Greetings people who walk and bike!
I am writing this from Columbus, Ohio where I just got through with the Safe Routes to School National Conference: Intersections.
This was my 3rd conference and it is always a fun and interesting experience. I wanted to update folks back home in Wisconsin on few of the things I saw, heard, or learned. As a long time, 8 years, SRTS Program Manager in Milwaukee I always learn at least one new thing but I also had a realization. Our MKE program is doing so much and has been doing so much over the years that other programs across the country are doing. It re-affirms my belief that our program is solid and features the key aspects both well known and innovative components of the movement.
The speakers were all great ! Kevin Carrol was so inspiring! His talk on the importance of play for kids set a great tone for the conference. The former Commissioner of Parks for Bogota, Columbia and a leader in the Ciclovia movement, Gil Penalosa, passionately spoke about how important it is for cities to provide for people who walk and people who bike.
My takeaways from the conference.
1. Our Milwaukee SRTS program is on par with leading programs across the country! So be proud and help us make it better and grow by being a local champion in your school! Want an easy way to start doing that? Host a Bike to School Day this May!
2. Equity is a major theme and not a fad. I think we are fairly equitable in our SRTS program but can do much more as well. At the Race, Class, and Equity discussion the quote that stuck in my mind was “Do it with you, not to you.” We must work to actively and deeply listen to the voices of those in communities of color, low income and LGBTQ to improve their access and connection to having safe streets and not just tell them what street they need fixed or what program they need to implement.
3. We have a lot of work to do. Seth LaJeunesse, Associate Director for the National Center for SRTS, asked in one session “Are we at the tipping point?” Meaning have we reached the point where SRTS and its aspects are making a large enough difference. I’d argue no, not yet. I see it daily in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin. We have a longer road to travel to get there . Even though rates of walking and biking are slowly going up there are still way to many barriers among our politicians and built environment. Now sure there are communities who are wayyy ahead of the curve and maybe they have reached a tipping point, but in Wisconsin? No. But luckily it only motivates me to keep working hard to reach that tipping point and beyond.
I urge you all to get involved in making your next trip to the park, school, work, or the store safer and more convenient to do by foot or pedal.
See you all on the front lines!
Yours in FUN!,
-Jake Newborn, Youth Education Program Manager