Internship Reflection: Creating Equitable Spaces for Elementary School Pedestrians
October 6, 2021
For my field studies internship this past summer, I interned with Los Angeles Walks – a nonprofit pedestrian advocacy organization whose mission is to activate and mobilize historically disinvested communities in Los Angeles to transform their streets into safe, accessible, and vibrant environments for people who walk. As part of the Fall 2021 MCH Research Symposium, I am presenting my poster “School Street: Creating Equitable Spaces for Elementary School Pedestrians.” Los Angeles Walks was contracted to conduct the community outreach and engagement for a pilot project called School Street. School Street closes down the street adjacent to a school’s entrance and converts it into a pedestrian and bicycle only zone with fun programming for children and families. The goal of the project is to provide safer routes to school for students, reduce congestion and air pollution from idling cars during drop-off and pick-up times, provide ample space for social distancing, and create a community-convening space. The population of focus for this project are elementary school students ages 5-12 from Manchester Avenue Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles and Dayton Heights Elementary School in East Hollywood and their families.
As part of my field studies, I supported in developing a pre- and post-evaluation survey to measure community attitudes regarding the pilot and creating an outreach and engagement strategy for informing and gathering feedback from the school and non-school community. Through the outreach and engagement process, we learned that the traditional School Street model was not a particularly good fit for Manchester Avenue Elementary School, as the community envisioned different solutions for addressing traffic-related concerns and the existing infrastructure surrounding the school made the pilot less viable. As next steps for Manchester Avenue Elementary School, the pilot changed from implementing the School Street project to conducting a series of public workshops to convene the school and non-school community and plan for a solution that works best. As for Dayton Heights Elementary School, the pilot will be moving forward as originally planned.
Overall, I really enjoyed being part of this project – the experience reemphasized for me the importance of listening to community concerns and prioritizing a grassroots approach (vs. a top-down approach) during all aspects of the design, planning, and implementation process.