Research In Action

Research In Action

intersection safety
Intersection Redesigned With Pedestrians in Mind: West Philadelphia
August 7, 2014

As the Injury Prevention Supervisor at CHOP, I spend most of my time working on various activities to prevent injuries and fatalities in children.  As rewarding as these programs are to me, one of the most notable projects I am a part of is the Safe Kids School Zone Project. This project, which focuses on improving child pedestrian safety, has enabled me to combine the three “E’s” of prevention (engineering, education and enforcement) to truly make a difference.

One of the hats I wear at CHOP is the Chair of the Safe Kids Southeastern Pennsylvania Coalition.  In 2013, the Coalition received a grant of $40,000 from Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx to administer the Safe Kids School Zone Project, designed to make engineering modifications to an intersection in Philadelphia to make it safer for child pedestrians. Pedestrian safety is an important concern in Philadelphia, where these fatalities account for 32 percent of all traffic-related deaths. Without a comprehensive, city-wide initiative to tackle traffic fatalities (such as NYC's Vision Zero), projects like this that target particularly dangerous intersections are incredibly important.

Task Force

An integral part of this project was the opportunity to create a task force of community members who can enact change at the grassroots level. Partners on the task force include but are not limited to engineers from PennDOT and the Streets Department in the City of Philadelphia and many community groups.  A two-day meeting convened in January 2014 where the intersection was examined and a plan was produced to improve its safety.  One of the most exciting moments in selecting community partners was visiting Philadelphia City Hall to meet Janie Blackwell, City Councilwoman in our target community. This meeting strengthened my desire to make a difference in our West Philadelphia community and reminded me why I love to come to work every day.


After our group carefully analyzed pedestrian crash data, we selected the intersection of 53rd Street and Baltimore Avenue. Three pedestrians had been struck in the past seven years near this intersection, one of which was a fatal incident. The latest incident, which occurred in 2012, involved a 13-year-old child who suffered minor injuries. 

The target intersection is fairly complex with high speed right turns off and onto Baltimore Avenue which poses the greatest risk to pedestrians, including the 700 students of nearby Harrington Elementary School crossing at this intersection. Our modification plans include the closing of the right turn slip ramp from east to south and north to east. The end result will be an environmentally friendly green “pocket park” for the community at the southeast corner.  We will also freshen/install appropriate pavement markings, install countdown pedestrian signals and replace outdated signage with 2009 MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) compliant signs. Lastly, we will relocate the eastbound SEPTA (public transit) bus stop to the far side of the traffic signal.

Education & Enforcement

Education is an area of expertise for our Coalition and will be a big part of this project. We will spend a great deal of time in Harrington Elementary School and the local community conducting in-school and after-school presentations. Other community partners include Safe Routes Philly (SRP) and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

Enforcement will also play a key role in the success of our modification.  With our existing relationship with the 18th Police District, we anticipate a police presence to conduct targeted enforcement, such as speeding/aggressive driving and school zone violations, once the modification is complete.

Future Plans

We foresee the completion of our project in 2015.  When the pocket park and modification are complete, a media event will unveil the redesigned intersection to City residents. In the meantime, we will continue our relationship with Harrington Elementary School by holding our National Walk Your Child to School Day event at this school in October, and by continuing to provide pedestrian education to their students and families. I anxiously wait to see the transformation of this intersection; it will truly be a testament to the hard work and passion from so many at the grassroots level.