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Posts by: "Jaime Fearer"

Our workload is growing and so is our staff—we are very excited to ring in the New Year with three new members of the California Walks family:

  • Miha Tomuta, Community Engagement Manager, based in Orange County
  • Wendy Ortiz, Community Engagement Coordinator, based in Orange County
  • Austin Travis Dylan Hall, Central Valley Policy Manager, based in Fresno

Miha, Caro, and Wendy making grand plans for 2017 in our Whittier office

Austin leading walk audits in Kern County

For now, you can see Miha, Wendy, and Austin’s bios on our staff page. In the coming weeks, they’ll each share a bit more about themselves and their goals for the coming year with Cal Walks.

Caro Jauregui, now Cal Walks’ Senior Manager, Policy & Programs

But that’s not all of our good news—in recognition of her tremendous work, including coordinating the many moving parts to make PedsCount! 2016 successful and organizing the Active Transportation Leadership Program in Garden Grove and Anaheim—Caro Jauregui is being promoted to Senior Manager, Policy & Programs!

The San Jose PedsCount! 2016 delegation (plus Jaime). Photo: Susana García.

The San Jose PedsCount! 2016 delegation, plus Jaime. Photo: Susana García.

Thanks to the generous support of the Knight Foundation, California Walks was able to send local delegations from San Jose and Long Beach to the PedsCount! 2016 Summit. The funding allowed me to organize a select 10-person, interdisciplinary team of people and organizations I work with here in San Jose. The team was composed of educators, students, citizen advocates, and staff from the city (Departments of Transportation and Planning) and the county (Public Health).

Below you’ll find a personal reflection from Susana García, Vice Principal at Notre Dame High School in downtown San Jose. What strikes me about Susana’s pieceand of the reflections from the other delegation membersis just how powerful the experience was. Not that I’m surprised, just very happy that some of the take-aways from this immersive and experiential Summit will be translated into place-based and participatory learning and action back at home. So please, dive into Susana’s reflection and take a closer look at the PedsCount! 2016 Summit in Long Beach on Storify.

By Susana García, Vice Principal, Notre Dame High School

At Notre Dame High School in San Jose, social justice is in our blood. We read about it. Think about it. Take action on behalf of it. Year after year, commencement addresses from impassioned students talk about our transformative curriculum and its impact on their worldview. Yet, I have to admit that after 16 years at Notre Dame, transportation justice was a new term to me. The concepts were not new ones; this work is always about creating community, equity, and mutual respect in a sustainable way. The exploration of transportation justice that I experienced at the PedsCount! 2016 Summit was inspiring for me as an educator and a citizen.

Here are three personal takeaways from this year’s summit in Long Beach:

When colleagues and friends asked where I was going, I would jokingly respond that it was “a conference about walking.” As a downtown school, with so many cultural resources and wonderful restaurants nearby, walking is something that we do quite a bit of. It didn’t seem too far of a stretch to attend. In fact, earlier in the academic year, civil rights veterans visited our school in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and reminded us that basic things we now take for granted, such as cut-through sidewalks, came from the passage of the ADA. Yes, I had already been thinking about walkability. But, the conference revealed that there is more work to be done.

Notre Dame High School attendees (Jaime snuck in the picture again). Photo: Susana García.

Notre Dame High School attendees (Jaime snuck in the picture again). Photo: Susana García.

Safety for our walkers (and bikers – see the powerful work of the Go Human campaign), advocacy within communities that lack pedestrian infrastructure (for example, the work of UCLA researcher Herbie Huff and her work in Cudahy, CA), and contesting discrimination in all forms (a particular thanks to Cultiva La Salud‘s Genoveva Islas for her work and personal stories of triumph) are all initiatives that each citizen should be fighting for in order to make our society better for everyone.

Walkability activates a space and empowers a community to claim that space as their own.

Access for Youth
Thanks to a generous grant from the Knight FoundationSan Jose, I was able to attend the conference with my colleague, Eran DeSilva, as well as two students. The presence of these thoughtful and articulate teens added a layer of insight to my own experience. The importance of the voice of youth was not lost on the conference organizers who included a plenary panel of youth sharing their experiences in their own words. After returning to the Bay Area, and looking at our home with new eyes, I recognize the critical need for an affordable and connected public transportation system. For most of my life, I have had access to a car (more recently upgraded to a plug-in hybrid) and hadn’t given it much thought.  Still, I was on board with the public transportation need for environmental reasons; recognizing that our youth inherit the planet from previous generations. I see the issue even more clearly through the lens of transportation justice. For some within our community without access to a caryouth, elders, differently-abled, and low-income workers to name a fewan effective public transportation system provides needed access to jobs, healthcare, and education. I realize that the youth intersect with this movement at many levels. The task ahead is complicated and needs sound transportation policy as well as the informed voice of the youth.

Teens must have a presence in the current transportation justice movement.

Think Differently
My favorite topic from the summit was placemaking, and the strategy of parklets in particular. I love the idea of thinking beyond the obvious limitations of a wall or a sidewalk to create something beautiful and meaningful in a different way. From discussions, to photos, to literally sitting in a parklet as we enjoyed a progressive dinner through downtown Long Beach, I am personally inspired to apply this strategy and this way of thinking to my own personal and professional life. (I want to install parklets around Notre Dame High School and activate the SoFA District to support our small business and museum neighbors!)

PedsCount! 2016 Collage. Photo: Susana García.

PedsCount! 2016 Collage. Photo: Susana García.

As I already mentioned, I attended this conference with two of our students. It is fairly common for teachers to attend conferences in the summer, with other teachers, about teaching. It is not at all common for teachers to attend with their students nor to explore a topic that seemingly has nothing to do with curriculum instruction, classroom management or technology integration. Yet, at the conclusion of the two days, I realized that this experience was teaching my students and me much more about 21st century skills. This is the direction that education must take. Coaching our students through application of knowledge in real settings as well as the soft skills they will need in the future (for example, at a conference, skills like networking and dressing in layers because of air conditioning). Eran and I are looking to launch a new model of professional development that includes shared access to opportunities that better position them, and us, for career and life success.

Think different to be different.

WalkSJ Walkable Poster

As part of Cal Walks’ work, we foster connections between advocates at the local level and coordinate statewide policy advocacy with our local partners. Here in Santa Clara County and San Jose–where I’m based–we work both with a coalition of individual residents and community-based organizations as well as with city and county agencies.

This year, a large part of our San Jose focus will be our partnership with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and city staff as we work together on the first full year of Vision Zero implementation, and we’ll have more to share in the coming months.  We’re also getting our new encouragement program, Walk San Jose, up and running. We’re honored to receive support from The Knight Foundation–which recently announced its latest round of San Jose funding–for the Walk San Jose project. This project is also supported in part by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) project. The PICH funding covers, among other expenses, the translation of all the project materials into Spanish and Vietnamese.

The premise of Walk San Jose is simple: a series of community-identified walking loops across the city, each focused on a different neighborhood and its people, history, architecture, public art, natural resources, and more–the possibilities are truly endless. The loops are intended to be explorations of a community’s assets, as defined by the residents and community leaders themselves. The overarching goal of Walk San Jose is as simple as the premise: Let’s expose residents and visitors to our city’s diverse communities; let’s facilitate meaningful and actionable conversations among people on local issues, opportunities, and challenges; and let’s do this while promoting increased physical activity, community building, and advocacy for creating healthy, safe and vibrant neighborhoods–all through the lens of walking.

On January 12, we hosted a “Loops + Lunch” kick-off for stakeholders from across the city to begin to build support for the project and to gather feedback at this beta phase of the project.

While we debuted the first 2 loops at once, the remaining 4 inaugural loops will be established via community-led processes. The vision is that stakeholders will workshop to map their community assets, prioritize them for a loop, and conduct walk audits as a part of the planning process. One overarching goal of the project is to empower residents to have a voice in the processes that affect walkability and pedestrian safety, all while celebrating what makes these communities so wonderful.

Each loop will debut publicly with a celebratory group walk, culminating with reflective, connecting discussions over food and drink at an establishment within that neighborhood. After the debut walk, the loop cards will be available in shops, libraries, and offices throughout the community. The 4”x 6” loop cards are free, handheld, and self-guided. And if the design looks familiar, that’s because we’ve teamed up with City Fabrick, the nonprofit urban design studio that created the Walk Long Beach loop cards.

Please join me on a walk soon, and get in touch about how we can help curate a loop in your neighborhood.


In 2012, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties had more than 11,000 collisions that resulted in injury or death. Though biking and walking only account for 1-3% of commuter trips, they make up 7-8% of injuries and fatalities. Last Wednesday, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) and California Walks debuted a new resource to help reduce these numbers to zero.

The Vision Zero Toolkit [PDF] outlines key steps that city staff and policymakers can take to adopt and implement a Vision Zero policy and plan, in an effort to improve traffic safety in their communities. The toolkit focuses on protecting the most vulnerable users, including people walking, people with disabilities, people riding bicycles, and those using other mobility devices.

In short, Vision Zero policies recognize that every traffic collision is preventable, whether through engineering, education, or enforcement. Sweden launched Vision Zero in 1997 with policies that have reduced the country’s traffic fatalities by nearly 50%. Vision Zero has gained attention over the last year, with the United States Department of Transportation “Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets,” and San Francisco and New York City adopting Vision Zero policies and plans. Locally, the City of San Mateo and the City of San José have adopted Vision Zero policies this year as well.

From launching a public safety messaging campaign, to reducing traffic speed limits and installing red-light running cameras, the recommendations in the Toolkit are grouped into short-, mid-, and long-term steps categorized under five essential “E’s” to help cities use a phased approach to implementation: Evaluation and Planning, Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Encouragement.

“The safer our streets are, the more people will feel confident to try a bike,” said Shiloh Ballard, Executive Director of SVBC. “When streets are safe for people walking and biking, they are safe for drivers and transit riders as well. We hope this Toolkit will help more cities move towards safer streets.”

The report also emphasizes engaging diverse communities who rely on walking, biking, and transit use and are most affected by traffic violence by incorporating two more E’s – Engagement and Equity – into their Vision Zero program.

“Vision Zero implementation should focus on including communities who are often underrepresented and disempowered in planning and other political processes,” said Jaime Fearer, Planning and Policy Manager for California Walks. “It is a key strategy of this Toolkit, and without their input and involvement, any Vision Zero effort will not be successful.”

“Traffic-related deaths and injuries are avoidable and intolerable,” said Daly City Councilman Mike Guingona. “The Vision Zero Toolkit for local jurisdictions provides a road map for protecting pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. Such efforts are as important as any public health endeavor and must be prioritized as such.”

The Vision Zero Toolkit is free and the PDF is available both here and on SVBC’s website.

VZSJ logo-color

Last week the City of San José announced its Vision Zero plan, and on Tuesday, May 14, City Council unanimously adopted the new transportation framework. In doing so, the City has committed to prioritizing street safety and ensuring all road users—whether walking, biking, riding transit, or driving—are safe. The plan—prompted in part by a memo written the previous month by Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio—is guided by the core principle that traffic deaths are both preventable and unacceptable.

VZSJ_2014 Traffic Fatality DataWhile San José can boast that it is consistently among the safest cities in California and the nation when looking at traffic fatltiy and injury crash rates per 1,000 residents—the City’s injury crash rate is around half the national average—City leaders and traffic safety advocates recognize the need to do even better. Last year, 42 people lost their lives in traffic collisions, and half of those were pedestrians.


Evaluating latest available collision data (from 2010 toVZSJ_Safety Priority Streets 2014), the City has identified 14 major street segments that account for the highest frequency of fatal and severe injuries. In other words, just 3% of San José’s 2400-mile street network account for over 50% of all traffic fatalities and severe injuries. These “Safety Priority Streets” will be the top focus in the coming year, with dedicated funding and plans in place to make much needed improvements.

San José’s take on Vision Zero is unique in a number of ways. Mayor Sam Liccardo, Department of Transportation Director Hans Larsen, and Chief of Police Larry Esquivel all signed on to the initial plan. The familiar focus on Evaluation, Engineering, Enforcement, and Education are joined by emphases on Technology, Policy, and Partnerships.

A number of community partners are recognized in the plan—including California Walks—with the goal of community partners assisting in Vision Zero San José implementation, particularly the education and policy strategies. We are proud to say that California Walks has been invited to co-chair a new Vision Zero Task Force, led by Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, in partnership with our friends at Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. Now the work begins—stay tuned for updates!

You can read the full Vision Zero San José report here [PDF].