Safety Story with Diana Meehan

Diana's Safety Story

In her Safety Story, Diana stresses the importance of good communication and collaboration between the general public and local agencies during roadway safety projects. Read more below!

What is your current role? 

I’m a Senior Program Planner/Administrator, Active Transportation Coordinator and also manage our Travel Demand programs for the Napa Valley Transportation Authority.

What inspired you to work in active transportation? 

I’ve been a life-long lover of the outdoors, especially cycling.  I had some significant life changes and returned to college to finish my degree in my 40’s.  Transportation wasn’t really on my radar, but I landed an internship at the agency I am now working for just prior to finishing my degree in Environmental Studies and Planning. That’s when I  was introduced to the world of transportation planning, including active transportation and I was hooked!  I was tasked with becoming the “resident expert” in all things active transportation, which I have taken to heart.  Not that I’m an expert by any means, but I am completely dedicated to learning everything I can and being a support and resource to our partner agencies in the valley.

We are the congestion management agency for Napa County, and also operate the transit system here.   I first worked on the transit side at the agency, but quickly migrated over to active transportation during the last round of our Countywide Bicycle Plan update in 2011.  It’s really my wheelhouse, and I love what I do. I’ve worked on some transformative projects, such as the Napa Valley Vine Trail, which will stretch from Calistoga to the Vallejo Ferry building-47 miles of Class I Path when completed. It will be an active transportation game-changer in the valley. 

How does your organization encourage safety for people that walk, bike, or roll for transportation

Our agency is responsible for long-range transportation planning and some specific project planning in Napa County, which includes the Countywide Bicycle Plan and the Countywide Pedestrian Plan (The first ever adopted Pedestrian Plan in Napa County (2016) was one of my biggest projects!) and the Countywide Transportation Plan which includes all types of projects from highway to active transportation. We also encourage best practices in active transportation by providing information and support to jurisdiction public works and planning staff, none of which have their own dedicated active transportation staff.

What are the key elements of a successful active transportation project or program?

Coordination, prioritization and cooperation and mostly, good communication!  There are often trade-offs with active transportation-such as taking parking for a new bike lane.  Good communication with the public, elected officials and local planning and public works departments are all part of what makes a good project great!  Prioritizing and supporting programs such as Safe Routes to School, or Vision Zero (something we will be working on in the next year) play a significant and essential role in shaping active transportation in a community. 

What lessons or valuable takeaways did you gain from a recent active transportation project or program?

There’s never enough outreach you can do within your communities!  I have been working the past two years with a consultant on updating our Countywide Bicycle Plan and we’ve introduced some new concepts we didn’t have in the previous plan, such as level of traffic stress (LTS) and Vision Zero.  Good communication with the community really helps in developing a solid, implementable plan that serves everyone.  The more you can communicate with the community by educating and discussing the role active transportation plays in the transportation network, the more support you have for programs and projects that you are proposing in a plan. It’s good to meet the community where they are instead of expecting them to come to you to learn about the possibilities. When we show up and just talk to community members at their events, they are always happy to learn more and get excited about the possibilities. Having a healthy, vibrant active community is something nearly everyone wants. Finding common ground is the key.

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

EASY!  Vision Zero is achieved! No fatal or severe injuries on the roadway network among the vulnerable groups!  All networks are designed for all users, not just vehicles and are safe and comfortable to use, no matter what mode you choose.  My dream world!

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.

A woman dressed up as a green painted bike lane smirks stands in her office.

Diana Meehan

Senior Program Planner + Active Transportation Coordinator
Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA)