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Posts by: "Caro Jauregui"

I am learning how to drive because I am tired of being harassed on the street.

I don’t know how to drive. That’s right, I live in Los Angeles County (West Whittier) and I don’t drive.

It is hard out here, especially in this corner of the County to rely on public transit. No matter how hard I try to be on time, I am always a little bit late because the bus came early, the bus came late, or the bus didn’t show up at all.

In this summer heat it’s embarrassing to arrive sweaty and parched to my meetings, most of which are located in the City of Los Angeles. The buses are air conditioned, of course, but most bus stops I wait at lack bus shelters that would protect me from the sun.

I made the decision to learn how to drive earlier this year. But I am not learning how to drive because of the heat or because the bus schedule doesn’t align properly with my life.

I am learning how to drive because I am tired of being harassed on the street and I am tired of feeling unsafe when I take up public space.

As a woman, I first realized I was a target when I was walking home from school at age 13, when I was almost kidnapped a block away from my home, the home I still live in today.

I didn’t walk for a long time after that. My best friend and her mom would pick me up every morning for the next five years to drive me to school. My dad would rarely let me walk home after tennis practice, a student government meeting, or tutoring during my high school years.

After high school, I lived car-free in the Bay Area for 10 years. Alameda County Transit (AC Transit), Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the Muni buses and trains in San Francisco, and my bike were my best friends.

I moved back to West Whittier four years ago. Though I had been taking public transit and taken up public space in the Bay Area for many years, things were and are different here because there are areas of the County where there are comparatively few people who walk and take transit. So when I stand alone on a corner without a bench, without a bus shelter, without proper signage, waiting for the bus I know will be showing up soon, I stand out. When I walk a few blocks from one bus stop to another for my transit connection, and I am the only woman walking, I stand out.

The levels of unwanted male attention I have experienced while I have been walking, biking or while on public transit has varied since I’ve moved back to L.A. County. I have been followed and verbally harassed in Metro stations and on trains and buses. I was physically assaulted while walking home by a stranger, and I once ran away from a man who chased me for a block while I walked in Whittier. My only escape was to run into the nearest business to protect myself, a Zumba studio that was in mid-session. I have many more experiences I can share, but I think you get the point.

If you are reading this and you are a woman, unfortunately, you can relate to most of these life experiences and those portrayed in Terra Lopez’s auditory exhibit, This is What it Feels Like [warning: strong language]. These experiences deeply frightened me and taught me that I am unsafe in the world.

Whenever I have shared some of these incidents with friends and loved ones they tell me how I need to be more careful. So then I think about how I could have been more careful. And in every single one of these instances (and those I have not discussed here), the only way I could have been more careful is if I had not been in public. Period.


During her last staff meeting before retirement, our founding Executive Director, Wendy Alfsen, reminded us that our work at California Walks is rooted in elevating inclusion by forcing us to question whether what we are working on will result in the othering or the belonging of the people we are intending to serve.

Belonging. I understand how belonging is woven into my work when I recommend crosswalk and sidewalk improvements across the state in communities that for decades have intentionally lacked proper improvements. I understand belonging as I advocate for targeted funding in low-income communities of color across L.A. County. But how can we ensure women belong and feel safe while walking and biking, while on transit, or when they are just generally living their life and sexual harassment is so ingrained in various parts of American society?  

I’ve been hesitant to share these stories and to write this post because some of these experiences have been very painful. I am also afraid, like many people would be, that you are judging me for not knowing how to drive and that in fact you have missed the whole point of my blog post.

Yet, I am sharing this because I think about little girls, quiet, innocent, and brown like that 13-year-old I was once. Though I received support and concern over my physical safety (which I am eternally thankful for), I wish someone would have told me then it wasn’t my fault.

No one ever did.

From my lived experience I have learned that working towards belonging—ensuring people feel welcomed and safe in their streets, neighborhoods, and communities—is more than reducing the speed limit, adding a bike lane, and filling in a sidewalk gap. Belonging can begin to be the norm when a community is sustained by mutual respect, and it is rooted in the promise that we take care of each other.

To continue championing walking, accessibility, and mobility, California Walks will highlight some of the walking intersectionalities we’ve either experienced or observed across the state through this blog series. It is our goal to change the narrative around walking and active transportation so that it includes all of us and reflects Californian’s various realities. Previously in the series:

Introducing the Walking Intersectionalities blog series

During my two years with California Walks, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many people, organizations, and communities across the state, especially in Los Angeles and Orange County. Increasingly, I have struggled to find ways in which promoting walking is supposed to stay relevant considering the many issues Californian’s are facing today. People’s lives are complex and they don’t often think about whether or not there is a sidewalk in their neighborhood on a daily basis.

Audre Lorde said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” Our lives are intersectional—that is, we each have various identities and issues that overlap—and often the reasons why a community may lack sidewalks, painted crosswalks, and proper traffic signage has everything to do with whether or not a community is primarily immigrant, is low-income, or is about to be displaced due to gentrification.

To continue championing walking, accessibility, and mobility, California Walks will highlight some of the walking intersectionalities we’ve either experienced or observed across the state through this blog series. It is our goal to change the narrative around walking and active transportation so that it includes all of us and reflects Californian’s various realities.

Walking While Immigrant 

In late February I was at my best friend’s house celebrating her birthday when her family shared that on a very popular Univision morning show, Despierta America, a lawyer discussed the ten Golden Rules for undocumented immigrants living in this anti-immigrant atmosphere. Never crossing the street outside of a painted crosswalk was one. The lawyer shared that in Atlanta, Georgia, an undocumented person crossed the street where there were no painted crosswalks, was then arrested by local law enforcement, was now detained by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and would likely be deported.

I was terrified the moment I found out Trump won the election. There were many reasons for my terror, but as a daughter of Mexican immigrants who came to this country undocumented, I couldn’t help but feel afraid when I thought of all of the damage the new administration could perpetuate on my community, on my family. As I thought about my work at California Walks and our 6 E’s approach to pedestrian safety (Equity & Community Empowerment, Evaluation, Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Encouragement), I feared that what we presented as best practices to encourage and promote walking would not be effective in immigrant communities concerned about being deported. Hearing this story on Spanish language media didn’t help put me at ease.

The fear of taking up public space is real, and there are many reasons why immigrants and people of color may feel unsafe when walking, biking, or taking transit. The truth is that immigrants, undocumented immigrants, or anyone who “looks” like they could be an immigrant can be a target in this anti-immigrant environment. And although parts of Executive Order 13768 have been halted, a great deal of fear and confusion remains with regard to if and how local law enforcement agencies will cooperate with ICE, including our sanctuary cities.1  At this time, the state of California is deliberating a bill that would make California a sanctuary state.

Those of us in the walking movement and who promote active transportation can continue to defend and protect with conviction our commitment to a more just society. We understand that many law enforcement agencies in California do not want to take part in a process that would facilitate deportations for undocumented immigrants who have committed minor traffic offenses. Nevertheless, there are at least two very specific ways in which we as advocates can help protect immigrants:

  • Ensure law enforcement fully understands the rules of the road when it comes to pedestrians crossing the street. According to the California Vehicle Code (CVC), which comprises the state’s traffic laws, pedestrians are legally permitted to cross at marked and unmarked crosswalks, meaning, pedestrians can legally cross at all intersections unless otherwise prohibited.
  • Promote advocacy efforts that request local law enforcement agencies more explicitly provide citation data and relay to the public which, if any, of their ticketable offenses could possibly be grounds for immigration status inquiry, arrests, and detention.

At this nexus, where walking and immigration collide, it’s important that we not accommodate laws and circumstances that further maintain the inequities immigrants are faced with every day. Now is not the time to be a spectator as we see injustice unravel around us.


1 California Walks does not endorse the use of the word “alien” in Executive Order 13768.

**UPDATED: Applications are due no later than Friday, June 2, 2017.**

We want to partner with you!

California Walks and UC Berkeley SafeTREC are in the midst of hosting 20 day-long Community Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Trainings (CPBSTs) across California before the end of September. These trainings bring various stakeholders together to achieve a shared goal: to improve walkability and bikeability for everyone in the community where a training is held.

Five CPBST workshop opportunities are left

Through the participation of community residents like seniors, parents, and youth, we center our trainings around a community’s needs and collectively identify and engage the community and agency partners needed to implement pedestrian and bicycle improvements. Agency partners often include Caltrans, City/County staff, Departments of Transportation, Public Works/Engineering Departments, Planning Departments, local schools and school districts, Public Health Departments and law enforcement.

At its core, a CPBST provides community members with technical information that planners and engineers typically use. As facilitators, we work to make that technical information approachable and useful to ensure that community residents are on a more equal playing field when they work with agency staff to address specific issues in their neighborhoods.

The CPBST model is based on the premise that community residents are the true experts on what they need and how to meet that need. California Walks and SafeTREC are proud to partner with communities across the state in an effort to transform the way decisions are made, particularly in low-income communities of color that for decades have lacked infrastructure investments like sidewalks, bike lanes, and safe crossings.

This community planning process prioritizes the use of our streets and roads for all users, especially pedestrians and bicyclists. We seek to make planning a participatory process with strategic actions led by and for the community.

Who is eligible to apply?

  • Local government agencies
  • School districts
  • Non-profit and community-based organizations

Learn more about the history of the CPBST program, and take a look at the Roles & Responsibilities Checklist.

Application deadline: Friday, June 2, 2017

Please submit an Intake Form to Caro Jauregui at caro@californiawalks.org by Friday, June 2, 2017. Questions? Please call Caro Jauregui, Senior Manager of Policy and Programs, at 323-605-5220 or email her at caro@californiawalks.org.

California Walks, Walk Long Beach, and UC Berkeley SafeTREC are excited to be planning the 4th Biennial PedsCount! 2016 set for June 6 & 7, 2016 in Long Beach, CA. With the theme, Unlocking Community Vibrancy, Health and Prosperity for All Walks of Life, we’ve organized a spectacular set of hands-on breakout sessions from community organizations and resident leaders working to make their communities more walkable and equitable. If you’re on the fence about joining us at the Summit, here are the top 3 reasons why you should attend PedsCount! 2016:

3) Take in the sunshine while learning the latest!
The Summit will be hosted in Long Beach, CA, a dynamic city close to the beach. Walk Long Beach has organized exciting events for you to enjoy its beauty and everything it has to offer, such as Walk Long Beach’s Progressive Dinner on Monday, June 6. Long Beach is also a model city when it comes to active transportation improvements, with city leadership, agency staff, and community groups collaborating effectively to create safer streets for pedestrians. You can learn about the City’s many advances in active transportation during the break-out sessions including, Walk Forth: Stitch Streets, Visual Cues and the Art of Encouraging Pedestrians to Walk Further.

2) Diverse voices for the diverse state of California.
For this Summit, we’ve focused on lifting up a diverse set of voices from across the state that reflect California’s population, particularly community resident leaders and youth. In order for our movement to achieve meaningful change, we must engage communities and residents that have typically not been involved in transportation decision-making. Our breakout and plenary sessions will examine some of the most pressing issues in California today—such as the intersections of walking, safety and equity; and how to address the negative effects of gentrification in walkable districts while promoting positive change—from the perspective of those most directly impacted by our existing transportation system. Our opening plenary will feature several youth leaders from across California working to make their communities more walkable and equitable.

Moreover, with the generous support of The California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, the Knight Foundation, and the Long Beach Community Foundation, we have been able to remove financial barriers to participation for 40 youth and community resident leaders from San Jose, Long Beach, the Central Valley, and other non-coastal communities.

1) Learn how to walk the walk!
Summit participants won’t simply be learning about theoretical approaches to creating healthier, safer, and more walkable communities—panelists and speakers will be sharing experiences, challenges, and solutions. These lessons learned can better inform our collective work across California to improve walkability and safety. Join us to learn from community-based organizations, policy advocates, and agency partners, including: Pacoima Beautiful, Multicultural Communities for Mobility, Crenshaw Walks, COAST, Cultiva La Salud, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, the Vision Zero Network, the Southern California Association of Governments, Caltrans, the Office of Traffic Safety and many others.

It’s not too late to attend the Summit. Registration closes May 25, 2016. Register today! We are also looking for volunteers. Volunteers who serve three or more shifts will receive full access to all Summit activities and events. Volunteers who can cover two shifts on the same day can attend all summit events for that day. For more information about PedsCount! 2016 visit californiawalks.org/pedscount2016. #PedsCount16 @CaliforniaWalks.

This blog is cross-posted on Investing in Place.

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Over the past six months, California Walks has been involved in a collective effort—led by Investing in Place and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition—dedicated to ensuring transportation investments meaningfully reach and address the health, safety, and mobility needs of low-income communities in Los Angeles County. The biggest opportunity on the horizon to advance social equity with our transportation dollars will be a new countywide sales tax ballot measure, which if approved by voters, would raise approximately over $100 billion.

This sales tax measure, however, has not yet been approved for the November 2016 ballot, and a number of steps are taking place right now to secure its future. Since November 2015, the various Councils of Government (COGs) across the county have outlined, approved, and submitted their priorities for the potential ballot measure to LA Metro, which is coordinating the sales tax measure. The Council of Governments represent diverse cities across the county—each having their own vision for solving their local transportation challenges.

California Walks has been most engaged with the Gateway Cities Council of Government subregion in southeast LA County, which is home to a high number of low-income communities and communities of color in dire need of active transportation and transit investments. Home to 2 million people, people of color comprise 82% of the subregion’s population, with Latino residents making up the majority (63%). Despite identifying between $225-$471 million in active transportation needs in its Strategic Transportation Plan—a likely understatement of needs in light of Metro’s recent report documenting between $11-$30 billion in active transportation funding needs countywide over the next 20 years—the Gateway Cities COG submitted a transportation priorities list that dedicated zero dollars to active transportation (as seen below):

GCCOG Matrix

Along with advocates from ten other organizations, I attended last month’s Gateway Cities COG Board Meeting to urge the Board to align their transportation investments with their previously adopted policy goal supporting active transportation by setting aside at least 10% of their funds for active transportation. Unfortunately, not only did the Board vote to proceed without a dedicated active transportation set-aside but Gateway Cities COG and LA Metro Board Member Diane Dubois also characterized active transportation investments as “icing on the cake” as opposed to a main ingredient. This view of active transportation marginalizes the very real struggle of low-income residents who travel on foot, by bike, or on transit by necessity and treats active transportation as an afterthought.

As a resident of West Whittier who doesn’t drive, I encounter and struggle with our county’s car-dominated environment every day: it usually takes me an hour and a half—under the best circumstances—to get to most of my meetings on a number of public transit agencies that lack fare and service coordination; very few bus stops I wait at have a bench, provide shade or shelter, or are designed to make me feel safe traveling alone as a woman at night. If we are to move toward a more sustainable transportation system, active transportation—especially walking and biking connections to transit—simply cannot be an afterthought. On the contrary, if active transportation is a priority, then our transportation dollars should be invested in walking and biking projects that tie our transportation system together.

Moving forward, California Walks and our partner organizations working on this potential ballot measure will meet in late March to discuss Metro’s draft expenditure plan, which compiles the COGs identified investments. The Metro Board will vote in June 2016 to decide whether or not the measure will be on the November 2016 ballot. Stay tuned for more details!