Commonplace has been used by cycling and walking projects for several years - in Bristol, Newcastle and now in Southwark. Here are a few things we’ve observed and learnt:
- Use engagement to direct policy: Most councils want to encourage walking and cycling to support healthier lifestyles, increase retail footfall and ease congestion. To develop specific policies you need to understand what is holding back different groups. Using Commonplace you can ask questions to create “personas” - groupings of people to which different solutions may eventually apply. For example, asking whether people have a driver’s licence or how often they cycle can help you analyse which issues are of greatest concern by demographic characteristics.
- Encourage large and diverse response: Cyclists and pedestrians interact with the built environment every day, making their experiences valuable in prioritising planned changes. For example, perception of danger is very hard to detect unless you ask them and analyse what they tell you. If you rely on emails or survey forms, this becomes a spreadsheet nightmare. However a digital engagement solution can analyse as much data as you citizens throw at it, leaving you to interpret results based on thousands rather than hundreds of contributions.
- Use the viral reflexes of cyclists, and target the rest: Cyclists in particular have strong digital networks that can engage many people quickly. It is always good to use these channels to drive engagement. But what about those cyclists who don’t use social media? Whilst it is always productive to use social channels to drive engagement, it is essential also to identify and reach groups that are digitally absent. Those missing can be targeted by other means - face to face interviews, pop-ups at key locations and public meetings to create a representative population sample.
- When asking about priorities for change, include a “fix” option: New infrastructure for cycling and walking is great - but sometimes just fixing existing problems is the most effective use of funds. Poor lighting; overgrown paths; potholes; locked public toilets; and even longer pedestrian crossing times are a popular investment alongside new infrastructure. In one Commonplace example, when given a choice between “fix”, “add” or “remove”, 57% of comments requested fixing existing infrastructure.
- Use the data to illustrate a range of views: Different types of road users hold different views on the street environment; a well-organised campaign by one group may give the wrong impression. Using Commonplace, you can reach all types of road users and then be able to utilise all the information to compare their views and priorities. It’s also a great way to get more people involved by triggering new thoughts.