Mark Fenton, a dynamic advocate for the pedestrian lifestyle was the keynote speaker at the CT’s Bike Walk Summit last week.


I’d like to share his opening exercise with you. Note: if you are a Millennial or younger, please read this exercise to your parents and watch their reaction.


Close your eyes and picture your earliest memories of playing outside. Smell it, hear it, feel it. Stay with it to get the details.


Was there water of any sort involved? (May simply include a drainage ditch, like my recollection.) Was a parent present? Was an adult in uniform (like a referee) present? Were you playing with only kids of the same sex and same age? Did you do things that if your parents knew about (to this day) you‘d be in trouble?


Hopefully, you are smiling at this point and you see what Mark was getting at. As one attendee put it, we give our chickens more free range than our children these days.


Mark then asked us to consider why we’ve done this…FEAR…of child molesters, kidnappers, bad drivers, bullying etc. Statistically, however, he told us everything we are protecting our children from has not changed. It has remained exactly the same (just with more media attention). Note: I did not see “proof” whether or not this is true. It does ring true for me.


In order to advocate for a more pedestrian lifestyle that appeals to more people, we need to consider 3 things: the health impact, the environmental impact, and economic impact of creating livable, walkable, bikeable communities.


And, if we decide we want to create more livable, walkable, bikeable communities, it takes a pyramid: at the bottom-the base-the thing that will create lasting change is POLICY. We have to change rules and ordinances, practices & procedures to get outcomes that will stick.


For instance, let’s consider how many parents drop their children off at school with their car, rather than having their children take the bus. What if we had a policy that supported the safety & well-being of our walkers, bikers, and bus riders? Mark gave this example of how some pedestrian-friendly towns are handling this situation.


Walkers & bikers are released first from school (very often lead by a volunteer parents, these groups of walkers or bikers are termed “human bus trains”). Bus riders are then released and board the bus in front of the school. Children being picked up by their parents are released last. In addition, parent pick-up is held at a local church or public hall (such as VFW) with adequate parking, a walkable distance from the school. Again, a volunteer leads the parent-pick-up group to the pick-up location.


Now we have: school-age children who are more active, cars that are not idling, and probably busses that are more filled (because kids will ask to NOT be picked up).


We could use this example with capable adults who work in a downtown area too. Create parking that is further away from town (and don’t charge!), and local parking comes a cost (except for handicapped.)


Next step in pyramid: PROJECTS. We need an infrastructure that improves our willlingness to walk, bike and use transit. It needs to be safe, it needs to be appealing, it needs to be rewarded.


advocacyLastly, PROGRAMS. We need to create and support programs that educate the people in our community about the importance of being walkable & bikeable. We need to build awareness and get buy-in.


Mark Fenton’s website states that he “is trying to engineer physical activity back into American communities and lives.”


Quite frankly, that is what I’m trying to do too (on a much smaller scale).


It’s good for our bodies, minds, environment, and economy.