There are many ways to advocate for better cycling in your community. You can talk to city council members, rally neighbors and friends, submit letters to newspapers, share issues on Facebook and or Nextdoor… there are many advocacy options. SVBC provides information on many ways to advocate. One impactful way is to join your city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). I personally have been serving on the Sunnyvale BPAC for over five years now and I have attended BPAC meetings for many other cities in my role as the Santa Clara County Advocate for SVBC so I have a good overview.
The best way to find out more about your BPAC is to go to a few of their meetings. When and where BPACs meet varies a lot. Each city sets them up their own way. Meetings are usually weeknights and usually once a month, or quarterly in smaller cities. You can usually find info about their meeting on your city’s calendar and SVBC provides links to every city’s BPAC that we know of.
What does a BPAC Do?
Most BPACs have a simple mission statement like “Advise the City Council on Bicycle and Pedestrian related topics.” Specifically what they do varies based on the responsibilities the city has assigned them. Most BPACs have an annual workplan with the subjects and issues they are expected to address during the year. Here is a simple list of some topics a BPAC may review and make recommendations about during a year.
- Vision Zero Policy
- Which projects to fund with transportation development act-article 3 (TDA-3) grants or other funding opportunities
- Collision reports from public safety
- Caltrain Grade Seperation plans
- Various specific land use plans, like the El Camino Real plan, the Moffett Park Plan, the East Whisman Plan
- Safe Route to School Plans
- Climate Action Plans
- Bike and Pedestrian Master Plans
One of the challenges of being on a BPAC is learning to deal with the pace of municipal government. For example, Bicycle Master Plans are only updated once a decade and take one to three years to create. Those will usually come to the BPAC a couple of times to get feedback from the commissioners as they develop. Being on BPAC requires that you have a long term focus. Plans take years in development, with numerous public outreach meetings and a few study sessions before a draft is published. The draft plan is sent out for comments for 30-60 days and voted on by appropriate commissions. Then the city will update the plan to create a final version. The final plan will go the commission for one more round of comments before going to the City Council for a final vote.
Another challenge of being a BPAC commissioner is that our role is only to advise city council on policy. We are not allowed to give any direction to city staff. Everything we do as a commission goes to city council for a final decision. Because commissioners know a lot and care, most of us spend time advocating for better policy and more infrastructure outside of our official roles.
How to Sign up?
Usually it is pretty easy on your city’s website to find about who are your current BPAC commissioners and what they are working on. Usually on the same page or the city’s homepage is a opportunity to submit your a resume and/or apply/sign up for an interview to be appointed. BPAC Commissioners are usually appointed by the council members and serve 2 to 4 years.
I recommend you contact your local BPAC commissioners for specific details about your city. SVBC maintains a list of local BPACs to make contacting your BPAC easier. For more general questions, please email John Cordes, firstname.lastname@example.org.