Several of the intersections near Chester A. Arthur and Edward M. Stanton schools in Graduate Hospital have left residents paranoid for school children. With cars and delivery trucks routinely parking in or near crosswalks and blocking drivers’ view of schoolchildren trying to cross the street, neighbors have thought it’s only a matter of time before someone, possibly a child, is hurt. As a result, the South of South Neighborhood Association has recently kicked off its Safe Pathways to Our Schools Project, which aims to create safer intersections at two locations near Arthur School (20th and Catharine and 21st and Catharine) and two near Stanton School (17th and Montrose and 17th and Christian). It’s also born out of the neighborhood walkability plan SOSNA created more than a decade ago.
“We’ve been working on different aspects of the walkability plan to look at the entire neighborhood and seeing how we can take account of all users, pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles,” said Kristen Albee, who’s in charge of the Safe Pathways to Our Schools Project. “This project, we’ve been working on for several years.”
The Safe Pathways to Our Schools Project is a continuation of previous efforts to alter the intersections, including a 2018 effort to apply for a city “slow zone,” which was the city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability’s attempt to install traffic-calming measures in various neighborhoods around the city.
The plan incorporates the use of “bulb-outs,” which are sections of delineator posts that jut out into the street, where the crosswalk is, to prevent cars from parking illegally near crosswalks. Technically, it’s illegal to park within 20 feet of a crosswalk in Philadelphia, but it’s a law that is typically enforced only if there’s a sign on the street corner explicitly forbidding it.
The bulb-outs are just one part of a process, called “daylighting,” that is meant to clear the area of things such as parked cars and other objects that people, and especially small children, could be standing behind, blocking them out of view of drivers.
“Especially children because they’re shorter and it’s a lot harder to see them when they’re standing on a crosswalk behind a parked vehicle,” said Albee.
She added that it was a goal to “raise awareness” about safe intersections among residents in the neighborhood and that SOSNA wanted to “create a sense of community engagement and get people excited about the project.”
However, Albee stipulated that it wasn’t just about making the community safer, but also beautifying it. That’s because SOSNA has already reached out to Mural Arts Philadelphia about finding an artist to paint the area within the bulb-outs.
“Our goal is to select an artist in the next two weeks, get them under contract and then launch a community engagement process,” Albee said. Part of the project incorporates a “mural task force,” Albee said, that will help coordinate what the community would like to see from the street mural. This process is expected to start in late February and go until early April. From there, the hope is that the installation of the bulb-outs will happen in May, or June at the latest, depending on the weather.
While Albee said that SOSNA doesn’t actually have crash data to back up its claim about the intersections being unsafe, many residents have expressed their concern over the lack of safety for pedestrians and schoolchildren.
“Being in the neighborhood, we know how difficult it is to cross at these corners,” she said.
The Safe Pathways to Our Schools Project is just one project SOSNA’s Vision Zero Committee has been working on. It previously was able to work with the city to erect a stop sign and paint a crosswalk at 17th and Montrose for pedestrians and schoolchildren to use.