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OPINION: Paving the Way for a More Walkable Perry Hall

Baltimore County should actively explore ways to take advantage of federal funding to improve walkability to our local schools.

students and parents participated in the 10th annual International Walk to School Day last Wednesday. About 100 students and family members opted to walk to the school, rather than rely on buses or cars for transportation. Joppa View has participated in this program for four years, in spite of the fact that it's not particularly easy for students to walk to the school. 

There are a number of resources available to help communities improve bicycle or pedestrian safety along schools routes. Schools like Joppa View Elementary could become more walkable, provided that infrastructure improvements—such as sidewalk upgrades, better crossings at heavily traveled roads and the addition of appropriate traffic signals—were put into place.

Where does Perry Hall need more sidewalks? Tell us in the comments.

Given today's challenging economic times, I am sure you're thinking that improvements like these are simply out of reach. In reality, that's not true. read about the Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) program. Implemented in 2005 as part of the comprehensive federal transportation funding reauthorization bill, SRTS provides grants to facilitate bicycle/pedestrian access to schools.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (the national administrator of the program), the initiative is designed:

  1. to encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk or bicycle to school,
  2. to make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation choice and
  3. to promote the planning, development and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and also reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in areas located near primary and middle schools.

Since the inception of the program, Maryland has received nearly $17 million in funding through SRTS. Unfortunately, however, Baltimore County is the only major suburban county in Maryland that has chosen not to take advantage of this valuable program. In contrast, in 2011 alone, Baltimore City successfully garnered over $473,000 to add crosswalks, ADA ramps, signage, pedestrian countdown signals and beacons in areas near city schools.

A report recently issued by the Maryland Department of Transportation indicated that a significant impediment to the promotion of greater bicycle and pedestrian access to schools is a lack of awareness of the SRTS program. Indeed, when the report was released in February 2011 (and still to this day), no consolidated statewide MDOT website exists that offers information on the program. 

Searching the Web however, I did find a very informative "Safe Routes to School Guidebook," prepared in 2005 during the administration.  This document offers parents a wealth of information about SRTS and how communities can come together to identify and find funding for projects to support better access to schools. This resource should be updated and widely distributed.

Baltimore County has made recent progress in our area by improving sidewalks near some schools. But rather than going it alone and funding these projects only with county dollars, officials should engage residents to create sensible projects with the help of the federal Safe Routes to Schools program.

Mark Patro October 10, 2011 at 10:57 AM
This is an excellent idea! Walking to school would improve several things. Children would get exercise built into their routine. There would be fewer buses spewing carbon into our atmosphere and sidewalks would get built in neighborhoods so that others could use them. The secondary benefit of having kids walk to school is they would learn pedestrian safety. Far too many grown people no longer understand that drivers look for pedestrians at cross walks. Many who do not drive and have never learned pedestrian safety simply do not understand that driving a vehicle is difficult enough. Looking for pedestrians at any random point they decide to cross the road is dangerous to everyone's safety. More adults are walking for exercise these days and more sidewalks in our neighborhoods would make it safer for them along many stretches of older roadways like Joppa Road. I repeat: this idea is an excellent Idea! Spend money once and build a sidewalk instead of refueling buses every day.
Al October 10, 2011 at 01:27 PM
When talking about walking in Perry Hall, am I the only one who has seen the danger of the Honeygo Rec Center walking path as it comes within a few feet of the fast moving traffic along Honeygo Blvd? My wife and I walk and push in a stroller our grandchildren. The speeding cars come so close to us that we have started to push the stroller in the grass behind the backstop to avoid the road. I have written to the to various people in the county but to no avail. I would like to see the path diverted or a metal barrier installed. Actually, in the spring, a new diverted path was marked off by the county. (in the same area that we now cut through the grass behind the backstop). The paint marks faded over the weeks and nothing was done. If we agree that this is a problem, what can we do?
Doris Neff October 10, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Sidewalks are needed on Perry Hall Blvd. between Silverspring Rd. and Honeygo Blvd. Many children and adults use Perry Hall Blvd. and with no sidewalks they are in danger. Wheelchair users can't use this area at all. There are curb-cuts but no sidewalks
thomas gary likens October 10, 2011 at 10:42 PM
i have been told the county is out of money!!!! thats why we cant fix these problems. just have to wait until you start having fatallities then say itold you so!!!!!!!
tom wassin October 10, 2011 at 11:26 PM
Need a sidewalk at magnolia to right across from joppa view. The county put sidewalks all around the area but that spot. Running in that grass is terrible.
Tim October 11, 2011 at 12:21 AM
All of this brings about a great question: Where is all of Baltimore Counties money going? Tomorrow during work down time I'll have to poke around for a detailed budget. Because really, this is a worthwhile cause. So is air conditioned schools. The real question is: Will people that want these things pay more taxes for it? The second real question: will any of us have any confidence whatsoever those new tax hikes will go specifically to these desired community initiatives?
Mark Patro October 11, 2011 at 12:38 AM
Tim, we wont have to pay more money. if they move the money from filling bus gas tanks on a 5 day a week basis to building one permanent side walk. It wont cost more money. it will cost less money.
Stacey Schantz October 11, 2011 at 01:02 AM
I agree with Tom Wassin, the area directly across from Joppa View really needs a sidewalk. You can not safely cross Honeygo when running down and running through that over grown grass is full of bugs, and holes, its terrible.
sherrie palmateer October 11, 2011 at 02:57 AM
We need side walks from a little after kilbride road on joppa road headed toward belair rd there is a stretch of joppa road that has no sidewalks, my kids could walk home from school if they were there. It simply is not safe to do that now. My children are in middle and high school.
Tim October 11, 2011 at 10:51 AM
Mark, What do you mean exactly?
Mark Patro October 11, 2011 at 11:57 AM
I mean if we stop using buses and filling them with gas (or paying to rent the buses on a daily basis) we can use that money to build sidewalks. 5 crossing guard salaries in place of 5 bus driver salaries seem relatively equivalent.
Jeffrey Smith October 11, 2011 at 02:56 PM
As I pointed out in the column, the federal Safe Routes to Schools program already offers a funding stream to provide for localized improvements near specific schools. Should Baltimore County elect to use these dollars, then we could make modest, phased-in improvements without any new county revenue streams (read taxes) being required.
Roni October 11, 2011 at 04:09 PM
I'd love to see Klausmeier road and Chapel Hill Road side-walked. Joppa Road is sporadic towards honeygo and how about a cross walk to get to the library? Honeygo is side-walked nicely on that end except you can't cross the street safely as there are no traffic lights. I'd like know what to do to help make Perry hall more pedestrian friendly. There are so many benefits. We live in a great community where walking to parks, businesses and services can be a reality.
Kim Ruark October 11, 2011 at 06:56 PM
There is a traffic light for the private school and church on Belair Road, but not even a crosswalk for the public school on Honeygo. Surely a traffic survey in front of JVE would show the volume, and reckless speed, of the traffic by the school. Even if the traffic light flashed all day and only went to red, yellow, green during the morning arrival and afternoon dismissal, it would be immensely safer. The way locals drive on Honeygo, I'd be afraid for the crossing guards! Fortunately, Mr. Palmer is very visible, but not invincible!
Nicole K. November 07, 2011 at 02:45 AM
As a long time resident, I hope for the following. First, Ebenezer Road is a residential road with two schools. People are driving way too fast and often over 60 miles per hour. It needs a four way stop at Kilbride and other traffic calming measures. Second, the intersection at Honeygo and Ebenezer has a crosswalk, but the light and button only really work for the crosswalk across Honeygo and not Ebenezer. This needs to be addressed. Third, people need to stop texting and using their cell phones. A PHHS mother with several kids in her car was texting while making a left on Campbell Blvd. one morning. When I beeped, she rolled her window down and let me know she wasn't endangering me. Seriously. Why did I beep? PH could be a lot more walkable, especially to connect Honeygo much better, and residents could drive more respectfully by slowing down and obeying vehicle laws. Thanks.
Stacey Schantz November 16, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Yay! Looks like they are putting in a curb and sidewalk on that stretch of Honeygo accross from Joppa View!!! YAY!!!! Can hardly wait till it's finished so I can run on it!!!

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