Champions for Active Transportation: Is Your Mayor on Board?

Christina Galardi  USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx has issued a challenge to mayors and elected officials: take action to support safety for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages.

Mayors and other elected officials can join Secretary Foxx’s efforts by issuing a call to action and forming a team to act on seven target activities over the next year: Complete Streets, fix barriers, gather data, design right, create networks, improve laws, and educate and enforce.

Could this initiative help your community take strides in the right direction toward supporting Safe Routes to School initiatives and active transportation? A survey of 461 municipal officials published in the Journal of Public Health Management Practice in 2014 found that lack of collaboration is a barrier to participation in developing, adopting, or implementing municipal transportation policy supportive of walking or bicycling.

Secretary Foxx’s nationwide effort may provide the resources and support needed to start collaboration with local government – but voices from your community are needed to reinforce to officials the importance of getting involved. The research study also showed that higher perceived support from residents for local government to address economic development was associated with increased participation in transportation policy.

Public health officials have an important role in supporting planning initiatives for active transportation but do not always capitalize on this role. In another study of 453 municipal officials published in the American Journal of Health Promotion in 2014, public health officials reported lower participation than other elected and appointed officials in policies related to land use design (29% vs. 78.9%), transportation (42.1% vs. 78.1%), and parks and recreation (26.3% vs. 67.1%). Awareness of the impact of community design on physical activity and perceptions of partnerships to coordinate the two were related to more policy participation, while perceived lack of political will was associated with less participation. Public health officials were more likely to identify political will and lack of collaboration as barriers than other municipal officials, as reported by another analysis of the same study.

Whether you’re a public health professional or a member of the public, now’s the time to gather political willpower and get your mayor and city officials on board. Representatives from cities participating in the challenge will be invited to attend the Mayors’ Challenge Summit for Safer People, Safer Streets in Washington, D.C on March 12, 2015. This event will mark the official kick-off of yearlong efforts to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Will your city join the challenge?