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April 4, 2021 / / Blog

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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

SPONSOR: Jenson USA

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.)

LINKS:

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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 Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the- spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:09
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 Forbes.com). 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
Yeah.

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
And

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 urbancyclinginstitute.com 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-spokesmen.com. 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

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.

21st March 2021


The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast


EPISODE 270: Streets for kids


SPONSOR: Jenson USA


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

LINKS:
New Cycling

Play Meet Street

TRANSCRIPT:

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 Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
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
lWell,

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 the-spokesmen.com 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

SPONSOR: Jenson USA

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.

LINKS:

Urban Playground by Tim Gill

Rethinking Childhood blog.

Graphic by PlayMeetStreet North Tyneside/Brightwayz/Playongout

TRANSCRIPT:

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 Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
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
Yes.

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
Indeed.

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 RIBAbooks.com. 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 rethinkingchildhood.com. 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 the-spokesmen.com. 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

SPONSOR: Jenson USA

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.

LINKS:

“Being Gary Fisher,” Bluetrain Publishing.

TRANSCRIPT:

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 Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen..

Carlton Reid 1:08
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
basically,

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
Yes.

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
But

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 the-spokesmen.com. 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

SPONSOR: Jenson USA

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS:

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

TOPICS:

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.

TRANSCRIPT:

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 Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the Spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:07
“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 Forbes.com. 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 the-spokesmen.com. 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

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.

Friday 29th January 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 266: Move More With The Miracle Pill Author Peter Walker

SPONSOR: Jenson USA

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.”

TRANSCRIPT:

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 Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
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
Me.

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
advertiser, this is a long time loyal advertiser, you all know what I’m talking about. It’s JensonUSA at Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jenson is the place where you can get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices and what really sets them apart. Because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there. But what really sets them apart is their unbelievable support. When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors and these are cyclists I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who who ride their bikes to and from work. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check them out. Jenson USA, they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen, we thank them so much for their support. And we thank you for supporting Jenson USA. All right, Carlton, let’s get back to the show.

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
But

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
But

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 bookshop.org, 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-spokesmen.com. 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.

January 25, 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.

Monday 25th January 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 265: Desert Skies, Warm Showers and Church Bells

SPONSOR: Jenson USA

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Donna Tocci and Sylva Florence

TOPICS: Solo cycle touring. Donna and Carlton chat with Sylva who — among many other bike trips — rode solo from Berkeley, California to St. Augustine, Florida on Adventure Cycling’s Southern Tier Route. Carlton was in Newcastle, Donna was in Boston and Sylva was in — as you will hear thanks to some melodious bells — a small town in Italy.

LINKS:

Sylva’s website: The Sylva Lining

Sylva on Instagram

Warm Showers hosting

“Penny” — Sylva’s bike, a Dahon Tournado

“Dirty South”

242km Tour des Stations, Switzerland

Everesting

Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge

Carlton’s Kickstarter tips for crowdsourcing a book or other projects

Our show sponsor: Jenson USA

TRANSCRIPT:

Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to episode 265 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was published on Monday 25th January 2021

David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
I’ve got a good mic but have yet to fully soundproof my home office so if you listen carefully you may be able to hear, as the white noise beneath my voice, birdsong and the distant rumble of traffic but later in this not-quite-an-hour-long show you won’t be craning your neck to hear a wonderfully different smattering of extraneous audio. I’m Carlton Reid and on this episode of the Spokesmen podcast you’re going to hear — for a wee while at least — some Italian church bells. They’re the sweet sweet background noise that comes as a package with my guest Sylva Florence who’s an American living in a small Italian town near Bologna. Joining me to quiz Sylva about her solo cycle touring is show stalwart Donna Tocci.

Carlton Reid 2:03
Hi to everybody. It’s another recording of the Spokesmen. It really isn’t the men today. It’s it’s the spokes people very much. And I’m outnumbered In fact, very happily to say I’m very outnumbered. We’ve got one guest who is a regular, who you’ll have heard many, many times over many, many years. I can’t say how many years but a good number of years. And then we’ve got a complete newbie to the show. So that person who is the old hand, but I haven’t talked to for ages. I’m afraid to say it is Donna, Donna Tocci over in Massachusetts.

Donna Tocci 2:40
Hi, everybody. I don’t know this old you said old like five times. And I’m not really sure that what that means. But yes, Carlton and I have known each other for a very long time.

Carlton Reid 2:52
It’s not so old that you can get a vaccination that we know you

Donna Tocci 2:57
No, I’m not that old. And we haven’t known each other that long. But yes, Hi, everybody. I’m so excited. I thought we would do more spokesmen, you know, with everything going on in the world and everybody being in their home, but we haven’t. So it’s really great to be back

Donna Tocci 3:12
with us. I know that’s so cool.

Carlton Reid 3:16
To be fair, and to give an explanation that is just still so difficult to get everybody you know, it’s herding cats stuff, it’s getting everybody in the same place at the same time, even though every is in the same place.

Carlton Reid 3:29
By by law almost. It’s still difficult to track people down. So Hi there, Donna, it’s good to hear you again. And the new guest who who we want to bring in today and who we’re gonna kind of like semi interrogate is Sylva Florence, hi Sylva.

Carlton Reid 3:48
You’re American, but you’re not in America.

Sylva Florence 3:51
No, I’ve been living in Italy now for almost three years.

Carlton Reid 3:54
So why Why are you in Italy? And where are you in Italy?

Sylva Florence 3:59
I am very close to Bologna so northern North Central Italy, but I’m in a town called Faenza, which nobody knows about. And most people confuse with the, with Florence — Fiorenze —, which is more more known.

Sylva Florence 4:16
I came here first in 2009 to be a cycle tour leader. But it was always kind of like

Sylva Florence 4:25
seasonal work. And I kept going back and forth but I had something that kept pulling me back to Italy. So eventually I decided okay, it’s time I’m gonna come here and study language and and try and stay so

Sylva Florence 4:39
I’ve been here about almost three years in May now.

Carlton Reid 4:43
And which which companies, if any, we are actually doing bike tours for?

Sylva Florence 4:48
The company is called Experience Plus, and our clients are mostly Americans, Canadians, some, some Brits and some Australians, but largely English speaking people.

Sylva Florence 5:00
So, obviously in the last year, we didn’t have anything we had no seasons. So

Sylva Florence 5:07
yeah, yeah, but I do like a lot of English speaking people over here in Italy, I do a lot of things. So I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to still kind of

Sylva Florence 5:18
make ends meet even though I haven’t had any, any bike touring over the last year.

Carlton Reid 5:23
So we are gonna be talking very much bike touring so so Sylva got in touch with me and gave me her backstory, which is fascinating about that the cycle touring, which will go on to, but I’m now going to drop Donna in here and just say, you know, drop her in it really is have you done any cycle touring Donna? Have you read any cycle touring? What is your connection to cycle touring, so if any?

Donna Tocci 5:46
Sylva is my new connection to cycle touring

Donna Tocci 5:54
and she’s in Italy, so when we can travel again, I am all on board. But I love I can totally understand the pull of Italy. Obviously, my last name means that I have an Italian heritage. So I was wondering, actually, I would like nothing better than to tour around Italy. Um, that would be wonderful. But no, I do not have any prior cycle touring experience, but very happy to hear about it and learn about it. And

Carlton Reid 6:25
let’s go to Italy. Well, let’s let’s get your Italian background then. So how far back is your, your heritage there? Ms Tocci?

Donna Tocci 6:35
Um, my great grandfather and great grandmother both were from Italy. So not that far back and down near in Naples.

Carlton Reid 6:46
And

Carlton Reid 6:48
and have you been Do you do do you go back and have you been back?

Donna Tocci 6:51
No, I have I have only been to Italy once I am sorry to say it was actually on a press tour for Kryptonite. So there we go with the mic but and and we were we’re in a couple of different cities but then spent the weekend up at Lake Garda for there was happened to be a mountain bike festival up there at the time, and went up there and hung out with mountain bikers for the weekend. And yeah, it was beautiful. I mean, I it’s always been on my list to go back and especially go back to that area.

Sylva Florence 7:22
It’s beautiful.

Carlton Reid 7:22
So for sure. So one of the theories that many people are touting and certainly in the tourism sector is that there’s going to be such an aptitude for travel, after these lockdowns have finished and that could be travelling all sorts of different forms, including bicycles, but certainly people are going to be wanting to get out of their four walls. And, and travel. So don’t Is that something you are? Definitely, if you’re thinking about that right now? Yes, we are absolutely thinking about the first place we will go.

Donna Tocci 8:01
When we’re done. And I think for us, it will be it won’t be Italy, unfortunately. But fortunately, it will probably be Ireland because my better half.

Donna Tocci 8:10
And the bigger cyclist in this family is from Ireland originally. And his family is there. So we will probably go there first.

Carlton Reid 8:20
You might be racing your president.

Donna Tocci 8:23
What’s that?

Carlton Reid 8:24
You might be racing your new president because he’s he’s got Irish ancestry and he looks like he’s gonna be going to Ireland pretty soon.

Donna Tocci 8:31
He does. I know. I’ve seen that and a cycling president. Well, yeah. But with the the big controversy now is is peloton in the White House.

Sylva Florence 8:42
See what happens?

Donna Tocci 8:43
I know.

Donna Tocci 8:46
Yeah. Yeah. So where will you go, Carlton?

Carlton Reid 8:51
Uh, I don’t know. I mean, I have got a very, very hard cycling ride to do in the Swiss Alps in August. So touchwood I can get out there but not touchwood. It’s going to be absolutely brutal. It’s basically every tough climb in Switzerland. 280 miles or something [NOPE – 240kms] . It’s just crazy. So hard to do it and then half of me doesn’t want to do it, because it’s a tough one.

Carlton Reid 9:23
But yeah, that’s that’s that’s kind of like what my goal is to maybe get to Switzerland. So so that even though you’re now living, and you have lived in Faenxa near Bologna, for three years, you’ve done some cycle touring, and you went across America. So when when did you do that? That that trip?

Sylva Florence 9:44
So I did that trip. I started in October of 2017. And I ended in February of 2018. And that was the longest cycling trip, second bike touring trip that I’ve done alone.

Sylva Florence 10:00
But I have done other ones alone. And I’ve done other bike tours in other parts of the world. But that one was particularly important because it was one that I did by myself across America. You did all by yourself no support vehicle or anything? No, it’s just me how, yeah, just me

Carlton Reid 10:21
in what kind of accommodation at night times.

Sylva Florence 10:24
So I brought a tent and I bought a stove and I bought everything. So I had, I was very self sufficient. I was able to stop wherever I wanted more or less,

Sylva Florence 10:34
which I did for about the first month.

Sylva Florence 10:38
But then it obviously because it was over the winter, even though I was going, I went from

Sylva Florence 10:44
Berkeley, California to Florida, so it was very far south. But we still had a little bit of winter weather I ran into like a blizzard in Louisiana, which was incredibly strange, and not normal at all.

Sylva Florence 10:59
But I ended up using the Warm Showers network a lot. Are you guys familiar with that?

Donna Tocci 11:04
No.

Carlton Reid 11:05
Donna is not. I am but you explain it. I’ll tell you why I’m familiar with it in a second.

Sylva Florence 11:11
Yeah, because you ‘ve bike toured too I think I read right, Carlton?

Carlton Reid 11:17
Many, many years ago in a previous life when Warm Showers did not exist. fantastic to be able to hook up. The internet didn’t exist when when I was cycle touring.

Carlton Reid 11:28
Computers had only just been invented, you know, it’s like

Sylva Florence 11:34
Hey, bike touring his bike touring no matter how you do it. So for sure. So yeah, it’s a warm shower. Isn’t it really cute. Thank you. Yeah, but basically warm showers is like, if anybody knows couchsurfing.

Sylva Florence 11:47
It’s very similar to couchsurfing. And that it’s a hospitality based website, which people offer for free their homes and you never know like, maybe you’re going to be putting a tent up in their backyard, maybe you’re going to be sleeping on their couch, maybe if they have an extra room, you can sleep in a bed. And then like the name suggests, you’ll get a hot shower. And then part of the culture is that usually you share dinner together or and or breakfast. And so you get to know the people that you stay with, which is really cool. You feel like you’ve walked into a family or something. So I use warm showers a lot and it was a really enriched my my trip. It was it was a really beautiful part of it.

Carlton Reid 12:31
I know why people use it but alone woman using it. Do you have any extra worries when you’re you’re hooking up with somebody? Or you’re thinking ‘I’ve got to go with a couple I can’t be going with this …. You know, do you have an antenna for thinking ‘I’m not going to go to that one. I’m gonna go to this one’. How do you cope? That I wouldn’t have to think about these things. But But I’m presuming you you would have to sadly.

Sylva Florence 12:55
Yeah, it’s true. It’s a little bit different for a woman still, unfortunately, I’m just kind of the way the world is. But honestly, it’s not as scary and dangerous as everybody thinks like them the 95% of the experiences and the people that I met were positive and were helpful and curious and wanted to in some way help me out.

Donna Tocci 13:19
But as far as warm showers,

Donna Tocci 13:22
I’d lucky or we’re all lucky because there’s kind of

Donna Tocci 13:25
a system in place. So when somebody stays with you, you leave them a review, and vice versa. So I could go on to these profiles of people I would hope to stay with and I could read reviews about them. And if they didn’t have any reviews, maybe I would choose a different one.

Carlton Reid 13:44
For example, that had so it’s kind of like Airbnb, but you’re not you’re you’re not paying for it. This is given gratis. And then I’m presuming that’s bells in the backgroun. And it’s not your strange

Donna Tocci 13:55
I love that.

Sylva Florence 13:56
Oh, that’s my house.

Sylva Florence 13:59
Can you hear that?

Carlton Reid 14:01
Yeah, totally cute. I mean, normally we say can you turn your phone off? You’ve got strange Italian

Carlton Reid 14:06
bell ringing as your your your ringtone is like no, no, no, that’s, that’s where you live. That’s cute.

Sylva Florence 14:11
I didn’t even notice because it happens like several times a day. I live like very close to a church. So beautiful. Yeah, yeah, it’s nice. I like it to actually kind of like a nice soundtrack to my life.

Carlton Reid 14:25
And how often do they go off? Are they you know, that soundtrack to your life is how frequent?

Sylva Florence 14:30
Well if you’ll notice right now it’s it’s 5.18pm so they go off at really weird times. Like actually my neighbour and I laugh about it because it’s never it’s never on the hour like on the quarter hour it’s always like a weird time so it’s it’s Sunday though so they go off maybe like three times a day on Sundays.

Carlton Reid 14:49
There’s something I’m presuming it’s religious then it’s like as in not a time thing is like taking you to Vespers or something I don’t I’m not religious.

Sylva Florence 14:56
I don’t know but I don’t know either cuz I’m not religious.

Donna Tocci 15:00
I feel like yeah, I feel like it’s connected. Because it’s Sunday. So, yeah, strange time.

Donna Tocci 15:05
5.18? I mean, that’s just an odd. It’s not like five o’clock or even 5.15 or 5.30.

Sylva Florence 15:13
I mean, I feel like there’s something about like six o’clock. So maybe it’s like, go quick get your coffee because you’re Italian and then go to Vespers.

Sylva Florence 15:24
I love living here. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 15:27
So it’s still going on. So it’s quite,

Donna Tocci 15:31
it will go for a while.

Donna Tocci 15:34
So, Carlton, have you done any bike touring around the US, like when you were here for maybe Interbike, or Sea Otter or anything like that?

Carlton Reid 15:43
Yeah, for many, many years, well, every time I came, I’d always try and fit in a bike tour. So sometimes I’d hire a car. So I’ve done a lot of desert trips. So I would hire and get out somewhere, getting a bike out, do some trips around, then getting the car go somewhere else when I was connected to, to

Carlton Reid 16:03
the kind of the schedule of doing trade shows, but even before that, I would now this is now in the 1980s. So he’s now dating me very much. So then I would fly in, and I would just do American deserts and spend a month. So every every

Carlton Reid 16:20
university holiday I had, after I’d already I’d already spent two years cycling around, and and just doing stuff on a bike somewhere in the world, generally in the Middle East. And then when I went to university, I then spend one month, every year, somewhere exotic, and it would either be the Sahara

Carlton Reid 16:41
or I then went to the Kalahari Desert. And then I decided to do some of the American deserts so so went out and spent time doing solo bike touring, or sometimes with an Israeli friend In fact, who I had who we did the

Carlton Reid 17:01
we went into Mexico and so did some of the the deserts that part of the loss I’m very much a desert cycle tourist. That’s what I like the best is, is getting really dusty.

Sylva Florence 17:12
Deserts awesome. Why do you like it?

Donna Tocci 17:14
Yeah, why?

Carlton Reid 17:17
I’m, I’m British, I get rained on a lot.

Carlton Reid 17:24
Going for the opposite. Let’s go somewhere the opposite to where I am. Okay, deserts.

Carlton Reid 17:30
I just I just absolutely loved, literally getting dusty.

Carlton Reid 17:36
riding along. So I’ve done lots and lots of deserts in my time and even took so that’s why my son Josh, that’s why he then graduate become a cycle tourist. So we used to do some pretty adventurous trips, including to Iceland. So Iceland, you might think of as a like a snowy, you know, ice place, but it’s actually the biggest desert in Europe, in that there’s no there’s no rainfall, very little rainfall at certain times of the year. And enormous expanses have in effect volcanic sand. So Iceland is a is a place we went to, and spent time in with my son. So in fact, teaching him desert

Carlton Reid 18:21
survival techniques, even though it wasn’t a hot desert, it was a cold desert. But I would go to the deserts wherever they are. Even now.

Sylva Florence 18:31
They’re pretty awesome. There’s something about the desert, like there’s like a silence in the desert that you find, especially at night that I’ve never found anywhere else. I guess

Carlton Reid 18:40
Yes. So I’m looking at this guy as well, the sky, it tends to be amazing in deserts. Obviously not going to get clouds. And so you just lie back and I’d lie back in the Sahara and literally the Sahara and I’m in a in a sleeping bag. And just look at the amazing amazing sky which I’ve never seen anywhere else apart. You know the desert you just see just masses of stars. It’s just incredible.

Carlton Reid 19:07
Anyway,

Donna Tocci 19:08
no, I would think you would have to prepare very differently for a desert tour rather than what Silva did. You know, going from coast to coast. I mean, where there’s a tonne of cars and people and all of that what would be the differences in preparing?

Sylva Florence 19:28
Well actually went through the desert through from from Eastern California until until midway through Texas was all desert pretty much. So

Carlton Reid 19:41
cute. Nice service stations. So you can just pull in and getting a coffee and a donut in in the middle of the desert, which is just kind of cool.

Donna Tocci 19:53
Did you find that a healthy way

Donna Tocci 19:59
when you’re cycling

Donna Tocci 20:00
You need a lot of calories. So it’s true. And caffeine never hurts.

Carlton Reid 20:05
And I found that American deserts were less populated than deserts elsewhere in the world. So Kalahari, the Sahara, there’s, there’s probably habitation every 5 or 10 miles. Whereas in an American desert, it’s literally how far you can get in a car.

Sylva Florence 20:24
You know, that actually devastations would be, actually, so I was I went, because most when you cycle as you know, you don’t take the main routes, because they’re traffic up. And maybe not. Because when usually when you travel you, you look to kind of enjoy what you’re going through. Like, some people do want to ride as much as they can in one day. But I’m, I’m not necessarily one of those people. I tried to cover some distance if I can, but I really like to also enjoy what I’m going through. And the route that I followed took me away from interstates unless there was no other road, sometimes I had to read on an interstate. But the the towns were actually about maybe 100 kilometres 60 miles spaced apart, because it was where the train used to stop. Mm hmm. So So between those those 60 mile 100 kilometre points, there was absolutely nothing. And some and sometimes it was there was a town on the map, but it wasn’t actually a town, it was like a ghost town.

Donna Tocci 21:29
And so you really had to think about water, you really had to think about carrying water, enough water for the day or even the night if you’re going to camp or something or you didn’t know. And really getting, I asked a lot of people because sometimes there was like a faucet maybe behind like the library or the post office or something. So I could fill up water. But other than that there was nothing. So it was it was logistically interesting for sure. Now

Donna Tocci 22:02
what what’s that? I’m sorry, sorry. Go ahead. Carlton.

Carlton Reid 22:06
Donna said How did you plan the route? And my question was about clothing through a few different climate zones. So how are you planning? Were you jettison clothing and mailing it back? Or do you carry everything? So planning and clothing?

Sylva Florence 22:20
So okay, so for planning, I started in Berkeley, where my brother lives, and I rode to San Diego. And then I followed what’s called the Southern Tier Route, which is the American cycling associations route that they’ve kind of already come up with. And it’s, like, well known enough in in cycling culture, I guess. So they give you the route, but they don’t tell you where to stop. So you have to you have to figure it out on your own, where you’re going to stop where you want to stay that kind of thing. So, after a while, I kind of just got into a pattern where I was contacting warmshowers hosts on the road ahead of me, maybe, because I discovered that they appreciated you know, a few days to a week of notice. So I tried to contact them with some notice if I could, and I was also contacting churches and fire stations and police stations to ask them if I could camp or stay

Donna Tocci 23:20
there, too, to save money because it was almost a five month trip. Um, and then as far as, as clothing and things that I brought, I brought everything because I started in October and I finished in mid February and so I kind of needed I needed everything honestly.

Donna Tocci 23:41
When I started in in California, I was dealing with heat waves, like over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which I think is like 35 maybe Celsius.

Donna Tocci 23:54
And then when I got to Louisiana, I had a blizzard. So I needed everything and had absolutely everything. So I carried it all with me but luckily having done this for many years I have kind of accumulated a lot of the gear so I’m very lucky. Like I had everything that I needed light like gear. So

Carlton Reid 24:17
you’ve told us why you started in Berkeley because your brother Why did you end in Louisiana?

Sylva Florence 24:24
I ended in Florida,

Carlton Reid 24:26
Florida, Florida sorry Florida. Why did you end in Florida?

Sylva Florence 24:28
No problem. Um, because that because I was going coast to coast. I was going from the the Pacific to the Atlantic basically. And I was I was following this already more or less established route even though I went off of it a few times, which started in San Diego and ended in St. Augustine, Florida. So I basically just followed it until the end till till Florida.

Carlton Reid 24:54
Mm hmm.

Donna Tocci 24:56
It’s something I always wanted to do this this Southern Tier trip.

Carlton Reid 25:03
I don’t want to get too rude here and you can, Americans can absolutely stop me here if you say you can’t say these sort of things, but

Carlton Reid 25:12
it’s the states you are going through are very rudely called flyover states. Yeah. And and are you gonna stop me here now? Or should I

Carlton Reid 25:23
pick on flyover states for a reason? Whereas, you know, obviously, people go from one, one American coast to the American coast, and then don’t go in to the hinterland. And in elearning, see the comments we’re gonna get for this. Go ahead. Well, especially where I’m going with this. So the hinterland

Carlton Reid 25:47
also has a reputation for certain kind of politics. When you were going through, did you see any massive changes in politics and how you were treated? Why? I don’t know how you can skirt around these things, or whether you even never saw any of this, because because it just didn’t come up. But describe how, where I’m going here and what you think I’m talking about, and how the political how people view politics can maybe even change how they view a stranger coming into their midst?

Donna Tocci 26:28
Or a cyclist. I mean, we all know that, in, in every part of the world, there are folks that are very accommodating to cyclists, and that there are other parts that are very much not. So did you encounter any of that as well?

Donna Tocci 26:47
These are very interesting questions. And actually, Yeah, seriously, we’re not answer. So no, I’m happy to. Okay. So I, when I wrote in, I told Carlton that I wrote a book about this trip. So I bought a wrote a book while while I was writing across the United States, which I’m now trying to pitch to editors and things and decide what I want to do with it. But I talk about this kind of stuff, because, for example, like going into the Dirty South, as we call it, like it’s not, it’s not necessarily a place that people think would be like, Hey, I would love to go like ride my bike through

Donna Tocci 27:26
the Dirty South because there’s not, in general, a lot of infrastructure for cycling, and for cyclists. And when you ride through some of these areas, and I didn’t even really understand it. So I’m really grateful to have experienced this so that I understand my own country better our own country. But when you go into the south east, and in particular places, for example, like Baton Rouge, which I wrote through

Donna Tocci 27:55
a bicycle is kind of seen a bicycle as seen as either maybe like, not not probably by everyone, I’m generalising but as a as a rich person sport, or as something that people do when they when they’re really poor, and they can’t afford a car.

Donna Tocci 28:14
And so I was kind of like, in the middle of this so like a weird like, what what in the world is this girl doing? You know? So they were I have a lot of problems with traffic and had a lot of people with not not giving me space, like really brushing me very close. Like a few times, I was almost knocked off the road and things like that.

Donna Tocci 28:35
But I think it wasn’t it wasn’t a point of like them trying to be mean or aggressive. It was more like they just didn’t understand where I fit into the scheme of things. Like I wasn’t, I wasn’t a super poor person. And I wasn’t like somebody on a fancy road bike. I was like this weird girl going through with a pirate flag and bags. Because I had a pirate flag on my bike. Hired flag I found it on the side of the road in eastern California and I just like couldn’t help myself. I I flew it all the way to Florida. So the Kenny Chesney fans would love that.

Donna Tocci 29:09
It was the pirate ship and my back was the pirate ship.

Carlton Reid 29:14
Tell me about your bike. What kind of bike are you talking about here?

Sylva Florence 29:19
Well, I’m one of those weird people who likes to name everything. So her name is Penny because she’s the colour of like a penny. A US one cent

Sylva Florence 29:30
and it’s a it’s a Richey bike but it was like Richey made it for Dahon the the brand Dahon but it’s a Richey. It’s a Ritchey Tournardo basically. And it’s coupled so it comes apart and you can put it into a suitcase. Basically, it’s made for this kind of stuff. Thank you, Richey.

Carlton Reid 29:50
Is that the s&s couplings. It’s that that thing?

Sylva Florence 29:52
Yeah, yeah. Mm hmm. And then like the brake cables come apart and it’s got it’s like suitcase and

Donna Tocci 30:01
I carry like a collapsible cloth bag which I had my brother send me from Berkeley and I had him send it to my warm shower hosts in St. Augustine so that I could bring it to a bike shop and have them put it helped me put it into a bag, but you’ve got to like take a cardboard box apart and make a sort of an internal frame for the for the box. It’s a bit involved, but you can do it.

Carlton Reid 30:27
And then you old school with like panniers, do you have a trailer or are you like new school in that it’s bike packing.

Sylva Florence 30:36
I’m I’m a little bit half and half I guess because I’ve done bike packing. And so I’ve got what’s called a sweet roll which I absolutely love for my handlebars where I put my tent and my fuel and a couple other things. And then I have panniers on the back.

Sylva Florence 30:52
And I often also use a front rack with panniers but it broken right before the trip and I didn’t have time to to buy a new one and get it all figured out. So I’m I guess I’m like middle school.

Carlton Reid 31:05
I’m older. Yeah. Yeah. Whatever works, really? And is that bike, the collapsible bike, something you’re still riding is that your like your go to bike.

Donna Tocci 31:17
I brought it over here to Italy. And actually after the first after the lockdown that we had that ended in June, I rode

Donna Tocci 31:26
18 days, I think by myself from where I live to very southern Tuscany. So I use that bike as well. So yeah, it’s it’s still in action.

Carlton Reid 31:37
A pretty flexible machine that if you can take it apart, that’s a good bike to bring with you from America into Italy. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So it’s very much in use. I have I have four bikes, if I’m going to be honest. So

Sylva Florence 31:53
with you that just in life in general. With me now with me now. I have four bicycles.

Donna Tocci 32:00
Every bike person has more than one.

Sylva Florence 32:03
Brava. So I would say yes.

Donna Tocci 32:08
So I have a question, Sylva. So you did this all by yourself, which is amazing. And Awesome.

Sylva Florence 32:15
Thank you.

Donna Tocci 32:17
Did you know where you were going to end? And did you have to some days because I’m sure some days it was like, Yes, this is fantastic. I love this. And other days were probably a little bit of a slog like, okay, I just want to get through the miles today. Did you did you use any visualisation to like, I know exactly where I’m going to end? Or did you not know where you’re going, and you just knew you were going to end on the coast of Florida?

Donna Tocci 32:44
Well, because I was followiong this route to St. Augustine, Florida, I knew that I was going to end there. And honestly, I didn’t. I didn’t want to stop riding. When I arrived in St. Augustine, I was so happy with bike touring and, and just the feeling of being on the road and being so free to an autonomous will all the stuff that I had, I would have loved to continue. But by that point, while riding, I had already planned my move to Italy. So I kind of had to return to my parents house or had my stuff in the interim and start getting my visa and everything together to move to Italy. So

Carlton Reid 33:26
I suppose Yeah, maybe maybe I’m wrong here Donna. But maybe the question was a daily thing, even though you had your your your eventual

Carlton Reid 33:35
target. Did you know each day where you were going to stop? Like was it just literally you just rode until you stopped? Was that? Would that be right? Donna?

Donna Tocci 33:44
That’s kind of the question. I’m kind of how you’d write every day. But how do you motivate? How did you get that motivation every day to go out on the days that were hard? Because there have been some days where you were sore? Or you just kind of didn’t feel it?

Donna Tocci 34:00
Maybe? I mean, in five months, there’s had to have been a couple of days that were not your favourite. So did you do any visualisation? Or did you just say no, I just kind of grit through it and got to do it.

Donna Tocci 34:14
I think I don’t know. I think it’s probably a bit of both. I’m really a very stubborn person. And I’m, I’m rather determined. And so when I when I see something that I want to do even I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to do it or figure it out. I kind of keep looking at that and saying I’m going to do that. And so there were definitely some days that were really rough like I had had a lot of I mean as any long bike tour anybody that ever goes on a long bike tour, there’s all sorts of things that happen to you. I had back problems I had blizzards, landslides, heat waves, knee problems, like everything imaginable, which is kind of normal and but

Donna Tocci 35:00
For me, it actually became kind of a joy to, to problem solve and to say, Okay, I’ve got this problem, but how am I going to figure it out? And then, like not seeing it more as, as a problem or as like a fun challenge or something? And definitely there were some days where I was like, What am I doing this is so stupid. But then the next day would be completely different. Or some or I would meet somebody that would just pick my spirits up in like a second.

Donna Tocci 35:32
It was, I don’t know, bike touring is is one of those things that it’s like, incredibly hard, but it’s also really rewarding. And so by the time you get to the end, you look at the whole thing as being something more rewarding than it was punishing or hard.

Donna Tocci 35:50
Because you’re changing. Sorry. So do you feel like your 18 days to Tuscany was like, going around the corner for milk?

Donna Tocci 36:03
I mean, actually, at the end of that, too, I didn’t want to stop either. But I had some bureaucratic stuff. I had to come back and go to the police, that deals with immigration, so

Sylva Florence 36:18
but my friends were laughing at me because I could have just gone the easy way. And I could have, like, not climbed like 1000 metres a day, but I chose a route in which I really pushed myself and climbed a lot. So I made it not necessarily very easy for myself, but it was incredible.

Donna Tocci 36:39
So you and Carlton with the mountains?

Sylva Florence 36:42
Carlton, you like to climb too?

Carlton Reid 36:45
Yeah, that’s my favourite. My favourite is climbing bags on so yeah, it’s nice to go up in a nice you know, incredibly light, light road bike, but it’s also really nice to go up with really heavy bags.

Carlton Reid 37:00
Sharing you and and and cars to be stopping and, and that kind of stuff. So that that’s also cool.

Carlton Reid 37:09
No, you go first Donna,

Donna Tocci 37:11
I might have missed it, Carlton, how long is your event in the summer in Switzerland?

Carlton Reid 37:18
Well, that’s a one day thing. So that’s 280 miles in a day over every single mountain. So that’s why I was going Oh, it’s not it’s a tough one. Wow. Cool. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s the tourist action, if you go over every

Carlton Reid 37:36
Swiss ski resort, in effect in the summer, and it’s an interesting thing as well. So it’s new for this year. So you’re definitely doing the height of Everest, in your in your day of punishing climbs. So they’ve extended the distance of an already brutal course. And how dare the Tourist Board invite me across for such a punishment?

Donna Tocci 38:06
How are you training for that?

Carlton Reid 38:10
I’ll start soon.

Sylva Florence 38:12
And how will you train for it?

Carlton Reid 38:14
I’ll do hills.

Carlton Reid 38:18
I can get out and do some hills.

Sylva Florence 38:19
You have some good hills where you live?

Carlton Reid 38:22
Yeah, yeah, it’s okay. I can do some elevation. But you’d so tough to do a trip like this, because it’s just Hill after Hill after But on the plus side, you’ve also got down hills, plenty of downhill. So it’s not the whole way.

Carlton Reid 38:38
So my question, Sylva it was was

Carlton Reid 38:41
was going to be you’ve talked about where you’ve been or what do you haven’t talked about every one of your your places you’ve you’ve been to. But one of the things we started talking about in the beginning was all about how are our dreams about lockdown? So have you got dreams about cycle touring? independent cycle tours coming up? Have you got stuff planned?

Donna Tocci 39:02
planned, planned now because it’s just really difficult here. Like I don’t know how the lockdown stuff is where you guys are. But here we have just kind of a seemingly never ending series of regulations that right now where I live in Emilia Romagna is in what’s called the orange zone. So we have kind of tiers of yellow, orange and red and we’re in orange,

Donna Tocci 39:26
which signifies that we can’t leave our towns.

Donna Tocci 39:31
And we can’t and we have a curfew, which we’ve had since the beginning of November at 10pm. And a lot of different other things bars and restaurants, clothes, blah, blah, blah. So it’s very difficult to actually plan something because we don’t know when it’s going to end. But you know, like those of us that travel and they love this kind of stuff. We’re always dreaming and we always have like four trips in mind. So what I would really like is to ride from here to Spain, because I’ve got some friends there and

Sylva Florence 40:00
I’ve never been to Spain. And so I would absolutely love to ride from Faenza to Spain, by myself.

Carlton Reid 40:08
Mm hmm.

Carlton Reid 40:11
by yourself. So that’s that. I mean, that is one of the things I also do get asked loads of times is about the solo stuff. Why? Why do it solo? So that was gonna ask me, I’ll just ask you why? Why solo?

Sylva Florence 40:27
Um, for me, um,

Donna Tocci 40:31
well, a lot of the people that I talked to, especially a lot of other women and Donna, I’m not saying that you’re in this group, I don’t know what your experiences are. But there’s a lot of women who don’t feel comfortable travelling by themselves, because they really are afraid of

Donna Tocci 40:48
I hate to say it like men and just the way that the world is. But

Donna Tocci 40:53
I guess I don’t necessarily see that for myself as a barrier. Because I, I trust and expect that like good things will come my way. And they always do. And I’m very, I’m very aware, I’m not going to be naive. And if I feel something weird, I’m not going to go to that person’s house, I’m not even going to necessarily talk to that person. But I love to travel by myself, because I feel like it really opens people’s influence people’s doors, it opens people’s minds. And it opens people’s hearts. Like it’s a very, you meet a lot of really cool people.

Carlton Reid 41:29
That’s my answer as well, that as well. Because it’s the people think, oh, you’re just so low that you’re not, you’re just being horrible, you’re not you’re being incredibly social, because I found that when you’re, I don’t know how it’s, it’s for you. So when you travel with two or more people, you’re in that little clique, you’re in a little bubble, and you can’t miss stuff, because you’re with somebody else, when you’re by yourself, you see everything, and you are open to talking to anybody. And people also come to you more, if you’re in a group or if you’re in just even just two people, a lot of people just won’t come up and talk to you, because you’ve got a friend, you’ve got somebody to talk to you No need to go and talk to that that strange, exotic person over there. When you’re by yourself, that strange exotic person is all of a sudden, very approachable, because it’s only you. So that that was my fight wasn’t an anti social thing. It was actually the opposite he, you’re more likely to talk to people, if you’re by yourself.

Sylva Florence 42:23
Sure. And you’re free to for example, say you meet somebody who’s really cool. And they invite you to say come to this town. That’s maybe not the direction that you would plan to go. But you’re the only one that decides if you’re going to keep going left or if you’re going to go right. So if you meet these people, and they say let’s go right, then you can go and it completely changes your experience. It’s really cool. It’s like going with the flow.

Carlton Reid 42:49
Huh? No, no, I I it’s all flooding back, Sylva.

Carlton Reid 42:56
I am mad. I haven’t done solo for so long. That I haven’t been asked why do you do solo Tours by now remember why I did solo tours? Yeah, for that reason that you’ve given as well. So thank you. Thank you for the memories.

Sylva Florence 43:08
You’re welcome. Anytime.

Sylva Florence 43:11
Coming.

Sylva Florence 43:14
Donna, you’ve got to get out there by yourself.

Sylva Florence 43:17
would you do it? Donna? would you do it? a solo tour?

Donna Tocci 43:21
Sure.

Donna Tocci 43:24
I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s me. I would go out for solo rides? Sure. I don’t have any problem doing that. I have done that. So and I think you’re right. I think just in general, no matter how you’re travelling, that if you’re by yourself, you’re more approachable to others. I think, you know, like you said, If you already have a friend with you or two friends, somebody’s not going to come up and talk to you necessarily, but when you’re by yourself. Sure people feel like they can approach you more.

Donna Tocci 43:54
So a solo bike tour? I don’t know. Just because I have not done it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t but but bike garage or Absolutely. I have no fear about that.

Carlton Reid 44:08
So but also, this, I guess to many people, this would sound odd but

Carlton Reid 44:14
because because most people would think of bicycling in the boondocks as an inherently dangerous thing to do. I mean, you probably don’t don’t think that but many people do. But do you think actually as a solo woman, actually a bicycle is actually a really good way of being a solo woman because actually, it’s easier because you are absolutely in charge of the vehicle that’s taking place. Whereas if you’re a solo woman on a bus, on a train, there’s potentially actually more

Carlton Reid 44:49
dodgy

Carlton Reid 44:51
connections with with people who might not be as nice as you think. Whereas on a bicycle, you can just go well, there’s somebody up ahead, I want to see them. I’ll go that way. instead.

Carlton Reid 45:00
Do you see a bicycle as actually a means of, of a very good way of of a woman travelling, for safety reasons?

Donna Tocci 45:07
I will take that I will say not only travelling, I do a lot of walking in the summertime, because I try, I actually trained Carlton, you might want to train for that whole thing in Switzerland. But I train for doing a marathon walk every year for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute here in Boston. And when you’re walking, I’m very much more aware of my surroundings, and who’s around me and all of that, as I’m walking, you know, 15 miles on a day and all of that. But when I’m on my bike, I, it’s not that I worry when I walk, I live in a safe neighbourhood, but I do look at all my surroundings and all of that a lot more. But when I’m on my bike, I, I don’t it’s not that I don’t pay attention to cars, and people and all of that. But there isn’t. There’s just another element that’s not there. So I think you’re right. Yeah, bike is, I think a little safer. In some ways. I don’t know.

Carlton Reid 46:03
Same same question to you than Sylva. Yeah, I mean, I think that when you’re definitely when you’re on a bike, you have the decision of where you’re going to go because you’re in charge of the vehicle.

Donna Tocci 46:14
And also in your bike touring, as you probably know, Carlton, like you don’t go through main avenues so much are kind of on the periphery. And so you kind of you kind of seek by things, like if you don’t really want to be seen, you don’t have to be seen, like, and so for me, I would just really use it as like a tool of exploration. And I would go where I felt good and where I didn’t feel good, I would kind of choose another route. And I encountered a lot of people that were really afraid that would ask me like, well, aren’t you afraid to be doing what you’re doing your I would never do, I would never be able to do that. Because with the world as it is, or whatever, but

Donna Tocci 46:55
I don’t I don’t really see the world as being that way. And so

Donna Tocci 47:01
I don’t know, like I found such good experiences. And this is like, not only this trip, but over almost 10 years now like touring. And so as a solo woman, there are some places where I probably maybe I wouldn’t go by myself or maybe like the Middle East, perhaps I would want to have another girlfriend or somebody with me. But most places also in Italy and Europe, I would feel comfortable going on my own on a bicycle is such an amazing place a way to see the world. I agree.

Carlton Reid 47:34
I think we’re gonna have to wrap up for today. But by doing so, I’d like to ask somewhere where can people who are listening to this where can they find out more information and and perhaps how they’re going to be able to find your book eventually? How are you on social media where you can tell people where your books can come from? And

Carlton Reid 47:53
where do people find you is what I’m trying to say?

Sylva Florence 47:55
Sure. Yeah, I have a website which is thesylvalining.com so my name s y l v a lining dotcom. And my Instagram is also thesilverlining. And Facebook, thesilverlining everything is the silver lining,

Carlton Reid 48:13
Does your Instagram have tonnes and tonnes of bike touring pictures or is it your life in general.

Sylva Florence 48:19
I just started a new a new Instagram for specifically for to promote the book and just my life experience in Italy and that kind of thing, which is the silver lining. Otherwise, if you want to see some pictures of the trip, it’s Silvana Firenze, which is kind of my name translated in Italian. So

Sylva Florence 48:41
So yeah, and I’m not exactly sure how yet how I’m going to get the book out, but it’s ready and I’m just trying to find the best, the best course for it.

Carlton Reid 48:52
How about self publishing.

Sylva Florence 48:54
I thought about that too. Mm hmm. If I can find enough people who would be interested in it as as an audience I would absolutely self publish it as well.

Carlton Reid 49:04
So right now it’s research talking about experience there and that I’ve done to crowdsource books

Carlton Reid 49:12
which in how much American money well 25,000 pounds now that a book well first one’s 15,000 pounds second one was 25,000 so there is definitely an audience for books out there even niche niche urban Cycling is nicche, niche books.

Carlton Reid 49:30
So I would I personally I’d recommend

Carlton Reid 49:34
rather than waiting for the world to come to you on this one get out there and get it self published and and perhaps crowdsource it to begin with.

Sylva Florence 49:44
I guess we should have a chat off, off podcast.

Carlton Reid 49:49
totally happy to help. Yeah. And Donna where where can people find you at the moment and your dog?

Donna Tocci 49:58
Oh, my dog.

Donna Tocci 49:59
You can always find me on Twitter at DonnaTocci, and you can find me on Instagram and that’s what Carlton was talking about. That’s more my dogs and my life and all of that. But it’s all there at Donna Tocci as well on Instagram.

Carlton Reid 50:15
Beautiful. Well, thank you both ever so much for chatting today and and Sylva, thank you for getting my memories flooding back.

Carlton Reid 50:27
After after lockdown I’ll definitely have to get out and do more solo bike touring. Yeah and Warm Showers this time.

Carlton Reid 50:35
Wasn’t able to in the dark ages when I was last cycle touring, but I’ve got that to look forward to. So thank you ever so much for being on the show. And thank you to for Donna for asking some great questions too, and for keeping the conversation flowing.

Carlton Reid 50:51
Thanks to Donna Tocci and Sylva Florence for today’s cycle touring chat. This has been episode 265 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Links to things we were chatting about — such as Warm Showers, the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge and the Southern Tier Route and more — can be found on the-spokesmen.com. I’ve also provided a link to the Tour des Stations — I just looked it’s not 280 miles it’s 242kms — I was scaring myself. But 242 Kms is the thick end of 150 miles so still brutal, and still with 8,848 metres of ascent, or the height of Everest. No doubt I’ll do a podcast on it. A very huffy puffy podcast Anyway, tomorrow I’ll be talking with mountain bike legend Gary Fisher and then the following day I’m booked in with the Guardian’s political editor Peter Walker — both have got great new books out which I’ve now got to read. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

January 16, 2021 / / Blog

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Saturday 16th January 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 264: Bike Nerds Kyle and Sara of People for Bikes

SPONSOR: Jenson USA

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Bike nerds Kyle Wagenschutz and Sara Studdard of People for Bikes, USA.

TOPICS: Bike lanes, mobility motivations, and Mayor Pete’s high-profile potential impact on transportation.

TRANSCRIPT:

Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to Episode 264 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Saturday 16th of January 2021.

David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/the spokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast for shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:07
Happy New Year and welcome to the first episode of 2021. I’m Carlton Reid and the next few shows are going to have a distinctly American flavour starting with today’s guests Kyle Wagenschutz and Sarah Studdard of People for Bikes the US bicycle advocacy organisation. This is an hour long show in which we talk bike lanes, mobility motivations, Mayor Pete’s high-profile potential impact on transportation and you’ll get a sneak preview of People for BIke’s report on US pandemic cycling trends which goes live on January 21st.

Carlton Reid 1:55
I’m here today with with Kyle and Sarah and and before we get into who you are, describe what you do for people who buys and what is people who buy so people who who don’t know what this us organisation is and I guess lots of people in the US will absolutely know what it is but to explain it for the rest of us. What is peopleforbikes? And where’s it come from? Because got an interesting, interesting backstory.

Kyle Wagenschutz 2:23
Yeah, certainly. Thank you. And peopleforbikes is a US based bicycling advocacy organisation that has been around since 1998. So we we just celebrated moving past the 20 year mark as an organisation. And we have used that time and our presence and influence here in the us to continue to advance policies that make bicycling better for people every day in the US and that most of our support, a large basis centre of our support actually comes from the US based bicycling industry. So manufacturers and suppliers of bicycles, bicycle components, and adjacent bicycle parts contribute are members of our programme. And we act as both a trade association acting on their behalf in matters of business and trade, important export. And then we also act as a as a charitable foundation,

Kyle Wagenschutz 3:27
almost like a traditional nonprofit organisation that would

Kyle Wagenschutz 3:32
help local communities enact and be able to activate on those locally based projects.

Carlton Reid 3:38
So that’s what I meant. When I said you had an interesting backstory, it was it’s industry funded, and it’s come from the industry as an industry initiative. And that’s always and it has been going on for a long time is the industry should be doing more to get bums on bikes, and here there’s an organisation that’s absolutely that’s, that’s its raison d’etre. Yeah.

Kyle Wagenschutz 3:59
Yeah, 100% you know, and, and there’s, there’s a, there’s a reason you know, the bicycle companies exist. And that’s to of course, sell bicycles and parts within their marketplace. But, you know, there’s also a

Kyle Wagenschutz 4:14
joint self interest in these companies who compete every single day on selling their products in the marketplace to come together and say, you know, collectively we have the power to grow the share of bicycling for for the US and by acting in concert together and channelling those activities to people for bikes, we can grow the pie, so that we all benefit. And I think that’s a real testament of, you know, how businesses can function and work together towards a common goal. While

Kyle Wagenschutz 4:46
you know, also advancing, you know, programmes and projects that create a better world for transportation create a better world for our future of our planet and climate change. create a better world related to issues

Kyle Wagenschutz 5:00
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within our cities and our governance. And so it’s a it’s a real, it’s a real honour to be able to work for an organisation that has this breadth of support and leadership.

Carlton Reid 5:13
Absolutely. Now let’s let’s ground you both in that, let’s work out where you are speaking from. And then you can tell me your official job titles, and then we’ll get into what we’re gonna be talking about. So first, let because we’ve heard from Kyle already. So, Sara, where are you speaking from? And what’s your job title?

Sara Studdard 5:30
I am speaking from Denver, Colorado, and I am the director of local innovation. So I support our team that works across the country to support elected officials, city staff and community partners and advocates to build complete bike networks. Okay, you’ve been you’re not from Denver, originally, I’m not from Denver, I moved around growing up. But previous to living in Denver, I lived in Memphis, Tennessee for a decade and worked through agriculture, creative placemaking economic development, and as well as bikes to make the Memphis region better for the people that live there.

Carlton Reid 6:08
And same question for Kyle, where are you? And what’s your official job title? Kyle?

Kyle Wagenschutz 6:13
Yeah, I’m talking to you today from Longmont, Colorado, just outside of the great bicycle in city of Boulder.

Kyle Wagenschutz 6:21
I am the Vice President of local innovation. And you know, like Sara,

Kyle Wagenschutz 6:27
we’re leading work in cities across the US helping community leaders, they’re

Kyle Wagenschutz 6:35
giving them the tools and the resources that they need to advance the development of their bicycle networks, helping them do it faster than they would do it on their own, and helping them hopefully achieve a broader outcomes than they otherwise would have been able to do. And so we’re, we’re strategically always looking for city based partners to who are willing and able to make bicycling better. And we act as a catalyst in a in a resource to help them overcome the challenge any challenges that are standing in their way.

Carlton Reid 7:07
So I don’t mind who answers this one, you can either if you can, can can jump in here.

Carlton Reid 7:12
How many people

Carlton Reid 7:14
are working for peopleforbikes? And is it everywhere? Is it like do you have like, local chapters? What? What’s the actual setup?

Kyle Wagenschutz 7:24
That’s a sort of evolving question in the pandemic times.

Carlton Reid 7:30
Let’s have it both kind of at pandemic time and maybe normal times. Yeah, good point.

Kyle Wagenschutz 7:35
Yeah, we have a we have a staff of about 30 people working at peopleforbikes. Full time now. Almost all of the staff are based in Colorado, near our Boulder, Colorado headquarters.

Kyle Wagenschutz 7:53
Aside from a few members of our staff that live in Washington, DC, who manage all of our federal policy work with our,

Kyle Wagenschutz 8:02
with our partners in DC, so almost everyone is had been based in Colorado since the pandemic though. We’ve we’ve we’ve had we’ve had several new hiring since the pandemic,

Kyle Wagenschutz 8:13
we’ve we’ve adjusted to a remote working environment. And there’s no there’s no plans for us to return to the offence the office anytime soon. And so I expect that we’ll continue to work remotely from wherever we are in the world.

Kyle Wagenschutz 8:28
For the for the foreseeable future.

Carlton Reid 8:31
And this is this is a question that I could ask absolutely anybody. And I almost get roughly the same answer from everybody. But how’s it affected? How you’re what you’re able to do on the ground? Because you haven’t been able to travel?

Kyle Wagenschutz 8:44
Yeah, that’s a really good question. And Sara, and I contemplated this quite a bit when the lockdown actually occurred is, as Sara mentioned, a moment ago, she and I were just travelling non stop for almost the last two years. And so how did we adjust? And I, I would say that there’s definitely some

Kyle Wagenschutz 9:06
there’s definitely, there were definitely some growing pains that we had to work through, you know, I just there’s been some situations where I know that if we were in a place in a meeting with somebody in a room, we could have solved some problems, you know, over the course of a couple of hours and been done with it. Whereas remotely, you know, several meetings over the span of a couple weeks. So changing the expectations that, you know, communication just is more deliberate, takes more time was a was a was a lesson that we learned and I think the other thing is that even though we’ve been working from home, that the the shared experience of our community partners who are experiencing the same exact thing has been really helpful is that they are also dealing with the pandemic and has made the relationship you know,

Kyle Wagenschutz 9:57
that we’ve been on we’ve been on equal playing field, so to say

Kyle Wagenschutz 10:00
Speak and so we’ve we’ve been we’ve we’ve found that the coordination with our local communities has just been about being more communicative.

Kyle Wagenschutz 10:08
more frequently. And the work work has work has surprisingly continued in many US cities.

Carlton Reid 10:18
And Sara, talk me through bike boom, what? How is bike boom affected people for bikes?

Sara Studdard 10:25
Well, you know, I think it’s been just a really exciting time for the organisation and the industry. And I think in particular, you know, through the role that Kyle and I have in terms of really looking at bike networks, and so how does the bike boom influence the way that our cities continue to be built and respond to residents needs and so it’s been exciting to look across really the globe and see communities, you know, respond to, you know, more time during the day under shelter in place orders, and kind of going outside their, their front door to experience shared streets and car free streets and places to walk and bike and play. And then I’ll let Kyle kind of talk more from the industry side on what we’ve seen from the bike boom perspective.

Kyle Wagenschutz 11:18
Carlton, we’re going to be releasing some new data in just a couple of weeks. But the high level picture is that this past year 10% of American adults engaged with bicycling in a brand new way.

Kyle Wagenschutz 11:35
You know, some portion of that were people who discovered bicycling, you know, after an extended period of time of not biking. So for, you know, people who were absent from biking for more than a year, another percentage of that were people who begin biking in a different way because of the pandemic. So they might have tried indoor riding for the first time or tried riding for transportation or to reach you know, the grocery store to reach a park or something like that. So, tip 10% of the Americans, you know, engaging with Cycling is a significant number of Americans who sort of stepped out their doors this year and, and took up biking and what happened was that you know, the response was people needed bicycles, they needed bicycle parts, inventories became very low and bicycle shops, city leaders saw you know, swarms of people on bikes and then took action to help sort of create safe spaces for them to ride so it’s been this real it’s been this real

Kyle Wagenschutz 12:40
interesting perspective to see that the see the power of grassroots movement, you know, largely unorganised people acting organically looking for ways to escape their indoors to get outside for stress relief for health and recreation, you know, those are their primary motivations for taking a bicycling during this time. But then to sort of see the the spillover effect into what it’s doing for the industry, what it’s what it’s changing in terms of perceptions for city leaders, has has been a real has been a real pleasure to to see unfold.

Carlton Reid 13:17
Here in Europe, we’ve had what are called pop up bike lanes. So Corona, cycleways is that is how they put it in, in Paris. Have you had that same kind of suck it and see initiative that was very much specific to the pandemic. So these pop up type, you know, you know, like, instant

Carlton Reid 13:43
bike lanes that can just come down again, if they have to?

Kyle Wagenschutz 13:45
we documented that there was approximately 200 US cities this year that change the functionality and layout of their streets. Now that’s that’s a really broad way of sort of describing what happens. And that’s purposeful, because what I can’t say is that we had a real sort of uniform approach to this, you know, across all US cities, we did have some cities that implemented pop up like infrastructure.

Kyle Wagenschutz 14:14
And some of those have moved to a more permanent installation, I’m thinking Boston did a pop up set of infrastructure, a holding network in their downtown area.

Kyle Wagenschutz 14:27
And just recently, in the last like three months, all of those orange cones and the traffic barrels that were used to create the public infrastructure are now being painted, permanent,

Kyle Wagenschutz 14:39
permanent protected infrastructure is now being put in place to create that separation.

Kyle Wagenschutz 14:45
We had some other cities like Austin, Texas, who created some pop up infrastructure on some really iconic streets. there’s a there’s a street in Austin, Texas called South Congress Avenue which leads to the state capitol building of Texas across this

Kyle Wagenschutz 15:00
bridge. It’s been a project that has long concerned city leaders and city planners looking to make change. It’s a big it’s a big iconic road that tourists and visitors and residents alike have to traverse every day and in the pandemic gave them the impetus through order of the city council to to make that change and that move from permanent and temporary to permanent infrastructure this past year as well. I would say on on the on the larger whole though, Carlton, most US cities

Kyle Wagenschutz 15:32
who who did things did so with infrastructure that more tangentially benefited bicyclist rather than having a real direct lasting impact. You know, we we our cities closed a lot of streets. To make room for outdoor dining and outdoor retail experiences. We we closed residential streets, except for through traffic. But we didn’t have the sort of like wide scale pop up my sequel networks go in that the last thing that I’ll mention in this is that

Kyle Wagenschutz 16:06
what we did see happen was that communities in the US that were already building bicycle networks did so at an accelerated rate. And so while we didn’t have a lot of temporary bike networks going up, we saw continued progress on the existing momentum that was in place, pre pandemic, continue to spill into even, you know, a time in which we might have expected projects to be delayed or derailed or unfunded. We actually saw those networks going in at a faster pace. They were able to accomplish that this past year.

Carlton Reid 16:45
And Sara and Kyle, I guess, fit for this, but I’ve talked to you both before.

Carlton Reid 16:52
A while ago, and just anybody who’s listening here thinking Kyle and Sara, I know those Where do I know there’s those? So tell me why. And perhaps even when I talked to you before, and then what’s happened to that particular podcast? So Sarah, what what? When did I speak to you last? And and why was that talking to you?

Sara Studdard 17:13
Kyle and I had a podcast that we started when we were both living in Memphis, Tennessee called the bike nerd podcast where we really used it a little, selfishly as a platform for Kyle and I to have amazing conversations with people around the globe, not only in the biking space, but in mobility, health, public space, transportation, you know, people who are passionate about making the places they lived better, and we had over 100 episodes, and we actually have closed down shop with the bike nerds podcast, but have never released our final episode.

Carlton Reid 17:54
So I absolutely agree with your sentiment about speaking to fantastic people from around the world cuz that’s what I’m doing right now. You guys got so I’m inviting you on and you know, it’s like is this in a small incestuous world in many ways, however, you do speak to some amazing people who have got very similar goals around the world, we may have different geographical geopolitical issues to cope with, but we’re pretty much going for the same thing, which is, in effect, getting more people

Carlton Reid 18:25
to ride bikes. Now did any of the bike nerd nerdery lead on to directly what you’re doing now? Sarah?

Sara Studdard 18:37
Yeah, that’s a really great question, Carlton. You know, when Kyle and I began, the podcast, I really had just entered into the bike space, I was part of launching a bike share programme in Memphis, Tennessee. And so I was really in the in the role of learning and educating and making connections of around great people who are encouraging folks to ride bikes. So it really kind of helped me from a personal and professional aspect, create really strong connections within the bike, and mobility space and, you know, really helped me see the value of, you know, not only creating space for people to ride bikes in your community, but also just like the joy and fun it is to ride a bike, you know, bike sharing, particularly because really amazing in terms of creating that, that accessible opportunity for fun and joy and adventure around around the community.

Carlton Reid 19:33
Now, Kyle, you you got in touch with me

Carlton Reid 19:36
a little while ago, and it was actually a Forbes article that I wrote, which was talking about, you know, a very small number of Twitter users, any social media users can actually sway public opinion.

Carlton Reid 19:50
And generally, it were actually the the piece was about was about in I think, was in London. And it was how a small number of anti

Carlton Reid 20:00
cycleway and it was called actually low traffic neighbourhood. So LTNs is the the nerdery in the UK for that particular form of transport intervention. So they were anti-LTN campaigners. And there was an analysis done showing that, you know, they were just talking to each other, but they had this enormous

Carlton Reid 20:23
effect on, on on authority, thinking it was actually a massive

Carlton Reid 20:30
outpouring of public sentiment that actually wasn’t that at all. And then you got in touch and you said, well, I’ve we’ve actually done a study on this. So let’s, let’s talk about why you got in touch what what why did that particular issue ring your bell?

Kyle Wagenschutz 20:45
Carlton one of I mentioned before the some of the work that Sara and I do in cities is, is helping cities overcome challenges to implementing their bicycle networks. And, as we’ve been had our head, our feet and hands on the ground in communities across the US, we we’ve been finding that over the years, it’s that the challenges that cities face are less and less about the availability of public funding to build infrastructure, we’re seeing less concern about design and how to sort of approach building infrastructure that’s attractive for people of all ages and abilities. The concern continually sort of continued to grow to be, wow, we’re ready to go with this. But every time that we go out to build a project, there’s a vociferous opposition to any changes to our to our public streets. And that opposition, every in almost every instance, is either reshaping a project, you know, to the detriment of, you know, the the goals that we’ve set out for the for the project itself, we’re compromising on design, we’re compromising on the limits and the implementation of it, or some in some, in some of the worst case scenarios, projects were being cancelled outright. And so we looked at, we looked into this with with a using a study to understand, you know, our communities, who, if you think about what it takes to get to a point where you’re about to build a project, you know, there’s typically work being done to build the community community support around a plan identifying you think about all the meetings we go to where we draw lines on a map, and we think and envision about the future. However, what’s the disconnect between this exercise where we engage community members and visions about the future? And then when we actually go to deliver on those projects? Where does all that opposition pop up from and why is it so influential, and we say, well, are the American people actually against bicycling and bike infrastructure. And you know, and we didn’t think so, based on some local surveys that we had seen from cities around the US, but we conducted a study in 2018, to look at very specifically how people view bicycling, how they view mobility, and more importantly, to dive into an understanding of what drives people to make the mobility choices that they make every day. It’s our belief that to build the safe networks of protected bicycle lanes, low traffic streets, the kinds of infrastructure that we want to see flourish in our communities, that we can’t just be speaking to cyclists and building support through cyclists, but that we also have to build support for these programmes, from people who may never ride a bike or who haven’t written a bike. They’re though they’re the individuals that

Kyle Wagenschutz 23:41
are to use like a political term, you know, they’re the swing vote, a lot of times in our communities. And we wanted to make sure through a research based approach that we were able to talk with them communicate to them in a way that encouraged them to support this work, rather than discourage it with their city leaders.

Carlton Reid 24:01
And how much of this this assumed popularity for bike infrastructure in the general population is an abstract thing. But then as soon as it becomes concrete, that’s when the opposition comes in. And, for instance, what I’m trying to say here is, if you ask somebody, you know, do you want more bike infrastructure? And they take all they say, yes, that’s one thing. But when you physically get down to the brass tacks, and you actually get the work, people moving in and closing down parking spaces, you know, putting in concrete barriers, then it becomes in flesh. And then opposition would then come in because well, I said, I want the bike infrastructure, but not on my road.

Kyle Wagenschutz 24:43
That is the central component of what the study found. We found that in the US overwhelmingly, the population here support cycling, for all of the reasons that we know people have very fond memories of bicycling

Kyle Wagenschutz 24:59
As children, even if they’ve even if they stopped long ago, they remember what it was like to the fun they associate bicycle lane with being outside, they associate it with the freedom and moving around the neighbourhood. They all have these amazing stories and generally speaking, have really positive sentiments to say, Yeah, I support bicycling. But you’re right, the moment we say, well, do you support bicycling, even if it means

Kyle Wagenschutz 25:26
taking the parking spot away from in front of your home, suddenly that that majority of support for bicycling plummets, it’s it’s a very weak support in this almost almost as soon as you put a trade off in front of people, we lose that the strength of that support to levels that we can’t sustain. If you were going to, if you’re going to run as an elected official on these numbers, and you had a position that this this precipitous drop off occurred, you would not run for election, you would not win very well. And and so what we have to do with that is, I’m sorry, what,

Kyle Wagenschutz 26:06
what we found is when we looked into like, what, what are those trade offs that trigger that drop? The the primary concern for people, as it relates to bike infrastructure, is that as they’re making choices about transportation every day, what what drives a person to get into their car versus public transport, or a bicycle or to walk, it really comes down to people want to control their schedule. And we can we can talk about the nuances of parking space versus travel lane versus diversion and speed and all of those things boiled down to individuals in the US want to control their schedule, they want to walk out their door of their home with some sense of reliability and get to where they’re going in the timeframe that they think it takes to get there. And it also this This phenomenon is not just unique to bicycling, it also explains why traffic congestion or a crash that backs up traffic, you know, creates road rage within people because we’ve disrupted their primary motivation is this this control of their schedule? Currently, driving a car gives people the most control of their schedule in US cities. And bicycling basically, infrastructure is largely seen as an inconvenience to that. And that’s, that’s the real,

Kyle Wagenschutz 27:28
that’s the real communications barrier that we have to overcome.

Carlton Reid 27:33
So Sara, when when people maybe say that they want bike infrastructure could part of that being I want bike infrastructure for my neighbour, because that gets them out of their car? and enables me to carry on going in my car? Or

Carlton Reid 27:50
are there people out there who we don’t know, as a cyclist are using air quotes there? Who would get on to bikes? And they are in favour of bike infrastructure?

Sara Studdard 28:02
Yeah, Carlton, I think it’s a combination of, you know, I also think there’s the motivation to have control of your schedule, you know, as Kyle kind of explained, is there, but I also think there’s a motivation to live in a community that provides multiple options for people to get around. And so I think when we hear support for bike infrastructure for people that you know, may never choose to ride I think there’s also a pride and a community sort of buy in, in terms of being supportive of the greater good and being supportive of potentially your neighbour riding a bike. Maybe your your true motivation is to get them out of their car. But, you know, I think there’s value in that and then I think we know that when we build safe places for people to ride you know, an individual that maybe was on the I’ve never in a million years going to get on my bike because it’s dangerous see, is that a protected lane

Sara Studdard 29:00
and a dedicated space for them on their bike creates a really great experience for their family and so I think investment and infrastructure also you know, creates investment in the people who may choose to purchase a bike and turn into a air quote cyclist.

Carlton Reid 29:17
I’d either you could answer this one because it’s a general question really, and that your people for bikes, so clearly, your bikes, but so much of this, you know, to get people out of cars is not obviously bikes, not everybody’s gonna be able to get onto a bike. So how much do you interact with the other ways of getting people out of cars? So how much do you get involved with transit? How much you get involved with pedestrian infrastructure, sidewalks? How much of that is absolutely. In your brief, even though in your title, it says bikes.

Sara Studdard 29:53
You know, when we look at cities that are most successful, they are not

Sara Studdard 30:00
Truly connected and truly investing into a single mode. So I think for us to really encourage people to ride bikes we under we understand that at our core that you know, we’re never going to get every single American to ride a bike. But by increasing pedestrian space, increasing great safe transit stops and efficient bus bus schedules, we are also creating really great places for people to ride their bike and also choose choose other modes and, you know, the cities that we find to be really successful. Understand that and also, you know, build diverse partnerships and Coalition’s that involve housing, public health, pedestrian advocacy, etc. And really at the bike infrastructure bike network is like one component of what makes that city I’m really great and helps get people around.

Carlton Reid 30:58
So tell me about the US. I mean, I know Colorado is absolutely bike Central. And I mean, you’ve only taken a quite a few years ago,

Carlton Reid 31:08
Boulder overtook Davis, California. And I know you have you had those two cities are vying for quite a long time to being like the capital for for cycling in the USA has the fact that you’re in Colorado, how much does that cover your thinking in that when you go to two other cities, it’s much much tougher, because you have kind of got it nailed in many cities in Colorado, compared to other places in the US.

Kyle Wagenschutz 31:39
Colorado compared to the US other us as a whole is better in some ways, but that there continues to be a lot of momentum building and other places that Colorado and cities can learn a lot from.

Kyle Wagenschutz 31:56
And that I think that’s a I think that’s a real story that sort of exists throughout the US is that there are pockets of real growth, real advancement and mobility. And,

Kyle Wagenschutz 32:09
and then there are areas that are totally devoid of it. And so I I, you know, it’s interesting that

Kyle Wagenschutz 32:17
Sara and I have experienced Colorado this past year for the first time because of the pandemic in a really intense way. But we we are generally speaking, spending a lot of our time outside of Colorado extra exploring the great things happening in other places. And I would say that having we’re now working doing some work with some Colorado cities just in the last the last year, year and a half. And what’s really fascinating about that is that we’re actually taking some of the inspiration and case studies from our work in other cities. And we’re bringing those back here to to our to our local partners, in some ways. So

Kyle Wagenschutz 32:57
I would I would say that, yeah, if you want to get on a mountain bike, if you want to visit the city of Boulder and sort of see what they’ve done historically, I think I think there are some real jewels here, don’t get me wrong. But I would also just say that I think there’s there’s jewels elsewhere that are offering a level of inspiration to even places here in the US that have have succeeded historically.

Carlton Reid 33:18
Rolling it out to the continent as a whole. If you if you include, you know, North America, then you have Montreal,

Carlton Reid 33:30
which is phenomenal for bikes. And it has been, you know, roughly since the 1970s, when they had two very successful advocacy groups arguing for bike lanes and stuff to be put in there. So how close is the best American best

Carlton Reid 33:48
US city compared to a stellar city? Not stellar in Amsterdam, European terms, but stellar in North American terms? How close is any US city to Montreal?

Kyle Wagenschutz 34:02
I would say generally speaking, Carlton, we actually do an annual city ratings programme where we do measure on a system using a system that we’ve created. We do we do rank cities in terms of how great they are for bicycling. And we’ve just in the last year began measuring some Canadian cities, we’re actually as we head into 2021, we’re actually expanding the reach of the programme into Canada, Australia and some European cities for the first time. So coming soon, there’s going to be a sort of a fuller answer to your question here. But I would say generally speaking, a few of the Canadian cities ranked on par or slightly better than most of the cities for bicycling here in the US and so I’m thinking Montreal Of course. Vancouver is among those who

Kyle Wagenschutz 35:00
rim pretty high in that list. And I’d even add in Toronto in terms of a city that, given its size, and sort of density or lack of density, per se, is actually achieving some, some some making some accomplishments for ridership that exceeds similarly, you know, position cities in the US. And so I would, I would project that some Canadian Canadian cities are right at the top of the pack for for all of North America, and only the US is best cities are on par with those.

Carlton Reid 35:37
So where are we talking about?

Carlton Reid 35:39
Well, give me your your best ranked American cities.

Kyle Wagenschutz 35:43
Yeah. Yeah, I mentioned, you know, you, obviously Boulder, Colorado is among those. It’s where our office is located. But we, we use data not not not subjectivity to make these things.

Kyle Wagenschutz 35:59
You know, if we’re looking at like, cities that would be familiar with around the world, in Washington, DC has continued to sort of make constant steady progress. Denver, Colorado, here locally is also a city that over the last decade or so has really improved made some improvements. In Madison, Wisconsin, historically, among the best in the US, continues to rank really well. And then we also have this, this growing,

Kyle Wagenschutz 36:28
that’s of this growing list of small to medium sized cities that are really over performing, giving, given the size of their city. And these are places like San Luis Obispo, California, Santa Barbara, California, even a place like Missoula, Montana, or Rogers, Arkansas, you know, these are, these are communities that you would not automatically think to yourself, boy bicycling heaven, but they have really carved out

Kyle Wagenschutz 37:00
a really strong niche, and some of these smaller communities, you know, less than a few fewer than 100,000 people.

Kyle Wagenschutz 37:06
And the rates of cycling happening there, the infrastructure being built, is really a testament to to the local leadership.

Carlton Reid 37:14
And, Sara, you’re, you’ve got a new Secretary of Transportation coming up in a matter of days. In fact, how much do you think having such a high profile? I mean, even I know the guy, how, how do you think that’s gonna affect Trump not just cycling, but transport as a whole? In the US? Can he transform something in a relatively short space of time?

Sara Studdard 37:46
Mayor Pete, colloquially like really understands that safety is needs to be a first priority with our transportation system. And so I do then from his role, you know, being a mayor of a local community, that he understands that, you know, we need to invest in safe, comfortable, non stressful types of transportation options, whether that’s through transit, bike infrastructure, pedestrian infrastructure, etc. And so I think that understanding of safety will will help us make, you know, strides that are not just, you know, paint on the street, but strides that actually encourage people to get out of there, get out of their cars. And then I think, you know, we need to have a really robust, you know, federal budget that’s able to provide funding to states and then those states to provide funding at a local level to really invest at a high sort of, you know, budget perspective, to really ensure that we’re able to build the bike bike networks in a quick and rapid way. I think what we’ve seen in US communities is, you know, I think part of this vocal minority, this opposition we talked about earlier, is that, you know, a project idea, you know, comes forth, and that project may not get implemented until five or seven or 10 years down the line. And that’s just entirely too long from a project delivery perspective.

Carlton Reid 39:14
Hmm. And then Kyle, roughly the same question in that Mayor Pete is going to be a effect of progress, but anybody’s gonna be a progressive after, after we’ve had, of course, but he’s gonna be definitely an incredibly progressive progressive

Carlton Reid 39:32
Transportation Secretary.

Carlton Reid 39:35
But he is then got, you know, like a whole set. It’s just one man is the whole system here set against him almost in that the whole of the US economy is a gasoline automotive based economy. So how much can he genuinely change in the short term?

Kyle Wagenschutz 39:53
Well, I think, you know, simply by joining the administration

Kyle Wagenschutz 40:00
And I think there’s been a number of roadblocks for the last four years just in moving progress forward at any, any expected pace. And so I think simply by having some new leadership in place, we’re actually going to see some things that have just been lingering, you know, in the bureaucracy actually begin to make momentum, I actually find that the agencies who deal with transport at a national level in the US, certainly are rooted in a historical sort of automobile driven mindset. But there’s some really amazing people working with agencies that have a lot of initiative and a lot of really amazing programme ideas for for making us transportation more sustainable and more relevant to the people living here. They just haven’t been given the ability to unlock, you know, those programmes for last four years, they’ve largely been,

Kyle Wagenschutz 40:52
you know, working every day, but not really able to move an agenda forward, I think, simply by having the new administration in place. And Mayor Pete, leading the helm for transportation is simply we’re just going to see some progress happening, because we’re going to be unlocking the potential of what’s already there. I think after that, I think Sarah is right. You know,

Kyle Wagenschutz 41:14
the the new secretary has experienced working as a mayor and city, he understands the challenges and pitfalls that befall cities, when you’re looking to receive federal funding, take advantage of these programmes, he understands the intricacies of what it takes to deliver the projects. And I think he’ll be able to offer some, some renewed insight and some of the renewed commitment to making transport a broader part of community development. If I remember, under the Obama administration, you know, there was this monumental joint effort between the Federal Highway Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency in the housing and urban development areas of the US. So looking at how does transportation affect our climate change goals? How does that affect the way in which our cities are developed, and we provide housing affordably to citizens residents, you know, that all came to a screeching halt under our current administration. And so I’m eager to see those kinds of conversations renewed because as Sarah mentioned, where we see real progress being made for bicycling. We’re seeing bicycling exist as part of an ecosystem and also making progress for

Kyle Wagenschutz 42:27
you know, living wages being distributed across the city, wealth enhancement, affordable housing, environmental concerns, public transportation success. You know, I, I think I think that’s, that’s what I’m most hopeful for is that we begin to see this broader conversation about how does transportation, interact, affect and be affected by

Kyle Wagenschutz 42:49
these other these other societal and cultural issues that exist within cities?

Carlton Reid 42:56
So, here inn the UK, and I’m sure it’ll, it’ll be in the same in the US is

Carlton Reid 43:03
transport ministers or transport?

Carlton Reid 43:06
mandarins civil servants, and politicians get very excited by electric cars get very excited by E–scooters, because they’re new toys they can play with these new things.

Carlton Reid 43:20
And bicycles and cars are kind of old technology, you know, there are 120 years plus old.

Carlton Reid 43:28
So where do we see because you want people for bikes? Where do we see e scooters fitting into cuz we haven’t even discussed them at all. But with this new toy, this the E scooter phenomenon?

Carlton Reid 43:41
How much do you think the bandwidth will be taken up by looking at these new things at but could that actually benefit the old technologies that the bicycles of the world?

Sara Studdard 43:54
we have a programme that we work on in partnership with nacto, the National Association of

Sara Studdard 44:02
transportation, I’m going to butcher the acronym nacto, the mayor’s office of Philadelphia and peopleforbikes as part of the better Bike Share partnership, and this looks at you know, how does micro mobility you scooters, Bike Share e Bike Share, etc. You know, how do we ensure that these new technologies and these new innovations are deployed and accessible in an equitable way, in really North American cities. And so, you know, I think that, you know, these new innovations are providing increased opportunities for people to, you know, not choose to get in their car. And so I’m excited to kind of continue to see how e-scooters and micro mobility in particular can just be another option another, you know, tool in the toolbox for people to to get around their city and then, you know, I think this continued innovation and and

Sara Studdard 44:59
interest and electrification just provides more opportunity. I mean, think the bike boom has, you know, seen during the pandemic that you know, there’s a hunger and an interest in ebikes. Because, you know, you don’t have to be like a world class athlete to, to do some pretty epic mountain bike rides are just cruising around town on an E bike. So I think it just provides just a tonne of more accessibility opportunity for people.

Carlton Reid 45:28
Kyle, yeah, those are those are definitely a pregnant pause there. I don’t know if that was because you didn’t know whether to which of you want to come in as a scooter thing. But what about your views on on E-scooters?

Kyle Wagenschutz 45:41
Yeah, I was I was just hoping Sarah would.

Kyle Wagenschutz 45:46
That’s that’s an old trick from our podcast is pregnant pause so we don’t overtalk each other.

Kyle Wagenschutz 45:53
I agree with everything Sara said, I’d maybe point to a more tangible example, I mentioned before some of the work that’s happened recently in Austin, Texas, and before the pandemic, Austin, Texas was

Kyle Wagenschutz 46:08
a North American Centre for E scooter use, you know, registering, you know, when comparing East scooters to the bike share the public Bike Share system, East scooters were were being written on a daily basis on a daily basis at a 10 x. So for every one trip being made on the bike share system, there were 10 trips being made on scooters. And it was a, it was a fascinating phenomenon to be in downtown Austin, in, in pre pandemic times to at this peak of scooter years just to see the people that were willing to to get onto a scooter. And you’re thinking about it from that sense. It was like swarms of locusts, and in some ways to sort of, you know, be hyperbolic about looking at a street and seeing the people riding scooters. But when you looked at them, they these weren’t people you would sort of expect to be the they weren’t exclusively young, you know, hit people right into their tech job. It was families it was,

Kyle Wagenschutz 47:11
it was clearly older people it was younger people it was people of all shapes and sizes and ages and colours. And it was just a fascinating exercise to sort of look out and say, Wow, you know, there’s, there’s something to this, I think, to what, what Sara has to say is that, as far as we’re concerned,

Kyle Wagenschutz 47:30
you know, anything that gets people out of their cars is a real benefit for cities, what we’re what we’re ultimately after here is not you know, propagation of bicycle lane as a singular mode of transportation, we don’t want bicycling to become, you know, what the car is today, what we want.

Kyle Wagenschutz 47:46
What we really want, though, is like we want, we want cleaner air, we want a better planet, we want a safer place for our children we want. We want all of these, these, these other benefits that come along with it. And getting there requires you know that we have some some other options for people. And if that’s a that’s a scooter today, and it’s you know, I’ve often joked that the next thing might be like an electric on-street kayak. I mean, I don’t know what’s coming down the pipeline.

Kyle Wagenschutz 48:21
But, but I think as long as we’re moving people out of their cars today, that’s the real, that’s the real strategy that we can put in place. You know, there’s certainly, there’s certainly things that we need to address as it relates to sort of, you know, the the rapid adoption of these of these new technologies.

Kyle Wagenschutz 48:40
They don’t have the time tested, you know, sort of

Kyle Wagenschutz 48:46
requirements that we don’t know how they’re going to play out in the long run yet from a functionality standpoint, from a US standpoint, so it’s all still really too new, too new, I think, to make concrete judgments about it. But I think right now, if for no other reason, if it’s gonna come back to some of the original purposes of talking here about how do we sort of reshape public opinion in terms of supporting bike infrastructure? Well, if somebody really loves to ride a scooter, and I can get them to support building a bicycle lane, you know, that’s, that’s one more person who is writing to their city councillors writing to their mayors and their leaders saying, you know, thank you for creating the space for me to to ride that I don’t have to interact with cars. And I ultimately think that’s a good thing. So mobility lanes, maybe rather than bike lanes. Yeah, I think so. I think

Kyle Wagenschutz 49:38
we, we haven’t really, we need we need better marketing on how we’re talking about this. But yeah, that’s right. low speed, low speed mobility lanes or lanes or for individuals travelling less than 20 miles per hour. I think, you know, that’s, that’s the that’s the concept. We haven’t come up with a really catchy name for those yet. Mm hmm. So I’m gonna ask the same question to both of you.

Carlton Reid 50:00
actually might might ask Sara first and Sara might come up with an absolutely perfect answer. And Kyle doesn’t have to come on this. And maybe Kyle will actually enjoy the fact he doesn’t have to.

Carlton Reid 50:10
And this is not me just picking on you, Sara, but it’s just that you’re kind of like, you’re the next one in line to ask the question. This is why I’m coming to you on this particular point. And it is potentially, well, it isn’t a difficult question. It’s potentially a political question in many ways. But that is just bike lanes. So we have been talking about bike lanes, whether we want to call them mobility lanes, under 20 mile an hour, whatever we want to call them. How much is peopleforbikes, your your your outreach work? How much of it relies on either maintaining what you’ve already got in cities, or expanding them? How important are bike lanes to your work?

Sara Studdard 50:49
Bike lanes are an integral part of our work, you know, communities that, again, when we look across the city and look at communities that are wanting to increase the amount of people who are making the decision not to drive their car, investment in bike lanes is kind of parable Paramount as part of that solution. And so I think we’re actively supporting cities and city staff and elected officials, etc, and communities across the country to look at their bike network. And in a really sort of analytical and sort of hard way, we have a tool called our bicycle network analysis that is able to, you know, really help a city and not deem their bike network successful by the amount of miles they have installed, but you know, are those miles that they’ve installed?

Sara Studdard 51:42
safe, comfortable and accessible to as many residents as possible? And so we are constantly, you know, encouraging and having discussions about, you know, not all bike lanes are created equal, there’s always room for improvement, there’s always room to look at, you know, what our speed limits look like? Are there other traffic calming aspects, so

Sara Studdard 52:07
I could, we could probably spend a whole nother 45 to 50 minutes talking about, you know, how important bike network and bike infrastructure and lanes are to the success of mobility.

Carlton Reid 52:20
So I’m gonna, I’m gonna pick it this one, I’m gonna keep on going. I’m gonna go for I’m gonna go for Kyle now, though, because you’ve had your chance. So and I’m going to go back here, I’m going to pick it at Kyle. And that is,

Carlton Reid 52:33
how much do you then potentially neglect the other things that can boost micromobility, bicycling, whatever. If you focus on bike lanes, bike lanes, bike lanes, which, you know, in many places, you need space, space isn’t always there.

Carlton Reid 52:56
There’s got cost requirements, there are all sorts of things. And there are other measures that you can take that sometimes, not always, but sometimes can have massive, massive,

Carlton Reid 53:08
Upticks for cycling. So. So your elevator pitch on promoting bike lanes above all else, Kyle?

Kyle Wagenschutz 53:18
I would say, I think you’re right there. There are other measures. And there are other considerations that we that we should make. However, I would say that none of our cities visit this and then me I’m speaking solely about the US here. There are very few US cities that have built enough infrastructure to see those other measures actually be successful in a in a really broad way. So by that, I mean, you know, we if you go to any city in the US, and you ask them about their great cycling education programme, they’re going to they’re going to show you what they’ve been doing. They’ve been doing it since the 1950s and 60s, when it began teaching kids to ride bikes, you know, through police departments. And at the end of the day, we’ll look at sort of the growth of cycling as as the expected outcome from all of this work, and we’ve seen cycling remain relatively flat in the US for the last decade. Or if I asked the city you know, what measures are you taking to, you know, grow ridership. And so we have we have these riding events, we have these clubs, and we look at the trend line for cycling and we could we see that Cycling is still relatively flat. What we’ve what we’ve uncovered using this tool that Sarah mentioned, the bicycle network analysis is that there’s a point at which your your your community needs to create a basic network of bike infrastructure that supports riding, and it’s it doesn’t mean that every street has a bicycle lane or that every street is slowed to a point

Kyle Wagenschutz 54:54
where cars are driving 20 miles per hour, but in order for these safety programmes,

Kyle Wagenschutz 55:00
judgement programmes, bicycle commuting tax incentives for those programmes to to, to exponentially increase the number of people riding bicycles, you have to have the basic infrastructure in place to actually support it, it’d be it’s sort of the equivalent of this, if in your community, you wanted to

Kyle Wagenschutz 55:24
get everybody to a grocery store,

Kyle Wagenschutz 55:28
and you built the grocery store in, you know, in a field, and then told them, you know, to, to drive there, they certainly could, you know, without without without having roads, they certainly could get there, it would be an interesting experiment to sort of, you know, ask people to navigate a city with a lack of roads while driving in their car.

Kyle Wagenschutz 55:52
You know, similarly to how bicycles currently experience writing in cities today, we could we definitely see that we can encourage them to do it, we could create some programmes that would help them navigate, you know, a roadless city to get to that grocery store, we’d see some adoption there. But, but if we built a road to get there, wow, we could suddenly get there very fast, very, we wouldn’t be inconvenienced by you know, riding over a dirt or going around a tree or something like that. And that’s what we have to create for bicycling we we what we want to encourage with people for bikes is the more rapid expansion of these networks, these other programmes, these other encouragement ideas, these other initiatives can actually have a foundation for their success, rather than trying to create success.

Kyle Wagenschutz 56:42
In in a place where they lack that underlying support structure. At the end of the day, as you know, we want people to be comfortable riding and riding the bikes. And so infrastructure is the first step. So I would say like, what we want to do is talk about infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure, because we haven’t even established that baseline level of comfort with people with our infrastructure network. From there, we can build into broader pieces of momentum.

Carlton Reid 57:12
What’s your argument? And this can be for Sara, if you want to pitch in there first. What is your argument for when you put the bike lane in, you’re successful, the city puts it in either

Carlton Reid 57:24
tactical urbanism, you know, like, it’s just like a soft one, like a pop up first to trial it or they put a concrete one in straight away. And then it doesn’t get used in the numbers that, you know,

Carlton Reid 57:37
ticks those boxes for the local politician who went out on a limb to get this put in? How do you cope with low use of a cycle lane of a bike lane? How do you?

Carlton Reid 57:51
How do you explain that? How do you maybe change that?

Sara Studdard 57:59
I think kind of to go back to Kyle’s grocery store in the middle of a field example. I think it’s really looking at that new bike lane. And can anyone access it and in a safe way, is it part of a full network that creates connections to you know, the variety of places people want to go from their homes to work to a park to a grocery store? And so I think really challenging that maybe the bike lane actually the construction wasn’t a success because it didn’t make those connections to look at it that way.

Carlton Reid 58:35
Same question to Kyle then and then you know, the perfect is the enemy of good. So what Sara was saying there is about you know, is the network up to scratch in effect well shouldn’t there therefore be an emphasis on on getting a smaller things put in place smaller interventions put in place before you go for like a gold standard, you know, in inverted commas bike lane, because if it’s a if it’s a bike lane is put in huge expense, and it doesn’t have those network connections and Sara saying, it’s probably not going to get us however, local politicians and perhaps local

Carlton Reid 59:14
officials as well. They want to put their name to sexy infrastructure, you know, big road, a bridge so they can cut the ribbon off. If you just put a few like ineffective boring bits of connectivity in that will actually you know, just put a barrier in say on one road and it just enables people to suddenly cycle more, but it’s not sexy. So how do you how do you get around the fact that an awful lot of the things that are actually get people on bikes are phenomenally unsexy. And nobody’s really that interested in putting their name to it?

Kyle Wagenschutz 59:49
Yeah, yeah. And so I would, I would concur with Sara. A bike lane is only as good as what it helps people connect to and you’re obviously

Kyle Wagenschutz 1:00:00
right, Carlton, the the way that cities have gone about building infrastructure has historically been in large capital investment projects that completely transformed the street, you know that we’re building infrastructure that looks really great, it has that aesthetically pleasing, it probably accomplishes more than just adding bicycle lanes, it’s also adding enhancements for pedestrians public transport access,

Kyle Wagenschutz 1:00:27
you know, it’s probably, you know, having tangential community benefits, it probably also took 10 years to build that thing. And at the end of the day, you’re right, what happens is you you get to the finish line, you cut the ribbon, you have the big scissors with the mayor on the street. And then you look around and you’re like, well, where are the bicyclists? We built this amazing piece of new infrastructure for them? Where are they all at? And I think what what that what that process misses is that fundamentally, at the end of the day, people are making transportation decisions based on convenience, you know, monitoring their schedule, getting to the places they want to go. And in, in the process of building up to this new piece of, you know, top, top notch latest innovation and design and implementation, we lose the plot on Wow, this bike lane goes for one mile, and then it stops, and then it dumps back into the same terrible road that it was before on either end. How are people reaching this bike lane? What where we’ve seen some success is, you know, the scale of the infrastructure, I think is is less important, you know that there’s different communities have different financial situations, they’re able to afford different styles of infrastructure, where we’ve seen some real success, and we’re working with some community partners is in rethinking the nature of a bicycle infrastructure project, not not to be a corridor, but to be an entire network all at once this, this is a model that we learned about, you know, that was used in Seville, Spain, during their rapid implementation, you know, about a decade ago, and thinking about the bicycle network is the project that we should be pursuing. So we just we’ve just been working, for example, with the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, who, this past year,

Kyle Wagenschutz 1:02:17
ran successfully have implemented a project implementing a network in one part of their city, it’s 11 different corridors, it’s protected bicycle lanes, green paid the full night, the full nine yards, roadway reconstruction, but they took that they took all 11 corridors, I think it’s something like 14 or 15 miles in total, they took all of those to the community, as a singular project, build, we’re gonna build them all start to finish. And as they went through the public engagement process, building support, block by block for that work, they weren’t talking about just the change to the street in front of your business, they were certainly talking about how that street in front of your business connects to the neck connects to the next neighbourhood connects to the next street connects to the next part of the city connects to the park. And they were able to lead a singular public engagement process during a pandemic, and complete implementation all in all last year, by approaching it from this network perspective. And I actually think that is maybe the more important facet for city leaders to think about is that

Kyle Wagenschutz 1:03:29
rather than spending a lot of time a lot of money and a lot of energy on what are at the end of the day, pretty small scale projects from a connectivity standpoint, is to expand the definition of of your bicycle projects. And Get, get something more out of view of your work at the end of the day. You know, and then think about it if I’m a bicyclist, and I’m not sure how to get to this new bike lane, that looks really great. But both sides of it are really dangerous. And your network is only as good as you know, as as the weakest link the most dangerous connection that it has. Imagine, though, if I can go out to my new bicycle network in New Orleans. And I can ride 14 miles and they’re all interconnected. I can seamlessly go from one piece of the network to the other, onto the trails onto the street, I can get to the park that I wanted to get to I want to stop and get some lunch at my favourite restaurant. I can do all of those things without ever leaving the bicycle network. I think that’s the real opportunity before cities.

Carlton Reid 1:04:34
Mm hmm. Fantastic. Kyle, Sara that’s been absolutely fascinating. And it has been definitely nerdy

Carlton Reid 1:04:42
nerdy so that that’s a good form of nerdy

Carlton Reid 1:04:47
so where can people who have been turned on by this and they like that the nerdery Where can they get in touch with you guys on social media?

Carlton Reid 1:04:56
where you can find people for bikes at?

Kyle Wagenschutz 1:05:00
Add people for bikes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Kyle Wagenschutz 1:05:06
And we Sara and I still maintain

Kyle Wagenschutz 1:05:11
the bike nerd social media presence to find us most active on Twitter at the bikenerds podcast.

Carlton Reid 1:05:20
Thanks to Kyle Wagenschutz and Sarah Studdard of People for Bikes for kicking off the Spokesmen’s roster of 2021 podcasts. I’m aiming to get the legend that is Gary Fisher on the next show but meanwhile get out there and ride.

December 30, 2020 / / Blog

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Wednesday 30th December 2020

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 263: Loading close pass videos to the cloud with a smart bike dashcam that looks like a cute Pixar character

SPONSOR: Jenson USA

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Crispian Poon and Liz Yu of Pelation, maker of the Rebo smart bike light and dash cam.

TOPICS: Pelation is a UK-government backed start-up that is to soon produce for real the Rebo smart bike light and dashcam video combo — it looks like a Pixar character and has been trialled successfully by a courier company Pedal and Post of Oxford.

LINKS:

Pelation website

TRANSCRIPT:

Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 263 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This episode was engineered on Wednesday, 30th December 2020.

David Bernstein 0:24
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
It’s nearly over. 2020. The first few months of 2021 still look grim but with the vaccines being rolled out — my doctor wife has already had her first Covid jab — we could soon all get back to normal. I’m Carlton Reid welcoming you to the last episode of the year. As regular listeners will know, the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast is a US stroke UK co-production, with my co-host David Bernstein joining in from Utah. And for the final show of 2020 my guests are another US stroke UK co-production. Crispian Poon is English and Liz Yu is American — they joined forces to create Pelation. No, not peloton, we get on to the naming thing in the show itself – Pelation is a UK-government backed start-up that is to soon produce for real the Rebo Smart bike light and dashcam video combo — it looks like a Pixar character and has been trialled successfully by a British courier company. I met the pair at an expo in London just before the first lockdown in March, and wanted to get them on the show as soon as they had something concrete to talk about. Well, that time is now …

Carlton Reid 2:42
Crispian, Liz. you’ve now got to refresh my memory because I met you at a Move conference exhibition at the ExCel Centre in London, when was that? When did we meet?

Liz Yu 2:57
I think that was earlier this year in February, at Move 2020.

Carlton Reid 3:02
So that’s basically 12 years ago,

Liz Yu 3:05
Now appears to be normal.

Carlton Reid 3:10
When we could actually physically meet in person, which was a it’s a fond memory. So you had at that point you had what you had a product in prototype. You’re now it’s still in prototype, you’re sending it out but with with with couriers and Oxford and stuff, but tell me exactly what product you’ve got. So what is the Rebo? Am I pronouncing it right first of all? Yeah, that’s correct. Okay, so I don’t know how you’re gonna do work this out Liz and Crispian who’s who’s gonna be talking me through first?

Liz Yu 3:44
I think I can give it a quick intro. So the repo is what we’ve been working on. And we as installation, Crispian and I in our team, and word cycle technology company, and we’re in our goal is all about getting people from point A to B seamlessly on a bike in cities. At the moment, there’s a big safety barrier. So rebo is a smart bike light and dash cam. And we’ve designed it to reduce the amount of near misses and record incidents to increase availability of kind of the cycling data in an industry. So there’s a couple parts to it. First of all, I think we like to talk about, we tried to design it with a preventative design, and we can talk more about this later. But we use kind of a unique design that tackles behavioural psychology so people move safer around cyclists. Second of all, this dash cam comes with a handlebar bookmark. So there’s a button on your handlebar. So anytime any cyclist runs into any incidents, whether it’s a infrastructure issue or something on the street that’s unsafe, or you know, potentially a near miss. They can click this handlebar bookmark and what it does is it captures any details at that point of the ride. So the video footage, the location plate numbers, and more. So you Just have to keep writing. And you can review this information seamlessly later. What happens is when you get get home, this uploads through cloud, so you don’t need to touch your device, you don’t need to mess around with SD cards and you have a dashboard to view everything that’s happened. And you can submit it to authorities if it’s something serious, or you can simply just have the recording to share. And what happens? Yeah, and so that that collects in our database. So we have a database of all the most dangerous areas that cyclists feel that there is in the city, and we use this information to contribute directly to data and insights of the infrastructure changes.

Carlton Reid 5:45
So it is a cute looking product. And you you touched on why it’s a cute little looking product a second ago, we can talk about why it’s a cute looking product later on. But first of all, I’d like to find out about you to and where you’ve come from and your background. And I guess why you’re doing this. So first of all, as we haven’t heard much from Crispian. So let’s Crispian you go first, wherever you come from. And I’m why Rebo and why Pelation?

Crispian Poon 6:16
Yeah, so I’ve been an electrical engineer. In most of my career, the first company and the last company I worked for was building electric vehicles. So as in the electric mobility space, building hybrid electric, taxis. We’re actually running trials in London for over two years for a project called Metro cab. Basically, we’re trying to make cities cleaner, safer, using electrify technologies. But I saw on problems when we actually, there was still congestion, people are still stuck in vehicles. We weren’t moving people very efficiently. There are only a couple people in taxis at a time. And they’ve always had an interest in bikes. So when I finished that and went to Imperial to do our MBA together with Liz, we started looking at the sustainability, space and mobility. We both cycled, we both saw that there is a problem in the cycle space and want to do something about it. So we went on lots of design research talk to hundreds and hundreds of cyclists. And the main problem that came up with was cycling near misses, lots of people, we’ve talked to talk about their stories about how they, you know, ran into cars on turnings, or, or having close calls with cars passing too close. And we just saw, there’s nothing on the market that could solve the problem. So we came together, probably has together and started working on rebo to really find a solution to near misses, which weren’t being tackled, either by the authorities or just by, you know, the authorities, in general in terms of enforcement.

Carlton Reid 8:10
So when we met in February at the ExCel centre, how long have you been working on the project already by then? And how fresh was the product? Basically?

Crispian Poon 8:22
Yeah, well, we’re

Crispian Poon 8:23
actually on a, a DFT funded grant project called T-TRIG. So it’s actually right over between December to the latter part of this year. It was a feasibility project to build a prototype out to see what kind of name as technology name as prevention technology we can build out. And the first part of that prototyping stage was where we met, met you move 2020 we got a very rough already prototype out to meet customers, I get some initial feedback. And that was really successful, because then we went on to develop our second iteration of the product, which went on to deploy with occurs in Oxford.

Carlton Reid 9:05
So that was like you mentioned T-TRIG there. So let me just, that’s transport technology, innovation grant

Liz Yu 9:12
transfer technology research, innovation grant.

Carlton Reid 9:17
Okay. Right. And that was January, and that would have ran out a couple of months ago then.

Liz Yu 9:26
So that kicked off in January, but and because of all the delays with COVID. It’s actually gone on till around end of September.

Crispian Poon 9:36
We had lots of issues, you know, we couldn’t were the hardware company and we build physical products, and we need physical parts. So we’re very dependent upon the supply chain. So we walked around a lot of problems actually, with supply chains from overseas and actually insource a lot of development in house but inevitably those delays because we had To switch around our entire operation, we still got there in the end.

Carlton Reid 10:05
Okay, and now Liz, we need to find out where you’re from and and not just where you’ve come from in this space, but I guess geographically where you’re from. So where’s where’s your accent from? Liz?

Liz Yu 10:19
I am from California. But I’ve grown up, you know, all over kind of all over the place in Taipei back in California. And I’ve lived in Singapore for a few years. And I moved to London to complete my MBA. And that’s as crispian said, where we met. So my background actually is previously in hospitality industry, but doing business development and such. So working for hotel brands, like Starwood Hotels, and other luxury hotel groups, so quite, quite a change. For me, and after my MBA, I’ve joined a startup to add tech startup to help lead and grow the startup before. This was, you know, this was for us. At first, a bit of a side project we started during, kind of during the NBA, we started talking about it, we started working on it, and yeah, it just turned into a full time. Full Time project for us. Full Time gig.

Carlton Reid 11:20
So let’s describe it physically. I know that’s very hard, because we’re talking audio. But there’s a there’s a definite look to this thing. And it’s it’s it’s kind of computery futuristic, with eyes. So it’s meant to have eyes. Yes. This this this handlebar camera. Oh, yeah. It’s a light. So the light for the eyes? Yeah.

Liz Yu 11:48
Yeah. And I think I think generally, it’s smaller than than what people imagine it’s about the size of your palm, maybe a bit smaller than that. And it fits at the front or back of your bike. And yes, it’s not a fundamental I design, which we, we like to include, and we like to talk about, because it’s, it’s what we believe can true one of the one of the things we believe in truly make a difference, changing the behaviour of people that are actually around the cyclists to make people feel safer, and be able to then choose cycling as kind of their first choice of transport.

Carlton Reid 12:25
So the way I kind of describe it is if Pixar was to design a bicycle light, you know, it would look a bit like this. So it’s, it’s, you know, a futuristic ii computery kind of face. So tell me about the psychology of why a face.

Liz Yu 12:48
Yeah, so this is something called the watching eye effect. So what it what it is, is it uses I design elements in there, there have been lots of kind of reports about this, the psychological effect of when there is some sort of image of an eye, people tend to feel like they’re being watched. And so they either have more positive behaviour, or safer or so through various examples. And papers are such as littering. Like if there’s a photo of an eye, somewhere nearby, people are a lot less likely to litter, even if it’s just a photo. So we see this used in kind of the surveillance industry and the transport industry. If you’ll notice, TfL has bus ads. And on the back of the bus ads, there, there’s been a few versions that has just an image of an eye saying something along the lines, watch your speed. And similarly in the surveillance industry, there’s there’s an eye in areas but I you know, that one’s a bit more self explanatory. But what it does is it Yeah, subconsciously prompt positive behaviour,

Carlton Reid 13:59
and then helps a cause just with their headlights. They kind of look like faces. Yeah,

Liz Yu 14:05
yeah. So So I think the new the new, autonomous vehicle that Jaguar Land Rover is testing us is kind of AI to communicate safety, intentions and friendliness.

Crispian Poon 14:18
Yeah, I think whenever there’s a product or imagery that that evokes more humanization people tend to respond better because that’s part of their subconscious. You know, people seek out eyes, people sneak out gazes. And that’s why this effect is so effective is because, you know, people already know this. Since they’re born. They’ve been looking at people’s eyes means that, you know, people can humanise cyclists better as I hope we have the product bite also seek them out easier. Because it’s something so natural.

Carlton Reid 14:56
Hmm. So tell me about the the actual implementation of this this product, so you’ve given some of these units, the Rebo units to a courier firm in Oxford called pedal and post, yeah?

Liz Yu 15:11
Yeah, that’s correct. So, um, but this element is just a small part of it. The main, the main, kind of what we are focusing on right now. And you know, the AI element, we’re doing different iterations, we’re testing with the most effective version. So what we’re working on now is, we ran a pilot with, yeah, as you mentioned, put a pedal and post in Oxford. And what we did is distribute these cameras to them. And their riders, you know, are riding more than an average commuter, they, they deliver, they deliver items about, you know, eight hours a day, five days a week, rain or shine, probably seven days a week, actually. Yeah, and they bookmark any area that they feel, and you know, these are writers that are trained, and really, really know how to ride you know, no beginners, they’ve, they’ve been, they’ve gone through proper safety training. So they bookmark areas that they feel are unsafe, or that they’ve had incidents, and, and then we get this, we kind of get all this footage, and it compiles into a bit of a heat map of dangerous areas, sorted by categories of what type of incidents

Carlton Reid 16:18
and the rider themselves after the ride categorises the incident, as you know, that was a close pass that was a, an obstruction, is that what happens? How do they physically bookmark these things?

Liz Yu 16:35
So so they bookmark the handlebar button, so the button that comes with the device, all they need to do is click it. At the moment we are with the writers input, we’re sorting these categories. So whether it’s a close pass, or it’s a left hook from a car that’s coming from the head, it’s usually quite apparent. So we’re able to sort them into different categories. But with the writers input, sometimes it’s something that’s a little bit more specific. But yeah, with individuality of just automating this whole process, is kind of our next project. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 17:12
And then when you could get your adventure, we’ll talk about the commercialization of this. But eventually, there’ll be a map because on the on your website here pervasion. Co, UK, where you’ve got the the description of Oxford, I’m scrolling through it here now. So there’s a there’s a map Box Map, where you can click in and you can see the incident itself, and then you can actually see the video of the incident. So is that eventually how you would envisage all these this data getting out there in that every single eventual owner of a rebo. Any incidents they have, would get logged on to a data, great big map where every incident can be clicked through?

Liz Yu 17:56
Yeah, if they choose to, riders choose to share it, for instance, you know, our next project is, I keep calling them projects, but kind of what we have in the pipeline is with the government of Jersey, and they have a couple of these, quite a few of these units running around the island of Jersey and their writers will bookmark, bookmark the dangerous areas, and we send, you know, report to the government of Jersey, of where these work, sorry, where these points are. And you know, they’re able to go in and view the video. And what they choose to then do with it is, at the moment, it’s up to them. But there’s many kind of mini kind of ways you can present this data other than just on this map.

Crispian Poon 18:41
Yeah, and the beauty of our system is that we’ve reduced so much of the friction in allowing the user to submit these namelessness report. At the moment is very manual process, you have to get the SD card, extract the footage, right? Find the place where the incident is, and then make a manual submission to the police, or whoever. But we’re automating all that you press one button, you get 60 seconds of footage automatically uploaded to the cloud. And it gets put on the map. And the infrastructure planners who want to look at this data to really fix the near misses at the core. They can take the videos and watch the videos themselves and see why these near misses are happening. I mean, that’s an unprecedented capability. Because at the moment they use hearsay from people who talk to counsellors or just raw data that doesn’t really explain why near misses are happening. This gives them a first person view of why incidents happening and really generate the corrective corrective action that they need to take to fix these issues.

Carlton Reid 19:55
Eventually, on the website, it says 2021 next year in effect Very shortly, you’re going to go out to Kickstarter for this product. So how close are you to, to realising that?

Liz Yu 20:07
um, I think, I think right now we are focused on the plan is always to go down the Kickstarter route, there’s a big cycling market there, there’s a big kind of support and community there that we think will be very interested. It’s the people that would be very interested in our product, the same people that have already, you know, signed up for our beta trials and to purchase a beta version of this product. But I think at the moment, we want to make sure we are proving this to be useful, because you know, otherwise, it’s just another camera and dash cam, we want to make sure we have everything set out and kind of the path ready for this to be able to actually make a difference and the future of creating a cycle city in different areas.

Carlton Reid 20:59
Do you have a ballpark price? rough price?

Liz Yu 21:03
I guess what we always say is around £100. That could change.

Carlton Reid 21:08
That’s not shocking. I mean, that’s like that’s, that’s actually okay. Yeah, I’m in this kind of space. £100 pounds is or there abouts is not? I didn’t follow my chair, basically. You know, you’re just no more than that.

Liz Yu 21:25
Yeah, but it’s still as Crispin said, it’s still there early. As we’re still at the moment, the prototypes are, you know, retail value would be more than £100. But, you know, it’s still a bit early for us to tell. We are, you know, if it includes it includes, you know, we’ve we’ve had actually conversations with, with, for instance, London Cycling Campaign when these are ready, you know, maybe we could run a few, you run a few of them on writers for you know, two full weeks of London and see what kind of data we get that that type of project will take more, you know, analysis time and a bit more data crunching and things like that. So, at the moment, we’re not quite sure yet, but I’m hoping for around that price range.

Carlton Reid 22:17
Let’s let’s talk some tech because if there’s any camera geeks on here, who you know, we’ll base all of their purchasing decisions on and it’s not 4k it’s not it’s not 1080 it’s not there’s not that it’s not there’s Why is only looping for this amount of time. So tell me about the actual tech what what is the camera on board? How good is it? How long you know, does it loop forward? Give me all the really nerdy stuff

Liz Yu 22:43
Over to you Crispian.

Carlton Reid 22:46
Yeah.

Crispian Poon 22:49
Well, um, so so the camera was actually an HD camera, we’ve got a wide angle lens, which actually it’s related to after a couple of weeks of testing with pet on post when they were capturing tonnes and tonnes of incident had to gather more evidence of close passes. So we’re actually calibrated the wide angle lens for that particular use case. So the there’s internal storage on board there is 128 gigabytes so we can actually record for about three days straight of constant eight hour shifts usage the device itself has a battery life between five to eight hours so enough for shift because you’re not cycling all the time when your career but it depends on you know whether you turn the camera on full brightness or you doing all sorts of harsh writing in hot sunlight. But our cameras can cope you know, they’ve been out in the streets of Oxford in daylight, rain, sunshine, hail, you name it.

Carlton Reid 24:01
Any stabilisation onboard digital or not?

Crispian Poon 24:04
we try to keep the hardware as simple as possible. So we went back to the fundamentals. So the stabilisation is really about reducing mechanical operation, get it as tight to the frame as we can. Because what we see on the market is lots of cameras using very flimsy mounts, which induce a lot of vibration. Well, that means you have to use electronic stabilisation, which is kind of a plaster on a fundamental one. Our petition is good. We can capture number plates, we can see the road details quite clearly. And most importantly, we can see the incidence the second by second and seeing everything that’s going on during this

Carlton Reid 24:50
and you said before I think was Liz actually was saying that that you can you could put it on behind as well is that is the same unit or you’re talking about a different a different iteration.

Crispian Poon 25:01
Yeah, it’s the same unit. So we’ve got universal mounts for the front of the bike back on the bike, and even the same mount on some of the cargo bikes. It’s a really flexible system, you can clip it on clip off, there’s a locking mechanism.

Carlton Reid 25:17
But then when the lights be white on the back, or do you have like a filter goes across?

Crispian Poon 25:22
Yeah, so we’re working on that at the moment. For the trials, we just have the camera running, when it’s on the back by the pilot to have some kind of filter system to cover the lens. So you have a red light on the back and a white light in the front. Huh.

Carlton Reid 25:42
And then I asked you before about the price I don’t think we actually got and maybe what the when is, so when when might you potentially go to Kickstarter?

Crispian Poon 25:56
I think what, we have a mailing list. So if you sign up, you get all the latest updates. We’re running lots of projects at the moment to de risk our development. But I think the answer is soon not too soon, but soon

Liz Yu 26:11
crowds and yet like right now, our main focus is actually to develop capabilities to automatically identify and analyse the near misses. So, you know, bringing some machine and learning into then applying that to the footage that we captured. So we’re working with a lot of councils right now, in terms of actually developing this part of the software. So when this part of software is ready, and we’ve proven it, then I think we will go back and focus on the actual Yeah, manufacturing of the hardware product. And that’s when Kickstarter, and everything will kick in. But at the moment, yeah, we’re trying to make it so that councils have a tool to be able to, you know, what they have, what they see right now is cycling data, but sometimes just like they know where some of the dangerous areas are, but it’s hard to connect the dots from there to then you know, what caused it. And we’re trying to use these these, like footage on the data points to help with that part of it. So it is, it is this bit is our first focus. Because until we can do that we’re you know, we’re quite focused on like, what will actually improve cycling and will will actually help with more safe cyclestreets. So once we’ve worked out kind of this, this area, and we will go back to launching manufacturing and sending these out.

Carlton Reid 27:40
Okay, and then an awful lot of police forces are now making it much easier for motorists and cyclists and motorcyclists anybody who’s got a dashcam to upload their, their footage. So is that something that you can make? easier? Can you like lock into these systems? And it’s just, you know, a one button upload? And what are you doing for like the not that the council side of it, but the police side of it? Yeah,

Liz Yu 28:10
yeah, we’ve been, yeah, there’s like the dashboard over where people can update at the moment, or you know, our footage automatically. So if you’re writing, and you bookmark this incident, when you get home, you can then get a link of just those two minutes before and two minutes after. So there’s really no processing kind of in the middle, you just have to click that button when it happens, or a little after happens. So at the moment, it’s a link that they can apply to upload, but I think in the future, you know, we’ve we’ve tried to with the the TfL funded London cycle safety team, as well. I think it might be a bit complicated kind of linking the system just because you’d have to kind of link the portals, but we do have plans to make as easy as possible. It’s easier than Yeah, at the moment, a link that basically they could just paste on to any sort of reports they want to report. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 29:08
And then you’re riding through Oxford, and it’s just a such a lovely day that they’re not only motors around, it’s like, oh, I really enjoyed that ride. I just like to post that to social media, just the whole of that ride. If you can do that as well without having a you know, press that button to save that’s the bit I want. Can you go in afterwards? In other words, and get just a nice ride?

Liz Yu 29:28
And and and upload it so yeah, absolutely. We um, you know, we’re all about promoting the fun of cycling as well. We don’t like to promote kind of the aggression on the road that people might have with each other. It’s not always about instance, but sharing the joys of cycling. So you can so yeah, you can still press that button, and you would just, it just wouldn’t be tracked as it wouldn’t be captured as an incident. It would just be something you can then click Share, and share the link to social media. We see that Yeah, we see that all the time people, especially with our team members, you know, they like to date they like to share their their coolest ride or, you know, the most pleasant ride that they have. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 30:13
And what about overlays on the video, you know, like the location data, all that kind of stuff that is behind the scenes in the zip file. But do you have any plans for toggling on and off, you know,

Crispian Poon 30:27
data above, totalling data, but potentially, I mean, it’s part of the development roadmap, we adding information like GPS data, so we have tracking of the location of the bookmark bookmark instance. So you can refer back to the map and see exactly where the instance happened. But in our future prototypes, we have accelerometers and jarra data so you can really see what’s going on on the bike in terms of swerving, acceleration, heading direction, change and stuff. But, I mean, this camera is tailored for safety. First and foremost, it’s really about making the entire process for making safe cycling easier. And better. So yeah, but like I

Liz Yu 31:23
said, as well, like the users can choose to share this information or not. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 31:33
And with with the UK, you could talk us through this, this blog posting on Oxford. So clearly, a bunch of couriers, yes, they’re expert cyclists, but they are also going to be going into pretty much the same locations all the time. And it’s going to be, you know, city centre locations mainly. So it will be different to when eventually consumers get get that hands on this. But what what have the what are the kind of things that have really been highlighted to you from the Oxford paddlin? Post data? What what is what is what, looking at this map, and all these different incidents that have happened? What’s your takeaway from them?

Liz Yu 32:16
Um, I think, I think there, there were a few. One thing was, it seemed quite straightforward to pinpoint, you know, the key problematic areas, and you know, as you might predict a lot of common incidents like illegally parked cars, for instance, that were captured, or cars, and then kind of like a lane that they’re not supposed to be, we’re in city centres, because that’s tends to be where, you know, there are parking issues. And so some of those quite straightforward initial findings. And then we also, we also see specific roads that near misses happened the most often. And these tend to be roads that, you know, again, don’t have cycle lanes. But I think what kind of this map gives extra is to be able to click through to the video. And just because you could say, you could see a point, this is near miss on this road. And that will give you that information. But you know, what this map adds is that, then you can click through and watch what actually happened. And then you could see that, wow, okay, that happened, because this roads tend to be, for instance, very empty at this time of day. So people tend to drive by very quickly without being aware of cyclists. So little, kind of extra details like that could be added through through these videos for fueling the actual footage. Those are kind of like

Carlton Reid 33:52
is it been tested anywhere else apart from Oxford in this kind of? depth?

Liz Yu 34:00
We’re planning?

Liz Yu 34:01
Yeah, so we, you know, we have something launching in Jersey in the month, actually, less than a month. So that would be interesting to see, especially since we are less familiar with kind of Jersey cycling infrastructure, which would be exciting to have a look at what kind of footage we capture there. You know, we have internal trials that we’ve ran throughout London, and, you know, being, you know, us being like living in London. Those are always more interesting to watch because it’s interesting to see exactly which road you kind of sympathise with, with the same issues that you run into and you know, I’m on my daily commute. And then we Yeah, we’re potentially launching in Edinburgh as well. Next year, there was a quarter company that we’re working with, but we kind of need to Yeah, we kind of are rushing to keep up with the quarter companies that are interested In working with us, so hopefully that can be early next year, something we’ll be able to see as well.

Carlton Reid 35:09
And ready to place and come from obviously some peloton going on there, but tell me more about the word

Liz Yu 35:16
we’re absolutely not related to.

Liz Yu 35:21
Yeah, we’ve been getting that a lot. So you know, we might we might go through we’re kind of having conversations of undergoing a potential rebrand but yeah, Crispin.

Crispian Poon 35:33
Yeah, yeah. So pelation the word has, it really embodies the values that we hold, which is we want people to have fun when they cycle and really see cycling as an everyday tool or a means to get around everywhere. So when you get on a bike, we want people to feel happy and elated. And that’s why pollution came along. It’s about Okay, okay, okay.

Carlton Reid 36:02
Got it. Got it. Okay. All right. And then the peloton, not peloton is in the company peloton, but just the word, peloton and so it’s peloton and elation together. Am I am I in the right area now? Yeah.

Crispian Poon 36:21
Yeah, yeah. And elation. No. So

Carlton Reid 36:24
okay. Okay. Yeah, that’s good. Yeah. Okay. So pedal elation. See, I’m coming that from a Pro Cycling point of view. So Rebo? Were does repo come from?

Liz Yu 36:38
repo is actually something, a name that we had during development. It was never intended to kind of mwant to be the actual product name. Um, but yeah, it just kind of stuck. And everyone on the team really liked it.

Crispian Poon 36:57
Yeah, that’s meaning to the word. It just sounded good. We started using it.

Carlton Reid 37:04
So that that kind of Wall-E, Pixar Disney type aesthetic. Is that the Is that likely to be the finished product? Or are you still going to go through some iterations on how it looks?

Crispian Poon 37:16
I think there’ll be market testing. And we want to get more feedback from people. But we like the initial approach. We’d like the friendly kind of kids friendly as well. style of the product. easing eyes as the focal point of our design. Yeah, let’s see. I think more

Carlton Reid 37:39
and it’s Sorry, it’s other lights. Are they street legal light, so they could use this as your only lighting setup from Yeah,

Crispian Poon 37:48
yeah, absolutely. I mean, that’s why we designed the light into the device is that we don’t want people having a light on the camera, and everything else on board, extra battery or whatever. It’s all in one, you just put it on and is ready to go for your ride. frontlight camera done?

Liz Yu 38:06
Yeah, the one feedback we get from cyclists is generally just that there are already too many things to put on your bike. I’m guessing you can put them as fellow cyclists so a common combining them all into one?

Carlton Reid 38:23
Yeah, you need to have a bell on there, you’re gonna have to put a GPS, you know, a Strava dev unit on there. And what else can you

Liz Yu 38:31
well, so doing more testing because we are aware that as a breed cyclists are very picky about many cyclists are very picky about what what they put on their bike bike, so there needs to be Yeah, so we need to do a bit more you know, kind of customer testing, but in general, you know, it’s small, it’s portable, and you instal the mount on so it just slides in and out so it’s a very easy seamless process

Carlton Reid 39:00
and do you have to have in the finished product where you always have to have the button that you press for marking incident is that always gonna be separate to the the actual light camera unit doesn’t have to be separate

Liz Yu 39:15
at the moment and it’s separate because the unit can be applied to both the front and the back of the bike. So you can use the same unit up to you get one for the front one for the back. But yes, at the moment, it’s separate but the button is small. It goes on snaps onto the handlebar really easily.

Carlton Reid 39:36
And it’s Bluetooth.

Crispian Poon 39:38
Bluetooth, yeah.

Carlton Reid 39:41
Okay, and then let’s do a Dragon’s Den here. So is this is this something that you can you can make a living at? Can you can you have you looked at the size of the handlebar, dash cam bicycle, camera light market and you can see a nice Where you can get into there? And you can you can make a business from this. So do me Give me the elevator pitch of, of how you’re going to make yourself into?

Liz Yu 40:11
Um, yeah, so we, I guess on top of, we haven’t had gone through those numbers for a long time. But on top of the growing growing kind of cycle assessment market with with the amount of cycles in cities, you know, growing at a very fast pace and the cycle assessor market being a big one, we are, we are big on looking at the infrastructure market. So this is we’re kind of focused on kind of the data sell of this product, eventually, you know, this is information on cycling that is currently unavailable. So anything that has to do with infrastructure is councils up to, you know, sit, yeah, city planning and even up to autonomous vehicle, you know, they’re there. The AV industry is growing, but they’re having trouble identifying cyclists, they find cyclists like cyclists to be the most unpredictable object on the road. So you know, these are all of these can all feed this information can all feed into, you know, this is just initial thinking, of course. This can all feed into kind of that market. So yeah, it is, it is kind of I don’t have the numbers on me right now. But yeah, it is, it is kind of a couple different areas, the quarters are just a small, kind of our beachhead market, they want to protect their riders, they want safety for the riders. Eventually, maybe perhaps these companies employing you know, like deliver, we see Uber Eats, they’re running into issues on the street when their riders get into an incident. It’s a big kind of liability for them. So their job is to think, okay, what’s the best way to protect our riders, before they ride and after if something happens to them. And then on top of that, yeah, individual cyclists. And then kind of the whole infrastructure planning side of things.

Carlton Reid 42:07
You’re going to say something there, Crispian?

Crispian Poon 42:09
Let’s say, you know, with a lot of local deliveries, last mile deliveries, especially of bands clogging up in the cities, we’re seeing a lot more startup cycle logistics company popping up, for example, in the Edinburgh company, they just popped up a couple months ago. And it’s really filling in the space up. And there’s a lot of driving in the government as well, in especially the high level strategy to push forward more low carbon. So micro last mile, transport delivery logistics networks, to consolidate all the deliveries and also make delivery trips more efficient as well. So we definitely see a potential there. And also, with the infrastructure planning side, there’s a lot of push for, as you know, emergency active travel funding. And that’s why we’re getting a lot of interest from councils, governments, to really see how we can do a data driven approach to planning infrastructure, because there hasn’t been a data driven planning approach to solving especially like near misses. It’s been using very raw, very unrefined data like collision data, which really don’t show the problem before serious incidents happen. For example, like incidents, you can have a couple 100 of actual collisions in the space, but you can have 10s of 1000s of near misses. And I think lots of councils are saying that they’re seeing the missing data that they’re not using in their business cases, when they put for these funding proposals. They’re not seeing the near misses that are part of the whole planning process to see where the issues are, and where they need to put the fixes into get more people cycling. Using a data driven approach.

Carlton Reid 44:18
Great, lovely. Tell me now or tell tell the listeners of there’s a bit on your your website says join our movement. So where can people sign up to join your movement? Liz? Yes,

Liz Yu 44:33
so pelation.co.uk/sign-up. So if you just go to our website, click Join our movement. Basically,

Carlton Reid 44:43
what are people gonna, what

Carlton Reid 44:44
are they signing up for them, they’re they’re signing up for an announcement of when you’re going to be launching your case,

Liz Yu 44:51
as well as just you know, kind of what we’ve been up to. We’re always looking for more beta users to test our product. We like to build a product that’s Not just you know, built by us, a community of cyclists. And we have a lot of kind of users are in regular regularly in contact with. We love feedback from cyclists. And we’d like to hear you know, everyone’s new ideas. So if you’re interested in what we’re working on to sign up on our website,

Carlton Reid 45:21
social media, what you’re doing in social media, yes,

Liz Yu 45:23
we can find us on twitter @pelationtech. And you can find us on Instagram, pelationtech as well. We regularly we regularly kind of update these two platforms, but also on, you know, LinkedIn and Facebook as well. If you want to chat with us. We’re always you know, Crispian and I are the founders. We have a small team. We’re always keen to chat with anyone that you know, is into cameras or likes, likes to talk about buy or likes to talk with, you know, have campaigners that want to tell us you know, what their biggest issues are when you know, when looking at

Liz Yu 45:59
kind of campaigning in the space or just anyone kind of a narrow we’re always up to have a chat.

Liz Yu 46:07
Yeah, get in touch.

Carlton Reid 46:10
Thank you to Crispian Poon and Liz Yu for talking through their pedalling elation project. This has been the last episide of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast for 2020. We’ve been getting you at least two a month for some time now and I don’t see that changing for 2021. Have a safe and hopefully Covid-free New Year and we’ll kick off again in January 2021. Thanks for listening and for sharing about the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast on social media – show notes, including full transcripts, can be found at the-spokesmen.com Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

December 1, 2020 / / Blog

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GivingTuesday 1st December 2020

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 262: Baron Bird: “Bikes are the future”

SPONSOR: Jenson USA

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Big Issue publisher Baron Bird of Notting Hill in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

TOPICS:
The Big Issue publisher Baron Bird of Notting Hill loves bicycling. He lives 7 miles from Cambridge and when visiting he cycles there. His latest Big Issue project is a dockless bike share scheme for smaller cities using electric bikes fettled and hired out by unemployed people and others who may be vulnerable and in need of a way of improving their lives.

Lord Bird has had a fascinating life so far — a life enriched by art and what he calls social kindness — and he’s clearly not ready to put his feet up under his ermine robes just yet.

The Big Issue is still sold by those living in poverty but, because of Covid, no longer from the street. Lord Bird discusses the various other ways you can now help out Big Issue vendors but first we talk about Giving Tuesday and Taking It Away Wednesday, with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea set to dismantle the well-used cycleway on Kensington High Street. Lord Bird slammed that decision saying “bikes are the future.”

Pic by Louise Haywood-Schiefer.

TRANSCRIPT:

Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 262 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Giving Tuesday, 1st December 2020.

David Bernstein 0:24
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:09
The Big Issue publisher Baron Bird of Notting Hill loves bicycling. I know this because we chatted earlier today about his latest project, a docked bike share scheme for smaller cities using electric bikes fettled and hired out by unemployed people and others who may be vulnerable and in need of a way of improving their lives. I’m Carlton Reid and today’s hour-long episode is a corker even though my guest admits that, in a former life, he was a bike thief. Lord Bird disputes this, however, preferring to say he rode bicycles stolen by others. He’s had a fascinating life so far — a life enriched by art and what he calls social kindness — and he’s clearly not ready to put his feet up under his ermine robes just yet.

Carlton Reid 2:11
In the second half of today’s show we talk about Big Issue EBikes, due to be rolled out in the first quarter of next year, but much of the first half is Lord Bird telling me about his tough start in life, and how he managed to turn his angry brick-throwing nihilism into a force for good. He co-founded The Big Issue in 1991 thanks to some investment from big-nosed Scot — his words not mine — Gordon Roddick of Body Shop fame. The Big Issue is still sold by those living in poverty but, because of Covid, no longer from the street. Lord Bird discusses the various other ways you can now help out Big Issue vendors but first we talk about Giving Tuesday and Taking It Away Wednesday, with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea set to dismantle the well-used cycleway on Kensington High Street …

Carlton Reid 3:16
You are known, john, as Baron Bird of Notting Hill in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which is an absolutely fantastic name.

Carlton Reid 3:29
Of course, shortened to Lord john, but but May I call you, john?

Baron Bird 3:34
All right, just this one occasion, just as one occasion I will allow?

Carlton Reid 3:38
Yeah, thankfully, it was because of Baron bird of Notting Hill in the Royal Borough of Kensington Chelsea would be would be a long conversation, wouldn’t it?

Baron Bird 3:46
I tell you, they got the geography wrong. All right. Because Notting Hill is divided between the Royal Borough of Kensington, Chelsea, and also the borough of Westminster, which was Paddington when I was born. So I was actually born in the borough of Westminster as it is now. Right? Wrong and filled in all the forms and it couldn’t be changed. So

Baron Bird 4:12
I’m really the Lord bird of Westminster, but it doesn’t matter, Westminster, nor

Baron Bird 4:18
Royal Borough of Kensington, Chelsea, they’re all posh places now.

Carlton Reid 4:21
But they both both pretty posh, but they weren’t back in 1946, John.

Baron Bird 4:26
They were the actually where I was born, and had the highest infant mortality rate than anywhere in the UK. So if you wanted to kill your children, so for instance, you didn’t want so many children and the bill is once they would die,

Carlton Reid 4:47
not dead but now you live in the equally posh Cambridge Is that right?

Baron Bird 4:51
Well, I don’t live in the town. I live out in the country nearby.

Baron Bird 4:56
Yes, I love Cambridge. I first came to Cambridge

Baron Bird 5:00
When I was 17, I hitched from London.

Baron Bird 5:03
And to go to an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam and I came out the age of 17. And said, one day, I’m gonna live here. It was so beautiful. And also I was kissed by a young student, a young woman, a young girl, who invited me to a party. And I saw, I’m gonna come back, and I came back maybe 45 years later deliver very nicely. Family.

Carlton Reid 5:28
Yeah, that Cambridge is is noted for being a bicycle place. And I do absolutely want to get onto the bicycle related nature of today’s conversation. But let’s go backwards a little bit in that and go back to Notting Hill. And that is

Carlton Reid 5:47
Kensington High Street. I don’t know if you know at the moment, but right the second in time, the Royal bearer is taking out a protected cycleway on Kensington, High Street, were you aware of that?

Baron Bird 6:02
I was not aware of that. But, um, I don’t know why they would do that. Because the future is going to be about bikes. Um, is it not interesting that kind of 40 or 50 years ago, if you saw a photograph of Beijing, it would be full of bikes. And then they move back to cut. They moved into cars. And now even Beijing, and all those places that were that a newly prosperous are now going back to bikes. I don’t know why. The Royal Borough of Kensington Chelsea, but they let you know that, like most authorities, they’re capable of doing things that look very bovine from the outside. I’m sure they have we’ll have a logic that we probably wouldn’t agree with. Huh?

Carlton Reid 6:51
That’s that’s a very diplomatic way of putting it.

Baron Bird 6:53
Yes. Yes. I mean, I used to work for the Royal Borough of Kensington as a as a little as a road sweeper.

Baron Bird 7:02
And I worked in the cleansing department, and I worked in the parks department. And every now and then they would do something really strange. I mean, one of the things they did, I’m sorry, that I’m going on about it, is they over the weekend, pull down the beautiful Kensington Town Hall intensify the high street, because on the Monday, they were told there was going to be

Baron Bird 7:27
one of those preservation orders. So they pulled it down over the weekend. It was it was not illegal, but it was very, very shady practices.

Carlton Reid 7:37
When was that done. But with that, without me going into Google and finding out roughly,

Baron Bird 7:43
that was about 1980.

Carlton Reid 7:45
John, today is Giving Tuesday.

Carlton Reid 7:50
And that’s that’s part of a greater whole, which is like the social kindness.

Carlton Reid 7:59
So tell me a bit about the importance of today and and social kindness in general.

Baron Bird 8:06
Well, I worked in the United States about 22, or three years ago, and I produced a magazine in Los Angeles called Off the Wall. This is where it all goes back to.

Baron Bird 8:19
And working in Los Angeles and meeting some really, really desperately poor people in South Central, in watts in Crenshaw in in Compton, and all that. I was always staggered by the amount of people I met, who were doing things for the community. And I kind of loved that. I thought, they’re not doing it for money. They’re doing it because for the love of other human beings, and these are some of the poorest people on earth. And we in our magazine called off the wall, we had, we chose a day of the month, which was called a 32nd day. And we awarded, we said to people

Baron Bird 9:02
choose any day of the month, whether it’s the third or the fifth or sixth and call it your 32nd day. And your 32nd day of the month was when you woke up in the morning. And you said I’m going to do something for the benefit of others, because it will benefit me. And we had hundreds and hundreds of people sending in suggestions of what could you could do and all that. And it was it was overwhelming. Unfortunately, I then had to come back to the UK because we were having we have to do stuff with the British shoe. And I came back and I popped that up. then lo and behold the COVID-19 heads and suddenly you get these enormous outbursts of people wanting to help other people. And there is no there is no rhyme or reason other than the fact that it’s human beings, forgetting the fact that they’re consumers forgetting the fact that they’ve got their own problems for rent or

Baron Bird 10:00
mortgages and they go the extra mile for the community, the week that the layman the hold. And that is absolutely brilliant. I mean, even somebody like like Markus Rashford

Baron Bird 10:15
tweeting a very simple thing. And he tweets it says, Why does the government not look out for our children for their school dinners, and it’s a bit ratty too. And lo and behold, that gets taken up. And every person who responded to that tweet,

Baron Bird 10:34
in a way, was demonstrating social kindness to such an extent that they change the government’s mind, oh, suddenly, they could afford it. And it looked mean. So we got all these outbursts. I know a company that was one of those largest suppliers of toilet paper, and jail and all those sorts of things that were in that were in demand in March. And they sent out a note now this is anti commercial. But this big company sent out a note saying any of the people they supply

Baron Bird 11:06
if they are found to be up in the crisis, and based on shortage, then they will start supplying. Now that isn’t totally uncommercial thing to do to turn on your supplies and say, you have to be morally strong at this moment. And all those kind of outbursts the way in which readers have a number of newspapers, readers have the big issue got behind the big issue, when all around vendors were removed from the streets, all these sorts of things I am, I think that we’ve gone through the worst year that I have ever known for indecision for too much advice coming from 27 different places, cumbersome pneus not being in the right place at the right time, not knowing how to respond to the covid. But an attempt by the government and by local authorities to impose some kind of order. And you had all there, and you had all those tragic deaths, some of them probably need not have happened if we’d been better organised. yet. 2020 will also be remembered not just as a time of tragedy, but also a time of a new way of working together, and sharing all in it one over one a month for all. So to me, social kindness is a recognition of that. And at the end of this year, when we have our special issue about reviewing the year that we’ve been through, we will leave other people to go on about only other things. And what we will do is we will extract the positivity is the building back better, of social interaction with each other. And we’re going to start out 2021, with reminding everybody that we need to be working together to be in order to get through this, I believe that this is the break, that is possible to create a new optimism in the community, even though it’s founded on a chat, a challenging tragedy of all of those misfortune of people who died last year.

Carlton Reid 13:20
So lockdown ends, December 2, and then you can get your vendors back on the streets because we need to remind people that people haven’t been allowed to be selling Big Issue on the streets, you’ve done a few innovative things, haven’t you with with which haven’t done before? And clearly because of COVID. So what have you done to get Big Issue out there in different ways?

Baron Bird 13:43
Well, one of the things that we’ve done is we recognise the the almost the near death of the streets and said how can therefore can we work with homeless people who and people who who sell a big issue? How can we work with them in a way that says no, we’re not going to accept this laying down. So we moved into subscriptions, getting people on subscriptions, getting digital copies of the magazine, and we’ve been relatively successful. Now, I mean, we’ve lost, we lost virtually all of our sales from one mode, or nearly all of our sales except for subscription and digital. For the for the virtually the whole of the lockdown. This second lockdown. It’s been quite difficult to organise it but we managed to carry on supporting our vendors. And we’ve done one of the innovations we’ve done is where you can go on to the website and you can itemise an alert, you know, find out where the vendor is. And then when you buy a subscription or a digital copy, make sure you know will tell you that half the money will go to them. So we’re carrying on with the relationship. The big challenge for us is what happens

Baron Bird 15:00
plans in the new year will High Street get back to where it was probably not people working at home. And so we will have to innovate at a much faster and an accelerated level. And we’re up for it. Because we believe and this is one of the other things about social commerce, we believe that our readers really want to get behind what we’re doing. They want to support people in need and want to support people out of need. The only tragedy for me and I have to say, maybe I’m more frightened than most people is that a lot of our readers and people who are governance and all these other companies

Baron Bird 15:44
are going to be the people who are lining who’ve been lined up, if they’re not supported, they could end up as the new homeless, and that frightens me because that’s not this eight to 9000 10,000 people we work with a year, that’s hundreds of thousands. And I really do not want any person and their children and other members of their family, caring to go through the dungeon, the Bastille of homelessness that I went through as a child,

Carlton Reid 16:16
let’s let’s talk about that, because you had a rough childhood. So a big part of why you were involved with with the Roddick’s to create the Body Shop fame to create the Big Issue was you had a background where you had been homeless, you did have a troubled background. So tell me about that.

Baron Bird 16:40
Well,

Baron Bird 16:42
I was

Baron Bird 16:44
I think I was groomed to fail.

Baron Bird 16:47
I had a I mean, I love my parents

Baron Bird 16:51
love them to death. They were, you know, working class or labouring class people. My mother was a barmaid when she met a distillery worker who was my dad, they were she was 18. He was 20. They got married, later lived in the slums of Notting Hill where my father came from and where my mother it come from come to from Ireland.

Baron Bird 17:20
And they had children, they did what everybody else was doing, having children. So they had six children, but three, and four in the sons of people. The family broke apart when I was seven. And we moved into an orphanage, but for that period, they had their children.

Baron Bird 17:41
No money worth talking about wages. My father unfortunately was a heavy drinker. So a lot of that money disappeared on a Saturday night. And that was a kind of coping mechanism. That’s how poor people often cope cigarettes and drink would be, you know, the things that helped you get through the poverty. We were made homeless when I was five, because the parents didn’t pay the rent, we were out on the street. We were put into a void in the roof of my grandmother’s cottage around the corner, which was another slum above a stables in a mews, and we became very ill we were moved to a what was called a council house, but it wasn’t, it was a condemned house with some rooms that you could live in, semi condemned, live there didn’t pay, the rent got thrown out, and you’d up in a Catholic orphanage. So in a way, everything that my early life was a preparation for social failure. I was dyslexic. So I didn’t I did very badly at school, couldn’t really understand my brothers did better. My brothers were much better behaved than I was, because I kind of accepted

Baron Bird 18:57
the fact that they were, you know, at the bottom of the pile and I never did. So the older brothers were, you know, my older brothers kind of, I was, I was the third one and then there was another one, the fourth one, and they accepted. You know, alright, then this is where we are. I mean, like my dad did, and my mum did, but I was a real pain in the rear because I hated

Baron Bird 19:23
this. I hated the everybody. I hated teachers, I hated policemen, you know, I was a horrible little Dawber up, you know, you know, swastikas, you know, all the kind of rubbish thinking that went with poverty. I was starting fires and and I was always in trouble. So I was the one who kept getting nicked. So from the age of 10, we came out the orphanage and at the age of 10, first thing, shoplifting, you know, starting fires, you know, tearing down fences, getting into trouble going before the call.

Baron Bird 20:00
The juvenile court and same again at the age of 11, not going to school. bunking off school.

Carlton Reid 20:06
Is that anger, John? Was that seeking attention? What was what was the motivation? Can you can you go backwards and think about what you as a child were thinking?

Baron Bird 20:17
Um, I can’t, you know, it’s so extraordinary because I, I, I see people doing vandal, you know, create vandalism now. And I was, you know, if I’m around, if I’m in a position, I’d stop them, I have no idea. I think a lot of us are on overdrive. And you don’t quite know, I mean, most of us don’t really know all of our motivations and our tastes, and what we like, but I did like, I loved being a pain in the rear, I loved climbing the fence into the new buildings, site, opposite where we lived in getting the bricks thrown in the puddles and smashing the windows, I loved all that stuff. And I was about 7, 6 or 7.

Baron Bird 21:06
And when I was in the orphanage I loved

Baron Bird 21:10
I loved the fact that I couldn’t, they will beat me and knock me around, because I wouldn’t accept what they want to do. And I ran away, and I did all sorts of things. They actually tried kindness on me, and allowed me to go to the cinema. And for some strange reason, what a surprise, I suddenly started to play less of a pain in the rear job and, and kind of fell in love with some of the people who were trying to help us because you had all these nuns, who all they weren’t, you know, they’re a couple of hundred, seriously disturbed children from the slums and rundown citizens of London, really in the south. And they were there trying to help us and, you know, rough love and tough love and all that. But in the end, I kind of got it. But it still meant that when I got out, I was homeless, you know, not a very nice boy. And I was always the boy who was accused in the class, if there was something stolen, and I never stole ever, ever stole from any of my contemporaries. When money went missing the dinner money, they blame me. And of course, and then they find out later on, though, they’ve done it wrong, they’ve added it up wrong. So I was I realised, of course, I had a bad name, and I was getting more and more bad reputation. So, but

Baron Bird 22:36
I can’t say that I was unhappy, I always felt that I was alive. So it’s a pain to have to admit that I kind of like being a bit of an outlaw. And I think that might have been all the kind of silly little cowboy films that I watched. But I love being different. And I think that’s what got me into the prison system. And that is why the age of 16 I could learn to read and write in a boys prison. And my brothers never really mastered that. And that’s how I learned a bit of printing. I learned God, I learned to, to sit in exam, even though I never passed a level,

Baron Bird 23:17
an O level. I tried all I did all that. And, and the thing was, and this is extraordinary thing is that the the state will not spend more than it has to on your education. If you are a labourer, or if you’re a, you know, semi skilled worker, so they’ll supply you with just about enough to get you by. But if you’re a naughty boy, or a naughty girl, they’ll throw a lot of money at you to stop you.

Baron Bird 23:49
offending later in life. So I was blessed with the fact that they spent a shedload of money I was in I was in a place that cost three times what it cost if my children had sent me to Eton.

Baron Bird 24:04
Unbelievable, and that wasn’t painful, but

Baron Bird 24:07
I had the best public school. You know, I mean, wonder I talk right now and I’m very, very

Baron Bird 24:13
well done one of Britain’s greatest public school, it was a reformeratory.

Baron Bird 24:19
There you are, got the accent..

Carlton Reid 24:22
But then you’ve gone to, this is the 1960s now, we’re gonna leap forward. So then you’ve gone to the Chelsea School of Art. Yeah, well, but you’re homeless.

Baron Bird 24:32
What I was, when I was my mum threw me out. Because once she got our hands on my grant and spend it very quickly, because she was a woman who, if a pound would burn a hole in her pocket, she had to spend it. So that went very, very quickly. And then we had an argument over a bowl of porridge and she threw it over my head and burned me quite badly because she was quite an aggressive woman and i i

Baron Bird 25:00
Left and when I left for the day, and when I went back, my dad said, You’re not staying here. So I went, and I slept rough that night. And then a couple nights later, I started to sofa surf.

Baron Bird 25:13
All of the first six months of my time art school, I was homeless, sofa surfer. But the interesting thing was, why was that I an art school at the age of 18, when all my mates were digging holes for London electricity, but I tell you why. Because when I was banged up, they found out that I like to draw and I paint. And I did. And they said they encouraged that. And they encouraged it so much that when I came out at nearly the age of 18, I had this enormous portfolio. Absolutely. And I looked like a boy genius. I was drawing and painting all the time. And all the screws or masters as they like to call themselves. Were kind of proud of the fact that this little get, you know, from Notting Hill, could could actually turn out stuff that they would want hanging in their house. So I went to art school with this enormous portfolio and I looked like Leonardo da Vinci. From the worlds in Chelsea,

Carlton Reid 26:18
Do you continue that? Do you still do art?

Baron Bird 26:22
I’m obsessed by art. In fact, I love to tell my children. When I was 18, I was Britain’s greatest unknown painter, which I still adhere to. And, and if I had my time again, my five children would not exist, I would have got myself, somebody who paid me. And I would be I’d have a room and I live in the room. I paint in the room I draw in the room. And I would have nothing to do with anybody just paint and paint and paint and paint. not have any children not have anything. And I tell them that they say Oh, so you only you only had us because you failed as an artist.

Baron Bird 27:05
Yes. And then when people say to me, you must love the homeless and you must love sorting out the world’s problems. I said I do. But if I had my time again, I wouldn’t be doing it. Now that’s a horrible thing to say. But I absolutely I love painting and I love. I love everything about it in some of the greatest moments I’ve had is standing in front of an American painter, for instance, there’s a beautiful American abstract, pentacle, Helen Frankenthaler, and standing in front of this beautiful abstract work. And or Lee Krasner, who is the wife, who was the wife of jack the dripper, you know, Jackson Pollock, and, and these beautiful, beautiful artists and I, I just, it’s almost the kind of spiritual

Baron Bird 27:55
for me, and wonderful painters, and, and when I get the chance, I’m drawing and painting.

Baron Bird 28:03
And I’m doing things I’ve done. I had an exhibition, which you might not, you might want to Blur. Blur this one out, it was called grasses, arses and trees, and it was life drawings. It was trees, grasses, it was abstracts and all that stuff. You know, I’ve been drawing from models for over 30 years, I’ve been drawing friends, I’ve been drawing everything I’ve been drawing the trees in my garden. And I will soon be launching a

Baron Bird 28:36
website which will,

Baron Bird 28:38
you know, enable people to look at my work and, and even buy some of my prints. So that then because I want to use the money to help on projects, which I’m very interested in, I’m very interested in people given gardening to help them with their mental well being. And so that reformed school education, the prison education, kind of has given you a lifelong interest. Oh, yeah. I mean, before I before the, when the screws, sorry, when the Masters said, were my house masters he was called.

Baron Bird 29:20
said to me in my reformatory, look, Bird,

Baron Bird 29:25
You’ve got from 7.30 at night until 9.30, every night, five nights a week. And over the weekend, you’re going to have time and you’ve got to fill it with something. You can stuff toys with Kpop for the local hospital, you can do a bit of plumbing, you can do a bit of woodwork, you can do anything. What do you want to do? And I said, Well, I’d like to paint and draw. So they got me the wife of one of the screws.

Baron Bird 29:54
Mr. Rahn, Mrs. Rahn had been an art teacher in the isle of Wight.

Baron Bird 30:00
And she was brilliant. And I would go down to a house two times a week. And we talk about art. And we talk about everything. And then she’d lay out an enormous spread, which me and Mr. Rahn would enjoy. And so a combination of good food, and art, and it was just absolutely marvellous. And I love this woman, she is the one who made me feel there was something deep about art. And it was something that that every one of us could share. You know, it wasn’t. No, everybody can paint and draw. That’s the other interesting thing. I’ve had five children, right? Not one of them ever, when they were doing that childish out, when they were doing their art growing up, not one of them produced the dumb, a dumb work, because children start as art geniuses. And unfortunately, we give them all these pre occupations. And we try and straighten out their drawing and all that, you know, one of the greatest painters of the 20th century, was taught to draw and paint like as though he was a photographer. And he spent the whole of his life struggling against Pablo Picasso. He tried to paint like a child the whole of his life, because he realised that there was an insightfulness. The children have a look at things and they know them before you know them, even though you’ve been looking at them for decades.

Carlton Reid 31:32
So did they have the petty offending that that stop? When you’ve got this lifelong interest in art? Is that what it was there a light bulb moment, or you just put on the straight and narrow.

Baron Bird 31:45
I wasn’t quite on the straight and narrow, because what happened with me, which was which is

Baron Bird 31:52
which, you know, I can’t describe as anything other than going in another direction, I met a young woman.

Baron Bird 32:03
And then we, we became an item. And then we married, had a child. And I then got thrown out of art school because I was more interested in this young girl. And I was in art for some strange reason, my biology took over. And then I, and then I went back to another art school, and it didn’t work. And then I fell into the back into crime, and all sorts of things like that. And I was always kind of doing what I wasn’t always doing wrong. But then I got in, I got a number of things that would have got me two or three years. And I disappeared for seven years. And I started using, well, six years, I disappeared this weird,

Baron Bird 32:53
strange anomaly names, anonymous names. And, surprisingly, I have so many of these names. I’ve moved from one job to another and one part of the country to another. And I would have all these names. I didn’t even know who I wasn’t yet. And then after six years, I handled myself in, paid fines and paid other things and got myself straightened. And,

Baron Bird 33:21
and then from the age of about 28, 29, 30, I then started working legitimately, and then I, because I fell in love with printing. When I was in this establishment, I started to become a printer, and I trained myself to become a printer, not in a particularly nice way, I get a job. And

Baron Bird 33:43
after a couple of hours, they realised I couldn’t print it, get rid of me, but I’ve learned something. And after about 10 jobs, I was quite good at it. And then I became a printer. And I started my own business. And I was totally and utterly committed to it because printing is an art. And I could make it it’s printing we’re doing like

Carlton Reid 34:05
was it a jobbing printer? Are we doing magazines, you’re doing fine art and what kind of printer?

Baron Bird 34:10
I did. Well, first of all, I started doing catalogues and leaflets and business cards, and all that sort of stuff. But then what happened was I

Baron Bird 34:21
started to publish stuff. So I started to publish a magazine I helped publish a magazine for the Royal Academy. I published a book for the Royal Academy. I designed it printed all sorts of stuff. I started magazines with other people. I work with somebody called the Victorian Society, I designed stuff for them, help them present themselves. So I became the printer and almost the publisher of this. Then I worked with a number of charities I’ve worked with a homeless charity called the Simon community. I absolutely love them because they allowed people to go and live with homeless people and

Baron Bird 35:00
live and experience homelessness. And I went to some of their places that they had in the country. And I sat with people who were just like the people I worked on a building site with, you know, 20 years before. There was no, there was no difference between them and us. And then I, you know, I saw I do printing for people, you know, and I do that kind of stuff. And I gradually developed a realisation towards the end of my 30s and early 40s that I’d had, I had this enormous experience. And I had a passion for social change and social justice. And I needed to bring it all together. And of course, for sure, fortuitously, I met somebody read met some when I saw them on the telly. And then I pursued them who I’d known when I was 21, hiding from the police in Edinburgh. And that became Gordon Roddick, who with his wife had started the Body Shop, and become multi millionaires, which I was very attracted by.

Carlton Reid 35:25
That ws 1991. And how, tell me about Gordon Roddick, and how you knew him in Edinburgh? Well,

Baron Bird 36:16
what happened was, I had, one of the worst things you can do to the state is steal social security in those days. And what happened was my my wife and I, she was she left me. And I was still getting the social security that I should have been sharing with her. But I was sharing it in the local pub. And what happened was, they found out about it, and they came after me. And that was one of the reasons and I would have got two to three years for that, because I already had a criminal record, back to the age of 10. And now I was 21. And so therefore, I had to disappear. So I disappeared. And I went off to France, I had been educated as a boy online or mis educated, to have many of the problems that you have in in, in the poverty world. I had some very, very bad attitudes towards

Baron Bird 37:16
black people and Jews and Indians and Arabs and all that, you know, and I, you know, a lot of people in poverty, find their mind closes down. And mine was very, very closed. A lot of this inherited from the people around me and from my own parents.

Baron Bird 37:33
And when I went off to Paris, I met some Marxist Leninist, socialist, trotskyists, and all that. And I completely changed because I met this beautiful girl who challenged everything I said, and in order to win her affection, so I started to mimic what she said, about, you know, solidarity with the poor and all that stuff, which I didn’t believe. And then after a while, I started to believe it. And then after a while, I became a committed pain in the rear Marx’s anti racist, anti everything. So I got changed. This is one of the things that I really want to drive home to people, you can start in life or at any one time, with the most pernicious racist Gumby sort of thinking. And if you get the chance of changing it, you grow you develop, I suddenly became a much bigger person, because I’ve been thinking all of this poor, anti semitic, anti black, anti Indian stuff. And when I got rid of it, it was like an enormous weight off my shoulders. And that really did help me in the development of myself as a person who could be useful to other people. And I’ve often

Baron Bird 38:54
had, you know, got involved in in getting rid of racism amongst young people. But anyway, so when I came back to London converted to this socialist from being almost a kind of Nazi and fascist

Baron Bird 39:11
I, then what ended up in Edinburgh because my wife’s family lived up there. And I one night I met this big nose Scotsman, Gordon Roddick and I had a big broken nose and he had a big broken nose. So we shared broken nose stories and we we became mates and then I found out he wrote appalling poetry Absolutely gut rotting poetry, I at the time was writing gut writing poetry. So we we complemented each other on how guff writing poetry books, and we became mates and then I didn’t see him for 20 years and I saw him on the telly when I was with my son Patty sitting watching the telly because he was on there with Anita Roddick.

Baron Bird 40:00
God Oh, I knew them. And then with with Richard Branson, who I also knew, because when he was 17, he started a magazine called the Student, sold by students to work their way through college. And I, at the age of 21, 22, pretended I was a student in London and used to sell his magazine for scoring. He was always astonished at how easy it was for me to sell these magazines. But lo and behold, 20 years later, I’ve taken the same model and used it for homeless people with the Big Issue. So I then went to see Gordon when I saw him on the telly in 87. And then we kind of put a friendship together. And then he

Baron Bird 40:48
he, he was in New York, and he saw somebody selling a street paper called Street News. And the bloke said that he’d been in and out of the penitentiary for most of his life, and he’d used now he wanted to support his children. And he didn’t want to go back into prison because they throw the key away. So he fell homeless, and started selling Street News, which was the first word, it was the world’s first street paper. And Gordon asked me to start one in London, which we, which we then called the big issue.

Baron Bird 41:25
That was 1991.

Carlton Reid 41:26
John, we’ll come back to the Big Issue in a second. But right now I want to go across to have an ad break. And I’m going to pass you across to I’ll pass this all across to David, my co host.

David Bernstein 41:37
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a long time loyal advertiser, you all know who I’m talking about. It’s Jenson USA at Jenson usa.com/thespokesmen. I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jenson is the place where you can get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices, and what really sets them apart. Because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there. But what really sets them apart is their unbelievable support. When you call them you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors, and these are cyclists. I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who who ride their bikes to and from work. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check him out. Jenson USA, they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen . We thank them so much for their support. And we thank you for supporting Jenson USA. All right, Carlton, let’s get back to the show.

Carlton Reid 43:03
Thanks, David. And we are back with with Baron Bird with Lord John bird but he has graciously allowed me to call him, john. So john, we are back you’ve been you’ve been fascinating history, a troubled history we’ve got to say, but and also a positive history and that you use art to change your life around eventually, you’ve used your printing skills and your publishing skills with Gordon Roddick to create this this iconic magazine, the Big Issue which has gone on to have many

Carlton Reid 43:39
examples of it all around the world. But now you are doing something again innovative with with bicycles. So tell me exactly what you’re going to be doing … [Cough]

Carlton Reid 43:53
Excuse me … with Sharebike of Norway. So what are you going to do with those bikes?

Baron Bird 44:00
Well, it coincides with the tremendous problems that

Baron Bird 44:07
society and the economy is having throughout the world.

Baron Bird 44:12
And that is you we’ve got to create new forms of work, we’ve got to create new forms of business, we were approached by share bike

Baron Bird 44:23
with the idea of putting together I business that would use electric electric bikes. I’ve always been fascinated with bikes. In fact, the number of the times I got arrested and put into detention centres and places like that were to do with my inability to get my hands off of other people’s bikes. But now I don’t know. I want to work with them. And the idea of electric bikes I find fascinating, because it means you can go further or you can get exercise you can get

Baron Bird 44:59
fresh air. And you can do it all yourself not not simply rely on the internal combustion engine. So what happened with with the just previous to the COVID-19, we started to put together this idea of starting in Cambridge and then moving on to other cities. I like the idea that I could gain, I could begin to grow employment for other people, then the COVID-19 hit, and kind of slowed us down a bit, but we still carried on. And the COVID-19 raises the question of lots of people not having a job. And therefore, it’s created a much, much bigger need for us to help create businesses, that will create jobs for people in and around sales, in around maintenance, in and around distribution. And it means that we can take some of the people we work with selling the newspaper, The magazine, and we can train them up. But also we can take people who have fallen into, into unemployment through the crisis, we can start trading them up. So it’s the beginning of a way of intervening in the economic crisis. And at the same time, doing something which is very, very interesting, which is helping people to get exercise to get out of doors, to get away from the internal combustion engine. And obviously, to move towards a world which is environmentally, not as challenged, because you’re not using, you’re not using fossil fuels. So this is the kind of pits all sorts of things. The other thing is that I got a bill going through the Lord’s and it’s also going through the House of Commons with

Baron Bird 46:59
with Caroline Lucas, who is a Green MP there,

Baron Bird 47:03
which is called the well being of future generations. And that is about the importance of environmentalism, the importance of education, the importance of jobs, and all that and making sure that the government doesn’t pass legislation that harms the generations to come. So all of this fits together. So it’s a wonderful, it’s legal, you know, the bill, the parliamentary stuff, that political stuff we’re doing in Parliament, the work around the big issue of growing work for people, and also not accepting the, the fact that people will slip into homelessness, because they will be unable to find work by creating as much work as we can. So we have something called the today for tomorrow, programming. And this, we’ve got a campaign call the Rider Out Recession Alliance, which brings businesses together, brings local authorities together brings charities together, and brings individuals together to try and create the new jobs, and the new opportunities, and at the same time can pay to keep people out of evictions, and get them back working so that they can support themselves.

Carlton Reid 48:29
So, John, tell me how this works a for the homeless person and be for a Cambridge resident, obviously, you want to expand in other cities, but just you’re a Cambridge resident, and you want a bike at some point. So So describe those two ways of operating.

Baron Bird 48:47
Well, first of all, we will be taking some of the people who can be trained up to do some of the skills around marketing, around selling the service, and also around maintaining the bikes, picking the bikes up where wherever they get dropped off, and all of that kind of thing that you would have to do with any form of bike business. So we will be training up people who are who have been homeless or who were trying to get out of homelessness. And at the same time, because we want to, we want we don’t want this to be a ghetto, of the socially displaced. We want to put in other people who have recently fallen into the need for work and grow it almost as organically. So that’s the way that we imagine it for the for the Cambridge resident or the Brighton resident of the Bath or Bristol or whatever city we go from.

Baron Bird 49:50
What we want to do is offer them a service that they’re wanting to use

Baron Bird 49:57
that has a social echo. That means

Baron Bird 50:00
If you use what were doing, then the profits will go back into aiding and abetting people to get out of poverty, and aiding and abetting people to get out of all the needs that go with not being able to keep a job, because you’ve fallen out of it, and help the people to get into a job who’ve been homeless, we’ve been selling the Big Issue, and who need to move on.

Carlton Reid 50:28
So are these are the two kinds of share bikes, you’ve got the docked bikes, which are like the London scheme, where they go into a physical dock that you know, bolted, cemented into the ground, and then you take them from there. And then you’ve got the dockless kind, where they’re freestanding, you can pick them up from from anywhere. But with electric bikes, you really need to have them powered from somewhere at some point. So So what model is this, using?

Baron Bird 51:01
Well, the one that we’re working on, and obviously innovations will happen, those dockless bikes were innovated because of the fact that you had an entrenched place where you pick the bike up before. And, and so we will innovate as we go along. And we may even have a situation where we would deliver bikes to a college or a business, so that they can use it around their buildings and around, you know, like the Science Park or someone like that. But we will start by having got places, and those, we will make sure that we have the staff to make sure that things get, you know, the bikes get juiced up. I think all that.

Baron Bird 51:50
So those are the kind of early steps that we’ll take, obviously, we’ll find that there will be times when people may want to take the bike home with them. And then we’ll have to look at ways of doing that. I know that in the village that I

Baron Bird 52:08
live in on for a period of time, when these dockless bikes appeared, there was five or six of them. And then they disappeared. And I don’t know if they are thrown in the river or struggling. But, you know, obviously, we have to keep security very important, because

Baron Bird 52:26
that keeps your costs down and it means makes you more of a, you know, reliable and viable business.

Carlton Reid 52:35
And what what the timescale on this, when are we going to see the first bikes in Cambridge?

Baron Bird 52:41
It will certainly be probably in the spring of 2021.

Carlton Reid 52:49
Are you a target customer, and you’re going to be one of the people will be using this?

Baron Bird 52:54
Yeah, I am a target customer. Because I would like to, I mean, I cycle everywhere. So I cycle, you know, the seven miles into town, cycle around the town, and all that I’m a sprightly 74 year old. So I don’t need electricity to get me in to town. But if I want to go somewhere else, I want to go really far. And be back from lunch. I will I will use it for a kind of community. And I you know, back to social kindness. I think there is a kind of social kindness factor in everything we do. I mean, the big issue is bought by people who believe in our vendors, they may believe in the magazine, but more than anything, they believe in our vendors. That is social kindness. And I think we will be able to make people feel better in in, in some ways, maybe a very marginal when they say I’m riding a bike that is helping people out of need and into opportunity.

Carlton Reid 54:02
John, it’s been a fascinating talking to you. And I would just like to before we get I just want you to either confirm or deny this this delicious story. And I do hope you’re going to confirm it. But on your Wikipedia page, there is a big gap actually between what you were doing in the 70s and 1991. But anyway, it just says here “for two weeks in 1970, John worked as a dishwasher in the Houses of Parliament canteen” and that’s of course an institution that you would later return to return to in 2015 as a Peer. Is that true?

Baron Bird 54:35
That’s very true. There were in in the late 60s in the early 70s. There was these temporary job agencies, and you would go to them I don’t know if they’re still there you go there. Manpower and people like There you go. And you’d you might have a job for two weeks. I was I had a whole slew of jobs there.

Baron Bird 55:00
quickly and also because I was working under an assumed name. And I went to this agency in in Victoria. And they said, Oh, do you want to wash up in the House of Lords? And I said, Yeah, why not? And and the House of Commons because they used to move you from canteen canteen. And so I went there, I think I started or either started off in the commons, and ended up in the Lord’s or whatever. So I worked there. And that was really, really interesting for me. And I, at the time, I was a kind of mad socialist and I got very cheesed off the management, because I kept saying to the workers, why are you in that in the house of democracy being so poorly paid? Why is it that you’re the working poor? And we’re here we are in the centre of democracy? So I raised that question. And I’ve also raised that question, since then, why is it that you can be working for the state, which

Baron Bird 56:03
runs the the system for the government, the elected government, and yet you can be almost a member of the working poor, you might get a living wage, but a living wage is often not very conducive to living or living in a way that can enrich your life. So I was there. And after a couple of weeks, they wouldn’t renew my contract. Because I was such a pain in the reassigned to people. Yeah, why don’t we go on strike and get to get better wages. In 2016, when I went into the Lord’s, one of the first persons who copped hold me was the cook

Baron Bird 56:45
in in the, in the kitchen, and insisted I walk round. And then the BBC found out about it, and they were making a film called A Year in the Lords, and they chose me as, as a novice coming in. And he took me around the kitchen as well. And I got to know the cook. And I’ve got to know, the star. Why really was pleased with was that the cook and the deputy cook, they were all into the idea of getting people who had, you know, maybe had some problems earlier on in life and training them up in, you know, cookery and, and in kitchen arts and work. So a number of the people were people pretty similar to where I come from in the first instance. So I was very, very pleased. And there was a, there was a whole group of them I gave a talk to, and they were astonished to find out that all of the naughty little things that they may have done growing up, I’ve also done so. So going from, I was washed up at the house in the house of law. I was watching up in the House of Lords. And I hope people won’t say now you’re washed up in the house.

Carlton Reid 58:02
Well, John, I will forgive you everything apart from the bike theft. The bikes. Oh,

Carlton Reid 58:09
but you say that, I mean, that’s the biggest crime in in the world is stealing somebody’s bicycle. I just I can’t forgive you for that. forgive you for everything else.

Baron Bird 58:17
Let me tell you that is that is an interesting thing. That is really, I mean, I’ve had about four bikes nicked. The first week, I moved to Cambridge, somebody nicked my bike, but the thing was, I didn’t steal the bike that got me What happened was, some boys stole some bikes from the school I was in. I found them abandoned in the, in my local park. And then this bloke rode around on the roof few days, and then we put them back to where they were abandoned, where they were picked up by the mum and dad of that. So I was I was what you might call

Baron Bird 58:59
You know, they used to have this thing where you stole it, they wouldn’t have you for stealing the car. They’d have you for taking

Baron Bird 59:07
a car without the owner’s content, consent. So really all I was was I was a user of the bike. I have never stolen a bike but I’ve been put away for stealing bikes, when the person who the two people who stole them,

Baron Bird 59:28
got away with it, and all I did was utilised.

Carlton Reid 59:33
Thanks to Baron Bird of Notting Hill there and thank you for listening to the spokesmen cycling podcast. I’m now off to make a Giving Tuesday donation to BigIssue.com Meanwhile, get out there and ride …