Melody Geraci is the Deputy Executive Director at the Active Transportation Alliance (Active Trans). Active Trans is a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to improve conditions for bicycling, walking, and transit and to engage people in healthy, active ways to get around. Active Trans is a member organization of the League of American Bicyclists and was a founding member of the Alliance for Biking and Walking. At the time of the Alliance’s founding, Active Trans was named the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and the Alliance for Biking and Walking was named the Thunderhead Alliance.
HER ANGLE » BIKING & WALKING ARE CRUCIAL COMPONENTS OF A FREE & FAIR SOCIETY
When Ms. Geraci started with Active Trans in 2005, her main motivation for working in transportation advocacy was concern about the environment. But now she says, “What has kept me in this field for 13 years–what gets me up in the morning, so to speak–is the fundamental injustice of a car-centric society.” Ms. Geraci has found that a lack of transportation choices is a major barrier to accessing jobs, education, healthcare, healthy foods, basic services, green space, and more, especially for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable. By orienting everything in communities around cars, policymakers are picking winners and losers as a society, and intentionally disenfranchising the poor, people with disabilities, older adults, people of color, and others. According to Ms. Geraci, “[w]hen communities are abundant with walking, biking and transit options, they are more safe, fair, and humane–and that’s worth fighting for.”
“My basic elevator pitch is that all people should be able to have a high quality of life without needing a car,” she says. “[They should have] the ability to move freely around our communities [as] a civil right and a key component of a free society, and … communities that are rich with ample walking, biking and public transit options are happier, healthier, kinder, cleaner, safer, and more equitable.”
HER ANGLE » DATA IS CRITICAL FOR LARGE-SCALE CHANGE, BUT DATA ON ALL TYPES OF BIKING & WALKING ARE HARD TO FIND
Active Trans focuses on ‘upstream approaches’ to change. In serving such a large metropolitan region that has thousands of units of government and jurisdictional authorities, they’ve learned that broad-reaching policy and systemic approaches offer them the best opportunity for creating a larger overall impact. Data is critical for making a robust case in support of walking, biking, and public transit.
Facts can make or break an argument, particularly when providing educational awareness for policy advancements. Ms. Geraci says that the data missing on biking and walking is comprehensive usage data, including non- commuter trips. Without having routine collection and dissemination of walking and biking levels, and standard methods for measuring the same, policymakers only get a partial picture of the transportation environment. And without a comprehensive understanding our change strategies are underinformed. At the same time, she says simple statistics, including those based on national data, can help “sell” biking and walking to the public and elected officials.