If you’ve survived the onslaught of year-end fundraising pitches, now is the time to take a breather and look ahead to 2014. Ask yourself, What changes do I want to make in the world? If safe streets is on your shortlist, there are a few organizations working day-in-and-day-out on behalf of riders that are worthy of your support. Here’s our shortlist of change-makers pressing policymakers for measures to make our streets safe to ride.
As Ted Rogers noted in a capper to 2013’s bike-involved collision fatalities, Los Angeles County claims nearly half of all Southern California rider deaths. That’s 39 riders who lost their lives pedaling our streets, and some of them were even rear-ended while riding in a bicycle lane. That’s not only negligence; it’s straight-up manslaughter. What would remind us of the ongoing carnage tally if not for BikinginLA?
BikinginLA also puts a personal story to each data point. Who are those riders who lost their lives? Who have they left behind? Ted covers their stories from first news mention (or firsthand report) through an often-abbreviated police investigation to, inevitably, the fatality as forgotten footnote. Were it not for BikinginLA, the newsworthiness half-life of the dead cyclist would be but a few minutes. Instead, Ted documents each loss and at the end of the year puts it all into perspective. He deserves your support.
Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
Change will need to come to all levels of government, of course, but it is local politics that ultimately implements bike-friendly infrastructure and programs. That’s where the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) comes in. Remember that our County of Los Angeles is home to 10 million people. Many of them drive. And millions more motorists stream in via freeways every day. So some organization has to take the lead on advocating across the county’s patchwork of localities and unincorporated areas, right? LACBC is the coalition of local bike coalitions that focuses an office full of policy wonks and communications masterminds in Downtown Los Angeles on getting the gains that will one day make our region bike-friendly.
LACBC’s initiatives include bringing cycletracks to the City of Los Angeles; supporting a campaign to make the Hyperion Avenue Viaduct safe for biking; distributing bike lights to people in disadvantaged neighborhoods via Operation Firefly; and coordinating a Neighborhood Bike Ambassador Program to advance hyper-local improvements. And that’s just the beginning: LACBC conducts the County’s only multi-city bicycle count and supports Active Streets L.A., the campaign that ties safer local streets to our interest in promoting health, safety and welfare. Jennifer, Carol, Eric, Colin and the rest of the safe street elves do their part; let’s do ours and support the LACBC.
California Bicycle Coalition
The rules of the road remind us that the laws that govern cycling are enacted at the state level because under the law bicycles are transportation devices. Likewise, rider behavior is regulated as is motoring by the vehicular code. That means that Sacramento has a lot to say about our rights to road access and safe conditions.
The only organization working full time to protect our rights in California is the California Bicycle Coalition (Calbike). It was behind the pressure applied to policymakers to successfully expand rider representation on state transportation bodies; it was a major player in securing policymaker support for complete streets design principles; and most important, Calbike was the single most effective sponsor of safe passing laws in California. Beginning in September, the “Three Feet for Safety Act” goes into effect to afford riders three feet of clearance when being passed by a motorist (for the first time a specific safe-passing distance is specified). Calbike has also successfully lobbied in Sacramento to exempt bike plans and infrastructure improvements like bike lanes from time-consuming environmental review. Calbike deserves your support.
League of American Bicyclists
At the national level, the League of American Bicyclists has long worked to promote cycling and advance policies to make cycling safe. Their five “essential elements of a bicycle-friendly America” stand as guideposts for communities that want to encourage cycling. In particular, the League’s promotion of bicycle-friendly communities and businesses give all local advocates a model to follow.
Notably the League is the premier licensing agent for bicycle skills instructors nationwide and serves as a clearinghouse for bike handling classes. “We are the voice of the nation’s 57 million bicyclists, promoting and protecting your right to ride,” the League claims, and we believe it. The League deserves your support.
Those organizations operate at a scale that a local advocate cannot match, but very often change must bubble up within the corridors of city halls. That’s where local advocates come in. Around Beverly Hills there are a handful of organizations like the West Hollywood Bike Coalition, Culver City Bicycle Coalition, and Santa Monica Spoke who work the local levers of power. They deserve your support too.
Here in Beverly Hills, Better Bike is the only advocacy organization with a laser focus on making change within our city’s boundaries. Since 2010 we have advocated for an update to our 1977-era Bicycle Master Plan and pressed the city for bicycle racks and bike-friendly infrastructure. This past year we witnessed the installation of the first-ever bike lanes (on both North Crescent and Burton Way) and we’ve seen the city take some baby steps toward new sidewalk racks. Looking ahead we anticipate that bicycle lanes will be a part of tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard.
We take local politics seriously. Your Better Bike organizer Mark Elliot has been appointed to sit on the 15-member design committee (read our meeting recaps) and we will do our utmost to ensure that the voices of cyclists are heard in Beverly Hills City Hall. We have also been appointed to the Mayor’s transparency task force. Our advocacy can never be effective without access to the city’s business, and we’ve been very vocal about bringing long-overdue change to the way city hall conducts city business.
We’ve put our time in over nearly four years on the scene, but we’ve never put out a tin cup out for donations. We humbly feel we deserve your support too. Consider buying us a cup of tea or making a donation. You’ll be glad that you did!