Its been hard keeping up with the #badlyparkedbike campaign from Cambridgeshire Constabulary - but as an abject lesson in how not to use social media, I think it is worth a quick re-cap.
What should have been among the least controversial social media campaigns in history (to paraphrase, 'don't park your bike like a div, make sure you lock it securely and don't block the pavement') has backfired on our local boys and girls in Blue. It isn't that the basic message there is a bad one (be excellent to each other, as a wiser man than me once said), the problem is that the examples given, followed by shambolic responses from the force, have brought this campaign further and further into disrepute.
It all got a bit too much for them when responses to this tweet sparked a backlash - cyclists across Camnbridge and then the rest of the UK started getting shirty because, fundamentally, a bike being chained half way up a tree guard and not blocking the path is neither illegal nor is it in the way. Or in other words, if you've taken great pains to find a bike locking space thats physically out of the way and not illegal, our local coppers will still 'out' your bike parking.
This made it to the local newspaper (because this passes as news in Cambridge) and other news feeds, and its just sort of spiralled from there.
It became embarassing when the police tried to defend this by saying it was getting people talking about road safety - it isn't, its got people mocking their use of social media. Then the local police commissioner tweeted out in support and explained to us what the hashtag means (and was corrected). A frequent refrain from the police feed, when faced with criticism that they're not dealing with the cars vans that completely block pavements in this city on a daily basis, is that they're 'primarily an emergency service'. So why are they so keen to deal with bikes locked to trees? Whats the emergency?
If @CambridgeCops were to take a step back they'd realise that that the response to this has been superb, but it doesn't fit with their goals. They've had no impact on cyclists, the hashtag has entirely gone away from them. No one is discussing road safety, they're laughing at the Police force, and I don't think thats ever a good situation. But they could snatch success from the jaws of defeat here by taking the multitude of images of cars illegally blocking pavements across Cambridge and taking action to stop it happening - go talk to the motorists who regularly make our pavements impassable, ticket them for it if you must. They're getting an ever-increasing catalogue of of images of genuinely nasty and entirely obstructive pavement parking - but is #BadlyParkedCar as important to them as #BadlyParkedBike? So far, it doesn't look like it.
So what are you waiting for guys? You've got the evidence. When does #BadlyParkedCar get the attention you know it deserves?