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Philadelphia cyclists rode in solidarity for three fellow cyclists killed in summer 2020. Photo by @mikocue

Since the introduction of the Recovery Streets platform with the Clean Air Council, Feet First Philly, and 5th Square, the the City of Philadelphia has moved swiftly to create some welcome changes on our streets. The most obvious of which are the ‘streeteries’ that have popped up in every corner of the city, replacing parking spaces with outdoor dining tables.

What hasn’t come to fruition are some of the safety changes our coalition had proposed early on. With the lack of motor vehicles on the roads in Philadelphia, and around the country, drivers have taken it upon themselves to drive faster, and more aggressive.

The City of Oakland realized this very early on and, in April, created a slow streets campaign to deal with the out of control drivers in that city.

Without new physical speed controls in place, like those in Oakland, Philadelphia would likely see an uptick in traffic fatalities and serious injuries during the pandemic.

The Recovery Streets Coalition made the same plea to the City of Philadelphia in our initial report, and are still in conversation with the City over slowing down drivers using temporary slow streets and protected bicycle infrastructure, similar to what other cities have done over the past several months.

Nevertheless, the predictable uptick in traffic fatalities has occurred. According to official police data on OpenDataPhilly, there are about 37 percent more traffic deaths (20 more total) and injuries this year than the same time period last year. Earlier this summer, as many in Philadelphia’s biking community recall, three cyclists were killed by drivers in the course of a month.

Philadelphia Police Department’s Accident Investigation District Capt. Mark Overwise recently noted to KYW the uptick in traffic fatalities is likely related to the pandemic.

”The more vehicles that are on the road, the more likely there is to be congestion, and slower speed,” he said. “So, when there are less vehicles on the road, people tend to drive faster and they feel more secure doing that with less vehicles on the road.”

While the city has been able to install the much-awaited speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard during the pandemic, much more physical infrastructure that stops drivers from obtaining illegal speeds and out of control actions needs to be installed in Philadelphia. The trend can still be reversed, but it’s not going to happen because we hope it happens. It’s only going to happen through physical infrastructure changes.

Randy LoBasso

Author

Randy LoBasso is the policy director at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

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