Roads in Menlo Park, California are not always bike-friendly.
Linked here is a video I* made for a school project. For the project, we interviewed an upstander (someone who does good) in the community. We chose Jen Wolosin, the founder of Parents for Safe Routes (parents4saferoutes.org), an organization to make streets safer in Menlo Park.
And here's a transcript of the video, for those of you who
(a) Prefer reading words to watching video footage.
(b) Like having a transcript to follow along.
(c) Cannot watch a video right now, for whatever reason.
(d) Have already watched the video, and want to read more, because you can't get enough.
(e) Have noticed that there are footnotes below, and want to read those footnotes.
(f) Enjoy finding grammar mistakes in other people's writing.
(g) Accidents happen. (And if (e) also applies, you'll now be happy, since "for those of you who accidents happen" makes no sense grammatically. So it wasn't a mistake after all, mwahaha.)
(h) Enjoy trying to think of ridiculous reasons why one might prefer reading to watching.
(i) Fall into multiple of these categories.
Anyway, here it is:
NARRATOR 1 (ANDREW**): For many students, Oak Grove Avenue was all but unavoidable on the trip to Hillview Middle School. Yet on many parts of the road, a bike lane simply could not be found. This hampered the ability of students to bike to school. However, one local parent noticed situations like these around Menlo Park, and instead of standing by, she decided to stand up, and make a change in the community.
JEN WOLOSIN: My name is Jen Wolosin, and I live in Menlo Park. I've lived in Menlo Park for 6 years.
There was this road by my house called Coleman Avenue. Coleman Avenue runs between my home and my kids' elementary school, Lower Laurel. You've got little kids, traveling to Laurel; you've got high-school kids, going to MA. And so, you've got all these kids trying to walk and bike. And you don't have sidewalks; you don't have bike lanes. You've got school buses, garbage trucks, construction vehicles, parents driving cutthrough traffic, new teenage drivers…and it was just a really dangerous situation.
I'm now a full-time community advocate, and run a group called Parents for Safe Routes. So, Parents for Safe Routes is a group of committed parents, neighbors, community members–you don't need to be a parent to be part of Parents for Safe Routes. We want to be kind of the political will and force behind projects that are supporting our values.
So for instance Oak Grove, which is a bike route that helps kids get to Hillview; that is a project that the Menlo Park Bicycle Commission and Menlo Park city developed. Now, in order to get it passed, it required parking removal, and it required some tradeoffs in the community that some people were struggling with. So what Parents for Safe Routes was able to do was show a groundswell of community support, of parents, who were in favor of the project.
So I've actually been less inclined to tell people to come out and bike on certain streets because I don't think that they're fundamentally safe for vulnerable populations, meaning younger kids or the elderly.
The coolest thing about Safe Routes to School is that it starts with kids, but it really can have a ripple effect to the larger community. I mean, if you make the roads safe for kids to walk and bike, then adults might be able to walk and bike to work, and then less people are using cars, and then we can make our environment cleaner, we can help remove the amount of congestion on our streets and the amount of traffic we're all stuck in–everyone gets so angry and stressed in traffic–so people can calm down, and people can be friendlier. I mean, it seems like a little thing, Safe Routes to School, but it actually can have a really wide impact.
NARRATOR 2 (JACOB***): And through this project, Parents for Safe Routes has granted me skills reaching far beyond safe routes, to camerawork, collaboration, and communication.
NARRATOR 1 (ANDREW): This project has shown me many useful skills that can be used later in life, such as how to write formal emails, and how to edit footage.
NARRATOR 2 (JACOB): Most importantly, Jen Wolosin, like many other dedicated heroes in history, such as Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, and Cesar Chavez,**** has showed us that when we see something that we don't like, instead of hoping that it will magically go away, we should take action, and only then will we see things change.
Thanks for reading what I wrote (and listening to what I produced.) As Mahatma Gandhi is quoted to have said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."
*I did it with a partner. I shouldn't take all the credit.
****I think the historical comparison is a bit clunky, but it was a requirement for the project to compare our upstander with one from history. I'm interested to know what you all think.