Our work to expand the region’s Active Transportation program at the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is progressing. We are working closely with our partners to ensure that a variety of voices is included in the planning process. The Southern California region has experienced a long tradition of underfunding for active transportation as a result of inadequate planning for active transportation networks. The region is in dire need of safe and accessible active transportation networks because walking and bicycling make up 21 percent of all trips.
The timing couldn’t have been better for the second statewide Pedestrians Count conference, which was organized by California Walks and hosted at the Los Angeles Metro headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. The conference brought together pedestrian advocates, public health professionals, city planners and elected officials to discuss challenges, best practices and opportunities for improving pedestrian networks. Topics ranged from technical planning workshops like “Developing Equitable Transit Oriented Development” to general policy change panels like “Lowering Speed Limits Around Schools.”
Energy and passion for pedestrian issues were palpable throughout the conference. The excitement reached a crescendo on Friday morning when the executive director of SCAG, Hasan Ikhrata, announced that a new planning division was to be created and dedicated to active transportation and public health. The new active transportation and public health division would address these issues at SCAG. This announcement was met with resounding applause from the audience.
One of the key lessons from the conference was that Safe Routes to School advocates are fighting for improvements that will help everyone, not just school-aged children. The panel on “Seniors Walking for Health and Access” was an excellent example of Safe Routes to School's far-reaching impact. Improvements to the safety and accessibility of sidewalks and crosswalks benefit the older adult population, who need to exercise on a regular basis but are unfortunately ill-equipped to handle poor sidewalks and crosswalks in the region. For example, older Americans are often afraid to cross the street because they cannot make it across the street within the allocated time or are met with dangerous conditions in the streets.
At the Safe Routes Partnership we believe that success is achieved through broad coalitions of diverse stakeholders who support built environment improvements for active transportation. California Walks organized an amazing conference and facilitated important discussions between advocates, cities and government agencies. We look forward to working with all of our new partners to improve walking conditions for everyone.