We were thankful to have been invited by Delegate Jared Solomon (HD-18) to testify in favor of HB 487, the School Pedestrian Safety Act. This bill would require Maryland school districts in high density counties to develop pedestrian safety plans for new and renovated schools. Please call your State Senators to voice support for HB 487: https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/07leg/html/gacopg.html.
Here is the text of our testimony:
Thank you Chair Pinsky, Vice Chair Kagan, and the rest of the Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee
My name is Joseph Jakuta and I man the lead volunteer with the Climate Parents of Prince George Campaign.
In pre-Covid times, one of the highlights of my mornings, as I was getting ready to go to work, was seeing a train of elementary school children walk past my house. They numbered three when they hit my block and by the time the got to the end it was seven, all cared for by a different set of parents each day. I know that by the time they got to our community school there were over a dozen of children walking together. Getting to know each other. Developing a community., It was healthier for children and encouraged the parents to bond, which fostered even more engagement and improvements to our community school.
But we have the benefit of living in a neighborhood built in 1910, when walking was still the norm. Children in many parts of Prince George’s County and elsewhere in Maryland don’t have that luxury. I know full well growing up in Northern Maryland how dangerous it was to walk to and from school along US One when I missed the bus or when I had to stay late for marching band.
But walking/biking to school is not just something nice to be able to do. Studies that we cited in the written testimony have shown that the increase in physical activity that can come with walking and biking leads to better health and learning outcomes for the children. Waking and biking reduce the pollution associated with car based drop off. For older children it increases the freedom to participate in more activities, while easing the burdens from transporting children on working parents. It is especially important to the children of the 10% of Marylanders and 15% of Marylanders of color that don’t even own a car.
Walking and biking to schools is important for the health, education, well being, and personal growth of our students and tHB 487 leads Maryland down the path towards that goal.
We encourage you to vote favorable on HB 487. Thank you for your time.