I don't know if its something that candidates to become councillors here look forward to or dread, but a bit of a local tradition is that Cambridge Cycling Campaign come up with a list of questions that they forward to all of the candidates, and a little birdie (well, Al, in a tweet) hinted that the questions for the forthcoming council elections are almost ready.
The responses make great fodder for the rest of us, and I've covered them before in blog posts such as those linked to here. But this time round, before the questions go out, I've a few things to suggest to those who might be about to fill out their responses.
1. Actually answer the questions
You would think this is obvious, but there have been plenty of 'no comments' or words to that effect sent back. And many more where the answers are every be as uninformative as that - such as telling us that its a leading question without ever explaining why.
Look, either answer the questions or don't, but stop assuming that the very act of responding to the survey is validation.
2. Don't give stock answers
This is something Labour have been particularly guilty of - its like the answers are variants of a theme, like they're reading from a guidance document. Its not clever, its not interesting, its just a well organised way of not really telling us what you think. By all means give the party line, but most of the questions won't be about what the party line is because they're about very, very local issues - please, answer specifically and honestly.
3. Don't treat the questions as a threat
Seriously, some of the answers in the past have been ridiculously defensive, even evasive. Stop for a moment and ask yourself what this is for - if you treat a set of questions from cyclists as hostile, are we likely to believe you won't treat cyclists as hostile?
4. Give us detail
Don't say you're positive towards cyclists. Don't say you support cycling. Tell us what you'll do and how you'll do it - tell us where and how you'll do stuff to make cycling better. In many wards ALL candidates will say they support cycling - the one who stands out is the one who tells us how.
5. Know your ward
If a question is about a specific location in your ward, go look at it, maybe even go ride it a couple of times. THEN answer. If you answer that you don't know the location and don't use this as a chance to get informed then what are you doing in local politics anyway?
So thanks for reading this - and please, if you're responding to the survey from the Cycling Campaign then follow these 5 bits of advice and you'll not go far wrong.