Two weeks ago I wrote about how the League of American Bicyclists gave an undeserved bronze award to Santa Monica for bike friendliness. In doing so, they inoculated an already insulated City gov’t against criticism, making the job of local bike crusaders more difficult.
I propose a simple solution: withdraw the award. If you agree, sign this petition! (after signing the petition will ask for a donation – the donation is to the website hosting the petition, not to us, and is not required whatsoever.)
If the League were to withdraw the award it would send a message that local cyclists control the playing field, and only they can determine what is safe and bike friendly. In the interests of diplomacy, another option is given: appoint a review board of local cyclists who will review the award in 2010 and determine if it should be withdrawn at that time.
The more I think about it, the more that second option becomes desirable. In talking with League insiders, I learned that they view the bicycle friendly community awards as the hook in the fish’s mouth – motivation for communities to continue aggressive progress toward bike friendliness. They speak of times when a community has lost an award after 4 years, and scrambled to regain the award. If the awards functioned that way, it would be a brilliant strategy for pushing change forward.
Except this award doesn’t work that way. It cites the 19 miles of bike routes in Santa Monica, but one of those bike routes is Lincoln Blvd, one of the toughest places in the county for inexperienced cyclists to ride. It cites 16 miles of bike lanes, but fails to realized that the vast majority of these lanes are located adjacent to perpetually occupied street parking, and that the right hook in the Main St bike lane is amazingly common. In short, the award seems to be given based on paper facts, but missed the on the ground realities of West LA county. It gives the impression that little has to be done to become bike friendly.
However, if the League partnered with local cyclists to review the award, it would benefit from local knowledge, and strengthen it’s connection with the local movement. Effectively, it would solve an informational problem for the League, offering them a pipeline of local information they would not otherwise have. Suddenly, local activists would be able to say to the city, “these are the specific things you must address to be more bike friendly”, with the authoritative backing of a national lobbying organization.
It could be a good collaboration, if the League can first acknowledge and respect the priority of local opinion.