Amid concerns of pedestrian safety over the opening of a new Starbucks in Rodgers Forge that features a drive-through window, about 100 Dumbarton Middle School students crossed the busy intersection in front of Towson’s newest coffee shop Monday to make it safely to class.
Some residents of nearby neighborhoods have long expressed concerns that when the drive-through opened at the corner of York Road and Regester Avenue, cars exiting and entering the property would prove dangerous to local children who must cross the intersection on their way to school. Some residents have contested plans for the shop at 6900 York Road — which opened Saturday — since county officials approved it in April 2016.
In December, about 40 neighbors from Rodgers Forge, Anneslie and Stoneleigh gathered at the intersection to to protest the planned drive-through, citing the safety concerns and the potential for the shop increasing traffic congestion generally at the intersection.
In response, Baltimore County Councilman David Marks and Del. Steve Lafferty, both of whom represent Towson, asked for a police presence at the intersection to ensure the students’ safety.
On Monday morning, two crossing guards and a police officer were on hand at the corner to assist students.
First in pairs, and then in groups of a dozen or more, middle school students crossed York Road and Regester Avenue Monday with the help of the crossing guards. Two students on bicycles also headed north on York Road toward Towson High School between 7 and 8 a.m.
Baltimore County Police spokeswoman Louise Rogers-Feher said that no incidents occurred at the intersection Monday morning.
“I know there were concerns, but I think they’ve done it pretty well,” Andy McCallion said of the new Starbucks after picking up his morning coffee there.
The Yorkleigh resident said he has a daughter who attends Dumbarton Middle School but that he is not worried for her safety.
“It’s a larger footprint, more open and more welcoming than the other store,” McCallion said of the coffee shop, comparing it to a Starbucks in York Road Plaza that closed last week in anticipation of the Regester Avenue store’s opening.
Leigh Lowe, an Anneslie resident, said she is happy the Starbucks has moved into the space but believes that the store isn’t as friendly to pedestrians as it could be.
Entering the 1,562-square-foot coffee shop from York Road on foot requires walking across the drive-through or around the building to find the entrance.
Despite the inconvenience, she said she’s not ready to judge the effect the store will have on the neighborhood yet.
“Residents are plenty upset, but I’m not going to get worried yet about the traffic,” Lowe said as she walked out of the store with a coffee in hand. “We’ll have to see.”
Crossing guard Marcella Bazemore said an additional safety concern might come from students who walk in the drive-through to get to the coffee shop before class.
About a handful of each group of students that Bazemore helped across York Road darted across a steady stream of cars in the drive-through to the side doors of Starbucks as soon as they reached that side of the street.
Bazemore said the next test would come in the afternoon, when she said even more students cross the busy intersection.
“A lot of the parents drop off in the morning and [the students] walk home.”