Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Women Involved: Katie Harris

Photo Credit: Camrin Dengel
A bit (more) about me:
I am a recent college graduate from Humboldt State University. Currently, I’m the transportation policy intern at Rails to Trails Conservancy.
I recently completed a cross-country bike trip with my best friend and professional photographer, Camrin Dengel. You can see a glimpse into our trip, and find a link to her website: From Great Plains to Great Lakes: Experiencing Minnesota by Bike



Before working with RTC, I worked with Friends of Pathways, a bike/ped advocacy organization in my hometown of Jackson, Wyo. You can find information on FOP here.

My interest in bikes and trails comes from a desire to create healthy communities- ecologically, socially and from a public health perspective.


In five words how would you describe your cross-country bike trip?
Eye-opening, inspiring, challenging, formative.

What was your most favorite part of your trip?
My favorite part of the trip was the routine. Life is stripped down to its most basic parts on a long journey like the one we took. Where will we get food and water? Where will we sleep that night? How do we get there? Eating, sleeping and riding dominated our lives for two and a half months, and the simplicity of that was a breath of fresh air.

Did you learn anything while on your trip?
I learned a TON while I was on my trip. The most important lesson for me was that there is no reason to hold back. There are a billion reasons why we could have bailed on this trip- my riding partner and I both had offers for real jobs, we were both leaving romantic partners at home, we had never done anything of this magnitude before, etc. There will always be reasons to step down from a challenge, but life is really boring when you hold back.

What does your internship at Rails-to-Trails involve?
My internship involves working with the research, policy, and advocacy teams within Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. My role with the advocacy team is to identify and build partnerships to strengthen the active transportation movement from a national level. My role with the policy team is slightly different- one of the responsibilities of Congress is to reauthorize a transportation bill, and we work to ensure that bicycle and pedestrian projects continue to receive funding through this process.

Photo Credit: Camrin Dengal
What do you enjoy most about Rails-to-Trails?
I enjoy seeing how much support there is from the American public for trails in this country. The outpouring of support for places to bike and walk is utterly amazing, and makes me hopeful for the future.

Did you have a specific job with FOP? 
My position at FOP was Pathways Ambassador. My primary responsibility was being an active presence on the trails- doing patrols and helping with basic maintenance (I towed a trailer behind my bike with a shovel, clippers, brooms, etc.) and passing out maps and bells to trail users. I also acted as the community liaison between pathway users and city government. In addition, I helped organize and supervise volunteer groups, plan and teach bike safety workshops to elementary school children, and ran a Safe Routes to School mapping project with middle school kids.

What was your favorite part about being involved with FOP?
I loved contributing to my community. It was great to be riding all day, but I truly loved the interactions that I had with locals and visitors alike. People use the pathway system for recreation and transportation and it is an absolute asset to our community. It took a lot of work from the community to build these trails, but now that they are there, there is a lot of community building that happens on the trails! There is much to be said for that.

How important is advocacy to you?
Advocacy is hugely important. Pedestrians and bike riders need a voice, and often their voice is not heard in the holler of everyone else.

What would you suggest to someone wanting to get involved with advocacy?
I would suggest that anyone that wants to get involved with advocacy start by not being afraid to ask questions. Find a local group, introduce yourself, and say you want to get involved. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t know anything! That is what they are there for! Interested citizens are exactly what local groups are looking for!

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