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Printed in the Feb 12, 2011 edition of the Oregonian.
In response to the editorial “Needed: wary walkers“: It is heartening to see that The Oregonian shares the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition’s concern about the safety of walking. We agree that all road users need to share the road and be mindful of others. This is why WPC is actively involved in educational outreach programs throughout the region to help people understand their rights and responsibilities on the road.
We do take walking seriously, and we want to see more attention brought to the underlying issues that can make walking dangerous: high vehicular speeds and dangerous intersections. Traffic-safety models around the world have shown that focusing on speed and auto-traffic volumes provides the most demonstrable safety improvements for all modes. Let’s learn those hard-won lessons from others and apply them in Oregon.
This is the time to work together to make our roads safer and calmer for all.
Bozzone is on the board of the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition.
Special thanks to Stephanie Routh and Phil Selinger for their contributions and help coordinating this response on behalf of WPC.
The shape of our road network is governed by strict uniformity guidelines set at the national level. Sometimes dubious requirements to widen highways and reduce traffic limit the local transportation engineer, who is forced to use old tools to fix new problems. With Portland, Oregon as backdrop and bicycling as a highlight, city traffic engineer Peter Koonce describes the space between local innovation and federal control.
A Joe Biel & Steve Bozzone collaboration.
This is not as thorough as Oregon state law, ORS 811.550 (17) , which also carries a “no parking within 20ft of crosswalks” provision. I believe enforcing this law in Portland would help make our crossings safer, while generating revenue that could fund sidewalk and crossing improvements citywide. Many SUV’s, pick up trucks and even mini-vans are over 6ft.
Portland Ordinance 16.20.130 – Prohibited in Specified Places.
(Amended by Ord. No. 165594, July 8, 1992.) Except when specifically directed by authority of this Title or when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, it is unlawful to park or stop a vehicle in any of the following places:
A. Within 50 feet of an intersection when:
1. The vehicle or a view obstructing attachment to the vehicle is more than 6 feet in height; or
2. Vehicle design, modification, or load obscures the visibility or view of approaching traffic, any traffic control sign, any traffic control signal, or any pedestrian in a crosswalk.
This regulation does not apply to the area of the street where the direction of traffic is leaving an intersection on a one-way street.
There is a great piece on BikePortland that sums up many of the challenges our local political leadership has faced (and created) when it comes to our bicycling future. Some reactions to the story paint Jonathan’s article as overly negative or feel that it ignores the many bike improvements we’ve enjoyed in 2010.
I have no doubt that Mayor Adams has made great strides forward for biking and walking in this city, but that does not mean we should not be disappointed. If we look to what other cities are accomplishing, I can’t help but feel Portland is moving at a glacial pace, and it seems clear that Adams is in some sort of holding-pattern when it comes to pushing forward on systemic bike network improvements.
Call me crazy, but we’re at an intersection of many local and global crises that we must mitigate, and these challenges require a radical shift in not only our travel habits, but our lives as we know it. Portland leads the way in this regard when it comes to mass transit, but our current leadership is uncomfortable pressing forward on this perceptibly contentious issue. Yet Portland’s vanguard role in the building of new transit means little if we refuse to dial down our inequitable support and subsidization of the SOV, which is clearly not a priority in our region, let alone Portland.
I like bike boulevards, but we can do a lot better. Our mode share has quickly outgrown our previous investments. If bikeways were like highways, we would be pushing for bigger and better, but somehow we’ve been conditioned to believe we only deserve a small sliver of the right of way.
Without decisive political leadership on this, we will never reach our long-established goals of higher ridership, real environmental & economic sustainability, improved health & happiness and true world-class status.
Maybe there will be a special moment in the future where a paradigm shift will occur and real support for urban bicycling will become much easier to achieve, but we simply can’t afford to kick that can down the road any longer. We understand that without better infrastructure, we won’t be able to get a larger chunk of the population out of their cars and onto bicycles. If there is currently not enough “public support” for better bikeways, as our political leadership says, then when will there ever be? If not now, when?
My letter to the editors of The Oregonian regarding their editorial policy on crash reporting:
As reported in The Oregonian (Portland police accuse motorist of negligent homicide after he struck and killed a pedestrian on SW Barbur), Angela Burke’s death is a horrific tragedy. My heart goes out to her family and friends for their loss.
My heart also goes out to our city. Angela’s death was not an accident. Every road death is a tragedy that could be prevented, and no one should have to put their life on the line just to cross the street.
Using the word “accident” to describe this crash omits the many road design flaws present on Barbur, flaws which have led to grave and tragic consequence. When the Oregonian reports such matters as an “accident”, is shows a serious disregard to a preventable tragedy that occurs nearly 4,000 times a month in this country.
Crash Reporting at The Oregonian is inconsistent from article to article. I call on the Oregonian to develop a sound Editorial Policy that is referenced when reporting crashes. The Oregonian bears great responsibility to report in the public interest, and I am grateful for your attention to this matter. I am happy to facilitate a meeting between Oregonian editors and advocate stakeholders, who believe this editorial change is vital to their work in reducing road deaths state-wide. Thank you for your time.
Willamette Pedestrian Coalition Board Member
Active Right of Way Organizer
OPAL Bus Riders Unite Member
If you live in the Portland-area, I recommend joining Friends of Barbur, a group of Portlanders pushing for needed improvements on SW Barbur Boulevard. You can read more about their work in an interview I had with co-organizers Owen Walz & Kiel Johnson.
- "It's a veritable ice skating rink out here on 26.. cars sliding everywhere." – Portland Police officer on the radio. #timetostopdriving #
- If you want to follow the crash-by-crash action at home, you can! http://ow.ly/3e6i7 #policescanner #
- it's not all crashes.. someone just stabbed a horse in the neck and took off, somewhere in Multnomah County. #
- Good to know! RT @pfrazier: First time in 4 months of the MAX I have had my fare checked on board. #pdx #trimet #
- RT @djcnews: Bike trips on the rise in Portland http://bit.ly/f6MBiF #
- @pdxcommute They opened the Morrison in 2010 to help alleviate the congestion on Hawthorne, my guess on the dip. in reply to pdxcommute #
- @bikeportland maybe it wasn't a priority since they had no previous data to compare with. in reply to BikePortland #
- @commcyclingctr A great piece! It's good to hear it from the inside, provides something to point to. in reply to CommCyclingCtr #
- I love the idea behind @PeopleforBikes, but what's the plan here? Are we going to mobilize, or just make a big list of riders? #curious #