A few recent stories remind me how fragile a cycling city eco-system can be.
In London, concern with the new Mayor’s stalled projects and slow progress is palpable. In Sydney rider numbers are in decline against a backdrop of heavy-handed policing and fines. Even in Denmark – one of the world’s great bike riding nations – there’s a steady national downward trend in the number of trips by bicycle.
Sometimes transport isn’t planned, it just happens – despite the best intentions of urbanists and policy makers. After a decade of decline in the number of cars in central London numbers are creeping up again, attributed to the rise of online shopping and the vehicles needed to deliver it all. In New York, Uber and other ride sharing services are blamed with eating away at transit ridership levels and a rise in car trips there.
I recently took part in a presentation at Amsterdam’s Pakhuis de Zwijger examining how European cities are tending to their cyclists. It was a great discussion, with particularly fascinating insight from Meredith Glaser at the Urban Cycling Institute (you know, the other UCI!)
While I discussed the campaign strategies and media tactics we employed in London to achieve change, Meredith explored Amsterdam’s apparent lack of awareness as to how it became such a special cycling city and why – too often – cycle planning and policy is bogged down in soundbites and assumptions.
That event, and the stories from other cities highlighted above, has had me thinking more and more about cycling’s fragile status.
It’s increasingly obvious to me that not only must we take great care of transport policy – especially active transport – but that successful city cycling eco-systems require complementary pressures;
Even in places traditionally regarded as cycling cities – even in Amsterdam – that’s a challenge.
What do you think? Are cycling cities fragile? Share your thoughts on the Strategic Cities Facebook page..
We’re thrilled to be hosting a talk at Sydney’s prestigious Customs House as part of the Sydney Rides Festival. “How The Dutch Do It” will focus on how the Netherlands became a cycling nation, the Dutch bike / train system, and transferable lessons for Sydney and Australia.
In the Netherlands 50% of all train passengers arrive at the station by bicycle. The national railway runs one of the world’s biggest bike hire schemes, whilst train stations with tens of thousands of bike parking spaces are not uncommon. This is not done simply because the bicycle is a nice, fun or sustainable thing; strong economic consequences drive these efforts.
Sydney will soon be home to a brand new metro and light rail system, but is this an opportunity for the humble bicycle?
Hear from Dr Marco the Brömmelstroet from the University of Amsterdam (@fietsprofessor on Twitter) on how the Dutch do it, and the impact of their bike / train system — not just on transport, but on the quality of life of their cities.
Tickets are free, so grab the last few spots before registration closes at this link.
Mon 17, Oct 2016
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Customs House, 31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay
Do bikes and trains go hand in hand, or are strong public transport systems to the detriment of cycling culture? Tell us what you think on the Strategic Cities Facebook page.
Whether you are building bike lanes or bridges, creating something new in our crowded cities is invariably controversial. From activists to engineers, if you are involved in change it is only a matter of time before you’ll be interrogated by the press, hungry for their next scoop. If that’s a terrifying prospect, places are on sale now for our seminar Achieving Change in a Hostile Media Environment.
In the interim, here’s our easy guide to surviving a media interview:
Will the interview be live or recorded? Will you be “up against” someone with a contrary view? In the studio, down the line or out on location? What is the format of the show? Who else is your interviewer talking to? If you’re being interviewed remotely, or by a foreign network, what time zone will it take place in? Broadcast in your language or translated?
Forewarned is forearmed! Knowing where, when, and with who means you can predict the sort of questions you’re likely to be asked, and begin preparing your answers. Talk to the production assistant who calls you to arrange everything and don’t be afraid to ask questions – it’s their job, and they want you to do well.
I once went on Canadian radio to talk alongside larger-than-life former Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford. Ford was famous for his somewhat tabloid views cities, cars and bicycles. Finding out who I was going up against, and knowing what they were likely to say, meant I could plan a strong line of defence in advance. As it turned out Ford couldn’t make the interview due to other commitments but had he been there and I hadn’t prepared, he would have eaten me alive.
You might think people talking on the television are having an off-the-cuff conversation, but professional interviewees always prepare what they’re going to say in advance.
What is the key message you want to convey to an audience? What sound bites can you prepare which will get your point across? Do your homework on the kind of programme you’re going to appear on, the tone it uses, and who you might be speaking against, and prepare what you are going to say accordingly.
Before any interview I always write down three sentences, each a different point, and then practice saying them physically out loud. If the line of questioning gets too hard, or if – heaven forbid! – my mind goes blank, I’ve always got those sound bites to fall back on.
Is a photographer coming to take your picture? Do a TV crew want to film you on the streets? Whatever the scenario, always control your image. Do you need to come across as sensible, tolerant and smart? Then look the part. Want to be seen as a rowdy activist? Dress for the role. For TV, avoid pinstripes, plaids and paisley, all of which “swim” on the screen under studio lights. Think about your appearance (clothing labels, hair style, piercings) and what might detract from your key messages.
Think about how you are going to look through a lens. What is behind you, and could it change the viewer’s perception of your story?
In 2011 I was interviewed on Blackfriars Bridge during a protest against plans to make it incredibly dangerous for cyclists. The cameraman wanted to show the inevitable traffic congestion, but I wanted my words – not traffic jams – to be the focus. We span the camera round so that as I spoke the background was London’s determined cycling community. Pictures speak a thousand words, and small visual details go a long way – pay attention to where they’re pointing the camera and control your image.
Just before you begin your interview take three deep breaths, recite your three sound bites and force yourself to smile. Be yourself, take your time, and you’ll be convincing people that you’re right before you can so much as say “stage fright”.
Have you been in print, on the radio or appeared on television? How did you prepare and what was your experience? Share your experiences and continue this discussion over on the Strategic Cities Facebook page.
Interested in our Achieving Change In A Hostile Media Environment seminar? Registrations are open now.
The world is changing. Fifty per cent of people already live in cities. With an increasingly urban population come increasing demands on urban infrastructure, urban space and urban leaders. Effectively communicating with – and listening to – your citizens is more important than ever before.
Welcome to Strategic-Cities.com, a new venture for me, Mark Ames. I’ve worked hard to set up this new organisation and I’m excited to share it with you now. I hope you’ll let me know what you think, and stay connected over the coming months.
You can expect to find blog posts analysing the latest sustainability, mobility and communication trends from cities around the world. In addition, you’ll be able to sign up to Strategic Cities Seminars, a rolling programme of online learning tools for city leaders, urban professionals and advocates. I’ll also provide spatial analysis and communication analysis, all with a key focus on how we create messages for our citizens, and how we convey them.
The new east / west cycle superhighway in Westminster. Photo via @steinsky with thanks.
For the past 6 years I’ve been writing about cities and mobility over at the ibikelondon blog, charting the incredible rise of cycling in the British capital. I’m proud to have played a role in securing support for the Cycle Superhighways which just opened there, as well as additional schemes like the City of London’s 20mph zone and the Borough of Camden’s multi-million-pound West End Project.
That experience taught me cities can’t just rely on their media teams anymore – everyone involved in creating change needs to understand how the media production process works, and how you can make it work for you. What we’ve seen with cycling in London is how fierce – and frequently ill-informed – resistance to change can be. Unless you prepare, it’s a minefield.
I’ll be putting that learning in to practise so Strategic Cities can be a useful tool as urban populations – and population demands – increase. I hope you’ll join me as we grow and progress.
Wish me luck, and stay in touch!
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