Invite Your Mayor to Your Event

Walk to School Day in Westfield, IN

Mayor Cook walks with students in Westfield, IN.

Maybe your mayor has been involved in Walk to School Day in the past or perhaps not. Either way, we hope you’ll invite your mayor to be part of your 2017 Walk to School Day. There’s nothing like taking a walk to give a mayor or other community leader the sense of the opportunities that walking can provide and any changes that need to happen to make it possible for more children and families to safely travel to school and other destinations by walking or bicycling.

Last year, Walk to School Day organizers invited over 1,500 mayors across the US to participate in their celebrations. Over 25% of 2016 Walk to School Day events included mayors or other elected officials, who used the event to show their support for health, safety and quality of life.

A little more background

Over the past 20 years Walk to School Day has gone from a one-day event to a long-term effort to create places where children have more opportunities for physical activity, and everyone feels a little more connected.  Ten years ago, Safe Routes to School Programs were established in every state with the goal of building infrastructure and conducting education and encouragement programs to make the walking and biking trip to school a safe one. Today mayors and their cities are taking an even bolder lead—they are setting a new standard with ambitious goals to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries called Vision Zero.

Mayors have been an important part of many of the 50,000 Walk to School Day events held since it began in 1997 when two mayors, Chicago Mayor Daley and Los Angeles Mayor Riordan, led the first events.  Inviting mayors this year not only helps recognize their role in events over the years but takes advantage of growing interest in community leader-led traffic safety improvements including Vision Zero. Last year the National Center for Safe Routes to School launched the Vision Zero for Youth Initiative to highlight the importance of prioritizing safety in places where children walk and bike and the opportunity for benefits to spread to the entire community.

Ready to invite your mayor?

See our template invitation letter, Mayors’ Statement on Safe Walking and Bicycling for Youth, ideas for talking points for your mayor and, options for what your mayor might commit to doing.

Ask your mayor to sign on so we can promote their participation.  See information we’re sharing with mayors.

Your mayor’s role in the event

As you plan your event, consider when the mayor might speak. For a group that walks together from a single location, the mayor might help kick off the walk. Maybe it makes more sense for the mayor to help congratulate students and families as they arrive at the school and then address the group.

Sometimes inspiration comes from learning about what other communities have done. In 2016, Mayor Lorenz in Powell, Ohio, issued a proclamation emphasizing the importance of the event to his community, and Mayor Hartwell in Madison Heights, Mich., announced a public art competition that promotes biking in the city’s downtown district. Other mayors showcased their talents like Mayor Blackburn in Hood River, Ore. who strummed the banjo while leading a walk to a local elementary school.

Inviting the media is an important way to build excitement and give visibility to your mayor’s commitment to taking action.

Partners

Special thanks to the thousands of Walk to School Day organizers who take up the challenge to plan and hold events. Walk to School Day and the Vision Zero for Youth Initiative are led by the National Center for Safe Routes to School with support from the FIA Foundation, UNC Highway Safety Research Center and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (using funding from USDOT Federal Highway Administration).

Launched in 2016, the Vision Zero for Youth Initiative was guided by input from the National Association of City Transportation Officials, the National League of Cities, the Vision Zero Network, and places with strong pedestrian programs including Los Angeles, Miami-Dade County, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC.