Established in 1996, America Walks is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit national organization leading the way in making America a great place to walk. We provide a voice for walking and walkable communities with federal agencies, provide strategy support, training and technical assistance to statewide, regional, and local organizations, and serve as the convener of the national Every Body Walk! Collaborative. Together, America Walks and the Every Body Walk! Collaborative boast 700 allied organizations who across the nation are working to increase walking and make America a better place to walk.
Initially working solely as a national coalition of local pedestrian advocacy organizations, America Walks was founded by groups such as Walk Boston, Walk Austin, Walk New York, and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition. Over the first several years, membership grew to sixty groups and America Walks expanded to provide increased member services, share best practices across the nation and serve as a forum in which members could come together to advocate common goals.
The Annual Congress
In the early 2000s, under the leadership of Ellen Vanderslice and Andy Hamilton, an annual Congress was established to further the discussion and work of the group. America Walks, with funding support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), gathered local advocates, representatives from government and agencies, and other consultants to set out to find ways to achieve the commitment to create safe and accessible walkable communities across America.
At the 2002 Congress, America Walks developed and adopted its first federal policy platform. Titled “A Pedestrian Agenda for TEA-3,” it consisted of the following eight points:
- Recognize Walking as a Basic Transportation Mode
- Plan for Walking
- Support Safe Routes to Schools
- Support Safe Routes to Transit
- Reconnect Communities
- Implement the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in the Public Right-of-Way
- Slow Down Urban Roadways
- Support Walking as a Key Component of Public Health
At the same time, America Walks expanded its tools and resources available to its network of local advocates. The “Pedestrian Advocacy Toolkit” was developed and distributed to all paying members, helping America Walks become one of the leading organizations for local advocates in the walking community. The toolkit provided best practices and case studies on a range of topics of value to America Walks member groups, such as organizing a non-profit, engaging the public, promoting policy effectively, and designing pedestrian infrastructure.
A Growing Trend
Over the following years, America Walks continued to see the value and importance of working with local and national partnerships. As the walkable and walking movement grew, so did the organization. America Walks joined with other national organizations to provide webinars as part of the Safe Routes to School program, partnered with local groups to host and promote regional conferences, and continued to provide an important voice in the ped-bike safety arena. In 2010 America Walks charted a new direction, hosted the Equal Footing summit in Chattanooga, TN, and adopted a new three-year strategic plan for the organization focusing on broadening our organizational partnership.
After guiding America Walks in 2010, Scott Bricker has hired as the organizations’ first Executive Director in 2011 and has helped grow America Walks into the leading national organization it is today. New partnerships and strategic planning has allowed the organization to become increasingly involved in the national conversation while maintaining its origins as a resource and forum for local advocates working to advance walkability. This growth culminated with the 2013 National Walking Summit, hosted by America Walks with support from the Every Body Walk! Collaborative, where 400 walking advocates, government representatives and policy professionals came together to discuss the current situation and ways to move forward into the future.
Today America Walks and the Every Body Walk! Collaborative boast 700 allied organizations who across the nation are working to increase walking and make America a better place to walk. America Walks continues to make great strides as it works to promote safe and accessible walking conditions for every community. With the support of local advocates, strong partnerships and walkers from all across America, America Walks is committed to serving as the national resource for safe, convenient and accessible walkable communities for all.