Back in the spring of 2009, after volunteering to help with outreach for Bike To Work Day, I found myself at a media training led by Deb Hubsmith.
After years of community organizing, I was no stranger to media outreach, but Deb’s powerful energy and cheerful poise brought it to a whole new level. Part cheerleader, part drill sergeant, Deb effortlessly modeled staying on message, and guided us through role plays with a unique mix of passion and precision. I left the training with inspiration that continues to inform my communications efforts today.
Later that year, I started working for TransForm, and began collaborating with Deb as a partner on federal transportation policy. That was when I began to understand that Deb was a force of nature, a leader at the root of an entire movement.
Since the fall of 2013, Deb has been battling a terrible cancer: acute myeloid leukemia, or AML. We at TransForm owe a lot to Deb, and we’d like to take a moment to honor and thank her for all she’s done on behalf of our communities, our transportation, and our future.
Leading a movement for safer, healthier kids
I am far from the only person who’s been inspired by Deb to be a stronger advocate for safe streets and more walkable communities. From elementary school parents to members of Congress, Deb has cultivated champions for walking and biking far and wide, building an incredible legacy of policy achievements at all levels of government.
Here are just a few of her accomplishments over the years:
- Served as founding Executive Director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition
- Co-led the development of Marin County’s award-winning Safe Routes to School program
- Participated in the development of the nation’s first statewide Safe Routes to School legislative program in California
- Founded and directed the Safe Routes to School National Partnership
- Led the national advocacy campaign to pass the first Safe Routes to School legislation by the U.S. Congress
- Co-led the California advocacy campaign and coalition that won the state’s new Active Transportation Program
For a deeper look at Deb’s story, watch this video shown in her honor at the 2015 National Bike Summit (also embedded below). To hear testimony of her impact in the words of today's youth, watch this one.
Leaving her mark at TransForm
Here at TransForm, we too owe a huge debt of gratitude to Deb.
From 2002-2005, Deb served on the Board of Directors of TransForm (then the Transportation and Land Use Coalition, or TALC). As a Director, Deb encouraged TransForm to launch an individual donor program to help broaden our supporter base and become a stronger and more stable advocacy organization. She has also been a consistent supporter since we took her advice.
Deb’s efforts also inspired TransForm to launch the nation’s first urban Safe Routes to Schools program, modeled after the program she pioneered in Marin. In 2006, TransForm started a pilot Safe Routes to Schools program in two Oakland elementary schools that has since grown to serve 130 schools and counting throughout Alameda County. In 2009, the success of our two programs in Marin and Alameda counties helped win $17 million to initiate Safe Routes to School programs in all nine Bay Area counties.
But perhaps most importantly, Deb’s spirit, tenacity, and boundless enthusiasm have set an example of how to aim high and get it done. Not only has her advocacy saved lives, she has shown us, as fellow advocates, how to use our lives to transform communities and the world. We have been lucky – no, blessed to have her on our team, and we aspire to take the hope, passion, and strength she shared with us, and reflect that back to her, and to the movement she helped build.
You can learn more about Deb, her journey, and AML at her blog, Love Healing Deb. You can also help continue her work for safer streets by getting involved with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership or the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.