Posted by Anneka on March 26, 2014 in Advocacy

Lessons from the National Bike Summit and Women’s Forum

Bike Easy advocates returned from the 2014 National Bike Summit and Women’s Forum with a slew of lessons learned and ideas for making biking better in our city – and particularly about the importance of messaging in our ongoing quest for safer streets in our City!

Reaching Journalists

The Summit began with a session on Media Training for Advocates, focusing on engaging with the traditional media, and learning to become a media maker yourself. The main take-away was that our campaigns are only as strong as our communications. Effectively getting the word out to our community is crucial.

Journalists on the panel explained that the current trajectory of bicycling is ongoing news: people are biking more and driving less every day.

So what do journalists want to hear? They receive dozens of press releases a day, so quickly getting to the point of who, what, when, where, why and how is ideal. Journalists also want to hear about how a new bike lane is of greater importance for our community, beyond biking. Luckily, it’s easy to draw these connections, as cycling really does touch on countless issues, from public health, to safety, and access to housing and jobs. The media wants to hear the stories of and see the everyday people walking, biking, taking transit and being affected by transportation. At the end of the day, whether it’s about bicycling or something else, good stories are about people.

Other media tips included:

  • Take a reporter on a bike ride
  • Don’t pitch what you’re doing as a “campaign”—highlight why it’s an interesting storey
  • Exploit every angle—bike stories fit into every niche: arts, parenting, health, religion, etc.
  • Pitch to the right person, so know your key media people
  • Give reporters the right people to talk to—include their quotes and photos in press releases
  • Twitter is powerful: #sneckdown has been covered by almost everyone!

Make Your Own News !

The second panel focused on taking advantage of new and traditional channels to share your story and advance your campaign. The take-away here was to keep making content and assert yourself. When panelist Clarence Eckerson’s film on the Ciclovía in Bogotá was shared around the country, Ciclovía events began popping up everywhere. We even saw our own first New Orleans Ciclovía this past October.

Great take-aways from other panels throughout the forum included:

  • Leverage existing social networks: an advocate from Philadelphia spoke about the success of working with Girl Scouts through the Girl Scouts on Wheels program and cycling patch
  • Biking is fun: focusing on the fun component is the best way to engage new cyclists. It can be costumes on a bike or a bike ride to a festival.
  • Biking is the gateway drug for advocacy: Start biking and you’ll want to see change too!
  • Commuting by bike is possible: It’s easier to bike in heels than walk in them.
  • Bikes are a powerful tool for social change and empowerment: New Orleans’ own Naomi Doerner and the League’s Equity Initiative Manager, Adonia Lugo, designed an exhibit on Bike Equity entitled “United Spokes: Together in American Streets”, chronicling the role of the bicycle in social equity movements throughout our country’s history.
  • Kids on bikes are cute: leveraging family cycling events like Kidical Mass to engage a wider audience.
  • Get out of your comfort zone: as advocates, we can do more to better serve and represent our communities.

During Lobby Day at Capitol Hill, the League pushed three central initiatives to make safer communities nationwide: The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act, the Safe Streets Act, and the New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act. See more here.

Want to see what other advocates from around the country are saying about the Summit? Follow what happened at #NBS14 and #WomenBike

-Mary Matthews and Naomi Doerner

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