Our Pedestrians of Philadelphia series highlights Philadelphian’s and their thoughts and experiences walking and rolling in the City. Natalie Short lives in Fishtown and works in program evaluation for a Kensington nonprofit. She loves sustainability, nature, and native plant habitat gardening for the bugs and birds. She learned to walk at 12 months and has been walking ever since. 

What is your experience as a pedestrian on an average day? How long do you walk/roll?

Now that I’m mostly working from home, I have to more consciously plan walks for exercise and leisure, but it’s still my main form of getting around to the grocery store and whatnot. 

Why do you walk/roll? Where do you start and finish? Make any stops along the way?

I mostly walk because I find it pleasant! Walking around is the defining feature of city living, in my opinion. Being able to get around on foot and by transit is the whole reason I live here. I love getting to know neighbors by walking around, making quick stops into stores on a whim, smelling the flowers in people’s gardens, and all that. 

How can Philadelphia make pedestrian environments safer for everyone?

My two biggest wishes are:

  • Pedestrian-only lights at intersections. Most drivers simply do not yield to pedestrians when turning through crosswalks, so the “please yield” system isn’t working. It’s time to try something else. 
  • Enforce the rule that construction sites must create an alternate pedestrian path if blocking the sidewalk. Other cities manage this, but Philadelphia seems to think it’s okay to force pedestrians into the street.

Why do you think walking/rolling is important? 

We’re already experiencing the catastrophic effects of climate change, and car-centric infrastructure is climate denial. We need to make it safer, more pleasant, and more convenient for people to get around on sidewalks, on bikes, and on transit. 

Skyline View From East Kensington
Philly Skyline from East Kensington

What makes Philadelphia a great walking/rolling city? What could make it better? 

The transit system makes it possible to get around without a car, and the interesting people, stores, and parks make walking around fun. It would be better if crossing the street were made safer and if sidewalks were better maintained, especially for those in wheelchairs or pushing strollers.

Do you feel safe as a pedestrian in Philadelphia? Why or why not?

I feel pretty safe walking around quiet residential roads, but it’s dangerous to cross major streets and most streets in center city because drivers are so aggressive and the infrastructure is in their favor. There are a lot of times I want to go to, for example, Rita’s, and decide not to because I don’t want to take my life in my hands crossing Aramingo. 

Why is pedestrian advocacy important to you?

Everyone is a pedestrian! Transit riders, cyclists, and even drivers are usually pedestrians for at least part of their journeys throughout the city. Making it easier and safer to get around on foot/wheelchairs benefits everyone. Plus, it’s good for one’s  health and for the environment.

If you could make one change to the pedestrian environment what would it be?

My one change would definitely be pedestrian-only lights so that we no longer have to dive out of the way of turning vehicles. 

Where is your favorite place to walk/roll in Philadelphia?

I love walking around the Cedar Park area of West Philly. There’s an awesome tree canopy and a lot of tiny front gardens to admire while I walk around, plus lots of shops to step into for a beverage or snack.