The League of American Wheelmen has again failed in its duty to its core members, lawful and competent cyclists. The League has been taken over by directors, some appointed, some elected, who advocate and support the government's cyclist-inferiority, bikeway-building program that was originally designed by motorists and is made politically acceptable by making people afraid of same-direction motor traffic. These directors must be removed so that the League can again serve the interests of lawful, competent cyclists.
The League of American Wheelmen was formed at the start of the cycling age, in 1880. It was the organization by which American cyclists both coordinated their cycling activities and represented their interests in this new transportational activity to government and to society. At that time, the bicycle was the King of the Road. Its inventors aimed for a vehicle that was faster than walking but cheaper than horses; they outdid themselves by producing the first personal vehicle that was both cheaper and faster than horses. Trains, invented fifty years before, were faster, but they went only where the tracks ran and only when the train schedule permitted. The bicycle was an epoch-making invention, the first practical new highway vehicle since the invention of the horse-drawn cart thousands of years before.
The bicycle did not require new highway technology. Smooth and durable road surfaces (macadamized roads) had been developed sixty years before, but too few roads had been so improved. One of the aims of the LAW (and of the Cyclists' Touring Club, formed in England two years earlier) was to get more roads macadamized, the start of the good roads movement.
Equally important was to get the bicycle recognized as a legitimate roadway vehicle. Because pedestrians are more upset by mud and dirt than are horses and wheels, pedestrian walkways had been built in many cities. Because these were smoother than unimproved roadways (the English name, "pavement," is indicative), cyclists often preferred riding upon them. It was rapidly discovered that all wheeled vehicles operated in one way while pedestrians operated in a different way. Therefore, it became law that bicycles should be operated on the roadway as vehicles and should stay away from pedestrians and their facilities. Inherent in this principle was that cyclists must be competent to operate as drivers of vehicles.
Therefore, among the prime purposes of the League of American Wheelmen is that to ensure that lawful, competent cyclists have the rights and the duties of drivers of vehicles. (This is the modern wording, but it is implicit in all that went before.)
The original LAW members, at a time when bicycles were expensive, were road tourists, persons who had the money to enjoy travelling on the roads of the nation. As bicycle manufacturing improved, bicycles became more affordable and more people started using them for useful purposes. It may be that this lowered the status of cycling as a fashionable activity, for the peak year for LAW membership was 1898. (This does not mean that there was less cycling, just that fewer people felt the fashionable pull of belonging to a bicycle club. There could have been just as much cycling being done by those who did not join the LAW.) At about this time, it became obvious, to those in touch with such developments, that the automobile was both faster and had more uses than the bicycle. Many LAW members took to touring by car instead of by bicycle; by 1912 the vehicles in an LAW century run were about half bicycles and half automobiles. In fact, the automobile clubs of both the USA and of England (and maybe of many other nations) sprang out of the bicycle touring organizations.
By 1914, America was both the wealthiest nation in the world and had wide-open spaces. The automobile took over both the recreational and the transportational uses of the bicycle, except for a few specialized uses, such as bicycle racing and use by children. The LAW died, existing only in a few file cabinets of old records. In England, impoverished by World War 1, the history was different. Automobiles remained expensive, so that bicycle transportation remained very useful (even in 1952, 25% of the vehicle miles in Britain were by bicycle) but the newly-won two-day weekend produced a population of skilled workers able to participate in weekend recreation and able to afford good bicycles. Starting in 1919, the British Cyclists' Touring Club surged to new levels of membership and activity that persisted until the 1960s.
American cycling recovered a bit when the Great Depression of the 1930s returned cycling to respectability as an affordable means of adult recreation, often involving staying overnight at the increased number of Youth Hostels. American cyclists then revived the LAW, discovering and preserving some of the old records. Cycling remained respectable through World War 2 and the ensuing car shortages, but when desirable new cars became easily obtainable in 1949, those adults who continued to cycle became looked upon as losers who could not afford a car. The LAW died again.
In the 1960s, several demographic and social trends, combined with political events, revived cycling again. Cyclists in Illinois planned to hold a wake party for the old LAW with its last funds from its savings account, but instead decided to revive the League. Adult cycling came back with a surge that became known as the The Bike Boom.
From 1900 to 1970, the League took no part in political activity. Motorists both advocated for and managed the nation's highway system. Adult cyclists were too few to bother about. As far as society and government were concerned, bicycle use was a childhood activity with little significant impact on highway use. Society managed cycling as child bicycle use, as that was viewed by cycling-ignorant motorists, by creating "bike-safety" training programs. These stressed that bicycle riders were physically and mentally unable to obey the rules of the road and that their prime duty, for their own safety, was to stay out of the way of cars. "The cyclist who rides in traffic must either delay the cars, which is Sin, or, if the cars don't choose to slow down, will be crushed, which is Death, and the Wages of Sin is Death." That's how I describe such training. Such training is dangerous. By the first statistical studies of car-bike collisions in 1976, 30% of car-bike collisions were caused by the cyclist doing what the bike-safety training encouraged him to do, the most obvious being turning left from the curb lane and changing lanes without looking.
While traffic laws became codified over this period, there were only two significant changes in the law. With the advent of the first roads designed for continuous high-speed motoring, and the first popular cars capable of doing this, two statutes were enacted. The first restricted cyclists to the right-hand margin of the roadway, the second prohibited their use of controlled-access roadways. These were put into the Uniform Vehicle Code during World War 2, when active cyclists were away at the war, and, in any case, might not have noticed this even in peacetime, such was the disconnection between adult cyclists and government.
By 1970, the Bike Boom caused the public to became concerned about what it saw as a bicycle accident problem and a bicycle traffic problem. Government undertook to fix the bicycle accident problem by specifying the design of bicycles through the safety standard of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Government undertook to fix the bicycle traffic problem by producing bikeways to further restrict cyclists' rights to use the roadways. Both fixes were totally wrong. Almost no cyclist injuries were caused by faulty design of bicycles. The bicycle traffic problem, such as it was, was not overloading the roads with bicycles, but was created by the "bike-safety" programs, which both frightened motorists that any time that a bicycle was anywhere near them they were likely to hit it, and taught cyclists to ride in such a manner that made them more likely to be hit.
The bicycle industry prevented the LAW from taking action in these matters vital to cycling. At that time, the Bicycle Manufacturers Association, producers of "toy" bicycles intended for use by children and not bought by LAW members, subsidized the salary of an Executive Director of the LAW. This ED failed, presumably deliberately, to tell the other directors that the CPSC was issuing a design standard for bicycles. As a result, the LAW took no action then and was forever legally prevented from taking legal action against the design standard. It was left to two cyclists, one of them myself, to finally sue the CPSC when negotiations to improve the "safety standard" failed. While we had minor successes, we failed to prevent this standard from claiming that it is safe to ride a bicycle at night with only the reflectors that it requires, without a headlamp. The bicycle industry had been promoting bikeways by such means as the film produced by Huffy Bicycles titled Bikeways for Better Living. LAW failed to take action against bikeways, at least partly because of this bias in favor of the bicycle industry instead of following the interests of the members. This all came to a nasty halt when the ED spent much money on promoting membership among those who bought bicycles produced by the Bicycle Manufacturers Association. Naturally, this effort failed, because the large number of people who bought such bicycles were not interested in club cycling. The money expended without return technically bankrupted the League, with more debts than assets. It took several years of volunteer effort by several of us to bring the League back to both serving the interests of lawful, competent cyclists and to financial health. I was a director from 1976 through 1983, and president for 1979-80.
Over this time the League accepted the Effective Cycling Program that I had produced. Obviously, "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." The Effective Cycling Program taught cyclists how to ride properly, thus justifying their proper treatment by society. In other words, the exact opposite of the traditional treatment that was based on the assumption that cyclists were incapable of operating as drivers of vehicles.
Then, in 1982, the League was taken over by a group of bikeway activists from Ohio. These people were passionate in their belief that bikeways would save the world from the evils of motoring, and were unscrupulous about methods for implementing that belief. Having achieved a toehold, they then used unscrupulous means to gain control of the League. Not only did they believe strongly in the virtue of bikeways, they thought that bikeways would appeal to everyone and would cause the League to grow to the political power that would promote a national bikeway program. Based on this belief in the appeal of bikeway advocacy, they spent money to recruit large numbers of new members. Not only did these supposed new members fail to appear, but the older members left. The League was again bankrupt, again from the error of committing itself to a populist program that both failed to recruit typical Americans, who don't care much for cycling, and disappointed, discouraged, and alienated the core membership of lawful, competent cyclists.
Again, a small group of lawful, competent cyclists saved the League, and it looked as though the League would be returned to its original basic principle of protecting and advocating the interests of lawful, competent cyclists. But, again, that effort failed to maintain control; the League again fell into the control of bikeway-minded persons with populist ambitions.
No other organization cares about having cyclists be lawful and competent (although several should), while many powerful organizations and public opinion are opposed to having cyclists be lawful and competent. The government's program for bicycle transportation is based on incompetent bikeway cycling, and that program is advocated by numerous organizations for what they see as advancing their agendas. The motorists (whose organizations designed the government's program) see it as clearing bicycles off "their" roadways. The anti-motorists (of several different stripes) see it as encouraging people to switch from motoring to bicycling. Both parties see incompetent bikeway cycling as making cycling safe for those who do not know lawful, competent cycling, whether because they refuse to learn or are incapable of learning that skill. Much of this reasoning is false. The government has tried for thirty years to demonstrate that bikeways reduce the accident rate, but has always failed. The claim that bikeways reduce the level of skill required for safe bicycle transportation is so absurd that nobody has even tried to demonstrate it. While bike paths may sell new bicycles, they have insignificant effect in increasing bicycle transportation. However, all these claims are believed because of the exaggerated fear of same-direction motor traffic.
Organizations that advocate incompetent bikeway cycling as an alternate to motoring desire to take over the League because they see it as the national bicycling organization whose political image will advance their agendas. These organizations run from the bicycle industry, which believes that bike paths sell bikes, to environmentalists and active-living advocates, who believe that a program of incompetent bikeway cycling will switch people from motoring to cycling. These organizations have taken control of the League in previous decades, and they have just done it again in the last six years.
The League is also an easy target of internal corruption. Lawful, competent cyclists are few in number and command only small amounts of money. The bicycle industry commands significant amounts of money and sees the support of the League as very desirable for getting support for bike paths that, supposedly, sell bicycles. The environmentalists are numerous, command large quantities of money, and see bicycling as the only significant possible competitor to motoring. The motorists and government (it is hard to separate them) command and spend enormous amounts of money in advancing their program of incompetent bikeway cycling. Any administrator of the League finds that the way to personal advancement is to go along with the popular programs, both for the money and political power that a larger membership brings in, and the outside money that is available for carrying out the popular programs. We have seen the failure of trying to recruit members who do not support lawful and competent cycling, but that is still being tried, and we have seen in the past the corruption produced by external funds, which are today available in far greater quantities, and have been obtained in recent years.
At least the last three Executive Directors of the League have been incompetent. Their greatest failings have been ignorance of lawful, competent cycling. Knowing the principles of management is insufficient; as modern management theory has demonstrated, it is more important that the manager know and understand the operating principles of the system that he is managing. Knowledge of lawful, competent cycling, and of its place in the highway transportation universe, is an absolute necessity for those who would manage an organization that is ostensibly devoted to protecting and advancing the interests of lawful, competent cyclists. Without that knowledge, no manager can evaluate the value and the accuracy of the programs and projects in which the League is engaged. Some results of this defective management are given below.
"Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." The key League program ought to be that of teaching cyclists, starting with the League's members, how to operate in the safe and lawful vehicular manner. Without that, the League has nothing to offer either to its members or to society as a whole, and therefore cannot justify its advocacy of having society treat cyclists as drivers of vehicles. However, the mind that is operating according to the paradigm of incompetent cycling on bikeways sees no importance in teaching vehicular cycling, either to members or to the public, and, in addition, is incapable of evaluating how well it is being done. The catastrophic collapse of the League's Effective Cycling Program during the tenure of the last two Executive Directors needs no more explanation than this, although there are other reasons also.
People who understand lawful, competent cycling know why the government's, environmentalists', and motorists' program of incompetent cycling on bikeways is based on falsehoods. The facts that a very few bikeways are useful while a few more provide pleasant recreation are utterly insufficient to counteract the obvious falsity of the claim that bikeways make bicycle transportation safe for those who refuse to learn how to cycle safely. This claim, while being the basis of the national bicycle transportation program, is so obviously absurd that nobody has ever tried to demonstrate it.
The other official claim for bikeways is that they reduce motoring. This is false; no such significant reduction has ever been discovered. The League should have been advocating the obvious principle that the best way to increase cycling is to make cycling safer and more convenient by encouraging cyclists to act as drivers of vehicles and encouraging society to treat them as well as it does other drivers of vehicles.
However, a person who does not understand the vehicular-cycling principle fails to comprehend why the League should oppose a national policy and program that all the rest of the nation desires. The League's management should never have been so ignorant as to have accepted, let alone advocated, such a program that is so obviously against the interests of lawful, competent cyclists.
The League has a program of awarding cities for being "Bicycle-Friendly." One would think that the most "bicycle-friendly" city would be the one with the smoothest and cleanest streets, as that is what suits bicycles best, but awards are not given for that. One would think that the most "cyclist-friendly" city would be one that best encouraged lawful, competent cycling, but no awards are given for that. The most powerful factors in rating these cities are the extent of bikeway planning and the quantity of bikeways. Lawful, competent cycling is just ignored; cities that have mandatory bikepath laws, or laws that require cyclists to walk across intersections, have received awards.
In 2003, the League held a Bicyclist Education Leaders Conference. I evaluated the agenda as follows.
The keynote speakers:Two out of three are federal bureaucrats who obey governmental policy of cyclist-inferiority cycling on bikeways, despite being warned two year ago that that was the wrong position. The third out of three is the prime implementer of that governmental policy. (The League employee, Margolin, is not classified, but we know that LAB is allied with government against lawful, competent cyclists.)
The session subjects, by quantity:
|Type of presentation||Number|
Just considering the proportions of each type of presentation should demonstrate that this Bicycle Education Leaders Conference is nothing of the kind. This conference is grossly tilted toward the cyclist-incompetence, cyclist-inferiority, bikeway-cycling scheme of our government, and away from the subject of teaching lawful, competent cycling. It is scandalous that the management of the League of American Bicyclists can get away with such a false description of a conference, and it is equally scandalous that the management of the League of American Bicyclists has no conception of its error.
It is the duty of the League to communicate with its members the information vital to their activity as lawful, competent cyclists. Such things as tips to sharpen up their skills as vehicular cyclists, telling them how the vehicular-cycling principle explains their place in the highway universe, informing them of the opposition to vehicular cycling by those in power, educating them about the importance of protecting their rights and of methods of explaining their views and of changing national policy.
Instead, the League's magazine degenerated into a puff for boasting of the extent to which the League was advocating and lobbying for the national program of incompetent cycling on bikeways. All that the members needed to do was to send in their money to support this lobbying effort; no further thought was either required or desired. Therefore, the magazine eliminated all thoughtful consideration of cycling and of bicycle transportation.
The motive for bicycle industry involvement is obvious -- bikeways are thought to sell bicycles.
Our President is Mike Greehan, Appointed Director and President of Bikes Belong, another of the bicycle industry's political organizations, and Advocacy Director of Interbike, the bicycle industry's exhibition organizer.
An appointed at large director is Lisa Falvy, Vice-President, Multi-Modal Products, Sportworks Northwest, Inc.
Another appointed at large director is Martha Roskowski. Her previous employment was campaign director for Bikes Belong, a bicycle industry boosting group. She now works for GO Boulder, in Colorado.
City planners promote bikeways as anti-motoring measures. Bicycle planners promote bikeways because that's what they are paid to do, among other motives. Both groups claim that the bikeways they promote increase bicycling and decrease motoring. However, motoring still increases. Successful bikeway promotion produces first social, then physical results. Socially, bikeway promotion reinforces with official approval the idea that cyclists should not operate on roadways because those people who ride bicycles are incapable of operating safely. Having reinforced this attitude, it then has the power to produce bikeways, the physical embodiment of this belief. Both this social attitude that cyclists don't belong because they are incapable and the inevitable and unavoidable design defects of bikeways (because they contradict standard traffic- engineering principles), cause great harm to lawful, competent cyclists.
The Vice-President, Preston Tyree, is the founder and principal of "mobiliti", a consulting firm in community transportation, holding pedestrian, bicycle, and transit community workshops. His speech on "Walkable Communities" at a conference of planners illustrates the planners' foolish union of bicycling and walking as similar disciplines, simply because neither involves motors. Tyree ran the Texas SuperCyclist bicycle safety education project, which was run far too cheaply to be able to teach students, and which, naturally, made no attempt to demonstrate that any of its students had learned how to operate safely.
Martha Roskowski, an appointed at-large director as mentioned above, works for GO Boulder, a bicycle planning operation in Boulder, Colorado.
Amanda Eichstaedt, Secretary, elected director, was employed, at the time of her election, as the transportation planner for the city of Palo Alto, California.
Ellen Jones, elected director, is employed as a transportation planner for the Business Improvement District of Washington, DC.
The Executive Director employed by the League is Andy Clarke. While having a British undergraduate degree in law, Clarke has spent his entire professional career being a bicycle and pedestrian planner, rising to the eminence of the Executive Director of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. One does not reach such eminence without exercising an enormous facility for avoiding the truth and concealing the contradictions inherent in the supposed profession of bicycle planning. For example, Clarke is one of the authors who invented the superstition that no more than 5% of cyclists will ever be lawful and competent, so that our nation's bicycle transportation system must be designed for the incompetent. Of course, nobody has ever designed a bicycle transportation system that can be safely used by incompetent users; that's just the superstition that the motoring organizations used thirty years ago to justify their imposition of bikeways on cyclists for the convenience of motorists.
Most planners work for government, any planning work involves government, and implementing planning work nearly always involves spending government's money. The League has devoted most of its government relations effort to getting federal government funds spent on bicycle planning and the projects designed by bicycle planners. Because such projects are based on the false premise that cyclists don't belong on normal roads, they do harm to lawful, competent cyclists.
The League should be spending its governmental relations effort to advocating and protecting the rights of lawful, competent cyclists to use the roads with the rights and duties of drivers of vehicles. Such effort should be directed more toward state and local traffic laws, and toward the highway design practices of the states, because these are where problems arise for lawful, competent cyclists.
In addition to the money contributed by members, the League has obtained money from both government and private sources. One such private source has been the Robert Wood Johnson Fund, which has contributed a quarter million or more to be used in promoting incompetent cycling on bikeways, which the RWJF believes will reduce motoring and thereby improve public health. The League has also received money from government agencies, so I understand. Given that the government's program also promotes incompetent cycling on bikeways, that money would be for implementing that program.
As I understand the financial situation, the League is now dependent upon such handouts, whose purpose is that of opposing the interests of lawful, competent cyclists. With the League financially dependent upon powers who oppose the interests of lawful, competent cyclists, the League cannot properly serve its core members, lawful and competent cyclists. The League must escape from this financial servitude to outside powers.
In the election of 2003, three directorships were open. The chairman of the nominating committee was Richard Killingsworth.
In California, the nominating committee selected Amanda Jones, the Transportation Coordinator for the bikeway city of Palo Alto. This qualification apparently satisfied the promoters of incompetent cycling on bikeways, although the word from well-informed cyclists in California is that she is far better informed than that. California cyclists decided not to run a competing candidate.
In the Northeast, the nominating committee selected Jon Orcutt to run again. Orcutt was very active with Transportation Alternatives, an anti-motoring and bike-planning organization in New York City, and was a bike racer. These qualifications obviously pleased the nominating committee. John Allen was nominated by petition. He was the acclaimed author of Street Smarts, a simple presentation of vehicular cycling, and was an expert witness in bicycle accident cases.
In the Mid-West, the nominating committee selected S. Mark Terman, a person of no known cycling stature whose sole claim to fame was that he had been Chairman of the Michigan Governor's Committee on Physical Fitness. This qualification obviously pleased the nominating committee. Fred Oswald was nominated by petition. He had been very active with the Ohio Bicycling Council and in analyzing and correcting bicycle traffic laws in many places.
The two candidates by petition, with such opposite characteristics to those nominated by the nominating committee, worried and upset several of the directors who formed a committee, particularly to elect Terman. These directors were:
Richard Killingsworth said that he wanted an elected director similar to himself. Possibly you too, dear reader, had reached that same conclusion? We may well call these the Incompetent Bikeway Cycling Party, for their policy is based on having a nation of incompetent cyclists riding on bikeways.
Any director may campaign for a candidate whom he prefers. However, he must not use League resources in his campaign (as when League funds were used against me in 1983). The Incompetent Bikeway Cycling Party did not directly use League funds, but they misused their connection with the League in actions both unethical and appearing to be unethical. The League's office made it difficult for the petition candidates to be described on the ballot, and gave them poorer space. The Incompetent Bikeway Cycling Party sent out a campaign letter using addresses from a file format unavailable to the petition candidates. The Incompetent Bikeway Cycling Party changed the election rules by declaring, in their campaign letter, that ballots returned as a result of their letter did not have to be identified by the voter's membership number. When this was discovered, the Incompetent Bikeway Cycling Party responded to the appearance of possible ballot tampering by sending the ballots off to the League's attorney (obviously a person beholden to them), located where it would be more expensive for the petition candidates to have observers at the ballot counting.
The election of 2003 was a most unseemly proceeding, made so by the efforts of the Incompetent Bikeway Cycling directors to elect an Incompetent Bikeway Cycling candidate. Of the petition candidates, John Allen won against Jon Orcutt, but Fred Oswald lost against Mark Terman. And, in the end, Mark Terman failed to serve.
As a result of these strategic and tactical errors by the League management, a group of long-time League members is attempting to regain control of the League and redirect it to its historic purpose serving the interests of lawful, competent cyclists. I am one of these.
Other prominent members, with their E-mail or website addresses with links to their LAB Reform pages, are:
John Schubert: Schubley@aol.com
Bill Hoffman: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce Rosar: email@example.com
Chuck Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org
Several of these reformers have established the LAB Reform website:
The goal of the LAB Reformers, the Competent Cyclists, is to restore LAB to its historic role as the protector and advocate for lawful, competent cyclists, in a society that recognizes that the best public policy is to treat cyclists as drivers of vehicles.
To keepinformed, please read the many articles on www.labreform.org and provide your E-mail addresses so you can receive an occasional message about new developments. Then persuade other like-minded League members to read this website and get on the E-mail list. Persuade other lawful, competent cyclists to join the League, in the expectation that the votes of all of us will again make League membership worthwhile and effective. Work to develop Competent Cyclist candidates for the elected directorships. And vote for Competent Cyclist candidates.
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