Building Coalitions Around Health, Equity and Transportation

One slide from TransForm's Stuart Cohen's presentation yesterday. You can download the entire presentation ##http://www.cpehn.org/pdfs/Healthy%20Transportation%20Healthy%20Communties%20-%20Cohen%20-%20TransForm%204-11.pdf##here.##
The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) convened an informative one-day conference entitled The Road to Health: Improving Community Wellbeing Through Transportation. The Los Angeles convening was one of four in various parts of the state – with San Diego and Oakland events are upcoming on May 4th and 5th, respectively. The local event took place yesterday at the California Endowment’s Center for Healthy Communities.

Streetsblog readers are likely at least somewhat familiar with many of the  connections between health and transportation; conference speakers explored those connections, with an emphasis on their impacts on underserved communities of color. This equity/transportation/health dialog was then tied into calls for action on local, state and federal campaigns.

After an introduction from CPEHN’s Ruben Cantu, speakers got underway with a presentation from TransForm‘s Stuart Cohen. TransForm is the kind of San Francisco Bay Area group that Los Angeles’ livability advocates should be jealous of – and should emulate. TransForm advocates for transit, walking, biking – focusing from local to regional to statewide. Cohen outlined trasportation/health connections, including somewhat familiar statistics: rising rates of obesity nationwide, declining rates of walking and biking to school. And some not as familiar: inadequate transit as a healthcare access issue (folks miss their clinic appointments when it’s difficult to walk or take transit to get there – more info here.)

Cohen expressed optimism over current initiatives from the Great Communities Collaborative to SB375 (CA’s greenhouse gas legislation), but stressed that strong coalitions, centered on health and equity, will be critical to success. Cohen also stressed that respected health professionals can be key in selling livability: when an environmentalist testifies about greenhouse gases, it’s generally not as effective as when a physician or nurse testifies about childhood obesity.

Next was a “panel of fierce women” (Ohland’s description) featuring Los Angeles based efforts toward transportation, equity and health – all of which have been covered at L.A. Streetsblog. Panelists included:

  • Allison Mannos of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition – presenting on multiple bike advocacy campaigns, emphasizing the coalition’s innovative award-winning City of Lights program that organizes immigrant day-laborer cyclists, and how that program dovetailed with campaigns for planning and prioritizing bike facilities in Los Angeles’ immigrant neighborhoods.
  • SunYoung Yang of the Bus Riders Union – presenting on BRU’s organizing successes in preserving and enhancing Metro clean-fuel bus service, and further campaigns for Bus-Only Lanes, Clean Air, and Climate Justice.
  • Jocelyn Vivar Ramirez of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (and the L.A. Streetsblog board of directors) – presenting on EYCEJ’s coalition and community organizing work to combat the community impacts from international goods movement: from port pollution to 710 Freeway expansion to unsafe eastside streets.
  • Gloria Ohland of Move L.A. (and occasional L.A. Streetsblog writer) – presenting on Move L.A.’s support of bus and rail and complete streets and complete neighborhoods.
A fierce panel: Ohland, Vivar-Ramirez, Mannos and Yang. Photo: Joe Linton

Break-out sessions followed, with a focus on how health, equity and transportation issues can inform legislative campaigns, including these current State Assembly bills:

  • AB 441 (ensuring that health and equity are part of planning developent decisions)
  • AB516 (ensuring state Safe Routes to School grants prioritize disadvantaged communities)

Conference details, including presentations, are available on-line at the CPEHN website.

  • Bob Davis

    Maybe it’s a holdover from the mid-20th Century, back when I was young, but the term “coalition” has echoes of ineffective European governments of that era.
    Also, improving and increasing what some call “active transportation” is a logical solution to many of the problems facing us today. Unfortunately, humans are often illogical, and emotions drive many decisions. They may not even be conscious decisions, but if you ask the typical American to give up or even restrict his/her use of personal motor vehicles, you’re asking that person to give up “power”, which is hard for ordinary citizens, just as it is for politicians and bureaucrats. No other form of transport puts the average person in command of the equivalent of dozens or even hundreds of metaphorical horses. We’ll all be better off if we use more bicycles and public (what one writer called “collective’) transportation, but it’s gonna be a hard sell, at least until gasoline hits the neighborhood of $10.00 a gallon.

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