Death at the Doorway of City Hall

Two pedestrians were struck a block from the building Monday morning, highlighting just how lethal Philly's streets can be.

Around 4:30 a.m. on Monday morning, two young visitors to Philadelphia in town for the Made in America concert were struck and killed by a taxi cab motoring down Broad Street.

According to NBC 10, witnesses said the pair were sent flying into the air before they landed on the pavement, just a block north of City Hall. Amanda Digirolomo, 25, of Phoenixville, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to reports. Bryan Botti, also 25, was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital, and declared dead shortly after.

The day before, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a damning story by Mark Fazlollah, documenting just how dangerous it can be to walk, drive or bike on the streets of Philadelphia.

Fazlollah told the story of another pair of pedestrians, Josephine Rivera and her 2-year-old son, who were killed outside their home in West Kensington in April, when they were run down by Miguel Colon, a motorist with a troubling driver’s record. Wrote Fazlollah:

His case brings into focus Philadelphia’s long-standing problems of lax traffic enforcement and dangerous streets. More than 800,000 arrest warrants remain outstanding for drivers who ignored moving-violation citations.

No big city has a higher rate of accident claims than Philadelphia, insurance industry data show. Allstate Insurance has listed Philadelphia as the worst of the 10 largest cities since it started publishing annual reports 11 years ago…

Officers are writing a third as many tickets for moving violations as they were in 1999, when they issued 418,881 citations. Last year, it was down 14 percent, and it continued dropping in the first half of 2015 – down 12 percent, compared with the same period the previous year.

In a city where violent crime is still way too common, traffic enforcement is understandably not a top concern for the police department. There were 97 traffic fatalities in the city last year, which is a ghastly number. But there were 248 homicide victims, and many other victims of other violent crimes.

So, as welcome as stepped-up traffic enforcement might be, it’s not likely to be in the offing anytime soon.

What City Hall realistically can do, however, is make safe street design a much, much higher priority than it has been in Philadelphia to date. In other cities, such as Portland, San Francisco and most notably New York, reducing pedestrian and cyclist fatalities has become a potent political issue and a real civic priority.

And in Philadelphia? Well, the profile of pedestrian safety as political issue is definitely rising, and the city is investing in safety improvements in a number of high-risk areas, including Roosevelt Boulevard, which is one of the most dangerous streets in the U.S. for pedestrians.

But Vision Zero, as the traffic safety movement is often called, still remains a bit of a political outlier in City Hall. It’s clear that at least some council members and bureaucrats consider it pretty much the priority of whining hipsters on fixed-gear bikes, instead of a basic matter of public safety. That tide is turning – slowly.

Horrific, preventable deaths like those on Monday morning ought to focus City Hall’s attention more quickly.