Video and article by Greta Anderson, Brianna Baker and Michaela Althouse for Audio/Visual Journalism class.
It takes less than 20 minutes to get from one end of Temple University’s campus to another by foot, making walking the most convenient method of transportation for many students. But poor infrastructure, accidents and crime pose a safety issue for walkers. To combat some of these problems, Temple Police are working to make the school a more walkable campus.
Sophomore Lihn Than walks because it allows her to appreciate the sights and sounds of Philadelphia. Especially in comparison to her home city of Hanoi, Vietnam, one of the most polluted cities in the world, she enjoys the atmosphere of Philadelphia and the connection to nature.
“I’d been walking for over a year before I got my first bike,” Than said, “and I’ve learned so much more about the city and about the people and I’ve met so many more people; I talk to more more people than when I’m biking.”
30% of Center City residents commute by foot, most likely because of its compact size, simple grid layout and well-maintained sidewalks. However, walking around Temple is more difficult. Even though the city launched the Pedestrian and Bicycling Plan in 2012 to improve the convenience and attractiveness of Philadelphia’s walking channels, sidewalks in North Philly are often broken or missing pieces. Construction and parked cars on streets like the 1800 block of N. 17th St. block pedestrians’ paths and interfere with their view of traffic.
These obstacles become especially dangerous when traveling to and from campus at night. With the shortened winter days, it is more common for students to walk home in the dark. To compensate, students must stay more alert when crossing busy streets with limited visibility. Not only must they be considerate of cars, but also of fast-moving bikers and skateboarders.
Sophomore Alanna Watters was walking home with her friends a few weeks ago, when she collided with a skateboarder while crossing the street. Watters does not remember the accident itself, and is still receiving treatment from injuries sustained during the incident. Watters had cuts on her face and body, a mild concussion, neck problems and is currently seeing a neurologist.
“The cars are all parked really close to one another,” Watters said, “so a lot of times it’s difficult to see past them when crossing the street.”
Watters happened to be traveling with friends who helped her home. When alone, however, Temple students are much more susceptible to armed theft or assault, another danger of walking. In 2014, 600 crimes were reported on campus. To address the school’s reputation of being unsafe, Temple Police introduced the walking escort program in 2013. Students can call an escort who will arrive within minutes to accompany or shadow them home. Joe Garcia is the Deputy Director of Administration for Temple Police.
“We can’t do anything about people’s ability to commit a crime,” Garcia said. “We can’t do anything about people’s desire to commit a crime. What we can do, however, is reduce or eliminate the opportunity for someone to commit a crime.”
In 2014, the police also expanded their patrol area to better serve students living off campus. Still, Garcia urges against walking alone and relying on pepper spray to protect against assailants. He also discourages talking to a friend or family member on the phone for comfort, since it makes one a target for theft. Instead, he strongly recommends that students utilize the walking escort program, as it helps the University police force with their job– to reduce the number of crimes occurring to walkers on and around campus.
Watters agrees, saying that the accident has not stopped her from walking. She feels it is up to the Temple students and community to making walking a more viable option.
“I think that as a Temple community we all need to work together,” Watters said, “both in automobiles and on any sort of wheels and by foot, just to keep each other safe, and to look both ways when crossing the street.”