Introducing the Local Practice & Policy Blog

Dave CowanIn Atlanta, I’m sitting in a conference room with roughly 30 advocates from the public health sector who are here to talk about the work they are doing throughout the country in preventative health. We circle the room introducing ourselves and like many people, I’m temporarily distracted from the other introductions as I consider what it is I want to divulge about myself.

I’d like to share the depth of my passion for Safe Routes to School. I consider talking about my job, my role in researching, writing and publishing essential resources to the national Safe Routes to School community, conducting webinars that fuel the needs of practitioners or training community stakeholders about Safe Routes to School and the policies and initiatives that can sustain it for years to come. Oddly, I am not assured this will keep anyone’s attention. 

I pass on that idea and consider talking about one or several of the interesting projects (research and otherwise) that we conduct (and I manage) at the national level to support local efforts, but I’m afraid the details of this may drive attendees to watching paint peel. My mind wanders to the many years I spent as a Safe Routes to School educator in the state of Colorado, the students I taught, the parents I engaged and the schools that I worked to transform – or, on a larger scale, the important advocacy work we did as the state-wide bicycle advocacy organization in Colorado.

This too is akin to counting sheep.

Perhaps they would be interested in my lifelong passion for walking, bicycling and transit? Might it be worth mentioning that I ride my bike as often as I can to as many places it will take me? Maybe they’d like to know the intimate details of the various bicycles I keep in my garage? Unlikely.

I settle on telling them about my daughter, who rides with me as often as she can, laughing, smiling and chatting all the way. The pleasure I derive from walking with her to the park, or riding to the store. I’ll do my best to resist pulling out the above photo and showing it to everyone in the room. I’ll tell them how I truly believe this work will lead to a safe and healthy place that my daughters (and their daughters) will enjoy with their friends, family and neighbors. I’ll tell them that creating the opportunity for children to walk and bicycle to school and in life opens the door to a lifetime of happiness and health and that I want to be leading the charge.

It’s my turn; the spotlight is on me:

 “Hi, I’m Dave Cowan…… and I work for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.”

Wow. I choked. Maybe next time.

Local Practice & Policy, a blog written by Dave Cowan, will cover many of the multifaceted aspects of his work here at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Focusing on best practices, voices from the field and reflections on the Safe Routes to School movement as a whole, this blog will attempt to share a sliver of the good vibes, happy stories and great people Dave has the pleasure of working with to further Safe Routes to School on a daily basis.