When talking to people about local transportation issues, the subject of SacBAC comes up, and at least half the people say “SacBAC? What is that?” SacBAC is the Sacramento Bicycle Advisory Committee. It is a joint committee formed by the City of Sacramento and the County of Sacramento to advise the respective governments on bicycle issues. It was officially chartered in 1995, and has twelve members, six appointed by the city council and six appointed by the county board of supervisors. It is supported by two staff, the City of Sacramento Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator, Ed Cox, and the County of Sacramento Alternative Modes Coordinator, Dan Klinker. The committee meets once a month, on the second Tuesday, 6:00-8:00PM, in room 1217 of Sacramento City Hall at 915 I Street. The meetings are open to the public.
The agenda for the August 11 meeting is available.
The public presence of the committee is a paragraph on the Sacramento County – Transportation – Bikeways page. Limited information is available from the city on the City and County Bicycle Advisory Council page, and the Boards and Commissions page (search for bicycle). There is no archive of past agendas, nor are any related documents available. The founding documents are available on this blog for the city and county.
- At the time of charter, there was a joint city/county bicycle master plan, and a joint advisory committee made sense. However, the city is developing its own bike plan, and the county has its own plan, published in 2011 though still largely based on the 1993 document. Don’t be fooled by the 2010 date on the joint bike plan, this is just the 1993 plan with a new cover, necessary because grant funding could not be obtained if the plan was not updated. I don’t think it makes sense to have a joint committee any longer. There are almost never agenda items or discussion about consistency or connectivity between the city and county, rather each has its own agenda items. The committee also does not serve to include the other Sacramento county cities of Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Folsom, and Citrus Heights. I believe the joint committee should be dissolved and new committees be formed for the city and for the entire county. It would then be the responsibility of the county to coordinate with each city.
- The committee is not really advisory. Many of the agenda items are informational, the staff telling the committee what has happened or will happen. Sometimes there is feedback from the committee on issues. However, the agenda is not developed by the committee but by staff, so issues that are not deemed important by staff rarely come up. In order for the committee to be effective, it must take charge of its own agenda, including items of interest to both the committee and the staff, with the Chair setting the agenda and the time allocated to each item.
- Though the committee has a reasonable representation of the variety of bicyclists in the area, from regular to commuters to recreational cyclists to occasional bicyclists, it does not have any economic diversity. In the Sacramento region, as almost everywhere, what I’ll call economic bicyclists, those with insufficient income to own, maintain, or regularly use a motor vehicle, are not represented. This contributes to the pattern of most bicycle facilities being installed and maintained in higher income areas. Committee members are appointed based on self-nomination, but it would be possible to do outreach in order to encourage unrepresented individuals to serve.
- Only the agenda is shared with the public. The supporting documents, necessary to understanding and preparing for the agenda items, are not available to the public ahead of time, and only at the meetings if there are extra copies. Though the committee is in minimal compliance with the Brown Act which requires only a reasonable short description of the agenda item, there is no reason for these documents not to be shared with the public. Sometimes informational items are not available ahead of time, and could not be provided at the time of the agenda, however, they could alway be provided after the fact for reference and future consideration.
- The committee rarely discusses the big picture. Climate change and livability issues impel society to quickly transform our transportation system to move it from auto-centric to active transportation and transit, transformation and long term trends are not on the agenda. Though it is certainly the responsibility of the city council and board of supervisors to lead this transformation, the advisory committee could be a strong voice for rapid change. But is is not. One solutions would be to have a strategic planning session once per year focused on developing a short list of big ideas and challenges that can be addressed in the coming year.
- A public comment period, as required by the Brown Act, is always available, but it has been placed at the end of the agenda (as “Public Input”), which discourages active public participation. In most meetings, the rest of the agenda fills the time, leaving members anxious to end and get home, and so public comment gets shortchanged.