Throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission requires all cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants to create official bicycle and pedestrian advisory bodies that will focus on safety and infrastructure within their cities. Sebastopol’s population, like that of Sonoma and Cloverdale, falls below the threshold. I have been part of citizens’ group, Bike & Walk Sebastopol, for the past two years, but we’ve had no official status and only an informal relationship to the City Council. But the times are a changin’ with new Council member (and Bike Walk member) Patrick Slayter’s proposal to the Council to create an official body.  The Council consented to his proposal at the Feb. 2 meeting, immediately following acceptance of the preliminary bicycle route plan.

We’ve been eager to play a more active role in improving the City’s livability. The scope of the new committee may be more inclusive than the current group. Council member Sarah Gurney, who was active in encouraging Bike & Walk Sebastopol to form, suggests a number of points:

  • Expand to include all non-automobile transit within the City, i.e. needs of elderly, youth, citizens without a driver’s license, particularly as addressed by public transit, to be  reflected in a name such as “Alternative Transportation and Safety Advisory Committee”
  • Yearly awards to a citizen or business that promotes its purpose
  • Encourage car-lite events
  • Educate citizens on alternatives to car use
  • Provide bike valet service for events such as the Apple Blossom Festival
  • Promote the use of the local “jitney” (Sonoma County Transit Route 24) and explore a free-ride program for special events

When we discussed the new committee at our last meeting, we noted that we’re interested in continuing our current areas of concern, including:

  • Promoting bike infrastructure improvements and connections with county-wide bike routes and paths
  • Safe Routes to School
  • Working with the City to address citizen biking and pedestrian safety concerns
  • Working with Sebastopol TrailMakers and other local groups on projects that promote biking and walking
  • Bike to Work Day

The Council charged a subcommittee to create a charter for the new committee. Patrick and Sarah volunteered to serve on the subcommittee and will bring the charter before the full Council at the April 5th meeting.  In the meantime, Bike & Walk Sebastopol will continue to meet — and pass along suggestions to Patrick for the new committee.

A big thanks to Patrick and the rest of the Council!