East Falls neighbors set out to curb speeding on Henry, School House and Queen

Neatly folded, a grisly spectacle awaited residents of East Falls on their stoops, patios, and walkways this past November.

Within, a diagonally-split image condensed two portraits of wreckage on East Falls’ roadways – one of vehicle, one of victim.

“The Carnage Continues,” declared The Fallser’s headline, announcing its newest feature, “ACCIDENT of the MONTH.”

East Falls Traffic Committee 

Spearheading the series is Marjorie Greenfield, who penned the inaugural installment.

Greenfield, known as Meg, is a familiar face to many Fallsers – a retired attorney, she is 1st Vice-President of the East Falls Community Council (EFCC), and Chairwoman of the East Falls Zoning Committee.

She summarized the motivations behind the series in two words – “sheer frustration.”

As both resident and EFCC member, she has witnessed the impact of negligent drivers and poor traffic engineering for almost thirty years, as well as the increasing utilization of East Falls as a gateway in and out of the city.

“It’s a crossroads,” she explains.

Recognizing this confluence of interests – residential and commuter, as well as those of the pedestrian student population at neighboring Philadelphia University – the EFCC established a Traffic Committee (EFTC) in June of 2005.

Since its inception, the EFTC has identified problematic intersections and roadways, researched potential solutions, and has registered its concerns to city officials and agencies.

To date, they have seen little in the way of action, or as Greenfield termed it, “meaningful traffic-calming measures.”

In order to remedy municipal inattentiveness and highlight the community’s safety concerns, the EFTC decided bold measures were in order – the result being “Accident of the Month.”

“I decided to put this in (the reader’s) face,” she said, “and focus on the havoc being wreaked by people speeding.”

Gathering the facts 

At the helm of the EFTC is Ray Lucci, a high school science teacher and 11-year resident of East Falls.

As Chairman, he oversees the scheduled meetings of the six-member committee.

Lucci became interested in traffic safety shortly after moving to his home on Queen Lane.

“I was appalled by the high speed of drivers,” he said, and emphasized the dismay he shared with his neighbors toward the dangers posed by reckless drivers as prompting his participation in the EFTC.

Leadership thus established, the EFTC set about identifying problem areas by polling residents via questionnaires. Coupled with the EFTC’s own observations and research, a comprehensive report was completed – an exhaustive study that totaled, according to Greenfield, 81 pages.

This accomplished, it was submitted to 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. for his assistance in negotiating city bureaucracy.

He asked for the top three priorities.

Identifying problem areas and creating solutions 

“We said,” explained Greenfield, “you’ve got to do something about Henry Avenue at School House Lane, Queen Lane, and (the entire length of) School House Lane.”

According to an EFTC report, improvements and expansion to pre-existing Water Department bump-outs, or curb extensions, on Queen Lane would inhibit speeders and provide a desired aesthetic enhancement.

In addition, elimination of one of Fox Street’s three northbound lanes would enhance pedestrian safety.

To address the problems unique to School House Lane and Henry Avenue, the members of the EFTC consulted a study conducted by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Safety Administration, available here.

In the 2009 report – entitled “Engineering Countermeasures for Reducing Speeds” – a variety of traffic-controlling installations were analyzed for their effectiveness in urban and rural settings.

According to the study, among the most effective regulators in urban settings are speed humps (bumps) and speed tables, which are essentially elongated speed humps that cover an entire intersection.

As a result of this research, speed bumps were suggested for School House Lane, as were additional stop signs and possible traffic circles at Oak Road and Apalogen Road.

For Henry Avenue, improved signage, increased enforcement, and the installation of speed tables at the intersections of Henry Ave. with Midvale Avenue, Coulter Street, and Schoolhouse Lane were proposed.

Support from the city 

The response by city officials and agencies to the EFTC’s proposal has been mixed.

Greenfield praised the Philadelphia Police Department’s 39th District for its efforts.

“They’ve been really helpful,” she said, and cited Commanding Officer Captain Stephen Glenn’s ongoing support and willingness to provide relevant accident statistics.

Councilman Jones’ involvement has been limited to date, according to both Greenfield and Lucci.

Greenfield says that the Councilman entered the dialogue only recently, but believes that he is – and will continue to be – responsive to their concerns.

Lucci noted that although the Councilman participated in a tour of East Falls in August, highlighting various issues therein, the EFTC awaits a formal response from his office.

Echoing Greenfield’s statement that the Councilman has been supportive in their efforts, Lucci offered that while the councilman has listened to their suggestions, “the wheels (of government) are grinding slowly.”

Greenfield and Lucci were united in their censure of traffic engineers from the Streets Department.

Greenfield used the phrase, “an ongoing battle for over five years,” to characterize the EFTC’s interaction with the Streets Department.

Lucci framed the department’s efforts as “wanting,” and noted that little had been accomplished in terms of concrete changes, despite the EFTC’s entreaties.

“There’s been a real reluctance,” he said, “(for the Streets Department) to do something positive, worthwhile, and effective.”

Setting the pace 

To provide their own tonic for traffic maladies, the EFTC introduced a voluntary program in 2009 to improve traffic safety that incorporates community identity with community responsibility.

It’s called the “East Falls Pace Car” program.

According to Lucci, participants in the program sign a pledge that affirms a commitment to vehicular safety and the obeyance of posted speed limits.

Signatories receive an orange vinyl window sticker – exhorting other motorists to “Slow Down” – for display.

Greenfield explained that participants in the program will dictate the tempo of other drivers.

“If you stick to the speed limit,” she said, explaining the derivation of the program’s title, “you’re literally a pace car.”

Lucci said that, at present, there are approximately 50 members in the program, which he sees as being the core constituency of what could become, in his words, “a critical mass of drivers,” whose collective efforts would take some lead out of local feet.

Greenfield underscored the inherent sociodynamic exchange.

“In your community,” she said, imploring participation, “do it for your safety and for that of your neighbors.”

For more information on the East Falls Pace Car program, or for submissions to “Accident of the Month,” contact info@eastfallscommunity.org.

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