2023 SCBC Summit

Bike Sunnyvale Presented at the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition Summit


On a Saturday in October, Bike Sunnyvale Leads Ari Feinsmith and Sharlene Liu traveled to the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition's first ever Summit. SCBC had invited them to present about how Bike Sunnyvale organizes effective bicycle advocacy campaigns.  The Summit was held in the bright, pleasantly decorated, futuristic showroom of the Sonoma Clean Power Center in Santa Rosa. About 45 participants from all over Sonoma County attended. Unlike SVBC, SCBC has no local teams under the SCBC umbrella, but they have some strong city-level advocacy groups. 

Ari presented a case study illustrating how residents can initiate a campaign. In 2020, the Tasman Drive road closure campaign was initiated by residents living on Tasman.  Ari explained how he built a coalition among residents and spoke to the Mayor. Within a relatively quick 3 months, a travel lane on Tasman Drive was allocated to pedestrians and cyclists using temporary quick-build materials.  Tasman Drive is now undergoing a study to determine whether this road closure can become permanent. 

Sharlene presented a case study illustrating campaign strategies for a big, long-lasting campaign -- the Homestead Road part-time bike lane conversion to full-time.  Among the strategies presented were: conducting extensive research of city documents; collecting parking data; enlisting the support of school district trustees, the county supervisor, and high schoolers; speaking to individual councilmembers; and having a large showing of advocates in-person at the council meeting. The campaign resulted in a unanimous vote for full-time bike lanes.

The presentations generated many good questions. Do you work on policy campaigns too? How do you keep up the momentum for campaigns that take a long time?  What was the timeline of the campaign from start to finish?  Do you think sending one coalition letter with many signatures is more effective than sending individual letters?  How do you deal with hyper-local opposition? How do you get city funding for bike infrastructure? When do you ask for the sky and when do you ask for something small?

At the Summit, Ari and Sharlene learned about “tactical urbanism”, an advocacy-led effort to use household items as quick-build infrastructure, for example, having advocates line up toilet plungers along bike lanes to make Class 4 protected bike lanes overnight. They also learned about City Thread, which is a spinoff of People for Bikes. City Threads is a national non-profit that consults for cities to help them accelerate bike infrastructure development by using city policy to replace community input gathering. For example, if the city policy already says bike lanes take precedence over parking, then no need to gather community input about retaining parking.

Overall, it was a fun day with congenial knowledge sharing and a lovely lunch of croissant sandwiches.