Founder’s Note

Jim Shanman

  • League Cycling Instructor (LCI) # 3493
  • Co-founder, Culver City Bicycle Coalition
  • Member Expo Phase II Bicycle Advisory Committee
  • Culver City Safe Routes to School Coordinator

In October, 2011, I launched Walk ‘n Rollers to encourage more kids to walk or bike to school more often and more safely. Because too many kids were missing out on regular activity and not learning essential safety habits and basic responsibility.

Like many people, I learned to ride a bike early and for years, my two wheelers were my primary modes of transportation. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley (just outside of Los Angeles), I would bike everywhere – school, friends’ houses, work, the malls. Perhaps I even took the sense of freedom for granted.

Then I, along with all my friends, traded in our two wheels for four at the age of 16 when we got our drivers licenses. It would be almost a decade before I rediscovered the joy of riding regularly again when I was introduced to mountain biking. The thrill of the downhill after the intense workout of the climb was irresistible. And in 1988 it was just ramping up so there was a cool factor too.

For many years, my cycling advocacy efforts focused on mountain biking through our local mountain bike group CORBA. But when our daughter entered grade school, my attention turned to urban riding and working to make our community in Culver City safer for cyclists.

In 2010, I attended a Safe Routes to School community meeting in Culver City as a precursor to applying for $1.5 million in state and federal funding intended to provide easier and safer access to a few of the schools here. The process included several stakeholders – parents, educators, city officials and police officers – mapping out a plan to not only encourage children to walk and bike to school more frequently, but provide them safe routes to do so. The consultant left with some great feedback, but something was missing.

This wasn’t the first such meeting I had been to where I left with the same exhilarated but empty feeling. The thought that it would be two years before we would see tangible results in the form of paint on a roadway or a new sign in the ground – assuming we were actually awarded the grant  – was disheartening. What the heck were we supposed to do in the meantime? How could we take the energy and enthusiasm from this meeting and turn it into action? What could I do to help NOW?

I started to realize too that individual events like bike rodeos, walking school buses and rolling bike trains are great for introducing kids to basic skills and safety tips, but how do we get them to put it in practice everyday? It became clear we not only need to encourage the kids in between these events to walk and bike to school more often, but we also need to provide them the education and tools to do so safely and responsibly every day.

Research showed how badly children need exercise and how a little extra helps them in school, reduces the risk of obesity and diabetes and reduces congestion around schools.  We simply aren’t doing enough to get them – and their parents – out of their cars more often. A simple solution would be to encourage kids to walk and bike to school more often. My aim was to break the habit of parents driving door-to-door everyday.

Together we can create a whole army of Walk ‘n Rollers – a new generation that will take back their streets and experience the sense of freedom we all shared growing up. A generation that embraces a more active lifestyle and will reap the benefits of better walking and biking infrastructure that is being developed throughout the country. Yes, there will be challenges ahead, but together, we can show our children how to not only be better community members, but better stewards for the future of their communities.

My goal is to help kids be more active, safer and more responsible while breaking parents’ habit of driving door-to-door every day.

Jim Shanman

Founder, Walk 'n Rollers