Step forward Bristol City Council’s Kate Hartas …
As the only person in Bristol who’s seemingly oblivious to the longstanding antipathy between motorists and cyclists in the city, Kate was handed the job of spinning the council’s controversial plan to close one lane of Prince Street Bridge to motor traffic.
And what a top job the communications expert did by deciding to heavily brand the long-planned move as part of the new multi-million pound ‘Cycling City’ initiative to popularise cycling despite its impact on cyclists apparently being marginal and the whole project actually being far more advantageous to Labour’s unpopular, cut-price Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plans.
Cue a series of immediate and bitter recriminations between the motoring lobby and the cycling lobby across the Evening Cancer website, dividing the city once again along predictable lines and turning a small controversy into nothing short of open warfare between cyclists and motorists
In a further brilliant tactical move, Kate also decided to provide access to the frothingly pro-car Evening Cancer and even went to the trouble of arranging a photo-op for the paper on the bridge featuring Labour Transport boss, Mark Bradshaw.
Come Friday and the story is launched on the front page of the Cancer with a gormless-looking Bradshaw leering out at us from Prince Street accompanied by the headline ‘FARCICAL’ in 250 point bold type.
Let’s hope Ms Hartas and her boss, city council PR supremo and self-styled Nobel laureate Simon Caplan, are fully paid-up members of the “all publicity is good publicity” school of thought.
In a final coup de grâce Hartas then spent Friday engaging in some rapid rebuttal on the Cancer website. “The story is competely inaccurate in the printed version of the paper. The bridge is not to be closed to cars,” thundered the PR before encouraging readers to see what her press release actually said.
And what a treat for those of us that did. Because it was, er … Completely inaccurate! “[The] narrow swing bridge over the historic Floating Harbour has a slim pavement on one side only,” Ms Hartas writes of a bridge that quite clearly has two pavements. Oh dear.
Move over Max Clifford. There’s a new kid on the block.