Philly gets $525,000 for pedestrian safety efforts

Philly’s streets are about to get $525,000 safer.

Philadelphia has been selected as one of just three cities across the country to receive $525,000 in federal funding for increased pedestrian safety measures. PennDOT will kick in another $100,000, and the City will contribute an in-kind contribution of additional enforcement by the Philadelphia Police.

The federal grant comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the funds will go toward education and enforcement programs.

“It’s all about education and enforcement, and we’re really excited,” said Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) Chief of Staff Andrew Stober. “I think it’s probably one of the most under reported public safety issues in the city. On average it’s every five hours that a pedestrian is struck by a car, and that is way too often.”

The majority of the funding will go to a new advertising campaign targeting both drivers and pedestrians in creative, engaging ways.

“We put together a very strong proposal that talks about, in pretty specific terms, how we’re going to target and engage people in some kind of new and interesting ways,” Stober said. “Just putting an ad up on a bus shelter or running a PSA in the middle of the night is not enough to engage the public anymore.”

Through the grant, MOTU and the Philadelphia Police will work to increase police enforcement against the most dangerous driving behaviors along corridors that have the highest rates of pedestrian accidents. The funding will also be used to update pedestrian-specific training materials, including a training video, for police.

A third element of the grant will fund the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s efforts to expand their pedestrian safety education at schools. The Bike Coalition will conduct pedestrian safety audits around city schools and will educate parents, teachers and students on safe behaviors.

When it comes to traffic safety, MOTU follows the “three e’s” – engineering, enforcement and education. While this grant does not provide funding for any engineering or infrastructure improvements, the city is able to fund those efforts in other ways.

“The Automated Red Light Enforcement program has provided funding for us to address engineering issues, but finding money for education and enforcement has been a challenge, and this is going to be a great contribution to that,” Stober said.

PennDOT and the City worked together on the application for the current grant, and in the process, they developed a draft pedestrian safety plan that brings the “three e’s” together. The City will be finalizing the plan over the next year.

Between 2007 and 2012, the number of accidents involving pedestrians in Philadelphia fell 10 percent.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in the last five or six years… but we have a really long way to go,” Stober said.

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