Pedestrians of Philadelphia features stories of real people and how walking is a part of their lives. This month we highlight Ptah Gabrie, GoPhillyGo Content Coordinator at Clean Air Council. Ptah also works on communications for Feet First Philly and has lived in the Mantua, Chinatown, Fishtown, Point Breeze, and Port Ricmond sections of Philadelphia over the past 15 years.
What is your experience as a pedestrian on an average day? How long do you walk?
Walking is my main form of transportation, followed by cycling. Even before the pandemic, I would try to shop as local as possible, so being able to walk to places is key. I take longer walks to grocery stores and other businesses for things I can’t find nearby. I also love hiking with my wife Natalie and dog Gatsby in Wissahickon Valley Park and Pennypack Park for exercise.
How can Philadelphia make pedestrian environments safer for everyone?
There are so many ways Philadelphia could improve safety for pedestrians. The city needs a modern sidewalk network in every neighborhood. I would like to see a much larger and well thought out slow zone that covers all residential streets. The 25mph speed limit is unsafe and should be lowered. In addition, speeds should never be above 35mph on other non-interstate roadways. I would like to see Center City as the best example of pedestrian safety and modern urban design for other neighborhoods to follow and not as the exception where all the funding is spent.
Why do you think walking/rolling is important?
I believe personal mobility is a human right. However you get to places that you need to be, should be assisted by a safe landscape that accommodates reasonable travel for everyone. Walking to essential businesses is a choice for me, but for many of my fellow Philadelphians, it is a necessity. Philadelphia could lead in modern urban design if politicians and planners made pedestrian safety the top priority.
If you could make one change to the pedestrian environment what would it be?
I would create a massive network of open streets across Philadelphia. The miles of car-free streets would be dedicated pedestrian corridors connecting residential neighborhoods, businesses, recreation areas, and more with major transit connections nearby. This type of design would encourage walking, and discourage people from taking single-occupancy trips.
What makes Philadelphia a great walking/rolling city?
Philadelphia is a great walkable city, and that is no accident. Philly was originally designed to be a walkable city and much of its historic layout is preserved. Our streets are on the smaller side, and Center City is relatively small compared to other major city centers. Then, you travel 25 mins from City Hall and you could be in a forest, on a trail, or by rivers and not leave the city. These attributes make Philadelphia a great city to be a pedestrian. There is a lot to do to ensure equity and safety for everyone, but I think Philly can and will get there.