Safety Story with Noel Pond-Danchik

Noel's Safety Story

For this installment of Stories from the Field, Berkeley SafeTREC chatted with Noel Pond-Danchik, Active Transportation Coordinator for Oakland's Department of Transportation (OakDOT). Pond-Danchik calls out the importance of taking a people-centered approach while devising OakDOT's Let's Bike Oakland! draft plan. Read her Safety Story below! 

What is your current role?

I’m currently the Pedestrian Program Coordinator on the Bike & Pedestrian section of the Safe Streets Division at Oakland’s Department of Transportation.

What inspired you to work in active transportation?

I fell into it as a mix of my two passions: urban planning and environmental sustainability.  My dad also had an electric bike when I was a teenager and being able to get myself places before I could drive gave me a sense of autonomy and freedom I later wanted to share with everyone who doesn’t drive.

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

We improve Oakland’s streets with infrastructure projects that focus on pedestrian and bicyclist safety.  This can include anything from traffic calming (slowing down traffic), adding signals, removing lanes of traffic to make space for bike lanes, adding concrete or painted pedestrian bulbouts, bike racks, and so much more.  We are also trying to support more programs that encourage safe and active transportation.

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

For biking, I think you need to start with programs and events and creating culture before you build infrastructure.  People don’t start biking when they see a new bike lane in front of their house; people start biking when someone invites them out for a ride, when someone offers to let them borrow a bike. For pedestrian programs, you need to focus on safety.  Did you know that in Oakland, an average of two pedestrians suffer severe or fatal injuries from a crash with a motor-vehicle every week? This is unacceptable. We normalize these deaths like they are a part of living in a society with cars, but many of them are preventable.  Since most people only want to go so far with their bikes or their feet, you need to coordinate with inexpensive and efficient transit systems to make a connected network that can get people where they need to go. Overall, I think the most important thing is to ask the community what they want first and actually listen. Programs don’t work without the buy-in of the community.  

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

From the Bike Plan Update, I learned that people know what they want to see on their streets. They are excited and willing to tell you if they just have a vessel to be heard.

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

If I could snap my fingers and change one thing, it would be to have fast, free, coordinated, and integrated transit, be that bus, light rail, heavy rail, or etc. because people can walk/bike/roll more when their long distance needs are covered.

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 with very short brown hair smiles while wearing a black dress.

Noel Pond-Danchik 

Pedestrian Program Coordinator
Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT)