Monday, May 18, 2009

My Letter to LA City Council

Dear City Council Members,

I was saddened to hear that LADOT is considering cutting funding for its bikeways staff. This would be a highly troubling decision for several reasons.

First and foremost, many Angelenos ride bicycles to work each day, and already face tremendous struggles crossing our car-dominated landscapes. Bike route signage provides one of the only defenses we have against aggressive drivers. Lest LADOT or the city council be confused about just who is riding bikes in LA, let me speak from my experience starting a campaign to benefit Spanish speaking cyclists. This is not a middle class movement; people of all income levels, including the lowest, ride bikes daily in LA, and it is pitiful that so little has been done to support their commutes while the city and county continue to funnel money into projects that have no future in a world moving toward sustainable transportation options. Eliminating bikeways staff would create even more barriers to cycling for existing bicyclists and for those who might be getting started, and would constitute a significant failure to provide safe passage for bicyclists.

Second, remember that Los Angeles faces tremendous criticism across the country and the world for lagging behind on efforts to support progressive policy on pollution reduction, public health, and public space. In a recent New York Times online debate about carfree living in the United States, many commenters expressed skepticism about the feasibility of living without a car in LA. Do you really want to confirm all the negative stereotypes thrown around about Los Angeles? This would be the farthest thing from supporting LA as the “cleanest, greenest big city in the United States,” as has been the mayor’s claimed mission recently.

Third, it is devastating that this move would mean a ceasing of efforts to secure Safe Routes to School funding and programming. Right now it is more important than ever to educate future generations about the possibilities of carfree travel, and to throw away educational opportunities like this signals a real disconnect between city and county administrators and the needs of our population.

Bicycling improves health and provides a pollution-free mode of travel for all residents; do you want to see programming to support this low-cost, high-benefit mode of transport go down the tubes on your watch?