Friday, May 29, 2009

League of American Bicyclists Tarnishes the Bronze

Photo by Gary Kavanagh

The League of American Bicyclists has a long history of fighting for the rights of cyclists. Formerly know as the League of Wheelmen, they have been around since 1880.

In many ways not much has changed from the early days.

The League was there in the early days to counter antagonism against cyclists from horsemen, wagon drivers, and pedestrians. Now we find ourselves up against motorists, bus operators, and law enforcement officers.

The League was there in the early days leading 100K cyclists in a campaign for paved roads, an improvement that benefitted many and led to our national highway system.

Along the way there have been ups and downs and discontent within the League but through it all, they have maintained a position as the national voice of cyclists.

That's why it's especially hard to criticize but all the more important to point out when they fumble, especially when it sets local bike activists back in their efforts to make their communities "Bike Friendly."

First there was the League of Bicyclist's award to the City of Los Angeles of an honorable mention as a "Bike Friendly" city last year. This tarnished the League's credibility and set the concept of "Bike Friendly" awards back a notch. Apparently the award was based on intentions and the fact that the City of Los Angeles had embarked on a Bike Plan update journey. That's the Bike Plan that was due last year and is still under wraps.

Now there is the League of Bicyclist's award to the city of Santa Monica of a Bronze Status as a "Bike Friendly" city. The award is being given today.

Santa Monica is a great city with many wonderful attributes and their bike valet program is one of the best. BUT surely a city with a police department that has a special "cycling suppression" detail that regularly squishes group rides and writes tickets that exceed common sense would get disqualified from the process.

The League of American Bicyclists is a wonderful organization but it has completely destroyed the "Bike Friendly" program with it's completely disconnected and superficial awards to Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The greatest mistake in this process is that they didn't engage the cycling community in the process, they didn't require the award applicant to account for their relationship with the cycling community, they simply engaged in bureaucrat to bureaucrat award negotiation and I believe the cyclists who ride the streets of these communities deserve better.

Attached is an article from the Santa Monica Press Telegram that covers the LAB Bronze award for Santa Monica.

City recognized for its dealings with bicycles

By Kevin Herrera for the Santa Monica Daily Press

May 22, 2009
CITYWIDE — Boasting nearly 16 miles of bike lanes and a popular valet program catering to those who use pedal power, Santa Monica was recently recognized for being a bicycle friendly community by a national organization advocating on behalf of cyclists.

The League of American Bicyclists, which represents the interests of the nation's 57 million cyclists, awarded City Hall with a bronze level distinction for its "remarkable commitments to bicycling," placing an emphasis on bike lanes, the valet program and future plans to build bicycle parking facilities Downtown.

"We are trying to create a supportive environment for biking in Santa Monica and we feel we need to help people make different choices when planning a trip," said Beth Rolandson, a principal transportation planner for City Hall and an avid cyclist.

"It's a challenge," Rolandson added. "It's really about education for everyone, both bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as drivers, so we can all co-exist safely."

Santa Monica is the first city on the Westside to be honored with the award, and is joined by Long Beach, which represents the southern portion, among this year's honorees. The previous recipients from the county are Claremont and Santa Clarita.

The news came as a shock to some riders who have complaints about City Hall's failure to keep pedestrians off the beach bike path and aggressive police officers harassing those participating in monthly, organized rides such as Critical Mass.

"Santa Monica is a great place with the infrastructure in place and fun rides … but until we focus on equality and that becomes the foundation, we are never going to get that level playing field," said Stephen Box, co-founder of the Bike Writers Collective, which has created a "Cyclists' Bill of Rights" that has been adopted by the city of Los Angeles, but not Santa Monica.

"If you focus on equality, then you can design streets that are good for everybody," Box added. "It's the basic principal that our streets are public spaces and [cyclists] should be equal partners in that space."

Cities are recognized by the league for their role in actively supporting cycling for fun, fitness and transportation and are judged by their record in promoting bicycling in five key areas: education, engineering, enforcement, encouragement, and evaluation.

Nationally, 108 of the 274 communities that have applied have been honored, representing some 37 states, according to the league.

The bronze designation is one with real meaning since it is difficult to earn, and all applications are carefully evaluated by a team of local cyclists, national experts, and League of American Bicyclists staff, representatives form the league said.

Platinum, gold, silver, and bronze awards are given twice each year.<>

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