While many of us tout our choice to ride a bike, not everyone has a choice of how to get around. Some people must walk or bike because other options are too expensive. Some people are stuck with an ill-fitting or broken bike. All people deserve to feel safe in the way they get around, whether that is a choice or a necessity, whether going to work, school, errands, or to see friends and family.

That’s why SVBC has been taking a close look at our policies and programs to understand who they are benefitting and to ensure that those people who don’t have a choice are given the opportunities and resources that other communities have historically gotten. Equity in transportation seeks fairness in mobility and accessibility to meet the needs of all community members (FHWA).

SVBC has been looking at where our campaigns and programs have been focused and whom they’ve impacted. We’ve also looked at the demographics of our members and the ethnicity and income levels of residents in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. The Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission defines Communities of Concern (click link for map) as areas with a large percentage of households made up of minorities, low-income households, seniors, those with a disability, limited English proficiency, cost-burdened renters, and other groups. In our region, that includes: East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks, large swaths of San Jose, as well as areas of South San Francisco, San Mateo, Redwood City, and Santa Clara.

We concluded that our membership and work does not necessarily reflect the broad diversity of our two counties, nor the diversity of people biking, and that things needed to shift.

For our advocacy team, that work started with the SVBC Policy Advisory Committee and reviewing the internal processes that guide our advocacy work.

Each year, advocacy staff assembles a long list of potential campaigns in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties that we source from cities, community planning processes, our members, and others. We run these potential campaigns through a list of criteria to determine which campaigns are most relevant to our priorities and are strategically important in ways that strengthen the organization. Since staff capacity is limited, we (unfortunately!) can’t take on every important issue in the area. It’s a good process to keep us on track and accountable to our goals as well as focus on a few priority campaigns each year. However, it’s important to note that we don’t ONLY work on these priority campaigns. We also respond to urgent issues and work more generally on promoting good projects throughout the year.

After our discussions, the Policy Advisory Committee recommended adding a few key principles to the list of criteria that helps us determine priority campaigns and that will enhance our focus on diverse communities:

  • Is the proposed campaign in or adjacent to a Community of Concern? If not, does it address underserved communities in other ways?
  • Is this project on a road where there is a high rate of collisions, fatalities, or serious injuries?
  • Does this campaign create the opportunity to empower community leaders and stakeholders and/or support their work?
  • Does the project increase the functionality of biking for transportation? I.e. does it connect to shopping, schools, transit, workplaces, etc. versus more recreational purposes?

We are using these new criteria as we set our priority campaigns for the next 12 month period. We’ll share those campaigns with you in the next couple weeks. As 2017 gets rolling, we also welcome you to suggest campaign ideas for the 2017-18 year. A good way to do that is to use our Position Recommendation Form.

The Position Recommendation Form is a way for our members, community partners, agency staff, or members of the public to request a position or action from SVBC. The form was originally created a few years ago to help streamline the process for SVBC staff and make it easier to determine whether the issue was in line with our goals. For the update we wanted to make the form as accessible as possible and eliminate any barriers to filling it out. That means providing an online version, having version(s) in other languages besides English (coming soon!), and making the form and language simpler and clearer. You can view the new form here. If you have an issue in your community that you would like SVBC to act on, don’t hesitate to let us know by filling out the form.

Both the campaign criteria and Position Recommendation Form are living documents. We welcome your suggestions for additions or improvements; please let us know in the comments or by emailing advocacy@bikesiliconvalley.org. You can also get more involved by coming to an SVBC Local Team meeting or SVBC Policy Advisory Committee meeting to voice your opinions. Check out our calendar for more details on meeting times. As we continue to examine and revise our processes and work, we’ll continue to keep all of you in the loop.