Two Steps Ahead

September 1, 2009

By Molly O’Reilly, America  Walks Board Member

Walkability was front-and-center as an antidote to congestion and the epidemic of childhood obesity at the Safe Routes to School (SR2S) National Conference in Portland, Oregon, on August 19-21, 2009. Keynote speakers at the conference emphasized this connection from a variety of viewpoints and with extensive research. The public health and insurance communities are acutely aware of the importance of an active lifestyle in fitness and health, as are educators.  

The SR2S federal program is unique among “transportation” programs in funding (as a package) education, enforcement, evaluation and encouragement as well as infrastructure (engineering) to meet the goal of making it safe and attractive for students in communities nationwide to walk and bike to school. Breakout sessions focused on many aspects that successful SR2S programs are built upon. Parents, and some school officials, need convincing that the health benefits to their youngsters of walking outweigh perceived risks. Agencies need convincing that investing in walkability and bikeability is as important as moving motorized vehicles. Schools are often sited where everyone must drive to them. SR2S succeeds with the support of local champions. These can be parents, teachers or public health officials.

America Walks member groups participated in a number of presentations. These groups include: PedNet (Columbia, MO), Feet First (Seattle, WA), WalkBoston and WALK Sacramento. America Walks is a board member of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and produces the successful SR2S webinar series for the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

Some of the presentations are available for download at: