When I was about eight years old I decided to start a lemonade stand. My stand, which was rudimentary in design, included the front steps of my house, a pitcher of watered down lemonade and no cups. (I had not yet learned the importance of cups in lemonade sales) My best friend and neighbor, was far more entrepreneurial. His father constructed him an elaborate plywood stand that traveled by wagon while his mother helped him refine his lemonade mix, baked cookies, ensured he had a bounty of cups and I think (as I remember it) a comprehensive marketing strategy. He quickly put me out of business. It is shocking that we are still friends almost 30 years later.
I think of this story often when I speak with communities and advocates about the importance of examining best practices in Safe Routes to School policy and programs. Having been on the ground myself, I recognize that implementing Safe Routes to School is time-intensive. I also know that typically, as someone who is doing “the work”, the first thing sidelined are influential reports, interesting blogs and listservs that talk about doing “the work”. After all, the outcomes of your local projects (not those of others) should be the utmost priority for you and your community, right?
While this may be true, I know from experience that sometimes you are so focused on the outcomes, you forget you need cups.
In the matter of a decade Safe Routes to School has grown from a rudimentary upstart project to a full blown, entirely sophisticated means of getting more kids walking and bicycling to school. Whether you are just starting a program or have been running one at the cutting edge for many years, I urge you to make the time to absorb national best practices for overall project reflection and growth. You can start on our website which is full of reports, research, webinars, our National Learning Network and of course, our staff blogs. At the National Partnership we have the privilege of witnessing Safe Routes to School policy and practice at its best. We hope to pass that institutional knowledge on to you.
In a time where federal funding for Safe Routes to School is in jeopardy, school staff are time-starved, and parents are overwhelmed with the minutia of day to day life, we must ensure that each step we take is the most efficient, powerful and sustainable step towards getting more children walking and bicycling to school and in daily life.
Local Practice and Policy, a blog written by Dave Cowan, covers 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 attempts 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.