- Published on Tuesday, 18 January 2011 16:00
- Written by Jana Seshadri - Town Crier Staff Writer
During a special joint meeting of the Los Altos City Council, the traffic commission and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) Jan. 11, bicycle advocates questioned why the future of BPAC appears in doubt.
BPAC members, who report directly to the traffic commission, have heard rumors that their committee could be disbanded.
Early last year, councilmembers directed the Los Altos Personnel Committee to realign the terms and membership of certain committees, according to Councilwoman Val Carpenter.
BPAC came under scrutiny after a seat on the board remained vacant for months and because the city is scheduled to hire a transportation manager this spring to oversee issues related to city traffic, including motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. Councilmembers are weighing whether the transportation manager’s work would overlap with BPAC’s charter.
“I’d like to hear a clear definition of what the problem is,” said Suzanne Ambiel, BPAC vice chairwoman.
BPAC members are involved with several citywide bicycle and pedestrian-related initiatives, and “our work output has not diminished,” Ambiel said.
Preston Tollinger, traffic commission chairman, agreed. In addition to updating the city’s pedestrian and bicycle master plans, BPAC members work on other matters, including safe and convenient ways for children to travel to and from schools, he said.
“We haven’t heard the problem yet,” said Michael Gallagher, traffic commissioner, of the possibility of BPAC’s demise.
Councilwoman Megan Satterlee clarified that BPAC is not the problem, but membership and voting rights do raise concerns.
“I do see an overlap between the traffic commission and BPAC,” Satterlee said. “I’d like to minimize overlap and maximize efficiency. Ultimately, information should be flowing, and we want to have the best pedestrian, bicycle and automobile safety.”
Gallagher said members of the traffic commission and BPAC should talk among themselves about a plan and find a solution.
At the Dec. 14 council meeting, several residents urged councilmembers to continue allowing BPAC to offer its expertise directly to the traffic commission. They pointed out that large groups of bicyclists use Los Altos roadways, and not having a citizens’ committee to deal with their problems wouldn’t make sense.
Councilman David Casas suggested another meeting with BPAC to hear directly from the members who have complained about their roles.
“I’ve been with BPAC for more than five years, and it’s sad that we’re not able to accomplish anything,” member Randy Rhody said.
Councilmembers agreed to wait until after city officials hire a transportation manager to make a decision on BPAC’s future. Options include consolidating the committee’s responsibilities into the traffic commission, disbanding BPAC, maintaining the status quo or elevating BPAC to a commission.