Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 27th, 2011 at 11:58 am
(Photo © J. Maus)
The infamous traffic circle in Ladd's Addition seems once again poised for headlines. The circle — which has frequently ignored stop signs at each entry point — is on one of Portland's busiest bike routes and it has been the sight of numerous police enforcement actions (a.k.a. "stings") over the years.
Some nearby residents (and members of the Hosford Abernethy Neighborhood Association) have a well-known dislike of bicycle operators who blow through the stop signs without considering the presence of people trying to cross. Tempers got so heated about these stops signs that last summer someone put up a trip-wire across the intersection in hopes of ensnaring a scofflaw.
Back in 2007, even PBOT all but admitted that stop signs at Ladd Circle aren't the right solution. In a statement, traffic engineer Scott Batson said PBOT has drawn up preliminary plans to turn what now considered a "traffic circle" in a "modern roundabout" with yield signs instead of stops.
However, to put up yield signs would require engineering changes and financial investment (estimated $160,000), that PBOT says aren't warranted because — despite what might be low compliance with the law and a lot of complaints from neighbors — the amount of crashes at the intersection is very low (two crashes in five years as of 2007).
But it seems the issue is coming back.
I received a press advisory this morning about a "Pedestrian Safety Action" to be held there tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon (4:30 - 6:30):
Bicycling Advocates Hold Pedestrian Safety Action in Portland's Ladd Circle
A group of Abernethy Elementary School parents will join the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in a pedestrian safety action along Ladd Avenue tomorrow. With support from the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition and the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation, this Crosswalk Safety Education Action will call attention to the need for people in cars and on bicycles to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
Community volunteers will line the streets entering the circle with Burma Shave-style signs, giving cyclists and motorists a reminder of our state's crosswalk laws. Not all crosswalks are painted. Every street corner is a crosswalk and, when a person is trying to cross the street, all road users (including bicyclists) must stop and stay stopped while the person crosses. Depending upon the success of tomorrow's action, the actions will continue around Abernethy throughout the summer and into the school year.
Ladd Circle has been the site of numerous police crackdowns on motorists and cyclists, who often fail to heed the stop signs entering the circle, thus posing a safety hazard for people walking.
Given that this issue has been around for so many years and shows no signs of slowing, it makes me wonder whether public outreach and more enforcement will be enough.
Perhaps it's time for those engineering changes? We shouldn't have to wait for a crash history to build up before acting — especially when PBOT engineers are well aware of the issues here, neighbors are upset, and law compliance is low (and creates an unsafe situation).
Or, a simpler and less expensive option might be to pass the "Idaho Style" law in Oregon (which was attempted back in 2009). Mia Birk, former PBOT bike coordinator, CEO of Alta Planning, and resident of the Ladd's Addition area recently advocated for the Idaho Style solution in an article for The Portland Tribune:
"A bicycle is not a motor vehicle. To expect bicycle riders to behave exactly like motorists is like expecting kayakers to follow the same rules as motor boaters. Ultimately, we need to tailor a set of laws that is based on cycling as its own form of transportation, rather than today’s the-bicycle-is-mostly-the-same-as-a-motor vehicle line of thinking."
— For more on this issue, see our Ladd Circle Stop Signs story archives.