If you’re a follower of Bicycle Coalition’s regional work, there’s a good chance that you’ve interacted with Leonard. Our soon-to-be former Regional Planner spent the last few years organizing citizen advocates in the 9-county Philadelphia region in NJ & PA, serving on county planning task forces, working with partners at PennDOT & DVRPC to improve regional bikeability, leading rides, and representing us at numerous conferences and educational speaking engagements. In Leonard’s “spare time,” he led two analysis projects that brought an equity lens to our trail and on-road work, respectively.
On September 4th, Leonard will leave our organization to become a Project Manager at Greyhawk Engineering, a small firm that has worked on many notable projects, including the Campbell’s Soup Headquarters in Camden, NJ. While he won’t be a Bicycle Coalition staff member, Leonard certainly isn’t leaving the bike community.
We spoke with Leonard before he left, to hear what he thought about his time here, and how he plans to stay connected to our work.
You were at the Bicycle Coalition for over three years. What’s changed the most about the organization in that time? And how do you think those changes have affected our work?
Actually three years is just my time on staff. Before that I was an intern while in grad school, and before that I was a volunteer going as far back as 2011 or so. I’ve worn some hats for this organization! When I started as an intern, it was just as our former Executive Director Alex Doty was leaving, and Sarah Clark Stuart was transitioning into her role as current ED.
I’ve seen us grow from having an office that was so small that you had to step outside to change your mind, to becoming an organization with 15 staff, and the ear and respect of City Hall. I knew we had “arrived” when every mayoral candidate (except one) came to our Mobility Forum in 2015. We have grown not only in my role, but recently promoted Randy LoBasso to the new position of Policy Director. I’m enormously proud of the work that he has done already, and look forward to seeing where our policy work will go in the coming years, now that I’m back to being a volunteer!
What are you most proud of in your time here?
Finding the right fit for our Policy Fellowship was a great challenge. I’m proud that we kept looking until we found the right fit in Naida Montes, a PhD candidate at Temple who has a deep understanding of the issues that face Black and Brown communities in our region. Her novice cyclist perspective has also been invaluable.
On a related note, I feel really good about stretching my capacity to oversee two analysis projects: The Circuit Trails Community Impact Analysis (executed by our rock star intern Kyle Hearing) and the Community Impact Index (executed by our brilliant Geospatial Fellow Delphine Khanna). The first project looked at the upcoming trails in our region through an equity lens. Kyle found equity data from DVRPC and used that along with population density to determine which trails should be prioritized. This work now informs how we prioritize and advocate for trails. In Delphine’s analysis, which was somewhat of a follow up to Kyle’s work, we looked at the same DVRPC equity data, and applied it to the low-stress road network in the four-county region of Southeast PA. But Delphine really went the extra mile, finding environmental justice data, health data, and transit data to make the case for the roads that need bike/ped improvements the most. I took the show on the road and presented our findings to the planning commissions of the four counties.
I also planned and executed two regional forums, one in PA in 2018 and the other in NJ in 2019. I had help at the end, but for the most part it was me out there alone: booking venues, getting catering, recruiting speakers, creating a program that was as dynamic and interesting as possible. It was A TON of work, but had a big payoff: we had great attendance and got ourselves “on the map” with a lot of new folks.
I created and facilitated a series of technical assistance workshops (known as TASCC) across our region. Most notably I was invited to present on foundational traffic calming resources to the East Trenton community in preparation for their citizen-led listening session with NJDOT Commissioner Dianne Gutierrez-Scaccetti, which was historic: a sitting NJDOT Commissioner had never participated in a meeting like that before. It was a great honor to have helped even a little in that historically disenfranchised community’s fight to make their streets safe from traffic violence.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Affiliates! When I came on, we had a goal of having a volunteer-run affiliate group in each of the 8 counties that surround Philadelphia. I was able to get us from one active group (defined as hosting its own events independently) in Chester County when I started, to four: Chester, Montgomery, Delaware, and Gloucester Counties. I was able to fill all eight positions, when we had four counties with no representation at all when I started. Our county affiliates are now off and running: sitting on task forces, advocating for trails, implementing on-road greenways, leading rides, and shining a light on road safety issues across our region in ways that I could never do on my own.
What do you look forward to in your next endeavor?
I’m intrigued by the idea of construction management. I will be largely doing visits of construction sites that are recipients of state grants, and making sure that things are running according to grant deliverables, but mostly I’ll be home filling out reports! I go from a very complicated position with a lot of inputs to something that sounds more easy to digest.
I’m looking forward to freeing up some of my weekends and evenings when I was previously at community meetings or facilitating workshops to attend some of our events as a participant for once! I also plan to devote some of my newfound free time to volunteering for organizations and movements that are dedicated to economic justice. Lastly, I look forward to spending more time with my family, and tinkering around in my bike garage.
Any members or donors that are accustomed to contacting Leonard can now reach out to John, who will be happy to assist. We are also looking to fill Leonard’s position as quickly as possible. Individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color strongly encouraged to apply. Click here for more info.
What an impressive list of accomplishments…Thank you for all you have done to expand biking in so many communities. And it’s good to hear your plans….
Thanks Suzanne! I’ll miss you!
It was great working with you, Leonard! Also, great chatting today about how we might foster the growth of space actually designed FOR PEOPLE and not just cars — and especially with respect to urbanism. You had an interesting idea about simply being able to close a street to cars, with flex posts to maintain EMS/emergency vehicles, etc then having people actually use the new space and listening to how people would design the spaces in their own communities. This participatory design process is super needed as it is the definition of a human-centered approach to design for the built environment. Thanks again for all your work!