Active Transportation Advocates as Allies: What Bike/Ped/Safe Routes to School Advocates Can Do to Support Other Pressing Issues in the Time of Coronavirus

person walking

Photo: The Gender Spectrum Collection

All across the country, state legislatures have adjourned early and city councils have pivoted from future planning and budget development to triaging the covid-19 pandemic. In places where councils and legislators are still meeting, many bicycle and pedestrian advocates feel uncomfortable continuing to ask for funding for walking and biking or policies that protect vulnerable road users in light of the urgent public health challenges cities and states are dealing with. At the Safe Routes Partnership, we support advocates who do not wish to center our issues and want to provide resources for our network to show up for people and issues directly impacted by the coronavirus.

In times of challenge, taking action is a salve for feelings of helplessness. While many of us feel afraid or destabilized during this period of uncertainty, we recognize that this crisis is even riskier for people experiencing poverty and communities made vulnerable by our lack of a strong social safety net. In addition to worrying about contracting covid-19, many people are worried about being able to afford food, keep a roof over their head, and access health care without fear of deportation. While many of us most often fight for racial and social justice through our active transportation advocacy efforts, the novel coronavirus pandemic provides us all with an opportunity to live out the broad definition of our commitments to individual and community health and racial and social justice. Here are a few suggestions for ways that bicycle, pedestrian, and Safe Routes to School advocates can take action in support of other issues during the covid-19 pandemic.

Spread the Word About Free School Meals

  • Amplify information about school meal distribution happening while schools are closed.  To find lists of school meal locations in your community, visit your school district or health department’s website.
  • If school meal distribution is not happening in your community, No Kid Hungry is offering grant funding to school districts and community organizations to provide meals to school-aged kids.

Reject Racism and Xenophobia

  • Issue a statement rejecting association of the novel coronavirus with any racial/ethnic group or particular country. Denounce hate crimes against people of Asian descent and racist/xenophobic language that have increased as a result of the coronavirus. For more information and ideas, visit this resource from Public Health Institute.

Complete the 2020 Census and Nudge Your Network To Do the Same!

  • Encourage your network and community to complete the census forms that were mailed to their houses the week of March 12th or to complete them online at before door knocking operations begin. According to the US Census Bureau, nonresponder follow-up begins as early as April 15th in some communities and May 13th nationwide.

Expand Safe Routes to Vote

  • If you live in a state that has not yet held its primary and allows voters to vote by mail, disseminate information about obtaining vote by mail ballots. In most states, you can find this information on your state’s Department of State website.

Promote Racial and Social Equity in Covid-19 Responses

  • Encourage your city to issue a resolution or formal statement committing to upholding racial and social equity as part of its response to the novel coronavirus. Use sample language developed by the Race, Equity And Leadership (REAL) Council of the National League of Cities.

Raise Awareness of Mutual Aid

Learn About the Public Health Impacts of Paid Sick Leave

Protect the Health and Dignity of Immigrants, Migrants, Asylum Seekers

  • Share information about the importance of releasing detained migrants who cannot safely socially distance while in detention and join actions at the federal, state, and local levels to protect the health of detained migrants.

Understand the High-Risk People Who Are Incarcerated Face 

  • To protect the health of the most vulnerable, share information about the importance of releasing low-level offenders and all migrants detained while seeking asylum and in ICE detention centers. Learn about why the prison population is at high-risk for covid-19 and five actions cities and states can take to protect the health of both the prison population and the general public.

Learn About the Challenges Faced by People Experiencing Homelessness and Low-Income

  • People who are unhoused cannot easily self-isolate. As workers across the country lose jobs with the closure of essential businesses, low-income people are at risk of eviction or foreclosure. Learn about recommendations for supporting people experiencing homelessness and low-income people during the coronavirus pandemic. Join weekly calls with the Disaster Recovery Housing Coalition to learn about the latest updates and actions to take in support of people experiencing homelessness and with low-income.

If you have additional ideas and suggestions about how to do this, please email us at, and we will update this blog to include your submissions.

We also know that the pandemic is shining light on the need for safe, convenient places for people to walk, bike, wheel, and be physically active. We will continue to share resources, ideas, and tools throughout the pandemic.

*Thank you to the Public Health Awakened listserv for sharing countless ideas for how the public health community can help out during this crisis.

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