People walking or driving in downtown Bel Air Friday could run into some brightly-decorated volunteers giving out information on how they can be even better pedestrians or drivers.
The educational effort is part of a regional program called Street Smart, which first showed up at Treetop and Paul Martin drives in Edgewood on Tuesday, and which hopes to educate drivers, cyclists and pedestrians on how to safely interact with each other to reduce traffic incidents.
"We actually have a low number of pedestrian incidents," Bari Klein, health promotion specialist for Healthy Harford, said Thursday. "The reason the numbers are not high is because nobody walks."
Healthy Harford, received a $5,000 Community Transformation grant to fund several initiatives, including Street Smart. Healthy Harford, according to its website, "is a coalition of local government agencies, businesses, nonprofits and citizens dedicated to improving the health of Harford County residents."
The Street Smart project will involve a distribution of small cards with safety laws information, as well as reflective zippers and wearable reflectors that flash with a safety message on them. The messages will be in English and Spanish, Klein said.
Klein said many people might not be aware of the laws, which require drivers to stop for a pedestrian in any crosswalk or give cyclists three feet when passing them. Pedestrians are also supposed to cross in a designated crossing area so drivers can see them.
"How many times do you see people walking on the shoulder at night?" Klein said.
The Street Smart movement is just part of Healthy Harford's broader initiative to implement the county's new bicycle and pedestrian plan. Klein said a survey shows that people in the county really want to walk and bike.
"We are trying to make the community more walkable and bikeable so people can integrate movement into their daily lives," she said. "We are working with the municipalities and also the Sheriff's Office to try to make the community more walkable."
Street Smart was created to educate drivers, cyclists and pedestrians on how to safely interact with each other on the roads to reduce traffic incidents. Popular in D.C., Baltimore, Ocean City and other areas of the state, Street Teams will target high pedestrian traffic areas in Harford County to help raise awareness of traffic safety. Watch for them in your neighborhood and learn how to be "Street Smart."
The Street Team will return to the Route 40 area, at Treetop and Paul Martin, on Sept. 4 and will also be at Route 24, at Wagner Way to James Avenue, in Bel Air on Sept. 9.
Klein said Route 40 in Aberdeen was also identified as pedestrian-heavy, but the State Highway Administration asked to hold off because it is doing some improvements there.