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An Uphill Pedal

Fighting obesity is the mission of alumna Sharon Z. Roerty, director of the National Center for Bicycling and Walking.

 

As the new executive director of the National Center for Bicycling and Walking (NCBW) in Washington, D.C., Sharon Z. Roerty EJB’86 knows her mission: get Americans, especially children, off their butts. “Have you heard the term ‘denatured’?” she asks. “It describes kids who are glued to their computer more and are out in the world less. Denaturing leads to obesity in children and adults.”

Roerty also serves as executive director of the Active Living Resource Center (ALRC) at NCBW, both of which advocate support for bicycle-friendly and walkable communities. Before joining NCBW in 2004, Roerty was a senior project manager specializing in pedestrian and bicycling issues at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, part of Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy in New Brunswick.

“Yes, more cities and communities are adding bike paths and pedestrian walkways to reduce pollution and improve quality of life,” says Roerty. “But the common refrain from officials and planners is, ‘We don’t have money.’ Often they don’t realize that funding mechanisms exist to help them. The ALRC and urban planning organizations are just two that strongly support our mission.”

Roerty, who grew up on Jersey City’s Kennedy Boulevard and rode her bike to Saint Dominic Academy, knows that it’s an uphill pedal. “Parents are afraid of crime and traffic, and lots of schools don’t allow students to ride bikes to school,” she says. “The way to fight that is to create more off-road opportunities. You see the world in a much fuller way on foot or on bike.”