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.