How can I be an effective activist?

I’m so frustrated with the city council and their lack of action in building cycling infrastructure. We know that cycling infrastructure encourages people to ride their bikes and we know that when people ride their bikes there’s less pollution, less traffic congestion, and less of a strain on the NHS because those people are engaging in physical activity which improves their health and wellbeing. It’s such a no-brainer. Why aren’t they jumping at the chance to have all these benefits?

I write to the council regularly about it. I share my experiences of cycling with cars, trucks, and buses and suggest ways they can make things better. I also highlight other examples of good cycling infrastructure around the world and all the research which demonstrates spending on cycling infrastructure produces more for the community than it costs to build. And yet they haven’t done anything about it. What am I doing wrong and how can I be more effective?

Here’s my last email to someone called “Louise” at the council who is very nice and said with honesty that most of the council are not on-board with building dedicated cycle lanes. This was my reply:

Hi Louise,

Thanks for your honesty. Have you got any suggestions for what I can do to gain some momentum with the city council because writing letters doesn’t really do very much. I don’t really understand the politics and I don’t work for any large organisation with lobbying power. I’m just an individual. Should I write letters to someone else in the council? Or should I try to arrange a meeting with someone?

For what it’s worth myself and my two children cycled along Union St at around 5pm yesterday and then onto King St and all the way to the University of Aberdeen. It was awful. There were so many buses on Union St and I’m sure they didn’t like getting stuck behind us as we were slow. I also did not enjoy over-taking them at all. It was terrifying. And then on King St we had to cycle on the right side of parked cars. Cyclists should never be put between parked cars and traffic. Parked cars open doors without looking and sometimes pull out without realising there’s a bike there leading the cyclist to swerving right and possibly under the wheels of a lorry. I try to take a wide berth around parked cars so as to avoid getting “doored” but then I end up taking a lot of space on the road and there’s insufficient room for motor vehicles to overtake me on the right. It should be pedestrians on the very left, then cyclists, then parked cars, then traffic. If there’s not space for all these modes then start taking it away from cars.

One thing I also noticed was the amount of traffic on King St heading into town. There was an enormous queue. If half of those people were on bikes instead then your traffic problem is solved. But they’re going to choose their car for now because it’s so much easier to drive for the reasons I outlined above. Who should I be telling all this to?

Best wishes,

Perhaps the next step is to create some guerilla bikes lanes. Anyone else got any better suggestions?