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I enjoyed finding this in the description of Denver's Bicycle Advisory Committee:
3 Year Terms
City Council Approval: No
. . .
Function: Oversee the implementation of the Denver Bicycle Master Plan, working with the City to develop engineering standards for street, roadway and trail designs to accommodate bicycles, review roadway and trail projects.
. . .
Enabling Authority: None
lol! The committee or me?! Probably both!
I personally know a few of the people on the Denver Bike Advisory Committee, and I’m very aware of the time and energy they’ve spent working to improve cycling in Denver. They work against entrenched motoring interests in Denver and Colorado and their work is frequently frustrating to them personally.
Here’s out it works: The Bike Advisory Committee research the issues coming up a the next city council meeting. During the Council meetings on, for example, proposed spending on Safe Routes or a new road design or zoning variances, Tracy, David, Bill or the other members of the Bike Advisory Committee make their recommendations. Public comment is received and the local neighborhood committees and business owners and chambers of commerce all testify how horrible life will be for them if bike lanes are added on Speer or Colfax or wherever. Council then votes against bike committee recommendations and it’s business as usual.
Instead of your worthless sniping, what they really need is for people like you to SHOW UP at the public hearings where Council can hear testimony from the cycling public. If you don’t like what you see, then SHOW UP and make change happen. I know nothing about you, though I think I can make some guesses based on your completely uninformed guesses on the activities of Bicycle Colorado, Bike Denver and other advocacy efforts in Colorado, but I know Tracy H and Dave K have been doing effective bike advocacy for over a decade, way back before it was trendy.
It’s true. Public policy is set by those who show up at meetings whether they’re paid or not. It’s not much fun and it’s certainly not as easy as bitching, but the nuts and bolts of advocacy are in those dry committee meetings.
I have little doubt that there are many well-intentioned people on the Bicycle Advisory Committee. I still know a few myself - some are real workers, some are naive, and some never show up. For the most part, I am grateful when anyone gets involved in public policy issues, particularly as a volunteer. So, I appreciate the fact that members of the BAC participate. Their time, energy, and sincerity is not the issue. I just think they are working in a structure that doesn’t allow them to be very effective. That was the point of the original post.
The problem with the BAC, and with many standing committees without any real power, is that the BAC allows those in the city who really don’t want to do anything to say that they are doing something. I have been through two Denver master planning processes, and I have sat through BAC meetings. At times I have worked hard on issues before the Committee and on parts of the plans. The positive, real world result is virtually nil.
Years ago an experienced community activist, in response to my enthusiastic attempt to get him to attend a meeting about one of our issues said, “Listen, that’s what they want. They will meet you to death.” He went on to explain that what comes out of committees at the local level is rarely very important. I think he called it “embroidery.”
He didn’t really offer his advice as a something that was always correct, just usually correct. Despite his advice I have found myself in many committee meetings. And, my experience over the last couple decades is that he was generally right: Committees, particularly powerless ones, led by a member of the bureaucracy are an enormous time sink and are rarely the last word. It is generally more efficient to work on what comes out of a committee and get it changed before whatever it is is finalized.
Getting government to do something important usually requires either someone inside who has the power and wants to do it, or someone outside with a stick. In Denver, bike documents get produced, but bikes are still treated by the city as if they belong on the sidewalk (although that’s against the law.) Public Works still builds bad bike projects and car projects that create unsafe conditions for cyclists. (Among the most notable new bike infrastructure projects are those that force cyclists on to sidewalks and run them through crosswalks in places where there are parallel, adjoining streets. These create unsafe entry and exit points and, because of Denver ordinances, may make it illegal to use the street.)
People inside the city government respect the fact that BAC members volunteer but chuckle when asked about BAC’s effectiveness. It’s too big. Its agenda is set by the city. It is run by someone with little clout in the bureaucracy. And it has no formal power. (It’s not as if I am the only one who has noticed. The Mayor’s office has commented that other city committees are stronger and more empowered than the BAC but hasn’t, to my knowledge, done anything to change it.)
I don’t think real change for Denver’s cyclists will come until someone in power decides that it’s time to change things or until cyclists find a stick to compel the City to stop creating unsafe conditions. A city bike advocate with some real power - formal veto power in a few areas or genuine support in the Mayor’s office - would be a good start.
BTW, I don’t think that the BAC spends its time quite the way you describe - that’s not what I have seen - but I don’t think that detracts from your point. And, I don’t pretend to be up on everything City Council is doing, and I am quite open to being enlightened, but I’m having trouble recalling the last bike thing voted on by Council.
Am I tracking this right? It goes like this?
—-I know people who are on the committee who are good people. Therefore the committee is effective.
—-The committee makes recommendations, they are turned down and it’s biz as usual. Therefore the committee is effective.
—-I know nothing about you. Therefore you should go to meetings. You are also stupid and uninformed, and what you have said is worthless.
It’s like LGF.
No. It’s not as bad as LGF. That was wrong for me to say.
Bob, I think Fritz was just having a bad day.
Yeah, I was having a bad day.
I guess the point is that some of the people on the BAC are indeed trying, but are frustrated by their ineffectiveness for the reasons that BoyOnBike cites. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Thanks for the link in your sidebar, BTW.
Oh, and Bicycle Colorado is doing some great things right now with Safe Routes to School – Dan Grunig and his staff are being very effective in their work.
I had been meaning to link to your blog for some time. It’s great.