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Cyclists Urge Council to Expand, Not Disband, Bicycle Committee

Worried that the Los Altos City Council was about to disband the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, cyclists and residents voiced their disapproval; turns out reports of the demise were premature.

The reports of the demise of the Los Altos Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), if not exaggerated, were perhaps premature, cycling enthusiasts discovered at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

Fear of BPAC's possible disbandment spread through the local cycling community via the Internet and word of mouth after a consent item appeared on the council's agenda to schedule a discussion of the advisory committee at an upcoming joint meeting with the Traffic Commission.

A staff report attached to the agenda item did suggest that an option would be to fold BPAC's responsibilities into the Traffic Commission, which would result in disbanding the committee. However, the only action before the council Tuesday night was whether to have any discussion at all about BPAC with the commission in January.

The resulting confusion resulted in numerous e-mails to council members and several public comments from residents and local cyclists during the meeting, stressing that the advisory committee is a valuable asset to the city.

"My little slogan is expand, don't disband," Karen Janowski told the council. Several supporters asked the council members to use the committee as a way to improve conditions for cyclists in Los Altos.

 "We could really empower the BPAC to do something significant," said Jon Simms, creator of the Boltage cycling program, which encourages local schoolchildren to ride their bikes to school. Simms noted that Los Altos is surrounded by cities that have sought official "bicycle-friendly" status by the League of American Bicyclists, something that is seen as an asset by those communities.

"We ought to be heading down the same path as everybody else," he said.

Another fear expressed by speakers was that the Traffic Commission was only about moving cars through the city, and that folding the BPAC into the commission would take away an emphasis on bicycle and pedestrian safety. Council members said the goals of the commission are much broader and include those issues.

In the end, the council decided that having a discussion with both the Traffic Commission and BPAC would help clarify for everyone how best to proceed. Options bandied about included restructuring the advisory committee, changing which body the committee reports to, empowering the committee to make significant changes to bicycle and pedestrian safety, among others.

Cycling supporters were encouraged to attend the joint meeting, which is will take place in January in the Council Chambers.

"At the end of the day," said Councilwoman Megan Satterlee, "… my goal is to maximize effectiveness and not to create alarm that we are trying to disenfranchise or water down the goals of bicycle and pedestrian safety with the recommendation that we have this conversation." 

commuter December 15, 2010 at 05:03 PM
The committee can be effective by designing safe and complete bicycle routes through and around town. Also, identify current problem areas and design and implement solutions.
Nancy Schwartz December 16, 2010 at 04:09 PM
Resident The committee has made good progress on improving bike safety. Perhaps a lot of that is due to the Safe Routes to School federal funding. Pedestrian safety should be made a higher prioity. Where are the sidewalks? If not everywhere, at least get more sidewalks on more pedestrian routes.

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