As an active transportation planner, I often think about the future: my impact on it, how I’d like to see things change, what the world will look like for the next generation, and (of course) why active transportation will help us in the future… I recently got to make a different type of impact on the future, given the opportunity to visit an elementary school and speak to young people about what I do for work!
Once upon a time, long ago in Boyle Heights, I was an impressionable 2nd Street Elementary School student. When Career Day came around, we were introduced to a parade of civil servants including police officers, firemen, and sanitation truck drivers. While no transportation planner ever visited my classroom to inspire me to pursue my chosen profession, I was inspired to pursue a profession where I could be of service to my city. These Career Day visitors taught me two important things: that it is important to do something I love and that I need to be prepared with the right skills for the job.
As a graduate student in Urban and Regional planning and a Student Professional Worker at the LADOT Bike Program, I have the privilege of doing something I love: encouraging Angelenos to use active transportation modes like biking and walking and making streets safer and more enjoyable for all Angelenos.
Last month I had the pleasure of reliving Career Day, this time in the role of The Professional!
Griffin Elementary is located in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles and is very luckily situated on the Griffin Ave. buffered bike lane, which provides a calm and buffered approach for children coming and going to school. Along with plenty of #bikeLA swag, I brought bike maps to serve as my visual aid. Mission: to inspire and invigorate young Angelenos to use their bicycles!
Well, that wasn’t hard… After introductions and a quick show-of-hands, I learned that my young audience already embraced the active transportation lifestyle! Given their limited access to cars (I mean, other than the Barbie Corvette) most students reported they typically walk to school with a parent and a few occasionally even ride their bicycles to school.
Luckily, I was arriving in the wake of Earth Day and these kids were high on pro-earth sentiments! After describing my work, the Griffin Elementary students had already made the connection between walking, bicycling, and their implications for a healthy and environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
While it may be a long time before these young students enter the working world, it is important to introduce them to careers that make the world a more sustainable place and to encourage them to pursue education and knowledge that will help them to solve the problems of tomorrow. As our culture, economy, and use of technology has evolved over the last two decades, so has our job market! Many of the professional roles we fill did not exist even a decade ago. Active transportation planning, or planning for transportation modes powered by human energy like walking and bicycling, is a relatively new specialization in the field of transportation planning in the United States. This means that many transportation planning tools, like data collection instruments and travel demand models, originally designed to forecast auto travel patterns are being developed to better serve active transportation planning. As cities change, so will the tools and planning lessons we learn today.
I know what you’re thinking…. Is this what I was discussing with kindergarteners? Mode share and data collection? Well, who better to start thinking about transportation issues of the future than our leaders of tomorrow?
Karina Macias is a Student Professional Worker in the Bicycle Program.