Making Passenger

Jason Falconer: The Bicycle Mayor

May 01, 2020 Passenger Season 1 Episode 2
Jason Falconer: The Bicycle Mayor
Making Passenger
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Making Passenger
Jason Falconer: The Bicycle Mayor
May 01, 2020 Season 1 Episode 2

Cycling plays an important part in how we travel around our towns and cities. This week, Matt and Tom talk to Jason Falconer, chair of the BH Active Travel Forum, about cycling in the south and how it's been affected by the current health crisis.

As Jason says "The bicycle is possibly the best invention ever". Looking to the future, we discuss how transport infrastructure can support cycling for everyone and every journey. 

Show Notes Transcript

Cycling plays an important part in how we travel around our towns and cities. This week, Matt and Tom talk to Jason Falconer, chair of the BH Active Travel Forum, about cycling in the south and how it's been affected by the current health crisis.

As Jason says "The bicycle is possibly the best invention ever". Looking to the future, we discuss how transport infrastructure can support cycling for everyone and every journey. 

Matt:   0:10
Hi. Welcome to this week's Making Passenger podcast. I'm Matt 

Tom:   0:13
and I'm Tom.  

Matt:   0:14
This week we're talking to Jason Falconer, chair of the BH Active Travel Forum, about cycling in the South and how has been affected by the current health crisis.

Tom:   0:23
We'll also talk about how cycling plays an important part in how we travel around our towns and cities.

Matt:   0:27
Hope you enjoy! [music fades] So, what is the BH Active Travel Forum?

Jason:   0:39
So that began in the mid 1990's  and there was a counsellor called John Hayter and his friend and fellow rider Angela Pooley who basically approached the council, then Bournemouth and said, "Hey, we want to have a meeting that can draw people together who want to promote cycling in the area". And was primarily cycling then, on they used the town hall and had regular meetings and they drew in the other cycling groups to try and bring about better cycling provision for Bournemouth. So, yeah, it's been going nearly 30 years, isn't it?

Matt:   1:14
Okay. How long have you been involved in that?

Jason:   1:17
10 years since I came to Bournemouth  from Luton, Bedford St Albans as a Sustran's BikeIt officer, so I was doing full time paid cycling in school promotion. Yeah, so it was one thing that I got involved in straight away.  

Tom:   1:34
Jason, what is Sustrans?

Tom:   1:35
Sustrans stands for Sustainable Transport. It's a charity that began in 1977 and was opened up by a great engineer called John Grimshaw, who saw the potential of cycle routes using our railways. Bristol Bath was the initial one that he and lots of other volunteers cleared and made a clean and cyclyable and walkable surface, which now carries more people in and out of Bristol in any other modes. So, yeah, it began with that. And then it's just expanded to incorporate lows of different railways, mainly that that's the main thing that the charity is really well known for and does best in my own view. But it builds bridges over rivers, and it links places and makes it easier for people to walk and cycle in a nutshell.

Matt:   2:24
So tell us a little about your work on the cycling and the walking local infrastructure plan, because I hear that you're involved in some of that.

Jason:   2:30
Yeah, sure. I mean, there's there's a very unique moment that we have now, which is the fact that council BCP, its new incorporation of all of the others, A year in has won this money from a grant from DfT - the Transforming Cities fund money on they've got the princely sum of £70 something million, £20 Million as well to make a total of £98 million to spend over the next three years. Of the £20 million the Dorset's itself money and They have got a serious amount of strategic planning going on in cycling terms, specifically the cycling officers working on something called Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan or LCWIP as its known as by many people and he's drawn a primary cycling network of roots around the area, which,  they incorporate a lot of things I've already written actually,, which is really neat because about six years ago I wrote up a system called Poolemouth Cycle System of all the great roots that I was riding everywhere and strava'd and time distanced and photographed and put on my website. A lot of the routes that are now being put onto the LCWIP are those roots because they're really lovely directions and they include places like the Borne Valley Greenway and loads of other links. But yes. So what you got basically is the cycling officer working on the LCWIP plan, which feeds in to the TCF bigger picture. The TCF stands for Transforming Cities Fund and the guys that the engineers that I'm working with and talking to about this, that they've got connectivity corridors which are bus - yahey! They are bike and motor, and then they have to incorporate a cycle element as well. So the main TCF connectivity corridors have got S numbers. So, like, S3 - Bournemouth to Ferndown connectivity corridor - as well as that there's C routes and the C routes are the cycle freeways there currently called freeways, they are probably gonna change [the name] because I don't know whether you like, do you like 'freeways'? A 'cycle freeway' or...

Matt:   4:55
It's a bit American innit? Although I dont know what I prefer, what's your preferred term?

Jason:   5:00
I just like Cycleway to be honest. So this C 12345 and they are part of the LCWIP and there's a lot of those that are being drawn up and designed now. 

Tom:   5:15
Jason a question from me, it must be quite amazing to suddenly have a huge amount of money to make these the cycleways, you know, to actually make them happen, having spent such a long time sort of envisaging how that might happen.

Jason:   5:29
Yeah, is it's really quite exciting. I do honestly believe that bicycle is the best invention ever, and people that are out there now they're riding around, perhaps returning bikers getting them out of the  garage, you know, they go in either slow and just having a nice pootle or they're going to get a workout and it gives you back exactly what you put into it, you know? So that's what's great about the bike and the roots, and the infrastructure aspect is quite amazing. But I guess it had to happen. As as we go on, people know in authorities that then they can't keep building roads. They do know that the education is there and it means that they're gonna really have to make provisions and figure out how we're gonna get people moving around. More people moving on other modes  because you can't move enough people, by the way that they've been predicated everything on which is the motorcar, you know? So it's definitely back to the future for the bike and it's great to have been involved in it all the way.

Matt:   6:32
Yeah, I think you're right. We think about local to us, Bournemouth, you can't get much more on the roads without destroying houses and making the roads wider, which is obviously not gonna happen. So that's where something like bikes or public transport or another form makes a lot of sense. And so we've seen that, you know, some cities are temporarily widening their pavement and added cycle lanes to accommodate more people. And that sort of stuff, where do you think that something might be beneficial? Locally, there is anywhere that you you sort of have an opinion off or an idea in mind we could widen the pavements?

Jason:   7:09
Are you talking about in relation to COVID as well?

Matt:   7:12
as well? Yes. Well, I mean, getting specifically in relation to COVID at the minute, some cities are temporary widening those pavements and adding cycle lanes or whatever it is they're doing, which is just allowing more people to use active travel. And if you think about local because obviously you know that very well. Where do you think we could do this in Bournemouth? Where the key places you're like -It's a no brainer.

Jason:   7:34
m a bit biassed because I live in PooleI live in pool. Well, they were balding, wearing bullet.

Matt:   7:39
m a In Poole then...

Jason:   7:40
Well, they're the root outside my house and then goes all the way down to the Sandbanks Peninsula. I'm at the Civic Centre and I'm not the bling end, but it's one road in effect, you know, you can ride it right the way round and back and that's actually peopled by so many riders and walkers and skaters at the moment. I wrote a block about it, actually, just recently, whereby they wrote a seafront strategy in 2007 and it was the old Poole Borough [Council] that wrote it and included some pretty good detail about protected cycle ways and you can think just those here that are listening to this locally that know that route really well. You could think that there's the water side, there's the foot way, and then there's like a lot of parking and other space is really a really win place to be able to build protected bike routes, aside of footways. If you were able to bring out cones or light segregation and then move it so the parking lane, as is, on a lot off that road that down by the water side, you know, from Tesco beyond - if that was actually cycleway and then the parking was alongside the cones, that's the way thats used to protect bike groups in many areas. So they're kind of in inside the parking,  and I blogged about that. So I mean, that's my immediate thought. I think the Longfleet road, which goes up the hill out of Poole past the hospital, which is gonna be part of the S 5 Poole - Ferndown connectivity corridor. I think it would be ideal to do that as well. And cone that or light segregate that to give folk that worked at the hospital some protection, and on the back of it actually make it so that they are starting to claim space for what is going to be built in future design. Because, as Tom accurately pointed out, they can't build wider. You know, to their credit the engineers in this area, they haven't been building more roads for ages, But they can redesign the streets that we've got to be able to work better for people and starting to claim space for bikes there on the back of COVID  would be a really great initiative. Yeah.

Tom:   10:02
I guess the question I have is we're seeing all of these, you know, these pavement widening and these kind of temporary markings being put onto rate with aerosol cans. And, you know, we're seeing cities get on with it. We're seeing, you know, Bogata - just doing it. We're seeing Brighton have already closed one of the main arteries there. And what, what is stopping BCP or, you know, one of us who are sort of really aware of these things that are happening? What are the mechanisms to actually make that happen? What's stopping it?

Jason:   10:31
You know, you getting into proper geeky stuff here, but it's been as you've offered me a the carrot. I will sort of run with it.

Matt:   10:37
Well we like geeky stuff so thats absolutely  fine.  

Jason:   10:41
All right!

Jason:   10:42
So the traffic regulation orders, which authorities in the UK have to put in place to make changes to the road. They've changed it slightly so that the government have changed this very slightly so that it means that they don't have to advertise changes and put them in the newspaper like they used to. Okay. But it still means that they've got to go through a whole procedure to get actual changes on the ground. So the government have played it a little bit, and I haven't given leadership to local authorities. They've done what they often do, which has just said okay on your crack. But they've still got to go and go through a lot of procedure. T get to be able to put cones down or do certain things now a pin arguing that they have emergency powers right now. So the car parks that you might see near where you live that are close to cars that are currently like the one in the white cliff is full of kids riding round in circles. It's amazing. Is is protected space. Yeah, but they have emergency powers that they can use, and they should actually be trying to put these into place to be able to continue. You know, those roads to be protected like we've got Poole Park closed to through traffic, and everybody's loving that. If if they could at least do that in, keep that going. Also, at Hengistbury Head,  where you'll see loads and loads of families. 

Tom:   12:12
I noticed that! I went  running down Hengistbury Head the other morning and I noticed that the whole road was was closed. So I mean, but these are roads that - you described Poole Park and you described Hengistbury Head, these are roads that can be closed quite easily because they have barriers that can be swung into places is that right?

Jason:   12:26
Yeah, you're right Tom and there is that truth about Maderia Drive in Bournemouth, It's a parallel road, to an arterial, you know, and it's always used for events. The other ones that I'm also saying to Counsellor Hadley at the moment is West Overcliff Drive is a road, which is, it doesn't need to be trafficked other than for people that live there. So it could be close on either end and just given access only,  that would be a good one. Poole Qual as well,  and actually, they are looking at these places as being definite. But yeah, there's nothing that's made easy for local authorities in procedure turns. Honestly, there isn't and these guys are now working under this emergency that they don't know when it will end. It's kind of like an emergency without a point. And then the chief executive of BCP made that point. Yesterday is really good that, you know, normally, if you've got like an earthquake, that's happened and a lot of people have died. That's the emergency, and now it's right. It's happened, and now we're dealing with it. The COVID is such an open ended thing that we're living through at the moment that we're not sure how long it's going to go for, so you know. But I do think there's a time and the opportunity here that they should be really making an effort to then say right. We've seen people working from home. We know that we don't actually have to make all those face to face journeys to have an office meeting now, so let's let's keep the reduction on the road traffic. Let's keep that going and keep people actively travelling.

Matt:   14:00
I think that's certainly the dream, isn't it? In reality, there's lots of everyone staying at home at the minute, and some people aren't travelling. But when people start going back to work, it's how do we get them to do in an active way? How'd we get them to take the habits that they formed? Keep those going as we come out of the, you know, this health crisis.

Tom:   14:19
I guess, you know, we're seeing lots of families out on bikes and, you know, parents that are prepared to let their children, you know, pootle around in front of them, and behind them without so much fear is as they have before. So I personally, I worry that we were gonna go back to not allowing our kids on the roads and having them on the pavements next to us because, you know, that's, you know, the traffic has returned at an almighty pace. I mean, I think this is the big question, isn't it? All ways of seeing a vision of how things could be and what do we need to do in order to make them most off the opportunity I guess they we're all kind of experiencing. You know, we're allowing ourselves to kind of do these things and getting a bit more exercise and getting our bikes out of the shed. And all these things are a lot of people are talking about but what are the steps that have to be taken and whilst all the COVID stuff is open ended, how long have we got? Can we get these things acted upon before we return to normal in inverted commas and the traffic starts flying past again.

Jason:   15:21
you may be in the eternal optimist. I'm going to say Okay, you know, we're working with the council. Let's let's see how you could do it on. At the very least, make those road closures that happened now continue. And ideally, give us some of these places where we can start. Koning are for light, segregating for for the transforming cities from work that you're going

Matt:   15:44
to do so then you must feel pretty good about or must have strong opinions around. The 20 is plenty campaign that I'm seeing around getting attraction. Indeed,

Tom:   15:58
Jason, I have had an exchange on this one over Twitter. I think over the last few days they were at the end of April. Now on the 23rd of April. Now, Andi, I think it was It was a tweet from our environmental portfolio holder down here on the coast on DH. It was really a question of back. There's been raised around, you know, Do we Do we drop the speed limit down to 20 on DH? What people think about that, and I've seen the campaign and I think it's a great idea. I think you know, it may be hard to reduce your speed in a modern motor car and to actually get you know it'll speed down to 20 consistently without changes in the road infrastructure. But, you know, I think if it's communicated well on that, it is part of the overall strategy to contain covert and make sure that the N H s is not overloaded through, you know, the road accidents that it s so regularly has to deal with. And I think then I think people will be open to considering a change in there. They're driving behaviour. And I think if you that if you use the you know the current situation as as a reason Teo drop the speed limit down to 20. I think people would would accept that more readily than if you If you just said right, we're gonna make everywhere 20 miles an hour. I think people wouldn't understand. You know, they think you know, is that the roads are empty. Why are you making me go slow? That's ridiculous. But then I think, you know, as I said before about the you know the time it takes to change to former habit. Yeah, I think I think you're gonna have people who are more used to driving slowly on residential streets. And then they will accept that if that becomes the normally to Rome.

Jason:   17:33
Yeah. Yeah. There's lots of folks that are professional drivers that are doing slow speeds in massive Lorries and so on. They take it just as a matter of course. I said to Felicity, actually, that if you could attribute this speed reduction to COVID  measures, that would be fantastic. It's unfortunate that as as a country we always give it to a local authorities to deal with their individual area. It's not legislated for nationally by central government. What's going on in London is quite interesting because I know that the the CIA is that Z's been postponed at the moment. Right? The emissions on the London emission area city calm was was gonna make it so that if you got caught speeding in 20 zone, you paid £100 fine and got three points. All right? So if that money could be put into local authorities use, then I think that'd be great. Because the biggest, the biggest issue that they have about a lot of the stuff that relates to change in the road backing is loss of parking revenue, not taking car parking spaces away. Because, effectively, this's a suburban outlook. A suburban mental, eh? Not cities, You know, the cities that you and I probably bean to visit Copenhagen and everywhere else. They actually they know what is going on with this, and they know that footfall increases when you when you make it attractive, you know? So if we could start to bring that mental into  GB authorities, that would be fantastic.

Matt:   19:17
If I could just take you back there. Jason, you mentioned the lower emissions zones that are being postponed. Do you know about about that?

Jason:   19:24
Yeah, Well, I go it goes parts of the fact that working on this, authorities that would have bean initiating those things separately in their own time because some of them were given the option by central government and didn't pick it up and say yeah, we'll do that. There are working on this corporate incident management level. That means that they need to address the needs of the most needy in society on our guys are doing that really well. But it means that they got take away the priority on stuff that that could have been going on on. Yeah, you'd have to argue that you know, the proof of being able to see clearly through London because there is no smog. The evidence from other cities would would help you to go. Do you know what that that has to be noticed and that has to be acted upon. So the sooner they bring those things in, I mean, I'm going back now. About a year. I think there was maybe two, unfortunately, young schoolgirl in London died of pollution. The first person to die in London of pollution related effects. That's criminal, isn't it?

Matt:   20:34
Yeah. Thats crazy.

Jason:   20:35

Matt:   20:36
I believe. I think Tom shared the article that they there are some links between clean air quality and the COVID health crisis. But I mean, also anything that attacks the respiratory system, you would have thought clean air would be what you need right now, right? So I appreciate there are lots of things to prioritise, and I'm not saying this is the most important thing. I just think it's a bit of a shame that these have been postponed. I don't I haven't seen anywhere that they 've said it's 6 months, 12 months or whatever, so I doubt it's indefinitely. But just the fact that it's been postponed at all seems a shame.

Jason:   21:10
Yeah, absolutely

Tom:   21:12
One question for me. Something I noticed Jason, you recommended listening to the Streets Ahead podcast, and I listened to that. If it was really good, I noticed the title of Adam Tranter being The Bicycle Mayor.  

Jason:   21:27
Yeah, that's right.  

Tom:   21:27
And I thought, I thought, what a  wonderful title to give someone who champions cycling and no doubt active travel on a more broad basis in a region. I put it to you that as as the chair of the Active Travel are you not Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch Bicycle Mayor?

Jason:   21:46
I'm pretty well known. I must admit, you know, it's funny. It's funny, really, that something that you essentially just do and have always done. Just because it makes complete sense is such an issue. Because, honestly, I never rode a bike when I was going to work at 18, 19 because it was 'green'. It just was what my folks did, and probably a lot of people's folks did, and I carried it on going. I never really wanted to not do it, so I don't know, maybe there's another chance to become involved. It's funny that the way I get involved with counsellors now, Tom the amount of councillors that are saying to me, Jason, you know, you should get involved, gets, gets standing, gets standing.

Tom:   22:37
But I have no idea if their bicycle mayor is a political figure or what, But you heard it here first. I'm going to start championing for a rebrand of your role.  

Jason:   22:49
Thank you.  You flatter me.

Tom:   22:53
No you do a fantastic job, and I think, you know, keep it up. You really are kind of promoting all of the things that a lot of people care about, and I know it's incredibly hard work to be on the twitters, in the Facebooks all the time, but it's great to see someone fighting that fight. 

Jason:   24:50
Yeah, thanks. I just want to say it's an educative process. A lot of this stuff like you've brought up people don't really appreciate it if they, if they arent told about where's better and it's easy for us that have done the pilgrimage to Copenhagen to talk about how awesome it is and stuff. But you know that those posts that I make on the BH Active Travel website, they're educative posts that I want people to share widely and get known. And we've always said we'd do public engagement, you know, door knocking and meeting people that want this stuff to happen on that in their area. Trials - trials are really big, big thing, and they're found from the works of Waltham Forest in London. You know, they had to do loads of trials and so on. So it's there, it's being done. It's not like completely new. It's just educating people that is happening. We're in the area that it is happening. Then if I could give a shout out to Marc Lohez has from tender media as well. He's been very, very useful to me and a really good person to do the media for the for the forum now, which is taking a bit more of a serious turn. You know, it's taken a bit more professional turn than then when it was more or less a few very interested people. But you know, when we're getting 38 to 45 people turning up for the meetings, thats quite, you know, it's quite serious engagement so, good, It's obviously on the up.

Matt:   24:50
So Jason I just want to give you the opportunity, if people want to find out more about the stuff that you're doing, is  there an easy sort of bite size URL they can go to? Where can they find out more about the stuff you're working on right now?

Jason:   24:52
So BHactivetravel.UK - all one word.

Jason:   24:58
That's the main outlet that we are putting things. There's a Facebook group for that as well. If they want to join up with that, that would be amazing. We're looking for people to share their experiences of how they may be a making more local journeys by bike. And they'll be posts appearing soon about groups that we use loads. Because I do honestly think that people just don't know how lovely our Centre Parcs by the seas is again. See I got it in!.

Matt:   25:28
That just sort of leaves me to say - Thank you, Jason. Really appreciate your time. Thanks for speaking with us both today. It's been quite interesting.  

Tom:   25:35
Likewise. Thanks, Jason.  

Jason:   25:37
You're welcome. Guys.  

Matt:   25:43
I hope you enjoyed this week's chat with Jason. Next week we'll be talking to Robert Jack.

Tom:   25:48
Robert is managing editor and publisher of Passenger Transport magazine. He has worked as a journalist, editor and publisher in the passenger transport sector for more than 20 years. He has also played a key role in many conferences. An event.

Matt:   26:01
Hopefully, you join us next week on If you've got any questions for Robert Jack or anybody else than please feel free to get in contact with on Twitter @makingpassenger Until next time!