Bill Hoffman resigns from LAB Board

This is more bad news for the League of American Bicyclists. I’m sorry Bill will resign at the end of his current term and and has withdrawn from the elections. His letter, of which I’ve only snipped some short excerpts below, is at the LAB Reform page, linked here and below. Go read it.

“…LAB is no longer a true membership organization; it is now a political pressure group that happens to have members.  And I might add, LAB membership is 27% lower today than it was as recently as 8 years ago—14,836 as of Oct., 2010 vs. 20,257 at 9/30/02…The reasons I joined in 1971 and became a life member in 1976, and why I am the second-longest serving volunteer in League history, are no longer at the fore…over the past dozen years or so there has been a gradual erosion of members’ rights and autonomy over the organization, without a vote to move in this direction ever being taken.”

—Bill Hoffman, in his resignation letter to the League of American Bicyclists Board.

Bill is a cycling enthusiast and beyond that, has put a huge amount of sweat equity into cycling and LAB governance over his 40 years as a LAB member (and as a LAB life member).  Like many of us, he rides his bike because he loves to ride his bike. He has done it competently and is a longtime LCI. He has demanded high levels of excellence in LAB and its members.  Not to dismiss all the work the League is doing, some of which is quite good, but there are basic core values in self-reliance and in keeping high standards. We lose these, or trade them for government-funded programs, at our peril.

I have my doubts that Bill’s resignation will do much to change the present course of LAB governance. If anything, it removes a dissenting voice from the Board. Like I said in my own critique of the recent election petition fiasco, LAB governance has become an insider game. Members have limited, if any, control over LAB’s corporate governance and therefore over its corporate direction. To some members, that is just fine. To others, it is galling. To that 27% who are now former members, perhaps it meant voting via a closed checkbook.

I remain a LAB member. But I don’t need to tell you what I think, as I already did.

About Khal

I am a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where I have worked for nine years after having spent 10 years on the graduate faculty of the University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology and four previous years on its technical staff. I started to "ride lots" (to quote Eddy Merckx) at SUNY, Stony Brook, Long Island. I've been actively engaged in bicycling and bicycling advocacy, and in transportation planning as a citizen volunteer for most of twenty years. For the past five years, I have been the chair or vice-chair of the Los Alamos County Transportation Board, which advises county government on surface and air transportation policy. During that period, I have also served as the chair of the LANL Traffic Safety Committee, which works with the institution under 10CFR851 to improve the safety of the Laboratory's traffic systems. I served several years on the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico Board of Directors. I am an LCI. Prior to moving to New Mexico, I was active as a Board member, vice President, and President of the Hawaii Bicycling League, sat on the Honolulu Mayor's Advisory Committee on Bicycling, and on the U of Hawaii at Manoa Bicycle Planning Committee. I was a contributor to the 1999 Honolulu Bicycle Master Plan (as VP of the Hawaii Bicycling League, which coordinated cyclist input) and a co-author, with our county traffic manager, of the 2005 Los Alamos County Bike Plan. Back when I dreamed I was fast, I raced USCF. It was only a dream. I remain committed to a strong and effective League of American Bicyclists, but demand that membership be given a much more meaningful role in League governance. That, after all, is the only way to ensure that members have meaningful control over the direction of their League. All comments I make here or on my own blog are my personal opinions alone. Others are welcome to agree or laugh. Aloha, Khal Spencer
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9 Responses to Bill Hoffman resigns from LAB Board

  1. Gail Spann says:

    Just to clarify, Bill is serving out his term and is not seeking re-election. He is still on the board at the moment. I know I will miss him greatly, but I am pleased that we will remain friends and I can still seek his sage advice.

  2. Khal says:

    Hi, Gail.

    Yes, Bill clarified that today. But thanks for posting it here.

    But the end of term is in sight. Divorce is so final sounding, too.

  3. Richard Froh says:

    As a “new” LCI and bicycling advocate, I too am very saddened by Bill’s decision. But if I were in Bill’s position, I would have come to the same decision and for the same reasons he so clearly and eloquently stated. I have communicated to the Politburo at LAB and to local and to our State “bike advocates” that there is ample room within bicycling advocacy to discuss and disagree, but there is no acceptable compromise position when it comes to defending the rights of competent and law-abiding cyclists to use roads with rights and responsibilities equal to motorists. LAB’s continued awards to specific “Bike Friendly” municipalities and states which have legislated bicycling to an inferior and more dangerous transportation mode and/or have produced flagrantly dangerous (“take one for the team”) bicycling facilities, is not acceptable.

    LAB has been stolen, then sold to “Big Bike” - bicycling manufacturers and designers of segregated bicycling facilities designed by landscape architects and urban planners, the majority of whom have scant, if any, knowledge of traffic engineering or competent cycling and its safety record. These planners and CEOs can’t fathom that, between the invention of motorized vehicles and WW II, USA cities had some of the most effective, efficient, and affordable multi-modal transportation systems in the world - without segregated bicycling “facilities”. During this period bicycles were classified as vehicles, and bicyclists had the rights and responsibilities of vehicle drivers, with one set of “rules” and road markings. America has “been there, done that” - and somehow discarded the t-shirt.

    We all agree that the bicycle has the ability to change societies by providing efficient and effective urban and rural mobility. How some people can think this change will be effected by creating segregation and inferiority for bicycle users is beyond rational comprehension. We now should fully expect to see funding for segregated “bike-friendly” lunch counters, drinking fountains, and restrooms included in the next federal “porkulus” package, with all bicyclists required to use these “facilities”. After all, some of these segregated facilities are almost as good as those for motorists, and “mixing” of motorists and cyclists would upset our orderly car supremacy system. This is what happens when the people who design systems aren’t themselves users of those systems.

    “I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves, it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others. Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” -
    - A. Lincoln

  4. Sue Jones says:

    I’m trying to figure out specifically what Bill Hoffman means by “quality” (vs. quantity). Is it specifically not fighting “you have to use the bike path if it’s there” rules?

  5. Fred says:

    Until Bill answers for himself, let me offer something. Most people who call themselves “bicycle advocates” are really not interested in cycling or cyclists except as an alternative to motor traffic. In other words, they are not so much “pro bike” as anti car. Thus they are more interested in quantity — butts on bikes, rather than quality — whether cyclists ride safely

    The emphasis on quantity (numbers) leads to to accepting anything that is believed to increase cycling despite the embarrassment of cyclists being injured or killed. That’s why they accept and even welcome such obviously dangerous facilities as bicycle sidepaths (now called cycle tracks), door zone and coffin corner bike lanes and other hazards.

    If the Politburo were really interested in quality they would at minimum oppose at all facilities that add hazards and all mandated-use facilities. That they do not (the even give awards for these things) shows how little they care about the welfare of cyclists.

  6. Bill Hoffman says:

    The “quantity vs. quality” issue is not really one of being forced to use separate paths or lanes if they’re present. It’s more along the lines of what Fred wrote. To clarify a little more, I think society in general, and cycling specifically, are not better served by enticing hordes of unskilled cyclists onto the roads. While some might claim that a larger cycling population in a given locality might result in better treatment on the roads by motorists, this is by no means a proven concept. The idea of “safety in numbers” is based more on fanciful belief than robust statistical analysis. An individual cyclist’s safety is more dependent on his/her own skills than on how motorists react in his/her presence. Indeed, skilled cyclists can often control how motorists treat them; I do it often.

  7. Khal says:

    My thoughts are that more “new riders” will likely take up bicycling by virtue of cities building bicycling-specific facilities than by virtue of LAB offering more Traffic Skills courses. This is because non-cyclists are generally afraid to ride on the roads and mix it up with motorists, based on the prevailing cultural wisdom out there, most of which is passed on by non-cyclists observing poor cyclists. If neophytes are guaranteed “safe”, i.e., separated facilities, they might ride since someone else is doing all the work for them. If they are told to build up their skills and use existing roads, we might see less “newbie” interest since not all non-cyclists want to work to improve themselves or even think they need to.

    Thus, those new cyclists will only be as safe as their own wits and those new facilities determine. I echo what Fred and Bill say in that most of the new cyclists will be relatively unskilled in cycling. If they were on normal roads, they might conclude that their safety will be determined by acquiring skills and thus they will either acquire skills or give up. But if they are convinced to cycle by virtue of uncritically using bicycling specific facilities, these facilities better be good. Unfortunately, some are not, and lure riders into tragic situations. Many new riders, who learn that their safety is not guaranteed by an uncritical reliance on facilities rather than on a combination of skills and confidence when using sound facilities (i.e., remember all those E’s have to work together), will give up, thus wasting their own efforts and a lot of tax dollars spent re-engineering our transportation system for them. So instead of slowly building up a coterie of skilled riders, we will encourage unskilled riders to ride on questionable facilities. The negative fallout of the second option is more crashes, more cynicism in unskilled cyclists, and more demands to make transportation “safe” for “vulnerable users” when sadly, one reason the users are so vulnerable is that they are unskilled. Bad driving is obviously out there-it is another topic for another rant.

    A highly skilled LCI and former League Board member recently said this in reference to Bike Boxes:

    “With most American bike boxes, I’ve seen, it’s as if the citizens in your town think it’s a nice idea to build a public swimming pool like the one in the next town, but they don’t pay any attention to the details. There is no fence to keep wandering children out, there are no lifeguards, and there is neither water safety instruction nor the understanding of its importance. Most American bike boxes I’ve seen lack any of the design features Mackay (James MacKay, member of NCUTCD BTC http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=810) mentions. American driving culture does not include an expectation of bicyclists’ overtaking on the right and swerving left. I’ve repeatedly seen “bare bones” installations where motorists are expected to anticipate bicyclists in their blindspots, or to drill their attention to a rear-view mirror while also paying attention to traffic in the intersection ahead. …As to the issues of what to build and how to accommodate increasing numbers of cyclists in the USA, all in all, it’s quite clear to me that we can’t just copy what has been done in Europe, much less copy it poorly. We have to think more clearly and do better. But that’s a different and much larger discussion…”

    The League needs to lead this larger discussion. Or someone else will.

  8. Anonymous comment says:

    Were members meaningfully consulted on the expansion of the Board to 15 members, or the change from regional to entirely at-large members, i.e., was this governance change subject to ratification by members?

  9. Fred says:

    To answer Anonymous —

    No, Members were not consulted or offered the chance to ratify any of the governance changes enacted since year 1998. IN 1998 a proposed all-appointed board amendment was openly discussed. When members objected and threatened to quit the League, the proposal was dropped.

    But then a few months later, the Bylaws were quietly changed to make 4 out of 12 board members appointed. In 2003 it was 5 of 12 and now it is 7 of 15 appointed. Members were NOT consulted for any of these changes.

    You can read more about the sad history of the League.

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