Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Confused? So are Cycling City

Bristol's Cycling City project have briefly ventured into the world of blogging with a blogspot site set up on behalf of the "Elite Team" of Cycling Advisers who it seems (GBB passim) are employed by those clever consultants who dreamt up the brilliant idea of running buses down the Railway Path, Steer Davies Gleave. Nice to know that Bristol City Council have put Cycling City in such safe hands.

I suppose this venture into the blogosphere is in response to Executive Member for Transport Jon Rogers' call for more "openness and transparency" but these seem to be concepts that our consultant friends have some trouble with. On the one and only post of the blog we are told -
Welcome to the Bristol Cycling City cycling advisers' blog! This is the online home of Bristol’s first team of Cycling Advisers, who will be doing their bit to help the Cycling City project double the number of cyclists in Bristol by 2011.
So the number of cyclists is to double by 2011 is it? Thats only a little over a year and a half away! That's quite a tall order by any standards, but who are we to question the words of such reputable consultants as Steer Davies Gleave? Oh, but Steer Davies Gleave have already questioned it for us. On the very same page the blog sidebar announces -
Bristol is the UK's first Cycling City - an opportunity for Bristol to double the number of cyclists over the next three years.
So now it seems the target is to be met over three years, not one and a half years as we are told on the blog post. Or does the blogpost supercede the sidebar? Who knows? Not Steer Davies Gleave for a start, since they are obviously in two minds about it. Still with such an eminently flexible approach to the time scale we can be a little more hopeful that the target, whatever it is, will be reached. No doubt the details of the target will be made public in good time, presumably after they have decided it has been met.

Steer Davies Gleave must be blogging newbies because they seem to have overlooked certain blogging conventions like, for a start, not altering blog posts after some criticism has been made of it in order to invalidate the criticism. Their original post was titled Good Morning Bishopston and referred to their "elite team of cycling advisors". Now, after I posted a mildly critical Tweet about it, we find it altered to "Good Morning Bristol", and "our first team of cycling advisers".

No problem about being unsure how to spell adviser, or even changing Bishopston to Bristol, but trying to invalidate my reference to elite isn't really on, although I suppose they redeem themselves slightly by leaving in the other reference to their "crack team of cycling advisors" in the sidebar. All the same they might be well advised to drop references to "crack" when doorstepping in certain areas of Bristol.

But even worse than altering posts to invalidate subsequent criticism is not to allow comments to be posted (yes, I made one, perfectly civil it was too), especially when the format adopted actually invites comments. The comments system is a vital part of blogging since it allows others the opportunity to question and criticise blog posts, so ensuring that a fair degree of that fabled "openness and transparency" so highly valued by the Executive Member, who is of course no stranger to these conventions himself.

Since preparing this post Steer Davies Gleave have now gone and pulled the blog completely! So that's GBB 1 - SDG 0 so far in the blog wars. For the sake of the historical record I've recreated the SDG blog here. This is exactly as the blog appeared, bar a few minor details like the posting date (was 30th April), for its brief life.

The pics by the way have nothing much to do with the story but are my little contribution to the Bristol Cycling Chic theme.


The Bristol Blogger said...

I'd predict the paranoid control freaks in the council's top brass pulled the blog as it doesn't go through their crap communications department.

Can't have officers providing information to the public. It might catch on

James Barlow said...

The ability of terribly clever people to make simple things complicated continues to surprise me.

Even if you think the Cycling City concept is a load of cobblers (which, incidentally, I do), the concept of a blog to describe what the team is doing sounds pretty reasonable.

They could have written an occasional post about their planned events, you tube videos of bicycle maintenance, google maps of pleasant cycling routes (see this blog), put up links to local clubs and voluntary organisations. But instead, by trying to create an absurd public image of "crack advisors" [sic] descending on the city it all gets a bit embarrassing.

The Bristol Blogger said...

The trouble with simple things like blogs is that there's no money to be made out of them. Virtually anybody who happens to be in the office can knock together a blog post, link to Youtube, post a map etc.

Much better to make it complicated and then employ a team of PR and Communications consultants to write a strategy and then employ the consultants on an ongoing retainer.

You get to spend hundreds of thousands on old rope with the private sector that way, which is the point isn't it?

Chris Hutt said...

Yes BB, that is precisely the point. The Godfathers have to get their cut if you want to stay in business. In southern Italy and Sicily it's straightforward enough, but in northern Europe it's all dressed up in technocratic and bureaucratic terminology but boils down to the same thing.

The poor sods who trudge around knocking on doors get just £9 p.h. How much are the Senior Partners of Consultants like SDG on? We are not told, but we an guess.

You pay off the Consultants and they give you the nod to go ahead with your latest business venture. They don't care whether it's building airports or cycle tracks, motorways or trams, it's all grist to their mill.

weggis said...

Ah! It rather depends upon when the target was set, not when it was published. If it was set on 1st January this year, then three years takes us to 31st December 2011.

When dealing with Consultants, and Politicians, it is very important to be mindful of what is NOT said!

Docsavage said...

Ahh what a shame, I was enjoying the prospect of an ongoing good laugh with that blog.
Never mind Chris, enough people caught sight of the original claims regarding the 'elite' team - hilarious, if it weren't such a waste of public money.

Docsavage said...

As for time keeping, thats clearly not a cycling city strong point anyhow, the promised 16 week period for completing the 'all new' St Werburghs path seems to have slipped by (according to my sums we're on week 18 now)perhaps they'll get their consultants to nip down to Mina Road to overpaint the big sign.

DonaQixota said...

"just £9 p.h"

Huh. Round here that's good income. I've certainly never been able to get a job that pays so well. The way things are going, with employers able to keep wages down due to surplus pools of labour, I never will either.