By Sarah Clark Stuart and Randy LoBasso
Early one morning on a dry, cold November day, the driver of a garbage truck took the life of Emily Fredricks, a 24 year-old woman on her way to work while riding on the Spruce Street bike lane.
In the difficult days and weeks and months — and now, year — that followed her death, a series of events have transpired.
While Vision Zero was already a priority of Mayor Jim Kenney, the tragic and totally avoidable crash that took her life elevated Vision Zero to a new level.
We wanted to reflect on the past twelve months and document what happened since that awful morning on November 28, 2017.
Several days after the crash, the Bicycle Coalition sent Mayor Kenney a letter requesting that he take seven actions to accelerate implementation of Vision Zero. Below are the requests we made in our December 1, 2017 letter and the resulting actions.
Add $1 Million to the Vision Zero Office FY2019 Budget.
What Happened: The City also added 13 new positions in the Streets Department’s FY19 Budget for a Vision Zero Maintenance Crew. That crew is expected to be hired by April 2019. In October 2018, the City committed to advancing $1.5 Million to cover the design for five fast-track projects at two schools, Cramp Elementary and Hamilton Elementary; the intersection of Roosevelt Boulevard & Summerdale; and corridor improvements on Parkside Avenue and North Broad Street.
Make public where protected bike lanes will be installed.
What Happened: The City has not released a map. It committed to building a “high quality bike lane network” by 2025 and 40 miles of protected bike lanes in its Strategic Transportation Plan: Connect and wants an outcome that effort to be a doubling of bicycle commuters.
While the Administration did increase the figure from 30 miles to 40 miles, it extended the time to get there from five years to ten years (2020 to 2025). The report did list some key projects the City intends to get done by 2020 and 2025, including Spring Garden Street Greenway and Washington Avenue.
Present and implement Spruce & Pine design.
What Happened: City held two heavily attended public meetings and numerous meetings with the three civics along the corridor to discuss its plan to repave the entire Spruce & Pine corridor and flip the bike lanes from the right to the left to reduce “right-hooks,” like the one that killed Emily.
Extensive community outreach was conducted and initially, the City committed to complete the project by Fall 2018. But, the date slipped by and the City’s intention now is to get it done by Spring 2019 — which is extremely disappointing given the poor condition of the lanes and the sense of urgency that prevailed during Spring 2018. We will continue advocating for better, safer Spruce and Pine Streets.
Redesign Spruce & Pine intersections; replace with curbing.
What Happened: The City proposed several design options at the two public meetings in April that involved green paint and flex posts. We will see what the City actually implements.
Limit garbage haulers to one section of the city.
What Happened: The City told us that state legislations (Act 90) limited their ability to regulate private haulers.
Mandate side guards on all large private and public trucks.
What Happened: In April 2018, the City announced that it would begin to require all new trash hauling trucks that it purchases to undergo a series of safety improvements, including the installation of side guards. We are researching how the City can mandate private haulers.
Re-stripe faded bike lanes identified by BCGP.
What Happened: We won’t know what streets were restripped during the 2018 calendar year until early 2019
Advocate on Families’ Behalf
Separate from demands of the City being met and not being met, the Fredricks worked with Bicycle Crash Lawyer Stuart Leon and the law firm of Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett and Bendesky on a series of demands for Gold Medal that would make their drivers inherently safer around cyclists.
This settlement and the meeting of demands is the first of its kind. We hope other companies that operate in Philadelphia, do deliveries, and use the streets, take note.
The demands Gold Medal will meet, or have met, include,
Driver Safety Training/Re-Training: Gold Medal agreed to have their drivers trained, and re-trained by a “certified training organization,” which will include interactions on urban streets with cyclists. The company will additionally implement new policies and procedures, which include stricter punishments for safety violations “to eliminate distracted driving and idling in bicycle lanes.” Lastly, drivers will be awarded by the company for safe driving practices.
New Regional Training Center: Gold Medal opened a new regional training facility, where drivers can practice driving on an urban obstacle course. “One such obstacle is a bike lane with a passing bicyclist.” The course, owned and operated by a safety consultant working with Gold Medal, opened over the summer.
Fredricks Involvement: The company has invited the Fredricks Family to tour the regional training facility so they can see for themselves how Gold Medal is taking action to prevent incidents like this in the future. They have additionally invited the Fredricks Family to present to Gold Medal’s management and drivers and introduce the new policies agreed to in the settlement.
Drive Cams: Gold Medal, according to the settlement, spent $6 million on new safety equipment, including new trucks. New trucks are being equipped with multiple rear/side view cameras to see cyclists and a “back up warning radar.”
Idling in bike lanes: Gold Medal trucks says they “will not park or idle in bicycle lanes.” So, report them if you see one idling in your right of way!
Donations: Gold Medal has agreed to donate $25,000 per year, for five years, to five organizations “committed to improving the safety of Philadelphia’s roads.”
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia was humbled to be the first recipient of that donation.
Organizing Alongside the Fredricks
Along with the Fredricks Family, the Reffords, Latanya Byrd, Channabel Morris, the Javsicas’, and others, the Bicycle Coalition is organizing a new chapter of Families of Safe Streets, called Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia.
Everyone in this picture has been affected by traffic violence in Philadelphia. Today is the first day this group — who will organize for better, safer streets for all— is together in the same room. We will keep everyone updated on this group’s activities. #VisionZero #BikeMonth pic.twitter.com/G1rqq67s60
— Bike Coalition Phila (@bcgp) May 5, 2018
This chapter, which has already begun meeting, will bring together Philadelphia families who have been affected by traffic violence and come together as a force to advocate for a better, safer Philadelphia.