Walk+Bike Challenge Champion: Patrick Deegan

DSC03408Meet Patrick Deegan, Walk+Bike Coordinator at Edison Elementary for the last two years. Patrick first became involved in Walk+Bike in 2012 when he noticed that there was no one currently in the role. He decided to step up and take on the rewarding responsibility of encouraging kids to walk and bike to school. “The first year I was a total novice,” Patrick revealed, “[I] just asked local businesses for some swag, and was really surprised by the outpouring of support.” Patrick gushes about one bike shop that year that really stepped up, “Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life paid for the time of a mechanic to come out and help fix kids’ bikes as they rolled in that morning.” It was a small operation to start with, just Patrick and one other parent volunteer, but even then he recalls the event being a blast. “The kids LOVED the free swag, including the BTA goodies.”

 

The second year, the program grew and Patrick had a crew of volunteers to help.  They coordinated two bicycle trains, and two more walking school buses, all led by parents. They took a pre-event survey to tally the mileage for the day (and to promote awareness of non-automotive modes). Patrick made planted posters from the BTA posters with poster board and garden stakes. Edison Elementary even qualified for $300 from Eugene’s LTD’s Point2point toward incentives. Patrick went to town. One shop, Arriving By Bike, gave them a 30% discount which helped Patrick purchase a whole slew of prizes for 250 kids. Patrick thought strategically and broke it up into little gifts and big gifts, grade appropriate, with the idea to reward as many kids as possible.  Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life came again and provided onsite mechanics, and they had university student volunteers from LiveMove as well. It was a party!

 

Patrick took on this role, because 85% of Edison Elementary’s kids live within 2 miles of the school and he noticed that most of these kids were getting dropped off by their parents. Patrick felt very passionate about changing this. “For the luxury of living so close to our school in a very residential neighborhood, it’s just ridiculous to rely on driving a car! I wanted to show parents—not just the kids, but the parents—that it’s a lot easier and more fun than they might guess. Riding or walking to school takes just as much time, promotes health, and improves our own neighborhood livability. But again, it’s for the parents, because they’re the ones that are making the decision for 99% of the kids’ school logistics. I needed to let them know the alternatives are just as safe, fast, and easy. And it worked.

 

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What about the logistics of tracking all these kids? Patrick came up with a simple paper survey that worked really well. He asked for name, teacher, grade, distance from home to school, and then mode of transportation. He distributed it to the whole school via classrooms and retrieved them the same way. Patrick sees the benefit beyond reporting data, “It was also a fun way for kids to quantify their trip, and for parents to realize that it’s not that far. Psychologically it may feel like 20 miles, but it’s really only 0.7 miles!”

 

You can become the Walk+Bike Challenge Coordinator for your school and participate at a level that works for you! Register your school, order your free prizes to use as incentives, and download your Coordinator Packet for great tips and resources. There are tons of ways to coordinate for the Challenge. Choose a method with which you’re comfortable and works with your schedule and make a difference by encouraging children to use active transportation and form healthy habits! You too can make a difference in creating active and healthy communities and feel the magic of Walk+Bike just like Patrick! Maybe next year you’ll be saying what Patrick has to say, “Walk+Bike is better than Christmas!

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