Public officials and agency websites offer a wealth of information and advice. Understanding the financial or regulatory constraints under which officials work may help advocates target requests and comments. Always treat public officials professionally and with respect, and recognize that most are dedicated to public service. Feel free to get in touch with local officials with comments or questions at any point in the design process. However, although their offices are public, notify them before you visit.
Engineers and planners work together to bring a new or expanded project from an idea to completion. Some work for governmental agencies while others are employed by consulting firms to work on public projects. Initially, the advocate may find the technical language used by these professionals intimidating and be put off by their seemingly non-emotional attitude to “life-or-death” issues. Understanding the technical jargon of such professionals and their solution-focused approach will help the advocate engage in a more productive dialogue and ultimately be more successful.
The general public, as pertains to road projects, is everyone affected by how the project is designed and built. Specific interests depend on proximity to the construction and planned mode of use as well as personal values placed on safety, speed, environmental issues and aesthetics. Some of these disparate interests may conflict with each other. Generally, interest is higher among the residents closest to the project, with the adjacent property owners generally becoming the most involved.
Bicycling advocates become involved for a variety of reasons but all have recognized the need for improved and safer riding facilities in the community. Well-informed advocates can speak to the rights of bicyclists and educate others regarding the benefits of particular designs. They can build relationships with public officials, monitor future plans and provide both policy and design input. Advocates can become recognized stakeholders by making their interests known to public officials. This allows advocates to make long-term relationships and to be included in projects in a more consistent fashion from planning through construction. Rarely does a project proceed quickly or without changes, so the advocacy commitment may extend through several years.