We’ve mentioned some problems that can occur when dealing with an unresponsive city council. However, we wanted to highlight that it is possible to have a positive experience collaborating with your local representatives. Dubbed the Walnut Experience, Randy Kiefer of OC Wheelmen and Bill Sellin of OCBC organized a casual Saturday ride with city Councilmember Melissa Fox, to highlight areas of the Walnut Trail that affect bicyclists that live and ride through Irvine.
All of these accommodations are in constant threat, if there’s no one making the plea for better bike lane or objecting to developments taking over bike lanes, then non-bicyclists can assume they can do whatever they want with the land. We commended Melissa Fox for taking an active participation in getting to know the Irvine bicycle community.
If there are any bike concerns in your city and you want immediate action, here’s a guide of the things we learned from our experience riding with Melissa Fox.
Get to know your representative.
Prior to this ride, local bicyclist Randy Kiefer set up a public meeting to discuss with the council some concerns regarding a bike trail in the city. It was a short meeting with a lot great conversation, which left the door open for more interaction. The new councilwomen Melissa Fox was very receptive to hearing out voices from the bicycle community and mentioned that she uses a Pedego as her main mode of transportation. Identifying this common interest opened up the possibility of future meetings that are more experiential than a meeting room at city hall.
After making an acquaintance wth Melissa we scheduled a bike ride through a group email; it’s a lot easier to schedule when the councilmember can put a face to a name. Schedule a meeting far enough in advance to prepare, but not too far away that the group loses momentum. Two weeks from when you talk next is a good place to ask for.
Make sure they have a bike
If they do not, work as much as you can to facilitate this. Not owning a bike is a really good excuse for not getting on one. You can borrow one during the day at your LBS. If they do not own a bike, consider their fitness level and bike experience; a good suggestion is an electric bike. Melissa had a Pedego, but Jax Bicycles on Culver offered to loan a bike to anyone in the office that needed it.
Electric Bikes are how we build the gap between cyclists and noncyclists (and bikes can build the gap between citizens and politicians). Encourage your constituents to try electric bikes, they are a gateway drug to pedal powered bikes.
Plan and prepare a short route that will highlight areas of concern.
One of the major talking points at this meeting involved the Walnut Trail, so the route planned involved the 5 mi stretch of trail. We’ll take a look at Bill Sellin’s template as a guide for creating your talking points during the bike ride.
Prepare the group before heading out and bring a print copy of talking points.
Designate your leader and give your group a brief overview of the purpose and plan for the ride. Prepare them for the stops and route ahead. Include paper copies of your notes
Keep the momentum moving
Stay in touch with your representative and leave the meeting with some plan of action. Follow up with an email and include a digital attachment of the ride notes.
Having a successful, and enjoyable, ride with your representative is possible with a little persistence and planning.