To avoid appearance of conflict of interest, activist urges Mobi’s Paz to refrain from promoting bike lane enhancements (on Arbutus, Point Grey Road, etc.) while employed by bike share company

mobi-bike-share-station-16th-arbutus-sept-2016

Mobi Bike Share station at 16th and Arbutus

Intro: This letter to Tanya Paz was obtained by CityHallWatch from Elvira Lount, Vancouver resident/activist, and is posted here as a public interest story. Ms. Paz has long been an effective cycling advocate in various capacities, with advisory bodies and advocacy groups, but appears to currently be employed by Mobi (Vancouver Bike Share Inc.) as Project Manager, Station Siting. In the sometimes heated public debate (e.g., see our story about a human blockade of paving machinery) about the interests of various stakeholders regarding the use of public spaces, she is sometimes quoted by media, but  her position with Mobi has not been disclosed or mentioned in that context (e.g., Construction on Point Grey Road starts this week, CBC). She is also a donor to and appears to work closely the ruling civic party, Vision Vancouver.

(Update at bottom: Link to Sept 9 story in Vancouver Sun.)

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Re: Point Grey Road, Arbutus Corridor

September 7, 2016

Hi Tanya;

I’m a long time resident of Kitsilano, active in various local issues, primarily concerned with preserving and increasing green space and preventing the paving of our parks and beaches for bike lanes (such as was proposed for Kits Beach and Hadden Parks and the Point Grey Foreshore.)

Most recently I became involved in stopping the paving of the Arbutus Corridor to allow for consultation on a temporary path. I have argued for a more aesthetically pleasing crushed limestone path such as the shared paths at Vanier Park, Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks which work well for mixed use by pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, moms with strollers and wheelchairs.

Today I attended a protest against the changes to Point Grey Road, which involve the removal of trees and bushes and the expansion of concrete sidewalks.

It has recently come to my attention that you, as one of the major advocates and spokespersons in favour of the above paved asphalt bike paths, are not only Chair of the City’s Active Transportation Advisory Council but also “currently Project Manager, Station Siting for Mobi, Vancouver’s bikeshare“, as specified in your attached LinkedIn profile.

I believe that this contract puts you in a conflict of interest position as you are now both Chair of the Advisory Council to the city on issues concerning bike lanes AND working for Mobi Bike Share, who obviously benefit financially from the expansion and enhancement of these bike lanes.

For instance, you have openly advocated for the asphalt paving of the Arbutus Corridor, which would benefit Mobi Bike Share by not only creating a speedier path for cyclists, but also by preventing their rental bikes from getting a bit “dusty” on a crushed limestone path.

You are also a major advocate of the “enhancements” to Point Grey Road and Burrard Bridge, which would also benefit Mobi Bike Share.

I assume, perhaps erroneously, that, as the project manager for Mobi’s sites around the city, you are looking for bike share stations at points on or near Point Grey Road, along the Arbutus Corridor and at Kits Beach. There are already stations in Kitsilano close to Burrard Bridge.

In order to avoid conflict of interest, while you are working for Mobi Bike Share it would be appropriate for you to recuse yourself from promoting bike lane enhancements such as along the Arbutus Corridor, Point Grey Road and Burrard Bridge and through Kits Beach and Hadden Parks, all of which will benefit your client (or employer) Mobi Bike Share and yourself financially.

Many thanks,
Elvira

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Bike share manager accused of conflict of interest
By Matt Robinson, Vancouver Sun, 9-Sept-2016
Excerpts below. Go to source for full text.
http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/bike-share-manager-accused-of-conflict-of-interest

MATT ROBINSON

Caption: Vancouver has 387 bikes to date (with a target of 1,500) and 1,761 active users since Mobi soft launched two weeks ago. 
There will eventually be 150 Mobi bike share stations in Vancouver. 

The head of Vancouver’s advisory council on active transportation defended herself Thursday from allegations that her work with Mobi puts her in a conflict of interest.

Tanya Paz has volunteered on the city’s active transportation policy council since 2012. In that role, she and other members give advice to staff and councillors on issues of concern for pedestrians, cyclists, skaters and transit users. A few months ago, Paz accepted a short-term, full-time contract to work with Vancouver Bike Share, the operator of Mobi. There, she manages a team charged with finding locations for bike share stations and getting them permitted and installed.

… Paz told Postmedia she believes she is not in a conflict of interest, but that she has been advised by the city not to get involved in one key matter. “When I got the contract with Mobi I checked with my staff liaison … and was informed that as long as I recuse myself from votes about Mobi, it would be fine,” Paz said in an interview.

She did just that on June 1, when, according to meeting minutes, she did not vote on a motion to use city cash to fund adult cycling education for bike share users.

Paz said she started with Mobi on May 10. She interviewed for the job May 2 and May 9. On May 4, she voted on an issue that directly pertained to her future employer. That vote encouraged Mobi to charge casual users less for a 30 minute ride than they would pay for a one-zone trip with TransLink.

 

…. Members of the city’s advisory bodies are subject to the same code of conduct as employees and councillors. They are obligated to disclose actual or potential conflicts of interest and take steps to resolve them. Under the code, conflicts exist when individuals appear to be influenced by financial or other personal interests when carrying out their duties.

The city signed a $5-million, five-year contract with CycleHop Corp. to start the 150-station system. To date, stations are scattered around the downtown core and some, but not all, are located beside or close to bike lanes….

3 thoughts on “To avoid appearance of conflict of interest, activist urges Mobi’s Paz to refrain from promoting bike lane enhancements (on Arbutus, Point Grey Road, etc.) while employed by bike share company

  1. Good catch by Elvira!
    I’m amazed that a Mobi employee can even BE on that committee. Taking that job should have meant stepping down from it immediately. Otherwise, isn’t she, like, lobbying herself?
    But it’s always so much easier to see conflict when other people have it…. and it’s worse when you feel you’re doing god’s work, no one can ever conceive that they might be swayed by money. They’re bedazzled by their own virtue.
    Maybe for balance, add some car dealership and shoe store employees to the transportation advisory committee structure.

  2. A great letter from Elvira Lount, Tanya Paz should not just recuse herself from decision-making on bike paths, etc., she should immediately step down from her position as Chair of the City of Vancouver’s Active Transportation Policy Council. As long as Ms. Paz is in the employ of Mobi bikes, she is in a direct conflict of interest should she continue on as a member of the Active Transportation Policy Council, never mind Chair of this powerful committee. http://vancouver.ca/…/active-transportation-policy… Advisory Council to the city on issues concerning bike lanes

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