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Posts by: "Austin Travis Dylan Hall"

Each of our three new team members will introduce themselves to you here. This week, meet Austin T.D. Hall, our Central Valley Policy Manager, based in Fresno. Earlier, Miha Tomuta introduced herself.

Austin T.D. Hall, Central Valley Policy Manager

Hello! Austin Travis Dylan Hall here, and I am extremely happy to join California Walks! As a Central Valley native, I’m happy to have this opportunity to promote walkability and pedestrian safety in my home community. I first moved to Fresno at the age of three, and was walking and riding my bike to and from school as early as 10 years old. While at UC Santa Cruz, I continued this tradition and was able to remain car-free throughout my four years there. When I would come home to visit the Valley, I began to notice how much more uncomfortable it was to walk, bike, and ride transit than in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area. In the nation’s most polluted air basin, our communities were designed to promote driving—often even for short distances—at the expense of active alternatives and to the detriment of our environment, our health, and our economy.

I resolved to engage this problem and become a part of the solution. I interned for the City of Fresno’s planning department, joined the Fresno County Bicycle Coalition and served on its board, and coordinated the Fresno Partnership, a coalition of community groups that focused on a wide array of Fresno’s issues, from water to sprawl to income inequality. I joined the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee and worked with local public health nonprofit Cultiva La Salud. When I heard about California Walks and their search for someone to promote and improve walkability in the Central Valley, I was excited by the opportunity to join the team. I believe in California Walks’ mission, and I believe that not only Fresno, but all Central Valley communities—whether rural, suburban, or urban—can and must be walkable and bikeable in order for everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy a high quality of life here in the heart of California.

Safety message at Taft Union High School

In just two weeks earlier this month, California Walks co-facilitated walk and bike audits in nine—yes, you read that right—communities all across Kern County to advance local conversations on pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure, including what’s working and what could be improved. 

Working on behalf of the Kern Council of Governments (Kern COG), California Walks traveled to Bakersfield, Arvin, Lamont, Delano, Ridgecrest, Mojave, Oildale, Shafter, and Taft to elevate residents’ concerns with walking and biking and to ground truth pedestrian and bicyclist safety priorities for inclusion in Kern COG’s Kern Region Active Transportation Plan (AT Plan) currently under development. For this project, Kern COG has hired Alta Planning + Design, California Walks, and the Local Government Commission to engage community members and local agency staff in the planning process.

Sidewalk gaps in Arvin

Community members, advocates, city engineers, Caltrans representatives, youth, seniors, journalists, and more all came out to share their opinions at our walk and bike audits. Each audit took community members through a presentation on walking and biking safety that included a toolkit of potential solutions, from infrastructure updates on our streets to education and outreach strategies to encourage safe behaviors.

Then as a group, participants walked through each community to highlight infrastructure that works well for all users, as well as to discuss challenges where improvements can be made. The overarching discussion during each audit was what kinds of changes would be most effective in making walking and biking safer and more comfortable in each community.

Discussing ramps and marked crossings in Arvin

At many of the audits, city engineers were able update participants on grants the city or county had in the pipeline for active transportation improvements. Following the walking portion of the audits, each group engaged in a debrief to bring together all the ideas and experiences of the participants for inclusion in the draft AT Plan, expected to be available for public comment in Spring 2017.

Your opportunity to participate in this part of the planning process is not over, either. The AT Plan website features an interactive WikiMap that anyone can use to comment on what is needed to make Kern County more walkable and bikeable. Don’t hesitate to check it out and add your feedback! You can also read some additional coverage of the Kern AT Plan and walk audits at The Bakersfield Californian and on Streetsblog CA.