Leader Profile: Chelsea Biklen

An interview with Chelsea Biklen, Cupertino SRTS Community Coordinator.
Tell us a little about yourself.

I have worked for Cupertino Safe Routes to School (SRTS) since June 2015. Previously, I was the SRTS coordinator for two San Mateo School Districts. I participated in the 10 month Climate Corps Bay Area Fellowship through Strategic Energy Innovations, similar to Americorps. After my fellowship was complete, I heard about the Cupertino position, applied, and transferred since I found that I love the nexus between public health and transportation that this job brings.

What are some major issues facing your community and how does your work address them?

Cupertino is nationally ranked for its excellent school system. People move to Cupertino specifically to send their kids to Cupertino schools, specifically high school. However, with the high demand, the schools were not designed to fit that many students. As such, there is no more room for cars around schools and safety issues are on the rise. Active transportation has become a way to address these issues. However, there is a lack of active transportation infrastructure around schools and therefore a fear for student safety, which only leads to more cars.

To help with this, the City created a SRTS pilot program to act as a forum for the various schools and the City. In its first year, the mission of the pilot program is to form a partnership between these two entities and achieve an understanding of the current conditions and the next steps of the program.

What excites or inspires you about your work?

I really like working with parents! They have so much passion and care for the safety of their children. I work with a lot of impressive parent volunteers who give so much of their time and suggestions for improvements. It makes my job feel worth it on those particularly rough days. It helps to work with people who care for and are appreciative of the work I am doing.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in supporting similar work?

To start a similar program, do your research on cities with the same demographics as your city. There are so many factors (size, funding); I am constantly reaching out to other coordinators on how they handle the various components. Realize that you cannot set up identical programs to other communities. For example, we used Palo Alto as an example program since they are so established. However, it took them 15 years to get where they are, so embrace the baby steps and the little wins. Also, network with other coordinators as much as possible.