Appreciated or Summarily Dismissed by the RTC? What Now?
About 8 years ago I received an email from then Reno City Councilmen Dave Aiazzi inviting me to sit on the newly reformed Regional Transportation Commission's, Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. He had found this blog and figured pulling together a group of people concerned about the safety and needs of cyclists and pedestrians could reap greater benefits for the community as a whole. It's no coincidence that the more walkable and bikable a community is, the better it is for everyone.
So these many years later I can proudly look back and say that we accomplished some good things and assess the issues facing the community. One, we are a bike friendly community. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Yes, we have a Bronze level rating from the League of American Bicyclists. But that's not really what I'm talking about. We have a lot going on that is positive here and I would point to the Reno Bike Project, the BPAC, and the Great Streets Coalition, as being important agents for change.
Where we have failed...or more specifically, the RTC has failed, is in pushing harder for changes that will create a healthier, safer, more vibrant community, and going beyond the one person, one car, mentality that has been so pervasive in American culture for decades. When 95% of the time an auto sits unused, yet will build our transportation system and storage of autos around the single occupancy vehicle, we know there needs to be a culture shift. That shift is happening in many other communities looking at the long-term benefits of getting people out of cars. Reno could be at the forefront of thinking differently about these issues but all too often the RTC has hidden behind "what the business owners say they want," rather than what would actually be better for the community.
This all came to a head last year when they revealed their initial plans for the Virginia Street corridor which elicited a collective, "meh," from most community members. Thus the Great Streets Coalition was born. Then, when pushed to do something more innovative, the RTC changed their power points and tune to say, "We Want A Great Street Too!" And by the end of the process they compromised themselves into a prettier street to be sure. But it will not be necessarily a Great street or a safer street. It certainly won't be that innovative.
Lo and behold towards the end of the process, we on the RTC's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee were informed that the committee would be dissolved, or the word they used was "merged" into the Citizens Multimodal Advisory Committee. The reasoning, too much staff time was being allocated to Advisory committees. Effectively what it really meant was the needs of cyclists and pedestrians, and the voices of the most passionate people in the community regarding the issues surrounding walkability and bikability were being diminished. Nobody in the cycling community believes that the RTC was doing anything other than trying to stifle some voices of the most outspoken critics of their process. Ironically, this was on the heels of some major outcries from the community and City Council over a string of pedestrian deaths in the community. It's hard not to be skeptical of the RTC when they say they want safety but then don't push for slower speeds and diminish the voices of the people most likely to advocate for safety concerns.
I knew I was terming out this summer after years of service. I was still a little surprised to receive this in the mail two days after the last meeting of the CMAC. I hadn't been able to attend because of the Senior Capstone presentations going on at my school that night.
So what next? For me I need to find another outlet for my Bicycle Advocacy. Still figuring out what that may look like. More writing, more riding...it would be nice to be involved at a political/policy level. It's not like I haven't been studying these issues and taking classes on urban analysis for years now. We shall see.
For over 12 Years I wrote the Reno Rambler Blog covering everything from Bicycle Advocacy, Reno Politics, Popular Culture, and my experiences as a long-time cyclist.