Put up or shut up {my whiny rant}

The Santa Clara Valley Transporation Authority (VTA) kicked off the county bike plan update with a workshop last night asking the public for their vision for bicycling in Santa Clara County.

VTA BPAC Bike Plan 2015 public input workshop

Beyond BPAC members and VTA staffers, the only attendees were the usual gang of actively involved members of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and SVBC staff.

And then this morning I enjoyed reading tweets from people ripping into how ineffective the bike coalition is. Guess how many of you showed up at this meeting? Or at any meeting over the past year? Or community discussion on bike facilities anywhere in the South Bay? How many of you initiated action to improve bike access around here?

Yeah, I take it pretty personally when you sit back on your lazy backside and expect somebody else to do the heavy lifting. Shut up or put up.

Consider the example of East Side San Jose. This area of San Jose has been neglected for years by the city of San Jose DOT. Some East Siders began speaking up two years ago, and now we have healthy and active advocacy for bicycle transportation and real improvements are taking place.

If you want things to happen, then make it happen. SVBC, myself, Andrew Boone, and others tried for years to shake you out of your complacency about bike planning vs car parking in the Diridon Area Station Plan, so when you gripe this morning a full year after the plan’s approval about the lack of bike parking at Diridon and blame SVBC for inaction, I get a little frustrated.

Santa Clara BPAC and SVBC board members are putting tremendous time, effort and cash into re-opening the San Tomas Aquino Trail on Levi’s Stadium event days. The city of Santa Clara stymies these efforts at every turn, but these activists persist and are becoming a real thorn in the side at the City Manager’s office and Police Chief. Good for you if you signed the change.org petition, but if you really care about this issue you need to show up at the city council and stadium authority meetings and make some noise so it doesn’t seem like a two-man show. Please don’t give the BPAC any crap about this — they’re on your side but the city council refuses to take the input from this citizen advisory committee.

How many of you showed up at any of the Stevens Creek Trail Extension meetings, where trail opposition outnumbered trail supporters three-to-two? People have worked literally for decades to get decent bike access here, but they’re working against entrenched and motivated resistance.

How many of you showed up to tell the city councils in Menlo Park or Mountain View that you want bike lanes on El Camino Real?

Don’t even get me started on those of you who actively opposed secure bike parking at South Bay Caltrain stations in 2008 because it supposedly distracted from the larger issue of more bikes on board the trains.

I wish I had the leadership skills and imagination that many of you complain I don’t have, but I don’t. Those of you who think you have these qualities need to step it up.

Please spare me your excuses. I have a family and a job and church obligations, live in the next county over, and depend on my bike and public transportation to get around, yet I still manage to make it to a few of these meetings each year to give my input. In my county, the most active member of the citizen transit advisory committee is completely blind; she too has a family and a job in Santa Clara County. As far as civic involvement is concerned, she puts everyone else I know, including myself, to shame.

I welcome your ideas, and I can appreciate that members of the local bike coalition don’t brag about successes, or that perhaps my priorities aren’t the same as yours. My time is limited. I’ll be honest and let you know that San Mateo County, for example, is not on my radar at all.

I don’t welcome your attacks. It gets old. So please: Put up or shut up. If you want change in Belmont or Gilroy or San Mateo or Los Gatos or Los Altos, then make it happen.


  1. Thank you to you and the usual suspects for showing up and advocating. I see this with MTB trail access too. So easy to rant online about not getting what you want and apparently too much trouble to show up at a meeting where the decisions are made.

  2. Yep, I see same issues with trail access too. I only watch from the sidelines so I don’t take those complaints personally but I know what you mean.

  3. I myself am interested in actively participating to have the San Thomas Aquino Trail opened for event days. I read a few blog posts and comments here, but is there a central place where STAT updates or upcoming key events are posted?

    For example, when the STAT issues came up I naturally went to the SVBC site to look for additional info. It became a real turn-off when all I could read regarding STAT was SVBC was organizing free bike parking for Stadium events. Isn’t that a bit like sleeping with the enemy? WTF would I want to support a bike advocacy organization that supports the Stadium which was partly responsible for closing off the trail?

  4. Hi Richard, you hit the nail on the head with this one. Santa Clara BPAC folks were telling the city this would happen back in 2009 and the 49’ers pulled one over on us. It’s one of the reasons I joined our BPAC, as well as some situations with the police who I have to say have become far more involved under Chief Sellers. (Please be fair to him, as he’s inherited this situation and tried to work with bike advocates on it).

    I only recently joined the SVBC, and I do have a little beef with them, though I’m sure they have a political reason for not speaking out against the trail closure so much. Their blog was the only thing I found when I first moved back here in 2008, and then that disappeared. I was looking for something similar to Bikeportland – where comments are moderated yet allow people to engage each other and learn – and then eventually someone pointed out your blog.

    I thank you (again) for taking the time to write these posts and your thoughts. Yours is the only forum I know of to bring together like-minded cyclists with the same goals to improve riding and ridership here in the south bay, and I would NOT have known about that open house otherwise. I try to keep up but there is no other focal point, as Anonymous points out.

    Anonymous, I think there was a trail closure calendar on Santa Clara’s web site, but I can’t find it. I think the primary organizer trying to open the trail back up has been a bit busy to put up a web site. The Santa Clara BPAC meeting is next Wednesday at 4 PM in the building department conference room (Lincoln Street, off El Camino). The trail closure item is not listed on the agenda (not sure they posted it yet but as I member I got it yesterday) but as always there will be public there to comment on that, and I encourage your attendance. It’s the Santa Clara City Council, though, that really needs to hear that the public wants the trail they paid for back. I think one speaker said it best at a city council meeting last month: “How would the public react if you closed 880 on game days?”

  5. SVBC is “dead to me.” I asked them for help on a local issue and they didn’t even provide me with any government contacts. I had to do all the legwork myself. I couldn’t believe that government officials were more helpful than SVBC stonewallers. Later I found an ex-official of SVBC who referred me to the effective levers.

    As best as I can figure out SVBC leadership consists of political aspirants using it as a stepping stone to pad their resume. In my opinion that’s why they are afraid to step on toes. They couldn’t organize their way out of a paper bag as the “Stadium free bike parking” episodes reveal.

  6. SVBC is a small team with a huge territory and large number or projects. I think they do a great job given their limited resources and funding. They are just stretched too far to handle every single issue. They need much more support.

    That said, I think the organizational structure is completely wrong. Its like a company with 2000 part time employees in which the very upper management does all the actual work, while the employees mostly just handle parking, stuff envelopes, and go on fun company outings.

    What would you do if you had a company with 2000 part time employees, mostly professionals of various types? First I would SurveyMonkey them to see what skills they had. Then I would post job openings for people to sign up for special teams, maybe 3 to 5 people for most teams, and other openings for individual employees to become resident experts in some narrow specialized topic that they could reasonable handle with the time they have. For example, maybe you would have a special team just for bike parking, who would only focus on knowing and tracking everything to do with bike parking. Another special team might focus only on multi-use trails, and would know everything from the design guides, plans, to the key people involved, and would only need to go to meetings related to their topic. People want to own a project, have authority, and get recognition. Can you imagine if your employer asked you to go to every meeting on every subject at your company, each meeting requiring the reading of hundreds of pages of background information, but you wouldn’t be responsible for anything or an authority on anything, and would receive no recognition of any kind.

    Under this structure, the current staff would be equivalent to the VP level, focusing on the big picture, fostering contacts and going to high level meetings, and managing their special teams. Not doing grunt work. They would be guiding the special teams, approving their work, reviewing reports from them, and helping them collaborate with other teams. If a VP had a question, they would go to the resident expert on that specific topic first, not spend valuable time trying to come up to speed by themselves.

    I would also work to provide basic educational support for my employees by pushing to get Portland’s PSU Transportation Class copied over to a local university and customized for the South Bay / Peninsula. This class has graduated over a 1000 advocates and sells out every year.

  7. SVBC missed an incredible recruitment opportunity with the STAT event closures. I can fully appreciate that everyone may have different priorities, and that they as an organization may need to choose their battles carefully given their resources. For those issues that they aren’t willing to take on, at least post contact info for the go-to person (even if that’s outside or unaffiliated with their organization).

    That way people like myself can get quickly spooled up. Isn’t this fundamental for any advocacy organization?

    What’s the logic of posting “Stadium free bike parking?” on their web site? I get they are trying to help cyclists (in general) but that Stadium stunt made them look co-opted. SVBC needs to understand the image they project becomes other people’s reality.

    Bottom line, judging from external appearances, I was already of the mind the SVBC was a Mickey Mouse organization. You can call that prejudice if you like. But I was willing to give them a second chance when I asked them for help. Then they provided proof and confirmed my suspicion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.