Transportation planners who walk the walk

Bike riders and public transportation users commonly lament that the people who govern, manage, plan and design their transportation facilities don’t actually use them. Caltrain Board President Don Gage, for example, drives to solo to work in his SUV from Gilroy to San Jose.

I’ve been blessed to know several people who practice what they preach, however. In Longmont, Colorado, city engineer Len Marquez and planner Ben Ortiz regularly bike to their city jobs. They’re intimately familiar with the issues facing cyclists, because they are us.

Matt and his folding bike San Jose parking director Matt Farrell rides a bus and bike everyday to his city job. He also uses his folding bike to get around San Jose for meetings.
San Jose Mercury-News “Roadshow” columnist Gary Richards called Bay Area transportation planners to survey which of them use the alternative transportation they promote. According to Richards, 33 of 42 planners he called use ‘alternative’ transportation at least some of the time.

Among them is San Jose transportation director Jim Helmer, who I regularly sit near on the Highway 17 commuter bus. Matt Farrell, who (ironically) runs San Jose’s city parking operations, also rides the bus and his bike everyday. The two newest members of Caltrain’s Joint Powers Board are cyclists.

What about in your area? Do your transportation planners and engineers ride bikes or transit to work?

20 Comments

  • Jessica
    February 20, 2009 - 5:22 pm | Permalink

    When I worked for the Chicago Department of Transportation Bike Program every single employee road their bike to work more days than not.

    At League of Illinois Bicyclists we work from home, so commuting isn't an issue! We all ride though, of course.

  • Jessica
    February 21, 2009 - 12:22 am | Permalink

    When I worked for the Chicago Department of Transportation Bike Program every single employee road their bike to work more days than not.At League of Illinois Bicyclists we work from home, so commuting isn't an issue! We all ride though, of course.

  • chaddaily
    February 20, 2009 - 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I ride my bike from campbell to diridon or use a free light rail pass to get on the capitol corridor. I regularly ride with someone that works as a transportation planner for caltrans, mostly highway work. This guy rides everywhere including meetings that aren't close to the train station. He fills up the gas in his car at most once a month, i hope to follow suit.

  • chaddaily
    February 21, 2009 - 12:24 am | Permalink

    I ride my bike from campbell to diridon or use a free light rail pass to get on the capitol corridor. I regularly ride with someone that works as a transportation planner for caltrans, mostly highway work. This guy rides everywhere including meetings that aren't close to the train station. He fills up the gas in his car at most once a month, i hope to follow suit.

  • Paul Tay
    February 21, 2009 - 5:05 pm | Permalink

    While in front of the Tulsa City Council finishing up on a bike-commute encouragement resolution, one City Councilor called me on how I commuted to the meeting.

    It would have been embarrassing to admit driving a car. Practice whatcha preach, people. Ya never know.

  • Paul Tay
    February 22, 2009 - 12:05 am | Permalink

    While in front of the Tulsa City Council finishing up on a bike-commute encouragement resolution, one City Councilor called me on how I commuted to the meeting. It would have been embarrassing to admit driving a car. Practice whatcha preach, people. Ya never know.

  • Barb Chamberlain
    February 22, 2009 - 1:18 pm | Permalink

    The planners who worked on the update of the Master Bike Plan for City of Spokane (now before our Planning Commission) bike to work. I doubt that many of the folks in Engineering Services/Public Works do, though.

    As we organize our Bike to Work Week this year, we're adding a Commuter Challenge. I think I'll see if various city departments want to challenge each other…. (evil grin)

    We have a Washington Dept of Transportation person on our BTW committee this year, which thrills me no end. She's an environmental engineer, but still…

    @BarbChamberlain
    Chair, Bike to Work Spokane
    http://www.biketoworkspokane.org
    Member, City of Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board
    http://www.bikespokane.net

  • Barb Chamberlain
    February 22, 2009 - 8:18 pm | Permalink

    The planners who worked on the update of the Master Bike Plan for City of Spokane (now before our Planning Commission) bike to work. I doubt that many of the folks in Engineering Services/Public Works do, though.As we organize our Bike to Work Week this year, we're adding a Commuter Challenge. I think I'll see if various city departments want to challenge each other…. (evil grin)We have a Washington Dept of Transportation person on our BTW committee this year, which thrills me no end. She's an environmental engineer, but still…@BarbChamberlainChair, Bike to Work Spokanewww.biketoworkspokane.orgMember, City of Spokane Bicycle Advisory Boardwww.bikespokane.net

  • RideTHISbike.com
    February 22, 2009 - 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Dave Sotero (Sr. Public Information Officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority)rides a folding bike in combination with the Metro rail service daily. For his commute, he either rides his Brompton or Kent Compact Nexus 3.

  • RideTHISbike.com
    February 22, 2009 - 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Dave Sotero (Sr. Public Information Officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority)rides a folding bike in combination with the Metro rail service daily. For his commute, he either rides his Brompton or Kent Compact Nexus 3.

  • Coelecanth
    February 22, 2009 - 10:06 pm | Permalink

    My wife was the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada engineer in charge of alternative transportation for 6 years. In that time she never once drove to work. In fact we choose not to own a car*. The two engineers who replaced her both commute by alternative means, one walks, the other cycles. This is in a city where -20c temps can last for months. I have to say that it used to drive me nuts listening to cyclists winge about engineers who didn't understand their needs.

    *In the interests of full disclosure I have to admit we're actively looking for a motor vehicle. We now live in rural Australia and the recent bushfires came within 3.5K of our home, killing two people and wiping out 30 or so homes.

    After a lifetime of cycle commuting I can refute any claim that owning a car is a necessity, any claim bar one that is. The safety of my family is too important to leave to the whims of our neigbours and the vagaries of wind direction.

  • Coelecanth
    February 23, 2009 - 5:06 am | Permalink

    My wife was the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada engineer in charge of alternative transportation for 6 years. In that time she never once drove to work. In fact we choose not to own a car*. The two engineers who replaced her both commute by alternative means, one walks, the other cycles. This is in a city where -20c temps can last for months. I have to say that it used to drive me nuts listening to cyclists winge about engineers who didn't understand their needs.*In the interests of full disclosure I have to admit we're actively looking for a motor vehicle. We now live in rural Australia and the recent bushfires came within 3.5K of our home, killing two people and wiping out 30 or so homes.After a lifetime of cycle commuting I can refute any claim that owning a car is a necessity, any claim bar one that is. The safety of my family is too important to leave to the whims of our neigbours and the vagaries of wind direction.

  • John Mayson
    February 24, 2009 - 2:54 pm | Permalink

    If I'm not mistaken didn't Mayor Bloomberg of NYC recent take away the company cars given to the executives who run the city's subways and buses? My jaw dropped on that one. Arguably the one city in America where mass transit is easier than driving and they provide cars to the people who run it? If it were up to me I'd force (I know, legally can't do it) them to ride the system everyday so they know what it's like and will work harder to address issues. Let them miss a bus connection because the train was 5 minutes later which tosses a huge monkey wrench into a commuter's schedule. They'll understand.

  • John Mayson
    February 24, 2009 - 9:54 pm | Permalink

    If I'm not mistaken didn't Mayor Bloomberg of NYC recent take away the company cars given to the executives who run the city's subways and buses? My jaw dropped on that one. Arguably the one city in America where mass transit is easier than driving and they provide cars to the people who run it? If it were up to me I'd force (I know, legally can't do it) them to ride the system everyday so they know what it's like and will work harder to address issues. Let them miss a bus connection because the train was 5 minutes later which tosses a huge monkey wrench into a commuter's schedule. They'll understand.

  • Yokota Fritz
    February 24, 2009 - 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for all of that good input, everybody. It's good to see there are plenty of people that promote transit who actually use it.

    John, it's indeed frustrating to learn of transit bureaucrats who don't use the system they govern and run.

  • Yokota Fritz
    February 24, 2009 - 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for all of that good input, everybody. It's good to see there are plenty of people that promote transit who actually use it.John, it's indeed frustrating to learn of transit bureaucrats who don't use the system they govern and run.

  • Barb Chamberlain
    May 3, 2009 - 1:48 pm | Permalink

    An update on our Bike to Work Commute Challenge: We now have two teams from the eastern regional office of Washington Dept. of Transportation and a team from the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, which is our MPO. We have enough individuals registered who work for Spokane Transit Authority that we hope to see them formalize a team too. Our folks are biking the talk!

    barb

    Barb Chamberlain
    Chair, Bike to Work Spokane
    @Bike2WrkSpokane
    http://www.biketoworkspokane.org

  • Barb Chamberlain
    May 3, 2009 - 8:48 pm | Permalink

    An update on our Bike to Work Commute Challenge: We now have two teams from the eastern regional office of Washington Dept. of Transportation and a team from the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, which is our MPO. We have enough individuals registered who work for Spokane Transit Authority that we hope to see them formalize a team too. Our folks are biking the talk!barbBarb ChamberlainChair, Bike to Work [email protected]

  • Whareagle
    May 16, 2010 - 5:50 am | Permalink

    Somebody ask the Dallas Bike Coordinator why he doesn't commute the 4 miles in to work every day. His “fears” are completely misplaced. Might also ask him why he doesn't endorse or condone bike ed.

  • May 16, 2010 - 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Yech. Who is this and why does he say he won’t commute by bike?

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