Friday, April 10, 2009

Putting Villaraigosa In The Cross Hairs

I was expecting maybe some people to start believing my April Fools post with the Los Angeles Mayor praising bikes as transportation, but I was thinking by the end people would realize it was almost too good to be true. Also my linked sources led to photographs of fantasy figures like unicorns and leprechauns for those who check up on those things. A few more people than I was expecting completely fell for it, but I attribute that as much to idealism, something we all need more of, than just being gullible.

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

There is a very good reason I targeted Villaraigosa with the post. He is at the top of the food chain in Los Angeles, and as such has the most influence to actually get things done and change priorities in the various departments and agencies that effect transportation planning. He's even had the ear of Obama on a few occasions. At the L.A. Bike Summit we had four amazing visiting keynote speakers from 3 different cities talk about progress they have made in advocating for cycling, and the challenges they still face. Dhyana Quintanar & Bernardo Baranda of Mexico City, Noah Budnick of New York City, and Eleanor Blue of Portland. All 3 of these cities have ambitious plans to improve conditions and ridership numbers for cycling, and all 3 of these cities have a Mayor that is on board and working with cyclists to make these cities better places to ride.

We can and should continue to make our voices heard with the LADOT, Metro, the City Council Transportation Committee and others, but until we have the ear of the Mayor, we will be getting the scraps under the table if that. Despite a direly lacking implementation of L.A.'s previous bicycle master plan, and the ongoing delay to craft a new one, according to Villaraigosa, "Los Angeles is on track to become the cleanest and greenest big city in America." Other mega cities like Chicago and New York have been stepping up commitments to improve conditions for cycling and growing ridership, where is the commitment from Los Angeles? We must demand that any government which claims it self green show support for cycling as an important component in a sustainable, successful and diverse transportation system. Adding another lane to the 405 and re-timing some lights on Pico and Olympic are nothing more than shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I wrote the fantasy post not to suggest it could never happen, but to make it feel real that it could. We have been making headway with City Council members, and it does seem cyclists are getting more noticed, particularly after the summer gas crunch. If you want the support of the Los Angeles leadership for cycling to become a reality, I highly encourage joining meetings, public events, and letter writing campaigns when ever you have the time to pitch in. Politicians listen to numbers, and since the LADOT does not count us in traffic studies (it's about moving cars, not moving people to them), we need to make our selves heard by every means possible.

If you become a member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, which helps fund full time advocates who crunch through the political process, or if you just sign up for their newsletter, you will get periodic e-mails with events and action alerts. Sometimes I pass action alerts on through my blog, but sometimes I don't have a chance to and they are sometimes on short notice. Membership doesn't cost much and is good for a 10% discount at some LA bike shops, but if you are short enough on cash you are worried about how you'll pay for the next inner-tube after it's been patched too many times, than at least sign up for the newsletter if you would like to get more involved.

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