A Day in the Life of CalBike’s Policy Director, Jared Sanchez
Jared Sanchez has been integral to CalBike’s advocacy efforts since he joined us in 2017, and he now heads our policy team. We spoke with him about what he’s excited about as the new legislative session gets into full swing and what the workday of a bicycle policy advocate looks like.
CalBike: What are you excited about as you approach this new year of advocacy at CalBike?
Jared Sanchez: Would it be too broad to say the whole Invest/Divest campaign? What I’m excited about is the way it’s going to frame our work in ways that are bold and cutting-edge, not just one-off and piecemeal. I like how it brings together a variety of issues that didn’t have such cohesion before. The movement, the policy, and the politics are all moving in the same direction to approach issues we’ve always faced, but in a more powerful way. What do I mean by more powerful? It just occurs to me — maybe it’s not new — that when we address one issue, it becomes more multi-faceted and forges connections among different agencies. For example, with Complete Streets, we can address that through the budget, agency action, and legislation all at the same time. It gets us out of our silos. The more our state leaders try to separate out the issues, the harder it is to make progress. Invest/Divest will also create more accountability on these issues by showing how one agency is connected to the actions of other agencies or the budget committee, etc. It shows you the depth of the problem more. It’s not just “find money to do X;” it’s actually about finding solutions to several crises — climate, social justice, transportation inequities — that aren’t different problems but are all interconnected, so the solutions should be interconnected, too.
CB: Getting into specifics, what agency advocacy is at the top of your agenda for this year?
JS: I would say four major agencies: CTC, OTS, CHP, and Caltrans. All of them have something to do with Invest/Divest. With Caltrans, it’s Complete Streets. With CTC [the California Transportation Commission, which oversees the Active Transportation Program], it’s about freeway funding and active transportation funding. OTS [Office of Transportation Safety] and CHP [California Highway Patrol], it’s about safety grants and police as a safety solution.
CB: How about the budget process?
JS: My top priority is bringing attention to the fact that there’s plenty of money in our transportation budget. From a quick estimate, there’s at least $2B going to highway expansion, which reverses progress toward California’s climate goals instead of moving us forward. The CTC has to approve this funding. We will show up and make an issue of this in a way that will keep them accountable for their goals and connect that to fiscal policy. Of course, part of this will include addressing the backlog of ATP projects due to the lack of funding and the lack of money going to active transportation projects, specifically Complete Streets infrastructure. We’ll be pointing all this out to the legislators on the budget committee.
CB: Last but not least on the agenda: What legislation are you most excited about this year? Other than all of it?
JS: AB 1525 [sponsored by the Greenlining Institute], for sure. It’s an exciting bill about prioritizing funding for communities of color that would be really transformative. CalBike has led on this issue in past years, and I’m excited others are moving it forward. Also, the Biking is Not a Crime Slate [AB 825, AB 93, & SB 50], and, of course, the freeway stuff. The freeway data bill [SB 695] — we need to be excited about it because it’s public information that’s not available to us. We’ll be able to state our case for Invest/Divest based on how much money is going to highway expansion and what goals are being met by such investments. Right now, we have to broadly estimate. Also, my background is in racial/social justice, and everything that I’ve been mentioning has that element. It’s something the state wants to prioritize, we want to prioritize.
CB: That’s a big agenda. So what does your day look like, working in all these different areas to bring it all together?
JS: In order to make a strong case for breaking the silos of our transportation policy, there are different pieces of my work day. First, doing the research on the background, context, how these things connect to each other, and how these things work in such a complex system takes up a lot of my time. Another part is reaching out to state agencies, state staff, and our partners (well-established and new) about these issues and connecting with people who have a stake in these issues, whether it’s coalition building or figuring out who has a stake. Another part is meetings: partners around strategies or with agencies or legislators around data or a piece of legislation. Whatever the topic is, there are always a bunch of meetings. Coordinating around strategy with others is always more effective than working alone. And, as things heat up, I’ll be attending hearings: policy, budget, appropriations. Meetings involve preparation for testifying or showing up to support, as well as submitting position letters to committees and agencies. Staying up to date about the constantly shifting landscape of the budget and the legislature is a big task. The most time-consuming part is staying on top of the amendments that get added to the bills all the time. Another big part of my day, maybe even a third, is connecting with people who have questions about our work. I am available, with limited capacity, of course, for technical policy assistance — we used to call it policy rapid response — to a variety of issues across the state.
CB: I didn’t realize connecting with others was such a big part of your work. Can you talk more about that?
JS: It’s a lot, either researching what the issue is or finding out what I can do to help. This morning, I spent time talking to bike advocates in Toronto about the Bicycle Safety Stop. The Freedom to Walk Act is a big one — people want to learn about our campaign because they want to do something similar wherever they’re at. Another one that comes up is the bikes in general plans bill — people want to know how to implement it in their city. There’s always follow-up to bills: What does this mean for me? A lot of organizations that work on legislation ignore that. Passing legislation is the exciting part that people pay attention to, but often it’s the nitty gritty, getting into the implementation of these new laws, that has the biggest effect. Obviously, there’s a lot of bills that pass every year, and it would be hard to follow up on every single one of them. It’s a job for a whole other organization.
CB: What’s something you do that would surprise people?
JS: One thing people don’t realize is how involved we are in writing the language of these bills. I feel like that’s a pretty influential thing to do. We’re talking to Senate and Assembly offices about what they’re proposing to do, and we’re giving them amendments, basically writing law that brings it closer to our mission.
CB: So, that’s a lot. And you’re a new dad (congratulations!), which is a whole other set of demands on your time. Do you still find time to get out on your bike? What’s your favorite place to ride?
JS: Yes! Being a dad now provides a whole new depth to my life that I thoroughly enjoy, but not without new stressors, of course. Unfortunately, this has cut into my biking time, but I can’t wait until my daughter gets older where she can ride with me! I’ve been daydreaming about biking her around Lake Merritt, my favorite place to be in my hometown of Oakland.