A useful way you can get involved in cycling advocacy is to write your own submissions. It helps us a lot if you write submissions that support ours. In general, it seems that government organisations consider one submission signed by an individual to have pretty much the same importance as one signed by many people or representing an organisation .
You can take a number of approaches.
- The best is to spend some time reading the document you are submitting on, to talk to people you know about it (a good way of coming up with more than you can on your own), and write a new submission. This takes quite a bit of time and can be a daunting task.
- Read through the Spokes submission and any other information that you might have access to, and put the ideas into your own words.
- You can write a very short submission and say that you support the Spokes submission, or possibly you could just cut and paste the provided submission, sign it and send it in.
In the submission itself
- Give a little background about yourself and your interest in the topic. Are you a cyclist, what routes do you use, have you any expertise or experience that can give your submission more weight? These points should have weight in relation to the subject of the submission. Riding a lot in Wellington, for example, may not be worth mentioning in a submission detailing new plans for a Christchurch intersection!
- Keep your submission short and to the point and if possible try to work with any questions that the council has asked in their form. It is generally fine to not use the form, and send a letter if you prefer, but when the questions are analysed, it is good if the people doing it can see where your comments fit.
- Make sure you say what you support so that the people analysing submissions get to hear that they should not change things in favour of those who object. Speed limit changes for example, may be unpopular with some people, so it will be important that people who support them write in and say so.
- When you object to something, give some justification for your objection, preferably using reference to reports, research, or even your own experience.
- Make sure you say what you want the Council to change and provide some justification. Of course the justification for your objection may also justify your desired change.
- If you can, present your submission in person. I learned a great deal about writing submissions by going to present my own, partly because I got to hear what others were saying and see how the Council responded to them. Another good reason to present your submission is that the written version will be summarised to almost nothing, so decision makers will not be so sure of your arguments or justifications if you don't present in person. Presenting in person really strengthens the impact of your work.
For more on this topic, check out these resources
This booklet put out by the Upper Hutt City Council gives quite a nice outline of what to think about when writing a submission.
Check out this page on the New Zealand Parliament Website.