While most Philadelphians denounce Roosevelt Boulevard as a confusing, chaotic stretch of road that is lying in wait for crashes, the people most affected by the Boulevard’s poor roadway design are seldom talked about.
A new report may change that.
One out of every three people who live in Philadelphia live within one mile of the Boulevard, according to a report issued in May by the Roosevelt Boulevard Route for Change Program, which seeks to make the Boulevard more safe, accessible and reliable for all users. The report, a joint effort by the City of Philadelphia, SEPTA and PennDOT, found that compared with the rest of Philadelphia and the region, the Boulevard has a very high concentration of people who are ethnic minorities, foreign-born, and who speak limited English, making it one of the most diverse areas in the region.
Specifically, 18 percent of the corridor’s residents were born in a foreign country and almost one-third speak a language other than English at home as their primary language, according to the report. Compared with previous decades, there is a greater level of poverty within the one-mile area surrounding the Boulevard and a higher number of aging individuals living on fixed incomes. The lower portion of the Boulevard has the “highest concentrations of lower-income, youth, and minority residents, as well as lower rates of car ownership.”
The new data is but one more example of how dangerous road design disproportionately impacts people who are not well-positioned to advocate for reform. It comes on the heels of a report released in March by urban planning nonprofit Smart Growth America which found that the tragedy of pedestrian deaths is disproportionately falling upon people of color, people from lower-income communities and older adults. For more information about the Smart Growth America report CLICK HERE.
While the Route for Change report offers a thorough examination of the Boulevard’s safety issues, and a framework for addressing them, it also shines a spotlight on the treacherous conditions that Philadelphians who live near the Boulevard must navigate when they engage in common daily activities such as going shopping, or going out to eat, or going to work, or visiting with friends and family.
Between 2011 and 2020, there were 279 crashes on Roosevelt Boulevard involving pedestrians, according to data from PennDOT. For those who must traverse Roosevelt Boulevard by foot, the risks, as set forth in the Route for Change report, are as follows:
According to the Route for Change report, the challenges of biking along and across the Boulevard are similar to the challenges of walking. The Boulevard’s design does not provide any separation between high-volume, high-speed drivers and bicyclists. Moreover, while there are 14 side streets with bike facilities that connect to the Boulevard, they do not connect to each other and are spaced too far apart to create a bike network. Bicyclists are often forced to ride on side streets and through parking lots, putting themselves and walkers at risk. For those who are fortunate enough to safely arrive at their destination, they will find that there is nowhere to park their bike. That includes at bus stops.
The Route for Change report describes five types of improvements that can be implemented by 2025 to make the Boulevard safer for people who walk or bike. They are:
The report also offers two long-term plans that could be implemented by 2040 to improve the Boulevard’s overall safety for pedestrians and drivers. One is for a “Partially Capped Expressway,” which would include four below-ground high-speed lanes. The other is for a “Neighborhood Boulevard,” which is similar in concept to the Ben Franklin Parkway. It further makes recommendations with respect to improving bus travel.
Feldman Shepherd attorneys John M. Dodig and Jason A. Daria said that regardless of socioeconomic status, pedestrians have an absolute right to expect that roadway conditions in areas that they might be expected to walk or bike do not cause or contribute to a crash. They recommend contacting a motor vehicle accident attorney as soon as possible in all cases where an accident while walking or bicycling on Roosevelt Boulevard results in serious injury or death so that a full investigation can be promptly commenced.
“In catastrophic motor vehicle accident cases, it is imperative to act quickly to gather important evidence from the accident site before it disappears forever and to interview witnesses before memories fade. Diligent investigation and preparation are critical to the success of these cases,” Daria said.
Dodig and Daria said there are a number of parties who could potentially bear legal liability for accidents involving walkers or bicyclists. They include all drivers, as well as parties responsible the evaluation, design, construction, maintenance and repairs of the roadway.
Legal claims may be based upon:
Also, legal claims may arise from failure to fix dangerous roadway conditions and to implement safety improvements following repeated, fully preventable tragedies.
“Too often, when pedestrians are catastrophically injured or killed, they or their families do not receive full and fair compensation because legal claims are filed against the striking driver and no one else. Roosevelt Boulevard is one of the deadliest thoroughfares in the U.S. Every pedestrian accident on the Boulevard that results in serious injury or death deserves a full investigation by counsel experienced with dangerous road design cases,” Dodig said.
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