Cyclists Have Voice
Today we welcome back guest blogger Patrick “Paddy” McCallister, a lifestyle cyclist living in Volusia County.
Cyclists have a voice if they use it — correctly.
Last week I started my position on the Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, B/PAC, for the River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization, which covers Volusia and Flagler counties. This is my third time on a B/PAC.
So, what in the world is a B/PAC, or a transportation planning organization, TPO, for that matter?
Metropolitan and transportation planning organizations are a creation of Congress in the early 1960s. MPOs and TPOs help channel federal and state funding for transportation projects. Their Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committees give their decision-making boards direction for spending transportation funds on cycling and pedestrian infrastructure and projects.
Here’s the thing — many B/PAC members aren’t regular bicycle riders.
For example, St. Lucie County fills one of the B/PAC voting seats with someone representing the Port St. Lucie Parks & Recreation Department. That member must work for the city’s parks and rec department, which might not have a cyclist on the staff. There are other positions on the committee like that.
The cyclists on the B/PACs can’t possibly ride on every road in an area. There’s no way I’ll ever ride every part of Volusia and Flagler counties. The cycling community, however, knows where infrastructure, updates and repairs are needed. Cyclists collectively know the dangerous roads. They know where bike lanes are critical. B/PAC meetings are the place for cyclists to start educating transportation planners. The meetings have times for public comments.
But, there’re more chances for cyclists to educate policy makers and transportation planners.
I’ve been a reporter since the 1990s. In that time I’ve seen several citizens get city and county commissions and councils changing things by speaking at public comment times. Every city and county meeting has a time for public comments. They’re usually at the start of meetings.
Because I’ve been a reporter covering government meetings I’ve only spoken at one. It was a government I didn’t cover. However, I’ve used my relationships with elected officials and transportation planners to advocate for cycling infrastructure with some success. People who frequently comment about single subjects at public meetings frequently become famous advocates for their causes and come to have officials and the press turn to them for advice and comments. A Sheriff who called me, “Mr. Bicycling,” phoned me for tips on improving safety for cyclists.
Cyclists have a voice if they use it correctly. Letters to your congressperson probably won’t help much, unless he or she is a member of congressional committees that deal with transportation funding. Letters to state representatives and senators are better, since their districts are smaller than congressional ones. Those legislators are likely to have driven on most of the local roads and understand complaints and suggestions. Letters to governors won’t have much affect usually, unless there’s a dramatic situation involving cyclists going on.
Talking directly to the local infrastructure decision makers and planners is the cyclist’s best place to use his or her voice. Use yours remembering that change usually takes years.
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