Letter to Society Hill: Allow the City to Install Safer Infrastructure for Pedestrians and Cyclists on Spruce and Pine
A letter from a group of concerned Society Hill neighbors to Larry Spector, Society Hill Civic Association President
Dear Larry Spector et al:
As you know, a decision was made at some point between December 2017 and September 2019 to exclude Society Hill from some of the pedestrian and bicycle safety measures being installed along Spruce and Pine Streets.
Those safety measures — the installation of intersection treatments to keep motorists from turning into bicyclists and pedestrians at street intersections — were approved along Spruce and Pine Streets by the Washington Square West Civic Association and Center City Residents Association. Only some members of the Society Hill Civic Association have opposed them, and we are writing to ask that you reconsider this position as it puts bicyclists and pedestrians at risk in our neighborhood.
As has been noted by the City of Philadelphia, the National Association of City Transportation Officials, and by Howard Stein Hudson in a report prepared for the Society Hill Civic Association (page 22) with regard to Spruce and Pine Streets: improved intersections make streets safer for pedestrians, by reducing crossing distance and encouraging motorists to reduce speeds and make wider turns, increasing visibility of bicyclists and pedestrians.
Philadelphia has the most per-capita bicycle commuters of any large city in the United States, according to U.S. Census data, and Spruce and Pine Streets are among the most ridden in the city. When our civic association opposes minimal safety treatments, we are not just putting the lives of our own neighborhood residents in danger, but the lives of thousands of people who use our streets every day. We are also sending a message that people on bicycles are not welcome in our neighborhood.
Because our streets have been studied — both by the City of Philadelphia and Howard Stein Hudson — and intersection treatments were recommended by both, we worry we are opening our city and our residents association up for potential litigation, should a tragic crash occur on our streets. In 2017, the New York State Court of Appeals found that the City of New York was liable for injuries sustained by a bicyclist along Gerritsen Avenue because infrastructure changes had been recommended, but not installed.
It was in part because of the lack of intersection protection that Philadelphia pastry chef Emily Fredricks was killed while riding her bicycle at 11th and Spruce Street in November 2017.
Less than a month after that tragedy, the Society Hill Civic Association began circulating a petition warning residents against protecting the entirety of Spruce and Pine Streets for people who ride bicycles (as referenced in Larry Spector’s letter to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, linked in a 10/24/19 SHCA newsletter) — not intersection treatments.
We are seeking an opportunity to present the facts on this issue so that all community members’ needs can be heard. We would like to address the board on this issue and then ask for community input, perhaps at the next general membership meeting, so that the need for intersection-only delineators can be voted on.
Our group and, we believe, many others in our neighborhood, were surprised and dismayed to learn that the blocks of Spruce and Pine Streets east of Eighth Street would not be receiving the same intersection safety treatments Washington Square West’s and CCRA’s catchments are receiving.
We believe SHCA must now act to support the continuation of intersection treatments east of 8th Street, to promote the safety of both its members and Philadelphia's bicycling and walking community at large.
Once we act together to resolve this issue, then we suggest we continue working together to improve the livability and safety of our neighborhood, including evaluating further pedestrian safety issues at high traffic corners such as 5th and Pine and 8th and Spruce; improving safety at the midblock crossing in front of the Pennsylvania Hospital (8th and Delancey); encouraging more children to walk to school; holding bicycle safety educational sessions; and improving transit services for our seniors.
But without action on the critical issue of intersection treatments, how can we move forward on all these other issues?
David S. Cohen (Bella Vista)
Francine Cohen (Bella Vista)
Paul di Francesco
Joseph T. Piscitello
If you support our mission to make Spruce and Pine Streets safer, comment at the bottom of this page and we will add your name to the list of signers.