Tag Archive for bicycle activism

An idea whose time has come — the L.A. League of Bicycling Voters

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.

And yes, the local press takes them very seriously.

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.

I’m in.

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.

An idea whose time has come — waking the sleeping giant

Here it is, over a week later, and we still don’t know who won Los Angeles 5th Council District. And from the looks of it, it may be a very long time before we know for sure.

But one thing is certain. Whichever candidate is ultimately declared the winner, we should have another friend on the city council. That’s because both candidates addressed local cycling issues as part of their campaign, and each pledged to support bicycling as an integral part of the overall transportation plan.

But something else is also clear.

As important as this election was, only a handful of eligible voters even bothered to cast a ballot. In fact, it’s a pretty safe bet that more L.A. cyclists voted for the loser of American Idol last week in last weeks’s election.

And that has to change.

The cycling community is the sleeping giant of local politics. Based on statistics provided by Bikes Belong, up to 38% of all Americans ride bikes — which means that as many as 3.8 million residents of L.A. County may get around on two wheels at least part of the time.

Even if we use the significantly lower estimate of 12.4% of Americans who ride bikes, that still makes cyclists one of the largest potential voting blocks in L.A. politics — certainly larger, and potentially more powerful, than many of the special interest groups who currently hold sway at City Hall.

And yet, we still can’t get sharrows. Let alone the respect we deserve from the LADOT — or the LAPD. Or our fair share of transportation funding.

It’s time to wake to that giant up.

Lately, some L.A. cyclists have been trying to flex their political muscle. And our government leaders are finally starting to take notice.

But we need to do more.

You only have to take a look at the streets of this city to understand the kind of cycling city Los Angeles could be — a potential that lead Bicycling magazine to name it a Future Best City for bicycling. And you only have to ride those streets to realize how little has been done.

If you’re not pissed off yet, maybe you should be.

Next up: Waking the sleeping giant. And taking back our government — and our streets.


L.A.’s best-named bike shop now offers an American-made alternative to Dutch cargo bikes, and a Pasadena firm introduces its new commuter bike. Gary nearly gets hit over the weekend, even while walking his bike. The Eastside’s Random Hero rides the Marathon route. An Oregon writer offers a half-baked attack on the Idaho Stop Law. Dublin officials support cycling, as does London’s mayor, who barely survived a recent exploratory ride. A recent incident in Boulder, CO offers a reminder of why we all have to be careful on off-road paths. A New York writer insists that cyclists should be licensed and insured, while an Examiner writer asks why we can’t get insurance. New Zealand police say there’s nothing suspicious about finding a dead cyclist in a ditch. And finally, New York’s latest Broadway hit may not win a Tony, but seems to be winning fans.

An open letter to the candidates in L.A. Council District 5

As cyclists, we have to get more involved in the political process if we want to see things get any better around here.

So earlier this morning, I sent the following email to each of the candidates running to replace Jack Weiss as council member for Los Angeles’ Council District 5, based on the list provided by The League of Women Voters:

Dear Mr. (or Ms.) ….

As you are no doubt aware, the election for L.A.’s 5th City Council District is just three weeks away. While you, and the other candidates, have addressed any number of various community groups, the concerns of one highly motivated group have largely been ignored up to this point.

There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of bicyclists over voting age here in the 5th District. Some, such as myself, ride for recreation and fitness. Others ride for social or environmental reasona, while for still others, cycling is their primary means of transportation.

Whatever their reason for riding, virtually all are concerned with such vital issues as safe streets and infrastructure, clean air and fair, unbiased enforcement of traffic laws, as well as the effective implementation of the recently approved Cyclist’s Bill of Rights.

I am offering you, as well as the other candidates in the race, an opportunity to address this constituency — at no cost to your campaign.

A resident and active voter in this district, I also operate a popular blog about bicycling in Los Angeles. I’m offering to turn this forum over to your campaign for one day, in order to speak directly to this city’s bicycling community.

You are free to discuss anything you want, from the roll bicycles can play in reducing traffic congestion, to seemingly unrelated issues such as crime rates or responsiveness to your future constituents. If you are an active cyclist, tell us. Or if you want to confront cyclists in some way, feel free. Whatever you send me, I will publish — unedited and without comment — in the order that it’s received.

It may only be seen by a relative handful of district voters; however, with so many candidates, even that could be enough to influence the outcome. Or it could be linked to by other influential blogs, and seen by thousands of eligible voters with an interest in cycling.

All I ask is that you send your statement to me in the body of your email or as a Word attachment, with a maximum of 1,000 words (although less is usually better online). And the sooner I receive it the better, to allow voters time to make an informed choice.

Of course, you’re under no obligation to participate; however, if some of the other campaigns submit a statement and you don’t, it could speak volumes to the biking community.

Besides, it’s free. So what do you have to lose?

I’ve already received a commitment from CD5 candidate Adeena Bleich, who notes that her brother is an urban cyclist who survived a collision with a car.

We’ll have to see if anyone else takes the time to respond. If they do, I’ll post it on here as quickly as I can get it online, as well as creating link or separate page to keep it active at the top of this site.

Because what the candidates have to say to us — or whether they even respond — will have a lot to do with how I cast my vote next month.

And I hope it will yours, as well.

 

Thanks to Damien at Streetsblog LA for linking to a couple of my recent posts, and pointing out that Brentwood boutiques aren’t the only retailers who are clueless about Ghost Bikes. Gary picks up the “That’s so L.A.” theme — hey, we may be on to something here! — with photos of a fast and furious Viper wipe-out. L.A.’s leading biking actress/activists couple tip us to the city’s upcoming bike rack design contest, here and here. Los Angeles rides contributes more well-thought-out ways to get from here to there. Santa Clarita sponsors a century ride at the end of this month. And Portland may, or possibly may not, have its own cycling version of the mask-wearing Lone Ranger.

%d bloggers like this: