AUTO ACCIDENTS rarely make the paper in this town; in fact, there could almost be a paper devoted solely to reporting on them.
But one recent accident has been in the news lately for good reason: A father and son on a bicycle trying to cross MLK Drive at the south side of the Art Museum got slammed by an SUV that apparently blasted through a crosswalk to get around a car that stopped to let the cyclers cross.
That this kind of thing doesn't happen almost daily will come as a surprise to anyone who has tried to navigate the Ben Franklin Parkway, either on foot, on two wheels or on four. This fabulous city boulevard, shooting up from City Hall to the Art Museum, is one of the city's crown jewels: a grand and sweeping public space that also holds many of the city's cultural treasures. It has been animated of late with the addition of a cafe, and the Barnes construction will bring even more people. But as a feeder into the raceways of Kelly and MLK drives, it's also an auto nightmare, with far too much traffic warring against pedestrians and bikers. This accident is a sad reminder that a greener city may challenge the dominance of autos, but as the car retains the upper hand, the casualties are going to be human.
It's also a good reminder of the need for a single vision for the future of the Parkway. With increasing amenities like trails, cafes and museums, it would be useful to have a master plan for how the needs of all should be balanced. Vehicular traffic can't realistically be halted, and it's unclear whether it can actually be decreased, so this won't be easy. Over the last few years, the Center City District has done much to improve the Parkway area, including better crossings at Logan Circle, but too much of it is still treacherous.
Also at issue: Who's ultimately responsible for creating a plan? The Planning Commission, the deputy mayor for transportation, the Parks & Rec Department are all logical contenders, but citizens and the institutions on the Parkway should also have a strong say. Let's hope this happens before another unnecessary accident targets pedestrians. *