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San Mateo County's new Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meets quarterly at San Mateo City Hall. Photo: Andrew Boone
San Mateo County's new Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meets quarterly in San Mateo City Hall Conference Room A. Photo: Andrew Boone.

San Mateo County’s new Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee kicked off its first meeting on Thursday evening at San Mateo City Hall. Ellen Barton, San Mateo's Active Transportation Coordinator, proposed that they develop criteria for safer street striping ahead of the county’s annual resurfacing program. Other projects they discussed included establishing bike parking standards, evaluating progress of the county's 2011 bike/ped plan [PDF], developing Safe Routes to Schools programs, and supporting the county's annual bike and pedestrian count.

“It’s an American dream that you can bike or walk to school,” said 17-year Woodside resident Susan Doherty, who represents Safe Routes to Schools efforts on the committee. “And we'd like it to be a dream as opposed to a nightmare.”

“The county presents a tremendous challenge because it's both rural and urban," said Redwood City resident and long-time safety advocate Bob Page, one of only two members of the public in attendance. "I hope that the advisory committee will play a vital role in fostering communications and cooperation within and among the cities in developing safe regional bikeways."

Central San Mateo County's existing regional bikeways remain discontinuous and too challenging for most residents. The new BPAC is tasked with improving such routes. Image: C/CAG
Central San Mateo County's existing regional bikeways remain discontinuous and too challenging for most residents. The new advisory committee is tasked with improving such routes. Image: C/CAG

Chaired by Supervisor Don Horsley, the seven-member committee was established by the Board of Supervisors in September 2015. According to its mission statement, it will advise the "Board of Supervisors on funding, projects, programs and policies related to improving and increasing bicycling and walking transportation."

"The resolution charges the committee to advise the Board of Supervisors on project priorities and programs that will position the county competitively for funding," said Barton. "The goals of the advisory committee are based on the county’s Shared Vision Goals for 2025."

The committee’s formation was spurred by a 2013 Metropolitan Transportation Commission rule change requiring a group that advises on bike and ped issues for any city or county to remain eligible for state Transportation Development Act grant funds. The Board of Supervisors, at first reluctant to create a new committee, simply assigned the county's Parks and Recreation Commission with bicycle and pedestrian advisory duties in January 2015. The Board then created the separate Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee in September 2015, and appointed seven volunteer members to it in May 2016 [PDF].

Committee members William Kelly, Cristina Prather Persson, Dianna Butcher, and Natalie Gore will each serve a four-year term, while members Doherty, Gary Coleman, and Carrie Doyle will serve for two years. Gore and Doyle are alternate committee members who vote if any of the five other members are absent. Doherty, Kelly, and Persson are tasked with representing focus topics, such as Safe Routes to School, Older Adults, and Bicycling Transportation.

"Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) is thrilled that the San Mateo County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is now up and running," wrote SVBC Policy Manager Emma Schlaes via email. "We look forward to working with them to tackle the bike network and create new encouragement programs at the county level."

Meanwhile, there are three County-wide agencies that deal with street safety issues. The City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG), San Mateo County itself, and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. The C/CAG established its own bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee over two decades ago, but their recommendations are limited to project funding decisions. The mission of San Mateo County's new bike/ped committee is broader, addressing education and encouragement programs in addition to evaluating grant proposals, while also advising the County Board of Supervisors on potential improvements to pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure on county roads and in unincorporated areas.

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