The “Try Before You Buy” Approach to Sustainability
I’m delighted that my adopted home town of Newcastle upon Tyne is going to be the latest City in the world to get ‘pop-up’ cycle lanes to encourage people to use active travel as the Covid-19 lockdown lifts (as Opposition Spokesperson on Transport & Environment, I’ve been campaigning for this for some time). The idea will be to keep the more effective lanes in the long term, tweak any that need tweaking and remove any that prove ineffective.
This is a much better approach than traditional ‘design, consult, implement’ infrastructure project. It removes much of the fear of local citizens that they’re being asked to endorse a change away from what they know, and have adapted their lifestyles to, and towards something unfamiliar and permanent. It creates intermediate steps across the gaping chasm between business as usual and a quite different future we need to tackle climate change. And with the sudden upswing in cycling and cycle sales, it provides reassurance to those venturing out on two wheels for the first time.
This approach to change management can be extended to other initiatives. Teleconferencing will never seem alien now we’ve all been doing pub quizzes or school lessons with them. The local Nestlé factory here in the city leant electric cars to employees so they could try them out before purchasing one through a company-subsidised scheme. Field trips to wind farms, recycling plants or micro-hydro schemes can increase familiarity and understanding in a way plans and brochures never can. If you can get people to experience ‘the new’ then you’re halfway to persuading them to embrace it themselves.