BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield Department of Health Director Karen Lore has received a Partners for Health Foundation scholarship to attend a summit on the subject of walking. The National Walking Summit will take place in St. Paul, Minn., from Sept. 13 to 15.
The purpose of the gathering is to bring together health, transit, planning and public officials to share ideas on how to make pedestrian traffic a practical and attractive means of transportation. The Bloomfield director of planning, Bonnie Flynn, is also a scholarship recipient and will also be attending the summit. Partners for Health is located in Montclair.
Lore and Flynn will be able to attend workshops on topics such as bus stops and walking to school; connecting health to activity; engineering an infrastructure that connects health to the community; and livable communities for all ages.
In an email earlier this week, Lore said pedestrian safety is key when developing walking and biking options and thinking that roads are not only for cars.
“In a densely populated area such as Bloomfield you have to change the mindset of how our roads should be used,” she said. “People want to walk and bike in their communities for both recreational purposes and convenience. Roads need to be a safe, shared space for walkers, bikers and drivers.”
Kathy Smith, the program director for Partners of Health Foundation, said that her organization covers 15 communities and six scholarships were awarded.
“This summit focuses mainly on walking,” Smith said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “We consider walking a right.”
Walking has its benefits. Besides being healthy, Smith said, it creates a sense of community.
“Walking drives economic activity on the street,” she said.
And winter weather should not deter people from walking in north Jersey.
“There are a lot of parts of this country that get more snow,” she said. “We have a mind-set that you can only walk when the weather is good.”
One thing public officials would have to do to promote year-round walking is to make sure residents clear their walks of snow, Smith said.
And educating future walkers starts with parents teaching their children street smarts.
“Safe Routes to School” will be at the summit,” Smith said. “There is a movement across the country that if you walk, you’re more wide awake.”
“Safe Routes to School” is a statewide initiative to encourage children to walk or bike to school.
Smith said implementing a complete street policy, in which a municipality provides amenities to increase pedestrian activity, is a way for a community to measure if its pedestrian program is making progress. Lore would agree.
“Communities that build an infrastructure that supports biking and walking are highly desirable,” she said. “Data tells us, particularly when you look at buying trends, that people want to live in communities that provide access to public transportation and walking destinations that include dining, entertainment and shopping.”
Bloomfield, she said, is an ideal community to provide these opportunities.