In early April, Feet First Philly, the Bicycle Coalition, 5th Square, Clean Air Council, Nate Hommell of University City District, and 4 City Councilmembers sent a letter to the Kenney Administration, calling upon the City to open up more streets all over the city for safe social distancing. Four neighborhood civic associations signed a separate letter requesting the administration open the outer lanes of the Ben Franklin Parkway. This followed a petition of more than 700 people demanding more space to safely participate in essential activities outside.
Citizens in neighborhoods all over Philadelphia continue to go outside — as is allowed and even encouraged — during the COVID-19 pandemic, and attempt the CDC-recommended six feet of social distancing.
Unfortunately, maintaining six feet between other pedestrians is often easier said than done. Philadelphia’s sidewalks are narrow and many do not allow for six feet of space when passing, which leads to people walking in the streets to safely pass one another, whether they’re out with their families, getting exercise, or walking to the grocery store.
Unfortunately, while the city displayed leadership early on by opening West River Drive, there has been a deafening lack of interest in moving forward with any other positive steps for street space during COVID-19. Last week, the administration said they were not sure what problem they would be solving by opening more street space to people while closing it off to cars. Cities in every part of the country including New York and Seattle are moving ahead of Philadelphia by creating open streets, shared streets, slow streets, expanded protected bike lanes, extended sidewalk space, and implementing other low-cost creative solutions.
While we are extremely disappointed in Philadelphia’s handling of street space during COVID-19, we will be turning our attention towards advocating for better decisions when a slow, gradual reopening happens in the region. If the city continues to do nothing, it will be overwhelmed by car traffic, will not be able to provide pedestrian space on its commercial corridors as they reopen, and will risk serious public health and economic consequences as a result. Please continue to sign our petition for more open streets, and follow us on social media for our advocacy around Recovery Streets solutions as Philadelphia gets closer to reopening.