'Czar' proposed for bike-ped issues

City Manager Dan Rich said Tuesday that interest among council members and residents in bicycle and pedestrian issues has been so overwhelming that he wants to hire an expert to deal with it, a new position he called "a bike-ped czar."

"Nobody on staff is an expert or solely dedicated to bike-ped issues," Rich said in a brief discussion Tuesday. Rich said that part of the job would be "answering questions we get every day that our traffic engineering staff are overwhelmed by."

Council members voted in early 2013 to make bike and pedestrian mobility a top priority, but some members still aren't as supportive of the efforts as others.

"Could you just send more people to conferences to bring them up to speed?" Councilman John McAlister said. Rich replied, "Staff does not have the capacity to unless you want to give up something else."

It was also suggested that the city just hire a consultant.

"I think in this case, a consultant doesn't really get at what we're getting at," Rich said. "What we're looking for is an ongoing contribution."

There was concern about paying for the staff member, given a projected general fund deficit in 2015-16. Member Margaret Abe-Koga suggested that Google could pay for it, given the company's interest in paying for bike- and pedestrian-related projects.

"It's not necessarily common, but it's not unheard of" to have such a person on staff, Rich said. With only a few council members expressing serious concerns, Rich got the green light to come up with a proposal for a council vote.

The discussion came during a study session on expanding the role of the city's bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee, which council members now want to report directly to the council, with expanded responsibilities in reviewing major development proposals for so-called bike-ability and walk-ability.


Posted by Scott Lamb, a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Scott Lamb is a registered user.

When I hear the word "czar", I mentally substitute "scapegoat". It usually is more accurate. From the article, this does not seem to be an exception:

* No one else will be educated (not even a conference), and the council isn't willing to "give up something else." So it sounds like this will not be a real priority for the existing staff.
* I don't see any mention of what actual power the "czar" will have. It sounds like a PR person who insulates the traffic engineers from those annoying questions from bicyclists and pedestrians, allowing them to do the real work of moving cars around.

I hope I'm wrong. I'd love to see bike- and pedestrian-related projects be prioritized.

Posted by pedestrian, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2014 at 8:57 pm

With all the pedestrian fatalities Mountain View has had in the last couple of years, a dedicated street safety expert is extremely important. I agree that this needs to be a long term position, not just a quick consulting gig, since issues are continually occurring. Old school traffic engineers are focused entirely on traffic speed and not pedestrian safety.

Posted by Important Concerns, a resident of Bailey Park
on Feb 3, 2014 at 9:43 pm

The crucial question: is it "czar" or "tsar"?

Posted by PA Resident, a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2014 at 9:44 pm

I strongly suggest that this should be done in collaboration with Palo Alto. A Czar could easily be funded by both Cities to reduce costs and any recommendations would automatically benefit both bikes and pedestrians who would often be crossing into each city on a regular basis.

Most times sharing various administrators would improve the benefits and reduce the cost and this is a prime example of that.

Posted by pedestrian, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 4, 2014 at 8:17 am

I think Palo Alto's full time transportation director (Jaime Rodriguez) is doing a very good job with pedestrian and bicycle safety. There still are problem areas in that city (mostly due to poorly enforced speeding on Embarcadero Road and Middlefield Road), but he is creating safer bicycle and pedestrian routes around town. Mountain View can do well to hire someone like him.

Posted by Ralph, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Perhaps the first thing to be done is to find out why the bike lanes on Calderone were taken out making this a much more dangerous route for cyclists.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 4, 2014 at 12:19 pm

USA is a registered user.

"Margaret Abe-Koga suggested that Google could pay for it"

Google: Mountain View's ATM

Posted by Stop, a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 4, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Building crap apartments in Mountain View. Way too many people stuffed in a small area. Who would want to ride their bikes here?

Posted by We need a biike czar, a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 4, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Like a face needs a zit. Unbelievable, only in mt. view, do we need someone for something like this.

Totally agree with STOP, we have so many new people in this city that drive, it would be best if bikers biked in only designated areas.

Posted by Janet L, a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 4, 2014 at 3:06 pm

"we have so many new people in this city that drive, it would be best if bikers biked in only designated areas"

The fact that we have so many new people moving in is exactly why we need more people riding bikes for their commutes and errand trips. There simply isn't space for all the cars, not on the roads, not in the parking lots.

Bikes take up a fraction of the space and are just as efficient for the shorter distances that so many of our trips are. But without direct, convenient, comfortable and safe routes, it's hard to get people to choose to ride a bike instead of hopping in their cars.

That's why we need to put in the effort to make our city more bike-friendly.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 4, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Educating the staff is important. Consultants come and go and are costly.

Posted by PEG, a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 4, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Maybe this person can keep the bicycles off the sidewalks so that pedestrians won't have to step aside for them to pass or to keep from being hit. We need to make it safer for both bikes and pedestrians.

Posted by Steve, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2014 at 3:57 pm

If we can afford $7,000,000.00 for some lame-brained bike share program, we can surely afford to hire some out of work Russian royalty.

Posted by GDM, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 4, 2014 at 4:05 pm

This could be translated to be a Bike-Ped advocate. This would mean a person to make it harder for cars to get around town. Cut ECR to 2 lanes, cut other major streets to 1 lane. Why not tell everyone to check their car at the city limits.

Posted by GDM, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 4, 2014 at 4:05 pm

This could be translated to be a Bike-Ped advocate. This would mean a person to make it harder for cars to get around town. Cut ECR to 2 lanes, cut other major streets to 1 lane. Why not tell everyone to check their car at the city limits.

Posted by Greg, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 4, 2014 at 4:55 pm

About ten years ago, council approved a network of bike boulevards. The idea was quietly killed by staff, because they didn't really want to do it. Instead they built one "pilot project", and stopped working on it.

If council or the city manager want to work on bike ped issues, they could begin by doing what the city agreed to do a decade ago.

Posted by Martin Omander, a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 4, 2014 at 5:01 pm

The city needs to take a more comprehensive look at bike/pedestrian issues, rather than on a per-project basis. That means it needs to be someone's job and responsibility. I think the city council is making the right move here.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2014 at 6:34 pm

I think it is a good idea, the person in charge will be able to design and implement bike/red improvements or even study better ways to improve street flow with cars.

For years traffic, road improvement, street design, city planning, buildings have been centered on cars. Just seems we could think beyond the old school traffic design and management.

Posted by Bike/Train Commuter, a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 4, 2014 at 7:04 pm

This position could really benefit all sides if fully integrated into the planning process.

* Cars need high-speed streets free of obstacles to maximize their efficiency and everyone's safety.
* Cyclists need low-traffic streets with limited cross-traffic for the same reason.
* Pedestrians need good roads for cyclists to encourage them to stay off the sidewalks.

Ideally each group would have their own advocate with a committee to make decisions from the recommendations. Cities could share advocates with their own committees to apply the knowledge to their specific locale.

But for now, but his seems like a good start.

Posted by City Staff???, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 4, 2014 at 8:22 pm

The city staff of Mountain View have shown zero interest in being innovative, unless of course there is money attached. They have guaranteed pensions, and never want to do anything approaching excellence. And why should they since they are the very best when it comes to riding the gravy train. Keep putting union financed people like Marget Abe Kobe in office, and you can expect more of the same.

Posted by Rossta, a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 4, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Rossta is a registered user.

This will be a great step forward for Mountain View! Having a person ON STAFF who can be singularly focused on the challenge of improving bicycle and pedestrian mobility and safety in the city is the only way it can get done, given the apparent constraint of "not impacting car traffic". Of course, the cars WILL be impacted, in a positive way, by more people walking and biking and not in their car.

I look forward to seeing greater consistency in how things are done across the many projects taking place. I also hope for greater connectivity or continuity between improvements, rather than spot solutions implemented piecemeal. Mountain View has already made a great many improvements over the past few years - it IS noticeable! But, most are "low hanging fruit" and there isn't much, if any left. To start making the tougher improvements, where there might be some sacrifice required, is going to take a real advocate with a vision to sell it.

Posted by Donald, a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2014 at 10:41 am

The goal eventually is to comply with the California Complete Streets Law and incorporate bike and ped accommodation into every project. Ideally, everyone involved in planning and transportation would know what it takes to accomplish that, at which point the need for a special person is gone. We are a long ways from that now, and an expert is needed in the short run. A real staff person is likely to have more influence and lasting effect than a consultant. Regardless, you need to give authority along with the position or it is all a waste.

Posted by Salary Forever, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 5, 2014 at 10:49 am

Today people want the position. When the next City salary list comes out...perhaps during an economic downturn...showing a bike/ped person making $100K +benefits +pension, people won't be so happy. Is there really enough "actionable" work that can move at a pace that warrants a fulltime position?

Posted by Rossta, a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 5, 2014 at 11:28 am

Rossta is a registered user.

I agree that there needs to be enough "actionable" work to justify such a position. My hope is that part of hiring the person is the tacit commitment to doing that work. When you think about our government spending, we have had 110 years of prioritizing the automobile. It shows! The railways system has nearly vanished, along with most every other option. No wonder so many feel threatened by talk of developing other ways of getting around - the car has been promoted for long as the only way.

Now is the time to start giving a fair share to other options. There isn't room for more lanes and more cars (or even the number of cars we have now). We need to make alternatives viable. All I am saying, is give bikes a chance.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 6, 2014 at 5:57 pm

It really is time for MVPD to crack down hard on cyclists in this town.

As a group cyclists complain the loudest about road safety, yet consistently violate traffic regulations and behave as if the rules don't apply to them (cue comments from cyclists claiming how saintly they are). Then they have the temerity to act all indignant when they are called out for their lousy behavior.

Just take a walk through town and watch how many cyclists fail to stop at stop signs, ride on the sidewalks, and generally act like hippies (which in and of itself should be a capital offense). Heck just this afternoon I blew through a stop sign on my bike while flipping off some obnoxious driver who didn't see me coming through...

Posted by Greg Nelson, a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 8, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Agree that many drivers don't 'see' bicycle riders.
That said, many bicycle riders ignore 'rules of the road' - riding two abreast, one outside bike lane, ignoring red lights, etc. - they seem to think they 'own' the streets.
Hard to comprehend that a 'Czar' - at $150K or more per year would resolve this issue easily.

BTW, Czar is not a good word - just look at Putin's Winter Olympics right now.

Posted by Elaine, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 9, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Great idea, someone to specialize in bike and pedestrian access issues. Time for Mountain View to show our commitment to safe transport for everyone. I'll support their efforts!

Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2014 at 8:19 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Car ownership took off after WW2, whole neighborhoods were built centered on the car. While others neighborhood saw parts cleared to make room for freeway lanes.

One thread on here they mention 1 single family home torn down for 7 condo units.

What about the hundreds of homes razed, businesses too, inter turbans ripped out changing entire cities forever.

Posted by To many public employees make to much, a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 10, 2014 at 11:57 am

The city already has more then 400 employees making over 100k, do we need more? 150 of them make over 200k.

Web Link

Kids, if you want to be part of the 1 percenters, go work for the city. Any city.

Posted by Prescott M, a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2014 at 6:53 am

Hey everyone, I was the bike/ped data analyst for the organization that helped bring Minneapolis to the national stage in terms of nonmotorized transportation infrastructure. I've been studying these issues for 10+ years, I have experience with local gov't, federal gov't, non-profit, and private sector work. As part of my studies in bike/ped issues, I've picked-up masters degrees in both urban planning and landscape architecture to understand bike/ped at all scales (site design to regional planning), and from many angles.

I'd be happy to be your bike/ped "czar" or "tsar", or Nonmotorized Transportation Director.

You can get in touch via Bike Walk Twin Cities.

Posted by Prescott M, a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2014 at 7:04 am

@ Greg Nelson -
Bicyclists do, in fact, "own" the streets. We all do. And the rules of the road were created and calibrated for motor vehicle traffic. So, in terms of modern road design, biking is very-much a retro-fit. That is, we optimized engineering of roadways for motor vehicle traffic, then said, "yeah, bikes should be on there too". Imagine if we did the subjugated/inconvenienced would you feel as a motorist?

Another point: beyond taking a lane when we need to for safety, bicyclists have an intrinsic right to be on the road, whereas motorists are there by privilege. This is evident in our license laws. A bicyclists nor pedestrian needs a license to use a public street. A motorists has a license which carries with it a lot of responsibility - car maintenance, and safe operation among them. With this privilege, you are assuming responsibility for those around you as well. Finally, that privilege can be taken away for carelessness and/or negligence. Heck, your actions under that privilege can even land you in jail! By contrast, are there any cases of a cyclists getting his/her bike taken away for unsafe operation? No, because there is a much lower threat to those around you when riding a bike or walking.

Be safe. Look for bikers and walkers, and remember that citizens driving motor vehicles are not the only ones who "own" the streets. We all do.

Posted by Ha, OK then, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 14, 2014 at 11:27 am

Oh Greg Nelson, isn't it easy to rattle off a bunch of anecdotal instances and then apply it to all cyclists.
Do you dare make that same comparison for drivers?
For instance you could say: Drivers kill people by driving aggressively, kill people after running red lights, kill people during high speed chases, run into people's houses, drive through coffee shops and convenience stores...I could go on and on but it would be silly. Not much logical thought in applying behaviors so broadly.

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

David's Tea: now open in downtown Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 6 comments | 2,799 views

On Tour at Selective Schools: Chapman, La Verne, Redlands, Whittier
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,580 views

The dress code
By Jessica T | 14 comments | 1,382 views

. . . People will never forget how you made them feel.
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 774 views

Camp Glamp
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 378 views