Active Travel Podcast


Active Travel Podcast Pilot: Media reporting of Active Travel

Season 1, Ep. 1

The Active Travel Academy's (ATA) Dr Rachel Aldred and journalist Laura Laker talk media reporting of active travel, in this two-part pilot episode of the Active Travel Podcast.

First up, your hosts speak to researchers Tara Goddard (Texas A&M University) and Kelcie Ralph (Rutgers University, Alaska), on their paper Does news coverage of traffic crashes affect perceived blame and preferred solutions? Evidence from an experiment. Our guests answer that question and discuss how, when it comes to news reporting of road collisions, framing is everything.

In the second half of the podcast, Cristina Caimotto, (University of Turin), speaks from Italy about her new book Discourses of Cycling, Road Users and Sustainability. An Ecolinguistic Investigation. Much of the language we use is subconscious, and that applies to journalists too. Cristina's analysis of media reporting of the death of Kim Briggs is startling and eye-opening - she discusses whether there are parallels with racist discourse on reporting of this issue, and why we need a new way of talking about the environment.

Kelcie and Tara's paper can be accessed here:

And Cristina's book is just out, from Palgrave:


ATA Podcast Pilot

Laura Laker [00:00:00] Hi and welcome to the active travel podcast pilot episode. The active travel podcast is the podcast for the Active Travel Academy, an academic think tank, if you like, on all things cycling, walking and micromobility. Is part of the University of Westminster in London. I'm Laura Laker. An active travel journalist, collaborating with the Active Travel Academy.

Rachel Aldred [00:00:21] And I'm Rachel Aldred, I'm the director of the Active Travel Academy and I'm a reader in transport at Westminster University.

Laura Laker [00:00:28] And to kick off, we're talking about media reporting of active travel. So, Rachel, as it's our first podcast, could you start by explaining a little bit about why we're here, how the active Travel Academy came about and the tiny bits about what it does?

Rachel Aldred [00:00:41] So the Active Travel Academy has been going since autumn last year. It's funded by a grant from the Quintin Hogg Trust, which is affiliated with the university Westminster and basically set up to bring together interdisciplinary expertise, academic, non-academic expertise around all things active travel related. And we had a whole lot of different ideas, we have been doing a range of different projects, collaborations and so on. And one of our ideas with the summer programme, where we had various guests who were going to visit and collaborate and so on. Now, obviously, the physical collaborations have been on hold for a while, but we instead we've been setting up some virtual collaborations, including this podcast. So we hope you enjoy it.

Laura Laker [00:01:23] And one of the things that we did was do the Active Travel Academy's media awards, wasn't it? last year, which was great because it gave us a bit of an opportunity to launch the Active Travel Academy. And it also made us think a bit more about the kind of role in the media has in how we see active travel as a society and how powerful that is. And it was just around that time, I think, maybe a month before our guests came up with a study which is super interesting, which they are here to talk about with us today. So those guests are all the way from Texas A&M University. Tara Goddard, who is assistant professor at the School of Landscape, Architecture and Urban Planning, and from Alaska, Kelsey Ralph, assistant professor of transportation planning at Rutgers University. So could you tell us a bit about yourselves, how you ended up collaborating on media reporting of road collisions from different sides of the United States?

Tara Goddard [00:02:24] Sure, Laura and Rachel, thanks for having us both here. It's really fun to connect this way. So we have been friends and colleagues for many years and mostly through Twitter, I think, we had realised that we both have a shared interest in a lot of the way that we talk about active travel, traffic safety, road design, things like that. So when we both kind of realised we had that interest is where we started talking about a collaboration. The two of us as well with our colleagues, Calvin Thigpen, who's been at Arizona State and is now with Lime, and then Evan Iacobucci, a graduate student of Kelcie's.

Laura Laker [00:03:06] On Twitter, connecting us across the world.

Kelcie Ralph [00:03:12] There came a point where it was sort of daily screenshots of Tweets of news coverage. And I think that both of us are a little bit motivated out of a place of anger and rage, like "this is unacceptable! Let's do a project to show that."

Laura Laker [00:03:26] I think. I think all of us who work in this field have had those moments. And it seems to be a commonality with English speaking countries that are media reporting of road collisions does seem to be so biased towards drivers. So can you tell us about your about your study and how you kind of decided what you're gonna do and what you did?

Tara Goddard [00:03:50] Sure. So the first study we did we really just wanted to see, OK, we have this idea that these patterns are happening. There's victim blaming, this focus on the pedestrian, the absolving the driver. But, you know, it was just like, do we have some kind of confirmation bias? Are we just noticing these more or these patterns are really happening? So we wanted to even just inventory and get a sense of what are the different ways that this language or framing is used. How pervasive is it? And so we looked at two hundred articles across the US from local news reports about crashes that involved a byciclist or pedestrian, serious injury or crash and 100 involving a bicyclist and a 100 involving a pedestrian. And that's where we do a process that we developed, pretty fine grained way of coding or analysing the articles for use of passive voice, use of victim blaming, whether they focus on the driver or the car, for example. And even though that was pretty fine grain and we went through all that, then we were able to kind of really distil it down into two issues. Just how pervasive this victim blaming is and then looking at the potential effects. And so through that we confirmed essentially what we thought we were seeing, this was just this was widespread. It was very common. Kelcia do you want to add it on.

Kelcie Ralph [00:05:20] Yeah. So we actually found two different kinds of problems. And the first is like a sentence level issue. And this one's the easiest one to fix, right? We, in the way that we cover crashes now, we tend to focus on the pedestrian or the victim of the crash. We say the pedestrian was hit rather than saying a car or a driver hit a pedestrian. And that doesn't sound like a major issue, except for that we know from a whole host of studies and media studies that the focus of the sentence gets more of the blame. So this tiny, tiny little shift from a pedestrian was hit to a car or a driver hit a pedestrian is going to absolve the pedestrian of blame and sort of shift our attention back to the driver.

Laura Laker [00:06:07] And that's the kind of act, active or passive voice.

Kelcie Ralph [00:06:10] Well it's not quite active or passive, that's also an issue. But this it's even simpler than that focus. Who is the star of the show within the sentence? The other sort of sentence level thing we found is that we do very funny things with agency. So who's the actor in the story and at the sentence level we found that a lot of the times we were just leaving out an actor entirely. A pedestrian was hit. By what? By whom? We have no idea. And often stories left out a driver entirely. So not mentioned anywhere in the article at all. We do have one other funny thing with agency, and that is if we do mentioned an agent, four times more likely we were likely to refer to the vehicle rather than the driver. And as far as I know, there's not quite a lot of autonomous vehicles yet. Most of these crashes have drivers associated with them and they are entirely absolved of responsibility.

Laura Laker [00:07:13] Yes we get the same problem here. Some of these stories just don't mention a driver at all, and it's not uncommon at all. I was thinking about it actually, and I was wondering, because, if you're going to put focus on anyone but you don't know who is responsible for the collision, obviously it's more likely that someone driving was the cause of a collision than somebody walking. But I guess you can't assume that as a journalist. I'm wondering what you think about that.

Tara Goddard [00:07:42] That's a great question. So the intent isn't to place blame before we know what happens, right? It's just the fact that we know from communication and media studies that if you only focus on the pedestrian, people are more likely to think they're at fault. So even just making it more objective or it's actually making it more neutral, to phrase things correctly, as when an actor does something. It doesn't necessarily assign them blame, but at least brings them into the conversation. And then this larger issue that we found of treating all these crashes as one-off events is also part of the problem. So it isn't just that someone behaved badly, often the driver, not always, but often the driver, but it's about their responding to the cues of the environment.

Laura Laker [00:08:38] I'm wondering actually now if, um, if now's a good time before we move on to bring Rachel in, because this talk about mentioning a driver versus mentioning a car is something that you've looked at as well, Rachel, isn't it, in the UK context?

Rachel Aldred [00:08:56] Yes. but not around media discusses, but around participant, like public discourses, people just describing things that they've seen or experience they've thought about. And it's interesting that you get similar patterns there. I don't know which necessarily comes first, but you can see how they reinforce each other. So a study that I did looked at how people talked in survey comments, talked about bad driving vs bad cycling. And it was quite interesting because there's lots of complaints about bad driving, lots of complaints about bad cycling. But they wouldn't narrated really differently. And this won't surprise you, I guess, but in terms of bad driving, it was very often the car. It was like "cars speed, cars park on the pavement", all this kind of thing. That was generally what was said. Whereas in relation to cyclists, it was really different. It was "cyclists go through red light, cyclists on the footlights", you know. So it was a very different narration and often the cyclists as well, it was sort of linked to an outgroup, sometimes linked to outgroups stereotype. But yes, the drivers very often disappeared, and when there was a person mentioned, it often wasn't the driver as well, it was commuters or people park on the pavement. So it did seem that this kind of thing you get in the way that ordinary people talk about their experiences as well. It's similar.

Laura Laker [00:10:12] And I guess when you talk about someone, is it just a person or a commuter? You know, they're there for legitimate reasons. You know, you're sort of suggesting.

Rachel Aldred [00:10:21] Yes, I think so, and you didn't really get that with talk about cyclists doing things, it wasn't commuters cycle three red light, whereas the drivers doing bad stuff. It was often commuters or parents park in the way or that kind of thing. It was sort of personalise them in a way that you didn't get about cyclists.

Tara Goddard [00:10:39] And that's something that even in my earlier work, in my dissertation work, looking at these social identity issues where cycling is, this thing that you get associated with, that's like a deep part of your identity, and therefore, when you behave badly, it's like part of your internal motivation to be a jerk or whatever it was. Drivers aren't kind of wrapped up in that idea of being a car user, and then when they behave badly, it's just kind of a one-off event. It's not something like a deep motivation of theirs.

Laura Laker [00:11:07] And then you get the issue of the collective responsibility of being a cyclist and therefore being responsible for members of your own "community", and why don't we sort of deal with them?

Tara Goddard [00:11:22] I call that the exemplar problem. We expect other cyclists to be an exemplar all the time and hold up the whole group.

Laura Laker [00:11:31] You would never say to a speeding driver, you're letting everyone down. You're letting the rest of us down.

Tara Goddard [00:11:38] We should, but we don't.

Kelcie Ralph [00:11:43] It's amazing how pervasive all of this is because even in talking about this research, I've slipped up so many times and said exactly the thing that we're saying "media don't do this". So these are really deeply ingrained.

Tara Goddard [00:11:58] And that's something we talked about, too. Even though we chose to focus on the media and we do think it's important, these patterns are much broader and more pervasive than not, like Kelsey is alluding to, you know, whether it's dinner table conversations or in transportation plans and codified documents, you can see these same patterns replicated.

Rachel Aldred [00:12:20] And it's also it's not totally divorced from reality in a sense, because it does matter that a car hit are not an individual driver, it does make a difference. It's not completely stupid, but it also depersonalises and, you know, avoid blame.

Laura Laker [00:12:36] I think just most people haven't really considered it. We're looking at doing some media reporting guidelines with the Active Travel Academy because of this very issue. And I was speaking to someone from Impress, one of the media regulators in this country and they were saying, you know, they think about the way that the media works all the time and the impact that it has, but they never thought about the transportation piece. And so I think it was quite a revelation, it's just so kind of ingrained. And so your research then it kind of led them to a new a new US study, the one that came out last year, late last year, that was then really interesting for us as we did the Active Travel Media Award, as we could use it as an example of why language matters and why good reporting matters and why less good reporting, bad reporting needs perhaps highlighting. And so maybe you could talk to us about about, that what came next after this first study?

Tara Goddard [00:13:40] Yeah, I'll talk about how it came about and then Kelsey can talk about what we found. So, you know, we found all these pervasive issues. But then the next question, of course, is does it matter? Right. Is this just something that irritates, you know, transportation safety professionals and advocates on Twitter? Or is it something that potentially really has an effect on how people view what's going on or what they think needs to change? And so we devised an experiment where we took one, or really many of what we call the status quo or the common pattern, and we created a hypothetical crash report or a fictional crash report. And then we tweaked it very slightly, relatively subtle. We tweaked it so that there was three versions. So the first version, having the status quo, the passive voice, the focus on the pedestrian, no agent type of work and using the word accident instead of crash. And then the second version, we use the improving. So we said a driver hit instead of a pedestrian was hit, that type of work. And then the third version, we did that same work that we did in the second article, but then we also included some context or what's called thematic framing, tying it to larger issues and trends and also to the built environment at the site. And then we recruited nine hundred ninety nine people, which sounds like a funny number, but it's perfectly divided between three groups. And then we had them read the article and then answer some questions and they didn't know that there was two other versions, so they only saw the version and knew they were answering questions about that.

Kelcie Ralph [00:15:18] And what's sort of amazing is that these very tiny changes that Tara described have a huge effect on how people perceive a crash. So let's just talk about the first sort of issue that we talked about, sentence level grammatical choices. If you shift from pedestrian focussed to driver focussed and you make sure that there is an agent, those two changes reduces blame on the pedestrian by 30 percent and increases blame on the driver by 30 percent, from one article, one time. So I when I'm talking about this work, I get really excited because if we changed every article, every time, you would see this really dramatic change in how we think about who's responsible for these crashes. But like Tara mentioned earlier, we don't just want to blame drivers. There is a systematic problem with our roads. And so that's what that third article was. There we used thematic framing, which explicitly connects the dots between all of the different crashes by, you know, including crash statistics, by describing the location of the crash and describing why a pedestrian might want to cross there in the first place. Including those thematic elements changed how people saw blame as well, and they were much more likely to start to blame other factors or quote unquote, the road system as a whole rather than the driver or the pedestrian. So when we shifted to that third article, we found that readers were much more likely to blame other factors like the road system. But then for me, the most important part of it is that they supported different solutions for improving road safety. So they did this dramatic shift from individual level solutions, like an education campaign, to systems level solutions like adding pedestrian infrastructure and lowering speeds. And if we want to save lives, those are the sorts of things we actually have to do rather than victim blaming.

Tara Goddard [00:17:21] So we had one final question that had a really important outcome is that we asked them about a trade-off. Basically, would you trade off this road that you take every day lower speeds for fewer pedestrian deaths? And it was the people who read those improved article framing, particularly the thematic framing, who are more likely to say, yes, I would accept, you know, the speeds would be lower and we kind of assumed that people in their mind would mean I would take me longer to get where I'm going for a drop in pedestrian deaths.

Laura Laker [00:17:57] But that's amazing, isn't it, because you could argue that the that changes to our streets could hinge on just how we talk about them. It is public acceptance of change is one of the major issues, because it impacts how willing politicians are to make these changes, if they think people don't want them, then they're not going to do them. But if you can talk about road safety in a way that people understand with the context and with the focus in the right place, then you could shift people's perceptions and therefore impacts how likely we are to have safer roads, which is huge, really.

Tara Goddard [00:18:38] It's probably necessary, but not sufficient. But absolutely the first step.

Laura Laker [00:18:46] So a lot of local news reports particularly come from local police reports from the collision. So it's not just the media that needs to be targeted in terms of, you know, thinking about the context, the wider context, who is involved, and also, you know, we need to talk to law enforcement about this as well.

Tara Goddard [00:19:09] That was one of the outcomes I think we were not expecting, but that came out, that was very clear in our first study is how frequently the local news media was just either printing direct quoting the police press report or quoting an officer on scene or clearly paraphrasing, but incorporating the same language from the police reports. And so that was something we identified as absolutely, as you're saying, as a huge issue. So even further upstream from the media reports is how police are thinking about this and how they're trained to speak to the media, whether it's on scene or someone calls them up because they heard about a crash or the official press release, like in the US would be the public information officers, is the title typically. So that's something that we've talked with some law enforcement professionals that are really interested in pursuing and looking at how that process exists now or how it works now to train them or what kind of information they get and then also what might work to get them as well thinking about this a little bit differently, watching out for their own biases that we all have internalised, like Kelsey said, these ways of phrasing things and how that can be improved as well. So that's something we're working on and looking at doing next.

Laura Laker [00:20:30] And Rachel, obviously, this is an American study we're talking about, but it kind of is the same issue that we have in the U.K., isn't it? And I wonder if, obviously this is a similar situation, but it is different. I mean, in the US, we have jaywalking rules and the whole, I guess that language kind of implies if you're on the road, not on a crossing, then you're at fault. But it's a similar issue in the UK, and I wonder if this is the kind of research that we would need here or if there's something that we could take from it.

Rachel Aldred [00:21:05] I mean, I think it's great to have to study and just the evidence that it has. Just looking at one single story has such an impact in how people how people respond and how they blame or don't blame the road users, the road system and so on. So it kind of reminds me of a study that I was involved in looking at coverage of cycling fatalities in London, where the story and it is, I think, involves the media being quite influential in getting a change in cycling policy and getting greater public support for cycling infrastructure, including where it involves taking space away from drivers. And I'm just looking at the chart now that we have in the paper, which is quite stark, which is that generally cycling fatalities didn't get covered in the local London newspaper in the 1990s. And suddenly in the 2000s, they started getting covered more and more to a point where all of them were getting covered in this local newspaper. And I had a student do a bit of a qualitative analysis of this as well. And she found that generally the framing did involve, it wasn't just individual tragedy framing, it was often including comments around the road network and safety for cyclists and putting it in a broader context. So when we read this paper, we thought, well, this seems to be having an impact. The fact that it's being covered and it is being framed in this way, I think is having an impact on policy and public opinion. This paper really suggests in the opposite direction in terms of having, you know, potentially having a negative impact, that this does happen in a measurable way. So, yes, very much. I think we can see the same things happening here, and I'd like to see more research. In fact I was going to ask you, Tara and Kelcie, what kind of follow on research you would think, what needs to be done now following on from this study?

Tara Goddard [00:22:53] Well, actually a question I have for you or speaks to future research, we found reviewing those 200 articles that the media had reached out or spoken to a transportation safety professional or, you know, kind of a road safety advocate zero percent of the time, so in zero of those instances. And so I'm curious if in the study that you did, where there was comments about the road network and points to these larger system issues, if that played a role, that the people who were involved in writing are the people that they consulted, you know, helped make those ties. Because it's not fair, of course, especially in this media environment, to expect all journalists to be experts in road safety or how the networks work. But having those relationships and knowing who you can talk to and reach out to bring that context, we think is potentially really important. And I think that's one thing that would be something going forward to study. Like how could that work differently as far as those relationships or knowing who to talk to and would that have a measurable, positive effect and how these things get talked about?

Rachel Aldred [00:24:04] No, I think that's a really good point, and I'm trying to remember whether we specifically looked at that. But certainly other work that I've done looking at some of these networks in the London context has suggested that, you know, having this coalition where you have some of those road safety experts, transport experts, advocacy people, in those networks together who can share information and educate each other. I think one of the things that happened in London as well was that a lot of the journalists who were writing these stories with themselves cycling or knew people who did, and therefore, you know, some of these issues came into quite sharp relief for them because they were experiencing the same kinds of things on the streets. They were experiencing being second class citizens effectively when they got on their bikes and being treated in a way that, you know, perhaps was different to the ways in which they were treated in other parts of their lives. But, yeah, I think you will also find now more diverse people being quoted, although to be fair as well, this I think the police, the road safety police in London are doing quite a lot of stuff around. For instance, speeding and trying to highlight this is an unacceptable behaviour. So maybe approaches to road safety have also changed as well. And the quotes that you'll get from some of these people were maybe not what you might have got 15 years ago.

Laura Laker [00:25:25] It's interesting to see things shifting, isn't it? And it's interesting to see, I guess the cycling reporting was based on some very effective campaigning from the likes of the London Cycling Campaign in London and we are starting to see this reporting. And Andy Cox is the Met police has been fantastic about speeding because it is obviously one of the major causes of death and serious injury on the roads, and he's all about making it socially unacceptable. I guess that your latest study was about pedestrians. They seem to be, pedestrians, we as we're all pedestrians, seem to be the next kind of group, if you like, of road users who perhaps are getting more of a voice, but have struggled in the past because perhaps they don't associate as one group or they're not associated from the outside as one group. And you wouldn't call yourself a pedestrian. You might call yourself a cyclist, maybe. But, yeah, I think maybe that's the sort of the next thing that people who work in road safety are very keen to push up the agenda because far more people die walking on the roads than cycling. But it just doesn't really get the kind of coverage.

Kelcie Ralph [00:26:42] So one thing that you asked about sort of future work. One thing that I just actually got accepted this week is a paper about distracted pedestrians. And to explain how this links to the media, I have to take one step back, and that is that I asked a bunch of transportation practitioners if they were worried about distracted pedestrians. It turns out they're very worried, right? They estimate that crazy high numbers of people who are dying on our streets are dying because they were distracted. And one of my questions was, where did that come from? And there's this idea called the illusory truth effect. So the more often you hear a fact, or the more often you hear a narrative, or story, the more likely it is to ring true. And we sort of documented in this paper just how prolific and pervasive this coverage of distracted pedestrians was in the United States. I'm not sure if it's the same in the UK. And it just gives such an easy out for the rise in pedestrian deaths, and it doesn't, you know, focus on things like speeding or on driver responsibility whatsoever. So all of these things are linked in the sense that the stories we tell really matter and they're going to shape the things that we do to save lives.

Laura Laker [00:28:02] I think quite often the media is looking for someone to blame, and a lot of the reporting we're seeing around cycling and walking during the Coronavirus crisis is people disobeying the social distancing rules by walking together or cycling together. And people are photo journalists using a telephoto lenses basically to make it look like people walking close together, and they've got like a mile of... there was one from Bournemouth and it was a massive amount. Again, the guy said, I know this route is that this beach. Here's the cliff. And it's like a mile between the sea, but it looks like it's super close!

Tara Goddard [00:28:39] That is a really great example because the guy who debunked that debunked it because he runs it so often. So he's very familiar with the distances, which I think is a great example of how when you do, are you walking or cycling or rolling, you are so much more aware of those parts of the environment and the actual distances and things like that, which is why it's so important to get people out of their vehicles and out of that windshield bias. So I thought that was just like a perfect encapsulation of a lot of things, that story.

Laura Laker [00:29:10] Yeah, and the pedestrian, you asked about the distracted pedestrians is definitely something that editors have said that they might be interested in for me, and I'm just thinking, no, I'm not going to go there.

Tara Goddard [00:29:21] Well, Kelcie's work is so vital because it's not just the media or it's not just the dinner table conversations. It's the professionals who were responsible. And I think much in the way that you talk about the media sometimes or people are looking for a scapegoat or someone to blame, the professionals, in a sense, are too, even if it's subconscious, because if not, they have to take responsibility for the things, the things that we're designing and building. And that's something that like I think the human brain is kind of pushing back against, at least subconsciously saying, no, this is the system. And I think one, you know, and this is a research potential research project is looking at folks who really understand Vision Zero or the safe systems approach and how and talking about planning professionals and engineers and folks like that and then looking at their language around these issues versus people who, again, are more likely to be distracted walker or the scofflaw cyclists or whoever, and not blaming the system, but blaming individuals. I'm sure we could sit here and in an hour come up with four careers worth of.

[00:30:35] It is interesting because it feels like it needs more attention basically, it's like we were saying how we talk about things is so important to how we see, how we perceive the world and stories is so vital. And if we're seeing it kind of upside down, or we're all about individual responsibility when the environment sends us so many cues on how to behave. And I know Rachel has done research on this, about, you know, what's the road space, what's pedestrian space and the things like having road signs on the pedestrian space. And yeah, it's all space for cars, basically in many of our streets. They are the dominant road user, and then everyone else gets blamed if they dare to infringe on that supreme right.

Tara Goddard [00:31:29] Yes. If I could strike one sentence from all the verbiage of this, is all the way we talked about this is "outside of the crosswalk". Because when we talk about pedestrians, right? That's always in there as though they were doing something wrong. But when you're thinking about like how much of the road space is allocated to cars and we funnel pedestrians into these little crosswalks, which may or may not be the safest place to cross or the convenient place across or where the destinations are to across. That, I think, is a good encapsulation of how we set the car user as dominant user.

Rachel Aldred [00:32:07] Yes, it kind of is part of tangible plenty of modelling all the way through really often, isn't it? Because for instance, here we count motor vehicle delays at crossings. We don't count pedestrian delays. So an easy way to solve delay problems is to make pedestrians wait longer. But then you make the pedestrians wait longer, they cross while the pedestrian lights are red. Well, then it's their fault, so it just sort of reinforces the marginalisation of people walking.

Laura Laker [00:32:31] And we could get on to the whole sticky topic of how we prioritise or whose time we value on the roads, but I guess that's a whole other podcast. But it all kind of fits into each other.

Rachel Aldred [00:32:41] Episode two, three, four and five.

Laura Laker [00:32:46] So what would you say, knowing what you know from your research...Well, we're drawing up reporting guidelines for media in the U.K., the Active Travel Academy. What would you say those reporting guidelines should say? What advice should we be giving people working in the media. People who are rushed to get X number of stories out every day, they don't have a lot of time.

Kelcie Ralph [00:33:11] So I would give two pieces of advice. First, at the sentence level, make the driver the focus of your sentence, not the pedestrian. And make sure there is an agent that is the driver and not a car. And then the second thing is harder. And that is to make sure you include some sort of thematic elements. How many crashes have occurred even nationally? The national crash statistics we can look up very easily. It's better if it's a local crash statistics or even hyper local on that particular street, but those are more difficult. And then I guess a third thing, I'm going to be cheeky about the third, is to try in advance of crashes to make a connexion with a planning professional, a transportation professional and advocate. And there's some responsibility on their end as well to reach out proactively, so that there's some sort of expert knowledge included in the article beyond just the driver who described that pedestrian darted out in front of them. And we need more context than that.

Tara Goddard [00:34:22] And I would add that even within the constraints of being, you know, really stretched thin and having to get something out very quickly, you know, as a reporter, it is part of your job to critically think about what it is you're reproducing or reporting on. So, you know, the local news media, their job is not just to replicate uncritically what the police press report says. So take that executive decision or whatever to say, well, even if this is how the police worded it, we're going to word it in a way that's more appropriate. We can say the police report said, however, and then adding these elements or fixing these elements that Kelcie is talking about, I think even in the constraints. And I think too pretty much everywhere there's going to be people in your communities that care about these things. So telling them or helping them understand what they can do to help you, if they want to help you make your job easier or, you know, help you on these issues. So it doesn't need to be an antagonistic relationship at all. It's just about what do you need to be successful in the constraints of your job. and are there any things that they can do to make that easier?

Kelcie Ralph [00:35:39] I thought of another one.

Laura Laker [00:35:41] Yes, come on!

Kelcie Ralph [00:35:43] All of the news coverage that we saw, it was digital news coverage. And so they always had a photo. Not always. Often had a photo. Often a stock photo of a cop car or maybe a bicycle on the ground sort of destroyed by a car. And one thing that we found very effective was when they included a Google Earth for Google Street View image of the roadway. Because suddenly you no longer think, gosh, this is some idiot pedestrian who darted out. There's no sidewalk. It's four lanes wide. You know, it's clearly forty five miles an hour. And so that kind of context is also really helpful and can happen in seconds without visiting the site.

Laura Laker [00:36:25] Super interesting about the Google Street View thing; I write for a Website. And sometimes you have to find your own photographs.

[00:36:32] And we do end up going to Google Street View just because, you know, resources and I'd never thought of it as a useful way of depicting, you know, why something may have gone wrong at that location.

Tara Goddard [00:36:46] One my favourite...So we read all 200 of those articles. And one that I was tapped for reading was a "man was hit, right walking and he was walking in the street". And this article was from February in a place with snow and I Google Street view the location because I was curious and there were no sidewalks and there were four lanes. I mean, this was not pulled out of nowhere. And of course, the man was walking in the streets. There was no other option. And that simple thing changed the entire story.

Laura Laker [00:37:19] That's amazing. Thanks so much to Tara Goddard and Kelcie Ralph for coming on the podcast. We'll put a link to their study in the notes. And now for part two of the Active Travel Podcast, we are continuing the theme of media reporting impactive travel with Cristina Caimotto who is talking to us all the way from Turin. She's discussing her book, 'Discourses of Cycling, Road Users and Sustainability and Eco Linguistic Investigation' and Rachel will introduce her.

Rachel Aldred [00:37:49] So hi, Christina. So you've written a really interesting book. Discuss the cycling, road users and sustainability. So it's due out in July, but I was lucky enough to be able to look at an advanced copy and one chapter in particular is relevant to our theme this week. But I think the whole book more generally is because it's about how we talk about road users and cycling or cyclists in particular. And I wonder if first of all if you could just describe the general idea of the book to our listeners, what is it about?

Cristina Caimotto [00:38:18] Thank you. I'm very happy to be talking to you. So the idea is that from the perspective of my discipline, which is critical discourse analysis and the idea of critical discourse analysis, it is to investigate how language reinforces power in society and how language can be used to change the balance of power. But the power between the various actors that are involved in mobility choices has never been analysed from discourse perspective. Because apart from being a linguist, I'm also a cyclist advocate, I thought I might try to bring discourse analysis to cycling discourse.

Rachel Aldred [00:39:10] Brilliant. 

Cristina Caimotto [00:39:10] So that's the general idea.

Rachel Aldred [00:39:12] Great. So you mentioned already being a linguist. Is this the first time you looked at cycling?

Cristina Caimotto [00:39:19] Well, I studied, I’d say, political discourse mainly both in translation and, you know, or only focussing on English and basically looking at ideology and as I said, strategies to promote a certain kind of worldview. And on the other hand, strategies to try and change things. And I've also worked on sustainability, focussing in particular on greenwashing and how English is used in Italian to promote a certain view, you know, related to the market and promotion of consumerism.

Rachel Aldred [00:40:06] Fantastic. So how did you come up with the idea of looking at cycling specifically? What motivated you?

Cristina Caimotto [00:40:12] I was involved in a local association in my city, Turin. As you may know, Turin is the city of Fiat and so it's a city where driving is promoted and has always being promoted in all the possible ways. I've always been a cyclist. I've always moved around Turin on my bicycle.

[00:40:33] I became involved in a local association called Bike Ride. We organise a parade every year. And I was the president of the association for one year in 2016 when we were electing the current mayor. And I realised, you know, I was often involved in debates with local administration, etcetera. And I realised that the kind of discourses that I was working was working on with my students concerning racism and sexism and human rights. Exactly the same strategies were coming up in this debate about what should be prioritised, why should we stop prioritising cars and what are the rights of people? Why, you know, why should we pay attention to other aspects? And so I thought, OK, here we have something new for linguistics.

Rachel Aldred [00:41:25] Wow, indeed. And you're analysing a range of different data sources in the book. You've got media reports, you've got policy documents, you've got secondary qualitative data interviews. So how did you decide what kind of documents to look at, what kind of data that was?

Cristina Caimotto [00:41:43] That was difficult. It took a long time. Well, I just I just started looking at various different documents. And on one hand, documents trying to promote cycling. You know, basically the question I think we all try to answer is why we have all these data and we have all this evidence that cycling is so good. So why is it not working? Why are not people choosing to promote cycling as much as we would expect, given all the evidence we have? And yes, I tried to to answer this question from the perspective of a linguist. And the idea is that framing is mainly basic, important starting point. And I refer in particular to the work of George Lakoff. He has a very interesting paper "Why it matters how we frame the environment", where he explains that we suffer from what he calls tragic hyper cognition. We conceive humanity as something separate from the environment. And this idea is so deeply embedded in our way of thinking that we find it very difficult to think in different terms and look at things from a different perspective. Reframing is a very complex process. And the first thing you need to do is identify what is not working. So I was trying to find out what is not working in the way cycling and cyclists are talked about in several kinds of documents and sources. So the first case study I worked on was the way in which some newspapers in Britain reported the collision which took place in London, where Kim Briggs lost her life. And what I was interested in was not the event itself or the court case itself and you know the specific ways in which it was analysed, but rather how newspapers used that case as, let's say, an excuse to portray cycling and cyclists in particular in a very negative light. And to do this, I used the the discursive strategies to your analysis created by Teun van Dijk, who worked on racist discourse in the press. And he basically has what he calls six discursive moves. And he looks for these moves in the newspaper articles in order to identify how racism is presented as something not racist, first of all, but something reasonable, acceptable, and something that makes sense in many ways. And so I use this six discoursive moves to analyse the articles about the collision. And I found the same discoursive strategies to actually attack all cyclists and and portray cycling as something problematic that needs to be tamed, to be controlled, to be cancelled in many ways. And also, the interesting thing that Van Dijk points out is that, this moves to justify what is actually racist discourse, often criticise a whole group when they should actually just be criticising the actions of one person. And also the the anti-racists are described as the real enemy. And we see something similar in the way in which the cyclist advocates are the real enemy when it comes to finding out who is responsible for the the war between cars and bicycle's or drivers and cyclists.

Laura Laker [00:46:13] And these were common pieces, weren't they? From four different newspapers. There was one by Janet Street Porter I think, it got quite a lot of traction, she was in the Times, right. And then there was that one in The Guardian, one in the Independent and one in the Scottish Daily Mail.

Cristina Caimotto [00:46:32] That's right, yes.

Laura Laker [00:46:32] It's kind of shocking to hear someone comparing anti-Cyclist language with racist language. And I know that is something that some people have said and perhaps said, you know, quietly or with a slight element of embarrassment. And, you know, the history of racism has a huge amount of violence and oppression involved in it. So I don't know, one wonders if so, comparing it with racism might be going a bit far.

Cristina Caimotto [00:47:05] It's not really about that, and I don't want to compare the kind of discrimination and suffering that is linked to to racism. Absolutely not. This is about just discursive structure, it's all about the language. It's it's one method that you can use again. Something similar has been done by a big group of psychologists who use the strategies to detect dehumanisation and try the same by interviewing drivers and finding out the same kind of attitude, the same kind of strategies that happen towards cyclists. So it's about methodology really and we are not comparing what has been done, for example, in concentration camps, to what is being done to people's cycle, of course not. But the kind of triggers are the same. That's the interesting thing, because once you can pin down what is actually going on, you can you can make sense of it. For example, I think it's interesting to look at what what happened in the article from The Guardian, where the journalist was trying to create some kind of dialogue with the readers, and in particular, he was trying to address cyclists in a friendly way.

Laura Laker [00:48:43] That was the most subtle one that you came across.

Cristina Caimotto [00:48:46] Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think some of the aspects that you can observe intent in that article are probably subconscious for the writer. And in particular, I was looking at the headline that says cyclists must realise they are traffic, too. Now, if we imagine...this is this is a strategy we often use in linguistics, because if you hear the sentence, even as the cyclist at first you think, oh, yes, that makes sense. You know, we need to be aware of the fact that we can hurt someone. And in that case, it was there were tragic consequences. But, of course, if we hurt someone with our bicycle, there are likely to be consequences. But thing is, if you imagine the same headline about a collision that killed a pedestrian, you know, a car killing, someone driving, killing a pedestrian, and you imagine something like, oh, 'drivers should realise they are traffic to'. Doesn't make any sense? Right? In fact, killing someone by running into them with your bicycle is an extremely unlikely event. It can happen, unfortunately, but it's extremely likely, so most of the time you don't expect it. But the implication of the article was cyclists are not aware of this. The unsaid implication is, on the contrary, drivers are. But if we look at the statistics, we know that most collisions happen because people are looking at the phones or they are not payong attention, they are driving too fast, they are driving when drunk and so on. So that obviously means that drivers are not aware that they can kill, or they don't show it by the way, they behave. And of course, here I'm talking about drivers, as if all drivers wear the same. Which, again, of course, is false. So coming back to the headline now, this headline implies that cyclists are not aware of the kind of danger that they could generate. But if we turn it around, there you see the subtle implication, drivers are good and cyclists are bad. Which I think is not what the journalist meant, but it is there when you look at it.

Laura Laker [00:51:18] And it is so interesting reading how you really sort of take apart the nuts and bolts of the article. And I wonder, as a journalist myself, sometimes you writing and you you might not you don't think about it on this level. It's very much subconscious. And so it is quite interesting because intuitively, you know, when something's not right and in the context of cycling, as I cycle to obviusly, but you can'y always say why, even if you are doing this for a living. So I'm wondering with with journalists writing this stuff, you know, there's definitely something subconscious going on. How do you how do you kind of address that?

Cristina Caimotto [00:51:56] It's always I mean, language is subconscious most of the time. Whether we are listening or reading or writing or speaking, most of what we understand, most of what we communicate is subconscious. This is particularly evident when we use metaphors because a metaphor is something that the listener or reader understands by finding the connexion between what we call source domain and target domain. So what we are actually talking about and the image we are using to describe what we're talking about. But yes, most of it is subconscious. And it is influenced by what we call a dominant ideology. I think the problem when we try to promote cycling is that we are using dominant discourse without realising it. And what we are actually doing, we are reinforcing a certain kind of mentality, which is actually detrimental to the promotion of cycling.

Laura Laker [00:53:06] And the dominant discourse is, well, your literature review noted that 61 percent of articles involving cyclists had a broadly negative sentiment. And there was a subtle but consistent blaming of vulnerable road users in the media. So that's the dominant discourse, isn't it? I wonder, do you mean that kind of dominant discourse sneaks into or bleeds into positive promotion of cycling, too?

[00:53:34] Yes, I think it does. I think this can be seen in the way the promotion of cycling often uses the same strategies to promote any other kind of business. So the business side of it becomes dominant in this kind of attitude where we try to convince local administrations or the government that promoting cycling and increasing the number of people cycling is a good idea because it will mean something positive for the economy and it will boost green jobs and it will be positive for business. And the cost for the NHS will go down because the number of people having a heart attack or being obese would go down and so on and so forth. So of course, all these aspects are perfectly true and they're also important. The problem is that these becomes the dominant aspect. And if these become the dominant aspect, if money, business become the main thing, then the problem is that the current system pre-coronavirus is somehow working. You know, from the point of view of business and the economy, you have something that is working against something that might work. Which one will you choose?

Laura Laker [00:55:07] Protecting the status quo.

Cristina Caimotto [00:55:09] The one that works!

Laura Laker [00:55:09] Exactly.

Cristina Caimotto [00:55:10] Exactly. So the point is, we all know this very well as cycling advocates. Right. The reason why we want to increase the number of people cycling is related to air pollution, is related to feeling better, not being stressed on your way to work or wherever else, is reducing the likeliness of yourself or people you love being killed in a collision. This is not about business. Business is one part of it. OK. Now, the interesting thing in this historic moment is that the narrative of the protection of the economy has been suspended for a while. Right now we are protecting life rather than the economy. And, you know, from the perspective of climate change, this was not happening because the life that I wanted to be protected was the life polar bears, trees in the forest, distant, know something away, while right now the life we are protecting is our own. So, you know, the reaction is, of course, different. And so right now, the narrative of first we need to protect the economy has been suspended. And the narrative is, first, we need to protect human life. But the problem is we should stop thinking of it in terms of a dichotomy. It's not the economy against life. It's finding a way of bringing the two things together and remembering that the economy is something that should make us feel better. It's not something more important than feeling better. It's a very simple message in the end. When you look at the language we use, it is this very simple message, most of the time.

Laura Laker [00:57:16] And it's really interesting, isn't because that change of discourse has perhaps enabled the kind of changes to the streets of many cities around the world that we, that people have been calling for for decades but haven't happened to date. And it's because of that threat to safety and the protection of people we now see more than ever is crucial to our lives and our safety and the running of the food system and, you know, our shops that we need to get our food. And these kind of emergency cycle lanes and perhaps that discourse has helped to enable that protection of people finally on the streets rather than protecting the so-called rights of people in vehicles to move as fast as they want to.

[00:58:04] Hopefully, hopefully, that the debate is going on, isn't it? Some countries are. Some countries were very quick to create temporary cycle lanes and expand the space for people to walk and people cycle while in other countries, this is taking longer time. And I'm following the local debate in Turin, and it's being hard, because we know that there is one political side that is pushing for "We need to protect the people from catching the virus on public transport, and we need to allow them to go by car because that's the safe way of doing it". So you have to fight that kind of ideology.

Laura Laker [00:58:53] And another thing that you noted in your chapter on the Charlie Alliston case was the sort of links between discrimination in discourse and threats, and which is quite interesting. And I think that Australian study on the dehumanisation of cyclists found the same thing, that the more people saw cyclists as other than human, the more likely they were to act out violently against them. Which is quite interesting. And so this kind of discourse as it is, can have very negative impacts on people's safety. You know, it's part of a continuum, I think you said, but also, if we could change that discourse, then perhaps we could reduce those kind of acts of violence on the road between drivers. Well, when drivers act dangerously around people cycling.

Cristina Caimotto [00:59:46] Yeah. And that's the first thing we need to do is to stop talking about cyclists and pedestrians and drivers because this creates different categories and that the whole narrative of the war on the roads is based on the idea that different groups, different categories are fighting for space on the road. This is why I thought it would be interesting to look at it from the perspective of racist discourse. And by the way, something fascinating is also that, of course, racist or any other you can think of any kind of discrimination, also sexism, for example. So these are these kinds of discrimination discriminate people for a characteristic which is always part of their identity. While in the case of cyclists, of course, it's not, we are not cyclists 100% of the time. So this idea that people can be classified as cyclists or drivers or pedestrians when we really think about it doesn't make any sense.

Laura Laker [01:00:59] Like calling someone a gardener because they like to they like to keep their garden nice.

Cristina Caimotto [01:01:07] Exactly. So it shows you that there is there is something ideological going on when you divide people like that. And in fact, another document I analysed in my work, the 2018 Mayor's Transport Strategy. I noticed that the word cyclist is never used. And when I looked at the, you can also download a draft that was published a few months before the official document. And I think there are four or five occurrences of the word cyclist in that draft. And they were removed. So it's clear that they really paid attention to that. And the word used was Londoners. We're talking about London as we're talking about citizens, not about different categories. And then to refer to the various ways of moving around, they use people cycling or people walking or active mobility to talk about both, people using public transport. And very interestingly, from a linguistic perspective, when talking about people driving, they don't use the verb, but most of the time they use car dependency. And so this is also fascinating because another problem that you have when you try to promote cycling and convince people to reduce their car use, sometimes, you know, also cycling advocates make the mistake of actually accusing people drive because of their choice, implying that their choice is stupid or just thinking for themselves. And you don't convince people by accusing them. And so the idea that they talk about car dependency implies that the people who drive don't choose, that they depend on the car. And the discourse in that document is that the administration is responsible for this dependency and the administration of the city has to do something to help people get rid of their dependency, just as if they were talking about drugs or alcohol or any kind of other dependency you can think of.

Laura Laker [01:03:42] And driving has been compared with smoking, hasn't it, in terms of impact somehow?

Cristina Caimotto [01:03:48] Yeah, exactly. Of course.

Rachel Aldred [01:03:50] And so the media analysis is focussed on the U.K. media. Do you think, I know you haven't studied it, but do you think that other European media is similar? Is the U.K. particularly bad or do you think these patterns are probably found elsewhere, too?

Cristina Caimotto [01:04:08] Well, the country I know well, of course, is Italy, and it's probably even worse. No, this is happening all over the place. And yes, thing is, it's part of the dominant mentality and it's linked to neoliberalism. It's linked to the way we focus on efficiency. So, for example, that the idea that making the traffic flow is the most important thing for citizens. So this is a very deep idea that drives the choices of many policymakers. And they think they're doing the right thing when they when they make that choice. So, yes, it has to do with with the dominant mentality. And in order to change the dominant mentality, you need to work on language.

Laura Laker [01:05:14] How do you do that?

[01:05:16] That's the difficult question. Well, first of all, you need to be aware of it, because I think many journalists, many activists, many people involved in trying to change things, are not aware of the fact that in many ways the language we use doesn't help us at all in the sense that, for example, this idea that we are part of the environment is extremely difficult to be explained with words, because the very words we use conceive humans as separate from the embodied environment is something that surrounds us. It's not a system of which we are part. So how do you change it? You can work on metaphors. For example, pay attention to the metaphors. One source I used a lot in in my book is the work of Gerlinde Mautner, who talks about marketisation, and she shows how the language of the market is dominant across all kinds of discourses that have nothing to do with the market and market logic. So, for example, she looks at religious discourse. She looks at books about self-help. So she has many different examples where she shows how the dominant language, which is the one of the market, is used through metaphors. Of course, we have other metaphors from other domains, like we can have military metaphors. But when we see those metaphors, we notice them. All of us have noticed how we've been talking about the Covid-19 as a war. But when we have this kind of metaphors from the market, we don't notice. So, for example, the ECF, the European Cyclists Federation, I analysed their document, which is called the EU Cycling Strategy, and they often repeat added value. Added value is the kind of language taken from the market, right? So why are you using those words to talk about the value of feeling better if you cycle to work? You can you can use other words, but you choose to use the ones from the dominant discourse, because the dominant discourse is powerful. And instinctively, we always try to imitate the dominant discourse. This is something that happens all the time. It's we always imitate the ones we we want to be with, the ones that are dominant because it's powerful. And instinctively we think that our discourse will be powerful as well if we use their language. The problem is that in this case, we are trying to promote a new kind of perspective, a new paradigm, and you must use a different language.

Laura Laker [01:08:20] I'm sure it's conscious. In many cases it's appealing to this dominant discourse because you feel that people might listen to you perhaps as an organisation or listen accept your cause or if you're talking to someone in their own language, almost.

Cristina Caimotto [01:08:37] Yes, that's what happens. That's the process, and it's a very natural process. And in some ways it works, of course. My point is that when you're trying to promote cycling, you need to be aware of the deep links between neoliberalism and auto-mentality, so centred on the automobile. So these two things are deeply linked. So when you use that kind of dominant language, you're actually promoting the dominance of cars. And if you're trying to promote a change and to reduce the number of people using cars, you should not use that language or at least you need to be aware of the dangers.

Laura Laker [01:09:22] And I think you talked about in your chapter on media, in your book, about how it needs to be more revolutionary, the language, instead of being about the status quo. It's about making a dramatic change.

Cristina Caimotto [01:09:37] Yes. Well, I was referring to the work of Corrado Poli, who identified three ways of thinking about mobility. One he calls traditional, so it's based on the market logic, which is "OK, if there are traffic jams, it means the demand for space is increasing, so we need to provide more space for cars". So that's the traditional which we have seen at work.

Laura Laker [01:10:11] We call it predict and provide.

Cristina Caimotto [01:10:13] Exactly. And then there is the second one, which is about moving, shifting some of the people from cars to public transport and basically maintaining the same level, the same number of people moving around. And I think it's interesting he compares this to the need to reduce waste. And he says, in terms of waste management, it has been understood that the only way of improving waste management is to reduce the production of useless packaging. It will not solve the problem of waste unless you reduce useless packaging. And he says the revolutionary approach has to start from the same idea. So that the fact that we need to reduce how much we move. We need to reduce the demand because the amount that we need to move around is not sustainable.

Laura Laker [01:11:16] The cars are being used, this packaging or the excess. So they use this packaging or both?

Cristina Caimotto [01:11:22] Yes, the trips. And again, this is something that we might be able to learn from the lockdown experience. Maybe some people, maybe some companies will realise how the need to go to an office, to have online meetings that you put out from home, you know, it's unnecessary. Just stay home or work maybe one or two kilometres from your house. But not travelling far to do something that you can do from home. So this could be one one aspect. Another one is shopping nearby rather than travelling by car, you know, to a distant shopping centre and so on. All these kinds of changes that would be brought upon.

Laura Laker [01:12:09] Yeah, super interesting. And I'm sure I can imagine a lot of people are going to be in the campaigning world, and the policy world are going to find this super interesting, because it was really interesting for me reading what you've written and looking at the kind of language and just talking about just doing things differently, not trying to go along with the dominant discourse, but trying to change that discourse.

Cristina Caimotto [01:12:34] What one thing I suggest is to frame it as wellbeing so that refers to the approach I've used, the one of eco linguistics. So eco linguistics is about creating new narratives, new framing, new ways of using language to improve life. So that the importance of life and the protection of life and the forces of well-being are really at the centre of the new kind of discourse that we can create. And this is also linked. We can think of the doughnut economy. You know, that's a good metaphor, for example. So it's something that you desire, right? It's not about giving up something, because if we talk about it in terms of what we should give up, then this kind of discourse is not likely to be accepted. It has to be framed in terms of it's going to be better. It's about our well-being. It's about being happier, and we were, for all the various reasons, for health reasons, for the fact that you feel better, that you have more time for yourself. You know, we know all the various reasons why we promote cycling, but we need to make them evident in the kind of language that we use because we tend to hide them, because we take them for granted. We think it's obvious if you cycle, it's better than being in a car. But people who spend our life being in a car don't know. So we need to explain why. And it's not because you save money. Of course you do save money. But that's not the point. It's like telling someone who smoke you should stop because you save money. It would not do it for that reason, that that might be one of the reasons, but you would not convince people to stop smoking only through that. Of course, it's very hard to convince someone to stop smoking. But people who convinced themselves, do not do it because of the money. They do it for for other reasons. I'm sure that money is only one part of it, you should not frame it as the dominant part because it isn't what you think.

Laura Laker [01:14:49] That's an area for future study. You can more sort of eco linguistics around active travel.

Cristina Caimotto [01:14:54] Hope so. I think it's important, too, to look at it from from the perspective of language, because it's something that non linguists are not really aware of because, as we said, it's mainly subconscious.

Laura Laker [01:15:10] Yes. Yes. Well, thank you so much. And I look forward to reading the whole thing.

Cristina Caimotto [01:15:16] Thank you. Thank you very much.

[01:15:18] Thank you.

[01:15:19] That was great.

Laura Laker [01:15:20] That's it for our pilot episode of the Active Travel Podcast. Thanks to all our guests. Tara Goddard, Kelcie Ralph and Cristina Caimotto. We've put a link to Cristina's book in the notes and on the Website, that's now available from Palgrave. And we'll also have the link to the previous study we discussed. You can find the Active Travel Podcast online on our and you can follow us on Twitter at Active Travel Academy @Active_ATA. Let us know what you think. Drop us a tweet or an email at Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

More Episodes


Still I Ride 1: How women of colour are challenging discourses in and through cycling

So, in a culture, where the car is really dominant, being a cyclist can make it feel like you’re a second class citizen. And if you already feel invisible in society, because of your identity, because of who you are or the way you look, it may seem odd that you would opt for more of these othering experiences by choosing to cycle, especially if you then also don’t see yourself represented in the cycling culture or don’t feel like you’re part of the wider cycling community.But how much do we know about the different experiences of underrepresented groups who do cycle? How much do we know about the experiences of Women of Colour who cycle? And we know that they do – I know we do – as I am one myself. My name is Dulce Pedroso and I live and ride my bike in Bristol. I got a grant through the Active Travel Academy Justice in and for Active Travel initiative for researching this topic for my Masters. So, what I did for my research, I got my bike and myself on the train and traveled to different parts of the country to ride with and talk with m nine women who all identify as a Woman of Colour and, for whom cycling is a big part of their lives.I feel really privileged to have been able to talk to these women who are all really impressive and influential in different ways, whether that is as ride leaders, social media influencers and cycling advocates or cycling industry insiders or just as a friend or family to encourage people to ride more.So, what you are about to hear is the first part of a two-part mini podcast put together from the conversations we had back in May. I recorded these conversations while we were riding our bikes so the sound quality isn’t always great and unfortunately you will not hear everyone I spoke to, but if you are interested in the research and want to find out more, you can find out more via the Active Travel Academy, or find me on Instagram.In this first part you will hear how Sahar, Vera, Mildred, Tina Susan and Sidrah got into cycling and the role cycling now plays in their lives. You’ll hear about the impact of cycle friendly infrastructure, different community projects and initiatives, cycling clubs and family, friends and partners have had on their cycling. You can also start to get a sense of the way cycling has been represented in the mainstream as largely masculine, often White and middle class, sporty activity which may make it trickier to those who don’t see themselves in that image to identify as a cyclist. But I hope you will also take away the positivity and joy in these conversations and I love how these women are talking about how cycling has given them confidence and mental resilience and voice.I really enjoyed recording these conversations and I hope that you enjoy listening to them.

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: 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's people 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, 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 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) Sharing the Load (2020 winner)Part one: two: of interviewLaura Laker 0:02  Hi 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 Critchell 1:27  Hi Laura, thanks for having me.Laura Laker 1:29  Yeah 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 Critchell 2:26  Yeah, 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 Laker 5:36  the closure of the bridge that inspired you to quit your job was it, because I notice it happened in the same month.Charles Critchell 5:43  No I don't think so.Laura Laker 5:48  I'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 Critchell 6:06  yeah 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 Laker 6:42  That 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 Critchell 7:02  Yes, 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 Laker 7:22  And so, you found that a lot of people basically wanted to keep the bridge open to people walking and cycling yeahCharles Critchell 7:28  so 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 Laker 10:19  yeah 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 Critchell 10:41  Yeah, 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 Laker 12:26  you 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 Critchell 13:23  Yeah, 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 Laker 16:27  I 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 Critchell 18:00  So 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 Laker 18:44  It 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 Critchell 19:02  I 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 Laker 20:22  Yeah, 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 Critchell 20:42  Yeah, 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 Laker 23:04  So by communal use, you mean what?Charles Critchell 23:06  So 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 Laker 24:08  so 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 Critchell 24:19  Yeah, 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 Laker 24:57  Yeah, 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 Critchell 25:30  Yeah, 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 Laker 26:52  yes 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 Critchell 27:46  Yeah, 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 Laker 29:03  The 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 Critchell 29:31  Yeah, 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 Laker 31:14  in terms of Fare City itself, we're kind of working on this voluntarily. Am I right?Charles Critchell 31:23  I 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 Laker 32:29  I 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 Critchell 33:07  Yeah, 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 Laker 34:06  Will these be paid gigs do you think? I guess no-one is getting paid yet.Charles Critchell 34:11  I 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 Laker 34:57  yeah 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 Critchell 35:49  Yeah 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 Laker 39:10  thank you for coming on it's been great. AllCharles Critchell 39:13  Great, thanks a lot, Laura. Yeah, really enjoyed it.Laura Laker 39:17  You've been listening to the Active Travel Podcast. You can find us online our website at 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 Thanks for listening. Until next time.