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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: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590198219300727


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

https://www.palgrave.com/9783030440251.


TRANSCRIPT


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 http://blog.westminster.ac.uk/ata/podcast/ 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 activetravelacademy@westminster.ac.uk. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

More Episodes

8/28/2020

Cycling for Everyone: how we get there

Season 1, Ep. 7
Sustrans’ and Arup’s new report, Cycling for Everyone, was published at a time when both the Black Lives Matter movement and the active travel movement are at the forefront of public discussion. Susan Claris is one of the report’s authors, and Global Active Travel Leader at Arup, and Daisy Narayanan is Sustrans’ Director of Urbanism.Coincidentally launched the day Boris Johnson’s government announced its Gear Change document, setting out a path to cycling growth in England, Cycling for Everyone identifies through interviews, data and analysis who is cycling, but also crucially, who isn’t, why, and how greater diversity in cycling can be achieved.Cycling in the UK is predominantly white and male: 85% of people aged over 65, as well as around three quarters of disabled people, women, people at risk of deprivation and people from ethnic minority groups, never cycle. Quantitative data can only tell us so much, however, and although different people face different barriers, many of the issues stopping us cycling more are similar, from safety fears, to access and affordability, to perceptions of competence.As Susan Claris puts it, inclusion is more than making things step-free – it's about looking at the impact of infrastructure from the broadest possible perspective. This means where we design our cycling infrastructure, how, and with who in mind - and the report acknowledges we need to do better in our public spaces, and offers some pointers as to how we can do that.Cycling for Everyone provides not only a call to action to level the field for more people to cycle, but a platform to achieve greater diversity in cycling at a time when we could be on the cusp of great leaps in active travel participation and, if we heed the report’s lessons, far greater diversity, too.As Daisy Narayanan writes in her forward to the report: "Only by ensuring that voices of underrepresented groups are integrated in policy, planning, design and implementation, can we ensure that we create places that meet the needs of the diversity of people who want to use them."You can read the Cycling for Everyone report here: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/media/7377/cycling_for_everyone-sustrans-arup.pdfTranscript Laura Laker0:00Hi and welcome to the Active Travel podcast. Brought to you by the Active Travel Academy, which is part of the University of Westminster in London. I'm Laura Laker, an active travel journalist. Now we know cycling has benefits for physical and mental health as a low cost transport, for independent access to services, work and education, but there are people across society who can't access cycling. The most recent National Travel Attitudes Survey found two thirds of adults feel it's too dangerous to cycle and cycling is still predominantly something done by a small proportion of the population. In other words, it's not very diverse. According to a new report by Sustrans and Arup, Cycling for Everyone. 85% of people over 65, and around three quarters of disabled people, women, people at risk of deprivation and people from ethnic minority groups, never cycle. This report is what we're talking about today, what it tells us about why certain people don't cycle and what can be done to change that. So with me today, is one of the report's authors, Susan Claris, who is the global active travel leader at Arup. Hi, Susan.Susan Claris1:07Hello,Laura Laker1:08and Daisy Narayanan, who is Sustrans' director of urbanismDaisy Narayanan1:13Hi Laura.Laura Laker1:14Hi. So, yeah, thanks for coming on the podcast. It's great to have you both on; can you just tell our listeners a little bit about how the report came about, and who it's aimed at.Susan Claris1:26It's actually got quite an interesting story because I had to remind myself of this one it was it was actually from the Arup side, it was a colleague who joined us as a graduate back in 2015, and he'd done his dissertation on cycling, and older people. And shortly after joining us he sort of said, you know, there's not much guidance out there, wouldn't it be good if we could actually do something to look into this subject. And it took a bit of while to get it, get it all going but from that we had discussions with Sustrans. And the idea came about drawing on the Sustrans Bike Life data to actually produce his guide that would actually show how cycling can be made more inclusive and really can be made for everyone so that that was the background of it from the Arup side I don't know whether Daisy wants to talk about it from the Sustrans perspective.Daisy Narayanan2:12Yeah, I mean, just adding to what he said Susan from a Sustrans perspective, all Sustrans strategic priorities have 'for everyone' at its very heart. So, the whole concept of inclusive design has been something that me and Sustrans are really wanting to focus on, so it is so timely, this conversation with Arup, what bike life was saying to us as well. For the past year, you know, talking about diversity and inclusion and all set within the wider context of climate change, and the whole conversation around black lives matter and inclusion I think this is such a timely report, and you know it's been wonderful working with colleagues at Arup to bring this together.Laura Laker2:53It's really exciting isn't it because, as you say, inclusivity has become so much more prominent in public discussion as has the need for cycling infrastructure and active travel infrastructure in general, it feels like these agendas have really, risen just at the time that this report has come out. I know that you're working on it since 2019 and there's been a bunch of stages, including a literature review there was the bike life data, you've had focus groups where you've talked to people about why they don't cycle or why they do, and working out what you can do about that, you've had workshops with decision makers in the transport sector. And there's a database now of case studies of successful projects. And one of the things that Sustrans has found out through its Bike Life surveys, it's not that people don't want to cycle. 55% of people from ethnic minority groups, 38% of people at risk of deprivation 36% of women and 31% of disabled people who don't cycle would like to start. So that's a that's a huge amount.Susan Claris3:54I think if those surveys were actually redone now those numbers would be even higher. So if you think those those surveys were pre COVID pre lockdown and we've seen what a huge upsurge there's been an interest in cycling, as I said those numbers I think would be so much higher now.Daisy Narayanan4:09Absolutely I couldn't agree more. You know, we've seen that in our own areas and over lockdown we've seen this massive increase in in cycling and all kinds of people cycling, not just the usual people that you expect to see on our road cycling and I think that's been, you know, it's not you can have surveys and reports and all of that out there and statistics, but for me what has been really really powerful about this process is getting stories from people you know just understanding, getting right into the depths of why what the barriers are. And I think that's been really powerful in the report but more than that, you know, as Susan was saying, during lockdown. That's being so visible now, all of us can see how that change is required and people want that change to happen. And that, to me forms, quite a strong foundation for for going forward into policymaking going forward.Laura Laker5:10And the report, sort of touches on issues affecting different groups of people as statistics from earlier older people as women as people from ethnic minorities, people with disabilities. And although there are different needs across different groups there is a commonality isn't there there are sort of common themes that come up, and you have to, you know, obviously the roads have been quieter and so a lot of people have been cycling so road safety is going to be one of them. Can you say a bit more about other sort of common themes that we saw across different groups in terms of what's stopping them from cycling what would help them to do so.Susan Claris5:46Yeah, I mean in terms of the report we've sort of grouped the actions into into three main areas, so better places is certainly one of those three themes which is about safety, road safety, but it's also about sort of personal safety and harassment. That sadly has come through quite strongly. It is about the importance of cycling infrastructure being fully inclusive. So there's a very strong focus on the places but that it that that's not enough so that's why we focus on the other two key areas which is to be more inclusive in terms of governance and planning and decision making. And then also this welcome and support for for people to cycle. It sort of, it's not just I think we've moved from, you know, a few years ago. Cycling was not much thought about at all then we will onto the wall stick in a cycle lane and tick the box and we've done that. We've moved to well let's count how many people use it. And now we're moving on to saying well actually, you know, who are those people and who aren't those people and I think it's understanding, broadening the understanding of what inclusion is all about. So I think, you know, for TfL, Transport for London, for a long time inclusion has been about making things step-free. Make it step-free, that's inclusion. I think many people who think about it in terms of gender, but actually it's actually looking at it from the broadest possible perspective to make sure it's fully inclusive for everyone, and that's that's a real shift and that's going to take a lot more than, than purely infrastructure, it goes much wider than that.Daisy Narayanan7:21And adding to what is missing as well you know there's something about the language we use, and making sure that the imagery that we have, you know, that that talks to cycling is not just you know what you see generally, it has to be truly inclusive, it has to reflect our communities, our places. And again, you know, for me, if you step back and take a look at what what inclusive places means and there is, there is a danger in my mind about the word inclusive becoming, you know, becoming use so much you know it becomes a word like sustainable, or resilient, it becomes one of those words that are used quite often without quite going into the depth of what that means. And again you know what Susan was saying, a place has to be inclusive, it has to be welcoming for everybody regardless of age or race or faith and ability or income, all of that has to be part of it. And cycling that fits into that walking and cycling into that placemaking. And that shift in the narrative has been has been accelerated over the past two to three years. You know the conversations that I'm having here in Scotland, and across the UK I'm sure as well, is reflecting that kind of shift in attitude. And that comes from the report, I think, you know, quite clearly across the themes. Again, going back to what I was saying, there's quite a strong platform for that, you know, for the call to action you know what is our call to action, what are we asking, what are we asking policymakers to do. And I think this kind of shift in narrative is has been so critical and so crucial to that.Laura Laker9:08And as a delivery body Sustrans is obviously involved with a lot of local councils and local authorities, and in creating infrastructure for cycling and walking and I wonder what kind of impact this information is going to have what what you mean when you talk about inclusive spaces and how that will translate to physical space.Daisy Narayanan9:29It is already making a huge difference, you know it helps policymakers, it helps councillors, local councillors to say look people want this. This is what surveys are saying this is what they are telling us to do they want us to make spaces better for walking and cycling, but it also helps officials who are actually going out and building this, it helps engineers who are designing this this infrastructure that goes into a place or the design of a place. And finally, it helps, I think it helps, people to come together, it helps a community engagement process, where you can truly get people together to shape what the place looks like and to me that is so crucial. And that's something that we haven't got right and you know we've talked about this before we have to acknowledge where we, we need to do better. And I think what this report does is acknowledge that. and see, here's how we can go, we can do better.Laura Laker10:34And, yeah, like you say it's it's about having communities, having a say in what's happening and not just a small percentage of people.Daisy Narayanan10:44It has to reflect, the communities, absolutely, it has to reflect the people who live there and work there you know whatever the context of the place that we're talking about whether it's city or town or neighbourhood, the people who shape that place, so when you look at what needs to go in. It has to reflect the aspirations, and has to reflect the vision of what what people see their places to be, and cycling is such a big part of that,Laura Laker11:10you said in your foreword to the report about a lack of diversity in transport planning and how you're not only often the only woman you're the only person from an ethnic minority in the room.Daisy Narayanan11:23Absolutely, yes, you know, I remember going to meetings, and I joined Sustrans in 2012. So, you know, this is, eight years ago almost, and almost every meeting I was the lone woman or the lone person of colour, sat there and I remember going to a meeting once and someone asked if I was here to take notes. And I said, no I'm here to chair the meeting. So there's a perception around transport, that is, you know, macho and it's transport and I think what to me is so encouraging and so incredible. And Susan I'm sure you you've seen this in your experience as well you know the change in more women coming forward, you know, change and more of us having that having the strength to come forward and say this isn't right. And we need to we need to do better.Laura Laker12:18Yeah, and Susan you've talked about how we count cycling, and the report talks about this as well about how it's been about increasing numbers in the past and how that hasn't really served in terms of improving diversity perhaps you could tell us a bit more about that and what needs to change.Susan Claris12:35Yeah, So, I think you know just just counting the number of cycles using a facility. It's good to see those numbers go up, but actually it's important to look behind those numbers and see. I said, who it is cycling and but also as importantly, who isn't cycling and who could benefit from that so it isn't purely a numbers game and you know having counters on cycleways and seeing the amount of usage is great, but it's that's only part of the picture and I think what the report shows is this big unmet demand for cycling, which I think will be even higher now following following covid and lockdown. And it's how we actually make cycling more accessible for people both physically and culturally how they can how people can see it as something that they that they can do themselves you know so often the image is you know, and I ban colleagues from using the word bicycle you know try and talk about cycles to be more inclusive and, you know, the imagery and this was true when the obesity strategy came out and the GPs to prescribe cycling. Virtually all the news articles that accompanied that were of a, you know, a man on a bike, white of a certain age, you know, a lot of people they'd look at that and I think well if that's if that cycling that's not for me. And so I think it's it's it's just making it accessible and achievable and realistic for people, I think, is getting people to start either either people who haven't cycled for a long time maybe they cycled as children but haven't carried on in adults, or if someone's never cycled, you know it's like where do you start, it's immensely difficult because you're not gonna go out and spend, potentially hundreds of pounds on a bike. And you know, so it's that what is your entry point into cycling and I think that's where hire schemes or lessons and things can really help because for some people, they may not like it, it may not be for them so actually, a way of way of trying it and seeing how people get on with it in a supportive environment with supportive people, because, you know, a colleague of mine actually, in lockdown, I guess she's early 30s. She just recently learned to cycle, you know, and I think that's quite a big thing for an adult to learn to cycle, most of us do it when you kids and you fall off and you grade yourself and you know that's part of growing up but to actually, you know, do that as an adult, is, is a big step and I think it's brilliant she took a week off and you know she wasn't going anywhere. She couldn't travel so she was like, Well what can I do happen to coincide with a bike being on her streets, with a sign saying free to a good home. And it was like well this is a sign I need to learn to cycle, but it's it's a really, it's a really difficult. I think you know, don't underestimate that by any means.Daisy Narayanan15:19Absolutely. I think these stories are so powerful. When we run. One of the workshops we ran in Glasgow, as part of the reporting. There was a councilllor from Edinburgh Council, Councillor McInnes who spoke at that. And she talked about you know how she's in her late 50s, and she's very vocal about how she had cycled for over 30 years, and she was quite nervous about getting back on a bike, but then she's you know she had she felt the pressure as she put it to be seen on a bike. So she then she. The next step was to buy a buy, and then she says it's quite intimidating going into a shop, when you don't know anything about where you begin as. Where do you begin? So all of those steps were little barriers and she had to push through those and then finally she now commutes over 10 miles, well pre-lockdown, to the city chambers and back and she says it's completely changed her. How, how she looks at how she looks at her place actually because suddenly you see the batteries for yourself and as a Transport Convener how powerful is that? You can do that so I think it's, there's something so good about having these stories out there. And, you know, being able to talk about this. This is about people, isn't it, at the end of the day it's about people and cycling is, is the framework, on which we're talking about people's lives, and this.Laura Laker16:47And I guess I guess the temptation is that if you're if you've got a certain amount of money for cycling that you will do a linear route, as you've seen in the past from a wealthy area to city centre area, and you know it's like the low hanging fruit of cycling you know for a certain amount of money you'll get X number of people cycling they probably already got bikes they're already confident enough on the road to link up missing bits and that's what we've seen in a lot of cities around the UK. But I guess it's, it's so much harder to sort of look at, like, all of the different barriers that people face the argument that the report makes is that the people who have the greatest barriers should be the kind of focus is there potential people that can benefit the most.Susan Claris17:26Yeah, and I think looking at neighbourhood areas I mean as you say that the temptation is always to go for the radial routes and the commuting routes and I think that's the whole 'we design in our own image' and this is set out really powerfully in the book Invisible Women, you know, but actually, the more important things I think are the you know, are the local areas or neighbourhood areas half of all our trips are for leisure and shopping. So we should be focusing on those, only 15% of trips are for commuting. So I think actually sort of focusing on the commuting route is not the wrong thing to do but it's not the only thing we should be doing, and actually looking at making neighbourhoods better for cycling, you know, having cycle parking whether it's at shops or in people's homes, you know, particularly in areas, I mean, for me, one of the worst aspects of street design are cul de sacs, you know, looking at how you can work on housing estates designed around cul de sacs to make better routes for cycling so you don't have to follow the wiggly routes that cars follow so it's it's looking at some of those areas and then people might be encouraged to start cycling from their home. Maybe to begin with, they go to the local shops and then they find that quite useful, they go a little bit further and they go a bit further and it builds people's confidence, rather than actually sort of taking a, you know, a radial route into a town or city centre and focusing on that.Laura Laker18:41Yeah, and when you start to understand people different people's trips, so women as the report notes, women do a lot of trip chaining so it's you going one place you're doing something you're moving on to the next place, perfect for cycling and in the Netherlands more women cycle than men,Susan Claris18:54And older womenLaura Laker18:54And just doing these yeah and just by just doing these, these linear routes, you're basically designing everyone else out you're excluding everyone else and then people say that Cycling is white and male and middle class and it's because those are the kind of cyclists that we're designing for. And so in terms of measurement, we've, we've talked about how quantitative measurements are obviously not helping diversity. I know that the Leeds-Bradford cycle route was specifically built in an area that is low income households and poor transport links, and they've done a lot of qualitative work but I think they're in the minority there. What would good look like in this sense?Daisy Narayanan19:37One of the examples I can give you from, from up here in Scotland in Scotland Sustrans works with Scottish government and we deliver funding in partnership with local authorities to build walking and cycling infrastructure. And over the past couple of years as the programme has grown, it's called Places for Everyone, the focus has been on more deprived areas and the research and monitoring unit that work alongside the project delivery team, you know, are very very conscious that the for everyone piece is very much part of the monitoring. So to me that's quite, again, it's an example of how, you know, process can help. If you get your right processes in place to make sure that you're measuring the right thing, then that can then encourage everyone to do better. It depends on the context, which is different places will have different ways of measurement and different ways of what you see good looking likeLaura Laker20:34potentially the people with the greatest barriers and just thinking about investment and return on investment, which is something we're kind of obsessed with, In a way, certain groups or excluded groups are excluded because the. The benefits are external to transport so transport is almost a siloed thing that needs to make its own money in a way which doesn't make any sense because it's such a public good isn't it is especially when we talk about active transport it's, it's the physical activity benefits and often it's the people with greatest barriers, people who aren't getting exercise people with poor transport links, poor access to work and education, for whom the benefits will be greatest. So it's kind of harder to do but if you're looking in the round. There's just so much more benefit for society potentially.Susan Claris21:17And I think that's where it brings in the walking and cycling angle as well because cycling was featured quite heavily in the obesity strategy but i think you know recognising that telling someone who doesn't currently ride a bike to go and ride a bike is a very difficult ask and if there's someone who is overweight or obese then that's probably an even harder ask but I think if it can be in terms of increasing physical activity, walking and cycling the two go together really well, you know, and it always interests me that Sustrans' National Cycle Network is usable by people walking them by cycling so I think it's having active travel routes and promoting both walking and cycling, just as ways of being active and you know it isn't it isn't badging someone as a cyclist it's looking at people as people and those people walk sometimes it may cycle sometimes they might drive a car they might get on a bus, you know, people do all of those different things. But the key message is actually about, you know, promoting the active, the active side of it because of all the benefits it brings physical health and mental health.Daisy Narayanan22:19Absolutely and again, to your point Laura about the wellbeing aspect not being captured and when you measure the impact the project has; in Edinburgh in a project called the city centre transformation when I was in secondment to the council here for 18 months, and we were very clear from the beginning that we were not going to use the traditional methods of stag or the transport appraisal survey, you have to be under the umbrella of quality of life and quality of place. And that was quite an interesting process to see how you can put value to green space and to active places. And I think there's something quite exciting about how the work is starting to take shape, where, you know, yes you do the transport appraisals but then over that you layer in your wellbeing and your, you know, physical and mental health and your green spaces. And yeah, I guess the next step that we all need to take forward.Susan Claris23:12I think it's interesting in a way it can come from from other projects as well. So one of my favourite projects in our Arup is one we've got called Greener Grangetown which was down in Cardiff. And that actually started off as a drainage study. And then the idea was to put in greenery to help with drainage and that's what actually if we're putting in greenery, maybe we put in some, you know, walking and cycling as well and that the benefits just cascade in that way so is walking and cycling projects can come from unusual areas sometimes.Daisy Narayanan23:39I love that project, it's gorgeous.Laura Laker23:42We have one near me in Stratford actually that has an a lot of drainage with plants in and it's really nice to cycle pastSusan Claris23:49Rain gardensLaura Laker23:49That's right. Yeah. Yeah, it's really lovely actuallyDaisy Narayanan23:57We have that a lot during consultation for most projects. That's something that comes back so strongly. You want greener spaces you want to be able to access within five minutes, your local park or you want to have greenery and colour and wildflowers and all of that speaks to us as humans.Laura Laker24:17Yeah, there's a lot of temporary changes happening and in terms of temporary cycling infrastructure and presumably a lot of that is going to become permanent and there's a real opportunity isn't there to make our cities more resilient in terms of climate change and creating shade which is so important in creating better drainage, because water runoff is a massive problem with extreme weather. And, yeah, just that reallocation of road space from motor vehicles.There's been a lot of announcements from government, as we know, we've had Gear Change which is the government's vision for cycling we've had proposed highway code changes. And we have had new design guidance and obviously there's a lot happening with COVID, in terms of an emergency response for transport; I'm wondering how all of this kind of feeds in to this agenda of making cycling more diverse,Susan Claris25:11I think, i mean i think it's really timely I mean the fact that our report came out on the same day as Gear Change is a complete fluke because I think we chose the publication date back in March or something so it's just one of those really happy coincidences that it came out on the same day so I mean I really welcome all the policy announcements that are being made and you know it is it is a great sort of step forward compared to where, where we've been over the last few years. I think the big thing is what happens next because we've had all this good stuff in terms of Gear Change but then we have the planning reforms and the potential relaxation of planning. So it's like one part of government is saying all the good stuff about active transport but if there is then a relaxation, how do we actually make sure that when developments are planned that they are planned with walking and cycling in from the outset, and we don't end up with some of the housing developments that we've got now that are totally inaccessible by public transport or by active modes so I think that's there's a lot of welcome but there's a degree of caution there as well.Daisy Narayanan26:12I agree with that, and I think what for me is, is very encouraging about the Gear Change report is the language around it, it's quite directive, which I don't think we've had so far which I think is quite good. I'm also encouraged by the fact that it's not just the UK government that has announced increased investment for walking and cycling you can see Scottish Government, Wales, Northern Ireland, for the first time I think across the across devolved nations and the UK government. There's a real sense of we need to invest more in walking and cycling. And, you know, when you look at the whole picture. It's really important as Susan said to get the right to get the next stage right, make sure that the words that are put into policy are translated on the ground because the delivery on the ground is going to be for the local authorities, for boroughs, and we have to make sure that that disconnect is as small as possible, because you see that a lot, you know, the right words are being used, but then you see something on the ground and you just go that's not what it's meant to be. So I think that there's a piece of work there about that about local authorities being empowered to do what national policy is telling them to do.Laura Laker27:25Yeah, there's a lot of that isn't this these wonderful statements about putting pedestrians and people cyling first, and it just doesn't happen in the real world and one of the things in your report one of the three elements for targeted changes are governance planning and decision making. So I guess I guess that's, that's going to be there isn't it it's going to be about putting that into practice which is which is perhaps the hardest part it's easy to say something is harder to do itDaisy Narayanan27:56That's why you need the grassroots community. The community to feel empowered to to ask for that change because then then change happens at that local level. And when that then marries up with the national policy, then you can generally make magic happen.Susan Claris28:15I think that thing about think about support is really important because you know we've seen that it's always the people who are against schemes who shout the loudest, there was the recent YouGov poll that was showing that you know for every person against there's six and a half people supporting these schemes, but you don't tend to hear that voice. We know with some low traffic neighbourhoods that are going in, they're being badged as road closures, there are some quite vociferous lobbies typically from people outside of the area who come in to oppose, and you know it's very easy for a politician to hear the negative voice and not to hear that support and if the support is maybe coming from older people maybe they're not so engaged in the process. So I think we need a better mechanism for all people's voices to be heard, whether they're for or against rather than the vocal minority in either way, being dominant.Daisy Narayanan29:04I completely agree, and I mean I think more and more you're seeing that seeing the backlash against some of the temporary schemes you mentioned Laura, because, you know, things have been put in quite quickly and you know they're not the most beautiful, you know they're cones or wands, and that that doesn't provide the vision of what that street could look like when it's done well with thought and care. So there is, there needs to be that communication of what this specific temporary measure is about and how that then leads to the wider vision that everyone has to feed into and what it could be. So yeah absolutely the process of as Susan was saying there needs to be a better mechanism because we've got that quite right.Laura Laker29:45Yeah, because if what's happening now is being called out undemocratic in places in terms of temporary infrastructure going in before consultation takes place or the temporary infrastructure being there during the consultation, it gives everyone a chance to see it on the ground, and we know that having a car dominatedstreet is not an equitable place but at the same time having these consultations, which perhaps only highlight the voices of the vocal minority isn't necessarily democratic representation of who's for and against something it is quite a difficult one really isn't it because of the fundamental change and changes to our physical streets, it's never going to be easy is itDaisy Narayanan30:24Absolutely, I've got scars on my back and inbox to show thatSusan Claris30:29for people who aren't currently cycling which we know is a large part of the population, they're not going to be out there probably giving support for something to benefit cycling because they don't see themselves as a cyclist so they don't necessarily see that as of relevance to them alone benefiting them. So it is, it is very hard to actually get that support for something that you're not currently doing and you don't see as relevant to youDaisy Narayanan30:57know if you, if you are frail and if you have a physical or sensory impairment of any kind change is scary. Change is scary anyway but for someone who iss already feeling their lives are not what it should be, this kind of change is scary so I think there is something about the empathy that we need to have when we talk about projects like this it's not, it's not just this needs to be done because x y z. It's like let's do this together. And it sounds very motherhood and apple pie but I think if we get that right if we get that conversation right at the beginning, then we can save ourselves a huge amount of angst later on in the process.Laura Laker31:38The third element to these three recommendations is welcoming and supporting all people to cycle and I guess, perhaps you're arguing that this has to be from the beginning,Daisy Narayanan31:48yesSusan Claris31:49yeah I think it's I mean it's talking about the language and the imagery that we've already talked about, but I think also it's the cost and the barriers to getting getting a cycle So, you know, cycles generally are not cheap and so there can be an issue around cost and availability. But I think it's also in the report draws on the whole purchasing experience, and a very brief story if I may, my, my background is partly in anthropology. And one of the best studies I saw about the value of urban anthropology, it was it was conducted by Shimano and it was a quite a few years ago, and they were looking at, this was in America, why certain groups of people don't cycle, and the view was that they were too lazy, too fat, too whatever, didn't care. When, the anthropoologists went out and spoke to these people they said they've all had really positive associations with with cycling when they were children, but then they didn't see it as something that were relevant when they were older and they said if they went into cycle shops they found a very hostile environment. So they then talked to people in the cycle shops and they went, oh no no it's not hostile we welcome everybody you know, everybody is welcome here. So then what they did is they gave the people working in cycle shops $100 or something and told them they had to go to a department store and buy certain types of cosmetics. And when they walked into that department store they absolutely felt the discomfort that other people felt walking, and that's how they really got it that actually their place wasn't as welcoming as they thought it was so it's always trying to see something from the insider's viewpoint and I said, you know, cycle shops are not always a happy place or comfortable place to be if you're not part of that, that sort of type of people already, you know, so it's like it's a big step for someone who doesn't cycle and cycling now is quite technical and it's complex and you know what you've lost a lot of is basic bikes, a lot of people they don't want 21 gears, they don't know what to do with them. So they certainly don't want to start with 21 gears you know what, where, where is the basic bike gone that can give people that entry into cycling so I think that's, that's really important so people can actually get a cycle and then have some training on how to use it.Daisy Narayanan33:55Absolutely. And I think we also talked so much about safety and you know, we talk about cycling within transport terms quite a lot. I think we don't talk enough about the joy and delight. That cycling brings to you, And, you know, I got an ebike a year, a year and a bit ago and I love it. There is that sense of joy that comes with it, and I think the more we can talk about you know, this makes you feel good is, is as relevant to saying it makes you feel safe, it's good for your health and well being and the climate and all of that. Yeah, I don't think we should forget the joy.Laura Laker34:34Yeah, I remember being in Edinburgh. Last year, actually, I was going on a little biking trip and I borrowed an electric mountain bike, and I was whizzing through town it had nice fat tires so I didn't have to worry about the tram tracks, you know, Edinburgh is just full of trams. And then there was a guy next to me at the lights on this hill, up hill, and I just looked across at him and I was like, e-mountain bike best thing ever and he was like Yeah. And we both just whizzed off.Daisy Narayanan35:07Edinburgh is a city of seven hills and an ebike flattens the hills in Edinburgh i can ride around and not feel like I'm about to die.Laura Laker35:17Yeah, I love absolutely love I've got anebike as well and I absolutely love it. And it really does make it more accessible to so many more people for many so many reasons. Maybe I can ask you what you want the report to achieve. Maybe a big question or an obvious question.Susan Claris35:34I think, from my perspective I would like it to help decision makers politicians transport planners all the sort of people that are likely to read it actually realise that Cycling is for everyone. And I said to get rid of the conventional image of a person typically a man on a bike, and realise that actually cycling embraces all these different types of people and should embrace all these different types of people well you know from the five to 105 not even eight to 80 sort of thing so it is a viable form of transport for the majority of the population. And we just need to actually help that become real. And as Daisy said I think bringing the joy back into cycling as well so yes it's a great mode of transport from A to B, but it's so much more than that. But it yeah it is that cycling should be and is for everybody.Daisy Narayanan36:30Yeah, and just to add to this from my perspective there's also. I'm hoping that this report can accelerate change that needs to happen because I think we've demonstrated that change needs to happen, and people want change. So what this should do is now get that in motion get that really fast and from a personal perspective I hope that it also allows people to reflect on you know on attitudes, on how we how we perceive cycling. What do we think about when we talk about inclusive cycling, and even within Sustransto challenge ourselves to be better and to make sure that the For Everyone, that we want to be at the heart of everything we do. It's truly at the heart of what we do. And so yeah so external and internal, I think there is some reflection and then there is a lot of acceleration.Laura Laker37:22Yeah. Yeah, I think one of the things that stuck out from me in the report was you know just admitting that we've got things wrong and you know looking around at the people cycling generally speaking it's It is, it is a very narrow portion of the of society who feels brave enough is what it boils down to, to cycle on the roads and so obviously something has gone wrong, and I think is a chance for reflection and to move forward. So, yeah, super important report and really nice to talk to you both. I wonder if there's anything else that you wanted to say that you feel that we've missed out.Daisy Narayanan38:07I think from my perspective nothing much more to add, except that I love the fact that we have three women here talking about cycling. Yeah, which I think is is brilliant. And, you know, that this is even on the agenda and the cycling is so different when I joined Sustrans in 2012, as an architect slightly naive thinking I'm going to go to the world of walking and cycling, it's going to be amazing, no one can be angry in this world. It has been quite a learning process over the past eight years, but I think we're at the cusp of something quite incredible. And, yeah, the more we can collaborate and make that happen, I'm really excited for the future.Susan Claris38:54I think for me it's it's broadening the scope of cycling because so often it's associated with a sport and it's seen as a sporty activity. And I think the more we can just see it as something for, you know, everybody and something that you don't need a lot of kit for. It doesn't have to be fast it doesn't have to be competitive. You know it is almost that that that joy of the self-propelled transport, but getting getting away from the sporty side of it I think that that helps a lot because as soon as, as long as people see it as a sporty thing, they probably don't see it as relevant to themselves so it's almost getting back to. It's almost viewing the bicycle, and cycling the old fashioned way i think it's it's that different image.Laura Laker39:38Wonderful. Thank you both so much for coming on the podcast it's been great to hear from you.Susan Claris39:44Thanks Laura, it's lovely to talk to you.Daisy Narayanan39:44Thank youLaura Laker39:44Thank you for listening to the active travel podcasts lucky seventh episode with Sustrans' director of urbanism, Daisy Narayanan, Arup's global active travel lead, Susan Claris, and me, your host Laura Laker. You can find and subscribe to the active travel podcast online on our website at blog.westminster.ac.uk/ata/podcast, and you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram @active_ata. Let us know what you think, via social media or by emailing us at activetravelacademy@westminster.ac.uk . Thanks for listening; until next time.
8/19/2020

Walking practices in the Global South with Daniel Oviedo and Luz Navarro

Season 1, Ep. 6
The current global pandemic has pushed mostcities in the Global North torethink how we envision our streets to createcar-free, safe, healthy and clean environments for its citizens. However, in the context of African cities, this transition is marked by extreme poverty, unequal access to good quality infrastructure and lack of resources.Dr Daniel Oviedo works at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit at UCL andspecialises on the social, economic and spatial analysis of inequalities related to urban transport in developing countries. In this podcast, Dr Oviedo talks to Luz Navarro, a Research Associate at the Active Travel Academy, discussing the methodological challenges and findings from two research projects on walkability at different urban scales in the Global South. Both research projects offer a qualitative look at walkability and walking experiences to unveil how shows social norms and perceptions of walkability heavily influence who walks, when, where and why. The first one is on pedestrian space and the Right to the City in Maputo and the second on is on the social constructions of walkability in informal settlements in Freetown.In Maputo, the project explores the different attitudes towards walking between two income groups. Those with higher income see walking as a choice among other modes, something mainly done for leisure - and have alternatives at hand easily when they don’t feel safe, or they face poor weather conditions and poor infrastructure. Those from the lower income group have no other transport choices, regardless of other conditions. The main findings show that feelings of safety, race, gender and level of education and occupation play a strong role in walking behaviours and attitudes, as much as the quality of the walking environment.The second project offers a fresh insight on the subjective and objective dimensions of walking, not as a choice but as an imposition in the informal settlement of Moyiba in Freetown and how this reveals existing urban inequalities. Daniel also talks to us about the pleasurability of walking in terms of aesthetics and comfort in such a context and the role the built environment in the perception of walking as a pleasurable experience and how residents of Moyiba see and experience their neighbourhood.Finally, Daniel talks about the lessons we can learn from both projects and how governments can facilitate walking improvements in a more effective and inclusive way.You can find out more about Daniel's research project here: https://www.t-sum.org/And a partner from the Sierra Leone research projecthere https://www.slurc.org/
7/30/2020

PhDPOD: How a ‘practice theory’ approach can help us make sense of cycling experiences, cultures, and activism

Season 1, Ep. 5
Our second PhD pod showcases Dr. Rorie Parsons’ PhD research. Rorie used a range of different qualitative methods, including archival analysis, interviews, and ride-alongs, to explore cycling cultures and cycling advocacy in Newcastle. This takes in both contemporary practices and those that came before them, exploring links between what cycling means, how infrastructure is designed and used, and what kinds of skills people cycling are expected to have. Tune in and find out what a ‘practice theory approach’ can offer to understanding problems of advocacy and activism.Dr Rorie Parsons is a geographer who completed his PhD in cycling cultures, advocacy, and practice, at Newcastle University in 2018.Rorie is now a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Sheffield as part of the Plastics: redefining single-use project. For this episode, he talks about his work around cycling, with a little bit of his current work thrown in for good measure.ESRC is the Economic and Social Research Council, a national funding body for social sciences, and 1+3 is four years’ funded postgraduate study – one year of a Masters and then three years of a PhD.Rorie’s work thesis can be found here -https://theses.ncl.ac.uk/jspui/handle/10443/4687And an article based on Rorie's masters thesis, here -https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02665433.2017.1348973