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25-year stories: A Q & A with Elizabeth Stampe

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Elizabeth Stampe was Walk SF’s executive director from 2010 to 2013, and has been an active member since. With Walk SF celebrating its 25th anniversary, we wanted to catch up with her about her time leading the organization – and of course had to ask where she loves to walk.

Q: One of Walk SF’s first big wins was getting 15 MPH zones around almost all public schools in the city. Tell us about what this win took and what it means.

Elizabeth: Local pedestrian advocate and Walk SF member Jon Winston first had an idea about this. A state law had passed enabling cities to create safe speed zones around all schools, but only one town in California had done it so far. We thought San Francisco should be next! It seemed to me that we can all agree that kids need to get to school safely.

Then another great local pedestrian advocate and Walk SF member, Cheryl Brinkman, helped get Mayor Ed Lee on board; he issued an executive order! We had a press event with the Mayor, which was a big moment for Walk SF’s advocacy.

To me, this win was about changing who and what the streets are for. San Francisco’s streets should not be about moving cars fast. They should be for the people who live and work here – and go to school here! – to get around in safety and comfort and enjoy this beautiful city.

This campaign was also about making change at the city level. When a given street or intersection is unsafe, yes, we need to change that, but I thought Walk SF, as a citywide group, could and should work on issues that are citywide. Walk SF still does that today, and every day, on behalf of everyone who walks in the city. That work is crucial.

Q: Do you have any memories of your time that especially stick with you that our readers should hear about?

Elizabeth: I think what I’m most proud of was getting San Francisco to pass its first Pedestrian Action Plan in 2013. This plan started the City on a proactive, data-based approach, with a commitment to real, measurable progress every year – that the City’s adoption of Vision Zero in 2014 built on. It was an important moment of getting visibility and accountability for action to make streets safer.

Q: You have stayed involved in Walk SF as a monthly donor and as an advocate. Why does Walk SF’s mission matter so much to you?

Elizabeth: I love San Francisco, and I think our city can become a model for the nation, showing how a sustainable city is also just and joyful. City living – especially in a dense, walkable city like ours – is about sharing: sharing space, sharing resources, and also sharing stories. When we all share, we all get more than we would otherwise; we all benefit. When it comes to our streets, sharing means prioritizing safety, community, and the climate. A truly walkable city is a great city.

Q: What is your biggest hope for the next decade of Walk SF’s work?

Elizabeth: As the mother of a ten-year-old, I want San Francisco to be a city where children really can walk (and bike) safely. Everywhere. One of the greatest things about growing up in a city is early independence and mobility, and the discovery that brings; I got to experience that myself as a child, and I want more children to enjoy that.

But San Francisco isn’t there yet. So my hope is that Walk SF keeps the momentum going with these really big recent wins, like JFK Promenade, Slow Streets, and speed cameras. Walk SF has been such a leader, pushing the City to be systematic and serious about Vision Zero and about dangerous speeds and intersections. That’s needed more than ever. I hope to see Walk SF gain the support of even more people to lead this lifesaving work and build an even stronger safe streets movement.

Q: So… what’s your favorite walk in San Francisco?

I live in the Mission and I love to walk and run around Dolores Park, but really any walk where I see or learn something new! Especially if it involves a sweet treat. 🙂

Some of my very favorite walks are Peak2Peak routes – there is nothing like Peak2Peak to open your eyes to new things in the city, no matter how long you’ve lived here. From hiking through Mount Sutro to doing a wiggle around UCSF to climbing Russian Hill with a stop for ice cream before hitting North Beach – or doing it all the other way to end up on the grass at the Park Chalet with a beer – you just can’t beat Peak2Peak.

When I was executive director, we also did a great walk visiting several community gardens in SOMA; that was great fun. We even found one that had chickens and bees!

Celebrate Walk SF’s 25th anniversary and ensure its work for safe streets continues long into the future by making a donation today!