Lars Stromgren of Beyond Vision Zero in Sweden.
Peter Cox, Professor of Sociology at Chester University.
Former mayor of Copenhagen, Morten Kabell, who now works for Copenhagenize.
NOTE TIMINGS NEED TO BE CORRECTED
Laura Laker 00:00
I’m here with Lars Stromgren – hope I pronounced your name right – now Lar’s from Sweden and has been doing some work on Vision Zero. Obviously, in the UK, we have Vision Zero is just starting to pick up as an idea and as a policy. But Sweden is far ahead of this now. So do you want to tell me a bit about where you are now?
Lars Stromgren 53:22
Sure. So Vision Zero, it was launched in Sweden in 1997. And it was done by the person in charge of Traffic Safety Administration. And the basic idea at that moment was that safety shouldn’t be up to each individual, we should create a safe system where you could allow people to make mistakes, but no one should have to die or get seriously injured in traffic anyway. And when it was launched, some people laughed. And some people were interested and so on. But it was a big thing when it came to Sweden. And during these 20 years, a lot of things has happened. The most positive thing is that deaths in cars have decreased a lot, thanks to more better infrastructure and lower speed limits in some places and better cars and so on. But the end of 2017, the Vision Zero was going to turn 20. And we look back on these 20 years. And we realised that there were some things that needed to be improved. So first of all, a lot of investments done, we’re done with a car centric mindset. You talk about vulnerable road users and people in cars and a lot of investments were done in interventions that made car traffic safer. But sometimes it even made it impossible or more unsafe to cycle. So that was the first criticism. And the second thing was that the whole idea of healthissues people are less active now than 20 years ago, and that there’s research now showing that that’s a lot of it means a lot for the for the economics of our society. Yeah. And then there was also a thing that we criticised. And that’s the framing of Vision Zero, first of all, only focusing on the effects of a crash, not to avoid the crash. And also only focusing on deaths and serious injuries and not at all focusing on less serious injuries, but which are quite, which is one thing that a lot of people that brings people from cycling. So and also a little bit of framing around cycling within Vision Zero has at least in Sweden, not necessarily in some of the countries who are now adopting Vision Zero, but we perceived it as being a bit like in quotation mark blaming the victim, the cycle should behave better, this likely should dress or wear certain things and so on. So together with the environmental minister, or the minister in charge of environment and urban planning, we decided to make a relaunch, and we call it Moving Beyond Zero. And the whole idea with this was to keep the good things with Vision Zero, but to add an extra layer, which means the traffic system shouldn’t only work to decrease that some serious injuries, but it should also work towards increasing health and public life quality by encouraging active mobility. Yeah. And that has been a really interesting perspective. And it has also it’s very aligned with UN Global Goals. And so I think all countries and cities who are now implementing Vision Zero, they should all have this extra perspective, looking at our the interventions that we focus on, are they the best ones to decrease crashes, not only to decrease injuries, and are they the best ones to encourage cycling. And and with that, if you don’t forget those two aspects, I think Vision Zero can be very effective and efficient. And but but it’s important to, to focus on on the user, the the person walking or person cycling, because sometimes it’s becomes it becomes very technical, especially, especially after some years with Vision Zero when in the beginning, you pluck the low hanging fruits, and you saw a lot of decrease in that. And after a while you couldn’t see the progress anymore. And and the people at the road administration were looking for things, just anything that they could do to keep on improving. Yeah. But the situation is we didn’t was that cycling was so safe. So the sample of injured cyclists or dead cyclist? It was so small, so from one year to another, maybe. So last year, I think 18 people died and the year before maybe 20. And then they say ‘hooray’, we lower the amount, but it’s such a small sample. So if you don’t, yeah, so you can you can end up promoting things that we don’t necessarily support like
talking about Yeah, cyclists should behave better or associate should wear certain gear or so on and we think to take away the barriers for people who are not cyclists. We need to make it normal and normalise cycling and make it easy. And and and so on. And and that’s that’s the reason why we launched this new take on Vision Zero with Moving Beyond Zero.
Laura Laker 58:45
Yeah. And it’s that the Swedish, Swedish things people will be surprised maybe to learn that cycling isn’t seen as normal in Sweden.
Lars Stromgren 58:53
Well, cycling has increased in the Swedish cities. Yeah. But it decreases among children. And it increases outside the city. And one reason for that is, of course, the urban planning paradigm with external shopping malls and so on. But it’s also due to some of the safety interventions like we have fences.
Laura Laker 59:12
Excuse me, you did air quotes almost?
Rod King 59:17
Oh, yes, I did it. Yeah. So for the listeners, I was in quotation marks. So some, some interventions like putting a fence in between the the lanes of a car lane, making it two lanes in one direction and one in in the other and then shifting, so it’s every 500 metres. It’s two lanes in facing north and the one south, and then it shifts. So it’s one person to south. But those roads, cycling is allowed there. But still no one cycles there. Because Yeah, because it’s it’s when it’s only one lane, and there are fences on both sides. It’s very, not very nice. And so on. So you made cycling in parts harder in the rural areas.
Laura Laker 1:00:03
So that was for the cause of safety, those fences.
Lars Stromgren 1:00:07
Definitely. And it has led to it almost has avoided all the crashes of cars, like driving right in front of each other. Yeah. Yeah.
Laura Laker 1:00:18
But of course it’s designed out.
Lars Stromgren 1:00:21
Yes. So what we think the best intervention is that you really want to increase or decrease that’s an injured and increase Cycling is to look at the right turning vehicles or left in, in UK, and to better prevent car drivers to drive faster than they’re allowed to. And there are new technology. One thing called ISA – intelligent speed adaptation. And I mean, it’s technically possible to I mean, why should you allow car drivers to drive faster than on the sign? And and then we want also to the default speed limit in rural areas or urban areas is now in Sweden, 50 kilometres an hour. And we would like that to be 30. And sometimes you could Yeah. So now the municipality needs to ask for permission to lower it. 30. But 60 is default.
Laura Laker 1:01:18
So that’s the national national level.
Lars Stromgren 1:01:20
Yes, it is. cities that are having to claim. Yeah, leading the way.
Laura Laker 1:01:25
Yeah. And and I’m thinking about
Laura Laker 1:01:29
places like the UK, Ireland, where people are thinking of doing Vision Zero? Yes. How to avoid these pitfalls. Making things safer in Vision Zero? Yes. When actually it’s just designing out, huh?
Lars Stromgren 1:01:45
Yeah. So So the reason why Vision Zero was launched in Sweden was that the amount of people who died in traffic were high. And the politicians wanted to show that they do something about it. Yeah. But they didn’t want to necessarily do the hard things like lowering speed limit. So it was in one way, it was something that I could call institutionalised hypocrisy. So it was it’s a it’s a way to combine two goals in society without having to compromise and without dealing with cognitive dissonance. If a country if another country now adapt divisions arrow, a very good example is New York City, for example, with Bloomberg, the whole like, the whole starting point of looking intuitions there was another so the goal was to make New York more pedestrian friendly, more cycling friendly, and that starts automatically creates a framing of the different interventions that you could do so so I think it’s important when you add up divisions there to really concentrate on what do you want to do with it like and and and focusing on on active mobility and not talking about vulnerable road users but act but active transportation or active road users
Laura Laker 1:02:55
Because vulnerable road users does work?
Lars Stromgren 1:02:56
Well it’s it’s it’s it sets the mind that it’s, it creates framing, that you don’t want to be vulnerable, and you don’t want to let your kid be vulnerable road users are so dangerous. Yeah, it’s well, it’s a semantic thing. And I don’t know you shouldn’t over it overestimate the effect of that, but but just by using that word, you at least I perceived and non vulnerable road user as the normal and then you have these, this group on the side who is vulnerable users road users, and then by using the word active mobility, you you open up for more benefits in society, you you you across tick more boxes in the sustainability goal list. Yeah. And you also create unification between pedestrians and cyclists, because especially in urban areas, sometimes the perceived conflict is between pedestrians and cyclists. Yeah, even though when you look at the statistics, at least in Sweden, I think 1% of all, like things, pedestrians, and cyclists are going into, like crashes or so on are between pedestrians and cyclists. So when when it when it really when you really hit it’s not by a cyclists, it’s by a car. So yeah, so that’s, I think that’s important. And then I think it’s important to really keep an eye on not think like, sometimes a vision can lead to action. But sometimes a vision could also avoid action, because it gives you a sense that you did something addressing a problem. So you lay back a little bit and all right, we had Vision Zero right there, and then we can then we can relax. And I think that’s from the cyclists community, it’s important to, to not to not be satisfied with that. But to use the Vision zero and say, Look, we have this Vision zero, or what are you going to do about cars speeding in cities, what are going to do about bike lanes not being protected? and so on?
Laura Laker 1:05:01
And say, what’s your role in all of this?
Lars Stromgren 1:05:03
So I’m the president of the Swedish cyclist Federation, and also vice president in the ECF [European Cyclists’ Federation]. And I founded the Moving Beyond Zero together with stakeholders in Sweden and Minister of environment, and the whole idea was, well, the whole idea was to, first of all spread visions, the concept of visions around the world, and we have been around talking at several conferences. And also to, not to avoid that the Swedish people in charge don’t like, relax too much, but realise is that it’s not it’s not over yet. And we need to concentrate on, on, on using Vision Zero even more efficient in the future. And because, and also because of new issues, like health issue, and also the technology possible now with with geo fencing, and I say and so on, to use that technology to to create, not to create lives, cities, and not to be carried away by automatic cars and shiny new toys. Yeah. So to to first ask yourself, where where do you create value in a city? Yeah, it’s not necessarily the transport that creates value, but what you do when you end your trip? Yeah. And and then creating places for people to to, to spend time instead? Yes,
Laura Laker 1:06:27
yeah. So you’re kind of advisory role advocacy role?
Lars Stromgren 1:06:31
Yes. And, and we have, we made a little animation movie about this. And we have translated it to many different languages, because we think that Vision Zero as a concept is very well known. And Sweden has a good track record when it comes to traffic safety. So so that’s why we want to avoid Sweden to to go into
the pit pitfall of
letting the engineers and the statistic Excel models, and propose interventions that are not the ones we want. Yeah,
Laura Laker 1:07:07
And you talked about making streets not only safe to avoid injury, but also Healthy Places acknowledged
Lars Stromgren 1:07:15
To include all kinds of cyclists it’s very easy to have a picture of who is a cyclist and not thinking of, of children, maybe people who are not so used to cycling and so on and and, and tall, disabled people. Yeah. And we have my organisation we have a lot of courses for adults who cannot cycle and and their demands are maybe different from fast cyclists going to work with expensive bikes.
Laura Laker 1:07:42
Yeah. So what would a street that encourage health? What kind of things are you looking at in terms of your efficiency, arrows and Healthy Streets?
Lars Stromgren 1:07:49
Well, for for parents with children, I think bike lanes should be wide enough for you to have your child on your side. And it needs to be separated, it says from both pedestrians and cars, and to avoid the opening doors You shouldn’t have on street parking on the main roads where you have bike lanes, and you should also look at the intersections. So you don’t have a situation where where cars turn and and there’s not enough space for them to to see a cyclist.
Laura Laker 1:08:22
Yeah, these are all issues that we have the same issues with the UK. Yeah.
Lars Stromgren 1:08:25
And then also look at the speed limits for cars and and, and, and frame the discourse around like what what is what is the main goal here? What do we want to achieve?
Laura Laker 1:08:36
I’m here with Peter Cox, we who has a book a new book called “Cycling: a sociology of velomobility”, which is an academic text in book form, otherwise known as an academic book. Yeah. Haha. So, Peter, do you want to tell me what you what you do, your’re university of Chester. And tell us about the new book. Yeah.
Peter Cox 1:08:57
Well, I’m Professor of Sociology at Chester. And so I work teaching undergraduates, but I also research and have cycling had been working on researches on different sorts of cycling since about 2004. I think, my first my first bike, but yeah, so this is the culmination of trying to think about what does cycling look as an activity under a sociological lens? In other words, what happens if we take it apart? And instead of just thinking about all people on bikes, what’s involved, what’s going on? When anybody undertakes riding.
Laura Laker 1:09:39
What kind of things we’re looking at here?
Peter Cox 1:09:41
Well, the easiest way is to think about any social practice, whether it’s eating or cycling, that there are various things involved. Basically, you’ve got the materials, the competencies, the skills and knowhow, and the meanings that attached to doing those things. So the materials here, you’ve got the material technologies of bikes themselves, in all their wonderful variety.
Laura Laker 1:10:16
Looking at Kat Jungnickel, Victorian clothing.
Peter Cox 1:10:22
So we have the bikes, the clothing, but we also have those material infrastructure to allow you to move. So then spaces themselves, whether it’s trackways, roads, parts, mountain sides, what how did how did they go on? And then you’ve got to think about the competencies. What are the skills involved the different skills in using those terrains, or different machineries? So I get on one sort of bike and I’m, I get on my bike to work and it’s a sit up and beg and I’m sedate up middle aged well, bit more than middle aged gentleman just travelling away. I get on ….
Laura Laker 1:11:09
… the streets of Chester, it’s a very picturesque town.
Peter Cox 1:11:11
I get on my three-wheel low-trike recumbent and I’m a six year old kid again, really getting it through the corners. You know?
Ooh, it’s icy today.
Yes. Yeah. Nobody, nobody else is out on the road. Nobody else is anywhere near the cycle path because it’s never got been cleaned. So yay.
Absolutely, because you can’t fall off it.
But so that that so you so the materials interplay with the technologies of the machine and the space and the competencies, and I get off road and I’m on a mountain bike, and I’m useless. I didn’t grow up the mountain biking, and I have the skill level of a kind of. Well, I won’t I won’t say who but I don’t have any skill level.
Laura Laker 1:12:07
Yes, yes. Hedgehogs probably couldn’t ride a bike.
Peter Cox 1:12:10
Hedgehogs don’t fall over.
No, no, no, no. on the mountain bike, I just fall off.
I’m not good, man.
Laura Laker 1:12:18
You’re better than a hedgehog.
Peter Cox 1:12:21
But not a lot. They hurt, they get hurt less. They just curl up and I don’t curl
up very well.
So yeah, so there’s the competencies, but there’s also the competency, the social competencies. Yeah. How do you understand other people in road space? Or in track space riding close? Are you comfortable? If I go to the Netherlands and ride on the cycleways there, I’m just thinking, you know, in the middle of Amsterdam, I’m, er, er,
Laura Laker 1:12:48
Peter Cox 1:12:49
I can be closer than that on when out on a club run with one of the local cycling clubs, because I know they all know how to behave next to each other. So I can be within millimetres.
Laura Laker 1:13:00
Rod King 1:13:01
Without without that mutual trust, because nobody knows each other. So I get scared there. Were I. So what are the social competencies, not just the material, the individual ones,
Laura Laker 1:13:14
and in the UK being able to interact and communicate with drivers
Peter Cox 1:13:18
and and the communication things are? There’s a whole history of that, of course, because the idea of the fellowship of the road I had a lovely opportunity to talk about the Clarions cycling club at the at the Tate Gallery in Liverpool’s two weeks, a couple of weeks ago. It was a slow, it was a slogan, yeah, well, they actually use I, my pet theory is that Tolkien, you nicked the the slogan because the Clarion use, and some of the other cycling associations use this slogan is the fellowship of the wheel.
And he must, he must..through the 30s. He must have known about that when he was writing Lord of the Rings. It’s it’s.
Yeah, so anyway, he’s so there’s the idea of the fellowship of the world that actually there’s something about the physical experience of riding and feeling space, and how you encounter the world around you as a cyclist. Or as a bike ride or whatever we’ve already gone into, it’s lots of different things that actually bond despite all those differences. You have that shared encounter with the world. And as the the discipline of environmental artists who say, look, the most important thing is just to go out there every day and experience the world. That’s how I sensitise myself as an artist, to the to be an environmental artist, and I’m realising how that sort of way of seeing the world connects with what people who ride every day just to get the work actually do.
Laura Laker 1:15:01
you’re describing a sociologist you’re describing, you’re naming things, you’re telling a story
Peter Cox 1:15:06
Yeah. and exploring those worlds and giving them away, unpacking away to help us understand what is often obscure, because it’s just so obvious. And it’s so obvious because it doesn’t have a name. It doesn’t have a we don’t know what the way is into it. Oh, yeah.
Laura Laker 1:15:26
Yeah, it’s like anything in life, you don’t really, in your day to day life, one doesn’t necessarily start unpacking what you’re doing.
Peter Cox 1:15:33
And that’s and that final slide, when you start unpacking all of that different, you realise how the meanings are attached and created, that cycling then becomes something deeply personal, it deeply meaningful? I mean, as any practice, does it have a good a good hormones, enjoys their food, they get really excited by the texture of jokes. What is that the right texture of chocolate mousse? It’s not just chocolate mousse. So actually, those meanings about cycling, I can look at a piece of machine and
think, oh, I really
want to see what that does. How does that make me feel? Does it make me feel like a kind of just a tumty-tumty tootle down the road? Or does it make me feel like a six year old? Does it?
Does it give meaning?
What, what are the social meanings created by that? What do other people what are other people understanding? When they see it? Someone on a thing? Is it hand cycle? Are they or
is this a disability rider? Or is this?
Is this fast? is this? I
don’t know, all big give it a big, a big a big berth? So how are those how you communicate in different forms of meaning different forms of understanding? So that’s what sociology does.
Laura Laker 1:16:54
And what’s the I mean, it sounds so interesting, but what’s, what’s the purpose of of of this?
Peter Cox 1:17:01
It’s to help us understand what we do better I because I because I asked those questions and tell those stories, I find that
that way of seeing the world and approaching the world is very useful for others who are working in the advocacy world, because it helps us to understand that change is not just about having the right solution. Because people aren’t just machines that respond to the certain triggers. We’re living, loving, breathing, snoring, sleeping, emotional beings, who kind of intuitively rationally fall in love with something and remember good experiences, remember, really bad experiences. And so I my work is designed to emphasise that human human dimension, and the social human dimension, it’s not just about individual responses, that these are actually patterns that we build up. Because we’ve been living together as human beings for as long as we’ve been human beings. That’s kind of what makes the human being but not the individual biology. But the fact that we live in these in these wonderful connect communities and collectivity.
Laura Laker 1:18:20
Yeah. And by understanding all those pieces of what makes a bicycle to a person, or what makes the experience of cycling to a person, by being able to,
or a group of people exactly, yeah, like, you’re just saying, it
helps us to understand what would make someone not want to do it, or want to do it or keep doing it.
Peter Cox 1:18:40
And it unlocks a lot of those. But it also, my most of my work outside of the studies of cycling is on how people work together and up in social change. So I work in that. All sorts of designs for social change. And so I’ve most recently I’ve been working with, and linking up with activists in a number of in a number of places around the world, and trying to see if there are models. And the the last chapter of the book is devoted to thinking about the models that activists use when they’re trying to understand what they’re doing. So how they understand their cycling, and how cycling. Cyclists working for change, understand the processes of change in cycling.
Laura Laker 1:19:32
Yeah, which is really important, actually. Because you see a lot of people who almost inevitably you cycle I say, to me, it’s not everybody who cycles, but you, you do end up becoming a bit of an activist, because you see, the conditions that you’re experiencing, you see the benefits that you experience, and you think this makes so much sense. And, and you know, I want more people to be able to I want to be able to do this safely. I want more people to be able to do this, I want fewer cars on the road. Yeah.
My question was there?
Peter Cox 1:20:02
No. Well, it for me, it’s it was actually the other the sort of the other way around.
I became a … I was I was an activist before I was an academic. And so I’ve been I’ve been working with group different groups of people, for work working for a better, more livable planet. And I ended up focusing on cycling as a kind of practical way of translating that bigger concern for a better for more livable world into something that was really easy, really easy and easy to touch people’s everyday lives with. Yeah. So it was it was it was kind of tied to tied to,
to that. Yeah, in a way.
Laura Laker 1:20:53
I think, I think what I was, what I was going to go on and say was that,
although people get into cycling, and then they might get into activism, or as, as you did the other way around, but
might not necessarily understand the mechanics of how to help other people cycle and it can result in perhaps unhelpful ways of approaching topics. And I’ve noticed it, you know, sort of maybe a bit more of a shouty approach that might work for most people and ends up just I don’t know, not being that helpful. Well, meaning as it might be. And so I guess by understanding, yeah, people cycle stops from cycling, it actually helps focus.
Peter Cox 1:21:40
And I think my,
my real focus on in that thinking about thinking about changing and thinking about, you know, being on the both the giving and the receiving end of shouty things in the past.
Laura Laker 1:21:55
On Twitter, have you
Peter Cox 1:21:57
don’t do social media?
I don’t know. I don’t even know. I still have a Windows Phone.
90% non functional, but it does the three things I need. So
Rod King 1:22:13
Peter Cox 1:22:15
john Lofland years ago did a study are a huge study of the peace movement in America. A book called “Polite Protester” so he’s he’s he was he’s a, an academic, an American academic who studied social activism in a number of forms. And he, what he did was produced a kind of a kind of map in front, rather than thinking about what people did and the tactics they use. He said, Well, what idea of changes is, underlines what they’re doing. So what I’ve done is it is look at, apply that to cycling activists and look at a huge range, different campaigns activities, from the 1930s onwards. Actually, there are a couple of outliers in the 1900s as well. Not in that book, unfortunately. But what that and the results are in that book that study. Okay. And so the, the idea was to focus to see what patterns I could discern from all from all that. And so it’s partly what I’m going to be talking about in tomorrow morning session. So there are different ways some people are looking at education, education is people need to learn the right ideas. There’s the kind of institutional we’ve got to change the institutional framework. Yeah.
Yeah, there’s the there’s the what Loflin called protest, but I think is better as as
disruption. So it might might be protest, it might be pure festival. Yeah. There’s contagion. That’s another as another little category that will spread. Yeah. It’ll just, it’ll just happen. Yeah. And then there’s some people that just got to go out and do it. And you see a lot of people working in bike kitchens. Who are, you know, what, how is this going to get anybody to change? Well, I don’t know. But I know, it’s just got to be done. And this is sort of you just
the mechanism, the process of that change is not,
you know, is not important, you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to be true to your to living out that vision, be an example
And so thinking about change that way, is entirely different from the kind of behavioural change models, which, however sophisticated they get, I still kind of what are the trigger, what is the trigger that this person is going to, is going to make this person change? And so it’s, it’s thinking through those and none of them? None of those six models are described? Right? Okay. None of them is wrong. They’re all part and parcel of what we do. And we’re all different. We, and we work in different groups, and some of us are really, really, really not very good at the long term, boring, persuasive, institutional change is hard. graft. And there are some people who are really good at it. Yeah, um, fantastic. And sometimes that goes with education. It’s just about learning. It’s just sometimes it’s about innovation. What’s, what’s the magic new technology? Well, there isn’t one, but there are lots of them. Yeah. So all and they work together. And actually understanding how in as we get together in groups working for changing cycling, we’re using different models. And we might have to be very strong in one area and not very weak in another in
the group we’re in,
we understand, we can understand why we are utterly different and why cycling activism takes so many forms. It’s not some of them are wrong. But we just need to be sensitive to how some of them
more appropriate for that group of people in that situation. And that’s problem that they’re changing. And that that problem is not going to be changed by protesting on the streets. The other one over there. Definitely. That city has just written another book, which is going to the publishers this week on the politics of infrastructure. It’s a with Tim Cook from the University of London. And sounds interesting. We’ve got lots of policy at the moment Exactly. Why we needed a book on it. And but there we’ve got a chapter on it from contributors are writing about Amsterdam, and looking at the thing way things change, because of the permeability of the political structures where activists could get together for parties and get elected, and then change from the inside. Well, if you have a situation where the like the UK where you don’t have a permeable political structure, then forming political parties to do the single issue political parties to do this is daft waste the time. So the context and change? Yeah, and the way that actually, local governments don’t have don’t have the power to have their own transport policy on the whole. Yeah.
And that’s, that’s
yet another part of the narrative where you do have power. Oh, look, yeah. I had this argument instead of you know, why doesn’t just have a good, you know, a good transport policy? Well, because it doesn’t have the competence that it’s not allowed. Yeah, yeah. It’s like saying, well, you don’t have a very good defence policy
No. Well, quite..
It’s not a power that Westminster gives us to have. Therefore,
Laura Laker 1:28:01
There’s a moat somewhere, isn’t there?
Peter Cox 1:28:03
A moat? Well, I think this might have been a moat around the customs, river and the canal and some walls.
Laura Laker 1:28:06
There’s a crap moat.
Peter Cox 1:28:16
yeah, so it’s those senses of, of just kind of what, what strategies are going to be appropriate to the people the place the situation, the time, the structures, rather than just turning around and saying, Well, you know, you’re bad, because you’re not riding a bike. And we need to change you
saying, because it’s saying the way you live, your life is quite fundamental. Yeah.
This part of this, this way of thinking for me came out of working with with dieticians, training nutrition, public health nutritionists who were coming to me as a sociologist, and saying, Well, we’ve got all these brilliant intervention programmes.
Nobody wants to change.
Okay, right. Let’s start at the beginning How? Yeah,
let’s … what … what
What are you thinking when you’re going to someone’s house and telling them that they’re eating badly?
Laura Laker 1:29:21
It’s funny, because I was going to be a dietitian, actually in an earlier and that’s, that’s basically why I changed career and
I realised people would come to you. And they probably know what they’re supposed to do and not really do it. But you know, just to do a bit of a diversion. What they have found, I think,
is a group groups seem to work group support. And having that, yeah.
Peter Cox 1:29:45
Group support habituation, and the understanding the practices. So what are the meanings? What are the competencies? What makes you feel? Oh, yeah, I know what to do with that in that vegetable over there.
Laura Laker 1:30:00
Peter Cox 1:30:02
I really, there’s all this fruit out there. I don’t eat it. Why not? I don’t know what to do. I mean, there are some things I have to take the pips out or some things I don’t I’m do I just make myself feel or look a twit.
When you’re in a situation where that’s normal, you learn how to deal with that. And as you move different social groups, you you learn how to deal with different things and riding’s exactly the
same. So so so
being on being on the bike, and being both someone who actually rides because I quite enjoy it.
And also having that
an almost evangelical, where we actually need to increase cycling for all sorts of reasons. And we can rationalise lots of them, and sort of being seen as riding to work every day that this is all you are a cyclist, you know, what do you do? And you do? And I just said, Well, I’m not a cyclist anymore. I used to be, but past couple of years, I’ve done nothing more than ride my bike to work.
Laura Laker 1:31:14
Yeah. A lot of people who cycle to work wouldn’t consider themselves cyclists.
Peter Cox 1:31:20
Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, you know, the idea for me of dressing up, you know, I have my cycle dressing up clothes, when I want, but it’s but for me, that’s as rare as going out to a party. And it’s the same it’s the same thing. Yeah, you
Laura Laker 1:31:37
go to that you’re putting on a costume.
Yeah, I mean, it is yeah.
Rod King 1:31:44
But it’s, it’s it’s dressing up close to go and get to go to a party, you know, the party happens to be with a group of other people on the road. But you know, I haven’t done that for for a while now. But it’s the kits all there and the bikes get polished occasionally and get got ready and I never get around to it. But so so those being those different people and trying to explain sometimes to others that those are very different people there’s a different roles as a different performances. And I i’m not saying you should have the same party clothes as me, all you should enjoy the same sort of party actually. You know, it’s it’s quite a diff quite a different thing. And there’s enough activities out there that you can that you can take part in, which comes back and that’s just to illustrate my meanings, competencies, and technologies go into practices. Yeah, so so those practices are I really wish I’d retitled the book cycling’s sociology is
Laura Laker 1:32:54
so this is what your book is about. It’s, it’s, it’s exploring cycling and its forms and exits during these.
Peter Cox 1:33:01
Yeah. It’s, it’s,
it’s exploring cycling, the varieties of cycling as a social practice. But it’s doing it in a in a way designed for for academics. It’s not it’s not a unless you really, really have got bad insomnia and need to be put to sleep. It’s not a bed time read..
Laura Laker 1:33:23
And it’s, what, like 80-odd quid?
Peter Cox 1:33:24
Yeah, yeah, yes, get-the-library-to-order-it job. But it does show that and it it gives the evidence and it gives the case studies that will allow people to take it seriously as, as a sociological text. Also, cyclist kind of who might think, oh, I interested in the sociology to actually see how it’s been, how it’s been and being understood how other people are writing it. And it’s not all my ideas. It’s a lot of it is direct showing how other people are using though
Laura Laker 1:33:58
Yeah, cuz that’s science, isn’t it? You take people ideas, you thinking,
Peter Cox 1:34:02
put two weirdly different ideas next to
what’s the what’s the connexion?
Laura Laker 1:34:08
That’s a new ideas come up, isn’t it? Yeah. So what are you hoping to achieve with this book? Who are you hoping is going to read it and what?
Peter Cox 1:34:16
Well, it’s part of a wider, a wider series on changing mobilities. And the there’s a huge academic movement in the social sciences and beyond into transport studies and and mobility history that is looking at and talking about cycling, because the train, we’ve got the train people doing train studies on trains, and we’ve got the car people doing studies on cars. And for many years, there was nobody talking about bikes and cycling. And just you get these histories of of transport. And cycling gets one sort of mentioned in a footnotes and one written by a really good friend of mine who who shall go nameless, but
we’ve talked about it and it’s exciting. Well,
There was nothing written on it.
So a group of us got together and decided to start writing about this stuff. So it’s academics. Yeah, academics who are who are engaged in the study of mobility in any form, are our principal audience.
And it’s quite, quite large internationally. Yeah. Where the
Peter Cox 1:35:36
networks are things like the cosmobilities network, which just kind of global mailing lists of academics. So it’s quite nice. With my other hat as Connect as chair of ECF’s cycling scientists network, which connects academics who want to put their work at to the service of ECF’s campaigning with.
Yeah. Well, this is just an information network. So anybody? Yeah. Anybody who’s interested in who’s who thinks their work might be able to contribute. So whether they might be so psychologist, a transport planner, an engineer,
who’s interested in furthering cycling and wants to put their network their work their studies doesn’t have to be about cycling. It’s about their they’re the expert in their
at the service of European Cyclists Federation, that’s the that’s the network that’s designed for those. So as part of that, you know, I this year, the University of Bologna they were because Bologna hosted the start of the Giro d’Italia this year, they were having a special day at the University on cycling, different aspects of science to tie in with that. And so I went over there as a keynote speaker, keynote speaker. And, you know, that was a delight to suddenly meet both senior and junior academics from from the University of Bologna, who are engaged in different areas, whether it’s from Sports Science, or from psychology, or tourism studies, but who are all saying all I’m on cycling, could talk to that, yeah, cycling could talk to this piece of work that we’re doing. And so that’s, that’s the other side of that network. It serves the ECF. But it also allows people to see
more interesting things to study than some of the other behaviours we have to study.
Laura Laker 1:37:42
Yeah. And bringing together people from different disciplines, different ideas from different disciplines can help create new ideas basic.
Peter Cox 1:37:50
Yeah, it’s that cross fertilisation is absolutely brilliant. And
it’s, it’s the thing that most of all gets,
gets us excited about doing this. And here at Velo-city, one of the things that we’ve had over the years is since the scientist cycling network was launched in sort of 2010 10 ish, if I remember rightly,
to have strands,
either as a separate day or within the Velo-city programmes that allow these different disciplinary
teams to get
to get to get together and talk talk with each other and, and is as is a really, really good and valuable scene and lots of lots of good stuff comes out of it.
Laura Laker 1:38:43
Well, thank you. It’s been super interesting talking to you. And, and good luck with the hope your book is widely picked up, obviously.
Peter Cox 1:38:53
Hopefully, it’ll get into paperback and people will
be able to afford it.
Laura Laker 1:38:56
So, I have come across the former [technology and environment] mayor of Copenhagen. Morten Kabell, who now works for Copenhagenize. Morten, what brings you to to Dublin Velo-city? Perhaps an obvious question?
Morten Kabell 1:39:12
Well, I’ve been participating in Velo-city for eight, nine times now, and have enjoyed it immensely every single time I learned a lot from colleagues from planners from advocates from all over the world. And every time I come home with new experiences, new things that are like, why haven’t we tried that before? So for me, this is a great part of doing urban planning of doing bicycle planning, participate in these conferences.
Laura Laker 1:39:40
So when were you [technology and environment] Mayor of Copenhagen? Let’s go back.
Morten Kabell 1:39:43
I got elected. I was member of city cabinet in the city council from 1998 and 20 years onwards, and was mayor of the last term from 2014 to 17.
Laura Laker 1:39:53
Wow. And obviously, huge numbers of people cycling in Copenhagen.
Morten Kabell 1:39:57
For sure. Of all overall commuting, it’s 49% of everybody commuting to a place in Copenhagen that are cycling among the Copenhageners themselves it’s actually, almost two thirds. So bicycling is the main mode of transport around us.
Laura Laker 1:40:13
Wow. What’s it like to be mayor of a city of such huge numbers of cyclists?
Morten Kabell 1:40:19
Yeah, well, it’s great. But it’s also demanding, because it also means that our 62% of Copenhageners who demand better conditions. And of course, they expect you to, to give it to them.
Laura Laker 1:40:31
And that was pretty much the situation the whole time that you imagine cycling, which is part of the culture as part of the infrastructure is part of everyday life?
Morten Kabell 1:40:39
Laura Laker 1:40:39
But that’s not the case for most cities around the world. And a lot of them look to Copenhagen to, to what they would like to be like, in terms of people who who want to see more cycling and walking.
Morten Kabell 1:40:51
That is true. But it’s also important to know that there is nothing special about Copenhagen, we aren’t greener than anybody else. We’re we, it’s not in our blood. It’s not in in the water. The city of Copenhagen has just made the right choice. The easy choice, and that’s why Copenhageners are biking. I mean, if if the it had been easiest way to take your car, then I’m pretty sure that a huge majority of Copenhageners would have done that. And there is nothing special to what Copenhagen has done. We are as lazy as you are. No, no doubt about that. We’re humans, we’re lazy. We want to get fast to work. And we’ll get definitely want to get fast home from work. Yeah. So it’s a matter of having built the infrastructure that Copenhagen has built over the years that has made cycling the predominant mode of transport among ourselves.
Laura Laker 1:41:42
Yeah. And I don’t know if it’s so far ahead of places like Dublin, and even London, I say even London, London has some good routes. But it’s not a network by any means. If there are some things that we could learn from Copenhagen?
Morten Kabell 1:41:58
There are, and I mean, the main three things for becoming a good bicycle city is infrastructure, infrastructure, and infrastructure. Build it, and they will come and that goes for cycling as well. As it goes for highways, the moment you start building a coherent, safe, protected network, then you will see people cycling, and then you’ll see all ages, all abilities, all kinds of walks of life, certainly using a bicycle.
Laura Laker 1:42:24
Yeah. And what did you learn to think as mayor of the city in terms of how to get more people on bikes?
Morten Kabell 1:42:32
That the moment you actually have a safe protected network, then people will bike. And that’s what people demand. And that’s one of the things I am most frightened about when I’m in London. I’m not sure I want to bike in London, to be honest, because I actually like my life, and I don’t want it to end. And that’s, that’s how I feel in many cities. So we should always demand our politicians and our planners, that they give us safe solutions. And the benefit for the city will be less congestion, less air pollution, and more livable city and a more efficient city. Yeah, so there are only only benefits for for cities doing this. And to be honest, it’s also the cheapest infrastructure. So when our politicians tell us that they can’t afford safe infrastructure, the question we should ask them is, how can you afford not to? because a highway is 10 times, 15 times as expensive to build as bicycle infrastructure?
Laura Laker 1:43:29
Well, in Manchester, there was an event on in Manchester last week, where the new cycling and walking commissioner, I say new, he’s been there for a year or so, Chris Boardman of Manchester, he was saying that, for the cost of one roundabout, the Black Cat roundabout, £1.4 billion, I think it’s the same cost for the entire cycling programme that they have across Manchester City.
Morten Kabell 1:43:51
Exactly. Another good example is the the total cost of Copenhagen over the last 15,16 years of bicycle infrastructure. And here we’re talking 250 miles of safe protected network, we’re talking 12 bicycle bridges over the harbour. And that has cost around £240 million. That’s incidentally, exactly the same amount, that one two mile bypass tunnel for cars north of Copenhagen has cost I mean, that’s a pretty easy choice.
Laura Laker 1:44:25
And when you think about the cost to society, or the benefits to society of the of the relative modes, it shifts the balance even further. And we know all this, we’ve known this for decades, not none of this is new. I mean, the UK Government, for example, has known that if you build more roads, you get more cars. And yet, we have one of the biggest road building programmes of a generation in progress at the moment, road widening, new bypasses. It’s like we know the solution. Maybe some politicians don’t, but we’re not doing it, either way. And it’s it’s a puzzle to someone who works in active transport. And I wonder if you have any insight, your your history in politics, why, how these kind of things can happen at both national and local level?
Morten Kabell 1:45:14
There can be many reasons for it. Of course, car industry and car [inaudible] have had a pretty strong influence on most politicians, they have a lot of money. And we know that counts in politics as well. It’s also about whether sometimes the facts have been probably presented in a way that people don’t believe them. And I think sometimes we that our bicycle advocates should also be good in probably remembering our own arguments. Do we just want to go out and tell people they’re stupid if they don’t bike? Or you should really do this? Because it’s better for the world? Now, sometimes we should probably actually meet people where they are. And said, What what are your conditions for on a day to day basis? And then relate to that? And I think there we can really push a lot of people into doing the right thing. Yeah. But we have to make it the easy, the easy way to do it.
Laura Laker 1:46:06
Yeah. And to talk to people not shout at them
Morten Kabell 1:46:09
Always a good idea.
Laura Laker 1:46:10
Did you find in Copenhagen that the motor lobby was still sort of pushing? Do how much of an influence Do you think …
Morten Kabell 1:46:20
Every single car park spot that was taken down in Copenhagen came after a big fight, and a big debate and the whole automobile lobby, saying that now is the end of the world, and nothing would ever work anymore in Copenhagen. And the only thing there is to say that consistently we proved that that was not the case that the local commercial life actually thrived, when you took away compact spaces and put in a bike lane, because suddenly, there were a lot of bicyclists and contrary to car to car drivers, they actually look at what’s on offer in the local shops. So they go in and buy the stuff.
Laura Laker 1:46:58
It’s not often like big companies saying this parking space is important to our industry. I mean, that never happens, it’s local people often isn’t it they’re almost making the case for the car companies.
Morten Kabell 1:47:09
Often, yeah it is. We also have major companies in Copenhagen, Ramboll. The big consultant engineering consultant is a good example. They moved their headquarters to be close to a station and close to good bicycling infrastructure. Their car dependency went down from 70, 75%. I think it today it’s 15% simply by moving their head offices, some kilometres. And they are suddenly seeing now that their employees feel much better. And actually, they make a good business case out of it as well.
Laura Laker 1:47:40
What they’ve asked their employees, they’ve, they’ve talked to their employees,
Morten Kabell 1:47:45
They basically went out and said, we’re moving, we’re going to give you almost immediate access to a train station and the metro station, and there’s going to be good bicycle infrastructure. So let’s also build a good bicycle parking and so on. And that was basically what they did. Yeah. And and the, almost from one day to the other, most of their employees basically shifted transport modes.
Laura Laker 1:48:08
And what would you say to say campaigners who are living somewhere where it doesn’t feel like their local politicians are committed to active travel? How do we start to shift that kind of mindset within politics?
Morten Kabell 1:48:22
First thing would be vote them out. That’s a tough and cynical thing to say. But I mean, in Copenhagen, this was a bottom up thing. This was not something that the politicians and the planners came and proposed, this was Copenhageners who were fed up with long transport hours, were fed up with squares being used as parking lots and so on. So they basically demanded to get the city back. And therefore the politicians had to react, if for no other reasons, than to get reelected in the next election. And that slowly changed the city, over the decades.
Laura Laker 1:48:56
And we’ve seen that in Dublin, actually, there was a green wave of green politicians coming in, in the in the last EU elections. And one of the local campaigners told me that being seen with a bike was the new kissing babies, because it became an issue for people because they say 6% of people entering the city in the mornings, are on bikes, and yet, you’ve seen the conditions on the roads here. I mean, you’re riding between coaches, your cycle lanes are full of parked vehicles. And it’s, it’s pretty scary. And you know…
Morten Kabell 1:49:25
Also because it’s not a safe and protected network here in Dublin, I mean, red paint, or red asphalt on the street, where you have buses zooming past you at 40 or 50 kilometres an hour, that’s not safe. That’s a sure way of either feeling extremely unsafe or getting killed. And which parent would ever send their kids off to school on their own with such conditions? They actually do so in Copenhagen to the benefit of everybody.
Laura Laker 1:49:52
Yeah, that must be wonderful.
Morten Kabell 1:49:54
Laura Laker 1:49:54
For the kids to be able to make their own way to school
Morten Kabell 1:49:57
Yeah, because you feel independent. And you get these feelings of success on a daily basis. And you don’t need your mom or dad to take you to school. I mean, that actually creates independent kids who can stand up for themselves. So that is pretty nice. That’s what every parent wants to teach their kids to be?
Laura Laker 1:50:13
Yeah. And how do you how do you persuade people who think we have a problem in the UK, and I think, and in Ireland to, it seems to be an English speaking country problem, where cyclists are seen as a narrow demographic of people, I think, because of the routes that we’ve built. Basically, we built routes for fast commuter cyclists from specific neighbourhoods that are kind of low hanging fruit for cycling. But as a result, people think cyclists are these kind of fit.
Morten Kabell 1:50:41
I would say, if you’re tired of congestion, make sure that you have a safe protected bicycle network, because that will take away so many cars from the network that those who actually need a car, and there are people who need a car, and that’s fine with me, I don’t have problem with that there are people in wheelchairs, they, of course, need a car, there are people who live in places where public transport or bicycling isn’t a possibility, fine, they can use a car. Actually, if, if we took away all the lazy drivers so to speak, then those who actually need a car would have much better conditions, it also mean that we can get our goods faster to our supermarkets, that will in the end, create lower prices, and will mean less air pollution for all of us. So it actually means we have space for so many other things than just cars that… I rarely actually use, you can say green arguments or all that because in many cities, because I know that what really persuades politicians, planners, are the tough data, show them that this works. And we have the data from the bicycle friendly cities from around the world. We have cities in the world where I mean, I was in Bogota at a conference, their average speed on the on the streets in the morning, there’s 12 and a half kilometres an hour. That’s almost half a little more than half of, more than that, that while I’m able to ride to work on a bicycle. I mean, that’s a waste of your life, sitting in that in that queue.
Laura Laker 1:52:15
And you’re so helpless, so no wonder people get so frustrated. And so from Copenhagen, to Copenhagenize, and you’re now you’re not working with them, you’re now spreading the message.
Morten Kabell 1:52:27
We are planning we are helping cities around the world in becoming bike friendly. Doing good work and good cooperation with cities on all continents on making bike strategies for them. And help them to show what their city could look like if it became bike friendly. Right now we work in the cities like Strasbourg in France, we are working with several American citizen Canadian citizen, really, we’re working with Shymkent in Kazakhstan, really typical Soviet style city that has grown a lot and then therefore also see the need for really transforming themselves. They want to go bike friendly. It’s a million people, and we’re helping them doing that.
Laura Laker 1:53:09
Which American cities?
Morten Kabell 1:53:11
We’ve been working with Detroit which was the Motor City of old, that actually wants to be modern city and wants to go bike friendly … They suffered hugely in the…
Definitely, the financial crisis and the bankruptcy of the city has really hit them hard.
Laura Laker 1:53:26
And the population is just hollowed out and they’ve got empty buildings.
Morten Kabell 1:53:29
So they need to do something to actually get more people to move there. And to get more modern. Yeah, we’re working with Akron, in Ohio, also middle of the rust belt. Chapel Hill. Long Beach, California.
Laura Laker 1:53:43
Snoop Dogg’s territory.
Morten Kabell 1:53:44
Yes, sure. So it’s really interesting areas that that are coming to us and saying, Can you help us? Can you do something with the knowledge we have from Copenhagen and other cities? And say, what is best practice? And how can we do that?
You can’t copy paste, of course, but we can use best practice from cities around the world and say what fits this city and help them transform?
Laura Laker 1:54:12
And are they listening to your advice?
Morten Kabell 1:54:14
They most often are, because they can see after the first initial shock of finding out ‘Whoa, how much will my city change?’ then they are all most often listening and saying, this looks good.
Laura Laker 1:54:26
Yeah. I think there’s there’s always that moment, and it’s the same, it’s been the same in Dublin, I think, where people, politicians, people want to change. But then there comes a moment at which they realise, oh, we’re gonna have to inconvenience the motorist. We’re gonna have to look at parking.
And and then, and then you’ll find, it seems like a lot of people seem to get cold feet at that point. So what do you do? do you what do you do. I guess you’re just you’re just helping them on? Anyone, but
we’re trying to help them on we’re trying to help them do good communications. So people are also understand what’s going on and how to communicate the message.
misinformation seems to be the death of
there’s a lot of that as well out there, for sure. And then, of course, it needs a mayor, a city council that has courage and actually wants to stand up for what they’re doing and say, and in the end, I mean, one, one Lord Mayor of Copenhagen stood up and said, Well, if you don’t want that don’t reelect me. I think a lot of Copenhageners actually had respect for that. Because there was also her saying, Yeah, but you know, this is what I stand for. So if you so honestly disagree with me, then put your vote somewhere else. And she actually got elected with the highest number of votes that we’d ever seen in Copenhagen. So I think a lot of Copenhageners thought: that’s a person that we can actually respect.
Yeah. And we found this in London actually. councillors who’ve supported cycling, have returned after elections with with higher majorities in a lot of cases. Yeah,
that’s a good example as well.
Okay. Great. So can you just say what sort of, I don’t know, what’s the future for cities and cycling? what’s what’s new at the moment what’s exciting for you?
My hope is that the future of cycling cities is that we see safe, protected, bicycle tracks, unidirectional, in all of our major cities, and then those who might be too small or can’t, won’t do that, then we see other kinds of safe infrastructure where a parent won’t think twice about sending his kids or kids off to school, where you feel safe when you go to work in the morning. And you can actually do it without being out in the car, stuck in congestion. And that will result in efficiency in livable city in the city that suddenly has to find out, ‘What are we going to do with all our space?’ How can we actually return to the human scale of our cities, and our streetscapes? and those cities are going to be the winners of the competition between cities of tomorrow. I have no doubt about that. We already see that.
Wonderful, lovely to speak to you.
Likewise. thank thank you.