Campaign from your sofa: write a letter to your local paper

Cycling has become a key way to exercise and get fresh air during lockdown, but what about afterwards?
Duncan Dollimore's picture

Campaign from your sofa: write a letter to your local paper

If you're tired of reading complaints and negative letters about cycling in your local paper, why not use your time on the sofa to write something more positive, and let the editor know why life’s better by bike, and that tomorrow could be different!

The COVID-19 crisis may have restricted people’s work, leisure and movement, but what it has given many people is more time. Perhaps time to do one of those things that always seem like a good idea, but never moves off the to do list.

So, whilst restrictions continue, Cycling UK's campaigns team will be suggesting quick and simple things you can do from your sofa to help our work to get more people cycling in the UK.

Letters from your sofa

This week’s sofa campaign ask is simply to write a letter to your local newspaper.

To make this really easy, we’ve prepared:

Of course, you can write a letter to your local paper about anything, and if you want to write about cycling there’s a host of thing you could mention. But the news recently has frankly been a little depressing, so newspaper editors might be keen to publish a more positive story. Wouldn’t it great if that was about cycling!

But what’s there to be positive about?

We gave some answers to this question in last week’s article about how tomorrow could be different, but parking figures and statistics for a minute, ask yourself this question. Are you seeing more families out cycling together?

It’s difficult to break down the statistics for leisure and family cycling over a period of a few weeks, as most of the cycle count figures will reflect levels of commuting in cities. But it does seem that there are more parents out cycling with their children. More families taking their permitted exercise outdoors together, by bike. And hopefully more people discovering that life is simply better by bike.

If that’s what you’re seeing, it could be a wonderful story for a local editor starved of good news, because it highlights opportunities this crisis presents.

What to say?

You may want to express your thoughts about why more people might be getting on their bikes. Perhaps you think the roads are quieter, so those new to cycling and parents feel more confident and think it’s now safer to cycle.

You might want to say why cycling, particularly during this crisis, is such a great thing for people. Cycling UK's Campaign Manager, Keir Gallagher’s article on the benefits of cycling right now might help with that.

Or you might want to mention the opportunity for people to discover by bike what’s on their doorstep, and how they might plan a route for a local cycle ride.

There’s much you could say, but most newspapers won’t print a lengthy letter, so you may have to pick a key point or points.

It would be great however if your letter touched on why, once we’re out of the immediate crisis, we can’t just return to normal, but that instead, we need a new normal, where those who’ve discovered cycling, either for leisure, commuting or utility purposes, feel able to carry on riding when restrictions end. That means thinking about cycle lanes, traffic speeds in built up areas, and how we enable more people to cycle.

Just remember that your local paper wants to know about what's happening in your county, town, city or area - so try to keep a local focus in the letter.

It’s not an essay!

The difficult bit is expressing that in around 200 words, but hopefully our guides will help with that. If you do write to your paper, please send us a copy to campaigns@cylinguk.org, particularly if it’s published. And remember, a picture sells a story, so if you’ve got a great photograph which supports what your saying in your letter, remember to send it to the editor and to us.

We’ll be looking out for the best letters, whether they’re published or not, and will be highlighting these in the coming weeks, so now’s the time to show off your writing skills or improve them. And if you’ve got a bored teenager festering on the sofa who likes to cycle or has recently jumped back on the bike again, why not nudge them to have a go at writing a letter about cycling. They may discover hidden talents!

Social distancing and cycling

Finally, we all need to take account of the regulations and guidance around permitted exercise and social distancing, and our FAQ document hopefully answers most of the commonly asked questions. We’ve also included a line in one of the example letters about the need to follow guidance which you may wish to include in your letter.

Let’s see how many letters you can all get published!

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