The Prime Minister’s cycling campaign steps up a gear. By Fran Winn (@FranWinn) of OPR.
Last week saw David Cameron set out his ‘cycling revolution’ – a blueprint for a country which aims to address issues such as changes to speed limits, better cycle training for children and drivers, more dedicated cycling routes and improved road junctions and lay outs.
Having worked for an annual, high profile cycling event for a number of consecutive years, I’m pleased to see that cycling is once again back on the Government’s agenda – though some might argue it never really went away. That aside, in addition to having a personal interest in the sport and health and wellbeing in general, there’s something about it which excites me when I have my ‘PR hat’ on. Over the years, a number of successful cycling campaigns have, in my opinion, worked well to engage the general public; Sustrans’ ‘join the movement campaign’, Grazia’s ‘Get on your bike’ women’s cycling initiative and Top Shop’s launch of its ‘Cyclodelic’ clothing line, to name but a few. All of these campaigns used a variety of tactics to engage with the general public and encourage people to get on their bikes – from local initiatives and celebrity endorsement to fashion ranges.
The Times is in full support of Cameron’s cycling revolution and played a key role in kick-starting the four month parliamentary enquiry which led to the report, via its ‘Cities Fit for Cycling’ campaign – instigated when one of its reporters was tragically run over by a lorry as she cycled to work. So needless to say The Times was hot on the heels of Cameron’s announcement last week, featuring a double page spread on Wednesday assessing the nooks and crooks of how it will potentially begin to weave its way into our everyday lives.
Bristol provided the perfect case study of a city succeeding as a ‘cycling city’ and one which has based itself on Amsterdam’s and Copenhagen’s adoption of cycle friendly practices.
It also touched on Britain’s ever increasing obesity epidemic – a recurring but effective theme.
To date, cycling has worked well as a PR exercise for David Cameron. He has successfully used it to help position him as the epitome of a young, physically fit, environmentally conscious and ethical, English gent. It ticks a lot of boxes for him. But can he deliver on last week’s report?
For the Government, as a PR exercise this could potentially create a number of ‘quick wins’, enabling it to make considerable difference at very little cost, such as making 20mph the standard speed limit for most residential streets and ensuring cycling is on the curriculum for secondary schools, as well primary.
For Local Authorities, too, the local elections provided an obvious opportunity for both candidates and voters to make clear what importance they place on cycling – can they use this to their advantage?
As a PR theme and initiative, cycling is simple but effective and works on many levels. It can present a whole host of opportunities, from raising public awareness and acting as a platform for charity schemes through to health initiatives and via schemes such ‘bike to work’, provides an excellent tool for employee engagement – we currently work with a number of firms who have incorporated cycling into their employee offering.
Some cities and firms have also generated great PR from their bike hire schemes. For example Barclays’ Cycle hire scheme in London and start-up company Scratch Bikes, which was born out of a Newcastle University venture.
Post-Olympics, Britain has been propelled onto the international stage as a nation which is leading the way for cycling as a sport. In the wake of the euphoria created by our stellar ‘Team GB’, it was always going to be a challenge keeping up momentum.
Last week’s announcement certainly presents a number of PR opportunities which businesses at a national and regional level would do wisely to hook onto over the coming months, as Cameron’s plans (hopefully) begin to unfold.
Fran Winn is an account director at award winning PR agency OPR.
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