The meeting focused on ways to make sections of Philadelphia safer by utilizing the department’s Vision Zero task force, which defines itself as “a strategy to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and severe injuries, while increasing safety, health, and mobility for all.”
The Fishtown Neighbors Association hosted a Safety & Planning meeting last Tuesday night at the Fishtown Recreation Center, featuring Kelley Yemen, the director of Philadelphia’s Department of Complete Streets, which is a branch of the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure. The meeting focused on ways to make sections of Philadelphia safer by utilizing the department’s Vision Zero task force, which defines itself as “a strategy to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and severe injuries, while increasing safety, health, and mobility for all.”
The task force is based upon a set of policies adopted in Sweden in 1997. Mayor Jim Kenney signed an executive order establishing the tax force into law in November of last year.
According to documents from Vision Zero, which were provided by Yemen, 50 percent of traffic deaths and severe injuries in Philadelphia occurred on only 12 percent of Philadelphia streets. Frankford Avenue, which goes through parts of Fishtown, Kensington and Port Richmond, was one of those streets.
“By solving a small percentage of our roads,” said Yemen, “we can have an outsized impact on reducing those fatalities and serious injuries.”
Among people killed in crashes in Philadelphia, 55 percent were driving in a vehicle, 41 percent were pedestrians and 4 percent were on bicycles.
The meeting was held the same day news broke of a bicyclist being killed when she collided with a garbage truck on 11th and Spruce streets in Center City. She was riding in a bike lane, but it was unprotected, meaning it did not have a physical barrier between the bike lane and the driving lane.
Yemen stated that limiting speed was critical to saving lives. According to her presentation, pedestrians who are hit by cars going 20 mph have a 90 percent chance of living. At 30 mph, they have a 50 percent chance of living. At 40 mph they have only a 10 percent chance of living.
“So we’re really focused on speed management and making sure that people are driving the right speed,” she said.
Many dangerous intersections, including the intersection of Frankford Avenue, Thompson Street and Shackamaxon Street in Fishtown, could likely be made safer with the installation of traffic signals, according to Yemen. However, funding for traffic signals is difficult, Yemen said, because they cost about $250,000 to install.
In addition to Frankford Avenue and Thompson, and Shackamaxon streets, Yemen and other residents who attended the meeting identified various other intersections along Frankford Avenue to be dangerous during a mini, post-meeting field trip along the avenue. They complained about Frankford and Girard because of the limited amount of time allotted between green lights to traverse the intersection’s western crosswalk; Frankford and East Montgomery Street for a lack of crosswalks altogether; and Frankford and East Columbia near Palmer Park for a blocked view of pedestrians from drivers making a left onto East Columbia from Frankford Avenue.