I've recently been meeting with bike advocates and bureaucrats in Portland, OR, USA to find out how to frame my anthropological research on "human infrastructure" (community support for bike projects being one example) for their use, and right now I'm working on diagramming what I see as the pressures bike advocates must respond to. In this diagram (https://twitter.com/urbanadonia/status/359821848961224710/photo/1), I included "neighborhood history" as a gloss for the opposition planning projects face from folks who don't see government intervention as something that serves them. It seems like pretty frequently bike advocates focus on what I labeled in the diagram as "transportation institutions," such as policy regulations and changes to built environments, while expecting the other two areas to resolve themselves.
All this is terribly concerning, as I'm about to embark on a citizen participation / stakeholder engagement activity regarding new bicycle lanes in a World Heritage Site north of Johannesburg... I anticipate all manner of reality interfering ;-)On 25 Jul 2013, at 7:22 PM, Karly Coleman wrote:Sadly, even when you do provide plenty of time and information, you will have outliers that claim that you did not provide enough information.On 2013-07-25, at 10:26 AM, Katja Leyendecker wrote:Hi allI simply believe people don't like ANYTHING that's "sprung upon them".With historically top-down working practices of local authorities it can very much feel like it when it comes to council plans (may they be sustrans endorsed or not).The answer, I think, is to "ease people into it", communicate slowly, and early on to get that vital local knowledge, interest and buy-in.This takes time and resources however...Kat
Sent from my iPad
On 25 Jul 2013, at 14:42, John Meudell <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
The question is whether you actually do gain much in the way of local intelligence from these engagements. In practice discovery that information is being withheld, deliberately or otherwise, undermines confidence in processes and trust in both individuals and organizations…..factors which are all too often dismissed by the individuals and organizations at fault, particularly when caught doing it (and all too frequent occurrence in Surrey!)
My approach these days is try, insofar as it is possible, to gather the required “intelligence” (=information) prior to any formal engagement, through the internet or FoI.
The passage below is extracted from the US Department of Transport guidance on public involvement, the first section covering principles:
Acting in accord with basic democratic principles means that public involvement is more than simply following legislation and regulations. In a democratic society, people have opportunities to debate issues, frame alternative solutions, and affect final decisions in ways that respect the roles of decision-makers. Knowledge is the basis of such participation. The public needs to know details about a plan or project to evaluate its importance or anticipated costs and benefits.
Without information to satisfy the above all that is left is politics……
And any reluctance to provide information can only be interpreted as an attempt to manipulate outcomes or a community into accepting outcomes…irrespective of how effective and value generating they may be.
Ian….you need to use FoI more often and earlier in the process!
Part of the benefit from local engagement is that you often gain valuable local intelligence (avoiding any nasty surprises of hidden rivers etc) and you also preserve local features and historic artefacts.
I recall the horror of discovering that a contractor had simply ploughed through the old mineral line at Tranent - historically significant from its use in 1745 to move the cannon for the English Army for the Battle of Prestonpans (did them no good they lost!). Word was that ancient longitudinal timbers in the old path were actually remnants from the original plateway, but this was swept away an blaze of bulldozing, a detail which sadly happens when the wide swathe processes of road building are applied to path construction - which can be carried out with substantially less impact on the local environment.
On 24/07/13 17:33, burton richard wrote:
Welcome to democracy.
On 24 July 2013 16:54, Ian Perry <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
The importance of citizen participation in decision-making was highlighted yesterday evening at a public meeting in Penarth, South Wales, attended by 147 frustrated citizens who showed their willingness to participate in their communities decision-making. An attempt to force the Vale of Glamorgan (county) council (Vale council) to hold a referendum on proposals for the National Cycle Network (NCN) failed by just 17 votes. 133 votes against 5 were for a referendum on the matter, with 150 votes needed under current legislation.
Whilst it may be true that those attending were most likely to be those with the strongest views against the proposal, 133 people is a significant number - especially when they gave up time on a warm, sunny summer evening to participate in a community debate. It was unfortunate that the administration of the public meeting by the town council was a bit chaotic and referred to as a "shambles" by a number or participants - administering the legal voting slips took longer than expected with many citizens not knowing which electoral ward they lived in.
The problems are clear:
- Lack of citizen participation in decision making/Poor governance
- "Tick-box design" by engineers, for engineers
- "Money chasing": Projects designed to fit funding and be easy to complete, rather than worthwhile projects that all can agree benefit the community.
The controversial proposals come from a 2008 "feasibility study" by Sustrans that has been adopted by the Vale council to build cycling infrastructure for Route 88 or the NCN, when external funding allows - £250,000 has recently been awarded to the council for this project. Back in 2008, on agreeing to conduct the feasibility study, Sustrans should have been knocking on doors, standing in streets, attending events and engaging with all local people. Local people should have felt that they had contributed to the plans being drawn for their community by Sustrans - not just "cycling experts".
Few have seen the contents of the "feasibility study" or the potential routes. Neither the council nor Sustrans have published a (legible) map of Route 88 online, although snippets from planning documents seems to show the route ignoring many local destinations, including a National Trust property and children's farms and playgrounds - the places families are likely to want to cycle to for leisure - or utility.
Citizens in Penarth have strongly objected to the lack of consultation and plans for a former railway line that runs through Penarth resulting from the "feasibility study".
The former railway line has for decades served as an unlit, secluded green corridor for wildlife, and a shared-path for horse riders, people on bicycles, runners and walkers behind the deep gardens of local houses. The path also runs over a small, but greatly valued, "green" across the fronts of two residential terraces.
This March, unannounced, the council did preliminary work for a new 2.5 metre wide bitumen surface, cutting back the vegetation alongside the path, and spaying herbicide. Apparently the clearance work was done prior to an environmental impact assessment.
The local community, unaware of the Sustrans report/study, was immediately alarmed, and on asking questions to the council, were shocked to hear that their stone dust path was to be replaced by a 2.5 metre wide strip of 'tarmac' and that the path was to also cut through a 16m wide green where no formal path exists today. Their very valid concerns include the suitability of bitumen for horses, ice on the bitumen in winter, damage to tree roots in laying the base of the surface, the aesthetics of the scheme and the speeds that cyclists may reach on a hard smooth surface, rather than on stone dust and the fact that the community does use the green for purposes other than a transport corridor.
The resulting public outcry, and the launch of a campaign to "Save Penarth Green", resulted in an "exhibition", advertised as a "consultation". Representatives of Sustrans (not members of the local community) were unfortunately quoted at this event as saying:
"The route is not a rural path. It's in a town." and, "Look, it’s just a little piece of green."
There was further outrage when following this meeting, planning documents were published, dated prior to the consultation, and with no changes made as a result of the "consultation". People believe that they were not listened to and that their participation at the "consultation exhibition" had been a futile exercise.
The primary objection to a "tarmac" surface on the shared-path is the potential speeds that can be reached by people on bicycles on this surface. Suggestions by Sustrans and/or Vale council engineers that bollards and other "obstructions" may be placed at each end of the path to prevent excessive speeds by people on bicycles are rightly dismissed by the community.
There are other questions regarding the suitability of the path to achieve the aims of Sustrans and the council. Not long ago, the end of the former railway line by the town centre was built on, with the path diverted from the former railway line into a curving alleyway between two high walls of 1.6 metres in width and 123.5 metres in length with a 90 degree corner. Given that some bicycle trailers used to pull children, etc., such as the Chariot Carriers Corsaire 2, are up to 0.85 metres wide, 1.6 metres isn't wide enough for a utility or busy leisure path.
Add the lack of lighting and seclusion of much of the path, it is not suited to utility cycling as many citizens, particularly females, would be deterred from using it after dark. I assume that any site visits by Sustrans were made during the day. The debate focused on the former railway line is not going to improve the situation for cycling on the local streets as a way to access the town centre, local schools, etc. and ignores a campaign by local people to implement a town wide 20mph speed limit.
Although the "feasibility study" of NCN Route 88 was conducted and delivered in 2008, few have seen its contents or proposed route. Neither the council nor Sustrans have published a (legible) map of Route 88 online, although snippets from planning documents seems to show the route ignoring many local destinations, including a National Trust property and children's farms and playgrounds - the places families are likely to want to cycle to for leisure - or utility.
I conclude that we need to have meaningful citizen involvement in design and decision-making to provide the infrastructures for cycling that communities want and need. There are diverse individuals and groups in our communities and all need to be heard and be involved. This requires that citizens' views, mixed with peer reviewed (academic) knowledge (not just engineering opinion or practice) have a direct and visible impact on shaping the design of bicycle routes, facilities and infrastructures.
The relationship between Sustrans and the council continues to be a mystery shrouded in fog despite questions being asked by citizens in private and at public meetings. The Vale council dismiss criticisms because they claim to have to approval of Sustrans, and Sustrans claim that the decision-making is down to the council - or am I wrong? Either way, neither party has had meaningful dialogue with the local community.
Whilst there is considerable academic writing on citizen participation, there continues to be a lack of it in practice, and the railway path in Penarth makes an interesting case study.