Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission advocacy work is paying off

Photo courtesy Visit Gilroy

By Zachary Hilton

Zachary Hilton

Riding down the windy road along Hecker Pass all the sounds of the city disappear as I’m cutting through the wind. I’m finally starting to see some of the Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission advocacy work pay off as I pass Burchell Road heading to Santa Teresa Boulevard. The shoulders are getting cleared back to allow a safe three feet of passing by vehicles, and the historic deodar cedar trees are getting trimmed by Caltrans.

My stomach is rumbling for some fresh baked Sweet Sicily cookies and espresso.  As I lock up my bike at Hecker Pass Plaza and smell the authentic cookies I am about to devour, I think about the successes the Gilroy BPAC had in 2019. Here’s what we have been up to.

As with any dynamic community engagement plan you need to be ready to interact on social media. That doesn’t mean you are trying to put out multiple fires at once. Community engagement is not something you just pre-plan with cookie cutter statements. It’s ever evolving and you need to be aware of the current situations 24/7. As I was reading through posts on Next Door, I found someone looking to give a BMX bike to a kid in need. We have developed relationships with many schools and organizations so I contacted Ascencion Solorsano Middle School counselors. They found a student who struggled with transportation to school — the bike was the perfect solution. The donor provided a bike lock, tubes, and a note that mentioned if at any point in his life he is in the position to help someone, he pays it forward.

By resolution, Gilroy is a Complete Streets City. We successfully advocated for bike lanes, green bike lanes, pedestrian enhancements, and more along First Street. When Monterey Road was repaved between First and Eighth streets, we advocated for the bike route. Gilroy Public Works added six miles of bike infrastructure in 2019. Each year we focus on achieving a higher score with Santa Clara County’s Healthy Cities initiative. In 2019 we achieved the Bicycle Friendly Community Award and drafted Gilroy’s first Access to Water Policy.  This means that when you go to a public facility there is access to water, and this supports a healthy community.

We spearheaded the formation of Gilroy’s Safe Routes to School Task Force, partnering with Santa Clara County Public Health and National Safe Routes Partnership.

Thank you, Gilroy City Council, for approving the Citywide Sidewalk Survey in the last budget cycle. We have remained focused on creating Gilroy as a walkable community and we will be applying for a walk friendly designation in 2020. Commissioner Patrick Flautt is seeking residents to sit on our new Pedestrian Safety Sub-Committee.

Several items on our 2019 work plan have been approved and are coming to Gilroy City Council. We recommended approval of the Back-In-Angle parking pilot program and it will be presented to council members.  This is the only type of angled parking we recommend. It’s the safest for all users of the road. We will be working on a test section for this style of parking on Eigleberry Street this summer for possible future use around the city and in downtown. We do not support or recommend parallel parking on any street for safety of motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. It’s a highly dangerous maneuver to reverse out blindly into a traffic lane. The citywide e-scooter/e-bike policy framework and permit process will take place through a request for proposal process soon and we are planning to have an operator in place by the third quarter of 2020. Measure B education and encouragement should start to be noticed citywide after the mid-year budget review takes place. One plan that I want to highlight is the Community Engagement Plan. The Gilroy BPAC already does this throughout the year and now get invites to participate with many community-based organization’s events. We need supplies to help us look official. We now use our own pop-up tent and tables. Community engagement is what we do best and doesn’t cost much each time. We’d like a Gilroy BPAC pop-up tent with barriers for the lines we get when providing helmet fittings and a table linen to help us stand out. It will serve as advertisement for Walk/Bike Gilroy.  A well thought out plan will enhance recreational tourism and economic development in Gilroy. We will continue to work with Chamber of Commerce, Visit Gilroy, and GDBA.

We will continue to move Gilroy forward in 2020 with the opening of the first BMX dirt track at Christmas Hill Park, the introduction of a strong Bike Parking Ordinance, advocating for the development of the Hillside Adventure Park behind Gilroy Gardens, and continue to work with Gilroy’s amazing organizations. We are actively embracing, advancing ideas, and projects that promote the concept of free-range people in the city of Gilroy.

We advocate for building and planning that considers future generations as well as current residents who don’t own cars. Advancing mobility options reflects what we are teaching the youth in our community through Safe Routes to School and why we are nationally recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community from the League of American Bicyclists, as well as recognized by the World Health Organization as an Age-Friendly Community.

Zachary Hilton is a member of Gilroy’s Bicycle Pedestrian Commission. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him at #GilroyBPAC.

Guest Column