5 Public Speaking Tips
How to speak effectively at public hearingsAs the bike plan nears approval on June 26, SFBC members are gearing up to speak up for bike lanes. If you haven't RSVP'd yet for Decision Day, do it now! Below are five tips on how to make your public comments strong and effective at public hearings, especially for this really important MTA Board Meeting on Friday, June 26.
1. Dress nicely & be extra-politeWe know you're proud to be with the SFBC, and we are too, but for June 26, it's best to wear business casual clothing rather than your SFBC t-shirt or your lycra. We're trying to show the decisionmakers that we aren't a mob of 'bike nuts' — but rather regular folks who work, live, and play in this city, just like people who don't ride bikes. We are mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers, nurses, business folks, everything. Some of us drive cars sometimes, we walk sometimes and many of us take the bus. This isn't about 'bike' people versus 'non-bike' people — we aren't defined by how we get around this city. It's also important to be extra-polite during the hearing. If a speaker says something rude or anti-bicycle, please do not boo or hiss -- that really will not help our cause. Similarly, if someone says something great, please do not clap. We'll only annoy the decisionmakers by making too much noise and slowing down the hearing.
2. Introduce yourself & say thanksWhen you get up to speak, the first thing you should do is introduce yourself. You'll want to speak slowly and clearly. Here's a good way to start: "My name is ________ and I live at ___________. Thank you for hearing this important item. I am urging you to approve all of the projects proposed today, especially ___________________.' It's always great to thank them again at the end. And to remind them briefly what you're asking them to do -- Vote Yes on all of the projects, especially ________________.
3. Speak from the heartNo one expects you to be an expert on planning and there's no benefit to focusing on the negative or the abstract — just say how the project(s) will benefit you direcctly. Do you live near this proposed route? Will this help your commute to work or shopping or play? Do you ride with your family or friends? Most of the MTA Board members don't ride a bike regularly, so tell them how this new lane will make your commutes better. Some of the projects require the removal of parking spaces for the bike lanes, and there may be a few residents who are upset about this. Yes — removing parking is an inconvenience a residents who drive cars (maybe you included), but your safety during your commute is the reason why this tough trade-off is OK. If you're a parent or a business owner -- tell them that. Share something about yourself, so that they get a sense of the person behind the bicyclist speaking.
4. Keep it short & on topicOn June 26, you might have as short as 1 minute to speak. If you are concerned about rambling, write down what you plan to say — you can bring notes up with you. If you run out of time, you have a few seconds leeway to complete your sentence, but don't take too long. Respect the rules, the Board and everyone's time. Keep in mind that you also can use less than your time — short and concise is always better!
5. Wrap it up nicelyOnce you've shared your personal story, thank the directors for listening and reiterate what you want them to do. Something like, "Thank you again for holding this hearing and I urge you to approve project _________ and the entire Bike Plan, including all of the projects." Keep it simple and smile while you talk!
Other information and talking points:
The MTA Board has a legal duty to promote cycling over the private auto
Since 1973, the city has committed to a Transit-First Policy placing Transit, Walking and Biking ahead of the convenience of the private auto.
In response to concerns about parking loss, the City Charter also says:
The MTA "shall be responsible for management of parking and traffic functions within the City, so as to:
- 1. Provide priority to transit services in the utilization of streets, particularly during commute hours while maintaining the safety of passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists;
2. Facilitate the design and operation of City streets to enhance alternative forms of transit, such as pedestrian, bicycle, and pooled or group transit (including taxis);
3. Propose and implement street and traffic changes that gives the highest priority to public safety and to impacts on public transit, pedestrians, commercial delivery vehicles, and bicycles;
4. Integrate modern information and traffic-calming techniques to promote safer streets and promote usage of public transit;
5. Develop a safe, interconnected bicycle circulation network;
MTA has already taken a chunk out of the proposed Bike Network
Of the 56 projects, 11 will not be heard on June 26. Remind the board the projects they are voting on are already 11 short, so holding back any more would be unfortunate.
This is not the completion of the network — this is Version 1.0, still lots of bugs and missing features for future updates to address.
Almost all of these projects were identified in the 1997 SF Bike Plan. The city and cycling community has grown immensely since then, so we've got a lot more to do still.
These projects have been on the table for a long time, with lots of community input, at least 4 years of planning in one form or another. It's time to implement all we can and get rolling.