Every four years Councils are required to put together a Community Strategic Plan. It does not matter where you are in NSW, you have a local Council and you have the opportunity to make a difference, so get your team together and start working through the process now. It is only through your effort that we can effect change in your local area.
There is a way to get your council to prioritise investment in cycling. It’s not hard. Here’s how.
Councils must have a Community Strategic Plan – a long term plan based on consultation with the community, which sets their priorities (and so, the annual budget). New NSW legislation requires them to consult in early 2016 to do (or redo) this plan, and then, after the local government elections in September, to adopt the plan. Once adopted, the priorities need to cascade down to the four year delivery plans and the annual operational plan and budget.
Because it can be hard for councils to get people involved, it can be fairly easy to influence the outcome/
- Get together with your local Bicycle NSW affiliated Bicycle User Group, or if there isn’t a Bicycle NSW affiliated group in your area, then why not start one. Affiliated groups become part of the Bicycle NSW team and work together with us to create a better environment for cycling. More info: http://bicyclensw.org.au/join/affiliation/
- Be ready. Discuss with your local group – what is your vision for your area? What’s important for the community (eg. that children can get safely to school, or that shops do well with strong local support, or that all families can access parks, or healthy and friendly streets, etc)? It will help to look at the current strategic plan or other plans your council has. What can be better? What’s missing?
- Build support. Think of all the potential local allies – schools, P&Cs, other local clubs, your local Health Promotion Unit, disability groups, mothers’ groups, doctors, businesses, etc. What might they think of your priorities and what could you include to address their interests?
- Mobilise involvement. During the consultation process (first half of 2016), activate all your supporters by making it easy for them. Summarise your main points in a flyer or on your website, push it out in your newsletter and social media, as well as through your allies (in the school newsletter, flyers at the doctor or shop) and get supporters to turn up to any public meetings and to make submissions.
- Share your learnings. Those great ideas you came up with, and useful allies, and good ways of motivating them – share with other bicycle groups so that results can be spread all across the state.
- Follow up. After September, the new councillors will need to adopt the plan, so survey or write or speak with candidates during the election campaign to make sure the successful ones are already on board and understand the benefits of providing for more active transport. Then, every year in May when council publishes the draft budget, check they are doing enough or tell them what more they should do. Legally they have to incorporate feedback. Or, be even more pro-active: write a “Christmas list” every year, as that’s the time when they start working out next year’s budget items.
- avoid the word “cyclists” – instead this is about kids riding to school, or enabling people to ride to local shops, so find other words to use
- this is not about the bike – put it in terms of benefits for the community (healthier, quieter streets & neighbourhoods, more vibrant local areas, safer and less congested around schools, etc) rather than for individuals who ride
- think broadly – there are all sorts of areas of council where you can fit bikes (art, parks, planning policies…)