Instead, this is about more local politics, with a bicycle angel of course. Yesterday I had the opportunity, good or bad is hard to say, to attend the Community Assembly, which is the city-wide group of Neighborhood Council presidents. The Neighborhood Councils are neighborhood groups that bring their concerns and desires to the city through a fairly formal process. I've described that process in part, in a secondary manner, in some previous blogs. In essence, it's an advisory committee that reports to/through an advisory committee that reports to/through a third advisory committee before getting a hearing before the city council, the legislative body for the city. The Bicycle Advisory Board is similarly an advisory committee that technically advises the mayor but works closely with the city council and an appropriate city departments as well. But enough of that.
Yesterday's CA meeting took up the resolution I described in some previous entries, the two just prior to this one for certain. I was one of several BAB members in attendance, and one of three who spoke. The biggest concern the BAB had was the resolution was a back-door move, no matter what proponents might otherwise say, to undermine the BAB, to shift some of the BAB's advisory oversight to neighborhood groups. This happened because one neighborhood representative thought we were giving him short shrift. The fundamental flaw in his thinking is that just because a neighborhood thinks something is good for that neighborhood, a bicycle boulevard in this instance, doesn't mean it's a good choice for a pilot project. Because the BAB, and ultimately the city council, stymied his move, he drafted and submitted a resolution to shift bicycle boulevard oversight from the BAB to the neighborhoods, though it isn't made clear if it's to the CA or the individual NCs, just one of the flaws in the resolution. In his words, the BAB wasn't (he said, I think, "isn't") capable of overseeing routes that went through residential neighborhoods. Most of his critics, of which I consider myself, would argue he isn't capable of seeing beyond his neighborhood, though he would protest such a notion. He didn't come right out and say it was a sour grapes move, that he didn't get what he wanted so, rather than take his ball and go home, he was going to take the BAB's ball and go home, if he could get it legislated. Anyone, along with the BAB members speaking against the resolution, two members of city support staff, and a few NC members, either spoke against it or expressed concern with how the whole thing played out without their knowledge, without their knowing a discussion of this sort was going on, that they, as a neighborhood, were trying to score something the others had no idea was on the table. I don't think that worked in his favor.
I spoke against the manner in which he had described bicycle boulevards, which he saw, and likely still sees, as something analogous to a bicycle and pedestrian trail through a neighborhood. Some on the CA described them as something akin to bicycle bunny hills, a place for beginners, which is also wrongheaded, but based on what had been presented, an understandable misperception. I explained that bicycle boulevards are part of a broader network that take riders off busy streets and the safe riding for kids and less experienced cyclists was a secondary benefit, but not the primary function of such a boulevard, at least in cities such as Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, B.C., Berkeley and others who use them. It's almost like some were looking for a street turned playground for cyclists who are not traffic aware. I'm not sure anyone was disabused.
Another fundamental flaw in the resolution is the division of cyclists into three types, something of an unholy, but holy in that they are generally inseparable, trinity: commuters, recreational, and utilitarian cyclists. The neighborhoods would have oversight of the so-called utilitarian cycling needs. Now, I'm not sure why my commuting isn't utilitarian, because it certainly is and I'm not sure why my commuting isn't recreational, because it certainly is when I take the long way home. My sense is this was a way to make the shift more palatable to those who didn't understand the issue. He also sought to create a wedge in portraying BAB members as out of touch with the needs of the novice or less experienced cyclist. Perhaps this is akin to saying that the teacher can't relate to the ignorant student, but it's fallacious at least, possibly an attempt to confound the discussion. Either way, I think many didn't buy the phony division.
The one bit that left a somewhat sour taste in my mouth, that makes me view the whole thing as being disingenuous, is that the resolution was, at the CA meeting, presented as the beginning of a discussion. Of course, the resolution doesn't say it's a hoped for discussion starter. Instead, it says that oversight of so-called utilitarian cycling will shift from one advisory group to another. Nothing about a discussion. The cynic in me would say that it's purposeful, or that he's back tracking from his original intent. Who knows. I do know I'm not the only one involved who takes what he says with more than a grain of salt. I wrote a letter to the editor attacking this man's desire to fill a vacant city council seat and I sent him a copy. He drafts a resolution and unbeknownst to anyone who might hold a contrary view, gets it through two steps of the process before we are made aware of it, and by a third party. I may not be gracious, probably never will be, but at least I can attest to my being forthright in this instance. I do question his forthrightness when he describes the resolution one way and presents a resolution that is not at all what he characterizes it as. Again, he may be stepping back, trying to soft peddle, or he may be soft-selling the resolution, hoping people will listen to what he says rather than what the resolution contains. To make sure this doesn't happen, BAB members are going to attend as many NC meetings in the next month as possible. I'm also going to ask my NC representative to request a rescinding of the discussion being cut off. Right now the resolution has been tabled until next month with no discussion public discussion allowed. Hardly democratic but based on what I've witnessed, he's not up on his Robert's Rules, having tried to withdraw a motion after it was already on the floor and under discussion, a decided no-no. At that point, it's out of his hands.
There's a good chance this resolution will go down to defeat next month, solely on its merits, and it might happen even if BAB members sit back and watch, but we've decided we need to do otherwise. We can't get to all 30 or so of the NC meetings in the next month, but if we can enlighten a few, get them to see the whole story, they can share it with other members. In short, I think the supporters of the resolution will end up hanging themselves once the discussion is fully fleshed out in an informed manner, with input from all interested parties and not just one-sided, back channel discussions focusing on the views of those behind the resolution. As usual, more will be revealed. Happy New Year!