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May 07, 2020

Shining a light on pedestrian safety in Philadelphia

Pedestrian Safety Walking

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Distant photograph of Philadelphia Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Even though Philadelphia has become increasingly car-centric over the years, the “City of Brotherly Love” proudly retains its title as one of America’s most pedestrian-friendly cities. In fact, the organization Walk Score recently gave Philadelphia an impressive walkability rating of 79 out of 100—one of the highest rankings for any US metropolitan area.

Although there’s a lot to love in these stats, Philly has a long way to go if it wants to join the ranks of cities like New York. Indeed, Philadelphians living with disabilities recently filed a lawsuit against the city over its unsafe walking conditions. Thankfully, local officials are diligently working on numerous innovative plans to improve pedestrian safety.

To get a better sense of pedestrian safety in Philadelphia, let’s “shine the light” on this city’s recent crash statistics. After analyzing the latest data, we’ll share detailed info on how Philly’s leaders are working to improve walkability in their beloved city.

Pedestrian Poll:

A recent report on pedestrian safety contains a poll of Philly’s pedestrians. According to Philadelphians, construction areas & blocked sidewalks are causing the most problems. Indeed, pedestrians walking down sidewalks in Center City and beyond are frequently forced to cross the street due to blocked sidewalks.

Here are the poll results:

Limited - Pedestrian Safety Poll Results

Unfortunately, many construction companies fail to create safe walkways when they are forced to close off sidewalks. Typically, contractors are more than willing to pay the penalty instead of creating a safe, temporary sidewalk. Unfortunately, these blocked streets often force residents to walk precariously close to traffic.

The above poll and graphic are from the website The Pearce Law Firm, Personal Injury and Accident Lawyers P.C.

How Is Philly Handling Pedestrian Safety? – Three Recent Initiatives

Although pedestrian deaths in Philadelphia are increasing, there is reason to hope for a brighter future. Here are just three ways Philly’s leaders are working to improve the city’s pedestrian safety standing.

Philadelphia is Now a Vision Zero Partner
First off, Philadelphia’s City Government is working closely with the Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic fatalities. Based in Sweden, Vision Zero is an international organization that helps cities address traffic safety issues by monitoring collisions, tracking problem zones, and proposing solutions.

Initiative supporters hope to eliminate all traffic fatalities in Philadelphia by 2030. Although that goal might seem unrealistic, many big American cities have already reported great success with the Vision Zero program. For instance, the annual number of traffic fatalities in NYC dropped by about 25 percent between 2013 and 2019.

To keep tabs on Philadelphia’s Vision Zero status, be sure to visit this official website.

New Walkway to Penn’s Landing Approved
Big news: Philadelphian leaders have approved funding for construction on an ambitious cap between I-95 and Penn’s Landing. In addition to providing a safe walkway to the Delaware Waterfront, this multi-million dollar project will create a new park on Columbus Boulevard for city residents to enjoy.

According to the latest estimates, construction on this project should begin in 2021 and take three years. You can find out more about this exciting redevelopment by visiting the Delaware River Waterfront’s official website.

“Car-Free Days” are Gaining Traction
One unique idea that’s growing in popularity amongst Philly’s pedestrians is “car-free days.” Just as the name suggests, “car-free days” refer to days when local authorities close select streets to vehicles and encourage pedestrians to visit the area.

Influenced by similar events in Europe, these “car-free days” have already been tested to great success on roads like North Broad Street. Advocates of this campaign believe restricting car access won’t only improve pedestrian safety, but it could also bring increased foot-traffic to local businesses.

To learn more about this fascinating idea, be sure to research the group Philly Free Streets.

Don’t Forget Common Sense! – A Few Final Tips for Philly Pedestrians

Of course, no matter how pedestrian-friendly Philly becomes, pedestrians have to do their part to avoid walking into dangerous scenarios. Traffic safety experts strongly recommend pedestrians leave their headphones at home and pay attention to their surroundings whenever they are out and about. Also, pedestrians who must walk at night should always carry a flashlight or wear bright, reflective clothing. These two simple strategies could potentially save your life as you’re strolling around Philly.

By the way, if you have any pedestrian-related concerns, please feel free to contact the city’s pedestrian advocacy group Feet First Philly. You can find out more about all this organization does by visiting their website.