We could own this city.
After years of begging for crumbs at the city table, Los Angeles cyclists have finally been offered a seat of our own, earning respect and support from our elected leaders.
The result has been a dramatic change on the streets of L.A. From a bold new bike plan to the first-ever ordinance treating harassment of cyclists as a civil, rather than criminal, offense, allowing bike riders to take scofflaw drivers to court themselves for the motorized threats and violence that occurs on our streets.
A law so innovative, it’s rapidly spread far beyond our city limits.
It’s been enough to make hell freeze over, as formerly bike-unfriendly L.A. has become just the opposite in a remarkably short period of time, since our outgoing mayor fell off his bike following the last city election.
And it could all go away just as fast.
The progress we’ve made has come as a result of a mayor who understands the power of bicycles and bike riders to transform the city for the better. And city council members who’ve fought for improvements on our streets, including anti-harassment standard-bearer Bill Rosendahl, and Downtown/Eastside bike champions Reyes and Huizar, just to name a few.
Two of those three will join our mayor in being out of office by the end of May, along with five others. In fact, only one of the eight council districts up for election this week features an incumbent running for re-election.
Which means that L.A.’s continued progress in making the streets safer and more inviting for bike riders depends entirely on who wins Tuesday’s primary election and advances on to the May general election.
Which, despite the name, has nothing to do with electing military leaders.
What is does have to do with is shaping the future of a city that is finally moving in the right direction, yet still has a very long way to go.
A lot depends on who is elected as the city’s new mayor.
It’s the mayor who will select the next police chief, and determine whether the department continues as one of the nation’s most progressively bike-friendly law enforcement agencies or reverts to the bad old days when we were treated like criminals for simply for riding the streets. And were virtually powerless to do anything about it.
It’s also the new mayor who will appoint the next head of LADOT, and determine whether the city continues its newfound support for non-motorized transportation or reverts to the auto-centric motor-maniacal capital of car culture it was for far too long.
Meanwhile, the winners of the eight odd council districts — that’s odd in the numerical sense, rather than strange — will control the purse strings that dictate whether the streets get repaved and the bike plan built out. And whether cyclists will enjoy a willing ear before the council as we have since 2008’s infamous Mandeville Canyon incident.
Or whether we’ll get a political wink and a nod, and be politely shown the door as we were for the many decades that came before.
The funny thing is, we hold more power than we may think.
Because instead of begging for crumbs, we could decide who sits at every chair in City Hall.
That’s because, according to estimates included in the city bike plan, Los Angeles has somewhere around 400,000 bicyclists who ride at least once a month.
And only 285,658 people bothered to vote in the last mayoral election.
I’ll wait while you do the math.
Even subtracting bike riders who may not be old enough or eligible to vote for whatever reason, it still makes bicyclists one of the largest untapped voting groups in the city.
If we turn out in force and vote in our own interests, we can decide the outcome of every race in every election in the city, and every other city in the county, for that matter.
If only because most Angelenos don’t care enough to vote.
And ensure not only that we’ll enjoy a bike-friendly city government for the next few years, but that L.A. will continue to remake itself into the livable, world-class city it should be — and that Los Angeles bicycling will continue to grow in numbers and safety for the foreseeable future.
Chances are, nothing you do on Tuesday will be more important than the ballot you cast. Even the May general election pales in comparison, because you won’t have bike-friendly council candidates to elect in May if you don’t vote for them now.
It’s long past time to wake the sleeping bike giant.
Before you vote, check out the candidate questionnaires collected by the LACBC, which managed to get every candidate for mayor on the record supporting bicycling in the City of Angels, along with 14 of the 39 city council candidates. And I’d almost forgotten that CD13 candidate Josh Post offered his thoughts on how to take L.A. biking to the next level right here last May.
Those other 25 council candidates who didn’t bother to respond include some people I genuinely like and respect. But speaking strictly for myself, I wouldn’t vote for anyone who wasn’t willing to tell you where they stand on bike issues.
And don’t forget to Bike the Vote on Tuesday.