The range of events possible are only limited by your imagination but here’s a list to get you started.
Launch events - Launches are good for raising awareness in a community (whether by word of mouth or in the media) such as for a new bus service or walking route. If you are launching a new initiative it’s helpful to have developed a brand - not just a name and logo but also have some clarity about the key message(s).
Travel challenge - Also known as ‘commuter challenge’ this pits a cyclist, walker, driver, bus passenger etc against each other to see which one can get from A to B the quickest. The results can make a great story in the local media, though of course there will always be a lingering doubt for some that the route was chosen to favour a particular form of transport.
Street parties - Street parties are great to bring people in local community together and let you see how a street could look if it is not dominated by motor traffic. They are also a great opportunity to celebrate your local area, whether local food, local people or the local businesses. In order to make it easier to hold street parties in advance of the Royal Wedding, the Government published new guidance, which includes a form that can be used to gain permission from your local authority.
www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/streetpartyguide - Your guide to organising a street party (Department of Communities & Local Government, 2011)
www.streetparty.org.uk - Advice from Streets Alive on organising street parties
www.livingstreets.org.uk/take-action/street_parties - Six easy steps to planning a street party from Living Streets
Beating the bounds - In olden days every year the bounds of a parish would be walked round so that everybody could know where the boundaries were. Nowadays this can be a good excuse for a walk or cycle round the boundaries of your parish or borough to discover paths and places you may never have been to before.
Leisure and cultural walks or rides - Themes could include a look at local nature, architecture and local history. You could consider offering lunchtime walks for local workers to get to know their local area or a series of rides to accompany a local festival. The London Festival of Architecture, for example, includes a very popular programme of walks and cycle rides.
lfa2012.org/ - London Festival of Architecture.
[obtain credit from Camcycle]
Health walks and rides - Many people are not physically active enough and this leads to health problems such as obesity. The gym is not an attractive option for many people so local programmes of walks and rides can be a much more realistic way of encouraging people to get the exercise they need. They can also encourage people out into nature, which can raise people’s mood and reduce stress. The two sites below include lots of advice and photographs you can reuse to promote health walks.
www.wfh.naturalengland.org.uk - Walking for Health initative, organised by Natural England with help from the NHS
www.promotingactivity.com - Promoting Activity Toolkit developed by a partnership including the NHS
Themed bus or rail rides - Community Rail Partnerships have provided music or real ale on some lightly used trains to promote their use and raise money for local rail initiatives like station improvements. If you want to do something similar for buses, it’s probably best to take a bus on a charter rather than subject all passengers to music or drinking!
www.acorp.uk.com/regional news Essex MT.html - Music on the Mayflower Line in Essex
Treasure hunts - Treasure hunts, orienteering or other similar challenges can be a great way to encourage families to explore the local area using rights of way and cycle routes.
Bike breakfasts - Bike breakfasts are a good way of rewarding people who cycle and encouraging them to keep doing it. You can make them open to all by holding them on a popular cycle route or at a school or a workplace. They can be a good opportunity to offer basic maintenance, safety or cycle security advice too. It’s probably a bit ambitious to hold one of these for pedestrians or public transport users unless it’s at a workplace, as otherwise you could be swamped.
Sponsored events - Many people will consider doing all kind of things if it’s for a deserving cause. Sponsored walks and rides are a great way to encourage mass participation as well as support local community charities, gaining community goodwill. Of course if you find you are able to cycle 30 miles, a three mile ride to work does not seem nearly as much work.
Critical Mass - Originally a protest ride for cyclists when it started in the early 1990s, in many places Critical Mass is more just an opportunity for a fun, safe ride around town in a group. It often has nothing more than a set starting point, with whoever’s at the front deciding where to go next. Playing music on the ride is a good way to make it more fun and relaxing.
criticalmass.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_rides - List of Critical Mass rides across the world
Open streets - First created as ‘ciclovia’ in Columbia in the 1970s, this involves closing roads to motor vehicles and opening the full width of the road to people on foot, on roller skates and bikes. This can happen as often as once a week, for example 8am to 2pm in Columbia, for a particular month, for example ‘Paris plage’ in August where main roads are turned into a beach, or just a few times a year.
Bike trains and walking buses - Walking buses are a safe, healthy way for school children to walk to school. Bike trains are similar and for adults as well as children. Some are only monthly as a way of encouraging people to get into the habit of cycling to work.
www.staveley-gti.co.uk/BikeTrain.pdf - Staveley Bike Bus flyer (pdf)
www2.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/schooltravel/howtosetupawalkingbus.html - DfT How to set up a walking bus
Dr Bike - Dr Bikes offer free cycle maintenance whether on-street or at a school or workplace. More information is available in the section on maintaining cycles.
There are a limitless range of stunts that you can come up with to gain publicity, such as the Lithuanian mayor who drove over a car (which he had bought) parked in a cycle lane, the footage of which went viral. Don’t forget that having a stall at another organisation’s event is a good way to start off to increase your visibility and engage with people.