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How to run a public meeting about bicycling

Gathering input from residents is important to developing a city's cycle strategy. By involving citizens in planning for the future, they become more engaged in their communities, appreciate and maintain amenities built as part of the plan, and help planners prioritize projects. Additionally, residents who are involved in the cycle strategy are more likely to endorse good proposals.


This style of meeting is also called a charrette or workshop, although a charrette usually means something is being designed (and sometimes with physical objects). Only do this if you are actually interested in getting people's feedback, otherwise it's a farce and a waste of everyone's time.

  1. Have a presentation for no longer than 15 minutes that explains that this meeting is about getting feedback from people. Also explain what it is you want feedback for (is it to build a new bike lane, or find places to install bike sharing, or update policies on how to bring bicycles aboard trains).
  2. After the presentation, introduce how the meeting will work (you will know how this works once you finish reading this schedule). Then introduce the meeting's facilitators.
  3. Using round tables, invite the meeting attendees to sit at a table of their choosing. Each table represents a topic relevant to the purpose of the meeting. In the meeting I designed, there were 7 topics, based on Chicago's Bike 2015 Plan. I also designed the meeting so that attendees could sit at one table, have a break, then sit at a second table. Invite people to “vote with their feet” (if they don't like a topic, get up and move to another topic).
  4. For each topic (or universally, for all topics), make an agenda. This agenda has a way for people to participate. It could be a series of questions they must think about and respond to. In addition to a topic/table facilitator, there should be someone to take notes. For a bike lane design table, you could as something like, “How wide do you think bike lanes should be?” Before you ask people to respond to questions, you should educate the attendees to bring them up to speed on common bike lane designs. For other topics, disseminate information to provide a common basis for discussion.
  5. The note taker should record all the answers to the questions. A poster-sized piece of paper could be used to write down people's responses and ideas. The notes and poster become documentation for the event and for the public planning process.
  6. This is one of the most important parts: Since every attendee cannot join every topic, they must learn what happened at the other topic tables. This is called a report-back. After the first topic session, a volunteer, preferably an attendee and not the note taker or facilitator, will stand up in front of the entire meeting and report back to the meeting attendees what the people at that table talked about. 3 minutes tops. If you have two topic sessions, then you must have two report backs. It's better to do the report-backs after each session (as some people might leave after the first one but still want to hear what the other groups talked about).
  7. Take a short break. Providing food and drinks helps attract and retain attendance.
  8. Start the second session.
  9. After the second session's report-backs, or when the meeting is over, have a meeting facilitator, or a guest speaker, make a closing statement and thank everyone for coming.
  10. Publish all of the notes and posters online within 48 hours on a website dedicated to the meeting. Transcribe all the notes into text (don't rely on taking photos of everything). Also take photos at the meeting. And ask people to sign in with their email addresses. Consider asking for their home neighborhood. The sign in sheet is useful because 1) you want to count how many people came, and 2) with their emails you can send a link to the website and documents. In some places, a sign in sheet with attendees' names may be required by rule, policy, or law, to prove that real people came to participate in a required public planning process.


In the 2009 MBAC meeting, topics were also called “breakout groups”. Pick whatever terminology is appropriate for your society, town.

Topics used at the 2009 MBAC meeting

  • On-street bikeways
  • Off-street trails
  • Bike parking
  • Bikes and transit
  • Share the road and safety
  • Bike 2015 Plan
  • Education & Bicycling Ambassadors

These were based on different chapters and objectives of the Bike 2015 Plan, but also were based on the divisions of the Chicago Bicycle Program.

Other topics

  • Bike sharing and rental. Not every bike sharing system has to be like Vélib' or Bixi. There are other models. Campus environments, like universities and Google, have different bike sharing models.
  • Bicycling and universities
  • Traffic laws and enforcement
  • Bicycling advocacy (I imagine the discussion would be around what kinds of advocacy people are looking for, but also to meet others and start a new advocacy group)
  • Bicycling and pedestrians
  • Bicycling and tourism. How do you attract tourists who like to ride bikes?


2009 MBAC


/home/stevevance/ · Last modified: 2012/05/20 18:35 by stevevance
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