Walk Boston to award pedestrian activists

By Bridget Morawski 

On Tuesday, non-profit Walk Boston will honor two local officials during their annual celebration. The Golden Shoe Award is given to up to five recipients for their work improving pedestrian conditions.

For the twenty-fourth annual celebration, two Malden residents – local artist and community advocate Sharon Santillo as well as the Mayor of Malden Gary Christenson – will be honored.[soundcloud id='139936189' color='#2a359']

“The work that they’re doing goes unnoticed or unheralded and we really like to do this to recognize that we see them giving back to their communities,” said Brendan Kearney, the development and communications manager for Walk Boston.

Santillo leads the Advisory Committee on Walkability in Malden. The eight member group works toward improving pedestrian options in Malden to improve their quality of life. In a rare example of community and local government cooperation, Santillo, Christenson, and the advisory committee worked together to develop signs throughout Malden that provide approximated times for walkers to popular destinations. Pedestrians can now easily gauge their arrival times to parks, art centers, and other heavily trafficked areas.

“We thought that would be something to encourage people to walk, because research shows most people overestimate how long it will take to walk somewhere,” Santillo said.

Kearney notes that local walkers tend to silently appreciate the improvement of crosswalks, sidewalks, and other pedestrian-related safety equipment. The awards provide the greater Boston community a chance to recognize the work of a few in improving the community’s safety.

Following an open call for nominations from board members and other related officials, the award winners are whittled down to between three and five from a much larger list. The organization strives to honor those that Kearney said are “giving back and really speaking out about the issues that Walk Boston finds important.”

Kearney explained the reasoning behind their choice, “they stood out (because their work was) not just a top down thing, coming from an elected official.”

“It’s kind of a combination of community activist and elected official. It’s unique in that way because it came from both ends. It came from the community. This is a great community and a great group to receive this award. They’re not just doing it for the accolades but to make their community better.”

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