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New Opportunity to Help Shape State Bike and Ped Policy, Design: Deadline Soon

Caltrans is looking for applicants interested in serving on a new California Walk and Bike Technical Advisory Committee to guide Caltrans staff on decisions about walking and biking design and policy. The deadline for applications is May 31. When completed, the (very brief) application, here [PDF], should be emailed here.

Caltrans is hoping the new committee will have a balance of members from all over the state representing different community types and needs, including disadvantaged communities, as well as people who can offer guidance on the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities. It is especially interested in people with experience in planning, designing, and delivering active transportation programs or facilities, including public agency staff and professional advocates.

The new committee will be established this summer, and will meet four to six times a year. While members would be encouraged to attend meetings in person, it will also be possible to participate remotely. Caltrans aims to keep the committee small enough to be able to have productive discussions while being as inclusive as possible, expecting to engage between twelve and twenty members.

The new committee will replace the California Bicycle Advisory Committee (CBAC). That committee was formed in 1992, at a time when bicyclists felt ignored by Caltrans and sought a formal way to weigh in on its decisions affecting bike design and policies. The CBAC has a reputation for being contentious and hidebound, with a strict charter that included requirements for in-person meetings and formal restrictions on communicating with Caltrans.

“Last year Caltrans adopted the first Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller, Sustainability Program Manager at Caltrans who is spearheading the new committee. Ward-Waller came to her job with a strong advocacy background, having served as policy director at the California Bicycle Coalition (and winning a rare California Streetsie for Tireless Statewide Advocacy) before taking the job at Caltrans.

Since its inception, CBAC has largely represented the needs of experienced bike riders, but, said Ward-Waller, advocacy—and policy-making—is shifting. “The state plan is focused on users of all ages and abilities, not just the strong and fearless,” she said. “At Caltrans, we are focused on learning how we can do better at working with our partners and on taking meaningful feedback and incorporating it into our work,” she said.

Caltrans also hope to include not just advocates, but people at agencies who have been working on these issues at the local level. “We need to find ways to work more collaboratively with all of these folks,” said Ward-Waller. “Not only do we need to add pedestrian representatives, but we also want to be inclusive and diverse, and to make sure we're getting a constituency that gets at all ages and abilities.”

It's also matches a broader move in local jurisdictions away from old-school bike advisory groups and towards a more inclusive approach. Sacramento, for example, is replacing its bicycle advisory committee with a bicycle/pedestrian committee.

Tony Dang, Executive Director of California Walks, said the new committee will be a boon for pedestrian advocates. “We have been trying to get a pedestrian advisory committee for years,” he said. “This is a huge step the state is taking to mainstream walking in our transportation system.”

Also, he added, the timing is good, as Caltrans districts are beginning to create district pedestrian plans. “Some have already begun, and some haven't considered it yet, and may not know what's involved or needed,” he said. The new CWBTAC will be able to serve in an advisory role for districts embarking on that project.

Dave Snyder, Executive Director of CalBike and a member of the current CBAC, applauds the move. “Caltrans has disregarded its bicycle advisory committee for a while,” he said. “It didn’t effectively represent the diversity of perspectives on bicycling, and needed to be reset.”

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