By Sandy Leuthner - Sr. Communications & Advocacy Consultant

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Reflections on the 2017 National Walking Summit

September 29, 2017

The National Walking Summit took place in St. Paul earlier this month. This is the third  National Walking Summit since 2013 and the first time the event was held outside of Washington, D.C.

Because Blue Cross considers “walkability”to be a cornerstone of healthy and vibrant neighborhoods, the company’s Center for Prevention served as  local title sponsor of the event.

Philip Ailiff, senior healthcare analyst in health economics at Blue Cross, led a workshop as part of the summit. Based on his experience as an active community leader, Ailiff shared how Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood has transformed from an industrial warehouse district to a real, walkable community filled with businesses, shops and walking paths.

We caught up with him to get his reflections from the event.

Tell us a little bit about the Walking Summit and what you learned there.

The 2017 Walking Summit provided a national forum for people to interact with others from all over the country who are committed to creating more walkable neighborhoods.  Each person brought unique skills and reasons for attending. Some, like me, were community activists. Others were program directors, urban or community planners, or politicians.

The common thread I heard was quite simple— increase walkability standards to meet the needs of what individual community members define as a “walkable space.” This what we need to communicate to legislators to advocate for programs and spaces that promote walking.

What made you interested in being involved in the Walking Summit?

I’m proud to serve as a member of the Minneapolis Pedestrians Advisory Committee, a group made up of representatives from across the city who advise city leaders on policies and actions that will improve pedestrian safety. We support Minneapolis Complete Streets and we are working toward a Vision Zero policy, which aims to have no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic

Minneapolis is currently rated as a “gold” city for walkability from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC). We are now aiming to make Minneapolis the nation’s second “platinum” city for walkability. Seattle is currently the only city with that status.

What was your role at the Walking Summit?

Because my proposal to lead a mobile workshop at the summit was accepted, I had the chance to take people on a tour of Minneapolis’ beautiful North Loop neighborhood, where I’ve lived for 20 years. Because I am on the North Loop Neighborhood Association Board, I’ve done a lot of work to help make the community more inclusive. This has included work to create programs that have increased walkability.

Through the mobile workshop, I shared the work that my neighborhood has done to make the community more walkable.  Along the way, I shared some of the history of the area.

For example, I pointed out how the opening of Target Field helped transform the area— historic warehouses were revamped into condos, shops, restaurants and office buildings. That really revitalized the neighborhood.  I was especially proud to showcase the accessibility that has been created through new dedicated bike and pedestrian paths, and easy access to public transportation, including the new light rail transit system.

What was the most memorable part of the Walking Summit for you?

This conference was a wonderful experience. I’m grateful to America Walks and the Center for Prevention for helping make it a success. I’ll always remember meeting new friends from all over the country who are also committed to the walking movement.

I was very intrigued by the question posed by the closing panel, “Do we need a walking movement?” I believe the answer is YES! We are a growing movement in a society that has become sedentary with the advancement of technology.  The time is now to get people walking!

One thought on “Reflections on the 2017 National Walking Summit”

  1. Anne Schindeldecker says:

    Great advocacy Phil & thankful for your involvement in the Walking Summit and the North Loop Neighborhood Association Board!

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