Posted By Gerry Bingham, Department of Energy Resources
Sometimes change isn’t easy. Here at DOER, I spend my day helping businesses find ways to reduce their annual energy costs through the state’s new and improved efficiency programs. Even when changes that reduce a company’s impact on the environment also save money, change can be hard. But, when change for the better happens, the results are real and measurable and that makes all the effort all worthwhile.
I was reminded of this recently in a surprising way; it was when I dropped my daughter off by bicycle at Arlington’s Hardy School and I saw for the first time that brand new bike rack out front and it was FULL OF BICYCLES! That’s when it hit me: good things can happen when you’re willing to do the work to get to that last, easy decision (in this case, the decision for parents and kids to ride their bikes).
Historically, leadership for the town's schools had resisted letting students bicycle to school out of concern for their safety. But, when a new principal with a new point of view came to Hardy School, parents reinvigorated their efforts to solve the car line problem by breaking the roadblock to safe bicycling. One year later, a number of things contributed to increased acceptance of biking to school, including a MassDOT-supported Safe Routes to School pilot that successfully introduced students to bike safety and quantified the community’s car-free miles, and state funding for renovations at a nearby school requiring a transportation plan that included biking.
Other factors that made biking to the Hardy School a reality included:
• State and local resources big and small – from donations of little prizes for kids in the Safe Routes program last year to the staff time that went into organizing the program;
• Hardy’s forward thinking principal, who not only desired a solution for “drop-off gridlock,” but, actually wanted to ride to school herself;
• Parents who put in hours and hours of planning and organizing to incorporate safety into walking and biking to school;
• Non-profit organizations that dedicated resources and enabled a great walk/ride day idea;
• And, last, but certainly, not least, Governor Deval Patrick, who has supported volunteerism on the part of state employees who worked on this project.
And now I see the payoff: I can count the bikes on the numerous racks at the Hardy School and I see our impact is not only measurable, it’s significant!
So, what’s the lesson? Use all the resources available, point them in the right direction and don’t be afraid to ask for help. And when you achieve your change, move on to the next big thing, but don’t forget to look back and chart your progress. It feels good doesn’t it?
… and, oh yeah, don’t forget to ride safe!
Check out more good news from DOER at our Energy Smarts blog.