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Engaging for Community Health

Staff Perspective Heather Arata

Greetings Get Healthy SMC partners,

In Health Policy and Planning, one of our goals is to support policies that ensure all residents can choose an active or public transportation choice when desired. Right now is also a good time to have your voice heard in various bike and pedestrian plan updates throughout the County. There are currently at least four bike and pedestrian plan updates underway in the County, in various stages of input and planning, that include: Daly City, the City of San Mateo, San Mateo County, and South San Francisco, and one Transportation Master Plan in Menlo Park. These plans are tools and processes that help local jurisdictions plan for walking and biking and/or transportation. They all need public input on where to focus projects over the next few years, and the final product is a map and list of projects the city or County will prioritize. These plans can include anything from engineering and infrastructure to education and encouragement programs, but what is important is that if the public doesn’t add their comments and ideas to the list, critical mobility needs may be missed.

If you are a resident or employee, or just want to bike, walk, or use transit more in any of these places, be sure to follow and participate in the process.  Below is a list of links to the plans or websites for each of the jurisdictions so you can get involved! 

Daly City
Menlo Park
City of San Mateo
San Mateo County (unincorporated areas)
South San Francisco

Being civically engaged in one of these city policy updates is a great way to renew that resolution to bike, walk, and generally be more active. The options for physical activity are plenty here in San Mateo County and here are a few resources to help you plan your trip using walking, biking, or transit: Connect San Mateo includes options for bike share, car share, mass transit and more, while the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition’s (SVBC) Virtual Bike Route Scouts can help you plan a route using its popular routes or maps feature.

Interested in other ways to be healthy? You can find more information on outdoor activities at the County of San Mateo Parks Department and San Mateo County Health.

The most recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation annual county health rankings scored San Mateo County as the second healthiest county in California! Despite there being a plethora of active transportation options and being relatively healthy county as a whole, we know not everyone can access these resources in the same way. Depending on where you live, walking, biking, or taking public transportation might not work for your needs. The infrastructure might be lacking to feel safe, the schedule might double or triple the travel time, or you may just feel more confident using one of these transportation modes with a friend. Another reason may be the disparity in physical proximity to parks. The Get Healthy San Mateo County Neighborhoods data mapping tool shows this disparity through the acres of parks per 1,000 people in a city. Here the unequal access is visible where North Fair Oaks has 0 acres of parks per 1,000 people and neighboring Redwood City has 52 acres. Whatever the reason, we know people face challenges to integrating active transit and public transportation options into their daily routines.

In this recognition that not everyone has the same access to resources to be active, Health Policy and Planning partnered with the Youth Leadership Institutes (YLI) to improve transit options for youth riders. In 2016 and 2017, YLI staff engaged their communities in youth-led research with a focus on transportation needs. They developed participatory research strategies for identifying community needs specific for youth transit riders (ages 11-24). Then, YLI staff outlined policy recommendations for improving youth transit access and the team connected with decision makers to implement some of their ideas. These ideas included increasing safety near schools and supporting existing incentives for youth to ride public transit. You can learn more about HPP’s work with organizations like YLI and stay updated with the different planning processes through our newsletter!

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