In October, Joe Blankenship started with BikeWalkKC as the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) planner. Joe has already jumped in by working with area districts and schools to identify ten schools that could benefit from the SRTS program’s community conversations and planning opportunities.
Joe Blankenship came to the Kansas City region by way of Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and NYC. He has a Masters in City and Urban Planning from Pratt Institute and a degree in African American and Urban Studies from Fordham University. He previously worked for the City of Roeland Park, where the got an insider’s understanding of how city government works. He lived car-free in Overland Park for two years, and because of that knows firsthand how our cities need better infrastructure: some people live without a car, and they need to get around!
While living in NYC, Joe walked — a LOT. He loved the activity and history that could be found side-by-side on the streets of New York, and wondered how anyone would want to speed by it in a car or on a bike. Twice he organized daylong walks from the Bronx to Coney Island, stopping for photos and food along the way, and riding the subway two hours back home. He likes the perspective you get from walking that you can’t get any other way. He was also a volunteer with Clips of Faith and Tour de Bier before landing the job as Safe Routes to School planner.
What pulled him to the job?
His classes for his degree in African American and Urban studies were all about getting to know a community in a meaningful way. The SRTS description specifically mentioned that BikeWalkKC wanted to build a conversation around these schools, not just go in to a community and implement a program. It’s about connecting people and resources, and leaving behind a sustainable relationship even when the money runs out.
What is he excited about for SRTS this year?
BWKC has selected ten elementary schools in Kansas City, and Joe is excited for the opportunity to get to know different parts of the city. He’s also eager to hear from residents, community groups, organizations and other members of the community about how to create safer streets within the neighborhoods, and how they evaluate their own built environments. The conversation can extend outside of the traditional walking and biking routes to include safe transportation within the neighborhood, too. He hopes that the kids he works with will bring energy to the program that will help drive progress toward safe walking and biking.