Transportation • Becker scrapped former committee, but some say cycling needs bigger voice.
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What rolls around comes around.
Scarcely three months after Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker dissolved the decades-old Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee, the City Council has hinted it may institute a bicycle advisory board.
Such a move could be seen as a slap at Becker's streamlining of city government.
The mayor's action in April replaced the committee with a single bicycle advocate on the city's Transportation Advisory Board. That body makes recommendations to the transportation division, which oversees all aspects of transportation within the city.
But some council members see bicycling as a growing phenomenon and a key future transportation mode that needs more robust representation. Economic and environmental issues also are at the forefront of the discussion.
"From my perspective there has been a need for a more broadly conceived bicycle advisory board," Council Chairman Soren Simonsen said in an interview. "The [mayor's bicycle] advisory committee didn't have clear functions and didn't have the advisory role of other [city] boards."
In late April, Dave Iltis, the former chairman of the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee, and 15 others associated with it, sent a letter to the mayor and council proposing a bicycle advisory board that would foster cycling initiatives and guide implementation of the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.
"Bicycle planning is broad," Iltis wrote, "and reaches across the areas of transportation, recreation, health and fitness … air quality, economic development … and tourism."
Although Becker has been silent on the proposal, it popped up briefly at the council's July 17 meeting. Most council members determined to explore further the formation of a bike board. Such a discussion would likely not begin until September.
"When the mayor discontinued his MBAC, I think we lost some advocacy [for bicycling]," Simonsen said. "We could expand their role, and we would have oversight."
Other city advisory boards carry defined duties. Members are appointed by the mayor, approved by the council and serve defined terms, unlike the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee.
Some of the criticism of the now-defunct group was that it could be rowdy and some of its members argumentative. David Everitt, Becker's chief of staff, said it had become counterproductive.
"The current informal approach does not work well anymore," Everitt said in a letter to the committee. "And, unfortunately, the tenor of the [committee] meetings has hindered [its] ability to serve effectively in an advisory capacity to policymakers and staff."
Even so, Councilman Luke Garrott said, bicycling deserves more, not less, representation.
"An advocacy board is needed," he said.
The city should focus on making bicycling more convenient and safe, Garrott said. "The role of a [bicycle] advocacy board should be to make it the first choice of transportation for as many people as possible. It should be convenient, safe and affordable."
Becker spokesman Art Raymond said the administration is "looking forward to being part of the conversation with the council and looking for the appropriate place for bicycling representation in the large scheme of things."