Visit Today!!!

Persuasion - A Political Primer

By David Hoffman

Politics. Love it or hate it—if you’re going to get better bicycle facilities built where you live, you’ve got to play.

For some, the ability to be political just comes naturally, making connections and glad-handing endlessly. For others, they find the whole process repulsive, preferring to stay as far away as possible. Wherever you are on the spectrum of loving or hating your time at City Hall, we hope that you’ll be able to take some tips and apply them towards making your community better for bicycling.

If You Read No Further Than This Section
Let’s start with the basics. First and foremost, where there’s political will, the money will follow. This is perhaps the single most important fact to remember. Without political will, there will be no funding, and in turn, no new or improved bicycle facilities. Within transportation planning, the need for new or improved facilities is almost always an entire order of magnitude greater than the actual funding available at any given time. This is one of the reasons that Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) have 30-year horizons, and why it can take years and years to get a project funded, even if it was “approved” years earlier.

The second most important thing to remember is the old adage that you will “catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” To put this in perspective, your local politicians hear from folks all day long who are complaining to them, making demands, and are generally unhappy with the state of things. While that’s to be expected if you’re an elected official, finding people or groups that can be viewed as allies, and have good things to say about you, is always a relief. We’re not saying that you have to be their best friend, merely that an open and positive attitude when meeting and communicating with them—even if things are not going your way—will pay off in the end more times than not.

Finally, make sure that you’re viewed as a person or group that can provide a solution, rather than just shedding light on problems or deficiencies in the system. If you can be viewed as a resource and/or a bearer of trusted information, you get your voicemails and phone calls returned much more quickly, getting meetings scheduled and action taken.