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Making our way around the National Cycle Network (and why it’s really all about the people you meet) with Laura Laker + Is active travel in Britain heading in the wrong direction?

On episode 78 of the Podcast, respected journalist (and contributor) Laura Laker delves into her new book, Potholes and Pavements, and researcher Dr Maya Singer Hobbs chats about the future of cycling beyond the next general election

For episode 78 of the Podcast, we donned our reading glasses, grabbed our bikes, and headed over to the National Cycle Network, that underfunded, unwieldy, often fractured, but very important collection of routes, lanes, and paths used by cyclists across the UK and which forms the central subject of Laura Laker’s brilliant new book, Potholes and Pavements.

After an in-depth behind the keyboard chat with Laura, we then turn our attentions in part two to the upcoming general election, and what its outcome may mean for cycling and active travel, with Dr Maya Singer Hobbs, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, a think tank that earlier this month claimed the UK was “travelling in the wrong direction” when it comes to transport.


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Potholes and Pavements: A Bumpy Ride on Britain’s National Cycle Network – described by’s reviewer as “compulsory reading for anyone making decisions about active travel” – is Laura Laker’s debut book, a fascinating and thoroughly entertaining read that’s part-autobiography, part-travelogue, part-history, and part-stirring manifesto on the state of cycling and cycle infrastructure in the UK.

2024 Potholes and Pavements A Bumpy Ride on Britain’s National Cycle Network by Laura Laker

> Potholes and Pavements: A Bumpy Ride on Britain’s National Cycle Network

To mark its publication, Laker, one of the country’s most respected active travel journalists, returned to her old stomping grounds to discuss her inspiration for the book, which saw her explore the UK by bike using the National Cycle Network, uncovering its often accidental history and catching up with cyclists from Sustrans and beyond who use and look after it every day.

During her wide-ranging chat with Ryan, Laura also explores the pros and cons of the NCN (parts of which were described by Sustrans’ own CEO as “crap”), how we can make the NCN and other cycling infrastructure better and more accessible, encouraging more people to take up cycling in the process, the current ongoing two-wheeled ‘culture wars’ – and why riding a bike is really all about the people we meet along the way.

London cyclists

And in part two, with the general election looming ever larger on the horizon (and cycling at the forefront of many politicians’ mind – mainly for the wrong reasons) things get all political, with Ryan and Jack sitting down for a chat about the future of active travel policy in the UK with by Dr Maya Singer-Hobbs, a senior research fellow in energy, climate, housing, and infrastructure at Institute for Public Policy Research.

> "The UK is travelling in the wrong direction": Cycling miles travelled down and car journeys up according to latest government stats

Last week, the think tank – which has found that over a third of people “want the opportunity to walk, wheel or cycle more than they currently do” – claimed that new data showing a 7.3 per cent decline in cycle journeys and two percent rise in car journeys between 2022 and 2023 proves that the “UK is travelling in the wrong direction” and “sleepwalking towards a traffic-heavy future”.

Dr Singer Hobbs discusses why that’s the case, the changing face of the Conservative government’s active travel policy in recent years, how much this can be attributed to the negative rhetoric around cycling pervading social media, what it will take to create a “greener, fairer” society, and active travel’s prospects should – as predicted – Labour win the election and Keir Starmer grabs the keys to No. 10.

The Podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Amazon Music, and if you have an Alexa you can just tell it to play the Podcast. It’s also embedded further up the page, so you can just press play.

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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