Take back the bronze! Ask the League of American Bicyclists to respect local cyclists.

By Alex Thompson

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is given: appoint a review board of local cyclists who will review the award in 2010 and determine if it should be withdrawn at that time.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.

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3 Responses to “Take back the bronze! Ask the League of American Bicyclists to respect local cyclists.”

  1. I’ve thought about this long and hard, and here’s why I believe Santa Monica should have this Bronze award revoked until we, the cyclists, review it and lay out what needs to be done before it truly deserves this carrot. Here’s my 2 Euros:

    I’m 28 years young. I feel like I’m part of a generation that expects a quicker turnaround time on pretty much everything. Why? Because we’re more efficient all around, and we know what we are capable of. We simply do not have the patience for all the empty promises we’ve been fed so far. LUCE this, LUCE that… I want change to happen not just in my lifetime, but before I have friggin’ kids. That means this city better achieve Platinum bike-friendly status in the next 10-20 years. I moved to Santa Monica for a reason, and I expect it to become a city where families carry their kids around in Dutch cargo bikes. A city where cops take the side of the cyclist every time, until they they are grossly proven guilty. I expect beautifully paved streets, bike-only pathways, and an educated, more open-minded police force.

    Any beach community on the Pacific Coast is an easy draft pick for the “Bike Friendly” list. That’s a no-brainer – it’s always nice out, of course locals and tourists will do their best to ride their bikes near the beach and in the shopping districts regardless of road conditions.

    But just because we’re blessed with this nice weather, bike valets, proximity to the Pacific Ocean, and a plethora of beach rental places doesn’t automatically make Santa Monica a bike friendly city. Even the heaviest-used bike lanes such as Broadway still have their share of “danger zones”, where only an experienced cyclist could possibly sense all of the dangers that awaits them. On some days when I get home, I take a deep breath and thank the gods for getting me home safe, because I know just how thin the line is between scraping by without a scrape and serious injury/death really is. It shouldn’t have to be that way.

    From a law enforcement perspective, Santa Monica police have not helped me recover any of my stolen bikes, nor have they taken my calls about road raging drivers seriously. On the contrary, they tend to ticket my people when we are out on the town riding around, and for bullsh** reasons. I believe we (cyclists/SM Spoke/whatever) need to be as loud and as visible as possible until we’re as respected as the most powerful lobbies in Santa Monica. Pussyfooting around isn’t going to get us anywhere this century. I’m fairly certain the SF Bike Coalition is a wee bit more radical than our beloved LACBC. And what did they gain? Lots of political clout.

    Cyclists in the LA area are a marginalized group, we are definitely in the minority. We have nothing to lose by pressing hard on this issue. Real, abrupt change doesn’t come around until you play hard ball, that’s pretty much how things have worked with marginalized groups throughout American history.

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