In car centric Los Angeles, just one week after the adoption of a revolutionary bike plan, car-free bike activist Stephen Box is poised to score a huge upset in Tuesday’s City Council elections.
Box, who has been a huge leader in LA’s tenacious cycling movement, could upset 10 year incumbent and entrenched City Councilman Tom LaBonge, in the race for the City’s 4th Council District seat. The 4th District wraps around West Hollywood from Fairfax to La Brea, extending north to the San Fernando Valley along Laurel Canyon.
Box’s rise to serious City Council contender from political nothing activist is something of a political “rags to riches” story: Box wasn’t political till he was hit by a bus while riding, and local politicos treated his complaints with disdain.
From there, Box went on to serve jump start LA’s transportation blogging movement, co-author the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, spend three years transforming the City’s new bike plan, and bringing LAPD to the table on cycling issues. The passing of LA’s new bike plan is a victory most of all for Box and his closest collaborators, who authored the policy proposal for a Backbone Bikeway Network, a proposal that is now the plan’s centerpiece.
Box’s style of bike activism has changed over the years. In the early days, he mentored young activists and bloggers, showing them the ropes in City Hall, and organizing “Storm The Bastille” rides – mass visits to public meetings where cyclists demanded action.
In recent years, however, Box, the natural politician, has branched out into other topics, delving into the City’s budget crisis and working to improve the Metro Transit Authority’s bus and rail performance. In doing so, Box has shifted styles toward finding bike solutions that are effective but palatable to non-cycling neighborhood leaders. In effect, Box has done the advance work with neighborhoods, so that cycling activists now find neighborhood leaders are receptive to cycling needs.
The passing of a bold bike plan for LA has baffled many: Detroit may be where cars are made, but it is in LA that cars are elevated as objects of worship. But the secret is simple – a scrappy breed of activist, masterful users of social media, and exemplified by Box, are infecting LA with bikeyness, and winning the day.
On the Web
- Meet The Candidates: Stephen Box, Council District 4 – LAist
- LA Daily News, Los Angeles Times Endorse Non-Incumbents – L.A. Weekly