Pedestrians of Philadelphia: Dealing with Construction Disruption at 16th and Walnut

FullSizeRenderOver the past couple of weeks a major topic of discussion has been the construction happening outside of the Apple store on 16th and Walnut. The way that the construction project is set up makes it so that the northwest side of the intersection’s sidewalk and parking lane is blocked off. Because of this many pedestrians, not wanting to turn around and backtrack to the nearest crosswalk half a block away, have decided to walk into the street to either walk around the construction disruption or to cross to the open sidewalk on the other side of the street.

IMG_2307One person that I have talked to that has been personally impacted by this construction disruption is Erika. Erika lives in South Philadelphia and works in the Rittenhouse Square area. Therefore, when she does not bike to work she takes the Broad Street Line to the Walnut-Locust Station, which means she has to walk by this construction site. Last week since it was raining she decided to take the BSL, which is a decision she ended up regretting due to this obstacle. She claimed that it would have been more convenient to bike in the rain because there would have been less traffic, and not as many detours that she would have had to take to get to the office.

Today we walked together to the site of the construction disruption so she could walk me through what her commute has been like. Coming from the east of the construction site, there is not much warning that the sidewalk is going to close. You come upon it quickly, and then are stuck having to decide whether you will unsafely walk around it, cross the street to the open sidewalk or backtrack to take a safer route. Erika, like many other people who have to deal with getting by this construction, decided to walk unsafely around the construction since that is the most direct and convenient route to where she needs to get.

Some signs have very recently been put up at the 17th and Walnut intersection to warn pedestrians of the closed sidewalk ahead. However, as we witnessed this morning walking the route, this does not address the overall problem. This construction disruption is a major safety issue that should be addressed by attempting to accommodate both car traffic as well as foot traffic. Currently there are two lanes of traffic that pass by the site, so one potential solution to promote pedestrian safety would be to create a protected pedestrian walkway in one of the lanes. Since pedestrians are already using this lane to walk in, this seems like a fairly logical solution that could promote pedestrian safety in a currently very unsafe pedestrian environment.

Above: Pictures of Erika demonstrating what she experienced on her commute, and ways that we saw people walking by the site during our visit there.

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