Safety Story with Ana Lopez

Safety Story with Ana Lopez

The importance of community-centered and culturally/linguistically-sensitive approaches to improve the safety for pedestrians and bicyclists in Spanish-speaking communities across California.

For this installment of Stories from the Field, Berkeley SafeTREC’s Kristen Leckie chatted with Ana Lopez, Policy and Program Analyst for SafeTREC and our lead for the Comunidades Activas y Segura (Active and Safe Communities) Program. Lopez calls out the importance of community-centered and culturally/linguistically-sensitive approaches to improve the safety for pedestrians and bicyclists in Spanish-speaking communities across California. Read her Safety Story below! 

What is your current role?

I am a Policy and Program Analyst at SafeTREC. 

What inspired you to help create the Comunidades Activas y Segura program?

Over the years, California Walks and SafeTREC have worked with various communities for our Community Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Training (CPBST) program. Through this work, we learned that there was a need to develop a curriculum that was intentionally designed for Spanish-speaking communities in a format that was both linguistically and culturally accessible. Being a part of the development and implementation of Comunidades Activas y Segura has been a privilege as it has given me the opportunity to merge my background and identity as a Latina with my professional life in active transportation. 

How does your work with the program encourage safety for people that walk, bike, or roll for transportation? 

We encourage safe mobility by identifying areas of concerns and recurring patterns, informing conversations through crash data, and utilizing Safe System strategies to address walking and biking safety concerns. One of the activities to highlight from the program is the opportunity to create audio content, like Radionovelas, that can be used to advocate, empower, educate, or create consciousness within the community about creating safer streets for all.

What are key elements needed to successfully engage Spanish-speaking communities?

A key element in successfully engaging Spanish-speaking communities is being able to establish rapport with the community. Having staff that speaks the language makes the process smoother. Engaging this community requires rethinking traditional community engagement and developing strategies that have considerations for the range of factors that shape this diverse community’s experience, including culture, social inequities, and socio- and geopolitical factors. Within our Comunidades Activas y Seguras program we strive to be intentional about acknowledging people’s lived experiences, listening to and validating concerns, and finally, connecting people’s past experiences to the present. For some community members who have migrated to the U.S., this might mean connecting their past experiences in their home countries to their current experience in the U.S.

A person stands in front of a mural in Wilmington.

A community mural off of Anaheim Street in Wilmington

What does a successful workshop look like to you?

A successful Comunidades Activas y Seguras workshop is an energetic space where community members feel comfortable sharing their transportation experiences. My hope is that attendees leave the meeting feeling empowered to advocate for street safety in their communities and with a toolkit of resources to help them be an agent of change in their community. A successful workshop is also a place where people can make meaningful interactions with other members of their community. 

What lessons or valuable takeaways have you gained after the first year of the  program? 

A valuable lesson from the first year of the program is that having community groups integrally involved in the planning process requires flexibility since, as volunteers, individuals face competing needs in their daily lives. Providing material support - in the form of childcare, interpretation services, and compensation for time or stipends are all ways to recognize the contribution, or expertise, of local residents, thus work toward greater equity. Compensation, especially, could help reduce barriers that hinder participation, such as reducing concerns for competing interests.

What is a story from the program that's really stuck with you?

One of the stories that stuck with me emerged when we led the community of Wilmington through the Radionovela activity. The activity is intended to guide community members through the process of creating an audio piece that uplifts community narratives to advocate for safety improvements. We pieced together an incredible audio piece where community members presented stories about their unsafe experiences walking in their community and, in an emotional appeal,asked community residents  to slow down while driving on the streets. You can check it out at

Soundcloud page for the Radionovelas created for the Comunidades Activas y Seguras Program

How has COVID influenced the work you do?

The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented us from meeting in-person, which means that our workshops had to be tailored to an online setting. For activities like the walking and biking assessment, it has some disadvantages because we cannot experience elements like the width of a sidewalk, the speed of drivers, etc. using Google Maps. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped us from planning what our activities will look like when we can host meetings in-person and we are excited to facilitate fun, creative, and engaging activities when we can meet safely.

If you had a superpower and could change anything, what would the future of active transportation safety look like?

It would look like a place where we can prioritize using our streets for more than just transporting goods and people via vehicles. We would prioritize improving streets for people who are walking and on bikes of all ages and abilities instead of vehicles.

This Stories From the Field interview was conducted in collaboration with UC Berkeley SafeTREC. The opinions and perspectives expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily those of SafeTREC.