"What Moves Us": Empowering a Car-free Person Like Me
My name is Jacklyn Thibodeau, and I am a 16 year old transportation advocate and
volunteer for Green Streets who lives car-free in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Green transportation has been with me
my whole life. I lived the first seven years of my life in Brooklyn, New York, where I had near-perfect transit accessibility. From subway rides when I was little, to studying bus maps, I have always known that I have a passion for transportation equity and access. As I got older, I learned more and more about transportation, specifically how different modes function and operate, and even went out of my way to ride every MBTA bus route.
However, when growing up, I refused to
learn how to ride a bike. My preschool had given me a bike when I graduated, and my parents tried teaching me, but I gave up pretty quickly. When I moved to Brookline, I ended up tossing the bike, even though I was encouraged not to because the Boston Area is a fantastic place to ride a bike.
As I have grown older, I have learned that living car-free without a bike can be quite a challenge. Our transit system in Boston can be quite unreliable at times. Also, with COVID, I avoided public transportation until I was fully vaccinated.
However, it is never too late to learn, and on one May afternoon, local bike and transportation advocate Petru Sofio taught me how to ride a bike! It took an hour for me to get the basics, and after a lot of practice, I was biking on the street! I eventually purchased my own bike from Bikes Not Bombs in Jamaica Plain.
After I started biking, I had a similar feeling that someone gets once they obtain their driver's license. I felt a strong sense of independence and freedom, and getting around locally was much easier. For example, my commute to school by walking is a little over 20 minutes, the
T is about 15 minutes depending on how long I
have to wait, and biking is just about 7 minutes.
I had discovered the Green Streets Initiative around February or March of 2022 when Petru referred me to be a participant in the What Moves Boston Area Commuters. After reading an email sent to me by Green Streets Director Janie Katz-Christy and intern Olivia Saccocia. I remember thinking this project was perfect for me, since I always try to encourage my peers to go greener, and they always know to ask me if they plan a trip by transit. The questions I was asked during my What Moves Us interview were questions that I had been waiting for years to be asked. Having a space to share my thoughts on my commute and what can be done to improve it was incredibly empowering and important to me, since hearing the perspectives of commuters from diverse backgrounds is important for policymakers and decision-makers in transportation.
After my interview, I started thinking about what I wanted to do over the summer, and I knew that I wanted to do some work in the transportation field. I remember how much I enjoyed my interview, so I immediately reached out to Green Streets and asked to volunteer. From then on, I was tasked with collaborating on various What Moves Us projects, specifically What Moves MGH IHP and What Moves Cambridge Bike Shoppers, and I even started my own What Moves Us project for Brookline High School.
Pushing others, including my friends, teachers, and anyone else around me, toward a car-light lifestyle is something that I have done my whole life. To work for an organization that shares the same beliefs and values toward sustainable transportation that I have is something that I will forever be grateful for. I am proud to be a volunteer for Green Streets, and have enjoyed working for an organization that brings awareness to such important transportation-related issues.