Shasta Living Streets Promotes Safe Travels
03/25/2015 07:42AM ● Published by Sue Ralston
Trail WaysApril 2015
By Sue Ralston
Anne Wallach Thomas grew up in rural Palo Cedro, walking to school, playing outside and riding her horse on local roads. When she was young, it wasn’t daunting to ride a bicycle a few miles into Redding. In sixth grade, she won the poster contest for a campaign to promote a walking and bicycling trail along Deschutes Road with the slogan: “Trucks are Rough, Big and Tough, Children are Frail, So Use the Trail.”
It’s clear looking back at her childhood that she was destined to be a changemaker. Fast forward a few decades and she’s the founder and executive director of Shasta Living Streets, a nonprofit organization she created with a small group of supporters to promote safe and inviting streets, walking paths and protected bikeways. Five years after its inception, Shasta Living Streets is now a high-profile organization with 250 members and an increasing number of collaborative efforts underway.
“Our intention is to co-create the future,” says Thomas. “When we build alliances with different groups, we can generate real collective impact with benefits across our communities.” This fresher vision of the future is brought to life by such activities as an annual Family Bicycling Day, held last year on a section of Parkview Avenue made temporarily car-free and open to all types of non-motorized travel. “It helps people envision alternatives to driving – not only bicycling, but walking or skating – and helps highlight the environmental and health benefits too,” says Thomas.
Safe and inviting sidewalks, walking paths and protected bikeways in neighborhoods make the North State more desirable not only for individuals, but for businesses that want to draw talented and educated professionals who often return to Redding from college expecting progressive transit policies. “Opportunities for outdoor active living add to the economic development of our area,” says Mike Dahl, a member and advisor to Shasta Living Streets. “The Downtown Transportation Plan is being updated now, so the timing is perfect for all these groups to collaborate and have influence. Progressive planning can really enhance the economic viability of a region.” Indeed, Shasta Living Streets was instrumental in advocating for Caltrans to take public comments on last summer’s California and Pine Street improvements, helping to lobby for protected bike lanes.
Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Economy of Industrial Societies from UC Berkeley, where she studied methods of addressing complex interdisciplinary challenges. She has more than 12 years of national and international coalition-building experience in the nonprofit sector. Thomas and her husband, Jefferson, an illustrator and artist, met in San Francisco. When it was time for him to move to Los Angeles to attend Cal Arts, she followed. They eventually went to Seattle for jobs. They both commuted by bicycle to work in San Francisco, Seattle and Marin County – before bicycle networks and supportive facilities were widespread. Thomas is a longtime member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and helped found the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.
Sara Sundquist, coordinator of the Safe Routes to School program of Healthy Shasta, is one of the early supporters of Shasta Living Streets. “We work well together in supporting each other’s efforts,” says Sundquist. In 2011, they collaborated on Redding’s first Living Streets event. “Anne is really good at getting the average citizen excited about bicycling and walking. She’s worked well with some of the business owners, especially around downtown, to point out the advantages of having an environment friendly to those who walk and ride bikes.”
The momentum is building. Shasta Living Streets had its very first member party at the end of January. “It was super fun. They had live music by the Buckhorn Mountain Stompers and lots to eat and drink,” says member Melissa Buciak. “It was a really good turnout, especially since it was the first one.” Buciak herself is a bicycle rider and appreciates that Shasta Living Streets placed portable bike racks at such events as the Bandaloop performance and music festivals at the Sundial Bridge last summer. “I also like that it’s not just about bikes. I walk downtown because I live so close, and it’s about a walkable, livable city, and she gets that. A walkable city is so important.”
At the member party, attendees said they were thrilled that someone was working on making Redding more livable and walkable. “People are what makes this happen,” says Thomas. “We look forward to people realizing they can work within their own area of influence to help work toward more safe, inviting streets and communities.”