As a Los Angeles County Supervisor, Mark Ridley-Thomas currently represents much of CD10, and is seeking to serve a fourth term on the City Council after representing CD8 from 1991-2003. As Supervisor and as a Metro Board Member, Ridley-Thomas has helped projects like CicLAvia and championed the much-delayed Rail to River bike & pedestrian path on the Slauson corridor, while also playing a central role in transit decisions over the last 11 years. It is worth noting that Ridley-Thomas was the only respondent to Bike The Vote’s questionnaire that did not pledge to refuse fossil fuel lobby funds in his campaign.
Ridley-Thomas certainly sees value in bikes as a transportation option, but did not make a strong case in either his questionnaire response or his in-person interview for how he would champion implementation of bike lanes and overcome community pushback. In his willingness to engage with safe streets advocates, Ridley-Thomas would likely offer an improvement on the wall of silence those advocates have faced from Wesson. Building on the expertise he has developed as a Metro Board Member, it is our hope that Ridley-Thomas will continue to work with our local and county-wide advocates to build out a bike network and make meaningful progress towards Vision Zero.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2020 Grade: C+
(See below for full candidate questionnaire response)
1. Transportation remains the largest source of greenhouse gases in California, and neighborhood oil extraction has been shown to pose significant health and safety risks to residents. Heavy spending by oil and gas companies in local elections casts doubt on whether voters can trust their elected leaders to protect them from these and other impacts. Will you pledge to refuse any donations, whether to your campaign or officeholder account, from the fossil fuel lobby?
The fossil fuel lobby has never been my ally. When I served in the State Legislature, I earned an average score of 97% from the California League of Conservation Voters and was named Freshman of the Year. In my last year in the Senate, I received a 6/6 on the Sierra Club California 2008 Senate Report Card. While on the Board of Supervisors, I re-negotiated and strengthened the terms of the Inglewood Oil Field, making the Community Standards District one of the strictest in Southern California.
2. A longstanding lack of trust between law enforcement and the community has made passage through public space and on city streets rather fraught for many, especially teens and young men of color. What will you do to repair this relationship between law enforcement and the community they serve such that law enforcement can become a broadly trusted partner for CD10 residents?
The distrust between law enforcement and the Black and brown community was generations in the making, but it doesn’t have to endure forever. Over the years, there have been attempts to build trust, primarily by improving community engagement and communication. Those steps are worthy, but really what must change is behavior. What will I do as councilman? I will hold law enforcement in my district accountable — accountable and answerable for working to demonstrate concrete, measurable improvements that are supported both by data as well as the lived experience of the district’s residents.
3. Many residents in South and Central Los Angeles lack access to cars. Of these, a large percentage, especially immigrants, depend on bikes as a way to get to work and school, but lack safe options to commute thanks to a host of factors, including prevalent speeding and inadequate infrastructure (lack of safe crossings, streets right-sized to deter speeding, school zoning signage) to instill safe routes to school on city streets in historically underserved communities. Mobility Plan 2035 established “safety first” as the City’s top priority in transportation decisions. Do you support prioritizing the safety of Los Angeles’ most vulnerable commuters in implementing Mobility Plan 2035, both in CD10 and throughout Los Angeles?
It’s time for a cultural shift in how we look at riders on bikes: long gone are the days when a bike was primarily for pleasure or exercise; in Los Angeles, bikes are critical modes of transportation — on par with cars in their utility, if not their numbers. I have and will continue to prioritize the safety of commuters who travel by bike.
4. 242 Angelenos were killed in car crashes in 2018, a 32% increase from 2015. Clearly, L.A. has failed to make significant progress towards Vision Zero, the concept that we can greatly reduce roadway deaths by building a transportation system in which the inevitable mistakes that people make are not deadly. Will you commit to setting aggressive goals for achieving significant reductions in traffic deaths in CD10 during your term and expand resources for implementation of and engagement of community based organizations on safety infrastructure?
Working together we can turn this deadly statistic around. Together we will set aggressive and achievable goals to reduce traffic deaths in CD10 and throughout the city. Safety cannot be an afterthought as we develop a transportation system; safeguards and community-based solutions should be integrated from the conception through execution of every transportation-related project. With regard to resources, I would engage residents and together we would determine the best system of allocation and implementation.
5. Los Angeles’ traffic woes are compounded by the reality that many parents and students don’t feel safe allowing their children to walk or bike to school. In October, a 4 year old in Council District 10 was killed by a turning driver on her way to school with her mother. What would you do as a councilmember to prioritize student safety and active transportation options around schools?
According to the Mobility Plan 2035, school age children are uniquely vulnerable, accounting for 19% of all pedestrian related collisions and 4% of all fatally or severely injured pedestrians.
But ensuring the safety of students should not be up for debate. It is the responsibility of adults to keep children safe, and yes I would prioritize student safety and active transportation options around schools.
The first step to improving the safety of the streets around our schools is to see that existing regulations are being observed. And we need information that allows to proceed strategically and with an eye to results: Do we have the appropriate stop signs and signal lights? Do we have crosswalks where needed? Is the signage at crosswalks effective? Do we have the requisite adult supervision of youngsters?
6. Please respond to the following questions regarding specific CD10 issues and projects:
6A. In 2013-2014, local non-profit Community Health Councils led a community discussion around making Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd safer by implementing bike lanes on the street. Despite widespread community support for the project from Empowerment Congress West (ECWA), North Area Neighborhood Development Council, the Cherrywood-Leimert Block Club, the McClung/Bronson Block Club, and Crenshaw WALKS!; the current CD10 office delayed and eventually quietly shelved the project. Would you support implementing bike lanes or protected bike lanes on King Blvd?
Yes I would.
6B. Venice Boulevard is identified by the Department of Transportation as a vital East/West bike route, but has no bike safety infrastructure between Arlington Ave. and Downtown Los Angeles. Do you support implementation of bike lanes or protected bike lanes on Venice Boulevard to provide safer and more equitable access between CD10 and Downtown?
Yes. Where it is feasible, major commuter routes, boulevards, avenues and thoroughfares in the district should have dedicated bike lanes.
6C. The installation of a new fence around Leimert Park Plaza in 2018 has initiated difficult and divisive conversations about the role of public space and who gets to use it, particularly in a neighborhood that is facing rapid gentrification. What role do you see for Leimert Park Plaza? Do you see the fence as a necessary element or something that should be removed?
The real issue isn’t the fence. The fence is a bureaucratic response to conditions resulting from homelessness and drug use that have spiked in Leimert Park — as they have elsewhere in the City. My approach as councilman would be these root causes of the challenges facing all who want to use the park — not fence it off. As councilman, I would immediately address and remedy \the conditions in the park: provide the services, assistance and resources needed to make it a safe place for everyone — but keeping the park as the open and accessible heart of the Black community.
6D. Streets like Adams, Jefferson, and Washington Boulevards around West Adams area schools are among the most dangerous streets in the City. Requests from parents and local groups to improve the safety of students on neighborhood streets have gone unanswered by the current office (e.g. Washington Blvd. and Burnside Ave. near New L.A. Charter Middle School). What would you commit to do to improve the safety of students getting to school on foot, by transit, and by bike?
The safety of our school children should be of paramount concern to everyone. If elected to the council, first, I would convene a meeting with parents and local groups to hear their concerns. I would also check in with local advocates and organizations for feedback. Then I would take that information and work with the appropriate agencies to create a safer environment on these streets — especially during the hour of transit to and from schools, when children are traveling. We have the means and the tools to make these streets safer; it would be my role to help the community use them.