Monday, June 18, 2018

Lawyers to the Rescue

In our discussion with UCLA Health we were told that the difficulties of renting and improving medical office space that would be bicycle perfect (bicycle parking, showers, no bundled parking to allow parking cash out) goes back to the lease template provided by the University of California, Office of the President.

So we wrote to the UCOP Real Estate Services with some suggestions how to turn the lease template into a path towards better transport choices. We look forward to their response!

Dear Allen Meacham, 

The UCLA Bicycle Academy is concerned that leases used for UC premises have insufficient regard to sustainability issues. We are especially concerned that UCLA Health affiliated medical offices operate without adequate facilities that would support healthy modes of transport. This leads to a system-wide dissonance: The mode of transport most often recommended by doctors is very poorly served at the very premises where these doctors see patients. We were advised that the UCOP lease template prevented better accommodation of healthy and sustainable modes. 

Your colleague Julie Wong shared the standard lease template for leases where the UC Regents are the tenant. (Rev. 12/2016 4821-2942-8779 v. 3)

This templates includes only references to petrol burning vehicles (cars). From this exclusive focus a direct line can be drawn to the deplorable state of bicycle provision at premises used by UCLA Health (and on other campuses)

We would like you to make the following changes to the template

  • 1. 1. 2. (Premises) ... loading and unloading areas, visitor parking areas,  - add: loading and unloading areas, visitor parking areas, shower facilities for bicycle commuters ... (LEED certification considers such facilities a necessity)

  • 11.1.e.(xxiv): any other parking facilities associated with the Building  - add: any other parking facilities for cars or bicycles associated with the Building,  (it is important to be clear and explicit about transport options)

  • 11.1.e.(xxiv): utilities, insurance of any form, real   - add: utilities, vehicle charging points, shower facilities for bicycle commuters, insurance of any form, real  (it is important to be clear and explicit about vehicle types and required facilities)

  • Addendum 4, #2: Tenant Improvements must satisfy the Campus Fire Marshall, State Building Code and Federal Americans with Disabilities Act.  Add: Bicycle parking must be designed according to the bicycle parking guidelines of the APBP  (Where bicycle facilities are present, they invariably fail to meet the standards set by APBP and become an embarrassment in the eyes of bicycle user) 

In addition, the UCOP leases should NEVER include bundled parking. Bundled parking is a sure way to remove incentives, for the entire duration of the lease, for users and organisations to reduce car use. Bundled parking effectively removes the ability to offer financial incentives for modes other than cars (Parking Cash Out). From the point of view of the sustainable transportation advocate, bundled parking is the prime source of unsustainable and unhealthy transportation choices. From the environmental point of view, it is a very bad idea. It should never be part of a UCOP lease. (Remove first Option in Addendum 1, or strongly discourage it)

In a perfect world, the current template could well encompass sustainable and healthy modes of transportation. But experience shows that without explicit reference to these modes, administrators have consistently overlooked these issues. As it stands, the template enables and encourages administrators contract for facilities where EVERYBODY DRIVES. As amended, the template would better project the interest of UCOP in supporting and planning for sustainable and healthy forms of transportation. The amended template would also lead to lease negotiations that act in the best interests of those campus members (and the public) who would prefer to get around without a car. It is crucial that such improvements are planned in the early stages, because adding such facilities at a later stage is a very burdensome and complicated process.

We believe making such changes to the UCOP lease template could well qualify for an Higher Education Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Best Practice Award issued by CHESC, for instance in the new Large-scale Planning category


Dr Michael Cahn
Secretary, UCLA Bicycle Academy 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Transportation Wellness Task Force

When we made the case for an active transportation policy to the UC Regents Health Services Committee, there was no opportunity for a dialogue. That is why we are very grateful that UCLA Health offered us the opportunity for such a dialogue. UCLA Health already has a No Smoking Policy, it serves antibiotic free meat, and it has recently been named LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leader. Perhaps our medical provider should also consider its role in the (healthy or not) transport choices its staff and patients are making every day? What would President Johnese Spisso, Richard Azar (General Services), and Joe Earnest (Media Relations) think?

We very much looked forward to this meeting. The lack of conversation over many years leads to a great deal of urgency: The more you have the conversation only in your own head, the more you are disappointed about the lack of results.

"These are all good ideas." "You will not find many doctors who would oppose such initiatives." But is there a constituency that could move things ahead? "Perhaps we could look into a certification as a bicycle friendly employer." "The staircases are really difficult because of building standards and fire regulations." "The leases which govern parking cash out and bike parking improvements come from UCOP, the Office of the President." "Perhaps we could do some bike commuter courses for staff, or something in the Vital Signs magazine." I like the idea of a UCLA Health branded bike rack said the President, perhaps we can do it like a wrap, and we shook hands on that (Full list here). In the end, it is about an institutional attitude, and that needs time. But health impacts and climate impacts don't wait for us to make up our minds. Urgency? And how!

Thirty minutes with the leadership of a national "Best in the West" health care institution is one big deal. We recognize this and we appreciate it. On the other hand, the institution has no plan how to increase cycling among staff and clients, it has no plan how to improve bicycle facilities at all its locations, it does not assess the health effects of all this driving. UCLA Health has a community relations department, but it does not get involved in local planning discussions, does not remind Caltrans and METRO that the I-405 widening has discouraged more people to ride a bike to UCLA Health destinations. It is mum about a the slow death of a Great Streets Initiative for Westwood Blvd that would have included a much needed bikelane to our Medical Plaza, torpedoed by homeowners in Holby Hills and LA city council-member Paul Koretz. But a health system that prides itself on its local connection - "See you in the Neighborhood" - can ill afford to remain quiet when neighborhoods fail to safely accommodate the modes of transport doctors recommend most often.

Supporting healthy and sustainable modes is not about privileges for a few determined and reckless bike riders: It is about inviting the entire community to consider that car-centric policies and organizations have made us unwell. And that a health provider must not unwittingly lend support to the false notion that everybody drives in LA. A first class health system at a world class university should really be a leader on the bike-path towards healthy communities. It would be good to establish a formal forum in which active transportation advocates and public health experts can help the UCLA Health to address the unhealthy car bias of the organization. We would call it the Transportation Wellness Task Force.

Transportation Wellness Task Force.
(Draft Remit) 
The purpose of the task force is enhance transportation wellness for staff, patients and the communities where UCLA Health operates. It provides a comprehensive perspective on the health implications of transport choices - for the individual, the enterprise and for the community.

The purpose of the task force is
  • to integrate the public health research into the daily practice of a large medical institution
  • to provide recommendations to the leadership for programs and investments which improve transportation wellness for staff, patients and the community
  • to identify facilities improvements that would encourage more to use healthy modes
  • to identify areas where improved messaging can increase the visibility and attractiveness of healthy modes
  • to identify perverse incentives and address their impact on transport choices
  • to share its recommendations with related institutions in the UC Health system 
  • to pursue certification of these efforts and to educate the public 
  • to support the collection of trip data for staff and patients for scholarly analysis, including a quantitative study the health benefits delivered over a longer period, to engage campus expertise from urban planning and public health, and to contribute to a discussion of transportation wellness in the academic community
  • to make its insights available in the context of local and regional transport planning, and to provide community facilitation to increase availability of healthy options in the communities where UCLA Health operates 

The members of the task force represent the following areas of expertise:

  • Public health 
  • Population health, diabetes prevention 
  • UCLA Transportation Planning
  • UCLA Health - Marketing 
  • UCLA Health - Sustainability
  • UCLA Health - Community Relations 

Two members of the committee use a bicycle for their commute. The task force produces an annual report.

The following have supported the establishment of such a task force:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Bicycle Academy Meets UCLA Health

In preparation for a meeting with UCLA Health leadership (Johnese Spisso, Richard Azar, Nancy Jensen) we have put some words to paper to remind everybody of the larger picture: How active transportation and health in our communities belong together. And how our Health System should educate itself, and the community, about the impacts of too much driving and too little walking and cycling.

It is not  itemized agenda for a meeting. I'd call it the necessary background music for an attempt to find a path forward to help our Health System to recognize how active modes should become a part of its healing mission. We wanted to recap the large issues on paper so that in the meeting itself we can focus on the specific steps the organisation can take to move beyond the car bias which is still so well entrenched in our region. It is time to recognize the negative health impacts of such a bias and to reap the large health benefits which happen when active modes are properly supported. In the meeting we want to focus on small steps, measurable outcomes, specific projects, clear directions, both for staff and for patients. All this is complex enough, because it involves so many parts of a large organisation: Facilities, medical expertise, marketing, community relations.

But make no mistake about it, when a health system wants to change its attitude towards active modes, it will take some decisive leadership for the organisation to make the changes that are needed. Changes that will make sure that UCLA Health remains at the forefront of medical progress and community health impacts.

If you want to participate in this discussion, have suggestions for low hanging fruits that could be part of this program, or want to support our effort, please get in touch!