Active travel is something that Ridhi Kalaria has been an advocate for, ever since she started riding a bike at university. Now our newly appointed partnerships manager for the West Midlands, Ridhi introduces herself and her vision for cycling and walking in the region.
"I want to support our teams to get better at reaching everybody, and raising the voices of all parts of the communities in the West Midlands."
Hi, I’m Ridhi Kalaria, the new Partnerships Manager for the West Midlands.
And I want the West Midlands to be an incredible place to walk and cycle for everyone.
I want to focus on ensuring more of our work reaches a wider audience.
At Sustrans, we've acknowledged we don’t always reach all parts of the community we'd like to.
I want to support our teams to get better at reaching everybody, and raising the voices of all parts of the communities in the West Midlands.
I will do this by ensuring we know, understand and talk to everyone. That we build relationships with more than the usual suspects.
That we support our relationships by building them into our work rather than relying on them after we get started.
Passion for community conversations
Although I’m new to the role, I’m not new to Sustrans.
I joined in 2018 as a project officer for our Age-Friendly Tyburn work.
I connected with local residents to understand the physical environment and how it contributes to social isolation.
I was attracted to working with Sustrans because I found joy and freedom when I realised how much more independent my bike made me.
And I wanted to make sure more people had the opportunity to feel that sense of freedom and possibility.
Working hard to be more inclusive and equal
Prior to Sustrans, I ran my own Community Café. Working for myself was exhilarating and challenging.
It taught me how to understand risk, how to communicate with a huge range of people, the value of perseverance as well as key business skills.
I am still a Director of a local art gallery, called Ort Gallery.
Ort represents underrepresented voices and works towards making the arts sector a more inclusive one.
My work at Ort helps to drive my work within Sustrans to make us more inclusive and equitable.
I loved working for myself, but also knew that I wasn’t making the difference at the level I wanted to.
And that’s what brought me to Sustrans.
Working for an organisation with a team and with influencing power brings a higher level of ambition.
"I know I can’t do everything on my own. But I truly believe that when people build strong relationships remarkable things are possible."
What I'm working on right now
I’m currently working on supporting local authorities to ensure that we develop great infrastructure on high cycle traffic routes.
I’m also encouraging the delivery of infrastructure and behaviour change work in parts of the region that currently have very little in the way of either to address the inequity.
I also want to use our Bike Life work to showcase that cycling can be for everyone.
Long-term changes to make walking and cycling better for everyone
The pandemic has really highlighted the benefits of walking and cycling to a whole new audience.
Despite how difficult 2020 was and the challenges 2021 brings, I’m proud and excited to be working towards long term changes for the better.
Sustrans is a great place to work, my colleagues and the clear mission to make it easier for people to walk and cycle are all personally important to me.
Active travel is something I’ve been an advocate of since I picked up a bike at university, so I’m ecstatic to be part of a team that feels the same.
And it’s that sense of being part of something bigger that drives me.
Because I know I can’t do everything on my own.
But I truly believe that when people build strong relationships remarkable things are possible.
So as Partnerships Manager for the West Midlands this is my number one objective.
Share your experiences and ideas with me
I have one lived experience, but I know there are many more to share.
So I’m asking you to come forward, get in touch and help me find a way to make walking and cycling more accessible to our generation.
Will you work with me to make walking and cycling more equitable in the West Midlands?
Please do get in touch and share your experiences, ideas and projects with me.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.