Episode 126: Winter Cycling in Oil Country 


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Doug Gordon: This is The War on Cars. I’m Doug Gordon. First up, you can find us on Patreon. Go to TheWaronCars.org and click “Support Us.” Starting at just $3 per month, you will get ad-free versions of episodes like this, exclusive bonus content, merch discounts, stickers and more. Thanks so much to everyone who chips in and makes The War on Cars possible.

Doug: Last year we received an email from Michael Janz. He’s a city councilor in Edmonton, Alberta, and he was asking us to come to his hometown to do a live show. Michael described himself as quote, “A progressive fighting for bike lanes, safe streets, active transportation and good urbanism in a midsize Western prairie city, population of more than one million, with a footprint larger than Chicago.” A few emails, a few Zoom calls later, and we were all set to not just do a live show in Edmonton, but to attend something called the Winter Cycling Congress. If that sounds familiar to longtime listeners, it’s because my co host, Sarah attended the Winter Cycling Congress back in 2020 when it was held in Finland. You can hear all about her experience in episode 37 of the podcast, “Finnish Lessons“.

Doug: The Winter Cycling Congress is an annual event that’s organized by the Winter Cycling Federation, an international nonprofit dedicated to promoting year-round cycling even in the world’s coldest cities. Now Western Canada and Finland are pretty different, but once you learn a little bit about Edmonton, you’ll understand exactly why it was chosen to host the 2024 edition of the Winter Cycling Congress, which was held back in February, because right now, an unlikely cycling revolution is happening in one of the coldest big cities on the planet.

Doug: Yeah, Edmonton is cold. It sees average winter lows of -13° Celsius—that’s around 7° Fahrenheit for you Americans out there—and long stretches where the mercury stays well below freezing. Edmonton can get snow as early as October and as late as May. Edmonton is also big and really spread out. It’s 627 square kilometers or about 264 square miles—just a little bigger than Chicago, as Michael mentioned.

Doug: Outside of the downtown core, there’s a lot of car-centric development and suburban sprawl, including the famous West Edmonton Mall. That’s the second largest shopping mall in North America, right behind the Mall of America in Minnesota. Then there’s Edmonton’s main industry: fossil fuel extraction. Edmonton sits not far from some of the largest deposits of oil sands in the world, and a lot of the people in Edmonton and the surrounding—and even sprawlier—metropolitan area work in industries related to getting all that petroleum out of the ground. Combine Edmonton’s top industry with its sprawl and Western Canadian character, and that means you’ll find lots of folks driving long distances in very big SUVs and pickups.

Doug: When Aaron, Sarah and I stepped off the plane at Edmonton International Airport—airport code YEG or Yeg, by the way—we were greeted by signs welcoming us to “Oil Country.” And of course, the city’s NHL franchise is named the Oilers. We went to an Oilers’ game at Rogers Place in downtown Edmonton on our first night there and, you know, we didn’t tell too many people sitting near us the name of the podcast. Still, I did say that an unlikely cycling revolution is happening in Edmonton. As YouTuber Tom Babin put it, Edmonton just might be the most exciting bike city in North America.

Doug: Right now, Edmonton is in the midst of a four-year, $100-million CAD investment in bike lanes that was approved by the city council as part of the 2023-2026 budget. Now that might not sound like much when you compare it to the amount spent to build a couple of highway interchanges, but you would be hard pressed to find even a smaller, warmer city anywhere in North America that is spending that kind of money on active transportation. And that investment is already paying off: this year, the city is building 10 new routes spanning 17 kilometers, or about 10 miles. Eventually, its bike lane network will connect some far-flung areas of the city, and it will link up with some existing high-quality protected bike lanes in the downtown and elsewhere.

Doug: Some of the bike lanes we saw near the University of Alberta are even marked for winter snow clearance priority. That means that when it snows, they get plowed before the adjacent roadway for cars. Pretty cool! Edmonton is also relatively flat, which makes it great for biking. The most hills you’ll find are along the North Saskatchewan River valley. That runs diagonally through the city, and it’s home to—and this is a mouthful—North America’s largest contiguous stretch of urban parkland, with an acreage that makes it 22 times the size of New York’s Central Park.

Doug: A lot of the bridges across the river, including the iconic Walterdale Bridge, feature wide and comfortable, dedicated walking and biking paths. There’s even a funicular that connects the trail system and the downtown. You can roll your bike right in and it’s free—and the views are great.

Doug: Edmonton also has a lot of other things that will play a key part in its plans to encourage more car-free and car-light living. Edmonton Transit service operates a light rail network with 24 million annual riders, which puts it just ahead of Portland, Oregon’s MAX system. An extension was completed in 2023 on budget and ahead of schedule, and further expansions are still to come. But there’s one really big thing that Edmonton has going for it that I am sure will set it up for success, and that is the people. In addition to our host, city councilor Michael Janz, we had the privilege of interviewing former mayor Don Iveson. It was under his leadership that a lot of the bike lane funding and transit expansion got started. He was our guest at our live show, which you will hear later in this episode.

Doug: Sarah, Aaron and I also had the great pleasure of meeting and talking with so many enthusiastic Edmontonians, especially the amazing advocates who understand the joys of winter cycling and the benefits of building a cycling network that works for people in all four seasons. As these advocates can tell you better than anyone, there is no such thing as bad weather for cycling, only bad transportation policies. You will hear from them, along with other attendees of the Winter Cycling Congress from across Canada and the United States later in this episode.

Doug: I’m always a little hesitant to make too many judgments about a city based on just a short trip, but I gotta say, based on our time there, I am really confident that in the coming years, a lot of people will make a point of visiting Edmonton to learn from its successes. Because as Michael Janz said in his initial email to us inviting us to the Winter Cycling Congress, if Edmonton can go all in on active transportation, anyone on the continent can and must.

Doug: First, let’s hear from Sarah, who attended an event called Coffee Outside that meets on Friday mornings in a park not far from downtown Edmonton, rain, snow or shine. Sarah had a chance to speak with people about winter cycling and a lot more. Just a quick word of caution: there is some language in here that might not be suitable for young listeners. We advocates can be a little bit salty, so you’ve been warned.

Sarah Goodyear: Okay, so why don’t you start by introducing yourself? Tell me your name, where you’re from and why you’re here.

Carly Coleman: My name’s Carly Coleman, and I am from Edmonton. And I’m here because there’s a Winter Cycling Congress, and I was chosen as one of the delegates, which is really cool. So I was on a panel of all women, and we just wittered on about how we manage cycling in winter and what that representation is, and how important it is for—I mean, if you think of it as kind of a funnel, there’s, like, cycling that already isn’t popular, and then winter cycling, which is like, who does that? And then there’s women who do all of those things, and then where do we fit in and how do we do that? So we were talking about that.

Sarah: What is the power of being a woman who cycles in the winter? What power does it give you, and what power do you think it can have to change things?

Carly Coleman: Oh, I’ve thought about this a long time. And I used to do a lot of advocacy. I used to be like, “Ride your bike! Ride your bike! Come on, everybody. Get out there. Ride your bike! It’s really important for the world and health and finances and all the things.” But ultimately, I love riding my bike. And the representation that I think is most valued that I can do is be seen riding my bike, just enjoying it, looking good while doing it, meeting people while doing it. I can stop anytime.

Carly Coleman: So the power, I think, is like the bicycle, it brings an element of joy and a way of being different in the world that I think is phenomenological. Like, it’s just embodied. We feel the environment, we feel the wind, the potholes, the whatever. And the fact that we can do that in the winter? I mean, it doesn’t make sense to stay in your house for six months. There’s all manners of things associated with that: depression, seasonal affective disorder, lots of issues. And why cut yourself off to things, right? So, yeah, I think—I think just the bike is the power, and we power the bike, and then we’re very happy doing it.

Sarah: That’s wonderful. And showing that happiness, you were wearing a beautiful top yesterday that you said that you like to—that when you ride, it sort of flows around you, and that people can see, like, it’s almost like you’re expressing your joy with your garments and with your fashion sense.

Carly Coleman: Yeah. I mean, you know, we’re not limited to wearing Lycra. And the mammal man in Lycra stereotype is obviously something that’s really predominant in North American culture. And when you go to—you know, there’s Amsterdam cycle chic and Copenhagen cycle chic, and all of the rest of it chic, I guess you could say. But we have clothes that are nice in Edmonton. We have clothes that are nice.

Carly Coleman: And, like, this thing that I’m carrying is a skirt. It has Velcro on it. You open it up. It is just a long piece of clothing or fabric that you can use as a skirt when you’re cold. And so it helps when—because, you know, you overheat. The problem with cycling is you overheat, so you want to not have sweat and all the crazy shit attendant with, like, bodily functions ruining your clothing. But also you don’t want to freeze when you get to wherever you’re going, like a coffee outside.

Sarah: It sounds like you’ve gone through some changes about how you deal with this, but I’m wondering about sort of the negativity that you might experience. Like, if you experience people saying, like, “This is a ridiculous thing to do,” or “Why are you doing this?” Or maybe from drivers when you’re riding, if you have negative experiences—I don’t know what the road culture is here.

Carly Coleman: I mean, it’s the same right? There’s big dick energy and big dick trucks. And we’re in oil country, and those trucks are so prevalent. And they do shitty things, but I think that they have a little hindbrain that, like, knows that their time is limited and they have only—I mean, oil isn’t gonna be forever, and cars aren’t going to be forever, and we need something else.

Carly Coleman: And when they see me riding my bike, why wouldn’t they rage? I mean, I look better than them, I’m more educated than them. You know, like, pick a thing. That’s a stereotype, of course, but they’re stereotyping me as a lefty whatever. Pick a thing, right? We all categorize humans in ways that are pertinent to us, but road rage is like, we were talking about this yesterday, and it kind of makes me feel sorry for them because they’re trapped. They have no idea how fabulous it is to ride. Maybe they’re remembering it and then they’re angry because they’re paying, you know, an astronomical amount for their truck payments. Like, who knows what’s going on in their head?

Carly Coleman: I’m not gonna change your mind by preaching at you or telling you you’ll save more money. Cars are more convenient. Like, that is a given. It’s why they survive. That’s why people choose them hand over fist every time. But if you are happy doing that, riding a bike, it is obvious. It is super obvious that you’re enjoying yourself. And then I’m just living the better life. I mean, I believe it, and that is important to me. And so drive your truck. Like, whatever. It doesn’t—yell at me if you want. I mean, I have a very thick skin. I’ve been yelled at for 30 years. Like, fuck off. Yeah, you want to yell? Go right ahead. I have mittens on and I’m telling you fuck off too. But you can’t see it because my mittens don’t show you that.

Sarah: [laughs] Thank you so much. That’s really great. That’s perfect. Thank you, Carly.

Sarah Bisbee: All right, So Sarah Bisbee, and affiliated with Let’s Bike There YEG. And I am here because I’m a mom of four. I live car free in the suburbs of Edmonton, and I want to see more people in Edmonton on bikes, especially with their kids.

Sarah: So car free in the suburbs. That’s like, some people consider that to be an oxymoron, right? So tell me about how you became car free, and why you thought it was possible when so many people think it’s not possible.

Sarah Bisbee: So it started with we went down to one car initially, because I was cycling to work and didn’t—we didn’t need the second car, but we wanted to be able to take kids with us. And we had three little kids at that point in time, and in order to afford a cargo bike, we needed to come up with some cash, which meant selling a car. So the cargo bike replaced the first car, and then we had—we did that for about four years and the other—and so we used—still used the minivan quite a bit. But when we had our fourth, we thought, “Okay, we’ve been toying with going car free, but we’re like, well, we are having a fourth kid. We cannot go car free with a baby.

Sarah Bisbee: Then I was on mat leave, and the minivan was sitting in the driveway, not going anywhere because we were taking the cargo bike we had everywhere. And my husband was commuting to work and didn’t need a vehicle either. And it was like, well, why are we sitting with this $50,000 piece of equipment on our driveway that we’re not using? And I’m also very lazy, and if the car is on the driveway, I will use it. So it’s like, okay, I need to get rid of this. And so we sold the car and bought a second cargo bike. So we are car free in the suburbs with two cargo bikes. And we’ve been doing that now for just about two years. And we started when my youngest was four months old. So we put him in the cargo bike. He has not been in a car more than 10 times in his life, which is bizarre in Edmonton, right? Really bizarre! But he sees the world, he knows the world. He knows when we are going to turn right to go to the park. And if I don’t turn right down that street, I hear about the fact that we are not turning right down that street, which are all things that would never, ever have happened if he was still rear facing in the backseat of a car.

Lisa Brown: So I’m Lisa Brown. So along with Sarah and Karen, we started Let’s Bike There YEG. It’s this group that I came up with the idea and then approached them and said, “Hey, let’s try and do this.” Because strangely, we don’t really have bike shops in Edmonton that serve the, like, commuter cargo bike community, and all of us had to order our bikes from a shop in Calgary, which is, you know, the next major city over. And I had to, like, literally through a friend of a friend of a friend, find somebody who had the cargo bike that I was interested in so that we could try it and then order it. Because we didn’t want to drive down to Calgary with a three month old to test out a bicycle.

Lisa Brown: So yeah, we’re car light. We have one bicycle, but both my partner and I have, like, chosen jobs and we’ve, you know, bought our house, townhouse, in a neighborhood just adjacent to downtown so that we can bike commute year round.

Lisa Brown: And I don’t know, I think it’s really important to give people examples of folks, normal everyday folks that are making this choice. And it’s not heroic. And it is because for us, it’s literally the fastest way for us to get from our neighborhood to downtown. Partly because the city, like, we have this bike lane that cuts through a park that you can’t drive through. So it would take me, I think, five to ten minutes longer to, like, drop my daughter off at daycare and go to work than it does to bike. So it really is—and that’s what we tell people when they’re amazed. We’re like, “It’s the easiest thing to do.” And we ride in -30°. Like, we’re not outside long enough for even the brake fluid in our bikes to be compromised at all. So our commute’s, like, 10 minutes. It’s so easy. Like, we—most people would walk in our neighborhood the distances we do, but we bike because it’s faster and it’s—yeah, it’s easier. [laughs] We’re a little bit lazy.

Sarah: Karen, why don’t you tell us who you are and a little bit about your story?

Karen Parker: So I’m Karen Parker, also with Let’s Bike There YEG, and moved to Edmonton right as I became a parent. And it’s interesting to see how things have changed over the years. One of my favorite anecdotes about sort of Edmonton car culture is I moved here, like, eight months pregnant. We went to a prenatal class at the local hospital, and the instructor was talking about how you had to have a car seat to leave the hospital. And I said, “Well, what if you don’t have a car?” And she looked at me like, straight faced, wasn’t joking, and she said, “You mean, like, if you have a truck?” Because, like, it just didn’t even compute that, like, you would have a child in Edmonton and not own a car.

Karen Parker: And, like, we did own a car, but I was just curious because we had moved from Vancouver and we knew lots of families that didn’t have cars, and it just didn’t even compute with people here. And it’s been interesting to see things change over time and Edmonton become more of a cycling city. With our first kid, who’s almost 14 now, I looked at cargo bikes. You know, they were very expensive. You had to import them from Europe. I don’t know, like, there weren’t really electric cargo bike options accessible. And now it’s much more accessible. It’s much—I feel much safer to cycle in Edmonton, and we kind of want to show people that it can be an option.

Sarah: So what have—what else do you want to add? Does anyone have something that you think that our audience really needs to hear?

Sarah Bisbee: So since we’re at the Winter Cycling Congress, I like to tell people that for 32 years I hated winter. I thought winter was the worst season. And I shuffled from my car—from my house to my car, from my car to wherever I was going, whatever the destination was, I never dressed for it, so I was always cold in that run between the buildings and I looked for, okay, what am I gonna do indoors with the kids this weekend? What are we gonna do?

Sarah Bisbee: And then when we got the cargo bike in the spring, I was enjoying it. I was enjoying what I was doing with the kids. And I said, “I don’t want to give that up this winter. I don’t want to go back to what I was doing where I’m shuttling back and forth in the car all the time.” So I said to my husband, I’m like, “let’s just keep riding. Like, we’re gonna stop when it gets too hard. That’s when we’re gonna stop.” And we had the winter gear, but I had never worn it properly. I mean, you live in Edmonton, so you have the snow pants and you have the heavy jackets, you have the heavy mitts, but I just didn’t ever want to put it on because there’s a lot of work to put it on to just go to the car and go in between.

Sarah Bisbee: And now I love winter. I look forward to winter. It’s exhilarating. You feel alive when you go out. And there is nothing like riding on fresh fallen snow or in the middle of snow as it’s falling down. It is a blast! I love—like, I’ve got a cargo trike as one of the bikes, and I love bombing through snowdrifts. Like, you just—you just put the assist on high, you gear low, and you just go. And there is nothing like that feeling. And if it wasn’t for cycling, I would still hate winter.

Karen Parker: I think—and a lot of people have recognized this. You even said, you know, kids learn to understand their city a lot better when they’re sitting in the front of a cargo bike or on the back of a long tail. And I think—I grew up on a farm, so I was out doing chores, feeding cattle at, like, 6:00 am starting at 10 years old and riding my horse as transportation. So I had, like, a lot of that independence, but also, like, respect for weather. I was never one of those teenagers that went out without enough clothes because, like, I frostbit my toes when I was little. Like, I would never do that to myself. So I think being able to give my daughter that gift, even though we live in the middle of an urban city, is really important. My brother is choosing to raise his kids on the farm, but that’s not—like, it’s not the right path for me. But it’s really great that I can give that gift to my daughter. And she absolutely—like, we ask her, like, “Do you want to—we’re running a little bit late. Like, do you want to take the car, or do you want to go on the bike?” And she’s like, “Okay, that’s the choice? I’m gonna put my snow pants on right now because I want to go on the bike.” And yeah, I think that’s just a great gift that I’ve been able to give her.

Patti Wiens: My name is Patti Wiens, and I live in Winnipeg, but I’m from Brazil. But I’ve been living in Winnipeg for almost 34 years, and this is my second winter riding my bike, and winter cycling was really a life-changing experience for me, and I couldn’t miss this conference for the world.

Sarah: So how did you get into winter cycling, and how has it been life changing?

Patti Wiens: I started because I was bike commuting, and I really loved the way I felt when I rode my bike. And I hated putting my bike away in the fall, right? So my partner suggested maybe I should try to do winter cycling and just see how I went. And take it one day at a time. You know, you don’t have to go every day. So my first experience, my first day, I knew that I was never going to be able to not do it again. It was—there was a line in the snow, and I crossed it, and I was never going to be able to stop.

Sarah: Was there something particularly exhilarating about being on the bike in the winter? Why was it so revelatory when you’d already been bike commuting at other times of year?

Patti Wiens: It’s that feeling of empowerment, that feeling that’s hard to describe. I talk about it like it’s like faith. I can’t explain it to you. You have to experience it yourself. It’s something that grows inside. And, you know, the first time you do it, you walk around the office when you get to work. First of all, you get there before everyone else because you’re not stuck in traffic, and you feel so empowered for having the control of your commute, being in control of your commute in the winter, not being dependent on cars or even transit. Being able to get there, walk around with your helmet still on, dripping all the snow and, you know, puffing your chest like you’re the shit. [laughs] You’re gonna have to beep that out.

Sarah: No, that’s great. No, we don’t beep anything out. So how does being able to feel the elements of the weather in the winter, how does that affect your mood? How does it affect your feelings about winter in general?

Patti Wiens: All of your senses are really awake, you’re paying attention to how your tire is hitting the ice. Is it snow now? Are there cars? Am I on the right track? Do I need to move over a little? Are there cars coming? You are so engaged with your surroundings, especially in winter, and you’re feeling that fresh, cold air, right? So you’re also—your eyes are really sharp. So by the time you get somewhere, you’ve had this—this sensory experience. And it really wakes you up. Whereas in a car, the other day I had to drive 15 minutes to go pick up my kid at university, and it was the longest car ride of my life! I am completely isolated in this car and, you know, there’s so many cars around, yet you’re so alone in this box, whereas on the bike you’re like—you are the environment, you are part of the scenery, you are part of the road.

Sarah: What are you seeing here in Edmonton that inspires you for what you might do when you go home to Winnipeg?

Patti Wiens: Well, first we see how much money is being put in, in planning and educating and actually building things. There is a lot of investment. Someone just told me that there are 400 planners in the city to work on these things. At home we have maybe two dozen, right? So there is so much that we can do from the advocacy point of view, but what we really need is more people on bikes putting pressure. The more people that ride bikes year round or even on the nicer days, right, then they will start to understand and demand more, and then they will be the vote that makes the difference. The politicians will start seeing that, “Oh, if I want to stay in power, I am going to have to cater to this group or else,” you know? So it’s the political will, really. But the only thing that we can do is continue to advocate and get more people on bikes so that our numbers are stronger.

Nicola DiNicola: My name is Nicola DiNicola. I’m from Edmonton. I live in the community of Riverdale. I’m attending the Winter Cycling Congress because I am an all season, all year round cyclist, and I hope to be representative of the Edmonton cycling community.

Sarah: So how did you get started cycling?

Nicola DiNicola: So I commute from Riverdale, which is right behind this bridge behind me, the Tawatinâ Bridge, through downtown, up the funicular, and through the downtown area, across the High Level Bridge to the university campus where I work. It’s about a—I think it’s nine kilometers actually round trip. I don’t think it’s nine on one way.

Sarah: And so what kind of bicycle do you ride, and what special measures do you take for winter cycling?

Nicola DiNicola: So winter I take studded tires. That is sort of a necessity. Other than that, I feel there’s no particular gear, special gear needed. Like any sport, you can spend endless amounts of money on gear and accouterments, and if that’s—if you have the means and it makes your experience better, go ahead and do that. I’m a bit thrifty, so I have a hodgepodge of clothing that, you know, is layered. You have to have good gloves. You have to have good warm mitts, waterproof, because you can’t put your hands in your pockets if you get cold. But other than that, the studded tires is the real only serious requirement I find.

Sarah: So when you tell people that you’re car free and that you commute by bicycle, people who are not necessarily like-minded, or maybe you don’t know what their opinions are about things, what are the reactions you get?

Nicola DiNicola: I think that it’s very important that people know that I’m just a person commuting, getting to and from work and getting to and from places. And that it’s transportation, it’s not a lifestyle. I’m not trying to be evangelical about it. It’s sort of life changing for me, but at the end of the day, it is just a way to get to and from places, just like any normal person.

Sarah: Have you converted anyone else to being car-free or car-light, or has your example inspired others, do you think?

Nicola DiNicola: I think so. I’m not gonna take direct ownership to any one particular person. I’m very—because I know that once someone has contact with me, they inevitably have contact with the rest of the group, and the group is what really converts people, I think. No one person. I’m really proud, though, that my—you know, I have two grown kids, and they’re not cyclists, but they like to tell their friends that their mom does this, you know? And that makes me—that makes me really happy. So I don’t necessarily want to inspire people to do exactly what I’m doing, I just want to inspire people to be aware that the people in their lives who are maybe their neighbors and maybe, you know, all those people they come in contact with, their coworkers are doing this. And this is normal, and this should be normalized, and our society and our infrastructure and our public policy should reflect that.

Ian Walker: My name’s Ian Walker. I’m here from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. And I’m here in Edmonton to connect with other folks from other cities that are doing great things around winter cycling.

Sarah: So tell me about what winter cycling is like in Winnipeg?

Ian Walker: Winter cycling is usually very cold in Winnipeg. This year’s been unusual with the warmer temperatures. We get a significant amount of snow over the winter, and very cold temperatures. Some days riding to work, we’ll be going with a -30° Celsius temperature with a -45° Celsius windchill, so it can get pretty chilly. But I’ve been doing it for the last eleven years with two children. And we absolutely love it. It’s a great way to participate in our city and see our community.

Sarah: So what are some of the attitudes you encounter from people who maybe are not familiar with the idea that winter cycling is possible or that cycling as transportation in general is possible?

Ian Walker: A lot of people say that I’m brave and, you know, I have thick skin and I can handle the cold, but I always tell folks it has nothing to do with bravery or being able to withstand the cold. It has everything to do with having the right clothing on.

Sarah: I’d love to hear what your gear is like. What do you consider essential?

Ian Walker: Well, on my head, I have a regular bicycle helmet with a merino wool balaclava and a toque and a neck tube over that. When it gets really cold, I’ll cover up my face with a shield that has breathing holes so that the fog doesn’t fog up my goggles. I often just ride in a cycling shell with layers of jackets and fleece and base layers underneath that. And then on my legs, long johns and fleece pants and wind pants. And on my feet, a couple of pairs of wool socks and a good pair of heavy boots.

Ian Walker: And my family gets around on an Urban Arrow, so the kids, I have to dress them a little bit warmer since they’re not moving, and I put the cover on the bike during the winter to keep the wind off of them. But we haven’t had any problem keeping the kids warm during the wintertime.

Sarah: So what about the politics of getting cycle infrastructure into Winnipeg? What’s that like there? Is it an uphill battle, or is there a receptive government, or what’s it like?

Ian Walker: Things have improved a lot. I’ve been doing cycling advocacy in Winnipeg for the last 13 years. Attitudes have changed. There’s still some folks that say, “You know, we’re a winter city, so we shouldn’t be building bicycle infrastructure because you can only ride your bike two months of the year,” but we’re seeing a lot more people in Winnipeg starting to ride bikes in the wintertime, especially with the—with the climate crisis. People are recognizing that bicycles are a good urban mode of transportation, and our city councilors are coming around. We’ve been doing some tactical urbanism in the city around winter maintenance. The city hasn’t been good over the years with maintaining our infrastructure, so it gets built up with snow and then there’s pack—you know, people walk on it and it gets very hard to ride a bike on.

Ian Walker: So when I first started doing cycling advocacy in 2012, they weren’t clearing sidewalks through parks. They just let them get filled up with snow over the winter. So we went out and invited the media come watch us shovel off a bridge, and all of a sudden they were cleaning parks out. And last winter, a group of folks and myself went out and we started clearing bike lanes because they were atrocious and we were having a hard time cycling on them. And the city got together with us, and we had a big get together and talked to us about some solutions and they bought more equipment. And this winter’s improved, although we haven’t had much snow, so now we’re dealing with lots of freeze-thaw. It’s a new challenge, but they’re listening and they’re reactive when we talk to them. So overall, I would say it’s positive in Winnipeg.

Sarah: What do you see in Edmonton that you wish you could have, or what impresses you here?

Ian Walker: Well, we’re standing in this beautiful river valley that Edmonton has, and it’s just spectacular. I love the continuous paths. I understand it’s about 100 kilometers of paths through the valley here. And it’s bigger. So you’re from New York. They were saying it’s, I think, 10 times bigger than Central Park. So just to have an amenity like this in one city would be spectacular. I think I’d be here, you know, five, six days a week with my kids, just exploring the woods. We wouldn’t have to even get out of town to get into nature.

Janine: My name is Janine. I’m an avid cyclist. I started winter biking the first year of the pandemic. I’m here because of The War on Cars, as well as the opportunity to attend the Winter Cycling Congress that’s close to my hometown. I live in rural Alberta in between Calgary and Red Deer. I have a commute that’s three and a half kilometers on gravel, three, a half kilometers on pavement in a town. And it’s just pure joy to be on a bike.

Sarah: So are there a lot of people in your town who cycle?

Janine: No. No, I’m here to attempt to get verbiage, knowledge, information on how to advocate for a simple bike rack downtown Didsbury. I presented it to town council a couple years ago in an attempt to get bike racks outside our public library, because a lot of kids bike. I’m a rare individual who bikes to and from work. I think a lot of bicyclists, bikers would come out of the woodwork if we had the infrastructure.

Sarah: Tell me about what it’s like, what drivers are like in your area and, like, how do you stay safe if there’s no infrastructure? You’re on gravel, you said, but is it gravel that is also used by cars or not?

Janine: Yeah, there’s no biking infrastructure. I get yelled at weekly. I have people that tailgate me and don’t understand that in the winter, especially, I have to drive on the road. I don’t—the snow is not cleared on the side or even sidewalks, so I am going slow. I have studded tires. I feel safe, but there are motorists that are not attentive. They’re angry that I’m on the road and sharing the space.

Sarah: It’s still worth it to you to do it because of the joy of cycling?

Janine: Absolutely. It is the best part of my workday. My commute to and from, it gets my head in the game, and then it gets my head out of the game. So—and the fact that I see a ton of kids on bikes to and from the three schools that we have, and it just makes me smile. And I’m interacting. I can chat with somebody. And I had my Christmas music on my Bluetooth speaker and going, you know, just through the town and around the schools and on my way to my place of employment. People are smiling and happy. Like, you can’t not be happy on a bike.

Sarah: You said sometimes you play The War on Cars through your speaker?

Janine: Amen. Yes. That’s predominantly why I bought my Bluetooth speaker, and it’s black because of your colors. Black and yellow. I couldn’t get a yellow one, so I have a black bluetooth speaker mounted to my handlebars to blast The War on Cars.

Doug: Hey Zeb, how’s it going?

Zeb: Good.

Doug: How do you like Cleverhood?

Zeb: It’s a good rain jacket for, like, walking in the rain and, like, for really heavy rain.

Doug: Tell me about your backpack when you’re wearing the Cleverhood.

Zeb: It usually stays dry since it’s basically like a poncho. It goes behind you, all around you, and then there’s a hood, so all your belongings will still be dry.

Doug: Right. Because your backpack goes under the cape.

Zeb: Yeah.

Doug: What color is yours?

Zeb: Yellow.

Doug: The weird thing about podcasting is that I ask questions I know the answer to already. I am your father, and I know what color your raincoat is.

Zeb: Yeah.

Doug: And is it comfortable?

Zeb: Yeah.

Doug: Yeah?

Zeb: Yeah.

Doug: Do you know where people can go to get 15 percent off everything in the Cleverhood store?

Zeb: War on Cars?

Doug: Well sure, you can go to TheWaronCars.org, or you can go to Cleverhood.com/WaronCars, and pick up—well, you have a Rover Rain Cape in yellow.

Zeb: Yeah, I think so.

Doug: You think so?

Zeb: I think.

Doug: You think.

Zeb: I didn’t buy it.

Doug: That’s true.

Zeb: Yeah.

Doug: Anything else you want to say?

Zeb: No, not really.

Doug: All right, so there you have it: a glowing endorsement of Cleverhood from my son, Zeb Gordon. How old are you?

Zeb: Eleven.

Doug: See what I said about asking questions I know the answer to?

Zeb: Yeah.

Doug: For 15 percent off everything in the Cleverhood store, go to Cleverhood.comWaronCars and enter code ITMAYRAIN. That’s ITMAYRAIN.

Doug: While Sarah was at Coffee Outside, I did an interview on CHED, an AM radio station with a listenership that—you know, let’s just say, probably doesn’t have a lot of overlap with the audience of The War on Cars. I was there for a drive-time conversation with hosts Stacey Brotzel and Daryl McIntyre. Take a listen.

Daryl McIntyre: Coming up—well, we are talking bikes, but at the same time we’re talking cars because we’re gonna chat with one of the hosts of The War on Cars podcast here for a cycling summit all right after your news.

Daryl McIntyre: Right now we’re going to launch into what I think will be a fiery conversation, maybe with you, because it always is. Every single time we talk about bicycles in Edmonton, bike lanes come up and all that kind of stuff. Well, there’s a YEG Winter Cycling Congress that is underway because there’s lots of Edmontonians who hop on their bike even in the wintertime. And one of the guests is a cohost of a podcast. The podcast is called The War on Cars, which instantly gets everybody going. Doug Gordon is joining us in studio this morning. Great to see you, Doug. How you doing?

Doug: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.

Stacey Brotzel: You know you’re poking the bear no matter where you are. But with just the podcast name, The War on Cars, you were expecting some blowback, obviously.

Doug: Can I tell you where the name comes from?

Daryl McIntyre: Please, please. 

Doug: It actually comes from Canada, from Toronto. Former mayor Rob Ford when he was elected in 2010, he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the war on cars is over.” And he started kind of ripping out bike lanes and ending transit projects, and he recognized that bikes and bike lanes are sort of like this cultural flashpoint, and exploited that. And, well, the rest is Rob Ford history, but there’s lots of examples from across Canada of that phrase being used. So when we decided to name the podcast, we were like, “Hmm, it’s sort of the podcast about the war on cars.” And boom, that became the title.

Daryl McIntyre: Do you think it is a war on cars?

Doug: It’s not, no. You know, the war on cars is sort of like this cry that people say, sort of like the war on Christmas. Like, God forbid you say ‘Happy holidays’ to someone instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’ It’s like, “Oh, you’re waging a war on Christmas.” Well, if you look around, Christmas is still like a pretty dominant holiday. There are decorations everywhere. You kind of can’t …

Stacey Brotzel: I’ve heard of it.

Doug: Yeah, you might have heard of this little holiday.

Daryl McIntyre: Christmas tree sales in a back alley.

Doug: Right, exactly. And I think the war on cars, it’s something people say. You know, you take one parking space and you put in bike parking, or you take a hundred parking spaces in a city that has thousands and thousands, people accuse you of waging a war on cars. So it’s more of this cultural cry that we sort of co-opted for the title of the podcast.

Stacey Brotzel: So we’re not alone, because when we talk bike lanes, we talk of putting $100 million towards bike lanes, our text line blows up. People are very, very angry when they heard that. So tell us about other jurisdictions that just have not taken to bike lanes as well as others.

Doug: Well, I think you have to be careful because I think bike lanes actually are quite popular. You see the people using them, you see that politicians often want them, but then you see the people who don’t. You know, I think another good example is Mark Sutcliffe in Ottawa. He ran for mayor saying, “I will not wage a war on cars.” Where I live in New York, we’ve had politicians who say, you know, “This is an attack on motorists, like, how am I gonna get to work?” Things like that. So I think the comfort is every city goes through this. Every city, whether it’s a big city like New York, a sprawled-out city like Edmonton, small towns, everybody goes through this sort of cultural reaction to change. Change is tough. I have a hard time with change, and so I understand it to a certain extent.

Daryl McIntyre: I think some people get to get their backs up because we’re a winter city, and clearly we’ve had a ridiculously mild winter this time around, but it’s not always the case. So you’re going to actually be at this Winter Cycling Congress. The argument is putting that much time and effort and money into something that for a lot of the year we can’t really use. You can, but most people are not getting the fat tire bikes and all the gear that they need to do that. What do you think about the argument that it depends on where you live?

Doug: It can depend on where you live, but I think mostly cycling is a factor of infrastructure, and how you get around is really dependent on what your built environment looks like. You know, if you took the average pickup-owning driver here in Edmonton and you plopped them down in my neighborhood, they would walk and they would bike and they would take transit. If you moved me here, I’d probably get a car.

Daryl McIntyre: You would need to.

Doug: But winter cycling, you know, Edmontonians are really hardy. Like, they’ll get out. Most cycling trips aren’t that long. And if you have the right infrastructure where you’re separated from drivers, the only thing that’s gonna stop you from cycling is sort of your own tolerance, right? Like, no more than walking on a sidewalk or something like that. It’s really not that hard to do. You know, I think if we really thought about it, like, Los Angeles has perfect weather, but why aren’t there lots of bikes there? Well, because it’s just built around driving, right? But cities like Amsterdam or countries like Finland where it gets really cold, they have lots of cyclists because they’ve invested in the infrastructure that allows people to make those choices.

Stacey Brotzel: So if you build it, they will come. Or are we just trying to put a round peg in a square hole?

Doug: I think it’s a little bit of the cultural piece, but it’s a lot of the if you build it, they will come. And, you know, not everybody is gonna hop on a bike for every trip, but it’s nice to have options.

Daryl McIntyre: Nice to have options. The other thing that immediately leaps to mind is the sprawling nature of Los Angeles. It’s enormous, spread out everywhere. Edmonton is pretty spread out. And cities in Finland and some others, they’re a little tighter, a little bit tighter. So is it just about trying to find a happy medium? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It doesn’t have to be a war on cars any more than it needs to be a war on bikes.

Doug: No, exactly. I think I’m a good example. I drive when I need to. I took a cab out here, but when I was going to an office pre-COVID, I would bike to work because it was four miles, and it was 30 minutes, reliably 30 minutes door to door, every day, no matter what time I left. When I need to go to the grocery store, I walk. My kids walk to school. But when we go camping, right, we rent a pickup or we rent an SUV. We load it up and we go. I think of cars as a mobility tool, right? You know, I think of them as like a Swiss army knife, right? If you needed to saw a piece of wood, you know, cut down a tree, you’d use a big ax and a saw, right? But if you needed to file your fingernails, you’d just take out the little file, right? But if you use the big ax to file your fingernails, you’d probably cut off a few fingers. And that’s sort of how I look at cars. It’s the right tool for some jobs. It’s really the wrong tool for all jobs.

Stacey Brotzel: In your latest podcast, you have our former mayor Don Iveson on. He sort of was the guy who started this bike lane tradition here in the city. What did you talk about? Does he have any regrets on putting Edmonton on the path of bike lanes?

Doug: Well, we’re talking to him tonight. 7:30.

Stacey Brotzel: Oh, you haven’t talked to him yet? Okay.

Doug: I’ve pre-interviewed him. He’s a great guy, very smart. And yeah, he talks—he’s going to talk a lot about the political pushback that he got from voters and fellow elected officials as he decided to move forward on a lot of this stuff—not just bike lanes, but transit as well. And, you know, I think it takes strong political leadership, which I think he exhibited, to really push through that and understand that over time, the opposition really dies down as people get used to stuff. You know, if I move to Edmonton tomorrow, the fact that there are bike lanes in downtown would not be a novelty to me. It would just be like, “Oh, I guess that was always there.” And I think that sometimes as humans, we need to look at the world that way.

Daryl McIntyre: And so you’re gonna be recording this. It’s all part of the Congress. It’s at the Westin. I guess you can get tickets to get to go watch you guys doing the recording of your podcast?

Doug: Yeah, you can buy tickets at the door.

Daryl McIntyre: At the door?

Doug: Yeah.

Daryl McIntyre: At the Westin. And that’s at 7:30 tonight. Cool! What else are you gonna be doing? Is this—is this your primary role at the Congress, is to do the podcast, have that conversation, then get out of Dodge before the cold weather hits?

Stacey Brotzel: [laughs]

Doug: We are leaving before the cold weather hits. But we’ve been here since Wednesday, and I did take in the Oilers versus the Bruins, and that was a ton of fun.

Daryl McIntyre: Awesome

Doug: Yeah. When in Rome.

Daryl McIntyre: Bike on down to Rogers Place.

Stacey Brotzel: I love it. Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate your time.

Doug: My pleasure.

Daryl McIntyre: Really nice to see you.

Stacey Brotzel: Doug Gordon, cohost of The War on Cars podcast. And you know what? Bike lanes? I’d rather them in a bike lane than in front of my car is really my theory on bike lanes because it’s dangerous for them and it’s dangerous for me.

Daryl McIntyre: I just wish it didn’t cost so much to do. I think we over— over-create these things, and to make it—it’s really expensive per kilometer of bike lane. Find a more efficient way of doing it. Still do it, just make it more efficient.

Doug: Wait till you hear how much highways cost.

Stacey Brotzel: [laughs] And with that, we’re gonna take a bit of a break. Back to your home remedies. What do you use that may be a little, you know, not scientific, that will cure the common cold or that nagging cough. We’re back in a minute.

Doug: Later in the day, Sarah and I were on a panel about content creation and storytelling. We were there with Jasmine Steffler and Patrick Murphy of the YouTube channel Oh, The Urbanity! and Uytae Lee of About Here. I am a big fan, and we will put links to their channels in the show notes. After our panel, I wandered the halls of the Westin in downtown Edmonton and talked to more attendees of the Winter Cycling Congress. You’re gonna hear from some people Sarah spoke with at Coffee Outside, but their comments and observations were so brilliant that we were more than happy to give them the microphone one more time.

Doug: Tell me your name and where you’re from.

Kimberley Nelson: So my name is Kimberley Nelson. I’m from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Doug: What brought you to the Winter Cycling Congress?

Kimberley Nelson: How do I miss an opportunity to be with my peers? I’ve been winter biking for almost 20 years. So the fact that we all get to celebrate it, that there are so many important guests, yourselves included, that get to come up and talk. It’s such a great way. And then I’m also on the national organization, so good way to connect with everybody across the country.

Doug: And what do you do in your sort of day-to-day advocacy? Tell me a little bit about that.

Kimberley Nelson: I’m on far too many boards. It’s kind of sad. So I’m here repping at least four that are on my nametag, and then I’m also on the board of three others. So a lot of it is the storytelling. Like, how are we using the storytelling to push the advocacy? How are we engaging new people and new voices and young voices, and teaching them how to ask for what they want, how to change their city, to make it what they want?

Doug: Why is it important to focus on winter cycling? You know, it’s a really specific idea for an organization, for a conference. So why is that an important story to tell?

Kimberley Nelson: Honestly, if you build it for winter, like we are always saying, if you build for the lowest common denominator, so if you build for the children, if you build for the seniors, everybody can use it. If you build something for winter, then it’s automatically going to be good for summer. And winter is always the one that gets missed. So really, we should always be building everything in our cities with a winter lens because we are a winter country.

Adam Bentley: I’m Adam Bentley. I’m the producer of YEG Film, and I’m from Edmonton.

Doug: Great. Tell our listeners about the film.

Adam Bentley: So we just watched a great short winter biking film, a kids winter biking film called Ryder Bikes Alone. And it’s about a little girl who sort of has a rebellious streak. And when she—and she’s quite overconfident, and when she unfortunately crashes her bike in the woods, she has to go against her core instincts to get her way out.

Doug: When you were describing it and you were talking about how it’s about a girl who is a bit overconfident and she’s a bit rebellious, I was thinking it’s sort of what—maybe a lot of what we’re all trying to do is to make it so you don’t have to be overconfident and rebellious to just get out and ride your bicycle for fun or to school or when that little girl is older to work, or wherever she’s going.

Adam Bentley: Absolutely. I mean, like, it’s quite interesting, and maybe in a way unfortunate that there’s this idea that you have to be rebellious to be a winter cyclist. In fact, it should be, in a way, the opposite. Like, it should be expected or anticipated that everyone who wants to bike in winter should be able to, regardless of if they feel rebellious or if they feel conformist or, like, confident or insecure. Like, that really shouldn’t matter. We should be in a state where that shouldn’t matter, and you should just feel comfortable to ride your bike in winter as a form of transportation.

Doug: Tell me your name and where you’re from.

Blake Johnson: Sure. My name is Blake Johnson. I’m from Edmonton.

Doug: What brought you here to attend this conference?

Blake Johnson: Well, where I see so much positive stuff happening in Edmonton, and it’s so exciting to be here and to see the planning, the area that I’m most concerned of is end-of-trail or end-of-trip parking, because unlike Europe, everybody’s bicycle here is an expression of themselves, whatever cool stuff they have, and whether it’s an inexpensive bike or an expensive bike, it’s a threat to be stolen. And that kind of takes away from the safety and security for people going out and going to the local shopping mall, and to try and get those one-to-three kilometer trips by bicycle instead of just jumping back into the car. So I’d like to see better policy around that. And that’s what I’m excited about, so I can go somewhere, put my bike, and then go spend some money in a commercial center.

Doug: That’s a problem winter, spring, summer or fall.

Blake Johnson: Well, it definitely is. And what’s nice, though, is that there’s so many people who are getting into winter biking here through fat biking—myself included. When I got on my fat bike—it’s studded up, and I felt like a kid again. And everybody that I share my bike with, everybody I talk to, the number one thing they talk about is how it makes them feel like a kid, that sense of freedom. And if they have a bike locker, I can get there in the summer, I can get there in the winter, because I’m thinking of the one-to-three kilometer trip. And with boomers especially, looking to have active lifestyle so that they can hold on to their quality of life, bicycling is one of the easiest ways that we can help promote our livable communities.

Steve Bercu: My name is Steve Bercu. I’m from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Doug: And what brought you all the way here to Alberta, Canada, to Edmonton to attend the Winter Cycling Congress?

Steve Bercu: I guess I’m still looking for the magic answer of how we’re gonna transform our cities into places that are good for people instead of vehicles. And that includes dealing with probably one of the biggest challenges, which is the winter year-round alternative transportation.

Doug: And the Boston area is doing a pretty good job these days of building out infrastructure. Talk about how the winter cycling piece of that fits in.

Steve Bercu: Well yeah, I think the cities have been very intentional about making it comfortable for people to use their bikes year round. And they’ve built a lot of really good new infrastructure, separated bike lanes and that kind of thing. And it’s all been done with a view to how can we maintain this year round? And people are liking it. People are doing it.

Ian McCausland: Ian McCausland from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Doug: Why is it important to have a Winter Cycling Congress? Why is it important to get people together to talk not just about cycling, but about cycling in the winter?

Ian McCausland: I live in a city, Winnipeg, which everyone jokingly refers to across Canada as ‘Winterpeg,’ because we’re known for our cold winters. So for us to successfully grow our city and move it forward, we have to have our population embrace active transportation, and cycling is gonna play a huge role in that.

Doug: And what brought you here, other than the fact that you would have the chance to talk about winter cycling?

Ian McCausland: It’s exciting to be here and connect with people in other cities who are doing the same work as me and learning from their successes so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can actually just take some of the wins that people have done in other cities and apply them to our city.

Kim: My name is Kim. I’m from Edmonton—well, born in central Alberta, but I’ve been in Edmonton for my undergrad, then work, now for my Masters. And don’t really plan on leaving anytime soon.

Doug: So what encouraged you, or why did you decide to attend the Winter Cycling Congress today?

Kim: So I am an avid cyclist. I commute by bike. I ride my bike for fun and I’ve fallen more than a few times in my winter riding. So just coming to a space where people are talking about biking, how do we make it more accessible? How do we make it safer? It’s just really exciting to be part of that conversation.

Doug: So Edmonton has a number of challenges, not just the cold, but it’s a really sprawled-out city, very car dependent. And of course, the biggest industries here are all fossil fuel related. How do you manage your advocacy in that environment?

Kim: Yeah. So for me personally, before I would say I consider myself having become an advocate, I felt like Edmonton was really big. My grandparents live here, and it was about a 20-minute drive to their house and I thought, “Man, they live on the opposite side of the city.” And then I started biking to their house and it’s about a 35-minute bike. And I thought, “Dang, this city’s actually really small.” You can get anywhere by bike in under an hour and have a great time doing it. So for me, cycling was a great way to discover Edmonton and discover that it’s not actually that sprawled. You really can get anywhere by bike if you know kind of the tricks and tools to get around. So I really try and keep that in mind when doing the advocacy work is saying, “Hey, if you want to bike out to the suburbs, you can do that. If you want to bike to the next town over, you can do that. It’s actually not as hard as it seems on paper.”

Doug: And apart from the ease of cycling, what’s one thing you wish people knew about Edmonton that they don’t?

Kim: I just love Edmonton so much, and there’s so many little things about it that if you go to an event or go to a space with the expectation that you will be excited by it, you will be. If you go to the river valley thinking, “I’m about to have a great time,” you’re gonna have a great time. If you go to a coffee shop that’s tucked in an alley and you think, “I’m gonna go to this cool coffee shop,” you’re gonna get there and you’re gonna think, “Dang, this is really cool.” And going in with that expectation, you will meet or exceed that expectation.

Nicola DiNicola: Hi, it’s Nicola DiNicola, and I’m here from Edmonton.

Doug: And you told me you had a soundbite you wanted to say when you walked up to me.

Nicola DiNicola: Yes, I was thinking about this as I was listening to your panel discussion about storytelling, and what I wanted to talk about. With winter cycling, everybody always talks about the weather, and as we were talking about storytelling and the narrative of cycling, I wanted to talk about the weather because the weather is not a hurdle. It is a character in our story. It’s sometimes not the main character. In any season that you cycle, the weather is a character. Sometimes it’s the main character, sometimes it’s a supporting character, but it is a character in our narrative, in our storytelling of cycling, and it should be treated as such. And I feel sorry for people who only trans—who only get around by cars because they are not intimately connected to such an important character in our world. I mean, I can tell you what the weather was on this day last year and two years ago because I’m intimately pals with this big character of ours who is really key in my story as a cyclist, winter or summer, fall or all times, all times of the year. Climate is a character. Weather is a character. And I’m glad I’m friends with this character.

Doug: Finally, on Friday night, we headlined a live show at the Westin. Our guest was Don Iveson. Don served as Edmonton’s mayor from 2013 to 2021, and he was a major force behind the city’s investments in bike lanes, transit expansions and other policies to make the city more livable and climate friendly. Prior to his time as mayor, Don was a member of the Edmonton City Council, and he was first elected in 2007. Let me tell you, it is not every day that any elected official, current or former, says yes to an interview with a podcast called The War on Cars. But Don has a great sense of humor, he’s really smart and he has a lot of political courage.

Doug: Toward the top of the interview, we reference an Edmonton Sun newspaper columnist named Lorne Gunter. That’s Edmonton’s resident anti-bike contrarian, something that most city papers and news sites have. Lorne frequently invokes the phrase ‘war on cars’ anytime motorists are inconvenienced in the slightest. So let’s just say that Don is used to it all, and he’s a great role model for other elected officials who want to take the long view and invest in making their cities better for the next generation and beyond.

Doug: What you’ll hear has been edited for this episode. Here’s our interview with former Edmonton mayor Don Iveson.

Doug: So why don’t we invite up our guests? Don Iveson already got a nice introduction. He is your former mayor, and we’re really delighted to welcome Don Iveson to The War on Cars.


Don Iveson: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you.

Doug: Tom Babin, I don’t know if he’s here, but he labeled Edmonton the most exciting city for cycling in North America, which is a really bold and big claim. But I will say that listening to the plans that a lot came from your administration, I think that is correct. So we’re really happy to have you here.

Don Iveson: Well, that’s really nice of you to say, but there are a whole bunch of people in this room who made that possible. So give yourselves a round of applause because that’s earned by the whole community. Especially Lorne Gunter.


Doug: Don’t post that to X or whatever you’re posting to. Or maybe—maybe do, you know?

Don Iveson: Well, you have to have a foil, right? Like every superhero villain, you need that dynamic, right?

Doug: Absolutely.

Don Iveson: So that was my key performance indicator. If Lorne was upset, I was doing something right.


Sarah: That’s good. That’s right.

Aaron: Don’s campaign for Premier of Alberta starts tonight, clearly.

Doug: I mean, along the lines of things being popular, you won re-election with 73 percent of the vote.

Don Iveson: After putting bike lanes in.

Doug: After putting bike lanes in.

Don Iveson: Yeah.

Sarah: Yes.


Doug: You know, so like we saw in Ottawa and we saw in other cities, it does become a campaign issue. It gets into the news. It gets—I did a talk radio CHED hit this morning. And not your normal War on Cars audience.

Sarah: And not your normal drive time listening either. [laughs]

Doug: And it becomes like a culture war thing that’s easy for the media to seize on. How did you deal with that during the campaign?

Don Iveson: That’s a great question. Well, there were four campaigns, two for city council and then two for mayor. And when I ran the first time for city council, it was—you know, I didn’t run on “Let’s put bike lanes everywhere.” That would not have worked. But the vision that I articulated at the time was a smart growth, urbanism and sustainability and housing affordability vision, which I then got the privilege to work on in this community, and to some extent beyond this community nationally for those 14 years.

Don Iveson: And I still work on those issues actually, after my time at city hall. But that was a broad enough vision, and to be sort of inclusive and nonthreatening. It didn’t hurt that I was 28 at the time in what was—and we weren’t thinking about this then, this was Edmonton’s fast-growth boom phase around 2007, and we were, I think at the time, the youngest city in the country. And there was this generational turnover that was starting in many of our institutions, including in public life. And so the average age of Edmonton city council was in the 60s before I got on, and then now I think it’s probably in the 40s, if not 30s.

Don Iveson: And so that—I was just on the bow wave of that generational change, and the message that really worked with people when I went out and knocked on doors and talked to them about the kind of city that I thought we should be building, but also asked them what’s the kind of city that you want to live in, people talked a lot about the places they visited that they loved, which are great walkable cities of the world. And Edmontonians were wealthy enough by that time that they were pretty well traveled. And none of them said, “I love going to places with huge traffic jams and getting stuck in them for hours and hours.” Like, you ask people what kind of city they want to live in, and they either tell you a part of this city that they love, like, “I love being on Whyte Ave. I love the coffee shops, love the bookstores. I love being able to walk. I wish I could do that in my neighborhood.”

Don Iveson: And that’s what the city plan and the whole 15-minute city thing is really about, right? Is building that kind of city for people, and then giving people choices for how they move around in the city. So we always talked about it as giving people more choices and trying to solve problems like housing affordability, trying to solve bigger problems related to the environment, sustainability.

Don Iveson: And then I wasn’t brave enough to say the words climate change in 2007. I wasn’t sure that—I was terrified about it at the time, and that was one of the things that motivated me to enter public life was climate issues. And I did make one mistake—well, I made lots.

Doug: Such as agreeing to do this interview, for example.

Don Iveson: In respect of cycling, particularly at first when we started talking about it and doing an earlier version of the cycling plan, I focused a lot on the sustainability benefits because that was the set of values that I was bringing to it. And I recognized after a lot of listening, a lot of talking and more listening, and just understanding where the community was at, that a health frame was a much stronger frame for it than an environment frame. Notwithstanding that it makes a lot of sense from a GHG reduction standpoint. A vehicle mile—like, all the sustainability indicators, correspond strongly. So it’s just how we talked about it was in a non threatening what kind of city do you want to live in kind of way.

Don Iveson: And also when we’d get pushback, it was, “Well, what kind of city do you think you want your kids to live in?” Because at that time, other things that motivated me was that almost every single one of my friends had left because they didn’t see this as the kind of place where they wanted to be, where they wanted to grow and prosper, build a life, stay, raise a family, build their career, because that just wasn’t the sense of opportunity here, or that the place was conducive or compelling or attractive.

Don Iveson: So I was just trying to build the kind of city I thought my friends might want to come back to one day. And some of them did eventually when they couldn’t afford houses in other cities.


Don Iveson: But we took it slow, which is a problem. Like, we don’t have a lot of time on the sustainability front. We don’t have a lot of time on the inclusion front. We have even less time on the safety and vulnerable roadway users part. So I had the luxury of 14 years to play it out, but always feeling the impatience of folks in this room still for it to be better and safer and more inclusive than it is now. So yeah, I don’t know. We just ground it out over years and years and years, but there was no quick fix. There was no, like, lightning bolt moment.

Sarah: I mean, when you’re talking about affordability, that brings up, for me, at least in the US, a lot of the time there’s the sense that if bike lanes are coming into a neighborhood, that means it’s gentrifying. That means it’s gonna soon become unaffordable. And the subtext of all of that is that, you know, these kind of walkable, bikeable communities are unaffordable in North America for the most part. And I wonder how much you have heard some of that pushback here, or how much there is anxiety about the rising cost of housing in Edmonton affect—and the idea that Edmonton is getting fancier in some ways, or more like a European city or whatever you want to call it.

Don Iveson: Yeah, nobody says that about Edmonton.


Sarah: Okay.

Don Iveson: I mean, that’s delightful.

Sarah: I just said it.

Don Iveson: You heard it here first on The War on Cars. Edmonton is turning into that kind of city that people …

Sarah: But are all of—is that kind of affordability issue ever something that comes up here? I was just curious to know.

Don Iveson: You know, I think it’s starting to, but I have to admit that I am not as plugged in as I was when I was the mayor. So I got briefed literally every day on these issues, and so I’m not the best person to answer that question right now. There are probably folks in this room who would have a better sense of that. But what I would say from some of the work that I do around housing and affordability, and some work I do at the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness at the most acute end, is that the housing and affordability crisis in the Western world is at an all-time high. And bike lanes are not the reason why. Like, we can’t blame everything on bicycles, including and especially housing affordability.

Don Iveson: So is it an indicator? Like, is the presence of more people on bikes an indicator that something’s changing in the neighborhood, in its demographics? Probably. But correlation’s not causation in this case, right? And the issues of housing affordability are some regulatory issues related to housing and land use, and we could talk a lot about that because I just reviewed a report on housing and climate that’s gonna come out—or that will be out by the time this podcast comes out—that looks at these questions of land use and housing economics in a climate frame. There’s lots of housing task forces out there, lots of climate action out there. Nobody, at least in Canada, had looked at these in a unified way.

Don Iveson: And the causal issues behind housing affordability are obviously complex and systemic, but at the end of the day, they have to do with income inequality and injustice in our community and in our countries and in our world. And we have to remedy those to make sure that we have, among other things, inclusive neighborhoods. So I haven’t heard that critique in Edmonton, but this was one of the more affordable Canadian large cities for a long time. And if you’re buying a home, it still is. You can buy a home here for around half a million Canadian dollars. That’s around $375,000 US, which for a Canadian city is great. I mean, the same house in Calgary is $700,000 now, the same house in Toronto is probably $1.5 to $2, depending on the neighborhood. Vancouver would be north of $2.

Don Iveson: So this is a relatively affordable place to buy a home for the moment. I worry that that’s gonna change. But I know rents have shot up, and in many of the neighborhoods that are seen as desirable right now, rents have shot up. And all the more reason to give people transportation options to reduce the amount of money they have to spend getting around so that they can sustain a decent quality of life, whatever part of the city they choose to live in.

Aaron: Don, we joked about it a bit at the top about how, you know, when you land at the airport, it’s ‘Welcome to Oil Country.’ When you get to the Oilers’ game, it’s, you know, ‘This is oil country.’ And the city is booming in part because, you know, we’re in oil country. And I’m so curious how, you know, this kind of dissonance between, you know, a mayor who really cares about climate and wants to, you know, wants to address that set of problems. How did you—how did that affect you as mayor, that sort of like, conflict between, you know, what was driving the economy and where you’re trying to take the city?

Don Iveson: Well yeah, there was a lot of support at the, at the name of the Edmonton Oilers on the way in here. And part of how I thought about that was the Hartford Whalers, which is a hockey team that some of you may remember, but most of you won’t, in a city called Hartford, which had a rich whale oil tradition once upon a time. And its hockey team, which is no longer there, was a testament to that. And there will come a time in the not-too-distant future where we have transitioned away from or phased out our dependence on fossil fuels, or we’re gonna torch the planet.

Don Iveson: And there is now—I mean, we’ve known this for a long time, and now the petrostates, at least many of the more authoritarian petrostates, have figured this out. And at the last COP, and I was there for—I mean, I wasn’t in the discussions at that level. I was doing other stuff there on the climate adaptation side and doing some climate finance work. And, you know, the authoritarian petrostates understand that this change is coming. And so do most human beings, including most Edmontonians. And when you survey Edmontonians and you survey Albertans in general and Canadians, it’s about the same number, like, three quarters or more, believe that climate change is anthropogenic, ie. human caused, and that we need to act urgently to change it. And the spread between Edmonton and Toronto is almost within the margin of error of the survey.

Don Iveson: So it’s not like Edmontonians are all climate deniers. We kind of know. It is a source of a lot of the prosperity here right now, but the way I thought about it is that—and the way I talked about it was that this place has a long tradition of energy problem solving, and this place also has a long tradition of water problem solving. A lot of historic drought issues in the South, and then with climate, lots of other water issues as we get more drought and also more severe precipitation.

Don Iveson: And we had the IPCC Cities and Climate Science Conference here in 2018, and we had a briefing for our city council where one of the scientists said something I’ll never forget, which is that all climate change mitigation issues are fundamentally energy issues, and all climate change adaptation issues are fundamentally water issues. Too much of it when you don’t want it, or not enough of it when you need it. And that is now the space that I work in is around water issues and heat and stress issues and severe storms and really uplifting stuff on the adaptation side.

Don Iveson: But my point is that we’re problem solvers in both of those spaces. And do we wish to be relevant or do we wish to be—no disrespect to the good people of Hartford, Connecticut, but do we want to be relevant 20 or 30 or 40 years from now? Because this change is coming, and we need to embrace it and see economic opportunity, research opportunity, leadership opportunity, and we need to build the kind of city that is going to be part of the decarbonization solution over time and be resilient to the changes in weather. Because the further north you are, and this place is 53 degrees latitude—I mean, the mayor of Anchorage used to always give me a hard time when I would say this, but the northernmost major city in North America. We’ve been seeing the front edge of climate change here, you know, 10 years ahead of others. And my colleagues in the capital cities of the territories to the north of us, closer to the Arctic Circle, have been seeing it for longer. So some part of us has known for a very long time that this is serious and things need to change. Now the democratic petrostates are the ones who seem to be having the hardest time figuring out how to come to terms with this because of this reflexivity into reactionary minimization of these issues, which I don’t have the answer for. If I did, I would be not doing this podcast right now, probably. But …

Aaron: Wait, what would you be doing?


Doug: I wonder if we could rewind a little bit. You know, I feel like—and it’s probably true for a lot of people in this room—if you’re into these issues like cycling, housing, urbanism, et cetera, there’s a couple of pathways into them. One might be you’re just from somewhere else, and you’ve seen a better way of living, and for whatever reason, for school, work, it brings you to a new city and you’re like, “Well, this sucks, and I want to change it.” That’s one. It could be that you traveled and had, like, the pilgrimage to Amsterdam and Copenhagen and those places, and you saw sort of like the galaxy brain, ideal version of how all of this can be. How—you know, we have lots of progressive elected officials who are terrible on cycling and housing issues, who talk a good game on affordability but, like, if you’re gonna piss off the single-family homeowners, they’re just—they’ll walk away. How did you—was there an ‘aha’ moment or was it a gradual thing that you just started to learn about these issues?

Don Iveson: Well, like I was saying earlier, it is the kind of city that I thought we needed to build if we were going to be relevant. And so there’s fear behind that on some level. There’s a, like, we’re losing out in some way.

Doug: How did you even know what that was?

Don Iveson: Well, I lived in Toronto for a couple of years, and that was formative. So I grew up in Edmonton, and then moved to Toronto for—to go to school there for a year and then worked there for a year. And there was a chunk of time where I, except for, like, flying out to do stuff for work, I lived within, like, a 30-square-block radius where I walked everywhere. And I had my bike there, but it was so walkable, everything was so close that I didn’t actually even ride my bike very much. And at that time, there was no infrastructure in downtown Toronto.

Don Iveson: Now I was a—what do they call it? A confident and fierce cyclist. And so I would ride anyway. And unfortunately, I projected that experience and that bias onto the first round of some of the bike infrastructure that we built here. A confident and strong cyclist, I think—I think that’s what they used to tell us I was. I’m not that anymore as I get older and more fragile here, but so I’m grateful for better infrastructure. But yeah, I think it was my time living there that I just saw—you know, particularly there with, at the time, really great public transit, too. I just thought, okay, this is—this is a city. This is what we mean when we say ‘city.’

Don Iveson: And Toronto’s not perfect. No place is perfect, right? But then when there was—he other thing that happened, you know, in the meandering path to running for public office was a talk from a guy named Peter Kageyama, who some of you may know, an urbanist from Florida. I can’t remember which part of Florida, a smaller community in Florida, who—I saw him give a talk once and he said, “You know, big cities are great, but the really interesting cities are the midsize places that aren’t finished yet.” More or less is the gist of what he said. That’s what stuck with me.

Don Iveson: And I thought Edmonton is still—like, the clay is still wet. You could still change the arc of this. Like, Toronto is Toronto, New York is New York. All the cities you can name when you think about them are—they’re never done but, like, the arc is kind of set, right, in a lot of ways. And I thought, this place is still young, it’s still malleable. It doesn’t even know what it is yet. That sounds like an interesting opportunity to try to change the trajectory of a place to be sustainable, fun, inclusive, affordable, engaging, safe, all of those other things that it already was to some degree.

Don Iveson: And then here’s the other thing: like, the other part of your question was about the courage to take a position like this. I mean, if you knock on 10 or 20,000 doors, and our wards used to be a massive, massive, massive—there was like, 100,000 people in the old ward system. Like, you demystify your fellow community members really quickly because on a bad day, one in five of them are grumpy about something and hostile. And on a good day, one in 20. So it is one of the best antidotes to cynicism about the decency of human beings is to actually go out there, put yourself out there and meet them. And that’s rejuvenating in a re-election process, except now you’re part of the problem.

Don Iveson: The first election is great because you’re like, “Oh yeah, those guys at city hall, they don’t know anything. I’ll bring a fresh perspective.” And I don’t know how many million times I said the words ‘fresh perspective’ when I was 28 years old. And people were like, “Oh, look at this nice young man. Let’s vote for him.” And then three years later I’m like, “Hello,” and they’re like, “This stop sign is in the wrong place. You got to rotate at 90 degrees.” And actually those people, you could be like, “Okay, I’m gonna take this back. I’m gonna look into it,” and be like, “Actually, this is why this stop sign’s this way, because of sight lines and other things.” And they’re like, “Oh, I didn’t realize there’s a good reason for that.” Yeah, there is a good reason for that. Some person with a lot more credentials than me or you put this here, right? So if you give people a good answer, even a good number of those grumpy folks will turn around and say, “Okay, I can live with that. I don’t love it, but I can live with it,” right? And that a good, functioning local democracy can maintain that kind of conversation and build trust with people. So—and that’s just disarming for people. And then you can sneak in all the bike lanes you want!

[laughter and applause]

Doug: When we talked ahead of this in our pre-interview, you talked about—you know, I think sometimes we get really focused, or elected officials get really focused on the cyclists, right? Like, I’ve seen that. We’ve seen that with our former mayor de Blasio, our current mayor Adams. He sees cyclists as, like, this small, annoying constituency that’s never satisfied, right?

Don Iveson: I couldn’t possibly comment.


Doug: Right. Right. You know, and I think one of the things we talk about—or I’ve certainly said on the podcast—is that, you know, the mayors who get it don’t see cyclists as a constituency that they need to please, they see cycling as a thing they need to cultivate, right? That there’s a lot of cyclists who are out there, just they aren’t on bikes yet, and they’re just regular people in your city. When we talked, you talked about bikes and other forms of micromobility as pedestrian accelerators. I wonder if you could sort of, like, drop your wisdom on that phrase.

Don Iveson: Yeah. So, you know, if you want to balkanize all the non-drivers, or people who do things other than drive—which is most of us. It’s actually every single one of us. Like, when you think about it, even if you use a car to take your kids to hockey practice, whatever the example was …

Doug: You gotta walk half a block to pay the meter, for example. Yeah.

Don Iveson: Well, we’re all pedestrians at some part of the day, and we don’t—but nobody—like, very few people identify as not that huge a pedestrian lobby because it’s all of us, right? But if we think about how people actually move around in our city—and transit users, too. I specifically used this language a lot to talk about transit because the transit users can also be sort of minimized or compartmentalized as a constituency. “Oh well, transit riders do this, cyclists do this.” I mean, if you live in an actual city, you’re some or all of the above, right?

Don Iveson: And the common activity in all of them is the first 10 feet, last 10 feet, or first half mile, last half mile, which is usually on foot. Even if you drive somewhere. Even if it’s through a hostile parking lot in a power center to the big box store of your choice, you are a pedestrian for those perilous seconds of your life between entering in to get Swedish meatballs and leaving with bookcases, right?

Don Iveson: And so I thought a lot about transit issues, particularly in context of transit-oriented development and, like, the 400 meter, 800 meter cachements as, like, that’s where you have to get the pedestrian infrastructure right. And then the other thing that happened was transit opened—and I bought a house near transit intentionally, but once I started riding my Dutch bike, like, the three blocks to transit if I was running a few minutes late, I was like, “Oh, this is—this is what they—this is Europe, man. And it’s, like, in my neighborhood now. This is great!” And I wasn’t militantly doing anything other than going to work, right?

Don Iveson: But this whole fixation on pedestrians actually goes back to this great line in Lewis Lapham’s book, Money and Class in America, which I strongly recommend. And he talks about—and he’s talking about inequality in the United States and in the world historically. And he remarks that in Roman times, there were two classes of people: the equestrian class, which were the people on horses, who were the elite essentially, very small number of people, and the pedestrian class, which was everybody else. And in a democracy, I think we’re all supposed to be the pedestrian class, right? And yet we’ve got in our cities, depending on the layout of the city and the mode share, you know, 40, 50, 60, 70 percent of people thinking of themselves as the equestrian class and looking down, just as they did in ancient Rome, on the pedestrians. And that just strikes me as wrong and undemocratic. So that was the—and it was a language that just resonated with me from that book that I tried to carry forward into kind of my theory of urbanism practiced over across the way there at city hall.

Sarah: But this idea that the motorist is, you know, seeing themselves as in the equestrian class and looking down, I mean, I think this is kind of at the root of the anxiety about this class issue that you’re raising is a lot of where the war on cars—not our War on Cars but, you know, that rhetoric comes from is because there’s fear, right? There’s fear that we’re all living kind of just barely making it a lot of the time, and that you might at any time tumble off your horse and be a pedestrian. And so that holding on to that status that is signified by the vehicle is so important to people, and it’s because of their fear. So I guess, you know, I sort of wonder what you think about addressing that underlying fear. It’s almost like addressing underlying fears about crime or something else, you know, in terms of how do you talk to people about transportation in a way that tacitly acknowledges those fears and kind of tries to relieve that anxiety?

Don Iveson: I don’t know. How do you guys do it?

Sarah: [laughs] Come on!

Don Iveson: So I think what you’re describing really resonates with me, and it has to do a little—I mean, there’s this whole thing with being cut off from your fellow human being. And one thing I used to really enjoy Mike Bloomberg telling stories of taking the subway because—and I would think about this when I was using public transit, like, just what a different experience it is, especially as an elected official. Like, you’re just campaigning while you’re going to work, right? Like it’s—but it’s humanizing, right, to be in the presence of other people and sharing a street or sharing a good separated bike lane and, like, nodding at your neighbors. And that’s all pro social behavior. And being in a car and being mad at everyone else who’s around you for occupying the same space that you’re also occupying, and it doesn’t work very well, is antisocial on some level.

Don Iveson: So it is hard to talk about. And yet it is what we have. That’s nobody’s fault. We all want to have a villain for this. Like, who started the war on pedestrians, right? Like, I don’t know. I mean, it was sort of the systemic thing that emerged over time. There is no villain. We’re the villains. We all allowed this to happen. We allow it to continue. What are we gonna do about it? So the pro-social thing, I think, to do—and actually your question reminded me of one other thing. There was a car ad—this was, like, decades ago, that one of the car makers was advertising to students particularly and saying, like, “You don’t want to be riding the bus for the rest of your life, do you?” As if that’s a bad thing. And there was a lot of backlash at the time, actually. It was quite heartening because people thought that stigma is really out of place, really, really inappropriate.

Don Iveson: And yet almost everybody who would have been outraged by that probably has a car now, and it is what it is because of the cities that we built. So the key is not to, like, try to fight that out, you know, one heart and mind at a time and think differently about your commute because people get defensive when you push them on that. The key is to actually just build better environments that people will occupy in ways that work for them through a lot more density, a lot better transit, a lot more, you know, better pedestrian accommodation, a lot of accessibility issues. Like, as a dad, when I start pushing a stroller, all of a sudden I became acutely aware of the barriers to folks who rely on wheeled mobility and other mobility aids to get around our city. And so you have to build an environment that makes all of that seamless for people. And then they’ll choose the other thing. Just like I fell into it in Toronto. There was no—I mean, I couldn’t have afforded to buy a car.

Don Iveson: And here’s the other thing—and this is the other half of your question is that we are in a time of fear and unsettled scarcity. And during that time, people have a really hard time with change. They’re grasping onto what they have right now, and that is fertile ground for demagogues and merchants of outrage who are running amok with our communities right now. But here’s the good news: actual people don’t want really dumb stuff to happen in their community, and they want good things to happen in their community. And when there’s democratic engagement and public engagement with people, that creates conditions for the long-term planning, the land use, the infrastructure spending decisions to unfold over time in a more democratic and inclusive and urban and healthy and sustainable way. It’s just you have to be really patient. There’s no quick fix to that, right? And I think the hearts and minds change once people see it.

Don Iveson: I actually have an example of this, that a—text from a fellow who runs one of the construction companies in town here who said—he texted me after I bumped into him somewhere. He said, “I’m not sure if you remember me, but it’s not important if you do. I saw you at Rosso—” which is a really good pizza place in town here, by the way. And he says, “I was gonna tell you I hated your bike lane drive years ago. Now I bike everywhere and I absolutely love it.” And this is a guy in his 50s who’s healthier.


Don Iveson: He’s a business community leader. So I think the best tactic is if you build it, they will come and occasionally they will say thank you a couple of years later at the pizza place.


Aaron: So Don, we understand you’re a big Star Trek fan.

Don Iveson: Absolutely.

Aaron: Is that correct?

Don Iveson: Yeah, there’s the whole utopian undercurrent of everything I was just saying as Gene Roddenberry hinted at it.

Aaron: But are there lessons from the show that we should be applying to civic life?

Doug: We’re kind of springing this one on you.

Aaron: Or that you apply to civic life in general? You know, in the design of cities and how we should run things.

Don Iveson: Well, you know, I wrote a blog post a long time ago that’s disappeared off the internet, thank goodness, where I compared Star Trek and Star Wars. So not to upset the Star Wars fans in the room, but what I kind of boiled it down to was that, like, Star Trek‘s about community, and it’s about working together. And Star Wars is great. Like, it’s really, really fun, but it’s all about the hero’s journey. It’s about one person overcoming all of these forces of opposition and this, like, evil system allied against them. And the premise there is that most people are bad and only a small number of people are good, which is actually like an oligarchic assumption, right, at best. It’s not a very democratic outlook. And the rebellion is like this insurgent thing against all the forces of evil.

Don Iveson: And whereas in Star Trek, you’ve got all these nerds working together, and it’s not a ton of ego, there’s just enough hierarchy for role clarity, which appeals to me because I was always the captain when we were role playing.

Aaron: Sure.

Don Iveson: So yeah, I don’t know. I just think it comes down to—and there’s this great book that I’m enamored with of late, Rutger Bregman’s book, Humankind, where he dissects this kind of battle for the soul of humanity, which is essentially: are we mostly good and sometimes we do bad things, and there’s at most maybe a small number of people who are, like, truly antisocial or sociopathic? Or are we, like, fundamentally bad and wrong, and we need laws and systems and oppressive mechanisms to keep everybody in line? And that narrative is his argument—and I think he’s right—is that that narrative’s kind of winning. And especially, you know, the outrage machines run off that narrative. All the headlines you put up run off that narrative. But that’s not the humans I met and worked for—oh, gonna get emotional—and got to serve for 14 years, right? Like, the million people I got to know—not all directly, but, like, the tens of thousands I actually got to meet, are mostly really awesome, or at least good most of the time. And that’s a Star Trek universe, right? That’s not a Star Wars evil empire, you know, the Sith Lord is the—you know, putting in—you know, ripping out bike lanes, and …

Aaron: Yeah. Did you have like a Vice Mayor Spock? Never mind. That was a joke.

Don Iveson: I did have Councilor Scott McKeen. He would actually come over and we’d watch Star Trek together and then occasionally talk about how it applied to public policy matters of the day. So shout out to Scott McKeen.


Doug: I think that’s—that’s a good place to wrap things up with Don. But Don, please stick around. Everyone give Don a big—another round of applause.


Doug: Thank you. Yeah. And I just want to say that every single person I talked to who, when we told them you were gonna be our guest, were like, “Oh, that’s gonna be great. He’s so nice. He’s such a good guy.” And we’re so grateful that you were—that you agreed to do this. And we’re so inspired by—you know, I had to do a lot of quick homework learning about you and learning about everything that you did. And I was really—I was like, just can you become an American citizen and run for mayor of New York? So thank you for being here. Yeah.

Don Iveson: Well, you have to—you have to know when to leave, right? It’s the Harvey Dent. Like, you either stick around long enough to become the villain or you’re a total nerd.

Doug: I like this.

Don Iveson: Well, but the Batman reference I really like that I forgot to give a minute ago is like, you know, when the Joker’s hanging upside down there in The Dark Knight, and the people, including the convicts, don’t blow up the ship. And he’s like, “People are good!” Like, that’s what it boils—that’s what it all boils down to. People on bikes are good! People walking are good! Transit riders are good! And, and, and people in cars are good, too. They just need better choices. More choices.


Doug: That is it for this episode of The War on Cars. Thank you so much to everyone in Edmonton, including all of the advocates, city officials and other attendees of the Winter Cycling Congress from around the world. Thanks also to the Winter Cycling Federation, including board members Pekka Tahkola, Anders Swanson, Tony Desnick and Becca Wolfson.

Doug: I want to personally thank Brian Torrance of Ever Active Schools for all of his help. And last but not least, we especially want to offer our gratitude to Michael Janz. We couldn’t have asked for a better host, tour guide and friend. Edmonton is lucky to have him serving on the city council.

Doug: Thanks also to our new sponsor, BullMoose Softgoods. For one of a kind bags designed for adventure on and off your bicycle, check out BullMoose Softgoods, handcrafted in Somerville, Massachusetts. For a 15 percent discount, go to BullMooseSoftgoods.com, and enter code WOC15. That’s BullMooseSoftgoods.com, discount code WOC15 for 15 percent off.

Doug: You can help support The War on Cars by signing up on Patreon. Go to TheWaronCars.org, click “Support Us” and pitch in, starting at just $3 per month. We’ll give you access to ad-free versions of regular episodes, exclusive bonus episodes, and more. Plus, we’ll send you stickers.

Doug: We want to shout out everyone who supports us on Patreon, including our top contributors, Charley Gee of Human Powered Law in Portland, Oregon, Virginia Baker, Mark Hedlund, and the Parking Reform Network.

Doug: This episode was produced by me. Editing is by me and Ali Lemer. Narration was recorded by Josh Wilcox at the Brooklyn Podcasting Studio. Transcriptions are by Russell Gragg. Our theme music is by Nathaniel Goodyear. I’m Doug Gordon, and on behalf of my cohosts, Aaron Naperstek and Sarah Goodyear, this is The War on Cars.