Hosted by David Bernstein & Carlton Reid since 2006 Posts

August 10, 2022 / / Blog

10th August 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 304: In conversation with e-bike guru Ed Benjamin

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Ed Benjamin

TOPICS: The growth of electric bikes since the 1990s and their future, with e-bike guru Ed Benjamin.


Carlton Reid 0:12
Welcome to Episode 304 of The Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Wednesday 10th of August 2022..

David Bernstein 0:23
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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:03
Hey there I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show I’m glad to welcome back e-bike guru Ed Benjamin. Veteran e-bike guru Ed Benjamin, the go-to guy for e-bike growth stats and also the go-to guy for bike industry folks who want to figure out a complex sourcing challenge. And I said “welcome back” because Ed has been on the show before, but not since 2009 and I can’t link to that episode because it was recorded at the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas and was streamed live to a TV audience of … well, a TV audience. We talked for a little under an hour and you’ll soon hear why I call him a guru.

You were basically

telling the global bike industry, there was an E bike boom coming back in the days even of lead acid batteries. So 2025, perhaps even more years ago. So are we at that future? That you said back then we should expect? No, I think we are the My understanding is that

PADI IDC Staff Instructor Ed Benjamin

Ed Benjamin 2:22
No, I think we are. My understanding is that Europe, European European market is going to be about 5 million units this year. The American market is not far from a million units. I’m predicting it at 700,000 for this year, 880,000 for last year, but things are cooled off a little bit here. The Chinese market is more than 30 million. And

hey, we’re there. This is we are a significant and important part of the transportation mix for most of the world.

Carlton Reid 2:54
So you were saying that before? Well, people are saying you’re crazy. When you were saying that 25 years ago? Probably I was saying you were crazy as well, Ed. And I have known you for an awfully long time. And you were saying those things and people were going yeah, that’s not going to happen. And absolutely, as you’ve just said that it’s absolutely happened in China. First, it absolutely happened in Europe. I mean, America has been a slower burn, hasn’t it?

Ed Benjamin 3:19
You know, adoption was very quick in Asia, partly because the vehicle was perfect for the dense Lee inhabited coastal cities of Asia. And because there was strong government encouragement that the Chinese governments in particular, recognise that the small vehicle was what their people were going to use and the small vehicles were emitting a lot of pollution and they’d better do something. And so they basically provided as they put it, strong encouragement for the electric bicycle by discouraging two stroke engines by discouraging mopeds, gasoline assisted bicycles, etc.

So they were fast, you know, from the time that the technologies that enable electric bicycles to be a commercial success were available, which I’ll suggest that they were available at the correct price starting in 1994.

From 1994 to the time the Chinese were reacting was two years to the time that the Chinese electric bicycle was all over the place in many hundreds of 1000s less than 10 years. And today, there’s probably more than or something very close to 300 million electric bikes used in China, everything that acid may still lead acid mainly. Well, yeah, lead acid is still a major, major energy storage device. There’s a lot of the wire lithium is the primary battery metallurgy for the Western market. Lead Acid is still the

Primary metallurgy for most of the Asian markets with lithium making some grounds make gaining ground I should say. So yeah, and that’s been an issue, you know, lead acid batteries, they for heavy daily use, they typically last about a year, and now they need to be recycled. And, and most of the cities of Asia now have vigorous lead acid recycling,

where in the West, we are using a lot of lithium batteries. And we don’t really have a way of dealing with the old lithium batteries yet. Because in the EU that just brought in a new rule that you’re going to have to recycle those. So you say manufacturers and suppliers are going to have to do something with their then EMI and batteries.

Well, and they would say we are doing something.

And maybe a more honest thing would be for them to say, we’re in the process of figuring out what’s the best thing to do with it. An awful lot of lithium battery recycling today is shred it and put it in a landfill. But I’d like to personally, I believe that it won’t be very much longer before some of these outfits will succeed in commercially viable recovery of the lithium materials, which have a significant value.

Carlton Reid 6:19
We got somebody but you got companies like Redwood materials who are doing it for cars. So that was that was a former

executive from Tesla who realised that this is gonna be a big thing. So presumably of if Tesla can do it for a company that sprang from Tesla can do it for for cars, bikes can surely do it?

Ed Benjamin 6:38
Oh, yeah. And I think that we’re in the process of getting there. Keep in mind that the battery package for car which can be 1000s of cells, and the battery package for bike, which might be 40, maybe 60 cells, different, different size of scale. But if we look at lead acid battery recycling, which is something the western economies do very well, if I have a lead acid battery, whether it comes from a car or an electric bike, I think there are four or five places that will accept it for recycling within one mile of my home. And we’ll see the same thing happen with lithium. In the end, we’ll see the lithium recaptured lithium metal, the lithium salts have a value that are going to have more and more value as we build more and more electric vehicles that use lithium for energy storage. So we’ll get there and there’s probably some lithium guy that will be listening to this and going hey, wait a minute my company’s blah blah, blah. Yeah, we’re making progress.

Carlton Reid 7:43
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you’re speaking to us here from Fort Myers in Florida from Fort Myers, Florida that’s in the news at the moment is Florida I know you’re about 125 miles away from completely opposite from from the building that’s in the news at the moment but you’re in your you’re in Florida.

Ed Benjamin 8:01
I’m in Florida and we are often in the news.

Carlton Reid 8:04
Now the reason I bring up Florida because it’s I’ve never been there in the in that have never been ever but I know that in the summer. It’s meant to be incredibly brutal to live in Florida. Now. Know what correct is that?

Ed Benjamin 8:20
Oh, no. I’ve been reading about the temperatures in the UK recently. You guys have a tougher than we do. We have a lot of air conditioning you don’t.

So you know, yeah. It’s warm here in the summertime.

Carlton Reid 8:34
And that’s a different sound. Where I was going with that was just is that not just somewhere perfect for an ebike because you don’t want to sweat you don’t want to you know go on your your standard bike and ride around but you might within a bike is that well, it’s a good place for e-bikes.

Ed Benjamin 8:52
There’s a couple of markets that really stand out for the electric bike. One of the markets is the older person who wants to ride his electric bike around often in the evening, often staying in the neighbourhood and chatting with his neighbours or her neighbours. Often couples riding together and we have a lot of that in Florida we have a lot of retirees that live in areas that are quite pleasant to go for a casual ride. And they’re finding that electric bike is something that they enjoy riding, it’s easier to ride and it’s something to talk about when they when they visit with their neighbours. I look at my new electric bike. So there’s been a lot of that that market is very strong in Florida. Another. Market builders very strong is dense urban environments, cities where parking your car is a major expense or a major inconvenience. places like Boston, San Francisco, New York City, South Miami. These are all places where they have owning a car is just a pain in the butt. And in Florida we do have

have year round cycling weather, although we also have some very serious rains that visit us most afternoons in the summertime.

But that’s manageable. So yeah, so the electric bicycle in the cities of Florida, it’s a natural, but the electric bicycle in the cities of the world is unnatural. If we look at where our electric bicycles used most, the most, I would say it’s flat coastal cities all over the world.

Carlton Reid 10:27
You mentioned the oldest demographic. And of course, that’s that’s what the industry was very frightened of promoting to, and they very much wanted younger people to get into into E bikes, it took an awfully long time of marketing to that demographic. Do you think the bike industry has succeeded? Is the bike a young person’s product?

Ed Benjamin 10:47
Well, one aspect of it is yes.

There are two things that have happened. One of them is the young people, I’m talking about the United States. But I think there’s a lot of overlap here with Western Europe. The young people of America are broke, they’ve got school debt, they’ve got challenging in income issues for most of them. And owning a car is expensive. So riding a bicycle. And remember, these are young folks are still perfectly capable of riding a bicycle. But the electric bicycle means they can go farther, they can live farther away from the work or farther away from the metro station. It means that they get to work without being without perspiring without needing a shower. So we have young people turning to this as a mode of transportation that suits today’s reality. We also have them turning to it for recreation in the United States of bicycles have been sport, fitness and recreation, that we even though there’s always been a relatively small percentage of our bicycle riders that have used them for transportation, we don’t think of them as transportation now and in Asia, the first thought you have is that’s a way to get to work or that’s a way to get to the metro station or the store. And you almost see that attitude. You see it in some Western European cultures to a greater or lesser extent of bicycles transportation, of course, in America that there’s no of course, a bicycle sport, fitness and recreation but but but but but mountain bikes, ah, mountain bikes, we love go mountain biking, we love to ride off the road, and somebody has been turning gravity up every year of my life. And as they turn gravity up, I find an electric bicycle allows me to continue riding in the mountains that allows me to continue having a totally enjoyable afternoon and rather than the embarrassment of walking up the hill, the so the electric mountain bike fit very neatly into American ideas about what the bicycle should be. It’s fun. It’s it’s fitness is recreation. And it was like somebody threw opened a couple of huge doors into the electric mountain bike world and said, Come on in here. It’s fun. And I think I’m quoting Gary Fisher correctly, Gary Fisher, of course, is a an institution, a legend in the mountain bike world. And Gary said at one of the trade shows that the electric mountain bike adds 15 years to your mountain biking season.

Carlton Reid 13:21
So that worked out there. Also, there was friction there with with with getting it on to certain mountains and in certain

national year properties where the Rangers didn’t want mountain bikes to be electrified. And they didn’t even like mountain bikes if if truth be told. So there was not much in there to

know there.

Ed Benjamin 13:43
Yes, there’s, of course there’s friction there. And

but I would suggest it’s really more from other users. A few years ago, actually, a couple of decades ago, I was doing an internship in Boulder, Colorado, and I was fascinated. They have a wonderful bicycle path that goes up the mountain stream. And I was fascinated by all of the friction, I guess would be the way to put it. The dog walkers hated everybody. The roller skaters hated everybody the bicycle riders are going this is our bike path. You dog walkers and rollerbladers need to get out of our way. And then there’s the skateboarders. And then there’s mom with us baby stroller. And all of these groups were trying to share the same piece of asphalt and none of them were happy with the presence of the others. What this taught me was people are a messy bunch. I don’t care what it is how far from the road it is, or how sensible it is. Somebody is going to bitch about it. And by the way, let’s not forget the horseback riders on the mountain trails in the back country. They don’t like bicycle riders, they also don’t like walkers. So are human beings going to just instantly say, Hey, this is great. Let’s share

not my experience. So I don’t you know Yes, I observed that there is this kind of conflict I observed that P

Pull for bikes and some of the other organisations have done an awful lot of good work to try to formalise the where you can and where you shouldn’t and to negotiate peaceful coexistence as best they can. I’m really impressed with the work they’ve done. But human beings are a messy bunch. They’re gonna grow up in each other.

Carlton Reid 15:21
Tell me how you got into the bike industry. And that’s before the ebike stuff. And before you owned a bunch of bike shops in Florida, so how did you originally get into bikes?

Ed Benjamin 15:34
Alright, my first bicycle shop job was in 1969. But before that, I was working at a McDonald’s as a teenager. And there was this nutcase guy there that had this incredibly expensive bicycle, I think he paid more than $200 for it back in back in the 1960s $200, paid for a bicycle was mind bending. And this guy was a big, strong, good looking guy. He was also working in McDonald’s. And I was fascinated by his bicycle. And I said, What is this all about? This is this is a racing bicycle. It’s a real racing bicycle. And I thought that was just the coolest thing. I just was absolutely fascinated with the bike, I was fascinated with the idea of racing bicycles. And I got started racing bicycles as a result of Bob Easton and his Raleigh professional that he rode, rode to McDonald’s as his way to get to work. So I followed along behind Bob Easton, learned to be a bicycle racer, won a few races last a lot of races, wound up working in bicycle shops, as many bicycle racers do. And so I was a skinny teenager on a crappy bicycle, who rode so much that he won races and that allowed him to buy a better bicycle. And that’s how I got started.

Carlton Reid 16:48
So that was your archetypal bike, boom. 70s bike boom person in 1969, you know, 70

That’s, that’s when the, you know, the National Geographic is covering it and saying there’s a boom in bikes happening. So you’re that guy?

Ed Benjamin 17:04
Well, if you look at the movie, Breaking Away, some of the people that were extras in that movie were the people that I rode with, and, and that movie resonated with us. That was us.

Even down to the very ugly shorts that caused every girl that saw us and them to go, ooh.

Carlton Reid 17:25
Okay, and you’ve segued from that into owning bike shops. How did that happen?

Ed Benjamin 17:33
Oh, I Well, I worked at bicycle shops assembling bicycles. I later wound up managing bike shops. And then, you know, I went to the University learn to went and got a degree that would not allow me to make a living, got out of the university and said, Well, one thing I do know how to do is work in a bicycle shop. And my father and I identified Fort Myers, Florida as a promising market. We bought a bicycle shop that existed in Fort Myers and we started operating that store and we kept we expanded it into four stores. And then to, to, to beat you to the next question in the in the 1990s. My father passed away from cancer my, what my chief financial officer who was my wife, decided she didn’t want to be married to me. So she became an ex wife, my store manager, my brother got hit and killed in a car bicycle accident, and I’m going I don’t want to be in the bicycle shop anymore.

I’d been good at it, but I didn’t want to do it anymore. But I was totally fascinated with this new thing called electric bicycles. And that’s how I got interested in started chasing electric bicycles

Carlton Reid 18:45
that kind of Lee Iacocca kind of period?

Ed Benjamin 18:52
Lee Iacocca was talking about electric bicycles very close to the same time. And I frankly, I found his vision or the things that he said I found him inspiring,

Carlton Reid 19:03
describe, describe who he is, an executive from the motor trade basically?

Ed Benjamin 19:09
Yeah, here’s an executive who had had been involved at the Ford Motor Company and and Chrysler Motor Company, highly articulate, very good crews, charismatic.

You know, and here was a guy who was famous for bringing the Ford Mustang into existence. He had been involved in every aspect of the automobile industry, and he was an icon of the automobile industry in a very, very big deal. And here, he was fooling around with electric bicycles, really. And but what that gave me was validation. Not only was he articulate and and charismatic, and he was saying things that really resonated with me. But here he was making this stepping from the automobile industry, which in American minds is the main event, stepping from the automobile industry into the electric bike business.

Now it turns out that Lee was not very good at the electric bike business. But he definitely shaped a lot of my early interest. And unfortunately, Time magazine asked me, I think it was a 1997. Time magazine asked me for a quote about how do you think Lee Iacocca is going to do and I said, Well, he’s not going to sell 50,000 bikes in his first year. And leave parently took personal offence to that, and my chances of becoming least buddy died in that statement.

Carlton Reid 20:36
But did he? Did he not sell that? Were you right?

Yeah, no, his his his business success with EV global motors. There wasn’t any business success.

Ed Benjamin 20:45
You know, it was inspirational. But he, the market was not ready to buy an EV until he wasn’t ready to buy electric bikes, the United States and it wasn’t ready to buy the global motors bike. And Lee, who apparently was quite brilliant in the world of automobile companies appeared to be not very good at a small company, small startup company.

Carlton Reid 21:12
That wasn’t a pedal assist bike that was almost a electric motorbike.

Ed Benjamin 21:16
Yeah, yeah, that’s what we call a class two bike.

Carlton Reid 21:19
Now it was controlled by a throttle, but they did open a lot of people’s eyes, including yours by the sound of it to their sector. And then other people came along and started doing stuff. So what what were you doing in E bikes at this time? What are you physically? How are you connected to the industry?

Ed Benjamin 21:34
Well, in 1996, I decided that I was going to focus my attention on the electric bicycle world or electric bicycle industry. Now keep in mind that electric bicycle had really become a commercial success starting in 1994 in Japan, and there was we were in 1996, we’re reading about oil to Europe, the Chinese government is banning mopeds and encouraging electric bikes and so on. And, and I was

had, we had a customer in the bike shop, a guy named Dr. Frank Jamison, and Dr. Jamison had been investigating and researching the electric bicycle business since 1993 94. And Dr. Jamison got to know him because he’d bring these electric bikes in and he would need them fixed. Most of the problems were bicycle problems, by the way. So we took his bikes for him. And I got to know Dr. Jamison, and then Dr. Jamison, who was not a young man asked me to go to China for him and visit a trade show. And, of course, I was strongly interested in doing that. Although I was a boy from Kentucky who had never travelled, I’d never been out of the country, I’d never certainly never been to Asia. And here Dr. Jamison was sending me on this this fact finding or information gathering mission. And wow, that was such an eye opening thing is a result of Dr. Jamison’s introductions, I wound up going to a trade show in Germany, and then to a trade show in Shanghai. And by the time by 1997, 98, I was convinced that electric bicycles were going to be the main event for the bicycle industry, they were higher price they were they used up their battery, they they were going to be written more, they’re going to need more service.

This was going to be the moneymaker. I was absolutely convinced starting in 96, 97, that this is going to be the main moneymaker for the bicycle industry. While most the bicycle industry thought that was absurd. And I was reasonably well known in American bicycle industry, because I operated these bicycle shops and had operated them successfully. And I’d been around for a long time. And I had people telling me that you’re going to be broke forever, you’re never going to make this consulting company work. And, and there was a lot of doubt in my own mind. But

that relationship with Dr. Jamison, he is encouraging me to go out into Europe and Asia, and learn about it and, and make friends. And one of the things that happened quite a lot at that time was I would go to a factory, for example, TN di or Small Antelope in in Suzhou. And I would go to the factory to visit the factory and the people in the factory would say, what are you here to to buy? And I’m not here to buy anything. What are you here to sell? I’m not here to sell anything. Why are you here? I want to make friends. And that turned out to be a really good thing to really good approach to this. So I spent five or six years basically travelling around to the electric bike events and electric bike factories, electric bike component makers, battery makers, motor makers, etc. And my only intention was simply to develop a network to make friends to get to learn from these folks. And that worked. And the result was that I was early in and and

got around a bit. And that created the the foundation for a future consulting business and the foundation for what would become the Light Electric Vehicle Association.

Carlton Reid 25:11
Lever. Lava. How would you pronounce that?

Ed Benjamin 25:14
Well, I usually say l e v a. But we have other folks that say laver. Yeah, you know, I think doesn’t matter. Because

Carlton Reid 25:23
obviously, so that’s vehicle. So that’s not just, you know, e bikes. So what classify what that what that encompasses?

Ed Benjamin 25:34
Well, a vehicle, there’s a device that carries somebody from A to B. And, you know, we could say that, automobiles, buses, trains, aeroplanes, skateboards, the list is a long of the devices that human beings used to get from A to B. And when we, when we named the Electric Vehicle Association, we had thought about calling it the electric cycle Association. But the problem was that, or the challenge that we saw was that we were going to see a lot of, of categories of electric powered micro mobility vehicles that have that are not electric bicycles. They were going to be, we didn’t know exactly what they were going to be. But we could see these electric mini scooters that people stand up on, we could see

a lot of innovative electric vehicles coming out of Europe, such as the trike.

And since then, we’ve seen continued to see a very interesting innovation in micro mobility vehicles. So is the electric bicycle, the ultimate ultimate micro mobility vehicle. It’s a very good one, and it’s working really well and it’s selling really well. But isn’t the ultimate one. I don’t know. I kind of doubt it. I suspect that we’re kind of, you know, if you think about the automobile industry in its early days, 1906 1910. They call them horseless carriages. And we if we saw horseless carriage today, we would chuckle and say, Boy, they’ve certainly evolved. I think we’re going to see similar evolvement from the electric bicycle. My grandkids may be looking at electric bicycle and chuckling and saying, Well, that’s not what we use today.

Carlton Reid 27:19
Is your dog okay by the way, is it like panting to see you or?

Ed Benjamin 27:24
No, there’s some landscapers that have arrived. And even with the door closed, she feels that she has a secure security duty to inform the landscapers that she’s got her eye on them. I apologise.

Carlton Reid 27:37
What kind of dog have you got there, Ed?

Ed Benjamin 27:39
She’s a Labrador.

Carlton Reid 27:41
Okay. Labradors are not normally that barky. I was thinking of a different breed to that, but okay.

Ed Benjamin 27:47
Now she’s a four year old Labrador who takes if if we let her outside, she would run up to each one landscapers and greet them enthusiastically, and then come back inside and be quiet.

Carlton Reid 27:59
Yeah. No, I’m with you there. So going back to

vehicles, electric vehicles. I do see I did a story a while ago, two years ago now. Time flies, but on the the Canyon kind of electric car. So

you know, the Canyon than the mountain bike and the road bike people clearly think there’s a potential future there for an electric vehicle,

basically, but they were very adamant that they were in fact, when I mentioned the Sinclair C5 to them, they kind of knew exactly what I meant. And they knew that’s what they had to not do. Does that Sinclair C5, you know, not hold that category back?

Ed Benjamin 28:46
You know, I have to confess that I don’t pay a lot of attention to

anything more than three wheels. And so I would suggest that

the human race is going to by are going to start using a wide variety of vehicles that

have many sizes and many characteristics, but

I have reasonably informed opinions about ones that have two or maybe three wheels, and anything more than that. I can say I see it coming. But I don’t pay that much attention to it.

Carlton Reid 29:19
So your ltva Could one of the categories. There are the one of the kinds of . It’s not four wheels.

Ed Benjamin 29:27

I’m sorry, I must have missed something there. Maybe I am not familiar with the Canyon vehicle.

Carlton Reid 29:36
I think the Canyon is a trike it I’m pretty sure. I think on it certainly smart it was small enough to fit into, into into a bike lane. That’s where they that they’re, they’re pitching it.

Ed Benjamin 29:47
Alright, how are we spelling this?

Carlton Reid 29:52
Canyon, like the bicycle company, the bicycle company, it’s basically they’re doing a light electric vehicle as a concept vehicle

Yeah, which they did, basically electric, you know, they would they would have it was actually before they started doing electric bikes, but they knew they were gonna be doing this electric in effect small car. It’s not commercial yet, but just the fact that they were looking at this space, you know, for Canyon to do that was really interesting.

Ed Benjamin 30:18
Yeah, it’s been I found it it’s been around for about a year


this you know,

this kind of light electric car, I see it as a no brainer for

the dense urban environment that human beings are moving into more and more often.

Carlton Reid 30:38
But it’s also and we could probably build it using mostly electric bicycle monitoring. And I think that’s their idea. So this could be quite light, quite inexpensive and quite functional. But I’ve not been paying attention to this category. Because we do. I mean, if you go to the Netherlands and you go to Amsterdam, you see these kind of vehicles already dotting around that, you know that the bike paths of Amsterdam, you know this

Yeah, since at least 20 years they’ve been tottering around, but they haven’t taken off massively. So I’m just wondering what would it take to make them take off probably access to safe roadways, and of course the Dutch ride those things on the bicycle path.

Ed Benjamin 31:23
But again, it’s a simply a category that I have not been paying much attention to I recognise that exists. I probably would own one myself. If I were riding through the rainy days of Amsterdam, but I’m afraid that not my not my area of knowledge.

Carlton Reid 31:42
Okay, so um, wasn’t gonna go, I won’t go into like the villages type, you know, golf cart, electric car. That’s kind of not your territory. It’s got to go shape thing.

Ed Benjamin 31:54
The Villages using an electric golf cart. If they could buy one that had a diesel exhausted put up black smoke, that’s the one they would like better.

case you don’t know what the villages are a hotbed of everything that’s stupid about the baby boomer generation of which I’m a member. Yes, yes. But the villages are a concentration of conservative, upside down right wing. We don’t like anything that’s good for anybody else thinking. I’m sure somebody will hear this and say something nasty about me. Because that’s what they do in the villages.

Carlton Reid 32:30
I’ve done a few stories on it. So it’s an interesting place. So mid motor, hub motor, bolt on accessory to make your wheel go round. Do any of these things matter? Is it just the fact that you should be getting an electric bike? Or do you think there should be a form of technology here? That’s that’s better than the others?

Ed Benjamin 32:50
Well, they’re they’re different. They have different strengths. They have motor bike, the motor is inexpensive, it works really well. It’s almost absurdly reliable. It uses a space in the bike that nothing else does, you can bolt it into an ordinary bicycle frame. Wow, lots of advantages. Disadvantages, well, if you can’t use the bicycle, Trent, you can’t run the power of the motor through the bicycle transmission. And it’s, that’s what the great advantage of the mid motor bike where you’ve got the high torque motor of the human being, somebody called it the meat motor one time or the muscle motor, that’s a very high torque motor, and you add to it and an electric motor, and then you run it through the sophisticated and broad range of a bicycle transmission. And we have one impressive vehicle, we can climb mountains, we can go fast we can do we can wow, this is a great combo. The downside is that it’s more expensive, partly because there’s a lot more machined parts in there. And partly because it’s a generally speaking, it’s a more sophisticated and tightly integrated system. But the performance advantage is significant.

Other types of electric vehicle or electric bicycle propulsion, they’re very small by comparison, today, we’ve got a lot of motorbikes, they’re by far the unit, the dominant in Unit numbers. Motorbikes by far the dominant in terms of attention, because of their superior performance and higher higher prices. And because the people that saw them have got good marketing skills, the bikes that don’t fall into either those two categories, ones that might have a motor mounted outboard of the rear triangle or a motor that rubs the tire or some other innovative way, but for the most part, they’re really small at this time. Is there something lurking out there that’s just going to take over? Maybe? I don’t, I don’t, I don’t see it right now. Most of the other ideas are find that their useful niche or their commercially viable niche is as a DIY kit or an aftermarket kit, for example.

A unit that rubs the rear tire or uses a rear wheel as its gear reduction

is very inexpensive and very easy to instal. And that makes it a very attractive aftermarket kit, but it doesn’t climb hills worth anything and it you run it through what anything wet road or a puddle and doesn’t work at all. So the, you know, all of these systems have got their pros and their cons, but the dominant ones, the hub motor and the mid motor. Both of them have their particular strength, their particular application where they’re great.

Carlton Reid 35:37
Don’t be accessories, you know, those add ons, which there are, you know, any number on Kickstarter, anyone on Twitter, do you think that just basically shows you the interest in the concept, people might be frightened by the cost, so they kind of attach themselves to these lower cost options, but then eventually, they might buy that equipment and it to attach it to their existing bike. But at the end of the day, it’s been far better for them just to buy it in an electric bike, and then that’s what we end up doing.

Ed Benjamin 36:05
And that’s, that’s often their conclusion. In fact, earlier today, I was reading a interview from the guy that was running, super pedestrian, super pedestrian, commercialised the Copenhagen Wheel, which was an all in one wheel battery motor controller everything inside the rear wheel of the bicycle, very tidy. Got a tremendous amount of media attention got a tremendous amount of excitement. And I’m sorry that I don’t really remember a soft last name but a soft commented that one of the things they had learned as they sold the this all in one wheel was that an awful lot of their customers would come to the to decide that what they wanted was just a complete bike. You know, this business of installing a wheel fiddling with a wheel when you make a conversion like that. There’s no matter how skilled you are, or how good that kid is. There’s always a period of oh, I needed to adjust that or I needed to add this. And what what a soft says in his interview is they’re super peds.

Carlton Reid 37:05
Time challenge. Were the people who said I’m just gonna buy a complete bike. Oh, telling pedestrian, does that come in a bike, I’d buy the bike. I’m not interested in the wheel. Give me the bike.

Ed Benjamin 37:18
I’m sure they heard that a lot. Mm hmm.

Carlton Reid 37:22
At that junction, and I’d like to go across to my co host, David. And we’ll split for, in fact, an electric bike themed ad break.

David Bernstein 37:32
Hey everyone, this is David from the Fred cast and the spokesmen and I’m here once again, to tell you about our amazing sponsor Tern Bicycles at t e r n Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. Speaking of being able to ride every day as a spokesmen listener, I’m going to bet that you are the go-to consultant for your friends who want to ride but are an enthusiast and need some advice on what to buy. In that case, you may have people in your life for whom you just haven’t been able to recommend just the right bike considering their stature, age mobility issues or just plain hesitant to get back on a bike. Finally, those family members and friends can experience a new bike day with the all new Turn NBD new bike day Nbd. Okay, the NBDd has been specifically designed to be confidently easy to handle and easy to ride even. Even for those folks who might be as Josh Hon, team captain of Tern Bicycle says are smaller in size and have a hard time finding a bike that fits or older riders who might not have ridden a bike in a while or riders who might have balance or physical issues or riders who are just intimidated by the sheer size and weight of the average ebike. As Josh goes on to say the NBD will be refreshingly easy to hop aboard and ride. Now how can Josh be so confident in that? Well, it’s simple. The NBD has the lowest longest step through opening of any premium ebike. So if you know someone with a knee or a hip injury or or somebody who just can’t lift their leg over the top tube of a regular bike, this alone could make all the difference plus the NBD is designed with an ultra low centre of gravity and a longer wheelbase. And what does that mean? Well, it means that it makes it easy to balance and handle. And with a lowered bottom bracket and motor the NBD is stable for all riders and particularly inspires confidence for shorter cyclists because they can easily get their feet on the ground when they come to a stop. But the NBD isn’t just for shorter riders. As a matter of fact, it adjusts in seconds. Without tools by the way to fit riders from four foot 10 to six foot three or 147 to 190 centimetres. The NBD is also super comfortable with its upright riding position, swept handlebar suspension seatpost and wide 20 inch balloon tires need to load the NBD into a car. No problem, it folds flat in seconds. How about getting into it into a smaller living space? No sweat. The NBD includes Tern’s vertical parking features, you can roll the bike into a small elevator and park it in a corner of your apartment. Now with a max gross vehicle weight of 140 kilos that’s 308 pounds, the NBD can easily carry an extra passenger and plenty of cargo with up to 27 kilos on the rear rack and up to 20 kilos on the front rack. And in fact, it works with a wide range of Tern accessories and with most child seats, as I’ve said before, and this is important to me really important safety is a core value at turn. And that’s why the NBD frame and fork have been rigorously tested by one of Europe’s leading bike test labs. That’s also why turn chooses to use the Bosch motor and battery system. It’s one of the few systems on the market that meets and passes the UL standard for battery and electronics safety read the news and you know how important that is. Now the NBD comes in two models with prices starting at $3,899 or 3999 euros and bikes are going to start arriving in stores in Q1 of 2023. For more information about the NBD or any of Turn’s wide range of bikes, just head on over to Again, t e r n We thank Tern for their sponsorship of the spokesmen podcast and we thank you for your support of Tern. Once again, thanks for allowing me this brief introduction everybody. And now let’s get back to Carlton and the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 42:07
And we are back Thank you, David we are back with with Ed Benjamin. And Ed

is I think it’s pretty safe to say is an ebike guru and is and has been talking about E bikes for longer than 27 years. Most people are 27 years old, Hannes Neupert is probably now harnessed Norbert was doing this since the 90s

Ed Benjamin 42:33
You know,Hannes was also an inspiration to me a young guy full of energy, he’s really smart.

You know, and immersed in the details of the early days of this business. And of course he had his partner

I don’t mean partner in that sense. I mean, his coworker Susanne Bruesch did a was really good at articulating ideas and spreading information. And so we had Hannes Neupert who was absolutely visionary and and Susanne Bruesch, who was absolutely a terrific communicator. And then they had this large group of smart young motivated people that would come and go you know, they would

sitting down to dinner with that group at a trade show was a cross cultural

extravaganza and quite an interesting bunch and and very very influential over the long haul about what happened with electric bikes in Europe.

Carlton Reid 43:38
You went consultancy they went a different way they kind of went into

letting people ride these things so taking them out on the road on like a road show Yes. The extra energy roadshow in effect so that was obviously you know, lots of trade shows would have them but they would go out to other places and just get people on because isn’t that the crux of this is whenever you get somebody on an electric bike it then clicks it’s like you’re gonna grill that’s what it does I like

mm hmm yeah, the kind of the the the tailwind affect you kind of give you a sense maybe not so much with a with a hub but centre where the mid motor it just you feel like Superman or Superwoman you know it’s you know, it’s right

so if that’s the case, why hasn’t it? Why did it take so long to take off in America because you’re talking about you know, America is big into into cars is that just the only reason that the the ebike took so long to?

Ed Benjamin 44:46
I alluded to it a little bit earlier.

The electric bicycle was presented to the entire world by s transportation. The Chinese developed a transportation vehicle and they were the main event for it.

reduction of product, the Germans and the French and the Italians that were involved in the earliest days of electric bicycles also thought of them as transportation and presented them as transportation. Honest. And Susie presented this as transportation. And in America, bicycle is not transportation, a bicycle if a bicycle is being used for transportation, in the 1990s, early 2000s, that’s because you’re poor, it’s because you can’t afford anything else. And bicycles are for sport, fitness and recreation. And the electric bicycle of those days was

not very interesting for Sport, Fitness or recreation. So what happened in America, I think, was a simply a cultural phenomenon. We were shown this interesting transportation vehicle, and he said, No, we used cars for that. And it took a couple decades before the American public woke up to the advantages are the benefits that an electric bicycle could bring to them?

Carlton Reid 45:58
You also like I mean, our Europeans like this as well, of course, but

more power, more torque, and specifically a throttle. So in the US, UK, and in the EU, we generally don’t have the throttle.

Ed Benjamin 46:11
Yes, US has got on one class of bike has got the throttle. What’s the sales differentiation between those which which is bigger in the US? How are those sectors doing? Well, the unit volume is heavily in favour of the throttle. But one of the things that I’ve learned is this, the majority of the people united states don’t ride bicycles, they may have written a bicycle for a while as a child. But they’re not bicycle has not been for most people, like maybe all but one or 2% of our population. A bicycle has not been a major part of their life than one or 2% of our population that has been very interested in bicycles. They’re used to buying nice bicycles at the bicycle shop. And they’re used to controlling the speed of the bicycle with their feet, the harder they push, the faster they go, that’s to them. That makes all kinds of sense. But the vast majority of our population did not grasp that idea. As an intuitive, this is the way a bicycle should be. So they were presented with an electric powered two wheeler, and told this is an electric bicycle. And you have to pedal it for the motor to run and they’re like what, but when they were presented with this, and you said here, twist this throttle, they got that they understood it, it was intuitive, and it’s also easy. So in the United States, the class to bike is the unit volume leader. Now the bicycle industry has a hard time with that because the bicycle industry, the wreath at every level in the United States, is people who like to ride bicycles, or they are maybe often former competitors. So your BMX bike race or your next BMX or x triathlete, I shouldn’t say x, you’re you have this background and you’re working in a bicycle shop. Of course, you think that controlling the bicycle by how hard you pedal is totally the the correct way to do it. But the people that come in to talk to you about buying a bicycle may not see it that way. In fact, the people that come into your the most of the people, most of the American population will not go into a bicycle shop because they that’s not where they buy bicycles, they buy bicycles at Walmart.

And at Walmart, they read the cardboard card that’s hanging on the front of the display, and choose which bike they’re going to buy with very little in the way of expert input. And the that’s our normal American bicycle buyer. And the bicycle industry doesn’t like to confront that because, frankly, it represents a gigantic failure. We have not connected with most of our population. But most of our population does understand what a bicycle can do for them. The United States typically by something in the neighbourhood of 15 million bicycles every year, that’s a lot. And do we ride them a lot? Then? No, most of our bicycles stay in the garage with the been working as a laundry rack.

And if we look where do people use bicycles for transportation? You know, I used to tell people who want to see electric bikes, you go look at the back door of restaurants, the back door of hospitals, the back door, where people are who are working for low wage rate jobs, need to have transportation to get to work and there you will find a cluster of bicycles, or including some electric bikes. So that stigma, I don’t want to people think I’m poor. I’m not going to have a bicycle that I use for transportation. What really helped us with that problem with that with helped us with that cultural disconnect was when the electric mountain bike became a thing. Because when the electric mountain bike became a thing, it became absolutely culturally acceptable for you to be interested in electric bikes and to go out and get one and guess what they’re fun. One of one

No, my good friends is Estelle Gray and Estelle Gray and her partner, Sally? Are they sell the Edward Selia words as a former, I guess, not former, she’s still doing triathlons.

There, she’s a prominent person in the triathlon world, and still is one of the holders of the women’s trans continental tandem record. And I’ve known Estelle for decades, and we have discussed electric bikes off and on over the years. And she was, she would put up she’s a strong, sturdy girl, and she doesn’t need no stinking motor. And then she got an electric bike. And I think she got the electric bike because there was a mountain in between her and work. And she wanted to pull I remember the story, and I may have it wrong. She wanted to pull a trailer with a dog. That was a dog that works with kids. She wanted to pull a trailer with the dog over the mountain. And so she decided to give electric bikes a try. Last time I talked to Estelle, which was a couple of weeks ago, I think she told me that they now had four or five electric bikes, her and Sally. So wow, that’s actually not a bad synopsis of what’s been happening in the bicycle world, with a undercurrent that is really important, and it goes like this, we don’t make much money in the bicycle business, we don’t make much money on bicycles, we’ve managed to create the razor thin margins to the point where it’s almost a waste of time to try to sell a bicycle. And then electric bikes came along. And electric bikes were bigger ticket, a bigger margin, need more service, wow, we can make money with these. And so what we’ve seen in every market is the bicycles, companies and distributors have embraced the idea that with electric bicycle, they can make money. With a normal bicycle. It’s very tough with electric bicycle, not so bad. So all over the world electric bikes are the main moneymaker of the of the bicycle industry. And that means that’s the main attention focus of the bicycle industry.

Carlton Reid 52:03
So Hannes has famously, he’s rowed back from this a bit subsequently, but he famously said, and he said it in in various symposium or what have you in various shows over the years, that the mechanical bicycle is dead, it’s gonna go the way of the mangle

of the mechanical typewriter.

What you’re just saying there was almost going towards that. So is that something that you also see happening that just at some point in the near future, or maybe the far future, the mechanical bicycle is going to be the dodo?

Ed Benjamin 52:40
I think that the typewriter is a good analogy. I’m old enough that I learned to type on a mechanical typewriter, and I used to be able to type on a mechanical typewriter. But the electric typewriter was so much easier. And then the computer came along and we stopped even talking about it.

And I think we’re gonna see the same thing happen to electric bikes, I think we are in the process of seeing

an electric component to the bicycle transmission, we’re going to see that become almost ubiquitous, it’s going to become almost universal. And the result is going to be bicycles are much easier to ride and we might not even be completely aware of why

Carlton Reid 53:18
Is DI2 almost a stealth way of bringing, you know, electrification of the bike into a mechanical bike. So you’ve got the Shimano electronic gears, and you have a battery on on your frame, and you recharge it every every now and again. But it’s still a mechanical bike. But it’s not too much of a leap to think will, you would just have a smaller battery than a slightly bigger bed, but inside the frame, you wouldn’t see it. And that just becomes the form factor for the bicycle.

Ed Benjamin 53:48
Every bicycle will be electrified in some way, shape or form in the future.

Carlton Reid 53:53
Thanks so can you can you hear the gasps of horror? A? That that that that that? Just your acceptance of that, that the gas is horror from the global fan.

Ed Benjamin 54:07
I’ve been hearing it shouted into my ears for as long as I’ve been doing this and and you know what? I’m a bike guy. I grew up working in bicycle shops, I raced bicycles. I’ve competed in triathlons. I rode long distance bike rides, I commuted on a bicycle most most of the time when I’ve gone somewhere in my life. I’ve gone by bicycle more often than any other vehicle. I’m a bike guy. I’ve got big thighs.

And I get it. I understand it. It’s not. It doesn’t fit into our paradigm. And you know what, I also am willing to embrace change. And I understand that most human beings have difficulty with change. It’s not one of our skill sets of embracing change. But guess what? It’s going to happen. Change does happen. It always happens. Doesn’t matter whether you participate or not. So guess

What bike industry bike guys everywhere, electric bikes are coming, I shouldn’t say are coming, they’re here. And we, it’s in one respect, it is a terrific, wonderful, upbeat, bright future that we face. And yeah, if you’re the kind of guy that deliberately types on a manual typewriter, because that’s what you think is cool. You may have difficulty with this.

Carlton Reid 55:30
So you’ve got a consultancy, as you’ve said,

Tell me the name that consultancy, what’s

Ed Benjamin 55:36
Ecycleelectric and we provide research, we monitor imports, mostly to the United States, we were networkers, if if somebody wants to know, just you take out an example, if somebody said, which, which Chinese motor factory is the one that I should be talking to about this requirement, we probably know and we probably know approximately what the price should be. And we can probably introduce that client to the bosses at that factory, save them a lot of time and say and usually save them a lot of money.

And I would say that the that’s basic premise carries over to batteries, controllers, complete vehicles. So we we leverage our connections and our history, to help people that are new to the industry or need this kind of help.

That’s our primary function in the consulting business that and tracking and reporting on the industry now focusing almost exclusively on America, for tracking and reporting. We used to try to cover the entire world, but it’s gotten way too big. And then we have the light Electric Vehicle Association, which is perhaps a more important activity. As my wife put it, she says he’s like electric just makes money. That’s all it does. Light Electric Vehicle Association helps expand the utility of the electric bicycle or electric two wheeler. And that was the electric two wheeler and electric bicycle electric motor scooter, is improving life or offering options to hundreds of millions of people. That’s an important thing. And like Electric Vehicle Association has played a very small part in that. I’d like to point out harnesses played a much bigger part in that, but we’re all going in the same direction.

Carlton Reid 57:23
So my wife, you’re describing my wife there as well, actually, because we’ve got an electric car of hers that sitting on the drive doesn’t doesn’t move much. And she just rides to work. She’s, she’s a hospital doctor, and she she works at the top of the hill. So she goes on her electric bike pretty much every single day. What you’re saying there about, you know, improving people’s lives? Well, I would say if I had to ask her why did you go on your bike? She would say because it’s good for her mental health. It’s certainly good for exercise, because you know, you have got to pedal the bikes in the UK.

She just likes, likes, likes doing it. So this is this is a product that improves her life. Yes.

Ed Benjamin 58:02
Getting out and riding your bicycle, whether it’s an electric bike or a manually powered bike, or just getting out and walking to work or walking to your grocery store, is I think it’s something that resonates inside the human spirit. We get out, we move ourselves under our own power. It’s a glorious thing that we get to do. And bicycles. You know, you and I have had the same experience. bicycles have been a very important part of our lives. And they are an invigorating moment in every day.

Carlton Reid 58:33
Thanks to Ed Benjamin ofecycleelectric there and thanks to you for listening to episode 304 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Show notes and more can be found on The next episode will be out at the end of the month but meanwhile get out there and ride.

July 20, 2022 / / Blog

20th July 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 303: How five US cities built 335 miles of separated cycleway networks in two years

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Sara Studdard and Zoe Kircos

TOPICS: Urbanists Sara Studdard and Zoe Kircos of Denver-based nonprofit City Thread discuss how the Final Mile project and People for Bikes enabled five US cities to build 335 miles of separated and often protected cycleway networks in only 24 months, several years ahead of schedule.



Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 303 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Wednesday 20th of July 2022.

David Bernstein 0:23
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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:02
Widening a city street to squeeze in more motorists often goes through on the nod. But dare, instead, to devote space to cyclists and many times all hell is let loose with fear mongering about increased crime, elevated pollution and even worse congestion. Bizarrely and frustratingly, the planning for bike infrastructure often gets bogged down in NIMBYism, arcane budget negotiations and think-of-the-disadvantaged tropes that never get raised when it’s car infrastructure being laid down. I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show I discuss these issues with urbanists Sara Studdard and Zoe Kircos of Denver-based nonprofit City Thread who reveal how by taking communities along with them the Final Mile project and People for Bikes enabled five US cities to build 335 miles of separated and often protected cycleway networks in only 24 months, several years ahead of schedule.

Sara Studdard 2:09
The Final Mile is a really exciting programme that was a partnership with people for bikes and a national funder, myself, Zoe, and city thread, which we’ll get to third partner, Kyle, all worked at peopleforbikes. Previously, the final mile really set out to answer a hypothesis that we believe that cities could move faster when implementing public projects, specifically, mobility projects, I would say everyone on listening in has experienced a dream mobility network project that, you know, takes over a decade to implement. And we really wanted to ask us cities, the question is, you know, is it possible to move faster, partner better, engage more honestly, and then actually deliver better quality mobility network, and I’m really emphasising the network piece, a network of comfortable, safe and convenient connections for people who walk bike, take can’t take the party, take transit, and also drive their car. So also kind of removing this single approach, single project approach. And what we discovered is the answer was yes, we had the privilege of partnering with five US cities, Austin, Denver, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Providence. And they constructed 335 miles of new safe and connected bikeways moving those projects from concept to completion in only 24 months, and they’re now on pace to fully build. They’re playing networks 25 years earlier than expected.

Carlton Reid 4:01
Because famously, and annoyingly routes for cars and for motorists kind of go in nobody even questions. They just they just go in and nobody votes on it. It just they just go in and routes for for pedestrians and possibly even transit, but certainly certainly for pedestrians and cyclists. They somehow need to be voted in and that can take many years to to actually get past that stage. So what you’re saying is you can cut pass that

Sara Studdard 4:32
that is exactly what we’re saying through polling across the United States. We know that on average, 65 to 70% of residents have voters regardless of demographic and really location in terms of where they live support protected bike lanes, they understand that a variety of options for mobility helps reduce traffic congestion. You know that benefits, climate change, etc. What our communities have been doing is not supporting our elected officials not supporting city staff, and letting the vocal minority the individual with the power and privilege you can call a mayor on their cell phone to really hold up and water down potentially end projects. And we’re working to communicate, use political campaign strategies to help cities deliver projects that we know people want.

Carlton Reid 5:32
Okay, I definitely want to dig into not just the, the what what you’ve kind of described there, but absolutely want to get into the how, you know, how did you do this? That’s going to be the probably the most interesting thing for people to take on board and see if they can replicate these things around the world. But first of all, let’s let’s go into what city thread is.

Zoe Kircos 5:57
So City Thread is a partnership between Sara Studdard joining me here today, Kyle Wagenschutz and myself Zoe Kirkus and we formed a nonprofit just a few months ago, Kyle and Sara started off in February, I joined them in April, as a nonprofit organisation, consulting firm group that wants to work with cities, local partners, community based organisations, elected leaders to do exactly what Sara just described in the final mile. And we all used to work for people for bikes. It’s a national bicycling organisation, it’s a great group. And we felt that we would be able to focus better and deliver more if we kind of branched out on our own and and focused our energies on doing the great work that the final mile demonstrated was possible. So we’re super excited to be you know, talking to a lot of cities and hoping to kind of spread the word.

Carlton Reid 7:00
And tell me where you’re both actually physically situated right now. So I’m in the northern England where where are you guys?

Zoe Kircos 7:07
I Zoey, I am in Boulder, Colorado.

Carlton Reid 7:11

Sara Studdard 7:13
And Sara is currently in Denver, Colorado.

Carlton Reid 7:17
Also nice and also famous for bikeway networks. So you’re hoping to make what’s happened in Colorado after the last 20 years? become more common in the rest of the US and certainly in the bigger cities? Yeah.

Sara Studdard 7:37
Absolutely. Really a city of any size can follow what City Thread is delivering to cities, which is our mobility playbook, not only in the in North America, but we do believe we have some models that could also be applied globally.

Carlton Reid 7:54
Why the Final Mile? Where’s that coming from?

Zoe Kircos 7:57
Yeah, I would say that we talk a lot in the US about first and first mile last mile connections, you know that we have transit systems that can get you generally from kind of close to where you live to generally kind of close to where you work, or go to school or need to shop. But those first and last mile connections are the tricky bits that really, you know, present the barriers to people using an option besides an individual car to get where they need to go. And so if you solve for that first mile and last mile, if you get them from their door to transit or all the way to their destination, in a comfortable, safe and accessible way, then people are willing to consider options besides their car. If you can’t do that safely, then it’s it’s kind of off the table for a lot of people.

Carlton Reid 8:48
Now, I’m guessing each city is clearly going to be different. But in your playbook. Do you go in with an idea that a city is going to have a set number of miles of bikeway network, in effect, almost equal to the network for for motorists? Do you have to have a set number of transit routes what’s what is your playbook involve? In templating?

Sara Studdard 9:14
Great question. I would say we look at the US acknowledging that our streets and road network far exceeds the ways that people can get around outside of a single car. So low expectations on that piece. What we are really looking for is is there a elected leadership that understands the value of we’re having the residents have a variety of options to get around town. And are they willing to think boldly and move quicker push against the status quo, particularly in the US where our infrastructure projects just take like it’s a glacial pace. Second is, we believe that the best bike advocates are not necessarily people who ride bikes. So we are wanting communities that either have existing diverse coalition’s that represent public health, workforce development, climate, etc. Or understand that there is an opportunity for residents and community organisations to partner and campaign together. And then thirdly, it’s a city staff that is excited about being able to be bold and move faster. And then kind of back to the question around sort of metrics. We’re really, we really believe that if a community has a commitment to a network, any percentage that that network is built out is a benefit. The five US cities that we just discussed, all reached 50% of completing their bike network in those two years. So that means they’re halfway done with their planned bike network, Austin by 2025, will have completely built out their current plans mobility network, which I don’t know if anyone in the US has done, I’m unsure what you do with that plan. I don’t know if you frame it, or shred it, or put it up on a shelf. So really looking for kind of those key stakeholder groups, and then a commitment to high quality, safe and protected networks.

Carlton Reid 11:32
Yeah, that’s the next question to actually define bikeways. You kind of just said it there, though. So So basically, it’s got to be protected. For it to be considered part of the network, we’re not talking about sharrows. Here, we’re talking about curbs.

Sara Studdard 11:49
We’re definitely not talking about sheroes. That is an unfortunate piece of paint that has been sold to engineers and bike advocates for far too long. So do you want to share kind of what our definition of protected and separated as

Zoe Kircos 12:06
well, I would say that we definitely focus on what’s comfortable and safe. And in on busier streets for sure, that means separated, but it can also mean neighbourhood bikeways you know, slow residential comfortable streets that people are already riding our bikes down with our kids to get to the park or or get to a nearby store. But identifying kind of where those are and how those routes might connect. So wayfinding can play an important role. They’re all street trails and paths that already additionally usually exist in a lot of places. I in my previous position, I funded a lot of bike infrastructure projects. And usually the first thing that goes in is is a multi use trail. And people are really excited to have those and they are very well used. So that trail network, even social pas neighbourhood, slow neighbourhood streets, plus those protected bike lanes, on busier streets all together kind of form what we consider to be a safe protected comfortable network.

Sara Studdard 13:07
I would just add that intersections are also part of the network. And so ensuring that you know whether it’s a curved protected bike lane on a busier street or an intersection, you know, in your neighbourhood that when we’re talking about complete, we’re truly talking about providing people with the same experience they get when they’re driving in their car, very little doubt you’re going to get to your destination and kind of creating that connected network to ensure that people biking and walking have that same consistency.

Carlton Reid 13:40
Pete Buttigieg is has he’s walking the walk talking the talk, all that kind of stuff. But is the money coming to cities from from the from the infrastructure act is is the money likely to be there in the future for for putting a lot of the stuff that you’ve been talking about here, actually physically into, into on the ground?

Zoe Kircos 14:01
Well, I think the infrastructure Act is a huge inspiration and message to cities that the federal government is interested in investing in this network. And the cities that I’ve spoken to are, you know, really excited, and also really interested to see how that comes down the pike. But I’ll just note that for the final mile cities, none of them use federal funds. They all use local money to build that infrastructure. And well, we’re super excited about that infrastructure bill, you know, those dollars that are going to be coming the reality for federal money is that it’s usually pretty cumbersome to apply for it takes a while to actually arrive. And so you can’t if you’re going to build quickly, you can’t wait for that federal money to to start and cities in fact, have other sources of money, and they can direct it to starting that infrastructure and knowing that the infrastructure bill will hopefully support additional improvements down the road

Carlton Reid 15:02
you’re getting a huge kickback in the US at the moment for the the increase in in the price of gasoline and the cost of driving? Do you see that as something that you don’t want to gloat? You don’t want to say, you know that that’s that’s absolutely what we need here because you’d get shot down in flames. But is it something that you think will absolutely benefit you? Because this is not something that’s probably going to be the next, you know, few months this is going to be, you know, down the line, it’s going to be increasingly expensive to drive.

Zoe Kircos 15:39
Yeah, well, you said it, we’re not, you know, I mean, we’re not. We Sara drives, I drive, we recognise that people have many reasons for needing to, you know, use personal vehicles and in no way. I mean, I’m from Detroit, Michigan, like the home of driving a car and how else, you know, did not intend to for to get around for heaven’s sake. So you know, but I think you raise a good point that the increase in gas prices, and the technical technological improvements that we’ve seen come about in the past few years, really sort of set the stage for people to consider other options besides their individual vehicle. So E bikes, e scooters, shared Micromobility, I just saw a picture the other day of a new ups, quote unquote, truck that’s pedal assist, that fits in a bike lane for deliveries, all these different options are now available. So people, you know, have other choices. And when gas is getting up to six $7 A gallon in the US, you know, people are really interested in seeing what other ways they have of getting around. And now there’s legitimate options. And so we want to build on that of like, Hey, you can you can get an E bike, you can give up one car, maybe that’s doable for you. And then the other piece, though, is having a safe way safe place to use that, that ebike, you know, you’re not going to take your kids out, if you’re going down a 45 mile an hour road with cars whizzing by you and you only have a stripe of paint separating you from them. So I think the gas prices, that technology technology, improving more cities, kind of you know, being very serious about addressing climate change issues, and seeing reduction of cars on the road as a real and needed part of how they address that are all kind of coming together to help create this moment.

Carlton Reid 17:34
Because it’s the one less car thing, it’s if there are if there are fewer cars on the road, that’s a benefit to the individual motorist, for sure. For sure. Other people out of cars. I mean, yeah, okay. It’s tough to get an individual out. But as long as other people get out of cars, you kind of

Zoe Kircos 17:50
Yeah, you know, I mean, number one, it’s safer for everybody when more people are on bikes, and number two, you know, like, I have neighbours who are like, Oh, I’m not getting on my car. And I’m like, Yeah, but you want me on my bike, because that’s one less person that’s, you know, trying to get out of our neighbourhood at rush hour on Monday morning, you know, so that’s a good reason why if even if, and that’s been a central part of the final mile and city threads approach is that we’re not trying to tell anybody that they have to get on a bike. That’s not our interest. We’re just saying that it’s to everyone’s benefit and make it safer and easier for maybe not you but your neighbour to get on a bike. Hey,

Carlton Reid 18:27
Hey everyone, this is David from the Fred cast and the spokesmen and I’m here once again, to tell you about our amazing sponsor Tern Bicycles at t e r n Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. Speaking of being able to ride every day as a spokesmen listener, I’m going to bet that you are the go-to consultant for your friends who want to ride but are an enthusiast and need some advice on what to buy. In that case, you may have people in your life for whom you just haven’t been able to recommend just the right bike considering their stature, age mobility issues or just plain hesitant to get back on a bike. Finally, those family members and friends can experience a new bike day with the all new Turn NBD new bike day Nbd. Okay, the NBDd has been specifically designed to be confidently easy to handle and easy to ride even. Even for those folks who might be as Josh Hon, team captain of Tern Bicycle says are smaller in size and have a hard time finding a bike that fits or older riders who might not have ridden a bike in a while or riders who might have balance or physical issues or riders who are just intimidated by the sheer size and weight of the average ebike. As Josh goes on to say the NBD will be refreshingly easy to hop aboard and ride. Now how can Josh be so confident in that? Well, it’s simple. The NBD has the lowest longest step through opening of any premium ebike. So if you know someone with a knee or a hip injury or or somebody who just can’t lift their leg over the top tube of a regular bike, this alone could make all the difference plus the NBD is designed with an ultra low centre of gravity and a longer wheelbase. And what does that mean? Well, it means that it makes it easy to balance and handle. And with a lowered bottom bracket and motor the NBD is stable for all riders and particularly inspires confidence for shorter cyclists because they can easily get their feet on the ground when they come to a stop. But the NBD isn’t just for shorter riders. As a matter of fact, it adjusts in seconds. Without tools by the way to fit riders from four foot 10 to six foot three or 147 to 190 centimetres. The NBD is also super comfortable with its upright riding position, swept handlebar suspension seatpost and wide 20 inch balloon tires need to load the NBD into a car. No problem, it folds flat in seconds. How about getting into it into a smaller living space? No sweat. The NBD includes Tern’s vertical parking features, you can roll the bike into a small elevator and park it in a corner of your apartment. Now with a max gross vehicle weight of 140 kilos that’s 308 pounds, the NBD can easily carry an extra passenger and plenty of cargo with up to 27 kilos on the rear rack and up to 20 kilos on the front rack. And in fact, it works with a wide range of Tern accessories and with most child seats, as I’ve said before, and this is important to me really important safety is a core value at turn. And that’s why the NBD frame and fork have been rigorously tested by one of Europe’s leading bike test labs. That’s also why turn chooses to use the Bosch motor and battery system. It’s one of the few systems on the market that meets and passes the UL standard for battery and electronics safety read the news and you know how important that is. Now the NBD comes in two models with prices starting at $3,899 or 3999 euros and bikes are going to start arriving in stores in Q1 of 2023. For more information about the NBD or any of Turn’s wide range of bikes, just head on over to Again, t e r n We thank Tern for their sponsorship of the spokesmen podcast and we thank you for your support of Tern. Once again, thanks for allowing me this brief introduction everybody. And now let’s get back to Carlton and the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 23:02
Thanks, David. And we are back with Sara Stoddard and Zoe Kircos. Give me the elevator pitch on this the city thread mobility playbook. I know you’re kind of this is all a secret sauce thing. And you’ll want to actually get cities to come on board to do this, but just summarise the how how do you physically get cities to put these these mobility networks in so fast?

Sara Studdard 23:32
So the how I’ve got to acknowledge the why, which is city leaders face a variety of challenges. And we are also as communities failing to unlock mobility based solutions that help solve for those challenges like climate change, housing, affordability, distrust in government income, inequality, etc. So what the mobility playbook that city threat is bringing to a community near you, hopefully, is by creating an aligned partnership between elected officials, city staff, community partners, that establish a mutual beneficial goal that they all agree on. In this case, it’s building a safe, comfortable bike network in a short amount of time. And we do that by ensuring that those three stakeholder groups are resource that everyone who comes to the table has the information the funding that they need to be the best partner that they can be. And so from an elected leader perspective, persuasive media campaigns, polling city staff, we streamline political engagement and construction activities to accelerate mobility network implementation. And community advocates are a resource to do what they do great which is As grassroots organising community events, you know, local grant main theme to directly support residents on the ground. And with sort of kind of that, how we know that cities can move quickly, and deliver high quality places for people to get around their city in a very short amount of time.

Carlton Reid 25:25
And how white is this? How middle classes this perhaps not in reality, but maybe in just perception?

Sara Studdard 25:33
That’s a great question. I’ll start but I know Zoe loves to talk about this subject, as well, which is, you know, we can all have a piece piece, you know, we can all feel good about getting where we go, where we want to go, if we all have kind of a piece of the road access to the road. And because sort of our ethos is not behaviour change, it’s acknowledging the power and privilege that white people in America have to make a variety of choices, whether it’s to get in their car, or their electric vehicle or their ebike. And it’s also acknowledging that there are identities and communities in this community in this country that have been barred from a lot of the access that the current kind of white supremacy model in the US has supported them. And so you know, by working in cities like New Orleans, and Providence, we’ve seen that we’re able to create diverse coalition’s with diverse elected leadership, that represent a variety of identities, and that really look at mobility as through a lens of anti bias and anti racist as a connection to creating a more just and fair world. And I will pause there, because I just had a brilliant thought, and I lost it. So I’m gonna turn it back over.

Zoe Kircos 27:03
Well, just to pick up that thread, what we found in the final mile was, as Sara mentioned, these really put together these really diverse coalition’s of people who were supporting these shared visions, and the shared vision wasn’t always centred around, I want to ride a bike, a lot of times it was centred around, I want my neighbourhood to be comfortable to be safe, I want my kids my grandkids to be able to go out and play without worrying about a car speeding down jumping the curb and hitting them, I want to be able to get down to the corner store with my kid, you know, on a bike or on their scooter, I want, you know, a place that feels vibrant and alive. And where, you know, kind of the life that I want to have is is realised and part of that is usually not having cars driving down at 45 miles an hour like that, that vision, like we can all kind of envision that lovely neighbourhood residential street, and it has people outside enjoying that space. And usually, you know, just an empty space with only cars is not the vision that we have in our heads. So when we build these coalitions, it’s not saying you gotta want bikes, it’s saying, What do you want? What do you want in your neighbourhood? How are you coming together to support that? And what can be part of that? And, you know, is getting to where you want to go? Are your kids getting where they need to go kind of part of that? And what does that look like? And how do we weave those things together? So that sort of

Carlton Reid 28:35
interesting book that just jumped in my head that could that not just be what I want more car parking, I want to make it easier to you know, to drive at 45 miles an hour, I want to be able to go 55 miles an hour on the streets. If you leave it up to people. Wouldn’t that just be if you genuinely left up to people, which is what I want? I want to make driving easier. What’s your problem? Come on?

Zoe Kircos 28:57
Well, do you want to live on that street? That sounds like a highway to me. I don’t want to live on a highway. So when we talk to people, the places they most want to live, don’t look like that. And they often and I think you raised this point, Carlton is that we you know kind of that privilege culture assumes that everybody has access to a car. So naturally, you want to be it to be most efficient if you’re to for your car to get from A to B, but the reality is that most people that a lot of people, especially in urban areas don’t have a car. So they’re relying on other other modes of transit already. They’re relying on the bus or the train, they’re walking, maybe they’re riding a bike. They’re already relying on that. And so we’re just kind of glossing over the fact that reality that a lot of people don’t have access to a car when when we as white privilege, people kind of say, let’s make it easier for the cars to get around. Well, that’s not actually serving everybody in these neighbourhoods.

Carlton Reid 30:00
In certainly in the UK, I’m guessing also in the in the US those those high speed roads, those those highways with 50 miles an hour plus streets and roads, strode, as they’re called. Often people of colour live on those kind of highways. Right now, lower income people often live on those kinds of arterial roads now. So how are we going to be making anything that’s going to be good for them? When are cities genuinely going to be wanting to rain in those arterioles?

Sara Studdard 30:41
That’s a great question. I think it goes back to I A don’t have a solution today. I think if I did, I would hopefully be making a lot of money that I could get back to communities. But I would say that our diverse coalition’s that we’re building that are being built locally that are resident led, are at sort of the intersection of the question you just asked, which is looking at policy at a local and federal level around housing, affordability, workforce development, stopping more, you know, kind of working to stop highways to expand, acknowledging that we cannot build streets for cars, like we can’t build, that does not solve traffic congestion, or climate change. And so it just becomes a policy as and then kind of a true practical effort at a local, state and federal level. And I think there’s great examples of Providence and Detroit and Baltimore that, you know, had highways that ripped and separated communities, usually communities of colour, and they have through federal funding and local support, built green spaces and parks and neighbourhoods over those highways and reconnected neighbourhoods. And I think that, you know, there’s a lot of national groups that are really fighting to take those strobes back, and have the residents decide what they want to do with it.

Carlton Reid 32:18
And can I ask you both individually? How long have you been working professionally, in this sphere? When perhaps even before people have bikes? How long have you each individually been been working in, in this area?

Zoe Kircos 32:36
So I’ve been working in kind of the specific area of sort of bicycling and mobility for coming up on 12 years, I’ve been working sort of my role within city thread is as a grant maker and a grant recipient. Funding, you know, development, that area and that work I’ve been doing for who I’m going to show my age, let me think 20, 20, plus 22 years.

Sara Studdard 33:09
Okay. And I have been in the mobility space for seven or eight years, I came up through Bikeshare, in Memphis, Tennessee. And then before that, my background is in communication, community, organising, and coalition building, really around all things that make cities great from local food, to agriculture, to arts, to economic development. And so that’s one of the reasons I’m personally so passionate about mobility is in my 15 years of experience, you know, mobility is a key thread, and everything that makes a community great will go

Carlton Reid 33:49
for that lower number than, say, 15, 20 years. So that’s a goodly number. So my question and the reason I’m asking that question was, and I want to ask you, how has this space changed. So if you imagined back to when you started, both started in this space, and where you are today with what you’re able to do with with city thread, and the fast build out of, you know, not just one bikeway which used to be how it used to be done, but like networks, how different is it? And then imagine 10 years, 15 years from now, how different is going to be again, so each each same question to both of you.

Sara Studdard 34:32
I’ll go first.

Sara Studdard 34:34
So Zoe is that okay?

Zoe Kircos 34:35
Yep, you go.

Sara Studdard 34:38
So, for me that the change that I have seen is a real reckoning in in this is not necessarily for kind of the entire mobility sort of like culture in the US but a real reckoning. Even with how white supremacy has built our neighbourhoods in the in the places that people live in the United States, particularly around highways, which we’ve talked about redlining, you know, for borrowing certain communities and identities from creating general generational wealth through purchasing homes. And so I just see those conversations, you know, not not being led by someone who’s white, which is me, but by people that, you know, have been affected by, by how our country has been built, and how our country has barred people from being mobile, whether it’s socially economically, or getting from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. And then this is a little radical won’t surprise Zoey. You know, if I were to look 15 years in the future, I like would not, I would like to never see the word bike advocate. Again, I think that we are doing ourselves a disservice by whether it’s peer pressuring, or over messaging, trying to convince people to choose one mode over the other. And I think that positioning the bike, as part of just general community advocacy, is, in my opinion, a much more successful and inclusive, and really kind of concrete, comprehensive way to look at our cities.

Zoe Kircos 36:27
Oh, well, that was such a good answer. Now, how do I follow that up? So I guess when I look back to say, 12 years ago, when I first started kind of getting into the mobility space, and I’d been riding my bike for years, mostly because I’m really frugal, and I and I just bike was like, all I had when I lived in Chicago, I, I took the train, but or the bus. But you know, since moving to Boulder, I mean, the bike was how I could get around, and I didn’t want to have to buy a car. So. But when I look back, like 12 years ago, I was grantmaking. So I was giving out funding for bicycle infrastructure projects. And I would get and fund projects that, you know, you we all kind of joked about sheroes. But I was like super excited when some uncovered, you know, an unusual suspect town or or city said, we want to put more sheroes in I was just like, Yay, they’re paying attention to bikes, like I’m gonna give them money for sheroes. And then, you know, sorry, folks, but now, like, I would no more give money for sheroes. And I would give you money to, you know, paint the sky green, because it’s just like, it’s not really going to make a difference for people that is not going to make people feel safe, safe and comfortable to get on their bike. And so I think the shift in sort of what our expectations that are around how and why and where people will use a different mode of transportation, besides a car have just really shifted, and for a long time, you know, we had these people telling us well, I’m comfortable on a road, you know, I know how to obey the rules of the road, and I know how to ride in that environment. And we thought, oh, okay, if we just teach everybody that then we’ll be successful. And then we suddenly woke up and said, No, like, if I’m riding with my kid, like, that’s never gonna make me feel safe. And if that’s my only option, then I’m not gonna ride. And so I think that, that shift of like that, pardon me, guy that told us that we can just share the road with cars and to a different different understanding of, we need to create safe, comfortable spaces that really serve everybody and that everybody can benefit from is a huge change that I’ve seen, and in 12 years, and looking ahead to the future. I’m with Sara that I don’t want it to be around bike advocacy, I we don’t have vacuum advocacy, and we don’t have no lawnmower. You know, it’s just a way you get around and you don’t define yourself that way. Like I don’t define myself as a cyclist. I’m a person that does a lot of things. One of the things I do is ride a bike, and I just think we need to open that identity up to more people and not have it be so central. It’s not It’s not saying anything about anything else about who I am except for how I want to get around

Carlton Reid 39:22
Might people. cynical people of course, say you’re kind of hiding your bicycle advocacy? You know, wolf in sheep’s clothing kind of thing. Really, really you want just loads and loads of bike friendly streets and you talk about transit and you’re talking about pedestrians and what have you, but it’s the bikeways in reality. Yeah. Yeah,

Zoe Kircos 39:51
I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Sara Studdard 39:54
You know, I’m sure you and your sceptical people also believe that the bike lobby is like the Illuminati of bike advocacy sneaking around, but I was just, you know, people are dying on our streets. I think traffic fatalities is like the top way to die in the US. And that is horrible. Like, that’s awful. And so I would say to folks that think I secretly want a protected bike lane on every street. So I can cruise around every community I visit, I would say that we know that protected safe places for people to drive by walk, reduce people dying. And I think that’s something really personally Carlton, I’d be interested on your scepticism, hard to argue with.

Zoe Kircos 40:49
And I think too, that if we take, you know, like, in the winter, when it’s really snowy and icy, where I live in Colorado, I take the bus. And when it’s beautiful out and a lovely spring day I walk. And I think a lot of people just want to be able to choose the mode that makes sense for the weather, for their mood for their physical, state for whatever for where they’re going. They just want to have some choices and not always be stuck with one.

Carlton Reid 41:20
Okay, so tell me a bit more of where we can actually find out about city thread and the last mile part of it. So is there a website people can go to? Is there a Twitter feed? What can people go and have a look at when they’re listening to this?

Sara Studdard 41:36
Yes, we have a website, you can find us at We also are increasingly active on Twitter and LinkedIn at City free city thread. org. And on both of our social pages, we have links to videos, articles, that talk more about the final mile and talk about you know what city thread is going to be up to now and in the future.

Carlton Reid 42:09
And individually, tell me about your your where people can find you on social media? If If indeed you are on social media, not everybody is.

Zoe Kircos 42:20
So I’m really not on social media very much. So pretty much LinkedIn, you can find me Zoe Caracas on LinkedIn. And yeah, besides that, I leave it to my kids, they would have to Oriole and they would be very frustrated with the tutorial they would have to give me on being able to you know, that.

Carlton Reid 42:43
I was very honest, if

Zoe Kircos 42:45
There you go Carlton can put that with you.

Sara Studdard 42:49
It’s, it’s really fascinating, not only starting your own organisation, but really seen pretty quickly where your gaps are. And I feel confident that the three of us were probably more on the Luddite side of technology and social media. And you can find me I’m on LinkedIn. And I’m also on Twitter at Sara stud where I don’t tweet about anything related to bikes. But I think I have interesting perspectives anyway. Another thing she does, really

Carlton Reid 43:22
Thanks to Sara Studdard and Zoe Kircos there and thanks to you for listening to episode 303 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Show notes and more can be found on Episode 304 will be out early next month but meanwhile get out there and ride.

July 18, 2022 / / Blog

18th July 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 302: Three ultracyclists explain how and why

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Kabir Rachure, Josh Reid, Ruth Sutherland

TOPICS: Kabir Rachure was the first Asian to podium at the Race Across America, or RAAM, which finished a couple of weeks back. Ruth Sutherland was a rookie rider at this year’s 620 mile All Points North race in northern England. Josh Reid also rode All Points North but in preparation for the Transcontinental, a 2500 mile unsupported race across Europe from the cobbles of Flanders to the shores of the Black Sea.


Kabir’s RAAM podium result


All Points North


Giant Revolt

Luchos Dillitos banana leaves wrapped energy food (use code “JR25” for 25% discount)

Specialized Ruby

Arkel bags

76 Projects 3D-printed Garmin mount

Hutchinson tyres

Robens mountain bivvy

Stages computer

Exposure lights


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 302 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show is published on Monday 18th July 2022.

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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:02
Pain, sleep deprivation, hallucinations, why to ultra distance cyclists do it. I’m Carlton Reid. And on this episode of The spokesmen, I talked to three ultra cyclists including my son, Josh, he’s preparing for the transContinental, a 2500 mile unsupported race across Europe from the cobbles of Flanders to the shores of the Black Sea. I talk with Josh, along with Ruth Sutherland, both of them were first timers on last month’s 620 mile all points north race in northern England. But I start with a conversation I had with Indian lawyer Kabir Rachure, who recently came third in the solo men’s category at the Race Across America, making Kabir the first Asian to podium at RAAM. Well done on on your achievement at the race across America RAM.

Carlton Reid 2:11
This isn’t wasn’t your first attempt, was it? This was your second ride.

Kabir Rachure 2:15
This was my second this was my second.

Carlton Reid 2:17
So the obvious question is gonna be why?

Kabir Rachure 2:21
Yeah, because I was not satisfied with my 2019 attempt. Because I knew I can do better. I was trained properly, to do it and good timing. But you know, there are always mistakes when you do it for the first time. And you learn from those mistakes. So the first thing that I was not satisfied with my own performance. And the same day when I finished the RAAM, I told officials that I’m gonna come next year, but the next year was COVID. Then thereafter things were a bit dicey. So we went for 2020 to attempt

Carlton Reid 3:07
And tell me how long does it take? I’ve got here written how long it’s taken you but tell tell the listeners how long it took you to ride across.

Kabir Rachure 3:18
So it took 11 days 20 hours 43 minutes. And the cutoff time is exactly 12 days. So when when when I 15 minutes before the cutoff time.

Carlton Reid 3:33
My question before was was when I said why it wasn’t so much why’d you come back and do it again a second time. Although that was that was a good answer. It was why do these events anyway. So why can you Why are you a long distance endurance cyclist? Why are you doing that? Why are you pushing yourself like this?

Kabir Rachure 3:53
Maybe this is kind of an addiction. When we get a chance to test our own limits, that how much we can push as a human body. Okay? Normally, we are not going to stay awake for the entire day and do cycling without any event. So these events are a platform for us to test our own limits. It’s like someone is doing F1 The goal is to test their speeds test their equipment is the science behind all the machines and all. So it is platform for endurance cyclists to test ourself and to try to do better and always try to unlock ourself when we do it for the next time.

Carlton Reid 4:41
There are many ways of doing Race Across America. So you can do it in a pair. You can do it in a team, you take it in turns and somebody slips how were you doing it?

Kabir Rachure 4:51
I was doing in solo, so I was riding solo. So yeah, I feel the solo. attempt is the most difficult one, because the clock is still ticking when you are, you’re taking a sleeve break, or you’re taking some short break or something like that. So the in pair, somebody is on the bike when some other guys taking some break. But in solo attempts, your clock is not going to stop for you

Carlton Reid 5:23
and tell me your sleep strategy, because 11 days, how much sleep were you getting? And what were you? What were you getting?

Kabir Rachure 5:32
So last in my last attempt, I was suffering with a lot of sleep deprivation issues a lot of hallucinations. So this year, my main motto was to take ample sleep from day one. So I used to sleep after every 24 hours of riding for around two eyes. And thereafter, I used to guide for like 24 to 23 to maximum 27 hours until I feel tired and until I feel sleepy. So that was the strategy to guide 24 hours and to sleep for two hours and

Carlton Reid 6:11
tell me the navigation did because in many ultra endurance events, you can choose your route. But I’m presuming in the race across America, you’re not choosing your route. You’re you’re following a route.

Kabir Rachure 6:24
Yeah, exactly. So we get the proper route book before the gays it has like two months back the case, we get GPX files, that is also beautiful task for this case, because your team has to be super accurate with the navigation. Okay, you miss a turn and you go off Route for like entire 1520 kilometres maybe, and you lose time. So the route is planned route is fixed, and we have to follow that exact route. And then maybe we get some D detours in between if there is a flood or they get some construction going, or they get some forest fire or something like that. So we get detours. But yeah, it is pretty planned.

Carlton Reid 7:13
So whereabouts are you in India right now?

Kabir Rachure 7:18
So I’m from Mumbai.

Carlton Reid 7:19
And basically you ride like events in India? So you’re doing long distance events there too? How are you? How are you training for this?

Kabir Rachure 7:29
So yeah, you mostly I do entertaining because traffic in India, not that cycling friendly. Okay, so I can’t do vo to max session, so maybe sweet spot sessions on the road, because that becomes difficult or maybe dangerous. So I do most of the training indoors. And we do attempt a lot of endurance races down here. Because the crew needs that the touch, I need that pressure of racing, and we need that practice sessions. So we do attempt a lot of cases here.

Carlton Reid 8:08
And that’s, that’s, I’m kind of like sitting here thinking that’s amazing. So you’re doing an awful lot of the training for this indoors on a static bike. Yeah.

Kabir Rachure 8:21
That’s yeah, yeah. So 95% of the time.

Carlton Reid 8:26
When in previous, you know, Paris-Roubaix riders aren’t, you know, famously, you know, just come into the race and I’ve just done indoor training, but what you’re doing is endurance. How long are you spending on a bike indoors if you’re training for this?

Kabir Rachure 8:43
so usually, I train for 10 to 12 hours a week. One of out of that when riders endurance ride like four guys for maybe three hours on weekends. And most of the sessions are pretty planned like some of them are sweetspot sessions. Some of them are highly paid some of them are vo two Max maybe twice a month I go outdoors to keep my bike reflexes alive. I go downhill practice I do downhill practice I go some climbing practice. So that is how I do it.

Carlton Reid 9:26
That is so amazing. They are doing quite so much indoors. So it was quite a shock to be paid you riding outdoors for so long.

Kabir Rachure 9:37
Yeah, so I have done 24 times while also indoors and which I covered accounts 762 kilometres and I was off the bike for around eight minutes out of 24 hours. So yeah, I do like to ride indoors because there is always some entertainment in front of me like I can watch. Net lakes, I can watch some motivational series or maybe some movie, I can regulate the temperature. So body’s less fatigued because I do train in AC. So yeah, that that becomes easy to recover for the next session when I do training.

Carlton Reid 10:18
Now I’ve interviewed Mark Beaumont, who he’s told me about, he’s using glucose monitoring, to. So this is normally diabetes control, normally, but now athletes are using glucose monitoring. So I believe you’re using glucose monitoring, in the same way that Mark is used for performance.

Kabir Rachure 10:43
Yeah, of course. So we have seen lots of athletes like Jan Frodeno, you know, or maybe a lot of triathletes who use glucose monitors to get some gain in their performance. So I use it to keep my glucose levels and proper numbers so that I can perform well. I can recover well. And and, and I find I take care that I’m not training when I’m not fueled myself, well. Okay, so I use it to perform better and to recover properly overnight. So that is that has become super important gadget for my training. So yeah, I have been using it from last seven months,

Carlton Reid 11:35
I guess. So you didn’t use it in your first attempt, but you have used it in this attempt. So what is the diff differences? That is? Because you’re using ultrahuman? Yes.

Kabir Rachure 11:47
Yeah, yeah, I’m using Ultrahuman. And so on my first attempt, I was like a raw rider. I didn’t pay attention on these micro gains, like to be aerodynamic or to, to pay attention on your weaker. We saw on this attempt, I was pretty much technical about these things. So I used it in this attempt. And I can say that I was very much I had a very strong finish. Maybe I was the the winner of the guider who was vague if looking very fresh at the finish line, even after guiding 5000 kilometres. That was because I was fueling myself properly. I never under fueled myself, we were keeping tabs on our glucose level. When I was on higher range we used to take off for an hour, I used to concentrate on my hydration. So that was a big difference compared to 2019.

Carlton Reid 12:54
So you’re saying “we” there? So you obviously have a support team? And they’re helping you with a navigation and that they’re helping you with the glucose monitoring? Are they like, are they looking at your statistics as you’re riding along?

Kabir Rachure 13:07
Yeah, exactly. So that sensor is connected via Bluetooth on the mobile. So somebody from the following cycle. So there is always 24/7 Follow a call which follows me to keep me secure. And we are always connected with the Bluetooth system. So there used to be someone who used to check my glucose levels every arc to see how my body is doing with the nutrition. And they used to do all micro corrections when according to the heat, according to the cold weather. So yeah.

Carlton Reid 13:47
So in my wife’s a diabetes specialist, she’s a hospital paediatrician so I actually quite know quite a bit about diabetes, just from picking it up from her. So So an awful lot of the modern ways of of monitoring and coping with diabetes is there are pumps on your body that that feed you the insulin when you need it. So the equipment that you’re talking about here doesn’t do that. It just monitors how much you need and then you’ve got to physically put in the right amount of food is that right?

Kabir Rachure 14:20
Exactly. So how it works is there is a small carbon needle which goes into your skin and it gives you real time glucose levels, okay. So you have to train with it. You have to know your accurate levels. If I feel strong in 120 to 140 MG DL that that is not same with some other person. Okay, you have to know your own graph. Okay, sometimes I feel that I am pretty I’m riding strong when I’m my glucose is above 120 So I used to keep my glucose levels above 120 When I’m writing in RAM, okay, so we have to train with it, and we have to know our body. And thereafter we can do all these changes.

Carlton Reid 15:16
Do you find that using this in your everyday life as well? Or is this purely performance?

Kabir Rachure 15:22
No, actually, I use it in my everyday life, because as an athlete, and when you’re planning to do RAAM and all, you have to be fit 24/7. So I used to the habit 24/7, I used to monitor my glucose level, because I always do gym, yoga, even I’m working as a lawyer. So I have to pay attention to these glucose levels. So yeah, 24/7, I used to use it.

Carlton Reid 15:57
So you mentioned that you’re a lawyer that says an advocate in India. So I’m assuming your training has got to fit in with what I presume is a very, very busy job. And your training, there’s got to be quality, not always quantity, would that be right?

Kabir Rachure 16:15
Exactly. So a lot of people have understanding that. If you want to do RAM, you have to train for like 25 hours a week, or maybe 30 hours a week. But I always felt that it is always quality, what matters, not the quantity, because when you train more, you have to pay attention on your recovery. And if you don’t recover, well, then you’re going to damage your body. So I used to pay attention or my quality of the training.

Carlton Reid 16:50
So let’s hope for all of us we can ran just by running an hour,

Kabir Rachure 16:54
actually, because I just think that you have to do some long races, some good experience with it. And at the end of the day, Ram is all about your mental strength, and how do you cope up with your sleep? And how do you train because if you have good FTP, if you have good experience with the ultra day events, then your body knows how to survive with it.

Carlton Reid 17:22
Because it’s got to be you’re right about the mental stuff. And this is this is what I’m imagining is physical is one thing, but it’s it’s I’m just thinking of these hugely long roads in the Midwest, where they go on forever. They’re very straight, and it must be incredibly boring. So how do you how do you get past the stretches of America that are incredibly boring, long, long, neverending stretches.

Kabir Rachure 17:49
So I just wanted to share a very good incident what I encountered this time. So Arizona was pretty hot and 2019. So the temperature was about 55 degrees centigrade. And this year, I was mentally prepared for it. But this time I was on I was pretty pleasant like it went till 41 degrees Celsius maximum. And I knew in a long race like cram, nothing is going to be permanent. So if I’m getting a favourable condition at the start, there is something will go wrong on later part or maybe in mid part, and we finally got super strong crosswind in Kansas, and those patches are pretty straight. If it’s a crosswind, then it’s gonna be a crosswind for like 400 kilometres or maybe 200 kilometres and the crosswind was so strong, I was not able to guide beyond 1718 km pH on a flat route that is gradually down actually. So, so mentally I was prepared that it is going to happen and it is all about hanging there. So I knew that this is not even this is again not like permanent, okay, it is going to be changed the text will change and all but you have to train your mind accordingly that this is just going to be a face and it is going to pass. So yeah, this all is about keeping your head strong. And pushing till the finish line.

Carlton Reid 19:26
And hallucinations. You had no hallucinations this time compared to the first

Kabir Rachure 19:30
time exactly this time. I didn’t have any hallucinations. I was sleeping well. The feeling was proper. I was hydrating properly. I took proper sleep. And last times attempt in 2019 I literally forgot how to cycle and last 200 kilometres because you develop your mental fatigue and my who used to tell me that you have to pedal down and pedal you have To keep your balance, so it goes to that extent. And what you will do when you forget how to cycle in a bicycle guys, so that was pretty awkward. And luckily, I got my senses back when it was just 70 kilometres from the finish line. And I did my best average for that last 70 kilometre patch.

Carlton Reid 20:28
And tell me because the when there’s long stretches of nothing in Arizona, that 55 degree heat is like, it sounds incredible. But there’s no real huge worries about other vehicles and anybody running you off the road. But when you’re coming through cities, and you say the beginning and the end, I guess you’re then having to go through through traffic. So so how are you coping with that?

Kabir Rachure 20:57
There are a few states who are not cycle friendly. I think and the rest of the states are pretty helpful. I experienced a lot of vehicles were guiding, driving behind me and diving, diving for like 1010 minutes to get a sick, safe pass. Okay, so luckily, I get friendly people around me work not that the only trouble what we face is riding through the city in a daytime, you have to encounter a lot of traffic signals. So that breaks your momentum because you have to stop and you have to start again. And it is not something a training right? When we are bodies superfresh it is like you are guiding from last 10 days you are feeling sleepy, you don’t want to get out of your bike because your body will go go into rest mode. So that is the most irritating part. What I feel that encountering a lot of traffic signals.

Carlton Reid 22:09
Contrast as well. Because if you’ve if you’ve come from Arizona, and you’ve come through Kansas, where there’s just as long roads, and then you’ve suddenly got quite busy stuff, so you’re seeing literally the whole of America in one trip. So it must be a culture shock for anybody, not the fact that you come from India, but anybody would find that to be quite a big culture shock.

Kabir Rachure 22:33
Exactly. So I was even reading about the USA, and any US citizen visits 11 state states in his entire life average 11 states, and we crossed 13 states when we do RAM. So we actually cross more states than any US citizen. So that is huge. And as you said that the culture, of course that you can say it like Arizona that is entirely looks empty, like there are no homes for like 100 100 kilometres, everything is isolated, then you goes to Utah. That is pretty beautiful. It has some historical values. Then we entered into Colorado’s that is pretty cold. I climbed Wolf Creek pass and rain full time rain. So it was pretty enjoyable for me. Because riding in cold weather, I always enjoy it because I can push my body to some extent. And I don’t develop that fatigue. So I was enjoying that. And again, we enter into cancers and also everything changes like the landscape, the people. So yeah,

Carlton Reid 23:59
so tell me what are your plans? What are your next events? And are you going to be doing RAM again,

Kabir Rachure 24:04
of course, I’m going to do RAAM again in 2024 I’m planning to do it because this time I saw want to win it. And I can see that that is possible after doing for two times I know my negative points where I can improve where team can improve. And I have a lot of time and in 2023 I’m planning to do Race Around Austria, because that is very good guys. If we see at its climbing graph, so I still want to do the Race around Austria and 2023 and then RAAM in 2024

Carlton Reid 24:53
Thanks to Kabir Rachure there and now before I introduce Ruth Sutherland and my son Josh Here’s my co host David, with a message from our sponsor.

David Bernstein 25:05
Hey everyone, this is David from the Fred cast and the spokesmen and I’m here once again, to tell you about our amazing sponsor Tern Bicycles at t e r n Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. Speaking of being able to ride every day as a spokesmen listener, I’m going to bet that you are the go-to consultant for your friends who want to ride but are an enthusiast and need some advice on what to buy. In that case, you may have people in your life for whom you just haven’t been able to recommend just the right bike considering their stature, age mobility issues or just plain hesitant to get back on a bike. Finally, those family members and friends can experience a new bike day with the all new Turn NBD new bike day Nbd. Okay, the NBDd has been specifically designed to be confidently easy to handle and easy to ride even. Even for those folks who might be as Josh Hon, team captain of Tern Bicycle says are smaller in size and have a hard time finding a bike that fits or older riders who might not have ridden a bike in a while or riders who might have balance or physical issues or riders who are just intimidated by the sheer size and weight of the average ebike. As Josh goes on to say the NBD will be refreshingly easy to hop aboard and ride. Now how can Josh be so confident in that? Well, it’s simple. The NBD has the lowest longest step through opening of any premium ebike. So if you know someone with a knee or a hip injury or or somebody who just can’t lift their leg over the top tube of a regular bike, this alone could make all the difference plus the NBD is designed with an ultra low centre of gravity and a longer wheelbase. And what does that mean? Well, it means that it makes it easy to balance and handle. And with a lowered bottom bracket and motor the NBD is stable for all riders and particularly inspires confidence for shorter cyclists because they can easily get their feet on the ground when they come to a stop. But the NBD isn’t just for shorter riders. As a matter of fact, it adjusts in seconds. Without tools by the way to fit riders from four foot 10 to six foot three or 147 to 190 centimetres. The NBD is also super comfortable with its upright riding position, swept handlebar suspension seatpost and wide 20 inch balloon tires need to load the NBD into a car. No problem, it folds flat in seconds. How about getting into it into a smaller living space? No sweat. The NBD includes Tern’s vertical parking features, you can roll the bike into a small elevator and park it in a corner of your apartment. Now with a max gross vehicle weight of 140 kilos that’s 308 pounds, the NBD can easily carry an extra passenger and plenty of cargo with up to 27 kilos on the rear rack and up to 20 kilos on the front rack. And in fact, it works with a wide range of Tern accessories and with most child seats, as I’ve said before, and this is important to me really important safety is a core value at turn. And that’s why the NBD frame and fork have been rigorously tested by one of Europe’s leading bike test labs. That’s also why turn chooses to use the Bosch motor and battery system. It’s one of the few systems on the market that meets and passes the UL standard for battery and electronics safety read the news and you know how important that is. Now the NBD comes in two models with prices starting at $3,899 or 3999 euros and bikes are going to start arriving in stores in Q1 of 2023. For more information about the NBD or any of Turn’s wide range of bikes, just head on over to Again, t e r n We thank Tern for their sponsorship of the spokesmen podcast and we thank you for your support of Tern. Once again, thanks for allowing me this brief introduction everybody. And now let’s get back to Carlton and the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 29:40
Thanks, David. And now over to Ruth Sutherland and Josh Reid.

Ruth Sutherland 29:47
Okay, it would it would it be possible to kind of have just a little three way warm up chat. So because you you might know a bit about me, but I don’t know anything at all about you Josh, apart from the fact that you’re a civil engineer but not for much longer and you like riding your bike? Yeah, just just so so so that we can feel comfortable with chatting instead of going in cold. Would that be okay? Yeah, of course.

Carlton Reid 30:11
Well, let’s let’s, let’s let’s go for that we can we can do that for everybody here, Ruth. So So Josh, tell us about yourself then.

Josh Reid 30:19
Well, I’ve ridden my bike almost all my life pretty much as I could walk I was I was put on a bike on my dad. And then we’ve been on the cycling holidays as kids and started racing, did a lot of racing when I was a kid, what kinda did a lot of road racing, as I was moving through the youth, and then the junior ranks, did some of the national series. And then after my A levels, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I left the country and I went on a working holiday visa in Canada for two years, planted trees in the summer and was a ski instructor in the winter. And that, like allowed me to, like with a tree planting anyway, the ski instructing didn’t make any money. But the tree planting allowed me to save a bit of money. So I was able to travel afterwards did a bit of bike touring, and then went on a on a big trip from with some friends around Southeast Asia and but my plan was to cycle home. So everything with me that I needed to, to ride a bike back from Asia. With me, it’s all upon us. Almost I can get all my tools, everything on my back. So I was like a turtle?

Ruth Sutherland 31:39
Did you take spare tires?

Josh Reid 31:41
Not spare tires. Pretty much everything else I’d need.

Carlton Reid 31:47
And what sort of price point you didn’t have a bike at this point did you, Josh?

Josh Reid 31:50
I didn’t know where I was getting from. Then, like I was gonna think in Cambodia, but the brands out there don’t really take products off the product line all the time. They’re not they’re like more batches. So I got in contact with Giant and they helped me out massively and went to their factory in Shanghai and cycled home from Shanghai.

Ruth Sutherland 32:14

Carlton Reid 32:18
And then you’ve got a very, very popular video of that trip. Haven’t you? A YouTube video?

Josh Reid 32:24
Yeah, it’s doing doing very well. Over 2 million now.

Ruth Sutherland 32:28

Josh Reid 32:30
So yeah, then want to try and make that a thing and do more trips and see if I can fund myself by by going on these trips.

Carlton Reid 32:42
So Ruth, same same questions to you then. Pub chat. Who are you? What do you do? And how do you get into cycling?

Ruth Sutherland 32:50
I’m just searching for Josh’s video. So I’m I’m at the opposite end of my of my career, I suppose Josh, because I I’ve got four grown up children who will be your sort of age, who started to do exactly the sort of things you were doing and going across the world having adventures that hadn’t really been an option for me when I was their age. And so I became quite envious. And my husband took early retirement. And it seemed a bit silly for me to be going out to work every day while he was home. And we both wanted to ride our bikes. So I took a gap year later in my life. And that was the start of over long periods of riding bikes. We we went off travelling we did we hadn’t been riding bikes, we’ve always I’ve always written a bike, but like you I kind of grew up with a bike. But I never did any competitive cycling or any sort of really serious cycling and I just had a functional bike and never really a bike was a bike to me in the in the old days. And now I have a shed full of bikes for every purpose as you probably identify with that my husband’s always been very competitive and he got into cyclocross racing. And after a couple of seasons pitting for him, I thought, Well, I’m here every weekend, I might as well ride. I might as well race myself, I might as well do this. And it wasn’t really for me about racing. It was just about having a having a workout, having a bit of fun having a ride of my bike instead of hanging around all day. But then I sort of got the bug and started, you know, seriously being interested in the race because I was in the veteran women’s category. So I found as I moved into a new age category, I was actually quite competitive in my in my category. So cyclocross kind of was something I did for a couple of years before locked down, but I wouldn’t say that it was a love of mine and I’m not really a competitive person in the same way you sound to be Josh. I I’m more sort of interested in competing with myself or challenging myself. I was never any good at sport when I was at school. And I used to always be the last one to be picked for teams and I was really slow runner. And so I’ve always had this sort of perception of myself as not really being an athlete. And these things, these things live with you. Anyway, we joined the gap year went off to New Zealand and we cycled an event called the TA which starts at the north tip of New Zealand and goes down to the southern South tip of New Zealand, it’s a brevet. And when it was the first time we’ve really done any serious bike packing, with some borrowed and some bought equipment, it was very much a sort of try it out and work out how it works. And that was so enjoyable and so successful that we came back to the UK and I decided to take another gap year or just to extend my gap year. And to cut a long story short, I’ve never actually been back to full time paid works. Just cycling is taking over my life. So I became I became a cycling coach. We both started doing some ride leading for British Cycling in the days when they had sky rides, and then Leps rides. And we joined a cycling club. And we I became, we both became mountain bike leaders and to take people out sort of on more wilderness trips. And we took part in quite a lot of organised by holidays and bike trips, we went to Chile, we went to Nepal. And then we went back to New Zealand and we did another long brevet, which was an inaugural event from east to west cape of the North Island. And then then, we ended up in Tasmania, just before lockdown, we went there for a race, a mountain bike race, a three day race called the dragon race. And as we landed, we were told the race was cancelled. And there was a global pandemic. And we’ve kind of been in the, in the back of beyond and hadn’t really been aware of the World News at that point. And that was the start of the of the COVID pandemic. So we eventually made our way back to the UK. And during locked down, we got involved with local cycling, we set up a community cycling group we opened a pop up bike shed my husband’s a good mechanic. And we’ve been sort of cycling from home with our local immediate community ever since then.

Carlton Reid 37:26
You’re both living the dream, but from different. You’re different ages. So you kind of like you’re gonna meet in the middle at some point. You’re both living the dream?

Ruth Sutherland 37:36
Yeah. Precisely.

Carlton Reid 37:41
Based on that, and the dream, there are better clarify that is lots and lots of cycling, because you’re clearly both doing tonnes and tonnes of cycling.

Ruth Sutherland 37:49
Yeah, indeed. Yes. The

Carlton Reid 37:51
So that kind of brings me into and the reason why we’re talking today apart from that sounds fascinating. That bit of all that background, I know that. But because you’re you’re a rookie, in a race that both of you did so. So All Points North, so just tell me what All Points North is.

Josh Reid 38:12
Ultra distance bike packing race. We all start in Sheffield. And there’s 10 checkpoints, you need to get to all over the north of England. And you’ve got them all on a Brevet card. And then you you go to all these checkpoints, take a timestamp photo, and then make your way back to Sheffield. And this is the first first one back wins, or? Well, it’s not always a race. But that’s pretty much the gist of the event.

Carlton Reid 38:43
So how long did it take basically

Josh Reid 38:47
took me 70 hours, I believe.

Carlton Reid 38:50
With you not sleeping much.

Josh Reid 38:52
I slept for an hour in total to half an hour now. But then, in my time was about 56 hours. So it’s it’s crazy how much time you you stop and don’t realise you’re stopping.

Carlton Reid 39:07
And now I’m going to ask you your route in a second. I’ll go back to Ruth first. So Ruth, how long did it take you? And did you have that same amount of sleep deprivation? Or were you a bit more sensible?

Ruth Sutherland 39:17
Well, I for me it was sleep deprivation. But compared with Josh, it was it was a lot more sensible. I’d worked on the principle that I would need about five or six hours off every 24 hours. For me it was a it was a case of entering the all points north being on the start line and then getting to the finish line. And it was going to take me as long as it took me I had no illusions that I was racing or anything and for me it was just a personal challenge to to get to all the points in the shortest possible time and to and to make it over the finishing line. So I suppose I set off with slightly different no ambition to Josh. I was I would think I was back in about 102 hours. So substantially longer, you know, like, like a whole day longer than Josh.

Carlton Reid 40:14
But I’m guessing here that the fact you finished means you’re still way up ahead of how many people actually started because an enormous amount of people, I’m guessing here, just don’t finish these events.

Ruth Sutherland 40:24
Yes to that there were there were I think there were 29 rookies, rookie riders of the people who’ve never done an event like this before. And we applied for sort of special dispensation that there were 30 places available to people who were given an eight hour start Headstart. Our our time was still measured in real time. So my, my 102 hours started eight hours before Josh’s 52 hours. I think that’s how it worked. But I got an eight hour head start, essentially. And off those people that started with me, two of us were were vying for the finish. And we came back within about four minutes of each other, but the other rider beat me into fifth place. So I was the sixth finisher, in the rookies. And I was very happy about that.

Carlton Reid 41:14
I bet. Yeah. So just tell me about your route, and why you chose that route. And then route, I’m gonna ask you exactly the same question. And let’s see where you differ here, just in not in time. But in routes.

Josh Reid 41:29
Well, at the start line, a lot of people were thinking about going towards the Lake District first to get all the hills out of the way. And I was thinking of going that way. And then I looked at the weather forecast, and it was tipping down with rain. So I changed my route last minute. And when I went to the East Coast, first up to Horney Mare, Mere, and headed towards Bamburgh Castle, and I didn’t have a drop of rain until the last two hours in the race. And a lot of people dropped out with hypothermia from going the wrong way. I think. So.

Carlton Reid 42:07
So that was a choice you’ve made and you’re happy with that choice? Yeah. Yeah,

Josh Reid 42:11
very, very happy. Even though the climbing was very back ended, that meant I wasn’t like suffering from hypothermia or struggling with a lot of rain.

Carlton Reid 42:22
As you can imagine doing those because they’re massive, massive hills in the Lake District doing that after 60 hours,

Josh Reid 42:29
I’d rather be dry.

Ruth Sutherland 42:31
Josh, I think that’s really interesting. And I think, as a rookie, I have been writing up my experience, and it’s just a whole series of rookie errors. And I think possibly my first rookie error was choosing to go round the course the opposite way to you. So I went clockwise, I headed off into the Yorkshire Dales into the storm didn’t pay the price, I suppose, because I was actually able to find somewhere to sleep. I carried the the gear and I didn’t use it on the whole race. But it was a huge comfort to me, as I was sort of pedalling into the unknown and not having any idea where I was going to finish each day, it was a huge comfort to know that I did have a very good bit of a setup that I could use if I needed to. However, the rain was a huge problem. And the wind was unfortunate, because I had a very, very strong headwind as I went from west to east across the northern hills. I think I had no flexibility on that start line because my was, was rehearsed and embedded and imprinted in my mind. And it had never crossed my mind to veer from that. And it made me quite agitated at the start when I heard other riders talking about, oh, well, I might just tweak my route. I might just as thinking how can you possibly, you know, taking all my energy and emotions to hold myself together, knowing the route I’m going to do the thought of changing that at the 11th hour was was just, you know, unthinkable?

Carlton Reid 44:09
We might change. Sorry? So would you change that then in a any future race you would you be more flexible? Or do you think you would always want to have that route in your head?

Ruth Sutherland 44:19
No, I would definitely be more flexible. I you learn a whole lot of lessons when you do an event like this. And I’ve I was looking at Josh’s route. And the it doesn’t it isn’t clear from the map on the on the website, which way round Josh went and I haven’t looked at his splits. But I imagined that he’d gone the same way as me because he did the tech points in almost the exact same order, but in reverse. So yeah, I’d be interested Josh, did you did you plan and rehearse that route? Had you heard you were you wedded to it before you set off?

Josh Reid 44:56
Not completely, but then this would be my first one. Ultra distance bike back and races Well, I’ve never done one before. I’ve done a lot of bike touring. And a lot of racing I thought was like a happy medium between the two. And then I’d booked onto the transcontinental, like three years ago for all the lock downs, but it’s been cancelled three years on the trot. So I thought I needed to do something like old points north or an event like this prior to the transcontinental. So I make all the mistakes in this one. And then I’m got more of an idea for the transcontinental which is my main goal for the season.

Carlton Reid 45:31
What mistakes did you make Josh? Well, we’ll describe what the transcontinental is in a second, What mistakes did you make you change,

Josh Reid 45:39
I would look at my route a lot more. Like I looked at it. The first bit was was okay. But then the back end of it, like, I basically just pick the shortest route possible. And what I didn’t realise is Halifax has some incredibly steep 30% climbs. And instead of just going on, on the main road, and relatively flat, I’d chosen the shortest route, which happened to go up every 30% climbing in Halifax, and with 600 miles in the legs that kind of kills you. But then there’s this climbs in the Lake District way, you’re gonna have to go over anyway, like rhinos, and no matter when, whether you do that first or last, it’s always gonna be a grind, and it’s always gonna hurt. So I didn’t really think that was a didn’t really matter when I did it, it’s always gonna be

Carlton Reid 46:31
about equipment choice, because gloves would have helped wouldn’t a big gel gloves. So tell us about that.

Josh Reid 46:37
So like, even like two weeks later, my hands still vibrating a little bit from not wearing any gloves and just the vibrations from the road. And so some of the shortcuts I took on that, that route, were a bit sketchy. So I’d go on like bridleways and trying to cut off little sections of road shortcuts, what weren’t always shortcuts, having to fall through rivers and stuff. Yeah, definitely a lot more route planning as needed for future events.

Carlton Reid 47:10
So Ruth, same same question to you, and especially about equipment, would you would you change equipment in future, right?

Ruth Sutherland 47:19
The only elements of my equipment that was worrying and and unsettling was a rim mounted Dynamo that I had been given as a present. And I had used it on training rides, and was confident with how it functioned. And that I knew, you know, I knew what to do with it. But my mistake was that I hadn’t really used in anger, I hadn’t gotten to the point where all of my power packs were empty, and all of my devices had lost charge. And I needed to get power from my Dynamo as my only option. And when I got to that point, partway around the ride in a really remote place, I discovered that the Dynamo had significant limitations in its ability to or my ability to pedal to make it generate power, because it only generates power above a certain speed, and it needs a certain distance at that speed to activate the the internal generator. So at a certain speed, I had to go two or three kilometres before anything happened. And then as soon as I hit a hill and my speed reduced, I lost that power. And I also lost the internal sort of generator power. And so on hilly terrain, my Dynamo really did not work to do what I needed it to do. It did work on long flat sections laterally in the ride, but at the time that I needed it, it was a real crisis. And so I had basically my my message here as to myself is that I needed to have pre tested my equipment better. But in terms of the equipment, I carried personal equipment, I was really well equipped. I had some really good lightweight kits used every single thing that I took with the exception of my bivvy bag or my bivvy gear which stayed packed in the bottom of my rear carrier bag for the entire trip but I wouldn’t have gone without it. And I was going to say to you Josh, what did you carry? Did you did if you intended not to sleep? Did you take anything for for an emergency or were you just relying on the foil blanket that they issued on the start line?

Josh Reid 49:41
Well, I definitely on the start line I was second guessing myself and thinking do I take my baby do I take my sleeping bag because that just looking at other people’s bikes you kind of second guess yourself and yeah, I did take my baby and took a sleeping bag and I’m very glad for it was a 30 hour 30 minute Kip In a bus stop, and a 30 minute kid on a park bench. So I rode through the first night, the whole way through and then the second and the third night had half an hour Kip in each one. And it’s like it without those sleeps I would have been struggling on the downhills just to stay upright, really, I needed I needed to get my head down for just those half an hour and helps massively.

Carlton Reid 50:21
And you set an alarm on your watch or something or you did say wake me up in half an hour.

Josh Reid 50:28
I did. But I tended to wake up before the alarm, you’ve just got so much adrenaline pumping through you and thinking I need to keep on writing that you just wake up anyway.

Ruth Sutherland 50:39
I’ve heard other people say that Josh, about the transcontinental and another really long races that actually you become able to just lie down in a ditch and take a power nap for 30 minutes and then get back on your bike. And I found even though I was I was sleeping for two hours, maybe once I slept for three hours. But I always set an alarm. And I always woke up before my alarm. And I was back on my bike before, you know before I’d planned to be back on it. So it is it’s amazing what your body can do. And it’s amazing how how that sleep wait pattern?

Josh Reid 51:15
Yeah, I feel like it’s very, very different in a race stitching up scenario where you think you need to keep on going. Yeah. But before before I did this event, and thinking of the trans content over here, and like you have three, four hours of sleep at night. I was like, wow, that’s that’s not very much and then doing this and only having half an hour in the second or third night, then it’s like opened my eyes as I realise this is this is okay, this is this is doable.

Carlton Reid 51:44
I did this go back, sorry, go back to light just because Ruth was talking about having dynamo, you didn’t go down that route. I know you’ve thought about that route. But did tell me about the power options you have.

Josh Reid 51:59
I’m using Exposure lights so that they last a long, long time. So my rear lasts 40 hours, and then the front lasts for 36. And then I’ve got a battery pack for the front as well. And Exposure one. And I didn’t like with that short amount of race, you’re not going to be riding for long enough that those would run out. So I just think by using a dynamo and it costing you some of your power. It’s just it’s not worth it. And then for stuff like the transcontinental I think you’re going to be going in hotels and being able to charge so I just think I’ve gone for the no Dynamo option.

Carlton Reid 52:41
And that same for your electronics, your charging from a removable Power Pack.

Josh Reid 52:46
Yeah, so yeah, just got two power packs and charge on my phone and the white computer with with those.

Carlton Reid 52:56
So tell me now, right. Yep, just about the trend. We’ve mentioned this a few times. What is the transcontinental? Where does it start? Where does it finish? How long will it take?

Josh Reid 53:04
So it starts in Belgium up the up the famous climbing in tour Flanders. it wiggles its way all the way to to Bulgaria, on the Black Sea coast through like four checkpoints. I think 2500 Miles should take 10 days to two weeks. But we’ll see. Got that in a month’s time.

Carlton Reid 53:36
That’s July. So that’s probably one of your it will be with the heat wave. And Ruth, what have you got planned next? Have you got any more now that you’ve done this and you’ve you’re the rookie rider, financing and really good place there? What’s your what’s your your your next potential event?

Ruth Sutherland 53:57
Well, when I got off my bike, first thing my husband said to me was, I hope you’re not going to acquire a taste for these events. And my reply was, I am doubting whether I’m ever going to get on a bike and then less than bone do another event. But that was that was two weeks ago now. And it’s funny, isn’t it? How? How your point of view changes. And I kind of feel it’s it’s my time because I’m not getting any younger. And I’m not going to you know, I haven’t I can’t put these things off and think oh, I might I might do that in five years time, because I might be in a bath chair in five years time. So I think I probably have to start thinking about what I might do next. But I haven’t actually started about that. I’m still a little bit like you Josh. I did wear gloves and I too have got really numb fingertips particularly on my right hand. And I still feel I’m feeling the effects and I think that’s possibly to do with being a bit older and probably to do with having been less fit than you to start with. But yeah, my legs stopped aching and my bodies sort of coming around. But I feel that the four days took a real toll on my on me physically. So I’ve not thought about what’s next. I don’t know if you’ve got any suggestions, Josh?

Josh Reid 55:24
Not sure, I’m pretty … there’s a lot of a lot of events like coming out the interesting ones but not really thought about anything after the Transcontinental I’ve just been so focused on that for the last three years basically.

Ruth Sutherland 55:38
Did you ever need to did you read Ian Walker’s endless perfect circles? No, he describes the Transcontinental race, it’s an extremely good read, I really strongly recommend it. And that was, that was one of the things that inspired me to do the all points north.

Carlton Reid 55:56
It’s been on the show. He’s a he’s a good friend of the show in his he’s a fabulous athlete as well, again, another person who just sleeps for half an hour in a bus stop. Yes, and and then gets back back on his bike.

Ruth Sutherland 56:10
And in his book, he describes the the, the process of becoming, sort of refining his technique of going from being a rookie himself, being a beginner and making all the mistakes and learning from them and doing it differently next time. So he described a series of different races. And it’s very, very readable. And yeah, I’d love to meet him, huh?

Carlton Reid 56:34
Yes. Ian’s a nice guy, and a fabulous athlete, and a great psychologist as well, of course. So you don’t know exactly what you’re going to be doing next, Ruth, but you haven’t dragged your husband into doing one of these events. He’s definitely not going to , by the sound of it, he’s not going to join you.

Ruth Sutherland 56:53
He’s, he’s fond of his sleep. And the thoughts that we’ve in the past done, we’ve done 24 hour races together like the the mountain mayhem, and he’s hated every every lap that he’s had to drag himself out of bed to ride in the middle of the night. Still written really well. But I think I think I think it’s unlikely that I’ll persuade him. Who knows?

Carlton Reid 57:19
See, I’ve done the mountain mayhem. And I’ve done the 24 hour events and my logic there. This is what I told Josh, when he was doing this event that you’ve you’ve both done is just finish, that’s got to be your goal. Just finish. Because when you’re doing a long distance event, and I found this with the 24 hour mountain bike event is if you finish you basically place because so many people just overcook. You know, they they you can see they’re so the adrenaline kicks in, you go faster, you try and keep up with people. And it’s like, Be not really racing against other people. In many respects, you are just trying to just finish the event. And that that, to me was always the goal. And I always found that actually came up relatively high in the rankings, just because so many people just overcook themselves. So that must be an incredible temptation, you must but the question to both of you, you must have to really bring back your competitive spirit. Because you can’t be chasing after people who, for instance, in a 24 hour mountain bike event, it could be a team for so it can be one person who’s actually relatively fresh, and it’s not a solo rider. So you mustn’t go chasing after people is what I’m trying to say. Is that something that you physically have to stop yourself doing, Ruth and then just the same question.

Ruth Sutherland 58:41
It is, but the All Points North is quite a lonely event. Because I don’t know about you, Josh, but I didn’t really encounter many other riders. And although I was very keen to be dot watching to see what was going on in the overall event and around me, I became very anxious about the amount of power that I had left. So I spent a lot of time with my devices all switched off, because I wanted to preserve what power I had. So I wasn’t really able to watch what other people were doing. The times that I was aware that the only time really that I was aware that I was neck and neck with someone was as I was coming into the finish for the last for the last sort of five hours. There was somebody who had been riding overnight and was closing in on me a much younger, faster seeming rider. And that did really spur me on because I think I would have I think I would have been like a snail otherwise getting back from home and the mere. It’s the most tedious straight section of writing that you could possibly imagine. And my legs were were finished and I was very hungry. I was exhausted. I fell off my bike at Horsey Mere just turning round an 880 degree turn from the control I just literally fell off and I couldn’t unclip and I just burst into tears and thought I’m never going to finish this race. And then it was the knowledge that someone was worth close that made me think guesser get back on your bike, you can do it, you can do it. And so yes, it is a motivating thing.

Carlton Reid 1:00:12
And Josh, what about you? Were you were you dot watching? Were you looking at other people when when you met them on the course? Maybe you met more than the room? Did you go faster? Do you always thinking No, I’ve got to stay with my own limits. Forget other people.

Josh Reid 1:00:25
Oh, no, I’m very bad at getting egged on by other people. The first like, it was so much fun. It was like an Alleycat race. The first little bit like people weaving in and out of different routes, you’d be riding on a road and then someone else’s swing onto your road. And you’d be egged on by them to carry on to try and chase them down. Yeah, it was so much fun that that first little bit. And then you just got to get your head down. And I would I would be watching the dots and seeing where other people were.

Carlton Reid 1:00:58
But would you then go faster to try and catch up? Or would that demotivate you what was the dot watching doing to your head?

Josh Reid 1:01:06
Oh, it was definitely motivating to start with and then through the night, you’d see your red lights in the distance and you’d chase after those. Yeah, that really helped. And then then I started getting punctures on my on my rear tire and I couldn’t couldn’t see that with the, the sealant so I had to put a tube in, in my rear tire. But because I couldn’t resist the tubeless I couldn’t get the valve out of my wheel. So luckily a kind guy in a recumbent came past and lent me some tools to take off. But then

Carlton Reid 1:01:45
you disqualified yourself basically. Yeah. You’re not allowed to you’re not allowed to get help.

Josh Reid 1:01:50
No. So I rang the organisers and told them what happened basically disqualify myself. But I still wanted to finish the race and see what time I could get it all preparation for the transcontinental ready

Carlton Reid 1:02:05
and let’s let’s talk about food. Because you mentioned a walker before and the conversation I had with him he he’s said on on his his long distance rides. He’s done the one from Norway as well. He just went into and this turns out a lot of riders were doing it they would go into the service stations and buy these crappy crappy croissants filled with with gloop. And he said he would never eat this normally, but they’re incredibly calorific. And he would just eat you know, loads of them and read them sickened himself by these these these horrible, horrible Garriage kuasa croissants? Are there any food options? Because obviously you join one, obviously, but Josh, you’re vegan. So you’re kind of like giving yourself an extra bit of a hill to climb. They’re just on your food choices. So what did you eat? How did you eat? And would you change anything? And I’ll ask the same question in a second.

Josh Reid 1:03:04
I set off with a lot of food. So I had my pocket stuffed I’d like three bananas, two blocks and marzipan. A couple of saurians gels and these banana leaf wrapped energy products from Colombia called Lucho Dillitos those I think and yeah so you just open them just pack for the sugar and then you check the banana leaf because it’s biodegradable and then that lasted me pretty much through the first two days really well the night and then the whole first day and then got to Carlisle basically stopped at my first place to stock up got a McDonald’s which I wouldn’t usually get a the vegan new vegan burger and then pack myself with four vegan sausage rolls and just kept on kept on going but yeah, I carried a lot of food start with probably weighed myself down quite a bit. I only really need to stop to to get water

Carlton Reid 1:04:07
and where do you think your food choices through the ride? were the right ones you did okay on food or did you did you run out of energy?

Josh Reid 1:04:15
I never run out of energy. I was I was eating constantly. I knew I knew I had to keep on eating. And I also like before the event started I had a lot I don’t mess about like 500 grammes of pasta. So off off the start line how I felt really sick. Like almost as if I was going to throw up for the first like four, four or five hours partly because of nerves. But I think in the long run it did me really well because even though I was digesting for those first five hours, like it made the blood sugar and kept my energy going the whole way through.

Carlton Reid 1:04:50
And Ruth, what was your your food strategy?

Ruth Sutherland 1:04:54
Um, I think I’ve had a lot of experience of feeding myself on a Long Distance and endurance events. And I feel that that’s something that I’m very, very comfortable with. And I know what works for me. And I don’t like eating junk and I don’t like eating sugars and gels. So I try and get my nutrients from natural products. I, I also set off with bananas, and two substantial granary, cheese and tomato sandwiches, one for eating that day and one potentially for eating through the night or for breakfast the next day. And I’d eyeballed where, and at what times a day I would be able to stop to pick up food. And it worked pretty well. I did have one desperate moment where I hate to admit this because I’ve never been in before but I went into a Burger King, which was the only thing that was open. And what I suppose I really prayed with was a bag of chips, just something faulty and something hot and comforting and filling. But I made the mistake of buying what I thought was an Aberdeen Angus steak in abundance. I think it was it was some terrible it was terrible thing I had I was so guilty and so ashamed of myself, I had to WhatsApp my family and confess. And that was a mistake because that didn’t go down well or stay down very well. But the rest of my food I managed to have I managed to have some hot soup somewhere. I’ve managed to have some decent pick up some decent sandwiches on Route. I didn’t ever go into a supermarket I didn’t want to leave my bike. So I just literally picked up what I could I had a good feast at a station cafe in oxen home. I think from for me the the eating and the feeding. Went well I didn’t carry on like you Josh. I didn’t go out laden, I didn’t carry an excess of food. And I did have I did have my obligatory emergency rations stuffed down with my beefy gear and I didn’t break into those. So I always knew that if the worst came to the worst, I had enough calories there to keep me going for a few more hours.

Carlton Reid 1:07:09
And what are you riding? Ruth? What’s What’s the bike that you’re riding, the type and the brand.

Unknown Speaker 1:07:16
It’s a Specialized Ruby, which is I think it’s a women’s specific version of the Roubaix. It’s a beautiful lightweight road bike with some suspension in the in the front stem and in the seat post.

Carlton Reid 1:07:34
Because Josh you were running a gravel bike so so so Ruth why are you riding a road bike? Do you have a gravel bike, do most people doing this on road k? What were people riding when you were starting on the start line?

Ruth Sutherland 1:07:49
I think there was a there was a complete mixture. Josh, would you agree with that? There was there was a really a really wide range of different bikes. I was surprised.

Josh Reid 1:07:57
Yeah, as people on really fast road bikes and people are on more of a touring setup.

Ruth Sutherland 1:08:03
And I saw one woman riding on a mountain bike.

Josh Reid 1:08:08
Oh, wow. That would have been tough.

Ruth Sutherland 1:08:09
Yes, it would have been tough. So I put I put tougher tires and higher volume tires on my road bike, the largest that would be accommodated by that by the fall. I have got two cyclocross bikes. I haven’t got a gravel bike. And my cyclocross bikes are not as comfortable to ride in this bike. I was really happy and I also had tri-bars. And that was one of the things that I don’t know whether I would do again, I didn’t really use them in anger until the very last day when I had that very long straight stretch. You can’t benefit I don’t think very much from resting on tri-bars when you’re in very hilly terrain. And it does put maybe 1.2 kilo kilos on the the weight of the bike I think so. It’s always a bit of a trade off isn’t it?

Carlton Reid 1:09:02
So just what are you riding and you were riding with tri-bar so describe how how much you use them?

Josh Reid 1:09:08
I use them quite a lot. I try and get into them as much as possible and more to just change the position and get the weight off the hands than anything. Yeah, I’m running a giant revolt. Gravel bikers just the same not the same bike but the same type of bike that I rode back from China and I’ve had great experiences with it. I’ve never really had any issues. And then I took the gravel tires off and put some Hutchinson sector road tires on so just the email. Still pretty wide but smooth to lower the rolling resistance and then running Arkel bags and so add a seat Packer on frame bag and then a top to your bag but that was pretty much it and stuff to Robens mountain bivvy with a sleeping bag and then your tri bars with the Exposure light and Giant computer Stages computer mountain to the top onto the tri bars using a I think it’s 76 Projects like 3d printed thing that goes on to the dry bars and you’re able to fit the exposure like on the computer onto onto one thing.

Ruth Sutherland 1:10:32
Oh, that’s really neat.

Carlton Reid 1:10:35
Thanks to Kabir Rachure, Josh Reid and Ruth Sutherland for joining me. And thanks to you for listening to episode 302 of the spokesmen cycling podcast, show notes and more can be found on The next episode is a chat with American urbanists Sara Studdard and Zoe Kircos, meanwhile get out there and ride.

June 25, 2022 / / Blog

18th June 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 301: A Milan-shaped Conversation with Janette Sadik-Khan

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Janette Sadik-Khan

TOPICS: The miracle of Milan, with Janette Sadik-Khan.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 301 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Saturday 25th of June 2022.

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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:03
Last week’s episode was a travelogue about my Tourissmo bike holiday in Sardinia, including some chowing down of the world’s most dangerous cheese. I’m Carlton Reid and I travelled to Sardinia by train. One of the benefits of overland travel is the ability to stop off en route and I spent a bit more time in Milan than I was originally planning because of today’s guest. Janette Sadiq-Khan has been helping Mayor Sala of Milan with that city’s ambitious reimagination of the public realm. As a principal at Bloomberg Associates, Janette advises city mayors from around the world on their streetscapes. When she was New York City Transportation Commissioner, between 2007 and 2013, she famously transformed Times Square into a plaza for people, not cars. The same tactical urbanism — or try it, we think you’ll like it — was used in Milan. Guided by a Google Maps route through some of the city’s newly built people-friendly plazas I was able to see at first hand how, as Janette puts it, the miracle of Milan is taking shape. Milan also has an ambitious bikeway programme, and I rode on some of the newly minted protected routes as I criss crossed the city. I’ll include lots of photographs on a story soon. But meanwhile, here’s my 20 minute conversation with Jeanette. Tell me about Milan’s Piazza Aperte. Am I pronouncing that right? Open squares. What’s it all about?

Janette Sadik-Khan 2:59
Well, I mean, we started working with Mayor Sala and his team in 2018. And we were coming up with a plan to bring life to streets in every neighbourhood in the city. You know, he had had this 2030 plan for a city, you know, that works better that’s more affordable and resilient, and, you know, cooler and cleaner in 10 years, you know, and you obviously can’t get there by you know, tearing down buildings or building new roads, you have to make better use of the streets that you already have. And you know, we know a lot about this having gone through a large scale sustainability plan with Mayor Bloomberg in New York City creating, you know, 400 miles of bike lanes and 70 plazas in six and a half years. So and it was something that I don’t think that a lot of New Yorkers thought was possible. And so we did meetings and workshops with Mayor Sala’s mobility and environmental teams, and and then in 2018, we launched this Piazza Aperte programme, and so and we inaugurated new piazzas in Durgano and Angilberto. Did you get to those two?

Carlton Reid 4:03
I did. I went to Spoleto. Yeah, I went to Durgano. Durgan was the first one about three years ago?

Janette Sadik-Khan 4:10
Yeah, exactly.

Carlton Reid 4:11
And then I went to the ping pong one. I mean, they’ve all got ping pong tables, but this one is now known as Ping pong. So Piazzale Bacone.

Janette Sadik-Khan 4:18
Yeah, I mean, the popularity of ping pong. In in Italy. I certainly didn’t.

Carlton Reid 4:25
I am assuming that the Olympic team in about 10 years time has come from

Janette Sadik-Khan 4:30
We’re going to be looking for that in 2024, actually. But we started with those two neighbourhoods, and those streets had had just become parking lots. And so it didn’t take years or millions of euros. We just we moved really fast with paint brushes and benches, and we transformed those spaces into, you know, places for people. And, you know, the result was really spellbinding. I mean, from the moment we put down the first benches people were sitting in them; even before we’ve finished bolting them to the ground. And so, you know, we actually have pictures of people sitting there while we were doing it. And it was, I don’t know, if you remember it was it was just like Madison Square Plaza in 2008, when we were just putting out the construction barrels, the orange construction barrels and an art class, you know, sat down in the paving, you know, in the first 30 minutes just to start sketching the buildings, you know; people are just so hungry for for public space. And we saw that in Durgano I mean, and particularly the kids, I mean, the kids came out in droves, you know, and they’re playing ping pong, and they’re running around, and their parents are on the benches, and, you know, people were doing exercise classes and boxing and again, can I say ping pong, I just, I had no idea it was such a big deal. I think it’s like the local sport. You know, at Times Square where we had beach chairs to unlock the spaces potential. But, you know, in Milan, if you really wanted to an empty space into an active space, you can’t miss with ping pong tables. So and you know, the thing that was really interesting, too, is that the local businesses hold the balls and the paddles. So people just, you know, pop in and check them out and return them. Isn’t that cool?

Carlton Reid 6:12
That was gonna be one of my question is like, yes, great to have the tables, but where do you get the ball? And where? Yeah, yeah. So you’re going to actually create custom there? Yeah,

Janette Sadik-Khan 6:20
Exactly. And it builds it just knits together, the community and all these new ways. So you know, the programme was just three theatres in 2018. And it grew to 13 Piazza isn’t in 2019. And it grew to a team during the very tough months of 2020. And, you know, you know, Milan is one of the first COVID epicentres. But you know, at the end of the day, and I think you have the report, the summation is 30 APR is in four years, which, you know, is particularly the infrastructure entire city, and now you’ve got, you know, five and a half acres of plazas, almost the size of Madison Square, and, you know, you’ve got to all these benches, you know, 250 benches, to entertain planters, bike racks, ping pong tables, you know, and now you’ve got 80% of residents within reach, you know, public space in a protected cyclepaths. So they literally change the map of Milan and showed that, you know, cities can move faster than the status quo. And I think that’s what’s so exciting about Milan,

Carlton Reid 7:27
and they can also move faster than national leaders, because that’s what I always hear is mayors can actually have more impact on climate change their national leaders, because they just, they’ve been able to move much quicker.

Janette Sadik-Khan 7:40
Absolutely. And, you know, I think you’re starting to see the kind of changes that you’re, that are you seeing in Milan are happening in cities across Europe and the Americas and all around the world? And, and because your mayor’s can make that difference? You know, you’re, we’re used to hearing this kind of ambition from from like Paris, right? You know, Mayor Hidalgo, converted Rue de Rivoli into a carfree corridor during the height of the pandemic. And this year, you know, she announced his $300 million plan to remake the Champs Elysees into this, you know, extraordinary garden of great pedestrian spaces, and reclaiming half of the city’s 14,000 parking spaces. And you heard about what Mayor Khan did in, you know, central London and creating this bus and bike and people, people focus zones, you know, all of these cities showed, you know, reclaiming space is more than just a local amenities. It’s really a global planning principle that can help save the planet and the way streets are designed. Its transportation policy, its economic policies, health policy, its equity policy, its sustainability policy. So, you know, I think if you want to transform a city and have an impact on the world, I think one of the most effective things you can do is reclaim and reimagine your streets for people. And that’s why you’re seeing these mayors embrace these changes. And these changes are popular, you know, the, you know, it used to be that, oh, we can change these, you know, you’d have a guaranteed job for life if you just follow the status quo. Right. And

Carlton Reid 9:09
the changes are also quick because of tactical urbanism. So where you can you’re testing stuff out with, you know, planters before you put the concrete in is is that is that is your modus operandi, obviously when you’re New York City’s transport Commissioner, is that something that Milan did as well they put these things in softly first.

Janette Sadik-Khan 9:31
Exactly. I mean, you can move quickly. I mean, we certainly saw a sea change in New York City 10 years ago. And you know, again, just showing what’s possible, you can paint the city you want to see in paint, you know, it doesn’t take years it doesn’t take millions of euros, you know, you can paint the outline of the city that you want to see and and doing it that way showing the the paint of the possible allows you to bring things down the anxiety that people have about the change, right? Because people think, okay, you’re doing this permanently, you know, I don’t like it, I don’t want it. And yet, if they think, you know, you’re trying out, we’ll see if it works, we’ll keep it, if not, we’ll put it back to the way that it was, you know, people are comfortable with that type of change. And you can’t argue that like, nothing should ever change, right? Think about how much has changed in our, in our society, in technology, economically, socially, politically. And yet, so many of our spaces stay the same way. They’re like, Jurassic Park streets, you know, they’re, like, trapped in amber. And so, you know, showing that it’s possible to make them work better. is, you know, it’s certainly been a recipe for success. And I think, you know, one thing that I didn’t mention is that, you know, Mayor Sala was reelected in the middle of this, you know, kind of miracle in Milan, and some of the candidates ran against the changes, you know, that he made during the pandemic. But you wouldn’t have known that from, you know, the 60s 56% of the support that he got in October. And, you know, and people do need to have their say, you know, but once you have city streets and public space filled with people, it’s hard to make the argument that it should be any other way. You know, it’s not the municipality space, it’s the people space, you know, and that’s what you see in Piazza after Piazza, you know, once the temperatures dropped in these complaints, you know, they’re, they’re actually replaced with the voices of other people who now who now want to be yachts in their neighbourhood.

Carlton Reid 11:35
Well, the before and after photographs in the PDF, the report, the piazza Pardo report, a very stark, they’re very welcoming. And you could show that to anybody and say, which would you rather have that with the cars or that with the people and the ping pong and the paint and the nice, and it’s like, you couldn’t really have a sense of like, with anybody who’s ever Well, I want the one with all those cars.

Janette Sadik-Khan 12:00
It’s so true. It’s so true. You know, I was, I visited, you know, in, in May, you know, last month with some of the leading actually some of the leading planners from Tel Aviv to show them the Milan story firsthand. And they were floored. I mean, they couldn’t believe what had happened in such a short time. And they, you know, they marvelled at it because they knew, you know, great urban spaces appear obvious, but you know, that can be difficult to design and implement. And, you know, I saw when we went to a coney, you saw that, you know, and when I first saw that first space in 2019, you can see the problem that was written in the street, you know, it’s it’s obsolete, traffic tangling next to the school, there was already a parka there, but it was out of reach, and it didn’t help the school kids. You know, and you know, the people that their caregivers who pick them up and drop them off every day, because the cars rolled the road, and they could drive everywhere and they could park anywhere and they double parked and triple parked everywhere. So, you know, redesigning it, narrowing the road and making the road one way and today it’s the kids not the cars that were on the road. And so you see the benches and the you know, where where it used to be car only spaces and you see these kids doing chalk drawings or you know, art projects and picnic tables and ping pong tables again, ping pong tables, you know, the ping pong tables, even a point on Google Maps.

David Bernstein 13:19

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Carlton Reid 17:22
Thanks, David. And we are back with my conversation with Jeanette Sadiq Khan. Now Bloomberg has a programme called paint for streets, isn’t it? Yeah,

Janette Sadik-Khan 17:32
it’s the asphalt art, the Bloomberg asphalt Art Initiative.

Carlton Reid 17:35
So how did the cities apply for that? Do you

Janette Sadik-Khan 17:38

Carlton Reid 17:38
where did where did they where? How could somebody get that for their city?

Janette Sadik-Khan 17:42
Yes. So we started in North America and you applied. We gave $25,000 grants to cities to 25 cities. You can look it up on the website. There’s all the information is there and beautiful, beautiful pictures and I can send you some others if you’d like and now and we’re going to launch at City Lab, we’re going to launch the European version of the asphalt Art Initiative. And so cities will be able to apply for asphalt art grants from Bloomberg Philanthropies starting in October.

Carlton Reid 18:15
Oh, that sounds good. Okay, I’ll prime my city for that one, please. Yes, yes. Apply for that, please. Newcastle. Going back to Milan. It hasn’t just got these piastres which are wonderful. It’s already I mean, partly this is done in the Coronavirus crisis, but it was I think was before there as well, which is the star day or per day so the open streets the bike lanes based in Milan is going to become this this effect on Amsterdam. You know we you know, we mentioned Paris went to New York, but Milan is really going ahead with a really ambitious scheme but before 2035 of 750 kilometres of protected bike lanes. So how much of that was Coronavirus? Or was Coronavirus? Just kind of like gave it a little bit of a fillip.

Janette Sadik-Khan 19:06
You know, I think it was a an impetus, right? I mean, I think what you saw was mayor’s around the world, actually, you know, when city shut down, you know, when you saw like just these empty streets everywhere, right? I mean, they were like ghost towns, you Times Square, you know, which used to be, you know, crossroads of the world became the epicentre of the pandemic, it was like, you know, look like a horror movie. I mean, I saw this picture in Chicago coyotes like walking the streets of Chicago, you know, but it also showed what the possibilities were in the streets and so as many cities shut down one of the first things they did was open their streets, you know, when they open their streets for people to walk they open the streets for restaurants giving them a lifeline you know, open their streets for sidewalk cafes. It was it was incredible to see what was possible new pop up bike lanes, new bus lanes. And so but I think that Elon really kept the momentum going through the pandemic. And I think now that the worst is passed, you know, they’re ready to move into the next phase. And there’ll be actually announcing the next phase of their Piazza is and started a party’s this fall. So I really think if you want to see the future of cities, you can look to the streets of Milan, they’ve created an architecture of public space, but, but also a process. It’s kind of a master class for what cities everywhere could do with the same raw materials, and a little imagination.

Carlton Reid 20:34
Yes, but it’s, it’s kind of ambitious, what they’re doing, and what other many other cities are doing. But in your 2016 book, I’m going to plug your book here, street fight, doesn’t always have to be a fight. Because the other thing that was a subhead to your book was revolution. These are these are these are, these are strong words, these are fighting words, but does it have to be a fight?

Janette Sadik-Khan 20:59
Well, you know, I think that in almost every case, you know, whether it’s Durga, no ankle, berteau Times Square, you know, root of everybody, you know, they’re strong reactions, right. And when Milan first proposed turning parking into places for people, you know, there were very strong reactions, people have very strong feelings about their streets, you know, I like to say they’re 8.6 million New Yorkers, and they were 8.6 million traffic engineers, because everybody has very strong opinions about their streets. And that’s a good thing, right? We want people to feel strongly about their streets, their, their front yards, that’s where life is lived is where the first that’s the first experience of the day. You know, but I think it’s really important to have a, you know, a community process, you know, too, as part of the programming. And so, there was an involved community process in Milan, on everything from the concept of the design, to the programming in the space so that each Piazza reflected local colour. And so, you know, the whale shaped Piazza outside Tommaso school, on stiletto came straight from the imagination of the students themselves, you know, the planters at Viva la marina were specifically requested by the locals to plant vegetables, you know, and the locals helped pick up the paint brushes at porta Genova. And, you know, I’ve been put on a spot and, you know, started painting at porta Genova. And many passers by did too, you know, we had food, food delivery workers that parked their bikes, and came to help us paint. So it really took a village to, you know, bring these places to live. And so, you know, and once we saw after the painting was done, you know, the benches, the benches were there, and the nets were on a ping pong tables, you know, people love these places, and the complaints were really replaced with, with really the kind of sounds of support from communities and, you know, community involvement as a part of it, not everybody’s going to be on board, not everyone’s going to agree that there’s even a problem. And it’s so important that the municipality show leadership and, and respond not to just what you think your short term needs are. But But But building in New possibilities so that when you open your door in 10 years, you have more transportation choices, you have safer streets, and you have, you know, better cities than you do today.

Carlton Reid 23:28
It’s kind of like that, that very famous cartoon, at a climate conference where there’s somebody, you know, standing on a podium saying, you know, we’re going to have all of these things that are going to improve our lives. And hear you it’s not just clap, if you if you mitigate against climate change with these kinds of measures. Not only are you mitigating climate change, you’re also making it just much much nicer for people.

Janette Sadik-Khan 23:53
Exactly, exactly. You know, you invest in you, and you see the direct results, you know, it’s not about talking about or pledging that it’s making change happen on the ground. And that’s what’s so powerful. One of my favourite cartoons was the New Yorker cover, which was a picture of like, I don’t know, if you remember this, it was like people in a gym working out on bikes, and then you know, people parking in other city bikes in front of the gym. It’s, you know, you can build in all sorts of possibilities and choices for getting around and sitting around and enjoying and socialising. You can build that in, you know, to your city, working with just the materials you have on hand. You know, the materials that any Department of Transportation has on hand, you can make these changes and, you know, there’s no you know, it, it’s great, the most important time to do this as now, you know, and and you’re seeing mayor’s walk the walk and I think it’s really exciting to see

Carlton Reid 24:51
should we have more transit strikes because here in the UK, I don’t know if you’ve seen but we’ve the whole of the country has shut down for the best part of this week. because of a train National Train, strike, but what you’re seeing from from newspapers, and the mainstream media reporting, this is people who would never normally get on bikes are suddenly getting on bikes and are probably realising for the first time. Like, that’s only a 10 minute journey. Why have I done that by, you know, other methods when this is just so easy and nice as hell, but it’s quite nice wherever I was in the UK, but should we should we somehow get people to experience these things? You know, you can’t mandate transit strikes, but somehow getting people to try these.

Janette Sadik-Khan 25:41
Look, I think I think what it shows again, it’s also building resiliency, right? That’s another piece of it. Like, it’s another way of getting around, we saw you know, during the pandemic, people turn to walking and biking and other modes of getting around because there was, you know, the early fears that you know, transit was a super spreader, which of course, it was not as it turned out, and people turn to the private automobile, but you saw a skyrocketing number of people cycling and I think you’re seeing on in London too, particularly now that you’ve got the infrastructure in place, you know, you can’t wish people onto a bike if they don’t feel safe riding right? And so creating the safe infrastructure is really key. And, you know, also people you see the city in a new way, you know, and if they feel like they’re in a safe lane and they see their city in a new way, you know, it’s joyful and and it’s also better for business. You know, when we put down protected bike lanes, very first ones Eighth Avenue and Ninth Avenue in New York City, retail sales along those corridors went up 49%. So you know, you know, if you want a better city, you can start by building a bike lane.

Carlton Reid 26:52
Thanks to Janette Sadik-Khan and thanks to you for listening to Episode 301 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. Show Notes and more can be found on The next episode is a chat with two finishes of the all points north Ultra distance cycling race. Meanwhile, get out there and ride

June 18, 2022 / / Blog

18th June 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 300: Chef’s Bike Tour of Sardinia

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Tourissimo guides, tour guests and US chef Mary Sue Milliken

TOPICS: 38-minute travelogue of the Chef’s Bike Tour of Sardinia by Tourissimo. Sardinia’s so-called Blue Zone has many locals living robustly into their nineties and beyond, with a much higher than normal concentration of centenarians including Uncle Julio who was still cycling at 104. Show — topped and tailed with Cantu a tenore folk singing — also includes some chomping of Sardinia’s banned-in-the-EU mountain cheese riddled with live maggots.


Tourissimo’s Chef’s Bike Tour of Sardinia

Cantu a tenore folk singing

Maggot-riddled cheese

Mary Sue Milliken attempting to make filendeu pasta with a Sardinian “pasta granny”.


Carlton Reid 0:10
Welcome to Episode 300 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was published on Saturday 18th of June 2022.

David Bernstein 0:24
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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:04
Hey there, I’m Carlton Reid and along with my fellow podcasting dinosaur David Bernstein we’ve been bringing you this Spokesmen cycling podcast since 2006. Episode 200 in September 2018 had clips from 12 years of narrowcasting and now that we’ve reached the giddy heights of 300 episodes over 16 years it’s time for another diversion from our usual format. So, instead of a guest interview or a roundtable chat recorded over Zoom this episode was recorded in situ, in Sardinia, and it’s all about good food, cycling and living longer. It’s a travelogue of my recent trip to the Italian island, where it was discovered that the diet, daily exercise, and communal conviviality in Sardinia’s so-called Blue Zone contributed to many locals living robustly into their nineties and beyond, with a much higher than normal concentration of folks blowing out 100 or more candles on their birthday cakes. You’ll hear about Uncle Julio, still cycling at 104, and you’ll maybe recoil in horror as I chomp down on some specially-procured, banned-in-the-EU mountain cheese riddled with live maggots. Back in the day, mountain shepherds had to eat some pretty ripe old stuff. I was on a Chef’s bike tour, a foodie special from Italian cycle travel company Tourissmo. This was the company’s fifth such tour, but the first in Sardinia. We were accompanied by American chef Mary Sue Millican who I interviewed as we cycled uphill so, yes, there will be some panting in this show. And, as you may have already gathered, this isn’t our usual theme music. Instead, it’s a traditional Sardinian folk song and you can listen to a full and amazing seven minutes of another traditional song from an all-male quartet at the end of the show. Meanwhile, here’s my from-the-saddle intro as I pedal away from the Su Gogolone hotel, trying to catch up with the 12 guests and three guides also on this Chef’s tour of Sardinia …

Well, welcome to episode 300 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. On a Tourissmo holiday, bike holiday, chef’s bike tour in Sardinia. I got here by Tern folding like, two ferries and five trains and I’m now on a climb, beautiful asphalt road, that’s been resurfaced.

There’s the odd car coming past; the scenery is stunning; which you kind of get expect I guess when you’re coming to Sardinia but we are on the borders of the Blue Zone and the Blue Zone is that area that was kind of discovered 30, 40 years ago where there’s a bunch of people living here they realise in this tiny geographical area in the mountains of Sardinia are living longer than most of the people around the world. So, the highest concentration of centenarians, the highest concentration of people who are 100 years old and plus,

Renato Matta 5:06
We are now in the core of the Blue Zone. We are in the municipality of Baunei. And precisely this is called the plateau of the Colgo, which is a limestone plateau about 700 metres on the sea level, the macro region is the Ogliastra is called, okay, the blue zone area is a small part of this small region.

Carlton Reid 5:29
That’s Renato Matta, a former accountant and one of our Sardinian tour guides. I asked him to tell me about Uncle Julio.

Renato Matta 5:40
Unfortunately, he died two years ago at the age of one hundred and five years old, so not that bad. But the beautiful thing is, he is my idol is my idol. Because every day I saw him cycling his bike till the age of 104. And what happened, happened that he fell off fell off the bike. So the ambulance arrived soon, he didn’t have any anything. But you know, considering the age, of course, they were worried. They called the daughter. And the daughter asked, please tell me what kind of medicine he is getting medicine. Nothing, he doesn’t need anything, he is perfect. And yeah, he was very healthy, no glasses. So absolutely no glasses, all the teeth in place. Unbelievable. And I remember this fantastic character. Because I remember one day I was waiting for the doctor and the doctor was late so I time to chat with him outside. And he was telling this you know, it was complaining about the song because the song is too lazy, he’s wasting his life watching TV all day long, sitting on the couch doing nothing. And a certain point I realised but, sorry uncle Julio, but how old is your son? He is 80!

Carlton Reid 7:02
If the secret to living longer is to be content with your lot then Renato is an example of how switching careers can boost happiness,

Renato Matta 7:12
This is what I call my second life. My first life after my secondary school, I went to university I have a degree in economics. So I started doing accountancy for about 10 years. In the meantime, I was doing tours for a British tour operator, but once a once a year, so a week here or two weeks a year, it was the here I start in the 1999 then the business start growing a lot. So in a certain point they told me okay you know what, we need a full time person here working with us because the business has grown a lot. You are the most expert now because you know we started with you. So if you like to change you know completely your your job we will appreciate that so I spoke with my wife about that time, she said well go for that go for that you won’t survive doing accountancy. We can have less money, no problem but a better life. And believe me that’s what I realised what I realised more quality my life less money a bit less. But definitely the quality. And I do what I like to do, you know.

Carlton Reid 8:33
And here comes more food.

Renato Matta 8:35
Oh my God. We are going now straight to the water fountain which is down the road on the right leaving the hotel on the right. Okay. The big cog in the front you mean the cog just push this to go down to the smallest one and you’re approaching the climb? Like this?

Yeah. Okay what what is it dropping? This it? Let me check No, no, no too much

Ay-yo is in Sardinia the probably the most used word, means let’s go. Aye-yo means what are you ****ing saying. The culture, it’s part of the culture. 14. One four. Kms. Less than 10 miles.

Massimo Carboni 9:47
Minor roads. Countryside roads. And we’re going to see also old Roman bridge

Carlton Reid 9:55
I rode to catch up with our embedded chef. According to Wikipedia, Mary Sue Milliken is an American chef restauranteur, cookbook author, and radio and TV personality. She’s also, and this is not in Wikipedia, she is also a strong rider opting for a carbon road bike rather than an electric flatbar bike. She cooked for us a couple of times on the tour. And she also decorated our tables with wildflowers picked from the roadside.

So as you’re riding along are you thinking menus? What are you thinking? Thinking? I want to pick that plant there. I’m going to put that in.

Mary Sue Milliken 10:35
Well, I do you have a wandering eye for plants?

Carlton Reid 10:39
I’ve seen I’ve noticed.

Mary Sue Milliken 10:40
Especially wildflowers.

Carlton Reid 10:41
Yeah, that’s also a good excuse to stop.

Mary Sue Milliken 10:44

Carlton Reid 10:46
Just happens to be a wildflower.

Mary Sue Milliken 10:48
Well, every day I pick a different colour. Yesterday was purple. Today I’m deciding between white and pink. Or maybe yellow. But I don’t usually collect until the second half of the ride. Which today is gonna be all downhill. I didn’t like to get too married to any one idea. Till I’ve seen the entire palette. Yeah, and then I can.

Carlton Reid 11:11
So I’m working here, but you’re working here too. So this evening, you’re going to be cooking for us?

Mary Sue Milliken 11:16
Oh, yeah.

But I’m not cooking the whole meal.

Carlton Reid 11:21
So you’re cooking like the signature sauce?

Mary Sue Milliken 11:24
No, I totally thought I was cooking but now okay, I’ve learned that I can do anything I want with the panna carasau.

Carlton Reid 11:32
So, incredibly fine. thin bread, right?

Mary Sue Milliken 11:37
They also call it carta de musica because you can read a piece of sheet music through the dough which is cool. So I could make a lasagna with that for example. Yeah. So who knows?

Carlton Reid 11:52
Maybe dips?

Mary Sue Milliken 11:53
Yep, maybe

dips. Although I didn’t see anything in the garden to

Carlton Reid 11:58
You’re gonna be looking in the garden in the hotel. I already Yeah,

Mary Sue Milliken 12:00
I already checked it out. tonnes of herbs, few tomatoes. Lots of fennel, eggplant’s not there yet just flowers. What else? Chard, a lot of swiss chard. Like I said it’s all in there percolating. And something will come out.

Carlton Reid 12:24
When not cooking, Mary Sue would learn some local culinary technique or other. On this particular evening she would be helping to make filendeu, or the wire of god, a very thin pasta that only a handful of people still know how to make. We were to get a demonstration from a pasta granny, and then follow Mary Sue by trying to make some. I failed, by the way.

Mary Sue Milliken 12:53
I want to learn how to make it. Okay, you can watch me learn but I’m dying to learn how to make the fin der lay you. How do you call it fin de lou?

Massimo Carboni 13:04

Mary Sue Milliken 13:04
The pasta is called fin delay you?

Massimo Carboni 13:08

Mary Sue Milliken 13:09

Massimo Carboni 13:10
It means the Wire of God.

Mary Sue Milliken 13:12
the white?

Massimo Carboni 13:14
The wire of God

Mary Sue Milliken 13:16
the wire

Massimo Carboni 13:16
of God

Mary Sue Milliken 13:17
of God

Massimo Carboni 13:18
Finden lay you.

Fil is wire. Deu is God.

Mary Sue Milliken 13:19

Filen … sorry, sorry.

Liz Cheshire 13:26
Fille is wire in Italian and then

Massimo Carboni 13:37
Si, filendeu in Sardinian.

Mary Sue Milliken 13:39
Filler day you. Filendeu. Wow.

Massimo Carboni 13:45
I think they’re ready. The lady’s coming by now to prepare the pasta.

the mother in law was the only one who could do this in the world. she passed the tradition to her so her mother in law taught to her and to the other daughter in law. Yeah. So at the end, the pasta will be cooked with the land meat soup and pecorino cheese. Pecorino cheese, and pecorino cheese a little bit acid.

Mary Sue Milliken 14:38
Old? Aged?

Beppe Salerno 14:49
Firmer and elastic.

Mary Sue Milliken 14:51
Firm and elastic. She makes it look so easy, mine just breaks. If I have just maybe a little more water

Carlton Reid 15:15
We didn’t just get demonstrations of how to make the local delicacies that have helped the locals live so long we also heard from experts, such as Spanish dietitian, Anna Maria Canelada who gained her PhD after studying Sardinian centenarians. Incidentally, she told me about her time sharing an apartment in Malaga with actor Antonio Banderas and film director Pedro Almodovar but I quizzed her first about the Blue Zone diet, especially the wonderful cheeses

Anna Maria Canelada 15:50
Casu Axedu cheese is like a yoghurt but this acidophilus is a type of yoghurt is not exactly as yoghurt said that different type of fermentation is very light it’s very fresh and it’s not salted does it have any salt except from the natural salt that the milk has a nice very protect[ive functions] because it has the whey and the whey is the most perfect protein and they will drink it together with a bread, the pistoccu. Pistoccu was a little bit thicker than the carta de musica and it will preserve even longer for more than six months and it’s very variable it’s very nutritious and it was made with barley, part wheat part barley, which barley has all these properties because it’s it’s very good for the microbiome is very good also for the glycemic index that doesn’t raise it so much as wheat and and together with the protein and also the cheese was full [fat] cheese, not ricotta. The Casu Axedu was complete fat so it was perfect for the morning. In the evening they will eat ricotta that which is deprived of fat and it’s lighter for the night or they will drink a glass of milk but they will always use sheep or goat milk. They didn’t … why the children in Sardinia are they are the healthiest in Italy with the the lower max index of all Italy. And because they follow the tradition they the families have the responsibility to explain they would have is not not only the way of living but also the way of eating so they learn how to cook with their grandmothers. They know how to do their …

Carlton Reid 17:49
And one of grandmother’s favourite cheeses might have been Casu Martzu. It’s a Sardinian exotic, exotic because the sale of it is banned by the EU. Guinness World Records says it’s the “world’s most dangerous cheese.” Why? Casu Martzu is riddled with live maggots, and we got to try some …

Village voices 18:19
Look, there are lots of worms inside. A lot a lot a lot. Look at this one. Maggots yeah ready yeah shame no just don’t have any flavour, maggots don’t have any flavour.

Carlton Reid 19:00
I’m getting a maggot.

Michael Dimaggio 19:06
Okay, get this.

Carlton Reid 19:07
It’s tasty!

Michael Dimaggio 19:16
Keep chewing, keep chewing.

David Bernstein 19:17
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Carlton Reid 23:20
Thanks David, and yes, before the break, that was me eating maggoty cheese. The trick was to chew the cheese really well so no maggots got swallowed live. You can imagine the results if some survive. Now, we weren’t just being treated to some unique foodie experiences we were also staying in some spectacular hotels en route. Here’s Tourismo’s co-founder Beppe Salerno descrbing one of our stopovers …

Beppe Salerno 23:51
We are in resort. It’s called Su Gogolone. Su Gogolone is the name of the river down in this valley and this is a beautiful hotel, which was started by a lady who had this vision to to to run the first hotel that delivers experiences and not only offers rooms, quite unique when when she when she started over 30 years ago. Beautiful setting. You will see how beautifully decorated the rooms are and their reception is really unique.

Trevor Ward 24:30
Shows the, er …

Massimo Carboni 24:31
The profile, so 56 kilometre, that means about 32 miles 1000 metre of total ascent mainly in the morning before lunch. This means 3000 feet is correct.

Trevor Ward 24:43
How many metres?

Massimo Carboni 24:44

Trevor Ward 24:45
1000 metres

Massimo Carboni 24:46
Total ascent.

Carlton Reid 24:47
That’s Cycling Weekly’s Trevor Ward asking guide Massimo Carboni what’s coming up on the ride.

Massimo Carboni 24:56
So as you can see, mainly up in the morning with I’m down here, countryside, no traffic. But the tarmac is not very good because it’s a countryside road. Sometimes there is gravel in the afternoon is mainly down. The tarmac is much better. Okay, but no traffic at all as well, with the village of Orgosolo is here on the top. We are having the workshop and the lunch here. And we are going to see the murals here.

Trevor Ward 25:20

Massimo Carboni 25:21
And we are supposed to be here about 3, 3.30. So you have time to enjoy the swimming pool.

Trevor Ward 25:26

Carlton Reid 25:41
At the end of the trip I asked one of the guests for his thoughts. Michael DiMaggio — yes, he’s related to the baseball icon — had tested positive for covid the day before so we were masked up and muffled.

You’ve come down with Covid, right at the end. So your last final day, you haven’t been able to, to get up and ride with us. But the days when you were riding with us, what are your highlights? What’s what’s going to stick in the mind in the next 10 years?

Michael Dimaggio 26:16
I think the views, like, you know, coming into the small villages, being able to continue to finish a climb, and then be able to like just land these small little villages where you just don’t know what to expect. When

Carlton Reid 26:28
Did you come in here eyes wide open. Were you like have you trained for this was cycling is the distances what you’re expecting that kind of aspect of the trip?

Michael Dimaggio 26:38
Yeah, I think for the most part they were you know, nothing can prepare you for the and I think that was a little bit unexpected to be you know, that long. And I like you know, riding going uphill and then the heat, I think a little bit more surprising. I was expecting to deal with a cooler.

Carlton Reid 26:56
So were you coming on this for a cycling trip or a foodie trip?

Michael Dimaggio 26:59
I think it’s an active trip. I mean, I don’t like a combination of being able to do something, whatever vacation to do something active. So that you can add in food and wine and activities, I think is how I like to vacation.

Carlton Reid 27:11
And how did you actually find it in the first place? Had you done Tourissmo trips before?

Michael Dimaggio 27:17
Yeah, I did. I did one before my partner was hit by a car a few years ago. And to get her over to get her out. Again, we wanted to do something active to get her overcome that that hesitation that she had and being out in public again. And so we said hey, we found this trip and I was a chef to her and I come across Mary Sue Milliken being from California. So we should do that we should, you know train for that. And it gave us a goal and something to train for. And we went to Sicily back in 2018. And so that a lot, we got bikes for December and then rode all the way up until the trip, which allowed us to feel fairly prepared for the trip. The first trip with Tourissimo.

Carlton Reid 27:56
And you feeling strong now, like best part of a week of cycling, do you feel feel physically different or is all that food that we’ve been given that’s kind of countermanded what you’ve been doing on the bike?

Michael Dimaggio 28:08
Well, we did eat a lot. I mean, I don’t I don’t you know, I think we whatever we work off and riding we make up and eating and then some. So I did I extra it’s so hard to manage the intake. Because they just keep bringing the food. I think at toward the end of the trip, we learned to balance that better. Because they certainly don’t they just keep going Yeah,

Carlton Reid 28:33
yeah. And have you picked up any tips for like living longer because clearly we were in the blue zone, we were meeting experts on nutrition on the centenarians we’ve lived for 100 years plus here picked up anything that you think oh, I’ll take that through and try and live a bit longer?

Michael Dimaggio 28:51
I think moving more, you know, I’m you know, it’s so easy to be sedentary once you get back into your regular life. I think making time, commitment, to move. Community I think is a big thing. I mean, and then just putting yourself in a place where you’re surrounded by other people where you’re part of something

Carlton Reid 29:08
Amen to that, Michael. And that includes this trip, because we were part of something, for sure. Our small group really gelled and I was most taken by the three hour lunches where we learned a great deal about the Sardinia’s distinctive culture of community. We learned about the blue zone, ate some great food, and had a few bottles of local wine and let the conviviality wash over us. Now and again we also did a bit of cycling … The Chef’s Bike Tour of Sardinia is a seven-night trip and costs a touch under $5,000 per person, staying in boutique hotels with all food, drink and education included. Daily rides never exceed 50 or 60 kilometres but keenies can join the super-fit Massimo for an extra loop at the end of each day. More details on Thanks for listening to episode 300 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast and, as promised, we’ll end not with our normal theme tune but with a deeply resonant Sardinian folk song but first here’s Renato describing what you’re about to hear …

Renato Matta 30:32
Because, you know, it’s something very unique in Sardinia, and I think big parts of the world that you can find anything like this is a special kind of singing way of singing. It’s called cantu cappella, because they stay facing each other. And they are four singers with different voices, there is a storyteller, which is you know, the voice that start singing there is a bass which is really bass, but in a special way, I mean, is it’s not bass because it’s a natural bass voice, but it’s bass because it’s a technique developing the hears, you know, normally they start training to be based at the age of 12. So when you know, the hormones in the body they are growing so they can literally develop this kind of ability, which is just an ability, you know, a vibrational thing vibrational technique, so that the vibration can do this very bass and vibrating song sound. Then there is the what they call the half voice. Which is very important because it’s the voice that gets the rhythm to that the song, okay. Which is the other voice is big because it’s between the tenor and the bass. And then there is another voice which is same about a half tone, but they call it another way. Don’t remember now because it’s a Sardinian word. But is it Sardinian word from the centre of the island which is different from my studying and because I’m I’m from the south. Anyway, the beautiful thing is if you hear the voices okay one by one doesn’t sound so nice actually. But when they start singing together and melting the sounds together, there is an incredible melody which is unique.

June 1, 2022 / / Blog

1st June 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 299: In conversation with Marco te Brömmelstroet

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Fietsprofessor Marco te Brömmelstroet of University of Amsterdam’s Urban Cycling Institute

TOPICS: This show is a conversation with Fietsprofessor Marco te Brömmelstroet of University of Amsterdam’s Urban Cycling Institute


Movement,” by Thalia Verkade and Marco te Brömmelstroet.

Marco te Brömmelstroet, pic by Christa Romp.
Thalia Verkade, pic by Jesaja Hizkia.


Carlton Reid 0:10
Welcome to Episode 299 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was released on Wednesday, first of June 2022.

David Bernstein 0:22
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 caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:00
Thanks, David. I’m Carlton Reid, and welcome to the spokesmen. This episode is a conversation with “fietsprofesspr” Marco te Brömmelstroet of the University of Amsterdam’s Urban Cycling Institute. I started by asking Marco about an award given to the Dutch language version of the book.

Marco 1:22
Yeah, that’s that’s one of the things that makes me maybe makes me the most proud of the book. It’s seen by many as a transportation book, that we’ve written it as a general interest book, and it won a prize for best journalists book of The Netherlands in 2021. So there was a great sort of recognition that what we’ve written here is not only sort of a technical book about mobility, but actually touches upon important discussions that we want to have in the wider societal debate.

Carlton Reid 2:00
Yes. Now your co author here is and I’m hoping getting pronunciation right is Thalia Verkade.,

Marco 2:06
Thalia Verkade.

Carlton Reid 2:09
thank you. But she also she writes for The Correspondent, I mean, what is she? How well is she known in the Netherlands?

Marco 2:19
Well, she’s she’s known as a good journalist. That’s also how we crossed paths. So we, we met in, in a conversation that she came as a journalist for the correspondent, and she came to my my office at the time, academic researcher on cycling. And I had very high hopes, because I had already many conversations with journalists about cycling, but very often, they didn’t really take off beyond the point that cycling is nice, sustainable, cheap, or whatever. And I was really hoping because she was working for the correspondent, which is in the Netherlands, known as a platform for journalism Beyond The Beyond the daily fast journalism that really wants to go deeper. So I was really hoping that she would come by and we could finally have a conversation that I would find more important about what the street is what mobilities for and so on.

Carlton Reid 3:17
So what’s what’s the book called in Dutch in English, it’s movement. What’s it in Dutch,

Marco 3:22
Dutch, it’s had read from this Nelson, which would try and translate directly as the right of the fastest, or the winner, the winner takes all. Who comes first, first, first come first serve. But it’s sort of a pun on in touch, the actual statement is a threat for the statics to the right of the strongest or the right of the fittest. So it’s it’s abundant refers to the notion that in our public space on our streets, speed, has become the dominant indicator for designing the streets and for thinking about the streets. So we just take for granted that the right of the fast trumps all the all the all the other potential rights that we could also use to think about the street.

Carlton Reid 4:15
And as the book talks about is that also involves cyclists going travelling too fast as well?

Marco 4:21
Well, yeah, exactly. Yeah. So it is, in the sense that was already started that Toyota came to my office to talk about how I have cycling could solve all the mobility issues that we are facing a position we we see a lot of course in bicycle activism. And I started to ask her exactly those questions. So because for me, it really depends on what type of cycling what kind of cycling. What What’s that cycling symbolises? And I started asking her questions about if cycling would also represent the same notion of speed and going fast from A to B but now no longer on four wheels and in a cocoon, but on a slightly different version of them. Is that actually a better world or not? Are we then actually taking back the public spaces that our streets once were? Or are we just replacing the one of the problems with with a new one? So two that brought us to that notion that it’s not a question about bikes versus cars, it’s actually a question about the fundamental fundamental underlying notions such as speed is speed, dominating public space, if that is the case, then most other use of that public space can no longer no longer happen. And that applies both on cars but also on on bikes.

Carlton Reid 5:48
In the in the in the preamble to the book, Talia describes it, but it mentions the fact that you’re the cycling professor. And she said that was obviously a something that she was very, very interested in. And, and, and amused by, but then she says, In describing your name, and you can actually pronounce your name on tape here, because you said it. That second professor is a handy moniker for a man with a tricky surname. So even even Dutch people think your surname is tricky.

Marco 6:18
Like if it I think it’s tricky. Yeah, that was the one that was once the reason. So my name is Dutch Marco te Brömmelstroet., which is already a bit of a tongue breaker. And also has this strange, strange letters in it, that seems very confusing for people. So it was once the reason to call myself online on Twitter to use the handle fietsprofessor because the need it’s much easier to use and to, to remember. So that was also the the reason for her to come by.

Carlton Reid 6:57
So I’m glad it’s not just me that okay. Let’s, before we get into the book, and and and I’ve read it, and it’s fascinating as as as as I’d expect, I guess. Let’s talk about you, because I’ve come across you. And I’ve certainly put recordings on this this podcast of your summer school, and the University of Amsterdam. So just describe your work, including, you know, how you’ve, you’ve exported yourself through that summer school and getting international students coming to Amsterdam.

Marco 7:38
Yeah, so it started out with being an academic, I was working on very abstract concepts of use of knowledge by letters, I guess. And at a certain point in my career, I really wanted to focus more on on a topic that that was less abstract and more, more more tangible to work on. And I can at that time, I came to the conclusion that in the Netherlands, we have this crazy phenomena, known internationally the cycling culture, but in academic circles, nobody is known. I would say, by that time I was I was, my position was that nobody’s doing academic research on that. And I found out quite quickly that that’s not the case. But many people are doing research on cycling, but they don’t. They don’t make that an explicit point of the research. So there are many transport economists, transport historians, for instance, they do research that includes cycling, but they don’t call themselves the cycling historian or whatever. So at that point, I started to think about what could be the role of somebody who would take that symbolic notion of cycling, more central, in this case, the cycling professor. And one of the products that that immediately came out of that was this summer school, the notion that we could sort of put a ribbon around all this great and fascinating research that’s going on in the Netherlands, for foreigners recognisable as something that is about the cycling culture that they want to understand. But for all the researchers themselves, not something they would they put themselves on the podium for.

Carlton Reid 9:26
And it’s the summer school. How long has it been going for? Because I came to the first one, didn’t I?

Marco 9:31
Yes, yeah. So it’s, we are now going to run the six instal. But there were two years COVID years of course, no travelling salsa, no summer schools, because the summer school is why it’s very international 30 students every year waiting list of about 60 and we select based on on diversity of discipline, discipline, disciplinary background, but also geographical backgrounds. So brings together the world for three weeks in Amsterdam, and the whole notion and that became central in the the further work that I started to do around cycling, the whole notion is to get to get more confused on a higher level. So you come in expecting to, at least some students expect to learn the tricks of how to get cycling exported to their own context. But on day one, we already start to question why they why they should be interested in cycling, what questions can you ask about cycling? Why is cycling? So such a strong and relevant symbol? But also, what kind of mistakes could you make in sort of uncritically copying this notion of how cycling was implemented in the Netherlands? Because then you could you could also, if you take a more critical perspective, you could really question if, if you could start all new by introducing a cycling culture is then the way that the Dutch did it? Is that really the best possible example to do it? So it starts to question that in three weeks, the students get confused and a higher level, they go back to their own context. And that’s also where we now see, five, six years after the first cohorts is that they really become quite powerful advocates, but also political leaders and players that are asking those questions to actually make better policies.

Carlton Reid 11:30
Because the people who went to those first ones, you know, they’re often doing master’s degrees and PhDs and stuff, they’ve probably never finished those academic studies they have moved into into the world of power, I guess you could put it you are seeing the fruits of that, then you’re seeing that the first people who who joined and now actually, certainly starting to have their hands and the levers of power.

Marco 11:59
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So did they, of course, have developed an international network that was really powerful, especially in the beginning, where they kept looking for each other, kept asking each other’s support when they were doing things, because the first thing that we noticed is that many of these quite activist players are researchers. Also, sometimes already policymakers, they felt quite lonely in their own context, fighting for something, not being aware that there was sort of a bigger international network. And now suddenly, knowing how big that network is, gives them a lot of, of power and leverage to go back. But also this this, the ability to ask different questions to link up to different players as well to to learn that cycling isn’t isn’t only a different form of traffic engineering, but it’s but it also is connected to issues of health or loneliness, or opportunities for children. So starting to talk to completely different different players.

Carlton Reid 13:06
You’ve touched on people there, and that’s actually on my next question, because an awful lot of cycling and transport is put into the category of you know, that that’s, that’s a science that’s, you know, you design roads, you designed streets, etc, etc. And that’s quite an abstract or very, very, not nice at all. But what what you’re doing what you’re doing, because you’re a social scientist, so you’re focusing not on the buildings or streets, you’re focusing on the people.

Marco 13:35
Yeah, and then and then to fold. And that’s also what I hope to bring back in the book. So on one hand, it’s indeed those spaces that we create, then serve people. So the question is, who do they serve? And who do they not serve? The Justice elements of that? How do people behave in those spaces? How do they interact with each other? It’s sort of the relatively straightforward, I would say, social, scientific questions that you can ask about how streets function as public spaces. But the second, the second element of where humans come in is how, how humans actually design create an engineered space, that’s also a human element, an element of what kind of knowledge do you use? What kind of language do you use to understand that those streets basically the streets that we know now have been created by decades of, of groups of people working on it, and that that is what makes the Netherlands for instance as a, as a context, very different from the UK. So I also want to understand how those processes work how humans come to decide to make certain things happen in certain contexts.

Carlton Reid 14:47
So you focus on people, but then on on, on on video, and in the book. There’s this concept which you like and cyclists, Two starlings, two beds, and that’s the flow. So can you tell our listeners here? What is the flow?

Marco 15:11
Pool? Well, that’s a tough one, it that’s one of those things that you actually I think, have to experience to understand that. So all the listeners should should come to the Netherlands and really experience that, of course, but it so the notion starts and I think that’s important to realise that both for me, starlings flow are examples of different types of concepts, narratives, language that you can use. So they are, for me really examples that help us to ask different questions. So if you look at the traffic, or at a busy intersection, and you use a different metaphor, different lens, in this case, the flocking behaviour of starlings, you start to see different things happening there. And you start to see different problems and also different solutions. So with the starling metaphor, you start to see that cyclists, for instance, especially when their speed is relatively low. They are very good in organising themselves and in self organising space in such a way that they don’t collide. That they are flowing themselves through that space, but also allowing others to, to use that as well, which is a notion which is almost contrary to how we engineer and organise those spaces we organise in traffic engineering, the holy grail of intersection is that it’s conflict free, that the technology and the design creates an intersection where people do not have to interact with each other. Because interaction is almost by definition, a conflict. Because people are egoistic. And they want to basically, they want to, they want to behave like a goose and not like Starling, they want to go fast, long distance, I don’t want to get interference of others. So this whole different notion of allowing the starlings to show their swarming behaviour in Amsterdam, in the end led to a complete overhaul of the way that we started to design intersections. So instead of putting cyclists into the, into the the norms that we had the design guidelines, we started to teach traffic engineers to observe how cyclists actually behave on an intersection or use their behaviour as a starting point. So that’s the starlings. The flow element is also an example of a flow, we’re trying to sort of to reappropriate that term from the traffic engineers, because flow in general is the amount of traffic that you can push through a street, but flow in, in positive psychology. It’s a concept developed by [….]. And it’s all about how we how our brains are wired to look for moments of flow. But flow in that sense are really that the moments that we have feel, as human beings feel optimal, that we that the amount of challenges that we face, meets our needs for the skills that we have. And those moments, I think we all know them, playing music, or having having this great afternoon at work, where time flies, basically, those moments, that’s what we crave for. And again, if you use that concept, you start seeing why. In the case of Amsterdam, again, cyclists are not always are very seldomly following the logic of traffic engineering of the shortest route from A to B. But they are optimising their route based on the amount of challenges that they want to face. So sometimes you go through the park, because you want to have easy going round. But sometimes you actually want the hustle and bustle of the busy streets, you see that cycling again allows the cyclists to really go for the optimal personal conditions, where they really look to to be challenged,

Carlton Reid 19:11
and don’t want to get into too many technical aspects. There isn’t that many in the book, it’s very much a people book, but then there is one that’s mentioned. So the flow is is is carried out at least two or three pages. But then there’s also this other one called chip cone. So can you describe what Chip cone is and whether that’s, that can be explored internationally?

Marco 19:35
It’s an it’s a fascinating example of how you translate the book. Because in Dutch it was it was a new term that is introduced exactly because of the traffic engineers started to observe the behaviour of cyclists and they found out that in the guidelines for how to design a good intersection, you basically draw straight lines from one side to the net to to the other, where cyclists can cross. And when it gets very busy in the case of Amsterdam, we started to see that that the amount of space that that creates for cyclists to wait for the for for the green light was was not sufficient, and they started to behave erratically. So then one thing you can do is to, to start behavioural campaigns and tell cyclists that they should still stay within that space, they should learn how to how to cue, they cannot use the Contraflow lane, because it’s dangerous. But instead, the traffic engineer started to, to do together with us and a group of sociology students to do observational studies. And through video analysis, they found that cyclists actually showed behaviour that allowed them to use the intersection much with a much higher capacity than you would ever have following the design guidelines. And the Chipko is the is the example that comes out of that the Chipko basically uses the logic of the Swarm, which allows on the site where cyclists are waiting, you give them more space in width, then the opposite direction. And then while crossing you, you slowly limit the width to the other side. So the line in the middle of the of the bidirectional bicycle path is no longer straight. But it’s, it’s, it’s with an angle, which allows the cyclist to go from six metre wide bicycle path in the duration of crossing the road to a two metre wide counterflow path. And that suddenly gives the whole vibe, the whole feeling of that intersection, it fits much better with the actual behaviour of the cyclists. And by doing that it’s sort of the traffic engineers of Amsterdam, one innovation price with that simple innovation. And it’s now applied across across the Netherlands and now even last week, so that they are now they are now transferring that knowledge to an intersection in Oslo.

Carlton Reid 22:13
Many, many road infrastructure for cars do this, it was all similar. There’s one in fact quite close to me in Newcastle, where it’s the time tunnel and maybe other roads under under the river tunnels do this as well, where they have credibly wide area for the cars to go through. Because we’ve got to get through all of the gates for the for the money, but then it then filters it into subject and pretty wide. And then it filters it down to this this narrow section. But what it kind of tend to do is people go very fast to kind of get into that. The bottleneck part. So what what what prevents or maybe actually facilitates? Do the faster cyclists, you know, go incredibly fast to get through and the slow ones just dogged along Is it is it is this the chip cone, it allows everybody to go at the speed they want to go at?

Marco 23:11
Well, I would say that it’s indeed an example that in touch is called Ritzer, or supercute. What is used it also well described by Tom Vanderbilt in his book traffic. It’s this notion that indeed you you, you funnel and in that process, you organise the funnelling and there’s all this science about what is the best thing to do, but what really makes a difference. And what I find so fascinating is that, in the case of if you do this in as car drivers in individual cars, you become competitors with each other will start to behave also competitively. You want to be in front of the others. I also noticed that myself if I’m in a car, well, this cyclists and also because they are much more able to organise in a very fluid way. It it gives much more the appearance of not not competition, but cooperation. So it’s much more a process where indeed almost automatically if you’re a fast cyclists, without having to tell that to anybody, you already positioning yourself in such a way that you will have an optimal flow yourself, but you are also not in the way of others. So you create the space for also altruistic behaviour where people that need protection are on the inside. And people that want to go faster, I want to take a bit more risk on the outside and that you don’t even have to teach people to do that. They do that automatically and lead function much better. That’s one of the big things that we found out in the in the in the chip code design, according to the standard conflict measurement tools that traffic engineers had the intersection functions less well because they were more conflicts according to that model. But what they actually found out when they asked the cyclist they I experienced much lower levels of stress because the whole design of the intersection fitted much better with how they already behaved.

Carlton Reid 25:07
Let’s talk toys. Because one of the things that jumped out to me from the book was and I have seen the campaign on social media to get Lego to redesign it streets. But then there’s just this this this little factory which was which was fascinating where cars are now taking up more space in Lego. So they are now a Lego car is now six studs wide, whereas it used to be four studs wide in the 1980s. That’s fascinating how how the real world has has been miniaturised in the toy world. Crazy.

Marco 25:45
And also the road plates we found out is that the standard road plates that basically we gave our children to develop their creativity with and they build cities still still with that, we found out that the amount of studs on the side so the sidewalks basically, disciples of the road plates went from eight to five studs. So they because to basically allocate the wider cars, you need wider roads. And there were actually discussions that still open. By the way, some people say that aren’t in the 80s on the road plates, there were a bicycle lanes, it’s open for interpretation, I guess. But it’s clearly no longer there. So the current road plates are really row plates where six stud wide cars, take all the space in the space goes away from from other things. And indeed, that’s what is so fascinating is that it has a two way relationship with reality. So first of all, it is indeed a better representation of what also happened in the real world in from the 1980s. To now that more and more space of our streets had to be allocated for bigger and bigger vehicles. But also it works the other way around is that if this is the creativity, if this is the the visual language that we give our children, when they start to think about their future cities on early age, it is really strange that we we are not thinking about alternatives for that, but we don’t give them any options to really think differently than then this way of streets. So they literally Lego in Dutch also says that with Lego you can make everything right, it’s really about reshaping the world. But it isn’t because we basically give our children not the option to develop it to design the city where streets are completely have a completely different role like a playground or so, we started to develop that together with partial statement and he went to the 3d official route. And in the meantime, also, because the book came out in the Netherlands, after that we have started to to 3d print our own plates, we now developed our own Dutch bone F Lego road plates, but also a roundabout and a bicycle streets and typical bicycle and separated bicycle paths road plates, again, to show that not that is not one ideal different version of the road. But that there are many possibilities if you think about the road as a as a public space.

Carlton Reid 28:25
And as Lego following up on that the real Lego

Marco 28:29
hardly hardly. So they they were sort of forced their hand by in the design, they have this desire Lego design ideas. And so we sort of Marshall Stein, man who’s in the book, he presented that idea to them, and then you had to collect 10,000 support statements, which was easily done because people really recognise why this should be lightweight. This was a fight worth fighting. But in the end, they decided not to take it into production. So we decided to make our own 3d version. And also the whole design is open source so people can now basically print their own road plates. But what really was fascinating also to find out is that there are many other toy makers. One example in the Netherlands, it’s called way to play. And they were also coming to the conclusion through reading the book that their own road plates that they were getting to Chile. We’re also very much monopolised that by the notion that roads were black asphalt, places for cars and they started to develop a cardboard version of their of their road plates and those cardboard versions had two amazing things. One was that they they now offer a downtown play version where children can already play with adding parks, doing all kinds of other stuff with the street the left side of the carport streets are empty. And this is really where the creativity of the children comes to the fore, they can really design their own streets that can fit their their own creativity. And I think that said, that’s the whole point here is that, that will start the creativity that we need. If we really want to have a transformational change to how our streets are designed in the coming decades.

Carlton Reid 30:24
The Jesuit idiom isn’t the you know, give me a child, you know, up to the age of seven, and I will give you the man. So it’s very important to get to get kids. I mean, we there’s not a child this thing this is this is actually very important to get kids thinking very early on that yes, roads are not just strips of black asphalt, they can be movement, isn’t the only thing a road is for? Yes,

Marco 30:49
no. And that requires that requires movements of people to also people themselves to become aware of that. So that’s that’s the also the notion in the in the book, Talia came to me to talk about bicycles, and I basically started to ask her questions about all the things she took for granted already. And that’s also what we heard back from a lot of readers in the Netherlands that the books would have opened their eyes to the things they took for granted that many people just see the street as something that’s just theirs, it has been designed by experts, there’s thought about that. And that’s that they’re not really happy with it. But they also don’t see it as something that you could fight for. And we show them that there’s, there’s there’s a need to fight for it, because it’s public space. And we have a lot of important societal problems that require space to be taken away from the street as we know it. But it’s also possible to do it, but the possibility that the notion that you can actually challenge that idea that the road is a, it’s a black asphalt space between buildings, challenging the notion and showing all these examples, that streets can also be places where children can develop their own autonomy, or where neighbours can meet each other. Where trees can can grow, where all kinds of things are, are possible. I think showing that to people creates the potential for transformational change for people that are then stepping up and creating their own personal or local movement.

Carlton Reid 32:25
And you also in the book, it describes the campaign you had where you did make some changes to your your child’s school. So there was a plan. But you tell me what was that what was the original plan for your child’s school and what did the eventual plan create,

Marco 32:43
that start with the notion that the school was presented in the middle of a neighbourhood, a new school, in an old factory building and then to the neighbours. The match was shown that there will be a school here, this is how the school yard will be designed. And many experts have thought about this. So this is really sort of the best that we can come up with. And that was presented in such a way to the neighbours. But when you looked at the map, it showed that our children would get less than three square metres of playground per child, which was just according to the norm, but only just and the reason why this was so limited was an I immediately spotted that but most people didn’t. But was that there was a huge case, right facility. So there was a school yard was 600 square metres and the case arrived was 1100 square metres, the kids arrived, we then allow parents to drop off their kids school drop off zone for for car drivers. And again, this whole thing showed to all the stakeholders involved. It was presented as you have to take this for granted. This is what the experts thought about this is how they put the puzzle together. This is what you get. So even the director of the school said, Well, this plan meets all the norms, but it doesn’t allow us any dreams. But we have to take it for granted. This is what we get. And we basically went there as a group of neighbours and said no, we don’t have to take that for granted. We can we can challenge it because the experts came with this notion because they followed the norms and the models. But those models are not they are not they are not law, they are not given. They aren’t they are also created with a certain purpose, we can challenge them, and we should develop alternatives. So we developed an alternative where we basically told the school asked the parents to not come by car, and even to a certain extent forced them to not come by car. And if you succeed in doing that, we are going to ask the municipality to from day one, reclaim this drop of zone as an addition to the school yard. And that addition to the school yard we now we now are basically one because we shown we’ve shown to the traffic engineers that the world didn’t collapse if you don’t allow car drive I wish to come close to school. And we also show to the to the children and to the to their parents and to the neighbours. What quality you can get back. It’s not only about not having cars around school, but suddenly you have 1100 extra square metres for children to grow for, for greenery. For the autonomous development of children, they have a much more space much more diversity of playgrounds now. And that quality was not it wasn’t on the table. It was not that somebody was against it was just not at the table. The radical monopoly, the whole notion that we have to design the school environment first and foremost, for for safe car traffic. That notion and the fact that you can challenge that was so new to all the people involved.

Carlton Reid 35:48
So it’s a movement the book has before and after photographs of that of your child’s school, so people can actually look at that and see the after one is much, much better. No, Marco, I’m going to we’re going to stop here. We’re going to have a brief commercial interlude. But I want to come back and talk about the liability law.

David Bernstein 36:12
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Carlton Reid 40:16
Thanks, David. And thanks for the message from Tern. Now, I spoke before about the liability law because the movement, the book by Thalia Verkade and my guest today Marco te Brömmelstroet. Did I get that even partially correct?

Marco 40:37
That was recognisable. It was.

Carlton Reid 40:39
Thank you. So I’ll stick to mark it all fietsProfessor even that’s difficult for cycling professor.

Marco 40:44
Just just calling Marco.

Carlton Reid 40:47
Marco is much easier. Thank you. So Marco, the book has got lots of history in there. Which which I’m fascinated by. So So Thalia has gone back into archives and dug into stuff. And then there’s one bit which which I hadn’t realised the history went back quite so far on this. And that’s, you know, all the way back to 1924. The liability law. Now, whenever you mention this concept in the UK, you get a lot of kickback from bicycle advocates who say this, this law isn’t that important. It’s all to do with hard infrastructure we forget, forget all of these different laws, all we need are bypass. But the book is describing how this liability law has a very, very important psychological impact, nevermind, you know, a physical impact on reducing speeds, etc, etc. So just describe the Dutch liability law and how it is actually quite potentially more important than people might imagine.

Marco 41:55
First of all, it’s indeed important in Dutch there that these terms overlap much more I think, than than English. But it’s really indeed not about blame. The law is really about and also not about responsibility, but about liability. So it’s really about who, who’s basically paying in the end of the day, if there is a collision between two partners. And what I think he did a lot does it, it shows that everything you do in organising in designing the street, but also in organising the way that people interact in public space, everything you do is by definition, a choice in first principles. So you cannot come up with a way of organising that in, let’s say, an objective way. You always have to make, you always have to solve dilemmas. And what the history also of this slide shows is that if you make that explicit, it at least becomes something that you can you could then start talking about. So who is liable? Who is bringing in the danger on the street? And why is that so important? I do think that it’s it’s it has been watered down a lot that discussion, and I think it should be brought back more to the front, it became sort of an organising principle that’s in the backgrounds. And for men, it’s often also the Dutch discussions, mostly by by car drivers, or the organisations that that support them, is brought in the notion that Dutch cyclists also are now just throwing themselves in front of cars, because they don’t have any liability anyway. So it became a bit of a strange discussion here as well. So the current discussion still, I think deserves in all countries, but also in the Netherlands, to have the discussion again, about what are the first principles that are are behind that. And that leads also to the notion we also discuss in the book about why are we talking about, for instance, traffic safety, all across the world, also in the Netherlands, as as a matter of statistics that are talking about the victims? So why are we calling something a bicycle crash? Is it somebody on a bicycle is hit by a car driver? And all these elements also, they come back again, to that notion? What are the first principles that underlie this? What Why are we talking about safety? Why are we not talking about the danger itself, the liability law. And that’s also showing me that there’s discussion it wasn’t clear cut that there was a lot of discussion, and it was really one person fighting for that. But it was in the end. Also, for the person it was about this first principle to put the onus on those that bring in Danger on the street and not those that make a mistake.

Carlton Reid 45:03
In the book, there is a very painful episode that I haven’t heard discussed by you before. And I believe in a book that actually says that you may not have wanted to discuss it openly before, because then people might assume that this is why you advocate and you you study what you do. But do you want to describe what happened to you? Or what happened to a friend of yours, I should say, really, as a nine year old?

Marco 45:34
Yeah, when I was nine, I was, I was very close witness to my best friend being killed in front of my eyes, through a collision with a with a car driver. And yet we found out actually during its during the process of writing the book, Talia and I were talking a lot, of course with each other. And we sort of had this feeling that was more and more, I wanted to talk about the justice element and the fact that our streets have been designed as places that are now dangerous for, for, for basically, for everybody, but especially for children, and how unfair and unjust that was, so we more and more moved in that direction. So we started to talk about mobility innovations, electrical cars, bicycle highways, and more and more, we went deeper and deeper into the underlying questions, the questions of what kind of principles do we use to design that streets, but also what is even underneath that, so we were going deeper and deeper into into the rabbit hole, until we came to the point where I actually wanted to go from the start to discuss not how we could solve traffic congestion. But how we could make our streets more just, we started to discuss and develop ideas around how people were actually experiencing traffic crashes, how people that were losing their loved ones, were proceeding that how newspaper and media were playing a role in that. And more and more, it became clear to tell you that I had this personal experience. But it was also not easy to talk about that. And that’s, that’s because that became actually also a part of the book where we discuss that sort of process of opening up and I learned during the process to talk with other people that were involved. And actually, actually, through that process, we learned how important it is for society, but also for individuals, in this case, me to talk about those tragic events, and, and see them right in the face instead of ignoring them for years as a way to cope with the pain or to not have to discuss it, and also not have to discuss the consequences of it. For me personally, it was it was much better to, to basically it was painful, but I came to the conclusion that it was much better for me personally to to have that conversation openly with all the players involved, also the car driver herself. And that could that made us also draw the conclusion that that might also be important for society that we tend to not really talk about the the drama that happens every day, multiple times on the roads in the UK, and but also in the Netherlands, that we don’t really talk about that we sort of put it in, in terms that we don’t really have to face the fact that we actually are hurting and killing each other on a daily basis. And we think that we do need to have that conversation because that would lead to to a much healthier societal debate.

Carlton Reid 48:49
So when I was roughly that, that age, probably a bit younger, in fact, I think was probably seven, one of my best friends was also killed by motorist when I was living in New Castle, my auntie was killed in a motorway Smash. So, you know, virtually everybody on the planet knows somebody or has has witnessed like you You witnessed a road fatality. And yet, as you say it’s it’s just not really discussed. So when when I when I see a family torn apart by a fatality I kind of clear mind exercise and just think, well, that family would they rather that motoring, which has caused most of these fatalities, would they rather motoring just never existed and that their their family member would still be with them. If cars had not been invented it Do you think that’s a fair exercise to play? I always suggest we actually design these things out by, you know, autonomous vehicles or whatever. So what should we be looking at here never having the utility of a motor car dependent society, or just moving to a Vision Zero, where we have no crashes in the future?

Marco 50:19
Well, first of all, I’m so sorry to hear that, that it also affected affected you. And indeed, that’s one of the things that we’ve also learned by putting this story explicitly in the book, how many people suddenly become aware of the fact how close how people close to them, had that experience and basically, we, if you count the numbers, it’s indeed everybody knows somebody at least close by that’s that that lost somebody or we’re not even. It’s even unfathomable, how many people get severely injured. But also those all those people around all the even the first aid workers, but also, and I think that’s, that’s one of the one of the key points here, if we want to discuss it openly a society also the people that that that caused it, right, or that, at least we’re behind the wheel of a car, when this has happened, this the systemic nature of the violence, the systemic nature of how we do so it’s not even blaming, it’s not about blame, it’s that the whole system is designed in such a way that if you make one small error, basically, I think, another great book recently out by Peter Norton Autorama, he described it very nicely. It’s not human error, it’s species error. So we know that people are actually humans are not able to, to operate those machines in a safe way that it’s just you we are just, we are just clearly incapable of that. So we shouldn’t design and allow people to use those machines in such a way that they can so easily harm and kill each other. So which vision not which future we should go, I think that’s not for me to discuss. But I think we need to discuss it, I think we need to have much more open discussions by our policymakers and politicians that go beyond the notion that traffic safety is something that we have to teach your children that works traffic safety, that is something that is currently is a systemic feature of the of our streets, and it shouldn’t be, or at least it there’s also an option that it isn’t. And we use different logic. So in the 1920s, when the car came to our streets, we talked about this in terms of justice, now we talk talk about it in terms of effectiveness or efficiency. So traffic crashes are mostly discussed in the media as a nuisance, because they will they lead to closed roads, or congestion for X amount of people. And we are not talking about the deep, traumatic experience that whole families go through every day, every day. It’s amazing. And that’s on both sides. I think the main point is also people die, everybody dies in the end in one way or another. So we should opt for Vision Zero in terms of zero people are allowed to die in a way. If you if you can, for instance, in the Netherlands cycle to a very old age, you have so many health benefits, but you also of course then run the risk of dying while you’re exercising on a bike. It is really about the notion that we are killing each other. The notion is not that people are dying, the division 00 should be about zero people should kill each other I think.

Carlton Reid 53:52
So. Peter Norton’s book which you mentioned, Pete has been a frequent guest on this show. So his latest book Autonoroma is all about the perils of Magical Thinking really over autonomous vehicles, driverless cars, and in your book, yours intaglios book you have a black and that you describe it as a Black Mirror style. Well, it’s not a utopia dystopia where driverless cars you know, feature and the downsides of driverless cars. Absolutely feature. So where do you stand on on driverless cars and how that isn’t going to be quite as rosy a future as people tend to be told by the mass media.

Marco 54:45
Well, where does that so what my take on all those things is that we are also with with any mobility, innovation and almost any mobility discussion we are we are blind to or take for granted the underlying narrative If that’s being told, and with driverless cars, the notion that’s really strong, but it’s actually strong, I would say in almost any mobility innovation. And that is basically also the notion that led to the streets as we know them today, we have been working as society for decades spent a lot of money to create mobility systems with that same narrative. But that’s the narrative that we, as individuals want to go as fast and easy and comfortable as possible from A to B. And that’s, of course, partly what we want. But it’s, it is never the full picture. Because if you ask that as two citizens and you confront them, with the, with the ups and downs of that way of designing streets, we would have a much more adult conversation, I would say about all the different values that we that we want to be included when we, when we design the streets, and we are perfectly willing, most of most of us at least, were perfectly willing to sacrifice, going a bit slower from A to B, if that also adds much more quality to the street and the driverless car is for me just a logical next step in that sort of an uncritical acceptance of the notion that going fast from A to B is the key thing for an individual to do. And only for that reason already, we should be more wary about that. Because those notions as you say correctly, they almost by definition, lead to dystopia. By following one indicator that guides uncritically guides us towards a certain future, that future will, will become dystopian, almost, by, by default.

Carlton Reid 56:45
So I know that is one of the dark messages to was fewer autonomous cars, more autonomous children.

Marco 56:53
Yeah, or we don’t need driverless cars. We need carless drivers. But But that’s, that’s also it’s a position. And I would, I would argue that my my key point also is academic year is it’s not about which of these positions is perceived better. What we want to show in the book is that they are positions and you are by definition, taking a position. And it’s not sort of the future is given or technological innovations will come and we have to deal with them. No, you take by definition as a politician, as a policymaker, as a parent, as a as a consumer, as a citizen, you are taking a position and we want to show to people that they should be more aware and more reflexive on that position by showing that there’s also a future where we could design our cities as places that are not where people are not dependent on vehicles and technology to bring them to valuable activities, that that is actually a possibility, then you open the realm of choices, you also show to people that they can actually fight for one on one or the other. So one of the notions that I’ve found amazing is the book in The Netherlands is used a lot by politicians. These days, we just had the municipal elections. And we see that in many of the current coalition agreements, the book plays a role, which is really cool to see. But it’s still remarkable how little how little divergence or difference there is in the mobility paragraphs of different political parties. It’s almost like they don’t see that there’s really fundamental principle choices to be made. So the discussions, the mobility discussions in the end are about what kind of technology you favour. Do you favour transit? As long as it’s electric or green? Do you favour electrical cars? Or are you a bicycle enthusiast? Well, the discussion I think, should be much more about what to what kind of future do these technologies lead? What kind of public spaces do we want? What kind of engagement with our fellow citizens do we aspire to as a society? And there’s, there’s there are very few contexts where I see that happening.

Carlton Reid 59:08
It’s good to hear that your book is it’s been used by politicians, that’s good, even if they may be missing the point sometimes. So let’s talk about your book in where people can get it, who is published by all that kind of information? So people have been fascinated by this conversation, and they’ll be fascinated by your book, where can they get it?

Marco 59:30
Well, the book is published by Scribe publishers in the UK for now and for those that are listening from outside of the UK, it can be ordered through to Blackwell publishers or Blackwell bookstores, and they ship it across across the world.

Carlton Reid 59:53
Okay, and well where can people here I mean, we’ve already talked talked about fietprofessor, so that we now we’ve got your social media hand No, but where can people find out about the summer school?

Marco 1:00:05
The summer school is it’s actually, it’s a programme by the University of Amsterdam. So you should go to Google in this case. And if you Google planning the cycling city, or University of Amsterdam, you can you can sign up for the diversion of next year, because this year is already full. Sadly, for those that will still want to come, but what we do also offer since since we found through the summer school, the enormous amount of, of craving that there is for disguise of knowledge, but also this kind of confusion, I would say, we also offer these programmes as open online courses, so you can find them on Coursera Coursera, you can follow the course unravelling the cycling city, it’s a four week course, for free. And we also put up a new a new one, which is called getting smart about cycling futures, that really takes you by the hands through thinking about especially cycling innovations, and thinking critically about what kind of cycling futures we are creating with different types of of innovations. So that’s, I think, the go to if you really want to go deeper into this rabbit hole.

Carlton Reid 1:01:16
Okay, thank you. And also another go to, which is mentioned, because the back of the book has got loads of action plans with the here’s what you can do, here’s what you can read, etc, etc. And one of the things it says is Go follow the people or go for the things that aren’t the lab of So what’s the lab of thought Marco with the

Marco 1:01:35
lab of thought we are creating a foundation, where we bring together in first, the first instalment of the foundation, we bring together law, large mobility innovators and policymakers. So a number of international cities, but also a number of international mobility innovation companies. And with the lack of thought what we are going to develop together with them is increased what we call cognitive leniency. So we together with them, we teach them to become more reflexive about what narratives what language, what kinds of images, or imaginaries do they use when they think about the future that then in turn solidify into their innovation? So what kind of future are they basically creating? And what happens if you start questioning those what what happens with with the products of those companies if you start developing them from an alternative, imaginary, and what that directly leads to, hopefully, and that’s what we’re going to find out in the coming months, is all kinds of alternatives, prototyping. So one of the prototypes that we’re currently working on is redevelopment basically, of the standard traffic safety school programmes that are being used across the world. We found out that the imaginary the narrative that they use is traffic safety is a responsibility of our children, and they have to learn at a very early age to cross the road safely. And what we are developing as sort of a prototype counter narrative for that is that we teach that active citizenship we teach the children are from an early age that they can actually go to places and fight for safer streets so that their safety is guaranteed. That’s an example of a prototype of a very different mobility innovation, that that hopefully leads to a very different mobility future.

Carlton Reid 1:03:35
Thanks to Marco te Brömmelstroet there. This has been episode 299 of the spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association with Tern Bicycle. Thanks for listening and watch out for the next Sardinian-themed episode popping up in your feed real soo. Meanwhile, get out there and ride!

May 28, 2022 / / Blog

28th May 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 298: Why are Dutch children cycling less? Ask BYCS

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Aya Achaboun, Simón Alvarez Belon, Lucas Boer and Maud de Vries

TOPICS: BYCS, bicycle mayors and why a Dutch NGO felt the need to create a program to stop the drop in child cyclist numbers in … the Netherlands.

OTHER LINKS: DFDS ferry. Eye Cafe, Amsterdam. Tourissmo’s Chef’s bike tour of Sardinia. World Bicycle Day, June 3rd. Are cyclist numbers dropping? These official stats say not; ANWB says yes.


Carlton Reid 0:09
Welcome to Episode 298 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was released on Saturday 28th of May 2022.

David Bernstein 0:22
The Spokesman 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 caring another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:00
Thanks, David. I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to the Spokesmen. This episode is 40 minutes or so with Maud de Vries, the co founder of BYCS, the Dutch NGO that recognised cyclists numbers were dropping in the Netherlands so in 2016, it created the now global Bicycle Mayors programme. Now, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’m on the road at the moment travelling to Sardinia with the help of one Tern folding bike, two ferries and five trains. I’m now in Cagliari on Tourissmo’s Chef’s bike tour of Sardinia. But the day after leaving Newcastle on a DFDS ferry North Shields, I landed in Amsterdam and met with Maud along with the coordinator of the Bicycle Mauors programme and two of the junior Mayors we met for coffee, sparkling water and iced tea at a scenic cafe, where I asked Maud to describe what we were looking at across the river.

Maud de Vries 2:16
Right now we’re looking at Central Station at the at the shared space, which is an awesome area, I think in Amsterdam, where there’s also a lot of water, you have the [ferries] taking people from the centre of Amsterdam to north. And then yeah, there’s a shared space, which has been has been working perfectly for years now. And actually they’re building another shared space and a big a very large, cycle park under the water here. I’m going to show you around later, Carlton.

And then you said there’s also going to because we’re going to the ferries going to and fro you said there’s going to be a bridge a bicycle bridge. Is that going across here?

Yeah, the bridge over the Ij, as they call it. And it’s amazing. Because also you saw the cruise ships coming here. They’re quite large. And still, they will be able to go here. So I think there has been a fight over this for a long time. Some people thought the cyclists should go under the tunnels, and some other thought it would be good to have the [ferries] and not change anything or have like the cable. Had I heard it called Yeah, the cable the cable? Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Which would be fun, of course, as well. But now finally, they’ve taken the decision to upgrade is that gonna happen? I think he’s gonna happen in likely, let’s say three to six years, something like that.

There’s a hug amount of bicycle traffic. I mean, every single ferry is full and they go every few minutes.

Yeah, they do. And it’s an amazing ride. I liked that ride as well. But of course people just don’t want to wait. And I think that’s the reason for building that bridge. And it’s also a good connection to actually connect the North in which there they develop a lot of land right now and the city centre so I really also like the bridge a lot but but you know as it is right now it’s very enjoyable tour to go from the city centre to north.

So now tell me because we’re not here alone, but we should say where we are actually. What’s What’s this place this this beautiful little cafe we’re big a cafe, not a little cafe, big cafe,

very big cafe and it’s beautiful. It’s called the Eye film theatre. And basically it’s yeah, it’s an arthouse movie centre setup basically by the by the city of Amsterdam,

But we’re not here just me and you, Maud. So introduce around the tables, we have some bicycle mayirs here we do we do we have a course of the bikes programme but first let’s go to the bicycle mayors. So who have we got here, Maud?

we get the first bicycle mayor or junior bicycle mayor, not the first actually I have to say but Lucas, you’re the first older Junior bicycle mayor in Amsterdam because actually, we had two before Lucas already and they were a bit younger, but then we felt like it would be really good to have During your bicycle mayor that will be a bit older to also get around a bit more easy and also to be able to put a to put the kids voice on the table a bit better, you know, so and I think Lucas is doing a really great job. You have been around for for almost a year. Have you?

Lucas Boer 5:17
Yeah, a little bit more than a year now, I think since November 2020, 2020, 2020. Yeah, one and a half near years now. Yeah. Something like that. Yeah.

Maud de Vries 5:27
Yeah. And it’s been really great. So Lucas was able to work also with adults. Adults, you know, you’re another year so now almost.

Lucas Boer 5:36
January, I’m 18. So I’m okay.

Maud de Vries 5:38
I’m officially you’re an adult now

You’ll be chucked out. You’ll be you’ll be thrown out programme. To Junior.

Yeah, so definitely, we’re going to find a new No, not yet.

We have in the in the right?

and we have Aya on the right hand side. You’re pretty fresh, because I think it’s three months now that you have to do new bicycle mayor for the Hague. And I think that’s pretty amazing as well. We have a new bike mayor in The Hague, as well. And at the same moment, if you got elected as the junior bicycle, Mayor of The Hague,

so I what do you what do you do compared to what the the adult bicycle mayor does? What what are the differences?

Aya Achaboun 6:23
It’s my job to look at what the kids want and need. And I think the seniors look more at the whole picture. And I narrowed it down to just what kids want.

Maud de Vries 6:34
What do what did kids need? Generally?

Aya Achaboun 6:37
I think in my opinion, kids need free bikes, because a lot of my friends, I know they don’t go to school with a bike because they don’t have one, or there’s is broken. So I think they need bikes and safer roads, to schools.

Maud de Vries 6:56
So even here, even in this country, where you are so many light years ahead of virtually everywhere else, you’ve still got to have a junior bicycle mayor telling people, kids need these things. Why do you need this in this country?

Aya Achaboun 7:15
Well, that’s a good question I think every country has has its imperfections. And we can always move things we should always try to set.

Maud de Vries 7:28
So perfection, perfect perfection. Because we I come across here, and I’ve got to come up with a boat. And I’ve just been straight onto amazing wide bike paths. And then to think that you’re gonna be trying to improve us how can you improve that?

Well, actually, something really bad is happening in the Netherlands right now. And, and we have to talk about this. And it’s happening to the children. Because years and years now less children are getting on bikes in the Netherlands. And that’s a big problem, because we’re actually losing the cycling culture that we

Is that they’re going into scooters instead, or they’re going in cars, where were they going?

Yeah, it’s like when they’re really young, you know, the parents feel like it’s less safe for a kid to be on the bike, which is not true, but they feel like that. So that is a big problem, I think. And the second thing is also cargo bikes. So lots of parents travelling, getting cargo bikes, and they then are a bit older, when they get to learn how to ride themselves, which is maybe not a good thing. And then also still to a lot of kids, especially in the retail, parents, especially reason taking the kids to school by car, which is a problem. So we have this fight for school streets, as well as other countries. But I think in the Netherlands, it’s like in Amsterdam, 25% of the kids can’t even bike and in the Netherlands as a whole a third of all children is not cycling

So for the future that’s bad. That’s

Exactly, it’s a whole generation had that’s not cycling, and if it’s declining, yet then we’re stuck because it will if all the people then like in 10 years or 15 years from now are gonna go to work by car then what do we do? It’s not possible. So then what’s happening next week on World Bicycle Day that were with all the bicycle mayors to junior bicycle mayors, but also the Dutch bicycle mayors are going to be offering a manifesto to the ministers in the Netherlands saying you know, this has to stop because we’re really worried and so are also a lot of organisations in the Netherlands that we have been talking to about this. So it’s important I think what I as opposed to saying is to put kids voice on the table as well you know, because so many ideas on how to improve things and and maybe Aya you can talk for example about your own idea. You know, I about like kids, the so in the Netherlands we teach the kids in school, how to ride a bike, but we don’t really do that because schools don’t have the time you know, and I think that lessons we learned and now are not the most the nicest lessons. And that’s the idea that you sort of that struck us when he went to become a junior bicycle, maybe maybe you can elaborate a little bit more on that.

Aya Achaboun 10:13
So we spend a lot of our day at or at schools. And afterwards, we don’t really have enough time, or our parents don’t have enough time to teach us how to ride a bike. Correct. So I thought, why aren’t we thought this ad was cool, because we have gymnastics, physical education. But learning how to bike is a class that has given given inside of gymnastics, but it should,

Maud de Vries 10:41
is that not also because it’s expected that you’re going to be you’re gonna be a cyclist here. Because you know, the old adage of it’s, like Dutch people’s DNA. I know, it’s not quite like that. But is that the reason? It’s just so normal here? In why would we have it in school? And you’re kind of like telling them something that’s, they find? Well, why would we do that? Is that is that the reaction you get?

Aya Achaboun 11:04
Yeah, I get that. But we’re now seeing that it’s declining. So there, it should be. There should be more focused on it. Now. Because we have like modes we have already we have had this bicycle culture for so many years. But now it’s declining. And it’s a problem that is really being ignored.

Maud de Vries 11:25
And we haven’t introduced somebody here, who is at the table and is listening intently here. So you do the kind of the bikes programme you can get onto the bike system. In fact, from instead of asking mode, what were the the bikes programme is, you can tell me who you are and what the bikes programme is, and we’re gonna say it BYCS, yes. So tell me what, who are you? And what is the bike programme?

Simón Alvarez Belon 11:45
So my name is Simón, and I’m the bicycle network coordinator. So I get to coordinate and manage this really inspiring and energetic network of cycling leaders that we have now in 138. cities more or less. And also, of course, the the network of junior bicycle mayors, which is really great. It’s a network goes, yeah, a lot of people trying to bring change in the cities and make the cities healthier and more sustainable through the bicycle. But I think what’s really unique is that because we value kind of the local knowledge and their voice, they’re very, they offer solutions that are tailored to their city. And those can be shared across the network, which is Yeah, it’s really inspiring to see and, and not only are our lessons shared, but also I think there’s a really strong sense of solidarity among the the networking that keeps everyone inspired and keeps everyone working towards the same goal of 50 by 30.

Maud de Vries 12:38
And do you meet up? I mean, how do you inspire each other? How are you? Is it like a WhatsApp group? Where you’re all in? What how do you how do you talk to each other?

Simón Alvarez Belon 12:46
Yeah, well, there’s a lot of things we definitely have communication platforms on WhatsApp, where people share what they’re doing, or a lot of people ask for resources or hey, you know, Does, does anyone know how to best implement a bike share system or how to best introduce bicycle parking, for example. But also, we have regional calls, which are really, really powerful where bicycle Mayor’s, for example, in Europe or in North America will meet up and discuss maybe an initiative that they want to tackle or they just share what they’ve been working on in the last three months and lessons that they’ve learned in Latin America. For example, last year, we had a regional call where everyone there, the angle Latin America is really focused on the climate crisis, and making raising awareness about how the bicycle is zero emission transport. And so for Earth Day, through that regional call all the bicycle ministers together organised an awareness campaign. Where, yeah, on Twitter on Earth Day, they all share, you know, what a united message of why we need to hop on bikes, to save the planet. And now we have the juniors as well which, which are doing the same thing.

Maud de Vries 13:52
Perfect. And Maud, tell me where this started. Because I mean, it did start from just you know, the odd wasn’t the Dutch it was. I mean, I was there when you Yes. When you when you were appointed? I sort of asked me back, Well, you tell me when, when what I remember this, when you tell me when was this? And what was the idea behind it? Yeah, and how has it gone? How is it as a how has it worked?

So it’s 2016, I believe, when we were starting this organisation called BYCS, an NGO. And we wanted, we wanted to transform cities, and we were thinking, you know, you could do that in different ways. And one way is to sort of leverage the voice of, of the changemakers that are already there in cities, you know, and also see the effect of benefits, the benefits between global and local, so have people being there in the city 24/7 knowing everything that’s going on, you know, and then for them, being able to raise their voice in that city. You know, we thought that might be a good idea. So then we started with one bicycle mayor in Amsterdam, which was at that time, and Anna Luten

And Anna worked for Giant?

Yeah. And then eventually she moved to New York as well. But it was great. She worked for Giant, but it had nothing to do with the work for Giant because basically she started because she had a fall on her bike a couple years before she became a bicycle mayor. And by then she realised, you know, instead of, you know, thinking about never going to be I’m gonna have a good fall. Yeah, somebody’s dropping. Yeah, it’s not Anna. I’m happy to say she saved. But you know, and then it wasn’t about that. But it was basically about she said, The bicycle is changing my life and actually want to do something with it to make Amsterdam, you know, fun and better, again, using the bicycle. But then yeah, some things happen in life, you know. So she moved, and then Katelijne Boerma came on in Amsterdam. And she really saw the transformation happening where she saw a lot of kids with obesity, still in Amsterdam, that road cycling, and then that was also related to the work she’s doing. So she was talking about how can we be seated and invites people and children to cycle more, you know, or to exercise more. It’s not only about cycling as an end goal, it’s a means to this end goal. And then, you know, building on that, I think in a year time, we had 11 Bicycle mayors, we organised the summit in Mexico City. And it was really awesome, because by then we start, we started to see the first results of that. And right now, the Mexican bicycle Mayor Areli Carreón, she was there at the beginning, she’s still with us. She’s transferring her role to somebody else as well. But what they have been doing is amazing, because right now, they changed a big law in Mexico, around safety, which was a big fight against the car industry as well. And finally, after years of fighting, they’ve won that. And this is something they this is a good example for multiple cities in Latin America. And they’re trying to spread that and the second thing she and her group at Decker’s and also lots of other groups are working on as well is to inspire single moms to have a bicycle, they have bicycles, electric bikes, they share with these moms, they can use that they are trained to use it for years, so they can feed the kids, they can take them to school, they can find a job somewhere and come out of poverty and also depression most of the time. So we have so many inspiring stories. For example, Satya in Bangalore, we have had a crazy explosion in India as well, where we now have I think, Simon, 47, bicycle mayor, something like that. It’s amazing. I’ll be going to India again in a week time, because it’s like, it’s really hard. What happens in India right now is that there’s a lot of air pollution, Delhi is a good example 50% of of the air pollution is caused by road transportation in Delhi, you know, what if we can take at least half of the trips, and get people out of the car. So onto the bicycles. So you know, and Satya, for example, is a good example. He inspired other bicycle mayors in India during COVID with relief riders, so what they did was use the bikes to bring goods and medication to people. And then other bicycle mayors took that on and then there was, there were a lot of volunteers working with them as well. So that’s some of the stories we get from the bicycle meyors. We’ve grown from 11 cities to 100. And what do you say? 38. Now, almost 150 Yeah, so sometimes it goes up a bit, and then it

Is the bicycle mayor programme the biggest part of BYCS?. And you won’t really do what else do you do?

Yeah. So we’re, after the success of the bicycle Mayor network, we also thought this is so strong, you know, building these movements. So we have started the citizens network last year. And that is really successful as well. What else we do is also we help organisations consulting, for example, we work with the UN and we are helping the World Bank in Latin America, set up a platform which is called PLAMOBI. That is a really good thing as well. We help we are helping organisations in India. So what we do is sort of build coalitions as well, organisations and policy institutes, companies, etc. To to go and bring the change. That’s basically what we want to be doing.

And have you found something that fit BYCS yet or is it still bikes doesn’t mean anything. It just means

it just mean but have mean? Means bikes, too, as simple as that. Yeah.

You’ve got to come up with something No, bicycles give you.

Yeah, I bet it was actually. It was a bit men by because we started off as cycle space. It was by cycle space. And then it also said BYCS, so we thought, This is really good. And it’s so short. So yeah. overdue. yours have really, I really felt like, this is so good. I really liked this. But yeah, you can say whatever you want?

And how is it funded?

Basically, we’re self funded until now, let’s say and so now we’re trying to get in a bit more partners that can also help in a different way. So now, for example, we got a nice grant to build on the junior bicycle mayor network. And I think that is really good. So in the, in the past, the work that we have been doing in consultancy, and lab stuff in the Netherlands has, you know, it really helped us enough to COVID that stop because we couldn’t organise any events, we couldn’t do that. So then it all dried up. Because the money we that comes into our house, we just spent that on the networks and all the other things. So we were a bit like, Okay, well, what are we going to do, so we had to shift the model. And now that really helped us to work and collaborate with all the amazing organisations had, like I was just talking about. So now for example, UMI which is the Rockefeller Foundation, for example, is helping us building on with a junior bicycle mayor network who doesn’t only mean they fund us, but it also means that they help us with other organisations that have done this, you know, how do you how do you do that? So we’re a small organisation, and we have we need help as well. And this is I think, the perfect way forward.

David Bernstein 21:28
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Carlton Reid 24:53
Wherever you come from so 2016 When the bicycle mayor programme started, when was BYCS founded on where How’d you get into this space? Of course, you’re Dutch. So you’re in this space naturally. But where did you come from?

Maud de Vries 25:07
Yeah, basically, it was just so I have another co founder, and he’s from Canada. And when he came here to live in Amsterdam with his family, it was basically because Amsterdam and the bike culture that we have, you know, said, I wanted to live in a city that is silence that is clean, and it’s nice and social, and people feel healthy. And he was like, Amsterdam is the perfect start. And when I met him, he was like, you know, we have to give this presents to other cities as well. And that’s basically I think that was the basic thought behind what we wanted to do. We just wanted to share the gift that Amsterdam has to give, but in a different way. We don’t think every city or every country should be like Amsterdam, or the Netherlands, you know, but there are so many opportunities. So that’s why we started off actually with the bicycle mayor, network. And you know, start it started off being a Knowledge Centre for international organisations that wanted to know more about how do I do this? What can we do? And then we started to work with other organisations as well. That’s basically where we came from. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 26:14
It’s obvious that you’re gonna go to things like Velo-city. So I’ve definitely been have interviewed you before. Yeah. And the Dublin Velo-City, in fact, and then previous bike shows. But then, of course, you also go into things like COP. So yeah, I’ve been Glasgow and the COP that’s coming up in Egypt, we are perhaps you’re going to that. So how is fitting into into a climate change agenda?

Maud de Vries 26:38
Yeah, it’s like, I think mobility is actually the largest thing we can, you know, influence on to get to the targets as quick as possible. And like in COP last year, we were talking about, you know, maybe how we should change the cars and get a battery in there. But if we talk about active transportation, I think that has that would have the the largest effect on on climate change. And it’s hard for people to see it, you know, so it’s the solution that’s already in the shed that say, you know, you can write it today. So we don’t need, we can transform all the cars that are in the world right now. And put a lithium battery inside, you know, we can’t do that. It’s just impossible, not only for climate, but also because it’s just not feasible. And this is such a feasible and human solution. We have to, we don’t have to, we should not focus on technology, we should not focus on all these other. That’s not the future. We have the future already here.

Talk about the future. We have some young people. Yeah. We’re not the future. We are the way apparently, yeah. So we are here sitting with us, I’ll come to you. How much of what you’re doing. And what you’re doing with that, with the programme has been inspired. And I’m gonna ask, the same question has been inspired by climate change, or how much of it is it’s why I like it. I like cycling, I think other people should be, you know, like cycling too. So. So try and split that into percentage terms, even

Lucas Boer 28:11
in the moment are in the past one and a half years, I didn’t really have the climates aspect as one of my points to focus on. I mean, true. It’s a very important aspect. I mean, we have a future and I want the livable world in 10, 20 years, where I can

Carlton Reid 28:29
Maud, we will still be there 10, 20 years.

Maud de Vries 28:36
We will do our best.

Lucas Boer 28:36
I don’t know. That will be strange. Yeah, I want

to wake with my bike to somewhere in a nice world that I’m in I think gets with this my primary targets. The first thing gets, I mean, it gets a toddler of five years or three years, it’s not the first thing without further think about is the climate, you know, so then it’s important to fix it.

Carlton Reid 29:03
And same question for you, Aya, but also, maybe because because because it was talked about like young kids there. When you’re talking to maybe teams, is the climate aspect, much more important to them? Is it part of what you’re talking to them about? Or again, is it is it you’ve got to keep it fun? Because the kids don’t want politics. They don’t want the future? They just want they just want fun. So how much are they again, same question, but just maybe slightly older kids?

Aya Achaboun 29:30
Well, I wasn’t really focused on the climate part either. When I saw the numbers, I was shocked because of how many kids don’t use the bike to go to school anymore and don’t use it at all. I was shocked because for me going to school with a bike changed my ability to concentrate on my work, and it just made me feel better and less tired than if I went with the trim or the bus. So I wanted to focus on that if you go with a bike, you might think oh Oh no, it takes, it takes a lot of effort and I will get tired. But at the end of the day, it makes you feel better than if you were to go with the bus or the train to school. That was what I wanted.

Carlton Reid 30:10
How old are you, Aya?

Aya Achaboun 30:11
I’m 17.

Carlton Reid 30:15
Does this programme that you’re doing? And many of them? Does it take some of the time away from your schoolwork? Or how do you how do you marry those two things, and maybe what your parents think why you’re doing this?

Aya Achaboun 30:28
Well, I was used to finding what I do. Because I have been volunteering for quite some time now. But what I really liked about bikes is any we can choose ourselves what we do when we do it, and how much time we put into it. So when I’m busy with school, I obviously don’t do a lot. I don’t think about a lot of ideas, I just focus on ways. And when I have free time, I can decide, okay, now I want I know I have time for bikes now I tried to, you know, get some ideas and make some plans. And my parents, they, they really loved it that I did this, how do I say?

Maud de Vries 31:11
You became a junior [mayor].

Aya Achaboun 31:12
Yeah, I became a junior Because they all see how important it is for us to use bikes more regularly.

Simón Alvarez Belon 31:19
It’s ust so important that they are doing the work that they’re doing to influence their peers at a young age and, you know, get cyclists that are teenagers. And I also think it’s amazing, right? We have this focus on climates. And I think a lot of teenagers do as well. But we also seen in Aya and Lucas, they have you know, very specific examples of why they want to get more people on on bikes. Aya wants to focus more on maybe, you know, this is a perspective that I would have never really come up with. So it’s wonderful to have their voices on the table to be able to learn why and how we can get people there on two wheels.

Maud de Vries 31:52
Totally. Yeah. And I think also Lucas would you came up with in so we have a green deals fiets, means cycling. And so basically, what you came up with was this timeline between for kids between zero and 20 or so when they get off on the bike and off a bike and how we could come up with interventions, you know, for that to see, you know, when you learn so what we see in the pilot that Lucas was referring to, so the two to four years old, it was it’s really funny, because they’re teaching each other actually. So instead of the parents like pushing them, I’ve been pushing my kids, you know, for half a year, I think before they could fit away themselves. But what happens in the in here is that if one kids starts to pedal, then the other ones do it as well, you know, so and I think if we were able to sort of do this in every leg, this experience is an experience for life. And I think both of you are also referring to the fact that it’s maybe not climate change or health or another angle, we’re not You’re not thinking about angles maybe all the time, or you’re just thinking about the fun or the the nice things cycling can bring to you. And I think that’s also a really good thing about cycling.

Carlton Reid 33:02
So I think people listening to this will be quite shocked. Because if they’re say listening to this in America, they would say, Well, of course that’s you’re describing our society, of course, people aren’t getting on bikes, we need to encourage them on bikes. And cars. Look at the Netherlands that everybody’s on bikes, and what you’re saying and what Lucas says it’s going to those experiences. No, even in the Netherlands, you have to encourage people, you don’t have to encourage people in cars now but go in cars. You’ve got to encourage people even in and I’m not going to bang the table here. Even in the Netherlands, you have to encourage people out, does that not say that’s an inherent weakness of the mode that you are promoting that you have to encourage them you do not have to encourage your fellow 17 year olds to get in a car they probably want to get in a car and fellow 18 year olds they probably want to get in a car because it’s I mean air quotes here the adult thing to do. So my point here is just well my jaw is on the floor. Basically that’s like I am in the Netherlands and you are telling me how difficult it is to get people on bikes and it’s like metaphorical head banging on on table that’s really shocking.

Maud de Vries 34:21
No, but it is all about the car. I have to say you know if we keep on pushing people into the cars, so what we’re doing is subsidising fuel, what we’re doing is subsidising the space where we people are parking the cars, all these things. If we keep on doing that we’re basically pushing them into a car and then being aware of like, oh, people are stuck at the highways, we need to build my highways. What is the future we want? You know, so I think the government’s are they need to make this change, you know, and that’s why it’s still hard for us to get the kids on the bike. But it should be the other way around in the Netherlands right now. They put two point Have a billion euros into this tax law helping the people that already maybe even have the money to drive a car, even if it’s expensive to still drive the car. They give them money. Why? You know, what did they do that they need this money? I’m shocked by that if we spent that two point a billion, it would mean 2800 euros per kid in the Netherlands, which is like a million kids that are not cycling. If we spend that only on kids, to give them a bike to make sure they have safe roads to handle that, then we would build on a generation, you know, that doesn’t need the car anymore, then we would build on a good city with a high quality of life. It is so easy.

Carlton Reid 35:43
Let’s let’s come back to Lucas. Because when I said there about driving and your age, and I have the same, and you that was an ironic nod you gave me it was like Yeah, yeah. So is that a problem? So on your timeline, for instance, is the world that’s the age that you know, your kid is going to basically want to, if not drive, at least want to learn to drive and watch and learn to drive into our insurance, you suddenly become Oh, I’m gonna drive all of a sudden. So is that when you think you will lose people? So you’ve done all this fantastic programme? You can’t? How old? Is it yet? 17. When you can drive in the Netherlands?

Maud de Vries 36:20
17 you can start to learn.

Carlton Reid 36:23
Yeah, okay, so 17 in the UK, but 18 across here. So you could now drive you can’t drive yet. But you can now

Lucas Boer 36:29
drive when I have a licence with I don’t have a licence. So but

Carlton Reid 36:32
is that on your timeline? That’s like, okay, 18. And we’re gonna lose so many people at 18. Not.

Lucas Boer 36:39
I mean, for me, personally, I’m not thinking about getting a driver’s licence. But there are a lot of people who are, I mean, the first step is getting a scooter at the age of 16. No, then you can go with a scooter to school. And then that’s the first point where you lose some. And then when you get 17, or 18, they start driving lessons, I think all with a car, I can go to there and there. And when people get the car, then you lose a lot of people. It’s a lot of people also feel for Uber, a car is a little bit more expensive than I thought it thought it’s an insurance, gas and the car itself. It’s not cheap. So that’s also something that’s causes people that causes people to get back from the car with a lot of people. Yeah, we lose in the car. And I also think we did some, nothing my timeline anymore. I think later, some things, something later, you get back from the car. And I mean, some hope or I think at some point, people realise this owner of that car, I don’t want to drive the car, the rest of my life, I will go by bike to my work or something. I mean, my father, he could drive to work, but it’s an Amsterdam, and then he takes the bike. The car is standing still in front of the house. So I think there’s also a point in life where we get something to the effect but that’s not really my thing to focus on because he or not juniors anymore and do it are not it is not the my top guy and so yeah, but yeah.

Carlton Reid 38:12
Okay. And Aya same same question to you that really

are you in visiting when you become a driving age do you do do envisage getting a driver’s licence? Or your peers? Also thinking about getting driving licences? Do you think you’ll lose lots of people to driving when, when they get to that magic age of 18?

Aya Achaboun 38:35
Well, almost all my friends have either started their driving lessons or are going to in the near future, and everybody’s talking about it, like going with the car to school. It’s just cool, I guess you could say for that age. So I do think we’re going to do that now going to school with like growth with a car

Carlton Reid 38:56
and have it male female, is there more of your female friends thinking that way? And maybe the guys don’t? Do you? I mean, in the UK, there’s a huge drop off of teen girls. You know, teen girls is when you lose, you know, people, you know, you can you can very much have a girl cycling up to the age of 14, and then it becomes incredibly uncool. To start and I know that from having from from teen girls, they’d come back, but for a few years for good three, four years, it was very uncommon for them to to be on a bike. How do you find that in the Netherlands? Do you find that similar?

Aya Achaboun 39:35
I think so. Yeah. Because two years ago, we did research for a project. And we researched how many kids go to school with the bikes and with with the bike and we saw that all the boys in my year went to school with the bike. And with the girls that was like 50, 50. So that was an interesting, yeah.

Carlton Reid 39:55
So how old were they? What was that that the age group? That cohort It’s

Aya Achaboun 40:00
14 to 16.

Maud de Vries 40:03
It’s very interesting because something similar happened in your school remember, with the girls saying they felt safer. And around? Also same age, I think 14, 15 years of age.

Carlton Reid 40:13
Yeah. So that you’re you’re having the same problems that we have in the UK. So even having it in the network, again, I’m banging your head against the table, even having it in the Netherlands. That’s, that’s quite shocking. And I’m, it’s common to me, it’s like, of course that happens. But here’s like, it shouldn’t happen now, because you have all these bike paths. So how is that happening?

Maud de Vries 40:32
With the bike paths you mean? Well, yeah, we have bike paths.

Carlton Reid 40:36
you’ve got, you’ve deployed in other countries in America, in the UK, but you’ve got the things that we are clamouring for. And yet, you’re losing cyclists? How come?

Maud de Vries 40:47
I think the government is still pushing on the wrong things, you know, if we don’t make it safe for girls, let’s say 14, 15 years old, to go to, let’s say hockey or soccer at night, and come back home, you know, then they won’t cycle because the parents just tell them not to do it. For example, if they don’t learn the rules, for example, or if the car drivers don’t take notice, like what happened in your area, for example, then then people will, and girls especially they will feel afraid, and they will they will not be on the bike anymore. And that’s a terrible thing. I think. I think it’s very simple. Actually, you know, if we think about I’m not against the car, but but in a way I am against the car, because that is, you know, causing so many problems for people to get on the bike. So we should make it an easy job for people to get on the bikes. And, you know, by by designing more with the bicycle in mind, you know, that’s very important. I think.

Simón Alvarez Belon 41:44
So yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I think it’s really interesting, because, you know, you’re seeing here in the Netherlands, you have all this incredible cycling infrastructure, which we do. But I think an interesting angle that bikes takes is human infrastructure. So we’ll talk about the importance of soft factors, which is kind of what Maud was just talking about, with her examples, teaching people how to ride bikes, like, like I had talked about, or, you know, giving people free bikes, when they don’t have access to other kinds of cultural aspects that bikes really works on that are crucial. So in many places, you know, you can implement great bicycle lanes, which is a very crucial first step. But you also have to build a second culture around that to make sure that those bike things get used property. And so I think it’s not that people don’t want to go on the bicycle, but we’re also counteracting forces, you know, like Maud said, thr government from the economy that that wants to get more people on cars, and creates a car culture, we also have to create a bicycle culture. That’s what

Maud de Vries 42:41
great addition, I think that’s very important. And I think eventually, you know, building the lanes is important having the bicycle city is important, but to get to this point where you know, where you can see more cycling is human infrastructure that’s making a difference.

Carlton Reid 42:57
So what you’re saying to me and it says come up very clear in this is that the the bicycle mayor or the junior bicycle mayors programme, is is a critical component. Totally so it’s not like a cutesy add on, you know, look, we’ve got we’ve got bike little what’s going on and of course, we’ve got Junior, it’s something that’s really really important to because you will lose so many people if we don’t have the programmes that you are you two, and your and your your fellow junior bicycle mayors are, are putting in place?

Maud de Vries 43:29
Totally, we were just talking about the impact that they have when they do something and I think that’s grounds you know, so it’s not only putting the kids voice on the table, but actually making a difference.

Carlton Reid 43:40
Thanks to Aya Achaboun, Simón Alvarez Belon, Lucas Boer and Maud de Vries. This has been episode 298 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association with Tern Bicycle. Thanks to you for listening and watch out for the next Dutch-themed episode popping up in your feed real soon … meanwhile, get out there and ride.

May 23, 2022 / / Blog

23rd May 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 297: Stop motorways, remove parking, boost bicycling, says Sweden’s Climate Law Inquiry

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Anders Roth

TOPICS: This show is a 37 minute conversation with the secretary of Sweden’s Climate Law Inquiry. 44 page English-language summary starts on p. 41 of this PDF.


Carlton Reid 0:09
Welcome to Episode 297 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Monday 23rd of May 2022.

David Bernstein 0:22
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern 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 1:00
Thanks, David. I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to the spokesmen. This episode is 35 minutes or so with Anders Roth of the Swedish Environmental Institute. He has just handed the Swedish government with recommendations from the Climate Law Inquiry. Now Anders was Secretary of that inquiry and worked with a team of six on the radical for some recommendations, including boosting, bicycling and critically reducing car use through the removal of parking spaces. And the radical, definitely radical for some pruning back of national road building. I began by asking Anders to introduce himself.

Anders Roth 1:48
Well, I’m a mobility expert at the IVL, the Swedish Environmental Research Organisation, or Institute. So and I have been part time working for the this climate law inquiry for since last autumn.

Carlton Reid 2:06
So when when they appointed you wouldn’t they know pretty much what you’re going to say?

Anders Roth 2:13
Yeah, I think so. Because me and my colleague, we wrote them a report of suggestions for what they could focus on for the next part of their inquiry. And apparently, they found that quite good, because then they asked me to join them. So I guess they knew pretty much what I was going to focus on.

Carlton Reid 2:37
So it’s no it’s no surprise what you’ve what you’ve come up with.

Anders Roth 2:41
No surprise at all. Also, it’s I must say that this is the part of the investigation. We are a team and it’s not really my suggestions. It’s the person that leads the investigation, the inquiry, and that was the former head of the what’d you say last to loosen the lungs served in Swedish.

Carlton Reid 3:06
But is that Anders Danielsson?

Anders Roth 3:08
Yeah, that’s right.

Carlton Reid 3:10
Right. So he was the governor of Västra Götaland yeah?

Anders Roth 3:15
Yeah, that’s right.

Carlton Reid 3:16
So you’re basically the Secretariat, you’re the person behind the thing.

Anders Roth 3:21
We were six of us doing the work in different fields here.

Carlton Reid 3:26
And the million dollar question is you’ve come up with these recommendations. But does the government have to implement them?

Anders Roth 3:34
No, they don’t. They can do whatever they want. And and also, this inquiry was really, what do you say? They asked for this inquiry, when their government look different when we have different parties or political parties in the government. So this government, we are not sure if they are fond of all the suggestions. Of course, you never know that. Because the procedure is that you, the government send this inquiry for out to a lot of other organisations and companies for to hear their view. And when they get their answers, they decide what to do with the suggestions that we come up with. That’s the normal procedure for inquiries i Sweden.

Carlton Reid 4:23
You said that, that the complexion of the politics has changed in Sweden, but when it was originally brought in, it was seven out of eight parties agreed on this, to have this inquiry.

Anders Roth 4:35
Well, I guess that that was seven of eight. Yeah, I guess you’re right.

Carlton Reid 4:39
Can you give me a brief introduction to your main findings and what you say Sweden is going to have to do if it’s going to be carbon neutral.

Anders Roth 4:51
I’ve been focused on transport issue. So that’s what I’m going to tell you here. But the main point of our inquiries that

We have to focus stronger on on steering towards transport efficient society. Today, we have a lot of politics and measures for introducing electric vehicles. And that’s important. We also have strong measures for biofuels into the transport sector. And that’s also important, but that’s not enough. And if you tried to introduce too much of biofuels, you will do that in non what you say, it won’t be good enough on a global scale, you will have a lot of sustainable problems with that. So you have to have a no a policy that takes down the need of, of fuels in the beginning. And that’s what’s lacking. I would say in Sweden, for a long time, we need better policies for transport efficient society with measures that takes down the, say, the demand for for transport in the first place.

Carlton Reid 6:05
So in other countries, and I’m guessing in Sweden also, there’s there’s been over the last 5, 10 years, there’s been a big push to get bike lanes to get, you know, better walking facilities put in. But in your in your view, do you think that almost no good, unless you also stop motoring being quite so efficient. So if if you if you build loads of bike paths, and if you build loads of pedestrian infrastructure, that that seems to be fantastic. But if you don’t also, at the same time, reduce the amount of motoring the facilities you build, for active travel will not work?

Anders Roth 6:50
Well, they will not work as good as you think. So you often need what do you say a package of measures where you have both carrot and stick? And that is something that the would you say the transport research is quite a lot of result that points on that. And that’s what we point out. Also in our inquiry, for example, we have this with extended urban environmental agreements where we think this could work Excellent. Where you have you state go sing with money and support, as you say, public transport and bike lanes and other things that enables people to change travel mode. But on the same hand, you need also restriction measures for car traffic, otherwise, you won’t get the same effect from it. So that’s a main measure. What do you say? Point from our inquiry also, you need both stick and carrot. And therefore, it’s important that we have national measures. And that we have goals that says that it’s not okay for car traffic to to increase all the time. And we shouldn’t plan for that. That’s what we do today. And that’s, that’s wrong to do that.

Carlton Reid 8:13
And what about road building? Where does road building come into that?

Anders Roth 8:18
Well, if you plan for car traffic, and also lorry traffic to increase all the time, then it will be more economical viable from economic from what you say, socio economical view to build more roads. And therefore, ways if, as we suggest in the inquiry that you shouldn’t plan for that you should plan for a decrease in traffic instead, you won’t get as many road projects.

They won’t get beneficial from a society point of view anymore. So you won’t build them. You will and you.

You have money that you could do other things for instead, that will be better for the climate.

Carlton Reid 9:05
Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Sweden have lots of private roads, and communities

own their roads? And they can they can do things with their roads that in other countries they couldn’t do Is that correct?

Anders Roth 9:19
That’s small roads really. And so that’s not

that’s not a big thing. The big roads are really controlled and build and so maintained by the state.

Carlton Reid 9:31
The big roads have to be fed into by the little roads. So could there be more small communities? For instance? Yeah, maybe take the recommendations you’re making and actually restrict on that. Do you see any future for restrictions on not just the national major roads, but also, the more local roads?

Anders Roth 9:53
Er, no, I don’t think so. I think this will, on the other hand, be an opportunity for smaller roads.

They can get more money for,

for measures that could be beneficial. For more active travel, for example, we have roads, on the countryside that are quite dangerous to bike on, because there are no side space for bikes or walking. So it’s It feels very unsecure to bike or walk there. And if you then build them, you take money from the big roads to the small roads, you could, you could improve the possibilities for active travel on the countryside. So I see, on the other hand, a better future for small roads here. And I think that’s important also, from an acceptance point of view. Because often you end up with measures in the cities, and you perhaps forget, tend to forget the countryside, and then you get the big problems when you when energy prices go up, and fuel will get more expensive.

You get sort of the yellow [jackets] you know, problems with the acceptance among people living on the countryside.

Carlton Reid 11:09
Because because Sweden does have a very high number of electric cars, yeah?

Anders Roth 11:14
Well, we have a high number of new sales of electric cars, but still, the total number of electric cars is low. And that’s also what we say, even if we

have a high sale, new sale of electric cars still in, in 2013, most of the vehicle kilometres driven will be non electric.

That’s why the well, we have to do all things to get sustainable here.

Carlton Reid 11:46
Now, I know this is an almost an impossible question for you to answer politically. But because you kind of mentioned beginning there that that there has been this change in, in political complexion in Sweden. However, in your gut, what do you think will happen with your recommendations? Do you think they will be put into law and actually carried out?

Anders Roth 12:12
Well, of course, I hope they will. Because otherwise, I am me. And my colleagues wouldn’t be involved in this inquiry. But really, I don’t know, we’re going for an election year this year. So I think at least I hope there will be a good debate and discussion about that, because we need this to get sustainable. We can’t just go on on two legs for the transition. We we need the transport efficiency scientists well.

Carlton Reid 12:44
So do you think that the climate law inquiry will be very difficult for politicians to argue against? Or could they just not argue against it, but just completely ignore it? And like sweep it under the carpet?

Anders Roth 12:59
Well, that could be a case, but I hope not it will happen. But really, I don’t know. We will see. And then we’ll I will try and my colleagues will try to discuss this and try to explain why we have this recommendations. And I know they’re still other researchers and organisations as well that that have wanted this suggestions for a long time. And at least I think that are some suggestions here in our inquiry that are perhaps have a broader one set acceptance to be and that perhaps is helpful, I think,

Carlton Reid 13:39
Would it be correct in saying that because of the kind of energy that you have in Sweden, that transport may be compared to other countries actually more important component of of reducing

carbon emissions then then other sectors?

Anders Roth 13:56
So in Sweden, this is much more important than perhaps in other countries? Yeah, I think you’re right there because we transport stands for a big part of our climate

emissions in Sweden, so therefore, it’s much in focus.

Carlton Reid 14:13
How big a part, Anders?

Anders Roth 14:15
I beg your pardon?

Carlton Reid 14:17
What’s the percentage how important?

Anders Roth 14:20
It’s about 1/3 of the climate emissions comes from transport or a little bit more even.

Carlton Reid 14:28
Putting it putting your your sucking your finger and putting it up in the air to see you know, where the winds blowing from? Do you see this being popular? Do you see the climate law inquiries findings? To be something that most people in Sweden will say yes,

we should be doing this I mean, I’m thinking of things like you know, the the flight shame, you know, movement which which which which started with you and and has spread around the world and you

had to get more long distance train travel instead of flying. So it, I’m assuming that these measures are probably going to be more likely to be popular in Sweden than perhaps in other places again, is that is that? Is that fair to say that? Am I putting words in your mouth there?

Anders Roth 15:15
No, I’m not sure about that. Because so far we haven’t seen the same movement about car travel as we had with flight shame. So I think the still could be pot. Well, it’s not that easy to implement such measures. But on the other hand, I know when when we see

when when we ask people in different cities in Sweden, what they think about car restrictions, generally they are not there is a majority for car restrictions if you just do them in a proper way. But the debate tends to sometimes be dominated about for from interests that are perhaps not that general.

So it’s it’s an important measures for the politics to have measures that are would you say

Pro that are reflecting all of the people even the those that are not here in the debate, I would say

so you don’t see a movement just yet for car shame you’ve had flight shame was very successful. You don’t see car shame low. I haven’t seen that yet. Well, I’m not sure you need really need the car shame movement, either. But you need a better understanding for why actually, we can’t just drive more, and think that’s okay.

Carlton Reid 16:53
But why? Why why wouldn’t there be a movement for car shame? Why Why would flight shame

take off, in effect take off? So well, compared to what why is that crazy? Why is Why is thinking car shame? is crazy. Whereas flight shame isn’t crazy.

Anders Roth 17:10
Well, actually, we have talked a lot about driving less for I would say 30 years since we we have campaigns about this different cities, her work this. So it’s if you ask people, is it good for environment to drive less? I think most say yes. But on the other hand, to to point back to yourself and say, Well, should I do it as well? Well, that’s step two. And we are not really

at that stage yet. But perhaps we will soon. And I really don’t know.

Carlton Reid 17:49
Let’s, let’s circle back to you again, Anders, where we came in, so your mobility expert, what is your your research being about what would explain explain your research background?

Anders Roth 18:02
Well, we have done and May, I have been involved also in a lot of projects, for example, about parking, and the importance of parking policies to steer traffic and to promote mobility services, such as public transport done, and also car sharing. So that is one of my field. Also, my colleagues have been quite into infrastructure planning and why infrastructure planning from the national level is often in to say, coalition with the local planning and local goals from Citizen municipalities. So that is two fields. And I used to be also the environmental manager for the second city for the Traffic Authority in the second city in Sweden. So I’ve been responsible for, for example, a congestion charging scheme in Gothenburg in parking policy scheme, environmental service scheme and some other works as well. And I’ve worked a lot with also environmental vehicles, biofuels, and so on. So well I have a quite a broad field of experience, I would say from 33 years of of this in this field now.

David Bernstein 19:28
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Anders Roth

Carlton Reid 22:53
The other cities are catching up, maybe to your experience, like Paris, famously, is now catching up. And one of their biggest ways of catching up is restricting parking spaces. Yeah. Do you see that as something that that will be successful? If you restrict parking, all the other modes go up?

Anders Roth 23:12
Yeah, parking is definitely one of the most important tools that you have as a city, you have a

would you say your mandate is big on parking for most cities. And it has a great potential to really shift modes if you do it in a good way. And also, it’s not just shifting modes, you could also take down the the ownership of cars in the series. And that is also important from an environmental point of view and also from a city point of view, to use the this to say the space in the city in a better way. And actually we have new new actors in this. It’s not just the municipality that works with this, but also property owners that see that they understand that parking is something that could be beneficial for they if they not have to build too many expensive parking lots.

Carlton Reid 24:15
Mm hmm. And what about bike lanes? What what Sweden doing in the building of hard infrastructure for cyclists,

Anders Roth 24:25
mostly in cities, I would say and some cities working quite well with this. We have for example, Uppsala and Malama. That is good biking series in Sweden. So

I would say that biking is on

not perhaps steep but nevertheless up going trend.

Carlton Reid 24:49
Is has been very pro cycling for many years. Yeah, that’s like it’s laced with cycleways Uppsala.

Anders Roth 24:55
Yeah, they are good. They are working on this but also you see that

The general trend that junk people tend not to bike that much anymore.

And so well, you have good result in some cities, but also on the countryside, perhaps you see that people bike less? So? Well, it’s not something that is happening just by itself all over Sweden.

Carlton Reid 25:25
Is that is that partially because of I mean, you’ve you’ve you’ve obviously got a slightly more severe climate than as in weather.

Certainly compared to the UK, so a car is comfortable has a roof, air conditioning, you know, you’re comfortable year round, public transport. Also you have a roof, climate conditions around bicycling and walking, you’re open to the elements. So is that one of the reasons why it’s not popular? Just maybe the weather?

Anders Roth 25:55
Well, it could be one reason, but it’s not all of the answer. Because if you look at different cities, where the different circumstances as were there, we can find both cities in Sweden and Finland that has a very tough climate, but still a good promote a good share of people that to taking the bike. So it’s other factors that really will make the difference. If you do it attractive enough.

Carlton Reid 26:27
The Netherlands doesn’t really have a car industry. You know, there are no major car manufacturers in the Netherlands. And that’s that’s often touted as perhaps one of the reasons why

they’ve been able to have a relatively successful a very successful bicycling culture. And whereas Sweden does have a car industry, very famous car industry, how much of the recommendations that you’re making,

will actually get a kickback from the car industry? Mentioning no names in Sweden? Well,

Anders Roth 27:07
I don’t know that remains to be seen still from from our suggestions, but well, it they are the car industry in Sweden, they have a strong influence of the national politics. No doubt about that. But still, I think many cities and municipalities, they are not that affected of the car industry. So they could they are free and could will do their own policies without being affected by the car industry. So it’s more into I would say what the local politics in cities really decide that matters.

Carlton Reid 27:50
Hmm. Yeah, I’ve talked to lots of people in your kind of position around the world in which that that’s a very frequent

point in that, you know, we often talk about national policies. Yeah, in fact, it’s municipal policies, which are the thing that makes the difference. However, I always bring it back. And we have to, we did kind of touch on this earlier is, that always leaves the countryside, the rural areas out, because they tend to be much more conservative, much more car focused. And you can’t, then you can you can cycle you can walk, you can have good public transport in cities, which is great for people who live in cities. But you go outside of those cities, and the conditions become incredibly bad very quickly. So how can how can local local areas benefit from what cities are very much now at the forefront of?

Anders Roth 28:47
Well, I think we have some projects at my work where we try to implement different mobility service on the countryside in connection with the public transport. Because it’s expensive to have public transport services on the countryside where not many people travel. But if you can do that in a more efficient way, and at the same time to give people better possibilities. I think that could be one way. And as I described earlier, we had this with extended urban environment agreements, we have a project where we try and try to have something that we called

Rural environmental agreements instead of where we try to focus on both mobility services, but also like having your distant office promoted in a way that gives you a chance to have a better way to have handle your day to day go to work situation and local services.

So I fully agree we have to do projects and make steps forward on the country. So

might as well, otherwise there will be a big problem for general policies as well. And what I said about the car industry, of course, we had policies that have been affected by the car industry, for example, we have the would you say, Well, you could have a company car with the tax deductions we. And that has been beneficial, of course, for the car industry. But that has recently been.

Actually, they change that in from the environmental point of view, good way in the latest year, so it’s not that beneficial anymore.

But But still, you could have countries without car industry that have policies that promote owning and driving cars. And Norway’s a good example of that, where we have enormous of money put into if you buy an electric car. And actually there are investigations done that shows that before 2018 1/3, of electrical cars bought in Norway, it wasn’t replacing diesel or gasoline car, they were just increasing the to say, the car ownership in Norway. So instead of sitting in the bus, you bought an electric car and use the bus lane, with you electrical car making problems for the bus that you used to travel with. So that is GM, something that we tried to

talk about and make research about that you you have to think of policies that that could both stimulate new technology introduction, but without having those negative effects of increasing car demand.

That’s a problem for the politics to have those two minds are two things in mind at the same time.

Carlton Reid 32:00
How about stimulating electric bikes and electric cargo bikes? That’s that seems to be working in many places around the world, when you when you give the same kind of incentives as you give to E cars, electric cars to E bikes, that leads to basically the program’s very quickly

reaching a capacity because people really, really want these things.

Anders Roth 32:22
Yeah, we are I agree. And we seen that in Sweden, also from the research that actually, you do, you have quite astonishing results where you, you have a new travel with electrical bike, and you replace car travel. But some years ago, we had a premiere for that in Sweden, actually, and that was a big political debate. And there was a lot of discussion about this was really useless money.

And I think that could be something actually, deep below the Swedish I don’t really know. But there was a strange debate, I think, anyway, because there wasn’t any results that this was bad.

So it was more like an instinct to the debate, I would say you can’t really give cyclists money for biking. That’s ridiculous. Many people thought that. And I thought that debate was strange. Is the recommendation in your report to have electric bike subsidy? We haven’t gone into that. Actually. We have just some questions that we focus on. But do well. We do that recommendation. In other words, you say suggestions and reports.

Carlton Reid 33:49
Okay, so the inquiry had to make its recommendations about a week ago. Is that right? Yeah. And that now it goes it basically gets presented to the government. And they then they officially publish it and say this is our policy or is what what’s the progress for it after and after it was handed in?

Anders Roth 34:10
Yeah, well, we’ve handed in to the climate and environmental

Secretariat last week, they will look at it and I think they will wait for another inquiry as well. That also touches on the same subjects, not transport issues, but other issues that we had on in our inquiry, and then there will sound this arch. I don’t know we call it remise and Sweden. They will send it out to a lot of other organisations to hear what the broader society in Sweden thinks our suggestions and after that, they will

they will look at the answers and they will decide what will happen what

Carlton Reid 35:00
suggestions they will put in for the parliament for a new laws and Anders how, how radical are your recommendations?

Anders Roth 35:12
Well, I think on a scale from one to 10, I would say seven eight, perhaps some of the recommendations are, I would say quite radical to the policy that we

have today, but they are not. They have been long discussed among people working with this. So they are not too radical from, I would say, the the general discussion among

scientists and people working with this, but they are quite changing the policy that we have today. So, in that case, you could call them a bit radical, perhaps, perhaps not radical. That’s not I don’t know if that’s the right word, but they are changing the policy of that we have in in a quite distinct way I would say thanks.

Carlton Reid 36:08
Thanks to Anders Roth there. For an English language summary of the recommendations Anders and his crew made in the Swedish climate law inquiry, go to and this has been episode 297 of the spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association with Tern Bicycle. Thanks for listening. And watch out for the next two Dutch-themed episodes popping up in your feed real soon. Meanwhile, get out there and ride …

May 8, 2022 / / Blog

8th May 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 296: Explore Your Boundaries

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Marcus Stitz and Mark Beaumont

TOPICS: This show is 45 minutes with round the world cyclists Marcus Stitz and Mark Beaumont discussing their “explore your boundaries” bike-boat-ferry tour of Argyll, Scotland.


Carlton Reid 0:05
Welcome to Episode 296 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday, eighth of May 2022.

David Bernstein 0:21
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. Good people at Tern 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 kinds 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 0:56
Thanks, David for that intro with our new sponsor, and welcome to the show, which is 40 minutes or so. With round the world cyclists, Marcus Stitz and Mark Beaumont. I’m Carlton Reid and I met with Marcus and Mark in Oban, Scotland before they set off on a week by boat and ferry trip around Argyll I was in town after my own little tour around the region, which Marcus helped organise. Thanks Marcus. And as you can tell from the clinking of cutlery, and a little bit of muzak we met for breakfast in a cafe — so where are we? Cafe Shore in Oban andyou’re about to head off you to on a bit of a wee trip whereabouts are you going yhis morning and you getting a boat that I hear yes sir physically can not ferry a boat.

Mark Beaumont 2:03
Yeah, really sorry to go it’s hard to go far. And I got all the hours without going on a boat. I mean, the mainland is beautiful. But you know, by by school it’s always just amazing when you when you when you go across to to the islands especially smaller islands which are you know, I guess less often explored by bike and when they are it’s often by Roubaix adding double bikes like we’ve got for this trip, you know, lasers to you know, really explore the, the complete range of terrain and I you know, I absolutely love as part of the world my my first memories were in a guy my dad was a, you know, a dairyman further down on the mainland. So my first memories were looking over to the isle of Gigha. And, you know, whilst they then grew up in other parts of Scotland, it’s it’s always pretty special to come back.

Carlton Reid 2:59
And then how long as this trend, so describe netting markets and markets describe what exactly are you doing from today? Because this is you doing this over a number of months only there’s not like,

Marcus Stitz 3:09
yeah, so we’re doing it over like it’s it’s nine days in total. The distance roughly is about 900 kilometres with like, a few bits and let’s and so this first part of the tour will take us we’re taking a boat, the charter boat, but actually which is also available to other people won’t be doing the same. We’re just wandering over from Quinn and harbour to the northern end of Juba. And then we’ll be staying recycling across Juba. And then we’re staying on Isla tonight. And then tomorrow we’ll be taking a ferry from Port askaig on Isla, over Caliente to open and then we’re taking another ferry over to Mo and then we’ll be cycling tilba mui. And then we’ll have a few votes on Sunday from Toba Mali to the Isle of coal. And then another ferry journey to Tyree from coal and then another boat trip back to

Carlton Reid 4:08
small boat trips on this then says there’s possibly definitely more

Marcus Stitz 4:11
because more and more kilometres and on peviot. But like, it’s interesting, because when I design as when we had to look at it, so the Argyll boundary is actually even more extensive because there’s so many little islands so you know, if you would want to add any of those in there, you’ll possibly spend 30 year cycling, boating around. But the idea behind creating the route is that it’s it’s accessible to most people. So the 72 private charters we have and, and the other parts of the world are quite interesting as well. So I’m going to be doing another three days of filming with Jenny Graham, which will involve kayaking across Loch Lomond and taking the Highland explorer train for shore journey as well. And then the last bit I will be mostly on the bike actually, that’s going to be where we’ve been mostly cycling. And we kayak journey over back to the moon.

Carlton Reid 5:08
So you’re really showcasing the region by doing everything you can.

Mark Beaumont 5:13
Yeah, I mean, the genesis for this project came out two years ago. Now, when Marcus and I are both living in Edinburgh, in the heart of lockdown, wanting to explore that concept to live by, you could go while staying close to home. So they explore your boundaries concept started on the second of January when we did a ener, D deep snow sort of an epic sort of ride slash pushing our bikes through the Pentlands and around the fact before, and it was quite cool that concept to an area that I know very well, Marcus may as well. But see if they are in unfamiliar ways. When When, when locked down was at its sort of feet, you know, we weren’t allowed to cross our council boundaries, and nobody really knows where their council boundary is. I mean, you might notice that the bins change colour, but you know, it’s not normally a thing unless you’re a counsellor. Well, actually, we’re recording this, on the sixth of May. So maybe today, people do care about where their council boundaries are, because it’s been the council elections being have been, but normally, it’s not really a thing. And so, Marcus, and I got all the GPX routes for the council boundaries in Scotland, and I just started to quietly encourage people to, you know, stay local, but, you know, go on adventures. And I think there’s something wonderful by giving a narrative, rather than just going on a bike ride, you’re, you’re actually instead of forcing yourself to stick to a line or to create a route, and then explore your boundaries, there’s more than metaphor than just a physical route, there was very much about sort of pushing yourself and having a great adventure. And that series,

checklist included, was not the only thing that you’ve got to move on.

So they say the first, the first four or five, explore your boundaries were all in central banks of Scotland. And the more we did, the more people seem to sort of latch on to that concept. And he posted the roots and commute and encourage people to explore their own areas. But the council bind us in the central belt of Scotland are all day lights or two day rides and most when you start to consider birth share, or, you know, I guess or our guy on the aisles or the high end, these are, these are much, much bigger challenges. And so when the Argyle is an area that I’ve explored last Marcus has explored law, but to take that concept of exploring your boundaries, and to try and come up with a route or a concept which would hopefully inspire other people to go on adventures was a bit more challenging and that’s where Marcus comes into his own. He’s an absolute sort of genius when it comes to to route setting and we’ve brought Jenny into this project. I think it’s fantastic that you know, we can split it into basically three 3d explorers and I think that’s more realistic for how people actually go on their adventures. You know, we’ve just taken Friday’s off and I adventure all days and then Sunday and you can go back to your job on a Monday having had this you know, extraordinary adventure across lots of islands and terrain. So this this will be our most challenging explore your boundaries yet for sure. It’s been challenging to even plan it and Marcus has done the heavy lifting on that but it’s it’s gonna be a tonne of fun, but it is it is continuing the series that is continuing this required dictate that idea I mean, people you know, Baglan rose people, you know, want to swim in every laugh. And, you know, I think for a gravel bike rider this concept and started are plenty three routes around, around around around each boundaries. It’s quite tantalising because uh, you end up taking your bike to parts of Scotland and the country that you wouldn’t normally have residency

Carlton Reid 9:26
and you’re gonna need fuel for this ride. Don’t let me stop listening to people going to work and this is your would I be right in thinking you both do this? This is your living. This is what you do. You ride your bike and you get painted

some of the time some of the town’s

clean have you guys make your money?

Mark Beaumont 10:00
Marcus, you go first.

Marcus Stitz 10:06
I guess for me, it’s, it does change. But I think the core concept of what I’m doing so I do three things, which is bike packing in Scotland, then my own stuff, which is under my own name. And then I want events as well, but they don’t really call it to come into this one. But I think most of my book is, has to work with, I think the overarching theme behind it is to get more people out on bikes, and also to offer them sustainable tourism alternatives, but really give people the tools to do it, because I think it is really important to, to, yeah, have offers for people so they can, they can get around the country in a different way. And so that’s the overarching thing about it. There’s, it’s a mixture of, I do a fair bit of filmmaking. So this this project is, is a good example of where I’m kind of jointly doing the filming, I’m doing the editing. Then I do, I do write and photograph as well. And then I’ve just written the book as well. And I think parts of this route is going to come into a new book I’m working on at the moment. And then there’s also a few companies I’ve worked with on a regular basis. So Schwalbe has been supporting us for quite a number of going go

Carlton Reid 11:28
check tires, knew the exact tire I was riding on my Brompton.

Marcus Stitz 11:31
Exactly, yeah, yes. Possibly, possibly like I’ve seen. But so they’ve been super helpful. I, I I only work with with partners from the industry where I think I’ve got a good feeling but loganair so swell, but it’s quite an interesting thing. What I really like is their ethos of sustainability. So as a company they’re trying as much as possible. And the other thing for me as I speak German to my portfolio of companies I work with is sometimes also companies which obviously

Carlton Reid 12:07
Mark is eating his porridge.

Mark Beaumont 12:15
yeah, so I was talking in Leeds when he a business I’ve worked for him for 17 years going from here to there. And that’s partly where

Carlton Reid 12:24
the money from so like you’ve gotten things on CDs and then get told to them to like to inspire.

Mark Beaumont 12:29
I love I love the opportunity to do events and talks, but it’s not it’s not my bread and butter. So you know, there’s a lot of a lot of athletes who do spend their lives but I don’t I run a early stage investment firm. So my my background and if you feel that people knew me as I was a bike rider, you know, it’s like learning the planet twice. Not there’s worse things to be known for but, and why I spend my time doing is as an athlete. I work for GCN I made a documentary recycling network. And these days that really accounts for one or two big projects a year major documentaries and then filmmaking with workers and you know, markets under sells himself there. His real skill debt is the exacting filmmaking you know, he’s a one man immediate shelter insofar as he can do the stills, the photography, the filming was wrong, you know, on the FBI, she has an extraordinary skill set when I was racing GB Judo last year, you know, he built that beautifully and ended the day. So, you know, to have that, to have that skill set to capture and share stories is amazing. I can’t I can’t do that. But but the other side of my life, which is just as important as writing mics is on the partner, an investment firm, and we we are impact investors, we focus on climate change solutions, clean technology, food and water security. You know, I’m a farmer’s son, and you know, I’m interested in the stuff I want to talk to my kids about are the big challenges in the world and trying to back science and technology, which is, you know, creating, creating creating solutions, global solutions for you know, stuff that keeps me up at night. We’ve also got some some healthcare lights thrown in there. So I realised sort of, we’re mixing two very different sides of my life, but I don’t I would I ride the bike because for a decade, right, a very fulfilling and successful career. You know, as an adventure athlete, I enjoy making training great each year and break records and do worldfirst I will always be an A, I love riding my bike. I love having the ability to push myself and hopefully inform and inspire others to go there and push their abilities. But it’s not it’s not my me work. I We do it if we do it by, or nothing from it, because I absolutely love adventure. You know, I absolutely love adventure. And this is a very meaningful part of my life, but in the next 20 years of my career, you know, will be different to the last 20 years of my career. And if I can, if I can back, if I can back up all ecosystems, businesses that are making a positive impact in the world, then that’s just as meaningful, as, you know, adventures like, you know, exploring wildlife.

Carlton Reid 15:31
What difference that may have until, to your to both

of those aspects of your life,

Mark Beaumont 15:37
I think the biggest difference was I didn’t want to be travelling. So if you think, I mean, I’m

Carlton Reid 15:46
Aborad? Here is OK?

Mark Beaumont 15:50
just mean time and time away. I don’t mean, I don’t mean where I mean, in my 20s, I would do expeditions that weren’t six, nine months. And, you know, we’ve been away with the BBC and filmmaking all over the planet for long periods is a completely different equation to get to help. And so, you, the racism projects I take on now all tend to be a month, as opposed to, you know, the last time I was away for a month on in was during the world media days, five years ago. So yeah, I still, I still feel like their confusion itself as hard as ever. As and in terms of my if you get geeky, like my numbers, my view tonight, my, my, my performance on the bike now, you know, I’m arguably a stronger rider, and I was gonna wait when I say drive the world, but I’m training for different thing. I’m going faster, but I’m not, I’m not going eating Vegas. In the summer, I’ll be doing Race Across America. And, you know, we’re, so I’m doing things on the ground. But when I don’t travel by nourishing yourself in different directions, as an athlete, I’m still learning I wish I’d known in my 20s Why No, no, you know, nearly 40 I love that. But, you know, my priorities are very different with, you know, two beautiful daughters to, you know, a different work life

balance. And also,

I’m not, I’m not, I’m not a freelancer in the sense that I can just go and ride my bike every day, you know, I’ve got a business to run. And I am in love with bands, I get balanced out with great adventure. And you’re

Carlton Reid 17:26
going to be when you’re running around with Marcus, or you’re going to be doing business deals on your phone

half way up a mountain.

Mark Beaumont 17:34
Marcus is pretty understandingly, Marcus has a great idea. And we’ve done so many projects over the years. So he doesn’t understand that, you know, I’m often chatting about, you know, because Because to be fair to market mark is massively interested in. He’s incredibly well read and very interested in the science, the technology, the innovation, you know, the things that we’re addressing, so we often end up riding our bikes talking about, you know, sustainability, talking about, you know, innovation in businesses and, you know, behaviour and all these things, which are absolutely what we’re trying to do at yields, which is the rest of my kind of my work. So I’m not, I’m not one of these people who’s entirely distracted the whole time and, you know, trying to go do me milk when you’re riding your bicycle, but I do see it as the same. The same thing. You know, when I’m on my bike, I often think I don’t meditate, but I do ride a bike, when I’m riding my bike, I’ve got time to think I’ve got time to talk to friends, I’ve got to really come up with ideas. Make connections. So it’s not like I draw a line, then I leave my laptop and go, Well, you know, I’m not doing that. And, you know, I’m very passionate about what I do on the investment side and very passionate about what I do on that adventure side. And thankfully, my guess is it’s very liquidy to conversations about where it’s going to be so he’s not yet hit the big red button and said sharp marks they’ll start talking about innovation.

Carlton Reid 19:03
Right? So Marcus has now quit with the information they’re polished up that breakfast is already great. For now Mark has got so we’re gonna we’re gonna

like we’re shuffling between each other. They’re not I want to come to

you though, and then just talk about and come either you’ve adopted Scott or Scott was adopted you What have you learned in Scotland? Where’s your background? Obviously, you cycled around the world

on a singletrack bike

what point did Scotland impact on your life?

Marcus Stitz 19:43
There were two points. So I came to Scotland over Sunderland actually, I studied how the year in Sunderland and others using using the train connection from Newcastle up to Edinburgh a number of times just to visit Scotland because it’s such a beautiful place and then I did an internship In 2005, in New York and had basically had a month to spare. So 2005, okay. And having been up to Edinburgh, I knew about the fringe, and afford like this quite opportunity I was at university back then create opportunity to get a summer job in Edinburgh and see what it’s like. And yeah, so I did a managing a box office in 2005, doing the bridge. Loved it, it was great. And I think this is kind of really shaped my view of Edinburgh as well, because it’s such an international town, very open minded, it’s like it’s, but it’s also traditional at the same time. It’s fairly Scottish. So, and then I kept coming back for years doing pretty much the same. Either being at university, or then I worked in New Zealand for a while. And then after, after living in New Zealand, for a while, I decided I’m going to go come back to Europe. And as, as I’ve been to Edinburgh, beforehand, for a few summers, I have, it’s just a natural choice. And yeah, this is how I ended up in Edinburgh, worked in the arts for quite a while. And then I had a bit of a career change in 2012. And started as Head of Marketing at Scottish swimming. And that was very much I think, part of the the session behind it was also, how can I use my skills based in the arts to work somewhere else was that they do something for a long, long time? Haven’t you become a bit tunnel vision. And the other reason was also, I just just wanted, yeah, it was just a theatre, it’s just change up that general life change a little bit. And the good thing about that job was it was it always has, it was a two month, a two year contract. Initially, I wanted something that has a limited timeframe, because I had this idea of cycling around the world in my head. And so that gave me the opportunity to say I’m going to do this, I’m really going to focus on that Korea pilot. For two and a half, it ended up being a little bit more than two years. But then there’s a break. And that point, it’s going to be cycling around the world. And then I’ll do whatever I’m going to do afterwards. I didn’t really think about that before I left so and and that’s kind of our ended up and which was interesting. So it’s been 34,000 kilometres cycling around the world. And there was very much with a focus already. I knew I wanted to do something different afterwards. And I was literally looking at houses safely managed in different countries. What’s the attitude just slightly? How do different countries use cycling as a tourism as a, as a travel alternative? countries like New Zealand are very interesting, for example, when it comes to that. And so when I came back from the Vanderbilts group, and this is why this trip was really interesting, I ended up in Fort Ellyn on Isla, there was the first part of Scotland as because I took a real ferry over from Northern Ireland. And the last four days cycling and Scotland really caught home the idea this is an amazing country, like we’ve got so much opportunity here. And we’re just picking it just, it just needs us and it needs fresh ideas and needs. And it’s people behind that really, that really pioneer ideas. And that’s kind of where the idea of bike packing started and all the work I’m doing why now?

Carlton Reid 23:22
And does it work? Does the

Tourist Board think wow, this has really boosted our numbers? Or is it something very niche? Where do you think it fits into the


Marcus Stitz 23:32
It has a big it was very niche when I started doing it has massively, or at least noted, notably changed in the last two years in the pandemic? I think beforehand, and then also with the whole discussion about sustainability. I think people now do realise things need to change and they also realised that they haven’t changed quick enough. Still, I think the ecosystem in which we’re operating now is a very different one. I think we’re still I just did a destination Leadership Programme at the university to kind of backup my my my skills a little bit. And it was really interesting. I think there is a there is a real there. But there’s a very significant lack of acknowledging that people don’t know what cyclists want to his business don’t don’t have an idea. And I always think if you tell them that and you make it very clear to them, they’re really receptive. I’m yet to find any business whatever, we don’t want any cyclists to visit us because they you know, they arrive late and leave early they eat loads of brilliant light from from, you know, from from what people actually spend the community and the way how would they expect it? It’s just I could not think of anything better for our community.

Carlton Reid 24:53
They don’t really know busing me in loads of food. Are you in a big camper van? No, you’re basically by If you’re good to the local economy

Marcus Stitz 25:02
yeah and you don’t need even your infrastructure is minimal what you need when you don’t need any parking spaces for people overnight. Thanks for like this. So and I think this and this also like, I think people cycling in terms of food, they can only take so much alibi if I recognise that I’m around the world for three days if you’re doing it self support, that is the maximum you can take. So, you know, you’ll end up buying your stuff in local shops, and which I think is a really nice thing to do. So yeah,

David Bernstein 25:31
hey, everyone, Excuse the interruption, but this is David from the Fred cast and the spokesman. I just want to take a few moments out of the show to talk to you about our sponsor, turn bicycles at That’s t e r n, like the bird turn. Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. And today, I want to tell you about their new quick haul ebike. The Quick-haul is a compact ebike and it’s it’s optimised to make life in the city just a little bit easier, a little bit more convenient, and a lot more fun. It’s a compact ebike. And it’s kind of handle most of your daily trips around town, it’s rated to a hefty 150 kilos, or for those of us Americans 330 pound Max gross vehicle weight. And it’s got an ecosystem of modular accessories. This is really cool, by the way, so that it can be customised for any job. different setups are going to help you carry a load of cargo, maybe an extra passenger, and that could be a small adult, a child or even your dog or cat. Now despite its longer wheelbase, and its hefty cargo capacity, it’s shorter than a regular bike. It’s a compact design, plus it’s got 20 inch wheels. And that makes the quick haul easier to manoeuvre on urban streets, or maybe even in transit hubs like train stations or bus depots or even ferry terminals. It also includes turns vertical parking parking feature, which is really cool, so that you can just roll the bike into a small elevator or pocketed a quarter of your apartment. Now, the quick haul is also shareable by literally everyone in the family. It’s equipped with an adjustable seat post and stem so that it can fit riders from 160 to 195 centimetres or five foot three to six foot five, but it also fits riders 145 to 180 centimetres, which is four nine to five foot 11 When you put on the shorter seat posts now Josh Hon, who is Tern’s team captain, and also somebody both Carlton, and I have known personally for a very long time, don’t ask me and Josh how long we’ve known each other. Josh is serious about ensuring the safety of Tern’s bikes and its riders. So that’s why he and his team ensure that every turn bike is designed and independently tested to ensure rider safety. That’s why they use respected independent testing labs, and why they sourced their motors, their drive trains and their batteries from German industrial powerhouse, Bosch, it just doesn’t get much better than that. So for more information about the Quick haul, or any of Tern’s wide range of bikes, just head on over to That’s t e r n We thank turn for their sponsorship of the Spokesmen podcast. And we thank you for your support of Tern, and also for allowing this brief interruption of the show. Now back to Carlton and the spokesmen.

Mark Beaumont 28:55
A big a big part of a conversation is about how do you get good information out that allows people to know how to access these areas. I mean, it’s nearly 10 years since the wildfire Gao so you know we’re sitting here and open. Wildfire, Gao started, Karen Toobin came up with that sort of project with myself and others and I spent 12 days exploring this beautiful area, but a big conversation that came up. It’s a real case of you know, build it and they’ll come because until you build a narrative, give it a brand. You know, we’ve seen that in other parts of Scotland. I mean, here’s, you know, the adventure coast up in the north coast of Scotland then see 500 You know, these, the putting putting locations on the map, and then giving people credible information in terms of how to get there. So it’s one thing saying that the islands on the west coast of Scotland are beautiful, but you’ve actually got to help people in terms of how to get there with their bikes. So you know, during the connections with you know, the trains from London for example, you can get sleeper train up on a Thursday night or a Friday night and wake up and you’re you’re ready Did you go? Or how did you get the bus with? You know, with bike spaces on it, you know, how do you go from Glasgow, to central belt of Scotland, you know, to these parts, you know, what’s the ferry network, like, it’s not rocket science, but equally, it’s not. It’s not information you’re born with. So a lot of the narrative over the last sort of 10 years has been paid up a credible information, which is not just picture postcard, this is a great place to, you know, take your bicycle and communities that you want to explore. But, you know, what’s the toolkit? How do you do it, and when I say build it, and they’ll come, when we started the, you know, the wild about a girl project, you know, 10 years ago, it then got picked up by Visit Scotland and amplified. And I think we knew, and we needed to start creating content, we needed to start, you know, putting out infant information before, you know, other organisations went, Oh, this is great. It fits our it fits our agenda as well. And it’s, you know, it’s very clear whether you’re talking about, you know, public support through, you know, destination tourism, whether you’re talking about businesses, you know, whether you’re talking, there’s the rising tide floats, many boats, there’s a lot of interest, but I think it’s leadership is having people who actually have the idea is to get people together and put out credible information.

Carlton Reid 31:17
You guys have got to go, you’ve got a boat to catch it. And that’s your own boat.

Mark Beaumont 31:21
I don’t know, this is quite fun, I could go on a bit longer.

Carlton Reid 31:25
Well, you need to plug your stuff now. Sounds good on Marcus, and you’ve got a book we have close to actually physically coming out is your book and tell us about your book.

Marcus Stitz 31:33
Oh, it’s actually in the printer, which is great. So there’s no changes any longer, which is a fabulous thing. So it will be coming out on the seventh of July as the publishing rate. And the books called Great British travel rights. And the idea behind that this is again, what Mark’s just been saying, I think you’d like whoever whiting’s been such a fast growing thing, sport, whatever you want to call it, especially in the UK. And my idea was like to write a guide. But I also want to portray to people who are behind the voice of thought and clever, clever avoiding if you if you take a very poor definition has been a long it’s been around since people have written their bikes. And cars, they’ve always been started travel books, and then we had tonic. So I portrayed 25 people and their favourite routes with them.

Carlton Reid 32:26
And Jo Burt.

Marcus Stitz 32:28
Yeah, we’ve got Jo Burt. So this like marks and as well, Jenny, then Amelia McKenna. She’s a, she lives in the borders, and she’s really a champion when it comes to like their favourite rides. Is that pretty much? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it’s, and most of them, most of them are where the people look for as well. So it is in their own path.

Carlton Reid 32:49
Similar to this, you’re doing so it’s like it’s more your boundaries, but gravel rides close to home?

Marcus Stitz 32:53
much. Yeah. And there was a very, very interesting theme that came, which I didn’t really think about at the beginning when I started researching it, but it came to very, very well that the reason why a lot of people picked up quell bikes in the UK, this was during lockdown, because those are the bikes do, you can write them from your front door, and they’ll get you anywhere, pretty much, you know, they’re kind of a good alternative between a road bike and a mountain bike. So you can you know, you can do the odd bit awkward to it. So, ya know, there’s of quite, quite BowTech, then there’ll be a documentary about this as well. So I basically filmed and photographed those roots, and all the pictures, selection of the pictures made it into the book. And now I’m working on the film, which is we must, hopefully a really nice portrayal of how diverse and how interesting the prevalence scene is. And there’s two things about the book as well as so the sustainability theme is in there as well, I, I often thought that a lot of white books are very much focused on costs. So I did the research and most of the data accessible by public transport. But some of them people need to avoid a little bit longer to get to the start point. But that was one of the key ideas. And it’s also there’s a 60 or 58/42 ratio of men and women and because I always felt like cycling is such a male dominated sport, especially how it is portrayed in the media. And I really want to navic That’s the huge opportunity of gravel riding because I think it’s huge. It has started from from a very different starting point. So and I’ve got two women of colour in there as well. It’s just I’ve tried to try to portray, I think cycling is really diverse. And it’s a really interesting activity because it is really accessible. You can you can write, you know, you can buy you can buy a bike for 200 pounds, and you can have fun, avoid some of the routes on it. And that was the idea behind it. So yeah I’m really looking forward to it.

Carlton Reid 34:49
And where can people preorder who’s, who’s the publisher basically?

Unknown Speaker 34:53
Ao the publisher’s Vertebrate. They can pre order it on Adventure or through us Without let’s they’ll be available on

Carlton Reid 35:02
And just standard plug your social media. So where can people I’m sure they do follow you anyway.

Marcus Stitz 35:06
yeah, that’s, which is a Yeah. So they can follow me. I think it’s like Twitter and Instagram, which are the two main channels, it’s quite cool to have, which is a bit that thing long back to my German data sets, I said Kult loanee Was that I never saw. It was basically a name, I’d given myself myself and acquainted with each eight in Germany I did for 12 years. And that was our DJ name. So it was so nice. I think there must have been the first time when I used to return via Instagram wasn’t born by then. But then I kind of adopted that handle across all channels, and the authority just by typing in markers sticks. Yeah, there’s easy and if they are single speed to this Google Search still very clearly binary,

Carlton Reid 35:51
excellent. And coming for us to know where What do you want to plug in the name of projects you’ve been doing that you want to just talk about all your social media would want to

Mark Beaumont 36:01
Buy Marcus’s book? Well, what have I got going on? There’s Race Across America happening in June, I’m not sure when you’re going to put out this, this conversation. But that’s going to be an interesting race. So with GCN, my I’m doing as a pair, and my race partners, a guy called Jonathan Schubert, who’s a time trial specialist. So that’s been a lot of focus and training this year, and the epic coast to coast and we hope to break the record, from West Coast East Coast going just south of Los Angeles to Baltimore, we’ll hope to get across America in about six and a half, seven days. And that’s not self supported. You’ve got a truck behind you. Yeah, that’s that’s an absolute all a race. It’s absolutely at the sharp end of performance very, very different to these, these these backpacking adventures. And that’s the GCN film I’ve got, I’ve got a book coming out in the summer, all about sports psychology, cycling psychology. So I wrote a book a couple of years ago with Laura Penhold, my performance manager called endurance, which was kind of all the frequently asked questions I’ve been asked over the last 20 years about how to go further. And the chapter that I think I enjoyed the most. And I felt there was a lot lot more to say was psychology and mindset. And one of my key contributors for that was a San Francisco based sports psych, called Dr. Jim Taylor. So when the when the when the insurance book did well. The publishers came back and said, What would you write about next? And I said, Well, could we take that chapter and really develop it? So we’ve just finished writing, writing that and we all know that to be a good bike rider, you need to train physically. And we all know that. Mindset, emotions, identity, are a huge important part in terms of our performance as well. But even though we know that we don’t really do anything about it, it’s just sort of are you born with it? Is it just experience, but there’s no, there’s no way to train that really the way you train physically. So Jim brought a huge amount of knowledge, having worked with top flight, US teams in skiing, and cycling and triathlon. And I brought my life of experience. And it was really interesting working with somebody who could bring, you know, a language and a way of describing what I’m very interested in, you know, I’ve always felt like my ability as a bike rider is not because of who I am physically, is actually your ability to think your way through the task and, you know, endure in the simplest sense, so yeah, looking forward to that command in summer.

Carlton Reid 38:46
So that’s in July, August. It’s actually meant to time as

Mark Beaumont 38:50
so yeah, I’ll probably come out just after Marcus’s book, publisher GCN GCM. Publishing. Yep. Okay. Yeah, my first books were all Penguin Random House. So the ones which are the expedition books, but my last two which are more How To books information, books are published through GCN.

Carlton Reid 39:08
And then Twitter it’s MrMarkBeaumont.

Mark Beaumont 39:11
yep, I’m dead easy to find. Just like Walmart. There is a mark Beaumont who paints horses and there’s a mark Beaumon, who’s a music journalist, I often get tweets. I often get tweets from people really annoyed that I’ve slagged off their rock band. And that’s not me.

Carlton Reid 39:28
What’s that on your arm?

Unknown Speaker 39:30
So Supersapien. So super Sapien. So it’s a glucose monitor.

Carlton Reid 39:34
And so that’s normally for diabetics?

Mark Beaumont 39:37
Yeah, it was born out of people with type 1.

Carlton Reid 39:39
My wife went and she’s not diabetic, which is a diabetic doctor. So she often wears stuff like that. Yeah. This is now the tech for athletes to wear.

Unknown Speaker 39:47
Yeah, exaclty. you can see my croissant and porridge is kicking in at the moment. So I was when I met you this morning. I was actually very low. And for everyone listening we’re looking at graph right now. I’m, and there’s a massive spike as I’ve fueled now. And whilst I’m in sort of a passive recovery mode here, that’s all fine. But if I was to go into a performance mode, this is exactly the same graph, but with a different range on it. And I’m now in a space where I should get on my bike and start pedalling. But if I’d done that an hour ago, under fueled, my performance would have been suboptimal. So yeah, no, so it’s called a super sapien, it’s, it’s very much about, you know, 15 years ago, people geeked out on heart rate, and then people geeked out on power. And, you know, layering on top of that, and understanding of what’s happening with your, you know, your energy systems is super dressed for that,

Carlton Reid 40:36
well, you’ve had some breakfast, you know, go right.

Why would you do that? You geeking out on the graph there when when the human physiology which is full of off? Well, you think,

Mark Beaumont 40:47
yeah, I mean, there’s an intuition about it, there’s a there’s a common sense element. But we’re not as objective as you might hope we are like, when you’re when you’re shattered, when you’re sleep deprived, when you’re pushing yourself through ultra endurance. You know, if you have a physiological bonk, if you hit the wall, it’s normally correspondent with a nutritional crash. And people don’t feel because their legs feel people feel because their gut feels normally. So the psychology and the nutritional side of cycling. Cyclists just want to cycle and they think it’s all about how strong their muscles are. But actually, they take care of themselves if the mindset and the nutritionist is correct. So I don’t think we are, I don’t think we’re as good as you’re suggesting we are at knowing ourselves. And I think we should never, we should never rely on data to the point where we lose sort of the ability to sort of listen to our own body. But it’s very, very, it’s very, very useful and helpful to have some science behind that. I know when I’m racing. In a ram, I’ll need about 110 grammes of carbohydrates an hour to be able to sit at 260 watts. You know, I know, I know, my numbers. And so it’s pretty clear, then backing that up if I’m under fueling. And so yeah, maybe that would kill the fun for some people, but I’m in the business of, and I have been for my whole career of trying to break down barriers, like people, you know, criticise me for ruining a good bike ride by going too fast. But I’ve always been trying to not just break records, but create leaps in performance. I try to do stuff that’s not been done before, not because I’m trying to beat other people, but because I’m very, very interested in what’s possible what my personal best is. And so data data is really helpful. And sort of, you know, I genuinely do wish I’d known some of this. When I first cycled around the world 17 years ago, I mean, back then I really was a wild man adventurer, and I trained much better than than I did 1520 years ago, but so part of the evolution

Carlton Reid 43:00
Thanks to Marcus Stitz and Mark Beaumont there. And thanks also to you for listening to Episode 296 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast now brought to you in association with Tern Bicycle. Watch out for the next episode popping up in your feed real soon. But meanwhile, get out there and ride.

April 21, 2022 / / Blog

21st April 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 295: The best electric car is a bicycle — in conversation with sustainability scientist Kim Nicholas

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Professor Kim Nicholas

TOPICS: This show is a little under an hour with Professor Kim Nicholas, an American sustainability scientist based in Lund, Sweden. She’s co-author of a new study which ranks the 12 best ways to reduce car dependence in cities.


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 295 of The Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on 21st of April 2022.

David Bernstein 0:24
Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information, check out our website at And now, here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the Spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 0:51
Thanks, David. And welcome to the show, which is a little under an hour with Professor Kim Nicholas, an American sustainability scientist based right now in Lund, Sweden. But before we get into this great episode, I have some thanks to give, and a welcome to make. Those of you who have listened to the show for a wee while will know that our long term sponsor has been the American online retailer, Jenson USA. Amazingly, they’ve been our title sponsor since 2008, two years after the show started. Now, 14 years is a long time to retain the same sponsor. And we are so grateful — that’s me and David — for Jenson USA’s support over those years. But all good things must come to an end and Jensen is now taking its leave. But we’re not. And I am thrilled to report that we have a new title, sponsor in Tern Bicycles. You’ll know Tern, of course, from the GSD electric cargo bike and other modern classics. Tern is a longtime friend of the show — co-founder, Josh Hon has been a guest several times — and so it’s a great fit. Tern’s support will enable us to continue producing the Spokesmen podcast. We’ll be working with Tern on intros and audio bumpers, and all the other things that podcasts do with their partners but, for now, let’s get started with today’s show, which is my conversation with Professor Kim Nicholas co author of a new study, which ranks the 12 best ways to reduce car dependence in cities. Before we get into the paper that you you’ve co authored with, with Paula Cuss, I first came upon you, because you had this viral placard-stroke-poster because you’re a climate scientist. So tell me what that that placsrd-stroke-poster said.

Kim Nicholas 3:30
That was from my first climate protest in 2014. It’s based on a framework I’ve been teaching for a long time, and it’s almost a haiku of everything you need to know about climate change boiled down to five statements. So “It’s warming. It’s us. We’re sure. It’s bad. We can fix it.”

Carlton Reid 3:51
Yes. And then you’ve you’ve taken that haiku. And you then made a book out of it in effect. So under the sky we make as your latest book. So is that would I be right in thinking that is an expansion upon that, that that number of linked very short sentences? Is that is that the expansion of it?

Kim 4:12
Yes, I do use that framework in Under the sky We Make. I also organise the book by facts, feelings, and action. Those are the three secret ingredients we need to actually tackle climate change. And I talked about the facts of how we know that it’s warming, and it’s us and that scientists are sure I deal with some of the emotional impacts in the feelings because it is really bad. And that’s something that’s tough to face. And we need coping skills and ways to face it in order to do the work and find purpose and meaning and doing the work. And then the majority of the book is focused on evidence based action. So what does research show actually works to make a fast and fair transition to a fossil free world and how can all of us be a part of making that happen?

Carlton Reid 4:59
I think I don’t think I’m totally out of the ballpark here. But it just seems that in the last six months, perhaps a year, perhaps even after, don’t look up the movie, we’ve seen more climate scientists actually taking quite direct action. Would you say that’s right? Is it something is that? Is that a sign of desperation that more climate scientists are not just saying, you know, yes, here we can fix it. And and this is the yes, it’s we’re sure, elements of your hatred, but also, the but we can fix it part has been ignored.

Kim Nicholas 5:37
I think it’s fair to say there’s increasing frustration and even desperation among climate scientists and climate experts, we’ve really had the scientific knowledge that we need to tackle this problem since almost my whole lifetime, or before I was born. And the fact that we’ve done so much additional research and crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s and gotten the error bars down to these tiny margins, and done what science can do to point out the problem, which is basically burning fossil fuels and destroying nature. Point out the solutions, which are getting on clean and renewable energy and transforming to a sustainable system of food production. We know how to do those things, but governments and people in power are not making them happen. And it’s really increasingly terrifying to feel like we’re standing by and watching those warnings, and that evidence being ignored. So I think that people are getting really compelled to speak up and take more direct and personal action so that we can try to sleep at night and say, Look, we didn’t just stand by and, you know, let society failed to act when we knew what to do. So I think you’re right that people scientists are getting more directly involved.

Carlton Reid 6:54
Now I’m gonna be this — normally I’m a smug cyclist, but I’m actually gonna be a smug motorist here now. So right this second in time on my driveway is an electric car. It has been charged from the solar panels on my roof. So I’m incredibly smug in that, you know, I’m not powering that the car from from dinosaur trees, I’m absolutely just going from the perfect renewable, the sun. So that’s why I’m kind of smug here. However, if if people like me and the millions of people like me, actually just thought, well, we’re going to solve the climate crisis by doing what I’m doing here. Now, that’s actually going to lead to another problem. And that is, you know, mass car use if everybody starts driving around because they think that being friendly to the to the planet, by being smug and having an electric car with a solar power, charging it, all that does is actually lead to other problems. So how can you square that circle as a climate scientist?

Kim Nicholas 8:03
So your electric car being charged by solar panels on your roof is the second best kind of car. It’s definitely better than a fossil powered car. But the best kind of car is actually car free. So this is what our new study is focused on. With Pollack, who’s you know, we start from the the understanding that, actually to meet climate and health goals and to reduce inequalities and to make cities safer and more livable, and more beautiful. We actually need to reduce cars themselves, electric cars are a big step forward from a climate perspective, compared with fossil cars. And all cars need to be fossil free. But actually, the biggest benefits and gains will come from reducing unnecessary cars as much as possible. So that was the focus of our new study.

Carlton Reid 8:52
So let’s, let’s talk about your new study. This bubbled up for me. I know two, three days ago, I know you’ve had a you’ve had the paper, then there was a conversation piece. And then as a guardian piece. So this is bubbling up in many different places. And this is me, this was me, that’s going to bubble up for people to this total points, you’ve got that I would like to go through that like point by point and let’s let’s go backwards until we get to V key ones that you think what cities should be, should be doing. But first of all, yeah, one of the kind of overriding things. And this perhaps is counterintuitive to too many people is it’s not so much what national governments do. Most of the work on climate is actually being done, or reducing cars for it. Most certainly is being done by local governments by municipal governments. So is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is that a neutral? Should there be more national government stuff anyway? Where do you where do you sit on that particular angle?

Kim Nicholas 9:56
Well, we definitely need much more National Climate Action, we know that government’s current pledges are most likely not sufficient. And if they are barely sufficient with the most optimistic assumptions to meet the agreement of the Paris Agreement, so are to meet the climate targets in the Paris Agreement. So, countries are not doing enough, especially historically high emitting countries like the UK and the US. Those national governments need to do much more, there are about 20 countries who have been slowly reducing their greenhouse gas emission. So that is good news. But that needs to be stepped up much more. At the same time, there are several 100 cities more than 300 cities who have been reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. So just by the numbers, we see that cities are actually doing a better job of putting policies and practices in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And it doesn’t let national governments off the hook. But it shows that there are important climate actions to be taken at every level of government and really in every place, because ultimately, to stop climate change, we have to humans have to completely stop emitting carbon dioxide and adding it to the atmosphere. So to do that, every city has to do that every sector, every industry, every country, so it’s a lot. It’s a big job. And we do need everybody to help out.

Carlton Reid 11:17
I might be wrong on this, globally, but from a UK perspective, it seems that cities are able to do this, because they have leaders in the UK, it’s kind of these these effects voted in members, so elected members who some of their biggest portfolios are transport. So that’s why cities are quite progressive on this, because the things that that mares tend to have control over is, you know, things like getting cars out of their cities, is that a fair reflection globally? Or is that just Am I just looking at purely as a UK thing.

Kim Nicholas 11:57
So our study focused on Europe, which, in the EU, we have a mission to deliver 100 Climate Neutral cities by 2030. And that is very soon as you know, it is less than eight years away. So it’s a big job. And there are many cities that are interested and have signed up. But basically no city that is on track to do it yet, or is has all the policies or practices in place to make it happen. So it is the case, though, that our study found in Europe that local governments were key in implementing these policies that actually did work to reduce car use. So what we studied was, where has car use actually been measurably reduced already in practice? So not just models or projections, but actually, where has this already worked on the ground? And we found that more than three quarters of these cases, the initiatives were led by local governments.

Carlton Reid 12:56
I kind of mentioned globally there and you brought absolutely back to the focus of your study, which is a you But let’s actually geographically ground you here. So where are you talking from today? And where did you originally come from? Because your accent is not we’re you’re speaking from?

Kim Nicholas 13:15
Fair enough. I grew up in California in a town called Sonoma, which is about an hour north of San Francisco. And my PhD was actually about the impact of climate change on the wine industry, which is the lifeblood of that region and connection for my family and part of that landscape and history. Then in 2010, I moved to loon Sweden, which is where I’m speaking to from today. So I’m a sustainability scientist at Lund University.

Carlton Reid 13:41
I know Sonoma I have cycled in in the Sonoma Valley. So yes, it’s a beautiful part of the world. Let’s, let’s talk about your study now from it from a slightly different angle in that when there was a tweet, I don’t know if you’ve answered this or not. But in one of the tweet threads where you mentioned your study, and you gave the link to the original paper, Henk Swarttouw of the European Cyclists’ Federation, said, yeah, they’re all great. All those those, that those those 12 things you’re talking about, but you’ve missed one. And what you’ve missed is cycleway networks is bike infrastructure, basically. And it’s either you or somebody else. I can’t remember who kind of then kicked back on that and said, well, actually, so we didn’t if it was you who entered that, but can you enter it now? I mean, is the number 13, 14 Whatever is it, you know, get more people on bikes?

Kim Nicholas 14:37
No, it’s not. And I did answer that tweet. And I think it’s a really important finding from our study, which is that the most effective thing we can do to reduce cars in cities is to focus on that outcome directly and to use both carrots and sticks to reduce car use and increased public transport, walking and cycling. So there’s been a lot of focus, and especially policymakers and elected officials really like to focus on carrots on more good stuff. Here’s more bus routes, here’s more cycling lanes, pedestrianised streets, those are all wonderful. And those did feature in many of our top strategies, which I know we’ll get into more in a minute. But the important point is that those carrots alone are not sufficient to overcome the entrenched infrastructure and incentives, which today favours car use. So to really move the needle and to get people out of cars, and using other forms of transport, which is what we actually have to do to reduce emissions for climate change, to protect public health to make cities and streets safer and more livable, we have to actually reduce car use along with increasing sustainable mobility. And to do that you need to tackle both of those at the same time.

Carlton Reid 15:54
So I know this is tough, but let me just think about the percent terms of how big a carrot versus how big a stick. So in percentage terms, what are the different sizes there between those two tools?

Kim Nicholas 16:09
Let’s see. I’m just looking at the table. Now. I mean, I think it’s quite hard to make an apples to apples comparison, not least because so we screened nearly 800 studies and cases to look for initiatives that had already attempted and succeeded to reduce car use. And we ended up finding 12 different ways to do it, and almost as many different ways of measuring the reduction in car use. So one, you know, kind of wonky conclusion from our study, which is relevant for researchers and people planning interventions. So city planners and policymakers is, please, please, for the love of all that is good and holy measure kilometres travelled per person per day in these different modes, because that is what we can actually convert into emissions. And we can talk about health and climate savings. A lot of these studies measure things like one that we’ll talk about was about using an app for sustainable mobility. And they said that a very large percent of people who use the app reported in the app that they had reduced their car use, but they did not report by how much and you know, if they skipped one, you know, five minute trip to the store down the street versus a year of long car commutes? That’s a very, very different impact for, for climate and for traffic. But we can’t tell from the data. So I guess I’m hedging and not really answering your question.

Carlton Reid 17:47
Oh, cuz I was I was wondering like a 20%, carrot, 80 percents. But you’re, you’re you’re being you’re being a scientist, and you’re giving giving very complex?

Kim Nicholas 17:59
I’m kind of I’m kind of opting out of that one, because our data, unfortunately, don’t really let us say so. Well, I mean, maybe it will be more obvious when we get into talking about each measure. Because, um, I mean, one, one carrot that is really effective as a carrot is mobility services for universities, or commuters. So basically giving free transport passes and linking transport with shuttles for students at a university or for commuters at a workplace that is quite effective.

Carlton Reid 18:33
So that’s been done in sort of interrupting them, but when that’s done, and when that was done in Davis, California, you know, the very, very good bike network that was in use, you know, since the late 1960s. In Davis, very well used over many years, when, when they introduced a free bus service for for academics, I believe, even for people who live in the town or the city. Bike use just, you know, just got cut off by the knees. So it’s that sort of thing. So your mind, you know, think you’re doing great by, you know, making public transport for free. But then that actually cuts out a helpful form of transport. So how do you again, how do you square that circle?

Kim Nicholas 19:21
Well, I think you’re just reinforcing my point, Carlton, which is to beg researchers to please actually report the kilometres travelled by mode share, because as you say, if an initiative it succeeds in getting people off of bikes and walking, which is an even healthier and lower emission form of travel than public transport, which is also very good. But you know, if you’re switching a cyclist to a bus rider, as opposed and you haven’t reduced driving and all you really haven’t done anything for climate or health, so we really need to be able to measure those directly. But I mean, what I can’t say from our study is that we identified these 12 have measures that have demonstrably worked to reduce cars. And were able to report that in some quantifiable way. The metrics vary between studies, but they’re clear that they do work to actually produce cars. And again, the most effective ones that reduce cars the most for the largest population are for the largest proportion of the city are those that combine carrots to make sustainable mobility, walking and biking and public transport cheaper and easier and more accessible, and simultaneously use sticks to restrict and charge for driving and parking.

Carlton Reid 20:36
So you mentioned their apps for sustainable mobility. That’s actually number 12. So we’re gonna do like a pop countdown here. So in at number 12, is apps for sustainable mobility. And you mentioned there belanja that had a developed an app that bang, bang, got people out of cars, but only a slight amount, I mean, these things, because it’s not the be all and end all. It’s just partly, in many cities actually doing just one or two of these things. And if a city did all 12 of what you’re saying, if we just reduce car use overnight,

Kim Nicholas 21:17
I would love to visit the city that implements all 12 of these measures. That would be amazing. I mean, yes, I think it would be you know, the more we know from previous research that policy bundles are more effective. So in other words, having a comprehensive approach, taking combining different measures. So for example, including something to do with prices, so that you’re steering people towards the healthy and sustainable choice with prices, it shouldn’t be the cheapest option to do something that pollutes, simultaneously having information campaigns and public goods and services to provide alternatives like safe and attractive walking and cycling and public transit. Those are what really works.

Carlton Reid 22:02
And on that note, we could go straight into personalised travel plans. Because that definitely involves some of that. I know that from from Sustrans in the UK has has done these very successfully done them. But they’re phenomenally expensive, because you are literally going to one put one on your one on one. And then you know saying to them, Look, did you realise there’s a bus right outside your door? That kind of granularity, but that’s phenomenally expensive to do that one on one?

Kim Nicholas 22:34
Yes, so we looked at several different kinds of travel planning. And the number 11 was personalised travel planning, which you just mentioned. And number 10 was school travel planning, for example. And those are carrot only measures. So they’re making it cheaper and easier to use public transport and offering advice on how to walk bike or take public transit to school or work or wherever you’re going for the personal use. So those the personalised travel planning reduced, car use about six to 12%. And pretty similar for the school travel planning that was five to 11% in less cars used to drive kids to school. So that’s substantial and worthwhile. But again, I think those measures and we don’t have an example that perfectly compares to this, but combining that with restrictions to discourage car use, while providing good alternatives would make those much more powerful.

Carlton Reid 23:36
So that’s, that’s the level and 10 Nine is car sharing. I know. I’ve talked to a number of people who are bike advocates, in fact, who have gone on to found car sharing clubs and what and one of the ones that was basically 70s and 80s, which is quite as quite successful Claire Morrisette of Montreal, who … the main cycleway through through Montreal is named for her. And she founded a car club. And she did that exactly even as a bike advocate. She was doing that to reduce reduced cars and then a number of other people I know have done it in more modern times. But is that what you mean by car sharing? So car clubs, you know rental cars, is that what you mean?

Kim Nicholas 24:27
Exactly as a car sharing would be a scheme where members can easily rent a car that’s nearby for a few hours, there would be a car let’s say on the street or in a parking garage, maybe a few blocks from your house. And as a member, you could use an app to unlock it and rent it and borrow for a few hours. So maybe you’re going to IKEA or doing a big shop or you need to take a special trip or whatever. So the idea would be that it helps helps people that when it is good for them producing cars. It’s when people actually had their own cars and choose to get rid of them because they don’t need them anymore. And they only use the car when they really need it from a car sharing service. So if that’s the case, then we found that can have a big impact. So the the places that have done that are Bremen, Germany, and Genoa, Italy. And there, they found that having a car sharing car replaced 12 to 15 private cars. So that’s obviously really good news for space in cities. And that’s something that often gets left out of the discussion. But, you know, the This is one reason that electric cars are not the answer to sustainable mobility, because there’s still cars and cars are still pretty inefficient ways to get people around, they spend about 95% of their time parked on the street, and or wherever they’re parked, they’re taking up that space. In Sweden, the estimate is that a car uses 100 square metres of city space. And when you think, okay, that’s an apartment size, we could certainly find a more beautiful and you know, beneficial use for 100 square metres than some parking garages and parking spaces on streets. So the parking issue I mean, car sharing can really help if it’s actually reducing the total number of cars. The issue with our sharing, though, is that there’s some other research suggesting that it has the potential at least and may induce the opposite effect. In other words, it might induce people who don’t have cars to start using cars more because there is a car in the neighbourhood that’s so easy and frictionless to use. So to reduce emissions and to reduce car use. Overall, we have to be sure that we’re designing programmes that effectively do that and encourage people to replace their previous cars with a car sharing car.

Carlton Reid 26:51
And extrapolating forward. The same could be said for autonomous cars, in that that could actually lead to a huge uptick in the number of car journeys. If you if you if you make a car use frictionless, which which autonomous driving would do, then you just massively increased driving.

Kim Nicholas 27:09
Yes, we didn’t look at autonomous cars in this study. But other studies have, indeed found that and there was a study in the last year on the ride hailing services Uber and Lyft. In the US that found that cities car use increased in cities that had Uber and Lyft. Especially in particular, with higher income households, it tended to replace transit. So unfortunately, those ride hailing services seem to be increasing card use and increasing emissions rather than reducing them.

Carlton Reid 27:44
So number eight, we’ve kind of discussed this already in the example you give it and here is Catania. So this is mobility services for university where they they’ve given a transport public transport pass to to students who we talked about that. But then why is university travel planning which is in at number seven? Why is that different to personalised travel planning and school travel planning?

Kim Nicholas 28:12
Well, it seemed to work better that seems to be the reason it was different. So number seven, and eight were both to do with university as you said, and providing students with a free public transport pass and shuttle connection reduced car commuting by 24%. And they combined stick and carrot of reduced parking on campus, and then discounts and improvements to transit and cycling and infrastructure and advice on how to use them reduced car commuters, by the whole university populations of staff and students by up to 27%. There were several different places that that combined those initiatives.

Carlton Reid 28:53
Hmm. Yeah, so University of Bristol did rather well there. Six workplace travel planning, is that in with number seven there, or was that gonna be a bit different?

Kim Nicholas 29:08
It’s a similar idea. So removing parking, and that’s the stick and then combined with making it easier and cheaper to use public transport and cycling. So with physical infrastructure, cycle lanes and infrastructure, better public transit, and also advice on how to use those things. They’re the studies that looked at that site up to an 18% drop in car use.

Carlton Reid 29:36
Number five is a one that I’m quite familiar with in that when I cycle in Nottingham on the very nice wide cycleways when I use one of the rental bikes in Nottingham ditto, it’s all been paid for by this method. So in at number five is workplace parking charges.

Kim Nicholas 29:56
And it’s interesting that you are actually benefiting from that That’s nice to hear and Mmm, yeah, exactly. So the most successful was in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. So they reduced card commutes by employees 20 to 25%. Where I mean, basically a number of studies have shown this, that it is just really nonsensical to provide free parking for workplaces, that that’s a basically a subsidy to driving. And when you price those parking spaces are often worth 1000s of dollars per year. And because City’s space is limited and precious and could be used for other things, and it really makes a lot more sense for to charge, you know, the cost for those parking spaces. One different study that we didn’t look at here, but previously has shown that you don’t only have to, I mean, something that works very well is to make the full cost visible. And for example, you can cash out employees, I mean, people, unsurprisingly, don’t like the idea of having to pay for something that they’ve previously always gotten for free, and suddenly it cost them 1000s of dollars. I mean, often what blocks climate action is a small group of outraged, very vocal, sorry, often middle aged men, our research shows is often the group that does that. So you can reduce a opposition to climate policies, by for example, offering people to cash out, so instead of saying, Okay, we’re not going to charge you, you know, $2,000 a year for this parking space, for example, you could say, we’ll give you $2,000 a year if you don’t use this parking space. And, or we’ll give you a credit equivalent value, or we’ll give you free public transit, if you don’t use your parking space, or a credit towards which you could use to buy a nice commuter bicycle and save storage and showers at work. So there are different ways you can structure this so that it would be politically popular and also effective.

Carlton Reid 32:00
Yes, politically popular is the holy grail there, because these things very often aren’t politically popular. how familiar you are with UK internal politics on the NHS. But when about two, three weeks ago, free parking for members of the NHS, who were obviously worked very hard during the pandemic was removed. So doctors and nurses had their free car parking removed, and there’s a huge fuss about how terrible this was, and how all political parties that there was, this wasn’t a, you know, a left or right thing, all political parties were pretty much in favour of giving doctors and nurses free car parking. And so I made, you know, a cynical comment at the time saying, Well, okay, where are the free bus passes? And where are the free bikes? And nobody can understand that. It’s like, well, you would, it’s just obvious to give doctors and my wife is a doctor to give doctors free parking. But nobody, as in I suppose in the in the cashing out equivalent that you said, nobody is saying we should give people free bus passes or very, very infrequently. Give them free bus passes, and free bicycles to doctors that that just doesn’t come up as conversation because it’s, it’s politically just doesn’t register. So that politically unpopular thing, how can you make something that’s incredibly politically unpopular popular?

Kim Nicholas 33:33
Yeah, great question. I mean, I think there’s a really important discussions to be having, because we know that we have to reduce over dependence on cars in order to meet climate targets and health targets. And then we do need to be having these discussions of okay, well, what is a valid use of a car? Who gets to drive and what should we prioritise? I think there’s a very strong argument that people who are dependent on cars for mobility and social inclusion, so those who have disabilities, for example, that require a car, I think that’s a very valid use case for a car. And I can understand if there are doctors and nurses and other essential workers who have to be at work, you know, before public transit is running or work long shifts, maybe that is a good use for a car, but then I think we should be having those conversations explicitly. And you’re absolutely right, that there are ways to incentivize sustainable mobility that could actually improve health which last time I checked, doctors and nurses are very keen on doing. We know that active transport is much better for people’s both physical and mental health. And to actually, you know, move more is one of the key ways to address a lot of the health issues that we have today. So I think there’s a lot of scope for making those improvements.

Carlton Reid 34:52
And for the record my wife cycle to work today despite having this we’re despite having smug solar power panels charged In her electric car, it is really her car. She still cycled to, to work. So it is possible, even if you are in many other respects potentially being a doctor being normally assumed to be car dependent. So

Kim Nicholas 35:15
to her, I approve. Yes,

Carlton Reid 35:18
yeah, thank you. I think she’s doing for fitness to tell the truth, I don’t think climate comes into it. It’s very much a fitness and health anyway. mobility service for commuters that sounds like this is number four. That sounds very much like travel planning.

Kim Nicholas 35:36
Yeah, the difference there that made it even more effective is that it was a collaboration between local government and private companies to provide free public transport passes to their employees, and to connect those transit stops to the workplace directly with private shuttles. So they made it really seamless and then promoted it. And that actually was quite a big reduction, 37% reduction in this year of commuters driving,

Carlton Reid 36:03
you add all these percentages up, and that they’re getting to be like 200%. Three, we need we need a city to do every one of these. And then you have minus cars, it’d be great.

Kim Nicholas 36:15
It’d be wonderful. I mean, this is the issue that, you know, some studies measured employees as a population and measured school, children’s and measured University, either staff or students or both. So measured geographically who’s coming in and out of the city. So there are different metrics. But I agree that I mean, this also shows there’s a lot of scope for, for example, employers and schools and universities and hospitals, to engage and to lead these initiatives and to collaborate with local government and other stakeholders to actually put these things into place. So we don’t have to wait for someone else to do these things. There are opportunities already today.

Carlton Reid 36:55
Hmm. Right. And here, you’re coming to be a bit more radical. And this is definitely politically unpopular. And that is when you it’s you’ve said it limited traffic zones, which is a software of saying banned cars, basically, and used Rome as one of the examples there. So why Rome.

Kim Nicholas 37:15
So Rome was the case that we found that is actually implemented this and reduced traffic 20%. During so basically, the design of their policy was to restrict car entry in certain times and certain parts of the city centre only to residents. So you can’t drive a car as a way of getting from point A to point B through the centre of Rome. And that worked to reduce cars by 20% through in that whole city centre area during those times. And it also worked, even when it wasn’t in place. So even during the hours where that wasn’t the case, it was still 10% less cars and less traffic. So that was quite effective.

Carlton Reid 37:55
So we’re restricted how with automatic camera recognition that number plates with barriers, what worked in Rome, and what what do you suggest cities should do?

Kim Nicholas 38:10
Oh, good question actually don’t have the answer to that, at the top of my head. The specifics of how they implemented I think one part of the equation that was important for Rome was that they use the violation fines to finance their public transport system. So again, coupling, the stick to the carrot is a really important way of gaining public acceptance, because I think cities need to make the case. And I mean, the the piece that I wrote for the conversation, my editor called an evidence based rant against cars. So there’s plenty of evidence of you know, why is it that cars are a problem? What is it that’s unequal and unfair about the way that cars are used, especially in cities today? So we have that evidence. And I think people in positions of power need to use it to make these arguments of look, you know, the current system is really unfair, that it’s generally a small number of people who drive the most, and those tend to be the wealthiest. So it’s increasing inequity, the way to make things better is to reduce over driving by those who drive the most and use the funds that that raises, to make sustainable mobility more affordable and more accessible and better for everyone

Carlton Reid 39:25
that you’ve mentioned that Rome there, and then I’ll just do a quick search there because I can’t find Paris. So Paris is normally used by lots of people, including myself as like the poster child. For a lot of these policies, like the moving car parking places and stuff, and that, you know, the 15 Minute city, but you haven’t got Paris, so why haven’t you got Paris?

Kim Nicholas 39:47
No, I agree. I’m also a bit surprised. I think it’s a function because I think the 15 Minute City is a brilliant idea and it’s very effective. And it’s a way of integrating many of these different instruments and policies that we have Talk about these car reduction strategies. And I think the only reason it didn’t come up is that it didn’t fit our search term. So to screen these 800 cases and papers, we looked for studies that had specifically set out to reduce car use as an objective, and combine that with something demonstrating measured effect of how successfully they did that. So it must have you know, there wasn’t something published in English, after the year 2010 That specifically said it aimed to reduce car use and measure that reduction, or else we would have caught it in our study. So somehow Paris slipped through the cracks there.

Carlton Reid 40:39
Hmm. So we need some more studies done on Paris because they do seem to be doing many of the things which you’ve which you’ve, you’ve mentioned, they’re certainly they’re doing very well on certainly planning to remove car parking spaces and then de mer and held algo saying that this has to do with with equity reasons, and female equity reasons, and all sorts of stuff like that. Whereas mostly it’s men who are doing the bulk of the of the driving in Paris, and she wants to, you know, make a fairer transport system. So yes, we need more studies from Paris, or France to No, no, no Paris to come in. So we’ve mentioned parking there for Paris, but that isn’t number two. For you, so parking and traffic controls, why is parking such a, an emotive issue for a start? Because that does seem to if you look at, you know, local newspaper, I don’t know what it’s like in Lund, Sweden, but it’s sent if you look in local newspapers in the UK, you know, parking does seem to be one of the major stories, you know, for for local newspapers, you know, you remove somebody’s parking, and that’s, you know, three weeks of solid news for some newspapers, because it leads to incredible friction. So, so talk me through parking and how that can be parking and traffic controls and how that can be done and and politically managed.

Kim Nicholas 42:08
Right? Well, I think a lot of it comes back to the equity issues that you were mentioning a study by Felix Kritsa, and others found that in Berlin, car, users use three and a half times more city space than non car users. And a lot of that is through on street parking. So basically, it really is an equity issue, that the parking spaces for people who are over using cars, takes away limited space that others also need and deserve. And what Oslo did, which is the the example for this number two parking and traffic control was remove parking spaces that were formerly in the city centre and alter traffic routes. And replacing this space that had been dedicated to cars to car free streets, bike lanes and walkways. And that was really successful. So it reduced car use 19%.

Carlton Reid 43:02
But going back

to where I started with on that, in that is you’re touching the third rail, you know, you’re touching a live wire, basically, by removing parking, so so maybe looking at maybe just not so much something you’ve studied, but how Paris is doing and just the way that they’re doing it, you know, incrementally so they’re not doing it, you know, overnight, removing every single parking space, but they’ve got a goal to remove parking space. Is that the way to do it? Do you think to do it almost by stealth? Because if you actually said we’re going to remove, you know, half the parking spaces in this city, it would just be politically unpalatable.

Kim Nicholas 43:43
I think it’s actually important to make the case publicly and to share the data on how unequally distributed driving is in the UK 40% of the lowest income households don’t have a car, whereas almost 90% of the highest income households do. So privileging driving is really privileging those who already are the most privileged. And I think that’s a very tough case to make.

Carlton Reid 44:09
You’re right. But I mean, you even though you’re right, when when that comes into the letters in the pages, and it comes into the like the shock jocks talking about this, it always, you know, said people, you know, hard working motorists. And when you point out to these people, actually, you know, the poorest people really are not in cars. It almost as though they haven’t actually thought about that. It’s never really they’ve already figured that out that the very poorest in society really aren’t in cars.

Kim Nicholas 44:42
Yeah, that’s right. And I mean, we see from the data that when you reduce over auto mobilisation when you free cities from unnecessary cars, they become nicer places to live and work and they become actually better for everyone there. The air is easier to breathe. There’s More conviviality and interaction on the streets, people actually get to know their neighbours and use the outside space because it’s not given over to cars. I think something that really struck me, a good friend of mine actually bicycled from Stanford where we were studying to the southern tip of South America over two years. And he had an incredible journey and met so many people along the way, and was hosted by people and gave talks along the way. And when he did that same when he crossed the US by bike, he said he could never find people because they were never visible, they were always in their cars, the only place he could actually meet people and talk to people was either at gas stations or grocery stores. So I mean, when you think about the way that cars divide society and separate people from their neighbours, they actually have a lot of really negative effects. And the cities that have succeeded in reducing cars report really positive benefits from the way that the streets look and feel from the business that are thriving, they’re from the way that actually space is used in a much more inspiring and beautiful way. And the way people have more time to do the things they want, because they’re not stuck behind the wheel of a car,

Carlton Reid 46:17
not just behind the wheel of a car stuck behind the wheel of a car with a roof on. And with Windows and with air conditioning and with your own music and etc. It’s that you’re enclosed, you’re in a you’re in a little bubble, which is perhaps one of the reasons why your friend didn’t see people because they’re they’re inside an enclosed space. But might in the beer an argument. I’m not being totally serious here. But might there be an argument for in effect, going back to the original motorcars, which were ruthless, and you could then talk to people? Okay, they were doing 90 miles an hour, so maybe you can’t but but it’s that it’s that enclosure of motoring. That’s one of the big problems. And we actually if you if you remove the roof, and you made all cars into convertibles, in effect, that might actually that might actually be a social good. Outcome helped me out how serious Am I

Kim Nicholas 47:17
I’ve got it, let’s remove the roof of ours, let’s shrink them so that instead of 95% of the weight of the car being the car itself, rather than the person you’re transporting, so let’s make the majority of the vehicle actually the person themselves. And let’s make them run on your energy so that you’re actually exercising at the same time. You know what we’ve just invented the bicycle, the bicycle is the perfect car. In all seriousness, and something we didn’t look at, in this study that didn’t come up in our in our search terms, but that other studies have found is really effective is electric bikes, those can really replace cars. And the research has shown that people do tend to use them to replace cars rather than just avid cyclist cycling more, for example. But having an electric bike can make it more feasible for someone who lives a bit further from work, or maybe who has a family and needs to pick up kids and groceries that might be difficult by car, or sorry, excuse me by bike, it can really extend the capacity of what a bike can do. And then you also have the social benefits of you know, being actually physically present on the street and able to talk to your neighbours.

Carlton Reid 48:32
Mm hmm. Yes, I wasn’t mean totally serious, I guess. Because yeah, you’re right. A bicycle is a much more convivial tool, and then even the nicest of convertible sports cars. So now let’s get on to number one. And I’ve used an example. And that is London has come on in leaps and bounds with they have got very, very good protected bikeways we’ve got a very good city bike share scheme, there’s all sorts of things you know, a lot of the roads in London are now you know, majority of them actually cyclists whereas used to be majority of them were motorists. It a lot of it, I think you can absolutely tie down to your number one thing here and that is a congestion charge, charge motorists for coming into cities.

Kim Nicholas 49:25
Yes, make the cost of driving visible because at the moment, a lot of the costs are hidden. Society pays a lot of the costs of driving in the form of pollution and traffic and delays and accidents and health and climate change. Whereas we really need to make it more visible that the polluters should be paying for using this polluting technology of a car. And when you do that, like in congestion charges, London reduced centre city traffic by 33%. So that was by far the most effective of intervention in our whole study, because that was for the entire region, the entire geographical area of the city. So not just a certain population of workers or university staff or so on, but for the whole city.

Carlton Reid 50:13
So that also answers Henk Swarttouw’s point of do you need to put bike lanes in everywhere? Well, yes, maybe, but potentially have more use is actually just reduce the amount of driving by making sure the polluter pays.

Kim Nicholas 50:33
Yeah. So again, this was an example of linking carrots and sticks. So the majority of the funds raised from the congestion charge in London has been used to fund public transport investments. So again, that’s the kind of thing that really makes it possible to gain political support because people recognise that is fair, okay, if we’re charging for polluting transport, we want to make it easier and cheaper and more accessible to use non polluting transport. So directly linking the fees from one to support reducing the cost of another is something that increases legitimacy because people perceive, understand that connection there.

Carlton Reid 51:15
But many cities actually give you discounts, or perhaps even a don’t charge at all if you’re an electric car. So that’s not the polluter isn’t paying there at all, because they’re not polluting that source. So you think electric cars should also be charged here, because they’re their car shaped object.

Kim Nicholas 51:34
They want to be bicycles, right? They’re just on the journey to bicycles. Well, I mean, that’s a little bit of a separate issue, those congestion, the incentives to make it cheaper to use electric cars are designed to speed up and incentivize the transition, which doesn’t need to happen to make all cars fossil free. So I think it does make sense to have to make it economically advantageous to drive an electric car because we need to turn over the fleet of cars. The problem is that that is happening far too slowly at the moment to make a big dent in emissions, especially by 2030. And we know from science that we globally have to cut greenhouse gas emissions about in half, by 2030, to avoid catastrophic climate change, so we actually need to retire fossil fuel infrastructure early in order to do that. That means closing down power plants and pipelines and cars and things that run on fossil fuels ahead of their planned lifetime. So I do think it makes sense to have incentives to switch to Fossil Free cars. But we also need to be thinking the best car is actually a bicycle or a bus or a train or walking or not a car at all. And how do we prioritise people, not cars at the centre of cities?

Carlton Reid 52:50
Hmm, yes. And that’s, that’s a good note to stop. Actually, I do like that definitely prioritise people and the car. The best kind of car is a bicycle. Yes. So where can people find this paper? Like I’ll in the show notes, I’ll give the links to everything. But let’s give an audio one. So right now. So where can people find the paper? And then if you could also tell us where people can find you?

Kim Nicholas 53:17
Sure. Well, I’ve been tweeting an awful lot about it. So you can certainly find it on my Twitter. I’m ka_Nicholas, on Twitter. I’ll be writing about this paper in my monthly climate advice column, which is called we can fix it and you can subscribe over on substack. Those are probably the best places to find me. Okay, and the paper itself, or the paper itself is published in case studies in transport research and the conversation UK has the piece that’s called the 12 best ways to get cars out of cities, ranked by new research, and then the Guardian ran a condensed version of that over the weekend. Yes.

Carlton Reid 53:58
And we are now looking for a city to implement at least 10 of

Kim Nicholas 54:07
you are going to I will ride my bicycle there from Luna, if it’s anywhere in Europe, and I would love to see it. So please, please cities. I would tell me if you’re doing this and I would love to visit

Carlton Reid 54:20
Thanks to Professor Kim Nicholas there aand thanks also to you for listening to episode 295 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast now brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles. Watch out for the next episode popping up in your feed real soon. But meanwhile, get out there and ride