The Cut a Slice of Cake, Grab Your Headphones and Take the Armchair Audio Blog Roundup

This week we’re looking at - well, listening to - audio coverage of cycling in various forms from around the world. Strangely audio is somewhat rarer than video, perhaps because helmet cameras and mobile phones have made video easy and obvious where only a select group of enthusiasts would focus on the sounds. Although audio removes the possibilities of just showing what cycling is like around the world the focus upon orally told stories provides for a kind of in-depth discussion - especially for one to one interviews - and also for easy sharing of interesting talks and presentations. And yes, most of these are podcasts, so don't forget to subscribe if you like them!

Start with The Bike Show

Perhaps the most obvious form of cycling in audio is The Bike Show, (mostly) hosted by Jack Thurston and started when he was living in London back in 2004. The most recent episode had an interview with Peter Walker, author of the Guardian’s Bike Blog about his new book Bike Nation. These in-depth one-on-one interviews have been a regular feature of The Bike Show, sometimes they’ve been rolling, conducted whilst cycling, sometimes over Skype with campaigners such as David Hembrow.

With such a long history, there is also the temptation to dive into the early years perhaps by starting with the best bits of 2008-2010, a rather different time in cycling for London. It’s possible to listen to some episodes from the archives and gain a real sense of the development of campaigning in London with conversations with some of those involved. That means it’s possible to hear the peak of the battle over Blackfriars in 2011, hope of a new dawn in 2013 and even the fears of the Bikelash after Blackfriars and a few other small parts of London gained a bike lane capable of delivering safety and capacity.

But do listen beyond the UK

Similarly long-running but with a rather different slant is The Spokesmen, a podcast that has generally had a bike industry slant but has picked up on advocacy and racing in particular along the way since 2006. Recent episodes have included discussion between co-host Carlton Reid and journalist Laura Laker on campaigning, and Xavier Brice of Sustrans on their reworked strategy. One of the strengths of this podcast is that it often covers conferences and fairs such as EuroBike or Velo-City and thus picks up the flavour of conversations about cycling at these harder to reach events.

In the few episodes of The Bicycle Story, one episode gave A Brief History of the American Sharrow, that use of paint that has been mocked so well by some people on twitter. And YarraBUG’s show on 3CR in Australia have discussed the issue of the language used by politicians when talking about cyclists.

A well established podcast from America with an interest in history and advocacy is The Bike Nerds, hosted by Sara Studdard of Explore Bike Share and Kyle Wagenschutz of PeopleForBikes, though they are such a polite and nicely run podcast that their first episode introduced them and their show rather well. They have tended to pick up a theme and then follow it for a few episodes, such as talking to local cycling advocates in the USA, of which I found the interview with Tamika Butler of Los Angeles County Bike Coalition touching on diversity and social justice in advocacy fascinating. They have also gone international including an interview with Angela van der Kloof a consultant from the Netherlands who advises those elsewhere seeking to ‘go dutch’.

The most recent theme of The Bike Nerds has been on bike history. Indeed, one of their recent interviewees was Carlton Reid, and he talked about his recent books and his forthcoming project with John Dales on inter-war cycle lanes in the UK. Indeed, part of that project includes plans to launch a new history focussed podcast.

Nothing lasts forever

Some podcasts fire into life, burn brightly but then all too quickly fade away. However, when the episodes are still available that doesn’t stop leaving behind some amazing listening. One such example is the Boneshaker podcast which though it only has five short episodes each is a nice little gem. Particularly good are the two episodes about cycling and time, both at a slow pace and a faster one.

One new podcast that has given me particular pleasure is Wheelsuckers, a collaboration between Look Mum, No Hands! and London Bike Kitchen that manages to burst with energy and entertainment. Perhaps as a sign of their excitement it took several episodes until they explained how Alex of LMNH and Jenni of LBK met and decided to do a podcast. Thanks to their recommendation I also found the entire episode of the road cycling focussed Cycling Tips podcast all about tyre pressure, which gave me a lot to think about. London Bike Kitchen also served as venue recently for a Woman’s Hour special on cycling, which had a bit of a racing focus in some ways but also dealt with some pressing issues about cycling, especially for women.

Another leading light of the podcast scene in that Woman’s Hour special was Sarah Connolly who has been co-host of the Pro Womens Cycling podcast for many years now. One episode of that featured a strong and detailed interview with UK academic Rachel Aldred about her cycling research. There are also other podcasts about cycle racing, which sadly rarely mention ordinary everyday cycling but The Cycling Podcast is always enjoyable and has touched on the wider experience of cycling in interviews with riders such as Graeme Obree and when out on the road cycling with commentators like Ned Boulting (whose own Real Peloton podcast is sadly lost from the internet it seems). And in another encounter with Ned Boulting it is notable to hear the argument about how pro cycling may link to everyday cycling being discussed.

Normal podcasts can cycle too

Cycling can of course crop up in podcasts that aren’t purely about cycling, such as On Our Line the podcast of London Reconnections which in a series of shows about transport in New York City discussed cycling there with local advocates. On a much more commercial note, one of the Financial Times podcasts has featured a discussion with Brompton Bicycle’s Finance Director about their pricing strategy, and as the intro notes “Bromptons are not cheap”.

There are a good range of podcasts talking about urbanism in the modern age. Perhaps the most obvious is The Urbanist, which had a recent episode looking at cycling in cities around the globe. Then there is The Urbanism Speakeasy which has naturally touched on the question of bicycling as transportation.

Then there are all those issues that we as cycling advocates often find ourselves discussing such as air pollution which was dealt with in customary humour and helpful context by the ever excellent Sustainababble. Skylines, the podcast of CityMetric recently considered if driverless cars are really going to happen?  Chris Boardman sat down for a brief chat with Countryfile the other year as well and revealed how he finds new cycle routes. And the sex, kink and gender podcast (so be warned, it's NSFW) Why Are People Into That? has of course covered bicycles in a show that has smart comments to make about cycling and subcultures.

Podcasts before podcasts (or radio, to you and me)

Perhaps all of this is too current and you’d like to look further into the past? Well, there are choices there. At the easier end of the scale are the joyous reminiscences and observations of the BBC’s listening project. But then you could go back to 1990 and wonder if people cycling and other road users would ever get on, thanks to the World Service Archive where you can also hear about a new dawn for cycling in London, from 1996.

Maybe you’d rather be serious and listen to a recent panel discussion about cycling from the LSE Literary festival. Or perhaps you are seeking to enjoy a lecture such as Brian Deegan of Transport for London on The Cycling Theory of Everything. And there is audio available from some of the London Cycle Campaign’s Seminar Series and University College London’s Cycling at Teatime. Or Will Norman, London’s Cycling and Walking Czar’s speech from the recent Hackney Cycling Conference.

But can we go Dutch?

And finally, I’m sure some of you are wondering if with podcasts as in infrastructure it is possible to go Dutch? Well, there are some snatches of Radio Fiets available, but they’re short and don’t quite link up. Let’s hope they build up their network so the infrastructure can reach us in full!