Time Space Elongation, Marxist Geographers, Biking While Black: In Conversation With John Stehlin

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

Episode 234

Saturday 11th January 2020


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: John Stehlin, assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA, author of “Cyclescapes of the Unequal City.”


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 234 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was published on Saturday 11th of January 2020.

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

Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid and here’s a belated Happy New Year to you for the start of the twenties. Who knows whether they’ll be roaring or not but I know for me personally that this decade will see me getting out on my bike as much as I can, although not as much as my 22-year-old son, Josh. Back on show 231 I recorded an episode about his epic bike ride back to the UK from China, and now we’ve just discovered he’s been chosen to ride the Transcontinental race in July — this is a self-supported race from Brest in France to Burgas in Bulgaria via not the Alps this year but the Carpathian mountains. Before, maybe even during, and after this ultra-audax race we’ll get Josh back on the show but, meanwhile, today’s episode is not about long-distance racing it’s about bicycle infrastructure, and how it can often be installed unevenly, and that’s socially not just geographically. To discuss this I’m joined by John Stehlin, assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Greensboro in America. We talk about his book, “Cyclescapes of the Unequal City.”

John, thank you so much for joining us on today’s show. I’ve got your book in front of me and I will go through it almost page for page and pick out bits that I’d like to talk to you about. But first of all, I’d like to find out about you. So I’d like you to tell us your your academic trajectory, including and starting with your job as a bicycle mechanic at Via Bicycle in Philadelphia

John Stehlin 2:59
Right now. Well, that was I mean, that was pretty formative in the introduction or in the acknowledgments sorry, in the text I like to blame. Also a good friend Joey for kind of hooking me on tinkering with bikes but Via Bicycle was really a sort of a, a major kind of formation. I went in knowing basically just enough to be very dangerous and left knowing quite a bit about both working on bicycles and kind of bicycle history is a shop that basically service bikes everywhere from about 1870 onward.


as a mechanic at that shop, one of the, one of the main parts of my job was speaking Spanish on a daily basis. So a lot there were a lot of this was in the this is in the Italian market, South Street district. Philadelphia, which is now kind of the centre, or one of the centres in the sort of, in the city of kind of Latino immigration from Central America and Mexico. And there are a lot of mostly men, mostly male delivery riders are would be delivering food on bicycles or would be getting to work at restaurant jobs on bicycles. And because of the constraints on their budgets, all they could really afford were bicycles from Target or Walmart. And so they were in kind of constant need of repair or installing a basket, those types of things. And so I came to know them fairly well, at a basically at the same time and you know, I’m kind of applying this frame to myself was the kind of rise of more cognizance of the kind of hipster bicycle moment, right and then there A lot of people, you know, people who looked like me like younger white folks coming to the bike shop getting old road bikes converted into fixed gear bikes, you know, part of this kind of cultural moment a lot of messengers came to our bike shop, bike messengers. And so, it was kind of this, this very complex brew, there are a lot of older retirees, lower income people, people of colour who had lived in the neighbourhood for a long time. Now the neighbourhood was kind of undergoing gentrification, in fact, the, you know, the shop itself actually was recently displaced to a different location because the building that it was in was sold. And so it’s kind of kind of an example of how bike shops are often actually subject to some of the same forces that I’m talking about in the book that that, you know, effect. Residential. You know, that effect patterns. So I didn’t kind of I didn’t think a tonne about that as a potential project. Going into grad school I mostly a part of my motivation for applying to get a PhD was kind of to restart the, you know the, I’d say restart the the kind of academic side of my brain and tried over the course of my PhD tried to keep the kind of mechanical side of my brain going by continuing to work at a bike shop moat for most of my PhD. But then, in my in my PhD I started to kind of take early in my PhD before I had decided on a topic, I started to take note of some of these kind of these moments of battles over bicycle infrastructure as being indicative of a reflective or even causal of gentrification, you know, most notably in Portland, there was a big fight over a bike lane project in Portland’s kind of historic, low income African American neighbourhood just had a long history of displacement through infrastructure projects. And that you know, I did a little bit of field work up there and ultimately didn’t didn’t pursue it because I kind of refocused around the the kind of regional story of the San Francisco Bay Area, but that kind of alerted me to the, the the sort of the politics of space and and infrastructure and this kind of this way of movement that partially became sort of noticeable in cities, precisely not just because it was novel, but because it for whom it was novel, it was novel to see white middle class professional Animals on bicycles not in sort of smaller college towns but in bigger cities and in gentrifying neighbourhoods.

Carlton Reid 8:09
So your book and you call it a monograph in one of your CV. Quite your book, it focuses on three cities, one of them being Philadelphia, but just to go backwards a little bit. You’re not in Philadelphia. Now. I’m assuming I’m talking to you where you are at your current institution, University of North Carolina.

John Stehlin 8:29
Yeah. So currently, I’m at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the geography environment and sustainability programme or department. At the, the book has a kind of complex trajectory because I had done a bit of done I had some Philadelphia, some familiarity with the Philadelphia case from having having worked there. After I finished my PhD dissertation which was focused most specifically On the San Francisco Bay Area, I did some subsequent field work with a small grant from the University of California Berkeley where I was continuing as a lecturer. And I returned to another kind of field site that I had explored early on, which was Detroit. And which was in which was implementing a bike sharing system sort of on the model of, of city bright city bike in New York City, but more appropriately on the model of Philadelphia’s Bike Share system. And at that same time, the San Francisco Bay area was finally expanding its initial pilot, which was basically just San Francisco, San Jose and a sprinkling in between was finally expanding that pilot to the East Bay, which was kind of more properly my everyday field site so it made sense to expand on the dissertation for the purposes of making it into a book

Carlton Reid 10:01
Now your book is US based. But I note from you again from your CV, University of Manchester. So you were in in Manchester 2018. And yes,

John Stehlin 10:12
yeah, it was a one year position at the sustainable consumption Institute. And, you know, it was a it was an, it was quite eye opening Actually, my expertise again, yeah, comes from the United States, and the sort of specific bicycle politics of the United States. And there’s some elements there’s some kind of Anglo North Atlantic commonalities between US and the UK, I in terms of bicycle policy, but also some significant differences. So you know, I did, I did ride a bike around and in Manchester. And when I was there, I was doing I was working on kind of new research that’s going to be coming out quite soon on mobility platform is far more general. And that was, you know, I think part of the impetus for that with my collaborators, Michael Hodson, and Andrew McMeekin was the experience of the mobike, a bike sharing platform that had emerged kind of suddenly in 2017 and Manchester, which was its first European foothold. And then basically as soon as I arrived there in 2018, it had, they had abandon the city for a complex set of reasons that we can talk about if you’re interested, but that was so that was a kind of it was a nice trajectory from looking at bicycling, bicycling with people’s personal bicycles and bicycle lanes into the politics of bicycle sharing systems into this whole new kind of world of the politics of mobility platforms more general and especially micro mobility.

Carlton Reid 11:56
I would like to get onto micro mobility and on to bike share. Because I know it’s a chapter in your, in your book, but just to go back to Manchester. So you were there when mobike kind of rose and then failed, I mean mainly is because of vandalism. And it was just costing too much for the company to have the bikes in this particular city which which also raises issues of one of the bicycles. Why are they getting trashed, which is interesting it right. But Manchester is going to be so Chris Boardman, the cycling and walking Commissioner who was big into mobike. They had two systems that at one time, but they are going to be bringing their own docked version in quite soon so that they’re going to be getting a variety of companies, including the big ones that have done London, Montreal, etc. to come in and pitch for that. So Manchester is changing to you were there at a pretty formative time with Oxford road where you would have been based had the bike lanes were what freshly minted when you were? Yeah. Probably a year old when you were there. So that was changing the composition of cycling in Manchester anyway with lots of students, right?

John Stehlin 13:13
Yes, definitely. And so the mobic was really on the wane. Basically, when I arrived in August of 2018. There was, there was speculation that was pretty well substantiated, that they were going to leave. And it was interesting because I had just come off of doing some field work for a different new project that was continuing to work on bicycle sharing systems in Austin, Philadelphia and Oakland, which is a sort of a deepening of that last chapter so to speak, but then adding in Austin, which was another interesting case, I kind of a more of a sunbelt case so to speak in the United States. parlons. And when I was in Philadelphia, I took a trip Across the river to Camden, New Jersey, which was, to my knowledge, the only place where there was a kind of formal structured partnership between one of the micro mobility providers ofo and the and kind of local community development corporation in Camden. And shortly after I was there conducting interviews and kind of seeing, seeing a kind of a very different context of a sort of a city that by most by most ways of measuring would not have been able to support a doc based system because of the kind of level of investment required for complicated reasons, the Philadelphia system would not have been able to expand over the river just yet, although I think that would, that would have made a lot of sense. So they had this ofo system you Shortly after I left Philadelphia, in July ofo, declared that it was leaving the United States altogether. And, you know, my understanding is that Camden read about it in the newspapers just like everybody else. And their their argument in that case was simply sort of refocusing around, you know, strategically better markets. And so I felt slightly You know, there was a lot of vandalism of mobike and mo bikes and stuff and I know that mo bikes bicycles were more expensive than some of the other firms. But I, I looked at you know, I’m it was maybe a bit more sceptical of the justification of vandalism because there was a great report done by Graham Sheriff and others at the University of Salford that showed that mobike had been kind of paring down its spatial coverage kind of over a long period of time leading up to that closure. And they just also weren’t getting the kind of the usage rates, because they weren’t covering very much of the city in order to cut cut to cut costs. So I think there’s a kind of a bit more complicated story of the of the, that dockless bike story because that that wave has sort of receded in general in favour of the scooters. But to go to the, to go to the Oxford road case, I mean, it was a very interesting case because on the one hand, the Oxford roads infrastructure was was fantastic, right. And on the other hand, was basically present only an Oxford road. So when I would ride to sort of the, you know, the middle class suburb of say Charlton, for example, I would ride in a quite narrow bike lane, there were a lot of cyclists but a quite narrow, you know, quite narrower than in the United States. Actually, it was quite eye opening. And then there are other other parts of the city more low income parts of the city where there were, you know, less, you know, potentially less demand for physical infrastructure, less agitation for it, where you didn’t see much of anything in terms of bike infrastructure. So while I think that, you know, I think that that that was a, it was an impressive piece of infrastructure. I, you know, I think it was still one of those cases of sort of it’s very uneven deployment. And I think that my understanding of board Ben’s approach is that he wants to see it, too. He wants it to be far more comprehensive. So

Carlton Reid 17:30
john, let me just go to your actual book here. So I’ve got it in my hand. And I want to get a definition of here in a second but it’s it’s called “Cyclescapes of the unequal city” — bicycle infrastructure and uneven development and it’s the University of Minnesota press. Now in the book itself, you talk about cycle scape being the discursive space of the bicycle, so expand on that. What is a cyclescape?

John Stehlin 18:01
The cyclescape I’m sort of I’m drawing on some of the literature in human geography and anthropology around kind of bringing the notion of escape. So for instance, a landscape that kind of brings together the materiality of, of the of this space with a kind of experiential and, and discursive component as well, especially thinking about the way that you’re part of what motivated me was thinking about the ways in which being on a bicycle that the kind of materiality of cycling actually calls up, elicits a different relationship to urban space, a different way of seeing urban space, a different way of navigating urban space. Without that was also cut through with not just questions of uneven urban development, right, where where infrastructure existed, what places were cut off or more connected from what other places Is, but also questions of race, class, gender, and more generally, the sort of the positionality of the rider. And so, cycle escape was a was sort of a way of bringing together that, that material, the discursive and they kind of experiential together into sort of into one frame.

Carlton Reid 19:23
So in the book and I’m going to be quoting you at length here, as you described bicycling as being placed or framed alongside guerilla gardening, graffiti and skateboarding as active hacking the dominant code of the capitalist city. Now that describes to me Detroit, down to a tee. I know there’s a lot of guerilla gardening goes on in, in Detroit for a variety of reasons. So describe where you were coming from in in that particular sentence.

John Stehlin 19:53
So, in that sense, I was really drawing from the work of Chris Carlson, who I think I was I was referencing his work and then also I want to say it was Mark Farrell now I’m forgetting I’m scanning my shelf to see if I can see it. But the all of these different ways of thinking and really drawing a lot of ways on the French sociologist Michel de certeau, who posited that kind of a set a set of everyday practices through which people would sort of disrupt the control regimes of the kind of dominant grid of urban space and that was a really it’s a really common way of thinking about bicycling especially coming from messenger and punk and other kind of do it yourself subculture subcultures, which were really really major influences in in bicycling culture, at least up through, you know when I was inculcated into it in the early 2000s. In the case of Detroit, one of the things that initially put Detroit on the map for me so to speak, was I found an article in The New York Times that we was talking about this, you know, about the sort of creative reappropriation of urban space. So, you know, warehouse conversions, guerilla gardening, all of that kind of stuff that was going on in Detroit and and also discussed cycling at length, and made an interesting argument about the politics of cycling where you could the argument and I’m blanking on the man’s name, which I feel bad bad about. He very kindly invited me over to his house when I was in Detroit at one point posited that cyclists, bicycle advocates could make what he said was a kind of tactical retreat to Detroit, where there was plenty of space where call had abandoned the massive boulevards that were now far too large for the amount of traffic that actually existed in the city. And that the sort of the pitched battles over bicycle infrastructure that you saw in New York City and San Francisco and Portland would be sort of solved by just the, the general abandonment of the city. And I thought that was a bit a bit of a strange way of framing a city that the abandonment of which was very uneven, people who were able to leave, and especially over the last 50 years, you know, the the white population were, who were able to leave left, and the people who were left with the kind of decaying infrastructure were mostly people of colour, who who were prevented from leaving by a whole set of reasons having to do a segregation having to do with the The very low values of their of the houses that they owned any sort of resale value to then purchase a house somewhere else, etc. And so this sort of creative reappropriation felt from a kind of another perspective is sort of partying or kind of framing Detroit as a cemetery where it was actually still a site of struggle over race, and disinvestment. And so, nevertheless, there were there were actually a lot of really interesting things going on in the city of Detroit, that, that offended a lot of the assumptions around what bicycling meant, there. There were a number of when I did field work there in 2011, and then came back in 2016 and 2017. There was a massive number of, of black bicycling clubs organised around churches in quote unquote the neighbourhoods. Which in Detroit denotes the areas of the city that are outside the central business district. And what you’ve seen in Detroit over the last, say five to seven years is a massive reinvestment in the central business district the what is called the 7.2. And very patchy reinvestment outside of those areas of few kind of more more gentrifying neighbourhoods such as corktown and Woodbridge, West Village, which I all of which I discuss in the book, and then beyond that kind of ongoing, ongoing abandonment.

And so more generally, what what I was both trying to capture the vitality of bicycling as a subculture and pointing to the limits in this framing of sort of strategic and kind of underground reappropriation of urban space and the way in which that narrative of bicyclists kind of bringing back the city of Detroit in some ways both kind of flew in the face of the evidence, which is that bicycling was was very diverse and actually practised a consciously as a survival strategy in that city. And the the the logical extension of that argument was that it was this sort of the dispossession of certain areas would be the sort of the The Proving Grounds for their re their kind of rebirth through bicycling and active transportation. I thought I, I didn’t, I didn’t know I didn’t agree with that sort of politically as well.

Carlton Reid 25:40
Now, you do talk about vehicular cycling in your book, and I don’t want to touch it exactly right here. But on Detroit when I was there, there were campaigns to get bike lanes put in, but then you look at the roads and it’s like, but there’s no cars on these roads. Why would you actually want bike lanes. When you’ve got A four lane highway here with one car every 10 minutes coming along you have got the whole of the infrastructure here you don’t need it. Now I have been told and you can you can tell me if this is true here that has massively changed now in that those highways like that, the woodwork so I was taking photographs on Woodward what wear those, I could put my bike in the middle of the road and and take a photograph quite happily. And then. Okay, you could see a car coming. But you’ve still got another few minutes to actually take the photograph. Now you can’t do that now. I believe so maybe bike lanes. Yeah, a bit more needed now. But there’s also a very, very distinct in between that the areas as you were you were touching on that, in that some areas. Were still massively current ages and others. Absolutely not. So if you radiate out from Woodward, and you went to say, the Middle East and the kind of Arab areas Well, that was massively car centric and And it was very dangerous to be on your bike at that point. And yet just a mile further towards the CBD, it becomes incredibly safe because there are no cars.

John Stehlin 27:12
Right? Yeah, I mean, so I think what’s in a way Detroit is unexceptional in that regard. I think what’s exceptional is the scale of the unevenness. But I mean, that’s a patterning that you see in a lot of American cities. There. There are streets that due to disinvestment are not heavily used by by cars. But there are not there are not a tonne of destinations around there. So it’s it’s hard to see that as a kind of model for kind of re refocusing transportation priorities, which is ultimately what I’m interested in, right. I think Detroit was also really an interesting case, because when I had done field work there back in 2011, with the I spoke to people at the Southwest Detroit Business Association, who was who were far more of a kind of Community Development Corporation, and they had been major supporters of putting a bike lane in on. I’m the one of the kind of the main thoroughfares in the Latino section of Southwest Detroit, which was actually among, among the places that were far less disinvested than other places in Detroit because of immigration from Latin America. And so, that was a place where there was actually it was vernor Avenue. There was a significant amount of congestion in part because there was still a lot of activity. The my recollection of being there in 2011, verses 26 2016 and then 27 17 is the total transformation of the Woodward corridor especially with the with the building of the M one light rail system which some people call the straight line people mover be with it as a kind of derisive reference to it, you see would where it is now much, much more of a challenge on bicycle, in part because there’s a kind of a complicated jog that the streetcar line does between sometimes curbside boarding and sometimes centre boarding and so that precluded bike lanes on Woodward, which was I think frustrated a lot of advocates. The the street cast, which is just to the west is now this is now where a lot of bicycle infrastructure investment is going in and you’re also seeing a lot of bicycle infrastructure investment on Jefferson, which is the Big Big East. West corridor on the east side of Detroit, really, it’s kind of Northeast to Southwest because of the angle of the streets, but, you know, I think that was a very car dominated corridor, even back in 2011 when I was there and certainly is now and so there is there there is a way in which again, the, the hypertrophy of the streets for, you know, back when Detroit was a city of, of 2 million people does create a lot of opportunities to recapture some of that road space without kind of negatively affecting the flow of traffic. I’d like to see, you know, I think it requires more political well, but it’s political Well, that’s really sorely needed. The ability to recapture road space in places where it does affect the flow of traffic, but also Kind of balancing that against creating other better ways of moving for people who for reasons of where they work or where they live, are for the, for the moment at least going to be needing to use cars.

Carlton Reid 31:17
And many of those areas are quite a problem. The ones out in the absolute

Unknown Speaker 31:21

Carlton Reid 31:22
are where people of colour live who generally in many cities, and this is very much evident in America and less than in the UK, but it’s more class based, don’t tend to get the, the kind of the investments in bicycle infrastructure

Unknown Speaker 31:43

Carlton Reid 31:44
say, a middle class, mainly white area gets, and I guess that also touches on bike share stuff as well. So an awful lot of bike share, set sending the doctor ones you often find that they’re not put in in a Cities equitably they are very much placed in certain areas. So how can how can cities break out of that? And and is it worth their while to do so if cycling in some communities isn’t actually that, that aspirational?

John Stehlin 32:20
Right. I mean, that’s a that’s a difficult set of questions and something I’m still grappling with in the work that I am, you know, a chunk of writing that I’m, I’m still in the process of completing from the more recent work. The short version is investment, right. One of the things about one of the things about Bike Share systems, at least the any bike share system, but especially the station based systems, is once once you’ve put them in, they still have to perform. They still have to generate revenue. Whereas once you’ve put in a bike lane, if it’s something very kind of niche, it might require a different kind of sweeping regime, for example, but once you’ve put in a bike lane, it doesn’t, it only has to prove its value politically right? Because politicians will point and say, well, you took away this parking or you took away this road space and look at this empty bike lane, right, which is we don’t get that same narrative about empty road space. Nevertheless, with with bicycle sharing systems, as they’re sort of currently constituted there is sort of stuck between being bicycle infrastructure, capital investments, and being transit systems. And I’ll speak to the US case which I know better than some others. In the US case, a lot of bicycle sharing systems are launched at least in part with that grants. And the federal grants are basically permitted only for capital investments rather than operation ongoing operational costs. And so operations will be funded from a sponsorship deal ideally, and, and ongoing fare box recovery. And basically, that’s essentially it. There’s small other pots of money that cities and Bike Share systems can tap into grants. That’s the case in Philadelphia, which actually enabled them to expand on on the kind of more restricted system that would otherwise be possible. But they still have to, they still have to perform. They still have to perform as infrastructure. And the reason I compare it to transit is and the more recent work that I’ve been doing, and Austin, for example, the bicycle sharing system, because of the lack of a big title sponsor like a Citibank or like Ford, which until recently sponsored the San Francisco Bay Area system, they had to operate on a around a 100% 95 to 100% farebox recovery ratio. So they they had to be completely self sustaining, whereas the fare box recovery ratio for actual transit is closer to 35 to 40%. If you’re getting 50 or 60, that’s tremendous. And the rest comes from federal subsidies. And so there is a bill that is periodically that is periodically works its way through Congress. That’s called the bike, the bike share transit bill that would read designate bicycle sharing systems as transit that would open up a lot of federal grants federal funding for operations which would enable a kind of different morphology of the system. You could see something this would still require political will, it would still require a commitment to invest more broadly outside of the kind of the central cities. But you could see, you could see the movement toward a kind of transit, a more directly transit oriented system, which systems today are somewhat transit oriented, but, but also attempt to preserve contiguity. But you could see, you could see networks extending into suburban areas that connect to kind of longer distance commuter trains that would potentially open up a lot more usage and a lot of you know, really Reduce car dependence on on that and as well.

So that would be an option with with kind of federal funding. In the case of Philadelphia, I kind of pull out Philadelphia as a potential example in the book, because what Philadelphia did was very consciously attempt, both through capital investment and through outreach to extend the range of the system beyond the kind of usual suspects, so to speak narratives or neighbourhoods, I should say, which were the central business district adjacent, you know, predominantly now gentrifying middle class professional, predominantly white, or, or, or at least turning toward toward that demographic profile, those types of neighbourhoods which you had seen dominated the ridership of bike share systems in places like Washington DC, for example, Philadelphia was very conscious to, to append that and to move beyond that, to move beyond that narrative, and part of what enabled that was local philanthropic money, part of what enabled that was philanthropic, philanthropic funding that funded more generally, an approach toward rethinking how bicycle sharing systems were put in called the better Bike Share.

Unknown Speaker 38:40
The better Bike Share,

Unknown Speaker 38:43
programme project.

John Stehlin 38:46
And Philadelphia was one of the kind of case studies and so there was a lot of money going into outreach. There was a lot of going a lot of money going into actually understanding how low income people in neighbourhoods of colour in Philadelphia would actually potentially use the system. It changed how I changed how they actually went about planning and designing the systems it changed where the system would be located. So they had an outreach efforts soliciting feedback on particular station locations, beyond just the kind of web based map which was very common in a lot of other cities. And it required shoe letter shoe leather and it required money and the idea was to develop, develop a programme that could then be deployed as a set of best practices for much less investment in other cities. But I think, you know, Philadelphia saw

Unknown Speaker 39:51

John Stehlin 39:53
an incredible increase in the number of low income people and people of colour using their system and I think Part of this story is actually just that efforts, not that one off effort to create a pilot that would that you could then deploy very cheaply elsewhere. But that ongoing effort and the kind of real show of commitment to neighbourhoods that had seen, you know, that had seen neglect infrastructural neglect, right? So I think that’s part of the Philadelphia story that was maybe Annette was maybe unanticipated in the sort of the structuring of how it was anticipated to be a sort of best practices test case.

Carlton Reid 40:36
That sounds really good. It does sound different to how other cities have done it. Because as we know, you’re a white guy. I’m a white guy. And we know that the current kind of truth for cycling is that it’s white, it’s bourgeois. It’s hipsters, it’s it’s the gentrification, which you are talking about, when in fact, the majority users of bicycles, certainly in the US and maybe not in the UK, people of colour. And that often described in that that famous article as invisible cyclists and that they’re out there. There’s a lot of them, but we don’t notice them for for various cultural reasons, and perhaps even physical reasons that they might not want to be seen.

John Stehlin 41:20
Right. Yeah.

I mean, that’s, that’s incredibly important. And, you know, some of my colleagues Daniella Lugo, Melody Hoffman, a lot of other folks have written really perceptive perceptively on this more perceptively than I have, I think. And I think that, you know, part of the invisibility is, or I’ll say I’ll refocus it and say part of the kind of hyper visibility of the kind of middle class largely white professionals or if if not largely white, in a Place like Oakland non black, which I think is an important caveat. The a lot of a lot of that hyper visibility has to do with the kind of novelty of seeing people in an unexpected class position, right, visibly maybe sartorially, visibly middle class on bicycles, where it had been considered to be a mode of transportation of last resort previously, or it was for people who had lost their licence due to conviction for impaired driving, for example, things of that nature or people, you know, who couldn’t afford a car or you know, a variety of reasons, right that it was perceived as some sort of, of lack on the part of the individual that one was on a bike, or it was a kind of lunatic fringe. of the hippie environmentalist, right? That’s how be glossed, and I think the novelty of seeing, seeing the kind of young, maybe slightly stylish professionals, you know, mostly white, suddenly appearing in Central City neighbourhoods that had previously been disinvested. And on bicycles becoming visible. And again, this is that kind of the the cycle escape argument and the way in which there’s the the machine, the machine ik qualities, and I’m coming from science and technology studies with this as well, that kind of inherent properties of the bicycle, lend themselves toward that increased visibility. And then on the flip side, you rightly pointed out that, that there is the narrative of invisible cyclists, which I think partially comes from a sense that or Maybe a tacit sense that it’s unremarkable to see a low income person marked racially using a mode of transportation that’s appropriate for a low income person, right, which is how bicycles were perceived previously

Carlton Reid 44:18
cycling kind of gets it with with both barrels from both ends in that it is for poor people, and also rich people. And these, you know, whichever way you want to attack it, you can attack the cycling from all sorts of different angles in that, you know, this is a porpoise or it’s for people with very expensive cars that have left them at home and are going out treating this as Cycling is the new golf. So you have got both of those streams at exactly the same time.

John Stehlin 44:43
Yeah, no, it’s I mean, it’s quite fascinating. And you also have that’s also the kind of the the story of the American city right now as well. Right? That the, the city that the that the middle class can no longer afford that. That the that very low income people have a very tenuous foothold in still, because of the presence of public housing, which has been disinvested. And and, you know, cities are are working hard to eliminate it and a lot of cases, but it still exists and there are still poor people in cities who benefit from the low cost of bicycling and the the relatively the relative lack of sort of official exposure to instruments of the state right thinking about licencing requirements which don’t exist for for bicycles and I think would be a terrible idea to institute. But going back to, I think you get both the invisibility where it’s not. It’s not unusual to see a poor person on a bicycle, historically, and the hyper visibility were being on a bicycle exposes people primarily people of colour and low income people to to enhance scrutiny. So cases of biking while black, which I think there were findings in Tampa of massive disproportionality in terms of police stops of, of black people on bicycles. While I was doing fieldwork, there was a there was a young black man in the Mission District in San Francisco who was sort of snatched off of his bicycle at his front door by San Francisco Police and there was a pretty large March that I think it was exciting because it included a lot of bicycle advocates, who maybe in their day jobs had not always been on the front lines sticking up for the rights of the poor, specifically, so and that was a kind of an exciting moment. But that overextension I also to to bring it back to Detroit. One of the investments in southwest Detroit was a bridge that crossed one of the kind of the main freeways that cuts Southwest Detroit off from from the corktown neighbourhood. This is the the badly bridge, there was a big big investment was a bike head bridge. And it you know, it’s a really nice piece of infrastructure. And I heard when I was there in 2011, a lot of Latino cyclists were, who lived in that neighbourhood. We’re not using that bridge because of how visible they would be to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which goes to show notionally the border that ice is policing is the Canadian border in that in that location, but it was that exposure whether it was real or not, and I saw ICE agents frequenting taqueria in in southwest Detroit, whether it was whether it was simply perceived or whether it was a real overexposure being visible on a bike on that bridge, that was a that was it was it was narrated to me as a big part of why you didn’t see a lot of usage of that bridge.

Carlton Reid 48:17
I would like to come back to how cycling be structure is us and we’ll come back to that after this short advertising break.

David Bernstein 48:26
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a long time loyal advertiser. You all know who I’m talking about? It’s Jensen, USA at Jensunusa.com/the spokesmen. I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jensen 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 there on believable support? When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors and these are cyclists. I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who who ride their bikes to and from work. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And, and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check them out. Jenson USA, they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. We thank them so much for their support and we thank you for supporting Jenson USA. Alright Carlton, let’s get back to the show.

Carlton Reid 49:52
And thanks David and we are back with the show and I’m back here with John Stehlin. And we are talking about cyclescapes of the unequal city. And I’d now like to go into a topic Where will we know as in bicycle advocates know that there’s a huge economic sense of putting in cycle infrastructure. But you do describe that in your book as exclusionary urbanism. John, so what exactly is exclusionary urban ism?

John Stehlin 50:24
Yeah, I mean, so I’ll back up and talk a little bit about what made me interested in that in this emerging business case for bicycle infrastructure. I’m one of it. One of the the reasons that I got interested in this was the the narratives around gentrification and that and that the, the, the, the battles over bicycle infrastructure in North Portland and the albino neighbourhood for example. We’re specifically that we’re not just battles over a gentrified neighbourhood. There were also battles over this having been one of the key black commercial strips in the area that had seen massive demolition in in the context of urban renewal demolition. That was actually then the land was never actually rebuilt because of a change in urban renewal plans. So there was a lot of abandonment, but it was a black commercial strip. And so part of it had to do with that, that business district, so not just a gesture that is not just a residential district in the abstract, but the kind of identity of that business district. And one of the kind of big early one of the one of the places where this narrative had, that the narrative of bicycling being good for business had first achieved really a lot of traction was the Valencia street district in San Francisco. Which is what I talked about in in one of the chapters in my book and the ways in which bicyclists bicycle advocates had to fight to get a bike lane put in on Valencia, it was not determined to be viable based on traffic engineers understanding of traffic flow on that street. in the, in the initial bike plan in the draft that was released in 1997, it was not included. It was signed bicycle route, but it was not. There would be no kind of real infrastructure treatments to it. And so bicycle advocates were predictably angry because it was actually one of the streets that they use the most to get from the Mission District, which was at that time, sort of seeing seeing the early parts of the wave of gentrification that crested in 2001 with the.com boom and then again, After the.com boom. And now is you know, one of the kind of the crown jewels if so to speak of gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area and crown jewels and bicycling as well. They had to fight tooth and nail to get this included in the bike plan, which the Department of parking and traffic the head, the head of which said there would be bike lanes on Valencia Over my dead body. Part of the case that they made was a business case was going to local businesses and saying it you’re going to see more people shopping, you’re going to see more people stopping at your stores popping in quickly because they’re going to be moving at lower speeds because the traffic will be calmed and the mechanism for this was what was known at the time as a road diet. So reducing the reducing the overall width of the story. Not the overall width, I should say, the allocation of road space from four travel lanes to in each direction to three car travel or to two car travel lanes, one centre turn lane and a bike lane on each side notably did not affect parking and that was a kind of a big third rail at that time. So

that was approved, and it became that the success of it was narrated in economic terms as much as anything else. It was also a success in terms of reducing crashes and it was a success in terms of reduce or of increasing the use of that corridor by bicyclist, but it was also narrated in terms of economic benefits, and around 2011 2012 it popped up. It was kind of ubiquitous in discourse on streets blog or from bicycle advocates. About the economic benefits of bicycle infrastructure, right that this was a clear test case of that, too. But bike bike and biking nomics, exactly, as Ellie blue puts it. And you know it. I don’t think that’s wrong, necessarily. Like I think it is easier to make a quick stop and pop into a store on a bike. I think what it does is orient advocacy toward these particular these particular kinds of cases, trying to foster a thriving commercial corridor. And I think it also points toward a kind of limited view of sort of the range of justifications that you might be able to use for bicycling infrastructure. And I think actually the business case, it’s funny, you know, my book just came out, but I think the business case has waned slightly in favour of the safety case. And I talked about this a little bit in the last chapter of the book, but I think it’s become even stronger since I was kind of drafting the putting the final touches on it. I think this because of, especially in the in San Francisco, the increases in cycling injuries, cyclist injuries, pedestrian injuries, cyclists, fatalities, pedestrian fatalities, there’s been a kind of a sudden uptick across the board in the United States. There people are still trying to figure out what the causes of that are. On Valencia Street, you saw a sort of a mass invasion of the bike lane by Uber and lift as a place to pick up and drop off passengers and that creating a lot of problems on that corridor. But the safety case I think, is both more is more valid. It’s more generalizable. It points us towards places like East Oakland where they’re high crash rates.

Unknown Speaker 57:09

Unknown Speaker 57:12
high crash rates, very little infrastructure.

John Stehlin 57:16
A lot more cyclists of colour. And the business case would be a more challenging sell because of its association with gentrification in those areas, whereas a safety case has potentially more traction. Now I do talk about in the book how safety can mean different things to different groups of people. If it’s a safety case that is couched in terms of more aggressive policing of infractions by drivers, I think that’s that’s a non starter for a lot of communities of colour and a lot of low income communities who rightly see police as a threat. So safety is not a non political thing, but it potentially Has wider traction. And notably, the politicisation of cycling injuries and fatalities in the Netherlands and the 1970s was a big part of the backlash against auto auto mobility that led to a kind of more pervasive investment in bicycle infrastructure there. So there’s some precedent to that as well.

Carlton Reid 58:23
So So where does exclusionary urbanism come in?

John Stehlin 58:26
Right? I think the it’s exclusionary or is it urban ism is less about

whether a bike lane leads to exclusion and a bit more about whether a bike lane and bicycle infrastructure investment when pursued for a kind of business oriented strategy reflects an exclusionary urbanism. And so one of the things I talked about in I talked about in the introduction, which is kind of the introduction is doing a couple of things where it sets the stage for the kind of broad regional political economy. of the of the San Francisco Bay Area Philadelphia and Detroit but then also looking at particular ways in which active transportation, both walkability and bicycle infrastructure had been included in quite massive redevelopment strategies, especially in the case of Philadelphia, the sort of the re the refocusing of West Philadelphia, around the innovation economy, and bicycle, bicycle investments in bicycle infrastructure, and again, active transportation more generally being being understood to be a key part of that and what you’re saying is this kind of massive investment, especially in office development, r&d space, around the school river in West Philadelphia and the area around you, Penn and Drexel, really becoming a sort of a second downtown Or you can even say a third downtown in terms of the historical development of the city for Philadelphia more broadly and infrastructure for the creative class. Yes, exactly right. This sort of the innovate the innovation district model, which, you know, that comes, you’re referencing Richard Florida, quite rightly also. The Brookings Institution, and especially Bruce Katz, at the Brookings Institution has been very has been kind of one of the key thought leaders in this realm. And again, it’s like I, I don’t necessarily, I don’t necessarily think that those framings of a more walkable a more by bikable urban space being conducive to the kinds of happenstance interactions that lead to new ideas. That’s, you know, that goes all the way back to Jane Jacobs. But that’s also been shown to be quite an exclusionary model of envisioning an urban future in a lot of places. And you know, that’s like Richard Florida kind of to kind of reorient how he frames his work around this kind of the new urban crisis and the fact that the benefits of the economic engine of the creative class, although I think that there, there’s kind of dubious, statistical compositional elements to the creative class model, those benefits haven’t really been extended beyond. So I’m going

Carlton Reid 1:01:30
to quote you a sentence and it does lead in from what you just been saying that really. So this is your word, as bicycle infrastructure becomes another valuable immunity in the urban portfolio. However, the bicycle fails to meet what many justifiably see as its emancipatory potential. expand on that. So we’ve it’s failing, how is it failing?

John Stehlin 1:01:54
Well, it’s sort of not the bicycles fault. Yeah. This is like one of those one of those tough things

I don’t I try not to accord the bicycle kind of unique causal role in all of this, because bicycling is actually still extremely marginal. And I think that’s kind of my point. You have a situation where I think rightly people see enormous potential for getting people out of cars into an equally flexible mode of movement through space, right? There’s actually a lot of commonality between the bicycle and the car. They’re both quite individualised. One is a sort of furnace into which we’re ploughing our future. And the other has a very light touch in terms of environmental costs in terms of costs to the individual operator etc. Nevertheless, I think it being a kind of niche development strategy in a certain number, a small subset of urban neighbourhoods and a small subset of cities in the United States limits the potential that you that that, you know, that limits its potential. When people talk about bicycling being the most inexpensive way to get from point A to point B. There are a lot of caveats to that, where is where is point A, where is point B? Do Is it expensive in terms of cost Is it expensive in terms of personal risk Is it expensive in terms of time. These are all you know, touch on really, really big issues of of urban form the morphology of urban of urban America and the urbanisation process more generally. And again, I’m drawing for the second the subtitle of the book, Neil Smith’s work on uneven development and what he calls the seesaw motion of capitals. So, capital expanded out into the suburbs, suburbanization wave in the post war era. And now you’re seeing a partial kind of seesaw or a major, actually seesaw motion of capital back into a smaller number of Central cities in the United States. And I think resting our hopes on on the bicycle being able to ride that seesaw motion, rather than deal with the broader structure that has been wrought over the past 70 years, you know, actually more close to 100 years in the United States organised around auto mobility. I think that’s really the next task. It’s a retrofitting the suburbs task, it’s the reduction of the need for mobility and a lot of places that kind of coercive need for mobility in a lot of places. That’s the kind of next task and the and the next move that will require the bicycle Really going beyond the bicycle as well.

Carlton Reid 1:05:02
That’s potentially a good segue then into micro mobility in that order. Mobility has been as you’ve just said, there, you know that the past hundred years that’s been the main driver of the shaping of cities, really. And many bicycle advocates, maybe even not bicycle advocates have long said that will will, bicycles can replace cars. And what’s happened in the meantime, is these tech bro companies have come in, and the birds the lines, and they brought in scooters, and potentially these these electric scooters are more car substitutes or better cars or to use than bicycles. So do you think bicycles are actually at risk of being left behind here?

John Stehlin 1:05:47
Yeah, that’s an interesting question. You know, some days I do, and other days I don’t. I think I think that there’s a lot of interesting potentials in in the Micro mobility story which I, which I touch on a little bit in the, in the at the end of the book, but then I really kind of have dived into head on with my new work, especially with my colleagues at Manchester and then kind of moving forward. Which is that I think that there’s something there’s something good about a shift away from the kind of fetish of the object, you know, the fetish of the bicycle, and a shift towards a focus on this on a particular scale of mobility. And you were also seeing that predating the shift toward the by the shared bikes and scooters and all the rest of it in the there’s a planning paradigm that was coming out of Portland that was also being taken up in Detroit called 20 minute neighbourhoods right creating sort of new focal points within the urban fabric within which people people were no more than 20 minutes walk away from you know, the The quotidian requirements of life, right? Maybe not a big shop, maybe not buying a piece of furniture or something like that, but the sort of everyday needs. And I think that there’s something there’s something positive about refocusing around a scale rather than particular objects. And you’re seeing people talking about small vehicle lanes rather than bike lanes, and I think that sort of broadens the potential for political will. Behind micro mobility. I’m still extremely sceptical of the kind of delivery mechanisms in you know, essentially what shoshanna Zubov calls surveillance capitalism, right or the the is very bubble prone moment. And I think it’s really hard. The example of mobike is a case in point it’s really hard to stake, future future potential mobility regimes on Something that seems quite ephemeral, a thermal ephemeral, sorry, at this point, you know, mobility is ultimately an issue of rhythm and habit far more than then kind of novelty and and speed and kind of constant constant revision. there’s a there’s a phrase in the micro mobility and the kind of mobility platform world more generally, that’s code is the new concrete. And I think, you know, while concrete is, is a carbon furnace in and of itself, building things that last that kind of orient future development is, is I still think I worthy goal. And so, I would, I think that this particular moment is we’re we’re in a kind of throwing spaghetti against the wall type of moment and that concerns For me, is that with incredibly inexpensive, actual physical infrastructure? Right? If you think about the the the scooter right as the physical infrastructure, combined with the data platform, that it doesn’t leave much behind when the bubble bursts in, in a very different way that when the railroad bubble burst in the late 19th century left behind a lot of quite usable track, right, that we now use for on a public basis in a lot of places, or the street car bubble burst and what you are left, what you were left with, until it was dismantled, was quite usable public transport systems. And my concern is that there’s there’s nothing there’s nothing left afterwards that can be used in a more public way. And when you look at when you look at the investments that Uber and Lyft are making in micro mobile, platforms, it’s company that lose money and companies that lose money investing in other companies that lose money and it’s hard to see. The

it’s hard to see, you know what the future holds for that. Now, one thing I will say is that it I think it in a strange way shows that moving people equitably and sustainability sustainably is not profitable. And I think that that’s fine. And I think opening up a conversations around the mat or conversation around the massive subsidies that companies like lime and bird have received in the form of venture capital constantly delaying the need to be profitable, that that subsidy is not much different from the subsidy that moving people should be receiving. From the public sector. Right and that, that kind of aligning that that that subsidy is not bad. That subsidies are needed moving people cost money. It’s a public service.

Carlton Reid 1:11:06
So you’d be a proponent of the dangerous left wing socialist tendencies here. But you’d be a proponent of free public transit, for instance, free Bike Share hires, for instance, that kind of thing.

John Stehlin 1:11:20
Certainly. Yeah. And and the and especially their integration, which I think is enormously important. The the integration and especially in the context of the United States, where it’s, you know, we we are dealing with a, we’re dealing with a land intensive form of urban development, and we’re, you know, I’m talking about Central City neighbourhoods, and the kind of hypertrophic suburbs are another story altogether, and you’re probably going to need in order to achieve that First and Last Mile X Access to transit, you’re probably going to need faster ways of moving than just walking. In order to access where people really do live, while at the same time building up more housing, I would like to see it be social housing around public transit nodes in suburban areas to sort of refocus that development pattern. But when you look at where the places where micro mobility platforms are serving, they’re not they’re not flocking towards out that the edges of transport networks, right, they’re flocking towards the centre, the the centres that already actually have some of the best transport coverage. And I think that that’s that need to generate more trips, which would be, I would say at least modulated under a more kind of publicly oriented type of system.

Carlton Reid 1:12:58
Now on You’ve touched on something in your book that I’ve certainly touched on in my books. And it’s very rarely touched upon in bicycle advocacy circles, if at all, and that is how uncomfortable bicycling actually is to the great majority people we kind of forget, as bicycle advocates, we kind of forget

John Stehlin 1:13:19
that. So I’m gonna again, I’m going

Carlton Reid 1:13:20
to quote your book. So you talked about cycling or bicycles do not shield the rider from the weather from injury due to collisions, often the gaze of other road users, they cost their riders energy and impose risks, meaning distances, measured in bicycle time vary between individual levels of effort. So bicycles are this. Yes, they’re a miracle. Yes, they’re wonderful for for certain people. Yet at the same time, they are incredibly uncomfortable. They don’t shield you, as you said, They’re from the public gaze which is an issue for women. It’s an issue for people for colour, people who Don’t want to be seen. They don’t want to be seen in public a car is perfect for shielding from the public gaze. So bicycling isn’t the panacea that many people think it is for many people. Do you do do you? Would you see that as quite fair?

John Stehlin 1:14:18
Yeah, I think it is quite fair. And

again, I think that the comparison to micro mobility platforms is illustrative. I think part of what what has led to the enormous explosion of scooter sharing is not just that the rides are unsustainably cheap, right. And it’s not just that the the actual physical infrastructure is very cheap, and so it’s easy to put a lot of it in the centre of the city. It’s not just that you don’t have to be responsible for it. Once you’ve ended your ride like you do with a bicycle, which is something theft, you know, you walk outside and you have a, you know, a soggy bicycle to get on because it’s been raining all the rest of it. It’s not just those things. It’s also the

Unknown Speaker 1:15:13
it’s it’s also the fact that

John Stehlin 1:15:18
that it’s easy, right? That it doesn’t require a lot of physical effort that you just kind of get on and go. And for those of us who are seasoned cyclists, we approach it in the exact same way. But it is a kind of a learning curve. And especially I think, it feels like more of a hurdle to be straddling something to that there’s kind of more fit issues in terms of, you know, the height of the saddle, the the width of the handlebars, the distance of the bars of the saddle, all of that. I mean, these are kind of these are things that we take for granted, those of us who are kind of seasons cyclists or those of us who are seasoned bicycle users and don’t think of ourselves as cyclists at all but are very comfortable on bikes. I think that there’s another there’s another aspect to it though, which is that we have it’s driving is also effortful in different ways. driving to work, especially very long commutes is exhausting. It’s mentally exhausting it you know it, I think, I think there’s a fairly good research on on this that I you know, I can’t call call up from memory right now, but the, but I think it in in imposes a psychological cost.

Carlton Reid 1:16:49
Yeah, there are studies that show you it’s the stress levels of a fighter pilot, just just going into driving to work is just as stressful as that.

John Stehlin 1:16:55
So I think that there’s I think that we have to work refocus the sort of discussion around effort of within the broader context of sort of what people’s lives are like today. I talked a little bit referencing the Great British geographer Dorian Massie, who’s talked a lot about time space compression, which is a kind of classic. And in Marxian geography, the way that investments in kind of transport in investments in kind of faster transport create the kind of shrinking world. Of course, it doesn’t shrink evenly, it shrinks between particular points that that are connected to those networks. But one of the things that I think is that you see with bicycle, bicycle usage and walking as well, is people choosing what you might call time space elongation, right? a longer, slower, maybe slightly more effortful mode because of a whole Set of other pressures in their lives that are reduced, right? The journey to work is potentially shorter. If you live and a gentrifying area that are that’s right next to your office in the central business district. There are other kind of pressures on on people’s physical lives. It’s really hard to you know, it’s it’s, it’s hard to do a lot of social reproduction tasks which are enormously gendered, right. child rearing, taking kids to school, doing the shopping, all of the what is called trip chaining that is disproportionately done by women. It’s hard to do all that with conventional bicycles and the bicycles that make it easy to do that are very expensive, you know, 1200 to 2000 and beyond dollars, which, if it’s a it’s a hard sell to somebody who is uncertain about cycling overall and it would be especially Sell to somebody who their built environment doesn’t really support easily doing that. That kind of stuff. I live now in Greensboro, North Carolina, which has a very different built environment from the San Francisco Bay Area, very much car orient, very much more car oriented. Even in the kind of the central neighbourhoods of the city, it’s very hard to do a lot of kind of routine shopping by bicycle, I still do it but the effort, the effort, commitment that it takes, it’s not something that would be easy to ask somebody whose job is otherwise also effortful, or stressful, or who have a lot of other claims on their time due to social reproduction or caring for caring for elderly, relatives, etc. be hard to ask. So I think we need other kinds of options, but we also need a different kind of built environment that exact sort of fewer, fewer mobility, fewer, less coercive mobility and more mobility as as a choice, right?

Carlton Reid 1:20:20
You mentioned Marxist geography. So there are Marxist geographers, can you get right wing bicycle advocates? Or is it inherently left wing?

John Stehlin 1:20:31
I think you definitely can. I mean, we mentioned we discussed a little bit about the

Unknown Speaker 1:20:38
the vehicular cycling,

John Stehlin 1:20:44
way of thinking which was really dominant in the United States, and I would I would hazard the UK as well, in the 1970s onwards, and vehicular cycling basically posited that cyclists were saying Fist when they acted the most like cars, what that meant was riding at speed in the centre of the lane. And a lot of vehicular cyclists were quite reasonable when it came to bicycle infrastructure and a lot of vehicular cyclists were extremely opposed to bicycle infrastructure investments on the basis that they would quote segregate bicycle facilities, and that it would be a slippery slope towards banning cyclists from the roadways. And one of the kind of the fathers of vehicular cycling discourse in the United States, john Forrester, who was a who was a Stanford Stanford avionics engineer, had no particular kind of left wing proclivity proclivities, he was quite centrist or centre right, depending on you know, how, how you measured his pullet his political tendencies, I shouldn’t I shouldn’t use the past tense He’s still alive, I think, um, yeah. But the, but the narrative was very much around personal freedom and he was very suspicious of bicycle advocates who wanted to change what he saw were the kind of the development patterns of the American suburbs that were a natural product of simply choices in the marketplace where many urban historians from, from David Freud’s to kianga Yamada, Taylor have shown how those restructured by you know, racialized lending practices, and so on the red lining story, so to speak. So so I think that there there is a kind of individualistic streak. Occasionally you’ll see arguments and more conservative publications like think I’ve seen arguments in reason for example, that specifically around kind of the, you know, bicycling is good. It’s personal autonomy, it’s just kind of personal responsibility. It is not attached to the, you know, mass transit system or you know, you might call the nanny state or something like that. And you hear this at a kind of vernacular level sometime among sometimes among kind of sensibly quite left wing bicycle advocates who nevertheless see one of the benefits are not even advocates but just bicycle users. One of the benefits of cycling being not being tied to transit schedules, right, the sort of the, the tyranny of the transit schedule, which in the United States, those schedules are quite dismal. Right, I would I bike to work every day because it’s extremely easy. I live very close to campus, I would be able to walk to work, I would love to be able to just hop on a bus some days and and and be at work very shortly or be at other locations. Very shortly but the the, the bus headways are, you know, the scheduling, they’re very long delays, if you miss one bus, you’re going to be standing for half an hour. So it’s again, it’s against the terrain of the existing that the bicycle looks like a kind of a personal freedom I was actually living in the living in the UK really, you know, introduced me to the fact that being able to take public transport everywhere is a form of freedom that I think is very precious and I think is very undervalued in the United States. JOHN, we’ve covered

Carlton Reid 1:24:39
a lot of ground both metaphorical and literal spatial geography this show is all been about and we haven’t even got on to the fact that you’re a college radio DJ. And so we’ve missed out tonnes but we having to load up your book is a fascinating book at psycho escapes of the unequal city. So this is the point in the show where you tell me how how people can get the book and how they can get in touch with you perhaps on social media.

John Stehlin 1:25:05
Right? So, yeah, thank you so much. This has been really great. It’s really exciting. I listened to a lot of these. And now you know, I get to get to kind of hold forth so to speak. You can you can get the book on the University of Minnesota presses website, I think it’s umpress.com. And you can also find me on social media on Twitter at @Jostehlin. And I think that yeah, I think that covers the social media engagement part. But I’m, you know, I’m excited to kind of talk about these issues with a sort of fellow traveller, so to speak, and kind of kind of play about with some of the potential futures that cycling holds

Carlton Reid 1:25:54
at Well, I’ve got to that note, thank you for including my books in your research. So I’m I looked in your bibliography and there, there’s some of my work in there too. So that’s pretty cool.

John Stehlin 1:26:05
Yeah, no, it was great. It was great to finally talk to you and, you know, meet meet the face behind the words or meet the voice behind the words, I guess.

Carlton Reid 1:26:13
Yeah, it’s just a word. Because we’re not having this is not on video. So, john, thank you so much for for taking the time out of your assistant professorship role.

John Stehlin 1:26:26

Carlton Reid 1:26:28
Your, your institution, we did take a while to get in touch with each other. And we kind of like ships passing the night once or twice. And we had a few technical problems, all of which is now or moot, because we’ve had a fascinating conversation a lot longer than probably we both thought at the time. But I’m sure other people will find it equally fascinating as of course, is your book “Cyclescapes of the unequal city.” So john, thank you very much. Thanks to John Stehlin there – tdetails about “Cyclescapes of the Unequal city” can be found on the show notes at the-spokesmen.com. And that’s also where you can get a transcript of this episode and a whole bunch of the previous ones. If you enjoy today’s show, brought to you as always by Jenson USA, make sure to subscribe, so you’re hooked up to get all future episodes and take a shufty at our massive back catalogue. Massive. There are a whopping 233 other episodes to check out, hours and hours of listening pleasure. The Spokesmen cycling podcast has been narrow casting to the world non stop since 2006 been kind of twice a month anyway, however, and wherever you like to listen to the Spokesmen cycling podcast, get out there and ride.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.