Recently, as I returned home after discussions in mid-February regarding national bicycle advocacy unification plans, I was blown away by the number of people – kids, parents, commuters, racers and residents – who were bicycling (and smiling while they traveled) in my hometown of Fairfax, California (San Francisco Bay Area).
As I biked onto Center Boulevard cruising to the health food store to stock up on groceries (equipped with my panniers), I immediately saw more than 30 bicyclists. There were more bike riders than cars on this main drag into town – and dozens of people walking on the sidewalks too! It was a sight to behold!
I’ve lived in Fairfax for 11 years and Marin for 20, and know that it hasn’t always been this way. I credit Safe Routes to School as the major factor in creating this cultural and physical shift to human powered travel as the norm.
Fairfax was one of the local communities where the Marin County Bicycle Coalition launched the federal Safe Routes to School pilot program (funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and California Department of Public Health) starting in the year 2000. Infrastructure improvements including sidewalks, bike lanes, pathways, lighted crosswalks and signage have been installed over the past 12 years, connecting more than four schools with residences and downtown.
After seeing Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, local parents rallied around Safe Routes to School as a main initiative that they as families could engage in to reduce climate change. Soon after the Fairfax Mayor declared infrastructure improvements in bicycling and walking to be a top priority for the town.
Recent bike counts from the County of Marin show that bicycle riding increased from 42 to 211 bicyclists in a peak hour in Fairfax since 1999! There’s a movement happening here and it started with Safe Routes to School!
Bringing it back to the national level, I’m enthusiastic about the proposal to merge Bikes Belong, the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking, to create a stronger and unified national bicycle movement. The Safe Routes Partnership would continue to be hosted by the parent bicycling organization, and operate with our own staff and Steering Committee.
As we move forward with positive change and many new possibilities in 2012, we’re absolutely staying focused on federal advocacy to protect Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking in Washington, DC. As the Safe Routes Partnership and our allies continue to send out action alerts asking for your help to protect federal funding, please act immediately and encourage your friends and family to do the same.
Thank you for contributing to the transportation transformation for creating healthy and sustainable communities! Your voice truly does make a difference.