Bryan Jones – Carlsbad’s Deputy Director of Transportation and City Traffic Engineer

Someone at the top levels at Carlsbad’s City Hall has been paying attention to what it takes to redesign a city to become one that is strong and resilient. That someone worked with enough key decision-makers to bring Bryan Jones into Carlsbad where he was named the city’s current Deputy Director of Transportation. Jones was then tasked with bringing “innovation and creativity and Complete Streets” to Carlsbad. In January, the Carlsbad City Council identified livable streets as a top priority of focus for the city and in February Bryan came back to the City Council with the first project to enhance safety for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists at State Street/Carlsbad Boulevard and across the Buena Vista lagoon with a roundabout, trail, bike lanes, and sidewalks by re-purposing the existing right-of-way. Not surprisingly Carlsbad City Council gave five thumbs up for the project concept.

Earlier last month I was extremely fortunate to have Bryan Jones spend a few hours talking about everything relating to transportation. We spoke about the transportation system and about land use patterns, about the challenges and tremendous opportunities available to transportation professionals and advocates. We also chatted about how we are currently at an exciting point in history where we’re able to witness the real changes happening all around us that will ultimately offer multiple choices and benefits to both individuals and communities while simultaneously conserving finite resources. It was a true pleasure to talk about transportation issues both from an on the ground perspective as well as from a thirty thousand foot perspective while evaluating historical decisions that have systemically forced the vast majority of residents into a transportation mode that is mostly inefficient and sometimes financially wasteful.

My talk with Jones will be split into two parts as we covered a lot of ground. Talking with someone who took his role as a public servant extremely seriously was very gratifying.

It’s important for me to give back to my community and leave my community in a better place than I found it – Bryan Jones

I hope this interview with Jones conveys both his dedication and his love and dedication for the role he has been tasked with fulfilling.

Bryan Jones

BikeSD: You are the current Deputy Director of the Carlsbad Transportation Department. What does a Deputy Director do?
Bryan Jones: I serve as both the Deputy Director and City Traffic Engineer for the City of Carlsbad. I am very fortunate to work with a great team of professionals within the Transportation Department that serve our community. The department was created two years ago as transportation has become an important priority and focus for the organization. Our department has three divisions Transportation Engineering, Street Maintenance, and Construction Management & Inspection. As a department we are looking to become more innovative and creative in how we provide transportation services to the people that live, work, and play in Carlsbad. A major project that we are completing the first phase on is our Traffic Signal Synchronization and Equipment Upgrade for all 170 traffic signals within the city. In addition, our City Council recently identified “complete streets” as a top five priority citywide to focus on this year so we are excited about all the opportunities that will come with our ability to develop a balanced roadway system that is useable, accessible, and inviting to all modes of transportation including bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. We feel that complete streets align well with many of the community’s vision that was developed for the General Plan.

BikeSD: You accepted this position and left behind a city that truly loved you. What made you decide to accept this position?
Bryan Jones: Fresno was a great opportunity for me and I was truly blessed by all the great people in Fresno that I got to work with to help change the transportation culture. I measure success based on how I am able to influence positive change within an organization and leave fingerprints on an organization. I believe I was able to do that in Fresno and leave it in better place than I found it, transportation wise. Financially they are really struggling in this economy. There are many great individuals there that are now more empowered to carry the torch to promote and encourage active transportation. My responsibilities within the public works organization were far greater than just active transportation, but it was an area that needed special attention on my part to get it to the next level and over some tough hurdles and obstacles.

As for accepting this position with the City of Carlsbad, I first visited Carlsbad in the fall of 2010 when I attended an American Planning Association conference at the La Costa Resort and Spa. I remember hearing members of SANDAG speak along with elected officials in the region about the importance of collaboration between land use and transportation decisions. There was a fairly progressive movement underway with active transportation. I was also impressed with Carlsbad by the high quality of well-maintained landscaping and roadway maintenance along with the beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. I kept looking for a pothole and could not find one. It says a lot about a community that does not defer maintenance on its infrastructure assets. So when the position became available in the City of Carlsbad within the Transportation Department – it felt like a great opportunity. Transportation is a top priority for the community, organization, and City Council in the City of Carlsbad. Upon further review of Carlsbad I was impressed with the Envision Carlsbad community engagement process to develop community values and visions. The community visions for the future of Carlsbad include a small town feel, recreation, healthy outdoor lifestyles, increased connectedness, business diversity and tourism, sustainability, neighborhood design, revitalization and livability. All of these are directly or indirectly affected by transportation.

BikeSD: What is your background and how did you become the go-to guy for bicycling issues in Fresno?
Bryan Jones: I have always been interested in bicycling and pedestrians’ needs and wants. It most likely started from some of my transportation classes at UCDavis and the fact that the Davis campus is closed to automobiles, so as a result, students are limited to transit, bicycling, or being a pedestrian to get to class. These non-single occupant vehicle transportation modes help create a community at the human scale where you can interact with your classmates and professors while walking, biking, or riding a bus.

While at UCDavis, I also got the opportunity to work on a progressive research project on car-sharing called CarLink at the Institute of Transportation Studies-Davis, which focused on evaluating the psychology of how people view transportation and car ownership and the business models of car-sharing in the United States. Many of the major auto manufactures were involved in this research project. What we realized and learned is that many people spend a lot of money each year to drive a vehicle and, to have the convenience and independence of driving a vehicle. Meanwhile, the vehicle goes unused for a majority of the day and depreciates in economic value. Some even own a vehicle for the status it brings to them. There are millions of dollars spent in marketing the automobile to convince people that it is the American dream to own and drive a vehicle. And we have made many land use decisions around the automobile as our transportation mode. Just think how much additional new money you could have if you didn’t have to have a vehicle or multiple vehicles in your house hold (car payment, insurance, gasoline, maintenance) not to mention the improvement to your physical health. Most people in American especially in this recession could utilize an extra $2,500 to $10,000 a year and based on statistics we could all lose a few pounds. Active transportation can help do both.

The reason I tell this story is, looking back at what that research project taught me was that the way we make decisions is often based on inferences from past experiences and what we have always done or known to be true. We often get comfortable in making deicions based on familiarity. In Fresno, generations of planners and engineers were looking at transportation from an auto-centric perspective and it is difficult to change the direction of a large organization when it is going full steam ahead and building $2 billion in freeways counterbalanced with one or two bicycle projects a year. So I helped break that mold as bicycling issues in Fresno was an area that needed special attention.

Fresno has nearly 3,700 lane miles for vehicles and, when I started working at the City of Fresno, there were only approximately 100 miles of bike lanes. The bike lanes really didn’t form a network for bicyclists. A lot of me becoming the go-to guy had to do with the right timing, there being a need, and me stepping up to fill that need. The bicycling community needed leadership from within the city to listen, hear, and help the many community organizations, clubs, advocates and advisors to get bicycling and transportation to the next level and overcome some tough hurdles and obstacles. Leadership is about doing the right things…and bicycling is one of those right things for transportation.

BikeSD: Tell me a bit about your history of how you transformed Fresno from a city that was known to be the worst in everything (health, fitness) to being recognized as a bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists?

Bryan Jones: Historically the City of Fresno, like many jurisdictions in the State of California, struggled to install bike lanes and trails. Most of the bicycle infrastructure was installed with new development and as a result left out much of the city that was built prior to the early 1970’s (when bike lanes were incorporated in the City standards, not long after being adopted at the state level). Thus the city as a whole did not have any bicycle infrastructure. Bike lanes and trails were being installed without a destination in mind often with a “low hanging fruit” approach. This lack of complete infrastructure often put bicyclists on 35-50 MPH roadways without any space to ride, or on trails that dead-ended into fields. So there was not a network of bicycle infrastructure to get people from home to work or school or any other destinations. This resulted in more and more people not riding their bikes as they feared for their safety and caused a lot of frustration for advocates and advisory individuals and organizations in the community. Roadways were designed with less connectivity and as a result became bigger and wider and faster with more automobile traffic.

Fortunately for us the voters in Fresno County approved Measure C which was a half cent sales tax to help transportation projects. It failed on the first attempt. But a follow up community poll revealed that bicycling infrastructure was ranked in one of the top three priorities. So the funding within Measure C was increased and voters approved it on the second attempt. This program allocated nearly $55 million of a $2 billion dollar program toward bicycle infrastructure (trails, paths, and bike lanes). However, in order to to receive these funds, the Measure C bicycling advocates required that a jurisdiction had to first have a Bicycle Master Plan.  It makes sense to have a good plan before you spend millions of dollars. The City of Fresno had a previous version of a Bicycle Transportation Plan (BTP) that was created to fulfill the requirement to apply for BTA grants at the state level, but the document didn’t really help change the engineering or planning culture internally or externally within the City of Fresno. As a result, Fresno struggled with implementation of bicycle infrastructure. We were originally going to spend approximately $30,000 to update the previous version just to fulfill the requirement. However, I knew that was not going to be useful to implement the Measure C funding and get the City of Fresno to transform into a Bicycle Friendly Community. We had to have a lofty mission to set our sights on and then develop goals, policies, and strategies to achieve that mission. What could be more lofty than to become the first Bicycle Friendly Community in the San Joaquin Valley – the area between Sacramento and Los Angeles?

So instead of spending $30,000 to update the old BTP the City of Fresno Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee and I reviewed a number of Bicycle Master Plans (BMP) from well respected bicycle communities to identify what they included in their Bicycle Master Plans to facilitate their success. We reviewed a number of BMP’s and created a wish list for our Bicycle Master Plan. As a result, we created a Request for Proposal and spent nearly $500,000 on our Bicycle Master Plan. Many people thought that was a lot of money for a plan, but I took the time to explain that in order to spend nearly $55 million in capital infrastructure it made good sense to plan and prioritize the infrastructure in order to get the biggest rate of return for our investment. Less than 1% of overall Measure C Bicycle Infrastructure program went to create a Bicycle Master Plan. So focusing on both planning and implementation seemed like a great investment in order for us to utilize tax dollars efficiently and effectively and get the largest rate of return for bike ridership for investment.

From the beginning we focused on the mission and felt it was important to put the mission on the cover of the document, “transforming the City of Fresno into a more bicycle friendly community”.  The document was organized to address the Five E’s of Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation taking into account what other jurisdictions were doing to promote these Five E’s. We wanted this document to be a resource for all local jurisdictions in the San Joaquin Valley so that eventually more jurisdictions could also become bicycle friendly communities. We figured Fresno, as the largest City in the San Joaquin Valley, had to be the leader by example if we were going to transform the transportation culture in the San Joaquin Valley to combat some of the social issues of air quality, public health, and sustainable economy for many of our families in the community. As a result, we not only focused the document on creating and developing the “vision”, but also balanced that vision with an “implementation” plan. I am a strong believer in the saying, “vision without implementation is merely hallucination”.

We did a lot of community engagement and outreach as the City of Fresno is the 5th largest City in California at a half million people. We set records for a planning document’s outreach with feedback on surveys and participation in workshops. Ultimately the Bicycle Master Plan was adopted unanimously by both the Planning Commission and City Council. This unanimous approval was no small feat in a strong Mayor form of government with seven council members representing their individual districts during one of the worst recessions since the great depression. A lot of thanks was definitely warranted for all the individuals and organizations that tirelessly wrote letters of support and attended the workshops and public hearings to develop and support the document. The Bicycle Master Plan was eventually given a first place award from the American Planning Association.

There was so much community engagement that the plan began its implementation before it was even adopted. In 2010, the City of Fresno led all cities in the nation besides New York City with 30 miles of new bike lanes installed, 3 miles of new bike trails, and 1 grade separation crossing for a trail. Many of the 30 miles of new bike lanes were installed in a collaborative effort between the traffic engineering and street maintenance divisions of the Public Works Department taking advantage of existing roadway maintenance projects (slurry seal and overlay) and implementing a road diet.

Fresno also became the first city in California to shutdown a freeway for a bicycle event. In May of 2011, a month before I left the City of Fresno, 10 miles of freeway SR 168 were shut down for more than 1,500 bike riders from over 200 cities in California, 17 states, and 3 countries so that they could ride their bicycles on a freeway. A local medical business, EyeQ, wanted to bring an event to Fresno that everyone could be proud of and one that would help highlight the Fresno region. Together, EyeQ , the City of Fresno’s Police Department and I worked with Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol for nearly a year to make the event a success. The event is called the California Classic Weekend and it is not too late to sign up for the ride which will occur for the second consecutive year in May 2012.

BikeSD: You were really loved and appreciated by the residents of Fresno. How were you able to communicate and engage the public to support bicycling?
Bryan Jones: I have to give a lot of credit to the many individuals and organizations that advocated and advised the City of Fresno to focus on pedestrians and bicycling and supported me through our efforts. They were the ones that laid the foundation through decades of advocacy and advisory. I merely saw the need of this group of people that needed to be heard by their local government and filled that need. I helped foster the necessary partnerships and alliances within our large organization. I also tried to convenience the bicycle community that they needed to approach the jurisdiction with a unified approach based on a shared common set of values and goals. We had many factions within the overall arching bicycle community that often had similar but diverging missions and goals.

As a result of needing to focus our factions, in collaboration with a marketing firm, JP Marketing, we created the multiple award winning “I BIKE FRESNO” campaign. It is so easy to focus on our differences, but the entire campaign was focused on the slogan “Biking = Joy”. We promoted all of the biking events that occurred in the Fresno area and it was amazing how the participation grew to new records as a result. The synergy developed from focusing on something positive and our biking fans exploded on facebook to over 3,000 fans. Today, there are more fans on facebook for than for the City of Fresno itself as there are fans from all over the United States who appreciated the I Bike Fresno campaign.

BikeSD: What were some of the challenges you had to overcome in order to transform Fresno?
Bryan Jones: I think one of the greatest challenges was identifying, developing and fostering the necessary partnerships with naysayers and supporters through education, encouragement, and awareness. There are often a lot of egos involved when people are passionate about a cause and everyone wants their opinions to be valued and appreciated. In addition, many individuals have a hard time visioning change without actually experiencing it and often fear change. I can remember one of the first road diets we did over a 5 mile length of roadway. Probably 20-30 individuals of the nearly 15,000 motorists that drove on the old four lane roadway called in to complain about congestion. My staff and I spend a couple days driving up and down the corridor looking for the vehicle congestion to see if we could resolve it. We could not find it. So that next caller that called in I asked “can you describe the congestion”? Their response was that they could not drive as fast as they wanted to on the street. I asked how fast they wanted to drive and they said 45 MPH and I said but the posted speed limit is 35 MPH. I asked how fast they were able to drive and they said between 35-40 MPH. They were still able to get through all the traffic signals on the first green light. So my conclusion is that the definition of congestion is not an agreed upon definition. Driving a safe speed for the conditions of the roadway is not congestion and it actually saves many motorists from rear end collisions and speeding citations.

BikeSD: What are some of the current challenges you face here in Carlsbad?
Bryan Jones: We are fairly fortunate in that the City of Carlsbad already has many great roadways with bike lanes creating a bicycle infrastructure network. Hundreds if not thousands of people ride their bike in, around and through Carlsbad whether it is for commuting to work, running errands, going to school or for recreational and fitness purposes. Many people in Carlsbad have active and healthy lifestyles but that is kind of what you expect when you live in paradise. In addition, the Carlsbad City Council just identified “Complete Streets” as a top five priority in their priority workshop this past month. Complete streets align well with the community visions identified through the Envision Carlsbad community outreach process. These community visions for the future of Carlsbad include a small town feel, recreation, healthy outdoor lifestyles, increased connectedness, business diversity and tourism, sustainability, neighborhood design, revitalization and livability.

I am not a fan of focusing on the challenges, but rather looking for opportunities. Carlsbad Boulevard presents several opportunities for demonstrations projects that could enhance tourism, recreation, healthy outdoor lifestyles and coastal beach access for all modes of transportation

BikeSD: How often do you ride and what sort of riding do you do? Do you have any favorite routes here? Why do you ride?
Bryan Jones: I have two bikes; a road bike and a mountain bike. I mostly ride for recreation and fitness but as of late have not made a lot of time for either so it is a goal of mine for 2012 to get back on my bike more often. There are a lot of great places to explore on a bike in San Diego County and Carlsbad. What I like about riding is that you get to experience life and your surroundings so much more than you do in a vehicle. I notice things on my bike that I never see when driving. That includes many businesses along the roadway and that is why I always encourage businesses to provide bike racks and support biking. My current rode bike was actually a very generous going away gift from the bicycle community in Fresno to replace my previous road bike. In May of 2011 while helping organize the annual Mall to Mall bike ride my road bike was stolen out of the back of my truck. I was helping many of the elected officials who participating by shuttling their bikes from City Hall to the mall so that they could participate and also get to the City Council meetings on time. That morning I did an interview on one television news station about the bike event at 5:30 AM with my old bike and then later was doing an interview about my stolen bike. The theft was captured on video I saw that it took less than 3 seconds for the thief to steal it from my truck. It was then I learned a valuable lesson to lock your bike to your vehicle in transport. I looked at my loss as someone else’s gain and I hope they are enjoying using and riding their new bike.

BikeSD: What is your favorite thing about being in Carlsbad? What do you miss most about Fresno?
Bryan Jones: Favorite thing about being in Carlsbad; I am not sure there is just one. I love the ocean, beaches, and sunsets. I love Carlsbad Boulevard because it presents so many opportunities for greatness not only for transportation but economic development from the locals, tourism, recreation, and coastal access. I love all the great restaurants. And the people of Carlsbad have been very welcoming.

What do I miss most about Fresno; definitely the people. My wife and I are blessed with many great friends and colleagues in Fresno. And many of them have already come down to Carlsbad to visit. Even though Fresno is a relatively big city, it has a small town feel because of the people. And we miss the fresh produce straight from the incredible agricultural farms to the farmers markets and grocery stores.

BikeSD: How do you envision Carlsbad in five years from your perspective?
Bryan Jones: In five years, Carlsbad will continue to be a thriving vacation and jobs destination. We have great leadership in the community and in the local government organization that have been and will continue to be great stewards of the land. Carlsbad is fairly strategic and will continue to evolve and innovate to be a leader in local government. We have been developing a great vision with our General Plan update so now it will be time to implement those visions.

If you’d like to contact Bryan Jones you may contact him at: 760-602-7504 or via email at