By now, you’ve probably heard what the press conference I cryptically hinted at yesterday was all about.
Not that I didn’t want to tell you.
But when someone swears me to secrecy, I tend to take that seriously.
Especially when the League of American Bicyclists releases their latest list of Bike Friendly Communities. And Los Angeles, shockingly, is on it.
In an announcement that few of us thought we’d ever hear, the bike league named the formerly bike-unfriendly City of Los Angeles one of the nation’s best places to ride a bike.
And the oddest thing is, for once, we actually deserve it.
This award would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. When I started this blog a little over four years ago, which was my introduction to bike advocacy, Los Angeles was a very bike unfriendly city.
There were no sharrows, few bikeways connected to one another, and the only major bike lane built in recent years unceremoniously dumped riders off with no warning in the middle of high-speed Century City traffic, just a few blocks from even more bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills. And we had no voice whatsoever in City Hall or LADOT.
If we can point to any moment when that changed, it’s when a careless cab driver cut off the mayor of this city, leading to a broken arm and his Road to Damascus moment when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa saw the light and became a convert to the cause of safe bicycling in the City of Angels.
Although, to be fair, there were hints of a change in attitude when he publicly mentioned the word “bicycle” for the first time following a trip to Copenhagen a few months earlier, to the shock of just about everyone.
However, that ignores the work of long-time bike advocates like Joe Linton and Stephen Box, just to name a few, as well as the roll of the recently dormant Bikeside and the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee in demanding a better bike plan and a safer riding environment.
Then there’s the work of a revitalized LACBC fighting for justice and better support for L.A. cyclists in City Hall on an almost daily basis.
Not to mention the friendly ear provided by City Council members such as Bill Rosendahl, Eric Garcetti, and Ed Reyes, just to name a few, and the support of LAPD Chief Beck in turning one of the most bike-unfriendly police departments into one of the nation’s most responsive to the needs of bike riders.
The two Bike Summits helped galvanize bicyclists — as did the Mayor’s own Bike Summit — while CicLAvia showed us for the first time what the city could be. And L.A. Streetsblog deserves a lot of credit for shining a light on bicycling and other transportation issues, both good and bad.
Let’s also not forget Wolfpack Hustle’s brilliant victory over a Jet Blue airliner. And all the Ridazz and riders who risk the streets to carve out a place for bikes on the city’s too often unforgiving streets.
This award is yours. And you’ve earned it.
One other note.
For years, LADOT and Senior Project Coordinator Michelle Mowery have been the ones local cyclists loved to hate — Mowery especially suffered heaps of blame as the highest ranking bicycling official in the city.
But I long wondered what she could do with the actual support of city leaders, and without the roadblocks posed by senior auto-centric engineers more concerned with maintaining automotive throughput than making the streets safe for everyone.
I think the rapid changes of last few years — and this award — have given us an answer.
And reason to give her our thanks.
That’s not to say our city has suddenly turned into a bicycle paradise. Amsterdam, we’re not.
The bronze award is the lowest level the LAB bestows. It signifies the city has made significant progress, but we still have a very long way to go.
And as the L.A. Weekly pointed out, it’s hard to say the city is truly bike friendly when a full one-third of all bicycling collisions are hit-and-runs.
Then again, as the bike league’s Andy Clarke reminded me at Thursday’s press conference, I was one of the angry cyclists who demanded the LAB rescind their recognition of Santa Monica as a bike-friendly city when it was first awarded back in 2009.
And look how that turned out.
Santa Monica took that modest award, and used it as a springboard to challenge Long Beach as the most bike-friendly community in Southern California.
Maybe we’ll look back on this as the day L.A. took it’s first big step towards becoming the great city it should be. One that works for everyone who uses its streets, rather than bequeathing de facto dominance to the ones with motors.
And truly earns, not just this award, but the silver, gold and platinum levels that could come if we continue to demand and work for them.
In an even more surprising award, the LAB named Orange County — yes, the entire county — a Bike Friendly Community as well. And like L.A., at the bronze level.
Something I’m sure a lot of OC cyclists may take as much issue with as I did Santa Monica’s a few years back, given the county’s unacceptably high level of cycling fatalities.
But maybe like SaMo — and hopefully, L.A. — this will spur them to actually do something about it.
And congratulations to already bike friendly Claremont on its promotion to the silver level.
The L.A. Times has picked up a story from a Sacramento paper about how Jerry Browned has become the new term for cyclists getting passed dangerously close, in honor of our governor’s two-time veto of the state’s proposed three-foot passing law.
And they have the infinite good taste to not only quote me on the subject, but to embed my video of getting Jerry Browned by a Hollywood tour bus.
Not that they seem to realize the same devilishly handsome and wickedly charming cyclist was responsible for both.
But there’s still that problem of a two-time veto by our two-time governor. And what the hell we’re going to do about it.
That was something that came up in conversation with other riders at Thursday’s press conference. And led to a commitment to try one more time.
If for no other reason than we should refuse to give up on something so important to our safety, regardless of what any pen-wielding curmudgeon may have to say on the subject.
Maybe this time we can demonstrate our real clout, and make it clear it’s in Governor Brown’s best interest to sign it this time, if he wants to be in a position to sign anything next term. Or maybe with the new redistricting and electoral reforms, we can get a veto-proof margin in the legislature to ensure his signature is nothing more than a formality.
The problem is, we’ve lost one of the bill’s two champions.
Senator Alan Lowenthal, who shepherded both bills through the legislature, is termed out of office, and now running for Congress in the 47th District. We could do a lot worse than electing a proven bike-friendly leader to the federal government.
That leaves the bill’s other big supporter — our own Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Chances are, he’s licking his wounds after achieving apparent victory on two separate occasions, only to have it snatched away by our non-friend in Sacramento. Or at least, I would be if I was in his wingtips.
We need to encourage him to give it one more try.
And urge him not to give up on us.
Ask him to use his clout as mayor of the state’s largest city, and his connections in the legislature, to pass a three-foot passing law one more time.
Then it will be on all of us to make sure we don’t get Jerry Browned again.