This past week Nicole and I met up to discuss what her experience is like walking around Philadelphia. Nicole is a new mom with an 11 month old son, and since having her son she has realized how difficult it can be to actually get around Philadelphia walking with a stroller.
Nicole lives in the Spring Garden neighborhood near the new Whole Foods, and has not owned a car for almost 10 years now. Her and her husband have always walked to work from their home, and now on their way to work they walk their son to daycare. During our talk Nicole made it clear that having a baby in a stroller has made her much more aware of how walking conditions in Philadelphia are not conducive for strollers, wheelchairs, or anything with wheels especially along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Since they live in the Spring Garden Neighborhood, and walk to work in Center City, Nicole and her family cross the Parkway multiple times in a day. Construction and events make this walk very difficult. For example, 21st street is completely closed to pedestrians due to construction, and various intersections in the vicinity are impacted by this. Recently, at one of the intersections impacted by this construction a pedestrian signal was put up, which was a major deal. However, it still often takes two to three light cycles to actually get across the Parkway.
Aggressive drivers do not make this experience much easier. Nicole has experienced almost being hit and has been yelled at for being a pedestrian on multiple occasions. Some of the insightful information drivers have given her include, “Don’t wear black!” or “Get out of the street”. Due to issues posed by construction, events, angry drivers and more, Nicole has had to deliberately change the way she walks to avoid certain blocked or dangerous intersections and crossings.
Despite the issues that Nicole faces daily, she continues to walk in Philadelphia because it is the way that she gets around and because she enjoys it. As she explained to me, she likes to walk because walking gives you a different perspective of the City. Walking on the smaller streets across the City and admiring the architecture gives you a very different feel of what Philadelphia is, and getting to experience this with her family is something that Nicole enjoys.
While her family continues to walk despite issues posed by construction, events and rude drivers, she is glad that City Council is in the process of trying to address these issues with new legislation that will help protect pedestrians during construction. As Nicole indicated towards the end of our talk, since Philadelphia is growing as a city, there is going to be more construction, and more disruption, and protecting pedestrians in the midst of this growth is important.