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Tonight Caltrans attended the NB Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee meeting.

They weren’t on the agenda; I didn’t know they were coming.

On the one hand, it’s another indication of the state of bicycle advocacy, at least here in Southern California where everybody from the Board of Supervisors to OCTA, even the AQMD, is backing regional initiatives to increase connectivity and improve safety.

But that’s not what brought the three Caltrans officials out tonight. They were present because they received 420 letters from the cycling public after the latest fatality on Coast Hwy.

They came to assure us of their best efforts, how they had been working over the weekend to review the challenges cyclists face, and to respond to every individual letter-writer, too.

They described how they have already begun a dialog with City staff, presumably in Public Works, regarding possible solutions to the roadway challenges, but then they cautioned that there are constraints, that they’re not dealing with new roadways with ample room for every roadway user. They’re dealing with narrow lanes and parked cars…

That’s when I lost it.

One thing I’ve learned about bicycle advocacy is that it’s not really about engineering — it’s 9 tenths human nature. “Resistance to change” is what keeps cyclists in dangerous conditions.

I couldn’t imagine a satisfactory outcome and so I had to raise my hand and say,

I want a seat at the table!

But whether it’s me or someone else, there’s a role for advocates in the decision making process and it’s obvious that’s lacking in the Caltrans problem solving strategy.

We need some out-of-the-box thinkers on this team. Placemaker guru Fred Kent calls them the “Zealous Nuts”, not disparagingly though – he points out that when you identify these characters in your community you’re a giant step closer to solving the problem.

So until some non-institutionalized bike advocates are involved in the Caltrans Coast Hwy discussions then I’m guessing that what we heard tonight is what we’ll be hearing at the end of the process, “We’re dealing with a lot of constraints, like parked cars,” and cyclists will be no better off than before they wrote over 400 letters.




Frank Peters

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