Guide to community campaigning

brakedemoRunning a campaign to achieve road safety measures in your area can make a huge difference to your community and save lives. Road Safety Week is the perfect time to launch a new campaign or give an existing campaign a boost through extra publicity or a campaign event.

In some cases, local and national authorities will have already implemented, or be committed to implementing, important road safety measures. However in many cases, road safety may not be getting the attention it deserves. It can therefore be effective for people to get together to run a campaign, highlighting to the relevant authority why road safety measures should be a priority and how important this is to people in the area. It could mean road safety improvements are implemented years or even decades before they would otherwise have been, or it could bring a problem to the attention of the authorities that would otherwise have gone unnoticed or ignored.

All communities are affected by road safety issues, and many are in great need of road safety improvements by the authorities, which might include:

  • pavements and paths for walking and cycling, that are separated from motorised vehicles
  • crossings (especially traffic-light controlled ones that stop traffic), footbridges or underpasses to enable people to get across faster/busier roads safely
  • lower speed limits, especially 20mph/30km/h limits in towns and villages where people need to be able to walk and cycle
  • traffic-free (pedestrianised) areas where there are larger volumes of people and therefore benefits to excluding all or some traffic
  • traffic enforcement, such as speed cameras and traffic police, to deter and catch law-breaking drivers who endanger others and themselves
  • road design, especially to slow down drivers and remind them of the law, or offer greater protection for pedestrians and cyclists (for example, road markings around schools)
  • improved public transport (buses, trains and trams) or active transport schemes (promoting walking and cycling), to help reduce car use and improve the alternatives
  • measures to address risky behaviour among certain groups, like local companies introducing safe driving policies for their commercial vehicle drivers (for example, a scheme that tests for drugs), or an education programme across local colleges to discourage young people from driving and encourage active travel.

There are lots of examples of community campaigns leading to improvements such as these. Sometimes it can take a while to achieve these improvements, but the benefits can be massive. They can transform streets, neighbourhoods, villages and whole towns and cities, preventing devastating casualties, enabling people to get around without fearing for their safety, encouraging healthier lifestyles, and making your area a nicer place to be.

Read on for our step-by-step guide and get campaigning! Don’t forget to tell Brake about your campaign, especially if you launched it or ran campaign activities in Road Safety Week. 

- STEP ONE: hold a public meeting and set up a group

- STEP TWO: research the problem and identify aims

- STEP THREE: identify and engage relevant officials

- STEP FOUR: present your case

- STEP FIVE: promote, publicise, build support

- STEP SIX: keep up the pressure

- STEP SEVEN: what next?

STEP ONE: Hold a public meeting and set up a group

Form a small group of people who are passionate about road safety and who can and want to run the campaign: this is your steering group. Four to six people is a good number, ideally with a range of relevant skills and interests, and some spare time, but even with two or three people you can achieve a lot.

If you don’t already have an identified group of people able and willing to do this, or you need more people in your group, or you want to start to consult and engage the community, a good way to do this is to hold a public meeting to debate the issue and get interested people together. You may be able to get a free room at a local community centre, pub or shopping centre. Consider when will be the best time to maximise attendance: early evening on a week day is likely to be a good time for many. Advertise it as widely as you can in the area, at least three weeks in advance, through posters on noticeboards and in shops, and in local newsletters, newspapers and websites (see step five below on publicity). Make clear that it’s about people coming together to save lives and make the area safer.

Have a few relevant speakers (such as a local teacher, parent, cyclist and young person, and/or practitioners like a police officer and council official) talk about their perspectives on road safety in the area and outline what they think needs to be done. Leave plenty of time for discussion, making sure you have someone chairing who can manage the meeting and ensure it finishes on time. At the end you can ask people to put forward ideas and pledges for what they could do in support of the campaign, and ask them if they might be able to be part of the group running the campaign. Even if people don’t want to be part of this group, they may be able to contribute in other ways, such as providing advice, or helping to publicise the campaign, so make sure you collect everyone’s contact details and what they might be able to do. If you have a lot of people volunteering for the steering group, either put it to a vote, or invite everyone to the first few meetings to then agree on the group – you may find some people drop out as you go along.

Once you’ve got your steering group, agree between you how often and where you will meet. Once a fortnight is probably a good idea to start with. Create a name for the campaign (e.g. the name of your area or street followed by ‘road safety campaign’, or ‘Safer streets for [your town]’) and appoint a chair who will manage the meetings and ensure that decisions and progress are made. Either appoint a secretary or take it in turns to record notes on items agreed and actions from each meeting. Make sure each action is allocated to an appropriate group member, with a deadline given, and that each is followed up on in subsequent meetings, to ensure progress. Create an agenda for each meeting in advance, to stay organised and focused.

You may also find it helps to create a logo for your campaign (which a local graphic designer may be able to do for free), plus it’s a good idea to have some agreed contact details, such as an email address, Facebook address, and/or the phone number of one of your group. See step five for advice on creating a Facebook page and publicising your campaign in other ways online.

STEP TWO: Research the problem and identify aims

It is useful to gather as much information as you can in support of your campaign, showing why and what action is needed, and to make sure that your aims are the most constructive ones for the community. You may already have some clear aims, perhaps identified and unanimously agreed on in your meeting, but otherwise carrying out research should help you identify what road safety measures are needed, or at least verify that your agreed aims are the right ones.

It may be that everyone is already agreed on broad aims (like we need to make roads safer for local children to walk), but research can help you come up with specific ways you think the authorities should address this (like a lower speed limit across the town and paths and crossings in certain places). Conversely, you may have an idea that a specific measure is needed (like pavements should be put in along a certain road near a school), but research may help you broaden the campaign and make it more ambitious (such as by identifying wider problems across the area). It’s a good idea to have a broad, ambitious aim, alongside some specific measures you want introduced to achieve this. Use the list in the introduction of this guide to help you consider the sorts of measures you could campaign for.

Research to inform your campaign might include looking into:

  • measures that have been introduced elsewhere in your region or country, or other countries, that have improved road safety. See Brake’s international library of road safety initiatives for ideas.
  • studies showing the risks caused by different behaviours, and effectiveness of different road safety measures, like lower speed limits and increased enforcement. See Brake’s international library of road safety research, especially the sections on speed and vulnerable road users.
  • local, regional or national road casualty data, especially breakdowns by contributory factors (e.g. speeding, distraction, drink driving) and road user groups (e.g. pedestrians, cyclists, children) if available. Data is often available on government websites or on request from the authorities, although some governments are better than others at collecting and publishing comprehensive data, so it may not always be available.
  • surveys of traffic volume, speed and driver behaviour (such as drivers running red lights or using mobile phones) on local roads, to help evidence specific problems. You may be able to work with local police to collect some data, for example, from speed checks using a radar gun. (However, you don’t need a radar gun to monitor traffic speed: you can do it using two fixed points and a stop watch. Make sure you stand somewhere safe.)
  • surveys of local people (or certain groups), identifying their road safety concerns and experiences of using local roads. You may need permission to survey people in a public place, but you may also be able to enlist the help of local partners like schools, colleges, shops and businesses. See Brake’s sample ‘hands-up’ surveys for 5-11 year-olds and 11-18 year-olds, for use in schools.
  • expert opinions, such as from road safety practitioners (see section below), researchers or teachers.

As you carry out research, your concerns and aims may shift. It’s helpful to listen to people’s views but also make sure you don’t get side-tracked into focusing on minor issues that are annoying to some people but unlikely to have a big impact on road safety.

Make sure you record the findings of your research. It may help to write it all up into a short report on the main concerns, which suggests possible solutions, and which you can refer to in meetings and communications about your campaign. This will help your campaign come across as well-informed and evidence-based.

STEP THREE: Identify and engage relevant officials

It is useful to get in touch with any professionals working in road safety in your area for their views and input. It’s also important to identify the decision-making officials who you need to influence for your campaign to be successful.

These professionals and officials might include:

  • officers responsible for educating local people/children about road safety and broader health/safety/social issues, often employed by local government
  • road or highway engineers, responsible for reviewing and implementing safety measures on roads, e.g. paths and crossings, often employed by local government;
  • your police force, who may have a traffic unit or traffic officer responsible for enforcing traffic laws and attending and investigating road crashes, and/or an officer with responsibility for educating local people about road safety or broader crime prevention issues;
  • local politicians and elected officials, especially those who have particular responsibility for road safety matters, such as those on your area’s roads committee if there is one.

It’s important to identify, when engaging these officials, who is responsible for making decisions on what. For example, different roads may be the responsibility of different officials; trunk networks may be looked after by a different department to roads in towns and villages. 

speedwatchYou may find that you need to influence a number of different officials to be successful. For example, you may find that some decisions are made by a committee, which acts upon the recommendations of certain engineers and other experts. Make sure you find out how the decision-making process works. For example, if you need to influence a committee, you may find that they only meet a few times per year, and they need certain pieces of information or evidence to give the go-ahead to a new measure. In these cases, you will need to make sure you’re speaking to the right people, at the right time, and providing the right information.

At the same time, don’t discount the potential influence of officials who aren’t the decision-makers. In many cases, certain officials can hold influence over those who make the decisions, so getting a range of important people on board with your campaign can make all the difference. For example, it may be the case that the individual or committee who decides whether to go ahead won’t do so without the support of your police force or elected officials. Talking to local officials and those working in road safety should help you get a better understanding of local politics and who you need to get on board to help your campaign be successful.

Our top tips on engaging officials:

  • Be clear and confident about your aim(s) and the supporting evidence for this. Make sure you impart a sound understanding of what the campaign aims to achieve and why it’s important. Reference the research you’ve done, and make clear that people in the area are in support.
  • Keep asking questions. You will find it helps to build good relationships with officials if you ask their opinions and advice, such as why they think this measure hasn’t been introduced previously, and how likely it is that the campaign will be successful, and what they think you should do to persuade decision-makers to act.
  • Question the answers. Don't be afraid to question what you are told by officials. For example, an official might tell you that a road safety measure cannot be implemented because a road isn't wide enough or there isn't a high enough volume of motorised traffic on a road. Or they might say there is no budget. Ask to see a copy of any regulations or guidance they are referring to, check it is still up to date, and find out how closely it needs to be adhered to. In some cases, national government may provide guidelines on road engineering measures and how and when they should be implemented, but local authorities still have the power to deviate from these with sufficient justification. Also, if you’re told funding isn’t available, bear in mind that it can often be found from somewhere for a measure that is regarded as a political priority: there are often different funds allocated for different types of local spending, and it can sometimes be possible to fund road safety measures from different sources, for example health budgets. 
  • Stress the benefits. Keep reminding officials of evidence you have that shows a road safety investment will benefit road safety, the area, and be a popular move. Elected politicians tend to be switched on to positive publicity opportunities so emphasise the ways in which their reputation can benefit from working with you to deliver improvements. If you’re running your campaign linked to a Road Safety Week, you could suggest that they announce or unveil the measures you’re campaigning for as part of a media event during the Week.
  • Don’t give up at the first hurdle. It's not uncommon for officials to say no to community requests for action. But this could be the first round in a long fight. You know you have a problem, and a solution needs to be found. Equally, you may struggle at first to speak to the right people. But there are often many different routes you can take to engage the right people and spur action. For example, a friendly road safety professional who you have a good relationship with might be able to help you get a meeting with a key decision-maker who isn’t taking your calls. See step six below for advice on keeping up the pressure.
  • Don’t accept the argument that ‘no-one has been injured or killed here’. In Brake's experience, a common reason given for not implementing road safety measures is that 'no-one has died or been seriously injured here, so it’s not a priority area'. This means, in effect, that you are being told that lives must be sacrificed before something can be done. This is not humane or civilized. If you are told this, tell officials that all good road safety measures should be implemented on the basis of risk to life, and the need for people to get around without being endangered, not on the chance circumstance of whether someone has actually died yet. If traffic is going too fast, it is going too fast. If people are frightened, they are frightened. It may be only luck that no-one has died, or down to barely anyone walking and cycling because they are worried for their safety, or there may be a lack of accurate casualty statistics.

STEP FOUR: Present your case

The first step in putting forward your calls for action is usually to send a letter or email to the officials who make the relevant decisions, from your group, setting out what you want to be done and why, and requesting a meeting to discuss this.

It will usually be most appropriate for this initial meeting to be simply between you/your steering group and the appropriate official(s), with you referring to the evidence you have gathered in support of your campaign and public support for it. This should enable a relatively open discussion where you can ask questions about officials’ views on the campaign and what it would take for it to be successful. Make sure one of you takes minutes, and checks them with the officials afterwards, so you have an accurate account you can refer back to afterwards of who said what, and can follow up on actions (including chasing up officials on any actions they commit to). Try to ensure your meeting ends with a clear agreement on next steps and what will be done when, such as you gathering more evidence on public support, or the official(s) seeking views of colleagues and letting you see copies of relevant regulations/guidelines they adhere to.

In this meeting, if you are told that action can’t be taken straight away (which is likely to be the case in an initial meeting), establish the reasons for this and exactly what it will take to move forward. It may be that officials say they require certain evidence to be collected on the extent of the problem (such as data from police showing the extent of fast/speeding traffic) or the extent of public support for the campaign (such as a petition with a certain number of signatures) before they will consider the measures you are calling for.  You will then need to work to gather this (or keep pressure up on officials to gather this if they need to do it themselves) within an appropriate timeframe. If your discussions are ongoing, you may find it useful to schedule follow-up meetings, or at least agree you will meet every regularly, at an agreed interval.

After this meeting, you may also find that it is useful to hold another public meeting, this time attended by the relevant, decision-making officials, to present the range of your findings (including any supplementary evidence you have collected that officials said they would need) and for officials to see the public support and enthusiasm for your campaign. If you do this, set the date well in advance, ensuring the relevant officials are able to attend. Make sure your meeting is well-publicised to the public and you are confident of a good level of attendance: it will be damaging to your campaign if officials come to a poorly-attended meeting. (See step one for advice on organising a public meeting.)

Have a clear agenda, including time for:

  • you and your steering group to present your findings and set out the importance of your calls for action. Consider using visual aids like photos or charts showing survey findings on a screen or flip-chart;
  • supportive officials/professionals/experts/community leaders to give (brief) statements on why they agree with the campaign;
  • decision-making officials to respond to your calls for action, setting out their intentions/plans and the reasons for this, or their suggested next steps with the campaign;
  • questions and discussion, which need to be chaired by someone who can manage the room, by pointing out one person to speak at a time, and ensuring no one person ‘takes over’ or steers the discussion off-topic. Have your speakers and officials sat on a panel table at the front of the room, with name cards in front of them, so attendees can ask questions of the relevant person.

Assign someone to take minutes and try to ensure next steps are clear at the end of the meeting.

STEP FIVE: Promote, publicise, build support

At the same time as presenting your case to officials, it is important to promote and communicate your campaign to members of the public in your area, raise awareness about road safety, and build as much support as possible. This can serve two important functions:

  • building and demonstrating public support for your calls for action, to help persuade decision-makers to act (for example, by showing that a large percentage of the local population agrees these measures are needed);
  • raising awareness about road safety locally, helping to persuade people to make their own contribution to making road safer, especially if they drive (for example, by raising awareness of the dangers that speeding poses to local children, encouraging local drivers to slow down). This might help improve compliance with the changes you’re campaigning for (such as a lower speed limit) and could start to improve safety even before your campaign is successful. 

There are lots of different ways to promote your campaign, raise awareness and build support. A few key ways are suggested below,
but the best methods for your campaign will depend on how you can best reach people in your area. So consider the habits and lifestyles of people in your area, and factors such as:

  • are people out a lot on foot in your town centre?
  • do lots of people visit certain shops, markets or community facilities?
  • do lots of people gather in certain social spaces like parks in the evenings or during the day?
  • what proportion of people are likely to have access to email and the internet?
  • are there some local businesses, community centres or places of worship that you could help you reach a lot of people quickly?

Don’t forget that running publicity during an annual Road Safety Week can give your campaign a boost and help you to gain media coverage. See our Road Safety Week for communities page for ideas on different activities you could run as part of a Week.

a) Promote your campaign and raise awareness

There will probably be a wide range of communication channels you can use to promote your campaign, build support and raise road safety awareness among local people. Using a range of channels will help you to reach as many people as possible and have greater impact. Bearing in mind the factors listed above to do with people’s habits and lifestyles, and your group’s access to different communications channels, consider which of the following you might be able to make use of:

  • Noticeboards, posters or displays, such as in schools, libraries, sports/community centres, shops and businesses. If it’s indoors, you might be able to include a petition (see below) on noticeboards or on a table underneath, as well as posters and other materials. Make sure you have permission from whoever owns the noticeboard or display space.
  • ‘Stands’ in a public place, such as in a town centre or outside a community centre, or at a local event, where you can display a banner/poster, hand out flyers, chat to people and collect petition signatures. You may need permission from your local authority or the community centre to do this.
  • Flyers posted through doors, left in shops or community centres, or left under car windscreen wipers. This can be a good way to target people in a specific local area, such as along one street, although printing large numbers of flyers can be costly. Again, make sure you have any necessary permission.
  • Community newsletters, bulletins and magazines (email or hard-copy), such as those sent by community/social/sports groups to members or businesses to staff or customers. In these cases, you may be able to call up the club/group/individual that produces the newsletter and provide them with information (and images) about the campaign, or you might be able to write articles or columns.
  • Local websites, forums, blogs and social media pages, such as those run by local community groups and businesses. Again, you might be able to enlist their support with the campaign and ask them to include regular updates/action points, or you might be able to post on them directly. If you and the rest of your steering group are on social media already, don’t forget to make use of your existing networks of friends, colleagues and contacts, to help spread the word quickly without any outside help.
  • Local newspapers, radio, TV and news websites (and maybe regional or national media if your campaign covers a larger area). Tell them about your campaign and provide regular updates by sending press releases and calling journalists to tell them what’s happening. Try to build ongoing relationships with key local journalists. See our guide to running a media campaign for more advice, and see step six on keeping up the pressure.
  • Your own campaign bulletin and/or web page, which can be a great way to provide a hub of information about your campaign, and keep people up-to-date and engaged – although it requires time to maintain it. You can use this to promote support for the campaign, provide updates on progress, share supportive evidence and endorsements as you collect them, and promote road safety awareness and safer behaviour. You could make use of a free service like mailchimp to send email bulletins (which includes a sign-up box you can promote on your website or through social media) and wordpress to set up a web page, or set up a page on Facebook. If you send bulletins, do so at a regularity where you’ll have something new to say each time, but keep them fairly brief and to-the-point and include actions. Make sure you have permission from recipients, e.g. by collecting email addresses and making clear what they’re for on your petition, web page or at events.

To promote your campaign through these channels, you may need to develop materials like posters, flyers or web banners. Include your campaign name prominently, make clear what it is you’re calling for, and try to have a consistent look across these materials so your campaign is recognisable. Having a campaign logo will help. You may be able to enlist the help of a local copy-writer, graphic designer or print shop (or another local business that has an in-house writer or designer) for free. However you create your materials, keep them simple, eye-catching and easy-to-understand. A simple black and white poster with a few words and web address is usually more effective than a dense leaflet with lots of text that takes a long time to read. Get someone to check them to make sure they’re free of mistakes, clear and accurate.

Your materials and communications need to be persuasive, and get across simply and clearly why people should support the campaign. Draw on the background research you’ve done and include relevant facts and figures. Make clear that this campaign is about protecting people and preventing tragedies. Consider including facts like ‘X people injured on XXX town’s roads last year’ or a statement of intent that most people will instantly connect with like ‘We all want to walk safely’, ‘Our kids’ safety comes first’, or ‘No more tragedies on our roads’. This can be effective alongside the words ‘Back our campaign’, and then a website address, meeting details, or other description of how to sign up in support. See our tools and resources page for ideas.

Make sure your communications and materials make clear the ‘action points’. In many cases, you’ll be asking people to support the campaign, such as by signing a petition (see below) or otherwise registering their support, or attending a public meeting, or writing to a decision maker, so you need to make clear how people do this – whether it’s by giving a web address, stating where they can sign a petition, or where and when your meeting is.

It can be very effective if you can use the communication channels open to you to promote road safety messages as well as support for your campaign. This can help to get people’s attention, persuade them of the importance of the campaign, and improve their own behaviour on roads. If you’re creating a range of posters to support your campaign, or a flyer or web page, or you are writing a regular email bulletin, or article or column for a newsletter, then you’re likely to be able to build in awareness-raising road safety messages alongside calls for people to put their name the campaign. Make it clear that to address the issue(s) you’re campaigning on, and make local roads safe, action is required by the public as well as the authorities, and be explicit about what that action looks like. For example, if you’re campaigning for measures to make walking and cycling safer, you also need local drivers to slow down to 20mph/ 30km/h in town, stay under speed limits, and keep a careful look out for people on foot and bike, including at crossings and junctions. Consider using the messages from Brake’s Pledge to help you communicate constructive advice.

Read our publicity and media guidance for more advice on raising public awareness through different communication channels.

b) Sign up partners

In many cases, you may not have direct access to the communication channels listed above and may need help to engage large numbers of local people. However it is often possible to enlist the help of local organisations and groups to communicate your campaign and gather support. For example, local businesses, schools, community centres and clubs may have newsletters (sent to staff, customers, members and supporters), noticeboards or events you can make use of to promote your campaign, with their permission.

Consider which local organisations and groups are likely to be most supportive of your campaign and most able to communicate it effectively. For example, cycling and running clubs and parenting groups are likely to have an interest in campaigns to make walking and cycling safer, and will have members that care deeply about this. Big local employers may be keen to make streets safer for their staff to commute on foot and bicycles.

These groups and organisations may be interested in becoming official campaign partners, who promote their support of the campaign and regularly communicate updates to their stakeholders, and who you can publically promote as supporting the campaign (adding weight to your calls for action). This can benefit them by showing they care about the community’s safety and wellbeing. You could provide them with your campaign logo to use to show their support and help promote the campaign, and ask them for a statement of support saying why they support the campaign, which you include in your evidence report (see step one), on your web page or other communications, and reference in meetings with officials.

c) Raise funds

In some cases local partners, especially larger businesses, may also be able to contribute funds to your campaign, to help you run events and produce materials or even to fund a staff member to run the campaign. Or they may be able to offer in-kind support, such as a graphic designer or copy-writer’s time, or staff to assist at events. They may be happy to do this in return for some simple benefits, like their logo on your campaign materials. Or they may even be able to contribute sponsorship towards the measure you’re campaigning for (or pay for it in full) – see step six. Don’t be afraid to ask for support, both monetary and in other forms. However, make sure that any support offered will help your campaign’s delivery and not require you to undertake irrelevant activities.

If you are in need of funds and are struggling to achieve help from local businesses, you could alternatively consider running a fundraising event in the community, such as a dress-down day at schools, colleges and businesses (this could be a ‘Bright Day’ to help raise awareness too), a sponsored walk, run or cycle, a raffle with prizes donated by local organisations, or a sale of some kind. Or you could ask for donations at a stand, meeting or event (getting permission if you need to). Fundraising can often be effectively combined with raising awareness and signing up support for your campaign. Make sure you carefully record donations given to you and keep them safe in a bank account until they can be expended in line with the donors’ intentions. If you don’t need money you could fundraise for the road safety charity Brake or another local safety charity. This is a great way of showing your commitment to road safety and increasing awareness.

d) Organise a petition

A petition can be a powerful campaign tool, if it is clear about the aims and promoted widely and persuasively. In some cases, it can persuade or force a local authority to take note of an issue they might otherwise dismiss. To create a good petition, make sure it:

  • has a concise, clear introduction. Prospective signers often don't have a lot of time.
  • is totally clear what it is trying to achieve. This should take the form of a simple statement at the top saying ‘We the undersigned call for xxxxxxx’.
  • is persuasive, by including a simple statement about why this measure is important, eg ‘We believe this will help protect local people and prevent casualties on our roads.’
  • is easy-to-read and free from errors (check with someone else to be sure). People will take it more seriously if it is written professionally.
  • is set up in whatever format(s) will make it easy for you to collect signatures and monitor the number of signatures. This might involve having an online and paper version, as explained below.
  • collects the information you need. It might be sufficient to collect names, or you might need to show that your signatories live in a particular area. You could also use your petition to collect email addresses/contact details of people who support the campaign and want to be kept up to date with it (e.g. by getting a regular bulletin or being invited to meetings).

If you think a reasonable number of people in your area have internet access, it’s often best (and quick and easy) to set up your petition online, as well as having a paper version you can use in the area. If you have more than one version you should make it clear that people should only sign it once, and make sure you’re able to keep track of signatories on both.

To set up an online petition, you could use a site like This will enable you to have a web address for your online petition, which you should ensure is short and memorable. You can include this address in communications such as those listed above. You should heavily promote your online petition in your online and email communications, where people can simply click through. If you have a campaign website or social media page (see above), include prominent links to it. Make it clear that signing the petition takes just a few seconds and could make all the difference to your campaign.

GRSW3To set up a paper petition, include your introduction (with the important ‘We the undersigned…’ statement) at the top of each sheet of paper, in reasonably large font that everyone can read. Below this, include a table with a column for each bit of information you’re collecting (e.g. name, signature, email address, street you live on), making sure the lines are deep enough for people to write in easily, but small enough so you can collect a reasonable number of signatures on each sheet. Having a table that fits an even number of signatures (e.g. 20 or 25) will help you add up the numbers easily. Print off more than you think you’ll need each time you’re out collecting signatures – so you don’t miss any because you’ve run out of space.

The hard work begins when you get ‘out there’ to collect signatures. Here are some of the ways you could collect signatures:

  • Set up a stand in your town centre, outside a community centre or at a community or sports event to collect signatures and raise awareness about your campaign. Consider places and times when you’ll be able to stop and chat to a lot of people within a short space of time. Make sure you have appropriate permission to do this. Have a poster or banner up so people can see straight away what it’s about, and either clip boards or a table so people can sign easily. Speak to people politely and enthusiastically about the campaign, but bear in mind that often people don’t have much time, so keep it brief. It’s usually best if there is a small group of you to collect signatures (making sure you all have the confidence to chat enthusiastically to strangers), especially if you’re doing so in a busy location, so you can talk to and collect signatures from several people at once.
  • Put up petitions at the local library, sports centre, on notice boards or in local shops/businesses, with permission. It’s best to do this as part of a display, with at least a poster or notice to catch people’s attention and encourage them to sign. Try to use places where there is someone present who can keep an eye on the petition and display and ensure it’s not defaced, for example a supportive shopkeeper or manager. Keep a note of everywhere you have put the petition and go back regularly to collect them.
  • Pass round the petition at work and your social/community/sports groups, and ask the rest of your steering group, and your friends and family, and others who are supportive of the campaign, to do the same. Make sure everyone who comes to your public meeting(s) signs it.
  • Include the web address of your online petition on all materials and communications, and promote it prominently on your campaign web page/social media page/bulletin, and via your own social media networks.

STEP SIX: Keep up the pressure

Many successful campaigns are turned down repeatedly at first, but use these disappointments to fuel their efforts further. It may take ongoing work over several years to achieve the results you want and in these cases it’s important to keep up the momentum and pressure. You may simply need to keep going through the steps listed above to achieve your aims, but here are some additional tips for keeping things going and maintaining pressure on decision-makers.

a) Maintain your steering group and core support

It’s important to make sure your core group, partners and campaign supporters are kept engaged. The key to this is regular and positive meetings or communications, making everyone feel valued, focusing on what’s next, and ensuring people don’t start thinking the campaign is finished. Consider if you need to introduce any additional communications, such as a regular newsletter or notices, or an online forum or social media group, to help keep people engaged. You could even set up some fun, social activities for your group and supporters, perhaps combining fundraising and awareness-raising in the community so it’s connected to the campaign.

If your campaign has been going a while, some members of your steering group who were enthusiastic at the start may grow frustrated and weary. Some may also feel that they cannot spare sufficient time on an ongoing basis. If this is the case it may be beneficial to let these members retire or withdraw gracefully, and seek to recruit new members who can bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm, by inviting nominations from the community or holding another public meeting. Keep the mood upbeat and positive if you do this, encouraging everyone to think about what’s next, rather than portraying the campaign as a failure. 

b) Keep talking and keep records

Just as you keep communicating with your supporters and local people, you also need to keep talking to the decision-makers and officials. You can do this through regular meetings, phone calls and emails or letters. Over time it may feel like it’s one-way and tiresome, but it will make clear that your campaign has not gone away. Mutual understanding and persistence based on facts and support is often the secret to success.

Don't be afraid to get political and engage the support of a local politician or businesses for that final push. Bring your partners and supporters into meetings and discussions to help decision-makers see the breadth of support behind your campaign.

The longer things go on, the more important it becomes to keep your records in order. Make sure that every meeting is minuted and every piece of correspondence filed, dated and labelled.

c) Be aware of important changes

Keep a look out for changes in officials or regulations that could make all the difference to your campaign, and be ready to respond to and take advantage of these. For example, a change in government guidance or regulations could free up, encourage or compel a local authority to make the change you have been waiting for, so make sure you’re ready to publicise this and press them for a prompt response.

Equally, if one of your decision-makers is replaced it could suddenly tip the balance of opinion in your favour – although you may need to speak to the replacement quickly, as soon as they’re appointed, to persuade them of the importance of your campaign. 

d) Pressure through publicity

Publicity is a great way both to keep up the pressure on officials and continue to inform and engage the public about your campaign and the importance of road safety. In some cases, effective publicity can embarrass officials into action – especially if you’re open and honest about what’s happening (or not happening) and publicise the reasons you’re being given for inaction.

As well as continuing to use the communication channels outlined above, consider the following tactics:

  • Develop good relationships with local journalists, and provide them regular updates, including every time you make any progress or are turned down by the authorities. Make them aware of the reasons you’re given by officials, which they may be able to turn into stories that embarrass officials into action. Local newspapers and radio stations may become great advocates for your campaign. They may be able to run regular features looking at different arguments behind your campaign, and may even decide to chase up officials directly for updates, keeping up the pressure. Ask for and listen to their advice – they may be able to advise you on what you could do next to generate more publicity and keep up the pressure, such as by setting up a photocall or arranging a round-table discussion between local officials, your campaign group and local journalists.
  • Examine different angles. It might feel hard after a while to keep your publicity and communications work interesting, so consider developing a plan of how you’ll examine different aspects of the campaign over time to keep things fresh and keep reminding everyone of why the campaign is important – such as looking at a different topic each month or quarter. Don’t forget to build in educational and awareness-raising road safety messages, and try to link your messages to different times of year. For example, at the start of the school summer holidays you could focus on the importance of children being able to walk and cycle safely, and include comments from children in the area on their views on road safety, and appeal to local drivers to slow down. Before big sporting events and celebrations, you could focus on people planning ahead to get home safely, and not drink driving, and remind again of the need for action from the authorities.
  • Hold a demonstration or event. Consider running a big event that shows the strength of feeling in the local area about your campaign, and which you can use to gain publicity and generate wider public involvement. A demonstration can work well, especially outside your local town hall or civic offices (where the officials who make decisions are based), but it needs to be well-organised. Plan it well in advance. Get in touch directly with your supporters to secure attendance, as well as promoting it widely in the area using your usual communication channels, making clear where and when to gather. Send reminders in the run-up. Encourage everyone to make and bring their own placards or banners/flags, but suggest a few short, simple, clear messages they might include (e.g. ‘Safer streets for kids’, ‘We need pavements’, ‘Slower traffic now’) and bring some of your own. You want to ensure someone glancing at the demonstration will be able to see instantly what it’s about, and that the messages will show in photographs. Invite your partners and influential people along, as well as the media. Make sure your demonstration is safe and not too close to traffic. Check if you need permission from local officials.
  • Go big. If you’ve built up a lot of local support for your campaign, and a concrete case for action, but you’re still not seeing any action, it may be of interest to bigger regional or even national media. This might especially be the case if it’s a national problem that’s posing the barrier to change, such as a lack of national funding or a national policy. Try phoning up national/regional transport journalists, and confidently, concisely and passionately explaining your campaign and your frustrations. You could suggest that they might investigate if the problems you’re experiencing are wider ones affecting lots of communities.

For more advice on publicity and the media, including running media events and photocalls, see our publicity and media guide.

e) Consider alternatives

Sometimes communities get exactly what they campaign for, quickly. Sometimes this doesn’t happen. For example, your campaign may call for a lower speed limit but an official may say ‘no’ and offer, instead, a sign asking drivers to ‘slow down’. They may suggest an alternative without being prompted. If not, and your request has been turned down, ask if there is anything else they can do.gwbPIC

Bear in mind that alternatives suggested by officials could be: not as effective as your proposal, but better than the current situation, and therefore a good interim step; just as effective as your proposed measure; or a wholly inadequate but cheap way to try to stop your campaign. You may need to ask questions and/or ask to see official documentation to try to establish which of these it is. You could do this by inviting the relevant official or engineer to speak to your steering group to explain the reasons why they think this alternative is suitable, and answer your questions.

If an alternative measure is implemented, consider how you could gauge its success. Has it slowed down traffic or enabled children to cross the road easier? Do people feel safer on foot and bicycle? You may have to enter a new round of research and consultation to take your campaign to the next level if a measure has clearly not been effective or does not go far enough.

f) Overcome barriers, go to the top

Sometimes, no matter how persistent and persuasive you are, it can still be difficult achieving change at local level. You might find that local officials understand the reasoning behind your campaign, but are paralysed by national regulations or lack of funding. Or you might simply find that officials refuse to listen and give credit to your campaign or road safety generally. In these situations, you may need to take your campaign to a higher level.

If a lack of local funding is the sole issue, you may be able to pursue corporate sponsorship or fundraise for the measure you want, or you may be able to work with the local authority to put pressure on government to release additional funding. Discuss the options with your authority and work with them to put together a budget. Ensure you’re clear on the full costs, including contingency, and make sure you have their agreement in writing to act as soon as funding is secured. It’s then a good idea to talk to larger local businesses in the first instance, who may be able to provide funds in return for some simple benefits such as a sign or plaque and an opening event for media. Make sure appropriate contractual arrangements are in place, especially if funds are to be provided in stages, and take care not to commit to providing benefits you can’t definitely deliver.

If the problem seems to be national regulations or funding, or a simple lack of interest or action on the part of local officials, then consider going to the top and approaching relevant officials in your national/state government. You may be able to do this in partnership with local officials (if they are supportive of your campaign) or with elected local politicians/members of parliament who can often help you put your case across in the most constructive way to the right people at national level. It’s a case of being clear on what needs to happen nationally to spur local change, and working to put your case forward to the relevant national decision-maker(s) using similar methods to those you’ve used locally. You may need to speak to several people, such as a specialist civil servant who deals with transport/road safety issues, and an elected national politician. If you’re travelling far for a meeting in the capital, ensure in advance that you’re meeting the right people, if possible getting together everyone who you need to speak to at once. Again you may be able to get funding from a supportive local business partner to pay for the travel. Or you may be able to meet via Skype.

If you’re engaging national officials, it will help if you can carry out some additional research to try to establish if the issues your campaign is focusing on are common ones that affect other communities.

Don’t be afraid to go right to the top and put in a request to meet your national transport minister. This might be what you need to do to make things happen in your locality, and in doing so you could spur important, life-saving change across your country. Sometimes local campaigns highlight wider problems that are most effectively dealt with by national policies and investment, such as national default speed limits being lowered, or greater investment in traffic policing across the country.

STEP SEVEN: Success! What next?

If your campaign is successful, congratulations! As well as feeling very proud that you have made a difference to road safety, here are a few things you might want to consider doing next:

  • Publicise your success. Make use of your communication channels and relationships with local journalists to shout loud and proud about your success, and to update people as the change happens, especially if it’s in stages over time. Don’t forget that publicising the benefits of the change can help with local buy-in, acceptance and compliance, such as with lower speed limits.
  • Tell Brake about it using our contact form so we can share your example with others. Let us know how useful this guide was and if you think we could improve it.
  • Monitor the effects and keep campaigning. Your campaign has spurred action on road safety, but does it go far enough, and has it had the desired effect? In most cases, there will be more measures the authorities could put in place to improve safely further and stop people being hurt or killed on roads. Consider carrying out further research and consultation to work out what other measures are needed in your area, and keep campaigning for them.
  • Keep raising awareness. Even if you’ve achieved some very effective and comprehensive road safety measures, it remains important for people to understand steps they can take to keep themselves and others safe, and take responsibility using roads. You can help promote awareness and safer behaviour through coordinating an annual Road Safety Week in your area, making use of the communication channels and contacts you have built up through your campaign. Or you could promote road safety year-round. Use our communities page to help you.
  • Go national. As mentioned in step six, sometimes local campaigns highlight wider problems that are affecting many communities, which could be dealt with more effectively through national policies and investment. Could your campaign spur wider change? Communicate your experiences to national politicians and media, encouraging them to consider how communities across the country may be experiencing similar problems, and how these should be addressed.