Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In

At MAP-21’s Halfway Mark, Leaders Gather to Start the “Walking Revolution”

1:37 PM EDT on October 3, 2013

This week, in the midst of a government shutdown, at least one thing was moving and shaking in Washington: the first-ever Walking Summit. Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, America Walks, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and several other national groups, the conference sold out more than a month before showtime, the enthusiastic response surprising even the organizers. Today, despite the shutdown, many of the 400 participants are walking the Hill, meeting with their lawmakers to advocate for federal support for walking -- though many meetings have been canceled, especially on the Senate side.

Summit participants showcased the diversity of the movement for movement. There were sports medicine physicians who prescribe walking as medicine -- it’s free, it has no harmful side effects, and it works to heal a surprising number of ailments. There was a city councilwoman from South Carolina who ran for office to help build safe, healthy, walkable neighborhoods. A “recovering couch potato” was there, with his own fitness program for other “out of shape, middle-aged” people.

A representative of the National PTA showed a touching picture of her young son taking a picture of her daughter as she discovered her own shadow -- the magic that happens when families walk together instead of driving everywhere. The NAACP was there to bring a social justice and equity angle to the conversation about physical activity and the built environment. AARP is part of this movement, advocating for livable communities where seniors can age in place. The American Heart Association is involved, giving grants to active living campaigns.

But let’s get down to brass tacks: We’re one year into a two-year transportation bill that was devastating for walking and biking programs. It eliminated dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails, and it cut funding for active transportation by 33 percent, giving states the option of slicing off up to 50 percent of what was left. Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah have all made the very bad decision to do just that.

Sen. Barbara Boxer and others on the Hill have indicated that they’re pleased with the policy measures in MAP-21 and are less interested in revisiting policy in the next bill than they are in simply finding a way to stabilize the funding source. Active transportation advocates would beg to differ. They would like to see performance measures that bring real accountability for state DOTs, including a specific measure for walking and biking.

But will we really be debating -- and passing -- a new transportation reauthorization next year? Considering it took three years of extensions to pass the last one, the odds are long. Still, reformers are gearing up.

But Deb Hubsmith, founder of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, says before dealing with the reauthorization, they want to make the current bill work as well as it can.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Astoria Organizers Lead the Way on Street Safety with a Reddit Strategy

The western Queens neighborhood has become a hub for a new kind of safe street advocacy.

October 3, 2023

Connecticut’s Regional Rail Investment is Not About New York City

Gov. Ned Lamont will spend $315 million investment on new rail cars — but they're not going anywhere near Grand Central. Here's why.

October 3, 2023

Tuesday’s Headlines: Taxi Driver Edition

It was a pretty slow Monday, but we have news from the Traffic Mobility Review Board meeting!

October 3, 2023

State DMV’s New Rules Could Kinda Sorta Make Roadways Safer

Of course, it all depends on enforcement and diligence of our motor vehicle officials and cops.

October 3, 2023

Popular Fort Greene Open Street Fizzles After City Pulls Support

DOT reassigned its contractor, and this open street — which once hosted rollicking dance parties — is history.

October 2, 2023
See all posts