Save the date — the politics of local cycling will change forever Saturday, May 15, on the UCLA campus.
Love her or hate her, LADOT Bikeways Coordinator Michelle Mowery got it right.
Appearing as part of the panel for An Evening With David Byrne last October, Mowery said that if we wanted to see any improvements in L.A. bicycling, it was going to take technical support, funding, and most of all, the political will to make changes.
A will that has been sadly lacking, both here in Los Angeles and in countless communities through the county — with one or two notable exceptions.
That changes now.
Because today marks the official unveiling of the League of Bicycling Voters LA.
An organization of bicyclists, by bicyclists and for bicyclists, dedicated to influencing the political process to ensure the election of politicians who will support cycling in every nook and cranny of L.A. County. And holding their feet to the fire to ensure they keep their promises and maintain their support long after the election is over.
The idea comes from the League of Bicycling Voters in Austin, TX, which had its genesis in a successful campaign to repeal Austin’s 1996 mandatory helmet law. Then when the city reconsidered the law a few years later, the League was born.
Not only did they defeat the helmet law once again, they’ve continued to play an active role in influencing the political process through volunteer work, hosting political forums and promoting a massive turnout at political rallies. They’ve also become one of the city’s most highly sought-after endorsements, resulting in the election of their full slate of bike-friendly candidates in the last election.
But that doesn’t mean we’re going to be their clone, either.
Exactly what this group turns out to be is up to you. At this point, nothing is set in stone. Not the bylaws, not the dues, not the officers or Board of Directors.
Not even the name. Although I like it.
In fact, still to be determined is whether this will take the form of a 501(c)4 — which would allow us to take part in political activity and endorse candidates, like the Austin group or the new Bikeside LA. Or whether it will be a registered as a Political Action Committee, which would let us raise and spend an unlimited amount money to support a candidate or proposition.
It would have been easy to make those decisions myself, or together with Dr. Michael Cahn and Josef Bray-Ali, who’ve done as much or more than I have over the last few weeks to get this off the ground.
But one of the first decisions we made was that this should be a very democratic process. And it should be up to you, and everyone else who joins in, to decide exactly what form this takes and who should be elected to lead it.
There’s not even a guarantee that the three of us will have any role to play once the group is formed, except as voting members.
As for the Board of Directors, one of the smartest decisions the Austin League of Bicycling Voters made was to include a representative from each of the area’s leading bike organizations on the board, to ensure that it represented the broadest possible spectrum of cyclists.
So we’ll be reaching out to as many of the leading local biking groups as possible over the next few weeks, asking each one to nominate one or more of their members to serve on the board — from LaGrange and the Wheelmen, to the Ridazz, C.I.C.L.E., Bikeside and the LACBC. And just about everyone in between, from every possible corner of the county.
And if we don’t reach out to your group, feel free to reach out to us.
Meanwhile, we want to hear your ideas. We’ve set up a Google group where you can sign up for the interest group and freely share your thoughts on any part of this process.
Then we’ve reserved an auditorium on the UCLA campus for the morning of Saturday, May 15th, where we’re going to start making some of these decisions.
And yes, you’re invited.
Right now, the only requirements are that you live or work in Los Angeles County and ride a bike. We might even waive the last one if you can convince us that you support cycling and have something to contribute.
Now it’s time to find out what we all can do, working together.