Why they stand out
The Cambridge School District brings together a community of several villages and townships, many in rural areas. While the Cambridge area community may be small, they are building big momentum for safe walking and biking in the community. Their commitment to a healthy and active community became visible in 2013, with the formation of the Cambridge Wellness Collaborative (CWC). As any small community knows, collaboration lies at the heart of success. Established within the recreation department, which is part of the local school system, the CWC operates within existing systems and creates new opportunities for public and private sector partners to change the physical activity landscape. They also collaborate with a group of peer coalitions in neighboring communities, a network made possible by support from Fort HealthCare, the regional hospital system.
Events and awareness-raising have been a central focus of the CWC’s work. In 2014, they began an biannual Bike/Walk to School event inclusive of elementary through high school students, which has attracted broad participation from students and parents. The annual Bike Rodeo is also a signature event in partnership with the Dane County Sheriff’s office where children learn bike safety techniques and take home free bike helmets. These and other events have generated excitement in the community. Organizers notice more bikes on the racks at the elementary schools and a growing culture of support for safe walking and biking.
With momentum building in the community, the Cambridge Wellness Collaborative is now leading the way to create more places to safely walk and bike in the community. Partners recently conducted a community-wide walk audit to identify safety improvement priorities. One such section was a scenic, narrow, and unstriped road along Lake Ripley, utilized by many families and children. As a result, when the road was scheduled for maintenance in 2018, the Town of Oakland added 3 extra feet on each side and painted road stripings. While partners would like to see bike paths and sidewalks eventually, according to CWC Director Lesli Rumpf, “it’s much better than it was and [the changes] really help to slow things down.” Additionally, there is strong interest in regional trail connectivity, with partners working to link the local Camrock Trail into the 52-mile Glacial Drumlin Trail that connects Cottage Grove to Waukesha. Keep an eye out to see how the Cambridge area continues to improve the infrastructure and use of walk and bike routes!
Approach to Equity
The Cambridge Wellness Collaborative keeps equity in mind when planning events and providing other program opportunities for their community. Organizers of Bike/Walk to school events ensure that children who ride the bus from rural parts of the community are still able to participate by designating a centrally located meet-up spot for everyone to bike or walk together. The meet-up location is at the high school where the high school bike team then helps escort children to the elementary school and middle school. The CWC also promotes the use of the “Sunshine Fund”, granted by the Cambridge Foundation, which subsidizes recreation and program opportunities so that income is not a barrier to participation. Additionally, CWC is still in the beginning stages of building more equitable practices into their work. They are very motivated to begin using this network as a resource to further explore root causes of inequitable access to opportunities to walk, bike, and be active in their community.