Bringing Community Voice and Priorities to Policy

Everybody has to walk at some point during the day-even if it’s just from the parking lot to the office. That is why transforming community environments to support walking  is of paramount importance to prevent injuries and to increase opportunities for safe physical activity.  California Walks believes that state policy is an effective venue for creating healthy and safe communities, and one of our founding principles is integrating community-level concerns to regional, state and federal level policies. Our staff are engaged in many policy work groups and committees.

For current state legislation we are monitoring, please visit

Statewide Policy Areas

Climate Change & Transportation: SB375 & Sustainable Communities Strategies

SB375 is a state bill that requires Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs)/Regional Transportation Planning Agencies to align transportation and housing policies in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As a part of this process, each region’s MPOs/RTPAs is required to develop a Sustainable  Communities Strategy (SCS) as part of its Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) that  includes investments in walking and walkable communities to encourage more people to walk, bike, or take transit for the vast majority of daily trips that tend to be less than 1 mile. These are the trips (along with travel over 55 mph) which generate the most greenhouse gas emissions.

Through the California Walks Network Initiative, Achieving Walkable Communities for Health, Cal Walks works with local and regional partners to shape SCS/RTPs across the state to increase investments in active transportation; elevate community resident voices in transportation planning; build advocacy capacity of individuals and groups within the Cal Walks Network; and to advance state, regional, and local policies that increase opportunities for walking.

Complete Streets Implementation

On September 30, 2008 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 1358, the California Complete Streets Act. AB 1358 requires local jurisdictions to modify the circulation element of their general plans to include language that plans for a balanced, multimodal transportation network that meets the needs of all users of the streets, roads, and highways for safe and convenient travel in a manner that is suitable to the rural, suburban, or urban context of the general plan. AB1358 also required the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to amend the General Plan Guidelines to provide local jurisdictions with guidance on how they can comply with the new regulatory statutes.

California Walks works to inform statelevel guidance on Complete Streets implementation, as well as regional implementation in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Health in All Policies

Recognizing that non-health policies have  a significant impact on the health and well-being of Californians, the State of California has pioneered the concept of Health in All Policies, which  encourages non-health public agencies to adopt a health lens to policymaking. In 210, the State created the Health in All Policies Task Force (HiAP Task Force) in order to identify policies, program, and strategies to improve the health and well-being of all Californians across 19 different State agencies, departments, and offices. The Task Force falls under the auspices of the Strategic Growth Council (SGC), and is facilitated by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). To-date, the Task Force has developed a wide-ranging set of recommendations.

California Walks has worked to inform the HiAP Task Force’s recommendations, as well as to advance Health in All Policies in other contexts. Namely, the Cal Walks Board of Directors unanimously endorsed AB 441 (Monning)-which was signed into law in 2012 and requires Caltrans and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to provide guidelines for incorporating health and health equity factors into Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs) and cities’ general plans.

Roadway Design to Improve Pedestrian Safety

Highway, crosswalk and intersection designs are developed at the state level but ultimately impact the health and safety of local communities. California Walks works to ensure that these technical design and engineering standards take pedestrians and pedestrian safety into account.

Cal Walks has worked closely with Caltrans to inform updates to their Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)-which specifies standards that traffic control devices throughout the state must meet in order to comply with state and federal transportation regulations-and the Highway Design Manual to strengthen the design of intersections for the safety and accessibility of pedestrians.

Safe Routes to School (SRTS)

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a federally-funded program whose goal is to get more children to travel to school on foot or bike safely and with greater frequency. SRTS provides funding for both educational programs, as well as infrastructure changes to the built environment around schools. By creating safe routes for children to walk or bike to school, SRTS aims to prevent child injuries and fatalities, as well as to increase opportunities for physical activity to stem the tide of obesity-related chronic diseases.

California Walks advises communities on how to develop SRTS Action Plans, conducts walk assessments, and works with other state advocacy partners to protect SRTS funding.

Safe Routes for Seniors

Walking is an essential component to active living at all ages. Ensuring that the walking environment is safe means that older adults can age in place safely, with dignity, and remain connected to their families, friends, and to the community.

California Walks works to engage and empower older adults to advocate for pedestrian safety improvements. Cal Walks also seeks to tap into older adults’ position as active family and neighborhood members, as well as their to acquired skills, energy and available time to improve community health outcomes.

Safe Routes to Transit

While increasing public transit use is important for addressing climate change (greenhouse gas emissions) and environmental health (particulate matter air pollution)  concerns, public transit use is also strongly linked to more active lifestyles, as transit riders must walk to their transit stop. Accordingly, the safety and walkability of the street or sidewalk significantly impacts whether community members are able to access transit. For transit-dependent communities, unsafe and unwalkable streets to transit may translate to decreased access to employment, education, and health care services among others.

California Walks works to ensure that pedestrian needs and facilities are considered and implemented in transit station designs and construction.

Universal Access & Americans with Disability Act (ADA) Design

When a transportation facility is designed to meet the needs of its most vulnerable users-persons with disabilities, children, and older adults-the facility will meet the needs of ALL users. This concept is known as universal design and is integral to California Walks’ mission of advocating walkable communities for everyone.

California Walks has extensive expertise in universal design,  the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and the ADA Public Right of Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG). Cal Walks is heavily involved in the successful settlement and ongoing implementation of a 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Caltrans lawsuit to provide ADA-accessible sidewalks and crossings on the state highway system. The settlement created a new Caltrans ADA Infrastructure Program with  $1.1 billion (over 30 years) dedicated to pedestrian safety, the largest single increase in statewide pedestrian investment in Caltrans history.