Editor’s note: We sent the following letter to Councilperson Mark Squilla and the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability on Thursday, December 5th. It is an update in the ongoing saga that found two people in the Society Hill Civic Association decide, in secret, that cyclists, pedestrians and motorists wouldn’t be protected. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has continued to organize alongside a group of concerned citizens in the neighborhood who want their community to be safe for all road users. Talks between that group, the city, and the civic association, are ongoing.
On October 28th, 2019, a group of more than 30 Society Hill residents wrote an open letter to their civic association’s leadership, asking that they remove the “hold” put on the installation of flex-posts at the intersections of Spruce and Pine Streets between 8th and Front Streets.
Intersection protections were proposed by the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability in 2018 to make the bike lanes and crosswalks along the entire Spruce and Pine corridor safer for pedestrians, people on bicycles, and motorists. The public was told those intersection treatments (a compromise with local communities opposed to fully protected bike lanes, which would have been the safest change to the streets) would be installed between Second and 22nd Streets.
But as of October 28, 2019, those intersection protections have only been installed between 8th and 22nd Streets. And, as was eventually made evident, have not appeared between 8th and Front Streets.
The reason, as we understand it, that the treatments were not installed between 8th and Front Streets comes down to the opposition of several Society Hill Civic Association leaders who came to an agreement with oTIS without informing the more than 7,000 people who live in that neighborhood, or the tens of thousands of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists who pass through it every day.
Since that letter was published, those 30 residents have made their grievances with their civic association’s secret decision public, and demanded answers.
Also since that time, there have been at least three vehicular crashes along the Spruce and Pine corridor in Society Hill that could have been prevented, or made less severe, if the safety treatment had been implemented on those blocks in the first place.
On November 5th, a driver turned into a cyclist’s path at Seventh and Pine Street (an intersection left unprotected), striking the cyclist. The driver quickly got out of her car and apologized, and the person on the bicycle — who had been living in Philadelphia for less than a month — refused medical attention, though, according to a witness on the scene, his hand was bleeding.
Later in November (on a date we are not yet aware of), a pedestrian was struck at Front and Pine. That person required medical attention.
Then, on December 2nd at, or around, 6:30pm, a person driving a motor vehicle west on Spruce Street made a left across the unprotected intersection at Fourth Street in Society Hill, flipped their vehicle over, and damaged several parked motor vehicles on Fourth Street in the process. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured.
At this point, I’m aware of three crashes in @SocietyHillPHL within the last month (!) that intersection protections could have helped prevent. A pedestrian at Front and Pine, bicyclist at 7th and Pine, motorist at 4th and Spruce.
TRAFFIC CALMING HELPS PROTECT ALL ROAD USERS. pic.twitter.com/303lxESDi4
— Randy LoBasso (@RandyLoBasso) December 3, 2019
These crashes and the impact on the people involved could have been avoided or minimized if the protected intersection treatments were installed on the blocks in question.
The Society Hill residents who initially spoke up against their civic association’s opposition to the protected intersections have added more neighbors to their ranks, and have continued advocating for protection along the intersections between Front and Eighth Streets. A meeting was recently held between SHCA leadership; Councilperson Mark Squilla; the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability; and a representative of the Society Hill concerned neighbors to figure out how to resolve this situation.
These neighbors, who are advocating for these safety features on their own time, understand that protecting intersections — as was recommended originally by the oTIS and Howard Stein Hudson (in a report prepared for the Society Hill Civic Association at SHCA’s own expense) — is needed now.
We urge oTIS to protect the intersections between 8th and Front Streets as soon as possible, before any additional crashes occur, injuring someone else, or worse.
Sarah Clark Stuart
Executive Director, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
Policy Manager, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia