Vital and Vibrant: Safe Routes to School at the National Walking Summit

walking summit

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is excited to join America Walks at the 2017 Walking Summit in St. Paul and to connect with walking advocates to share diverse perspectives, strategies, and best practices for working together to elevate the power of walking and Safe Routes to School in creating healthy, safe, and active communities. Safe Routes to School advocates and practitioners will benefit from an in-depth training on the first day of the conference, as well as program sessions throughout the conference that focus on the link between walking, walkable communities, and Safe Routes to School.

Early bird registration is open through July 14! Click here to register for the conference.

 Meet the Safe Routes to School National Partnership staff who will be moderating panels and facilitating discussions around walking and Safe Routes to School at the National Walking Summit. View the full conference program and register here.

Safe Routes to School-Focused Panels at the National Walking Summit

hollyHOLLY NICKEL, COALITIONS AND EQUITY MANAGER

Why is it important for Safe Routes to School and walkability advocates to promote social justice and fight oppression through health and active transportation advocacy?

Everyone deserves the opportunity to safely and conveniently get to where they need to go. For many people, especially those that live in low-income communities and communities of color, walking, biking, and taking transit is frequent and essential to get to basic goods and services. However, in these communities, routes to goods and services such as school, food, work, and healthcare can often be unsafe, inconvenient, and at times fatal due to historic disinvestment and other systemic barriers.

Not only do safe routes get people moving safely and efficiently to where they need to be, but safe routes get people moving in general.  Physical activity is important in the prevention of obesity and chronic disease. In places with high inactivity and obesity, safe routes can spur more physically active lives.

Only when advocates understand and act on the causes underlying unsafe routes will we see the most burdened communities become vibrant and healthy.

Holly Nickel will moderate a panel on Crafting Inclusive and Equitable Safe Routes to School Programs on Thursday, September 14.

cassCASS ISIDRO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

How can a Walking School Bus program help a school embrace a culture of walking and biking to school?

A Walking School Bus program is an easy way for neighboring parents and kids to interact regularly supporting community connections for families to each other and to their neighborhood school while promoting lifelong healthy behaviors for our youngest citizens.  As a group activity a Walking School Bus program increases the number of kids walking and biking to school in and of itself, and it also provides a visual example of a viable transportation option for all families within walking and biking distance of the school.  The increased involvement from families supports the whole school environment, encouraging family and community engagement as well as increased physical activity.  With parents and extended family members supervising the walk to school, students can feel safe and confident in their journey arriving at school with their bodies moving and their brains ready to learn.

Cass will lead a discussion on Walking School Buses on Thursday, September 14.

andyANDY PASILLAS, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA POLICY MANAGER

How have you seen Safe Routes to School and walking advocates work together to strengthen school-based physical activity programs?

Successful planning and engagement requires broad and equitable stakeholder involvement. Identify champions that can provide leadership, and equally as critical, ensure that stakeholders who may be less likely to come to forward have the opportunity and feel welcome to do so. For example, a driven school administrator capable of engaging with school communities as a whole can provide that essential nexus to accessing true needs. Or maybe there are opportunities to utilize existing parent leadership structures that can help in assessing connections and improvement opportunities between schools and surrounding neighborhoods. It is also important to keep in mind that students themselves are advocates. Working to educate students on the importance safe opportunities for active transportation and connections between physical activity and improvements in health pays off when they continue to engage with family and friends both inside and outside of a school setting. No matter what the approach, holistic community buy-in and support must be the end goal.

Andy will facilitiate a conversation around Safe Routes to School Planning and Engagement on Thursday, September 14.

kateKATE MOENING, FIELD SERVICES MANAGER

Why is it important to include youth’s perspectives when it comes to making decisions that impact students on the way to school?

When communities, businesses and organizations make decisions, they do so with input from their “users” – the residents they serve, their patrons and clients, or their organization’s members, because they know these users have experiences, opinions, and ideas that will attract and retain them, and provide for their needs.  

When planning school active transportation improvements, students are the “user”  and should be part of the process– they have intimate, first-hand knowledge of their environment and experiences, and ideas on how to make it safer, user-friendly and appealing.  Including youth in decision-making not only provides their unique perspective to plans and program implementation, but empowers them to be involved, encourages them to speak up, and shows they are a valued member of the community and can make a difference.

Kate will moderate a panel on Education of Youth and Community Members in Safe Routes to School on Friday, September 15.