Building Momentum for Safe Routes to School in Greater Washington, DC
As part of the Regional Network Project, we are tasked with advocating for walking and bicycling at the regional level and specifically working with our local metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). After all, as pedestrians and bicyclists, it does not matter what jurisdiction we are in, we just want to get to our destination safely.
But what happens when your MPO covers two states and the District of Columbia and all major transportation decisions are pushed to the states and local level? You co-host a Safe Routes to School Regional meeting.
On October 29th, the Greater Washington DC network and the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee co-hosted the first regional meeting that brought together Safe Routes to School professionals, advocates and other interested parties. More than 70 people attended, showing the pent up demand for bringing people together to discuss Safe Routes to School.
Prince William County Supervisor Mike May with aid, Brian Lee present on their successful Safe Routes to School grant. Photo by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Besides the great turn out, the best part of the meeting was the diversity of attendees and speakers. Educators, transportation professionals, health professionals, Safe Routes to School coordinators, parents and community residents all sat in the same room to discuss how to increase the number of kids who are able to safely enjoy walking or bicycling to school.
Since the regional meeting, I have heard about several phone calls and meetings due to connections made at the meeting. This is what it is about! The momentum of the meeting is being carried into our everyday work. The final part of the meeting was a facilitated discussion. Participants suggested several next steps such as creating a method for Safe Routes to School professionals and advocates to connect online and learning what data was available about the trips to school in our region.