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Mayor Adams releases statement on pedestrian safety

Posted by on November 10th, 2009 at 11:36 am

Copenhagenize in Portland-21
Mayor Sam Adams.
(Photo © J. Maus)

As we hinted at yesterday, Mayor Adams has released a statement in response the fatal collision on SE Foster last week.

Adams was expected to share plans for “immediate changes” to a crossing of SE Foster that was the site of two collisions last week (one woman died and another remains in critical condition) and has a hazardous history for people trying to walk across it. In the statement released just a few minutes ago, Adams says he was “saddened” by this tragedy. He then listed examples of initiatives taken by the Bureau of Transportation — which he has been in charge of since 2005 — to improve traffic safety.

Adams also pointed out how “budget challenges” threaten “key safety efforts” and that he has recommended Portland set aside $400,000 of new revenue the City will receive from the State of Oregon (thanks to increases to the gas tax and vehicle registration fees as passed in House Bill 2001) to “annually to improve pedestrian crossings such as the one at Foster and 80th”.

Even with the recent tragedy, Adams says, Portland is making progress. He cites an “encouraging” decline in fatality trends and touts a recent study by Transportation For America that ranks Portland as the 9th safest city for people who walk.

So, what about the immediate actions Adams will direct his PBOT staff to take to improve this intersection? From the statement:

“City staff and I are looking at the environment around the crosswalk for any possible improvements that would increase sightlines and overall visibility for both pedestrian and drivers. PBOT engineers will further investigate the location once they receive a report from Police, which is standard operating procedure following a transportation fatality.”

Read the Mayor’s full statement on the BikePortland Newswire (a new place where we’ll be publishing press releases).

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  • chad November 10, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Stepped up enforcment citywide…is that even being considered?

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  • hanmade November 10, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    How about hanging a crosswalk sign that flashes when you push a button? It would get the driver’s attention

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  • Dave November 10, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Or perhaps improved roadway to clarify usage? Or perhaps improved education so that people actually understand the law in regard to pedestrian/cyclist interaction?

    I’m getting the feeling more and more that any government in the U.S. is completely impotent to do anything real to limit the use of the automobile.

    They can improve safety numbers by changing pedestrian and cyclist behavior and rights and regulations (read, keep them out of the way of cars as much as possible), but God forbid they should actually tell people driving cars to do so responsibly, and then provide any real consequences if they don’t.

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  • Peter Noone November 10, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    @hanmade/2

    Interesting idea, but I’m not sure how well it would work. I use one of those every day, and it’s really hit or miss (please pardon the unintentional pun) whether drivers respect it.

    At the same time, there’s a crosswalk with no flashing lights near home that I use fairly regularly, and drivers there seem to be much more courteous.

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  • chad November 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    @ hanmade/2

    Sorry to poo-poo what seems like a good idea, but anyone who has tried to cross NE Marine Drive with the push-button flashing lights will tell you that it makes no difference to 90% of vehicles.

    Sad, but true

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  • bobcycle November 10, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I’m guessing statements made by Adams on Twitter about “immediate changes” after visiting the accident site were off the cuff and once he got back to office his staffers brought him back to budget reality. Also PBOT already addressed issues at 80th and Foster after the last fatality so any criticism or recommended changes would look like the Mayor is accusing PBOT of not doing their job. Ain’t politics grand. Autos are BIG, ride and walk like your life depends on it.

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  • bobcycle November 10, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    A few years back some folks showed up at SE Hawthorne and 38th with handmade stop signs. When ever a pedestrian wanted to cross these 2 folks would get out in the road and stop cars. It was awesome. If I remember correctly (help me if you remember differently) city officials put an end to it. Could sure use more folks like those two these days, sort of a pedestrian “Critical Mass”.

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  • q`Ztal November 10, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Surround crosswalk with those pop-up metal teeth that shred auto tires. Teeth pop up when crosswalk button is activated.
    Scofflaw auto drivers will disobey that only once.

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  • BURR November 10, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    +1 on comment #3, where is the motorist education, and where are the consequences to motorists?

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  • Paul November 10, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    I like q`Ztal’s idea. Or pop-up bollards. If a car smashes into them it’s stopped immediately. Then a giant bulldozer scrapes it off the road and normal traffic resumes :)

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  • wsbob November 10, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    bobcycle #6, I think you may have it right about the mechanisms of city hall not quite being up to speed with the reality of the bigger machines that affect ordinary citizens daily lives.

    Adams statement is sadly lacking a resolve to remedy the situation out at 80th and Foster that could have significantly increased his political reputation and credibility….in addition to improving the safety of people’s lives out in this neighborhood.

    I would have thought that Adams might at least have had people from the city, county, and state transportation departments go out to get a cost estimate that could be released to the public, for the installation of traffic signals that included a crosswalk light.

    If government agencies don’t have the money to install this necessary safety equipment, a cost figure might at least give the private sector some means of figuring out whether it could find the money to install signals.

    Re; the flashing yellow pedestrian crossing lights: bikeportland writers, within the last couple years, have reported on collision incidents out at the Marine Drive flashing yellow equipped intersections. These incidents(I can remember that at least one gentleman crossing on his bike was seriously injured in such an incident) showed that the yellow flashing light was not sufficient to keep people from being injured when using the crosswalk.

    Cars need to be made to stop in order for a person to safely cross at a crosswalk. A red light seems to make them stop better than a yellow flashing light does.

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  • Jackattak November 10, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    #8 +1! I’m all for it. I’ve actually had the notion to start walking around with a pocketful of ninja caltrops. Scofflaw drivers get a surprise when they blow by me in a crosswalk.

    Either way, Mayor Adams’ Head of Transportation responded to my email from last Thursday today, and told me to report any unsafe crossings to PBoT’s safety hotline:

    503.823.7233

    She also forwarded my complaint (SW Park and Market) to them for me, which I thought was very nice of her.

    I agree with all those who say education and enforcement is the easiest and most cost effective way to manage these problems (my jokes about vigilantism aside).

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  • Jackattak November 10, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    @ 11 wsbob,

    Lexus has a new LS coming out with pedestrian safety detection technology built-in. It stops the car immediately before it strikes a pedestrian traveling in front of the vehicle.

    This should be mandated in all cars. Not tomorrow, but NOW. Will it raise the cost of cars? YES! And that’s just the ticket. The more expensive cars get, the less of them there will be! w00t!

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 10, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    flashing yellow lights are a joke. several new ones have been installed recently to cross big streets on the I-205 multi-use path and i think they’re an accident waiting to happen.

    the flasher seem like a compromise to the much more effective HAWK signals like the one in use at 41st and Burnside.

    but guess why HAWK signals aren’t installed more often?…. they’re “too expensive”! (meaning the PBOT and ODOT feel that there are other more important priorities for their limited budgets than making sure people can walk across streets without fear of being run down.)

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  • Dave November 10, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    @Jackattak: I would rather see automobiles limited to 35mph, and their acceleration intentionally slowed. They would become more fuel efficient, safer and less prone to destruction-by-frustration. But of course, we could never live in a world where we could only go 35! (even though your average speed in the city is about 15-20 anyway)

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  • JR November 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    The costs, however high they need to be, should come from the gas tax. This is a problem because of irresponsible driving, old-school traffic engineers, “level of service” standards that prioritize auto movements at the cost of other projects (development and transit), etc.. We need to seriously increase gas tax to pay for these safety needs. It may discourage some drivers, but when it comes down to it, most drivers will hardly notice 10-20 cents more per gallon.

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  • Dave November 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    @JR: unfortunately, that means raising taxes, the mention of which will immediately send most Americans into a frenzy, and we just don’t really have the political will to go against that kind of thing, especially when it comes to automobiles.

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  • JJ November 10, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Jeez, what a shocker. Sam’s “immediate action” is to send out a press release about how great he is, how great Portland is, etc. Case closed.

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  • q`Ztal November 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Another +1 on #3
    More education for auto drivers.
    We can reasonably expect no increase in education from the DMV side of things. There aren’t enough cops to punish all the drivers, and cyclists, which are dangerous to the public. I don’t want to live in that police state.
    Time to reintroduce the School of Hard Knocks(tm).
    Decide to run through a crosswalk: those “tire teeth” impose a 4 tire replacement fee.
    Are you too important not to drive in the cycle track? A “Retractable Bollard” temporarily revokes your driving privileges.
    In general, for those most impervious to education before hand, the fines and consequences of bad driving are not enough to deter dangerous road use whether they use autos or bikes. The argument against larger fines is that it puts an undue hardship on the poor and allows the rich to flaunt the law. To this I say that fines for behavior are tailored for the stupidity of professional sports players, auto ticket fines could easily be based on you annual gross income (see IRS).
    But tire teeth are there 24/7 to punish bad drivers equally, rich or poor, for their dangerous behavior. No reason not to hook up a pressure sensor so when the teeth get hit a camera, like the red light systems, takes many pictures of the driver, witnesses and the pedestrian they ignored.

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  • Jackattak November 10, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    #19 q’Ztal -

    I would vote against the camera capturing the pedestrian (i.e. “Me”). I don’t want that many pictures of me flipping the bird in the hands of the city. :)

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  • Vance Longwell November 10, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    “Are you too important not to drive in the cycle track?”

    What is this? Are you too important to ride in the street? What do personal judgments like this solve? Maybe you’re projecting your entitlement onto others, have you ever thought of that?

    Does it ever occur to you that people just may enter into various activities without thinking about other people, and what they’re doing? When you talk about education and outreach, aren’t you talking about awareness?

    How can you be a safe highway user if you are constantly focused on the behaviors of others? Aren’t you supposed to be watching what you are doing? If you’re not, do you really suppose then that it’s personal entitlement causing the problem; and not the fact that people like you are on the highway completely unaware of your own behavior?

    Now quit writing. The sound waves produced by your fingers striking the keyboard have caused other wave and particulate matter to collide with wave and particulate matter that would have not been otherwise effected. You’re destroying the planet, and interfering with my enjoyment of natural wave and particulate matter formations.

    One option, since it’s so bad out there, is to take the bus. Another is to not leave your home. Yet another still would be to learn that minor annoyances do occur, and you have to take it, no matter what mommy told her good little boy.

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  • Elly Blue (Editor) November 10, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Heated as these issues are, please everyone stick to them and refrain from launching personal attacks against other commenters.

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  • Brad November 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    +1 to JJ’s comment. Sad and very true.

    You’re the freakin’ MAYOR, Sam! Order Chief Sizer to put a few moto cops on some major intersections like this, conduct a sting, and then do your favorite thing: invite the media to publicize your safety effort and televise the crackdown. It might actually make you look strong and leader-like!

    “Blah, blah…budget constraints…blah, blah…blue ribbon task force…blah, blah…remove some shrubs…blah, blah…I’m doing everything I can with limited resources…blah, blah…Portland is great!

    This guy would rather call a press conference than call for action.

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  • Paul November 10, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Note the $400K that Adams is recommending be added for improvements is contingent on Measures 66/67 passing in January. If they fail the money is likely lost.

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  • david (the other one) November 10, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    I have to say some of these comments make me laugh so hard my sides hurt. Visions of Transformers spring to mind. Sorry, its a serious subject and I’ll try to be so.
    IMHO all people, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists are suprised to encounter different behaviour than they are use to.
    When I’m walking across streets I try to make eye contact with oncomming motorists. When I’m riding I try to draw attention first by waving, or shaking my hand and then signaling right or left, when commanding the imperial death trap, I first check to see other drivers behind me as I slow and signal, or signal and merge.
    None of these things I do mean anyone else should do them, and they don’t always elisit the responce I expect, but sometimes I actually get a smile, I know its rare but just enough to remind me we’re all just people trying to get somewhere.
    P.S. I do like the idea of pop-up bollards. Maybe they could go up to ten feet high.

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  • BURR November 10, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    @ Vance #21 – getting dead is more than a minor annoyance.

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  • t27 November 10, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Traffic bollards would work – hope the link works

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWnfeDtnuds

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  • Lisa G November 10, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    It is sad that it takes a fatality for this issue to get the attention it deserves. I am hoping that the planning department recognizes the need for more area treatments to prevent this type of scenario. I put my comments in to the Bicycle Master Plan about the blind bike crosing intersection at Prescott and NE 37th. Speeds are increasing on these roads and are rarely enforced. Lately I’ve also been noticing motorists taking advantage of the bike/ped HAWK signal crossing at 41st and E.Burnside, trying to squeeze bikes out of the way so they can get the jump on the light. I will position myself and my bike in front of the car so when the light activates for the crossing, I go first. Some impatient drivers are not happy about it; the last time I had the guy reving his engine behind me trying to scare me out of his way as I watched him in my mirror. That crossing is for bikes and peds and motorists should not expect us to yield to them unless they are willing to get out of their vehicles and stretch their leg across the moat to press the button. I should not be expected to do this for them so they can race ahead of me forcing me to breath their exhaust. It’s not only rude but dangerous as well. Right of way rules need to be emphasized in the written tests. (Vance, the next time you try this I will make sure I ride as slowly as possible in front of you, all the while putting out the most benevolent brain waves possible. You will not be able to resist the power of my positive thinking, so that by the end of the block you will be smiling as your inner child radiates with unconditional love.)

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  • joe November 11, 2009 at 1:53 am

    sam can’t order sizer to do anything – he gave that up as a first order of business.

    if Sam, or the Bureau of Transportation thinks that the intersection on 80th and Foster is “as safe as possible” then we just have different ideas of what is safe or what is possible, I guess.

    from sam’s release:
    I set traffic safety as my top priority. The Portland Bureau of Transportation works with Portlanders to make all pedestrian crossings in the city as safe as possible through a resourceful and community-focused combination of engineering, enforcement and education. The crosswalk at SE Foster and 80th is no exception.

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  • bobcycle November 11, 2009 at 9:01 am

    “Construct more than 300 Green Streets, curb extensions, pedestrian refuge islands,” From mayor Adams press release. Rather than slow traffic, I find that curb extensions and refuge islands narrow lanes making it more dangerous for those on bikes. Another approach would be to lower speed limit in areas where pedestrians are having trouble crossing. “Refuge Islands” seem to be designed as a place to take refuge where autos are breaking the law by not yielding to pedestrians.

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  • fredlf November 11, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Agreed that the flashing yellow lights are all but useless. What I’ve noticed at the Marine Dr. intersection is that drivers are far less likely to stop for bikes than they are for peds (though in either case, many, many motorists blow through the flashing yellow).

    I’ve noticed the same bias against stopping for bikes in the crosswalk elsewhere too. The only way I can explain it is that motorists think the person on the bike is “cheating” by using a crosswalk that is supposed to be for pedestrians. That’s just speculation on my part, though.

    Do they still teach Driver’s Ed in high schools?

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  • Lisa G November 11, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Fred,

    It’s possible that riding a bike in a crosswalk is frowned on, not everyone rides as slow as someone walking. I do so when pedestrians are using it or I get off my bike and walk across. I hope they still teach Driver’s Ed, I think they should also teach defensive driving.

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  • Jackattak November 11, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Are bikes even allowed on sidewalks in Portland? I honestly thought they were not (exception: Park Blocks).

    If I was incorrect in that logic and bikes are allowed on sidewalks, I would continue to believe that they were to be walked across a crosswalk as opposed to ridden?

    Someone more educated than I feel free to let me know the actual answers while I go look them up. :)

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  • Dave November 11, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Bikes are generally allowed on sidewalks, except downtown. I think it is generally frowned upon though, when it’s feasible to ride in the road.

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  • Jackattak November 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Good to know. I’ll stop yelling “sidewalks are for WALKING” at all the cyclists Downtown, now. :)

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  • Dave November 11, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Downtown, you should – it’s illegal to ride on sidewalks downtown :) Just not elsewhere.

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  • fredlf November 11, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Lisa G #32. I’ve seen this behavior when I am stopped at the crosswalk with my foot down. If it’s just me, I almost always wait longer than if there are some pedestrians there. It’s my theory that many drivers simply don’t know that a bike can legally use the crosswalk. Judging by the scowls I often get when I make eye-contact with those drivers, it’s not a bad theory.

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  • Loren November 12, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Vancouver has an awesome crosswalk on west mill plain. There are actually lights marking the crossing in the pavement. They really catch driver’s attention because they’re at eye level and directly in front of them.

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  • wsbob November 12, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I have a little route on which I sometimes opt to take the sidewalk/crosswalk through an intersection instead of wait in the lane for the light to change; the intersection’s on a steep hill, 5 lanes of traffic. At the other side of the intersection, I rejoin the bike lane. I’ve never sensed a bad reaction from anyone for doing that;people in cars, bike, or on foot.

    I do know someone though, that in casual conversation, commonly drops resentful remarks about people on bikes; not riding on ‘expensive taxpayer dollar paid for bike lanes’…riding on the sidewalk, or in traffic instead, never stopping for stop signs, never signaling turns…yadda, yadda, yadda. Some of the complaint is valid, some is just antagonistic and otherwise superfluous.

    For me, the remarks help sustain my awareness that the transportation mode gap in the Portland Metro area is still far from having the functionality it needs. In too many instances, the infrastructure is simply not good enough to support a safe coexistence of motor vehicles, bikes and people on foot. Some people will walk and ride nontheless…motor vehicle drivers will drive around them…but the alliance between the three groups has a lot of room for improvement.

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