The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia introduced Vision Zero to all the mayoral candidates in 2015 (plus, all the City Council candidates who would meet with us), and we were encouraged to see the Kenney Administration roll out its Vision Zero plan in 2016.
This week, the city released its One Year Update to Vision Zero, outlining the successes and failures of the first year, as Philadelphia’s government attempts to institute policies that bring traffic deaths down to zero by 2030.
First off: The data. The city says 78 people were killed on Philadelphia’s streets in 2017, compared to 96 in 2016. This is true — on streets the city government controls. (The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s Traffic Deaths page shows all deaths, not just those on city-controlled streets.) That said, as far as total deaths go, on city streets, interstates, and via train, the number remains stubbornly still. There were 103 total traffic deaths in 2016 (between local streets and interstates), and 99 total traffic deaths in 2017 (again: local streets and interstates).
Then, the changes: It’s on the local- and state-owned streets where changes have been made, and where progress will continue to be made in the near future. The report highlights some of the changes that’ve been made since the program began, including the West Chestnut Street protected bike lane, between 45th and 34th Streets (which will be expanded to 23rd Street when a PennDOT project is complete), sideguards and cameras on city trash fleet trucks, a protected bike lane pilot on JFK and Market Streets in Center City, Philly’s first bike signals on said pilot, and public awareness campaigns. The infrastructure has come along very slowly and, according to some cyclists we’ve spoken with, a bit sloppily.
And, the cameras: Also noted is the first-ever speed camera law signed on the books in the state government, which the Bicycle Coalition spent several years advocating for. Those cameras, according to PennDOT, will likely be installed within six months and be operated similar to how the city’s red light camera program operates.
If the speed cameras work in slowing down drives and reducing injuries and deaths along the Boulevard, we believe they could be installed on a number of other corridors, including Henry Avenue, Lincoln Drive, Kelly Drive, 16th Street, Whitaker Avenue, North Broad, Luzerne, and other areas along the high-injury network where motorists speed with impunity.
So, while there are positive aspects of this report, and fewer deaths on city-controlled streets due to some of the infrastructure projects that’ve been constructed over the last couple years, it’s not nearly enough. Philadelphia’s traffic deaths are still way too high—and as pure numbers (including highway driving), they haven’t changed much over the past few years.
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