Striving for Safe Streets for Moms and Children

stephanieDuring the opening plenary session at ProWalk/ProBike in Long Beach, Suja Lowenthal, PhD, a council member from Long Beach, addressed the attendees. She’s a passionate advocate, sharing many ideals so many of us do, but I strongly agreed when she declared that our communities are not bike-friendly until mothers with children feel comfortable taking to the streets. That is such an important litmus test for what so many of us are working toward.

I am so pleased to see the push to get more women on bicycles. Club rides have long provided rides for women, and we all can identify those communities that truly are bicycle friendly and can immediately think of fun and encouraging photos that show up in magazines and on our social media sites. They exist. But they’re certainly not widespread.

I live in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Many people agree that this area has come a long way in the last decade in accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians. Yet, we still have a long way to go. I moved over the summer. My 10-year-old daughter and I can still walk and ride most everywhere we desire—except to school. We’re only 2.5 miles from her school, but a mile of this is a two-lane, heavily traveled road where the posted speed limit is 45 mph. There is a bike lane on the road and my daughter is a pretty confident cyclist, but this is not a safe route to her school.

This letter to the editor was posted in the Virginia Pilot while I was attending ProWalk/ProBike. I know the bridge she references in her letter. Class A cyclists bemoan this particular stretch of road. This mom is dedicated – and brave.

I think about the bicycle infrastructure we enjoyed in Long Beach. That coastal community’s leaders have realized the importance and the benefits, and I long for when our region’s leaders do, too. I am emboldened by the lessons and successes we are experiencing through the regional network project – best practices that can encourage other advocates and decision makers and lead to continued progress for making our communities safe for all bicyclists.