Bicycle Coalition

Advocates speak at City Council on Tuesday

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown held a hearing on Tuesday about Vision Zero in Philadelphia for the Joint Committees on the Environment and Transportation and Public Utilities, and was met with advocacy, harrowing stories of injury, and efforts going on independently to make streets safer.

The hearing, which was covered by PlanPhilly, featured private citizens, advocates, and people who’d been directly and indirectly affected by traffic violence.

“Approximately 100 people die every year in traffic crashes in Philadelphia,” noted Sarah Clark Stuart, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition. “Approximately 60% of those are motorists or motorcyclists and 30-35 percent are pedestrians, with the remaining being bicyclists.  The number of those killed has not budged substantially for over 5-10 years.   Just as other cities around the world and our country have started to pay attention to this issue, Philadelphia has begun to as well.”

The hearing was in part for the Council committee to learn more about Vision Zero, and to get statistics, anecdotes, and experiences on the record to better inform Council’s decision-making as the Kenney Administration moves forward with their planning and implementation of Vision Zero.

In November of 2016, Mayor Jim Kenny signed an executive order adopting Vision Zero and setting the goal to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2030, Stuart noted.

This Executive Order is a direct result of the advocacy of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

We called for this Executive Order in a platform that we prepared along with many other organizations including the Clean Air Council, Feet First Philly, Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Chamber of Commerce, among others during the 2015 Mayoral Primary.

We called on all candidates to make a commitment to adopt a Vision Zero policy and to prepare an action plan, which Mayor Kenney committed to before he was elected and afterwards in his transition papers.

The administration would later hire a Complete Streets Director, Kelley Yemen, and release a Vision Zero Action Plan.

Among the others who testified at the hearing were Becca Refford, who was hit by a truck on Spruce Street in December 2017; Anne Javsicas, whose husband Peter was killed by the driver of a vehicle a year ago while walking on the sidewalk, and Regan Kladstrup, who had her foot run over by a truck while riding in Center City last year. All called for safer measures from the Kenney Administration, and from City Council.

You can read more about what some of the speakers said by checking out our Twitter feed, where we covered the hearing.

At the end of Stuart’s remarks, she noted the need for Council to make sure Vision Zero is spread around the city – and especially around the high-injury network – equitably. This is an issue the Bicycle Coalition has been speaking to city officials about for some time, and we put together a report of the issue, which you can read, here.

I’m copy-and-pasting Stuart’s remarks about equity and Vision Zero below.

To better understand how Vision Zero intersects with race and poverty, the Bicycle Coalition undertook some geospatial analyses of where crashes are happening. The City’s Vision Zero Action Plan has highlighted that 50 percent of traffic deaths and severe injuries occur on just 12 percent of city streets. We identified Census Tracts where the percentage of residents living in poverty was greater than the overall percentage of Philadelphians living in poverty (25.9%). Next, we determined which of these Census Tracts have a higher percentage of nonwhite residents than Philadelphia as a whole (58.7%).

Our work revealed that while roughly 35% of Philadelphia’s street miles are located in these Census Tracts, this same geography accounts for almost 46% of the High Injury Network.

So, almost half (46%) of the High-Injury Network lies in impoverished communities of color.

We encourage the City to conduct further analysis of the High Injury Network as it relates to indicators of disadvantage, especially race, which is not addressed in the action plan at all; our analysis of race and the High Injury Network is narrow in scope and we know additional analyses are possible.

While there is a commitment to equity throughout Philadelphia’s plan, we hope that moving forward the City will be transparent and specific about how equity is defined, how the benchmarks (pg. 42) will include equity, and how equity will shape the plan’s implementation.

Furthermore, we think it is imperative that the Vision Zero Task Force closely examine the impacts of police enforcement, looking at the issue from multiple angles. A key concern is the use of enforcement in communities of color.

In closing, we consider traffic safety a critical public health issue that Philadelphia must address comprehensively and with bold moves to make greater progress as soon as possible.  Philadelphia should not accept 100 people dying each year as inevitable, or normal, or the price of moving around the City. Philadelphia should have a zero tolerance for anyone dying in a traffic crash.  And City Council has an important role in helping to move the City toward that goal.

Philadelphia still has a long way to go before the changes that need to be made for safer streets, are made. And some controversial comments about parking and bike lanes were made after the hearing, which PlanPhilly covered.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the hearing—especially AARP, our Vision Zero Alliance partner—and to all those who testified on behalf of safer streets.

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