1×10: Sam Starr, VeloLogistics & Critical Mobility

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Welcome to 1×10, where we ask 1 inspiring human 10 questions about how they are using cycling as a force for good. Read on to learn about Sam Starr, Chief Instigator of all things eCargoBike and cycle logistics in North America, co-founder of VeloLogistics coalition, and president of consultancy, Critical Mobility. I got connected to Sam through Andrea Learned, the very first 1×10 interview for this site, who co-founded VeloLogistics with Sam. She is passionate about #bikes4climate so I knew she and Sam would be up to something good. Learn about how Sam fell in love with cycling, his favorite bike, and how he’s using bikes to do good, and more in his 1×10 interview.

1. How / why did you fall in love with cycling?

I started when I was very young. Growing up in the suburbs of DC, and living near the C&O Canal Towpath and new Capital Crescent Trail, the bicycle was my first mode of transportation that gave the freedom to get out of the house, explore the area and city, and get exercise. I started a bike club in high school and we would ride all over the city, pushing our distances further each time – on mountain bikes oddly enough. After university and owning a series of cars, not too proud of that, for many years in order to live and get to a variety of jobs all across the US, I realized how much I couldn’t stand driving a car anymore, and the cost of ownership was becoming exorbitant. Getting rid of my car and living in cities where I could walk and cycle or transit everywhere opened up doors for me. I love the freedom and flexibility cycling provides, as well as the exercise benefits I get from it. Having been car-free for almost 5 years now, non-continuous, I don’t ever see myself purchasing a car. I love cycling!

“Getting rid of my car and living in cities where I could walk and cycle or transit everywhere opened up doors for me.”

2. Favorite Bike (that you own or covet)?

My British Racing Green Brompton H6R that I look forward to traveling across Europe with this month. I do covet a Velove Armadillo eCargobike, but we cannot currently get them here in North America due to regulatory issues.

3. What’s the most memorable ride you’ve done, and what happened?

I cycle toured up Vancouver Island, from Nanaimo to Port McNeill & Telegraph Cove, British Columbia. It was my first ever cycle tour, 550 km and over 5500 meters of elevation gain in 6 days. The ride was not only memorable from all the camping, the experiences, the history of Telegraph Cove, and the beauty of British Columbia, but also because it taught me that we can do anything we put our mind to on a bike. Not only can we use bicycles to get anywhere where we want, but we can carry our lives with us. The bike is the environmentally-friendly solution to our mobility needs, and it truly works to bring communities together. Funny story from the trip. After managing to get a flat tire while at a local distillery on the Island, I accidentally left my bike lock on their patio. When I called the next day to ask them to mail it back to me (with a bottle of their single malt whisky that I desired and happily paid for), I forgot to provide my name to the person on the other end of the phone. The lock arrived by the time I got back from the tour with the name “Bike Lock” on the box. Thank you Shelter Point Distillery for saving the day and providing a good memory and one I’m still enjoying – Slainte!

“The ride was not only memorable from all the camping, the experiences, the history of Telegraph Cove, and the beauty of British Columbia, but also because it taught me that we can do anything we put our mind to on a bike.”

4. Who do you admire in the cycling world?

I admire the European Cycling Logistics Federation (ECLF) and the International Cargo Bike Festival (ICBF) organizations. Richard Armitage and Jos Sluijsmans and others involved are leading a great movement to get companies large and small to see the value and benefits of using eCargobikes for their businesses. These organizations have created extensive partnerships and generated academic research, festivals, businesses, and public speaking, and are driving the cycling logistics movement across Europe. I am inspired by them to get the movement going here.

Richard Armitage and Jos Sluijsmans and others involved are leading a great movement to get companies large and small to see the value and benefits of using eCargobikes for their businesses.”

5. Top tip for a new rider, or a cyclist about to take on a new challenge?

Pace yourself! If you’re not comfortable doing long rides, touring, or whatever your challenge is, don’t push it and just manage your pace. One of the things I learned cycle touring is that the hills can get long, but get in a comfortable gear and give yourself plenty of time, enjoy the scenery, and you’ll make it to the top. You’ll also be stronger because of it.

6. Favorite trend or innovation in cycling?

Cycling Logistics and eCargobikes – In this climate emergency we need to look at best practices around the globe, and cycling logistics is the proven solution for cities and delivery firms to sustainably reduce their carbon footprint, reduce congestion, speed up delivery times, and improve public health. As commercial transportation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, cycling logistics in our cities is the answer we need.  These eCargobikes get better and better, and are able to safely handle greater capacities and still operate in the envelope of protected cycle lanes. Let’s build out our cycling infrastructure and start looking to these solutions and the mini-hubs that can accelerate their use!

“As commercial transportation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, cycling logistics in our cities is the answer we need.”

7. What are you doing to use cycling as a force for good?

I’ve started a consulting firm, Critical Mobility, to provide strategy, policy/regulatory, and implementation services for integrating cycling logistics into municipalities. With Andrea Learned (who you also interviewed here), I have begun development of a cycling logistics coalition we’re calling VeloLogistics to bring together a network of advocacy, government and industry to push this movement forward in North America. We are so far behind the EU on this front!

“I’ve started a consulting firm to provide strategy, policy/regulatory, and implementation services for integrating cycling logistics into municipalities.”

8. Thinking about the work you’re doing, what do you see as the potential change for people or the planet? If you are successful, what impact will you have?

I spent over a decade in supply chain and logistics solutions engineering and consulting, and saw the many inefficiencies and waste that occurs particularly in the last mile delivery world. As a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions across North America and the continuing growth of eCommerce, last mile delivery services need to become more efficient. The solution is there for these delivery firms, and the benefits will outweigh the costs. Bicycle firms publicly state that more protected and connected infrastructure sells more bikes, and the same rules will apply if our cycling infrastructure can accommodate eCargobikes and cycling logistics needs.  I hope to change the mindset of delivery firms, municipalities, and even the average family, to realize the benefits of investing in eCargobikes and more cycling infrastructure.

“I hope to change the mindset of delivery firms, municipalities, and even the average family, to realize the benefits of investing in eCargobikes and more cycling infrastructure.”

9. What’s your biggest challenge/obstacle to success?

North American automotive culture and regulations on eBikes. Most of our cities have been designed around cars and many people in the cities not only believe they need a car, but in many cases do in order to handle their daily lives. I see examples everywhere where people drive a block or two to go to the grocery store, or to take their children to school; and delivery businesses block traffic, create and sit in congestion and idle while stopped and making deliveries. We need to get out of this “car centric” mindset, particularly in the cities where we can change and there are other options. The EV, AV, and drone are also not the answers here. We have to also remember it’s not just the final mile, but it’s “the final steps” and the customer handoff experience. I can go on for hours about eBike regulations and how fragmented and confusing they are across North America. This fragmentation limits the industry and market growth dramatically, especially when combined with our relative lack of cycling infrastructure.  

“We have to also remember it’s not just the final mile, but it’s “the final steps” and the customer handoff experience.”

10. How can people help? Where can they learn more about your work?

People can help by getting involved in their local cycling coalitions and getting working groups going around integrating eCargobikes and cycling logistics into their cities. If they need help doing this and figuring out where to start, they can reach out to us at VeloLogistics, and join our LinkedIn group. https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13718357/  They can also start mentioning eCargoBikes for delivery to their city/municipal councils and asking questions about retailers and truck deliveries.

“People can help by getting involved in their local cycling coalitions and getting working groups going around integrating eCargobikes and cycling logistics into their cities.”

Sam Starr is Chief Instigator of all things eCargoBike and cycle logistics in North America, co-founder of Velogistics coalition, and president of consultancy, Critical Mobility. When not advocating for eCargobikes to be part of the #bikes4climate solution, you can probably find him riding around the Vancouver, BC area on his eCargobike (or Brompton)!

Edited by John Kim. When he’s not out for a ride, John uses his expertise in Corporate Social Responsibility to help companies do well by doing good. Find him at virtcyc@gmail.com or VirtCyc on twitter or instagram.

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