No one understands the hazards faced by pedestrians better than a tightly-knit group of mothers working with the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (COAST) to improve pedestrian safety. COAST’s Pedestrian & Transit Organizing Project is led by moms who walk their children to school and rely on walking for shopping, doing laundry, and other errands.
As a community organizer for COAST, Ana Rico has led Santa Barbara officials on “Night Walks” to demonstrate just how dark her neighborhood is at night. Mothers have gone to City Hall to meet with officials and have spoken at City Council meetings. For those unable to attend Council meetings, COAST created a short film of the women describing hazards on route to school.
City officials have taken notice. The end result? Thirty streetlights are being installed to improve neighborhood safety.
“I begin by building relationships with other residents and listening to their concerns before I invite them to a meeting,” Ana says of her organizing philosophy.
The mothers meet weekly at the library to discuss their goals for improving pedestrian safety and bus service. They bring their kids to meetings, conversations are in Spanish, and food is always in abundance. While many do not speak English, language has never been a barrier to their development as leaders. A key role for Ana and most community organizers is to provide interpretation so that all voices are heard.
Among its accomplishments, the group advocated for safer street crossings, streetlights, and better enforcement of traffic laws as part of Santa Barbara’s Traffic Management Plan.
“When the City Council approved the Plan unanimously, I felt that all the meetings and phone calls had been worth it,” Ana says.