Draft Proposals for Working Groups

Space for Cycling Tory Party conference ride

In preparation for the AGM this June, I have drafted up proposals for some working groups that Push Bikes might consider, in order to improve our activities. Currently all of the activities below are carried out by a small central core group of campaigners, and some of the activities are not being done because of time constraints. I am hoping that by providing a structure to our activities, we can make it easier for new people to get involved and help out. The Rides working group already exists, but all of the others would be new.

Apologies for any omissions and mistakes. Also, this is a working document, so at the AGM we will be discussing if we want to use these groups or organise the working groups differently.

List of existing working groups:

Rides

List of proposed extra working groups (in alphabetical order):

Communications

Election Campaigns (incorporating Space for Cycling)

Infrastructure Evaluation

Membership

Planning Applications Response

 

Working group descriptions:

Rides:

This group, currently co-ordinated by Simon Harrison, organises Push Bikes' rides. The Rides group organise: Weekly Evening Rides & Socials, Saturday morning gentle cycling ride (in Bournville) and a monthly Sunday ride, plus some additional rides and social events from time to time. The rides are publicised through the Cycle Birmingham Facebook page. Insurance for the rides is provided through Push Bikes' affiliation to British Cycling, and the Rides group ensure that we meet the requirements of that insurance. You can contact the Rides team using this contact form.

How can you get involved?

  • Helping with leading rides. The Rides team would welcome new ride leaders, who would initially assist existing ride leaders, moving on to being able to lead rides of their own when the Rides team are confident that they would be ok to do so and that all the insurance requirements will be met.
  • Helping with publicising rides. As well as using the Facebook page and group, it is important that the Push Bikes website has up-to-date details of the rides. It would be useful to have someone to check ride details and keep the events page of the Push Bikes website up-to-date.
  • Organising social events. Although not strictly 'rides' the Rides group is also the social side of Push Bikes. To reach out to Push Bikes members, and provide space for campaigners and members to get to know each other, it would be very nice to have more social events. It would be very useful to have a couple of people dedicated to organising social events.

 

Communications:

At the moment Push Bikes campaigners are good at liaising with Birmingham City Council, Centro, Canal and River Trust, and other organisations, but not as good at communicating what we are doing to our members and the wider public. We have a variety of avenues of communications: the Push Bikes website; the Push Bikes newsletter, our Facebook page and our Twitter account, our email list, and traditional press releases. There are two reasons why improving our communications is vitally important:

  1. Push Bikes members are not aware of what Push Bikes is doing, which may be part of why Push Bikes' membership levels are declining. Push Bikes should be representing the views of our members, and it is important that there is a two-way dialogue between members and campaigners.
  2. Everybody's voice counts when responding to consultations and lobbying government. Push Bikes needs to be informing our members and the wider public about cycling issues in Birmingham and encouraging them to make their voices heard. The more people who respond to consultations, the strong the voice for cycling will be.

The role of the working group would include: (a) to ensure that Push Bikes members and contacts are kept up-to-date on Push Bikes' activities; (b) promote cycle-friendly stories in the local media; (c) keep content on Push Bikes' website, Facebook page and Twitter account up-to-date and relevant. (I'm fairly sure that that list isn't complete)

How can you get involved?

  • Helping to write content. We need writers who can communicate clearly and put together stories and articles for distribution.
  • Encouraging other people to write. We need editors who can recognise a gap in our content, find someone to write that content and then ensure that the article gets published. This covers several different areas - website, newsletter and Mail Chimp email list.
  • Monitoring our Facebook and Twitter accounts. An important part of making the most of social media is to engage with other users and build contacts. We need people to 'like'/'favorite', re-post and comment on our content.
  • Respond to media requests and build media links. Push Bikes is regularly contacted when cycling stories appear in Birmingham and West Midlands media. We need to be able to respond to that contact and build up links with the media to ensure that cycle-friendly stories are reported.
  • Engage with Push Bikes members. In conjunction with the Membership Secretary and the Membership Working group, make sure that we find out Push Bikes members' opinions and views.

 

Elections campaigns:

Although this may sometimes be difficult to believe, elected politicians really do want to know what their voters care about. Elections provide a good opportunity, as politicians try to work out what will get them elected and candidates from all parties put themselves forward for questioning. Having talked with politicians and other campaigners, it is clear that:

  • ​Politicians receive very few (if any) questions about cycling.
  • Local elections are largely ignored by many campaign groups.

In Birmingham, however, local elections are very important because the support of local councillors is vital in changing the direction that Birmingham City Council is going in. Birmingham Council officers take their cue from the long-term trends in councillors' opinions - at the moment cycling is not seen by some officers as more than a short-term fad, but we can change that by getting local councillors to ask for more cycling improvements. I've included the Space for Cycling campaign in here, as that was originally conceived of as an election campaign by the London Cycling Campaign, and has been used as an election campaign by other cycle campaigns, such as Sheffield, in both 2014 and 2015. This provides a good model for running a local election campaign in Birmingham in 2016, and then in 2018.

Preparing an election campaign is almost a year long job, and we need to start with our planning by September, which is why I feel that we need a separate group for this that will be able to pay more attention to this.

How can you get involved?

  • Create the web-content for the campaign, using templates and examples from other cycle campaign groups. This should have a tool for the public to find out who their local candidates are, and to contact them. It should also have a map of Birmingham's local council wards which display the infrastructure asks in each ward.
  • Contact political parties in January, to ask for lists of candidates' names and email addresses. Ensure that this list is kept up-to-date up until the nominations close 1 month before the elections.
  • Work with Push Bikes members through the autumn to collect a list of infrastructure needs for each ward, which candidates will be asked to seek to deliver if elected.
  • Liaise with other Birmingham and national campaigns to co-ordinate election campaigns and share knowledge.
  • Work with the Rides team to organise events to publicise the election campaign. A big ride just before the election day would provide a good story and a focal point for the campaign.

 

Infrastructure Evaluation:

In the last two years, the Birmingham Cycle Revolution has funded the re-surfacing of much of Birmingham's canal towpaths and the upgrade (mainly) and creation of green routes around Birmingham. We should (hopefully) see cycle infrastructure being installed on several main corridors and on parallel routes during the autumn. Further money for the Birmingham Cycle Revolution has been secured, to re-surface all canal tow-paths within Birmingham's boundaries, create more green routes and local links, and install more infrastructure on Birmingham's road network. Push Bikes needs to review the infrastructure that has been built, to collect comments about what the good and bad points are, to feedback to Birmingham City Council and local councillors, to encourage higher quality infrastructure to be built in the future.

Transport for London has made our job easy, by including an assessment matrix for cycle infrastructure (pages 31 and 32 of this draft document) which we can use as a framework for our own assessments. What we need is a team dedicated to getting out on their bikes to ride the infrastructure, encouraging other people to ride it (where safe), and then writing about it.

How can you get involved?

  • Compile lists of new infrastructure that needs to be evaluated, by combing through online sources such as Birmingham Cyclist and Facebook, and keep those lists up-to-date on the Push Bikes website.
  • Put together online questionnaires for Push Bikes members and contacts to fill in after having ridden the new infrastructure.
  • Organise rides, in conjunction with the Rides group, to look at the new infrastructure and collect opinions.
  • Collate the information together and publish the results on Push Bikes' website.
  • And the fun part - get out on your cycle and ride the infrastructure yourself.

 

Membership:

Push Bikes members are key to the success of Push Bikes: they volunteer and campaign; they provide financial support for Push Bikes' activities; Push Bikes is seen as more influential if it has more members. Over the last 2 years, however, Push Bikes' membership numbers have declined about 15% while interest in cycling Birmingham has grown and the Birmingham Cycle Revolution has been launched. Push Bikes should be aiming to increase our membership numbers, in order to campaign more effectively and have a stronger voice.

This working group would look at (as a start):

  1. What Push Bikes members expect from Push Bikes, and where they see Push Bikes falling short
  2. Ways in which Push Bikes can encourage people to join us, including membership benefits
  3. Ways in which Push Bikes can ensure members stay with Push Bikes
  4. Whether Push Bikes' membership structure / fees need to be changed to increase membership levels

The working group would initially collect information through on-line surveys and talking to members and ex-members. It would also look at how other cycle campaigns and organisations such as Birmingham Friends of the Earth deal with membership, and comparable membership levels that results in. The working group should present a report by the 2016 AGM, and put forward motions as necessary to effect the changes that are recommended.

In the long-term, the Membership working group should ensure that appropriate recruitment activities are carried out to increase membership levels and increase Push Bikes' influence, and (in conjunction with the Communications group) that Push Bikes members' views are regularly collected and considered.

 

Planning Applications Response:

Many planning applications arise through the year that are relevant to cycling, both applications for building permission and changes to the highways. These planning applications can get lost among the many other activities that Push Bikes carries out, but writing responses to planning applications and encouraging Push Bikes members to also respond more regularly would increase the influence of Push Bikes. The goal would be to be consulted by designers prior to formal planning applications, as the Cambridge Cycle Campaign is. This group would collate planning applications, draft up responses and make sure that these are published on Push Bikes website for Push Bikes members to read. The group would also develop a set of stock responses for particular situations, which would reflect Push Bikes' policies and be available on Push Bikes website for general use.

How can you get involved?

  • Compile a list of planning applications, from a variety of other websites and emails and keep that up-to-date on the Push Bikes website.
  • Help to draft up a response to individual applications, and provide feedback on other people's drafts.
  • Publish responses on Push Bikes website once ready.

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