By Voices for Healthy Kids
Street safety is a top concern for health advocates who have identified bicycle ridership and walking as a part of the solution to reducing a surge in childhood obesity; however, from 2000 to 2006, 30 percent of traffic-related deaths among children between ages 5 and 15 happened while walking or bicycling. Safety concerns must be addressed before parents can feel comfortable allowing their children to walk or bike to school.
Safe Routes to School education programs teach important walking and bicycling safety skills starting at a young age. These programs complement street-scale improvements, helping to prevent and reduce injuries that may occur while walking or bicycling.
In the coming year the Oregon based For Every Kid campaign seeks to increase funding from Metro Council for Safe Routes to School programming and infrastructure improvements in Portland, Oregon by adding more bicycle lanes and making streets and crosswalks safer within a one mile radius of schools.
We are excited to introduce you to some of the organizations and advocates making safer streets possible to help our children lead long, healthy lives.
Wendy Yah Canul has dreams for her community -- she would love to see all the roads fixed and made safer to walk and bike, in addition, she would love to see adults riding bicycles more often.
Twelve years ago when Wendy moved to the Cully neighborhood located in northeast Portland, she noticed how many of the streets did not have paved sidewalks despite many parents walking their kids to school every day. Unhappy with what she saw, Wendy began to meet with a group of four women to strategize ways they could advocate for safer streets and encourage more families to participate in healthy, active living and bicycling.
The group of women and other residents grew to become Andando en Bicicletas en Cully (ABC), which translates to “Riding bikes in Cully.” ABC receives support and funding from their fiscal sponsor the Community Cycling Center, a community-minded nonprofit that works with underserved communities to provide access to affordable bicycle repair and training, while creating local leadership; and Hacienda CDC, a Latino Community Development Corporation that strengthens families by providing affordable housing, homeownership support, economic advancement and educational opportunities.
Wendy believes bicycling is a safer alternative for commuting and a method for improving one’s health. “Over the years riding has helped my kids stay healthier,” Wendy said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Now ABC has over a dozen members who volunteer to put on safe riding workshops, fundraise to provide free helmets to the community, organize family bike rides, and are involved in policy campaigns.
ABC and their neighbors identified bike storage as a key barrier to bicycling Recently they were successful in winning a campaign to install bicycle lockers at Hacienda CDC, an affordable housing community where most ABC members live, so fellow residents can have a place to safely store their bicycle.
Many of Wendy’s dreams are coming true, however, her last dream is still in the works. She would love to have her own nonprofit bicycle shop so she can teach her community how to fix and repair bicycles.
Ailani Palacios is a youth organizer with OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon (OPAL), an Environmental Justice and Civil Rights organizations that builds power by developing leaders within low-income communities and communities of color.
Ailani has been advocating for affordable and safe access to public transit for other students who rely on it as their main source of transportation.
“Transit is a lifeline and it’s really hard to do anything without it,” said Ailani who on a daily basis takes more than two buses to commute.
Over the summer, Ailani has participated in several leadership development workshops in order to build her organizing skills. She credits OPAL with helping her understand the different systems that affect communities of color.
“Part of what we want to achieve in the community is safe transit access,” Ailani said “by making sure bus stops are lit and sidewalks aren’t dangerous.”
Jean Yamamoto believes that everyone should have access to quality affordable healthcare coverage.
Growing up in Hawaii, a minority-majority state, in a middle class household she felt supported and connected to her community, however, upon moving to the mainland she was surprised by the discrimination she experienced and witnessed.
“It didn’t feel right that in America there should be people who have and have not,” said Jean. “I wanted to make sure people had affordable access to health care.”
Due to her work organizing thousands workers across the spectrum of long term care for over a decade with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), she sees the value and importance that the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) a statewide, grassroots organization, uniting Asians and Pacific Islanders to advance social justice, provides to the community. APANO advances social change by diligently organizing youth and parents around equitable healthcare access and education policy.
As a former APANO member and newly selected board member she is focused on strengthening the organizations governance in order to ensure its sustainability, support and develop its staff and more importantly keeping the organization true to what members want.
One of her proudest moments with APANO was leading a delegation visit with community leaders to the capitol. “It was their first time talking to legislators and being heard by elected officials,” Jean recalled. “Afterwards they were holding themselves up a little taller. It really demystifies what it means to be civically engaged and introduced that concept to people.”
Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides grants through the Strategic Campaign Incubator Fund to support strategic issue advocacy campaigns focused on fighting childhood obesity through state and local public policy campaigns. Oregon-based For Every Kid campaign advocates for Safe Routes to School program and infrastructure funding by making streets and crossings within a mile-radius of schools safer through street improvements, a priority for the Voices for Healthy Kids initiative.