Two Reasons Bike Advocacy in LA is on the Wane

Bicycling advocacy in Los Angeles is getting smaller and weaker.

“Defend Boyle Heights”, a social justice community group, has pilloried Metro’s bike share. The group sees bike share as a symbol of malevolent socio-economic changes in the area.

The Great Social Justice Awakening

Part of the weakening of bike advocacy in Los Angeles is a function of the take-over of nearly every civic issue or cause by a professional (and sometimes volunteer) class of social justice warriors. This class of people, like those swept up in previous mass religious awakenings in America, are searching for a moral cleansing of public life. As a result, practical problem solving, consensus building, historic fact and context, and measurable outcomes are overlooked. In exchange, this class of people is bestowed with self-righteous rage at whatever or whoever their various enablers point them towards. Our new moral arbiters are not the clergy or conventional religious leaders, but instead a loose confederacy of self-interested actors in the local media, non-profit, or social media sectors. They play a “Name the Racist” game that trivializes the day-to-day outcomes of public policy. Their moral narrative is incoherent as a text or direction for living a good life. Rather, it is driven by that which increases their power to purge. All who oppose them are to be purged from public life and from gainful employment. This type of religious zeal is not healthy when it comes to municipal government.

For example: how can citizens begin to talk about cleaning up a local dog park when, prior to having a public discussion, everyone’s privileges must be checked, language policed, and any descriptions of reality that approach sounding like a stereotype or biased against a “protected group” are not allowed to be admitted into discourse?

Colonial Politics

Another significant reason for Los Angeles’ weakening bike advocacy is this city’s status as a colonial outpost for various industry, union, national and global interest groups – with a political elite that can afford to ignore basic good governance in exchange for a small piece of whatever action those interest groups break off to mostly have their way with the region.

“Today is election day, and neither of the candidates for mayor seems to have noticed that the city he aspires to lead has now become a colony. The aerospace economy is gone. The city’s department stores have passed in and out of bankruptcy. The banks themselves are headquartered in Georgia and Seattle. Our remaining oil company has gone to British Petroleum. The industry of dreams – the making of movies- is owned in Australia, Canada, Japan, and New York. The Times was the last, big corporate presence that mattered by being in Los Angeles. And now, it doesn’t matter. Perhaps this is what globalization feels like, living in a place where everyone is a colonialist and among the colonized simultaneously.”

  • D.J. Waldie (2004) Where we are now: notes from Los Angeles (p. 35). Santa Monica,CA: Angel City Press.

Villaraigosa Era Overton Window

There was a moment, during the reign of LA’s former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, that bike advocacy sidestepped the byzantine nightmare of interlocked bribes and public relations stunts required to achieve any civic goal in Los Angeles. Those glorious days are gone, but it is worth looking back to compare that era with the current one under mayor Eric Garcetti.

Villaraigosa, prior to becoming a bike-centric mayor, was deemed a “failure” by Los Angeles Magazine and by many public figures as well at the time. His old-fashioned election goals (“fix traffic”, “more cops”, “balanced budgets”) went down in flames just past his election to a second term in office.

Bicycle projects were an easy out to score huge public relations victories doing extremely basic, and cheap, public works that had been planned for decades. Villaraigosa also employed a middle school student body government tactic with the city council: he stacked the council with people that owed their political careers to him. He did this by sending his donors towards his picks for various city council seats.

Former mayor Villaraigosa found a series of fiscally and politically easy wins transforming Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation (LADOT). In the early to mid-2000’s, the department was a car-centric throwback to the early 20th century. After Villaraigosa, it had transitioned into a more-or-less progressive beachhead in city hall for bicycle and pedestrian project planning and implementation.

The value proposition for politicians flipped, however, with mayor Eric Garcetti. Garcetti is a politician completely hamstrung by the complex web of interest groups that have bought a piece of his attention. Their money has kept the city in political stasis; which, despite all the horrific outcomes that stasis entails, at least gives these large interests a predictable landscape to ply their various hustles. Additionally, mayor Garcetti was too preoccupied figuring out his next political move to employ any politically meaningful strategy with members of the council (aside from playing nice in public ceremonies). Garcetti ceded power to the council president, Herb Wesson. Wesson’s own relatively deep donor base and concentration of networked power meant he had no reason to seek cheap and easy public policy wins. Further still, he could call a few of his favorite non-profits and generate whatever positive public relations he needed without resorting to bike lanes and safe crosswalks.

Some politicians still cling to the Villaraigosa play book. Mike Bonin on the Westside and Jose Huizar in Boyle Heights fully engaged the Villaraigosa strategy – seeking easy political wins available using bike projects. However, many on the council, and the mayor himself, saw only headaches, annoyance, or simply hated bicycle projects in general and owed nothing to the bicycling community.

John Buntin, the author of the book “L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City”, once credited L.A.’s byzantine web of corruption as one of the reasons mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel left the city for Las Vegas. He’d had to bribe or blackmail the police commissioners, the city council, and mayor – but also individual station captains and LAPD division heads as well. It was a monumental headache dealing with networks of government officials all fishing for their needs to be met, the story goes, so Bugsy bounced.

In a similar way, the money and networking required to move the needle on a civic project in Los Angeles requires more than what the cycling advocacy community can muster. The bike advocacy community is a rag-tag bunch of volunteers allied with one or two local millionaires. That ain’t much in a city packed with billionaires, unions with big campaign budgets and volunteer armies, huge investment funds, and large pools of foreign real estate interests shopping for returns. Similar to colonial governors, our elected leaders in Los Angeles are fine-tuned to pick up any disturbance in the various rackets and hustles these big players need to keep their interests going; while they ignore the day-to-day lives and experiences of normal people under their control.

Examples abound in many domains in Los Angeles where some local elites, or a community group, rises up, gets organized, pushes forward an entirely reasonable and often self-funded, self-directed, well planned, ready to compromise proposal, and is promptly heavily suppressed by their local politician and pilloried in the press. Sometimes the injustice done to these self-appointed advocates is spun as an outrage story in the local TV or radio news, and their project does move forward. More often than not, these nice ideas die painful deaths that forever turn away groups of motivated residents from ever engaging in public life again.

The toxic stew of the social justice religious revival movement and the power that complex webs of  interest groups hold over Los Angeles’ city council and mayor mean one thing for bike projects in Los Angles: they have been, and will likely continue to be, failures.

If we continue to limp forward, wounded by the insanity dominating public discourse, blind to political reality in city hall and, most importantly, ignoring the cold hard facts about bike projects in Los Angeles – the future is not very bright at all for cycling in this town.

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L.A.’s Substandard Bike Projects Lead to Increased Crash Rates

It is time to face the facts: Los Angeles’ 3rd rate, crap-tier, bike projects have been a net negative for public safety.

Two of my personal heroes in the political war to make Los Angeles more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, councilmembers Mike Bonin and Jose Huizar have made substantial positive impacts on my personal life. The bike projects they have installed have materially helped me get to work, run errands, and generally enjoy life on two wheels.

The bike projects they have overseen, however, are correlated with an increase in the number of reported crashes and injuries in their districts.

David L. Galts graph of reported collisions in council district 14 from 2013 to 2019.

The analysis performed to reach this conclusion was done by David L. Galt and is available as a Google Doc.

Mr. Galt was interviewed by Nick Richert of LA Bike Talk in a podcast reviewing his findings, methodology, and background.

 

David L. Galts graph of reported collisions in council district 11 from 2013 to 2019.

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Our Oddball Dutch and English Roadster Rims are at British Bicycle Company in Arizona

The V38 “Westwood” profile rim everyone always asks about- alloy in black w. a gold pinstripe. This is also available in raw aluminum and black.

Oddball Rims Available at British Bicycle Company
The Flying Pigeon LA bike shop closed down in late 2016 and for the past couple of years I have been dragging boxes of oddball bicycle rims around – from storage to their final resting place in my garage. I finally had enough and worked a deal with the fine people at British Bicycle Company out of Phoenix Arizona to ship them all my remaining rims  – where they are available for sale to the general public.

The rim sizes and finishes are as follows:

Rim Model Common Name Size ETRTO Size Color and Finish Material # Holes/Spoke Gauge
V38 Westwood 28×1-1/2 25-635 Silver Alloy 36-hole/14 ga.
V38 Westwood 28×1-1/2 25-635 Black Alloy 36-hole/14 ga.
V38 Westwood 28×1-1/2 25-635 Black w. Gold Stripe Alloy 36-hole/14 ga.
V38 Westwood 700c 25-622 Black Alloy 36-hole/14 ga.
V38 Westwood 26×1-3/8 25-590 Black Alloy 36-hole/14 ga.
V38 Westwood 26×1-3/8 25-590 Black w. Gold Stripe Alloy 36-hole/14 ga.
ST32 28×1-1/2 22-635 Silver Chrome Steel 36-hole/14 ga.
ST32 700c 22-622 Silver Chrome Steel 36-hole/14 ga.
RM21 28×1-1/2 21-635 Black Alloy 36-hole/14 ga.
RM19 26×1-3/8 19-590 Silver Polished Alloy 36-hole/14 ga.

 

Ryde RM19 Rim in Polished Silver

The RM19 and RM21 have the same profile – the 19 is made for Pashley’s 26×1-3/8″ bicycles in shiny high polish and the 21 is made for the bigger 28×1-1/2″ Roadsters in black.

I had to liquidate my inventory to cover all kinds of business expenses when I was closing the shop down. I took huge losses on everything.  Other bike shop owners, and parts distributors laughed out loud when I asked them if they would be interested in these particular rims, even when offered for free if they would cover the freight.

Back Story

These rims were made by Ryde (a company that is also known as Rigida, Weinmann, and Van Schothorst) in the Netherlands.

After years of working on old, classic, and even some antique bicycles – I recognized a strange gap in the bicycle rim marketplace here in the United States.

It is relatively easy to find or fabricate parts for many of these old machines, but rims were an impossibility, and upgrading bicycle drive trains with modern internally geared hubs was beyond impossible. Manufacturers of old roadsters and imported city bikes used obsolete or uncommon (in the U.S.) spoke counts and spoke diameters. Here in the U.S., we have a big selection of bicycle hubs that can work with old-fashioned bicycles, so long as you have rims that are drilled for 36-hole hubs and 14 gauge spokes.

So, that is what I ordered: old-fashioned rim sizes drilled to fit 36-hole hubs and 14 gauge spokes. They all arrived just in time for me to make the decision to shut my shop down and run for public office (a personal and financial disaster worthy of at least its own blog post).

Not a small amount of psychic pain resulted. I actually took some of them to a metal scrapper and got paid a few bucks for bicycle parts I knew belonged on an old roadster or a refurbished Dutch bike. On the drive back home, I gave up.

“This is what it feels like when a nice idea dies an expensive death.”, I thought. It has been one long, dumpster-bound, slide for all my nice ideas from the previous decade, so what difference is another one finally going down with a sad metallic crunch?

I used ratchet straps to tie down rim boxes in my bakfiets and made multiple trips to Fedex to get them all shipped to British Bicycles.

Then a message popped up in my inbox, and British Bicycles was interested. It was over the course of about a week and a half that I strapped rim boxes to the front of my bike and rode to the nearest Fedex shipping center. They finally arrived a few days ago in Phoenix – awaiting a project bike, restoration, or repair on an “obsolete” bicycle somewhere out there in the U.S.

Get in touch with British Bicycle Company in Phoenix, Arizona about these oddball rims that offer old bikes another chance at glory (I stole that line from Coco’s Variety store owner Peter V.)

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Return of the Get Sum Dim Sum ride!

We stopped hosting the “Get Sum Dim Sum Ride” years ago; but now, after many months of research and test rides, in collaboration with LA Cycle Tours, I am proud to announce that the Get Some Dim Sum Tour is now live on the LA Cycle Tours web-site!

Origins

Back in August of 2008, Flying Pigeon LA co-founder Adam Bray-Ali had a genius idea after brainstorming with his friend Huy Tran: promote Flying Pigeon bicycles with a weekly ride to a dim sum restaurant.

The ride was a great way to introduce Flying Pigeon bicycles to new people, and to help spread the idea of riding a bike in the city as a fun way of socializing. The experience of trying tons of different dim sum restaurants was an excellent bonus.

The Get Sum Dim Sum Ride was featured in March of 2009 by Sunset Magazine. Image by Chris Lechinsky.

Sunday after Sunday, we marshaled our bikes, rallied our customers and fans (many of whom became close friends over the months, and then years), and headed out to a dim sum restaurant. The ride, and our shop, got picked up in the local and national news. We were a featured story in Sunset magazine. The idea was a hit!

Fast forward to 2017, the ride and the shop were closed down (so I could pursue a run for city council in Los Angeles).

Enter the Tour

After losing the election in May of 2017, it took many long months to recover my sense of self again. With the shop gone, most of my day-to-day social life had evaporated. My friend Art Palacios, founder and owner of LA Cycle Tours, heard I was loafing around feeling sorry for myself, so he asked me to help out with some of his rides from time to time.

Art and I met through the social bike ride scene in LA. We have both organized and participated in hundreds (thousands?) of group rides over the years. We also share a common bond: we love this city, and we love to show people how wonderful it is to experience it on two wheels.

Art has been running a LA Cycle Tours for several years – making a living doing what he loves. His most popular tour is the Taco Tour in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. The question came up between us: could a similar ride for LA’s amazing selection of Chinese food, history, and culture be done?

We dug in to researching the story of the Chinese in America, the history of the tea house in China, the history of tea, the origins of dim sum, the names and varieties of the dishes, and the history of Los Angeles’ Chinatown. We also ate a ton of bao, dumplings, noodles, duck, pork, and even a few chicken feet while we zeroed in on the best way to both tell a story about a community and share some of the best food from small, family owned, businesses in town.

The result of our collaboration is the Get Some Dim Sum Tour!

We have scheduled a bunch of tours for January of 2019, and are working out our schedule for the first quarter of the year now. The price of the tour includes the use of LA Cycle Tours’ bicycles, helmets, and covers all the food. You can check out the Get Some Dim Sum Tour schedule here.

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Whither #bikela without Huizar?

Jose Huizar being interviewed and photographed at the opening of the York Blvd. bike corral in February of 2011. Image by Richard Risemberg.

In 2020, Jose Huizar will be termed out of office. His wife has recently dropped her bid to replace him.

To call the end of Jose Huizar’s term in office a “crisis” for the cycling community is a HUGE understatement. In 2021, one year after the CD 14 election, the city will be redistricted again. Removing the support of the chair of the Planning and Land Use Committee, and the sole council member representing the core of DTLA, and handing that power to someone else (we know not whom) could be a big, gigantic, step backwards for bike projects and pedestrian friendly street projects.

We need to figure this out, #bikeLA – which candidates are (1) the likely winners of the CD 14 election; and, (2) which of those candidates should we organize to support?

As weak and ineffectual as the #bikeLA community has become, this is do or die. This is as dramatic a threat as the (failed) recall against Mike Bonin was.

I look forward to discussing potential candidates and an overarching strategy to help the best candidate for our interests win the 2020 election.

Jose Huizar, you are owed a massive thank you for saving lives, making our communities safer spaces to walk, scoot, ride a bike and simply be happier healthier people.

Time to get together and work.

p.s. Potential candidates names being bandied about in the rumor mill(s) I am familiar with: Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, former state senator Kevin De Leon, and Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo. Do not count out Nadine Diaz, who ran for the seat in the last election with the bike-hater Gloria Molina (who might make another run, who knows?).

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Repairing the pump chuck on my Lezyne ABS-2 Floor Pump

Lezyne ABS-2 Floor Pump Chuck spring replacement.

Before I closed the bike shop permanently, I took home a Lezyne ABS-2 Floor Pump. At the time, this was a pump that retailed for over $100 and featured a fancy chuck (the part that fits on the valve of the inner tube) that allowed relatively quick attachment to Presta valves while also allowing inflation on the other valve types (Schrader and Dunlop being those other types).

The pump, unfortunately, had a design flaw. To remove the chuck from a Schrader valve you have to turn a collar on the chuck to the left (lefty-loosey). This had the tendency to unscrew a fixing bolt at the back of the chuck. A small spring would shoot out, and you’d be left with a chuck head attached to the valve and the other half sort of bobbing around in the air.

Loads of people had this happen, and went online to ask for help. No doubt this design flaw, on such an expensive floor pump, generated a fair share of confusion and frustration. I felt both of those emotions. Buy nice or buy twice, right? Well, I bought nice, but it turns out it was not so nice after all!

Lezyne did away with the ABS-2 chuck, and offers no replacement parts – but will replace your chuck with an alternate design, with proof of purchase. You have to email them at support@lezyne.com and mention the pump type. They will reply with a request for your proof of purchase and ship an alternative pump chuck your way.

When my pump exploded, for the third time, I lost the small inner spring in the chuck. I did a thorough sweep for it in my garage but, alas, came up empty. The good news is that the underside of all my tool cabinets and shelves are cleaner than they’ve ever been.

I was lucky enough to have two of this exact model of pump in my garage. I disassembled the good pump and measured the small spring that had gone missing.

Here are the measurements I got for the compression spring inside the Lezyne ABS-2 floor pump chuck:

Outer diameter: 5.1 mm or .2 in

Free length: 35 mm or 1.38 in

Wire diameter: .18 mm or .007 in

Inner diameter: 4.74 mm or .19 in

The spring has closed ends but is not ground. There are 14 active coils and two inactive coils on each end. The mandrel size recommended for this spring is 2.97 mm or .117 in (I used some 1/8″ rod stock, which is close enough). I calculated the mandrel size using some DOS software (MANDREL from Marv Klotz’s website: https://myvirtualnetwork.com/mklotz/ ) I ran in a DOS emulator (DOSbox) on an old iMac.

If you Google search for “precision steel wire .007 in” (or some combination thereof), as I did, you’ll come across large $45 and $60 spools of the stuff. I was able to find 10 pieces of 1m long wire  for about $17 total (including shipping).

When the wire arrived, I marched over to my bench vise and clamped a low-end variable rate electrical drill upside down into the vise. I stuck some 1/8″ rod stock in the drill and slid one end of the .007 in steel wire  at 90 degrees to the rod stock. I marked 35mm on the stock with a grease pencil and set the drill for the slowest rotational speed. Holding the wire in one hand, I looped it around once by hand to set up my first inactive coil. Then I pulled the trigger on the drill and slowly let the wire feed around the 1/8″ stock until the wire got to the 35mm mark. I stopped the drill and looped the wire around once by hand for my last inactive coil.

My result was a wonky little DIY spring of approximately the right dimensions and specifications as the original. I installed my spring in the pump that was missing a spring and … it worked! I went around the garage and inflated some tires just to be sure.

Lezyne ABS-2 Floor Pump Chuck spring replacement.

So, if your Lezyne ABS-2 pump chuck has burst open, and you’ve lost that little spring on the inside, you can make your own for half the cost of buying a new pump chuck.

I considered, for about 30 seconds, going into business as a Lezyne ABS-2 pump chuck spring replacement guru. Fortunately, I snapped back to reality. How many of these lousy springs would the market demand? Not enough to justify my time, setting up the product online, and ensuring that what I made was worthy of being sold (which would entail something better than hand-feeding wire on an inverted power drill to produce a wonky little spring).

If anyone out there in internet-land has a lathe and the machine shop experience, perhaps you can make these and sell them to desperate Lezyne ABS-2 floor pump owners. Heck, maybe someone at Lezyne can make a few and sell them on their web-site? It would be the decent thing to do, guys.

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Letting Go

When it comes to riding a bike in Los Angeles, I bounce between two philosophical states. I have found that mainstream politics, and my own political ideology, have sometimes kept me from enjoying the simple pleasure of riding a bike.

First, bike riding in this city takes grit. It takes physical strength. It takes mental toughness. You have to be alert, and you have to aggressively advocate for yourself, to yourself, while you navigate our profoundly dysfunctional, car-centric, streets, politics, economy, and culture.

Second, riding a bike in Los Angeles is usually an incredibly good feeling. It is so easy, so refreshing, that the broken glass, insanity, noise, dysfunction, poverty, violence, trash, pollution, strife, inequality, and vice that you breeze through count for very little. Instead, you have direct access to the story of this metropolis, the people who live here, the food they cook, the architecture they build, and the ideas they espouse. You roll through a rich fractal of human life and the fragments of the natural world that still eke out an existence in the city. The sun rising, and the sun setting, the wind, coyotes at dusk, the freedom to experience a day as a human should without the penalty of tired feet or an aching back – it pulls a person into the experience of being alive and costs only the time you would spend anyway running an errand or fulfilling an obligation for work, or school.

I have written, in earlier blog posts, how the politics around making this city a better place to ride a bike (more bike lanes, better bike lanes, full consideration of cyclists needs in the halls of power) has just about collapsed in on itself. Various political factions and non-profits turn on each other – shattering the fragile, diverse, coalitions built up in the mid-2000’s to support cycling.

Cycling politics, however, is not the same as simply riding a bike. For too long, I focused on the grit, on the fight, on the aggressive advocacy for a better city to ride a bike in. The end result: a loss in city hall on a policy issue could make me stop riding a bike for weeks or months in frustration. The words of a non-profit executive director could take away the simple joy of coasting down the streets in my neighborhood to pick something up from the store.

The city will go bike-crazy again, some day. It took almost 100 years for the late 1970’s bike boom to hit after the first cycling craze in the late 19th and early 20th century faded away. Then, the early 2000’s came along and we had a little surge of interest which is now fading away. Maybe my grandchildren will be shouting down a group of bike crazies asking for routine accommodation in road design in a public hearing some distant day in the future.

For the time being, I am trying to take it easy. Let the machine I am riding give what it has to give. I stopped demanding that every day be a victory for safe-streets, a better city, or a happier-people ideology. It takes grit, it takes strength – but it also takes letting go. With practice, I will be able to simply enjoy being alive in this profoundly messed up town.

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See you in the streets

A ghost bike, DIY bike lanes and sharrows, and procession for Bizzy

The image above is from a vigil for “Bizzy” – killed by a speeding drunk driver at Marmion Way and North Figueroa Street.


This post is a response to a defamatory, slanderous, unhinged blog post by Sahra Sulaiman of Streetsblog LA published one week before the May 16, 2017 General Election for the Los Angeles City Council District 1 seat I was a candidate for. You can read Sahra Sulaiman’s biased rant here. My response was originally posted as a comment on Streetsblog LA but was labelled “spam” by Streetsblog LA staff.


I am still shocked that Sahra Sulaiman’s essay was published on Streetsblog LA.

First, because of the multiple instances of (what I interpret) as an intentional misreading of nearly everything I’ve written online. Second, because of the highly personal nature of this attack and its proximity to an election in which I was the “better” candidate for all the issues that Streetsblog LA was founded to support in local politics.

My disagreements with some, not all, of what Sahra Sulaiman has written and said in the past had to do with the practical politics of installing bike infrastructure, pedestrian projects, and generally building up (instead of tearing apart) the political alliances that have come to define whatever the Livable Streets movement was at a given point in time.

I felt, and I still feel, that several of her articles and some of her positions are counter-productive in a practical sense. For example, yes, I agree with her reading and description of unequal police response when it comes to traffic stops. No, I don’t think that is reason enough to stop forward momentum on the installation of bike and walk infrastructure in communities of color – which despite her protestations, is exactly what she’s advocated for regarding Central Avenue. I bring up the example of Central Avenue bike lanes to highlight that I have been consistent in my desire to see on-the-ground projects built and legal changes made. Saving lives and helping enable a measurably healthier, happier, and economically productive life for as many people as possible is why I got into this movement.

Sahra, I feel, often wants to highlight an ethical or moral failing either of a large system, or of an individual – and will do so quite effectively, but will sacrifice seeing what works to address issues of physical safety, physical and mental health, in order to achieve the communication of a larger injustice, or make an ethical or moral point. She is very good at what she does, but her results speak for themselves – there isn’t a project in this city, or a law or change in policy, that I’m aware of that can be chalked up to her journalism.

I’ll admit: I have a tendency to move to verbally stomp on anyone attempting to narrate the future of this city away from the endpoint of safer streets, healthier people, and a fiscally sound local government. This isn’t always the right move, practically speaking, but it is one honed through years of slogging through meetings, rallies, and events as a vociferous advocate rather than as a scared bystander – and watching friends, acquaintances, and neighbors die or be grievously injured in preventable car crashes while riding their bikes, or crossing the street. It wasn’t until I found a voice as a self-schooled transportation policy analyst and a rhetorical bomb thrower that my work started moving policy decisions, and peoples ideas about this city, in a given direction.

After the devastation I felt following the death of 17-year-old Andres Perez at Avenue 60 and North Figueroa by a city truck, I put that part of my personality aside. I have been desperate for change in the dangerous streets in my community, but attacking Councilman Cedillo rhetorically about traffic safety simply wasn’t enough. I had to broaden the attack, and build outrage for his term in office around more than traffic safety. In my run for city council, I was able to bring together several disparate political groups – including some of our local closet conservatives, by focusing not on righting injustices but on addressing practical problems we all want to see solved.

I worked to help people find common cause with those they normally would write off as being the wrong skin color, the wrong ethnic background, or wrong class. This problem of writing off the value of a coalition with “the wrong sort” of people isn’t limited to right-wing groups and people. In fact, many of our city’s self-proclaimed “inclusive” groups and leaders are deeply vested in insulting and walking away from working with anyone symbolically of “the wrong sort”. It isn’t easy to do what I did in a city this complex and diverse, and I’m proud that my door knocking efforts to sway voters by talking about repairing park bathrooms and making it safe enough for everyone to cross the street to buy something from the local store found success with voters.

As someone who has been a part of the conversation on Streetsblog LA from its beginning, a true believer in what the site and those who worked on it stood for, I cannot express how disgusted I am to have ever trusted the bonds I thought our shared efforts over the years represented. That a defamatory headline, a slew of personal attacks in the heat of a political campaign, would send all the “brave” and “fierce” and “courageous” (to judge by their Instagram and Facebook feeds, and my former opinion of some of them) safe streets advocates running for cover speaks volumes about what this “community” really is, how fragile our power was, and how badly it has been fractured, not by my campaign but by the intrusion of identity politics into our everyday lives.

If a decade of actions and words, what amounts to the central project of my entire adult life, can’t stand up to partisan sniping before an election and whatever motivates Sahra Sulaiman to produce unhinged rants – you can expect the pace of bike lanes and sidewalks to continue to slow, the pace of street deaths to increase, and for the winds of politics to wipe away the political and cultural opportunity that had opened for a more livable Los Angeles.

That is certainly the case in Los Angeles’ 1st District for the time being.

See you in the streets.

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On our own, once again, like always


My comments are being blocked on Los Angeles Streetsblog while the words of my critics (on other posts) are left up. Why? Who else is being silenced in the livable streets community?

I suspect my comments are being blocked because the site, at this point, is little more than a black hole for tax deductions and ego stroking for their miniscule well-heeled donor base. The last thing the site exists for is working towards solving any of the problems in our local transportation and land use system.

My existence, my voice, and the voice of anyone complaining “Hey, isn’t this about safer streets and a more livable city?” is a threat to the often bizarre meta-narrative of divisive, tail-chasing, identity politics the site has been sidetracked on for several years now.

The reporting from the past couple of years has turned into either bystander journalism (e.g. “I attended a public meeting! My NGO friends are great!”); evoking an “Oh dear!” and little else from the readers; or, worse yet, silencing real conversation and debate by making any questioning of a blog post a symbol of how hopelessly gauche, dishonest, or racist the questioner is.

Every other week the site presents one great injustice after another with no means of moving forward other than trusting in the executive directors of other tax deduction puppy mills or lighting candles to the technocrats in some obscure office in Downtown.

My recommendation: if you are a donor, take your money elsewhere.

If you are interested in livable streets in Los Angeles, for the time being (and like always), you’re on your own once again.

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So, what comes next?

It has been over a year since I hauled the last box of stuff from the Flying Pigeon storefront; just a few months after that my campaign for city council went down in flames.

I was falsely accused of racism, homophobia, transphobia, fat hate, anti-Mexicanism, anti-Americanism and had a horde of intellectual gate-keepers in this city screaming at me to apologize and disappear.

People with whom I had worked for years, people whose causes I had donated time, passion, and money to, people whose values I thought I shared denounced me on the basis of a series of pre-election partisan attack pieces.

So, what comes next? For me, pretty much nothing. I’ve been doing more housework; repairing appliances; dropping off and picking up my kid. For the bicyclists and safe streets advocates in LA, the answer is simple: we’re mostly screwed from now until at least 2020 and most likely 2022 and beyond.

The Drop of a Blog Post

Like government officials and politicians, non-profit executives and journalists get paid if things stay broken and their donors only give when things are.

Whatever political hand we held in local politics has been exposed as an empty bluff. Our self appointed “leaders” in livable streets politics will ignore years of actual work, building political coalitions across mainstream political lines and across economic and cultural divides; our “leaders” will walk away from practical politics at the drop of a blog post in order to score invisible points in a fight for temporary moral high ground in the pot-holed field of identity politics.

Perhaps this is why the bike community held some sway for a few years: we used to get together and coordinate blog posts.

We also used to get together for more than drunkeness and drug abuse on two wheels.

What ails this country now ails the bike community in Los Angeles as well – and that is how it will go for the foreseeable future. We will continue to die and be injured on the streets. Our elected leaders will mock our deaths as they mock our lives and what little power we have. Our power, as cyclists collectively pushing for safe streets, will dwindle as paid advocates in non-profits work diligently to silence and contain any legitimate, and easily addressed, grievances with accusations of “white fragility”, structural racism, equity, and bigoted arguments against our views based on characteristics like our biological gender or the color of our skin. On the other side are all the same old red herrings protecting the status quo: car-only streets are “more efficient”; “Get a job, hippy.”; “This isn’t [insert city or region where streets are safe].”; “Tax bicycles!”; “Bike lanes will slow emergency response times.”; “Idling cars means more pollution.”; “Lance Armstrong wannabes.”; etc., etc., etc.

There is no escape from the trap that we have laid out for ourselves other than to do what cyclists were doing in the 1990’s – developing in each individual person the skills and knowledge to pass on the humble flame of hope on two wheels. The time has come again to wait, and watch, and prepare. The doing season is over.

What comes next? Just one call out blog post, civic catastrophe, and ecological calamity after another until we see a chance to break through again with the dream of a city that is built to respect human needs over motorized transportation.

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