How do I start a Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee?

Step 1: Create an Official Committee
A pedestrian or bicycle advisory committee can be created a the local level by local officials passing a resolution, or at the state level through an agency directive at a law passed by state legislators. Creating an official pedestrian or bicycle advisory committee for two reasons:
1.) It will immediately make decision makers aware of the board and its importance while also educating them on the importance of pedestrian issues
2.) An official board cannot be easily disbanded or ignored when the decision makers change

Step 2: Recruit and Interview Committee Members
Pedestrian and bicycle advisory committees should be made up of about eight to fifteen people; often state committees are larger than local committees. In order to prevent discontinuity within the committee, the Chair position should not be a rotating position. To create an effective, balanced, and diversified pedestrian and bicycle committee, all prospective candidates should be recruited and interviewed. A letter of interest and a resume should be required. The interview should be like any other job interview. There are three qualities to look for in prospective pedestrian and bicycle advisory committee members:
1.) Candidates need to have the interests of the broader community in mind rather than be focused on an issue close to home or they are likely to leave once their issue has been addressed
2.) Candidates should have a history of volunteerism; experienced volunteers will be more likely to attend meetings and commit the time needed to make the committee successful
3.) Candidates need to be good listeners and have a collaborative approach to problem solving
Pedestrian and bicycle advisory committees will only be effective if their members reflect the community they represent. Gender, race, age, type of walker (casual to fitness walkers), and the geographic location of residence for each applicant should be considered to ensure a balanced, representative board.

Step 3: Determine Logistic Support
Staffing a Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee should require about four to eight hours a month. Direct services should be limited to providing a meeting place and attending meetings. Minutes and meeting notices are typically done by the Committee members, usually by email, but can also be done by a secretary on loan to the Committee from a state or local agency. The Committee might benefit from secretarial support to take notes or transcribe audio tapes, write minutes, send out announcements, make copies, schedule rooms, etc. However, the more responsibilities the Committee members take the more effective they will be.

Step 4: Provide Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee Members with Timely and Useful Information
An informed committee will be a better board. For example, in Seattle, Committee members get together once a year for an all day, facilitated retreat. As part of the retreat, Seattle Department of Transportation staff conducts a short training sessions on pedestrian design issues. One of the purposes of the training is to help participants better understand things that can't be changed (e.g. shape and color of a regulatory sign) versus things that involve more choices and engineering judgment (e.g. determining the number of lanes needed on an arterial that is being reconstructed).

Step 5: Set the Committee Agenda
The board chair should coordinate with agency staff and departmental representatives to develop a list of topics for Committee review and input. The relationship of the agency with the Chair is critical to the success of the Committee. Typically, the Committee will want to provide input on agency policies, programs, and projects. Committee meetings should feature a presentation on one of these topics. This makes every meeting important and ensures good attendance and participation. The Chair should invite the program or project manager to participate and present at the committee meeting. The person who staffs the Committee should help with the presentation. This builds teamwork and can make presenting to a citizens' group a positive experience.