Introducing LAB Board of Directors Candidates

Greetings, Commute Orlando readers!

Keri has graciously allowed me to write a guest essay here, for the purpose of introducing you to myself and two others who are intending to stand for election to the Board of Directors of the League of American Bicyclists, which will be held during December 2010 and January 2011. To cut to the chase, we are asking for your help in getting us on the ballot, for reasons I’ll go into below. But first, if you are not familiar with the League of American Bicyclists (LAB), I thought a little history might be interesting.

Who is the League of American Bicyclists?

Possible LAW members, circa 1880The League of American Bicyclists is the oldest bicycle advocacy organization in the country, established in 1880 when “high wheelers” were all the rage. The early LAB (then “LAW”, League of American Wheelmen) was instrumental in ensuring that bicyclists had the same rights as vehicle drivers (at that time, carriage drivers, long before motor vehicles first appeared), and led the Good Roads Movement to improve and pave roads. The LAW experienced periods of dormancy during the 20th century, especially as motor vehicles took over transportation mindshare after WWII, coming back as an active organization in the 1970’s. Today LAB has about 10 to 15,000 members (from a high of over 100,000 in 1898). In the 1970’s and 80’s, the League developed a wide variety of member services, including legal services, the original Effective Cycling education program, and began to survey bicycle laws through the United States.

A LAB priority, circa 2010The name was modernized to League of American Bicyclists in 1994, and starting in the late 90’s, began moving away from being solely focused on member services, education, and rights to also acting as a lobbying organization, helping to secure federal transportation money for “bikeways” (bike lanes, paths, and other infrastructure) from an office on K Street in Washington, DC. Many of us feel that this has led to a decrease in the concentration on cyclists’ rights and education, although the League still offers the “Smart Cycling” education program which trains “League Cycling Instructors” (LCI’s), who are certified to offer other League courses such as “Traffic Skills 101”.

A more detailed history, including from the recent reform perspective, may be found here.

Who are We?

Now, why am I telling you all this? I am one of a group of 3 LAB members who are working together to get on the ballot for the LAB Board of Directors. We are all LCI’s, and we share a common vision of improving LAB in the direction of being more responsive to membership, including cyclist rights, and continuing to improve the education program. We each have some specific concerns and goals:

Eli Damon, Board applicant Eli Damon of Massachusetts travels almost exclusively by bicycle, but in the past year has experienced very serious police harassment which Keri has mentioned from time to time on this site. He writes on his ‘blog entry announcing his candidacy that “Over the past fifteen years, the League’s efforts to overturn the widespread myths and biases regarding cycling and defend cyclists’ right to the road have grown increasingly lethargic. …  I want to see the League return to its historic mission of educating the public about cycling and defending the right to travel. I want to see a League that is open, responsive, and loyal to its members. This is why I am running for a director position.”
Khalil Spencer, Board applicant Khalil Spencer of New Mexico has been a bicyclist for most of his adult life, an active advocate on the state and local level for almost twenty years, and an LCI for six. He is author of the Los Alamos Bike Blog. His ideas include encouraging more member involvement and encouragement, supporting and expanding the LCI network, more involvement by LCI’s and local advocates in the Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) evaluation process, and maintaining and expanding cyclist’s rights according to the LAB Equity Statement.
John Brooking, Board applicant I (John Brooking) have been a full-time year-round bicycle commuter in Maine since 2002. One of my earliest efforts was to establish the Portland (Maine) Bicycle Commuting Meetup on the Meetup.com social networking site, which now has over 300 members. I have served on the Portland Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine Board of Directors, and in the Portland Bike Network working group, which has allowed me to become familiar with infrastructure standards and traffic operational issues. I too am very interested in improving the LAB education program (both Eli and I are closely following what Keri and Mighk are doing with Cycling Savvy), and also want to make the BFC evaluation more transparent and more discriminating in what kinds of infrastructure is counted as positive and what is not. Lastly, I too would like to find a way to better support cyclists experiencing police harassment, such as Eli and Chipseal.

Why a Petition?

As I mentioned above, the LAB has become much less member-focused over the recent decade. According to the LAB Reform history page, in the late 90’s, the Board went from being entirely member-elected to making 4 of the 12 directors appointed by the current board, with no member input. (This was after an unsuccessful attempt to make all board positions appointed.) That number rose to 5 of 12 (42%) in 2003, and again to 7 of 15 (47%) just this past July, all with little or no notification to the membership, and no chance for them to comment before the decision was made.

This means that almost half of all board members, and rising steadily over the past decade, will have no commitment to be responsive to members. We think this is unacceptable in a membership organization.

Additionally, the current board has the power to accept or reject candidates for the member-elected positions. In this round of nominations, 23 people applied for 5 open positions. (Two others were selected for the newly created appointed seats.) The board chose 8 applicants to be allowed on the ballot, 4 of whom are the incumbents. (The fifth open position is the one new member-elected position created in July.) So that means that only 4 of 19 new board applicants were approved to be placed on the ballot. Why only four?

Neither Eli, Khalil, nor myself were accepted. The recourse for those not chosen but who still wish to appear on the ballot is to submit a petition signed by 5% of the membership. Therefore, we must garner support from close to 1000 people, which, as near as we can tell, is more people than voted in any recent LAB election! Additionally, we have found the exact process required for petitioning and reaching LAB members with news of our petition to be non-intuitive, cumbersome, and expensive, in some cases requiring communication by old-fashioned paper and postal mail, in this Internet age where even the LAB elections are going to be online!

Please Support Us

To get on the ballot, we have created an online petition, as well as paper petitions that may be downloaded, printed, signed, and mailed to Eli at the address given. The paper petitions have space for 3 signatures, and you can print multiples and bring them along to any gatherings you are attending where League members may be present. Please sign either the online or a paper petition, but not both.

You must be a League member to sign the petition! Your membership number is required. This is located on your membership card, or on the mailing label of your copy of the League’s magazine, American Bicyclist.

If you are not a member, you may join (starting at $35) and then sign the petition once you receive your membership number. And even if you cannot sign the petition, you may help by spreading the word to others who are, and to other clubs and organizations you know of!

Deadlines:

  • The deadline for mailing paper petitions to Eli is Monday, October 18th. He must receive them by Wednesday the 20th.
  • The deadline for signing the online petition is Wednesday, October 20th. Eli must print out a final listing on Thursday the 21st.

We are grateful for the help we have already received by petition signers and others who have assisted in our publicity, and would appreciate any help you can give us as well. And it doesn’t end on October 20th! The actual elections are scheduled to start in December and run through January. You can read more about them here. So, LAB members, please remember to vote in December elections, for the reform slate: Brooking, Damon, Spencer, and for Bill Hoffman (scroll halfway down), the only reform-minded incumbent.

Thank you! We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. As I like to sign off with, ride safe and have fun!

21 replies
  1. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    It is truly bizarre to have an organization whose board members are not 100% elected. I am trying to think of any other example, but cannot do so. The closest I can get is Crown corporations, but their boards are appointed based on the advice of a democratically elected government.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      I have seen this happen in another non-profit organization. What happened was that the Executive Director felt that his job was threatened, so he got his friendly members to amend the bylaws to allow a majority of appointed directors. Once that was done, his position was secure since he chose most of the directors.

      All Executive Directors (that want longevity) try to influence who will be on the board, some more blatantly than others.

  2. Paul Dorn
    Paul Dorn says:

    Bike lanes work. Increased bicycling activity in San Francisco, Portland, NYC, and other cities is evidence of this. Frankly I have little patience with this sort of retrograde Forester-inspired nonsense.

    LAB members vote with their checkbooks. They support the work of the League, or they wouldn’t write dues checks. The fact that a large majority of LAB members _don’t_ submit ballots would seem to indicate general satisfaction with the direction of the organization.

    I want the League to be an unequivocal and strong political voice of bicyclists in national government, getting funding to support infrastructure, enhancement, and encouragement. The education stuff is a distraction, better handled at the local level.

    • Khal Spencer
      Khal Spencer says:

      With all due respect, Mr. Dorn, I have no idea why you are insulting us, or for that matter, insulting John Forester. Forester’s pioneering work is the basis for the League’s entire educational program and for much of what we rely on as the basis for the equity idea in the League’s equity statement–that indeed, cyclists fare best when they behave and are treated as the operators of vehicles.

      By the way, I am the current chair of the County Transportation Board in Los Alamos, New Mexico. I am co-author of the 2005 Bicycle Transportation System of Los Alamos County. It is the planning basis for an entire system of bike lanes and routes throughout the county and a long range plan for more. An example.
      http://labikes.blogspot.com/2009/12/phase-iii-open.html

      Good bike lanes work to encourage cycling. As do other drivers of social change. The huge spike in bike use in 2008 had less to do with a sudden sprouting of bike lanes than it did the sudden sprouting of gas prices. Further, there is a difference between well constructed infrastructure and bad design or implementation. You could ask Dana Laird, but she is dead, thanks to a door zone bike lane and her lack of empowerment to avoid it.

      The mere presence of bike lanes does not make for safe or effective cycling. A combination of efforts at effective advocacy at all levels, effective cyclist instruction (I see your web site offers educational content), good facility design, sound and fair enforcement, context-sensitive design, proper maintenance, and good policy are required. As is equity.

      It is common for many members of an organization to not vote, even as they pay their dues. We had over 1000 members in the Hawaii Bicycling League ten years ago. Virtually all of them came to rallies. Most were apolitical. To say that a check sent means unequivocal approval of all things in a membership based organization, or that improvement is not possible, is begging the question.

      Thanks for your interest.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      “Increased bicycling activity in San Francisco, Portland, NYC, and other cities is evidence of this.”

      Correlation doesn’t equal causality. In my city, cycling has more than tripled in the last few years, but there hasn’t been a new lane in over 15 years and most cyclists don’t use the those lanes, preferring the sidewalk.

      My theory of the reason for the cycling increase? Higher gasoline prices.

    • John Brooking
      John Brooking says:

      “Bike lanes work.”

      Define “work”.

      * Encourage more people to try bicycling? That’s always the sole definition used by facilities advocates. And I suspect it is true in some cases, but it’s not always that simple, per Eric’s reply.

      * Do bike lanes make beginners more comfortable? Undoubtedly. Is this comfort warranted? See next point.

      * Do bike lanes keep bicyclists safer? Results are unclear. Studies do show traffic being more “orderly”, as in fewer outliers in lateral position on the part of both motor vehicle and bicycle operators, but does that mean greater safety? I don’t think that’s proven. In many cases, and documented in video on this site, motorist pay bicyclists less attention and often pass more closely when the bicyclist is in her own lane. I don’t see that bike lanes provide any benefit that replaces the need for cyclists to know what they’re doing in traffic. In the case of door zone and “coffin corner” bike lanes, bicyclists are in greater danger in the middle of the bike lane than they would be in the flow of other traffic, but most of them don’t know it. Dana Laird tragically didn’t.

      * If you define “work” as “increase the perception of bicyclists’ rights to use the road”, I think the results are again mixed, and in my opinion leaning away. It’s true they are on the road, but the solid line is a very strong signal of territoriality, of dividing the road into “cyclist space” and “motorist space”. “Share the road” is a nice slogan, but dividing a space with a line isn’t sharing. It discourages sharing, on the part of both cyclists and motorists, and it discourages the idea that cars and bikes can safely mix when both operate as drivers. Building lanes that are totally independent of any traditional rules of the road, like DC’s new Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, just gets us further away from equality on the full road, as do “separated bike lanes” (i.e. cycle tracks), which studies have shown for decades increase intersection conflicts.

      In any case, you seem to assume by association that we are against all bike lines. I think it’s safe to say all 3 of us (and others connected with LAB Reform and Commute Orlando) have concerns along the lines of what I’ve written here, but nowhere in any of our candidate statements do we call for the abolition of all bike lanes. I think that’s a little bit of a straw man on your part. The strongest statement we have is that LAB’s BFC program should differentiate between operationally well-done facilities (including but not limited to bike lanes) and operationally poor ones, not give points for the poor ones, and that LCI’s and other local advocates can and should help LAB with this evaluation.

    • Dan Gutierrez
      Dan Gutierrez says:

      Paul, I’m glad you used SF as an example, since it shows just the opposite of what you claim. The mode share has increased markedly during the years of the injunction – when bike lanes could not be constructed – thus demonstrating that mode share is driven by factors OTHER than the addition of special facilities. In fact, the creation of special facilities apprears world wide to be a product of increasing mode share, not the other way around as you claim.

      Usually when voters don’t vote, it’s attributed to apathy, not satisfaction.

      What you want the League to be, in the way that you want it supported, is in conflict with League Policy as described in the Equity Statement, which calls for support for all six Es, not just two you cite (engineering and encouragement). With Education being just as important as tyhe other five Es, and here is the factual evidence:

      http://www.bikeleague.org/images/equity_statement_1-05-09.pdf

      Also note that education, specificially that which is geared toward reducing risk of known hazards, is essential in any activity that carries risk of injury, whether it be swimming, wood working, or bicycling. The League has adopted the Skill Layers approach Brian DeSousa and I created from Fred Oswald’s original list, specifically to show how education reduces crash risk. This isn’t a distraction, it is essential to the safety of individual cyclists, that they manage majority of their own crash risk, instead of leaving it up entirely up to chance, the designers of special facilities, and the whims of motorists.

  3. MikeOnBike
    MikeOnBike says:

    Paul Dorn said: “Bike lanes work. Increased bicycling activity in San Francisco … is evidence of this.”

    I think you’re missing the point. It’s not about whether they “work” or not, it’s about the LAB’s priorities. As John Brooking wrote, “Many of us feel that this has led to a decrease in the concentration on cyclists’ rights and education”

    But in San Francisco, in particular, bicycling has increased despite a multi-year moratorium on building bike lanes. So there’s obviously something else at work.

    And that’s the point. The LAB’s promotion of the 6 “E”s is out of balance.

  4. khal spencer
    khal spencer says:

    By the way, the proposition that one is a vehicular cyclist or a paint and path guy is a false dichotomy. Even the best separated cycling facilities in urban areas have to cross intersections sometimes, and cyclists will at some point have to behave as traffic, even if only in the company of other cyclists. Cyclists need to know how to ride in traffic, whether they are sharing general-use lanes or whether riding in a separated cycletrack. Intersections are intersections.

    I got a chilling email this morning from a scientific colleague here at LANL. He just got back from some work at Palo Alto and was riding to work in a bike lane. He merged left into a dedicated left turn lane and waited for the left turn green arrow.

    Luckily, he checked traffic before he fully committed to the turn. Several seconds after my friend got the green left turn arrow, a motorist on the cross street ran the red light at high speed. If my friend had not looked, he would probably be in bad shape or dead.

    Meanwhile, this morning I observed another cyclist riding on our newly added bike lanes. I first saw him riding on the sidewalk. He rode through an unprotected crosswalk without looking for traffic. He then rode diagonally through an intersection and ran a red. As I closed on him, he ran another red light so I never did get to talk to him.

    In one case, good vehicular cycling saved a rider’s life. In another case, the rider is playing with fire and we will probably hear about him. Both using the same bikelane system.

    Let’s stop screwing around with artificial distinctions, and just do good work for cyclists. The reason LAB has an education program is that it takes resources to organize, manage, and indemnify and it clearly fits within our mission. Sure, you are free to set up your own. More power to you.

  5. Paul Adkins LCI 1909
    Paul Adkins LCI 1909 says:

    I am pretty happy with the League. As someone who has worked on the inside at Adventure Cycling Association and served on bike advocacy boards, I think it is very important to give the Staff latitude to manage the board, which it what is happening. Most boards are carefully constructed (selected with a quasi-election and/or appointed) to maintain skills, expertise, connections, funding and general vision, not just freely elected by popular vote.

    I think if the League’s Board were to be 100% member selected we would end up with a hodgepodge of poor leadership and the LAB Board would fail to meet the needs that the staff has to be productive and effective.

    A strong Executive Director with vision and good judgment (and a hard working staff) is what we have, and I’m proud to be associated with the League. I really appreciate the consistency the League has shown now for many years. We are certainly going in the right direction.

    Maybe one (or all three) of you should start working as a consultant to improve the education if you feel that the League is lacking in this area.

  6. Khal Spencer
    Khal Spencer says:

    That is bass-ackwards, Paul. A non-profit Board has a mission to direct staff. That’s basic non-profit governance. That is why it is called a Board of Directors. It directs.

    I actually have an awful lot of respect for Andy and his staff, but a non-profit Board is not a bunch of sheep to be herded by staff. It is a synergistic mission in practice.

    If members elect incompetent board members, that is a sad state of affairs. LAB members are better than that.

    • Paul Adkins
      Paul Adkins says:

      That sad state of affairs was where we found ourselves 10 years or so ago.

      I believe staff, executive director and key program managers, usually have more experience and better insight into the mission of most non-profits, than their respective Boards do. For goodness sake, they are working at it all day long, practically everyday. The Board, once selected, will operate and guide or direct staff based on staff work, staff proposals, and staff findings.

      A 100% member election with as many candidates as would apply surely would have trouble finding expertise in particular areas of need, and would end up a scattered popularity contest. I don’t think the League, being a national loose knit body, can operate this way. LAB members are not in tune with Board activity, and staff work, enough to choose a qualified candidate.

      I appreciate what you three are trying to do, but I see it as ineffective. What we need to do is figure out how to work with a common voice and not argue over bike lanes vs. VC education. Step up, offer your constructive help, be flexible and maybe we can grow the organization in local pockets to the point that having regional committees would guide the Board.

      ~from Eugene, Oregon

      • Khal Spencer
        Khal Spencer says:

        A dozen or so years ago when I was president of HBL, I was being called and jerked around by senior LAB staff about the use of the “BikeEd” term, which HBL had developed decades ago for our 4th grade teaching curriculum. We have come a long way back from that nonsense. LAB is no longer a circular firing squad but we must sustain it.

        If this isn’t stepping up, I don’t know what the hell is. This has been a lot more work than kicking back and doing nothing. I’m sure some on the Board consider me a burr in the saddle. That’s actually a hallmark of good citizenship.

        I’m well aware that potential or actual Board members may or may not have a lot of expertise on organizational matters (just as some Tea Party activists are utterly clueless). But the bottom line is that the Board is ultimately, legally responsible for the financial health and overall direction of the organization, so members had better put good people onto the Board of Directors.

        Also, it is the Board that is ultimately accountable to membership, not the staff. That is also basic non-profit governance. Steve Averill has a good post on that. One main goal here is to raise the awareness of LAB membership to its elections. I think that is being accomplished.

        Steve’s post is here.

        http://dfwptp.blogspot.com/2010/10/management-and-ownership-and-nonprofit.html

        Visioning the future of an organization should be the job of both the Board and its senior staff. They should not be working at cross purposes. When a Board hires an ED, presumably it knows the vision of the candidates. My vision is not the same as Bikes Belong, for example. I don’t need to sell bikes to succeed. I need to be able to ride my bike to work and to play without dealing with poorly written discriminatory laws and without having to hassle with second-rate facilities while dodging wrong-way, lightless cyclists at night (having done all of the above).

        The old saw of bike lanes vs. VC is getting more than tiring. We need to get beyond simple and false dilemmas.

        http://labikes.blogspot.com/2010/10/beware-of-false-dichotomies.html

        • khal spencer
          khal spencer says:

          By the way, I don’t mean the Board should micromanage staff or meddle in routine operations. Its jobs setting overall direction, ensuring the ship is pointed in the right direction, overseeing financial issues (hence an appointed Treasurer of outstanding credentials would be fine with me), and seeing to it that the org is following its own rules. On a working board, which I assume from the League’s web site this one is, Board members may also be tasked with specific high level operational responsibilities, such as fundraising.

          Paul, I don’t categorically disagree with your points and recognize the difficulties and pitfalls involved in Board governance. I’ve been on several Boards. But I do think that any organization, to remain healthy, has to be engaging in board succession planning and encouraging membership to participate in governance. To do so, elections, at least IMHO, have to be more transparent than ours and far more accessible to membership–not to mention, membership has to have ultimate ownership. I suggested to LAB several ways to do so.

  7. Dan Gutierrez
    Dan Gutierrez says:

    Paul wrote: “What we need to do is figure out how to work with a common voice and not argue over bike lanes vs. VC education.”
    .
    And how do we do that? Bike lanes in the vast majority of US states are legally mandatory segregated facilities (unlikie other preferential use lanes such as HOV lanes or bus lanes which are and should be optional) via the FTR/MBL laws, so they prevent normal driver use of travel lanes. The current laws in the US make bike lanes mutually exclusive with bicycle driving. So what’s your solution?
    .
    I wish the League would follow it’s own policy, the Equity Statement, and work to repeal the discriminatory laws that create the conflict. Sadly, the League is supporting state efforts to enact disciriminatory laws, so the League itself is violating it’s own plolicy, and this is why we need “outsiders” to help bring the League back to it historic purpose of definding cyclists’ driver rights and act in comformance with curent policy.
    .
    Paul wrote: “Step up, offer your constructive help, be flexible and maybe we can grow the organization in local pockets to the point that having regional committees would guide the Board.”
    .
    By petitioning for the board, they are stepping up, much more so than those who don’t have to play the petition game.
    .
    State Bike Coalitions are already guiding the League when it comes to legal matters, by enacting laws that restrict bicyclists driver rights, and the League is supporting these efforts rather than working to bring them into line with League policy. See SC, CO, MI, FL and many others for details.
    .
    Be flexible? When I see that phrase being used, it’s almost always a code for compromising principles. Bike lane advocates use this phrase when they want those of us who oppose mandatory segregation to “get along”, by giving up our driver rights so they can have more bike lanes (and without having to compromise their principles). When we challenge them to be flexible and repeal the discriminatory FTR/MBL laws so cyclists can choose between travel lane use and bike lane use, they don’t want to act so flexibly, do they?

    When those who actively support the removal of bicyclist driver rights by developing mandatory special facilities, actually “step up” and oppose and repeal discriminatory laws, then let’s talk about being flexible and working together.

    Otherwise your prose just reads as hollow rhetoric to shut us up and continue the trend of reducing our driver rights.

  8. Ragamuffin
    Ragamuffin says:

    “LAB members are not in tune with Board activity, and staff work, enough to choose a qualified candidate.”

    And whose fault is this? Perhaps it is the Board?
    Don’t inform them, deem them uninformed, then vote yourselves in.

    Nice strategy.

    I had wanted to join the League after a rally nearby, but over the past decade, I don’t even want them to have any sense that they represent me.

  9. John Brooking
    John Brooking says:

    If you are interested in this effort, here is the result: We have not obtained the required number of signatures, and therefore likely will not appear on the ballot. Khal has posted a good analysis on his website. Thanks to everyone who supported us, with signatures or otherwise.

Comments are closed.