Walk Like an Advocate with Rutgers' Grads

A Special Invitation

As an advocate with both the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and locally with Bike&Walk Montclair, I was asked to be a co-guest lecturer for the Urban Planning & Policy Development Graduate Program at Rutgers UniversityProfessor John Pucher, author of City Cycling, wrote to me and Kimberli Craft, Montclair Township Engineer, to say, “Our ped/bike seminar attracts the very best grad students in the entire Bloustein School. They are passionately devoted to walking and cycling. It would be truly wonderful to have you speak about your involvement with Montclair's many successful initiatives.”

Kim and I agreed immediately to present a case study of advocacy and implementation in Montclair Township over the last ten years. Professor Pucher introduced us as New Jersey's “Dynamic Duo.”

How to Walk Like an Advocate

I asked the students to comment on this quote: “You are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic.”  

Being New Jersey students, they know traffic well. They were quick to point out that our daily choices cah be part of the problem as well as the solution. They already knew that it’s up to each of us to be the change agents for our vision of the world citing things like “helping people” as their main motivators. 
My presentation focused on Bike&Walk Montclair’s change agents and some of the challenges and rewards we’ve seen as a result of our efforts. For example, Montclair Township was the first municipality in NJ to pass a Complete Streets policy. We are experiencing a culture shift where bicycling and walking are a given – almost.
 
Montclair’s Many Successes

Glass is half full Some would say the glass is half full, others would say it’s half empty. An engineer says there’s twice as much glass as there needs to be!

Kim began her presentation bravely. She said, “The first step in overcoming a problem is admitting you have one. My name is Kimberli Craft and I am an engineer.”

Kim’s background as a Civil Engineer focused on environmental, structural and transportation engineering. She talked of the day she became “bike aware” and realizing that coming from the government side, she sometimes has to say “no” even when she doesn’t want to.

In terms of public policy, Kim’s presentation was about the times she’s been able to say “yes” in Montclair - all key to a SAFE (Streets Are For Everyone) Streets Plan. The SAFE Streets Plan outlines a best-practice design for a town-wide network for safe bicycling and walking. She stressed the importance of understanding the community, following standards and placing the public interest above all else.

Closing and Thank You!

The students, many of whom are active with Walk Bloustein Bike Bloustein (WBBB), were hungry for real-world, practical answers to questions having to do with volunteers, advocacy, policy negotiation, liability and economic benefits. WBBB is a student-led initiative advocating for campus-wide bicycling and walking policy.

Professor Pucher closed by reiterating that at first, advocating for change is difficult, but once the benefits become evident, the rest will follow.

Special thanks to grad students Rewa Marathe and Krzysztof Lukasik for taking notes and photos.

Be brave.  Take a chance.  Change the world!

For more information, or to join the New Jersey network, please contact me.

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