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  • Writer's pictureLaura McCamy

Safe Routes to Schools Champion: Julia Moss

Updated: Mar 29

Julia Moss is a longtime fan of the Safe Routes to Schools (SR2S) Program. “I first got involved with Safe Routes when I was a teacher at Malcolm X [Elementary School in Berkeley] before I had kids,” she said. In her second year of teaching, her class won the coveted Golden Sneaker Award

Now her oldest child goes to Malcolm X Elementary, and when the parent champion she worked with as a teacher left, Moss took over the role. “It’s been a real labor of love to give back to the Malcolm X community in this way,” she said.

We spoke with Moss about what she loves about SR2S and the joys and challenges of leading a “biking lifestyle.”

Being a cheerleader for walking and rolling

Moss helps organize all the SR2S events at her school. She noted that International Walk & Roll to School Day was “incredibly successful” last fall, with a huge turnout. They had music, gave out pencils, and made stickers for students to celebrate how they got to school that day, a great way to build awareness. 

“The joy and celebration of active transit is really important,” Moss says of her work with Safe Routes. “There’s also pride in doing something good for your community.” She loves the smiles on kids’ faces when they raise their hands to be counted for the Golden Sneaker competition and the sense they have that “this is something good for you and good for the world.”

Moss also appreciates the connections between champions across the district. Being able to share notes and resources has added to what she can bring to the students at Malcolm X.

As her school’s Safe Routes Champion, Moss has a seat on the PTA Board. In addition to organizing events, she also interfaces with the City of Berkeley, reaching out when crossing beacons go out or other infrastructure for safe walking and rolling needs repair.

Riding the bike train to school

Moss also organizes a bike bus. A bike bus, or bike train, is a group ride with a route by students’ houses. It picks up youth and parents along the way, just like a school bus, but everyone is getting to school by bike.

This fall, the Malcolm X bike train grew from monthly the previous year to twice a month, with about 40 people participating. On International Walk & Roll to School Day, the bus swelled to around 70 people. Moss said fewer people join in the winter, but the train still includes 20 to 25 riders. She credits the strong biking community at the school for the high level of participation. 

Moss sends out emails to remind people of the bike bus and hopes to increase the frequency in the future. She gets a lot of joy from the bike bus, especially because it has connected her to a global movement. She participates in the Bike Bus World Slack channel with people who run bike buses from across the US and as far away as Scotland and Portugal. 

“I think bike bus has been this very powerful and change-making piece of the Safe Routes to School Program,” Moss said.

Taking advocacy to the next level

Moss and her husband are long-time bike riders. “We love our biking lifestyle. It’s a huge part of who we are. It brings the whole family so much joy,” she said. “It also is in alignment with our values around community and sustainability.” She noted that her kids never ask, “Are we there yet?” when they’re on the back of a bike.

“You get to know your neighbors when you’re riding a bike. There’s this interaction with the world around you that feels so alive and so important.”

Her keen awareness of the joy of biking has led Moss to deepen her advocacy, especially in the face of a personal challenge. “I am not going to simply encourage biking and walking to school without simultaneously doing everything I can to make that safer,” she said. “We have a long way to go before we have a Vision Zero city.” 

Moss’s family got an unhappy reminder of the need for safer streets this February. Her husband had dropped off her six-year-old at Malcolm X and was biking the three-year-old to preschool when a turning car driver crossed the center line and hit him head-on. Her husband’s knee was injured, and he can’t get around by bike for the time being. Her son was thrown from the back of the bike into the street, and while he fortunately wasn’t injured, he was traumatized by the impact. 

“I was an advocate before all this,” Moss said. Now she’s redoubling her efforts, especially because a pedestrian was hit by a car driver at that same intersection a few weeks later. She’s talking to city council members about what happened and asking Berkeley to harden that intersection to protect vulnerable road users. “I am hopeful,” she said — and still looking forward to upcoming SR2S events that bring joy to the community and celebrate a car-free culture.


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