"When I came to the committee, the glass ceiling was low; there were few listening within ODOT and bike lanes were pesky mosquitoes to be patronized."
— AJ Zelada
ODOT made a big announcement today that has been circulating in the bike advocacy sphere for a while: the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (OBPAC) is seeking new members. What the official announcement doesn't say is that they need to fill five vacancies out of eight total seats on the committee. This is a big deal. If you're not familiar with OBPAC, they are a governor-appointed group that "acts as a liaison between the public and ODOT." They also play a key advisory role within ODOT and act as experts on biking and walking laws, projects, and so on (not to be confused with the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC), which actually sets ODOT policy). The OBPAC also reviews grant applications and award millions of dollars in project funding.
Northeast Portland resident AJ Zelada has served on the committee for eight years and spent the last two as its Chair. He feels these vacancies at OBPAC are, "an incredible opportunity to make a big difference." He wrote me a letter on January 22nd outlining the history of the committee, of ODOT's relationship to bicycling, why now is such a crucial moment for active transportation at the agency, and how the OBPAC will play a vital role in the future.
He gave me permission to share his letter. It offers valuable, behind-the-scenes context and a poignant call to action. I've posted it below (nearly verbatim, with minor edits for clarity and brevity): (more...)