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Cobbs Creek neighbors (from left) [Fmr. BCGP staffer] Leonard Bonarek, Lisa Love, Marthenia Perrin and Larissa Mogano stand at Cobbs Creek Parkway and Catharine Street, where Avante Reynolds was killed in a hit and run. They’ve been pushing for traffic-calming devices on Cobbs Creek Parkway for a decade. (Michaela Winberg/WHYY)

Summer 2020 was a bad one for traffic crashes in Philadelphia. With fewer drivers on the road due to COVID and an economic slowdown, motorists have taken to speeding even more than usual, resulting in a 37 percent increase in deadly crashes over 2019, and surge in hit-and-runs.

Nowhere was that more evident than on Cobbs Creek Parkway, on August 21, when Avante Reynolds was struck and killed by two motorists, one of whom fled the scene and has not yet been caught.

After being covered by local television news outlets, residents noted that the intersection where Reynolds was killed (Cobbs and Catherine) had no traffic control devices (like stop signs), reported that drivers are “constantly speeding,” and had knowledge of another pedestrian death at the intersection — but were told “this is a highway.” The crash, and hundreds like it over the last several years, it has been noted, are the results of decades of racist transportation policies that are not being remedied fast enough.

Shortly after the deadly crash occurred, now-former Coalition staff member Leonard Bonarek did an analysis of Cobbs Creek Parkway and put into words and data points what’s been obvious to so many for so many years: There are not nearly enough traffic controls along the Parkway, making the road too dangerous for road users, especially pedestrians.

There are 33 total intersections along the Parkway that lack basic pedestrian safety amenities — perhaps the most horrendous of the data points our staff found. Additionally, the intersection where Reynolds was struck is particularly egregious. There are no crosswalks or traffic control devices for 500′ north and south of the crash site.

Avante Reynolds

This crash struck a nerve. Neighbors have been demanding change for many years, and those demands were reignited after this incident. After advocacy on behalf of the community, local representatives, and advocacy organizations, officials from PennDOT and the Philadelphia Streets Department, as noted in a post by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, have agreed to several safety changes along the Parkway, though all involved seem to agree they do not go far enough:

Within the next month, PennDOT will be funding and installing multiple improvements. They will add rumble strips along the center lanes along the Parkway from Girard Avenue to Baltimore Avenue, which cues drivers to slow down if they are veering or driving too fast. This is a new style of rumble strip technology which minimizes noise and nuisance to neighboring residents. At appropriate locations between Delancey Street and Florence Avenue, PennDOT will install ‘lane separators,’ slightly-raised blocks shaped like curbs with plastic delineators that will be placed diagonally across portions of the center lanes where driving is not permitted. These will provide further physical barriers to people driving into the portions of the road with the double yellow lines, where driving should not be taking place. Finally, at a number of locations, PennDOT will reduce lane widths, add pedestrian crossing markings, and install other forms of safety signage.

These changes are possible because of the direct involvement of Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, State Representative Joanna McClinton, and State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, and we applaud them for making this possible.

Cobbs Creek Parkway Community marches for safer streets (Photo: Leonard Bonarek/BCGP)

We also applaud them for stating they will continue working to make sure this road is safe, as these changes do not go nearly far enough: “We know that these measures will not satisfy anyone who is already angry about the state of pedestrian safety along Cobbs Creek Parkway, and understandably so,” they wrote. “This has been a concern for many years, and we are frustrated that it’s not being treated with the urgency it deserves. There is more than enough evidence to show that major interventions will be necessary to change traffic patterns and enhance safety measures.”

Cobbs Creek is part of a network of PennDOT roads throughout Philadelphia which are responsible for most severe traffic crashes in Philadelphia. Other,

As Leonard noted in a post on our website in August, a comprehensive look at traffic safety is needed and, luckily, it won’t have to be conducted from scratch.

“Last year DVRPC, the Philadelphia region’s regional planning organization, completed a safety study. This can be a great first step in a public process to make the corridor safe, a process that should be led by community members, and should prioritize their safety over the movement of cars through their neighborhoods,” Bonarek wrote. “The needs of this community have been ignored for long enough.”

Randy LoBasso

Author

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

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