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Pedestrian advocates hold annual meeting tonight: Thoughts on the state of the movement

Posted by on September 24th, 2009 at 10:52 am

Did you know Portland had
an advocacy group devoted
to pedestrians?

Portland is renown for its bike scene and the strong, vibrant advocacy movement that exists around it. But what about our non-motorized friends who use their feet to get around? Where is Portland’s ‘pedestrian community’?

The Willamette Pedestrian Coalition wants to find out. The non-profit advocacy group holds their annual meeting tonight in Southeast Portland and they’ve also just launched an online survey with hopes of creating a prioritized list of what walkers want.

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The reasons why Portland pedestrian scene is so quiet compared the bike scene is a somewhat frequent topic in local advocacy insider circles. It has also been noticed by at least one local reporter, who happened upon a fatal pedestrian-bus collision back in 2008 and instantly realized it would not be a major news story (if it was someone on a bike, he reasoned, it’d be a very big deal).

In America, the vast majority of daily bike riders identify themselves proudly as “cyclists” (although this is changing as bike use grows). This self-labeling leads them to being passionate about bike-related causes and supportive of bike organizations. The problem for pedestrian advocates is — well, when’s the last time you heard someone call themselves a “pedestrian” or purchase a shirt or get a tattoo identifying them as such?

Another issue is advocacy capacity. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) has been around for over 15 years and, in large part due to the phenomenon mentioned above, they have a healthy number of members, major donors, and fundraising events. The BTA has partnered with the WPC in some ways over the years (most notably in helping them lobby in Salem), but for the most part, the BTA focuses only bike-specific issues.

Mult. County Bike Fair!
Steph Routh is the director of
the Willamette Pedestrian
Coalition — is a shoe wedding
in her future?
(Photo © J. Maus)

Back in May the WPC hired Steph Routh to be their director. Routh has long ties into the local bike scene. She is a regular volunteer with Shift and their monthly Breakfast on the Bridges event. She is also president of Umbrella, a local non-profit that helps support “community based street culture” and at the Multnomah County Bike Fair back in 2006, Routh even married her trusty ten-speed.

Portland is one of the most walkable cities in America and our brand of transportation planning (giving folks options to the single-occupancy vehicle) favors people who walk in the same way it favors those of us who ride bikes.

Hopefully Routh (and others) can help bring the same spirit of fun and exciting activism to the cause of making Portland a nicer place to walk. Pedestrians unite!

    Willamette Pedestrian Coalition Annual Meeting
    2009 Annual Meeting
    Sept 24, 2009 – 6:30-8:30pm
    (program starts at 7:00pm)
    Lucky Lab Brew Pub (915 SE Hawthorne)
    (Bus Lines 14-Hawthorne, 10-Harold)

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Comments
  • El Biciclero September 24, 2009 at 11:19 am

    All we need is one advocacy group to promote competent, legal, safe, sober, attentive driving of all vehicles, and to get people to at least start thinking about “appropriate” use of cars and streets. It would promote actual re-testing on traffic laws old and new–especially those pertaining to peds and cyclists–every time a driver’s license was renewed. It would promote and conduct education programs to raise awareness of roadway issues and help drivers to “start seeing” non-motorized road users.

    This advocacy group would also promote harsher consequences for injuring or killing people with cars. “I didn’t see him!” would not be a get-out-of-jail-free card. It would promote allocation of roadway funds for sidewalks, ped/bike overpasses, and other infrastructure to make no-mo road users safer.

    Cars are great–I use mine often–but they’re a huge and greatly underestimated responsibility (and burden), and not the only way to do everything!

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  • TTse September 24, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Oregon crosswalk law. Learn it. Everyone. Yield to peds. I’m looking at you fellow Ladd’s Addition cyclists.

    “Remember, under Oregon law there is a crosswalk at every intersection.

    http://oregon.gov/ODOT/TS/docs/pedestrian/Ped_Brochure.pdf

    I think we as cyclists would gain greatly by reminding each other to observe this. First of all, it’s the law. Second, by being OBSERVED doing this, we will help set an example for drivers. Thirdly, it will dispel the notion that we are only interested in traffic laws that benefit cyclists directly.

    By yielding to peds, we will show that what we are really interested in is sharing public space. That’s what you’re interested in, right?

    (drivers who are attentive to yielding to peds will be more attentive to all of us)

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  • huey lewis September 24, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Oregon crosswalk law. Learn it. Everyone. Yield to peds. I’m looking at you fellow Ladd’s Addition cyclists.

    when i’m not biking, i’m a pedestrian. and personally i have no problem when cyclists don’t stop if i’m standing on the corner waiting to cross the street. but holy shit, cars that don’t stop, makes me wish i believed in carrying a gun. there would be so many flat tires…

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  • Rollie September 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Glad they’re doing this, but it’s a sad day when the idea of “human beings walking” requires a frigging advocacy organization!

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  • Matt Picio September 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    El Biciclero (#1) – we also still need someone to fight for pedestrian infrastructure. Much of the city, especially in outer NE and SE and almost all of SW has no sidewalks, and many places still do not have curb cuts for ADA compliance.

    TTse (#2) – Absolutely, everyone should know and obey the crosswalk law, including pedestrians. Many pedestrians aren’t aware that if there is a vehicle approaching the crosswalk, and it’s close enough that stepping out in front of it would create a hazard, that that situation NEGATES the pedestrian right-of-way. Many pedestrians also don’t realize that crossing a street outside of a crosswalk (diagonally walking across an intersection, for example, or crossing mid-block without a marked crosswalk) does NOT grant them right-of-way. There are pedestrians in Ladd’s who are just as bad at obeying the law as cyclists.

    BTW, the PDF is incorrect.

    “under Oregon law there is a crosswalk at every intersection” – actually, there are 3 or more crosswalks at every intersection – a crosswalk exists at each natural crossing point of the intersection.

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  • Matt September 24, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    When I’m driving, it’s the case that sometimes, I simply don’t see pedestrians at an intersection until it’s too late for me to stop safely. Because my eye is on the road. And I can’t believe it when people step out as though the law creates some bubble around them. It doesn’t. It mandates me to stop, but you know what? Sometimes, you don’t see them. It makes me rethink my distinctly non-defensive biking style. As my dad used to say, “Here lies Matt. He was right.”

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  • naess September 25, 2009 at 12:08 am

    matt (#5)- thank you for mentioning the pedestrian responsibility portion of the newer crosswalk laws. i remember awhile ago, someone (possibly you,) posted a long description of the crosswalk laws and the responsibilities of both parties involved in those situations. there was something in that post about pedss having to give at least a buffer of 100 fett or some such.

    sadly, you get a lot of people that seem to think all vehicular traffic must come to a complete stop if someone so much as wavers on a corner and “might” want to step out. then again you also get those that feel confident in just walking out in front of traffic and act like it’s your fault for being there.

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  • naess September 25, 2009 at 12:12 am

    fett = feet

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  • [...] news from around the network: Bike Portland writes about the growing pedestrian advocacy movement in that city. City Walkabout posts on the [...]

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  • [...] news from around the network: Bike Portland writes about the growing pedestrian advocacy movement in that city. City Walkabout posts on the [...]

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  • Ed September 25, 2009 at 7:44 am

    It doesn’t hurt to be polite. Remember most pedestrians are also drivers.

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  • [...] livability and community outcomes, not simply moving vehicles. Other news from around the network: Bike Portland writes about the growing pedestrian advocacy movement in that city. City Walkabout posts on the [...]

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  • Stochelo September 25, 2009 at 11:21 am

    As a more frequent walker than cyclist, my notion is still that the legal and civil rights of motorised vehicle operators should be reduced. I like the Japanese idea, that in any collision the larger entity is always automatically guilty. Let’s start there.

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  • Matt Picio September 25, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    naess (#7) – The City of Portland is currently using 110′ as the guideline distance (I learned this from the Share the Road Safety Class), but the statute itself doesn’t give an actual number, but instead says “so close as to constitute an immediate hazard” (ORS 814.040)

    Obviously, with our lower speeds and smaller cross-section, that distance could be argued to be shorter for pedestrians crossing in front of bicycles.

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  • Matt Picio September 25, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Stochelo (#13) – Let’s not start there. Pedestrians are frequently at fault in traffic incidents. If a bike is moving under the legal limit, on a straight road with dry pavement and all equipment functioning properly, let’s say at 15mph on a 25mph residential street, and a pedestrian walks in front of them just before the cyclist reaches the crosswalk (let’s say 15′), there is no possible way for the cyclist to stop in time. If the cyclist swerves to miss and loses control and hits something (or someone), then who is at fault? The pedestrian, who is the proximate cause of the incident.

    Pedestrians also have responsibilities. While the lion’s share of the work needs to be devoted towards addressing others’ behavior towards them, they are not immune from similar restrictions and responsibilities.

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  • Jackattak September 25, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I live Downtown and my primary mode of transportation is walking. I live in the south Park Blocks and use the Park Blocks as my main “drag” as they’re obviously the safest thing around.

    As many here have all ready stated, the single largest gripe I have is about drivers and bikers alike not recognizing the crosswalk laws in Portland (whether it’s deliberate or not).

    I have had an altercation with a cyclist in the crosswalk at Park Ave and Main St. It’s as much a driver’s responsibility to give right-of-way to peds as it is a cyclist’s. You want to be treated like regular traffic on your bike? That means you follow the same rules, and that means you stop at crosswalks when pedestrians are in OR NEAR them. That’s the law. You never know what a pedestrian might do in the crosswalk when they think they have it to themselves. They might swing out their arm inadvertently and knock you off your bike. ;) Oops, sorry buddy. Have a nice day. Guess you shouldn’t have entered a crosswalk with a pedestrian in the middle of it. :D

    Cars are just as bad if not worse. It would be nice if for just one week; JUST one week, a group of motorcyclist cops would sit at the Park Blocks at 7AM and watch cars plow through the crosswalks with all of us pedestrians in them, all the while going nearly twice the posted Downtown speed limit of 20mph.

    I can only imagine the revenue generated from that and what it would be capable of doing for the City of Portland.

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  • Jackattak September 25, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    @ Matt #6 -

    “Not seeing” a human being is no excuse. You are supposed to be aware of your surroundings while operating a vehicle, in all 360°. Read the driver’s manual. It’s your responsibility while driving to scan ahead. If you are truly “looking at the road” how can you not see a pedestrian in the crosswalk? I’m confused.

    I do agree though, pedestrians have a responsibility NOT to directly walk in front of traffic that’s like 20′ away. That’s just stupid and there’s no way on Earth that someone can stop their car in time to permit you the right-of-way. I always try to give on-coming traffic a chance before I go bolting into the crosswalk. ;) Just kidding. I don’t bolt into crosswalks.

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  • @jackattack #17 September 25, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    @jackattak #17-

    20′ is definately not a safe distance. a motorized vehicle going 20mph is traveling at 29.3′/sec, has a braking deceleration distance of 19′, a perception reaction distance of 44′, thus giving them a total stopping distance of 63′. if you bump up their speed to 25mph you increase that total stopping distance to 85′.

    of course add in to that the fact that many drivers around town seem to think they only need to give the car ahead of them a few feet following distance and even if the first vehicle stops in time they will most likely be rear ended by the car behind them. so even if you luck out and the first car stops before hitting you, they may just be pushed into you anyways.

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  • naess September 25, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    oops, post #18 was from me

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  • jacque September 27, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    While in the car, I make a point of looking for peds trying to cross at intersections, and when I see them, I stop. But I contend that it is not possible to see peds in time to stop if you’re traveling > than 20 mph.
    Why do we have speed limits set higher than what is required to obey the law?
    According to the 20 is plenty website, lowering urban and residential speed limits to 20 mph has been found to increase a 15 minutes car journey by just 60 seconds.
    (EU Report : Kids on the move)
    You cannot see and stop in time at 35 mph, so how can you have both a 35 mph limit, and a pedestrian right of way law on the books at the same time?
    I wish the WPC would start a 20 mph campaign like the British “20 is plenty” campaign
    http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk/

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  • Jackattak September 28, 2009 at 10:19 am

    @ #18 naess –

    You are correct. 20′ is nowhere near a proper distance, which is why I stated that I do NOT jump out in front of traffic that is 20′ away (like I see others doing).

    It’s 110′ based on the Safety Courses provided by the State, although you won’t find that in any driver’s ed lit. 110′ is simply a recommendation (and one I follow).

    Thanks for the math lesson, though. ;)

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  • jon September 28, 2009 at 11:23 am

    @#1
    Thats the beauty of the liveable/complete streets movement which advocates for pedestrians, bikes, transit riders and land use that supports these modes. Streetsblog has helped tremendously in the last few years to unite these separate groups into one united group under the liveable streets umbrella. Plus they have allowed spread of information around the country between specific blogs on bikes, peds and transit.

    TransportationforAmerica is also new but is supported by many prominent existing organizations to actually lobby on behalf of bikes, peds, transit and rail.

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  • naess September 28, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    @#21 Jackattak-

    oh, sorry, i some how scanned right past the big, bold “not” part.

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