Keeping a Bike Plan in High Gear: Montgomery County's Public Engagement Plan
Conducting a long-term master plan can be demanding. Keeping the public engaged for more than two years can be difficult. How do you keep your stakeholders actively involved after the initial rush of outreach efforts winds down? How do you keep your plan's outreach exciting and relevant while also building a bicycling community?
Montgomery County Planning Department's Bicycle Master Plan is proving that engagement can meet people where they are, using interesting, inviting, and integrated outreach.
Montgomery County is a suburban community located in Maryland just outside Washington, D.C., where bicycling has long been a popular recreational activity. But bicycling for transportation remains limited. As planners for the county, we have grand ambitions to change that situation. Through innovative data analysis and public engagement, we are working to write a world-class bike plan.
Such a plan is more than just a written document — it's an opportunity to bring new people into the process and create a strong bicycling community. That's why in Montgomery County, we are trying a number of approaches to build community support for this exciting and far-reaching plan. From hosting bike rides to our bike-stress map to crowd-sourcing public feedback, we are working to bring people together to make the plan as accessible and engaging as possible.
Our long experience in master planning shows that stakeholders are excited at the beginning of a project and pumped up at the end, but they lose interest in the middle of the process. One way we have tried to keep the momentum going was to launch a photo contest. This competition created a fun and engaging outreach opportunity for community members, a way to drive people to our website, while also providing us with high-quality photos of bicycling in the County to include in the final master plan document.
To encourage people to participate in the contest, we offered the winners a gift card and the chance to be published in the final Bicycle Master Plan document.
We promoted the contest on our website, through our e-newsletter, via social media accounts, and by word of mouth. We asked for action shots, staged shots, and other photos showing the joy of being on two wheels.
The photo contest is winding down, but already we have a great pool of images to choose from, showing real-world examples of how people of all ages and abilities cycle in the County.
The winners will be selected after October 31 by a jury of photography and bicycling experts. Then the top photos will be posted online and judged in an online poll.
To learn more about the Montgomery County Planning Department's Bicycle Master Plan, email project manager David Anspacher at David.Anspacher@montgomeryplanning.org. To follow the department's Bicycle Master Plan activities on Twitter, visit the team's profile @MCBikePlan.
Top image: The Bicycle Master Plan team participated in the 2016 PARK(ing) Day in Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland where a simulated separated bike lane was created and gave community members the chance to feel what it would be like to ride in a separated bike lane. Photo by David Anspacher.