Walk to School day this year will likely look different for your family. Instead of celebrating by meeting up with friends in your neighborhood, getting stickers upon arrival to school, and thanking your local crossing guard you are probably just moving from your breakfast table to your desk, no shoes required! Because it won't always be this way we are taking this week to talk about pedestrian safety in Baltimore City. Does your family feel safe walking to school? Why or why not? From painted crosswalks to more trees lining your route-what could be done to improve your walk to school? We want to know more-fill out our survey here. Below are some stories of actions taken at local schools to inspire you!
Pedestrian Walkway at Mount Royal
The problem-a parking lot used as playspace, a walkway for students, staff, and neighbors, and as a drive through for pick up and drop offs. Solution-Mt. Royal PTO collaborated with BCPSS Facilities, city council representatives, school administration, and MICA Social Design Students to protect play space and pedestrians. Using flex posts and paint they were able to reclaim a portion of the lot to create a safe pedestrian walkway. An area near the front entrance to the school was converted from street parking to a designated "Kiss & Drop-off Lane" to limit traffic in the lot.
Traffic Calming at Margaret Brent and Barclay Elementary Schools
The problem-cars speeding through intersections used not only by children going to school but also the elderly, parents with strollers, and cyclists. The solution-curb extensions, flexposts, and paint! Working with Live Baltimore, community associations, Friends of Margaret Brent, DOT and Graham Projects, ADA compliant curb extensions were installed at all four corners of 26th and Calvert Street. Artwork was painted to brighten up the space and alert drivers. Narrowing traffic lanes forces motorists to slow down while allowing pedestrians waiting to cross to stay safely on the sidewalk. Funds for the project at Margaret Brent were secured through a grant from the Central Baltimore Partnership. The project at Barclay Elementary/Middle School was completed through a collaboration of Friends of Barclay, Live Baltimore, Abell Improvement Association, Strong City Baltimore, DOT, and Graham Projects.
Walking School Bus at Commodore John Rodgers and Frederick Elementary
The problem-longer walk to school, chronic tardiness and absenteeism. The solution-a walking school bus! As many of us know, school schedules do not typically align with parents' work schedules and getting everyone out the door and where they need to be at the right time is challenging. A walking school bus allows supervising adults, whether parents, volunteers, or paid community members, to collect students along the route to school and get them there on time. Knowing that someone will be knocking on your door and expecting you to emerge dressed and ready for the school day could be all the incentive a child needs. A walking school bus provides not only safety and supervision but also the opportunity for kids to have some physical activity before settling in for a day at their desks. Read more about the program at Commodore John Rodgers and Frederick Elementary.
Otterbein Scooter/Bike Gang
Making your way to school together can be a way to build community between students, parents, and neighbors. In Otterbein students meet up to walk, scooter, and ride to their neighborhood public elementary school, Federal Hill Prep. In the before times, the Otterbein scooter and bike gang would ride to school together every morning, running into more families along the way to school who would join the group. School has been virtual so far this year, but they are still getting together in Otterbein each morning for a ride around the neighborhood. It has been a great way to build community connection and friendships among kids of different grade levels.
Thank you to Delegate Robbyn Lewis for taking time to talk to us about creating safe routes to school for all children in Baltimore City. We visited William Paca Elementary to see first hand what many families face to get to their neighborhood school. As a car free legislator, Delegate Lewis has a great perspective on how simple changes like wider sidewalks and more trees can make huge improvements for those of us walking, scooting, biking, and catching public transit. Check out her Livable Streets Coalition initiative and the draft manual for the Complete Streets program for more information!