Policy Successes in Texas

2021 Walking College Fellow Scott White is off to a Fast Start

Since the launch of the Walking College program eight years ago, about 300 local advocates have completed their Fellowships and written Walking Action Plans for their communities.  Almost all of them scored important “walkability wins” within a year or two of graduating, but very few have achieved such substantial early successes as Scott White (2021 Fellow from El Paso, Texas).

Key goals in Scott’s Walking Action Plan were for the City of El Paso to adopt Complete Streets and Vision Zero Policies.  In 2022, following sustained advocacy from Scott and others, the City adopted its Complete Streets Policy, which has been ranked the third strongest in the nation by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America. And, within the last few weeks, the City Council also approved the El Paso Vision Zero Plan – just in time to apply for a federal Safe Streets for All grant to pay for implementation.

Why Advocacy Matters

Scott would be the first to acknowledge that policy wins such as these occur because of sustained advocacy pressure involving many individuals and groups over an extended time, but his efforts since completing the Walking College have been critical.  “The Walking College, along with all my mentors and fellows, gave me a whole new set of tools, perspectives and resources to work with,” said Scott. Along the way, Scott’s work has also contributed to  the creation  of the City of El Paso’s first Bicycle and Pedestrian Program,  a Mobility Manager position, and the impending creation of a Regional Vision Zero Safety Action Plan by the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization (with funding through the Safe Streets and Roads grant program, and the local match coming from the County of El Paso and other local municipalities). 

At the State level, Scott leads campaigns for Farm&City, a leading Texas based 501(c)3  statewide advocacy organization that focuses on a number of quality of life issues, including land use, active transportation, and reforming the Texas transportation system.  Here are some of the Transportation Bills passed by the Texas State Legislature this session, which Farm&City introduced and/or lobbied for:

  • “Crash not Accident” – to revise language in transportation-related codes and legislation
  • “Variable speed limits” – allows the Texas Dept. of Transportation District Engineers to set reduced speed limits appropriate to conditions (eg. work zones, crashes, weather such as  ice, fog, , etc.) without going through a 30-day approval process
  • “ADA Parking Spaces” – Farm&City successfully fought off an effort to allow these spaces to be used by non-disabled drivers for short stops

And their “Safe Neighborhood Streets” bill, which would have allowed cities to adopt lower residential speed limits, came very close to passing and will be re-introduced in the next session.

All in all, it’s been a very impressive run of policy successes since Scott White graduated from the Walking College 21 months ago.

As a final note, Scott would also have us remember to keep learning, to stay engaged, to keep working for a more walkable community, but also to celebrate your own wins (even the little ones) along the way. Thanks for all you are doing, and we at America Walks, and the Walking College are proud to be a part of your continuing work.

If you would like to learn more about the Walking College program, click here to learn more.