Some Thoughts on the LA Newspaper Group's Summer of Cycling

Dear Readers:
Below is an email I sent to the email address given for the ongoing conversation The Press Telegram and the entire Los Angeles Newspaper Group will be having this summer on bicycling:

I was very excited to find that The Press Telegram and the entire Los Angeles Newspaper Group was taking on this subject and am hoping for a series of articulate, well researched discussions and articles versus a project geared at stirring the pot for sensationalism but not coming to any better understanding.

Right now I have to admit I'm a bit dubious. The initial cartoon didn't help.

I am with Damien Newton of L.A.Streetsblog in hoping that you will move away from an us vs. them, car vs. bike approach.

Here are some things I'd like you to consider as you move forward:

  • Starting out the series with the term "cyclist" implies to many that you are focused on the lycra clad set. Research shows, including a survey I was personally involved in producing, that the majority of people who ride bikes do not tag themselves "cyclists," nor even "bicyclists" but "someone who likes to ride a bike."
  • The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is currently in the middle of hosting 30 "Traffic 101" adult bicycle education classes throughout Los Angeles County within September. Will you be attending any of these classes? They are happening throughout the region.
  • Here in Long Beach I have personally been involved in launching "Street Savvy" this summer, a short "hands on" bicycle education class originated by Bike Long Beach and further developed by female instructors in our Women on Bikes SoCal program. We have a class on July 21st and July 28th - I invite you to come a check one of them out. Yes, I will follow up with a press release.
  • Throughout Southern California there are knowledgeable, articulate, professional bike advocates that can bring much to this conversation that you really need to be reaching out to. I recommend you start with Jen Klausner, the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coaltion. I'm happy to provide you with her information if you don't have it.
  • I also recommend that you come to Long Beach and take the City's "Three Hour" bicycle infrastructure tour with Bike Long Beach's Allan Crawford if you want to truly understand why bicycle infrastructure is so important - and I would hope that you will educate your readers that money spent on these types of projects CAN ONLY be spent on these types of projects.
We are living in a time of a sedentary disease pandemic and the cost to our state alone is crippling. Our youngest generation is not expected to live as long as their parents due to the effects of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Is it really a time to focus on fear rather than bringing understanding? I hope you can show true leadership and do better. Most people who ride bikes also own cars so the whole "I pay more taxes as a driver so I'm worth more" is not only offensive, but frankly, mute.

Best Regards,
Melissa Balmer - Editor/Program Director Women on Bikes SoCal