Drexel University is positioned in the heart of University City, and this puts pedestrians and drivers in close contact.
That’s precisely why Drexel student Jimmy Zhao is advocating for a new speed bump at the intersection of 33rd Street and Lancaster Walk.
“I’m going to be a senior,” Zhao said. “This is for future generations of students and the future community here. I want to leave behind a legacy.”
Zhao was inspired to advocate for a speed bump at Lancaster Avenue and 33rd Street after a personal experience. He’d noticed drivers racing through the area since his first day on campus, but never believed he or anyone else could do anything about it.
Then one night, he was driving back from Southwest Philadelphia and approached a speed bump on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus so quickly he had to slam on the brakes.
This was his lightbulb moment. Why didn’t Drexel have a speed bump to force drivers to slow down like this?
He started his petition for a speed bump at Lancaster Avenue and 33rd Street and has received 260 signatures as of Oct. 27. The first few days the petition was up were a huge rush for Zhao, who says he was surprised by the huge influx of support.
Now that the project’s support is gaining major traction, Zhao wants to continue work on developing his plan and putting out new content in an attempt to keep the conversation going. He plans to put out a video demonstrating his concerns with the crossing.
“If we all corral our voices together as one, no one can stop us from making a change,” Zhao said.
Zhao has heard positive feedback from students so far, but he also understands that drivers are concerned about their cars. 33rd Street is on an uphill slope as it crosses Lancaster Avenue, and as a driver he sympathizes with their viewpoint. Zhao is analyzing every possibility to see which options will be feasible and beneficial to everyone involved. However, he wants to make it clear that for him this is about making students feel safer on campus.
“This isn’t about the drivers. They’re in a vehicle. The fact they care that much about their 30 seconds when they can just accelerate is disrespectful,” Zhao said.
Zhao is working from the bottom up, garnering support from a wide percentage of the student body before he goes to any faculty or administration. Zhao sees the Undergraduate Student Government Association as a liaison between students and administration. USGA is very interested in his idea and has given him the opportunity to present at their next general board meeting.
Zhao has no plans of giving up the momentum he’s gaining unless the negative impacts outweighs the benefits. He is open to the opinions of others at all times and so far, the input has been mostly positive. Zhao appreciates the support of those who have signed the petition and his fraternity brothers at Pi Alpha Phi, who have been supportive of his cause.
He would love to find others that are just as passionate about pedestrian safety and traffic efficiency so that he can make the project move more quickly. He has not entirely dismissed the idea of passing the project on to someone else once he graduates, but that person would have to be just as passionate as Zhao is.
“I will be able to say I started a cause and that will show leadership experience. I’ve already learned a lot along the way. This is something I can’t do alone,” Zhao said.
Zhao acknowledges that the idea of advocating for a speed bump is unconventional, but he thinks this speaks volumes about how much awareness is needed around pedestrian safety. He said it’s all too easy to let road rage and bad driving become normal while we should be advocating for the safety of pedestrians through one common voice.
You can sign the petition online at here.