Like so many people, I learned to ride a bike early on and for years, my two wheelers were my primary modes of transportation. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley (just outside of Los Angeles), I would bike everywhere – school, friends’ houses, work, the malls. Everywhere. Perhaps I even took the sense of freedom for granted.
Then I, along with all my friends, traded in our two wheels for four at the age of 16 when we got our drivers licenses. It would be almost a decade before I rediscovered the joy of riding regularly again when I was introduced to mountain biking. The thrill of the downhill after the intense workout of the climb was irresistible. And in 1988 it was just ramping up so there was a cool factor too.
Soon after, I attended a fun ride hosted by CORBA (Concerned Off-Road Bicyclsts Association) where I was introduced to policy and multi-use trail access issues. I wanted to help and offered the services of my design studio to help better develop their brand and marketing. I soon realized how even a little support for a cause you believe in could make a difference.
For many years, my cycling advocacy efforts focused on mountain biking. But when our daughter entered grade school a few years back, my attention turned to urban riding and working to make our community in Culver City safer for cyclists.
In 2011, I attended a Safe Routes to School community meeting here in Culver City as a precursor to applying for $1.5 million in state and federal funding intended to provide easier and safer access to a few of the schools here. The process included several stakeholders – parents, educators, city officials and police officers – mapping out a plan to not only encourage children to walk and bike to school more frequently, but provide them safe routes to do so. The consultant left with some great feedback, but something was missing.
This wasn’t the first such meeting I had been to where I left with the same exhilarated but empty feeling. The thought that it would be two years before we would see tangible results in the form of paint on a roadway or a new sign in the ground – assuming we were actually awarded the grant – was disheartening. What the heck were we supposed to do in the meantime? How could we take the energy and enthusiasm from this meeting and turn it into action? What could I do to help NOW?
I started to realize too that individual events like bike rodeos, walking school buses and rolling bike trains are great for introducing kids to basic skills and safety tips, but how do we get them to put it in practice everyday? It became clear we not only need to encourage the kids in between these events to walk and bike to school more often, but we also need to provide them the education and tools to do so safely and responsibly.
I began to see that what had been missing are ongoing encouragement campaigns to work in conjunction with the larger community events. With my passion for cycling and 25 years of graphic design and marketing experience, I realized this was something I could do and do well.
I did some research and although I found guidelines and tools, I did not find anyone who was developing campaigns such as I envisioned. I also discovered a large demand for such programs as well as a desire to find new ways of presenting pedestrian and bicycle safety programs.
Further research showed how badly children need exercise and how a little extra helps them in school, reduces the risk of obesity and diabetes and reduces congestion around schools. We simply aren’t doing enough to get them – and their parents – out of their cars more often. A simple solution would be to encourage kids to walk and bike to school more often.
So after a lot of soul searching and research, in October, 2011 I took the bold step of starting a new organization – Walk ‘n Rollers. Our mission is to encourage kids, through education and training, to walk, bike, skate and scoot to school more frequently. Our vision is to create a community where children and parents alike are comfortable using active transportation whenever they choose to. Walk ‘n Rollers will infuse new energy into existing education and encouragement programs. With the support of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and a tremendous Board of Advisors, we are already putting our ideas into action here in Culver City. But in order for us to achieve measurable change, we need to reach out to more communities.
Your support – no matter how small – allows us to provide education and outreach to the hundreds of schools and thousands of children throughout LA County. Together we can create a whole army of Walk ‘n Rollers – a new generation that will take back their streets and experience the sense of freedom we all shared growing up. A generation that embraces a more active lifestyle and will reap the benefits of better walking and biking infrastructure that is being developed throughout the country. Yes, there will be challenges ahead, but together, we can show our children how to not only be better community members, but better stewards for the future of their communities.