Category: Blog

May 17, 2021 / / Blog

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12th May 2021
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 275: Pump for Peace with Claudio Caluori


HOST: Carlton Reid

Claudio Caluori

GUEST: Claudio Caluori

TOPICS: “The kids were just riding and riding and riding and riding, and I had tears in my eyes.” A chat about Pump for Peace with downhill mountain biker and trail builder Claudio Caluori of Velosolutions, the world’s foremost pump track construction company



Pump for Peace

Bartali Movement for Youth


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to episode 275 of the Spokesmen cycling Podcast. This show was uploaded on Monday 17th May 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 Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at 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- And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
I’m Carlton Reid and today’s guest may sound very familiar to you, that is if you’ve watched any downhill mountain bike videos in the last few years. Claudio Caluori’s course preview videos for Red Bull and others tend to go viral and not just because they showcase his great bike handling skills but because he keeps talking into his GoPro helmetcam even on the craziest of descents. Claudio is also an asphalt artist, known to many as Mr Pump Track. Since 2004, his Velosolutions business has built more than 300 pump tracks around the world. On today’s show Claudio talks about how he got into mountain biking and how his Pump for Peace project fosters community cohesion. He was talking to me from Israel where he’s constructing the first two of four pump tracks for the Bartali Youth in Movement project. The pump tracks are located in diverse communities where Jewish, Druze and Arab kids bond through bicycling. With air raid sirens blaring Claudio is carrying on …

Carlton Reid 2:20
Lots of people …. I know you your your voice, your infectious laugh from mountain bike commentary and my my background was originally in in mountain biking. So tell me about how you got into mountain biking to begin with? Because I heard you were a hockey player originally.

Claudio Caluori 2:42
Yeah, in fact, I was a hockey player in Switzerland as a kid. And my parents bought me a mountain bike. So I could actually go to hockey training everyday by myself, so they wouldn’t have to drive me every day. And well, that was really cool. But it was so cool that it became more interesting than the hockey playing itself. So I soon after switched to mountain bike racing, which at first for me was cross country racing. And only a couple years later, I got into downhill racing.

Carlton Reid 3:15
So it’s a good background to have, you know, if you’re if you’re if you can do both disciplines really well.

Claudio Caluori 3:20
Yeah, yeah, it helped in many ways.

Carlton Reid 3:22
And then I mean, you’re like a multiple Swiss champion. And so yeah, you’re pretty good at this, weren’t you? Yeah. Was that the Swiss champion in XC or

Carlton Reid 3:31
in downhill

Claudio Caluori 3:32
That was in downhill and dual slalom.

Carlton Reid 3:34
What, what, what kind of time period we’re talking here, Claudio? When, when were you at the top of your game?

Claudio Caluori 3:40
Well, that was somewhere between 1999 and 2005 or so. And then I I quit racing at 2008 when I started my own racing team.

Carlton Reid 3:52
And what happened there?

Claudio Caluori 3:54
Well, I ran the Scott Velosolutions World Cup team for 10 years, up until two years ago.

Carlton Reid 4:02
And then you went at the same time, or before this in fact, you’d already started the pump track building business — was that 2004?

Claudio Caluori 4:12
2004 is when we founded Velosolutions but back then, pump trucks were not really a topic around the world yet. So we were just basically a normal trail building company that did bike parks, like any other trail building company. So the whole pump track thing only came up in 2009.

Carlton Reid 4:34
How long does it take for you to build a pump track does this did obviously depend on on location, the size all these kind of things? Or is there an average where you can say well, an average one is takes this amount amount of time?

Claudio Caluori 4:49
Yeah, obviously it does, it does depend on the size. But we usually as as an average of 1000 square metres, it would take us around three weeks. Now, if we do projects like here in Israel, we try to accelerate it. And, you know, like, just get the maximum efficiency out of it. Also to make it more affordable. But we couldn’t hold that pace throughout the year because I would burn all of my people if we went at that pace all year long.

Carlton Reid 5:29
So when you say your people, how many people does it take, in those three weeks to

Carlton Reid 5:34
build a pump track?

Claudio Caluori 5:36
During the rough shaping of the track we are usually five and then during the asphalt phase we’re between 10 and 12, depending on how big the track is. And obviously, everything is very different in the current situation here in Israel.

Carlton Reid 5:57
Yes, we’ll get onto that in a moment. Now, you mentioned asphalt, because asphalt is your signature material, isn’t it? Whereas most people, well my experience of pump tracks has been they’re dirt. So what why did you go for asphalt? What, what does it have over ever? So why do you prefer asphalt basically?

Claudio Caluori 6:16
Yeah, so up until 2009, all the pump trucks around the world were built in dirt. And I also appreciate that, appreciate it that very much, I loved it. And I was riding pump tracks, and was one of my favourite things. But this is not really something you could do for cities. Because if they buy a pumptrack from you, they might as well just hire two people to keep it in shape, because it’s obviously constantly falling apart. So a friend of mine came up with the idea of mixing cement in it into the dirt. And I then said, well, if we do that, we might as well do it right and build it in concrete, which was the first step towards the asphalt then, which was already a pretty good success; from 2009 to 2012. And then in 2012, a city nearby from where I live, asked me, Hey, we want the pumptrack from you. But we have a suggestion. We give you a road construction company to help you. But we want you to try out asphalt. And so I went to the headquarters of that road construction company. And I’ve built a berm for them in their backyard. And they tried to lay asphalt on it, and it worked. And so we then built the first asphalt pump track in 2012. And it was such a big success that that basically started the whole hype for pump tracks around the world. And by now we’re building pump tracks in every country.

Carlton Reid 8:08
Now, Velosolutions is the name of your company, but then you’ve got pump tracks for peace. And the first one for that was in Lesotho?

Claudio Caluori 8:18
Yeah, so Pump for Peace was basically an idea that we had after seeing what our pump tracks do, what an effect they have around the world, no matter where you are, whether that’s in a rich country, or in a poor country, they always have the very same effect, where people of all ages of all backgrounds of all beliefs, whatever poor and rich, whatever skin colour, they get go, they get together on those pump tracks, and they have fun on it. And we thought, you know what, we really need to make this possible in places where they could not afford it. Or where no one would go because it’s too too sketchy because it’s some war zone or whatever. And that’s where the kids need it even more. So that that’s the idea behind Pump for Peace. And that is also the reason why we’re now in Israel.

Carlton Reid 9:23
Now again, we will we will get there in the end, don’t worry, and I’m gonna I’m gonna like I’m gonna I’m gonna I’m gonna pump you, you could say for for Israel right at the end. But go back to Lesotho because that’s the first one, so that was that was 157 metres long. Is that about the average what’s what’s the shortest and what’s the longest pumptrack that you’ve done?

Claudio Caluori 9:46
Well, the shortest is probably around 20 metres in someone’s backyard. The longest one is around 420 metres in China because that this guy specifically wanted the longest pump track in the world. And that’s probably until we talk to the next Chinese client, because this one will also want to have the longest in the world.

Carlton Reid 10:12
That’d be quite tiring. And that’s really like going out for a mountain bike ride on a pump track that long.

Claudio Caluori 10:16
Yes, actually, that’s why we don’t recommend really to build that long pump tracks because it is really tiring. And it’s gonna be super hard to make it around the full lap. And yeah, so Lesotho was actually our first peace project that was connected to a video project that they really wanted me to be part of. And I said, I really have no time I need to be, I need to build pump tracks in India and in Chile, and I am really booked, I cannot come for a video project in Lesotho unless you can combine it for us with our first ever Pump for Peace project. And there was actually a guy waiting just for that. So while we while I went down there for this video project, we built that first Pump for Peace pump track and yeah, that’s how we got it all going. And by now, we even had qualifiers for the Red Bull pump track World Championships on that track in Lesotho. And we actually have kids from Lesotho taking part of the world championships finals.

Carlton Reid 11:35
Yeah, I’ve I’ve watched that video. It’s fascinating and wonderful. And it’s I guess the thing that that comes across, are the kids smiling. So is that what keeps you fired up the fact, that wherever you build these pump tracks, wherever in the world you do these whether it’s a huge one in China, or a small one in somebody’s backyard, it’s just the kids. Smile. They just love these things.

Claudio Caluori 11:57
Yes, yes. And you can imagine, if you go to a country like Lesotho that effect, when you see hundreds of kids just storming the pumptrack, once you’ve laid down the last tonne of asphalt. I have to tell you a little story about how this whole idea with Pump for Peace came up. It was actually when we were building a track in Thailand, at the Cambodian border right in front of a little village, almost a little slum you could say. And it was for a very rich client. And I kind of felt bad to build the thing in front of the slum, not knowing if these kids living in this slum will even be able to use it, if they even have bikes. And so it was kind of mixed feelings there. You know, we were kind of happy to have this job in Thailand. But at the same time, we were not sure if this was just something super exclusive to the rich, or if the kids that live next door if they would have access to it. But the answer was given right in the moment where we poured out the last wheelbarrow of asphalt, because all of these kids from that slum ran to the pumptrack with what ever they had, you know, like if it was an old broken skateboard or a rusty bike, or even just a wheel to run around on the track with it. And they would not leave. They were just riding and riding and riding and riding. And I had tears in my eyes. And I knew we have to make this possible all around the world.

Carlton Reid 13:54
Let’s define pumptrack as you mentioned a skate park there. So what’s the difference between a concrete skatepark and an asphalt pump tracks? What is it, the flow? The fact that you use … Yeah, tell me what what’s the difference?

Claudio Caluori 14:10
A pump track usually not always, but usually is a track and not a park, which means people are going in the same direction. Obviously you can also ride it in the other direction. But it’s it’s a loop. It’s a track that loops and you can you can go around it as many times as you want and you don’t actually have to pedal your bike on it. And that’s why it’s called a pump track because you use the shapes of the pump track to accelerate so meaning all of the rollers and all of the steep turns. If you pump your bike correctly, you will accelerate with every roller and the better you get, the faster you get and you’ll be able to to jump some of those rollers, or even several of them, and combine the track, in several ways, because we decided in a way where you can jump out of a corner and land on another straight. So in that way, it’s similar to skate park because it allows you to, to be creative with your line choice. But when there’s many people using it at the same time, then people just stick to the same direction. And so it’s not like in a skate park where you have to wait for one guy to finish his ride, and then you can drop in on a pumptrack there’s actually many kids who can ride at the same time.

Carlton Reid 15:50
Mmm. And when you get bare plots of land, you get this blank canvas, does something about that blank canvas say, well, I think we should have, you know, a certain number of berms, a certain number of platforms here. Are they kind of like standardised? Or is every single one going to be be different? What what are the design parameters that you’re you’re considering when you’re when you’re putting in a pumptrack?

Claudio Caluori 16:21
Well, we are around that 270 tracks around the world so far, and I have not designed two of the same ones yet. So literally, every single contract is designed from scratch. And, obviously, we want it well, the biggest parameter of all the solutions contracts is that it must be suitable for both beginners and pros. So we want a beginner to have fun on it. And we want a pro athlete to have fun on it, meaning that all rollers must actually be rollable. And so there’s no gap jumps where a beginner would, would hurt himself if he doesn’t make it over the gap. Yet, the pro athlete must find enough challenges for him for the track to be interesting for him. And so over the last, what is it since 2009, so that’s 12 years, we have constantly developed the designs further that the turns have gone steeper and higher, the distances have gone bigger, the height of the rollers and the combinations. So we’re constantly pushing, pushing it a little further.

Carlton Reid 17:45
You’ve mentioned where you are you’re in you’re in Israel at the moment. Are you in northern Israel? Whereabouts in Israel are you?

Claudio Caluori 17:51
Well, right now I’m sitting in northern Israel. But the two tracks that we’re building are around Tel Aviv. So right where it happens.

Carlton Reid 18:04
Yes, so Israel is in the news at the moment. So how can — everybody’s gonna ask this — how can a pump track have any chance of breaking down the many, many long and intractable problems that that, well, not just Israel, but that part of the world has what kind of pump track do that, say, diplomatic missions and all sorts of different things that have been tried over the years, what can the pumptrack bring to the table?

Claudio Caluori 18:37
Our pump tracks

Claudio Caluori 18:38
are used by any by everyone, no matter age, no matter where he comes from, or comes from, no matter the skill level, no matter how poor or rich you are. And the people just mix on these pump tracks and have fun together. And my belief is that even here in the Middle East, these kids will learn. I mean, in reality, they already do live together. It’s not like it’s not like they’re completely separated, despite what’s going on with all the missiles and everything. But we are working together here with the Bartali Youth Movement foundation, which wants to educate the kids through sports. It wants to show the kids that there’s something else that than just the army. They can do different things in life than a career in the military. And yeah, this is this is why we’re here. This is what we believe in. And this is also why I’m not running home. If even if it gets a little loud here.

Carlton Reid 19:56
So you’re building these in they’re called Youth Villages Yes. So that these are multi faith basicall people for many, many communities, kids from many, many communities are in these these villages. So you’ve got the Jewish kids obviously you’ve got Druze kids you’ve got Christian Arabs, you’ve got Muslim Arabs and some of them so these are kind of like petri dishes these are communities of multi multi community things so is that gonna help with the pump tracks it’s just that there’s lots of different people from all sorts of different backgrounds basically mixing with bicycles or with whatever they using for to get around the pumptrack?

Claudio Caluori 20:44
Yeah, and that’s also why we call it a Pump for Peace project because if it was exclusive to just one one community then we would not call it a Pump for Peace track then then it would just be a normal client but since we had it confirmed that this will be accessible to anyone we put it under the organisation of of contracts and sorry Pump for peace, and the Bartali foundation will also provide bikes to the kids and they will have an educational programme on it and even come up with with a race series on those five or six tracks that it’s gonna be

Carlton Reid 21:37
Okay, if I wanted to have a pump track in my back garden, I had the suitable space How much would I be looking at that to get you to do and not a Pump for Peace one but just a standard pump track?

Claudio Caluori 21:54
Well, how about how big is your backyard?

Carlton Reid 22:00
Let’s just say it say I’ve got a tennis court I’ve got a tennis court that’s not being used — I haven’t by the way — but if I’ve got a tennis court in my backyard and and I just think well let’s let’s make that into a pump track instead.

Carlton Reid 22:13
How much would a tennis court size pump track cost?

Claudio Caluori 22:18
Is a tennis court is right around 2300 square metres, would that be or would it be more?

Carlton Reid 22:29
You really I’m not the right person to ask cos I don’t have a tennis court in my back yard. I’m just I’m just trying to get it like a ballpark figure here, literally.

Claudio Caluori 22:38
They will be obviously that depends on the country you’re in. You’re in the UK if I’m right. So I think the UK pricing is but I might be wrong, I would I would have to call my UK partner that would be around £150 per square metre. So now I already had a glass of wine. Maybe my calculating is is not that good anymore? So 100 square metres times 150 would be 15,000 so we’re talking about £45,000 but I might be completely off. No okay, so for 300 square metres that that sounds right

Carlton Reid 23:31
yeah. And why the difference in in country prices just the price of asphalt the price of labour what’s what

Carlton Reid 23:39
are the what are the things that you’re considering here?

Claudio Caluori 23:41
Yeah, obviously machinery, asphalt and crushed stone and whatever other materials you need local labour. Yeah, that those are very different factors in every country. And you know, like Switzerland, super expensive. UK is also super expensive, then America is also expensive. But then you go to countries like Lesotho or India where you can build things a lot cheaper.

Carlton Reid 24:17
So that might sound expensive. But when you compared to say a playground, I mean playgrounds cost an enormous amount of money when when a local authority or council put one in, they they they cost a lot of money. But these things are very cost effective, because they’re being used 24/7, almost, you know, there’s always gonna be somebody on them, isn’t it?

Claudio Caluori 24:40
Yeah, I mostly compare them with soccer fields because soccer fields are a lot more expensive than our pump tracks and they’re, in my opinion hardly ever used. But now now I’m going to have a lot of haters but you know, like when a soccer field stands there, then it’s mostly empty until the club the local club starts its training in the evening. And then there’s a bunch of people on it but a pumptrack literally, as you say they’re always packed with the kids unless they’re in school but then that’s the time where the way the athletes can get on it because the athletes cannot really use the pump trick when when a million kids are on them.

Carlton Reid 25:27
What are your next plans after you’ve after you’ve left Israel? What do you what do you what’s you’ve got coming up?

Claudio Caluori 25:35
Probably have to go commenting on some on some of the downhill World Cups. But we’ll see. We might have another one in Kathmandu, another Pump for Peace track coming up, then we have one in Armenia coming up. And yes, I’ll stay flexible. There’s actually this summer is going to be quite packed with a lot of video stories as well. And with those videos stories, I’m trying to raise money for Pump for Peace so we can go build more, more of these tracks.

Carlton Reid 26:14
Wonderful. Tell us where people can find out more information on Pump for Peace and Velosolutions, and maybe you on social media.

Unknown Speaker 26:27
Well on social media my it’s just my name Claudio Caluori both on Instagram and on Facebook. I’m not very, very active on Facebook and more active on Instagram, or YouTube as well. Same thing for for Velosolutions, it’s And for Pump for peace, it’s

Carlton Reid 26:50
Thanks to Claudio Caluori there and thanks to you for listening to the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. Show notes and more can be found on That’s it for this month, there will be more episodes in June … meanwhile get out there and ride.

May 9, 2021 / / Blog

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9th May 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 274: Curbing cars with Chris and Melissa Bruntlett


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Chris and Melissa Bruntlett

TOPICS: A 65-minute chat with Chris and Melissa Bruntlett, authors of “Curbing Traffic” from Island Press and published at the end of June.


Book promo codes

Island Press

Dutch Cycling Embassy



Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to episode 274 of the Spokesmen cycling Podcast. This show was uploaded on Sunday 9th May 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 Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at 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- And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:07
In 2019 Chris and Melissa Bruntlett moved from Vancouver — often billed as one of the world’s most attractive cities to live — to make a new life in the Netherlands. They’ve just bought a house in Delft and, as you’ll soon hear, it sounds like this famous urbanist couple will be staying in cycling paradise. I’m Carlton Reid and in this one-hour show I asked Chris and Melissa to describe the premise of their great new book, chapter by chapter. I was hounded to learn that I was one of the first to get a hold of a PDF of the book, which doesn’t come out until the end of next month so this is fantastic sneak preview for you, and listen on because there’s also a promo code where you can save a chunk of cash of Curbing Traffic, which will be published by Island Press on June 29th.

Carlton Reid 2:03
Chris, Melissa, fantastic. And thank you ever so much for coming back on on the show, because you have been on the spokesman podcast numerous times. Probably previous books, you have got this, this this, this new book, curbing traffic now that will be excellent for the people who listen to this. Because it’s not just about bikes, because your previous book we can talk about that was about bikes. And this is just the basic of getting rid of cars. Now I don’t know how we want to do this. Are you going to be because you’re in separate rooms in your in your in your fairytale house in Delft. But how are we because previously you’ve been like sharing a laptop, but you’re actually in different rooms. And you can come in here. So what do you want? What should I say, Melissa? Chris? Or you’re just gonna we’re gonna do this freeform? How do I do? How do you answer the questions?

Melissa Bruntlett 2:58
I think we’re both pretty good at figuring out who wants to say what or jovially interrupting each other? So if there’s any, I think I think if it’s a specific question for one of us, that probably you know, if you want to direct it, that makes sense. But yeah, I don’t think we’ll leave you with any too much dead air. Right, Chris?

Chris Bruntlett 3:21
No, exactly. And I think usually one of us will start answering a question and the other one will finish it. So whoever gets in first gets the lead. And we usually both are on the same wavelength, even if we’re not in the same room. So I don’t have any concerns.

Carlton Reid 3:37
Let’s in that case, let’s kick off with a question that links to that. And just how do you physically write books together as a married couple, and be just as somebody writing one sentence, and then somebody completes the other one? What is your writing method as a couple?

Melissa Bruntlett 3:56
That’s actually an excellent question that we get a lot. Because a lot of people will say it’s impossible to work with your partner, let alone write a book with them. I think for Chris and I, with the first book, we took a very pragmatic approach, we because we had been writing blogs for so long, individually, we approached each chapter as for individual blogs, and we each selected which section of that we were going to focus on, and then basically married them together. And both reading over making sure that the styles flow because I obviously will write a little bit differently than Chris does. But for this book, we sort of approached it because each contain each chapter contains a story of part of our experience in the first two years living in Delft. We basically took ownership of each of those stories. And so if it was something that I experienced more prevalently than Chris, for example, with the feminist city chapter, then I would leave the writing of that chapter or for Chris, the experience of the sound difference in the sound quality and delve has had a much stronger impact on him. And not that it hasn’t on me as well. So that was one that he took ownership of. And then yeah, at the end of the day, we we go through the chapters, at our little pieces here and there to make it flow to make sure that it has the emotion along with the hard facts with with that and with the data. And overall come up with what what we’re always quite proud of, I think.

Chris Bruntlett 5:30
Yeah, I think you’ve, you’ve said it, well, most of you bring the emotion and a lot of cases and I bring the the wanke the policy focus. And so yeah, and so we not only do we complement each other, well, we bring each other’s writing back to the middle, I think. So Melissa will write a segment and I’ll go in and kind of polish it up. And vice versa, I’ll write something and she’ll dewonkify it, you know, make it less technical and more approachable. So it’s, it’s kind of divide, as Melissa said, dividing the chapter up into pieces, each taking a piece, but then going back and rewriting each other sentences and putting your ego aside and just trusting each other to kind of make make the pros better. And eventually, you know, the whole the finished book has probably been read over and revise the dozen times. But we’re finally reached a point where we’re ready to let it go with and that it’s happy. It’s suitable for a while not just an urbanism audience but a mainstream mainstream audience. We’re always writing for the the casual reader if you will.

Carlton Reid 6:37
So let’s let’s get into into the book a little bit more. So it’s it’s Curbing Traffic. And it’s another Island Press book. So that’s that’s the disclaimer here that that’s also my publisher, who did buy my couple of books and you’ve now got a couple of books with them. Quickly, when is it out? If I got like an advance copy? Or is it physically going to be out?

Chris Bruntlett 7:01
Yeah, the official release date is June 29. So it’s still a couple months from when we’re speaking but the the pre orders should start shipping late May early June because the the publication date natural physical manufacturing date is about a month before the release date. But you have most definitely have a early review copy Carlton, one of the first people to see it in its final form.

Carlton Reid 7:26
In which case, I’m very honoured. Thank you very much. And ite’s an excellent, excellent book and it’s it’s just packed and packed and packed with both the emotional part and the statistical but the the wonky the kind of the transport professional part, when you both transport professional anyway, but that it’s just full of meat is what I’m trying to say. So it has been a fantastic reading. I’ve really, really enjoyed it. And one of my questions is gonna be before actually physically read the book was going to be and we’ll get into your biographical details and when you moved to the Netherlands and a second, but it was gonna be you know, is this a stage of your life that you’re going through? And eventually you’ll go back to Canada. And then I read that the last few paragraphs in the book and the photograph of you on the stoop on the on your outside of your your wonderful 130 year old canalside house. And when you’ve bought a house there, and you’re pretty much saying you’re living here for the rest of your lives, that’s your fairy tale. So would that be you you put that in the book? Had you thought about that? Or do you did you talked about that before? putting that in the book? Or was it something that the book has crystallised for you?

Melissa Bruntlett 8:43
I think from the moment we made the decision to move to the Netherlands, I think we both approached it as this could possibly be a very permanent move for us. As we say in the introduction, you know, we we reached sort of a moment in Vancouver where we absolutely loved the city. We love living in British Columbia and being surrounded by all the natural beauty and the city itself is such a wonderful place to live and to raise kids. But we really needed to downsize, we’d reached I guess, that proverbial point in your lives when you’re at your late 30s, early 40s. And you want to settle down a little. And we found ourselves prior to making the decision to move to the Netherlands, struggling to find a city that we could enjoy the quality of life that we did in Vancouver. Being car free, in terms of our living circumstance, and being able to walk in cycle and enjoy the city without having, you know, to rely on cars to get us around. It was really hard to find a place that could mimic that in and around where we were living in Vancouver or even returning back to Ontario in more central Eastern Canada where our parents and siblings live and so we knowing we were coming to a country where we were going to be able to enjoy a similar quality of life in terms of how we moved, we sort of knew that this is likely going to be a rather permanent move for us. And yes, that was solidified a, you know, when we decided to buy a house here and really set some roots down. But I think even before we got here, we knew that this could end very well might be a permanent stay for us.

Chris Bruntlett 10:29
Well, the very last chapter of the book is about the idea of ageing in place and building Age Friendly cities. And I think that the very end of the writing process helped us understand that we wanted to live in a city that allowed us to age in place that didn’t force us as our, perhaps our parents and other relatives, to either become reliant on other people for our transportation, or move elsewhere in the city so that we’re more conveniently located to the services that we need. We knew we had everything we needed in Delft within a 10 minute walk. And as Melissa said, just purchasing this home on a canal, the five minute walk from the city centres is crystallised everything we’ve been thinking about. And we really see ourselves getting old and living forever in this house, because it’s perfectly located perfect size. And we don’t see ourselves in the future. You know, having to be necessarily moving to as if we’re looking for proximity, mobility, or other compromise to make other compromises in terms of the location. Delft is a city where people from young to old can can exist quite comfortably.

Carlton Reid 11:53
The book is a love story, then it absolutely you as a couple, of course, and then just you falling in love with Delft that that’s absolutely there, of course, and getting rid of cars, which is a lovely concept. But the book is about getting rid of cars, but might you just the book actually be you should move to that Delft if you want to live the lifestyle that you’re describing in Delft, this lovely story, shouldn’t you just move to Delft?

Chris Bruntlett 12:21
I wouldn’t say that. No, I mean, not everyone has the privilege, the ability, the means the and in terms of physical space, it’s impossible to everybody to move to the Netherlands. And it’s certainly not what we’re advocating, we’re quite open in the book that we do have this who have had this privilege to move here. But there’s little do we know when we decided to move to Delft that it was really kind of this this place in the 1970s, that tried a lot of different policies, from the corner to the traffic circulation plan, to the low car city centre. These are policies that can be implemented virtually at anywhere, and they are starting to be implemented in places of the world like Barcelona and Auckland. So our intention was not to say, you know, everybody come here to experience this quality of life, it’s to build this quality of life into your own city simply by treating cars as guests, rather than as we have in the last 40 to 50 years treating them as the guest of honour in our urban fabric.

Melissa Bruntlett 13:26
Yeah, I think, I think what’s I think what I really wanted, and what Chris and I think both really wanted to sort of challenge is that it shouldn’t involve or shouldn’t be a prerequisite that you have this privilege to be able to move to a city like this, which it shouldn’t be that you have to leave where you are to experience a higher quality of life. And so you know, both of us in our day jobs, were so focused on exporting a lot of this knowledge to international cities to really help everywhere start to realise the benefits and also start working towards creating these more human focus cities. So we understand that, you know, for example, the suburb of Ontario and Kitchener Waterloo that we grew up in, is never going to be exactly emulating Delft, for example. But there are a lot of things that can be done to help lower car usage, provide people with other options, connect them with their community in a better way, that, you know, they don’t have to move across the Atlantic to a Dutch city to be able to enjoy a better quality of life. These ideas should and can and are being applied in order to make sure that for those that don’t have the ability to pack up their family and move to another country, another city, that their city can start to enjoy some of these same benefits that we’ve come to enjoy having lived here.

Carlton Reid 14:50
Hmm. Melissa, you mentioned your careers there. So that’s a good time to introduce the fact that you’re working for Mobycon. And then Chris, you’re working for the Dutch Cycling Embassy. So, Melissa first, tell me what Mobycon is. And you kind of briefly touched upon it there. But just tell us again. And then Chris, you follow that up by telling us a bit more about the Dutch Cycling Embassy?

Melissa Bruntlett 15:15
Yeah, sure. So Mobycon is a Dutch North American consultancy, that focuses on sustainable mobility. So here in the Netherlands, there’s a lot of focus on all aspects, whether that’s walking placemaking cycling, or public transport, how do they move to more sustainable choices, obviously, there is a lot of sustainable sustainable mobility here in the Netherlands. But that doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement. But for my part, I work with our international team in exporting a lot of that knowledge largely focused around cycling, but also placemaking. And walking, both elsewhere in Europe, so across the continent, but we’ve also done some work in the UK. And then we have offices in Canada and the US where we are taking a lot of the ideas that Chris and I presented, for example, in the first book in building the cycling city, and applying them in context, through design through planning through policy in cities and towns throughout Canada in the US.

Chris Bruntlett 16:15
Yeah, so I find myself in the very strange position that I am a Canadian, advocating for the Netherlands as the world’s leading cycling nation. But the the, the fact of the matter is, as a Dutch Cycling Embassy, it’s a organisation that public private partnership that the national government here in the Netherlands started, basically to export the knowledge and expertise that exists here in this country, and it’s been built over the last 50 years or so. So, we have about 80 different organisations within our network. They are private consultants such as mobicom. They are bicycle manufacturers, like Gazelle. They are the various municipal governments, universities and bike parking manufacturers, all looking to work overseas and help cities and regions become more bicycle friendly. So we bring teams around the world to host workshops, webinars, training. And then inversely, we also do a lot of study tours and welcome groups from elsewhere in the world and take them for tours and classroom sessions to learn from the the amazing conditions here. And so yeah, as I said, I’m marketing and communication manager selling Dutch cycling as as this foreigners is international outside voice but I think it just speaks volumes to how normalised and mundane cycling has become here that that most people who live here don’t think it’s it’s special or recognise it as something that’s should be spread or or exported around the world.

Carlton Reid 17:52
In your book, you mentioned it on that point that you know, when you go you have been abroad. And then you come back you kind of hear the birdsong. You hear the quietude of Delft, of course, a lot of people have roughly the same thing. Even in the most busy, you know, urban cities with with COVID-19 Coronavirus, where people in cities heard that song again. So we kind of all had that that brief glimpse of what you’re getting on a daily basis. Do you think that COVID-19 might actually help urbanist people interested in getting rid of cars to actually get rid of cars?

Melissa Bruntlett 18:37
Right, think for Chris and I that’s certainly the hope. And we found ourselves in this interesting position. We were writing the book. So we had pitched it to Ireland press hadn’t had everything approved. And it started the initial writing process before the pandemic hit. And we actually had several moments that when we’re writing the first few chapters where we’re like, is this even going to be relevant anymore what we’re writing because everyone is experiencing exactly what we’re trying to promote. But I think and Chris would probably agree that I think the challenge now is to not return to the status quo, which we have seen happen in a few cities, as things start to open up again, that this return to car use, or for busier cities, it losing some of that quality that a lot of people experienced. And so we really hope that with that knowledge with that experience, plus what we’ve written in the book, it helps to really solidify why it’s really important because yeah, that that birdsong we have we remember Clarence Eckerson in New York, commenting us in the heart of Manhattan, Manhattan hearing birds. And you know, who wouldn’t want that on a much more regular basis in New York City to be able to hear the natural world around you and so yeah, I guess the challenge now is to record Notice how important that experience was and should be continued. But yeah, I I remain pessimistically optimistic. Maybe Chris feels a little bit differently. But yeah, I, I was amazing that that was all happening as we were writing this. And I really hope it helps to reinforce what we were saying.

Chris Bruntlett 20:20
Well, I think you know, historically much is made of the Netherlands, experiencing the OPEC oil crisis in the 1970s, in the six weeks where they suddenly had a gasoline shortage and the sale of bicycles doubled. It was kind of this lightbulb moment as a society when they realised they had to build a more resilient transport system and, and look at their streets a little bit differently, both in terms of the politicians, but also in terms of the general population. We’re seeing sparks of that light bulb moment now in cities around the world. We always joked beforehand that to make these changes, people would need to come to the Netherlands to experience them firsthand. But they really experienced them on their front porch and on their front doorstep. For albeit, you know, a short period of time, but suddenly, they were out on their street, sometimes playing tennis, interacting with their neighbours for the first time, breathing the air, smelling the ocean, if they lived by the sea, hearing the birds seeing what their city looked like with fewer cars. zooming around, and now as Moses hinted is, is capturing that momentum, supporting elected officials that are going to implement some of the puppet changes that have been made, whether it’s puppet bike infrastructure, or pop up dining terraces, but making sure that this moment turns into a movement for cities that are prioritise the people that live in them, rather than the vehicles, the motor vehicles that they drive.

Carlton Reid 21:51
Now, Island Press is, of course, a climate change specialist publisher. So it must have been a relatively easy pitch. I mean, it’s never an easy pitch ever, but it must have been relatively easy pitch to say to a climate change publisher, we want to write a book about getting rid of cars. Was that something that just went? Oh, yes, we absolutely need a book like that. How was that that publication? process? How did that go for you?

Chris Bruntlett 22:21
Actually, it was quite difficult to be honest, I don’t think we always package this as our personal story. That would include some of the anecdotes of us moving here. And I don’t think I’ve impressive really published a book like that before. I think they’re very kind of policy nonfiction. technical stuff. Exactly. Exactly. So we had some convincing to do to be honest, to get them on board and you know, ultimately, we didn’t know well, we didn’t want to write building the cycling city to we didn’t want to just you know tell the same story or or slightly different story. We wanted to make this project personal we wanted to make it emotive use our engaging the reader user help them to experience what we’ve experienced here bring them along for a journey that also includes some some technical facts and figures to backup our case. But yeah, it was a bit of a pitch to get them to come along for the ride Not to mention you know, we were promotion for this book is going to look a lot different than the first book with us both working day jobs and having relocated to Europe. There was not going to be any kind of multi week tour of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand as it was the first time around. So a lot has changed since since we wrote our first book and so we’re having to adapt and also bring Island press along for the ride but we hope their their faith in us will be rewarded again.

Carlton Reid 23:54
It’s tough to say that this is one of my favourites because it’s certainly my favourites Of course in in your book, it’s it’s wonderful. But I found especially cute, the the bits of Dutch that you put into the book, and I’m very pleased that you’ve put those bits of Dutch into the book because it really adds a lot of flavour. Yes, you’re learning the language, of course, but you’re also learning in a really cute part of the language, you know, these kind of, you know, aphorisms and and words and phrases that are just so wonderful. Now one of them I picked out was and of course you’re gonna be able to pronounce as much better than me. Uitwaaien is wind bath?

Melissa Bruntlett 24:35

Carlton Reid 24:36
So describe what a wind bath concept what a wind bath is and please correct my pronunciation.

Melissa Bruntlett 24:44
Yeah, so that would be uitwaaien. Which, funnily enough, Chris and I seem to be experiencing everyday. It’s been a very windy April and May or, you know, year here in the Netherlands. But essentially, that’s the content of going out and getting fresh air or frisse neus. You know, having the wind in your face sort of washing away any of the stresses of the day or the week or the month. And, you know, it’s, you know, in Canada, we would talk about going out to get a breath of fresh air. Similarly, but in this case, you have quite heavy winds in your face. And it’s, it’s a, it’s, it’s an experience to have the first few times, but I understand why that now having lived here for as long as we have, why it’s important for people because it’s just this like removal of Yeah, just the stress that most of us experience, you know, being whether you will have a family or you’re working full time or however you might experience stress. It’s just a way to wash that all the way in what is a very prevalent force of nature here in the country. And I think in the book and I like Chris. Yes, exactly. No hills, lots of wind.

Chris Bruntlett 26:01
Yeah, I just realised, though, that you use the term frisse neus without actually translating it. So we Oh, yeah. brilliant, brilliant, turn a phrase from the Dutch, which literally means “fresh nose.” So when they say that they’re going to get fresh air, it’s actually kind of, they’re going to get a fresh nose. But yeah, I mean, it just comes back to this connection with nature that the Dutch have in their cities because they haven’t paved over every square inch of it. So by having fewer room for cars, fewer lanes, more roundabouts that are vegetated, they’ve got room for more trees, more grass more. And then the compact cities allow for a greater proximity to the surrounding polders and forests and nature. But you’re never very far from greenery or water. And this acts as a therapeutic sensation that improves people’s mental health and overall well being. And again, I think it’s something that we we often neglect when we talk about city living, we assume that it has to be stressful and, and, and bleak, and Asheville everywhere when we can, if we simply reallocate the space on our cities create greenery that’s inter woven with the the streets and intersections and the public spaces.

Carlton Reid 27:21
I’m gonna pick out another phrase and you can give me the Dutch I’ll give you just the English because I absolutely guarantee I’ll murder the Dutch but the phrase is “we’re not the same, but we’re worth the same.” So what’s the what if you can remember what’s that in Dutch? And then just describe roughly was talking about? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 27:38
I don’t, don’t remember the exact that’s turn of phrase because it’s slightly different. But this is in the, in the context of a really egalitarian society. So we make this point that the streets are accessible to everybody, whether they have a, you know, a 50,000 Euro Mercedes Benz or a 50 Euro bicycle, and it’s really ingrained in the culture here that there’s a real sense of equity. And so there’s not this class spaced, reinforced class reinforced system that permeates all levels of society, not the least of which are there their streets and cycle tracks and public spaces. So welcome coming

Carlton Reid 28:27
So did you find the phrase Melissa?

Melissa Bruntlett 28:28
I’m now I’m googling it, because now I can’t remember it. I’m even searching in the manuscripts. And of course, it’s not finding it for me. And I know the phrase, yeah, it’s this. But yeah, forget that, carry on.

Carlton Reid 28:39
No, that was very cruel of me to throw not just one word, but like a whole phrase. But where I guess where I was coming at it from and the reason why I picked it that was so that’s, that’s a cultural norm in the Netherlands. So my question is, you know, to curb traffic to get rid of motorcars, yeah. You need certain things you need cultural changes, not just physical, you know, concrete and curbs and, and Lane width, all those colour changes, you need a cultural switch as well. So, is that not the most difficult thing to actually fix? You can fix engineering, but can you really fix how people and nation a group actually think about mobility, about priority on the streets? And isn’t just not the fact that well, the Netherlands have got this dialled in, and you ain’t gonna be able to translate that fully anywhere else. Yeah,

Melissa Bruntlett 29:48
I would. I would say that it’s absolutely possible. And I think one of the benefits I think we have of having lived in a city like Vancouver, is that we watched as things changed. So as that infrastructure started to be built, and more and more people started to experience getting around the city more on bicycle on foot or, or a combination thereof with public transport, we saw a cultural shift. And it’s but the thing is, it’s not going to be fast. And this is one thing that Chris and I say all the time is we’re talking about change, cultural change, overgenerous a generation, which, for a lot of us working in mobility and an urban ism can be quite frustrating, because we can see we know what the benefits are, we’ve seen it in action and in various places, but it’s to not see it immediately, or have that immediate gratification and in our own cities can be very challenging. But I see it as possible. And, you know, as you were speaking, Carlton, it made me think of when we were interviewing one of our friends in the US who was talking about women in cycling, and how, you know, oftentimes when they build new cycle tracks, in cities, if if they don’t see anyone using it, or they only see it used once in a while, then it’s deemed a failure. But for her, she says that, you know, if you see one woman cycling on that cycle track with a child, that is a success, that’s proof that this is something people want, and it’s just going to take time to build. And, you know, we saw that in Vancouver, where, when we first moved there, cycling was definitely something nice, something for the fit and the brave. And then over the course of the 11 years that we lived there, we saw more and more families cycling more and more people of various ages and abilities and races cycling. So I think it’s absolutely possible. And I don’t think you necessarily have to have that pragmatic culture that we have. We see people have here in the Netherlands, it can be done. It takes patience, unfortunately. But I think it’s absolutely possible. And AI just takes showing people what is what is possible when we start building safer streets with space for fewer cars and more space for public life.

Chris Bruntlett 32:04
It’s sorry, so I found the expression and I’m going to try and pronounce it. It’s so it’s “niet gelijk, maar wel
gelijkwaardig” we’re not the same, but we’re worth the same. And it I think you framed it one way, Carlton, is it does there need to be a cultural change to facilitate a structural change, but maybe we can we can look at it the other way and and looking here in the Netherlands, were the structural changes that were made to the streets in the 1970s. Did they influence the cultural changes that we’re seeing today, and this is what we explore in the chapter about the trusting city is how more people on foot and bicycle making eye contact, having to collaborate with one another to negotiate intersections and share space, how that builds, and we’re a trusting society, of people that are accepting of other people’s differences and cultures. And it’s really interesting to think how our transport systems and our mobility systems may make our society more egalitarian. Rather than sitting back and saying, well, only eat out there in societies could undergo these changes the chicken and egg and hopefully we can, we can pick a place to start and rather than pointing at external factors as reasons why we can’t integrate these, these important measures.

Carlton Reid 33:30
Lots that’s very good to hear. If that’s the case, so we can change. I’d like to now cut to an ad break. But after the ad, I would like to go through your book chapter by chapter because you mentioned the trusting city there. And there are there are 10 chapters and the conclusions. I want you to describe each chapter we need to give like a short precis of each chapter, I’m going to give one to Melissa and wanted to create as your forewarning. That’s why I’m going to ask him for next. But right now let’s go to an ad break with David.

David Bernstein 33:59
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Carlton Reid 35:24
Thanks, David. And we are back with Chris and Melissa Bruntlett. And they’re in their fairytale house in in the in the fairytale city of Delft in the Netherlands. And they’ve been telling us why they moved there, how much they’re loving it. And before we get on to going through and getting a precis of each each chapter in the book, I want to talk about their kids. Because that’s absolutely a key component. We’re not doing any privacy issues here because Chris and Melissa your kids are mentioned throughout the book and their experiences are mentioned throughout the book, which which is which is very, very inspiring and heartening, but let’s just talk about Coralie and Etienne now, I’m assuming that the ages of 12 and 10 so Coralie 12, Etienne 10. That was when you moved in 2019, so they’re now older?

Melissa Bruntlett 36:15
Yeah. Coralie is now 14 and a half and Etienne is 12. And yeah, we’ve got well, Coralie started right in high school, we’ve got another child about to join them in high school as well. So yeah, it’s it, they’re doing well, as far as, as far as they tell us anyways, you know, having a teenager and a preteen, they certainly start to keep a few things from their parents now and then. But yeah, it’s been an interesting experience for them. I won’t lie and say that it was rosy from the start, we had, you know, a bit of melancholy when we first moved here, they certainly miss their peers that they had built relationships with back in Vancouver. But we did actually do a check in we were on holiday last week, because we’re currently on there, may vacation for two weeks, and we went away and asked, you know, it’s been two years, how are you feeling? Do you still hate us? Did we make the worst decision of our life is taking you guys here? And they both said emphatically that they’re happy that we’re here. They of course, still miss their friends. But they, they’ve come to appreciate living here, which is good. We’ll see if that continues. You know, we’ve still got a few more years before they’re adults and fully appreciate where we’re at in life.

Melissa Bruntlett 37:31

Melissa Bruntlett 37:33
yeah, I think I think they’re doing okay, as much as they tell us anyways.

Chris Bruntlett 37:37
Yeah, I think Melissa and I both did similar moves as children of around 10 years age. I’ve actually moved from the UK to Canada, she moved from Eastern Canada, French Canada to Ontario. So we’re kind of familiar with the circumstances. And we were quite careful about giving them the time and space they needed to adjust and integrate. They went straight into a Dutch language school in the middle of the school year in February, and which couldn’t have been easy but they really I think surprised us with how resilient they were how quickly they made friends how quickly they learned the city. And of course as we write in the first chapter, the the traffic concentrates and the the cycle tracks really just gave them this freedom that we anticipated, but never really understood how quickly or how amazing it would be that to give them suddenly this this autonomy and independence of getting around a to be without mom and dad at your side.

Carlton Reid 38:43
Because you you quote Lenore Skenazy in the book, and she’s famous for the free range kids, you know, no helicopter, parenting approach, and you’ve basically taken that concept. And you’ve you’ve, I’d like to say ran with it, but you’ve cycled with it, you’ve given your kids the freedom the kind of freedom that kids in the US kids in the in Canada, kids in the UK do not have.

Chris Bruntlett 39:08
We actually flirted with that freedom in Vancouver, you know, we would, within reason allow them to walk to the corner store or to their school or to the community centre. But the problem was the built environment would not support that. That freedom and so we found ourselves worrying about faded crosswalks that drivers would ignore about footpaths that would disappear every time they cross the side street about six lanes of traffic that was cutting through our neighbourhood that they would have to cross and that made giving them that freedom and independence a very difficult choice. And, and more often than not, we found ourselves supervising them for short trips, when we really wanted them to let them spread their wings and, and get around independently. So we’re I think, are quite relieved that we now live in a place a built environment that supports That freedom and it speaks volumes to how the prevalence of car traffic really has robbed children of their freedom, and forced them to be constantly under supervision and rely on their parents for their transportation needs.

Carlton Reid 40:17
So that was chapter one in effect in your book. So the child friendly city is chapter number one after the introduction, of course. So if I can ask you, in turn to describe the other chapters now, I’ll mention which chapter obviously will go chronologically. If you could just take it in turn to tell us what that chapter is about, you’d have to like, give the whole game away. But just you know, briefly, what that that that chapters about so chapter number two is the connected city what’s what’s, what’s the thing going on there? And I’m gonna, I’m gonna give this to Chris.

Chris Bruntlett 40:49
Yeah. So I mean, unbeknownst to us when we moved to Delft, this was a city where the runner was invented the living Street, this concept of reclaiming the space outside your front door for play social activity, gathering and interaction with your neighbours. And for a long time, we’ve been aware of the Donald Appleyard and his really groundbreaking research in the 1970s, about how the volume and speed of traffic outside your front door really limits your connections on your street, your friends, acquaintances with your neighbours and the time you spend on your street and the sense of ownership that you spend on your street. So we really want to explore how prioritising the speed and volume of cars, outside our front door impacts our social relationships with our friends and neighbours. And we interject with some personal experiences, unexpected encounters with people living on our street to that kind of reinforces this research, and makes the case that that perhaps we should be looking at, well, what they’re implementing in London is low traffic neighbourhoods. But this idea of not banning cars altogether, but treating them as guests on, particularly on our residential streets.

Carlton Reid 42:10
Okay, Melissa, chapter three, the trusting city.

Melissa Bruntlett 42:14
Yeah, this this chapter, I think it’s it’s really about it takes the concepts of the first or the last chapter of the connected city and extrapolate that to the broader society. So the way in which people move around their city, if it’s a much more human scale way of living around whether that’s walking, cycling, or some other form of human mobility, it forces you to start connecting with the people you’re moving around the city with, and really creates a social trust. Because here, especially here in the Netherlands, traffic lights are often removed, there’s no traffic signage, and so you’re forced to interact with the people that you’re moving around the city with. And that does include cars, you know, having an what the design of the street really forces people to make eye contact to acknowledge each other. And that leads to a much more interactive experience, but also much more trusting. You know, if you look at someone if you’re forced to make eye contact, that how they react to you that they acknowledge you being in that space will ultimately affect how you navigate around each other in the space in which you’re moving. We interviewed Marco te Brömmelstroet for that, for this chapter, who talks a lot about how speed really impacts our ability to be able to approach our society and the way and our interactions in the city in a much more calm and trusting way. And so when we’re moving in fast cars, whenever things racing bias, we become very insular, it’s about our trip and our journey and anything that gets in the way becomes a very negative, whereas when you start to slow the way we move down, you’re forced to interact with people you’re forced to suddenly acknowledge the existence of the people around you and it just creates much more trusting environment and we obviously get much more into what that means in terms of the city itself and and society at a larger scale because of these forced moments of interaction with our fellow human beings.

Carlton Reid 44:22
And I should just say that Marco there is @CyclingProfessor (@fietsprofessor) so people on Twitter who follow Chris and Melissa on Twitter, I’m sure they also follow Marco the cycling professor. Chris, the feminist city, Chapter Four.

Chris Bruntlett 44:37
I think I’m gonna defer to Melissa because this is a her, er …

Carlton Reid 44:42
No, I constructed the way we started the child friendly city. I knew I actually can’t get Chris to do chapter four. So no, no, no, no, you can’t. You’ve got to tell us about it, Chris.

Chris Bruntlett 44:54
Okay, sure. Yeah, no, I think the way that we have built our Our urban fabric or our cities, our transportation networks up to this point has been very male centric, and men tend to disproportionately drive motor vehicles, they take longer distance, single purpose trips. And inversely, that leaves women out of the equation and doesn’t take their travel patterns in into consideration, which are often more sustainable foot bicycle or public transport. They’re usually shorter distance trips, they’re usually Multi Purpose trips, because they are still doing predominantly that the care work. And so we delve into this idea of care trips, and which are again, disproportionately made by women, and how we can build transportation networks that facilitate those care trips. And as you can imagine, it comes down to fine grain cycling, that works, that comes down to great walking conditions, it comes down to giving children the freedom so that their their moms don’t have to necessarily take them pick them up to drop them off at school. So a city that doesn’t just accommodate the the single purpose one way commute for a predominantly male driver. And that’s largely historically been done, because the people in the decision making chambers are affluent men, that, that we’ve, we can look at building more equity in terms of gender equity, by simply building more walking and cycling and better, faster, more frequent public transportation to support those trips that they’re already making and make their lives a lot easier.

Carlton Reid 46:46
Okay, nice summary, chapter five, Melissa, that will be the hearing city. And I guess we’re gonna have some birdsong here?

Melissa Bruntlett 46:53
Yes. Well, I mean, I think we’ve talked a lot about the benefit of you know, when we remove excessive numbers of cars in our city, and we really reduce the sounds that they contribute to in the city, you start to hear a lot more of the natural world. But one of the things that I think is really important in this chapter is not just the ability to hear the beautiful bird songs, but also the impact that has on us as individuals on our mental state and our overall stress by reducing the amount of ambient noise that we experience. And I think it’s actually funny because I was just watching, pretended to city on Netflix with Fran Lebowitz. And she refers to the the noise of New York City. And that’s just a part of it, you know, we don’t want to escape the noise. This is our noise. But I think there’s not that recognition that goes along with that of the stress of that noise creates, in terms of just us as individuals, if you’re constantly in this hyper noisy environment, you’re always on alert, you’re always at attention, you’re always in that fight or flight kind of mode. And so what this chapter, what I love that it delves into is that when we create these calmer ambient environments with lower decibels of noise, what that means for the citizens in general, not just the ability to hear the nature or hear the bricks, as people cycled by or hear people enjoying a beer on a patio, but overall in you know, really increasing that enjoyment of the city itself, and a sense of calm for us as individuals. And so I love that, you know, birdsong is so much a part of that or just the natural sounds of of the city. But you know, what that means to us as individuals, I think is an important conversation and emerging conversation, and we delve into that in this chapter.

Carlton Reid 48:47
Okay, Chris, you’re up next, because you are going to have to talk about the therapeutic city.

Chris Bruntlett 48:52
Yeah, so building on this idea of calming environments, we do a bit of a dive with our friend Robin Mazumder, who recently completed his PhD on this exact topic, mental health in the urban environment. And look at the way that car dominated environments really diminish minister mental health as a source of stress as a source of noise. And really well as we were talking about earlier, reduce the amount of green space we have access to, and really have these subtle ways that they are testing us as human beings, for lack of a better way to put it. And this was a chapter we wrote, just after lockdown started, where again, I think everyone in the world suddenly gained a newfound appreciation for the ability to just get outside, move their body, have some kind of a social distance, social interaction make, talk to people from a distance. And this was a key way that they kept their sanity, if you will, under some very stressful conditions, and otherwise they were locked down in their home. So I think we, like everyone gained a newfound appreciation for especially in Delft here, being able to get outside for a bike ride or walk into the city centre, a meandering, pedal through the polders all of them have a means to unwind. And de stress from, you know, we were still working jobs, we were still trying to make ends meet internally, but those little breaks that we have, it is possible to build them into our cities, to give people that opportunity to, to de stress and re energise and, well, it’s a form of therapy, as we said, The this, this wind bath or variety of cultures have their own versions of it. But at the end of the day, it’s about a means of improving your mental health.

Carlton Reid 51:09
This next chapter, chapter seven is the world’s shortest chapter, the world’s most obvious chapter, because it’s the accessible city.

Melissa Bruntlett 51:18
Excellent point. But I think, you know, one of the things with this chapter, there’s two parts of this, in that being mostly able bodied, most of the time, I had a brief stint recently with a broken leg that reduced my ability to move around. But we really felt compelled to speak to somebody who has experienced a Dutch city as someone with limited mobility. So we interviewed a wonderful woman named Maya [Maya van der Does-Levi], who shared her story of living with multiple multiple sclerosis, and getting around in the Netherlands. And, you know, in talking to her, there are things that we didn’t realise, including the fact that, you know, we enjoy traffic, calm streets, and we enjoy walking around on the street once in a while. And it’s a bit of, for us liberation, and not having grown up in North America where there’s no way you would remove walking in the middle of the street in the middle of the day. But she points out that that actually enables her to be more independently mobile. And that’s something we also delve into more with Dr. Bridget, for debt from New Zealand who, who really talks about this idea of when we’re thinking about people with disabilities, and how they move through the city, there’s so much focus on making sure that we have roads in order to allow them to be able to transport more freely in cars or in public transport, when in fact, that is the adverse of what a lot of these individuals want. They don’t want to be dependent on somebody to move around, they want to be independent, for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is to have ownership of your own mobility is to have a sense of freedom and joy in terms of how you get around. And so this chapter, I totally agree, it could be simple and say yes, make your cities accessible, period, end of story. But understanding why it’s so important. And you know, how cars do limit how people with various disabilities, whether that’s mobility disabilities, or sight, hearing any of these things, by reducing the ability or the possibility of conflict with motor vehicles and enabling more independent mobility, we are inherently telling these people you are not other, you are not separate from society, you are a part of it. And we want to facilitate you owning your ability to be a part of society.

Carlton Reid 53:39
And as a guidedog puppy trainer, I am absolutely anti car on that particular aspect, because so many cars are parked on sidewalks on pavements. And it’s only when you really you get a guide dog and you have to walk around that you really realise that this is so selfish, so entire door. And so blocking for anybody that doesn’t have, you know, feet to walk and an eyes to see because it’s make cities incredibly difficult to navigate. If you’ve got these big four wheel vehicles parked from the infrastructure that’s actually meant for pedestrians, which I’m guessing you don’t get that much of in the Netherlands, they kind of design that out. We do get that

Melissa Bruntlett 54:25
I you know, we have our own set of challenges. I think your historic cities have had mind boggling mind bogglingly narrow sidewalks and footpaths. And so yeah, that’s one of the things that my actually says is I don’t I never use the footpath. It’s too hard for me. There’s either assign a sandwich boards on it or they’re too narrow or they’re old and a bit crumbly. And so the road infrastructure is is how she gets around. She uses the cycletrack she uses the traffic calm streets, and not just for getting around Delft, but forgetting even further outside of the city. So, yeah, hearing her story and and hearing how motor vehicles through the rest of the chapter are really helping to not to enable these people but really hinder their mobility is is an important topic that anyone working in mobility and urban design needs to hear or read, I guess, in this case, in terms of changing their thinking.

Chris Bruntlett 55:23
And I unfortunately, I think it has become a bit of a counterpoint when you start talking about restricting car traffic, removing car parking, and that you’ve seen it, especially with the low traffic neighbourhoods. In London, the first thing people say is what about the disabled is if you are restricting the mobility of everyone with a disability that they rely solely on a private automobile to get from A to B, when the statistics that you pulled out prove actually the exact opposite, I think 60% of the people with physical disability in the UK do not have access to their own motor vehicle. But the physical disability has been used as this as an excuse to build in more car dependence, unfortunately, when the facts and figures Don’t, don’t prove that out, and it’s usually able bodied people that are using the disabled as a bit of a trope, unfortunately, to argue that cities should not limit their automobility

Carlton Reid 56:29
if we’re going to build back better. And your thesis is that what to do that you curb cars, you’re going to get a richer city. So chapter eight is the prosperous cities how we’re going to get more prosperous cities, Chris?

Chris Bruntlett 56:43
Yeah, this was a, again, a chapter that we had proposed before refer to the pandemic. But for us, it really came down to access to opportunity, I think, coming from Canada, and also, you know, spending a lot of time in the United States, we saw how codependency was really robbing people of their access to opportunity, or their society required the the expense of a private automobile, which is now 20 or $12,000 per year when you take all expenses into consideration. And that’s really inequitable and unfair burden to expect for people, especially low income, and so but that’s only because the options, the alternatives, the more economic alternatives do not exist. And so we look at the kind of public transportation system that exists here in the Netherlands, in combination with the Cycling Network, how the two really reinforce each other, support each other to provide a broader cross section of the population with access to affordable housing, to steady employment, to education, to healthcare, to all of their daily needs, without necessarily the the financial burden of their own private automobile. And so we can speak to this ourselves, okay, where, you know, not in a low income bracket, but without the expense of a car, we suddenly have more money to spend in our community on small businesses. And, and I think, yeah, yeah, exactly. And we are actually, you know, we’re in this very privileged position, actually to walk work four days per week instead of the traditional five day workweek, which is something more Dutch companies are doing, but we probably couldn’t do without the, if we were paying the monthly car payments and parking in gasoline and

Carlton Reid 58:43
Okay, Melissa, chapter nine, the resilient city,

Melissa Bruntlett 58:46
what does it mean to create a resilient city, and we interviewed Dr. Judith Yang for the herb Wang sorry for this chapter. And she really helped to change our thinking a little bit, because when we look at a resilient city, we think, Okay, this is a city that can sustain itself long term despite potential natural disturbances or unnatural or manmade disturbances. But what she argues in this chapter, and what helps to open our eyes a little bit is that there’s two ways for a city to be resilient. One is that you’ve designed it in a way that even if you have impact be that something as small as construction or something much larger, like a natural disaster, the city can easily returned back to you at status quo. But one of the things that we need to look at really when we’re talking about resiliency is can we adapt? Can we change? And can we flip that regime to be stable or resilient in a different way? So that’s the way we sort of reflect that is looking back at this OPEC oil crisis, and how here in the Netherlands, it wasn’t a matter of when that oil reserve became available. Again, they just went back to the status quo, but rather found A different way of thinking flipped the way that they were designing their cities the way that they were managing them to a different stability regime to allow for much more human centred travel. And so it presents these opportunities and really reflects on the idea that As humans, we evolve, we adapt, our cities evolve and adapt with us. And so resiliency is not about making sure that your city can stay the same, but that you can adapt in a way that leads to arguably a higher quality of life and a better city overall, for its citizens

Carlton Reid 1:00:35
Tell me more about the ageing city.

Chris Bruntlett 1:00:37
Yeah, I think, as I hinted at earlier, we’ve watched our parents and our grandparents get old in fairly car dependent places. And in some instances, they’ve really been trapped in their houses, for lack of a better way to put it completely dependent on when there, there is a period of our lives inevitably when we cannot drive safely. The American automobile says it’s on average 10 years for a US senior citizen where they outlive their ability to drive safely. And in that 10 year period, we’re left with very few options, we’re either relying on a public transportation system that that’s infrequent and unreliable, or we’re forced to rely on our children, our adult children or neighbours for transportation, or we are trapped in our homes in in our neighbourhoods or we are institutionalised in a care home. And I think there’s a lot to be said about neighbourhoods, cities, largely, you know, low car places that actually allow people to age in place comfortably without being reliant on others, external forces for their mobility. And so we tell the story of Pater, one of our neighbours here in Delft that has been born and raised his entire life on the street. He was born there. And now in his 70s, he’s retired, they’re living in his own house without a car, able to get around by foot or bicycle everywhere he needs to grocery store, the community centre, the schools, that he volunteers that to stay active in the community. And that’s all supported, again, by the the infrastructure and the policy decisions that were made many years ago to build a city that’s not car dependent, and car dominant. So when we look ahead at this baby boom generation, that’s retiring and ageing very quickly, we suddenly find ourselves with an entire generation that’s going to be tracked in the neighbourhoods that they built, the car dependent places they’ve built. And I think it’s very urgent to to start looking at that as a challenge in this kind of emergency that it is, and giving them means of mobility. And, of course, we talked about Cycling is, is one route, but it is not an option for everybody. But there’s a lot to be said for the fact that the age group of 65 and above cycles more than any other adult Group here in the Netherlands. So it’s Cycling is a means of participating in society. It’s a means of staying healthy, active, and, and part of society. And we often elsewhere in the world, perhaps think of cycling as a young, able bodied activity, but in a lot of sense, it benefits the ageing population much more and gives them an alternative drive when they can no longer drive.

Carlton Reid 1:03:39
Hmm, I will thank you ever so much for going through those 10 chapters with us. And I know people are going to be absolutely now busting a gut to want to get this when it comes out in in June. So to wrap up this show, if you wouldn’t mind, Chris, if you could tell us about all your social media, because you have got quite a few. So all your social media hats where people can actually get in touch with you. But then, but first, Melissa, if you could tell people where people are going to be able to get the book from, tell us again the exact publication date, give us the price, give us how many pages but give us give us that kind of information.

Melissa Bruntlett 1:04:19
Price? That’s a great one. I don’t know. It’s a affordable book. That’s what I know. But you can buy it directly from our publisher Island press from Ireland I believe Chris, correct me if I’m wrong.

Chris Bruntlett 1:04:34
Listeners in the UK, we actually have a pre sale promo code set up with Marston books, which are the US so the UK distributor of Ireland press. So if you go to their website And site the promo code ISCT you can get 30% off of a copy of Curbing Traffic and 30% off of our first book Building the Cycling City, which is significant savings to say the least.

Carlton Reid 1:05:06
Cool, I will actually put that in the, in the show notes if you if you send me the absolute perfect link, so I get that. And also we’re gonna put in the show notes are all your social media handles. So tell us about that, Chris.

Chris Bruntlett 1:05:17
Yes. As you hinted, we are quite prolific on social media.

Carlton Reid 1:05:23
This is the next half an hour of the show …

Chris Bruntlett 1:05:28
We have a shared account @modacitylife on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I am doing the social media for the Dutch Cycling Embassy these days at cycling_embassy again on all four of those platforms. And likewise, Melissa is doing social media for Mobycon at Mobycon. Oh, and and, yeah, you can get your daily dose of such inspiration from all three of those accounts.

Carlton Reid 1:06:07
Thanks to Chris and Melissa Bruntlett there. And thanks to you for listening to the Spokesmen cycling podcast, show notes and more can be found on Meanwhile, get out there and ride …

May 8, 2021 / / Blog

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8th May 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 273: Ralph Buehler and John Pucher On Cycling For Sustainable Cities


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Ralph Buehler and John Pucher

Ralph is Professor and Chair Urban Affairs and Planning at the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech Research Center (VTRC), Arlington, Virginia, USA.

John is Professor Emeritus in the Urban Planning and Policy Development Program at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.


Cycling for Sustainable Cities, MIT Press

COVID-19 impacts on cycling paper by Buehler and Pucher.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to episode 273 of the Spokesmen cycling Podcast. This show was uploaded on Saturday 8th May 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 Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at 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- And now, here are the spokesmen..

Carlton Reid 1:09
This weekend I’ve got two one-hour shows back to back, and both feature power couples. I’m Carlton Reid and on tomorrow’s show I’ll be sharing with you a great chat with husband and wife urbanists Chris and Melissa Bruntlett speaking with me from different rooms in their fairytale house in Delft. They’ve got a new book out in June and they kindly went through it with me, chapter to chapter. I asked them how they divided the writing tasks, which is also a question I asked of today’s guests, the august and influential Ralph Buehler and John Pucher. I classify them as a power couple because, as an academic pairing, they write transport-oriented papers and edit tub-thumping books together. You may have read City Cycling from 2012, well now they’ve got a new book out called Cycling for Sustainable Cities.

Carlton Reid 2:09
Ralph and John, I could read from your wonderful book. In fact, I’ve got it in front of me. So your new wonderful book “Cycling for Sustainable Cities” under the MIT, er, tubthumper of a boo. Of course, you had your 2012 book “City Cycling,” which was which absolutely a classic. This is a new classic. So I’ve got the page open, which tells me who you are. But rather than me read out your long job titles, could you please tell our listeners who you are in your own words? So, John first.

John Pucher 2:49
Okay. Um, I have been a hater of cars from my entire life. And that was what I was actually motivated my entire academic career. I started out doing research on so for my dissertation advisor at MIT as well 45 years ago, on public transit. So first 20 years of my career, I spent working on public transit, public transportation, public transport, first in the United States, and then I added Western Europe, but then I added Canada and then I added Australia, and then I added Eastern Europe. Only I sort of did, I was always in this then not always but then there’s more and more international perspective. And then I spent a two year sabbatical as a visiting professor at the University of Munster, in northern Germany, about an hour from the Dutch border. And that city has 40% of all trips by bike. And I had never ever even been to a city that has had that higher percentage of bicycling and living in that being surrounded in an environment where everyone is bicycling for every trip purpose the mail was by by the police officers revived by people in their 70s and 80s run by kids got the school by bike and everything was done by bike. And I just thought I want to know how this is possible. I just can’t believe and I was just fascinated. And and that really is what generated then my my interest in cycling as a as a field that have been totally neglected. I mean it really there was almost no academic literature on cycling

Carlton Reid 4:38
way back then. And I have picked I have gone into your book and there there is a some fascinating stats there about like how many papers are published, you know, in this year compared to like a 14 fold 18 fold increase. So I will get into that. But tell me your actual job title. What’s on your business card, John?

John Pucher 4:57
I don’t have a business card. I’m a professor emeritus at Rutgers University in Central New Jersey, and I was a professor there, I retired six years ago, but I’ve still been doing research. I was there for 37 years as a professor of urban planning and public policy.

Carlton Reid 5:20
So in, I’m going to get to Ralph in a minute … in the preamble where it’s talking about the who you are, and you’ve told us a bit about that it says, this is this is, john. So John’s particular passion is to make cycling possible for everyone, including all ages and abilities. No, no, of course, I would absolutely applaud. And recommend, and and think that’s fantastic. But, John, aren’t academics meant to be neutral? So how can you be anti car? How can you be pro transit, prp bicycle, when you’re meant to be a neutral academic just talking about the science?

John Pucher 6:02
Well, I think the science backs up my opinion. That is, I think, um, I think that scientists who claim to be totally objective, or live, I think that in the background, they have certain hypotheses, certain beliefs, if a scientist is making 99.9% of his or her trips, by car, and living way out in the suburbs, and so forth, supporting that sort of a lifestyle, that is a statement in itself, and I think many scientists supposedly objective, or viewing the whole world through the windshield of a car, without ever even knowing that they were being very subjective, at least I’m honest. And saying, look, you know, I, I, I experience these problems of car dependence. I’m surrounded by them. I experience them every day in so many different respects. And I’m not sure if that means I’m not. Yeah, I’ll be speed. See, no one I don’t think is really neutral. But I think the most dangerous kind of a scientist as a scientist who pretends to be neutral, and in fact, is very biassed because of their very lifestyle, and the way they get around and what they assume implicitly.

Carlton Reid 7:23
Hmm. Yeah, I like that. Thank you, John. And then Ralph. So So Ralph, do you have a business card first off, and what’s on that business card?

Ralph Buehler 7:32
I have a business card. And what’s on that card is that I’m currently Professor and Chair of Urban Affairs and planning it at Virginia Tech, on the Arlington campus.

Carlton Reid 7:45
So Washington DC, basically, you’re you’re across the river from DC. And tell me some of your background, Ralph, because I can tell from your accent that you’re not from Washington, DC,

Ralph Buehler 7:59
No I’m from Virginia.

John Pucher 8:01
So there’s his deep Southern accent.

Ralph Buehler 8:07
So I’m originally from Germany. And my story is a little bit the opposite of John’s story. So I studied Public Policy and Administration in in Germany and went for a student exchange to the US to Rutgers, actually, where john was, was a professor at the at the time. And before that, I had interest in transportation, mainly in public transport, but had not really thought about it as a subject for for study. I definitely bike for some trips, I walked for others, I rode public transport, and I drove a car. And then I came to the US for my study abroad. And the experience in Central New Jersey was that without a car, it was very hard to get anywhere. I tried to ride my bike as much as possible. In fact, the first day we arrived, it turned out we couldn’t even get groceries without having a car. Or so I got someone to give me a ride to a Walmart to buy a cheap bike. And then I rode back from that Walmart to to where I live, which was harrowing, because there’s no no infrastructure, nothing, no consideration for bicyclists at all in that in that area. And then even getting to a grocery store was was was harrowing, and was difficult. And so my interest was piqued Then, why are these transport systems so different? Why is it normal for me growing up to ride a bike sometimes to walk to use public transport, but it was clearly not normal in the new place. I was and then I of course also met John and we started research in this in this area.

Carlton Reid 9:52
I definitely want to get onto that. So first of all, John, is it Putcher or Pooker?

John Pucher 9:59
It’s Pooker. It’s actually original, it’s an Austrian name, it’s originally pronounced Pooker. But that’s got her on, no one can browse it. So I just make it again. So it’s Pucher, I think that would

Carlton Reid 10:12
So, Pucher and Buehler is a kind of a now a shorthand way, in many academic papers for your various papers together, and you are Yeah. Like, from a, you know, like a Morecombe and Wise, fFrom a UK perspective, you’re kind of like always together. So how did you get together?

John Pucher 10:34
Ralph was my was, I was the adviser of Ralph when he was a German exchange student. He was first at Rutgers for one year. And then he went back to Germany to finish his his, I guess you would call undergraduate degree, which is more the equivalent of a Master’s Germany. And then he decided to come back a year later for the doctoral programme, and I was his advisor for his doctoral programme and for his dissertation, as well. And his dissertation was on a comparison of the United States and Germany. And of course, I was extremely interested in the topic at any rate, and then it’s just one thing led to another. And we did a think we had a research project on comparing cycling and Canada in the United States. And it’s just then we just broaden to broaden. And he, he had, I had already done a lot of international comparative research between Western Europe, in Canada and the United States. And then Ralph came along, and that was his interest as well. And we just our interests meshed.

Ralph Buehler 11:42
Excactly. But when I got to the US, I was scheduled to study something like human resources management. But then I saw that John was there in the School of urban planning, and it piqued my interest. And I thought for the for the study abroad here, I may as well switch to to urban planning. And I remember still I formed this is us. Phone Booth. There wasn’t even a booth it was us with a phone somewhere on the on the campus, I call John’s office. And we talk then what he did was really interesting to me, it was also my interest. And then I switched programmes within a week to study urban planning. And then from there, I think, because we both have this experience of living in different countries experiencing different transport systems, and being interested in in sustainable transport and comparisons. I think that really meshed well.

John Pucher 12:30
You see, Carlton, you probably recall our article Cycling is Irresistible,

Carlton Reid 12:35
“irresistible.” Absolutely. Yes.

John Pucher 12:38
Well, you see what Ralph was really saying that I’m irresistible too!

John Pucher 12:42
I’m just just kidding, right!

Carlton Reid 12:47
No, no, obviously it goes without saying. I want to stay with biographical stuff at the moment before we get into the meat of you. And it is a thick book. It’s a good inch and a half thick. Before we get into into your book, so stick with the biographical stuff. So we’ll get onto Ralph’s dedication in a minute. But, John, your dedication is to Chris Kurzman, your aunt, who inspired four decades of car free living. Tell me about your aunt, John.

John Pucher 13:15
She’d never even had a driver’s licence. She She lived most of her life in New York City in Brooklyn. And I was closer to this, my aunt than anyone else in the entire family. But she was forever outsiders. I’m an environmentalist, a health food fanatic, very leftist, politically and for every conceivable progressive cause. And she hated the very idea of cars and like the noise, the pollution, the danger, and I mean, she just walked or use public transit to get everywhere, which is not difficult in New York City. And he really didn’t get out of New York City all that much. So I was I admired Miami so much. And I thought, wow, I just mean both the her interest in the environment and, and all of these same issues, equity and social justice. She was very much into those and so am I. And we just were on the same wavelength. And I mean, I was already even before wasn’t just copying my ass lifestyle. But I before I was a professor at Rutgers, I was a doctoral student in Boston at MIT. And Boston is a very, very walkable, transit friendly city and becoming more and more cycling friendly, by the way. It’s just having a car in Boston, just like it is in New York. It’s just a house. So you don’t want to have it’s difficult to park it. It’s very expensive. There’s very high taxes and owning a car, and so forth, as I mean, I wasn’t I was a student. I didn’t need one anyway. I lived about a mile mile and a half from from MIT. Everything was within walking or transit distance. And then when I went to Central New Jersey, this is the really weird thing. Everyone told me Oh, when you anyone who Jersey has to have a car, and I thought, Oh, that’s awful, I don’t want to change my lifestyle, I literally like don’t have a new car. So anyway, when I got to, I deliberately chose an apartment that was about a mile away from the Rutgers campus within walking distance, and also a mile away from the train station. It took me that’s appropriate rail coming into New York City and Philadelphia, and Princeton, and so forth. And turns out, I just didn’t need a car. And it’s just that just continued that way. And I just, I really forgot how to drive a car. I still renewed my licence, because that was used at that time, I think it still is the main form of ID in the United States, believe it or not, is a driver’s licence. And so whether you want to have it or not, you get it. And that’s, that’s your ID. So then, anyway, the point is, I just, it became, it just became part of who I was. And in fact, my nickname was carfree job. Because not only did I not own a car, it wasn’t just out of principle, it just became part of my lifestyle and my mentality. And the most, I must tell you, the most traumatic thing that ever happened to me is, this is gonna sound weird for most people. When I retired, I wanted to move to here to Raleigh, North Carolina, because my brother and sister live here. That’s, that’s the reason I moved here. And it was I had to postpone making this decision of opponent postponing retirement. Because I knew how auto oriented this part of the country is, if you just have to have a car period, and I thought, I just don’t want to have a car, it’s gonna ruin my life, and even shopping for a car. What’s traumatic, I don’t know nothing about cars. The point is, I did have to buy a car. I do have to use a car but I use it as little as I can. But it just it definitely it’s a very, very different lifestyle. And that for me, I mean, it was a almost traumatic shift from what I was really enjoying as a I’m not gonna say worry free but a collapse salesman from comfortable with not having a car and then here having a car free going to the gas stick to the petrol station to get fill up the gas is a pain

John Pucher 17:28
in the neck.

John Pucher 17:30
I mean, going for the annual inspection of the cars of paint the neck these things that parking your car is a pain in the neck. It’s just, it’s just not something that I enjoy. There’s some people who like cars and I hate them.

Carlton Reid 17:42
And Ralph, your dedication? Are they students? Are they family? Who’s Nora, Niels, Tillman, Liesel, Schorsch, Steffi and Tizian?

Ralph Buehler 17:51
It’s, it’s it’s family. And I think so my, my parents are in there, because they sort of let me find my work. I’m the first in my family to in Germany, the schools are tiered to go to a good nauseum to go to a school that can take you all the way to university. And they let me do that. And then they let me go to university after that, and everybody else in our family was looking at me as a waiter getting a real job. Why are you while you’re doing this, and then in the end, it took me all the way to the US to really find find my passion and find the the work I want to do. And for my family, essentially, because they put up with my interest in transportation. So whenever we go on, on a trip on vacation, I’m always looking at, at bike lanes or pedestrian crosswalk transit systems, and they take photos, and they have to stop and the kids are not fully aware yet what I’m doing. But I always say, Well, I’m taking these pictures for the students and for my work. And then one time I remember we looked at the sunset, and my son says to me, Papa, don’t you want to take a picture for your students? wouldn’t they be interested in that sort of work? That doesn’t stop just when we are out there is always something interesting to see. And to observe and to bring back. I want to make one more point with the, with the biographies. I think what helps me here in the US as a researcher is to be an outsider or to be somebody with a different experience or coming from somewhere else. Because it makes it easier for me to to question things or to see, to see differences. That comes more more naturally to me for being an outsider or being a foreigner versus somebody who was who was socialised in the same in the same system.

John Pucher 19:47
I would just like to make the same point but for me, it was the reverse. That is for me, it was living in Germany for those first two years or two full years, two and a half years in fact, I just never had lived in an environment where there was such good public transport and walking and the most surprising of all such incredible cycling facilities and with literally everyone cycling, and the the notion of everyone cycling cycling for everyone. I mean, that is sort of one of my trademarks, I guess. But that comes from the whole issue of equity of social justice. And that is one theme that that my dissertation adviser Alan Alshuler, it was one of his specialties. And so he really also inspired me in terms of the focus on equity and social justice, as well as sustainable transportation.

Carlton Reid 20:38
Okay, wonderful. Thank you. And so I’m now looking at “Cycling for Sustainable Cities”, the book. And and of course, you’re the editors of the book, you haven’t written a whole book you’ve written basically, you’ve written some bits in the middle, but it’s mainly the the introduction, and then the conclusion. But then you basically corralled, you know, the world’s greatest experts on cycling here. So you have names that people will be very familiar with, you know, Tim Blumenthan Bill Nesper, they’re, of course on the advocacy front in the US, Fiona Campbell. I know, from Australia. She’s in there. Who else we got here? Oh, John Parkin, who’s been on the show before Marco te Brommelstroet, who is @cyclingprofessor, many people will follow him on Twitter. So you’ve got an absolutely stellar list of contributors. Now, what of those contributors done for you and for us, the readers different to “City Cycling” 10 years ago. So how has this book been updated with that stellar list of people in those 10 years?

John Pucher 21:49
There are a lot of new topics. So for example, I, I very much wanted to now that I am, I’m 70 years old. But now that I am an older adult, and I thought, well, we didn’t have a chapter on cycling for older adults, and I’m still cycling. And if you look at the the Denmark or Germany in the Netherlands, or there’s a lot of older adult cycling, and I thought we really need you to chapter and that chapter I wrote together with for Jan was the lead author, Janka Girard, but they were all for my co authors, there are public health experts. And so we’re looking at it from the all of the physical, social, and mental health benefits of cycling for older adults and how to encourage more older adults. So that’s a new chapter, the one I thought on China, in India, it was really important. And again, I can’t tell you how I tried to get other people to do that chapter. And I couldn’t get anyone else to lead. So that’s why I lead it, but with the three Chinese colleagues at one Indian colleague, and I mean, they are the two most populous countries in the world. And there’s more cyclists in China in India, even now than there are in the rest of the world. So that was really, really important to look at cycling and China and India. And we have a new chapter on Latin America, a cycling as a growing part of the world and an important part of the world. And we definitely Ralph and I are no experts of Latin American. So we have three Latin American colleagues are all originally from Bogota, and also like cycling experts. And so they wrote that chapter that was completely new, the E bike chapter was completely new. And that’s been a big trend recently. And then there have been so many developments in bike sharing, I mean, the fourth or fifth generation, whatever they call this, the latest now the front the floating bikes. I mean, that was a new development as well, I’m leaving out something well, what chapters have I left? Oh, they advocacy chapter. Oh, there’s a story to that. And I’m probably don’t want to hear it. But we had, I hadn’t managed to find someone who was willing to write that chapter on her own. And then at the very last moment, she just she got sick or whatever was just you couldn’t do it. And so I then I know all of those co authors, who are all cycling advocates in around the world. And within 24 or 48 hours, I got in touch with each and every one of them explain the situation I’m in a tight bind. And we I really think it’s crucial, absolutely crucial to have a chapter on advocacy. Because academics can have the best ideas in the world. If you can’t implement them, they’re worthless. And it’s the advocates that really help us implement these things, and generate that public support and political supports anyway, incredibly, I mean, I really do know these people, I’ve known that I’ve known Fiona ever since 2005, when I was on sabbatical in Sydney. And so I just got in touch with people I already knew. And they happen to be executive directors of these organisations. And, and they said, Yes, we’ll do it. And so within one month, that advocacy chapter was written And incredibly, we had three anonymous referees, and two of the three set said in the review that their advocacy advocacy chapter was their favourite. And we wrote it in the least time. What chat? What would you like to say all the differences?

Ralph Buehler 25:17
Do we have one, one more chapter that was added on evaluation by Bert van Wee, which we didn’t have before. So trying to get at how to decide what what bicycle project to build. And then a big chapter, a big addition and sort of carrying through all the chapters is, is this focus on equity. So we have a whole chapter on, on equity among groups of people who ride bikes, but also in bike planning and accessible bike planning. And we and then I would push a little bit back against your characterization in the beginning that we sort of wrote the back the book ends, and then corralled people to come in, I think we were much more involved as editors. So we, we tried to get everyone to have some aspects of equity in the, in the chapters to have a connection to sustainability. We also connected the chapters quite closely. And maybe it’s a little bit too much. But you should see many references from one chapter to the other while you’re reading the book, so we really were careful. editors, and many other edited books don’t work that way. I’ve written chapters for edited books, and the editors do very, very little, to make a cohesive whole out of the book. So we didn’t only get the great, a great group of people, but we also were able to sort of make it a book that’s, that’s connected, and then that’s together. And then one other point is, as you mentioned, that research and bicycling has been skyrocketing over the last 1015 years. And I saw that firsthand when I was was chair of the TRB. Committee for bicycle transport. But so we wanted to have experts in these subfields, to write the chapters to really get at the cutting edge of each field, we could have written a book, and we could have done a good job at it. But we wouldn’t have been able to get for all of these subfields into all of the details and at the cutting edge of each alone. And so finding these top experts in their subfields was was really crucial to make the book a success.

John Pucher 27:19
We had four. Okay, we’ll do this. This was the MIT Press wanted just a second edition of what we done before. And Ralph and I both said, No, that would be boring for us. And we want to produce a different book. It’s substantially different book, which it is. And but we somehow thought that well on the sort of second time around even though it’s a different book, that wouldn’t wouldn’t take as much time as I would just guess I’m Ralph can probably, I think it took three times more effort and more time. This second time around. I mean, again, we added so many new chapters, but we did a lot more coordination and editing. And they were just more checking, we have 21 chapters instead of 15 chapters. So there was more work there. And also, by the way, some of it, we didn’t just have the same author. So for example, the safety chapter is written by a completely different person with a very different perspective. And so something we did have, and also even the New York, London Paris chapter, the John Parkin, whose was the case study author there for London, he was a new author compared to the earlier edition. So we did switch out authors, we added new topics, it’s a three times more talk.

Carlton Reid 28:42
And it’s roughly 50/50 male authors and female authors.

John Pucher 28:48
And that would be even more than the scheduled. I mean, it’s the scheduled author who had to then drop out because of health reasons for the advocacy chapter was a woman. And then it just wasn’t our fault. But the heads of these advocacy organisations with a few exceptions, are men. And so that’s why then in that chapter, I think Fiona we see who else Fiona might be the only woman actually in the as a co author of that chapter. That’s very unfortunate, but it just, I had no choice. I left 24, 48 hours to find replacements for Karen who would originally

Ralph Buehler 29:27
I’m not sure how much this is indicative for us are the field of research. So as mentioned before with the Transportation Research Board is this big research organisation here in the US and they have committees for all sorts of transportation modes and infrastructures. And the committee for bicycle transport is one of the most diverse committees they have. Because the researchers are really diverse in the field. There are so many diverse …

Carlton Reid 29:54
Diverse in everything?

Ralph Buehler 29:59
Definitely men and women, many TLB committees have travelled to even find one woman in their area of research. And it’s also getting more diverse in terms of racial diversity. But it’s still lacking compared to society at large compared to the other TRB committees. It’s very diverse, even in terms of racial composition. And it’s also very diverse in terms of ages. There’s so many young researchers doing work on on Bicycle Transportation, but many of the other committees, it’s mainly older white men. And so the field of research itself, so the researchers are, are more diverse, I would say that then in other transportation areas,

John Pucher 30:38
by the way, one thing called the the woman that was originally scheduled to be the author of the advocate chat for I’m not gonna name her name, but she’s African American woman. And I mean, and I mean, and she was well qualified to do this, it’s just the health issues came up. And then I was just very disappointed that I think she might be I’m not sure about this, the only African American, she would have been the only African American among the authors. And I, we we certainly tried, but it was a last minute disappointment that you couldn’t do it.

Carlton Reid 31:14
So that’s, that’s something you’re going to have to do in the third edition, you’re gonna have to write it.

Ralph Buehler 31:21
I don’t think we really we have, I think it would happen naturally, by the end, give us another 10 years and the field will be will be also much more balanced in terms of race and ethnicity. Hmm.

Carlton Reid 31:33
So you talked there about all of the academic research that’s been done for bicycling, and all of the different people and young people who are now getting into academic research on bicycling? What about walking, how come walking falls between the stores, you get plenty people interested in, in motor cars, plenty people now seemingly interested in knowing bicycles, where’s all this fantastic research and advocacy for the world’s oldest form of transportation walking.

Ralph Buehler 32:08
So that there is work being done on walking and speaking from a Transportation Research Board perspective, again, that the walking committee was also growing and getting much more diverse as the bicycle committee was at the time. But you’re right, there wasn’t that that level of organisation and their level of interest in walking then there was in in bicycling. In terms of advocacy, and john can can attest to that. bicyclists are just very, very organised in groups. And they’re very good in influencing policy and creating energy around bicycling. One possibility may be mister speculation on my part that bicycling is more of an organised or special interest because you can identify the group of bicyclists versus pedestrians like everybody walks and everybody walks a little bit. And it’s much harder to organise people around that because it’s more of a common a common trait. We all share and it’s hard to get some money to pick that up for everyone while the cyclists are is sort of smaller, easier to organise.

Carlton Reid 33:17
Tribal, Ralph?

Ralph Buehler 33:20
Oh, I’m not sure what tribal I mean, I know the word but I don’t know what tribal means it has a negative connotation to me. So

John Pucher 33:27
if you look at the Netherlands, riding a bike is nothing special. Whereas if you look at Australia riding a bike is something special. So maybe it’s tribal in countries like Australia or the United States, but it’s certainly not tribal in in Denmark or the Netherlands or Germany. You posted a really interesting question. And I was I got a walking tour. by the hand of it was the Greater Sydney walk. organisation. I’m in a very small one. And we walk all around are much much of the Sydney Harbour. I said, we were staying nice. I said, why is it that you know, the cyclists are so well organised and there’s so much literature and interest in sight and cycling. And I don’t know if any, was very few organisations and he said, Well, walking is sort of like breathing, then you would think of forming an organisation for people who breathe. And the very fact that walking is sick considered so commonplace, it doesn’t have any, you don’t don’t brag too much about the shoes that you wear or the clothes you wear while you’re walking. People don’t really walk for walking clubs. It’s just, it’s just not. It’s not something that’s easy to organise around. Whereas cycling it’d be there’s all different groups of cyclists Of course, but the bike tours and special bike events and bike days and so forth, but even walk to work days walk to school days. It’s just doesn’t have the connotation of bike to work, like to school. It’s hard to explain it. But the other thing, there was a special issue I think was two years ago, of one of the top journals in transportation, its Transportation Research. A, I think it has its own policy, and it was a large issue, and they put out a big request for proposals. And it was specific, I’m walking and bicycling and it really I mean, they just do everything to get as many proposals they could get the the final issue ended up being, I don’t know, maybe 80% on cycling and 20% on walking.

Ralph Buehler 35:40
I’ve been to more thoughts on this, if you if you if you allow one is, I think that something that’s that’s so common as walking is is harder to organise people around an example maybe the bicycling research in Europe is emerged much later than it emerged here in the US. And I remember Kevin Krycek, who you know, as well, when he went to the Netherlands for at on a sabbatical for a year. When he arrived there, he told them that he studies bicycling at the university, and they looked at him and said, Really, what’s next, the professor on vacuuming. And

Carlton Reid 36:15
yeah, brush-your-teeth studies, that kind of thing.

Ralph Buehler 36:18
Because it was it was it was so it was so common. And now of course, we have macular premenstrual and they are moving along in this direction as well. But it took them longer to recognise it as something special. Because everybody icicle there. And then the other aspect is that data are hard to get for bike research, but it’s easier to study bikers bicycling than then walking and getting Ada on walkway networks on the quality of sidewalks, the location of crosswalks the quality of the crosswalks, it’s much harder than then getting the data on on bicycling even though that’s not easy compared to driving. So I think that they have an additional additional burden burden there in the bike in the walkway search as well.

Carlton Reid 37:02
But there is historical resonance there. Because whenever you go back, I don’t know how much you go back into, you know, deep history of this topic. But when you look at traffic statistics in say, the 1920s or 1930s, this is mainly in the US and in the in the UK, I’m not too sure about Germany, etc. But you always find statistics for cycling, and for motoring and the mode shares. And then you never find statistics for walking. It’s just walkers have always just seem to be invisible. But if you look at London, you know the majority form of transport in London, in in, in sending the City of London people on foot. So it’s just an invisible, you know, it’s hard to be a policymaker as well in this area, or to push policy because Yeah, everybody is a pedestrian. So why would you have to, you know, promote that?

John Pucher 37:56
You’re absolutely right. I know for certain that in the United States. And by the way, this is also true in eastern here that the travel surveys are free. They used to be who just did the US Census that we report to every well every 10 years on the trip to work. And but most any travel surveys on the Metropolitan level, the city level did not include walking or cycling at all, they only include motorised transportation. And then what was looking at the data for many Eastern European countries, they simply they just don’t have the data. They don’t include walking and cycling. In their in their travel surveys. It’s it’s very frustrating that somehow the way to save the invisible modes are not considered real transportation. And now here in the United States, they are, but they didn’t used to be and going back to say the first travel survey son in the 19, early 1960s. I think they were in various cities, there were these transportation studies, and they just did not study walking and definitely didn’t study cycling. You know, it’s really only it’s, I mean, by cycling has only recently I was I don’t know exactly when the first articles came up. But it was it was not that long ago. It was I mean, it was certainly not 50 or 60 years ago, it was more like maybe 2530 years ago or so that we started to get some research on cycling.

Ralph Buehler 39:22
Yeah, and certainly it’s been this the last point on there’s been more successful than then walking in and getting recognised like in the US now they are redoing this mu t CD, the manual of uniform traffic control devices, and this chapter on bicycling and it’s outdated, but there’s no chapter on walking in the whole uniform traffic control devices. And they added a chapter now on autonomous vehicles. That’s just more interesting. Something to plan for. But walking that has been around for hundreds of years is not even recognised in that

Carlton Reid 39:52
walking and cycling really shouldn’t be, you know, pulling apart they should be absolutely working on together. Now, on that note, I would now like to cut to an ad break, if you don’t mind to go across to my colleague, David.

David Bernstein 40:08
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Carlton Reid 41:34
Thanks, David. And we are back with Ralph Buehler. And John Pucher, not putcher as we found out before, I can’t do the glottal stop them afraid. Now, we’re talking about cycling in a second. So you know, in cycling for sustainable cities, and the new book from MIT, by Ralph and john, with all those bunch of experts among whom we talked about before now in the book in a current way exactly where it is, I’m not somewhere it talks about how this book was all of the statistics and book is absolutely super dense with statistics and tables and and everything you could possibly need for for for fact, checking stuff. But in the book, it does talk about COVID. And it mentioned Coronavirus in passing, because, you know, obviously happened as you are going to press almost do you think you might need perhaps even a whole new book on what’s going to be happening to walking and but mainly to cycling because of of COVID. So my question is really do you expect the amazing bike boom, which we have seen? Do you expect that to continue? 2, 3,4, 5 years after everybody’s been jabbed?

John Pucher 43:00
Yes. I don’t think it requires a new book, though. That is we as I think we sent you the the article we just published in the journal transport reviews, which looks at exactly this issue of the COVID impacts on cycling. And, oh, I don’t know how many different sources we looked at, maybe there were 25, or whatever, different studies, incredibly, a lot of interest in in this very topic of COVID impacts on cycling. And I mean, what they do show is overall, that they’ve increased there has been an increase in cycling between 2019 2020 but with a huge variation, obviously, during lockdowns when you weren’t allowed to travel at all, less cycling as well. But in most countries, most of the increase was in recreational cycling, cycling for exercise. So I think just to get outdoors, to have to sort of see other people with social distancing. And amazingly, the survey was done. The state showed that the main motivation for people to ride a bike for the first time or for the first time in a long time was for stress reduction and mental health. And the second most important reason was for physical exercise and and an hour. But the point is that it we so we really already have an update in that article. And I think that if MIT Press would let us do it. What we would probably try to do is to add a new chapter or an afterword or something like this in the book to update what has been happening due to COVID. Because I think we cover that fairly well. And I don’t think it would be necessary to update every single chapter, but rather just to update and by the way, even now, it’s it’s not 100% clear what is Definitely going to happen. But we do think and we give at the end of that article that we just published five reasons we that there’s been huge increases in in bicycling infrastructure of various kinds during the COVID period, that’s going to be there. So there’s going to be better infrastructure for cycling. In the coming years, we have people more people who have cycled who then may now have taken up the habit of cycling. And there was a study done here in the United States by people for bikes. And they found that it was something like 70% of people that they surveyed said, they intend to continue cycling after COVID. In addition to that, there was this huge shift of big decline in public transport use here in the United States, and I think in Europe as well. And some of those former public transport passengers have indeed shifted to bicycling because there’s more social distancing, and so forth. What were the other reasons we listed around Anyway, there’s many reasons why we think that the increase in cycling that we’ve observed in the in 2020, compared to 2019, will indeed continue into 2021, 2022, and so forth.

Ralph Buehler 46:14
And I don’t think we need to, we would need to rewrite the book, you would update the trends to to COVID. But all the strategies, the policies, the measures to increase cycling for everyone have have remained the same, that the policies we need to get people on bikes is to provide cycling environments that are free of fast, high volumes of motorised traffic, that increase increase the safety and attractiveness the same now, after a year in COVID, than it was before, we may have seen accelerated change in implementing these infrastructures, and accelerated change in getting people to try out bicycling or rediscover bicycling. But the the ideas on how to promote cycling that are in the book are still the same. And a lot of the fate of cycling past COVID now will depend on how many new facilities are built. And how many of the pop up bike lanes and the closed streets and all the things we saw will be made permanent or will just be rolled back in Washington DC, where I’m here, they’re just they’re rolling back the the shared streets and neighbourhoods, they’re just taking them out. And so we won’t have that benefit anymore. But in other cities, they have made infrastructures permanent, and they are keeping to increase bicycling friendly, friendly measures. So I think that the fate of this bike boom, we really depend on the policymakers underground and on the infrastructure on the ground to make places more bike friendly.

John Pucher 47:47
Okay, Carlton, that is one of the important lessons is, is an implementation, that one of the problems we’ve had definitely here in the United States, but also in Canada and Australia. And that is the near impossible that a very different company to impose any sort of car restrictive measures. That is restricting food traffic from local neighbourhoods, reducing speed limits, car free streets, shared streets, all of those sorts of things, and traffic, calming neighbourhoods in general. And what we found during and this is in many, many cities throughout the world, that all of a sudden things that we thought would be impossible, had been possible. So the most stunning thing for me was in New York City, I came over the exact mileage was over 100 miles of new york city streets were suddenly made car free exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists from 8am to 8pm. so that people could get outside and socially distancing, socialise with each other and have physical activity. I mean, that would have been unthinkable five or six years, two years ago. And there are other things shared streets and just we have a listing there but I mean, cities all over the world have been experimenting with things that that anti whatever I put the motorist extremist groups have opposed to No, no, no, no, no, you can’t take away our lanes. And indeed, you can put up pop up bike lanes and you can you can make cars, streets car free and expand outdoor restaurant space. All these things were, as Ralph said, they’re not they’re not on not all of them are going to continue. But it was interesting just it’s just fascinating how what is possible in a crisis situation, and that these measures which had would not have been possible before in the United States, especially, it was just incredible what has been been done.

Carlton Reid 49:52
You write in the book — this is a direct quote here now — you recommend basically so cities should make driving a car slower, more expensive and less convenient. So what an awful lot of bicycle advocates whether tribal or not, what they say is what we need to get people cycling, or more bike lanes, you know, forget everything else, just more bike lanes, that’s what will get people cycling. But one of the points you’re making in the book, and I’ve personally I absolutely agree with this is you’ve got to do both. You’ve got to it’s carrot and stick, you’ve got to Yes, provide immunities that are attractive for cycling. But you’ve also got to hit motorist over the head with a huge, huge, big stick. Ralph, would you would you write that particular sentence? Are you both in line with that? Are you are you thinking? Yes, you need that stick? Yeah?

John Pucher 50:50
I think we both are in line with it. And I was gonna just say it’s a pleasure to be interviewed by such a brilliant journalist who is in agreement with us. Because I absolutely mean, I think both of us completely agree with you that these these stick measures which are so difficult, are perhaps the most effective. And Ralph and I together with my former dissertation advisor at MIT, we did a case study of Vienna, Austria. And they had an extraordinarily successful policy over about three decades. They and their two main measures, this is not who they are, they increase cycling to from I think it was 2%. Now to 9% of all trips are by bike and Vienna. So they they have massive increase in in bike facilities, and many of them are protected bike lanes, but then they have a massive, they built a new metro system that will burn and they and then it continued to expand it and expand it. And at the same time, one of the most crucial policies was what they call parking management, restricting access. By the so many residential neighbourhoods, you can’t park there unless you’re a resident. In addition to which even if you’re able to park in a particular spot, there’s a time limitation as to one hour or two hours, which completely eliminated long distance commuting by car into the centre of Vienna. And so they provided people with the alternative of vastly improved public transport, while at the same time making it very expensive and very difficult to drive your car to the centre, and at the same time, vastly improving their cycling network, they ended up reducing the percentage of trips by car from 40%. me what was it rough, I think was 140 percent to 20% or something like that. It was one of the most dramatic reductions in car mode share that we have seen in any major city is just incredible. But that’s that truly is that combination of carrots and sticks.

Ralph Buehler 53:07
And they go together in multiple ways. So they go together to reduce car travel volume and to reduce car travel speed. And at the same time, that itself makes it more attractive to ride a bike. And then they go together in the sense that if you build good alternatives, you can implement more policies that restrict car use, because you can point drivers to other opportunities, they can ride a subway in the case of Vienna, or they can ride a bike. So these carrots and sticks go go together in in many ways. So less driving, make cycling safer, and and then better bike infrastructure makes cycling a more viable alternative. And you don’t need me to drive the big stick you mentioned and beating drivers with a big stick. I would I would object to that in the sense that if you look historically, we really have made every effort in the last 100 years to accommodate drivers to our cities, we have sort of given over city spaces, to storing cars or to moving cars, then we have rolled out the red carpet for automobiles and in this 70s many European cities started realising Well, there are many negative side effects, there are fatalities, there’s pollution, there’s a loss of quality of life, and they started pulling back then already, and now they are pulling back more. So I wouldn’t say it’s about hitting drivers with a big stick. But it’s ending these policies of accommodating cars everywhere in our cities, that don’t have to be cars in our city centres that don’t have to be car parking. facilities in in streets in our city centres. These are places where people live where people want to be outside. And we’re sort of correcting errors we have made historically, but this doesn’t mean we’re hitting them with a big stick. We’re just taking away a tonne of privileges that were given to The car over the last 100 years, they just have gone way too far and accommodating the car in our cities and the cars have destroyed many cities.

Carlton Reid 55:10
Ralph, I’m going to come to you with a question. But I’m going to ask John, the exact same thing. We’ll find out what you both think on this, but I asked you before about who wrote this particular sentence, and we didn’t get an answer to that. That’s not that’s not critical on each particular sentence. But my background, my academic background, many, many, many, many years ago as a as a just as a graduate student, was in biblical studies in effect, so I majored in Jewish texts. And so I’m in I was, at that time an expert in exegesis where I analysed texts. So in fact, the Bible to work out who were the original authors of those texts, so if you know anything about scriptural research, you know, you find that the word will say five or six common authors to say, you know, the some of the major books of the Bible. And you can you can work out stylistically who wrote that. And you get to these these these common authors, Could somebody now or in in that know, some, some future time, come to this book, your book? and go, Oh, yeah, john wrote that bit. Ralph wrote that bit? Or have you? Have you somehow been able to merge it and you know, academic could ever unpick the stuff in there. So Ralph, can you unpick who wrote what in the chapters that you you wrote?

Ralph Buehler 56:43
I think that the two answers to this one in terms of writing style, I think, yes, you will clearly be able to pick apart. But I wrote in what john wrote, I’m not a native speaker. So my language abilities in a foreign language are clearly more limited than what john has as a as a native speaker. And that is a very good writer in the native language. But, but most of the chapters and things we do together, how we work is we create outlines of of each chapter before we write it. And we sometimes even down to the level of of the each paragraph, and within each paragraph, what points we want to make and what we want to say. So in terms of the content, or the logic of the content of how we assemble things, I don’t think you’ll be able to pick it apart. So stylistically, I think you will be able to pick apart who wrote what, but I think in terms of the the logic or the thinking of the chapters, you will not be able to pick it apart because we are doing that really absolutely together.

Carlton Reid 57:46
John, same question to you.

John Pucher 57:49
I agree, in addition to which is looking at particular sentences, such as the one on the need to combine carrots and sticks, and so forth. We have written so many articles together and the the earlier book and, and and now this book that it’s like, we are almost of the same mind. We Ralph is is more focused, maybe on the analytical side and and I’m more focused maybe on just getting the writing style just just right. But just as Ralph said, we we outline the chapters we discuss which graphics do we think we want to include? And then as the graphics are being designed, Ralph is the graphics expert. But then No, no, no, no, I don’t like this underneath. And when you change this, we need to include this or not include that. So we really, when we when we we go through drafts, Ralph has lots of changes to the text as well. And sometimes they agree, sometimes I don’t and it goes, it really went back and forth, back and forth. Whether it was the graphics or or the tax, I think we both provided key inputs to each other really, we’ve worked on so many things together, that we’re a very we’re a team that we complement each other well. So we were sort of an integrated team. And certain things that I can’t do well, for example, graphics and any sort of regression analysis have that Ralph work on that. And he’s also very, very organised and structured. Whereas My specialty is more Does this make sense? Is this going to be understandable to a broad audience? Is it well written? Is it clear? Is it convincing? And I’m always in every single sentence I’m writing I’m asking sort of in the back of my head that question, is it well written in that sense, because it’s not our purpose to just appeal to academics? Our purpose is to appeal to a broader audience, including policymakers and advocates I mean, because if you can’t, if you can’t make a case and a clear understandable way clear English then It’s not going to have much impact. And the purpose of writing this book was not to make money, we make very, very little, for sure. And it wasn’t to become famous because of writing the book, it was to have hope that we can have an impact on policy. And that advocates, policymakers, planners, engineers can use this book to improve cycling conditions around the world.

Carlton Reid 1:00:23
And we’ve talked about the impact of Coronavirus on on bicycling levels in the next 10 years say, but what about might you even need a paper or chapter or an update to your book on the Buttigieg factor? So Mayor Pete? How, how optimistic should we be that the very warm words in which he is saying one word about cycling will come through to both actual policy and actual money and then actuality on the ground?

John Pucher 1:00:59
He can encourage? I mean, there’s only so much discretion he has as Secretary of Transportation, and what money gets allocated for what purposes, is going to be determined by Congress. And, for example, what I see and this, these are all proposals that hasn’t been passed yet. A huge amount, I can retirement $70 billion, or something like that, to promote electric cars. And lots of money for for this that and I don’t know how many billions, hundreds of billions for approving roadways. And I really I didn’t see any line item there for walking and cycling. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. But however, the New York Times reported it, it didn’t show up. And I’m thinking, well, the whole point of this is what what he a Secretary of Transportation can do. I mean, he has influence, he can encourage people in his department to do whatever they can to promote cycling, to end walking as well and to enable programmes to they can issue the directives or departmental directives, our policy guidelines, but the funding itself is really determined by Congress, there is some discretion of funding where the Secretary of Transportation does to have discretion. So he certainly has his heart in the right place. I mean, the words of the right place. But I am not aware that Pete Budaj edge cycled to work on a regular basis. So I’m really just not sure, I think I think it depends really, on what Congress does. And then also, much of those, much of the funding gets channelled to the States. And the states ultimately make some of the decision a lot of your marketing as well. But the states will make many of the decisions and many of the states are not necessarily as pro bike as we would like them to be.

Carlton Reid 1:02:57
So Ralph, John isn’t isn’t so sure. How about you?

Ralph Buehler 1:03:01
I would also say that, for your question, that it would be premature to write a chapter about the bootie judge factor, we’ll have to wait and see if there is a Buttigieg factor as you as you said, there are words that point in the right direction, the background is encouraging that we have a transport secretary who who was a mayor, and who knows the urban transport needs and knows urban transportation, so that there could be good good things to come. But in the end, there will be many, many constraints with federal legislation with finding federal funding, I think they’ll be able to move the needle more towards more bike friendly, and they can help the local level. But a lot will also depend on the end on on the willingness of local governments to make these changes and implement these changes and change their their transport systems to be more friendly, towards bicycling and, and walking. So I’m cautiously optimistic. In the past, if you look at past us transport legislation, where bicycling and walking receive more money, that the trend had always been towards growing the pie. So walking and cycling back money, I’ve got more money, but there was even more money for driving and more money for transit. And that made everybody happy because you didn’t have to make a compromise. We don’t seem to be so, so lucky financially these days. So we’ll have to see what happens when politicians actually have to make these trade offs and take money away from one mode and shift it to the other. And as john said, there is a lot of excitement around electric vehicles, about autonomous vehicles, there’s going to going to be money put into into those areas as well and the transport Secretary alone cannot cannot shift these, these priorities. So

Carlton Reid 1:04:51
Sorry, sorry, kind of interrupting because they just come into my head, but AOC has been, you know, championing electric cars in just the last day or so. And you know, She seemed to be a very leftist, a very progressive member of Congress. And yet here she is plugging for wonderful, better word, electric cars, which we know is not the future because of all sorts of different issues. But the most progressive members of Congress are plugging just same old thing. It’s just a car.

Ralph Buehler 1:05:22
But progressiveness does not always translate into being pro sustainable transportation. I mean, during that when Joe Biden was the vice president and the 2008 financial crisis, a lot of the money went into the car industry. And there were these Cash for Clunkers programmes to help sell new cars, because the interest was in saving workplaces, in the car industry. And they are also a big constituent of, of progressive politicians. So progressive politicians does not always mean sustainable transport. And sometimes it sometimes means that

Carlton Reid 1:06:00
AOC is pretty much shown she’s not really that much of a radical at all.

John Pucher 1:06:04
That’s right.

Carlton Reid 1:06:04
People paint her as radica but she is like not radical. That is absolutely what everybody in America has been saying for the last 100 years. Oh, come on, get with get with the programme. So let me just say, I am very, very aware that we’re now 70 minutes into recording and I said, we’ll be done within an hour. So I’m aware of that. But very, very quickly, is cycling, left wing or right wing Ralph?

Ralph Buehler 1:06:29
I don’t think cycling would have to be left or right wing. For example, John mentioned the city of Munster in Germany, which is a 40% bike share the city of Munster with one exception for four years, they had a social democrat other than that they always had a conservative mayor. In Winston it’s as as politically sad comes it’s a conservative German city. So bicycling can be can thrive in a conservative.

Carlton Reid 1:06:54
That’s that’s unfair, because you’re talking about Europe. Of course, I should rephrase the question. In America and by extension in the UK, is cycling left wing or right wing?

Ralph Buehler 1:07:05
forget Europe, I would still maintain that cycling itself doesn’t have to be right or left wing. But it is spun very often as a left and right wing issue. And the it’s fun as a left wing issue for promoting cycling or being environmentally friendly. But I do not think that protecting the environment, getting physical activity. And all of these things have to be leftist leftist issues. But that’s the way that’s the way it’s it’s fun. I remember a presentation via a city planner from the city of Freiburg who was in in New York City, and he recommended the bus only lanes be implemented on certain avenues. And he was sort of run out of town as a left wing socialist, but it’s only about moving people efficiently. Down a roadway without traffic congestion. So many of these things get get caught up in the politics and the politics of the day. But I don’t think they have to be they have to call it political necessary in

Carlton Reid 1:08:08
Fascist states were very famous for even though it wasn’t isn’t true, you know, their trains running on time. So you can be ultra ultra right wing and want transportation to work, yeah?

John Pucher 1:08:20
I got to give you a southern view here. So I’m in North Carolina, unfortunately, state that voted for Trump, both times incredibly. And my favourite bike shop. I’ve got Ron, they’re constantly on bike repair centre, and the election where Trump got elected. I was absolutely appalled. There was this big sign on his front door, Trump pence and thinking, Oh, I thought bicyclists were progressive. And then I got to talking to more and more cyclists on the green right here in Raleigh. And many of them have Yeah, I didn’t yell and scream at them. I thought, okay, we’ll just not discuss politics. But I was amazed at how many cyclists I found out, we’re pro Trump, and we’re Republican, and yet very Pro Cycling. So at least here in North Carolina, being pro cycling has nothing whatsoever to do with being leftist or rightist. It just doesn’t. Okay.

Ralph Buehler 1:09:31
And then the one comment you made sort of as a joke, but with the fascist systems and transport. In Germany, for example, the fascists tried to brand themselves as those who created the autobahns and all that. But if you really look at the history, the autobahns they built, they were planned in the 1920s way before they came to power. They were even autobahn stretches that were built and then the fascists downgraded them to local roads to be the one To open the first autobahn, so I don’t think this necessarily has to have a political orientation dimension to it.

Carlton Reid 1:10:08
Tell me about where we people can get this book from, maybe they’ve had “City Cycling,” and now they should get ‘Cycling for Sustainable Cities.” So where can people get this from, first of all? And then secondly, how can people find out more about you guys? So john, you tell us where we get the book from? And then you tell us where people from find information from and then Ralph can take over?

John Pucher 1:10:32
The book is available in virtually every single online bookseller that I’m aware of. I’m not sure if it’s in all that many bookstores. But it’s definitely in the Amazon. There’s every conceivable, and I mean, there’s dozens and dozens of online sites where the book can be ordered. It costs

Carlton Reid 1:10:56
$30, for an academic, you know, big, big dense things. But that’s not bad that 30 bucks is pretty good.

John Pucher 1:11:01
It’s pretty good for given that it’s almost 500 pages long. So be that’s a bargain, I’d say for for 30 $30. Or bike is about 20 pounds, or 21 pounds, something like that.

Carlton Reid 1:11:14
So John, where where can people find out about you?

John Pucher 1:11:18
All they have to do is put in my name into Google, they’ll find out everything they need.

Carlton Reid 1:11:23
Cos you’re not really on social media…

John Pucher 1:11:25
I don’t do social media. I’m so old fashioned, I don’t do Facebook or Twitter or anything like that. I don’t.

Carlton Reid 1:11:32
But that’s something in common with Trump, then

John Pucher 1:11:38
well, you know, I must,

John Pucher 1:11:40
I must tell you that I have a friend or a friend of my age, and they had been doing social media. And then they said, they found they were wasting so much of their time just responding to tweets or looking at Facebook postings and this and the other they said, they just they said, Forget it. You know, I’m just not doing this. It’s just a waste of my time. With me, it’s just I’ve never gotten into it in the first place. It’s just not my thing.

Carlton Reid 1:12:08
And Ralph will now know where the book is from we now john isn’t on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. Just like his big fan. President ex President Trump. So Ralph, how about you? Where can people find out about you?

Ralph Buehler 1:12:23
I’m on Twitter. And it’s @Buehler_Ralph. I also have my own WordPress website. It’s called, it’s And I’m on I’m on LinkedIn as well. Not on not on Instagram. And then you have these these other things. But that’s my that’s my social media.

John Pucher 1:12:46
I would like to clarify one thing, lest anyone misunderstand. I hate Trump even more than cars. And that’s a lot.

John Pucher 1:12:58
You cannot possibly imagine. He made the past four years hell for me. I mean, I can’t tell you how much sleep I lost. Oh, oh, well, let’s not go there.

Carlton Reid 1:13:15
Wonderful. Well, that book ended the show wonderfully because that’s that’s how we came in. You said you hate cars. And now you say yeah, you hate cars, but you hate Trump even more. Wonderful. Thank you very much to both of you for for being on today’s show.

Carlton Reid 1:13:31
Thanks to Ralph Buehler and John Pucher there and thanks to you for listening to the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. Show notes and more can be found on The next show will be released tomorrow, 9th May, and is a chat with Chris and Melissa Bruntlett who’ll be telling me about their soon to be published book, “Curbing Traffic,” the human case for fewer cars in our cities … but meanwhile get out there and ride.

April 20, 2021 / / Blog

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20th April 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 272: Revolutions: How women changed the world on two wheels


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Hannah Ross

TOPICS: A one-hour chat with Hannah Ross, author of “Revolutions,” a new book which explores how the world was changed by women riding bicycles, and how it’s still being changed. For the better.


Revolutions: How women changed the world on two wheels

Mama Agatha


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to episode 272 of the Spokesmen cycling Podcast. This show was uploaded on Tuesday 20th April 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 Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at 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- And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:09
How women change the world on two wheels. That’s the premise of a new book called “Revolutions.” I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show, which is a little under an hour long I talk history and modern day radicalism with Revolutions author Hannah Ross. We discuss some of the larger than life characters from her book such as Annie Londonderry, Jacquie Phelan, Lady Harberton and pioneering mountain biking photographer Wende Cragg. Naturally, we recorded over the internet and what I thought was a PC fan or computer fan, it turned out to be, I found out afterwards, turned out to be a heater in Hannah’s spare room. Now it turns on three or four times during the show, but Hannah was in such full flow that I really didn’t like to stop her to complain, but it won’t marr your enjoyment.

Carlton Reid 2:12
And on today’s show, I’ve got Hannah Ross, who has written an excellent book called “Revolutions” and the subhead of that is how women change the world on two wheels. So is a history book. There’s tonnes and tonnes of stuff in there on my speciality like 19th, late 1880s 1890s when when bicycle absolutely was revolutionary, but then there’s tonnes of stuff that bang up to date. You got Ayesha McGowan in there, you’ve got like Wende Cragg from the mountain biking days, in the in the

Carlton Reid 2:51
late 70s, early 1980s.

Carlton Reid 2:55
You’ve got your interviewed Dervla Murphy, Hannah. Yeah, it’s just fascinating, but with loads and loads of brilliant people, an awful lot of them are actually not What does anymore because the history book, but tell us about you, Hannah. So who is Hannah Ross? What do you do when you’re not writing great books?

Hannah Ross 3:14
Right, very difficult question to answer. I am or my professional job is I work in publishing, not the publisher who published my book, but another publisher. I’m currently on maternity leave and have a nine month old baby.

Carlton Reid 3:30
Is that Cleo?

Hannah Ross 3:31
Yes, that’s Cleo. So I had a lockdown, baby. And so that’s all been very strange. But obviously, I am a very keen cyclist, I probably wouldn’t have written this book.

Carlton Reid 3:41
And so the reason why I know your baby’s name sorry, sorry, Hannah is I’m guessing there was because you’ve dedicated the book to Cleo. And then you say to Cleo and I hope you grow up to be a cyclist in effect, which is very sweet.

Hannah Ross 3:52
Yes. What actually the book was meant to come out last year. But because the pandemic it got moved on, last year the dedication was to the bump.

Hannah Ross 4:01
Changed that now. Now that we know who she is

Carlton Reid 4:05
Well, let’s talk about the bump and and the the Cleo-shaped non-bump now. So you cycled because in the book, it talks about this a little bit because it talks about you cycling when pregnant because you moved to France to do the book.

Carlton Reid 4:20

Hannah Ross 4:21
I moved to France yes in I was very, very lucky that my work granted me a sabbatical for eight months. And I thought well, let’s take this off and let’s go live in France, and obviously one of the best countries in the world for cycling. So whilst I was doing a lot of writing, I was in quite a lot of cycling.

Hannah Ross 4:40
And in the foothills of the Pyranees, very, very nice.

Hannah Ross 4:44
So, yes, happy time.

Carlton Reid 4:48
So you moved there and you were doing some cycling and then you were cycling up to term?

Carlton Reid 4:55
pregnancy and cycling, cycling and pregnancy basically.

Hannah Ross 4:59

Hannah Ross 5:00
My intention was to carry on as much as they felt comfortable inside. And so I my life normally when I met anyone are in London consists of cycling to work every day but also doing rides that weekend.

Hannah Ross 5:16
I didn’t know. And I wanted to continue with that. If if it felt right, all the time, I have no idea. It’s my is my first pregnancy. So I just thought, okay, let’s just see how it goes. I’ve seen people like cyclo-cross

Hannah Ross 5:32
champion Helen Wyman who I interviewed in the book. She had her baby a few months before me. She’d been cyclingup until the baby was born. I thought, okay, yeah, I’ll do that too.

Hannah Ross 5:43
And so I had been going out a bit doing long rides, I’ve been getting a bit slower, and actually taking it quite easy really thinking, Oh, well, I’m pregnant. It’s more about the cafe stops.

Hannah Ross 5:56
Then can happen. And my rides became rides around Regent’s Park. Not really my type of cycling, but it was still good to get get out and get some exercise and just pottering around London more, but also actually became, really,

Hannah Ross 6:17
it was actually very useful that I cycled everywhere because I could get hospital appointments, I didn’t have to pay public transport. I was still one of the only people I think I ever thought in the maternity unit with a bicycle helmet.

Carlton Reid 6:29
Tell us about Marfan syndrome.

Hannah Ross 6:31
Marfan syndrome, I was diagnosed as a child. And it’s, it’s quite a complex syndrome, which kind of affect and affect various

Hannah Ross 6:44
different parts of your body. But essentially, it’s a problem with your ligaments, or they become very stretched. And ligaments are sort of in lots of parts of your body, your eyes, your heart.

Hannah Ross 6:58
And it can cause in very rare circumstances, it can cause quite significant problems with your heart. And some, if you’re affected quite significantly, would provide the key exercise to it to a minimum. Luckily, my

Hannah Ross 7:19
I have the conditioning quite mildly. And my family been very supportive. But carrying on the

Carlton Reid 7:26
Cycling helped?

Hannah Ross 7:27
It’s likely helped that in a sense it in the way that being active and keeping your heart healthy help, but pushing yourself to a team. So not this has ever been my plan. But had I wanted to be a competitive cyclist, that would be completely out of the question.

Hannah Ross 7:47
So anyone in professional sport, who who has a diagnosis of Marfan syndrome, probably wouldn’t be allowed to compete on a on a team. And the condition can make you very tall. So in the past, a lot of basketball players

Hannah Ross 8:06
later found out that they’ve had Marfan syndrome and then have to retire early.

Hannah Ross 8:11
But yes, it has it, it it generally take things reasonably easy. Don’t push myself too hard. But also don’t let it stop me cycling up the Pyranees. So

Hannah Ross 8:23
I have yeah, just live with it and keep doing what I’m doing.

Carlton Reid 8:30
And why did you write “Revolutions?” Why did you write a bicycle history book? Shouldn’t say history book was because there’s lots of modern stuff in there. Why did you write a book about women cycling and changing the world?

Hannah Ross 8:45
Because it hadn’t really been done before.

Hannah Ross 8:48
So I sort of had the kind of look around as I’ve gone there, because of the stories. The story about one of the you know, local offices, he said, you know a lot about the the kind of the story of women taking out cycling 30s ethically, in the 1890s is extraordinary. But following on from that the whole story of

Hannah Ross 9:12
the 20th century 21st. Just in all aspects of sight thing that’s really kind of incredible stories. A lot of them a lot of it is about overcoming obstacles and adversity and prejudice. And I just felt that those stories hadn’t been hadn’t had the focus that the perhaps they should have done.

Hannah Ross 9:36
And I wanted to make it a book that wasn’t about writing as a sport.

Carlton Reid 9:42
Because there is a lot there is a lot of

Carlton Reid 9:45
books about professional women cycling, but much less that kind of tries to cover all aspects of all different types of cyclists. I think it was quite ambitious, actually.

Hannah Ross 9:59
As I was writing, I was thinking, gosh, book’s getting long, longer is I’m trying to fit everything in. And if they’re meant that I couldn’t cover every story that I wanted to, which was a shame, but but I just wanted to, in some way show the kind of breadth of of cyclists and all the time kind of relate that back to how it’s been with the house how kind of fighting has been in feminist history from the Victorian times to now.

Carlton Reid 10:34
But let’s let’s go to that first because you mentioned that the world of cycling of racing is relatively well covered. There’s Beryl Burton, you know, there’s there’s books on Beryl Burton already. Clearly there’s, there’s some of the modern women superstars have got books out so that’s, that’s, that’s a given as well. But these other names, perhaps people aren’t quite so familiar apart from maybe Susan B. Anthony, because that’s obviously the quote that virtually every you couldn’t yeah, avoid that quote. Could you that is just you know, that’s that’s gold plated, it wrote on your kind of book, that’s just gonna be but so what is the quote? Let’s hear the quote and give us a bit of background on on because she was quite old at the time. Susan B. Anthony, she wasn’t a cyclist herself. She’s looking at other people.

Hannah Ross 11:19
No, she wasn’t a cyclist.

Hannah Ross 11:23
And now you’re testing me. Oh, my goodness. What is it?

Carlton Reid 11:27
Bicycling has done more to emancipate women basically. That is the gist of the quote, and

Hannah Ross 11:33
she calls it the freedom machine. Yes. Which is what are you have repeatedly as a kind of as a, as an image or freedom within? Yes, she was. He was completely by being able to never getting on a bicycle herself, she was absolutely identified that this was a revolutionary thing for women’s lives and represented this pinpoint, which is where feminism was at that point in time, and that the bicycle could be part of that and possibly symbolise some of that as well.

Carlton Reid 12:15
So why, why is it so important? Because you can get away from chaperones. It was independent did, why did Susan B. Anthony and many other feminists of the period, why did they latch on to bicycles?

Hannah Ross 12:27
Because Yeah, well, from what you’ve just said, it’s about getting away or not necessarily getting away, but just having freedom of movement. When women’s lives at this time or work, generally, I would say, defined by that containment, so they have no political rights, they have no economic rights, they’re little, and generally, this is not absolutely This is not everyone, but generally they I mean, obviously, you know, they didn’t have the right to vote at this point. But I mean their lives were fairly controlled. It even come to the close that they will, or were expected to wear full skirts, huge petticoats, miles of fabric, all of that it’s this idea of stopping them having the freedom of movement, bicycle comes along, it’s revolutionary for absolutely everyone. At this time. I mean, it’s hard for us now to kind of really imagine what that must have felt like, for anyone being put on this machine and beyond just travel somewhere with relatively little effort, places that they might never might never fasted before. They just couldn’t, before women in particular with ideas with their bodies moving through space, under their own power, to be able to decide where they want to go on their own terms. And as anyone who gets on a bicycle now today with say, what they love about cycling, it feels freeing, I feel like the kind of the language that follows us distinct like, like flying it’s you know, I just love that feeling of the wind on my face. So you can imagine that that you know, that bracket back then those things would have been even more precious.

Carlton Reid 14:30
And you mentioned clothing and right and that the volumes of clothing women were wearing back then and of course cycling. But bloomers didn’t originate with cycling. They It was a form of grass that came from outside, but it’s popularised very much. So yeah, by cycling and then this is called rational dress in effect trousers for women. So tell us about Lady Harberton. And because this is a famous case, that of course the Cyclists Tourist Club of the day took on so what did Lady Harberton do and and tell us about that?

Hannah Ross 15:05
Lady Harberton was a keen cyclist. And she was also very keen on not wearing and she was like things that she was an adopter of retinal dresses. You said the bloomers or Knickerbocker knickerbockers, the knee. And she was also. But it was it her it sort of ran into the night, it wasn’t just about that it was a practical outfit to be wearing on a bicycle, you know that we’re going to be caught up in a train, it wasn’t going to be dangerous. For her wearing rational dress was the sensible thing to be doing whatever you were doing. And t felt very, very strongly about that. And when on out on a bicycle ride in 1898, I think it was she was riding in Surreyi and wanted to stop and coffee at a hotel called te Hautboy. And she was barred from entering the coffee lounge. what was then called the coffee down on account dress or the lack of trust that they would have seen it. They were horrified that this woman wearing bloomers knickerbockers wanted to come into their their lounge and sit down with the other ladies. Just drink her drink her coffee, and they barred her. And instead they said you could sit in the bar. Which Lady Harberton I don’t think would have been not a fan of going to the bar at this point.

Carlton Reid 16:49
This was a cause celebre of the time this is this is a major news story. At the time. This wasn’t just like some little anecdote we’re dragging out. This is like a major story of the time of you know, a bolshie woman in effect, trying to get her own way in these these clothes. Now she lost the case. So she took the the landlady of the Hautboy at Ockham they would Cyclists Touring Club took that took her to court, or they took her lady Harberton took them to court, but they lost.

Hannah Ross 17:18
Yeah, on account of the fact that they did offer her somewhere which wasn’t acceptable. That it wasn’t it was unacceptable. She wanted to make a point to the fact that she should have been allowed to wear what she wanted to wear in especially wanted to be and like you say it was it you know, this isn’t a minor to fighting for Bori This is it is a really significant story that it’s really it’s not really about cycling, it’s about freedom to choose, you know how they draft and how they conduct their lives. And do you want to make the point of that and you know is extraordinary.

Carlton Reid 18:04
And the last time I was down there they were converting the Hautboy to apartments so I believe you can now live in this coffee lounge. It could be part of your your living room I’m sure because Ockham where it is is all that also Ockham’s Razor comes from, so 14th century whatever, mediaeval scholar he’s from the same Surrey village as as the Hautboy made just as famous in in the late 19th century. So women were pushing back where we’re asking you to wear which we think totally unshocking which is saying that we would quite like to wear comfortable clothes please while we ride ride our bicycles. But they’re also doing these amazing journeys which again, we we we hear many of the stories of like the male derring do you know the the male, you know going around the world but then you had this amazing woman Annie she’s has Polish?

Hannah Ross 19:11

Carlton Reid 19:12
Yeah. Londonderry was was uh, her name she like her pen name.

Hannah Ross 19:17
She adopted yeah a sponsored name. Yes.

Carlton Reid 19:20
And she basically she went round the world in 1890s writing about it as well and amazing woman and amazing journey.

Hannah Ross 19:27
Really extraordinary. I

Hannah Ross 19:28
mean, it is and how there’s not been a film made about this is it’s really quite baffling. So Latvian immigrant living in Boston. It’s a little bit hazy of the details of exactly why she got to the point of cycling around the world but but the story goes that human made a wager that a woman will one of them bet that the woman could have around the world in a certain amount of time and then the other one that they could choose decided to take Get on prove them prove that she could have never been on a bicycle before. It was her that took this on and why she felt that he was the one to do. I don’t think anyone quite worked out. But actually what followed maybe it proved why she did because this story is extraordinary. And what what Annie did is become first debaters drop off opposites for her epic voyage. And I think is fine, I thought for pointing this out, but she didn’t quite cycle around the world for quite a lot of boats and trains involved. Because it was never fully stipulated that you had the cycle. Everywhere that, that that dictated liberal use of public transport with was involved. However, there was an awful lot of cycling involved as well. So when she the first cyclists across the fabric of America came one way and then coming back and realise that if he couldn’t get as in mountains to California to take the boat East because those committees won’t get over. So she ended up going back to New York. And taking a bit from and when you set out in France, by the time you got to France to you was international celebrity and everywhere she went every crowd coming out, see her friends absolutely adored her. And all along the way she picked up like we mentioned, the sponsor by by Londonderry water, but many other folks as well and who to introduce it, fellas. Storytelling got quite an awful say. And there was a fair bit of embroidery about some of the answers or the painting she got involved in where he claimed, for instance, such she got a prisoner of war. That is happening internment camp that many of these things weren’t true. However, I think, as I said before, I think what is just still so amazing that this woman who left her husband and children go out on this journey would keep your life going and keeping me interested in what he was doing during she became a understandably a huge fan of rational progress. He set out on a lady’s drop frame critical to realise that that was an awful lot of effort. And someone gave her an amount bicycle locked into the man’s bicycle then and she never get back, that she was quite a good outlet as well for progressive women’s dress. And also just women going out in the world and being at ordinary things. I mean, this was a time of the Victorian Event Frame where people are going out and trying to push around the world and the number of days of talk of Nellie Bly, who was a journalist in New York who had marched around the world using every different form of transport. record

Carlton Reid 23:32
And isn’t Nellie Bly the one that’s the Susan B. Anthony is from in effect, it was at Nellie Bly was interviewing.

Hannah Ross 23:40
Yes, exactly. Exactly. Yeah, yeah.

Carlton Reid 23:49
Yeah, the record after I’ve just gone to the back of your book, and Annie Londonderry, her real name was Annie Kopchovsky. Yeah, that’s a cracking name. Annie Londonderry Kopchovsky. And I didn’t know the water bit, but that’s she’s sponsored by a water company and that’s why she picked that up.

Hannah Ross 24:09
Aside from her bicycle, I believe it’s kind of been great when you’re cycling long distances.

Carlton Reid 24:15
That’s great idea, though to change your name in effect. Yeah, no, cause Yeah, that’s that’s quite sweet. Now, you can’t really talk about the Susan B. Anthony, we’ve talked about emancipation, but you can’t really leave that particular subject without of course, think — suffragettes were big into bikes, weren’t they?.

Hannah Ross 24:37
Yeah, that was really lovely to discover and read about. It was Sylvia [Pankhurst’s] memoir. She talks about how Christabel became obsessed by cycling as a teenager and absolutely paid for their father for bicycles when they were still living in Manchester. And he first thought it was dangerous, but when first 16 for her birthday, he was given an up the bicycle. No expense spared, apparently. And then Sylvia was taught to accompany her sister given a not fancy bicycle. And they joined the Clarion cycling club, in both, and then at weekends and, and I think most of their spare time pedalling around the countryside lanes around Manchester, picking parting up camps and summer holiday camps and to return pair a newspaper, but generally just having a lovely time on bicycles. And, as far as I can, I mean, I don’t know. But I think when they moved to London and founded the WSPU, which is the women’s social and political union, which is suffragettes, they probably didn’t find too much time to fight thing. However, what is really nice is that cycling was still part of their movement was very influenced their movement. So they, their members, use their bicycle to recruit other members and spread the word about fit to women. Because that way, the most effective way of getting to the next place the next round, they reach those people, times before people come they had cars and planes weren’t going to take you everywhere.

Carlton Reid 26:32
Have you seen the illustration of the two suffragettes stopping Churchill’s car?

Hannah Ross 26:38
yes, yes.

Hannah Ross 26:40
And then bicycle halter became when the when the movement became much more militant. So when they were postbox is like houses bicycle s became getaway vehicle. quite quite amusing. There’s a story of two which I mentioned, they set light to an empty mansion. One evening, they get stopped by a policeman, not because he thinks that they are arsonists, but because they didn’t have the lights on their bicycles. But they were apprehended not long after

Hannah Ross 27:21
when the police put two and two together.

Unknown Speaker 27:27
But yes, they stored their arson equipment in their bicycle baskets.

Carlton Reid 27:35
So it’s quite radical in many, many different ways. So when you think of wearing trousers is radical, well, here, they are like firebombing stuff. So we’ve got some quite interesting bits of radicalization. And I guess the late Victorians were like pretty much mixing it all together. And you know, wanting a woman wearing to wear trousers, and and getting in front of you know, Churchill’s car and firebombing stuff was all pretty much the same thing as radical as as each other.

Hannah Ross 28:03
Yes. Although it’s, it’s also worth saying that, you know, for a lot of a lot of women who think outside time, it wasn’t, it was quietly radical, in the sense of, they were riding bicycles, but they didn’t necessarily see it. It’s such a visceral way in what they’re involved in. Kind of this will move over time. And they will probably less, you know, there are many that were less I need a bit more clear, they might have wanted to change them for us. They might have thought it was a good idea for trousers, but they weren’t quite ready for that. There’s, there’s interesting details in the history about how women sort of like, rushing to wear cleavers, they adapted that skirt, they still look like they looked like Victorian women’s skirts, but they have ever adaptions to make them safer for bicycling. So they got quite creative as well at this time. But yes, and obviously there were bicycles just covered. Thank god to me, I can’t pay for a few times to where it all starts if that’s if that’s where you felt comfortable.

Carlton Reid 29:22
Let’s let’s try let’s link those two subjects together using two women who are very much still with us. And that’s Sheila Hanlon. So is the the expert on suffragettes and bicycles and then Kat Jungnickel, who makes makes the events clothing which you’ve talked about there so so I assume you talk to both Sheila and Kat for your book.

Hannah Ross 29:45
I haven’t. I have read their books and read Sheila’s papers in the British library and credit the morning the book but yesterday, I mean, I have met Kat as well. But yes, they all Usually important women, historians and had a big influence on on where I went from my research as well.

Carlton Reid 30:09
So tell me about Kat because you haven’t met where you met her but you haven’t interviewed for the book as such. But just tell me a bit about what she said I’ve never had her on the show, I don’t think but just tell me what what her her clothing and what she does with it because it’s pretty clever

Hannah Ross 30:25
Kats says she’s researched in who painted the pattern that Victorian women were registering at this time for innovative cycling clothing, that wasn’t rational.

Hannah Ross 30:42

Hannah Ross 30:47
she has examples of women who were there’s one woman who made a skirt with a kind of pulley system. So within the layers of fabric, there were there was the ability to kind of pull call a lot of things in very well but the poor parts up so you could lift skirt up much shorter skirt when you’re on the bicycle. And then you could drop it right back down again. When you will suit. As soon as you’re off the bicycle for you. We’re back to being a Victorian woman in traditional Victorian fashion, you weren’t going to be upsetting anyone or losing an arm. And there were women who sewed weight in the bottom of the gut so that they didn’t fly up and reveal shocking amount of life. Yeah, cats don’t really extraordinary research in se women who actually went as far as registering patents. And it is very interesting at this time I have been through countless magazine cycling magazine from the 1890s. And they are full if you do one more purchase, or women have adverts for tailors, who will make these dresses or companies like Yaeger, who, at the time are very involved in making woolen cycling clothing, all save, inspired and informed by many of the women that who really kind of radicalised women’s cycling clothing, often in quite quiet and subtle ways.

Carlton Reid 32:45
People know about suffragettes, of course. But then you have in this period, you have the New Woman in an all in the first letters there in caps, very much an American phenomenon, but it’s not radical. As such, it was seen as semi radical back then. But what’s the kind of distinction between the New Woman mmovement and and suffragettes obviously, that there’s a there’s a voting element there, but could they be the same women or were they different movements?

Hannah Ross 33:19
New women preceded the suffragette movement, they preceded the WSPU, which was suffragette, but they were very much still wanting vote for women, but it was a WSPU that made that formal organisation. New Women that the term was coined in the 1890s and the suffragette organisation started in the early 1900s so it would have been exactly that market. Same demographic sorry, huh. Women who want to vote but also you know, often in education the right to have more freedoms and economic and political rights

Carlton Reid 34:18
so that’s that’s that was often a middle class Yes. to be doing that. But then you’ve got things like the Mowbray House Cycling Association which is which very much a thing that you could you could almost run today with like immigrant communities where you want women to get onto onto bikes from like Bangladeshi communities, for instance, because they would basically this particular organisation was set up by or funded by a rich journalist was basically trying to get working women on bikes because at this period that this wasn’t a working women’s form of transport, was it?

Hannah Ross 34:56
not, not in the early days, no bicycles. was fairly expensive in the first part, or the first half day tonight, so they got progressively more affordable. But yes and, and cycling was in its absolute peak of the 1890s was very much a society, women occupation. And they liked the fact that by

Carlton Reid 35:23
Lady Harberton gives you, that sort of thing doesn’t it’s like it’s posh people.

Hannah Ross 35:28
It really was and there’s actually that a film. I’m sure you’ve seen it Carlton, from 1896 of Hyde Park in the really, really only film. And it’s very interesting not to film in general, where you can see the society, people of London came around on a maybe a Sunday afternoon, in Hyde Park and all that in all their finery, what you can make out from it. It’s a very short clip, but it’s really amazing to have it. But yes, I talk in the book about various ladies. aristocrat to would would meet at Battersea. They tell half a huge breakfast or with 50 of their closest friends, and then all bets like playing or have players, where they would all then cycle through the streets of London afterwards. I mean, it was just such a fashionable thing.

Carlton Reid 36:26
So it wasn’t ladies that lunch, it was, you know, ladies who pedal.

Hannah Ross 36:30
The aristocracy finally moved on pretty quickly. But that’s, you know, they have, in a way helped stigmatise the idea of women on bicycles, which was which was which was useful. And the popularity method mass production was ramped up such that bicycles can keep keep up. And I believe that there were lots of methods of purchasing bicycles as well in kind of through two instalments. And by the leather secondhand market started ramping up as time progressed. So more and more women could afford it. But yes, the Mowbray House Cycling Association is really interesting. This is Sheila’s and she’s written a really interesting paper about it. And it was a way of making making work and women’s lives easier by by by giving them the ability to cycle to work and also be able to think they own careers a caravan and a holiday cottage for people that are members could actually go on holiday and get some time away from work and in London, which is a little bit the same as the Clarion cycling club was doing. Yes, and yeah, you mentioned the connection now with the various initiatives wonderful. I was involved in the boat project, which help refugees and asylum seekers learn to ride bicycles, and they have a programme specifically for women for pedal power. Which syndrome dried at the end of the quarter? They get given a bicycle. Which Yeah, it’s not it’s not a million miles and what was happening, it may vary.

Carlton Reid 36:54
There’s a there’s a film on I’m trying to think what it’s called Mama, something. Have you seen that film? It’s a Dutch film about Dutch woman who gets immigrant women on on bicycles. And it’s by the name, but I’ll put it in the show notes. Fantastic. It’s a fantastic film Mama something I did a whole story on it, and that now I can’t think what the second part of it is, but it’ll be Yeah, I’ll definitely send you a link for it afterwards.

Hannah Ross 38:59
I thought I knew every women’s cycling film, but obviously not.

Carlton Reid 39:02
Well, it this is this is a modern one. But it’s really really it’s really heartwarming stuff. So I’ll put in the show notes. I’ll send you so sticking, we’ll go back onto posh people actually. So because I’m pretty sure I’ve read this book online. I didn’t get this. I didn’t need to go and get this physically. I think you can get it on like And that is Maria Ward’s Bicycling for Ladies, which is so wonderful.

Carlton Reid 39:27
love I love that book. It’s Yeah,

Carlton Reid 39:31
it is posh. It’s a posh book, but just tell us a little bit about that. Yeah.

Hannah Ross 39:36
Maria Ward, lived in on Staten Island. And she was a member of the Staten Island cycling club to Staten Island in New York. And she decided to use up cycling and she decided that she would write a book to encourage and inspire and help other women who are interested in learning to ride a bicycle You’re cycling, which, which seems a slightly strange thing now because you think you’re learning to ride a bike, you would get on a bicycle and be taught by this doctor. And but for a lot of people this time, that wasn’t a wasn’t a possibility, although I should have been called at the time when he strengthened but they wouldn’t have been accessible to everyone. And she felt obviously felt that women needed extra encouragement and specialist information. So in it, she will talk about what she wore on a bicycle, whereas on a bicycle, and what appropriate, but there’s pages and pages of how you actually go about cycling. And one of the really interesting things that I talked about in the book is how much time she spends on on mechanics and fixing bicycles. And she is really, really, and she talks about having a bicycle workshop of her own, and then how joyous It is to be able to just pick a bicycle apart completely and flip back together again. And she’s she sort of, she thinks that all women should be poor, or learn the how to fix their own bicycles. So they’re not they can go out fighting on their own, which you really encouraged as well, even though she was passionate. Remember, he also felt that women should be going out and taking rides alone. That that was something that that thing, too, and they should do. And if they got a punture, when they were out that they would go for

Carlton Reid 41:50
It is a great book. I mean, she’s basically Jenny Gwiazdowski, I’m murdering that name. Of Bike Kitchen. Yes. In that book that has a modern resonance. You could get in Jenny’s book because Jenny’s written a book on how to build your own bike and all that kind of stuff. So so so as much as Jenny is a is an absolute barnstormer today, there were people like her doing that way back then.

Hannah Ross 42:17
And there’s quite a few of them and a surprising number of them doing this, which again, shows how popular how popular cycling was at the time that there was this market for it. But also that it felt that women needed there were women who needed a bit of extra encouragement and education to go have the courage to get up and get good.

Carlton Reid 42:45
So in your book, you do talk about participation numbers, and and how that has absolutely fluctuated through time. So what what are those numbers? Are we talking about it? Because it’s very often said, you know, if, if you have a cycling culture that welcomes, you know, you have lots of women’s cycling base, you must have a fantastic cycling culture. It’s that kind of thing.

Hannah Ross 43:10
Yes. And so very much depends on what country you’re talking about, as we all know, and then, and I’ve learned to mark have extremely high numbers of women’s acclaim. And in the UK and North America, it’s around a third of cyclists are women, which is the same as it was back in the 1890s. So it’s, it’s a bit of a shame that we haven’t really progressed since then, to equalise more. But yes, the and also cycling has has folded in and out of fashion. Again, depending on on where you’re talking about, but certainly in Europe, North America, you know, it’s, it’s almost unimaginable now to to how popular it was in the boom time of the 1890s. But by the 50s it was really, really declining. I mean, it already had to climb very significantly from the beginning of the 20th century onwards, but sort of 50s, 60s it was it was really really falling out of favour

Hannah Ross 44:25

Hannah Ross 44:28
it became you know, Carlton, stigmatises you typically you couldn’t afford a car but you it was it was on the rise at this point. So either is it depending on where you are in the world, it’s a very different story. And I don’t know I’m trying to have the same thing. It’s going out of fashion again, well, whilst it’s come back and fashion in Europe, North America. So it’s sort of up and down trajectory.

Carlton Reid 45:00
Well on that slightly depressing,

Carlton Reid 45:04
becoming more and more,

Carlton Reid 45:08
I’d like to cut to an break now, if you don’t mind, but i would i do want to come back and talk more. But right at this second of time, let’s go to David for that ad break.

David Bernstein 45:18
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Carlton Reid 46:44
Thanks, David. And we are back with Hannah Ross. And we are talking about “Revolutions,” her new book that was out just earlier this month in April. Hannah was it women when it come out? Yes, that’s right.

Hannah Ross 46:57
Yes. First of April. All right. Okay.

Carlton Reid 47:00
And who’s your publisher, who should people go to?

Hannah Ross 47:04
Weidenfed & Nicolson.

Carlton Reid 47:10
Obviously, it’s a it’s a it’s a long and detailed books, we’ve just skimmed it a few names from from from the historical part of your book. But in the second half of the show, let’s let’s try and bring it a bit more up to date. But still still saying kind of like philosophy or this would still be ancient history. But let’s start with mountain biking, because Gary Fisher gets lots of credit. Lots of those those early guys get get lots of credit yet Wende Cragg very rarely gets talked about. Yeah, all those photographs, virtually all those photographs, which you see in Gary’s book, which you see, you know, the early days of the Klunkers as they were virtually all of them was shot by by Wende and you talked to her, didn’t you in your book?,

Hannah Ross 47:55
I did talk to her. yeah, she is still living in Mount Tamalpais, which is, which is where it’s kind of, I mean, it’s contested, but it’s sort of mountain biking, and when there was there for all of that, and they were her and her riding buddies. And yet, as you say she was she was the main photographer, but she was also doing the what was doing the kind of latent scene of downhill mountain biking, only fire roads and footpaths. And she was pretty much the only woman there. And yeah, I found this really, really fascinating, interesting part of the story of mountain cycling and mountain biking.

Hannah Ross 48:52
You know, mountain biking, I think seen as this kind of was back then this is very kind of male dominated, rugged,

Hannah Ross 49:01
rugged sport that sort of came out of this sort of alternative cycling theme where the other people who started I tear of mouth like I mean they invented new people inventing mountain bikes, they were sort of in our own bikes in order to handle these this rough terrain because they found they had been very many of them have been road cyclists and they found out that maybe a little bit stayed in rules driven and they thought Well, we know we have fun to cycling around on the mountain. Let’s make this a thing. let’s let’s let’s start racing down all these tracks.

Carlton Reid 49:46
Does she still ride?

Hannah Ross 49:47
I think she doest. I mean, she does a little bit. She still enjoys

Hannah Ross 49:56
going out on a bicycle.

Carlton Reid 49:58
Now, we talked before about Annie Londonderry Chopkowsky being a fascinating woman and this this next woman is guarantee is fascinating because she’s absolutely crackers. And I love here to bits. So that’s Jacquie Phelan. So Jacquie Phelan is again is another one of these amazing characters.

Hannah Ross 50:17
I think

Carlton Reid 50:19
yes, well, Missy Giove obviously but but but Jackie, I mean, did you talk to Jacquie?

Hannah Ross 50:25
A little bit

Hannah Ross 50:28
and she is, again, like when does she was definitely pretty much not quite to the very beginning is one of the very, very early on. And this was back when women that it was much less professional but less commercialised than it is now mountain biking, and they the women will compete on same course and then far less of them. But you had to be I think you probably did have to be quite a character to kind of go with the sort of it’s dangerous stuff that they’re doing. And it was sort of a lot of it was sort of made up as they went along. But he was involved for many years and she the she was there as a sport, the game started turning on much more professional and much more commercialised and there was much more money in it. But do one do one numerous record records and held many records. And she was also always, you could always note see that Jacquie was in a race because of her various outfits. I think he had a flux that she attached to her for bicycle helmets. And she her partner was a another very key mountain biker. And he was also a really extraordinary mechanic as well. So he was kind of inventing mountain bikes she was racing on and they were kind of really known as being bikes like that and they were really kind of revolutionary on the scene as well and kind of influence what mountain bikes became down a mountain bikes. She’s really extraordinary and she went on to form this kind of organisation which encouraged more women into mountain biking this time When, when, when it very few women still were getting involved because the image of it interested, I guess, for a lot of women’s it’s about over in.

Carlton Reid 52:52
That’s WOMBATS isn’t it?

Hannah Ross 52:53
Yes. And

Carlton Reid 52:54
Yeah, Women’s Mountain Bike and Tea society. I’ve got she gave me the as well as she gave me some patches to sew on to stuff with WOMBAT stuff on and she was at your to mention racing there. And she was beating men. You know, she was yes, there was there was certain women who she was very much competing with at the time, but she could be you know, men back then, you know now that’s not that’s not so surprising. But back then it was quite surprising that a woman was was was beating men in these mountain bike races. So she’s a wonderful so there’s so many characters in your book, which are absolutely larger than life. So so it’s great that you’re, you’re you’re you’re talking about all of these people accept the Annie Londonderry’s of this world. And you know, through to Jacquie Phelan. And then Ayesha McGowan is in your book. So he has been on on the show. So a black woman cyclists trying to break into the to the pro ranks. So she’s got a fantastic story as well. Did you talk to Ayesha?

Hannah Ross 54:02
I met her when she she came to London. Do an event. And I met her we have but yeah, she she’s in the last chapter where I I sort of try and as much as possible summarise what’s happening on the riding scene now across Well, great cycling, cyclocross and mountain biking and just the kind of push for more diversity. The women like I share, who is who’s been really kind of high profile and campaigning, and it’s really

Carlton Reid 54:48
diverse. So we have the suffragettes who were the radicals of their day, but then you’ve got like the Ovarian Psychos Bicycle Brigade. Now I’m assuming they’re Californian, would that be right?

Hannah Ross 55:00
They are LA based Yes. And they, their their thing is about reclaiming the street. For I mean, they’re, they’re extremely political. They’re very involved in anti gentrification movement in LA. They are a group of Latina women. dominant

Hannah Ross 55:26
in how to justify

Hannah Ross 55:29
location now, but when they started, they started these bike rides called the Lunar rides, which were there, but their monthly ride where they would ride around the streets of La together as a group of women. They felt that alone, they weren’t safe, or they felt that there was there was certain prejudice about them, as well, is just coming from different different places that some people felt they felt that some people felt that they shouldn’t be fighting. Because there are women that other communities felt that they fit the mould of cyclists that they weren’t white, middle class boards, expensive bike, that sort of, it’s really interesting that that kind of really captured a lot of prejudices and preconceived ideas about women is like it across many different levels. But yeah, for them, it’s, it’s, it’s about togetherness and empowerment, which, you know, we’ve talked about goes way back, its way back to the beginning of cycling. And they are still doing these Lunar rides, which is amazing. And they invite any woman or anyone identifying as a woman. And as this kind of movement of owning that street and enjoying cycling, having a good time.

Carlton Reid 57:17
And crazy though, that’s still a political statement. I mean, this is this is both male and female. Riding a bicycle You know, this in the 1890s was very often a political statement, just as today it can be just getting on a bicycle can be a political statement, which is which

Carlton Reid 57:31
is crackers.

Hannah Ross 57:34
Yeah. It is because I mean, more. So I’ve talked about in countries like Afghanistan and Iran, Saudi Arabia, where I’ve interviewed people, women, that are really, really very, very politically charged issue. And with with so many of the arguments about why women shouldn’t cycle that, so Okay, what was happening here and the 1890s and it is similar kind of cheers and the language isn’t, isn’t a million miles from, from what people were saying that as well. It’s saying, but but there are extraordinary women who are who are fighting all that now as well. And establishing something that women can do.

Carlton Reid 58:24
Well, Hannah, that’s been absolutely fascinating. Thank you ever so much for taking some time away from Cleo to be with us on today’s show. So to end would you mind telling us how we can get hold of your book and any social media things we should be aware of to get in touch with you?

Unknown Speaker 58:45
Yes, well, thank you so much for having me, Carlton. I’ve had a really enjoyable time speaking here. And should anyone wants to buy my book, it’s available from all the usual outlets and I am on Twitter, @HannahVRoss.

Carlton Reid 59:00
Brilliant. Thank you very much. And by the way, it was Mama Agatha. I did a quick search on that. So I did a story on on it was 2019 because they did a few teasers a couple years before that. Then they released the whole movie I think it’s probably on Netflix and stuff. So Mama Agatha. Absolutely right up your street, Hanna.

Unknown Speaker 59:23
Fantastic, I’m going to search it out.

Carlton Reid 59:27
Thanks to Hannah Ross, and thanks to you for listening to the Spokesmen cycling podcast, show notes and more can be found on But meanwhile, get out there and ride …

April 4, 2021 / / Blog

Your podcast catcher not showing in links above (black circle with three dots)? Loads more on PodLink. Show is also on Spotify. and Google Podcasts.

4th April 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 271: White House Recognizes Induced Demand Exists Meaning There’s Now a Bicycle-Shaped Overton Window That Needs Jamming Open


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Meredith Glaser and Kevin Krizek

TOPICS: Discussing President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and how Pete Buttigieg is shaping up to be the most people-friendly Transport Secretary since John Volpe of the early 1970s. (Like, Buttigieg, Volpe also cycled to the office.)


Kevin J. Krizek is Professor of Environmental Design at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Meredith Glaser is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, and one of the principals of the University’s Urban Cycling Institute.

$2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Most Radical Transport Shift Since 1950s, Says President Biden

Design For Human Beings Not Cars, New U.S. Transport Secretary Says

Can street-focused emergency response measures trigger a transition to new transport systems? Exploring evidence and lessons from 55 US cities


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 271 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was uploaded on Sunday fourth of April 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 Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at 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- And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:09
The last couple of shows were UK focussed. This one shifts to the USA. I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s hour and half long episode I talk with American academics Meredith Glaser and Kevin Krizek. We discus President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and how Pete Buttigieg is shaping up to be the most people-friendly Transport Secretary since John Volpe in the early 1970s. (Like Buttigieg, Volpe also cycled to the office, more about that on a forthcoming article on Back to today and both my guests, as you’ll soon hear, are American, although, without even the hint of a Dutch accent, Meredith has lived in the Netherlands for some years. She is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, and one of the principals behind the very-popular-with-planners summer school at the University’s Urban Cycling Institute. Kevin is Professor of Environmental Design at the University of Colorado Boulder. Along with Meredith he has written a paper on the pedalling potential of 55 American cities.

Carlton Reid 2:39
I’ve got to focus on here American folks, and one is is is not in America is in a bicyclist paradise, basically. And so that person will be Meredith. Hi, Meredith. How’s it going across there in Amsterdam?

Meredith Glaser 2:59
Hi, thanks for having me. Yeah, it’s great. I mean, it’s the weather is as Dutch as usual. And but the bike paths are as red and glorious as usual.

Carlton Reid 3:12
You’ve got a bit of a wee bit of a political problem across there at the moment with with Rutte who famously, you know, bicycle advocates post videos of him cycling to, you know, the royalty to the palace and, and, and to Parliament, etc. But he has any just survived a vote of no confidence.

Meredith Glaser 3:32

Meredith Glaser 3:35
I am not allowed to vote in this country, which puts me at a very unique situation where I can vote on a local level, but not at the national level. So while I do have, you know, impressions of what’s going on in the national level, I don’t so much participate. So local issues are much more familiar to me than than the national level.

Carlton Reid 4:08
The reason I was gonna ask, we’ll bring Kevin in in a minute, but the reason I was I was asking that was because and mentioning how its a bicyclist paradise. So we tend to think of the Netherlands as just, you know, planning to the nth degree. Everything is, you know, incredibly well organised. And yet the pandemic response has been shambolic. It’s really strange how such an organised country is disorganised on something as as big as it is that is that resonating in the Netherlands is is that one of the reasons why he’s his face this November was illiterate just because he lied.

Meredith Glaser 4:48
Yeah, I don’t really know. But I mean, as a resident I’ve, I’ve gone through these waves of feeling confident in the response and then feeling very You have a very opposite very like, what are you doing? How could this be possible? Why are my kids going back in school right now? Or, you know why I’m still seeing, you know, many groups of people congregating in parks drinking beer. With with the with the cops just rolling by, and not doing anything? And yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s been a very interesting situation.

Meredith Glaser 5:30

Meredith Glaser 5:32
yeah, I mean,

Meredith Glaser 5:35
I don’t know, I

Meredith Glaser 5:36
don’t know what else?

Carlton Reid 5:36
Well, it’s just how can a country plan so brilliantly in transport and then screw up in something like public health? Which is, which is well,

Meredith Glaser 5:47
yeah, actually,

Meredith Glaser 5:48
you know, I don’t know, if it’s, I don’t know if it would agree that like they planned so meticulously, because actually, one of the most beautiful things about cycling in the Netherlands is that it is sort of chaotic, and organic. And that there are very much some places that are not planned. And in fact, the whole emergence of sight of cycling or reemergence of cycling and the Netherlands after the Second World War, I mean, it was just a perfect storm of events, and you know, this all too well. So, you know, it was coming together of social movements of, of advocacy of it, numerous things going on that, that resulted in what we have today here. So, I, I’m not sure if it’s like a perfect planning paradise. In fact, I think it’s a it’s definitely, you know, I think the Dutch pride themselves on tolerance. And, I mean, it’s very noticeable, even in the difference of culture that I have being American, and, and those who are local, you know, Dutch national, Dutch in how we approach police officers, you know, the Dutch approach a police officer, like it’s just, it’s just a regular person, it’s nothing to be there’s no hierarchy. I’ve seen some arguments between, you know, a full on arguments, whereas me as an American, I mean, the police officer, you know, you call them Mister, it’s, you know, it’s a very clear it’s a very clear hierarchy of power. So I don’t know, I think there’s, there’s some interesting connections there that that maybe can be explored with relation to the pandemic.

Carlton Reid 7:40
And let’s bring in Kevin, and I’m going to ask you roughly the same question here, because there was a shambolic response. Before a certain election in America, there now has been a very rapid rollout of vaccinations by the new comer. So, from a planning perspective, was the previous administration not very good at planning, and this administration kind of a lot better at planning? Kevin?

Kevin Krizek 8:12
Thanks, Carlton, that’s a really interesting question, because I’m not so sure that it’s tied to planning as it is to just sheer politics. Yes, the new administration after this certain election, you know, they want to try and button down and get a little bit more strong of a hold on what’s going, what’s going on. Now, if that’s planning, if that’s kind of regulatory structures, if that’s telling people a little bit more about the types of freedoms that they are allowed to have or not allowed to have? Yeah, you can think of it in terms of planning. But there’s no diff, there’s no doubt that there’s a different philosophy and there’s a different approach that’s in the air.

Carlton Reid 8:52
So I haven’t mentioned the pandemic and planning as a way of introduction to both of you. And that’s very much because that’s what we’ll be we’ll be talking about as well as, as the American jobs plan, etc. But before we get into the, the heart of the show the meat. Let’s hear from both of you, and my philosophy will be fascinating to hear why Meredith is American but in the Netherlands, but let’s let’s hear from both of you on first of all your job titles, what your your actually your research interests are, and then maybe why you are in certain places, Kevin, why you are where you are, and Meredith where you are. So Meredith, let’s start with you. And let’s find out first of all, why are you in Amsterdam?

Meredith Glaser 9:45
It’s a really good question. It could be the entire episode actually. But, but yeah, so I am currently a researcher and lecturer at the urban cycling Institute at the University of Amsterdam. And why I came to Amsterdam? I mean, that’s a that’s a really good question. It means I’ve always wanted to live abroad. As a young American, in fact, my mother reminds me often used to say, as a little girl, you’re tired of sitting in the car and that you want to, you want to live somewhere where you don’t need to have a car. And well, that first came true when I went to UC Davis, for undergrad degree, which is a city pretty well known for, at least in the American context, a pretty, pretty robust cycling culture.

Carlton Reid 10:37
And infrastructure. Dutch-style.

Meredith Glaser 10:41
Yeah, Dutch style, built in

Meredith Glaser 10:43
Dutch style roundabout, then. Yeah. And then, and then I moved to Japan, actually, where I also lived carfree and with a Dutch style bike, but Japanese upright bike. And so yeah, and then now I’m in now I’m in the Netherlands. And I was very, I was very interested in living as an adult in another place, and to immerse myself in another culture. I had visited the Netherlands several times, I was drawn to there, to the high quality of life here and the culture that has a pretty open mindset, and a really incredible appreciation for public life and public space and high quality urban design. And coming out of urban planning school, from UC Berkeley, that was also a big draw to me was was the public space and public life. And, and then cycling ended up being a being a main factor in in my future here. But originally the trip the living here, originally, I plan to live here for about a year with my now husband, but that has turned into a decade and a house and two children and seven bikes.

Carlton Reid 12:06
Fantastic that Kevin, you are somewhere it from an American North American perspective is pretty damn cycling friendly. If Boulder is a is a pretty nice bicycling place.

Kevin Krizek 12:20
Yeah, so my family and I have lived here for 12 years now. And frankly, one of the reasons that we did move to Boulder is because of the transportation amenities that provided cycling being one of them. And so set, you know, it was really on the agenda for for boulder to be growing cycling wise for a number of years in the late 90s and early 2000s. What’s interesting is that once they were able to take advantage of the low hanging fruit, that is the east west corridors in town, because of the tributaries in the streams and the creeks and whatnot, where you can put bicycling pads down a little bit more easily, when they tried to think about really improving the transportation, cycling perspective on North South routes. That’s where things got a little bit more hairy for Boulder, and they haven’t been able to have the breakthroughs that they were, you know, 15 years ago with some of that low hanging fruit. And so that’s really provided an interesting context and interesting dynamic with respect to how, you know, transportation provisions, amenities are being provided sometimes at the expense of cars, but mostly not being provided because it’s going to be coming at the expense of cars. And because it’s difficult, and because it’s more difficult to do

Carlton Reid 13:34
it, but it’s difficult.

Kevin Krizek 13:35
Yep. The politics are a lot different.

Carlton Reid 13:38
So Meredith was talking about Davis, California, and Davis and boulder have kind of see sort of, which is the the biggest, you know, American city for for bicycling. It’s either one of those usually and important, of course, comes in from a from a radical point of view as well. But from your point of view, Kevin, where do you see boulder sitting right now compared it with my question and in fact is which is the best city in? in North America? No, no America because they have to bring in Montreal with me. So what’s the best city in the United States of America for bicycling.

Kevin Krizek 14:19
Small city, Davis, large city, Minneapolis or Portland towns have corner millions or so it’s Boulder, but is Boulders, cycling prowess, you know exceeding that of Davis or Portland or Minneapolis.

Carlton Reid 14:34
I doubt it.

Kevin Krizek 14:36
One thing that Boulder really does have going for it is that they now have you know, almost 85 grade controlled intersections, which is amazing. So nobody can touch that in terms of bridges and underpasses for cycling. So that’s one that’s one area where they really stand out. But we have to understand that those types of infrastructures they’re pretty costly. $10 million sometimes

Carlton Reid 15:05
We started talking about this, before this particular announcement, but you must be kind of excited both you must be kind of excited, even though married if you’re actually living in the base of the moment, but you still must be pretty excited because you’re you’re researching obviously, you must be excited by the American jobs plan, announced by President Biden is it now two days ago, and and obviously, very much trailed and supported by by the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. So how excited? Are you how much of a paradigm shift? Is this going to be? So Meredith first, what are your initial thoughts on the American jobs plan?

Meredith Glaser 15:51
I think it’s well, just from reading the articles, and, you know, perusing the White House, website and some other sources, it, of course, seems really exciting. And to hear, you know, these very prominent champions, like Jeanette Sadiq Khan, and, you know, directors at nacto, and these big names who have been supporting, you know, livable streets and innovation in terms of our transportation systems in the US, seeing these people support it, and hearing their, their support for the plan, of course, gives me a lot of confidence. And I’m really curious how it will unfold, because at the moment, we got some, we’ve got some great numbers that are very promising, you know, 20 million into into roads and, or, sorry, 2 billion into roads and road safety. You know, 20,000 miles of highways and roads being upgraded. I mean, that, yeah, and transit focus, I think these are all very needed. upgrades. But where, I wonder a bit about how the details will unfold, like Where, where, you know, where do the cities actually come in. So much of these Urban’s so much of the networks, and so much of the infrastructure that is going to need to be upgraded, they fall in the hands of cities and regions. And, of course, there are some, you know, major bridges and airports and, and highways, but what about when they interface with the city? And what about when they interface with our city streets, that very, those very local networks that are used by, you know, the citizens in in our urban areas? So I think that’s, I think that’s going to be an interesting part to, to to see what happens in the next in the next few months, and also how the the negotiations will happen. And you know, what’s going, what’s going to happen with it? I’m just curious. It’s like a soap opera.

Carlton Reid 18:21
So the Republicans, and this is a generic question to Kevin, the Republicans have already come out and instantly came out and said, No, this is not bipartisan, you ain’t gonna get this, we’re gonna we’re gonna kibosh this. And then Biden tweeted the same night saying, I do think it’s a bipartisan su but in fact, we’re gonna do it anyway. So Kevin, is this something that even though the republicans for many, many years have said, you know, infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure, here’s our plan that delivers that infrastructure, but they’re not going to support it. Whereas other things that they haven’t wanted to support they’ve they’ve pushed through the democrats or pushed through anyway? Is this going to be the same thing? Or do you think this is going to be a huge fight to actually get any of this actually put into law?

Kevin Krizek 19:11
I think that’s a really interesting question, in part because for the first time, in a long time, we’re talking about a type of infrastructure that is, you know, we’ve long long taken for granted. And the solutions to that type of infrastructure, I’m talking about roadways have always been divided along party lines. Now, what we have in 2021 is a complete shattering of the previous solutions for those types of remedies. Say, for example, okay, we got an infrastructure problem with respect to transport. What we’re going to do is we’re going to increase the supply. So the republicans are going to say we want more roadways, we want wider roadways. We want more travel lanes, right. And the republicans are saying, Well, you know, or the democrats are saying, Well, you know, there’s other ways of getting around town and maybe we want to invest In Transit, so that’s really changing these days because of, you know, new technology and new. think frankly, realisations about safety and new realisations about issues of climate change. Now, are those types of topics gonna have currency for the republicans, you know, slowly, but surely, we’re gonna be seeing different types of solutions be thrown at transportation related issues. So I’m I am optimistic and so far as the landscape that has typically divided politics in this respect in the country, you know, for the past decade or two decades, is different. And the fact that the Biden administration is really putting the spotlight on new types of infrastructure, and on roads about how they can provide new insights, and new inspiration for our economy is something that’s kind of refreshing.

Carlton Reid 20:52
And I’m coming straight back to here, Kevin, as well about I’ll then ask Meredith the same thing. Is bicycling left wing? Is it? Is it just neutral? Is there anything that mentions bicycling I can I could lump in transit here and pedestrian, is that seen as very much a partisan thing. So bicycling and transit and pedestrian infrastructure, that’s absolutely going to be something only democrats are going to prioritise. Or do you think this is muddier than that? Or am I just basically, generalising?

Kevin Krizek 21:30
You know, historically, I would say that that’s the case. But as we sit in 2021, it’s considerably more murky than that. And the reason it’s considerably more murky than that is because we have transportation innovations that are shaking this industry in ways that we haven’t seen in the prior 2, 3, 4 years. And so you know, those things that look like bicycles, they really don’t necessarily need to be considered bicycles anymore. They could be, you know, souped up us really small electric cars. But the nature in which we design our transportation field facilities to accept bicyclists, or, you know, huge SUVs, that has a lot to do with the types of futures that we want to see unfold. But my point here is that, you know, as the technology and the technological innovations continue to hit the transportation market, we’re going to see cars look a lot more about like bikes, we’re going to see bikes look a lot more like cars. And so that’s going to provide a more market more murky, you know, political context for us to understand how and why and where we want different types of vehicles in our cities.

Carlton Reid 22:37
Yeah, Canyon a couple of months ago brought out in effect a very small, very small, it looks like an SUV but it’s actually just a small car. But it’s a bicycle as well. It’s It’s It’s It’s a big bicycle maker, making a car is exactly what you’re saying that they’re gonna they’re gonna merge, they’re going to smash together.

Kevin Krizek 22:59
And the outstanding question here, Carlton, is where in our existing transportation system should a vehicle like that be housed? Because right now, if we try to house it on our city streets, yes, with good reason, it’s unsafe. But yet, if we change our city streets to accommodate those types of more fuel efficient, more equitable and safer types of vehicles, we’re going to be in a much stronger hands.

Carlton Reid 23:26
So Meredith, you’re living in a place which which is tackling and it is, is going through these kind of changes already and has been fractured for many years it because you’ve got these micro cars. Yeah, that are already I’ve been in Amsterdam, where it’s like, wow, there’s a car. But it’s one of these micro cars. So how does that fit into the system? And also, let’s talk about after after you answer that one. Also, tell me about left wing right wing, because obviously, in the Netherlands, you know, Cycling is not a political issue at all. So first of all, the kind of vehicle you’re seeing and how that might play elsewhere in from the, the Amsterdam or the Dutch example. And then the politics from from where you’re sitting.

Meredith Glaser 24:10
Yeah. Wow, really good questions. So the types of vehicles that type of vehicle question is really interesting, because right now, there’s a huge influx in all types of these small lightweight electric vehicles, right, the Le v types of also logistics vehicles, right. So there’s these really small vans that are going on the streets, they’re parking up on sidewalks, there’s really small or large actually cargo bikes, you know, with like a front box. There’s, there’s, there’s all these different types of forms, and you kind of wonder like, Well, wait, is this a bike? Is it is it a car? Yeah, it’s getting very murky, just like what Kevin said. And, but we’re still seeing that, you know, at least In Amsterdam here, you know, they’re leaning on the bicycle as sort of the emblematic form of how you know how to dictate what the infrastructure is. So what, what their, what a lot of the streets here are doing, or what the changes they’re making on streets here is incorporating a bicycle street approach. And they’re also being very strategic about traffic circulation in general. So the newest, you know, policies recommended for the city, or recommended by the city include that to get, you know, to get across the city, by bike should be the fastest way, you know, to get straight through the city. And to get through my car is essentially impossible, you have to go all the way around the city. So the circulation plan is encouraging an increase in space for for bikes and these other types of vehicles, just simply because there are fewer cars going through the city. Does that makes sense?

Carlton Reid 26:15
Yeah. And then you’re but then you’re also living somewhere where this isn’t a political issue. This isn’t, you know, all that lefty thing?

Meredith Glaser 26:22
You know, I, I disagree that it’s not political. It’s not like an a political topic. But I, I have been told by and I’ve heard, you know, many, even conservative Republican or not repub. Sorry. I have heard many conservative politicians here, say, admit that it’s not a political issue. But where we do see, the political issue coming out is the continued investment in highway expansions and car based infrastructure. So on the one hand, you know, cities in the Netherlands, especially, like attract froning, and Amsterdam, they envision themselves being the cycling capitals of the Netherlands or the world. But at the same time, these you know, these heavy investments are going into car infrastructure that, you know, defeats the purpose. So it is, it’s an it’s a conundrum, you know, a good example locally here. In, in a neighbourhood, a very city centre neighbourhood in Amsterdam called the pipe, the neighbourhood kind of got together and they wanted to have more green space on the city streets on their streets. And the city was also thinking about how to not only improve landscaping and greenery, but also kind of, you know, climate proof Amsterdam. And, and at the same time, they happen to be also building a state of the art underground parking garage, right near this, this community. So, on one hand, they wanted to reduce carpet car parking spaces on street, but on the other hand, they were building this multimillion dollar multi million euro car parking garage underneath a canal next to the Rijksmuseum where you know, there would be an influx of of car traffic going into this car parking garage. So it was kind of this, you know, interesting situation where some residents were already aggravate, you know, we’re already forming a group that was against this parking garage. But those same residents were also very much for, you know, removing parking from the street and improving the greenery. So it’s interesting. I saw I wouldn’t say that it’s a political

Carlton Reid 28:58
Kevin, Meredith was was talking there about transport investment and then when you dig down into what I consider fantastically titled American jobs plan, just because like who could who could like argue against that. But there’s $174 billion for Elon Musk, in effect, and his ilk, in that there’s going to be an enormous rollout of charging infrastructure and, and just facilities for electric cars. And as we know, as anybody with even a modicum of common sense would know, but apparently not not, not planners and politicians. An electric car is gonna get gummed up in in transport delays just as much as a gas fueled car. So that that does that worry you that there’s 174 billion there to basically increase motoring.

Kevin Krizek 29:53
There’s no doubt that for those who are concerned about the degree to which cars have already consumed a lot of space in cities that this $174 billion to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles is indeed going to gum up things more along those lines. And so you know, one part of the creative nation’s climate strategy, we need to move beyond just shifting to electrification, it’s time to consider the types of vehicles that we want in our cities as well. And notably, you know, the SUV’s boom that we’ve seen over the past decade, that’s notably led to a lot of substantial declines in safety. So if we want to think about how we are designing our cities, we need to move beyond just okay, this typically sized car and American companies, yes, they’re building new types of small electric vehicles, too. And so that’s where it’s gonna be interesting as this plan further unfolds, and we became we become aware of some more and more of the details, is that where are the incentives for those small types of vehicles, you know, like, ARCA Moto, you know, these types of vehicles can coexist with people walking and bicycling because of their human scale dimensions. And they can serve the same purpose as cars, trucks and SUVs. But you know, and furthermore, you know, given the fact, Carlton, that more than half of all trips in suburban and urban areas are less than four miles, these types of vehicles could carry most of those types of trips and cities, but only if the infrastructure of our streets changes so that more people can feel comfortable using them.

Carlton Reid 31:30
And so see that that’s almost like, sorry, Kevin, for interupting you. That’s almost like a European level of distance of, you know, average use of a motorcar, we tend to people in Europe are going to think, Oh, yeah, but Americans travel 100 miles, you know, per day in their cars. So that that’s actually quite a shocking statistic that in effect, you’re the same as, as cities in Europe. So that is a statistics average out for the whole of the US, and there’s places like Houston is gonna be much, much bigger. What’s it all? How is that stat actually arrived at because that’s a phenomenally surprising stat.

Kevin Krizek 32:08
Most people are simply unaware of this. And that’s true. But by virtue of urban areas being urban, most of the services and goods and services that we access, within 20 minutes of our home, are within four miles, whether it’s a car, whether it’s by bike, or whatnot. And so this is what propelled my colleague, Nancy mcgucken, and I a year ago to publish a study and transport findings to say exactly, you know, how many times do people actually get in the car and travel for less than four miles, and across the urban areas? But both the urban core the first tier suburbs, the second tier suburbs, most of the suburban areas in the US? Yes, exactly. every other time they get in the car, they travelled less than four miles. And that’s a pretty reliable statistic. I’m not gonna say it’s the same as what we’re seeing in European cities. And then there is some variation across, you know, some cities within the country. But as an average, you can read two or three or four different reliable studies that all point to the same number. Yeah, and so this is something that we typically just simply don’t consider is the availability of nearby destinations, and the possibility that we can get to them by vehicles other than cars. And so I do think that this is an important kind of revelation that we have really seen over the past year with the pandemic, you know, this idea that streets need to alter their character away from auto, automobiles is hardly new, but the prospects and helping people realise those prospects that is new and so changing our streets to prioritise smaller vehicles, rather than cars is a notion, you know, that’s really been too extreme for elected leaders and citizens alike. But the but the pandemic has really opened up our ability to see through this, you know, streets bear in automobiles in 2020, provided a first step to that extreme option. And, you know, if we run with this idea of an idea that’s typically considered to be outside the range of acceptable up outcomes, you know, what political economists would refer to, as the Overton window that’s really shifted, thereby expanding what’s possible,

Carlton Reid 34:17
Right. So the pandemic has opened people’s eyes to birds, over their ears to birdsong opened their eyes to less traffic, and they think I want some of that. And so when a city planner now comes in and says, Well, we could do that for you, if we, we, you know, make these interventions you think that has now changed people’s perceptions. The Overton window has been nudged forward.

Kevin Krizek 34:43
It’s been open considerably. Yes, the expectations for how streets should be used were reshaped almost overnight, both to improve health outcomes and provide economic opportunity. And so now as the economic as the economy recovers, following the immediacy of the pandemic, you know, we want to try and prevent that window? To shift back to transportation conditions that were prior?

Carlton Reid 35:05
Keep the Overton window open, please!

Kevin Krizek 35:08
Oh, yeah, definitely. And that’s what propelled Meredith and I to really look at what’s going on and 55 of the largest cities in America to see oh, wow, how are these cities using their streets, the street space differently? And how can this set the foundation for new types of expectations,

Carlton Reid 35:25
I will get on to your paper in a minute, because that’s when we start talking about your paper and then buttigieg and the American jobs plan thing is as come in the meantime, but Meredith, going back to the American jobs plan, I’ve kind of portrayed it. And then of course, the devil is in the detail. We need to actually see what’s really genuinely planned here. But just the mood music being put out there on social media and in, in media interviews, in fact, by Mayor Pete is very much that the day of the automobile is certainly not gonna be pandered to as much as in the past and might still be painted a bit, but you’re going to look at other modes are going to be prioritise, also. So do you think that he is genuinely going to bring in those changes? Is it something that he can bring in? Is that something you know, a progressive politician can do or there’s like departments underneath are actually going to be a handbrake on that?

Meredith Glaser 36:30
Yeah, that’s a good question.

Meredith Glaser 36:33
I mean, what we’re what we’re facing as a nation, I mean, it just goes beyond the US as well, but is the institution of automobility. So I just, I have a hard time imagining how, really, you know, any short term plan can uproot the labyrinth of administrative, regulatory, political, social, cultural systems that have been favouring the car for the past century. And that’s what we’re up against. And that includes, you know, things like the MUTCD manual, and all these, all these codes and legislation and laws that are not only on the national level, but they’re at the state level, and there at the regional and local level. So there is a system that is that is an institution, really, that is against the plan. And to really unravel, that means questioning our you know, our design restrictions, questioning our public process, or the legal risks, the design guidelines, at every one of these levels. So that’s, you know, that’s a really big task. And it’s going to take a long time to do that. So I think what the big question is, is how can we reduce, you know, how can we reduce our dependency within the next generation, and this may be the start of it, but it won’t be the end of it.

Carlton Reid 38:14
So Kevin, picking up on what Meredith was talking about there. And going back to Mayor Pete, whenever I talk to Americans about this, and I asked them that roughly the same question. It’s always well, he was a mare. And that’s why they call him Mayor Pete still, because he was able to actually get past that inertia that Meredith was talking about. In the city, he was mayor of, do you share the same optimism there that you can you can do something at a city level and translate that to a national, federal level?

Kevin Krizek 38:47
Undoubtedly, you see that you have a new culture that’s really trying to be instilled in Washington, DC. And within the first two months, the Secretary of the transportation, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, you know, is saying things that we have not seen said in the previous decades, or anywhere close to the types of things. And so he’s floating these ideas for the first time in American politics. And yes, it you know, it’s creating a certain degree of fervour in in, in these contexts right now, but the fact that he’s saying them, and the fact that they are locally derived based on his experiences in South Bend, and saying, you know, we can get this done, I think, is a really, really exciting opportunity for American politics. Now, the Biden administration at a national level, they’re probably not going to be tipping. They’re stepping their toes so much into these kind of local matters. And so the Biden administration, you know, they’re they want to modernise 20,000 miles of roads. We don’t know how many of those 20,000 miles are going to be at the city level versus at the interstate level versus at the county level. But the fact that They are saying things like, build back better and fix it first. Both of these are laudable aims. Both of these are suggest ways that we can do more with less. And you know, exactly as Meredith is saying these outdated kind of industry written laws that lock in street designs from prior centuries, they hamper innovation. And they reinforce the expectations for how our existing streets are used. But as the details of these plans unfold, and as mayor Pete continues to, you know, exert his influence over cities and local municipalities, I think we’re gonna see a lot more of these exciting types of initiatives unfold in where we can identify solutions to fix some of the root of the problem with space and cities.

Carlton Reid 40:46
And Kevin, I’ve built this up, because we don’t have the detail. Yeah, exactly. I may be I’m, like extrapolating, and maybe I’m exaggerating, but from just from the reading of the American jobs plan, you know, that deep down into it. And you then add in what, what, what the judge has said, you know, in public, you know, out there, this is not a secret of what he’s saying about, you know, we’ve got to rein back the the motorcar in effect and design for people. Given all of that I’ve said that, in effect, the White House has recognised that induced demand exists. Do you think that’s fair appraisal of what is coming out of the White House? Or do you think this, as you just mentioned there, you don’t know exactly how they’re actually going to upgrade those 20,000 rows? It could be an upgrade for motorists at the end of the day? Or do you think they genuinely is a recognition that in fact, building roads does not work because it leads to induce demand,

Kevin Krizek 41:51
the fact that within the first two months, a cabinet member has acknowledged that, yes, we need to build our cities around humans, the fact that a cabinet member has existed or has mentioned non negative aspects about a VMT tax, the fact that a cabinet position has said, you know, what, the way that we’ve been doing things over the past decades has been has led to serious problems. Meetings are all really strong statements. Now, whether or not that suggests that the presidential position is going to echo those, you know, we got to take these things one day at a time. The fact that we have a new administration and senior representatives in that, in that administration, are mentioning these things, I think we need to take those as victories right now. Because if you look at the way that we’ve been solving our transportation problems for the past, God knows how many years you know they’ve been ill formed. So trying something new, and trying to understand where we can look for innovation in the right spirit here is something that they’re going to need to continue to push forward and see how quickly they can move on these things. But again, it’s tied to politics, and they’re inevitably going to get some resistance against the old way of doing things.

Carlton Reid 43:11
So Meredith, Kevin, is excited, Kevin’s optimistic and he lives there. You don’t live there. But you can you can maybe look at it from from a slightly different perspective, in that you are 3000 miles away, but you look at these things, how excited? Are you? Or you perhaps a bit more jaundice? Because you live in somewhere where, you know, space has been devoted to these different modes, and couldn’t really happen in America?

Meredith Glaser 43:40
Yeah, and although I’m, I don’t you know, live in America, I have been studying several American cities over the past three years, very closely in my, in my PhD research, and, and that includes, you know, interviewing key key informants, several high level officials, every six months or so. And what I have seen is just and witnessed is such a struggle. It’s really incredible. You know, people at the local level, civil servants, traffic engineers, transportation planners are really trying, they’re really trying hard to innovate. They’re, they’re trying hard to collaborate and, but also to, to, to create public value out of their transportation systems. But at the same time, they are up against as I was saying before, a slew of barriers. And this, I mean, this is such it’s such a range of barriers, from, you know, a lack of sort of political committee. Men are confidence from higher level officials to you know, legal implications the the city, you know, city attorney, not wanting to take the take the risk to two codes and manuals that are incompatible with what they want to build in terms of, you know, bicycle infrastructure or,

Meredith Glaser 45:25
or other

Meredith Glaser 45:27
and you know, in transit agencies who don’t see eye to eye with what they’re with what they’re doing. So the the struggle is very real. And I have been in I have been witnessing this and examining this, you know, from this outsider perspective, or this dual perspective for the past couple of years. So. So I echo, I definitely echo Kevin’s enthusiasm about what what Mayor Pete is saying, and what’s coming out of the White House. And I can only imagine that the people that I’ve been, that I’ve been interviewing for the past several years are also very excited. And also seeing it as as legitimising their current work. You know, and that was one of the biggest things too, that came out of what what I’ve been studying is the recognition of, of transportation planners who are trying their hardest to, you know, connect all these pieces and build transfer transportation systems that provide choices for people. That recognition from city council from the mayor, from the city manager, the or even the department head, you know, that recognition is really, really valuable, and it helps them It helps them recognise that the pathway forward is the right pathway forward.

Carlton Reid 47:04
Okay, so you are excited. That’s good. And at that, let’s keep that excitement primed for the next half of the show, because right now, I would like to cut to a commercial break with David.

David Bernstein 47:20
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Carlton Reid 48:45
Thanks, David. And we are back with this particular episode of the spokesmen podcast and we’ve got Meredith and we’ve got Kevin and we’ve been discussing the American jobs plan and and Mayor Pete Buttigieg says fantastic. I think we can all know agree fantastic input and changing input into into potentially what can happen in the future. In America, I’d now like to, we’ll still continue on. We’ll definitely touch on this. There’s there’s that subject again. But now I’d like to go into your paper and what you first contacted me with and I did pick out some key phrases. And and a lot of these have now been potentially even superseded by by the American jobs plan because you wrote this paper clearly, long before that came out. But you’re talking I’m going to go back to here and you can you can tell me what it’s all about. You’re talking about deep transport reform. You’re talking about bold narratives in your paper. This is what things have got to happen. And then we’re going to have to accelerate With aggressive reform, we’ve got to de emphasise cars. So, Meredith first is has all of those things that you’ve put in your paper that do you think they are going to come to fruition with with American Trump’s plan?

Meredith Glaser 50:20
There’s definitely a chance, I think the, you know, COVID COVID induced street experiments, as we call them, in our paper, opened a lot of eyes, especially on the local level. And this has, this has really opened the aperture for, for cities for regions on what our streets can be used as what you know, not necessarily even as, as, as avenues of movement, but also for, you know, economic recovery, for social connection and social cohesion. I mean, we talk a lot about, you know, smaller vehicles and human scale vehicles and, and, and sustainable mobility, but realising that our streets make up, you know, 1/3 of us have the space and cities, this is a huge urban asset. And, and I think that the pandemic has shown that this is an asset worth investigating and exploring on what role it has to play in society that maybe it’s not just for movement of cars, but it can be so many other things.

Carlton Reid 51:39
Roads were not built for cars — I know somebody who wrote a book about that.

Meredith Glaser 51:42
Yeah, a great book, a great book.

Carlton Reid 51:45
Thanks you for allowing me to get that in. I think you and Kevin, oh, sorry. Sorry. So we’re gonna get some, sorry.

Meredith Glaser 51:51
Well, just one more, one more point. And then and, and I think what our study showed is that some cities were more ready than others, to have their eyes opened. They, you know, they already had some pre existing plans in place, and the pandemic galvanised momentum for those plans. But the study also showed that they were, you know, they are hampered by these institutional restrictions, public process, blah, blah, blah. But when the city’s designated, you know, staff time and I mean, obvious human capital and human resources to deploying these, these slow streets or other other types of street experiments. When these these street street experiments became feasible in that way. That’s when we saw a lot more success. That’s when we saw a lot more cities being able to deepen their programmes or lengthen their programmes or even expand their programmes. So it there does seem to be some key aspects to how it can accelerate you know, an alternative mobility future that is less car emphasised.

Carlton Reid 53:10
And Kevin, Meredith mentioned street experiments, then it’s in your paper. And then also in your paper is the phrase slow streets. Now, in a UK perspective, we now call those that you’ve come across this phrase, we call them lt ns low traffic neighbourhoods. And again, I don’t know how much you’ve seen what’s been happening in the UK. But that that’s been a bet, Nah, that’s been an absolute red rag to a bull, the remodelling of streets. So street experiments in the last doing COVID, basically, in the last year, have led to the most amazing explosion in antipathy between neighbours that has been picked at by the mass media, including the BBC, who will just you know, they love pitching by the looks of it neighbour against neighbour. So you get one neighbour who’s for a street experiment. And yet another neighbour who is very car dependent, who is against any form of street experiment, they want the status quo, they want to be able to drive everywhere. So my question is, how popular the things that are in your paper? How genuinely popular are they with the mass of the population in the US and how much of it is pure optimism and people like you and me who want to see these things are basically projecting onto onto people as a as a populace, then, in fact, it’s not it’s not popular at all. Where do you sit on that particular spectrum of popularity

Kevin Krizek 54:48
will look as a society and particularly as an American society, we have been conditioned to basically think of one way to get around town and that streets are certainly a conduit for cars. Right now, enter stage right, a completely different purpose for what streets should be serving. And those who are, you know, more leaning politically left, they want to see something different. Why? Well, because they realise that the way that we’ve designed streets have had really deleterious effects on Well, shall we say, the environment, on safety, on issues of equity. Now, if you don’t care about those three things, safety equity, the climate, you know, you’re going to continue going down the path of just the status quo, there’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing right now, there’s nothing wrong other than, you know, maybe I’m gonna have a few more minutes of congestion on my commute, or, you know, going to the supermarket. But if we are serious, as a nation, about wanting to tackle any one of those things, much less all three of those things, it really does suggest doing something different. Okay? Now, we’re not talking about any typical intervention that can shift our culture overnight, because it’s so firmly ingrained, and we’re dealing with such a mature system of automobile infrastructure. So you know, we’re not trying to shift the direction of a simple single aircraft carrier, we are trying to shift multiple fleets of aircraft carriers here, right now, the silver lining, Carlton, I see is that we’ve been talking about these tissue issues. Until we’re blue in the face, I’m going to sound a little bit long in the tooth here. But for 25 years, we’ve been battling the same types of rhetoric, oh, we need to do something different. Oh, we need to put more bikes in Oh, we need to create more transit systems. But for the past 25 years, you know, not much action has really resulted. And it’s like a metaphor to a Moka pot, right? You keep talking about these things, you keep talking about these things, and nothing really happens. And then all of a sudden, Wow, cool, you know, the water heats up, this generates steam, this increases the pressure and the bottom chamber pushes the water up through the coffee granules into the top chamber, where it’s then ready to be ready to be ready to be poured right? Now, if we think about a metaphor, and how that’s analogous to where we sit now, yeah, a lot of these problems have been generating considerable amount of attention for years. But COVID really allowed us to see through a new type of opportunity and the value in the public asset that the streets provide. And so I think that’s interesting now, where the public thinks that we should go with that nobody really knows. But we do know that we no need to do something different. And so that’s what we’re trying to do in this paper is to highlight the effects, that doing something different, could have long lasting new foundations for a nutrient new type of transportation system. And it was only because, you know, Seattle has been talking about these things. I lived in Seattle from 1996 until 2001, those different types of conversations, they were exactly the same. There was nothing different about those conversations 20 years ago, right now, you know, when I was on the bicycle advisory board with Bill Nye the Science Guy in the year 2000, we were talking about the crumbling infrastructure in Seattle. Now, oh into COVID there was a window that really opened up and they said, Whoa, you know, we can we can do something. And so Seattle was one of the first to jump back into action, right. And they’ve long been striving for more equitable access for more people on their streets. And right when this the the pandemic, you know, that when the lockdown began, the city quickly unfurled a 30 page playbook to how to use their street space better. That was impressive because of this steam that has been generating for so many years that they now were unable to act upon.

Carlton Reid 58:55
What about w? f? h, where does that where working from home fit into this because if people you’ve got to go for a bicycle commute, you know to recreate your your bicycle work, commute, your maybe some people do that in their cars, too. So the fact that the pandemic has not just opened people’s eyes to to streets can do it can also maybe open corporations eyes to we don’t have to have people in city centres anymore. In inexpensive offices, we can order to have them out in the suburbs. Does that not mean? You don’t need these transport read transformations anymore? Or if you do you actually need transformations to happen. More car orientated infrastructure. Kevin,

Kevin Krizek 59:45
what under what condition would you think that you need more car oriented infrastructure?

Carlton Reid 59:51
Well, the pandemic has has frightened people away from transit. It might not have frighten people away from from from bicycles because that’s individualised open air form of transport, but cars have become incredibly attractive for a whole different reasons. So cars, you know, previously, you know, status reasons, sex reasons, all sorts of different reasons why cars have always been fantastic, convenient, all of these different things, but now you have the added benefit of you’re no longer you’re in a kind of a like a safe space away from the virus. So people are just jumping into their cars more, so shouldn’t we be encouraging that building for more car infrastructure because people are gonna want to be in their cars?

Kevin Krizek 1:00:40
Yeah, the whole notion of using cars as a PPE a personal protection device, frankly, it’s folly. And we’re gonna get, we’re gonna see transportation systems evolve past this. Now, the great unknown is everybody tries to look into the crystal ball and figure out what the heck’s going to happen with respect to commute patterns, and overall, you know, types of VMT? You know, nobody knows the answers to these things. And yes, there’s going to be a decline in the economic vitality of downtown areas as their business and multi level. multi level skyscrapers, you know, become a little bit more obsolete, right. However, what this does suggest, I think, is that there’s increasing pressure being sent being placed on the sense of place in communities. All right, and so more people are going to want to invest more heavily in the areas that are within a quarter mile, a half mile, three miles of where they were

Carlton Reid 1:01:39
15 minute city, kind of,

Kevin Krizek 1:01:40
yeah, the 15, 20 minutes city. And so if we try to prise that as a new form of it, there’s nothing new about it, other than the fact that people are talking about it more now, right. And so if we prize that as a new paradigm, what that really does suggest is that we don’t need this exhaustive infrastructure that has been so carefully manipulated, and so carefully sold to us for the past number of years, there is, you know, that that excess vehicle space that’s sitting in cities, it’s a liability. And it can be repurposed.

Carlton Reid 1:02:18
Kevin we’ve seen we’ve seen during the pandemic, when, when the emergency pop ups when the bike lanes went in, an awful lot of blame for lack of retail sales, in the downtown areas, was suddenly put on these these emergency bike lanes. And of course, it’s just you wouldn’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand No, it was the pandemic. Yeah, that’s why people aren’t shopping. That’s why people aren’t going into bars. It’s not the bike lanes, but an awful lot of politicians and planners and and and letters to social media, and newspapers, etc, have blamed bicycle lanes. So do you think going forward, that any changes that actually happen, will, will then be will be blamed on that the lack of vitality in city centres will be blamed on on bike lanes?

Kevin Krizek 1:03:19
Yeah, there’s always going to be a culprit to every single social change that happens. And when I say a culprit, you know, there’s going to be some sort of disruption in the the economic system. And so for that economic system, it’s going to result in, you know, negative impacts for some and positive impacts for others. But we have to look at these things over the long term, Carlton, you know, a lot of these cities were, for example, saying that they couldn’t adopt these slow street programmes. Why? Because they were going to be too expensive. Well, again, that’s folly. They’re too expensive in the short term over this month, next month, they may be four months from now. Because why? Well, they need to have type three MUCD barriers, and, you know, where are they going to get those, they’re going to need to rent them and there are their offices are already economically strained. And now we’re going to have to hire more professionals and more personnel to move these signs and, and make sure that they’re placed in that and that we’re gonna have to monitor it. And this is all folly, why because we’re doing something different. But over the long run, if we look at how we’re spending, how we’ve been spending out of transportation, infrastructure, money to support cars, and we look at a new model, a new paradigm, and you know, try to monetize it over 10, 20 years, we’re gonna see that we’re going to be winning out and in the long run, undoubtedly,

Carlton Reid 1:04:41
Meredith you live in a country and I also live in a country and this is different to where Kevin lives. But we live in countries where this pretty hefty gas taxes you know, you you have to pay a lot for your petrol for your fuel or your to fuel a car. That’s is going to slightly change, of course, with electric cars, but right now, with a you know, it’s still a gas powered transport economy where we live, has those gas taxes. America, you know, famously, you know, I know people might complain at the amount of gas tax is going to pay but it’s nothing compared to what we Europeans pay. So in the in the American jobs plan in the in the run up to the release of this an awful lot of intelligent commentators were saying Well, obviously there’s going to have to be increases in the gas tax the might even have to be, you know pay per mile schemes put in none of those were in the plan. Do you see that as a missed opportunity? Do you think it’s going to be brought in in the future? What do you think was was happening with with gas taxes and with road pricing?

Meredith Glaser 1:05:53
Yeah that would definitely to get into details of the economics would have to be, I would refer you to my colleague at distasio. Who does who is an expert at social cost benefit analysis of transportation and active transport infrastructure. But I mean, at the at the core of it, you know, there’s been some great research out of, of the Netherlands, but also in Denmark, that for every kilometre driven in a car, we lose 16 cents as a society. And for every kilometre written by bike, we gained 23 cents. So, I mean, despite the in spite of the economic debate and, and VMT and, I mean, there’s, of course, there’s gonna have to be a way to fund it. But, but as Kevin said, looking at looking at this type of infrastructure as an investment in the long run, and in compared to not only the infrastructure of cars, but also what cars are doing to the society. There’s a huge gain. And that is undisputed.

Carlton Reid 1:07:07
But it hasn’t been brought in, in this plan.

Kevin Krizek 1:07:11
for again, you know, for almost a century, there has been an asset that cities have had in their back pocket, and they basically given it away for free. So, you know, right road pricing, trying to charge the user pays principle has long been criticised over equity issues. But to be clear, you know, all taxes, including today’s fuel taxes, they’re distortive. So, you know, we don’t want to excessively subsidise road travel, which has a lot of negative externalities. So in this respect, you know, VMT taxes, they’re a good thing.

Carlton Reid 1:07:45
“Editorial note here. VMT stands for vehicle miles, travelled. Okay, back to Kevin.”

Kevin Krizek 1:07:53
But we haven’t been able to politically crack that nut in the United States. So we sit there as as 18 cents a gallon, continues to go into the conference in Washington, DC. Now we need to change that everybody knows that we need to change that we’ve been talking about the need to change that for, there’s no shortage of ink that’s been spilled about the need to change that. But finally, we’re starting to talk about it again. And we’re not going to do it by raising the gas tax, we’re gonna raise it by raising, you know, the bite by imposing or basically enforcing a user pays principle. And those who really do make the most

Kevin Krizek 1:08:31
detriment to the types of infrastructure, those who use the these types of infrastructure, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be held accountable to pay.

Carlton Reid 1:08:40
Kevin, you know, because it, this will always be the thing that that’s brought up. If you’re, if you’re on a record, like local media on these topics, it’s a regressive tax. So in effect, it actually impacts poor people, more than rich people. So that’s, that’s always been the thing that’s that people, pretty rich people actually use against any form of road pricing in that you’re actually pricing not the rich people off the road, they’ll kind of carry on driving your pricing the poor people off the road, so it’s regressive. So where do you stand on that particular issue?

Kevin Krizek 1:09:14
As a society need to do a better job of providing people alternatives. And once they realise the value of these alternatives, and once they realise that, oh, we have something that we’re not being forced into. Therefore, we can take advantage of that. Yes, I I’m just as concerned as the next person about the regressive nature of some of these vehicular taxes that come that come forth. But again, if we continue to do the same types of things that we’ve been doing in our transportation practices for the past number of years, it’s like banging your head against the wall. We’re not going to get to where we need to go to address some of these major issues and major crises that we’re dealing with from a safety perspective from an environmental person. factor in from an equity perspective, again over the long term. So if you think about if you think about how much it costs to provide access to a transportation system, yes, you need to buy, you know, the cheapest you can get into it basically is a, some sort of economical Nissan, right. However, you know, as technology continues to flourish, and as the costs of these electric bikes, and maybe even small cars continues to decline, you can get into a transportation system at a much more affordable level, you know, for just a mere $100, I could put a, or two or three or $400, I can put electric motor on my Schwinn that’s hanging in the garage. And I can do almost as good as what I want to do with a car. However, I can’t because the transportation system so heavily favours car travel,

Meredith Glaser 1:11:02
fast moving, deadly.

Meredith Glaser 1:11:06
car travel.

Kevin Krizek 1:11:08
But the industry is fast moving to Carlton, and that really suggests the importance of taking advantage of these kind of windows of opportunity that have been opened to us. And so I do think that that’s where if we can kind of seize this moment, we hate to look at the pandemic and say that there’s anything associated in a silver lining perspective with the pandemic. But this truly is a silver lining and these types of investments, and these types of street changes that we’ve we’ve seen, if we can get more out of them, and we can continue to nurture them to build more human scale networks and cities, that really Woods is going to lead to a golden ticket.

Meredith Glaser 1:11:49
And and if I just can add, you know, most of the infrastructure already exists. Right. I think that’s the beauty of it. And I think that’s the beauty of, of the street experiments. And sort of also what our papers showed is that this infrastructure is there, the road space is there. It just needs reallocation, and sandbags and sandwich boards in you know, during this time, a pandemic that we’ve seen cities use, these materials are cheap, they’re easy to, you know, access and to procure. And it you know, they needed the human human capital to get people out there and implementing it, and also people to evaluate it and see how it was going and engage with the public, of course, but the infrastructure is there. It just needs reallocation,

Carlton Reid 1:12:35
Where do you both stand on the very thorny issue of infrastructure, bicycling is obviously a social good. But it’s also something that not everybody kind of wants. So it’s almost like a it’s not, it is a carrot and stick and you have the carrot, which is the bicycle infrastructure. But you also have to have a stick, which is saying, you’ve got to get out of your cars, that is to just supply the bicycle infrastructure. You’ve also got to actually get people out of cars. And using this this that system infrastructure, where do you stand on how big a stick how big a carrot and which is which?

Kevin Krizek 1:13:22
what we, what we want is informed by what we know. And the break now the only thing that we know is this huge bifurcation between either you get in a Ford Taurus or not, okay, you don’t get into Ford tours anymore, you getting a Ford F 150? Or are you getting this rinky dink little thing over here? Now, again, owing to the issues that we’ve been talking about that landscape, that context, that continuum is getting a lot more murky. And so what we’re being what we’re becoming aware of, are different types of mobility innovations. So what we want is being informed by what we know, but what we know is really changing really rapidly. So you know, pitting the car against the bike and pitting the bike against the car. I do think that that’s very 1990s. And we can evolve our conversations past this, and those who, you know, are a little bit more well, innovatively thinking, we can say, Okay, this would be cool if we could have this alternative that’s provided to us. And so there’s two, there’s two levers to that though. The first is allowing that innovative, those innovative mobility practices to flourish and right now that market is suppressed. Why is it suppressed? Because there’s nowhere in our streets.

Meredith Glaser 1:14:39
And one one other statistic I like to refer to is the the, the group of people who are interested but concerned, you know, can amount to up to like 30% of the population. These are this is a group that doesn’t ride a bike or other type of two or three wheeled device. They’re mostly mostly car drivers, but they’re interested in switching maybe some of their trips to another form, that’s not a bike. That’s not a car. So this is a huge segment of the population. And recognising that not all trips have to be by bicycle, you’re not, you’re not, you know, forced into any trip with any certain mode, but that it can be an option. That’s that would be one point. And then the other point I wanted to I wanted to bring up was one of the lessons that a policymaker in one of my studies, a shared with me, which, which was that this person realised, while they were learning about bicycling in the Netherlands, and in Seville, Spain, that, that that it wasn’t necessarily something that transportation wasn’t necessarily something that it was only about me individually, you know, that, hey, maybe if maybe if you only want to take a car, that’s fine, but you know what someone else might want that option. So it’s sort of that extra existential perspective of and that shared perspective of understanding that it isn’t just me, it’s also about my community. It’s about someone who doesn’t own a car or doesn’t have access to an Uber or Lyft, you know, that that person can ride a bike and will be safe doing it. And that’s something that that this policymaker has used in justifying and, and arguing for these types of innovations on streets.

Kevin Krizek 1:16:55
Carlton, if I could just kind of add on to that, in reference to the Buttigeig issue that you were bringing forth before. If I was a politician, I would want to be looking at infrastructure investment in terms of big projects, in terms of glorious, you know, impact, right. And that’s the typical way that we have looked at infrastructure projects in the past is, well, how is this gonna radically change your life? How is this going to add more jobs, etc. What we’re suggesting is not something that is politically sexy, right? We’re suggesting something that takes advantage of what we have already in terms of our existing infrastructure investments and repurposing it. So it’s going to require a different type of political saleability. However, it’s not completely crazy. And, you know, oftentimes, people look at this proposal that Meredith and I have been talking about for a year or two or three about repurposing our existing streets. And they say, No, it’s not going to work. You know, it’s, it’s like it’s a bridge too far. People aren’t going to be able to politically accept it. And so it’s just like, you know, we’re many of us met in Arnhem and Nijmegen. That was where the, you know, 1974 movie A Bridge Too Far, tried to document the Allies disastrous attempts to capture the German controlled bridges and the Netherlands during World War Two, you know, the metaphor here is, is comparable. And so we could use that to describe things that are just barely out of reach either strategically, financially or personally. And right now, yes, what we are suggesting is a bridge too far. But if we don’t let necessarily work to enforce some of the foundation or reinforce some of the foundation that allows these smaller vehicles to come to fruition in cities, you know, we’re, again, we’re going to be doing the same thing. So we need to, we need to kind of figure out ways and politicians and Buttigieg, this is one of the strongest recommended recommendations that I have for him is to, you know, ensure that there is faith in the ability for the American road system to innovate and become more pedestrian and human scaled, focused, and not necessarily just it continue to exasperate the steps that with that, that stifle innovation on our streets.

Carlton Reid 1:19:13
So that was one suggestion that you’ve given to really judge that Now, before we started recording, in fact, a while before we started recording, in fact, it was the email of tennis before we we started the show. I gave me some homework, because you asked me Kevin, you asked me what what kind of zinger questions you’re gonna be throwing at us? And I said, Well, I don’t actually know I just did I just the questions come up organically during the show itself. However, there’s the ones there’s one question which I gave you which which you must now give me the answers to because you’ve researched it in depth because I gave it to you in advance. And you only gave me one part of it there. And that is if you were Mayor Pete In this elevated role as Secretary of Transportation, what would be your five priorities? So starting with you, Kevin, and then we’ll, we’ll go into marriage and maybe Meredith, you’re gonna have the same priorities. As Kevin, I don’t know. But let’s let’s just say So Kevin, your your five priorities if you were Mayor Pete in his role right now?

Kevin Krizek 1:20:22
Well, I’d like to say at the outset, that one always gets into a little bit of trouble the as soon as they start colouring outside of their lanes. So I realised that Mayor Pete is the Secretary of Transportation and in so in this post, he’s responsible for all aspects of transportation, rail, air, logistics, maritime, everything across the the full gamut, the recommendations that I have, for him, are much more pared down to if we were to consider how to really radically improve the quality of life for where four out of every five Americans live. And that, again, that isn’t cities, in suburban areas, four out of five Americans live in urban areas, we can really move the needle very quickly. But to do to do so we need to rethink a lot of different initiatives. So the first is to really just get out of the way, get out of the way and wet by that mean, work to break down some of the laws, the design standards, the regulatory structures, that stifle innovation. There’s no shortage of current rules that are on the books that stifle innovation. The second is to really provide incentives for smaller vehicles to thrive in the form of both electric charging stations, and in the form of really seeing how they can more proliferate in cities. The third is to provide increased funding for any type of incentive that that allows these types of these types of initiatives to trickle down into cities. Okay, cities are hurting financially right now. Particularly with with respect to COVID. And if we can put forth a strategy, where, you know, new resources would be allowed, be available for them to try things that they haven’t tried in the past, that would go a huge, long way. The fourth is to really help a public outreach campaign, which goes to what I was saying earlier, you know, if we continue to do the things that we’ve been doing, we’re going to continue to banging our head against the wall, we need to try and do something different, we need to innovate, okay. And that really requires allowing the public to be brought on board. And there’s no shortage of public participation strategies that will allow that to come to fruition. I’m happy to talk more about them. And the fight in the fifth is to lead by example, I think he’s doing some things along those lines right now. But really, to say, Well, you know, what? Look, our Secretary of Transportation is serving as a role model in the way he gets around town. Let’s try to replicate some of that.

Carlton Reid 1:23:23
So Meredith coming to you and ask you the same questions. But he’s doing a Rutte, he’s he’s cycling to work. So that that’s, that’s a good thing.

Meredith Glaser 1:23:32
Yeah. Yeah.

Meredith Glaser 1:23:34
I mean, that’s definitely one of my that’s definitely Yeah, that was definitely one of mine from the get go is instilling this, this pride in in, you know, and role modelling, what you can do as a citizen, which is yet to ride and, you know, it’s again, it’s not necessarily a bike, but, but, but other types of other types of ways of getting around. And I would hope that also means, you know, when he if he’s in other places in the US visiting, that he and his staff also get around by using the local bike share or hopping on one of the, you know, the kick scooters or whatever. That would be a great way to show the public. You know, those who voted for him for the, for Biden or not, that, you know, I can do this and I can get around. And that’s been a major, major point of, in our own research here, that in the Netherlands, that the act of royalty and the Prime Minister and mayors, political officials, you know, being seen right around to writing, riding the bicycle around town, but also being photographed on you know, very average normal bicycles is something that has showed that there’s, you know, that there’s a Cultural Heritage around this. And it’s also a demonstration that they are one of the Dutch people, right that they are no better or no worse. They’re just like a regular person. And so I think that’s also an interesting aspect of it that he doesn’t have to be riding on, you know, the most recent. What was the bicycle you mentioned before, you know, $2,000 bicycle, like, let’s, let’s see him on your average Schwinn, that’s from the local shop, you know, I think that would be really great. Yeah, so that was, that was definitely one of my, one of my points. And I don’t I don’t think I really have five, I think it can be boiled down to three, one being the playing a role model. But and many of my points also, Echo Kevin’s especially around design guidelines and restrictions around what to how to how to design streets, but really giving cities what they need. And again, you know, I am not an expert on national level policy. My research focuses on the local level and regional level. So regard, yeah, regardless of of all the other obligations he has within transportation, but when it comes to streets, and and, and roads, I think empowering cities to do what they need to do it, that would be very, that would be that would move the needle forward. In terms of funding in terms of restrictions, public process, legal risk design guidelines, all those things, cities are all unique, and that he’s a mayor is a true asset, because he understands what that means at the local level. But not all cities are strong Mayor cities. So in fact, you know, it’s about half and half that there’s a there’s a strong Mayor system or, or a council manager system. So every city has its own unique governance processes, its own relationships with the state transportation departments, it’s its own stakeholders. And so really letting them lead, the way would be really would be really great. But on the other hand, at the national level, I would be really curious to explore some sort of national sustainable mobility strategy for reducing car dependency within one generation. A lot of cities are producing such documents as a roadmap for their future.

Meredith Glaser 1:27:53
And I think at a national level, I don’t know what that would look like, but I think it would provide cities and, and states legitimacy to move to keep moving forward. And also, you know, articulate visions that are beyond the status quo. I mean, if we want to reduce single occupancy car trips, from what they are now, which is 75, to 80%, to even just below 50%, which is what you see in a lot of the sustainable urban mobility plans in US cities right now is to achieve below 50% then, you know, we really need to empower the urban regions with the tools and resources, they need to be calm that multimodal transportation, or to offer multimodal transportation networks and to build them faster. So I mean, that’s it’s a big, it would be a big undertaking, I understand. But I think it could really produce a guideline for. Well, that’s a big life.

Kevin Krizek 1:29:02
We can really boil it down to one thing here, Carlton, and that’s, and that’s to be a leader in this space. Elected officials, practice Sure, practitioners, advocates, researchers, we’ve all been talking about the same thing here. And that’s to seek for ways to people to easily get around using vehicles that are environmentally economically socially sound. So first, these vehicles should be quiet and emit as little carbon as possible. They should prioritise the simplest effective solution with the fewest negative consequences in third. You know, not all technical experts and Policy Advocates agree here. But we as these vehicles should mostly operate at speeds that allow space to be shared between many different types of users doing many different types of things and be space sufficient in their own right. We don’t need more research. We don’t need more regression analyses to suggest that these are three principles that leaders should basically stand behind to prioritise in evolving transportation systems. So I applaud Mayor Pete coming out of the gate, a guns a blazing by saying very, you know, optimistic and you know, somewhat kind of suspect ideas that are going to create a little bit of rankle in in some people. But if he continues to lead in these ways to prioritise these types of components of a transportation system that I’ve just articulated, you know, we’re going to be a lot better off than we are, if we just continue to go in this kind of four year cycle four year cycle, where politicians are trying to achieve glamour for the latest and greatest infrastructure problem.

Carlton Reid 1:30:42
Now, in your paper, I, one thing that I haven’t mentioned so far, which I did pick out which which is, I think is emphasised here is you’re talking about, all of these things that we should be talking about today, are the undeniable direction in the 22nd century. So that’s kind of a long way away. 22nd century? Is that what you meant you meant? that far away, that’s what that’s how long it’s gonna take.

Kevin Krizek 1:31:16
No, that’s not how long it’s gonna take. We can, we can make a noticeable change on these initiatives within the next 510 years. However, if you look way into the future, which that was intended to kind of suggest, oh, wow, if we look way into the future, you know, we are likely going to be still operating as humans, we’re still not going to be robots, we’re still not going to, we’re still going to want our autonomy in terms of how we travel. And it’s clear that the there’s more writing on the wall to suggest that allowing an amplifying humans to get around in ways that are quicker and more nimble, are going to win out in the long run. And if we pride if we prize the human scaled technology, and mobility and personal skill, mobility innovations in this respect, that’s what’s going to win out in the long run. And so I do think that we can kind of hold out hope for those, that those types of innovations, whether they whether they come in five years, or whether they come in 85 years.

Carlton Reid 1:32:24
I hope it’s five years.

Kevin Krizek 1:32:28
Well, yes.

Carlton Reid 1:32:29
Kevin and Meredith has been absolutely fascinating. Thank you ever so much for talking to us today. Now, now’s the chance to plug your paper. I will, I will, of course provide a link to the paper if the URL that you’re going to suggest is this gobbledygook, which which academic papers often are. But where can we find your paper?

Unknown Speaker 1:32:53
It’s open. It’s open source, though Carlton?

Carlton Reid 1:32:55
Yep, yep. Yeah, I was fantastic. I wasn’t I didn’t have to ask you for the PDF, which I often have to ask academics. So I grant you that absolutely brilliant. But where can where can people get a hold of it simply without clicking through about 15,000 URL digits?

Meredith Glaser 1:33:12
where you can definitely go to and all of our work is featured there with links directly to all of our studies and papers.

Carlton Reid 1:33:24
Thanks there to Meredith Glaser and Kevin Krizek. And thanks to you for listening to the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Show notes and more can be found as always on The next show will be an interview with academics and authors John Puker and Ralph Bueller. But meanwhile, get out there and ride!

March 21, 2021 / / Blog

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21st March 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 270: Streets for kids


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Alison Stenning and Sally Watson

TOPICS: Play streets, cycling and the pop-up protected cycleway on the NE England coast, the Sunrise Cycleway

New Cycling

Play Meet Street


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 270 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was uploaded on 21st Of March 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 Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at 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 And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
On the last show I talked with author and child’s play expert Tim Gill. I’m Carlton Reid. And today’s hour long episode, I’m continuing the child’s play theme, as I talk with academics and campaigners, Alison Stenning and Sally Watson. Now it just so happens both live close to me in Newcastle. But while we talk about the northeast of England, the main theme is universal. And that’s designing our streets so children can get about under their own steam. It’s on today’s show, the previous show, hopefully, you’ve listened to was with Tim Gill, who’s a play expert. And I’ve now got other play experts on here, but from a different, a different angle. And I did preview them in the previous show. So I’d like to welcome to the show Sally Watson. Hi, Sally.

Sally Watson 2:04
Hi, Carlton.

Carlton Reid 2:06
And Alison Stenning.

Carlton Reid 2:09
Now you’re both incredibly local to me. So it’s like, it’s crazy that we’re even doing this over over Skype, because, you know, I could go in and meet you at any time. I mean, Allison, you’re about five miles from me, Sally, you’re probably less than two. So welcome to a very, very local episode of an international show. First of all, I’d like to come to both you and ask about your current work, cuz that’s why I’ve got you on. So let’s let’s, let’s go to Alison. First, Alison, tell us about the work you’ve been doing on play streets in the northeast. But what that also says about play Streets and play in general for the whole of the UK.

Alison Stenning 2:56
Okay, so I mean, I have two hats on here. And I’ll predominantly talk about kind of my first heart, which is, I suppose, my academic hat. And I’ve been researching play Streets, and particularly focusing on the playing out movement, which was launched just over 10 years ago, originally in Bristol. And I’ve been trying to explore what it what happens on streets when people play on them effectively. So what does it do to the street? What does it do to the life of the street? How does it change residents experience of their street, if they get a chance to play on it, both adults, and children. And I was due to be researching that over the last year, year and a half to really be focusing on that. And clearly things have changed in the last year, year and a half. So I haven’t been able to do that in quite the way I wanted. I’ve picked up that research in different ways. I’ve tried to do it in different ways at a distance, and looking at kind of previous historical periods as well as the contemporary period. But I’ve also then been able to pick up some stuff around what’s been happening in terms of playfulness on streets. During the pandemic, we all saw kind of a big outburst of play during the first lockdown in particular. So being trying to kind of use that as a way of kind of opening up debates about what else might happen on streets. How else might we enable play to happen on streets? And what might that do?

Carlton Reid 4:15
See, I was just assuming you know that this is for children, but you’ve said adults as well. So what do you mean adults playing on streets?

Alison Stenning 4:22

Alison Stenning 4:22
what we find I mean, they’re playing out model is a very particular model, which closes streets temporarily for play, usually on a monthly basis, sometimes weekly, and fortnightly. And it’s very much a child lead kind of model. You know, we don’t organise games for children. But we do assume that parents will be around and responsible for their children and for maintaining safety on the street. So what often happens is that was the children are playing and running up and down and the adults are trying to kind of stand back was the kids play and get on with whatever else they want to do. We see adults just hanging out chatting, laughing getting to know each other. You know, adults don’t often play in the same ways that children do but that kind of play Equal space and the kind of playful atmosphere that’s created on the street, when a bunch of kids are playing on it can be very kind of liberating and very kind of positive, I guess, in terms of, you know, the sorts of potential connections and relationships that can be made between adults as well. And we do. Yeah, of course, we see adults getting involved, too. You know, we see adults talking with the adults playing football, we see adults getting involved in some of the children’s play, too.

Carlton Reid 5:22
You talked about connections that is it. Is it Appleyard? Is that the study? A famous study? I think it is in New York. I’m trying to remember here what this study is. But it’s basically a study which shows that, you know, with lines across the road, you know, the proximity people or the haggle across the road is very different when there’s a bunch of cars around, compared to when there’s not a bunch of cars around.

Alison Stenning 5:46
Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, that’s the density and the kind of the number of cars flowing down the street. And obviously, what happens on a street plate close for players that there are, well, residents can drive to their, their front doors, if we allow them to, but generally, there’s no traffic so people can cross the street, people can move up and down the street. But often what we’ve seen is that for the first time, when streets close for play, people realise quite how many children there are living on the street, and they meet neighbours that they’ve, you know, maybe seen at a distance, but never spoken to. And we’ve had numerous examples of that. An example on the street In Whitley Bay, for example, where after their first place street session, there were people in their 70s, who’d lived on the street for over 30 years, meeting neighbours for the first time.

Carlton Reid 6:28
Wow. And, and Sally, welcome to the show. And, Sally, tell us a bit about your academic credentials at the moment, the kind of study that you’re doing. And and because you are, you’re you, you come on to the video, show ideas, with beers where you discuss this. So tell us a bit about what you’re doing in this in this realm.

Sally Watson 6:56
Yeah, so I’m a postgraduate researcher at Newcastle University, and my background is in Architecture and Planning. And I’m really interested in the decisions that are made about how we design our cities that that afford children, you know, more or less freedom to play and to move around. And, and for me, the mobility, and play are very much intertwined. And so I started out sort of looking at that we have this story about loss and decline of play over the over the course of the second half of the 20th century. And actually, it’s sort of a bit more lumpy than that. And there are moments where we are trying to with the efforts are made to design better environments for children. But not that aren’t just playgrounds, it’s you know, it is actually streets. And, and but these are moments and also these, this kind of increase in motor traffic and car traffic and parking that we see isn’t doesn’t isn’t something that just happens, you know, smoothly is contested. And so I was quite interested in looking at the point in the 1970s, where, where many new housing estates were designed, which separated children’s sort of pedestrian play space from from car design space, and how these become quite stigmatised for many reasons, including probably predominantly political reasons, in the 80s 90s. And, and how, but how Actually, there was also sort of a retrofitting of streets and what happened, what happened in those places where, you know, who, who wanted this to happen, who didn’t want this to happen? Why does it end? And it seems that there’s a point there where we could have some really made, you know, we were really interested as a country, it’s sort of in the UK and other places, you know, developed differently. But we were quite interested in tackling this issue of, of enabling children to play on streets. It’s just something that that we, I think, you know, there is a there’s a movement to push for this now, but it is, it’s still quite a small voice, you know, kind of wanting change.

Carlton Reid 9:04
So what hope do you see for the future, because it’s often said that touching for a politician, for instance, to touch car parking, it’s like touching the third rail, you know, it’s something you just you just don’t do if you ever want to succeed in politics. So given that’s the case, what what do you think is the future for your particular research and whether it could be changed in the real world?

Sally Watson 9:31
Now? Well, I think actually, actually, parking is something that is we don’t talk about enough. We’ve talked a lot about movements of traffic and how that sort of dangerous and deters children. But um, parking, you know, at this point that I’m looking at in the 60s 70s parking, and children are literally, you know, on the same page, when policy is being written about, you know, there is this idea that you can have it all that we can provide parking and we can also make space for children. And this idea that you can have these huge sort of, kind of you know, all main roads become really quite this urban motorways and and then residential streets or become sort of kind of a Radburn is this trying to kind of have your cake and eat it really, it’s not really tackling the issue of how you kind of ensure that people are able to travel in other ways other than other than using the private car. So sort of to go a long way around as a question. I think one of the things that if we’re really serious about making it safer and easier and more acceptable for children to play on the street, we do have to tackle, you know, the amount of driving, and the way we do that is through making safe streets safer for walking, cycling, but also we’re doing really need to improve public transport, we need to think about planning where we’re planning new housing, all of these things. It’s not an easy thing to fix.

Carlton Reid 10:47
So did you say Radburn? So like the cul de sac movement? 1920s? Is that what you mean?

Sally Watson 10:53
Yeah, Robin is it kind of is, it seems to mean many things to many people. It’s, it’s, it’s, it can be something that’s very high density, it can be as we now think of it as being because of huge sprawl and cul de sacs, the original intention was that they were more connected, there was more connectivity. For walking, then then actually, we often get in some of the sort of more 80s 90s sort of American style cul de sac estates. It’s not necessarily the solution. That’s not what I’m proposing. It’s just that at this time, when in the 60s and 70s, when we were designing radburn, or, or something like it quite widely. That was one of that was the kind of the one of the main aims was to make a safe space for children in housing areas.

Carlton Reid 11:38
So Alison, I’ve seen some of your your tweets where you’re discussing. I mean, if Sally is talking about the 70s, there where you’ve discussed previous eras, where play streets were, were being created, placements are then being uncreated. So So can you give us a bit of a history of, of, of play Streets in the UK?

Alison Stenning 12:03
lYeah, I mean, this is something very much something that kind of Sally and I have been working on in parallel through kind of WhatsApp conversations late at night, as we’ve rediscovered the history of place rates in in in the northeast, particularly in Newcastle, and what was then time at Borough Council. So in 1938, the street playgrounds act enabled local authorities to close streets for play. And Sally can add to this story for sure. But it was largely driven by the absence of play spaces in particular neighbourhoods. So these often and poor more disadvantaged neighbourhoods, they were some quite regularly through the 1940s and 50s. And beyond ones that were at risk of redevelopment as well. They tended to be places with high populations of children, and that with very few safe spaces for play, and there was, I guess, already, the kind of rising concern that numbers of motor vehicles were increasing on residential streets, often not private vehicles, but delivery vehicles, milk vans, coal, lorries, that kind of thing. And that they were threatening children that children were increasingly at risk on the play spaces that had been historically kind of their ordinary everyday spaces for play just on their doorsteps and in their back lines on their streets around the corners. And so the 1938 Street playgrounds act set out to enable local authorities to restrict traffic on those streets for certain times of the day, it was usually 8am to sunset or sunrise to sunset, when the streets were first established. This arose from a movement that started in Salford and learning from experience in New York, prior to that have been streets in London that had tried this before the 1938 Act. But after the 1938 Act, we saw a number of local authorities picking this up. And in fact, timeout Borough Council was one of the first to pick it up. And it was certainly the first in the northeast to pick it up. And originally rejecting the idea and but quite quickly, within about so four or five years of, of the acts being passed time after accounts or identifying streets to designate as placed rates, and those were almost all in North shields, and almost all in parts of North shields that kind of, I guess overlook the time overlook the shipyards, as it was then. So, Tyneside flats, narrow streets with terraced housing, and very little green space rail open space. And most of this happened then just after the war. So there were some bomb plots that had been turned into impromptu playgrounds, but there wasn’t a lot of space for play. So these were the ones that were designated.

Carlton Reid 14:43
So Sally, Where have they gone? Where do they go?

Sally Watson 14:46
Well, some of them are still there. Actually, we have found at lists in both in Newcastle and in North Tyneside, of some of places, which are still there. Many of them have been demolished because they then went on to be, they were well, they They were probably already down as being slum clearance areas. And, and then some of them, you know many of them later on the traffic there is just too much traffic. So we still have quite a few and Heaton. But, you know, the demographics of people who are living in those houses change for various reasons related to sort of to housing housing policy. And also there is just too much traffic. So just the sign on its own isn’t enough. I think what it’s, it’s made me think a lot about the work that Allison does in North Tyneside, and that, you know, the place street just closing the streets, in and of itself isn’t necessarily enough, and that there is also this, this kind of really important role, perhaps even if you, you know, even if you live on a dead end street, perhaps there is this also this important role of community organising for play that actually brings something, something else some other than just sufficient physical infrastructure.

Carlton Reid 15:51
We’re talking about play here. And this is a question to both you I guess. But it’s not just about, you know, getting out there playing hopscotch, doing all these fantastic things talking on the road. It’s also about mobility, and children, having the ability to actually move about the places where they live, you know, forget play, it’s just how to physically get from your house to school to see your friends or whatever. So, Alison, how does how does that aspect fit in actually getting people to use their own form of transport without relying on parent or taxis?

Alison Stenning 16:27
Well, I think I mean, you know, the playing out movement would very much see themselves as part of this. And I think, often, this debate within the playing out movement rests on idea of timber gills, that that the street is the first step in independent mobility that every child feels at home on their own Street and feels like they can move around their own street safely, whether that’s because they’ve learned how to manage traffic, and just to be aware of traffic and to feel that the street is theirs, and that they have a right to walk up and down it, then that can lead and build towards a much greater sense of independent mobility. And we also have a lot of evidence, for example of children learning to ride their bikes on streets that are close for play. So there is this kind of sense in which giving children the space, but also a sense that this is their street, and they belong on it, then that that can build and create kind of other spaces and extended journeys that we all started, you know, by developing our kind of spatial mobility and our independent mobility from our doorsteps. And but that’s been increasingly kind of restricted over the years. And I think there’s this sense in which of you, if you give children space to play, if you give children space to explore abuse, give children space to connect to their streets, and then they’re more they’re, I guess, they’re keener to kind of extend their roaming distance beyond the street. But then obviously, you come up against the barriers to that, which, you know, we keep coming back to the question of traffic and cars. And I think, you know, things like school streets, for example, connect to these debates, creating what is effectively a place to eat outside of school, which not only changes the atmosphere outside the school, but also for many will start to be a part of the jigsaw or in a safe journey to school. And we hope I suppose that, you know, by giving some children the space to see what is possible without cars, and what’s opened up, when we reduce the number of cars on a street or maybe dentistry, that there’s also a kind of cultural change. And I think, you know, this sense in which there’s a kind of, there’s a numbers game, I guess, going on that, you know, play workers often say that kind of the child’s favourite loose part is another child, that what they want to play with is another child more than anything. And I think that’s also true for questions of kind of independent mobility. That’s much easier for children, if they’ve met each other hanging out on the street playing together on the street to move around and beyond the streets together. And so there’s a sense that if more children are out on the streets, if more children are feeling confident on the streets, then that will generate, I guess, shifts in parenting shifts in parenting cultures, which have to go alongside the reduction of cars and car traffic.

Carlton Reid 19:06
With with it with Tim, I didn’t talk to him about like stranger danger. So you know, that’s one component. It’s not just traffic danger. People aren’t afraid of it stranger danger, too. But so I’d like to come to you and ask about because I don’t want to hyper localise it too much. Because this is this isn’t a Jesmond show, but you had issues with the school in Jesmond being able to basically get your kids to school in safety.

Sally Watson 19:38
Yeah, I suppose. I mean, just going back to Allison was saying about the street. And I think just going back to mobility, I think we can think tend to think in very adult terms about mobility and you think about what’s a toddler’s mobility? Well, you know, we know that very young children much prefer to to play very close to their homes. We think about that. You know that child knocking on a neighbour’s door to us or don’t they? Is mobility but equally, that child moving around that street and playing, you know, that’s, that’s partly that is also mobility for them and you know, and equally then to then talk about the school run a bit i think you know, mobility is is not we talk a lot about independent mobility but actually children are also travel or move with with family with friends and we need to sort of think a bit more widely about about that. So you know, that our school run is is probably many people would think is not too bad until the point that you get to school and that environment outside school is kind of what I would just call traffic chaos. And you come up against, you know, many other people trying to use that street for many different purposes. And I think it’s as good then, you know, it goes back to that the street, what, what is the purpose of that street at that time of day? And whose movement movement? Should it be facilitating? And really, you know, given you have a huge number of children trying to travel through there, it isn’t, again, I think it isn’t just about travel, as Allison said that this idea of school streets, you know, the atmosphere of arriving at a school where there is no traffic right outside kind of completely, I think transforms the experience for those children arriving at school and those families.

Carlton Reid 21:18
So if you were the Newcastle transport planner, how would you change that particular street? And how would that link into maybe other streets, other schools elsewhere in the UK, perhaps even elsewhere in the world?

Sally Watson 21:31
I think I mean, and I think actually, others have started to talk more about secondary as well, but I think there are there are differences between primary schools and secondary schools, there are differences, you know, in the types of streets that that schools are on, I think schools that aren’t on aren’t on a kind of main road, really serious main road, bus route, whatever, there’s, there isn’t really any reason why you can’t create a school street or even a network of streets that are accessed only at school drop off and pickup times. These are just decisions that you know, that we, as adults, adults in positions of power can make. Yeah, they can be controversial, but I think, if framed in the right way. And I think that they are sort of broadly acceptable compared to most people, and but then you have a different issue when it comes to older children travelling to school, the some recent research that that’s actually in Newcastle talking to children, about about their worries about pandemic and one of the things that come out of that is, is how they feel using public transport. And so sort of, again, thinking about mobility, you know, older children might be walking, might be cycling, might be using public transport to get around the city. And we’re not really kind of thinking about any of our transport planning with their needs in mind. So it’s sort of a, you know, it’s a bigger thing than the street, but it does definitely kind of start with those those streets.

Carlton Reid 22:54
Alison, that say, mentioned the pandemic there. Do you think I don’t want to touch on the sunrise cycle ages? Yeah, what am I gonna leave that for a moment? But do you think what’s happened during the pandemic, either gone organically from just people being, you know, in effect close to home, or from the government’s point of view, where they’ve, they’ve actually done stuff or tried to do stuff to increase active mobility? Do you think the pandemic will lead to societal changes in the long term?

Alison Stenning 23:34
I suppose that’s the kind of million dollar question, isn’t it? And I think, you know, I think lots of us who are kind of very excited by what we’d seen, as you say, both happening in an organic manner, during the first lockdown, but also, the announcement of the active travel funds. Last year, we’re quite excited that this might mark a shift, both in terms of people’s experience of their streets, and what they hoped for on their streets, and, but also government and local government or responses. And I suppose I’m increasingly less positive about what’s been achieved and what might be maintained. And I think, you know, we need to look back at kind of some of the biggest structural issues around, you know, cars and car parking and those different kinds of mobility. And as Sally suggested, the alternative forms of mobility, which might, which might kind of take up some of the slack, particularly kind of public transport. I think, you know, people did enjoy and recognise the value of low traffic streets, which is what we effectively had in the first lockdown. And that wasn’t true for everyone. People were still having to travel for work, and there was some essential travel going on. I think for the most part, in most parts of the UK, we saw a dramatic decline in in traffic, we did also see an increase in speeding. And that’s an interesting connection to think about, in terms of making streets safe for children for others, too. I think, you know, all of the debates that we’ve seen about low traffic neighbours Particularly in London, the controversies there, but also the controversies clearly in in Newcastle, you know, suggest that there’s still a very big kind of Hill to be climbed around this. And and I don’t really have the answers to that. But I do think yeah, I think it’s perhaps not I’m not as optimistic as I was. I suppose this time. We’re not this time last year, but over the summer.

Carlton Reid 25:23
Sally. And the same question to you. Are you as pessimisticvqs Alison, are you optimistic on that there will be societal changes will come after after the pandemic?

Sally Watson 25:35
Yeah, I probably like, Alison, I think I think that I’m optimistic about some, you know, that there have been some shifts, I’m less optimistic about where we go more broadly, because I can see that there is, you know, there isn’t in enough infrastructure being built to support other other modes other than driving fast enough. The, the, you know, the difficulty, in terms of pushback is is huge. In I mean, it is and bigger and something like that, I think London has seen a bigger backlash than I’ve seen anywhere else in the UK, but there has been a backlash out everywhere else. But also, I just can see that, you know, people are going getting in their cars, and people aren’t using public transport, and that’s a really worrying thing. And we start seeing, you know, drive thru cinemas advertised and everything’s, you know, all us, you know, cuz everything’s gonna be a drive thru. And that really worries me that we were end up ending up going to kind of actually kind of support more driving rather than discouraging it through that. But I mean, I think you know, for for politicians, there is opportunity here, and you know, the features still to be decided written, really, they do have opportunity, we see even where we live huge numbers of people cycling, one of my concerns about how we plan to support, you know, this kind of activity in the future is that we’re not measuring any of this. And we know that through, if we don’t have that sort of data to support change, it can be more difficult to make those changes.

Carlton Reid 27:11
So I said, I’m gonna come straight back to you on on the bridges, because there’s been a Newcastle has closed off to my address, not to pedestrians, not to cyclists, not to, to scooter users, etc, but close off to motorists, five bridges. And then there’s an awful lot of controversy, as they always are on these kind of things. But it does seem that touchwood that Newcastle is holding its nerve, and is not reacting to the incredibly loud voices and including some potentially fraudulent voices in this particular semi consultation. So So what’s happening with the bridges? And are you hopeful that those particular bridges will remain open to pedestrians and cyclists but close to motorists?

Sally Watson 28:01
Yeah, I think we are hopeful. I mean, we really we don’t know what the decision is going to be at. But the reason I think we’re hopeful is that they’ve they’ve kind of so far done everything that they said they would they kind of come up with a report quite quickly after the after the sort of end of the consultation and there’s a decision, I think that’s gonna be made in the summer, but they’re talking about it looking kind of looking quite carefully about how people respond to the consultation, and but also looking at other sort of other data, you know, in terms of traffic, but traffic on main roads and air pollution, what have you. So I think it is, it is important. And and also actually, I think, you know, recognising that while I think we had quite a good response to the consultation, it’s probably not representative of the people who live in these bases. And to go back to children. This is an, you know, big issue that we have, I think when we look at how many children are responding or being or even able to take part in these consultations, it’s very, very tiny numbers. So, you know, if we make the decision based on what you know, and the or your kind of, I think a recent, a recent transport policy consultation in the northeast, has just announced its findings. And you know, the majority are not the majority, but by far the biggest group of people who had responded were white men who were around some in their 50s. And, and it’s really important that we make sure that we’re we’re kind of thinking about transport, we’re thinking much more widely than, than that.

Carlton Reid 29:34
That’s a good point. So listen to children a bit more. Yeah. As children physically ask them. Yeah,

Sally Watson 29:40
And that that’s difficult. And obviously, it’s even been been more difficult in the pandemic, but in I say, it’s difficult in that, you know, we know how do you access that? How do you access that this is always the kind of question about how do you engage what what are kind of generally known as hard to reach groups but but I think you know, there are ways of doing that. And I think that we probably don’t spend make enough effort to do that.

Carlton Reid 30:06
So Alison let’s let’s talk about the Sunrise Cycleway and potentially permanent changes might result. So give us a brief rundown of the changes that were made in your neck of the woods this particular cycle way whether it was well used and and then it was dismantled. So tell us about the dismantling of it and and what happened there, but then also maybe discuss the potential for a permanent cycle way to come out of this.

Alison Stenning 30:38
Yeah, I mean, I think you know, what we saw last summer was, yeah, the creation of a three mile five kilometre cycle along the seafront, from time mouth to Whitney Bay, running through cullercoats all along the seafront, effectively removing one lane of traffic, the southbound lane, which was replaced by a two way cycle cycle lane, and there was a bit of shifting and changing kind of in the process to accommodate particularly the needs of both fishing boats, but also the volunteer life Brigade, who need access needed access kind of along the coast. So there was a bit of shifting and changing to create access points. And but largely what we had from July through to October here, I’ve got my dates, right, was a traffic free cycle way right along the seafront, it was extremely well used. And I can’t remember off the top of my head, the figures, but it was 1000s of people daily peaking, obviously, weekends and and in the summer months. And it was used by all sorts of different people, but particularly it was used by children, by families and by people on non standard bikes, as well as people who were on road bikes, but perhaps would have travelled up and down the coast anyway, this bit of road forms part of the National Cycle network route one, which is in ordinary times shared path right along the seafront. It’s quite a wide path at times, but it’s often quite narrow. And in the context of both the summer and the pandemic, we’d see huge numbers of people trying to kind of make their way up and down the coast. And I guess what we’re beginning to see after the cycleway was pulled out in October on the basis, apparently of falling fingers, but also tricky negotiations with other coastal users. And you know, the argument all along was that there would be far fewer people using this, but what we’ve seen is a consistent flow of people trying to walk and cycle along the coast, and that that’s picked up really dramatically in the last kind of month or so that it’s really quite difficult to cycle down what is now a shared path on the pavement. So we’ve been actively kind of pushing for and trying to kind of, you know, encourage the council to to move towards both kind of, I suppose, a short term solution and a longer term solution and the Council have committed to a longer term solution along the seafront. We’re not sure how that will work and living streets, North Tyneside have put forward a plan for what they think might work. And we’re not sure what the council is looking at what the council’s ideas are, but a way of accommodating different forms of traffic down the coast and creating space for walking and cycling. But we say that there’s quite an urgent need for that, in the short term as well, I have no idea what it’s going to be like on the summer during the summer on the seafront. It’s already heaving at weekends with very, very difficult kind of to walk, let alone to walk and cycle on the on the path. And there have been quite a lot of tweets and other kind of posts on social media over the last few months about the number of close passes that happen on the seafront road on the road now that most cyclists are back on the road. And of course, that excludes cyclists who aren’t confident excludes children and excludes family cycling with their children. So we’ve seen a real shift in in in the opportunities to cycle through the bar. And I think you know, obviously there was a lot of focus on this being a kind of sort of leisure route, but it often it also provided a really safe route between our our town centres between Whitley Bay, cullercoats and time mouth that say travelling for shopping, having to see friends and family and when that’s been possible, and that LinkedIn then to these closures on northfields fish key and on Park view In Whitley Bay. So these places became if you like kind of destinations for people kind of shopping and eating and drinking. And they were connected by a cycleway which made moving between these places much easier.

Carlton Reid 34:45
Now an awful lot of the chatter on social media was basically saying those places which you just mentioned, that they’re losing all their business. And that was obviously because of the pandemic. It was just that why people aren’t going To shops? And yeah, that was the evidence that was very often cited. Would you say there was there was some people would say the opposite to that? Yeah. I

Alison Stenning 35:09
mean, I think that there’s different pictures, I’d say on the fish key and park view, my understanding is that almost all of the businesses, that’s to say, kind of the food and retail businesses on the fish key were in favour of the closure and are pushing, as far as I understand for another closure this summer. And the on Park view, it was slightly more complicated, I think. But I think, you know, what we haven’t seen is the evidence that the council gathered, you know, they did record and report both traffic on the seafront, but also footfall and all sorts of other data from Park view and from the fish game, we don’t have that data. And it hasn’t been reported publicly. And so we don’t really know what numbers were like. I mean, we can rely on anecdotal evidence, obviously. But what we also don’t know there’s been no, no systematic and clear kind of survey, as far as as far as we understand of the businesses on Parkview. We hear stories of people, you know, feeling kind of at risk and losing business, but we also hear stories of people for whom it was an amazing boon in terms of their sales. That that was food shops, and some of the clothes shops and some of the bars and cafes down there. So we don’t know is the answer. And we don’t have the evidence at the moment to make those decisions. And I think, you know, in contrast to Newcastle, where there was a very widespread consultation, and we’ve already seen the initial results from that, we don’t really have that information in North Tyneside

Carlton Reid 36:34
yet. So Sally, again, we’re going to be hyperlocal here. But in our particular leafy suburb, there has just recently appeared some protection for cyclists on some stretches of, of, of, of road, so I’m assuming you welcome those kind of bits of infrastructure been installed. But do you think and he kind of mentioned this before? And you said, it’s not coming quick enough. But how quickly did that do with Newcastle City Council have to go to actually make these interventions actually physically work?

Sally Watson 37:13
Yeah, I think that it’s been really great to see the temporary stuff. I think the difficulty with it is we know this that when you when you’re talking about temporary cycling’s, you can’t really deal with the junctions. And so I can understand the reluctance to, to put in huge amounts of temporary stuff without a plan to make to do something about the junctions. But I think that, to some extent, you know, there are people who are such nervous cyclists that they will get off and cross the road junctions and still use the production. So I think there’s probably a case for more temporary, you know, we know that there are streets that are wide that are, you know, in fact, I have personally suggested to the council that, you know, shortly after this all started that they might want to think about focusing on on secondary schools looking at secondary schools, which are main roads which have space and putting in pop up cycle lanes there because even even if they can’t deal with the junctions, you have huge numbers of kids spilling out of schools onto quite narrow pavements and they’re already sort of jostling and people you know, kids who are cycling can end up on the road so you know, thinking about it in those terms then with a plan to make this permanent in the future is probably you know, those are quite good places to start. And so that we’ve been led to believe they have funding to make the some of the pop up stuff here permanent don’t know about some of the other stuff that’s wasted waiting to see what we have a high straight street here which has some cycling some pedestrian I think many of us feel that you know, who cycle feel it would be really it’s really important that that that temporary pedestrian space, kind of getting the common cycling space in the future. But I think that not that I don’t think that’s necessarily a plan that the Council have. So these things were always kind of, I suppose pushing pushing for more with the sort of recognition that if you want people to come and use high streets, you do need to make this space for cycling we’re seeing many many more people cycling if you want them to come and stop at shops you know, it’s just it’s not like when you come in the car and you bring your kids and you can get out of buggy your if you’ve brought your kids on your bike you you know how do you then tell if you have a baby and a toddler and has been huge and shopping How do you manage that so he’s we’re seeing many more different types of 500 cycle now being used to with children. And so we you know, we do need to think about infrastructure for sort of cycling and a much more broader sense it needs to really get to right to the two destinations you need psychopath from all this, all this other stuff. So it’s a big leap on from thinking about your commuter routes.

Carlton Reid 39:59
And Allison, if you asked a five year old, if you asked a 15 year old, if you asked a 16 year old, you know, what would they want from their streets? You’d get, I’m assuming a certain answer. If you then asked a 17 year old and that’s the age, of course, in the UK, where you get your driving licence, that and I’ll consider the United Nations consider to hold on to I think 18, isn’t it? So I’m a child of 17. He’s got a driving licence, we’re all of a sudden have a very different view of what should perhaps I’m assuming here of the transport priorities. So how do you make either that connection or that disconnection from as soon as you get your driving licence, your perspectives on this change completely?

Alison Stenning 40:51
Well, I suppose there’s two things is one is that having a driving licence, you know, doesn’t mean you can afford to take lessons pass test by a car. So there’s still enormous inequalities, which exist, even after 17 that is a relatively small number of children and young people who would be able to buy a car and use that as their primary mode of transport. And there are huge costs associated with driving and unless those can be absorbed by you or your family, then you’re still it’s still not going to be your primary mode of transport for quite some time. And the other thing is, I suppose that you know, that that kind of rite of passage of kind of passing your test and getting a car when you turn 70, and or kind of as soon as you possibly can afterwards, is a result of the the way in which we hold the car up in, in popular culture, if, you know, if we can make changes now, which mean that actually children see, you know, young children now see that, you know, bikes or feet, give them more freedom to move around their local communities safely with their friends, you know, okay, you can give your friends a lift in a car. But you know, getting around hanging around them, you know, I guess this is the thing about asking children and young people. And like Sally said, you know, there are now numerous ways in which people have tried and tested talking to children and young people about what they want, from their streets, what they want from their cities, what they want from their public transport systems. It’s not, you know, there’s just dozens and dozens of studies that have done this now. And it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for councils like Newcastle or North Tyneside to actually consult children and young people and to ask them, and yeah, there will be much the needs of an 11 year old will be very different to the needs of a 17 year old. And there’s been a lot of stuff recently, about how how little, for example, teenage girls are accounted for in public space, and how they might move about public space. And how they might, you know, choose to travel, choose to meet their friends, and so on. So I think it is about asking children and young people, asking them what might make a difference to them making choices to buy a car or to take driving lessons, or in fact, just to have a bike. And you know, you see, I see, I see young people, I don’t know, 15, 16, 17 year olds, cycling all over North Tyneside, they’re often cycling on the pavement, because it’s the only place that they can safely cycle. But it’s clearly how young people do get around. That’s how I got around to the young person. And it’s one of those, you know, taking your test at 17. Buying a car is one route, but it’s not the only route. And it’s a privileged route.

Carlton Reid 43:21
Well, thank you, both of you for taking the time today to chat with me to end Could you please tell everybody how they can find you on social media and perhaps any links to your academic or any other hats? You like to put that I know Sally might give a cycling campaign hat there. So first of all, Alison, give us your social media and any other links.

Alison Stenning 43:49
So I’m on Twitter as @Alisonstenning, quite easy to find there. And, and in terms of my academic role, it’s very easy to search for me at Newcastle University. I’m in geography at the university and you’ll find me if you if you search for me, and I also have you kind of I guess to activist hats, I run playmate Street, North Tyneside here coordinate street closures play in North Tyneside, again, that’s at play meet street on Twitter. And you can find us by searching. We’re on Facebook, as well as we have a basic website. And I’m also involved in living streets in North Tyneside, and off the top of my head. I can’t remember what their Twitter handle is. But again, if you search for that, you’ll find both a website and twitter twitter handle and the Facebook page. Thank you

Carlton Reid 44:41
And Sally?

Sally Watson 44:42
So yeah, I’m also on Twitter @SalaWatson. I can be also found in Newcastle University in the School of Architecture, planning and landscape. I additionally I chair the Newcastle cycling campaign, we have a Twitter which is @Newcycling We also have you can find too that we have a Facebook website as well

Carlton Reid 45:07
Thanks to Alison Stanning and Sally Watson there and thanks to you for listening to the spokesmen cycling podcast. Show notes and more can be found on but as always

Carlton Reid 45:23
get out there and ride!

March 20, 2021 / / Blog

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Saturday 20th March 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 269: Canaries in the Coal Mine: How Child-Friendly Planning and Design Can Save Cities


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Tim Gill

TOPICS: For too long, we have neglected children’s independent mobility. Author and play expert Tim Gill expounds on the theory that children are the canaries in the coal mine — if cities don’t work for children, they don’t work for anybody.


Urban Playground by Tim Gill

Rethinking Childhood blog.

Graphic by PlayMeetStreet North Tyneside/Brightwayz/Playongout


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 269 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was uploaded on 20th of March 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 Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at 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 And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
I’ve got two themed episodes back to back for you. And they’re both about play or the lack thereof. Children’s play that is. Hi, I’m Carlton Reid. And on the first of these two themed episodes, I talked to author and child’s play expert Tim Gill. On the next show I go hyperlocal with Tyneside academics, Alison Standing and Sally Watson. But today’s hour long show is more international in scope, as Tim cites international best practice from the US, Belgium and Israel, as he warms to his theme that for too long, we have neglected children’s independent mobility.

Carlton Reid 1:51
On today’s show, I’ve got Tim Gill, Tim, I’ve been hearing and talking about Tim and writing about Tim for an awfully long time. And I’ll bring him in a second. But I’ll just I’ll just tell him that I did a book, I can’t remember when it was many, many years ago. And it was a children’s bicycling book. And a large section of that was about risk and why it’s far, far better to, to get out on your bike rather than you know, wrap your child in, in bubble wrap, and never get them out there. And I quoted extensively from Tim’s earlier book. So before we start talking about your new book, Tim, which we will do, tell me about the risk element of that first book and why it’s far better to, as I said, to get out there, doing stuff, climbing trees, doing childlike things, rather than just sitting there massively protected.

Tim Gill 2:56
So, ell, that’s a lovely introduction, because there’s a nice link between the two, which we’ll maybe explore but my first book, so it’s called no fear growing up in a risk averse society, you can download the whole thing for free as a PDF from my website. So yeah, I’ve no pecuniary interest in in it any longer. But essentially, it makes the case that part of a rich and healthy childhood is for children to, to learn how to deal with uncertainty, to have experiences that help them to prepare for the everyday ups and downs of life. And that indeed, if we try too hard to protect children from all possible harm, however well meaning that maybe we actually do them a disservice we, we prevent them from having the kind of experiences that help them on that journey to becoming a, you know, resilient, confident, capable, independent person. So that’s really at the heart of No fear. And I just have signpost a little bit. It’s, it’s, it’s the sort of planning and design dimensions of that line of thought that you can see coming out in Urban Playground.

Carlton Reid 4:16
Which is your new book. I don’t want to go too personal, but I just want to find out your kind of family background because that would that would I’m sure colour everybody’s picture here of, of maybe where you started this research from originally, but what what, what kids who do have kids?

Tim Gill 4:33
Yes. Okay. So, first of all, you know, I’m in my 50s, like almost everybody from around the world with whatever class you choose. I enjoyed a lot of freedom in my childhood. And those experiences are still resonant to me and I feel that they were, you know, an important part of, you know, who I am today

Tim Gill 4:56
in ways that, you know, maybe not always immediately obvious. I’m also

Tim Gill 5:00
Dad, and my daughter is in our in her early 20s. And kind of coincidentally, she came along a couple of years after I fell into a weird job with a quirky outfit called the children’s play council back in the mid 90s. And, you know, I would be lying to you, if I said that I have always been passionate about children’s freedoms and child development and health and well being. That is not how my career has unfolded, I landed in this job, for various reasons that the need and trouble is here. But and it was a part time two year fixed term contract. But the the issues got under my skin, I just found it really fascinating to, to think about how children’s lives have been changing, and in particular, their their freedoms and their opportunity to play and get around. And then when my daughter came along in 1998, you know, the whole topic got rather more personal and important, and that, I guess, relationship between the personal and the political has stayed with me.

Carlton Reid 6:02
I’m imagining you, you know, the Spartan thing of, you know, leaving a child out on the rooftop to see if they’re going to survive the night, in other words, but in the modern equivalent, right, like chucking her up trees. So what kind of child did your daughter have? Were you, were you exposing her to risk to kind of like, as part of your petri dish of this is what children should be like, How were you dealing with that aspect of parenthood?

Tim Gill 6:27
I really, I really hope not. I mean, that’s, I think I’m not a particularly you know, adventurous person in many ways. You know, I mean, I like going for walks and off road biking and stuff. But, you know, the idea of jumping out of a plane leaves me, like, rigid with fear. And more to the point, I guess, I, I always used to talk about balance, and, and being, you know, balanced and thoughtful. That’s, that’s the approach I was aiming for. And I absolutely did not want my daughter to feel like she was some kind of weird experiment in, you know, in backwards, child rearing? No, I think and bear in mind, you know, this was back. This was pre, almost pre internet of certainly pre social media. So, you know, back then you could kind of

Tim Gill 7:18
you, as a parent, I didn’t feel like my every decision was under the microscope. And I think that’s a really big difference with with parenting today. Or, you know, over the last five or 10 years. So, you know, Rosa started walking to school when she was eight or nine. You know, we had adventurous holidays with her. I remember, when she was 11. She, we were on a big trip to Scandinavia in a camper van, and one afternoon, we let her go back to the campsite on her own on a bike and she got lost. And it took her about three times as long as he should have done. You know, though, that these are

Tim Gill 7:57
I don’t think we were we were throwing her into the woods in the middle of the night that we were recognising that. There’s firstly there’s no such thing as a zero risk childhood. And secondly, that some of the times when we learn the most are the times when we make mistakes, when as adults and as children and when we get a little bit outside of our comfort zone. So that was certainly part of, of of our thinking with with bringing up our daughter.

Carlton Reid 8:27
You brought up your daughter I think if I’m if your website is still up to date in Walthamstow?

Tim Gill 8:33
Yes, that’s right where I still live.

Carlton Reid 8:34
So Walthamstow is famous in cycling circles. I mean, I’ve had Clyde Loakes, the deputy leader on at least twice perhaps more, talking about the the incredible changes that have happened probably while you’ve you’ve lived there. So tell me a bit about Walthamstow maybe how it’s changed while you’ve been there and and tell me if it’s better.

Tim Gill 8:57
Right, Walthamstow has changed for the better. I won’t take a whole load of credit for that. I’ve been on the sort of periphery of some of the local debates, which as you know, have been quite, quite vociferous and at times really unpleasant. But, you know, it’s a Victorian suburb, like, a lot of parts of the sort of, you know, Victorian fringes of London and some of England’s other cities, terraced housing.

Tim Gill 9:29
And, you know, it’s always been a sort of scruffy place and but in the last five or 10 years, it has, I think, just because of the mechanisms of the London housing market become somewhere more desirable to live. So we’ve seen,

Tim Gill 9:43
you know,

Tim Gill 9:45
a shorthand would be a form of gentrification. I think that’s slightly overstating it, but certainly, you know, significant numbers of more wealthy people moving in and greater concern for the quality of, you know, streets and public spaces.

Tim Gill 10:00
And then again so slightly, one of these quirks of fate that Boris Johnson came along with his his largesse and the mini Holland programme and the Waltham Forest bid was successful, and it has made a huge difference to significant parts of the borough, it’s, you know that the traffic levels are much lower.

Tim Gill 10:22
In within the, I guess what you’d now call the low traffic neighbourhood areas, much higher levels of cycling. And, you know, hardly a day goes past now, and I don’t see at least two or three people riding around on cargo bikes, which and you’ll know how unusual that would have been even two or three years ago in London.

Tim Gill 10:40
Now that it’s complex, and I can see some people there are some people are very angry about the changes, there are some things that, you know, had I been closer to the action I might have said, Well, maybe you could do things a little bit differently. But by and large, I think a Walthamstow is rightly being held up as a model of the, the, you know, the transformational change that you can achieve if you get a better balance between the needs of car drivers and the needs of everybody else. And the only way you make things better for walking and cycling is by making it harder for car drivers. We know that you know that most people listening to this

Tim Gill 11:21
podcast will know that but I think many Holland programmes show you just how much better it can be. And maybe also has some some lessons for how you can take these projects forward in, in in ways that build consensus.

Carlton Reid 11:35
And again, I don’t want to get too personal and geolocate you exactly but do you live in one of these newer low traffic neighbourhoods?

Tim Gill 11:45
Not quite, no, I live on about five minutes walk from what’s sometimes called Walthamstow village.

Tim Gill 11:54
But in a sort of reasonably leafy part of this borough. And I guess one of the interesting things about Waltham Forest is that as well as the mini Holland programme, it has also supported some, you know, really progressive improvements in public space and parks and play areas, it’s got some of the best local players, I think in London.

Tim Gill 12:17
It’s a strong supporter of Play Streets, which you’ll know I you know, this sort of model of just closing the traffic for for maybe a couple of hours a week or even a couple of hours a month, so that people can come out and enjoy the streets. So it will it’s there’s a lot of good things happening in the bar that I can see right outside my door more or less, even though I’m not part of

Tim Gill 12:41
the mini Holland area, you know, in its narrow sense.

Carlton Reid 12:47
OK, you mentioned play Streets that I was going to go down this one, this this cul de sac straightaway, but as you mentioned it I mean, famously, the UK had permanent place streets, not just you know, two, three hours a week plays reads, but they had, I mean, there was there was there was there was parliamentary acts to actually create Play Streets in the UK. And you can look at the photographs of there’s certainly a where I live in Newcastle.

Carlton Reid 13:16
And you look at the photographs of what they used to be like, and there’s these these little posters up saying, you know, this is a play Street and you couldn’t even cycle down these play Streets. So tell us more about the history of that and what happened and why they disappeared.

Tim Gill 13:33
Right. It’s it’s a really interesting question. And and so there’s a sort of slightly hidden narrative in my book that I hope I might one day be able to, to unpack some more, which is that you could say that the history of urban planning, certainly residential urban planning, over the last 100 years or so has been a kind of battle between children and cars. And for the most part, the car has won. And that’s beginning to change. But I think play streets were one of the expressions of that battle right there. You’ll know they emerged, I think, after the First World War is during that first wave of the growth of the car, as a direct reaction to traffic danger. You know, typically groups of mums coming together and saying is outrageous that, you know, the streets where we live, which used to be where our kids can play safely, have become dangerous places because of all these cars and we need to do something about it.

Tim Gill 14:32
And you know, we’re now scholars, Alison Stanning who, who’s up your way in Newcastle is doing some great research on this. And it’s showing the extent to which families and particularly mothers were were were pushing back against the creeping domination of the car.

Tim Gill 14:54
And so the new place street model which has emerged in the last 10 years or so,

Tim Gill 15:00
I mean, in many ways, it’s much more modest. It’s really it’s just saying, Oh, please, car drivers just stop driving up our street for a couple of hours a week out of the, you know, 120 or how many however many hours there are, so that we can come out of our front doors and, and play and socialise. But it is part of that pushback, I think, and of that kind of reappraisal

Tim Gill 15:29
of the one has for much of the 20th century and the early 21st century been a kind of settled position, which is that streets of a cars there for cars to move along and ever cars to park in, and nobody else has a look in. And so that’s why I’m one of the reasons I’m so interested in, in play street is because they they’re actually a comparatively low cost bank zero cost low barrier to entry.

Tim Gill 15:56
Way to make visible and, and give people a taste of what streets and neighbourhoods could be like, if we open them up for social uses, like play, and even just meeting and chatting.

Carlton Reid 16:13
Absolutely. And, of course, you’re talking to a kindred spirit here because I wrote a whole book on on this Roads Were Not Built for Cars. And you know, roads were had multitude of uses throughout history, and they’ve just become mono-use. And nobody can imagine, you know, the use of roads or anything other than the motorcars. So there is a there is a sentence in your book, and it jumped out to me for that reason, probably. And that is and I quote to you, and I love this.

Carlton Reid 16:41
“Children need to be seen to be a legitimate road user group,” because they’re not are they? They are absolutely not, they are seen to be interlopers.

Tim Gill 16:54
I think it’s probably worse than that.

Tim Gill 16:58
Certainly, for highway engineers, they are often objects of terror,

Tim Gill 17:03
not because of the harm that they can do, because of course,

Tim Gill 17:07
children Yeah, even if they try really, really hard, they’re actually not very capable of doing serious harm, but because of, you know, what might happen if if the highway engineers get things wrong. And so children, you know, are seen as unpredictable

Tim Gill 17:22
way word stupid,

Tim Gill 17:25
just scary creatures, who can really mess up the ordered and tidy

Tim Gill 17:33
traffic flow plans of the highway engineer. And so either way that they are kind of basically to be taken out of the picture. And again, in my book, I write about how the playground the public play area was invented as a way of taking children out of the picture of streets, there was a straightforward problem for politicians and, and the,

Tim Gill 18:02
the men who are running the cities back in the early 20th century, which is all these cars were, were literally killing hundreds of children a year. And the the, you know, citizens were not very happy about it. So playgrounds were invented as a, quote, safe place to play that removed children or were supposed to remove children from, from from streets. In fact, it didn’t really work out that way. But it’s still sort of baked into a lot of the thinking of urban planning and transport planning that children do not have a claim of freedom of movement. They are essentially creatures who need to be corralled and put into different forms of reservations of, of which the playground is the most obvious and most depressing example. H

Carlton Reid 18:55
Mmm, so let’s get on to your book then. So we’ve mentioned it in passing Urban Playground. Now, it is the reason on the front cover. There is a bicycle and a kind of like a trailer on the back. But it’s not a bicycling book. So you’re on the podcast today is a bicycling podcast, but we’re gonna stress is not a bicycle. But there are there’s bicycling in there, because Cycling is is a key form of transport for children.

Tim Gill 19:23
Right. So at the heart of the book is a definition or a framework. What counts as a child friendly neighbourhood, a child friendly town, a child friendly city, okay, and that framework has two dimensions, or two aspects to it. One aspect is probably it’s reasonably obvious, which is that a child friendly neighbourhood is a neighbourhood where there’s lots of fun things for children to do. And so that would include playgrounds, you know, natural places, sporting facilities,

Tim Gill 19:56
but then there’s the other dimension and that dimension

Tim Gill 20:00
Is mobility is that a child friendly neighbourhood is a neighbourhood where it’s easy for children to get around, crucially, for children to get around under their own steam, you know, what the, the academics called children’s independent mobility. And again, you’ll know of all of the research on on that. And that means walking, cycling and scooting, right? Because heads up, children don’t have driving licences. If we want to make it easier for children to get around, we have to be talking about improving, walking and cycling networks and features and infrastructure. So that that runs that framework runs right the way through my book. And that’s why I’ve got, you know, quite significant sections in the book, talking about cycling, as well as walking. And, you know, there’s another sort of way of looking at this, if we take the time to ask children themselves, what they like and don’t like and what they’d like to change about the towns and cities where they’re growing up, then right at the top of the list is being able to get around more easily. And, and especially by bike children love cycling, they love being able to get around, but you know, what, it’s still one of the most resonant milestones in any child’s life is when they learn how to ride a bike. And know one of the the

Tim Gill 21:25
sort of, under, under explored tragedies, I think, of modern childhood, is how

Tim Gill 21:32
that the role of the bike has, has diminished so much, you know, when I was growing up, I grew up in sort of rural home counties of England, you know, I had, I could basically write as far as I liked, from about the age of 11, or 12, as long as I got back home in time for tea was on my, my horizons were unbounded. And, and I really do feel so sorry for children today, because so few children have anything like that

Tim Gill 22:05
opportunity, you know, to just get on a bike and ride. It’s, it’s just vanished from so many children’s lives. And, and yet, of course, if we look over the North Sea, the Netherlands, or Denmark, we realise that actually, this is not an inevitable consequence of modern life, it’s quite possible to build and design towns and cities so that children today have exactly that kind of freedom.

Carlton Reid 22:27
Is it not the case, though, that it’s not just the built environment, that that it is you hear and is a problem and an obstacle perhaps. It’s also the like the concept of stranger danger. So if you ask people why they don’t let their kids, you know, have the same freedom as you’ve just described, it’s not just because we’ll cars might kill them, which is clearly one. One great fear. It’s also this this deeply embedded fear of child abduction of of all sorts of horrible things that people imagine is going to happen if you let your child wander.

Tim Gill 23:05
In one sense, that’s true. I mean, of course, you know, we could argue about the statistics, and you’ll probably know that the statistics show that you’re at no greater risk of child abduction now than you were 20, 40 or 60 years ago,

Tim Gill 23:19
people don’t really pay too much attention to numbers when it comes to risk. And outside, I don’t tend to push that, that line of thought too much. I guess what I would say is that

Tim Gill 23:32
we live in places where car use is normalised and were anything other than car use, especially children travelling around independently is a bit weird. And, and and so we’ve lost confidence as a culture, in the safety of the world outside our front doors. And then that gets expressed in a kind of bogeyman narrative about all the scary things, especially the scary people who are waiting. But it’s not a realistic assessment of what’s actually happening. It’s the sort of sum of all our fears. And, and I think we’re beginning to wake up to that. And, and especially when, you know, we start to see how neighbourhoods can be different. So I think Waltham Forest actually is, is perhaps a little bit of an example, you do see children playing in the street, in part of Waltham stone now to a much greater extent than you used to. It wasn’t part of the plan for mini Holland, but it’s kind of inevitable. If you stop traffic, and you create quiet patches of street, then guess what kids come out and play. So I, I’m, you know if this is the hard thing to turn around, this is 120 years of baked in car centric planning, and all of the code

Tim Gill 24:59
Cultural consequences of that. And there are other changes as well that are important, you know, changes in family working patterns,

Tim Gill 25:09
greater growth and fear generally. They’re not they’re not unimportant, but I still believe that

Tim Gill 25:16
the, the way we build towns and cities effectively hardwires

Tim Gill 25:23
captive children and a car centric way of life. And that’s, that’s the fundamental. That’s that’s the, the,

Tim Gill 25:33
the, the fundamental thing we need to change.

Tim Gill 25:37
If we don’t do anything about that, then everything else is just hot air, I think, hmm.

Carlton Reid 25:42
Well, talking about hot air, I would now like to bring in my co host, David, who will take us through to an ad break.

David Bernstein 25:49
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Carlton Reid 27:15
Thanks, David. And we are back with with Tim Gill, who is the author of Urban Playground and the subhead to that is how child friendly planning and design can save cities. Now, interestingly, Tim, this book is published by RIBA. So you’re gonna be talking presumably to some pretty influential people who can make changes. So tell us what RIBA is and tell us how this book could potentially be influential.

Tim Gill 27:43
Okay, so RIBA is the Royal Institution of British architects. So it’s, you know, it’s the kind of the member organisation for architects, it’s pretty, you know, Royal is there for a reason, I guess. I’m not an architect. So I was quite flattered to be asked to write the book.

Tim Gill 28:01
And I’m also very happy because, I mean, I come at this as a kind of advocate and a campaigner of some, you know, but I’ve been at this for a fair few years. And, and I do

Tim Gill 28:16
strongly believe that, that the people who shape the built environment, so planners, architects, designers, and of course, the politicians who ultimately set the rules,

Tim Gill 28:28
they’re the people that we need to reach if we’re going to get healthier, more sustainable, and more child friendly towns and cities. So I was really delighted to be offered the chance to write the book by RIBA. And indeed, I am

Tim Gill 28:43
milking that connection for all it’s worth. So I’ll be doing some, you know, professional development talks for RIBA, I think, coming up in May.

Tim Gill 28:53
I’m liaising with, with

Tim Gill 28:57
people there about how we can get the word out.

Tim Gill 29:00
And, and I, I guess I wanted to be the book to be the kind of book that persuades there are there’s a significant pool of people out there who are quite interested in the idea of, of making neighbours more child friendly. There are quite a lot of people who’ve got a you know, a child development background or education or outdoor learning, play work, you know, people who support children’s play, they’re the converted if you like, and and I spend a lot of time with with a lot of people from that. Those sort of communities.

Tim Gill 29:33
But they’re not the people I want to reach with the book. The people I want to reach with the book are, you know, mayors, heads of planning, transport planners, and I want them to open the book and flick through and think Oh, what’s that picture in there for why are they Why is he got this graph y said that that amazing? map so figure 1.1, the map that shows you how the horizons of childhood have been shrinking over four generations. I that’s the kind of image I want.

Tim Gill 30:00
Pull someone in and, and then get them to think about, you know, maybe their own lives their own childhood, if they have children, what what’s going on for the the children they know in their life today, and then get them to to, to look at their own work and their own

Tim Gill 30:17
values, and they’re the way they do their job or make the decisions they’re making with a children’s lens in place. And my hope is that that will make them

Tim Gill 30:31
both realise the importance and the power of, of

Tim Gill 30:36
good, good urban planning for children, but also to see how thinking about children in urban planning and design is part of a move towards creating healthier and more sustainable places.

Carlton Reid 30:51
And you don’t want the people reading this book, who are going to be influencing the built environment and in the years to come to just go, Oh, well, we won’t, we will just put a wild playground in them. It’s not something just, you don’t want to corral kids, you want to do something else for kids?

Tim Gill 31:07
Exactly. So so there’s a key passage in the book, which goes something along the lines of, you know, in a sense, the goal of the child friendly planner or designer is to turn is to kind of turn the playground inside out, and to take all of those offers that could well be in place in a good playground. But, but make sure that the whole you know, that the whole of a neighbourhood where children are living growing up, allows them, you know, to play, to have contact with nature, but also to get around freely, and without the threat of traffic danger.

Carlton Reid 31:39
So in the book, there are there are an awful lot of case studies. And I’m presuming you’ve visited all of these cities you’re talking about?

Tim Gill 31:49
I visited most of them, I didn’t quite get to a few of them for various reasons. But I think there’s about a dozen cities in in

Tim Gill 31:58
as well as London, and I got to nine of them.

Carlton Reid 32:01
Let’s talk about two of them. And they have a good cycling resonance. So we can like we can, even though your book is not about cycling, we can talk about cycling in these, these the two cities that I’ll choose. So again,

Carlton Reid 32:14
again, I’ve done a Guardian article about Birmingham, you know, doing again, suffocation and and Ghent is now famous in transport circles for its circulation plan, which has done the same as well, from so many respects in that it created safe spaces for children to play. So tell me a little bit bit about Ghent and why it’s so significant or why you chose it for your book.

Carlton Reid 32:45
So, Ghent, in Belgium, live Ghent, in Belgium.

Tim Gill 32:49
Yes, it’s in Flanders. So it’s in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium and Flanders is a part of the world where, where the idea of child friendliness has taken some hold. So it’s got some profile within you know, planning. And local authorities

Tim Gill 33:06
kind of compete with each other to an extent to be labelled child friendly. And Ghent is generally seen as the most child friendly city in Flanders. And actually, there’s quite high public awareness of that it’s almost a badge of honour for the city. So that’s been in place for a fair while.

Tim Gill 33:25
And one of the one of the reasons I picked again, was was that there’s a team within the local authority. And this is a bit sort of geeky and bureaucratic, but he really matters, that there’s four people, least when I visited, whose job it is, to work with other departments, so that they do a better job for children. So these people, they will be alongside the planners who are planning a new development, you know, in a new part of the city. They’ll be working alongside the regeneration team, there’s a big regeneration project that I write about in the book

Tim Gill 34:00
in a rundown 19th century part of the city, very ambitious, you know, had

Tim Gill 34:09
a lot of careful work with residents and local groups to make sure that what was going on was was was right, you know, it was work for them and that they wouldn’t have, they wouldn’t be hostile to, to that. And again, children and thinking about children was woven into that project. There’s a lovely

Tim Gill 34:31
is a feature called the red carpet and it is literally a kind of red path that runs for a couple of kilometres through this part of Ghent that joins up different local squares and public spaces and schools and links into other parts of the city. And all that came about because at the political level, this idea of child friendliness has purchase. It has resonance

Tim Gill 35:00
And so the politicians, you know, are proud to say that Ghent is a child friendly city, and they put resources to, to give that some some meaning. And, and you’re right to mention the circulation plan is it had just not long been in place, I think maybe less than a year when I visited. And it was really striking how much of a difference it made to the city. And this is not, you’ll know this, but but listeners who don’t realise, you know, this, this is not just about a tiny bit in a kind of historic core of gains that might, you know, preserve the chocolate, the chocolate box bits that all the tourists visit, this was a really major transformational change in the way people get around the whole of this city of I think it’s about 300,000 people.

Tim Gill 35:50
And people were predicting, you know, chaos and the economy in all of the stuff that we know, happens in this sort of

Tim Gill 36:00
with this sort of scheme. And you know, the world did not end. And now, I think yeah, I think I read your I may have even quoted from it, or stolen one of the quotes from one of the people you Vox popped, people just say it’s great, no, of course there are some people will rule lose out. And again, your your podcast followers will know that there there is no way of

Tim Gill 36:23
improving things for walking and cycling, that doesn’t have an impact, a negative impact on car users, you can’t do it. It’s basic sort of spatial, spatial justice, really. But the changes that have come about in Ghent, including changes for children, more children walking cycling to school,

Tim Gill 36:44
much lower levels of child accidents, lower levels of pollution, are all

Tim Gill 36:52
absolutely in the direction that anyone would want to see and are particularly important for children and families.

Carlton Reid 36:59
And that red carpet idea look lovely that that absolutely was one thing that jumped out of your book. And I wasn’t aware of that when I was doing my Ghent piece for for The Guardian. Now, I had Gary Fisher, the mountain bike icon on the show recently, and he was telling me about Fruita, Colorado, which isn’t in your book, for fairly obvious reasons, but flew to Colorado and I’ve got to go and check this out and see if what Gary said it is it is kind of true. But he said … do you know what a pump track is?

Tim Gill 37:29

Carlton Reid 37:29
Okay. So he says there’s a bunch of interlinked pump tracks in Fruita, which in effect, allow, you know, a preteen, or a teen child to basically

Carlton Reid 37:44
take a pump track all the way from their, their house to school, because it’s just, you know, so it’s like a red carpet, but for for older kids. So using that concept is like, what, how do you define childhood, because what’s gonna be good

Carlton Reid 38:02
for toddlers and for for, you know, 678 year olds, is perhaps very different to what a preteen and a teen is going to want. And those those two user groups are going to be in conflict to each other. So how do you square that circle?

Tim Gill 38:19
Right. That that is a really good question. In the book, I use the UN convention as my sort of definition of a child. And so that’s anyone from the age of zero to 18. Now, in ordinary language that’s a bit clunky, because no self respecting teenager would would really recognise that word child as applying to them. And more to the point and And to your point.

Tim Gill 38:47
Some of the details are going to be very different for teenagers compared to you know, babes in arms, and, of course, that their parents and caregivers, and we need and planners need to be attuned to those differences. But actually, I still would argue and argue in the book that that basic framework, the framework I talked about, still applies. Teenagers still wanted to be able to get around their neighbourhood easily and freely. And you know, until such time as a few of them might get car licences, which is pretty late on in that process, and getting ever later. That really does mean walking, cycling, scooting and the like. And teenagers also want choice and different options as to where they can hang out and meet their friends. So the details of those choices are going to be a little bit different. And there is some potential for conflict although I I would argue actually the good let’s think about parks and parks and open spaces, a great Park and open a great public park

Tim Gill 39:50
should be a place where anyone of any age actually can chip up and can you know find things to do and places to hang out.

Tim Gill 39:59
out and linger and enjoy that space. And it’s not that difficult to come up with part designs that allow that to happen. Especially if you work with the different, you know, user groups. And teenagers are very vocal actually about what they like and don’t like about parks and public spaces. So one of the pieces of work that I quote in the book is from another city in Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, I didn’t actually make it to Boulder, I’d love to get there. But it has a very well respected youth participation project. So it does a lot of work, bringing in the voices of children, young people, including those groups that don’t often get a say, you know, black and minority ethnic youth, young women who are often ignored or downplayed, and, and bringing their voices into,

Tim Gill 40:53
in the example in my book, a quite high profile downtown public space. And you can point to features in that park, that have been put in because of what the young people were saying. And you can also see how though those features actually made that part work better for everybody. So, you know, there’s actually not that much conflict when it comes to to to,

Tim Gill 41:20
if you start from the point of progressive, human scale, sustainable democratic design, you know, you can get it right. For almost all of the time, I think.

Carlton Reid 41:33
So we talked about Ghent, we’ve even segued into Boulder, Colorado, and Fruita, Colorado. But let’s go back to another one of the cities that that you highlighted in your book, and as mentioned quite a few places, and that’s Tel Aviv. A lot of people in Israel might not associate Tel Aviv with progressive policies for children, but tell us tell us what’s been happening in in Tel Aviv

Carlton Reid 42:01
to make it progressive for children?

Tim Gill 42:04
So, Tel Aviv is possibly the city that that went furthest fastest in sort of picking up this idea of becoming more child friendly, and running with it and putting serious money behind it. So and it’s an interesting story.

Tim Gill 42:20
It the precursor is that back in the early 2010s 2011 2012.

Tim Gill 42:26
There were big protests throughout Israel, about from young families, families with young children about basically they’re having a really hard time cost of living cost of childcare, quality of childcare, there were some appalling tragedies involving young children dying in childcare settings, I’m really awful.

Tim Gill 42:45
And Tel Aviv was one of inevitably one of the kind of hotspots of that, because it is it’s Israel’s biggest city and most progressive in some respects. And then

Tim Gill 42:57
the Bernard Van Leer Foundation, who are an NGO that has embraced this, this idea of child friendliness, and it’s it’s got a programme called Urban 95, which invites everyone but city decision makers to see cities from a height of 95 centimetres, so as the average height of a three year old, it’s a really interesting initiative. And it’s worked closely with a number of cities, so it got a foothold in Tel Aviv.

Tim Gill 43:25
And the municipality, Tel Aviv Yafo municipality created a post and, and a bit of money and some momentum around the idea of making the city more child friendly, you didn’t really know what it was going to do. And one of the first things that the city did was take a bunch of these officers to Copenhagen, right, as I was there for this two day, you know, study tour, they went to the offices of Gehl Architects, and they saw a bunch of spaces. They spoke with the head of parks, I did a session with them around risk. And it it kind of blew their minds. I think I’m you know, I’m not being modest when I say that and and that group came back to Tel Aviv absolutely fired up about what the city could do. And as a result,

Tim Gill 44:19
you know, the whole of the municipality, sort of the relevant departments and teams sort of pivoted and started doing things very differently. So you suddenly saw, you know, sand pits springing up all over the city. Now, anybody who knows anything about playground design will know that councils get pretty nervous about sand pits, and there’s a whole load of risk aversion and, and unnecessary fears about that. But sand pits are actually great for kids, especially younger kids. Um, you also saw programming So you saw events, a new app being developed, it was aimed at children, with families with young children. And you saw also these wider conversations about how the

Tim Gill 45:00
city could become a better place for children to get around. And, and there’s, again, there’s a little bit of history, which you may not be aware of, I wasn’t, I must confess, before I went, but Tel Aviv has a history of, you know, links to progressive urban planning going back to, to get us and, you know, the actual founding of the city and, and, and it’s an it’s built form in the, in the interwar years. So and some of that has carried through. So for instance, the city.

Tim Gill 45:34
People live right downtown in Tel Aviv, it’s not one of those cities that that kind of got hollowed out in the 70s. With with, you know, the business districts or retail where nobody actually lived. So that means there’s now a pool of urban dwellers, and some of whom are having kids who are living right in the downtown of the city. And so that’s an opportunity as well, so that so you, you had a kind of combination of circumstances that led the city to be doing some really interesting work on the back of this vision of becoming a better place for children and families to live. And again, final point, Israel and Tel Aviv, both places with quite large populations of children and families with young children. So there was a demographic driver behind what was happening in Tel Aviv as well.

Carlton Reid 46:27
Yes, so somewhere with lots of kids, you’d be bonkers not to want to design for kids, you would think, but then say somewhere in the Cotswolds in the UK, which is

Carlton Reid 46:42
I might be summarising here, awfully here, but but doesn’t have many children. So what what kind of areas and cities that perhaps don’t have that large phalanx of kids to obviously want to design for why should they be doing or should they be doing anything at all?

Tim Gill 46:59
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think there are two sides to it. One. One is, it’s the point that, you know, Enrique Penalosa, makes so former mayor of Bogota, famously, you know, coined the phrase that children are an indicator species for cities. And I think that’s actually more than just a slogan, it’s, it’s true. So if you can get, you know, cities or neighbourhoods that work well, for children, they work well, for older people, for instance, you know, and again, this is in design and planning terms, older people, especially if they, as they

Tim Gill 47:35
started, you know, be less able to use cars,

Tim Gill 47:39
really dependent on good local walking and cycling, want to have nice places to parks and squares to visit, you know, within walking distance. So there’s a lot of overlap there. So, so thinking about children is a pathway to better design. On the other side of the argument, I think it’s maybe it’s a bit it’s longer term.

Tim Gill 48:03
But it’s it’s the kind of argument that some of the cities I looked at us, which is

Tim Gill 48:10
our long term prospects, as a city depend upon this being a place that families want to live in. Right. And I think that might have resonance in you know, Cotswold retirement visit villages.

Tim Gill 48:23
In really simple terms, if you don’t have families moving in, to your settlement to your patch, then your patch in 20 4060 years, is going to be at mortal threat, there will simply not be people living in it, that so they will not be an economy, they will not be services, they will not be people, you know, able to work, or available to do all the things that we know need to happen to keep

Tim Gill 48:53
human habitats ticking along. I know that’s might seem a little bit

Tim Gill 48:58
you know, sort of, it’s a more strategic and long term. Point. But it’s it precisely the point, for instance, that Rotterdam picked up on, on Rotterdam as a city, you’ll know I devote a whole chapter to it in my book, because it invested more in this agenda than any other city on Earth, as far as I can tell. And it did so because back in 2006, it became really clear that any families that had the resources were fleeing the city, because it was to put it bluntly, such a dump to bring up a child. And in particularly in the Netherlands, that is not an image that you want to have as a municipality. So, you know, it’s a long term argument. And part of what’s in my book, is that thinking about children, helps decision makers to think more and to position themselves more as looking to the long term looking to our collective future, including our response to the climate crisis. But that’s if I had a mayor of a costume

Tim Gill 50:00
town next to me right now, that is certainly one of the points I will be making and talking about matters.

Carlton Reid 50:05
And you mentioned Enrico Penaloza, who, of course, famously, I’m going to I’m going to paraphrase here slightly, but he said a cycleway is a symbol that shows a citizen on a $30. bicycle is equally important as a citizen and a $30,000. Car. Now his brother Gil did the foreword to your book.

Tim Gill 50:29

Tim Gill 50:32
And, you know, he is also the founder of the NGO 880 cities, which, you know, well respected international

Tim Gill 50:41
advocacy organisation that, again, it asks us to look at cities from the point of view of an eight year old and the point of view of an eight year old, and its messages, if we can get cities to work well, for those two age groups, then they will work well for everyone. And, and it’s, again, there’s a quote from Gil that you may have spotted inside the book, where he says we have to stop designing cities, as if everyone were 30 years old and athletic. And actually, I think that’s a really important message, particularly for the cycling world. And I’m conscious of now of some of your audience. I’m, by the way, I’m a long standing cyclist, I spent 10 years of my life commuter cycling through London in the 90s. You know, when it was, it was a lot harder than it is now.

Tim Gill 51:31
I, you know, I’m fully signed up member of the cycling fan club, but I do think cycling has planet cycling has a bit of a problem, which is probably what you’re familiar with, which is it can be it can be

Tim Gill 51:45
typecast, you know, stereotyped, as, you know, middle class white guys in Lycra shouting for, you know, for more stuff. And

Tim Gill 51:55
actually, the opposite is the case. Cycling is so important for so many groups who go beyond that demographic. But I think, for the cycling world to really build on the progress it’s made, which is impressive. It has to start changing the terms of this conversation, and bringing children to the conversation about cycling, I think could be an absolute game changer.

Tim Gill 52:19
And could really see cities that have up to now I’ve been kind of nervous about embracing cycling, start to invest much more time and money in it. And also, you know, that it’s pretty, you know, if you’ve got groups of children, actually in meetings, or in presentations, saying to the adults saying to the grown ups, why on earth, aren’t you making easier for me to cycle now it’s so obvious how much better he would be for everybody. If instead of 2% of, of kids cycling to school every day, it was 20% or 40%. If you had that direct expression of children’s wishes,

Tim Gill 53:01
in these debates about transport planning, I think it would it would make a huge difference. And the cycling world is really missing a trick by not talking more about children.

Carlton Reid 53:11
I was cycling with my son and my son is 22 now, and he’s actually come back from China. on his bike. he’s a he’s a procient cyclist, he’s probably that that demographic you just talked about a bit, you know, a young, Lycra-clad white male, we were cycling, in some of Newcastle called Jesmond where they’ve just put in City Council have just put in protected cycleways

Carlton Reid 53:36
alongside the road. So they’re not fully no segregated, not fully separated, but they’re, they’re protected on on certain junctions. And so my son was were riding along. And my son was complaining about them saying, Well, you know, I wouldn’t use that particular bit of infrastructure and look at this traffic light here. It’s just, you know, I wouldn’t stop there because I just go straight route. I said, Josh, isn’t, it’s not designed for you. It’s designed for kids, it’s designed for people who you you’re perfectly able to use the road, as is, you know, you you block, you know, people behind you, you’re, you’re in the middle of the road, you’re, you’re great, you’re fine. But other people aren’t gonna be like that. So this particular bit of infrastructure that you’re Pooh poohing

Carlton Reid 54:17
isn’t designed for you, it’s designed for the people who can’t do the things you do. So basically, you need more of that?

Tim Gill 54:24
Yes, absolutely. Yes. So again, in the book, I showcase the work of Vancouver. And it’s, you know, all ages and abilities, guidance on cycle infrastructure, which, which makes precisely that point that you, you need to make sure as far as possible that the the stuff you put in is stuff that you know, to steal from Chris Boardman that a 12 year old independent cyclists is competent to use. And, you know, I, I know that

Tim Gill 54:58
it comes back to this point.

Tim Gill 55:00
You know, sometimes it can be a bit irritating having to deal with younger children in the public realm, you know, children are not entirely predictable. They have a playfulness and you know, exuberance and kind of physicality. That means that, you know, that, that, that commuter cyclists that’s trying to, you know, beat their Strava record, on the commute home, might get a bit upset if they come across

Tim Gill 55:25
a five year old on on their first bike, but I hope that

Tim Gill 55:31
you know, in sort of calmness, and you know, once, once that cyclist has got home, they realise that actually really is in their interest to hear and involve children more and to get the people who shape our cities to be thinking more about children, because that way, we get, you know, more infrastructure, we get better infrastructure. And we also pave the way for the kind of long term future of cycling as a respected and strategic form of transport. And that is not going to happen, unless we can, you know, inculcate it in this generation and coming generations of travellers, which means children

Carlton Reid 56:18
Tim it’s been fascinating talk to you, thank you ever so much for taking the time. And let’s just find out where people can get hold where we you’ve said before, where they can get your No Fear book. But let’s first of all talk about where they can get this current book, Urban Pplayground, where can people buy this book?

Tim Gill 56:40
Buy it so it is available from good booksellers? It’s it’s absolutely available worldwide from the RIBA books online bookstore. So that’s Amazon has it? The Book Depository has it? I know several international booksellers have it online, there isn’t. There are different ebook versions available, you’ll need to go to the Taylor and Francis publishers website for the E book, at least for now. And you can find a bunch of information, including some samples on my website. So my website is And now I’ve put up a few blog posts about the book there. And I’m really keen, of course, for people to get hold of it, but also for people to tell me what they think of it. I know, I really put a lot of time and effort into making it as persuasive as I could. And I’m very keen to hear how it’s going down.

Carlton Reid 57:39
Well, I’m looking forward to Newcastle, my hometown changing in the future, because we have given too many trade secrets away here. But one of the main town planners, city planners, of Newcastle has your book. And I know that because I was talking to him the other day about something different as to why, why it came up about talking about your book, but we did we talked about your book, Tim, and and hopefully he’s going to be taking some of those policies. And he’s just as much blown away by the concepts in there that those people the Israelis you took, or you were in Copenhagen with?

Carlton Reid 58:15
Where to do stuff for Tel Aviv?

Tim Gill 58:18
Yeah, well, that’s good to hear. And, you know, I, I’ve had some nice feedback so far, including from exactly the audience’s that I was targeting. So you know, urban designers, Master planners, improve cities for children, you improve cities for everybody. Absolutely. And I think you also, you by talking about children, you can’t help but look more towards the future. And that long term future that where we know there are big challenges awaiting us. And you also can’t help but think in a more kind of collective way and think about the public good. So, again, this was a lesson from one of the cities that I visited from Boulder that, that by bringing in the voices of children, they in this project in the town centre, they helped to reduce the impact or the the negative impact of some of the vested interests in that project that were screaming for whatever it might be that was actually basically just about about them, and their their narrow concerns. And I think that ultimately, that’s, you know, that’s what I think we learn. If we look at Greta Thunberg, and her influence on the climate debate, it’s not that she’s a kind of, you know, it’s an identity politics thing. It’s her speaking with the authentic voice of somebody who has a massive stake in the long term, collective future of the planet. And I think that’s the most powerful catalytic impact of the bringing in the voices and views of children.

Carlton Reid 59:47
Thanks to Tim Gill there and thanks to you for listening to the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. Show notes and more can be found on On the next episode I’ll be talking about child’s

Carlton Reid 1:00:00
play and mobility with academics and campaigners, Alison Stenning and Sally Watson. Meanwhile, get out there and ride

February 28, 2021 / / Blog

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Sunday 28th February 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 268: Bike Freak: Being Gary Fisher


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Gary Fisher

TOPICS: I walk Gary backyards through his life, starting now and ending in 1950, the year he was born.


“Being Gary Fisher,” Bluetrain Publishing.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to episode 268 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was published on Sunday 28th February 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 Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at 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 And now, here are the spokesmen..

Carlton Reid 1:08
Mountain bike icon. Gary Fisher has a book out. It’s a great book. No, no, it’s a fantastic book. It’s eclectic. It’s lively. It’s full of fabulous photographs. And I loved it. I’m Carlton Reid. And on today’s very, very long Show. I’m talking to Hollywood, Grateful Dead and transportation cycling with the eponymous larger than life subject of being Gary Fisher. You might think you know, Gary’s story, the mountain bike years, of course, and perhaps also his psychedelia phase. I’m not too sure he’s out of that phase yet, actually. But there’s plenty in our chat that’s fresh. And it’s fascinating to hear Gary reminiscing, as I walk him backwards through his life, starting now. And ending in 1950, the year Gary was born.

Carlton Reid 2:11
So Gary, this this book, it’s hard to put into words how good it is actually, it is just fabulous. I mean, the cover alone,

Carlton Reid 2:23
obviously, is an absolute knockout, just a wonderful, wonderful illustration of well, instantly recognisable mountain bike, bicycle, Guru icon, whatever you want to be called, or whatever we want to call you. It’s just fantastic. Then you turn it over, and there’s the back of your head. So it’s a wonderful gag. And then even even the spine is brilliant. So the spine

Carlton Reid 2:50
is just an open spot. It’s difficult to describe as it’s an open spine. It’s not like on a book you’d normally see. And then the contents inside are also not it’s like a graphic novel. Right? So tell me first of all, because this is guy Kesteven is the guy who has interviewed you. Is this like a British production? Mostly? Yeah. Tell me tell me about the production values here.

Gary Fisher 3:15
Okay, and Guy Andrews. Also, yes, you see, you know, he’s the guy that

Gary Fisher 3:22
really was the main guy behind Rouleur back in a day. Yep. You know, and I met those guys a long time ago. And they were, you know, really impressed me as they knew what they were doing. And guy’s wife, Taz Darling, she knows paper printing, you know, putting these things together, and it’s the

Gary Fisher 3:45
finish, let let the kids loose. You know,

Gary Fisher 3:49

Gary Fisher 3:52
I wanted to have a book that has a beginning, middle and end call to action, all these different things. And that’s was the important part. It wasn’t, I just didn’t want to do another dry autobiography, you know, and I, I’ve always believed in you try to find the very best people possible to work with. And then you set them free go out,

Carlton Reid 4:22
actually, I would, I would stop you that I would just say the text in this book is it would be standalone you wouldn’t need you actually wouldn’t need all the fantastic illustrations that are in there, even though they are absolutely fantastic. Because you have

Carlton Reid 4:36
as you know, you have had an amazing, amazing life and and hopefully we’ll we’ll get on to that. As we carry on and we we kind of go into your, your your background before you became this this bicycling icon. But what I’d like to do is just anybody I’m sure there’s nobody on here who’s listening to this. It doesn’t know

Carlton Reid 5:00
You are, but let me just read out what’s the first paragraph on the back cover. So that kind of sets the scene. And then I’m going to do something that hopefully you’ll agree to. But anyway, let’s just let’s read out the the cover blurb. “Meet Gary Fisher, the maverick kid bike racer, who cycles straight into the acid test seen and lit up the Grateful Dead gigs. The relentless tinkerer who transformed an industry and sold mountain biking to the world, and the visionary who still working flat out every day to prove that bikes are the answer to a healthier, happier future. for everyone.” Now, I know you are going on lots of podcasts, Gary, and and they’re very, very podcast. So you’ve been on the war on cars. And then you can talk about like your modern activism. And I’m sure you could go on a, you know, an acid trip, kind of podcast and talk about that background.

Carlton Reid 5:58
So you’ve had just an amazing life. Now, in the book.

Carlton Reid 6:06
It’s chronological. So roughly, it goes from, well, kind of before you’re born, so it talks about your, your, your two or three generations ancestors, and then it comes right the way up to the present. So with your permission, Gary, yes. I’d like to go through your book backwards. Okay. So there’s like, this is your life, but backwards. And I’ve just picked out. So I’ve read the whole book, I think it’s fantastic. So I’ve picked out some stuff I’d like to talk about. And and I’d like you to tell me stuff.

Carlton Reid 6:41
Some of which is is in it. Other interviews people will have heard before, you know, you got some famous anecdotes, and I’m sure we’ll touch on those. But there’s tonnes in this book that I didn’t know, which is fantastic to be able to get like a fuller story. So because it’s chronological, and because it, it ends in in 2019, even though it talks about COVID, about four or five times it’s bang up to date, in many respects.

Carlton Reid 7:10
But it’s it finishes the chronology finishes, roughly roughly now. So I’d like to take you backwards. So first of all, tell me about your Alex, your wife, your wife, and your your young children then now so we might hear them in the background. So let’s just, let’s just talk about them. So

Carlton Reid 7:29
tell me about your family background where you are in your house right now.

Gary Fisher 7:33
Right now. It’s just the four of us. So I’ve got a

Gary Fisher 7:38
two and a half year old girl, a six year old boy, and my wife and myself, my wife’s a doctor. And, you know, she’s a regular MD family doctor, and she’s been doing a lot of telemedicine. And normally, you know, I work she works, I still work full time for trek bikes. But the last month and a half we had and normally we have an Au Pair living with us. And for the last month and a half no pair so we take care of the kids ourselves, which is in incredibly sweet. I got a it’s a lot of work. And I get I totally get it. I mean, a mother’s job, you know, is never ending.

Gary Fisher 8:23
You know, and I’ve been a mother, I’ve been caretaker I’ve been a, you know, I bring in food and cook. I didn’t I never, if you told me 10 years ago, I was going to be cooking every day.

Gary Fisher 8:37
Really, wow, you know, what I’m doing, and all the domestic work. And it’s been? Well, some people would say humbling, but I’ve always believed in that type of work is really good for the mind and the body. That simple, humble stuff. It’s been really, really sweet. And that being said, we’ve got a new au pair that’s come up from Mexico and she wants to learn interior design. Oh my god, it’s so perfect. She’s so great. And she’s been in quarantine. She’s gonna come out on Thursday, and we’ll have a family of five again, that’ll be great. So it’s little things like that, you know, little this little pod and my I’ve got other kids and we’ve all been in touch via you know, Skype and other good like that, you know, nobody’s been physically touching each other or getting close simply because we got too many scientists in the family and doctors

Gary Fisher 9:42
don’t fool around.

Carlton Reid 9:45
So let’s let’s place you geographically. So my son Josh has been out to you and you kind of took him for a bike ride around your neighbourhood I believe it was. So what is that neighbourhood? So we’re roughly you don’t have to tell me exactly where your house is. But where’s your neighbourhood?

Gary Fisher 10:00
We’re just across the bay from San Francisco. And I mean, we’re literally on the bay. So we get the view of the Golden Gate Bridge of the city. It’s spectacular.

Carlton Reid 10:12
And it’s all the yacht a yacht club, isn’t it?

Gary Fisher 10:14
It is very close to the club. And all that, you know, this is the original Yacht Club of San Francisco, San Francisco Yacht Club, is located across the bay and Belvedere. And Belvedere has got a weird story to it, you know, they used to, they claimed it was an island, and therefore not subject of all the local laws, and they had their own laws.

Gary Fisher 10:38
And it’s really a charming little place. And my parents moved here when I was a teenager, and I hated it. And I couldn’t wait to get away, and I did. Now I’ve come back. And it’s like,

Gary Fisher 10:52
it’s, it’s amazing. It’s a totally change neighbourhood. It used to be old white people, and now it’s people that make money from all parts of the world, you hear all the different languages on our streets these days, it’s great, you know, I want to teach my kids four different languages, you know, we can do that the kids will, will absorb it, and it creates a more nimble mind, we know this.

Gary Fisher 11:20
It’s this, like, I guess, you know, I’m in that stage of life where I’m like, really, where people tend to, to get dedicate themselves to their kids. And part of that is, you know, this insane traffic system that we have here in the United States, that we’re relying on this grand experiment with the automobile that has never delivered on promise.

Carlton Reid 11:47
Now, Gary, I can date you very accurately because the chronology finishes in a certain year, but and you kind of brought it up there. But how old are you?

Gary Fisher 11:55
I’m 70. Born in 1950, right now.

Carlton Reid 11:58
Yep. So 1950 is when I want to end. So we’ve got a lot to get through. We’re not going to go for every single year, I’m going to pick out the highlights, but some of them are below lights in that. So the first one I’m going to go to is actually when the Gary Fisher name disappeared off bikes. So we are talking 2011. So we can go into the history of Trek when we when we get there in the the chronology, but just tell me about what you thought about the name disappearing. And you’re like the Gary Fisher collection, and not, you know, decal on the side of a bike. So what were you thinking then?

Gary Fisher 12:36
It was funny, because it was actually a part of saying, Yeah, this is a good idea. In that day, the company we’re producing, you know, my bikes and track bikes and wares are sort of cannibalising each other and sort of like, competing with each other. And a were obliged to make, you know, a completely different bike line. And that was crazy. You know, and, and that didn’t make sense. And at the same time, trek wasn’t all that powerful, and marketing of their known names. And we could go through that history, we had quite a few different names over the years. And a lot of them failed simply because they weren’t really good at getting out there. And getting in front and marketing, any of them, even the track name. And fortunately, that’s changed quite a bit in the last few years. You know, it brought in a number of new people, you know, younger people with good visions, and everything, good marketing people, and that’s, that’s changed. And it’s, you know, it’s sort of crushed me that I still had a great following, and yet

Gary Fisher 13:50
they wanted to take you know, my name was on the bike. I was fine with that. Even though trek was on a head badge. For a while I’ve disappeared completely, but lately, they they’ve been bringing me back and they use it a lot more of my names, you know, and it’s like,

Gary Fisher 14:07
the bike I’ve gotten behind the Marlin with simple bike, okay, that’s the whole idea of it. You know, it’s made of parts we know work of dimensions, or that you can there are available around the world, you know, fully supported. That bike, my baby sells more mountain bikes than any other mountain bike on Earth. You know what? So I don’t care what anybody thinks. I’m happy.

Gary Fisher 14:34
This is what I wanted to always do is cover the earth with bikes. You know.

Gary Fisher 14:39
I love high end bikes. I love Exotica. I love new dimensions, new standards. You know, the heck of it, let’s just go for it. I love that whole thing. But there is a place for the simple humble, repairable bicycle, you know, and that’s something we don’t make

Gary Fisher 15:00
fake bikes, you know, like, like, in the United States, we get this phenomena of what we call a bike shaped object, you know. And it’s really funny, it sort of comes in under the category of a toy. And it is truly unrepairable. Because it’s all soft steel, you know, soft material and everything. And we won’t make a bike like that, you know, we we, you know, I tend to think our cheapest bike is the world’s cheapest bike, dollar per mile sort of thing. And that’s where that Marlin hits it, you know that it’s a good simple, cheap bike with incredible colours.

Carlton Reid 15:37
So Trek isn’t, isn’t using your name on the bikes, but they’re using you. On what you’re, you’re a globe, obviously, now you’re not travelling anywhere, but prior to the pandemic, you are a global ambassador. Yeah, well cycling in general, but of course, Trek in particular, what’s on your business card? What What does it say on your business card?

Carlton Reid 15:59
What’s your job title?

Gary Fisher 16:00
Well, technically, you know, I’m a Product executive. But I’m also a brand ambassador. So those those two things, you know, is what I do. But then I’m, then I get this other title. I’m Gary.

Gary Fisher 16:15
You know, I can come in and comment on anything, and people will listen.

Gary Fisher 16:20
But that’s because I listen a lot. You know, I listen, a lot of always listen to my customers. And, you know, it’s the key people need to be heard. Or, you’re never going to win, any type of respect is never going to get anywhere with them. So you got to spend your time listening, you know, and why there’s new things you learn, you know, all the time. And that’s my goal. I want to learn something every single day of my life.

Carlton Reid 16:48
And I’m saying you’re learning stuff from your book, Gary. So let’s let go 1996. Now, so we’re, we’re skimming through the years here. There’s tonnes of fascinating stuff in between, of course, but we can’t talk about everything. So I’m going to talk about the kind of the riders you’ve been involved with over the years and and the what the first one that comes up in your, in the book or that sorry, going backwards in the book Paola Pezzo.

Gary Fisher 17:14
Oh, yeah.

Carlton Reid 17:15
Who won Olympic gold. medal, winning mountain biker looked fantastic, was a marketable personality in here own right. So I’ve got that down as 1996 when you started working with it all set when she won the gold, isn’t it? So in Atlanta, and she won that?

Gary Fisher 17:34
Well, that was a Yeah, in Atlanta, you know, but you’d already been riding for a couple a few years. And, oh, boy, that was crazy. But, you know, the whole situation we had in Italy, we had crazy distributor, you know, and, and she came through that, and it was, like, she and I is so funny. It’s like the coincidence thing. There’s stuff that we’ve, we marked it, oh, we have all these stuff in common. She was our writer for 12 years, you know, and,

Gary Fisher 18:07
you know, she would win the podium every time, you know, she had the timings the looks, you know, she could wear the fashions correctly and everything, that whole thing.

Gary Fisher 18:19
And at the same time, you know, choose dedicated, you know, completely dedicated, serious writer and everything.

Gary Fisher 18:27
This, we’ve been lucky, you know, we had some good riders, but everybody, they get into that realm of, you know, sponsorship and everything. And,

Gary Fisher 18:37
well, there’s people that are well known. I mean, you look at the stats, I mean, Lance Armstrong is still the best known cyclist in the world at this moment. But what are you known for, you know, is the that other thing and she sent a fantastic message, you know, look good, ride a bike, be strong. I mean, she’s strong and powerful. And, you know, I’m looking forward to the pandemic and ending and going there and bringing my family with me and

Gary Fisher 19:09
hanging out with the group. You know, this the good life, huh?

Carlton Reid 19:14
Yeah. Okay, let’s, let’s skim backwards. And we are now going to skim backwards to 1992. And that’s when you you basically sold to Trek.

Gary Fisher 19:27
Well, that’s that like, and that’s a simplification because my brother and I sold to another company before that, you know, and when and that was crazy. And my brother told me, I should listen to my brother. My brother said, I don’t trust these guys. He was over right.

Carlton Reid 19:45
So they were a Taiwanese company. Who made those BSOs who made those? They were they were churning out some pretty poor bike for you. Yeah?

Gary Fisher 19:54
well, they treated us as a cash cow. You know, I would. It was crazy. I got these pricings

Gary Fisher 20:00
From this is crazy, this pricing, I immediately, you know, jump on a plane and go to Taiwan I go around a different competiting competitor companies and I get prices that are 20% lower, you treat me as a cash cow and then a dumping ground. I mean, like, we get last year’s equipment.

Gary Fisher 20:19
You know, we get like bikes where the head tube was cracked and then painted over, you know, this her own mother company, you know,

Gary Fisher 20:27
I can laugh now. Well in it in the in the book that there’s there’s an illustration of a two pager a double page illustration of you being a detective, in effect with anlin. So how come you you’re having to find out what was happening with this company and you’re being shafted? And then you must have then tried to get out? And that’s when track came? Yeah, well, a lot of different offers were coming along because the name was had been tarnished within the dealerships, but not out in the general public. So a lot of you know, and that was a time when everybody was trying to get into the business, they wanted to have a name. So we hadn’t really good name. And they wanted and trek came along. And I knew that this is the company, you know, and and I was between a rock and a hard place because at that moment I had, you know, my

Gary Fisher 21:26
major financier, you know, installed a liquidator basically good old Howie, Howie Cohen, which we turned out to be friends. But

Carlton Reid 21:37
he was a historian, wasn’t he? Because I know how Howie Cohen, we’ve actually emailed together because he he was a, as well as being a major figure in the bike industry. He liked his history. So he liked his 1890s stuff. He was a collector of bicycle memorabilia and bicycles of all kinds, wasn’t he?

Gary Fisher 21:55
Well, he also was a guy that he made a killing off of ET the movie, he’s he would had the official bike of everything. He was a smart marketer, smart guy. I like how he, you know, and he was, you know, brought to fight against me.

Gary Fisher 22:13
Anyway, I turned out to be a really good corporate fighter.

Gary Fisher 22:20
Which is crazy, you know, but it’s all about people, isn’t it? Really.

Carlton Reid 22:28
So, the people at track, of course, are the Burke family. Yes. The Burke family came along, and you described them in their book. You’re quite frank, and you’re saying that the brand wasn’t that sexy? At the time? Yeah, this is obviously pre Lance Armstrong,

Carlton Reid 22:43
pre any of that stuff. So they were like, a solid, you know, good business, but didn’t have any pizaazz said, Would it be fair to say you brought some pzazz to Trek?

Gary Fisher 22:54
Literally, I mean, Paola Pezzo? Oh, my goodness. I mean, trek didn’t have a single sponsored rider. When I first came there. 1993 there were two people in marketing. And guess what they did the colours for the bikes as well. And the graphics and everything. That was it, you know, is a famous story. Dick Burke, I love I loved sitting with Dick Burke, you know, like talking with him, it was the best.

Gary Fisher 23:23
You know, and he had this famous story where he got

Gary Fisher 23:28
profiled by Forbes magazine, okay, in the United States. And they sent a photographer out from New York City, to Wisconsin. And dick said to the photographer, I’ll give you three shots. ographers goes Click, click, click, and Dick turns around, and he’s out of there. Because dick didn’t believe in hype in LA. And that was, you know, and he was the leader. And the ethos of trek was no, we’re not going to sponsor you as a racer, or we’re not going to sponsor your team, and I can respond to these people, anybody?

Gary Fisher 24:07
Do you want the bikes to be more expensive? That’s how they’d put it. You know, people say, Oh, no, no. And so they wouldn’t sponsor anybody. And that changed.

Gary Fisher 24:18
And that’s it, you know, you look for things, you know, they could really use me, and I worked with the gang, you know, and it wasn’t always easy. But hey, when I got a saying, if it was easy, everybody do it. Right.

Gary Fisher 24:33
Yeah. But they had this thing. They, you know, no one would point fingers when something went wrong. They just all pitch in and take care of it. You know, nobody go home until the last customer is taken care of. And

Gary Fisher 24:49
that’s a really good quality, you know, that sort of thing. And I sort of fell in love with that whole Midwest. You know, I like to say, well, the Midwest is where the American Dream

Gary Fisher 25:01
actually works. And people actually work really hard on it. On the other hand, my father, you know, the architect, he would talk about the Midwest. So yeah, they got this big meeting a whole bunch of people at around table, and they go around and around, and around and around until it’s oatmeal.

Gary Fisher 25:20
You know, and that’s the truth. I mean, East Coast, West Coast, we can come up with crazy ideas, and people go, Yeah, and it’s boom, that’s it, everybody’s on board. And we had, you know, especially in those days, you had a much harder time, you know, of charging people up, but everything’s changed. You know, I mean, now, everybody sees it, you know, within seconds, right? Because that’s how we communicate in a totally different way. And then we travel, people travel all the time. Now, people didn’t travel, you know, as much 30 years ago. No way, you know, and now, you know, you see things will pop up and, and roll around the globe rather quickly. You know, it’s a totally a different atmosphere from 30 years ago.

Carlton Reid 26:08
Well, that that’s a good segue for me actually into a different date. So we’re now going into we’ll skip the early 1990s. And we’ll go straight to the middle of the 1980s. And we’re going to stick on a travel theme because Anlin was Taiwanese, but before that, you were Japan. So in 1985, it says in your book, you helped Shimano of Japan, with what everybody now anybody who’s born after that date, doesn’t realise how bad gears used to be. You have a negative feel where they were Shimano with your help brought out SIS indexed gears so Shimano Indexing System so the Click Click Click System. Everybody now uses but even even the BSOs have got fantastic click click gear systems. Back then it literally was you. You feel the gears and it was almost a religion in like, yeah, where the gears and stuff.

Gary Fisher 27:06
Yeah. Noise abatement system. Yeah. So

Gary Fisher 27:11
how did you help Shimano? with that? How was how was? How was that going down with Shimano? Well, it was a tradition for me, and how I handled my vendors, especially the Japanese vendors is that I give them everything, you know, I, I’m going to tell you everything I possibly can. So you can make the best price possible product. And, yeah, I know, you’re going to help my competitors. But this is as well as me. But this is going to make everything work. And then I’d also ask, you know, what’s the best price I want? You know, the first delivery, and I want terms, and I wound up getting a loan from the Japanese government back in the day,

Carlton Reid 27:52
but these $80,000 It says here, yeah, the government loan. That’s, that’s, that’s a lot.

Gary Fisher 28:00
Well, I was enough for a couple of containers of bikes, you know, and, and I just, you know, I got a fantastic cooperation. That was the SIS, they sent engineer Shinpei Okajima, he was also a really hot road racer. And he wrote with my riders for like, four months, you know, and just, you know, Joe Murray, that kid, he’s a kid then, man, he, it was good. And he landed himself a lifetime job as a skunk tester with Shimano, for good reason, you know,

Gary Fisher 28:34
it’s just bringing together good people that can work together, you know, that’s the thing. And then, you know, giving feedback, all the time really honest feedback about how it’s going to go together. And that’s the, you know, from

Gary Fisher 28:49
the point of view, I mean, I was a mechanic for a long time, I still am still working on my own darn bikes. But, you know, how’s this thing go together? You know, how’s it come out of the package? How’s it attached to the bike, you know, everything, you know, all the way through, you know, see how it’s gonna work. And then hopefully have a good life. Good, long wife, you know, and those guys, I mean, Shimano, and then all the other the other side, too, which was suntour sugino. You know, and then the tubing makers Ishiwata, Tange.

Gary Fisher 29:26
I taught them and man, they taught me how stuff was made, you know,

Carlton Reid 29:32
that says you visited Japan 1981 in the first and we’ll get them away when we go backwards in a little bit, but first of all, tell me more about because you are working with Shimano on Deore XT which is the first right you know, full group set is still with us. Of course, you are working on that group set with them.

Gary Fisher 29:50
Yeah, yeah. You know, that in the centre, you know, had their group set and that was like, along with their whole, you know, group of different makers.

Gary Fisher 30:00
And it didn’t all look the same, you know what I’m saying? The Shimano stuff, graphically, you know, and just design wise and everything, it was like completely integrated, that that was a real breakthrough, you know, to have a whole group for a mountain bike that it looked like it was really made for a mountain bike. So, and I guess we want to fill in two people here because we obviously know everybody’s just accept Shimano as a, you know, as the global BMR you know, market maker back then it wasn’t you mentioned centre there, you know, centre was the leading Maker of the component makeup of of the day. Certainly the Japanese anyway, and then you gotta come back. No, no, of course, and Shimano was, was in effect, you know, it’s been going since the 1920s. been, you know, taking along for a long time, but it really became big in the 1980s. So there’s like a huge breakthrough. So you helping them with Dr. x, t, and si s, it’s part of the reason that they are now this mammoth mammoth company. I’m really happy when people like that are successful. I’m really happy. You know, and, you know, I like, I don’t mind having competitors. It’s like, Mike Sinyard of Specialized. Man, he’s a tough competitor, he, you know, uses his tricks and walls and all that stuff, but I don’t care. I like Mike. You know, I like him. He’s, he’s alright, by me. And he’s pushed the whole thing. And I, I point out to my competitors, you know, like Tony Lo [of Giant], well, he’s retired kids are in a giant finally loaded giant. So keep that guy takes the he’s taken the high road. I mean, those guys could have killed us with price. I mean, those guys are the very best buyers of parts in the world, you know, they get a better price and better delivery than you do, buddy. for good reason. They’re on the case suit on everything. And they work with their suppliers, you know, and they work together and everything. And that’s, that’s really evident. You see it now. It’s like, the whole business is sort of started to turn a corner, I feel like we finally started to grow up, you know, and not fight each other so much as to think big and, and go boldly and everything and make it a bigger market for us. And, of course, make people happy and make people healthy.

Carlton Reid 32:22
Since 1981, was when you went to Japan for the first time, and an awful lot of the bike industry went to Japan at that point. But what what why Japan because you know, now we know of Taiwan. Why? Apart from Shimano Why? Or maybe it was just Shimano? Why Japan?

Gary Fisher 32:39
Well, they were

Gary Fisher 32:42
they were a huge manufacturing powers, you know, period, you know, I mean, it their automotive industry was, was really pushing the US and everything. And it was evident there was quality there. But I’ll tell you, for myself, it came down to one particular event. And that was in 81.

Gary Fisher 33:03
At the New York bike show, at the bequest of Bicycling magazine, it did a presentation on the mountain bike, and all the bigwigs showed up, you know, from the industry, and the Japanese, it blew their mind. And then they just started to come out and visit me all the time. And we had like, hundreds of Japanese visitors, handfuls of European visitors, and one from the United States. That’s it, you know, and it was who’s interested who wants to do things, and

Gary Fisher 33:38
it was just they wanted to go, let’s go, let’s make new things. Let’s do things. And you know, I talked to a member talking to Reynolds 531 tubing. And to get a pair of fork plates, like the Unicron style. I wanted to do that. You know, that was like, that was my idea. Real. I mean, it was basically putting two different ideas together was no, it wasn’t rocket science. But I named it the Unicrown. Right?

Gary Fisher 34:07
Yeah. And I had to deal with Tange tubing, you know, for all those Unicrown forks. And then my trademark attorney said, Hey, this guy.

Gary Fisher 34:17
I don’t think you can use that name. You know, because there’s a guy that owns Crown bicycle, that I met my neighbours next door neighbour to my parents house. And the guy there the next door neighbour says crown, crown, hat’s my father’s company. You could have used that name.

Gary Fisher 34:35
I blew off that that deal with Tange. But that was that was gonna be a good deal. But anyway, you know, ups and downs, rounds and rounds. The other stuff, you know,

Gary Fisher 34:46
but I had to do it all again.

Gary Fisher 34:49
But I do have different of course, but

Gary Fisher 34:53
no, it was amazing. Those guys were completely on the gas. You know, and I hate culture shock when I came

Gary Fisher 34:59
back, because people there were so attentive and on it. And it’s like, it came back. I came from laid back myrin you know, and come back here and it’s like,

Gary Fisher 35:14
you don’t understand the people outside this country going into a completely different speed and we are

Carlton Reid 35:20
you describing like getting onto trains or bullet train or getting to the next meeting within two minutes of spare and then, you know, just going off again and being basically industrious, very, very industrious.

Gary Fisher 35:30
Oh, yeah, you know, and incredibly efficient. You know,

Gary Fisher 35:33
I mean, go to that first visit, I went to Shimano, they showed me their automatic warehouse, right? No humans there at Oh, and then the room that makes making a tremendous amount of noise. And you walk in, they flip it all the lights while they’re making derailleurs A robotically. This is like a 1981, my friend, you know. So it’s like, oh, you know, you really understand

Gary Fisher 35:59
what type of competition the United State was getting to half. Then we went in the 50s. I mean, we had no competition, you know, all of our industrialised competition had been literally flattened, right. So, it’s, it’s, it just it really drove home, you know, that

Gary Fisher 36:20
things are changing fast. So Japan was a really good partner, because he needed to have

Gary Fisher 36:28
this whole thing was growing. And if I didn’t do it, other people would do we’d go to Japan, it was obvious, you know, and, and, you know, Mike went there, Mike Sinyard. You know, he did a lot of work over there. And his people have, you know, really good in their supply chain going.

Carlton Reid 36:44
I’ve got Mike down for 1980. Don’t worry, we’re gonna get

Carlton Reid 36:49
another character. Yeah. And this is the the disadvantage, of course of going backwards through chronology. Yeah, we kind of meet characters at the end of their, their time with you rather than the beginning. So we’re gonna talk about Charlie Kelly now.

Carlton Reid 37:03
So Charlie Kelly, this is the reason I’m talking about now is 1982, Charlie Kelly leaves mountain bikes. And again, the weakness of going backwards is, you know, what is mountain bikes? mountain bikes, of course, you know, is a generic term. It was also the term that you came up with for your first company with Charlie. Yeah, yeah, essentially.

Carlton Reid 37:25
But before we get to that, because we’re gonna, we’re gonna come on to the founding of the company, but Charlie Kelly leaving? What was what was it? Because you said it was a sad, sad day.

Gary Fisher 37:36

  1. And Previous to that.

Gary Fisher 37:43
People were asking me because I was looking for money. Well, what’s Charlie do?

Gary Fisher 37:50
We build two wheels, you know, it’s a good wheel builder. And he would just sort of leave the room when we ever got into financial stuff. I mean, the first guy ever hired was a bookkeeper. Because I knew you got to keep stuff straight. Or you just you don’t know where you are, you know, you’re not going to have a chance. And so I was having a, and we weren’t doing well, right, then, you know, we were in debt, you know. And so I said to Charlie,

Gary Fisher 38:21
you know, I was having a hard time, nobody had loaned us money, they’d loan me money, they wouldn’t loan him money. And it was getting a real a real problem. And

Gary Fisher 38:32
they’d say, What’s he do? He owns half the company, what’s he do? So I take the walk around the block, and I say with him and say, you know, and by California law, you can dissolve a partnership.

Gary Fisher 38:44
I want to dissolve this partnership, you know.

Gary Fisher 38:47
And I gave him a forgiveness of debt. We are $80,000 in debt. So he got off the hook for 40 grand, he got a computer, he got a bike. And I think that was about it. And he

Gary Fisher 39:00
agreed to that signed off on it. And

Gary Fisher 39:03
our attorney Clay Green wrote the papers Clay Green still around, you know. And, you know, a few months later, Charlie wasn’t too happy that he left the business because I wound up making a bunch of money that year. Hmm, yeah.

Carlton Reid 39:16
So, Charlie, Charlie Kelly, Otis Guy, Joe breeze has a whole bunch of characters that are famous in in this the story of mountain biking. Do you get on with them at all still, because they’re all roughly, you know, in the Bay Area?

Gary Fisher 39:33
I’m not really, you know, it’s like, I just, I didn’t you know, Charlie, you know, we separated that was it. I didn’t insist that a non compete because I knew he was never gonna compete with me.

Gary Fisher 39:46
You know, and the rest of them, you know, it’s the same deal. They just, like live on their own planet and they just don’t, they don’t understand me.

Gary Fisher 39:55
You know, it’s like, I Charlie’s written about me. He’s never interviewed.

Gary Fisher 40:00
Never, you know, he keeps writing the same old story over and over again. And it’s like, you know, I named the company Mountain Bikes. I thought about that my own little head. You know?

Gary Fisher 40:13
We blew it. You know, as far as a trademark goes, it went generic and everything I know a lot more about trademarks than I did then. You know, I don’t, I don’t

Gary Fisher 40:22
you know, listen, those guys don’t slow me down at all. And it’s a you know, Joe’s a sweetheart, I love Joe, you know, but he doesn’t understand what happened so much though.

Gary Fisher 40:36
The forces, you know, it’s like, none of this stuff is truly original. I mean, 120 years ago, everybody rode off road, come on, then you go back in history, and you can like even the first guy that ever loaned me money, John Findley Scott, UC Davis, Professor 1953, he made what he called a woodsy bike. And, you know, is a Schwinn varsity frame where the frame had been, you know, widened a bit so he could fit 26 by 175 tires had a sturmey Archer three speed hub on a rear with a drum brake on the side, and a three speed cog set. So as a nine speed bike, you know, and

Gary Fisher 41:19
oh, what a calliper brake. And you know, you could argue back and forth. That was this that was that, you know, then Joe breeze found these guys in France, I think it was in 40s, late 40s. And some pretty cool looking bikes, you know, and then, of course, there’s Geoff Apps, you know, from the UK, he was completely independent of us. And then Victor Vincente, right around the same time, you know, came along and had his whole thing going and everything. And it’s all great, you know, and, and I’m not

Gary Fisher 41:51
I’m not saying that I invented anything. I mean, the bikes we made were just sort of heavy duty road bikes, you know, there was no suspension or anything, you know, it’s sort of funny, wasn’t rocket science, you know, I don’t think the thing that’s the magic is marketing, and providing the product, you know, and making a really nice product, you know, in that’s what a lot of these original guys don’t they have no clue. You know, what Mike Sinyard does? He knows exactly. And then there was a john Kirkpatrick from Ross bicycles. And he passed away died of cancer, you know, in the 80s. But that guy, he understood exactly what he was doing, you know, and then, oh, what? Oh, gt Gary, Gary Turner. Uh huh. Ah, well, he, he was killed in a motorcycle wreck. I mean, that guy. He could have changed everything. You know, there’s like all these great people to like, get people excited about doing something and say, here it is. Let’s go. And then the next part is making more places that people can go right. And what was fantastic about off road was like, Wow, there was just endless opportunity, you know, out there, and especially in those days in, you know, in the 70s, late 70s, early 80s. I mean, very few people were going out into the woods, and this was such a fun way to get out in the woods.

Carlton Reid 41:53
So, what we’re going to get onto that, but I do like, let’s get to that point mention the Larkspur Canyon gangs, theor which was “no cars, no cops, no concrete.” So you’re getting away from from everything.

Gary Fisher 43:38
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And those that was like, those are my friends. Some of my friends in high school at Redwood high school that I met and how we met was more through the drum circle thing.

Carlton Reid 43:54
Gary, we will get there I promise.

Gary Fisher 43:56
I’m jumping around.

Carlton Reid 43:58
No, no, it’s fine. It’s a weird way of going through this one. I recognise that? So you’ve mentioned him a few times. We can now now now bring him into the story officially. So 1980 you’ve introduced bull moose handlebars, Shimano free hubs and bear trap pedals onto mountain bikes, machines and your machines to set the scene are about $1500 at this point,

Carlton Reid 44:25
and then Mike Sinyard who went now introducing of Specialized gets one of your bikes, buys one of your bikes, whatever. And then the Specialized Stumpjumper is roughly your bike but $750

Gary Fisher 44:41
Well, actually, we had a bike at that moment that he came out with one for $995 there was a cheaper bike that was equipped, almost identical, but it was a domestic made frame. You know, so yeah, it killed my sales for about a month and then he ran out of bikes.

Gary Fisher 44:59
My bike sold even better, because he marketed his bikes really well. And when you’re an orphan out there all by yourself, people go, I don’t know, when you got five other hot competitors that are going for it. Everybody’s going like this is it, man? This is it, you know? So Mike did help open up the whole thing, you know? And

Gary Fisher 45:21
some of our guys were like, oh, how can he ever do that? You know, it’s like, come on, how could he not, you know, he bought four bikes from me. And he enjoyed it a lot. He liked it. You know? He said, Yeah, and this is gonna work and he’s not stupid. You know? I mean, it wasn’t a real stretch to see that this thing was gonna work.

Carlton Reid 45:43
So this Stumpjumper is generally considered by most people to be like the first in inverted commas commercial, man, like not not like me, you had a commercial bike, not us selling them. But the first one done by like a manufacturer.

Gary Fisher 45:57
Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, we can get into all these nitpicking

Gary Fisher 46:03
things, you know, who did this? Who did that? And everything. It’s nitpicking. A lot of it, you know, it’s like, oh, it’s like, who made the first, you know, frame from scratch in our neighbourhood? Was Craig Mitchell. Craig made the first one. And that’s why you say, That’s why Joseph is the first successful because Charlie Kelly wrote Craig’s for about a week to a couple of weeks didn’t like it. I don’t know why, you know, I think the geometry was different. And he just didn’t like it. So he took it apart and put together a different one. So that was a successful blahdy blah. I like Craig, he was an amazingly clever guy, you know. And had, I learned a lot from Craig, I learned a lot from Doug white, white industries, he was around in the 70s. Oh, man, clever, you know, and another guy, Paul Brown, Paul Brown, still around, he’s like, more like a collector knows, knows all the old equipment and all that stuff. And those were the three guys in the bike shop horizon working.

Gary Fisher 47:07
Sunshine bike works. In fact,

Gary Fisher 47:10
Ed Christensen, the owner, you know, and that great little crucible, I mean, you think that’s good. Look at this, it was sort of that attitude all the time. And at the time, I was a road tester for Bicycling magazine. Haha. And I would bring in, you know, like, the coolest things, you know, I mean, I get a new bike every month. And I knew more and more people in industry, you know, and

Gary Fisher 47:35
so I knew what was going on. I mean, that helped a lot, you know, and that was my trajectory. You know, I mean, the other guy’s in Marin didn’t work for Bicycling. And that that meant a lot, because I had an audience in front of like, all these manufacturers and everything. They, they were looking for me to look at their stuff all the time.

Carlton Reid 47:59
It was a lot. So we’ve now reached the 1970s, when of 1979. And that’s when you set up MountainBikes. So is the company name is MountainBikes, all one word? Yeah, you set that up with Charlie Kelly. And you may need Well, how many bikes did you make in that first year?

Gary Fisher 48:16
The first year is about 160 bikes.

Carlton Reid 48:19
And they were selling pretty much locally, or were you selling internationally already?

Gary Fisher 48:24
We sold all over, all over, you know, all over the place, because we had, we had a mail order catalogue, computer, and the computer, you know, it would take about three hours to sort about the 6000 names. by zip. It was like, just, but it worked. You’d I mean, all this stuff. We had a telex machine. Oh, do you remember those things?

Gary Fisher 48:48
But no, we were definitely I tried to go as far and wide as I possibly could. Because the strategy was, is to become a name, you know, to start and become a name. And it worked.

Gary Fisher 49:01
Problem was was the wrong name.

Gary Fisher 49:04
But you know, I didn’t nail it down. You know, that real big problem. But

Carlton Reid 49:10
well, it helps if it’s generic in that, man.

Gary Fisher 49:15
That’s true. I mean, it’s better to have a generic name than nothing at all.

Gary Fisher 49:19
You got to have a handle on a thing. You know, that used to be a classic thing that Trek would do they develop something and they say, Well, what do you call this?

Gary Fisher 49:29
We get out there to do the presentation. I say, oh, what do you call this and have some sort of like, cryptic description, you know? No, no, no, no. It’s like when you conceive of the product, you better start with a name. Right then, you know, get the whole thing rolling because this is it’s almost as important as the thing itself. It’s just amazing.

Carlton Reid 49:54
So 1977 Yes, Gary. You placed fifth at the cyclocross.

Carlton Reid 50:00
nationals so we’re going to talk about your your progress as a racer in a second as we get earlier into your, your your life story.

Carlton Reid 50:09
But perhaps have more renown to most people who, who who know your story is you set the fastest time in the Repack. So what is the Repack.

Gary Fisher 50:20
The repack, race is about two mile long downhill. And it was a pretty big deal for a while, you know, locally, people would talk about it a lot, and and so is the first sort of dirt time trial, you know, and I managed to win the thing a few times, and then set the record on it, you know, and it was a scary thing for me. But

Gary Fisher 50:47
I learned a lot of bike handling by riding a mountain bike because and you do because you get all these opportunities for the wheels to lose traction in a road bike that only happens once every six months. And when it happens, it’s like if you don’t know what to do, you fall down, boom, you know, boom, go down. mountain bike, you know, and you go out on a slippery day, and you’ll get 1000 opportunities for the wheels to slip. So you’ll learn how to deal with how the wheel slip. It’s a beautiful thing.

Carlton Reid 51:16
so these are just two miles. Yeah, down a fire road down.

Carlton Reid 51:22
Mount Tamalpais is right? in Marin County.

Gary Fisher 51:25

Carlton Reid 51:26
And there’s a how many how many people are taking part in when it ended when you got the final one, how many people were riding at that point?

Gary Fisher 51:33
will be about 50, 70. People would show up and actually write it. It’d be another, you know, 150 spectators. But that race got into a segment of evening magazine. And evening magazine did an eight minute long segment on it. And they showed it nationwide. And that won an award for him for the year. It was hot, you know, and it was just this, like, you know, the mountain bikers, this combination of like, this is insane. Oh, no, you’re not supposed to ride bikes off road, people thought this is crazy. And then the reality was, it was extremely practical. Because there’s this heavy duty bike, you know, where the tire stay inflated, where it had a practical,

Gary Fisher 52:18
more or less upright position with the shifters right there at your fingertips with a relatively wide saddle and everything. And that was, you know, a golden combination, because anybody could ride this thing. And anybody could dream about you know, riding over a mountain. And that was, you know, it was perfect that way.

Carlton Reid 52:38
So how come you have the fastest time? Because it stopped? And why did it stop? You can no longer ride it in effect?

Carlton Reid 52:48
Sso what why is that?

Gary Fisher 52:50
Now you can ride it on Strava and a beaten record.

Gary Fisher 52:56
Officially, you can ride that fire, that that trail, go check it out on Strava is there and I think somebody like got me by about 20 seconds. Uh huh. No, but we practice like crazy. That’s why the wait time was good. Go out and do it again. And again, and again. And again. And again.

Carlton Reid 53:15
This is in jeans and woodsmen shirt. And and yeah,

Gary Fisher 53:19
and what loves this is not like, you know,

Gary Fisher 53:22
you know, on armour here, you’re not wearing a helmet and you’re not wearing it didn’t exist. Like, it still exists. And lycra was like, was uncool. I mean, if I was like or barely existed, it was a woolly jersey, you know, you know, what’s the difference between that, you know, but I did, I would switch out the steel toed boots for a, you know, a pair of Nike trainers, you know, for the race and everything. And I did on a couple occasions, I put a double chainring setup on the front. Well, while the cyclocross guard thing, you know, we take two chain rings that you take all the teeth off of, and you sandwich a single chain ring, the old school classic cyclocross setup, because that worked really well to keep the chain on.

Gary Fisher 54:09
I use that I set that up a few times for the race and everything, but it was I did a faster time, simply because that day had a tailwind and the, the dirt was in the right condition, you know,

Carlton Reid 54:23
And then what Joe Breeze would be your main competitor?

Gary Fisher 54:27
Joe would be you know, real close to me. Joe is really good. He’s still a good downhiller. You know,

Carlton Reid 54:35
I’ve done that many times. With with Joe so yes, I do know he’s, he’s very good on the bike.

Gary Fisher 54:41
Yeah, he’s good, you know, but they’re, I mean, come on. I mean, today, these guys, these downhillers

Gary Fisher 54:49
there’s a whole nother world is so good, it’s amazing. I love to watch Danny Hart, you know, he created this whole technique of you know, when you have no traction, how to

Gary Fisher 55:00
To get traction, oh, amazing. And there’s a number of other kids that can do it now, like Danny, and, you know, you look at the different techniques are amazing, you know, and how, how they can go and that mean the Frenchman Luke Bruni, and, you know, Lauren Villa and Aaron gwin, and all this, you know, I love watching the modern stuff, you know, but the bikes are on a completely different level. I mean, the type of suspensions that are out there now, are incredible. I mean, I know this, I mean, I ride, I ride suspension, a ride suspension B, and like, wow, there’s a huge difference, you know, between they look the same, but, and this thing, like, this is a miracle when I ride this bike, you know, and, and then the trail builders, you know, it’s, it’s amazing, you know, they’re using algorithms now

Gary Fisher 55:52
to, you know, figure out, you know, how this thing launches, how I can go through here, where I landed everything, it’s amazing. And that’s what I see is, I want to bring that technology more to the urban landscape. And, for two reasons, for one, is it we’d have less dangerous bike routes, bike paths, because some of those bypass are just awful. I mean, they get designed in two dimensions, and the people designing them have very little idea of how a bicycle actually functions, you know, that the worst of bike path.

Gary Fisher 56:32
So to really bring up the quality of bike path, and then secondly, to be able to have fun,

Gary Fisher 56:39
which is something that needs to be imported into the cities. And, you know, we can have a Safe Routes to School commuter routes, but also, you know, features and go routes, you know, because kids, humans need to stress themselves in that, you know, it’s the old thing, you either use it or lose it, you know, if you don’t use a bodily function, and it’ll deteriorate.

Carlton Reid 57:04
So it’s not chronological, but it’s elsewhere in the book, where you actually talk about, like, the pump tracks, in Fruita, where they’re basically the, on the bike paths on the route to school. So the kids are on the pump tracks, but it’s actually getting them to school at the same time.

Gary Fisher 57:21
And they’re pretty cool, having fun with the school, they’re more focused. And we now have the studies to say, this is for real, you know, we used to be, you know, thinking, I have these gut feelings. I know, this is right, I know this is right. And now we’ve got all these peer reviewed medical papers that say, guess what, you were right.

Gary Fisher 57:41
So it’s a, I feel really good about being, you know, that just a huge campaigner. And what I really like is my bosses go, you know, that’s what I like you doing, you know, like you campaigning about this. And that’s a see right now, there’s some really intense times, you know, we can, especially in states and the UK, psyche, you know, you can give it up to the car guys again, or we can make some real change, and it’s a watch the struggles you’re going through. And that’s the the biggest is once you change the matter, between the ears, the grey matter, everything else is easy. And you are in that battle. And I I really admire what you’re doing, you know, and and all the others that we have that are fighting this intellectual battle, to like, tell the Emperor that he’s wearing no clothes to say you know, that the automobile does not work for cities.

Carlton Reid 58:41
Well, you do have a Transportation Secretary now that that’s it talking that language anywhere like Mayor Pete is talking about that kind of stuff. So we’ll see where that goes. But I want to stick to history. Okay, so we’re now back to 1976. And you’ve already mentioned that you are working for Bicycling magazine, but this is when you start working for Bicycling magazine. So that’s absolutely a big deal. Yeah. As you said, you know, you’re getting kit, you are getting recognition. So how’d you get the deal with Bicycling? Because that that’s that’s it is a big deal. Well,

Gary Fisher 59:11
Well, Bill Fields, walks into the shop is working out and he says, hey, I’ve we’ve heard that you’re a really good bike racer, we want you can you write an article for, you know, Bicycling magazine through the road test? And I said, Yes. And let me tell you, I was not a rider. Boy, I agonised over the first few months and everything, but it worked out, you know, and I just really wanted to do it. I just really wanted to do it, you know, period.

Carlton Reid 59:41
And at this point, you were, as you said, you are you’re a racer. So you are

Carlton Reid 59:47
like, You’re like a you’re an up and coming.

Carlton Reid 59:52
road racer. There’s a track just been built, I believe you say in your book. So you’re basically a roadie.

Gary Fisher 59:58
Yeah. Well, I love by

Gary Fisher 1:00:00
I mean, I wanted to do nothing more than riding a bike. I mean, to me, I mean, it was like, the greatest sport there ever was. And I still feel it. You know, I still like tell the guys, you know, racing, I say, look, you doing the most fun thing in the world? You know? Yeah, it’s intense. Yeah, it’s hard sometimes. But you know what, this is the most incredible thing in the world. And I, I still feel that way. You know, it’s a

Gary Fisher 1:00:27
it’s a fantastic sport, you know, involves a lot of science, a lot of strategy and a lot of physicality.

Carlton Reid 1:00:37
So 1972 that’s actually when you met Charlie Kelly. And you says here that you each had the same bike, and the same interests and you became roommates. Right. So that was long before you started a business together. Yeah. So where was that? Where was that actually saying here where that was?

Gary Fisher 1:00:58
Oh, that was in San Anselmo. And it was right above this recording studio. They called the church. And you know, bands like Huey Lewis in the news, they did all their stuff in there. And sons of champion that was a band Charlie worked for, and it was a 21. Humboldt. And there was this perfect little pad right up there. And Charlie was a roadie. And I’ve been hanging out in living with musicians, you know, I was living with a band called new writers of the purple sage and

Gary Fisher 1:01:31
big old house in Canfield in what happens the band becomes really popular. And then everybody goes out and buys her own house gets their own place.

Gary Fisher 1:01:39
So I had to go find my own place. And I was tired of living of rock and rollers, in a way.

Gary Fisher 1:01:48
And Charlie, well, Charlie’s still a rock and roller, but then it was like he was a sort of an athlete. So that was a lot of fun.

Carlton Reid 1:01:55
We’re going to get on to your your rock and roll background or your hippie background or whatever you want to describe it as? And we would absolutely want to talk about that. But I can. I’ve written some notes here, because it says 1971 that’s when you start racing again, right? Because we’re going to go into the there was a hiatus there was a gap in which you you were doing stuff to your body that wasn’t just

Carlton Reid 1:02:17
temple and athletic stuff. But I did my notes here are just saying.

Carlton Reid 1:02:23
Cycling, in effect became your new drug. Your new high. Yeah. So you got back into it. You’re you’re coming from a scene that had soured

Carlton Reid 1:02:35
like a drug. psychedelia.

Gary Fisher 1:02:38
LSD was seen. It was it was, you know, parts of it were

Gary Fisher 1:02:44
incredible. I mean, you know, I hung out with

Gary Fisher 1:02:47
Jack Leary. I mean, Timothy’s son, you know, I used to work for the Mayor, you know, the guy who made more LSD than anybody on the planet, you know, a hork.

Gary Fisher 1:02:57
Ken Kesey, I used to go hang out on his farm. You know, I used to hang out with

Gary Fisher 1:03:03
LSD guys of the time. Yeah, he was an author No One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest unit, you know, that book, and now they’re doing a movie, a new version of the movie, while a TV version of jack nicholson was in the original, but it was, you know, it was a lot about consciousness expansion. And it totally got out of hand, and I watched it, you know, I saw the whole thing, you know, and it was stupid. It went from being something really incredible. I mean, yeah, the temple, taking care of the temple, you know, as to abusing the temple.

Gary Fisher 1:03:41
When, you know, off the hook, you know, I always said, I watched the, the ultimate thing get organised, right, I knew all the organisers, and then we’d hang out in the meetings and stuff. It’s the ultimate was like a, it was gonna be another Woodstock. But it was originally like, we’re going to get the Beatles there. That didn’t work out. We got the second trip the Rolling Stones.

Gary Fisher 1:04:04
And we’re gonna do it in Golden Gate Park. Well, the city of San Francisco wouldn’t allow it. And then it got shifted over to this big Motor Speedway up serious point. But then the owner a serious point, one of the owners found out that the Rolling Stones were gonna film a movie there, you know, and he wanted a piece of the action and everything. And that went to South and then within, you know, one day, they changed the venue to this other place and ultimate. And it was just a frickin like a disaster. And it could have been much worse. I mean, it could have been even worse, you know, I mean, though, the deaths are staggering. And for this, you know, and I mean, Mick Jagger could have lost his life that day. I mean, seriously, you know, it was nuts, you know, and it was like, This is the stupidest ass dream. You know? I’m getting out of here. Yeah, this

Gary Fisher 1:05:00
is a mess, you know. And it’s funny. I mean, cooler heads prevailed. I mean, Bill Graham took over the whole promotion thing. And I knew Bill Graham, I worked for him too. You know, he was a, he had his act together, tough old New Yorker, you know, and they needed to be worked out the way it did. But it was sort of like the dream was over. You know, I mean, literally, after that, that was in December of 1969, thousands of people have left San Francisco and went elsewhere. Because that that didn’t work. You know, it wasn’t working, you know. And I said to myself, I’m going back and doing the bike. The bike never lied to me. biker was always good to me. I love the bike.

Carlton Reid 1:05:43
So you go back and race race the bike again. And

Gary Fisher 1:05:48
that’s all I wanted to do at that moment. So roughly 1968 to 1970.

Carlton Reid 1:05:54
When you part of this alternative scene

Carlton Reid 1:05:58
Roughly, were you still riding a bike during those two years?

Gary Fisher 1:06:01
Not for beans. You know, it was more than it was about four year period, we

Gary Fisher 1:06:08
did the light show thing. And that was pretty heavy duty. And the guy did it with you know, started, he wound up being the father of Visual Basic, he did a big company that he just couldn’t keep up. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 1:06:22
And Alan Cooper is on Twitter, I follow Alan.

Gary Fisher 1:06:25
So yeah, and he’s really used to make stuff. Oh, man, we had a good time making stuff.

Gary Fisher 1:06:32
You know, and I’ll go do some more stuff with him. Again, I get some fantasies, doing some more stuff with Alan.

Carlton Reid 1:06:39
So that the photographs in the book are fabulous. And the most evocative ones for me are of this period, in that, obviously, they’re very colourful. It’s the oils, and it’s the light shows you are putting on. So basically, you were doing light shows for Grateful Dead, and bands like that. So tell me what a light show was, what what exactly was it and how did you do it?

Gary Fisher 1:07:01
Well, it’s changed, the technology’s changed completely. But back in those days it used, we use slide projectors, which were two by two slide projectors. And so you’d have maybe I had eight of those

Gary Fisher 1:07:17
overhead projectors, which is a 10 by 10 inch.

Gary Fisher 1:07:22
You know, you put liquids on those. And those had to be like modified, everything had to be modified. Oh my god, 16 millimetre film projectors, I had the 16 millimetre film projectors, I modified their old Keystone projectors, and I put a separate a different motor on the drive. And then there was a motor for the film gate, the air over the film gate, a fan over the film, gate, and then a fan over the bulb, these things doing 1200 at 1200 watt bulbs, oh my god. And you could run up to 60 frames a second on these because they were you know, 24 frames a second is a standard and everything, but I can run them super fast. Or I could go you know, one at a time down to zero, you know, DC motors. And you turn off the fan and a film gate and you go like one frame at a time and you use black film and a film would burn and go on the screen and go poof poof, poof, another effect was using film loops. And you could do one or two film loops in this one gate, you know, and it’s like, every projector was modified you know and he said, you know, mounts for colour wheels on him the whole ways a colour wheels mean colour wheels, nobody would ever use those anymore. Use electronica to do things. liquids, you know, boy, it was oils based on oil and alcohol based colours and the oil colours, especially we worked really hard on making them super transparent. And you could take a drop of this oil and mix it with clear oil and colourize it but you could look through the whole bottle. It was amazing. And, you know, the clock faces were from real clocks, you know, and you get glass clock faces that matched each other correctly. I’m telling you, there’s so much detail in this. It’s nuts. And there was about 50 different light shows in well, and in the Bay Area. And in New York, where were light shows were and a few in LA or a few out down there. And we had a thing called a light artists guild after a while, you know, because

Gary Fisher 1:09:33
we weren’t getting the kind of money we wanted, you know, that type of thing. And there were 50 members 50 deeper member groups, and I was a big part of that thing in the end. And we struck the family dog and a beach when a Grateful Dead were playing and dead wouldn’t cross the picket line. I ran it a generator and we projected on the outside of the building and no one would go in and

Carlton Reid 1:09:56
18 or 19 at this point?

Gary Fisher 1:09:59
You know, when I was like, 16, you know, 16, 17, 18, 19 you know, I still have a lot of the equipment. And it’s funny, and

Gary Fisher 1:10:11
it was a scene. I learned a lot through that, that business.

Carlton Reid 1:10:15
And you had you had very long hair then. So there’s some photographs in the book. You had long hair. I do. You’re free. I mean, that’s what a freak was. Yeah. Somebody who was buying into that scene had the long hair was doing the LSD.

Gary Fisher 1:10:28
Oh, no, yeah. But there got to be like,

Gary Fisher 1:10:34
people had all this stuff on the outside, could take the drugs in the inside, and still be idiots.

Gary Fisher 1:10:41
You know, it was like it, it was the whole thing went off of the tracks. And I think I talked about it, like cocaine came into the whole scene. And I’ll never forget it. There I am, you know, the hit the dead house. And like, this guy from New York comes with this huge tin of coke. And he says, It’s organic, and it’s not addictive. And people believed him. I couldn’t believe it. And it was, you know, people like owlsley and illyrian. And all these other guys who like, stay away from that stuff, man, that stuff messes up your head, you know, and did it mess people up. It’s not a good drug. And fetta means that drug is not good for the brain at all. It takes brain you know, about a year to heal from that stuff. And right, you know, psychedelics are a different animal, you know, and today they’re doing psychedelics again. But they’ll do 10 micrograms, LSD were like, we were doing 50 to 100. You know, which is too much, you know, it’s excess excess is stupid. You know? And that’s the big lesson out of the whole consciousness expansion, you figure out, hey, excess on all levels is stupid.

Gary Fisher 1:11:54
You know, and here we are today excess. See, you had long hair.

Carlton Reid 1:12:00
But then if we skip back another couple of years to 1966, that’s when you can make a Cat A junior racer, and it says here with regular top five finishes. But then you got banned for racing for having long hair. And I’ve looked at a photograph that wasn’t very long, right?

Gary Fisher 1:12:17
At that point. That was quite a No, in fact, Joe Breeze showed me a photo of myself as the last race. I rode, you know, before I get kicked out, and it was like my hair barely went over my ears. You know?

Carlton Reid 1:12:34
So you’re a Cat A junior racer, and this is on your first kind of custom built bike. And that’s a paragon.

Gary Fisher 1:12:42
Oh, yeah. Paragon. That was Lars Zabrasky. He built those bikes.

Gary Fisher 1:12:48
Really cool guy. I know.

Carlton Reid 1:12:51
And what kind of gears because you had you had Oh, it was a That one’s a weirdo setup that had the simplex, the plastic derailleurs. Remember that as being between the lines that the making trying to make it light.

Carlton Reid 1:13:02
So you were using campagnolotrying to make a light bike. So that’s why using the simplex, I use

Gary Fisher 1:13:08
derailleurs and it used Mayfac cantilever brakes.

Gary Fisher 1:13:14
Those were like that was and a TA crank set. And it was the old ones that they had there. an alloy crank set that was cottered.

Gary Fisher 1:13:23
you remember, and it had sort of a shaped bottom bracket spindle.

Carlton Reid 1:13:32
Okay, we’re skimminh back fast now, so 1962 that’s when you get your first serious racing bike. A Legano but that does have come with Campagnolo.

Gary Fisher 1:13:43
Yeah, yeah. And, oh, man, Distrone cottered crank set, you know, steel crank set.

Gary Fisher 1:13:47
And there was no such thing as Campagnolo brakes at that time? No, it’s just the derailleurs

Gary Fisher 1:13:57
Oh, and I found a good set of wheels. That was something that was a, I was hanging out at the bike shop and had some kid there that says, Hey, I got these wheels. I want to trade for a pair of clinchers. And like, you do okay, boom, boom, you know, it was a set of a high flange Campag hubs.

Gary Fisher 1:14:14
Set a few army Red Label rooms. Let’s go.

Carlton Reid 1:14:18
Describe the racing scene at that point. So we are talking

Carlton Reid 1:14:24
mid 1950s we’re getting towards the end of the 1950s

Gary Fisher 1:14:28
No, no, no, no. Like, I got into it. And like

Carlton Reid 1:14:32
sorry, 63. So I’m going I’m going I’m flipping myself here because you got your first bike in case for sorry. So 63 I mean, and I mean, road racing must have been pretty small.

Gary Fisher 1:14:41
But there were 120 registered riders and all in Northern California. And in those days, if you wrote a bike seriously at all, you would register with trh ABVLA even if you didn’t race. And that’s how few riders were there was like two women. You know, there were seven intermediate state

Gary Fisher 1:15:00
That was my category. You know, you’d see somebody on a road that wasn’t obvious DUI victim or some kid, and you’d stop them and exchange phone numbers. And otherwise you knew who it was for sure.

Gary Fisher 1:15:17
that few people, you know, but it was very chummy, so to speak.

Carlton Reid 1:15:23
And how did you get into racing? So, in 1954, you got your first biker Schwinn Spitfire, but these aren’t, these aren’t racing bikes. So how’d you start actually, racing?

Gary Fisher 1:15:34
Well, I was, I was hanging out at the bike shop and was the San Mateo bike shop, a Schwinn shop. And these guys that show up, and we’re gonna go on a ride, and once these guys were like, 15, 17, 18, and they were looking at me, you can’t come You can’t come. Because I was like, I was 12. I was like, tiny. I was like five foot four. And it was like 89 pounds skinny. And I said, Yeah, I can come and I just started riding with them. And they didn’t get rid of me. And at the end of the ride, they said, Yeah, you can. You can be in a club. You can be a mascot, and I started crying. I didn’t want to be mascot. I want to be a regular member. So okay, okay. We’ll make you a regular member. And, you know, that was a Belmont bike club. So it was the first club I joined.

Carlton Reid 1:16:23
Cuz there’s some Brits there. Yeah. Who, Larry Walpole. There’s a few few Brits like that. We’re like, basically organising this club. Yeah. So you would like brought into the scene by Brits?

Gary Fisher 1:16:33
Well, yeah, I mean, Larry, especially, I mean, he was a

Gary Fisher 1:16:36
he’s from East London. He had that, you know, that accent and he was hilarious. And he was a mechanic for Pan-Am. And he took care of me, you know, we do 80 mile rides, and he makes sure I made it, you know, a whole thing. And then Ray Andrews, Ray Andrews was a racer. He was a Brit, living in the States.

Gary Fisher 1:16:59
But he was a top category racer, you know, good road racer.

Gary Fisher 1:17:05
So, yeah, he taught me how to drink tea.

Gary Fisher 1:17:09
And Larry, Larry, though, and he get British Cycling Weekly, and then Miroir Du Cycliste, you know, the, and that was the window, you know, you got to consider, I mean, there was no such thing as video, you know, so you couldn’t rent a video of some race or something. And, you know, I remember seeing his 16 millimetre film with some World Championships. But that was all I ever saw of a European race until I was in my 20s, and actually went to Europe. And us, you just wouldn’t see how right or road or how pack function or any of those physical things, you know, is really different. And, you know, and writing races in those days was far different. And then you’d have, there’d be 20, guys that could go fast, and then it’d be 15. And then then it just be five, you know, it would just get whittled down so fast and be ridiculous, you know, and, and then later on, when I was racing, and especially you go to the national championships or something, and there’d be 100 really good riders. That was different, you know, and the whole concept of going to something like the Tour de France, where you’ve got 150 riders that are like so incredibly good. No, that was something that was just like a dream. You know?

Carlton Reid 1:18:27
To help me visualise this, I’m just mentioning here Breaking Away. So Breaking Away is a different part of the US. It’s not, it’s not California, but is Breaking Away. Is that a good way of visualising this scene? Is it How accurate is breaking away to that kind of racing era?

Gary Fisher 1:18:43
My mother used to say all the time, “that was a movie about you, Gary.”

Carlton Reid 1:18:49
I met I met Oh, who is the guy? Dennis Christopher. I met him. Nice guy. But

Gary Fisher 1:18:57
I mean, in different scene in it, that was the Midwest and in the Midwest, you know, it’s, there’s a portion of it that is highly organised, you know, and that was the actual event and everything, you know that

Gary Fisher 1:19:09
they did a good job on their event, even though it was like absolutely bizarre, you know, the way that thing the, the Little Indy 500 runs and everything. Whereas in California,

Gary Fisher 1:19:21
Northern Southern California was sort of the where roadracing came back. It had almost died, you know, they hadn’t had a national championships for a number of years. And in 65, they did a, they included it in the nationals in Southern California, a road race for the first time in a long time, because there were enough people doing it and sort of came out of California and it was more

Gary Fisher 1:19:47
more independence in a really different feeling. You know, the Midwest where things were families and well organised and everything. And out here it was some awesome races, but when

Gary Fisher 1:20:00
Wasn’t organised, like, you know, like to do in the Midwest. I mean, the biggest race we had out here was back in those days was tour Nevada city, you know, for Northern California, and Southern Cal had a few big races. And then there are a number of races that would happen, you know, I mean, like mount Hamilton race. When I was 17. I organised race. I was the promoter, because I was in this club Pedali Alpini. And you had I don’t know how old was I? I don’t know if I know I was 20 when I organised that race. But I was it was my turn to organise a race, you know.

Gary Fisher 1:20:39
And that’s how loose it was, you know, everybody had to take a turn in a club of organising the race. Can you imagine? And it wasn’t so bad when there’s only 75 riders in all categories combined. You know, so,

Gary Fisher 1:20:55
but, no, it wasn’t well organised. It wasn’t something. It was tiny, you know, but I loved it. I completely loved it. And

Carlton Reid 1:21:06
1955 you’re five years old? And that’s when you moved to San Francisco, in effect from from?

Gary Fisher 1:21:14
Well, from Oakland, California. Well, yes. And no, I mean,

Gary Fisher 1:21:19
I was not. When I was six months old. We I was born in Oakland. My father was in the Navy. When I was six months old. We took a ship to Guam. My mother said, Yeah, you got seasick.

Gary Fisher 1:21:32
My mother was a singer, my mother was in an entertainer, my mother’s saying in a nightclubs, my mother got the attraction of like one of the islanders, a big guys, you know, like a native guy. And

Gary Fisher 1:21:46
my father got really jealous. My mother said, Forget about it. And she moved back to Beverly Hills took me with her when I was three and a half.

Gary Fisher 1:21:57
And we looked at my grandfather, and my grandfather worked for Warner Brothers. And he was a script or a script supervisor. And he invented that job. And he was actually really well known in Hollywood.

Carlton Reid 1:22:13
That’s some great photographs in the book. I’m now skimming through it here. of him is his horse, the the like, the script table.

Carlton Reid 1:22:20
Yeah. With all these fantastic movie, you know, movie scenes that he’s in, you know, obviously, behind the scenes, but clearly big blockbuster movies going on with some big major stars.

Gary Fisher 1:22:31
He was the guy that told the actors, this is what you’re gonna say, this is how you say it. Right? So I got these photos of him and he’s right in the centre of action. You know, he’s, you know, he’s the director is there, making sure everything’s going right. Doing things but my grandfather’s the guy that’s like, Okay, next slide. Next slide. Next slide. Next slide.

Gary Fisher 1:22:55
And he’s taking me on a set. you’d bring Ronald Reagan, Joan Crawford, Errol Flynn, Dora House,

Gary Fisher 1:23:01
we, we go to this park where the Disney’s were hanging out, and they were, you know, his little rat hole Park, in Hollywood, where all actors bring their kids, Walt Disney and his family show up and he go on about, I’m going to build this park for the family and everything. And he did you know, and we went to opening day and it was crazy and everything. Then later, Mike, my, my best friend around the corner and I we built a Disneyland in his backyard. My mother says, Oh, hey. And my mother, you know, I’m 90 years old last year, she says to me, “Gary, you know, this is about marketing, and how you provide press releases press for

Gary Fisher 1:23:42
media,” she says, Gary, you’re doing their job for them. Okay, let’s go back to LA. You know, she’s she calls up three different newspapers, including the LA Times and says, Hey, I got a story for you. They come out and do us run a story on us. You know, five years old, I’m in the LA Times. Right?

Carlton Reid 1:24:03
Yeah, I mean, in your book, I can actually say it’s where I learned, you know, that’s where I see

Carlton Reid 1:24:10
like good good at PR and presenting yourself so what I haven’t been able to track down in the book I mean, that there’s there’s disparate mentions of it everywhere in the book, but there’s not like one section that I’d like to do your fashion sense because that’s clearly what an awful lot of people will know about you and and especially your with your penchant for suits. Basically, you’re famous for your suit your Paul Smith suits, there was a Paul Smith connection in cycling Of course, because he was he was it is a big time cycle fan. And you’ve had Tom Baker suit, you’ve had all sorts of weird that fashion sense come from when did it generate and

Carlton Reid 1:24:53
the thread seems to be very early from like, you know, like the freak days where you’re you’re you?

Gary Fisher 1:25:00
We’re doing different stuff. No, in fact, while I’m my mother always, you know, in our family always, it was always something, you know, to be appreciated and myself was always, you know,

Gary Fisher 1:25:15
just like, you’d have a lot of fun dressing, you know, and it’s, it’s your way of presenting yourself to the world to

Gary Fisher 1:25:24
what’s funny, though, is like, it’s it ltb all those my big voice, you know, saying I’ll spend money on cars, I spend money on on suits and things is not that much money. When you buy quality. That’s, that’s the amazing thing. The quality stuff lasts a long time. And the looks last a long time, the hardest thing is to staying fit enough to fit things.

Gary Fisher 1:25:46
But it’s, I don’t know, it’s just, I appreciate it. You know, I think that’s what it is, is, if you don’t care about it, it doesn’t work, right.

Carlton Reid 1:25:57
So you do you do have the physique for these fancy suits that that set out. But it’s all a look, I mean, you could be going in a trade show anywhere in the world, and you could spot you from a long way off. So it’s trademark as well.

Gary Fisher 1:26:12
Yeah. No, it’s just, I like to do it, you know, and I know, and I,

Gary Fisher 1:26:19
it said thing to you go to where you need to go to find the very best in the world. And then you get humbled. You know, I will go to London, and hang out with my friends that they they all know so much more than I do. And I learned from them all the time, you know, and,

Gary Fisher 1:26:40
and we just have fun. You know, that’s the big thing. And it’s all about

Gary Fisher 1:26:45
having fun and, and,

Gary Fisher 1:26:48
and, you know, you’re evoking these looks from different places, different ideas and things and having a good time with it.

Gary Fisher 1:26:56
That said, I mean, it’s, I love it, but it’s not like

Gary Fisher 1:27:02
I’m not making my living with it. I you know, it’s not a business, I really want to be in to the fashion business. And I enjoy it and everything but

Gary Fisher 1:27:12
and I know it’s become a become well known for it.

Carlton Reid 1:27:16

Carlton Reid 1:27:20
you’ve been sat there on zooms, you know, Skype style chats, Where were your wife, Alex is in a dressing gown, and you’re, you’re in a suit. So this is a this is not a trademark, like, when you come out, you really bought into this, haven’t you?

Gary Fisher 1:27:36
You’ve like, well, it was a long time ago, I said, I’m not gonna wear a T shirt anymore.

Gary Fisher 1:27:41
Because I can’t pull it off. You know, I look right. You know, and

Gary Fisher 1:27:47
I can dress this way. And it’s easy, you know, it’s a lot easier than then you think, you know, it’s not that difficult. You know, when you find things that work a few and everything. It’s a no and and it’s really interesting because I man, I haven’t bought anything in the last year. I mean,

Gary Fisher 1:28:04
I’ve slowed down in the last five years or more, you know?

Carlton Reid 1:28:08
Yeah, it’s what’s it? Do you have a fancy dressing gown then? So when you take your suit off, and you’re getting into something more comfortable and you’re going to bed Are you like Do you also have a snazzy dressing gowns? I’m expecting like a you know, an English smoking jacket or something? What do you what do you

Gary Fisher 1:28:24
actually it’s more cartoonish. You know, it’s like boy, like, is is pretty funny. Because right now, my daughter is dressing me more than anybody. She’s the big cop. She says, Daddy, no, no, you can’t wear that. You gotta wear this. It’s hilarious. She’s, she’s something else. And the kids would just encourage that, you know, we’re just having fun. Here with this. It’s, it’s a

Gary Fisher 1:28:48
no, I don’t think about it too hard. I’m trying to me right now. I will. I mean, I, I’ll tell you, though, before I do, normally, when I go and I travel, and I do things, I think about what am I? What am I trying to present here? Who is my audience, you know, and I’ll address them but by not by too much. It’s not to go too far out there. So I’m definitely calculating. For that.

Carlton Reid 1:29:15
So, the front cover of the book. It draws in a lot of of your history so it’s got the you in the suit, it’s got you and a handlebar moustache and a hat and the shades. And then it’s got the Gary Fisher is picked out in like freak-style, you know, late 1960s

Carlton Reid 1:29:32
typography which is actually fantastic. And then on your suit, there’s a there’s a little bear on a bicycle.

Gary Fisher 1:29:40
And the bicycle is Grateful Dead, Grateful Dead always loved bicycles. They did something. You know, they bought a lot of bikes for me over the years.

Gary Fisher 1:29:49
They, they and they always believed in the whole idea. You know, the whole thing. I love my friend Howard. He’s a sound guy and for the Dead has been

Gary Fisher 1:29:59
forever. And he started a club called the Teamsters. And it used to be, and I love this example of all inclusivity.

Gary Fisher 1:30:09
He’d say, they’d say, Well, look, once you written to the top of Mount Tam, he could become a member. And then they soften the rules. They said, Well, if you say you’re going to ride to the top of Mount Tam, you could become a member. And then they want the ultimate. They said, if you think that right into the top of Mount Tam is a good idea, you can become a member. And that’s the way I want bikes to be, you know, you can be You don’t even have to do it. You just got to think it’s a good idea, then you’re my friend.

Gary Fisher 1:30:42
Right? And that’s the sort of inclusivity that I like to see. And everything is the same thing, Gary? Yeah, sorry.

Carlton Reid 1:30:50
I’m trying to wrap up here.

Carlton Reid 1:30:55
So even Gary Fisher is the name of the book. The subtitle is colour and the bicycling and the bicycle revolution. Sorry.

Carlton Reid 1:31:04
Where can people get this from? I mean, it’s Blue Train is the publisher. I mean, this is this is everywhere. This is it’s $39 99. money well spent. But where can people get it?

Gary Fisher 1:31:13
Well, that’s a story unto itself, too. Haha, we decided we aren’t going with the good old Amazon. No, no, no. And what’s funny is like, Trek is, you know, a very good distributor of bicycles. I mean, we, we sell in 100 countries. And so this is a challenge. Can we become a book distributor? Oh, my goodness. And I’ll tell you,

Gary Fisher 1:31:39
the boss, john Burke, he loves the idea of being able to distribute books. I mean, look, he’s done a few books himself. He had political books, his his philosophy in democratic politics, he would like to be a good book distributor, you know, this is something in our common interest. And like I pointed out before, I mean, it is all about the grey matter between the ears. And you know, that’s part of the job. And that is part of what I brought to Trek is this whole idea that it’s not just the physical object, it is also, you know, the, all the ideas behind that physical object.

Carlton Reid 1:32:18
So this physical object, which I’ve got on my hands now,

Carlton Reid 1:32:22
which isn’t in print, it’s not Kindle. It’s not a Kindle book is you’ve got, it’s like, it’s dripping with wonderful photographs, great typography, great. Design, the whole thing is a great package. So basically, people are gonna buy it from bike shops.

Gary Fisher 1:32:37
Yeah, that’s right. You know, online bike shops are our distribution at the moment is, to be honest. All right. And will we improve it? Absolutely. And it’s a whole process and I’m not worried.

Gary Fisher 1:32:55
I know the books gonna do really well. It’s a lot of fun.

Carlton Reid 1:32:59
It is very, it is fun. It’s I read it

Carlton Reid 1:33:04
filled in a lot of background for me cuz I’ve got I’ve got an awful lot of mountain bike history books, and bicycle history books in general. And and just the photographs are just brilliant. And including, you know, your backstory. So we haven’t really got into your ancestors hear at all, but you’ve got a fantastic bunch of ancestors there that that that built some amazing stuff. So Gary, thank you ever so much for taking the time out today to to talk to me. Absolutely. I can recommend “Being Gary Fisher.” And even better that you’ve got to go to a bike shop to go and get it. So thank you very much, Gary.

Gary Fisher 1:33:39
Thank you.

Carlton Reid 1:33:41
That was the one and only Gary Fisher and this has been Episode 268 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Show notes and a full transcript can be found as always at Now that’s it for this month. There’ll be another couple of episodes in March. Meanwhile, get out there and ride …

February 7, 2021 / / Blog

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Sunday 7th February 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 267: Put money on the table and let’s get these modes moving


HOST: Carlton Reid


Francois Bausch, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Mobility and Public Works, Luxembourg

Claudia Dobles Camargo, First Lady, Costa Rica

Dagmawit Moges, Minister of Transport, Ethiopia

Jürgen Zattler, Deputy Director General for Multilateral and European Policy, Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany

Femi Oke, broadcaster


Extracts from the closing plenary of the Transforming Transportation conference held last week. This is staged every year for the World Bank by Washington DC’s World Resources Institute.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 267 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Sunday seventh of February 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 Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at 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 And now, here are the Spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:07
“Her Excellency will be right with you …” Yes, this wasn’t your standard working-from-home Zoom meeting — I was to talk, virtually, with the First Lady of Costa Rica as well as Ethiopia’s transport minister, the deputy prime minister of Luxembough and a top government official from Germany. Hi, I’m Carlton Reid, this is the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast brought to you by Jenson USA and I was honoured to be on a panel for the closing plenary of the Transforming Transportation conference held last week. This is staged every year for the World Bank by Washington DC’s World Resources Institute. With permission I’m sharing some of the audio from this one hour panel — pleasingly, there was quite a bit of cycling content which I hope bodes well for that post-pandemic buzz phrase “let’s build back better.” The conference moderator was broadcaster Femi Oke and here she is introducing the panel.

Femi Oke 2:18
Welcome back to the main stage of Transforming Transportation 2021. This is the final plenary session. I’m going to greet the panel the panel is going to say hello to you delegates. Deputy Prime Minister Welcome to TTDC21. Tell our delegates who you are and what you do.

Francois Bausch 2:40
Hello, my name is Francois Bausch. I’m Deputy Prime Minister of Luxembourg. And in my portfolio, I have also the Ministry of mobility and public works. So it’s not the first time that I’m participating in the TTDC. So

Francois Bausch 2:59
I would love to be in Washington DC but unfortunately, it’s not possible this year. But I’m really honoured and really pleasure that I participate in this concluding debate now for this year’s conference.

Francois Bausch 3:12
Transport and mobility is my passion. And I really like discussing about out and around it.

Femi Oke 3:19
You’re in the right place. Deputy Prime Minister, we will come back to you. Claudia, if people were paying attention on the slide they saw that you were First Lady of Costa Rica. That’s a very nice title, but you have an absolutely extraordinary job. And that is why you’re here. Claudia, please introduce yourself to the delegates.

Claudia Dobles Camargo 3:39
Thank you so much. Well, good day to everybody. I am Claudia Dobles Camargo I am from Costa Rica. And I am the coordinator for the sector of infrastructure mobility, and urban planning. So I am also the First Lady, but I think the first title is the most interesting one. I am very glad to be sharing with you Costa Rica’s experience through news pandemic and our vision past pandemic. I am very honoured also to share this panel with the rest of the panellist.

Femi Oke 4:11
Thank you so much for being with us. Madam minister, welcome to transforming transportation, nice to have you remind our delegates, who you are, and what you do.

Dagmawit Moges 4:25
And I’m pleased to be part of up for the second time. I’m Dagmawit Moges from Ethiopia. I’m the Minister for Transport. It’s a pleasure for me to join the team to share our experience and to learn from others as well. Thank you very much.

Femi Oke 4:40
Oh, you’re so welcome. Hello, Carlton. So nice to see you, Carlton. Tell everybody who you are what you do.

Carlton Reid 4:48
Hi Femi, and good to see you and good to see everybody else and it’s you should have come to me last because I’m the least qualified member of the panel here in that

Carlton Reid 5:00
I’m I’m, I asked questions normally, so I don’t make decisions like the other panellists, fantastic job titles. I’m somebody who would ask those people the questions normally, but I am a journalist, I specialise in in transport. So I do work for And for The Guardian in the UK, and I’m also a historian of transport.

Femi Oke 5:31
Fantastic, Carlton. You’re very welcome. And you’re very humble, which is very British of you. Jürgen, so nice to see you. Welcome. Please, elaborate on your numerous job titles. You’re a very busy man. So glad you had time for us.

Jürgen Zattler 5:48
For me, and thanks for having me. Yes, my name is Jürgen Zattler And I am a director general in the German ministry for economic cooperation. And my responsibilities cover climate SDGs and multilateral cooperation amongst those multilateral institutions, the World Bank. And until only three months ago, I was the German executive director of the World Bank.

Femi Oke 6:19
Thank you. Thank you so much for being with us. All right. So panel, we have an hour and this is what we’re going to try to achieve. We’re going to talk about lessons from our global pandemic, for planning for the future looking at, we’re going to talk about opportunities for transport. And we’re also going to join the dots between climate change account crisis, and what that means for the climate crisis going forward. There’s a lot to do, Carlton, what would be the smartest first question to ask? And who should we ask it to?

Carlton Reid 6:52
Well, I’ve been genning up on the the other speakers I am a journalist so I do that kind of thing. And Ethiopia is fascinating, in that it bubbled up on my social media feeds a few weeks ago that Ethiopia did have this this transport plan. So it’s fantastic that Dagmawit is actually here. And that potentially, I can ask her questions on this. But what what fascinates me about Ethiopia? And maybe I’ll ask, the question, is, motoring is clearly like the elephant in the room. In many countries, many countries want to reduce motoring. And yet many countries,

Carlton Reid 7:30
perhaps in in, in places like Africa, including Ethiopia, maybe motoring is seen as something absolutely aspirational. And they want to have more and more motoring. If we’ve got so much motoring. Here in the in the West, why shouldn’t everybody else have motoring? So we’re kind of on this panel, maybe it’s going to be talking about how we want to reduce motoring for all those reasons. You mentioned, not climate change, but also congestion reasons, clean air reasons.

Carlton Reid 7:59
Importantly, health reasons, and yet many other countries. Probably don’t see it in those terms. So my first question will be to

Carlton Reid 8:11
Dagmawit from Ethiopia on on how she’s going to square that circle?

Femi Oke 8:20
Thank you.

Dagmawit Moges 8:23
So shall I go for it?

Femi Oke 8:25
I think now’s the time to answer that. Go ahead.

Dagmawit Moges 8:30
Thank you very much, it’s an excellent question. As a government, we are responsible to address the needs of our people. And we need to consider the situations that we are in, previously before the pandemic

Dagmawit Moges 8:51
was on roads for brake

Dagmawit Moges 8:55
lights. But during the pandemic, we identified that we need to focus on our people and address their need for transport.

Dagmawit Moges 9:07
serve the public. So recently, during the pandemic, were identified the first national non motorised transport user strategy in our country, which gives much emphasis for strength, and it’s likely

Dagmawit Moges 9:25
that we already

Dagmawit Moges 9:27
know ones

Dagmawit Moges 9:31
are hungry going to construct register and race and cycling lanes and give priority for transport and individual environment.

Femi Oke 9:41
I want to go to you Deputy Prime Minister, because if we’re looking at what have we learned so far, what are the opportunities going forward? I know there was something that just to me and to you stood out that people are doing now that they didn’t do two years ago and not in

Femi Oke 10:00
numbers. What is that? And how does that help us with sustainable mobility?

Francois Bausch 10:07
But I think that we are, in fact, in a double crisis already today, we are on one hands in this pandemic,

Francois Bausch 10:19
problems around. And then on the other hand, we are in the middle of another crisis, which is the climate crisis, because climate crisis will not begin after this pandemic, is already there. And I think that’s what I could observe, especially in the mobility sector, because all with all the problems that we had, for example, during the lockdowns that we had in the last year, people began to change their behaviours in the transport and mobility sector, especially, for example, in the urban areas, people discovered, really rediscovered for examples hiking in a way that would never had imagined two years ago, three years ago, I just got to my table today, the figures of a survey that launched during last year, just after the first lockdown that we had in Luxembourg, that was in March, April until May, last year. And during this survey, people told us that, for example, 23% of the population in our country that changed their behaviour during the pandemic. And even they told us that they want to keep now these changes. And most of this change came. Mostly this change came in favour of cycling, for example, nearly 60% of this part of the population of this quarter, in fact, of the population is sad that they had rediscovered cycling, and that they wants to keep it also after the pandemic and after the lockdown. And that is what we can observe. Also today, we see in our everyday life, that people are using more and more for examples hiking or biking to really do their their daily business. So not only for sports, of leisure, but only to go to work and to bring their children to school, for example.

Femi Oke 12:25
Claudia, from the perspective of Costa Rica, if you were looking forward as we are in this session, what are the opportunities that

Femi Oke 12:36
you’ve taken from a global pandemic? And you’re able to apply for mobility, sustainable mobility, urban planning? What stands out for you?

Claudia Dobles Camargo 12:49
Thank you. Well, I will have to start with what was our vision for the pandemic and how we have tried to adopt that policy pandemic. We started actually a year, two year two years ago, February 2019, we launched in Costa Rica, our decarbonisation plan, trying to reach a new vision for social economic development, more sustainable, reaching for well being quality of life, but also job creation in terms of the fourth industrial revolution. So one of the main lines of action, we have 10 lines of action in the the compensation plan. But what the main action was to create a mobility system that could be resilient, flexible and adaptive. And the truth is that, unfortunately, in Costa Rica, we have invest a lot in a vision of a private, more car centric development.

Dagmawit Moges 13:50
It’s quite interesting to hear the example of Luxembourg ignite really, I can tell you, I wish we could have that in Costa Rica. in Costa Rica people through the pandemic, they didn’t rediscover Viking because we they have to discover it in the first place. We need to create that culture in the metropolitan area and for creating that culture to provide confidence. We needed also to start providing the vision of a more pedestrian more friendly city and how these can work together with the transportation system and make it more robust market more resilient, more diverse.

Dagmawit Moges 14:31
Also, we …

Femi Oke 14:34
I was like I was just picking up on your thought about the cycling, because the Deputy Prime Minister, it wasn’t a big deal for cycling 10 years ago. I mean this there’s been a resurgence. So I’m just wondering what you will say, DPM to Claudia. Can you take that model and take it to Costa Rica? Is that even possible?

Francois Bausch 14:58
Yes, it’s possible.

Francois Bausch 15:00
Every year, you know that Luxembourg is the most car loving country in the world, I would say beside Qatar, because we have in Luxembourg, the car and the individual in mobility culture is very much present still today. And I would say when I started 78 years ago, we had already a little bit against cycling culture in different cities in the country. But even in the subject, column and country, then in Luxembourg, which has such a high degree of cost per household, for example, in Luxembourg, we have minimum, I would say, around two cars per households in Luxembourg. So even in a country like this, it’s possible to change. But the precondition is that you must really attack to build up a good cycling infrastructure, the infrastructure is the key to success to the success, so that the population will really use cycling again as a mode of transport. But on the other hand, I’m really sure especially also, because of new tools, new elements that entered in the last few years in the cycling culture, like electric bikes, people read more and more rediscover cycling. So it will be a major topic in every urban area in the world in the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years.

Femi Oke 16:29
Maybe just bring in Jürgen here, Jürgen, we’re looking forward, we’re looking at transport as a motive for change. What is Germany thinking of right now?

Femi Oke 16:40
for the future? What are you working on right now? That takes us into 2021, 22, 23? And beyond? Regarding transport?

Jürgen Zattler 16:53
Yes, thank you. It’s a very difficult question. It sounds easy, but I think it’s really challenging because there are lots of unknowns. And

Jürgen Zattler 17:06
I think the the lockdown and also,

Jürgen Zattler 17:10
what might come next has put on the table, some open issues,

Jürgen Zattler 17:17
also regarding the future of urban transport. So what we could see in Germany is a substantial drop in, in transport and public transport during the lockdown during the first lockdown, it was a drop in ticket sales of some 80%. And this really put express the financial accounts of the operators of the public operators very often. So the question is when we go back to

Jürgen Zattler 17:56
the conditions we have seen before, or will there be a kind of new normal?

Jürgen Zattler 18:02
And that’s not easy to answer this question. Because there are those variables like there might be more pandemics, there might be more awareness regarding the spread of other viruses in the population, there might be an increase in the work from home of course, which might reduce traffic, then perhaps congestion in the roads will get less CPU and people will switch to public add to private transport. And looking at private transport, we also see that shift, which has been discussed will be then costs. Will it be shared cars? Will it be bikes? Will it be shared bikes? So I think these are many variables. And it’s not easy to predict that but I think we have to take it seriously and and really be open to adjust our plans. It looks like like others said, bikes and E-bikes will be a part of the new transport future, perhaps it will come quicker than we thought. And …

Femi Oke 19:21
As we’re looking forward Carlton people often particularly in this forum, equate technology and tech with the future.

Femi Oke 19:30
I know you’ve got deep and passionate thoughts about this. Can you share them with us, please?

Carlton Reid 19:36
Well, I have been impressed that yes, I can share them for me. I have been impressed that so far. And many panels like this tend to start talking about this. We haven’t talked about electric cars. We haven’t talked about driverless vehicles. So I’m very very impressed that we haven’t talked about that because tech is sexy. And ministers like to cut ribbons. And like to

Carlton Reid 20:00
To do the sexy things, we know that, but tech is probably not the best solution to transport woes, especially post

Carlton Reid 20:11
pandemic, and all sorts of reasons. So automotive deaths, and gridlock will not be banished by autonomous vehicles or electric cars. So for cities of the future, for them to be sustainable, truly sustainable to be resilient. For true mobility, we’re gonna have to boost bicycling, walking, and public transport. So I’m glad that we have touched on all those things. And can I actually ask a question? For me while while I’m on here, I would like to ask a question. But this is first of all to Francois because before the pandemic, I was doing stories on Luxembourg, because in Luxembourg

Carlton Reid 20:54
public transit was free. It was one of the first places where to get people out of cars was yes to have the the infrastructure cycling infrastructure Francois was talking about, but also to have public transport free. Now the pandemic clearly has knocked. As Francois said 80% public transports been knocked massively. But going forward, once the pandemics entered the way the question to Francois is, is it still gonna be free for public transport for public transit? And how are you going to get people back on to public transit when we know they’ve been really, really afraid to mix with people in close proximity?

Francois Bausch 21:41
Thanks for this question. And it’s a little bit also what you said already, the whole scenario that we had an enormous drop in using mass transit or public transport. But I’m really convinced that is only a momentum. And it’s the momentum of the pandemic, because we could observe this during two or three months in the last year’s because we had in Luxembourg, a lockdown that went from March to May. But from June to October, I would say that situation was nearly normal. And immediately, the figures in the public transport in mass transport when rushed up again. So I really I can’t, I’m convinced that at the end of this pandemic, and when we have it under control or ready, and that will be the case, during this year, I’m sure about this, because of the vaccines and so on, we will see that a society with very fast and very quick, really go up again, even I am very optimistic also even about the recovery of the economy. And what is interesting is

Francois Bausch 22:57
we continued during all the time to defend our mobility change plan that we launched seven years ago. And even if even knowing that attention during seven or eight months, was much lower, because everybody discussed only about the virus, immediately, I can feel that the discussion around mobility and mobility problems that we have in Luxembourg, also congestion problems because we have a very specific situation. by country we have, for example, 250,000 commuters coming from France, from Germany from begging everyday to work to Luxembourg. That poses an enormous problem in the mobility organisation. I’m convinced of what we started seven years in Luxembourg seven years ago in Luxembourg, with an enormous investment programme in to change the mobility system because I really wanted to underline this.

Francois Bausch 23:52
Technology is a tool. It is tool that we can use. But we must change the system, the mobility system. And I think I’m really optimistic that with what population has lived in the last year, it’s much easier, it would be much easier to discuss this than it was before before the pandemic

Femi Oke 24:11
That’s such a good point. I am going to panel, take some time for our delegates who have a lot of questions for you. So this is our plan.

Femi Oke 24:23
I will ask the question on behalf of the delegates, and you will come back with a very pithy response, which means that we can get a lot of questions into the rest of our session. So these are instant thoughts back to the delegates. Thank you very much for your cooperation on this one. I’m going to start in Addis Ababa, Madam Minister standby. This is from Wendy Jia. Wendy says that Addis deployed a bike lane during the COVID pandemic which was very popular. The city is moving ahead with corridor improvements, including bicycle lanes, bicycle parking, and

Femi Oke 25:00
widened sidewalks. I am smiling so wide now I am so gonna go cycling, if I can get to Addis sometime in the future. How did this go down? I love the idea of biking in Addis madam minister, quick response.

Femi Oke 25:15
How did you make that happen?

Dagmawit Moges 25:18
Thank you so much. Very Yes, we’re doing it with our partners, because we believe that this is one alternative that we need to provide to our people. Because when we were not able to utilise the public transport, we need to find ways to enhance the cycling culture in our people. So we started in the capital city. But we believe that we need to do a lot ahead. Even in urban areas, which is not the capital, there was a trend of cycling, but it was completely shifted within the five or five or seven years, we’re trying hard to bring back that culture. We started it with a competent, even in the capital, we need to extend the links that we have started, because at least there has to be accomplished circuit. If we have the smooth pedestrian and cycling links, we believe that no city is too large for our residents to use that option as mode of transport. So if we have to do that, if we are going to be able to do that, we’re going to address the supply and demand gap which is vividly visible in most developing urban centres just like ours. So yes, we started it, you’ll be most welcome to come and bike in Addis, and we’ll have even in other countries.

Femi Oke 26:41
This question is for you Carlton and it comes from Nirmal Shetty. Thank you Nirmal, it is nice to promote cycling, provided that they’re safe on the road. And the safety is addressed. There’s new road infrastructure can make provision for lanes for bikes and pedestrians. How can we address road safety in existing roads, it’s especially in low and middle income countries. I should say that Carlton is written a book all about bikes, Bike Boom.

Carlton Reid 27:12
Yes, thanks for the plug there, Femi. Can I actually go back to Ethiopia. Because when I was reading the Ethiopian non motorised transport strategy 2020 to 2029, there was a stat that jumped out at me. And that is Bahir Dar, the city, small city, and then that is obviously cycling their accounts for 90% of vehicle trips. So Ethiopia has a massive cycling culture, right now, in some cities. So in in those kind of places, they’re going to have to protect cycling.

Carlton Reid 27:46
from going away, not to increase cycling as such, it’s just to stop it going down from that amazing 90%. And I’m guessing I don’t know, because I haven’t been there. And I haven’t even seen photographs of this. But when you have 90% of vehicle movements are cyclists they clearly dominate the roads, cars can’t get past that must lead to an awful lot of friction from motorists who assume that they would have priority on roads.

Dagmawit Moges 28:21
Yes, Bahir Dar was one of the urban centres that we have in our country, which used to have large proportional cyclers in the city. But that’s not the case. Recently, in the five to seven years, because three wheelers, they came to the streets,

Dagmawit Moges 28:47
greenback, it was a culture, and we can bring it up, and we’re working towards that. So

Dagmawit Moges 28:55
as a developing country,

Dagmawit Moges 28:58
we believe that the option to access transport for our people, is by providing a kind of mode of transport, which is affordable for

Dagmawit Moges 29:11
cyclists and other

Dagmawit Moges 29:15
systems of transport, asked her to see

Dagmawit Moges 29:20
in our area of our country, having a cycle of her own and addressing the needs of her own by herself, after we have in the system, our country. So this is why I just want to

Dagmawit Moges 29:35
thank you.

Femi Oke 29:37
Thank you so much Madam Minister. Jürgen, your final closing words of hope and inspiration or what?

Jürgen Zattler 29:46
I started with a low note and that’s it’s not just the pandemic. It’s not just the health crisis.

Jürgen Zattler 29:55
It’s more than that. It’s really, really

Jürgen Zattler 30:00
The pandemic, pandemic shows that, that we put too much stress on the environment. And therefore the whole system is in a crisis. That’s a low note. But that’s an opportunity if you make aware this to your people, to your friends and so on, I think there can be something very, very positive we are human beings with own ideas and innovations. So, let us take that, that opportunity, let us make it cheap, you know, to go by bikr. That is let us let it make us make it attractive to think about how we can organise our cities that don’t go back to this passive role. Oh, it’s a crisis. And we we have to reestablish what we had before.

Femi Oke 30:58
Thank you so much. Claudia, how should we end?

Claudia Dobles Camargo 31:05
You I think the the main lesson learned for for us in Costa Rica is to live with complexity, and how we, policy makers, public policymakers need more flexible, need to respond faster, and in a closer way with different sectors in order to provide the most appropriate answer for any of our communities. So I think it has been a lesson to learn in terms of working together closer, in more in a more adaptive way. In obviously, we didn’t last hour north, which is how to create Costa Rica, a decarbonized decentralised and digitalized country, but make it more flexible or faster and closer to all the sectors in in in the country and internationally.

Femi Oke 32:02
Thank you.

Femi Oke 32:04
Carlton, it’s been invigorating, having you as my co presenter, my co-host, yyou think up smarter questions than I did. So kudos to that. Your final thought?

Carlton Reid 32:16
Present company excluded, but politicians around the world tend to be guilty of warm words about walking and cycling and other forms of active transport. I would like to see the cash. So that’s the important thing. We need the actual hard money: put it on the table and let’s get these modes moving.

Carlton Reid 32:37
Thanks to the World Bank and the World Resources Institute Ross Center in Washington DC for allowing me to rebroadcast some selected highlights from Friday’s Transforming Transportation conference. And thanks in particulate to Claudia Adriazola-Steil of WRI Ross Center’s Urban Mobility Program who invited me to take part. This has been episode 267 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Links can be found on And that’s also where you can find a new feature: a little recording widget with which you

Carlton Reid 33:24
can send us your comments or criticisms or ideas for future shows. Open the widget, press record and bob’s your uncle. The next show will be a one and half hour chat with mountain bike legend Gary Fisher — perhaps I can run some of your audio comments on that episode so get chatting about Gary or anything else you’d like to get across to the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast.

Carlton Reid 33:57
Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

January 29, 2021 / / Blog

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Friday 29th January 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 266: Move More With The Miracle Pill Author Peter Walker


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Peter Walker

TOPICS: A one-hour long conversation with Guardian political journalist Peter Walker talking about his new book, “The Miracle Pill.”


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 266 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Friday 29th 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 Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at 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 And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
Are you sitting comfortably? Bad, that’s bad. Get up pace around a bit. Maybe listen to this episode on a static trainer, treadmill or just standing up. I’m Carlton Reid. And on today’s show. I’m talking with Guardian political journalist Peter Walker, author of a landmark new book urging us to move more. The Miracle Pill came out last week, and it’s a wake up call for individuals and politicians alike. Now, Peter has got a great mic, but he was sitting a wee bit too close to it for the first half of this episode. So there are a tiny number of plopping plosives. Sorry about that. But we did fix it during the ad break. Now, I began our hour long conversation by pointing out Peter has a rather apt name.

Carlton Reid 2:02
My guest today has written a book called The Miracle Pill, which says that a certain body metric was devised by the pleasingly named Professor Lean. So Peter Walker, what should we make about your apt surname?

Peter Walker 2:22
Exactly. Or in my last book was a it was a it was a cycling books that didn’t really match. This isn’t a book about walking, but there’s more walking in it. So I’m gradually getting there.

Carlton Reid 2:31
Well, it’s it’s just there’s loads of walking in there because it’s it’s everyday active. Movement, not not just transport, but movement, maybe even fidgeting is good. So I’m fidgeting right now. I’m like, I’m like moving around. And with my shoulders. I’m going to click my, I’m just fidgeting. That’s good.

Peter Walker 2:48
Yes, it is good. I mean, whenever I do podcasts for for work, I always get told not to, you know, because in case he kind of jogs that kind of microphone or stuff like that, but I will start to move my legs up and down a little tiny bit. I mean, I’ve done a couple of other PR things for the book was actually kind of been upright on my, on my feet, for them, but I don’t think the audio setup would quite work for that.

Carlton Reid 3:08
Absolutely. I mean, I’ll let you into a secret here. It’s not that much of a secret, actually, because I put it on Twitter. But I when I was I got 90 pages through your book. And then I want Oh, kind of straighten my back, you know, improve my posture. That’s, that’s, that’s at least one thing. And then I thought, Well, I’m not going to walk around the house doing this, I can’t on a bike. So I actually because you sent me a PDF. So I took the PDF on my phone, took it downstairs, put it into the gap went into the garage, and actually rode a static bike for for 45 minutes while reading your book. And then when I came up back into my office and and read the rest of it on my big screen, I then actually stood up fantastic for quite a bit of extra money. So you’re this can be done. You can read books, you can do housework, you can do all the different things you can you need to do and you can you don’t have to do everything sitting down do you?

Peter Walker 4:06
There’s an audiobook too, there’s even audiobooks, you can listen to it whilst you walk or whatever

Carlton Reid 4:12
Who speaks that?

Peter Walker 4:13

Peter Walker 4:15
I was cheap. And I could I could do it.

Carlton Reid 4:18
So your book, walker, it’s not just about walking. It’s absolutely I mean, it’s not even hidden. It’s absolutely aboveboard. And it’s not a book about cycling. But there’s tonnes of cycling in everyday cycling. So you’re right, and I’m gonna quote you here. So I’ve been going through I’ve been yellow lining a lot of a lot of stuff here. So “imagine if you were a medical researcher and you discovered a drug, which would improve people’s health outcomes on the scale of cycle commuting. Well, a Nobel Prize winner more or less guaranteed.” So there’s a tonne of cycling in the book and you have really laying on thick to people. Do you think it’ll work? Do you think people who are not you know me, and you and

Carlton Reid 5:00
The people who are listening to this podcast Do you think they’ll get onto bikes because they’re they’re thinking, Peter speaks a lot of sense.

Peter Walker 5:06
I mean, the whole risk with a book like this is that in the short term, at least, it speaks to people who are already kind of in on this kind of thing. So I imagine a reasonable proportion of readers would be people who are active, I mean, hopefully, it’ll teach them things that they didn’t know, for example, about sitting downtime, which I wasn’t completely up to speed with, before reading the book, but I guess the thing to point out is, it’s not a book, which is meant to kind of tell you what to do. I mean, it’s a book that says, even if you do a little tiny bit more of movement in your life, then the benefits are really, really great. But it’s also making the point that a lot of it is about the kind of world in which we live in, which is not very, very easy to do this kind of stuff. So for example, you know, in normal non COVID times, the bulk of my kind of daily exertion is cycling to and from work, it’s only about three miles each way. But that’s about 40 minutes of like, moderate to vigorous exertion every single day, which is, you know, which is a good chunk.

Peter Walker 6:02
But that’s because I’m happy to kind of be out on even relatively quiet backroads with, you know, two tonne metal boxes going past me at 30 miles an hour, lots of other people would quite sensibly think, well, that’s just crazy. And so for millions of people that kind of opportunity to get daily activities kind of closed off. So it’s, it is about, you know, ultimately, whether or not you’re active is finally up to you. But I don’t want anyone to feel guilt, because there’s so many factors at play. And for lots of people, it’s just made extraordinarily difficult.

Carlton Reid 6:32
So you mentioned there that you’re, you’re happy with, with trucks and

Carlton Reid 6:40
what you’re used to it, sorry, you’re used to a good point. So you’re used to it, and part of the you’ve been used to it is because of your one of your previous careers. So tell us the trajectory. And this is a part that I didn’t know about, but tell us a trajectory for a 21 year old University administrator, then becoming London bike courier through to becoming we have actually mentioned what your

Carlton Reid 7:06
political journalist based in, in Westminster based in the Houses of Parliament, for The Guardian. So what happened? How did those three careers mesh?

Peter Walker 7:18
Well, I described the first bit in the book, that I kind of use myself as an example of how easy it is to kind of fall into this inactive life that, you know, like pretty much every kid I was quite active, I ran around and played football, I was passionate about football, even though I clearly wasn’t particularly good at it. I had asthma as a kid who was actually quite bad. But it didn’t stop me kind of dashing around the place. But again, as I explained in the book, as I got into my teenage years, I kind of lost touch with movement, I didn’t recycle, I didn’t own a bike for a reasonable number of years. And, and when I was at university, I kind of lost faith in my body to kind of do things like that. And I did this incredibly stable, but incredibly boring Graduate University administrator job, once I left university with no real idea what I wanted to do.

Peter Walker 8:05
And I suddenly gave it up, I was about 22, at the time to become a psycho career. And, you know, again, as explained in the book, it’s not quite clear why I did it. But one of the reasons seemed to be almost this unspoken idea of kind of challenging my, you know, physique and my body thinking, Well, you know, you’re young, if you want to pay the rent, you have to cycle as it turned out about 50 or 60 miles a day, every day to actually pay it.

Peter Walker 8:30
And I knew nothing about cycling at the time, I’ve not owned a bike for probably four or five years. And you know, I’d had a childhood one for my teenage years, which I had not taken with me when I when I left home.

Peter Walker 8:42
And so initially kicked myself out because this was, you know, the period when mountain bikes were very much kind of rage, I bought this very cheap and incredibly weighty mountain bike, which is kind of about the weight of a moped.

Peter Walker 8:54
and rotate around London, initially at quite a slow speed, but when you’re 22, you can adapt enormously quickly. So I soon became you know, really quite fit and it kind of transformed my life. It is this extreme example of, you know, kind of mega dosing the miracle pill from going from nothing to doing, you know, 300 miles a week. But effect on not just my kind of physical staples mentality was a completely transformative one, you know, very literally changed my life. And, obviously, you know, I don’t cycle nearly as much as that now. But I still kind of kept that feeling with me if this kind of joy of what it means to be kind of human by using your body in this very basic way. And, and in terms of being a journalist, well, this isn’t something I go into in the book, and I

Peter Walker 9:44
was out of the country for about three years. I lived in Australia for a bit in Sydney for some of it I did some more cycle querying. And basically when you’ve queried they’re going back to London, it’s a bit rubbish, you know, compared to like cycling over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a brilliant blue sky day.

Peter Walker 10:00
Compared to cycling down Bishopsgate, in the rain, it’s not quite the same.

Peter Walker 10:05
But I eventually got back to I mean, I was really, really into bikes then. So my return from Australia to the UK was mainly done by bike, I wouldn’t say I cycled the entire way, because me and my girlfriend, the time missed out some chunks we did about seven or 8000 miles.

Peter Walker 10:22
And I arrived back in the UK, aged about 2627, not knowing what I wanted what I wanted to do for a job. So I got work experience on local newspapers, and then did a postgraduate newspaper journalism course. And I was relatively old for doing I mean, most of the people doing the course, had come straight from you know, there are 2122, they’ve done an undergraduate course. And so I didn’t become a journalist. I was like, nearly 30. And then how did you get to the guardian? That was quite complicated. I mean, yes, I actually was quite late that when I went for the interview for the post grad course that I eventually did, one of the tutors said to me in a very kind of nice way, he said, Well, we’ve had people your age, you’ve kind of changed careers become journalists, we’ve never had anyone your age has actually had a career before now. And

Peter Walker 11:11
so I joined I took this particular course, because I had very, very strong links with the Press Association, who are now officially called PA Media, who were the UK national news agency, because the standard thing when you become a journalist to do a couple of years on local papers, but because I was older, and I wanted to stay in London, or move back to London, rather, I didn’t really want to do that. So the Press Association, eventually, after much badgering took me on and gave me a job. I was with them for three years. And then I worked for an Agence France Pressress, who are another with a big kind of three global news wise. I work for them in Hong Kong, in Beijing, briefly in Paris and back in London.

Peter Walker 11:55
And then I went freelance and did shifts at The Guardian website, as it was at the time was completely separate from the paper. And I was lucky enough to be there at the time when they needed people. So I got taken on. But that’s about over 10 years ago now.

Carlton Reid 12:08
And then politics, how did you get into the politics? But were you politics straightaway?

Peter Walker 12:13
No, no, no, I did kind of national international news, all sorts of stuff like that the politics happened about four years ago, there was a revamp of the political team, there’s a new political editor and deputy political editor team and I just got shifted over from the newsroom to work. I mean, I’ve always been interested in the political side. It was weirdly never my complete passion to do it. But it’s, you know, obviously a fascinating job to to do and the Guardian political team are incredibly lovely and really nice. I do miss not working, you know,

Peter Walker 12:45
side by side with them every day. We do kind of chat via WhatsApp and Zoom. That’s not quite the same.

Carlton Reid 12:50
So you do talk to politicians in your book, you kind of you know,

Carlton Reid 12:57
probably talking to them about something completely different. And then you’ve you’ve shoehorned in something about this. So there’s some fascinating interviews in the book with politicians. But But you call inactivity, a “normalised catastrophe,” and that “we live in a world redesigned to discourage movement” yet nevertheless, politicians refused to react meaningfully, you know, somehow fearing the nanny state. And so one of the interviews in your book, yeah, that one of the politicians absolutely comes out with the phrase nanny state, yet the reaction to COVID-19 has shown that even libertarian Tories — not all of them, obviously — but some can all of a sudden, at be in favour of state, you know, very, very statist stuff, state intervention in health. So, will it always require acting at state level? Do you think to bring movement back?

Peter Walker 13:54
I think it probably will. I mean, if we look at active travel, then you can, you know, have examples of where individual mayors or councils will do some good things. But for it to happen on a kind of Danish or Dutch level, you need national politicians to be committed to it for 20, 30, 40 years, you know, and that needs that kind of mindset. But it is a completely fascinating thing, because I was, you know, writing a book about a public health issue, which happened to coincide with the biggest public health crisis for, you know, maybe 100 years. And,

Peter Walker 14:28
you know, as you say, it’s completely completely fascinating thing that, you know, in the past, whenever I talked to civil servants or MPs, about this kind of thing, you know, lots of them knew about the subject and they’d go, yes, yes, this is really bad. And, you know, we’re trying to do something about it, but nothing really ever got done. And it remains to be seen, you know, how much COVID is going to change things because, you know, as you say, on a kind of cultural political level is blowing the doors wide open. You know, you can’t really complain about this kind of intervention is nanny state when you’re just building a few bike lanes, when you’re

Peter Walker 14:59
in effect you’ve literally shot the bulk of the country down for the entire year. And it’s not directly comparable, because

Peter Walker 15:07
I mean, you know, we’ve had about 100,000 COVID deaths in the UK now, there are about 100,000 estimated deaths from conditions linked to inactivity in the UK for you. However, you know, the Coronavirus death is with significant mitigation, it would have been a lot more if we just, you know, let it rip.

Peter Walker 15:24
But, you know, the inactivity death toll is every single year. But the difference is, I guess, is inactivity is not something that can be transmitted to other people. And also, it’s a much less kind of dramatic thing, it’s kind of a bit more like, I don’t know, car crashes, that when people died, no terrorism or car crashes, it’s obvious. Whereas, you know, if you get a 20, something who gets an office job, and then spends all their evenings watching box sets and doesn’t want me know, a couple of 1000 steps a day, then they might not feel the consequences of that inactivity for, you know, 20, 30, 40 years. And it won’t be a direct thing. It’ll be through things like, you know, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, potentially types of cancer.

Peter Walker 16:11
So it’s not quite so clear. In fact, it’s not nearly so clear, hmm.

Carlton Reid 16:15
You wrote your book, as you said, at a time when COVID was was absolutely in the news, and also went central government in the UK with Tories were being bullish at the central government Tories are being bullish about active travel and even splashing quite a bit of cash. And, and in your book, you thought this might be a positive sign of things to come. But you also gave a caveat. And you said that another possible future was one where people won’t jump on bikes because they’ll feel safest when driving and and I’m gonna quote you here. spooked other people will be spooked by gridlock. Cities could remove bike lanes and express platitudes about electric cars. Now it’s that second future that’s now looking more likely, isn’t it, especially as local government Tories, belittle and squash the suppose inverted commas war against motorists launched by national Tories. So what’s going on there between those as a political journalist and as somebody interested in active travel between those two impetuses in the Tory party?

Peter Walker 17:22
It’s a really interesting thing. And again, it’s this kind of clash between the national and the local level. And there’s all sorts of layers to it, because Boris Johnson is very much on board he believes in the cycling stuff, you know, as lots of listeners will know, when he was London mayor, he put in, you know, a handful of really quite good bike lanes against the opposition have lots of other kinds of local Tories whether MPs, councillors etc, etc. And, and he’s quite keen, he also had his kind of personal brush with fate when he got COVID very, very badly. And he kind of came out of it convinced that his weight was you know, one of the issues and and weight is an incredibly complicated thing when it comes to inactivity, because you have to do a vast amount of activity to maintain weight loss. But you know, there is a kind of counter argument that even if your BMI is a bit higher than what the doctors recommend, if you are active, your health outcomes get better anyway even if you don’t lose the weight. But Boris Johnson launch what was called this war against obesity, nothing really much has happened to I mean, there’s been some quite for the conservatives quite adventurous plans on things like buying buy one get one free office in supermarkets on junk foods, and not allowing chocolate bars and crispy sold by tills and things like that. And

Peter Walker 18:41
you have this issue that, you know, I think in the kind of spring lockdown of last year, a lot of people were basically fine with these, you know, temporary bike links being built, because there were virtually no motor traffic on the road. But even though we’re officially another lockdown, a lot of motor traffic has come back. And you have had all these examples of councils taking out bike lanes, which which were put into into place and, you know, coming into really quite severe battles with Number 10. And, you know, you had to have Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, kind of playing it both ways. I mean, a few months ago, he put out a kind of public letter to all councils, these are more about low traffic neighbourhoods, these things where, you know, we try and discourage car use by making short car trips that bit less easy. He

Peter Walker 19:33
kind of gave a stop to the kind of anti low traffic neighbourhood people by saying, you know, they have to be trialled properly you have to listen to locals. But he also kind of quite interesting, he said, but you can’t just you know, you have to make sure you find out what locals really think. You can’t just kind of pull out a low traffic neighbourhood remotely because you have a handful of people who were like shouting, and that’s quite interesting and it’s it’s hard to know where it’s going to go. I mean, one of the issues is that Boris Johnson has got a lot

Peter Walker 20:00
on his plate, and much as he might potentially be interested in this kind of stuff, and I generally don’t know how much he is now, then, you know, his officials and civil servants will put 10 other briefing papers on top of those, you know, on his desk first.

Peter Walker 20:16
And my sense of Grant Shapps is that Grant Shapps, you know, talks to talks and does and does what Number 10, you know, says he’s a very kind of loyal minister from that point of view. But I think he’s a kind of electric car type. He is someone who likes kind of high tech stuff, he’s a man for kind of big projects, he, you know, he’s kind of very much into things like HS2. And building bike lanes is a little bit boring. So I think unless he’s kind of kept in check by Downing Street, if that’s what they want to do, then you will have this kind of slippage.

Carlton Reid 20:50
So inactivity isn’t just bad — I’ll stretch my back here, I’m gonna, I’m gonna stand up, no doubt in a minute and talk to you — so it’s not just bad for individuals, it’s bad for everybody, because of the pressure on the NHS and on social care. So tell us about I’ve heard of this before, but it’s it was cute to see it in your book. Anyway, tell us about the Barnet Graph of Doom.

Peter Walker 21:12
The Barnet Graph of Doom, yes, the most frightening PowerPoint presentation you will ever see in your life. And this is connected to Adult Social Care, which is mainly older people where councils

Peter Walker 21:24
need to provide care for older people who can’t look after themselves, where they’re not, you know, they don’t have like relatives to care for them, or they’re not in a kind of private home or anything like that.

Peter Walker 21:35
And basically, some councils bigger councils have a statutory duty to provide

Peter Walker 21:41
care for both children, which is a smaller percentage of the budget, but to older adults. And that takes up a massive, massive amount of lots of council’s budgets to the point that they can’t really afford much more. I remember this was a few years ago, when there were local council elections, speaking to the leader of

Peter Walker 21:59
one reasonably large Council and him saying to me that I quoted a figure in a book by he can’t quite remember what the percentage are. But he said in something like since last council elections, like, you know, three or four years earlier, the proportion of the council spend going on Social Care had gone up from something like 25 to 50%, or 25, to 40%. And the Barnet Graph of Doom was done by the then head of finance at Barnet Council in North London. And it’s a kind of a simple extrapolation, it had all these kind of

Peter Walker 22:33
rising blocks, which is part of the chart, which show the projections for spending on Adult Social Care. So I think it’s actually on all social care, but mainly Adult Social Care, you know, for 15,20 years into the into the future. And it also had a line plotted against those, which was the kind of declining total of what the council’s budget was. And at some point in the 2020s, they they would meet, which would basically mean that apart from Adult Social Care, there’d be no money for anything, not for parks, not for libraries, not for all the other things that counsellors do. And, you know, the author of this of this a guy called Andrew travers, who’s now moved, cancelled, admits it’s a kind of oversimplified model, but it’s intended to, you know, show what the strain is. And the connection to inactivity is that,

Peter Walker 23:20
you know, it’s a kind of good problem to have in a country like Britain, medical advances mean that people aren’t really dying young in general from these inactivity related

Peter Walker 23:31
ailments, like diabetes, type 2, high blood pressure, some cancers. And, you know, they can ask me live quite long, but they might spend 10, or even 20, 30 years with a whole series of kind of interlinked medical conditions, which, you know, require drugs, which cost a lot, and also, you know, other medical interventions, which cost, you know, an awful lot, and as a pressure on the NHS, but for social care, it means that the healthy life expectancy, you know, as it as it’s kind of cool, is, is going down so people are living longer and longer, but the gap between their lifespan and how long they can look after themselves is getting bigger and bigger. And that costs, you know, so much to the extent that, you know, if you speak to people about this, they’ll say that inactivity and obesity to a certain extent, but the two are very much linked. If an activity isn’t tackled, then at some point, both the NHS and Adult Social Care as we know, it will not necessarily be, you know, viable even.

Peter Walker 24:33
There is also some, you know, much more kind of uplifting stuff in the book!

Carlton Reid 24:37
Yes, there are, and we’ll get onto that, in fact, we’ll get onto that after the break. So part of that we’ll be talking about Slovenia and Finland, so countries that are actually

Carlton Reid 24:47
making a difference and how they got people to move more. But at first, let’s cut to that commercial break. So over to you, David.

David Bernstein 24:56
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much and it’s always my pleasure to talk about our

Unknown Speaker 25:00
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Carlton Reid 26:22
Thanks, David. And we are back with Guardian journalist and Miracle — there’s a there’s a an article there isn’t it says that The Miracle Pill author, Peter Walker, so if you don’t ask me to talk before the break, what exactly did Slovenia which is a surprise and Finland do to get their citizens over many, many years moving more?

Peter Walker 26:48
Well, the Finns have got a very kind of strong preventative public health, ethos. And, and a lot of it is aimed at kids as well as getting kids you know, kind of cycling or walking to and from school, they do some quite innovative things with that one of the people I talked to was an someone who who helps to run this programme called finish schools on the move. And one of the things that they did was they fitted a whole bunch of kids brought fitted gave them these kind of inexpensive video cameras so they could video their walks or cycles into school. And then they could, you know, point out, you know, where we felt dangerous, where they didn’t like, doing it. So the local councils could be told. And it’s also about movement in schools too. So they do all these kind of things like, I know, for younger kids in math lessons, if they’re going to count, they can count by doing a squat, or they can jump up and down or they can sit on a board rather than a chair.

Peter Walker 27:48
And they have this kind of commitment to getting kids as active as they can. And be you know, they’ve been doing this for an awfully long time, they have this kind of law, which mandates a certain amount of facilities connected to sport. And there is again, the status of book I can’t remember. But it’s something like one sports facility for every couple of 1000 people.

Peter Walker 28:10
And you know, Finland is a place where the taxes are quite high. And they invest a lot of stuff in that, you know, the Finnish education system is already well known as being quite good. And to an extent, this is part of it. And the Slovenians were more interesting, so I didn’t know much about you know, what they do. But um, there is this report card, you know, as its as its Terminus, kind of ongoing research project into which countries in the world are better at kind of movement in kids. And England gets something like a C, where the very bad scores of active travel, partly kind of help with the fact that there’s a reasonable to sport and English schools, but that’s about as good as many countries get, you know, lots of them are kind of Ds and E’s I think Scotland gets a D. But Slovenia, I think got an A-minus,

Peter Walker 29:00
which was completely amazing. And

Peter Walker 29:03
it turns out that Slovenia claims with some credence to be the only country in the world where childhood obesity levels are actually falling. And, to an extent, this kind of goes against the, you know, everyday movement ethos of the book is is quite sports based. But you know, there is an argument that with kids, you know, it’s slightly different because sports for kids is just kind of fun and play anyway, it’s not like this kind of, you know, grim jog around the park that adults will, you know, you know, sometimes do and, and they have this, what you have kind of two completely could be a fascinating thing, one of which is this commitment to

Peter Walker 29:43
equip schools. It’s basically all the sports equipment they could possibly need. So, I can’t remember exactly what it is, but it’s something like every school has an indoor sports facility and an outdoor one. And they have a commitment to X number of hours of PE every week, and also a commitment every day.

Peter Walker 30:00
People get the chance to go on, you know, reasonably regular daily kind of sports days off. And you’ll have these like summer camps or old like military bases, where the kids can do any sport they want, they can do kind of, you know, mountaineering, hiking, tennis, all that kind of stuff.

Peter Walker 30:17
But they also have this kind of monitoring programme, which has been going on for about 3040 years, where every school kid in the country, and I think in every year group does this kind of battery of tests. It’s like a run over a certain distance and arm hanging, there’s about 20 tests. And because they’ve got so much data on it, it’s all this kind of centrally accessible database, you can get kids who compare themselves against their parents. And it was really, really quite tricky, but it is saying that some parents, you know, think, oh, my goodness, I wasn’t particularly sporty, but my kids much worse than I was, you know, I maybe you need to do more.

Peter Walker 30:55
But again, it’s, you know, if the Finnish model is this kind of slightly Scandinavian social democratic model, this Slovenian one actually does have this slightly communistic feeling. And it did, you know, begin under the communist

Peter Walker 31:10
era, but they kept it kept going this kind of central planning. But, you know, they’ve made a commitment to and it seems to be working really well. And you mentioned, you know, sporting facilities.

Carlton Reid 31:20
And, of course, famously, a lot of our schools got rid of their fields. Yes.

Peter Walker 31:25
Well, exactly. That’s it. And, and you have this issue, which is, again, something I mentioned a lot in the book, that

Peter Walker 31:34
British governments and British type governments tend to frame inactivity as a kind of, factor of personal responsibility or personal willpower.

Peter Walker 31:45
You know, and obviously, there’s an element to it, you know, as I said before, if you want to be actively active is ultimately down to you. But, you know, it’s much much bigger than that if you do sell off all the sports fields, it not only stops kids at school, being able to you know, play sports, but it’s much more difficult for kids that weekends or out of school otherwise just to you know, sneak on and have a game of football or run around or things like that. And and you know, that’s where we get back to this whole thing of if you want fundamental change, you have to start thinking about

Peter Walker 32:18
you know, central government stuff but again, this is stuff that doesn’t only happen or bring results over years it takes decades.

Carlton Reid 32:27
You talk in your book about movement trackers, you placed on on Amish not on you. Because there you do talk about the ones that you do on yourself the Sens one and stuff. But these are the trackers placed on Amish people yes, and how they do a tonne of inadvertent healthy exercise each day.

Carlton Reid 32:46
But if we kind of like look at this country, if we’re looking at America, if we’re looking at most places, probably

Carlton Reid 32:52
people don’t really want to use a mangle instead of a tumble dryer, or walk or cycle somewhere close when it’s easy to jump in a car. And that’s even when there’s a great bike lane that that put in and we know that because cities are veined, very often veined, especially in the UK with great footways. But there’s still too few walking on them. So you’re selling us a future of wearing

Carlton Reid 33:21
hair shirts, Peter

Peter Walker 33:22
I’m absolutely not doing that. And I’m, again, at great pains to point out that, you know, one of the reasons which is undeniably true that there’s less everyday activity in the world is devices which save a lot of incredibly tedious labour. I mean, for women, mainly, you know, no one’s saying we should go back to this era of manual rug beating and clothes washing and things like that. But we have to be creative and to give opportunities for active travel, you know where we can, and that whole Amish mission or not quite sure what the best way is to say their name. That whole study is interesting because

Peter Walker 34:01
activity research is obviously interested in what kind of previous populations what kind of levels of movement they’d have done, but you know, they can’t travel back in time.

Peter Walker 34:10
But the Amish live in this kind of recognise be 19th century way with no mechanisation and horse and carts and stuff. So they managed to persuade a group of, I think the Canadian Amish to wear these activity trackers. And the interesting thing is that whilst you know anyone who’s watched you know, films and TV series about them know that the Amish aren’t allowed to own the kind of modern

Peter Walker 34:33
high tech things. They were allowed to use them. So you know, they so they had these activity trackers kind of clipped onto their trousers and

Peter Walker 34:42
slightly difficult the men are not allowed to wear belts and the amount of walking that they do, you know, in this kind of everyday life, I think the most one person didn’t one day was like 40,000 steps which about 20 miles. This is kind of a picture of what life was like.

Peter Walker 35:00
In the past, where exercise was the kind of redundant concept you had, you know, everyday activity, and then you had rest. And, you know, and no one’s saying, unless you know, people want to that you should go back to that. But at the same time, there has to be this recognition that, you know, this gradual creep of everything roofing in activity from our world, he knew from the point of view that, you know, maybe 10 years ago, people would have this very routine thing of walk into the cinema or walk into a restaurant. Now you can get a takeaway summoned by an app and stream of film. And all these things are convenient, and in many ways, good, but there are consequences. You know, and the consequences are that people’s overall activity levels are dropping and dropping, and we somehow need to be creative and not to make it this kind of penance. You know, that’s what the whole exercise thing is about. A lot of people join gyms because they feel guilt, you know, feel like, you know, shame almost. And that’s why, you know, a lot of people don’t go to gyms there is, I talked to someone who, who is a kind of analyst in the fitness industry. And he was saying to me that the business model of lots of gyms is basically these people called

Peter Walker 36:08
sleepers, who are people who get a gym membership, but simply never go. And that’s like one in 10, they kind of reckon.

Peter Walker 36:15
And the solutions are not that clear. And it depends, you know, on each person, but you have to just find a way to,

Peter Walker 36:23
you know, make it more convenient to to move and I’m lucky enough to be able to, you know, ride a bike, because that gets me where I wanted to go, you know, quicker than any other means. But for other people, it’s gonna be much more tricky.

Carlton Reid 36:34
So ebikes are another Yes, labour saving device, yet you heartily — pun intended — recommend them in your book. So why?

Peter Walker 36:45
it’s because the studies, you know, and the studies are relatively new, because ebikes haven’t been around, particularly mass use for all that long. Their studies indicate that people do get a lot of physical activity benefit from E bikes, I mean, this is all based on the kind of legal UK EU definition of an E bike, which is, you know, pedal assisted bicycle, we have to pedal to get it going, you’re limited to 50 miles an hour, etc, etc, etc. And, you know, the thing is, I’ve written e bikes, and they are brilliant. And it is possible to do minimal amounts of work just to have you know, the kind of power gauge up to maximum and not go that quickly. And, but the studies show that whilst mile for mile people expend less energy and do less exertion on a bike, they actually tend to, you know, cycle much greater distances, you know, because they’re more likely to say cycling to work five days a week. And, and so the overall amounts of

Peter Walker 37:44
activity gained for people on ebikes was not that dissimilar to those people riding normal bikes. And, you know, obviously, they just opened up this whole chapter, because lots of people who wouldn’t necessarily want to ride normal bike, they might have a hilly commute or a long one might do it with an E bike. So you know, they are genuinely really good things.

Carlton Reid 38:04
So I’ve got an Apple Watch. And when I go for the Saturday croissant, and it’s, you know, I deliberately make it a bit further away, because the nice, particularly nice croissant riding,

David Bernstein 38:16
Yeah, totally. But it’s actually building it, making it deliberately a long way to go and to go and get it. So when I go on an electric bike, and when I go on a standard bike, that, that what my Apple Watch tells me afterwards, like the exertion levels, it isn’t that much different. So it takes about I get basically half an hour of hard exercise, whether I do it on electric, interesting. On a standard bike, however, I think I am being a bit unusual in that I’ll hammer on an electric bike. And then if I hammer, I’m probably not actually using the motor that much anyway,

Carlton Reid 38:54
except among a very steep hills, because if you as you said before, if you go over that that speed threshold, the mode is meant to be cutting out anyway.

David Bernstein 39:04
But you can conversely to that you can if you want to just go very slowly and and let it do more for you. So it does depend on how much you actually want to put into it. You don’t have to be a slothful person to get an E bike you can still be a mega fit person and still

Carlton Reid 39:25
get health benefits out of an E bike.

Peter Walker 39:28
Yes, you can. And you know conversely, you’ll get someone like you who kind of you know rights as hard as you can, you will get people who won’t get you know, a huge amount of exertion from an E bike but the stats seem to show that studies seem to show that overall people do tend to get some you know, exertion from it. And you know, it could be for sorts of reasons it could be people deliberately fitness having a power setting low it could just be you know riding a bike is a lot of fun and 50 miles an hour on the kind of little

Peter Walker 40:00
long flat road might actually not actually feel that fast after a while, so people do keep on pedalling after the motors cut and might not even realise it. And it can be all sorts of reasons. Or it could just be the fact that, you know, the mini exertions, of having to pedal the bike, even for a bit just to start off from traffic lights, or up hills or things like that. If you’re more regularly say, you know, doing a seven mile ride, rather than doing nothing or doing a three mile ride, then it all, you know, adds up.

Carlton Reid 40:29
I mean, that’s one of the key things I’ve taken away from your book, basically, that the Tesco

Carlton Reid 40:34
motto, you know, Every Little Helps, you know, literally fidgeting is good. You know, moving a little bit is just, it’s, it’s good. So electric bikes, you know, even visiting your leg spinning? Well, that is good in itself.

Peter Walker 40:53
With the fidgeting, it’s a slightly

Peter Walker 40:58
kind of nice point. But the fidgeting stuff is that’s part of the chapter on on obesity and inactivity. And there’s a study which showed that people who fidget can often eat more without gaining as much weight. Now, if you talk to an activity, scientists fidgeting itself might not get you into the zone of moderate physical activity, which is officially seen as a trigger for what you need to get the real kind of health boosts. And moderate can be like a brisk walk or kind of gentle gardening, housework, etc, etc. If you’re sat down, you’re probably not getting to that level unless you’re really really juggling your legs round. But the converse to that is that, you know, the kind of ethos always used to be has to be moderate has to be vigorous. And if you’re doing moderate, it has to be at least 150 minutes a week, you know, ideally broken up into 530 minute chunks. But

Peter Walker 41:56
when you talk to experts, they basically say that the reason that those kind of guidelines were put in wasn’t because smaller amounts of of exertion weren’t good for us to see is very difficult to measure them, you know, before you had these sophisticated electronic trackers, but now they’re finding the you know, the advisor change, they say, even 10 minutes at a time will do you some good. And, you know, it doesn’t, it’s still the advice is to go for moderates. So there is some evidence if you’re walking really slowly, it doesn’t do you a vast amount of good. But you know, moderate is also a kind of relative thing. There was a study on older American women, which found that those who did you know, about four and a half 1000 steps a day have basically pottering around not walking particularly fast, had half the kind of early death risk of those who did about 2000. So, you know, it depends really, but you know, the kind of health warning stroke caveat to add is that just sitting down and fidgeting might mean you gain less weight, but it might not necessarily, you know, improve other odds.

Carlton Reid 43:03
In the book, you you said you you borrowed a Garmin and said you because the the 50 pound limit of what journalists can accept as gifts that you can possibly buy it did. Did you in the end didn’t actually say whether you did or did you actually get the watch?

Peter Walker 43:19
I still have it is not on my wrist? No, because if I sit down for too long, it beeps. So before this podcast I took it off is now sitting at the other side of the room. But what actually is totally to do this is a kind of audio reminder, I need to do I need to get in touch with wiggle who lent stroke gave it to me and basically say, you know, is there a charity to whom I could, you know, give an appropriate amount for the watch. Because my plan was to give it to the guardians Christmas raffle, they have this annual thing where kind of gifts which people can’t keep put into a kind of metaphorical pot and garden staff, buy raffle tickets and then kind of potentially get one of the prizes and raise a lot of money for whatever charity and but there obviously wasn’t one this year. And also I kind of got used to wearing it. So

Peter Walker 44:07
I never thought about wearing any kind of activity watch which I find it quite useful.

Carlton Reid 44:12
I’m not a watch wear at all. I’ve never been a watch wearer

David Bernstein 44:17
normally, but now I’m an religious watch wearer and that’s because of the Apple Watch. So I mean quite a powerful, incredibly useful things for for somebody like a cyclist. If you kind of crash it will alert somebody it will it will last it will I mean I fell off a wall the other day and not cycling I hasten to add just walking, and I could feel my risk going dude, dude, dude, dude, you’ve got to tell us that you’re okay. Otherwise we’re calling the police. And so just that thing and then you kind of you’ve got if you’ve got a heart condition, you know, the latest ones I haven’t got the latest one, but the latest one will tell you.

Carlton Reid 44:56
You know, something’s wrong with your heart and you’ve got it sorted out. It tells you

David Bernstein 45:00
oxygen saturations which is useful for Coronavirus. If you don’t, then you know, you need to know your oxygen saturations. All good stuff. But it’s just the fact that it, it tells me how much movement I’m doing. And I’ve always been dead fit also done stuff anyway. But this will now prompt me not not prompt me, as in, it’ll beep and tell me just I’m looking at it. And I’m thinking, see, I’ve got to do a bit more here. And I will look at the amount of steps and we’ll look at how much I’ve done. And I will then do more. So just by getting the watch, I’ve done more, but we didn’t mention your book. And I don’t know how much you know about this is

David Bernstein 45:40
I got the Apple Watch via as a plug here by Vitality. So Vitality is a form of life insurance where otherwise, yes, yes, like money off, if you can prove to your insurer that you’re dead fit. So it’s in their interests for you to get fit. So there’s all sorts of incredibly good deals on getting a watch. And then if you get a certain amount of points per day of activity, you get, you get points, they build up, for instance, I get my, my Amazon Prime paid for by my activity levels, I get free coffees, if I don’t collect them at the moment. But if when i when i was going into coffee shops, I would get free coffee.

David Bernstein 46:29
These are not huge things. in the scheme of things you have 78 pounds for Amazon Prime couple of quid for coffee, etc. But it just it’s just these little nudge things is just oh, well, if I do one minute more of exercise, I get a coffee tomorrow. It’s that kind of stuff. So you know, I know you were saying before, we weren’t saying before, it’s a state thing, not an individual thing. Yet, the Vitality method, and the nudge method might mean it, it is an individual thing in that you’ve got to be motivated to do these things. And this can get you to do stuff. So there is an awful lot of individual

Carlton Reid 47:09
individuality things in in in, in getting people moving more, yes?

Peter Walker 47:16
Yes, there there is. I mean, again, the kind of one caveat, I’d say is that you, you know, you said yourself even before getting the watch, you were very fit, you’ve always done a lot, you know, this kind of stuff, it’s not just you need to do more. And perhaps the same is true for me, you know, my fitness is basically since became a biker, it’s been above average. And certainly, up until lockdown, I was always like cycling around everywhere, which took care of most things.

Peter Walker 47:41
And getting this Garmin, which it hasn’t got as many features as yours. But it does give me this kind of quite accurate daily

Peter Walker 47:47
step count, which is very useful. There’s times, you know, when I’m not going into an office where I can look up at 3pm, I’ve taken like two or 3000 steps. So that makes me think oh, my goodness, I should go for a walk or bike ride later.

Peter Walker 48:00

Peter Walker 48:01
I’m not sure if just giving something like that to someone who’s completely inactive. And saying make sure you get over 5000 steps a day

Peter Walker 48:11
is going to do it. I mean, the problem isn’t a lack of knowledge about the health impacts. Most people, you know, if asked will know that being active is good for you. A lot of people will have heard certainly of 10,000 steps a day, you know, quite a lot will have heard of 150 minutes a week. But it’s just for a lot of people. It’s not very easy. And you know, I think it is interesting, this idea of this kind of commercial pressure. So insurance companies saying you know, you’ll get money off if you do that. It’s the same way, I guess at some car insurance, if cheaper if people agree to have a GPS tracker, you know, and they can drive in a safe way.

Peter Walker 48:49

Peter Walker 48:50
I think for the majority of people, that’s not necessarily going to do it, you know, I could be proved wrong. And it could be that, you know, the situation gets so grave that that, you know, it costs literally, I don’t know, a quarter of as much to get life insurance if you do have one of those things. But, but you’re still faced with a problem that, you know, if you have someone who lives nowhere near a bike lane, they’ve not been active for years. And they get told Well, you know, you can save 200 quid a year if you’re active. How do they do it? You know, it’s a bit more complicated.

Carlton Reid 49:23
That’s my that’s my hat that noise you might be hearing is a dog crunching on her bone. And the reason I mentioned that is because I walk more now because I can have of having a dog. So in your book, you mentioned gardening, you mentioned walking you mentioned cycling, nowhere in the book do you mention it’s really good to get a dog? So do you do not have a dog?

Peter Walker 49:52
I don’t I mean it fits in under walking. And one of the interesting things is though again, it

Peter Walker 50:00
Or what kind of work you do. There is a study which inactivity expert in the US told me about which I’ve never been able to track down since I need to email her and find out what the what the link is to it. But she told me about a study which said that I can remember where in the us it was done. But it discovered that people who own dogs were actually marginally fatter than people who didn’t on average, because they thought they were getting exercise. But what they were doing, were walking to the park, standing there with their friends while they ran around and then walking back. So so you know, again, it’s a bit complicated, I’m sure you marched very brisk pace with your with your dog. But some people don’t, you know, and obviously, all things being equal having a dog is can be better for you than not, he does. You know, mean, you do need to actually leave you to go outside and do stuff.

Peter Walker 50:50
But you know, yes, there’s all sorts of reasons. There’s all sorts of ways you can do that. If you can’t have a dog or don’t like dogs, you know, you can just try and walk to your shops, you know, this. There’s this one quote, which I kind of use near the end of the book, which is by a guy called Professor Steven Blair, who is now retired us activity expert. And I was asking everybody, you know, I talked to you, what activity do you do? How do you kind of straight try and stay active? And he had said something like, you know, my slightly simple minded answer is to find the activity that you enjoy doing, and just keep on doing it. And that’s the kind of thing is going to be different for every person.

Carlton Reid 51:26
So could I got an eight and a half, like you, my wife, and my 23 year old daughter both got 10s.

Peter Walker 51:35
So explain, can I can I just point out, factually, I don’t want to correct you on the book. But I’m also claiming a 10. It was the it was the

Peter Walker 51:45
the doctor who invented the test, you’ve got an eight and a half, I’m just attends to will probably not for much longer.

Peter Walker 51:53
But I make the point that my legs are so inflexible, I don’t know how much longer I can do it.

David Bernstein 51:59
Well, so explain the sit stand test. And and I will put it in the show links, I’ll put the video that you talked about in the book. So I mean, basically, it’s, it’s, it’s on some videos, not just connected to this, this particular doctor, but in other ones, you know, people quite introduced a quite in a scary way, and that this will predict when you die.

Peter Walker 52:20
Well, a lot of people know about variants of like the chair test, which is this kind of test of how well you’re going to age where you know, you have to

Peter Walker 52:30
cross your arms crossed your shoulders and sit down and stand up on a chair a certain number of times, and then you have to consult charts, so how good you are for your age, or things like that. And that’s quite complicated. It depends on things like the height of the chair compared to the person etc.

Peter Walker 52:44
But this Brazilian doctor came up with his kind of all purpose tests, which he calls a Sit-Rise test. And basically, you have to find a kind of clear patch about two metres square, where kind of close you can move around it. And the instruction is something like, sit down completely on the floor, and then stand up using as little assistance as possible. And if you’re like a ballet dancer, you basically cross your legs and, you know, sit down like a bird on your on your bum. And then immediately kind of elegantly get back up again. And if you can do both those you score a 10. But you lose points for like wobbling on the way down, or you lose points for using a hand push yourself up.

Peter Walker 53:28
And there’s other kinds of more nuanced rules that if, when you are on a floor, you’re not allowed to, to get up, you’re not allowed to use the kind of edges of your feet, it’s the kind of lever has to be the flat soles of your feet to push yourself up. And

Peter Walker 53:42
this is intended to measure all sorts of things. So in a kind of direct way images, your flexibility, it measures the strength of your legs or some inches measures the power of your legs, you know, he power to kind of do that initial push. But it kind of indirectly measures other things like you know, your balance your weight compared to strength and things like that. And

Peter Walker 54:06
this doctor had done it just as a test and had recorded the scores of people and their ages and medical records. But some researchers kind of cross referenced his results with basically the death records of his patients who’ve gone on to a diet and there was this astonishingly close correlation between a low score and and how likely people were to die quite soon. If you had a score, I think it was less than three, then your chances of dying were roughly the same as if you had certain types of cancer. Whereas more or less whatever your age if you could do a kind of certainly a 10 or eight 9, 10 then your chances were really pretty good. And it’s worth watching the video just to see what you’re meant to do but it’s actually completely addictive. And I

Carlton Reid 54:52
did it I shouldn’t I saw the video and and then got eight and a half. My wife didn’t see the video and just went Yeah, did it up again.

Carlton Reid 55:00
Like, how did you know that that’s so

Carlton Reid 55:03
was my daughter who was actually a, she’s a fitness trainer, amongst many other things that she does. She used to, she didn’t watch the video either. And she’s completely different technique, but I think she was using a bit more of edge of foot. So I’m gonna mark her down,

Peter Walker 55:18
I’m gonna give her give her a chance to actually sleep give her a chance to do with over the feet flat. I mean, the the thing which I mentioned in the book, it’s kind of interesting for everybody how they do it. So I’m still just about able to do it on, you know, maybe I might be docked to nine and a half. But I like to think I can do a attend. But a lot of that is just like many people who ride bikes, I’ve got relatively powerful legs, you know, for my size and weight. But I’m also not very flexible in my legs. So I basically need to stretch a lot more or in the coming years. I’m gonna, you know, start dropping down the scale.

Carlton Reid 55:54
Yeah, this is what my daughter is talking about her hip flexors, you know that hip flexor is dreadful in cyclists.

Peter Walker 56:00
Definitely. Well address in lots of people, basically, you sit down a bit too long. You know, there is this theory that the kind of epidemic of back pain around lots of countries like Britain is because people’s hip flexors have just shortened over the years because they sit down too much. and that in turn affects the way you know that you stand in effects your your your your back, which is yet another reason to, you know, sit less and walk more.

Carlton Reid 56:22
So Peter, where can people get your book? And where can they find you on social media apart from the cause, following your your Westminster

Carlton Reid 56:36
tales on the Guardian,

Peter Walker 56:38
They can get the book from any good bookshop, whether it’s Amazon or the, which

Peter Walker 56:46
groups together lots of local book shops. It’s published by Simon and Schuster, and it was out last week. And in terms of following me, I mean, yes, I’ve got a profile page at The Guardian, which is very easy to find. I’m mainly social media wise on Twitter, which is @PeterWalker99. It’s such a common name, I had to add the numbers at the end.

Carlton Reid 57:06
Well, Peter, thank you ever so much for taking the time today.

Peter Walker 57:10
It’s a great pleasure. Thank you for so many interesting questions.

Carlton Reid 57:14
Thanks to Peter Walker, author of The miracle pill. This has been episode 266 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Links can be found on The next show will be a one a half hour chat with mountain bike legend Gary Fisher, and the show after that will be an hour with World Champion Masters cyclist Sylvan Adams, the billionaire who is bankrolling the Israel Startup Nation pro cycling team and also pumping cash into transport cycling in Tel Aviv. Both those shows will air in February. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.