechanical assistance, you can use your cell phone and call triple A and they’ll come and a lot of the triple A trucks and a lot of the states actually carry spare tubes and tools and a pump. And it’s the idea that we’re all in this together. So I I think it’s possible I’m encouraged and I love that kind of stuff. While at the same time, I’m really mindful that we have a lot of work to do to get people to rethink the way they use their cars in the US.
Carlton Reid 1:20:12
So Robin, that’s that’s a great segue into you actually, because that was absolutely what Zipcar was about, which was getting people to rethink their relationship to cars. So how surprised were you that a triple A equivalent president was was saying we shouldn’t be spending so much on roads in the future? Is that a sea change for you?
Robin Chase 1:20:32
Yes, I can’t believe it. I really can’t believe it. That is it. it’s astounding to me that he recognised that life can that he could do all sorts of things without his car. And the real trick though, is if you need a car to get to work, then you’re gonna own a car. And so I feel like that kind of circles back to where we were starting, which is what Zipcar and Zipcar only is good for. People who don’t need a car to get to work. And for me, it keeps coming back to this question, how can we improve the number of people who don’t need cars to get to work or to their livelihood? Tim’s description of the potential for a bicycle. And I want to think of it as a micro mobility network is one that I’m so deeply desirous of, and had been actually doing a lot of work on that circle around with Tim after this, but trying to tie it back into COVID. And I know you’re going down the TripleA but just give me one sentence here is if we can tie what has been said around Americans are anybody’s health, so their weight issues, and also their lung health issues, to recreation. And so I do feel that if we could let people tie those issues to respond to the pandemic and also when people are in shutdown, what type of recreation they would do this and positive and the potential for these names, these this new net network. I do do feel like there’s an opportunity there and a window that we could tie these strings together of people’s reflection on what’s been happening in these months and what new piece of infrastructure they would very much like to see. And I’ve just been thinking about all the shovel ready projects that are always chorus chorus chorus in in European and the US countries that are very heavily developed we really have built out all the roads we need to develop like we don’t there isn’t we don’t need to be building more roads. So we really could be very usefully building a this new infrastructure that I also am politically pleased by potential in terms of it’s good for urban, suburban and rural areas that even in rural areas where they have recreation paths and ultra vehicles. People love those. And so it’s something that I think is politically acceptable across all the fronts. And for Triple A I have to say I am I am astounded for AA for a I’m amazed that he would say those things. It’s pretty amazing.
Carlton Reid 1:23:12
And Fiona, I’m I must apologise I’m not too sure exactly the equivalent in Australia to the A, maybe it’s maybe it’s Australian automobile as a result of the Triple A. But how surprised were you at a at an Uber motoring geek? Who’s absolutely that that’s what he’s there for is to get more people to drive in effect. How interesting is that? And how different is that to maybe what’s happening in Australia? Or do you have somebody equivalent to Edmund who’s saying the same things and it’s it’s COVID is changing the world.
Fiona Campbell 1:23:47
Yeah, I think it was fantastic to hear Edmund King say that those things and he’s, you know, he’s he’s definitely right. And it’s not that surprising because it’s common sense. But I guess what’s surprising is we too often don’t hear Common sense from lobby groups that have a single purpose. In Australia we have, we do have a triple A but but it’s more the state based organisations that are more active. And so the Victorian version, the Royal Australian, Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, are progressive and and probably would would say similar things. But unfortunately in New South Wales, the National roads and motoring Association, one that we have here is is a bit more conservative. I think what everyone was saying about technology and working from home was was really valuable. Ai companies are now discovering that where previously they thought people wouldn’t be able to work from home because there are all these security issues and they will be able to give people access to the system, you know, that’s now gone by the wayside because they had to and so the productivity improvements of as he said, not having to drive halfway across the country or to another city to attend a meeting that can very easily and effectively be done. remotely, it really does call into question how much of our travel is necessary and how much is really inconvenient when, when we think about it. We we often hear, you know what people love their cars. But actually, I don’t think that they so much love the cars as the convenience and freedom to move and get places. They don’t love being stuck in a traffic jam every day. And if more people sort of after this, you know, in in an attempt to avoid public transport because of social distancing requirements, if more people go back to using cars and and in fact start driving, then that’s exactly what they’re going to all get the opposite of freedom, they’re going to be trapped in their car in a jam and will have lost that freedom to get around the neighbourhood with their kids. You know, as the the roads fill up with cars again, so it’s, it is really important to rethink things and in terms of what Tim was saying about potential federal stimuli less money. The purpose of the stimulus funding in various countries is to to get people back in work and to create jobs. And the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AASHTO, in 2012, published thing on how many jobs there were by project type and cycling infrastructure produces way more jobs than pavement widening or new highway construction or bridge or safety and traffic management or pavement improvement. So it’s really is that the better thing to do?
Carlton Reid 1:26:32
What why is that Fiona and why was why was it more people?
Fiona Campbell 1:26:35
It’s more complex and fiddly, a lot of the new highway construction, you’re talking big machinery and a more automated and simple thing to do whereas cycleways retrofitting them into cities and dealing with all the land ownership issues on a Greenway. All of those things take a lot more time and people resources to start solve the problems in design and also more fiddly in construction and less big machinery.
Robin Chase 1:27:06
I also want when you say that I also think we should be saying that you for the same price you can get many, many, many more miles of cycling. So it’s more labour and more output, of course, miles per mile.
Tim Blumenthal 1:27:22
And ultimately quicker, you know, this, Congressman Blumenauer from Portland Oregon always says that the entire investment of the City of Portland in their bike infrastructure network is less than what it would cost to build one mile of Interstate five on the east side of the city. So it you know, it is labour intensive, and it does require a lot of detail but from conception to finish, it can be done pretty quickly and pretty inexpensively and that’s those are both good selling points.
Carlton Reid 1:28:00
So, Tim, that that’s an argument that bike advocates and and walk advocates have used for many, many years to little real results. But do you think now is the time this is the time when actually all of that that groundwork that you people out there have been putting in for years and years and years, saying this is the cost effective thing saying federal stimulus is this we’ll get this. And is now is it just a The time is now Right. And the you’ve laid the foundations and now politicians and planners will now actually listen to you?
Tim Blumenthal 1:28:39
Yeah. Well, here’s what I know. We’re working in a lot of cities. And I’ll give you five Austin, Texas, Providence, Rhode Island, Denver, Colorado, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh. And in those each of those five cities, they’ve all committed to investing unprecedented dollars to build 100 miles or more of completely interconnected bike infrastructure, and they’re there. They’re working work, they were working more quickly than ever with a higher level of commitment. And I think that all the points that we’ve made during this discussion will push them to, to keep going in every way. So, at the end of the day, I’m optimistic in 1973 and 74. Those were the two best years for bicycle sales during the oil embargo. Those are the two best years for us bicycle sales ever. More than 20 million bikes were sold in the United States, each of those two years. I think it’s conceivable that 2021 and 22 and hopefully beyond could be a new golden age for bicycling in America.
Carlton Reid 1:29:56
I mean, there were queues out of bike shops, there are descriptions of literally people queueing out of the door. And then you’re having to order you couldn’t go into a bike shop and get a bike and take it away. You had to order a bike in because they’re in such short supply. You think that could come back those those those helican days of bike shortages, but then you fulfil that demand and then you’ve got a lot of people on bikes. Yeah, so
Tim Blumenthal 1:30:21
a lot of bike companies, even with the closure of many of their retailers are doing very well right now. And again, it’s an awkward time to be saying that your business is thriving, but direct to consumer delivery of bicycles. That’s going really well bicycle repair. That’s going really well. One big issue that’s that may hit here is that a lot of bike and bike park factories around the world have had to shut down the spring. And so there could be a shortage of raw materials either Steel, rubber other material so, but that will play out. And when the time is right, there may be a real positive story that sort of blends business and health and mobility and climate change and better communities. And it’s a, you know, we don’t want to preach but it in some it’s a pretty good story.
Carlton Reid 1:31:25
It does sound as though we’re getting some I mean, I definitely picked up a bit earlier in the, in the show Tim where you were kind of negative in parts. That’s that was very, very positive. So let me just go through the panel. Well, it will end here. And clearly it’s it’s a negative. The fact that we’re together here now to today is a negative in that it’s a lockdown and it’s a it’s a global pandemic. Clearly awful. But are we collectively? And I’ll I’ll start with Fiona. Are we absolutely optimistic that when this is over with, we will see a different world, a better world, a bicycling world?
Fiona Campbell 1:32:06
We have that opportunity. But in the past, it’s not been taken by our countries and we need to make sure that the opportunity is taken this time to get the permanent improvements that we can.
Carlton Reid 1:32:20
Robin Chase 1:32:21
I agree, I think we have it’s a real possibility but we have to proactively and forcefully make great arguments and make that narrative the obvious choice.
Carlton Reid 1:32:34
And, Tim, your closing statement.
Tim Blumenthal 1:32:38
Historically, I’ve been discouraged because I feel like too many American leaders view bicycling as either a kids thing or a weekend recreation thing, and and not a fundamental, powerful solution to address key societal challenges, but As the other panellists said, right now, there’s this huge opportunity. Our talking points are lining up really well, and it’s not self serving, it’s for everybody’s benefit. So at the end of the day, I’m optimistic.
Carlton Reid 1:33:16
Thank you. And thank you to Fiona in Australia to Robin and Tim, to close the show out if you could just tell us how people who are listening to this show how they can either get in touch with you personally, or give the URL for for for your particular organisation, whichever you whichever mix you want to give there, go for it. So let’s start with Tim, how do you how do people get in touch with you and how do they on social media? And how did they get in touch with with people for bikes?
Tim Blumenthal 1:33:49
Well, you know, these days, I’m happy to spend more time I’m communicating with people any way I can, but they can email me Tim at peopleforbikes.org. And if they go to our website, there’s all kinds of new material that directly relates to what we talked about today. And then we have really active People for Bike’s Twitter and Facebook. So, yeah, that’s it.
Carlton Reid 1:34:20
Thank you and Robin.
Robin Chase 1:34:23
People can follow me on twitter at R M like Mary Chase, RM Chase, and Numo the new urban mobility Alliance has got a lot of the work that we’ve been doing so it’s Numo.global and
Robin Chase 1:34:40
catch my attention.
Carlton Reid 1:34:44
And Fiona last but not least,
Fiona Campbell 1:34:46
yeah, the City of Sydney cycling page is cycleways.Sydney on the web. And my Twitter handle is @Fionabike.
Carlton Reid 1:34:56
Fantastic. I’ve got to thank everybody for for joining us today it’s been a fascinating discussion discussion that we probably didn’t want to have in many respects in that COVID-19 has brought us together and we can we can chat about this and just anecdotally to tell you as a journalist, it’s it’s it’s very easy to contact people at the moment because they’re all just at home.
Robin Chase 1:35:22
It’s true my days ago my calendar is still empty.
Carlton Reid 1:35:26
Yes. So thank you ever so much for for for taking the time out. Hopefully we’ve we’ve filled a yawning gap in your life because you’re maybe bored out of your your mind, I don’t know. But you’re all sounds that you’re all making sourdough anyway. So so maybe your Your time has been filled up without having bicycling chat. But thank you ever so much for for taking the time today. And thank you to Fiona Campbell, and to Tim Blumenthal and to Robin Chase. And thank you to you for listening to the spokesmen, and today, this episode has been episode 242 show notes and more can be found at the-spokesmen.com.
Carlton Reid 1:36:13
Carlton Reid 1:36:17
until the next show, get out there and ride.