Ryan Snyder graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in Economics, and later returned to earn a master’s degree in Urban Planning. As an undergraduate, Snyder was interested in a wide variety of subjects, from Geography to Anthropology. The diversity of classes offered by the Economics major at UCLA gave him the freedom to study and explore all these subjects. Later, he would find out that his background in Economics gave him the perspective needed to critically analyze interdisciplinary problems from those fields and more.
As an undergraduate, Snyder was involved in the Office of Environmental and Consumer Affairs, a progressive, student-led organization. He focused on establishing a groundbreaking recycling program for the Daily Bruin. This experience taught him that the principles and ideas of economics directly applied to environmental issues. His background in the subject allowed him to not only identify key societal problems, but also develop innovative solutions for them. His time in the Office of Environmental and Consumer Affairs sparked his interest in alternative transportation options, particularly in the bicycle, which continues to be a central focus of his career.
In his senior year at UCLA, Snyder took an Introduction to Architecture and Urban Planning course taught by Harvey Perloff, a UCLA Dean and highly influential figure in modern urban planning. Perloff broadened the concept of urban planning to address environmental, social, and economic problems in addition to physical planning. This approach showed Snyder that Urban Planning was the intersection of all the subjects that he was interested in. Furthermore, it demonstrated that planning methods could become a powerful tool in solving the societal problems that Snyder cared about. Perloff’s class eventually convinced him to pursue a career in Urban Planning.
To kickstart a successful career in Urban Planning, Snyder earned a master’s degree in Urban Planning from UCLA. He then used his education, coupled with his passion for alternative modes of transportation, to promote active transportation in urban design. He started his career by working on transportation demand management, a field which focuses on understanding how people make their transportation decisions. He then became involved in bicycle and pedestrian planning, where he designed streets with important features such as adequate walking area, accommodations for people with disabilities, and spaces for bikes lanes.
A cornerstone in Snyder’s career was developing Los Angeles County’s Model Design Manual for Living Streets. His idea was straightforward yet pioneering—to create a modern framework for designing cities that incorporated many progressive aspects of urban planning. The project was a tremendous undertaking. He first organized a conference composed of leaders from several public interest groups and the best street design experts in the country. Together they collaborated on refining the implementation of his people-oriented design proposals. He then spent several months compiling the innovative ideas developed at the conference into a comprehensive design manual. After its publication, Snyder saw the potential for the manual to have a far-reaching impact in the field of urban planning. He shared the manual, not only with LA County, but also with cities across the nation—encouraging them to use it as a template for revamping their own urban developments. His project quickly flourished, and was adopted by many cities. Due to the project’s creative ideas and widespread implementation, Snyder received the National Planning Achievement Award for Best Practice from the American Planning Association.
Snyder has remained active in the UCLA and Westwood communities after his graduation. For years, he has taught a graduate course in Bicycle and Pedestrian planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. In order to improve the lives for future Bruins, Snyder ran and was recently elected to the North Westwood Neighborhood Council. He plans to apply his complete streets planning approach to make Westwood a more vibrant neighborhood.
Written by Kevin Kato