Dangerous Intersection at Baltimore & Springfield Gets a Makeover

Apr 29, 2015 5 years ago

The intersection of Baltimore Ave. & Springfield Ave. has long been one of the most uncomfortable and dangerous crossings in University City for pedestrians and bicyclists. Fortunately, based on community input and following close study of the intersection the City of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) and the Streets Department have made changes that will greatly improve the intersection for all users. Vehicle lanes have been reconfigured, and new buffered crosswalks and bike lanes were painted and protected by flexible delineator posts.  The new, protected on-street bike lane is the first to be installed in Philadelphia.

Conversations to transform the intersection date back nearly a decade, but a recent push was initiated by Seth Budick, University City District’s Policy and Research Manager. He approached MOTU about the possibility of implementing pedestrian and bicyclist safety improvements similar to those at the pedestrian plazas UCD has completed in other locations.

“I walk out of my way to avoid that intersection every morning,” Budick says, “even though it’s the most direct way to take my daughter to preschool. It’s unpleasant and dangerous.” 

The location was among those identified in University City where it made sense to reallocate pavement from vehicles to pedestrians by creating a physically delineated, buffered space, but not necessarily a new activated public plaza like the one at Woodland Green. MOTU had also been looking at ways to improve the intersection, and UCD helped facilitate a conversation between the City and the nearby HMS School, who had to agree to the changes since it affected traffic patterns into their parking lot.

Thanks to MOTU and the Streets Department’s interventions, instead of converging at an acute angle, Baltimore and Springfield now intersect at a standard 90° angle, slowing vehicle speeds, prompting them to come to a complete stop, and improving their visibility as they turn. Crossing distances are also dramatically reduced for pedestrians, and the new protected bike lane gives bicyclists a clearly demarcated path from Springfield to Baltimore. We anticipate these changes to significantly increase the walkability of the neighborhood.  

In the comments below, we've posted two videos of the intersection before and after the improvements. In the first video shot before the improvements, notice how cautious the pedestrians are to cross, and how the left-turning vehicles veer into the wrong lane. The second video, shot on April 30, shows a pedestrian quickly reaching the protected area. 


The only way to fix this intersection is to close it, or put another light there (awkward). People are always going to try to race to make that left turn, and they rarely look to see if pedestrians are coming.


Video of Springfield Avenue at Baltimore before recent improvements.

Posted by Chris Richman on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day two of the reconfiguration of Springfield at Baltimore Avenue.

Posted by Chris Richman on Thursday, April 30, 2015

Is there a stop sign for cars/bikes for traffic on Springfield approaching Baltimore Ave or are pedestrians on their own? Perhaps there should be a "vehicles must stop for pedestrians" sign in the road.

Yes, there is and has been a stop sign.

I think, judging from the video, that the stop sign is less visible given the new configuration. This might be a case for a blinking light, maybe... (red for springfield, yellow for Baltimore.)

I'm confused - it seems as if none of the cars in the after video actually stopped at the stop sign.

Am I the only one seeing the bike rider in the red shirt running the stop sign? Shouldn't he be stopping too?

What about the cars? None of them came to a complete stop.

I think the biggest issue at that intersection is cars traveling west on Baltimore making a left onto Springfield. Will this change improve that situation at all?

It should. Now instead of making a quick divergent left off of Baltimore, drivers will have to slow considerably and take a standard 90 degree turn. This will decrease car speeds going through this intersection and give drivers a better chance to see pedestrians or bicyclists, while minimally disrupting traffic flow!

Thank you for including the process in this article. How about a study of 46th & Baltimore/Cedar? It needs clear pedestrian signals or, better yet, a total makeover by cutting access to Cedar for vehicles. It's far worse than Baltimore/Springfield has ever been and I've complained to deaf ears to the City. Maybe Seth can look into it.

maybe an additional stop sign on the left for the cars approaching Baltimore in addition to a cars (and bikes!) must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk sign. There should also be a reminder for those turning left off of Baltimore that they must also yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Could you make that intersection oneway and force all the left turns to the light at 45th street?

Someone needs to cut the trees and bushes down, on island, at the intersection of Baltimore / Springfield Ave. so when people drive out Springfield Ave., onto Baltimore Ave, we can see the cars coming down the street, on Baltimore Ave. You have to inch your way out there to see past them, to see if anything is coming. Bike cyclists do not stop there either, I've seen them fly down the road and out onto Baltimore Ave. Also, pedestrians not only there but around town should be given a ticket for walking & texting while crossing the streets - they just walk out in front of you and don't pay attention to on coming cars. This is a strange setup but it will take some getting used to and discipline the cars coming up Baltimore Ave and making the Left onto Springfield too.

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