Disabled cars on South 61st are a major hazard

Stopping to assist an injured motorcyclist in the middle of South 61st St. He had struck one of the many disabled cars parked haphazardly in the medium in the dangerous stretch from Lindbergh Blvd. to Passyunk.

Immediate Action City Action Required!

By Gene J. Burke

Most of us get to South Philly and beyond (and South Philadelphians get to Southwest) via the Passyunk Bridge. Often this means driving down the mile-long segment of South 61st Street between Lindbergh Blvd and Passyunk Avenue. 

That journey is notoriously hazardous – especially at night. In large part, the danger is due to the extended string of disabled cars parked haphazardly in the median lane. 

I call on the responsible public officials to deal with this hazard before more people are injured and killed. To me, this includes installing appropriate lighting, repaving the street, repainting traffic lines with reflective material, installing safety measures such as rumble strips and speed cushions, enforcing traffic laws, and holding the businesses on the 3100 – 3500 block of South 61st Street accountable for where their disabled cars are parked or stored.

    * * * * * * *

On Saturday, September 26, 2020, I was taking my family to Chick-fil-a on Delaware Avenue – a family favorite. The usual dining out drive ritual – sing-alongs, games, and laughter – came to an abrupt halt when an obstruction we saw on the dark, pot-holed road ahead of us turned out to be an unconscious man.

I parked and ran to him as I phoned for help. 

Kneeling beside him, I asked his name, trying to keep him alert. Obviously in pain, bleeding from a head wound and disoriented, he answered, “John, my name is John.” Eventually, he hazily recalled being hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. My own quick assessment was that he had probably struck one of the disabled cars in the middle of the road. This was indeed the case, and his bike finally wound up some 100 feet from the collision. 

By now, other motorists had arrived and thankfully helped to divert traffic until the emergency crew arrived. (Seemingly oblivious of the blinking hazard lights, a Route 37 SEPTA bus and huge 18-wheeler sped by at what were to me dangerous speeds.) 

I tried to stay focused on John. When he said he thought he was going to die, I prayed with him in the middle of that dark road. 

The police and medics did show up very promptly and attended to him. The ambulance pulled away, and I’ve never seen nor heard from John again. But my thoughts and prayers for him lingered all night and into the morning, and persist even now.

It has been 6 months since that night. Even though the event shook our family we have carried on with our weekly dining out ritual. Last Friday evening found us once more traveling cautiously past the line of disabled cars sprawled in the middle of South 61st. 

Prophetically, my wife turned to me and lamented, “They need to do something about this! Someone is going to crash into these cars and people are going to get hurt!” 

Three seconds later, a white work van coming toward us very fast veered into the median and smashed into the parked cars. 

Again, I stopped my truck, turned my hazards on, called the police, and got out to see about the driver. Thankfully, the driver was OK – conscious, though a bit bewildered. Unfortunately, by the time the police arrived, he had taken off, leaving in his wake the mangled car and debris – right in the middle of the oncoming lane to block traffic.

I am concerned. In addition to what we have experienced, an entire family lost their lives driving down South 61st Street last summer. We missed that accident by mere minutes – it easily could have been us! (It made the news, a close friend from California called to make sure it wasn’t us.). 

There must be accident records to corroborate my observations about that stretch of South 61st. I can’t understand why the city leaves this strip in such a disgraceful condition! I’m angry that the businesses along this section of South 61st Street are allowed to leave disabled cars parked in the middle of the road!  

There are too many accidents, injuries, and fatalities that occur on this road and it has been far too long since it has been addressed, if ever.

(photo provided by Mrs. Burke)

Share This