With the outdoor activity season in full swing and as children get ready to return to school, Chester County has launched a safety awareness campaign to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe - and drivers aware.
The Walk. Ride. Drive. Safe campaign offers tips and rules for drivers, bicyclists and walkers when sharing lanes. The county’s more congested urban and suburban areas make safety awareness very important.
“We have seen a major increase in the number of people walking and biking since the pandemic started, not to the extent we saw early on when trails were packed but we see more people out now than we did before COVID-19,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz. “It is a very positive development to see more people taking advantage of opportunities to walk or bike, but it also means all of us have to take extra care.”
The County identified the need for a safety awareness campaign even before the pandemic. In a five-year period between 2015 and 2020, Chester County reported 521 traffic accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists, including 25 deaths (source: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation).
“To help reduce both the number and severity of accidents, we joined with regional partners to provide simple – but impactful – safety guidance for everyone who uses the county’s roads and trails – whether walking, cycling, or driving,” said County Commissioner Josh Maxwell. “Everyone sharing the road is responsible to be careful, but pedestrians are the most vulnerable. It’s important for walkers, cyclists, and drivers to work together to make the road safe for everyone.”
Social media posts will remind pedestrians to keep their phone down and head up when walking along the side of a road, to walk facing traffic, and to stay to the left. The messages will remind cyclists to stay off their phones and make themselves highly visible with lights and reflectors. The postings will remind drivers to slow down and move over to safely pass walkers and joggers.
“The safest way to develop transportation choices is to create and maintain separate networks like bike lanes, sidewalks, and automobile lanes. But when separate lanes are not possible, then sharing lanes while walking, cycling or driving is necessary,” added Commissioner Michelle Kichline. “It is in these instances that safety awareness is crucial. These social media posts depict road situations in an engaging way that we think will capture the public’s attention and drive home the point.”
Local governments in addition to the riding and walking public now have to cope with these safety issues. Chester County Planning Commission Executive Director Brian O’Leary noted that safety concerns have prompted construction of many more sidewalks in Chester County than just a couple of decades ago.
“In growth areas, we have seen a shift where most municipalities and communities require sidewalks to be built to keep people from walking on the road,” he said. “The Planning Commission is beginning a trail study to see how municipal and other potential trail pieces connect to the established circuit of trails and where missing segments could be filled in. We want to continue to expand transportation choices.”
In addition to the Planning Commission, partners involved in the Walk. Ride. Drive. Safe program include the Chester County Health Department, Department of Emergency Services, Parks + Preservation, plus PennDOT, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, SEPTA, TMACC, Greater Valley Forge TMA, and West Chester University.
For information on Chester County’s bicycle and pedestrian safety campaign, please visit chesco.org/sharetheride.