Here's a good story of local politics, and also a glimpse into the future. With fuel prices set to steadily increase in the coming years, don't be surprised to find more and more of Us.
We are Bicyclists.
We are Legion.
We're an increasingly feisty group of folks. It's mind-numbingly frustrating to visit cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin, Portland, or any of the other countless cities that integrate bikes into their infrastructure, then come back to L.A., where everyone complains about driving but won't stop doing it.
Though LA is hardly a Manila or Bangkok in terms of road congestion, it's still quite dangerous for bikers. A cab hit the mayor, resulting in a broken arm.
And thus we begin our tale.
When Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa crashed his bike on Venice Boulevard last summer, he did more than bruise his head and shatter his elbow. He became an advocate for the city's bicycling community.
After he was jolted off his bike by a turning taxicab, Villaraigosa convened a bicycle summit, launched a safety campaign to educate drivers and threw his support behind the city's first CicLAvia, which closed 71/2 miles of city streets to traffic for most of a day.
He also put his clout behind an ambitious bicycle master plan that is expected to be passed Tuesday by the City Council.
The plan lays out a long-term goal of 1,680 miles of interconnected bikeways and calls for more than 200 miles of new bicycle routes every five years. It suggests that such major arteries as Figueroa Street, Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard get bike lanes in the near future.
And it marks the ascendance of a brash new breed of cycling civic activist.
Believe it or not, there's a fair number of bicyclists in Southern California. I've always wondered how helpful it would be to put 'bike freeways' alongside rail lines or other commute paths. The weather here is perfect for bikers, and it's pretty flat overall. Here in Orange County, there's a few decent hike/bike trails around the county, but LA doesn't have much.
Given the amount of excess fuel being carried around as body fat by the average american, it is time to say DRILL BABY DRILL....RIGHT INTO OUR FATTY DEPOSITS. Endorphins are a natural and free chemical high for your brain, and we love to do drugs in this country, pharmaceutical and otherwise. Bikers. We are Legion..just waiting to happen once folks hop in the saddle.
If you build it, they will come. Plus, LA already has a movement:
The coalition was founded in 1998, when many fewer cyclists braved the city's famously unfriendly streets and activism consisted mostly of Critical Mass bike rides. Early meetings were held over potluck dinners.
But cycling has become more popular, with local census data showing a 50% increase in commuters bicycling to work over the last eight years.
The President's Transportation Secretary impressed me by making a commonsensical-yet-still-pissing-off-corporate-interest-shills proposal for our national transportation plan.
Ray Lahood: “Today I want to announce a sea change...This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of nonmotorized.”
But back to LA for a sec. You want to talk about local politics? Look at these bicyclists in LA doing it:
It's not just in the plan that they've made their presence felt. Bicycle racks recently have gone up outside City Hall. And one of the most vocal cycling activists, Stephen Box, who found his calling after he was nearly hit by a bus, is running for office against veteran City Councilman Tom LaBonge.
Box's campaign has held get-out-the vote bicycle tune-ups at local farmers markets and canvassing rides across Council District 4, which includes parts of Koreatown, Hollywood and North Hollywood. The fight over the bicycle plan, he says, was a turning point for the cycling community.
After the city made a bad proposal for bikers, they organized and worked for three years. The result?
By the time the final draft was approved by the Planning Commission last month, many cyclists felt pretty good about what they'd been able to push through. Mannos said she was pleased with the stronger emphasis on safety and education — including a city-sponsored bike-to-work week — and the call for bike-friendly improvements in low-income neighborhoods, such as the area around MacArthur Park.
One of the new plan's central features — a freeway-like system of upgraded streets known as the "backbone network" — was first suggested by Box on his website. The idea is to work quickly on the city's major arteries, which can then serve as the spine of a complex of similarly improved residential streets.
Last year, bicycle advocates successfully lobbied the City Council to put 10% of the city's share of money from Measure R, the 2008 sales tax to support transportation projects countywide, toward initiatives for cyclists and pedestrians.
"We'll have a couple of million dollars right out the gate," Rosendahl said.
If the plan is approved, the mayor will sign it on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday. He has mostly recovered from his accident, although he still cannot completely straighten his right arm.