There’s almost no pedestrian crosswalk in the Philadelphia area — close to 100 miles away from the edge of the country. This sidewalk abruptly ends with no warning — right where pedestrians need it most.
Few people care to cross the street despite the fact that many local stores are open 24/7, late-night weddings and outdoor festivals are common, and there’s little to no enforcement of regulations when there’s a shortage of crosswalks. Walking in a poorly lit city is extremely dangerous, especially for the elderly, with its tens of thousands of pedestrian fatalities annually in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.
The first thing most people notice is a long line of visitors waiting at the entrance of the Regency Hotel at 49th and Sansom streets, waiting to move to the next floor. That makes walking a little hard, but it’s easy to find the way out of the long, heavy plaza. What makes the problem worse, though, is the lack of clearly marked crosswalks in the middle of the street.
Which is why State Farm is urging every state to add lighting along the roads where pedestrians and bicyclists traditionally find the streetscape to be so unhelpful that the lighting is imperative.
Last week the insurer launched a campaign to get states to make sure all municipalities have proper crosswalks and traffic lights. “Within 60 days we will provide you with a toolkit on state laws and compliance requirements to help keep you safe from those who drive too fast, push too hard, run too many red lights, or drive a distracted vehicle,” says the campaign’s website. It encourages motorists and pedestrians to report violations so they can be sent to their local authorities.
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York are the only states without proper crosswalks. State Farm says 93 percent of the crosswalks were installed between 1950 and 2000 but roughly 15 years later they were removed or made smaller due to funding cuts. Traffic experts say because sidewalks are a free amenity and common place to gather, they should be city utilities and need to be placed at the “center of the city,” making them proper standards. “We’re having a great hard time arguing how pedestrian-friendly that area was,” Mike Fishman, a former Philadelphia traffic cop who is now a lobbyist for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said in a release announcing the campaign.
Many cities across the country have improved infrastructure for pedestrians to help avoid the need for pedestrian crosswalks, but not all states have effective laws for installing the lights to make them accessible and easily seen and to enforce them after they’re installed.
The same problems plague the American cities along Pennsylvania Avenue where the Panorama of the American West is going on through Sept. 9. There’s a controversial plan to replace the well-kept Penn Avenue during its most important hours for pedestrians with traffic lanes that keep the roadway wide while the Federal Reserve Bank buildings have been closed for renovations.
The Americans for Tax Reform Foundation has created a YouTube campaign called “Save Penn Avenue” to highlight the economic and social impact of the construction on the area, which is the historic heart of Washington, D.C. It shows daily business at some of the most famous venues near the building. A higher business district can generate more economic activity for the entire area, according to the Arlington County government, as the area was.
And the fabled Washington Monument draws not just visitors from all over the world, but from the nearby Washington Design Center, one of the busiest convention centers in the region.
John Scott Roberts is the editor of TourMart’s food and beverage trade publication on the east coast.