Photos, top: Chelsea Biklen, Program Coordinator for Safe Routes to School in Cupertino; bottom: Bill Kelly, San Mateo County Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) Chair

This post was written by our summer intern, Clay Volino

Every year, SVBC honors a professional or volunteer working on bike-related issues with our Person of the Year award. This year, the vote for Person of the Year came down to a razor sharp vote margin. Therefore, both Chelsea Biklen and Bill Kelly will receive this year’s award.

Chelsea Biklen works as the Program Coordinator for Safe Routes to School in Cupertino. For Biklen, it has “been a unique experience to build [her] own program,” which has reached one hundred percent participation in Cupertino over a span of just two to three years. Biklen finds motivation for her work, as she had expected to, in both “the sustainability aspect” of reducing emissions and improving air quality through active transportation. In addition, Biklen describes the additional satisfaction of building a community by “bringing lots of people together for a common goal.” One highlight of her work is working with students, from younger kids drawing golden shoes on their walkathon t-shirts to middle school students who developed presentations on environmentally-friendly transportation.

Longtime San Mateo County resident Bill Kelly chairs his county’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), a body formed just two years ago with the intuitive goal of “[advising] the County Board of Supervisors with regard to bicycle and pedestrian issues.” After getting organized, the Committee has provided input on a variety of projects while offering other members of the public a platform to do the same. The Committee has helped prioritize funding for active transportation projects and weighed in on larger potential projects, such as the Dumbarton Corridor. In particular, the committee has spent significant time working to improve busy intersections on Sand Hill Road.

When asked about what makes bicycle advocacy efforts effective, Kelly noted that “a lot of decision makers,” such as local governments and agencies, “need to touch decisions,” so an advocate must understand which person or body they need to influence. After determining who to influence, Biklen stressed the importance of understanding the motivations of others and “talking about why it is they care” instead of “preaching.” Kelly mentioned that SVBC aids collaboration and the sharing of information between these levels of government. In Kelly’s view, however, grassroots support from “people who are passionate” is most important to driving success in local advocacy. 

At age 65, Kelly feels he may not be the “characteristic” member of the bicycling community (though he’s far from the oldest cyclist out there), but he continues his passion for commuting by bike and advocating for better biking opportunities. While Biklen has just begun her career, she knows that “safe routes to school will always hold a big place in [her] heart” and she plans to “stay part of the program in one way or another.” SVBC congratulates both Bill and Chelsea for their determination to make Silicon Valley a better place to ride a bike.