Emily Kerr

27th June 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 332: Emily Kerr

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Cllr Emily Kerr

TOPICS: Oxford Green councillor Emily Kerr talks about 15-minute city conspiracy theories, LTNs and cycling to your wedding. Recorded at the Move mobility conference at ExCel, London.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 332 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Tuesday 27th of June 2023.

David Bernstein 0:28
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit www.ternbicycles.com. That’s t e r n bicycles.com. To learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:04
I’m Carlton Reid and today’s show is a bonus episode recorded when I was at the move mobility conference at London’s ExCel last week. It was there that I bumped into Oxford green Councillor Emily Kerr. We had earlier bonded on Twitter, over our use of the Telraam citizen traffic counter. And we met on the Telraam stand at Move. We talked about Oxford’s 15 minute city conspiracy theories, low traffic neighbourhoods, of course, and cycling to Emily’s recent wedding.

Emily Kerr 1:43
Yeah, so there’s a decision happening right now about the Cowley low traffic neighbourhoods in Oxford. So we’ve sort of had two sets of low traffic neighbourhoods, one is in Cowley one is in East Oxford, my ward’s in East Oxford, but obviously anything that happens to Cowley has implications for for my ward. So the decision being made right now is whether the existing on lockable fixed bollards should be replaced with ANPR cameras or not. And if they are, who should be allowed through that ANPR. So there was a consultation that proposed that it should just be emergency services. And in fact, you’ve been lorries, you know, other kinds of those kinds of services. But a recommendation that came out is that taxis should also be exempt. So I think there’s a discussion happening as to whether, you know, whether that will, we know that any additional car on the road creates additional road danger, right? And I think there are some situations, for example, that ambulances were the trade off is that, you know, you have quicker ambulance services. And so maybe that’s worth the additional road danger. Whereas the if you start adding more and more and more, it depends how many cars are coming through and how fast they’re going, how much more dangerous those roads will be. Yeah, I think the taxi firms are professional drivers, you know, I’m optimistic that they will stick to the speed limits. But if we suddenly started having a hugely increased flow of cars, it does increase road danger. Those routes are key for kids getting to school. And suddenly you see a situation where people won’t feel safe for their children to walk and cycle or people will only, you know, will revert to driving. And I think that’ll be a real shame when that decision is.

Carlton Reid 3:20
You can imagine it’s a no brainer for emergency vehicles. But the decision is also for taxes. So what is the actual decision?

Emily Kerr 3:28
The decision is whether the ANPR replacement should be should happen at all firstly, right? Because in fact, we’ve seen in Cowley that the ambulances are not very delayed by the existing LTNs structure, they can unlock the bollards and the rerouting system. So in fact, there doesn’t seem to be from the data, much delay to emergency services. So then there’s a question about whether you should replace the bollards at all. And then secondly, the second part of the decision is whether that should just be for emergency vehicles or whether it should also exempt taxis as part of the public transport infrastructure in Oxford.

Carlton Reid 4:00
Here at the show yesterday, Mete from from Hackney. Yes, we’re saying the reason they brought in their LTNs Yes, clean air and stuff, but it’s very much to remove through traffic. And he was saying the according to their stats 40% of motorists going through on the main roads of Hackney, we’re never ever going to stop. They’re using it as a through route only.

But if you have ANPR to let residents, you’ve still got 60% In that case, even in Hackney, which are very low car ownership, you’ve still got 60% of the people in that case, potentially using cars. So ANPR is no solution if you’re going to allow residents in for instance, because that you still got an enormous amount but so you haven’t got that decision and not gonna be residents.

Emily Kerr 4:54
As you’ll be familiar with, like a lot of people are asking for a lot of different things. There’s a lot of different suggestions and and some people have mooted the idea that residents should also be exempted. And I think that’s extremely dangerous. That ends up in a situation like South Fulham, where it’s used as a as a mechanism to control congestion. But actually, it doesn’t promote active travel, because there’s simply too many cars going too fast, people are not switching to cycling, and walking, and they’re kind of scared to walk in cycling, we’ve got a survey in Oxford from Oxford share from a couple of months, a couple years ago, which shows that sort of 70 to 80% of the reason people don’t cycle more is fear of traffic, like and that’s consistent when you look at so. So if you have more traffic, you necessarily have less cycling. And again, at low levels of traffic, we know that every percentage increase in traffic provides a corresponding increase in road danger. So if we’re going to let five times as many vehicles through, for example, you’re making it five times more dangerous. So I suppose I’m, I’m also very keen, you know, you and I’ve talked about tower encounters, right, which are brilliant, because they can measure what’s happening. So regardless of what happens in this decision, I’d really like to see better measurements. So we can see, you know, I’m concerned if taxis are allowed through that we might see some speeding and a lot of increased rate data. But you know, we might also not taxis or professional drivers, maybe everyone will stick to the speed, maybe we’ll find that, you know, and they only use it when they really need to, to to drop off and they take the long way around. And you know, also in Oxford, we are having traffic filters, you know, in the next 18 months. So there’s sort of opportunities to tweak the scheme. You might concerns might be baseless, we may not have any problem. And I think that’s why measuring it is so important.

Carlton Reid 6:31
Yes. And I told Telraam guys, I’m talking about land because I believe that tech is ground changing for people like me and you and any person on the ground trying to get these kind of like counters. Now on the stage this morning. I was talking about 15 minute cities. Yes. And I kept it very positive. I just mentioned about the conspiracy theories. I said, and neither of me and Henri who was from Dott, we neither of us are paid by the W E F. Oh, geez. Oh, okay. So you are pay. Okay, we have my scoop of today. Emily is drinking from a World Economic Forum water bottle.

Emily Kerr 7:11
Yes it was quite amusing present from someone. Yeah, I like this. Yeah. Brilliant.

Carlton Reid 7:14
Yes. Yeah. It’s just to throw it in there. So you’re not a shill. I’m not a shill Henri wasn’t a shill as well. But there is an enormous amount of conspiracy theories. Yeah. So my question really is, how on earth are you getting through this? Because you must be getting bombarded with I’d like to say fringe. It’s almost no longer fringe. It’s almost a sizeable proportion of people. I know that you are absolutely the locus for this in Oxford. Yeah. How on me? How are you coping with the abuse you must be getting?

Emily Kerr 7:56
So I think that, weirdly, it’s not been as bad as it sounds in Oxford, because what’s happened is, it’s been such a big deal, that people have gone away and informed themselves. And so I think it’s actually within Oxford, it remains friends. You know, we had a massive protest, almost all of those people came from outside Oxford. And so that started to make people in Oxford that went and fought, you know, really question what was going on and be like, and in fact, you know, I had a couple of, uh, several people come up to me and say, I don’t agree with the LTNs. But I don’t agree with people coming in to Oxford. And I like Co Op, this debate even more, and actually, now I’ve been reading about them. And you know, maybe there are some advantages to the LTNs. I’m still not sure about them. But like, you know, and so I think it’s not been as bad as it probably looks externally. In Oxford.

Carlton Reid 8:45
But you’re still getting threats?

Emily Kerr 8:46
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. But

I think, you know, I’m a woman on the internet, like, it’s, it shouldn’t be like this, but it is. And I think what you really realise is it comes from a very small group of people. So I was interested in that the Harry and Megan story, right, I think there was some stat that showed that sort of 80% of the abuse came from like, 50 accounts, or something like that. I’m sure he was one of them. But you know, I think it’s the same thing, actually. Right, particularly on Twitter. I blocked people that are personally insulting to me, that’s really the main reason I blocked people. Otherwise, if they make ad hominem remarks, I just block them, I actually now get very little abuse, because it’s a very low number of people that are aggressively attacking pretty much everybody that does anything in active travel. And I think, you know, I’m kind of optimistic about the population and people’s level of education when they decide to understand something and actually, I think you’re not so good. We’ve seen a lot of people decide to understand and get interested in traffic. And you know, you and I talked about this with Telraam, it’s like citizen led reporting, like how can we I think getting people more involved can only be a positive except for the fringe of people who probably are trying to co op the debate for their own purposes. But so yeah, it’s, it’s okay. It’s

Carlton Reid 9:55
very positive and good to hear, especially from an Oxford point of view because I assume You must mean you must be at the centre of the maelstrom there. But as you’re saying it’s people who are outside mainly Yeah. Who are doing this. And if you look at all the people who were the main ones, yeah, these are coming travelling. Yeah,

Emily Kerr 10:11
Exactly. And also, I really did enjoy, and the council’s recently pedestrianised Broad Street, which is the main area in the centre of Oxford, which is obviously where the anti 15 minute city kind of parade gathered in this beautiful place. And it had been pedestrianised just a few months previously, and they would have had no chance of getting in there earlier, because obviously, it was filled with cars, and now it’s no longer carpark. It provides a sort of gathering for people that want to protest. And you know, I’m from the Green Party, I support people’s right to protest peacefully. And even though I don’t agree with it, like, you know, they should be allowed to come and protest

Carlton Reid 10:41
In your pedestrianised area, but beautiful pedestrianised. Yeah, I think I made the point at the time, if you count the number of people who are walking down Broad Street, if you had them in cars, and they were protesting, you’d have basically gridlock for city for hours, hours and hours. Whereas you get one group of you know, okay, there was a hundreds and hundreds of protesters there. But they then walk through and there’s no, no exact nothing is basically happening to the city whatsoever, because they’re just walking through. Yeah. And that was almost an advert for why you should be having 15 minutes cities, it was like, why are they not seeing this?

Emily Kerr 11:17
Exactly? Yeah, you know, we, I had a, particularly when the move was first announced, and it when it first became a kind of, you know, a global conspiracy theory, I had people coming up to me at the school gates and being like, is it true? We’re not going to be allowed to leave our houses bike? You know, I thought, Well, no, it’s not to actually what’s happening is you’re going to have to drive to a bit like, you know, we have had on Oxford in Oxford for more than 20 years, you’re not allowed to drive through the high street in a car between 7am and 7pm. And everyone’s like, Oh, is that it? And I’m like, Well, yeah, I mean, you know, you’re not gonna be able to drive through the city centre. The reason for that is we need to speed up the buses, we need to improve access to people in bands, yeah, et cetera, et cetera. We need to lose private cars from the city make it safer for people to switch. And people are right. Is that it? And so, you know, I think that, as I say, it was obviously very alarming for people when it was first announced because they hadn’t understood it. But I suppose in general, I think people down do now understand that and support the idea. Oh, that’s really good.

Carlton Reid 12:12
Really nice to hear.

Emily Kerr 12:13
Let me caveat this with obviously, people that

Carlton Reid 12:17
Where I’m from Jesmond, also, it’s actually a very posh area. Yeah. It’s a high level of education. Basically, it’s university lecturers, it students, this should not be this level of misunderstanding on this, and I don’t think there is a misunderstanding as they just want to continue driving. Yeah. And it does tend to be I get told off for this if I bring the age thing in. But there ain’t that many young people. The students are not protesting. Yeah, actually, it’s the, again, I’m getting told off of this. But it’s inescapable. It’s the boomers. Yeah. And you see the comments on the petitions. It’s my eight year old mum kinda is like, sorry, it’s basically an age thing of people who have grown up with a motorised society cannot imagine not using cars and also on the petition, you find that people are, they’re not saying they’re trip chaining, they’re not saying, you know, I probably get 20 miles away. And it’s, you know, the last mile has been, they’re saying, I want to drive 500 metres I want to go from, they give their location, I want to go from here. And I can’t any no longer get to these posh shops 500 metres away. And they can. But it’s the older people are just they are so married to their cars. And it’s like, Why are you driving in Jesmond? Even if you’re older? Why are you driving in Jesmond? Are you finding the same isn’t the same demographic.

Emily Kerr 13:36
So there was something that I did find particularly funny, which was a person that was very outraged that they were going to have to take a long but right way round to drive to Merton colleges, real tennis court. I was like, I mean, you know, like real tennis is an Etonian sport that only a very few people play, you know, fundamentally in my ward, 50% of people don’t own cars. And I don’t see why someone that should be able to drive a quicker route to Merton to play real tennis, you know, and do it through doing so impose road danger, bad air quality, you know, on my residence, like, so. So, I think that’s true. I also think, though, that probably what we see in Oxford, where we already have a high cycling share, is that there are quite a lot of people who are much older, you know, in their 80s and 90s, who don’t drive any longer because they don’t feel safe to drive, but they cycle and tricycle. It’s amazing, you know. So in fact, that there are, of course, people whose parents in their 80s will suffer through not being able to, you know, get somewhere as quickly or they’ll have to take them but in front, there’s actually a lot of people that it’s given freedom and the ability to get around on like low car routes. And actually, you know, it’s amazing. My mother is one of them. My mother won’t drive she’s in her late 80s. And when she comes to visit us, she can cycle around, obviously, she can go anywhere. I did an interview with a 94 year old cyclist you haven’t driven for years, but he has the freedom to get around Oxford, you know, on a bike and we see this In the Netherlands, you know, when you look at someone that’s got truly high share of cycling for older people, that people talk about the freedom of it, you know, and in fact, I talked to some refugees, we have this amazing charity in Oxford that does refurbish cycles for refugees. Now, those people cannot afford four grand a year to run a car, because that’s what cost you know, and so they’ve got a cycle and this, you’re talking about cycling, giving them freedom. So they’ve been given this cycle, that’s like 100 quid, reconditioned lights, you know, helmet, lock, all of that kind of stuff. And suddenly, it’s like, oh, I can visit my friends in Oxford, I can visit other people from my community, I can get to church. So I think the narrative of cars is freedom applies to a specific demographic. And actually, for a lot of people, that’s not true. If you’re poor. If you are, you know, unable to afford the space or, or the money to own a car, like actually safe cycling provides freedom. And I find it really kind of motivating and interesting.

Carlton Reid 15:53
And I agree with you, because I’ve interviewed people. Yeah, it’s actually in my local sourdough shop. First worle problems, yeah. But as you cycle then it’s like, it’s actually 15 minutes to get there, literally 15 minutes for me to cycle there. Which is handy. But I was, I was I was talking to her in the queue. And she’s telling me that exam kind of, um, well known, yeah, my area. Yeah, you know, I’m stalked by the opposition, who take post photographs of me on bikes. And so it’s quite, quite creepy. She knew I was, cuz she hangs out on one of these groups. And she was talking to me and she’s saying, Well, I would have normally driven to Jesmond in mind, she’s got a little, you know, little car, which is now because she lives in a like a, like, yours is, you know, one, one district removed. She’s, you know, one step removed from Jesmond. And she says, but now that they’ve got the, the LTN, I’m now cycling that and she is in that demographic, she’s very much in that Boomer demographic. So it’s freed up for her. And that, you know, counteracts the people who say, but it’s made it more difficult for me, and it’s given me there’s not freedom. So there’s probably a huge number of people. Yes, who are saying it’s damaging for me, but then we’re not hearing from the people who’s like, actually, no, I’m not cycling there. So do you think there’s, there’s a knock has to make giving it a silent majority? Or is it just 50/50? What do you think?

Emily Kerr 17:19
So, you know, I’d say I actually do hear from a lot of those kinds of people. Because as a local councillor, a lot of people come up to me and talk to me. So I remember this sort of a sad day, someone came up to me and a lady again, a boomer lady came up to me and was like, Emily, I had to cycle to my a lot. But today, I suppose that makes you happy. And I was like, actually, I think we both lost. And like, I’ve seen her since. And yeah, she switched exactly the same, you know, it’s because they’re a lot much used to drive. And, you know, I really see it at the school gates, because I’ve got young kids. And so now, you know, the shift in my school is astonishing. And we now have 13% of people who drive their children, the national average is 65%. It’s remarkable. And that is driven by the LTNs. What was it before, unfortunately, we do not have the pre and post data. So there’s another school, very nearby larkrise. And we do have the pre and post data there, and it was 35% driven. And now it’s 15% chance, there’s been like a massive shift due to LTNs. Due to other measures. In terms of that people now cycle their kits, they feel safer. But also, it’s easier than humans take the easiest option, right. And so if the easiest option is cycling, people cycle, you know, and we need to make public transport, and cycling and all of these other ways of getting around easy and private cars, because there’s not enough space for private cars. And you know, again, the emissions like in the UK, we have 80% household car ownership worldwide, it’s 15%. Do we really want to add in an extra 5 billion cars to the planet? And whatever the number is? That’s it? Yeah. And, and the associated emissions manufacturing mining is such that we really don’t, you know, we need people to use cars when they need cars, and otherwise have other other ways of getting about.

Carlton Reid 18:59
And what are you doing here at this mobility conference?

Emily Kerr 19:02
I’m here to look at some of the kinds of new and innovative stuff that’s happening. So I was very interested in talking to the Dutch delegation. So as you’ve seen, they’ve got like a whole group of Micromobility and other company, other companies and organisations there, I’m interested in seeing some of the kind of car sharing stuff that’s happening, you know, and the switch to electric. So all of those there and also, I’m here to listen to some of those really great speakers. I’m interested in innovation, how we can learn from other countries because they think UK is lagging to a degree and how we can really shift about improving public health, improving road safety and you know, helping people to get around by bike because I love cycling. It’s great. So you know, that’s probably what I’m here for.

Carlton Reid 19:45
Now. Tell people where they can get more information on on your job, your work in Oxford, and then your Twitter feed so you can use those two websites.

Emily Kerr 19:59
Perfect. And so yeah, so I think in Oxford, we’ve got the Oxfordshire county council, who are the highways authority, and I actually work for the City Council and not the county council. So but you know, I think we work together fairly kind of collaboratively. So I think probably the Oxford county council website, it’s got a lot of press releases and a lot of information about some of the brilliant stuff they’re doing. Obviously, they’ve got a Twitter feed, I’ve got a Facebook etc, etc. I have a Twitter account. So I’m @EmilyKerr36 on Twitter. And I try and share not just what we’re doing but also what sort of everyone’s doing I’m interested in Lambeth we were just talking about Lambeth you know, Lambeth started brilliant curbside strategy. There’s loads of cool stuff. Obviously, Jesmond, you now I’m seeing what you’re you guys doing up there. Wales is doing Brilliant stuff. I think there’s a lot of local authorities, national authorities that are really looking at this in the right kind of way, and we need to be trying to learn from each other.

Carlton Reid 20:50
Thank you. And finally, has there been a decision?

Emily Kerr 20:54
What a great question. Let’s check live.

whether there has been a decision on this the Oxford to be still you haven’t you? haven’t? You haven’t? Yeah, it’s

there’s a lot of people speaking on this that often is

Carlton Reid 21:07
No decision when we were recording, but a few minutes later, Oxford Clarion local democracy Twitter account revealed that councillors voted through the decision to allow some motor vehicles to access the LTN via number plate recognition cameras. Taxi drivers, would now be allowed through for instance, making the LTN roads into well, taxi superhighways. That’ll be an interesting development to keep an eye on. But meanwhile, let’s get over to David for a quick commercial break.

David Bernstein 21:39
Hello, everyone. This is David from the Fredcast. And of course, the Spokesmen. And I’m here once again to tell you that this podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles, the good people at Tern build bikes that make it easier for you to replace car trips with bike trips. Part of that is being committed to designing useful bikes that are also fun to ride. But an even greater priority for Tern, is to make sure that your ride is safe, and worryfree. And that’s why Tern works with industry leading third party testing labs like E FB, E, and builds it bikes around Bosch ebike systems, which are UL certified for both electric and fire safety. So before you even zip off on your Tern, fully loaded, and perhaps with a loved one behind, you can be sure that the bike has been tested to handle the extra stresses on the frame, and the rigours of the road. For more information, visit www.ternbicycles.com. To learn more. And now, back to the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 22:49
Thanks, David. And we’re still with Emily Kerr, because she wanted to tell us about cycling to her recent wedding.

Emily Kerr 22:57
I didn’t want to talk about my writing not just for the sake of talking about wedding, but because I’ve been thinking about relation. Thanks so much. I’ve been thinking a lot about location based events and how we need to try and drive that shift. And you know, I got married in Oxford. And so most people came by train, some people came by bus, my husband and the kids got to the church by bus, and so did most of the wedding party, I arrived on a cargo bike which was taken by our local cargo delivery firm.

Carlton Reid 23:25
You weren’t pedalling you were being

Emily Kerr 23:27
unusually I do pedal, but I wasn’t. And my photographer arrived on a bike, you know, we had and, and some people arrive by car. So you know, we had some people with limited mobility. I had a couple of friends arriving with young kids. You know, I don’t think we should ban cars at all, you know, some people need cars. And that’s really not a problem. And even if, you know, there were some people that didn’t feel like it on the day. But I suppose the point is that we it’s a situation where most people shift to public transport, cycling most people came by by, you know, is is a good system for everybody because it means that people that need to come by car have space on the roads to do so.

Carlton Reid 24:02
Thanks to Emily Kerr there. And thanks to you for listening to Episode 332 of the Spokesmen podcast brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles. Show notes, and more can be found at the-spokesmen.com. The next episode will be out in early July and will be a whole bunch more interviews recorded at the Move conference. But meanwhile, get out there and ride

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