I’ve spent the better part of the last four months focused on politics here.
Not that I had planned to, of course.
But it’s clear that things aren’t going to get better for cyclists around here until we start electing more politicians who clearly support our right to ride safely. And the longer I waited for someone else to step up and ask the candidates about bicycling issues, the more it became clear that our local cycling organizations, such as the LACBC, had no intention of getting involved in the recent elections, even on an impartial basis.
So I did.
To be honest, I didn’t really expect anyone to take me seriously. After all, I’m just a pissed-off biker with a blog.
But much to my surprise, the candidates did. In fact, four of the six CD5 candidates responded to my request for comments in the primary, as well as both candidates in the general election. And three of the eight SD26 candidates did responded, as well.
On the other hand, the press didn’t. With the exception of Damien Newton at Streetsblog and Zach Behrens of LAist — both of which I highly recommend if you don’t already read them — I was unable to interest any media outlet in getting this information out to a wider audience, so that voters could make a more informed choice.
Throughout this whole process, though, I kept wishing that it was more than just me doing this, and thinking how much more impact we could have with an actual organization behind us. One that could host candidate forums and debates, endorse candidates and truly influence the political process.
And maybe even get noticed by the local press.
Then one day, I stumbled on this.
When Austin, Texas, passed a mandatory helmet law, a group of cyclists banded together to successfully fight it. And when the city considered it again a few years ago, these cyclists came back together — and the League of Bicycling Voters was born.
According to League President Rob D’Amico, not only were they successful in defeating the helmet law once again, they also helped create the mayor’s Street Smarts Task Force (scroll down) and have been instrumental in delaying a major planned development until changes were made to accommodate safe cycling. They’ve also played an active role in influencing the political process through bicycle political forums and volunteer work, as well as highly sought endorsements, and helped elect bike-friendly candidates in the last election.
As a non-profit 501c(4) organization, they’re limited in the amount of money they can spend in support of a candidate, but plan to form an associated Political Action Committee, which will allow them to raise and spend significant amounts of money to support — or fight — political candidates and causes.
Clearly though, much of their success comes from a membership that reaches across all aspects of the cycling community, with board members drawn from other bicycle organizations such as the Austin Cycling Association and the Yellow Bike Project.
Imagine what we could do here with an organization made up of cyclists from across the spectrum, representing groups ranging from the Midnight Ridazz to La Grange, as well as the Wheelmen, C.I.C.L.E, LACBC and the Bike Writers Collective. As well as any and every other group, club and non-affiliated rider on the streets.
An organization that could speak with authority and command respect from our elected officials, and get political candidates to address biking issues as an integral part of their campaigns. And wake the enormous sleeping giant of bicycling voters.
Now who’s with me?
Stephen Box takes on Metro, and the driver who forced his wife off the road. Streetsblog reports that our council actually wants to get cyclists more involved in bike planning, and leaks the city’s top-secret bike plan. The author of the Pedaling Revolution hits L.A. this weekend. Bicyling reports on L.A.’s DIY bike scene. A New York court protects cyclists by ruling that bicycling is a leisure, rather than sporting, activity. And finally, a Chinese inventor ignores classic advice and reinvents the wheel.