Friday, October 22, 2010

Gary Rides Bikes Endorsements For Santa Monica City Council

I think bicycling as an issue has been somewhat neglected in years past in Santa Monica. However with the LUCE finally passing, changing trends in transportation, and groups like Spoke making bicycling more present in the public sphere, bicycling is a topic that's become an election issue. The Santa Monica Daily Press got each candidate on the record on bikes, and all felt compelled to at least say something positive for bicycling development.

It's easy to just say something nice for a single question in the paper. This was partly why I decided to send out my own questionnaire to get some more perspective on where the candidates are coming from in regards to bike planning issues. I think it's a postive sign for cycling's growing acceptance as a constituency that everyone has agreed on some level of support, even candidates who otherwise disagreed on many other things. Santa Monica Spoke also hosted a candidate mixer and forum to speak with some of the candidates as well. It was a great way to bring community members and the candidates together to talk about our concerns, and made for a very productive evening.

After some careful consideration I've decided to endorse Kevin McKeown and Ted Winterer for the 4 year seat election, and Terry O'Day in the 2 year seat election. 

Santa Monica Spoke, City Council Mixer & Forum To Discuss Bicycling
(McKeown at Santa Monica Spoke Meet The Candidates Event)
McKeown, as he pointed out in his questionnaire, has been riding a bike for a while, the same bike since the 70's, and has consistently been a supporter for bicycling in his time in office. Though support wasn't always there in the rest of the council. As the Spoke group started to develop, McKeown was always approachable and responsive to our concerns and recently helped work out a compromise in the Agensys developer agreement that included some additional funds being added that will be used for seeding bike projects in the Bergamot district. He also helped get Richard McKinnon appointed to the Parks and Recs commission. McKinnon, who is also on the steering committee of Santa Monica Spoke, has been using his position on the parks commission to advocate for bicycling in every way possible, and has been heading the effort to bring a Ciclovia style event to Santa Monica.


Santa Monica Councilman Terry O'Day Stops By The Park For A Picknick With Family
(Terry At Santa Monica Spoke's Park[ing] Day Event with his mother and daughter)
Terry O'Day comes from a background as an environmentalist (he is currently an executive director of Environment Now), and from conversations I've had with Terry he really seems to get it. He met with Santa Monica Spoke at one of our very early public meetings, gave a great talk at Bikeside Speaks (which he rolled up to on his Specialized bike). He also recently came down to see our Park[ing] Day installation and enjoyed a picnic in our pop up park with his family.

There has been a push by some to say Terry is in the pocket of developers (the group SMCLC sent out an attack e-mail with some misleading accusations about O'Day) because of his opposition to the initiative Measure T. As some readers may recall, I was also strongly opposed to the measure for a few reasons, primarily because of the constraints it would have put on mixed use development, which is exactly the sort of development I think cities ought to be doing to create more vibrant and walkable communities. Terry is a smart guy with innovative ideas, and is passionate about the environment and affordable housing, and I believe deserves our support in the election.

Santa Monica Spoke, City Council Mixer & Forum To Discuss Bicycling
(Ted Winterer on the right, candidate Jon Mann on the left, At Santa Monica Spoke Meet The Candidates Event)

Recently Ted Winterer was notably the strongest supporter on the planning commission for bicycling accommodation in the Agensys redevelopment project. He has also been very supportive and approachable in talking with local bicycling advocates. He was a co-author of Measure T, the contentious measure which as I mentioned, I was opposed to. However he seems open to input and different ideas and has a real community focus. I think he will be a strong advocate for making the plans in LUCE have real teeth and has adamantly said the LUCE "No new net auto trips" goal should be more than a feel good policy statement. We need more political leaders who are willing to take a stand in representing their constituents interests and I think Winterer is someone who will do that.

It was hard to narrow down these picks, as many candidates have expressed support for cycling, and some candidates who I disagreed with on many issues had some great ideas for making Santa Monica more bike friendly. One of the shockers for me was in the Santa Monica Daily Press Squirm Night. After listening to Terry O'Day and Republican Robert Kronovet disagree on nearly everything, when my question about bike safety came up, Kronovet was highly enthusiastic about making safer bike lanes, fully separated ones, and that Pico Blvd should have one (Kronovet is the chairman of the Pico Improvement Organization). Susan Hartley at the candidate mixer pitched a novel idea to turn Broadway into a mini-Ciclovia on weekends to create a dedicated safe route for residents and visitors to bike across town, to reach the Downtown area and Beach.

No matter who is elected, I think we will have some receptive ears to cycling concerns on the council, but it will be important for the cycling community to continue organizing and be involved in the process. Particularly the budgeting process, which Terry O'Day has pointed out starts in January. Councilmen like McKeown have always been a safe vote for bikes on the council, but turn out helps sway on the fence voters, and we won't get majorities sitting on the side lines.

Remember to get out there and bike the vote. It's a big election for California this year, with a lot at stake. I encourage everyone to read up on all the candidates and the ballot measures.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire: Susan Hartley (2 year Santa Monica city council seat)

1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Yes I do. A Rallye Mt. Peak men's bike. I had back surgery and am only now getting back into cycling. I plan on getting a better bike.



2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family?

I don't ride as frequently as I'd like. I used to do the bicycle path every Sunday with frequent excursions from where it ends in Redondo Beach to the northern end. I ride solo, with friends, and with family.



3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

I am a real advocate for closing off to autos a major east/west street every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so that bicyclists can safely and freely travel from all over Santa Monica to the beach and the downtown area. I originally suggested Broadway for this, but Arizona might be better, given the fewer businesses there. It would be a great way to get families out on their bikes, encouraging bicycling throughout the community. I endorsed the re-striping of Ocean Park Blvd. with the clearly marked bike lanes, defending it still to my fellow Friends of Sunset Park board members who prefer re-installation of the 2 lanes of traffic in either direction instead. I see a real lack of continuity and even hypocrisy between the City calling for bike lanes and then not insisting on a bike lane through the Agensys redevelopment project. That was a big mistake by the incumbents. I'd like to see steps taken to utilize alleys for safer bike routes near busy/congested areas of Santa Monica.


4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

The money should be spent in participatory events. The Girl Scout program has a bicycle education program which even includes maintenance. (I was a Girl Scout leader for 12 years.) That type of program could be instituted city-wide, even monthly. In addition, programs/events could be planned for bicycle touring of neighborhoods, utilizing "safer/recommended" routes. People would be attracted by the strength in numbers, fellowship, and happening of it. Cooperation with Critical Mass would also help in educating. Police officers could stop traffic, facilitating the groups flow safely through the community, instead of trying to stop the bicyclists. These participatory events would be fun, draw crowds of residents, and be an excellent way to provide bicycling education.


5) Context: (Note: I had mentioned I was leaving provided context out of responses to save space, which I posted here at the beginning of the series, but since Susan made a response specifically to context in addition to question I've included here again.)


The recent sustainability report card noted that collisions between drivers and cyclists had increased 78% in the past 3 years, while bicycle ridership grew 11% last year. The California Office of Traffic Safety report from 2008 rates Santa Monica as having some of the highest, and in some cases the highest number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries in traffic collisions for California cities of comparable size. 711 victims were injured or killed in all traffic collisions in Santa Monica in 2008 (212 of which were cyclist or pedestrian involved). Making traffic collisions clearly one of the biggest threats to public safety.

These are horrendous statistics. I'd like to see the report, analyses of the types of accidents and the locations of accidents, and the breakdown of fatalities and injuries.


Question:
How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

I'm for more bike lanes, clearly marked and even painted blue or green. The current re-striping of Ocean Park Blvd and the plans for that boulevard west of Lincoln are very exciting and very bicycle friendly. We need more streets like that in Santa Monica.

Santa Monica needs a clear and extensive bike lane network. My dedicated bike rider friends know which streets are safer and easier to ride from point A to point B. That info could be shared and publicized to encourage others to bike.

Sharrows scare me, both for the bicyclists and the auto drivers. I appreciate the concept but don't think that will help if somebody is killed or seriously injured.

I'm for enforcement of existing laws prohibiting bicyclists from riding on sidewalks as well as revisiting those laws, perhaps making the sidewalk on one side of the street a bicycle/pedestrian share lane. I've had a lot of seniors express to me their fear of being hit by a bicycle on a sidewalk. I know that is something to fear. I was hit by a bicyclist on the school playground when I was in 1st grade and seriously injured. I exercise residual caution to this day for fear of being hit again while I'm on a sidewalk.

Bicyclists should take it upon themselves to never run red lights. That's the law and it's so dangerous to disregard it. While I can understand the desire not to stop at a stop sign, it's hazardous not to. I guess if there is no car in sight, an exception could be made.

Enforcement of light requirements at night is essential. Frankly, I want to get through life without hitting/killing an animal, a pedestrian, and/or a bicyclist. It's scary to see a bicyclist seemingly appear out of nowhere, dressed in dark clothing and without any lighting whatsoever.

The police would have to be educated about bicycle laws and sensitized to the reality that bicyclists have a right to be on the road, that the bicycle population is increasing, and that our community wants to encourage, not discourage, bicycling. The police must get the message that our community demands a more cooperative and conducive environment for bicyclists.

With enforcement of the bicycle laws, there could be a warning ticket first and then a monetary penalty ticket. I think such enforcement would minimize the injuries and fatalities.


6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

Absolutely. There needs to be more available bike parking areas and devices. Consideration should also be given to allowing bicyclists inside some buses, like I've seen on the Metro.



7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

The city, perhaps with your and other bicyclists' input, needs to inventory locations of available bike parking facilities. Then they can install more. I'm greatly disturbed by the number of forgotten/ignored areas of our town and the inequity of it. All city resources and services need to more equitably distributed. I've fought for social justice all my life and plan to make equal distribution of city resources and services a primary goal of my time on the council.

Re the 99 cent store on Pico Blvd., that is a prime example of how NOT to plan. It's the wrong store in the wrong place. There is inadequate parking for autos, ingress and egress for autos, and from what you say bicycles. It's always an accident waiting to happen.

I flyered that area north and south of the freeway this weekend and heard over and over, as well as saw, how the city neglects that area. That has to stop. Those people deserve equal access to taxpayers dollars.


8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

My answers above answer this question. We're in a transition stage now, but with more cycling and the education efforts I mention above, there will be not only more bicycling but more synchronization between bicyclists and drivers. People squawk about the re-striping of Ocean Park Blvd., but the stats show it's a safer street now, not only for the pedestrians and bicyclists, but for the drivers. We'll see more cooperation between bicyclists and drivers with cycling becoming more common and widespread. Also, there will be less hostility from drivers when bicyclists follow the law regarding stopping at lights and stop signs and using lights at night.



9) How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

My idea detailed above about closing off a major east/west street to cars every Sunday for certain hours. Also, specifying already existing easy access routes to get to the bike path, such as Ocean Park Blvd., perhaps even painting them with a beach graphic like a wave. The topography north of the pier is a problem with walking and carrying seemingly the only answer now. With budget constraints on all fronts, it doesn't appear that funds for a bridge for bikes is feasible for that area. It should be considered.



Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

I look forward to riding with you during some of the above community events I've suggested. It's an exciting time for cycling. We're at a real turning point in cycling becoming a major mode of transportation for increasing numbers of people. We need to insist that the city not cave to developers like they did with Agensys. Wear ample lighting at night and please don't run stop lights and even signs. It's not good public relations. Stay safe. The cycling climate is only going to get better. I promise to work on that.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire: Terry O'Day (2 year Santa Monica city council seat)

1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Specialized road bike – it has narrower tires than mountain bikes, but wider than most racing bikes. There’s a detachable kid seat on the back. My next bike would have narrower tires (I thought commuting would require something more rugged, but I think that’s not true in SM), and fewer gears (currently 18), since they seem to provide more maintenance headaches than cycling efficiency. Not to mention I have a grudge with Shimano right now due to their efforts to kill our marine protected areas in California.

2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family? 

I ride less often these days, since my kids are in two different schools. I’m riding 1-2 days per week and I go to school drop-off, my office, and community meetings. When I have to go downtown SM, bike is most preferred because it’s easier for traffic and parking reasons.

3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

First, we need a bike action plan that shows the practical, immediate steps to quickly improve bikability and safety in SM. Second, we need city staff dedicated to bike issues and meeting with our bike community regularly. Third, we need to shift some resources in our budget that are currently dedicated to street improvements toward bike safety improvements. As a councilmember, I have begun this shift. I am pressing for the first item – the bike action plan. We are implementing the second – staffing at the city. I introduced the motion to dedicate city funds to bike education in our current budget.

4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

I would like to see the funding spent on a) a conference that attracts some of the best people in the country to share ideas about making SM bike-friendly, b) providing bike education classes for the community, and c) enhancing the highly successful Bike-It Day of our schools and expanding it to become a city-wide event with other agencies and employers.

5) How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

In addition to the bike education programs mentioned, and increasing the number of bikers on the road (both of which improve safety), in the short term, I want to see us immediately deploy ‘bike boxes’ which indicate to bikes and cars where to stop your bike at intersections. I want to immediately paint lanes on every street that presently has the width to accommodate a lane but no paint yet. Also, hosting a regular Cyclovia to attract attention to bikes. In the medium term, I want to connect our lanes to destinations and neighborhoods in a more rational way. I want to develop a ‘bike boulevard’ demonstration and a ‘Safe Route to School’. When Expo is developed, it needs to accommodate bikes in the first instance.

6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

Yes to all!

7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

We are currently upgrading our parking meters and installing payment center – removing old meters. We should be converting those old posts to bike parking and massively increase deployment of safe bike parking. (Note from Gary; this is mostly in response to the context I provided in that some parts of the city have no bike parking at all.)

8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

I actually think this is the most difficult area of all the questions you pose because the city has the least amount of influence over behavior of drivers, many of whom live throughout the region. Proper signage, including street paint like sharrows will help. Safety in numbers will help too. By increasing the number of bikes on our streets, we change behavior of drivers. Police enforcement bears mentioning, but would never reach all behavior on the road.


9) How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

SM is in the midst of renovating the pier bridge and the california incline. Those projects may be able to create a better connection over our bluffs in the mid-to-north part of our city. In the South, we simply need better signage and dedicated crossings. These could provide a vibrant connection to Main Street businesses.

Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

Thanks, Gary, for being such a great activist. I encourage your readers to join the council during its complete budget process, which begins in January with priority setting and concludes in June with an adopted budget. Come tell us to put our money where our mouth is. Thanks!

Candidate Questionnaire: Pam O’Connor (4 year Santa Monica city council seat)

1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Don’t have a bike right now. I had bad knees for the past few years that limited me. Now have new knees, so…(See bonus questions for last time I rode a bike.)

2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family? 
N/A


3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

LUCE provides the umbrella for developing a multi-modal transportation system. However, a more detailed Bicycle Master Plan needs to be created to lay out specific bicycle network elements. Some streets can become “complete streets” with roadway shared but others may not be easily made safe for bicycle travel because of the intensity of vehicles and parking. But Santa Monica has a strong street grid that will allow for “complete corridors”—i.e. dedicated bike lane on a parallel street (thus the corridor is “complete” with bike route on the safer street). Other residential streets with less traffic would be shared. On the Council and as a Metro Board member and as First VP of SCAG I have promoted multi-modalism (pedestrians, bikes, transit). Coming out of SCAG’s Integrated Planning Task Force (which I chaired) SCAG has just begun a “Wiki for bike and pedestrian planning (http://bikepedwiki.scag.ca.gov/) which is a participatory planning process for bicycle and pedestrian improvements throughout the region.


4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

As a Councilmember I am a policy-maker, not the project manager…but I expect that city staff would first look at ways to leverage the funds to get the most out of them, look for best practices to implement, and identify other funding sources to enable ongoing bicycle education for everyone (drivers, pedestrians, bike riders, school children, seniors).

5) How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

See answer to Q3—need to identify appropriate streets for bicycle lanes (and some streets with heavy traffic, future dedicated bus lanes would not be appropriate for the bike lane). And Q4—need for ongoing safety education (there will always be a new rider, a new driver, etc).


6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

Yes to 3-bikes rack and yes to better bike parking. But there is a capacity limit, as there will be with bike parking. I think we also need to investigate bike-sharing programs as another option (i.e., Paris, London, Minneapolis).

7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

That will be part of the Bicycle Master Planning—identifying all the elements needed for an effective bicycle netsork including bike parking.


8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

See Q4—the education program has to be ongoing (new drivers, new bicyclists). Also traffic enforcement is needed for drivers and bicyclists. In Paris with the introduction of the Velib bike-sharing program there were more bicyclists on the streets and they are allowed to use the dedicated bus lanes. This was only possible with proactive enforcement of traffic rules: drivers and cyclists each had to adhere to rules of the road.

9) How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

Again, that is part of the Santa Monica bicycle Master Plan that must be developed and on a regional level, through planning such as SCAG’s bicycle wiki for planning. At Metro (I am on the Metro Board of Directors and Chair of Metro’s Sustainability Committee) the next “Call for Projects” will encourage funding to those projects that promote bicycle and pedestrian improvements. As the Sustainable Communities Strategy for Los Angeles County (part of SB 375 which requires reduction of GHG from light vehicles) is undertaken at SCAG (I am First Vice-President of SCAG) multi-modal travel support for bicycling will be an important way to improve travel options that reduce GHG thus focusing attention on the investments needed to support safe cycling.


Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

When my knees were still ok (about 4 years ago) I got to try out the bike sharing program in Lyon, France (which pre-dates Paris’ Velib). It was great!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire: Gleam Davis (2 year Santa Monica city council seat)

1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

I have an old Trek bike.

2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family?

Between the time commitments of work and being on the City Council, I don’t have the time to ride very often. My 14 year old son rides around town quite a bit.

3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

In my brief time on the council, I have supported the Ocean Park Boulevard improvement project which includes bike-friendly features. I am hopeful that the Ocean Park model can be a template for other streets in Santa Monica. I also supported funding of bike education and bringing Cyclavia to Santa Monica. In the LUCE hearings, I repeatedly stressed the need for bike infrastructure (bike parking, bike rentals) to be a required part of any new development. I also have met with cycling activists regarding strategies to make bicycle transport safer and easier.


4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

I know many parents do not allow their children to bike to school because they believe it is unsafe. We need to make sure that students and their parents know how to select a safe route to/from school. We also need to inform automobile drivers about the rights of cyclists.

5) How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

First, we have to look for solutions to our traffic problems. The heavy traffic we face in Santa Monica is a threat to drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. Second, we must ensure that our infrastructure promotes safety. The sharrows on 14th Street are a good example. We also need to rethink some of the street configurations to make sure that medians and other features allow sufficient space for cyclists and autos to share the street. Finally, we should emphasize enforcement of existing speeding and other traffic safety laws. Speeding and inattentive driving are the biggest threats to both pedestrians and cyclists.

6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

As we purchase new buses, we should install the larger bike racks. I support increasing bike parking facilities at bus stops and at other locations in Santa Monica where there is space. When there is development along our busy, transit-rich boulevards, we should make sure that bike parking spaces are created. As Santa Monica’s alternate representative to the Expo Construction Authority, I regularly work with City staff to ensure that sufficient bike parking will be included at all the Expo stations in Santa Monica.

7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

As part of the zoning requirements, Santa Monica requires businesses to offer adequate automobile parking. As we draft the zoning ordinances to implement the new Land Use and Circulation Element, we should address the issue of bike parking as well. In new developments and significant renovations, regardless of where they are, the creation of adequate bike parking should be a standard requirement.

8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

Education of motorists and cyclists alike about the rules of the road must be part of our bike education program. Kevin McKeown has discovered that other cities use a painted “no bikes” symbol at corner curb cuts to remind cyclists that they should not use the sidewalks. Santa Monica should try something like that.


9) How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more
synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

The new pier bridge and the renovation of the California Incline provide opportunities to improve the connection between city streets to the beach bike path. Given the heavy bike traffic on San Vicente, I also would like to find a way to connect the northern end of Palisades Park to the beach bike path. I am hopeful that when Expo comes to Santa Monica, our neighbors to the north and south will be able to use the beach bike path as a means of getting to the Expo station at 4th and Colorado.

Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

If elected in November, I look forward to working with the community to make our streets more bike-friendly. Thanks for reading this!

CicLAvia, A Life Changing Moment For Los Angeles

View Of The Street At MacArthur Park

If only this is what traffic in Los Angeles looked like every day. I have countless stories, photos, videos, and memories that came out of the experience, which I haven't the time to fully express right now. I do want to give a huge thanks to the CicLAvia team that made this possible. A 100,000 seeds were planted in fostering a new understanding for what can be possible with our public spaces by simply removing cars from the picture. From kids to the elderly, cyclists and skaters, joggers and the disabled, everyone, took to the streets in droves and made for a magical experience like nothing else I have seen in Los Angeles.

I've been on many mass bike rides, but this was more than a group of people on bikes. This was not just a party on wheels rolling together, a racing peloton, or an assertion of rights, it was simply a teeming network of people coming and going and stopping where they pleased. A 7 mile microcosm of what city life could be like if we didn't get around in cars.

I wish it didn't have to stop at 3:00pm, and it's a rude awakening back to reality to see so many streets choked with cars again. Many called this a street closure, as did most reporters, because it closed the street for cars. Yet as many advocates have tried to say, this is really an opening of the street. From my conversations with people who were there, even those who were not "advocates", they instinctively got that this was truly an opening. I heard people refer to the 3:00pm cutoff, the return of cars to the street, as when the streets would be closed.

I can't wait until we can do this again. 10/10/10 was magical, everything I imagined it could be and more.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire: Jerry Rubin (4 year Santa Monica city council seat)

1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Not for quite a while (See final comment section).

2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family?

Sounding good!  Maybe I should look into getting a bike.

3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you've done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

I am a big supporter of the positive LUCE goals for bike improvements.
4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

A bicycle riding brochure emphasizing bike safety and etiquette as well as the positive health and environmental benefits.


5) How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

Education,education,education!  Also, more bike lanes, bike parking and street signs.

6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

Three bike racks sounds positive.  More bike parking availability, including parking lots could be positive.
7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

[Note from Gary; I included a specific example of bad parking availability and insecure lock up in my context for question which Jerry responds to in parentheses.]

(People who chain their bikes to trees should be aware how easily a thief can just slide the bike over the top of the tree.) Seriously, I would support  a town hall/ neighborhood community group meeting to get input on bike parking expansion opportunities.

8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

All bike education programs should be geared to include all other vehicle drivers as well as pedestrians. Shared responsibility is the key.  But, bike riding on Santa Monica sidewalks is very dangerous and should be reemphasized as to its illegality. Bike riding on the sidewalk certainly goes against Santa Monica's ongoing efforts to promote a pedestrian friendly environment.
9)  How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

More bike friendly signs. More connectivity. More beach bike parking. Valet bike parking is excellent!

Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you'd like to say to my readers on any topic you'd like.


I have never had a car in my life. I walk and take our fine Big Blue Bus mostly. But I'm getting interested again in getting a bike just for the exercise and fun of it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire: Kevin McKeown (4 year Santa Monica city council seat)

(Kevin took some extra time to compile some photos to go with his answers and I have included them with the appropriate questions below.)


1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Yes, a 1977 Miyata Liberty bought new at Helen's Cycles. This was back when the Miyata was made with 1024 high-tensile steel tubing, and while it's not a light bike, you can't argue with 33 years of durability! Here it is about a year old, (picture1) and more recently (picture2) just after I rode it in the Ocean Park Association's Main Street Fourth of July parade.


2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family?

There have been times when I rode daily as basic local transportation. I've also taken my bike on the back of my car on a number of road trips, riding everything from the rim of the Grand Canyon, to the bike path along the edge of Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge. I now sometimes ride with my wife Genise, a less experienced rider who makes me aware of how challenging some of our local streets can be.

3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you've done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

I'm one vote of seven on the City Council, but I'm always a vote for bicycles. I've insisted on bike lanes when streets were reconfigured. In the new neighborhoods to be created from old industrial areas of Santa Monica, I plan to push for complete separation of cars and bikes, as is commonly done in Europe. I took this photo (picture3) a few years ago in Helsinki. Even where that proves cost-prohibitive, I want clearly painted bike crossings like this one (picture4) I saw last winter in Barcelona.


4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

On educating motorists as well as bicyclists. The lack of understanding that bicycles have a right to be on the road is appalling.


5) How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

We need to learn to demand and design complete streets. I've studied how successful cities integrate bicycles with cars (and often light rail or trams as well!). Sometimes this means separation (picture5), but other times all it takes is a cheap coat of paint (picture6) to make it abundantly clear that bicycles have a place on the road, even in areas of demanding traffic maneuvers. At intersections, we need to make our traffic signals aware of bicyclists, or at least install crossing buttons where cyclists can reach them (picture7), like in the Netherlands.


6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

I was the Councilmember who seven years ago successfully pushed for the current 2-bike racks on all Big Blue Buses (picture8). Now that upgrades are available, we should phase them in. I've already been adamant about bicycle access at future Expo stops, including the ability to get bikes onto Expo trains, and have been pushing for more bike parking throughout the city. We're still a ways from the facilities at this shopping center in Copenhagen (picture9), but we should insist on getting there.


7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

Encourage bicycling throughout the city. We will naturally need to place the resources where the need is greatest, and growing ridership will justify amenities.

8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

I wouldn't mind in the least being as forthright about the matter as the Irish (picture10). We've made a start with sharrows, and I've already suggested painted (not just striped) lanes. The city funding for "bicycle education" has to be used for drivers as well as bicyclists. For our part, we have to stay off the sidewalks. As justifiable as it may seem for safety reasons when confronted with heavy traffic, riding on the sidewalk generates immense ill will towards cyclists, and is, in effect, a capitulation to the
canard that we don't have a right to the streets themselves.


9)  How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

I recently drew this map (picture11) to show city planners how pathetic our current connection from the city proper down to the bike path really is. That convoluted red line is the route I have been following for 34 years. I will insist that the new Pier bridge not only accommodate cyclists, but
encourage them. Likewise, I am working with engineers on the California Incline reconstruction to include safe ways for bicycles to access the spiral-ramped cycle/pedestrian bridge across PCH.



Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you'd like to say to my readers on any topic you'd like.

All we have to do is make bicycling attractive enough (picture12), and the world will follow us.


If you agree with what I've done and what I plan to do for bicycling in Santa Monica, please help me get re-elected:

http://www.mckeown.net

Thanks!

Gary Rides Bikes SM Council Candidate Questionnaire

As I mentioned in my post about tonight's informal meet the candidates night with Santa Monica Spoke (hope you can come), I also sent out some questions to the Santa Monica candidates on behalf of you, my blog readers. Each candidate that replies will get their own post with their answers. For some of the questions I also included some context of existing conditions. In the interest of not making each subsequent post in this series incredibly long, I will only include the questions in future posts, and not the full letter and sentences explaining context. So everyone can see the full letter, I have copied it here below.





Dear Candidate For City Council,

I’m writing to you to offer a unique opportunity to dialogue with the growing community of residents and visitors who ride bikes both for transportation and fun in Santa Monica. This same offer is being given to each candidate running for Santa Monica City Council in the November election. Attached are a series of 9 questions (a few are related multi-part questions) on bicycling and transportation related issues. Some are prefaced with some additional context. For any candidate who offers their responses, I will publish their answers unedited on my local cycling blog Gary Rides Bikes, with a separate blog post for each candidate.

For those unfamiliar with my blog, it’s focused on my bicycling adventures, and opinions on bicycling issues. Sometimes also covering the politics of transportation and urban planning, set primarily in Santa Monica, where I both live and work. Bicycling as a mode may represent a minority in transportation trips compared to driving, but it’s a minority that is growing, and becoming increasingly motivated and engaged. They are seeking out sources of information of cycling issues such as my blog, and want to see improvements made to safety in the streets, through education, enforcement & accommodation in infrastructure design. Making the streets safer for cycling, so more people are willing to try, is also imperative if the city is to meet it’s transportation management goals in reducing car trips.

My readership has steadily grown despite few efforts to advertise. Monthly web views are typically over 2,000 separate visits and over 3,000 page views from over 1,500 unique visitors. There are also over 200 readers who use external applications to subscribe to the blog through the RSS feed, and 232 people follow me on twitter as well. The cities with the highest readership are Los Angeles followed by Santa Monica, with Santa Monica readers spending more time reading and clicking through content than visitors from other areas, and are more likely to be return readers. A number of other local blog writers for transportation and cycling issues are regular readers and also frequently link to and reference material from my posts. Gary Rides Bikes is also syndicated on the national Streets Blog Network of select local transportation blogs from regions around the Country.

Based on the answers to the attached questions, past experiences and some research I’ve already done, I also intend to offer a few endorsements. I will promote the endorsed candidates to my readership with links to their campaign websites on the blog and repeated on Twitter leading up to the election. Many local cyclists have a lot of trust for what I have to say, which is why I don’t take making a public endorsement lightly. When I wrote about some of the anti-bike lobbying AAA has been behind, and promoted Better World Club as an alternative, I had many readers write in to tell me they dropped their AAA memberships and changed service to Better World Club almost immediately. I did a lot of homework before making that judgment call, and seeing the answers to these questions will help me make sure I am aiming my cycling readership in the right direction in November.

Thank you for your time,

Gary Kavanagh
Santa Monica Resident of the Pico Neighborhood
garyridesbikes.blogspot.com


So here we go, the questions (Please return your answers to garyridesbikes@gmail.com) :

1)
Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

2)
If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family?

3)
On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

4)
$20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

5)
Context:
The recent sustainability report card noted that collisions between drivers and cyclists had increased 78% in the past 3 years, while bicycle ridership grew 11% last year. The California Office of Traffic Safety report from 2008 rates Santa Monica as having some of the highest, and in some cases the highest number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries in traffic collisions for California cities of comparable size. 711 victims were injured or killed in all traffic collisions in Santa Monica in 2008 (212 of which were cyclist or pedestrian involved). Making traffic collisions clearly one of the biggest threats to public safety.

Question:
How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

6)
Context:
The Los Angeles MTA has recently discussed the possibility of upgrading bike racks on buses to house 3 bikes instead of 2, as some municipalities have done in places of high bicycle ridership. Bike parking is also in high demand at major transit connections, both for major bus stops as well as rail stations, but facilities are sometimes lacking or insufficient to meet demand.

Question:
In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

7)
Context:
Speaking of bike parking, attention has been given to installing lots of bike racks in the downtown area, which still can be overwhelmed at peak times. However, in many neighborhoods in the city bike parking accommodation is completely lacking. I’ve documented on my blog people attaching to trees and even shopping carts at the 99 cent store on Pico Blvd, a street that currently has almost no bike parking.

Question:
What will do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

8)
Context:
In Santa Monica I encounter less hostility from drivers than most other cities and neighborhoods I’ve spent time cycling in or through in the Los Angeles region. However, even in Santa Monica, cyclists, myself included, have been harassed or intimidated on a semi-frequent basis by drivers who either do not understand, or do not respect bicyclists’ right to ride in the street. Sometimes this harassment takes the form of unprovoked honking, or sometimes shouting from a car window. Or more dangerously, drivers sometimes make aggressive maneuvers with their vehicle toward a cyclist. This intimidation to get off the street results in high rates of bicycle ridership on sidewalks, even though sidewalk riding is illegal in Santa Monica, and puts cyclists into frequent conflict with pedestrians. This puts cyclists in the position of being despised by both some drivers as well as walkers.

Question:
What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

9)
Context:
The beach bike path through Santa Monica is a crown jewel in the network of bicycling facilities in the Southern California region, and attracts riders both locally as well as from far and wide. However there presently are few direct connections from the street grid to the bike path, and many of them are not especially bicycle friendly, and there is no way-finding signage directing cyclists how best to connect to the beach path. This disconnect is reflected in Google’s “Bike There” mapping feature which often skips the bike path to recommend PCH as a bicycling route because of the lack of bike route and street grid connections to the bike path.

Question:
How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

Bonus)
Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

Thanks again for your time.



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

CicLAvia 10.10.10, Be There! I Think It Will Be History In The Making


This Sunday, 10-10-10, CicLAvia has the potential to be a historic game changing moment for Los Angeles. 7 miles of roadway, snaking from Downtown L.A. up to East Hollywood, with a terminus at Orange 20 and the Bicycle Kitchen will be made open to everyone, everyone except those in a car that is. A street closure for cars is not really a street closure, it is an opening of the street for everything else that could be done in that public space. The streets will be open from 10am to 3pm along the entire route, there is no start or stop, or phases like a marathon route. A lot of people will bike, but this is more than just a giant bicycle boulevard. This is for everyone. People can walk, jog, skate, dance, do cartwheels, jump rope, what ever you want to do, in the middle of the street.


This movement to temporarily re-purpose public streets to encourage all forms active transportation and social gathering, began in Bogota Columbia over 30 years ago. Los Angeles is also not the first North American city to experiment with the idea. However L.A. is also a city long associated with automobile dominance, and as a producer of pop culture exported around the world, is highly influential in the development of emerging cities around the globe. If even in L.A. we can close streets to cars, albeit temporarily, and fill them instead with bikes, walkers, skaters and others, I think it sets an important global precedent.

Here is what it looked like when New York had their first Ciclovia style event in 2008, called Summer Streets.

The hope is that this can become a recurring event, a cultural institution, and not just a one off moment of magic. A high turn out and successful first run, will help keep momentum going to do more, and hopefully inspire other SoCal cities to try it. So I hope you can make it out on Sunday.

For those of us on the Westside, a meet up is happening at the Bikerowave hosted by Damien Newton of LA Streetsblog to make a group pilgrimage East for CicLAvia by bike. To the start of the Mid-Day Ridazz CicLAvia Kids Ride. 8:00 meet up and 8:30 roll out from Bikerowave. I'll ride out from the Santa Monica pier by the cannon at 7:30, so if anyone from Santa Monica is interested in some company getting out to the Bikerowave, you can join me, and ride to the ride to go ride. I'm also planning to bring my in-line skates in my bags as well, because I enjoy skating in the middle of the street just as much as I do biking, sometimes even more so. It's all about people power, in what ever form or number of wheels that happens to take.

For more details check out the CicLAvia website and their blog. Hats off to the organizers, the financial contributors,  the City of Los Angeles departments involved, and Mayor Villaraigosa, who made this all possible, I can't wait. Excited!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bike The Vote 2010 & SM Spoke Hosting Informal Public Social Meeting With The Candidates

The election is coming up fast (be sure to register if you aren't already!), and Monday was the Santa Monica Daily Press's Squirm Night, where some tough questions were presented to the local candidates, making for some occasionally awkward and revealing moments. Local politics can actually be pretty entertaining with the right questions. I encourage everyone to get informed and involved. National and State level elections often command the biggest attention, but it's at the local level that policy and candidates often have the most direct impact on your daily life. For bicyclists, local politics are huge in shaping the quality of our riding experience as we navigate all the local streets.

If you want to hear more about the candidates, as well as local measures, Santa Monica actually has a great website, smvote.org, with short videos with candidate's views on some various topics of local concern, and a calender of some of the upcoming election related events along with links to various voter resources. The Santa Monica Daily Press also has answers to a questionnaire for each candidate. A question on making Santa Monica more bike friendly is in there as well, so each candidate is on the record in some form on bikes. Due to the lack of specifics a single question can get into, I also sent a letter with questions to each candidate of my own, and any candidates who return answers will have them posted to this blog.

Finally, Santa Monica Spoke managed to squeeze in an election event amidst all the others going on, for this Thursday Night. It will be an informal gathering with a chance to meet some of the candidates as well as mingle with other area cyclists and advocates. It's a unique opportunity to talk face to face with council candidates, and some incumbents seeking re-election, and share your concerns,  I'll be there as well, and I hope you can make it out. There will be some snacks and drinks and such as well. Be heard, this will be a chance where you aren't constrained to a 2 minute comment.

Newsletter Blast From SM Spoke Below (Which you can subscribe to here by the way):


is hosting an informal
Meet the Candidates,
Social Mixer

Thursday October 7,  6.30pm 8:45pm*
Informal Meet and Greet and Social Mixer with Santa Monica City Council
We want your comments and ideas... Lets TALK BIKES!
Converse with the candidates, hear their thoughts on Santa Monica
It's a no speeches, up close talk with City Council Candidates about Bikes and Santa Monica.


Current list of Attendees: 
Kevin McKeown,
Terry O’Day, Bob Holbrook
Jon MannDavid GanezerSusan HartleyJerry Rubin
Regrets:
Pam O’Connor (out of town)
Gleam Davis (back to school night)
Robert Kronovert (out of town)
Location, Date & Time: 
Thursday, October 7th from 6:30 to 8:45pm
502 Colorado, (south east corner 5th and Colorado)
click here to RSVP
 
*Snacks and refreshments will be served
Plenty of secure bike parking in the enclosed Patio. 

And please, make sure all our friends in the community know about this and are coming
Look for Updates on this event at:
SMSpoke.org

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Beef With AAA & Why If You're A Member, You Should Make The Switch To Better World Club

One of our first bike only roads.
(Riding a rural CA bike trail adjacent but with wide separation from highway on AIDS Life Cycle. Was one of my favorite parts of the route. No cars whizzing bye with their noise, their pollution, and their threatening presence.)

Some of you may have heard that Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, known best for it's conversion of decommissioned rail lines into biking and hiking trails, began circulating a petition to call on AAA to support funding for biking and walking. This all came about when the CEO of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of AAA called for Congress to kick bike and pedestrian path projects out of the surface transportation bill. Projects which presently represent an anemically minuscule portion of that total funding.

AAA did not specifically state to not fund bike projects, but to make those projects compete for some other funding dollars. Rails-To-Trails contends that these funding channels within the transportation budget have already existed for quite some time for these kinds of projects, and have their own criteria for funding selection. They argue that to kill those funding streams with no alternative funding currently in place, could kill or significantly delay the future of the kinds of projects Rails To Trials advocates for.

One of AAA's points is that they claim the surface transportation bill is a user fee for drivers and should only fund auto projects. Except that it's not. As any transit nerd following all this stuff knows, the federal gas tax has not been adjusted for inflation in more than a decade and the transportation bill stopped being covered by gas taxes long ago. It is already loaded with money appropriated out of the general fund to stay solvent, money we all pay into. That includes bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users, not just motorists. To make the federal surface transportation bill be completely auto-centric in spending without first increasing taxes on drivers to actually fund the thing without general funds, would essentially be robbing money from every other mode of travel to subsidize driving.

Given how little bike and pedestrian trail funding is actually included in the federal budget, making us a target to cut funds reeks of a mode bias agenda. This is hardly the first time AAA has tried to advance automobile interests by trying to kick other modes of travel out of the picture. When D.C. was recently planning bike lanes on famous Pennsylvania Ave., AAA released an op-ed piece calling it a "War on motorists", and actively lobbied against the proposals. Lon Anderson of AAA called this "war" a huge concern for their "80,000 DC AAA members". I don't think most members who only know of AAA as the company that helps change their flats and gives out maps, are aware these kind of lobbying efforts are being done on their behalf.

Closer to home, there have been a number of streets going through speed limit increases in the L.A. area, mostly in the Valley. Many residents were outraged at some of the speeds proposed, but had almost no input in the matter. That's because state law dictates that speed limits can only be enforced with radar if they be set by the 85th percentile principle. Which essentially means that if 85% of drivers are speeding, than the speed limit goes up. Since L.A. drivers generally find it's always okay to go a little bit over the limit (unless congestion is forcing them to stay far below it), usually these periodically mandated changes push the limits upward.

Streets Blog LA has been covering the whole topic pretty closely, and a reform bill, A.B. 766 was introduced with local support to change the law. It would have added an exception to speed limit increases on radar enforced streets if it presented a danger to pedestrian and bicycling traffic on a street.

So what does this local speed limit issue have to do with AAA? They were there lobbying in Sacramento to help make sure A.B. 766 was dead on arrival. So if you're a AAA member, your membership dues may sometimes be paying for lobbying efforts you may not agree with.


The Big Parade LA 2010
(One way of dealing with speeders..)

If you dig a little deeper, AAA has historically been involved in numerous lobbying efforts. Some seem genuinely nice enough but they are not always benign. They were involved in various capacities in efforts restricting pedestrian rights in the city, a necessary step to ensure auto dominance in urban planning at the dawn of the automobile. They were lobbying to give private autos the same priority as trolley car systems, which killed the efficiency of the electric trolley lines in many cities like Los Angeles. AAA was constantly pushing for land development patterns that favored the car over other modes, aka sprawl.

Downtown Parking

If you think our currently highly automobile dependent urban design is a bad thing, you can thank AAA for being there every step of the way to push our cites to be car, car, car. Closer to modern history, they've been involved in fighting landmark environmental protections like the Clean Air Act, and fought almost every bill introduced to improve emission standards in cars. Of the Clean Air Act, AAA wrote, it would "..threaten the personal mobility of millions of Americans and jeopardize needed funds for new highway construction and safety improvements."



I used to be a AAA member as did my wife. I got rid of AAA when I got rid my car, but was mostly clueless then how involved they were in advocating for automobile dependence in America. My wife has been considering selling her car, but for the moment we still have it. She had AAA, and was a long time member, but I convinced her to get rid of it after I read books like Fighting Traffic and Republic of Drivers, which describe in detail how our country became so car dependent. It is an appealing service they provide with their convenient road side assistance, but the thing is, they aren't the only game in town anymore, so there are choices. Signing a petition is a way to call attention, but I think a louder message is to ditch AAA for a competitor that doesn't have an anti-bike agenda.


Enter Better World Club. Better World Club was co-founded by Mitch Rofsky who started his career working for Ralph Nader at Public Citizen. Nader of course was first launched to fame by his tireless fighting against the carelessness of the automobile industry starting with his infamous book Unsafe At Any Speed, before going on to be involved in numerous safety and environmental regulation efforts on a variety of issues. Rofsky saw the fights environmental groups were having with AAA, and thought there was room to compete with a similar service but a different message.

BWC makes a point of being the socially responsible road club, and not only does it not lobby against alternative transportation modes, they encourage them. They are for tougher environmental regulations on automobiles and improving air quality. They support transportation dollars being allocated for public transit service. The best part is they also provide road side assistance for bicyclists nationwide, something AAA does not offer, though the local AAA branch in Oregon is now flirting with bike service. Especially as someone who is interested in long distance bike tours, a nationwide bike assistance service is a great peace of mind, even if you hopefully never have to use it. So as readers of my Twitter feed already know, I have been encouraging people to make the switch from AAA to BWC recently.

That first twitter to encourage people to switch from AAA to Better World Club is partially how I was spiraled into being compelled to write all this up. In reply to my suggestion to @BikeSwarm to look at Better World Club instead of AAA, I got a tweet from the PR wing of AAA back at me and a number of others who re-tweeted my tweet. To which I wrote back a number of stinging replies and rants without further response on their part. If they thought they could win me over with a tweet and some PR fluff that's not reflected in their real lobbying efforts, they have another thing coming.

Well hello there @AAACares, spin, spin, spin. I have to admit, I kind of enjoy watching irresponsible powerful interests squirm a little because a bunch of people on the internet are poking at them. Then seeing their efforts to PR spin blow up in their face. So I was compelled to write my own big blog post that couldn't be contained in 144 characters. I also left a comment on the facebook page, linked to in their tweet.

AAA's little denouncement of bicycling funding in the transportation bill is perhaps some of the best marketing for Better World Club yet. I think I've converted a handful of people yesterday my self already with a few tweets. I encourage any readers still with AAA to look into Better World Club, or other road side assistance alternatives. AAA has over 50 million members, who they evoke when lobbying government, with little outreach to inform their membership what they are up to in their name. They don't need your help to advance their anti-bike agenda, and you don't need their help with road side assistance if you sign up with another group.

If you need a little more convincing, I suggest reading the following articles that summarize some of the lesser known activities of AAA:
The Secret Life of AAA - [The Amicus Journal]
Smitten with a Club - Your AAA dues fuel pollution and sprawl - [Harpers]