One of my favorite parts of Safe Routes to School is celebrating community. In my day-to-day work, I’m inspired by stories of Safe Routes programs bringing people together. Parents and engineers going on walk audits. School staff and elected officials celebrating Walk and Roll to School Day. Safe Routes to School coordinators and rotary club members installing new bike racks. Neighbors and non-profits organizing school streets pilot projects. These stories come from small towns and big cities, oftentimes under the backdrop of serious challenges and barriers to progress.
We all know how our world and our work has changed over the past few years. At times it seems like the challenges only grow bigger and we question what role, if any, we have to play in finding solutions. Yet Safe Routes has found a way to continue showing up for our communities.
When we decided to organize a virtual Safe Routes to School Summit, we wanted to capture and celebrate this spirit. Early in our planning process, we brainstormed words that could speak to how the Safe Routes to School community persisted over the past few years and how we continue to move this work forward. We settled on Connect, Engage, and Innovate as being representative of who we are as Safe Routes to School practitioners and champions, and the many ways we show up for our communities.
We connect students and families to their schools. From constructing sidewalks to painting bike lanes, we advocate for the necessary infrastructure that makes it safer to travel to school. We also run bike trains and walking school bus programs where kids can enjoy being with their friends. Safe Routes to School is a key piece of rebuilding social connections and cultivating joyful spaces.
We engage partners and champions who care about this movement. We work alongside local librarians to develop Safe Routes to School plans. We ask community organizations to volunteer time and resources so students have “swag” to celebrate Walk and Roll to School Day. We meet people where they are, at street corners, swap meets, and any other location that is convenient for them, because that is what effective community engagement looks like.
We innovate with new ideas that offer a glimpse into the future. We transform streets surrounding school campuses into safe play zones for kids. We use GIS mapping to capture data that informs our programs. When we don’t know, we ask for ideas on our listserv and informal Zoom chats. We understand that the way forward starts with coming together.
These are just some of the reasons why we continue to be inspired and support Safe Routes to School, and why we are so proud to be part of this community. We hope to share so much more with you during the Safe Routes to School Summit in November. We invite you to connect, engage, and innovate with us.
Visit the Safe Routes to School Summit 2022 page for more information. Early Bird registration ends Friday, October 14th at 11:59 pm PT.