Last week I was in Savannah, GA, for the annual Association of Commuter Transportation international conference, the first time I’ve attended. Transportation demand management (TDM) professionals from all around the United States and Canada gathered at the Hyatt Regency Savannah to learn and network. It was an educational experience, as well as a fun one, and helped me focus on the topics that are of most importance to me. I think that at long last, I’ve found the problem I want to solve with my career. (Note I didn’t say my passion, because really, that’s fashion, and that is so NOT my career!)
The highlight of the conference was, for me, hearing Dr. Richard Jackson speak. Dr. Jackson is the host of a series for PBS called “Designing Healthy Communities.” In the series, Dr. Jackson talks about the connection between our health and the communities where we live, connecting the obesity crisis, heart problems, asthma, and more to pollution, inactivity, and simply bad community designs. For our conference, he focused on the connection between health and transportation, with my favorite slide simply saying “Commuting by driving is mostly not good for you.”
Obviously, I am biased, since I don’t own a car and work for a company that promotes alternative means of transportation. But the connection between health and TDM was a huge “ah ha!” moment for many, as was the session immediately following, on public health and TDM. My favorite image from this is of a city limits sign that proudly identifies it as a “Fit Community” – and then the sidewalk ends!
Health, fitness, and clean transportation – the connection is so obvious that many don’t see it.
This got me thinking about things. Years ago, when I was job hunting in New York, I was looking for organizations that promote health and fitness in children, but I didn’t have any related experience (mostly education or health or both). But now I’m in a location where I can leverage my TDM experience with these issues, so maybe it’s time.
The other thing that jumped out at me was after my last day there. I took some time to play tourist on my own. As a former Girl Scout, I really wanted to tour the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, where the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, was born, and then I toured the Andrew Low House, and walked around the Girl Scouts First Headquarters.
I don’t remember my Girl Scout days with fondness, but I still believe in the organization. I finished reading a biography of “Daisy” Low on Sunday; she was nothing like I assumed she was! But I was so inspired to do something to help girls, that I went onto the Girl Scouts website and signed up to volunteer. I don’t know how long it will take for them to contact me, but I’m excited at the thought.
I have decided that I need to help children spend more time outside, hiking, playing, exploring, learning, and protecting. Only children who have been exposed to nature will want to preserve and protect it, and be more interested in clean transportation such as biking, walking, and light rail. I’m not sure how my Girl Scouts volunteering will end up, but there are other organizations to support as well, such as the Student Conservation Association, the Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings, and more. Kids I can convert to cycling addicts like me!
Speaking of cycling, the conference was not without some cycling experiences. A bike tour of the city, a “Slow Ride,” and evidence of a thriving cycling culture kept me (somewhat) happy in this walking city. It’s amazing that in 1733, Captain James Oglethorpe landed on the banks of the river with a clear plan for laying out the city. The city somehow protected these squares, and the tourist part of the city is a lush square of giant old oaks and bewitching Spanish moss.
I’ve always known what it was I wanted to do, but at last I am in a position to do something about it. Time to start volunteering! I can’t wait.