It’s Active Commute Week in West Michigan, a celebration of cleaner, healthier, less congestion-causing transportation. The Rapid’s West Michigan Rideshare program, West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum (WMSBF) and participating businesses are encouraging people to walk, bike, scooter, carpool or take the bus to get where they want to go from June 16 to 23. At 4:30 p.m. June 24, a Happy Hour Awards wrap-up event at Harmony Hall will recognize individuals, teams and employers for their active commutes.
Daniel Schoonmaker, WMSBF executive director, says that it is important that West Michigan embraces ride-sharing, public transit and walkable, bikeable communities as a means of promoting employee health, community wellness, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity.
“In the context of this campaign, which has its roots as an employer-centered initiative, we can help workers be more active and healthier and reduce their costs of transportation and commuting,” Schoonmaker says. “As workers continue to return to the workplace [post-COVID], I think we're finding that employers are more challenged with their employees wanting to make that commute. Through investments like Active Commute Week, they can support their workers in commuting in a more enjoyable and physically active way.”
Public transit in West Michigan is commonly viewed as a social service for people with income challenges rather than a vital form of transportation for everybody. Active Commute Week seeks to shift that narrative.
“We are finding that more people are choosing to be one- or no-car families. That helps in shifting that narrative,” Schoonmaker says. “As employers encourage the use of more active modes of transportation in voluntary scenarios, I think that'll go a long way to establishing [public transit] as a preferable and convenient mode of transportation for people who aren't necessarily required to use it.”
Schoonmaker believes that programs like West Michigan Rideshare open up convenient transit opportunities that make it easier for people to pursue active commuting as a voluntary strategy. Schoonmaker also would like to see more people commute via bicycle, but realizes that West Michigan’s automobile culture can make bicycling hazardous, especially on main thoroughfares.
“If I had a magic wand, I would create more protected traffic areas for bikes,” he says. “Creating those protected areas, where you don't have to worry as much about getting sideswiped by an Amazon driver, would make commuting by bike a lot easier.” Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum and The Rapid