It was announced on Wednesday that Philadelphia’s “Ride the Ducks” amphibious and street tours of the city have been suspended indefinitely.
According to BillyPenn.com, the shut down was in large part due to “soaring insurance costs, the company announced late Wednesday, a move a Philadelphia lawyer who’s sued the company called ‘good news for those who are concerned about the safety of tourists and pedestrians.'”
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has regularly denounced the use of World War II-era amphibious vehicles on city streets, calling them too dangerous for use, given our high rate of pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
Six years ago, tourists were killed when while on a duck boat in the Delaware River. And last year, 68-year-old Elizabeth Karnicki of Beaumont, Texas, was killed by a duck boat while crossing the street in Center City. The driver of the boat in the latter incident actually told police officers afterwards that “he could not see the woman,” according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. As I wrote for Newsworks in the wake of the event,
In other words, there’s a private company operating World War II-era land- and sea-mobiles that likely do not give the driver a full view of what’s in front of them as they chauffeur kazoo-tooting tourists around our city’s streets, but the focus of the conversation is about the distracted pedestrian instead of what we can do about making our streets safer for all users.
Maybe it’s time to have a conversation about, you know, whether gigantic sea vessels should be operating in the some of the most densely populated areas of our city. Or, better yet, what about improving our infrastructure in ways that prevent tragedies like these from taking place?
The boats are gone now. But they were just a symptom of a much larger problem on Philadelphia’s streets. Drivers are still able to break the law, defying the speed limit in the city, and local police are not allowed to use radar to track them.
The Bicycle Coalition and the Vision Zero Alliance are still working with the state government to create a speed camera program in Philadelphia—the legislation of which we are attempting to make law by the end of the year alongside State Rep. John Taylor.
A resolution for speed cameras was actually approved earlier this fall by Philadelphia City Council, and members of the House Transportation Committee came to Philadelphia to hear from experts why such safety precautions are needed.
Safer engineering practices are needed whether the blind spot-ridden Duck Boats are roaming Philly streets or not. But this is a welcomed step toward safety.