Laura Laker

21st April 2024

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 352: Laura Laker

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Laura Laker, author of Potholes and Pavements


Carlton Reid  0:11  

Welcome to Episode 352 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday, April 21 2024.

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 That’s t e r n to learn more. 

Carlton Reid  1:04  

I’m Carlton Reid and today’s show is a chat with like journalist Laura Laker, author of an excellent new book, Potholes and Pavements. This is a travelogue featuring Laura’s travels around the UK, writing on some of the best and worst bits of Britain’s National Cycle network. From jaw droppingly gorgeous looking ancient military roads in the Highlands of Scotland to dark and dingy urban back streets blocked with barriers. As the books subhead warns, it’s a bumpy ride. Um, so you’ve written a book. Is this your first?

Laura Laker  1:46  

Yeah, my first my first book, believe it or not, 

Carlton Reid  1:49  

well done. Congratulations. It’s a brilliant first book. One of many. I’m sure it’ll be one of many. I noticed you’ve got a an agent. Yeah, you say in the back and thank him. So I’m guessing you’re going to be doing more books? 

Laura Laker  2:00  

Yeah, I guess so. I’m not trying to think about it too much. This one was very long in the gestation. I had an idea back in 2017 to do a basically ring around talking to people.

I’d listened to the audiobook of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, in which he travels across the US with his big poodle, and talking to people and he says he’s most wonderful conversations, which were later question for their veracity, but it’s just, it’s just a wonderful format. And I love I’d kind of in that trip to America, I rediscovered my love of talking to strangers, which I had as a kid, and I’m kind of lost over the years, I guess, being British, but spending time in the US where everyone is just willing to talk to you and tell you their life story. I rediscovered this just love of cycling, is brilliant for that, you know, just talking to people you’re travelling around, you might stop at some lights, or you might pass someone on a path and just get chatting to them. And it’s wonderful people have the most amazing stories, I think 

Carlton Reid  2:59  

Well, there’s two teachers that you met, hopefully they will read the book.

You weren’t avoiding them.

Laura Laker  3:07  

I know Greg and Norton, they were so brilliant. And the most unexpected encounters and I was up in the Cairngorms and travelling alone and feeling a bit like oh, you know, such a beautiful, it’s ridiculously beautiful up there. I’m always just astounded by Scotland, and how how it’s possible for somewhere to be so beautiful. And the NCN [National Cycle Network] across the Cairngorms is something else, it’s really quite remarkable. A lot of its off road, it’s this dedicated path. It was an old military road. And the rest is on fairly quiet country roads. And I was pootling along on my big pink ebike, which I did some of my adventures on and I saw these roadies coming up behind me and I thought well that they’re going to overtake me in a bit. And sure enough, they did. We said hello. And then I saw them stopped at this bridge and they were looking over and they just had this wonderful kind of whimsy about them this they weren’t they were going a long way actually they’re going from kind of Aviemore back to Preston where they were at least one of them lived and doing it over a couple of days in sort of training one of them’s an Ironman enthusiastic participants,

but on the way they were stopping looking over bridges, that sort of waterfalls over rocks and like looking across the landscape and just enjoying the scenery. And that for me is what cycling is about. It’s about

appreciating the world around us and the people around us and so they said we’ll ride with us for a while and as you know ebike your Aberdeen bought a bike mine included, maxes out at 15 and a half miles an hour which these guys were obviously capable of exceeding quite easily. So but they they rode with me for quite some time and we chatted and they were just fantastic. And then yeah, they they stopped for a week and I had to run inside for a week. And then I came out and they’d gone

Carlton Reid  4:51  

but it’s quite a nice way to say goodbye. Are you are you are you taking notes as you’re going along? So you wrote their names and what they did. And or you

coding stuff. How are you physically? 

Laura Laker  5:02  

Yeah, so I get back at the end of a ride and write stuff down. And I do think it’s best that way, especially with travel writing, because you forget so much so quickly. And the big three Cornwall, I think is, you know, in the early parts of the book, when I first started the exploration, further afield, you know, writing stuff down as you experience it, or very soon after is really important because you lose a lot of the detail and the texture of what you’re experiencing. And I think it just makes for much richer story that way, but also difficult to do because you’re having to memorise and maybe that’s why Steinbeck was getting criticised because he wasn’t writing No, no. As he was going along, he’s remembering it. Well, memories can do. Memory is really interesting, actually. Because we we probably most of us think that our memories are fairly good, or the way that remember things is correct. But actually, it’s very, very subjective. And the longer time goes on, the more we forget, or the memory gets warped, or things get introduced that didn’t exist, maybe and it’s really very, very subjective. I’ve got I don’t know for some things, I’ve got quite a good short term memory so I can remember

to a certain extent, but obviously, as Homer Simpson once said, you know, one thing comes into your brain another thing has to leave it so.

Carlton Reid  6:23  

That’s 100% me though. So this book Potholes and Pavements, a bumpy ride on Britain’s National Cycle network, it comes out May the ninth published by Bloomsbur. £16.99. Excellent, excellent book. I read it yesterday and got up early this morning to make sure I finished it before I spoke with you. Now normally when when I talk to people for this podcast, I always get them to send me a photograph so I can do the you know, the socials and the thing that goes on the show notes. What have you with you, oh, an hour and a half to do that. Because I have ridden with you ridden with you on bits of the ride that you are right that you mentioned in your book. So when you mentioned that, you know the cycle superhighway.

You make an item was like, I’ve got that photograph because I was holding my camera photographing you behind me?

Laura Laker  7:20  

Yeah, with Brian Deegan.

Carlton Reid  7:21  

There’s knowing smiles when I’m reading your books like I was on that ride.

Like I know, Laura. Oh, my word. It’s also like me on that ride. And when you describe windmills, yes. But the windmills and

it’s a cute book for me. Also cute because I know lots of these people who you’re describing. And I know in the book, it says he didn’t want to be described as a hero. But he is a hero. And because it’s about the National Cycle network, then clearly that’s got to be the guy who

not single handedly founded it, but certainly pushed it through with those with those early innovators. So that’s John Grimshaw.

So he comes in, he’s, he’s in at least three or four parts of the book, you’ve clearly gone to speak to him a number of times wonderful. And it’s fantastic that he’s in there, because he really doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. 

Laura Laker  8:16  

Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, he I obviously have to speak to John Grimshaw. Because a lot of people as he points out, and as I tried to convey in the book, a lot of people and probably, you know, uncountable numbers of people were involved in the foundation of and development of the National Cycle network. And then it’s maintenance ever since many of whom are working for very little, in fact, nothing, because they loved it. But John really seemed like, talking to people and talking to him, was the driving this real driving force behind it and his kind of self belief and single minded determination, I think was a major driver and he is such a character. I mean, a bit of a Marmite character, I think, but, you know, it seems like you need people to kind of drive things forward. 

Carlton Reid  9:05  

Cos you need somebody like that. He’s a visionary. Yeah, you know.

I love Malcolm Shepherd. I love Zavier Brice, the people who are in charge now and Malcolm was the guy who came in after

after John.

But Malcolm wasn’t a visionary. Malcolm was an accountant. And when when the organisation any organisation any business gets big, then you very often need somebody else to take over. And there’s lots of faction there at the time. You don’t go into it in a great detail. That was enormous friction there and there’s still enormous amount of bad blood

between people. 

Laura Laker  9:46  

Yeah, and it’s interesting because Caroline Lovatt. Here’s another key figure from fairly early on and still works with John today. On there, they’re still building cycle routes under a different organisation, cycle routes and greenways and

Um, she says that, you know, for for years, according to her, John kept disappearing from the kind of record of that of the history of the NCN on Wikipedia, she kept putting him back in. And um, yeah, I mean, the story was, and that was a difficult part of it to tell. But it was one that had to be mentioned, I didn’t want to go too into it. But obviously, you know, John, leaving Sustrans under fairly strange circumstances, and really against his will, was was part of the story that needed to be told. And it was a different and I spoke to a number of people and nobody really, I think, you know, there were potentially nondisclosure agreements. And so nobody really talks about what exactly happened, which is why I call I mentioned the omerta. Because it really seems like everyone has a slightly different story, or, and I and again, I, you know, it’s memory and it was a painful time. And it was a long time ago. And it’s quite common, as you say, with new organisations, you’ve got this big driving force, but then sometimes they’re not the person to carry on leading an organisation once the first major thing is done, and, you know, they might not be great with people is, you know, having a skill to start and drive something is not the same as being a sort of manager of people and diplomats. And it’s, yeah, it’s quite often it’s a painful process, certainly not unique, I think.

Carlton Reid  11:16  

No, it’s very common for that kind of thing to happen. However, saying that it’s very important to recognise who was that visionary? And I think he lost an awful lot of that. So, so wonderful to see John.

central to that. So that’s really nice part of the book because I, you know, John, John is a wonderful, wonderful guy, and absolutely, this would not have happened without him. I know, there’s lots of other people

you know, David Sproxton, all these kind of people were there at the same time, George Ferguson. So So Sproxton was Aardman Animation. So people who know admire animation, George Ferguson,

Mayor of


at one point, all these individuals were there at the time, but it needed that guiding force that needed that.

Just somebody who woulda just said no, and just went ahead and did it. That was that was the ethos of Sustrans in the early days. So that 

Laura Laker  12:12  

Yeah, yeah, because the status quo then as it is, today, is very much stacked against cycling routes happening. And so you kind of need a rebel who’s not willing, who’s you know, not willing to take no for an answer? Who’s going to be able to make things happen? And I think in a way that kind of, I guess, you know, being from a fairly well off upper middle class background, you have the confidence really the education that kind of gives you that confidence and and then the character and self belief to just to drive that forward. 

Carlton Reid  12:47  

Mmm. That you didn’t mention not even once Cycling, Touring Club CTC cycling UK.

Because the book isn’t in all cycling, you are you are laser focused on the National Cycle network. But there was also friction between those two organisations, you know, stranden effect was an upstart organisation, then it got for £42.5 million with Meatloaf handing that

over on TV or that kind of stuff. And there was there was an awful lot of friction between still is between strands and and what is today cycling UK. So you haven’t got into that at all. What Why didn’t you go into that? Is that just because you wanted to just stay laser focused on the cycle network? 

Laura Laker  13:36  

I mean, I mentioned that not everyone felt that Sustrans was being helpful because they felt that cycle route should be delivered by government and charities stepping in. And taking that role almost allows the government to say, well, you know, someone’s doing it. Now. We don’t need to get involved. But I mentioned the kind of tension between certain types of cyclists. I think I might quote to you, I think I’ve got you in the references on that. But I mean, I don’t know if I just don’t know how.

I don’t know. It’s yeah, it’s a tricky one. It’s how much to include, and you always have to make these decisions, what to include and what not to include, and I guess I just didn’t feel like that was a key part of the story at all. There was some thinking at the time around that but and I’m aware that there was tension and I know that Mark Strong for one who gets quite a mention in the book, talked about Sustrans being too successful and not successful enough in that, you know, they were doing this job notionally? 

No, they were doing a great job for with what they had and who they were and ie not the government and with not very much money but they were doing enough just to allow the government to just say, You know what, well Sustrans is delivering the National Cycle network, tick, job done. Let’s get back to the serious business of roads.

Carlton Reid  15:01  

because there is there is you meant we will get on to the very positive points, you’ve got like

a bunch of what what do you call it in the book where you’ve got a whole bunch of asks basically? Oh, yeah, the manifesto, the manifesto. There you go.

Number one,

we’ll go through these points.

10 point manifesto. So there’s some positive stuff

to talk about that. But you don’t really mention that there’s this that, you know, you’re talking about, you know, this should be funded nationally, and there is that struggle, bear with you know, this is a charity, etc, etc. But then you’ve also got the weakness of you have actually got to at least have British Cycling as well, three competing organisations, going to government and asking for money for various things. And wouldn’t it be nicer and more practical and may even get more stuff? If there’s only one organisation so there is that there is the absolute fault line running through cycling? That is one of the reasons why it’s very easy for the government to not do stuff because they’re getting told different things by different organisations and one organisation saying don’t back them back us. So there’s that kind of friction there. 

Laura Laker  16:22  

I don’t know if that’s if I see it that way. I mean, Sustrans cycling UK,

and British Cycling, and things like livable streets are all part of the walking and cycling Alliance. And I think what that what that’s trying to do is to unify the voice, because ultimately they want the same thing. I mean, British cycling’s coming at it from a sports point of view. But recognising that its members also need safe roads to cycle on. And that means a whole host of other things, safe protected routes in cities. And that’s popular with members. And then cycling UK, originally a touring group, now a charity that lobbies for Safe Routes, safe conditions, and also delivers stuff for government, such as

what to fix your ride, and a bunch of other things. And then Sustrans is a National Cycle network and behaviour change programmes. So there are overlaps, but I do think they are distinct. And I don’t see I don’t see it as I mean, they probably have internal, you know, perspectives on things and perhaps don’t always agree with what the other one was doing. But I think I think they tend to present a fairly unified front these days. 

Carlton Reid  17:30  

They’re not as bad nowadays. 

I mean, it’s when you get rid of it certainly did not get rid. That’s the That’s the wrong phrase. When individuals leave organisations, it can change because a new people come in, and you know, those alliances are, that’s what you’re just used to. But you know, before that alliance was put in place, they were cats and dogs, they were really hating on each other and slagging each other off to government as well. So that’s why government was able to go up. This cycling is just mad look, these these, you know, what they, these three cats in a sack just fighting each other. 

Laura Laker  18:03  

And then you saw, I mean, I think I talked about, you know, Malcolm Shepherd, who was the CEO after John Grimshaw.

He went to ministers, and he was saying, why aren’t we getting the funding we asked for?

Or why are we getting taken seriously, I think was the question. And he was told, Well, you don’t ask for enough money, basically. So they were thinking and perhaps this kind of historic infighting is also a function of the fact that these were kind of fledgling organisations to an extent for some time, not very much funding. They were run by enthusiasts probably, who all had their own ideas. And of course, let’s not forget that there were also the vehicular ISTS who didn’t even believe that we needed cycling’s of which I think cycling UK early on was one and that might explain why they disagree with Sustrans who were trying to yes, no, there was a whole cohort who stands for that reason, absolutely. 100%. So maybe that, you know, it perhaps is a function of just the whole movement being in its infancy. I mean, it’s been going for a good 40 or so years, but I don’t know, maybe it was maybe it was just run by enthusiasts for a very long time. And that’s why it’s taken

a while to kind of mature but also I think it was going I mean, our cycling lobby, organisations were kind of leading the way for much longer than a lot of European countries in a nice talk about this in the book in countries like France and in the Netherlands and in Denmark, they all started their calls for National Cycle networks or at least safe routes, thanks to charities and voluntary organisations. And then fairly quickly, were all taken on by the government who saw this as a piece of infrastructure firstly, quite often for leisure, but then they realised people were using these routes for commuting trips, and it was it needed to be part of the infrastructure and was taken up with great enthusiasm and in Sweden as well. By the

various local departments and regional governments and delivered quite quickly and at quite a kind of scale. And that hasn’t really happened here. And so perhaps those kinds of just the longevity of those cycling groups being so crucial to anything that happens for cycling, has kind of made this whole, I don’t know, split more important than it would have otherwise been. 

Carlton Reid  20:24  

Yeah. And like in the Netherlands, the the organization’s tried to fight against this, but the government tax cyclists, and cyclists actually paid for the roads. 

Laura Laker  20:34  

They did, that’s right.

Carlton Reid  20:37  

But it’s the very fact and this was a cyclist at the time were fighting against, they didn’t want to be taxed. In the UK, and the Netherlands, they were taxed. And then cyclists became national infrastructure. And that became critical, as you say, and the fact that you know, there wasn’t, there was some national infrastructure, obviously, I’ve done this the 1930 cycleways project.

But the CTC is the British Cycling as of the time fought against all of this, they fought against taxation, they fought against cycle routes. And so there is there is some argument to be made that cyclists have been their own worst enemy. So I know in the book, you’re saying, you know, it’s just such a no brainer. And it is to back, you know, for want of a better word or phrase active travel. Now, in the book, you’ve got various people are saying we should call it something different.

Laura Laker  21:27  

Yeah, Lee Craigie. 

Carlton Reid  21:27  

yeah. Yeah. But, you know, cycling has been difficult, at the same time. And it’s like, what’s happening in Wales, and in Scotland, is inspiring, possibly, because it’s actually coming from above. A lot of it, you know, there’s obviously enthusiastic people working on the ground, etc. But a lot of this is coming from government ministers. So that helps. Yeah. And,

Laura Laker  21:54  

I mean, we have this idea, and I’m sure we’re not alone. And this point you just made and the example of the taxing of the cyclists in the Netherlands, which is something I learned during doing the research for the book, I didn’t actually know about this, but I, you know, the reason we lost the railways that then became a lot of these greenways was because, you know, we see transport as needing to wash its own face needing to fund itself. And the railways at the time, were losing money for most of the routes. And so that was the reasoning. And, you know, with roads, obviously, drivers are taxed it’s not sort of ring fence funding. It’s not a road tax, it’s,

but you know, it is making the Treasury money and cycling has never really done that. And I, I think fundamentally, the way that way of thinking about transport is wrong, because of the benefits, the much wider benefits that transport gives us in terms of, you know, being able to access education and health and social opportunities and for our physical and mental health. And it’s, its benefits span far beyond its own kind of silo. But we don’t really see it that way. And I’m not really sure actually, if anywhere managers to think of it this way, but I think post pandemic, things like free bus services and in different countries has maybe illustrated that people are starting to think about it differently. But ultimately, I think it’s it’s a very tricky one. Because like you say, we in a way we weren’t, we were own worst enemy in terms of our predecessors in the cycling world.

But we were working within philosophy that’s that dictated that actually, if you’re going to build something, you know, who’s making money from it, or, you know, how is the Treasury getting that investment back and not really seeing it as this makes people healthier? Or this gives them opportunities or promotes businesses, local tourism? And all of this? So yeah, I mean, if we’d done it differently, who who knows of cyclists in the UK? So fine, we’ll pay a tax. Who knows? We might have an NCN now, but, and even today, it’s a little bit of an uncomfortable conversation, isn’t it? Because, you know, nobody wants to be taxed.

Carlton Reid  24:02  

So the book is, it’s a polemic in many ways, not not all the way through.

But there are definitely bits in there that are strident. And I cannot argue with at all I’m reading it nodding along.

And certainly the bits about

like the national infrastructure, right, and it’s all being spent on roads. And it’s it’s the so many reasons why that is crazy. Yeah, and why spending even just a fraction of the roads budget on on a national cycle network, you know, genuinely joined up one high quality

would bring many more, many more benefits. And then you’ve got and the irony is, and I did a new story on this is, you have a government minister, who has written the foreword to your book, and he said

This is not government minister, a former government minister, a former Transport Minister,

Jesse Norman, and then it’s like, why don’t you do this when you’re in power? It’s great. You’ve said it. It’s wonderful that you’re saying all these things. But you could have done this, you could have pushed for this. And he was also the Financial Secretary of the Treasury. Yeah, he could have released money. Yeah, let me see what he says. But

Laura Laker  25:26  

it’s so difficult, isn’t it? And it’s, again, it’s kind of facing it’s the status quo. I mean, it’s, I think, maybe important to remember, and I’m not making excuses for anyone. But, you know, he was a junior minister, certainly in his first round is cycling minister. And so he would have had to tow the party line. So I don’t know how easy it is for. I mean, he’s a very intelligent guy. He cares about cycling. But then he’s part of a system, which ultimately,

I guess, maintains the status quo doesn’t want to upset the applecart.

And that’s why, in the manifesto, I, you know, I think it’s so important that people speak up for these things, because I think until there’s an outcry for it, it’s very difficult for any one minister, unless we have a cycling Prime Minister, to change all of this. There’s a lot of vested interests in maintaining, you know, roads for cars, keeping car manufacturing,

going and, you know, taxation on cars is going to be very problematic, because obviously EVs electric vehicles don’t pay, you know, drivers with EVs don’t pay cortex. So what’s gonna happen there? But yeah, I mean, it’s difficult, but I think people need to speak up for this kind of thing. We get a lot of kickback pushback from people when there’s cycle routes coming. But those are the minority. And one thing I tried to highlight in the book is that most people want this once cycling routes, they they want other options and to drive. And, you know, between two thirds and four fifths of people in representative polls say that they’d support this and many of them, even if it meant taking road space away from motor vehicles. But that’s not what politicians listen to. And I think increasingly, politicians are listening to angry people on Twitter. And you know, if Mark Harper’s comments about LTNs and 15 minute neighbourhoods is anything to go by, which was straight out of the kind of conspiracy theorists, Twitter playbook, you know, they’re listening to the loudest voices. And I think until people say, you know, we actually want choice. We don’t want to have to breathe polluted air, we don’t want to have our neighbourhoods dominated by motor vehicles. We want our kids to be able to go to school safely. I think it’s gonna be difficult for things to change. 

Carlton Reid  27:45  

Hmm. So you have mentioned a variety of routes that are actually pretty good. So yeah, Keswick one is one of them. 

Laura Laker  27:55  

Threlkeld, yes. 

Carlton Reid  27:58  

And that’s why I know,

I know the route well, as good as now, you know, a cycleway there because that was that was long in gestation. But basically, it’s it’s it’s, it’s popular. You know, people say, oh, like, but that’s a popular route now, isn’t it? 

Laura Laker  28:15  

Yeah, yeah, people drive there. And I mean, that was that was interesting for a number of reasons. I mean, incredibly beautiful. It sort of weaves through Greta gorge, which is just this kind of just this amazing landscape, this sort of rocky river which meanders through this very deep wooded valley. And it’s on a former rail line. And it was,

which storm was it was it 2015, there was a big storm, which basically crumbled a couple of the bridges with the sheer volume of water that ended up going through this narrow gorge. And then it was out of action for a couple of years. And that was an important, crucial route and a tourist attraction for local businesses. One pub owner apparently offered the local council, I think it was the national parks something like 30 grand out of his own pocket, reopened the route, but it was actually a sort of 2 million pound job. So that wasn’t going to go all the way. But you know, this was a really important tourist attraction for people and people drive there because there aren’t safe routes to get to and from the ends, so people drive and park and then cycle along it and cycle back. But yeah, it’s popular, it’s really popular. And they when they put the bridges, the new bridges in Sustrans with various parts of funding, they resurfaced it and there was a big hoo ha about putting tarmac on instead of the gravel that had been there before. But that actually opened up it up to far more people, including people who use wheelchairs and mobility scooters, because any sort of rough surface or uneven ground can tip someone in a wheelchair and it effectively makes these routes unusable. And this is something that I really learned in the book and feel very strongly about now. And there was a big outcry nationally about tarmacking this path because it’s in the Lake District and everyone’s

He has an opinion about the Lake District even if they’ve just been there once and we all feel like we own it because it’s such a beautiful place and I guess rightly so. We all care about it. 

Carlton Reid  30:07  

The Lakers.

Laura Laker  30:09  

Lakers, my people. Yeah.

The people who holidayed in the lakes were known as the Lakers. Yeah, which is brilliant. So yeah, they, you know, they held their ground and they tarmac it and you know, the numbers increased drastically. And this story plays out all over the country, wherever there’s a improve surface on a path. Suddenly, it’s open to everyone. And this is what this is what cycle rich should be in, in my opinion, it should be open to everyone. 

Carlton Reid  30:37  

Yeah, it’s like the cinder path.

That’s the Sustrans route national cycling group from from Whitby to Scarborough. That was the one that had a load of of people complaining because Cinder path you know, they were going to be tarmacking just parts of it. And lots of people are saying you know but this this this will you know, destroy it or whenever lots of yobs in and it just never got done. And then it’s it’s impossible for a lot of the year because it’s just it gets just too rutted into mud into too horrible. And this is, you know, we discard it would just be so easy.

You know, between these two conurbations and small conurbations, if you could ride there on an all year round an all weather path? 

Laura Laker  31:21  

So yeah, I do.

I do worry about this, because it’s, you know, they say it’s an effect gentrification. And you’re you’re bringing, you know, urban into the countryside yet. There’s roads everywhere, and they got tarmac on, and nobody seems to be kicking up a fuss there. What’s What’s your problem? Yeah, I know. And I think it’s just we have this idea about what the cycle routes should be or could be, and we see them as leisure routes quite a lot of the time, we have this kind of set idea about cycling, that it’s not, you know, it’s not a commuter option, or, but you know, it is, but it goes beyond that. And it is about who can access these parts. And quite often, having an uneven surface will lock a lot of people out. And you know, we’re an ageing population in this country. And as we get older, we will all have disabilities, and mobility issues. And it shouldn’t be that

you know, these paths are any open to a few people. But yeah, it’s a difficult one. And we would like to say we’ve never think twice about it for roads, we’ve never think about having a road as a dirt path.

And I can you know, visually tarmac is not a beautiful thing, but I think if people understood that actually, it’s it’s not just about the visuals. This is about people and this is what these parts are for they’re for people. 

Carlton Reid  32:34  

Well you can make if you want it to be just that colour, you can make the the asphalt you can you can you can dye the asphalt. So it’s it’s more expensive. But you can you can do all sorts of treatments you can do to make it all weather doesn’t have to look, you know, black. Yeah. So anyway, so let’s go to another assessment. That’s some negative ones.

Where they tried to be certain, but then you point out the Polgate one, between Polgate and Glynde, which is almost happened to you by by mistake. Not mistake, but it’s certainly a by accident. Yeah. And you’re talking about it being just brilliant. So describe that one. 

Laura Laker  33:11  

That’s amazing. Yeah. So I was told about this. And then I know someone who lives in Lewis, which is at one end of it. And so we we we met at the station and cycled along this path. And so it’s beside the A27, which is a national highways road. And it’s right by the sales downs, which is hugely popular with cyclists. And basically, there were so many people cycling on this incredibly terrifying road. It’s one of those narrow and winding A roads with huge volumes of traffic. I mean, I went on a walking trip near Louis the other day, and I had to cross it with no crossing and it was it was genuinely terrifying. I can’t imagine people cycling on it, because it’s, you know, six months. So yeah, anyway, people were being held up in their cars because of people cycling. And so national highways decided it was going to build a path alongside and it’s this this was a real eye opener for me because they had done what needs to happen around the country. They had built a path behind the hedge row, which is wide and tarmac and smooze with lots of planting and culverts and bridges over rivers and and they just laid it you know, very little problem. I don’t know if they owned the land or perhaps compulsory purchase probably a mixture of I think it was a mixture of both. And so they built this amazing kind of 10 kilometre joyful route, which is just you know, it’s just like a road. It’s like no stress. You just carry on.

There was someone on the mobility scooter the day I was there, a couple of people on bikes, but it was basically hadn’t opened yet. And yeah, it was just there. But it’s quite funny because at either end, it just stopped because then that’s the local councils job to kind of deliver it beyond. But you know, it shows what’s possible if you have a national body with the power and the funding, and they have, you know, multi year funding pots which helps plan and

deliver this stuff and they just did it, they just sort of swept aside all of the normal problems that I talked about in the book that usually dog these cycle routes. And yeah, it’s quite, it was quite marvellous, quite 

Carlton Reid  35:11  

I found it fascinating because one of the things you say is, as we just mentioned there, it, it was an effective bill to get the cyclists off the road.

We made enough nuisance of ourselves,

that is 1930s to a tee, you know, the transport, you know, built those 500 miles of cycle tracks in the 1930s to Dutch standards laced around the country.

Some of them weren’t brilliant, but some of them were amazing, you know, 12 foot wide Dutch Dutch level, concrete curbs, you know, perfectly brilliant bits of cycling infrastructure that are now just some of them are white elephants, because they didn’t link up to anywhere. But, you know, the government at the time said, Oh, we’re doing this for the safety. No, they weren’t they were doing it to you know, get cyclists on the road because we’re slowing down motorists, but you kind of almost don’t care if if if you get a really superlative route behind the hedgerows. Yeah. Okay. It’s such a difference. Yeah. That’s the difference. It’s got to be good. You can’t just fob you off with shared route pavement, which is what yeah, the criticism of Sustrans has been is like there’s so many shared route pavement. And that’s why Sustrans got a bad rap, even though it wasn’t their fault. And they were just trying to fill in the gaps. 

Laura Laker  36:28  

That yeah, yeah. And yeah, they just have to use whatever was there, which was quite often a pavement along what would have been a not too busy road in the 70s or 80s. But it’s now a sort of thundering highway and being on a pavement with no barrier between you and or no, no sort of space between you and the 60 mile an hour traffic is far from pleasant, and no, no, no parent is going to choose to cycle on that. If they have any other choice, you know, they’re going to avoid that like the plague because you know, one little wobble or mistake and then you know, it’s horrific there, you know, possible outcomes. But yeah, it’s you know, it’s, it’s fantastic. Because you don’t even barely know the roads there. It’s just cool. It’s just gorgeous. I’d like to go back actually, because it’s been a good year, I think since I saw it. At least actually. Maybe Yeah, I think it’s at least a year and yeah, let’s see how the trees are bedding in and because it was brand new at the time it just been done. But yeah, it is. Ultimately it is possible. And regardless of the motivations it just goes to show what’s possible. I liked recently because Andy Streets and his Walking and Cycling Commissioner Adam Tranter he’s on my podcast. They announced they’re going to deliver the HS2 cycleway alongside in and around HS2 between Coventry and Birmingham. And when they get to Kenilworth, they’re basically connecting up to one of their 1930 cycleways into Coventry.

So I quite like that, you know, it’s sort of linking something that’s already there. And

Carlton Reid  38:01  

yeah, and that’s also a John Grimshaw project, wasn’t it? 

That was that was a John Grimshaw. 

Laura Laker  38:05  

Yeah. He cycled the whole thing. Yes. Yes, he’s been he’s been trying to get that one, you know, for a lot for a long time. And yeah, it does stand alone. No, you need really, you need the HS2, of course, just stand alone without it.

Carlton Reid  38:21  

It does. Yeah, saying that, it would have absolutely been put in at the same time, that would not have been the difference. So that is point three. So in your 10 Point manifesto, that’s basically work together a behind the hedgeroq Act, compulsory purchase orders, all these kinds of things that only government can do. Yeah. needs to be brought in into play. Yeah. And then you you’ve said and it’s very ambitious. But when you think about it’s like, yeah, you could do this easily. And that is you know, if if this was done and if money was provided, and compulsory purchase orders were put in like you would do for roads, you can have an unbelievably fantastic truly superlative national cycling in four years. 

Laura Laker  39:02  

Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah, Brian Deegan active travel England reckoned reckoned on this, because, you know, they have such a huge amount of power and to take go to build a cycle, which basically takes three years generally you do you have a year to kind of plan it a year to consult and tweak and then a year to build it. And for that you need multi year funding, because without that, you can’t plan anything, basically. And that’s why we’ve ended up bits and bobs of improvements, because it’s like, you get the money, you have to spend it pretty much immediately.

But yeah, I mean, the amount of funding a body like national highways has would be enough to you know, link these existing routes. Sometimes there are quiet roads, you know, I guess, in the Netherlands, you have through roads and access roads, things like low traffic neighbourhoods, in the countryside. That is a that is a kind of measure that you can do.

And some of it it doesn’t all have to be

Are these sort of high quality pieces of massive engineering cycle routes, either behind the hedge row or on main roads? Some of it can just be tweaking kind of existing infrastructure so that it’s not not every road as a through road. But yes, it’s some it’s amazing. And I kind of did a double take when I heard this. But when we put our mind to something, it’s amazing what’s possible. 

Carlton Reid  40:24  

And potentially, we will see the fruits of this in Scotland, and Wales, Scotland, Wales are putting in some really ambitious stuff. And Mark Drakeford going, you know, will they backtrack on the 20 mile limit? And will they, you know, reverse a lot of stuff that Lee Waters that all this kind of stuff is potentially up in the air? We don’t know yet. Yeah. But Scotland does seem to be, you know, putting their money where their mouth is, you know, that the amount of money that’s going in there, per head, dwarfs what we see here in England. So the potentially you’ve got, you’ve got like, in five years, you could have something incredible. In Scottish cities in Glasgow. Yeah. You’re talking about Glasgow?

Laura Laker  41:09  

Yeah. And yeah, Glasgow was amazing. I mean, that was the first time I’d been to Glasgow, on that trip. And I was blown away, actually.

So they’re developing a city wide network of routes, they’re lowering in bridges across, they’ve got this very kind of,

I guess, I guess they had this, at the time, they were building roads, they had a very ambitious programme of building like highways. And maybe that’s about the culture of the city that when something comes along, when an idea comes along, they kind of embrace it. Whereas Edinburgh has historically been much more conservative. And so when, when highways when sort of urban highways came along the bond level load of those, and now cycling is seen as this big sort of saviour of health and climates and all of these important things, they’re going all out on cycle routes, which is fantastic. And yeah, I was really blown away by what they’re doing really high quality protected routes with planting alongside, you know, for extreme weather, it’s really important to have permeable and green planting on tarmac.

And, yeah, and these beautiful bridges and this massive bridge that I saw, and you know, they’re really, really ambitious, I think,

I’ve got a piece coming out about Edinburgh in the next week or so. And it talks about the difficulties that Edinburgh has faced very, very different than the city very conservative. But similarly, it’s had a huge amount of funding. And I think they’re finally getting to the tipping point there where they’re starting to deliver real change, you know, hopefully.

But yeah, it’s, you know, the money’s there, I think there’s still difficulties with politics. So they’ve got these active freeways, which would be a kind of National Cycle network for Scotland, these rural routes,

you know, the plan is there, or at least the idea is there, but it’s not being rolled out yet. So who knows what’s going to happen with that, but definitely, the funding and having that long term funding does make it much easier. I’d really love to see Scotland, you know, doing big things. And I think Scotland and Wales have been very, very forward thinking and a lot of things got maybe Scotland particularly, and more consistently than Wales, because as you say, there’s a bit of a question mark. Now over Wales, they’ve, you know, they had the active travel act, they arguably took term coined the phrase active travel

with the active travel act about a decade ago.

And yeah, but stuff, you know, they have the policy, they had the money, but again, it’s very, very slow to change. And I don’t know, maybe they maybe if Westminster were a bit more proactive and supportive, it will be easier, who knows, but you’re always going to come up against these kinds of

difficulties, local politics and stuff, but I think money talks, you know, the money’s there for it local investment, which Council isn’t going to want public realm improvements, and you know, health. 

Carlton Reid  43:49  

Money is number one, in your manifesto, so it’s funded, and okay, we get the money from it. Here’s what you say, stop expanding road capacity, and we have delivered a comprehensive network of cycling and walking routes. Hallelujah. Yeah, exactly. It’s just like, you know, we’ve got so many roads, why can’t we have more and more and more and more, as we know, it just fills up with traffic if we’re gonna have build it and they will come Okay, let’s do it for bikes. Now. You know, roads have had eighty years of this, let’s have 10 years for for bikes, but walking and .

It’s just, it’s a no brainer. And the LTNs thing kind of like it’s so frustrating.

Because we’re only talking like a few streets. We’re not we’re not talking. That’s when you hear you know, the the shock jocks you’d think is every single road in the country is going to be catered and you’re going to hand it to cyclists. That’s, that’s how it’s portrayed. And we’re actually

you know, maybe maybe a fraction of 1% of roads. really, genuinely is all too

Talking about

is currently got anyway. Yeah, having safe cycle routes, you know, don’t get it get blown up by us people like us journalists, Laura, we’re to blame for misrepresenting this. That’s that’s, that doesn’t say good things about our profession, does it? 

Laura Laker  45:22  

No. And I think I think I mean, it speaks to the kind of economics of journalism that, you know, people want eyeballs on stories nowadays because it’s that’s what makes advertising revenue funding for journalism is fallen off a cliff. And I think this is sort of desperation about the industry at the moment. But, you know, I think it’s important to remember that the people shouting against this stuff are a minority, and most people want this stuff or are willing to try it and see, and most of us want quiet, safe streets, we want our kids to be able to play out in safety, we want clean air, we want, you know, peace and quiet. And

I think because we haven’t seen it, a lot of cases, it’s difficult to imagine. But you know, ultimately,

these things happen. There’s, there’s a pushback from a handful of people who are noisy, but I think if we have conversations about, you know, what we could, what we could get from these improvements from these schemes, then it’s much positive way of talking about it. Of course, that’s not how news works. And I think that’s why we need leaders who are willing to sort of look beyond that short period in which a lot of journalists are shouting, and a few people, some of whom have genuine concerns and need to be listened to a shouting and listen to them. But you know, this is something that people want actually, and, you know, the benefits so enormous. 

Once it’s happened, I don’t think people would want to go back. 

Carlton Reid  46:46  

Yeah, this is the thing. It’s like, a good example is Northumberland Street and Newcastle, which is a pedestrianised street used to be the A1, you know, really the central state through the centre of Newcastle. It’s I think, outside of central London, Mayfair on Oxford Street. It’s the highest grossing per square foot retail zone in the country, because it was pedestrianised. And it just made it easier. And nobody in their right mind would say, we need to make that the a one again, guys, you know, let’s get the cars and buses soaring and you just wouldn’t do it. But Newcastle spent the best part of 20 years doing this, it wasn’t an overnight thing. We had to spend a long time, a lot of angst getting it done, but nobody would wish it away now. And that’s what when we’re not getting with all these LTNs and all these cycles, if only if we put them in, nobody would complain about them. Not really not once they see it, it’s just if people don’t like change.

Laura Laker  47:47  

yeah, none of us like change just a thing. And it’s hard to picture. And I think it’s easy to dismiss people’s concerns. Because you know, it’s normal for us not to want change, it’s normal to be concerned about something if you can’t picture it. And you’re, you know, many of these are genuine worries about businesses, and how will I get from A to B and, and all of this, but yeah, I think what’s been lacking in this conversation is just some sort of grown up honesty about, you know, this is going to be a change. But ultimately, it’s going to be one that’s positive for these reasons. We, you know, we are going to listen, but ultimately, this is a an agenda that most of us support. And we know it’s beneficial for these reasons. And I think we’ve I don’t know, I think there’s too much government in this country, and in many English speaking countries, kind of almost government by fear of what the Daily Mail might say, in response to this policy. And even the

the recent announcement by governments about

you know, stopping anti motorist measures was all caps. You know, it was like almost a Daily Mail headline.

Carlton Reid  48:52  

Yeah, it’s quite scary and sad. Yeah. But then, you know, like you say, if you know, for the ones that hold their ground,

you know, stuff dies down, people say actually, that actually is much better. So

you know, where I’m coming from, I know where you’re coming from.

And you’re saying people want this, but I’m gonna play devil’s advocate here and say, Well, no, they don’t people want to drive around.

And if you’re a woman at night, and you describe a lot of the routes, the Sustrans routes, the Nationals, you wouldn’t want to go there at night, and probably no matter how much lighting security whatever you put in, you probably would still feel that way. In.

Yeah, yeah. On a bicycle, you’re not protected. Whereas a car, a woman, a single woman can get into a car can lock the door, can maybe have, you know, dark windscreen even so nobody knows who’s in there. You then become this powerful individual who can get around in safety at the end of the day.

But bicycles aren’t like that, Laura. So you’re you’re basically making it more insecure for women to go about as independent beings. 

Laura Laker  50:11  

Well, so as a as a woman who cycles on her own at nights

that that route from Arnhem to Nijmergen in the in the Netherlands, so I ended up leaving that event and it was dark and cycling home on my own however far it was, it’s a good hours ride along these routes, but because you don’t have to stop, you actually feel safe. It’s only when you have to stop that you start to feel unsafe in my experience. I mean, there’s certain routes like along the canal, I live in East London, along the Li River that I have cycled at night, but wouldn’t do now. Because you know, that is very isolated. And people have been known to jump out with bushes. But I think for the large part, if they’re well designed, and other people are using them,

then cycling at night for me isn’t a problem. You know, you’re moving you’re

Yeah, I don’t Yeah, I very rarely felt in danger of cycling through London at night, for example. I mean, it’s been the odd park where I felt a bit sketchy, but I think if you design them, well, not every path is going to feel that way safe at night. But I think in urban places where a lot of people will be cycling to and from at night, it will probably be fine. I mean, you probably feel quite safe. It’s about kind of eyes on the streets in a way having people they’re with you.

Yeah, and I think if a route were well used enough, and don’t forget, you know, if you’re,

if you’re, you know, you’re not going to necessarily, you’re not going to drive home after a night out if you’ve had a drink. And so you will have to sort of walk a section of your journey. Most likely, if you’re in a place like London, you hate taking public transport, maybe you take a taxi, but

I feel I don’t feel like if I’m on a busy road, walking alone at night that I am safe with those other people around me because I don’t feel like people who are driving through again to necessarily stop and help me if something did happen. So I think kind of busy streets can feel unsafe, even though they’re very highly populated. And, you know, theoretically, and this kind of, there’s been research on this, you know, people who live on quiet streets, no more of their neighbours, this sort of social safety element, and people start looking out for each other. Whereas if you have a traffic dominated environment, it’s people tend to turn away from the street. 

Carlton Reid  52:28  

Yeah, I don’t disagree. But

if it is looking at the motivation of many, many people,

I mean, humans are generally lazy. Yeah. They generally want comfort. They want their own things, and they want security, all of those things you have in spades in cars. The downside is, because everybody wants that. And everybody’s in a car, it means you don’t get anywhere. 

Unknown Speaker  52:57  

Yeah, I don’t think that’s a whole story. I mean, I think a lot of the time people drive because the alternative is either aren’t there don’t feel possible, or they don’t feel safe. So cycling on the road wouldn’t feel safe, you wouldn’t even most people wouldn’t even consider it. But we’ve seen I grew up in rural West Somerset, and you had to learn to drive as soon as you turn 17, you would take your test, you buy a car, and you drive everywhere, because the buses mean the buses are even worse. Now. They were okay at the time, but not great. But they just took longer, and you couldn’t get everywhere you needed to go my friends as a teenager lived in variable kind of communities. And so you had to drive there was just no other option I would have loved to cycle. And you’ve seen in London, where we’ve got a growing network of roots, suddenly, all these people from all walks of life, all kinds of demographics.

Laura Laker  53:48  

genders, you see a much better one gender split, but also all types of people cycling. And that kind of speaks to the fact that actually, people do want to do this and they may want to convenience but they also want to enjoy their journey. They also want to save money.

Cycling can be incredibly convenient, no parking worries, it’s so much cheaper you know you don’t have to stress of finding a parking space or you know, paying vast amounts of money. I think something like

I forget the number who in transport poverty in this country because of cars basically.

They spend something like 19% of their income on their car with finance lorry, using facts to convince me that’s

Carlton Reid  54:36  

Anybody can convince with facts, come on.

At that juncture, I’d like to go across to my colleague David in America. Take it away, David. 

David Bernstein  54:45  

This podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. Like you, the folks at Tern are always up for a good outdoor adventure by bike—whether that’s fishing, camping, or taking a quick detour to hit the trails before picking

Unknown Speaker  55:00  

up the kids from school. And if you’re looking to explore new ground by

taking your adventures further into the wild, they’ve got you covered.

The brand new Orox by Tern is an all-season, all-terrain adventure cargo bike that’s

built around the Bosch Smart System to help you cross even the most ambitious

itinerary off your bucket list. It combines the fun of off-road riding in any season

with some serious cargo capacity, so you can bring everything you need—wherever

you go, whenever you go.

Plus, it’s certified tough and tested for safety so your adventures are worry-free.

With two frame sizes to choose from and a cockpit that’s tested to support riders of

different sizes, finding an adventure bike that fits you and your everyday needs has

never been easier with the Orox.

Visit (that’s O-R-O-X) to learn more.

Carlton Reid  56:04  

Thanks, David. And we are back with Laura Laker the Laker people. And she’s the author of potholes and pavements a bumpy ride on Britain’s National Cycle network. It’s not actually out yet, isn’t Laura. It’s actually middle middle of the next month, middle of night. Hmm. Yeah. So you having a launch day what you’re doing? 

Laura Laker  56:28  

Yeah, I’ve got some. You’ve got like, You got speaker a bank and tell us tell us what you’re doing? Yeah, so I’ve got I’m having like a bit of a party for some friends and family.

And then I’ve got a talk in Stanford’s in Covent Garden.

I’m speaking in Parliament. But I think that’s more of a parliamentary event. And I have got an event at Stanfords in Bristol with Xavier Bryce, we’re going to discuss the future of the NCN.

I’ve got one I’m speaking in Oxford, at a bookshop. I’m going to be interviewed by Emily Kerr, who’s a green Councillor there. I have got a there’s a literary festival in Wantage in November. And we’re looking at other events as we speak.

Carlton Reid  57:16  

Excellent. And this is two hundred and …. All right, I’m going to deliver the end of the book. We’re talking 264 pages, and then you’ve got references back. I mean, one of them. Thank you very much.

Laura Laker  57:32  


Carlton Reid  57:34  

Thanks. as well. Yes, at the back there, but there’s, there’s lots in this.

So who’s gonna be? Who’s your audience? Who’s gonna be reading this? Who do you think will be reading this? And what might actually could it start something big with with in politics? Can we could we get this like your manifesto? Can it get out there? What do you hope to happen with your book? 

Laura Laker  58:00  

Yeah, well, obviously, I want everyone to read it. I mean, my editor at Bloomsbury was saying, you know, it’s probably going to be cycling enthusiasts, people who I guess already, maybe listen to your podcast, my podcast, read our articles about cycling. But I would like to think that you know, these people, these two thirds to four fifths of people who want more cycling people who think, you know, why do I have to drive everywhere? Why aren’t there safe cycle routes? Why can’t my kids cycle to school, and see that might see this book and think, Oh, this is going to tell that story, this is going to explain it to me. And so I hope that it’s going to give people a sense of kind of why we are where we’re at, with the history of the NCN and the stories, but also, you know, how wonderful it could be if we had this thing, this network of connected routes, if it were possible for all of these people who say they want to cycle and more who maybe don’t even know they want to cycle

could do so. And I hope that, you know, my perhaps naive hope is that people will read it and think, you know, this could be such a wonderful thing, why aren’t we doing it? And how can we get it to happen and I hope policymakers you know, we’ve got an election coming up

I think this speaks to you know, forget the culture wars. I think this speaks to all sides, you know, of politics, I think, you know, individual freedom and choice is a conservative value, right? Cycling, cycling delivers on that. 

Carlton Reid  59:26  

Cycling is so libertarian is a

form of transport I’ve had many conversations

This is freedom. Why is this left wing? Why do people always assume it’s just

this thing? 

Laura Laker  59:42  

Yeah, it’s become a cultural thing. And it’s only for I think, you know, certain factions of the right perhaps see this as a wedge issue. And a way of you know, rallying people around them on based on kind of outrage like false outrage really, untruthes.

and you

You know, in terms of the left, this is, you know, great value for money, the Labour Party is very, very keen on showing they’re working and proving to people that they can be trusted with the economy. It delivers on the green agenda, it’s so beneficial in terms of cutting carbon emissions, it delivers on health, pretty much every department that we can think of this offers people access to work, you know, so many people who are out of work, especially in rural communities can’t even afford to go and find work or stay in a job because the transport is too expensive, or it’s too patchy doesn’t go in and they needed to go. So there’s like barely a thing that this doesn’t touch. And I really hope that you know, along with kind of griping, which is, I hope not too much of the book, and the polemic side that this shows actually, you know, this is great for tourism, this is great for our mental health. This can bring us together, you know, it’s about in Scotland, I saw that a cycle route can be a linear park, it can be about artwork and community. It can bring people together from different walks of life around a space. And, you know, cycling delivers on these things. And, you know, if we kind of dropped the culture was narrative, which is nonsense. You know, we could see all of these benefits fairly quickly and for very little money, and have a far better country for it. 

Carlton Reid  1:01:18  

Many people would baulk at having Boris Johnson back. And you do mention this in the book of what he and Andrew Gilligan were able to do. Hopefully, it doesn’t seem like I want him back. But will it that that is what you need. I mean, you do talk about having a cycling Prime Minister, we had a cycling Prime Minister, we had a Prime Minister who said it was me a golden age for cycling. So we need we need him back. Laura, that we just we need we need Boris back. No, we don’t like that back there. Are there other other politicians are available? We just need people to believe in it. And you know, I hope that people read the book and think, actually, this is something we can believe in, but don’t need one of the good things about Boris Johnson. Not only did he you know, talk, the talk, walk the talk, all that kind of stuff. But he was right wing. So he could he just instantly takes away that that part of this oversight is a left wing things like well, here’s this right wing politician who’s pushing for this Andrew Gilligan, Telegraph writer. These are not left wing people in any way, shape, or form. So is that what we need we actually need and then we’d like all politicians to do this, but by the same thing, you need somebody almost on the opposite side to be doing this, they’ve got more chance of pushing this through. So that’s why Boris Johnson did so well, because he was right wing and the Mail isn’t gonna, you know, rail against what Boris Johnson was doing. They never did. 

Laura Laker  1:02:46  

They did though. They did. They totally did. I don’t think they discriminated against him because he was towards their political leanings. I mean, it’s unlikely we’re going to have another conservative government, right, when we’ve got the election coming up, it’s going to be Labour by all likelihood.

And so they’re going to be the ones in power delivering. So I don’t know, 

Carlton Reid  1:03:09  

But they backtracked over their green policies. I mean, what hope do we have? 

Laura Laker  1:03:12  

I know I know. I know it’s incredibly disappointing. And the thing is this this stuff like the green agenda, more broadly investment in insulating homes, for example, is such great return on investment and if they’re thinking about finances and showing they’re working insulating homes is just a total no brainer. You know, we all pay far too much for our energy bills. We live in draughty leaky homes. So many houses are mouldy because of the cold walls are damp

Yeah, I just think you know, and green technology, huge growth industry.

Solar and wind where you know, we’re windy little island, but a lot of coastline. Offshore wind is fantastic. 

Carlton Reid  1:03:55  

But in your in the book, you show how national highways basically is an organisation set up to build roads. And once you’ve done something like that, and that’s their raison d’etre. Guess what they’re going to build roads. Yeah. So yeah, it’s that oil tanker you know having to put the brakes on and change a whole culture so we’re not talking about you know,

Cuz your manifesto is saying you know, stop funding this and yeah.

Laura Laker  1:04:28  

Wales did this basically with their no more roads or no more roads and less they increased active travel and public transport policy. They basically have kind of repurpose their national highways body around this agenda, you know, fill in the potholes. We’ve got a road in a dreadful state

and, you know, develop use all their skills and power and funding for active travel. You know, public transport in this country is drastically underfunded. Buses are so important, especially in rural areas, especially people on low incomes, especially for women and

Do you know buses are so important? We’re really, really not kind of reaping the power the massive power of the bus.? 

Carlton Reid  1:05:08  

Yeah, that’s in your book as well, because you’re talking about

how buses, you know, need to be able to carry bikes. Yeah. And that’s, you know, that’s a small part of what they could do but the broader transport perspective that’s that’s so important

right Laura? Well, we could we could obviously go on and talk for many hours and we have done in the past because we’ve we’ve we’ve done podcasts.

Now, when I ask people to mention where they can get hold of them, I’d like you to do that and feel free to mention Streets Ahead. You have sort of done anyway.

But tell people where where they can hear more from you where they can read your stuff. Give it give us the whole I am about

Laura Laker.

Laura Laker  1:05:57  

So yeah, so my book will be available from the ninth of May in all good bookstores. I’ve also narrated the audio book, so if you like sound, my voice, even if you don’t, I’m on the audio book, which I believe will be out at the same time as the regular reading book. And then I am freelance. I’ve got a column in Cycling Plus magazine. I write for various outlets. I’ve been doing some stuff for City Lab. I’ve got a piece coming out with them soon. Do bits and bobs for The Guardian. Gosh, there’s so many places I kind of forget. But yeah, and then I’ve got a podcast Streets ahead with Adam Tranter and Ned Boulting.

Carlton Reid  1:06:35  

Never heard of them. 

Laura Laker  1:06:40  

I know, I’m like the least the least famous trio. But they’re great. It’s great. Yeah, I think that’s it. I think that’s me

Carlton Reid  1:06:49  

That’s it for today’s show, thanks to Laura Laker for that bumpy ride along the best and worst bits of Britain’s National Cycle network. And thanks to you for listening to Episode 352 of the spokesmen podcast brought to you in association with Tern bicycles. Shownotes and more can be found at Listen out for episode 353 next month, when I may reveal details of a certain bikepacking project I’ve got cooking … meanwhile, 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.