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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Capital city cycling controversy

At first glance, the fact that Springfield -- the capital city of Illinois -- has formed a Bicycle Advisory Council sounds like a major victory for cyclists in the city.

In September, Mayor Tim Davlin named nine people to the advisory panel, which will "act as an advisory body on bicyclist issues; analyze routing, operation and the safety of bicycles and their riders. Members will also evaluate and make recommendations for signed shared roadways, the use of and installation of bicycle racks and signalization."

But the appointment of David Sykuta as the panel's chairman has raised the ire of the Sangamon County Organization for Reform of Cycling Habitat, according to an article this week in the Illinois Times. SCORCH describes itself as "the radical wing of Springfield area bicyclists, propagandists and participants of local Critical Mass rides and other cycling events."

Sykuta is a member of the long-established Springfield Bicycle Club, but what concerns SCORCH is that Sykuta also is the executive director of the Illinois Petroleum Council. SCORCH sees of conflict of interest having someone promoting the interests of the petroleum industry serving as the head of a cycling advisory board.

“Because of his position as a lobbyist for big oil, I can only assume that he is interested in promoting biking as a form of recreation and not as a means of transportation," SCORCH member Wes King told the Illinois Times.

Sykuta, who told the Illinois Times that he's a recreational rider, said his goal is for the advisory panel to look beyond politics and work on improving bicycling facilities in Springfield.

“The real challenge is that bicycling is everyone’s third or fourth most important thing,” Sykuta told the newspaper. “It’s not the top of anyone’s agenda. Everyone likes it, but our job will be to move it up there so it is a more important choice for more people.”

The Springfield area has 13 miles of trails, the 5-mile Interurban Trail that links Springfield and Chatham, the 5-mile Lost Bridge Trail that links Springfield and Rochester, and the 3-mile Wabash Trail in the southwestern part of Springfield. The League of Illinois Bicyclists also has developed a map of local road cycling routes (PDF file) based upon the recommendations of Springfield-area cyclists.

SCORCH members are advocating more official bicycle routes that would allow people to easily commute to state government offices, more bicycle racks in the city and bike racks on city buses. Advisory board members are seeking many of the same things, including a route that would link the city's Abraham Lincoln attractions.

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Roger 4 comments links to this post 11:47 AM

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Fascinating.

So what's Skyuta's track record? I think somebody like him could be a perfect bridge. He likely has the ear of people with money and influence.
 
Sykuta does a pretty decent job of explaining his feelings about the advisory panel in an op-ed piece he wrote for the State-Journal Register last year.

He's big about pushing the tourism aspects of bicycling, after seeing the impact of bicycle trails in several Midwestern towns.

In an earlier story in the Illinois Times, Sykuta said he got the idea after riding on some of the Madison County Transit trails near Edwardsville and Wood River. He then got members of the Springfield Cycling Club interested in the idea of pushing for the advisory panel.

He seems to be saying the right things, and he knows how to communicate with public officials through his role with the petroleum group.

To get a bit of a feel for his views about oil, you can read another op-ed piece he wrote for the SJ-R.
 
Oh wow I hope he will be up and running very soon and can get back on his bike! It is a shame that a very eco-friendly conscious activity turned around to bite him and the environment. Cycling is the way to go though. It is the little drives to the shops that one does every day that can really build up. I try to get on my bike when it is a manageable distance and I am not dragging to much stuff back with me. Well done in getting your family to think about its impact on the environment and it is great to see a kid of today discovering how great it is to be active outdoors!
 
You'll find Mr. Sykuta here, twelve years ago predicting snowblowers and barbecue grills would be a casualty of new EPA air quality standards. That he did so under the name "Partnership for Environmental Progress" demonstrates how unblushingly he can camouflage himself in green.

It's possible that Mr. Sykuta would do marvelous things for the cycling community in the absence of a properly motivated skepticism. In that case, neither should it prove any obstacle that he's given one to convince.
 
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