The Safe Routes to School movement has evolved in recent years. Inspired by many factors – changing demographics in America, more professionals of color involved in the Safe Routes to School movement, strong research that sets out the extent and nature of transportation inequities, and deepening organizational, professional, and personal commitments to creating fair communities that support health for everyone – there’s been a real change not only in how the Safe Routes to School movement is talking about equity, but also in what is playing out on the ground. The movement has recognized that to successfully achieve core goals around increasing the number and safety of kids walking and bicycling to school, it is vital to direct resources and craft programs and policies in ways that address the needs of low-income kids and kids of color.
One key sign of these changes is the move by many Safe Routes to School programs to add an E for equity to the traditional 5 E’s of Safe Routes to School. Let’s not kid ourselves – outside of the Safe Routes to School movement, no one has heard of the 5 E’s of Safe Routes to School. But inside the movement, the 5 E’s act as a fairly universal checklist and framework that practitioners use to define a comprehensive Safe Routes to School initiative, making sure that they are covering all the bases necessary to effectively get more kids to school in a healthier and safer manner. And so, it’s been a welcome development over the past several years to see equity becoming an increasingly established part of the framework, leading to 6 E’s – education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement, evaluation, and equity.
Following our belief that health is about way more than just what happens in a doctor’s office, at CPEHN we have been working a lot in recent years to address the social and environmental determinants that impact our health. One of the main factors we have focused on is transportation. From pedestrian injuries to unequal access to public transit, transportation inequities often coincide with health disparities, particularly in low-income areas and communities of color. One of our successes has been the passage of our sponsored bill AB 441 in 2012, which included health and equity criteria in the state’s transportation planning guidance.
In order to fully address the root causes of the health inequities we see in our state, it is important to remember that what influences our health goes far beyond what happens in a doctor’s office. Many social and environmental factors contribute to our health and wellbeing. Among these, community planning and transportation design have some of the biggest impacts.
Today in Oakland, Prevention Institute hosted From Streetscapes to Thriving Communities, an event focused on how we can design our communities to better promote health. In particular, the event focused on creating safe streets:
Streets are in many ways at the heart of our communities, and street design can shape health out-comes in powerful ways – preventing traffic injuries and violence, promoting community cohesion and mental health, supporting physical activity, and more. But street design isn’t enough. Residents need safe places to play, great destinations, and a thriving local economy.
Two prominent experts, Dinesh Mohan and Dick Jackson, engaged in a terrific discussion on creating healthier streets. Here are some highlights from Twitter: