November 18, 2017
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  • On an October afternoon, Nicole Zeits stood on the shoulder of Duvall Highway near John’s Liquor & General Store and pressed a finger against the passenger door of a vehicle to demonstrate the distance between walkers and the road.
    On an October afternoon, Nicole Zeits stood on the shoulder of Duvall Highway near John’s Liquor & General Store and pressed a finger against the passenger door of a vehicle to demonstrate the distance between walkers and the road.
  • Duvall Highway has a shoulder to one side but no barrier on the other side, making for a dangerous commute for some students from Northeast High School, George Fox Middle and High Point Elementary.
    Duvall Highway has a shoulder to one side but no barrier on the other side, making for a dangerous commute for some students from Northeast High School, George Fox Middle and High Point Elementary.
  • Duvall Highway has a shoulder to one side but no barrier on the other side, making for a dangerous commute for some students from Northeast High School, George Fox Middle and High Point Elementary.
    Duvall Highway has a shoulder to one side but no barrier on the other side, making for a dangerous commute for some students from Northeast High School, George Fox Middle and High Point Elementary.

Student Safety A Concern Along Duvall Highway

Zach Sparks
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View Bio
October 19, 2017

In middle school, most kids fear being home alone, poltergeists or performing poorly on tests, but eighth-grader Virginia “Ginny” Marzoratti has a different worry: walking on Duvall Highway.

The Pasadena road has a shoulder to one side but is absent a barrier on the other side. Ginny must wend along the safer side whether she’s returning home or going to High Point Elementary, which serves as the bus stop for Old Mill Middle North, where she is in the International Baccalaureate Program.

“The entire walk home, I try to walk sideways so I can see in front of me and behind me so I can get out of the way if a car drifts out of the lane so I don't get hit,” Ginny said.

She recalled one incident in which a car flew past her and she heard a shrill noise. “I was so focused on whether or not the car was going to hit me, I didn't realize that there was a car coming in the other direction,” she said. “It startled me so bad that I jumped, diving away from the cars and landed in a bush. Another time, after getting off the bus, a car crashed into the house right where I cross, very soon after I had crossed. I was shocked, and so distressed that I came seconds from being run over by that car.”

The lack of safety along the busy road has startled parents and students alike. Nicole Zeits said her son was almost hit by a vehicle last year while traversing Duvall Highway. This year, on an October afternoon, she stood on the shoulder near John’s Liquor & General Store and made her point. “I can touch the cars from here,” she said, pressing a finger against the passenger door of a vehicle.

Barbie Barnes is especially worried about the stretch from High Point Elementary to Outing Avenue. She said she walked home with her daughter last year when the driver of an SUV came perilously close to the shoulder. “If I wouldn’t have pushed my daughter out of the way, [the driver] would have run over my daughter’s foot,” Barnes said.

Since then, Barnes started a “Sidewalks for Safety @ Duvall Highway” Facebook page, but hasn’t had much response from local agencies.

“They all agree that it’s dangerous and other parents have brought it to light, and then they forward [the message] to another office,” she said.

Kim Gaudioso has lived near Duvall Highway for three years, but she has witnessed more dangerous driving in the last year as she has watched her son, an eighth-grader at George Fox, board the bus.

“When I went to the bus stop last year, I noticed a lot of children were crossing Duvall to get to the bus stop,” Gaudioso said. “There are no speed bumps, no crosswalks, no signs. These kids are sitting there at 7:30 in the morning. The bus doesn’t come until 7:44. They’re playing Frogger by themselves.”

Gaudioso started contacting legislators, sending pictures of kids almost getting hit by cars and cement trucks. Told that kids aren’t supposed to cross the street until the bus arrives, she said, “These are middle schoolers. They aren’t always thinking about safety.”

She created an online petition. More than 185 people have added their signatures at www.thepetitionsite.com.

“I don’t understand why it’s so hard,” she said. “I’m not asking for matching mailboxes up and down my street.”

Councilman Derek Fink would like to see sidewalks added to Duvall Highway, but even though he has discussed the possibility with County Executive Steve Schuh, no change is imminent.

“We’d like to have sidewalks there. It’s a very time-consuming project because you have to get the right-of-way from homeowners,” Fink said, pointing to another sidewalk project on Pasadena Road that has been in the budget for several years. “When you do sidewalks, you’re going in six feet or five feet, and that’s property that would have to be purchased.”

According to the Office of Constituent Services, Anne Arundel County Director of Transit Ramond Robinson is studying the area. If the county acquires the necessary land, the sidewalks would have to be added to the budget as a capital project.

It’s an investment many parents think is necessary.

“It’s pretty frightening to see that many walk either side with no sidewalks, inches from cars,” said Gabe Wright. “Very surprised we have not had more accidents.”

Homeowners may not want to sell their property to make room for the sidewalks. Between Gaudioso’s petition and Barnes’ “Sidewalks for Safety @ Duvall Highway” Facebook page, parents are putting pressure on the county.

A change may not come by the time Ginny reaches high school, but she would like to cease the “worry and anxiety” that plagues her every time she heads to or from High Point Elementary.

“I would feel much safer and calmer starting my school day if I had a designated area with a sidewalk to set me apart from vehicles that are not always obeying the traffic laws or looking out for students walking,” she said.


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