Don Ward: Advocate of the Year Acceptance Speech

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I’m honored to be recognized with the Livable Streets award as Advocate of the Year, and I’m especially humbled to be in the company of last year’s winner Mr. Stephen Box as well as this year’s nominees. There are literally so many people working their bike shaped butts off in the advocacy arena that deserve this more than me but I humbly accept and share with all.

Everyone knows that I am deeply involved in organizing group bike rides and bringing the F.U.N. to the streets… but as I get more active in the civic / governmental arena I look to a highly educated and motivated group of LA cycling and pedestrian activists, volunteers, bloggers, city leaders and government workers for advice, research and inspiration.

The advocacy community that I speak of has been powered every day on the backs of people like Aurisha Smolarski, Alex Thompson, Jessica Meaney, Danny Jimenez, Ron Durgin, Stephen and Enci Box, Joseph Bray-Ali, Ayla Stern, Alexis Lantz, Joe Linton, Glenn Bailey, Damien Newton, Colin Bogart, Herbie Huff, Ted Rogers, Heidi Sickler, Gary Kavanaugh, Liz Elliott, Shay Sanchez, Sara Bond, Rach Stevenson, Mihai Peteu, Sgt David Krumer, Bill Rosendahl, Paul Backstrom, Paul Kirk, Nate Baird, Michelle Mowery, and many many many others… This award is shared with all of them. 

But in addition to the dedicated and inspiring list of advocates I have mentioned I would also like to give a 21 bike salute to the unsung foot soldiers of the Midnight Ridazz community who regularly answer the forum calls for duty providing a crucial and visible volume of emails, phone calls to officials, and bodies and voices at city hall. These Ridazz, many of whom would not so much consider themselves activists but simply concerned citizens, show up to support the cause despite work schedules and real world commitments.

It’s not easy to volunteer to sit through excruciating – maddeningly endless city hall debates, discussions, continuances and excuses that wilt the souls of even the highest paid lobbyists. Not only do these Ridazz show up for the meetings, they ride for justice, they pour “blood” on their sexy selves to protest unjust hit and run sentences, they’ve patiently shown up in waves to perform “civil obedience” against the bike registration program (when it was used as a tool of harassment by the LAPD), they host internet and college radio programs to discuss the issues, they’ve rallied for critical mass / LAPD improved relations, they’ve Stormed the Bastille with Stephen Box, and they’ve spread the “pass with care” message across LA county.

I would like to acknowledge Ridazz like DJ Wheels, Trickmilla, Mr. Rollers, Agent Orange, PC, shotgunBoom, Danya, Ayla, Joe Borfo, MD2, tortuga_veloce, Rick Darge, dudeonabike, Andres84, Sexy, Stillline, MannysCarWash, imachynna, kryxtanicole, Tivu, and so many many more….. without the mass there is no momentum.

Moving forward I challenge the bicycle industry at large to get involved specifically in Los Angeles. For far too long big manufacturers seem to have only focused on the racing aspect of cycling and largely ignored commuter cyclists in LA. Just as the auto and oil interests have wielded their lobbying powers to destroy public and alternative transportation options in our city, the bike industry needs to redouble it’s focus on our fight to restore safety and traffic calming to the streets. It will only help business as people are literally dieing to get out of traffic and out of their cars and into something healthy and sustainable. I’m looking at you Trek, Specialized, Canondale et al… The stage is set in LA for a bike commuter EXPLOSION. Do not squander the opportunity of a life time. A good chunky sized donation to Bikeside, C.I.C.L.E. and LACBC is a good way to start. DO NOT leave us hanging.

Lastly, I have no doubt that 2011 will be another action packed year, so first thing’s first… Vote for Stephen Box in February, support Life B4 License, donate some time to a local bike co-op or non-profit, and continue to ride bicycles and use public transit for the health of the city and most importantly for your own health.

Ride ON