Whose bike movement is it, anyway?

I confess.

I didn’t have a thing to do with the recent incident in which a cyclist was hit by a Metro bus and Metro appeared to go into damage control mode.

I didn’t ride to Metro headquarters to protest. I didn’t make a single call. In fact, I wouldn’t even have known about it if Stephen Box hadn’t written about it. Does that make me a bad bike activist?

Evidently, some people think so.

I received an email recently taking me to task for just such a perceived failure, in which I had left a long-forgotten comment on a Streetsblog post last year suggesting that a rider contact the then-LAPD point person for the cycling community. Apparently, what I should have done, as this person saw it, was drop everything and march down to police headquarters to demand a full investigation.

That, the writer pointed out, is what Stephen would have done, as evidenced by the days and nights he put in at Metro headquarters arguing the cause of the afore-mentioned cyclist. And fighting for a resolution that would have ensured a different result from this day forward.

I’m the first to admit I’m no Stephen Box.

Then again, I never claimed to be.

What he does is, simply put, amazing. With the possible exception of L.A. Creek Freak and C.I.C.L.E. meister Joe Linton, no one has done more to represent riders or change the face of cycling in this city.

But it’s not what I do. And quite frankly, not what I want to do.

No offense.

Does that mean that I don’t have anything to contribute? Of course not.

I used to feel bad that I couldn’t spend more time on the front lines of the bicycling movement. But as Alex Thompson pointed out awhile back, during the French Revolution, some people manned the barricades while others wrote the pamphlets justifying their cause and calling the sans-culottes to arms.

And both, he said, played a vital role in the revolution.

I can live with that.

I write a blog. When time allows or various issues demand, I also attend meetings of the City Council, the Transportation Committee, the LAPD Bike Task Force, the Bicycle Advisory Committee — though that last one has, unfortunately, fallen by the wayside lately.

More meetings than I have time for, actually. If you don’t believe me, just ask my wife.

Then there was my recent decision to join the board of the LACBC, not because I agree with everything they’ve done in the past, but because I like the direction they’ve been moving over the past few years. And they convinced me that they’re sincere in wanting to become a more politically active organization, and reclaim the lead role in making L.A. a more bike-friendly city — even if we have to drag it there kicking and screaming every inch of the way.

I can live with that, too.

It’s not just me, either. There are countless people, here in L.A., throughout this state and around the country who do as much, or more, than I do. Sometimes a lot more.

There are also those who do less. But they still often find themselves doing as much, or more, than they can legitimately justify to advance the cause of cycling. And they have as much to contribute as anyone else.

And that’s the point of all this.

Because it’s not what I do, or what Stephen does, or Alex, or Joe, or the LACBC, BAC or C.I.C.L.E. Or any other single person, group or organization.

It’s what all of us, working together or separately in a thousand different directions, can do to make the streets safer and more hospitable for cyclists everywhere. Even if all you do is ride a bike when you could have gone another way.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a racer, a recreational rider or a commuter, whether you ride a bakfiet, a mountain bike, a path racer, a singlespeed, beach cruiser or a carbon fiber miracle of modern science.

We all have a part to play, in our own way.

And the only way we’ll ever fail is if we start working against each other, instead of together.

Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it. — Mohandas K. Gandhi


The map of the day could save your life, or at least help make things a little safer around here. When a guy hoots at a girl on a bike, how exactly does he want her to react? (And yes, this a new blog I’ll be watching.) A visit to the new Long Beach bike co-op. A new bike builder rolls out in the City by the Bay. San Diego’s killer bike lane is scheduled for resurfacing. This ain’t no tour — four women will ride from Oceanside to Durango, CO. Trek sponsors their new C3 Project freeride and slopestyle team. Parking perpendicular on a bike lane, and the police don’t care. Great story about an 87-year old 21-speed riding Denver cyclist. New Jersey moves to protect pedestrians from drivers, now if they’ll just protect cyclists from deer. A Mississippi town considers a mandatory helmet law. In a bit of good news, the cycling professor critically injured in my home town is improving. Proposing a weekly bring a friend along on your bike commute day. A Colorado cyclist is injured by a hit-and-run Acord; not the car, the driver. Sixty days for killing a cyclist and fleeing the scene in Kansas. Drivers who look but don’t see; boy, do I know that story. Why don’t more women ride? Ontario children will benefit from the Toronto bike dealer who stocked his inventory by stealing bikes — and wants them back. A British woman apologizes after she’s hit by a cyclist on the sidewalk.

Finally, LAist talks with the Department of DIY, the group behind the city’s most effective bike signage campaign in, like, ever. And rumor has it there’s more to come.


  1. TheTricksterNZ says:

    I wouldn’t worry about it.

    From where I’m sitting you do far more than most. Hell, even just your links of the day is better than what most people provide and surely must take an hour or two of research each night.

    • bikinginla says:

      You got that right. Those links take a lot of work. On the other hand, I feel like I’m getting PhD in biking.

  2. Herbie Huff says:

    Yeh, I agree with the trickster. You’re doing a lot! Forget that commenter.

    Your post prompted some long dormant thoughts I’ve had about the internet and our bike movement. We have to resist the equation of the bike movement with the bike movement’s online incarnation.

    To answer the question “Whose bike movement is it, anyway?” we have to go beyond the internet. Between Streetsblog and your blog and the many other bike blogs, and twitter accounts of various bike activists, there is a lot of bike activism happening on the internet. No doubt you have a crucial role and I’d defend you against whatever commenter wants you to play EVERY role. But of course, many people, especially the carless poor, don’t have access to the internet, and an excessive focus on the web will systematically exclude those people.

    I know that I started learning about LA bike activism on the internet, and I got a much different impression of who was important and active, and what issues were key, than I now have, being more involved in the real world. For example, you won’t hear much about Glenn Bailey on the internet, because he doesn’t publicize his efforts or write a blog, but he is one of the most important people in LA’s bike movement.

    So when thinking about our bike movement, I would encourage us to get outside the echo chamber of our bike blogging world and recognize that the movement is really on the streets and in the chambers of city government.

    I love what blogs (including yours!) have done to communicate to those people who do have internet, but we have to do more, I think, to reach out beyond this medium.

    • bikinginla says:

      You’re absolutely right, Herbie. The real bike movement is what we’re all doing, online or off. And keep reading — we’re going to have a big announcement later this week that will take some of this activism off the Net and onto the streets.

      And thanks for mentioning Glenn Bailey. As you note, he does a great job and makes a huge contribution.

  3. Digital Dame says:

    Umm… did this malcontent happen to mention why he/she wasn’t doing what they thought you should be doing? How bizarre that they thought it was your duty, and not their own.

    • bikinginla says:

      Just between you and me, it came from someone who is pretty active in the cycling community, so in all fairness, he/she is walking the walk.

  4. Amen, Brother. All of us have a role to play.

    There are about 11,000 bike commuters who live and bike in the city of San Jose, CA (US Census American Community Survey as analyzed by the LAB). About 200 are members of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. About two dozen of those are active to some degree (show up at meetings, volunteer, etc). Not even the 20/80 rule (20% of the people do 80% of the work) holds here.

    • bikinginla says:

      That’s the problem in a nutshell. I think most cyclists, here and there, are like I was a few years ago — content to ride, even if we spend half the time complaining about the conditions we face.

      We need to find a way to wake the rest up and get ’em involved. And by the way, you’re doing a great job at it.

  5. Greg Laemmle says:

    Great post Ted. This city needs lots of bike “advocates.” But that doesn’t mean we need lots of the same types of bike “activists.” We need to support each other in reaching the common goal of a more bike friendly Los Angeles. We need to stop cutting each other down for not fitting some kind of mold.

  6. Joe Linton says:

    Well said Herbie! Biking In LA is really valuable – you’re doing a great job, Ted. You’re strengthening a movement – getting information out to folks who can be inspired by it. That’s a critical role!

    (I sometimes tell myself this about Creek Freak… I used to be more active in river and water movements in L.A. … now I am more-or-less involved as media – and less about growing organizations and mounting campaigns… but when I think about it, I know that I am still playing an important role – and one that I actually have time for.)

    I suspect that we’ll have a stronger movement if we get lots of folks at the margins more involved – rather than challenge folks already doing a lot to do more.

    It’s a whole lot of peoples’ bike movements – and it’s all the stronger for the diversity of roles that we all play!

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