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?
The 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.
The 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 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 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.|
|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!
- 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!