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July 25, 2020 / / Blog

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The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 251: Riding High — Preview of the UCI Road World Championships Course, Switzerland

Saturday 25th July 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Swiss Cycling guide Christian Paul, Verbier tourism’s Elise Farquet and Adam Sedgwick of Haut Velo



Hotel Mirabeau

Haut Velo

Switzerland rated the most coronavirus-safe country in the world.

UCI Road World Championships 2020

Tour des Stations

Christian Paul ascending to the Col Grand St. Bernard, Switzerland


Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 251 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Saturday 25th of July 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 spokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast for shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:09
I’ve just returned — by train — from the Swiss ski resort of Verbier where I spent three days riding a road bike in the high alps. The final day was a leg stretching preview of the tough Tour des Statipns sportif due to be staged for real on the 8th of August. The first two days were spent exploring the area where the UCI Road Cycling World Championships will be staged between the 20th and 27th of September. I’m Carlton Reid and I can report that travelling to Switzerland was like travelling back in time — the country successfully contained the novel coronavirus and, if anywhere will be able to host a major international sporting event anytime soon, it’ll be Switzerland. On today’s show I speak with Adam Sedgwick, the founder of Swiss-based cycle touring company Haut Velo, and I talk with Elise Farquet of the Verbier tourist board who describes how, if you want to get out here to watch the world championships and do some great road and mountain bike riding of your own, the ski resort of Verbier is very much open for business. But first here’s an on-the-bike interview with cycling guide Christian Paul as we rolled out from the old town of Martigny to huff and puff up the 20km hilly loop that’ll likely decide the world championships.

Christian Paul 2:42
Hi there I’m Christian Paul. Swiss Cycling road guide and living in Verbier for Haut Velo.

Carlton Reid 2:50
And Christiab we are riding on some resurfaced roads as beautiful black tarmac here in the beautiful fifth town of Martigny I’ll just describe what we’re coming through. So this is like a mediaeval town used to be a Roman town. It’s a beautiful painted buildings we’re going through, but it’s very narrow. And this is where the pros are going to be coming through pretty fast after how many kilometres do they

Christian Paul 3:18
Like so they have done roughly 180kms, rather on the flat

they would have faced a lot of wind already so there was some battle going on, especially on the last 30, 40 Kms before we arrived here, and there’s gonna be a bottleneck there’s gonna be the better to get in front of the peloton, because then as we as we will see in a second it will get quite narrow

Carlton Reid 3:45
and hairy pin and then it goes up. It goes up because they’ve already done what I’ll just explain, we have already done one

grand boucle around we’ve done one route round because this is going to be a 20 kilometre loop

Christian Paul 3:58
20 kilometre kilometre loop for kilometres of steady steep climb average of 10.5 ish percent up to 14%. So and as we’ve seen before

you can’t really see far ahead

once a few guys escape you won’t see them anymore.

Carlton Reid 4:21
And how many loops are they gonna be doing?

Christian Paul 4:23
Seven loops. One loop is 20 Ks and roughly about 450 vertical metres of climb per loop. So they’re gonna do like 140 Ks of climbing at the end of the race well not climbing but looping hundred 40 Ks mountain challenge. I mean, it was prepping up

Carlton Reid 4:43
we’ve done this route and it was pretty tough in part so there’s a few ramps where it goes up to like 14, 15% I mean, this is not for the faint hearted. This is gonna is it gonna hurt that many times round.

Christian Paul 4:58
That will hurt That will hurt a lot and for me it will clearly give the advantage to pure climbers at the end of the race for sure first couple of loops perhaps is regroup more.

Yeah, I’ll be my breakaway down. Yeah breakaways. In the first three four news you’re rockin

the peloton gonna stretch out and be getting lighter and lighter and lighter every loop. Before final, final better gonna start for the last two loops I guess.

Carlton Reid 5:30
So we are on the route here now. And then what will come through that the resurfacing there. It was for the World Championships?

Christian Paul 5:41
It was Yes, and it just done this

as well as we see the final loop is everywhere on the most smoothest tarmac and reworking the roads and infrastructure for the World Championships. There’s a lot of effort in it.

Carlton Reid 5:57
So that’s one benefit to the local region. staging something like this you get your infrastructure upgraded.

Christian Paul 6:03
Yes. That’s what happens all the time after such a beautiful race then the population is having wonderful infrastructure after that, that’s for sure.

Carlton Reid 6:13
Yeah. And then when the climb were doing before on the loop, they were also fixing the roads. Yeah, you couldn’t you couldn’t actually get through on a car. We get through on bikes, but that’s also preparations

Christian Paul 6:29
or preparations for World Championships. Yeah. And makes it even nicer to ride right now because the cars on the road but we are

Carlton Reid 6:37
people you met some of your compatriots before there was a big German group of riders going on their course. So basically, people are coming out here already to ride the course.

Christian Paul 6:48
Yes, taken advantage of beautiful weather, good roads, and discover at the same time. And we see we’ve seen a big Belgian group as well just crossing as before. 20, 30 riders So cycling this cycle is getting more and more popular in the region. It’s good

Carlton Reid 7:06
but we’re still gonna have the virus the virus hasn’t gone so this route we’re doing now

I’m getting now breathless so we’re now definitely going up hill This is going to be barriered off so

it’s gonna be in a different race

Christian Paul 7:24
different race. We would have loved to see it the people in ways the climbers and encourage them and as we see it on all these big races, but now due to safety reasons we have to obviously take take all the measurements to keep it as safe as possible. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 7:42
So people are meant to be one metre apart

Unknown Speaker 7:47
when they’re spectating; tough to police.

Christian Paul 7:51
Yeah, we’ll we will see.

In this loop up to 1500 person To assure safety 1500 people from the organisation protection of civil army police and been evolved to keep the

safety up.

Carlton Reid 8:16
And how many people are they expecting on this particular climb, because there were many things

Christian Paul 8:21
Well, the descend there will be few people, even though it’s going to be a very interesting place to see because you see them fly past over 100 Ks an hour. But on this climb, initially, they did expect 50 to 60,000 people on these four kilometres.

Carlton Reid 8:38
And they’re now saying less

Christian Paul 8:41
obviously. So we will see how, how it will be managed. And it’s a big challenge. It will be very different than what we have left to say. I hope and I hope that people pay The game and stay safe and respect. as what we see in Switzerland. People do respect a lot of situation.

Carlton Reid 9:07
So how is the the pandemic in Switzerland? And because you were telling me yesterday that you’ve, you’ve had the virus?

Christian Paul 9:14
Yes, I did in I had a clear in the beginning of March got in fact, the first week of March. I was

I was down like for a week could move had all the symptoms and I was unable to do serious sports for two months. And now ever since picking up and now it’s almost back to normal luckily. And the region

Carlton Reid 9:41
also people many people have had the virus you think?

Christian Paul 9:44
Yes, as we’re based in Verbier ski resort. We had very international clientele coming from the four corners of the world and obviously we were one of the hotspots of Corona in the country. So I guess, what I feel, what I see around 70% of the people around me had it


we had luckily very very few people dying in the resort. this was one person actually which was the old or the lady 92 years old.

So one too many

Carlton Reid 10:25
and then the safety for the riders How do you know how they are being protected?

Christian Paul 10:31
I mean bubbles,

the riders during the championships Yeah. So this is done in the hands of a UCI during the bubble. They are in hotels where there’s no contact with friends or other people living into this same place. no direct contact with journalists, no direct contact with fans. Arrival zone is completely shut off public and 70 thousand square metres of surface and they will then

assure safety by

scanning everybody in taking, taking details using the app to track and luckily it will work out. Hopefully it will work, work out like that. Ooh, la, la — a big truck coming.

Carlton Reid 11:25
So I’ve been shocked I was the outcome from the lockdown country. Well, I’m just coming out of it.

But quite and safely I would say, whereas here, it’s almost normal.

There’s very little difference. So you seem to have done pretty good here.

Christian Paul 11:42
I think we were extremely lucky. So people do respect the rules, people follow the recommendations from health health system and the government and did play the game and I think I’m not a medicine but You see the result, people were really relaxed you’re in throughout the time

helping each other, stepping back, and

respect, safety distance and all that.

Carlton Reid 12:16
So describe the geography here. So this is basically the old road into France.

Unknown Speaker 12:21
This is the old road of the Col de La Forclaz, which is going from Martigny, to Chamonix or Switzerland to France. And this is the old road

Christian Paul 12:33
snaking up from the old vineyards and villages.

Carlton Reid 12:38
But, again, absolutely butter smooth asphalt.

Christian Paul 12:42
Brand new tarmac,

Carlton Reid 12:43
and then the descent, which we eventually do after this ramp, or a few kilometres away, is again, it’s just Sticky, sticky tarmac. So the pros as he said, they’re gonna be doing 100 kilometres at least, I mean, we’re doing without even pedalling, we were doing 70 kilometres an hour and not even Chasing no not doing anything. And then over to our left

is the route into Italy over the Col Grand St. Bernard whi h we did yesterday, which was fantastic.

Christian Paul 13:16
It’s such a nice area here. You’re just, you’re just a few K’s away from France from Italy call it you go for nice bike ride for coffee to Italy and come back. Look at these views. Look at that. Yeah,

Carlton Reid 13:31
it’s beautiful.

The pros aren’t gonna be looking at the views.

Christian Paul 13:37
I’m very sure they won’t, no.

Carlton Reid 13:39
But I’m sure the helicopters

will be. So you’ve got this incredible valley from Sion through, so the helicopters gonna be up here. Looking at the vineyards, looking at the ruined castles

looking at the fantastic asphalt and pros pointing at 120 kilometres an hour down. So it’s gonna be scenic. And it’s going to be selling the region which is why tourists boards local municipalities that’s why they want big events like this. Here you come. Forget virus just it’s good to have these events for the TV audience.

Christian Paul 14:14
Yeah, well, I don’t I wouldn’t say forget virus but deal with it. They were the proper way and in a logical way. And that’s what seems to work quite well here. And it not only seems to work, it does work.

Carlton Reid 14:31
Switzerland certainly has dealt with it. If you’re looking for a slice of normality, you could do a lot worse than getting out here for some R&R. Rest and recreation?

Nah! Riding and riding.

Fancy some of that? Adam and Elise can explain more, but first here’s my co-host David with a short commercial interlude.

Unknown Speaker 14:58
Hey Carlton, thanks so much and it’s it’s It’s

David Bernstein 15:00
always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a longtime loyal advertiser, you all know who I’m talking about. It’s Jenson USA at 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 an 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 Jenson 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 16:24
Thanks, David, and we’re back with episode 251 of the Spokesmen podcast. If you’ve the time, cash and geographical ability to get on out to Switzerland I’d heartily recommend it right now. The riding is excellent, of course, but it’s the way the country is operating almost normally that was the big shocker for me. Anytime would be the right time to visit, but for road cyclists there are two dates that are especually attractive. The Tour des Stations sportive will be staged on 8th August and, as of today, there are 30 places left on the 85km version of the ride, which doesn’t sound that far but there are two killer climbs, with the finish on the 2,174m Croix-de-Coeur pass, followed a swift sweeping descent into Verbier. The next date to consider is between the 20th and 27th September, the week that the UCI Road Cycling World Championships takes over the Valais region. The UCI is based in Aigle not too far from Martigny, as you’ll hear Elise Farquet of Verbier tourism mention. And after Elise we’ll hear from Adam Sedgwick of Haut Velo.

Elise Farquet 17:46
Hello, my name is Elise Farquet. I’m working at the Verbier tourism and I’m in charge of the public relations.

Carlton Reid 17:55
Okay, now it’s a beautiful day here. You get many beautiful days here. Yes.

So it’s a fantastic place for you to, to work. Now, this fantastic place is going to be shown off to many 10s of thousands of people in in September. However, there is a big pandemic around the world that could prevent that happening, or has certainly maybe changed some plans. So what has changed for you as tourism? With with COVID-19? How, how has that changed your thinking around how you’re going to organise around this event?

Elise Farquet 18:40
Yeah. So first of all, we have the chance to be here in Verbier in a really beautiful place in Valley, here in Switzerland, and we have the chance to be in a country that’s our authorities and the government’s have been really proactive in then in the In the way they have, they have done all the restriction You know, it was not so hard as in French for example, but the population is really involved in following these rules and going in then in the good way if I can say that like this and so, of course, for the for the events we have to organise here in Verbier and Val des Bagnes we had to take care of all this restrictions and of the distance creation norms and as well, now in every public transport, everybody has to carry a mask. And, yeah, in terms of organisation of events, we have the chance to have been supported by the municipality of the Commune de Bagnes. That pushed a lot of activities here in them. The resort and of course, we we have, we are really lucky to have signed the contract to be in partnership with one of the official sponsor of the World Championship for for this year. And for for for us, it was really a big chance to be associated with such such a famous race. And that will take place from the 20th to the 27th of September, it’s going to be the first edition taking place in the department of Valais and Aigle you know, it’s the base of the UCI. So

in a like,

yeah, it’s a it’s the base. And

and, yeah, we don’t know actually for the moment if this event could could take place as we want and they’re welcome all the guests as normally in the previous edition of the World Championship was met all the authorities are doing their best to welcome the public and the athletes in the better condition. We could.

Carlton Reid 21:10
Yeah. So we got some economic figures last night. Yeah. of the the impact on tourism. Yes. How many people you’re hoping to get coming? Were all those figures we saw last night pre COVID? or were they even now Covid figures?

Elise Farquet 21:30
It was really pre COVID It was then some, some numbers we get from the previous editions of the World Championship. It was in partnership with the University of Zurich, I think — it was a study made around the impacting economy of that. But of course, as we don’t know what’s going to happen in September, you It’s the best. How to say that it’s the best numbers.

We have mentioned yesterday evening, actually,

We don’t know the impact, because

for the moment, it’s really a big, big question for the next edition.

Carlton Reid 22:20
Yeah. So when I’ve been in Switzerland Yes, people are wearing masks on public transport and in restaurants you there’s a sanitation there’s alcohol, yes on your your hands, all of this, which I’m not used to. But it looks as though it’s much more relaxed than certainly where I’ve come from. So that’s very attractive to tourists. They can almost leave their their countries where it’s I mean, America can’t leave the country, but say British people, French people, they could come here and actually almost forget that COVID exists because much more relaxed here?

Elise Farquet 23:01
Yeah, perhaps I think it’s more relaxed. But you know, all the all the partners we have here really would like to to follow those rules. So if you would like, for example, to book a table in a restaurant, of course, you have to give your name. And to have this kind of app. Yeah, there is an app as well, has been created by the government to follow the people around, and to avoid that the virus gets stronger and stronger. But all the partners are really involving all involved in in following those rules, too. Of course, to to, to make the guests to enjoying the best slay as they can.

Carlton Reid 23:47
Yeah, because it says it’s the World

Championships, which obviously means there are people from around the world. Yes, who are going to be spectating and also competing in the race itself. I mean, the words That was it. How many

people that I have here


1200, 1200 athletes coming from all over the world, and that is a definite figure rather than how many tourists you might get here. So, is that a concern that you’re bringing lots of people from around the world to a world championships? Mm hmm. And then that could be flare ups of caillard.

Elise Farquet 24:27
Yeah. You know, now the European Union and as well, the governance has, has now how do you say that the blacklist of the country that are, you know, more subject to have more covered by COVID some people there, so, unfortunately, I’m not sure that’s all the athletes from all over the world could could come here due to those restrictions. But, uh, but yeah, we trust in the US. We’re government and if they say, Okay, let’s all the guests of those countries are welcome in our country. We we are happy with that and we trust we trust them for that part.

Carlton Reid 25:11
So if someone’s listening to this or if somebody is reading any of the articles I’ll be writing about this this trip and people think oh, wow, let’s just last minute. Let’s just go here. Yeah. Can you get hotel rooms? Or in say the key areas like Verbier and down in the valley in Martigny? Yeah. Will hotels be booked?

Elise Farquet 25:34
Hmm I’m sure we have the chance here in Verbier to have in the valley to have 19 hotels available for for the public, but as well, we have lots of second second home second apartments in chalet available for renting. And that’s one of our strong strongest strong friends. Yes. Because the you know, if you come with your friends With a small group of friends or just with your family, you can have your own apartments and, and don’t don’t be in contact with perhaps all the people. And yeah, that’s that’s a good, really good other options instead of, of hotels.

Carlton Reid 26:17
So these these Airbnb type things or just

Elise Farquet 26:22
we have lots of rental agencies more than, I don’t know 10 or 15 rental agencies here and yeah, they have many chalet and appointments

Carlton Reid 26:32
so people can they can bring up Yeah, last minute. Yeah. And you’ll be able to get availability you think

Elise Farquet 26:38
yes, because you know, here in Verbier, we’re quite famous for the winter season. We are the biggest ski resorts here in Switzerland. So just to give you some some numbers during the all year round, we have 8000 people living here during the full year, but during the winter, we have 30,000 people living here. So during the high high period of the winter season for New Year or Christmas, so you can imagine that we have the capacity to welcome all those guests in our destination. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 27:12
And how many people I mean, because the the World Championships is taking place

around a big area. Yes. So how many people do you think you’ll attract? via we’re definitely going to be watching. Yeah, the World Championships.

Elise Farquet 27:28
Um, it’s a it’s a huge question. We were not expecting a special amount of people actually, we get Of course, we hope that a lot of people will come here to visit because Verbier is really positioning as a perfect base base place to to to cycle and just around. So of course, it’s not far away at all from the starting points of Aigle or the arrival in Martigny will only 30 minutes. To get away from Martigny so so yeah we we hope that loads of people will come here and will enjoy as well the other pleasure you can find here such as hiking biking we have activities for family as well so if the dad would like to do like a nice trail with road cycling he can and the family field group perhaps just a nice hike and and all the people the good tips as well that that is all the people staying here at minimal of one night get a get a pass called the VIP pass for Verbier Infinite Playground the first letters and with this pass you have all the you get the free access to all the cable cars to all the bus transport connection, you have more than 50 activities for free or at preferential rates in all over them the destination so cultural activities or sports activities. And so that’s quite a good plan as well to not to pay too much to stay here and to enjoy the race here the World Championship and as well as some other activities in the region.

Carlton Reid 29:14
So I’ve been told that when the Tour de France came here in 2009, yes, you are still getting tourist impact yet from that event, so people remember 2009 put it in their head must go to Verbier for cycling. Is this true? Yeah, an event that’s now a decade ago. Yeah. Is still having an impact. And if so, even if you didn’t get people coming to Verbier because they’re worried about COVID they will see it on the TV and they will then think right, well, when Covid’s gone, I am going to go to

Verbier. So is this

is this how the Tourist Board views events like this and the Tour de France?

Elise Farquet 30:02
So, actually the race wants wants to say that go to Verbier actually, but we are in the area. So, as we are already famous you know as destination that people can say okay we have followed the race. And now we see a little bit the landscape we see the possibilities and why nots coming perhaps here in the destination to enjoy other passes. We we can offer to the cyclist here and, and, yeh, regarding the impact of the economic impact we have, of course, the world championship is is a big opportunity for us to have a nice visibility all over the world that the valet departments that Martigny and Aigle will have Health visibility. And for us it’s really nice to have been associated to such a big race as a official sponsor to have our name at the physical with this brand and and of course here in the area, the economic impact for the Tour de France was was quite big because, you know, all the public came here and just eat in the restaurant and just spend a night and and after that we had the chance that this specific race from Pontarlier to Verbier happy the people remember this race because Contador has done something super human or I don’t know how do you would like to extra? Yeah, extra special.

Carlton Reid 31:52
And how can people, if they are staying here, how can they go and watch the race? is there? What public transport Yes,

you can leave your car here Oh Have you got a train of course to Le Chable. So if you’re say staying in Verbier and you want to go and watch the race, how would you do that without a car?

Elise Farquet 32:10
Without a car, it’s really easy actually you You just have to, to let your car here in Verbier have that you have the possibilities of going down to Le Chable by bus. So the cable car or the cable car and the bus and the cable car are free. And if if you if you spend a night here, so it’s quite a good plan. And after that you have a direct train going from from Le Chable to Martigny in 25 minutes you your arriving in Martigny and martinis really the big place where the final will take place in the final lines is so

Adam Sedgwick 32:46
I’m Adam Sedgwick from Haut Velo.

Carlton Reid 32:50
Haut Velo is a Swiss company or a British company because you’re not from Switzerland.

Adam Sedgwick 32:55
Correct. I’m originally from Kendal in Cumbria the Lake District reside now in Switzerland and I run a cycling holiday business. It is a Swiss business based from Verbier. We deliver tours around Europe so far, potentially further afield in the future, hopefully, with guiding local guiding around Verbier in the Valais region of Southern Switzerland. And we also run sort of cycling holidays in this area

as well. So yeah,

Carlton Reid 33:20
so we’ve had Christian, who’s been taking us around from Haut Velo. He’s been with us for the last few days. So we’ve done some parts of the

world championship route, and then today, we’re doing the Tour de Stations, which is what sounds like from the briefings are just escaping the briefing there that it’s gonna be a pretty tough ride, which means when you bring in clients out here, there’s some pretty tough stuff or do you also do more gentle stuff? Are you high end, you know, like, what kind of level of ride are you going for?

Adam Sedgwick 33:52
I think you probably need to be an experienced rider to ride and to do to do justice to area. I mean, it’s Alpine. It is, you know, long long climbs with nice sweeping descents. There are flat areas sort of over in the valley, the Rhone Valley, and beautiful and stunning but I think you’d be limited after a few days of riding down there really. So for me, definitely it’s Alpine conditions, long, beautiful sweeping climbs. Everything that comes from sort of Alpine cycling really.

Carlton Reid 34:22
Now we are here to preview the World Championships. And as I’ve been here, it is almost been like somewhere where there isn’t any Coronavirus, because so it seems to have not quite eradicated it, but it’s certainly dealing with it extremely well. Which means when I write about this, when people listen to this podcast, then they will

think well,

maybe last minute, let’s nip out there. So how can people or Can people still book say your trips like any of the programme trips Or like a private group trip? what’s what’s the criteria going forward? For people who are maybe thinking right, let’s get out there?

Adam Sedgwick 35:07
Yeah, absolutely. So yet Switzerland is open for business as long as you’re able to travel from your own home countries. And my parents arrived last week from from UK. So they’re here for a few weeks. So enjoy it. But yeah, absolutely. We’re up of business. We kind of pride ourselves on delivering kind of customizable or bespoke cycling experiences. So if people get in touch with a harebrained idea, as long as they got the budget, they’re passionate, we’ll make it happen. And otherwise, yeah, we have kind of stock products that we can give, which for as long as we’re able to ride through the countries or the areas that we’re in then absolutely, we’re open for business and

Carlton Reid 35:43
yeah, and when you close the business,

how is that impacted you?

Adam Sedgwick 35:47
It’s impacted hugely. So we had a fall. Not a full calendar but not far off full calendar of different tours Geneva to nice, Zurich to Como, number of other places. And in private and corporate groups, and within the space of two or three weeks, they all cancelled or postponed. So we’re hopeful we’ll come back next year or possibly even later this summer, sort of September time. And we’re hopeful. We don’t know. We’ll see. But yeah, so basically, the income kind of went from that. So, yeah, so we’re pretty flexible at the moment, we’ve got quite

a lot of availability.

Carlton Reid 36:26
So tell us your website where people think right, I’m going to go out there sounds fantastic. Yeah, look at Haut Velo, How do they get in touch with you?

Adam Sedgwick 36:33
So we’re probably more active on sort of Instagram and Facebook but out website is

Carlton Reid 36:39
What does “haut” mean?

Adam Sedgwick 36:42
it’s French for high. So it has a different meaning. So it’s kind of high, high mountain, which route or the hope could be high quality. And so that’s kind of what we thought Haut Velo. seemed quite nice.

Carlton Reid 36:56
Thanks to my guests Christian Paul, Elise Farquett and Adam Sedgewick. You can learn more about the world championships at and for staying in Verbier check out The Tour des Stations website is

Carlton Reid 37:26

Carlton Reid 37:34
There are a few remaining places available on the 85 kilometre mediafondo though they’re not the 240 kilometre version

Carlton Reid 37:44
of the ride back stats.

Carlton Reid 37:47
I can’t imagine how hard that would be because I did the 84 kilometre 85 kilometre version and that’s that’s

tough enough.

So you can find these links and more on our website Meanwhile,

get out there and ride!

July 18, 2020 / / Blog

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The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 250: In conversation with the rock star of parking, Donald Shoup

Saturday 18th July 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning at University of California at Los Angeles, and author of the groundbreaking 2005 booking The High Cost of Free Parking.


Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to Episode 250 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Saturday 18th of July 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 Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast for shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
For this, our 250th episode, the spokesmen cycling podcast becomes the spokesmen parking podcast. As you’ll soon here, the storage of cars has much more impact on our lives, including our cycling lives. And most folks imagine. I’m Carlton Reid, and on today’s show, I’m talking to a bottom feeding Yoda who rode through the 1970s American bike boom without knowing it was even happening. Donald Shoup is the distinguished research professor of urban planning at UCLA and author of the groundbreaking 2005 book the high cost of free parking. Now, studying parking may sound a bit dry. But as Donald has shown with his groundbreaking city shaping research, the space we devote to storing big lumps of metal is simply staggering, and often, deeply unfair financially, spatially, and socially. Donald’s many fans — they call themselves the Shoupistas — does know that he isn’t your normal, everyday academic. He’s retired, but he’s still teaching his personal website, his And the connection to rapper Snoop Dogg isn’t just a play on words, both hail from Long Beach, California. And there can’t be many academics that have starred in an animated cartoon, which is how Donald appeared on the Adam Ruins Everything TV series and then America. I spoke with Donald yesterday. Now I didn’t know this beforehand, but he knew all about my home city of Newcastle upon Tyne. He used to live here in the 1960s, working for C.A. Parsons, then one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of turbine generators, which were invented in Newcastle. It’s a long, but fascinating show. So buckle up. Donald, you began your academic career at the University of California at Los Angeles, UCLA in 1968. And that’s a year or two before the bike boom, started. So were you ahead of the curve because you were already cycling to campus, weren’t you?

Donald Shoup 3:50
Yes, I think, you know, most people in universities are used to bicycling and I was intrigued by your your comments on the bike boom, and I really don’t remember all of it.

Donald Shoup 4:10
I guess I’d always been bicycling and I had a bicycle or more than one so no, I I don’t remember the bicycle move at all.

Carlton Reid 4:20
Wow. It passed you by. So I lots of photographs I’ve seen of you. You’ve actually had a bicycle with you. So you’ve code on bicycling by the look of it.

Donald Shoup 4:30
Yes, it was the first bike I remember buying was a Humber. If you remember those. I bought it as a kit. I bought it also one for my fiance. And I put that together. I guess it was one time. That would have been around 1965 I guess. And then later on. I guess it’s 75 Maybe that was during the bike boom. I bought a I bought a Schwinn bicycle. No, no, it was a Raleigh. That’s right. I bought a Raleigh which was a fairly high end one for that day that I remember going to the bike store. They’re very athletic young guy who was selling the things he was showing the rally catalogue and there was a racy buying silver have kickstands for fenders or even brakes for aleinu because that would add too much to the weight. But he kept showing me these bikes that I wasn’t interested in I saw while I said it was flat and he said oh are you to walk out that’s an old bands bike. And it was a Carl that that was a look at it. I think it had a Carlton frame fairly high out but it had the kickstand that generated generator oil for for light. I still have the bike and I still Use it as a bit of antique, I suppose. And I’ve had students looking at it. They didn’t they’d never seen a generator or bicycle wheel. Oh,

Carlton Reid 6:14
you’ve kept on riding. That’s good.

Donald Shoup 6:17
Yes, I think I want more than right now that I always rode my bike to work

because I’m in a hurry. And I retired a night in 2015 but I still go to campus every day. Like I still teach clubs. I’m not as hurried so I walk partly because the exercise is you as you know, bicycling is so efficient your per per mile and you don’t expend much energy because you get there fairly fast, but walking is huge. uses more calories than biking does.

Carlton Reid 7:05
So you’ve spent your your long career linking the parking of cars with congestion, pollution, affordability, even sprawl. And now climate change, of course, and the Wall Street Journal I read, as described you, as I’m quoting here, a parking rock star and the Yoda of urban planning. So how do you turn parking into a rock star topic?

Donald Shoup 7:32
Well, I realised that for a rock star is not the same thing as a real rock star, but I might change my name to shoot dog. And I was certainly flattered that I heard I was the Yoda of urban planning until I remember from Star Wars that yoga was 800 years old. was the lowest status thing you could study the local government that would be parking. So I’ve been a bottom feeder for about 40 years. years. But there was a lot of food down there that people just had been neglecting parking even though it’s the single biggest use of land in almost any city. And it’s essential if you’re going to own a car, you have to have not just one parking space, but quite a few available to you at home at work at school, grocery stores, so many more parking spaces than cars, and, and I’ve estimated the value of all the parking spaces greatly outside exceeds the value of all the cars and maybe even the value of all the roads. But nobody has really been studying. Everybody follows a personal issue and knowledge of an academic or intellectual issue. So it was really pretty easy to make, you know, important discoveries.

Carlton Reid 8:54
So in your research and if to get those important discoveries you found that in some American Cities, the average construction cost not not what it’s worth, but the actual construction cost for an above ground parking space, and I’m gonna put this in English pounds, but it’s about 18,000 pounds. So what’s that 24,000, nearly, nearly nearly getting on for $30,000. And yet, but, but that you’ve also pointed out that that is that is several times the average net worth of an African American family. So what does that say about our society’s


Donald Shoup 9:34
Well, that’s a great question. I haven’t heard it phrased exactly that way before but I think I think Yes, certainly the the the cost of one structured parking space and underground parking costs much more. is is you know, maybe maybe 18 2030 And dollars for constructing the structure and then there’s the land as well

as the cities.

Not so much in Britain, but certainly the United States and many other countries require parking spaces for any new development. If you’re going to build a new apartment building in the US, it has to have two off street parking spaces per dwelling unit. Well, that raises the cost of all housing and then when you’re thinking of all the parking requirements, shopping centres, grocery stores, movie theatres, nobody knows how many parking spaces there are, but there are at least at very least three or four parking spaces for every car. So that might be about you know, $100,000 for the park per car, am I That is a huge amount of money. The especially now that we’re so focused on the the economic problems, low income people save the average net wealth, which means the all your assets minus your liabilities for Black household all over the United States is brown $17,000, which is less than the cost of one parking space. And yeah, planners have been recommended several parking spaces for free car for every family. And I think this cost has been shifted into the higher prices for everything that whenever you go to a store or if you park in their parking lot, just a little bit of everything you spend gets syphoned off to pay for the park and it’s a it’s hidden. That’s right. It’s a very hidden costs and most people think that well Parker couldn’t call must provide because you usually pay nothing for it. And even in Britain I think so they just can’t imagine that parking could be that expensive, but we won’t let anything happen to the states unless it comes with all the required parking and that required parking is often greater than as you pointed out the net wealth of a low income family say the median net wealth yes a half above and half below for black families is about seven feet or $80,000. So to think of the the parking spaces are more than the entire net wealth of half of all black and young whenever they they go they want to park for you just like I do, and you do and everybody you know last depart free. So it seems like we’ve we’ve I think by mistake created the fool’s paradise is in the city wherever money happily pays for everybody else’s free parking. We’re just concealing and huge costs that we’ve imposed on ourselves. And I think since the car owners pay for the parking indirectly through higher prices for housing, groceries and everything else they buy the the car owners are paying for the parking, but they just don’t know it. And it really is that these parking requirements are a subsidy not for car owners, but for cars. So we have we have greatly subsidised cars. And of course that’s led to over use of them. Cars are wonderful, but we way over use them.

Carlton Reid 13:59
You mentioned They’re about it’s the motorist is paying. But then not everybody is a motorist. So there are plenty of people who are going to those stores you’re talking about buying their goods and still paying for the parking,

even though they didn’t they’re not parking.

Donald Shoup 14:14
Exactly. That’s one of the most offensive parts about it is the even people who are either too poor to own a car, or they have chosen not to have a car that doesn’t produce their payments for Park still pay in any way even though they don’t have a car so obviously it’s totally wildly inefficient. It’s it’s hugely unfair. It’s really indirect tax on everybody including low income people

to subsidise people who

who have a car and need a parking space. And many people think that you know, the park is almost like oxygen You can’t charge for parking that that’s absolutely necessary is necessary for cars errors for human. And the car owners obviously think that way. I think that the changes that I think London was the head of most cities, it used to have rather high parking requirements. Even though the famous British planner, column Buchanan, and he wrote the 1960s yield committee wrote that was called the Buchanan report that has had a big impact on urban planners, but he was one of the first people who said that minimum parking requirements shifts the cost of parking away from where it belongs. the right person to pay for parking is the is the driver. And he pointed out a long time ago that this was a bad idea, but It’s taken

64 how long

56 years that it’s finally coming around and London’s shifted from having minimum parking requirements to maximum parking limits in the early 90s, the leader I guess, in the 90s or 2000s, that, that they shifted to maximum parking limits with the new limits lower than the previous requirements, you know, can you think of a bigger admission of a huge mistake that you think that oh, well, we know how much there should be. And suddenly, instead of requiring, we prohibit it, and so there have been studies about the effects we’re after London, shifted from minimum parking reformer up to a maximum parking limit that almost nothing None of the new developers ever provided as much as the maximum allowed. They thought the limit was important. But what was important was getting rid of the minimum. And it showed that when the new developers had about half of the amount of parking that was previously required, so that means about half of all the parking that was previously required was was just not worth it. You know, the developers would not have put it in unless the government had forced them to do it. So I think we, as we all know, we’ve been in our personal lives and our collective life made a lot of mistakes. And I think that parking is one of these mistakes, and I know that you’re a great bicyclists, but it certainly has harmed bicycling more than just about anything else because bicycles. They conserve a road of space so they certainly can conserve on parking space. So I think we’ve we’ve we’ve systematically diverted people away from every off their own two feet into cars. And now I think that the people are picking up on this. And cities around the world are. I hope we’re getting to remove Wall Street Parker Brothers just last week, Edmonton in Calgary, Canada, removed all its parking, repurpose it. It’s such an easy thing to do. You know, so many cities say oh, well cut it in half for low income housing or something like that. They make a big fuss over one little change, but just maybe one big change, but you don’t have to decide what the new partner require, but it is or the new maximum is you just get rid of it entirely.

Carlton Reid 18:47
The rationale presumably was because if you make this parking requirement, you’ve got the building, you’re going to have to have people in their cars to get there. But if you don’t have the minimum, people, then don’t They call us to that building because well, they just know where to park so they’ll get there in other

Donald Shoup 19:04
way. Well, I think that’s a bit extreme way of saying it just because there isn’t enough of a parquet floor doesn’t mean there won’t be parking. The most developers will not build a shopping centre without any parking. But the government shouldn’t tell them how much to provide. And I think that the developers will provide some, I hope it will be paid for that. The drivers should should pay for the parking. And just the way we expect to pay for everything else, the gasoline and the tires and everything else about the cars, individual pay for the insurance, repairs, all those things is only parking that is is is a big part of the cost, but it’s been shifted elsewhere in the economy. So I think that there will still be parking for a long time because there’s already This huge overhang of unneeded parking. So I think what some cities are doing is once the parking requirement is gone that they they can now have infill development all the all the former on the parking lots, the new urbanists, they’re called, we’re trying to reclaim some of the better parts of old urbanism. They talked about having lighter buildings in the parking lot. So I’m a big fan of that, that once you get rid of the parking requirements, you can build a housing or anything else on the perimeter of the parking lot. So when you walk down the sidewalk, it looks like a real Street. But inside is a parking lot and then the the office building or whatever it was, it’s rather like I’m sure you’ve been to New Town and Edinburgh or that you look up walk around and looks like they’re sort of mansions. Great big houses, of course they’re condominiums. But inside it was all when they were built. It was all gardens. And you from the air down using Google Earth down to Edinburgh, you see to all of these interior guards have been converted to parking lots. And so I say the city’s to get rid of Park blots, pirates, will allow the developers to create a new kind of city right or on the periphery of their existing parking lots

Carlton Reid 21:42
in my home city of Newcastle which is not too far from Edinburgh about 100 miles from Edinburgh. The my old University Newcastle University, they had lots of parking lots for this, the academic staff and and their students and then they just Had this light bulb moment. Very often it came from plein air proposals. They got rid of the parking, and then they suddenly were able to build some very nice buildings where previously they’d been parking. And now you go to Newcastle University, and this is wonderful new build buildings. And previously that was just flat space was doing nothing, encouraging people to park and now they just say, Well, no, the academics have got to get to the university a different way and they just removed all the parking just overnight. And it’s radically made that transform that that university it’s a much nicer campus. Yes,

Donald Shoup 22:39
I can remember I was a exchange student in when I was an undergraduate as an electrical engineer, and I went to Newcastle work for C.A. Parsons. I could remember the city very well. I loved it. I saw a really encouraging thing recently on is the famous curving street that in Newcastle that goes down the hill Grey Street

Carlton Reid 23:07
Grey Street, yes

Donald Shoup 23:09
that’s right and it was like any other street in the old days it was very grand street historically wonderful buildings on it. But it was heavy traffic and parking on both sides of the street and now they have wonderful a proposal for Grey Street to get rid of all the on street parking and some of the I think the traffic lights and make it a really handsome street that is matches the handsome most of the buildings all on each side.

Carlton Reid 23:40
Donold, I’m very pleased to be able to tell you I wrote that article. So that article on Newcastle on grey street went viral on

and and I wrote that

article so I’m very pleased that it it got through to you because yes, they’ve removed parking space or they’re going to it hasn’t actually happened yet. It’s it’s happening. In about two weeks time, but that will transform a beautiful, beautiful street into a beautiful street again because it’s quite ugly now because you’ve got a huge proportion of it is taken over by

car parking.

Donald Shoup 24:13
And I would say it will be a beacon to other cities or other parts of Newcastle’s here’s what can be done and the United States is, is unfortunately that has that is the cause of all these reforms but the pandemic has caused us to be so socially distance from each other when we’re going to restaurants or anything else. And so many cities of the United States have temporarily removed the off street parking requirements for restaurants so they could now have outdoor restaurants in their parking lots say it was absolutely prohibited in the past because the department was required for that. indoor restaurant and you couldn’t use it for anything else because it was required. And when they relaxed stuff, they discovered how much better it is. And they’ve also removed on the street partner, many streets and turn that into outdoor cafes and some whole streets are vacated for cars, they’re all outdoor restaurants. So I think that we need more good examples like grey streets of Newcastle. And I think of course not every street we’ll look as good as grape street well when we perform the parking, but I think even even lesser streets can greatly benefit

Carlton Reid 25:48
when even if it’s just to eat as you say, never mind just making it look good. Just actually having space to to eat it’s got to be a good thing to do. Yes, I especially just

Donald Shoup 25:57
sick of the economics of it. Many people will Would previous they say, Oh, well, that will remove all our custody or the nobody will come here. There’s no curb parking. But of course, when they do studies and say, Well, where do your customers come from only a tiny percentage of that can come from the partial car parking space in front of the restaurant. It’s observed to say that that’s an important thing for the restaurant. So I think that when they get rid of the often free parking and say, well, we’re going to have outdoor restaurants or there that will employ many more people and pay much more in taxes and satisfy many more people. The one stored car, one empty car, how we felt that empty cars are much more important than people in the past, but I think that that will be changing and of course it has huge impacts further on how much free will we can To men, how many people are killed in automobile accidents, all the way up to global warming, that there are so many benefits of these reforms. There’s so much more competition for the curve now than there was. In the past we have Uber and Lyft want to have loading zones and delivery. vans want loading so on so some people want bicycle lanes and the curb lane. Some people want bus lanes. There’s so many alternatives that storing empty cars. Of course there can be restaurants as well or little parks. So I think that there’s a lot of competition for the curb plane now and is extremely valuable land you think and how valuable the land is on race street on shore or in any city. That to think that that’s his main uses his story. Empty cars for free. And we’ve made a huge mistake. I think New York is the city that makes the biggest mistake that they estimate that there are 3 million curb spaces in New York City. It’s about the size of London has about the same number of spaces are about 3 million in new york city that only 3% of them are retired. So 97% of them are free. So that makes parking a nightmare, because they’re always cruising. You know, you. You don’t want to, you don’t want to drive if you have a carpark space, you don’t want to leave it because you won’t get it when you come back.

Carlton Reid 28:46
So you’ve you’ve you’ve worked out that about 30% of the traffic in Manhattan is basically people cruising for parking.

Donald Shoup 28:55
Well in some areas, I’m sure it’s 100% and in many areas Probably zero percent. I mean that 30% as a meme. The it’s the Some people think that 30% of all traffic is cruising for parking because I found that as the result of a number of studies, but when we study cruising worth happening, most of the areas those not happening at all, but I estimate the New York City if they charge, just $5 and 50 cents a day for all the street parking, which is the price of a roundtrip on the subway for 550 a day in New York, some of the most valuable land on earth just 550 a day for a parking space, that would be $6 billion a year. And that is equal to the total fare payments are all public transit of New York does include a subsidy for cars is equal to everything that all the transit riders pay. So I think that if we if we begin to realise that the current space has many alternatives, other than storing empty cars Well, the world won’t be looking more like but I hope ratio will start looking like that will raise street looks like now.

Carlton Reid 30:26
So get keeping on that kind of topic of the pressure on the curb. The modern Ford Mustang is 61% larger than the original Ford Mustang. It’s the same for the Mini Cooper the Range Rover cars are getting longer and longer, fatter and fatter. Will there come a time do you think when some cars and I’m especially thinking about SUVs here, just get too big to park in cities or where you’re going to have to just expand these, you know the markings for for where people can park you After you make them bigger because the modern car is just getting massive,

Donald Shoup 31:04
well, that’s happened over slowly over a long time. And as you say that the weather parking works not just the number of spaces you have and how wide they have to be and how long they have to be. And the sizes of the parking spaces have been growing. So they’re still all free. So I mean, this usual thing is if you’re gaining weight that you buy a bigger pounds, but the cities have said they’re just forcing the everybody to provide a bigger wardrobe for all of these cars that the drivers pay nothing on extra parking, except it does happen in some places, I think certainly above them and some places in Switzerland is that the measuring the length of the car as it comes in there with laser beams the measure the length of the car then tell you direct you to the space that’s appropriate for the size of your car. You know if your car is very long that follow these these lines and if you’re a small car fall in love on the big cars people so I think it is only sensible for bigger cars to pay for higher prices because they’re usually more land. So that’s the kind of technology that is now available. That you know why should a

tiny car

pay as much as as one with the example I used and you can do this for curb parking as well. The the length of your car determines how much you will pay for parking at the curb.

Carlton Reid 32:57
It makes sense because when you buy more food in the shop, you’re paying more money. So anything that you can see more of you obviously always pay more. So if you’re consuming more space, then of course you should pay more.

Donald Shoup 33:12
Yes, yeah. And that will encourage you to to buy a shorter car

length is very strongly correlated with

Carlton Reid 33:24
width. So it’s just kind of like the window the window tax of like the 18th century and that’s why people break their windows up because what they do pay less tax so if you charge people more money for that parking, they will do what you’ve just said they will get a smaller car, I think so

Donald Shoup 33:41
much more fuel efficient car because I think there’s this extra long Rolls Royce going eight miles to the gallon. Elvis smart car got 50 miles to the gallon or something like that. And, of course then the emissions are also Related to that as well. So I think it has I think we have short circuited the price system when it comes to Parker, you know, we expect to pay for just about everything that we buy it seems so natural, but it also seems natural to park fruit, you know, because we’ve been doing your personal wall and therefore is it’s hard to figure out how would you create political support for these charges and I think one way to do it is to have these discounts for city city residents after all the city residents are already paying taxes to the city. And I think that it will, yes, it will encourage people to shopping closer to home.

People in Newcastle, they’re shopping Newcastle.

I think that

the reason why I think I so I’m in a bottom feeder Because we do so many things so wrong about parking, it’s very easy to think of new ideas and get them implemented. I mean, a lot of reforms are happening around the world that many cities are performing. So Mexico City recently went from minimum parking requirements to maximum parking limits. With an interesting, Chris that if you anything above half of the maximum that you provide, you have to pay a fee to the city to pay to subsidise public transit. So it so it’s a soft maximum up to 50% of the maximum you’d you could build up above 50% of the maximum you have to pay a fee and then when you get to the maximum you can’t

Carlton Reid 35:49
provide any more. Well, you mentioned money there and how expensive things are so talking about money at this podcast is paid for by a show sponsor. So I’d now like to go across it David, my colleague and he’ll give us a short commercial interlude.

David Bernstein 36:04
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a longtime loyal advertiser, you all know who I’m talking about. It’s Jensen USA at 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 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 37:31
So thanks, David, and we’re back with Episode 250. It’s a special episode Episode 250 of the spokesmen podcast, and I’m talking with the legendary urban economist, Donald Shoup, Donald and we’ve been talking about minimums that cities have been imposing down the years. Now famously Walmart, car parks. I don’t know if it’s in the UK, but certainly in the US, they’re built to accommodate the parking that’ll occur on say, Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve, and then never meant to be that for the rest of the year. It’s just on those peak periods. So is that something that tweaking planning codes those parking minimums Can Can Can that be fixed by sent by local government?

Donald Shoup 38:23
Yes, it can be fixed. My stop shooting yourself in the foot is the cities that are basing these require us most most? Walmart’s things like that they provide what the city requires. And if the city stopped requiring that Walmart could could expand their, their, their their buildings if they want, or they could provide, what they what they sometimes do is they have auxiliary things on the periphery of the law because that’s where nobody wants to park and we’re the longest walk from the From the from your car to the, to the to the Walmart or anything like the Walmart if they allow them to have restaurants around the periphery or housing around the periphery or something else. Now they cannot do that it’s not Walmart’s fault. It’s the city’s fault. They’re the ones who say you cannot open a store in this town unless you have five spaces per thousand square feet. That’s the typical requirement for something like a Walmart which means that the parking lot is bigger than the Walmart

Carlton Reid 39:36
because quite apart from the fact that it encourages motoring when you you have lots of free parking just the very fact there’s all this massive square footage of asphalt is bad for runoff that for all sorts of different things. So all of this there’s so much asphalt around is bad for the planet.

Donald Shoup 39:59
Yeah, for Requirements make parking better, but they make everything else worse. There’s no good that comes from parking requirements other than the fact that people can park free all the day before Christmas, or they’re in the week before Christmas. And say, say speaking about churches, you don’t build your church for Easter Sunday. That would be just so absurd to think that what we have to have space where everybody wants to come on Easter Sunday, you shouldn’t know your parking lots that way either. Except that cities now require no parking for any church and you cannot open a church unless you have them. Oh, required parking. You can’t do anything without the requirement for it. You know, one way to say it is that the the first the developer has to build the parking and then they say let’s build something to finance The park used to be an architecture they say that form follows function or Form follows. Fashion or Form follows finance really Form follows parking requirements. If they so twisted the city’s out of any reasonable shape that will be getting rid of the parking requirements will do a lot of work. And it’s been very controversial in parts of Britain as well, but certainly the United States. I mean, it is half like safe, I think. Let’s see if I get the the chronology right at the high cost of free parking was published in 2005. It was the introduced by the American Planning Association at their annual conference in San Francisco. They had a big event for

and at that time

you have supplied a professional Time is crazy. And the other half though I was daydreaming because I said I have these three ideas. One is charge the right price for on street parking to produce one or two open spaces on every block so that nobody could say there’s a shortage of parking let’s say she charges the lowest price they could charge and still have one or two open spaces because that’s what drivers want to see is your policy space waiting for you. And then if you do that, you can remove the Osprey parking requirements just nobody could say there’s a shortage of parking because they see open spaces wherever they go. And to make that politically popular you should spend the money on public services on the metre districts so the some service will they have started charging for parking like put up sighs all the meteor say Yo your Meteor Money makes a difference or charging small phase into big changes it goes for for sidewalks, street trees and so things things you could see that people To know that the parking metres are paying for cleaning the sidewalks every night repair I remember getting rid of graffiti overnight to the park Monday can easily pay for that. So those are the three things that I recommended. And this seemed kind of, you know, utopian to them. But the American Planning Association went back to San Francisco last year. This is what I guess. 14 years later. They have their convention they also have another event for the high cost for free parking. During those 14 years San Francisco have totally removed all parking requirements. It has started charging market price price for curb parking variable by time of day and from Wall Street to deal there was it seemed crazier utopia in 2005 was already being done in 2019. And nobody really noticed I think that the it is it won’t lead to a big change right away. That, I think but it will lead to a huge change over time. If cities adopt these three policies

Carlton Reid 44:15
Wasn’t Pasadena, one of the first cities to take up one of your ideas and then charge for parking? And then yeah, and then made there’s their city that the old part of the city much nicer?

Donald Shoup 44:27
Yes, I think is the poster child parking benefit district where should they buy gave to charging for parking? Yes, spending the money of the neighbourhoods to the there was a

Pasadena was a very

upscale fashionable town in the 19th century and early 20th century that people came from all over the country to join the climate there. I’ve built a lot of Buys Houses. So it was a beautiful downtown. But then The depression came. And then World War Two had nothing had been built that after the World War Two that the people can buy cars and old Pasadena which was a beautiful downtown was not fashionable because it didn’t have enough parking. There were there were stores on all the lots, very little parking. And it really became you know, really, it was in the depths for a city. People thought we would never recover. But they has ambitious visionary people said well, this is well rounded like grey street in Newcastle that the this the street could be wonderful, but we don’t have the money for it. They want to rebuild all of the sidewalks. They want to convert all of the alleys in To pedestrian ways and kind of street trees that have historic street furniture and streetlights and things like that. They really knew what they wanted. And they have wonderful buildings in terrible condition. And they didn’t have any way to pay for them made the case that if we put in parking metres, that it’ll pay for all the things that you want, but rebuild all of your sidewalks, clean all of the alleys and plant street trees and put the wires underground. And it transformed the area from a commercial slum into one of the most popular places in Southern California. 200,000 people just come on a weekend we’re walking around to enjoy a place that nobody would go to 30 or 40 years ago. So when I say the you know, these three reforms taken together is that allowing restaurants to Without any Parker, charger, right prices occur but spending the money wisely can improve many cities, many cities, but I think that if you put the meagre money into the general fund, it just goes straight to the city. Nobody. That’s like sending them money to Mars, or paying for the war in Afghanistan. You know, nobody will say, Oh, I see Park parking metres are good. Because it won’t make a difference on the street except it will reduce the cruising air pollution and things like that. But I think I don’t think that these three ideas taken together are appealing to people that I mean, here. I’m being interviewed by somebody from Newcastle. Here I am in Los Angeles. And I think if it if these ideas weren’t catching on, I don’t think you’d be

Carlton Reid 48:00

that what I know about Pasadena and I’ve written about it before, even though I’m from Newcastle, you’re from Los Angeles is, I don’t know if you’ve seen this before, but the California cycleway. So the the elevated wooden cycleway that was built in Pasadena was meant to go from Pasadena, down through the Arroyo Seco to Los Angeles. And they only build one part of it, and it didn’t really go anywhere. So eventually it was just brought down and just made into a trolley line and then eventually into the Arroyo Seco Parkway took over that particular route, but that was when Pasadena was a very popular place to go and be and then obviously, it’s had a long time where it’s not such a nice place, but then by making your reform parking reforms, they’ve made it into a nice place.

Donald Shoup 48:51
Again, not just a nice place, but a spectacular place. Of course, not every not every neighbourhood could do this because they have one villains that were early 20th century. And I think what I have recommended what I would recommend for that part of the world I think maybe it would help it along the parts of older parts of Newcastle, other English cities is to have a permanent Park, I’m sure you’d like to have in London, but a different kind of from the moment is that you would only sell purpose equal to the number of spaces available, very strict and you would charge the market price for them. So that and you would spend that money to fix up the neighbourhood that you would improve the the the old road behind the houses and would provide a lot of money and I think it’s fair that what we do now, of course, London is famous for its perfect parking. I will try to take pictures of all the Bentley’s Rolls Royces and the Jaguars with purpose on them. And so you’re giving some of the most valuable land on earth in London to people who have permits. So they paid like maybe 100 pounds a year is next to nothing. For what it’s really worth, so I think that if you bother or other big cities, they say, Well, yes, I’d like this idea of a permit system. But we have to allocate it. Not just administratively, not through a waiting list or not through if there’s a waiting list. Some people are always going to get pull your political support and they’ll get to the head of the queue. said if you just said that, that will charge the market price so that anybody who wants a permit can buy one but that money has to improve the neighbourhood. I’ve estimated For San Francisco, that you could give every resident of the neighbourhood a free transit pass if you charge market prices for the curb parking spaces. So I think if it city were a downtown area where there are a lot of people and not that many curb spaces, charging for the curb spaces could pay for a free transit pass for everybody in the neighbourhood, and that would that would be a different thing to offer residents, you say would you like to have this? And if a majority of people don’t have a car, I think they will say I like that. The minority of people who have a car with some of them would like it because it would guarantee that MySpace and some of them wouldn’t want to pay. But if the if you could give something to the majority and show them that this is what will happen if we charge market prices recur wherever this is what your neighbourhood will have, then I think people would chase. People who don’t think about parking at all will say, well, this, this is a good idea. In fact, I remember I was speaking once in Boston that they have a day long conventional Park again, I spoke in the morning, and they they have a luncheon speaker who this smart politician, but she didn’t know anything about parking. And she’s very astute things. She said, if you want to have parking reforms, don’t mention Park. Just ask people what they would like to have. And then say, Well, here’s a way to pay for it. It’s up to you. And so when they do that, I think it’s happened in Pittsburgh is you find out what people want. And they say, Well, here’s a way to pay for so and then it also changed with the historic fabric. I mean, think of Jerome or well as Newcastle. The number of curved spaces is so tiny compared to of the number of people who live there. It would be like taxing the rich in a sense to pay for an equal public service for everybody subsidies give free Wi Fi to everybody in the neighbourhood. If you if in the rest of the world, free Wi Fi, the parking metres were identified with free Wi Fi. I’m sure that a lots of India or Nigeria that people will say Hmm.

Carlton Reid 53:29
Newcastle we’ve actually got some parts of Newcastle car ownership or people who don’t have cars is running to like 50% of the population in some places. So you know, not everybody has got a car. So not everybody

Donald Shoup 53:46
is many people do have car have off street parking. So when you when you look at the number of parking spaces in a neighbourhood, it couldn’t possibly serve most of the people in your neighbourhood. at a very low density, the streets are so wide, that we have minimum street widths now so that you could have cars marked on both sides. There’s plenty of parking. So it wouldn’t work there. But older areas for high density, narrower streets, that the the you really have to charge for parking to allocate it properly.

Carlton Reid 54:24
So the concept of you mentioned there about, you know, the revenues from parking being used for a public good, that that’s basically Georgian. That’s a Georgian concept. So that’s a basically the ideas of Henry George and his flat tax ideas. So tell us a little bit about that and how you’re a Georgian?

Donald Shoup 54:47
Well, I think Henry George was a 19th century economist, reformer early 20th century columns these are all taxes should be on land because Land is not going to move away to tax the land rents are really not earned income. And I think it appeals to a lot of economists because it’s better than other taxes. It doesn’t discourage enterprise.

And it encourages people to

develop empty lab. You wouldn’t leave sites empty if you were paying high taxes on it. And if you build a building on your taxes wouldn’t go off. So he thought that they would really completely alive in the economy because the landowners that he and other people said who were rich have their sleep would within Stan think, well, how can I make better use of my land Can I remember this from our gas from a gas station into an apartment building or a parking lot into apartment building? But he his idea so I’ve never really succeeded that politically. So, what what is difference between my idea of full bore Henri Georges is that he thought that all the money should go to the the general government, it really disappeared and be in general the government the paper education, the public transportation and things like that, but it really would disappear from the neighbourhood. So, I think that if you say that we charge for the land and make it very clear to the residents, if you adopt this policy or charging for the land you will get more for your neighbourhood. So, try to appeal to individuals self interest that they they could see that our neighbourhood can be better we can all get free Wi Fi, we all get free transit passes or we can get one wider sidewalks or whatever we bought, it shouldn’t come from top down, it should come from bottom up, you should ask them what what does the neighbourhood walk? So I think that would be the land would be producing revenue and that’s it wouldn’t be all land obviously. But the curb lane in the United States is about oh 8% of all the land inside the block. If you look at if you look at a block before science that typically that the curb the land in the in the curb lane is about 8% of the land either side of the block. So it would be putting you’re putting your toe into the ocean of Henri Georges. I’m just saying, well, let’s try and see how I’m charging for parking work. It’s not a tax. Henry George recommended the tax all the value of well, if you’ve charged a driver for borrowing that stuff, attached. That’s a user fee just like if you if you eat in a restaurant, the bill you get in the restaurant is not a tax. It’s a user fee. So I think that the difference people I’m proposing but Henry Jones, North proposed that he wants to tax all land and he wanted the money to go to the general government. So I say, well, let’s start with the tax or the most easily observed land and it’s it’s so easy to set the right price. It’s hard to assess land value, but it’s very easy to say, Well, what is the right price for parking? There’s parking operators do that all the time and private parking operators, they know how to charge the right price for parking. And I think yes, that is not the easiest thing in the world to do is to charge market price for parking. But it’s a lot easier than assessing land values or assessing property taxes or income tax. taxes have been just like how much evasion there is with most taxes with income taxes and specifically, there wouldn’t be much way to evade parking fees

Carlton Reid 59:13
that work at employers in the city of Nottingham. In England, they certainly can’t avoid it because they play. I know you said it’s not attack. It’s more of a user fee, but they pay what’s called and I’m sure you know about the workplace parking Levy, and that’s paid for general goods. So that’s paid for cycleways that pays for street trolleys. So that’s pretty Georgian? Pretty Shoupian, yeah. Nottingham doing it right?

Donald Shoup 59:39
Yes, it is certainly better than nothing, but I think there’s some I recommend something better. I think the nawic have charged it’s called parking cash out is a porter paid parking in the United States is the most common fringe benefit for that employers give to their employees as a tax exempt. fringe benefit. So if you give the employee a free parking space at work, it doesn’t count those as as income for taxation. So it makes it almost inevitable that employers will say, Well, yes, we’ll give you free parking at work, because it’s it’s cheaper than giving them higher wages because the people will have to pay income tax on the higher wages and the employers have to pay employment taxes, Social Security, taxes and things like that. So you avoid a lot of taxes if you pay somebody with a parking space, then with income. So when I proposed that became law in California, now, Washington DC, is if an employer rents parking spaces from a third party to offer free to an employee and this is a common way of doing it. And so this because employers and office buildings or shops and things like that they don’t own the parking, they rent for the employee and they They pay the rent to the parking owner and give it free for the employee. That’s very common. So as the law says, Now, if you offer an employee free parking, you have to offer the employee the option to take the cash value. If you don’t take the Parker, it’s very fair because it means if you’re given for parking, it goes only to people who drive to work. And people who walk to work or bike to work, they get nothing. So the most employers say, I’ll offer you free parking or nothing. They don’t say that. But they say oh, a few free parking. So now they by law, they have to say, and if you don’t take the parking, you could have the cash. So I studied firms that did this. And it led to something like a 17% decrease in so we’re driving just by broadening the offer, saying that we’re not going to employ to subside, just parking. We’re going to subsidise if you take the bus to work or ice skate to work or whatever you want, however you want to get here. And of course, reduce vehicle miles travelled, air pollution and all the rest. Plus, all the employees said, Well, this is great sort of the people who drove to work lost nothing. And the people who who didn’t drive to work nowadays they have extra income to spend, and the employers themselves that it was a great idea because they use it as a recruiting tool so that if you if you work there, it will give you a new partner or if you don’t, we’ll give you cash. And I interviewed a number of firms. They said the employees felt better about an employer, even if they drove to work because they thought the employer was trying to be part of the solution rather than just part of the problem. They’re most most of us would say we’re environmentalist, and many of them are really our dedicated environmentalist. The environmentalist Especially if they didn’t drive to work. They thought it was a great idea. So they pour salt.

This is a very

fair way to treat our employees.

Carlton Reid 1:03:13
It’s an annual thing or could you do that? Like if you if you didn’t drive in for say three months of the year, we’ll give you you know this amount of money or is it something that has to be an annual thing?

Donald Shoup 1:03:27
Well, I think I looked at one firm in England. They did it every day. I think that when you came to work, I think you paid

you were charged two pounds. For Parking.

Habit every people had to use their ID card to get into the builder. So every time you went into the building in the morning, on the day you work there, you got a payment of two pounds, so that you break free If you drove it to work, or you pay two pounds for parking, and you got two pounds for being there, but if you didn’t drive to work, you get two pounds. So it’s a daily choice. So every day, when you roll out of bed you have to say, well, should I bike to work or should I don’t feel well today? Maybe I’ll drive or have to be there earlier I blade or something like that every day people have this choice. Do I want to have cash or do I want to have free pumpkin? And I think it’s a very sensible, said I don’t think the Nottingham chars has those effects. It’s a fixed annual fees just attacks on the employer and the employer can still give free parking to the employee without the cash option. So So I think it’s not a tax on the employer. The employer saves on parking when somebody doesn’t Park Hmm.

Carlton Reid 1:04:59
So hearing the UK we’ve got all political parties, arguing that NHS staff should get free parking at hospitals. Yet there’s no demand that NHS staff should be given money to spend on bus fares, or to be gifted with free bicycles. So why do you think parking at your place of work is almost seen as a human? Right? It’s something that you’ve got to be given as it’s just the human right?

Donald Shoup 1:05:28
Well is more foreign policies are based on a more emotional facts or, or theories. So I would say that if we’re going to give free parked people, anywhere, but especially NHS, as you can say, yes, you could have free parking, but if you don’t take it, we’ll give you the cash value. And that will treat everybody who works for the NHS equally. One of the things that happened With the with the, this would probably happen at any chance. So what happened was firms who had to abate with obey the law. They had to offer people. The law just says if I employ if I’m an employer and I pay you with a park, I give you a free parking space it cost me $100 I have to offer you $100 if you don’t take it and if I don’t offer you the free parking, I don’t worry or anything. But it turns out in many firms, especially law firm survery, higher Oracle’s that they would have, the executive officers would have parking in the garage underground, and it would be dedicated to their name and the lower wage employers would park outside the block away in the parking lot and then the lowest beta pours we get nothing when it came and that’s that’s the parking cash out. Oh, With the fact that you can still go the best spaces to the to the highest paid people if you wanted to, but when it was when the subsidy became expressed in cash, they realised it was not fair to give a lot of money to the highest paid person and nothing to the lowest paid person, so they switched to a uniform fee for cash out for everybody that everybody got the same amount of money as the high income people if they wanted to buy more exclusive parking space they didn’t have to pay for it just was elementary is what’s fair. And so I think in the NHS if they offered everybody free parking or or the cash value that nom the nada HS employees would have to pay see because if if an NHS employee takes a space it’s not available for a visitor The that you have to offer them the cash value that that space water. And I’m sure you would find huge differences in the, in the value of spaces giving to the top people at the hospital until the lowest paid people at the hospital. I think what I suspect

Carlton Reid 1:08:21
now so what they think they found in Scotland where they had free parking for NHS was the carpark would just fill up with people who weren’t actually NHS. So we’re just using it for shopping because it’s free all of a sudden. So it’s fantastic. So it wasn’t actually going to the people it’s meant to benefit anyway.

Donald Shoup 1:08:39
Oh, yes. If it’s just free for everybody. That’s ridiculous. But it could be free just to the employees. Or but I think it would be fair if it was a you could have the cash value and I suspect I suspect that those hospitals in Scotland, the top executives have reserved spaces for themselves. They didn’t they probably do. didn’t have to compete with everybody else for a space in an oversubscribed blob. It’s just natural. The the higher paid people get the best parking spaces. But when Canada I think when they I think the Canadian government used to give free parking to everybody. And then they switched to a policy of making everybody pay for 70 I think it was 70% of the market cost of the parking space and then after that more women began driving to work now why do you think more women they would begin driving to work in a government office if they started charging for parking? Hmm?


Well is because there wasn’t enough parking available for everybody. So naturally, the best parking spaces when Down the hierarchy, all the top people began to say, well, maybe I don’t need to pay, you know, $100 a month, maybe I could get to work some other way. And those phases then became available to women who were willing to pay. When it’s given away free, it has to be administered. And if you administer it, it is normal for the top civil service to get the best spaces. Well, if you if you say, but anybody can happen if they’re willing to pay for some of these top civil servants who live you know, a few blocks away would say, Well, I’d rather take the cash. And in Canada, two male boys began I escaped into work. I think that administrative distribution of support always favours the the well heeled, the well position and the lowest paid people get the short end of the stick. So I think that if NHS is wanting to do free parking, it ought to be on a parking cash out basis that they can they can that the people who don’t drive would be treated just as well as the people who do drive and that will some of the people would say, Well, yes, I’d rather carpool I’d rather bicycle now we have electric bicycles that they’re

there. Have you written an electric bicycle?

Carlton Reid 1:11:31
Yes. My wife. My wife is a doctor and she drives cycles to, to hospital on her electric bike. So

Donald Shoup 1:11:39
well, that’s right. I think a lot. I think electric bikes are terrific. I would if I had liked to do over again. I would have been riding an electric bike. They’re the ones I’ve written. They’re they’re really good bikes. I say, normally, I was like, No, I’m gonna risk my life on a bike. I want to get some exercise, but if I’m thinking But as a as a as a commuter strategy, I think electric bikes are, are really a way to reduce our demand for for parking, especially if you have to pay for. So I say I hope that the NHS would give free parking to everybody, not just the doctors and the nurses but also the people who emptied the bedpans and if they don’t take it they should get

Carlton Reid 1:12:34
cash. I think the problem with NHS parking is because it’s this thing called the public finance initiative where they actually sold the hospitals don’t own the parking lots. The parking lots are owned by private companies who are just make money. So hospitals and the government even can’t demand hospitals make their their, their car box for free because they don’t own them, you know, they long ago they sold them off to the highest bidder. You just can’t actually physically do anything with most car parks because they’re not owned.

Donald Shoup 1:13:10
Well, that that makes parking cash out even easier because if they have to pay a third party for every Park, they know exactly how much the subsidy goes. They know exactly how much they should offer to that person. If they don’t take the park.

Carlton Reid 1:13:28
Yeah, good point. I say retailers I’m gonna get into retail now. And this is one of my final question. So retailers the world over. always complain when parking spaces outside their shops are taken away for whatever reasons, and they assume that most of their custom comes from motorists. I know you’ve touched upon this in an earlier part of the show, but it’s often not the case. So what can what can livability advocates, what can they say to those shop owners that’ll help allay their fears.

Donald Shoup 1:14:05
Well, if they were a planner, they would point to all the surveys that shows the most of their customers do not park on the street. I mean, just physically look at it. Most people could not possibly Park all the street for all the people that are in the restaurants in the stores and things like that that many more people come on foot. But I would say that rather than make it free and I know that there’s you know, there are people in Britain say that the that it should be free on the name is free. I say well, what it should be is the rough price of Mara the lowest prices that it can charge at one or two open spaces. So nobody could say that. Oh, I never go to a shop in Newcastle because there’s no place to park that if they set the price so that there are one or two open spaces Wherever you bought, nobody would say, I won’t go there. That’s right. And I think I was making this argument in a town in northern California. Lovely is a small town Santa Santa Rosa, that was it that

it was like

I’m travelling around the world giving same talk about what we’re talking about now. And I gave my talk I had dinner with the mayor and city council beforehand and I thought they were all in favour what I was going to say, and I had a big adios of an amphitheatre, like city halls, rake seats.

I gave my talk and I thought more very well a little

guy as soon as of the guy on the top row jumped up. He’s shot out of a seat. I don’t think of a foam coming out of his mouth, but certainly Spit some people recording programme. He said, If this city because running the parking metres in the evening, I will never eat in a restaurant downtown again. There was no class settle the question, you know that that’s there’s nothing more to say. And the city council member couldn’t exactly tell her Shut up. But I told him I said, Well, if you will come down to home, somebody who isn’t willing to pay for parking will come down for a shot if they can easily find the parking space. And who do you think will leave a bigger tip in a restaurant, somebody won’t come downtown. Unless they could drive around for 20 minutes holding for an empty space or somebody who’s willing to pay for parking if they can park right in front of on the block of the restaurant. And if you don’t want to come downtown, maybe you’d be better off of the food core of a shopping mall in the suburbs and the whole audio begins sharing Cuz they were the green show though. Usually the greens are the ones who invited me. And I will say that the politicians are so envious. I can do that. I mean, there’s really insult the guy and make fun of it. But I think that if you were getting back to your question, if you were a merchant downtown, who do you think would be a better customer, somebody would come downtown to Main Street only if they could park free after they drove around for 10 minutes hunting for some space being vacated, or somebody was willing to pay for parking if they could easily Park though, that downtown who’s going to pay spend more in your shop, and actually, you wouldn’t be losing many parts of cars because you’re gonna have to wander to open spaces on every block. So wouldn’t reduce the amount of parked cars by more than one or two cars. And but it was make your your your main street available to anybody. is really to pay for parking. If if you’re three or four people in a car going to a restaurant, you know the cost of parking is negligible per person.

Carlton Reid 1:18:10
But isn’t this isn’t this? Isn’t this just you know, again, you’re you’re helping rich people because rich people don’t have to worry about parking. It’s, it’s it’s poor people who won’t be able to afford the parking. So Aren’t you discriminating against them?

Donald Shoup 1:18:25
Well, let’s suppose that I disagree with that. But suppose it were true. And you were advising the merchants on what’s good for them? What would you say them?

Carlton Reid 1:18:39
Personally, I would say to them, get rid of the parking places completely and make them a

little bit just a choice, just a choice or free or market price, which would be better for the merchants.

Donald Shoup 1:18:50
Well, the merchants would say free because then we get everybody to come whereas if we make people come

Well, not

the I think it’s what was if you were in the Stockholm Syndrome room, the kidnapping syndrome, some Stockholm Syndrome as a bank in Stockholm, is that you begin to sympathise with your oppressor. And I think that when people start saying, well, we can’t charge for parking because it hurts the poor, you’re sympathising with the oppressor. The really poor people don’t have cars. If you’re talking about people who are really poor, they don’t know a car. And richer people, obviously own cars and more than one that I see if you were going to be an effective advocate for low income people. I don’t think free parking is the right way to do it because most of the parking will be taken all the parking ticket like car owners. A lot of levels, car owners are not poor. So you’re saying let’s have a bankfoot for everybody. A few poor people will get the Chrome’s I think that arguing for free parking on Main Street is a way to help poor people is ridiculous. And as a way to help merchants is also ridiculous. If you think the alternative is one or two open spaces and the prices needed for that, because it won’t get rid of all apartment it’d be two cars on a block. And that’s that that isn’t going to greatly reduce the number of cars that are parked and they’ll probably park for shorter times if they if you have to pay by the minute you’ll you’ll you you’re probably leave when you’re finished your business. If it’s free, people can park all day long, or they can park as long as there’s a time limit is though I don’t think the idea of free parking on Main Street helps the merchant was able to get help or helps the customers because the customers Either they won’t come because they, every time they pride them on the street, they see no empty spaces. And often this is what happened in Pasadena. The the they did

have time limits

to our time limit, but the employees would go out and move their car every two hours just to evade the time limit. The merchants knew that they just told their employees not to park in front of my store. But I think that having a pre is an invitation to miss yours.

Carlton Reid 1:21:42
Donald, that’s all been fascinating and you’ve certainly your your long career as the good the Yoda of planning has proven this. You’ve opened lots of people’s eyes to the craziness of free parking and parking. In general so thank you ever so much for for being on the show and it does sound like you need to get you an electric bike.

Donald Shoup 1:22:07

thanks for finding the good fight. Keep me posted.

Carlton Reid 1:22:14
Thanks to Donald Shoup for being on today’s show, the 250th episode. Thanks also to you for listening. Now please make sure to subscribe and tell your friends and colleagues about this spokesmen parking, the spokesmen cycling podcast. Show notes and more can be found on I’m off to Switzerland tomorrow to check out the parcours for the UCI Road World Championships due to be staged — COVID flare up willing — in September. Now I may grab some audio there and make a show out of it. But meanwhile, get out there and ride…

Transcribed by

July 5, 2020 / / Blog

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The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 249: This is not white gentrification, this is active travel infrastructure for everybody

Sunday 5th July 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Clyde Loakes, deputy leader, Waltham Forest Borough Council


Coffin protest, 2015

Whipps Cross cycle safari by Ranty Highwayman

Whipps Cross upgrade


Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to episode 249 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday July 5th 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 Jenson Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there. I’m Carlton Reid and for today’s show, I popped down to Walthamtwo in the North East London Borough of Waltham Forest to get a personal guided tour of the people friendly goodness steadily building up around what was the first mini-Holland scheme. The tour was led by Clyde Loakes, the labour politician who’s deputy leader of waltham forest Council. We started on the now world famous Orford road where in 2015 campaigners from the East 17 streets for all campaign carried a coffin to warn that removing cars from this shopping street will be the death of it. Did their fears come true? Nope.

The ccomplete opposite, which is why Orford road is world famous, the location, the International side visits from planners and politicians eager to see how an ordinary British street could be so massively, yet easily improved, and significantly, how the local politicians who pushed for change got reelected. Clyde was also keen to take me to Francis road to see how another people friendly makeover is getting on. And then, perhaps most impressive of all, we cycled in perfect safety around the Whipps Cross interchange, which, since the 1920s, has been a high speed roundabout leading onto high speed roads, which made the junction particularly difficult to access for pedestrians and cyclists. The roundabout was ripped out and replaced with a signalised T junction, complete with wide cycle tracks.

That are silky smooth. And did I mention it there wide, really wide. The junction now works for everybody and not just motorists. It even works for the local wildlife because land has been given back to the ancient Epping Forest

Clyde we are all well it’s very sunny. That always helps. But we are on the sunny and busy Orford road which is now the kind of the poster child

for active travel people from around the UK possibly even around the world. But before we get into that, let’s just talk about what this was like on that particular day. When are people saying we don’t want this? Tell me what happened then. So yeah, so you’re right you’re on offered road probably the the most pictured active travel streets in the world.


yeah, take take me back now five years ago.

Clyde Loakes 4:00
We were here kind of formally opening this scheme, which was the first real completed scheme as part of our mini Holland funding.

And people had gathered

with the Dutch ambassador, his first day in office was here.

Andrew Gilligan was here senior council officers.

Carlton Reid 4:21
I was there because you had a an active travel conference, right?

Clyde Loakes 4:24
Yeah, yeah. And they were fully protesters outnumbering supporters by about three or four to one, if not more. So a couple of hundred people here. It was a miserable day at that was raining, not like it’s been ever since. And, yeah, we endeavour to kind of formally cut a ribbon.

And some of my colleagues decided they weren’t going to come out.

But it was clear that I needed to be out here and I need you to be here talking to those people that were still not happy. You know, an adult

cards are very famous, they had a coffin that they were suggesting that the work that we’d done would kind of be the death of this particular guy. very traditional small residential kind of shopping street. And I’m just going to count right 12345 630 odd people want to tip three, three people on bikes, the rest walking, and it’s a busy street glide. This is not it hasn’t died, hasn’t No, it hasn’t died. Civilization did not collapse in Orford road, directly after the interventions that we made to transform it in favour of active travel in favour of pedestrians in favour of children, micro scooters, people on cycles. And no it did not die. And actually, it’s still exceptionally busy in what you need to remember is that this was a road that had two way traffic on it. Two and a half thousand vehicles a day would use to kind of play

Way through this particular vote, where we’re standing now quite often cars will be parked on the pavement. So, you know, it was just bad for everyone. So if you had a buggy, you’re in a mobility scooter, you would end up having to kind of perhaps get into the road and conflict with motor vehicles. And of course now I just don’t see any of that at all. I mean, it’s, it’s a place where active travellers take the priority. And everyone else you know,

you know, they get out of the way for you.

Carlton Reid 6:31
So have you gentrified this has gentrification come after this? Have people said, Oh, yeah, yeah, it’s great, but I can’t live here anymore because it has happened.

Clyde Loakes 6:44
I don’t like to use the term gentrification. It’s not something that I believe in. I think if we would not want nice things, I believe in that kind of place. No one wants thousands of vehicles ploughing down a residential street or through their neighbourhood on a daily basis.

As we all know, the negatives from that kind of Mount of through traffic, how it impacts on our health and physical and mental well being we all know this stacks of evidence to suggest create places like this and people will come and spend more money and they will stay here for longer so gentrification no a not building a nice place for people to live and and to take their leisure. Yes. And that’s what that’s what this is about. It’s not about you.

Carlton Reid 7:29
So okay, this recycle pass is where these mum by the look of it. So she’s taking power or she’s riding now talking with a friend and just walking past and he’s just nipped off. And that looks obviously very perfectly safe. So are we in an enclave here? Is this like, like one of these we’re going to be getting like a quiet neighbourhood. Is that how you what you did with this?

Clyde Loakes 7:51
Yeah, so this is what people now would refer to as a low traffic neighbourhood and ltn


You know, they seem to be in in fashion at the moment. Because you know, join the lockdown for the past three months, more more people have walked and cycled around their neighbourhoods may have spent more time in their local shopping areas and actually recognise actually, they can access them by just walking and cycling. They don’t need to get into their car. So things have become very popular. But this is, you know, this is just one of our low traffic neighbourhoods that we built with our original mini Holland money. And there were a number of them throughout Warframe. So there are a number of them in Layton and Leytonstone. And it’s a model now that we’re taking an approach that we’re taking to kind of all of our kind of highway schemes, there is no real point in just simply putting speed humps down. You’ve got to take that through traffic out. You’ve got to give people something more than just speed humps that you can’t actually ultimately enforce.

Carlton Reid 8:56
And then you’ve got voted in again. So again, people didn’t say

Clyde Loakes 9:00
Right. This is something we don’t want. Well, let’s get this guy out.

Carlton Reid 9:03
And at this point, we were joined by a guy called Jacob who wheeled his bike across to us and started talking to Clyde. And as Clyde will point out, this is an interaction that might not have happened before because it’s just so easy for, for Jacob to spot Clyde and me talking on off the road. Do bear in mind that I didn’t have a microphone on Jacob because I didn’t know Jacob was going to be part of the conversation and I won’t include all of what, what Clyde and Jacob talked about. It’s very local, but I’ll I’ll include a little snippet here.

Jacob 9:44
Right? Yes, yes. Yes. It’s so busy. How’s it? Oh, good.


keeping it alive.


Carlton Reid 10:04
well, that’s another

good point somebody can just stop get off is by Say hi. Go on again. It’s kind of civilised, it’s made it not you couldn’t have it couldn’t have talked.

Clyde Loakes 10:16
Yeah, you wouldn’t have had that interaction before. possible because you wouldn’t have seen him because there’d been a like a parked vehicle here, as you kind of move past each other, then he wouldn’t have been able to weave his bike through the parked cars to kind of, you know, it just wouldn’t have happened. And that’s one of the real kind of major anecdotes of all of our low traffic neighbourhood works that we’ve done in Oregon for us over the past five, six years, is that kind of sense, a great community cohesion, those kind of informal spaces where people can talk, shoot the breeze, whether they’re on the way to dropping their kids off for school, and they’re walking with neighbours now or they’re bumping into the parents of

their child’s mates, in class. All those kinds of sorts of informal opportunities, we created those spaces.

Where actually people can talk people can hang people can shoot the breeze and it’s amazing.

Carlton Reid 11:05
And then I back feats has just come past but not what I would call traditional, you know, like reclad

that famous phrase like a clad just a normal woman on a bike. Yep, just right. We could be in the Netherlands here, Clyde, we could, we could. And

Clyde Loakes 11:23
yeah, we could definitely be in the Netherlands.

But equally, we are in zone three in London. And you know, and this proves that you can do it in, you know, an urban area that’s had the extra 40 years worth of car domination that the Netherlands hasn’t had, in kind of shaping its behaviours, it proves that at any point, you can make some radical decisions to, you know, take a different course, intervene in a different way, decide that people can and should be moving around a place, a kind of tight urban place in different ways. It proves it can be done. So

Carlton Reid 12:00
Any of these, some of the restaurants and businesses are not open right now because of Coronavirus. But when they were open, were any of these businesses that we’re looking at here now either Republic cafe or any of the other shops that are here. Were any of them opposed back then? And I now combat so.

Clyde Loakes 12:24
I guess opposition is quite a strong word. I think there were a number of businesses here

that were slightly sceptical and just, you know, they needed to see to believe it.

But as soon as it was, you know, they recognised it, and they got on board once there was there still is a business here. They still very much opposed.

This gentleman here sells vintage furniture and whatnot, but you’ll see all these ways out on the pavement.

He’s opened in the springtime in the summer. And I have no doubt that he is benefiting because actually offered road is now a destination place. It’s not just a place where locals come it’s people come from other boaters to spend their time and their money here. And and other businesses kind of, you know gone. And it’s a new business is incredibly supportive and was very supportive. When they were just local residents in the area. They decided to open up their business here because of what we did. So apart from this guy,

Carlton Reid 13:35
and there’s people coming past very Dutch just looking down at their phones riding past. So apart from that guy, do you reckon any business owner on here would ever come to you and say could please go back to what we had before?

Clyde Loakes 13:47
No, definitely not. Definitely not. No, no, no, no, no way on Earth.

You know that. Fundamentally, their business models wouldn’t work in in the same way. So you’ve got restaurants

And bars that have now got the decent space to put tables and chairs out. So kind of increasing their capacity and then the nature of their offer. You know, and that’s what makes this such a great, great place now compared to what it was before, and it’s not a cycling Street, because there was a bus coming through the door, there’s a bus gate on this road. And so between 10 in the morning and 10 at night, only buses can come up this way, but it’s now one way and that’s a small hopper bus route that serves quite a significant community through this through this area, so a Highland wide kind of bus.

But you know, it works well. There’s a mature relationship between pedestrians, cyclists, kids on Walker scooters, and that

that hopper bus,

Carlton Reid 14:49
you can see that and then the people who were parked here, way back when when there’s cars gone. So those cars have ever been ditched and people are walking outside.

Clyde Loakes 15:00

Oh, you know there perhaps if they’re adamant they need to come here they’ll perhaps still use one or two this kind of short term shopper parking bays that we’ve got on some of the side roads here.

But quite simply, you know there’s a big reduction in vehicle traffic coming through this space so you know it is more people walking and cycling here. That is now the dominant way of coming to Orford road

Carlton Reid 15:27
What was your car ownership? What were your modal shares back then what are your modal shares now?

Clyde Loakes 15:33
They got me on the spot.

I mean, modal share, kind of cycling was only around about 1% I mean, it was pitiful, not dissimilar to without London and that’s that was one of the reasons why the mini Holland’s funding became available and was only for out in London. I can’t own shipping off advice right at that time was probably around about

55 60%

Households owned the car cost the borrower kind of it was different in different parts of the borough, you know, it was a lot higher in vain or for the borrower a lot less in the south for the borrower were kinda it’s a bit more like in a London in the south of the bar.

I’m guessing now we’re probably heading to around about 50% of households don’t have access to appointment calm, maybe less.

So that’s really really good. modal share. I mean, it’s always hard to I always think it’s quite a hard one to gauge but we’re certainly better than 1% That’s for sure. But I wouldn’t want to put a percentage on it.

Carlton Reid 16:36
No one else is 10 minutes we’ve been here I must have seen

20 or 25 and and not on where there was a governance or a patch the governor’s just come past there’s been a

backfill box by Yeah, there’s people just riding past with no hands on the handlebars. You know, very, very comfortable.

riding along here. Yeah. And the pedestrians are very, very comfortable as well. So describe what’s just north of us here because I haven’t. I’ve been here a few times. And yeah, I haven’t been to that church. But you’ve got a fantastic bit of mediaeval history here as well.

Clyde Loakes 17:16
Yeah. So this is, you know, this is the heart of Walthamstow so some people call it still call it Walthamstow village.

But you’ve got, I mean, this is a conservation area fundamentally. So one of the ironies of the debates that we’re having with those people that were opposed to the change was that they wanted to

preserve the conservation area, but they thought that the best way to do that was through allow two and a half thousand vehicles a day to still go through when actually you took in this grid system. This neighbourhood was developed and designed and developed and built, you know, before cars existed, nevermind mascot ownership. So actually, if you were conserving it, you would take it back to what we’ve done.

Largely done.

But yeah, you got main, one of the main churches in the in the BOA is located just around the corner. And then you’ve got a load of, you know, very narrow residential streets just off, the feds feed into what we call like a pocket Park, kind of square that we’ve got just at the end. But then you’ve got some major, three major major through roads. So it’s one of the things that you were doing back then was, Well, a lot of people who are coming through here, we’re probably not even residents here. They were just using this as a rat run. So that’s one of the reasons why the businesses weren’t doing well because nobody was stopping here. They were just because traffic on congestion on those major roads come through here. So what you had in this area you had

a lot of vehicles thousands of vehicles a day using this whole residential area to kind of bypass a big chunk of leverage road which is one of our major roads rocks our busiest road local salty road in in

In the boat, and the traffic management systems on there that kind of can deal with thousands of vehicle movements, traffic lights, etc. bypassing Lea Bridge Road, bypassing a big chunk of whole street, which is another major road again with lots of signals and systems to, you know, be able to deal with thousands of vehicle movements a day, they would use this residential area to cut out all of those measures and you know, and take lots of time off their off their journey. But as a consequence, you know, they were, you know, dividing communities, they were making it really difficult for the local residents around here to walk or cycle and to kind of, you know, adopt that kind of active travel approach for their short bass cartoons themselves, you know, they felt so safe and getting in their own boxes to take their child to school rather than allowing their child to walk with them and micro sketching with them. I mean, it was, you know, it was a difficult place at that time, but because people have been so used to it, you know, we didn’t really have a concept

To what it would be like if you took all of those sounds. So it was quite hard to kind of, you know, win some of those arguments, you know, we can take out thousands of vehicles a day. Now you can’t make art, you know, nothing is going to change who actually did radically change. You know, we saw a lot of vehicles. Well, clearly a lot of vehicles could no longer use this area.

Further through traffic purposes, just like residents gaining access to where they live, that’s all and and then you saw because all of a sudden, this area wasn’t as easy to drive through. Actually vehicles didn’t then end upon the Bridge Road or High Street, they just bypassed the whole

time in its entirety. You know, I stayed on the A12 they stayed on the A046 I didn’t come into Waltham Forest take kind of big chunks out of their journey.

Carlton Reid 20:49
So one of the fears back then was that will okay do this are these roads but that’ll just mean you’ll get traffic backed up to there will not be able to get around. So that hasn’t happened. You haven’t had traffic knows

Clyde Loakes 21:00
So all of the vehicles that we took all the vehicle movements that we took out of this space and didn’t suddenly appear the next day on Lea Bridge Road and Hoe Street, clearly many did. But no way, by any way, shape or form all of them, which has allowed us to, you know, to kind of see, you know, the vast improvements that we have in the kind of air quality in this particular area and across the, across the borough, but even on those roads, like the Bridge Road, hoe Street, you know, those roads were designed for the amount of traffic that they have on them, they have the signals, you know, in Lethbridge road in particular, now, you got the signals that talk to each other. So, you know, they utilise whole length of the road to manage the amount of traffic on them. It’s not each junction has its own junction. And that’s kind of where you start to kind of see some, you know, congestion in the past because it was poor

traffic management systems in place that we’re not really talking to each other. But no, it’s good. And clearly lots of other cities and this is the reason why you probably bring visitor groups here.

To show you people from around the world what this is like.

Carlton Reid 22:03
But an awful lot of cities are now going to this model. And now with Coronavirus, accelerating this kind of model, but you were ahead of the game and you’ve created something that’s very Coronavirus friendly. Yeah. So you’ve made something very local for people to come to.

Clyde Loakes 22:23
Yeah. And so, you know, clearly, you know, pedestrians are privatised here now they were before. But you know, certainly when some of these other shops will start to kind of, hopefully reopen, they’ve got the space outside to accommodate the queues. They got the space outside where hopefully they’ll be able to bring their tables and chairs out and, you know, so that’s what we know works. And, you know, actually, you know, it’s very timely that there’s those opportunities in places like this,

because it is a very easy thing to achieve. And even in other parts, I haven’t had the kind of levels of intervention that we’ve had here.

In the in the bar, you know, you know, we’re suspending those kind of parking bays, tradition, Southside shops, because we know that space is gonna be really, really crucial to enable, you know, the footfall of shoppers to come back into those shopping areas, and potentially to allow some of those businesses to kind of move outside can help enhance and increase their capacity and their offer during what will be, you know, really difficult period of time for many of those businesses.

Carlton Reid 23:28
So, there are petitions against this. There are websites there was Facebook group, a judicial review, judicial review, it’s all sorts of things against this. So those people have you brought those people around, or are they still anti?

Clyde Loakes 23:45
I think the vast majority of them have been brought around or now more neutral than directly, very vocally opposed. There are still a number of people that do not believe the difference between


they come down here and they go Yeah, and you know, and there was a Yeah. So that’s, that’s and they are still very angry.

Yeah, but you know, change, change is always difficult, change is always difficult and radical change even more so. And that’s what we set out to do here, you know, it’s been quoted before, you know, I spent nearly 20 years and as a counsellor you know, trying to get excited around kind of very minimal traffic management schemes did nothing for modal share, basically accommodated drivers poor behaviour. And you know, and at best was a chicane and the speed hump here, did nothing really to kind of switch the modal share.

And we did nothing really nothing, nothing happened as a consequence, 20 years of blood, sweat and tears, you know, around those kind of levels, consultations and interventions. So it was always

necessarily there had to be something magical had to be something different. You know, and we had an election as well all out elections. And, you know, if i’d believe what I was reading on social media at that time, you know, the administration was going to get taken out, I was going to be heavily defeated by any one of everyone else who was standing against us, because everyone else had a slightly different view, through ourselves on what we’re done. But of course, the reverse happens, you know, my personal majority, it’s the highest it’s ever been. And we gain seats and those councils that have been at the forefront of supporting these interventions, also then majorities increase as well. So you know, it’s, despite everyone else having every other party and independence to vote for. They didn’t know they voted for us, and everyone often vice knows about mini Holland. Everyone had a view on mini Holland. Valley, areas around here. Yeah, because obviously it’s beautiful to have a signature Street and it’s

Carlton Reid 26:00
It’s wonderful, it’s pretty easy, and it’s great, the shops, etc, etc. But if you if you live around that corner there, but you have got to get to the other side of Walton forest. And this is nice to come through and are you accommodating people making those three journeys on bicycles? So what are you doing the in the rest of the bar? so busy road?

Clyde Loakes 26:22
Yeah, yeah, so there are a number of these kind of interventions that we’ve made, you know, low traffic neighbourhoods across across the bow now

in all parts apart from the the North, where our proposals were never as significant as they were in kind of orphan stone and the south of the border. So you know, and they’re all based on a kind of grid system that kind of got main roads around them, you know, they’re largely residential, in the middle, and you know, and that’s a classic system that, you know, Europeans and other cities have been introducing for decades, just slightly newer here in the UK, but now

They exist across across the borough and they you know, they’re making similar difference to those particular residential areas as well.

Carlton Reid 27:07
So one of those hopper buses is coming fast

and he’s going nice and slow. And he’s just waiting for the cyclist to pull the one side which they’re doing

seem to work he wasn’t an aggressive No, no, no, no, he speed limited the bear or is it just a design, just a design?

Clyde Loakes 27:25
I mean, it’s it is still quite a narrow

and the way the materials are used kind of gives it a sense that it is even narrower than it actually is. busy roads, main main roads, what can you

do with main roads? Well, you know, elaborate road now is just a gait cycle tracks the whole length of it, and we’re extending it further up into kind of towards the Redbridge borough boundary. We did have plans to extend it from the Hackney bow boundary to the cops around about but, you know, to fail so to kind of put that on hold for

time being hopefully they’ll be able to kind of get that back up and running as soon as possible as a scheme because that then starts to link up different significant pieces of cycling infrastructure across London. Kind of into one you know, and of course we were putting in our bids for TfL funding for the street space to kind of you know, try and get some temporary infrastructure in that can then be turned permanent by Amma keen advocate of permanency rather than temporary measures. I think you could waste significant time emotional and political energy on temporary schemes when actually better probably worth investing in permanence games, but you know, if it helps bring more schemes to the table, if it helps get more burners, more neighbourhoods on board, then you know, I’m happy to support temporary motors for the time being but now ideally, I want to see stuff moving very quickly from temporary to permanent,

Carlton Reid 28:53
because that’s Janette Sadik-Khan message in New York City is the trial stuffing

Clyde Loakes 29:00
Because nobody argue again. Yeah. But you’re saying that’s just great for, like traffic orders? And yeah, yes, complex. And the evidence is all there now for this stuff, you know, we’ve proved it can work. And we shouldn’t just hone in on constantly, you know, this city in the UK is different to the rest of the world or this city in the UK is different all the price. Actually, we know the interventions that work in an urban setting, you know, and there’s no reason why you can’t take something from Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and put it into London, into Cambridge, into Liverpool into Manchester. And there’s no reason why you can’t take something from wolven vital Hackney put it into Manchester or into Bristol or into Birmingham, you know, these things do travel, and they do work and it’s the urban nature of these settings that make them common and that you can you can instal them

Carlton Reid 29:53
was, in retrospect was calling it not necessarily your fault but was was TfL

And Boris Johnson and and Gilligan at the time calling it mini Holland.

Do you think you got some kickback there?

Clyde Loakes 30:07
Well, no, not Dutch, who it was always going to be around, you know, you could have called it and we could have called it the enjoy programme at that point and people still would have kicked off. Actually, you know, in hindsight, I still I still like the term meaning Holland. And if you talk to people around here, they won’t talk about the enjoy programme. They will talk about mini Holland. That’s what they will talk about.

And yeah, but it you know, it promotes and prompts.

reactions. Still, positively and negatively. And so yeah, I think it I think it’s a works to be honest, could have been called mini Copenhagen, probably no one would have really known.

But now I thought

it was a branding of the time, I don’t know enabled us to get the Dutch Ambassador down here. And that was his first day on there.

It was his first day in his job and he bought those strew waffles with a hand out and got I know he’s got snacks I taught him after. Yeah. And, and his and his crew. They were like amazed. Yeah, there was a timeout. So they timeout magazine do this thing, you know, your five favourite things or 10 memories and some again, I did him a couple of years ago. And it was still like wood trees kind of memories like that my first day in office I went AWOL from so expected to be really happy and it was like protest. It was raining there. There was a coffee and you know, associates so we obviously made a lasting, lasting mark on him and his time in the in office, but, you know, radical stuff is always going to prompt

a weird and radical response. So, and that’s what we did, and we got people talking about it. And even you know, the people that started off being negative, you know, it enabled us to engage, you know, to put various things forward.

Which meant, you know, we were challenging things and people were talking about it, you know, and that kind of level of awareness and knowledge around kind of active travel quality, you know, day to day activity built into, you know, your day to day lives, you know, all those things start to kind of, you know, resonate and help kind of raise people’s awareness. And then you start to see the behaviour changes as well. So you did it.

Carlton Reid 32:24
You’re successful at doing it.

But when you get visitor groups from other local authorities, certainly in the UK, coming to you, do they say Yeah, you did it?

Clyde Loakes 32:35
Yeah, fine. Great. We couldn’t. What do you say to them when they say, but we couldn’t do it where we are. I mean, I say to me, it’s all possible. It’s all possible, we’ve proved is possible.

And, you know, we’ve proved that no, politically, it’s doable and you will survive.

But you’ve you know, you do have to provide that leadership. You know, because

Your highways engineers aren’t going to table something that, you know, they’ve not got, you’ve not like got them back sort of thing, or that you’re going to, you know, cut the, cut their legs off at the knees, you know, two weeks into a consultation period. You know, we’ve seen all of that before, you have to lead it politically and you have to lead it from the funds. I think that’s probably one of the big differences around what we’ve done in moving forward compared to to other places before that is, you know, we invested political capital in making this happen, and making this a reality. You know, and, you know, we went out there and we fought for it, you know, we went into places and we fought for it, you know, because we knew we had rights on our side, you know, the evidence was all on our side and continues to be on our side for these kind of interventions. You know, the old days have gone, you know, there isn’t they kind of the whites, you know, businesses constantly and planning applications constantly asking for extra parking spaces.

Not one place that we’re in anymore, you know, the world has changed dramatically. And actually places like this, you know, if we start to think that, you know, more more people now know that they can work from home for longer, then these kind of kind of small kind of shopping centres potentially have more significant value, especially in our bigger cities. Because these are places that people will come in hot desk, they’ll pop out, grab a coffee pull going back to their home to work for the day, these kind of places will have greater greater value going forward, and perhaps even that they did before COVID.

Carlton Reid 34:36
And then one thing I haven’t mentioned here, there’s some trees here now. Yep. Which there would have been cars there before. So you’re you’re beautifying it because nobody’s going to complain about putting trees in and Jon Little Yes, a big proponent interviewed him on on the show. Okay. Yeah, he’s uh, you know, he says, right just trees get trees and that’s all I care about. Get trees in.

Clyde Loakes 34:56
Yeah, I mean, I mean, I know they are a physical manifestation.

They can be big, ultimately, of the change that you’re bringing about. And who doesn’t like trees? And we know we’ve got to increase the canopy cover

in this country, you know, we know we’ve got to plant a lot more and more trees. And and actually, there’s no reason why trees can’t be planted in a cityscape light like London and they do make a difference, you know, whether it’s a bit of shade at certain points of the day, or because they make the street look a lot nicer. I mean, to be honest, I love trees and bollards,

you know, and they do, you know, they start to make that kind of difference in breaking up the street space, so you don’t have to have to spell out everywhere.

Carlton Reid 35:40
So when I first got in touch with it, I say, right, try it. I’m down. Can we have a wee chat on this beautiful, beautiful sunny day?

You said you didn’t say me here? No, I said me here because, you know,

I’m not from here. And I know this is the famous one. And you said, well, let’s meet here. So why

Did you want to meet somewhere else and not here?

Clyde Loakes 36:03
largely because I want to prove that, you know, was not just a one trick pony. And you know, orphan road was the only significant scheme that we did. And I wanted to meet in Francis road in Leyton, which is a different postcode, E10, as opposed to E17.

To show that, you know, you know that that’s another scheme, probably slightly bigger than this one exists. And you know, that you can replicate those kind of interventions in different places. And that one’s on a B road,

I think was the first B road in the country to kind of have a, you know, a time closure installed on it. And again, you know, it’s, it’s at the heart of a local community,

you know, a large residential area.

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Carlton Reid 38:12
Clyde, we’ve come here far from Orford road where we know about a mile

Clyde Loakes 38:18
well with the teach otter, which costs probably a mile and a half, two miles, and an awful lot of that that journey was just done and there’s no kids doing wheelies down here. Cool. was on Secretary cybertek only Bridge Road neighbour there the last time I came No. So a big part of our original mini Holland scheme as well as low traffic neighbourhoods removed from so was a huge piece of segregated infrastructure along the length of lead Bridge Road that falls within the bow boundary, and the total redesign of the former which costs around about into the kind of current whips costs, interchange. And if you go back, there’s a video

Original mini Holland bid that was a little did.

And you know, he interviewed me at the former, which costs around about and you know the difference really not just in the weather between that shot and today but just in the infrastructures are absolutely incredible, phenomenal, phenomenal difference. And yeah, and lots of people and all sorts of different people we saw using that segregated infrastructure today. I mean, and that’s what’s good about what we’ve done. Oftentimes, we haven’t build stuff for a certain demographic. We’ve built infrastructure for everyone, because we want everyone to wait for us to be able to cycle and pull stocks. I mean, you know, you could have actually lined this up for me, I’ve got kids doing stunts on jump bikes, and then we’ve got a guy going past on a pretty brand new gazella we’ve got mums and dads on bikes up there with kids in the backseat and then we just had about five or six years. Yeah, kids came past maybe a big sister. Yeah. All colours

Carlton Reid 40:00
Yeah, this is not I mean, we’re not white here, black woman just come pass their black guy just gonna pass their asian guy before a five Asian kids before.

Clyde Loakes 40:11
Yeah, so this is not white gentrification, you know this. This is cycling infrastructure and active travel infrastructure for everyone. And that’s why we built it all we have and our whole journey here once we came off of the second guy to cycle track, on leverage road, we came to low traffic neighbourhoods. You know, we came past schools, you know, we came past places that before had thousands of vehicle movements at the time of day we would have come through it, but we were able to meander cycle gently through it. We didn’t have to worry about you know, coming into any sort of conflict or coming in face to face with any kind of motorised vehicles. It was just a very easy ride. But before interventions, we might, there would be thousands of vehicle movements and this is leading us we are now we are now talking

Carlton Reid 41:00
Is Coronavirus but the road that’s over there was dead busy. Yeah, we had a segregated track. Yeah, but now we’ve come into an area where obviously an awful lot of beautification has taken place. So these trees yet so the tree massive tree, you put that in.

Clyde Loakes 41:15
So that would have been one of the original ones here, but literally the only one on this stretch, the rest have all been planted since as part of this scheme, but again, you know, businesses and local residents are looking after these flower beds and looking after the streets have taken ownership of this street space. You know, these kids are now using this as part of their place most you know, and that’s what you want. That’s what you want. It’s wasted as road space, this area, but now it’s enjoyed by a lot more people, any buses through on this no buses suit on this particular route. And this is very much a you know,

Carlton Reid 41:55
residential area, so this is probably a bit poorer than the previous

Clyde Loakes 42:00
Guess one price or often road, saying often it was like a destination. This is maybe not a destination. This this, I just started. So this, this scheme was only completed a couple of years ago. So probably about three years after all four drove was completed about two years. So this would have been coming into its third summer this season as a completed street space.

So you’ve got the businesses here that are running kind of street parties here that when the markets here like a dog show, they’ve kind of really taken ownership of this space, I’m making it work to draw more and more people here, not just from the immediate locality, but from a you know, cross a wider area. And it is it is, you know, for me, this is just as important as Orford road. You know, this is again, a shopping area at the heart of a large residential area that should in you know, as we move forward, regardless of what the new normal was going to look like, you know, if you’re just reflecting on kind of the climate

Emergency, you know, this was the sort of place where people can pick up what they needed to pick up without having to get into a car and drive into, you know, a big superstore or go to one of the traditional Town Centre settings, they can now come here and pick up what they need. So that’s like the 15 minute cities type thing in Paris. Yeah. So they kind of everything should be close to your house. Yeah. And this is it. And, you know, in the Victorians had it, you know, when they designed this, this layout, this residential area, you know, they knew that then, that you needed those kind of shopping parades in the centre of residential areas, you know, we kind of abandoned them, you know, for some reason, at some point, when we allowed kind of cars to kind of take over our space, you know, these places no longer became, you know, they didn’t fulfil our needs, didn’t fulfil what we kind of wanted them to be, but you know, they’re back again, and they’re more important than ever.

So, just to describe this, so there are those beautiful trees. Then you have got

Those pocket little very pocket parks, like the beautiful planting has been putting. So again. Yeah, I mean, the and the,

the sets the the very narrow sets you’ve got here again they they will be they’ve been put in Yes. Yeah. So that again that’s beautifying it. Yeah, that would have just been tarmac road. Sadly. Yeah. curb line. Yep. But if you’re going to do these things, you know, any and you want people to look after them and you want people to come here, then you know, you do need to invest in some quality around things. You know, you do it for other things. Why wouldn’t you do it for these kind of interventions.

Carlton Reid 44:41
And then let’s go back in time to Whipps Cross, which you just mentioned then so whips cross. If we’re going to now go and find that video, we’re going to find what it used to look like. Because I’ve just seen it there today. You’ve shown it to me and it’s like it’s very, very wide.

cycleways, you’ve got

signalised crossing there to get across, and you’ve got plenty of space for buses, plenty of space for motorists, plenty of space for pedestrians and plenty of space. It’s basically a space for everybody.

Clyde Loakes 45:10
Yes, on that intersection. So tell me what it used to look like. It was a huge and signalled roundabout with the number of spurs on an off of it with a really poor, very small label a bus interchange.

So buses would have to pull in. So you know, you’d then required on motors to let you the buses out again, which was always a bit of a conflict there. If you were a cyclist trying to get around it, you literally took your life into your own hands. It was a really unpleasant experience. And it’s a button right up to Epping Forest. So, ancient woodland. You know, for years as a bow, we’ve been nicking bits of the forest to widen road space for motorists, car drivers. But in this this instance, we were

gave a huge piece of land back to the forest. And you saw it you know, it’s been seeded with grasses and wildflowers and it’s really starting to merge back into forest again that’s surely how things should be you know, and they’re kind of landscaping that we’ve done around the bus interchanges allows plants to add new trees there were before there was a couple of dead ones in the middle of this huge roundabout that was no amenity space or anyone because you couldn’t get to it.

But now actually, it means something that space you know, and they kind of the bonding the mounds that we’ve put in there you know, and for a little bit of informal play for children wants a waiting for the bus to get home you know, it just kind of makes that space so much better. And then you saw the the rainwater garden that would put down there the age with the wildflowers again, you know just all these things just make for better design make for better places. Yeah even hurts you know when those kind of gateway major transports in

Entrance points into the forest which which crosses said Do you know the history of it? When when did it become that sterile? Horrible bit of slammer tarmac 60s. I mean, I don’t I don’t do the history on either on what I want to look forward. So you know, might have something you know, clearly it doesn’t work for everyone. Clearly it doesn’t kind of support active travel doesn’t support you know, the public transport interchange of the places now, so close to which costs hospital You know, when a major acute hospitals for this part of East London, so, you know, something had to swing out to give you know, and thankfully, it’s part of our mini Holland beds, you know, we got the money to be able to do that major transformation line to change, you know, and and touchwood

you know, so far, no issues with it, you know, some of the doomsayers were saying, you know, major tailbacks, etc, etc. No, you know, decent modern traffic signal technology in place, which we’ve now got on leverage road

means you can deal with the traffic at the right time. You don’t have to wait for a junction to snarl up before the interventions and the phasing of the lights kicks in to change it all. And that’s all automatic. Yeah, yeah. So it’s just yeah and then of course you got to you got pedestrian and cyclist parties at some of those junctions now as well so brilliant. It’s great for everyone.

Carlton Reid 48:19
Well, I have been here a few times and each time I come there’s more bits getting added on so what’s coming What wait if I come here in five years time, what am I going to say five years time? What’s your plan?

Clyde Loakes 48:30
Well if you can if you come back in six months time you I’ll be able to show you another smaller low traffic neighbourhood the mark house one which works commenced today on I’ll be able to show you the hilltop area of the wolf so village scheme works into to commence there in two weeks time. So that’s another seven modal filters in total that we’re putting in place. And hopefully I’ll be I’ll take you right down to the far south and that kind of area that Leytonstone and for skating, new home share, we’re thinking of

Trying to get electronic neighbourhood puts in, in that kind of space.

You know, and ideally we’d like to be able to join up. So the cycling infrastructure that comes into Stratford, the DRI writer in Stratford, join that all the way at Lane stone, high road long which crossroad and enter kind of which was roundabout and the Bridge Road, you know, brilliant and then upward for new road and then say grace track all the way down Forest Road all the way to the top of them, you know, again, you know, some really, really big infrastructure stuff alongside some low low traffic neighbourhood stuff as well. So that’s kind of where we’re thinking. But everything that we do now in a highways concept or public realm concept is through the prism of what we’ve learned over the past five years rolling out, you know, low traffic, neighbourhoods and infrastructure for active travellers. Yes, very proud. Yeah, yeah. And especially when you come out on light days like this, and he you know, just see people and see how people are using the space

Carlton Reid 50:00
And you see different people cycling. You see people with cargo bikes, you see children playing in, you know, road space, because it’s safe for them to do so. Yeah, taking off. So you’ve got plans. Yeah. And they sound like pretty dramatic plans, you’re proud of what you’ve done.

How long you got left? You personally,

Clyde Loakes 50:23
there’s another couple of years left in me yet for sure. But like I say, you know, it is about, you know, we don’t want walk in voice just to be the only place where you can come and see this, you know, we want to see this replicated through towns and cities across the UK. You know, that’s when we know we’ve really made a difference. You know, you don’t want a single utopia in a single place. We want it across there for everyone to be able to change and transform lives in cities and towns across the country. And that’s what this is about. And that’s why, you know, we’re always keen but it’s myself my council offices, or you know, some of the fantastic community activists that were going well first always came

to kind of take people out on tours where it’s politicians or community activists or highways engineers and officers from other places will always take out show you what, what the art of the possible really is.

Carlton Reid 51:11
Thanks to Clyde Loakes there, and thanks to you for listening, of course. Shownotes and more can be found at The next show will be out in a couple of weeks. But meanwhile, get out there and ride

June 30, 2020 / / Blog

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Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 248: Speed

Tuesday 30th June 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Professor Rachel Aldred, Superintendent Andy Cox and — as you’ve never heard him before — Chris Boardman.


Daniel 0:13
Welcome to Episode 248 of the spokesmen cycling podcast.

This show was engineered on Tuesday, June the 30th 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 Jenson spokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there. I’m Carlton Reid. And I’m real, and so is David. But the slightly tinny voice at the top of this show, well, that was Daniel. And he’s not real. He’s a computer simulated voice, and I’m using him for a reason. And we while ago, I recorded a group chat with Superintendent Andy Cox, Professor Rachel Aldred and Chris Boardman. Sadly, Chris’s audio didn’t record properly, so I replaced him with Daniel. And yes, I tried to find a soft Scouse voice simulator, but didn’t find one.

All of Chris’s words as spoken by Daniel were the words that Chris actually used. I was able to transcribe them, but the audio was too faint to

use on this show. So, here we go. And remember, the mystery voice is reading out what Chris Boardman actually said.

On today’s show, I’ve got three fabulous guests to whom people will be very familiar with. And that’s Rachel Rachel Aldred. Hi there, Rachel. Hi, Carlton. Hi there. And the second person who, whenever you introduce him, you always say, and I’ve seen this done before, he needs no introduction. And that is Chris Boardman. Hello, Chris. Good afternoon. And my third guest today is if you don’t mind me saying this, Andy. And don’t take this the wrong way. But you’re a bit of a cult figure at the moment with people on social media because you’re doing some amazing stuff. So Andy, tell us, tell us what are missing about your title. So tell us your your job description and

What you do for a living and then people will go Oh, that, Andy.

Andy Cox 3:03
Well, good afternoon, Carlton. Thank you for that introduction. Well, my name’s Andy Cox, I’m a detective superintendent. I lead our vision zero programme across London for the Metropolitan Police Vision Zero is our stated ambition of eradicating death and serious injury on our roads linked to collisions by 2041.

Carlton Reid 3:25
And before I get into bring Chris and and to Rachel, I’d like to basically explore road policing and how that impacts potentially on

on people not in motor cars. But I just like to talk to you first, Andy, just about

that role you have and the role you’ve carved out how new is that?

Andy Cox 3:47
I suppose it’s a little awkward talking about oneself, but here goes so just I’ve been in placement for just over 20 years. I’ve initially worked in Surrey before moving to Northamptonshire, and then joining the Metropolitan Police

In 2016, for most of my career being a detective, I’ve worked in a variety of different roles, had a very diverse career working on on lead a murder investigation on kidnap, and lead and child abuse investigations as well.

I’ve been a superintendent for eight years. And actually the first post I had was to head up rose placing in Northamptonshire.

And I do look back to that role, and with great pride and satisfaction, I really, really enjoyed it. So I’d always wanted to go back into that field. So when the opportunity came to lead, Vision Zero it starts 2019 in London, I jumped at it. I really think the role has huge opportunity to save life and to tackle crime. And I think having the detective in charge of it is very different is unusual, but it means perhaps I bring a different perspective. I really do. See linked to save in life. I know that work that we’ve

done in the past, and currently I believe is having that impact. And obviously, that’s hugely satisfying. But I think the link to tackling criminality is a really important one it’s so often missed. Even if we take just the simple not wearing a seatbelt.

There’s a significant risk, actually, in terms of road safety, but also, it’s an indicator of somebody that’s prepared to essentially ignore the law. So what else are they prepared to do? And I think, by taking that mindset, you can often draw a link between other crime and traffic, offence crime,

and it is a crime. And that’s often missed as well. But I think having that perspective of looking at it in a slightly different way, allows opportunity to really get into who the driver is, what else they might be doing, you know, and is there anything else that we should know about from a police perspective, and fundamentally that supports the law for rodeos and that’s something I’ve been really keen to take forward in this role and in the past

Support for lawful, law abiding citizens. And I think so often the very vast majority of lawful road users are exposed to additional risk and people committing crimes, which puts them at risk and is just unacceptable. So that’s a bit about me. I suppose that’s a bit about why I so enjoy vision zero role and what Yeah, my passion for it relates to

Carlton Reid 6:25
and you’re using social media to great effect to get that message across. Basically, this is what we’re doing?

Andy Cox 6:32
Well, I think social media is a tool which gets the message out there really quickly to a large audience. My follow ins is growing, which is helpful and that is now covered by a number of journalists. So say for instance, I have in the past, tweeted a message which is in a very short space of time, then scrolling along the screen on Sky News that can reach them, a particularly large audience. I think what I’ve tried to do with it

is have a mindset for who I’m communicating the message to, I think, very often police accounts can be quite corporate, they can be quite pleased to police based. So I’ve tried to avoid the sort of internal communication as such within Twitter and communicate a clear message to, you know, is it the dangerous driver? Is it the lawful road user? Is it the broader citizen? Is it you know, the cyclists, pedestrians and so on? So essentially having a really clear message for what I want and who I want to target with it, I think, using data so if I go back to the early stages of starting to tweet on this issue, I did get some difficult communications from people who were saying things like traffic officers or simply revenue raising. Why don’t you go and tackle a criminal and so on, so I found there was a need to educate the public

My view around what we actually do and why we do it. So very much reinforcing this is about saving life. This is about tackling crime. And it’s about responding to local community concerns. So have you use data to help with that I’ve been able to talk about how much killed and serious injury collisions there are on within London and elsewhere, I’ve been able to talk about, for instance, a link to uninsured drivers. And we sees about 50 uninsured vehicles a day on average in London. And I think that’s really hit home with the public and then by explaining those people six to seven times more likely to have a fatal collision, they’re more likely to fail to stop having impact significantly on those left injured behind. And actually two thirds are more likely to be criminally active in other crime within the last two years. And that sort of messages really had a resonance, I think, with the public before Oh, wow. You know, that’s that’s, that was surprising. I think they were shocked at the sort of statistics that backed it up. And likewise, not being able to talk about speeding

Other fatal four activities and rows that we target and so on has had a very significant impact. And I think, for example, the a 10, which is one road, which had had about five years worth of really embedded issues, both from a raid safety perspective and antisocial behaviour, perspective as well and just general local community concerns.

We started an operation in May 2019. And part of that plan was to is to communicate very extensively around what we what we’re doing, why we’re doing when we’re there, what tactics were using, etc, etc. And I think the public and I noticed in the combat scene were initially sceptical and now overwhelmingly supportive that’s had an impact because killed and serious injury collisions have dropped. collisions overall have dropped on the road, looks and feels safer, and is the feedback we’re getting. We’ve also influenced partners

Through proactively communicating and brought them into the problem solving plan as well. So I think it’s had a, there is a place essentially for open and transparent communication. And I think Twitter is so easy to use in the sense that it’s short. It’s almost like the headlines, and it can stimulate debate as part of that pilot plan.

Carlton Reid 10:24
Can I go to Chris then and just ask cos because Andy is very much talking about this being crime, and that often grates with people because they think Well, I’ve already been crime. You know, I’m just going over the little bit of the speed limit that’s on a crime in your experience and your point of view with your your, maybe your current role as, as cycling and walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester, is the fact that speeding or road and if any road infractions is not viewed as a criminal offence by many people does that

Make it

is a big issue.

Chris Boardman 11:03
Well, I think what Andy’s done and what attracted me to his social media is depressingly refreshing. He simply spoken to the facts. He’s been very careful. His position his evidence, response opinion. So we’re not seeking to deal with crime in an equal way. It’s actually looking at what causes the most harm. We focus resources to get the biggest return for the public. It’s drivers who tend to do the most harm. When I say depressingly refreshing it’s because that ought to be standard, but it isn’t. It’s a very, very positive position with the public and coming from somebody who in inverted commas is not a cyclist is so important. All our messages right now need to come from all authority figures and those authority figures should be giving the message that’s absolutely grounded in evidence. We’ve got mountains of the stuff. So it’s quite impressive and something to get behind. Because it just makes sense.

road crime is a real crime. And I think that’s something that desperately needs to be addressed. It could change our roads and give people a genuine choice to not have to drive.

Carlton Reid 12:10
So Rachel, let’s bring you in on that roughly the same question, but coming at it from a, a non motorised user’s point of view, which is, which is your, your academic schtick? So is this is Andy’s approach is, is making this public perception of this, this is a crime, will that feed through into safer streets?

Rachel Aldred 12:34
I think it’s about changing a culture, as well as the specific enforcement activities. I think it’s about changing the expectations that people have of behaviour on the roads. And this was what got me interested in this topic, the whole topic of transport and active travel to start off with was the way in which behaviours on the roads which are a public space, you know, were really quite different from behaviours that were seen as acceptable in other contexts. And part of that as Chris was alluding to, as well.

is around risk to others that somehow we don’t see risk to others on the roads in the same ways we may be doing other contexts. And one example of that is the way in which traditionally, risk is measured in relation to transport that, you know, while might say walking is dangerous, or cycling is dangerous, and that’s because of the risk people experience. But it’s not the walking or cycling, that’s dangerous. It’s actually the motor vehicle use because four out of five cyclist fatalities involve the motor vehicle, it’s not cycling itself that is dangerous. And that is an important part of the cultural shift. I think that needs to happen.

Carlton Reid 13:34
And is Andy, part of that cultural shift, Rachel?

Rachel Aldred 13:37
Very much so. And I think it’s really important to see the activities of police services around this and related issues. So another example is around close past policing and the way in which that has become quite widespread. And that is really important because that is around subjective safety and the way that non motorised users are treated on the road. So it’s a range of different issues, but I think seeing this

It is important seeing this as a priority. Seeing road crime is something that matters that kills an interest people is really crucial.

Carlton Reid 14:06
Yes. So Andy, tell us about the actual there’s a new team, and a crime is in the title, which I know shocked have quite a few people on social media. So tell us about that, that crime team and why it’s important to have that word in there.

Andy Cox 14:22
Yes, we created and launched the road crime team. It’s a highly professional team. It’s got the full range of skill sets a traffic officer would want. So it’s got the ability to pursue those that fail to stop. It’s got all the sort of ability to stop vehicles. They’ve been handpicked for the role, and the role crime team. The name is really important as you’ve highlighted, I think it’s important that we use the word crime. So often, traffic offences are not considered crimes. We found it’s important to use that terminology to show the impact. Actually low crime has

On lawful road users, but also the sub often links between traffic offences and other criminality. It’s not unusual for us to stop a vehicle to then find drugs to find weapons to find subjects wanted for serious offences.

And I think if we just reflect for a minute those that are prepared to breach traffic, offence law, maybe that’s a

mindset to breach other criminality as well. So we’ve introduced a road crime team. It’s a relatively small amount of officers so far, but we do plan to extend that in the next month or two.

It was built on the concept of targeting property people property places and property themes. And by that I mean really, intelligence led absolutely work on the right roads at the right time. So those raised most sites have killed in serious injury or and collision data to back that up. Looking at very high hammer

vendors, those products have multiple disqualifications, those with a history of bad driving, those currently disqualified and so on, I’m really targeting in on on them.

And also looking at what we’d say is our fatal four that is essentially speeding is absolutely our priority within that. But other fatal four offences as well. So drink and drug drive using the foam balls distracted and not wearing your seatbelt. And essentially focusing in therefore the most risky issues and most risky themes and people.

It builds on the success of an operation we ran and travelled in the summer last year well for three months. We deployed on 50 occasions.

And we targeted along those mindsets that we’ve applied the road crime team. And in just 50 deployments, we made over 100 arrests, we seized over 75 vehicles, we found drugs weapons, wanted people confiscated cash. Yeah, it was a really significant option.

opportunity I feel to support a normal road user to tackle the criminal who uses their car. And one of the phrases I often use is,

of course, not every driver is a criminal, but those that have reached ages 17 and a criminal, also use a car or use a vehicle. So I think when you have the mindset of actually criminals are likely to be looking to use a car or vehicle to go about their their criminality, you can see why we might introduce a road crime team to tackle those individuals deny them use the roads. And actually sometimes the penalties for driving offences can be more severe than others. And it gives us an opportunity to tackle so much criminality, just through tackling their, their driving issues as well. So that’s the purpose of the team. And I’m delighted with the inroads it’s made already, just in the very first day arrested people drink driving, arrested.

People that had weapons in their car. It found people that were wanted so very successful the first day and that has been built over a few weeks and it’s been operating now. Andy and cyclists infractions is that part of the the road teams remit to the road crime team was essentially born out of tackling issues proportionate the to their risk so often on social media, I find criticism of the police for not enforcing cyclists who commit offences. Firstly, that’s wrong. We do enforce cyclists for example, those that breach a red light. And we do very much trying to educate those office around the risks that they pose themselves through breaching a red light as an example. However, we have to be proportionate. And therefore we enforce a compared to all enforcement of traffic offences and crime is a very, very small percentage of our work because we target

resource to match the risk that is presented. While. cyclists, of course, isn’t theirs, there is risk attached to cyclists harming another individual or themselves. It is very, very low in comparison to a vehicle harming another vehicle user, another surface or a pedestrian or just as simply a road user. So

my point is we focus results on risk. And what the road crime team has done is focus our resources on the greatest risk. But I do want to address the fact that we’re there we look to support the vulnerable road users and we target resources specifically in locations where we know vulnerable road users are likely to be and because they’re there, the driving is so important, because a legal drive in high speeds, whatever it may be, presents such a risk to cyclists and pedestrians that we’re right to target those issues because

That’s where our risk is to assign I was also called

Carlton Reid 20:04
so there has been some social police social media accounts would have had that that exact message. So West Midlands are very good at that. Other forces aren’t so good, do we as a country as a whole, do we suffer from not having all police forces in effect talking from this not singing from the same hymn sheet handy?

Andy Cox 20:26
So I think there is scope for some improvement on national coordination around roads policing. As an example if we take dashcam

there is an element of postcode lottery around that. So some areas are not using it, some are using it to an extent and some are using it fully. I know for instance, some members of the public contact me to say look, we’d really like this footage used, but we are not having any

scope to do so within the area that they

Live. And I think, to support that we introduced a national Working Group involved all at the police forces that were able to attend. And we’re looking at how we might take for the piece of work that makes it consistent. Clearly for us, London drivers drive elsewhere, and people that drive outside London drive in London. So I think it’s in everybody’s interest to have a consistent approach around dashcam. And of course, that goes for every issue, I suppose there will be some local variances, of course, based on the environment or the, you know, the support locally for, for activities. But I think if we take the approach that we’ve used as Vision Zero around targeting the most risky people, places and themes, I think that’s an approach that can be used anywhere successfully. We do have national meetings now with colleagues I chair one around collision investigation, I tend to number one around those places in general.

And they are actively attended by forces around the country, we do share good practice ideas,

and so on. So we share, for example, the work we’ve done on the A10, around tackling, that sort of anti social behaviour, high speed driving, and the success That’s hard. And we’ve listened to other examples from around the country as well, which we take on board. And there’s also the Department for Transport roads policing review is undertaken at the moment. And that review is looking at,

you know, all those policing aspects and technology to computer systems to you know, how we do our activities day to day on the street.

So that’s a great opportunity to coordinate it in a little, you know, in a smooth, more joined up fashion. And there’s also the HMRC review that’s been undertaken recently. I think that’s due to report imminently. So that would present again, an opportunity to look at how

We nationally perform in terms of roads policing, and how that’s coordinated. I really like the idea of this coordination hub that looks at identifying through analysis that the most dangerous roads based on killing serious injury collisions and some other data over the long term. identifies then has some responsibility for making resources target those areas, looks at most high AI high harm offenders make sure they’re for example, an AI MPR database.

And really hones activities around are fatal for I think that coordination hub could help put it all together nationally and pull loads of good work together. So it’s not done in isolation. But at least I can absolutely confidence say there are good discussions taking place and I do share my ideas and vice versa with with national colleagues.

Carlton Reid 23:48
Rachel, would you welcome that something like nationally national guidelines for all police forces. So not just West Midlands being an exemplar not just people like Andy being an exemplar should we have something that

You know, national guidelines that everyone every police force should adhere to?

Rachel Aldred 24:06
I mean, obviously, it would depend on the guidelines, but I f&e say we’re helping with them, then I would like to think that this would be something that would be would be useful. I mean, there’s there’s a range of issues. And one issue that I’ve been thinking about lately is around language and how collisions are described, which can be quite important because it’s reproduced in local media and then can reinforce or challenge perceptions about around responsibility on the road so that there’s a range of things that would be better to have more standardisation on I guess,

Carlton Reid 24:36
collision not accident. You’re going on?

Rachel Aldred 24:39
Yeah, yeah. For instance, in around how the interaction and how sort of how blame is potentially attributed or not so yeah.

Carlton Reid 24:48
And Chris, can I ask What’s your relationship like with with police in your area and and how do they view that the conversation we’re having now with Andy do they view it and

Same way, things are changing.

Chris Boardman 25:02
Now, there’s not a lot I can add to the comment about data. And it’s not surprising that I agree wholeheartedly about the evidence based approach. For the last several years, whenever I have been asked about cyclists running red lights, the response has always been absolutely anybody should be prosecuted. But where you’ve got to have resources concentrated, it makes sense to find the most harm and work backwards, which is essentially a version of what Andy was saying. And the point I’d like to add, which touches on Rachel’s mentioned of closed passes is what we didn’t do is we don’t look at the wider implications of crime and the knock on effects. So for example, not wearing a helmet. I remember when I started on the government advice body, I remember it was in about 2000. And that’s brought forward a private member’s bill on helmets, which I thought made sense and we were tasked with going away and looking at the implications of doing that. So I was forced to personally go look at the wider issue.

indications of that and I realised it will effectively kill more people than it saved. If you take into account people stopped doing a beneficial activity and saw it as dangerous, and so on and so forth. So I think people are seeing speeding is not a crime until it causes an accident, then you can see it’s a crime. I think that’s better storytelling. If you like to get the message across that this person just drove 10 miles over the speed limit didn’t hurt anybody. What’s the problem? And tell that story about the past and the implications. Do you know what just jump in the car and drive a kilometre to school? That is what’s happening with kids and why they don’t go on to the street. in Greater Manchester. We have 250 million car journeys every single year that are less than a kilometre for predominantly that reason. So it’s not just about road crime, but how you talk about it. We need to make sure people understand what the implications are of just speeding.

Carlton Reid 26:58
So Andy, I’m looking outside in

To a beautiful blue sky, it’s a beautiful day out there. It’s not too far away that I can actually I can probably hear normally a dual carriageway that isn’t too far away from me, in which at the moment, it’s pretty much empty. There are speed cameras on there, but people are basically speeding on it fairly frequently. So you’ve come to the fore during lockdown by posting lockdown speeding offences where people really really go way over the limit because they can now so so what’s your experience been during lockdown of of those motorists who use a minority but who are really going way beyond? You know just what Chris was saying like 510 miles an hour over the limit.

Andy Cox 27:51
Since lockdown commenced, we have seen significant rise in speeds we know less congestion on the road.

We think that

Somewhere between 40 and 50% less volume on the roads that of course has created an opportunity for the environment for people to speed. But it’s unlawful to do so of course, the limit is unchanged. But in zones 2040 and 60, we’re actually seeing on average, the speeds are above the limit sets on average, imagine what the upper end of those are in every speed zone from 20 to 70. Data shows speeds have increased.

And we’ve seen a rise in extreme speed as well. Now extreme speed is allows drivers who can only be dealt with by way of going to court there’s no chance to for example, go on a speed awareness workshop or get a fixed penalty notice your speeds are so excess that there’s only the court will hear the case. So for example, we have seen 151 mile an hour in a 70. We have seen 140 to 140 we’ve seen 134 in a 40

seen as 73 and a 20. And that’s extremely concerning when you consider those lower speed zones 20s 30s and 40s. What we are seeing significant speeds are where your key workers are likely to be commuting to work using cycles and pedestrians going across London and particularly vulnerable road users so deeply, deeply concerning. We have tried really robustly try to draw a link to a the consequences to you but the risk of speed so

I of course personally seeing this devastation of families but by speeding they risk a fatal serious injury collision

and, and risks obviously much greater.

So they might devastate their life, somebody else’s life and their family’s life and so on. I’ve drawn a link to the NHS because of course, who’s going to deal with those people seriously injured or fatally injured? It’ll be the NHS where they’re going to go to hospital when they come

Dealing with the NHS COVID-19

sort of abstracted and didn’t the COVID-19 patients loads that get seriously injured, we know about the underlying health issues linked to COVID-19. And how that makes you more vulnerable, where you’re going to have an underlying health issue, and you’re going to go to hospital where COVID-19 is being treated. So there’s huge impact and risk to them to the NHS and of course of providing services. But I’ve also drawn a link to

the whole issue around the consequences to them and their licence. So, you know, by being enforced, a lot of these will lose their licence because extreme speeds are going to have consequences to

their family circumstance to finance potentially a job, and so a whole host of problems for them. And I’ve tried to stand back and say if we look at as an example, drunk driving is rightly being socially unacceptable for about the last 2530 years, speeding these become socially unacceptable. How many people would challenge a drink drive

Listen to your show, we challenge your drunk driver. But don’t judge a speeding driver for speeding driving is the thing that creates the most risk at the moment for us. So I asked those people to reflect on that and actually make speaking socially acceptable challenge your friends, your family, yourself, your colleagues not to speed if you’re in a car somebody has been asked him not to, and basically make a significant difference. Surely the purpose of any journey is to go from A to B safely, not being subject to police enforcement, not injuring anybody, keeping everything you know,

sensible in terms of getting to your destination. And actually, I always try and point out how many times you see somebody perhaps do an overtake on you that puts them at risk anybody else at risk? But actually they’re stuck at the traffic lights a short distance down the road anyway. So how much time does it actually save you by speeding and then you factor in the risk that you pose yourself others the risk to the NHS to restaurants or services, the risk to your financial

And your circumstances and your mobility for just those maybe two, three minutes that saves off your journey. So don’t be complacent complacency is undoubtedly our biggest issue here. It can and does happen to people who didn’t think it would and I’ve met them their families they are devastated their life has changed for good and and in a really dramatically bad way. So don’t be complacent focus into purpose, your journey going from A to B

make it socially unacceptable, and by doing so, have the greatest chance to stay safe.

Carlton Reid 32:35
Rachel, a lot of Andy’s team has enforcement are on for one of a better expression fast roads. So like the a 10, where where cyclists and pedestrians aren’t really, you know, going on those roads. So is it really that much of a problem to have people speeding on those roads just so long as they don’t speed on the you know, the 20 mile an hour roads? Or there’s somebody who do you think

speeding on that road is naturally going to speed on every road?

Rachel Aldred 33:05
I mean, I think Yeah, I would tend to agree with the latter that if people are willing to speed on those roads they’re probably going to be behaving badly on other roads but I don’t think those roads are free of cyclists and pedestrians either I mean the a 10 It depends what part of the town you’re talking about, but there are certainly quite a lot of cyclists on some parts of it there are people who have to cross the road as pedestrians or have to walk along it so you know, particularly in in a London context, you some of those, some of those roads have multiple functions and you will get fast moving both traffic alongside pedestrians and potentially cyclists as well.

Carlton Reid 33:36
And Chris, on the pandemic front, do you see after we are back it is possible if it is possible to become normal again. Do you think things will have changed on the roads, on getting people on bikes, pedestrians, the things that you’ve been talking about for many, many years do you think you’re gonna have an easier time

After a lockdown has finished or do you think we’ll just go back to business as usual?

Chris Boardman 34:06
The thing about lockdown is that it’s finite. It’s a short period diverted into our lives. But I think what we now define as important is not what we would have done some months ago. Now we have a choice. I try very hard not to use the word opportunity. People are dying. However, you can’t ignore the good that has also happened. We discovered what quiet roads are like, I can’t imagine any other circumstances where the world the whole world has stopped driving. Many of our key workers now use bikes. Our stats told us that all the journeys went down, but cycling, which was on two and a half percent mode shared is now up significantly. And if you ask anyone, which do you prefer in terms of transport, then you wouldn’t be surprised by the answer. Having said that, we have got a very small window to implement measures that both aids recovery and allows you to keep travelling

safe distance apart and give the opportunity now to get back into cars. I am scared, we will lose the chance to redefine normal. It’s an opportunity there. I have used the word. It’s an opportunity to make a new normal. We should do everything in our power to make that happen.

Carlton Reid 35:18
And at this point, I just like to remind everybody, of course, that isn’t the real Chris Boardman that a computer simulation. But I would now like to go across to the real David for a short ad break.

David Bernstein 35:31
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a longtime loyal advertiser, you all know who I’m talking about? It’s JensonUSA at spokesmen. 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. JensonUSA, they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s We thank them so much for their support and we thank you for supporting JensonUSA All right, Carlton, let’s get back to the show.

Carlton Reid 36:57
Thanks to the not-at-all-simulated

David, and let’s get back to the show with me asking a question of Andy.

I’d like to ask the same question. You know, is this as Chris says, Is this a pivot point? Can this change? I’d like to ask both Rachel and Andy, that question but first, Andy, I just like to ask you because a point came up in there from from what Chris was saying, is it on your radar? That after this lockdown finishes potentially motoring could could double overnight? Is that something that you are looking at as a force? Is it something that you’ll deal with that later if it ever happens? I Are you are you predicting forward basically.

Andy Cox 37:44
So we do use an analysis of data to work out what the traffic volumes are, what the demands are, where they rises in speed, what roads are the most problematic? And I think of course post lockdown, we are likely to see a significant upset upturn in

in traffic volume, however, I think with the change that that’s been forced upon people, I think it will create a different culture as well. So I do expect to see perhaps more working from home, perhaps people looking to walk or cycle more than they previously did. So I think we will have to be cognizant of that we’ll have to make sure our 2030 and 40 mile an hour zones are really appropriately supported that vulnerable road users who are exposed to more risk because of obviously that the nature of their travel.

And we just need to make sure that you know, we’re in the right time right place. So the strategy essentially does stay the same. It is targeting the most risky people the most risky roads and the most risky themes. Our comp strategy will be more the same but reinforced. We will look to obviously utilise our cycle safety team, our highly visible patrols, things like the community Roadblock, schemes, again. Really

reinforcing the visible presence where it matters most, but recognising a change in volume of traffic, and of course, maybe a style of change as well, in terms of the mode of transport, people are choosing to use post lockdown and post all the learning that’s come from this enforced period and changing in working culture and going to you with that, is this going to be a pivot? I know this is not data driven. This is something that’s going to be more gut driven. Do you and do you think things will change? After locked down? Do you think driving culture will have changed? But I absolutely. Do you think it’s a pivotal moment for road safety? Obviously, London and elsewhere, I think we’ve got this captive audience at home. And so our strategy using social media and communications on television and newspapers and on radio

is more effective than it would otherwise be because people are actually in a position to heal a message. I think we have successfully drawn a link to

The risk of speeding to serious injury collisions and fatal collisions and the devastation that causes the impacts of their licence and the consequences to them. But also, because of the COVID-19 challenge for the NHS, I think by journaling to the emergency services and in particularly the NHS and the impact it has on Lowe’s that so busy dealing with such a significant issue, I’m hoping it really does influence a change in driving culture. And I think we’ve really got to take this opportunity, and not rollback from it really consistently reinforce that I think we need hard hitting campaigns nationally, I think we need to use a collection of agencies. So involving nurses and doctors as part of the message is really important, involving families affected is really important, and really making that change. But also then, as a pivotal moment looking at our whole strategy around vulnerable road users, the infrastructure, you know, to use of the vehicle, how we might create a better, safer place.

For all forms of travel, I think is really, really important. And looking at the legislation, obviously, I’m a police officer. So I work with whatever legislation I’m given. But actually I do have a voice in the subject and I think we could look at for instance, some the deterrents that we use. So I just draw a very quick comparison. This day somebody driving 150 miles an hour, the devastation that person could cause is so vast and significant if they get charged with speeding only because the sentences tend to get strict once a collision happens and somebody left in it you know, somebody unfortunately dies was left in a permanent disabled state.

You know, then of course then sentences are But before that, so they get caught for speeding the sentences can be less severe and I sometimes do a comparison with if somebody was to take a knife onto the street, not harm anybody would expect the sentences to be really severe for actually and quite rightly so. The carrying a weapon but if you’re driving 150 miles

An hour, or you’re driving to extreme speed, you know, set the 74 into 20 the devastation you can cause is equally severe. So I think we just need to look at our whole sentencing and criminal justice plan.

And really look at it from a deterrence perspective and supporting lawful road users. I work with whatever legislation I can. But I think, you know, sometimes we just need to recognise the risks posed by these people. I think we’ve got that opportunity at the moment because we have a captive audience. We have people that recognise the impacts it has on our NHS, we have people that recognise the impact it has on all of our services. I’m ever really, really good opportunity to make our roads a safer place for all.

Carlton Reid 42:41
okay, and Rachel said that I’ve gotten back to you the same question but I’ll just frame it in a slightly different way in that I’m absolutely sure you will be very familiar with all of the the academic research which shows that that the likeliest time to make somebody

switch their travel behaviour is when for instance, they move home, or they make other big life changes. So you couldn’t get much bigger a life change for most people than what we are currently living through. So do you see this as not just an opportunity, not just a pivot point, but something that will actually genuinely change things?

Rachel Aldred 43:24
Yes, I mean, I think the the impact of disruption on travel behaviour is quite well studied. And unfortunately, often it happens in a negative way. So people have children, they start driving more, for instance, but also in a positive way in terms of shifts to more sustainable modes, really, it’s the chance that people get to think rather than acting out of habit and to reevaluate what they do and often in quite difficult circumstances, like, like at the moment, and some people are travelling more actively than they have before. So key workers taking up cycling for instance, at the same time as people who might be habitual cycle commuters, and now working from home

By myself. So there is an opportunity to change. We’ve seen

the increased use of cycling at the weekends in particular. And we’ve seen in the UK as well the explicit discussion of the right and need to take daily exercise which can be by walking or cycling. So, yeah, I think there is the potential for people’s behaviour to change longer term. And particularly if you know, there isn’t going to be a simple end to lockdown, there will be a series of different stages that you know, some of them might involve more commuting trips returning some of them might involve more leisure trips returning, and this needs to be planned for the support needs to be in place because, you know, things could end up in a very negative direction. So if people are nervous about why walking on the foot way because there isn’t enough space to safely pass all the people in terms of infection, then that could put people off walking. On the other hand, if we can be allocate road space to walking, that creates more incentive to walk that means that people are more likely to walk it discourages car, use.

We could have a virtuous circle from that. But there will be a lot of choices, policy choices that need to be made now, and in the near future to ensure that we get some of the benefits.

Carlton Reid 45:10
Mm hmm. I did a story. I’ll come to Chris with this one first. But I did a story on the World Health Organisation who were being lobbied behind the scenes by lots of different people to make a recommendation that in this this this lockdown in this pandemic, who could make a recommendation to national governments around the world to reduce speed limits.

So Chris, is with that have been something that you would have liked to see, would that make any difference at all?

Chris Boardman 45:45
Yes, reducing speed limits is a positive thing. We have to think hard about what we can do quickly, and then what needs to be done longer term. We’ve just heard discussion from Andy about consequences. That’s what it boils down.

down to, like the majority of human beings, we react to consequences. What’s the easiest thing? what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable? That’s part of a longer term fix. But there are measures that we can do that aren’t just down to the police. We can slow people down without spending much. We can reshape roads. There’s a lot we can do with infrastructure. It’s not just about speed enforcement. We have some temporary powers given to us. We need to see what can be done quickly. And that isn’t too scary for politicians to actually want to do something with it. possibly the biggest opportunity for us right now is that it’s very scary at a political level, not to be doing something. It’s very scary as a politician not to be doing something when it’s clear that attitudes are changing. We need to take action to reduce speed and increase the number of people travelling without cars.

Carlton Reid 46:54
Mmm, now Rachel when when I did that WHO story and it was

was a very high up individual in who who, who did want it to happen, but didn’t want to be seen actually to use this as an inverted commas an opportunity so they didn’t want to be seen to be using the pandemic as as something to do their their favourite thing because they’ve always wanted to get who to, to to lobby for this but they thought it was politically expedient to do so. However, a few days later, who issued

a missive to national governments to restrict the sale of alcohol. So here we’re doing something that’s quite, you know, contentious, you know, take away alcohol from people and yet they were perfectly willing to do that yet they weren’t willing to ask people to slow down. So do you think this there’s there’s just because the driving culture is so embedded, it’s so hard to

Get something like an organisation like WHO to actually move on something that could save lots of lives. Just as you know, the the if you do better at in the pandemic that saves lives, but reducing speed also saves lives.

Rachel Aldred 48:14
Yeah, I mean, I don’t know the details of those specific, you know, though the negotiations that went on over those specific issues, but I do think it challenging car culture is always hard. It doesn’t get easier. It’s hard in Copenhagen taking space away from car parking to allocate to other uses. You know, it’s hard everywhere. But, you know, it’s clear that for something like speeding and speed limits, the evidence is really clear. And I yeah, I would have liked to have seen them making a recommendation on that because I think the case is so strong, particularly in the pandemic when national health services are under such a lot of strain.

Carlton Reid 48:49
Now, Andy, I did come to you when I was doing this who story and you gave me a point of view that was understandably added

and understandably politically correct and that you couldn’t be seen, to be asking for speed limits to be, you know, recommended by who? Well, is there anything you can add to that topic to what maybe Chris has said or what Rachel said?

Andy Cox 49:16
I think the speed limit debates an interesting one. I recently ran a poll on Twitter, again, there was support to reduce the speed limit. I gained as I mentioned, just now I work with the legislation I’m unable to work within, but I do recognise the risk of speed.

The Isle of Man, for instance, introduced legislation very quickly into this lockdown period that had a national speed limit reduction. But I really think that it is a question. Unfortunately for the legislators all I would say from a policing perspective of speed is our biggest challenge. We know during the lockdown period, it’s our biggest challenge. We are seeing exceptional speeds.

But even a 73 to 20 I sometimes wonder whatever speed limit was in place that person

Won’t be driving at 73. You know, and it’s deeply frustrating.

And that’s why I look at could we take a different approach around, you know, a more robust justice system that recognises the risk that people pose sufficiently and supports lawful road users prior to that serious life changing or fatal collision taken place?

Carlton Reid 50:22
Okay, last question. And then I’ll let you get on with your your busy days. So this might not be a question for Andy unless he wants to pitch in because it’s more of a

general issue on car culture as a whole, really, but this is a bit of a scoop today that I did a story on that the basic of the Heathrow

legal team that successfully challenged the government to stop Heathrow expansion, has now today going to be doing the exact same legal challenge, but for the 28 billion pound road building programme in the UK.

I’ve got that story online right now, it will get bigger, I’m sure when other media outlets pick up on it too, and when they get their crowdfunding, but coming to Chris first, one of the points, or one of the things that they want to stress is that 28 billion pounds which are currently pledged by Rishi Sunak ought to be spent on public transport, cycling and walking instead, will that challenge work?

Chris Boardman 51:29
Maybe the message hasn’t changed in the last year? Do we want more cars filling up the roads, because that’s what happens. We see evidence of it from all around the world. So it’s crazy. Now might be the best opportunity we will get to not spend on things we don’t really need. I know in Greater Manchester that the tram network cost a lot of money and it was paying for itself but now the revenues dried up, but it’s not dissimilar to other urban authorities around the country that have got bills that need to be paid.

forms of transport that are more desirable. So to divert that cash seems absolutely logical when you can’t afford to pay all your bills, pay the one that’s most pressing. So it’s an opportunity to rethink transport spend full stop, we’ve got a scenario not to give cash to the mode of doing harm and spend it elsewhere.

Carlton Reid 52:21
And Rachel,

Rachel’s kind of same question to you, but given the fact that governments around the world but certainly the UK government is going to have to be spending billions upon billions that is our cash I suppose, but still spending billions upon billions to dig us out of this this pandemic Hole In fact, they’ve got to pay people who are being furloughed and all these different funds that are gonna have to be found from somewhere, given the fact that the government in the future is not going to have huge amounts of cash to splash around. Do you think the road building programme that took

728 billion pounds. Do you think that is the right first of all government departments to that’s easy to chop? let’s just let’s just cross that that road building programme?

Rachel Aldred 53:12
Well, it would certainly go a long way in terms of building active travel infrastructure, which is not cheap. But it’s value for money. So, yes, and I think now, you know, we are seeing the government stepping in in a whole range of ways that seemed impossible to imagine not that long ago. So I think potentially with support for businesses support from employment and so on, can come some thinking, some public debate about, you know, the best use of resources, for instance, around freight and deliveries and so on, and what we actually want to see this money used for and yes, I would agree that that that that amount of money allocated to a road building budget should definitely be up for grabs in terms of sustainable transport. We’ll need it.

Daniel 53:54
Thank you to my guests, Chris Boardman, Superintendent Andy Cox and Professor Rachel …

Carlton Reid 53:59
Yes, thanks.

Computer voice I’ll take over from here. So anyway, yes, it’s thanks to Professor Rachel Aldred, Superintendent Andy Cox and Chris Boardman. This has been Episode 248 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. Sorry it has taken me so long to get this audio to you, but Chris’s recording really was quite unusable. Thankfully everybody else had pristine audio, so I was able to resurrect the group chat. Now I hope you enjoyed listening to Chris, played by a computer simulation. The next show will be out real soon and is a conversation I had last week with the deputy leader of Waltham Forest Council, Clyde Loakes, he showed me the now world famous Orford Road Mini-Holland scheme, but we also cycled elsewhere in the borough to see how it is being transformed and it is

being transformed, and very much for the better. Significantly, Clyde was voted in again, on an increased majority, showing that politicians need not be afraid of putting people first and taming car use.

Daniel 55:16
It’s a great episode. Meanwhile, get out there and ride

June 20, 2020 / / Blog

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Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 247: In conversation with Leo Rodgers

Saturday 20th June 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Leo Rodgers

Meet inspirational cyclist Leo Rodgers of Tampa, Florida. Leo was recently profiled in Bicycling magazine, including being featured on the cover.

THANKS TO: Bicycling writer Peter Flax and photographer James Luedde.


Leo Rodgers, Instagram

Leo Rodger’s website

City Bike Tampa, Florida

Bicycling article

Ultra Romance, Instagram

Team Brooks article

Leo Rodgers. Pix by James Luedde


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 247 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Saturday, June 20 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 spokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there, I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show I’m speaking with the inspirational Leo Rodgers of Florida. He told me he’s excellent at getting down really low when executing left-hand corners — that’s because there’s no crank on that side of Leo’s many bikes. He lost his leg in a motorcycle crash 13 years ago and now uses his bicycles instead of a prosthetic leg. You might have seen Leo recently on the front cover of Bicycling — there’s a great profile of him in the magazine by journalist Peter Flax who wrote: “Leo Rodgers is a tall Black man with long hair and one leg.”

I read that piece and watched videos of Leo’s amazing bike handling skills and got in touch with him.

We spoke at length yesterday and I’ve got to thank Leo for his patience as we struggled with tech issues — I was on my laptop calling Leo on his smartphone and the cloud recording program I was going to use didn’t work for Leo so I had to Google an alternative, download it and learn about on the fly. I heard a nasty echo when I spoke but thought the new program would record my words, not what I was hearing in my headphones. It wasn’t to be so much of my audio is unusable. So I’ve cut most of my live, conversational audio and replaced it with voiceovers. You can still hear Leo fine though.

I started by asking Leo about two great films that have been made about him, both are on YouTube and I’ve embedded them on There’s a film by Bicycling and also one by the gonzo bikecam film maker Lucas Brunelle. That one’s pure art, filmed over a number of months, and it’s not for the fainthearted. Take it away, Leo …

Leo Rodgers 3:28
Yeah, like he’s got a lot of footage of just me just like riding around. Can you tell me tell me wheh you’re in Miami just to kind of get some cool stuff. I just happened to run into him. He’s like, Oh, okay. This guy’s pretty cool. Yeah, we kind of hit it off man and, you know, during events and stuff like that.

I would like hit him up. And I didn’t think he was like, you know, such a fan of me. I was a more of a fan of him. Oh, now, I’m coming to Orlando. Like all right.

He actually rode to Orlando and then they wrote back like this guy’s nuts this guy’s like crazy. I didn’t ask Leo to describe all of his bikes so I guess like definitely start with a bike the very first started with was my red line and then also have my linkster that’s what kind of got me started in like track riding and stuff like that. But uh, now I have that setup with like a little cargo fork on it a by Chrus deal for it. So it’s pretty fun. Kind of like a little laundry waggon then I also got my fair share of like a track bikes and stuff. I got a Fuji Tripoli. It’s not like much backed by. I got a Cosmic stallion Neva all city. It’s kind of like my little daily kind of crusher.

I got my cross bike. My BonBon is also

pretty fun.

And then also have my tall bike.

two bikes in the one is so fun is to All City Big Blocks. Same size this stacked up. I got like some 32 knobbies on it so it’s pretty cool off road. Yeah, it was actually made on accident.

A buddy of mine, we were supposed to do a race so that that, that we can, but I’m just gonna want a little casual ride we do every Tuesday

just did a little thing and he had a little scooter. His bike was on the backside. And, you know, I have my cross bike. So we were going, you know, down the bridge and you know, we’re flying back, you know, it’s another 25 miles back home so he has a scooter so we’re gonna draft him. So I’m like, you know, I’m going to hold on to this scooter cuz I need a break.

So I start skitching on the scooter. So I started like pedalling so I can like push him to kind of make his scooter go faster because I’m like tapping out. And I guess I might have gotten too close to his frame and I like blew

all the spokes out on the non drives

just change these and this was right before Grinduro.

forget my wheel I got a buck. Are you afraid? Oh my gosh. So in a bind him another bike by an aeroplane from him. And then there was another one he had sitting there like Yo, are you gonna do all these frames that bent me make a tall bike?

Oh, you got to work like yeah, I’ll find somebody so that’s kind of how I got started so far. It’s like it always turns heads and I do enjoy riding because I can see stuff a lot more.

Carlton Reid 6:38
Leo works in City Bike of Tampa

Leo Rodgers 6:42
We’ve got a nice little local bike shop on downtown Tampa and we are

steel frames, but also kind of shop.

That’s kind of what makes us pretty cool and while we sell so many Surly’s and All City’s and stuff like that all the time.

Carlton Reid 6:59
I asked Leo about being Black in what can be a very white activity.

Leo Rodgers 7:07
It’s funny I don’t see colour

I just see your bike we’re all have one purpose in life, you know, but at the same time we all kind of want to do the same thing and as we all go out ride and have fun.

Carlton Reid 7:22
I point out that in the videos he’s demonstrating some pretty awesome bike riding skills

Leo Rodgers 7:30
Yeah, I tried to work it there’s a lot of two legged people ran out a pretty fast so the helped me go faster for sure.

Carlton Reid 7:37
So how does he adapt his bikes?

Leo Rodgers 7:40
Yeah, this pretty much just match the whole left crank arm off, shave some weight. Or if it’s like a two piece then I’ll just go to the beach and sawed off and go from there.

Carlton Reid 7:52
And this is going to seem like an incredibly stupid question. but are there any advantages to only

having one leg as a cyclist?

Leo Rodgers 8:02
yes on left turns.

I do. I will take a left turn sharp, extra sharp like, I want to like lay it down.

I will go into the left side a little harder than than the right.

Carlton Reid 8:19
I guess. I mean, you’ve obviously saved some weight there as well, which is being flippant.

Leo Rodgers 8:25
Yes, a few grammes, but you know, I’m also working for two legs.

Carlton Reid 8:29
Mm hmm. That’s true. You’re a bit more aero, I guess.

Leo Rodgers 8:35
Oh, yeah, got to get a little aerodynamic gain.

Carlton Reid 8:37
So tell me about your crash. If you’re okay. So that’s how you lost your leg. And that was when you were about 22

Leo Rodgers 8:43
Yeah, yes, sir. Just once again. It wasn’t bicycles. It was you know, my life of motorcycles then. So just you know, living living life on the razor blade is what I call it back then it just right on the edge

Carlton Reid 8:58
young and crazy.

Leo Rodgers 9:00
Crazy my young and dumb dasy, normal day it is you know you’re out there doing tricks. You know you’ve popped in a few wheelies and and when I came down for one of my wheelies I went into a tank slap, or a handshake is what they call it. And that’s when your handlebars start shaking. And you can’t do nothing about it, but just hold on. And I’m just started pulling me to the right and I hit a guardrail, and I flipped into some water.

That’s where things changed.

Carlton Reid 9:28
And you didn’t know much about it at the time.

Leo Rodgers 9:33
Like literally, like blacked out, just don’t remember nothing from what, you know, happened at the accident, and people tell me about what happened, but, you know, I don’t remember. I’m kind of glad I don’t. It’s probably a lot better for me. You know, from the stories that they told me it definitely comes back to like, okay, like starting to add up now. Okay, that that sounds about right. So it was definitely a game changer for sure.

Carlton Reid 9:57
I mean, you’re lucky to be alive. I mean, this is something that

If not just your leg this giving your life

Leo Rodgers 10:02
yeah, I was pretty much pronounced dead on the scene so

is to be saved, brought back like that is a saw a blessing for sure.

I feel like I have a purpose and a goal here on life just because you know

almost didn’t have a life.

Carlton Reid 10:22
That’s to me that that the crash happened when you’re on two wheels well kind of one wheel because you’re pulling a wheelie, but you’d think that would put you off two wheels for life then you got back on a bicycle.

Leo Rodgers 10:35
Yeah, I just went from the fast lane and just went to the bike lane.

Carlton Reid 10:39
So BMX, you’re a BMX before. So when you were a kid, basically.

Leo Rodgers 10:47
Yeah, that was like my lifestyle like that was my very first bike I ever built was a BMX bike, just like every other kid. probably has some bike, just frame sit in the closet. And that’s where it kind of

started from him as a blue GT. And, um, it only had a front brake on it. So I was like, Alright, I’m gonna ride it out.

And that’s how I learned how to do like nose manuals and stuff like that and

you know, learn how to do wheelies, but no rear brake kit. So it got pretty reckless.

Carlton Reid 11:22
And we’ll leave reckless Leo there for a minute. And we’ll go over to my co-host David for a quick commercial break.

David Bernstein 11:29
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a longtime loyal advertiser, you all know who I’m talking about? It’s Jenson USA at 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

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 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 12:56
Thanks, David. And we’re back with Leo Rogers who

I noticed in the videos, he used his bicycle instead of crutches and instead of a wheelchair. So the bicycle I asked him is a tool of liberation.

Leo Rodgers 13:11
Yeah, like that’s, that’s my everything as we really what is the reason why I don’t wear prosthetic. No, I have crutches like in my mom’s house, my dad’s house at work. So it kind of makes it easier for me to just ride there. And then grab my crutches, spread a bunch of crutches out in the whole Bay Area. On the places I go to the most and

starts and begins as long as I can get some crutches there. I’m good.

Carlton Reid 13:37
Leo can often be seen riding from St. Petersburg to Tampa and he has been once or twice spotted on an Interstate freeway bridge, which he really shouldn’t ride on.

Leo Rodgers 13:50
It kind of started for me like riding it back and forth from St. Pete to Tampa which is 23 miles, 24 miles one way

So they will always see me on on this bridge. It’s about a good like five mile long bridge. And it just kind of started from now like, Yeah, I just seen a dude when they ran the bicycle across Gandy. Like that’s crazy. Like people would call me and like, hear these stories like, yo, was that you on the bridge like Yeah, I was going to work and somebody has called in a radio station and they will gave you a shout out like what?

Okay, and then there’s some that it was like, bumper to bumper traffic on the interstate. You can’t even you mean 19 supposed to ride your bike on the bridge on this particular breed but I thought I could you know, save myself some time catch an Uber. But no, it was just traffic Am I you know, this let me out right here like houses right. And that probably had to be one of the best rides I did on on that bridge because like to ride that particular bridge you you can get a ticket. So it was kind of cool living like that had a little

rush going. I definitely found me a nice FedEx truck to hold on to get across. But uh, I made it

it was awesome.

Carlton Reid 15:11
Peter Flax in his Bicycling article says you can’t miss Leo. He’s pretty distinctive: Black, one leg, fast. And I asked Leo, if being distinctive helps on the road.

Leo Rodgers 15:26
100% believe that helps. Because because they, you know, they normally see somebody with two legs pedalling versus one leg and a challenge. Figure out like, what is that up it? Is that somebody with one leg pedalling. Oh, wow. And you know, you just never forget that and then they may be a cyclist and they might happen to, you know, come into the same shop I work at, like, I mean, you see what I say anything? Are you not gonna rise cross the bridge?

on a bicycle like it? Yeah. As me I’m young. I’m heading to work.

Like, man, dude you’re crazy well not really, I gotta get to work, man.

So you know as soon as I give me a good little morning ride in, it does get a little overwhelming a lot of times because this is such a long ride and like, I’m burnt out like this is a rest week right here but I enjoy it as this is your free you get to see the the fishes jump and the sting-ray school just floating around.

Carlton Reid 16:30
As you’ve by now gathered, Leo is a bicycle evangelist. He spreads the good news about cycling through the community to everybody, but especially to people of colour and to people with adaptive challenges.

Leo Rodgers 16:47
Just from me doing these different little rise and they see me and stuff like that. Um, I like doing these things called the hood of my little hood stroll where this ride through, you know, this, the most predominant Black neighbourhoods and it’s it’s crazy

David Bernstein 17:00

Leo Rodgers 17:01
is this it’s really weird like in the more nicer areas is almost like you get the weird looks.

But when you’re out through a more and more predominantly Black area, it’s almost like a parade. A cheer on your own they cheer you on. And it’s just like, the round like, man, we just came to that neighbourhood. I was scared but next to you know, they were cheering us on like we were

like in the Macy’s parade for a second yo like what was that a that’s what they do, man they love seeing you like they want to see that.

So I love it man is that’s kind of like my main thing I enjoy doing

is just do my little stroll rolling all around. We were there and just hanging out man cuz it’s, it’s oddly enough, but they they they love it. They embrace it. They enjoy seeing it. It’s like you see little kids out. They see each other race up with you and rah rah ride and they pull back all

You know, it’s kind of cool.

Carlton Reid 18:01
Leo has three kids, two boys and a girl, 15, 11 and five, and who rides out of them, I asked.

Leo Rodgers 18:11
all of ’em, all of ’em ride bikes, they all have their own bikes that I’m pretty sure I gave him. Yeah.

Yeah, my oldest is 15. And he’s like my height. So like, so he was literally riding my Redline, which was, you know, my very first bike. So he’s doing wheelies and stuff like that. Okay. I like that. So, just like over a month, I’m like, wow, bro, you are my height. Like, you need to give me this bicycle by the side give you a bigger bike, as this is too small. So right here right now my little girls are riding my Redline. So it just keeps getting passed on.

Carlton Reid 18:49
Now, as we’ve heard Leo was pretty reckless in his youth on a bike. So what does he tell his kids? Does he kind of dial some of that back?

Leo Rodgers 18:58
I can’t take the the

fun side out of it because that’s usually you know, what happens when you have fun, there will be some kind of fall or something. So that’s kind of comes with the nature of

our riding like that. But I make sure we’re in a area to where it’s kind of enclosed and you got to just turn yourself loose. That’s something that I kind of stick with. Definitely group rides help out a lot with them. They kind of learn, you know, about riding with a group and learning like, you know, this vandals is lights and stuff like that. So, definitely group rise is kind of like, the biggest connection that I have with them. Because they feel like oh, you know, he’s my friends do I get the break my friends and we’re actually hanging out with adults, we’re actually hanging out, like, hanging out like the adults. So you can like see them kind of, you know, feeling like they’re grown in the sense. So, you know, they get their little their fair share of hanging out for sure and learning about rules of the road and just being you just being a normal individual.

So I think my son, he’s the youngest one that’s like in the group. He’s like five, but I had to change his gearing up so you can keep up. And I think that was the biggest mistake because now he’s like, flying past me. And I got like, oh, wait a minute. Oh, okay, we gotta go. And you can just see like everybody in the background like sprint to try to catch up to him. Because he’s moving. I’m like, I don’t know if that was a mistake.

He’s like, killing it right now. He’s gonna be a beast when he gets a few more years older.

Carlton Reid 20:32
Leo has a connection to England, actually, in that he rides for a Brooks sponsored team and Brooks is Italian Anyway, we’ll go with England.

Leo Rodgers 20:45
That’ll be a team Brooks. Yeah, Rapha team Brooks who all have our cross bikes. That is super awesome. I love my

I literally do everything on that bike. I got a little rack of groceries.

And then all kinds of stuff and it looks good. And we just do some of the the most, I guess, craziest gravel rides and like my guy, Ultra Romance. He’s, uh, he’s throwing it down for us. He’s keeping us intact and keeping us looking good and rolling, rolling nice.

Carlton Reid 21:18
The Ultra Romance mentioned back there is Ronnie Romance or Benedict Wheeler, an adventure rider with a full beard and 104,000 Instagram followers. He hooked up with Leo at the Grinduro gravel race in California’s northern Sierra mountains. In the rush to prepare for the event Leo had switched pedals. He usually rides with Look cleats, but it developed a hotspot on his foot with all his power going to just one foot and one tiny Eggbeater pedal for 200 miles of dirt and heat.

Leo Rodgers 21:56
Oh yeah, that was a quite the experience. I’m never done.

Nothing like that in my life. Um, like I said, I was a track guy. I was a velodrome stuff fixed gear stuff. And to be invited on a team that, you know, is gonna do that Dirty Kanza, which is probably the premier gravel race, like, that’s, you know, a bucket list thing, and I can’t say no to that.

But I had to ask, like,, how did I get picked? Like I’m from Florida? Like, there’s no wheels here, my man like, like, how did I even get mentioned? He’s like, you know, the people from Brooks. They put you out there. I’m like, Man, it’s like an honour. And, um, that route was like this amazing. Like,

even though it was so painful, just this horrible.

Just all kinds of emotions. I was just, like, just depleted of everything. But it was a self that I don’t regret. Like. I remember every single moment. That’s how bad it was.

Oh my god that’s how bad it was like I had like literally some tequila in my bag that I was going to save to the end of the race and that was what saved me throughout the race. Tequila and candy, I was out of that like I need something, I need a soda I need a beer, I need snacks I need something hmm and that was literally how I like got through.

Carlton Reid 23:22
For the whole of that gory story – t also includes some CBD sweets whatever they are – you’ve got to go to the the long read article about Leo on If you go searching his last name is Rodgers with D. To wrap up the call. I asked Leo where folks can find him on the internet.

Leo Rodgers 23:48
Instagram will be slimone1000. I also have like a web page.

started trying to do a

like a foundation or something to work and like start giving back. So I’m trying to start like a little Leo Rodgers foundation to work on, you know, get some funding and, you know, I want to get people on bikes and I want to get kids on bikes.

Carlton Reid 24:18
Thanks to Leoh Rodgers there, and thanks also to Peter Flax for hooking us up. This has been Episode 247 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. Thanks for tuning in, and make sure to subscribe in your favourite podcast catcher shownotes and more can be found at

This episode sure had its technical challenges, but I hope those few bits of echo I left in didn’t spoil your enjoyment. There’s more engineering needed to rescue the audio of Chris Boardman, Rachel Aldred and Superintendent Andy Cox that I’ve been promising you for a couple of episodes.

Get out and ride.

Okay, Leo, we can

Talk for three hours here and then nothing might actually happen. Because I’ve got no idea if this is even recording because I mean there’s a red button there. recordings are held in your browser until you use the Save button.

Be sure to familiarise yourself before using before an important recording. Yeah, great.

Leo, should we just go for it?

Leo Rodgers 26:23
Shoot for it.

Carlton Reid 26:24
Okay, let’s see what happens and if you

Well, that’s very kind of you and very kind of you also to join me today. So thank you.

June 7, 2020 / / Blog

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Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 246: “The bike world has never seen anything like this”: Jay Townley on Bike Boom 2020 vs Bike Boom 1970-4

Sunday 7th June 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Jay Townley


Bicycling Booms During Lockdown—But There’s A Warning From History —

Jay Townley


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 246 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered Sunday, June the seventh 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 Jenson Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fred cast cycling podcast at 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 And now, here are the spokesmen.

Jay Townley 1:08
“These are unprecedented times.

As long as I’ve lived i’ve never seen anything like this,

As long as you live, you’ve never seen it like this. The bike industry the bike world has seen nothing like this.”

Carlton Reid 1:23
That’s bike industry veteran Jay Townley talking about bike boom 2020. I’m Carlton Reid welcoming you to another long lockdown special of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. Jay Townley’s perspective is second to none because, for a start, he’s a data freak — still crunching numbers after 63 years in the industry — and he was also up close and personal with the market-dominating American bike company during the 1970s bike boom, the annual sales figures for which have never been bettered, not even during the mountain bike years. Jay worked for the Schwinn Bicycle Company for 24 years — he was the youngest vice president who wasn’t a member of the Schwinn family. Over the years he went on to hold many other positions and is still the go-to-guy for divining trends from bicycle-shaped spreadsheets so I was glad to be able to pick his brains about both bike booms. Many sectors of the economy have been badly affected by lockdowns, social distancing and quarantines but after like five or more years of poor bikes sales — what Jay calls a “funk of flatness” — April and May this year just exploded, with widespread reports of bikes selling out, well, like toilet paper as some media outlets would have it. Shimano’s stock price hit a record high at the end of May with bike part sales from this bellwhether brand going through the roof. It’s now a market-leading behemoth but Shimano was once a minnow. The Japanese company started its steady rise to domination in the 1970s when Kozo Shimano visited Schwinn on a speculative sales trip, hoping to sell derailleurs to an America that was only really starting to ride with these European devices. You can hear the inside skinny on that scoping sales trip on today’s show because Jay was there, front and centre.

So hi, I’ve got Jay Townley with me today. Jay has been on the show.

A number of times before so anybody who’s listened to Jay will know that we go through his long history in the bike industry for people who are new to the show. Let’s let’s go through that history. So first of all, Jay, is it terribly rude of me to ask you your age? How old are you, Jay?

Jay Townley 4:18
It’s not rude at all. I’m 76 years old.

Carlton Reid 4:22
And you are. I’m a veteran of the bike industry. So what does that make you? I mean, is there a super veteran class? Why? How long have you been working in the industry, Jay?

Jay Townley 4:33
I started in a bike shop in 1957.

went to work for Hazel Park, bicycle and skate exchange in St. Paul, Minnesota.

And worked there actually a part time full time on the east side of St. Paul.

Throughout through a couple of years of college and I got

Mary did that process and ended up going to work for Schwinn in 1966. So my relationship with that shop was over a long period of time.

And the two owners were I would consider brilliant because and I don’t need to go into the detail other than to tell you that they ended up founding The Park Tool Company.

Um, they were starting to make a limited, actually they’re making hooks to hang bicycles in 1964 65. But they they ran them together.

Building a very large building.

on the same street, we were located on white bear Avenue on the east side of St. Paul, but out toward where the new expressway was going on.

And so they built a large facility that had room in the back a very

large manufacturing area in the back where they continued the building out The Park Tool Company while they ran Hazel Park cycle centre which on the retail side became two stores. And at one point was schwinns largest dealer.

And so they they were very good at the retail business. But then as The Park Tool business grew,

they sold the retail stores to two employees, two different employees.

Carlton Reid 6:32
It’s still existing or it’s long gone?

Jay Townley 6:38
Know the buyer the retail the retail stores are gone.

The last one closed. Oh my must be over 20 years ago.

However Park Tool thrives and is owned and operated by Eric Hawkins who you may have met at.

He comes to England once a year. For the

A large gathering of one of the large one of the distributors

in the UK but their distributor obviously for Park Tool but Eric Hawkins is the son of one of the phones

Carlton Reid 7:12
that was because I want to talk to you today about the bike boom. So Hazel Park was clearly before the bike but when you’re working for them and Park Tool was was a wee bit before the bike boom too. So that was quite prescient to make a bicycle Tool Company before the bike boom hits flack for years beforehand. So they must have like been written you know, all

all boats rise up with the rising tide. So all bike companies that point kind of did good.

Jay Townley 7:45
Yes, yes, absolutely.

Carlton Reid 7:49
So tell me about the boom then. So because you when the boom actually hit you are a Schwinn executive.

Jay Townley 7:58
Well, I started

As I said in 1966

I well remember 1971 because if you go back a few years 1968 was a record year for the industry at about 7.5 million units total.

Schwinn held its first national convention of authorised Schwinn dealers in Chicago, at the Conrad Hilton Hotel and 1968, which I have vivid memories of.

But it was the first time that Schwinn had gathered all of its dealers in

in one place with one big show that lasted three or four days.

And I was at the time I was sales promotion manager. I was very much involved in the process of producing the show that at the time featured Bob Kishan who you probably don’t know is Captain


the from CBS fame but he was he was the personality that Schwinn advertised with on television for many years.

And so, the bike boom, was kind of a big surprise. We had done this 1968 the industry’s spiked at 7.4 million. Then if you look at the charts, it went down to about 7 million in 69. We were trying to figure out what was going on in 1970 was about 6.8 million.

And we were starting to get worried what was happening out in the market and then came 1971. And Schwinn was sold up by May of that year and the the industry in 1971 sold 8.8 million units.

You know, well in excess of the 68 record of 7.5 million.

And we were scrambling we honestly the industry when we weren’t sure

What was going on?


at the time, the Schwinn bicycle company was a domestic house that was a make to order house.

So we ran this big factory for the day, by the way, is considered small now but it was a big factory in the time at the time and every dealer order that came in was scheduled for production and shipped to a dealer within two weeks.

So I’m sure this is the way Raleigh operated at the time and Nottingham received dealer orders and it built bicycles to the order the dealer

loaded them up mostly in trucks, because there were very few dealers are big enough you could put them into in the rail cars. But we ran this, you know, build to order operation. So when they came in, in 1971, the big surprise

The Schwinn sales department jack Smith was the sales manager came up with a plan. He and his staff

that the then vice president marketing Ray Birch or longtime Schwinn marketing VP, Ray Birch, who was the boss of the marketing division

agreed to an allocation plan.

So in 1971, when this all hit, we were trying to figure out what was going on and we were sold out in May.

The The plan was based on algorithms of the day, and it was a the dealer sales of the previous year

were the factor that was went into the formula so that the dealer would receive that percentage share of schwinns production at capacity for the year.

The dealer didn’t have to take that

they could

refused portions of it but

every quarter jack Smith’s department sent out to the authorised dealers after Of course May. So we’re into the last half of the year but this continued on through 1974. Every quarter the dealer received their allocation

and their shipping schedule and they would adjust it if they wanted less, and in most years, they didn’t, they took everything that was available. And so we also were able to adjust the mix

which is the you know, the,

the mix between the low price of the high priced bikes. In the in the way we sorted through and ran the numbers for the allocation.

Some of this was also based on the popularity because what was selling were in our line where the 27 inch wheel, your rail you’re equipped 10 speed lightweights

are vital.

He’s our Continentals and our Superiors. And so that’s what was in demand. That’s what dealers wanted. That’s what consumers wanted. And so we would make sure jack would make sure that he did what he could to adjust. And then that all went downstream to the to the production planning people and to the purchasing department. So you can imagine this operation

that was

relatively used to the way things were going, had been surprised in 1968. That was the first year Schwinn made and sold a million bicycles.

And so you had two years of down market and then 1971 comes out of nowhere

exceeds market expectations by a good margin. We’re sold out by May. And so we’ve got this allocation system that we’re operating on. And Schwinn then moved to expand.

Carlton Reid 14:00
Today it’s a three month turnaround because at least because you’ve got to get the orders in and Asia, it’s going to take three months to get them back on the water to get them here but but at that time could Schwinn have a much shorter timeframe because you are making the bikes we we were making the bikes Carlton and we also were purchasing worldwide. So

Jay Townley 14:26
we in order to make the Varsity and the Continental that I described and the Superior which were 10 speed derailleur equipped, lightweight bicycles 27 one and a quarter inch tires and appropriate wheels we

had to buy on the world market because the domestic suppliers while they could support the middleweight bicycles that had come into vogue after World War Two. And we’re the bicycle

Bicycle industries answered to the English lightweight.

With all due respect

the chief competitors in the in the period after world war two were the 26th.

One an eighth inch American sizing, obviously, but one of the 26 inch lightweights that you were used to in England

that were primarily made by Raleigh, and were imported into the US under the Marshall Plan or the successors to it.

And so, they were coming in at very low duties to the US market. And the answer that the American industry had

when when we the war ended, the industry was making balloon tired bikes to an eighth inch

tired. They’re called balloon tyred bikes and

as a

kid that’s what I got my first bike was a Schwinn Phantom, which was one of these you know, big balloon tyre bicycles.

Carlton Reid 16:07
The paper boy bike.

Jay Townley 16:09
Thank you the paper boy bike, the black Phantom, you know the, so they were up against the English lightweight.

And the answer the industry came up with was Frank w Schwinn, literally who was a great engineer. Second generation was running the operation at the time, literally designed the middleweight the one and three quarter 1.75

compromise between the lightweight and the balloon

and he gave all the patents and designs for the middleweight

bicycle to the industry for free because he wanted to combat the the influx of English lightweights. So, I’m the middleweight was born.

So my second bike was a Schwinn speedster bought from the bike shop. I ended up working for my father, my father traded in our digital ad. He had the balloon tire bike, and he said it was time for the middleweight which I begged him to get.


over the evolution in the period from 63 to 67, probably after I arrived at Schwinn

Al Fritz, and Frank Brilando, down in the engineering department, and you’ve heard Al Fritz’s name before I’m sure you’ve done some interviews around l.

Al Fritz and Frank Brilando came up with this with the state with this thing, right.

Um, and so that became from the middleweight that became the next big thing in the market.

And that quickly led to Frank Brilando convincing Al and Frank

W Schwinn and eventually Frank leash when his son to do a line of lightweight by extrude driller equip lightweights, the varsity, the Continental 26 and 27 inch lightweights, equipped with 10 speed derailleurs.

and Frank was a former Frank’s passed away a couple of years ago. Frank was a former Olympic cyclist,

or a professional cyclist, and also a very brilliant degreed engineer.

And Brilando laid out for Al Fritz, in about 1962 63. This idea for a an American made derailleur equipped, true lightweight at 27. Hide 27 inch real high pressure with a drill here. And a lot of people didn’t know what trailers were.

They weren’t made here. You couldn’t get the hubs you needed here. You couldn’t get the gangs or the cogs you couldn’t get anything.

The base components.

But Frank because he rode on the last Olympic team, beef before World War Two, and the first Olympic team after World War Two, Frank was that good. And he when he served in the war, he served in the Pacific Theatre in the engineering Corps.

Frank was such an athlete that he made both Olympic games before and after the war. So he stuff and he was a road racer as well as a track racer. So l then went to schwinn’s purchasing division that was buying mostly domestic stuff. And in 64,65, they started to bring in large quantities of derailleurs from Huret, who is no longer in business, but a French firm, Maillard cogs and hubs, Weinnman for brakes out of Switzerland in Germany. And at the time, the Japanese were just starting to ramp up

The bike business and a fellow named Kozo Shimano showed up in, in the Schwinn purchasing waiting room.

And closer before he passed, told many stories about with his broken English trying to sell his drill user as hubs. But Schwinn was right at the point where it started to import.

First modest then very large quantities of these components required for these sophisticated lightweights and they were just at the right time, because they were bicycles that were not for 1213 year old kids. If you were big, you could write them but it was a multi frame your choices of 1921 24 to 2527 inch frame 27 inch high pressure wheeled drill your equip lightweights and as this bike boom took off,

It was adult bikes

primarily, and Schwinn through Brilando. This brilliant engineer

made a determination that we would use our design derailleur,

our design cog, our hubs, etc. They were Schwinn approved. So we didn’t just put a here a derailleur on or a simplex derailleur or a Shimano derailleur. As the bike boom ramped up, you were getting dealers in the market. We’re getting Schwinn varsity with a driller that was at the time, a Schwinn design that could have been made by hurray in France, by Shimano or by Sun tour,

with brakes that could have been made by Weinnman because again, they were going to prove design Weinman in Europe, Shimano or Dia Compe, and so on.

We were doing so much volume that what Frank did was

engineers designed the componentry and approved it and then we were able to get multiple services around the world high quality services

to make the same componentry.


to your scenario, yes, we went in the course of this bike boom from the period starting in 19. Well, prior to this, we were we were bringing in and making these varieties in 6968 69. But when the bike boom hit, Schwinn purchasing was able to branch out and use all available services on a global basis to bring in the component tree and you’re correct, then we were dealing with the

long lead time scenarios of getting this component tree from Europe, Japan, into the US market into this factory, because we were still making bicycles to order for dealers.

Carlton Reid 23:01
Now this point, I guess I want to point out for people but there’s no Specialized, there’s no Trek. There’s no Cannondale. There’s none of these brands that we now associate with with the American bike market and that it absolutely took over the world when mountain bikes came along. So Schwinn was in at this period was in such a dominant position and not a monolith, you could say.

Jay Townley 23:27
That is a correct way to describe it. We,

in the 50s, when I was working in the bike shop rainberge, had been hired by Fw Schwinn in the 50s.

from a company called Wizzer in Detroit, and Frank w brought Ray in specifically to clean ups when distribution

and what Ray did was taking something that he was aware of that was new. He developed a franchise so

Before franchising was popular, there was before McDonald’s. There was in the marketing world,

in academia, the the development of the idea of the franchise. So Reebok brought franchising to Schwinn. And when I worked for Hazel Park and after I came to work for Schwinn in Chicago,

bicycle shops that carried Schwinn product were franchise dealers.

So there were requirements you had to meet. There were you had to be of high quality you had to give service you had to stock parts. And Schwinn went through a process of winnowing out


well, it’s been written this way and again in these times I hate to use the term at the funeral parlours.

Which by the way back in the day, funeral parlours were also intended to be for sale, housing, household furniture sellers,


When I think when I came to work there, they had 15,000 dealers on the books. And they’d started a winnowing down.

And the bike boom accelerated that process. But

what we had was a core of authorised dealers. So there was a semblance in order to the process, there was service training, there was sales training. There was store design assistance, which again is a long story unto itself, but this was all evolving, just prior to this bike boom, and then during the boom years, and

this is all because Ray Birch again another brilliant guy.

I would say certifiable genius, raid, developed franchising. And then he also was the architect of the Schwinn distribution system, which evolved again, just prior to the bike boom, but was primarily a product

Have something else that we cover in another call which is the Schwinn antitrust case.

Because at the time overlapping all of this

from the period 1958 to 1968. Schwinn went through the law at the time the longest antitrust suit with the federal government on record, and ended up in 68 winning in the Supreme Court. And the end result of that was the twin was able to keep its

franchise dealers called authorised dealers at the time, but keep its franchise dealers because the whole legal dispute was over schwinns legal right to put a dealer on or take them off. And in turn Schwinn also was encouraged by the Supreme Court to integrate forward IE own its wholesale distribution.

And so that was in full process when this boom hits

So Schwinn had the beginnings of the modern distribution system we know today in the bike business, that every one of these other names you mentioned and adopted, has adopted up to this point. And that’s simply brands manufacturers owning wholesale distribution centres around the country around the market. And then a system where you have authorised dealers now, that they’re the product of what re developed as the franchise dealers. Again, there’s a long history as to how that occurred. But you’re quite correct. The the Schwinn bicycle company had all these pieces together and was the premier brand, if you will, the more than the luxury. It was the premier brand in the US bicycle market. And going in we probably had a 25% market share.

So the competition that evolved during the bike boom

is one of the key changes to the to the American bicycle business because of the who they were the competitors to Schwinn that evolved during the bike boom.

Carlton Reid 28:03
and with the competitors before, Specialized, Trek, Cannondale, who are the main people in say the late 60s, early 70s?

Jay Townley 28:25
The primary competitor domestically was Ross.

And then you had there were nine domestic manufacturers. In addition to Schwinn, there was a group that sold the mass versions of the Huffy, Murray, Ohio. There were a group including Columbia, and Ross that were selling to the bike. The bike trade as it was called the bike shops competing with Schwinn.

And then there were private label manufacturers. I don’t remember all the names, but there were there were at least nine domestic houses

Import was only at the top.

You know, it was the Peugeot the, if you will today it would have been the Pinarello. Those

those those brands that came in when the boom started

were for the aficionados for the for the few racers there were in the country, the Peugeot’s course rally.

And the import was a very small piece of the market. The primary competitors that Schwinn had were the Colombia’s the Ross’s and, quite frankly, their systems were not as sophisticated. They didn’t have the authorised dealer networks or the franchise dealers, they didn’t have the distribution.

They did not have the product development. So they didn’t have their el Fritz’s Frank Brilando’s repurchases and later john Nielsen, who developed

The parts and accessories programme for Schwinn.

So they didn’t have the talent and certainly didn’t have the product to compete with what Schwinn was, had developed up through the 1970 period. And was there ready to take on the bike boom starting in 1971 now it’s during the boom that all changed as to who those foreign competitors were.

Carlton Reid 30:28
So do you think the boom is in effect given us the industry we have today in that the Trek, Specialized, Cannondale all those those those brands, they all come up roughly post boom, I mean, but have come up because of the boom. So you’ve got Sinyard Mike Sinyard Specialized, you know, he gets in the industry at the end of the bike, boom, like 74, 75. And same for Trek. So it was the boom that changed the industry?

Jay Townley 30:58
I would agree

Mike is a good example Mike Sinyard

you know you’ve heard his story he went and figured out how he could bring in foreign componentry and had this wonderful VW bus he travelled around southern and northern California selling out of his bus camping Nola and you know and other high end componentry

Trek actually got its start here right during this period but trek got it started as a retailer

trek trek did not manufacturer till oh I think after the boom but Dick Burke was partnered with bevel hog

and one other guy, French Tom French and they started a they imported bikes lug frame lightweight bikes and started a chain of bike shops that ran from Wisconsin all the way down into southern Illinois, all the way down to Urbana.

A guy that knows the history of all this is of course john Burke because his father Dick was the the architect. But also Ray keener

worked for the retail store down in Urbana and so he knows the history but yeah trek got it started in the bike business as a bike shop owner and importer. And then that evolved to just toward the money in the financial piece

came out of the bike boom but led to very shortly thereafter the bike boom led to the the bicycle manufacturing process, and the Trek name. So you’re correct. Your your analogy, or your you’re looking at the bike boom as the incubator

for what became schwinns competitors in the bike brand standing today, along

With what came after the the mountain bike you know the evolution of the mountain bike and so on but yeah Trek, specialized their origins the seeds in the beginnings were out of the bike boom

Carlton Reid 33:13
so today Schwinn still exists you know it it’s gone through multiple owners multiple bankruptcies

no longer makes in this country apart from like one bike they’ve got now made by Detroit bikes coming up being sold through Walmart but the other companies that you were mentioning that you know don’t exist I mean, I think huffy was making basketball stuff, wasn’t it and then Ross say doesn’t exist as a mainstream brand anymore. So these new upstart companies came in, how come Schwinn couldn’t just survive

through through till now, as a as a you know, in effect a Schwinn owned company what happened to the family

What happened to the brand that that that made it fall by the wayside?

Jay Townley 34:05
Well, that’s a long story.

Carlton Reid 34:07
Sorry, it is a long story. I apologise. Can you somehow condense it without going into into the various machinations around the failures at the top of the company?

Jay Townley 34:18
Yeah, I think I can. The it starts with Frank v. Schwinn third generation was the head of the company.

For the development years his father passed in 64. Frank W. Schwinn passed away from cancer in 1964.

Frank v took over the company. Now, Frank Francis Valentine Schwinn has been sure cheated by a lot of people.

Because it was Frank v that had the insight


not only guide the company forward

But he was a he was a master at making or creating a situation where rainberge Now remember, I’m saying these guys are certifiable geniuses. And I think that’s true, I can back it up. I worked for Ray and then later work for Al Fritz, who became executive vice president of the company.

Frank v. Schwinn, not only figured out how to get rate and elder work together, but he also

took a third really dynamic, smart guy, john Nielsen, who, who had brought into the company to develop parts and accessories,

which goes with the wholesale business.

And john was a very unique personality came from Denmark from a bike manufacturing family. Without going into the background, he’s very imposing man. He was almost seven foot tall


was at a really interesting personality. But f Frank, Frank v was able to get

all three of these guys to work together plus some other geniuses he had floated around the manufacturing side.

And he kept him going in the same direction in harness,

not not fighting and stalling out the company. So when Frank had is down the road when Frank had his heart attack and had to retire,

that genius for collaboration in our corporate structure just never came back again. not to that extent. I mean, I watched Frankie work for many years, and I served on the executive committee

for long enough to know what you know how he was able to make his executives work together and how he called dissent and dealt with it and he did it with a gentle hand is a very smart man.

So it starts with the generational change and the fact that that Frank v Schwinn was very much

involved in keeping the company stable and moving in a direction taking the best ideas from these guys.


simple fact is that,

at the end of the bike boom, Schwinn went through trouve. Two very traumatic periods, it survived one and didn’t survive the other.

And during the bike boom, one of the things we did was imported about a quarter of a million bikes sold under the Schwinn approved label.

We bought those bikes from national Panasonic and from Bridgestone in Japan. But because of the parts division, we were very much aware of a guy called Tony low, or named Tony, Tony lo and his wife, his first wife.

started a company called specs, which was a Taiwanese

trading house for parts and accessories.

And john Nielsen in developing the Schwinn parts and accessories programme,

immediately found Tony and he introduced Tony Lo to Alfred’s

and this was prior to King Liu coming on the scene and Tony and King getting together. So in other words, we had connections remember, we were importing from every major brand, including capital for our Paramount lines

in the world in order to produce bicycles during the bike boom. So we had our feelers out our connections out, we were we were viable. We were a big deal, because we were a big buyer.

Schwinn overbuilt during the bike boom.

the manufacturing group, rightly so said

We need more capacity, we built a third plant in Chicago to make just frames and forks or just frames primarily. And you might recall that one of schwinns great attributes and then one of the problems that it had after the bike boom is the frame it made.

It was heavy. It was heavy because it was a unique flash welding process, the only manufacturer to use it in North America.

And it required the use of a 1008 carbon steel.

So it was 18 gauge. Now what I’m planning about probably in about here is it was heavy.

Because of the process, you couldn’t you could not make a lug frame bike out of it. I suppose you could, but it would be extremely difficult.

We knew how to make lug frame bikes because we made pyramids. You know, we made top of the top of the line bicycles for the Olympic teams and for professional athletes.

additive racers, but they were hand built. They were one offs. They were built, their custom bikes were built to order.

So we know how to do it. We just didn’t know how to mass produce it.

At the end of the bike boom. And when you look at your charts

in 1975, the market dropped from 14.1 million total units important domestic. Last year, the bike boom 74, 75, the market was 7.3 million. It sheared 50%.

And it stayed down in 76,77, 78.

We didn’t need the capacity, we were running three shifts. We had over 3000 workers in Chicago, and we had three plants.

So the mindset at the time was in Frankie fought this

He basically said you guys got to get real about this but the the drivers in the the vice presidents and the guys in the company said it’s going to come back it’s going to come back. And so when the suggestion was made, let’s get rid of the plug the third plant, let’s bring free manufacturing back into the original to plant operation, etc, etc.

It was ignored. The manufacturing guys had a lot of sway. God bless them. They were fine people. But what they were advocating was no no wait, wait, it’ll come back.

Well, it never came back.

So we we did some of the right things. One was we immediately started to

a manufacturing programme to develop lug frame lightweight bicycles to lightweights.

You might remember the Le Tour line

and that was done properly. You know, to make

Good luck frame by Frank Ryan. Those people worked on this we actually had developed robotics.

We we had developed robots to do the manufacturing of blood frame bicycles and they were superb.

I saw them up front and personal they were they were great, but didn’t come in time.

And we got pushed in the late 70s because again manufacturing kept saying no, no, no

to the to the the rest of the arguments from the rest of the executive committee to downsize and get real about the market.



came within a hair’s breadth of a chapter seven.

If you know the difference in US law between bankruptcy chapter 11 and chapter seven is liquidation.

Carlton Reid 42:52
Hmm, Chapter 11. You can be rescued and you can do stuff with it. But chapter seven, you can’t be

you can’t

Jay Townley 42:59
So this was about the pushing this this was the late 70s.

We had no choice and at the at the time the management had changed. I’m leaving a lot out because a fascinating story is the one occurred in between but

is fascinating Is it is it boiled down to

the company needed to find a way to survive. We had at that time new leadership, Frank had had a heart attack was sidelined. His son Edward, his son, his nephew, Edward R, Jr. His brother Edward son, was president of the company because that’s the way the company was organised.

The Schwinn trust legally required that the President be a male heir. So, and it was young but good.

He tried some modern stuff.

We did get to the downsizing too late.

In the process the company

went from make to order to make to stock.

So in other words we produced from the plant and shipped to warehouses. We didn’t no longer made

Product to Ship the dealers that led to a whole series of other problems that replaced the problem of the of the over expansion of manufacturing. And bottom line was we were going to come back

Carlton Reid 44:31
before we kind of get on to that just go back with a bit because you you mentioned something about that’s, that’s fascinating.

It almost is the same problem that happened to Raleigh in many respects as well. And that is and you just mentioned it there is that had to be a male heir. I mean, to me, that’s just phenomenally incredible. If you’re going to run a business, then you have the best people in to run that business. But what you’ve just said there was what

In fact, any old fool could come in. So do you think I’m not saying that anybody was a fool here but do you think that was one of the reasons Schwinn failed in that it was basically had a monarchy it didn’t have it wasn’t you get the best people in it was you had to get a Schwinn person in

Jay Townley 45:21
well it to an extent that’s correct.

I’m sure

that Richard Schwinn Edwards brother who’s still in the business,

he might or might not agree. I don’t know Edwards retired now, but

I’m not sure if they would agree. But yeah, you had a Schwinn trust. That was written by very, very good lawyers at the turn of the century.

And it was still legal

in, you know, the decade of the 70s and 80s. So

from the standpoint of

have, you know that been the Genesis? Yeah, it means like a monarchy, that each of the generations he should the successive generations has got to be pretty good in some way, shape or form. And Schwinn had been really good for three generations.

In different degrees, Frank v was not an engineer, his father Fw was,

and so on. But brilliant in different ways, but but also this ability to bring in talented people and make them work together.

Rather than, you know, the the revolving door thing. So yeah, there’s a great burden, in this case type of hierarchy. I don’t know today, obviously, I’m not aware. I don’t know today, if you could still do this kind of trust. But at the time, it was still legal. And yeah, that you probably would look at that as one data point of several things that eventually led to what we have today.

Which is a Schwinn in name only.

That’s all by its owned by Dorel. It’s a division of Pacific. It’s still a good bike, but it’s manufactured again, it’s not the same company, it’s four times removed.

The, what occurred when we were faced with the chapter seven situation because of this, you know what we were, um, we were sitting on a million square feet of manufacturing, and at the time, about 1800 employees.

And the then leader of the management side was a guy named john Barker,

who is a whole story himself. He was Chief Financial Officer, became executive vice president was brought in, in the latter part of the 70s along with Bill Austin, a name who you’ll remember

But they the two of them convinced Edward over and above the objections of his his brother in law, Peter Davis who was in the company at the time, in charge of strategic planning.

He convinced him that we had to shut down domestic immediately cut the bleeding, and we had to go offshore and import our products. We had to find people to make our bikes.

I was in the room when Barker

had a meeting with the banks.

And the big bank for decades it sat on the Schwinn board for years,

was the Northern Trust in Chicago.

And I remember vividly sitting behind john as he as he leaned across the table and explained to them what he was going to do if they didn’t hold off for six months, and that was he was going to declare chapter seven and they’d be out

All the investments they’ve made.

They backed off, they gave us six months.

Then he turned to me and he said come up with a plan to do it. So without going into the detail, I was the corporate officer who shut down Chicago and moved the product.

And at the time, you will remember the Airdyne

the exercise product, I assume you do the airdyne out of Chicago The airdyne was a loss at the margin line of $50 a unit

a loss at the margin line means that you could make more and still lose money. Hmm. We took it to Taiwan along with all our bikes not all of our bikes didn’t go to Taiwan but the bulk of them did.

We We We resourced in six months, giant built a plant dedicated to just making our fitness equipment

When we started to bring air diamonds in from giant slash Taiwan into our system,

the $50 loss at the margin line

was totally reversed and it was a $50 profit

for the house. Now remember, we sold it to a sales company. This goes back to the brilliance of that plan. We sold it to a sales company for a profit, who sold it to a dealer for a profit.


going off shore and turning our whole bike line and fitness line into breakeven to profitability, then fed a system

that was just a moneymakers. The best way to say it, it was you know, we then all of a sudden flip the switch.

And we were making money on the bikes. We were bringing in good high quality Schwinn products.

imported from a giant to our wholesale distribution system, who bought them from us on the books, who sold them to authorised dealers who bought them from the wholesale houses who we owned. So, you know, it was like triple dipping to this. This is our boom, this is like getting to this.

Carlton Reid 51:21
So, let me ask you a question. Were you making money during the boom?

Jay Townley 51:28
Yes, yes, but it wasn’t as

it wasn’t as powerful. It wasn’t as much money as we made.

After we shut down the plant, because during the boom, to run three shifts with 3000 people

and make bikes on this allocation system.

We were importing

Just in huge quantities,

there was a lot of waste in other words in the manufacturing system still is profitable. The reason I know is that in the six months I was given to shut down Chicago. Part of what I did after letting go 1800 UAW employees

is I rain maintain a crew that every morning I would meet with and they would go into the plant and they collected everything we could find. And we categorised it because we had to, we had to sell it. And what we found were shipping crates, air freight shipping crates,

full of componentry from these various people that we were buying stuff from to make bikes that have never been opened.

And so, we in in hindsight,

we were as we we made order out of this, you know, chaos

that was cleaning out this, you know, sector

Anything if you’ve ever experienced cleaning out a closet, just imagine cleaning out a million square feet of manufacturing and finding all this stuff in storage.

We were able to, to our amazement, determined that, you know, they were air freighting purchasing was doing his job. It was airfreighted and stuff we needed to make bikes. But then in turn, the production control system was broken, was not automated.

It wasn’t your MRP systems up today. It was manual work. And the stuff got lost in warehouse and so you were paying all these premium prices to get stuff in, that ended up sitting on the books. And we didn’t discover all that until we really had to shut down the operation and clean things up. So

there were great inefficiencies during the boom that restricted the quality of the of the profit. There was a lot of money made but there could have been more when we got to the system that was developed after the shutdown manufacturing

It was much more transparent. And it was easier for us to if you will manage the process. And so we made more money after them than during.

Carlton Reid 54:16
Hmm. So anybody who’s been paying attention to the dates here, will realise that it was 69, 70,71. That’s where it’s ramping up.

It was gone by 74, 75. And we’ve missed out a year there. So we’ve missed that 1973. And of course, 1973 is the year that everybody assumes created the boom, and that was the oil crisis. But of course me and you know, it wasn’t the oil crisis that created the boom. So you tell me, I know this because I’ve written a book about it. But you tell me in your words, where you think the boom came from, and then why did it disappear?

Jay Townley 55:00
Well, it came from different catalysts different

things in the economy. So the original boom started in 71. And came out of a number of factors. The industry, going back into the early 60s had really gotten together on I remember he had internet and domestic manufacturers plus a bunch of wholesalers. They were all in a group called the bicycle menu. I’m sorry, the bicycle Manufacturers Association because they were part of it.

Be a bicycle Industry Association.

And each of the groups BMA, bicycle manufacturers, bicycle wholesalers, retailers, all are contributing monies into the bicycle Institute.

As a domestic bike manufacturer, those nine manufacturers were contributing a dime a bike

and that money was being

Well spent, because during the Eisenhower years, there were several things that occurred and that was promotional bikeways and bike paths. There were at least two full time bike advocates paid by the industry, Keith King Bay, and I cannot remember what the other one was out there, we were getting headlines. And as circumstances, you know, evolve, I can’t a heart attack.

And, you know, you may not remember Dwight David Eisenhower, but, of course, he was a great hero in World War Two. He was a great hero to the American people. So when he had this heart attack, it was a big deal and he had a cardiologist, Dr. White.

And Dr. White was an avid cyclist. So now all of a sudden, you’ve got Dr. White Tony Knight, who is a golfer to get on his bike. Well guess what kind of bike he got.

I mean, he got a Schwinn bike, obviously

It was the leading bike. But meanwhile, Ike gets better. And, and the country’s applauding, and Dr. White is now pictured for months, riding his bicycle to the hospital writing it and Dr. White was of advanced years them.

So it was it was kind of an Einstein effect.

It was this


MD, who had in the eyes of the public, saved our beloved president who was by Eisenhower, he was beloved

and gave him this new lifestyle. At the same time bikeways bike paths are being promoted, that the industry is getting a lot of visibility.

And there’s a lot of interest in physical fitness and health enhancement which is part and parcel

All of that along with the demographics. A whole new generation was coming a lot. We call them baby boomers today. But this is the younger lead of the baby boom generation. And so in 71, as I describe it, you remember 68 was a blip, went up to 7.5 million. Then the market went down and 69 went down and 70, 71 was the start of the bike boom.

And the market went to almost 9 million – 8.8 – was a huge increase. And that I do believe in hindsight was driven by the market factors of health enhancement enjoyment. The bicycle was getting popular among the older Baby, I’m sorry, the not older, younger, baby boomer, you’re talking 17 18, 19 year old

and you had that driving the market

as you get into the 72

73 period Now, keep in mind that

Eisenhower, you know, eventually is is termed out term limited. And we end up with a pretty chaotic situation in the in the economy that moves into the 7273 period and the oil embargo, when the industry actually hit 15.3 million. And these are all 20 inch wheels and larger By the way, all these numbers that I’m quoting, this doesn’t include it. Kids bikes because the industry didn’t count them in those days. They only call it 20 inch wheels and larger so these numbers are all 20 inch wheel The larger the 15 point 2.8 million in 1973, Carlton, it has never been achieved. Again, by the US industry. We’ve never come close

now exactly how 2020

When it comes out, we haven’t seen numbers. But you got to look at the whole year.

Up to this point 73 has never been exceeded before.

What happened in 73 was an oil embargo and lines.

cars were lined up at gas stations, gas stations put out red flags, when they were out of gas white flags when they had gas. Many states like California, it was every other day based on your licence plate. The odd numbers were you know, one day the even numbers were another day. So you had another factor in 70 and the 72 and 73 that drove this. Keep in mind also in 7273, you had wage and price control. Something that this country’s hadn’t seen since this was under Nixon,

wage and price controls simple.

Nobody could raise prices, nobody could pay more money to labour

Prices couldn’t change all the way through retail wholesale to retail manufacturing, you just could not increase the price couldn’t lower it couldn’t increase it you had to keep it frozen

and wages were frozen.

So you also had in the mix as you get into the 72, 73 period 74

bicycles today in the US you’ll see these these news articles that say bicycles or like toilet paper. Back in the 72, 73, 74 period, it was bicycles are like gas cans.

Because people are really having a problem they were going to the gas station getting a can of gas. So the bicycle became like a gas can and that’s the way the press looked at it.

mixed in with this, these these economic issues of wage and price control.

Bicycles just became, you know, not only it was an affordability issue became more viable like they are today is for transfer.

So it started out as

a demographic shift, and a response to advertising and promotion of bicycles as good for you. And a lot of fun to bicycles being an alternate and a means an alternative to the car. And something you could do to conserve gas and use if your automobile was on a gas, you could get some rubies.

Carlton Reid 1:02:32
You’ve got all these amazing factors, many of which are still applicable today. And you’ve also got the like the environmental factors, select the Earth Day factors which were coming in at that point in time as well. So you’ve got all these amazing factors and then you have the the accelerant of the the Arab Israeli oil embargo. How on earth did the bike boom fizzle out? You had all these amazing things going for the end of the industry. What

But what happened? Yeah?

Jay Townley 1:03:03
Well, if you look at the charting again 1974 at 14.1 million 20 inch wheel and larger 1975 7.3 million,

a 50% 49.9% shearing of the market.

What economists will tell you when they look at that, and the years that succeeded is saturation.

Go that’s the that’s the first thing that that you’ll look at with something that’s this large that in the boom years, from 71 to 74. We pumped the market full

with large numbers in the market. We didn’t have the population you have today. So the per thousand penetration was pretty high.

And you got to a point where several things occurred. One is saturation.

But also the pressures of

the wage and price control, the artificial restrictions on the market, the oil embargo, the fear of war, the fear of losing the the flow of oil all disappeared.

So whatever drove it in the beginning

and drove it in the middle. In the end, all those factors changed. When we got to 1975, probably aided and abetted, or maybe driven by the fact that we simply have saturated.

We just saw only bikes per thousand that people were going to buy anymore. It took a while. And if you look at the market, from 75 forward, it is a slow build.

You know, it’s an increase, but there’s nothing like we experienced in the boom. And as I said, 73 has never been repeated by the American industry and maybe

Something in the in the quarter from April, May, June. Maybe not. Again, you gotta look at it as a whole year.

I tend to think no

2020 will not exceed

the spike in 73 and 20 inch wheels and larger. It’ll be awesome, but it just is just not gonna it’s just not good. It’s no I What I’m saying is it’s not another bike boom.

Carlton Reid 1:05:27
Jay, I definitely want to pick you up on that. But right now we’re gonna go for an ad an advert break. So take it away, David.

David Bernstein 1:05:36
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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 We thank them so much for their support and we thank you for supporting Jenson USA.

OK, Carlton let’s get back to the show.

Carlton Reid 1:07:02
Thanks David and we’re still here with with with Jay Townley, Jay is absolutely the man to go to to talk about the 1970s bike boom because he was absolutely there. He was one of the architects of the boom he was seen as sitting in the boardrooms with with sales projections going off, left right and centre being exceeded and then of course the bike boom, then collapse as Jay was talking before the break. And then Jay then talked about the today’s buy boom. So that’s where I want to start off Jay. So you were saying there when I rudely cut you off was you don’t think this will be anywhere near and I kind of agree with you there because we have only got well shortly coming up one quarters figures and we need at least in effect four years of the boom to get it near because the bike boom back then was a multi year thing. But where do you Where do you see the boom fitting into the industry now because

Again, it comes to pretty much of a surprise.

Jay Townley 1:08:03
Yeah, it came as a surprise, but I guess it It shouldn’t have

in retrospect, and that’s unfortunately, what a lot of looking at the numbers is, is, is looking back. I’m the,

you know, the demand for bicycles in the unfortunately the era of COVID-19

is totally different than anything we we experienced in the 70s.

And it starts with social distancing.

And the ability of folks to get from point A to point B without getting on a means of transportation that’s got a crowded environment.

So that’s part of this in the cities, whether it’s London or New York, or Minneapolis or Chicago.

You’ve got a situation where folks

are really aware that

social distance seed means you got to maintain six foot distances. And that hasn’t changed in all the discussion. And you can’t do that on a crowded bus or a crowded subway train. So what’s the alternative? And the automobile was not an alternative for a lot of reasons. So the bicycle became an alternative, particularly if walking was was not what could be used on a frequent basis. So that’s a different piece than we’ve had in the past. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad piece, but it’s a different piece. You also had a quarantines that you know, extended into 11, 12 some of them are still going 14, 15 weeks.

People in stir crazy, particularly again in the dense pop

related areas. So getting out and walking is good. But getting on a bicycle and enjoying the front of a bike, social distancing while you’re getting some exercise, being able to do that with the family certainly became very attractive.

And the other piece that goes with what you and I have seen in our markets of new bikes being just you know, sold out.

I was talking to Brad who’s one of my partners on California yesterday, and he said that the targets and Walmart’s are still

there’s no bikes in the bike sections. I’ve seen the same thing here in the Midwest. Mike frets are other partners seeing the same thing in the Chicago area market, so it’s low to high. Bradley’s working right now at a giant store and a trek store

and enjoying the dickens out of it but he said that you know, mid to low priced and kids

bikes, there’s nothing and and then you get to the other issue of the shortage which we can discuss if you’d like as a separate, separate topic, but

this doesn’t have the makings

of a sustainable bike boom because of the components, the the drivers. And when we get to the end when we get to the light at the end of the tunnel,

the good news is beginning to mount so I think it’s going to be a better market.

If you aren’t aware of it, the US House of Representatives Transportation Committee just passed out its bill

on the five year transportation bill. The Senate did its version of this

some time ago, and the League of American Bicyclists has done an excellent overview of what the bike

World got what the advocates in the bike world got in essentially on the House side

with the leadership now in the two committees involved with Earl Blumenauer, Representative Blumenauer, who has been a great bike advocate now being a committee chair,

the bike world got just about everything that wanted to ask for, including more money. That doesn’t mean it’s gonna get it. But that’s when it got in the bill.

Surprisingly, the Senate version that came out months ago

is a very well funded generous effort to the transportation community, including just about everything the bicycling world was looking for.

How that will end up we don’t know. But what I’m saying is that the members of Congress at least in these very convoluted, disruptive times, both chambers

have looked favourably upon what it’s going to provide if it can for funding for bicycling going forward and also for the features of that funding, how it’s used.

So I take that as great news in a very sad time. So that the the government is maybe arguing about a lot of other stuff, but at least there’s agreement

in our representative side in providing more money, more services, more detail on how you use those services, what you do to improve the the whole of the cycling walking world

Carlton Reid 1:13:39
none of that was to do with COVID of it none of that was this is all

No, just come about, quite separate to that.

Jay Townley 1:13:46
Correct. So, whether it was influenced or not, it could have been, but no, it came about separately. So now you back up to the influences of the COVID 19. End

Society in the market today on top of that, and I think we’ll end up with a more viable and larger market.

A electric bike certainly will play a bigger role in the US, as they have in Europe, they haven’t yet in the US, but they will. Because the word coming back, you know, as to what consumers are saying, You got a lot of a lot of older US consumers that have not ridden bikes before, or we call them late and cyclists they have ridden in years, that are getting back on bikes, and they’re finding the electric bike is a neat way to get back into the active cycling world. and not have to be in the greatest of shape. You can work your way up to it. I mean, there’s all sorts of pluses electric bikes are fun, face it. There’s fun as a regular bike to the people that that are

not used to riding or haven’t ridden in years. So I think you’ve got multiple factors.

in society, in the demographics, and now in the the advocacy and governmental support side, that will all end up with a net gain when we come out of the the current crisis

Carlton Reid 1:15:19
just let’s just step back a bit first, and that I asked you about just your two or three word description of say the previous five to 10 years. So, it was a it was a big shock to the industry. That you know, the industry is one of the few industries that actually prosper during Coronavirus crisis. But it wasn’t surprised it was April when it hit. So as far as I can tell people were not reporting fantastic sales in January February March, April it picked up and then may it went ballistic. We know

That’s when people just start selling out of everything. And as far as we can tell, it’s been a fantastic June as well. But go go before that. So how would you describe the industry in health terms in the previous five years?

Jay Townley 1:16:15
Alright, um, in the previous five years flat

Carlton Reid 1:16:20
2019 I would say depressed.

Jay Townley 1:16:22
But yeah, it’s depressed flat. The period through 2018 going back five years was flat, no growth 2019 was down.

And that’s not that’s not been talked about a lot. But imports are down 25%

in units by 18%. In dollars. The US market was down 19 to 20%.

So what hasn’t been talked about is the devastating effect of punitive tariffs on the American bike industry and


So, what we saw after March 15

going forward, and particularly as you say, April, May, was all of this response to social distancing to getting later in April going in go I’m sure I’ve made getting into June. The reaction to the quarantines or the lockdowns

all came in 70 days,

came out of a market where

in 2019

was a bad year. It was a bad year, brought about by as I said the only factor

that impacted the market in 2019. That could have brought about these severe drops were the punitive tariffs.

I don’t know if you follow the numbers but

Import and this again goes to the simple fact that in round numbers 95 to 96% of all American bicycles in this market are imported

90% of imports came from China

from the PRC

so no matter what the mechanics are of how you deal with that, look at Yeah, there was there were low numbers from Vietnam, negligible numbers from Cambodia, Thailand, and still negligible numbers from the European community.

So, we had up we had a market that was the is dependent on import.

Domestic is 5% or less, including the domestically made e bikes, or assembled, they’re not manufactured here but

assembled. So the market

Prior to the march 18, March 15 event going through the that quarter was down prior to that it was flat

with no growth.

Sad to say. So that’s the facts.

Carlton Reid 1:19:18
Not not completed, agree. I mean, it was a depressed market and it has been for a good number of years. So this has come as a complete shock, a complete bolt out of the blue, but something that is absolutely necessary for the health of the industry because it’s had a number of years. And the perception out there is that the industry has been booming for many, many years. And the reality is very, very different. So now we actually genuinely have an actual

genuine boom.

Jay Townley 1:19:50
Yeah, it’s it’s a different boom than the 70s. But it Yes, I mean, did you look at it for what it is

It’s a genuine boom. Um, one of the factors, most interestingly to me is bicycles that have not been written for years

are being taken into bike shops from they’re being dug out of garages. They’re being taken out of basements, brought down from attics, taken into bike shops and the owners are saying, Please fix these tires make this bike work, I want to write it.

So the American consumer is not just buying new bikes from any source they can give them. But they’ve got bikes and they’re taking them into bike shops and wanting them repaired. If you quickly check with shops that you know, in the United States, I think you’ll find the bulk of them are no longer taking service work because they’re extended out so far that they just have to stop for a while and catch up.

Carlton Reid 1:20:52
Yeah, come back in September.

Jay Townley 1:20:56
Well, I I’m sure I’m sure it’s extended

I don’t know if it’s September or not. But yeah, it is a long time. I mean, again, Brad, who’s one of my partners, says one of the shops he works for is doing just that. They just are refusing

to take any more work and telling people you know, call us or email us. And we’ll let you know when our service queue opens up and we’re able to take more service but right now we can’t take service work. So clearly that the impetus we know absolutely the you know that the 70s by boom was multifactorial, came out of nowhere. This one, we absolutely know what why it’s come about it’s a it’s a virus. It’s an absolutely one factor that has led to this. But because of that, if if family, I’m saying this as an episode, it’s a bad thing. But if the economy comes back, if cars get back on the road, if we survive this crisis, of course, we all want to do that.

Carlton Reid 1:22:00
But that does that not mean that the bike industry goes back to how it was in the depressed state of 2019?

Jay Townley 1:22:10
it answered your question. That’s where I come up with the no I think it’ll be a net gain in that I agree with you 100% that cyclists that are out there now and we get to the end of the light at the end of the tunnel, and that you know, that is to me the the Coronavirus is contained. There is treatment and there’s a cure. So people be can be confident in knowing that they can they can get a vaccine.


cars get back on the road, just as they have we’ve seen this occur in China. That’s going to scare some of the cyclists that have gotten out and enjoyed the low vehicular traffic are going to get scared off the road.

They’re going to be scared

for their kids

as car traffic builds up, but and karma, but some of the communities like Seattle that have already

made it clear that Yeah, we get back to a new reset. And we’ve got society back up and operating in the economy operating again. We are we are already dedicating more road space more miles to pedestrian and non vehicular to human powered transportation. This is where this is where the pop ups are coming up so the pop up cycleways are getting put in in many cities around the world not just America but around the world. And so you think that is going to be that’s a that’s a highly positive thing because some of those may stay they may become permanent. That’s Yeah, that’s by right now looking at the the cities that have said they are permanent.

net gain.

There will be cities where they exist today as pop ups the New York as an example. I can’t see them keeping all the miles they’ve opened up. But Mayor de Blasio is going to keep some of it. He may. But if he doesn’t Seattle has lost it Angeles is making

is having discussions about keeping some of it. I think what you’ll see is a net gain across the board. And it’s a net gain in use a net gain in

the embracing of the style, the lifestyle, and the buying habit and the use habit. Now, it’s not going to be what I don’t think it’s going to be what it is today.

It’s going to be some lower number, but that will be a net gain plus the fact that much to my surprise, the Congress of the United States is currently showing support

And I sat through the LAB webinar

that Karen Whittaker, their vice president Governmental Affairs ran yesterday, explaining the House bill that just came out Monday.

That’s going to the floor. Now there’s again, there’s a lot of things that could change. It’s Washington. It’s the Congress. It’s the legislative process, but it’s the most aggressive financially. And from the standpoint of cycling and walking communities, getting what they’ve asked for, it’s the most aggressive legislation she’s ever seen. And Carol’s Karen’s been around a long time. So why

it’s more money. It’s more emphasis. It’s more logical approaches to making this work at the state level. It’s correcting errors. And this with the fact that the Senate did this surprising piece of legislation

Some months ago,

I mean, everybody was astounded that follows this at what the Senate did. And then it’s very quietly SAT.

As they say, no matter what comes out of the political picture, if these two chambers keep moving in the same direction, and we end up with a net improvement in the amounts of federal monies available and how that money is spent, that adds to the net gain theory that we’re going to see a net improvement in the bike market. Now, Carlton, you and I both know that we’ve studied this, you know how flat the market spend in the last five to 10 years. In the US.

The E bike was on the verge of changing pieces of that when the tariffs yet

and they’re not off by the way, the the E bike in the US was on the exceptions list. But now we’re in the midst of all of the the ramifications of this

Supply Chain issues,

which, again, the industry faces going forward. But when that all settles in,

you’ve got the potential here for a net gain, not a boom, but a net gain. and that in turn would contribute to a projection for the future that’s more hopeful and, and from a practical standpoint, more improvement in use of the bicycle, more bicycle riding participation, then we had prior to, you know, the pandemic.

Carlton Reid 1:27:38
So just to put this into perspective, and into into percentage terms, the 1970s bike boom, which is roughly four years, so 45 million bikes were sold over that period in time it basically doubled the market,

year on year.

Were talking to you your prediction for this year.

This bike boom is perhaps I’m going to put words into your mouth here. But we’re going to see a doubling of the market maybe for two to three months, but then it’ll settle down after that. Whereas the 70s by boom, was a year on year doubling, which, which is a hugely different factor.

Jay Townley 1:28:19
Yeah, I think essentially,

with a qualification that you know, what we’ll be, I’ll need to see some more numbers. But based on what’s occurred up to this point, I will accept what you’ve said as a good summary of, you know, what I laid out at this point. So yes, the, the short term for the bike business could be a doubling.

I tend to think it’s going to be a little less than that, but it’s going to be an uptick and improvement, statistically when we get to the end of 2020

In the 2021 going forward is going to have some growth to it so that we can work our way slowly out of this

funk of flatness that the business has been in, historically over the last decade.

Carlton Reid 1:29:18
So in in my book, Bike Boom, when I interviewed you for that you talked about or I was asking you about the cycleway, the bikeway

ethos that was growing in the US at that time. And you said that, in effect, if the US had two years more of the same kind of growth, so 50 million bike sales per year, for another couple of years, then all of that incredibly impressive, you know, hundred thousand mile of bikeways through the whole us. All of that would have then come to fruition. You’d have seen a completely different United States of America. If you’d had another couple of years.

of the bike boom going forward. So can you put that into perspective for today is is there an equivalent that we need to see a certain number of weeks months number of bikeways put in to make sure that we actually consolidate the growth that we lost in the 1970s by a boom when it just you know, halved overnight?

Jay Townley 1:30:23
Yeah, I I think that

we’re we look back at it’s a it’s it’s easy to theorise about what happened in the past. But

going forward, as I say, net gain.

I think that’s more probable at this point than not.


there are more factors, including something we have not discussed.

Some very smart folks have made it very clear that while we may have ignorant

Science during the Coronavirus. We can’t afford to do that relative to the sustainability or the climate crisis.

It’s becoming more

the climate crisis is coming back as being talked about in we see it more discussion now, relative to what it will what role it will play relative to the pandemic and the end of the pandemic.

I think that’s a factor that will play into

the net gain.

In bicycle usage, I think that metric to look at Carl in the US going forward is bicycle riding participation.

Um, it’s not bikeways and bike paths or the mileage of same.

Um, I think that again, I could be wrong, but I think what we need to focus on is bicycle riding participation.

Which last according to the National sporting goods Association, who

you can argue about whether their, their, their panels or the the methodology they’re using is absolutely the right one. I like their numbers because they got 30 years of history using the same methodology. So you got good trend lines, good solid trending.

bicycle riding participation, according to the SGA. In 2019 was up marginally. It was up like one and a 1.8%.

It was up the previous year about the same.

So you’ve had writing participation creeping up in a flat period. Then we have this decline in 2019 driven by I think by tariffs going to the tariffs, but the bottom line is market was off. 20 to 25%.

And bicycle riding participation scooched up a little bit.

That game. So that’s the metric that gives me hope that all of the economic and social factors, the the factors that that are being driven by demographics

are going to move forward and create a net gain for the bike business. I would watch that metric because I think it’s also indicative of these people. The good citizens digging bikes out of basements and getting repaired right now. Because bicycle riding participation is agnostic as to where you buy it, or you get it. It’s just that you got it. You’re riding the bike is more it’s more butts on bikes.

And I think that is the number we should be looking at. And it also by the way, includes rideshare.

It doesn’t care if you own it, just rode it. So all

That’s the number and I think we’re going to see all these factors marginally increasing, not just because of the factors coming out of the Coronavirus, ie social distancing concern about writing in cheek to jowl with mass transportation.

But you’ve got a younger generation of Americans in particular, who are absolutely dedicated

to seeing this the climate crisis met and defeated

and they’re becoming a political voice as well in this country.

So, they are folks that will be able to vote with pocketbooks.

I hate to say this, but but they also if you look carefully are a large percentage of who are participating in the protests.

There’s a change there’s a change in the demographics of this country that we’ve been told to pay attention to and

Those demographics are, I believe, going to help with the net gain. And I’m sorry for this long convoluted explanation, but I think they’re going to contribute to this next gain net gain in bicycling and bicycle use human transportation use. And I think the metric we look at is but his bicycle riding participation. And in a bad year in 2019, it was up 1.8%

Which to me says, Yeah, it’s there. Now Coronavirus, all of the issues of this very sad and disruptive series of events. But I think the metric who watch at the end of 20 2020 as we get to 2021 is what’s bicycle riding participation during the year. How does it How does it look relative to the trend, the 30 year trend that you could you could use the nsca data for so.

Carlton Reid 1:35:59
We’ve been around a long time, Jay, you, you definitely longer than me. But we both probably weren’t I we definitely weren’t expecting this to happen. So we were both incredibly astounded and and gratified that it has. So to round out today’s conversation ID and to fill people in really on where you’ve got all this fascinating information from because we heard about your your shooting background and your bike shop background. But tell us to end the display show about what the company that you run today are you have been running for a number of years. So you’re I described it in in my book as a data freak. So you’re providing statistics to the industry. So tell us about that and where people can find out the information. So give us your website address.

Jay Townley 1:36:50
Okay, well, today, I am a partner in Human Powered Solutions.

and my official

working title is Resident Futurist.

But my, my, I like that, yeah, my responsibility is data and stats.

And to use that employ that to the extent I can to really have the conversation we just had to to look at what does the future look like?

Unknown Speaker 1:37:20
Our website is

Jay Townley 1:37:28
And we are at this point in the midst of working on and promoting a consumer survey, a primary consumer survey, a syndicated survey product

where we’re working with the industry to get subscribers to a multi wave survey that will go out at minimum three times in the next 12 months to survey a big enough bloc of consumers

That we’ve got a 2% accuracy, or reliability in the survey work. And what we’re trying to define are really asking consumers,

you know, have they bought a bike? How do they use it? Where do they get it? Is it used, you know all the questions of how they acquired it? And then what’s their intention going forward? And then react that in about six months?

And then react them in 12 months?

Carlton Reid 1:38:29
And you answer that that’d be fascinating at any anytime. But now it’s going to be doubly doubly fascinating because we’ve got this huge influx of new people in and it’ll be fascinating to see how many of the people that you you managed to grab who are brand new, and how many will still got in six months time that’ll be incredibly useful to know.

Jay Townley 1:38:52
Exactly. And that’s the reason we’re doing it is. These are unprecedented times.

As long as I’ve lived in ever seen anything

thing like this.

As long as you’ve lived, you’ve never seen anything like this. The bike industry, the bike world has seen nothing like this. And we as folks that like stats and data, we’re used to looking at the past. And what we’d like to do is talk to consumers about not just the immediate past, but intention for the future.

But measure that and compare it over six month timeframes through the first half of 2021. And for exactly the reasons, Carlton, that, you know, you perceive that this is this is the only way we’re going to get a real handle on a lot of the dynamics that are occurring, including the difference between, you know, the economy, in the economy and the economic influence of factors, the environmental factors, the age factors of the demographic drives in the United States, and how

planners in our business can really begin to think about what the consumer is intending to do and react to consumer intention.

Carlton Reid 1:40:11
today that has been absolutely fascinating. Thank you. This is gonna be a longer than normal normal show, but then again, we’ve discussed the 1970s we’ve discussed Coronavirus coming up to date now and and I just love that quote before were you saying you’ve never seen anything in your lifetime, like this? And that’s that’s saying something because you were right there at the epicentre of the 1970s bike. Boom. So, Jay, thank you ever so much for being on today’s show.

Jay Townley 1:40:37
You’re more than welcome.

Carlton Reid 1:40:39
Thanks to Jay Townley there and this has been another longer lockdown special of the spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association with Jenson USA. As always show notes and more can be found at Thank you for listening to today’s

Show. The episode I promised with Chris Boardman, Superintenddnt Andy Cox and Professor Rachel Aldred — minus Chris Boardman — will be along just as soon as I figure out a way to engineer it.

Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

May 31, 2020 / / Blog

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Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 245: In Conversation With Callum Skinner

Sunday 31st May 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Olympian Callum Skinner


Callum’s Wikipedia entry.

Hindsight Kickstarter.

Five Rings coffee.

Podcrash podcast.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 245 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on May 31 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 Jenson Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and I’ve got an admission to make — the show I promised last time has hit a few problems. Basically, Chris Boardman’s audio went up in smoke and so I’m going to create a show around the audio that was saved from that groupchgat, and that was with Superintendent Andy Cox and Professor Rachel Aldred (in fact, Rachel was a mere doctor when we recorded the session so congrats to her for the upgrade). Meanwhile, here’s a conversation with Callum Skinner, the Olympic track cyclist who won silver in the individual sprint at the 2016 Summer Olympics and gold in the team sprint. So did you kind of do time trialling before you got on to the track what how did you get into cycling

Callum Skinner 1:59
Very fast. Now I had a pretty much immediate dislike for indurance events and I kind of immediate affinity for for sprint events. I’ve always loved speeds.

And when I was too young to have a car or motorbike licence or anything like that, it was a great way to get a kick. For anyone who’s not been on the velodrome. It’s 48 degree banking. You know, nowadays we can hit speeds up to, you know, almost 90 kilometres an hour behind the motorbike. And you get a couple of G when you go down those corners, and for a bit of an adrenaline junkie, a bit of a speed freak. That’s what really appealed to me. But my story of getting involved is quite simple. Just kind of my family moved around quite a lot when I was younger, moved to Edinburgh, went down to Meadowbank velodrome which has no demolished and just give it a go and find a wonderful kind of thriving community for people that had infectious enthusiasm. And I picked that up pretty quickly was one of the impetus behind this

Carlton Reid 3:00
Assuming one of the vertices must have been, sir Chris Hoy.

Callum Skinner 3:06
Yeah, I mean as a as a sculpt during that time, it was one of the few sports that were actually good at.

I think it was that an elephant Polo. But yeah, I have this memory of Chris Hoy Commonwealth Games with a saltire Capstone, I think it’s a chain word or something like that.

And had this kind of immediate kind of interest in the in the venue itself. It’s kind of captivating. It looks a bit like a wall, kind of wall of death in a circus, and then also kind of had that immediate understanding that this was something that that Scotland was good at. And maybe I could find success in it too.

Carlton Reid 3:42
And if if Wikipedia is correct, and if my arithmetic is correct, you were 12 when Chris Hoy got that, that very famous, well, a number of famous Olympic goals, but in

Callum Skinner 4:00
In Athens, so in 2004, so that you’d have been 12 Yeah, no, I think that’s about the time McKenna really got interested in cycling. You know, it was it was kind of a choice between that or Luckily,

it kind of got to the Edinburgh Academy level for rugby. But cycling was just something that, you know, I really enjoyed. I think, you know, there’s a few other elements that bleed into it. I was, I was asthmatic. So, while still am and splinting kind of vaguely suits me down to the groans, because you can, you know, I was notorious for forgetting my inhaler. And my mom was always telling me off and you could do your effort Flatow for about, you know, 10 seconds, maybe 20, be out of breath, gasping for air, and then you have a half an hour to the cover where you can chat to your mates and then go up and do it again. You know, whereas in Julian’s in team sports, it’s kind of a continual slog against your, against your kind of chronic illness, I guess. So that was another kind of factor that could have not to me towards it.

Carlton Reid 4:59
But you

I mean, you’re saying sprinting there but then I look at your power metres and look at your, your sporting achievement again on Wikipedia. And you’ve got kilos there. So they’re not sprint there. They’re 1000 metres. So

Callum Skinner 5:13
yeah, the the kilos event that I absolutely love because it’s it’s right at the limit of what splinters can do. Like if it was a if it was a killer and an extra half lap, you wouldn’t do we get spent preventing it.

And, you know, it’s not the limit of what insurance agents can do. You know, we kind of poke fun at them when they attempt to do a flat out effort and their power is still about a third of of anything that we can produce. And you know, they can’t get that effort out in that short period of time. So it’s a very, it’s a very interesting event. It looks quite simple on the front on the face of it, but it’s kind of open to all disciplines. And I can love it. It’s just a kind of maxo, you know, balls to the wall, full on effort and you can end up

In a whole world of pain at the end of it you know i’d say in that in that last lap it’s not unusual for athletes to end up you know vomiting or passing out or if you’re that altitude ending up an oxygen and so it was it used to be a kind of one effort hit Oh, but the UCI is recently made it too so it makes it even more challenging.

But it’s Yeah, it’s an event absolutely love and I’d love to see you back in the Olympics. One day I was also scotch scratch champion 20 metre scratch champion Sr. A while ago but that’s that’s the that’s the limited nature of mind Germans results.

Carlton Reid 6:37
Now, isn’t it a good way of thinking about like that so the kilo was like a basically endurance event for sprinters.

Callum Skinner 6:43
Yes, you definitely wouldn’t see any of the man ones we call them in the team sprint, their distance is 250 metres. So essentially, you’re kind of

indoor athletics learners kind of splinters kind of distance like they just they wouldn’t even survive to

upsets it takes a special kind of sprinter to be able to go flat out for a bit of colour here for you. Callum in that when the when it was taken out of the Olympics when the UCI basically volunteered to take it out to the Olympics, I actually went to the UCI with a big petition that I managed to get together. And the UCI at the time was saying it was the Olympics were told us that to do it. And I went to the Olympics in Lausanne as well. And they said no, no, it was the UCI who did it and basically confronted, confronted them there. So that was no idea what yeah, that was but that you know, Chris Hoy Yeah, at that time, of course, that was his signature event. And it was a thing to read. For me it was a blue rebound event for everybody and then for not to see it in the Olympics when it’s absolutely it’s track. cycling’s you know, premier event, isn’t it? So it’s a it’s such a shame. It’s no longer than the Olympics. Yeah, I think I think and Chris Hoy is

personal story it was probably the making of him like he always had that ability to be world class well being and in those other events and it was only when the killer was taken out. I guess he was forced to try and make it in the other ones and he obviously did it to great success. But,

you know, the world of sports politics is is something that I’ve kind of started to get more involved in and I’ve not found someone yet has been able to explain to me how it works. It’s a it’s a complete mystery. Yeah, okay. Well, we’ll leave that behind. We’ll go fast forward to your lovely metal. So Rio 2016. Team sprint, were you were your favourites? Your Brits, your cyclists? You’ve got to be the favourites is that you know, was that then what was happening at the time? You you just you everybody expected? Of course. You’re gonna win. No, we weren’t the favourites. I think William Hill put us at like 22 to one.

And I think the Kiwis were on

three to one or something like that. But we finished in sixth place at the World Championships a few months before. And and you know, for a British team, especially a team splint that that result is devastating. And so, you know, from the face of it, we were we were a country mile away from being, you know, even medal competitive and Olympic Games.

We expect that we kind of expect to get the Olympics and but people almost don’t care what you do, you know, at the World Championships because they know they assume because we’ve been told this is that, you know, they’re irrelevant. It’s the Olympics that that counts. I mean, I mean, to an extent, but I think I think even with our team, people started to kind of lose, lose faith in it. We were the kind of first team to medal over that bush team at the Olympic Games, and most of the athletes were pretty blunt about it saying, Well, if those guys can do it, then we certainly can.

And it was the same with the journalists.

The pre Olympic camp, you know, most of them came to the team sprint press interview, and with very few questions prepared because it just wasn’t going to be something that was of interest because they didn’t think they were meant. We were medal contenders. There was questions like, so are you looking forward to visiting real then or something like that? You know, as from our point of view, we we felt like kind of late offseason but maybe that kind of captivated us to the upper game when the time came. So that helped, then you say all of a sudden, you’re underdogs again.

I mean, I’d like to say it helps, but I don’t want to encourage people to, to lay off teams like that again. But the pressure was absolutely monumental.

You know, I was I was trying to fill this boy shoes and that was a that was a tagline I’ve been given since the ages of about 13 by the end of the first and the Scottish first than the British birth. And what’s more, I was trying to do a performance that was equal to curse but also one that would stand up

To the mantle of my two teammates, who are both any Olympic champions Jason Kenney and Philippines. And you know, although it’s a team event is quite easy to identify the weak link in the team, and it was nine times out of 10 me as a member of the member looking through the timesheet, and it gives you an update of where each team places based on when each leader finishes the effort. So it’d be like the first lap would be in first place. Philip Haynes gets us off to a world record setting pace. Jason Kenney takes over we’d be in second place or first place, Callum is going to take over his lap was the 10th quickest of the competition and overload that adds up to sixth place. And so the pressure was was huge and you talk about that that culture and that expectation of the team. You know, every single athlete the British cycling has fielded to an Olympic games since 2008. Bar one has come away with a metal of some colour and that’s that’s kind of All Blacks Manchester, United kind of territory for

For hit rate success rate, maybe even above when he just isolated two Olympic medals, so the pressure was huge.

Carlton Reid 12:08
Hmm. So let’s go on to that that all British final then you mentioned Jason Kenney there who are now racing against. Yeah. Now clearly, obviously, you know, Kenny, Jason, very, very well.

So what were you thinking on the start line? If you were thinking, yeah, had you written yourself off already? From what you just told me there, you know, you you, you obviously know the time gaps that you’re going to have. Had you do you think well, I can actually beat Jason?

Callum Skinner 12:38
Well, the good news is that a new suddenly phoned forum better than sixth place when it came to the team sprint and the Olympics because you know, we’ve we’ve set an Olympic record and and kind of got that gold medal and then the the individual splint you’re correct, followed, followed after that, and it was a British British fighter with Jace, and we actually had some fun with it.

Which sounds a bit weird at Olympic final but to be honest, I my sole and only focus was a team event and then by the time we got to the individual split and you know anything else was a bonus. But I’d actually come through the competition a lot stronger than than Jason Jason had had to take one of his eyes the best of fee because we take it to best to free once it gets to the quarters. So I kind of felt like the momentum was was was in my court. And where where it’s where it differs compared to normal competition is the spins held over three days. So we had to actually spend the night together before the Olympic final. And because we were roommates in the village

and that’s where we started to have some fun. So we treated himself to the village we treated him to the village McDonald’s and tried to play a bit of him for Yes, well, no, I had it too. So we thought it’s equal this is advantage.

And then I remember we were we were going to sleep the night before the Olympic final as a twin bedroom and we were we were next to each other

turned off the lights and went, Oh, good night Jason. And then I got myself prepared with this Death Stare looking straight out and then about, you know, 30 seconds later turned on the light again and went Sleep well.

But I mean, like we’re good mates like off the track and then when you know for me anyway, when that helmet comes on, that’s when it’s game time and you do literally anything you can to beat your opponent. Hmm. Was it easier or harder to be in a fight?

It’s always harder they sing a teammate, in my opinion, I think I think you have the benefit of the unknown when you’re releasing a fallen leader. You can you can quite easily compartmentalise what they might be good at. But when it becomes when when you’re facing a blitz, almost like too much information becomes becomes a bad thing.

So for instance, if you’re if you’re facing a foreigner you might think okay, his positions this and the team, he’s probably good at this. He’s probably good at that. And you

Try and make the same assumptions about a bit, but then you’ll start thinking of moments when they prove you wrong. And you’ll think, you know, is he is he a long sprinter? Or is he a short sprinter as he got the power as you know, as he got his head gonna fall off? Is it not? And you end up with too much information and you start questioning your strategy. And, you know, we’ve joked sometimes that like British Nationals can be harder than pretty much any other lease that we do, because it’s that issue, you know, too much information can be a bit of a hindrance in that instance. And one of the coaches say to you, how do they How do they handle, you know, an elaborately fine or what are they one of the coaches, and they just leave it to you just like, right, it’s up to you. Now, it’s, we can’t tell you anything, it’s our teammate. Well, that’s that’s the other kind of disadvantage and kind of bone of contention because they, they don’t give you anything. And they basically just kind of take you to the line and give you generic encouragement, like, come on. And in an event as tactical as the as the spin, like you kind of need a little bit more than that.

And even at the sidelines, they won’t be shouting cues. They won’t be shouting if if your opponent’s kind of exploiting you at some points, which we rely on quite heavily. And, and I guess that’s where, like, I didn’t feel it at the time, but on the flexion probably felt a little bit of a disadvantage, because, you know, Jason’s already been to two Olympic Games and picked up numerous Olympic medals.

And, you know, for the first time of my career, I was one of the first time but for one of the few occasions in my career was lacing with with new team support, basically, coaching support.

But it was an interesting dynamic, and it was a challenge I was happy to take on. I’ve not got any qualms about it. But it’s an interesting question, just to see how that all how that all pans out. I know a lot of people may be thinking that from the stands or from the TV. Mm

Carlton Reid 16:46
hmm. It’s not one of the team actually, psychologically. But otherwise, obviously, he just said the coaches are gonna walk away, aren’t they?

Callum Skinner 16:56
Yeah, and I think that’s probably the best, the best situation you know, I think

from their point of view, they have to kind of detach themselves a little bit from any kind of favourites they may have. And, you know, if they, you know, suggested or what is sometimes been called, like a disrespectful tactic, like going from the gun or trying to do a kid ology, and that ended up changing the result, then, you know, maybe it’s the, it’s for the best that they kind of keep their mouth shut and leave it to the leaders. I mean, they’ve done a lot of work up until that point. So you should be you should be well, fate Well, you know, in a good position to deal with it, but I’m not against the leader of the calibre of Jason Kenney. And they must be pretty made up anyway because they know you’re going to get guaranteed two medals here. So they’re, they’re kind of happy they’re almost who cares who wins? Yeah, I mean, their boxes ticked basically, you know, UK sport funds on medals, and they’ve, they’ve got to suffer the you know, and so they’re pretty satisfied. But you know, I’m sure I’m sure they don’t they probably have their their

suffered winners, which I which I’d love to know, but they’re far too professional at their jobs to say.

Carlton Reid 18:08
So you’ve got a gold.

You’ve got to feel about what’s what’s that? Tell the layman what it’s like, the lay person? what’s the what’s it like to at the time when when I met and now what’s it like now having that metal but did you die now and for the rest of your life? what’s the what’s, how does it change your life?

Callum Skinner 18:28
Now at the beginning, it’s it’s totally surreal and it’s almost like a mindset that I don’t know, I really struggled to describe and one that I don’t think I’ll ever kind of find again.

I think, you know, and without being insensitive, I think it’s probably a little bit like kind of having a man an episode of mania, an episode of kind of that manic phase where you feel invincible.

You know, any issue that gets chucked you away, you kind of shrug it off and go

I don’t care about Olympic champion because it’s been your sole like purpose for the last 10 years you know everything you’ve been doing from like diet to sleep to sacrificing social life like every part of your life has been consumed by this one project and you’ve got it

and what’s more of the way we did it, you know, to be underdogs, to beat the odds on favourites the key ways to do it with my best mates dealing with a pressure like you really feel untouchable.

And and that’s quite a nice feeling for a little while and and then I guess it kind of starts to disappear slowly you know, you come home and you realise you’ve still got bills to pay Olympic medals don’t pay them

when not directly anyway. And

and you realise that you know on the whole not not a great deal like fundamentally changes you know people listen to your opinion more people are a little bit more interested in can Highland use for corporate

events and sponsorships and stuff like that. But the fundamentals stay the same. And I think there’s a little bit I think a lot of Olympians face this where there’s a little bit of a kind of Saviour syndrome when it comes to an Olympic medal. It’s kind of like whatever issues that I’ve got going on in my life, it will be solved when I have that Olympic gold medal or Olympic medal. And that’s, that’s just not reality.

So, you know, so then you start to sink a little bit and, and for me, it ended up in a bit of a,

you know, in a clinical sense ended up being kind of depression with with anxiety as well, which kind of went on treated for a little while and then kind of ended up in my retirement. Now, I don’t want to kind of

dampen the sheen on that on that goal that still is, you know, as bright to me as it ever has been.

But I think I think there needs to be a little bit more preparation for success as well as failure. I think as athletes. We’re very

Preparing for possible failures but not so much. prepare them for success. Maybe that’s an ego thing. Maybe that’s a superstitious thing.

But yeah, absolutely love those kind of few weeks afterwards, you’re just partying constantly enjoying the experience feeling invincible, but it doesn’t last forever. Can the issues you had? Do you have had them any way? Or was it potentially something about cycling, potentially something about British cycling, potentially something about sport that maybe brought that out?

I think it’s I think it’s a mixture of all kind of theory and in a way, I think, you know, say for instance, if I go on and just want a silver

you know, I probably would have carried on and that Olympic distraction would take to win an Olympic gold that that drive would still be there, because that was my ultimate goal. But I think what that huge distraction did was massive.

A lot of the other things that were kind of unresolved in my life, I guess. And, you know, British cycling made a little bit more difficult than they could have when it was kind of trying to seek help just from one individual them, you know, still think really highly of the, of the system and the team. But it’s the way I was treated by by that one individual wasn’t wasn’t late. And yeah, and and led to some pretty substandard situations, I guess.

But no, I’d say it’s almost a bit like a kind of mourning process. I guess you have this 10 year focus, and in a way that that leaves you and that’s been the means in which you can sideline everything else that’s going on because you’re focused on this one. This one purpose, this one goal, winning Olympic gold, and then when you lose that you almost feel a little bit empty, I guess.

You kind of think well, what next go deal

And another one and what does that mean?

You know what? It’s difficult to come up with, with a kind of follow up purpose when you’ve been so focused on having all your eggs in one basket, I guess is what I’m trying to say. But thankfully, you kind of found some really amazing support and started on the road to recovery.

Carlton Reid 23:21
Do you think I mean this, the preconception here, but you can tell us if it’s true or not. The preconception is that cycling in mental health terms is normally ahead of the game. So you know, we obviously had the, you know, the aggregation of marginal gains on the performance side, but then you had, you know, psychologists,

one in particular, working with the team, and that that cemented in the public’s mind that, you know, cycling’s way of treating mental health and how to perform and how to

get over, you know, mental blocks and stuff is pretty good. Do you think so?

Callum Skinner 24:00
Cycling is still ahead of the curve always that is that, like, preconceptions not actually true. I think I presume the guy you’re referring to is Dr. Steve Peters. And when he was in, yeah, when when he was in the system, cycling was by far and away, like ahead of the curve. And, you know, he was the guy who kind of helped me

on my way to the cover the, you know, a lot, I have a great deal of admiration for them, and a lot of gratitude for the for the work that he’s done and my family too. But they were ahead of the curve in the sense that Steve wasn’t just a sports psychologist. In terms of sports, psychology, British cycling, and a lot of other systems are still bang on the money, there’s still going to be there to make sure that athletes can perform as best they can know where that lacks a little bit. And where Steve used to pick up the slack was if you had any other kind of mental issues, mental health issues or lifestyle issues or anything like

That, because I find myself a little bit kind of trapped when I was initially going through my diagnosis and treatment. And I found myself kind of trapped between sports psychology and general psychology, sports psychology was was helpful in terms of a few strategies to help me perform better but weren’t very good on the lifestyle fun. And then when I went for a general psychology, it was

it was kind of helpful from a lifestyle point of view, but then actually fully understands what the life of an athlete actually is. And when you break it down, it’s it can be quite unusual to compare to what a lot of people tend to experience. So one of the suggestions they make would be like, Oh, well, why can’t you just take, you know, leave for a couple months on sick? And I was like, Well, you know, we’re not employees. You know, I’d lose my place in the team. And what’s more, when I did when I would come back, I’d be, you know, maybe six months ahead of my team, behind my teammates. So the practicality

Have that was really tricky and that’s that’s why I ended up landing on Steve as someone who could help me because he understood how my mind works from a sports psychology point of view. And that was a really well trained, and but it was a total mess when I tried to apply that same psychology to lifestyle issues that were going on alongside and that’s where you bridge the gap to use that skill set of being a forensic psycho psychiatrist.

As a general psychiatrist, you know, he’s also been like a doctor and a whole bunch of other stuff as well, but he’s one of the most educated men I’ve ever met in my life but he was amazing at bridging the gap he understood the unique challenges that that athletes face. And also he had the perfect toolkit in which to help me get better which had been established in sport from from years before.

Carlton Reid 26:50
So another preconception that that people have got about cycling I know you are involved in in this in some way and that’s that’s that’s doping and anti doping.

So you’re involved in the anti doping side, I had to correct myself maybe five.

So you can go to the anti doping side. But the preconception from from people is that Cycling is a sport intimately for very well known reasons intimately connected with,

with doping. So do you think we’ll ever get the mainstream world to believe that Cycling is a clean sport?

Callum Skinner 27:31
I tell you, when when I first began as a cyclist, you know, especially given the history of cycling, you know, it was really steadfast and saying, like, you know, that’s, that’s not going to be me. And, you know, whatever I’m going to do, I’m going to do it by the book. And basically, if I can do anything to try and improve cycling lactation, then then that’s a good day.

But guess where it starts to get a little bit better

heartening as sometimes, if you’re on the British cycling team, especially with some of the recent stories that have come out, you can start to become almost a little bit guilty by association. So we’ve seen the controversies that have come along from, you know, Chris Froome Lizzie Armstead, no Dana and Dr. Richard Freeman, one of the explorers have gotten which one off the top of my head and and then you know, all of a sudden I’m sitting down watching

Have I got news for you and they make a they make a jibe about how all all the British cyclists are doping and, and stuff like that makes me quite upset to be honest. I think, you know, I pride myself on on my integrity and and wanting to do better by the sport as much as I can. But I wouldn’t see where we’re anywhere near kind of a new either of cycling from a public perception point of view. I think there’s a lot of things that have been done really well. But the main reason why I decided to get into the anti doping

Kind of campaigner world was the, my medical records were, were hacked by a Russian state sponsored hacking group called fancy bears, after the 2016 Olympic Games and the the published two TVs that I had, which were both for asthma medication. And, you know, my response was to publish my NHS medical records from when I was younger, showing that both these medications have been described then as a legitimate form of treatment by by an organisation that has no interest at all in, in performance enhancement.

But that’s kind of that was the catalyst I guess, you know, I was getting a little bit fed up of people always noting cyclists or people doting, the anti doping system, and whether that’s letting down clean athletes like myself by leaking information

or by the anti doping authorities failing to go after

orphan drug treats. It was a whole mixture of things. But you know, I just feel like it’s something I always the sport, it’s something that needs to be better. And if there’s a kid that can come through, after me who isn’t guilty by association or isn’t tarred with the same brush, then we’re going to be in a much better place.

Carlton Reid 30:16
Hmm. That you’re retired. Now, which which you’ve you’ve touched on it, you’ve got your own podcast. Yes. So your own microphone set up there, which is great. So you’ve got pod crash, which is you, you and Phil, your your former teammates.

You bring on guests and you talk to them. And then I noticed one of your recent guests was

with somebody who’s doing a PhD on how athletes cope with retirement. So how are you coping? And I’m not talking about COVID-19 here and you know, how you’re coping

with with what we’re all going through, but how you just coping with with retirement in general ignored.


Callum Skinner 31:02
Well, it’s good. You added in that caveat, because since COVID-19, everything’s dropped off a cliff. But

what I will say is, it’s been really exciting, I’d say. I’d say British cycling when I was younger did an excellent job of finding a really driven, motivated kids who just had too much on. And one of the first things he did when they brought me down to Manchester was get me in nailed in on that single focus, which is winning Olympic gold. But since the time and what I’ve managed to do is kind of broaden that out a bit more and kind of start saying yes to opportunities whenever the allies and it’s led. This led to some absolutely amazing experiences, like you know, I’ve delivered a speech at the White House on anti doping.

You know, I’ve been part of a nationwide campaign for sports direct in terms of managing it from behind the scenes.

You know, doing I’ve got two new upstarts online

Go one’s called Five Rings coffee and one’s called Hindsight vision. And so, you know, I’m basically kind of just casting that net wage from being, you know, an entrepreneur to communications to marketing to anything and I find it so gratifying to,

to have that that variety, you know, the life of a sprinter is fairly,

you know, very, it’s really quite simple. You’re kind of based in Manchester a lot of the year you maybe have, you know, five, six releases a year, something like that, and and it can seem quite monotonous. So to bring back that variety and bring back that kind of teenage, scattered but driven approach is really interesting. And I guess the next step for me is to try and narrow that down and find that find that next Olympics, I guess, but it’s, it’s been an incredibly exciting and gratifying time, especially when you find an employer or a contractor who who sees the value that you can bring to that organisation through your athletic experience.

So you mentioned next Olympics there, but that was like an Olympics kind of goal. I’m assuming that you’re talking about Yeah.

Carlton Reid 33:06
Yeah, the next Olympics genuinely an excellent big and this is this can now segue back into COVID-19

is cancelled in effects or delayed by a year. So people like Phil, other I’m sure you’re you’re in touch with other

athletes not just even cycling athletes, their their life is turned upside down now because that their goal of going to Tokyo is now well pretty much evaporated. So how do you think people that you know, how do you think they’re coping?

Callum Skinner 33:44
I think it’s I think it’s varied across the spectrum. And I really feel for for all the athletes out there, because, you know, we’re starting to see quite a few concerns being raised from a whole range of spectrums, you know, we’re looking

It can have physical health because these guys are still pushing themselves as hard and training but don’t have any kind of physiotherapy or medical support and mental health. Because you know, most these guys are used to being part of a team and they’ve lost that, that data in the summer, which was going to be the highlight of their career. So it’s, it’s a really challenging time for a lot of these athletes. And then we still have the uncertainty that the organising committee have said that the Olympics won’t be postponed again, which is basically codeword for, you know, if we do have to, if we do have to stop it, because of COVID-19, it’s likely to be cancelled. And so it’s, it’s a tough time. And, you know, I’m not saying that, you know, pro athletes because I appreciate that. A lot of people are suffering from the COVID-19 situation, you know, far worse than than they ever could be. But what I am saying is just to appreciate, you know, the level of stress a lot of these athletes have under and extending an event like the Olympics by a year.

You know, maybe

might seem like something that most athletes can take on the chin, but it’s especially for the more niche disciplines the more niche sports it’s, it’s going to be a big struggle to keep on pushing. Because as we were talking about before you kind of you prepare for an event and and and if you’re not literally on a four year cycle in advance think it’s goals eat Yeah. Yeah and I think it’s something that maybe there’s a little bit of misunderstanding with the public because I remember when I was getting ready for real, you know, maybe a few months out or something like that people will have said, you know, oh, you must be training really hard No, then because the Olympics is just around the corner. And, you know, politely I’m kind of saying no, this has been like a 10 year project. This has been you know, 10 years of like blood sweat and tears for what’s essentially going to end up being a 44 seconds on the track 44 second effort on the track.

So, you know, the the level of dedication and focus doesn’t, you know, doesn’t ebb and flow

As much as people think just because the Olympics is coming along it’s for a lot of people that can be a

life a life goal.

Carlton Reid 36:09
Talk about other life goals or other life skills.

How big a part does cycling play in your life? So I’m not talking about going faster. ran around in a circle I’m talking about do you use cycling for everyday transport?

Callum Skinner 36:26
Yeah, no, of course I do. And I think that’s been one of the real positive elements of of my recovery, I think, you know, obviously the Olympics I was put up you know, in love with the sport of cycling and before that as well, and then it kind of started to fall over over cycling. And luckily kind of through my kind of rehab of a phone that kind of childhood love again, and and you know, I’ve got a really kind of beat up old pop bike, I call it which I just go and pop it in the neighbourhood on. I’ve started crashing a bit more, which is unfortunate. And, you know, I’d say

In the last kind of 10 years I’ve had three crashes but in the last nine months I’ve had two of those the so I think that’s maybe just a symptom of the time and you start to over anticipate you know how good you were.

Carlton Reid 37:13
But no I still I still love it a bit of a giveaway there you like coming back from the pub and crashing when are you? No no, no, no, no.

Callum Skinner 37:23
No when I’ve crashed have been fooled like that up and expecting to do a couple of hours on the road. All right, okay. Yeah, there’s been no there’s been no drinking and cycling on my watch.

Carlton Reid 37:34
As a good anti dope should be if you should just like your body should be a temple, shouldn’t it?

Callum Skinner 37:39
Yeah, and I love I love the freedom of it. And that’s something I found again, you know, it’s you know, beforehand, British cycling can measure you know, 20 different metrics that will measure specific things 1000 times a second. So there’s no hiding at all. But you know, quite often I find myself going out without a psycho computer without any kind of good idea about how

longer want to be in a boat for what direction or want to go in? It’s just freedom. And that’s that’s that’s to me is kind of what Cycling is all about. It’s about getting out there and exploring and having that headspace and I’m just so fortunate that I found it again.

Carlton Reid 38:16
And you mentioned hindsight, a few minutes ago and I actually got an email about this

this morning, so I’m clearly on your mailing list.

So So tell us what hindsight is and how you you got in touch with with physicist Alex MacDonald.

Callum Skinner 38:36
Yeah, so me and Alex were were friends at school, and then we we lost touch and then we kind of found our paths crossing again. You know, he came up with this concept of, which I think is a fantastic idea, which is a pair of sunglasses which have semi transparent angled lenses at the sides. And that basically allows you to extend your periphery to what’s going on. Hi


and if you really focus you can leave stuff like number plates of people that are coming up behind you or more importantly, if the driver is on their phone, or whether you can make that all important eye contact to make sure that they’ve seen you. And as a as a cyclist that’s had the odd tussle with traffic in the past. It just seems like this was an instance where information was going to be power. And so I’m more than happy to, to kind of lend my name to and be part of the project is going to be really exciting and I hope it makes a big change to a lot of cyclists out there. Whether you’re commuting, competitive, or hobbyist, you know, whatever I think I think having that extra awareness is going to be key and the best bit is it doesn’t it doesn’t look like a safety feature. You know, a lot of cyclists are quite can be quite snobby about high vis vests and putting mirrors on the handlebars. And what we’ve got is a really simple product which, which hopefully makes you safe out in the woods

Carlton Reid 39:57
and it’s quite an analogue product in that you

There are products out there, there’s an Israeli pair of sunglasses with basically a camera in. And that relates to, like, you know, a head up display. And when I when this person is came through I’m looking for where’s the where’s the batteries where I can’t see the camera where it’s like, hang on, no, it’s it’s genuinely

in in integral to the product it’s not no camera involved here it’s literally smoke and mirrors in that it’s a smoke with a kind of a

Callum Skinner 40:30
sort of mirrors and it’s just it’s just the surface is reflective. Yes, slightly slightly reflective so it doesn’t impede your forward vision but um, you know, I just see like, sometimes the simplest solutions are the best and

you know, there’ll be a lot of cyclists or athletes or anyone out there who, who love batteries and faff, and all that kind of stuff. So we think we’ve kind of delivered what’s actually a better product and that performs. You know, there was fun

Far more simply, and in a way kind of analogue is is a pretty beautiful solution for this problem. Hmm. And that launches so in effect when I got the email today, so it’s basically launching on Kickstarter now. Yeah, so we’ve been quite fortunate with some capital investment from various different bodies. And now we’re looking to take it to the next level with Kickstarter. So if you go to our website, which is hindsight dot store, and we’ll also an Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, you’ll find a link to the Kickstarter page from there and we’d really appreciate appreciate your listening support.

Carlton Reid 41:35
At How about your future? So you mentioned a coffee brand there as well. What what’s Callum Skinner doing now? What are you actually physically doing to to pay for food?

Callum Skinner 41:51
And I think you know, everyone would love to get to know the answer to this, but I’m kind of just embracing the chaos having been so focused on one project for a long time.

And I’m quite fortunate to be doing some work for Morgan Stanley at the moment, as well as having some ongoing projects with sports direct from a marketing capacity. I’ve done some stuff with science and sport as well. And that’s the kind of day to day stuff that that pays the bills. But, you know, I’m really enjoying that challenge of being kind of behind the camera, I guess.

Having been on the other side, I really feel like I can get the best out of athletes for kind of various campaigns and all that kind of thing. So I’ve been really enjoying it. And thankfully, the money’s not dried up yet so should be fine on food for the near future.

Carlton Reid 42:39
Thanks to Callum Skinner there. Links to his social media and to his sunglasses and coffee brands can be found on the show notes at the hyphen I’m hoping to bring you the next show — minus Chris Boardman — within the next few days, Meanwhile, get out there .

and ride.

May 11, 2020 / / 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.

Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 244: Cycling Is Left Wing—You’ll Never See Donald Trump On a Bicycle

Monday 11th May 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

Jack Thurston, author of “Lost Lanes” series of cycle touring books and owner of The Bike Show podcast.

TOPIC: All about Jack, including his background and his views on whether cycling is a left wing thing.


1970s bike boom article on

“Wild Swimming” and other books from Wild Things Publishing.

Framebuilder Richard Hallett.

(Cycling is left wing? Read right-winger P.J. O’Rourke’s famous polemic on the subject.

MACHINE TRANSCRIPT (there will be typos):

Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 243 [WRONG! it’s 244] of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This episode was engineered on Monday 11th of May 2020. 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

David Bernstein: Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fred cast cycling podcast at www.Fred 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 And now, here are the spokesmen.

Hi there. I’m Carlton Reid and this is another long show. Now, I’m okay with the lockdown extended episodes and I hope you are too. Today’s show is a chat with podcaster Jack Thurston, author of the Lost lanes series of books. Now until doing the background research for this show, I hadn’t realised Jack has a political background and you can hear us discussing/arguing/discussing/discussing whether cycling is a left wing thing or not.

So I have got Jack Thurston and with me today, so this is like an inside baseball kind of show so we’re both podcasters jack is hi jack. How long have you been doing the bike show?

Jack Thurston

Jack Thurston 1:59
Well, the bike show started in 2004, as a radio show on resonance FM in London, and then it lit, I got an email from a listener in 2005 saying, Can you make your radio programme into a podcast? And I kind of look, I didn’t know what podcast was. And so I looked at looked it up, and it looked incredibly geeky, and I thought, Oh, well, this is this this sound but this sounds good. This means that people can listen, you know, even if they live more than five kilometres from our radio antenna, which is where, you know where we were in London. I thought this is great. And I instead of speaking to a tiny corner of southeast London, I could speak to the world. So yeah, 2005 I think was was May 2005, which is kind of around about the birth of podcasting.

Carlton Reid 2:49
So it was a radio show in London. The Resonance FM is what

Jack Thurston 2:59
ResonanceFM is officially a community FM station, which is is this kind of, sort of so amateur stations have access to this quite low powered FM signal that they can use. But resonance is kind of I think it’s a cut above your typical community radio station. It describes itself as an art radio station or a radio art station. And it’s it’s got a lot of things that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else. And strange stuff like 12 hours, rock climbing up some rocky face in the mountains that just recorded everything and just played it out as the guy climbed up the mountain, or unusual music, interesting cultural discussions, sound art, all kinds of stuff. It’s really good. It’s really good. And I think they thought that there was an interesting interconnection between cycling and bicycles and creativity and ingenuity and The arts and I kind of made a pitch and and there it was. Yeah. So I had a half an hour a week on that. But when I moved down to Wales in 2013, it was very difficult to just keep supplying them because I didn’t have access to the studio. So the podcasts dwindled, somewhat as my listeners will be very much aware. I imagine there are quite a few people listening to your podcast who also listen to mine. So but for those that don’t, it’s not it’s become a little less regular. Over the years since since leaving London really just because you haven’t got a radio station cracking the whip saying, you know, 630 Yeah, there you are in the studio, you got to do something. It’s like, oh, should I do a podcast this week? Oh, no, I’ve got a, you know, weed the garden or mine, the kids or writer, travel guidebook or whatever other things that you have to do in life, other than podcasts.

Carlton Reid 4:55
I did go to your studio, because I was on your show a number of years ago. I think it was Jonathan Stevenson was on the show and we were talking about was it has been a bike boom has not been a bike, you know now that’s a very pertinent question because yes there is even though at the time I was saying actually No there isn’t john and this is the argument of my book, but now we do have a bike boom so all of that cultural significance, art the all of these things that were coming into twined in your show then and now coming in just a blooming now jack is there

Jack Thurston 5:30
is there data on that, Carlton? I’m presume you’re talking about Coronavirus, locked down bike boom. So very quite recent, really because we’re only what are we six eight weeks into Coronavirus era. And is there data on this kind of stuff because the data you and I tend to look at is sort of travel surveys, annual cap traffic counts and things like that. But well, what are your indicators that there is a bike boom

Carlton Reid 5:57
there are traffic jams. counters that are picking up, a rise like 200% rise in various boroughs of London also there’s those kind of stuff but where I’m getting most of my and it’s anecdotal. But where I’m getting most of my stuff from is trade only websites that bike shops plug into. And they are saying almost identical things that bike shops in the 1970s American bike boom were saying which was we can’t get bikes for love no money. People are travelling from all over the country because we’ve got a bike and virtually all the bike shops that are open, have have had the last two weeks I’ve been their best ever trading in in, you know, 30, 40 years of being in business is what I’m hearing. Not all bike shops are Oh, that’s fascinating.

Yeah, and it’s exactly the same in the US. You know us are exactly the same. So when I did a story on Forbes of the day about the 1970s bike boom, that’s gaining traction in the US like you wouldn’t believe. Because people didn’t realise a lot of people didn’t realise like millennials didn’t realise that we’ve been here before. There was, in fact, a much, much bigger boom, than the mountain bike boom, for instance, was happening in the 1970s. And when you go and look at the 1970s anecdotes from bike shops, talking about how they can’t get stock, it’s exactly the same now, but that bike boom took four years. This one’s taken two weeks, it really has ripped through the bike industry.

Jack Thurston 7:38
So my question for you is what because what I found very interesting from your description of the American bike boom in the 1970s, in your book, is that it was basically a leisure oriented bike boom. It wasn’t anything to do with the oil crisis. It came before the old price it was it was to do with manufacturing. Have 10 speed, you know, racing bikes and a kind of certain amount of fashion and baby boomers and that kind of kind of conjunction of phenomena, but and with everyone working from home or shut out shut out of their workplaces apart from, you know, a handful of key workers, or not a handful, but you know, a relatively small part of the population. Is this current bike boom.

leisure based as well.

Carlton Reid 8:27
Cos it’s literally two weeks, we don’t know. But

Jack Thurston 8:30
yeah, I mean it people are buying bikes because they’re cooped up in their houses. The government has said you can go for a walk around or a cycle. There’s no traffic on the roads. I mean, I’ve certainly noticed it in Africa or anywhere I live which the small town in the UK in Wales, in not far from the English border, which you know, has got a good sort of road club and cycling community but nobody really rides bikes here. You know, you wave and say hi to people, if you see someone else on a bike, here. Which is a remarkable coming from London in 2013. But I definitely have noticed more families out people, you know, couples out not wearing helmets, you know, your typical sort of people who are just like oh, Cycling is a nice way just to poke around the hedgerows and get a bit of exercise and I can do it safely. Because there’s no traffic.

Carlton Reid 9:19
Exactly. That’s that’s absolutely what’s happening around the country certainly in urban areas that mean I I live in a, like a country lane, but in a big city. And it’s just it’s just family after family after family coming past, some of them clearly kidneys, and you know that the whole family’s probably been bursting to get out. But then there are lots of families who like I bet this is the first time they’ve been out as a family on a bike on a public road. Pretty much ever. Yeah. And you’re right so it’s an awful lot of it is is recreational, some of that will rub off to transport Cycling eventually. But anyway, I’m asking the questions, jack. This is very naughty of you. Yeah, I was wondering, I was wondering how long it would take before you start asking me questions. But let’s go back. Let’s get back to the bike boom later. Let’s go into Abergavenny and let’s go into 2013 that life change. So why did you move in 2013? Who did you move with? And why Abergavenny?

Jack Thurston 10:29
Well, I will. The answer to that is is basically my wife.

She is original her family’s originally from here. She her business is gardens, plants, gardening, she’s garden designer and landscape designer. And we were living in a small flat in central London with no garden, and she had an opportunity to look after the garden that had belonged to her grandmother. Which is really nice. And we were expecting a baby. And we just thought, Well I just thought I’m totally up for this she wants to move because the garden and you know being in a more so natural setting, and all her family connections down here and I thought you know what? time just is passing too quickly. In London. I’ve been lived in London for Well, all my life really I had a couple of years away in California when I did my master’s degree and then I was away for undergraduate. Basically, I was a Londoner, and years, we’re just going past I don’t know, as you get older, you feel like the years just just whizzed by, and you don’t remember exactly what there’s difference between what was happening in 2000 to 2007 2009. They just kind of repeated themselves almost. And so I was ready for change. And I just thought, Yeah, let’s do it. And it was really it was really exciting. And I mean, it’s great for cycling down here. The town sort of promotes itself as the Welsh capital of cycling, which is Maybe a little bit optimistic. But you know we have got there is good cycling in every direction and there’s a decent cycling community as it were very much on the sports side, good youth club for kids learning, cyclocross, mountain biking and stuff like that. So yeah, it’s been I haven’t looked back really. I mean, I still love London when I go but I haven’t been when I went last went up to London, just before the lockdown and been for two years before that, so you know, it’s there in my mind. But to be honest, I’ve I’ve doing what I do with writing cycling travel books. I it’s been other parts of the country that I’ve been going to since since we began so

Carlton Reid 12:41
jack, this is why I’ve got you on the show. We are going to talk about that. Of course we’re going to talk about it at great length. I want to talk about the history of cycle touring and and where you fit into that with your cloth badges for you know, cutting duck panniers or wherever people are putting their their cloth badges. And I do want to get into that. But I’m interested in 2013. Because 2013 is obviously a key year because you moved, but it’s also when you first started doing lost lanes. So was that move and lost lanes? are they connected?

Jack Thurston 13:20
Well, it takes a little bit of time to write a book, as I think you’re more than a way and Colton. They don’t just pop out the publication date is sometimes misleading as to the genesis of a book. And now I mean, I like to say that, and that is the way I feel about it is that there’s the writing loss lanes in 2012, which is when I did the bulk of the research, and the actual photography and the writing was a kind of farewell tour of all my favourite cycling haunts, within, you know, half an hour. You know, train ride from London, basically. The places that I’ve been cycling for the last 20 years, either riding down to Kent, and hopping on the train bit further afield or riding out to Essex. So a few London rides as well in the book, and it was basically my chance to do all these rides with some friends if I could rope them in and produce a book about it. I mean, the, the the actual, the actual story that should give you the true story is that my friend Daniel Starr, who I have known since I was 1213, we were at school together and we started a cycling club at school in the sick form, because we didn’t want to do like the boring games where you have to run around you know, muddy pitches and get kind of ritually humiliated by horrible PE teachers and kind of sporty children. We started this cycling club which is basically a cycle touring club, you know, we went get the train out to Hartford cheer with a pack lunch. For a few hours and then come back cycle maybe you’re dead like 25 miles, or something like that. So he, he had written a very successful book about swimming in in nature called Wild swimming which is all about swimming in lakes and waterfalls and in the state of them

Carlton Reid 15:18
because there’s a coast one as well. Isn’t that I bought both of them out. Yeah, the time so yeah,

Jack Thurston 15:22
that great book. There’s a coast one. So we were cycling down the Northumberland coast towards where you live, actually, we’ve got the train up to barrack upon tweed. And we were heading down to Newcastle on a basically a research trip for him. Looking at wild swimming spots along the Northumberland coast for that very book you’ve got and it was me, him another guy, Karen and his dog in the trailer, in and out of a trailer, kind of just wild camping on the way and trying to take nice pictures of swimming spots and find interesting places to swim. And we were just chatting to you know, as you do In the evening about things and he was wanting to sort of set out on his own in the publishing enterprise and not be published by somebody else. But he was desperate to have a Haney in order to so it’s a little bit tedious. But basically, in order to set up as a publisher and not be like a vanity press, kind of self publishing type of thing, you need to have like a list of books that aren’t just your own. So he said that just Can you do a cycling book? And I’ve never written a book before. And he said, Well, you don’t actually maybe you don’t even need to write it. But as long as we can just put it in the catalogue, then I can take the catalogue around the distributors, and then I’ll look like a legitimate publishing house and they will therefore stock my wild swimming books. And you know, they will take all my words to me. And so that’s where kind of Lost Lanes came from really was dreaming up an idea for for a book and we went through loads of different kind of ideas of what might work I just, I mean, ultimately lost lanes is, is very much a kind of my interpretation of well, not my interpretation, my reinterpretation of a book that’s been around for ages, you know, but I think I’ve got a book from 1899 accord, short spins around London during the boom of the 1890s it’s just someone sharing their favourite rides of roots, giving a little bit of description and colour and a few tips on on places to go and stop off along the way and get some food and drink and, and that kind of thing. And, you know, obviously taking advantage of you know, what you can do with a book now and how you can make a book with lots of beautiful colour photographs that you couldn’t do in the 1890s.

Carlton Reid 17:46
Well, they had lots of line illustrations. Then they had an evocative Patterson type, you know, that’s the 1930s of course, but

Jack Thurston 17:57
yeah, pre passes, but

Carlton Reid 17:58
there were there weren’t before that It was tougher. So that’s that’s very much you’re you’re in the historic eight guys there because cycle touring books back then and today, they’ve got to evoke stuff, they’ve got to look pretty, they can’t just be you know, fantastic text. And I’ve got to say the photography in your book that you’ve you’ve taken a wonderful so that’s that’s probably for me impressed more than 50% of the book and your words are good I love your introduction in the in the latest one which we’ll talk about in a minute, but it’s the photographer you can just flick through that and then I’m going for a ride them. And then I don’t know how many people actually read every single word but it’s the photographs that get you out there. Would you agree that it’s the photographs are probably more important than the words?

Jack Thurston 18:49
Yeah, and that was advice that Daniel my publisher gave me on the basis of his wild swimming books that that you know his wild Subarus are full of beautiful pictures of people jumping in to waterfalls and driving off bridges and that kind of thing. And it really does make you want to be there. That’s what that’s what my criterion is for, whether I include a photograph in the book or whether I present it in a, you know, big in the book, because I do all the photo layout as well. And it’s about making people think I really want to be there. And that’s, you know, that’s, I do sometimes look at landscape photographers who, who, who, you know, have a lot of kids have a lot of time plan their shoots really carefully and they produce incredible, beautiful, amazing results. And I feel a bit insecure when I compare my stuff to their stuff but but my stuff is sort of slightly doing a different job. It’s because this these are actually photographs that I take while I’m out wrecking the rides. And so they are there at the moment I don’t have I can’t wait for the light to be a certain way at a certain place. I just have to take the photograph and just be lucky. I suppose. But it’s about Yeah, it’s about, yeah, the photography and digital photography. I mean, it’s made it possible for me as a relatively amateur photographer, I would not have been able to afford to have all the film and processing that you would have had to done if you wanted to take a trip like this in the 90s. And where and when I look back at the books that I used to use it, this sort of this kind of vein, I think of the cotton books, so you probably know Nick cotton, I don’t I

Carlton Reid 20:31
published one of his books, the our family cycling guide,

Jack Thurston 20:35
we got all sorts. Yeah.

I mean, his books are great, the rides are great. There was a useful information in them very practical, but they didn’t really make you want to go and do them. If they if you knew what they were and you think okay, well, I can use this book as a tool. So I used to try and get my friends to come cycling with me my house. Nate’s been living in the house sharing in Waterloo, and I was much more keen on cycling than than any, some of them were. And so I just I realised that you could just tell people, oh, we’re gonna go out to Kent and ride 40 miles. Like that was not appealing to people, or, or people’s partners, you know, their friends bring along their partners or new new people who hadn’t done much cycling, kind of, we’re just gonna go to Kenton cycle 40 miles, if you say, we’re gonna go out to Kent, it’s just the right time for the blossom in the in all the fruit fields. We’re going to visit six different kinds of windmill. And then we’re going to stop at this pub where they do a really good, like, certain kind of pie and we’re going to sit in the garden and have beer which is brewed just down the road. And then we’re going to the end we’re going to swing by this place where we can all have a jump in the river. If it’s warm. You know, that is a whole different proposition. Then you’re actually basically saying, Do you want to come and have a day in the countryside, and it happens to be by bike. Rather than, like we’re going to go out and cycle 40 miles. So the books, the books in a way of trying to kind of do that with the text, because I try and give the the rides a theme or a story or some kind of connection that the people can make with it. But then also with the photographs, you know, I’m able to do that. I’m able to show show what it what it will feel like what it might feel like but then again, it might not feel like that because I was there in April. And you might be writing in October every bike ride is different and in a way, I hope people don’t feel disappointed if they don’t see what is in the books but then I hope they will also be thrilled if they see something that’s different from what’s in the books but equally amazing and I I feel confident that that is exactly what will happen because Cycling is just such a wonderful way to see a place. So check I’ve got

Carlton Reid 22:51
I’ve got two books in front of me. So I’ve got your new one, the last lanes North which clearly I know an awful lot of the roads you were you were doing them And it’s it can be a bleak landscape. And then also your your photographs there have captured that really well. You know, the kind of the, the, the loneliness of the countryside, where you don’t maybe get those pies in a pub, because you’re probably about two hours from a pub that’s going to have anything when you’re in Northumberland, but then I’ve got your first book or the 2013 book, which was in 36, glorious bike rides in southern England. And then I flick through and then you see a woman in a flowery dress, riding a bike. So this is not like hardcore, there are photographs of you where you look a bit more hardcore. You look bit more touring cyclicity but then you’ve got photographs of people who are clearly not and you’re really out with them at the same time. So you’re deliberately trying to, which is what I used to deliberately do with on your bike magazine, which was not take people photograph People in lycra basically try and spread it around.

Jack Thurston 24:06
Yeah, I mean, I’m not pathologically against lycra I if I go out for a sort of energetic blast around my local area, I will sometimes wear a pair of lycra shorts and if it’s hot and it kind of has a cooling effect on the body, and it’s comfortable, but if you’re, if you’re if I’m out for a whole day, and I’m stopping for lunch, and maybe having a cream tea or something like that, actually, I feel a bit. I don’t really like to wear that kind of tight fitting clothing all day. I just like to wear normal clothes or sort of normal hiking, walking clothes that people would wear. I just feel that that’s, that’s practical, and people should wear what they what they feel comfortable in. Ultimately, that that picture I think the one you’re thinking of, is is my wife Sarah, and she just was wearing that dress. I think because it was a hot day. And yeah, I, I think I think it can be off putting. I mean, we you know, you know this more than I do, you were doing this long before I even started doing anything to do with cycling in the media. It presenting cycling as an activity for which you have to get topped up in a particular way via which you have to get topped up in a particular not that you can get topped up in a particular way. But the the activity the bicycle requires you to dawn, a certain kind of uniform. And I think that’s obviously going to be off putting, that’s obviously going to be off putting in particularly when it’s not true. You know, obviously, if you’re going to go rock climbing, then yes, there are probably some practical, got things that you need, or maybe they’re not, maybe that’s a bad example, I guess if you’re going to go scuba diving, you probably do want to wear a wetsuit, if you’re going to go to a cold place go scuba diving, it’s probably a good idea to have a wetsuit, but I don’t think that lycra is the sort of cycling equivalent of a way suit for scuba diving you don’t have to wear it you can wear it if you like it, but we people who are comfortable wearing it should not underestimate the degree to which it alienates cycling as an activity from the sort of mental sense of possibility in the average person in the population.

Carlton Reid 26:24
So in the from the press release that I’ve got here, which is about lost lanes North it’s all about how how successful you’ve been so well done. You’ve actually made and it’s not easy to make a book sale. I mean, bestsellers can be you know, 5000 copies sometimes so to make a bicycle book, sell well, is good going. So have you done that? Have you have you? Have you plugged into something?

Jack Thurston 26:55
I think the firt I mean, the first, the first one, the last day in southern England. Sold really well, I think somewhere around 30,000 copies, I don’t know what they say the press release something like that. And the subsequent ones, Wales and West have sold a fraction fractions of that. So, you know, more like 10,000 or 6000 stuff that kind of that kind of range. So it’s a big difference. I think the first one did well, partly because there are a lot of people cycling in London, even back in 2013. It went in the non bike boom, or whatever it was, there simply are a lot of people who cycled to work. And I think I was tapping into the idea that Hey, you got this bike that you started to work every day or some days. How about using it to go and have a nice day in the countryside, and also the fact that every ride was pretty much accessible from Central London on a train journey. Whereas you know, if you live were you doing in Newcastle and you want to do a ride in Lancashire. You know that That’s a long way away. It’s a it’s not inevitably with the rail network and transport links being the way they are a book based around the kind of hub of London as a as a public transport hub with this incredible network of or not a network just spokes that go out into the greenbelt of London is appealing because it means that if you live in London, you can basically do all the rides and there are 8 million people who live in London quite a lot of them ride bikes. And it also got picked up I think by a few gift shops. They have these gift shops at railway stations Oliver bonus. And I think the gifting market for cycling stuff, you can is good because it’s a bit like gardening or golf or recipe book. I don’t know what else.

Carlton Reid 28:47
It’s kind of a recipe for where maybe, maybe?

Jack Thurston 28:50
Yeah, it’s that thing of like, oh, what do I get that person? Oh, they’re really into in, you know, insert the word could be cycling, could be gardening, could be golf. So you could pick up some sort of silly knickknacks, like a tea towel with a bicycle logo on it or a notebook with a bicycle logo on it and, or mug. And yeah, we’ve all received these gifts, I’m sure you have Christmases and birthdays and things like that. And you’re like, your heart kind of sinks in you just because it’s got a bicycle logo does doesn’t mean I’m gonna just love this, this note pad or these paper clips or whatever they are. But I think but i think you know, a nice chunky book with attractive cover. And I mean, I should pay tribute to the guy who did the illustration Andrew profit he’s done. He’s really evoked sort of the classic iconography of cycle touring in the golden age of the 30s 40s 50s and travel, you know, travel brochures of that era, but I think is taking it forward into his own style. And I think people just immediately pick up the book because it’s got a kind of zingy cover, and then open it up and go, Oh, there’s lots of nice pictures. I would like to be there. And, and this will be great for my friend who’s really into cycling or by relative or my son or my So the gifting market as publishers call it has been good to us with with with lost lanes, but I have to say the first one is the one that has kept me doing them in terms of Finance. So thank you to everyone who’s bought lost lanes, Southern England and to everyone who hasn’t bought a west or a Wales for North.

Come on, come on. So let’s talk about

if that’s not too much of a holiday,

Carlton Reid 30:25
well, I’m gonna I’m gonna I’m definitely we’re gonna segue we’re gonna we’re gonna slip it in and out of different themes out cuz you mentioned income. I would like now to go into to your income and talk about you as what you do as a day job. So when I do my research here, you know, find out what jack Burson does is like, hang on, co founder of farm subsidy. I didn’t know anything about this special advisor to the Newcastle MP Nick Brown, who I’ve had a few run ins with before and I didn’t know any of this transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall fund of the United States. Wow. I didn’t know any of this. So jack, tell us about jack.

Jack Thurston 31:09

the mask is lifted. No, I mean, I, I think I think the 2013 was a sort of pivotal year because that was the kind of year when I I stopped doing a lot of that work on actually quite happily, I felt a little bit burnt out by what I had been doing for the previous 10 years and what I had been doing for the previous 10 or 15 years is working in, in politics, Public Policy Research. That kind of area I started working as a researcher for for Nick brown just after immediately after leaving University as like, I mean researcher is glorified way of putting it I was, I was you know, I did photocopying, I made cups of tea, open the post, you know, bank area, that kind of thing. And in a small Office of an MP. And the nice thing about working in the small office of an MP is that they do get to see you. And if you can do something, you know more than just opening the post and making the tea, then then you know, that will get noticed. And you can then you know, accrue more work because they’ve ultimately, none of them have got enough especially in in opposition when it’s just them. And they’re there. They’re small, two or three members of staff, you there’s more work to be done than they have got staff to do it. So there’s always opportunities if you want to, if you want to kind of get you know, get on as it were. It’s just getting that foot in the door really. And weirdly, actually, what I asked him after was Why did you give me that job? Like, why did you you get you know, get MPs get letters every week or more than that, you know, saying from young, pushy politics graduates saying Can I have a job in your office sort of thing. And it was weird that he looked he looked, he looked through it. And there were two things that’s stuck out on my CV. It has nothing to do with my, you know, academic qualifications or anything like that. One of them was that I’d done some work at university on HIV and AIDS like awareness, which I think he thought was, was good. And and also I cycled across Romania with in with a friend exactly my friend Daniel who published my books with we saved up money from working and got a little travel bursary from our universities and flew across to Romania and spent six weeks cycling around I think he thought that was a bit different from what he normally got. So to all if there’s any I don’t know if there’s any young people listen to this podcast there’s that there’s no young people listen to my podcast, Carlton, but you know, it the things that you did

the things that you do outside, you know, your cycling, you know,

it shows you got an independent spirit and, and a sense of can do so anyway. started working for Nick and just carried on with him for for a while, and then ended up as a special advisor, the Ministry of Agriculture when he was the agriculture minister. So I still write helping writing speeches and research and carrying and all the rest of it. And during that time, I kind of got to see how screwed up. agricultural policy was pretty much everywhere around the world, but particularly bad. It felt like in Europe, paying money, loads of money to the wrong kind of people for doing the wrong kind of things with their land. And I thought, having stopped doing that work. And having left Nick and kind of was on my own thinking that if people knew where this money went, if people just knew how much money was going to the queen, the Duke of Westminster, Eton College, all these big companies, they would surely say there’s got to be a better way. So I then saw I started working on a kind of freedom of information campaign in Britain working bit with a Guardian newspaper, and some journalists there who specialised in that, too, because because I knew because I’d worked on the inside, and I knew where all the information was in the government department, we could kind of target those requests quite specifically, and make it hard for them to refuse. And, and eventually, we won, or I won, and with the Information Commissioner ruled in my favour, and we’ve got all this data on who gets what the level of the individual farmer so you know, you could say you could say, you can look up the queen, you could look up all these rich people and see how much tax money they were getting. And then and then I took for the next few years taking that model around Europe and getting other activists and journalists doing the same thing in different European countries. And then we ran a website, massive data site like big data, big data before big data was a thing where you could actually search all this stuff and And you could search by your postcode and find out who the big recipients of farm subsidies were in your area. And I hoped that it would, you know, drive a sort of reform of the of the whole system, and we’d end up with a much better system. But you know, that that didn’t really work out for lots of different reasons. And I felt so I felt a bit, you know, you work at something for 10 years. And, and you kind of feel like you’re in a worse position than you were when you started. And you just kind of, it’s difficult not to feel a little bit disillusioned, like you could just carry on for another 10 years and another 10 years, and then you’d be like, 70, and you’d be the guy who campaigned for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and didn’t achieve it. And that would be that with your life, and I just thought, that’s not really what I want. I’ve tried hard with this, and it’s time to pass the baton on to other people. So that sounds a bit a bit underwhelming description of my career journey, isn’t it? But then I remember also someone said to me once when I was you A student or something that you should have like a different career every 10 years, and you should just kind of change. So I guess that’s what I’ve what I’ve been doing.

Carlton Reid 37:08
So what are you now? Are you an author? When somebody says, What do you do for a living? And you don’t know them, Madam, what do you say?

Jack Thurston 37:18
I hate that question. I really hate that question.

Because it presupposes that sort of what you do is who you are. And it also pretty supposes that the work that you do for money is the work that defines who you are. And I don’t feel like that. I mean, partly because I earned very much money. So I mean, I’ve worked part time, because I’ve got two young kids who are four and six, and my wife is much more successful in what she does, than I am in what I do. So you know, she has a kind of sense of preeminent role in a way in terms of time allocation, and neither of us make a huge amount of money of what we do. But we live in a rural area you know we have quite low outgoings I grow a lot of vegetables. So sort of get by and yeah, I’d say I write I write cycling books I also write for for magazines and newspapers and that kind of thing about cycling and try and keep a podcast on its feet. But that doesn’t bring in anyone that actually cost money to do so. I don’t know yet stay home dad slash guide book author, slash journalist. Is that all travel writer? I don’t know is that right? That’s all I’m asking

Carlton Reid 38:32
you if that but then again, I didn’t know anything about your background. So that’s good for me to white. Why didn’t I know these things about you? I just know you as jack bike show. And you ask the questions. Now because I’m asking you the questions. We’re gonna find out a bit more about I was jack who is doing farm subsidies. So that’s kind of lefty when you’re working with Nick brown and Because it’s kind of lefty ish. So I know you’ve done a show on this. But just your opinions that is cycling. Left wing, is it right wing? Because I know you had differing opinions from different political spectrums there because you had Guido Fawkes on who was saying, No, no, actually, it’s libertarian, you know, freedom to go anywhere and stuff. So where do you see cycling in the political sphere?

Jack Thurston 39:29
I tend to think it’s naturally on the left, because it’s democratic, because it’s accessible because it’s sort of non non violent non dominating of others.

And it’s quite a levelling type of thing.

I can see the arguments for freedom and and for liberty. But I also think that those arguments lead you quite quickly towards auto domination, and a kind of A world in which you just have cars, or you’re poor and you ride the bus or walk. And and I don’t, I think that’s much more of a right wing kind of view. But the you know, the left, right split, I mean, where is the left right split in the in society today? It does feel like it’s fracturing in all kinds of different

Carlton Reid 40:21
around Brexit split, rather than

Jack Thurston 40:24
Well, I mean, it’s not just not just even talking about Brexit in Britain. I mean,

you know, I, yeah, I think I think traditionally it has been off the left. And if you look at someone like Kuklos, Fitzwater Wray, who’s a hero of mine from the golden age of cycling. He was a pacifist, a socialist, the Clarion cycling club, you know, he was involved with them. I think it has got, I don’t think the Primrose league with the Primrose league on bikes because they’re the sort of right wing counterpoint to the Clarion Clarion cycling club aren’t they? No, I think I think I think you can put different interpretations on it. And I think I think self reliance, independence, liberty, those are all things which appeal to a certain strand of, of thinking on the right. But I think overall the bicycle, you know, I mean, I’d like to think that a bicycle has appeal for everybody. I think I think there’s I was listening to a podcast of the day about liberty and the idea of positive liberty and negative liberty and, you know, your liberty to do something versus whether someone is stopping you from doing something. And I do feel I mean, that you and I agree on this. I think carton, you know, the cars. The cars is just the root of the problem. I mean, bicycles are sort of it’s they’re almost like a side issue. It’s crazy for me to say that as someone who basically works, it’s like he loves cycling, but they are a side issue in the whole thing about car dominated societies. Is that going too far?

Carlton Reid 42:11
No, but they are coming to a bit more prominence. Now we know with with.

Jack Thurston 42:15
I’m not saying I’m not saying they’re not prominent, what I meant, what I meant to say is that, that, you know, you tackle the reason why I’m so passionate and about Cycling is it’s because it’s a way of travelling, that that doesn’t impose so much horror on other people. You’re part of that

Carlton Reid 42:32
you’re also talking about a pleasure to talk about your kind of cycling but you can just as easily get a dentist earning turn and 250,000 pounds a year who’s got a fleet of Porsches, who goes out on his road bike can also be be cycling and absolutely would not be on the left. You can get people like sir Alan sugar who are out there and saying some pretty awful things at the moment on social media. They’re out there cycling and then you Get people who are travelling to trail centres, you know, in their big SUVs, getting their mountain bikes off the side, probably to 3000 pound mountain bikes, probably more, and then going away again. So they’re not of that ilk. So are you not just self describing yourself here, when you when you’re when you’re talking about cycling? This is this is where you see it. But it’s actually there’s many, many prisms, you can you can see cycling through many kinds of cyclists out there, but it’s probably one of its actual strengths.

Jack Thurston 43:30
That’s true. No, and I do agree with you. And I’m going to rollback from my position. I think, you know, yeah, anyone can enjoy the thrill of turning a pedal and the pleasure of the wind in your hair and the exhilaration you get from being on a bicycle that is a setting that appeals beyond anything to do with politics. But I do think that once you start thinking about why cycling is so marginal, In certain societies, and so prominent in other societies, there is a political dimension to that, which is based around. Well, it’s obvious to me that it comes down to infrastructure, doesn’t it as we both agree. And culture perhaps, and those are all expressions or causation factors in politics. And I think the sort of social democratic politics of, of Denmark of the Netherlands of scan, you know, Germany, those are the places where there is good cycling infrastructure where Cycling is is much more widespread than it is in our sort of Anglo Saxon countries. You know, that there there is there is a link there to do with politics. I don’t know. I mean, you’re the expert on this. I don’t you feel like you’re I feel like I’m being quizzed by someone who knows all the answers. And, and and like, you’re gonna I feel like this would be like a tutorial. Well, when you You’re my You’re my, you’re my professor.

Carlton Reid 45:05
I’ve mentioned the Netherlands there. I’m not Confucius here at all. I’m not gonna. Absolutely I can learn from anybody. So the Netherlands, you ask the same question in the Netherlands, it would be like, what would you mean? It’s a left wing or it’s a right? No, it’s just Cycling is everything. You can have rabid right wingers cycling just as much as left wing. So that does seem to be the reason I asked the question is probably very much a British thing to do on Anglo Saxon thing to do in your terms, in that in other countries, it’s not politically charged, yet we meet you, perhaps others. When we self described this, we do make it politically charged. But you’ve then got things like David Cameron cycling Prime Minister, I mean, they couldn’t do when there were Prime Ministers But still, the current prime minister exactly is famous. For being on a bike name, you know how many labour prime ministers have been famous for their their bicycling credentials? Well, I can’t think of any.

So is it really that …

Jack Thurston 46:10
Jeremy Corbyn

come from it? You’re not private? No.

It was great. It was a great election, wasn’t it? We are to two people who who ride bikes against each other Corbyn and and Johnson. Yeah, I mean, I don’t know I i think i think there are I think there are different levels at which you can talk about that issue. And clearly you don’t have to be of the left or have the right to enjoy cycling.

But I do think that cycling does.

Especially cycling in a country like ours where you are really, you know, the scum of the earth basically on the roads. That’s how you’re treated by most people hold on a lot of people. And that does that is that does that is that there is a kind of humbling thing about that and it’s not not pleasant. thing, but it does it does show you how vulnerable you are. And that I think is the consciousness from which to deeper care for others and empathy for others who are less invulnerable or in vulnerable positions can spring from. So I do think that the bicycle can make you a better person. I just I don’t see Ilan musk on a bicycle. I don’t see Donald Trump on a bicycle. I don’t see all these sort of selfish grasping hucksters that seemed to define 21st century Sir Alan Sugar on bicycles.

Carlton Reid 47:38
I mean, he’s The Apprentice.

Jack Thurston 47:42
Yeah, Alan Sugar’s a funny one, isn’t he? Because he is actually he was a Labour Party supporter wasn’t familiar. He’s flip until Corbyn came along. He was a New Labour Tony Blair. So he does come from a left a left working class tradition. And I don’t know what he’s wearing. where he is now? But then, you know, I think you need to. Yeah, I mean, there’s anecdotes and individual data points and they could be confounding effects and clearly, racing, cycling, mountain biking, you know, you know, in a controlled environment is, you know, is one thing. I do know, I do feel that in my experience of meeting people who are eminent in the cycling world as I’ve done over the podcast, I do feel that they do tend to be on more on on the left I just as kind of my experience. Chris Boardman, Graeme Obree, those sorts of people. I mean,

Carlton Reid 48:47
it’s just sort of where they are where they’re at. I don’t know. So in the all the President’s Men, which is the Woodward and Bernstein book about the Watergate scandal, you’ve got Carl Bernstein, who was a self described 1970 Bike boom. Bike freak was very upset when he discovered that there was a bike freak, actually in the White House working for creep. The Committee for the re election of the president Macgruder so Macruder would cycle to the White House he was the almost certainly within the high command of of the Watergate scandal basically. I think he certainly went to prison for it. And so it that shocked curb Carl Bernstein he was incredibly shocked when he was researching all of this Watergate stuff that he assumed that second was left wing. And here the was a rabid right winger was cycling. Now we stick with that probably still shocks actually that anecdote still shocks because yes, I think most people I’m touching word here, most people would assume Cycling is leftist, greenish, eco ish. And when you get right wingers on it’s like, well, that’s stat that stands out. But what? politically what stops you getting on a bike? Nothing stops you getting on a bike politically?

Jack Thurston 50:10
Now, I think there are I mean, what didn’t Margaret Thatcher say something about? You have to worry about a man in his 20s who rides the bus or something like that?

Carlton Reid 50:22
I’m afraid but yes, you shouldn’t be. You shouldn’t be on public transport. It’s apocryphal, but it kind of fed into her mentality for sure.

Jack Thurston 50:32
Yeah, I think there is a there is a sense in which a car is a status symbol, and is indicative of success in the kind of capitalist economy and society and having a nice car and driving everywhere. Is is kind of how you show that you’ve made it according to those criteria. Jackie, can

Carlton Reid 50:55
you have a nice car and a nice bike? jack?

Jack Thurston 50:58
Yeah, but you wouldn’t you do. Just you. You’ll use the

Yeah. So maybe you can go into Yeah, go for a bike race or a bike ride. I don’t know. You can have both, that’s for sure. You can have both.

Carlton Reid 51:12
We’ve talked over many, many years about the history of cycle touring. So you’re fascinated. We’ve talked about Lawrence of Arabia, and his, you know, where he, he came a cropper, of course, on his motorbike without, trying to kill two cyclists. But then he did do lots of cycle tours before that. So you’re very interested in the history of cycles. So you’re not just writing about this. And then doing a brief mention in your book you are you are really interested in the in the whole era of classic cycle touring.

Jack Thurston 51:48
I think I’m just interested in travelling by bicycle. And when you’re interested in something, you want to kind of find out how long it’s been going on for and clearly it It’s only been going on for as long as there have been bicycles. So that’s not that it’s mostly recorded history, you know that? Well, it’s all recorded history, obviously, we’re going back to the 1860s, I suppose. So it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, and it’s very well documented. Because cyclists love to write about their endeavours and take pictures of them or draw line drawings about them.

And I just, I don’t know, I find it

very alluring to, to feel a connection with somebody who lived 100 years ago who’s doing something similar to what I’m doing now. And feeling the same kind of things and experiencing them in a similar sort of way. I just, it’s you get a little historical shiver down your spine, don’t you? It’s always I mean, it’s a bit like stepping into a into a mediaeval castle, and thinking you know, closing your eyes and thinking like, what would it have been like? But you don’t really know do you? You really don’t know what in a ruined castle what would it have been like? What would life be like? In a castle? Yeah, it’s beyond almost what we can imagine 500 600 700 years back, but I could definitely imagine 100 years back. And, and the things were sufficiently different back then to be interesting to me. And in what in terms of what’s changed, but it’s sufficiently close in terms of experience that I can kind of touch it and really, really have a feel for it feel for the texture of it. So it’s the appeal of history, isn’t it? And I find history appealing in lots of different ways. Industrial history. Yeah, I think but I think history history is most powerful. When it I, I don’t know I’m gonna qualify myself here because if you go to someone like Stonehenge, and you kind of touch those stones, and now we’re talking about pre history, and you have no idea who the people were who’d made that place and why they did it and it almost haven how they did it. It can be totally or inspiring, and just knock you for six. And so clearly you don’t need to be proximate to the people you’re having this sort of historical connection with, but there is a certain kind of feeling of proximity that does, that does. I don’t know, give it a bit more texture and a bit more liveliness, it’s a different kind of thing isn’t it isn’t a different kind of thing. But I do love chancing upon old photographs of places that I know, that 100 years ago, and seeing them so I don’t know. Do you feel the same year into history? Absolutely. I don’t think I’m a learner

Carlton Reid 54:34
at all. So 1890s which is that that first bike boom when people are getting out there on their, that their bikes, and you’ve got people and I know we’ve often I’m pretty sure we have a conversation on Twitter about this at the time, but when I’ve posted images of 1890 cycle tourists, for instance, going to Stonehenge, which you’ve just mentioned, you know, they were on what’s now the the 115 3103 or 103? what’s the what’s the road is anyway? 83303 Thank you. The major road that’s going to the West Country, your West, you’ve know this better than me because of your your, your book. Yes, but the 303 that’s like so those cyclist of the 1890s were on the main roads of the day, because there was no cars at the time. So they were riding, they weren’t riding on last lanes back then they were riding in effect on the Turnpike’s the major roads of the day. So when you’re when you evoke that historical residents, well, those guys weren’t riding on your last lanes. They were riding on the motorways of the day. There’s just there’s no cars they were Yeah, they were

Jack Thurston 55:48
and but actually pretty quickly, towards in the 1910s or 1900s and 1910s. You start to come across so you start to come up with People saying oh that roads too busy now or with we don’t like that road anymore if you go through the, in the 1920s and 30s. And and there is a sort of that’s the era in which the car starts to dominate, and cyclists head off to find other roads. And I think that’s a process that has continued to this day. And I think that’s what gravel biking is all about. And I love gravel, gravel bikes, they are perfect machines for cycling on loss lanes and more. And I think that, that, I don’t know whether I would say the 1890s is my golden age of cycle touring. I think it’s freestyle, if you look at the kind of people who were doing it. It was a one particular It was a fairly well to do not exclusively, but fairly well to do I think the golden era of of cycling, in terms of my view of it is probably The 30s when you start getting outdoors moving all the youth hostels cropping up and people having a bit of time and a bit opportunity to go out there, bicycles a bit more accessible, lightweight machines are available. And then the 40s and 50s with the rough stuff. And so York rally and all those kinds of things that are the beacons of, of cycling in our country, and then in the 60s, I think it starts to become a bit more marginal again, although I should say because I looking at, I look at the bike images of the bike Centennial in America, which was in 76, wasn’t it? And there are some beautiful photographs of that. And I have to say I look at those photographs with exactly the same free sort of history. As I look at the photographs, photographs from the 1930s I just feel like that was a real amazing time and a place to be, to be around to be cycling across America. And I’d love too, I’d love to learn more about it, actually. So I think you could look at all these different eras. And you can look at images from the early London to Brighton in the early 1980s. And see, you know, handmade Friends of the Earth stickers, or posters or posters, banners and badges and things like that. It’s just it’s sort of making a connection with like minded people across the barrier of time. And and I think that’s interesting. I don’t really mind whether I’m envious of the fact that the cyclists of the 1890s were able to just barrel down the best flattest roads to get places and cover big distances. I’m incredibly envious of them. But I don’t feel that that I have to, in any way interested in reproducing their journeys in terms of the actual roads they went on. I think I’m more interested in in drawing on a wellspring of bicycle travel through a century or more and and China interpreting it For our times, and what’s available now,

Carlton Reid 59:03
jack, and we’re going to, we’re going to close for a break now. We’ll come back in a minute, and I’m going to talk to you about I want to hear about what other tours that you’ve done. And you’ve just said you did remain here, but actual tours, rather than just going out for a ride. So that’s what we’re going to talk about when we come back. So we’ll go for a break. So David, take it away.

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Thanks, David. And we are here with Jack Thurston, who will as he said before, he is not an author. He is he’s Lots of different things he wouldn’t even have ever a very long business card. I asked before the ad break I wanted to find out what touring so so jack has is talking about his the golden eras and there’s been many golden years including that those wonderful rise across the US in the 1976 and do go and search for photographs of those that some fantastic National Geographic if you go into their archive of some of those photographs,

but jack what what kind of touring Have you done apart from where you’re talking about Romania? So what what have you done elsewhere in the world?

Jack Thurston 1:01:36
So I haven’t done a huge amount of worldwide touring. I feel a bit

of an underachiever

Carlton Reid 1:01:43
fraud, you’re a fraud.

Jack Thurston 1:01:46
Yeah, I have cycled I mean, I thought I did a big ride around France in 2008 for about six weeks, so I rode the crest of the Pyrenees from the Atlantic coast to the Midwest. radian like with full panniers and all that stuff. This is before Kindles had come along and my entire front left pannier was full of paperbacks maps. So, yeah, that was a that was an early adopter of the top. on that trip. I did have a top. I’d seen them. When I was walking the john Muir Trail in California, I’d seen a guy sleeping under a tarp, and it looked a lot better than my little mini tent. So I did that. That was a top trip. And I have done some little, you know, three or four day tours around northern France, kind of accessible from Britain. I’ve done a lot of cycling in, in England and Wales. I would say that was the most of it. I mean, I’ve done some, I don’t know I’m sure they’re big tourist hotspots of cycling holidays in the Alps, and the Pyrenees. Kind of just more like out doing day rides, but most of my cycle touring has been in In England and Wales, so cycling down I used to cycle every summer down to Cornwall from London. My friends had used to rent the same cottage on the beach at Constantine Bay in new Padstow. And so they would, they would go on the train, and I would set up a couple of days earlier and give them a bag with my clothes and things like that and wetsuit and stuff to carry down with with them and then inside cycle down, and then then take the train with them back at the end of the holiday and cycling around Wales. Yeah, just different parts of parts of England really. I did a I did a very disastrous looking back and it feels like disastrous lightning tour in New England. Because the friends of mine were getting married in Vermont and I wanted to go to their wedding but I thought it was pretty irresponsible to like fly across the Atlantic to just go to a wedding. So I thought okay, I’ll make this a build my summer holiday around this wedding. And so I cycled from Montreal to New York with the wedding at the halfway point. And then towards the end in New York had a bad crash and ended up in hospital having my teeth fixed

Carlton Reid 1:04:10
a crash that you have to that other day. Nobody else was involved or what was

Jack Thurston 1:04:16
no Yeah, it was. It was, it was on one of those, you get some bridges in America that are made out of like about made out of metal, like a kind of grid structure of metal. I don’t want the right word for that is but they’re quite good. They get very slick in the wet. And I came down a descent with too much speed and applied the brakes and lost the back wheel and hit the deck and hit my face into the metal grille of this bridge. Yeah, that was a very nice but and yeah, I didn’t find in the wild camping in Vermont. I mean And, and, and upstate New York. I mean, the mosquitoes were just appalling. And also, I felt like wild camping was really was really not on. Like, there were signs everywhere and lots of barbed wire kind of saying, you know, you can’t come in here, stay away, intruders stay away. And so it was quite hard to find really nice places to wild camp. I just didn’t feel comfortable with the kind of culture of whether it was acceptable just to pitch your tent anywhere. And I still don’t really know the answer to that. And also, it was quite difficult getting food, like, you’d end up shopping in like petrol stations and things and then things would come in very large packets. So you’d have to buy like two pounds of bacon or something and you couldn’t eat it all and it would go off and you couldn’t just you know, you could just get a small amount to keep going from day to day you had to supply these bulk loads of stuff until you’re at war or weighed down by all so I didn’t I kind of failed at cycle touring in America. Maybe one day I would like to come back. But I mean, I’d love to do another big trip I’d love to cycle across Europe. I’d love to cycle to Istanbul or something like that. I did a tour for three days for The Guardian travel section last year as the guest of the vom de office to tour. The Tourist Board over there who showed me around the Atlantic cycleway south of the mouth of the river la from the basically from the mouth of the revenue are to La Rochelle. And I did that on a Brompton which is fun. So I’d like to do Yeah, I’d like to do some more touring in France with my kids. I’d like to go to the Netherlands with my kids, because I think that’d be the place to take them for cycle touring because that’s, that’s that’s the limiting factor these days is when I’m not doing a book and basically with the children and They can’t really do psycho touring in Britain, because it’s a rotary not safe for it. With the exception of a few rides that I’ve done like bit on the Northumberland coast with the kids really nice. And the Devon coast to coast is a good child friendly one. We were supposed to bring up to the Peak District in Derbyshire, at the end of May to do some cycling with the kids on the old railway lines. But I don’t know if we were going to be able to do that with Corona. So yeah, so I don’t know I I really look at these people who do like your son who does that is amazing. Riding back from China, and I feel like now is not the time. I should have done that. I should have done that already. I should have done that in my 20s or 30s. I don’t know why I didn’t. But I just didn’t. I was too busy in politics, I suppose. And I guess it’s something that probably have to wait until I’m a bit less encumbered with family life. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 1:07:57
I know I know what you mean.

about them and I was certainly I’ve been looking at Joshua’s trip and that brought back all the memories of when I did those kind of trips. And I’m kind of thinking, when can I do them again not not Corona stopping me but because it is gonna be a couple of years before I can do this, but just Yeah, I’d like to do some mammoth trips again, I’ve just heading out pointing the bike in there a direction you don’t know where you’re going to be doing away again with that night. I’m looking forward to doing those kinds of trips again. Actually, not not just no planning. Nope, no, just heading out and because that’s what I did. I just went out and just just cycled off and didn’t know where I was gonna go. And

Jack Thurston 1:08:41
months on end, or how long are you going?

Carlton Reid 1:08:43
I went for two years. So I started in before university I was gonna do I was gonna do politics, in fact, jack and then I did a year of cycling around the Middle East and thought I’m not going to politics. And I spend another year of cycle touring again rounded bit, the Middle East bit of America did an awful lot of touring for two years, basically, just just pointing the bike and just just going, which was fantastic. And I’ve always harked after that doing that, again of not having any, any worries. But like you, I’ve got kids, but unlike you, my kids are quite a bit older. So I am I’m probably not too many years away of being able to do that kind of cycle touring again, if I can interest my wife

Jack Thurston 1:09:34
into it. Yeah. Well, that’s the thing would you do would you just leave her on her own or would you go with her or she would go with you?

Carlton Reid 1:09:40
Well, she’s before we were married. I took her to Iceland. And we did an incredible trip into the interior of Iceland, in which it was perpetual daylight you had to get from campsite to campsite, you couldn’t just do the wild camping. You were saying that before you had to get to an official camp. So you were having to cycle for 1921 hours a day to cycle through Europe’s only desert. Which was why, you know, the older Sandy rose in Iceland. And that could have actually finished our relationship there. And then, but I discovered that she was incredibly tough and she was able to do these amazing bike rides that I was making her do. So she’s a keeper. So I would say I would, I would do those bike rides with with her at some point, but she’s a doctor. So it’s kind of difficult for her to, to take long career breaks.

Jack Thurston 1:10:37
Yeah, I mean, I think there’s an interesting thing about how you can and maybe it’s a little bit like Alistair Humphries and his idea of micro adventures. Can you get a certain amount of what you get out of a big trip in a shorter trip? And how do you go about doing that? And I think for me, I’ve been thinking I’ve flown a lot on aeroplanes for work and I feel like I don’t really want to be flying

for my leisure

you know, I just thought it’s a personal decision and I’m not preaching to anybody else. I just don’t feel like that’s what I want to be where I want to be at. So I’m I’m kind of feeling like okay, so it’s gonna if I’m gonna fly around the world I’m really good at cyclorama after wonder wonder wonder about the Atlantic and the Pacific but I’m pretty much sort of committed to cycling from where I can get to by train or boat. But that gives me a huge amount of scope. I mean, Europe is Europe is is continental Europe, Ireland. I’d love to go there Scotland. There’s a lot of places I like to go and I do feel like I get a lot of the benefits from from even like a week or two weeks. trip I think so I’m so I’m more thinking of I’d love to cycle across France you know just from Cali or salmon Oh to the Mediterranean coast you know that would just be a nice thing I love nice thing to do so

Carlton Reid 1:12:14
let’s get into the future. I don’t get into the future are you gonna be doing sort of interrupting their day but are you going to be doing lost lanes from a reading loss lanes Ireland lost lanes Scotland. What’s a I’m not going to give too much away. But what is your future in guidebook, Mike?

Jack Thurston 1:12:29
Well, no. I’m happy to happy to say I mean I should be out now. This is the prime time of year May and June the countryside looking at its best, nice long days. I should be out doing loss lane central England, which is the next book. But I am which, you know takes in the Cotswolds takes in the Peak District by my definition, I drew a fairly high line for what is the North. I know it’s a topic of endless debate. Where does the North start, but I wanted to have this much great cycling in northern England that the further south you draw the line that, you know, the less there is to go around it or the less rides to go out or whatever, I’m not expecting that myself clearly, you know, the rides are gonna be even more sparse than they already are. And they’re, you know, the great regret I get with any of these books is that I didn’t do a right there. I didn’t do it right that I didn’t do a ride from Durham, up in to the north Penn lines that that should have been in there but then I would have had to lose one of the rides, you know, so I wanted to draw the line up there. So I’d have I could have a really good chunk for mid the Midlands, central England, whatever you want to call it, that we’re taking the Cotswolds. We’re taking the Peak District and the taking them off and hills sort of the border right up to Wales. I’m not quite sure where the eastern line will be drawn and whether it would last lanes east

or not, whether there’s a mileage and

Carlton Reid 1:13:55
you’ve still got a fair bit more theory goes got a fair bit in England in effect together. Before you even need to get to friend,

Jack Thurston 1:14:02
yeah, and then I think you’ll be Scotland will be will be next. And I don’t know how you divide up Scotland because I think it would be ridiculous. I mean, I’m creating a hostage to fortune here on time, I think it would be very difficult to do like one book on the whole of Scotland, unless it was maybe a bigger book with like 50 rights rather than

Carlton Reid 1:14:22
just just the borders, you could do some amazing amazing book just orders nevermind Scotland as a whole.

Jack Thurston 1:14:28
But the problem is, the more specific a book gets in terms of geography, that the less sales there are really, and you know, I sales is what makes it a question of whether it’s viable or not. And I feel like I lost lanes France would be, I mean, you know, you couldn’t do the whole country. I mean, you’d need multiple books to do France. And then, and actually, my publishers do have a really nice book about cycling in France called frazzle fellow which is basically about one route from from some hello to nice I think. And they are there they’re actually the couple who wrote that rather tour company called Saddle Skedaddle, I think and they they I think they’re up nearby nearby you actually about a mile a

Carlton Reid 1:15:21
About a mile and a half from where I am. And I saw the other day in lockdown. I even saw them in lockdown. Yes.

Jack Thurston 1:15:28
So yeah, they they have a well established touring routes that they guide and they thought they would make a book about it. I think the sales of that have been okay. I don’t think they’ve been quite up to last Lane’s levels. So it’s really trying to come up with a book that would, you know, meet the test of sales, and it’s do and it’s doable, really. I mean, I’m very interested in the whole off roading sort of research it’s in, in sort of light mountain biking, I can call it that Which is what crap gravel biking is. I mean, on the one hand, I’m slightly irritated that this whole new idea of gravel biking has come along because it’s basically just riding on on sort of rough tracks and we’ve been doing that forever or forever they’ve been bicycles, but I do love gravel bikes and I think that gravel bikes are the bikes that most people you know, going for a day out should be riding as opposed to a as a road bike because it just gives you so much more safety on the road. And and it gives you so much more potential to ride different kinds of flexibility. I’m, yeah, I mean, I’m writing I’m writing a bike with 38 one bike, it’s got 38 mil tires and one bikes got 47 606 50 B 47. And I’m mostly riding it on the road. And it feels so safe. You just feel like you’re never did. You’re never gonna lose grip. You’re never gonna fall off. And I know I’m probably not gonna fall off anyway because I’m quite experienced cyclist but I think lots of people do have little pranks and and things don’t nades and lose lose grip on the road. So the idea that recreational cyclists should be riding the same kind of bikes that Tour de France people are riding it’s just madness is just the yes madness and so gravel bikes give an alternative to the touring bike for people who don’t want to be carrying lots of stuff, but still want to do a lot of varied cycling There you go. You’ve got gravel bike, any carton,

Carlton Reid 1:17:32
I have a Specialized Diverge that Specialized very kindly lent it to me for a variety of projects before the lockdown and then because the lockdown here they said, I’ll call it and we can actually collect it, keep it for the duration of the lockdown, just like fantastic. I’ve got this bike for months and months. So yes, I’ve got a gravel bike that I’m using. Yeah, I’m with you on that jack in that I am using That far more than I’d use a road bike, certainly in lockdown, because you can get Oh, you know, you can do lots more different flexibility. So I do a lot of railway paths, and then I come off the rails. And then if I if there’s too many people on there because there are a lot of people walking on this very present moment, and I go, Well, this will go on the road. You know, I’ll just do this stretch, you know, on what was formerly an incredibly busy dual carriageway. Well, I can now ride on that because there’s no cars, and then it just gives you that flexibility of doing the dirt track and the dual carriageway with the same bike. And that’s Yeah,

Jack Thurston 1:18:36
yeah, really obviously, you could you could you could ride your mountain bike on a dual carriageway, but it just wouldn’t have the same sense of a lamb and spirit toward it. You know, going along with knobblies I mean we do this is another thing we were talking at the beginning wherever you about light crew and stuff. And then once once we start geeking out about different kinds of bikes, and what bike you need to do this and what bike you need to do that. You’re amazing. putting off your general public who basically just go into a bike shop and like pick a bike up and go, I want the lightest one. And like I said, just kind of that that whole mentality is just is so pernicious, isn’t it? You see, so I meet so many people and in fact readers or readers of my books, who have taken up cycling and have bought rode bikes because they’re light and maybe because the bike shop had a lot of road bikes in and then they let they let their on a little section like a two mile section of bridleway on my on the route that I’ve given them in the book. And they’re like, Oh, it was muddy, and oh, our tires got stuck and we’ve got mud in the brakes and all that. And I I try to be sympathetic. And I don’t say I wish you hadn’t bought that bike but I do wish they hadn’t bought that bike. I wish they bought a gravel bike or you know, touring bike,

Carlton Reid 1:19:53
old fashioned touring bike is what they are really in many respects. You’ve got the clearance. You’ve got the mud guard islets you equip them with all of the racks even though that’s not the standard thing now you got to be bike packing not not rack riding now, but they are very much of that 1950s rough stuff fellowship I yeah, I mean touring is in terms of

Jack Thurston 1:20:16
what, in terms of what you can do, yes, but they are a lot lighter in terms of slinging them over your shoulder, I think the the feeling of riding them and this is what I like about the bike that I’m I’m writing is that it’s got a sort of tour touring bike wheels or even bigger than touring bike wheels and tires rather, and but the kind of riding position and feel of a liveliness of a of a road bike. It’s that sort of, it’s the best of both worlds in a way because a touring bike when it’s unladen can feel like unnecessarily, sort of lead and people do like that excitement. I have

have a little bit of a twist a little bit of twitch in the bike.

Carlton Reid 1:21:04
So do you have a bike that you research your books with? Or a you? You have a quiver as they say a quiver of bikes, and you’ll just choose that one for the that particular route.

Jack Thurston 1:21:17
Well, I I’ve written a succession of basically steel audax type touring bikes. None of them have been quite right for me, for one reason or another, but they’ve always been like secondhand bikes that I’ve sort of built up myself or whatever. I had a little flirtation with Moulton’s, but that was a while ago. But no, the new bike is a bike built by my friend Richard Hallett who is a former cycling journalist and I’m sure you’ve heard him work with technical editor of Cycling Weekly who lives in West Wales. So not too far from me. And it’s a frame builder first learned to build build frames and building some lovely bikes and so he’s built me a version of him. His model, which is called the 650. b adventure. So it’s a quite, it’s quite traditional in the sense that it’s got rim brakes. And it’s got, it’s got low gears, it’s steel. It’s got a front handlebar bag, like a traditional French style. It’s kind of like a French randonneur type bike.

Yeah, but I’ve also got a bike, like more of a, like

a, you know, a, that’s a hand built

bicycle, which, you know, cost cost me a fair bit. And so I don’t like to just sort of thrash that around all winter. And so I do have a bike which is a disc brake bike, with chunky big tires that I ride in the winter. So yeah, but I’ve got a lot of I’ve got too many bikes, Carlton.

Carlton Reid 1:22:55
No, Jack, there’s no such thing please, please. disabuse yourself of that notion. There is no such thing as too many bikess. So where can people buy the book? So let’s let’s plug where people can buy the book, Jack?

Jack Thurston 1:23:12
They can buy it from me.

I’m selling it directly and this response has been amazing. So I will sign it for you with with my autograph or dedicate it to you, if you’d like that, or if you want to give it to someone else. I’ll dedicate it to them. You can there’s a way of letting me know about that on the website. So the web shop is at last but it’s also available on on the online. I mean, this is a terrible time to be launching a new book because all the book shops are shut because of the lockdown. So I’m having to do a real push on direct sales. But Amazon have it Waterstones I think have it on their online store. You can get it as a Kindle book, and it’s half price. I think it’s like 7.99 on Kindle and it’s 16 pounds 99 The for the real the actual flesh and blood book or whatever, and I think I was gonna have it a bit of a bit of a bit of a discount as they usually do. And and and same with I’ve got all the all the other books are also available in all those sort of sources. If your independent bookshop is selling, it’s doing deliveries or whatever then

that they may have it they may have it or maybe I do get it in.

Yeah, I think people have really enjoyed looking at it and I thought this is gonna be terrible. How am I going to launch a book when there’s no press coverage has no, no travel features, they’re going to be about it. I’m not going to extract anything to the magazines and stuff. But I think it’s early days, but I think that people have really enjoyed in lockdown the chance to dream yet. The 300 that the rides that they’ll do when lockdown eases and And I think that you’re planning a bike ride is a great it’s a it’s a wonderful thing to do, isn’t it? It’s a wonderful it’s a wonderful thing to pull out in the maps and start researching things and with the internet you can do so much research at home you don’t have to go to the library anything.

I think planning i mean i i’d love to

Yeah, I’d love to hear what everyone is whatever whatever is planning. It’d be a great a great thing to know the kind of rides that people are wanting to do because when it’s only when something gets taken away from you, that you really value in in a in a new way isn’t it

Carlton Reid 1:25:38
so many years I wrote a guidebook and it was done by the from the saddle of a bike but it wasn’t a bike book and it was a guidebook to Lebanon and this is just straight after the the Civil War ended and I wrote went in there as a cycle tours rode around published a book and you never know who’s gonna be buying this you as soon as can be independent travellers, but when we actually She looked at the sales, most of them were to x pack Lebanese. And they were they were buying this guidebook to the country that they were born in. Because they hadn’t been back for many, many years. And because I took colour photography, they were using it as a way of of dreaming about their homeland, and how they would revisit one day. So I’m assuming your books certainly now right now, I mean, normally it might be something different, but now it’s gonna be Yeah, that that dreaming angle that I want to do this in the future and and and living vicariously through the pages of your book for their future. Yeah, I hope so.

Jack Thurston 1:26:48
I think it’s gonna be really interesting how Travel and Leisure travel is different in the age of Corona, and whether people won’t be able to fly long distances. Because it’s gonna be so much hassle, you know, the quarantine requirements of international travel are gonna make it very difficult. So people are going to have to be thinking about doorstep adventures, and what they could do in their backyard. And actually, one thing that I should I should sort of say about, about the books is that, sure, you can ride the routes that are in, in the books that I’ve done for you. And I’ve gotten, you’ve got the GPS files and the route sheets and all that that you can use to do exactly those routes. But what I’m trying to communicate through the books is a sort of way in which a way of thinking about cycling that will empower people to do their own planning and dream up their own roots do their own explorations and become their own sort of guide book writer in a way and and I think that is that is from what I can tell that has happened and I’ve done some talks. I did a talk at Stanford’s the map shop in London about the planning the perfect bike ride and how, how to get to grips with that sort of thing, because, you know, some some people it. Again, it’s one of these issues that for hardened, experienced cycle tourists such as you know, yourself and me, I suppose to a certain extent, it’s second nature to us as what we do we just get out the map and we go for it. And I think if you if you if you’ve grown up with maps, that the only maps you’ve ever really seen are Google Maps on your phone, then you really have no idea of like, how to plan satisfying, enjoyable and safe cycle tour. And so I think that there is a lot of discovery that people can do, particularly people who have been again, so digital natives who’ve been weaned on on Google Maps. There’s so much information that doesn’t contain there. It’s it’s not it’s not just about mapping but I love the idea. Have people adapting my routes or, or just coming up with their own rides in that style where it’s not about kings of the mountains. And it’s not about, you know, threshold blood values or whatever the whatever the sport people are into. It’s about exploration, that stopping and looking and feeling.

Carlton Reid 1:29:23
But to be fair here, and I’m not not knocking you here, but you’ve got Simon Warren there, who is talking to his guidebooks in there. In fact, guidebooks are talking about, you know, hill climbs, and people will cycle many, many miles to get to, you know, his 100 climbs. And people are just getting out there for that reason, so it’s still actually it’s touring. It’s just, it’s on a svelte road bike, but it’s still touring.

Jack Thurston 1:29:52
Yeah, it’s funny. I had a conversation with Simon Mottram, the founder and owner of or co owner, I don’t worry How much of a notes anymore of Rapha, a while ago and he said yeah that Jack basically what we all do is touring we just can’t call it that

Carlton Reid 1:30:12
it’s a good point

Jack Thurston 1:30:14
but they’re not they’re not how many people wearing Rapha are actually in bike races

you know where there’s a prize for the winner?

Carlton Reid 1:30:25
Yes if I if I’m saying I’m going out for a ride if I’m in my Lycra or I’ll say I’m going for a training ride is what I say but i’m not i’m actually going exploring and I’m going riding on a tour so yeah, it’s good point i’m not i’m not actually training because I’m not training for a race. I’m just using a bike to tour

Jack Thurston 1:30:44
Yeah, and no one want me to it’s funny because the Tour de France okay tour in the in the word in the phrase Tour de France is great. It’s a Tour de France. It sounds appealing and exciting, but nobody wants to be a tourist. Do they tourists, tourists yucky nasty. people you know having vegan chips and and fizzy warm lager on the Costa Brava No, wants to be a tourist. We want to be adventurous. We want to be explorers, we want to be travellers. And so, you know, I think by cycle touring, unfortunately, it’s not it’s not it’s not got the the touring is not the tour of the Tour de France as in as in a journey. It’s the tour of the tourist, the tourism and and that’s a negative association. But I do I do worry sometimes that the what gets the media attention is people pushing themselves to the limit. And I don’t know that you necessarily always need to push yourself to the limit. I don’t know saying that. It’s wrong to push yourself to the limit, but it does seem as though that is the dominating way in which Cycling is presented. It’s either either sporting limits like tournament Racing that kind of thing, or it’s adventure limits. It’s like how, how many days? Can you ride without sleeping? Like, what hardships Can you endure on the crossing this desert? On a bicycle.

Carlton Reid 1:32:12
Isn’t that your previous show? Because you’ve just had Mr. Walker on, haven’t you? You’ve had Ian on there talking about his his long distance rides in which he is not getting any sleep.

Jack Thurston 1:32:28
And I did quiz him a bit about that about about, I mean, probably not as much as I should have done. I think he did. He did. He did give a good explanation of what the appeal is, and that he feels it’s really nice to have like a project and a kind of an event that he’s working towards, that gives him a sense of direction and a mission and an idea of, of going further than he can ever go before. But I think the people who do that sort of thing are are not the most not the majority of us. They are exceptional people, and we celebrate them and load them and crown them with laurels and, and all that kind of stuff and we admire them and we enjoy reading their exploits. But it’s, it’s, it doesn’t need to be that way. But yet that is what dominates. Because if you want to get attention for a bicycle ride in the media, it has to be something extreme. It has to be something that’s never been done before a first or it has to be you know, you’ve got caught by a attacked by a bear or, or some sort of hardship. And I don’t, I think you can just use the bicycle as a way of travelling. That is just the best way of travelling that there is. And I think that’s as simple as that. If that doesn’t sell newspapers unfortunately, and doesn’t get people you know, with massive Instagram followings or whatever, I don’t know. It doesn’t have to be extreme.

Carlton Reid 1:33:58

thank you. This in our heart of hearts.

I was gonna wrap the show up actually.

Jack Thurston 1:34:06
Yeah, no, no, no, go go grab the shirt without me blathering. No,

Carlton Reid 1:34:09
no, no, it’s fine. You’re a professional blatherer. That’s what you that’s what you do. Maybe you actually talked more about yourself on this show then then you’ve talked in previous shows. So if I’ve introduced people to your history, in politics and with farm subsidies in the EU, then then I’m very happy to have broadened people’s knowledge into jack. Thanks to Jack Thurston for a diverting couple of hours. His books really are sumptuous and inspiring, and I heartily recommend them. Don’t go listening to his podcast though. It’s awful. Yeh yeh I’m kidding — The Bike Show is great, really really catholic, in the non-religious sense, and I’m glad Jack is back in the game even if its only sporadic at the moment. This has been episode 243 [244 actually!!] of the Spokesmen Cycycling Podcast. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was bigging up the 200th episode of the show, and now we’re closing in on 250 episodes. Show notes and more can be found at The next episode — I hope — is with academic Rachel Aldred, the Metropolitan police’s Andy Cox and Greater Manchester’s cycling and walking commissioner Chris Boardman. We had an issue with gremlins, and I’m waiting on a bit of audio repair from Chris. If that happens, I’ll get the show out to you as soon as possible. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

April 16, 2020 / / Blog

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Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 243: Cycling Palestine with Sohaib Samara, Malak Hasan & Julian Sayarer

Thursday 16th April 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

Sohaib Samara and Malak Hasan, co-organisers of advocacy group Cycling Palestine.

Travel writer and cycle tourist Julian Sayarer, author of “Fifty Miles Wide” a harrowing account of his recent cycling trips in Israel and Palestine, meeting with people on both sides of the divide.

TOPIC: Cycling in Palestine.


Guardian article “Why cycling in Palestine is an intensely political act.” article on Bethlehem’s e-bike tour and Banksy’s Walled-off Hotel.

Cycling Palestine on Facebook.

Gino Bartali’s secret heroism; Ran Margaliot and Israel Cycling Academy.

Tout Terrain bicycles.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 243 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast with me, Carlton Reid. This show was engineered on Thursday 16th of April 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 spokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:25
Those sounds are from Nablus, Palestine. I was there before the lockdown, researching articles for and The Guardian. The Forbes article majored on a new e-bike tour of Bethlehem that zips past Banky’s Walled-Off Hotel, and the Guardian article explored Palestine’s burgeoning bicycle scene. For that piece I interviewed Sohaib Samara and Malak Hasan, co-organisers of advocacy group Cycling Palestine. We met in Bethlehem and the first part of today’s show is the audio from that interview, with Malak translating Sohaib’s Arabic as we went along. The second half of the show is also Palestine-themed — I talked with travel writer and cycle tourist Julian Sayarer. He has a brilliant new book out today. “Fifty Miles Wide” is his often harrowing account of a number of recent cycling trips in Israel and Palestine, meeting with people on both sides of the divide. It’s an unavoidably political book — heck, even Palestinian recipe books drip with political commentary; food is from the land, and this land is bitterly contested as it has been for thousands of years. So, this isn’t an episode for the faint-hearted — there are some graphic moments, in both halves of the show. Before that long discussion with Julian, which we did over the internet, here’s Malak and Sohaib who I recorded in the foyer of Bethlehem’s Manger Square Hotel.

Malak Hasan 3:14
Sohaib and I work together most of the time, but he’s the founder of the group. And he’s the one who he’s like the mastermind behind the planning of the, the trips, the all the logistics. So I’ll answer the questions that I know about the group as as a media expert, okay. I like the sound of the person who’s usually in charge of like talking about the group and if there’s a specific question they want to ask him, then I’ll just translate and talk about it.

Carlton Reid 3:49
So, when, what year?.

Malak Hasan 3:53

Malak Hasan 3:55
Cycling Palestine is the fruit of the passion of few Palestinian young men who love to cycle there was no access. There’s no opportunity it’s not easy to get cycling gear because it’s expensive oh you just call and get it and there are no shops here like there are no shops that he can just go and buy a bicycle. But they in a way had like this idea and they got maybe used bikes and they would go out cycle because they love it. They would explore Palestine go to these unfamiliar roads maybe with no with not really the greatest infrastructure but still they would do it and they loved it so much and they enjoy it so much to the point where they decided that you know, maybe we should invite other people to come try this out with us because it’s so fun.

Carlton Reid 4:53
And is this sorry, is this Ramallah This is all Ramallah? Ramallah?

Malak Hasan 4:57
Yes, it’s all Ramallah. and in 2016 it was Sohaib and two other friends, they decided to start posting on Facebook and invite people to join the tours. And it was as simple as you know, we’re going to maybe in a Mullah surrounding areas who wants to join, we have like two, you know, extra bikes, and then, you know, two people would join and then they were able to get another bike and, and so on, you know, until at some point there were like 10 people joining the, the trips, including myself, and that’s how I came to, to know so hype. And then we we we sat down and we were thinking, how can we like make this thing more organised? And we can grow this as a movement because we know a lot of people, when they see us, they’re like, Oh, my God, this is amazing when they join, but we don’t know how. And then we decided to start something called cycling Palestine. Something that will include all Palestine, there’s no borders, no restrictions, no roadblocks. It’s everywhere, even though it’s a normal and slowly we became you know, we started To leave Ramallah go to the, you know, Jordan Valley go to Bethlehem go to Holly in Annapolis just to get to know people finding out new roads. And and you know, after four years we have over 3000 members who join us. Yes, I mean, not at the same time, of course in each like tour, but you would see them like come and go depending on their schedules of work and know if they have time or not. And we have over, you know, 12,000 followers on Facebook of people who actually either joined either want to join or they are really invested in the idea.

Carlton Reid 6:32
So is this only leisure or the some people then start cycling and maybe think oh, I’ll cycle to work or so how do you think it it is?

Malak Hasan 6:47
Yeah, it has been shown and investigated which to any norm model and the best tomato FNS I should hire. Remember, it’s Like leisure in a sense of, I mean, of course we have fun, but we really look at, especially now that we grew, we also like we not only grew in size, but we also grew in mind, we realised that biking is not just like a sport, it’s a really a tool for change. And now we cycled to tell people that you know, environmentally, it’s good, socially, it’s amazing. And also like economically if you don’t have money, you can get a bike and you can go anywhere. It’s a it’s the best icebreaker for us whenever we are on the road someone wants to talk to us know who we are. So for us it’s you know, it’s leisure Of course especially in in circumstances where there is no a lot of like there’s there’s not many like outlets for Palestinians to you know, I don’t know like go to the beach or like have fun. So we’re like exploring the untouched areas, the roads, which usually we don’t usually go to to walk, you know, and so we cycle so for us now, a lot of people have adopted this as a lifestyle. They go to work on bikes. We have a lot of athletes who, you know, decided to become like professional cyclists with the minimum resources. I mean, you’re talking about bikes that are not like, you know, competitive or like professional bikes, but they want to become athletes. They cycled, you know, everyday to train with. In 2000. It had the struggle. In 2019, we actually the the cycling Federation became active, which is very late in the world of cycling. But that’s this was kind of a result to this leg growing phase that we’ve helped create. When they saw that more people are cycling more people are interested in this. So yeah.

Carlton Reid 8:45
In we’ve been in Jericho. Yeah. And there’s actually quite a few people cycling in Jericho for transport. Yeah, on electric bikes, mainly. Yeah. But in other places in Palestine, it’s maybe less because of the hill. Huh so what’s what’s the is Jericho is flat. Is that the reason why why does Jericho have more people riding?

Malak Hasan 9:07
Yeah. Is that like

Malak Hasan 9:09
between 50 and 100? Shakib? McIntyre Ah, good enough sorry. Yeah. So in truth carry on Qalqilya, which are two other governorates in Palestine they also have this like a cycling kind of phenomena. Like Jericho was also in Gaza. I’ve been to Gaza like few months ago for work, and they are Cycling is a big thing.

Carlton Reid 9:37
adults as well as children because children ride bikes, but is that the perception that it’s this is a children’s like, why are you doing a children’s activity?

Malak Hasan 9:47
So I think you know, here is where how I can explain this phenomena is that you cycle, not for leisure, but because you’re forced to in a way because it’s cheap. You can get a bike Put Like the bread and delivered Exactly. You don’t need the gas, you don’t need them, you know, fixing it is so easy. And also, you know, because of the fact that Jericho is flat makes it the ultimate really cheap alternative. But when you go to the other, you know, districts or the cities because it’s very hilly. No one is, you know, willing to go through that. But also, there’s a problem, you know, so heidemann, for example, found when he started Cycling is that the comments of the people were always like, they always told him, why are you cycling? You’re an old man. Now you should be thinking about like starting a family having babies, you know, working. This is stupid. Don’t do that. And so there’s this like, mixed like contradicting perception of cycling, but do you want me like you can only cycle if you’re poor and you need transportation and do delivery, but you cannot cycle if you’re an old man, and you should be working. You know what I mean? So if you

Carlton Reid 10:55
have a Mercedes or if you have a good car, you should not be on a bicycle.

Malak Hasan 10:59
Yes. I mean, you Obviously fooling around, and it’s to and even the girls like, I mean, it’s different. So for boys and girls, they start riding their bikes, you know, they get their first like small bike, you know, with, with the with the with the with the colours and everything. But you reach a point where as a girl, it’s no longer acceptable to be on a bike. That’s maybe a bit later for a man for a boy. But at some point, you have to be serious about studying about work about what you want to do in the future. That’s it.

Carlton Reid 11:26
So that one my next questions was going to be about this the status of bicycling with women. Yeah. And how different that is for compared to a man. So maybe it’s slightly more acceptable. It’s considered strange, but acceptable. Yeah. But for a woman. It’s strange and not acceptable. So how have you tackled that?

Malak Hasan 11:46
Yeah. So so maybe he can tell you first about his experience as a man because I think it’s it’s a bit of a misconception in our perception that men don’t have any troubles with cycling. They do. But it’s different than Great woman so maybe he can tell you keep sure what our climate tonight escalatory machaca Mr. meyen

Malak Hasan 12:05

Malak Hasan 12:08

Malak Hasan 12:10

Malak Hasan 12:18
So he says,

Malak Hasan 12:20
basically the the comments, the main comments he always hears is like, Don’t you want to grow? You know, when are you going to grow up? Come on, you need to grow up, get a life. But recently since we’ve been doing this for over, you know, four years now people kind of lost openness. They’re like cause there’s no way they will change their mind they can, you know, be continued to cycle and they’re now accepting it more. As for me, I think the the challenges were way, way way more complicated because you’re not only doing something that is perceived as a as like as a game or like as as a toy or like as a way for kids to play. It was a way to break free from society’s you know, traditions, even religious misconception that it’s religiously unacceptable or forbidden. So, because I’m visibly Muslim so when I’m always on the bike people are always throwing comments in my face and how could you be a good Muslim and also like be showcasing yourself or like exhibiting your body on the roads. For example, the my friends, my cyclists, friends, the men would be more it would be easier for them to embark on these amazing challenges and adventures. Because no one will be asking where this man is sleeping. Where is he going? Is he alone? Is he going to be fine but for me because most of the men, the cyclists that are men, us the women the small number will not be able to have the same freedom to join their their adventures like doc trip. We went off copy we were nine Guys and two girls. And when we came back most of the comments were like How could you be sleeping like intense and on the roads deserted road with like nine other men? So I think it’s a combination of religious Of course it’s not like accurate no foundation for it because it’s traditional. It’s, I think social, like expectations of a woman to be at home take care of the babies be decent and modest. And it’s a kind of, in a way in their mind, it contradicts with being a cyclist as well.

Carlton Reid 14:32
So that’s the Muslim point of view. Yeah. Do you have Christians is this like, you doesn’t matter who you are? what religion you are. It’s the bicycle. That is the mix. There’s the thing that keeps you together, or is that song for some sort of segregation here on religious lines?

Malak Hasan 14:57
Should I know

Malak Hasan 15:02
Well, Yanni, what they said exactly like I think I tell you a story. And so you will be able to understand that at the end of the day, it’s not religion as much as society, Christian Muslim, even like Jewish, if you live in a society you will adopt the same ideas. For example, the other day I was shopping for like a new apartment from my my friend, she colleague, she came here to palisade from Germany, we were looking for a new apartment for her. And the guy who was renting he’s a Christian. And so we got to talk. And his daughter was there and I told him about my cycling, you know, work with my friends. And the girl she hooked me and she was like, please send my father that I want to you know, ride a bike, he wouldn’t let me and then I was like, what I mean, you you you’ve been like telling me about how amazing my work is. He works with this like NGO. You’ve been telling me about how amazing my work is a cycling and then you won’t let your daughter cycle and he was like, Yeah, because I don’t want society to attack her. I was like, but doesn’t matter if we continue to listen to society. You, nothing will change. And that was actually very recent that I thought it doesn’t really matter. You know, what is your religion? What is your background, if you live in a society, you want to confirm, you want to be a part of them and you want to avoid being attacked. And this is what makes the difference between someone who wants to make a movement or like, create a movement or someone who just wants to follow the lines, you know,

Carlton Reid 16:22
to all back Christians in your group.

Malak Hasan 16:25
Yes, yes. So,

Malak Hasan 16:26
there’s no it’s just it’s just the cultural barriers, not religious barriers.

Malak Hasan 16:31
No, no, no, definitely, I think in Palestine. And I think they both agree that in Palestine, religion has never been a dividing force. I know there are the cases here and there. But I can definitely tell you that I would never come to you in the street and ask you what is your religion? I’ve worked with colleagues for years before like realising that they come from like a different like sect or religion like it’s not like in other parts of the Arab world like in say, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq. It’s never been I’m like a defining factor in our relationships. But of course, there are like these exceptions here and there.

Carlton Reid 17:06
So put that another way, does it actually help bring people together from different cultures, different religions? Because you are joining with something that is an overarching thing and you are coming together to share something together. And does that bring you together? More than if you just met in some other way?

Malak Hasan 17:31

Malak Hasan 17:40

Carlton Reid 17:46

Malak Hasan 17:49
when I want to talk about differences, religion does not come to my mind as maybe something that cycling has helped, like bring together in our case. Maybe because you know, in Palestine we have Christians and Muslims it’s never been an issue. And we never really asked anyone in our groups if they’re like Krishna we don’t even know like it’s never been something that we talk about. But I think when when we’re talking about like bringing people together, I have other maybe considerations. So we help as I told you like, we helped bring the breadwinner who lives in a tent with the with the with the sheep and has a different lifestyle, different even accent. So as maybe somewhere on Facebook, or maybe a service industry decided to join us. And now they’re cycling with a person who studied in their like a fancy school, in Ramallah. In my case, someone who started in an unknown school in a village. We also had the refugees come, I think we also had the religious conservative, join us and also mingle with someone who is very liberal, have these like even conversations along the way, and then you will see that this religious or conservative person is no longer having an issue with me as A woman being on a bike, you would see that eventually we’ll be also talking on Facebook if someone tried to attack me who would defend me as a, as a, as a human, because he knows who’s black is. He knows that he’s my he’s my friend now, regardless of what religion in his mind says. So I think yes, that’s and this is why we do this for four years, you know, has been doing that. And I’ve been doing this for four years, cycling has been really the most effective social tool, you know, for change. Because as I told it’s an icebreaker, people are really intrigued when they see us, they want to know what the hell we’re doing. And they just want to be part of this. And so I think we have leverage with Viking that we are thinking when we think about the future, we believe in that it’s going to be a major, a major turning point for Palestinians if we continue to use cycling to to bring change, you know what I mean?

Carlton Reid 19:54
So we’ve talked about the complications of culture, religion,

Carlton Reid 19:59
yeah, sex.

Carlton Reid 20:00
Yeah, add in the complication of where you live. Yeah. So you are under occupation. And you cannot go everywhere you’d maybe want to go because of the ABC situation. So. So how does how does that complicate things on top of all those other complications?

Malak Hasan 20:21
I think Sohaib would be the best person to answer this question because he’s had amazing stories encounters and problems with that in that regard. So I’ll just translate by luck and he can … [Arabic]

Malak Hasan 20:46
So just for context, he’s a paramedic. As a job. He tells me a story to try to answer a question of how difficult it is to do anything, I think, I think in Palestine But mostly to be like a cyclist. Because you as you know, a cycling you have to go on roads and most of the good roads are the settler roads we call them the ones by Israel which means they’re under like heavy Israeli control there are patrols on the road. And so he tells me a story to kind of to give you some kind of sense into how how difficult and dangerous sometimes it could be. He was with his friends with his friends without when they started cycling and so they were taking this bypass road into like a main. We call them separate roads because it’s they’re usually used by the settlers in the West Bank. And then they were stopped or pulled over by by a patrol and next to a gas station. They were asking them who you are and what you’re doing here. And so when they realised they were Palestinian because most of the time we mistake as as foreigners because there are not a lot of Palestinians who cycle they took them behind the gas station. They asked him to take over in the details of their vests. And to take off their helmets they took them aside with the with the with the bikes. And because so hype speaks some Hebrew he heard them say if they should shoot them in the foot or maybe in the arm like they were like taunting them in a way. And that was in a time where there were a lot of stabbing kinds of incidents against Israelis was a very tense period. And I asked him if you were afraid, he was like, I was not really afraid for myself because then a day if I’m gonna die that said, I’m gonna die I could die anywhere. But he was very worried that if this escalates in a way if he tries to defend himself or like to tell them like there are no grounds for you stopping me and treating me like that, they could easily shoot him treat him in a different way like arrest him and if they eventually killed him for example, they can say that he was posing you know, danger to them and then eventually they will blow up his family’s house. And, and you can see like how you’re brain starts like to go No wonder in dark places while you really just want to go cycling. And for me this is also the same Jani the other day, we were going to the another Jordan Valley on a bike actually it was last Friday. We were also like interrogated on the road by the Israeli soldiers. Even though we were not doing really anything, we’re just waiting on the side of the road for the rest of the group to join us. And so they came. And what I always say to people, that I have no problem being nice to anyone. But sometimes it feels a bit difficult to be nice to someone who’s not treating you in a nice way. But you feel like you have no other option but to say thank you to someone who’s occupying you. Thank you for someone who’s just taking your idea for no reason someone was even not willing to tell you have a good day when you told them like Have a good day because you’re always worried about what’s going to happen if I tick them off the wrong way. You know what I mean? So we’ve always been pulled over Israeli soldiers sometimes even the checkpoints we cannot just cross we arrived in a place where there’s a checkpoint and we have to go back so it seems like there’s always it’s never been free will will never be free but we always try to see the good side in it at least we are trying to do something nice

Carlton Reid 24:18
so difficult question yeah. Could Israelis be a part? I mean is Israeli soldiers doing their job they’re stopping you that’s not good. That’s not nice. But could an ordinary Israeli could they join cycling Palestine? Would they want to join psycho Palestine? How do you think they think about Palestine? Yeah.

Malak Hasan 24:43

Malak Hasan 24:45

Malak Hasan 25:00
So I’ll give you his opinion. And then also like explain more from my side. He tries to sums it up in few words, every Israeli is was will be a soldier at some point. And we cannot judge anyone. But if they did not do anything bad to me now, they might do something bad to someone else without any grounds. And it makes it difficult to have faith and trust in in someone when you know that they’re kind of what is the word they are part of occupation. They’re standing still not doing anything approving something that is as bad as that. And so this stands of a moral dilemma for us in how we even we know that they’re amazing Israelis beautiful, doing amazing things to humanity. I cannot say you know, that every Israeli is bad. Like I can’t say that every Palestinian is good. But it makes it difficult for me as a Palestinian, as both, you know, to Palestinian educated, open minded, peace loving Palestinians to accept Israelis when we don’t know for sure that there are also against, you know, crimes against humanity. They are not against injustice, they’re not against like occupation killing innocent people, blockading people in Gaza. So it makes it difficult for me. And regarding other question about, well, they want to join I don’t think most of them will want to join either because they don’t you know, because they have political reasons, of course, or because the Israeli government is doing great work in like increasing propaganda against Palestinians, you know, creating this idea of the other who is like we’re just waiting for the SEC the right moment to shoot you and kill you. I mean, you’ve seen on the way all these like way Like billboards or like red signs that says, you know, it’s dangerous to go into these areas? Well, I know many Israelis and I have Israeli friends and I even know it like Israeli journalists who come and go every single day. Unless if you want to go there and provoking people, you might be hurt, of course, because it’s a very tense, you know, reality. But other than that, it’s not like the zombies are living on the other side. You know what I mean? I think, what I always see these like red signs, I’m like, yeah, it’s as if there are the zombies living on the other side, and they’re like warning them from the other. And so your question has many layers, but I think for now,

Malak Hasan 27:40
it’s not

Malak Hasan 27:43
in line with our maybe side of the story of like narrative, to welcome Israelis unless those are explicitly saying that we are against occupation. We’re not going to live in a in a village. That was destroyed in 1948 when maybe my father My grandfather was living there, someone who is like I know a lot of Israelis who refuse to come to Israel, because they’re like, unless there is no just solution for Palestinians, we cannot be part of this. So I think it really, it was really the electorate depends on the case.

Carlton Reid 28:17
Do you think if I came out here as an independent cycle terrorist, I would be welcomed the same way I was welcomed in the 1980s.

Malak Hasan 28:27
Even more, even more, okay,

Malak Hasan 28:29
I mean, Sohaib, and just to translate and keep lohaib in the conversation [Arabic]

Malak Hasan 28:44
And also that if you were able to send a really great message when you came cycling, like way back, you had an impact in a way and if you come again, and people always like, welcome someone who is willing to say things the way they Are and also support their rights to just live a decent life. So Palestinians I think even though we have like poverty, we have a lot of, you know, social problems, but we are very educated and we have come to understand the power of international support and solidarity. So if you walk into the West Bank, I swear you can get you’re going to be like, maybe too overwhelmed with, with with the respect and with with the, with the with the support and people wanting to have you in their homes because people have realised that any person who comes to Palestine will maybe be a better voice in Sending out a message because no one trusts us any more. Like even if I want to say to any delegation or anyone that we are under occupation will be like, yeah, you say that, but if someone from outside comes in, sees what’s been happening and sends out a message will be heard better. It’ll be more credible in a way from coming from a white man, like a journalist is like, no. So yeah, I mean, people understand A bet and they will welcome you even more.

Carlton Reid 30:02
Okay, yeah, you, me so you had a background in Swansea, which you that’s where you found cycling. So tell me about what you’re doing in Swan z and how you are riding out to the coast and that’s how you fell in love with cycling. I’ve done some research.

Malak Hasan 30:19
Yeah, yeah, obviously, [Arabic]

Malak Hasan 30:30
yeah. Well, I mean, my story is, I think I’ve told the story before but in a nutshell. I’ve always loved sports. I was born in the UAE did a lot of sports, karate, no dance floor, swimming, but then came back here. It was, of course, a very tense situation after the you know, Intifada. There were roadblocks, curfews. So was kind of denied this opportunity to continue with my sports life and Thankfully, because of my line of work, I was journalists, you know, I speak English. So I had a lot of opportunities to travel. And everywhere I go, I would just always get a bike and cycle so I kind of kept my love for biking abroad. But when I went to Swansea, the first thing I did was buy a bike a square, like I went to this used bike shop and it was like, I need a bike. I don’t care what kind of bike remember, it was like black and green. And he called my, you know, then fiance now my husband and I told him I got a bike. It’s like 70 pounds, you know? And he was like, well, that’s great, you know, and they started right. My husband Yeah, yeah, No, he doesn’t. Okay, he doesn’t right now. I mean, I took him to Jordan wants to try biking in like a safe environment because he is convinced this is not safe here. And then he was like, No, this is not for me, but he’s very supportive. Yeah, anyway, so yeah, I kept biking and I swore I would bike like hours every day and then just felt so free, because I would like feel so overwhelmed. Well, Studying in everything and then get on a bike and feel very relaxed. And then when I came back here I wanted to go back to biking but I was so terrified of people like attacking me all the time. And they stopped biking for a long time, you know, maybe for six, maybe even nine months, until I found so hype at the time that that’s taking back to the slick elite bikers like professionals in Palestine when you try to join this like biking community, it’s very exclusive because Who are you to join us on this amazing adventure? When you have no background in mountain biking? Like no one was welcoming enough of me as a woman. I have no background. I have no equipments, no bikes what I’m gonna do, and so also rejected or even ignored by those who I contacted, but then I contacted so I was like, Yeah, please come and we met each other, went on a bike and never stopped again. It’s amazing

Carlton Reid 32:56
that you’re doing journalism in Swansea?.

Malak Hasan 33:00
Media practice and PR. Yes.

Carlton Reid 33:02
Okay, it’s a long way when what year was that?

Malak Hasan 33:04
was in 2013 14

Carlton Reid 33:07
Okay, and then what are you doing now here

Malak Hasan 33:10
I worked as a freelance journalist for a long time, Al Jazeera their weekly in London that some you know work for the forwards in the US I’ve been doing a lot of stuff but then I I realised that I can just possibly like focus too much on like freelancing because I mean you know, media is very difficult you have to be always on the run it’s not enough money. So I decided that if I want to like dedicate my life also for sports, I need to find a better job so I found like an NGO but paying you know, job and you have to kind of, I think in Palestine, everyone has to sacrifice a part of themselves. Because I’m an economy’s economy’s bad and everything is bad, but I, I just love that we are biking together, and I feel like I’m doing something even if it’s not like journalism, which I absolutely love.

Carlton Reid 33:55
Yeah, so clearly there are some places as possible. Indian you can’t go in your homeland so where can you I guess the settler communities you can’t go yeah but other like you know trails which you would absolutely love to go but it’s maybe too dangerous for you to go or you can you can do parts of it but not the whole of it what’s Where can you not go and where would you like to go

Malak Hasan 34:23
okay so aside because he’s experts in trails, but as I like to [Arabic]

Malak Hasan 34:33

Malak Hasan 34:34

Malak Hasan 34:38
Yep. So he says that he of course would love to go all over the West Bank but the problem and if you’re familiar with the map, you can see it’s basically like a, you know, like Swiss cheese at the moment. So, between Every valley and another Valley, there’s a settlement. If you want to like Hi, let’s say cycle for I don’t know 15 kilometres, you will be faced with at least two checkpoints and settlement maybe another like surveillance tower patrols. So in a way there’s the continuities always broken for a sport that is based on long you know distances and and space, which has always been a problem for us because so for them as the guys who are into mountain biking usually what they do is they do special, very exclusive trips because it’s not safe but they will still would love to do it. So maybe they will go into this like forced, you know, forced area cycle. It’s a settler, you know, maybe trail usually Israelis or their soldiers, they would do it try to disguise themselves as maybe foreigners, but they don’t do that much because it’s not safe and they would not never take other Palestinians and be responsible for their safety. So for example, I’ve never been on these like, special like mountain trails because it’s just not that safe. He sometimes goes on When he really needs that like, like, you know, rush, you know biking rush. But as as he mentioned, this has been a problem. And so that’s why we’re always confined in the roads between villages. Or in worse worst case scenarios, we hit the main roads, the settler roads, but these are usually just for a small portion of the road to be able to arrive into the other village on the other side.

Malak Hasan 36:25
Yeah. Okay. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 36:27
Thank you very much for coming here. And then talking to me.

Malak Hasan 36:34
It’s a pleasure. It’s been fantastic. Thank you.

Malak Hasan 36:35
Yeah, really good. We would have loved to actually have you with us. You know, bike. I wish if you if you stayed longer, we would have liked taking you to this really nice trails called the [Sugar Trail]. The Sugar trail in the Jordan Valley area, you know, it’s a beautiful trail. I think you will appreciate it.

Carlton Reid 36:55
Mybe sometime after lockdown ends I’ll get back out to Palestine — I’d love to ride the Sugar Trail, maybe on a gravel bike. Thanks to Malak and Sohaib there, and sorry for the background noise but it was a busy hotel foyer, you know, when hotels used to be open. Anyway, because we’re still on lockdown and people maybe have more time than usual to listen to podcasts this episode is a long one. But before I play the audio with round the world adventurer Julian Sayarer here’s my co-host David with a commercial interlude.

David Bernstein 37:39
Hey Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a longtime loyal advertiser. You all know who I’m talking about? It’s Jenson USA at I’ve been telling you for years now years that Jensen is the place where you can get a great rates, 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 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 39:05
Thanks David and we’re back with a distinctly Palestinian flavoured episode of the Spokesmen Cycling podcast. And before I get complaints about partisanship — my Guardian article featuring Sohaiub and Malak got me labelled with some pretty hateful stuff on Israeli news sites — those wishing to complain may want to check on this show’s back catalogue. We’ve had episodes about the Giro d’Italia start in Israel, with David and myself recording audio from Jaffa and Jerusalem, and search out the episode with Israeli Ran Margaliot, a former pro cyclist and co-founder of Israel Cycling Academy and Israel’s Bartali Youth Leadership School. Anyway, let’s get on with today’s extended episode. Next up is Julian Sayrayer, author of “Fifty Miles Wide”, out today.

Carlton Reid 40:04
Julian, I have read your book. It is a fabulous book. I’m going to ask first of all, because I’m a writer, and in fact, we’re both. We’re both published authors on Israel, in fact, right. So that’s a bit of a strange one unique thing for us to be talking about. But first of all, I’d like to ask that there’s so much detail in the book. So I’m asking as a writer, how did you get is it from memory? Were you taking really copious notes? We’re taking photographs, and then you know, using that to describe, like, you were describing things like, you know, there’s a thistle of a certain colour in a certain part of, you know, a muddy road, and it’s just incredibly detailed. So how are you physically researching this when you’re there? On the ground?

Julian Sayrayer 41:01
It’s a good question I get asked that a lot. And I think I must just have been somewhat a little bit blessed as a travel writer to get a good memory. I mean, I take notes, written notes, which I think is also good for the memory to actually like write in a in paper with pen. I take a few photos by and large, and they don’t generally the things I’ve photographed, for the most part, haven’t much appeared in the book. I mean, the festival you talk about is very common at the roadsides of Palestine. And I remember the first time I was there, noticing just how vibrantly blue it was. And actually again, it’s funny that you pick that out because I do have one I pressed in one of my notepad, I have the pressed version of it somewhere. And so yeah, and I again, I just think that was a particularly vivid imprinting thing I think I saw the first one. I was like, Wow, what a beautiful colour. And then a few days later, I must have passed hundreds of them. So I think that that in particular is is one of the most common common Types of floor at the roadside. And other than that, yeah, I think I just must have a fairly good memory, it doesn’t feel quite as sharp as it used to. And things like dialogue, I find myself jotting down notes as people are speaking a little bit more than I did. But yeah, just

Carlton Reid 42:17
as my next question, because dialogue, clearly, you’ve got to get absolutely spot on, especially when you’re interviewing people, who will we’ll get on to and when we were in Cannes talking, you know, very, very prominent people in the Israeli peace process.

Carlton Reid 42:32
So are you recording them? Or you’re always doing notes

Julian Sayrayer 42:35
a couple of times. I’ve recorded I spoke with hip hop act in Ramallah, Harry, you know, as musicians were fairly used to the idea of an interview being recorded. And usually the negotiator I spoke with wouldn’t have been recorded. They were conversations over a while and I probably would have gone off after we’ve spoken and written down immediately, and paper and pen what was said, and then there’s He say because he’s quite a sensitive figure, institutional figure, and to some extent within Israeli negotiations over the decades. And so that’s one of the interviews where he got sign off, and which he hadn’t asked for in advance, but just as a courtesy to him in his, his standing, I am, I will show to, to, to be absolutely certain that he approved what was going out in his name. And he was I mean, obviously, I think in travel writing, and especially when you’ve got a political dynamic, you’re obviously doing nobody any favours unless you’re recording the Absolute Truth. I mean, it should sort of go without saying, but I guess in something like Israel and Palestine, so many parties to to greater or lesser extent, legitimately come to the table with a pre existing agenda. And I understand the reasons for that, but I think in terms of just recording with with absolute accuracy, people’s views and what you see is kind of a service in itself. Hmm.

Carlton Reid 44:06
So my book written many, many years ago in the 1990s, in fact, was a guidebook was the Berlitz guidebook to Israel, which I wrote straight after my university degree which actually in religious studies, which was handy. And that was a book that even though it was a general guide book, and it had nothing to do with bicycles whatsoever, I did the research for that book from the saddle of a bicycle, which is a good way of going into your book because it’s really such a small country. You can and Palestine is a small part of that part of the world. There is it’s easy to get basically if you’re a fit cyclist you can get to the from the from Alaska In the south, up to Haifa, and north in a day if you if you if you’re pretty fit. So your book is called 50 miles wide, which is basically alluding to that, that, that that smallness of this this part of the world that is actually massive in the news yet is tiny on the ground.

Julian Sayrayer 45:21
Yeah, absolutely.

Julian Sayrayer 45:24
It’s funny, we have another commonality there. And my first job out of university was also with berlitz, but as an English teacher in Istanbul.

Julian Sayrayer 45:32

Julian Sayrayer 45:34
But yeah, I mean, the bicycle as always, really is an amazing, it’s an amazing way to see anywhere I find. And especially a place that is the nature of the politics, the conflict, whatever we call it, the dispute is so rooted in the land. And the bicycle is such an impressive way of seeing that land, especially when it’s kind of beset with checks. points and rays of what I have. And obviously the the wall that Israel constructed to separate itself from Palestine and which divides, you know, Palestinian villages from their farmland and all kinds of things. The immediacy of the landscape in that way, I think, is is apparent in no ways more than than when you’re on a bicycle. And, and yeah, 50 miles wide, is it the title, I think when I was looking maps prior to my first visit, and realising literally how easy it was, sure, comparatively, it would be to cover the distances and you know, certainly the West Bank, and parts of it up towards Golan a very hilly So I think those those 50 miles as the crow flies can sort of like concertina out into sort of longer distances. But yeah, it’s very small. And I think that that kind of is reflected to an extent In the politics, if you kind of imagine something like a pressure cooker, which is maybe an unfortunate example, in some ways, but you know, villages and particularly Israeli settlements in in the occupied territories are all so close together. There is, in lots of ways very little space, even geographically for the tension and the trauma that accumulates with the attacks that go on or whatever. The space or the lack of space allows very, very little room for the buildup of tension to dissipate. So yeah, I think it’s a really massive part of it. And I do think from an external point of view, it’s kind of why geography and in some ways our lack of familiarity with the Middle East and the terrain of it becomes a problem in understanding these conflicts and its politics from the outside because it is, I mean, even me, I’m half Turkish, I know my mother hitchhikes around Israel in the 60s, I’d like to think that I, I know the Middle East to some fair degree, but still 50 miles wide when I first noticed that it’s Yeah, as you say, it’s it’s kind of striking. And then I think on some levels, it’s hard to understand an area in politics if you don’t understand its geography if you don’t necessarily understand even how it’s mapped reads. And then, as you mentioned, this the Middle East as a whole is an absolutely vast section of land. And often the the way that we reduce it down to very simple elements, whether that’s Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, you know, these countries are larger and more spread apart spread apart than Poland, Austria, Russia, UK, France, and it will seldom be expected for people to have a particularly insightful and the knowledge of the politics of all of these, all of so many European countries. Say, and yeah in the Middle East as often a sense that, you know, we can reduce the these millions, hundreds of millions of people and thousands of miles to their regimes flags and sort of political sort of situation that you can sum up in a sentence or two Hmm.

Carlton Reid 49:21
In the prologue. So I’m going to go into bicycles. This is a bicycle podcast, I’m going to absolutely I want to go into the next geopolitics. Travel right I want to go into all of that in this conversation but I would like to absolutely zoom into the end of the bicycle part of this. And then in the prologue you talk about arriving on a bicycle anywhere and I absolutely agree with this because I’ve certainly experienced it. You are treated as innocent so that’s what you say in there. You know, because if that bicycle is too many people is a is a plaything. It’s something that their children use and then somebody coming up you know arrived on a bicycle is is unclear. threatening says that you, you’ve definitely made that conscious decision you could have, you could have walked in Israel you could have driven around Israel with with Arab drivers, you can have all sorts of different things. But it was a very conscious decision to use a bicycle, because that is a signifier of unthreatening person, slightly, maybe odd person.

Julian Sayrayer 50:25
Yeah, it’s got that eccentricity factor for whatever reason. I mean, to me, you know, 11 910 11 years now, since I cycled around the world, I broke the world record for the circumnavigation. And actually, this whole point of the bicycle is innocence. I think there’s a moment on the Canadian US border on that trip, where the US border guards who said can sometimes be a little bit gnarly. We’re sort of you know, where were you going to Tijuana at that point? It’s like going to Mexico. Yeah, sure thing through you go. And I just remember on that instant that But it really sort of diffused any tension. And so the bicycle in lots of ways has always just been the way that I travel. It’s, it’s the go to way and, and then that the book in lots of ways started out Edinburgh Book Festival actually in talking with an Israeli author. And I mentioned, you know, my travel by bicycle and this idea that you see politics at the side of the road best of all on a bike and she’d kind of suggested Wow, I mean a bicycle, you’d really see the reality of Palestine and Israel

Julian Sayrayer 51:32
in very close quarters.

Julian Sayrayer 51:35
So I think that kind of planted the seed in some ways and so a mixture of that sort of external suggestion actually from an Israeli that I’d see the reality of Palestine very clearly by bicycle, my own you know, I grew up riding a bicycle really I was, you know, I was born in born in the well born in London grew up in the Midlands, in a pretty sort of post industrial malaria, and having a bicycle was absolutely my way of getting out of this quite unremarkable place. You know, from a small town to get in, even into the lanes of Leicester share, it was a sense of freedom. And I do think a bicycle kind of resonates to, you know, to all those who loves what it is to be on a bicycle and feel the wind on your cheeks and in your hair and pedalling and this sort of, you know, the motion and the grace in motion of just riding is such a kind of a pure form of travel, I think, to those that have known it. And then in some ways that kind of, you know, that physicality, even that very sort of sense of freedom isn’t in itself in in kind of stark contrast to a lot of the politics of Palestine, Palestine in particular, where you know, you’ve got cycling clubs and the guys can’t necessarily go bike rides because of military checkpoints, because you’ve got maybe Three checkpoints between Hebron and Jerusalem and so you know even little things like a road you know your average cycling club in the UK where you’re thinking about you know your wattage or your average speeds or your your total time or your personal bests. You know if you’ve got a grumpy conscript whose only Israeli teenager possibly having a bad day and deciding to make life miserable for you as you go for a bike ride, that whole sense of joy and the freedom of being on the bike that’s compromised. So yeah, the the bicycle in some ways is kind of is woven into that way of being in the land or, or the way that so many Palestinian cyclists I met talk about it equally, they still have this sense that riding a bicycle is amazing. And said there’s also that innocence as you say, but also this kind of universality of everyone kind of knows what it is to to ride a bike, you know that first memory you have when you first learn to ride a bike or that first time maybe you go for a bike ride that bit further than you have done previously and the way it resonates.

Carlton Reid 54:10
And in the book, you talk about the bicycle being a leveller for those. So the Palestinian cyclists, if they got tagged up in, in cycling gear, the Israelis would treat them almost as though they were Israeli because they look Israeli because they’ve got cycling gear on.

Julian Sayrayer 54:33
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it’s a funny one. This kind of assumption, if you’ve got your road bike and you drop handlebars, and you’re like, for maybe wraparound shades. Yeah, there’s just an assumption that road cycling is an Israeli thing, you know, with a good bike being an Israeli thing. So yeah, it’s fantastic. And again, really comes back to this idea of freedom that this assumption when you’re going up to a checkpoint that you’re probably Israeli if you’re on a decent budget. Jason gay means some Palestinians who don’t have the right to travel in, in what is essentially their own land, all of it from the river to the sea in some ways. Because all of that lunch should be free for people to move in. And they can kind of transcend those restrictions by being on a bicycle because of the strength of the assumption. There’s probably an alien, they just get word waved on through and say, to be speaking to policy, new cyclists from Hebron, which is, of course, right in the middle of the territory, and who have never seen the sea. And they they’d written to the sea Jaffa, in, you know, just south of Tel Aviv or up to Haifa even and then that kind of very emotional sense of journey of actually we get to go and see the sea. I mean, I’m sure there are some there are permits and you know, travel passes allow people to travel from the West Bank, into what is Israel territory in therefore go to the sea but the fact that there’s something that a little bit clandestine about the bicycle and that you can just sort of steal your way through I almost feel bad talking about in some ways because it was fantastic practice that obviously happens a little bit secretively and I need to do so

Carlton Reid 56:19
without can imagine it’s partly this like the MAMIL type factor you know it bicycling in this country and in Israel is partly you know a now an elitist thing to do so if you’re walking around and coming into checkpoints and you’re wearing what is considered to be elitist gear, then you’re gonna be waved through a bit more that there is lack of cycling being you know, very different for different class of people in in some respects, even though at exactly the same time. Cycling is for poor people. It really is. It confuses people because it just confound expectations.

Julian Sayrayer 57:03
Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, you know, maybe a Palestinian lad who works in a bike shop or in a in a hospital has to save more of his wages to buy this, you know, his team outfit that he wants to wear. Then you’re, you know, a stockbroker in Tel Aviv might, but he still loves I just as when I grew up, I really loved saving up some money and was really happy to get my United States Postal Service job jersey. And, you know, it still happens. And I mean, I think you’re right as well it sort of points to this elitism which is obviously the assumption that gets people waiting for a checkpoint but you know, as we know the bicycle and again this word of being a leveller, I mean, all of these differences that get thrown up by borders by walls by by document Are you know, that’s immaterial and illusory. And I think there have been instant you know, it’s very sad I spoke to one lad who, from Ramallah, you know, ride rides mountain bikes primarily because he doesn’t like the checkpoints. So you kind of have that interesting dynamic, the spatial nature of the conflict, mediates people’s decisions about how they might ride there might be more likely to ride trails, than on the road because of the absence of checkpoints. But even though you know, he would say that he’d met settlers out on the mountain bike trails and stuff, who you know, often just receiving it’s very simple case of racism, the the issue of Route, he’s an Arab, you know, and of course, he’s narrow. And that’s, that means nothing other than, you know, it’s an ethnic background, the language, it’s a culture just as just as Jewish and says, just as it is to be British. And out on the trails, who’s encountered racism, I think, you know, he made no secret of the fact that he’d also had good moments where that kind of kinship and community of the bicycle can kind of transcend these affiliate immaterial ethnic differences that we have. And ultimately, that’s actually in lots of ways what I’d want the goal of the book to be and its message and the you know, the the role of the bicycle in the region, I think is it’s something that gives people a reminder of how much we have in common, essentially, and how illusory the differences are. But yeah, so he, he taken more to trail riding to avoid the checkpoints of the roads, then equally, you’ll have people that maybe go join rambling and walking clubs, because in in two hours of walking, you’re gonna encounter fewer settlements or checkpoints or blocks than you would in two hours of riding. So it’s really interesting. Again, this kind of geographic spatial thing that when you’re in a terrain, as most of us in the West are that you can just take for granted your freedom of movement. It gets completely compromised in a sense In a militarised space, which is what Palestine and certainly the occupied territories is,

Carlton Reid 1:00:05
as interested to hit to read that the some of the scientists, you’re talking to the roadies, and they had actually snuck across to watch the Giro. And in Israel, which must have been quite a difficult for them to do and and be politically charged back home as well.

Julian Sayrayer 1:00:27
Yeah, I think I mean, I can’t remember if I mentioned people sneaking across it. And one guy that I spoke to had said that he specifically is from Ramallah. And, you know, residents of East Jerusalem, despite not having the right to vote in in Jerusalem or Israeli elections are able to move into Jerusalem so they could have gone to see it easily. The God one guy I spoke to in Ramallah hadn’t been able to go and he said that he would have done you know, he would have been really excited to see this international bike race with fame. As riders that he knew and really respected, he would have gotten to watch it, but he didn’t have the right to travel there. So he wasn’t able to. And I think that was a contentious that, you know, his position on that was itself quite contentious because there were I think it was an Israeli Canadian Real Estate magnate who paid the money, which was quite a massive sum for the jello, to start in Jerusalem in 2018. So that in itself isn’t, you know, an instance of what’s being called sports washing now, because it was tied to Trump’s suggestion that you know, Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel, moving the US embassy and stuff like that. So even the existence of the stage that was politicised in that way and some of the guys for example, that ruler and other people in the peloton were quite good. Making a making a statement of you know, this is being this is politicised and You know, we often say that sport or cycling whatever it is to be can’t be politicised shouldn’t be politicised. But often what it’s doing is inherently politicising. It’s just normally done to sort of endorse a business’s usual, that is mostly unquestioned. So the guy that I spoke to saying that he didn’t really care about that he would have just quite liked to have watched the race. Even he would have sort of had some pushback from some of his Palestinian mates suggesting that that was, you know, endorsing and endorsing this idea of a unified Israeli Jerusalem. And this is again as with the choice of wherever, wherever you go, rambling, mountain biking or road cycling, because of the territory being so, so controlled. And again, this whole 50 miles wide thing perhaps every decision there becomes so heavily politicised because ultimate The contention that the Palestinians are facing at route is a denial of their right to exist the denial of the fact that they were their denial of the fact that you know that their grandparents literally their grandparents had their houses taken away from you know, when Jewish paramilitaries were settling the occupied territories after 1948 I mean, these are these are very, very recent memories. And so it’s really hard for, for people to just find, you know, a deep politicised space in some ways where where things aren’t contentious? I mean, you see you have Palestinian, who cycling Gaza who have been, you know, shot up by by Israeli soldiers and snipers of St. Louis. The extent to which we as a cyclist in the West are able to take for granted the space and the conditions and the movement that underpins cycling because it is this amazing invention. allows you to travel so much further and faster than you normally could on your own as a human. And that kind of pure experience of this, this vehicle and this invention is still felt by Palestinian cyclists. But again, as I say, it’s so compromised by the political and territorial constraints that people have to live under.

Carlton Reid 1:04:21
So, the billionaire, the Canadian Israeli billionaire, you mentioned that is called Sylvan Adams. And right, he interviewed Sylvan at when at the Giro because he was the guy who brought the genome in and he part funded the Israeli was the Israeli cycling Academy that protein. When when so that was a piece of in The Guardian that I interviewed him. Now he he’s interesting in that he’s not just interested in in, in Pro Cycling. Yes, he’s of course he did aliyah, which means like he emigrated to Israel from from Canada. He’s Obviously, intensely nationalistic. But he’s also intensely cycling focused. So a lot of his money in Israel is actually being spent on bicycle infrastructure. So you’ve now got the Sylvan Adams bicycle network. Yeah. Just northwest of Tel Aviv. The there’s a velodrome gone up, which is the Sylvan Adams velodrome so I would like to think that maybe through cycling there can be some some meeting of minds that cycling transcends all of the crap.

Julian Sayrayer 1:05:43
Absolutely. I mean, and that’s always my hope as well. And I think that it’s not a you know, it’s not a baseless hope. I think there’s reason to believe it can help in those respects. But it can’t happen on its own. I mean, again, you know, friend from Ramallah was invited recently to ride in, in Switzerland, I think it was. And Israel blocked his visa at the last moment, you know. So I definitely agree that there’s, you know, there’s a role for the bicycle to play in this, you know, this meeting of minds and bringing people together forming a community. But it has to happen alongside other things around freedom of movement for Palestinians around freedom to travel around visas, and around the removal of checkpoints. And I mean, this is to talk about it from a sort of very Israel Palestinian side, which I think is illusory. There are a lot of people in Israel who don’t like being military occupiers who don’t like paying for Israeli soldiers and conscripts to guard, religious, quite extreme religious settlers inside the occupied West Bank who don’t want and who don’t want the reality on the ground to exist as it currently does. And again, I think cycling is, you know, there’s a kind of crossover often between cycling types. And I don’t necessarily even think leftists at all. I think it’s unfair to put it in that way. But when you’re riding a bicycle in a sort of car dominated society, which is basically the world, you’re kind of seeing a different way of doing things. And you’re also even if you are this quite well to do white male Fe, when you’re on the road, suddenly you’re vulnerable again, you know, you’ve got it, doesn’t it, only take some idiot in a car who maybe earns less than you who maybe doesn’t have as many university degrees as you whatever, can still make you feel very vulnerable and put your very life in danger. And I think that sense of vulnerability, and space and the fact that our road networks are inherently politicised and how much space they give to cars, how much space they give to cyclists that actually that’s almost quite an interesting starting point on understanding the political dynamics. So say Israel and Palestine because it’s again, a it’s a situation again, of people being denied space and people being made vulnerable in that space. And one of the first guys that I speak to a guy who’s a cycle cycle cycling tourist, sorry, touring cyclists, that was a term I was looking for. And I stayed with him in Tel Aviv. And he’s someone that had obviously been very involved in Tel Aviv community to get cycling networks put in, and he talks about, we would have been doing that 15 years ago. And it was kind of the weird sort of like eccentric thing. And now everyone in Tel Aviv loves riding a bike. And he’s kind of sort of more he’s gravitated much more towards doing work around Palestine and Israel, because it’s almost it’s kind of in some ways, similar to what we might have seen in a city like London, where the people who 10 years ago we’re going out on a limb to say build these bike bike paths Give it a segregated cycle lanes have now won so much of that fight that it’s it’s actually and thankfully being normalised to some extent. So someone there who’s has activist experiences initially in urban design is now looking more at Palestine and Israel and is well aware that there are people on both sides of these walls who love riding bikes and and yeah, it’s it’s it’s very much a way of bringing people together and and also just seeing cultural change I think he would suggest that McHale the guy in Tel Aviv would have suggested that when they were first talking about bikes in Israel that was the idea of the Middle East and country Hall people like cars cycling isn’t part of the culture. And now you even have the mayor of Tel Aviv saying we want to make Tel Aviv a cycling city or you have these bike trails. across the country. And so route as well, that’s an example of cultural change happening. The fact that the thing that is left that all the little there’s being impossible, it will never work here can happen, which I do think there’s an inherent optimism in that when when you look at something like Palestine and Israel and the impasse there, and how hard it conflicts with justice done often actually there is the potential for people’s minds to change and something that sounds crazy at one point to become very fashionable and suddenly what everyone wants.

Carlton Reid 1:10:36
Well, when I was in Israel when I lived in Israel, I lived in Israel for a year in the mid 1980s. I stick out like a sore thumb on a bicycle, certainly in bicycle paths. I lived within a an Israeli guy who later got so doesn’t really didn’t like the the Israeli system of going in the army, the time and stuff in He actually moved away. He lives in Mexico now. But he was so unusual to see a cyclist that we immediately bonded. Because in Israel, there was just no bikes. And now there are lots of bikes, a lot of our electric bikes and which be illegal in this country in that they are. They have powered electric bikes. But you’re right, absolutely changed and if that can change and such is a car centric society, then there is sort of a smidgen of hope.

Julian Sayrayer 1:11:36
Yeah, definitely. I mean, there is always hope.

Julian Sayrayer 1:11:40
I mean, the Palestinians in particular are just such an amazing source of resilience. Ultimately, it’s very hard to take people’s dignity away from them and you see it, I mean, it’s kind of interesting an idea of where a sense of freedom comes from, and where that hope comes from. And when you’re certainly younger, say millennial Palestinians who have grown up grown up with the border wall, and such extreme segregation within the West Bank, they still have a very strong sense of what freedom is, you know, they still rap with these incredibly sort of forceful lyrics about their home. They still ride bikes and love it, they still are in love with the fact that they can actually like Create Project point and get to the C heifer. In LA, they play music or dance. And I think, again, it’s this kind of immutable sense of where freedom what what induces freedom or that sense of freedom, and I definitely think that riding a bicycle is one of those things so you can, nature in general, you know, you see a sunset, you descend a mountain, I mean, it’s the most beautiful terrain and country and land free which to cycle and I think there’s there’s so much kind of natural beauty in sort of Understanding settings, that, you know, you sort of like feed your soul from that essentially. And it gives people the ability to, you know yet to go on believing that, you know, Justice will get done that peace will come I mean, there is really very little I’ve never really encountered much animosity whatsoever towards Israelis even then certainly not Jews among Palestinians. I mean, the foremost grievance is their desire for mobility for travel for rights for the the sort of access to a full life that we in the West just absolutely take for granted. And yeah, I think we’ve we’ve those justices served, I think that there’s always going to be opportunity for, you know, communities to form and as someone who loves cycling as much as I do, and who’s already always done it and, you know, similarly I’ve done youth work in London. With kids from very well off backgrounds and kids who grew up on estates and they’ve always remarked on the same thing of how, you know, the bicycle was was performed as this leveller. It gives people something in common. And again, I think, you know, metaphor in some ways, the way that a bicycle can change your transport system. I think it can be the facilitator in changing other ways of thinking and ways of seeing a world and its politics and the people in it. But he is

Carlton Reid 1:14:36
back to you. So I think people see bicycles and it brings out the best in them. That’s a lovely quote. Yeah. everywhere, but it is that that’s a nice quote from from from your work.

Julian Sayrayer 1:14:52
Yeah. Well, I think it does. As we say, it’s like that sense of innocence. That’s very interesting on say something like the the larger checkpoints at a camp like Columbia just on the edge of the West Bank and the Palestinians going back through the checkpoint have to go through these very militarised turnstiles, and the cars drive through on the roads. And as always this interesting factor for me to consider that here I am riding a bicycle. So of course, I’ve got a vehicle, I’m not going to go through a checkpoint, turnstile pen, it wouldn’t fit. But equally, I’m obviously not in a box of metal and glass in a car. So it’s the sort of fantastic sort of ambiguity in the middle where you’re not quite a machine, but you’re definitely not only a human in your way of in your way of moving and I think, yeah, it’s that is the essence of doing things differently. It’s that I remember what it was to learn to balance when riding a bike. I remember the first time I decided to sort of like really go for it going down. Thinking Yeah, I think on balance and, and yeah, people who have, you know, taught their kids how to ride a bike and seen that freedom come along. And I think also on a bicycle, you can’t really do an awful lot of harm to anybody. And yet you’re still very personal, you know, you’re still obviously a human being in a way that cars really you know, they really shut us off from ourselves and from one another and I think the very fact of the car windscreen you know, we spend lives in front of computer screens, you know, we we take a break off and now looking at a telephone screen, we, we watch TV to relax in front of another screen and then people move to work behind the windscreen. It’s like the entire world becomes kind of mediated through right angled rectangles. And it’s, it’s almost by definition of, it limits our view. Whether you’re on a bicycle you’ve got you’ve got full frame Under 60 degree or maybe 340 degree vision, and, you know, you can feel the elements and you’re moving yourself. And yeah, we’re living in a very kind of automated mechanised digitalized age. And I think it’s a big part of the appeal and the lower of the bicycle at this moment in history, anything you see in it really sort of blossoming within cities. First of all, because people are kind of somewhat starved of a sense of, you know, what is it to be human, you know, what is the life that I want to want to live? You know, I live in London and often my favourite part of the day, the time when I think most and best is my half hour cycling to wherever it is, I’m going to get two and a half hours like going home afterwards. And I think that’s one of the really special things about cycle touring you just that become your life, you know, that becomes, you know, a very sort of fundamental mode. Have travel stopping and eating you’re hungry when you eat so you really savour your food you know you sleep out in the desert under the stars in a place like Palestine and yeah it’s kind of reminder of how we could be living on

Carlton Reid 1:18:15
the same page now now I’ve got the digital version, not the print version, so maybe it’s not the same page and the print version on the same page is that quote I mentioned. I think people see bicycles and brings out the best in them. There’s another quote that jumped out at me and this is goes straight into the political because you didn’t shy away from from talking

Carlton Reid 1:18:36

Carlton Reid 1:18:38
stuff with with both sides. But this this one was was was quite like it and perhaps even got resonance for Brexit. And that is so this is but we are talking about the the Israel Palestine conflict here is and that is the solution if there is one is always one that nobody likes. Both sides have to have And I mentioned that because we have a peace plan. I’m doing air quotes here. We have a Trump peace plan where one side loves it. The other side hates it. Well, that ain’t gonna work. So So have you talked to your contacts across there about the Trump plan the Kushner plan and what they think about on both sides? And what do you think of that particular plan?

Julian Sayrayer 1:19:30
Yeah, I mean, it’s false. It’s a joke. You know, it’s been rejected throughout the region, including, you know, countries like Saudi Arabia that are increasingly close to Israel. Because there still is a sense that, you know, this Palestinian issue is is such a it goes to the heart, really of the region in lots of ways and it has to be an equitable and just settlement. So I think you know, a diplomatic level interest been mostly ignored? You know, I think that was what $50 billion worth of funding that Trump and Krishna were hoping to put together. So it really is more like a peace bribe than a peace plan. It’s like if we can give the Palestinian Authority enough money to sort of make that go away. But you know, again, you could geography doesn’t lie. And if you look at the map that was put forward as a proposal, you know, that’s, that’s no territory, that’s no country and there’s no real hope that what’s left on the ground there could could form a sort of viable mobile community of people connected to one another. So that’s a sort of political level culturally, like, you know, my friends in Palestine, who, you know, I follow them on social media, you know, absolutely water off a duck’s back to them. They weren’t expecting anything, and they’re sort of social media output across the day. You know, I had my friends who were interested in fashion, maybe like Adding photos to their Instagram feed that they have, you know, textiles that they were working with or templates they were working on my friends who were into bicycles were posting little videos from their bike rides. You know, it’s like it didn’t happen. And my friends in Israel, you know, some of them are involved in the political process, particularly Gilly, who’s featured in the book. You know, his training is as a lawyer, so his job is not really to, you know, he’s not essentially so he’s certainly not a campaigner, or politicised guy, he sort of seeks to to shape what an institutional response would look like. And so he sort of did a sort of pretty dry analysis of, you know, what is this proposal? How does it stack up compared to those proposals that we saw in in the 90s with arafat, and ravine and I think there’s, there’s a recognition that Trump and Krishna having not spoken to the Palestinians for something like the last three years, weren’t ever really gonna come up with something that that offered much to the Palestinians. And so yeah, I think this will, this will just be like a little bit in history. You know, Trump is a very controversial figure in the White House. He’s very close to Netanyahu and, and the Israeli ideal. And yeah, as you say, like everyone has to hate it. I think that’s a pretty crude way of looking at how something gets settled. But I would suggest there’s probably some unfortunate truth in it. And I really don’t think that the, you know, the Israeli certainly not Benjamin Netanyahu, I don’t think they have any problems at all with this proposal as it as it’s put forward, and it’s a proposal you could never accept, really, and it’s good that the Palestinian leadership which is often very close to To the Israeli state, you know, you could argue that the Palestinian Authority just provided sort of security services for on behalf of Israel within the occupied territories. You know, there are heavy problems of corruption there within that body. So it’s good that they also said, you know, this is this is not just this is not equitable. This is not dignity. And I mean, I think the main thing is, and actually, I think you’d find increasingly secular Israelis left wing Israelis who were targeted with, you know, as you mentioned, Brexit, left wing Israelis targeted with the most sort of vile and intimidating forms of abuse far greater than anything. I think the remain live leave divide in the UK ever would have stoked. You know, this isn’t a way for Israel to go about living within their own country. And again, to put it in terms of Brexit with you know, in the UK, or in the US the last few years with Brexit. We’ve seen how intense and unpleasant it can be living with this really deep festering political cleave down heart of your nation. And to be honest, that’s what Israel does. And you can’t really live in denial of that fact.

Julian Sayrayer 1:24:16
And so this whole thing of like being pro Israel pro Palestine, I mean, ultimately, the pro justice case is actually is found on both sides, you know, as a book talks about people in, you know, in Israel that are very much a part of the movement for justice and for peace. And obviously, the Palestinians too, I think there’s often a lot more common cause than than squeezes out into the news.

Carlton Reid 1:24:41
In your in the chapter is entitled sperm smuggling. So we discussed that. And there’s a there’s a, there’s a war going on, and that war is to have as many babies as possible. So on the Palestinian side, you can describe where the story smuggling comes from but on the Israeli side, especially on the the, the radical, religious, right settler community, but certainly even in not the settler community, but the Haredi community, the the Orthodox community, there at least pumping out as many babies as they possibly can. So it’s a it’s a war to try and get as many people on the ground because people on the ground need houses. And if you’ve got houses that it equals space taken over, which is territory, which is then about basically political, absolute. So tell us about sperm smuggling and what are people putting into plastic bags and then hoping?

Julian Sayrayer 1:25:57
Yeah, well, I mean, it’s one of the many stories I guess in the book But just becomes a bit unbelievable somewhat But yeah, I mean the the Jewish extremist who assassinated your Yitzak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister in the 90s has unsubscribed was on surprisingly locked up for life in Ramon prison, and then successfully petitioned the state for visits from his wife.

Julian Sayrayer 1:26:27

Julian Sayrayer 1:26:30
pardon Carlton?

Carlton Reid 1:26:30
Conjugal visits. In other words, they probably do things that you wouldn’t normally expect prisoners have somebody in a prison to do with his wife.

Julian Sayrayer 1:26:40
Exactly. So he had some successful conjugal visits from his wife, you know, father to family, and, you know, having assassinated the Prime Minister of Israel for the crime of risking peace with the Palestinians. You know, you can make cases Well if conjugal visits are an entitlement he should have had, who knows. But either way if he for that crime can nevertheless receive conjugal visits and start a family, you know, you would expect that the same could be afforded to Palestinian prisoners, some of whom are locked up on spurious charges, maybe for things as innocuous as throwing stones rather than assassinating the Prime Minister of Israel. And needless to say, those those legal petitions on behalf of Palestinian prisoners and failed to materialise, and so Palestinian prisoners were not allowed conjugal visits and world being endlessly innovating as it is. This sort of trend of sperm smuggling came about where Palestinians would have their sperm smuggled out of out of prison during visits. And yeah, the idea being that often that how maybe in the cleavage of a woman breasts or inside the plastic sachet, or in an armpit to keep it at sort of body temperature. And then there are fertility clinics, one in Nablus and one in Ramallah, where Palestinian doctors essentially see it as providing, you know, a service to a woman who is often unjustly estranged from her husband and who may want to start a family. And they provide fertility treatment sort of pro bono. So yeah, it’s become this kind of interesting and quite extreme feature of the, you know, the demographic war, which I think is a term that’s actually used somewhat.

Carlton Reid 1:28:39
whereby we make little soldiers that’s the other side of this. This is not just let’s have children, it’s let’s make little soldiers so they can carry on fighting each other in the future.

Julian Sayrayer 1:28:49
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s kind of less violent than that in lots of ways. I think in you know, as much as anything is making new voters you know, the reason why the demographic thing is So prominent is because Israel, you know, the intention is to have a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, which is why the Palestinians have to be denied democracy. I mean, and this is why you have this really sad and really challenging sort of admiration coming from white supremacist, anti semitic us in particular far right, who really like the State of Israel, because it’s based on this idea of an ethnic majority, you know, the idea that you can have a Jewish majority, and that people can be denied the right to vote because you threaten that Jewish majority. So, you know, I almost think if you could like guarantee that if you could guarantee the Netanyahu family and the nationalists of Israel, that there would always be 30% more Jewish people between the river and the sea, than Palestinians are Muslims, whatever. They might be Christians too, because a lot of You know, the bedridden population also has a very hard time of it under Israeli occupation is often Christian. But if you could guarantee the fact that you’d always have a Jewish majority, I think that you know that you could probably find some kind of improvement in the situation. But of course, you can’t guarantee such things and our people have families, often large families as well. So it’s as I say, this demographic warfare and fertility is a very interesting part of, of the politics and of the situation. I mean, you things like the, you know, the Israeli Jewish religious community has much has taken much more keenly to things like IVF treatment, or even same sex parenting than other equivalent religious groups, I say around the world because there is a sense of actually producing more children, you know, is a duty to Israel. Just as much as the Palestinians might see is producing, producing, you know, starting a family. And there are some really fascinating and often quite dark knock on effects of this as well, you know, you have the market for surrogate mothers, and there’s a lot of, you know, Filipino women that were sort of providing that kind of, you know, in utero service. It’s almost in that respect or examples of soldiers, male soldiers who died and had their parents want to harvest their sperm to sort of do artificial insemination with an egg donor after their child has died. You know, so this kind of intense focus on demographics and numbers really, it’s probably another way in which this whole situation on the ground becomes very unnatural, and every bit as much Israelis as the Palestinians and and often I think when you’re so immersed in the politics and and Conflict of it all people can lose sight of how far Israel has strayed from what is a kind of natural kind of healthy? Yeah. So, way to go about life in the world when you’re not immersed in this intense politicisation of everything, as you mentioned with your friend in Israel who decided to leave and go to live in Mexico. I mean, likewise, I have Israeli friends in London who just don’t want to hear anything about any of it and definitely don’t want to live in that country. So, yeah, I mean, this is very intense politicisation, which is everywhere and in the book, I do think the bicycle. It’s the thing that cuts through that and just takes you back to some pure estate that’s less troubled.

Julian Sayrayer 1:32:46
Yeah, it’s definitely a big question.

Carlton Reid 1:32:50
And let’s go let’s go backwards. We could have even started on this really, but you didn’t. You did kind of mention it in passing, passing and I will of course have mentioned it in the intro. But you won’t have heard that which I’ll kind of tag at the beginning of the show. But tell us where you’ve come from, in that you did say, You’re the fastest around the world. So, so go back to that. So So tell us more about that particular journey, that particular book.

Julian Sayrayer 1:33:19
And that was, yes, my first book “Lifecycles.” And I mean, the story of that, I’d cycle I’ve cycled now about half a dozen times to Istanbul with Turkey being my second nation. And then 2000 and 2007, I met a couple of touring cyclists who were on their way around the world, and they stumbled and they mentioned the guy, who now fairly known name and cycle touring Mark Beaumont, and he was breaking a record for a circumnavigation. I looked it up on the internet. I think he averaged 90 miles a day or something that first time you went around the world and more than anything, I mean, we were about the same I made early 20s politics graduates. And both, yeah, both obviously loved life lived on a bicycle. And it really sort of stuck in my craw, about the very corporate nature of what he was doing. You know, it was lots of banking endorsements and a hotel chain. You know, orange the telephone company went on to sponsor it as well and then a branch of Lloyd wing, a division of Lloyds Bank. So it was very, you know, corporatized version of adventure and corporatized version of cycling. And you know, I was 2324 years old and had lived, you know, fantastic memories moments, some of the purest moments of my life really lived on the bicycle with my my life and my panniers over the back wheel. You know, and just going over quiet mountain passes and having farmers give you food for a meal at the end of a day. And, you know, my politics as they are as well, the idea that all of this could just be packaged up and sold to a bank as part of their marketing strategy just seemed a real betrayal of what cycling life on a bicycle was to me. But then also the maybe a sense that everyone has a bit of ownership you know, the idea of the bicycle is this is this invention is this vehicle is loved around the world. And I didn’t want to see it, you know, sold away like that. So I set out to break his world record, which which I did by about a month at the time. With the first leg going from Normandy, I went through Central Asia to Shanghai, then a bit of Southeast Asia and New Zealand. And then a big arc from North America from Vancouver to Tijuana to Florida to Boston. flight to Lisbon and then rode back sprint finished in normal day. So that was really my first big ride as a cycling, and cycling traveller, and that’s also the first book life cycles. And yeah, that’s how I kind of got into this whole thing of writing politics at the side of the road sort of thing.

Carlton Reid 1:36:19
And you make money. Question. Yeah, just

Julian Sayrayer 1:36:25
just about I mean, I’m not getting rich quick. I mean, and you know, Beaumont just, he just broke his Well, he broke my record that records fallen a number of times over the years. He just did a very fast circumnavigation, which I think is rumoured to have costs somewhere like half a million pounds. So I’m not bringing in half a million pounds worth of money to fund my rides with a camper van following me and the team on board. And but yeah, you know, you get by and and I’m got quite a strong background in political science. So it’s kind of that I think I’m a bit unusual in having this very strong commitment to, to life on a bike and to the bicycle, but also being kind of interested as an analyst, also in politics and political economy. So I’ve somehow carved out a little niche, which if you’d have told me 10 years ago, I was going to do, I would have laughed at you.

Carlton Reid 1:37:31
So how long do you spend in Israel? Because you’re going in a small country, we’ve discussed that you’re going backwards and forwards. You know, one minute you’re in Tel Aviv, the next minute, you’re in Hebron. So how long are we actually there? researching this book?

Julian Sayrayer 1:37:47
In 20, I was there in 2018 for six weeks, with across two visits or shorter visit in the summer, and then I was back for a month at the very end 20 2018 just kind of, you know, it’s good to visit a couple of times and I’ve got friends from Israel and from Palestine, who I’m obviously still in contact with, and I’ll get in touch and ask them when the Israeli elections are happening or, you know, see what’s basically going on really. So I’ve kind of mainly in the last few years have come to develop quite a quite a strong connection to to both countries, Palestine, Israel or one country, whatever is going to be in the future. Who knows. And people in both places.

Julian Sayrayer 1:38:39
But yeah, it was it was six weeks in total on the ground. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 1:38:42
I don’t think you’ve got much chance to get your PalIsrael name flying anytime soon. So you mentioned that one of the potentials that’s like, can’t see that happening, and that’s because of the religion because it goes wide. Why is this bit of dirt in The Middle East. Quite so important when it is a beautiful place. Yeah, there’s all sorts of reasons why, you know, people may fight over it. But generally, quite apart from the nationalism which is underpinned by the religion, it is that religious thing. So that’s why it’s gonna be so difficult to say change a name. That’s why it’s so difficult to get people out of the West Bank, because people view this as religious destiny. So Muslims view it as as their land. And so Mohammed who has come to the Al Aqsa Mosque that was built over that the Dome of the Rock, and you know, and send it to heaven, on his in his horse from there, so the claim for that and of course, Jewish people view it as absolutely their, their religious God given homeland. So given the fact it’s religion, not not just nationalism at stake here, your national And you could you could possibly, you can imagine might actually change your morph over, you know, a good number of years, when you talk about religion that that is so intrinsic to this region. That’s why people fight over this place because of the religious part of it. So do you genuinely see any solution political solution, when underpinning This is Faith is is not logic at all. It’s faith.

Julian Sayrayer 1:40:31
To an extent, I mean, often I find that kind of interpretation of events can often obscure the reality a little bit and, you know, we have precedents elsewhere and the, you know, the Protestants aren’t allowed to march through Catholic regions of Northern Ireland commemorating and honouring the massacres of, you know, the massacres of Catholics. You know, there’s precedent for these things being dealt with decently and proportionately and sensibly elsewhere. I think you know, and again, you have lots of secular, secular Jews, secular Israelis, who feel much more troubled by extreme Jewish

Julian Sayrayer 1:41:13
fanatics, Jewish extremist religions,

Julian Sayrayer 1:41:17
interpretations of that religion than they do by secular Palestinians. I think the problem is that currently and for the last, you know, two decades really the political situation and lived reality for Palestinians in particular has become so has become so sort of circumscribed and bad. That in that space, religious ideas really flourish. You know, if you’re living in Gaza under an Israeli blockade, and you’ve got 2 million people in something like, you know, 40 square kilometres, a stretch of land like 10 kilometres wide and You have you know Israeli snipers on the on the blockaded sort of land outside. So if you protest, you might get shot at you know you’ve got bombs falling in my experience where your life has been taken out of your own control. I think religion is probably a timeless kind of antidote to that loss of control because actually within your own mind, you can you know, you the notion of Paradise and an afterlife becomes increasingly appealing, but I actually don’t think that’s the version of life most people want. And I think with with the political situation, addressed and ameliorated, I think he could often you could find a sort of, you know, a really diminished hold of religion over at all. I mean, if you go back to the 20th century, the the first proposals of a Jewish homeland, I mean, it’s obviously in Israel now. And Jerusalem, of course has that resonance, but at first it was discussed as potentially being in Africa in what is modern day Uganda? Yeah. So I don’t think anything is ever intractable. And then again, as I mentioned earlier with fertility treatments and the idea of, you know, same sex parenting actually being mostly popular with Jewish communities in Israel, where they maybe wouldn’t be with Christian or whatever communities elsewhere in the West, because of that note, you know, the notion of the demographic battle. So you see, the the reality of the politics, really melding the form that religion will take and the views that religion will take. So I do think if the politics is improved, and that absolutely has to be done as an imperative. And then the obvious things such as you know, the Orangemen marches in Northern Ireland, whatever their equivalents are, in Palestine in Israel, a wound in which I think you’d find supported amongst Israelis, Israeli secular people as well and equally secular Palestinians who don’t feel represented by Hamas, of course and who aren’t even Muslim. You know, I speak in the book to a guy who started a craft brewery, side Ramallah and he talks about his problems with, you know, people who are much more extremist in their views of Islam than your average Palestinian would be I mean, he’s a Palestinian Christian which is a the existence of which gets somewhat erased the fact that about one third of Palestinians a Christian is completely obscured. Because I think again for sort of, we live in a very Islamophobic time and it becomes easier to sort of justify the repression of the Palestinians have to live under. If we just say, Oh, well, Muslims, and that’s a very pernicious notion that Muslims are kind of inherently dangerous or inherently Religious and other other religious groups. And, and yeah, I think if we can improve the politics, the religious kind of the strictness of religious understanding whether it’s Palestinian or Israeli can ameliorate right because people actually ultimately just want but alive

Carlton Reid 1:45:22
mm hmm in the book you do this but I just like to draw it out on unit and I’m fitness being devil’s advocate here and almost out of his a catches in Israel that the Palestinians are pawns basically kept as you know this this victim status as refugee kind of mentality because of geopolitics because the other majority Arab countries in the region in effect, we Want to continue fighting the 1948 War? And it’s in their interest to keep Palestinians as refugees. Whereas if this happened anywhere else in the world, you would expect if there was any genocides that happened any push back to get people to disappear from a region. Yeah. And he left that region will they be absorbed in other parts of of the world it close to that region. This hasn’t happened to the Palestinians because they’ve been kept as pawns. So you could have solved this problem with the Arab world could have solved this problem if they had absorbed the Palestinians at 48 to begin with 67 in that in the Kippur War, etc, etc. 73 stories the Yom Kippur War, so it could have done what was is, you know, you discusses in the book, so you can just talk about that. But what is the here? What’s your view of Palestinians being this deliberately being made victims? by that? Let’s put it this way the by their own side?

Julian Sayrayer 1:47:14
Yeah, I mean, you know, there’s a lot there’s been a lack of particular result of Western meddling in the region, there has been a lack of, you know, local democratic states in the Middle East, which has in turn made it harder to to create a sort of democratic, lasting just solution to the issue. I mean, I do think it’s very important to acknowledge that actually, the arrival of Jewish paramilitaries and then Jewish settlers to that region was, you know, it’s an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And so, of course, people fled. And then to an extent, you know, that the borders as you, as you say, have been in such different ways. Over the years after 48 after 67 after 73 You know, there’s been times under military rule Bayes Israeli, there’s been times where the West Bank was kind of, in some respects a part of Jordan and was administered by Jordan. So it’s it’s partly a question of things changing at different time. But I mean, ultimately a Palestinian from Hebron of Nablus doesn’t necessarily want to be incorporated into an outer suburb of Cairo or Damascus, because they’ve been removed from from their homeland. You know, that’s kind of no real consolation for the sort of the trauma and the injury that you’ve been done. And I do think in the western view of Palestine, there can be a real carelessness that sort of endorses this idea that well you know, Arabs are all the same, which actually is very, you know, deep and prominently racist part of it is really thinking Well, like just go somewhere else. And you know, we wouldn’t understand. And I often within the book kind of put what’s happened into a European perspective. And if, you know, France had sort of colonised sort of Germany and sort of shunted off great tracks of German people, well, I could go and live in, you know, in the Netherlands or in, in Belgium or in Austria, because, you know, they they also speak, they also speak German, and actually, they’ll be fine there. The idea that people actually have a right to the land that Iran into the land of their, their ancestry today, who have forebears? You know, it’s really important, and it’s very interesting as well, when we look at the Israeli sort of self justification for why it will take the land that it does, is that this is the land of our forefathers going back, say 2000 years but actually, this is Palestinian land going back. Two years. 20 years. last century most. So the idea that Israel, Israel and Israelis and Jews have the right to return, which is the exact same turn of phrase that Palestinians invoke a right to return to land that they were cleansed from in 48. with Israeli arrival, the idea that that can be extended to Jewish people but not to Palestinians is really it’s on its head sort of thing.

Carlton Reid 1:50:25
But we screwed up in that, you know, the Brits screwed up. All the world powers screwed up on this. Yeah. And there’s times in history, and including, of course, the Ottoman Empire, which you’ll be familiar with. Yeah. So So given the fact that we have screwed up, the kind of weak as in the Western powers that have tried to solve this given that that we have always screwed up. There has got to be a solution that that is arrived at on the ground, so you’re not in favour of Israel disappearing, you just want that to be you think it’s gonna be as, as Gilly, in the book, it says, There’s gonna be a two state solution. That’s the only way of solving this. It’s gonna be two states. Yeah,

Julian Sayrayer 1:51:16
I mean, I think it’s very, you know, and Gilly would be prominent in suggesting that that is the idea that content consistently polls best. But then as we see, with this current one from Trump and Krishna, you can be very disingenuous with what you call a second state in that two state solution. I mean, Me Myself, I mean, I’m probably sufficiently there are no borders in my overall worldview, and or, you know, my love of the bicycle and the fact Actually, we can all just happily live together. You know, and you’d find that common on you know, left wing, left wing Israelis or Palestinians it might not simply just say one state but you know, I’m I’m an outside of the region, however much I care about it and however much you know, I might have accumulated some knowledge It’s not really it’s not for me to say. And I do think that one state has a degree of sense to it. I mean, Israel is there, of course. And there are, you know, there Arab Jews from elsewhere in the Middle East to move to Israel because they they felt safer in a Jewish state than in the Arab states they’d come from. There are whatever historical claims of the Jewish people to that land as well. You know, I’m sufficiently convinced always that people in the right circumstances can live together happily and peaceably. That that would always be my my kind of guiding instinct on what the outcome should be. But I

Carlton Reid 1:52:47
just explained you. So we should I think we should explain who Gilly is because I know who he is because I’ve read the book. And we did in earlier on but just just give us a pen now. From now. sketch of, of Gideon and in his role in the Israeli peace process,

Julian Sayrayer 1:53:04
yeah, so Gilly is he was a negotiator at the Camp David Accords. And then again on the the late Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin. So he’s someone that over decades has really known the Israeli position. On on negotiations with the Palestinians is an interesting, his own ethnic background is interesting in that he’s a Sephardic Jew. So he would be of the refugees of Spain that left on the Korean peninsula that left after the Spanish Inquisition. So his family line has really been in Jerusalem for centuries and centuries, which I think gives him a really valuable perspective on it in he is, of course, Jewish, but nobody could say that he does not belong in that in that part of the world after so many centuries, and equally because he is indigenously of that. Part of the world I think he has sympathy with the Palestinian position. Visa V, you know, the notion of a Jewish person from the Ukraine moving to a settlement on occupied Palestinian land, and that not necessarily being a just thing ever. So, yeah, you do find all manner of of different opinions. But I think ultimately, they’re, I think Israel needs to think as a nation about how to live at peace in the Middle East. And I think so deep within thinking of the regime is the idea that you can have war with Iran, you can make friends with a deeply brutal and authoritarian dictatorship in Saudi Arabia. And that you can just keep the Palestinians under military occupation. I mean, none of these things are sort of lasting, lasting settlements in a way that can never be vied for a sustainable and mutually prosperous future. And, you know, I think there are big problems within it all around capitalism. There’s a lot of money involved. There is, of course, the religious dynamic as well. But I do think that, you know, states have a sort of duty to the people living in them to do what do what’s best for providing a lasting solution. And I think those solutions are out there with the right political will, I think we’re going to see increased disengagement from the region from the United States after Donald Trump probably because you know, the middle east of that region, because of its endemic kind of poor levels of democracy. You know, it’s a region that’s going to be really hit hard by climate change. It’s a region that is already being hit hard by the declining value of oil and gas, which is obviously a welcome trend in the world. And so you’re going to see diminishing returns engagement with that region. And Israel has really like premised its entire existence for the last 50 years. And, in particular, on that sort of support, you know, the US and Israel $10 million a day in military aid for the most part, and, you know, this current administration, there’s a lot of support for that. But I don’t think that’s going to be a lasting trend. It’s something that’s coming under increased scrutiny in the United States. And I just think it’s in the interests of a country and its people to be at peace with its neighbours, and you can’t have peace without justice. And so I think that is, that’s kind of the core of what I feel needs to happen in Israel and with its current government, it’s not going to have or even the opposition of Bennigan’s. They’re sort of like nominally centrist or less nationalist character that’s still a sort of deep kind of attraction to annexing the West. Bank to, you know, bombing Hamas in Gaza. And you know, I just think there’s a lack of an honest discourse going on.

Carlton Reid 1:57:10
So going back to Gilly, there’s a quote there, which which meshes with what you said there exactly. So quote from him is you cannot have a state that denies others that freedom, you can’t whatever the reason, it just won’t work. It’s not sustainable. So is he ever liking or people like not maybe not him, but other people like him? potentially going to be to the for negotiating in the future? Or do you think that was the that was the chance that they had back then when he was on the Oslo Accords?

Julian Sayrayer 1:57:45
Yeah, I mean, I think looked back look back at Oslo was an opportunity. And yeah, I think there was a good faith engagement at that time, to an extent that that had some sort of hope. I mean, the Palestinians were suggests that the Israelis never stopped building settlements. And Oslo was sort of the, you know, the ultimate sort of charade really, which gave legitimacy to the ongoing sort of, like de facto annexation of Palestinian territory. So I don’t think that that time was a golden age whatsoever. But I do think, you know, if you see the Clinton administration or whatever, there was a kind of a more genuine engagement with the idea of finding adjust solution. And yeah, we’re certainly not at that time right now.

Julian Sayrayer 1:58:32
But it’s always it’s hard to see what what the future holds.

Julian Sayrayer 1:58:38
I think yeah, that it’s it’s a very difficult process because I mean, democracy within the Palestinian territories has been corrupted by say the Palestinian Authority just providing security services for the Israelis equally. So what should be the government in Palestine has these very limited set of powers Often it ends up sort of policing protests and the like, or activists in a way that is at odds with Palestinian democracy, but upholds its kind of own relationship with with Israel with, you know, in a relationship that has numerous kinds of funding, funding channels tied to it, saying, ultimately, you know, my sympathies are foremost with the Palestinian my support foremost with with the Palestinians. I mean, I do have some compassion for the idea that I don’t think the Israeli population is living a natural life as you know, these kind of oppresses by by default in this very sort of highly religious sized society that is in a state of sort of permanent war. I don’t think that’s good for Israelis either, but but mostly I feel like Palestinians are being denied their voice but you know, something that is it’s important The trajectory of the Middle East at present. And we always hear the lies put about prominently of Palestine in particular, the idea that they’re not ready for democracy. I mean, democracy is a very kind of it’s an innate human notion of consensus building. And the thing that has become most problematic in the region in finding sort of democratic structures. And answer is, you know, the brutal experience of colonialism. Now, the brutal experience on the sort of Western bombs, the Iraq war, and then the sort of modern dictators have been Salomon’s. The Netanyahu is where you see democratic channels shut down by what has become sort of sophisticated spyware of the digital world. So this kind of concerted attempt to, to throttle democracy in the region because of oil interests, because of the interests of sort of hereditary monarchies and Israeli security. I mean, there’s In so much bloodshed, and so much like life and human potential sort of wasted as a result of it, and it’s not going to put out the will to freedom of the Palestinian people of the people of the Middle East, because that’s immutable, you know, you feel a sense of freedom when you ride a bicycle, or when you see the sunrise or the sunset, which is really something I tried to sort of bring out in the book, you know, this, this isn’t going away. And and so that’s why I think it’s kind of you know, Israel is beholden to sort of it owes it to itself as well as the people is ended up as the occupier have to think about well, you know, what our What’s our long term engagement here, and that has to tend towards justice, because otherwise it won’t last.

Carlton Reid 2:01:48
Let’s park geopolitics for a second. I know that’s incredibly hard with this particular region, but you did mention the bicycle there. So let’s get back to the bicycle But I want to specifically talk about your safety. on a bicycle assumption many people listening to this, are we thinking like Julian’s been in places that I can’t imagine going, you’re having to go through checkpoints, you’ve got people with guns pointing at you all the time. This must be incredibly dangerous. However, given the fact that I’ve done very similar things in the past, and I didn’t really feel afraid, those times, I’ve tended to feel more afraid, at the cause. So did you feel the same that you don’t feel actually that frightened by the geopolitics and effect because you’re immersed in it? But you’re more frightened by the cars passing you within inches?

Julian Sayrayer 2:02:40
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s always the reality of it in some ways, when you’re, you know, sitting back at home in the West, you can, yeah, the notion of the security or the, you know, the military situation, is what sort of sticks in your mind but yeah, I’m reluctant reality on the ground statistically around the world, certainly when you’re travelling on a bicycle, you know, tragically, of course, that is the greatest threat. And, yeah, no, I mean, there is a failure. But something about that sense of being vulnerable when you’re on a bicycle, I think actually gives you a whole new way of seeing the world. I mean, much as travelling by bike is a joy. And there are some moments where it’s absolute elation and freedom. But yeah, that constant threat of traffic and especially in countries, whether it’s the Israeli or Palestinian side, where, you know, cycling, as you mentioned, even if it’s increasing in the cities, it’s not particularly common on the roads out in the wider country. And people aren’t expecting their cyclist and might not be driving very carefully. And then yeah, is part of the very mundane threat that cars pose to people Everywhere really that for whatever reason, we just kind of price in as a sort of inevitable danger of the world where it really doesn’t have to be

Carlton Reid 2:04:10
the kind of bike we’re using.

Julian Sayrayer 2:04:14
And I was on my my trusty steed, which is my Tout Terrain, which is from a small company in in Freiburg

Carlton Reid 2:04:24
Sounds French but it’s German.

Julian Sayrayer 2:04:26
Yeah, exactly. I mean, I guess it’s on the border of France and I suppose maybe they just saw two terrain was sort of, you know, spoke to a more global audience but they’ve they’ve been my sponsors, really for my bicycles going back to the around the world ride. I think they, they, they’re a small sort of originally a husband and wife team. And I think they really valued that kind of, you know, the anti corporate sort of notion of the purity of life on a bike and the open road and adventure. So they’ve always been, you know, very kindly looking after me with bike stuff. And then yeah, it’s just a fantastic purpose built touring frame. Really, you know, you’ve got things like a little metal collar on the headset so that if your bicycle falls over and goes down a ditch, it doesn’t like the handlebars can’t swing all the way around and pull your cables out. other little things like that. Very good sort of stand on the back. And an inbuilt pannier racks, you’ve got sort of fewer nuts and bolts to work loose or whatever it might be. Do you

Julian Sayrayer 2:05:37
say that again? calling

Carlton Reid 2:05:38
a plug. Do you have that? That’s the like the USB charging? Yeah,

Julian Sayrayer 2:05:42
no, I don’t I have been meaning to talk to them about that. Actually. I remember I was with them in Freiburg. Probably Yeah, that’s part of 10 years ago when they were just trialling it and I think we had a conversation actually about the name the plug in Orleans. Definitely the guys that run it. Obviously plug is an English word. And I can’t remember exactly what the German for plug is, but it’s sort of much more precise and it’s three words and it doesn’t have that same kind of iconic sound as plug. So I think I was there when we were talking about well, they just call it the plug. And I’m glad the name stuck. But no, I didn’t have that. And I have been meaning to talk to them about it equally. I was cycling through Italy last autumn and came across a French cyclist who’d just he’d flown back in from Brazil and to south of Italy and was cycling home to front. But he had a little solar mat that he just rolled out on the back of his pannier and that was charging his phone and I think the price of those things has come down so much.

Carlton Reid 2:06:49
I’ve used them as well but that that the plug, you know use plug it in literally Yeah. How are your devices and your emotion and you happen to reach a certain speeds it’s no point if you live, you know, five miles an hour, cyclists are gonna be going a fair old clip to actually odd stuff but then it builds up into a battery as as great systems, I like to do it from that point of view.

Julian Sayrayer 2:07:14
Ya know, they’re a great company, very innovative. I mean in that German way, they really love the design. And I don’t cycle with a trailer, but I think they’ve done they’ve got some really good trailer products as well. Just because they they love really sort of refining the design process to match you know, the functionality. I can’t remember how many sort of, you know, metres climbing equivalent resistance the plug was, but it was something like three three metres of altitude gain by 10 kilometres or something was the kind of equivalent resistance that the charging system puts on it. So yeah, as I say, I’ve been meaning to talk to them about it. Maybe this is the prompt to get back in touch.

Carlton Reid 2:08:00
definitely get your front wheel your hub Shimano Yeah. Um, so Okay, so that’s the bike. Let’s go back to the book. And that as you said is out in April, you said it’s 370 pages. Yes. So just we’re going to end now Julian, but we’re going to end by you telling everybody where they can actually physically get this book. How much does it cost? All of that stuff?

Julian Sayrayer 2:08:28
Well, yeah, the books that mid April 15 April, the 16 books of tena, you can get it as an E book. Obviously, I always say that a local independent bookshop is always the best place to get it ordered in otherwise Of course it exists on Amazon and the like as well.

Carlton Reid 2:08:48
While that’s doing that’s fabulous value for money because it is it I can visualise it because I know how many pages electronically there are. A 370 page book Tana is incredibly good. Is there photographs in there it was all your pen portraits.

Julian Sayrayer 2:09:03
It’s all my pen portraits. And there’s a Palestinian illustrator who wanted to remain anonymous, but she did some really beautiful map work. So those maps of the, of the territory, and of the different regions I was cycling in. But yeah, so it’s um, you know, it’s a nice looking book to say.

Carlton Reid 2:09:23
Excellent. Well, I’m not going to say I’m going to look forward to reading because I have read it and it’s fantastic. Thank you very much for for letting me see an advance copy of that. Julian, tell us where we can find you on the internet, apart from your book, so your website and your social media handle all that kind of stuff?

Unknown Speaker 2:09:42
Yeah, I’m is the website which has got sort of details of past journeys and future plans. As we’ve most people try to use Twitter a little bit less but I’m on that @JulianSayrarer and also in this visual age I’ve kind of made the jump over to Instagram. So I’m on Instagram as well, JulianSayrarer

Carlton Reid 2:10:06
Julian, it’s been fascinating talk to you and it has been a very long show, considering I do try and keep these things to below the hour, but you know, 6000 years of history, geopolitics coming out of your ears. I got I think we did it partially good justice there. So thank you very much for being on the show.

Julian Sayrayer 2:10:28
Not at all, Carlton. Thanks for having me. It’s been great talking

Carlton Reid 2:10:32
Two hours and 10 minutes and counting of audio there for you in in the Coronavirus locked down I’m sure you won’t mind getting quite that much audio to keep you going. So thank you ever so much to Julian for for talking geopolitics and cycling and his explorations around the world and thank you to Malak and to Sohaib for talking to me in Palestine itself. And thank you too, for listening to this extremely long show. And for subscribing to the spokesmen cycling podcast in all your favourite podcast catching places, including, of course, iTunes, I would really appreciate if you gave a review of this show of previous shows on iTunes or on the various places where you’ll be getting your, your podcasts. It’d be great to get some feedback on on how the show is, is doing for you. And this has been show 243 of the spokesmen cycling roundtable, sometimes roundtable podcast the last couple of shows have been roundtables. This has been just purely me going out with a microphone and speaking to people. So thank you for listening to the show and the next show will be out next month, I guess. So, meanwhile, get out there and try and ride as much as you can in the lockdown.

April 9, 2020 / / Blog

Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast

EPISODE 242: A Different World, A Better World, A Bicycling World

Thursday 9th April 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

Sydney’s manager of cycling strategy Fiona Campbell.

Robin Chase, author of Peers Inc, founder of Zipcar and the New Urban Mobility Alliance of Washington, DC.

Tim Blumenthal, president of People for Bikes, USA.

PLUS: An audio interview with Automobile Association president Edmund King.

The future for cycling in a post coronavirus world.

PLUS: the president of Britain’s Automobile Association muses that, if car use doesn’t recover after the end of the COVID-19 lockdown, it would be best not to splash £27 billion on building more roads for motorists.


“Motoring Boss Questions Whether U.K.’s £27 Billion Road Plans Can Survive Virus Crisis,”

The University of Massachusetts-Amherst conducted a study that compared bike infrastructure construction jobs with those related to projects that focused only on roadways for cars and trucks.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 242 of the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable podcast. This show was engineered on April 9th 2020.

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

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to another roundtable edition of the show. It took a little bit of time wrangling to record a groupchat with my expert guests because, as you’ll hear, they are as far flung as flunging goes. Is that a word? Anyway, I recorded our chat at 10pm UK time last night — that meant it was 7am in Australia for Sydney’s manager of cycling strategy Fiona Cambell, and it was early evening for transportation entrepreneur Robin Chase of the New Urban Mobility Alliance of Washington, DC, and late afternoon for Colorado-based Tim Blumenthal, president of People for bikes. Of course, we talked about sourdough, dogs and social distancing but the main discussion is about the future for cycling in a post coronavirus world. The hook was an article I wrote for where the president of Britain’s Automobile Association mused that, if car use didn’t recover after the end of the COVID-19 lockdown, it would be best not to splash £27 billion on building more roads for motorists. That’s a rational yet radical point of view from Edmund King, and I’ll be dropping the audio from that interview into the second half of the show. Let’s get going.

Carlton Reid 2:46
It is 10 o’clock in the UK for me, but I have got three guests here. international guests from from all across the world well, about two in the US and one from Australia and I’m going to go to the one from Australia first. So Fiona Campbell, tell us a bit more about you yourself. Give us that biography that I did prompt you to give beforehand.

Fiona Campbell 3:10
Hi, Carlton, yes. My background professionally is in it as a mainframe computer programmer. But that was by day and by night, I was doing bicycle advocacy work for a decade before 12 years ago when I started working for the City of Sydney, I’m now manager of cycling strategy, and I have quite a challenge to make Sydney bike friendly.

Carlton Reid 3:37
When you say your bicycle — I’m gonna come in here and ask supplementary questions by the way — when you said bicycle because that was like in a non professional role. You were just literally a bicycle advocate, and then you leaped into being a job.

Fiona Campbell 3:51
Correct? Yeah, I was involved in a number of local bicycle advocacy groups, as well as helping out with writing submissions for the state and the Because the group and then I was on a number of national committees representing the sockless from around the country.

Carlton Reid 4:07
And I even though I’ve met you at lots of lots of different conferences around the world, I had no idea about your computer programming background. So that’s the challenge for everybody else, you’re gonna have to tell us something that that I didn’t know about you yourself. So Robin, so tell us tell us about tell us about Robin.

Robin Chase 4:24
Um, 20 years ago, I co founded Zipcar, which is a car sharing company, and I think was one of the first that raised venture money and dim and used, built beautiful technology and showed that there is a real demand for this and it can scale so there’s a largest consumer demand. Since then, I’ve found a number of other transportation companies, some of which didn’t succeed. So I did one called go loco, that was intercity ride sharing and no one succeeded at that in the US. Then I did a peer to peer car sharing company in France called best car. And we ended up not being the number one and we merged with driving. And I’ve recently co founded my first nonprofit called Numo, the New Urban Mobility Alliance. So really, I’d say yy life is totally devoted to and focused on addressing climate change in urban transportation. And Fiona, I love bikes too, man, my love affair.

Carlton Reid 5:29
I’ve taken photographs of you on a bike. Yes. I that was a London that was Move last year, wasn’t it? So? Yeah. Okay. And same question to Tim. So Tim, you’re gonna have to go right the way back to your your journalism days as well.

Tim Blumenthal 5:44
Well, I am the president of People for Bikes, which has become the largest us nonprofit bicycle advocacy group. I’ve been doing this for 16 years but Somehow the last 40 years have flown by. I started as a cycling journalist, in fact, wrote internationally for publication in in England called Cycling Weekly and Velo in France and Velo News in the United States. And then Bicycling magazine did seven Olympics for NBC as a writer and a commentator, and an advisor. And, you know, it’s just so much has been about bikes. And then 27 years ago, I became the first CEO of the International mountain bike Association, which was happening at a time when mountain biking was growing really, really quickly. And that was both an opportunity and a challenge for existing systems and land managers. And so I ran that for 11 years and people for bikes has been really an awesome experience for me.

Carlton Reid 7:00
And it’s the industry pulling together. So the industry, putting money into, into into grassroot stuff and and paying people to do that.

Tim Blumenthal 7:10
It’s about half industry. You know, it started with that it started 20 years ago where the bike industry said, Look, we either need to work together to improve the conditions for bicycling, or else bicycling is really going to suffer. But maybe 13 years ago, we formed a separate but affiliated foundation. And that has a completely separate base of support 1.3 million individuals, major foundations, a lot of health related foundations. And somehow we’ve been able to serve both the industry and that whole other constituency that I just described.

Carlton Reid 7:54
And I remember getting lots of emails from you, building up that that that million plus subs What a bass.

Tim Blumenthal 8:01
Yeah, well, I mean, you followed it very closely for a long time. And you know, one of the great things about it and I’ll stop quickly here is it’s now much easier to communicate globally. And so we’re working in unison with best practices and best ideas and the most capable people around the world. So we’re we’re learning a lot not just from Europe, but from Australia and certainly from Asia and South America and Africa.

Carlton Reid 8:34
Okay, well thank you all for being on on the show today in our different time zones and it is fantastic to be able to talk to you in all our different time zones and Fiona. I’m going to come to you because it is early morning for you so you’ve got up nice and bright and early and we’re we’re kind of I’m a night owl here and Robin and Tim are shifting into the early evening, or Tim is kind of early afternoon, late afternoon, night, arent you, Tim. But Fiona I’d like to come to you now and let’s let’s go through and find out what people how we are coping and what we are doing in in lockdown if indeed you are in lockdown, I’ve no idea what’s happening in Australia. I’m not not being stopping in the news, what’s happening in Australia. So Fiona tell us, how are you isolating and are you in full lockdown?

Fiona Campbell 9:23
I think similar to other countries and what from what I can read. Similar to the UK, we supposed to be staying at home. And the only reasons to be out are if you have to go for work and especially essential workers, or to get essential supplies, groceries, medicines or for exercise. But when we are out, then there’s the social distancing. We’ve got a metre and a half.

Carlton Reid 9:51
And then you were mentioning before and I’m going to bring this in because Tim had a fantastic Instagram person to mention, but you’re making sourdough

Fiona Campbell 10:00
My husband’s making sourdough. Yes. And just with the circumstances, he’s making extra loaves each day and just distributing that to a few neighbours who we know. Appreciate it.

Carlton Reid 10:12
Oh, wow. That’s fantastic. And Robin, how are you isolating and is your city is that in lockdown?

Robin Chase 10:20
I would describe Cambridge, Massachusetts exactly as Fiona described. And my upstairs neighbour and I have been sharing sourdough loaves of bread alternately for a few nights.

Robin Chase 10:34

Unknown Speaker 10:36
I, I’ve been taking a lot of bike rides, and, and what I’ve been delighting about bikes is I think you are in it in an enforced six foot distance from most people at all times. So it’s been a really great way I’ve gone out with neighbours, where we have kept our distance that had a joint bike ride was very pleasant,

Carlton Reid 10:59
huh you He’ll

Carlton Reid 11:00
get hauled away by the police in the UK.

Robin Chase 11:05
Do you get no recreation?

Carlton Reid 11:07
we get recreation we get like, technically, there’s no limit. They say you can go out once a day that they’re kind of saying but that’s really only like an hour. But now they’re getting quite strict on it. You really mustn’t be with anybody at all you’ve got to be pretty much on your own. So getting stricter on that

Robin Chase 11:27
is six feet.

Carlton Reid 11:28
Yeah, well, two metres we we use. We use the metric so yeah, what I think it’s described in Norway as one biplane. You know, that’s how we’re describing it’s one six foot two metres deep. Yes. There’s got to be a distance between and, and and, Tim, how are you isolating?

Tim Blumenthal 11:52
Well, it’s my experience seems almost identical to what all of you have described. We’ve been working at home for nearly a month. We’re very lucky here in Colorado to have a really great connected bicycle network. Most of it, but not all of it is paved. I’ve never seen boulders bike paths so busy. And this is a place where probably on a per capita basis, there’s more bicycling going on than just about anywhere else in United States. But, and of course, the difference and I’m sure you’ve all seen this is usually that I’m inside working during the day. But now if I can get out and ride or walk even for 45 minutes at two o’clock in the afternoon, it’s amazing how many people are out and it’s really encouraging. We’ve had such a big e bike search here. So the demographic, it’s really broad, a lot of older people and the one big change is the governor of Colorado asked everyone to wear a mask or some kind of face protection when you go out so that that really is only been for the last five days. So the on the path experience has changed a little bit but it makes you feel optimistic about the future

Carlton Reid 13:24
and how wide if you don’t mind me asking how wide your bike paths in in Colorado because that they’re gonna be kind of busy as you’re saying busy but does so busy that you’re quite close to people? No,

Tim Blumenthal 13:37
no, I you know, I would say our typical with is eight to 12 feet somewhere in there. And people are doing a really good job of not getting close. And you know, this is a hub for international bike racers, who historically and always you know, since I’ve lived here and I’ve lived here for 2728 years would be training and big tightly knit packs. But I haven’t seen any of that here. You know, I think people have really bought into. It’s called social distancing. But somebody said to me the other day, it really is physical distancing. Mm hmm.

Carlton Reid 14:19
What about I’m going to ask everyone and I’ll start with you Tim anyway, because we’re on this kind of subject is how a motorist treating I mean, if you if you do have to come away from the bike paths, and you have got to use the roads or motorists, also social distancing physical distancing, or are they going far too fast? Beside you how the motors treating you?

Tim Blumenthal 14:42
I can give you the wiseguy answer. There aren’t any motorists, but you know, our and this is true. I think in the UK and probably in a lot of places in the world. Our vehicle miles driven is probably down 80 or 85%. So the roads Even at five o’clock rush hour and there is no more rush hour, feel completely empty. And, and and wide open and quiet. And yeah, it’s a big change. But the one thing that I have noticed and when I’ve been out in the car is that when you come to a traffic light, people don’t pull up tight behind you, they kind of stay back six or eight feet.

Carlton Reid 15:31
That’s interesting. So maybe the social is the physical distancing is happening in the real world, even in a car. So Robin, same question to you in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Are you are you coming away from bike paths are yours always on bike paths and how are motorist treating this?

Robin Chase 15:47
I want to say that our bike paths you are passing someone

Robin Chase 15:54
four feet away from you for that millisecond, I guess

Robin Chase 16:00
motorists, I also have a dog and when I walk I walk my dog and I would say people are being very polite, that crossing jaywalking in my neighbourhood. Motorists will stop 100 yards 100 hundred feet away, like they’ll slow right up because the streets are empty. And they see you and there’s just no crowding everyone is giving space to other people.

Carlton Reid 16:23
Robin that’s different? That’s that that’s a new behaviour?

Robin Chase 16:26
Definitely new behaviour that there’s so much courtesy. Yeah, I’d say there used to be some courtesy. Now it’s an almost ubiquitous courtesy. And I wrote an op ed in the Boston Globe last week on the on this topic, which was the ways went and did some data did some data search for me and in Boston, the car trips are down are 25% of what they used to be so down 75% and my pitch was to open to close it will be how do we sit appropriately to Open more roads to pedestrians and bikes and close them down to car traffic, particularly along the waterways we have in a long parks to just widen those sidewalks and widen those Park spaces. So people don’t have to be so close that we have this real opportunity.

Carlton Reid 17:16
And you’re successful.

Robin Chase 17:18
it’s maddening. I know. It’s been heavily retweeted in social media and we’ve had a number of phone call emails about it. But both the city of Boston and the City of Cambridge have not acted on it in a City of Cambridge, which I don’t do a lot of local politics. But I did tell the city councillors, here’s what you should be doing. This is what’s happening world round. They have continued to not vote on it, they table it, and they’re basically cowards and hoping to write it out. And so they’re thinking that we can just do nothing and I guess my larger point, which I think proves for all of us, that these shelter at home, it started two weeks, right and then it went to For weeks, and now it’s going to be up to six or eight weeks. And I was particularly thinking about the 1 million schoolchildren there are in Massachusetts, or the hundred and 15,000 homeless schoolchildren in New York City, but to keep children for months on end, stuffed in their apartments is unnecessary and mean. And if we had wider streets and bicycling, I think they could be out and about and keep their social distance. So I think this is an opportunity where we should be absolutely doing it. And it’s very short sighted. I think of the cities to say, oh, let’s just it’s going to end any day. Now. We’re not going to have to step forward to do something.

Carlton Reid 18:44
And Fiona Yeah, I’m sure you must be quite jealous of Tim’s wonderful bike path network in Toronto. But you have had successes in the past and then you had reversals. Have those successes in that your municipality then took away what you, you You brought forth? Has there been any change of view on the ground where you are, for instance, in maybe Robin’s style, trying to open streets up to non car users?

Fiona Campbell 19:21
Yeah, the battle continues. We have been making some progress on getting the network more completed. So, you know, a little bit of progress. And certainly the bike paths that are recreational along the river and around the foreshore at the moment are incredibly busy and really don’t allow enough space for social distancing with all the people walking, running and riding in the city centre. The there’s been more of a drop, of course, because commuting, fewer people are commuting to work, things like restaurants and the whole tourism sector and a sector has all been closed down so a lot of people out of work. So overall according to the city map up mobility index travel overall travel in Sydney is down to just 13% of normal travel on the motorways, the tollways their revenue shows that the traffic on the motorways is only down by 30% so down to 70% I think there are a lot of trucks still trying to restock supermarkets with toilet paper.

Carlton Reid 20:33
And on the recycled toilet

Carlton Reid 20:34
paper was Australia too that was that was a global thing was

Fiona Campbell 20:37
Yes, yes, I’m afraid so.

Fiona Campbell 20:41
So I know that in Brisbane, the their bike counters show that there’s been a doubling in bike trips in this time. So that’s that’s amazing. We most of our counters are not on recreational routes so it’s harder for us to to get that whereas Brisbane they are but overall most of our counters Showing about 60 to 90% of normal use at the moment, which considering the overall drop in travel is pretty astounding and shows that bikes are resilient. That peak though has changed. So instead of having a morning peak from the commuting and afternoon peak, the new peak is from lunchtime to dinner. So some of that is food delivery riders in the city centre, I would say

Carlton Reid 21:24
and Fiona, what about key workers so they’re going to stick to the, the the rush hour times if they’re going to be doing the same job as they’ve always done?

Fiona Campbell 21:33
Yeah, I mean, some of the key workers like at hospitals and cleaners are not a shift workers. So yeah, in the city centre. It’s more finance, industry and tourism. So they’re either out of work or they’re working from home.

Carlton Reid 21:51
we now call these the essential workers of course.

Fiona Campbell 21:55
Yep. So in terms of attitude and being able to reallocate spaces Robins You know, the City of Sydney has been trying to, to do that. And we’ve we’ve tried to pursue it. We’ve got some ideas about where and how. But sadly, the state government holds all the cards, they control a road system, even the so called local council roads are all subject to state government. So so far, we are not getting good feedback from transport for New South Wales. But we hope that that will change. I mean, particularly because we think it’s an economic issue. So as restrictions are gradually lifted, which they’ll need to be to allow the economy to sort of not completely flounder that being able to revive the economy will rely on people feeling safe, being able to socially distance or, as Robinson called him, being able to physically distance and if they don’t have the common sense that there is safe space in the downtown areas and in the shopping areas, they’re not going to be there and that economic recovery will be hampered, which means that they’ll need to overuse the lever of reducing the restrictions. And that will then, you know, potentially mean that the COVID outbreak will then worsen. So it’s really important for the economic recovery, to have safe space. And at the moment, the footpaths are too narrow in downtown areas for people to be able to distance. So it’s I think it’s really crucial for economic reasons, as well as for health reasons to start opening up those streets for better uses. And because the traffic is so low now, now would be the ideal time to do that.

Carlton Reid 23:45
Robin, you wanted to pitch in there?

Robin Chase 23:47
Yeah. When I was writing that article, I was a person who heads the pedestrian efforts for the state of Massachusetts was was editing and one of the things that she He was suggesting to me was that the police? That to close the streets, we have to be really cautious about what, how do we do these closures without requiring police? What what’s the fastest way to do it? That it was? How do we make that safe? And during my brainstorming or last few days, I just want to throw it to Fiona and I had this so here’s my, here’s my dream that works on on some streets. So streets where you have a lane and a half, in one way, or we have parked cars, and enough space that I feel like we could tell all the people who’ve got this parked cars, please move your car out to metres and re park it. And it would be so if I look at the thing of a place it’s very obvious like Brooklyn, Brooklyn has all these one way street cars parked on both sides and it’s effectively two teeny tiny lanes that has a lot of double parking. But so we could create an immediate without anybody doing any striping, cones, policemen, whatever. Just pull the cars out. And so in, in, that’s just one tiny subset of the group. But I thought, well, that’s a really simple one where that exists or in neighbourhoods like I live in, where there aren’t many cars and I try to walk in the middle of the street because I think I’m going to take this back. I still feel slightly anxious and I would definitely not let my eight year old do it without my supervision. I don’t have an eight year old anymore, but how can we reclaim space quickly without requiring a lot of emergency personnel supervision or maintenance. And so just to say, in Bogota, they did 50 kilometres of roads that they quickly expanded to let emergency workers get to work using bikes and E bikes. And a lot of the cones were traffic cones were stolen and they had to shrink that down to fewer kilometres because it was so hard to maintain.

Carlton Reid 25:55
The roads are lots of cities have been experimenting with this. I mean, it’s growing list I mean every time I go on social media there’s a people in social Fiona I’m sure will appreciate this is bicycle advocates in in certain in the UK and I’m sure in Australia put these out there as well how come we can’t do that because you know Berlin’s doing it and Bogota is doing it. And it’s a growing growing

Fiona Campbell 26:21
list, or just you see it happening in so many cities around the world now. You know, really good moves to, you know, that is for sensible reasons and very beneficial. And coming back to that economic argument. Like no city surely wants to be the only one that’s ended up being the one who missed the boat and who’s hobbled their downtown. economic recovery, because people can’t safely move around. You know, like we we don’t want to be.

Fiona Campbell 26:50
We shouldn’t want to miss that boat.

Carlton Reid 26:54
Hmm. Tim, do you want to just

Carlton Reid 26:58
bookmark, bookend that I should say,

Tim Blumenthal 27:02
Well, sure. I mean, we’ve covered a lot of ground in the last couple minutes. And it might be time and, Carlton, it’s your podcast, but to start thinking about how what’s going on now will translate, you know, in the months and years ahead, and for sure, that’s something that we’re doing. We’re, we have close working relationships with a lot of the biggest US cities. And sure, we’ve seen a lot of pop up bike lanes. And we’ve also been involved with the development of new infrastructure investment proposals that may help our nation and our states and our cities achieve key goals. But as I’m sitting here, listening, I’m thinking we still have a fundamental problem if we’re talking specifically about bicycling, and that is all of our countries or most of them. are still really focused on on car use and the cars in the United States definitely King. And it’s going to take a big shift with a lot of elements to fundamentally change that. And, you know, there’s certain numbers that I think about all the time, how many miles Americans drive and how that compares to historical patterns. Another one is, what’s the price of gasoline? What is the relative convenience of driving a car, the average American commute is 26 minutes and about 12 or 13 miles, that’s a pretty long way to ride a bike, even an E bike, unless the conditions and the infrastructure are really, really good. So I have all these thoughts swirling in my head, but I’m gonna leave it to you to help folks sauce or focus me?

Carlton Reid 29:02
Well, that was gonna be one of my questions. You’re right. It is slightly out of sync. But I’m quite happy to go with the flow here. So the question was going to be, and it was going to preface it by saying it’s kind of horrible to try and get positives out of such a negative situation. Because there are, you know, in the UK today, there was 900 people dying. So people are many, many thousands of families are now without their loved ones. So it is, we have got to always remember that we can’t be gung ho about this and say, Well, this is the this is a fantastic feature of God because we’ve got a pretty awful present. However, if we just park that and acknowledge it, but then, you know, do go and leap forward and just say, Yeah, but what does this mean for the future? So if I go straight to Fiona, And ask her is this is this now cycling’s time? Is this now out of a tragedy? Will we get something? Do you think something incredibly different going forward?

Fiona Campbell 30:15
Yeah, I think you’re right that you know that the tragedy in a moment is not just that there are lives lost and jobs lost and people’s livelihoods, and there are a lot of people struggling. And so, you know, obviously, you wouldn’t want to do anything that made that worse. And so we’re not talking about that we’re talking about, given that that is the fact. You know, where can we go from here. And I think for me, we all know that behaviour changes is really hard. It’s incredibly difficult to break habits. And that’s why when you’re doing behaviour change, that that little window when someone changes jobs or moves house is usually one of the few times where you have a better chance of success. And here here, we have global scale disruption of people’s travel habits so rare. The last time it happened in multiple countries was nearly 50 years ago, in 1973, with the oil embargo, which affected the UK and the US and the Netherlands. And that time gave the population you know, again with huge economic costs and all the consequences but that gave the population a glimpse and a vision of what their cities could be like, without being dominated by traffic, you know, clean air, quiet, safe for children for walking for cycling, and socialising more space for people, just like we’re seeing now. But back then, 50 years ago, the UK and the US went straight back to normal. And only the Netherlands use that opportunity from that new vision that that people had got during that time, as well as the the public horror at the human cost of car domination, to gradually make their cities now the envy of the world, the quality of life and human interaction. So I think, to not take the opportunity and to do what the US and the UK did 50 years ago and just not get any lasting benefits out of it would be, you know, really remiss, people are loving this, people don’t want to give up the chance that they can now go for rides with their kids in the neighbourhood.

Carlton Reid 32:23
So before I go to Robin and Tim and ask them the same question, I just want to come back to you Fiona and just ask, Are you getting people who previously wouldn’t have given you the time of day, in your in your day job? Are they now coming to you and say, ah, you’ve kind of You’re right, you’ve always been banging on about, you know, cycling being a solution to any of the world’s ills. And are they now coming to you and saying, well, maybe we should do this. Is that why you’re basing this as we should use this as an opportunity is that because people are actually coming to you who you would never have talked to normally about this.

Fiona Campbell 33:00
Sadly, not yet. But what we are seeing is people like people sending me videos of them riding with their kids saying I’ve never done this before look at all the other parents being able to ride with their kids. I’m getting emails from people involved in cycling and cycling advocacy is saying how can we turn this into some lasting positive change but but not the decision makers just yet only a few odd ones but you know not the crucial ones that need to make the decisions yet.

Carlton Reid 33:32
So Tim, from your bicycle advocacy eyrie, from your kind of like your overview of the whole industry in the US, do you see this now as something that is is going to be a change of guard, an epochal change, is that what you see going forward?

Tim Blumenthal 33:55
I’m not sure about epochal but I you know more people are ridng bikes for sure. And I expect some of them, hopefully many of them to keep riding. For sure. bike. bike shops have been designated as essential businesses in most US states. And the bike shops that are open are doing really, really well with basic repairs, changing flat tires, helping people who have a bike but haven’t written it in the years, and helping people who are brand new to bike riding. So that’s really that’s a positive and that that positive is likely going to continue. But there are all these other angles that are sort of coming out now and I want to talk about just a couple of them. One is I expect that after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides or hopefully is resolved that more people will work at home and it’s quite possible that the number of commuting miles that people drive or the number of commuting trips that people take period will actually go down. Another angle that the panel has talked about is the economic benefits of riding a bike, just the, you know, 50% of the trips that Americans make are three miles or less. And it’s a pretty, relatively inexpensive way to get around for both essential trips and for recreation. One thing that I don’t hear many people talking about, and I’m going to take a risk by introducing it in in the United States. A lot of the people who have died from the virus had pre existing conditions. And unfortunately, what this points to is our personal health crisis. It points to limitations of our healthcare system for sure. But there are a lot of people in the United States a pretty high percentage I’m sure either clinically obese or have cardiovascular issues, and I’m hopeful that that link is recognised and that I’m not too optimistic but that we start paying a little bit more attention to lifelong health and the importance of regular physical activity, because it’s definitely been underplayed card in the United States for really the last 30 years.

Carlton Reid 36:30
It is kind of one of the standard jokes in in the UK is that people get asking people at the exercising and exercising their right to exercise who would have never exercised normally. So it looks in other words, lots of people knew to exercise are actually getting out there perhaps for the first time and this is this is the Fiona’s life change she’s mentioning, So pretend you reckon that with lots of newbies out there That that will translate into long term more use.

Tim Blumenthal 37:06
Yes. And the other thing it’s great for, you know, and this will sound myopic, but it’s great for us because we’ve been working really hard with the government at every level, to build better infrastructure to serve people on bikes and on foot. And too many Americans have never experienced it until now. So now there’s a new appreciation for all the bike paths and the underpasses and the bridges. The one other thing that that’s on my mind is there’s going to be a lot of tension when it comes to transit. And, you know, I’m talking about buses and streetcars and trains, you know, at least in the short and intermediate term, even when restrictions are listed, people are going to be inclined to keep their distance and what that probably means that people will continue to use bikes. And, you know, I really value transit. And it’s super important. And, you know, my son owns a restaurant in San Francisco and depent. And his business depends on transit in San Francisco, just this week is cut 90% of its bus routes, and it’s debilitating for jobs develop potato for businesses. So, you know, there’s so many factors swirling here, that it’s really a challenge to see clearly what’s going to emerge.

Carlton Reid 38:38
I agree, it is we can we can sit at the foothills we can see something is changing. I mean, society is clearly changing. You know, when places like Spain are talking about, like a guaranteed living wage for every single Goal citizen. Well, that’s that’s that’s brand new. And that’s that’s come from this particular crisis. And then you’ve got, I’m hazarding a guess here that may be the US. Now we’ll think about more about well formed a better expression, like the National Health System equivalent for the US. And I know it’s a huge bone of contention across there. But now Surely, with a pandemic, crippling the country. There’s got to be those conversations have got to be taken more seriously. Tim, you think?

Tim Blumenthal 39:40
Yeah, I, you know, I, again, the political environment is really difficult and difficult to talk about.

Tim Blumenthal 39:50
You know, because there’s a pretty big group of Americans who basically feel like, if you don’t make it, it’s your fault, and it’s not government’s responsibility to make up for your personal shortcomings and I’m not sure how productive a discussion that would be right now. But you know, I do think that the personal health angle, the money savings angle,

Tim Blumenthal 40:21
the economic benefits,

Tim Blumenthal 40:25
really, a lot of we don’t have any problems with city leaders right now. Or maybe that’s a little bit too bold a statement. A lot of mayors understand that active mobility is super important. It’s not that expensive to implement, it can be implemented quickly. There’s not a lot of resistance. And if you can change three or four or 5% of all the trips that the citizens of your city make from single car trips, all kinds of good things are gonna happen. I was thinking back to January, February, where I really felt like our nation was finally in a transition point on climate change, where suddenly there was bipartisan interest in Congress to finally acknowledge and address climate change. And I was thinking that 2020 was going to be a great year for bicycling, investment and bicycling promotion and bicycling encouragement, and a important transition year, and then the virus hit. So there’s still that hanging out there, you know, after after the fires in Australia, and the images of icebergs melting. And I think Americans finally and three of the four hottest years in the history being the last three, were starting to get serious about climate change. And now I wonder if that will be pushed aside or simply postponed or god forbid forgotten. Tim,

Robin Chase 42:02
let me let me step in a little bit here and tie those last two points together. I think we, I think the pandemic is giving us an opportunity to make that important switch. But I want to circle to our first question. The question was, do I think after this people will cling to those old behaviours, the new behaviours that they’ve learned? I think that they won’t unless we do some structural changes. And so as I’ve been thinking about this, if it The, the fear of riding on transit, which I think will persist for a little bit and how essential workers get to work, if we put those two together, that’s where I think the rise of ebikes the potential for ebikes is enormous, but we need to give people the road space to do that. And ideally, we would be giving some subsidies for a bike purchase. So I know that in many different cities, they’ve made the shirt bikes for free and some have been adding electric bikes, but let’s definitely down on that giving those essential workers who don’t want to be taking transit who can’t be taking transit someplace because it shut down the road reallocation and start subsidising giving out money for the person ebikes. If we can get those structural changes in, I think people would make more people would make that switch because they would feel safe. And that was a cheaper opportunity. And some of them who were essential workers would not have the experience doing it cheaper, faster, better. The other piece around work from home I’ve been struck by is it is obviously an enormous difference in terms of congestion and air quality and car dependency. If you think back in Amsterdam, long ago, I want to say, eight, nine years ago, they required that those city workers who could do so were required to work one day a week from home. I would think that city, mayors if they have it in their purview should be saying that all workers all’s all businesses who have workers that could work from home, as has been exhibited now, must enable must require workers to work one day from home a week. And that enables us to build some resiliency and of course, cut down congestion by 20% straight out of the gate. So I feel like there’s some things that we can go to or this idea that was talking about now, like, how do we how do people get recreation when they’re in lockdown, if we can tie some of the things that we need to address COVID and this pandemic, in ways that structurally change our future? I think people won’t go back. I think a whole bunch of people do like to work from home, and maybe some don’t. But unless we get employers to do that, on a large scale basis, I don’t see I think people will have to go to work because their floors will say you have to go to work. Or I’d love to transition to bikes and ebikes but in the cities that I live in, everyone will tell you it’s too scary. So how can we tie that to these essential workers and getting people in? How can we make the electric vehicle subsidies that are happening around the world also apply to ebikes, where you get a much larger CO2 reduction bang for your buck for that same amount of money?

Carlton Reid 45:15
So the WHO say, in this particular crisis “test, test test” what you’re saying there, Robin is, “infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure”?

Robin Chase 45:27
Yeah. And I want to make that infrastructure. One last thing we haven’t touched on is delivery. So I want to make that infrastructure. I think broadly about it. Yes, it is, is street allocation, but also taxation and also rules or regulations are a form of infrastructure that we all are bound by. The other piece that’s really making me dejected is I’ve I’ve had this huge drumbeat of anxiety over the last two years about the impact of on demand delivery in urban areas that we are completely decimating our urban retail and it might be something that’s fine. suburban or rural areas. But I think in urban areas, we really want to retain that. And here we are all being trained every single day. I think that’s a behaviour that people will continue to do. It’s easier than now. And so people will continue to get stuff delivered. So again, what can we do today that, you know, puts the finger on the scale on local and environmental things. And so, going down that path, I would love to see that we build out those bike lanes and then we require in dense urban a dense urban areas that we have micro mobility, electric micro mobility, delivery, and maybe you would even charge for delivery per delivery unless you did it by electric micro mobility or unless it came from a local venue, but things to to discourage the I need toilet paper and have Amazon fluid from kingdom come. Like it’s a crazy thing. And we’re all built to be is lazy and cheap. And we have to we have to figure out how to how to curb some of our worst tendencies and make sure that we we, as I say, put the finger on the scale for environmental for small footprint for local at this time as we try to rebuild these economies.

Carlton Reid 47:17
And Fiona, you wanted to say something there?

Fiona Campbell 47:20
Yeah, I think Robin’s absolutely right. So many of those points the the sort of importance of getting ebikes out there and getting people to experience and the essential workers and the infrastructure or just on that ebikes I had a conversation with the national governments Clean Energy Finance Corporation. They’re the ones who take the government money to put into clean energy technologies like wind farms or whatever. And many have found that they have some interest in potentially financing a company who could lease a bikes to essential workers. To help in this time, and for ourselves with the City of Sydney, we we normally run cycling courses to help new people to to get up to speed on on riding safely and confidently. And we’ve had to stop that because of the bans on group gatherings. But what we’re doing now is offering personal bike training for essential workers. So if someone wants to start riding to work, because they need to avoid public transport, then we will have a skilled instructor come to their door and ride with them and give them the training on the way so that we can help people to make that transition.

Robin Chase 48:37
That’s great. Then one piece on ebikes that you just touched on there that I’m really excited about is that the price of them have come down enough that the monthly a year long monthly payment plan for these bikes now equals up to it in US dollars is probably 100 $125 a month which is the same amount as before paying for transit passes. Or fuel for their cars. And so we now can present ebikes for low income or low wage workers are now something that is really comparable to how their current transportation costs for the first year and then after that dramatically cheaper than their existing transportation costs.

Carlton Reid 49:20
Hmm. On that note, I’d like to cut to a commercial break. So take it away, David.

David Bernstein 49:29
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Carlton Reid 50:54
Thanks, David. And we are back with with the Spokesmen and it’s an international panel today we have Fiona in Australia. And we have Robin and Tim iIn the US. I gave Robin Tim and Fiona some homework. And that was to read a Forbes article I wrote on an interview I did with Edmund King, who is the president of the AA, the Automobile Association, and I am going to drop his audio in here so that the interview, I picked out I cherry picked certainly these quotes, but I’m now going to just give the whole interview right here. So here’s Edmond. The media kind of beating a path to your door, I assume?

Edmund King 51:42
Yes, we’ve been very busy because the AA is at the forefront of this crisis. There’s lots of things we’re doing we’re helping the London Ambulance Service last week we had 41 patrols in 12 depot’s across London, helping to fix more ambulance Is, is critical that they almost double the number of ambulances that they’ve got on the roads. So we’ve been helping with that. And next week, we’re sending in far more resources as well to help with that effort. And we’ve said to other ambulance services around the country and we’re in talks with many of them, you know, Can Can we help them we’ve got these brilliant, qualified patrols, they’re all top technicians, top mechanics, they’re not being fully utilised on the roads now. So we want to help they kind of particularly the NHS effort where we can. So that’s one initiative and the other big thing we announced yesterday is that the AA is now offering a free breakdown service to all one and a half million NHS workers during this crisis. So they can just register with a simply a With slash NHS, we then text them the dedicated hotline number. And if they have any problems with getting to work, like car and we will help them. We plan this because public transport is reduced a lot. Many are working long hours working shifts doing an absolutely magnificent job. The NHS is always there for us and our guys and this came suggestion from many of our people, we wanted to be there for them. And already we’ve had thousands register with us and we’ve already done breakdowns rescuing nurses, doctors, etc. So it’s a good initiative. And I think it will be pretty well used though over the coming weeks and possibly months.

Carlton Reid 53:50
Well, my wife’s a doc, so I’ll get her to sign up. I mean, she’s sometimes driving into work and sometimes she’s taking the electric bike. It’s it’s, it’s it depends what time her kind of the shift finishes she’s she’s driving in when it’s very dark at night. That’s the kind of thing but she’s daytime then she’s cycling. And so you mentioned there. What we all can can tell is happening in that is there’s less cars on the road. So you’re getting less in effect business because the people aren’t breaking down too much because it just isn’t so many cars on the road.

Edmund King 54:21
Yeah, although it is faring quite a lot. So Wednesday this week, we did 5600 breakdowns now compared to the typical ones probably have done about 10,000 brake pads. So that’s 35% lower. I actually thought it would be a lot lower than that. And some days it is last weekend was very quiet. And I think that’s because the government gave extra warnings to people not to go out to leisure areas to seaside resorts to parks. And some of the breakdowns we’re getting doesn’t necessarily mean people out on the roads a lot because People who leave their cars for 10 days or two weeks without starting them up, often suffer problems with their batteries and therefore we call down for that one trip where they want to go shopping. On average, we have a device called Smart breakdown. It has a little dongle that goes in your car. And we can actually see what travel patterns are. And before the outbreak, people with smart breakdown we’re doing about eight or nine miles a day in their cars. Currently, they’re doing about one mile a day. So that does show traffic is significantly down despite the government saying there was a little peak at the beginning of this week.

Carlton Reid 55:40
Does that not suggest that maybe people could be walking side by side not even cycling but walking these distances if people’s average trips are a mile that’s that pretty much on essential journeys, isn’t it?

Edmund King 55:55
Yeah, I think the problem is it’s quite hard to panic by when you’re on the cycle. And that seems to be what’s still happening, people are going to the supermarket and buying far more goods than they normally would. And therefore, people are taking the car so that they can fill up the car. Now, hopefully, there are some size that has slightly dropping off. And if it does drop off, then yes, if the distances are that short, people should be walking, they should be cycling, and should be leaving the car at home. But obviously if it’s if it’s a weekly shop, if it’s that one weekly shop, and if people can’t get deliveries because it’s problematic at the moment, that might be the reason for some of those journeys.

Carlton Reid 56:44
Now the prime minister in his briefing the other day, I mean it obviously statistics are very much not complete, but they did show an uptick in in car use last week. Is that the Kind of that stat that the Prime Minister showed or the Department of Transport showed is that exactly this. Do you recognise that stat?

Edmund King 57:09
Well, I think it’s difficult when you look at the government statistics because if you actually go out on the roads, they are pretty empty. I’ve never seen them this empty, they generally they’re, they’re more empty than on Christmas Day. So, you know, we’ve got a lot of essential traffic on the roads and probably more than we normally have because there are more deliveries to the shops. People in it’s not just deliveries of food, but there are more home deliveries as well because if people can’t go to the shops to buy basic clothing, they will order it online so you’ve got more of those home deliveries. In terms of we have seen some peaks when the weather was better prior to last weekend when people were going to the coastal areas or they were going to national parks probably when they shouldn’t have been. But that dropped off at the weekend after though those warnings. I think people generally are following the government advice. There are various rumours around at the moment that this weekend Sunday’s going to be a lot hotter and then Easter weekend people may have already had plans to get away. Normally something like 10 million people in Britain do a driving kind of staycation at least a weekend and there are questions with some of those people if you like still try and follow up with those plans whether it was going to a cottage in the countryside or elsewhere. I mean, our our message is very much in line with the government. And you know, it might seem severe but it really is don’t travel unless absolutely necessary. The reason I say that I’ve seen a couple of incidents this week, there was one in philosophy the other day single car driving too fast smashed into cars. And it called upon all the emergency services and the NHS to come out and waste their time when they could have been doing more important things. So, you know, people going out in their cars does lead to crashes, that does lead to incidents, so people really should restrict it.

Carlton Reid 59:29
So I did an article for Forbes on a whole bunch of experts and I tried to wrap you in as well. About the World Health Organisation could maybe ask a can’t demand but it can ask or suggest that may be for the duration of this crisis that govern national governments actually reduce speed limit. What do you think?

Edmund King 59:57
Yeah, I’m not really convinced that would have much difference at all because traffic is so much lower traffic in our cities is incredibly low. And people should currently be sticking to the current speed limit is slightly worrying. I’ve heard of a couple of police forces that haven’t given out speeding tickets. In fact, they they’ve written to some people saying they haven’t given out speeding tickets because of problems in the current crisis. And I don’t think that sends out a very good message because I think people should stick to speed limits and they’re there for good reason. But when traffic is so low, and you’ve got essential journeys on motorways, with with trucks with deliveries, I’m not sure there’d be any great benefit in bringing in an artificial speed limit

Carlton Reid 1:00:59
but wouldn’t not be the case of Yes, the police won’t save accidents

Carlton Reid 1:01:03
because no one’s on the roads.

Edmund King 1:01:07

Carlton Reid 1:01:08
But they’re going so thorough. They’re going so fast, though Edmund, they’re there. They’re really good. They’re not, you know, there’s anybody going.

Edmund King 1:01:16
Now this is this is a minority of cases. And in those cases, you know, a minority, they would go fast, no matter what the speed limit is, they’re going fast with the current speed limit. So if you change the speed limit won’t change the speed. What what we’ve got to ensure is that there is better enforcement’s and that’s why I think it is wrong to write to people say you’ve broken the speed limit, but we’re not going to prosecute and I, I think that is wrong. But artificially changing speed limits when hardly anyone’s on the road is not really going to make any difference. But those people that are there to speak or speak no matter what the limit is, they speak with The current limits so they would speed with an artificially lower limit. And changing those limits may actually affect the people on the roads who should be on the roads and who needs to get around and are crucial to the national effort of keeping the country running.

Carlton Reid 1:02:17
Hmm. Do you think once this crisis over people will binge drive?

Edmund King 1:02:24
It’s interesting. I actually think once this crisis over, it could have the opposite effects. And rather than everyone jumping into the car and driving off, I think some people might begin to think, do I really need to use my car every day? I’ve got used to walking a bit more or even running a bit more which which people are doing. I found that I can actually work from home pretty efficiently. I can hold meetings at home, and I don’t need to drive up to Birmingham to have that meeting. Because my tech knology shown that I can share my screen I can share documents on my screen, I can see my colleagues. So why should I drive up and down to Birmingham at a great expense? inconvenience to my time. So I I actually think that some companies and and you know, I caveat this because it’s not for everyone and of course, we will always have essential people who need to get to a physical place of work whether on the production line in in the shops, for the emergency services in the restaurants in the pubs, those people will need to be out there. But there are other people that don’t need to be in an office five days a week. And if they even worked from home one day a week that would have an immense potential effect on traffic levels on congestion on air quality, on pollution we all know during halftime On holidays, the traffic is reduced up to 20%, you’re more likely to get a seat on a bus or a train. So if after this crisis, people who can and companies that can allow it would be more open about letting their people work from home maybe one day a week, maybe two days a week, that could make a vast difference to congestion pollution and overcrowding on public transport.

Carlton Reid 1:04:29
Would it not also suggest that the Department for Transport projections historic projections that they’ve did predict prior to the to the to this crisis will no longer be valid, in which case the £27 billion road programme really ought to be looked at again, because the statistics it’s based on supposedly, will not be valid?

Edmund King 1:04:55
Well, I think the world is changing and it’s it’s probably changing more rapidly and The patterns of people working from home and their travel patterns will be changed more this year than they have in the last 50 years. So I think that will need to be reassessed. It’s obviously early days yet, we will still need investment in our transport infrastructure, no matter what happens, you know, we still have potholes on our roads there is still under investment by about £8 billion n terms of that basic infrastructure that that is important to everyone, not just drivers, but more so people on two wheels and people on two legs so we will still need investment. But I think it’ll be interesting to see after this crisis, what what what are the traffic flows have they changed radically, and if they have changed radically and indeed the same with rail travel and passengers on rail and buses If they’ve changed radically, radically and that remains to be seen, but if they have done then yes, like like any transport investment, it should be based on true reflections of what’s happening in the real world. I think it’s early yet predict that but certainly something that should be studied.

Carlton Reid 1:06:21
And the government’s going to be kind of short of cash because it’s it’s it’s it’s, it’s opening up that’s shaking the magic money tree, Edmond and it’s it’s shaking that money down for the National Health Service for the self employed. I’m putting my hand up here to keep us in business. All sorts of rescue packages are being put in place for to keep the economy on the straight and narrow. And if that’s the case, and the government does have less money in the future, my roads you know, might those juicy roads programmes which which always they they put out there You know that the conference once a year, but it’s quite easy to claw that back and bam, you’ve already saved £27 billion just by not having, you know, a tunnel under Stonehenge kind of stuff.

Edmund King 1:07:12
I mean, I do think the government will have some tough choices that the government at the moment is spending like there’s no tomorrow and probably for good reasons safeguard jobs to safeguard the country, basically to help the country keep going. And that that’s with good reason. One must question afterwards, what will the priorities be a lot of money, a lot of extra money is going into the NHS to make it run more efficiently. There isn’t a bottomless pit. There are some big expenditure projects out there. High Speed Rail for one is one that a lot of money. There’s a lot of There’s there’s divided opinion as to the benefits of speeding up those journeys, particularly with more people working from home and using technology, do you really need that extra 20 minutes? 30 minutes. So I think there would be questions there. In terms of road infrastructure, it will still be important for the majority of freight journeys that go by road and there’s very little likelihood of that changing. In fact, to some extent, what we’re finding in society is deliveries by road are actually increasing, not decreasing with the demise of the high street and this was even before the corona virus, those patterns were changing and the fastest level of growth was in the service industry with vans delivering with services being delivered to the to the doorstep. So so that was changing anyway, so we will still need transport investment, but there is no doubt about it. I guess the question is, will it need To be on the scale, or can we afford for it to be on the scale, but it was before this crisis? And I think there’s certainly questions over that.

Carlton Reid 1:09:10
And how about making investment in other areas of transport? So what would be your opinions on it, then if you’ve seen Berlin, Bogota, a number of cities have taken space away from cars in their cities and actually carved out temporary bike lanes, would you be in favour of that happening in British cities?

Edmund King 1:09:35
I think we’ve we’ve got a look a bit further than that. We got to look further ahead than that, that, that those kind of localised policies but if we’re really serious about the future, if we’re serious about the environment, if we’re serious about the switch to zero emissions, low carbon emissions, we we’ve got to be slightly more radical than than even that, and something I proposed in a sub submission to the boost an economic prize was looking further ahead. And if you like introducing kind of restrictions on journeys, but doing it in a way that’s sellable to the public. So that analysis was on the road miles that everyone in the country gets 3000 miles free that they could use in a car. After that, they would pay a charge per mile. If they lived in rural areas, they would get a third more. But the idea of that is to encourage people to think about their journeys. And if the journey isn’t necessary not to make the journey and if they do make the journey beyond those 3000 miles, they’ll pay for it. Now that would help the transformation to low emission vehicles because you’d give incentive for electric vehicles, and it would reduce travel in town and city centres rather than making small changes here and there, which yes can be beneficial on the local change, but something on a national level would have far greater effect.

Carlton Reid 1:11:10
So that was a project you worked. The opposite thing was something you worked on with your wife, wasn’t it?

Edmund King 1:11:15
Yeah, my wife is an economist. So she kept me honest with all the figures and the projections. So it was very much a jewel thing that I worked on the broader ideas and analysis and like my work life, worked on the economics of it and how it would work for the nation. And you know, there is no doubt we will have to change the way we tax transport. Because if if we really serious that after 2035, or possibly even 2030 that all new cars should be zero emissions. Well, what actually means is that the 30 odd billion pounds that the government currently gets in total Have fuel duty and vehicle excise duty, that that will then begin to disappear. And the country needs that money probably in the future in

Edmund King 1:12:11
terms of paying for the hospitals

Edmund King 1:12:13
and paying for the current crisis. And if we all switch to electric cars, the government’s not getting that money and fuel to do so the beauty of road miles is that it can change over time. You can crank up the costs over time as the change goes from fuel duty to electric cars, and it can put charge on electric cars because one of the things no doubt, look at our towns and cities. Yes, you can get rid of some of the air quality problems changing from a combustion engine to an electric vehicle, but it doesn’t necessarily get rid of the congestion problems. And even with driverless vehicles, you know, the vision of hell is that you turn up in Santa Monica in your driverless car, you get If it’s drop you off at the mall, and because there’s no parking in Santa Monica, the car just drives around around for hours on its own without an occupant and then picks you up? Well, you know, air quality might be better. It might be easier for you not not to hail a cab or a bus or get on a cycle. But it’s not good for the city. It’s not good for congestion. So we need some more radical future thinking. And we need that thinking now and I think that’s been one of the problems with government. You know, it’s it’s been working from year to year whereas the world around us is changing the the measures that we’re looking to take longer term to benefit the environment, and rightly so, are going to change the way we pay for transport the way we look at transport. But I’m not sure we’ve had bold enough, bright enough forward thinking on these issues so that we’re ready for them rather than knee jerk reactions and restrictions when it’s delivered. We’ll go to like,

Carlton Reid 1:14:01
so many of those themes that you’ve just mentioned apart from the, the road miles part, were mentioned, at least in passing in decarbonizing transport DfT paper, which is a like a goes out to consultation that, you know, people can input their ideas onto this, but it was announced it was rolled out very quietly by the DfT. Last week, but Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport,did say public transport and active travel will be the natural first choices for our daily activities, and we will have to use our cars less now, you as a leader of a motor organisation, would that not be absolutely the worst thing that could happen to a motor organisation using our cars? Yes.

Edmund King 1:14:48
No, I don’t think so. I think it would actually be better for us because the majority of people are not going to get rid of their cars, but if they use them less and use them more sensibly, then that’s better for all of us. And you know, it’s certainly something that we’ve advocated for for a long time. I mean, you you can still own a car, but you don’t need to use it every day. I own a car but I also have a bike I also have a season ticket for the railways and for public transport within London and I make a decision what what is the best decision for that journey? And some people do find it a bit surprising that the president of VA doesn’t drive into London. All the time, the congestion charge has been going in London, I have paid that charge once and only once. And because it’s not a sensible option for people to drive into London, there is adequate public transport people should use it. So know the world. The world is changing. If people don’t need to use them, Because for every journey they should think about it and substitute other means often it’s good for their health if they walk if if if they cycle if they take a bus for those journeys, but I still think and this is possibly where I differ with others. I think the predictions of wide scale car sharing are somewhat exaggerated and it may be a solution in our bigger metropolitan areas. But I always say you know, if you want to know what people think, get out of London, gota Darby, Doncaster and Darlington, and there’s a different view of life there. And people do tend to be more dependent on their cars and I don’t think that will change in the short term. I think patterns of car use patterns of journeys will change. I think the technology in the cars will change the way will become cleaner and greener. But I think having that car waiting for you outside and studies we’ve done on car dependence. So for, for example, families like having the car outside just in case Johnny or Jessica are ill and they need to be taken to the doctor or taken to the hospital. So it’s that kind of reassurance that dependents sometimes people are looking at and I think that would take quite a while before that is totally changed.

Carlton Reid 1:17:33
And that was Edmund King from the AA. So for the the Americans in our our panel, the the AA is the TripleA, the UK equivalent of the TripleA so clearly, I’m going to come to Tim here first, clearly a motoring Uber motoring spokesperson like Edmund, if even Edmund is saying well, maybe the UK Government shouldn’t spend £27 billion it was going to be spending on roads. That’s some what have an amazing road to Damascus for that particular motoring advocate. So is that something that we should be heartened by? And will it happen in the US?

Tim Blumenthal 1:18:20
Well, I think it could happen in the US. And I do think there is going to be a major federal infrastructure investment programme that traditionally would have only been about one or one and a half percent of the total dollars invested would go to active mobility bikes and people on foot. I think it’s very possible that that percentage could go up. I had an old friend in Congress who his name was Jim Oberstar, and he was one of the leaders in the House of Representatives from Minnesota and he always said Last time I checked, the same people who build roads, you are the people who build paths and trails, you know, particularly paved ones, the same machines, the same materials, and putting people back to work is going to be a priority. But historically, we’ve had really good relationships with AAA in the US, and maybe not a lot of people know this, but triple A, if you’re a member, and a lot of Americans still are. If you are on a bike ride, and you get a flat tire, or you need mechanical assistance, you can use your cell phone and call triple A and they’ll come and a lot of the triple A trucks and a lot of the states actually carry spare tubes and tools and a pump. And it’s the idea that we’re all in this together. So I I think it’s possible I’m encouraged and I love that kind of stuff. While at the same time, I’m really mindful that we have a lot of work to do to get people to rethink the way they use their cars in the US.

Carlton Reid 1:20:12
So Robin, that’s that’s a great segue into you actually, because that was absolutely what Zipcar was about, which was getting people to rethink their relationship to cars. So how surprised were you that a triple A equivalent president was was saying we shouldn’t be spending so much on roads in the future? Is that a sea change for you?

Robin Chase 1:20:32
Yes, I can’t believe it. I really can’t believe it. That is it. it’s astounding to me that he recognised that life can that he could do all sorts of things without his car. And the real trick though, is if you need a car to get to work, then you’re gonna own a car. And so I feel like that kind of circles back to where we were starting, which is what Zipcar and Zipcar only is good for. People who don’t need a car to get to work. And for me, it keeps coming back to this question, how can we improve the number of people who don’t need cars to get to work or to their livelihood? Tim’s description of the potential for a bicycle. And I want to think of it as a micro mobility network is one that I’m so deeply desirous of, and had been actually doing a lot of work on that circle around with Tim after this, but trying to tie it back into COVID. And I know you’re going down the TripleA but just give me one sentence here is if we can tie what has been said around Americans are anybody’s health, so their weight issues, and also their lung health issues, to recreation. And so I do feel that if we could let people tie those issues to respond to the pandemic and also when people are in shutdown, what type of recreation they would do this and positive and the potential for these names, these this new net network. I do do feel like there’s an opportunity there and a window that we could tie these strings together of people’s reflection on what’s been happening in these months and what new piece of infrastructure they would very much like to see. And I’ve just been thinking about all the shovel ready projects that are always chorus chorus chorus in in European and the US countries that are very heavily developed we really have built out all the roads we need to develop like we don’t there isn’t we don’t need to be building more roads. So we really could be very usefully building a this new infrastructure that I also am politically pleased by potential in terms of it’s good for urban, suburban and rural areas that even in rural areas where they have recreation paths and ultra vehicles. People love those. And so it’s something that I think is politically acceptable across all the fronts. And for Triple A I have to say I am I am astounded for AA for a I’m amazed that he would say those things. It’s pretty amazing.

Carlton Reid 1:23:12
And Fiona, I’m I must apologise I’m not too sure exactly the equivalent in Australia to the A, maybe it’s maybe it’s Australian automobile as a result of the Triple A. But how surprised were you at a at an Uber motoring geek? Who’s absolutely that that’s what he’s there for is to get more people to drive in effect. How interesting is that? And how different is that to maybe what’s happening in Australia? Or do you have somebody equivalent to Edmund who’s saying the same things and it’s it’s COVID is changing the world.

Fiona Campbell 1:23:47
Yeah, I think it was fantastic to hear Edmund King say that those things and he’s, you know, he’s he’s definitely right. And it’s not that surprising because it’s common sense. But I guess what’s surprising is we too often don’t hear Common sense from lobby groups that have a single purpose. In Australia we have, we do have a triple A but but it’s more the state based organisations that are more active. And so the Victorian version, the Royal Australian, Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, are progressive and and probably would would say similar things. But unfortunately in New South Wales, the National roads and motoring Association, one that we have here is is a bit more conservative. I think what everyone was saying about technology and working from home was was really valuable. Ai companies are now discovering that where previously they thought people wouldn’t be able to work from home because there are all these security issues and they will be able to give people access to the system, you know, that’s now gone by the wayside because they had to and so the productivity improvements of as he said, not having to drive halfway across the country or to another city to attend a meeting that can very easily and effectively be done. remotely, it really does call into question how much of our travel is necessary and how much is really inconvenient when, when we think about it. We we often hear, you know what people love their cars. But actually, I don’t think that they so much love the cars as the convenience and freedom to move and get places. They don’t love being stuck in a traffic jam every day. And if more people sort of after this, you know, in in an attempt to avoid public transport because of social distancing requirements, if more people go back to using cars and and in fact start driving, then that’s exactly what they’re going to all get the opposite of freedom, they’re going to be trapped in their car in a jam and will have lost that freedom to get around the neighbourhood with their kids. You know, as the the roads fill up with cars again, so it’s, it is really important to rethink things and in terms of what Tim was saying about potential federal stimuli less money. The purpose of the stimulus funding in various countries is to to get people back in work and to create jobs. And the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AASHTO, in 2012, published thing on how many jobs there were by project type and cycling infrastructure produces way more jobs than pavement widening or new highway construction or bridge or safety and traffic management or pavement improvement. So it’s really is that the better thing to do?

Carlton Reid 1:26:32
What why is that Fiona and why was why was it more people?

Fiona Campbell 1:26:35
It’s more complex and fiddly, a lot of the new highway construction, you’re talking big machinery and a more automated and simple thing to do whereas cycleways retrofitting them into cities and dealing with all the land ownership issues on a Greenway. All of those things take a lot more time and people resources to start solve the problems in design and also more fiddly in construction and less big machinery.

Robin Chase 1:27:06
I also want when you say that I also think we should be saying that you for the same price you can get many, many, many more miles of cycling. So it’s more labour and more output, of course, miles per mile.

Tim Blumenthal 1:27:22
And ultimately quicker, you know, this, Congressman Blumenauer from Portland Oregon always says that the entire investment of the City of Portland in their bike infrastructure network is less than what it would cost to build one mile of Interstate five on the east side of the city. So it you know, it is labour intensive, and it does require a lot of detail but from conception to finish, it can be done pretty quickly and pretty inexpensively and that’s those are both good selling points.

Carlton Reid 1:28:00
So, Tim, that that’s an argument that bike advocates and and walk advocates have used for many, many years to little real results. But do you think now is the time this is the time when actually all of that that groundwork that you people out there have been putting in for years and years and years, saying this is the cost effective thing saying federal stimulus is this we’ll get this. And is now is it just a The time is now Right. And the you’ve laid the foundations and now politicians and planners will now actually listen to you?

Tim Blumenthal 1:28:39
Yeah. Well, here’s what I know. We’re working in a lot of cities. And I’ll give you five Austin, Texas, Providence, Rhode Island, Denver, Colorado, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh. And in those each of those five cities, they’ve all committed to investing unprecedented dollars to build 100 miles or more of completely interconnected bike infrastructure, and they’re there. They’re working work, they were working more quickly than ever with a higher level of commitment. And I think that all the points that we’ve made during this discussion will push them to, to keep going in every way. So, at the end of the day, I’m optimistic in 1973 and 74. Those were the two best years for bicycle sales during the oil embargo. Those are the two best years for us bicycle sales ever. More than 20 million bikes were sold in the United States, each of those two years. I think it’s conceivable that 2021 and 22 and hopefully beyond could be a new golden age for bicycling in America.

Carlton Reid 1:29:56
I mean, there were queues out of bike shops, there are descriptions of literally people queueing out of the door. And then you’re having to order you couldn’t go into a bike shop and get a bike and take it away. You had to order a bike in because they’re in such short supply. You think that could come back those those those helican days of bike shortages, but then you fulfil that demand and then you’ve got a lot of people on bikes. Yeah, so

Tim Blumenthal 1:30:21
a lot of bike companies, even with the closure of many of their retailers are doing very well right now. And again, it’s an awkward time to be saying that your business is thriving, but direct to consumer delivery of bicycles. That’s going really well bicycle repair. That’s going really well. One big issue that’s that may hit here is that a lot of bike and bike park factories around the world have had to shut down the spring. And so there could be a shortage of raw materials either Steel, rubber other material so, but that will play out. And when the time is right, there may be a real positive story that sort of blends business and health and mobility and climate change and better communities. And it’s a, you know, we don’t want to preach but it in some it’s a pretty good story.

Carlton Reid 1:31:25
It does sound as though we’re getting some I mean, I definitely picked up a bit earlier in the, in the show Tim where you were kind of negative in parts. That’s that was very, very positive. So let me just go through the panel. Well, it will end here. And clearly it’s it’s a negative. The fact that we’re together here now to today is a negative in that it’s a lockdown and it’s a it’s a global pandemic. Clearly awful. But are we collectively? And I’ll I’ll start with Fiona. Are we absolutely optimistic that when this is over with, we will see a different world, a better world, a bicycling world?

Fiona Campbell 1:32:06
We have that opportunity. But in the past, it’s not been taken by our countries and we need to make sure that the opportunity is taken this time to get the permanent improvements that we can.

Carlton Reid 1:32:20
And Robin,

Robin Chase 1:32:21
I agree, I think we have it’s a real possibility but we have to proactively and forcefully make great arguments and make that narrative the obvious choice.

Carlton Reid 1:32:34
And, Tim, your closing statement.

Tim Blumenthal 1:32:38
Historically, I’ve been discouraged because I feel like too many American leaders view bicycling as either a kids thing or a weekend recreation thing, and and not a fundamental, powerful solution to address key societal challenges, but As the other panellists said, right now, there’s this huge opportunity. Our talking points are lining up really well, and it’s not self serving, it’s for everybody’s benefit. So at the end of the day, I’m optimistic.

Carlton Reid 1:33:16
Thank you. And thank you to Fiona in Australia to Robin and Tim, to close the show out if you could just tell us how people who are listening to this show how they can either get in touch with you personally, or give the URL for for for your particular organisation, whichever you whichever mix you want to give there, go for it. So let’s start with Tim, how do you how do people get in touch with you and how do they on social media? And how did they get in touch with with people for bikes?

Tim Blumenthal 1:33:49
Well, you know, these days, I’m happy to spend more time I’m communicating with people any way I can, but they can email me Tim at And if they go to our website, there’s all kinds of new material that directly relates to what we talked about today. And then we have really active People for Bike’s Twitter and Facebook. So, yeah, that’s it.

Carlton Reid 1:34:20
Thank you and Robin.

Robin Chase 1:34:23
People can follow me on twitter at R M like Mary Chase, RM Chase, and Numo the new urban mobility Alliance has got a lot of the work that we’ve been doing so it’s and

Robin Chase 1:34:40
catch my attention.

Carlton Reid 1:34:44
And Fiona last but not least,

Fiona Campbell 1:34:46
yeah, the City of Sydney cycling page is cycleways.Sydney on the web. And my Twitter handle is @Fionabike.

Carlton Reid 1:34:56
Fantastic. I’ve got to thank everybody for for joining us today it’s been a fascinating discussion discussion that we probably didn’t want to have in many respects in that COVID-19 has brought us together and we can we can chat about this and just anecdotally to tell you as a journalist, it’s it’s it’s very easy to contact people at the moment because they’re all just at home.

Robin Chase 1:35:22
It’s true my days ago my calendar is still empty.

Carlton Reid 1:35:26
Yes. So thank you ever so much for for for taking the time out. Hopefully we’ve we’ve filled a yawning gap in your life because you’re maybe bored out of your your mind, I don’t know. But you’re all sounds that you’re all making sourdough anyway. So so maybe your Your time has been filled up without having bicycling chat. But thank you ever so much for for taking the time today. And thank you to Fiona Campbell, and to Tim Blumenthal and to Robin Chase. And thank you to you for listening to the spokesmen, and today, this episode has been episode 242 show notes and more can be found at

Carlton Reid 1:36:13

Carlton Reid 1:36:17
until the next show, get out there and ride.