Are we robbing the American children of a chance to live a healthy and productive life?

December 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm

If you are one of the last minute shoppers who is yet to buy a holiday present for your children (or for someone you dearly love), I’d recommend getting them a bicycle. Why? A bike not only helps them stay active and lead a healthy life but also helps them learn to be independent (and not depend on you to get around to and from school) and stay focused in their studies.  Besides the provocative title for this post (and the fact that I’m writing this even though I’m a parent, at least yet), there must be some truth to the fact that we might be transporting our children, all caged up in automobiles all the time instead of setting them free on a bicycle (or walking).  Well, at least that’s what these children in Netherlands,  Belgium, France and Britain are hinting at in this video produced by Sustrans, a UK based non-profit organization that promotes pedestrian, bike and public transportation options.

Watching this video promoted me to do a quick comparison of  the academic performance (Mean score in PISA 2012) of children from these countries (I know it is a crude measure but still worthy of pointing out that).  Not to be surprised, they all fared well above our good ol’ USA (and before you ask we are far behind the chart-topping Asian giants China, Japan and Korea): 

Country  Mathematics   Reading Science 
Netherlands 523 511 522
 Belgium  515  509  505
 France  495  505  499
 Britain  494  499  514
 USA  481  498  497


Of course, I didn’t get enough time on hand to compare the health indices of these countries but I have no doubt that we might be in for some shocking results, given the ungodly levels of childhood obesity rates we currently have in the United States. I’ll reserve that angle for exploring on another rainy/snowy day. If every school district in the U.S. spent a tiny fraction of its budget on providing/building bike lanes and bike infrastructure, we may soon see a tremendous change in the way our kids learn/live. It may be the perfect antidote for a nation that has ungodly levels of childhood obesity.  Mind you, the US tops every country on Earth when it comes to educational spending (roughly $68.1Billion in 2012, (over 7 % of GDP), which is ~$15,171 on every young person in the system) Here are some alarming data nuggets from the Center for Disease Control:

  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.
  • In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

More here.  Encouraging more children to take up cycling requires that we provide good infrastructure support, which is sorely lacking in many towns and cities across America.  We have to work, as a community and nudge our decision-makers to spend on these low-cost measures (i.e.,bike lanes) and make our cities bike and pedestrian friendly. At least it is worth exploring, from a scientific perspective, how biking (and walking) helps improve the quality of life for our children (in academic and otherwise).

Job Alert: Federal Policy Manager – Safe Routes to School National Partnership @ Washington, DC

December 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Image Courtesy: Safe Routes to School National Partnership

Position:  Federal Policy Manager

Program:  Safe Routes to School National Partnership

Institution:  Bikes Belong Foundation

Employment and Classification:  “At will” employment status; full-time salaried position

Location: Your home office within the Washington, DC metro area

Applications: Applications are due on January 6, 2014 and must be sent to Specific details on application requirements are provided below. You are encouraged to apply as soon as possible as there will be rolling interviews.

Start Date: Late January or early February

Summary: Join the Safe Routes to School National Partnership (National Partnership) and use your professional talents and personal passion to advocate for safe walking and bicycling to and from schools, and in daily life, to improve the health and well-being of America’s children and to foster the creation of livable, sustainable communities.

Image Courtesy: Safe Routes to School National Partnership

The federal policy manager plays a critical role in representing the Safe Routes to School National Partnership on Capitol Hill and with federal agencies. The federal policy manager will regularly meet with Congressional offices and key federal agencies to convey the needs and importance of having Safe Routes to School and to advocate for policies and funding levels that are supportive of Safe Routes to School, active transportation and multi-modal transportation options. This position is also responsible for tracking the implementation of the recent MAP-21 transportation bill, researching and writing policy reports and papers on Safe Routes to School and related topics and producing blog posts and web content. The federal policy manager will collaborate closely with national and state coalition partners to advance active transportation policy and funding. The federal policy manager reports to the deputy director. 

For more information about the federal policy manager position, please see the detailed job description.


  • Minimum of four to five years’ proven experience in legislative or government affairs, with a strong preference for experience with federal transportation policy.
  • Track record of analyzing and developing federal legislation and legislative campaigns.
  • Experience in building coalitions and working with allied organizations to achieve policy change goals.
  • Knowledge of Safe Routes to School programs or active transportation a plus.
  • Effective public speaker comfortable presenting in front of large groups or one-on-one.
  • Strong writing skills, including writing for legislative and non-legislative grassroots audiences.
  • Ability to travel to group meetings and conferences as required. Anticipated travel to be approximately two to four out of state trips a year and regular travel (without overnight stays) in the DC region. Occasional work in the evenings or weekends to attend receptions or events.
  • Ability to work from home, to work independently (self-starter) and as a team member with minimal supervision.
  • Self-motivated, organized, strong attention to detail, creative and energetic.
  • Ability to follow-up in a timely manner and to work under tight deadlines/schedules.
  • Proficient with PCs and with MS Office software.
  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience required.

Background:  The Safe Routes to School National Partnership was founded in 2005 and is a network of more than 600 organizations. Its mission is to advance safe walking and bicycling to and from schools, and in daily life, to improve the health and well-being of America’s children and to foster the creation of livable, sustainable communities.  The National Partnership is hosted by the non-profit Bikes Belong Foundation.

Annual Salary:  This “at will” position offers a starting annual salary of $48,000 to $60,000/year, depending on experience, plus health insurance benefits, paid time off and optional participation in a deferred compensation plan. A PC computer, telephone and internet access will be provided. All Safe Routes to School National Partnership personnel are employees of the Bikes Belong Foundation and work from home offices.

To Apply: Interested applicants should submit (via email) a cover letter, resume and three writing samples in one PDF file to The PDF file shall be named as follows:  [LastName]_FederalPolicyManager.pdf.  Ensure that the subject line of your email includes the text “Federal Policy Manager.” We are not accepting email or telephone call inquiries.

Receipt of applications will be acknowledged with an email reply.  Applications will be accepted until January 6, 2014.  Applications must be submitted in the format indicated in order to be considered.  Applying soon is encouraged as the position will be open until filled, and interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis.

Visit for more information about the Safe Routes to School National Partnership

Job Alert: Active Transportation Policy Fellow – Safe Routes to School National Partnership @ Greater Washington DC

April 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Image courtesy:

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership (National Partnership) is seeking a professional and detail-oriented candidate with experience in bicycle and pedestrian advocacy or policy to join the National Partnership as the Greater Washington DC Active Transportation Fellow. This is a temporary, contract position.

The Active Transportation Fellow will work with the Regional Network Manager and Greater Washington DC Regional Policy Manager to advocate for improved transportation funding allocations and policies for Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets and walking and bicycling. Please review the scope of work for the position for detailed information and application instructions.

Required qualifications for the Greater Washington DC Active Transportation Policy Fellow include: demonstrated experience in social media; student work or personal work in bicycle and pedestrian advocacy or policy; knowledge of Safe Routes to School and/or Complete Streets; ability to write case studies, participate in work groups and present to a variety of audiences; self-starter; detail-oriented; proficient with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and WordPress, PCs and with MS Office software. The successful candidate will work from their home office with their own personal computer, internet access and telephone. Candidate must be able to attend meetings throughout the region, some of which are not Metro accessible.

The final deadline for applications is Wednesday, April 24, 2013 by 12:00 p.m. ET.  Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, so candidates are encouraged to apply early.  Telephone inquiries are not accepted.

We look forward to hearing from qualified candidates interested in joining our dynamic, visionary and growing non-profit.

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership was founded in 2005 and is a network of more than 600 organizations. The National Partnership mission is to advocate for safe walking and bicycling to and from schools, and in daily life, to improve the health and well-being of America’s children and to foster the creation of livable, sustainable communities.  The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is hosted by the nonprofit Bikes Belong Foundation which is an equal opportunity employer.

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Trick or Treat! Don’t Get Hit – Study Shows Halloween Most Dangerous Day Of the Year for Children

October 31, 2012 at 4:26 pm
Halloween '07

Halloween ’07 (Photo credit: Clover_1)

Happy Halloween!

As you (or the kids in your household) venture out trick or treating tonight, I want to remind you of a few things regarding safety. Today’s press release from insurance giant StateFarmshowed how dangerous

trick or treating can be for younger children.  StateFarm says that its research with Bert Sperling’s BestPlaces,  analyzed four million records in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Database revealed the following

  • Halloween Was Deadliest Day of the Year for Child Pedestrian Accidents
    One hundred and fifteen child pedestrian fatalities occurred on Halloween over the 21 years of our analysis. That is an average of 5.5 fatalities each year on October 31, which is more than double the average number of 2.6 fatalities for other days.
  • The “Deadliest Hour”
    Nearly one-fourth (26 out of 115) of accidents occurred from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Over 60% of the accidents occurred in the 4-hour period from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.
  • Middle of the Block Most Hazardous
    Over 70% of the accidents occurred away from an intersection or crosswalk.
  • Ages Most at Risk on Halloween
    Most of the fatalities occurred with children ages 12-15 (32% of all child fatalities), followed by children ages 5-8 (23%).
  • Drivers Who Posed the Greatest Risk
    Young drivers ages 15-25 accounted for nearly one-third of all fatal accidents involving child pedestrians on Halloween.
  • Drivers Who Posed the Lowest Risk
    Drivers ages 36-40 and 61-65 were involved in the fewest child pedestrian fatalities on Halloween. Together, these age groups accounted for nine child pedestrian fatalities (8%) in the 21 years of the study.
  • Fatalities Declining
    Each of the last six years of the study (2005 – 2010) has seen Halloween child fatalities below the 21 year average of 5.5.

One more thing you may want to know is this: Last Halloween, more than 24,700 drivers received a red light violation, according to the Safer Roads Report 2012: Trends in Red-Light Running. So, tonight when you venture out with (or without) your kids, be careful.  Dress to be SEEN and do not become a statistic!

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Padded Landing for Pedestrians – Volvo Introduces World’s First Pedestrian Airbag

March 9, 2012 at 7:13 pm

(Source: Mashable)

In line with its tradition of producing many of the safest cars on  this planet, Volvo is once again upping the contributions towards road user safety.  Mind you, this is not just occupant safety but also one that cares about the most vulnerable of all road users – the pedestrians.  The video below explains how this tech. feature will help save pedestrians during a collision.

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Pedestrian Malls: Back to the Future

March 3, 2009 at 7:32 pm

(Source: Room for Debate, a New York Times blog)

New York City

(Photo: Librado Romero/The New York Times) In Times Square, pedestrians often find themselves maneuvering among cars blocking the intersections.

The pedestrian mall, the urban planner’s failed attempt to revitalize Main Streets during the 1960s and 70s, is back!

This week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that cars would be barred from several blocks of Broadway, including Herald Square and Times Square. He said the changes would relieve traffic congestion and crowded sidewalks – far different problems from what spawned the pedestrian malls of the 70s. And it’s not just New York that’s rethinking this old idea. San Francisco is considering restrictions on private cars on Market Street, the city’s main artery.

When do these car-free zones succeed? And why have they left streets deserted and unappealing in the past?

Click here to read more.

Will a Car-Free Broadway Work?

February 26, 2009 at 2:43 pm

New York’s Times Square to Become Pedestrian Plaza (temporairly, at least)

(Source: New York Times)

In 1997, one of my proposals was greeted with the usual thunderous silence. I proposed creating the Piazza Broadway by banishing cars from the the Great White Way near Times Square. It wasn’t a strictly original idea — a similar scheme had been proposed in the 1970s — although I do believe I was the first to suggest decorating the plaza with a statue of a three-card monte dealer and a pedestrian bridge modeled on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, to be called the Ponte di Tre Monte.

Anyway, the idea went nowhere — until today. Mayor Bloomberg planned to announce that Broadway will become a pedestrian-only zone around Times Square and Herald Square, according to my colleagues William Neuman and Michael Barbaro. The experiment will start in May and could become permanent if if it works.

Will it work? I’m biased, of course, and I can’t claim I based that 1997 proposal on any rigorous analysis. But today there’s a new tool for examining the proposal: a spreadsheet called the Balanced Transportation Analyzer, or B.T.A.. Charles Komanoff, the economist who developed it, calls it the first transparent and publicly available tool to gauge the varying impacts of changing the transportation options in a city with a dense central core, like New York.

Click here to read the entire article.