(TL;DR: Bike The Vote L.A. is taking an organizational break for the 2022 election as an act of self care.)
A Note on the Upcoming 2022 Election Cycle:
In 2014, a group of friends gathered in a Koreatown bar to discuss how Los Angeles’ community of bike, pedestrian, and transit advocates could raise its collective voice and start to wield power through local elections. In the preceding years, the City of L.A. had adopted a set of ambitious plans to set aside space on our streets for greener types of transportation used overwhelmingly by L.A.’s most vulnerable residents. But backwards-looking politicians were often standing in the way — in most cases acting at the behest of relatively small but vocal groups of their most reactionary and privileged constituents. As determined and hardworking as they were, L.A.’s transportation advocacy nonprofits were predominantly barred from engaging in the electoral efforts necessary to stand up for positive change and build political power.
The answer, we decided, had to come from the people who walk, bike, and take transit on L.A. streets: an all-volunteer group that would engage in the political process to dialog with local candidates and help them develop their safe-streets platforms; inform voters about the choices presented to them; inspire our community to action; and devote our time and energy to supporting candidates who share our values. We knew that L.A. city elections routinely saw turnout in the 20-25 percent range (or lower), and that the commitment and passion of our community could make a difference. Based on that model, Bike The Vote L.A. was formed.
As much as we’ve loved this work, doing it on a volunteer basis comes at a price — one that increasingly bumps up against other aspects of our lives — and none of us can keep shouldering that burden indefinitely. Since we dropped our first voter guide in fall 2014, some or all of us have gotten married, become parents, completed a graduate degree program, taken on local advocacy projects in our own neighborhoods, and faced new challenges in our careers that are incompatible with the time and focus needed to run a candidate evaluation/endorsement process for citywide Los Angeles elections. Accordingly, we’ve made the difficult decision to have Bike The Vote L.A. sit out the 2022 election cycle.
In the almost seven years since that first meeting, we’ve left a lasting footprint on local politics. In the 2015 L.A. City Council election, we helped Downtown L.A. stay on track to expand its network of protected bike lanes and bus lanes, earning bike advocates a shout-out in the L.A. Times for their role. Two years later, we supported Northeast L.A. safe-streets advocates in holding Gil Cedillo to account for canceling a planned, funded reconfiguration of deadly North Figueroa Street, taking him to a runoff and forcing him to defend his record. Over the course of multiple election cycles, we helped put a bike-friendly majority on the Culver City Council. And in 2020, we were part of a historic coalition that sent Nithya Raman to L.A. City Hall after she pledged to implement L.A.’s progressive mobility plans and work toward compassionate solutions for unhoused Angelenos. Along the way, we made countless phone calls, knocked on thousands of doors, and empowered younger generations to get engaged in local elections. We built relationships with advocates for bold climate action, social justice, fairer and more responsive government, and others committed to bringing about positive change through grassroots action.
In some ways, local politics are very different today compared to 2014. Where once we felt like a lonely voice speaking out about the importance of safe and equitable mobility in our elections, we’re pleased to see many powerful advocates and organizations emerge. We continue to be inspired by the work of groups we’ve partnered with over the past few years: Sunrise Movement L.A., Food and Water Action, Ground Game L.A., L.A. Forward Action, Streets for All, Black Lives Matter-L.A., People’s City Council, and a host of others.
This broad coalition advocating for change is more important now than it has ever been, as L.A.’s challenges loom larger than ever. District Attorney George Gascón and the two most progressive members of the City Council face recall threats driven largely by right-wing backlash, while the corrupt Sheriff and at least one mayoral candidate are hoping to ride that same wave of fury and resentment to consolidate power and further persecute L.A.’s vulnerable residents and communities. At the same time, a new class of grassroots progressives is stepping forward to challenge the status quo and lead L.A. into a more just and sustainable future. We plan on supporting those candidates in an individual capacity as we’re able, and in collaboration with our organizational allies.
We’re profoundly grateful to everyone who took time over the last seven years to attend one of our meetings, reach out to a candidate or campaign, write a questionnaire or read and score candidates’ responses, knock on doors, make calls, or contribute in their own way to the project of making Los Angeles a greener, healthier, safer place to get around. That work is far from over, and we’re glad to know that so many of our friends and allies are committed to keeping it up. Thanks.
-Marc, Melanie, Michael, Niall, and Wes