Eight energetic women- aged 26 to 63-embarked on a bicycle-powered mission to get schools in the Central Valley ready for Safe Routes to School. Hopes were high among the riders as they departed the State Capitol on a misty Sunday morning. Resource kits for school principals had been assembled, prizes for school assemblies were packed, and a shiny new bicycle to give away was hanging in the back of the support vehicle. Will anyone care about Safe Routes to School? The question was on everyone’s mind as they headed south for the 300 mile adventure.
The team’s relief and excitement was palpable on Monday after visiting two schools. “The kids got it – walking and biking to school with your friends is fun,” rider Stephanie Palmer said with a wide smile, “We got to direct their enthusiasm toward safety. And, that was really fun for us.” The outreach in Stockton set the tone for the rest of the tour:
Beyond the daily advocacy outreach, there was the risk of internal strife. Eight tired riders just getting to know each other, sharing meals, and close sleeping quarters for a week could have spelled disaster for the group. Darlene Cook, who flew in for the tour from Georgia, refuted that idea, “I knew I had to join the group when Jeanie asked me. She was the glue that held us all together.”
Each day began early (between 5-6 a.m.) so that the riders could get to before school walking events. After visiting 1-2 schools the team did the bulk of their riding in the afternoon, arriving their overnight accommodations with homestay hosts around dinner time. “Bedtime at 7:30 p.m. tonight!” joked Sacramento-based rider, Tricia Hedahl, “…o.k., how about 7:45 p.m.?” No one objected.
While outreach and fun were at the forefront of the Healthy Active Places Tour, the team was also successful in raising more than $5,000 for nationwide programming and outreach at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. This is not the end of the Healthy Active Places Tour. The group is already seeking sponsors and grant funding for a ride in 2015. In the meantime, visit healthyactiveplaces.org for tons of awesome photos and more highlights from the inaugural ride.