Making Philly better for pedestrians

Sometimes, walking like a Philadelphian means dodging cars, turning an ankle in a surprise divot in the sidewalk or hoofing it in the street to get around a sidewalk construction project.

Such problems are especially challenging for older city residents, so the AARP and the Mayor's Commission on Aging sent about 10 volunteers to five different locations Thursday to survey the streets and report problems the city might fix.

Of the 10 largest cities in the United States, Philadelphia has the largest proportion of people 60 years and older, the AARP says.

"A lot of people are challenged in terms of getting around," said Lydia Hernandez Velez, the city's deputy managing director for aging.

The crew of about 10 volunteers carefully studied their checklists at 12th and Filbert Streets near Reading Terminal Market, noting, for example, whether lights gave pedestrians enough time to cross. They wore bright read t-shirts that read, “Walk on Philly!” so that they were highly visible to traffic.

One of the volunteers, Purita Acosta, 74, said longer crossing times were a priority for her.

"I have arthritis in my knees," she explained.

Herb Lipton, a volunteer for the AARP, said the group will compile the reports and recommend ways the budget-crunched city can inexpensively improve safety.

"We're looking at what can be done better that's not too expensive," he said. "We're talking about things like signs, lights, paint that's worn off so walkers don't know where to walk and drivers don't know where the lanes are."

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