Margaret McCarthy – Sr. Transportation Marketing Specialist, San Francisco Department of the Environment
Margaret is passionate about building communities that work together for the collective good. She has worked at local nonprofits including 826 Valencia and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, where she served as the Interim Executive Director prior to her current role as Senior Transportation Marketing Specialist at the San Francisco Department of the Environment. At SF Environment, she is currently wrapping up a new research project funded by C40 Cities on racial and genders barriers to bicycling in San Francisco, in coordination with a team from UC Berkeley.
Additionally, she is a performance artist and Co-Artistic Director of local experimental theater ensemble the San Francisco Neo-Futurists.
How did you become interested in environmental work?
I was working abroad in Munich, Germany, in 2008, and I started biking everywhere I went. Even though I’d ridden my bike a little in San Francisco before, I didn’t have the confidence to ride for everyday transportation. But when I moved back to San Francisco, I kept biking, and I felt like I got to know the city all over again, even though I’d lived here for four years already. In Munich, everyone bikes, and it really opened my eyes to how having access to safe and high-quality infrastructure and public transportation options can provide freedom and autonomy. Transportation is a fascinating area to me because everyone moves. Everyone wants to be able to get around more quickly, affordably, and safely. In the Bay Area, transportation is, on average, the second highest household cost, after rent. If we can make transportation more equitable and accessible, we can improve our community on a fundamental level.
What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?
We’re only just beginning as a society to acknowledge that environmental issues impact people differently. Whether it’s looking at which populations, locally and globally, are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, or evaluating how the prioritization of transportation projects have historically overlooked low-income communities of color, there’s an extraordinary amount of work to be done to move away from planning and designing for the (white, straight, cis-gendered, middle-class, car-owning) “everyman.” Women and other underrepresented groups need to be at the table to ensure the right questions are getting asked so that we can truly build a transportation system for everyone.
What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?
Dive in! There are a wealth of local sustainable transportation-focused organizations in the Bay Area that would be thrilled to have your help. By volunteering, you’ll get to meet other people who share your passion, you’ll learn more about the subject, and you’ll be a part of making change happen. You don’t have to wait until you’ve read all the books, or completed your education, or become the most competent person on the subject to start making a difference.