Pro Walk/Pro Bike teaches collaboration and partnership
I visited Chattanooga for the first time this week, heading south to attend the Pro Walk/Pro Bike International Symposium (an event supported by Bikes Belong) and get a good dose of active transportation advocacy and effort in action (say that three times fast). What I got was an impressive tutorial on just how much is happening in the world of biking and walking. These people are highly motivated (and a little intense), and whether it was the free hugs offered on opening night or the standing ovations required when any speaker walked on or off the stage, they really put the “active” in active transportation.
The buzzword of the conference for me was “collaboration.” Occasionally replaced with “partnerships.” And every now and then people moved outside the (bike) box and focused on “coalition building.” Everyone, it seems, is welcomed to the table. Healthcare organizations, schools, arts alliances, community development coalitions, government departments, businesses, non-profits, foundations... Hey, if you can find me a kayaking school that needs a portage path, I will find you a biking, walking or fitness group that will welcome their help.
The other theme – and this may be based on the breakouts I chose – was that, as a movement, we are getting better at engaging the groups that have historically been underserved when it comes to bike facilities and livable streets. I loved the stories from Portland about the Community Cycling Center’s efforts to engage communities of Latinos, Africans, and African-Americans, and I was inspired by Atlanta’s Safe Routes to School Outreach Coordinator who is building trust in schools accustomed to seeing programs come and go. My favorite? Detroit’s renaissance from the Motor City to the city of non-motorized transportation, as a combination of federal and foundation dollars are helping it build greenways and bike paths where autos once ruled.
I learned a lot over the past few days, and I look forward to seeing how my education can be put into action as a grantmaker and, could it be, as a coalition-builder? partnership-promoter? collaboration-creator? We’ll see, but barring that, I guess I can always give out free hugs.