Pedestrian of Philadelphia: Lauren Vidas

1) What is your experience as a pedestrian? How long do you walk? Why did you decide to walk as your commute?

I’m truly multi-modal (I bike, have a car for work, and take public transit) but prefer walking when trying to get from point A to B. On days when I’m not chained to a desk, I log anywhere from 10,000 to 13,000 steps just going about my day. I walk to work because it hits the trifecta of being the cheapest, fastest, and healthiest way to get me there.

2) What is your average commute? Where do you start and finish? Make any stops along the way?

My average commute runs about 20-25 minutes each direction, depending on the length of the caffeine pit stops. I start in my Graduate Hospital neighborhood and commute to either City Hall, my office at 18th, and Market or 30th Street Station to catch a train to Harrisburg or DC. My stops generally include coffee, but anytime I find myself near the Reading Terminal I have to swing through (the breakfast pretzel from Miller’s Twist is life changing).

3) Have you ever experienced a dangerous or problematic intersection? What happened?

Yes, unfortunately it’s part and parcel of doing a lot of walking. Only a few weeks ago, I saw a young woman hit by a car at the intersection of 16th Street and JFK Boulevard. The driver was turning left onto JFK and struck the woman in the cross walk. Fortunately, she wasn’t badly hurt, but others haven’t been as lucky. I also find you have to be careful at four way stops where drivers are only looking one way for car traffic and don’t check the other direction for foot traffic.

4) What would you suggest to make walking in Philly safer?

For day to day, anything the City can do to minimize the interactions between pedestrians and cars in crosswalks would be a win. A few things: putting bump outs at corners to cut crossing distances or providing more turn only and turn arrows at large intersections to ensure that cars aren’t trying to navigate through a sea of pedestrians. I also would love to see the city experiment with shutting down more streets regularly where sidewalks don’t have the capacity to comfortably contain the number of pedestrians. Examples would be nights like Old City’s First Friday or the 13th Street commercial corridor on Friday and Saturday nights.

5) Why do you think walking is important?

Besides the obvious benefits of improving health and reducing one’s carbon footprint, I think walking gives you an opportunity to connect with your environment on a level you can’t on a bike or in a car. Whether it’s meeting neighbors as they sit on their stoop, seeing the progress of a new building under construction, or hearing the crunch of the ginkgo leaves under your feet, walking gives you a lot of opportunities to simply take things in. For someone like me who is on their phone constantly for work and has difficulty unplugging, walking is a forced respite from that.

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