Op-ed: Vision Zero is critical to Philadelphia’s future


In 2020, over 150 people were killed on Philadelphia’s streets in traffic crashes; a 78% increase since 2019. At least 45 of those killed were people walking and five riding bicycles.  This tragically high level of traffic violence reinforces what that the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and AARP PA have been saying for years: traffic fatalities and severe injuries caused by motorists is a pressing public health crisisthat must be addressed proactively and with urgency.

Rampant speeding and reckless driving on city roadways resulted in increased traffic violence in 2020, putting more children, older adults and vulnerable users at risk. Not only did more fatal crashes occur, but more drivers left their victims to die without calling for assistance. The number of fatal hit and runs in 2020 more than doubled the number in 2019.

The horrific results that occurred in 2020 reinforces that Philadelphia has an even more compelling reason than ever to address its high per capita fatality rate and continue to work toward zero deaths by 2030, one of Mayor Jim Kenney’s high profile commitments when he took office in 2015.

This commitment is embedded in his 2017 Vision Zero Executive Order and his 2025 Vision Zero Action Plan, which has many strong and progressive elements. Primarily, Kenney’s policy is premised on a safe systems approach that manages all risks in the transportation system and eliminates deadly conditions, rather than trying to design infrastructure that only works when everyone follows the rules.

Next week, Kenney will speak about his plan and what his administration is doing to implement it going forward. He is giving closing remarks to a week long virtual conference Recovery Through Safety & Mobility – Vision Zero PHL Week that is bringing together over 60 local, national and international speakers to discuss issues related to how Philadelphia and the region as a whole can take steps to bring down and ultimately eliminate traffic deaths and their inequitable impacts on Black and brown communities.

Tackling traffic safety is of particular importance to older Philadelphians. According to an analysis of police data, 32 percent of those killed in traffic crashes in 2020 were over 50. And most traffic deaths occurred in census tracts identified as above average for indicators of potential disadvantage, as defined by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

That is why Vision Zero is an important component of AARP’s report Philadelphia: An Age Friendly Livable Community for All which Kenney also endorsed in 2020.

Together our organizations are teaming up to bring together an important community conversation about traffic safetythe context of Philadelphia’s recovery from the pandemic and its future as a livable and sustainable city.

Sarah Clark Stuart is Executive Director, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia; and Yocasta Lora is Associate State Director-Advocacy and Outreach, AARP Pennsylvania. 

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