LADOT starts bike blogging and LACBC becomes a planning consultantcy

By Alex Thompson
LACBC isn't really about the sharrows

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) and Los Angeles County Bike Coalition (LACBC) are ahead of schedule with their April Fool’s jokes.  The two organizations, which are partnering in studying sharrows, rather than implementing them, announced new pursuits today that have my eyes crossed.

LADOT announced that it has opened an LADOT Bike Blog, staffed by USC Planning student Chris Kidd.  Barely a second passed before LA Streetsblog editor Damien Newton welcomed the blog to his blog roll.

Just a question Damien: why the hell are you adding LADOT’s Bike Blog to your blog roll?  I can’t think of a bigger enemy to pedestrians and cyclists anywhere in Los Angeles than the entrenched interests at LADOT.  So it really begs the question, what exactly gets you on LA Streetsblog’s blog roll?  Is AAA going to have a spot on there?  How about Car & Driver?

Damien writes balanced pieces, which means he is always careful to pose to opposing viewpoints in his pieces.  I really don’t see how there is any reasonable pro-bike viewpoint in which this blog can be treated as anything other than an attempt to manipulate the message by LADOT.  Damien tries, calling the blog “a labor of love by an intern working with both the public relation’s office and LADOT Bikeways.”  Unaccompanied by any significant change in DOT’s position on bikes, why would we think that this is a genuine effort?  It’s the public relations department – it’s their job to keep people from getting angry so that LADOT can do things the LADOT way.   Damien, pull the blog from you blog roll.

Elsewhere, LACBC announced that they won a grant in collaboration with the South Bay Bicycle Coalition (SBBC) to write a regional South Bay Bicycle Master Plan.  Is LACBC a planning agency?  A planning consultant outfit?  When did LACBC and other advocacy organizations like SBBC start pursuing grant money for planning efforts?  Is LACBC qualified to execute this grant, and is it a good idea for bike advocates to be taking these grants?  Does anyone even ask these questions?

Grants like this are normally executed by planning agencies or planning consultants.  Typically these planning agencies employ qualified urban planners, people with masters degrees in urban planning, to design and write such plans.  Like David Pulsipher or Adrian Leung who work for Alta Planning – the planning consultants who did the work on the LA Bike Plan and are now working on Culver City’s plan and the LA County Plan.  These are first tier employees at places like Alta – they’re not supervising anyone.  Usually a grant work will be overseen by a planner with not only a graduate degree but decades of experience and additional planning certification like the AICP.

Last I checked LACBC staff don’t meet these standards.  Is LACBC qualified to execute this grant?  I wonder, how do real planning consultants feel about orgs like LACBC picking up grants that could go to them?  Particularly because organizations like LACBC don’t pay taxes, while planning consultancies do.

The bigger question is whether it’s a good idea for advocacy organizations like LACBC to be taking funding for projects like these.  LACBC represents itself as an organization fighting for change on behalf of cyclists.  At the same time, a majority of LACBC’s funding comes from government sources, including Metro, Burbank, SCAG, and in the past (and still in some ways) LADOT.

This leads to serious and real conflicts of interest.  I stayed out of the sharrows campaign because it was LACBC’s campaign, and I respected that, but when DOT said sharrows are slippery, and asked to study them, I nearly jumped out of my chair screaming “bullshit!”  LACBC should have called LADOT on that, and taken a hard stand, insisting that installation begin immediately, without study.  Instead, Michelle Mowery brokered a deal whereby LADOT and LACBC would both receive funding to study sharrows.  LACBC kept quiet and took the grant.  What are grants made of?  They’re made of money.  What do we call it when someone takes money to change in order to keep quiet?  Oh sure, they made a little noise, but not nearly so much as was warranted, and in the end, LACBC was perfectly willing to take part in the study.

What I can’t decide is whether it’s worse that LACBC has a price, or that the price is so LOW.  For a barely five figure sum LACBC consented to DOT’s lethargic timeline for sharrow installation.  In doing so, they were outmaneuvered politically, and likely DOT will find more ways to delay.  If LACBC’s price were higher, at least they’d be creating more jobs for starving bike advocates (who aren’t necessarily qualified to do the sharrow study) and could likely force DOT to compromise more.  As it is, if DOT survives the budget crisis intact, you can bet they’ll delay again.  In the meantime more blood will be spilled.

I don’t really care if LACBC wants to move into urban planning, and out of advocacy, but you can’t do both.  Actually, you can, but it’s corrupt.  At the very least, it would be nice if LACBC would clarify it’s role to the public, so we all know the specific conflicts of interests that LACBC has that we should be aware of, as well as what LACBC’s mission is.

I gave $500 to LACBC in 2007, and not a day goes by that I don’t regret it.

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40 Responses to “LADOT starts bike blogging and LACBC becomes a planning consultantcy”

  1. Fascinating that you hold up Alta as an example of planning professionalism after their astonishingly sloppy work on the L.A. City Bike Plan. I think that there’s a big role for amateurs and community groups (including the BWG and CICLE) in planning. We know our streets better than the consultants do.

    I think that bike groups can do advocacy and planning… The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (now called something else) does this well. Who would you rather have planning – bike groups or outside consultants?

    I think that it’s a somewhat delicate situation when an organization gets too much of their funding from this sort of work… then the funding can impair the group’s ability to be critical of the funding agency.

  2. Was the Bike Working Group qualified to do street planning when it developed the excellent Backbone Bikeway Network?

    As you yourself have pointed out in the past, no one knows the streets better than the people who use them. So speaking for myself, I’d rather have a cyclists involved in the process.

  3. (cross-post from Facebook)

    Thanks for sharing, Alex.

    While I’m not partial to any Los Angeles bicycle advocacy organization, nor against, I don’t completely understand the animosity.

    You’re part of another bicycle advocacy org (Bikeside), which is also accepting of government funds, and which supports a city-wide bicycle plan (Backbone Bikeway Network). … See More

    Can you explain how that is different? Just looking for elaboration.

  4. When I read your comment at Streetsblog, I just sort of rolled my eyes. But after reading a more in-depth explanation of your exasperation, I can’t help but conclude that you’re right. They don’t belong in the blogroll but in the Government websites section with Rita’s twitter feed. My bad. I’ll both make that change and repost this in the LASB comments section as a h/t for calling me out.

  5. Barely a second passed before LA Streetsblog editor Damien Newton welcomed the blog to his blog roll.
    ———–
    You make it sound as though I rushed to welcome them as though I’m somehow in cahoots with them or just love doing LADOT stories. Since I know how you love accuracy, I thought I’d give you a better timeline.

    1) LADOT opened it’s blog with a small announcement.
    2) I did a full day of posting at Streetsblog
    3) I went to bed after brushing my teeth, saying my prayers and eating my vitamins…just like the Hulkster advised while I was growing up.
    4) I awoke and did another full day of posting at Streetsblog
    5) I went to my wife’s birthday party with her parents
    6) I went to bed after brushing my teeth, saying my prayers and eating my vitamins…just like the Hulkster advised while I was growing up.
    7) I woke up and flew home from Virginia
    8) Bed…same routing
    9) Woke up, went to Church. It was exciting. Baby’s first palm Sunday
    10) Went to bed
    11) Another full day of posting at Streetsblog. I also took a walk with my wife and baby to Mar Vista Park. We had slushies and we celebrated her birthday present
    12) My Mom came by.
    13) Went to bed
    14) Woke up. While doing Today’s Headlines noticed LADOT opened a blog at Biking In L.A.
    15) Had a half hour conversation with Stephen Box
    16) Worked on a TOD piece for a lot of the morning. Realizing I wasn’t going to get it done, went into my “quick ideas” folder to put some new material for Streetsblog
    17) Welcomed LADOT’s Bike Blog to my Blogroll.

  6. Damien – Fair enough, I’m sorry. The turn of phrase was meant to dramatize what appears to be a thoughtless endorsement by you. Did you think carefully before you made the decision to add LADOT Bike Blog to your blog roll? I have trouble believing that you did . . . it doesn’t make sense.

    Joe Anthony – here’s my response from Facebook:

    Bikeside does not accept government funds. LACBC is a 501c3 “non profit”. Bikeside is a 501c4 “social welfare organization.” I don’t know of any 501c4s which take money from the government, but I assume it’s rare. It may even be illegal, due to the fact that 501c4s can influence elections.

    Regarding the Backbone, the Backbone is a conceptual proposal at this point. Before it could be a official plan it would need to be filled out in great detail, and that plan would need to be vetted by experts, i.e. qualified planners.

    Besides, not all government money is the same. While the LACBC could argue that they are qualified to educate people on safe cycling or promote cycling, without qualified staff they can’t argue that they are qualified to do planning work.

    The animosity is born out of years of conflict with the LACBC, which is ongoing today.

    Ted/bikinginLA – see above, the Backbone is not a full scale plan at present. Plus, we are not receiving government funding to work on the Backbone. As board member of the LACBC, own the fact that LACBC taking money in collaboration with DOT is a huge conflict of interest.

    Joe Linton – thought provoking. I don’t think it’s absolutely impossible for an advocacy org to take government funds and remain effective and not be overly influenced by it’s COIs. I also don’t think it’s impossible for a 501c3 to do good planning work.

    I do think it is **unlikely**. I think it’s so unlikely that to proceed in that direction as an advocacy org is unethical. I do think that LACBC is a good example of the pitfalls of taking gov’t planning work. What LACBC has done with sharrows and DOT strikes me as insanely unethical. And I do think that LACBC isn’t qualified to be handling this kind of master planning.

    I’m sure that tomorrow there will be a shit storm over what I’ve written here. Fine, so be it. I’m sick of all of this inter-organization drama happening off the record and behind the scenes. People need to know that LACBC is considered by many to be a problem, and a negative influence in bike activism.

  7. Damien – good call on moving the DOT’s bike blog link into your agency section.

    I think that your Streetsblog article was legit – covering something that is indeed “news” for L.A.’s bicycling communities… and that your article was sufficiently skeptical about the DOT efforts… I didn’t take your introducing the DOT’s blog as an endorsement of its content. I was grateful that you provided a scaffold for comments like mine and Matt’s that were unwelcome at the DOT blog itself.

    Though I am skeptical, I think that the jury is still momentarily out on the DOT blog … is it more crap from an agency that hasn’t made safety or transparency a priority? or is it a tiny step toward some needed openness? I think the jury is still out… I hope that it’s a small sign of culture change in a positive direction… we’ll see.

  8. Thanks for the clarification, Alex, and completely understand your frustrations and skepticism.

    I wouldn’t worry about any subsequent shit storm, as it’s important to share these concerns.

    Do we know if LACBC’s bike plan has been, or will be vetted by any qualified planners? To their benefit, they have done a great job at crowdsourcing input on their plan, and that IMHO is potentially more valuable input than any qualified planner can provide.

    In any event, it’s probably best to keep these differences private, and focus on working together (orgs, cyclists, individuals, and gov) to focus on, and reach, our common goals.

  9. I actually did think about it, and ultimately put it there because I put The Source as a blog and not as a government site. However, as I thought about it more, and read your critique, I decided you were right. It should be in the government section.

  10. As a planning consultant specializing in bike planning (yes, I work at Alta), we actually work with advocacy organizations pretty frequently. Often they are paid sub-consultants. We would typically get local bike orgs to help with tasks like outreach or volunteer coordination. I think it’s fine for them to be paid for their work as long as it is in line with their mission. Sometimes it’s tough to draw the line.

    To address Joe’s comment about Alta’s work on the LA Bike Plan: There were some errors/inconsistencies in draft plan related to some last-minute changes to the network at the request of the City, but to characterize the entire document as sloppy is a bit unfair.

  11. I may be shooting myself in the foot, or at the very least letting the cat out of the bag, but…. It does not take a planning degree to write a bicycle master plan. We are not reinventing the wheel, but taking best practices discovered elsewhere and trying to figure out how to make it work here. Planning school is a great place to learn theory or how to think critically, but most planners learn real planning when they step out of the classroom into the real world. Planners draw most of their skills from on-the-job training. Some of the best planners I know came from or have spent time as advocates. You have to have passion, you have to give a $#!T in order to survive the mundane and often frustrating world of government bureaucracy. I would put money on that Stephen Box, Josef Bray-Ali, Joe Linton, or even you are quite capable (if not more qualified) to write a plan than most planning school graduates. But what do I know.

    Oh yea, you may want to look at the grant that LACBC received for the South Bay Plan. It may include some funding that will allow the coalition to hire a planner for the project.

  12. I stand by my characterization of the draft LA City Bike Plan as sloppy. It’s SLOPPY. This is well-documented http://www.cicle.org/cicle_content/pivot/entry.php?id=2509

    My point about involving the community (and not just professionals) in planning holds – whether the errors are the fault of city professionals (as Matt states in his comment) or Alta professionals or an overall flawed process scoped and executed by professionals. I think that Alta is a good professional planning firm and they did the best they could in a nearly-impossible situation.

  13. it is not new that an advocacy group partners with a government agency. that is how people who care about something work with people who are in a position to change it. the alternative would be people yelling at government to do something but not willing to work with them. that is not a road towards progress.

    you’re right that the funding mechanism, where LADOT chooses an advocacy group to work with and then pays them, obviates a sort of prioritization of LACBCs views over other advocacy groups. in this sense, LADOT is holding LACBC accountable to represent bicyclists. that is unfortunately the nature of capitalism, where people put their money where their mouth is. but for you to rag on LACBC because of this relationship is wrong. don’t hate LACBC. hate capitalism.

    be fair, alex. LACBC would love to have sharrows on the ground right now. almost anyone who uses a bike for transportation would.

    there really is no reason for LADOT to do a study, especially because sharrows have already been state-approved as a traffic control device. the major barrier is not LACBC or even the LA Bicycle Plan, or even the bikeways department of LADOT (well most of the bikeways department). it is LADOT leadership–people who are apprehensive of bicyclists, or removal of travel lanes, or removal of parking lanes.

    this apprehension is the real barrier for progress in LA bicycling. and it is this apprehension that should be the target of our work. it’s a hard fight because the vast majority of Angelinos do not think about bicycling like us. we have to learn why people are apprehensive. we have to encourage people to step out of their comfort zones, possibly try something they hate. the hardest thing is that we have to counter this hate with love. we have to overcome people who hate bicyclists, or the idea of bicycling, with love.

    it is really frustrating to have to sift through so much misguided aggression constantly leveled at LADOT Bikeways and LACBC, from you and stephen. these groups are not your enemy. they are in fact the closest things you have to allies. and while they may not be able to match your vision (which is indeed a glorious vision), they are interested in solutions while you continue to hack at them.

    if you don’t want to work with them, that’s fine. but they are not working against you, and is a waste for you to work against them.

  14. Let me first say that any organization interested in improving cycling in Los Angeles is OK in my book, and LACBC is most definitely one such organization. But as I’ve watched LACBC patiently advocate for Sharrows over the last couple years I began to feel that they were not being vocal enough about real cause of the endless delays the program was being put thru by LADOT. LADOT is a big black hole of NO. Garcetti introduced sharrows resolution on June 27, 2008. Almost 2 years later, LADOT now wants to study it? LACBC should be criticizing the endless delays, not participating in, and thus legitimizing, another delay, err, “study”. I believe in the vision of LACBC, but not in the timeframe of LADOT. L.A. Cyclists shouldn’t settle for LADOT’s timeframe, and neither should LACBC. Speak Up!

  15. The most important issue here is the Conflict of Interest (COI). LACBC & its allies should acknowledge that LACBC now has a financial connection with LADOT, and thus the City of LA. LACBC also engages in advocacy with these entities. This is an enormous conflict of interest. LACBC must acknowledge that it has a financial conflict of interest when it comes to bicycling matters and the City of LA. Until that occurs, we have little to discuss.

    Regarding qualifications – this is a deep and profound debate, and not easily resolved. However, I will say this – any planning done by LACBC needs experienced oversight. LACBC has previously put unqualified fresh bachelors degree earners in charge of planning projects – people who couldn’t tell you the difference between Class I, II, or III.

    Going back to the COI issue, everytime LACBC takes on a government planning contract, they acquire a new COI. Each COI restricts LACBC’s capacity to express a credible opinion within that agencies jurisdiction. LACBC has just taken themselves out of the game in the City of Los Angeles and the South Bay. What’s left for LACBC to participate in, besides the little cities?

    Joe Anthony – I’m airing these grievances precisely because efforts to resolve them behind the scenes have failed. In my opinion LACBC has become more and more brazen in seeking any funding possible, in order to get themselves out of their budgetary woes. At the same time LACBC actively works against other people’s efforts – LACBC’s Dorothy Le publicly contradicted Stephen Box on the W Hotel bike parking issue. LACBC endorsed the bike path to nowhere. LACBC forced its way onto the Cyclist LAPD Task Force, and has redirected the Task Force away from it’s original purpose. LACBC board member Kent Strumpell consistently apologizes for Mowery, and has opposed the Cyclists’ Bill of Right’s inclusion in the Bike Plan. Over and over this shit happens, and the best thing I can think to do is make it public. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

    Adrian – you call it misguided, well who is doing the guiding? Ask yourself why an ambitious activist like me, one who made a substantial financial contribution to LACBC at one time, is not within the LACBC, reforming. Ask yourself why LACBC stopped electing it’s officers, and why so much talent leaves that org. I don’t think it’s a ship that can be righted, or is worth righting – from my point of view it is that bad.

    If LACBC really wanted sharrows on the ground they would have cried bullshit and not supported the study.

    You say Bikeways isn’t the problem, I say the Bikeways coordinator is exactly the problem. When the bike coordinator couldn’t get things done in NYC, he quit, and wrote an open letter detailing how he had been stonewalled. This was partial motivation for bringing in Sadik-Kahn. If Mowery is being stonewalled, she has an obligation to share that with the public, not stab bike activists in the back. Instead, she never names names, undermines activists, and defends her superiors. Bikeways is the problem, along with the rest of DOT.

    Blood on her hands.

  16. @Adrian – Really good points, really well written, too!

    @Alex – I think the LACBC should be doing this sort of work… and should have the fortitude to walk when/if they feel that LADOT jerks them around, or doesn’t hold up its end of the project. I think that what will help the LACBC have the backbone to do this is to have plenty of active thriving bike groups that will watchdog. It’s great that Bikeside is out there in an uncompromising way… and I would actually suggest that your critiques will make the entire L.A. bike movement – including LACBC – more effective.

    (ps. I know it’s just your quick comments on a blog, but you’ve mispelled “Sadik-Khan” and used the wrong “its” when you wrote “electing it’s officers” – if you can get your typo count just a little higher, you could get hired to write sloppy city bike plans!)

  17. I think Joe should start a copy-editing “consultantcy”!

  18. Alex, I know you like to use the internet. Try googling “urban planning.” Go to the wikipedia page on urban planning. Use the ‘find’ function in your browser and find the phrase “advocacy planning.” Discover this little nugget of common planning knowledge:

    “The term advocacy planning was coined by Paul Davidoff in his influential 1965 paper, “Advocacy and Pluralism in Planning” which acknowledged the political nature of planning and urged planners to acknowledge that their actions are not value-neutral and encouraged minority and under-represented voices to be part of planning decisions.”

    You might want to read Davidoff’s whole piece before you advance the claim that it is corrupt to do advocacy and planning at the same time.

  19. No thanks Herbie. Own the fact that it’s a conflict of interest, and that LACBC has a lot of these conflicts. I don’t need to read Davidoff’s piece to know that taking on government planning grants and then claiming to also be holding the granting agencies accountable leads to moral hazard.

  20. I actually want to apologize for what I wrote earlier. To be honest, I feel hurt and upset by what you’ve written here about people I know and love.

    It also frustrates me that you’ve written things that dismiss and disrespect the entire field of urban planning, and then you turn around and make statements about how planning should be done, and by whom it should be done.

    None of that justifies my mean tone. I was rude and I’m sorry.

  21. Alright Herbie, what have I done to insult the entire field of urban planning? My main bone of contention here is that LACBC has assumed a conflict of interest here that is absolutely detrimental to their cause, and in doing so has played into DOT’s hands, ultimately delaying sharrow placement. Get specific, what are you upset about?

    Realize that while you may feel that I’ve insulted people you know and love, the reverse is true: the people you know and love have likely disrupted projects I’ve been involved with. From my point of view, a great number of LACBC people have set back cycling and done things to undermine non-LACBC activists. I have personally experienced it, and it is ongoing, and worsening. If you stipulate for a second that is how I perceive things, then tell me, what would you do? Private discussion has failed, LACBC continues to engage in destructive practices that, I believe, are unethical. Should I say nothing? I feel horrible for not writing about these things earlier.

  22. Hey Alex,

    Criticism can be good if it is constructive and aimed at the right people, but LACBC and Streetsblog? It seems that the real enemy here is not LACBC or Streetsblog but DOT. Why waste your time and energy in criticizing and undermining the work that other advocates are doing? Just do your work and they’ll do theirs.
    I appreciate what all the orgs are doing – effective, worthwhile and helping to move things forward.
    From what I understand, there is a lot to do to change the way LADOT functions and to make LA more bike friendly.
    You all serve different functions and to waste your time in passing judgment, making assumptions and policing what other orgs are doing is unproductive and makes the overall message weaker.
    I thought the goal here was about making LA more accommodating to bikes, not trying to rip other bike orgs apart, just because you have different point of views.
    Focus your energy on criticizing the enemy, not your allies.

    In peace,
    JM

  23. James,

    LACBC and myself are not allies. LACBC and Bikeside are not allies. LACBC is not allies with a lot of people and orgs. LACBC and DOT **are** allies – that’s the point.

    Do the math.

  24. did LACBC dishonour your family or something?

  25. I think you are way off target this time. I have read LACBC’s emails for years and have followed the work they’ve been doing, especially recently, and you seem like your just grasping for some low blows. What is the point? I have done the math, and I am sorry, but I not buying your perspective.

  26. You’re welcome to your opinion James. If you’d like to know more feel free to sideline me in person at the next public event, or you can keep an eye on Bikeside for future articles highlighting problems with LACBC.

  27. I am a bit nervous writing now, because I am not usually one to write on blogs, just read and enjoy the info, but I got a little upset reading your last few comments, Alex. I feel, as a non activist, more dis-empowered by your constant critical mannerism and know- it-all attitude, then I have ever felt from LACBC. If I decided to become more active in the bike scene, start a campaign, would I too be subject to your criticism? I am not sure who you are or why you assume such a position of power, but I don’t feel welcome by your standards, on the streets or as an activist.
    Oh, and I am really glad that LACBC is part of those LAPD meetings now. At least now I know that my interests, as a mom with a family, are being considered.

  28. Cindy, If you were to get too cozy with a department in city government that was the #1 enemy of cycling in the city, accept their funds, sign on to their endless delays in a simple project to apply paint to the ground that’s now almost 2 years old, all the while claiming to be working for cyclists, then yes, you might find yourself being criticized. If I was a parent, I would be outraged that my children will be all grown up by the time any “plans” or “initiatives” or “resolutions” ever get implemented, and that LACBC was being used by DOT to legitimize their delays.

  29. To those making emotional pleas with Alex to leave the LACBC alone, give it a rest! Sure, he’s being harsh but he’s also right. It is a conflict of interest the LACBC is engaged in.

    Here is the kicker: it used to be so much worse with this organization!

    I tried to get a job with the LACBC several years ago (when a woman named “Kestley” something or other was running the organization). At the time, the LACBC was busy hustling for corporate money and government contracts to do bike planning work. They wee stuck in the non-profit industrial complex.

    I went for my job interview in the MTA’s lobby with the head of the LACBC and their chief funding agency at the time, the MTA’s Lynne Goldsmith. I was so fucking pissed off about that encounter I cannot describe in words the feelings I had about the organization at that point. They were a hollow core of bullshit happy bike friendly vibes and a gleaming desire for pots of money handed out from the government to do paper shuffling tasks.

    When I tried to run for the board of the LACBC, I made the suggestion that the organization direct its efforts to low budget fundraisers that would increase it’s membership and its legitimacy with the people it claimed to represent. To focus on selling $15 memberships and by actually trying to say something negative about the agencies they relied on for money when those agencies’ policies were killing and maiming cyclists.

    In my eyes, the LACBC is revving up into a serious ass kicking machine – they have a big contact list, name ID, and though their efforts often strike me a politically amateurish plenty of other things the organization does is quite amazing (cough City of Lights cough).

    This relationship with the LADOT is disturbing, and it would be a big help if the LACBC gave us a statement about it and disclosed its relationships with the other agencies that oversee bicycle planning in Los Angeles.

  30. As usual, I think ubrayj02 has hit the nail on the head. Does LACBC have problems – yes. Is Alex right about big potential conflicts of interest – yes. Should they be roundly and viciously attacked whenever they fail to live up to their mission – absolutely.

    But in the larger scheme of things, I don’t think you can expect perfect ideological purity from every group and individual in an advocacy movement. We need people on the inside, outside, and every point in between to make change happen. Should LACBC be doing bridge design – no. But I’d rather have people who care and are familiar with the issue writing a bike plan than some 2-bit planning consultancy whipping off some half-assed document that builds on LA’s plan as some example of best practices. Alta is generally considered the best in the business and virtually no one outside of the company or the DOT is defending the final result of that process as anything to be proud of.

    So I’m supporting LACBC in all the good work that they are doing AND thanking god we have people like Alex out there who are willing to do the work to keep an eye out and call foul when it’s justified.

  31. Cindy,

    Yes, if you join the bike movement publicly, you enter the scope of people who I might criticize publicly. However, understand that this is one highly critical post among very few. For every time I’ve been critical of an org, there are 19 or 20 instances where I’ve kept it private. You should know too that there is a lot of behind the scenes flak in this business. The post was born of frustrations that have failed to be resolved privately, and endless private conflict. I felt it was time to let people know that not everyone is friends in the bike activism scene, and there are real ideological differences between organizations.

    But seriously – if you’re gonna blog – you’ll need a thick skin. The kind of back & forth that is happening here is nothing compared to what happens when you have a big story on LAist, the LA Times, or Wired.

    -AT

  32. I liked your comment to Cindy, Alex. Sometimes it does seem everyone in the bicycle community is one big happy bunch– I was under this naive impression until I read this post. This post has only made me more interested in entering the LA bike activism scene.

    Also, I heard you once on bike talk and you are as well spoken as you are in your writing. Thank you for this blog and for your involvement in the LA bike scene.

  33. Thanks for the compliment Severin! Maybe we can have a conversation in person someday and I can try to convince you that I’m a rambling lunatic . . . j/k!

  34. oh, sounds great! meet alex thompson and listen to him try to convince me that he’s a rambling lunatic!

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    [...] will work with the South Bay Bicycle Coalition to develop a plan for the South Bay region. Dr. Alex is highly critical of LACBC’s leap into planning and LADOT’s new blog — and takes Damien to task for being too [...]

  3. The LADOT Bike Blog: Smoke & Mirrors | Bikeside LA - April 1st, 2010

    [...] Damien Newton, LA Streetsblog editor and author, included it in the blog roll for LA Streetsblog, I called foul.  Damien, to his credit, reexamined his inclusion of the blog in the blog roll, and transferred it [...]

  4. Reporting dangerous drivers online — Philadelphia, London and coming soon, L.A. « BikingInLA - April 7th, 2010

    [...] coming in for harsh criticism from Dr. Alex, LACBC explains the facts behind their recent grants, and how they intend to work with the South [...]

  5. Bikeside Isn't Here to Party, It's Here For Policy Change | Neon Tommy - June 23rd, 2010

    [...] Thompson, who helped author the Cyclists Bill of Rights, co-founded Bikerowave and is known for his open disdain of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), a longtime bike advocacy organization."We have [...]

  6. Bikeside LA isn’t here to party, it’s here for policy change | Kim Nowacki - April 27th, 2011

    [...] Thompson, who helped author the Cyclists Bill of Rights, co-founded Bikerowave and is known for his open disdain of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), a longtime bike advocacy [...]

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