At America Walks, we love tracking walkability wins, and 2022 had some exceptional ones. As advocates, we understand the power of communities to use the democratic process to create long-lasting change. Here are four big policy wins, followed by some of our thoughts on what made them possible (spoiler alert – persistent and passionate organizing):
- A car-free JFK Drive in San Francisco, California
- Denver, Colorado adopts a sustainable program for ongoing repairs of sidewalks
- Massachusetts created the Millionaire’s Tax to improve the necessary need for safety and quality of public transportation.
- Starting January 1, 2023,the Freedom to Walk Act officially becomes law, allowing pedestrians in California to jaywalk without fear of a ticket, as long as it’s safe.
The Power of Organizing
One of these legislative actions came after a governor’s veto in the prior session. Three were ballot measures. All demonstrate the need for sustained organizing. Ballot measures in particular often don’t come out of nowhere – they usually result from a legislative log jam. Year-round, local organizers identify issues and raise awareness about what negatively impacts their community, in which they work to mobilize people to advocate for change. The goal of advocates is to bring about change by engaging with the democratic process and working to get the issues they care about on the public agenda. The legislative fights that then get taken to the people, the ones who are directly affected by current policies, are a sure way to have their voices heard once and for all.
The opportunity for ballot initiatives varies by place, the path to success may differ and not all efforts succeed. You can check out this site to see which communities voted in favor of walkability and transportation. No matter the outcome, the hard work, and efforts put into on-the-ground organizing should be recognized, whether it’s outreach, meeting with legislators, educating the masses on walkability issues, etc. These efforts are how we create spaces to share stories of lived experience, and engage in conversations to help push the needle in our line of work.
It shouldn’t be so hard to get policymakers to put health, equity, and climate first. We love it when a well-placed argument with a sympathetic elected official can achieve results. Our website is chock-full of why walkable accessible places make good sense. But we also know that it often takes deeper organizing to change the status quo. That’s why our webinars and walking college programs often focus on the tools advocates need to build power and run effective campaigns.
So what is your 2023 campaign? And how can we help you? Here are some ideas:
Building Better Streets: The goal is to build the critical infrastructure our streets need to make walking safe, routine, and enjoyable with funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Reconnecting Communities: The Freeway Fighters Network, a transportation revolution that centers people before highways, is building a nationwide movement to reconnect communities divided by big roads and overbuilt arterials.
Freedom to Move: Jaywalking laws do not improve pedestrian safety or prevent pedestrian fatalities. Instead, data shows how jaywalking laws have an unjust impact on low-income communities, children, BIPOC people, and other vulnerable groups. Decriminalizing jaywalking will be a step towards more equitable walkable communities.
Safer Vehicles for Pedestrians: Everyone deserves safe routes to walk, bike, and roll, wherever they are going. Every day, advocates are fighting for safer vehicle design standards that directly tackle why so many people outside cars are hurt or killed on our streets. We’ve required safety features that protect vehicle occupants for decades. It’s time to put similar protections into place that save the lives of people outside cars.
Still need inspo?
Complete Streets: Transportation infrastructure, such as streets, sidewalks, and bike lanes, is designed and built to be safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and people with disabilities.
Safe Routes to School: To improve the safety and accessibility of routes to schools for walking and biking, with the goal of increasing the number of children who walk or bike to school.
Parking Reform: States, cities, and towns across the country are removing parking minimums. That’s great for walkability in a number of ways. Destinations are closer to each other without huge parking lots, and it reduces costs for new housing to be built and small businesses to open.
Housing Abundance: High rents and “drive to qualify” are no way to build equitable communities accessible to all. Local organizations are springing up around the country to advocate for more housing in existing walkable neighborhoods, giving more people the opportunity to access their benefits.
Trail development: To build or improve trails for walking, biking, and other non-motorized forms of transportation.
The new year is a great opportunity to recharge and hit the ground running! Here at America Walks, walkability, accessibility, and equity are huge parts of our new year’s resolution, and we hope it is for you too. We look forward to standing with you as we fight the good fight for safer streets and better communities.