Streetsblog Investigation Uncovers Secret Quasi-Governmental Cycling Organization

10_7_09_BAC_1.jpgA meeting of the B.A.C earlier this year. Photo: Ubrayj02/Flickr

Okay, so the Bicycle Advisory Committee isn’t really a secret. But it might as well be.

Stop any cyclist on the street and ask about the BAC. Chances are, you’ll be greeted with a blank stare – or insistence that he or she can still ride safely, despite a high blood alcohol content.

Yet for the last 35 years, the BAC has served to give L.A. cyclists a voice in the governmental process. The 19 members – four appointed by the mayor and 15 appointed city council members, one per district – provide a forum to address the issues facing local riders, with a direct line to the mayor’s office and the council, as well as the Department of Transportation.

Which is not to say they always listen, or actually do anything about it.

As the name implies, the committee serves an advisory role, with no legislative authority of their own. The power they have stems from the collective voice of the cyclists they represent; and lately, that voice has been little more than a whisper.

Take last night’s committee meeting.

Despite the fact that it offered the first opportunity to discuss the proposed new bike plan, only a dozen or so audience members bothered to show up. This in a city of nearly 4 million people, with an estimated 1,524,00 to 1,788,000 bike riders, depending on the methodology used.

Be honest. You weren’t there.

Unless you’re actually on the council, or your name is Bray-Ali, Box, Thompson, Roadblock, Smolarski or a handful of others, you were content to let other people fight your battles for you. Or you’re happy with the state of cycling in Los Angeles as it is right now – which is pretty hard to believe.

Or you had no idea there even is a BAC.

Granted, they could make it easier to get involved. It’s not easy to get to the meeting site in Downtown L.A. if you live in outlying areas, especially so close after rush hour. Yet there’s no mechanism in place to offer feedback or suggestions without being in attendance, unless you happen to have the email address of a council member.

The BAC’s website should provide an email address for every member, or at least a general form for providing comments that can be forwarded to the individual members. It could, and should, be updated more often to reflect to business before the committee, as well as other issues facing L.A. cyclists.

It should also offer a link to each individual council member, as well as members of the mayor’s staff and the DOT, so concerned cyclists can more easily reach out to the people who really do make the decisions that affect our safety and comfort on the city’s streets.

It also wouldn’t hurt if the local online media, including Streesblog – and yes, my own site, because I’m a guilty as anyone else – did more to promote the agenda and upcoming meetings.

The next one is scheduled for Dec. 1, so mark your calendars and get involved. Because the silence of cyclists are responsible for the bikeways, streets and policies we have now.