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Project Overview

 

There are seven stages to a typical WABSA Project. They run from recruiting volunteers all the way to planning advocacy events to win the improvements you are seeking.

1) Recruiting Volunteers.  Generally a diverse group of people is best. We encourage recruiting students and adults, many races/ethnicities, both women and men, professional service-providers and citizen volunteers. Recruitment can take several weeks to bring together a committed project team. One recruitment strategy is to sponsor a public talk that is advertised in the local media to help people learn about the need for more walkable and bikeable streets. The US Department of Transportation has a Pedestrian Safety Roadshow that can come to your local area to help "open people's eyes" to the issues. Other speakers and consultants are available around the country for a fee.

2) Identifying Project Areas and Streets.   Many people already have a sense where the walking and bicycling is "good" and "bad." There may be other reasons for identifying parts of your community as potential project areas. For example, many lower income communities lack adequate sidewalks for walking and safe roads for bicycling, and yet many residents of these areas experience the poor health from sedentary living. Another focal point for projects can be schools which could have many students walking and bicycling each day, but may have large numbers of cars dropping off students each morning. These elementary and middle schools could be the center of a project area. Key information can also help identify locations needing assessment. By overlaying information about pedestrian and bicycle crashes from the local transportation department, public transit routes, and major destinations (such as schools, senior citizen centers, downtown business districts, major shopping centers, and residential neighborhood boundaries), locations of significant overlap frequently become obvious project areas. We suggest identifying 2-3 potential project areas and then working with the volunteers to prioritize the order for your WABSA Project. If your project resources will not permit you to assess every street in the project area, consider selecting major walking and bicycling corridors for the assessment. (We are currently developing a method to help communities determine the appropriate "corridors" to select.)

3) Training Workshop.   Even after a public talk on the issues, a project team needs hands-on training with the assessment tools. We have developed a 4-5 hour training workshop that generally is scheduled with a working lunch. Your team will need to learn about the health and transportation issues. Basic statistical facts help convince them of the need for the project. However, it is the slides of good and poor examples of designed sidewalks and roads that generally are the most convincing argument that improvements are needed. Slides from around the nation can be interspersed with slides from your own town/city. It is important to study local examples to gain solid interest and commitment from your team. If 2-3 potential project areas were identified in advance, the training workshops can close by prioritizing the areas and scheduling some initial assessment dates.

4) Assessing Sidewalks and/or Roads.   Within two weeks of the training workshop, we encourage project members to begin assessing the first of the identified project areas. Generally two people work as an assessment team and come to agreement on all the scores. Road segments vary in length from one city block to 2 miles long. Each segment can take between 10-30 minutes to assess depending on the length. Assessments are generally done on foot or by bicycle. Above all, we encourage you to make assessment fun for your team. Some groups had assessment with pizza parties afterward. Others had potluck lunches after a morning of assessments.

5) Mapping the Data.   If your local city/county planning staff use computerized mapping software (called GIS), and they will help you map your information since it will help their own planning, you can have computer maps of your assessment data. If GIS is not available to you, paper maps work fine since they can be enlarged on a photocopier and then color-highlighted according to the assessment results. The hotter the color, the worse the walkability or bikeability. It is helpful on the maps to record key destinations again such as schools, senior citizen centers, downtown business districts, and major shopping centers.

6) Identifying Improvements.   With colored maps, the entire project team can meet to study the patterns in the colors. Comments can be recorded on a flip chart to capture responses to "What do you see?" and "What patterns do you see in the colored roads?" Study major walking and bicycling corridors (if any exist in your community). What color are they? Then you can go back through the assessment forms and list the problems with the "poor" roads that caused them to be unsuitable for walking or bicycling.

7) Planning Advocacy.   Advocacy can take many forms. Depending on your community, advocacy might be as simple as having a meeting with various staff from the local department of transportation and the planning department. Sometimes improvements can be easily made by the department of public works staff as they repair and repaint roads. Other times your project team may need to use advocacy strategies such as gaining media attention to an important design problem and then using that political "heat" to gain support of key decision makers. Advocacy also includes preparing proposals with local transportation department staff to receive transportation funding for some improvement projects. The proposal can include a summary of your citizen-based data collection project and the important findings from the data. This demonstrates citizen input which is essential to strong transportation enhancement proposals. Your project will evolve advocacy strategies that are appropriate for your community so that you can win support for your improvements and influence decision-makers to become more proactive with good design.

The outcome is a mobilized team of citizens who understand the issues and demand better opportunities to be physically active. Together you will help improve the health of your community.


 
 
(c) 2006-07 WABSA Project