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New bill requires safer pedestrian pathways around Philly construction sites

Sidewalk closures now require protected walkways

Construction fences around an old mall
There are plenty of pedestrian walkways around the Gallery Mall construction site.
Photo by Melissa Romero

Unless you’ve managed to avoid walking around Center City for the past, oh, five years or so, chances are you’ve noticed there is a lot of construction. There’s so much of it, in fact, that you might’ve been kicked off a sidewalk into a busy street, putting you in the way of fast-moving vehicles.

No more.

Last week, City Council passed a bill that requires more protection for pedestrians regarding sidewalk closures. Boiled down, the bill requires more effort from those who request permits to close a sidewalk for construction, or whatever reason.

As PlanPhilly reported last week, some form of this legislation has been around since 2008, when then council member Jim Kenney first proposed the bill. At that time, council decided to just make the pedestrian walkways optional. Council member Helen Gym brought the bill to the table again in December 2016, and this time around it was met with nearly unanimous support. Here’s what the bill now requires, per PlanPhilly:

It amends legislation introduced by then-councilman Jim Kenney, which states that the Streets Department cannot give developers permission to close a sidewalk unless they offer a written explanation why a covered walkway for pedestrian safety is “impracticable.”

Gym’s bill expands the law to require developers to give a written explanation if they are closing even a portion of the sidewalk and, in situations when a covered walkway is not feasible, asking for the option of a protected walkway instead.

What exactly is a protected walkway? The bill defines it as, “A portion of a sidewalk, roadway or street open to pedestrian traffic that is bordered by barriers adequate to protect the safety of pedestrians.”