The following ideas and suggestion may benefit the process of creating a better bicycling strategy and hopefully healthier urban fabrics in the long run. However it’s also based on the assumption that content research, data collection has been undertaken for your particular local government area prior overlaying these suggestions.
A good bicycling strategy should carry through a compelling lifestyle message that is aligned with the long- term vision of your city or municipality e.g. a sustainable, prosperous, healthy and liveable. This needs to be supported by strong and imaginative visuals throughout the strategy and I don’t mean just male dominated sport cyclists.
Be clear about your most powerful message in your current political environment of your city. Have a realistic target and focus on how do get there- this should be the new reality on the horizon of your urban environment. Have an integrated and whole of government approach as part of the exercise.
Prevent unrealistic expectation by communicating projected budget allocations early. As long you don’t have the money you will find it hard to implement actions.
- 3. Communication of benefits
Instead of focusing on the issues, celebrate the potential benefits that every member of the community will have because of this strategy. For example economical benefits, CO2 emission savings, less road network congestions, less air and noise pollution, social inclusion, safer, health benefits, happier and more child friendly environments.
Stylish easy to read graphs, facts, simple and consistent language/ terminology should make it easy for all members of the community to understand the bicycling strategy.
Use before and after shots or photomontages, illustrate in sections of the strategy different bicycle users in different problem situation and show what you might be able to do about it as part of the strategy.
- 4. Community consultation
Include holistically active and meaningful engagement opportunities for the community members and stakeholders groups. For example arrange sessions where the existing users are: coffee shops, at street festivals, at workplaces, in schools and universities, at popular bicycle destinations. No one knows a network better than the people who are using it every day.
Most importantly ensure that the community is empowered, feels that you have heard them and you understand what needs to be done. Therefore effective prioritisation and inclusion of innovative concepts support commitment and vision.
Do it proper in the first instance as it will save you a lot of hassle and time later!
Evidence suggested that people that are more physical active as part of their daily routine enjoy incredible physical and mental health benefits. Harness this energy and celebrate the civil community through colourful and inclusive images that aim to mainstream bicycling in your community. Make sure images are from your local community and are high in quality. Do this in the strategy documents, at consultation sessions as well as use these images for campaigns afterwards.
Demonstrate in easy to read maps that you are seeking to create a network of convenience for bicycle users. Make sure that members of the community understand that is very much part of an ongoing conversation and by no means a map that is set in stone. You are keen to hear more and create ongoing conversation channels with the community e.g. bicycle hotline, online portal, Bicycle Advisory group to the government. Utilise projects that are already working in the city very well and celebrate these early wins and commit to what you can do with projected budget in the future and perhaps do it even better!
Branding is very much part of the contemporary zeitgeist and if you are committed to make a valuable contribution to a bicycle revolution- show leadership by creating with the community a unique and strong brand label. Supported by a strong slogan or claim this should be included and integrated in many of your city programs e.g. tourism (cups, t-shirts, stickers, flags), active transport (stencilled on the paths, displayed on traffic messaging boards, in busses), health messaging (TV adds, workplaces), infrastructure provision (in bus shelters, on water bubblers, light poles, community message boards, shop fronts).
Comfort and safety comes first -provide options on how to achieve realistic, sustainable and better network maintenance. Demonstrate pride and include some of your local government staff members from the maintenance team in the strategy and communication e.g. in images showing them at work.
As one size doesn’t fit all – address what want people perceive as a serious safety barrier to bicycling more often. Stick with the realistic arguments, as we won’t be able to change the weather. Apply the following hierarchy:
- Children and older members of the community
- Urban ‘hipsters’
- Employees (commuter cyclists)
Showcase solutions such as some big-ticket items e.g. new separated off road bike lane or child friendly neighbourhoods, as well as small but effective ways that can have a big impact e.g. bike priority on intersection.
The contemporary urban society is often suffering on the perceived issue of not enough time and therefore you need to think about of ways how to improve the real time travelled on bicycles in a direct and effective manner. A dear colleague of mine Dr Paul Tranter has done some excellent work on “effective speeds” in urban environments and strongly suggests getting hold of some of his research findings.
As part of demonstrating the benefits of short travel times on bike perhaps think about the introduction of digital message boards that display travel times for bicyclist compared to vehicles along selected routes. This can be powerful in creating strong messages for behaviour change.
Focus also on how people may go further and quicker by considering new infrastructure such as bicycle highways in appropriate parts your city, or better integration with other means of travel e.g. bike’n’ride or bike racks on all busses.
Make sure you are able to have a summary of your entire strategy on one page available. This should include referencing of modal split as well as cross- references to head topics in the strategy itself with projected targets. Include links to the ongoing communication stream. This is useful for you in meetings and for every stakeholder or interested party to advocate for the collective ideas to make your city a better, healthier and more liveable place.