Bicycle Coalition

In a win for street safety, a bill that would allow Councilmembers to more easily order investigations of deadly intersections recently passed City Council.

The bill, written by Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., and sponsored by Jones, Johnson, and O’Neill, would allow the Councilperson who represents the district where a deadly crash occurs to request an investigation and traffic safety recommendations. It was first introduced in March 2017.

“As Chair of Public Safety, I’ve learned being safe means different things to different people,” Councilman Jones told the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia when he introduced the bill. “For a child or a senior crossing a busy intersection safety can mean drivers adhering to the vehicle code.”

The origin of this legislation, however, goes back even further than last March.

In November 2016, 8-year-old Jayanna Powell was killed by a hit-and-run driver at 63rd and Lansdowne while crossing the street. 

An investigation would ensue, and the driver would eventually be caught. (Jayanna’s and her family’s story would be relayed in several PhillyVoice articles by Brian Hickey.)

But in the days following the crash, the Bicycle Coalition began hearing from people in the area, noting how dangerous this particular intersection—and 63rd Streets as a whole—was. We knew the street was a problem, but we didn’t necessarily know how bad it was. So, we gathered staffers, members of the then-recently formed Vision Zero Alliance, and volunteers, and did an audit of the intersection.

While there, we spoke to neighbors and used a radar gun to time cars going by. We witnessed six motor vehicles over the course of 10 minutes run red lights going south on 63rd Street, and numerous vehicles were exceeding the 25 mile per hour speed limit, which was not posted anywhere near the intersection. Neighbors told us they regularly saw people in motor vehicles speeding and going through red lights. Though they reported many of these infractions, they noted, the problems continued.

Bicycle Coalition

A resident at 63rd and Lansdowne explains problems with the intersection to BCGP policy coordinator

From there, we began speaking to Jones about a bill that would help make the intersections in his district—and the entire city—safer than they are now.

“It is sad to think that anyone, let along an 8 year old, can die our streets and society is so desensitized to the tragedy and does nothing to try to slow traffic down in response,” noted Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart at our March 2017 Vision Zero Conference.

Bill 170244 was introduced that same month, and began going through the slow process of turning legislation into law.

The year would eventually come to an end, and the bill had still not passed. In January 2018, we called upon Council to move on the stalled street safety bill, noting it would help the city achieve its stated Vision Zero plan.

Though it took more than a year, we are happy to see Jones’ legislation has passed Council. No child should be afraid to cross the street in their own neighborhood, and this bill will hopefully allow Councilmembers to better react to bad intersections in their districts.

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