Safe Routes Can Increase Bicycling

Robert PingNext week I go to the National Bike Summit with several other staff and 800 of my closest friends to promote federal funding for bicycling (and walking). I find it frustrating that after decades of activism we still are not an accepted form of transportation in America in many places! Nearly every article or blog post I read about bicycling on roads includes opinions or reader comments about how bicyclists are "entitled", "don't pay their fair share" and other bogus statements. I have always wondered why people are so emotional about 25 pounds of steel and rubber, it is symbolism I suppose; changing culture takes a long time…

That is one of the reasons I am such a fan of Safe Routes to School. You can argue the merits of bicycles as transportation, you can argue over who pays for what, who should have priority on crowded and expensive roadways, and even whether "bicycles cause congestion" - perhaps the craziest statement I have ever heard - but it is hard to disagree that kids should be physically active and healthy, have access to the outdoors or be able to safely navigate their neighborhoods. Those are fundamental elements of life that everyone should agree are good for children and youth (and everyone else for that matter).

As the National Partnership's technical assistance director, I get to 'sell' Safe Routes to School, along with other great ideas such as Complete Streets, Community-Centered Schools and the wildest one of all - "government agencies should work together and with the public"! (A simple and obvious concept, but hard to put into practice.) Oh, and getting every state to spend (read: obligate) the federal Safe Routes to School funds that are sitting there waiting to help kids be active and safer. Giving advocates and agencies tools for success to make these great ideas become reality is rewarding work, and it makes the battles taking place in Congress more palatable knowing that our technical assistance is helping to empower an army of advocates throughout the country who are working to make our streets, sidewalks and neighborhoods safer and more livable for America's kids, families and  everyone else.

Next month we launch our National Learning Network! Featuring webinars, blog posts, written materials and a library of resources, it will be accessible here: http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/state/National-Learning-Network