Perspectives (October 2017)
Sara Merz, Executive Director
I was fortunate to be at the National Walking Summit last month with more than 600 other advocates. I was struck by the incredible leaders who have been working to make walking and biking safer and “the norm” in our communities across the country for at least the last 15 years. This is a national movement that went from fringe, then cutting-edge, to now a mainstream concept and goal of elected officials, community leaders and advocates, and planners – all key allies together. Increasing health and safety is a goal everyone shares.
- Walking and biking to school, often called Safe Routes to School or Active Transportation, is a priority in all of these communities. I’m thrilled that 36% of WCPSS elementary schools participated in International Walk to School Day last week and that active transportation is now part of the WCPSS Wellness Policy.
- The language of complete streets, which is making our physical infrastructure safe and building it to include all users like walkers and bikers, is common and also evolving. Ramsey County, MN, is now redefining its biking and pedestrian planning, and framing it as an All Abilities Network. This is a move that was recommended by its Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Board, and was then taken to the County Board by the county manager and multiple departments. This is an unusually high level of leadership support and cross-departmental collaboration. Recommendations often come directly from an advisory board, or perhaps from one county department.
- The theme of equity is emerging as a strong reason to support transportation networks everyone can use. This is being promoted by the disability rights communities and those representing underserved populations. Physical access–the ability to get places–is critical to meeting basic needs for the many people who are physically or economically unable to drive. More government entities and communities want to make equity a key part of their work. This is one very concrete way to meet that goal.
Thanks to everyone working to make making biking and walking a way to get around and to enjoy our communities.