America Walks is a nonprofit coalition of independent organizations dedicated to creating communities where walking is a safe and comfortable choice for all people to “work, study, shop, play, and pray.”1 The coalition supports local pedestrian advocacy groups, educates the public about the benefits of walking, and speaks as a collective, national voice for transforming America's transportation system.2
In 1996, four local walking advocacy groups founded America Walks with the belief that a national organization would assist in shifting America back to walking. Over the last fifty years walking trips dropped from 40% to 11%. By 2008, 25% of all trips made were less than one mile long and only 25% of these short trips were made by walking.3 America Walks envisions communities where all people can walk safely for exercise, recreation, and transportation. They believe that such communities “promote health, economic vitality, environmental sustainability, and social equity.”4
On the national level, America Walks is an advocate for policies and funding that facilitates creating communities where people of all abilities can safely move along and across the streets to reach their daily destinations. Part of revising the transportation system is encouraging not only walking, but also bicycling and the formation of and use of a compatible public transit system.
After 15 years, America Walks has grown to over two dozen pedestrian advocacy organizations. In 2010, in partnership with the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP), they launched the Equal Footing Campaign. A key component of this campaign is the formation of a diverse steering committee, which includes APBP, the America Public Transportation Association, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking, the National Association of Realtors, the National Complete Streets Coalition, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), American Heart Association, and the Rails to Trails Conservancy.5
America Walks has three main objectives: to coordinate a unified voice for walking, to advocate for a National Walking Strategy that would be included in the federal transportation policy and within partner organizations, and to support community walkability campaigns, such as reducing residential speed zones to 20 mph and eliminating walking barriers to transit stations.
Starting in 2001, America Walks annually held the National Congress of Pedestrian Advocates. In 2005, they shifted to regional conferences and by 2007 they changed to disseminating their information and support through an online resource network.6 In this way they assist with start up and organizational helps, advocacy tips, coordinating efforts, communication skills, reporting “best practices,” and connecting organizations with the newsletters of other pedestrian organizations.7
Through being a national policy voice and by engaging, educating, and connecting walking advocates, America Walks is seeking to “make America a great place for walking.”8
- 1. “America Walks: Strategic Campaign Plan 2011-2013.” America Walks. < http://americawalks.org/wp-content/upload/America-Walks.Strategic-Plan.Adopted.pdf > 28 Oct. 2011.
- 2. “What is America Walks?” America Walks. < http://americawalks.org/about/what-is-america-walks/ > 28 Oct. 2011.
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. Op.cit., “America Walks.”
- 5. Op.cit., “America Walks.”
- 6. Op.cit., “America Walks.”
- 7. “Walking Advocates.” America Walks. < http://americawalks.org/advocates/ > 28 Oct. 2011.
- 8. Op.cit., “America Walks.”