Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Cycling City - Another Failed Website?

Bristol's Cycling City project doesn't seem to have much luck with websites. For a start the Council's Cycling Portal rather ineptly lists the London Cycling Campaign as a 'related site' but makes no mention of the slightly more relevant Bristol Cycling Campaign. Geography fail I think. Then back in May a Cycling City blog was launched (facsimile) but was promptly pulled when they realised that readers were able to post public comments!

More recently we have been treated to a more elaborate (and no doubt expensive) effort called Cycle West which at least managed to list the local cycling groups rather than those in London. But we now hear that this too is to be pulled and replaced with a completely new site (yet more expense, but don't worry, it's only Cycling City money) under the Better by Bike banner. The new site is still under development but can be viewed in its present form here.

So what was wrong with Cycle West? We are told nothing of course but an educated guess would be that no one bothered to visit it because, basically, it's just a lot of them telling us what we should do and precious little of the vice versa. The overall approach is predictably patronising. Take for example the pictures used; almost every cyclist is shown wearing a helmet and a hi-viz jacket, conforming to the nanny-state's perception of cycling as a dangerous activity requiring their intervention to protect us.

Any blogger will tell you that what gets people engaged are interesting, provocative posts with the opportunity to respond publicly so setting in train debates that can roll on and on. Debate is vital since it allows ideas to emerge and be tested. Bristol we are told is a city of ideas, but despite the rhetoric the free expression of ideas is anathema to an overweening state as embodied in Bristol City Council.

Endless spending on new web sites in a futile attempt to find the magic bullet does seem to be endemic with government. If only they could understand that the magic bullet, as demonstrated by the success of the blogosphere, Twitter and Facebook,  is to provide a neutral forum to empower the people and enable them to take some control of their own destinies, but this of course is contrary to the basic instinct of government that nanny knows best.

Cycling is about individual freedom and risk taking, not something to be regimented and controlled by the state.

And what about this constant name changing? First we have Cycling City, but then Cycle West, now Better by Bike and who knows what next year. Is this good marketing? I'm no expert but I would have thought establishing a solid brand identity would be a high priority. The Council seem to be intent on endless confusion.


Acesabe said...

At least the new 'better by bike' site is using Drupal (open source cms)and not some uber-expensive bespoke (broke) system!

As long as the result of the spend of the cycling city money *doesn't* get hailed as a success (indeed how could it possibly meet it's aims anyway?), there remains a chance that there will be more investment in cycling in Bristol in the future.
If the council/award giving bodies (council again?)proclaim the spend of cycling city money to have been a success (as they will almost certainly do, regardless of the results), then I believe Bristol won't see a penny of future cycle infrastructure improvement money for years to come...

Woodburner said...

I am deeply disappointed in the council's apparent inability to come up with anything better than this. I was expecting a unifying logo/strapline to be ubiquitous in the city. But I guess that as yet there's not a lot to crow about. Lots of arguing, money being spent on infrastructure of dubious benefit to cyclists, lack of information about what's being spent on what and by whom. The website could have been a great opportunity, but frankly, this is the first time I've been aware of a website at all. What's happened to the publicity machine which should have been raising awareness? It seems Bristol is being cited as a place to spend a cycling weekend break, but people arriving must be pretty disappointed!

Chris Hutt said...

I think that the root of the problem is that the city council were far from ready to handle such a project as Cycling City. At the time they were awarded Cycling City status they had only just pulled back from the plan to use the Railway Path as a bus route, a plan which has still not been formally abandoned. That is a measure of the gulf that exists between the spirit of Cycling City and the reality of council thinking.

Paul Hulbert said...

Chris - Good to meet you today. I have requested signs to show the diversion route at the blocked cycle path - Paul Hulbert

Ms Cyclone said...

Hello Kit
see if you like this website better www.cycleshrewsbury.co.uk but be careful you might have to take some (indirect) responsibility for it!