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Bicycle Professional of the Year Award Winner

The 2017 National Bike Summit will be on March 6–8 in Washington, DC. Save the date! Read about one of the awardees from this year’s Summit, Kathy Durham, Professional of the Year.

At the National Bike Summit, Our Bicycle Professional of the Year award category received a broad range of nominees, and Kathy Durham immediately stood out. During 16 years of public service to the City of Palo Alto, Kathy created one of the most successful Safe Routes to School programs in the nation, and it has been a model for many others.

Kathy Durham receiving award

The success of Kathy’s work speaks for itself. Since becoming the City of Palo Alto’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator in 2005 the city has seen a 43% increase in the percentage of students biking to middle school and an astounding 153% increase in the percentage of students biking to high school. Thousands of students bicycle to school in Palo Alto thanks to the work of Kathy, the city and the community partnerships that have been cultivated. In addition to these successes at secondary schools, over 17,000 elementary school students have participated in bicycle education programs.

Kathy is happy to share her secret to success, saying “working with our Safe Routes to School partners — PTA volunteers, principals, and PAUSD staff — has been the secret to the success in increasing biking, especially to our secondary schools.” Kathy first became involved in promoting bicycling by serving as a PTA representative on her children’s City/School Traffic Safety Committee and initiating events in her community, such as Walk & Roll Week in October and Earth Week green commute events in the spring. After becoming a city staff person she continued to work actively on forming partnerships supportive of biking to school. This can be seen in the formalized Safe Routes to School Partnership between the city and the school district and two committees that facilitate cooperation between the city, school district and PTA. She also ensured that the Palo Alto Unified School District’s bond package included important investments in bicycle and pedestrian circulation plans, street network improvements and bicycle parking.

Kathy with bike

Kathy’s mantra of “more people biking more places more often” has been instrumental to the City of Palo Alto’s efforts to become a more Bicycle Friendly Community. Kathy was the primary mover for the City of Palo Alto’s 2011 application which earned them a Gold Bicycle Friendly Community award based on their numerous efforts to improve bicycling, including many innovative facilities, and their remarkable —for a US City — mode share of 8.75%. Even now, close to five years later, there are many things that other communities can learn from Palo Alto’s 2011 application, which is available to all interested communities and persons. In 2014, we recognized their Safe Routes to School efforts as one of BFC Steve’s Top Win-Over Projects, noting that one of the schools had 70% of students biking to school.

Shortly after receiving the Bicycle Professional of the Year Award, Kathy retired from her position with the City of Palo Alto. We are extremely pleased to recognize her contributions and to share the model of community partnership that she has established to other professionals who want to improve the safety and comfort of bicyclists.