As strong proponents of walkable communities here at Pacific Roots Magazine, we connected with America Walks to learn more about their mission and work. Founded in 1996, America Walks operates with a network of individuals and partner organizations in all fifty states. Their mission includes creating “healthy, happy, economically vibrant communities around the simple act of walking.” The following is an interview with Heidi Simon, Deputy Director at America Walks.
Pacific Roots Magazine: Your site explains that America Walks was founded by groups such as Walk Boston, Walk Austin, Walk New York, and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition. So it was not a singular person or team of people but rather a coalition of organizations that founded America Walks?
America Walks: Yes, that is correct. We are built on the strength of the original pedestrian advocacy organizations who recognized the need for a single national voice.
Pacific Roots Magazine: Can you share in broad strokes the programs and strategies used to increase walkability?
America Walks: The mission of America Walks is to advance safe, equitable, accessible, and enjoyable places to walk and move by giving people and communities the resources to effectively advocate for change.
The program and strategies used to increase walkability vary from place to place as each community faces different contexts from which to improve walkability and create opportunities for health, activity, and engagement.
Pacific Roots Magazine: Can you share more about the National Walking Summit?
America Walks: The National Walking Summit is our conference. The National Walking Summit is the premier opportunity for community advocates, nonprofit representatives, government officials, and transit, health, and planning professionals to share best practices and stories, increase the visibility of key issues, build support for the walking movement, and create momentum for the work ahead.
Our next National Walking Summit is in St. Louis, MO in March. You can learn more here: http://walkingsummit.org/
Pacific Roots Magazine: Do you have collaborations and partnerships on an international level?
America Walks: Yes, we work with the International Federation of Pedestrians and Walk21 at the international level.
Pacific Roots Magazine: Can you share more about your partnerships on the national level?
America Walks: America Walks works with a variety of national partners in many sectors including transportation, health, parks and recreation, and more. We are part of a number of coalitions, including the Partnership for Active Transportation, National Complete Streets Coalition, Transportation Equity Caucus, and the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance. In addition, we serve as the managing organization of the Every Body Walk! Collaborative.
Pacific Roots Magazine: Lastly, why is pedestrian advocacy important?
America Walks: Pedestrian advocacy is important because it addresses opportunities for health, activity, and engagement. It works to achieve safe, accessible, and equitable places where all community members can enjoy the benefits of walking including those tied to personal health and wellness, stronger connectedness, and increased access. Additionally, pedestrian advocacy works towards systemic changes that address climate change, economic vitality, and disparities in health, access, and more.
Visit America Walks online here