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With a Master’s Degree in Transportation Planning, it should come as no surprise that Ankur Patel is well versed in the benefits of active transportation and the challenges in providing quality mobility options. Patel’s enthusiastic support for reworking traffic laws to provide better clarity related to biking is particularly encouraging. We were also impressed with his commitment to, “make our cities more walkable and bikeable not only to reduce our dependence on cars and fossil fuels, but also to improve equity, livability, and community.” Through Patel’s words, it’s evident that he would make a strong supporter for active transportation options in the California Assembly.

Bike The Vote L.A. 2018 Primary Grade: A-

(See below for full candidate questionnaire response)

1. The California Air Resources Board estimates that transportation accounts for 37% of California’s annual carbon emissions. What actions would you take as assemblymember to ensure that California creates a more sustainable transportation system?

I think it is crucial to do everything we can to dismantle and replace single-occupancy car culture with something more sustainable. I earned a Master’s Degree in Transportation Planning from Cal State University Northridge. While I was working on my thesis I served on the CSUN Sustainability Department’s Transportation Working Group (TWG). One of the projects we worked on was designing and implementing a bicycle (and skateboard) lane network that has since expanded all around the campus and set the stage for the Reseda Blvd Protected bike lane. While I know most of these battles are local, there are some ideas I have depending on the scale of time we’re looking at. In the long run, I think that there will probably be an effective technological solution like driver-less cars on an automated grade-separated guideway, but that’s still very far off in terms of being a viable option in the next two years. I think that in areas like the San Fernando Valley that we can and should leverage and expand programs like “Safe Routes to School” to help us build out bicycle and skateboard lane networks around and between neighborhood schools to give kids and parents an alternative to driving an SUV half a mile to transport two students. I am a firm believer in the transformative power of education and that all sustainable culture shifts start with the youth, and that education should encourage students to use self-powered modes of travel.

I think a medium-term solutions like updating the California Vehicle Code, CEQA, The CalTrans manuals of style and all other state-level guidelines to make it easier to install protected bike lanes and paving that does something other than just trap heat, be it solar roads or permeable paving that works for our skateboard and kick-scooter riding brothers and sisters would make organizing such efforts easier and more attractive to attempt.

2. Cap & trade funds offer a unique opportunity to prioritize sustainable transportation, particularly in low-income neighborhoods negatively affected by pollution caused by cars. Do you support dedicating a portion of cap and trade funds towards the Active Transportation Program to help fund better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure?

Yes. Improving our pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure is a crucial component of fighting climate change, and using cap and trade funds to do so is eminently logical. We must make our cities more walkable and bikeable not only to reduce our dependence on cars and fossil fuels, but also to improve equity, livability, and community.

3. In Los Angeles, low-income communities of color are disproportionately burdened by the impacts of streets designed primarily for cars, without receiving proportional funding for their mobility modes like walking, biking, and public transit. Would you support legislation to add a ‘complete streets’ policy to SB 1, California’s newly augmented gas tax, to require all street and highway projects to incorporate the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit-dependent communities?

Yes. Our streets must be retrofitted for all of our community members who use them, not just the most affluent and able-bodied who use cars. Our elderly, low-income, and disabled communities rely disproportionately on transit and walking, while youth and low-income communities rely disproportionately on bikes. Complete streets are crucial to meeting the entire community’s needs, and creating complete streets builds more enjoyable communities for everyone, including drivers.

4. California law regarding the position bicyclists can occupy in a traffic lane is written in a confusing manner. The typical condition – in which the rightmost lane is too narrow for a car and a bicycle to travel safely side-by-side and the bicyclist is thus allowed to use the full lane – is written as an exception rather than the default standard. As a result, despite public information campaigns such as “Every Lane Is A Bike Lane,” there is frequently confusion from the general public and even law enforcement agencies on the legality of bicyclists riding in traffic lanes on California roads. Do you support re-wording traffic law to clarify the right of people on bikes to ride to maximize their visibility and safety?

Yes. Bikes are almost always safer when they take up the full traffic lane and when drivers are aware of this being a legal and expected possibility. I also support AB1103 which would make the “Idaho stop” (bicyclers treating stop signs as yield signs) legal in California.

5. A recent study by the National Transportation Safety Board found that speeding was one of the most common factors in crashes, and one of the highest contributors towards fatal crashes. Despite this fact, speed limits across California are consistently raised due to a state law that sets speed limits at the 85th percentile of measured driving speeds. Do you support reform to the 85th percentile rule to give local jurisdictions the ability to set speed limits to better promote safe driving?

Yes. My own district includes three of the top five most dangerous intersections in the state in terms of the number of vehicle-related injuries over the past year for which there is data. Speeding near these intersections is a part of the cause, and automated speed enforcement would certainly help reduce these injuries.

6. California’s ongoing housing crisis challenges cities and communities to provide solutions towards meeting California’s demand for housing. Do you support efforts at the state level to accommodate smart growth, transit-oriented development, and sustainable communities that empower residents to get around on foot, by bike, and on quality public transit? What specific policies you would pursue to promote sustainable and affordable living for Californians?

I support creative solutions that benefit poor people. SB 827 is creative, but it is not clear that it will actually support construction of the missing middle housing stock. Even though it would open up huge swaths of land to be developed, but that doesn’t automatically mean affordable housing stock will increase, it could actually lead to gentrification. We need to do something transformative about our housing and transportation situation, and building density around transit is practical on a lot of levels. How it will be implemented is the big issue. If I were in the Assembly, if SB827 made it out of the Senate, I would look into a series of amendments to address local concerns and issues of economic equity.