Regular readers of our website likely saw our recent post about the city of Los Altos considering whether to keep their BPAC (Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee). We appreciate your support in encouraging them to keep the committee. For those who may not follow advocacy issues so closely, I will attempt to explain what makes a city effective at creating safer bikeways, streets, and trails.
Whether we are talking about routes, trails, railroads, ferrys, or airports, cities cannot do it alone. Financial help is needed from an outside source (outside of the city's general fund). That help may come from sales taxes, use taxes, state funds, or even federal sources. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, or MTC, represents all nine Bay Area counties and was established to disburse federal and state transportation dollars to each of the counties. One source of funding is what is known as TDA (Transportation Development Act). The TDA program was enacted into state law in 1971 to provide a portion of local sales taxes for support of local transit services and, where appropriate, local streets and roads.
MTC stipulates that, in order to receive TDA funds for bicycle projects, each city have a published bicycle plan and have a bicycle advisory committee that meets on a regular basis. These rules were pulled from an MTC document on Resolution 875:
1. The county or congestion management agency shall establish a process for establishing project priorities in order to prepare an annual list of projects being recommended for funding. Each county and city is required to have a Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) to review and prioritize TDA Article 3 bicycle projects and to participate in the development and review of comprehensive bicycle plans. (BACs are mandated by State Transportation Control Measure [STCM #9], adopted by MTC on November 28, 1990, MTC Resolution No. 2178, Revised).
A city BAC shall be composed of at least 3 members who live or work in the city. More members may be added as desired. They will be appointed by the City Council. The City or Town Manager will designate staff to provide administrative and technical support to the Committee.
Cities under 10,000 population who have difficulty in locating a sufficient number of qualified members, may apply to MTC for exemption from these requirements. Cities over 10,000 population may also apply to MTC for exemption from the city BAC requirement if they can demonstrate that the countywide BAC provides for expanded city representation.
A county BAC shall be composed of at least 5 members who live or work in the county. More members may be added as desired. The County Board of Supervisors and/or Congestion Management Agency (CMA) will appoint BAC members. The county or congestion management agency executive/administrator will designate staff to provide administration and technical support to the Committee.
(Note: The intent is that BACs be composed of bicyclists and pedestrians.)
The MTC rules are vague and do not address:
- a minimum number of meetings per year,
- the necessity of an independent BAC (not folded into a larger traffic and circulation committee for example),
- or what constitutes a cyclist.
Whether a city is seeking to comply with state mandates for greenhouse gases (AB 32), incorporate "Complete Streets" into a its General Plan (AB 1358), apply for TDA funds, or revise its bike plan, BACs are vital to the process. BACs provide valuable public input from those that cycle on the roadways on a regular basis.
Many cities either don't realize this or in these fiscally constrained times think that the short-term savings of dissolving a BAC outweighs the loss of funding or the cost of having to retrofit a roadway because it did not allow for non-motorized accessibility or safety. So until the rules become a little clearer or more well-defined we must demand, you must demand that your city have a functioning BAC and regularly publish a comprehensive bicycle plan.
photos: bikeportland.org, wikimedia.org