Celebrating National Bike to School Day and the Life of James L. Oberstar

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (May 9, 2014) - This week we celebrated National Bike to School Day and the life of Congressman James L. Oberstar, the visionary for safe walking and bicycling to school.

Mr. Oberstar championed the creation and success of the Safe Routes to School program. He spent his 36-year career paving the way for bicycling and walking safety for schools and communities across America. The Federal Safe Routes to School Program, which strives to create safe settings to enable more children and parents to walk and bicycle to school, was Mr. Oberstar’s vision.  He served as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (2007-2011) and U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District (1975-2011).

“The National Center for Safe Routes to School serves as the clearinghouse for the Safe Routes to School program and all of us who work here experienced first-hand the magic of his passion. However, there is no finer testament to his work than the immediate response of the SRTS coordinators when hearing of his death,“ said Lauren Marchetti, Director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

As we remember Mr. Oberstar for his devotion to transportation safety, we’d like to share with you some of the memories the Safe Routes to School Coordinators have of Mr. Oberstar and his work:

“Jim Oberstar was so inspiring to all of us new coordinators when we first met him in Washington, DC.  I will always remember when he explained his reasoning for promoting SRTS was so that his grandchildren and future generations could be more active and lead healthier lives. He always brought things to a personal level and was SRTS’s greatest champion.”

James Oberstar (center) with the SRTS Coordinators at their first meeting in 2006.

“There is something about advocating for our transportation system. We look for all ways to connect ourselves and believe people like Mr. Oberstar hold a special gift for our lives. “

“..It was such an honor to meet Jim Oberstar. He gave me work I love.”

“He was a great man and a thoughtful leader.  I think he made many people feel not only that they are special, but that they could meet the challenge, overcome obstacles, and reach the goal of safer and more active transportation communities.  

The lesson is that; many more goals, dreams, and vision are possible, at the community level, through inclusion and conversation, understanding different points of view about common problems, planning, and taking action with the resources you have at hand.  Open, shared dialog about common issues at the neighborhood level is an Oberstar "Star of many stars".  

He shared a wonderful vision; Democracy at the local level, in an active way. Leaders in service of the public could learn much from him.  I'm sure many have.  Many of us have.  He was and will continue to be an inspiration to many people, in many places.  Happy Trails, James Oberstar...”

Children across the country biked to school this week, as part of more than 2,000 registered Bike to School Day events. Thank you to Mr. Oberstar for leading the movement for healthy and safe children for generations to come.