Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Still Missing: An Active Transportation Policy for UC Health


Still Missing: An Active Transportation Policy for UC Health 

David Rubin <>
CEO UC Health

Dear David Rubin, 

UC Health currently does not have a active transportation policy. This means the unhealthy impacts of automobilitis range unfettered throughout your enterprise. We raised this in a letter supported by three UC Nobel laureates and many medical stakeholders in the UC system. 

The organisations represented below request you embark on such a policy which would cover guidelines for safe bike parking at leased or owned sites where UC Health operates, and guidance that medical stakeholders engage with elected officials on behalf of active modes through their government and community relations team. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

$20 Million Rosenfeld Hall Leaves Cyclists in the Gutter


Maxine and Eugene Rosenfeld Foundation
Los Angeles CA 90024

CC: Peter Hendrickson <>,,, David Karwaski <>, Carrie Byington <>, Michael Beck <>, Amelia Neptune <>

Dear Maxine and Eugene,

Congratulations! The new Rosenfeld Hall on Westwood Blvd is slowly nearing completion.

Although this is a very significant contribution to UCLA, please allow me to highlight a problem that your generosity has produced. Of course, building works have impacts on neighbors, and we at the UCLA Bicycle Academy do understand this. Unfortunately on our campus—whether from ignorance or from a lack of policy—these impacts are consistently thrown into the path of cyclists. For more than 18 months UCLA Capital Programs and UCLA Transportation have removed the bike lane that used to run in front of the Rosenfeld Hall. Instead, the bike lane has become a loading zone for a dumpster. This arrangement forces those Bruins who use the most sustainable and healthiest mode of transportation into a dangerous conflict with car traffic. Rather than reducing the number of traffic lanes for cars and maintaining a functional bike lane, the campus administrators mis-used your generosity to create a problem for people on bikes.

The suspended bike lane was a celebrated achievement for a campus which is proud of its bicycle friendly (Gold) designation awarded by the League of American Bicyclists. A bike counter was installed only a few hundred meters from the dumpster. But there is no accounting for the number of Bruins who have been deterred from using two wheels for their commute by the imperfect arrangement in front of Rosenfeld Hall for the last 18 months.

The ease with which UCLA suspends facilities for bikes is disappointing. But it is not new. The construction of the Geffen School of Medicine blocked a major route onto campus for more than two years. In front of Rosenfeld Hall it is an enormous dumpster that eclipses cyclists. On Tiverton Avenue it was a series of portaloos which took precedence over the needs of people on bikes.

When the new Rosenfeld Hall will be opened, we hope to join the celebrations with you. Cyclists attending will then ring their bike bells, celebrating the return of the stolen bike lane, and reminding the campus of its failure to consistently prioritize people on bikes. We also hope that your gift for the next Rosenfeld Project on campus will come with the proviso that no bicycle infrastructure shall be impacted during the building work.

This is not the complaint of a few entitled cyclists who are endangered or inconvenienced on UCLA roadways. Our complaint is that the campus and the health system you have supported so generously in the past is failing, even in the light of an accelerating climate emergency, to support and encourage more people to get around without a car, and without setting our planet on fire.

Dr Michael Cahn
Secretary, UCLA Bicycle Academy

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Final Exam

We historians at UCLA are lucky to have Darrell Hunt as our dean who leads us with the motto Engaging LA, Changing the World. And I was lucky to be able to teach a group of really smart students about the history of transportation: How wheels have changed the world, from the Roman Empire to the missing bike-lanes in Westwood. One of the aims of the course was to establish that transportation is never a logistics problem of moving stuff effectively, but always involves how we live our lives and where we create distances and between whom. Transportation involves the inequitable policies that have governed land use, but it also involves health: That would be the road violence which is embedded in the aggressive design of your next SUV. That would also be the "Car-Enabled Comfort that Provokes Persistent Waves of Disease" which provided such a rich bounty for the Corona virus in this country.  

It seemed a good idea to bring these issues to a head locally, on Westwood Blvd, on the Medical Plaza Driveway (soon to be renamed Medical Plaza Bikeway). The final assignment for my students was to bring what we have learned about the complexity of mobility to the attention of the leadership of our medical provider, and to challenge our non-profit academic health center to recognize their responsibility as a stakeholder in local healthy transport planning. 

I liked what I saw, and I think the students deserve answers to the letters they have written. Here is some poetry, some artwork, a Rap sheet, and many powerful arguments. Here is the pdf.

A limited edition of the Examination: "Unhealthy Mobility" will be issued and paper copies will be distributed to 

John Mazziotta, CEO, UCLA Health 
Johnese Spisso, President, UCLA Health 
Kelsey Martin, Dean, UCLA Medical School
Carol Mangione,  Community Engagement Implementation Team, UCLA Health 
Medell Briggs-Malonson, Chief of Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, UCLA Health 
Michael Altschule, Community and Government Relations, UCLA Health
Tanya Andreadis, Chief Marketing Officer, UCLA Health
Wendelin Slusser, Associate Vice Provost, Healthy Campus Initiative, UCLA
Michael Beck, Administrative Vice Chancellor, UCLA, Bicycle Commuter
Jennifer Poulakidas, Associate Vice Chancellor Government & Community Relations, UCLA 
Carrie Byington, CEO, UC Health 
Matthew St.Clair, Director of Sustainability, UCOP
Kieran Flaherty, State Governmental Relations, UCOP
Michael Drake, President UC
Rodney Hanners, CEO, Keck Medicine of USC

Saturday, August 8, 2020

An Active Transportation Policy for UC Health

No Bike parking at the cardiologist? Unhealthy car parking subsidies at our Health System? Does your hospital find it difficult to grasp the health gains of active transportation? The open letter below is directed at the UC Regents' Health Services Committee.  They are in charge of six large hospitals and many hundreds of medical offices all over the state. This letter is a joint effort of  UC Bikes! and the UCLA Bicycle Academy. This is a state-wide initiative. We have the support of three Nobel Laurates and many more stakeholders (here)
Please sign here
See who has signed here
The letter will be presented at the Regents Meeting on 20 October 2020
For precedents of medical institutions getting involved in healthy transport issues see our previous post.

Dear Regents, Dear Carrie Byington

Over the last decade, UC campuses have worked hard to support healthy and sustainable transportation. Seven Bicycle Friendly University awards are proof of a consistent and admirable effort throughout the system. The UC 2025 carbon goals are an important plank of this effort.

But given the acceleration of global warming and the dramatic impacts of Covid-19, we see new opportunities for UC Health. Strategies to reduce driving and improve health are in very high demand. The e-bike revolution has vastly increased the number of people who could commute without a car. Covid-19 has led to soaring bike sales. The Gear Change program in the UK and the Verkehrswende (Transport Transition) in Germany affirm that poor health and too much driving are really a single problem, one that can be addressed with two wheels.

Now is the time for UC Health to acknowledge its own transport footprint. We therefore ask the Regents’ Health Services Committee to initiate an active transportation policy. This policy would end the marginalization of those who do not have access to a car and discontinue hidden subsidies for car use like “bundled parking”. It would guide our hospitals to actively engage with local communities by supporting active modes of transport. Such programs have invariably led to financial savings while also offering access to physical activity for Black, Brown and low-income communities. Every UC Health location (owned or leased) must provide safe and welcoming bicycle facilities for visitors, patients and staff.

When seeing patients, our doctors invariably recommend an active lifestyle. Yet currently many UC Health premises are not set up to support and encourage and reward active modes of transportation. The active transportation policy will address this disconnect, invest in encouragement programs and avoid the scandal of ignorance and hypocrisy.

With such a policy UC Health will emerge as a national leader for healthy transportation. Our’s will be the first health system to act on the overwhelming evidence public health experts have provided: Active transportation prevents obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. California is the state to recognize this and the UC is the institution to act on it. UC Bikes! and bicycle advocates throughout the state are eager to assist with this process. The signatories to this open letter request that the Regents’ Health Services Committee instruct EVP Byington to work with stakeholders and experts to develop an active transportation policy for UC Health.

From Gear Change UK

Saturday, February 29, 2020

UCLA Health: Welcome to Santa Monica (An Open Letter)

Johnese Spisso, CEO, UCLA Health
c/c Rick Cole, City Manager, Santa Monica

Dear Johnese,

UCLA Health is going from strength to strength under your leadership. Congratulations! I am a resident of Santa Monica and I understand that the hospital is now the largest employer in our fine city. Welcome to "populus felix in urbe felici." For the healthy transportation advocate the car dealerships on Santa Monica Blvd always were a sorry sight. I am sure your new premises there will be a great improvement.

Over many years our city has developed a sophisticated planning process which ensures new developments conform with the long term vision of our community. While you are exempt from most of this process as a state entity, I am sure you will use this privilege with caution and keep in mind your local impacts on our community. 

But the relationship between the hospital and its community is also about money. The IRS has certified the hospital as a charity, hence exempting you from local (and other) taxes. As a resident of Santa Monica I personally do not mind that I may now pay a little more for our roads, schools, policing and garbage collection because the tax-paying car dealership will be replaced by a 501c3 entity. But I am extremely interested that the tax privilege is part of a local engagement that makes a real difference in your service area. 

Let me outline some pointers how the hospital can become a positive presence in Santa Monica, rather than a tax exempt trip generator, unrestrained by planning guidelines. (Traffic engineers tell us that medical offices do generate a great deal of car traffic) 

A recent piece by Danielle Ofri, MD, in the New York Times ("Why are Nonprofit Hospitals so Highly Profitable") has argued that the arithmetical exercise that declares Medicaid losses as a community benefit may be insufficient to justify these tax benefits. Those health fairs she considers marketing pure and simple. That is why improvements in the structure and delivery of community benefits are needed. The community is footing your tax break and it must have a say in the design of such benefits. But delivering benefits from inside the marketing department gives them a self-interested appearance that is most disconcerting. The Bicycle Academy engaged with the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) process recently but were disappointed: The Metro Best program, which would have delivered bicycle safety education for staff, patients or community members at no cost, was not pursued, in spite of our best efforts. Ofri's piece suggests there may be legal remedies.

At the UC Regents Health Services Committee, UC Health CEO Carrie Byington has recently spoken of the need to better present the community benefits the system must provide as part of its tax exempt status. Ambiguity at the highest level is often paired with a real reluctance about proper, hands-on community engagement. Sure, medical research is a benefit for humankind, but what is needed across the road from the hospital in Santa Monica may be funding for a Safe Routes to School program to keep kids healthy and to reduce driving in our community. Because community (and planetary) health suffers greatly from a transport system that discourages the use of active modes, we hope the hospital will establish a Healthy Transportation Committee in conjunction with public health researchers on the other side of Westwood Blvd. Your marketing department will then be keen to place your brand on a local bike share system and underwrite the message that active transportation is healthy. The committee would remind capital programs never to enter into leases that include bundled car-parking. And  R Gluckson's message that "unfortunately", "u-n-f-o-r-t-u-n-a-t-e-l-y, there are no bike racks or any place for visitors to park and lock their bikes at your new premises in Glendale" will seem as outrageous as a doctor who recommends smoking. Your director for government relations will then eagerly seek the dialogue with local transport agencies, because he has your back when joining the conversation about community health (obesity, diabetes and cancer) which need to be addressed in the transport domain. Because less drive we must! And if we drive less, we and our planet will be healthier.

Welcome to Santa Monica, Johnese! The UCLA Bicycle Academy and many stakeholders in Santa Monica and on the Westside are eager to assist you to become a shining beacon of healthy transportation. Perhaps a meeting in Santa Monica City Hall with Professor Richard Jackson or another public health expert of your choosing would be a good beginning. 

Dr Michael Cahn
Secretary, UCLA Bicycle Academy