Cyclists Enter the Fray in Oily Council District

Cycling advocates are jumping into the fray of oil-dominated politics in Council District 15 (CD 15).  Bikeside, a local bike lobby, is asking candidates in the November 8, 2011 Special Primary election for the Los Angeles CD 15 seat to take its bike friendliness survey. Within hours, the first candidate responded. “There are virtually no bike lanes on any streets in CD 15,” wrote Rebecca Chambliss, a realtor running for CD 15. “Many of the streets are narrow and it’s rare to see bikes on other than the main streets” Chambliss added.  Kambiz Mostofi, Candice Graham and Frank Pereyda were also among the first CD 15 candidates to respond to Bikeside’s survey.

“A field of twenty?! I’m excited, LA’s grassroots are deeper by the year, and I think a big rowdy race can only mean victory for democracy. It also means that Bikeside has an opportunity to get cycling on the agenda and change the politics of City Hall,” said Bikeside President Dr. Alex Thompson.

This survey marks the second time that cyclists have been actively engaged in an LA City Council race since Stephen Box’s Council District 4 race earlier this year. “One of the key issues in the CD 15 race is transportation. Viable candidates must clearly establish a philosophy for the movement of people and goods that is sensitive to the needs of all modes, including a commitment to supporting cyclists on the streets of LA,” said Bikeside and Sierra Club Board Member Stephen Box.

Bike friendly cities such as Long Beach, Oakland and San Francisco have succeeded in striking a balance between supporting the economic vitality of their ports and improving the quality of life for all residents. Why can’t Los Angeles? For decades, CD 15’s political wheels have been greased by the powerful oil lobby whose pipelines ensnare South Bay communities and LA City Hall.  Bikeside’s survey is a new opportunity for CD 15 candidates to demonstrate their oil independence and commitment to sustainable transportation. “I’m proud of Bikeside and the leadership role this organization is taking in engaging the cycling community in the democratic process.  Now it’s up to the CD 15 Candidates to establish themselves as bike advocates” said Bikeside Board Member and ArtCycle Producer Enci Box.

Photo by wirralwater. Port of Los Angeles.

Why should non-cyclists care about CD 15 candidates’ views on biking? We’re all susceptible to the assault of dirty air and Los Angeles remains the most polluted city in the nation, according to the American Lung Association’s 2011 State of the Air Report Card. In fact, fifty percent of the total U.S. population exposed to deadly air pollution live in Southern California and 80 percent of Californians who are exposed to emissions from the ports live in Southern California. Port pollution costs $61 billion per year and results in 3,700 premature deaths annually, according to Communities for Clean Ports.

Despite this ongoing public health threat, “we have a “transportation” mayor who can’t even pay lip service to cycling: in a 2,200 word speech to Mobility 21 in which he covered every aspect of transportation – from cargo docks to traffic signals to the subway – Mayor Villaraigosa didn’t mention cycling once.  Electeds will only pay us lip service till we become a force for change at election time, so that’s what we’re doing,” Thompson added.

Photo by Irargerich.

Bikeside’s 20-question survey aims to measure candidates’ support for the five E’s of bike friendliness: engineering, encouragement, enforcement, education and evaluation. In May 2011, nine of the sixteen candidates for the CA-36 Congressional Candidate Survey responded to Bikeside’s Survey on Biking and Walking, including the major frontrunners Debra Bowen, Janice Hahn, Marcy Winograd and Mayor Mike Gin.  There was unanimous support among all nine candidates for improving cycling conditions in Southern California and expanding CicLAvia.

There is a City Council race during a non-election year because Janice Hahn (D-CA), the former Councilmember for Council District 15, was recently elected to the 36th Congressional District seat. This left her seat open, so a special election must be held to fill her seat.

Council District 15 encompasses the communities of San Pedro, Watts, Wilmington, North and South Harbor Gateway and the Port of Los Angeles. Twenty candidates are running for the open Los Angeles City Council seat. If more than 50% of the vote does not go to any one candidate, the top two vote-getters of any political party, will advance to the January 17, 2012 runoff. Among those seeking the seat are ten Democrats, five Republicans, and five candidates with no identified party preference. To learn more about each candidate, visit

Bikeside will be inviting the winner(s) of the November 8, 2011 Special Primary to participate in a follow-up survey if there is a January 2012 runoff. If you would like to recommend questions for the January survey, please submit your comments and questions to Bikeside at or in the comments.

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