Women of the Walking Movement: Sharon Roerty
America Walks recently posed an opportunity for our audience, internal staff, and supporters to nominate women walking champions who they admire. It was brought to our attention that Sharon Roerty is making waves in the walking movement.
Sharon Roerty is a Senior Program Officer at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and concentrates on health and the built and natural environment. Her unofficial entry into the walking movement began when she was the Capital Program Manager at the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and developed project prioritization criteria that made it possible for pedestrian and bicycle projects to compete for funding in a crowded field of highway, bridge and freight projects. Her work caught the attention of a new transportation applied research group at Rutgers University where she developed New Jersey’s (state funded) Pedestrian & Bicycle Resource Center.
Sharon went on to become the Executive Director of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking where she led hundreds of walkable community workshops all across the country; and advocated for non-motorized transportation policy at the federal, state and local level. She has an extensive list of affiliations including being on the first Federal Safe Routes to School Task Force, the National Complete Streets Steering Committee, the NJ Council for Physical Fitness and Sports, a Pedestrian Injury Prevention Program, and the FHWA Pedestrian Safety Strategic Plan Review.
Sharon’s base for thinking about healthier and more equitable communities is thoroughly influenced by the people she has met across the country who wanted more walkable, livable and connected communities. She acknowledges that the next big hurdle is making sure that everyone benefits from having safe, accessible, walkable communities.
She believes that women have had a significant impact in the walking movement because they are born nurturers, inclined to be inclusive, caring and protective.
“Women are tactile and they see the community as places for their families and are acutely sensitive to the needs of our most vulnerable family members. Vulnerability is an important lens to bring to the walkable community conversation; and it is an excellent conversation starter for so many other aspects of our communities.”
Sharon has been inspired by many other women on the path, including Sally Flocks, the Founder of PEDS in Atlanta, and of late Tamika Butler, Director of Equity & Inclusion at Toole Design and Odetta MacLeish-White, the Managing Director of Transformation Alliance Atlanta.
Sharon’s advice for women working to make waves in the walking movement? Bring all your skills to the work, lead from your heart, hold people accountable, and be persistent. She said, “The best part of working towards walkability is the window it gives you to experiencing and understanding community.”