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Panoramas from each corner of the 38th & Spruce intersection. Credit: Christina Prudencio , Christina Prudencio

Following Daily Pennsylvanian interviews with city planning experts and Penn administrators on the dangers of the intersection at 38th and Spruce streets, the Division of Public Safety shared their concerns on Wednesday.

DPS explained that a failure of travelers to follow road safety procedures has played a large role in the problems at the intersection.

The intersection has been involved in seven car accidents this calendar year, two since the start of the semester. At least eight people have been sent to the hospital due to vehicle-related incidents at 38th and Spruce streets in the past eight months, and at least four of them were Penn students.

DPS said that the issue of the intersection has not been ignored. There have been changes over time to improve safety at the intersection, such as the addition of the left turn arrow.

Any changes at the intersection must come from a collaboration of different Penn and Philadelphia departments, DPS explained. DPS and the Philadelphia Police work together to respond to accidents at the intersection, as it is near the border of Penn’s patrol zone.

Facilities and Real Estate Services is working with the Streets Department and the Department of Transportation on the installation of bump-outs, which the Streets Department said in May were set to be finished by the end of this year. However, FRES told the DP earlier this week that they have no updates with regards to the intersection.

Injuries at intersection

The list of this year’s accidents involved not only cars, but bicyclists and pedestrians as well.

The most recent incident -— which occurred last Thursday — was a hit-and-run that left a 22-year-old unaffiliated woman in the hospital. A spokesperson at the Accident Investigations Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department said on Wednesday night that they are still conducting the investigation to find the driver, and said they have no updates at this time.

In a video of the accident released by the PPD, the woman is seen riding her bike down the middle of Spruce street, passing a line of vehicles in traffic on her right. When she fell, she landed partly in the left lane, where she was hit by a driver in a dark sedan, which was the first car in the oncoming traffic. The woman had “severe head injuries,” according to the video.

“You’re not riding your bike when you’re on a city street,” said Maureen Rush, vice president of Public Safety, when speaking generally about trends in car crashes. “You’re driving a bike, which means you have to maintain the same rules as people in cars.”

“This is not an intersection to play chicken with a car,” she added, also noting that the same holds true for all roads. “This is not an intersection to ride through on your bike through a red light.”

Last year, DPS gave out bike lights to help bicyclists be seen in the dark. In the video, the victim did not appear to have any bike lights or signaling devices for vehicles to recognize her.

As for the other incidents this year, two of them involved hitting pedestrians who were crossing the street.

The second incident this year was a two-vehicle accident that injured three Penn students who were crossing the intersection at night. The three students were taken to the hospital for examination and treatment and none suffered life-threatening injuries. A witness at the time said the car was driving southbound on 38th Street when it hit the three students.

The fifth incident occurred when a girl was hit while walking with a large group across 38th Street towards Wawa as a car attempted to turn right at the intersection. The car was attempting to avoid waiting for the students to finish crossing the street.

Regarding pedestrian safety, DPS stressed the importance of using crosswalks. “There are still times when pedestrians, in spite of the police presence to keep them safe, decide to jaywalk,” Rush said. “No matter what we do, if people violate traffic signals, they will still present dangers to themselves.”

Rush also explained the need to take into account different road cultures. In California, she said, cars stop at the intersection as soon as a pedestrian steps foot on a walkway. Philadelphia, however, “does not have a good track record with pedestrian safety,” she said. “You can’t assume it’s California.”

Staff writer Claire Cohen contributed reporting.

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