Following up on the success of the 12th Annual River Ride, and the ongoing success of its regional partnership program; the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition looks to recruit local Livable Streets advocates to fight for safe streets in their communities. The new Neighborhood Bike Ambassador program seeks to educate and empower cyclists to fight for implementation of the Bike Plan on their local streets in their local communities. Over the summer, LACBC will begin to recruit ambassadors before organizing
“We’re trying to get this program off the ground to engage the already very active bicycling community and really anybody that wants to see safe streets in their neighborhoods,” explains Alexis Lantz, the Planning and Program Director for LACBC.
The goal of the program is to build local “street level” support for bike projects like bike lanes, boulevards, bike parking corrals, bike friendly business districts and more. In most cases, it’s not enough to just rally cyclists for a project, so LACBC will work with ambassadors to craft messages that will work best in each community. For example, where I live in West L.A might be more receptive to messages about how bike boulevards reduce the number of cars on arterial streets reducing car congestion than anther part of the city which would be more receptive to messages about the value of bike lanes in supporting local business.
Bike Ambassadors will also work with Neighborhood Councils and other community groups including local businesses, schools, churches, to build awareness and support for projects, create safer streets, and help make Los Angeles healthier. Ambassadors will organize community bike rides and other fun and educational events to help get more Angelenos out cycling.
And if all else fails, some old fashioned “retail politics” can be employed. “We want people to feel comfortable to do the door to door outreach that makes a difference,” continues Lantz.
The program comes at the right time. While BIKAS has been relentlessly covering the opening of every new bike lane in the city, eventually Los Angeles will run out of “low hanging fruit” projects. Even the most progressive City Council members balk at needed projects when local business or the Neighborhood Council aren’t on board.
One sign of a mature movement is when it can fight for its beliefs at many levels and on many playing fields simultaneously. In electoral politics, that means having a candidate who can handle a crowd as well as a debate moderator, a fundraising operation that can match your rival and a team of staff and volunteers that can knock on doors and get people out to the polls.
In the world of Livable Streets Advocacy, the most successful local groups not only have the staff and volunteers to lobby decision makers Downtown in the halls of power, but also on the street level. Even in New York City, where the powerful Transportation Alternatives is the picture of a well funded advocacy groups and the DOT is a wold leader for progressive thinking, good projects can get cast aside because of a few loud voices. One of the goals of the bike ambassador program is to insure that bicyclists voices are heard at every level.