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Bicycle Coalition

Families for Safe Streets co-founder Latanya Byrd speaks at Speed Camera Bill Signing Ceremony

The City released its 2-year Vision Zero update on Tuesday, noting the wins and shortfalls of the City of Philadelphia’s effort to bring all traffic deaths down to zero by 2030.

The report denotes the numerous ways the city has attempted to change the existing street infrastructure and educate more citizens in an attempt to make Philadelphia’s streets safer and more pedestrian-friendly.

The City’s Vision Zero Action plan was created by Mayor Jim Kenney after his (and all mayoral candidates’) participation in the Safer Streets Philadelphia mayoral forum in 2015, where all candidates pledged to pursue a Vision Zero plan if elected. The Mayor has moved forward on several fronts, including supporting a protected bike lane network, shorter pedestrian crossings, bus and other transit improvements, and targeted enforcement.

From our viewpoint, there are four main takeaways from the report.

Traffic Deaths Were Up During Vision Zero’s Second Year. As many who follow our advocacy know, the Bicycle Coalition and Vision Zero Alliance  began tracking total traffic fatalities in 2016 (a project spearheaded by VZA member Jason Duckworth).

The number, according to our counts which are provided by media accounts and the Philadelphia Police Department, have remained stubbornly high and unfortunately increased in 2018 from 2017.

Our counts show 99 fatalities in 2017 and 103 in 2018. (Note: The City’s counts are lower because they do not count Interstate deaths.)

Bicycle Coalition

This, to us, shows that there remains more to be done—and much, much, quicker than is the status quo—to curb car culture and actually bring total traffic deaths down. Last year, 42 of those 103 traffic deaths were pedestrians, and three were bicyclists, which is not acceptable. As has been reported by NBC10, there are 1,000 hit-and-runs in Philadelphia every month, the vast majority of which are never solved.

Neighborhood Slow Zones. The City created a Neighborhood Slow Zone program in 2019, which was won by two neighborhoods—both of which, with community input, will get plans, and the implementation, of new infrastructure improvements, meant to make travel safer for all transportation modes.

The city additionally used data to figure out which communities had the most need for slow zones. As noted in the report: “To prioritize communities with the highest need, the Neighborhood Slow Zone Program used data-driven decision-making. The prioritization methodology was published in a Score Report, which was released with the announcement of Slow Zone awards. The Score Report served as a communication tool that brings transparency to City process.”

Roosevelt Boulevard Speed Cameras. Philadelphia’s Roosevelt Boulevard is regularly the most dangerous roadway in the city—and, often, one of the most dangerous in the entire country. The Bicycle Coalition and entire Vision Zero Alliance worked throughout 2018 to get legislation passed at the state level to legalize speed enforcement cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard—which, unfortunately, saw 21 traffic deaths that same year. Speed cameras have been proven to bring down traffic deaths and while Roosevelt Boulevard is being re-engineered, we need this proven safety measure to help curb the violence on that road in North and Northeast Philadelphia.

After passing the legislation in the state House and Senate, the bill was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf. Philadelphia City Council took up enabling legislation, where it was championed by Councilperson Cherelle Parker, and easily passed.

The cameras have yet to be installed, but we have been told they will be in by the end of the year.

Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia. Last year, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia began incubating a new advocacy organization called Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia.

The group, comprised of the family members of traffic victims in the region, advocates for safer streets alongside the Vision Zero Alliance, and already has several wins to hang its hat on. Latanya Byrd, co-founder of the group, for instance, was the driving force behind our efforts for speed cameras on the Boulevard. The group, we are happy to note, is highlighted in the report for the hard work they’ve done throughout their short time as an organization.

Other issues: The City also notes it secured more than $13 million worth of grants to support nine projects along the high-injury corridors; began construction on Spruce and Pine Streets; and pushed for the passage of numerous ordinances for complete streets projects, including protected bike lanes, along numerous streets throughout the city—only a subset of which will be completed by the end of the year, unfortunately.

While there are a lot of good projects included in the City’s Vision Zero program, many of those projects have not yet come to fruition. A number of those projects have taken longer to complete for a variety of reasons, which is frustrating considering how important they are.

Vision Zero is not just a safety issue. Making alternative means of transportation (alternatives to a private motor vehicle, that is) safe will not just make people safer on the streets. It will also get more people out of their cars, into buses, onto bicycles and onto other micromobility devises, which is good for the city’s economy and, more importantly, good for the environment and good for the overall health of our citizens. So, when we say more needs to be done, it’s not just because we want Philadelphia to live up to its potential as a great biking city (though we do). Moreover, we want Philadelphia to be a safe, healthy, green city for everyone, no matter their means of transportation or ability.

Randy LoBasso

Author

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

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