City officials announced Wednesday that streets near some schools will be designated as "safe routes" for students to walk or bike to school.
It’s all part of the mayor’s efforts to get young students to be more physically active. The Safe Route to School Campaign is not totally new, but it is being promoted more aggressively this year--and with paint.
The sidewalks leading to Arlington Middle School on West Rogers Avenue look as if Big Foot had made an appearance. Large, neon-colored footprints festoon some of the sidewalks to let students know that those streets are the safest route to their school.
“We met with principals and parents to come up with the safest routes for the students to walk, mainly where there are cross guards, police and signal controls,” said William Johnson, the city’s transportation director.
In addition to encouraging students to walk and bike more, the city put together a safety video that will be available to all schools, instructing students on how to safely walk along and across streets. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake walked a few blocks of the painted sidewalks near Arlington Wednesday. A couple of the elementary students who appeared in the safety video walked with her. After directing them across a narrow street, she said, “By having designated safe routes means more young people will use the same route. They won’t be walking alone but together to school.”
The mayor added that the safe routes along with blinking lights in school districts and lined crosswalks help ensure the safety of those students who walk or bike to school. Arlington’s principal, Emily Hunter, said she will have parents and other volunteers assigned along the safe routes to further ensure students’ safety. “Ninety percent of my students walk and some of them come from bus stops, so we will have greeters there too to meet them and walk them along the safe routes,” Hunter said.
Parent Kimberly Mitchell’s granddaughter attends Arlington. Although Mitchell usually drives her to and from school, she said she is not concerned that her granddaughter will be preyed upon or involved in an accident on the days she does walk to school. “We all know each other in this neighborhood and we look out for one another,” Mitchell said. “And the cross guards are very helpful with the walkers, so I feel safe.”
According to city officials, 30,000 students in the district walk to school. Johnson said 45 middle and elementary schools will have designated safe routes in place this year and with the goal of the rest being done by next year.