The Connected Leadership Podcast

Potholes and Pavements with Laura Laker

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Episode notes

This episode of the Connected Leadership podcast takes a unique turn, featuring Laura Laker, a prominent and well-respected travel journalist and co-host of the Streets Ahead podcast. Laura Laker has written for national and specialist titles for well over a decade. Her new book is, Potholes and Pavements: A Bumpy Ride on Britain's National Cycle Network,

Laura's journey to becoming a cycling advocate is anything but straightforward. She shares her story with Andy Lopata, of navigating different career paths before discovering her passion for cycling at university. The joy she experienced cycling through London and the opportunity to improve air quality and health through active travel ignited her enthusiasm.

The conversation then turns to the impact of shared interests on building and deepening relationships. Andy and Laura reflect on their own friendship, which blossomed through their shared passion for walking and later, their book releases. Laura talks about how cycling has influenced her own friendships and professional networks, emphasising that shared activities like cycling and dancing act as social lubricants, breaking down barriers and allowing individuals to be more themselves.

Turning to the book's core topic, Laura explains how the National Cycle Network, despite being composed of asphalt and gravel, is ultimately about people. She highlights the crucial role of volunteers, local and national networks, and organisations like Sustrans in building and maintaining the network. Through anecdotes about the development of cycle paths and bridges, Laura showcases the importance of community involvement, place making, and collaborative efforts.

The conversation shifts to the challenges facing the National Cycle Network, including underfunding and a lack of long-term planning. Laura emphasises the need for consistent funding and government leadership to prioritise cycle routes as a strategic infrastructure, akin to high-speed rail projects.

The conversation then examines the delicate balance between being a journalist and building relationships with those you cover. Laura shares her approach to ensuring accuracy, fairness, and honesty in her reporting, even when challenging those she interviews. She believes that this approach builds trust and facilitates open communication, leading to constructive change.

The episode concludes with a discussion about the contentious relationship between pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. Laura points out the manufactured conflict that is often fueled by political actors and social media. She advocates for a more holistic approach to urban planning, emphasising the need for safe and dedicated spaces for each mode of transport to reduce conflict and improve safety and the overall quality of life.

Laura's book, "Potholes and Pavements," stands as a compelling call for greater investment in active travel and a more people-centred approach to infrastructure. It serves as a reminder of the power of community, the importance of relationships, and the potential for positive change through thoughtful collaboration.

Connect with Andy Lopata: Website | Instagram | LinkedIn | X/Twitter| Youtube

Connect with Lisa Laura Laker: Website | X/Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram