Saturday 16th January 2021
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast
EPISODE 264: Bike Nerds Kyle and Sara of People for Bikes
SPONSOR: Jenson USA
HOST: Carlton Reid
TOPICS: Bike lanes, mobility motivations, and Mayor Pete’s high-profile potential impact on transportation.
Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to Episode 264 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Saturday 16th of January 2021.
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/the spokesmen. 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 shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:07
Happy New Year and welcome to the first episode of 2021. I’m Carlton Reid and the next few shows are going to have a distinctly American flavour starting with today’s guests Kyle Wagenschutz and Sarah Studdard of People for Bikes the US bicycle advocacy organisation. This is an hour long show in which we talk bike lanes, mobility motivations, Mayor Pete’s high-profile potential impact on transportation and you’ll get a sneak preview of People for BIke’s report on US pandemic cycling trends which goes live on January 21st.
Carlton Reid 1:55
I’m here today with with Kyle and Sarah and and before we get into who you are, describe what you do for people who buys and what is people who buy so people who who don’t know what this us organisation is and I guess lots of people in the US will absolutely know what it is but to explain it for the rest of us. What is peopleforbikes? And where’s it come from? Because got an interesting, interesting backstory.
Kyle Wagenschutz 2:23
Yeah, certainly. Thank you. And peopleforbikes is a US based bicycling advocacy organisation that has been around since 1998. So we we just celebrated moving past the 20 year mark as an organisation. And we have used that time and our presence and influence here in the us to continue to advance policies that make bicycling better for people every day in the US and that most of our support, a large basis centre of our support actually comes from the US based bicycling industry. So manufacturers and suppliers of bicycles, bicycle components, and adjacent bicycle parts contribute are members of our programme. And we act as both a trade association acting on their behalf in matters of business and trade, important export. And then we also act as a as a charitable foundation,
Kyle Wagenschutz 3:27
almost like a traditional nonprofit organisation that would
Kyle Wagenschutz 3:32
help local communities enact and be able to activate on those locally based projects.
Carlton Reid 3:38
So that’s what I meant. When I said you had an interesting backstory, it was it’s industry funded, and it’s come from the industry as an industry initiative. And that’s always and it has been going on for a long time is the industry should be doing more to get bums on bikes, and here there’s an organisation that’s absolutely that’s, that’s its raison d’etre. Yeah.
Kyle Wagenschutz 3:59
Yeah, 100% you know, and, and there’s, there’s a, there’s a reason you know, the bicycle companies exist. And that’s to of course, sell bicycles and parts within their marketplace. But, you know, there’s also a
Kyle Wagenschutz 4:14
joint self interest in these companies who compete every single day on selling their products in the marketplace to come together and say, you know, collectively we have the power to grow the share of bicycling for for the US and by acting in concert together and channelling those activities to people for bikes, we can grow the pie, so that we all benefit. And I think that’s a real testament of, you know, how businesses can function and work together towards a common goal. While
Kyle Wagenschutz 4:46
you know, also advancing, you know, programmes and projects that create a better world for transportation create a better world for our future of our planet and climate change. create a better world related to issues
Kyle Wagenschutz 5:00
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within our cities and our governance. And so it’s a it’s a real, it’s a real honour to be able to work for an organisation that has this breadth of support and leadership.
Carlton Reid 5:13
Absolutely. Now let’s let’s ground you both in that, let’s work out where you are speaking from. And then you can tell me your official job titles, and then we’ll get into what we’re gonna be talking about. So first, let because we’ve heard from Kyle already. So, Sara, where are you speaking from? And what’s your job title?
Sara Studdard 5:30
I am speaking from Denver, Colorado, and I am the director of local innovation. So I support our team that works across the country to support elected officials, city staff and community partners and advocates to build complete bike networks. Okay, you’ve been you’re not from Denver, originally, I’m not from Denver, I moved around growing up. But previous to living in Denver, I lived in Memphis, Tennessee for a decade and worked through agriculture, creative placemaking economic development, and as well as bikes to make the Memphis region better for the people that live there.
Carlton Reid 6:08
And same question for Kyle, where are you? And what’s your official job title? Kyle?
Kyle Wagenschutz 6:13
Yeah, I’m talking to you today from Longmont, Colorado, just outside of the great bicycle in city of Boulder.
Kyle Wagenschutz 6:21
I am the Vice President of local innovation. And you know, like Sara,
Kyle Wagenschutz 6:27
we’re leading work in cities across the US helping community leaders, they’re
Kyle Wagenschutz 6:35
giving them the tools and the resources that they need to advance the development of their bicycle networks, helping them do it faster than they would do it on their own, and helping them hopefully achieve a broader outcomes than they otherwise would have been able to do. And so we’re, we’re strategically always looking for city based partners to who are willing and able to make bicycling better. And we act as a catalyst in a in a resource to help them overcome the challenge any challenges that are standing in their way.
Carlton Reid 7:07
So I don’t mind who answers this one, you can either if you can, can can jump in here.
Carlton Reid 7:12
How many people
Carlton Reid 7:14
are working for peopleforbikes? And is it everywhere? Is it like do you have like, local chapters? What? What’s the actual setup?
Kyle Wagenschutz 7:24
That’s a sort of evolving question in the pandemic times.
Carlton Reid 7:30
Let’s have it both kind of at pandemic time and maybe normal times. Yeah, good point.
Kyle Wagenschutz 7:35
Yeah, we have a we have a staff of about 30 people working at peopleforbikes. Full time now. Almost all of the staff are based in Colorado, near our Boulder, Colorado headquarters.
Kyle Wagenschutz 7:53
Aside from a few members of our staff that live in Washington, DC, who manage all of our federal policy work with our,
Kyle Wagenschutz 8:02
with our partners in DC, so almost everyone is had been based in Colorado since the pandemic though. We’ve we’ve we’ve had we’ve had several new hiring since the pandemic,
Kyle Wagenschutz 8:13
we’ve we’ve adjusted to a remote working environment. And there’s no there’s no plans for us to return to the offence the office anytime soon. And so I expect that we’ll continue to work remotely from wherever we are in the world.
Kyle Wagenschutz 8:28
For the for the foreseeable future.
Carlton Reid 8:31
And this is this is a question that I could ask absolutely anybody. And I almost get roughly the same answer from everybody. But how’s it affected? How you’re what you’re able to do on the ground? Because you haven’t been able to travel?
Kyle Wagenschutz 8:44
Yeah, that’s a really good question. And Sara, and I contemplated this quite a bit when the lockdown actually occurred is, as Sara mentioned, a moment ago, she and I were just travelling non stop for almost the last two years. And so how did we adjust? And I, I would say that there’s definitely some
Kyle Wagenschutz 9:06
there’s definitely, there were definitely some growing pains that we had to work through, you know, I just there’s been some situations where I know that if we were in a place in a meeting with somebody in a room, we could have solved some problems, you know, over the course of a couple of hours and been done with it. Whereas remotely, you know, several meetings over the span of a couple weeks. So changing the expectations that, you know, communication just is more deliberate, takes more time was a was a was a lesson that we learned and I think the other thing is that even though we’ve been working from home, that the the shared experience of our community partners who are experiencing the same exact thing has been really helpful is that they are also dealing with the pandemic and has made the relationship you know,
Kyle Wagenschutz 9:57
that we’ve been on we’ve been on equal playing field, so to say
Kyle Wagenschutz 10:00
Speak and so we’ve we’ve been we’ve we’ve found that the coordination with our local communities has just been about being more communicative.
Kyle Wagenschutz 10:08
more frequently. And the work work has work has surprisingly continued in many US cities.
Carlton Reid 10:18
And Sara, talk me through bike boom, what? How is bike boom affected people for bikes?
Sara Studdard 10:25
Well, you know, I think it’s been just a really exciting time for the organisation and the industry. And I think in particular, you know, through the role that Kyle and I have in terms of really looking at bike networks, and so how does the bike boom influence the way that our cities continue to be built and respond to residents needs and so it’s been exciting to look across really the globe and see communities, you know, respond to, you know, more time during the day under shelter in place orders, and kind of going outside their, their front door to experience shared streets and car free streets and places to walk and bike and play. And then I’ll let Kyle kind of talk more from the industry side on what we’ve seen from the bike boom perspective.
Kyle Wagenschutz 11:18
Carlton, we’re going to be releasing some new data in just a couple of weeks. But the high level picture is that this past year 10% of American adults engaged with bicycling in a brand new way.
Kyle Wagenschutz 11:35
You know, some portion of that were people who discovered bicycling, you know, after an extended period of time of not biking. So for, you know, people who were absent from biking for more than a year, another percentage of that were people who begin biking in a different way because of the pandemic. So they might have tried indoor riding for the first time or tried riding for transportation or to reach you know, the grocery store to reach a park or something like that. So, tip 10% of the Americans, you know, engaging with Cycling is a significant number of Americans who sort of stepped out their doors this year and, and took up biking and what happened was that you know, the response was people needed bicycles, they needed bicycle parts, inventories became very low and bicycle shops, city leaders saw you know, swarms of people on bikes and then took action to help sort of create safe spaces for them to ride so it’s been this real it’s been this real
Kyle Wagenschutz 12:40
interesting perspective to see that the see the power of grassroots movement, you know, largely unorganised people acting organically looking for ways to escape their indoors to get outside for stress relief for health and recreation, you know, those are their primary motivations for taking a bicycling during this time. But then to sort of see the the spillover effect into what it’s doing for the industry, what it’s what it’s changing in terms of perceptions for city leaders, has has been a real has been a real pleasure to to see unfold.
Carlton Reid 13:17
Here in Europe, we’ve had what are called pop up bike lanes. So Corona, cycleways is that is how they put it in, in Paris. Have you had that same kind of suck it and see initiative that was very much specific to the pandemic. So these pop up type, you know, you know, like, instant
Carlton Reid 13:43
bike lanes that can just come down again, if they have to?
Kyle Wagenschutz 13:45
we documented that there was approximately 200 US cities this year that change the functionality and layout of their streets. Now that’s that’s a really broad way of sort of describing what happens. And that’s purposeful, because what I can’t say is that we had a real sort of uniform approach to this, you know, across all US cities, we did have some cities that implemented pop up like infrastructure.
Kyle Wagenschutz 14:14
And some of those have moved to a more permanent installation, I’m thinking Boston did a pop up set of infrastructure, a holding network in their downtown area.
Kyle Wagenschutz 14:27
And just recently, in the last like three months, all of those orange cones and the traffic barrels that were used to create the public infrastructure are now being painted, permanent,
Kyle Wagenschutz 14:39
permanent protected infrastructure is now being put in place to create that separation.
Kyle Wagenschutz 14:45
We had some other cities like Austin, Texas, who created some pop up infrastructure on some really iconic streets. there’s a there’s a street in Austin, Texas called South Congress Avenue which leads to the state capitol building of Texas across this
Kyle Wagenschutz 15:00
bridge. It’s been a project that has long concerned city leaders and city planners looking to make change. It’s a big it’s a big iconic road that tourists and visitors and residents alike have to traverse every day and in the pandemic gave them the impetus through order of the city council to to make that change and that move from permanent and temporary to permanent infrastructure this past year as well. I would say on on the on the larger whole though, Carlton, most US cities
Kyle Wagenschutz 15:32
who who did things did so with infrastructure that more tangentially benefited bicyclist rather than having a real direct lasting impact. You know, we we our cities closed a lot of streets. To make room for outdoor dining and outdoor retail experiences. We we closed residential streets, except for through traffic. But we didn’t have the sort of like wide scale pop up my sequel networks go in that the last thing that I’ll mention in this is that
Kyle Wagenschutz 16:06
what we did see happen was that communities in the US that were already building bicycle networks did so at an accelerated rate. And so while we didn’t have a lot of temporary bike networks going up, we saw continued progress on the existing momentum that was in place, pre pandemic, continue to spill into even, you know, a time in which we might have expected projects to be delayed or derailed or unfunded. We actually saw those networks going in at a faster pace. They were able to accomplish that this past year.
Carlton Reid 16:45
And Sara and Kyle, I guess, fit for this, but I’ve talked to you both before.
Carlton Reid 16:52
A while ago, and just anybody who’s listening here thinking Kyle and Sara, I know those Where do I know there’s those? So tell me why. And perhaps even when I talked to you before, and then what’s happened to that particular podcast? So Sarah, what what? When did I speak to you last? And and why was that talking to you?
Sara Studdard 17:13
Kyle and I had a podcast that we started when we were both living in Memphis, Tennessee called the bike nerd podcast where we really used it a little, selfishly as a platform for Kyle and I to have amazing conversations with people around the globe, not only in the biking space, but in mobility, health, public space, transportation, you know, people who are passionate about making the places they lived better, and we had over 100 episodes, and we actually have closed down shop with the bike nerds podcast, but have never released our final episode.
Carlton Reid 17:54
So I absolutely agree with your sentiment about speaking to fantastic people from around the world cuz that’s what I’m doing right now. You guys got so I’m inviting you on and you know, it’s like is this in a small incestuous world in many ways, however, you do speak to some amazing people who have got very similar goals around the world, we may have different geographical geopolitical issues to cope with, but we’re pretty much going for the same thing, which is, in effect, getting more people
Carlton Reid 18:25
to ride bikes. Now did any of the bike nerd nerdery lead on to directly what you’re doing now? Sarah?
Sara Studdard 18:37
Yeah, that’s a really great question, Carlton. You know, when Kyle and I began, the podcast, I really had just entered into the bike space, I was part of launching a bike share programme in Memphis, Tennessee. And so I was really in the in the role of learning and educating and making connections of around great people who are encouraging folks to ride bikes. So it really kind of helped me from a personal and professional aspect, create really strong connections within the bike, and mobility space and, you know, really helped me see the value of, you know, not only creating space for people to ride bikes in your community, but also just like the joy and fun it is to ride a bike, you know, bike sharing, particularly because really amazing in terms of creating that, that accessible opportunity for fun and joy and adventure around around the community.
Carlton Reid 19:33
Now, Kyle, you you got in touch with me
Carlton Reid 19:36
a little while ago, and it was actually a Forbes article that I wrote, which was talking about, you know, a very small number of Twitter users, any social media users can actually sway public opinion.
Carlton Reid 19:50
And generally, it were actually the the piece was about was about in I think, was in London. And it was how a small number of anti
Carlton Reid 20:00
cycleway and it was called actually low traffic neighbourhood. So LTNs is the the nerdery in the UK for that particular form of transport intervention. So they were anti-LTN campaigners. And there was an analysis done showing that, you know, they were just talking to each other, but they had this enormous
Carlton Reid 20:23
effect on, on on authority, thinking it was actually a massive
Carlton Reid 20:30
outpouring of public sentiment that actually wasn’t that at all. And then you got in touch and you said, well, I’ve we’ve actually done a study on this. So let’s, let’s talk about why you got in touch what what why did that particular issue ring your bell?
Kyle Wagenschutz 20:45
Carlton one of I mentioned before the some of the work that Sara and I do in cities is, is helping cities overcome challenges to implementing their bicycle networks. And, as we’ve been had our head, our feet and hands on the ground in communities across the US, we we’ve been finding that over the years, it’s that the challenges that cities face are less and less about the availability of public funding to build infrastructure, we’re seeing less concern about design and how to sort of approach building infrastructure that’s attractive for people of all ages and abilities. The concern continually sort of continued to grow to be, wow, we’re ready to go with this. But every time that we go out to build a project, there’s a vociferous opposition to any changes to our to our public streets. And that opposition, every in almost every instance, is either reshaping a project, you know, to the detriment of, you know, the the goals that we’ve set out for the for the project itself, we’re compromising on design, we’re compromising on the limits and the implementation of it, or some in some, in some of the worst case scenarios, projects were being cancelled outright. And so we looked at, we looked into this with with a using a study to understand, you know, our communities, who, if you think about what it takes to get to a point where you’re about to build a project, you know, there’s typically work being done to build the community community support around a plan identifying you think about all the meetings we go to where we draw lines on a map, and we think and envision about the future. However, what’s the disconnect between this exercise where we engage community members and visions about the future? And then when we actually go to deliver on those projects? Where does all that opposition pop up from and why is it so influential, and we say, well, are the American people actually against bicycling and bike infrastructure. And you know, and we didn’t think so, based on some local surveys that we had seen from cities around the US, but we conducted a study in 2018, to look at very specifically how people view bicycling, how they view mobility, and more importantly, to dive into an understanding of what drives people to make the mobility choices that they make every day. It’s our belief that to build the safe networks of protected bicycle lanes, low traffic streets, the kinds of infrastructure that we want to see flourish in our communities, that we can’t just be speaking to cyclists and building support through cyclists, but that we also have to build support for these programmes, from people who may never ride a bike or who haven’t written a bike. They’re though they’re the individuals that
Kyle Wagenschutz 23:41
are to use like a political term, you know, they’re the swing vote, a lot of times in our communities. And we wanted to make sure through a research based approach that we were able to talk with them communicate to them in a way that encouraged them to support this work, rather than discourage it with their city leaders.
Carlton Reid 24:01
And how much of this this assumed popularity for bike infrastructure in the general population is an abstract thing. But then as soon as it becomes concrete, that’s when the opposition comes in. And, for instance, what I’m trying to say here is, if you ask somebody, you know, do you want more bike infrastructure? And they take all they say, yes, that’s one thing. But when you physically get down to the brass tacks, and you actually get the work, people moving in and closing down parking spaces, you know, putting in concrete barriers, then it becomes in flesh. And then opposition would then come in because well, I said, I want the bike infrastructure, but not on my road.
Kyle Wagenschutz 24:43
That is the central component of what the study found. We found that in the US overwhelmingly, the population here support cycling, for all of the reasons that we know people have very fond memories of bicycling
Kyle Wagenschutz 24:59
As children, even if they’ve even if they stopped long ago, they remember what it was like to the fun they associate bicycle lane with being outside, they associate it with the freedom and moving around the neighbourhood. They all have these amazing stories and generally speaking, have really positive sentiments to say, Yeah, I support bicycling. But you’re right, the moment we say, well, do you support bicycling, even if it means
Kyle Wagenschutz 25:26
taking the parking spot away from in front of your home, suddenly that that majority of support for bicycling plummets, it’s it’s a very weak support in this almost almost as soon as you put a trade off in front of people, we lose that the strength of that support to levels that we can’t sustain. If you were going to, if you’re going to run as an elected official on these numbers, and you had a position that this this precipitous drop off occurred, you would not run for election, you would not win very well. And and so what we have to do with that is, I’m sorry, what,
Kyle Wagenschutz 26:06
what we found is when we looked into like, what, what are those trade offs that trigger that drop? The the primary concern for people, as it relates to bike infrastructure, is that as they’re making choices about transportation every day, what what drives a person to get into their car versus public transport, or a bicycle or to walk, it really comes down to people want to control their schedule. And we can we can talk about the nuances of parking space versus travel lane versus diversion and speed and all of those things boiled down to individuals in the US want to control their schedule, they want to walk out their door of their home with some sense of reliability and get to where they’re going in the timeframe that they think it takes to get there. And it also this This phenomenon is not just unique to bicycling, it also explains why traffic congestion or a crash that backs up traffic, you know, creates road rage within people because we’ve disrupted their primary motivation is this this control of their schedule? Currently, driving a car gives people the most control of their schedule in US cities. And bicycling basically, infrastructure is largely seen as an inconvenience to that. And that’s, that’s the real,
Kyle Wagenschutz 27:28
that’s the real communications barrier that we have to overcome.
Carlton Reid 27:33
So Sara, when when people maybe say that they want bike infrastructure could part of that being I want bike infrastructure for my neighbour, because that gets them out of their car? and enables me to carry on going in my car? Or
Carlton Reid 27:50
are there people out there who we don’t know, as a cyclist are using air quotes there? Who would get on to bikes? And they are in favour of bike infrastructure?
Sara Studdard 28:02
Yeah, Carlton, I think it’s a combination of, you know, I also think there’s the motivation to have control of your schedule, you know, as Kyle kind of explained, is there, but I also think there’s a motivation to live in a community that provides multiple options for people to get around. And so I think when we hear support for bike infrastructure for people that you know, may never choose to ride I think there’s also a pride and a community sort of buy in, in terms of being supportive of the greater good and being supportive of potentially your neighbour riding a bike. Maybe your your true motivation is to get them out of their car. But, you know, I think there’s value in that and then I think we know that when we build safe places for people to ride you know, an individual that maybe was on the I’ve never in a million years going to get on my bike because it’s dangerous see, is that a protected lane
Sara Studdard 29:00
and a dedicated space for them on their bike creates a really great experience for their family and so I think investment and infrastructure also you know, creates investment in the people who may choose to purchase a bike and turn into a air quote cyclist.
Carlton Reid 29:17
I’d either you could answer this one because it’s a general question really, and that your people for bikes, so clearly, your bikes, but so much of this, you know, to get people out of cars is not obviously bikes, not everybody’s gonna be able to get onto a bike. So how much do you interact with the other ways of getting people out of cars? So how much do you get involved with transit? How much you get involved with pedestrian infrastructure, sidewalks? How much of that is absolutely. In your brief, even though in your title, it says bikes.
Sara Studdard 29:53
You know, when we look at cities that are most successful, they are not
Sara Studdard 30:00
Truly connected and truly investing into a single mode. So I think for us to really encourage people to ride bikes we under we understand that at our core that you know, we’re never going to get every single American to ride a bike. But by increasing pedestrian space, increasing great safe transit stops and efficient bus bus schedules, we are also creating really great places for people to ride their bike and also choose choose other modes and, you know, the cities that we find to be really successful. Understand that and also, you know, build diverse partnerships and Coalition’s that involve housing, public health, pedestrian advocacy, etc. And really at the bike infrastructure bike network is like one component of what makes that city I’m really great and helps get people around.
Carlton Reid 30:58
So tell me about the US. I mean, I know Colorado is absolutely bike Central. And I mean, you’ve only taken a quite a few years ago,
Carlton Reid 31:08
Boulder overtook Davis, California. And I know you have you had those two cities are vying for quite a long time to being like the capital for for cycling in the USA has the fact that you’re in Colorado, how much does that cover your thinking in that when you go to two other cities, it’s much much tougher, because you have kind of got it nailed in many cities in Colorado, compared to other places in the US.
Kyle Wagenschutz 31:39
Colorado compared to the US other us as a whole is better in some ways, but that there continues to be a lot of momentum building and other places that Colorado and cities can learn a lot from.
Kyle Wagenschutz 31:56
And that I think that’s a I think that’s a real story that sort of exists throughout the US is that there are pockets of real growth, real advancement and mobility. And,
Kyle Wagenschutz 32:09
and then there are areas that are totally devoid of it. And so I I, you know, it’s interesting that
Kyle Wagenschutz 32:17
Sara and I have experienced Colorado this past year for the first time because of the pandemic in a really intense way. But we we are generally speaking, spending a lot of our time outside of Colorado extra exploring the great things happening in other places. And I would say that having we’re now working doing some work with some Colorado cities just in the last the last year, year and a half. And what’s really fascinating about that is that we’re actually taking some of the inspiration and case studies from our work in other cities. And we’re bringing those back here to to our to our local partners, in some ways. So
Kyle Wagenschutz 32:57
I would I would say that, yeah, if you want to get on a mountain bike, if you want to visit the city of Boulder and sort of see what they’ve done historically, I think I think there are some real jewels here, don’t get me wrong. But I would also just say that I think there’s there’s jewels elsewhere that are offering a level of inspiration to even places here in the US that have have succeeded historically.
Carlton Reid 33:18
Rolling it out to the continent as a whole. If you if you include, you know, North America, then you have Montreal,
Carlton Reid 33:30
which is phenomenal for bikes. And it has been, you know, roughly since the 1970s, when they had two very successful advocacy groups arguing for bike lanes and stuff to be put in there. So how close is the best American best
Carlton Reid 33:48
US city compared to a stellar city? Not stellar in Amsterdam, European terms, but stellar in North American terms? How close is any US city to Montreal?
Kyle Wagenschutz 34:02
I would say generally speaking, Carlton, we actually do an annual city ratings programme where we do measure on a system using a system that we’ve created. We do we do rank cities in terms of how great they are for bicycling. And we’ve just in the last year began measuring some Canadian cities, we’re actually as we head into 2021, we’re actually expanding the reach of the programme into Canada, Australia and some European cities for the first time. So coming soon, there’s going to be a sort of a fuller answer to your question here. But I would say generally speaking, a few of the Canadian cities ranked on par or slightly better than most of the cities for bicycling here in the US and so I’m thinking Montreal Of course. Vancouver is among those who
Kyle Wagenschutz 35:00
rim pretty high in that list. And I’d even add in Toronto in terms of a city that, given its size, and sort of density or lack of density, per se, is actually achieving some, some some making some accomplishments for ridership that exceeds similarly, you know, position cities in the US. And so I would, I would project that some Canadian Canadian cities are right at the top of the pack for for all of North America, and only the US is best cities are on par with those.
Carlton Reid 35:37
So where are we talking about?
Carlton Reid 35:39
Well, give me your your best ranked American cities.
Kyle Wagenschutz 35:43
Yeah. Yeah, I mentioned, you know, you, obviously Boulder, Colorado is among those. It’s where our office is located. But we, we use data not not not subjectivity to make these things.
Kyle Wagenschutz 35:59
You know, if we’re looking at like, cities that would be familiar with around the world, in Washington, DC has continued to sort of make constant steady progress. Denver, Colorado, here locally is also a city that over the last decade or so has really improved made some improvements. In Madison, Wisconsin, historically, among the best in the US, continues to rank really well. And then we also have this, this growing,
Kyle Wagenschutz 36:28
that’s of this growing list of small to medium sized cities that are really over performing, giving, given the size of their city. And these are places like San Luis Obispo, California, Santa Barbara, California, even a place like Missoula, Montana, or Rogers, Arkansas, you know, these are, these are communities that you would not automatically think to yourself, boy bicycling heaven, but they have really carved out
Kyle Wagenschutz 37:00
a really strong niche, and some of these smaller communities, you know, less than a few fewer than 100,000 people.
Kyle Wagenschutz 37:06
And the rates of cycling happening there, the infrastructure being built, is really a testament to to the local leadership.
Carlton Reid 37:14
And, Sara, you’re, you’ve got a new Secretary of Transportation coming up in a matter of days. In fact, how much do you think having such a high profile? I mean, even I know the guy, how, how do you think that’s gonna affect Trump not just cycling, but transport as a whole? In the US? Can he transform something in a relatively short space of time?
Sara Studdard 37:46
Mayor Pete, colloquially like really understands that safety is needs to be a first priority with our transportation system. And so I do then from his role, you know, being a mayor of a local community, that he understands that, you know, we need to invest in safe, comfortable, non stressful types of transportation options, whether that’s through transit, bike infrastructure, pedestrian infrastructure, etc. And so I think that understanding of safety will will help us make, you know, strides that are not just, you know, paint on the street, but strides that actually encourage people to get out of there, get out of their cars. And then I think, you know, we need to have a really robust, you know, federal budget that’s able to provide funding to states and then those states to provide funding at a local level to really invest at a high sort of, you know, budget perspective, to really ensure that we’re able to build the bike bike networks in a quick and rapid way. I think what we’ve seen in US communities is, you know, I think part of this vocal minority, this opposition we talked about earlier, is that, you know, a project idea, you know, comes forth, and that project may not get implemented until five or seven or 10 years down the line. And that’s just entirely too long from a project delivery perspective.
Carlton Reid 39:14
Hmm. And then Kyle, roughly the same question in that Mayor Pete is going to be a effect of progress, but anybody’s gonna be a progressive after, after we’ve had, of course, but he’s gonna be definitely an incredibly progressive progressive
Carlton Reid 39:32
Carlton Reid 39:35
But he is then got, you know, like a whole set. It’s just one man is the whole system here set against him almost in that the whole of the US economy is a gasoline automotive based economy. So how much can he genuinely change in the short term?
Kyle Wagenschutz 39:53
Well, I think, you know, simply by joining the administration
Kyle Wagenschutz 40:00
And I think there’s been a number of roadblocks for the last four years just in moving progress forward at any, any expected pace. And so I think simply by having some new leadership in place, we’re actually going to see some things that have just been lingering, you know, in the bureaucracy actually begin to make momentum, I actually find that the agencies who deal with transport at a national level in the US, certainly are rooted in a historical sort of automobile driven mindset. But there’s some really amazing people working with agencies that have a lot of initiative and a lot of really amazing programme ideas for for making us transportation more sustainable and more relevant to the people living here. They just haven’t been given the ability to unlock, you know, those programmes for last four years, they’ve largely been,
Kyle Wagenschutz 40:52
you know, working every day, but not really able to move an agenda forward, I think, simply by having the new administration in place. And Mayor Pete, leading the helm for transportation is simply we’re just going to see some progress happening, because we’re going to be unlocking the potential of what’s already there. I think after that, I think Sarah is right. You know,
Kyle Wagenschutz 41:14
the the new secretary has experienced working as a mayor and city, he understands the challenges and pitfalls that befall cities, when you’re looking to receive federal funding, take advantage of these programmes, he understands the intricacies of what it takes to deliver the projects. And I think he’ll be able to offer some, some renewed insight and some of the renewed commitment to making transport a broader part of community development. If I remember, under the Obama administration, you know, there was this monumental joint effort between the Federal Highway Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency in the housing and urban development areas of the US. So looking at how does transportation affect our climate change goals? How does that affect the way in which our cities are developed, and we provide housing affordably to citizens residents, you know, that all came to a screeching halt under our current administration. And so I’m eager to see those kinds of conversations renewed because as Sarah mentioned, where we see real progress being made for bicycling. We’re seeing bicycling exist as part of an ecosystem and also making progress for
Kyle Wagenschutz 42:27
you know, living wages being distributed across the city, wealth enhancement, affordable housing, environmental concerns, public transportation success. You know, I, I think I think that’s, that’s what I’m most hopeful for is that we begin to see this broader conversation about how does transportation, interact, affect and be affected by
Kyle Wagenschutz 42:49
these other these other societal and cultural issues that exist within cities?
Carlton Reid 42:56
So, here inn the UK, and I’m sure it’ll, it’ll be in the same in the US is
Carlton Reid 43:03
transport ministers or transport?
Carlton Reid 43:06
mandarins civil servants, and politicians get very excited by electric cars get very excited by E–scooters, because they’re new toys they can play with these new things.
Carlton Reid 43:20
And bicycles and cars are kind of old technology, you know, there are 120 years plus old.
Carlton Reid 43:28
So where do we see because you want people for bikes? Where do we see e scooters fitting into cuz we haven’t even discussed them at all. But with this new toy, this the E scooter phenomenon?
Carlton Reid 43:41
How much do you think the bandwidth will be taken up by looking at these new things at but could that actually benefit the old technologies that the bicycles of the world?
Sara Studdard 43:54
we have a programme that we work on in partnership with nacto, the National Association of
Sara Studdard 44:02
transportation, I’m going to butcher the acronym nacto, the mayor’s office of Philadelphia and peopleforbikes as part of the better Bike Share partnership, and this looks at you know, how does micro mobility you scooters, Bike Share e Bike Share, etc. You know, how do we ensure that these new technologies and these new innovations are deployed and accessible in an equitable way, in really North American cities. And so, you know, I think that, you know, these new innovations are providing increased opportunities for people to, you know, not choose to get in their car. And so I’m excited to kind of continue to see how e-scooters and micro mobility in particular can just be another option another, you know, tool in the toolbox for people to to get around their city and then, you know, I think this continued innovation and and
Sara Studdard 44:59
interest and electrification just provides more opportunity. I mean, think the bike boom has, you know, seen during the pandemic that you know, there’s a hunger and an interest in ebikes. Because, you know, you don’t have to be like a world class athlete to, to do some pretty epic mountain bike rides are just cruising around town on an E bike. So I think it just provides just a tonne of more accessibility opportunity for people.
Carlton Reid 45:28
Kyle, yeah, those are those are definitely a pregnant pause there. I don’t know if that was because you didn’t know whether to which of you want to come in as a scooter thing. But what about your views on on E-scooters?
Kyle Wagenschutz 45:41
Yeah, I was I was just hoping Sarah would.
Kyle Wagenschutz 45:46
That’s that’s an old trick from our podcast is pregnant pause so we don’t overtalk each other.
Kyle Wagenschutz 45:53
I agree with everything Sara said, I’d maybe point to a more tangible example, I mentioned before some of the work that’s happened recently in Austin, Texas, and before the pandemic, Austin, Texas was
Kyle Wagenschutz 46:08
a North American Centre for E scooter use, you know, registering, you know, when comparing East scooters to the bike share the public Bike Share system, East scooters were were being written on a daily basis on a daily basis at a 10 x. So for every one trip being made on the bike share system, there were 10 trips being made on scooters. And it was a, it was a fascinating phenomenon to be in downtown Austin, in, in pre pandemic times to at this peak of scooter years just to see the people that were willing to to get onto a scooter. And you’re thinking about it from that sense. It was like swarms of locusts, and in some ways to sort of, you know, be hyperbolic about looking at a street and seeing the people riding scooters. But when you looked at them, they these weren’t people you would sort of expect to be the they weren’t exclusively young, you know, hit people right into their tech job. It was families it was,
Kyle Wagenschutz 47:11
it was clearly older people it was younger people it was people of all shapes and sizes and ages and colours. And it was just a fascinating exercise to sort of look out and say, Wow, you know, there’s, there’s something to this, I think, to what, what Sara has to say is that, as far as we’re concerned,
Kyle Wagenschutz 47:30
you know, anything that gets people out of their cars is a real benefit for cities, what we’re what we’re ultimately after here is not you know, propagation of bicycle lane as a singular mode of transportation, we don’t want bicycling to become, you know, what the car is today, what we want.
Kyle Wagenschutz 47:46
What we really want, though, is like we want, we want cleaner air, we want a better planet, we want a safer place for our children we want. We want all of these, these, these other benefits that come along with it. And getting there requires you know that we have some some other options for people. And if that’s a that’s a scooter today, and it’s you know, I’ve often joked that the next thing might be like an electric on-street kayak. I mean, I don’t know what’s coming down the pipeline.
Kyle Wagenschutz 48:21
But, but I think as long as we’re moving people out of their cars today, that’s the real, that’s the real strategy that we can put in place. You know, there’s certainly, there’s certainly things that we need to address as it relates to sort of, you know, the the rapid adoption of these of these new technologies.
Kyle Wagenschutz 48:40
They don’t have the time tested, you know, sort of
Kyle Wagenschutz 48:46
requirements that we don’t know how they’re going to play out in the long run yet from a functionality standpoint, from a US standpoint, so it’s all still really too new, too new, I think, to make concrete judgments about it. But I think right now, if for no other reason, if it’s gonna come back to some of the original purposes of talking here about how do we sort of reshape public opinion in terms of supporting bike infrastructure? Well, if somebody really loves to ride a scooter, and I can get them to support building a bicycle lane, you know, that’s, that’s one more person who is writing to their city councillors writing to their mayors and their leaders saying, you know, thank you for creating the space for me to to ride that I don’t have to interact with cars. And I ultimately think that’s a good thing. So mobility lanes, maybe rather than bike lanes. Yeah, I think so. I think
Kyle Wagenschutz 49:38
we, we haven’t really, we need we need better marketing on how we’re talking about this. But yeah, that’s right. low speed, low speed mobility lanes or lanes or for individuals travelling less than 20 miles per hour. I think, you know, that’s, that’s the that’s the concept. We haven’t come up with a really catchy name for those yet. Mm hmm. So I’m gonna ask the same question to both of you.
Carlton Reid 50:00
actually might might ask Sara first and Sara might come up with an absolutely perfect answer. And Kyle doesn’t have to come on this. And maybe Kyle will actually enjoy the fact he doesn’t have to.
Carlton Reid 50:10
And this is not me just picking on you, Sara, but it’s just that you’re kind of like, you’re the next one in line to ask the question. This is why I’m coming to you on this particular point. And it is potentially, well, it isn’t a difficult question. It’s potentially a political question in many ways. But that is just bike lanes. So we have been talking about bike lanes, whether we want to call them mobility lanes, under 20 mile an hour, whatever we want to call them. How much is peopleforbikes, your your your outreach work? How much of it relies on either maintaining what you’ve already got in cities, or expanding them? How important are bike lanes to your work?
Sara Studdard 50:49
Bike lanes are an integral part of our work, you know, communities that, again, when we look across the city and look at communities that are wanting to increase the amount of people who are making the decision not to drive their car, investment in bike lanes is kind of parable Paramount as part of that solution. And so I think we’re actively supporting cities and city staff and elected officials, etc, and communities across the country to look at their bike network. And in a really sort of analytical and sort of hard way, we have a tool called our bicycle network analysis that is able to, you know, really help a city and not deem their bike network successful by the amount of miles they have installed, but you know, are those miles that they’ve installed?
Sara Studdard 51:42
safe, comfortable and accessible to as many residents as possible? And so we are constantly, you know, encouraging and having discussions about, you know, not all bike lanes are created equal, there’s always room for improvement, there’s always room to look at, you know, what our speed limits look like? Are there other traffic calming aspects, so
Sara Studdard 52:07
I could, we could probably spend a whole nother 45 to 50 minutes talking about, you know, how important bike network and bike infrastructure and lanes are to the success of mobility.
Carlton Reid 52:20
So I’m gonna, I’m gonna pick it this one, I’m gonna keep on going. I’m gonna go for I’m gonna go for Kyle now, though, because you’ve had your chance. So and I’m going to go back here, I’m going to pick it at Kyle. And that is,
Carlton Reid 52:33
how much do you then potentially neglect the other things that can boost micromobility, bicycling, whatever. If you focus on bike lanes, bike lanes, bike lanes, which, you know, in many places, you need space, space isn’t always there.
Carlton Reid 52:56
There’s got cost requirements, there are all sorts of things. And there are other measures that you can take that sometimes, not always, but sometimes can have massive, massive,
Carlton Reid 53:08
Upticks for cycling. So. So your elevator pitch on promoting bike lanes above all else, Kyle?
Kyle Wagenschutz 53:18
I would say, I think you’re right there. There are other measures. And there are other considerations that we that we should make. However, I would say that none of our cities visit this and then me I’m speaking solely about the US here. There are very few US cities that have built enough infrastructure to see those other measures actually be successful in a in a really broad way. So by that, I mean, you know, we if you go to any city in the US, and you ask them about their great cycling education programme, they’re going to they’re going to show you what they’ve been doing. They’ve been doing it since the 1950s and 60s, when it began teaching kids to ride bikes, you know, through police departments. And at the end of the day, we’ll look at sort of the growth of cycling as as the expected outcome from all of this work, and we’ve seen cycling remain relatively flat in the US for the last decade. Or if I asked the city you know, what measures are you taking to, you know, grow ridership. And so we have we have these riding events, we have these clubs, and we look at the trend line for cycling and we could we see that Cycling is still relatively flat. What we’ve what we’ve uncovered using this tool that Sarah mentioned, the bicycle network analysis is that there’s a point at which your your your community needs to create a basic network of bike infrastructure that supports riding, and it’s it doesn’t mean that every street has a bicycle lane or that every street is slowed to a point
Kyle Wagenschutz 54:54
where cars are driving 20 miles per hour, but in order for these safety programmes,
Kyle Wagenschutz 55:00
judgement programmes, bicycle commuting tax incentives for those programmes to to, to exponentially increase the number of people riding bicycles, you have to have the basic infrastructure in place to actually support it, it’d be it’s sort of the equivalent of this, if in your community, you wanted to
Kyle Wagenschutz 55:24
get everybody to a grocery store,
Kyle Wagenschutz 55:28
and you built the grocery store in, you know, in a field, and then told them, you know, to, to drive there, they certainly could, you know, without without without having roads, they certainly could get there, it would be an interesting experiment to sort of, you know, ask people to navigate a city with a lack of roads while driving in their car.
Kyle Wagenschutz 55:52
You know, similarly to how bicycles currently experience writing in cities today, we could we definitely see that we can encourage them to do it, we could create some programmes that would help them navigate, you know, a roadless city to get to that grocery store, we’d see some adoption there. But, but if we built a road to get there, wow, we could suddenly get there very fast, very, we wouldn’t be inconvenienced by you know, riding over a dirt or going around a tree or something like that. And that’s what we have to create for bicycling we we what we want to encourage with people for bikes is the more rapid expansion of these networks, these other programmes, these other encouragement ideas, these other initiatives can actually have a foundation for their success, rather than trying to create success.
Kyle Wagenschutz 56:42
In in a place where they lack that underlying support structure. At the end of the day, as you know, we want people to be comfortable riding and riding the bikes. And so infrastructure is the first step. So I would say like, what we want to do is talk about infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure, because we haven’t even established that baseline level of comfort with people with our infrastructure network. From there, we can build into broader pieces of momentum.
Carlton Reid 57:12
What’s your argument? And this can be for Sara, if you want to pitch in there first. What is your argument for when you put the bike lane in, you’re successful, the city puts it in either
Carlton Reid 57:24
tactical urbanism, you know, like, it’s just like a soft one, like a pop up first to trial it or they put a concrete one in straight away. And then it doesn’t get used in the numbers that, you know,
Carlton Reid 57:37
ticks those boxes for the local politician who went out on a limb to get this put in? How do you cope with low use of a cycle lane of a bike lane? How do you?
Carlton Reid 57:51
How do you explain that? How do you maybe change that?
Sara Studdard 57:59
I think kind of to go back to Kyle’s grocery store in the middle of a field example. I think it’s really looking at that new bike lane. And can anyone access it and in a safe way, is it part of a full network that creates connections to you know, the variety of places people want to go from their homes to work to a park to a grocery store? And so I think really challenging that maybe the bike lane actually the construction wasn’t a success because it didn’t make those connections to look at it that way.
Carlton Reid 58:35
Same question to Kyle then and then you know, the perfect is the enemy of good. So what Sara was saying there is about you know, is the network up to scratch in effect well shouldn’t there therefore be an emphasis on on getting a smaller things put in place smaller interventions put in place before you go for like a gold standard, you know, in inverted commas bike lane, because if it’s a if it’s a bike lane is put in huge expense, and it doesn’t have those network connections and Sara saying, it’s probably not going to get us however, local politicians and perhaps local
Carlton Reid 59:14
officials as well. They want to put their name to sexy infrastructure, you know, big road, a bridge so they can cut the ribbon off. If you just put a few like ineffective boring bits of connectivity in that will actually you know, just put a barrier in say on one road and it just enables people to suddenly cycle more, but it’s not sexy. So how do you how do you get around the fact that an awful lot of the things that are actually get people on bikes are phenomenally unsexy. And nobody’s really that interested in putting their name to it?
Kyle Wagenschutz 59:49
Yeah, yeah. And so I would, I would concur with Sara. A bike lane is only as good as what it helps people connect to and you’re obviously
Kyle Wagenschutz 1:00:00
right, Carlton, the the way that cities have gone about building infrastructure has historically been in large capital investment projects that completely transformed the street, you know that we’re building infrastructure that looks really great, it has that aesthetically pleasing, it probably accomplishes more than just adding bicycle lanes, it’s also adding enhancements for pedestrians public transport access,
Kyle Wagenschutz 1:00:27
you know, it’s probably, you know, having tangential community benefits, it probably also took 10 years to build that thing. And at the end of the day, you’re right, what happens is you you get to the finish line, you cut the ribbon, you have the big scissors with the mayor on the street. And then you look around and you’re like, well, where are the bicyclists? We built this amazing piece of new infrastructure for them? Where are they all at? And I think what what that what that process misses is that fundamentally, at the end of the day, people are making transportation decisions based on convenience, you know, monitoring their schedule, getting to the places they want to go. And in, in the process of building up to this new piece of, you know, top, top notch latest innovation and design and implementation, we lose the plot on Wow, this bike lane goes for one mile, and then it stops, and then it dumps back into the same terrible road that it was before on either end. How are people reaching this bike lane? What where we’ve seen some success is, you know, the scale of the infrastructure, I think is is less important, you know that there’s different communities have different financial situations, they’re able to afford different styles of infrastructure, where we’ve seen some real success, and we’re working with some community partners is in rethinking the nature of a bicycle infrastructure project, not not to be a corridor, but to be an entire network all at once this, this is a model that we learned about, you know, that was used in Seville, Spain, during their rapid implementation, you know, about a decade ago, and thinking about the bicycle network is the project that we should be pursuing. So we just we’ve just been working, for example, with the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, who, this past year,
Kyle Wagenschutz 1:02:17
ran successfully have implemented a project implementing a network in one part of their city, it’s 11 different corridors, it’s protected bicycle lanes, green paid the full night, the full nine yards, roadway reconstruction, but they took that they took all 11 corridors, I think it’s something like 14 or 15 miles in total, they took all of those to the community, as a singular project, build, we’re gonna build them all start to finish. And as they went through the public engagement process, building support, block by block for that work, they weren’t talking about just the change to the street in front of your business, they were certainly talking about how that street in front of your business connects to the neck connects to the next neighbourhood connects to the next street connects to the next part of the city connects to the park. And they were able to lead a singular public engagement process during a pandemic, and complete implementation all in all last year, by approaching it from this network perspective. And I actually think that is maybe the more important facet for city leaders to think about is that
Kyle Wagenschutz 1:03:29
rather than spending a lot of time a lot of money and a lot of energy on what are at the end of the day, pretty small scale projects from a connectivity standpoint, is to expand the definition of of your bicycle projects. And Get, get something more out of view of your work at the end of the day. You know, and then think about it if I’m a bicyclist, and I’m not sure how to get to this new bike lane, that looks really great. But both sides of it are really dangerous. And your network is only as good as you know, as as the weakest link the most dangerous connection that it has. Imagine, though, if I can go out to my new bicycle network in New Orleans. And I can ride 14 miles and they’re all interconnected. I can seamlessly go from one piece of the network to the other, onto the trails onto the street, I can get to the park that I wanted to get to I want to stop and get some lunch at my favourite restaurant. I can do all of those things without ever leaving the bicycle network. I think that’s the real opportunity before cities.
Carlton Reid 1:04:34
Mm hmm. Fantastic. Kyle, Sara that’s been absolutely fascinating. And it has been definitely nerdy
Carlton Reid 1:04:42
nerdy so that that’s a good form of nerdy
Carlton Reid 1:04:47
so where can people who have been turned on by this and they like that the nerdery Where can they get in touch with you guys on social media?
Carlton Reid 1:04:56
where you can find people for bikes at?
Kyle Wagenschutz 1:05:00
Add people for bikes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Kyle Wagenschutz 1:05:06
And we Sara and I still maintain
Kyle Wagenschutz 1:05:11
the bike nerd social media presence to find us most active on Twitter at the bikenerds podcast.
Carlton Reid 1:05:20
Thanks to Kyle Wagenschutz and Sarah Studdard of People for Bikes for kicking off the Spokesmen’s roster of 2021 podcasts. I’m aiming to get the legend that is Gary Fisher on the next show but meanwhile get out there and ride.