In Chestnut Hill, traffic along Germantown Avenue can be bad, but rarely is it dangerous. If you’re a frequent pedestrian along the Avenue, you may beg to differ, but the numbers are in. In the five-year period between 2012 and 2016, only two accidents resulting in serious injury or death occurred on the stretch of Germantown Avenue between Northwestern Avenue and Washington Lane. One was in Chestnut Hill, when a SEPTA bus struck and killed 76-year-old Elizabeth O’Malley as she crossed Gravers Lane.
But the same set of data, released on Sept. 27 by the Bicycle Coalition in support of its Vision Zero three-year plan to eliminate pedestrian deaths, reveals that there is a very dangerous road in our neighborhood: Stenton Avenue.
Over the same five-year period, 10 serious accidents involving both motor vehicles and pedestrians occurred on Stenton Avenue between Northwestern and Washington. Four of those accidents were fatal. Four of the 10 total crashes were in the Chestnut Hill stretch of the road, between Cresheim Valley Drive and Northwestern. Two of that four were fatal.
This likely comes as no surprise to locals. Stenton Avenue, with a speed-limit posted at 40 mph for most of its Hill length, is in practice a four-lane highway on which people routinely cruise at 60 mph. And we’ve all likely seen cars exceeding that.
It’s hard to imagine what could slow traffic on this stretch of Stenton. Speed traps might work. It’s difficult to imagine speed cushions like those on Gravers Lane and Winston Road. But the speed is what must be addressed.
As it stands, Stenton Avenue now has the distinction of being part of what Vision Zero planners call the “High Injury Network,” a network of roads that make up only 12 percent of the city’s streets that account for 50 percent of its serious injuries and deaths. The total tally for the entire network is staggering: 432 deaths and 1,200 severe injuries over the five-year period, including 179 pedestrians, 17 cyclists and 72 children.
On Sept. 28, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials spoke at a press conference to outline the goals of Vision Zero for the city and just how the city intends to address its most dangerous streets.
Part of what city officials will do is to begin adding bike lanes, better pedestrian crossing lights and brighter traffic lights at troublesome intersections, where motorists running red lights are the greatest threat.
It also wants to lower speed limits and to try new ways of enforcing those speed limits, something that is nonexistent on Stenton Avenue, where speeding drivers can be sure they’re not going to be pulled over no matter how quickly they race from one light to the next.
Kenney said the three-year plan to implement traffic calming and safety features on dangerous roads is “realistic and affordable,” promising to make the city roads safer. Those measures can’t come soon enough.