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Safe Streets Bill Would Create Traffic Control at Deadly Intersections

Tracking speed at 63rd and Lansdowne, where 8-year-old Jayanna Powell was killed in 2016

Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. introduced a new bill on Thursday that would attempt to reduce the number of pedestrian-related traffic deaths in Philadelphia, requiring an immediate response after a fatal traffic crash occurs.

The bill, which would amend the city’s traffic code, would “require a report, recommendation and appropriate safety improvements regarding hazardous intersections” after a pedestrian is killed by a motor vehicle when it fails to yield or unlawfully passes a trolley.

The bill, of course, comes just a few days after the Kenney Administration released its Vision Zero Draft Action Plan and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia held its third, and most-highly attended, Vision Zero Conference.

Jones’ bill would improve traffic control devices at bad intersections after a crash and create a more incentivous reward program to find killers in hit-and-run cases.

“As Chair of Public Safety, I’ve learned being safe means different things to different people,” Councilman Jones told the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. “For a child or a senior crossing a busy intersection safety can mean drivers adhering to the vehicle code.”

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia launched PHLtrafficvictims.org in 2016, creating a resource and mapping tool to understand, in real time, where Philadelphia’s fatal traffic crashes are taking place. The site specifies who is killed, where, and what mode of transportation they were using to get around.

Last year, we recorded 76 fatalities throughout Philadelphia, including 11 hit-and-runs.

As Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart noted at this year’s Vision Zero Conference,

Just last year, on November 18, 8-year-old Jayanna Powell was killed walking home from school when a speeding car struck and killed her on 63rd Street in West Philadelphia. The driver fled the scene and was later apprehended while attempting to cover up his crime.

Members of our organization later went out to the scene of When members of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia went to visit the site 5 days later cars were regularly going 10 mph over the speed limit as if nothing happened.

Many neighbors we spoke with told us about the intersection, and how vehicles regularly drive at unsafe speeds. We’re still working to make that particular West Philadelphia intersection, but the short takeaway is this: It is sad to think that anyone, let along an 8 year old, can die our streets and society is so desensitized to the tragedy and does nothing to try to slow traffic down in response.

The Bicycle Coalition [developed] phltrafficvictims.org where we kept track of every person killed in a motor vehicle crash; whether they were a driver, passenger, pedestrian or bicyclist and tracked their age, gender, and if possible, name.

This information led us to find that at the end of 2016, the number of traffic fatalities in Philadelphia dropped to a historic low (76 as of December 29th, including two deaths on interstate highways), but the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed remains stubbornly high.

In fact, the percentage of both pedestrians and bicyclists killed was the highest percentage since 1997. Pedestrians make up the bulk of that figure, numbering 36 out of 76 and that percentage is the highest since 1985.

We, therefore, hope Jones’ bill will help create fewer pedestrian problem spots and cut down on future fatalities.

We intend to have more information on this bill as it moves forward and will keep our members and supporters up to date on hearings surrounding this legislation.

Read the legislation here.

Topics: Featured, Vision Zero

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