Two years ago, Emily Fredricks was killed on Spruce Street while bicycling to her job as a pastry chef in Rittenhouse Square.
While riding legally in the bike lane, the driver of a private trash truck made a right turn, cut her off, and struck her.
Since that time, the Fredricks family has worked with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia to found Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia, an alliance of families who’ve been affected by traffic violence in the city, to make Philadelphia a safe place for bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers.
Together, we’ve demanded more accountability and action from the Police Department, elected representatives, and city officials. We’ve helped bring about more transparent decision making, automated enforcement methods, and better infrastructure.
Our goals are clear: No more Philadelphians should have to go through what the victims of traffic violence, and their families, have endured. We have supported the City’s Vision Zero efforts to reduce all traffic deaths and severe injuries in the city to zero.
So, we were shocked to find out that intersection protections, installed on Spruce and Pine Streets to keep bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists safer, would not be installed east of Eighth Street due to the opposition of some of the neighborhood’s civic association leadership.
Those streets were repaved and restriped for increased safety after Emily’s passing. As part of that project, the city installed flex posts at the intersections for increased safety. (Intersection protection encourages motorists to make wider turns, giving them a better chance of seeing the person in the upcoming intersection.)
Incredibly, the decision to leave intersections unprotected went against studies conducted by the City of Philadelphia and Howard Stein Hudson, the latter of which is an engineering firm hired by the Society Hill Civic Association to study Spruce and Pine Streets.
This lack of action by the City of Philadelphia has already resulted in the trauma and injuries of multiple people.
There have been at least three vehicular crashes (that we know about) along the Spruce and Pine corridor in Society Hill that could have been prevented, or made less severe, if the safety treatment had been implemented on those blocks in the first place. They include a pedestrian struck at Front and Pine, a bicyclist hit at Seventh and Pine, and a motorist flipping their Hyundai at Fourth and Spruce.
These crashes and the impact on the people involved could have been avoided or minimized if the protected intersection treatments were installed on the blocks in question.
In its newsletter, Society Hill leadership have defended their opposition by noting SEPTA buses and horse and carriages create a situation that does not allow for protected intersections. Allowing these sort of pseudoscientific arguments to dominate infrastructure decisions is genuinely dangerous.
That’s why a group of community members in Society Hill have sprung into action, publishing their opposition to the civic association’s decision to leave them vulnerable, and meeting with elected and city officials in an attempt to come to an agreeable solution.
But it never should have come to this.
Philadelphia’s mayoral administration either supports a Vision Zero policy, or it doesn’t. This sort of deference to just a few people opposed to change makes us wonder about the city’s commitment to zero deaths. And a year from today, we don’t want to have to console another family member affected by fatal traffic violence on these streets that could have been avoided.
Laura Fredricks is the cofounder of Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia and Randy LoBasso is the policy manager at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.