Riding Bikes with Margaret Mead
When I was a kid, I thought that I was going to grow up and help save the world. Growing up in a small, liberal town in southern Oregon, my thinking was probably cliché. But I was pretty darn committed and read books by Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela—all about international peace work. With that said, it won’t come as a surprise to anyone out there that I loved Margaret Mead’s famous quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
While I am not living abroad or working in international conflict resolution, I am still trying to make a difference in the world through active transportation work. While rewarding, this work can at times seem extremely slow. We are trying to change culture, which is never a quick thing, but this morning, while riding my bike to work, I started to think about some small groups of committed people here in Colorado—working to get more people walking and wheeling in their communities—that have recently inspired. They’ve reminded me that change is truly taking place and that just a few people can have a big impact.
Walk and Wheel Work in Colorado
Kaiser Permanente recently granted 10 communities along the Front Range funding to get more citizens walking and wheeling. I have the honor of serving as the project manager and am working with an impressive group of experts (engineers, planners, consultants and professors) who are all supporting the communities in their important work.
The communities are diverse in their demographics, political landscapes and geographies but they all share one thing—they have mobilized a “small group of thoughtful, committed citizens” to promote active transportation. While they are all doing great work, there are a few that have been particularly inspiring to me.
Greeley – Fearless Leaders
What an awesome example of the impact a city/town traffic engineer can have on a community. Eric Bracke has been head of traffic engineering in Greeley for five years and in that relatively short time, the city has worked to right size 12 miles of roads (restriping roads to incorporate bicycle and pedestrian friendly infrastructure), making them safer for all road users. To date, the city has received only one complaint and hundreds of compliments from residents along these roads. Citizens have been delighted that they can now turn safely into their driveways, park on the street and be buffered from traffic and have great bicycle access. With their Walk and Wheel funding, Greeley plans to create a new bike plan for the city and the right sizing of more roads will be a major component.
Pueblo – Unexpectedly Progressive
Until our Walk and Wheel team visited for a consultation, the folks in Pueblo didn’t realize quite how progressive they actually are. Each year they are putting in miles of new bike lanes, but because they have such high expectations for themselves, they had no idea that this alone was an amazing feat. With several engaged citizens, a city planner, a new bike/ped coordinator and a dynamic city traffic engineer, they plan to continue adding more bike lanes, grow several biking and walking events and change the culture of Pueblo.
Who are these Heroes and “Sheroes”?
I cannot help but notice that none of the Walk and Wheel heroes and sheroes are hard core bicyclists. They are all passionate citizens and advocates who understand that biking and walking as everyday activities can truly help to make our world a better place. If Margaret Mead were still alive and tagging along with me to any of these meetings, I am pretty darn sure that she would exclaim, “now that is exactly what I am talking about,” and then we would go for a bike ride.