After 12 amazing years with Transportation Alternatives, Caroline Samponaro is stepping down from her role as deputy director to pursue a new opportunity with a leading bike share company.
Caroline has held a variety of leading roles since first joining the Transportation Alternatives team in 2006, each touching the organization’s ascendency from a policy organization to a citywide powerhouse in community organizing. She started out as a bike advocate, then director of bike advocacy, followed by senior director of campaigns and organizing, and finally deputy director, a position she has held since 2014.
“The growing impact of our organization over the past ten years has had everything to do with Caroline Samponaro,” says TransAlt Executive Director Paul Steely White. “From the expanding network of bike lanes to public bike share to a host of Vision Zero innovations, Caroline has instigated, implemented, and effectively defended streets for people.”
Much of the bicycling infrastructure commonly seen on New York City's streets today is a direct result of Caroline's leadership and ideation. She built public support for the nation’s first protected bike lanes, and led the advocacy campaign that brought public bike share to the city. The results speak for themselves: During Caroline's tenure at TransAlt, bicycling as a mode of transport grew by 150 percent, from 66 million annual trips in 2006, to more than 164 million trips in 2015. And the number of people regularly commuting to work by bike more than doubled, from fewer than 20,000 in 2006, to 45,000 daily bike commuters in 2015.
In more recent years, Caroline’s work has been devoted to saving lives on New York City streets. The movement to bring a little-known Swedish traffic safety program, Vision Zero, to New York began with Caroline, as did campaigns to install automated speed safety enforcement technology and lower the speed limit. Central to this success was the partnership that she formed with the families of victims of traffic violence, founding Families for Safe Streets in 2014. Like Mothers Against Drunk Driving before it, Families for Safe Streets is a platform for people affected by traffic crashes to speak out, and a powerfully effective tool for pushing elected officials to make the courageous policy decisions required to save lives. Today, thanks in no small part to Caroline's work, New York City's streets are getting safer year after year.
Caroline’s impact extends far beyond the borders of the five boroughs. The protected bike lanes and bike share system she helped introduce has spread across the city, and been adopted by cities across the nation. Both Families for Safe Streets and Vision Zero have spread to other locales thanks to her active engagement with advocates and officials in scores of other U.S. and international cities.
Many of these efforts were backed by wide-reaching and diverse coalitions of community groups, advocates, and average New Yorkers, inspired to fight for the city’s future -- the very existence of which is thanks to Caroline Samponaro. From the ground up, she built a remarkable powerhouse of over 1,000 community organizers and volunteer activists, devoted to direct action and grassroots campaigning in every borough. Today, Transportation Alternatives boasts a citywide volunteer activist network and a nine-person, five-borough team of community-based organizers.
In February, Caroline will start her new role as Northeast Regional Head of Public Policy for ofo, a leading bike share company. She will continue to be based in New York City, and will be working to bring bike share systems to commuters in cities from Boston to Washington, D.C.
Fortunately for Transportation Alternatives, Caroline leaves behind a legacy of effectiveness, and a strong team of extraordinary organizers and advocates led by Director of Organizing Thomas DeVito.
“Caroline has been a visionary leader, having been at the forefront of city-changing initiatives ranging from the first protected bike lanes and pedestrian plazas to the launch of North America’s most successful bike share program, and helping found Families for Safe Streets -- the moral force behind New York’s lower speed limit and the rapid expansion of the safe streets network,” DeVito said. “Every step of the way Caroline has stood as a voice for local empowerment and local engagement. Her legacy is immense, experienced in the day-to-day life of millions of New Yorkers.”
Transportation Alternatives will celebrate Caroline’s tenure at our annual member party from 7 - 10 p.m. on March 1 at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, 317 Clermont Ave, Brooklyn, NY. General admission is $45; TransAlt members will receive a discount.
The staff, board of directors, advisory council, and thousands of TransAlt members and supporters wish Caroline the best as she pursues the next exciting chapter of her career. We love you, Caroline! Thank you for your extraordinary work saving and improving lives on city streets.