Battle for the soul of the Bicycle Pedestrian Commission
The City Council rejected a proposal to expand the Bike Ped Commission to a 7-member Complete Streets Commission, similar to ones established in Los Altos, Menlo Park, and Los Gatos. A Streets Commission has a broader charter than our BP Commission. For instance, it could recommend closing streets to vehicle traffic or making streets one way or severely limiting vehicle speed limits. It was a 3-2 vote with Liang Chao, Jon Wiley, and Darcy Paul voting against, and Steven Scharf and Rod Sinks voting for it.
Residents who spoke against it included three Bike Ped commissioners - Gerhard Eschelbeck, Muni Madhdhipatla, and Ilango Ganga - as well as Linda Wyckoff, and several more. Residents who spoke in favor included two Bike Ped commissioners - Jennifer Shearin and Erik Lindskog - as well as Hung Wei, David Fung, and Seema Lindskog.
The most troubling development in last night’s meeting is that the battle for the soul of the Bike Ped Commission and the future of walking and biking in our city is now fully in the open.
In the Bike Ped Commission, we now have two commissioners (Gerhard Eschelbeck and Ilango Ganga) who vigorously opposed walk bike projects — the Stevens Creek trail and the Regnart Creek trail — in their respective neighborhoods right before joining the Commission. Commissioner Ganga continues to be a leading opposition organizer for the Regnart Creek Trail. Based on their work so far and their positions on walk bike projects, it appears as though they joined the Commission solely to ensure they could kill walk bike projects in their neighborhoods from the inside. Commissioner Muni Madhdhipatla seems to be aligned with them to give them a majority controlling vote in the Commission.
Because of this, over the past few months, the work of the Commission to promote walking and biking has effectively stopped. The Commission has refused to work on an updated Bike Ped Plan even as the current one expires this year. The focus has shifted instead to traffic management and monitoring - an issue not squarely in the Commission’s portfolio. In January, in his first meeting as a member of the Commission, Ilango Ganga proposed a reorganization of the Bike Ped Commission. Traffic management and monitoring in partnership with the Tech ("TICC") commission was voted as a top item by Commissioners Ganga and Madhdhipatla instead of other worthy projects central to the Commission’s focus to improve walking and biking. In April, Commissioners Ganga, Eschelbeck and Madhdhipatla created a subcommittee of “Technology use for Traffic Safety”, an extremely unusual step for the Commission. During the previous three years, there was only one subcommittee, with the broad topic of “public relations”, which is now defunct.
Equally troubling, there seems to be common ground forming between some Cupertino residents who prioritize car usage and the residents opposing the Regnart Creek trail. This alliance has created a coordinated narrative that was on full display at the Council meeting on June 2.
Speaker after speaker-- including Bike Ped commissioners Eschelbeck, Ganga and
-- said there should be “diversity” on the Bike Ped Commission to allow for representatives from different modes of transportation.
Ilango Ganga, who has never been seen walking or biking in his neighborhood and doesn’t seem to own a bike, said on Tuesday night: “
is an important point. In the past, the Bike Ped Commission was packed with members of one advocacy group and residents were just sidelined. This has now changed and we now have the right skill set and the right
on the Commission.”
Linda Wyckoff, an opposition organizer for the Regnart Creek Trail said, without a trace of irony: “This could be construed as a desire for homogeneity among commissioners instead of
… There is a small percentage of our city that is intensely devoted to cycling. This is by far the most vocal component of the Bike Ped Commission. This could be construed as an attempt to silence the voices of those who may voice opinions that are different from their own.”
Councilmember Liang Chao has been a consistently vocal critic of the Regnart Creek Trail. She said on Tuesday night: “Complete Streets is a term promoted by adversity [sic] groups that promote Smart Growth. You say everything is equal but they really want to reduce the emphasis on car usage. That’s the real intent. For a city like Cupertino, I’m not sure this is something we are promoting. I see that other cities have adopted a complete streets ordinance. They buy into that idea. We don’t have that.”
"Cupertino does not buy into reducing the emphasis on car usage."
"Bicyclists have too much power."
"Residents are sidelined if the Bike Ped Commission advocates for more walking and biking."