Fatal Center City bike crash due to ‘inaction,’ activists say

The 24-year-old woman killed by a garbage truck while biking to work has been identified as Emily Fredricks, and bicycling advocates are saying her death was preventable.

“What happened here is a huge tragedy. … Someone died because of inaction,” said Randy LoBasso, communications director for the Bicycle Coaltion of Greater Philadelphia (BCGP) and Metro’s bike columnist. “The streets aren’t safe enough.”

Fredricks died after being struck around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at 11th and Spruce streets when she collided with a private sanitation truck that was turning right onto 11th Street. The driver is reportedly cooperating with authorities and has not been identified or charged.

BCGP held a vigil Wednesday evening at the crash site in honor of Fredricks, followed up by a memorial ride. Earlier on Wednesday morning, some 100 bicyclists and supporters formed a human barrier on Spruce Street from 11th to 13th to protect the bike lane from passing cars.

Spruce Street in Center City has 10-foot bike lanes that were installed in 2009, with a 7-foot green bike lane and a 3-foot painted buffer.

“They’ve become some of the most used bike lanes in the city,” LoBasso said. “But the lines have not been restriped in so long that they have basically faded down to nothing. Parts of the lane you can’t see anymore.”

LoBasso said the BCGP has called on the city to repaint all bike lanes before cold weather sets in this winter.

But the BCGP’s push for “protected” bike lanes, which have permanent safety cones installed separating bike and car lanes, has made no progress on Spruce Street, where members of local neighborhood associations have raised multiple concerns about such a move’s effect on traffic, LoBasso said. (A protected bike lane was recently installed on Chestnut Street in University City.)

“There were things that other cities have done that we have been calling on the city to do and should be in the city’s Vision Zero action plan,” LoBasso said, referring to the city’s plan to reduce pedestrian fatalities to zero by 2030.

In an op-ed for Philly.com published Wednesday, Dena Driscoll, a co-chair of the 5th Square political action committee and family biking advocate, wrote that she has often observed “unsafe behavior” by drivers on the Spruce and Pine street bike lanes.

“Emily C. Fredericks’ death is tragic, but it isn’t surprising to safe streets advocates,” Driscoll wrote. “Not enough has been done to keep these bike lanes safe, and someone was bound to get hurt.”

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