Md. bill aims to make walking to school safer for students

By Scott Gelman

A bill that has passed the Maryland General Assembly would require school systems to collaborate with local and state transportation agencies to address pedestrian safety needs before a new school is constructed.

The Safe Walk to School Act, introduced by Del. Jared Solomon (D-Montgomery County), calls for a pedestrian safety plan to be crafted before a new school is built or when 100 or more seats are added to an existing school. The bill, which received bipartisan support, lists Anne Arundel, Howard, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties by name.

Crafting a plan will be a requirement for localities using state funds to build a school.

A spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan said he will give the bill “thoughtful consideration” when it reaches his desk. The 2022 General Assembly session concluded Monday, and Hogan’s staff is now going through the process of evaluating the measures that passed.

If approved, the law will go into effect July 1.

The legislation is the latest in a series of efforts in the D.C. region to keep students safe while walking to school. The proposed law, Solomon said, would enable jurisdictions to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to pedestrian safety.

“It’s involving the community looking at the walkshed, sidewalk infrastructure, safe routes to school, potentially speed limits in and around schools, and really engaging with the community to get a sense of what is the community want, what is the community need, and how can we make changes that will ultimately make things safer for kids and their families,” Solomon said.

Solomon said he started considering how to address pedestrian safety in 2019, and that the concept stems from both “unfortunate incidents” that occurred in Montgomery County and near-miss incidents.

In a Facebook post, safety advocate Kristy Daphnis said she proposed a pedestrian safety plan during a meeting with Solomon at a Wheaton IHOP shortly after he was elected.

“This Act will certainly not solve all of the safety issues in school walk zones (hardly even a fraction), and it would not have saved the poor 1st grader who was killed last week while waiting for the school bus… but, *any* sort of better engagement from MCPS and improvements in cross-agency/community collaboration on these topics is a huge step in the right direction,” Daphnis said in the post.

Under plans detailed in the bill, the county’s Department of Transportation and the State Highway Administration would evaluate existing infrastructure and analyze the need for expanding school zones on state and county roads. Read more at WTOP.


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