Still think your vote doesn’t count?

March 4, 2009

Let’s talk about yesterday’s election for just a moment.

As you may be aware, I invited each of the candidates for L.A.’s 5th Council District to use this site to address cycling and other transportation issues. Four of the six candidates — Adeena Bleich, Robert Schwatrz, Robyn Ritter Simon and David Vahedi — chose to participate.

And one of those four, David Vahedi, received the most votes yesterday. He’ll face off with Paul Koretz — one of the two who chose not to participate — in a runoff election May 19.

Thanks in no small part to mentions by Damien Newton of L.A. Streetsblog, as well as a few local riders who emailed a link to the candidates’ statements or posted links in local biking forums, these pages received over 300 unique visits.

Now consider this. Vahedi won yesterday’s primary with a margin of just 60 votes, out of over 26,000 votes cast.

60 votes.

At the same time, Koretz finished just 1512 votes ahead of Bleich, the 3rd place finisher. That’s 1512 votes out of the roughly 100 thousand or so registered voters in the 5th District — the vast majority of whom didn’t even bother to cast a ballot.

So if you ever wondered if your vote really makes a difference, consider this: if just 20% of the people who read these statements cast their votes for Vahedi, we were responsible for his entire margin of victory. And if just 757 people had voted for Bleich instead of Koretz, she’d be in the runoff, instead.

And you can’t tell me there aren’t at least 757 cycling registered voters on the Westside.

Over the next few days, I plan to email each of the candidates who provided a statement, to thank them for participating and offer my support in the future. Because we need to support the people who support cycling.

I’ll also make one last attempt to reach Paul Koretz, and encourage him to provide a statement. I won’t vote for anyone until I know how they stand on the issues that affect us as cyclists. And I hope you won’t, either.

Although I’m more that happy to let Damien take over from here on out.

As for all the cyclists who were eligible to vote yesterday, but didn’t take the effort to cast a ballot, I have just one question.

What the hell is wrong with you?

 

Bike Portland is on her way to L.A. for this weekend’s Bike Summit; yours truly will be participating as well. As if there weren’t enough problems on area bike paths, now we have to dodge bodies. And finally, I was thinking about getting this for my next bike jersey, although this one seems pretty meaty, too.


Council District 5 — why does it matter?

February 19, 2009

For almost a week now, I’ve let the candidates for L.A.’s 5th City Council District write my blog for me — and I’ve been assured there’s at least one more statement from a candidate on its way.

I feel kind of like Tom Sawyer, when he convinced everyone else to paint the fence for him. They do the work, I get the week off.

However, I do feel a dangerously high level of snarky comments building up, which I fear may escape in a massive eruption of unbridled wit and sarcasm unless I find some socially acceptable outlet. So you may want to hide the women and children until this is over. Unless you are a woman and/or child, in which case you’re on your own.

But why does all this even matter?

Chances are, if you live outside CD5, you may think this election doesn’t effect you. And even if you do live inside the boundaries of the district, you may not think that who gets elected really matters — after all, it’s not like this city is the poster child for functional government. Although the state legislature is making it look better with every passing day.

But as Damien Newton pointed out in linking to this series, whoever gets elected will represent a big step up over our existing non-responsive representative. The simple fact that these three candidates took time out from their busy campaigns to state their positions on bicycling speaks volumes about how seriously they take these issues, and how responsive they would be in office.

One of these six people will be the one we turn to when we need to address the lack of cycling infrastructure in this city. He or she will also be responsible, along with the other members of the council, for turning the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights from mere words to meaningful change, as well as addressing the future of transportation — and quality of life — in this city. And by extension, for every city in the surrounding metro area.

This same person will be the one you’ll reach out to whenever you have a problem or concern in this district — and hope that, unlike the current occupant of the office, he or she will actually listen to you, and do something about it.

It matters. Not just for the 5th District, but for the 4th, 12th and 15th. And every other district, and for every other cyclist, in the city.

In a race with this many candidates, and the notoriously low voter turnout in this city’s local elections, a single vote could actually make a difference.

Your vote matters. Your support matters.

It all matters.

No really, it does.

 

Indiana considers a new bicycle safety law, including making it illegal to harass or impede a cyclist and requiring at least three feet of clearance when passing a bike. A similar measure has just passed the Colorado Senate, despite opposition from what may be the nation’s most anti-bike sheriff — who for some inexplicable reason, doesn’t believe his officers are capable of understanding the concept of one yard. (Note to self: must resist the urge to move back just to vote against this idiot.) The nation’s cyclists are urged to fight for our share of the stimulus funds before the gas-burners get it all, while Bay Area riders get a new off-road bikeway above an existing BART tunnel after nearly two decades of trying.


Council District 5 Candidate Statements: Robyn Ritter Simon

February 16, 2009

Last week, I offered each of the candidates in the March 3 city election for the L.A. City Council District 5 seat an opportunity to address the bicycling community. The first response in the series, from Robyn Ritter Simon, appears here. You can see the original invitation here, and all the statements received so far by scrolling down or clicking here.

 

Let’s Get Moving!

By City Council Candidate Robyn Ritter Simon

rrsgreenedited-small-web2I have been doing some research on bike paths in Los Angeles and I have concluded that there are simply not enough of them! Studying the current Class I, II and III routes on the official Bikeway Path Map (www.ci.la.ca.us) I am struck by how many bike paths run through areas I would not have expected. More importantly, there are dozens of groups out there dedicated to supporting cyclists (some can be found through www.labikepaths.com) but I see very little support coming from the councilperson’s office in our district.  On the campaign trail I have been very focused on discussing the need for a comprehensive transportation infrastructure, which in my view also includes supporting and encouraging cyclists specifically through increased awareness of current bike routes and by increasing the amount of bike access.

For those of us who live, work, or commute in L.A. (who are not cyclists) we know gridlock is at an all time high! We are stuck in our cars spending time away from family, loosing productivity, and even rest. This must end! I am running for City Council to be a problem solver.  It is a big problem when we spend more hours commuting to and from locations in the City then with our family. Angelenos want transportation solutions. Voters supported Measure R in November, which puts into place the funding necessary to invest in our transit infrastructure.  Now we need leadership down at City Hall to get the funds applied swiftly and safely and get our mass transit built now!

There are immediate things we can do to alleviate traffic gridlock. For example, I support synchronizing our signals to increase traffic flow, and installing more left hand turn signals. But these remedies will never really address our long-term transit needs.  We need a comprehensive and detailed plan that includes mass transit and alternative modes of transportation like biking!

My view is that we must invest in light rail and subway and make these modes biker friendly.  I only support Expo being built if it is built safely and I support grade separation at several stops including Overland Avenue.

I believe voters recognize that we must find alternative ways to commute if we are ever going to get out of our cars and get moving. We need to invest in light rail, subway, and as I said before, building more bike paths to encourage cycling and make it attractive as an alternative way of commuting.

When my teenage son, Brandon, started driving and gas prices skyrocketed – we told him that he had to drive less. We saw a significant decrease in normal traffic patterns city wide. When people’s pocket-books are impacted, they will change their commuting behaviors and look for most cost efficient alternatives.   The price of gas has gone back down for now but we all need to step up and realize (for the greater good, for our health, for our kids, for our future!) we must find ways to solve – once and for all – the mess that is L.A. transit/traffic.  This absolutely includes getting more people out of their cars and onto mass transit and bike paths.

I hope you will join me in my fight for getting Angelenos moving! Join my campaign at www.RobynRitterSimon.com. I look forward to hearing from you! You can reach me at my office at 310.836.8550 or at Robyn@RobynRitterSimon.com. The election is March 3rd!

 

Next up: David Vahedi has said he’s drafting a statement for us; I’m still waiting to hear from Paul Koretz and Ron Galperin. If you know anyone in their campaigns, please urge them to participate — I’d hate to give the other candidates an unfair advantage. Also, the Times has an article in which the candidates discuss the current dispute over billboards on the Westside. There are other issues that matter, after all.


Council District 5 Candidate Statements: Robert Schwartz

February 15, 2009

Last week, I offered each of the candidates in the March 3 city election for the L.A. City Council District 5 seat an opportunity to address the bicycling community. The first response came from Adeena Bleich, and was posted on Friday, the second, from Robert Schwartz, appears below. You can see the original invitation here, and all the statements received so far by clicking here. 

 

schwartz-robert-web2Thank you for the opportunity to write something to your readers.

Let’s face it. Be you cyclist, driver, transit user or use many modes, L.A.’s streets aren’t an easy place to navigate and getting around can be difficult. The city can, and must, become a safer place for everyone to get around.

Before I get into specifics, let me say that while I am not a regular bike rider, I do have a great appreciation and respect for those that do use their bike for transportation. Not only are you doing the best thing for the environment, you also seem to be having a lot more fun doing it than those of us who are more reliant on our cars. Because I value what bicyclists do for Los Angeles, I frequently seek the advice of Damien Newton so that I can I understand the needs of those who don’t always travel by car.

You mention the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights in your article, and it’s certainly a good idea to enumerate all of the rights that you have as users of the road, but the Bill of Rights is a starting point, not an ending point for what the City Council can do.

First, we must make sure that as a City Councilmember, I have a good idea of your experiences as cyclists. One of the best ways to do that is to make certain that my staff and I are in regular contact with my representative to the Bicycle Advisory Committee. Each Council Member can appoint one person to sit on this board, and I will make sure that whoever sits on this committee for me will work with my office to make sure your views are heard and that we know what is going on on the street.

Second, we await with interest the results of the city’s Bike Master Plan and will make sure the City moves quickly to move projects from paper to the street. It’s important for a city to have a plan, and not just build projects whenever funding is available or because a politician wants to go to a ribbon cutting; but it’s even more important that the plan does more than gather dust. The City’s draft plan is due soon, and after more feedback from the community we should have a final plan approved early in the next term for the incoming City Council.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all, I need to hear from you so that I can best understand your experiences and needs. If there are streets or intersections that are unsafe, as your City Councilmember I want to know where they are so that we can get to work to make them safer.

As I said at the start, every L.A. commuter deserves a safe and comfortable trip. Working together, I hope we can make that happen for all Angelenos, but especially those choosing to commute on two wheels instead of four.

If you want to contact me, join my campaign or just learn more about it, please visit my website at http://www.RobertForCityCouncil.com.


Council District 5 Candidate Statements: Adeena Bleich

February 12, 2009

As noted the other day, I’ve offered each of the candidates in the March 3 city election for the L.A. City Council District 5 seat an opportunity to use this blog to address the bicycling community. I’m posting their statements in the order I receive them, without editing or comment; first up is Adeena Bleich.


Adeena’s Plan To Get Angelenos Out of Their Cars

adeenalogo1“It’s not enough to just build a mass public transportation system; we need to build love for bicycling, buses and other means of transportation.”

Adeena Bleich

An Improved Transportation System Must Encourage Bicycling

The City of Los Angeles is light years behind other major cities in terms of innovation and solutions to gridlock.  We will have the Subway to the Sea and trains throughout the city, but there is so much we can do now. We must encourage Angelenos to get out of their cars by making new alternatives available.

Adeena believes that a comprehensive transportation system must include a bicycle plan that takes us where we need to go, whether it’s commuting across the City or just running out to the supermarket.

Adeena will work with the City of LA and Department of Transportation to ensure a bicycle service plan that achieves greater safety, road maintenance, and connectivity.  She supports these initiatives to encourage more Angelenos to utilize bicycles as a viable transportation alternative:

  • Promote a flex bike program
  • Develop more bike lanes on major thoroughfares and more bicycle racks in shopping centers and business corridors
  • Promote development of the West Los Angeles Veloway with a bicycle path that links Westwood Village to Santa Monica and to beach bike paths
  • Improve our bus system in coordination with a bicycle program
  • Improve our existing infrastructure by synchronizing lights, adding left turn signals, and making sure we are not doing construction during commuting hours

“We need a comprehensive and balanced approach to get our city moving again. We must act on bicycle and other alternative transportation strategies that we can achieve today while we plan for a more sustainable tomorrow,” stated Bleich.

For more information, go to www.adeena2009.com.

 

Next up on Monday will be Robert Schwartz, who responded as a comment to the previous post. Robyn Ritter Simon has also expressed an interest; I’ve yet to hear from Paul Koretz David Vahedi or Ron Galperin.


An open letter to the candidates in L.A. Council District 5

February 10, 2009

As cyclists, we have to get more involved in the political process if we want to see things get any better around here.

So earlier this morning, I sent the following email to each of the candidates running to replace Jack Weiss as council member for Los Angeles’ Council District 5, based on the list provided by The League of Women Voters:

Dear Mr. (or Ms.) ….

As you are no doubt aware, the election for L.A.’s 5th City Council District is just three weeks away. While you, and the other candidates, have addressed any number of various community groups, the concerns of one highly motivated group have largely been ignored up to this point.

There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of bicyclists over voting age here in the 5th District. Some, such as myself, ride for recreation and fitness. Others ride for social or environmental reasona, while for still others, cycling is their primary means of transportation.

Whatever their reason for riding, virtually all are concerned with such vital issues as safe streets and infrastructure, clean air and fair, unbiased enforcement of traffic laws, as well as the effective implementation of the recently approved Cyclist’s Bill of Rights.

I am offering you, as well as the other candidates in the race, an opportunity to address this constituency — at no cost to your campaign.

A resident and active voter in this district, I also operate a popular blog about bicycling in Los Angeles. I’m offering to turn this forum over to your campaign for one day, in order to speak directly to this city’s bicycling community.

You are free to discuss anything you want, from the roll bicycles can play in reducing traffic congestion, to seemingly unrelated issues such as crime rates or responsiveness to your future constituents. If you are an active cyclist, tell us. Or if you want to confront cyclists in some way, feel free. Whatever you send me, I will publish — unedited and without comment — in the order that it’s received.

It may only be seen by a relative handful of district voters; however, with so many candidates, even that could be enough to influence the outcome. Or it could be linked to by other influential blogs, and seen by thousands of eligible voters with an interest in cycling.

All I ask is that you send your statement to me in the body of your email or as a Word attachment, with a maximum of 1,000 words (although less is usually better online). And the sooner I receive it the better, to allow voters time to make an informed choice.

Of course, you’re under no obligation to participate; however, if some of the other campaigns submit a statement and you don’t, it could speak volumes to the biking community.

Besides, it’s free. So what do you have to lose?

I’ve already received a commitment from CD5 candidate Adeena Bleich, who notes that her brother is an urban cyclist who survived a collision with a car.

We’ll have to see if anyone else takes the time to respond. If they do, I’ll post it on here as quickly as I can get it online, as well as creating link or separate page to keep it active at the top of this site.

Because what the candidates have to say to us — or whether they even respond — will have a lot to do with how I cast my vote next month.

And I hope it will yours, as well.

 

Thanks to Damien at Streetsblog LA for linking to a couple of my recent posts, and pointing out that Brentwood boutiques aren’t the only retailers who are clueless about Ghost Bikes. Gary picks up the “That’s so L.A.” theme — hey, we may be on to something here! — with photos of a fast and furious Viper wipe-out. L.A.’s leading biking actress/activists couple tip us to the city’s upcoming bike rack design contest, here and here. Los Angeles rides contributes more well-thought-out ways to get from here to there. Santa Clarita sponsors a century ride at the end of this month. And Portland may, or possibly may not, have its own cycling version of the mask-wearing Lone Ranger.


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