[Angie Rivera-Malpiede is the executive director of Northeast Transportation Connections and a Walking Movement Leader in Denver, Colorado.]
Jonathon showed up in my office when he was first launching this thing called Walk2Connect, and I was asking him questions like, ‘Really? You just get people to walk?’ and he said, ‘Yep. I’ll take you and your staff for a walk.’ So, we walked the loop of all five [Northeast Denver] neighborhoods.
While I was walking, all of a sudden I just felt so great – like I was a kid again. I was noticing the color of the sky, and there was this gentleman outside a restaurant who had on the brightest yellow suit I had ever seen. I was mesmerized by the people I was seeing, and the sounds, and the feel of it. I was hooked. Then Jonathon said, ‘We’re doing a 26-mile, two-day walk tomorrow – you should come!’ and I said, ‘OK.’ So I did, and I haven’t looked back since. It was pretty extraordinary for me.
I run a transportation management association. Our whole mission is to get people out of cars. Jonathon and I went to CDOT together and said we want this to be able to be funded. They said, ‘Well, there’s no vehicle miles traveled formulas for walking.’ You have to prove that you’re bringing down pollutants. But Jonathon said, ‘Oh yes there is – it’s an average of three miles an hour.’ So we started doing calculations, and it was the first time CDOT allowed walking to be recognized as one of the TDM [transportation demand management] components that could be funded. And then we went to the Denver Regional Council of Governments and did the same thing. Everybody kept saying the same thing: ‘We never thought of that.’ We changed history, and we’ve been walking ever since.
Latinos, in particular, have a high propensity to get diabetes. Walking is the one thing you can do that’s equal. You don’t need special equipment, you don’t need to join anything. And if we can do it together, then it’s really good. That was my motivation.