Legislators advocate for safer routes to school for children
Rosapepe, Bronrott look to improve pedestrian and student safety
State Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-Dist. 21) of College Park and state Del. William Bronrott (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda say they hope a proposed bill will make walking and biking to school safer for children across the state.
Under the proposed legislation, school construction funds could possibly be used for adding or widening sidewalks, adding traffic lights, countdown walk signals, crosswalks and increasing the time of walk signals at intersections.
The bill was announced Oct. 6, a day before Walk to School Day, a Prince George's County effort to encourage students to walk to school and to identify areas along their routes that need improvement.
According to the State Highway Administration, there were 110 deaths involving pedestrians statewide in 2007, 28 of which occurred in Prince George's. The SHA did not have specific information on the ages of those killed.
Rosapepe said Route 1 creates a dangerous walking atmosphere for College Park pedestrians.
"Route 1 cuts right through my district, so crossing is obviously a concern of mine," he said. "Hollywood Elementary is affected by that and so is Paint Branch Elementary."
Hollywood Elementary Principal Barbara Caskey said she would like to see pedestrian safety around the school improved.
"I think it's a great idea," she said. "We only have one bus, but a lot of families choose to drive. I would encourage walking."
Caskey said the intersection of Edgewood Road and Rhode Island Avenue, which is next to a pathway leading from Rhode Island to the school, is a major safety concern.
A crossing guard is on duty at that intersection before and after school hours, but Caskey said the intersection needs to be safe for pedestrians at all hours.
"We even had one PTA suggest we put a walking bridge," she said. "I know it's a lot of money, but it would really help. I see them in lots of neighborhoods. The kids in the neighborhood use the school for the evening activities, too. The Boys Scouts and Girls Scouts use the school during the week."
University Park Elementary parent Phyllis Arnason said she lives within the walking boundary of the school but that her children do not walk because she feels they are too young. She said once they are old enough to walk, she will still drive them because they would have to cross Adelphi Road at Wells Parkway, which she said is not pedestrian friendly.
"That intersection is real busy in the morning," she said. "There is always someone who runs that light when it's yellow or red."
She said she would like for the state to be able to make that intersection safer for the older children who walk to school.
"I don't know how they would schedule a crossing guard there to stand there, but I guess that would be the only thing they could do," she said. "For the bigger kids who walk and ride their bikes to school, it would be nice if they could have a place to cross."
Caskey also said she is concerned about child obesity, an issue Rosapepe and Bronrott also hope can be addressed by the bill.
"It's really important for their physical health," she said. "I'm concerned about overweight children and this is one way that we could be helpful. Getting kids in the habit of walking is a good lesson for them to learn."