It’s only been five years since Streetsblog began publishing in Los Angeles. In that time, we bore witness to major changes at LADOT, Metro and city politics. But perhaps the biggest change has come in the form of more professional, better-staffed and powerful advocacy organizations.
Nowhere is that more true than with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Under the guidance of executive director Jennifer Klausner, the organization grew from a bare bones advocacy organization that also managed the bicycle locker program for Metro to an organization capable of managing multiple programs at once and has a pro-active legislative agenda.
Last week, I sat down with Kelly Martin and J.J. “River Ride” Hoffman with the Bike Coalition to talk about 2013. The non-profit fundraiser in me noted that their fundraising appeal focuses on the programs they can control. For example, the LACBC can advocate that the city strip another 75 miles of bike lanes, but they can’t force them to. So when it comes to their end of the year appeal the focus is on “Operation Firefly ,” “Bike Counts” and “Bicycle Ambassador Program .”
This is not to say that the LACBC doesn’t have an aggressive agendas for elected officials and LADOT, just that the organization had grown so that it can do much more than lobby.
To join or renew membership with the Bicycle Coalition, click here . The LACBC hopes to raise $125,000 from donations and membership over the course of a year.
In some ways, the LACBC seems most excited about Operation Firefly. With the “City of Lights” program spinning off to “Multi-Cultural Communities for Mobility,” Firefly is a return to their advocacy roots in South Los Angeles and other communities of color.
“… I went down to 103rd and Central last night, where the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition (LACBC) and the East Side Riders were handing out lights to the lightless as part of the LACBC’s Operation Firefly. For this program — intended to reach out to riders caught without lights since the switch to daylight savings time — the LACBC does weekly street distributions of approximately 40 light sets and educational materials. The materials, including spoke cards in English and Spanish, offer a summary of the California Vehicle Code requirements for night riding, along with additional tips for enhanced visibility. “
Another area where the LACBC exerts its programming muscle is its Bicycle Ambassador Program . The fledgeling program hopes to train the current and next generation of local advocates and build local support for bicycling projects. Many of the “low hanging fruit” projects listed in the bike plan have been completed, and the Ambassador Program aims to create and nurture a groundswell for better bicycle projects as the city moves forward.
LACBC’s Alek Bartosouf explains.
“The Neighborhood Bike Ambassador program has been launched to execute the mission and vision of the LACBC at the local community-level, he writes. “We work hard to engage LA residents with their immediate community on issues pertaining to bike safety, infrastructure, and culture. With 5 regions in Los Angeles (East, West, Central, South, and Valley) we work on various issues depending on the neighborhood. Anywhere from advocating for proposed bike lanes, to hosting bike rides and historical tours, to having a Ciclavia after party, the Bike Ambassadors are developing themselves as true advocates in their community and we are happy to have them as part of our effort to make LA more bikeable and safe.”
The last program that was highlighted is perhaps the most important. For years, cyclists in Los Angeles lacked good data to argue for bicycling improvements. The city didn’t complete bike counts and census data notoriously undercounts the number of bicyclists on city streets.
In recent years, the LACBC has complted their own counts. This year’s study  documented how the number of cyclists on L.A.’s streets is steadily rising, and completely exploding on Spring Street after the installation of the Green Buffered Bike Lane.
“If you want to be counted by decision-makers, then you have to literally be counted,” explains planning and policy director Eric Bruins. “LACBC has been able to make the case for more bike lanes because we have count data that proves that bike lanes work. On streets that add bike lanes, ridership generally doubles or more. If LACBC didn’t organize bike counts, then we wouldn’t know how far we’ve come and we’d have a much harder time asking for more. The upcoming 2013 bike counts in the City of Los Angeles will show just how much growth we’ve had since counting in 2009 and 2011.”
The Coalition plans to expand the number of intersections studied in 2013, but the total number will depend on the number of volunteers able to help conduct the counts.