Plebis Power!

Richard Risemberg talks truth in Power to the People over on Flying Pigeon LA when he says:

“One thing everyone I’ve spoken with has agreed on: the growth of cycling into a constituency, a large number of people with a common interests and an involvement in city government through voting and complaining, is what has made the city council members take notice, and they in turn have driven the administrative bureaucracies to take concrete (no pun intended) actions that will make it easier to ride a bicycle in Los Angeles.

“So don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t pay to get involved. The involvement of hundreds of often rambunctious activists, and the mere visible presence of thousands of cyclists on the streets, are what has changed the Master Bicycle Plan from dusty notebooks on a gray metal shelf to a network of thousands of city employees working to make sure you have room to ride on the streets you pay for.”

Amen to that. Planning has always been a political activity, and politics is all about resources and how we allocate them. When it comes to dicing and slicing the transportation dollar, the motorist has long been king. So long, in fact, that the considerable subsidies and policy biases baked into our transportation system have become largely invisible to motorists.

The fallacy is that we pay at the pump, of course, but consider the outcry at a mere pennies hike in the gas tax. Or the cry at having to cede a yard of asphalt for a bike lane. The allocation of resources has been so lopsided for so long that any proposed reallocation (however sensible the policy goals) brings the car lobby out from the background.

It’s critical to recognize that today’s arrangements are not forever set but are as malleable as they should be in a participatory democracy. They key is participation!

Need an example?

Here in Beverly Hills, a TOTAL of 3,500 voters supported prop 2P to retain/implement two hours free parking in most municipal garages, and that was a substantial majority in a city of 38,000 in an off-year municipal election. That’s despite a parking operations fund $2+ million in the red.

As a result of providing this costly public good (no such thing as ‘free parking’!) at a zero price point, the city will add a few more million bucks in deficit, which will come from other services or investments.

Risemberg is right: don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t pay to get involved. In fact, it costs to NOT get involved. Pick up the phone and tell your City Council or Transportation Commission members that you arrive at your destination many days on two wheels instead of four wheels at considerable savings to the parking fund. Tell them that you vote and you count.

If you’re in Beverly Hills, use this handy phone list:


  • Transportation  (310) 285-2452
  • Rec & Parks  (310) 285-2536
  • Planning  (310) 285-1141
  • City Manager  (310) 285-1012
  • City Council  (310) 285-1013


  • Planning   (310) 285-1141
  • Traffic & Pkg  (310) 285-2452
  • Public Works  (310) 285-2462
  • Rec & Parks   (310) 285-2536

Public Safety

  • Police  (310) 285-2101
  • Watch Cmdr.  (310) 285-2125
  • Traffic Div  (310) 285-2196
  • Fire   (310) 281-2701