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Suburban superstars: a tale of two walking advocates (part 1)
Last year, as part of the Bike Walk Every Town suburban advocacy program, the Active Transportation Alliance hosted several advocacy skills-building workshops.
We were privileged to cross paths with several dedicated leaders who have spent years working to improve walking, biking and transit conditions in their communities. We wanted to learn what motivated them to volunteer their time and persist through the oftentimes bumpy road of transportation advocacy.
America Walks is a national nonprofit focused on making communities more walkable and livable. Their 12-week online Walking College offers an interactive experience that connects participants to a network of peer mentors and resources and provides trainings to help attendees advocate more effectively in their communities.
In this two-part blog series, Active Trans spoke to both Anne Nagle and Geraldolyn Harris about their advocacy backgrounds and their plans to use their experience in the Walking College to transform their communities. Here’s the first installment about Anne Nagle (pictured) in this two-part series.
Anne Nagle, a retired physician from Wilmette, attended the Walking College in 2017, and hopes to use her experience to help improve walking options for students attending Avoca West Elementary School in Glenview. Currently the school and surrounding neighborhood lack sidewalks and safe connections to nearby trails.
Several upcoming roadway and trail projects, however, have the potential to greatly improve the ability for students to safely walk or bike to school.
In 2019 and 2020, three roads adjacent to the school are scheduled for reconstruction. Meanwhile, the proposed Skokie Valley Trail extension project is currently undergoing a phase I engineering study. Nagle correctly asserts, “This is the time to get things done.”
Through her participation in the Walking College, Nagle put together a 3-year action plan. The plan involves establishing an active transportation commission at the school that will work to “leverage the future roadway reconstruction in the neighborhood adjacent to the school … to include construction of sidewalks and a protected bicycle lane.”
Her plan also includes organizing pop-up demonstration projects, conducting walking audits and engaging students, parents, staff and other stakeholders in future trail and roadway project meetings.
A champion like Nagle is needed to activate the community to ensure that the ideas of improving the school’s walking and biking access are heard during the planning process.
What fueled Nagle’s passion for this project? The seeds of her advocacy work were planted during her years tending to patients in the ER in Lake Forest. Nagle directly saw the toll chronic disease can take on people and she became interested in exploring proactive approaches to improving patient health.
After 15 years of ER work, Nagle became the associate medical director at Medcor, located in the City of McHenry. She had the opportunity to create a comprehensive national wellness program for Medcor’s employees. She started with a walking program complete with pedometers and walking challenges. Eventually, a 15-minute daily walking break became company policy.
Seeing the impacts of the wellness program on employees’ lives was very inspiring to Nagle, who came to realize, “You don’t need me in the ER if you are getting exercise and enough sleep – you have everything at your fingertips for your best life.”
Ever since, Nagle has been advocating for creating environments that promote biking and walking and foster better health.
Most recently Nagle worked with Bike Wilmette and the Park District to organize a pop-up protected bike lane for use during a community bike ride. Nagle applied for an AARP Community Challenge grant which allowed her to purchase supplies for the event. Her belief is that “If we make it safer for people to walk and bike, more people will do it.”
If you’d like to join Anne Nagle in improving walking conditions in your community and helping others live their best lives, consider getting involved in Bike Walk Every Town for advocacy skills training and networking. We also encourage you to apply for the 2018 Walking College Program. Applications are due February 28.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this post as we highlight local walking advocate Geraldolyn Harris.
Photo courtesy of Anne Nagle.
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