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And the Winners Are

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Usually we do Streetsies a little differently than we did this year. The rigors of the two job searches and restructuring Santa Monica Next ate up more time than I thought so we narrowed down to just awarding Streetsies to the four people who made the biggest impacts in 2013.

The reader’s vote, a vote of our Board of Directors and my vote each held equal weight in determining the overall winners. Without further adieu, here are the winners.

Politician of the Year: Pam O’Connor (Your vote, 2nd, Board Vote 1st, My Vote 3rd)

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Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor seems to be everywhere, advocating for transportation sustainability, livable cities, and complete streets policies.

She has served on the Santa Monica City Council for 20 years, the Metro Board of Directors for 13 years, and the Chair of the Expo Line Construction Authority. She served as President of the Southern California Association of Governments, leading the unanimous adoption of the region’s Sustainable Communities Strategy, a regional framework for transportation and land use sustainability.  She’s also on the board of ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), a non-profit group looking to provide technical expertise and services to local governments looking to lead the transition to more sustainable places.

What’s truly remarkable about Pam is that none of these elected or appointed positions are full-time, as is the case with L.A. City Councilmembers.  Pam serves in her free time from her primary job as a historical preservation consultant.
Pam describes herself as “car-light” as we have proof that she’s an active Streetsblog L.A. reader and follows our social media. – Juan Matute

Civil Servant of the Year: Paul Backstrom (Your vote: 2nd, Board vote: 1st, My vote: 1st)

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Paul Backstrom is front and center on transportation issues in Los Angeles. Photo:Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership.

A couple of years ago, I was talking to Tony Arranaga, then the communications director for Bill Rosendahl, about Streetsies. Without prompting, he enthusiastically endorsed Paul Backstrom, the transportation deputy for the Transportation Committee Chair, as symbolic of everything we look for in a Streetsie winner. Backstrom didn’t win that year, but after twice finishing second in our balloting it was past time to give Backstrom his due.

While Mike Bonin, who is now Backstrom’s boss in City Hall, is an avowed transportation wonk, he is aided by a top notch staff helping with transportation and planning issues with Backstrom at forefront. When advocates need help advancing issues, fighting back bad legislation, or just need advice on how to proceed; Paul Backstrom is one of our first calls.

Even as I’m working on this paragraph, I have an email waiting in my box from him. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts its a tip about a cool project that’s coming to the Transportation Committee.

(Update: It was.)

Advocate of the Year: Jessica Meaney (Your vote: 2nd, Board vote: 1st, My vote: 1st)

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 4.03.20 PMThere are a lot of people that work tirelessly in Los Angeles to make the city a safer and more attractive place to live. A handful of us are lucky enough to have jobs that pay us to fight the good fight. Others spend countless hours of their free time going to public meetings, volunteering their free time, knocking on doors and doing everything that needs to be done to change the culture and infrastructure of the city.

And then there are those rare few that are so totally devoted that they are both professional and volunteer advocates. One of the most prominent in that group is Jessica Meaney.

As the local director for the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, Meaney has assembled a powerful coalition to advance pedestrian and bicycle issues in Los Angeles and beyond. Realizing that it’s not enough just to be right, and not just enough to be mobilized; Meaney has done both storming public meetings with an army of local advocates and a mountain of statistics and information.

And more often than not, she wins. And not just because you would have to be crazy to vote against making it easier and safer for kids to walk to school.

Then at night (or in the middle of the day as in the picture above), Meaney works as one of the Steering Committee for Los Angeles Walks, the all-volunteer organization that focuses as a laser beam on pedestrian issues. On a shoestring budget, L.A. Walks programs Walktober, WalkLAvia and an awesome event where people dress as super heroes and help people across the street.

Journalist of the Year: Alissa Walker (Your Vote: 1st, Board Vote: 1st, My Vote: 2nd)

From Alissa's homepage, ##http://www.awalkerinla.com/2008/01/28/welcome-to-a-walker-in-la/##A Walker in L.A.##

From Alissa’s homepage, A Walker in L.A.

Alissa Walker is a fine journalist. She’s written at Los Angeles Magazine, the LA Weekly, Dwell, Fast Company, GOOD, T Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times, and appeared on KCRW public radio showDnA: Design and Architecture. Currently, She is the urbanism editor at Gizmodo.

She writes about design, architecture, cities, transportation and walking. She’s a great writer. We all enjoy her work.

But what separates Walker from many journalists is that in addition to her professional work, in her free time she’s become a sort of defender of the new Los Angeles and not the car-culture obsessed city of yesteryear. It’s hard work, but somebody has to do it.

From Gelato Baby to Walker in L.A., Alissa loves Los Angeles, loves the city it’s becoming, and has helped move the city in the right direction through her writing and publishing. We’re big fans of her work, no matter where it appears, and always look forward to where her work is going to pop up next.

As anyone that follows me on social media knows, with Laura leading the popular vote at 4:20 pm, 40 minutes before voting ended, I wrote her Streetsie Award announcement. While Alissa rallied to pull out the win, anyone who’s a Laura fan can see that draft here.

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Give Us Your Nominees for 2013 Streetsies!

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As anyone that’s been reading Streetsblog for more than a year knows, at the end of the year we hand out a series of “Streetsie” awards. Some Streetsies are tongue in cheek, but others are a sincerely meant honor to the people and organizations that are making Los Angeles a more livable place to live, work and play.

In past years, we’ve always asked our readers to help us choose who we honor through a reader’s poll on the page. For the first time, this year we’re opening up the nomination process as well. If there’s someone you think we should honor as “Elected Leader of the Year,” “Activist of the Year,” “Journalist of the Year,” or “Public Servant of the Year” please let us know in the comments section.

A couple quick notes, people cannot win the same Streetsie more than once and neither Streetsblog staff nor Board Members are eligible for awards. No matter how much you want to give all our awards to Juan Matute, you can’t. I’m sorry. I know it’s a huge disappointment.

We’ll announce Streetsblog’s picks next week and people will have until the close of business on January 3 to vote in the People’s Choice polls.

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Streetsies 2011 Person of the Year

Your nominees are the Streetsie “People of the Year” from earlier with the runners up for each award thrown in for good measure.

Politician of the Year: Antonio Villaraigosa+

Runner Up: Mark Ridley-Thomas

Advocate of the Year: Sunyoung Yang

Advocate of the Year: Colin Bogart

Blogger of the Year: Brigham Yen

Runner Up: Ted Rogers

Government Worker of the Year: Rye Baerg

Runner Up: Planning’s Claire Bowen, LADOT’s Kang Hu

Streetsblog Contributor of the Year: Dana Gabbard

Runner Up: Mark Vallianatos

Who is the Streetsblog Person of the Year

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2011 Streetsies: It Was the Worst of Times

(It’s Day 3 of our end of the year coverage.  Don’t forget to vote on Best of Times Streetsies posted yesterday and Worst of Times Streetsies below.  You’ll have a chance to tell me what I got wrong on “person of the year” tomorrow.)

Worst News from Sacramento: Governor Brown Thumbs His Nose at Bicyclists, Vetoes Safe Passing Law

Honorable Mention: Gov. Brown Champions Looser Environmental Review for Major ProjectS under CEQA, Gov.’s Budget Has Major Cuts for School Buses

 

Worst News from Sacramento

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Saddest Transit Story of the Year: Metro’s Bus Cuts Bummer

Honorable Mention: Recession Threatens 30/10, TAP!, Approved Funded and Popular Bus Projects on Hold for Years, Metro Deficient in 5 of 12 Civil Rights Categories

 

Saddest Transit Story of the Year

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LADOT Goof of the Year: Oh, Wilbur

Honorable Mention: Not Creating Progressive Enough Plan for Main Street, City Sends Bike Projects off to Environmental Review, The Gold Card Scandal, Think Dutch Says LA’s Streets Wide Enough to Do a Lot,

LADOT Goof of the Year

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NIMBY’s of the Year: Neighbors for Smart Rail

Not only have coalition of Westside homeowners and community advocates managed to snarl Phase II of the Expo Line in court for the better part of the year, they also managed to delay bike planning for the Phase II Bike Path. One group, two delays. Nice work.

Honorable Mention: Beverly Hills Unified School District, Beverly Hills Courier, Condo Canyon Residents, Brentwood Community Council

NIMBY's of the Year

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Worst Media Coverage: ABC 7 Nonsensically Talks Condoms and Alcohol While Bike Riders Are Carted Away in an Ambulance

Honorable Mention: Daily News Plays Up Bike v Car Conflicts, Patch Decides Diane Feinstein Is Against Westside Subway Funding, Media Mindlessly Repeats First Claims from Brookings Report Without Reading It, Beverly Hills Courier Just Makes Stuff Up About Westside Subway,

Worst Media Coverage

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Story That Just Won’t Die: L.A. Considers Privatizing Parking Garages (Repeat Winner!)

Everyone Hates Red Light Cameras, AEG Talks Big on Stadium Transpo. Plan

Story That Won't Die

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Saddest Picture: Gehl Architects: A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

Granted, it’s not their fault that this picture is horribly depressing.

Honorable Mention: Negligent Driver Takes a Trip on Expo, L.A.’s Bike Lanes Not Just for Bikes

Saddest Pictures

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Ad Nauseum: G.M.’s Confusing War on Bikes, Pedestrians and Buses

Honorable Mention: Pedestrians and Cyclists Get Out of the Way!

Ad Nauseum, which was worse?

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2011 Streetsies, It Was the Best of Times

Every Year, we break the Streetsies into three categories, “Best of Times,” “Worst of Times” and “People of the Year.”  We also give you a chance to correct our picks through Streetsblog polls.  The Best of Times is below.  The Worst of Times is tomorrow.

Before we get into the Streetsies, there are some groups and people that did some work that really sticks out that didn’t fall into a Streetsie category.  Without further adieu:

Special Thanks to…: Wolfpack Hustle, Gary Kavanagh, Ezra Horne and Joe Anthony for Letting Us Help Broadcast #FlightvBikeBikeside for Setting a High Standard for Online Journalism with Its Investigative Series on the Christine Dahab/K-Town Wednesdays CrashKang Hu for Standing Up to Electeds on Wilshire Bus Only Lanes

Best Transit Story of the Year: For an Agency That’s Often Accused of Bending Over for the Richest Lobbyist, Metro Deserves Credit for Resisting the Broad Side on the Regional Connector

Honorable Mention: 30/10 Goes National and L.A. Becomes Transit Leaders, Metro Cuts Back Day Pass Costs, America Fast Forward Moves Forward, Ground Broken on Expo Phase II

What is the best "good news" transit story of the year

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City Hall Win of the Year: L.A. Passes First Ever Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Law

Honorable Mention: City Finally Gets Rid of Anti-Cargo Bike Law, Hooray for the Bike Plan, City Council Snubs Rosendahl and Preserves Westside Route for Wilshire BOL

Best News from City Hall

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Best New Bike Infrastructure:  The Green Lanes!

Honorable Mention: 7th Street, New CicLAvia Route, 20 Miles of Sharrows, Occupy L.A. Bike Share

Best New Bike Infrastructure

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Surprise Win of the Year: No Parking at Westwood Station for Expo Phase II

Honorable Mention: Metro Finally Removes “Peak Hour Restrictions” for Bikes on Trains,” Downtown L.A. Embraces Express Park, Christine Dahab Charged with Felony after LAPD Coverup

What was the biggest surprise?

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Video of the Year: Roadblock Questions ABC 7 “Condoms” Reporter

Honorable Mention: LAPD post bike training video, Mad Men Pitch High Speed Rail, What is CicLAvia, LACBC’s Sleek 7th Street Bike Lane Campaign, The World’s Best Anti-Sprawl Video, Bill Rosendahl Learns to Ride a Bike, The Pedestrian Jar

What was the best video?

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Freelance Piece of the Year: Janette Sadik-Khan, “NYC Plaza Program an Open Space Model for L.A.”

Honorable Mention: 710: A Post-Modern Freeway, Rosendahl Thanks Cyclists for Work on Bike Plan, Obama Brings Focus Back to Bridges, Cycling in the Desert,, Gabbard Scoops Metro on Delays to Wilshire BOL and El Monte Busway

What Was Our Best Freelance Piece

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Best Out of City Story in SoCal: Long Beach’s Protected Bike Lanes Set the SoCal Standard

Honorable Mention: Bike It! Day, “Regional Connector” in Culver City, What’s Good for Bikes Is Good for Business in Long Beach

Best Local Story from Outside City Limits

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Streetsblog Highlight:  L.A. Streetsblog Announces Expansion Efforts

Honorable Mention: Damien Newton Awarded Annenberg Online Health Journalism Fellowship, LA Weekly Names Streetsblog “Top Advocacy Website”

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That’s All for Today, See You Tonight!

There’s still some loose ends to tie up for tonight’s End of the Year Party, starting  at 6:30 at Earl’s Gourmet Grub, 12226 Venice Boulevard between Grand View Boulevard and Ocean View Avenue, so unless there is major breaking news, L.A. Streetsblog won’t have new stories until tomorrow.

Suggested donation is $25, but everything is on a sliding scale. For more information, check out the “top ten reasons” to party with Streetsblog we published earlier or sign up for the event on Facebook.

With all of the news surrounding the location change, we’ve neglected to thank our sponsors in our last posts.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is donating jersies, socks and a year membership to our auction and deserve a huge round of thanks.  CICLE, CicLAvia and Clif Bar have also thrown some great items into the mix for another fun set of prizes.

Thanks again!

On the food side of things, the event will be catered by Earl’s Gourmet Grub.  If you like beer, another 120 bottles of New Belgium Brewing’s finest were donated by the most bicycle friendly brewing company in the world.

And of course we’ll have entertainment with a Streetfilm provided by Social | Impact Consulting, LLC and an awards ceremony honoring the rest of the Streetsblog team and our Streetsie winners.

See you tonight, we’ll be partying from 6:30 until 9:30.

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Join Us for Our December 8th Fundraiser, And Celebrate With Some of Our 2011 Streetsie Winners

On Thursday, December 8, Los Angeles Streetsblog will be hosting its first ever “End of the Year” party at 6:30 P.M. at 11555 National Boulevard 12226 Venice Boulevard.  The suggested donation is $25, but everything is on a sliding scale, nobody will be denied entrance.  For more information, check back here or sign up for the event on Facebook or check out the “top ten reasons” to party with Streetsblog we published earlier.

<drumroll> In addition to our contributors and Board of Directors, here are the six winners of our “People of the Year” Streetsie Awards.  We will announce the nominees for the People’s Choice Streetsies in December and you’ll get your chance to tell us if we missed anyone.  Click on the winner’s names to read more about why they were chosen as the 2011 people of the year. </drumroll>

Politician of the Year: Antonio Villaraigosa

Advocate of the Year: Sunyoung Yang

Advocate of the Year: Colin Bogart

Blogger of the Year: Brigham Yen

Government Worker of the Year: Rye Baerg

Streetsblog Contributor of the Year: Dana Gabbard

Yes, there are two advocates of the year this year. We all felt Colin deserved an award for his work in Glendale, but given that whatever award we gave him wouldn’t be repeatable given the uniqueness of his position in Glendale.  Thus, we decided to have two advocate of the year awards for 2011 for two different kinds of advocates working in different situations but making an amazing difference in Greater Los Angeles.

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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.  Read more…

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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.

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Streetsies 2010: It Was the Worst of Times

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In many ways, 2010 was just business as usual for the all-dominating car-culture.  Politicians and the police continue to say stupid things.  Cyclists and pedestrians are still getting run down in the street with near impunity.  The Metro Board of Directors still manages to muck things up, even when the whole county overwhelmingly backed a transit tax just two years ago.  2010: It was the Worst of Times

Dumbest Thing Said by a Politician

2010 Streetsie Award Winner: Governor proposes double-decking the 405

Reader's Choice: Dumbest thing said by a politician

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There were a lot of dumb things written and said by politicians this year, but this statement by the Governor, implying that the multi-billion dollar expansion of the 405 is a nice first step, takes the case.

“This is why it is so important because we have this bumper-to-bumper traffic to go and build an extra lane and build out the 405 freeway,” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference at a Caltrans construction yard along Mulholland Drive. “And hopefully, eventually, we will build on top of the 405 Freeway because I think we need another freeway on top of the existing one.”

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who also serves as a Board Member for the Expo Construction Authority and Metro, lashed out that the grade-crossings for the Expo Line in South Los Angeles doom the area to “second class status” in an op/ed for the Business Journal.  Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not the grade crossings in South L.A. are good or bad for the area; but Ridley-Thomas’ op/ed is especially weird when you consider that two months later he told the New York Times that Expo is an important piece in redeveloping South L.A.

Greig Smith was certainly a visible presence on the pages of Streetsblog and he ended the year on a somewhat weird note.  In response to a question about the “anti-harassment ordinance” penned by Bill Rosendahl’s office, Smith wrote a statement basically saying the motion was a stupid waste of time, but he would vote for it.  Earlier in the year, while railing against a bicycle and pedestrian set-aside from Measure R funds, Smith argued that the set-aside was a waste because “10% of people don’t bike.“  Of course, 100% of people walk, but that’s apparently another issue.

In the Daily News, City Councilman Tom LaBonge wrote a great piece promoting transit expansion.  However, instead of focusing on promoting the Measure R projects that might get done in the forseeable future, LaBonge promoted his own route for a red line extension into the Valley.  While it’s not a bad idea in its own right, it’s so unlikely that Metro is going to undertake any major subway expansion projects besides those funded in Measure R that he might as well have said that he wanted to genetically engineer flying monkeys to carry us over traffic.

But the worst thing said by a city official was when the Mayor’s office let the taxi driver that caused his bike crash off the hook.  Streetsblog didn’t cover the statement, so it’s not a candidate for a Streetsie, but this “it was just an accident” mentality is one of the reasons that our streets remain so unsafe.

Villaraigosa thinks that the driver “wasn’t careful,” moving in front of him without using his signal, mayoral spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said. But he does not think any charges should be filed.

“The taxi driver could have exercised more caution but what he did was not on purpose and it wasn’t illegal,” she said. “He just wasn’t proceeding with caution.”

Worst Sign That the Cops Don’t Get It

2010 Streetsie Award Winner: CHP Officer pens misinformation column on bike riding for local paper.  Gets defensive and condescending in even worse follow-up column.

Reader's Choice: Sign that cops don't get it

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This category is ugly.  You might the feeling that the LAPD is at least trying to do the right thing by cyclists with their efforts to encourage cyclists to lock their bikes properly, and a P.S.A. campaign designed to encourage drivers to watch the road.  The controversial LAPD/LACM rides seem to be efforts in the right direction, even if they came as a result of officers harassing and kicking at cyclists in a May Critical Mass ride.  But that doesn’t mean that the 10,000 person law enforcement department always gets it right.  Nor does it mean that other agencies around the region are following the LAPD’s example.

Consider that these bloopers aren’t even close to the most frustrating ones, even though they both excuse fatally bad driving:

”He was just driving down the street and unfortunately, did not see the girls,” Bustos said. “The girls, when they were crossing the street, we don’t know if they saw the car.” (Driver kills one girl, maims another, and there’s no charge.)

“They agreed that it’s 50-50,” Mankarios said. “He violated the vehicle code, but in essence had she stopped, he would have gone right through and in front of her.”  (The victim was under no legal obligation to stop.)

No, the worst example of police confusion goes to California Highway Patrol Officer Al Perez who used his weekly syndicated column to attack a father who dared yell at a driver who endangered his son while crossing the street on a bike in a crosswalk.  That doesn’t sound so bad when compared to excusing deadly behavior.  After cyclists and lawyers pointed out that Perez didn’t know what he was talking about, Perez penned another column repeating the incorrect assertions made in the first one in a much more condescending manner.  Ignorance and arrogance, a deadly combination.

An honorable mention has to go to the Long Beach Police Department who seem intent on cracking down on group rides in their city.  First they broke up a Critical Mass and confsicated bicycles for failure to have a bike license, a seizure that is not allowed by state law.  Then they harassed and broke up another ride that had the goal of raising funds for those people wrongly ticketed and harassed on the first ride.  A hundred Charlie Gandy’s can’t make up for a police department that is clearly establishing itself as anti-bike if the bike owners don’t behave in a certain way.

NIMBY of the Year

2010 Streetsie Award Winner: The Beverly Hills NUMBY’s

NIMBY of the Year

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Pretty much everyone that’s fighting a transit project in Los Angeles is doing so because of fears that an at-grade train will mess up traffic and imperil their children.  However, there was one group that was fighting to keep a train from running underneath their town, the Beverly Hills NUMBY crowd.  The Not-Under-My-Back-Yard team raised the specter of an earthquake creating sinkholes underneath their schools and homes, just like what happened in that Tommy Lee Jones movie about the volcano underneath Los Angeles.  Armed with a lawyer and a boatload of mis-information, the NUMBY’s have hired a lawyer and threatened the entire Westside Subway project unless Metro builds the subway next to a fault line underneath Santa Monica Boulevard.  As you would expect from any fact-free, hysterical campaign, they seem to have found an ally with Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky who penned a Metro Board motion urging staff to look at alternative routes for the subway.

You also have to tip your cap at the “Condo Canyon” group that successfully got “their” portion of the Wilshire BRT route removed from the final plan.  It was a great example of a group of well-connected people trumping the greater good of the entire region.  Naturally, they got a major assist from Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky.

The Condo Canyon group was so successful they inspired other NIMBY’s to spring up to fight the BRT project in their area.  The Brentwood NIMBY group was a lot less successful than their brothers in the Canyon.  However, because Yaroslavsky got the Metro Board to change the project to favor his politically connected friends in Westwood, a new environmental study will be presented to the Board in a couple of months.  Fight on, Brentwood!  I’m sure you can convince him that bus-only lanes in your community is a bad idea too!

All of this probably makes Neighbors for Smart Rail jealous.  They’re lawsuit against the environmental documents for Phase II of the Expo Line appears to be headed to a legal defeat which would leave them with limited options other than more appeals.  If only this weren’t the only transit project that Yaroslavsky actually supports in his district.  Curses!

Biggest WTF?

2010 Streetsie Award Winner: Rita Robinson laments her lack of magical powers in changing the city.

Reader's Choice: WTF?

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Leave it to LADOT to give us the year’s verbal low-light.  After the city was energized by the appearance of Janette Sadik-Khan, LADOT General Manager reminded us that L.A. is not New York when she compared New York’s new found pedestrian and bicycle friendliness as “magic.” It’s not magic, it’s good planning.

I guess it’s not the worst thing in the world that she stepped down as LADOT General Manager for a job with the county.  Speaking of the LADOT, they’re shocking inability to give a firm “yes” when asked at a City Council hearing if the Department could spend a paltry $3 million per year on bicycle and pedestrian projects was revealing.

Maybe the reason that LADOT couldn’t think of enough bike/ped projects was that they refuse to cover the expenses of sending a representative to the city’s official Bicycle Advisory Committee.  Good show!

And it was certainly a head-slapper when the Bureau of Street Services paved over the Sharrows pilot program on Westholme Avenue.  But that wasn’t nearly as insulting to Westside cyclists as the newest “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” lawsuit by opponents of the Expo Line.  A group of homeowners have filed suit against the Expo Bike Path in an effort to gum things up for the rail line by forcing a broader environmental review.

Meanwhile, the black eye that won’t go away for Metro continues to fester.  If those fare gate machines were supposed to Keep Us Safe from Terrorists, what does it say that over two years after they were “partially installed” that they haven’t been activated?

The Mayor used a “balance the budget” website to stump for his plan to privatize Los Angeles’ parking garages and street parking.  The balance the budget game was an interesting attempt to get people to think about what kind of cuts the city should make.  There was only one problem.  It was impossible to balance the budget in the game without leasing all, or some, of the city-owned parking spaces.

Last but not least, really AEG?  You’re really going to build a new NFL football stadium and not need any new parking in the area?  I guess if you can win a national urban planning award for designing L.A. Live, you begin to think you can do anything.

Worst Media Coverage

2010 Streetsie Award Winner: Times mocks opponents of freeway widenings with soft, condescending language

Reader's Choice: Worst media coverage

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Hysteria over the Subway to the Sea environmental studies showing a scant reduction in traffic over the current conditions was met with a near universal meltdown in the mainstream press.  Our “alternative weekly” stuck up for the poor car commuters who won’t see “much benefit” from the project with the embarrassing story, “$9 Billion Subway-to-Sea Rip-off.”

But the worst of the worst has to come from the Los Angeles Times and their mocking, condescending editorial cheerleading for the I-710 Tunnel Project.  In addition to ignoring all of the impacts that this kind of project will have for the region, they completely dismiss the idea that increased highways result in increased congestion.  Of course, the Times is probably right when it implies that people who argue that large freeways induce traffic are victims of “bizarre thoughts.”  That’s why L.A.’s massive freeway system has so little congestion at rush hour.

Some other lowlights include:

Best Example of a Highway Project That Is a Waste of Money

2010 Streetsie Award Winner: Mammoth Widening of the 405

Reader's Choice: Worst Highway project

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Living on the Westside, it’s hard to think of a highway project that makes less sense than another widening of the I-405.  Really?  It makes sense to anyone to spend $4.5 billion to create years of congestion and confusion just to add a couple of carpool lanes to one of the most congested highways in America?  That really makes sense to anyone in this day and age?

Meanwhile, up in the northern part of the county, the politicians don’t just want to expand highway capacity, they want to actually turn a two lane road into a six lane highway to basically move more trucks through the area.  Won’t they be surprised that when they roll out the welcome mat for truck traffic, that the traffic actually comes in record numbers.

Meanwhile, advocacy for the 710 Tunnel Project continues unabated.  There was some good news for opponents in 2011.  It appears that Supervisor Ara Najarian’s efforts to get a true cost estimate for the project are going to come to fruition.  Given that estimates for the build range between $1 billion and $11 billion, it seems that the Board should have an idea before wasting spending millions of dollars for an environmental review.