Los Angeles Times Opinion Page Promises More Coverage of Bike Issues

Image by Ken Kwok/ Los Angeles Times from the 2009 State of Cycling Series

It’s not a surprise that sometimes I miss a story when I write “Today’s Headlines.” It is equally unsurprising when someone emails me a link to a missed story.

It is something of a surprise when the person emailing me is an editor at the Los Angeles Times.

But yesterday, all of those things happened. Paul Thornton, an editor with the Los Angeles Times’ Opinion Page, sent me a link to this piece on the status of the 3 Foot Passing Law by Robert Greene. Thornton announced the piece as the first step in a broader program to increase coverage of cycling issues in the Opinion Page.

My first thought was, oh no…not another Summer of Cycling. My second thought was more positive. The Times is reaching out to us because they want to do better than the Los Angeles Newspaper Group’s bizarre mish-mash of opinion pieces from this summer. So, let’s help them. The Times’ own 2009 mini-series on the “state of cycling” was much better than the Newspaper Group’s effort from this year. But it could still use some improvements.

Readers, please leave your suggestions in the comments section. I know they’ll be reading. You can read my top five suggestions after the jump.

1) Please, for the love of God, please; ignore the “us v them” style of writing about bicycling. It’s old. It’s been done to death. It doesn’t really represent anything other than the most extreme parts of the debate. Greene played with this trope a little at the end of his article, but I think he was mocking it more than using it. It’s a good start.

2) There is a wide variety of thought within the cycling community on most issues. For example, there is a group of cyclists known as “vehicular cyclists” that believe that if cyclists just behaved as car drivers do most issues would go away. They oppose three foot passing laws, green buffered bike lanes, and most types of bicycle infrastructure that enjoy the support of groups such as the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC). Cyclists do not engage in group-think.

3) Villaraigosa’s broken elbow gets a lot of credit for the change in policy and direction in the city, but in truth there was a lot of work put in by a lot of people to create the turnaround. In 2008, the LACBC was struggling to survive, Cyclists Inciting Change Through Live Exchange was about to go through a leadership change, Streetsblog had one part-time writer in L.A., there were two storefront co-ops in city limits and nobody had ever heard of CicLAvia.

In 2013, LACBC and CICLE are thriving, there are five storefront co-ops in city limits, and even Streetsblog has a wide and diverse staff. Everyone knows what CicLAvia is.  This isn’t because of political leadership, this is the result of grassroots leadership and hard work. The movement has grown beyond just advancing the cause of thousands of cyclists to a fully-developed campaign for safer and better streets for all road users. The wider message has led to more funding, more staff, more diversity and a more powerful voice.

4) Speaking of leadership, can you find out what Eric Garcetti’s transportation plans are? There are high expectations for a mayor that doesn’t need a special event to ride a bicycle, he even joked with us that he was going to close all streets to cars during a sound check during the campaign. But he’s been quiet on the transportation front outside of some motions on the Metro Board of Directors.

5) I’m not asking that every op/ed be written by car-free cargo bike owners who ride Critical Mass, but could at least some of the stories be written by actual cyclists. I’m not counting a story that starts with the heroic tale of someone getting a rusty Huffy from the 1980′s from the back of their garage and riding it to work one day…I mean someone who experiences what it’s like to ride on L.A.’s streets.

As a show of good faith, Streetsblog would like to offer to organize a bicycle safety training class for Los Angeles Times staffers. We’ll hire a League of American Cyclists Certified Instructor (or two) to teach it. We can do it at the Times’ headquarters and we’ll even bring bikes for the road training. We’ll even let you write about the class first. If Bill Rosendahl can do it