Livable Streets People of the Year

Screen shot 2010-12-26 at 9.51.35 AMThis is both my favorite and least favorite column to write.  On one hand, it’s amazing to reflect on all of the people that make up the movement that will change Los Angeles.  On the other hand, trying to decide a “person of the year” from all of those same people is kind of difficult.  To make my life a little easier, this year we have four people of the year.  Just a reminder, one cannot win a “person of the year” award two years in a row:

Elected Official of the Year

2010 Streetsie Award Winner: Los Angeles City Council Man, Bill Rosendahl

Reader's Choice: Elected official of the year

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For me, this was really a two-person race between Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rosendahl.  The Mayor seemed to be everywhere on Livable Streets issues, promoting bicycling, CicLAvia and 30/10, falling victim to a bike crash, using his influence to stop the Metro Board from mucking up 30/10 and fulfilling his promise to bicyclists and pedestrians to dedicate some Measure R funds for safety projects.  It was a pretty good year for the Mayor.

But Rosendahl has been a consistent advocate for safer streets for a longer time and has his own list of accomplishments.  Villaraigosa’s promise of a bike/ped set aside wouldn’t have amounted to much without Rosendahl’s push at a joint meeting of the Transportation and Budget Committee.  The year of improved relations between the LAPD and the bicycling community got off to a great start because of a “Town Hall” meeting at City Hall, organized by Rosendahl, featuring LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.  Rosendahl’s proposed “anti-harassment ordinance” has led to legislation that could make it easier for cyclists to see some level of traffic justice after a crash.

And let’s not forget that the Council Man also has a transit victory under his belt.  His long-term advocacy led to the creation of a rapid bus line along Venice Boulevard.

There’s plenty of Council Members who have helped move the ball forward: Ed Reyes, Paul Krekorian, Jose Huizar, and even Tom LaBonge come to mind; but this past year Rosendahl even managed to steal a bit of the Mayor’s thunder at His Honor’s Bike Summit by calling for a statewide 3-foot passing law for cars passing cyclists.

This Streetsie comes with a caveat.  Rosendahl likes to say that he’s working towards a day when he’s comfortable enough to ride a bike himself on the streets of Los Angeles.  But here’s the thing, we know that riding in Los Angeles can be safe if you know how to ride and are confident in your skills.  So here’s the challenge:

Council Man, we will not physically present you with a Streetsie until you take a bicycle safety class and take a quick spin around the 11th District.  We’ll provide you with a bicycle and trainer at the time and place of your choosing.  The spoke is in your corner.

Government Worker of the Year

2010 Streetsie Award Winner: Jody Litvak, Metro and Heidi Sickler, City of Los Angeles

Reader's Choice: Best Government Staffer

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There’s a lot of people laboring away inside the belly of the beast trying to make things better on our streets and within our transit system.  Dave Sotero in Metro’s p.r. office doubles as a bike advocate within the agency.  The victory many cyclists are still basking in over the Bike Plan wouldn’t have been possible without Claire Bowen and Jordann Turner at City Planning.  Paul Backstrom (Rosendahl) and Jeremy Oberstein (Krekorian) have also been a credit to the Council offices with which they work and have helped each of those Council Members become Livable Streets leaders.

But it seemed that every time I saw Metro’s Westside Outreach Director, Jody Litvak, she was taking it on the chin defending either the Wilshire BRT lanes or the Westside Subway.  She’s been the point person for NIMBY’s (and NUMBY’s) to vent their wrath and has been publicly accused of endangering children, lieing, negotiating in bad faith, “having it out for Beverly Hills” and all sorts of other things.  All because she cares about the Westside and cares about the transit projects for which she’s been the point person.  For taking her lumps on behalf off our future transit system, Jody deserves a measure of thanks from us all.

Heidi Sickler may no longer be with the Mayor’s Office, but for years had been a “go-to” person for transportation reformers.  We often give credit to a certain politician for the good (or bad) work that comes out of their office.  However, there are always a person or team of people behind the scenes doing the yeoman’s work to keep things moving forward.  Villaraigosa has a good team, but now that she’s left the Mayor’s office let’s give Sickler her do.  She was the point person for CicLAvia, the Bike Plan, the Wilbur Avenue controversy and other issues.  When news broke that Sickler was no longer with the Mayor’s office, advocates scrambled to get the Mayor to focus on finding a replacement.  One bike advocate went so far as to claim finding a suitable replacement for Sickler was as important as finding a progressive replacement for Robinson.

So a special thanks to Heidi and Jody for everything they did for us.  Westside Transit and L.A.’s bike planning are better for your efforts and we all appreciate your efforts for on our behalf.

Some of you are looking at this post and wondering, “where’s Charlie Gandy?”  Charlie is certainly doing the Lord’s Work in Long Beach, but these two are/were fighting on more hostile turf and still managed to push the agenda forward.    Not that we don’t love what’s happening on the streets of Long Beach (minus some recent actions by the LBPD), but Sickler and Litvak had the edge this year.

Advocate of the Year

2010 Streetsie Award Winner: Don Ward

Reader's Choice: Advocate of the Year

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Better known by his Midnight Riderzz handle, Roadblock, Don Ward has been the Waldo of the bike movement this year and his journey mimics that of Los Angeles’ bike movement as a whole.  When I first met Ward, in the summer of 2008 he was leading cyclists on a cat-and-mouse chase through the streets of Long Beach.  He laughed that “just riding a bike is actvism,” and programmed rides and led them to make a difference.

But this year was different, changed by his hit-and-run experience, Ward became a regular face at City Hall, and the Courthouse.  Once the very picture of a rebel on two wheels, he’s now backing up the Mayor at press conferences, running for Neighborhood Council, working with the LAPD to make Critical Mass a safer experience and even getting “Skull’s skull” on public service announcement posters.  In a year when the bike movement as a whole went from the outside to the inside, Ward’s story mirrors all of ours. Consider that a year ago cyclists were griping about the LADOT Senior Bike Coordinator and wondering if the city was serious about Sharrows.  Today we’re wonering about implementation of a Bike Plan we all like and how many CicLAvias are happening next year.  Over the same year, the Midnight Ridazz got their own City Hall insider

There’s always a lot of people that could win an “advocate of the year” award.  Joe Linton seemed to be at the center of many of this year’s biggest stories, CicLAvia, the Street Summit, etc…Our incumbent person of the year, the ubiquitous Stephen Box, with the able assistance of Enci, is making waves as a candidate for City Council.

The Bike Coalition has stepped up this year.  Whether LACBC’s front people are named Aurisha and Dorothy, or Alexis and Allison, the group hasn’t missed a beat.  Aurisha Smolarski and Dorothy Le have moved on after leaving on a high note.  Dorothy’s last days saw Sharrows go down on the street.  Aurisha worked on getting the new and improved Bike Plan through the Planning Commission right up to the end.  Congratulations, and best wishes to both of them.  Now Alexis Lantz and Allison “City of Lights” Mannos are going to be the most visible staffers for the Coalition led by executive director Jennifer Klausner.

Then there’s Ayla Stern, Glenn Bailey, the folks with Santa Monica Spokes, the team in the South Bay, Mihai Peteu, Ted Rogers, Herbie Huff, Madeline Brozeman, Carter Rubin…I could go on and on.

And of course, there’s Alex Thompson.  Has any group done more with less than Bikeside?  The 501c(4) hosted two well-attended and buzz-generating salon style forums, inserted itself into a Congressional race, launched the “Life B4License” campaign to change state law on hit and runs and got the Backbone Bikeway Network inserted in to the Bike Plan basically through force of will.  And all of that says nothing about his role with Critical Mass or the Bikerowave.  And, that he does all of this for free…

On the transit side, Darrell Clarke certainly had a great year, with two decades of advocacy about to pay off with the opening of Phase I of the Expo Line in 2011.  Denny Zane and the Move L.A. team made 30/10 into a national issue.  Bart Reed is constantly at work behind the scenes at Metro and Metrolink.  While a lot of Streetsblog readers don’t like Damien Goodmon’s efforts on Expo, there’s no doubt he changed the debate on routing and grade-crossings in Los Angeles, perhaps for years to come.

How many names are above?  And I haven’t even mentioned Robert Gottlieb for leading UEPI in programming the evening with Planning Director Michael LoGrande and the Street Summit or James Rojas who will do an interactive modeling project for anyone at any time it seems or Ross Hirsch who serves as both a legal adviser and ride leader for the bike community.  The list goes on and on.  I’m sure I missed dozens of people (Siel?  DJ Chicken Leather? Colin Bogart?  Kymberleigh Richards? Aktive? Josef Bray-Ali?) but we have to stop somewhere.

Thanks to everyone that made 2010 so special.

Let’s top it in 2011.

See you there.