In Spotlights

Sarah Barnes, Government Partnerships Manager, Lyft Transit, Bikes, and Scooters and Board Member, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

Sarah Barnes is a deeply optimistic individual working on the future of urban mobility. Sarah has worked in micromobility for numerous years both in San Francisco and internationally. Currently, she works for Lyft’s micromobility team, leading their government partnerships to bring bike and scooter share programs to more cities. 

Sarah sits on the Board of Directors for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition where she advocates for safer streets that prioritize people over cars. She also writes a weekly newsletter, Along for the Ride, about transportation technology and the impact it could have on our cities. Her focus is on how we can reorient the conversation to explore solutions which are perhaps less glamorous, but more aligned with urban agendas. 

Previously Sarah worked in transportation and climate resilience, and her research has been published by the UN, Siemens, and LSE Cities. In a previous life, Sarah also led a youth-based climate organization, and to this day has a penchant for dumpster diving. 

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Transportation is the largest contributor of greenhouse gasses in the United States at 27% of all emissions produced (EPA, 2021), and much of how we move not only impacts the environment, it also impacts our health, well-being, and access to essential services. Re-imagining urban transportation systems to prioritize people and not cars can not only create significant and needed emissions reductions, but it can also deliver more equitable and socially just when prioritized.

My work focuses on lowering the barriers for people to cycle through the delivery of urban bikeshare systems and through local advocacy for safer streets and improved pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. However there is so much opportunity in transportation beyond cycling, from light-rail, buses, rapid transportation, and land-use policy we have so many avenues to explore when it comes to reducing emissions from the transportation sector.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

“You have to be patient.”
“When I was first doing things, this is how we did it.”
“Why won’t you follow in my lead? Why must you do things differently?”

Most women in climate work have likely heard these words as we try to break new ground and consider the imaginative and creative solutions we now rely on to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Women working in the environmental movement are confronted with the barriers that sexism upholds: our ideas can be deprioritized, taken less seriously, gaslighted or held back in the name of “paying our dues”. This is especially true for Black, Indigenous, Asian and Women of Color and trans people. We must all strive that much harder to ensure our ideas and actions never miss a beat to be taken seriously and have a seat at the table. Oftentimes in order to deliver pertinent and necessary climate forward work, we must jump through unnecessary hoops to please and appease patriarchal systems that weren’t designed for us to succeed.

As we progress our work, we must also actively work to create new systems and environments so that the next generation of climate leaders are able to swiftly continue progress made without the same old barriers we’ve all had to confront and dance around.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector of the environmental movement?

As you are able, consider going on a walk or a bike ride in the city, and contemplate how safe you feel. Maybe you consider one journey a part of your weekly commute that you could make more sustainable by walking, cycling or taking transit. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition also hosts a monthly Women and Non-Binary coffee club that all are welcome to join. The group is kind and welcoming and is full of seasoned cyclists that would love to show you the ropes! More information can also be found here.

For any WEN members who enjoy writing and transportation, I also welcome guest contributors to my newsletter every month. More information can be found in this document, but the long-short of the matter is to share more diverse perspectives on transportation systems. Contributors are paid a stipend and encouraged to sing the song in their transport-loving soul.

In order for us to decrease emissions from the transportation sector we need to “vote with our feet” and show a willingness and open-mindedness to change our travel behavior. Riding through bike lanes, walking along slow streets, taking the bus, and cheering about Car-Free JFK all tell our elected officials we care about sustainable transportation options. Even the smallest, most incremental steps (or pedals!) matter.

Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.