Bicycle lobbyist gives outlook on state priorities, hot issues

Shiloh Ballard, SVBC director, interviews Dave Snyder, Calbike.

Shiloh Ballard, SVBC director, interviews Dave Snyder, Calbike.

After attending the bike summit, I came away realizing that “lobbyist” is not a dirty word. “Our” lobbyists are the cyclist’s best friend when it comes to influencing public policy drafted by elected representatives.

Dave Snyder, Executive Director of Calbike, is one of our best lobbyists. He gave his observations on advocacy wins and losses in the California state legislature at the Silicon Valley Bike Summit held on Aug. 11.

He said that Kate White, Deputy Secretary, Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination, state transportation agency (and avid cyclist) is helping “turn the ship of Caltrans.” “I have hope,” Dave continued. “It may not look like it from the outside, but the new strategic plan Caltrans adopted calls for tripling of bike mode share by 2020. Bicycle objectives we back are filtering down into the massive Caltrans bureaucracy.”

While there’s a lot to like about Gov. Jerry Brown’s fiscal conservative slant, Snyder said he wished it didn’t apply to bicycle facilities. “Quick and early investment in bicycle infrastructure saves us money in the long run, transit, health…”

Snyder touched on a theme of the day — equity and how to achieve it — by highlighting an effort in Los Angeles to redesign Figueroa Street in Cypress Park and Highland Park, a predominantly low-income, minority neighborhood. While the redesign also included pedestrian safety, residents focused on the loss of a lane and parking issues. Things quickly heated up, resulting in the district councilman deciding to delay the project.

Snyder credited Tamika Butler, Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition, for being a calming influence and working with the councilman to see the benefits from the cycling community’s perspective. Tensions ran high, with cyclists doing a die-in in front of the councilman’s condo.

On matters of state legislation and funding, Snyder said it hasn’t been a great year, but he said there’s a bright spot with low-carbon transportation funding that will expand to low-income neighborhoods.

Another win has been the protected bikeways act, Snyder said. Now every community can build a protected bikeway under state law.

He said California Sen. Jim Beall (pronounced Bell) has been a great help with a variety of bicycle issues, including side-by-side riding and clarifications to the state law that let cyclists take the entire lane.

Bike share facilities were discussed at the summit and on that topic Snyder said that bike share systems need to be supported the same as a public transit system. In other words, they’re most likely not going to make a profit and they shouldn’t be run with that in mind. “Bike share systems need to serve every neighborhood,” Snyder said.

On another funding matter, Snyder made it clear that the proposed half-cent sales tax measure for Santa Clara County will probably do more for cycling than any state financing could hope to achieve.

Snyder said he’s optimistic that the November elections could result in a legislature that is more partial to bicycle funding. Let’s hope so.

NOTE: Clarifications, corrections, comments, additions are welcome.

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