Earlier this month the College of Public Health lost Erin Wilson, an undergraduate senior in the School of Social Work. Erin was leaving her internship at the Episcopal Campus of Temple University Hospital when she was struck and killed by a car as she crossed Lehigh Avenue. Erin’s classmates, professors and family describe her as energetic, caring, and determined to improve her community. We are all heartbroken.
In Philadelphia, tragedies like this happen far too often. Our city counts more traffic fatalities per capita than any of its peers, including much larger cities like New York and Chicago. And things seem to be getting worse: This year the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed by cars and other vehicles in Philadelphia makes up 59 percent of all traffic deaths. That is nearly double the percentage just two years ago, and it is shocking compared to the national average of 14 percent. Five pedestrians in this city have been killed by vehicles in November alone.
Pedestrian safety is a public health concern, and it’s an especially urgent issue here in Philadelphia. In a city with wide thoroughfares, aging pedestrian infrastructure such as sidewalks, and areas of rapid growth, it is imperative to prioritize the safety of individuals who travel the city by foot—as well as those who simply walk to the subway or their car on the way home from work each day.
This past October Philadelphia Mayor Kenney hired the city’s first Complete Streets director, who will lead transportation improvement initiatives designed to make our streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and cars. This is a significant step in the right direction. And the loss of Erin—and so many others—shows that there is no time to lose.
Laura A. Siminoff
Dean of the College of Public Health