Active Travel Podcast
Harrie Larrington-Spencer talks accessible cycling with Professor Rachel Aldred
Season 2, Ep. 2
Professor Aldred talks to Harriet Larrington-Spencer, a researcher at Healthy Active Cities at the University of Salford. Harriet, or Harrie, developed an interest in active travel after experiencing cycling in Copenhagen and the Netherlands, and after losing the use of her left arm following a collision with a driver. Harrie discovered that while a tricycle was far easier for her to use, the physical barriers and chicanes in place on many of Britain’s cycleways make the use of three wheels challenging. Harrie talks about the challenges such infrastructure poses for non-standard cycle users, about other barriers to wider uptake, such as cost, what inclusive active travel would look like, and what research she would conduct, if money were no object. And, of course, about cycling with her dog, Frida. Healthy Active Cities is a research group bringing together researchers from the University of Salford, as well as practitioners and policymakers to discuss issues in sustainable transport. You can find out more about their work here: https://blogs.salford.ac.uk/healthyactivecities/TRANSCRIPT00:00Hi and welcome back to the Active Travel Podcast, brought to you by the Active Travel Academy, and to season two. We had a little break over Autumn, and we’ve all been busy working on lots of different projects, but we’re delighted to finally bring you the second episode – and we hope to have more in the weeks to come. But without further ado, let’s hand over to Professor Rachel Aldred, Active Travel Academy founder, and our guest.So I'm really happy to be here for an episode of the active travel podcast with Harriet Larrington-Spencer, who is a researcher at Healthy Active Cities at the University of Salford. So hi, Harrie, good to have you here.00:11Hi, Rachel, thank you for having me.00:14Great. So one of the things I wanted to start with is really about how you got into this how you got into researching active travel, because one of the great things about active travel is that it'speople from a whole range of different backgrounds in the field in terms of disciplinary backgrounds. So can you tell me how you got into it?00:32Yeah, it's so my academic background is originally not active travel, I come from a geography background. So my bachelor's is in geography. And then I moved to the Netherlands to do my master's, which was in water management and irrigation. So very different from active travel. And whilst I was there, and I did my Erasmus as part of my masters in Copenhagen, just I went from kind of cycling for, for recreation and, and a bit of sport to cycling every day, when you arrive at university as an international student in the Netherlands, they tell you no bike, no life. So you kind of the first thing, the first thing they give you is a list of all the secondhand places to buy a bike. And then from that moment, cycling just became my natural form of transportation. And when I saw then I started my PhD. Back in the UK, in Manchester, I was cycling everyday for transportation, and I got hit by a car. And then I had to start changing the type of cycling. So whilst I was cycling for transportation, I was also doing cycling for sport. But I had to kind of start working out how to cycle for transportation in a way that I could do, because the the car damaged my left arm, so it doesn't work, and my hand doesn't work anymore. So it became How could I use a two wheel bike. So I started doing doing that. And even on two wheels, I found quite a lot of barriers to cycling, and doing my everyday journeys that I just hadn't considered before. And then more recently, to make it a lot easier for myself, I have a trike, and so I can do my shopping and carry my dog more easily. And the barriers that were difficult to negotiate on a on a bike have become impossible to negotiate on a trike. And so it started from there really, and and thinking about active travelling that everybody has a has a right basically, it's kind of the right to the city is that everyone should be able to move actively around their local neighbourhood, and how to enable that. 02:43Wow,Wow, thank you now I am going to pick up on different bits of that. But just to go back to the Netherlands experience. So when you went to the Netherlands, had you been cycling much before in this country? Were you completely new to it?02:55No, so I wasn't completely new I grew up in the middle of in the kind of the middle of nowhere in the countryside. So to get to see friends it was always cycling. But also, it was cycling through farmland and fields and or very small country lanes. And it was never really it wasn't an everyday thing. So to actually get anywhere, we had no bus service, you had to learn to drive if you wanted to get anywhere independently and before kind of 17,18 cycling offered that but it wasn't particularly viable to get very far. 03:39Yeah, I know I that sounds kind of familiar. And when you came back to Manchester after the or you came to Manchester after the Netherlands, how was it suddenly cycling in Manchester after having cycled in the Netherlands?03:50It’s just a complete world away. It's I think even if you remove the infrastructure from the UK from kind of that equation, the infrastructure makes a difference. But it’s also that I think everyone in the Netherlands who drives is also a cyclist. So it's, it's Yeah, the infrastructure is not there. And then also cyclists are not in the minds of drivers, either. So when I got hit by a car it was because the driver overtook me and turned left because they didn't even and it was across the segregated cycle lane as well. So it's that they didn't even think that they had to kind of consider that there might be a cyclist on the cycle lane and yeah, completely different.04:39Yeah, it just highlights the need for the infrastructure but also the need for the cultural change behaviour change as well at the same time. And then you were talking about how you cycling as a disabled cyclist using a two wheeler and then using a trike was was different. Could you say a little bit more about that and about some of the barriers that you experienced there.05:00With, with two wheels, I can I can do it and I can I can cycle in, it's fine. But moving the handlebars is quite difficult picking up my bike is difficult. So the probably the biggest barrier is if you are using shared paths and then there's barriers on the shared path. So you've got, A frames are the worst, but there's also chicanes. So I think most of you probably know what chicanes are, but kind of small fences to slow you down. So it just started with the two wheels, you kind of you can negotiate it, but it takes time and it takes energy and I can't really lift my bike and it causes pain when I do it. And then when you get to three wheels, because the cycle is longer and it's wider, you literally cannot like you can't get it past A frames, and sometimes you can get it past chicanes but to do that, my husband has to kind of pick up the trike and negotiate it around. I can't do that at all by myself. So it just it means that that certain cycle, cycling routes are completely off limits to me. And they're often the cycle routes that are the nicest ones, because they're completely away from cars and roads.06:13And why why do you think this kind of this kind of thing exists? Why given that, you know, potentially it's not in line with equality legislation?06:21So the kind of technical reason that they're there is to prevent motorcycles and and anti-social behaviour on cycle routes. Often, it's part of the planning permission to get the route and the police have to if a route is going to be off road, then the police have to agree to it as well. And the police's kind of standard response is an A frame. And some residents also want A frames as well, because there's, I think there's often a fear of this kind of antisocial behaviour from motorcycles, not necessarily that it's going to happen. So, yeah, and it's and now, kind of, the more I get into it, the more I struggle, because I think kind of maybe a few years ago, it was that councils wouldn't know about the Equality Act and kind of the what, what their responsibilities are to disabled cyclists. But more and more, I'm seeing councils saying things like, Oh, we've looked at LTN 1/20 [Local Transport Note 1/20 – cycle infrastructure design guidance], which very specifically says, Don't use A frames, don't use chicanes, and the council's will recognise that, that they should not be using those and they shouldn't be implementing those. And that by implementing those, they're excluding disabled cyclists. But at the same time, they kind of say, we're doing it anyway. And we've got no other way to manage motorcyclists. So this is what we'll do.07:53Yeah, so that's, they'll just probably pick up on the LTN 1/20, the new cycle infrastructure design guidance. So that's seen some improvements, but obviously, isn't necessarily feeding through into practice. And does it highlight the extent to which things need to be aligned for things to change? If the police, you know, you don't necessarily just need transport just use to change in transport planning, but also the police and so on as well.08:15Yeah, it definitely needs to be a much more joined up approach. And even now, in in Stockport, we're seeing that there are routes that aren’t accessible. So if you look at LTN 1/20, they say that the ideal route be at least spaced at 1.5 metres. And so in Stockport, they're taking cycle routes and walking routes that have this spacing already. And they're putting chicanes on them. And I've just saw a proposal yesterday where they're asking for an A frame barrier. So yeah, there's there needs to be working with police and with residents and with disabled people, as well. But to me, it shouldn't be the kind of the equality of access should be the centre point. And it's what should we be do? What can we do to achieve that rather, than kind of the restricting of motorcycles being being the point where where they start design?09:11Yeah, yeah. So it's kind of trying to restrict a minority of problematic users of one mode, that's maybe not even actually the case. It's something that's feared rather than trying to ensure inclusive access for for walking cycling, which is meant to be something that's being encouraged.09:25Yeah, exactly. And the more people you have using a route legitimately, the less attractive it will be to anyone on a motorcycle if, if you think that you're going to access that route, because it's kind of an empty space that you can whisper on your bike. It's much less attractive. If it's full of everybody on trikes bikes with push chairs walking, it's, it's very different.09:50Great, and that sort of brings up another topic, which is around inclusivity of active travel. So could you maybe sort of tell us a little bit about what active travel, how inclusive active travel is or what what needs to change.10:04I think active travel is getting much more inclusive, I see a lot of people who are non-disabled, recognising the barriers that disabled people have to active travel, I think at kind of a grassroots level, especially, it's happening more with sport than with active travel is that is kind of getting disabled people more involved, recognising the barriers that disabled people have. I think in active travel, it would really help if design centred disabled people, because anything designed for disabled people is is going to be good for everybody. So with cycling, there's so there is a lot of barriers for disabled people, anyone who wants to use a non standard cycle, there's not only the infrastructural barriers, and you, you know they're there. So it's kind of like why would you invest in something if the routes that you want to go on with your family or your friends, you can't get on. And then on top of that, you have the you have the cost of the equipment. So a non standard cycle is 1000s and 1000s of pounds. And then on top of that you have the insurance of it, you have to have the secure storage to meet the insurance requirements. And then you also need to know that when you cycle somewhere there will be a secure place to lock your site as well. So I found with my trike, I can't, I can't even use the Sheffield stand without taking up multiple spaces on the Sheffield stands. And I don't want to block other people from being able to be able to park their cycles. So there's kind of there's all these factors that have to be accounted for. And it's the same with with walking, with using a wheelchair that so much of the urban environment isn't isn't suitable for just independently using your wheelchair to get to your to your local area, whether there's no pavement drops, if there's pavement parking, parks that don't have accessible entrances to them. It's it when and when you start noticing it and I think this has happened a lot with non-disabled people as well when disabled people who who are working in active travel and are advocates within it have started pointing it out is that once you start seeing it, you can't stop seeing it and and it's just it defies belief really, that you would have a park that not everybody can connect thiswill be because of barriers at the gates because of steps.12:33Yes. So very similar things to cycle paths is that you have kind of the chicane entrances into the park, which make it quite difficult, especially if you're on something more recumbent. If you're on a hand cycle, for example. So you're lower down, and you'll have a longer base. Yeah, even wheelchairs, I think sometimes struggled to go through the these spaces unless it's a wide open gate.13:00And do you think that's starting to change in planning at all? I mean, if advocates are noticing it are planners noticing it, are things getting better.13:07I think that things are changing. So LTN 1/20 was an a massive win for inclusive cycling and that you can you read through that document and you see the advocacy work of Wheels for Wellbeing in there, and how powerfully and positively they've impacted the world of inclusive cycling, in terms of planning from councils. In Greater Manchester, I feel like there's much more awareness of it, but there's a real struggle to start making those changes for whatever reason. And I, I do think there needs to be a bit of bravery that I can understand that some of these are quite big changes. To say we're not going to restrict access is a big change to how kind of urban planning has been done. But I've also seen some really positive things. So Manchester highways has recently created an access group but that's because it's that has a lot of disabled people with a lot of different kind of experiences and skills. And they are hopefully going to listen to those views when when they're implementing active travel projects. But yeah, it's kind of a time will tell.14:23You were mentioning about Manchester highways and maybe it's time to say something about the Greater Manchester context because Greater Manchester is I think it's something like 2.7 million people across the urban area. So yeah, large urban area, metropolitan area, different authorities and so on different levels of planning. So how does that work in terms of active travel? How is it structured and you know, is it different authorities in charge of different bits and so on?14:50Yeah, so different authorities will be in charge of their own area. I think we then have the Bee networks for for walking and cycling with Chris Boardman who is the walking and cycling Commissioner. So this is trying to join those up a bit and have a more integrated approach to walking and cycling. It's a struggle because for different councils have different approaches and different histories, I mean, you can definitely see in Salford at the moment they've, they're really progressing with their walking and cycling, working to make things much more inclusive. So they've on one of the big walking and cycling trails, they've just been removing barriers and replacing them with bollards that are 1.5 metres apart and celebrating that as well on social media recognising that it's, it's a really positive thing to be doing, and showing that as a positive example to councils in Greater Manchester. And I think having that kind of the overall Bee network, having committed to having an inclusive approach, they have the the 12 year old cycling is the body around which the infrastructure has been built. Personally, I think the 12 year old should be on a trike. But but it's kind of getting there. And they've they've said no barriers, although you see that being put into practice quite differently, but there is pushback against it. And also, in Greater Manchester, we have Walk Ride, which is a community-based organisation. So there's the central body. And then there's all different smaller groups of people who are really interested in walking and cycling. And you see such fantastic work within those smaller groups that they have really good connections with their councils and the walking and cycling forums. And they're, they're putting a lot of pressure onto the councillors to make sure that everything done is thinking about everyone who who wants to use those, the walking and cycling infrastructure that's being built. And it's just really nice to see kind of everybody committed to making things inclusive, because often, there's a lot of what has to be done. And it often falls onto the shoulders of disabled people to do that labour. So it's nice to not always have to be the one that is pointing out the issues and following up with councillors and councils.17:15And do you think that's kind of important as well that you have? Because that's quite distinctive that you have the sort of walking and cycling advocates together in the same in the same advocacy group? Does that make a big difference?17:26Yeah, I think it's fantastic. I think the speed with which, with which Walk Ride GM and the smaller local groups have grown over the past couple of years, really demonstrates kind of the local appetite for walking and cycling. And the skills in those groups that has developed as well is amazing. So for some people, it's that they they work within walking and cycling design or infrastructure, behaviour change within local councils, and they have those skills from their jobs and from their training. But for some people there, they're kind of new to it, and learning and reading all of this all of the documents and policies that are being produced and it's just fantastic for people being able to hold the councillors to to their word basically. And to the point where people if something's installed, and it doesn't look right, or I pointed out something at the weekend, someone was there measuring it with a tape measure to check out whether the distance between the chicanes meets with the accessibility, design guidelines. Yeah, it’s really cool.18:38Returning to the barriers side of things, we talked quite a bit about the physical barriers, but you talked earlier also about the sort of cost and linked with that the storage that you don't want to store something that's expensive, it might get, you know, if it's not secure, it might get stolen, do you think more needs to be done to improve access, you know, availability, affordability of adaptive cycles, ie bikes and trikes and so on?18:59Yeah, definitely. And there's, I think part of it is that if we are moving towards a modal shift, then having these products because they are quite a rare thing. So if you're having to import them, and there's very few being imported, then they're going to be higher cost. So there's kind of one aspect is the more people we have doing it then hopefully a reduction in cost, but they kind of, they are specialist, so they're going to be more expensive than a standard two wheel cycle. So there's some really great schemes going on. So Wheels for Wellbeing have one scheme in London, which is looking at loaning people non-standard cycles, and really helping people choose cycles that are appropriate for them. And and being able to do a loan scheme that can then turn into ownership if they're interested in it. And also, Cycling Projects has a similar thing in West Midlands and we're setting up a trike library in in Manchester and then hopefully that will if people will get a chance to experience trikes, because you, if if they're rare, and you don't get a chance to have a go on them, you're not going to splash out 2000 pounds if you don't, if you don't know how it's going to fit in your life that you really, you need to start doing those everyday journeys, you need to have a go at taking your trike to the, to the shop to get milk and to work. Yeah, and have that that space to build it up and build up over time and see whether it works. So I think with the trike library that we've raised money for, as part of Walk Ride in Manchester, we're going to hopefully loan out cycles for three months at a time maybe more and and help people with journey planning, with ride buddying, and all of those smaller parts to get people into it. The storage, the storage is is a real issue. And it also comes into into policing as well and, and monitoring. And if you I think bike crime is is very low on the police agenda at the moment, because there's not that much funding to police. So it's working out ways to do that. And there is this kind of on on road storage that we've seen in Waltham Forest, and you can get adapted versions of that. So there's options that we just need to keep pushing for and and ensuring that when we're thinking about those options, so in in Greater Manchester, there is there is some of I think in Salford there's some of these on streets cycle hangers, but for people to push for ones that can have non-standard cycles as well, when they're kind of being brought up in that local area.21:32Do you think there's potentially a role for a more universal scheme as well? Because one of the things, one of the criticisms that's been made of the cycle to work scheme is that, you know, certainly you have to have an employer that's opted in it excludes anybody who's not in employment. So a lot of older people, proportionally more disabled people and so on. Do you think we kind of need a more universal access to cycling scheme?21:53Yeah, we definitely do at the moment, it's kind of it falls on the the charity sector to be implementing it and their capacity to implement it is based upon their resources and always scraping the money together to be able to do it. And it's really frustrating when it's something that would help so many people. Yeah, I mean, a universal scheme would be amazing. I tried to you can, there's ways to do it through kind of access to work. But it's always there's always kind of caveats within it. And it's so that you just have to keep arguing for it. So most ability is the obvious way to do it. And there are mobility aids that you access through Motability, so to have that as as a way to do it. And also in the Netherlands, they have very similar schemes where disabled people can have access to active travel equipment. Yeah, and it's it's at a time when I think people are really recognising that disabled people want to be more active, the benefits the public health benefits of disabled people being more active are huge and organisations like great, like, Sport England, as we come out of the pandemic are centralising disable people within within their programmes, and they want to disproportionately invest in disabled people. So I think it is a really good time to start thinking about how to make these how to make access to to non-standard cycles and adaptive cycles, kind of a universal scheme.23:21Cool. And what would if you were thinking about, you know, the your priorities for getting most disabled people cycling, what would you What would you prioritise? What would you think would be the most important thing?23:36One would be the access to the cycles. Two would be working out connected routes within cities. So in Greater Manchester, we have the Bee networks, but we need to look at how the Bee networks connect and with the existing infrastructure that we already have, and how to make that infrastructure barrier free and accessible. Another one would be looking at cycles as mobility aids in in Greater Manchester, for example, people aren't allowed to take cycles onto the trams, which really inhibits multimodal journeys. So you can't you couldn't cycle from, I don't know Sale into Manchester City Centre as a disabled person to work and then think actually, I'm too tired to cycle home let me take my let me take my cycle on the tram. So because you can't do that, then you're, you're then making it a less viable option because you can't do those first and last, or you Yeah, you can't do those parts you need by public transport. So and also to be able to use the pedestrian areas if you need it to be able to put your shopping onto your bike or trike close to the shops and, and having the storage for it as well. And it doesn't I mean for shopping, it doesn't have to be the super-secure sheltered storage. It's just having storage solutions that are well spaced that can that you can use with a trike and have space to not only put your trike, but you have to think about how people are getting off and on. So you need to have that space between the stands.25:16Well, one question I was going to ask was on the research theme was getting obviously this is an under researched area if what would your sort of fantasy research project be if you had a 2 million pound research budget or whatever, you know, imagine? Imagine the zeros what what would your research programme be looking at inclusive cycling, eco inclusive active travel?25:37So for I think inclusive active travel, I think it would be fascinating to do a community mapping project where you work with disabled people's organisations, and you have disabled people map their, their everyday journeys that they do, either by whatever mode of transport they're doing, and then work with people to to look at how active travel can replace non active travel journeys basically. So and to work on the very close ones, so going to places for for small amounts of shopping, going to visit your children going to visit your parents going to the park, taking the kids to school, those journeys, but looking really specifically at the different types of challenges that people have with those. And working out how to then use that to, to create kind of more local regeneration. Because Yeah, because you're not going to get active travel if people physically can't use that their local environment. And and think about how to prioritise those. So that's one aspect. And another aspect I'm really interested in is shared space in in urban centres, because it is a really it's a very aesthetically pleasing thing to have, I think shared space. But obviously, there's a lot of challenges that it offers and conflicting challenges that it has for for different groups of people. So for visually impaired people in particular shared space is quite a challenging thing to have in it can create an environment that that whilst statistically, it's probably very unlikely that you're going to get hit by a bike, it doesn't stop the environment being hostile. So thinking about the types of behaviour within shared spaces and and how to kind of move cohesion both move cohesively and behave in cohesive ways of in the shared space. But also what type of infrastructures within the shared space, enable that that type of behaviour. So kind of a two way approach to that.27:39And actually just thinking about that in terms of the infrastructure and sharing infrastructures, are there good examples? We've talked quite a bit about the barriers and some of the problems, can you think of good examples of environments that work well for inclusive active travel and either in Greater Manchester or somewhere else, and why why it's good.27:59We have a couple of bits now in Greater Manchester, it’s difficult, because actually one of the best places for kind of walking and cycling in Greater Manchester is Oxford Road. So and it is a really, really good piece of infrastructure, but the cycle track is just not quite wide enough. So I can't actually use it on the trike. But normally, I would say that there is a few bits of segregated cycle lanes that are kind of four metres wide, and have space for bi directional cycling flow. So I mean, these are perfect. But that's quite a short stretch, I'm trying to think of something. I think low traffic neighbourhoods, for example, have a real opportunity for for inclusive active travel, they don't have the segregated cycle lanes, obviously, but by reducing the cars using the roads, there is that space for any type of cycle. There's space for wheelchairs and mobility scooters. I think the the challenge with low traffic neighbourhoods is that it's not you don't automatically make them inclusive by filtering the cars from them and that the the existing infrastructures within them already can still pose challenges. So I think speed bumps is quite a good example that if you are non-disabled and walking or cycling, a speed bump isn't going to bother you. But if you're on a recumbent cycle, the speed bumps are not very pleasant at all. And the same with pavement drops as well.And there's a lot of the the issues around the built environment. So some of those things around narrow bike lanes or narrow footways and so on.29:29So is a lot of that to do with accommodating motor traffic and then sort of people on foot, people on bikes that have had to fight it out for what's left.29:47Yeah, exactly. And you see a lot of space for cycling always seems to be reallocating space away from pedestrians. So the weekend I visited a new proposed walking and cycling route through Ancoats well from New Islington to Ancoats along a really really nice marina that's full of people walking, it's kind of there's a few different bakeries, it's a really nice space. And in this area there's not there's not that many open spaces. And instead of putting a segregated cycleway on the main road, which has five lanes of traffic, and has recently had 10 million pounds spent on its upgrade, they are trying to Manchester council is trying to put the walking and cycling route, which is a is a major league route. So it is specifically for commuting through this very pedestrian recreational, kind of sitting and being space, rather than then taking that space away from cars. And by doing that, you automatically kind of put pedestrians and cyclists at odds with each other both in terms of the space itself, but also within this wider space of kind of what a city is and who is in a city where people are supposed to be in the city. And it shouldn't be like that if we really want to have modal shift we need to start reallocating space away from cars and a lot of time if you do anything like that, then you get a lot of uproar from drivers. But there's there's very little discussion about kind of taking that space away from pedestrians and I think that's Yeah, it's often pedestrians who do suffer within that.31:28In terms of the the Greater Manchester context as well. What would you say in the next five years? Do you think things will be different in five years what hopefully what what might have changed around sort of inclusive active travel?31:42I would really like to see more people on non-standard cycles. I've definitely noticed that since I started getting since I have been cycling on a trike. I've had a lot more people on social media, for example, saying, I've never even considered a trike as an option. I thought trikes were for old people, and people saying that they're considering one as well now. And that's really nice, because it shows that you need to see people doing something for you to start considering that it's an option for yourself as well. So I think that's one aspect that if we get more people cycling, and more disabled people cycling, then hopefully it will be kind of it will build. So that's one aspect, I think another aspect is is the access to inclusive cycles. And that's something that needs to be worked on. Another one is with the Bee networks, is that we just need to keep the momentum and the energy of holding councils to account to to ensure that when things are being implemented, they're being implemented inclusively and to LTN 1/20. In it, it helps so much to have that design guidance, really, because you can just keep sending it and saying, you know, this is this is what this is what needs to happen.I think more widely, we need more than just kind of the Bee networks, we need to be looking at local journeys and how to enable those local journeys. And to maybe move I move a bit away from from focusing on commuting journeys is Yeah, and it's looking at the everyday and I think children's journeys as well as a really nice way to do that. Because they're going to school and back. That's two journeys a day. But then obviously, you need to start looking at the wider practices around that because it's hard sometimes for parents to be able to take their children to school. So we need to have the safe infrastructure for that. But it Yeah, to have this kind of joined up approach where there's the policy, there's the projects, there's the infrastructure.33:53So earlier you were mentioning cycling as well with with your dog, who's become something of a star on social media. Could you say something about your dog?34:00Yes, so we got Frida we got her very luckily at the start of the just before the start of the first lockdown. I just I had a bit of trouble at first after my accident. So kind of I'd always been doing cycling for for everyday cycling, cycling since living in the Netherlands, but also I used to do a lot of touring, cycling and sports cycling. And I was really struggling with not being able to do those anymore. And so it's just trying to find ways to enjoy a different type of everyday life. And I've always wanted a dog and we'd always be putting it off saying you know, we'll wait until we live in a house with a big garden and then just finally was really fed up and bought. Let's just do it and she'll be a good excuse to kind of go out the weekends and then because we don't have a car and Cycling is our primary form of transport from the second day we had her we started training, training her I'm not sure that's the right word, but we kind of put her in a backpack and put her on the bike and fed her lots of treats. And she just, she just loves it. She's, she's very attention seeking, which is amazing. So she'll be, she'll be like, sitting in in the bucket of the cargo trike and she'll be quite chilled out and she'll hear people in the distance and she'll suddenly pop up to give them a show, I think. And I think people really like it. They, I, I'm very, I'm very shy and I, I find it quite embarrassing, but it is really nice to cycle past people and see their really positive reaction. And I think it draws attention cycling as well because normally it's quite like a fast someone will just go past you but you can't really notice if and often I carry my husband as well in the front bucket of my of my cargo trike. So it's quite obvious when we get when we're going past and Frida’s at the front. So, yeah, yes. And, well, funnily enough as well. I haven't had any close passes on the trike since cycling with Frida ever. So I think that's, I mean, there's something to say there about how people value dogs over over human beings as well. But yeah, really, she loves it, she just sits in the bucket with her goggles. And the goggles is because we started using the cargo trike because it's a bit lower down, I was worried about stones flicking up into her eyes. But she takes it all in her stride. And she she's always excited. I think it's because we are, we kind of started building in having trips, we will do our shopping. But it's about more than doing shopping. It's about going for a nice cycle along nice routes, and stopping at a park where we can throw tennis balls for her and, you know, come back via a nice way to have coffee. So it's kind of it's trying to make, because I've been I've just really loved cycling, so it's making cycling my hobby, but in a in a different way and a more everyday way. So Friday is a really important part of that. But yeah, I mean, I changed my I changed my Twitter handle to Tricycle Mayor. And then some someone said to me that actually it was Friday that was the Tricycle Mayor, and now I've realised that they they are correct. 37:32Everybody loves dogs on bikes, I think my popular tweet ever was just a picture of somebody with three dogs in her cargo bike.37:37Yeah, exactly. They're just they are a people pleaser.37:41Excellent. No, that does link back nicely into the question that I've just remembered. I was going to ask you, which was when you were talking about sort of local trips? So there's been a lot of talk recently about the well, it varies. Sometimes it's the 15 minutes city, sometimes it's the 20 minute neighbourhood, this kind of focus on things being local, do you think that that's useful? those concepts are kind of useful as well?38:01I do. I really like them, I think that we need to, I prefer the 20 minute neighbourhood just in terms of people's speeds. And I, I, I hope that kind of from people spending a lot more time in their local areas as well during COVID. And locked down that perhaps people see the value in that as well. And in my research at the moment, and just talking about people about what they've been doing during lockdown and how they've been using their local neighbourhoods, it's really nice to hear how people know their local neighbourhoods a lot better. And spending a lot more time and getting to know all of the different roads and using local shops and local places to go and get a coffee when they go and walk. And I yeah, I mean, for us it comes into the same kind of having, trying to make cycling and doing these everyday activities part of the hobby. So we're starting to use a local refill shop, for example, and cut that part off of off of supermarket shopping. And it does, it's having the time to do that as well. So there is a there's a time element that you have to have kind of that disposable time to be able to go there. So I'm we're looking at how to do all of our shopping locally, and what we can do plastic free.Thanks so much Harrie, that was a really great chat and I look forward to seeing what happens with you next with your research with Greater Manchester.You've been listening to the active travel podcast. You can find us online on our website at blog.westminster.ac.uk/ATA/podcast, we are most podcasting hosts and you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @active_ata. Let us know what you think, drop us a tweet or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for listening. Until next time.
Active Travel Media Awards - the interviews part one
Season 2, Ep. 1
Laura Laker interviews Fare City's Charles Critchell, the Active Travel Academy Media Awards' only double winner. In 2019 Charles won our investigations/long-term follow-up category for his piece, Burning Bridges, on the closure of Hammersmith Bridge to motor traffic, and in 2020 won the campaign or research category for a two-parter on non-commercial use of cargo bikes. Judges enjoyed the detail and research that went into Charles' two pieces.Charles founded Fare City, an urban transport think tank, in October 2019 after quitting his job as an architect. Although not a media organisation the original research and storytelling that went into both pieces won Charles two awards for his work. Charles talks to the Active Travel Podcast just as Fare City is about to become incorporated into a community interest company.Charles talks to Laura about his Fare City project, about chasing a stern businessman across Hammersmith Bridge in the name of research, and how one of his award-winning pieces is about to become a research paper. Charles' winning pieces can be found here:Burning Bridges (2019 winner) https://farecity.org/2019/10/01/84/ Sharing the Load (2020 winner)Part one: https://farecity.org/2020/01/10/sharing-the-load-part-one/Part two: https://farecity.org/2020/01/17/sharing-the-load-part-two/Transcription of interviewLaura Laker0:02Hi and welcome back to the active travel podcast, and to the start of our second season. So we had a bit of a break from Autumn in 2020 to fit in the Media Awards and various other things that we were working on but we are now back for 2021 with season two. So, we are kicking off with a look back at those Active Travel Media Awards from November, and interviewing some of the winners. We started the Media Awards in 2019 to recognise the impact that media reporting has on active travel and wanted to recognise in particular, some of the good practice in the field. The second annual awards event was virtual this time, we had nine categories in 2019 with a special award category for Brian Deegan and Bob Davis for ideas with beers. Charles Critchell is the Active Travel Media Awards' only double winner, picking up awards in 2019 and 2020 both in categories recognising in depth research or investigative work. Charles is the founder of fare city, which is a transport Think Tank based in London. Now fare city describes itself as a team of built environment professionals advocating for sustainable transport and empowering individuals to make reasoned travel choices. They say they're embracing the in between: small things which are often overlooked, which collectively can add up to big changes. So welcome Charles.Charles Critchell1:27Hi Laura, thanks for having me.Laura Laker1:29Yeah Nice to have you on. So, you're kind of an unusual, one in terms of media angle because you are an architect. You left your job as an architect in April 2019, and launched Fare City in October that year. A month later you won our first Media Award, your piece titled Burning Bridges, which was published on Fare City's website about the closure of London's Hammersmith Bridge and second, Sharing the Load, is a two parter on non-commercial cargo bike use in London, which was published January 2020 which won our most recent award. And so that was published pre pandemic. Although your site isn't a traditional news site per se, our judges were enamoured with the research you put into the pieces which are journalistic in that you speak to people you tell a story and you do the research to put that story forward so perhaps you can start by telling us a little bit about those pieces how you came up with the ideas and how you approach them.Charles Critchell2:26Yeah, sure. I mean, I think it's important to point out that for Fare City we're all about co-creating fairer cities, and as you say by empowering. You know city users to make more reasoned travel choices, and for us cities are really about people, and it's about the story as well the narrative. And I think so for the Hammersmith Bridge piece first of all, when the bridge, initially closed in April 2019, and that was to motorised transport I should point out, so I was walking across the bridge several times a week, as was everyone else. And back in those days when you could go up to people and talk to people on the street, and I was actually walking across and I spoke to a lady and I said sort of said to her, well this is a bit of a drag isn't it you know we're having a walk across the bridge to get to the bus stop on the other side, you know she turned around, she said no, it's fantastic. It's the best part of my day. You know I get to sort of relax unwind after work I can walk across the river, and I really think that got us thinking about how these conversations were going on, and across the bridge, you know, across all sorts of times of the day. And people were sort of engaging with one another conversing with one another. And we sort of wondered then you know, are there broader well being benefits to the closure of the bridge because I think, as has been well established since the bridge closed in April 2019 to motorised vehicles, there was this prevailing narrative that actually this was a fundamentally bad thing, and you know everyone was sort of universally upset about this closure but actually, that wasn't the case. I think what we did then is, as you say we sort of surveyed users on the bridge, and there had been other surveys have been done, I won't name names but they were fairly unrepresentative, and a lot of sort of leading questions such as, what's the worst thing about the closure of the bridge. So, we approached it from a different point of view, where we were trying to be neutral, and trying to be trying to be sort of fair and actually conducting the surveys on the bridge itself over a four day period just to get a flavour of what people were thinking about the bridge, and I guess as importantly, how they would want the bridge opened in the future. Just a few anecdotes before maybe I'll tell you a bit about some other findings but, for instance, there was a young couple that lived on the south side of the bridge, and you know they said that they used to get deliveries every day. And since the you know the closure of the bridge to motorised vehicles, they, they stopped doing that, and they'd started cooking more, and then we had a young boy who actually sort of contradicted his mother, and go ahead to change your answer to the survey which I thought was fantastic. She wanted cars back on the bridge. And he said, you know, what about my asthma. And so, I think, again, I mean, aside from the findings of the survey it's these little anecdotes and these vignettes of city life which kind of come together in that place, and that moment in time on the bridge, which makes you feel that that really is, is this is critical sort of bit of infrastructure and that's what we talk about about trying to make city transport work harder city infrastructure work harder to unlock additional benefits for people,Laura Laker5:36the closure of the bridge that inspired you to quit your job was it, because I notice it happened in the same month.Charles Critchell5:43No I don't think so.Laura Laker5:48I'm just imagining. I love that you you like going up and talking to people, because I also do that and I guess that's one of the joys of being a journalist is that you kind of have an excuse to talk to people and it's a bit old school maybe because so much is online these days, but you do get quite interesting stories from people actually and they can be quite open,Charles Critchell6:06yeah you're right i think a lot of that stems from training and then qualifying as an architect because when you're at architecture school, part of what you're doing is trying to understand the built environment how people are interacting with streets and public spaces. And I think some of the stuff we used to do in sort of undergrad which, you know, looking back at it now is probably, particularly now as the pandemic would be frowned upon. But I think that was really instructive in sort of making you sort of forcing you to interact with people and really try to understand how other people are experiencing urban space.Laura Laker6:42That was one of Jan Gehl's, I think it was his wife's criticism of the famous urbanist, that inspired him to and start looking and observing people that was that, I think she's a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and she was saying, Well, the problem with architects is that you don't build for people or you don't think about people, but it really is so important, isn't it and I guess that's where the crossover is with the public realm.Charles Critchell7:02Yes, sir. I think you're absolutely right and i think only by speaking to people about their lived experience of the built environment. Can you really get a real sort of representative understanding of what people are doing in cities and you know the ways in which cities should be designed for them.Laura Laker7:22And so, you found that a lot of people basically wanted to keep the bridge open to people walking and cycling yeahCharles Critchell7:28so I think we have three key findings. The first one is that a greater percentage of those surveyed considered that the closure of the bridge to motorised vehicles had some benefits. So, I mean it's worth pointing out that a lot of the people we spoke to traditionally crossed the bridge using a car. And a lot of these people were telling us that actually, you know that they were recognising the benefits not only for themselves but for the wider community so we're talking about less pollution and less noise and more pleasant experience of crossing a bridge. And as I say some people actually making these positive lifestyle changes, and then I think another one is, as you said is 41% believe that the bridge should be reopened to public transport, cyclists and pedestrians only, which was just a little bit lower than reopening it to everybody. Whereas interestingly young people who sadly I can't classify myself as that anymore, which is a 29 years, and under, so that the bigger percentage of those did actually want a public transport walking and cycling bridge which I find really encouraging. I think finally, this is something, like the red herring we throw out at the end of the survey is 'would you consider, would you want the bridge to be used for instance as a community market one day a month', and 76% of people agree that that was a great idea and I think Back to sort of anecdotes, I mean, I was sort of chasing this hard nosed businessman across the bridge I mean he was answering questions but he was trying to get away at the same time. And so when I said to him What about a market like a communal market on the bridge one day a month and he sort of stopped in his tracks in turned round and I thought oh man now I've really done it, sort of like backing off and he's sort of, you know, beamed into a smile and said "that's a great idea". And then he's just walked on. So, I think. I think part of what we're trying to do is also raise people's awareness of the possibilities of city space. And I think that's really important and just just in terms of the timing of when we set up I think it's worth pointing out that 2019 London had its first citywide car free day as well. And so that was in September. And just, just actually just before burning bridges was, was published, so I do you think there's this appetite amongst not only Londoners but amongst city users more broadly at the moment, which has obviously been compounded with the pandemic in terms of people's appreciation of the need for sort of better urban space, you know, mental health, urban resilience these kinds of things so I think it's I think hopefully things are sort of coming together quite nicely now but obviously there's always opposition to that,Laura Laker10:19yeah and you will talk later about some more recent research that you've done in this area about younger Londoners. So, that was your 2019 winning piece. The 2021 one you wrote about cargo bikes, it was a two parter on non commercial cargo bikes in London, and the first part was a well maybe you can tell us actually.Charles Critchell10:41Yeah, sure. So, again, I think it's just about being out and experiencing the city on the streets and public spaces and. So one thing I noticed was that all these kind of, I didn't know they were cargo bikes then they just look like very odd sort of types of cycle, and we're sort of whizzing around and particularly in central London and particularly I noticed, you know, men and women in sort of pink jackets which i'll come on to in a minute. And, yes, I didn't really understand what they were but they seem to be sort of everywhere suddenly and sort of speaking of other people they didn't really realise either so I did a bit of research and I found that these were obviously cargo bikes. But I think through doing some cursory research, two things came out so one was that there was sort of family buying guides in terms of these would be the best cargo bikes for your for your family, for instance, you know, sort of a comparative sort of article or you'd have sort of articles which were looking at commercial use specifically so why cargo bikes were better for deliveries and logistics in big cities. And so, to my mind, there is a definite gap there that no one has yet to make the link between how the trailblazing as it were of the commercial sector could benefit the non commercial sector how these sort of residual gains come across so that was really the guest, the basis for writing Sharing the Load is trying to understand firstly what cargo bikes are used as cargo bikes in London. The second is sort of trying to understand how broader issues of sort of safety regulation infrastructure demand accessibility these kind of things would either help to promote or prevent the uptake of the mode in the non commercial sector,Laura Laker12:26you kind of split the two pieces up that way don't you? You've got a bit of first person experience so you have a go on one of these bike taxis that people are pink jackets, and that's a cargo bike, and then you do some interviews with people use cargo bikes you do a bit of history and context,because obviously cargo bikes aren't a new thing they've been around for, since the bicycle was invented, almost, and then you go on to talk about the barriers of uptake like you said the fear of danger on the roads, the risk of theft, a lack of parking spaces and also perceptions not being a cyclist were quite interesting ones, people not identifying as cyclist not seeing it as something for them, but quite a lot of the time people just don't really know what cargo bikes are, do they so you kind of explore that a little bit. And then you go on to produce some recommendations for getting Londoners using cargo bikes more which is quite interesting and I guess that's where the kind of journalism crosses over with the perhaps more policy Think Tank side of what you do.Charles Critchell13:23Yeah, I think, first of all, you know, we felt we needed to split it up into two articles because this is kind of one of those things it's just like a runaway train once you start the research, sometimes it just sort of, you know, gets ahead of you and there's so much to include so we made a conscious decision to sort of split it up and as you say in the first part, sort of tried to identify what cargo bikes are and who uses them and then sort of scrutinise them against these different metrics in the second part again coming back to the human story that's, that's really important so we wanted this firsthand qualitative research, just to sort of understand what people's motivations for using them were and what their aspirations for future use were, I think that yeah in terms of a lot of what you said in terms of culture safety things like that we did find that generally cargo bike users are typically experienced cyclists. And no matter if they're in the communal in the commercial or in the non commercial sector, so I think for us one of the big things is about trying to lower the barriers to cycling, and that is just crucial not only in London and other cities across the UK. If you're going to build a broader and deeper base of experienced cyclists, who may in turn then want to use or consider using a cargo bike, because I think another thing we found was that actually we called it a cargo bike decision making continuum which is essentially sounds a bit sort of long winded but essentially this idea that and this is what a lot of people reported to us is that it could take users years to decide to buy or purchase a cargo bike, and from from the time when they first think about doing so. I guess for us, you know, it's about trying to understand what are the key barriers, which if they can be removed would actually accelerate this process. And I think, as you pointed out one of the key barriers, is a lack of secure on street parking. And this really is inherent with cities because, unlike standard cycles where you could probably carry one up a flight of stairs and put it in your front hall or your front living room. You know the weight of a cargo bike is really prohibitive towards doing that. And I think in terms of parking theft is also closely associated with that. I think that's a real worry and what we found what we're recommending is that actually local authorities need to take the lead on this. I think there has been great work in boroughs recently, I think part of this has come down to sort of the streetspace funding. And so these are sort of COVID-19 measures, which is unleashed additional funding for local councils, I guess the problem with that is, is that a lot of these cycle hangers as they're called, do not actually facilitate or do not actually allow for non standard cycles so not just cargo bikes but recumbent trikes all these other types of cycles so we do think and this is what the evidence is telling us that really local councils should be looking to sort of take a bit more of a lead on this.Laura Laker16:27I guess it's such a, an enormous financial outlay but it's amazing, it takes so long for someone to go from the point where they're aware of a cargo bike and then they get through various phases perhaps and then they get to the stage where they want to buy one but it's a lot of money. And you, you mentioned in your article about how one of the shops that sells these things. Their first customers were people from Europe where you know they came from countries where this sort of thing is normal and using cargo bikes as normal. So they'd already gone through this process they know that it's okay thing to do, they're safe, it's doable. And then it was only when people started to see others during it and it was sometimes it was like friends with people who have them, that they then started to go to go on to look at them themselves and have a go and one of the things that the shop did was do kind of consultations basically they have one on one sessions with people and they go through the options and let you ride them a little bit like ebikes but kind of thing it's just about understanding them first isn't it and so that was quite interesting, and I do like how people talk about solutions based journalism there's there's a lot of bad news going on, but it's good to see a problem looked at, and then some solutions reached or some suggestions and I guess that that kind of crosses over with. Yeah, as I said before with what you're doing with city. Also, now you are taking this another step on me with my colleagues at the Active Travel Academy, and you're updating the piece to become a paper perhaps you could talk to us about that.Charles Critchell18:00So yeah, that's a good question. I think it was important for us to update the research in light of the pandemic and I think one of the key things that pandemic is that it actually demonstrated the enduring value of the cycle as a mode of transport, and that people were turning to it, you know, not to autonomous vehicles or other sort of technological solutions but something as simple as a cycle which is now a 19th century mode of transport us to confront a very, you know 21st century problem. And so firstly that was, that was really positive for us. And in terms of cargo bikes specifically I think pandemic, as well as sort of increasing cycle use increase those using cargo bikes as well.Laura Laker18:44It sounds like maybe this we're talking about the continuum that maybe the pandemic acted as a catalyst to allow people to skip forward a few steps so maybe they might have mulled something over for a few months, or even years that they've, they've suddenly realised actually. Now it's time for me to start using one of these things.Charles Critchell19:02I think that's a really good point and, in fact, one of the people we spoke to said that she had been contemplating using a cargo bike. Again, a couple of years and I think for her the pandemic was just that final push, which actually got her kind of over the line, because of obviously the hesitancy of using public transport and not wanting to drive a car. I think another thing which is worth pointing out is we're talking here about purchasing cargo bikes but actually hiring cargo bikes is just as important, if we're going to get more Londoners using them. And actually the trial which this lady had used or the scheme this lady had used was a scheme between pedal my wheels who are a London based cargo bike supplier and Richmond Council, which actually enabled her to get to a hire a cargo bike on a three month trial basis. That's a very low risk. And obviously one of the big things with cargo bikes is they always be cost prohibitive. So, enabling people to access them in more accessible ways. Financial ways is obviously really important and so I think that more schemes like this, definitely need to be rolled out, just to sort of, you know, entice people to consider using cargo bikes, particularly those who may not be comfortable with spending so much money upfront, you know to purchase one.Laura Laker20:22Yeah, these schemes vary, they've been various of these schemes haven't they, and they've been really successful at helping people to get into to get into kind of cargo bikes and understand what they are and whether they want them, a bit of a try before you buy. So, this is now going to become a paper, and what kind of form is that going to take?Charles Critchell20:42Yeah, sure. So it's, we're going to try and release it in two ways. So one is with ATA. And that's going to be more an academic paper. We really wanted to work with, the Active Travel Academy. I think obviously winning the two awards with yourselves was great, and I think that the work that you're doing is really important. Secondly, what we want to do is release it as a publication on our own website. So something a little less academic, making it more graphically accessible for people. And I think we're also looking to do is actually move the debate forward a bit on cargo bikes now. So on the one hand, there's still this lack of knowledge perhaps as to what they are, which obviously is building and is increasing and it's really important we keep pushing that and to be able to open up to more and more users on the second hand I think that just to understand cargo bikes through the lens of their commercial value in terms of city logistics is quite limiting and doesn't really do justice to such a versatile mode so what we're also looking to do is run a couple of articles in the lead up to the publication of the paper, which look at say the commercial side specifically, not in total in terms of what the commercial benefits are but actually, who is responsible for a greater uptake who's responsible for actually scaling up commercial cargo by logistics. And secondly, we also looking at the communal value of cargo bikes, which I think is an area which has gone really under the under the radar has really came of age almost with the pandemic. In terms of speaking to a lot of people, and, you know, local communities who weren't necessarily able to get provisions to vulnerable residents, and then early stage of the stages of pandemic did in fact, turn to cargo bikes in many cases, to, to actually deliver these types of services, which, which I think ties into the hyperlocal nature of cargo bikes more fundamentally, and which again looks towards the commercial sector, so I think that there's a really exciting opportunity here to look at other ways in which cargo bikes can be used, and to try and understand their, their use cases, a bit differently, whilst also trying to obviously promote and sort of disseminate their and their use more broadly amongst new users as well.Laura Laker23:04So by communal use, you mean what?Charles Critchell23:06So at the beginning of the lockdown. A lot of people actually turned to the cargo bike to help serve local communities, a fellow social enterprise in East London so Hackney based Carry me bikes which is run by Alex Stredwick, she relayed to me that a lot of people came to her actually with the intention of hiring out cargo bikes to help run deliveries to their local communities, which weren't able to sort of access any government aid at that point in time. I think another thing is, the guys I was referring to earlier who whizzing round in pink jacket so that's Pedal Me which is founded by Ben Knowles and Chris Dixon, and actually worked in combination with Lambeth council to deliver I think up to 10,000 packages to vulnerable residents in Lambeth, so they really sort of drew upon their commercial cargo bike acumen, to deliver a sort of a communal service there in combination with the council so I don't think it was just delivering packages, but it was also taking vulnerable residents to and from hospital visits,Laura Laker24:08so obviously you're our only double winner of the active travel Media Awards. Has it been good for you to be recognised fairly early on I guess in your in your journalistic career.Charles Critchell24:19Yeah, I think it's, it's been a bit of a shock. It's been great. I mean, it's, I think the main thing for us is that it proves it we're on the right path in terms of what we're trying to achieve, and the ways in which we're going about it. And I think that it's almost a double edged sword with what's happening, particularly with the pandemic is there's a lot of social media noise. And I think it's about trying to cut through that with high quality and robust research. It's nice that that gets recognised, but obviously as long as that is actually trying to deliver some social impact is, which is something we're keen on achieving as well.Laura Laker24:57Yeah, you're a bit different too in that they're kind of long form, there's a lot of research that goes into it, and it's a bit of a kind of nod to policy. We started off the Active Travel Media Awards to highlight good practice in the field. Obviously you know there's some great work that goes on out there that doesn't always get recognised and just highlight, best practices and to show that good work is being done, and to give people a bit of a platform. I don't know if you want to say who inspires you in terms of who's writing on active travel.Charles Critchell25:30Yeah, I think a lot of people are doing a number of important things at the moment I think you've got people like Carlton Reid which writes for Forbes magazine. I always enjoy reading his work and I think it seems to be quite on the money in terms of the point he's making, and a fellow, with a first year when it was Andrea Sandor who lucky enough to meet at the awards last year when we could actually meet in person which seems like quite a luxury doesn't it. But she wrote a really good piece this year about women's cycling and how we need to sort of lower the barriers to get more women cycling So, yeah, doing some really good sort of investigative stuff there. I think even yourself some of the stuff you've done on sort of LTNs for The Guardian, and obviously active travel more broadly, I think, more generally though it's just anyone that's taking the time to write good quality and sort of engaging work, which is representative as well as the things that are going on but usually with a bit of a positive topspin because I think it's very easy to get drawn into the partisanship which, it seems to be residing around active travel at the moment which again has been compounded by the pandemic so people that really are just trying to get on and write good bits of journalism, but doing it from sort of a constructive viewpoint as opposed to a negative or destructive point of view,Laura Laker26:52yes I mean so much of what we consider normal has been taken away from us and I think active travel is one area in which we can be, there's a chance to be positive and to look at solutions for society not only during the pandemic but going forward as a society and all of the other problems that we're facing. You know, in terms of air pollution and congestion and all of those problems which definitely haven't disappeared. So you have your own podcast as part of one of the things that you do for Fare City, and you've done some quite interesting interviews from around the world, with different professionals in different cities from Addis Ababa, Auckland, Bogota, Detroit London and Paris, and you and your colleague, Richard Lambert, and there've been some really interesting pieces around that is is that kind of part of your efforts to look more in depth at these problems and to seek out solutions perhaps for some of these issues around transport that we have.Charles Critchell27:46Yeah, I think that when the pandemic hit I mean we we were thinking anyway as an organisation, how can we, how can we sort of branch out beyond London. I guess first of all because obviously you know the pieces we were done were specifically London centric because of the fact that we sort of reside in London, and we're based in London, but, and I think yeah more broadly when the pandemic hit there it seemed to me to be this sort of oversaturation of written media. And whilst A lot of it was interesting. A lot of people were sort of focusing on what was happening and how cities could look post pandemic. But for us, not enough people were really looking at why these things were happening. So as an example, you know as well documented in Bogota and are able to quickly implement 47 kilometres of emergency cycleways. And people were suggesting you know why could this happen in London, but I think until you actually drill down and try to speak to people who know about these things in terms of explaining this, you may not necessarily find the answer. So for us it was really trying to drill down into these issues in a specific city and sort of looking at how governance geography culture were informing these different things,Laura Laker29:03The guy from Addis Ababa was absolutely fascinating. In terms of just understanding the kind of reasoning behind what was happening and that kind of context and just really seem to have a really deep understanding of the problems and the context of the city and within Africa and what they were doing and why and it was super interesting to listen to him actually and it was great to hear from someone in the global south.Charles Critchell29:31Yeah, I think we were very lucky in terms of we managed to get either a practitioner or an academic from a global city from every inhabited continent in the world, which was great because it really gave us a perspective on what was going on and, like you say I think only by sort of like asking the tough questions and going a bit deeper in terms of trying to understand why these things are happening. Were we getting any, any sort of answers and I think that was crystallised in our piece which is connecting continents. And really the thing with that is that we were looking at the different trajectory of the cities. So that was the key thing for us. So, why were certain things happening in cities which were not happening and others, and we put that down to was that the the trajectory that these cities were on so as an example Singapore were able to do quite well with a pandemic in terms of green urban space green infrastructure, and you look at the way that they've been prioritising those things since the 1950s and 60s. On the other hand, the city on the shortest trajectory is Paris and Paris are doing great things. Mayor Hidalgo was constantly in the news in terms of whether it was greening the Champs Elysees or banning cars completely. I think this is because Paris is on this very unique trajectory where they're in fact, aiming for the 2024 Olympics, which again is something which hasn't really been talked about yet, but I think that we picked up in our research so understanding what trajectory cities are on is quite instructive in understanding how they made them respond to the pandemic and subsequent sort of issuesLaura Laker31:14in terms of Fare City itself, we're kind of working on this voluntarily. Am I right?Charles Critchell31:23I think we're in a position now where we're about to incorporate. I think that's based on the strength of the work we've been doing. Obviously it's nice to be recognised but I think we've been working on things which we feel are important to us and our stakeholders. And I think also, by default doing this we built a good network of like minded people who sort of like to collaborate with. And we actually did a piece with disabled cycling charity Wheels for Wellbeing just before Christmas, which, which was our first sort of paid piece of work so we are looking to do consultancy work, collaborating with like minded organisations but also by default of becoming a social enterprise, accessing grant funding. And so, hopefully it won't always be done on a voluntary basis, and obviously if there are any listeners with deep pockets with an active travel bent feel free to get in touch and I'm sure we can work something.Laura Laker32:29I mean this is a problem I know this is a problem with journalism, and perhaps it's a problem in the advocacy sector that it's, it kind of ends up being people who have some way of kind of supporting themselves while they work for free and it's quite an interesting one isn't it is obviously doing good work but it's kind of how do we reach out to other people who maybe don't have the resources to work for free and I know that you're talking about having guest blogs from the built environment sector on your on your website at some point maybe you could tell us a bit about that how maybe aspiring journalists or people in those environments can get involved.Charles Critchell33:07Yeah, sure. I think that's sort of again fundamental to setting up as social enterprise is that we want to provide a platform for sort of young professionals or early stage professionals to actually share what they know what their experiences of the built environment are, and the sort of knowledge and expertise, which they have or an idea that they want to sort of promote. And I remember when I first moved to London sort of in my mid 20s, I was, you know, I think think like most of the journalists, starting up you know looking for someone to publish your work and just working really hard to try and get that opportunity to get that opening. So I think for us it's important to do that not only to support and try and to potentially nurture people, and who have an idea but also, I guess to honestly to sort of help educate us and help, help us sort of stay in touch with issues from around the country so I hope there are some reciprocal benefits to it.Laura Laker34:06Will these be paid gigs do you think? I guess no-one is getting paid yet.Charles Critchell34:11I would like to say yes, that is our intention, I think that, again, there is something in journalism where you're just expected to work for free on the basis of getting the exposure of the publication with sort of, you know, a big magazine or a big public, you know, a big platform but actually yeah we do want to pay people, because it's it's a recognition of the value that they bring. Yeah. And I think if you provide a bit more of an incentive to people as well then they're more likely to probably try, honestly, try harder but you know to actually focus more and produce a better piece of work which is of paramount importance, it's about producing work which is as good as possible reallyLaura Laker34:57yeah and about recognising the value of people's expertise or. Yeah, and it can be quite exclusion exclusionary because they say that, you know, with journalism certainly if you're unless you have some way of supporting yourself while you work for free. It's just impossible, you know that's why journalism so kind of white and middle class and from a very small pool of educational establishments. So, yeah, it's an interesting one, but that's good to hear. Yeah, we talked earlier about the kind of difference between generations, on Hammersmith bridge and how they felt that the future of the bridge might look and what they would like to see. And there was a definite kind of age split wasn't there the younger people tended to want to see fewer cars, and you've been doing some further research on that, in terms of generation Z and transport. And so perhaps we could finish by asking you about that and what you've learned and what where Fare City goes next.Charles Critchell35:49Yeah sure, we've been working with a West London school in Northolt for just over a year now. So first of all, with the year sixes and sevens so 12 and 13 year olds. When we went into the school we sort of discussed with them, potentially why they should consider making more sustainable travel choices. We were ready to do some follow up work with them but obviously COVID intervened. And what we then did is we went back and we worked with their sixth formers. So the school had some priorities which they wanted to try and realise through their collaboration with us and looking at things like career paths, and why students should be more aware of how their travel choices are impacting others. We really did with them we've done this piece of work on generation Z which I'm really confused about because it does suggest that there are reasons to be hopeful. And just to sort of say there's a fallacy that, you know, it's important that we engage with younger people because, obviously, they are the city users of tomorrow. I think that's incorrect. They are the city users of now, today. And, you know, everyone has got a stake in their city and younger people should be consulted upon that because obviously. Yes, you know, they will be using the city more tomorrow but it's just trying to raise that awareness now, and I guess maybe when people are most receptive so I think what we did with them was we did initial survey and, obviously, this was all anonymous and online where they sort of told us about their priorities. They told us the ease and convenience were important to them, as well as the importance of their local areas. And a lot of them quite encouragingly thought that moving around London via public transport in future was was really important. So I think that's a great advert for the importance of public transport, which is obviously, particularly here in London I guess under threat because of the predominantly fare based revenue model, which TfL have to sort of contend with. Which I guess has led to, you know, this upcoming I think it's the end of March, beginning of April, where free travel for under 18s will be sadly cut unless some, some sort of compromise is found, but I think that aside we sort of took the survey findings to construct a webinar. And so what we did is actually a lot of the people we engage with in the connecting continents work, we sort of caught them up and, you know, we asked them to provide a you know a snapshot of what was going on in their different cities countries and cultures, and I think that really resonated with young people who subsequently watched the webinar because I think they saw that, how what they were doing was impacting upon other people in faraway places such as Addis Ababa or southern hemisphere, continents and countries, but also do it. I guess it gave them an insight into how they may then be able to do certain things within their own careers, which they may not have thought possible so yeah I think it could be, you know, obviously, I'm biassed but I think it's a good thing is a great piece of research, and that I think is something we're looking to build in the future that's working with, with other schools and hopefully they will really unlock the value of what we've tried to do. Yeah,Laura Laker39:10thank you for coming on it's been great. AllCharles Critchell39:13Great, thanks a lot, Laura. Yeah, really enjoyed it.Laura Laker39:17You've been listening to the Active Travel Podcast. You can find us online our website at blog.westminster.ac.uk/ata/podcast. We're on most podcast hosts and you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram @active_ata . Let us know you think email us at email@example.com. Thanks for listening. Until next time.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods - latest evidence from the People and Places study
Season 1, Ep. 8
Low traffic neighbourhoods have been around for decades – but recently many more have been deployed as part of COVID-19 interventions to help people walk and cycle more, and avoid public transport. New analysis of three years of the People and Places study in “Mini Hollands” in London, by Dr Rachel Aldred and Dr Anna Goodman, has found that, in ‘high dose’ low traffic neighbourhoods, not only do people walk and cycle more, but over time there was a decrease in car ownership.Racheland Anna’s newlypublishedarticle is: ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, Car Use, and Active Travel: evidence from the People and Places survey of Outer London active travel interventions’The Low Traffic Neighbourhood, or LTN, is a qualitative intervention to improve cycling and walking trips. In LTNs short car journeys become longer, while walking and cycling are made more pleasant by reduced interactions with motor traffic. These factors combine to change behaviour – not just for cycling, but for walking, too.In this conversationProfessorAldred says while LTNs are typically thought of as measures for cycling, they can boost pedestrian trips, by making walking on, and crossing the streets more pleasant. With traffic flows of less than 100 vehicles per hourat peak, which equates toaround1,000 vehicles per day, people start walking in the carriageway, because they feel safe to do so. She argues by reducing traffic levels low traffic neighbourhoods particularly benefit disabledpedestrians, who are more likely to be injured on the roads.Historic research from tube strikes in London that shows while disruption to our lives is difficult and inconvenient, if made to think about our trips we sometimes end up with a better solution for ourselves as well as local businesses, by walking and cycling for shorter trips.While more research is needed, including around decision making in buying and keeping a private vehicle, this suggests potential societal reductions in car ownership if low traffic neighbourhoods were more widely implemented, with the prospect of freeing up road space for other activities than car parking, such as parklets, cycle lanes or wider footways.This new analysis could mean that, in terms of getting people out of their cars, low traffic neighbourhoods, or LTNs, are an important part of the active travel puzzle.Links:Published study ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, Car Use, and Active Travel: evidence from the People and Places survey of Outer London active travel interventions’:https://transportfindings.org/article/17128-low-traffic-neighbourhoods-car-use-and-active-travel-evidence-from-the-people-and-places-survey-of-outer-london-active-travel-interventionsPre-print of longer article calculating health economic benefits of the mini-Holland schemes:https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/5ny4c/Rachel's blog ontheresearch :http://rachelaldred.org/research/low-traffic-neighbourhoods-evidence/Manual for Streets: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/341513/pdfmanforstreets.pdf
Cycling for Everyone: how we get there
Season 1, Ep. 7
Sustrans’ and Arup’s new report, Cycling for Everyone, was published at a time when both the Black Lives Matter movement and the active travel movement are at the forefront of public discussion. Susan Claris is one of the report’s authors, and Global Active Travel Leader at Arup, and Daisy Narayanan is Sustrans’ Director of Urbanism.Coincidentally launched the day Boris Johnson’s government announced its Gear Change document, setting out a path to cycling growth in England, Cycling for Everyone identifies through interviews, data and analysis who is cycling, but also crucially, who isn’t, why, and how greater diversity in cycling can be achieved.Cycling in the UK is predominantly white and male: 85% of people aged over 65, as well as around three quarters of disabled people, women, people at risk of deprivation and people from ethnic minority groups, never cycle. Quantitative data can only tell us so much, however, and although different people face different barriers, many of the issues stopping us cycling more are similar, from safety fears, to access and affordability, to perceptions of competence.As Susan Claris puts it, inclusion is more than making things step-free – it's about looking at the impact of infrastructure from the broadest possible perspective. This means where we design our cycling infrastructure, how, and with who in mind - and the report acknowledges we need to do better in our public spaces, and offers some pointers as to how we can do that.Cycling for Everyone provides not only a call to action to level the field for more people to cycle, but a platform to achieve greater diversity in cycling at a time when we could be on the cusp of great leaps in active travel participation and, if we heed the report’s lessons, far greater diversity, too.As Daisy Narayanan writes in her forward to the report: "Only by ensuring that voices of underrepresented groups are integrated in policy, planning, design and implementation, can we ensure that we create places that meet the needs of the diversity of people who want to use them."You can read the Cycling for Everyone report here: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/media/7377/cycling_for_everyone-sustrans-arup.pdfTranscript Laura Laker0:00Hi and welcome to the Active Travel podcast. Brought to you by the Active Travel Academy, which is part of the University of Westminster in London. I'm Laura Laker, an active travel journalist. Now we know cycling has benefits for physical and mental health as a low cost transport, for independent access to services, work and education, but there are people across society who can't access cycling. The most recent National Travel Attitudes Survey found two thirds of adults feel it's too dangerous to cycle and cycling is still predominantly something done by a small proportion of the population. In other words, it's not very diverse. According to a new report by Sustrans and Arup, Cycling for Everyone. 85% of people over 65, and around three quarters of disabled people, women, people at risk of deprivation and people from ethnic minority groups, never cycle. This report is what we're talking about today, what it tells us about why certain people don't cycle and what can be done to change that. So with me today, is one of the report's authors, Susan Claris, who is the global active travel leader at Arup. Hi, Susan.Susan Claris1:07Hello,Laura Laker1:08and Daisy Narayanan, who is Sustrans' director of urbanismDaisy Narayanan1:13Hi Laura.Laura Laker1:14Hi. So, yeah, thanks for coming on the podcast. It's great to have you both on; can you just tell our listeners a little bit about how the report came about, and who it's aimed at.Susan Claris1:26It's actually got quite an interesting story because I had to remind myself of this one it was it was actually from the Arup side, it was a colleague who joined us as a graduate back in 2015, and he'd done his dissertation on cycling, and older people. And shortly after joining us he sort of said, you know, there's not much guidance out there, wouldn't it be good if we could actually do something to look into this subject. And it took a bit of while to get it, get it all going but from that we had discussions with Sustrans. And the idea came about drawing on the Sustrans Bike Life data to actually produce his guide that would actually show how cycling can be made more inclusive and really can be made for everyone so that that was the background of it from the Arup side I don't know whether Daisy wants to talk about it from the Sustrans perspective.Daisy Narayanan2:12Yeah, I mean, just adding to what he said Susan from a Sustrans perspective, all Sustrans strategic priorities have 'for everyone' at its very heart. So, the whole concept of inclusive design has been something that me and Sustrans are really wanting to focus on, so it is so timely, this conversation with Arup, what bike life was saying to us as well. For the past year, you know, talking about diversity and inclusion and all set within the wider context of climate change, and the whole conversation around black lives matter and inclusion I think this is such a timely report, and you know it's been wonderful working with colleagues at Arup to bring this together.Laura Laker2:53It's really exciting isn't it because, as you say, inclusivity has become so much more prominent in public discussion as has the need for cycling infrastructure and active travel infrastructure in general, it feels like these agendas have really, risen just at the time that this report has come out. I know that you're working on it since 2019 and there's been a bunch of stages, including a literature review there was the bike life data, you've had focus groups where you've talked to people about why they don't cycle or why they do, and working out what you can do about that, you've had workshops with decision makers in the transport sector. And there's a database now of case studies of successful projects. And one of the things that Sustrans has found out through its Bike Life surveys, it's not that people don't want to cycle. 55% of people from ethnic minority groups, 38% of people at risk of deprivation 36% of women and 31% of disabled people who don't cycle would like to start. So that's a that's a huge amount.Susan Claris3:54I think if those surveys were actually redone now those numbers would be even higher. So if you think those those surveys were pre COVID pre lockdown and we've seen what a huge upsurge there's been an interest in cycling, as I said those numbers I think would be so much higher now.Daisy Narayanan4:09Absolutely I couldn't agree more. You know, we've seen that in our own areas and over lockdown we've seen this massive increase in in cycling and all kinds of people cycling, not just the usual people that you expect to see on our road cycling and I think that's been, you know, it's not you can have surveys and reports and all of that out there and statistics, but for me what has been really really powerful about this process is getting stories from people you know just understanding, getting right into the depths of why what the barriers are. And I think that's been really powerful in the report but more than that, you know, as Susan was saying, during lockdown. That's being so visible now, all of us can see how that change is required and people want that change to happen. And that, to me forms, quite a strong foundation for for going forward into policymaking going forward.Laura Laker5:10And the report, sort of touches on issues affecting different groups of people as statistics from earlier older people as women as people from ethnic minorities, people with disabilities. And although there are different needs across different groups there is a commonality isn't there there are sort of common themes that come up, and you have to, you know, obviously the roads have been quieter and so a lot of people have been cycling so road safety is going to be one of them. Can you say a bit more about other sort of common themes that we saw across different groups in terms of what's stopping them from cycling what would help them to do so.Susan Claris5:46Yeah, I mean in terms of the report we've sort of grouped the actions into into three main areas, so better places is certainly one of those three themes which is about safety, road safety, but it's also about sort of personal safety and harassment. That sadly has come through quite strongly. It is about the importance of cycling infrastructure being fully inclusive. So there's a very strong focus on the places but that it that that's not enough so that's why we focus on the other two key areas which is to be more inclusive in terms of governance and planning and decision making. And then also this welcome and support for for people to cycle. It sort of, it's not just I think we've moved from, you know, a few years ago. Cycling was not much thought about at all then we will onto the wall stick in a cycle lane and tick the box and we've done that. We've moved to well let's count how many people use it. And now we're moving on to saying well actually, you know, who are those people and who aren't those people and I think it's understanding, broadening the understanding of what inclusion is all about. So I think, you know, for TfL, Transport for London, for a long time inclusion has been about making things step-free. Make it step-free, that's inclusion. I think many people who think about it in terms of gender, but actually it's actually looking at it from the broadest possible perspective to make sure it's fully inclusive for everyone, and that's that's a real shift and that's going to take a lot more than, than purely infrastructure, it goes much wider than that.Daisy Narayanan7:21And adding to what is missing as well you know there's something about the language we use, and making sure that the imagery that we have, you know, that that talks to cycling is not just you know what you see generally, it has to be truly inclusive, it has to reflect our communities, our places. And again, you know, for me, if you step back and take a look at what what inclusive places means and there is, there is a danger in my mind about the word inclusive becoming, you know, becoming use so much you know it becomes a word like sustainable, or resilient, it becomes one of those words that are used quite often without quite going into the depth of what that means. And again you know what Susan was saying, a place has to be inclusive, it has to be welcoming for everybody regardless of age or race or faith and ability or income, all of that has to be part of it. And cycling that fits into that walking and cycling into that placemaking. And that shift in the narrative has been has been accelerated over the past two to three years. You know the conversations that I'm having here in Scotland, and across the UK I'm sure as well, is reflecting that kind of shift in attitude. And that comes from the report, I think, you know, quite clearly across the themes. Again, going back to what I was saying, there's quite a strong platform for that, you know, for the call to action you know what is our call to action, what are we asking, what are we asking policymakers to do. And I think this kind of shift in narrative is has been so critical and so crucial to that.Laura Laker9:08And as a delivery body Sustrans is obviously involved with a lot of local councils and local authorities, and in creating infrastructure for cycling and walking and I wonder what kind of impact this information is going to have what what you mean when you talk about inclusive spaces and how that will translate to physical space.Daisy Narayanan9:29It is already making a huge difference, you know it helps policymakers, it helps councillors, local councillors to say look people want this. This is what surveys are saying this is what they are telling us to do they want us to make spaces better for walking and cycling, but it also helps officials who are actually going out and building this, it helps engineers who are designing this this infrastructure that goes into a place or the design of a place. And finally, it helps, I think it helps, people to come together, it helps a community engagement process, where you can truly get people together to shape what the place looks like and to me that is so crucial. And that's something that we haven't got right and you know we've talked about this before we have to acknowledge where we, we need to do better. And I think what this report does is acknowledge that. and see, here's how we can go, we can do better.Laura Laker10:34And, yeah, like you say it's it's about having communities, having a say in what's happening and not just a small percentage of people.Daisy Narayanan10:44It has to reflect, the communities, absolutely, it has to reflect the people who live there and work there you know whatever the context of the place that we're talking about whether it's city or town or neighbourhood, the people who shape that place, so when you look at what needs to go in. It has to reflect the aspirations, and has to reflect the vision of what what people see their places to be, and cycling is such a big part of that,Laura Laker11:10you said in your foreword to the report about a lack of diversity in transport planning and how you're not only often the only woman you're the only person from an ethnic minority in the room.Daisy Narayanan11:23Absolutely, yes, you know, I remember going to meetings, and I joined Sustrans in 2012. So, you know, this is, eight years ago almost, and almost every meeting I was the lone woman or the lone person of colour, sat there and I remember going to a meeting once and someone asked if I was here to take notes. And I said, no I'm here to chair the meeting. So there's a perception around transport, that is, you know, macho and it's transport and I think what to me is so encouraging and so incredible. And Susan I'm sure you you've seen this in your experience as well you know the change in more women coming forward, you know, change and more of us having that having the strength to come forward and say this isn't right. And we need to we need to do better.Laura Laker12:18Yeah, and Susan you've talked about how we count cycling, and the report talks about this as well about how it's been about increasing numbers in the past and how that hasn't really served in terms of improving diversity perhaps you could tell us a bit more about that and what needs to change.Susan Claris12:35Yeah, So, I think you know just just counting the number of cycles using a facility. It's good to see those numbers go up, but actually it's important to look behind those numbers and see. I said, who it is cycling and but also as importantly, who isn't cycling and who could benefit from that so it isn't purely a numbers game and you know having counters on cycleways and seeing the amount of usage is great, but it's that's only part of the picture and I think what the report shows is this big unmet demand for cycling, which I think will be even higher now following following covid and lockdown. And it's how we actually make cycling more accessible for people both physically and culturally how they can how people can see it as something that they that they can do themselves you know so often the image is you know, and I ban colleagues from using the word bicycle you know try and talk about cycles to be more inclusive and, you know, the imagery and this was true when the obesity strategy came out and the GPs to prescribe cycling. Virtually all the news articles that accompanied that were of a, you know, a man on a bike, white of a certain age, you know, a lot of people they'd look at that and I think well if that's if that cycling that's not for me. And so I think it's it's it's just making it accessible and achievable and realistic for people, I think, is getting people to start either either people who haven't cycled for a long time maybe they cycled as children but haven't carried on in adults, or if someone's never cycled, you know it's like where do you start, it's immensely difficult because you're not gonna go out and spend, potentially hundreds of pounds on a bike. And you know, so it's that what is your entry point into cycling and I think that's where hire schemes or lessons and things can really help because for some people, they may not like it, it may not be for them so actually, a way of way of trying it and seeing how people get on with it in a supportive environment with supportive people, because, you know, a colleague of mine actually, in lockdown, I guess she's early 30s. She just recently learned to cycle, you know, and I think that's quite a big thing for an adult to learn to cycle, most of us do it when you kids and you fall off and you grade yourself and you know that's part of growing up but to actually, you know, do that as an adult, is, is a big step and I think it's brilliant she took a week off and you know she wasn't going anywhere. She couldn't travel so she was like, Well what can I do happen to coincide with a bike being on her streets, with a sign saying free to a good home. And it was like well this is a sign I need to learn to cycle, but it's it's a really, it's a really difficult. I think you know, don't underestimate that by any means.Daisy Narayanan15:19Absolutely. I think these stories are so powerful. When we run. One of the workshops we ran in Glasgow, as part of the reporting. There was a councilllor from Edinburgh Council, Councillor McInnes who spoke at that. And she talked about you know how she's in her late 50s, and she's very vocal about how she had cycled for over 30 years, and she was quite nervous about getting back on a bike, but then she's you know she had she felt the pressure as she put it to be seen on a bike. So she then she. The next step was to buy a buy, and then she says it's quite intimidating going into a shop, when you don't know anything about where you begin as. Where do you begin? So all of those steps were little barriers and she had to push through those and then finally she now commutes over 10 miles, well pre-lockdown, to the city chambers and back and she says it's completely changed her. How, how she looks at how she looks at her place actually because suddenly you see the batteries for yourself and as a Transport Convener how powerful is that? You can do that so I think it's, there's something so good about having these stories out there. And, you know, being able to talk about this. This is about people, isn't it, at the end of the day it's about people and cycling is, is the framework, on which we're talking about people's lives, and this.Laura Laker16:47And I guess I guess the temptation is that if you're if you've got a certain amount of money for cycling that you will do a linear route, as you've seen in the past from a wealthy area to city centre area, and you know it's like the low hanging fruit of cycling you know for a certain amount of money you'll get X number of people cycling they probably already got bikes they're already confident enough on the road to link up missing bits and that's what we've seen in a lot of cities around the UK. But I guess it's, it's so much harder to sort of look at, like, all of the different barriers that people face the argument that the report makes is that the people who have the greatest barriers should be the kind of focus is there potential people that can benefit the most.Susan Claris17:26Yeah, and I think looking at neighbourhood areas I mean as you say that the temptation is always to go for the radial routes and the commuting routes and I think that's the whole 'we design in our own image' and this is set out really powerfully in the book Invisible Women, you know, but actually, the more important things I think are the you know, are the local areas or neighbourhood areas half of all our trips are for leisure and shopping. So we should be focusing on those, only 15% of trips are for commuting. So I think actually sort of focusing on the commuting route is not the wrong thing to do but it's not the only thing we should be doing, and actually looking at making neighbourhoods better for cycling, you know, having cycle parking whether it's at shops or in people's homes, you know, particularly in areas, I mean, for me, one of the worst aspects of street design are cul de sacs, you know, looking at how you can work on housing estates designed around cul de sacs to make better routes for cycling so you don't have to follow the wiggly routes that cars follow so it's it's looking at some of those areas and then people might be encouraged to start cycling from their home. Maybe to begin with, they go to the local shops and then they find that quite useful, they go a little bit further and they go a bit further and it builds people's confidence, rather than actually sort of taking a, you know, a radial route into a town or city centre and focusing on that.Laura Laker18:41Yeah, and when you start to understand people different people's trips, so women as the report notes, women do a lot of trip chaining so it's you going one place you're doing something you're moving on to the next place, perfect for cycling and in the Netherlands more women cycle than men,Susan Claris18:54And older womenLaura Laker18:54And just doing these yeah and just by just doing these, these linear routes, you're basically designing everyone else out you're excluding everyone else and then people say that Cycling is white and male and middle class and it's because those are the kind of cyclists that we're designing for. And so in terms of measurement, we've, we've talked about how quantitative measurements are obviously not helping diversity. I know that the Leeds-Bradford cycle route was specifically built in an area that is low income households and poor transport links, and they've done a lot of qualitative work but I think they're in the minority there. What would good look like in this sense?Daisy Narayanan19:37One of the examples I can give you from, from up here in Scotland in Scotland Sustrans works with Scottish government and we deliver funding in partnership with local authorities to build walking and cycling infrastructure. And over the past couple of years as the programme has grown, it's called Places for Everyone, the focus has been on more deprived areas and the research and monitoring unit that work alongside the project delivery team, you know, are very very conscious that the for everyone piece is very much part of the monitoring. So to me that's quite, again, it's an example of how, you know, process can help. If you get your right processes in place to make sure that you're measuring the right thing, then that can then encourage everyone to do better. It depends on the context, which is different places will have different ways of measurement and different ways of what you see good looking likeLaura Laker20:34potentially the people with the greatest barriers and just thinking about investment and return on investment, which is something we're kind of obsessed with, In a way, certain groups or excluded groups are excluded because the. The benefits are external to transport so transport is almost a siloed thing that needs to make its own money in a way which doesn't make any sense because it's such a public good isn't it is especially when we talk about active transport it's, it's the physical activity benefits and often it's the people with greatest barriers, people who aren't getting exercise people with poor transport links, poor access to work and education, for whom the benefits will be greatest. So it's kind of harder to do but if you're looking in the round. There's just so much more benefit for society potentially.Susan Claris21:17And I think that's where it brings in the walking and cycling angle as well because cycling was featured quite heavily in the obesity strategy but i think you know recognising that telling someone who doesn't currently ride a bike to go and ride a bike is a very difficult ask and if there's someone who is overweight or obese then that's probably an even harder ask but I think if it can be in terms of increasing physical activity, walking and cycling the two go together really well, you know, and it always interests me that Sustrans' National Cycle Network is usable by people walking them by cycling so I think it's having active travel routes and promoting both walking and cycling, just as ways of being active and you know it isn't it isn't badging someone as a cyclist it's looking at people as people and those people walk sometimes it may cycle sometimes they might drive a car they might get on a bus, you know, people do all of those different things. But the key message is actually about, you know, promoting the active, the active side of it because of all the benefits it brings physical health and mental health.Daisy Narayanan22:19Absolutely and again, to your point Laura about the wellbeing aspect not being captured and when you measure the impact the project has; in Edinburgh in a project called the city centre transformation when I was in secondment to the council here for 18 months, and we were very clear from the beginning that we were not going to use the traditional methods of stag or the transport appraisal survey, you have to be under the umbrella of quality of life and quality of place. And that was quite an interesting process to see how you can put value to green space and to active places. And I think there's something quite exciting about how the work is starting to take shape, where, you know, yes you do the transport appraisals but then over that you layer in your wellbeing and your, you know, physical and mental health and your green spaces. And yeah, I guess the next step that we all need to take forward.Susan Claris23:12I think it's interesting in a way it can come from from other projects as well. So one of my favourite projects in our Arup is one we've got called Greener Grangetown which was down in Cardiff. And that actually started off as a drainage study. And then the idea was to put in greenery to help with drainage and that's what actually if we're putting in greenery, maybe we put in some, you know, walking and cycling as well and that the benefits just cascade in that way so is walking and cycling projects can come from unusual areas sometimes.Daisy Narayanan23:39I love that project, it's gorgeous.Laura Laker23:42We have one near me in Stratford actually that has an a lot of drainage with plants in and it's really nice to cycle pastSusan Claris23:49Rain gardensLaura Laker23:49That's right. Yeah. Yeah, it's really lovely actuallyDaisy Narayanan23:57We have that a lot during consultation for most projects. That's something that comes back so strongly. You want greener spaces you want to be able to access within five minutes, your local park or you want to have greenery and colour and wildflowers and all of that speaks to us as humans.Laura Laker24:17Yeah, there's a lot of temporary changes happening and in terms of temporary cycling infrastructure and presumably a lot of that is going to become permanent and there's a real opportunity isn't there to make our cities more resilient in terms of climate change and creating shade which is so important in creating better drainage, because water runoff is a massive problem with extreme weather. And, yeah, just that reallocation of road space from motor vehicles.There's been a lot of announcements from government, as we know, we've had Gear Change which is the government's vision for cycling we've had proposed highway code changes. And we have had new design guidance and obviously there's a lot happening with COVID, in terms of an emergency response for transport; I'm wondering how all of this kind of feeds in to this agenda of making cycling more diverse,Susan Claris25:11I think, i mean i think it's really timely I mean the fact that our report came out on the same day as Gear Change is a complete fluke because I think we chose the publication date back in March or something so it's just one of those really happy coincidences that it came out on the same day so I mean I really welcome all the policy announcements that are being made and you know it is it is a great sort of step forward compared to where, where we've been over the last few years. I think the big thing is what happens next because we've had all this good stuff in terms of Gear Change but then we have the planning reforms and the potential relaxation of planning. So it's like one part of government is saying all the good stuff about active transport but if there is then a relaxation, how do we actually make sure that when developments are planned that they are planned with walking and cycling in from the outset, and we don't end up with some of the housing developments that we've got now that are totally inaccessible by public transport or by active modes so I think that's there's a lot of welcome but there's a degree of caution there as well.Daisy Narayanan26:12I agree with that, and I think what for me is, is very encouraging about the Gear Change report is the language around it, it's quite directive, which I don't think we've had so far which I think is quite good. I'm also encouraged by the fact that it's not just the UK government that has announced increased investment for walking and cycling you can see Scottish Government, Wales, Northern Ireland, for the first time I think across the across devolved nations and the UK government. There's a real sense of we need to invest more in walking and cycling. And, you know, when you look at the whole picture. It's really important as Susan said to get the right to get the next stage right, make sure that the words that are put into policy are translated on the ground because the delivery on the ground is going to be for the local authorities, for boroughs, and we have to make sure that that disconnect is as small as possible, because you see that a lot, you know, the right words are being used, but then you see something on the ground and you just go that's not what it's meant to be. So I think that there's a piece of work there about that about local authorities being empowered to do what national policy is telling them to do.Laura Laker27:25Yeah, there's a lot of that isn't this these wonderful statements about putting pedestrians and people cyling first, and it just doesn't happen in the real world and one of the things in your report one of the three elements for targeted changes are governance planning and decision making. So I guess I guess that's, that's going to be there isn't it it's going to be about putting that into practice which is which is perhaps the hardest part it's easy to say something is harder to do itDaisy Narayanan27:56That's why you need the grassroots community. The community to feel empowered to to ask for that change because then then change happens at that local level. And when that then marries up with the national policy, then you can generally make magic happen.Susan Claris28:15I think that thing about think about support is really important because you know we've seen that it's always the people who are against schemes who shout the loudest, there was the recent YouGov poll that was showing that you know for every person against there's six and a half people supporting these schemes, but you don't tend to hear that voice. We know with some low traffic neighbourhoods that are going in, they're being badged as road closures, there are some quite vociferous lobbies typically from people outside of the area who come in to oppose, and you know it's very easy for a politician to hear the negative voice and not to hear that support and if the support is maybe coming from older people maybe they're not so engaged in the process. So I think we need a better mechanism for all people's voices to be heard, whether they're for or against rather than the vocal minority in either way, being dominant.Daisy Narayanan29:04I completely agree, and I mean I think more and more you're seeing that seeing the backlash against some of the temporary schemes you mentioned Laura, because, you know, things have been put in quite quickly and you know they're not the most beautiful, you know they're cones or wands, and that that doesn't provide the vision of what that street could look like when it's done well with thought and care. So there is, there needs to be that communication of what this specific temporary measure is about and how that then leads to the wider vision that everyone has to feed into and what it could be. So yeah absolutely the process of as Susan was saying there needs to be a better mechanism because we've got that quite right.Laura Laker29:45Yeah, because if what's happening now is being called out undemocratic in places in terms of temporary infrastructure going in before consultation takes place or the temporary infrastructure being there during the consultation, it gives everyone a chance to see it on the ground, and we know that having a car dominatedstreet is not an equitable place but at the same time having these consultations, which perhaps only highlight the voices of the vocal minority isn't necessarily democratic representation of who's for and against something it is quite a difficult one really isn't it because of the fundamental change and changes to our physical streets, it's never going to be easy is itDaisy Narayanan30:24Absolutely, I've got scars on my back and inbox to show thatSusan Claris30:29for people who aren't currently cycling which we know is a large part of the population, they're not going to be out there probably giving support for something to benefit cycling because they don't see themselves as a cyclist so they don't necessarily see that as of relevance to them alone benefiting them. So it is, it is very hard to actually get that support for something that you're not currently doing and you don't see as relevant to youDaisy Narayanan30:57know if you, if you are frail and if you have a physical or sensory impairment of any kind change is scary. Change is scary anyway but for someone who iss already feeling their lives are not what it should be, this kind of change is scary so I think there is something about the empathy that we need to have when we talk about projects like this it's not, it's not just this needs to be done because x y z. It's like let's do this together. And it sounds very motherhood and apple pie but I think if we get that right if we get that conversation right at the beginning, then we can save ourselves a huge amount of angst later on in the process.Laura Laker31:38The third element to these three recommendations is welcoming and supporting all people to cycle and I guess, perhaps you're arguing that this has to be from the beginning,Daisy Narayanan31:48yesSusan Claris31:49yeah I think it's I mean it's talking about the language and the imagery that we've already talked about, but I think also it's the cost and the barriers to getting getting a cycle So, you know, cycles generally are not cheap and so there can be an issue around cost and availability. But I think it's also in the report draws on the whole purchasing experience, and a very brief story if I may, my, my background is partly in anthropology. And one of the best studies I saw about the value of urban anthropology, it was it was conducted by Shimano and it was a quite a few years ago, and they were looking at, this was in America, why certain groups of people don't cycle, and the view was that they were too lazy, too fat, too whatever, didn't care. When, the anthropoologists went out and spoke to these people they said they've all had really positive associations with with cycling when they were children, but then they didn't see it as something that were relevant when they were older and they said if they went into cycle shops they found a very hostile environment. So they then talked to people in the cycle shops and they went, oh no no it's not hostile we welcome everybody you know, everybody is welcome here. So then what they did is they gave the people working in cycle shops $100 or something and told them they had to go to a department store and buy certain types of cosmetics. And when they walked into that department store they absolutely felt the discomfort that other people felt walking, and that's how they really got it that actually their place wasn't as welcoming as they thought it was so it's always trying to see something from the insider's viewpoint and I said, you know, cycle shops are not always a happy place or comfortable place to be if you're not part of that, that sort of type of people already, you know, so it's like it's a big step for someone who doesn't cycle and cycling now is quite technical and it's complex and you know what you've lost a lot of is basic bikes, a lot of people they don't want 21 gears, they don't know what to do with them. So they certainly don't want to start with 21 gears you know what, where, where is the basic bike gone that can give people that entry into cycling so I think that's, that's really important so people can actually get a cycle and then have some training on how to use it.Daisy Narayanan33:55Absolutely. And I think we also talked so much about safety and you know, we talk about cycling within transport terms quite a lot. I think we don't talk enough about the joy and delight. That cycling brings to you, And, you know, I got an ebike a year, a year and a bit ago and I love it. There is that sense of joy that comes with it, and I think the more we can talk about you know, this makes you feel good is, is as relevant to saying it makes you feel safe, it's good for your health and well being and the climate and all of that. Yeah, I don't think we should forget the joy.Laura Laker34:34Yeah, I remember being in Edinburgh. Last year, actually, I was going on a little biking trip and I borrowed an electric mountain bike, and I was whizzing through town it had nice fat tires so I didn't have to worry about the tram tracks, you know, Edinburgh is just full of trams. And then there was a guy next to me at the lights on this hill, up hill, and I just looked across at him and I was like, e-mountain bike best thing ever and he was like Yeah. And we both just whizzed off.Daisy Narayanan35:07Edinburgh is a city of seven hills and an ebike flattens the hills in Edinburgh i can ride around and not feel like I'm about to die.Laura Laker35:17Yeah, I love absolutely love I've got anebike as well and I absolutely love it. And it really does make it more accessible to so many more people for many so many reasons. Maybe I can ask you what you want the report to achieve. Maybe a big question or an obvious question.Susan Claris35:34I think, from my perspective I would like it to help decision makers politicians transport planners all the sort of people that are likely to read it actually realise that Cycling is for everyone. And I said to get rid of the conventional image of a person typically a man on a bike, and realise that actually cycling embraces all these different types of people and should embrace all these different types of people well you know from the five to 105 not even eight to 80 sort of thing so it is a viable form of transport for the majority of the population. And we just need to actually help that become real. And as Daisy said I think bringing the joy back into cycling as well so yes it's a great mode of transport from A to B, but it's so much more than that. But it yeah it is that cycling should be and is for everybody.Daisy Narayanan36:30Yeah, and just to add to this from my perspective there's also. I'm hoping that this report can accelerate change that needs to happen because I think we've demonstrated that change needs to happen, and people want change. So what this should do is now get that in motion get that really fast and from a personal perspective I hope that it also allows people to reflect on you know on attitudes, on how we how we perceive cycling. What do we think about when we talk about inclusive cycling, and even within Sustransto challenge ourselves to be better and to make sure that the For Everyone, that we want to be at the heart of everything we do. It's truly at the heart of what we do. And so yeah so external and internal, I think there is some reflection and then there is a lot of acceleration.Laura Laker37:22Yeah. Yeah, I think one of the things that stuck out from me in the report was you know just admitting that we've got things wrong and you know looking around at the people cycling generally speaking it's It is, it is a very narrow portion of the of society who feels brave enough is what it boils down to, to cycle on the roads and so obviously something has gone wrong, and I think is a chance for reflection and to move forward. So, yeah, super important report and really nice to talk to you both. I wonder if there's anything else that you wanted to say that you feel that we've missed out.Daisy Narayanan38:07I think from my perspective nothing much more to add, except that I love the fact that we have three women here talking about cycling. Yeah, which I think is is brilliant. And, you know, that this is even on the agenda and the cycling is so different when I joined Sustrans in 2012, as an architect slightly naive thinking I'm going to go to the world of walking and cycling, it's going to be amazing, no one can be angry in this world. It has been quite a learning process over the past eight years, but I think we're at the cusp of something quite incredible. And, yeah, the more we can collaborate and make that happen, I'm really excited for the future.Susan Claris38:54I think for me it's it's broadening the scope of cycling because so often it's associated with a sport and it's seen as a sporty activity. And I think the more we can just see it as something for, you know, everybody and something that you don't need a lot of kit for. It doesn't have to be fast it doesn't have to be competitive. You know it is almost that that that joy of the self-propelled transport, but getting getting away from the sporty side of it I think that that helps a lot because as soon as, as long as people see it as a sporty thing, they probably don't see it as relevant to themselves so it's almost getting back to. It's almost viewing the bicycle, and cycling the old fashioned way i think it's it's that different image.Laura Laker39:38Wonderful. Thank you both so much for coming on the podcast it's been great to hear from you.Susan Claris39:44Thanks Laura, it's lovely to talk to you.Daisy Narayanan39:44Thank youLaura Laker39:44Thank you for listening to the active travel podcasts lucky seventh episode with Sustrans' director of urbanism, Daisy Narayanan, Arup's global active travel lead, Susan Claris, and me, your host Laura Laker. You can find and subscribe to the active travel podcast online on our website at blog.westminster.ac.uk/ata/podcast, and you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram @active_ata. Let us know what you think, via social media or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks for listening; until next time.
Walking practices in the Global South with Daniel Oviedo and Luz Navarro
Season 1, Ep. 6
The current global pandemic has pushed mostcities in the Global North torethink how we envision our streets to createcar-free, safe, healthy and clean environments for its citizens. However, in the context of African cities, this transition is marked by extreme poverty, unequal access to good quality infrastructure and lack of resources.Dr Daniel Oviedo works at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit at UCL andspecialises on the social, economic and spatial analysis of inequalities related to urban transport in developing countries. In this podcast, Dr Oviedo talks to Luz Navarro, a Research Associate at the Active Travel Academy, discussing the methodological challenges and findings from two research projects on walkability at different urban scales in the Global South. Both research projects offer a qualitative look at walkability and walking experiences to unveil how shows social norms and perceptions of walkability heavily influence who walks, when, where and why. The first one is on pedestrian space and the Right to the City in Maputo and the second on is on the social constructions of walkability in informal settlements in Freetown.In Maputo, the project explores the different attitudes towards walking between two income groups. Those with higher income see walking as a choice among other modes, something mainly done for leisure - and have alternatives at hand easily when they don’t feel safe, or they face poor weather conditions and poor infrastructure. Those from the lower income group have no other transport choices, regardless of other conditions. The main findings show that feelings of safety, race, gender and level of education and occupation play a strong role in walking behaviours and attitudes, as much as the quality of the walking environment.The second project offers a fresh insight on the subjective and objective dimensions of walking, not as a choice but as an imposition in the informal settlement of Moyiba in Freetown and how this reveals existing urban inequalities. Daniel also talks to us about the pleasurability of walking in terms of aesthetics and comfort in such a context and the role the built environment in the perception of walking as a pleasurable experience and how residents of Moyiba see and experience their neighbourhood.Finally, Daniel talks about the lessons we can learn from both projects and how governments can facilitate walking improvements in a more effective and inclusive way.You can find out more about Daniel's research project here: https://www.t-sum.org/And a partner from the Sierra Leone research projecthere https://www.slurc.org/
PhDPOD: How a ‘practice theory’ approach can help us make sense of cycling experiences, cultures, and activism
Season 1, Ep. 5
Our second PhD pod showcases Dr. Rorie Parsons’ PhD research. Rorie used a range of different qualitative methods, including archival analysis, interviews, and ride-alongs, to explore cycling cultures and cycling advocacy in Newcastle. This takes in both contemporary practices and those that came before them, exploring links between what cycling means, how infrastructure is designed and used, and what kinds of skills people cycling are expected to have. Tune in and find out what a ‘practice theory approach’ can offer to understanding problems of advocacy and activism.Dr Rorie Parsons is a geographer who completed his PhD in cycling cultures, advocacy, and practice, at Newcastle University in 2018.Rorie is now a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Sheffield as part of the Plastics: redefining single-use project. For this episode, he talks about his work around cycling, with a little bit of his current work thrown in for good measure.ESRC is the Economic and Social Research Council, a national funding body for social sciences, and 1+3 is four years’ funded postgraduate study – one year of a Masters and then three years of a PhD.Rorie’s work thesis can be found here -https://theses.ncl.ac.uk/jspui/handle/10443/4687And an article based on Rorie's masters thesis, here -https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02665433.2017.1348973
PhDPOD: New qualitative research delves into the why and how of active travel
Season 1, Ep. 4
Some of the most exciting active travel research is done as part of a PhD, and this is our first Active Travel Podcast to showcase a couple of recent PhD studies.These two projects, from Dr. Katja Leyendecker and Dr. Emma Mbabazi, use qualitative methods to dig into the how and the why of travel. Katja’s project tackled questions around policy, advocacy, and governance, with a mix of methods from retrospective video diaries to semi-structured interviews. Emma conducted over 80 in-depth interviews with commuters, to get their ‘mobility biographies’, i.e. how transport has fitted in with their lives, and vice versa, over time.They’re both very different projects, but each tells us a lot about how and why things change – or (perhaps more often) don’t change.Katja’s work can be found athttps://katsdekker.wordpress.com/, including blogs and links to her published thesis and articles.Emma’s LinkedIn page, with info and article links, is herehttps://www.linkedin.com/in/emmerentian-mbabazi-ab6b7459/?originalSubdomain=ug, and her PhD thesis is herehttps://www.ros.hw.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10399/3292/MbabaziE_1216_egis.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=yTRANSCRIPTRachel 00:01Hello, and welcome to the Active Travel Podcast. I'm Rachel Aldred and I’m the director of the Active Travel Academy. And in this episode I'll be talking to Dr. Katja Leyendecker and Dr. Emma Mbabazi about their two PhD research projects. PhDs involve somebody focusing on the topic for at least three years and doing some really in-depth innovative research. So I wanted the Active Travel Podcast to also capture some of this and translate it into a form that hopefully people will be able to engage with over around half an hour of conversation with the person who did the PhD. Katja’s PhD focuses on cycling, advocacy and activism and transport planning, and Emma's focuses on commuting behaviour, and what are called travel scripts. In the first half I talk to Katja and in the second half to Emma in the about their different but complementary PhDs, both using these really exciting and in-depth qualitative methods. I hope you enjoy it.Very excited to have with me today Katja Leyendecker, who completed her PhD last year in 2019, which is on cycling advocacy, activism and policy. And so hello, Katja really pleased that you're with us.Katja 01:16I'm certainly the one who was pleased, Rachel. Great. It's great to be here.Rachel 01:20Brilliant. So I've got some fairly general questions. And we'll kind of drill down into bits of the thesis as we go. But I wonder if we could just start by because you had maybe a slightly unconventional path to the PhD as well. A lot of people do. So I'm just wondering when you started the PhD, and before you started the PhD, so maybe four or five years ago, maybe even longer when you're thinking about doing a PhD? What motivated you? Was it a sudden decision or something you'd been thinking about for a while?Katja 01:52I started thinking about, let's call it going back to university. When I was still working as an engineer, so, I came out of these kinds of technical – I'm a civil engineer by training. So it's all about the applied natural sciences, big data sets, and I worked in water engineering, which certainly had to do with big data sets and analysing them, and it was numbers and figures was my life. Engineers get themselves into these careers of team leaders, project managers, programme managers, and that was part of what I did as well. But I had started to be a bit uncertain about how the future would pan out. That it felt as if there was a almost like a bit of a dead end. It was interesting to be in engineering to start with, I think I'm someone who always likes the excitement of something new, I like starting new things as well as I might add that here as well as finishing them! So it's not that I'm one of these kind of starting off projects and finishing nothing kind of person.I kind of looked ahead in engineering and couldn't really see where I was going and was slightly kind of started to be disillusioned. And it was a time of my life where I also felt being a woman in engineering is hard work. There’s a lot of inequalities in that and it’s often quite difficult to talk about them as well because if the field is not prepared to listen and to receive maybe a bit of mild criticism and deal with it flexibly, you know, it can be unwelcoming, and that's kind of what it felt to me at the time. And so I started looking at what's going to be my next step. And bearing in mind I was let's say 37,38 at the time that I started to think like that. And yeah so there was always the open mind to well, I've got a master's degree, go to university do another master's degree, a PhD sounds great actually, now that I think about it and and as I've always found in my life anyways, thatwhen you start to think about something and then talk about it as well, sooner or later, some doors open and that's happened to me here that I got together with Seraphim Alvanides, who works at Northumbria University and is also interested in geography and the sociology of cycling and especially the big data streams of it. And we started to think about how we could get me into university. And that was our little project for a couple of years. And eventually it, it turned out to be the case that I had written a PhD proposal. I applied for it, interviewed for it, and it was supposed to be about infrastructure, women and space and politics. And, and that's where I started. I was 42 at the time, I was just almost on my 42nd birthday that I started my PhD jungle journey. And yeah, and that's how I got into it so sort of developed over the years and became more and more possible. And then really concrete in the end and that was exciting and scary, huh?Rachel 06:05Wow. Yeah. And that this sort of this specific idea of the PhD was something presumably very linked to some of the advocacy and activism that you were doing yourself as well as to some extent your engineering, the engineering experience.Katja 06:19Definitely. I realised Of course, later on that my mind was quite heavily shaped by my engineering training. But also when I started the PhD, it came about because I was interested in in cycle activism so nothing to do with water engineering at all, nothing with engineering and not much with water, either. And, yeah, that was the starting point for that, that in 2010. I was really starting to be frustrated and disillusioned with Newcastle Council and the politics that happened there around transport. And I had started to form a campaign, co-founded a campaign with Claire Prosper in Newcastle. So two of us got together, and then set up a petition had garnered 800 signatures, handed it over to the council. That's kind of the history to that before my kind of disillusionment started, but nothing is happening. Yeah,everything's so clear, we need to do something, we need to devise ways of getting out of this andallocating space to cycling and walking and yeah, it was the activism that got me into university it was the activism that that Seraphim and I collaborated on. That was the point where it came together.Rachel 08:04So that motivated you to sort of study it to study the activism and the advocacy and to learn more about it through the PhD?Katja 08:11Definitely. Well, that's that's almost, two years into the PhD because I got into the whole thing, with an engineering mindset, technical figures, numbers, and let's create some data sets and let's analyse them and it took me two years to figure out and it's not, through the lack of helping from others, from university folks, it took me for me personally to understand these two years to, to see that it's the activism that really interests me in it. It's the activism, how it clashes with the politics for transport that interests me as well as being a woman campaigner interested me in it as well, because we've had all sorts of talks about such as me being a woman in this, that makes it so difficult or where does it all come from? And yeah, so yet again, another not so straightforward pathway, it started off with me doing a lot of reading, talking to people, the term ethnography started to come up. And I started in something that for an engineer, ethnography, that’s wholly sitting in sociology, it had nothing to do with me. And it took ages. If I look at it, through really rather critical eyes, it took kind of two years for me to have the confidence to understand ethnographic methods, feminist methods, critical theory methods, as well as you going one step beyond, which is using not just ethnography, but also ethnography. So, that was yet another final step that I, that I took. And I have to say, I mean Rosie Parnell, my supervisor, she was just, so helpful. And so patient I mean, Seraphim was patient as well, with this, this journey that I underwent. And Rosie really supported me in auto ethnography, and not just supported me, but made me understand, the important aspects of it, what I should focus on, sort of slashed the pathway free a little bit for me so that I could start to look ahead and so whilst I say it's my own journey, in the end, there were so many people sitting on the sidelines, kind of cheering me along, and really helping me and,kind of the research community as well as the activists and so many different aspects coming together that meet the PhD so multitudinous somehow as well,that's quite a few aspects in it that needed to be brought together.Rachel 11:18Yes, I mean, and that's one of the things that I found most fascinating about it was this intense mix of qualitative methods and I've dabbled a little bit with ethnography, but nothing like the intensity of what you've done. So I wondered if you could describe, for the podcast listeners who may not be familiar with this kind of methods what you specifically did in this?Katja 11:39And now just pearls of sweat start forming on my head!Yes. So that's, there’s various strands to what I did. And it had to do with that I had to sort of Hoover up, I felt, quite a few years of campaigning. It was at a certain time, say 2017 that I started to get really serious about data collection. And luckily, and it had nothing to do with my PhD as such in the beginning, but I had written started writing a blog, just for my own gratification in many ways, for my self-development. I started writing that in 2015. So, I have two years’ worth of blogs, blog posts, that I could analyse, it turned out to be over 100,000 words, really interesting analysis, it was a PhD in itself, when you just look at the sheer number of words. So I started looking at, very, very, let's say, conventional methods of, what are the themes in here, what did I talk about? How can I group these into themes and subsets of it? So that was really lucky that I had that data set there. But that still didn't cover anything before 2015 as such, and I started campaigning with my co-conspirators in Newcastle in particularly Claire and then later on Sally in Newcastle in 2010. So I had to find the method I thought of getting that down somewhere, gathering that and as well as analysing it, what is it that happened there? So I devised a method of a sort of retrospective video diary, I called it going back through old emails, and that was really lucky that I'm, I kept emails, the campaigning emails and that's helped tofind a method of condensing them and analysing them.And the condensing happened by sitting down through 2017 every day to record three minutes worth of a summary that happened in a week's worth of campaigning, to get to grips with these kind of 5,6,7 years, andby recording a week's worth every day, for three minutes for a year, I got to these, what turned out to be 17 hours for me talking about campaigning and activism. And I could listen to that again and then sift through, and that was really interesting sift through the kind of emotional aspect that happened in it. What's what were the things that really riled me up or elated me, or what was it that really then alongside that happened, so to kind of sift through that. I don't want to talk down the emotions here at all. I think it's really important for what I was trying to do, to use those as kind of guideposts to the key things that happened, at least to my mind.And yes, I went through that process and as you can imagine, when I said about the blog posts, a hundred thousand words read through, that was 18 hours to listen for, not just once but maybe second time, third time, sometimes just letting things play in the background and you'll be alerted to: oh, you seem to be, something is really happening here. That seems to get a hold of you and go back. Listen to it again. What is it that you're trying to say here? And then doing something similar again? What are the themes here? What happened here? What is? What is the nub, what, what's the what's the key aspects? And? And yeah, so I started to have the blog post and the themes in the video diary and the themes that started to grow up through that. As well as a timeline of campaigning events, the video diary was very helpful for that as well.And then yeah, so alongside that, or maybe even before that I had started look at policy, Newcastle transport policies. And in my research, I do speak German as well as English, so it would be good - I have to say Seraphim was really helpful, he said if you speak German you have to use that somehow, not everyone can go to Germany and speak to Germans in their own language. I mean that's an asset, do it! And I had campaigning friends in Bremen, which is a city in North Germany, a big German cycling city with 25% of all trip cycled so, a real cycle city, especially from a UK perspective. And I had started to, look at Bremen a little bit and started to look at the policy there and the start of a policy comparison and it ended up, it wasn't specifically devised to be as such but it ended up in the PhD. And it also ended up as a as a book chapter in a book edited by Cox and Koglin. The Politics of Cycling Infrastructure. So that's another thing that, kind of puzzle piece that fell into place by just being interested in background analysis, I thought, which policy analysis was to me that. That in itself, though, is not a primary, produced data set, it’s data that's already out there in the public domain that ended up as another chapter. So another data stream that was analysed.And then yeah, then I talked to women campaigners in Germany as well as in the UK, specifically, of course in Newcastle as well as BremenBut yeah, I talked to women campaigners with long extensive interviews again analysed for themes and understanding of what is it that happens here and also talked to Newcastle as well as Bremen, decision makers, a politician in each city and a transport officer, senior transport officer in each city as well. And that I think concludes the data in my PhD. So, it came together from various sources.Rachel 19:31Yes, I mean, it's an incredible amount of data. And did you get the idea of the retrospective video diary from somewhere else, was there other research that had influenced you on that?Katja 19:44It's, it didn't as such, very loosely though. I mean, I grabbed myself a couple of Sage publications, Sage is quite a good publisher for methods, for methodology. And I had started reading around there, what methods are, what methodologies are, again, always with a background of, some sort of - what's the feminist aspect in this, and it came through that. But as such, when I went to start looking at, it came to me, let's just put it like that, metaphysically it came to me that this would be right for what I was trying to do, namely, get this retrospectively understood what happened. As well as kind of having some sort of raw bits in there, raw feelings and emotions not being lost and not just being a technical analysis of it. It seemed to be just what was the right thing to do and it kind of it was cobbled together as such. Helpful for and very useful for what I was trying to do. But when I started looking at how to describe what I was doing, I couldn't really find anything. I mean that there's blogs, and academics have written about blogs and how our blogs are really useful. And academics have written about diaries and how they're useful. And they might well be video diaries but it might not be about this kind of retrospective diary. There were always aspects of it, which weren't quite there. So it was different pieces put together, which I still think is quite good, for what I was trying to achieve. And it kind of did the job for that. So it was right and that's kind of one feminist aspect in it. Don't be constrained, know what you're trying to do. Not where you’re trying to end up, you know, that’s always a different thing, more what you're trying to do. And thenthe method is supposed to help you along with that,rather than that there’s this very set, a set of methods andthat's the only toolbox you've got. No, methods are also mix and match as long as you can explain what you've done. And if it's open and transparent, always, where you're coming from as a researcher as well, and what you're trying to achieve with it, then mix and match is definitely a good way to go.Rachel 22:31That sounds like excellent advice to me. So what would you say the sort of central puzzle that you were solving with all this data? what's what's the central question that kept you going?Katja 22:43Yeah, I started campaigning and as I said, with a very technical mindset, and I had not quite made a leap into sociology, let's call it that. I hadn't quite understood that there's people theorising about how society works, how activism works, how politics work, that there's a field that's called Political Science and, or about any kind of psychosocial aspects of it. And it was that, that I had to kind of work through and the PhD as such is a working through that process of coming from a rational mindset and ending up in a wider frame of mind. That's taking the social and the political in the psychological by all means, into account as well. So that's in short, the journey that I underwent, but the original question was, why is nothing happening? To me, as well as to my fellow campaigners things seem to be logical, why things needed to change. And yes, we thought it's not going to be easy for politicians, but we wanted to work together with them to get new narratives to find out what we can say and how it could be said,by no means we thought it was going to be easy, absolutely, you put the Newcastle transport system into an upheaval, of course that was not going to be easy and it was about space. So it was heavily political and politicised. And, yeah, my question was, so five years in, starting with the campaigning 5,6,7 years after, why is it still hard. Why could we not talk to the politicians, in a way that felt conducive to inducing change. That was my big puzzle question, the big question mark that I was trying to find an answer to - why is nothing changed, why is change so extremely slow when something rational is, is underpinning all this and could be used to frame new ways to find new narratives.Rachel 25:33And so, from the research you did, how would you answer that question now?Katja 25:39Yeah, as you can imagine, with all these different aspects coming together, of which a lot of them were personal. And I underwent change the, the whole, the data sets were different to each other and needed to be woven together, somehow. So, I then started to look at the themes and how they related to each other, the themes of the blog post, the themes from the video diary as well as the women activists’ interviews and then the decision makers. I made the decision first of all, start with myself that's what's interested me here, what is it that didn't get answered? What is it that I'm grappling with? And I devised the framework out of that which I then looked at, again, once I had analysed the women’s interviews and what themes came out of that. And came up with a with a framework of there is automobility, and anything that that we do with cycling always, because it is, now hegemonic sits in, in in the shadow really of automobility. So you can't start talking about the bike without having an understanding of automobility and how that system, socio-technical system operates. And I in my thesis, I then split it in the framework into two aspects, the social automobility, the one that we actually do, we just enact, we have the roads, we have the transport systems, we've got our social norms. We all play our role within it, often totally unbeknownst to ourselves, and we're sort of actors in it. Often not having much space to act, we do our thing. Do the things that the space allocation, for example, tells us or that happens all around us. And yeah, and then there's institutional automobility and that is not such a new aspect, but it's the technical and political aspect of it, namely, how did we end up with those roads? Okay, we've got those roads, now. We want to change them. How could we change them? And that's me speaking as an activist here as well. So, we in Newcastle knew that the way to change that was that we have to go through the system, we have to talk to decision makers and policymakers, we have to talk to officers, and we have to talk to politicians. And that's the way to change it, or there's a chance to change it that way. So It's the institutional automobility that keeps us where we are, as every one individual person acting within the system. And the question then was and became interesting because I interviewed the decision makers. I then had my framework and wanted to appraise it against what these decision makers actually say.And then it started to be clearer that there is a framework here. That these women activists, and I don't think it's a massively gendered, particularly, framework, that activists for cycleways, for allocating space for cycling, have set up, that's the framework and what is the difference if any, to these decision makers and what they make out of it now. I didn't go to them with a framework, I went to them asking, asking them about their roles, what their responsibilities are, what they feel about transport and change and how they as a politician, or as an officer, perhaps, would bring about change. And that started to be really interesting for me because I, I had then sort of understood various aspects of it and wanted to also as with any PhD, link it to existing theory, as you well know, because you helped me with that. I then started to look around kind of political sciences, a bit more, automobility, of course that fits in sociology as well. So in the political sciences and sociology, I mean, there's one theory that's called the post-political theory. And just suddenly reading through that, it became absolutely clear that in Newcastle, we are dealing with post-political concepts, namely, that the politics have sort of receded,from the public arena, and that it's more and more difficult for the public, or for groups and individuals to make their voices heard. As well as more difficult for the political technical system, so the council, for example, to actually link back into the public arena and the public arena. I mean, sort of a concept of that people can come together and talk and devise plans for the future, talk about change, new ideas and how, what it could look like, and how could how change could be brought about.Whereas in Bremen, I couldn't really see the post-political aspects. There was a public arena, but also automobility happens there, and that's another aspect, another finding also. Through an old style of cycle campaigning as well, which was I'm a cyclist, I don't need any special space. I'm fast enough. I can cycle amongst cars, the vehicular cyclists, and that was present in Bremen. And that vehicular cycling attitude amongst campaigners always meant that if nothing needs to change, but just a change in attitude, then it was very difficult to politicise that and to make that into a political demand. Because we'd seen in Newcastle and in the UK, that over all those years, we had all sorts of liberal campaigns, get your bike out of your shed, start to cycle. It's about you, you, you, it's about you, you have to change and, and we've seen that that, for decades. It doesn't, hasn't made a difference in the uptake of cycling. In fact, it just stuck around the kind of the 2% or in Newcastle 1% of trips cycled.But in Bremen, the public arena was relatively intact, you know, there were there were ways and means and places, and communications, debates, discussions happening. It was just that the kind of the technocratic process of ‘Yeah, we don't need to do anything at all the space is fine. There doesn't need to be any engineering feat here, any spatial redesign.’ It had yielded the same results which, which was the system that we've got is fine. Nothing needs to change. Now. I mean, in Bremen you do have your cycleways and people do cycle there. But I was still there and talking to activists and they felt in the shadow of automobility again, they felt not heard, not understood, side-lined, excluded, and they had this thing about them, ‘I’m just a cyclist, no one listens’. And I found this absolutely bizarre coming from the UK context where we really do know what it feels like to be marginalised, not just as a cyclist trying to enact the cycling thing but as a campaigner as well, you know being marginalised in in the demands for more space, building cycleways, they’re all the latest thing now, protected cycleways, temporary ones, are springing up all over the place. And so it was interesting to see these parallels between Newcastle and Bremen but then also the absolute and utter differences that existed, but in the end having a similar result for activism, which was, ah, this is why we are stuck here. And yeah, for the hopes that I've got, I mean, Bremen can change that relatively quickly if they still have a socio-political arena in which you can debate, in which you can you can fill in information there, and it can be discussed and it's not just pushed aside and forgotten about, then great. I think Bremen has lots of cycling happening there anyways, and maybe then it can build on that and maybe come up to Dutch levels of cycling because I mean, that is there is ways to go for Bremen and that's up as well.And then Newcastle. It is, it will be extraordinarily difficult because if you've got a very closed or even non-existent public and political arena where the politics have shut themselves away they're not in this conglomerate, with the technical, with the officers, then it's going to be really hard to bring about change there. But again in Newcastle was interesting I talked to the officer and that person was actually, that person wanted change and had ideas about it and that officer found it difficult to initiate change because ultimately it was the missing public arena, so if you have to,if you want a starting point, Newcastle has to put a lot of time and effort into reconnecting and opening up that space again. Learn to in many ways learn to listen and learn to understand differences and that’s through differences that the learning process works.Rachel 37:59Fantastic. Thanks so much Katja. There's loads more we could talk about about your research and your thesis, but hopefully this short conversation has given people an idea about the amazing methods that you use, how you combine them, some of your findings and the PhD process. So really just Is there anything else that you would like to add that we haven't covered?Katja 38:20Well, any PhD and particularly because mine is kind of an auto ethnographic one, it always sounds like there’s just this one person doing it. Far from it. For me, it was an absolute journey, a real jungle, that I had to kind of slash my way through. And I was given the tools by other people, and given the confidence by other people, to persist with it. And to give certain directions so without my supervisors, I should probably briefly also say, this was Northumbria University. It was done on a studentship, absolutely amazing what they allowed me to do in that time. Absolutely amazing that I was allowed to combine it with personal aspects, but then also to travel around,spent loads of time, as you can imagine, in Germany, living there, living the transport system and breathing and living the campaigning, life environment as well. I can't express the gratitude to these eight women activists, who got together with me spending a lot of time, sometimes up to three hours to sit down and get on record and what their campaigning journey was, how they got into it. What was amazing. To them, and, yeah, and, of course thanks as you can imagine, to the decision makers as well. It's just, a PhD is not just a one person, feat and activity, it's a real project, that needs real people. It does need the one PhD researcher the candidate to put it to pull it together and put it together in the end. And of course that is my product. And,if anyone doesn't find themselves in the PhD, then yeah, it is my product in the end and my understanding of what people said and their themes in what we were all saying and, then a complete mixing together with all these different data streams. But yeah, it’s a humbling journey. It's an absolute, I would always do it again weirdly enough, it was as scary as it was exciting.I can only say that, if you if you're interested in bringing yourself into the PhD it can be done. And it's not always easy to find the right supervisors for example for it. It was a mega project, and it felt exhilarating and deflating at the same time when I finished it. There was always these polar tension points throughout the PhD and you live in this kind of grey zone and these kind of polar tensions and once it's finished, it's kind of done. But in your head I think the PhD never finishes because it kicks off so many new things. So many new thoughts, so many new people you've met through it. And possibilities for the future. It's amazing.Rachel 42:32Brilliant. Well, thanks again, Katja. And if you want to find out more about Katja’s work, I'll just direct you to her website where there are links to peer reviewed papers and that full thesis and various other blog posts, debates and so on. So it's katsdekker.wordpress.com. Brilliant. Thanks again.Rachel 43:05I'm Rachel Aldred. And I'm really pleased to be talking to Dr. Emma Mbabazi for the Active Travel podcast today. Emma completed her PhD research at Heriot-Watt University on the impacts of travel scripts on commuting behaviour. She's now a research fellow at the Uganda National Roads Authority. I'm going to talk to her about her PhD research. One of the things I found really interesting about it was it takes a social science approach to commuting behaviour using this concept of travel scripts. And I was intrigued to find out Emma that you've got a background in construction management with an incredibly high grade for your undergrad degree. And then you've ended up doing a social psychology PhD. So how was it to move from construction management to a very quantitative social science thesis?Emma 43:47I'm really glad to be here, Rachel. And yes, you are right. I do come from a more, well, I wouldn't say technical background but yeah, construction management background. It's really when I did my master's at Heriot-Watt, I did a Master's in Urban and Regional Planning. And that I, I got exposed to these social psychological issues. And I found them really interesting. Because as people, we are interesting. It's never a matter in transport, for example, it's never a matter of just let's build it and they will come. It's never that. And it's always about the people and what are they thinking and what will they do. So I find that really interesting. And I think that's, that's something we all have to consider as policy makers and as researchers. I think it's really important for us to try and understand that and see how we can help each other do the right thing in whatever circumstances we're in. So that's why I went with that. I was just really interested in that and it was a challenge because it was new to me, but I liked it.Rachel 45:02Amazing, I agree. My background is sociology myself so I'm always really interested in qualitative methods in transport and so you're investigating, your full PhD title was ‘The Travel Script: Exploring the Construction and Engagement of a Mental Structure as the Link between the Influence of Situational and Social - Psychological Factors in Commuting Decisions along a Life Course’. So that's looking at this concept of travel scripts. Could you explain for people who are listening what a travel script is?Emma 45:32Right. So we as people, we form mental representations about the things around us and they could be just mental representations to help us categorise things. So we have what we call schemas. So like a stereotype, that's a schema, you're categorising something, but at travel script is more mental representation of the things around us of the things that we know through time, because the script is looking at engaging in a particular action or a particular behaviour over and over again, based on what we know, and the more we engage in it, the more we inform what we know about it. And so that's really what a travel script is, it's a mental representation of the things we know about how we travel, about where we want to travel, and, and what constrains or enables that. And, and so how are we going to put that mental representation into practice? And that's why it has to be both the construction and the engagement because I mean, the mental representation is there, but we only see it as a person engages a particular behaviour or a particular action.Rachel 46:56So maybe, I guess, if I were a habitual car user, part of my travel script might be that buses are slow, they go around the houses, that I can't get a bus where I need to go and that's shaping my behaviour.Emma 47:10Exactly something like that. It might be just as you said, what you think about the buses, but also what you think about the car, and what you like about it and what it does for you, and what it helps you to do and the things you want to do in your life that the car enables that you think the bus or the bicycle will not do for you in the way you want it to.Rachel 47:39So I was just skimming through the thesis this morning and one of the things that I kind of like about it is that the hassle, the focus on hassle and the fact that in a lot of ways when we travel, we're not trying to get good stuff. Sometimes we're trying to avoid hassle and we're trying to minimise the amount of effort and annoyance.Emma 47:59Yeah. That I found that really interesting. And it came about really early on. When I started interviewing people, a lot of people did talk about the hassle. And but we deal with hassle in different ways. As you said, sometimes it's not that we would travel because we want this, that we all want to travel in this high-end Mercedes or whatever. It's just we travel because we may sometimes want to avoid something. Yeah. But we deal with the hassle in different ways. Sometimes the hassle is about the things in our environment. So some people think buses are crowded and when the windows are closed, it's all foggy and dirty or things like that. While other people when they travel on public transport, they'll think, ah, I don't have to think about the road. And I don't have to think about and looking at the mirrors and all that and I can sit down and read a book so people look at hassle in in different ways and all that comes from something else that we've experienced or people close to us have experienced that we take on into our mental structures.Rachel 49:09Mm. That's so fascinating. So I'm imagining you could have two people sat next to each other on the bus and having completely different experiences. One is really annoyed about the crowding and think it's foggy. The other person is thinking, ah, this is time for me. I think one of your interviewees said ‘stolen time’ that they get that time back for themselves on the bus. Yes, exactly, exactly. So if we just take it back to what you did and sort of starting the thesis you say you interviewed 82 commuters, that's quite a lot, isn't it? That's an awful lot of data. And how did you choose them? Where did they come from?Emma 49:48Right. These were people commuting to the Heriot-Watt University campus in Edinburgh. So the campus is made of is made up of the university and then there are other businesses and organisations that are situated at that campus. I was lucky that at the time I was doing my dissertation, my research, there was a survey already from Transition Heriot-Watt, a general study about how people come to work. And I just requested from that person that was running it if I could have just a question of if people who wanted to be contacted for my research, and so that's how I got people responding that yes, I would like to be contacted and when they brought back those contacts, I later contacted them. Of course, I had a process of whittling it down with particular criteria and but once I had done that, I just started sending out emails. And really I was so glad that a lot of people responded. That's how I ended up with so many, such a large number for a qualitative study, I realised that but I think the way that research went, it was important for me to to have those large numbers, because then they helped me in the end to form those personas that I created with my research, to look at people with the same characteristics and try to see what persona could that take on, when they were born and what life events might have influenced them. So that's that's actually how I ended up with such a large number for a qualitative study.Rachel 51:49Mm. And the approach you took as well, you weren't just asking people what they think of the bus, you're taking this mobility biographies approach. Could you say a little bit more about how that way,Emma 52:00Right. So I was looking at the construction of a travel script alone somebody's life course. And mobility biography looks at the stability or the changes in the way in travel in someone's travel behaviour over time. And so I was looking at things in somebody's life, and how they've experienced them, and how that might have influenced the way they commute today. And I actually found that because I simply asked somebody, so please tell me how you have travelled since you're a child. So they just told me a bit of their life story, like when I was at kindergarten, my parents took me to school. Later, I asked people to start really from the time they went to university, to further education, whether it was university or college or something like that. And because that's the time we start to make the decisions, our own travel decisions, and I thought, let me start here, because there's really a lot of data before. And I found the different things in a person's mobility biography. So the mobility biographies are also influenced by other biographies. So you have like, household biographies. And that's changes in your life. Maybe starting a family, you're marrying or something moving in with a partner, or employment biographies. So that's changes in your work, or education, things like that. And your residential biographies, of course, changes in home. So all that will affect your travel behaviour over time. So I had to put all that in mind and try to see at different points in people's lives, how they travelled, or how their travel changed. And if it's been sustained, when did that start? And how long has it been sustained? And then I would know that at least the person, if it's sustained, say, maybe for five years, somebody will know this is when I started using the car and they will kind of think back to the situation around that time that made them change the car to the bus or start cycling and then start to see a certain mental structure that's being that has been built up to that point and is being enabled for that time and being sustained for that time. So that's why I took the mobility biography approach. That's why a mobility biography was important to me just to see the changes in travel behaviour, and then where they sustained and why it's sustained.Rachel 54:38One of your important turning points, I think, was around having children you specifically looked into your use. I don't think they didn't all have children, but most of them did, I think.Emma 54:46Yes, I specifically looked for interviewees that had children because from the literature that seemed to be quite a big thing and also from my pilot interviews, when I spoke to the people that had children, there seemed to be some really interesting things to look at there. Of course, I had to look at people that did not so that I could compare. But yes, this turned out to be quite an important turning point for a lot of people. Because it created quite a number of constraints, even when people's locations or there was infrastructure for cycling, or buses, and that was good enough, and they themselves said it was good enough, but just having to make so many trips regarding their children as well as their work, just changed the way people view that. But for some people, you find that when those constraints were removed, so when the children were not so little and could do things for themselves, could walk to school by themselves, for some people. I mean, they move back to the public transport that they liked. For others, it was like, Oh, well, I'm already here, and this is good and I like being in my car. And, and I'll continue with that. And I found that, I found that that that that distinction between the two kinds of people interesting.Rachel 56:13Yeah, I was gonna ask you a bit more about that as well because you say that there's the car default people and the alt default people. So could you tell me a bit more about those that distinction and what that meant?Emma 56:23Right, so in my research, I categorised people who are commuting by car at the time. I did these interviews in 2014,2015. So I categorised people who are commuting at that time. So let's say currently, but currently of 2014-15 by car, and then people who are commuting by alternative modes, which was the bus or walking or cycling as the other people. And so I would look at your travel scripts at the moment, so what it is pushing you towards you engaging with commuting with a car, let's go backwards. Or at least that's how I was analysing the data although that's not how they told it. Let's go backwards and see how you go to the car. And then for the people with alternative modes which I called alt default, so their default mode at the moment was to travel by bus or by bicycle. And so your travel script at the moment that you're engaging is that it's having you commute by bus, walking, or by bicycle. Let's try to move backwards in your life course and see how you go to that point. So that's how I got the car defaults, that's the people commuting by car currently for most days of the week. And then the alt-default, that's the people commuting by bicycle or by bus or walking to Heriot-Watt campus.At the time I did that interviews, there was another categorization of the cohorts. So I divided the interviewees into cohorts and my cohorts were looking at, there was a 1970s and 1980s, and the 1990s cohorts. This is not when the people were born. Actually I was looking at when the people turned about 17, because I know that's about the age that most people in Britain can get a driver's licence. And that's a big thing for someone to start driving, obviously. So that's how the cohorts were so that people who turned about 17 in the 1970s, and people who turned 17 in the 1980s. And then the people turned about 17 in the 1990s. And just to follow that through, whether they decided to get the car then and continue with it and the different constraints, and when that constraint was removed, say for example, most people at the time they were in a junior tertiary education. I mean, you’re skint, you don't have money. And probably you live close to where you study anyway. So you walk or you cycle, or you go by bus and then when you get a bit more money and you start working, I found a number of people then decided to get cars because that enabled them to get to where they were going, but others did not. Because maybe where they started walking, they did not require a car. Or then they formed that habit of going by bus and they liked it. And then they started choosing where to work or where to live in such a way that they wouldn't have to use the car or something like that. So those are the different categories within my research that helped me to, to sort of interrogate the different narratives I was getting from people's life courses.Rachel 59:57And that's quite an interesting part of the thesis, the way, which people yeah, they've established that behaviour and then they talk about looking for a house or a flat in a particular area. But one thing I was going to ask you about actually is the Heriot-Watt is a campus University, so it's on the outskirts of Edinburgh. And I think you mentioned it moved from the city centre was that important for people the fact that it moved and it was no longer a central location. It was on the outskirts?Emma 60:22Yes, for I met a few people who were with Heriot-Watt at the time. It was in the city centre, and then it moved to the outskirts and actually, I remember one of them said at the time it was in the city centre, he was fine, he would walk, it was okay. And once they moved out, he just decided to start using his car because well the parking was free at the time, was still free at the time I was there anyway. And, and the bus is too slow. The person was just not used to using buses. The person was fine cycling. But cycling that far on the road was not something that the person was used to and the easiest thing for him at the time was let me get into my car. So the location of where you're going really mattersRachel 61:18And then the habits, you were talking about how people start using a mode and they sort of get used to it and that becomes part of their becomes part of their identity and so, once that person has used a car for a while, then they likely to carry on doing so.Emma 61:34Yes, there is a quite a bit of literature about travel identities. So people do form these travel identities and and the more you do something, the more you feel that I am the sort of person that does this, so this is me. So yes, habits are important and when people started using the car, and it became the easier thing for them. And then they started to look at themselves as the sort of people that use cars and that's okay. So they continued with it. I did find a few people who, their identity as somebody who is very much involved in environmental issues sort of overrode, or influenced their travel identity a lot more than just the way they travel. So even when they faced, let's say, really long commutes or a bus commute where they need to change buses and things like that. And they had already told themselves, let me use that phrase, they had already told themselves, ‘I'm not the not the sort of person who travels by car’, let's say, ‘and so I'm going to do whatever I can to travel in in what I think is a sustainable way’. And that's how I also came up with that the different group have the habit, the habit helps us, sort of reduces the mental effort that we have to go through in making a decision. Yeah. Because you've done it before. So it's quick.But other people had to sort of dig deeper. In my research, I called it ‘an extra little thing in the system’. So that they would not just go for what is the easier. I mean, as human beings, it's normal, we go for what's easier to what, what will be the easiest decision to make. But there were those people who, even where they looked at the situation and the situation was not that enabling. They put things in there either in their minds, or in their space, to help them travel in the way they wanted to travel. And most of those people had identities that influenced more their travel identity than just the way they travel. So for example, if we have certain strong environmental thoughts about your carbon footprint and what you're doing for the environment and, and things to do with fuel and petroleum industry or things like that. And so they would choose to either use buses or cycle even when say, I mean, it rains a lot in Scotland, even when it's raining. I remember one of them told me it's not about the weather, it's about how you're dressed. So it's these little things that they either tell themselves, or we tell ourselves, it's really to make ourselves comfortable with what we're doing.I mean the car-default people are comfortable, but also the alt default, people are very comfortable with what they are doing. Even though somebody on the outside might look at them and say, Oh, what a hassle I have to change buses, I have to take two buses and take like a one hour commute to work. For somebody else it would be a no no, but for them, it's okay, I will do this, and once I get on the bus, I'll be able to listen to this programme or I'll be able to read this book.Rachel 65:32And you talked about how as well, for some of the people who use the car, but they have environmental identities, they were trying to manage that. And one of them I think was talking about, he felt bad about it so he got a lower emissions car. So there's some people who sort of managed the car using identity in that way.Emma 65:49Yes. So, as I said, people cope in different ways. We all try to make ourselves comfortable with whatever decision we make, really. Which is what we should do because if we're not, then I don't know, how we'll go around. But yes, so those who felt they had no other choice but to use the car, but had strong environmental beliefs, said it's worth it to spend more on a more fuel-efficient car or hybrid car. And that's what they would do to make themselves more comfortable with commuting by car. And this was not in any way in contradiction with their environmental beliefs, because they were trying to find a compromise of travelling by car which they know all the issues around it, all the environmental issues around it, but also their strong environmental beliefs. And so, in trying to find a compromising belief, a thought that, to spend more on a hybrid or more fuel efficient car is how is how they'll go about it. Yeah.Rachel 67:01Presumably potentially you could redefine yourself as being less environmental that, that instead it's the convenience and the speed that matters to you, for instance?Emma 67:09It’s interesting that you mention that. I did not get that actually, now that you talk about it, they did not try to change what they thought they were. But they tried to change their perception of that behaviour to fit in what they thought they were. So actually it did not go the other way around. No, it was I'm behaving like this, but this is not in contradiction with what I believe or if it is, this is what I am going to do. It was never, or maybe I don't believe that. And I know that there are theories that say that the way you behave tells you, but I think maybe because I used retrospective interviews, they had already gone through that maybe subconsciously They were not going to think about who they were when they're talking about something they've done over and over again. Yeah.Rachel 68:10Yeah, yeah, it's a coherent picture of who they are now. Now. Yeah. So, but presumably, only a minority of people had strong environmental identities. So for the others, what was what was it about instead?Emma 68:25So the others, it's really the situation around that helped to help them to form certain habits. So I remember clearly one interviewee who, who talks about the fact that they wanted to teach their children certain things. And so to their children, they didn't want their children to be so used to the car. So even in the rain, they would help their children put on all the gear and the raincoats and the boots and all that and just go out with them, they had to walk to school. But the situation helped so the people who lived near cycle paths or the people who lived near a bus stop especially. That came out very clearly that the situation around and the infrastructure around them, when it is there, it helps to form the habits. And once the habits is formed, even when they moved or when they are moving, they try to stick to it. I met this young lady, she did not have children and she'd moved from England and to Edinburgh. And she said when she was in England she used to drive just because she left University and she got a car. She borrowed her mother's car first and then she got her own car and she used to go to work that way. But when she moved to Edinburgh, the first flat that she got was in the city and there was a direct bus to Heriot-Watt where she was working. And so she just, she didn't see any reason to use the car then. So at the time she'd been using buses. And when she even, when she moved flats, she was looking for a place, you see the habit had now started to form so that when she moved flats, she was looking for a place that will enable her to do that, to still travel to work by bus. So the infrastructure is is certainly important. And I think that's why I looked at both the situational factors, we cannot do away with them and also the socio-psychological factors.Rachel 70:57So, and if if we were thinking to get people out of their cars, particularly people who don't particularly have strong environmental views, would it be about the infrastructure then do you think?Emma 71:07To start with, to start with it would be about the infrastructure. And I think designing programmes that ask them to do just something small. It's not, I mean, it's daunting for someone to think I have been travelling by car for all these years, and yes, I understand all the environmental issues around but can I really start travelling by bus for every day, five days of the week? So that can be a bit daunting. And so I think it would be important to start with smaller programmes where we maybe in a workplace, Monday is the public transport day or something like that. Just something small. So when we, when they can start with that small thing, they then can move in and I think that then causes a foot in the door when someone has done something small or behaved in a certain way, but on a very small scale, they can start to build it up. And I actually did meet people who, who said, yeah, they had started by travelling one day a week by cycling, one day a week and the rest of the time they would go by by their cars. And then they worked it up to two at the time I spoke to them, they were just doing two days a week. But really, that is, those are people who, who, again, they want to, what can I say? They want to be in line with their own with their beliefs, with the thing that has touched them, but at the same time, you cannot make such a huge change. So the situation of the infrastructure is really important to help somebody because if it's not there, so if your cycle path is not there, or the road is not moving in such a way that the cyclist feels safe, or the rules on the road are not in such a way that the cyclist feels safe, then even the small thing that you're asking them to start with will be very hard for them to do because they will feel unsafe.Rachel 73:19And we've mentioned already about sort of infrastructure like bus stops and cycle paths, but were there things that you found that you thought the university was doing or should be doing to support people to travel more sustainably?Emma 73:33Well, it would have to be the university working together with the council. I mean, at the time I was there, I used the bus a lot in Edinburgh and I felt the bus was quite good. I don't know if it was just coming from Uganda and comparing it to the public transport system there. And then I actually learned to cycle when I was in, I was doing my PhD, I learned to cycle in 2015 with someone through Transition Heriot-Watt and they were offering free classes. And cycling around the university was fine. Cycling outside of the campus was not. I mean, we were okay because we were with the instructor and so we thought it would be okay with her, but I don't think I would do it on my own. At the time I was in Edinburgh, so as about three years ago, there were no dedicated cycle lanes and the bicycles had to go in the bus lanes, which was okay, because that's the space they had, but yeah, it was not ideal. It was not something that would enable somebody who wants to get into that to do it, it's the people who already do it. Other people are already proficient cyclists, but it's not the easiest thing to do. I think dedicated cycle paths would help but I don't know how far Edinburgh Council or the university itself would be willing to go to do that.Rachel 75:11I'm just going to ask, really sort of coming to the end of the podcast, if there was, if there was anything that you wanted to add, if there's anything that particularly surprised you, or you found particularly interesting about that the PhD research?Emma 75:28Well, for me in general, from the beginning, when you said it was a jump from my construction background to the social psychology, for me, so everything was different. I had not had these concepts and dealing with them myself, was different, but that's what was interesting about it, and then going out to talk to people and actually finding that you can trace these different concepts that you're reading in literature, things to do with mobility biographies, or things to do with people's feelings about these things. These are real things. I know they can sound abstract to somebody coming from that background. But these are actually real things. We don't see them, but they are real and they actually affect the way we use things or the way we behave. Just in the same way as building a road or putting together a good fleet of public transport or something, they really have the same weight, and they will affect behaving in the same, not in the same way but with the magnitude, with a similar magnitude with a similar impact that that those other situational factors will. And for me, it was interesting to actually trace that in what people were saying and I actually did not prompt them, because all I told them was ‘Tell me how you've travelled since this’ and it’s only after they told me the story that I then went back. And I think it is important for us, I know that in Europe and in the UK, you're already clued in to these things and, and I just hope that back here like in Uganda, people know them. It's just the policy will is not yet there yet, for us to, to read, to do research and then start implementing such things. So although I did my research in Edinburgh, my ears and eyes are always open for how that could be done back home here in Uganda.Rachel 77:44Thank you. Yeah, that was really interesting. I really appreciated the chance to learn more about your research and it's a great case for qualitative social science research in transport. So and if people want to read your thesis, they can find it via The British Library Ethos service and I'll include a link to that on the web page and also to your LinkedIn page where you've got articles that you've written, and so on. So, yeah, thank you very much, Emma.
Active Travel Podcast - data in active travel, part two
Season 1, Ep. 3
Data in active travel is big news right now, and this is our second in a two-part series discussing some of the latest research in the field.When a global pandemic required us to avoid public transport and, ideally, cars, making cycling's usefulness for everyday trips even more apparent, transport authorities needed to know quickly where a network of cycle routes might be built. In a country with no historical cycle network, let alone a current one, this was a challenge.Enter Dr Robin Lovelace, with Dr Joey Talbot, at the University of Leeds' Institute for Transport Studies, part of a crack team commissioned to work out where cycle lanes could be installed, both in terms of where there's physical space on the roads, and where protected space would be useful for people looking to get cycling for everyday trips.So it was, over four weeks, the Rapid Cycleway Prioritisation Tool started life. Robin and colleagues' open data was added as a layer to Widen My Path, which lets people say where they think local cycling and walking infrastructure is needed in their area. Within the first week and a half this function received 30,000 interactions - perhaps indicating the demand from citizens to get involved in improving their local streets.Robin Lovelace talks about the potential, and the limitations of this new tool, the role it gives citizen activists in shaping cycling and walking policy, and what it was like being part of the project.You can find it, and have a play with the interactive map, here: https://www.cyipt.bike/rapid/And on Widen My Path, here: widenmypath.com TranscriptLaura Laker [00:00:00] Hi and welcome to the active travel podcast. A brand new podcast brought to you by the Active Travel Academy. It's part of the University of Westminster in London and works in collaboration with people from inside and outside the university. I'm Lauren Laker, I writes about cycling and walking as a journalist, and I work with the Active Travel Academy. On this podcast, amongst other projects, we have. Robin. Robin. Robin. Robin Lovelace [00:00:25] We have Robin Lovelace with us for the second half of our two part on data in active travel. Laura Laker [00:00:31] Robin is associate professor of Transport Data Science at the University of Leeds Institute of Transport Studies. Robin is a geographer and environmental scientist by training with expertise in geographical information systems, data analysis and modelling. And that and his knowledge and love of active travel helped him to co-produce the Rapid Cycleway Prioritisation Tool with Dr Jerry Talbot. And he's here to talk to us about that today. Welcome, Robin. Great to have you on the podcast. Robin Lovelace [00:01:05] Hi, Laura. Hi, everyone. Listening. Laura Laker [00:01:08] So podcast time. Has your week been? Robin Lovelace [00:01:11] So far, it's been a good week. It's been a great week because I fell way off my shoulders after this very intense contract with the Department for Transport to develop the rapid cycleway prioritisation tool. And certainly, the infrastructure side of it has to be done in a very tight schedule. But the same is on the research side. We were kind of round the clock to go from a prototype to national deployment in four weeks. So, I think a lot of the COVID-19 response stuff, especially in the medical sector, has been very, very impressive. And I'm so glad that we delivered something that hopefully will be useful. This week, I've got my head down in marking. So, it's gone into a more tranquil routine of working from home. But yeah, I think it's been it's been a good week here in North Leeds, where I am based. Laura Laker [00:02:14] Can you just start by telling us a bit about the ITS Institute for Transport Studies? Robin Lovelace [00:02:20] Yeah, sure. Say ITS is a longstanding research department focused on transport. I think it's one of the longest standing, if not the longest standing in the UK and certainly the largest in terms of postgraduate torts. And we have a long history of engagement with policy makers and doing high impact research. So it very much feels like the place to do transport policy research. It's had a huge influence on transport planning, both in terms of the kind of established motorised transport planning, but increasingly this stuff on transport decarbonisation and active modes, which is what I'm interested in. The other thing I should say is that ITS is part of the University of Leeds and it's quite unique in a way, because it's one of the few universities that's got a really big quantitative geography department and it's also got a transport department. And as someone who's at the interface, it's a good place to be. You've got both sides and they can be kind of mutually reinforcing. Laura Laker [00:03:43] And so at the moment, there's obviously an enormous push for a new kind of infrastructure on our roads in terms of cycling, pop-up cycling lanes and pop-up walking infrastructure. And you've been up to your neck in this project for the last four weeks, it sounds like and it's only really just come out. So what we are here to talk about today is the RCPT, which which is using data to identify roads with the highest cycling potential, which is those that can carry the most cycling trips and those with enough widths to accommodate new protective cycleways. And it's really cool, it's got this interactive map, hasn't it? And it's got different layers, it's got the existing cycleways, which are quite often disconnected, disjointed, mixed quality, and then you've got the top ranked cycleways, which is where the greatest demand for cycling is, a cohesive network, which is where you link them all together; roads with spare lanes and then roads with an estimated width of more than 10 metres. How did you go about doing this? Because it's quite it's quite a task, isn't it? When you look at the maps of the UK and then you zoom in and there's all these different coloured lines that you can click on, it's quite a thing you've produced. Robin Lovelace [00:04:57] Say it. We certainly had a very clear brief. I think it's useful to have general purpose tools to inform transport policy because transport shouldn't be seen in isolation. Modes of travel like walking, cycling, cars, buses shouldn't be seen in isolation. So, in the long term, I'm actually in favour of quite general tools. But the Rapid Cycleway Prioritisation Tool was really developed to tackle a very particular question, which was how to invest most cost effectively, the 250 or part of the 250 million pounds that's part of the emergency active travel fund. And that was only announced, I think maybe it was the 9th of May when this was announced by Grant Shapps and it was suddenly clear the councils needed something on which to base their submissions. I think another bit of background is the fact that new statutory guidance has been created by the Department for Transport to support the COVID-19 response, so it's not just the funding it's also the statutory guidance. And this is quite a big departure from the status quo in terms of transport planning. So for the first time ever, to my knowledge, anyway, the Department for Transport has provided advice on what to do in terms of creating extra space walk in cycling, and it specifically said that there should be road space reallocation and that something hasn't been on the table, so to speak. So most of the tools that I've been involved with are assuming that you are going to build new infrastructure either parallel to or in a separate place from the existing roads, whereas this is very much focused on road space reallocation and it's designed to inform rapid decision making. So rather than this tendency of making tools more complicated, we needed to make to simpler so that people could use it to inform their policies as quickly as possible. So that's the kind of policy context, there's also a bit of an advocacy angle because the first early prototype of the work was done in collaboration with Cycling UK, and we did a sketch up. Well, we did some data analysis of major cities in England and we found that most of them have major roads that have this kind of spare space for cycling. So the idea actually came from an advocacy angle. We did a bit of a description of the methods and the Department for Transport picked up on this and eventually commissioned this research to support that emergency active travel fund. Laura Laker [00:08:17] And it's striking, isn't it, when you look at the maps that you've produced, all of these dark blue lines that you see across different cities that represent the top ranked cycle ways that could be built, and they are everywhere. And like you say, it just allows a council to look at a map of the road that they look after and say, "this blue line is where a cycle way needs to be to get the most people travelling for cycling trips". So, the data behind the maps, that was a mixture of things, wasn't it? Was the propensity to cycle tool, which is another thing that you've worked on, which takes data on which journeys people are doing where, and then kind of works out which of those journeys can be cycled. Robin Lovelace [00:09:05] Yes. So the tool is very much building on the strong foundations of previous work. So essentially there's two main input data sets. One of them is on cycling potential at the road network level. So that is every cyclable road, more or less, across the country has got a level of cycling potential that we have calculated in a great multi-disciplinary and muti-university team, including Rachel Aldred at the University of Westminster, James Woodcock at the University of Cambridge, and Anna Goodman, at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. And that is really important for long term strategic planning. But if you have a very specific need to identify where you've got extra space, to make more space for walking and cycling, you also need data on the infrastructure that you've got in your city. And that's where the other side of the coin, which is the infrastructure side, comes in. And as you say, we worked on a previous project, which is called the Cycling Infrastructure Prioritisation Tool —lots of acronyms! — and that contains estimates of road widths. And then we also took data from Open Street Map that gives you the number of lanes on the roads, according to citizen contributors. We put those three together, and we basically found a way to group together roads to identify continuous sections that may be strong candidates —or at least promising candidates at an early stage in the planning process— to look at to see if they would be feasible for these pop-up interventions. And it was an amazing project because as we were developing the tool, these pop-up cycle ways were going in, and myself and Joey in particular kept an eye on where they were going in and how they were matching with our tool. So it's quite exciting. We could say, "oh! in Jamaica Road, there's been new plans for a Cycle way in London, another one in Bristol..." and we were kind of doing this data analysis on the fly. It was a very exciting time. We also ensured that we had quite close contact with local authorities when we were developing it and also having this kind of vital sense checking. So a good example of this is Wakefield Road in Huddersfield, where one of my colleagues lives near. And he was saying that "I really think that's your tool should be flagging up something here" and we looked at it and basically found a bit of a kind of bug in the algorithm that we changed and then it kind of flagged up that particular road and all other rates that were like it. So compared with the work that we did with Cycling UK, that was only looking at roads on which we had a spare lane. And by that we mean any road where there were at least two lanes of traffic going in one direction. And that means that you can take out an entire lane without affecting the navigable network from the perspective of a car, which makes things simpler from a kind of transport planning perspective, especially if you want to act quickly. But we also added in this additional parameter of width it where we classified roads as having spare width if they were over 10 metres wide, which is probably close to the minimum of what you want your carriage way width if you're going to put in protected cycleways on both sides of the road. So combine those two things, the cycling potential and road width and spare lane data and then use data analysis tools that took some refinement to, firstly groups together road segments into cohesive groups that could form part of a coherent network, and then rank them in terms of cycling potential. And the result, as you say, is now freely available online at cyipt.bike/rapid. Primarily transport planners are using this to inform their thinking about pop-ups. But as we've seen online, anyone can go and just have a look and use that to inform discussions about how to respond to COVID-19 on the transport network and this specific question of how we can create extra space for walking and cycling. Laura Laker [00:14:01] Yeah, and it's it's arguably particularly useful for councils who don't have— some councils have created local cycling walking infrastructure plans, or L.C, which is known, but many haven't. And this is particularly helpful for those ones. If they haven't already gone through this process of saying, well, which roads could have, or would need a bike lane in terms of the trips that people would be doing by bike and then which have got the space so they can just look at it. And you talked about citizen contributions and and a major thing that's part of this is that people can feed into it, can't they? They can get involved via widenmypath.com, they can suggest locations for cycleways and wider pavements and your data feeds into that somehow. Robin Lovelace [00:14:41] Yeah. So there's actually links here to the point made by David David McArthur in the previous podcast series, as he was saying that a big challenge facing researchers and also public transport planners is that a lot of the best data sets that we have are actually licensed in a way that it's difficult even for people who can get access —because you're an academic or because you work for a local authority. It's very difficult to use that data to inform wider debate because I can access ordinance survey data, for example, but if I can't put that out in a tool, it's difficult to inform the decision making process, which as part of the democratic process, has to have many, many different people involved. So that is certainly one of the great things about the tool, because it's primarily based on open street map data, which has an open data licence we could publish the data sets and that allows anyone to do what they want with the data, download it, you can do additional analysis— and I know some local authorities are certainly doing that. Another thing that happened, because it's open data, is that the people behind widenmypath.com, added it as an additional layer into this pre-existing kind of citizen science mapping place. So, where you've got an automatically generated kind of top down approach to planning, which is what we've done in the rapid tool, you can then enrich that data set by looking at what people have got to say on specific roads. So if, for example, you have a more promising route that goes parallel to one of the roads flagged by the tool, but not actually on it, people can say "well actually this would make more sense to have it away from the traffic" and those kind of things are happening at the moment. So, yeah, the open data angle is certainly an important part of what we've done. And in a way, they are the two sides of the same coin that we've got the very much data driven top-down approach. But you also need this bottom-up citizen science approach, and when the two come together, that's quite powerful. And I think local authorities will now have quite a rich evidence base, including other things like cycle counters and obviously engagement with the wider community to inform that decision. So I'm quite hopeful that the infrastructure that goes in as a result of this emergency active travel fund will be quite good and hopefully a bit better, thanks to our tool widenmypath.com. Laura Laker [00:17:31] Yeah, it's fascinating, isn't it? I Remember there's something similar in London, the Strategic Cycling Analysis, and there was some scepticism about it when it first came out. Andrew Gilligan, who is the cycling commissioner of London and is now Boris's cycling advisers, he said, " Well you can see where people want to cycle, just look out the window!" And I wrote an article for The Guardian about his kind of comments and other people's comments on it, but it has actually proven for campaigners, for example, to say, well, these are the top 10 highest unmet demand routes in London and going to their councils and saying this is where you need to be building the cycle routes, and here's the evidence to show why and the kind of impact that that will have. And you said yourself that transparency leads to better decision making, and I guess this citizen science thing is part of it. It allows people to take the data and it comes alive bit more and to play with it and to come up with things. Different people have different expertise. and there's a lot of passion in the cycling community, isn't there? You know, people want to get other people on bikes. They realise how good it is and they kind of want to get involved themselves. And we see a lot of we've got a lot of evidence around why cycling is a good thing and yet not a lot happens. And this is almost another tool in the arsenal, isn't it? And just, you know, the evidence of why it's good, but also where it needs to be built. So you said that you've seen some of that citizen involvement in the tool since it was launched. Have you had some feedback from local authorities? Robin Lovelace [00:18:56] So I certainly fed into the decision-making process because I'm on a kind of citizen advisory group for with Leeds City Council. And it's been really interesting to see how they created this new forum that contains academics and advocates and also councillors. And we've each been able to input ideas and to some extent hold them to account. So just earlier this afternoon, I saw some feedback from someone on that group, that's in open discussion with the Council and they actually had a ride on Kirkstall Road, which is one of the routes that has been flagged up by our tool, and I'm very happy to say has received new segregated cycleway. However, she flagged up that there were still issues with it. Obviously, when you do things very quickly, it's unusual to get things perfect the first-time round. So she sent round photos and said, "yeah, I think this is a problem, there's lots of old leaves in the road here and also parts of the pop-up cycleway are quite narrow" and I've just been looking at the design manual for roads and bridges, which clearly states that the desirable minimum width for cycleways, cycle lanes, which are painted lines, is two metres. But when you have light segregation, which also creates a potential hazard for cycling, even with those ones, the recommended minimum width is 2.5 metres. So I think it's one thing to have strong evidence, but to some extent now are at this stage and we have a lot of good evidence, in most cities there's quite a movement to get these going. The devil will be in the detail and it's the design standards that actually come out. So at this stage, I think to a large extent that citizen engagement is really important. And the ability of local authorities to adapt and to change that designs based on feedback will be key to seeing how used and how high quality these new cycleways are in the long term. So, yeah, I think for most people, probably the best way to get the tool and see everyone else's comment and to get involved is probably through widenmypath.com. Laura Laker [00:21:30] Yeah, it's a nice map, isn't it? You can still go on there and click on it and there's little bicycle symbols and there's little shoe symbols for walking and then there's bits where people are said they need more space. Robin Lovelace [00:21:42] Yeah. And you can type in it. You can kind of go into whatever town you like. And I think the example of Kirkstall Road is, is really shows that the best people to give feedback on a particular piece of infrastructure or or even an infrastructure plan are the people who actually use it day to day. So I would really recommend everyone to take a look and think about what —you know, the great thing about a tool is that you can actually imagine what you would like to have and make suggestions on that. It's also got the update capability so you can look. So rather than duplicating. "Oh, we need a cycleway on this road that would clearly benefit from a cycleway" you can, in addition, kind of update on them. And one of the amazing things is that, yeah, they've had over 30,000 interactions with this map and it's only been up a short while. And I think that shows that there is this really strong latent demand to get involved in transport planning. And to me, it highlights the fact that's quite fundamental, that transport planning is actually part of the democratic decision-making process. It's about the public allocation of resources. So at some level, it must be informed by the citizens. And usually, historically that's been done in quite a narrow and prescribed way, where you put out a consultation and then it's closed and only certain people contribute, whereas this citizen science aspect really broadens it out and allows many more voices to come in and much more diversity of opinion. So that's great. I think the combination of far and objective data—which is our role in this is— is really a powerful combination. But I certainly urge listeners to go out and give it a try, and I've added a couple of comments on there for my area. So, yeah, hopefully local authorities will pick up on this and use it. That's another question. Laura Laker [00:23:54] I guess another thing you can do is flag that to your local councillors. Thirty thousand a week and a half is really an astonishing number. It is so easy to use, isn't it?And I've had these conversations before about the way that we discuss particularly cycling, new cycling routes and often the sort of meetings that are held around and what's going to happen or what's being proposed are held at sort of times when people are young families say are putting kids to bed or that, you know, people with busy lives don't have time to attend meetings in person. And so it does widen it out a bit more and gives people the real benefit— you know, with busy lives, with young kids, maybe—the option to say, well, actually this bit of my street is dangerous, pavement is too narrow, I'd like this two way for cycling or all of those things. It's just super easy, just to click on or like you say, and like other people's comments. And so you can see one comment has like 20 likes or something. And you see you're not the only one that thought that about that particular location. Robin Lovelace [00:24:55] Yeah, and another thing to say is I think the widenmypath.com isn't designed to replace existing structures for engagement. So it would be two use in addition to the usual way of communicating. And that's the same concept with tools such as the Rapid Cycleway Prioritisation Tool and the propensity cycle tool, which our new rapid tool builds on. It's certainly designed to complement, not replace existing processes. And I think at the moment, local authorities have so much to deal with. The fact that there's now a national, will certainly in England, we'd like to extend it to other countries evidence base. That can mean that they can make good rapid decisions based on evidence more quickly. So, yeah, and the more citizens that get involved and kind of try to highlight the evidence to a broader range of people as possible, the better. And I've seen loads of examples. It's been really good just seeing on Twitter, for example, I'm from Hereford and seeing people flagging up cycleways in Gloucester saying, look, this much is the cycle campaign's perception of where you have need for pop-up cycleways and then using that to try and get a debate going in the local authority. So, yeah, I think certainly better decisions can be made when more people are involved and certainly when more evidence is available. I think there is a danger that if there's too much evidence there, it becomes overwhelming. But the good thing about these interfaces is they kind of condense down a lot of information into a map so you can make sense of it all. Laura Laker [00:26:41] Yeah. Now, here's the line on the map. This is where the bike route. This is where you'd be best off building a fast bike route. This is where you need to do more routes to make network. And there is this very simple, isn't it? Robin Lovelace [00:26:51] Yeah. And that's another thing. As academics, we like to always make things more complicated and add features and refine the model. But with the rapid tool, because it had a different purpose, we wanted to say, okay, let's condense all of this information down to literally the top ranked cycleways. And I should say on that you can also rank it not just by cycling potential, but by the continuous length of the road as well. So if your priority is to build slightly longer distance routes, you can also use it to try to find continuous sections. But like with any data driven approach, no data set is perfect, so it's got a number of limitations. Laura Laker [00:27:39] It's not just a short-term thing, obviously. You know, this can keep being used in the long term. There's going to need to be a gradual rollout of ideally of a cycle network across the country, not only in towns, but linking in between. So I guess it could just keep on going. In terms of areas further study, you mentioned you like the idea of general tools. You mean that across different transport modes, not just cycling? Robin Lovelace [00:28:05] Yeah, definitely. So like many areas of government transport planning tends to be a bit compartmentalised and even tribal in some cases. I've seen various examples of local authorities where you have the active travel team that's kind of put in a box and then they don't often talk to the highways people. And then there you've got the the bus people in London,I know, and there's not enough cross mode or communication. And I think that's bad for everyone. So regardless of which mode of transport you use, it's certainly important to have a joined-up network so that public transport connects well to walking and cycling networks say. That's certainly something that I'm aware of and being the lead developer of the propensity to cycle tool, which is just focus on one mode, I'm acutely aware of the need to broaden it out to become more multimode. So that's just the kind of policy need that I've seen. Yeah, and I think like taking into account walking and cycling, like walking is the foundation, I think, of a healthy transport system and ensuring that walking and cycling are kind of taken into account together I think is really important. So that's something that I'd like to look into more in the future. Laura Laker [00:29:37] Yeah. And it doesn't always have to be big things as that. I think one of the most successful investments that the government has made in the last 10 years is is cycle parking at railway stations, something that's like super simple, but just allows people to ride a bike to the commuter train and then get on it. Was there anything else that you wanted to say that you feel like we've skipped over, or not covered yet?Robin Lovelace [00:29:59] Yeah, I think I think it's worth it, because at the beginning I was talking about the tool's focus on cycling potential and this idea of space race. And I think it's worth zooming in a bit on the concept of spare space. I mean, this was developed early on, earlier in the lockdown when road traffic levels hadn't rebounded. They have rebounded a bit. But the evidence that I've seen suggests that they are still below pre COVID-19 levels. And there's also evidence of many people switching to permanent working from home so that the long-term implications for the transport system are still uncertain. And in that context, I think it is good to think about why you might want to focus on road space reallocation in particular. And there's three broad reasons. The first is when you're looking at roads that are big and have this spare space, they tend to be along arterial routes where you've got high potential. Especially in Leeds, there's some key design lines that are very heavily reliant on buses. So if you're aiming to free up capacity on those busy public transport networks, building where there is high latent potential, which tends to be on those big arterial routes, is one reason. The second reason is that the nature of the cycle ways that you construct themselves, say you can build a big cycleway to allow physical distancing on these big roads and cycleways that have been created by reallocating a lane of traffic to cycling. And then finally, it's about the long-term change that you mentioned. This is part of a long, longer aim. And one of the main reasons for developing the tool is that I think should probably soon start to move away from the idea of pop-up cycleways just to new cycle ways. Many of these will become permanent and the better we can design them and the better that we can place them where there is most latent demand, the more chance they will have of being used in the long term. Laura Laker [00:32:28] So, yeah, because the government money, specifically, the 250 million for the emergency active travel fund is the first branch is for pop-up cycle lanes and the second is explicitly for stuff that's going to be longer term. Robin Lovelace [00:32:41] Yeah, exactly. And I think the Overton Window, so to speak, has shifted so that things that weren't necessarily on the table are now being discussed and are actually priorities. And a great example of that is this idea of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and road space reallocation that would not be discussed. pre COVID-19. But to me I think this could be a bit of crossroads in terms of active transport in the UK. And it's really exciting to see it all happening and to have so much evidence, like more evidence than ever before, not only of the benefits of walking and cycling, but where we need to intervene for maximum benefit. And it's certainly exciting to be a small part of that process. Laura Laker [00:33:32] Yeah, certainly in terms of the main roads, there's a reason they are so wide and widely used, because they take people where they want to go. Isn't it? Just as a final thought. And quite often we kind of want to put cycling out of the way. But then I guess there's another argument about whether we want to actually cycle on main roads next to motor traffic, but that's probably another discussion.Robin Lovelace [00:33:51] Yeah, yeah. But no, but I think it is actually relevant to this. When you put in pop-up cycleways, there are ways to change the speed limit through experimental or temporary traffic regulation orders. But also, and this is something that came out of a seminar that we did last week on the tool, which is that when you put in cones or other infrastructure, although the legal speed limit may be unchanged, the design speed changes and drivers do actually respond to infrastructure. And this is something that I see I mean everyone's got their personal kind of dream cycleway. Mine Scott Hall Road in Leeds, which is a big dual carriageway with a 40 mile an hour speed limit. And currently it does not have a cycle way on it. And I just think that reducing that speed limit could do so much. So it's not always just about infrastructure. It's about driver behaviour and a whole range of other things. And this, tool, going back to limitations, it can only do one thing which is kind of flag-up these arterial routes that have got high cycling potential. But you need a very broad range of interventions, I think, including road traffic speed reduction to make the transport networks more friendly for everyone. Laura Laker [00:35:23] Yeah. Great. Thanks, Robin, for coming on. It's great to talk to you. Robin Lovelace [00:35:28] Fantastic. Yeah, thanks for having me. And yeah, I look forward to kind of seeing how this rolls out and maybe even using some of the infrastructure that's going in that will hopefully be informed by the various tools that are going out. Yeah, thanks a lot and just for listeners, check out the widenmypath.com And the tool. And if you're interested in the data side of things, by all means, download the data and we are happy to take any kind of questions on the Website where we developed it, which is github.com/cyipt/ if there's any developers out there who wants to get involved in the technical side of things. Laura Laker [00:36:17] Great. Thanks, Robin. You've been listening to the Active Travel Podcast. You can find us online on our Web site at http://blog.westminster.ac.uk/ata/podcast/ We own most podcasting hosts and you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram, both at @Active_ATA. Let us know what you think. Drop us a tweet or an email at email@example.com. Thanks for listening. Until next time.
Active Travel Podcast - data in active travel, part one
Season 1, Ep. 2
Big data is a big issue right now - and we are perhaps about to realise just how much information Google and Apple have on us. Data is hugely important in understanding how we travel, but while we've been very good at measuring car traffic, how we measure cycling and walking is far more primitive.David McArthur, at Glasgow University's Urban Big Data Centre, is trying to change that. Using Strava Metro data, and 'spare' CCTV camera capacity he was busy trying to work out who cycles and walks where - until the COVID crisis hit. Now his work is being turned to measure some of the changes we are facing around how we move around, and the new importance active travel is playing in the new normal.Most methods of measuring active travel only give us part of a picture, however - and while the granular data on our lives is held by tech companies like Apple and Google, we might be glad that data isn't more widely available.No one method of can capture everyone, though. Is there a way of making sure we are all visible in the right ways, in this new big data world? Is a national data centre for active travel the answer? And where on earth does government cycling data come from?You can find out more about the Urban Big Data Centre, and David McArthur's work, here: https://www.ubdc.ac.uk/TranscriptDavid McArthur interview FINAL MP3.mp3Laura Laker [00:00:00] Hi and welcome to the active travel podcast. A brand new podcast brought to you by the Active Travel Academy, which is an academic think tank on all things cycling, walking and micro mobility. It's part of the University of Westminster in London and works in collaboration with folks from inside and outside the university. That's people like me. I'm Laura Laker an active travel journalist working with the Active Travel Academy on this podcast. Amongst other projects, and this is the first of a two part on data in active travel.Laura Laker [00:00:28] The Active Travel Podcast is joined by David McArthur, who is a senior lecturer in urban studies at the University of Glasgow. David is with us today to talk about two pieces of research. The first is using crowdsourced data from Strava Metro to establish cycling patterns. And the second is using spare CCTV capacity to identify pedestrian volumes and movement, which is not as 'Big Brother' as it seems. David assures me so. Welcome, David. Nice to have you with us.David McArthur [00:00:56] Thank you very much. Pleasure to be here.Laura Laker [00:00:58] So you specialise in big data around transport and urban analytics. Can you just tell us a bit about how that works?David McArthur [00:01:05] I'm based at the Urban Big Data Centre. So this was a center funded a few years ago with the idea that the UK wasn't making the most of the big data revolution. Our job was to try to establish ways in which new forms of data could be used to address substantial social science questions. So my stream of work was in transport. We've tried to look at what datasets are out there, what can they tell us about our transport network and how to improve our cities and what make the limitations of this sort of data. People were quite it was the hype curve where people were very excited it was going to change the world. We were trying to be a bit critical to those ideas.Laura Laker [00:01:44] And people get very excited about new tech developments as shiny new toys kind of. But it's not always as wonderful as you might think. So can you tell us where transport data is right now and where it's going and presumably focusing on active travel?David McArthur [00:01:59] It's quite interesting. There is amazing data out there. It's not always accessible, though. One thing we tried to do in the center was to price it out of the hands of data owners. But that's not always so successful. Sometimes there's legal regulatory licensing issues with the data. So if some local authority has used the commercial product or ordinance survey data, they can't necessarily share that data with a third party afterwards. There's also issues of perhaps it's commercially sensitive. So with a deregulated bus network, for instance, the data may be helped by the operator of a bus service. So it might not be available easily to outside researchers, which is a shame because it would be nice to have better data on who takes the bus and where do they go, but it's commercially sensitive information. So there's lots of great data, but the governance issues tend to pose far more challenges than the technical issues of analysing it.Laura Laker [00:02:55] Obviously, there's going to be privacy issues around people's data, and especially if it contains demographic data or even personal data. So you've got to be very careful about who gets that, haven't you?David McArthur [00:03:05] Absolutely. We would definitely want the data owners to protect the data subjects. And it's a legal requirement after GDPR especially. Well we always had data protection legislation but I think GDPR sharpened people's focus on this idea. But some of the data, I don't think needs to be shielded quite as much. So cycle counter data of how many people go past that particular point in time, I'm not sure it's so sensitive, but certain people are not happy to share it or they're worried that something might be done with it that they don't like.Laura Laker [00:03:38] Really? cycle counter data - numbers?David McArthur [00:03:42] Yes, I've had some arguments with local authorities because they don't want to release it, even though it's six people past this point in an hour. So I think it's as far removed from personal data as you might be able to get.Laura Laker [00:03:55] That's interesting. I remember writing an article last year, I think it was, collecting cycle counter data from around the UK. And I got maybe a handful, and those are just the visible ones with the totem poles. But it was quite hard to get hold of, which was quite a surprise. And I think I was working on it for a few months, actually, partly because there were a number of issues. Some of the cycle counters broke down and some of the London ones have broken down. So I was kind of waiting on them. But also, like you say, it's quite hard to get information from people, and that's just the ones with the totem poles and the numbers on that are visible. And I guess there must be a lot more embedded in pavements that you just never see.David McArthur [00:04:33] Yes, there are, there’s some hidden. So the council will have data on them, but maybe you get it, maybe not. But it's a shame not to have that data available for people to use.Laura Laker [00:04:44] So you're working on both these projects, the pedestrian project and the cycling project, and that was pre-lock down, and obviously life changed for everyone. Since then, people stopped moving around as much. And I'm just wondering obviously the scope of the project is changing as the transport environment changes. And you wrote a couple of blogs about this, didn't you? The phenomenon of COVID and the changes that are happening. And I'm just wondering how much you've changed what you're doing since then.David McArthur [00:05:10] It's been a really interesting time for transport data because we've often had this fragmented ownership of the datasets, trouble having access to them. Suddenly, though, everyone needed data on who was where and who was moving where and what modes of transport they were using. It's been interesting to see that the tech giants, Apple and Google have been the ones stepping in to provide consistent data across the UK. But a bit of a black box in terms of how does it go from raw data into these aggregates that they're publishing. But this has been used to formulate policy now, so we might be a bit concerned that if we had our own data and we had a national data service for transport data and it had all been there [LNE1]in a consistent way, we could easily have pulled up the information that we needed. But at the moment, as you said, it's a big job to try and gather all of it and that other people have stepped in to provide other versions of it. So it's interesting.Laura Laker [00:06:07] And where is this Apple and Google data coming from?David McArthur [00:06:10] I believe Google's using their location service, which sense for people are through combination of G.P.S. and Wi-Fi, looking at what Wi-Fi networks are nearby. I believe Apple is using where people are searching for directions about. So from that, they can infer something about the purpose of the travel was and where it is. And then they've published these mobility reports that you may have seen getting some media coverage, about how activity at different locations has changed over time. So it's very valuable information at the moment, but it's unfortunate we don't necessarily know all the details about how robust is it and is it excluding certain types of people from the analysis.Laura Laker [00:06:52] People without mobile phones?David McArthur [00:06:54] Yes. It's one of the key challenges for big data. So it could be people without mobile phones or the privacy conscious people who've opted out of sharing this sort of information. Apple data, it's a particular subset of people that use Apple products. So if you formulate policy based on a subset of people using the technology who are you excluding and who's not been seen?Laura Laker [00:07:19] Yes, transport poverty is a big issue and we know a lot of inequalities are being exacerbated by the crisis. And Apple products are extremely expensive, not everyone has a smartphone even so, it's fascinating. Can you tell us about how your crowdsourced cycling project works?David McArthur [00:07:38] One of the first datasets we acquired at the Urban Big Data Centre was from Strava. So you may be familiar with going on, you have some physical activity, usually running or cycling and you log it and then it gives you some information about how fast you are, and did you beat people? Strava takes this raw G.P.S. data matches onto the route network and then they provide an aggregate data product where you can't identify individuals, but you get information about how many people are on each road at different times of day, and what are the origins and destinations that people are moving between. So we've been working with this for several years, what we've been trying to do is to say what can you get out of the data, what are the limits of the data, and what are the biases in the data. So, again, this is another example, where probably not all cyclists are logging all of their trips on Strava. So whatever you see in the Strava data, you have to think this is for a certain type of person. So men dominate the use of Strava, men are overrepresented in cycling anyway, but they're even more overrepresented in Strava. So you have to be careful with your conclusions that you don't end up designing things for men who use Strava, try and design for all kinds of people. And then there's the issue of including people who don't cycle yet, but we might like to encourage the cycle, but they're not in the data. So a couple of things we tried to do, one was to compare it to cycle counter data, to see how the flows that pass a particular point on Strava match up with the flows that count everyone. The evidence there is not bad, it gets the order of magnitude. You can certainly pick out the busy versus the quiet locations. It's not especially accurate in giving you precise numbers. We believe you can probably monitor trends with it the overtime, whether locations are becoming busier or are quieter. So we did some work doing that, many other academics have also done similar work trying to understand what the what the biases are and how well it represents it. We've then gone on to look at if you put in new infrastructure, what impact does it have on cycling flows. So we have a couple of papers which look at that. The interesting thing, maybe it's obvious, but it's nice to measure it is that it seems that it needs to be infrastructure of a certain quality. So if you have segregated infrastructure, you can get something like a twelve to 18 percent increase in the number of people using that route. If it's some sort of bus lane that you let cyclist cycle in and you call it bike infrastructure, it doesn't seem to be particularly popular and doesn't seem to have a measurable effect. So it's nice to be able to put magnitudes on what are the effects of doing these things and what it's worth doing, what isn't worth doing.Laura Laker [00:10:30] You mentioned the National Data Centre. I'm just thinking about the problem of who you're capturing with this data and the fact that there's different data out there that may have those people in to tech, they might be using it or they or people who want to ride fast, they might be using Strava. But then you've got people in families or older people who don't really have the time or inclination to be faffing around with apps for every element of their lives. But there's potential, perhaps and you mentioned National Data Centre perhaps suggesting that there could be a collection of some of this information and the best way to map out where routes might need to be, for example.David McArthur [00:11:08] It would be good to have that. I think we're making progress in that direction. The Urban Big Data Centre's helped a bit. So we've gathered some of this data together. Also, organisations like Cycling Scotland, in Scotland at least trying to do some of this work to pull out this data together. But the other point you mentioned there is whether it's comparable between different areas. If you have different sensor technologies, if the maintenance regimes aren't consistent across places, so you have sensors breaking or giving faulty readings, it's not necessarily easy to have something you can compare between locations or over time, but at least having it all in one place so that researchers can go to it and see what's happening I think is useful, it's something we try to help bring about.Laura Laker [00:11:54] And then if one thing breaks, physical counter breaks, or if you're not capturing every kind of person, then you have other elements of the data as a backup in a way.David McArthur [00:12:02] Yes. Interestingly, maybe it's the typical story, there's much more progress made on this for counting cars and vehicles. That's taken a lot more seriously. And there is much better data available on collating all the route country data so we can see what the cars are doing. But it would be nice to know what the people are doing.Laura Laker [00:12:24] And we measure what we care about. And historically, we've cared about car traffic. Prioritising that, reducing delays for drivers in this country, haven't we? And cycling and also walking, more so walking, have really been forgotten in this piece. And another thing you're doing with the Big Data Centre is this pedestrian CCTV projects. We are not spying on people! But you are you're looking at pedestrian volumes and pedestrian movements in Glasgow.David McArthur [00:12:51] Yes, very, very keen to start with definitely not spying on people! The is work led by my colleague Mark Livingston, I've been working with them on it for a while now. We wanted to look at how can we measure what the pedestrians are doing and what's available. And there are a few spark sensors, which kind of pedestrians, and there wasn't much else. And it didn't cover the areas of Glasgow that we were interested in it at the time. So we said, well, machine vision is a lot better now, we can use machines to count people in objects and images. There's cameras all around Glasgow and the CCTV network. So we said, do you think if we go to the Council and discuss it with them, it might be possible to do something with that? After months of negotiation and safeguards and ethical approval at the university we did a pilot study where we put a machine that sits in the secure CCTV suite controlled by the Council. It goes to four cameras when we started, it moves them to a particular position and snaps an image. The images then run through this algorithm, which counts a number of people. Then the image gets discarded and out of it we get how many people were spotted at this location at this particular point in time.Laura Laker [00:14:05] I just love the idea of all the CCTV cameras positioned around Glasgow. You've got about 30, haven't you? That's up from four at the beginning. I just love the idea of them sort of sitting there and then every 15 minutes, or half an hour, you're able to take control of them and then turn them around and take a photo. Then they just resume their normal life. There's something a bit James Bond about that.David McArthur [00:14:27] Yes, certainly every time I walk past one of our cameras, I check my watch to see if it's due to move, but it never has been so far, and now we're stuck at home more. [LNE2]So I have been desperate to see to see it move around. This was another challenge we had to address in the project because the cameras are used for security. So we had to adjust our approach so that it won't swing around if someone's using it and then missing something that the operators are trying to watch. So we were really keen to try and use open software, free software, not interfere with what the camera's main purpose is, but to get something useful out of it. Originally, it was nothing to do with COVID, but now it's become even more useful to have this daily report that we get on with what are pedestrians doing, how many are in different locations, and how is that changing over time? Are there areas that need to be watched?Laura Laker [00:15:20] And is that because of capacity issues on the pavements?David McArthur [00:15:23] Yes, some of the locations we've been trying to think of this as a social distancing problem, but certainly in some of the locations, once the counts get over a certain amount, it suggests people are probably going to be too close together because the pavements are smaller or the area the cameras are looking at, isn't that large. And if there's dozens of people visible on the frame at one point, they may not be maintaining social distance, although you can't just tell that's necessarily a problem. It may be people in the same household, it might be people who are compliant. It's still interesting, though, to see and to spot the pattern. So when you get the nice weather or the warm days, the dry days, you see upticks in the number of people out and about. It's quite interesting to see how the patterns change.Laura Laker [00:16:09] And I think it's useful in planning pavement space, potentially, if there are too many people, because it gets to the point where there's so many people on the pavement, it becomes impossible to socially distance.David McArthur [00:16:19] Yes, one of my colleagues, Nick Vess, came up with some very clever method to extract from the map of the pavement widths for the whole of the UK. So we were looking at that and then trying to map where is there may maybe space for social distance and where isn't it possible, and perhaps we need to have an intervention. The work was done a few days after we did it as we released a similar product. So I'd like to see that we beat them, we beat them with our open source, transparent way of doing it.Laura Laker [00:16:46] That was reported in the in a couple of newspapers, wasn't it?David McArthur [00:16:50] It was. So we should have pushed ours better because we did it first and we were clear about how we did it and set out exactly how you go from the OS data, how you process it and what comes out and what it looks like. But it still is extremely valuable information to have. If you're telling people to stay two meters apart and it's a very narrow pavement, then you have to do something about it.Laura Laker [00:17:13] Yeah, it makes quite a strong case for action on pavement space and things like pavement parking, perhaps, or closing rows to through traffic.David McArthur [00:17:20] Absolutely. And I think it's helpful to have the data on pavement widths, to have information about where are the pedestrians, when are the pedestrians there, and then to use that to inform decisions about where might we need to abolish some street parking or close roads or take some other kind of action.Laura Laker [00:17:37] There are actually very few ways of counting pedestrians, aren't there? There aren't counters in the same way that there are for cycling.David McArthur [00:17:45] There are fewer of them around. Some of them are used more with a view to looking at how many shoppers are out and about. So maybe we can get some data on shopping streets. But we want data on other places as well. Some of the other counters are placed at very busy points to monitor what's going on. But if we want a picture of the whole city, then this was a sensor network which existed, the cameras were there. They weren't being monitored all the time, so being able to use them to extract this useful data we thought was quite a good idea. And it's something that can be done elsewhere. The software is open source, the methods are clear. It's something any local authority could potentially implement. We also did some validation work, I should say, checking that the counts machine was producing, actually represented how many people were in the image. And it gives a very good performance. Better than we expected because we thought, oh, well, when it rains, probably it's not going to work or if the lighting's poor, might not work, but we didn't really see that. It performed pretty well under all these different conditions.Laura Laker [00:18:50] So it was originally intended to provide some before and after data, some baseline data ahead of some pedestrian realm improvements in Glasgow, right?David McArthur [00:19:00] Yes. Glasgow's got a very large public realm improvement project called the Avenues Project, I think is a hundred and forty million pounds, they're spending on upgrading several of their key streets in Glasgow, particularly active travel focused. So they want more people walking, more people cycling, fewer cars on the road. Often, though, the only thing to measure afterwards what's happened, and it's hard to do an evaluation if you only see what happens afterwards. So we tried to get in there to start to say, well, let's start counting now, so that after we can see what does it look like, and hopefully demonstrate the value that you can get from making these improvements. They will certainly know about what happened to the cars, and we don't want to lead people's thinking about what's happening to cars and congestion. Lets present them with their an X percent increase in pedestrians, and a Y percent increase and cyclists, and that's beneficial.Laura Laker [00:19:54] Yeah, well, it's cheaper than having people on the street counting.David McArthur [00:19:57] It's much cheaper. There is some of that that goes on. So there's some manual counts done in Glasgow. I think now, the they have someone watch a camera and count the number of people manually. But this is a much more scalable approach. I believe some local authorities also take videos of a point and then they ship the video off to some other country, and someone on a very low wage sits and manually watches hours and hours of video and notes down the number of people. So this is a much more scalable, cheaper solution.Laura Laker [00:20:27] And how do you see this being used going forward?David McArthur [00:20:30] It would be nice, ideally if local authorities installed and made the data usually available, then any researcher doing anything on transport or infrastructure or evaluation would have the data available. At the moment, we're still hoping that we can gather baseline data for our evaluation project. But the data certainly now seems more useful for a covert response and trying to understand what's happening. It will also be interesting. This is probably the first time that government has discouraged the use of public transport. So it's going to be very interesting to see what happens to all those trips that would have been made by public transport. Are we going to see them go on to cycling? Are we going to see them become pedestrians or are they going to work from home? So at least in Glasgow now we will have the car data, we will have maybe some bus data, we will have pedestrians and cyclists. So hopefully get a much clearer picture of what's going on.Laura Laker [00:21:26] When you get things on car traffic levels, increasing or decreasing there's sometimes comparable data on cycling, walking, and presumably they come from fewer data sets?David McArthur [00:21:37] We often try to find out where these come from and we never seem to get anywhere. So I have a colleague who spent some time trying to find out the source of some of this official data that was presented. But he wasn't successful, many emails and many "Yes, we'll get back to you", but we don't know where they come from, so I'm also a bit puzzled about where some of these statistics come from, what the data is. You might be right that yes, if you tried digging, it's not you don't always get to the bottom. So it may be that it's the cycle counter data that they sort of aggregate and come up with something. It's it's not clear, though.Laura Laker [00:22:13] Fascinating. But it's easier to understand where the car data comes from, presumably. I'm imagining there's more counters out there and that they're more accurate.David McArthur [00:22:22] Yes. Many more counters and it's better documented where they are. And it's much it's much clearer what's happening with that.Laura Laker [00:22:30] So who documents the car figures?David McArthur [00:22:32] I think Department for Transport has collected a bunch of the trunk road sensor network, even for Scotland, which is Transport Scotland doing it separately. And then local authorities also possess some for their Traffic Signal Control Systems. They may have separate sensors. We've also looked at some of that. Glasgow thankfully makes at least some of its detector data open. So we've done some analysis and looking at what's happening to road traffic in different places. But the national statistics are sometimes somewhat of a mystery. And again, the big tech companies may know better because Google can detect where you're going, and they also have the ability to do some more detection of what modes of transport you're using. So they may have a better idea of what the mode use says and different areas.Laura Laker [00:23:18] Do you think there's any responsibility there for the tech companies to release this data anonymised?David McArthur [00:23:24] They've released some of the aggregate data so you can get the overall trends and mobility. But we don't know what's happening underneath. And sometimes that's for good reason because the location data from smartphones can be very disclosive. So it's something that you really do have to be careful with. But it might be nice to have the detailed methodology on how is it all processed, from raw data up to all these indicators that they provide.Laura Laker [00:23:50] The track and trace system or the proposed system has raised a lot of questions about privacy and phone companies giving people's data out to government and the ethical implications of that.David McArthur [00:24:01] It's such a difficult one because the data can be so useful for all sorts of purposes. It can help us really, to transport new ways, if we can understand people's door to door journeys. At the moment, the data gets fragmented between, we have one data set for trains, which is patchy, we have some stuff on cycling, we have some stuff on walking, but we don't necessarily understand. Someone starts the day, they go into their different things, different modes, and how does that connect up? And how might we reconfigure things to get more sustainable choices? But then from this data, you can identify where people live, where they work, where their children go to school, all kinds of stuff that you wouldn't want being made available easily. So it's a very interesting trade-offs there, about what people are what people are willing to share and also who they share with. We share a lot with the tech companies, often unknowingly, but sometimes I think when government does it, it's done in a more explicit way and then people maybe react to it more to it. But they aren't necessarily aware of the amount of information they're already disclosing. But I don't know what the solution to all of that will be.Laura Laker [00:25:13] It's a commodity, data, which is why we have free apps like Strava, though they've now introduced a subscription. But that information is valuable and presumably you pay for Strava Metro cities like Glasgow.David McArthur [00:25:26] We do. I think they're currently looking at how their model's going to work. They've traditionally been quite helpful, I think, because they've been founded by real cycling enthusiasts. They have had a bit of a social mission with their data, to try to make it available and try to improve cycling around the world. So they've taken quite a different approach, I think, from the other companies. They've seen it as less of a moneymaking tool and a bit more of a campaigning tool. So we do pay for it, but it's not as expensive as they might be able to make it.Laura Laker [00:26:01] Another thing you've been looking at is hire bike data since lockdown. David McArthur [00:26:08] Yes, that was in Edinburgh and Just Eat Bikes, they all had some open data. So I thought, I'll have a quick look at it and see what patterns that we can see in it.Laura Laker [00:26:14] And that was fascinating, wasn't it? Because just prior to lockdown, when people were being told work from home, the number of people who were going on those bikes actually increased. But then there was good weather at the same time that was potentially a bit, 'Well, which one was it?' But then after lockdown, obviously, the number of trips decreased but the distance of the trips and the proportion of round trips increased, which suggests that they were leisure trips. Which is fascinating.David McArthur [00:26:37] Yeah, I think this is, the weather has been very interesting because as soon as we had locked down, the weather got fantastic, so it made some of the analysis a bit more difficult. I've been working for some statistical modelling recently trying to strip out these effects so we can monitor the underlying trends a bit better. But the hire bike stuff has raised this question about how are these people, perhaps people who didn't cycle before. Are people looking at the empty roads and thinking, oh, maybe I could try cycling? And if they're doing that, will they keep doing it afterwards? Will they get a taste for it? There's been reports of bike sales going up. There's these suggestions that hire bikes have been used in new ways. So it will be very exciting to see if this is something that's going to cause a shift in the number of people that are cycling or is it going to die way afterwards, which in part will depend on the policy response and whether these nice new temporary cycling lanes that have gone up everywhere become something more permanent or whether it's going to go back to the cars afterwards.Laura Laker [00:27:38] I guess some of the cycling data are amalgamating is going to be useful for that, perhaps pre- and post-.David McArthur [00:27:44] Yes, unfortunately our Strava data comes in quarterly deliveries. So we have up until the end of March at the moment. So we just got the start of that, we're waiting on July when we get our next quarterly delivery, when we can perhaps start to track a bit more. Where are the journeys coming from? Where are we already going to? Which areas became busier and quieter, and was there more leisure cycling and what was going on? So it should be quite interesting.Laura Laker [00:28:13] You really need something a bit more agile in these times because things are changing so quickly. I mean, since the end of March, the world's changed beyond recognition, really, hasn't it? The government has told councils they should be doing emergency cycle lanes, making road space for people on bikes and on foot, which we never had before. And that's such a guidance.David McArthur [00:28:30] Yes, it's one of the benefits of big data supposed to be we get it quickly. But it doesn't always work out that way. So with our CCTV camera data, we get it daily, so we have a very up to date picture. Strava, they have the data, but they just haven't supplied it to their data users. They're currently reengineering the way they supply their data. So I think they're not wanting to get into a position of doing custom deliveries and custom cuts. So they've said, well, look, to stick to the schedule and wait until July and then you'll get your you'll get your new data. So we are like children counting down to Christmas. We turn on our use Strava data to play with. But the time seems to be flying through.Laura Laker [00:29:12] So it's a whole concept of time has changed. Hasn't which days at what time is it, where am I?David McArthur [00:29:18] It certainly has, but I'm very interested to see this idea of whether people do change their transport habits. And will people who used to drive have maybe tried to bike for leisure during Lockdown, will they be tempted to say, "Oh, well, I could take it to work" or "I've tried out the route to work at my leisure time, it was alright", maybe "the infrastructure was better than I thought, maybe I will keep doing that ".Laura Laker [00:29:40] Yeah, that's right. Well, thanks, David, for talking. It's fascinating to hear from you and hear what's going on with big data in active travel. And you have to keep us posted what's happening in July with that Strava data?David McArthur [00:29:51] Yes, that's the date we're counting down to. Thank you for having me. I was happy to discuss transport data.Laura Laker [00:30:00] You've been listening to the Active Travel Podcast. You can find us online on our Web site at http://blog.westminster.ac.uk/ata/podcast/ and you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram at Active Travel Academy @Active_ATA. Let us know what you think. Drop us a tweet or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening. Until next time.