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Mayor visits dangerous crosswalk; will recommend “immediate changes”

Posted by on November 9th, 2009 at 1:47 pm

A woman crossing SE Foster at 80th.
(Still taken from Oregonian video
– watch it below).

Responding to a week where several Portlanders were injured and one woman was killed while walking across SE Foster Blvd, Portland Mayor Sam Adams visited the site this morning. His visit comes on the eve of an awareness action by local safety advocates and on the same morning that national organization Transportation For America released a new report about pedestrian safety.

Adams said he walked several blocks around the intersection of Foster and 80th. After his walk Adams updated his Twitter account saying he would “recommend some immediate changes today.”

The Portland-based non-profit Willamette Pedestrian Coalition (WPC) plans to hold a demonstration tomorrow following a string of tragic collisions that claimed the life of one woman and seriously injured two others while they attempted to walk across the intersection.

SE Foster and 80th is well-known as a perilous intersection. The Oregonian reported last week that some local residents liken it to a “freeway”. The existing pedestrian island was installed in 2005 after someone died while walking across. Watch a video of the intersection by The Oregonian below:

Dangerous Crosswalk

This morning, Transportation For America unveiled a report, Dangerous by Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods) ranking America’s major metro areas and states according to a Pedestrian Danger Index.

“Although Portland is considered safer for pedestrians than most metropolitan regions in the country… We are still clearly not investing enough to protect our citizens from speeding traffic.”
— Steph Routh, Director of Willamette Pedestrian Coalition

The authors find that most pedestrian deaths could be prevented if streets were more thoughtfully designed to accomodate people and not just motorized vehicles.

The report found that Oregon spends less than 2%, or $1.28 per capita, on pedestrian facilities and safety. The Portland Metro area was ranked third in safety out of six regions in Oregon and 44th out of the top 52 largest metro areas in the country (with 1st being the most dangerous).

In a statement about the report issued today by the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, their leader Steph Routh said even though Portland ranked relatively high, there’s still more that needs to be done.

“Although Portland is considered safer for pedestrians than most metropolitan regions in the country, the spate of recent collisions in Portland between pedestrians and motorists prove that we are still clearly not investing enough to protect our citizens from speeding traffic.”

You can download the WPC’s entire press release here (55kb PDF).

Mayor Adams’ Transportation Director Catherine Ciarlo was tight-lipped about what PBOT’s “immediate actions” would be on SE Foster. “We’ll issue a statement tomorrow… We’re looking into seeing everything we can do to make sure the visibility is as good as it can possibly be.”

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Comments
  • Dave November 9, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Now let’s hope maybe they get a bee in their bonnet to do something about the potentially dozens of other similar intersections throughout the city that could also benefit from some “immediate action”.

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  • MeghanH November 9, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    While I appreciate Mayor Adams’ attention to this, there’s something I don’t understand:

    This traffic island and striped area was put in a few years ago after ANOTHER fatality at the same spot. I assumed at the time that this was a design PBOT felt would have a marked improvement on pedestrian safety.

    Is there something in this design that was flawed, or is it the other things around it (like the bus stop) that need changing?

    Nice to know the squeaky wheels do get greased, but it’s really awful to know that someone has to die for the squeak to be heard by those in power.

    I am going to be out at this spot tomorrow, holding half of a BIG sign that says “YOUR HIGHWAY IS MY CROSSWALK”.

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  • Jackattak November 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Agreed, Dave.

    I just wrote the Mayor on Thursday about SW Park & Market. There is a MARKED crosswalk there and I’m damned-near killed by BeaverTronians coming in off HWY-26 every M-F at 6:45AM when I attempt to cross the street!

    At first glance I thought this article was going to cover that!

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  • Paula November 9, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    There are many crosswalks in Portland just like that one. There’s one on the corner of SE 16th and Morrison. Buckman School is just down the street and there are quite a few parents who walk their kids to and from school that cross here. This is also an accident waiting to happen.

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  • hickeymad November 9, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    I’ve been advocating for additional pedestrian safety improvements on Sandy Blvd. for several years now and have been told by the City that these improvements facilitate poor judgment on the part of pedestrians. I gave a presentation to the City about the Sandy/72nd/Fremont intersection and it’s current design acting as a barrier to safe pedestrian traffic. Maybe our neighborhood will get lucky and someone will get killed at the intersection so that the city will finally pay attention to it.

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  • joe adamski November 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Considering nearly all of us are pedestrians, $1.28 annually seems as puny of an investment as the small amount of money that goes to bike improvements. With Portlands goals for Climate change/ Environmental standards,health and equityetc, not investing in bike and ped facilities to remove barriers to human powered transport is very misguided.

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  • david (the other one) November 9, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Sometimes I feel myself becoming angry at cars and trucks, sometimes I realize those people are just trying to get THERE also. Wherever THERE is. As a bike riding commuter, recreationalist, joyrider, am I “THEM”.
    I understand one person lost their “life” and another is seriously injured. Unfortunately it happens daily, and sometimes to people close to us.
    But, sometimes WE could take the long road home. The long way, backwards around the block, the road less taken literally. Or, an extra look, listening for That car or truck, bus.
    I’d like us ALL to be around tomorrow. Let’s NOT be THEM.

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  • peejay November 9, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Unless someone wants to come here and tell us about all the “freedoms” that are being violated by anything that might be done to prevent more tragic deaths, this has to be our highest priority. Let’s stop this violence, stop the acceptance of this violence, stop the threat of violence that keeps people off their streets, and take back the streets for the people.

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  • joe November 9, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    hickeymad, you said “I gave a presentation to the City about the Sandy/72nd/Fremont intersection”.

    I would like to second that notion. Sandy’s geography results in many funky intersections that give me pause; that particular intersection has to be one of the 10 most dangerous in Portland.

    I am surprised that Portland does not use more pedestrian signals on the cross walk. These lights blink brightly when someone is about to use the intersection and really reinforce the idea that cars are supposed to stop. There is one, sorta, crossing NE 33rd near the New Seasons grocery store. Not sure if the store put that in or whatever but seems like that technology could be easily employed elsewhere for a minimal cost.

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  • fredlf November 9, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    One question. The article says: “The report found that Oregon spends less than 2%, or $1.28 per capita.”

    That’s 2% of what? The ODOT budget? Maybe I missed something…

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  • Jeff Parker November 9, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    No one here seems to know that you have to stop at a crosswalk, it’s not stressed on the DMV test. I see drivers cellphoning and blowing through them constantly as pedestrians try to cross. I think a month of aggressive ticketing/ police traps would get the point across.

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  • t27 November 9, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Crosswalks are not dangerous – roads are not dangerous – cars are not dangerous – drivers are. Crosswalks, roads and cars are inanimate objects that can not hurt anyone unless used improperly. Where is the political will to enforce traffic laws and not spend tokens to sound like you support safety. All the money spent on safer roads does little without enforcement.

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  • E November 9, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Ped deaths in LA dropped to almost nothing after a few months of crosswalk stings. A pricey ticket, a stern talking-to, and now I put a foot in the crosswalk and all lanes screech to a halt.

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  • suburban November 9, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Meiying and Jin Lui, Tara E. Stanlick, you are not forgotten.

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  • chelsea November 9, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    There are so many laws that I have never seen enforced. Isn’t illegal to enter a crosswalk when a pedestrian is in it? At least downtown? Instead I am almost run over on a weekly basis by idiots on the phone who get angry that I use the crosswalk when it’s my turn. I would feel like a kid on Christmas if I ever saw a driver ticketed for this behavior. It would make my day. And if it became a regular occurance, it would save lives and make drivers think twice. It’s sad that paying for a ticket makes people more cafeful than the potential to maim and kill.

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  • Jackattak November 9, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    @ #11 Jeff Parker:

    Exactly. That’s precisely what I proposed to Mayor Adams on Thursday when I wrote him. What revenue generator this could be! We could use the money to increase ped/cycle infrastructure! :)

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  • MeghanH November 9, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    KOIN reported tonight that the Mayor is advocating for “removal of visual clutter” like newspaper boxes, trimming back the tree in the pedestrian island, and a stronger lightbulb in the overhead light at this location.

    A good start, but some serious enforcement of crosswalks, citywide, might make a larger and more lasting impression.

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  • Vance Longwell November 9, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    “Crosswalks are not dangerous – roads are not dangerous – cars are not dangerous – drivers are. Crosswalks, roads and cars are inanimate objects that can not hurt anyone unless used improperly. Where is the political will to enforce traffic laws and not spend tokens to sound like you support safety. All the money spent on safer roads does little without enforcement.”

    When you’re right, you’re right. What of all those laws, rules, and regulations? I wonder, who considers people with brown skin, and/or no money? I agree with pee-jay too, in spirit, but the practical manifestation of said spirit carries implicit, and often inherent, risks for poor folk.

    A law, rule or regulation, among other things, is just probable cause for the man, at a certain point. We live in a city where a rather aggressive police force can pretty much stop and arrest you for nothing, then scour the endless reams of rules in hopes of finding something to charge. It’s a win, win, for them ’cause there’s always the off-chance they’ll nab you with your stash, or while your buzzed, or under a bench warrant for not following some other dumb rule.

    pee-jay, you would give the man the tools he needs to continue messing with the lower class just to benefit your lifestyle, man. I really think that is insensitive. Personally I try to adapt to troubles in my life because I know involving the authorities is only going to end with me under their boot-heel.

    ‘Write all the laws you want’, I think is a part of what #12 is saying. In the end they’re only as effective as the ability to enforce them. That makes enforcing the levels of, whatever, a lot of you all call for a thing that will require a heavier, and heavier police presence to maintain.

    I’d love to do it, but in my opinion the costs to our civic morality are too high, and would ultimately serve to make cycling that much more inaccessible to those who need it most. Our poor. 12 is too right. The best infrastructure in the world is no cure for incompetent.

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  • missjulied November 9, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    I don’t for the life of me understand why crosswalks no longer have the horizontal lines across them. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that just having the crosswalk lines painted in the direction of the traffic – instead of AGAINST the direction of the traffic – has some subconscious effect on how drivers react to them.

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  • Vance Longwell November 9, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    17- Please remember that this was done in the midst of a week solving world hunger, curing cancer, and all of the other things mayors are expected to do. I’m joking around, but c’mon glass half-full, eh?

    They got right on that and distributed beads and trinkets. It could have just been more fire-water. There were lives lost in the cager’s ranks that week too, and you don’t see them getting such high-levels of service.

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  • Stig6 November 9, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    There are crossings just like this on the reopened i205 path. Some marked, some marked with ‘warning devices’- flashing lights w/ no signals, others not marked at all. With the major streets as wide as highways, traffic usually just speeds through.

    Today I hit the pedestrian warning signal; the car in the far lane stopped for me. I didn’t make a move because a few seconds later a car in the near lane sped through ignoring me and the stopped traffic. The far lane car didn’t want to wait any longer and took off.

    There’s no enforcement and many drivers seem to think that stopping is a courtesy, not a requirement.

    Hopefully the situation will get at least a bit better w/ the cell phone ban coming into effect Jan 1st.

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  • KWW November 9, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I have an idea, put radar guns there and high resolution cameras to detect violators of the crosswalk.

    The revenue will pay for a person full time to give tickets.

    This is based on research I have performed, where police give tickets to bicyclists rolling through stop signs.

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  • keith.d November 9, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    CBS Sunday Morning a few weeks ago had a segment on an intersection where all traffic signage was removed… cars came into the intersection more focused on other cars, pedestrians and bikes. An intersection with a fatality every year is now safe with none.

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  • Joe Rowe November 9, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    PDOT works on their own island. They use a wide variety of excuses to veto safety improvements.

    Here are safety suggestions ignored by PDOT.
    ========================
    a) removing a few parking spots
    b) adding signs, like slow or yield to peds
    c) push button ped stop lights, PDOT exaggerates their cost.
    d) adding paint on the street or cubs to inform motorists

    They have a one track mind that their narrow version of islands is the only way to go.

    And I forgot: Many neighborhood associations are NIMBY car folks who don’t care about safety, they care more about putting green plants on these islands.

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  • Donna November 9, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    “No one here seems to know that you have to stop at a crosswalk, it’s not stressed on the DMV test. I see drivers cellphoning and blowing through them constantly as pedestrians try to cross. I think a month of aggressive ticketing/ police traps would get the point across.”

    Even more than that, I think it’s time for the city, county, BTA, Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, etc. to lobby aggressively for improvements to drivers’ training standards in this state. I received my license at 16 in 1989 and I knew even then that I wasn’t really adequately prepared. It really hit home when my aunt who received her license at 18 in 1959 insisted on “retraining” me when I visited her 2 years later. She was absolutely correct in her assessment, too. I studied hard for my license, practiced everything I was taught, and did well on the written exam. (I did not have to pass a driving test.) It just wasn’t enough.

    Then there was the time I was recovering from the removal of a tumor in my ear. I made the choice to stop driving because of my dizzy/vertigo spells and it took 18 months after the surgery for them to finally go away. During that time, I had to renew my drivers’ license. I told them about how my medical condition at the time impaired my driving. They didn’t care about that in the least. I got my license renewal with no restrictions & no difficulty. Of course, I didn’t drive for another year because I knew it wasn’t safe. Somehow, I doubt everyone with an impairing medical condition makes that kind of decision.

    It made me feel very uneasy to know the DMV didn’t give a hoot about how I really was too impaired by my dizzy spells to drive a car. I can’t help but wonder how many others are out there driving when they really shouldn’t be.

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  • peejay November 9, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    keith.d:

    That sounds about right. As much as I want this violence to stop, the solution isn’t necessarily more paint, more markings, more signs, more laws. Good roadway engineering can do away with a lot of that, because a road with fewer distractions can make its users more alert. If we had simpler laws, they’d be more readily understood and followed, and enforcement could be more clear-cut and objective, thus less likely to be abused to suit the prevailing agendas of the officers.

    That said, if a driver is caught putting their own convenience ahead of the safety of others, throw the book at them!

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  • peejay November 9, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    I just reread the article. It said the Mayor would issue his plans today, then the mayor’s office said tomorrow. Well, since the former is about over, I guess it’s the latter…if we’re lucky.

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  • wsbob November 9, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    “KOIN reported tonight that the Mayor is advocating for “removal of visual clutter” like newspaper boxes, trimming back the tree in the pedestrian island, and a stronger lightbulb in the overhead light at this location.

    A good start, but some serious enforcement of crosswalks, citywide, might make a larger and more lasting impression.” MeganH #17

    The crosswalk needs a walk signal. Traffic lanes need red-green-yellow overhead signals that stop motor vehicle traffic allowing pedestrians to safely cross this busy 35mph street on their way to the Fred Meyer. The mayor stands to make a far more effective accomplishment if he can see a way to do this rather than simply affect a “removal of visual clutter”

    Beaverton at SW 117th/Canyon/Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy is similar in certain ways to the 80th and Foster/82nd area: 35mph roads to either side of the Freds. Crosswalks out near the Beaverton Freds all have pedestrian signals and traffic lights. Beaverton-Hillsdale has radar stop light cameras(another controversy). I expect the intersections in Beaverton get a better rate of stopping for the traffic light/pedestrians crossing than the simple painted crosswalk out on Foster does.

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  • cyclist November 9, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    I thought the general consensus here was that enforcement actions don’t change behavior. That’s generally the prevailing wisdom when the cops do stop sign enforcement actions in Ladd’s Addition and elsewhere in town. Do you guys think that an enforcement action against motorists will yield better results than an enforcement action against cyclists will? If so, why? If not, why not?

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  • peejay November 9, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    cyclist:

    Good question, no simple answer. I think that the best solution is to design roads that don’t encourage speeds at well above the posted limit, that make it obvious that you should slow down in a crosswalk area even if no one is present, and generally let people end up navigating the streets safely.

    But, here’s a case (as opposed to stop sign enforcement at Ladd’s) where there has been shown a significant negative effect of people violating the law, and I think that’s different.

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  • rixtir November 10, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Vance wrote:

    We live in a city where a rather aggressive police force can pretty much stop and arrest you for nothing, then scour the endless reams of rules in hopes of finding something to charge. It’s a win, win, for them ’cause there’s always the off-chance they’ll nab you … while your buzzed

    I would hope they would. And revoke their license away while they’re at it.

    That’s a win for us.

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  • rixtir November 10, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Elly, sorry, but I left the bold “on.” You might want to fix that.

    Everybody else, by coinicidence, this report was released on Monday:

    Dangerous By Design: http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign/

    Thanks, Rixtir, fixed the html. Feel free to email me about stuff like this if we don’t catch it right away — I’ve yet to see tags successfully closed from subsequent comments. Maybe once we’ve upgraded. — Elly

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  • rixtir November 10, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Cyclist, #29:

    I think enforcement works when the laws are enforced on a regular basis. I think it doesn’t work when the law is enforced infrequently through “enforcement actions.”

    This perspective is supported by data from the Insurance institute for Highway Safety, which observes that “What gets people to change their behavior is strong laws, strongly enforced.”

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  • wsbob November 10, 2009 at 2:33 am

    Enforcement, as in cops sitting at intersections watching and waiting to issue citations as a warning for people failing to comply with traffic regulations can help to produce compliance, if the resources are available to do this…which they aren’t…at least not in sufficient numbers for all the intersections in serious need of attention.

    There just aren’t enough cops to do that, let alone enough money to hire them for that kind of work. There never will be.

    Well designed street infrastructure with signals, crosswalks, cameras and all that stuff does work. It costs a lot of money…of course…but probably easily much less than hiring a bunch of cops that don’t want to hang around all day writing tickets. Radar speed mini-vans work good too; It’s incredible how people learn to keep their eye out for the van parked at the side of road after they’ve seen it a number of times…especially when they’ve seen the camera flash go off for another driver.

    Synchronized traffic lights spaced periodically along streets at intersections seem to keep traffic speeds at a manageable level even when the speed limit is 35mph. Foster could use a traffic light at 80th, and it probably should have a bunch more, the length of the street to help keep motor vehicle speeds from exceeding 35mph.

    Unless someone has another explanation for it, it seems as though the reason 80th and Foster hasn’t had a traffic/crosswalk signal light at that location long ago, is that the state has not been prepared to spend the money; some might say that it’s been tending the needs of this neighborhood on the cheap. Now, with the death and injury count mounting up for this intersection/crosswalk, it’s not so cheap anymore.

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  • Dave November 10, 2009 at 7:46 am

    what a complete and utter waste.

    seriously, remove newspaper boxes and trim the tree on the island?

    thank you, city of Portland, for not giving a shit that your citizens are dying.

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  • David Feldman November 10, 2009 at 7:57 am

    How about: Higher speeding fines, with direct cash comissions paid to police and no appeals for hardship, red light cameras, and more electronic timing.
    The motto should be “more timing devices than Bonneville Salt Flats, more cameras than Hollywood.” Control of driver behavior absolutely has to be the first priority.

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  • Lazy Spinner November 10, 2009 at 10:35 am

    But it was a chance for Sam to get on TV! We all know that he values that more than other’s lives and reputations.

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  • fredlf November 10, 2009 at 10:36 am

    As usual, crossed MLK today in the crosswalk south of Skidmore. As usual, after about 5-6 cars blow by, someone in the near lane stops. As usual, two or three more cars in the far lane blow by the stopped car. Finally, a car in the far lane skids to a stop just barely in time to let me cross.

    It happens every time. Every. Single. Time.

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  • Dave November 10, 2009 at 10:52 am

    TICKETS ARE MUCH TOO CHEAP

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  • Vance Longwell November 10, 2009 at 11:13 am

    rixtr #31 – You know, I was hoping you or pee-jay would challenge that. Yes, “buzzed”. Buzzed on a bike, not a car. Buzzed on something very little different in purpose than stilts, or shoes, or glasses, or ladders, or paint-roller-handle-extensions.

    I’ve ridden all over this city, for my whole life, in various states of mental acuity. From impaired to sober, from mad to sad. I’ve never hurt, or even, inconvenienced anybody in that whole time. To me, that’s the very definition of innocent. Yet, you say I should face legal sanctions?

    We went through this when the Nanny State shoved their extra-bad laws down our throats in the first place. It’s double-frickin’ jeopardy. There are laws against running into people, impaired or not. There’s civil consequences to damaging property, or not. Above all, you have the freedom to stay home, rather than impede the freedom of others.

    It’s what we used to have judges for. If these pedantic violations didn’t match the carnage, they still had latitude to do a little book throwing. Making driving impaired a double-bad thing to do, was simply a distressed community caving into the Nanny-State demands from M.A.D.D.; and has only served to line the pockets of elitist liberals.

    That’s been so long ago, we’ve lost track of that. Drugs effect all people differently. Laws don’t. Why should I lose my freedom because somebody else is irresponsible, or inept, with theirs?

    Now, if you read all of that as an endorsement to operate anything on the highway while impaired, you belie the underlying irrationality that got us into the argument in the first place.

    This too. Portland is a party-town. If you did not know this prior to coming here, not my fault. This is Vice City. We smoke weed here, we drink beer here, and we party like there’s no tomorrow. If this offends, why did you move here? If it does offend, then why not move to the Bible-belt, or some other Nanny State bastion?

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  • rixtir November 10, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Vance,

    We’re talking about DRIVERS running down and killing pedestrians who are lawfully exercising their right of way in the crosswalk. We’re talking about enforcing EXISTING laws here.

    Your talk of poor people getting busted for riding buzzed, and bible belts, and nanny states is so far removed from the issue at hand that it just can’t be taken as a serious contribution to the discussion.

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  • fredlf November 10, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Still wondering what the 2% figure in the story refers to. Elly? Jonathon?

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  • Elly Blue (Editor) November 10, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Fred, thanks for the on-the-fly fact checking. Jonathan’s out of the office but I looked at the report and believe that the 2% figure refers to this table:

    http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign/table-5/

    The 2% figure is actually 1.5%. It indicates “Percent of Total Federal Funding Spent on Pedestrian &
    Bicycle Projects (2005-2008)”

    I’ll make sure this is what Jonathan was actually referring to before updating the story.

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  • fredlf November 10, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks v. much, Elly (I love this site, can you imagine the O being that responsive?). That table has some fascinating data.

    Good fuel to counter the ranters who whine about all the spending on bike infrastructure… Not that actual data matters to most of them, but still.

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  • Mark August 17, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Unbelievable local DOTs still allow mid block, unsignalized crosswalks on heavily traveled roads with known speeding problems. Unreal.

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