Better Bike Beverly Hills attended the Westside Cities Council of Governments sustainability subcommittee meeting last week to check on the organizations bike planning efforts. With new state policies in place to reduce greenhouse gases and a pending policy directive for ‘complete streets’ accommodations for all road users, it is even more pressing that all local governments be on the same page with regard to planning that will accommodate transportation innovations and new modes of travel. Increasing attention from large regional organizations like the Southern California Association of Governments and Metro can focus our collective mind on alternative non-motor transportation. So it makes sense that the local Council of Governments would put the issue front-and-center on the agenda. By way of background, a Council of Governments (COG) is a representative organization that draws on local governments from a geographic area. Affiliation is voluntary, and decisions to take positions on policy matters is strictly advisory.
The Council of Governments chief function is to coordinate communication across local governments so that each knows what the others are doing, and so that all of them can keep informed about policymaking in Sacramento and DC. Foremost it’s a policy organization that helps local governments coordinate on issues related to the environment, mobility, etc. You can read about the Westside Cities Council of Governments work program at their website.
What the Westside COG does not do, evidently, is reach out to the public very well. It’s website has hardly evolved in the past four years, and the information that it does provide hardly encourages stakeholder participation. Attending the meeting, irony was in the foreground as the Sustainability subcommittee discussed the political constraints in the environmental arena, yet at the same time completely overlooks the potential of educating stakeholders about new policies, or even bring them to the table to support the COG. Missed opportunity!
In contrast, other COGs in the region (South Bay COG, San Gabriel Valley COG) offer information-rich sites that provide value to stakeholders. Even beyond posting agendas and meeting minutes, they are full of historical background and policy context. (To be fair, the Westside Cities COG is much smaller in comparison, and seems to be provisionally making due with an interim director.)
But it’s not the web presence that was so surprising but the relative disinterest among sustainability subcommittee members in the mobility part of the work program. Had the West Hollywood representative not brought up bike planning, the meeting would have adjourned without any substantive discussion about mobility challenges and opportunities. As it was, the issue was pretty much tabled for the next meeting. Which means that the issue will wait until December, as subcommittees meet every other month.
Meanwhile, the full Westside Cities COG meeting (in Beverly Hills!) in November. Better Bike Beverly Hills will be in the house, you better believe, to encourage this key organization to make the right policy decisions with regard to cyclists and cycling on the Westside.
I’ll close with another delicious irony. The Kern County COG defies expectations by hosting a ‘Bicycle as a Means of Transportation’ themed event. Kern County (distinguished home to Bakersfield) abuts LA County to the north. Home to vast oil fields as well as a tidy Bakersfield suburb, Oil City (really!), one wouldn’t expect them to be in the vanguard of any bike programming whatsoever. So who’s hosting the event? The Petroleum Club of Bakersfield of course!