City Manager Dan Rich said Tuesday that interest among council members and residents in bicycle and pedestrian issues has been so overwhelming that he wants to hire an expert to deal with it, a new position he called "a bike-ped czar."
"Nobody on staff is an expert or solely dedicated to bike-ped issues," Rich said in a brief discussion Tuesday. Rich said that part of the job would be "answering questions we get every day that our traffic engineering staff are overwhelmed by."
Council members voted in early 2013 to make bike and pedestrian mobility a top priority, but some members still aren't as supportive of the efforts as others.
"Could you just send more people to conferences to bring them up to speed?" Councilman John McAlister said. Rich replied, "Staff does not have the capacity to unless you want to give up something else."
It was also suggested that the city just hire a consultant.
"I think in this case, a consultant doesn't really get at what we're getting at," Rich said. "What we're looking for is an ongoing contribution."
There was concern about paying for the staff member, given a projected general fund deficit in 2015-16. Member Margaret Abe-Koga suggested that Google could pay for it, given the company's interest in paying for bike- and pedestrian-related projects.
"It's not necessarily common, but it's not unheard of" to have such a person on staff, Rich said. With only a few council members expressing serious concerns, Rich got the green light to come up with a proposal for a council vote.
The discussion came during a study session on expanding the role of the city's bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee, which council members now want to report directly to the council, with expanded responsibilities in reviewing major development proposals for so-called bike-ability and walk-ability.