No Freak Accident: University City is a Pedestrian Crash Hotspot

8May
Where traffic calming is needed most

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In the aftermath of the horrific tragedy that took place Tuesday night in University City, where Wharton student and new Philadelphian Zachary Woods was killed in a car crash at the intersection of 30th and Walnut, some news outlets have taken to characterizing the event as a freak accident. The Inquirer's online headline reads "Penn student dies in freak overpass fall."

The problem with this story is that there's nothing freakish about it.

This isn't the first time a pedestrian has been hit near this location. According to Azavea's interactive map of pedestrian crash locations, there were 6 other pedestrian crashes reported to PennDOT between 2008 and 2012 around the intersection of 30th and Walnut.

Up around Market and 30th St, there were 10:

Broader University City is a pedestrian crash hotspot, and the area to the west of that is even worse:

These numbers provide crucial context for reporters writing about this tragedy, and we hope to see more news organizations engage with them in the future.

Failure to provide this context lets our transportation policymakers at PennDOT, City Council, and to a lesser extent the Streets Department, and the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, dodge responsibility for past and future preventable deaths and injuries in these hot spots.

It is no accident that people are getting hit by cars in these areas. The roads are designed with a high enough level of service that drivers feel comfortable speeding and driving aggressively, and when drivers feel comfortable acting aggressively in areas where they mix with pedestrians, people get hurt. 

What are the transportation planners and engineers who have designed these streets defectively going to do about it so that this doesn't happen again? What is City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell going to do about it?

Last Updated: Thursday, 08 May 2014 @ 11.00
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jongeeting's picture Jon Geeting About the Author:

Jon Geeting is a Philadelphia-based freelance journalist and policy researcher. His writing also appears at Next City, Primary Colors, and Keystone Politics, where he covers politics and elections, land use and transportation, and urban economic policy. He also writes a monthly Political Machine column at Philly City Paper.