For Immediate Release: 10/9/23
Contact: Kendra Ramsey, CalBike, (707) 469-3387, email@example.com
CalBike Statement on Caltrans Firing of Active Mobility Expert
Caltrans Must Serve All Californians, Not Just People in Cars
Re: Caltrans to Ward-Waller: Our way or the highway – Politico 10/3/23
SACRAMENTO – In her role as Deputy Director of Planning and Modal Programs, former CalBike policy director Jeanie Ward-Waller was instrumental in moving Caltrans toward investments in transportation infrastructure that supports low-carbon mobility options for all Californians, and divesting from traffic-inducing practices and infrastructure. CalBike is disappointed that Caltrans removed Ward-Waller from this post, despite her record of positive achievements, including helping the agency draft its Complete Streets policy.
“Jeanie is a tireless advocate for better biking and walking infrastructure,” said CalBike executive director Kendra Ramsey. “Her firing is a huge loss for Caltrans, for climate justice, and for anyone who cares about creating safer roadways in California.”
As the agency responsible for 50,000 miles of roadways–almost 20% of which serve as local streets–Caltrans plays an enormous role in making roads in California safe places for people to bike and walk. The agency is also tasked with moving our transportation network away from car dependency to support the state’s climate change goals. But as the recent firing of the person responsible for keeping Caltrans on track with those goals shows, the agency that used to be called the Department of Highways still sees its primary role as increasing California’s highway capacity, working against the transition to a green transportation future.
California Must Invest in Complete Streets
It is a critical time for transportation in California; vulnerable road users are subject to an epidemic of traffic violence, and our state is not advancing quickly enough toward viable low-carbon transportation options. Now more than ever, Caltrans must be a leader in fostering Complete Streets throughout the state and rebuilding our transportation networks to support safe, accessible, and convenient options for walking, bicycling, and taking transit.
At the same time, it’s critical to stop expanding freeways. Decades of research confirm that increased highway capacity induces more driving, and California and the world must invest in alternatives to transport goods and people and divest from polluting roadways that fracture communities and habitats. Caltrans removed Ward-Waller from her post after she raised concerns that pavement rehabilitation funds were being used for roadway widening. This underscores the disconnect between Caltrans practices and California’s stated commitment to climate-friendly transportation policies.
What CalBike is Doing
CalBike worked to institutionalize a commitment to supporting active transportation at Caltrans when it sponsored the Complete Streets Bill in 2019, which would have mandated a more transparent process at the agency and more Complete Streets. Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill citing the direction of new leadership, and Caltrans vowed to do better. While we have seen some improvement, Ward-Waller’s firing is an ominous sign that the agency’s priorities and vision remain car-centric.
CalBike is digging into how well Caltrans has lived up to its promises to consider the needs of people who bike and walk, and we expect to start releasing data this winter as we prepare a full report.
CalBike is also working with our partners in local and regional agencies as well as local and regional advocates to demand that Caltrans interchanges be subject to new Complete Streets design guidance under Design Information Bulletin (DIB) 94. We applaud the governor for signing SB 695, which will bring more transparency to Caltrans projects, but that’s just the first step.
CalBike remains committed to holding Caltrans accountable for honoring the will of the legislature to protect the climate and the safety of people biking and walking. California needs a moratorium on highway expansions and a strong commitment to creating Complete Streets that make biking and walking safe and appealing.