By: Sadie Batchis (284)
“Chaotic,” “hectic,” “busy,” “dangerous.” Those are the most common student descriptions of the intersection in front of Central, the one most of them cross on their way to and from school each day. Just a few weeks ago, a Central student was hit by a car at Broad and Olney Transportation Center. That student is okay. However, the number of people who are struck and often fatally injured by cars in Philadelphia is increasing at an alarming rate, especially since the pandemic. Although the School District has the question, “Do you worry about your child getting hit by a car on their way home from school?” in their parent survey, the School District has not taken adequate steps to make Central students feel safer.
Out of 187 Central students surveyed, only 26% say they feel safe crossing the intersection in front of the building. Fewer than half say they feel safe around cars in general. Many students have said they’ve nearly been hit by a car, both at that intersection or on their commute.
Nevaeh Martin, a freshman (285), stated that the traffic lights change too quickly, turning red when clusters of students are still in the middle of the street. When cars see that green, they turn regardless of students still crossing. Many students echoed Nevaeh’s concern. Some students and staff believe that J-walking by Central students is part of the problem.
Several students say that a crossing guard would make them feel safer crossing the street. The School District provides crossing guards only for grades K-5. They think that “since we’re such a large school, and [in] a high school [setting,] we’re responsible enough, but I think that to control the traffic there should be a crossing guard just for the safety of all the students,” Kayla Nasir (285) said. Ms. Durkee, a Central Art teacher added “We should have a crossing guard. We have thousands of kids.” Ms. Durkee also went on to express disbelief that we don’t even have a flashing sign that says “school.”
The design of the intersection also matters. “What we often do in Philadelphia, which is good and better than most cities, is we put the lights on the corner.” Andre Geffen (284), who is passionate about traffic safety, offered insight into Philly street design. Traffic lights on the corner, versus overhead as they are at the Central intersection, cause drivers to slow down and see pedestrians. Unlike overhead lights, lower lights are harder to see from a distance, so drivers have to slow down to read the signal. When looking at a corner light, drivers are also looking at the crosswalk and pedestrians. The Central intersection, however, is one Philly intersection that does not benefit from this design. The intersection also suffers from other design elements that decrease pedestrian safety including a lack of stop signs, wide streets, and poorly timed lights.
Mr. Hung, a Central history teacher, mentioned that this intersection is not just reserved for Central students and staff. The danger to pedestrians affects everyone in the community – residents, students from Girls’ High, La Salle, and Widener, and even drivers who do obey the traffic laws.
Central students and staff recognize the need for increased transportation safety. Hopefully, this event will spark the school district and city officials to take further actions to ensure the safety of Central students, and the school district as a whole.