Solving the cycling parent’s dilemma? Guest post by Playing Out

We hope that eventually our campaigning efforts will radically change our streets so that this dilemma goes away completely. Until that happy day, one of our supporting organisations, Playing Out, has a radical solution that transforms our streets now – albeit temporarily – to give children the freedom some of us remember as kids to just ‘play out’, whether on two wheels or not.

By Daniella Radice of Playing Out.

Ok, so you’ve hauled your children around for the past few years, first in a seat and then graduating to an axle-challenging trailer.  They’re now just too heavy to cart around with your own steam but yet to master two wheels on their own.

Dad helping child to ride

In your mind’s eye you can see family cycling trips at weekends, with the children happily racing along and enjoying the freedom of two wheels as much as you do. But where and when do they learn to ride safely?

Many kids learn to ride on the pavement, often with the stabilisers on. But pavements are usually narrow or cluttered with bins, making it hard to learn. Also, learner cyclists can disconcert younger toddlers, older people and other pedestrians. As they get bigger, they need more space to get the feel for a bike, and yet you don’t feel happy to let a wobbly five year old onto the road.

One option is to take the children and their bike to the local park or nearest flat car park at the weekend so they can master manoeuvring and balance in a safe space. This can mean the hassle of putting bikes into the car or attempting to carry a bike whilst safely ushering small child(ren) along the pavement and across busy roads. A recipe for meltdown (theirs and/or yours) if ever there was one.

Playing out event
When the roads are closed to traffic, kids can get on with being kids

But there is another way! Many streets around the UK are now regularly closing to traffic as a way of allowing children to play safely outside their own front door. When their street is closed to cars for up to three hours a week, children can simply get out their dusty bikes and ride. They have the freedom of a largely car-free space but experiencing the feel of a road. In a recent survey of parents involved in ‘playing out’ sessions, 80% reported that children have learnt to cycle or improved their skills and confidence as a result. This quote from Louis Schafer (aged 5), who has been ‘playing out’ on his street since he was two, says it best:

 “Well I was playing outside on my bike and then I kept on falling off and then I gradually got my balance and I started to go faster but I kept on crashing into things at the end so I had to learn to make it controlled and slow down, and I learnt that and I started to learn other things and I started building ramps for it and stuff like that and bumps for it, and I went to the end of the cones and I went back down again and cycled up and down and I kept on doing that ‘til I found it really easy to do it, and that’s why I know how to do it now and now I do loads of other stuff !!”

Well, you can’t argue with that.

girl cycling on closed road

To find out how to open your own street for play, go to www.playingout.net or contact me directly: daniella@playingout.net Twitter: @PlayingOutCIC

A final PS: If you and your family do cycle – or scoot, or walk – to school, School Run Stories wants to hear from you what it’s like this week! 

Barriers … what barriers?

 

Here’s a timely guest post from Matt MacDonald, Community Links PLUS Manager for Sustrans Scotland, one of our supporting organisations. Matt knows more than most what might prevent councils from putting in ambitious schemes for active travel – and how they might be overcome. 

 

My five year old daughter learnt to cycle recently in our local park. Thanks to the wonders of a balance bike it took her about an hour to learn. She loved it. The freedom, the rush of air on her face, daddy slowly disappearing behind her as she laughs maniacally. I wanted to capitalise on this, and start riding with her to places we need to go, to shops, friends’ homes, to her nursery. However, I couldn’t, because doing so would require riding on roads I myself ride, and knowing some of the close encounters that I’ve had, I couldn’t bring myself to take the risk.

Good segregated infrastructure would enable us to build a life skill that will serve my daughter for the rest of her life. We’re starting to see infrastructure of this kind in Scotland, slowly but surely, there is still a lot more that needs to be done.

Given what I’ve just said, I’m privileged to manage a design competition called Community Links PLUS for Sustrans Scotland. Community Links PLUS seeks big, game-changing infrastructure projects that recalibrate streets in favour of people on foot and on bike.

The concept is simple but powerful; reallocate road space and create places that work for people. The proposals are multi-year, multi-million pound projects in densely populated areas, with all the complications that they can bring.

The competition finds us moving away from the old fashioned view of delivering off road networks* to understanding that people want to walk and cycle safely on the majority of streets.

For example, the first winner of the competition, the South City Way, is an incredible project by Glasgow City Council. The South City Way will offer over 3km of Copenhagen style terraced segregation from Queens Park in Glasgow’s Southside, right into the heart of the city.

I’ve gathered together a few insights into the elements required to successfully deliver public realm infrastructure projects, and I hope that in sharing them it enables you to identify and support projects in your own area.

I’d like to tell a short story that highlights the biggest determining factor in successful delivery of cycling and walking projects. A couple of my colleagues recently went on a research trip to Copenhagen. I wasn’t even remotely jealous as I knew they’d come back with precious insights, honest! And they did. Whilst there, they met with the team from Gehl Architects. Jan Gehl is the man credited with much of the public realm improvements in Copenhagen that have helped shape it into the thriving city that it now is. My colleagues were taken to the busiest, most desirable shopping street, Stroeget, photo below.

Stroeget as it is now

I’m sure you agree, it’s pretty amazing. Who wouldn’t want to spend time there, meeting friends, letting children play, shopping, eating out? But let me show you how it used to look:

Stroeget as it was in the past

Not so pleasant. Truthfully, quite cool, looking like a scene from an Orson Welles movie, but not somewhere you’d want to hang around too long, and certainly not somewhere children could cycle or walk around without parents desperately holding onto their hands. When it was closed as a temporary street trial, in 1962, it caused outrage in the media and amongst the general public. So what led it to become the chic street you see in the first image? Strong political support! There was cross-party and cross-political term support for change. The lesson is to support, involve and be nice to your Councillors, and for that matter MSPs and MPs. Involve them, empower them with knowledge, invite them to see the issues. Don’t just fling pelters on social media!

Despite the optimistic title, there are obviously barriers, but I want to focus on how we overcome them, so what are they?

Funding: in these times of austerity local authority’s budgets are being constrained. Seek sources of funding, and share them with your local authority officers, offering to help write bids for funding. Our own Community Links and Community Links PLUS funding streams offer 50% of project costs but the local authorities must find the rest. When successful projects are delivered and the benefits seen, more local authority funding will be allocated for similar projects, as Edinburgh have demonstrated over the last decade.

Resourcing: this is linked to funding in that teams delivering cycling and walking projects are being stretched. Seek out the teams in local authorities delivering these projects and offer support, as they are your allies. As with politicians, don’t get stuck into them on social media. Constructive campaigning is far better, offering evidence of benefits and community support is far more likely to open doors than being relentlessly negative.

Misconceptions: if there is one thing that the Sustrans Scotland team have learnt from infrastructure delivery, it’s that community engagement goes a long way in dealing with issues before they arise. Good engagement that goes beyond statutory consultation requires a lot of time and effort. Do your bit to support it, go and knock on doors or deliver leaflets, help identify venues, turn up at events and proactively engage with the people that turn up. The earlier engagement happens, the better. Ideally projects should be co-designed with the community, by clearly setting objectives and working on interventions that achieve those objectives, e.g. increased footfall for businesses, safer streets, streets that allow better movement of people on foot and on bike.

Divisive labels: avoid letting a project be pigeonholed as either cycling or walking, or people as cyclists or pedestrians. We are delivering projects for people, creating safer, more attractive streets that are better for businesses and the community as a whole.

Finally, remember that you can’t please everyone. Avoid the vocal minority that often refuse to see the bigger picture and that fear change. Instead focus your efforts on those receptive to change for the good of the majority. Emotions can often run high when people’s views are challenged, but we must stay calm, be well informed, and bring people with us.

It is people that create change, be they politicians, local authority officers, business owners, or residents. It is only by everyone working together, as a team, that we can create places and spaces that work for everyone. I’m confident that if we do, in ten years’ time my daughter will be cycling to high school on infrastructure that our friends in Copenhagen will be visiting on study tours!

*Off road networks are still great by the way

Milestone reached!

Which way for walking and cycling? Do your local candidates know?
Which way for walking and cycling? Do your local candidates know?

Since going live with our Candidate Information base we’ve had a busy couple of weeks and we’ve now had responses from 272 candidates – that’s more than 10% of the total of 2,569 people who are standing in these elections

So what do the figures tell us so far?

First, we’ve had responses from 31 out of the 32 local authority areas (if there’s anyone here from Shetland, do please get in touch with your candidates because that’s the one that’s missing) and it’s not all concentrated in the cities, as you might have expected:

Council area responses % of all candidates
Aberdeen City 9 8.9%
Aberdeenshire 19 16.4%
Angus 5 9.4%
Argyll and Bute 3 3.9%
City of Edinburgh 32 26.7%
Clackmannanshire 3 8.6%
Dumfries and Galloway 16 18.2%
Dundee City 5 7.2%
East Ayrshire 2 3.2%
East Dunbartonshire 9 19.6%
East Lothian 8 18.2%
East Renfrewshire 2 4.4%
Falkirk 6 10.0%
Fife 26 14.6%
Glasgow City 26 12.4%
Highland 5 3.0%
Inverclyde 1 2.2%
Midlothian 1 2.4%
Moray 6 13.3%
Na h-Eileanan Siar 3 5.0%
North Ayrshire 8 11.4%
North Lanarkshire 11 7.0%
Orkney Islands 2 5.7%
Perth and Kinross 18 20.9%
Renfrewshire 7 7.4%
Scottish Borders 8 10.7%
Shetland Islands 0 0.0%
South Ayrshire 6 13.3%
South Lanarkshire 13 8.6%
Stirling 4 8.2%
West Dunbartonshire 1 2.3%
West Lothian 7 10.1%

 

Edinburgh comes top, with over a quarter of all candidates responding so far, but followed by Perth and Kinross, East Dunbartonshire, with East Lothian and the predominantly rural Dumfries and Galloway tied in fourth place.

How about the parties? Well, perhaps not surprisingly , the Greens are doing well. Their manifesto for the local elections has made a strong commitment to our three asks, and that’s reflected in individual candidates’ responses.

Independent 18 3.6%
Scottish Conservative and Unionist 47 12.4%
Scottish Green Party 102 46.8%
Scottish Labour Party 36 7.9%
Scottish Liberal Democrats 29 11.7%
Scottish National Party (SNP) 37 5.9%
Tommy Sheridan – Solidarity – Hope Over Fear 3 18.8%

 

But it might surprise some to see the Conservatives in second place – perhaps David Cameron’s cycling legacy hasn’t been as quickly shaken off as it has in Westminster!

We’ll look at what the responses are in more detail in a few days, but we need more responses to get an accurate picture. Please take a moment to find your candidates and ask them to let you – and us – know where they stand on our three asks. All they have to do is email us on contact@walkcyclevote.scot and we’ll do the rest.

Some reflections on active travel in Glasgow

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health has done a lot of useful research into the importance of active travel (indeed we’ve quoted some of it in our briefing notes). In a guest post here, Bruce Whyte,  one of their Public Health Programme Managers, provides some Friday afternoon thoughts on the importance of active travel and the case for more investment.

Glasgow cycle pathAs sometimes happens I start thinking about work on my cycle into work! My commute takes me across Glasgow from west to east, along the Broomielaw path on the north side of the river Clyde, past the Squiggly (or Tradeston) Bridge. With the completion of the South West City Way between Tradeston and Pollokshields, the relatively new West City Way connecting the city centre with the west of the city (and rising usage on both routes), work starting on a South City Way and proposals for a ‘mini-Holland’ style development in Woodlands, it feels like there is real progress being made toward providing a good quality cycling and walking environment in Glasgow.

The area around the Squiggly Bridge is busy with walkers and cyclists and there is a buzz about the place – the good weather also helps. As I continue along the river past the Briggait I come to a stop at a crossing of a busy road leading to Glasgow Green. Although by no means perfect, this route feels safe because of the separation of cyclists and pedestrians from cars, lorries and buses. It is also sociable. I enjoy it for the people you meet on it and for those you don’t know, like the family that transports their very small children on two cargo bikes. This social aspect is not something that can be enjoyed by drivers and not something we would see without safe infrastructure separated from motorised traffic.

Into Glasgow Green, on a wide path which follows the river. I pass swans, geese, black-headed gulls and the odd cormorant, while rowers scull up and down the river. I leave the park heading to Bridgeton. At Bridgeton Cross you get the sense of a busy local hub for shopping and travel which has benefited from renovations to the built environment around the cross, including the repurposing of historic structures such as the Olympia building. At one side of the cross, there is a bike hire station. The scheme, established just prior to the Commonwealth Games, has been a great success with increasing numbers of hires and plans for expansion. It is arguably one of the few lasting health legacies of the Games.

But Bridgeton is also where the case for simply building new infrastructure starts to hit problems. Leaving Bridgeton Cross, a segregated cycle lane runs on one side of London Road and there is further segregated infrastructure around the Emirates arena. However I suspect a cycle counter on many of these routes would struggle to hit double figures on most days. This is where culture, preference and necessity become important. Glasgow has a growing ‘car dependency’ culture. Despite only 49% of households having access to a car in the city, car ownership continues to rise – in some Glasgow neighbourhoods over 75% of households have a car and across Scotland, over 25% of households have two cars. 50% of Glasgow’s school children currently walk to school, but 28% are driven to school – a much higher proportion than in other Scottish cities. In some of the more disadvantaged communities in Glasgow the issue of ‘forced car ownership’ has been identified. This is the notion that a small but growing proportion of poorer families despite financial difficulties see a car as a necessity to gain and maintain employment and to transport their children, perhaps in situations where public transport is lacking or expensive.

The stalling of the Bears Way cycle route in Bearsden and Milngavie and the removal of a new segregated cycle route on Holmston Road in Ayr are manifestations of the strength of our car dependency culture. The completion of the Bear’s Way will depend on changing people’s minds in the local community and in part this comes down to challenging a culture that puts car use above all. But why should we challenge this? Well there are many good reasons…

Global warming and climate change have been fuelled by our burning of hydrocarbons since the industrial revolution and in part have been driven, quite literally, by the growth of transport. The transport sector contributed to 25% of total Scottish carbon emissions in 2012 with 70% of these emissions derived from road transport. There has been no reduction in carbon emissions from transport since 1990 and road transport emissions have actually increased. Linked to this, it is estimated that air pollution accounts for 40,000 deaths in the UK, equating to between 2500-3500 deaths per year in Scotland. Transport sources contribute 40% of NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions and 20% of PM10 emissions – two of the main air pollutants affecting human health. Changing the way we travel to more active and sustainable modes will directly help in reducing carbon emissions and air pollution.

Our sedentary lifestyles and an obesogenic environment contribute to two out of three adult Scots being overweight and three out of ten being obese, while just less than two-thirds of adults meet the physical activity guideline level. The 2016 Active Healthy Kids Scotland Report Card makes grim reading, in terms of the amount of time children in Scotland are sedentary, their low physical activity levels (only 21% of boys and 15% of girls achieve the recommended minimum of 60 minutes of daily moderate physical activity) and the relatively low levels of active travel to school.

Getting more children and adults travelling actively for short journeys will help to address these ‘lifestyle’ challenges. Declining functional active travel has been associated with population-level decreases in physical activity[i] and countries with the lowest levels of active travel generally have the highest obesity rates[ii]. In contrast, lower levels of BMI and fat have been associated with active commuting.

We need to address safety issues. We should not accept rising cycling casualties as inevitable as levels of cycling rise nor socioeconomic inequalities in risk whereby child pedestrian casualties are three times higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived. And we know that safety concerns put people off cycling and letting their children walk to school, evidence from Glasgow shows that people appreciate the separation from traffic provided by segregated lanes. The introduction of 20mph speed limits in urban settings (for example the new scheme in Edinburgh) has the potential to reduce casualties and their severity, improve air quality and to encourage more people to travel actively.

We also need to think about what kind of communities we want to live in? The pedestrianisation of Buchanan Street in Glasgow and the centre of Milngavie in the 1970s were no doubt controversial at the time but would anyone  propose reintroducing cars to these streets now? Sometimes brave decisions are needed. The creation of better cycling and walking routes in our cities and towns, more pedestrianised areas and addressing parking blight would help transform local travel, and not only contribute to better physical and mental health but more vibrant local economies and more liveable communities.

Many European cities have invested in active travel and have been transformed from places that were car dependent, car dominated and congested, to places in which a variety of modes of travel are used, with public transport, walking and cycling much more prominent.

Bike parking Gothenburg
Outside the main train station in Gothenburg, Sweden

At a political level, we need to change mindsets. There is evidence from Europe that leadership, longterm commitment and sustained increased investment in active and sustainable travel, particularly infrastructure, can benefit public health and increase public support for such measures. There are signs of such positive developments in Scotland: Edinburgh’s commitment to increasing the share of the transport budget spent on cycling (currently 9% in 2016/17); and, Glasgow’s Strategic Plan for Cycling over the next 10 years, which aims to create an integrated network of cycling routes. But we need more and we need to shift investment toward more active and sutainable modes of transport. Part of this includes investment in public transport, particularly buses where passenger numbers have been in long term decline. This will enable more walking journeys and if the right regulatory conditions are in place, could provide cleaner, less polluting travel. Edinburgh has shown that a high quality bus franchise can increase bus use (slide 11) and start to address environmental issues.

I have tried to be positive in this piece about developments to support active and sustainable travel but I am also under no illusions that much, much more needs done. Nationally and locally, we need much greater investment in new active travel infrastructure, integrated with public transport, at a level sufficient to enable significant modal shifts towards more active and sustainable modes of transport to be achieved.

I cycle to and for work. Why? Because it is the easiest and the quickest way for me to get around the city, gives me flexibility, is inexpensive, gives me a bit of exercise and I have a pleasant journey to work. As we plan for the future, we need to create active, sustainable and integrated transport networks in our towns and cities that take into account people’s needs, preferences and motivations, so that more people choose to travel actively.

At a recent seminar we played a film showing how Glasgow gets to work from 1935. A lot has changed in 80 years, but is it so hard to imagine a film of Glasgow in the 2020s, where commuters on the Glasgow Bridge (crossing the river Clyde at Jamaica St) are travelling in low emission buses rather than trams, what was the horse and cart lane is now a segregated cycle route, many people are walking and the level of cars on the bridge has dropped to that seen in 1935?

Still from Glasgow Gets to Work
From Glasgow Gets to Work (1935) – http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-glasgow-gets-to-work-1935/

[i] Pucher J, Buehler R, Bassett D, Dannenberg A. Walking and cycling to health: a comparative analysis of city, state, and international data. American Journal of Public Health 2010;100:986-1992.

[ii] Bassett DR Jr, Pucher J, Buehler R. Walking, cycling, and obesity rates in Europe, North America, and Australia. Journal of Physical Activity & Health 2008;5(6):795-814.

Get Briefed!

There’s no shortage of evidence for the benefits that investing in active travel can bring – so much, indeed, it’s hard to take it all in. So we’ve been through the latest reports and boiled some of the key points down for you, in a handy two-page document which you can print out to take to meetings, or easily share.

Briefing page 1

Briefing page 2

All of this evidence – which has links and references to the original sources – should give you the backing you need when you’re taking any of these simple actions to help our campaign.

The hard work starts here!

mothers day launch
Gathered at Five Ways Junction with our banner

Thank you to the families who took the time this Mothers’ Day to help us with our informal launch of  this year’s campaign.

mothers day ride

Despite a chilly start, the sun put in an appearance, and it was nice weather for a relaxed ride, photos, a bit of leafletting and a return to Bangholm for tea and (naturally) cake.

mothers day cargo bike

It’s paths like these that gives families the freedom to ride which is why we’re campaigning for more investment, in the sort of infrastructure that everyone can use, that goes everywhere that people need to go – not just for commuting to work, but the school run, shopping trips and visiting families and friends.

mother and daughter

That means more freedom for children to get themselves around once they’re old enough to travel independently – and thus, mums might get a lie in more than just once a year …

If you’d like to help make this a reality, then here’s how you can help.

2017 Local elections – timetable of events

wcv_signpost_1The elections are approaching fast, and things get busy from here. Here’s a quick cut-out-and-keep guide to what happens over the next few weeks as the campaign gets into gear:

  • 26th March (Mother’s Day! We kick off our campaign with a family photoshoot and leafletting extravagnza on the cycle paths of Edinburgh. Join Suzanne Forup and a crew of family cyclists at Bangholm Outdoors Centre 10-12.  More details (Facebook event)
  • 29th March: Nominations close for candidates for the local elections. We will take around 1 week to get all the details up on our find-a-candidate interactive map, so bear with us as we get this ready.
  • 1st April Alyth Blairgowrie and Coupar Angus campaign cycle organised by Coupar Angus Cycling Hub 10-12. More details (Facebook event)
  • 4th April Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland Hustings, 6-8pm at the Glasgow Women’s Library. Not your typical political event, but a friendly and constructive series of round table chats. More details
  • 5th April Dunbar Candidate’s ride. Join the Dunbar Cycling Group and local council candidates at Bleachingfield Community Centre to look at the local issues acting as barriers to cycling in the town. 4-5:30pm. More details (Facebook event)
  • 6th April. Spokes Lothian Hustings, Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. 6:45pm for a 7:30 start. More details
  • 7th April (approx): Candidate info site goes live.
  • 17th April Deadline to register to vote. Don’t miss out! Register here
  • 19th April Friends of the Earth Glasgow Hustings, Adelaides, Glasgow, 7pm-9pm. More details (Facebook event)
  • 19th April Go Bike Hustings, The Admiral Bar, Waterloo Street, Glasgow, 7:30 pm. More details (PDF flyer)
  • 20th April Dundee Election Hustings with Dundee Cycling Forum and Friends of the Earth Tayside. Butterfly Cafe Dundee 7pm. More details
  • Poster22nd April, Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh. Pedal on Parliament – join this mass family-friendly demonstration in three of Scotland’s cities. More details for Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness
  • 23rd April Pedal on Parliament will also be in Glasgow! More details
  • 24th April, St Andrews Space 4 Cycling 6.30 to 8.30pm (details coming soon!)
  • 26th April Glasgow Public Transport Hustings hosted by Get Glasgow Moving at 7-9pm Renfield St Stephen’s Parish Church. More details (Facebook event)
  • 26th April, Cycling Dumfries candidates’ ride – 4-5:30pm, Dock Park, Dumfries. More details
  • 4th May Local elections held. Don’t forget to go to the polls!

 

What’s missing from this list? If you’re planning an election-related event – or are thinking of doing so – please let us know at contact@walkcyclevote.scot. We’d love to list anything that’s at all relevant from a candidate’s cycle ride to a hustings on transport, public health, pollution, or the environmemt

Pestering Politicians in Perth

Conference season is upon us, and that means only one thing – getting out and about round Scotland to talk to politicians, local and national, about our policy pledges.

Thanks to Esmond and Emilia who gave up a Saturday lunchtime to talk to Labour Party members at their spring conference.

Joan Coombes
Esmond with Joan Coombes, deputy council leader for Falkirk

 

Armed with our postcards, and our fabulous new banner, they had some good chats and met a mostly enthusiastic reception from most of the people they chatted to.

Keith Walters
Emilia with Keith Walters, candidate for Dumfries and Galloway Council

These kind of events really help raise the campaign’s profile – so can you join us at one or other of the coming conferences this month? You can join GoBike members in Glasgow for the Greens and Conservatives’ events, or join Emilia again in Perth to meet the Lib Dems, or some of the Aberdeen Cycle Forum to meet the SNP in Aberdeen on the 18th March.

Kenneth Duffy and Louise Roarty
Kenneth Duffy, candidate for Motherwell SE; Louise Roarty, candidate for Murdostoun

Alternatively, if you are attending as a delegate yourself, why not pop out and say hello?

Frank Stevenson
Frank Stevenson, candidate for Strathtay

Running a Candidates’ Bike Ride

In this guest blog from Walk Cycle Vote supporter Cycling Dumfries, Convenor Sally Hinchcliffe explains how to run a candidates’ cycle ride (and why you should):

Candidates for last year's Scottish Parliament elections assemble in Dumfries
Candidates for last year’s Scottish Parliament elections assemble in Dumfries

Getting your local council candidates onto bikes to see for themselves a local barrier is a really powerful way of getting your point across – and it’s not that difficult to organise either.

Cycling Dumfries have now run candidates’ rides for local authority, Westminster, and Holyrood elections in Dumfries and we’ve always had a reasonable turnout across parties. The candidates seem to enjoy it as well as getting a real insight into problems that you may have struggled to get across in emails or in meetings.

How to organise one

1. Choose your route

You’ll need a clear idea of what the problems are that you want them to look at and design a route accordingly. Don’t be too ambitious – some candidates won’t have ridden a bike for a while, and even if they are regular cyclists, you will want to stop and talk about the problems en route. The general rule of thumb is, take whatever you think you can manage in the time available and then halve it. Even then, have a contingency plan to cut out part of the ride in case you overrun – it’s only polite to get the candidates back when you have said you would, as they will likely have other events to go to.

A big issue in Dumfries is the route to the new hospital, just at the end of the cycle path, but across a busy 60 mph road
A big issue in Dumfries is the route to the new hospital, just at the end of the cycle path, but across a busy 60 mph road

Don’t make the route too challenging, either. You don’t need to ride them along the verge of a busy A road to show them how dangerous it is – just looking at it will be enough. Similarly, don’t include too many hills as that will just reinforce the idea that cycling is difficult! Ideally, part of the ride will be quite pleasant so that they understand what works as well as what doesn’t.

2. Set a date and time

We’ve had good success running rides just after school run time – meeting up at around 4 or 4:30. This allows families to take part (it’s really effective to have kids along although this will affect your route choice) and it also neatly slots in between daytime canvassing and evening hustings events for the politicians. Make sure you will be finished before it gets dark, especially if you’re running it before the clocks go forward. We tend to allow around an hour and a half – an hour for the ride itself and any discussions, and half an hour getting everyone ready, doing a photocall, fixing bikes etc.

3. Invite the candidates

Details will be on the Walk Cycle Vote website “find a candidate” page, but your council website should have all of the official nominations for each constituency. To avoid any suspicion of bias, you need to invite everyone who is standing in the relevant area (which might cover two or three constituencies) – even parties you don’t think will be interested or ones you find abhorrent. You can drop off invitations at the local constituency office, email them, or tweet, or ideally a combination of all three. Local media will be reluctant to cover the event if you don’t have candidates from all of the major parties attending as they also have to be even handed in their coverage. If you’re not having any luck getting anyone from a particular party, a few strategic tweets can work wonders, especially if you can get two or three other constituents to join in. It may be helpful if you can provide loan bikes for the candidates – let them know if that’s an option, especially if they are making excuses!

4. Spread the word

Now you need to spread the word about the ride – posters, social media, blog posts, emails to supporters and so on. Posting on local party facebook pages might also be helpful, as they’ll want to put up a show of strength. Once you are confident that you will get a good spread of candidates, send out a media release. Emphasise the photo opportunity aspect of it and say when and where you expect the candidates to gather. Let the local police know, and invite them to send an officer if you have any cycle police in your area – they can be brilliant and they can bring their own perspective to some of the issues you’re talking about.

5. On the day

It might be helpful to send your candidates a briefing and reminder a day or two beforehand, letting them know how the event will happen and what they’ll need to be prepared for. Remind them it’s not a race, won’t be difficult or dangerous, and that they won’t need to dress up in lycra to come. It may be helpful to bring spare gloves, helmets (whatever your opinion on the topic, some politicians may be wary of being photographed on a bike without one).

Top tip - line the candidates up in alphabetical order so you can remember who was who afterwards ...
Top tip – line the candidates up in alphabetical order so you can remember who was who afterwards …

Make sure you organise your own photocall, even if the press are there taking photos, so you have something to put on your website (and write down everyone’s names!). Brief them about the ride, and the issue(s) you’ll be looking at and why they’re important. Try and greet all of the candidates and introduce yourself and have a friendly word with all of them – these days you never know who’s going to get elected.

Allow plenty of time for repairs!
Allow plenty of time for repairs!

During the ride, you’ll need a ride leader and ‘tail end charlie’ to make sure nobody gets left behind. If some of the candidates are on a tight schedule, arrange to have someone guide them back to the start if they need to leave early. Again, try and chat to all of the candidates during the ride, and keep it friendly.

At each point where there’s an issue you want to discuss, stop, explain briefly what the problem is and how it could be fixed, and leave a bit of time for discussion. It might be helpful to have other members of the group chip in as well, if they’ve got a particular issue such as a disability, cycling with children, or working shifts.

At the end, thank them all for coming, take them to the pub or a cafe if they have time, and make sure they have your contact details for any follow up.

6. Follow up

Email each candidate afterwards thanking them for coming, wishing them luck in their campaign, reminding them of the points you raised, and maybe picking up on anything they said during the ride (good or bad – but be tactful). Send them any nice pictures pf them on a bike they might want to use in their literature and a link to your own website or social media posts about the event, and also tweet your thanks to each one for coming (they love retweeting that sort of thing) or post it on their FB page, and on your own.

After the election, email to congratulate the winners, and perhaps asking for a meeting to talk further about some of the issues you raised on the ride. A few congratulatory tweets with pictures from the ride also helps remind people of any promises they may have made. Even if they haven’t been particularly forthcoming with policy pledges, a friendly congratulations email helps build bridges for later.

Even just getting this many politicians on bikes can feel like an achievement ...
Even just getting this many politicians on bikes can feel like an achievement …

If you or your group are planning doing something similar – or even just taking a local politician or official out on to the streets to show them a particular issue whether its for cyclists or pedestrians, let us know on contact@walkcyclevote.scot and we’ll do what we can to help and spread the word.

Cycling By Design workshop: Slides and notes

We’re still working our way through the presentations from our Campaigners’ day and next up is the workshop from the team involved in revamping Cycling By Design.  There was a lot to cram into an hour’s workshop, so I don’t think they managed to get through their presentation but here are the slides in full:

Cycling by Design presentation
Cycling By Design Presentation (PDF)

They’ve also kindly provided their notes for each slide which should help to fill in the gaps!