4th April 2021
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast
EPISODE 271: White House Recognizes Induced Demand Exists Meaning There’s Now a Bicycle-Shaped Overton Window That Needs Jamming Open
SPONSOR: Jenson USA
HOST: Carlton Reid
TOPICS: Discussing President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and how Pete Buttigieg is shaping up to be the most people-friendly Transport Secretary since John Volpe of the early 1970s. (Like, Buttigieg, Volpe also cycled to the office.)
Kevin J. Krizek is Professor of Environmental Design at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Meredith Glaser is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, and one of the principals of the University’s Urban Cycling Institute.
Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 271 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was uploaded on Sunday fourth of April 2021.
David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the- spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:09
The last couple of shows were UK focussed. This one shifts to the USA. I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s hour and half long episode I talk with American academics Meredith Glaser and Kevin Krizek. We discus President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and how Pete Buttigieg is shaping up to be the most people-friendly Transport Secretary since John Volpe in the early 1970s. (Like Buttigieg, Volpe also cycled to the office, more about that on a forthcoming article on Forbes.com). Back to today and both my guests, as you’ll soon hear, are American, although, without even the hint of a Dutch accent, Meredith has lived in the Netherlands for some years. She is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, and one of the principals behind the very-popular-with-planners summer school at the University’s Urban Cycling Institute. Kevin is Professor of Environmental Design at the University of Colorado Boulder. Along with Meredith he has written a paper on the pedalling potential of 55 American cities.
Carlton Reid 2:39
I’ve got to focus on here American folks, and one is is is not in America is in a bicyclist paradise, basically. And so that person will be Meredith. Hi, Meredith. How’s it going across there in Amsterdam?
Meredith Glaser 2:59
Hi, thanks for having me. Yeah, it’s great. I mean, it’s the weather is as Dutch as usual. And but the bike paths are as red and glorious as usual.
Carlton Reid 3:12
You’ve got a bit of a wee bit of a political problem across there at the moment with with Rutte who famously, you know, bicycle advocates post videos of him cycling to, you know, the royalty to the palace and, and, and to Parliament, etc. But he has any just survived a vote of no confidence.
Meredith Glaser 3:32
Meredith Glaser 3:35
I am not allowed to vote in this country, which puts me at a very unique situation where I can vote on a local level, but not at the national level. So while I do have, you know, impressions of what’s going on in the national level, I don’t so much participate. So local issues are much more familiar to me than than the national level.
Carlton Reid 4:08
The reason I was gonna ask, we’ll bring Kevin in in a minute, but the reason I was I was asking that was because and mentioning how its a bicyclist paradise. So we tend to think of the Netherlands as just, you know, planning to the nth degree. Everything is, you know, incredibly well organised. And yet the pandemic response has been shambolic. It’s really strange how such an organised country is disorganised on something as as big as it is that is that resonating in the Netherlands is is that one of the reasons why he’s his face this November was illiterate just because he lied.
Meredith Glaser 4:48
Yeah, I don’t really know. But I mean, as a resident I’ve, I’ve gone through these waves of feeling confident in the response and then feeling very You have a very opposite very like, what are you doing? How could this be possible? Why are my kids going back in school right now? Or, you know why I’m still seeing, you know, many groups of people congregating in parks drinking beer. With with the with the cops just rolling by, and not doing anything? And yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s been a very interesting situation.
Meredith Glaser 5:30
Meredith Glaser 5:32
yeah, I mean,
Meredith Glaser 5:35
I don’t know, I
Meredith Glaser 5:36
don’t know what else?
Carlton Reid 5:36
Well, it’s just how can a country plan so brilliantly in transport and then screw up in something like public health? Which is, which is well,
Meredith Glaser 5:47
Meredith Glaser 5:48
you know, I don’t know, if it’s, I don’t know if it would agree that like they planned so meticulously, because actually, one of the most beautiful things about cycling in the Netherlands is that it is sort of chaotic, and organic. And that there are very much some places that are not planned. And in fact, the whole emergence of sight of cycling or reemergence of cycling and the Netherlands after the Second World War, I mean, it was just a perfect storm of events, and you know, this all too well. So, you know, it was coming together of social movements of, of advocacy of it, numerous things going on that, that resulted in what we have today here. So, I, I’m not sure if it’s like a perfect planning paradise. In fact, I think it’s a it’s definitely, you know, I think the Dutch pride themselves on tolerance. And, I mean, it’s very noticeable, even in the difference of culture that I have being American, and, and those who are local, you know, Dutch national, Dutch in how we approach police officers, you know, the Dutch approach a police officer, like it’s just, it’s just a regular person, it’s nothing to be there’s no hierarchy. I’ve seen some arguments between, you know, a full on arguments, whereas me as an American, I mean, the police officer, you know, you call them Mister, it’s, you know, it’s a very clear it’s a very clear hierarchy of power. So I don’t know, I think there’s, there’s some interesting connections there that that maybe can be explored with relation to the pandemic.
Carlton Reid 7:40
And let’s bring in Kevin, and I’m going to ask you roughly the same question here, because there was a shambolic response. Before a certain election in America, there now has been a very rapid rollout of vaccinations by the new comer. So, from a planning perspective, was the previous administration not very good at planning, and this administration kind of a lot better at planning? Kevin?
Kevin Krizek 8:12
Thanks, Carlton, that’s a really interesting question, because I’m not so sure that it’s tied to planning as it is to just sheer politics. Yes, the new administration after this certain election, you know, they want to try and button down and get a little bit more strong of a hold on what’s going, what’s going on. Now, if that’s planning, if that’s kind of regulatory structures, if that’s telling people a little bit more about the types of freedoms that they are allowed to have or not allowed to have? Yeah, you can think of it in terms of planning. But there’s no diff, there’s no doubt that there’s a different philosophy and there’s a different approach that’s in the air.
Carlton Reid 8:52
So I haven’t mentioned the pandemic and planning as a way of introduction to both of you. And that’s very much because that’s what we’ll be we’ll be talking about as well as, as the American jobs plan, etc. But before we get into the, the heart of the show the meat. Let’s hear from both of you, and my philosophy will be fascinating to hear why Meredith is American but in the Netherlands, but let’s let’s hear from both of you on first of all your job titles, what your your actually your research interests are, and then maybe why you are in certain places, Kevin, why you are where you are, and Meredith where you are. So Meredith, let’s start with you. And let’s find out first of all, why are you in Amsterdam?
Meredith Glaser 9:45
It’s a really good question. It could be the entire episode actually. But, but yeah, so I am currently a researcher and lecturer at the urban cycling Institute at the University of Amsterdam. And why I came to Amsterdam? I mean, that’s a that’s a really good question. It means I’ve always wanted to live abroad. As a young American, in fact, my mother reminds me often used to say, as a little girl, you’re tired of sitting in the car and that you want to, you want to live somewhere where you don’t need to have a car. And well, that first came true when I went to UC Davis, for undergrad degree, which is a city pretty well known for, at least in the American context, a pretty, pretty robust cycling culture.
Carlton Reid 10:37
And infrastructure. Dutch-style.
Meredith Glaser 10:41
Yeah, Dutch style, built in
Meredith Glaser 10:43
Dutch style roundabout, then. Yeah. And then, and then I moved to Japan, actually, where I also lived carfree and with a Dutch style bike, but Japanese upright bike. And so yeah, and then now I’m in now I’m in the Netherlands. And I was very, I was very interested in living as an adult in another place, and to immerse myself in another culture. I had visited the Netherlands several times, I was drawn to there, to the high quality of life here and the culture that has a pretty open mindset, and a really incredible appreciation for public life and public space and high quality urban design. And coming out of urban planning school, from UC Berkeley, that was also a big draw to me was was the public space and public life. And, and then cycling ended up being a being a main factor in in my future here. But originally the trip the living here, originally, I plan to live here for about a year with my now husband, but that has turned into a decade and a house and two children and seven bikes.
Carlton Reid 12:06
Fantastic that Kevin, you are somewhere it from an American North American perspective is pretty damn cycling friendly. If Boulder is a is a pretty nice bicycling place.
Kevin Krizek 12:20
Yeah, so my family and I have lived here for 12 years now. And frankly, one of the reasons that we did move to Boulder is because of the transportation amenities that provided cycling being one of them. And so set, you know, it was really on the agenda for for boulder to be growing cycling wise for a number of years in the late 90s and early 2000s. What’s interesting is that once they were able to take advantage of the low hanging fruit, that is the east west corridors in town, because of the tributaries in the streams and the creeks and whatnot, where you can put bicycling pads down a little bit more easily, when they tried to think about really improving the transportation, cycling perspective on North South routes. That’s where things got a little bit more hairy for Boulder, and they haven’t been able to have the breakthroughs that they were, you know, 15 years ago with some of that low hanging fruit. And so that’s really provided an interesting context and interesting dynamic with respect to how, you know, transportation provisions, amenities are being provided sometimes at the expense of cars, but mostly not being provided because it’s going to be coming at the expense of cars. And because it’s difficult, and because it’s more difficult to do
Carlton Reid 13:34
it, but it’s difficult.
Kevin Krizek 13:35
Yep. The politics are a lot different.
Carlton Reid 13:38
So Meredith was talking about Davis, California, and Davis and boulder have kind of see sort of, which is the the biggest, you know, American city for for bicycling. It’s either one of those usually and important, of course, comes in from a from a radical point of view as well. But from your point of view, Kevin, where do you see boulder sitting right now compared it with my question and in fact is which is the best city in? in North America? No, no America because they have to bring in Montreal with me. So what’s the best city in the United States of America for bicycling.
Kevin Krizek 14:19
Small city, Davis, large city, Minneapolis or Portland towns have corner millions or so it’s Boulder, but is Boulders, cycling prowess, you know exceeding that of Davis or Portland or Minneapolis.
Carlton Reid 14:34
I doubt it.
Kevin Krizek 14:36
One thing that Boulder really does have going for it is that they now have you know, almost 85 grade controlled intersections, which is amazing. So nobody can touch that in terms of bridges and underpasses for cycling. So that’s one that’s one area where they really stand out. But we have to understand that those types of infrastructures they’re pretty costly. $10 million sometimes
Carlton Reid 15:05
We started talking about this, before this particular announcement, but you must be kind of excited both you must be kind of excited, even though married if you’re actually living in the base of the moment, but you still must be pretty excited because you’re you’re researching obviously, you must be excited by the American jobs plan, announced by President Biden is it now two days ago, and and obviously, very much trailed and supported by by the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. So how excited? Are you how much of a paradigm shift? Is this going to be? So Meredith first, what are your initial thoughts on the American jobs plan?
Meredith Glaser 15:51
I think it’s well, just from reading the articles, and, you know, perusing the White House, website and some other sources, it, of course, seems really exciting. And to hear, you know, these very prominent champions, like Jeanette Sadiq Khan, and, you know, directors at nacto, and these big names who have been supporting, you know, livable streets and innovation in terms of our transportation systems in the US, seeing these people support it, and hearing their, their support for the plan, of course, gives me a lot of confidence. And I’m really curious how it will unfold, because at the moment, we got some, we’ve got some great numbers that are very promising, you know, 20 million into into roads and, or, sorry, 2 billion into roads and road safety. You know, 20,000 miles of highways and roads being upgraded. I mean, that, yeah, and transit focus, I think these are all very needed. upgrades. But where, I wonder a bit about how the details will unfold, like Where, where, you know, where do the cities actually come in. So much of these Urban’s so much of the networks, and so much of the infrastructure that is going to need to be upgraded, they fall in the hands of cities and regions. And, of course, there are some, you know, major bridges and airports and, and highways, but what about when they interface with the city? And what about when they interface with our city streets, that very, those very local networks that are used by, you know, the citizens in in our urban areas? So I think that’s, I think that’s going to be an interesting part to, to to see what happens in the next in the next few months, and also how the the negotiations will happen. And you know, what’s going, what’s going to happen with it? I’m just curious. It’s like a soap opera.
Carlton Reid 18:21
So the Republicans, and this is a generic question to Kevin, the Republicans have already come out and instantly came out and said, No, this is not bipartisan, you ain’t gonna get this, we’re gonna we’re gonna kibosh this. And then Biden tweeted the same night saying, I do think it’s a bipartisan su but in fact, we’re gonna do it anyway. So Kevin, is this something that even though the republicans for many, many years have said, you know, infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure, here’s our plan that delivers that infrastructure, but they’re not going to support it. Whereas other things that they haven’t wanted to support they’ve they’ve pushed through the democrats or pushed through anyway? Is this going to be the same thing? Or do you think this is going to be a huge fight to actually get any of this actually put into law?
Kevin Krizek 19:11
I think that’s a really interesting question, in part because for the first time, in a long time, we’re talking about a type of infrastructure that is, you know, we’ve long long taken for granted. And the solutions to that type of infrastructure, I’m talking about roadways have always been divided along party lines. Now, what we have in 2021 is a complete shattering of the previous solutions for those types of remedies. Say, for example, okay, we got an infrastructure problem with respect to transport. What we’re going to do is we’re going to increase the supply. So the republicans are going to say we want more roadways, we want wider roadways. We want more travel lanes, right. And the republicans are saying, Well, you know, or the democrats are saying, Well, you know, there’s other ways of getting around town and maybe we want to invest In Transit, so that’s really changing these days because of, you know, new technology and new. think frankly, realisations about safety and new realisations about issues of climate change. Now, are those types of topics gonna have currency for the republicans, you know, slowly, but surely, we’re gonna be seeing different types of solutions be thrown at transportation related issues. So I’m I am optimistic and so far as the landscape that has typically divided politics in this respect in the country, you know, for the past decade or two decades, is different. And the fact that the Biden administration is really putting the spotlight on new types of infrastructure, and on roads about how they can provide new insights, and new inspiration for our economy is something that’s kind of refreshing.
Carlton Reid 20:52
And I’m coming straight back to here, Kevin, as well about I’ll then ask Meredith the same thing. Is bicycling left wing? Is it? Is it just neutral? Is there anything that mentions bicycling I can I could lump in transit here and pedestrian, is that seen as very much a partisan thing. So bicycling and transit and pedestrian infrastructure, that’s absolutely going to be something only democrats are going to prioritise. Or do you think this is muddier than that? Or am I just basically, generalising?
Kevin Krizek 21:30
You know, historically, I would say that that’s the case. But as we sit in 2021, it’s considerably more murky than that. And the reason it’s considerably more murky than that is because we have transportation innovations that are shaking this industry in ways that we haven’t seen in the prior 2, 3, 4 years. And so you know, those things that look like bicycles, they really don’t necessarily need to be considered bicycles anymore. They could be, you know, souped up us really small electric cars. But the nature in which we design our transportation field facilities to accept bicyclists, or, you know, huge SUVs, that has a lot to do with the types of futures that we want to see unfold. But my point here is that, you know, as the technology and the technological innovations continue to hit the transportation market, we’re going to see cars look a lot more about like bikes, we’re going to see bikes look a lot more like cars. And so that’s going to provide a more market more murky, you know, political context for us to understand how and why and where we want different types of vehicles in our cities.
Carlton Reid 22:37
Yeah, Canyon a couple of months ago brought out in effect a very small, very small, it looks like an SUV but it’s actually just a small car. But it’s a bicycle as well. It’s It’s It’s It’s a big bicycle maker, making a car is exactly what you’re saying that they’re gonna they’re gonna merge, they’re going to smash together.
Kevin Krizek 22:59
And the outstanding question here, Carlton, is where in our existing transportation system should a vehicle like that be housed? Because right now, if we try to house it on our city streets, yes, with good reason, it’s unsafe. But yet, if we change our city streets to accommodate those types of more fuel efficient, more equitable and safer types of vehicles, we’re going to be in a much stronger hands.
Carlton Reid 23:26
So Meredith, you’re living in a place which which is tackling and it is, is going through these kind of changes already and has been fractured for many years it because you’ve got these micro cars. Yeah, that are already I’ve been in Amsterdam, where it’s like, wow, there’s a car. But it’s one of these micro cars. So how does that fit into the system? And also, let’s talk about after after you answer that one. Also, tell me about left wing right wing, because obviously, in the Netherlands, you know, Cycling is not a political issue at all. So first of all, the kind of vehicle you’re seeing and how that might play elsewhere in from the, the Amsterdam or the Dutch example. And then the politics from from where you’re sitting.
Meredith Glaser 24:10
Yeah. Wow, really good questions. So the types of vehicles that type of vehicle question is really interesting, because right now, there’s a huge influx in all types of these small lightweight electric vehicles, right, the Le v types of also logistics vehicles, right. So there’s these really small vans that are going on the streets, they’re parking up on sidewalks, there’s really small or large actually cargo bikes, you know, with like a front box. There’s, there’s, there’s all these different types of forms, and you kind of wonder like, Well, wait, is this a bike? Is it is it a car? Yeah, it’s getting very murky, just like what Kevin said. And, but we’re still seeing that, you know, at least In Amsterdam here, you know, they’re leaning on the bicycle as sort of the emblematic form of how you know how to dictate what the infrastructure is. So what, what their, what a lot of the streets here are doing, or what the changes they’re making on streets here is incorporating a bicycle street approach. And they’re also being very strategic about traffic circulation in general. So the newest, you know, policies recommended for the city, or recommended by the city include that to get, you know, to get across the city, by bike should be the fastest way, you know, to get straight through the city. And to get through my car is essentially impossible, you have to go all the way around the city. So the circulation plan is encouraging an increase in space for for bikes and these other types of vehicles, just simply because there are fewer cars going through the city. Does that makes sense?
Carlton Reid 26:15
Yeah. And then you’re but then you’re also living somewhere where this isn’t a political issue. This isn’t, you know, all that lefty thing?
Meredith Glaser 26:22
You know, I, I disagree that it’s not political. It’s not like an a political topic. But I, I have been told by and I’ve heard, you know, many, even conservative Republican or not repub. Sorry. I have heard many conservative politicians here, say, admit that it’s not a political issue. But where we do see, the political issue coming out is the continued investment in highway expansions and car based infrastructure. So on the one hand, you know, cities in the Netherlands, especially, like attract froning, and Amsterdam, they envision themselves being the cycling capitals of the Netherlands or the world. But at the same time, these you know, these heavy investments are going into car infrastructure that, you know, defeats the purpose. So it is, it’s an it’s a conundrum, you know, a good example locally here. In, in a neighbourhood, a very city centre neighbourhood in Amsterdam called the pipe, the neighbourhood kind of got together and they wanted to have more green space on the city streets on their streets. And the city was also thinking about how to not only improve landscaping and greenery, but also kind of, you know, climate proof Amsterdam. And, and at the same time, they happen to be also building a state of the art underground parking garage, right near this, this community. So, on one hand, they wanted to reduce carpet car parking spaces on street, but on the other hand, they were building this multimillion dollar multi million euro car parking garage underneath a canal next to the Rijksmuseum where you know, there would be an influx of of car traffic going into this car parking garage. So it was kind of this, you know, interesting situation where some residents were already aggravate, you know, we’re already forming a group that was against this parking garage. But those same residents were also very much for, you know, removing parking from the street and improving the greenery. So it’s interesting. I saw I wouldn’t say that it’s a political
Carlton Reid 28:58
Kevin, Meredith was was talking there about transport investment and then when you dig down into what I consider fantastically titled American jobs plan, just because like who could who could like argue against that. But there’s $174 billion for Elon Musk, in effect, and his ilk, in that there’s going to be an enormous rollout of charging infrastructure and, and just facilities for electric cars. And as we know, as anybody with even a modicum of common sense would know, but apparently not not, not planners and politicians. An electric car is gonna get gummed up in in transport delays just as much as a gas fueled car. So that that does that worry you that there’s 174 billion there to basically increase motoring.
Kevin Krizek 29:53
There’s no doubt that for those who are concerned about the degree to which cars have already consumed a lot of space in cities that this $174 billion to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles is indeed going to gum up things more along those lines. And so you know, one part of the creative nation’s climate strategy, we need to move beyond just shifting to electrification, it’s time to consider the types of vehicles that we want in our cities as well. And notably, you know, the SUV’s boom that we’ve seen over the past decade, that’s notably led to a lot of substantial declines in safety. So if we want to think about how we are designing our cities, we need to move beyond just okay, this typically sized car and American companies, yes, they’re building new types of small electric vehicles, too. And so that’s where it’s gonna be interesting as this plan further unfolds, and we became we become aware of some more and more of the details, is that where are the incentives for those small types of vehicles, you know, like, ARCA Moto, you know, these types of vehicles can coexist with people walking and bicycling because of their human scale dimensions. And they can serve the same purpose as cars, trucks and SUVs. But you know, and furthermore, you know, given the fact, Carlton, that more than half of all trips in suburban and urban areas are less than four miles, these types of vehicles could carry most of those types of trips and cities, but only if the infrastructure of our streets changes so that more people can feel comfortable using them.
Carlton Reid 31:30
And so see that that’s almost like, sorry, Kevin, for interupting you. That’s almost like a European level of distance of, you know, average use of a motorcar, we tend to people in Europe are going to think, Oh, yeah, but Americans travel 100 miles, you know, per day in their cars. So that that’s actually quite a shocking statistic that in effect, you’re the same as, as cities in Europe. So that is a statistics average out for the whole of the US, and there’s places like Houston is gonna be much, much bigger. What’s it all? How is that stat actually arrived at because that’s a phenomenally surprising stat.
Kevin Krizek 32:08
Most people are simply unaware of this. And that’s true. But by virtue of urban areas being urban, most of the services and goods and services that we access, within 20 minutes of our home, are within four miles, whether it’s a car, whether it’s by bike, or whatnot. And so this is what propelled my colleague, Nancy mcgucken, and I a year ago to publish a study and transport findings to say exactly, you know, how many times do people actually get in the car and travel for less than four miles, and across the urban areas? But both the urban core the first tier suburbs, the second tier suburbs, most of the suburban areas in the US? Yes, exactly. every other time they get in the car, they travelled less than four miles. And that’s a pretty reliable statistic. I’m not gonna say it’s the same as what we’re seeing in European cities. And then there is some variation across, you know, some cities within the country. But as an average, you can read two or three or four different reliable studies that all point to the same number. Yeah, and so this is something that we typically just simply don’t consider is the availability of nearby destinations, and the possibility that we can get to them by vehicles other than cars. And so I do think that this is an important kind of revelation that we have really seen over the past year with the pandemic, you know, this idea that streets need to alter their character away from auto, automobiles is hardly new, but the prospects and helping people realise those prospects that is new and so changing our streets to prioritise smaller vehicles, rather than cars is a notion, you know, that’s really been too extreme for elected leaders and citizens alike. But the but the pandemic has really opened up our ability to see through this, you know, streets bear in automobiles in 2020, provided a first step to that extreme option. And, you know, if we run with this idea of an idea that’s typically considered to be outside the range of acceptable up outcomes, you know, what political economists would refer to, as the Overton window that’s really shifted, thereby expanding what’s possible,
Carlton Reid 34:17
Right. So the pandemic has opened people’s eyes to birds, over their ears to birdsong opened their eyes to less traffic, and they think I want some of that. And so when a city planner now comes in and says, Well, we could do that for you, if we, we, you know, make these interventions you think that has now changed people’s perceptions. The Overton window has been nudged forward.
Kevin Krizek 34:43
It’s been open considerably. Yes, the expectations for how streets should be used were reshaped almost overnight, both to improve health outcomes and provide economic opportunity. And so now as the economic as the economy recovers, following the immediacy of the pandemic, you know, we want to try and prevent that window? To shift back to transportation conditions that were prior?
Carlton Reid 35:05
Keep the Overton window open, please!
Kevin Krizek 35:08
Oh, yeah, definitely. And that’s what propelled Meredith and I to really look at what’s going on and 55 of the largest cities in America to see oh, wow, how are these cities using their streets, the street space differently? And how can this set the foundation for new types of expectations,
Carlton Reid 35:25
I will get on to your paper in a minute, because that’s when we start talking about your paper and then buttigieg and the American jobs plan thing is as come in the meantime, but Meredith, going back to the American jobs plan, I’ve kind of portrayed it. And then of course, the devil is in the detail. We need to actually see what’s really genuinely planned here. But just the mood music being put out there on social media and in, in media interviews, in fact, by Mayor Pete is very much that the day of the automobile is certainly not gonna be pandered to as much as in the past and might still be painted a bit, but you’re going to look at other modes are going to be prioritise, also. So do you think that he is genuinely going to bring in those changes? Is it something that he can bring in? Is that something you know, a progressive politician can do or there’s like departments underneath are actually going to be a handbrake on that?
Meredith Glaser 36:30
Yeah, that’s a good question.
Meredith Glaser 36:33
I mean, what we’re what we’re facing as a nation, I mean, it just goes beyond the US as well, but is the institution of automobility. So I just, I have a hard time imagining how, really, you know, any short term plan can uproot the labyrinth of administrative, regulatory, political, social, cultural systems that have been favouring the car for the past century. And that’s what we’re up against. And that includes, you know, things like the MUTCD manual, and all these, all these codes and legislation and laws that are not only on the national level, but they’re at the state level, and there at the regional and local level. So there is a system that is that is an institution, really, that is against the plan. And to really unravel, that means questioning our you know, our design restrictions, questioning our public process, or the legal risks, the design guidelines, at every one of these levels. So that’s, you know, that’s a really big task. And it’s going to take a long time to do that. So I think what the big question is, is how can we reduce, you know, how can we reduce our dependency within the next generation, and this may be the start of it, but it won’t be the end of it.
Carlton Reid 38:14
So Kevin, picking up on what Meredith was talking about there. And going back to Mayor Pete, whenever I talk to Americans about this, and I asked them that roughly the same question. It’s always well, he was a mare. And that’s why they call him Mayor Pete still, because he was able to actually get past that inertia that Meredith was talking about. In the city, he was mayor of, do you share the same optimism there that you can you can do something at a city level and translate that to a national, federal level?
Kevin Krizek 38:47
Undoubtedly, you see that you have a new culture that’s really trying to be instilled in Washington, DC. And within the first two months, the Secretary of the transportation, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, you know, is saying things that we have not seen said in the previous decades, or anywhere close to the types of things. And so he’s floating these ideas for the first time in American politics. And yes, it you know, it’s creating a certain degree of fervour in in, in these contexts right now, but the fact that he’s saying them, and the fact that they are locally derived based on his experiences in South Bend, and saying, you know, we can get this done, I think, is a really, really exciting opportunity for American politics. Now, the Biden administration at a national level, they’re probably not going to be tipping. They’re stepping their toes so much into these kind of local matters. And so the Biden administration, you know, they’re they want to modernise 20,000 miles of roads. We don’t know how many of those 20,000 miles are going to be at the city level versus at the interstate level versus at the county level. But the fact that They are saying things like, build back better and fix it first. Both of these are laudable aims. Both of these are suggest ways that we can do more with less. And you know, exactly as Meredith is saying these outdated kind of industry written laws that lock in street designs from prior centuries, they hamper innovation. And they reinforce the expectations for how our existing streets are used. But as the details of these plans unfold, and as mayor Pete continues to, you know, exert his influence over cities and local municipalities, I think we’re gonna see a lot more of these exciting types of initiatives unfold in where we can identify solutions to fix some of the root of the problem with space and cities.
Carlton Reid 40:46
And Kevin, I’ve built this up, because we don’t have the detail. Yeah, exactly. I may be I’m, like extrapolating, and maybe I’m exaggerating, but from just from the reading of the American jobs plan, you know, that deep down into it. And you then add in what, what, what the judge has said, you know, in public, you know, out there, this is not a secret of what he’s saying about, you know, we’ve got to rein back the the motorcar in effect and design for people. Given all of that I’ve said that, in effect, the White House has recognised that induced demand exists. Do you think that’s fair appraisal of what is coming out of the White House? Or do you think this, as you just mentioned there, you don’t know exactly how they’re actually going to upgrade those 20,000 rows? It could be an upgrade for motorists at the end of the day? Or do you think they genuinely is a recognition that in fact, building roads does not work because it leads to induce demand,
Kevin Krizek 41:51
the fact that within the first two months, a cabinet member has acknowledged that, yes, we need to build our cities around humans, the fact that a cabinet member has existed or has mentioned non negative aspects about a VMT tax, the fact that a cabinet position has said, you know, what, the way that we’ve been doing things over the past decades has been has led to serious problems. Meetings are all really strong statements. Now, whether or not that suggests that the presidential position is going to echo those, you know, we got to take these things one day at a time. The fact that we have a new administration and senior representatives in that, in that administration, are mentioning these things, I think we need to take those as victories right now. Because if you look at the way that we’ve been solving our transportation problems for the past, God knows how many years you know they’ve been ill formed. So trying something new, and trying to understand where we can look for innovation in the right spirit here is something that they’re going to need to continue to push forward and see how quickly they can move on these things. But again, it’s tied to politics, and they’re inevitably going to get some resistance against the old way of doing things.
Carlton Reid 43:11
So Meredith, Kevin, is excited, Kevin’s optimistic and he lives there. You don’t live there. But you can you can maybe look at it from from a slightly different perspective, in that you are 3000 miles away, but you look at these things, how excited? Are you? Or you perhaps a bit more jaundice? Because you live in somewhere where, you know, space has been devoted to these different modes, and couldn’t really happen in America?
Meredith Glaser 43:40
Yeah, and although I’m, I don’t you know, live in America, I have been studying several American cities over the past three years, very closely in my, in my PhD research, and, and that includes, you know, interviewing key key informants, several high level officials, every six months or so. And what I have seen is just and witnessed is such a struggle. It’s really incredible. You know, people at the local level, civil servants, traffic engineers, transportation planners are really trying, they’re really trying hard to innovate. They’re, they’re trying hard to collaborate and, but also to, to, to create public value out of their transportation systems. But at the same time, they are up against as I was saying before, a slew of barriers. And this, I mean, this is such it’s such a range of barriers, from, you know, a lack of sort of political committee. Men are confidence from higher level officials to you know, legal implications the the city, you know, city attorney, not wanting to take the take the risk to two codes and manuals that are incompatible with what they want to build in terms of, you know, bicycle infrastructure or,
Meredith Glaser 45:25
Meredith Glaser 45:27
and you know, in transit agencies who don’t see eye to eye with what they’re with what they’re doing. So the the struggle is very real. And I have been in I have been witnessing this and examining this, you know, from this outsider perspective, or this dual perspective for the past couple of years. So. So I echo, I definitely echo Kevin’s enthusiasm about what what Mayor Pete is saying, and what’s coming out of the White House. And I can only imagine that the people that I’ve been, that I’ve been interviewing for the past several years are also very excited. And also seeing it as as legitimising their current work. You know, and that was one of the biggest things too, that came out of what what I’ve been studying is the recognition of, of transportation planners who are trying their hardest to, you know, connect all these pieces and build transfer transportation systems that provide choices for people. That recognition from city council from the mayor, from the city manager, the or even the department head, you know, that recognition is really, really valuable, and it helps them It helps them recognise that the pathway forward is the right pathway forward.
Carlton Reid 47:04
Okay, so you are excited. That’s good. And at that, let’s keep that excitement primed for the next half of the show, because right now, I would like to cut to a commercial break with David.
David Bernstein 47:20
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Carlton Reid 48:45
Thanks, David. And we are back with this particular episode of the spokesmen podcast and we’ve got Meredith and we’ve got Kevin and we’ve been discussing the American jobs plan and and Mayor Pete Buttigieg says fantastic. I think we can all know agree fantastic input and changing input into into potentially what can happen in the future. In America, I’d now like to, we’ll still continue on. We’ll definitely touch on this. There’s there’s that subject again. But now I’d like to go into your paper and what you first contacted me with and I did pick out some key phrases. And and a lot of these have now been potentially even superseded by by the American jobs plan because you wrote this paper clearly, long before that came out. But you’re talking I’m going to go back to here and you can you can tell me what it’s all about. You’re talking about deep transport reform. You’re talking about bold narratives in your paper. This is what things have got to happen. And then we’re going to have to accelerate With aggressive reform, we’ve got to de emphasise cars. So, Meredith first is has all of those things that you’ve put in your paper that do you think they are going to come to fruition with with American Trump’s plan?
Meredith Glaser 50:20
There’s definitely a chance, I think the, you know, COVID COVID induced street experiments, as we call them, in our paper, opened a lot of eyes, especially on the local level. And this has, this has really opened the aperture for, for cities for regions on what our streets can be used as what you know, not necessarily even as, as, as avenues of movement, but also for, you know, economic recovery, for social connection and social cohesion. I mean, we talk a lot about, you know, smaller vehicles and human scale vehicles and, and, and sustainable mobility, but realising that our streets make up, you know, 1/3 of us have the space and cities, this is a huge urban asset. And, and I think that the pandemic has shown that this is an asset worth investigating and exploring on what role it has to play in society that maybe it’s not just for movement of cars, but it can be so many other things.
Carlton Reid 51:39
Roads were not built for cars — I know somebody who wrote a book about that.
Meredith Glaser 51:42
Yeah, a great book, a great book.
Carlton Reid 51:45
Thanks you for allowing me to get that in. I think you and Kevin, oh, sorry. Sorry. So we’re gonna get some, sorry.
Meredith Glaser 51:51
Well, just one more, one more point. And then and, and I think what our study showed is that some cities were more ready than others, to have their eyes opened. They, you know, they already had some pre existing plans in place, and the pandemic galvanised momentum for those plans. But the study also showed that they were, you know, they are hampered by these institutional restrictions, public process, blah, blah, blah. But when the city’s designated, you know, staff time and I mean, obvious human capital and human resources to deploying these, these slow streets or other other types of street experiments. When these these street street experiments became feasible in that way. That’s when we saw a lot more success. That’s when we saw a lot more cities being able to deepen their programmes or lengthen their programmes or even expand their programmes. So it there does seem to be some key aspects to how it can accelerate you know, an alternative mobility future that is less car emphasised.
Carlton Reid 53:10
And Kevin, Meredith mentioned street experiments, then it’s in your paper. And then also in your paper is the phrase slow streets. Now, in a UK perspective, we now call those that you’ve come across this phrase, we call them lt ns low traffic neighbourhoods. And again, I don’t know how much you’ve seen what’s been happening in the UK. But that that’s been a bet, Nah, that’s been an absolute red rag to a bull, the remodelling of streets. So street experiments in the last doing COVID, basically, in the last year, have led to the most amazing explosion in antipathy between neighbours that has been picked at by the mass media, including the BBC, who will just you know, they love pitching by the looks of it neighbour against neighbour. So you get one neighbour who’s for a street experiment. And yet another neighbour who is very car dependent, who is against any form of street experiment, they want the status quo, they want to be able to drive everywhere. So my question is, how popular the things that are in your paper? How genuinely popular are they with the mass of the population in the US and how much of it is pure optimism and people like you and me who want to see these things are basically projecting onto onto people as a as a populace, then, in fact, it’s not it’s not popular at all. Where do you sit on that particular spectrum of popularity
Kevin Krizek 54:48
will look as a society and particularly as an American society, we have been conditioned to basically think of one way to get around town and that streets are certainly a conduit for cars. Right now, enter stage right, a completely different purpose for what streets should be serving. And those who are, you know, more leaning politically left, they want to see something different. Why? Well, because they realise that the way that we’ve designed streets have had really deleterious effects on Well, shall we say, the environment, on safety, on issues of equity. Now, if you don’t care about those three things, safety equity, the climate, you know, you’re going to continue going down the path of just the status quo, there’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing right now, there’s nothing wrong other than, you know, maybe I’m gonna have a few more minutes of congestion on my commute, or, you know, going to the supermarket. But if we are serious, as a nation, about wanting to tackle any one of those things, much less all three of those things, it really does suggest doing something different. Okay? Now, we’re not talking about any typical intervention that can shift our culture overnight, because it’s so firmly ingrained, and we’re dealing with such a mature system of automobile infrastructure. So you know, we’re not trying to shift the direction of a simple single aircraft carrier, we are trying to shift multiple fleets of aircraft carriers here, right now, the silver lining, Carlton, I see is that we’ve been talking about these tissue issues. Until we’re blue in the face, I’m going to sound a little bit long in the tooth here. But for 25 years, we’ve been battling the same types of rhetoric, oh, we need to do something different. Oh, we need to put more bikes in Oh, we need to create more transit systems. But for the past 25 years, you know, not much action has really resulted. And it’s like a metaphor to a Moka pot, right? You keep talking about these things, you keep talking about these things, and nothing really happens. And then all of a sudden, Wow, cool, you know, the water heats up, this generates steam, this increases the pressure and the bottom chamber pushes the water up through the coffee granules into the top chamber, where it’s then ready to be ready to be ready to be poured right? Now, if we think about a metaphor, and how that’s analogous to where we sit now, yeah, a lot of these problems have been generating considerable amount of attention for years. But COVID really allowed us to see through a new type of opportunity and the value in the public asset that the streets provide. And so I think that’s interesting now, where the public thinks that we should go with that nobody really knows. But we do know that we no need to do something different. And so that’s what we’re trying to do in this paper is to highlight the effects, that doing something different, could have long lasting new foundations for a nutrient new type of transportation system. And it was only because, you know, Seattle has been talking about these things. I lived in Seattle from 1996 until 2001, those different types of conversations, they were exactly the same. There was nothing different about those conversations 20 years ago, right now, you know, when I was on the bicycle advisory board with Bill Nye the Science Guy in the year 2000, we were talking about the crumbling infrastructure in Seattle. Now, oh into COVID there was a window that really opened up and they said, Whoa, you know, we can we can do something. And so Seattle was one of the first to jump back into action, right. And they’ve long been striving for more equitable access for more people on their streets. And right when this the the pandemic, you know, that when the lockdown began, the city quickly unfurled a 30 page playbook to how to use their street space better. That was impressive because of this steam that has been generating for so many years that they now were unable to act upon.
Carlton Reid 58:55
What about w? f? h, where does that where working from home fit into this because if people you’ve got to go for a bicycle commute, you know to recreate your your bicycle work, commute, your maybe some people do that in their cars, too. So the fact that the pandemic has not just opened people’s eyes to to streets can do it can also maybe open corporations eyes to we don’t have to have people in city centres anymore. In inexpensive offices, we can order to have them out in the suburbs. Does that not mean? You don’t need these transport read transformations anymore? Or if you do you actually need transformations to happen. More car orientated infrastructure. Kevin,
Kevin Krizek 59:45
what under what condition would you think that you need more car oriented infrastructure?
Carlton Reid 59:51
Well, the pandemic has has frightened people away from transit. It might not have frighten people away from from from bicycles because that’s individualised open air form of transport, but cars have become incredibly attractive for a whole different reasons. So cars, you know, previously, you know, status reasons, sex reasons, all sorts of different reasons why cars have always been fantastic, convenient, all of these different things, but now you have the added benefit of you’re no longer you’re in a kind of a like a safe space away from the virus. So people are just jumping into their cars more, so shouldn’t we be encouraging that building for more car infrastructure because people are gonna want to be in their cars?
Kevin Krizek 1:00:40
Yeah, the whole notion of using cars as a PPE a personal protection device, frankly, it’s folly. And we’re gonna get, we’re gonna see transportation systems evolve past this. Now, the great unknown is everybody tries to look into the crystal ball and figure out what the heck’s going to happen with respect to commute patterns, and overall, you know, types of VMT? You know, nobody knows the answers to these things. And yes, there’s going to be a decline in the economic vitality of downtown areas as their business and multi level. multi level skyscrapers, you know, become a little bit more obsolete, right. However, what this does suggest, I think, is that there’s increasing pressure being sent being placed on the sense of place in communities. All right, and so more people are going to want to invest more heavily in the areas that are within a quarter mile, a half mile, three miles of where they were
Carlton Reid 1:01:39
15 minute city, kind of,
Kevin Krizek 1:01:40
yeah, the 15, 20 minutes city. And so if we try to prise that as a new form of it, there’s nothing new about it, other than the fact that people are talking about it more now, right. And so if we prize that as a new paradigm, what that really does suggest is that we don’t need this exhaustive infrastructure that has been so carefully manipulated, and so carefully sold to us for the past number of years, there is, you know, that that excess vehicle space that’s sitting in cities, it’s a liability. And it can be repurposed.
Carlton Reid 1:02:18
Kevin we’ve seen we’ve seen during the pandemic, when, when the emergency pop ups when the bike lanes went in, an awful lot of blame for lack of retail sales, in the downtown areas, was suddenly put on these these emergency bike lanes. And of course, it’s just you wouldn’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand No, it was the pandemic. Yeah, that’s why people aren’t shopping. That’s why people aren’t going into bars. It’s not the bike lanes, but an awful lot of politicians and planners and and and letters to social media, and newspapers, etc, have blamed bicycle lanes. So do you think going forward, that any changes that actually happen, will, will then be will be blamed on that the lack of vitality in city centres will be blamed on on bike lanes?
Kevin Krizek 1:03:19
Yeah, there’s always going to be a culprit to every single social change that happens. And when I say a culprit, you know, there’s going to be some sort of disruption in the the economic system. And so for that economic system, it’s going to result in, you know, negative impacts for some and positive impacts for others. But we have to look at these things over the long term, Carlton, you know, a lot of these cities were, for example, saying that they couldn’t adopt these slow street programmes. Why? Because they were going to be too expensive. Well, again, that’s folly. They’re too expensive in the short term over this month, next month, they may be four months from now. Because why? Well, they need to have type three MUCD barriers, and, you know, where are they going to get those, they’re going to need to rent them and there are their offices are already economically strained. And now we’re going to have to hire more professionals and more personnel to move these signs and, and make sure that they’re placed in that and that we’re gonna have to monitor it. And this is all folly, why because we’re doing something different. But over the long run, if we look at how we’re spending, how we’ve been spending out of transportation, infrastructure, money to support cars, and we look at a new model, a new paradigm, and you know, try to monetize it over 10, 20 years, we’re gonna see that we’re going to be winning out and in the long run, undoubtedly,
Carlton Reid 1:04:41
Meredith you live in a country and I also live in a country and this is different to where Kevin lives. But we live in countries where this pretty hefty gas taxes you know, you you have to pay a lot for your petrol for your fuel or your to fuel a car. That’s is going to slightly change, of course, with electric cars, but right now, with a you know, it’s still a gas powered transport economy where we live, has those gas taxes. America, you know, famously, you know, I know people might complain at the amount of gas tax is going to pay but it’s nothing compared to what we Europeans pay. So in the in the American jobs plan in the in the run up to the release of this an awful lot of intelligent commentators were saying Well, obviously there’s going to have to be increases in the gas tax the might even have to be, you know pay per mile schemes put in none of those were in the plan. Do you see that as a missed opportunity? Do you think it’s going to be brought in in the future? What do you think was was happening with with gas taxes and with road pricing?
Meredith Glaser 1:05:53
Yeah that would definitely to get into details of the economics would have to be, I would refer you to my colleague at distasio. Who does who is an expert at social cost benefit analysis of transportation and active transport infrastructure. But I mean, at the at the core of it, you know, there’s been some great research out of, of the Netherlands, but also in Denmark, that for every kilometre driven in a car, we lose 16 cents as a society. And for every kilometre written by bike, we gained 23 cents. So, I mean, despite the in spite of the economic debate and, and VMT and, I mean, there’s, of course, there’s gonna have to be a way to fund it. But, but as Kevin said, looking at looking at this type of infrastructure as an investment in the long run, and in compared to not only the infrastructure of cars, but also what cars are doing to the society. There’s a huge gain. And that is undisputed.
Carlton Reid 1:07:07
But it hasn’t been brought in, in this plan.
Kevin Krizek 1:07:11
for again, you know, for almost a century, there has been an asset that cities have had in their back pocket, and they basically given it away for free. So, you know, right road pricing, trying to charge the user pays principle has long been criticised over equity issues. But to be clear, you know, all taxes, including today’s fuel taxes, they’re distortive. So, you know, we don’t want to excessively subsidise road travel, which has a lot of negative externalities. So in this respect, you know, VMT taxes, they’re a good thing.
Carlton Reid 1:07:45
“Editorial note here. VMT stands for vehicle miles, travelled. Okay, back to Kevin.”
Kevin Krizek 1:07:53
But we haven’t been able to politically crack that nut in the United States. So we sit there as as 18 cents a gallon, continues to go into the conference in Washington, DC. Now we need to change that everybody knows that we need to change that we’ve been talking about the need to change that for, there’s no shortage of ink that’s been spilled about the need to change that. But finally, we’re starting to talk about it again. And we’re not going to do it by raising the gas tax, we’re gonna raise it by raising, you know, the bite by imposing or basically enforcing a user pays principle. And those who really do make the most
Kevin Krizek 1:08:31
detriment to the types of infrastructure, those who use the these types of infrastructure, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be held accountable to pay.
Carlton Reid 1:08:40
Kevin, you know, because it, this will always be the thing that that’s brought up. If you’re, if you’re on a record, like local media on these topics, it’s a regressive tax. So in effect, it actually impacts poor people, more than rich people. So that’s, that’s always been the thing that’s that people, pretty rich people actually use against any form of road pricing in that you’re actually pricing not the rich people off the road, they’ll kind of carry on driving your pricing the poor people off the road, so it’s regressive. So where do you stand on that particular issue?
Kevin Krizek 1:09:14
As a society need to do a better job of providing people alternatives. And once they realise the value of these alternatives, and once they realise that, oh, we have something that we’re not being forced into. Therefore, we can take advantage of that. Yes, I I’m just as concerned as the next person about the regressive nature of some of these vehicular taxes that come that come forth. But again, if we continue to do the same types of things that we’ve been doing in our transportation practices for the past number of years, it’s like banging your head against the wall. We’re not going to get to where we need to go to address some of these major issues and major crises that we’re dealing with from a safety perspective from an environmental person. factor in from an equity perspective, again over the long term. So if you think about if you think about how much it costs to provide access to a transportation system, yes, you need to buy, you know, the cheapest you can get into it basically is a, some sort of economical Nissan, right. However, you know, as technology continues to flourish, and as the costs of these electric bikes, and maybe even small cars continues to decline, you can get into a transportation system at a much more affordable level, you know, for just a mere $100, I could put a, or two or three or $400, I can put electric motor on my Schwinn that’s hanging in the garage. And I can do almost as good as what I want to do with a car. However, I can’t because the transportation system so heavily favours car travel,
Meredith Glaser 1:11:02
fast moving, deadly.
Meredith Glaser 1:11:06
Kevin Krizek 1:11:08
But the industry is fast moving to Carlton, and that really suggests the importance of taking advantage of these kind of windows of opportunity that have been opened to us. And so I do think that that’s where if we can kind of seize this moment, we hate to look at the pandemic and say that there’s anything associated in a silver lining perspective with the pandemic. But this truly is a silver lining and these types of investments, and these types of street changes that we’ve we’ve seen, if we can get more out of them, and we can continue to nurture them to build more human scale networks and cities, that really Woods is going to lead to a golden ticket.
Meredith Glaser 1:11:49
And and if I just can add, you know, most of the infrastructure already exists. Right. I think that’s the beauty of it. And I think that’s the beauty of, of the street experiments. And sort of also what our papers showed is that this infrastructure is there, the road space is there. It just needs reallocation, and sandbags and sandwich boards in you know, during this time, a pandemic that we’ve seen cities use, these materials are cheap, they’re easy to, you know, access and to procure. And it you know, they needed the human human capital to get people out there and implementing it, and also people to evaluate it and see how it was going and engage with the public, of course, but the infrastructure is there. It just needs reallocation,
Carlton Reid 1:12:35
Where do you both stand on the very thorny issue of infrastructure, bicycling is obviously a social good. But it’s also something that not everybody kind of wants. So it’s almost like a it’s not, it is a carrot and stick and you have the carrot, which is the bicycle infrastructure. But you also have to have a stick, which is saying, you’ve got to get out of your cars, that is to just supply the bicycle infrastructure. You’ve also got to actually get people out of cars. And using this this that system infrastructure, where do you stand on how big a stick how big a carrot and which is which?
Kevin Krizek 1:13:22
what we, what we want is informed by what we know. And the break now the only thing that we know is this huge bifurcation between either you get in a Ford Taurus or not, okay, you don’t get into Ford tours anymore, you getting a Ford F 150? Or are you getting this rinky dink little thing over here? Now, again, owing to the issues that we’ve been talking about that landscape, that context, that continuum is getting a lot more murky. And so what we’re being what we’re becoming aware of, are different types of mobility innovations. So what we want is being informed by what we know, but what we know is really changing really rapidly. So you know, pitting the car against the bike and pitting the bike against the car. I do think that that’s very 1990s. And we can evolve our conversations past this, and those who, you know, are a little bit more well, innovatively thinking, we can say, Okay, this would be cool if we could have this alternative that’s provided to us. And so there’s two, there’s two levers to that though. The first is allowing that innovative, those innovative mobility practices to flourish and right now that market is suppressed. Why is it suppressed? Because there’s nowhere in our streets.
Meredith Glaser 1:14:39
And one one other statistic I like to refer to is the the, the group of people who are interested but concerned, you know, can amount to up to like 30% of the population. These are this is a group that doesn’t ride a bike or other type of two or three wheeled device. They’re mostly mostly car drivers, but they’re interested in switching maybe some of their trips to another form, that’s not a bike. That’s not a car. So this is a huge segment of the population. And recognising that not all trips have to be by bicycle, you’re not, you’re not, you know, forced into any trip with any certain mode, but that it can be an option. That’s that would be one point. And then the other point I wanted to I wanted to bring up was one of the lessons that a policymaker in one of my studies, a shared with me, which, which was that this person realised, while they were learning about bicycling in the Netherlands, and in Seville, Spain, that, that that it wasn’t necessarily something that transportation wasn’t necessarily something that it was only about me individually, you know, that, hey, maybe if maybe if you only want to take a car, that’s fine, but you know what someone else might want that option. So it’s sort of that extra existential perspective of and that shared perspective of understanding that it isn’t just me, it’s also about my community. It’s about someone who doesn’t own a car or doesn’t have access to an Uber or Lyft, you know, that that person can ride a bike and will be safe doing it. And that’s something that that this policymaker has used in justifying and, and arguing for these types of innovations on streets.
Kevin Krizek 1:16:55
Carlton, if I could just kind of add on to that, in reference to the Buttigeig issue that you were bringing forth before. If I was a politician, I would want to be looking at infrastructure investment in terms of big projects, in terms of glorious, you know, impact, right. And that’s the typical way that we have looked at infrastructure projects in the past is, well, how is this gonna radically change your life? How is this going to add more jobs, etc. What we’re suggesting is not something that is politically sexy, right? We’re suggesting something that takes advantage of what we have already in terms of our existing infrastructure investments and repurposing it. So it’s going to require a different type of political saleability. However, it’s not completely crazy. And, you know, oftentimes, people look at this proposal that Meredith and I have been talking about for a year or two or three about repurposing our existing streets. And they say, No, it’s not going to work. You know, it’s, it’s like it’s a bridge too far. People aren’t going to be able to politically accept it. And so it’s just like, you know, we’re many of us met in Arnhem and Nijmegen. That was where the, you know, 1974 movie A Bridge Too Far, tried to document the Allies disastrous attempts to capture the German controlled bridges and the Netherlands during World War Two, you know, the metaphor here is, is comparable. And so we could use that to describe things that are just barely out of reach either strategically, financially or personally. And right now, yes, what we are suggesting is a bridge too far. But if we don’t let necessarily work to enforce some of the foundation or reinforce some of the foundation that allows these smaller vehicles to come to fruition in cities, you know, we’re, again, we’re going to be doing the same thing. So we need to, we need to kind of figure out ways and politicians and Buttigieg, this is one of the strongest recommended recommendations that I have for him is to, you know, ensure that there is faith in the ability for the American road system to innovate and become more pedestrian and human scaled, focused, and not necessarily just it continue to exasperate the steps that with that, that stifle innovation on our streets.
Carlton Reid 1:19:13
So that was one suggestion that you’ve given to really judge that Now, before we started recording, in fact, a while before we started recording, in fact, it was the email of tennis before we we started the show. I gave me some homework, because you asked me Kevin, you asked me what what kind of zinger questions you’re gonna be throwing at us? And I said, Well, I don’t actually know I just did I just the questions come up organically during the show itself. However, there’s the ones there’s one question which I gave you which which you must now give me the answers to because you’ve researched it in depth because I gave it to you in advance. And you only gave me one part of it there. And that is if you were Mayor Pete In this elevated role as Secretary of Transportation, what would be your five priorities? So starting with you, Kevin, and then we’ll, we’ll go into marriage and maybe Meredith, you’re gonna have the same priorities. As Kevin, I don’t know. But let’s let’s just say So Kevin, your your five priorities if you were Mayor Pete in his role right now?
Kevin Krizek 1:20:22
Well, I’d like to say at the outset, that one always gets into a little bit of trouble the as soon as they start colouring outside of their lanes. So I realised that Mayor Pete is the Secretary of Transportation and in so in this post, he’s responsible for all aspects of transportation, rail, air, logistics, maritime, everything across the the full gamut, the recommendations that I have, for him, are much more pared down to if we were to consider how to really radically improve the quality of life for where four out of every five Americans live. And that, again, that isn’t cities, in suburban areas, four out of five Americans live in urban areas, we can really move the needle very quickly. But to do to do so we need to rethink a lot of different initiatives. So the first is to really just get out of the way, get out of the way and wet by that mean, work to break down some of the laws, the design standards, the regulatory structures, that stifle innovation. There’s no shortage of current rules that are on the books that stifle innovation. The second is to really provide incentives for smaller vehicles to thrive in the form of both electric charging stations, and in the form of really seeing how they can more proliferate in cities. The third is to provide increased funding for any type of incentive that that allows these types of these types of initiatives to trickle down into cities. Okay, cities are hurting financially right now. Particularly with with respect to COVID. And if we can put forth a strategy, where, you know, new resources would be allowed, be available for them to try things that they haven’t tried in the past, that would go a huge, long way. The fourth is to really help a public outreach campaign, which goes to what I was saying earlier, you know, if we continue to do the things that we’ve been doing, we’re going to continue to banging our head against the wall, we need to try and do something different, we need to innovate, okay. And that really requires allowing the public to be brought on board. And there’s no shortage of public participation strategies that will allow that to come to fruition. I’m happy to talk more about them. And the fight in the fifth is to lead by example, I think he’s doing some things along those lines right now. But really, to say, Well, you know, what? Look, our Secretary of Transportation is serving as a role model in the way he gets around town. Let’s try to replicate some of that.
Carlton Reid 1:23:23
So Meredith coming to you and ask you the same questions. But he’s doing a Rutte, he’s he’s cycling to work. So that that’s, that’s a good thing.
Meredith Glaser 1:23:32
Meredith Glaser 1:23:34
I mean, that’s definitely one of my that’s definitely Yeah, that was definitely one of mine from the get go is instilling this, this pride in in, you know, and role modelling, what you can do as a citizen, which is yet to ride and, you know, it’s again, it’s not necessarily a bike, but, but, but other types of other types of ways of getting around. And I would hope that also means, you know, when he if he’s in other places in the US visiting, that he and his staff also get around by using the local bike share or hopping on one of the, you know, the kick scooters or whatever. That would be a great way to show the public. You know, those who voted for him for the, for Biden or not, that, you know, I can do this and I can get around. And that’s been a major, major point of, in our own research here, that in the Netherlands, that the act of royalty and the Prime Minister and mayors, political officials, you know, being seen right around to writing, riding the bicycle around town, but also being photographed on you know, very average normal bicycles is something that has showed that there’s, you know, that there’s a Cultural Heritage around this. And it’s also a demonstration that they are one of the Dutch people, right that they are no better or no worse. They’re just like a regular person. And so I think that’s also an interesting aspect of it that he doesn’t have to be riding on, you know, the most recent. What was the bicycle you mentioned before, you know, $2,000 bicycle, like, let’s, let’s see him on your average Schwinn, that’s from the local shop, you know, I think that would be really great. Yeah, so that was, that was definitely one of my, one of my points. And I don’t I don’t think I really have five, I think it can be boiled down to three, one being the playing a role model. But and many of my points also, Echo Kevin’s especially around design guidelines and restrictions around what to how to how to design streets, but really giving cities what they need. And again, you know, I am not an expert on national level policy. My research focuses on the local level and regional level. So regard, yeah, regardless of of all the other obligations he has within transportation, but when it comes to streets, and and, and roads, I think empowering cities to do what they need to do it, that would be very, that would be that would move the needle forward. In terms of funding in terms of restrictions, public process, legal risk design guidelines, all those things, cities are all unique, and that he’s a mayor is a true asset, because he understands what that means at the local level. But not all cities are strong Mayor cities. So in fact, you know, it’s about half and half that there’s a there’s a strong Mayor system or, or a council manager system. So every city has its own unique governance processes, its own relationships with the state transportation departments, it’s its own stakeholders. And so really letting them lead, the way would be really would be really great. But on the other hand, at the national level, I would be really curious to explore some sort of national sustainable mobility strategy for reducing car dependency within one generation. A lot of cities are producing such documents as a roadmap for their future.
Meredith Glaser 1:27:53
And I think at a national level, I don’t know what that would look like, but I think it would provide cities and, and states legitimacy to move to keep moving forward. And also, you know, articulate visions that are beyond the status quo. I mean, if we want to reduce single occupancy car trips, from what they are now, which is 75, to 80%, to even just below 50%, which is what you see in a lot of the sustainable urban mobility plans in US cities right now is to achieve below 50% then, you know, we really need to empower the urban regions with the tools and resources, they need to be calm that multimodal transportation, or to offer multimodal transportation networks and to build them faster. So I mean, that’s it’s a big, it would be a big undertaking, I understand. But I think it could really produce a guideline for. Well, that’s a big life.
Kevin Krizek 1:29:02
We can really boil it down to one thing here, Carlton, and that’s, and that’s to be a leader in this space. Elected officials, practice Sure, practitioners, advocates, researchers, we’ve all been talking about the same thing here. And that’s to seek for ways to people to easily get around using vehicles that are environmentally economically socially sound. So first, these vehicles should be quiet and emit as little carbon as possible. They should prioritise the simplest effective solution with the fewest negative consequences in third. You know, not all technical experts and Policy Advocates agree here. But we as these vehicles should mostly operate at speeds that allow space to be shared between many different types of users doing many different types of things and be space sufficient in their own right. We don’t need more research. We don’t need more regression analyses to suggest that these are three principles that leaders should basically stand behind to prioritise in evolving transportation systems. So I applaud Mayor Pete coming out of the gate, a guns a blazing by saying very, you know, optimistic and you know, somewhat kind of suspect ideas that are going to create a little bit of rankle in in some people. But if he continues to lead in these ways to prioritise these types of components of a transportation system that I’ve just articulated, you know, we’re going to be a lot better off than we are, if we just continue to go in this kind of four year cycle four year cycle, where politicians are trying to achieve glamour for the latest and greatest infrastructure problem.
Carlton Reid 1:30:42
Now, in your paper, I, one thing that I haven’t mentioned so far, which I did pick out which which is, I think is emphasised here is you’re talking about, all of these things that we should be talking about today, are the undeniable direction in the 22nd century. So that’s kind of a long way away. 22nd century? Is that what you meant you meant? that far away, that’s what that’s how long it’s gonna take.
Kevin Krizek 1:31:16
No, that’s not how long it’s gonna take. We can, we can make a noticeable change on these initiatives within the next 510 years. However, if you look way into the future, which that was intended to kind of suggest, oh, wow, if we look way into the future, you know, we are likely going to be still operating as humans, we’re still not going to be robots, we’re still not going to, we’re still going to want our autonomy in terms of how we travel. And it’s clear that the there’s more writing on the wall to suggest that allowing an amplifying humans to get around in ways that are quicker and more nimble, are going to win out in the long run. And if we pride if we prize the human scaled technology, and mobility and personal skill, mobility innovations in this respect, that’s what’s going to win out in the long run. And so I do think that we can kind of hold out hope for those, that those types of innovations, whether they whether they come in five years, or whether they come in 85 years.
Carlton Reid 1:32:24
I hope it’s five years.
Kevin Krizek 1:32:28
Carlton Reid 1:32:29
Kevin and Meredith has been absolutely fascinating. Thank you ever so much for talking to us today. Now, now’s the chance to plug your paper. I will, I will, of course provide a link to the paper if the URL that you’re going to suggest is this gobbledygook, which which academic papers often are. But where can we find your paper?
Unknown Speaker 1:32:53
It’s open. It’s open source, though Carlton?
Carlton Reid 1:32:55
Yep, yep. Yeah, I was fantastic. I wasn’t I didn’t have to ask you for the PDF, which I often have to ask academics. So I grant you that absolutely brilliant. But where can where can people get a hold of it simply without clicking through about 15,000 URL digits?
Meredith Glaser 1:33:12
where you can definitely go to urbancyclinginstitute.com and all of our work is featured there with links directly to all of our studies and papers.
Carlton Reid 1:33:24
Thanks there to Meredith Glaser and Kevin Krizek. And thanks to you for listening to the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Show notes and more can be found as always on the-spokesmen.com. The next show will be an interview with academics and authors John Puker and Ralph Bueller. But meanwhile, get out there and ride!