Want to help advocate for safer cycling in Ottawa? We’ve compiled some basic tips to get started.
Advocacy starts with understanding how the city works
The city works with budgets and the planning for those budgets starts early. Once you start reading about it, you might be too late already. Further, you have to understand where the money comes from in order to know what you can ask for. The city gets money from taxes (like property tax) and from rates (like water and sewer bills). There are multi-year hard costs like road construction, building community centres, etc., and annual soft costs like staffing and advertising.
So the city doesn’t just have money on the shelf for that bike lane you’d like to have tomorrow morning. Therefore, it is so important to start years in advance. In our instant-gratification society, that is something that is hard to accept, but that is the reality. It is important that you start to mobilise people or join an existing group, approach your own city councillor, design a vision that the city could finance with some effort and clearly communicate the benefit for all citizens.
Understanding the city budget
At our request, past president Charles Akben-Marchand prepared a primer on understanding the city budget. Most cities work the same, so it might also apply to your city. If you understand the budget you can campaign much more effectively. Here is Charles’ presentation in PDF (2.8 Mb), given at our Spring.Bike.Ottawa event in March 2014; it is pretty timeless, though.