Wednesday, June 24, 2009

bike plan meeting

Last week’s Albany Bike Master Plan public meeting was a bit of a let-down. It was not well-publicized (indeed, the only reason I knew about it was from an e-mail sent out a month in advance by the organizers to those who’d signed in at the last meeting) and had a much lower turnout than the one in February. That wasn’t too disappointing, though, since they weren’t presenting any new information. The facilitator tried to avoid taking questions publicly, asking us to instead talk to the staff individually. This didn’t stop some irritated people from the audience from voicing their legitimate frustration with the fact that several major roads in Albany were in the process of being reworked without any provisions for bicyclists.

There were two workstations where they asked for input- one on prioritizing different goals, and one to comment on the maps of desired bike routes drawn up from feedback obtained at the winter meeting. There wasn’t a whole lot to say about the latter other than “sure, great, but is any of this actually going to be done?”

I left not really knowing what the point of the whole thing was. It certainly wasn’t to tell us anything, so presumably it was to give the agency our input. But given that the only attendees were a small self-selected group of politically-minded folks who have very strong feelings about cycling, this meeting was not a good place to gather information if they’re actually interested in hearing from a reasonable cross-section of Albany bicyclists. After we were dismissed to the workstations I asked the woman running the study how they were reaching out to other demographics. (Most visibly absent was significant representation of non-whites, when more than half the people I see biking in Albany are black. A lot of people bike because they can’t afford cars, and they weren’t at this meeting) She said something vague about having a meeting in the South End but was quite defensive, even though I broached the subject politely.

I fear that the city is just going through the motions. Someone out there wants to pretend they’re listening to concerns of bicyclists, so they’re making a “plan” and holding public meetings, but they are not making any effort to reach out to most current bicyclists (much less potential ones) and are unlikely to actually implement any of the things we ask for. Well, maybe they’ll put up a few bike racks; that’s cheap and easy and doesn’t piss off drivers. But nothing that will substantively improve the safety and ease of bicycling in the city.

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