2020 was a terrible year for many reasons. In Philadelphia, the wide open and empty streets invited reckless and irresponsible motorists to speed dangerously and kill the most people (156) since 1989 (167 fatalities). Yesterday, the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure & Sustainability (oTIS) released its 2020 Vision Zero Annual Report documenting the annus horribilis.  

First of all, it should be noted that the release of the Vision Zero 2021 report coincided with the news of the hit-and-run death of17-year-old Yomar Rivera on Adams Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. Rivera was killed while riding his bicycle across Roosevelt Boulevard while on his way to a job interview. Rivera is the seventh person killed while riding a bicycle in Philadelphia in 2021, a staggering statistic and one the City must not take lightly. Families across the City have had their lives destroyed by traffic violence and the pace at which our streets are being re-engineered is depressingly slow. Our hearts go out to Yomar’s family and we spoke to the media several times over the last few days about what needs to be done to fix this ongoing, deadly problem. Here are some takeaways.

  • 2020’s 156 traffic-related fatalities was an increase in 82% over the previous 5-year average. This is a depressing setback given Mayor Kenney’s ambitious goal is to eliminate traffic deaths by 2030.
  • Unfortunately, the trend line is going up, when the reverse trend is what needs to be achieved. This graph on p.8 documents the challenge ahead for the coming decade:

  • Even though all crashes decreased overall because of pandemic restrictions, fatalities Increased dramatically across all modes, most likely due to increases in vehicle speeds.

  • oTIS updated the High Injury Network, where 80% of traffic deaths and injuries occur on only 12 percent of roads, to help prioritize capital project investments.
  • In 2020, some notable crash clusters on the HIN included North Broad Street (Oxford to Erie Streets), Frankford Avenue (Allegheny Avenue to Castor Avenue), Allegheny Avenue (Frankford Avenue to North 6th Street), Erie Avenue (North 22nd Street to Frankford Avenue), and Hunting Park Avenue (North 9th Street to I Street). New areas of fatal and serious crash clusters in 2020 not on the current HIN, including the Germantown/East Germantown/West Oak Lane area and the Strawberry Mansion area.
  • In its fourth year, Philadelphia announced nearly $7 million in awards for capital projects along HIN corridors.
  • Forty-three infrastructure projects are “in progress”, totaling $97,338,606 of investment to support projects along High Injury Network corridors. Construction on each project is expected to begin in the next three to five years.
  • Will Lindsay and Sam Ozer, two 2020 victims whose families are part of Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia, were featured in the 2020 annual report.
  • In the better news department:
    • Speed cameras installed at eight locations on Roosevelt Boulevard began recording speeding violations in June 2020. A report released by the Philadelphia Parking Authority this spring found recorded speeding violations dramatically decreased – by 93% – between the start of the program and February 2021.
    • Construction on the first two Neighborhood Slow Zones–in Fairhill and near Willard Elementary School–is expected by the end of 2021
    • Two additional, grant-funded Slow Zones around Cramp Elementary School and Hamilton Elementary School are currently in final design and are expected to be installed in 2022.
    • North Broad Medians project installed raised full medians on North Broad Street from Poplar Street to Cecil B. Moore Avenue to create pedestrian refuges at the intersections and made overall traffic safety improvements along the corridor. The medians connect the existing concrete pads built for light poles and provide a safe refuge for people walking across North Broad Street.
    • 5.3 miles of protected bike lanes were installed in 2021.

Additionally, we were at the press conference and tweeted some context about the report and the comments made.

Kyle Hearing, our former Policy Fellow and one of our uber volunteers, who conducted an equity analysis in 2018 on the 2017 High Injury Network, conducted a new analysis on the updated 2020 HIN.   His analysis found that while areas having “well above average” indicators of potential disadvantage contain roughly 27 percent of Philadelphia’s streets, they nevertheless encompass 37 percent of the High Injury Network.  In other words, census tracts that have indicators of potential disadvantage have a disproportionate percentage of the HIN and consequently, a disproportionate amount of traffic deaths and injuries.

Given this dire state of affairs, it is particularly distressing that Mayor Kenney de-funded Vision Zero in the City’s Fiscal Year 22 budget.  He removed 100 percent of the funds allocated in previous years for project planning and design, and cut the capital program from $2.5 million to $1 million. Despite our best efforts to join with over 20 other non-profits in a “Livable Communities Campaign” to restore the Vision Zero budget, (read about it here and here) ultimately, the Mayor allowed the program to be severely weakened after one of the worst year for Vision Zero during his tenure.

While it’s fine to call reckless drivers “idiots”, a more meaningful gesture for Mayor Kenney would be to restore funding for Vision Zero in the Managing Director’s budget and the Street’s Department Capital Budget now.

The total number of people lost to traffic violence in 2021 is 88

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