California Streetsies: Malcolm Dougherty for Civil Servant of the Year
Malcolm Dougherty took on the job of Director of Caltrans at a pivotal moment for the department. Long an independent department, Caltrans had just been put under the control of the new California State Transportation Agency, CalSTA, which had promptly commissioned an outside report on its strengths and weaknesses. That report pulled no punches—it called Caltrans rule-bound, out of step, archaic, and dysfunctional.
But we knew all that. What we didn’t know was that Dougherty would take the report seriously, and in short order begin to put its recommendations into action.
While Dougherty has been at the helm, Caltrans has:
- Created the new position of Assistant Director of Sustainability, and hired Steven Cliff for the post
- Endorsed the NACTO Urban Street Design Guidelines, for the first time embracing innovative bicycle infrastructure design in California, a huge departure from the usual Caltrans practice of making it difficult to design for modes other than cars
- Adopted goals to increase biking, walking, and transit throughout California–goals echoing ones put forward by the California Bicycle Coalition (to triple bicycling!)
- Created new statewide guidelines for protected bikeways (complying with a law sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition)
- Acknowledged that building more roads and lanes creates more traffic, rather than mitigating it
- Begun work on the first-ever statewide Bike and Pedestrian Plan
In addition, Dougherty leads a yearly Caltrans Director’s Bike Ride as part of May Is Bike Month, in which he shows off new bike lanes, bike parking solutions, and bike ideas being explored by Caltrans. He speaks up for active transportation at California Transportation Committee meetings, where funding decisions are made. He even came to the California Bicycle Summit this year and gave a rousing speech to the bike advocates assembled there, saying that California should be first, not eighth, in the League of American Bicyclists’ ranking of Bike Friendly States.
In other words, the head of California’s transportation department is making bicycle riders feel like we are part of the state’s transportation solutions, not just marginalized squeaky wheels who must be silenced.
We like what we see. Congratulations, Director Dougherty, and keep up the good work!