TDM TAKEAWAYNeighborhood advocates are usually the most powerful partners for improving dangerous, car-centric situations.
It’s up to the residents of a city to lobby for the transportation solutions that best serve their community.
That was the subtext of various workshops at the first-ever StreetsCamp, which took place on Saturday at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Education in Washington D.C.
Led by Christy Kwan of the Alliance for Biking and Walking, she said, in the Advocacy 101 and 102 sessions, that the biggest problem she sees with advocacy campaigns is that organizers go immediately to the tactics stage without spending enough time in the planning stage. An essential part of that planning stage is making sure your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Specific.
“Advocates can tend to trip up when their goal is too big,” she said. Then it’s not really an advocacy campaign but rather a “grand vision.” Groups can also get the timing wrong by not being aware of when votes occur on transportation-related issues or not understanding a community’s overall budget situation.
If your advocacy team has a grand vision or wants to tackle a massive issue, Kwan said, the key is to parse out smaller, specific goals that can be achieved in an 18-month timeframe.
Some model advocacy campaigns include these six elements:
- Dedicated funding for transportation improvements through a bond issue
- Calling for specific infrastructure changes, such as the addition of a new bike lane or removal of on-street parking
- Calling for the creation of bicycle and pedestrian master plans
- Anti-harassment or inattentive driving legislation
- Complete Streets legislation, and
- Reduction of speed limits in a neighborhood zone.
Once your group has coalesced around a well-researched goal, it’s essential that everyone on the team can clearly articulate the problem you’re addressing in the same way, Kwan said. Your campaign must identify the problem, formulate a solution, and illustrate how to implement that solution in order to win the attention and support of your community. It is also essential that the campaign avoids attacking one group or another – the point is to unite people to show how everyone will be positively affected by the change your group is seeking.
She gave an excellent local advocacy example: the Safer Arkansas Ave Make My Street Safe Now campaign that focused on more clearly marking the parking zones on Arkansas Avenue in Washington D.C. The campaign started after resident Kelly Dillon’s leg was crushed when a driver slammed into a row of parked cars on the street. She endured eight surgeries and a month in the hospital. Less than six months later, a similar accident occurred, sending a second Arkansas Avenue resident to the hospital.
Make My Street Safe Now successfully argued for new signage, restriping the traffic lanes, and removing the rush-hour traffic lane to ensure that drivers would never confuse the parking lane with a traffic lane in the future. The campaign has now morphed into a full-time organization called All Walks DC, which advocates for streets and sidewalks that make it possible to safely walk anywhere in D.C.
The Alliance for Biking and Walking hosts longer three-day advocacy training events in partnership with the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and other groups, including a national training event in Milwaukee from July 29-31. You can sign up here.
StreetsCamp photo by Matthew Cheng