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In 2016-2017, with generous support from the California Office of Traffic Safety and in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), California Walks continued to make walking and biking safe and accessible for all Californians through our Community Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Training (CPBST) and Focus Cities programs.

As the CPBST program continued into its ninth year, we expanded our outreach from 5 communities in 2016 to 20 communities in 2017. The CPBST program provides context-sensitive workshops designed to educate local communities on pedestrian and bicycle safety best practices and to develop community skills through walkability and bikeability assessments. The training workshops brought together residents of all ages, City and County officials and staff, and community-based organizations in urban, suburban, and rural communities. We had the pleasure of working with over 450 Californians representing communities in Alameda, Butte, El Dorado, Fresno, Humboldt, Kern, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, Sacramento, and Santa Barbara Counties.

Each CPBST workshop was tailored to support local community needs. In the City of Azusa, we hosted a school-focused workshop designed to educate parents, residents, and school district staff on safe walking and biking programs and best practices for school communities. In the City of Cudahy, the workshop and training materials were in Spanish to encourage attendance and represent the community. In Rosemont, an unincorporated community in Sacramento County, the workshop was located at a middle school, and leadership students were able to share how they get to and from school and what safety issues they encounter along the way. They then collaborated on age-specific programs to educate their peers on safe walking and biking.

Our 2016-2017 California Focus Cities pilot project came to a close with a Focus Cities Convening in San Diego on September 21. The convening was hosted by Circulate San Diego and brought together representatives from five of California’s seven Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Focus Cities: Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Ana.

California Focus Cities Convening with reps from Circulate San Diego, California Walks, Vision Zero Network, Santa Ana Active Streets (SAAS), Los Angeles Walks, Walk San Francisco, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, and SafeTREC. Photo from Circulate San Diego.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) selected California as a Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Focus State due to its high rate of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities. The Focus Cities program supports community efforts to build a culture of safe walking and biking through community programs and events,  and we’ve been excited to engage deeply with each of the seven Focus Cities to improve safety for everyone who walks and bikes

The Focus Cities program was a joint project of UC Berkeley SafeTREC and California Walks. Our goal for the project was to create an ongoing network of advocacy, community, and agency partners from each Focus City. As part of this effort, we worked with each city to identify opportunities to support our local partners as they engage and educate residents on pedestrian and bicycle safety, and we offered to provide customized technical assistance directly to local agency staff. In 5 of the 7 cities, local organizations implemented unique projects and activities in support of safe walking and biking, and you can read more about their work in the posts we’ve archived on our site.

California Walks and SafeTREC also delivered technical assistance trainings to a number of the Focus Cities communities including a Vision Zero Walk + Bike Assessment Workshop and Vision Zero Priority Safety Corridor Assessments in San Jose. In Fresno, we worked with the Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) to deliver a Capacity Training Workshop which included a local case study and instruction on SafeTREC’s Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS). We also delivered CPBST workshops in Southwest Fresno and East Bakersfield. In the City of Santa Ana, we worked with City planning staff to organize a SafeTREC-led TIMS training for staff.

It’s been a busy year, and we are pleased that in 2018 we’ll be able to continue to support local communities making California a safer and more pleasant place to walk and bike through these two programs and more. Stay tuned for updates here on our site; on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; and through our newsletter (which will be getting a makeover in January).

This post, by our partners at Santa Ana Active Streets, has been made possible by the grant-funded Focus Cities California program, a joint project of UC Berkeley SafeTREC and California Walks, which supports increased safety in walking and biking.

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

When Gloria Diaz was asked whether it was the way a street was designed, or the fault of a person when conflicts between pedestrians and motorists happen, she didn’t mince words. “No siguen las reglas/They don’t follow the rules,” Diaz said. “Pienso es la responsabilidad de la persona, varias veces has visto eso/I think it’s the responsibility of the person, various times I’ve seen this.”

This is a common perception of bicyclists and pedestrians, yet those perceptions are what a team of advocates is working on changing.

A team of residents will be using grassroots tactics to try and change the bad habits of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Latino Health Access (LHA), a local community-based health organization in Santa Ana, is leading the safe mobility campaign that aims to train local residents, specifically teenagers, in safe traffic behaviors and sharing the knowledge in their community.

“The lessons have to start at the basics,” said Rosario Perez, the safe mobility campaign coordinator and LHA staff member. “The point is to have them share with others.”

The pilot project is expected to reach to 2,000 residents. LHA staff have already trained 15 adults, youth and seniors, and the team will started doing door-to-door and intersection outreach in late September and October.

Latino Health Access received a $25,000 grant from State Farm Insurance for the yearlong traffic safety campaign. The team will conduct an audit of bicyclists, pedestrian, and motorist behaviors in the project area, educate at least 500 people on safe mobility behaviors and rules, and organize pop-up demos that model safe walking, biking and driving in areas with high collision rates.

The pin drops show where the safe mobility campaign team will conduct an audit of bicyclists, pedestrian, and motorist behaviors. Image: Google Maps

The project area is located south of downtown Santa Ana in the Eastside neighborhood, which borders include Edinger Avenue, Standard Avenue, Cypress Avenue and First Street. This corridor is important for connecting residential neighborhoods, schools, and commercial outlets.

The transportation behaviors audit will be conducted at the following locations:

  • First Street and Maple Street
  • First Street and Lacy Street
  • First Street and Cypress Avenue

Santa Ana is one of the most dangerous cities in the state for those who walk or bike. According to California Office of Traffic Safety 2014 Rankings, among cities with a population over 250,000, Santa Ana ranked:

  • 1st in collisions where alcohol was involved
  • 1st in collisions involving pedestrians under the age of fifteen
  • 3rd in collisions involved bicyclists

The First Street Corridor, where much of the campaigns audits and activities will happen, is one of the most dangerous in the city. The corridor between Flower Street and Standard Avenue account for 13 percent of the severe or fatal pedestrian and bike collisions in the city, according to the Safe Mobility Santa Ana report.

Santa Ana residents lead a presentation on safe mobility habits. Latino Health Access staff are training a team of residents to be safe mobility ambassadors in their community. Image: Latino Health Access

This post, by our partners at Santa Ana Active Streets, has been made possible by the grant-funded Focus Cities California program, a joint project of UC Berkeley SafeTREC and California Walks, which supports increased safety in walking and biking.

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

When sixteen-year-old Edwin Ruiz sees kids skating through downtown, he recalls his nine-year-old self living in that area, not having any place he could use his skateboard. There was nowhere nearby that allowed skateboards, and his parents wouldn’t let him cross town to the only skate park in Santa Ana, at Centennial Park.

Now that he lives closer to Centennial Park, he feels responsible for the downtown kids, who still have no legal, safe place to skate.

“I used to be in that position. Now I want to advocate to get [a park] down there, too,” Ruiz said.

Youth for Active and Safe Communities (YASC) are working to get more skate parks in Santa Ana and to include skating as a mode of travel when planning and managing streets and public spaces. Image: KidWorks

A group of youth from KidWorks, a local nonprofit focused on after-school assistance and youth leadership, has been working for the past two years to make sure skateboarding is included in transportation conversations in the city. The team, Youth for Active and Safe Communities (YASC), has specific tangible goals, including bringing more skate parks to open spaces — Orange County has roughly sixteen free skate parks, one of them being in Santa Ana, plus five that charge fees. But YASC is also working to shift common perceptions around skateboarding. They want skateboard access to be a recognized as an important goal for cities and the state.

According to the Tony Hawk Foundation, in 2010 there were roughly six million youth under eighteen years of age—8.6 percent of the country’s youth—who rode a skateboard in the last year. The numbers break down to almost a quarter female and three-quarters male skaters. These are high numbers, especially given the lack of support or interest in skateboarding and the active opposition to it as a sport and a means of travel.

In addition to advocating for more skateboarding amenities in Santa Ana, YASC has also joined a bigger campaign through the Equity For All coalition, called the Community Lands in Community Hands campaign. This campaign seeks to protect more than ninety vacant lots from being sold without consulting or benefitting the local community. The vacant lots would be developed based on the community’s needs and desires, and in the campaign’s surveys of residents, two of the top priorities identified were open space and skate parks.

While the main goal of YASC is to get a skate park or have skating amenities included in park designs, it also aims to validate skating as a form of transportation. Skateboarding is often lumped into the category of pedestrian travel, which creates the perception that it is not a viable mode of travel, said Mojgan Sami, a public health researcher and lecturer at University of California, Irvine. During the process of creating Caltrans’ recently approved Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, Sami tried to get staff to define skateboard travel apart from pedestrian activities, so that engineers and planners would be more mindful of it as its own mode of travel, but in the end the final plan kept skateboarding under the pedestrian travel umbrella.

YASC members Irma Mateo, 14 (left), and Jose Arguello, 14, paint on donated skateboards to be used in a community planning event at a vacant lot in Santa Ana. Image: Kristopher Fortin

Orange County cities have created policies to deter travel by skateboard. Sami, who has assisted in the skateboard campaign for the past year, analyzed skateboarding policies in Orange County and found that, of the 34 cities with ordinances that restrict skating, most focus on prohibiting the activity in downtown business areas. Planners in many of those cities either didn’t know the rationale for the passage of the policy, or cite safety as its reason for existence.

“There’s no solid policy document saying where it’s safest to roll,” Sami said. “There is such little understanding of skateboarding from a technical [perspective].”

When active transportation advocates seek more resources and infrastructure to make streets safer, walking and bicycling are the modes that get the most emphasis, said Maria Ruvalcaba, Youth and Community Engagement Coordinator for active transportation at KidWorks.

“We’re just trying to put [skating] on the radar of people who are already advocating for active transportation, and to remind them that skateboarding is a form of transportation, especially for youth,” Ruvalcaba said.

Some of the members of YASC joined the group as experienced skaters, but others are beginners. While Santa Ana offers free Confident Cycling classes, there were no public classes to teach safe skateboarding habits or skills like how to stop, start, turn, or safely land from a fall. So YASC partnered with Basics of Skateboarding Skate Camp and OC Ramps to create a how-to-skate class. Basics of Skateboarding offered an instructor to teach the class, and OC Ramps hosted the workshop at their skating space.

YASC has succeeded in getting its agenda on the city council’s radar, but the needle has yet to move in a dramatic way. The Community Lands in Community Hands campaign has been active for a year, but the city council has been reluctant to donate or sell any of its lands to the newly established Community Land Trust, called THRIVE Santa Ana.

Unfortunately, delays in city policy can lead to youth walking away from their boards. Evelyn Torres, 14, has been with the group since she started skating two years ago. She said she got involved because a lot of her good friends skated, and she felt that no one was advocating for them.

But, Torres said, while she’s picked up the habit of skating during the campaign, she’s noticed recently the same friends she admired for skating were giving it up. “They didn’t feel safe, [so] they started playing video games [instead].”

“Our biggest goals is to get a skate park in Santa Ana and just to live a healthier lifestyle,” Torres said.

Cross-posted at Streetsblog Cal.

This post, by our partners at Santa Ana Active Streets, has been made possible by the grant-funded Focus Cities California program, a joint project of UC Berkeley SafeTREC and California Walks, which supports increased safety in walking and biking.

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

Two years ago, a coalition of local advocacy groups—SAAS, or Santa Ana Active Streets—hosted a year-long program to train residents and community members in advocating for active transportation and civic engagement. Up to that point, SAAS was new and still finding its feet, and had mainly focused on activities around bike safety, including bike repair, helmet giveaways, and assisting in bike counts. These efforts were commendable for a two-year-old group, but they were still incremental and did not move the needle toward the systemic changes the coalition was hoping to achieve.

The Active Transportation Leadership Program (ATLP) was SAAS’s first opportunity to leverage its full potential. The groups in SAAS’s coalition worked together to put on training, bring in a wide variety of speakers and host workshops to discuss issues around transportation in Santa Ana. At least 169 participants joined in one or more events or activities that were part of the ATLP. With a small budget of only $12,000, SAAS was able to achieve some amazing things with the ATLP, including:

  • Hosting four active transportation and civic engagement workshops
  • Leading four bike rides and one walking tour
  • Organizing residents to advocate for new bicycle lanes, four of which were installed this past July

It wouldn’t have been possible to create and lead the program without the help of the coalition that formed SAAS. The representatives from each group in the coalition — which included Latino Health AccessKidWorksNeighborWorks OC, and The Bicycle Tree — championed the ATLP in their respective organizations and spread the word about it to their members. Each organization allowed the use of their office to store materials, print flyers, and host organizing meetings; one of the member organizations even found a childcare provider for the ATLP workshops.

SAAS’s mission has focused on creating safer and equitable streets. When a street-widening project threatened to displace residents, SAAS members rallied against it. The leaders in training also led outreach efforts for a city planning process, going door to door to talk to people, making phone calls, and presenting information at churches and schools.

But SAAS’s activities were not based on ideas proposed by transportation planners, engineers, or policy makers. They were created by residents who saw that their streets were unsafe for people who walked and biked and that something needed to be done.

Below is a short history of the founding of SAAS and what makes it distinct from transportation advocacy groups in other parts of the country. It includes some of the guiding principles that helped form the coalition.

First: Ask Community Members What They Need

In 2012, NeighborWorks OC, a local housing nonprofit, took a group of Santa Ana residents to the Community Leadership Institute. That annual event, hosted by the group’s national umbrella organization, NeighborWorks America, trains residents from across the country in leadership and technical skills. As part of the program, attendees worked with their local partners to draft an action plan for a project they wanted to see implemented, and then they received seed money to finance their idea.

The Santa Ana residents decided that bicycle and pedestrian safety was a priority, and later that year they hosted a mini-Open Streets event at the Pacific Electric Bike Trail. Although those residents were committed to their work with different organizations, they wanted to stay connected and continue the collaboration. That initial connection would lead to the founding of SAAS.

Santa Ana residents hula hoop and jump rope on the Pacific Electric Bike Trail.

Identify Overlapping Priorities

Sometimes an organization’s focus and work are determined by outside funding sources, but they may not be in tune with what local communities need and want. Therefore, it’s important to find out where priorities match with those of other local organizations and work together to have a larger impact on the issues than one group can alone.

Santa Ana has a strong pedestrian and bicycling community, yet it continues to be one of the most dangerous cities for people who walk and bike. More than 55 percent of Santa Ana residents do not have access to a personal vehicle, making walking, rolling, biking, and public transit even more important to them. Yet in the most recent California Office and Traffic Safety rankings, which compares cities of similar size, Santa Ana has the third highest number of pedestrians killed or injured by a vehicle, and fourth highest among cyclists.

Each group in the coalition that supported the ATLP knew the residents they worked with felt Santa Ana streets were unsafe. They knew residents bike and walk regularly, to get to work, to school, or for exercise. And they also had friends and family members who were hit or nearly hit by drivers while riding or walking.

Although these different organizations had varying missions and goals, when they zoomed out from the specific focus of their work, they identified active transportation as an important common theme. That gave them the opportunity to identify other like-minded organizations and invite them to collaborate.

The groups that participated in the founding of SAAS included Kidworks, with staff working on Safe Routes to School; Latino Health Access, through the Wellness Corridor initiative; The Bicycle Tree, which offered bike maintenance and safe riding classes and clinics; and NeighborWorks OC, which supported residents that had taken part in the Community Leadership Institute and wanted to improve the conditions of the Pacific Electric Bike Trail. El Centro Cultural de Mexico, a local community organization that works with the Santa Ana Latinx community, was also involved, with specific individuals researching the city’s urban history and impacts on the community.

Most of these organizations were created from interactions between residents who attended the 2012 Community Leadership Institute event, and many of the SAAS founding members ultimately met through the steering committee for Latino Health Access’s Wellness Corridor project. That steering committee was focusing on making the downtown Santa Ana area more active and safer for current residents, especially for those walking and biking.

Find Support from the Organization’s Decision Makers

Since residents still made up most of this budding coalition, they held limited sway over the organizations they belonged to. So the residents identified decision-makers within their organizations and began recruiting leaders to the coalition.

From Latino Health Access, Director of Community Engagement and Advocacy Programs Nancy Mejia was recruited because she was overseeing the organization’s Wellness Corridor initiative. Omar de la Rivas, a former KidWorks youth bike organizer, was recruited by a Latino Health Access volunteer. Alex Green, a local resident and advocate, recruited Paul Nagel, the executive director of The Bicycle Tree.

At a stop during one of the SAASy Thursdays family-friendly bike rides.

Identify the Strengths of Each Organization and Individual to Determine Their Roles

Once everyone was at the table, each organization and individual got to know one another and looked for ways to collaborate.

The Bicycle Tree, a local bicycle cooperative that focuses on bicycle safety and teaching bike maintenance skills, offered SAAS volunteers free use of their bike stands so they could learn how to fix their bikes.

Kidworks, a local youth development program that has been influential in local political activism, held a Bike It! Santa Ana campaign that aimed to push for more bike lanes in areas that youth frequented, specifically on Edinger Boulevard. The youth became the de-facto bicycle experts; they taught fellow SAAS members concepts of good street design and led conversations during planning processes.

Latino Health Access were versed in community engagement and public health strategies, and their involvement with families and the elderly also gave them a lot of knowledge about their constituents’ reliance on walking and biking. Mothers formed exercise walking groups; parents accompanied their children by bike to school; sons and daughters often walked or biked to school together.

NeighborWorks OC, as a homeownership and housing nonprofit, understood the importance of resident-led initiatives. These principles helped them act as the glue holding the coalition together and coordinating its activities, and they supported its growth.

While SAAS did not have formal organizational status — it was not registered as a nonprofit, for example — nor its own staff, NeighborWorks OC, Latino Health Access, and KidWorks often pooled their resources to keep it going. When SAAS wanted to offer four paid intern positions through the ATLP, Latino Health Access was able to use its nonprofit status to host them. In SAAS’s 2016 bike safety campaign, which offered cycling classes and hosted evening bike helmet and light giveaways, The Bicycle Tree hosted the activities under their nonprofit status.

Volunteer contributions were also key on an individual level. Super-volunteers like Jessika Gomez-Duarte, a marketing professional who works in Santa Ana, gave her time to design flyers, post on social media and even hand-make most of the signs for the mobile photo booth during Santa Ana’s second Open Streets event. Jorge Arredondo, a landscape architect and Santa Ana resident, worked with KidWorks youth and other residents to design the connector bike lane between the Pacific Electric Bike Trail and the city’s downtown.

Think Big

SAAS members understand that their group can have a much greater impact only by thinking collaboratively. That means leveraging resources to improve one bike trail by working with a coalition that wants a network of trails. That means using a $12,000 grant opportunity to negotiate an agreement between individuals and community-based organizations for a year of workshops, bike rides, and advocacy projects.

Three things set SAAS apart:

  • Cross-sector support and commitment. Organizations working on housing, youth development, public health, bicycle education, and arts and culture have all contributed to SAAS for many years. Working together allows everyone to look at an issue through multiple points of view, and to think in terms of the bigger picture. Forming SAAS has allowed the coalition to think about active transportation advocacy multi-generationally, multi-sectionally, and multi-lingually.
  • Meaningful community engagement versus traditional bike/ped advocacy. SAAS is made up of residents, community members, and organizers—not necessarily planners or engineers. When SAAS members advocate for safe streets, it’s not because they started with ideas about road diets, or bulb-outs, or bike lanes. They listened to community members first, and have evolved from there — today their work includes concerns about displacement as a result of new investments.
  • Historically unincorporated voices in active transportation advocacy are leading SAAS work. Youth, women, and undocumented residents lead SAAS. Almost all are residents, and some are advocates with long-term ties to the community.

The SAAS model isn’t for everyone. Santa Ana Active Streets benefits from Santa Ana’s rich history of building community leaders and hosting local institutions that support resident-led efforts. The coalition formed slowly—over a period of four years—to cultivate ideas and leaders, something many might feel is too much time. For nonprofits, the decision to join a coalition is not always as easy as securing funding and creating projects, and sometimes leadership priorities conflict with a coalition’s broader goal.

But if a goal is to improve the quality of life of the most vulnerable communities, teaching residents about design guidelines for safer sidewalks or advocating for more bike lanes can go only so far. Having a diverse coalition allows SAAS to push harder on the question of what it means to create equitable and safe streets and places. Everyone pooling their efforts gives hope that they can get there.

Cross-posted at Streetsblog Cal.

This post, by our partners at Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, has been made possible by the grant-funded Focus Cities California program, a joint project of UC Berkeley SafeTREC and California Walks, which supports increased safety in walking and biking.

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

With this blog post, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition is wrapping up our work on the Focus Cities project for the 2017 federal fiscal year. We were proud to be approached by California Walks to be the local San José bike advocates in a program funded by the Office of Traffic Safety and spearheaded by UC Berkeley SafeTREC and California Walks.

San Jose is one of seven California “focus cities” identified by the Federal Highway Administration as having disproportionately high walking and biking injuries and traffic fatalities. The program seeks to support events and activities that would counter that worrying state of affairs and build a culture of safety. Local organizations have been tasked with implementing projects that support those goals.

As part of our project, SVBC has been able to spend time educating decision makers and the public on protected bike lanesopen streets events, and Vision Zero. We’ve had the opportunity to sync up with colleagues in Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Ana to share best practices and look for solutions to common problems. This peer-to-peer outreach is all too rare in our world and generated some very helpful insight and strategies.

The program also gave us the opportunity to participate more fully in the August visit from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) to San José. We were able to organize a tour of the city’s pop-up protected bike lane that got some media coverage via Streetsblog California.

To cap off the experience, I traveled to San Diego last week to finally meet my Focus Cities compatriots in person. Our last session together was a deep-dive on Vision Zero programs in our respective cities. We learned a lot: all Vision Zero programs are having trouble dealing with (and sometimes just acknowledging) the equity challenges inherent to the initiative; conducting meaningful community outreach requires both hard work and creativity; and most of us have at least one element of our Vision Zero efforts to be proud of. In San José, we’ve received praise for our police department’s desire to help with Vision Zero while bringing in outside experts to study potential bias in the department. Chief Eddie Garcia has noted that, “The first step in any effort to improve is self-assessment, and this report provides a critical benchmark of existing stop practices that will help us make more progress.”

Our thanks to the Office of Traffic Safety for funding this endeavor. We look forward to continuing our work with them, California Walks, and UC Berkeley SafeTREC.