Student infrastructure advocates are reimagining and relaunching the pedestrian safety campaign that was born after three students were struck and killed by cars on Route 1 in 2014.
A decade later, signs from the initial campaign, “Walk Smart College Park,” can still be seen around the city. The new campaign, “SafeStride, College Park,” aims to have a larger scope, focusing on pedestrian and micromobility safety, data collection and hopes of becoming a permanent part of the university community.
“The transit profile of how students get around campus, especially when it comes to scooters, micromobility bikes, in general, has shifted,” Joe Diaz, a junior computer science major and Student Government Association representative, said.
The Maryland State Highway Administration partnered with the University of Maryland Police to launch the initial campaign, which consisted of signs posted along Route 1 and volunteers in neon shirts patrolling the city at night reminding students to “walk smart.”
Unlike the previous campaign, students are running the new program and finding the necessary funding.
The SafeStride program has a large focus on education with a subsection called BikeToday. BikeToday is led by Diaz and will focus on advocacy and data collection.
Starting in March, volunteers will host tables regularly around College Park, including outside McKeldin Library and along Route 1, to encourage responsible micromobility practices like yielding to pedestrians.
“It’s tricky because with infrastructural advocacy … we need a little bit more of a data-centric approach.” Diaz said. “[We’re] trying to create a structure for student advocates to more broadly and effectively engage in data driven advocacy.”
One of the BikeToday branch’s first priorities will be to overhaul and promote the SGA’s micromobility incident report to encourage students to report near-accidents to get an accurate image of the areas on campus where students feel the most unsafe.
Diaz and Nick Marks, president of Terps for Bike Lanes, hope that SafeStride will provide an infrastructure for the next generations of micromobility advocacy to operate under.
The campaign suffered a setback when the Pepsi Enhancement Fund, a university-partnered fund that helps underwrite the cost of events and programs, provided just $80 when they had sought $1,800 to cover the cost of posters, stickers, tables and other campaigning materials.
College Park Mayor Fazlul Kabir wrote a letter of support encouraging the Pepsi Enhancement Fund to provide funds to the program, explaining that the money will go towards necessary supplies for events, like a folding table and giveaway items.
“Funding for these supplies can be hard to come by for student-organized groups,” Kabir wrote in the letter.
Despite the setback, students found further sources of funding for the campaign.
“The best thing that could have happened to us was Pepsi denying us funding because since then, we have made new connections that have expanded the initiative,” Marks said.
Terps for Bike Lanes raised about $350 at a SafeStride fundraiser over winter break that had roughly 20 people in attendance, including leaders from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and Bike Maryland, both of whom agreed to endorse the program.
This week, Terps for Bike Lanes is also submitting an application to the SGA’s Committee on Financial Affairs for more funds.
“We believe the Terps for Bike Lanes student leadership and initiative on this issue has the potential to play a transformative role in fostering a culture of responsibility, safety, and care on our campus roadways and walkways,” David Allen, the Director of the Department of Transportation Services, wrote in a letter endorsing SafeStride.