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Q&A on ‘Vision Zero’: Three fatalities put city’s new safety promise to the test

Posted by on February 17th, 2014 at 9:14 am

BTA Alice Awards 2010-36
We asked Bicycle Transportation Alliance Director Rob
Sadowsky to discuss Vision Zero in more detail.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Yan Huang, 78, was crossing Division Street on Valentine’s Day with her 80-year-old husband, walking in an unmarked crosswalk from curb to rounded-off curb across five lanes of auto traffic. She never reached the other side; a man in a left-turning pickup didn’t see the couple and steered into them, killing Huang.

The next day, Saturday, a silver minivan, whose driver remains at large, left the scene of its fatal collision with a person on foot on Southeast Powell at 124th.

On Sunday, a man was killed in a car when the drunken driver he was riding with slammed into a utility pole at Northeast 102nd and Fremont.

Deaths like these make news, but they’re not new. About one in 50 Americans will die an automobile crash. What’s new is that Portland’s transportation director says the city can and will begin to do something systematic to change this.

Safety advocates are urging fast action. Early Monday morning Oregon Walks launched a #PDXVisionZero Twitter hashtag and a petition to urge the city to follow through on Director Leah Treat’s promise to move toward “Vision Zero,” the philosophy that there is no acceptable level of traffic fatality.

But is Vision Zero more than a buzzword? Are such deaths truly preventable? Is preventing them worth the cost? On Friday I asked street-safety advocate Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, to talk about this concept and what it might actually mean for Portland.

“I said, ‘This is our agenda; we’re going to want it to be your agenda.’”
— BTA Director Rob Sadowsky on Vision Zero, to incoming PBOT Director Leah Treat.

BikePortland: What do you think of city Transportation Director Leah Treat’s saying that Vision Zero will become part of city policy?

Rob Sadowsky: Great. It was one of the first things I talked to her about even before she came here. I said, “This is our agenda, we’re going to want it to be your agenda.” She’s been cautious from the beginning; it’s really exciting to see that she’s willing to put in in.

[Mayor] Charlie [Hales] had committed to it on the campaign trail, but we really hadn’t seen that vision play out in terms of implementation.

BP: The idea of Vision Zero is that every traffic death can and should be prevented before it happens. That’s more than just making efforts to make streets safer, right? Because every city does that — even as they’re building unsafe streets.

RS: We need to look at design, we need to look at level of service, we need to look at education and enforcement. We’re still making decisions based on [traffic] flow as a first priority, and Barbur is a good example.

We need to start those conversations about what that looks like with Multnomah County and other insitutions that have some control over our roads. We need to get the commissioner [of transportation] behind it; it can’t just be the bureau director.


BP: What’s a specific example you could imagine of Vision Zero in action in Portland?

RS: When the city makes decisions about temporarily adjusting traffic – around Timbers games, for example. [Former city Transportation Director] Tom Miller had this idea that you would take Burnside and bring it down to one lane near the park in order to accommodate the swells of pedestrians that are coming out of the park. The way we’ve been acting today is that flow is more important. The Vision Zero policy would say, “No, nothing is more important than the safety of those pedestrians.” The folks who are making decisions about even something like a detour or a temporary traffic management plan should be taking into account Vision Zero.

The Vision Zero policy really says, no matter what, we’re not going to tolerate a fatality. My perspective and what I think I just heard from Leah is, this is the only moral way to approach this.

SE Division and 84th, where a woman was
killed Friday morning as she walked across the street.
(Image: Google Street View.)

BP: But could you really justify spending, to pick a ridiculous number, $100 million to prevent a single death? Because my understanding is that Vision Zero would say you should. That just seems to me like a worship of death — as if preventing death is more important than all the other things in people’s lives.

RS: I think it’s a question of what you value. For me it becomes personal. When I see families impacted by traffic fatalities, it seems preventable.

I’m not sure we can prevent all fatalities. Nor am I sure that we have the political will or, I don’t know, the chutzpah, to take some of the steps on the enforcement side. We continue to tolerate people driving while intoxicated or driving while distracted and give those people their licenses back. A Vision Zero policy within the city isn’t enough. We need it within the state and we need it at the DMV.

Not all these problems are systemic, and not all of them are going to cost $100 million.

BP: So is Vision Zero basically a managerial tactic that communicates to employees what they should be prioritizing?

RS: Yeah. I always think that planners, engineers, are some of the best problem solvers. If we define the problem for engineers as, “How do you move traffic through quickly?” they will make different decisions than if we define the problem as “How do we do it without the following consequences?”

I think it can also stand the test of common reason. Can you explain it to the general public? “If we take this step, it’s going to be safer.”

Qs & As edited for clarity and brevity. The views expressed in the Qs above are my own; you can read more about Vision Zero in our archives here and here. The Oregon Walks petition is here. -MA

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Comments
  • Jane February 17, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Lower speed limits and enforce the hell out of them first and foremost.

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  • Dave February 17, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Time to punish the whole class for the pranks of the bad kids–stop treating auto theft and vandalism as crimes until there is a year with zero pedestrian fatalities. Has any city/state/county ever tried this?

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  • Evan Manvel February 17, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Great interview – thanks, Michael and Rob.

    And as much as I’m a fan of enforcement against dangerous speeds, I think the more sustainable approach is reshaping our streets — bollards, neckdowns, bike corrals, removing of paint, 9 foot lanes when you have lanes instead of 12 foot lanes, signal timing, etc. etc.

    All the physical signals should tell a story that safely and efficiently traveling in a car means 20 mph.

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    • Charley February 17, 2014 at 10:24 am

      I want to “like” this about 40 times.

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    • Andrew Seger February 17, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Hear, hear. Just look at outer division: two lanes of parking, two five foot bike lanes, four travel lanes that are at least 12 feet and a wide turn lane. With just a little paint we could narrow the travel lanes, buffer some bike lanes and turn those parking lanes into bus only lanes. A few traffic lights at $250,000 should smooth out speed and help crossings. Best of all ODOT doesn’t control this road. How much of that could we do for the 1.5 million we’re about to spend on putting one block of streetcar track in?

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      • nuovorecord February 18, 2014 at 8:37 am

        Yep. Add all of that together, and it just screams at drivers, “Drive Fast!” Clearly, not the message we should be sending.

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    • at February 17, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      http://www.portlandpulse.org/traffic_fatalities_and_injuries

      According to the Portland pulse site, there were 31 serious injuries and 8 pedestrian deaths in 2011, in Multnomah Co. We have data mapping where these occur (xings at 122nd and 82nd being priority). Here’s one such map:

      http://blogtown.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2011/02/09/city-transportation-safety-summit-the-good-the-bad-the-wtf

      Vision Zero is meaningless unless defined operationally. Under conditions where there is no designated crosswalk, a high speed corridor, and a prior death or injury etc. the city will… A true Vision Zero would dedicate funding for prevention at each of these intersections that fulfills specific criteria. We should expect the city to define it using these terms, or not really expect much.

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    • paikikala February 18, 2014 at 11:26 am

      How do you fit a bus or truck in a 9-foot lane (don’t forget the mirrors)?

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    • wsbob February 18, 2014 at 11:55 am

      “…And as much as I’m a fan of enforcement against dangerous speeds, I think the more sustainable approach is reshaping our streets — bollards, neckdowns, bike corrals, removing of paint, 9 foot lanes when you have lanes instead of 12 foot lanes, signal timing, etc. etc.

      All the physical signals should tell a story that safely and efficiently traveling in a car means 20 mph.” Evan Manvel

      I notice you’ve yet to offer any, so I suppose I’d be interested in reading some of your ideas of examples of where you think reshaping/narrowing streets from 12′ wide to 9′ wide, would be a good idea.

      Personally, at present, as a means to safer, more livable streets, I generally favor lower speed limits, and refraining from the standard practice of expanding two lane road widths to allow for four, five, and more lanes of motor vehicle travel. Realistically, 9′ for safe travel, is getting kind of slim, even for many of today’s smaller cars. 10′ may be a more suitable compromise. And as paikikala notes here:

      http://bikeportland.org/2014/02/17/qa-on-vision-zero-three-fatalities-put-citys-new-safety-promise-to-the-test-101457#comment-4502569

      …9′ street widths could pose a serious challenge to effective, safe use of buses for mass transit.

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  • Alexis February 17, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Michael, I wish you would stop with the strawman framing for finances around Vision Zero. The implementation of such a policy, as Rob notes, is a systemic effort around a particular goal. It refocuses the entire system on a different goal, or on a different ranking of goals.

    Such efforts will cost money, but no effort that is made is directed toward preventing a singular fatality. Efforts are directed at making a system that is safe enough that no fatalities will occur. There’s no evidence that the frame you like to introduce, of expensive efforts to prevent a single fatality, would ever become reality. This is especially the case since fatalities tend to be systemic and recur in the same kinds of conditions repeatedly, as I think the crashes in East Portland demonstrate quite clearly.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) February 17, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Thanks, Alexis. Last night (long after the above interview was complete) I reread our exchange on this from 2011. I think you’re right that there is a better way to capture the “no tradeoff is acceptable” concept than to imagine some hypothetical hugely expensive situation, which is what I’ve done in the past and which I agree isn’t literally the choice before us.

      However, I feel strongly that we need to fully face what “no level of fatality is acceptable” means. To my knowledge we don’t apply a similar standard to anything else in social policy. I’m looking for a better way of communicating that Vision Zero is more than “we reeeeeeally hate traffic fatalities, no seriously.” I respect your opinion and I’d love your suggestions.

      Vision Zero as I understand it says we should make streets safer even if it makes 30 people who live on a street angry, even if it sharply restricts freight access to a significant local business, even if it significantly increases emergency vehicle response times. It’s not that those things are necessarily wrong, it’s just that the Portland I know would never actually prioritize traffic safety in any of those situations. So unless we have an honest understanding of what VZ means, it won’t mean much.

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      • Andrew Seger February 17, 2014 at 10:51 am

        “To my knowledge we don’t apply a similar standard to anything else in social policy.” Much of the public health rhetoric is the same. Eg, there’s a “vision zero” for polio and smallpox. Cancer, and cancer research, also fits in with this spare no expense mantra. Vision zero would almost certainly be cheaper than any of these, and of the roadblocks you mentioned (making people angry, restricting freight movement) none has an astronomical price tag associated with them. I agree with Alexis about the problematic framing, clearly the issue is with convenience-not dollar amounts.

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  • Charley February 17, 2014 at 10:21 am

    So far, it looks like Business Parking Griping is more important than Vision Zero.
    -
    http://bikeportland.org/2014/02/14/citys-top-idea-for-28th-avenue-has-shared-lane-in-one-direction-buffer-in-the-other-101442

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  • Mike February 17, 2014 at 10:25 am

    None of these are speed issues. They’re all east portland issues both in terms of class and infrastructure issues. There are few street lamps, even fewer controlled pedestrian crossings etc(which cyclists blast through anyway).

    My fellow cyclists do the same as the man blind rolling through what should have been a stop every day, the same laziness that he fell into is the same as everyone who refuses to stop and look.

    For once, let’s look at east portland and start improving it. There are no rainswales, cross walks, parks, sidewalks, or hell even similar paved roads east of 82nd while north portland and inner SE have city planted trees on sidewalks with bike corrals etc.

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  • Joe February 17, 2014 at 11:11 am

    truly sad, until we get stronger laws in place we will hear 2 key things 1) the driver faced no charges or 2) at large aka hit n run.

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    • q`Tzal February 17, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      I’ll put my money on self driving cars being the thing that historians will look back at as the only measure that ever made a significant difference in human related automotive deaths.

      I pin this belief not on misanthropy (I plead the 5th; I’m told I’m human too) but on the American philosophical Ouroboros that gave us our current driving culture (“we hafta drive everywhere… because! We just have to! BECAUSE!) that has put us in a place where we allow any adult to drive regardless of ability and we argue over the reall meaning of the word “accident”.
      We as a society refuse to admit that WE are the problem. As long as that is the status quo American drivers will be the biggest cause of death of other Americans, period.

      Maybe centuries from now these same historians will look back and postulate that our lax to non-existent driver enforcement was a societal experiment in population control gone wrong.

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      • El Biciclero February 19, 2014 at 11:46 am

        And the framing by many auto marketing campaigns of “Driving as War” (“Aggression in its most elegant form” [Lexus?], “In the face of that kind of power, who wouldn’t surrender?” [Dodge] vs. all the safety features included in cars to defend yourself against other drivers) makes other drivers and road users out to be “The Enemy”–they’re either impeding your progress or trying to get you to “surrender”. We’ve fostered a competitive attitude toward getting from one place to another. I hold out no hope that marketeers will stop pandering to folks’ need to feel powerful/superior and to “win” the race that is getting to the next stop light, but is there anything to be done to counter this influence and attitude? Any way to begin a cultural shift away from competition on the road to cooperation? I mean, competition has its place–and I admit I have to consciously tell myself not to treat driving as a competition–but competitive driving really provides no material advantage when just going from A to B.

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  • wsbob February 17, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    I hope the ‘Vision Zero’ objective produces good results. It’s at least, a commendable effort.

    Re; the first collision on Valentines day, described in this story, of Yan Huang and her 80-year-old husband:

    “…walking in an unmarked crosswalk from curb to rounded-off curb across five lanes of auto traffic. …” andersen/bikeportland

    “…had been walking corner-to-corner – which, under Oregon law, is an unmarked crosswalk…”http://www.oregonlive.com/weather/index.ssf/2014/02/southeast_portland_crash_on_va.html#incart_river_default

    Information above suggests they were diagonally crossing the intersection, which is probably rarely a good idea for the way it exposes vulnerable road users to additional vehicle traffic over that of a 90 degree crossing. What I can see in the picture accompanying the Oregonian story, is that number of lanes to be crossed diagonally, was at least six. Looks like Division here, may have bike lanes, which would be another two lanes.

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    • wsbob February 17, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      I may have messed up the URL for the O story, by putting a quotation mark at its beginning, because it doesn’t show up here as a link. I’ll try again:

      http://www.oregonlive.com/weather/index.ssf/2014/02/southeast_portland_crash_on_va.html#incart_river_default

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    • Kristi Finney-Dunn February 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      I went to the scene at 84th and Division that afternoon because it was just two blocks from where my son was killed. The police were gone, a news crew was still there. The road is four traffic lanes, a center turn lane, two bike lanes, two parking lanes. The intersections do not line up from one side of Division to the other. The markings, remaining debris, and conversation with the news reporter led me to believe the couple was in a legal unmarked crosswalk north to south and were hit while crossing the center turn lane by a man who turned east out of 84th directly behind them. It seems to me they safely negotiated traffic on Division itself in a legal manner but unfortunately did not have eyes in the backs of their heads for the danger coming from the side road behind them: a driver who apparently did not look well enough (I suspect he saw a gap in automobiles and was not looking for pedestrians).

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    • El Biciclero February 19, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      “Information above suggests they were diagonally crossing the intersection, which is probably rarely a good idea for the way it exposes vulnerable road users to additional vehicle traffic over that of a 90 degree crossing.”

      Depending on your definition of “diagonal”, they were only doing so to the extent required by law. A) The article describes their path as “an unmarked crosswalk”, which is not true of diagonals. B) Corners exist at all vertices of the quadrilateral described by most intersections; one can walk “corner to corner” along an edge of that quadrilateral just as easily as one could walk “corner to corner” along a diagonal. Plus, given the rhomboid configuration of this particular intersection, the diagonal crossing is actually closest to being perpendicular to Division. Also, given the configuration of this intersection, had the couple crossed on the diagonal, they would have been nearly completely out of the path of any vehicle making a left turn as described in the article (“turned east from Southeast 84th Avenue”). I wonder whether their decision about which crossing route to take was influenced at all by the use (or not) of turn signals by the driver.

      So, they were apparently crossing along a non-perpendicular path, but it was indeed the prescribed unmarked crosswalk pedestrians are required to use. There is no blame to be placed on the victims, here.

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  • Patrick February 17, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    It also takes enforcing the speed limit as the MAXIMUM, not minimum, speed limit. I wonder why there is a supposed 7-10mph “wiggle room” above the posted speed limit? What if people going any faster than 25mph on street with that posted speed limit got a ticket? Or at the very least a warning? I live on a neighborhood “arterial” that’s treated like a residential-freeway, the speed limit is posted as 25mpg but the stats (from the city and the police) show a majority of people go between 30 – 35mph (and upwards of 60mph). When I asked for police enforcement they sent a radar but actually to me people have to go more than 10mph over the posted speed limit to get flashed. On a largely residential street?! Come on. Let’s start enforcing the posted speed limit as a maximum and see how different things could be.

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    • Opus the Poet February 17, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      Agreed, this is a holdover from earlier days when speed measuring equipment on cars and by the police was much less precise than it is today. Now we have speedometers that are both accurate and precise to less than 1 MPH and readable to 1 MPH, ditto with laser and radar units. I remember when speedometers were readable to +/-5 MPH because of styling over function and everyone “knew” their speedo was “5 MPH over”. Speed limits should mean speed LIMITS as in 1 MPH over will get you busted. I suggest speeding should be punished by a minimum fine plus a per MPH over the limit to make catching the 1 over guys worth the effort.

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    • Jane February 17, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      Agreed, with pull over and written warning for going exactly at the top of the limit. No “warnings” for over limit. Arrest and jail time starting at 15 over the limit which should be no higher than 20 in city limits.

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    • wsbob February 17, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      5mph latitude over posted of 25mph and higher speed limits, would be workable and fair.

      It’s interesting to read some people’s comments here, suggesting a citation be issued for any speed over posted, even 1mph, without any apparent thought whatsoever about how that could be made to work out in actual practice.

      I’d like to read some of your ideas about…if the state, county, whatever…were to adopt such a policy…what means you think people driving would use to avoid exceeding posted speed limit by as little as one mph over posted.

      Also, what means you believe the city, state, county, etc, could realistically apply to have people keep their vehicle speed within the limit you suggest; not just token enforcement details that may temporarily confine speeds traveled in spot locations to the posted speed limit and below. Instead, how the means and ideas you have would bring about actual change in road user habits that would have them no longer exceed posted speed limits by even as little as 1 mph over.

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      • dr2chase February 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm

        One reason for the not-one-mile-over approach to low speed limits around pedestrians is that the risk of fatality in a crash (not even accounting for changes in crash rates) rises rapidly in the 20-30mph range — one source I’ve seen claimed from 5% to 45%, though I didn’t see that large a difference here: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/pub/hs809012.html

        It has a lot to do with whether you take a speed/convenience of motorists POV, or a risk-reduction POV. There’s a whole lot of risk reduced by keeping speeds low and not fudging.

        A second reason is that we cyclists only want the best for motorists, and this frequent lawbreaking will cause us to lose all respect for them. Surely you’ve heard, “same roads, same rules” — many of us also drive, and we would not want a few bad apples to make us all look bad and interfere with our rights as drivers.

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        • dr2chase February 17, 2014 at 8:31 pm

          PS, regarding risk reduction — one way to compare risk reduction from low and strictly-enforced speed limits is to compare that with the risk reduction that we obtain from other popular measures — for example, proposals that cyclists should wear helmets. They’re far from perfect — they don’t provide perfect protection, and head injuries are not the sole cause of cyclist fatality. My best guess (from eyeballing fatality rates, for instances in OECD, “Cycling, Health and Safety”) is that helmet use might cut your bike crash death risk by 30% — for example, if the fatality rate is 20 per 100-million-trips, perfect helmet use might lower it to 14 per 100-million trips. Or, to not wear the helmet, is to increase your risk by 50%. (I don’t want to get into the helmets argument — I am talking about the credible most-favorable estimates used to justify telling cyclists how important it is to wear a helmet. This is the belief/stats that motivate helmet proponents. I aim to show that minor amounts of speeding result in a similar level of risk increase, only applied to other people, which makes it worse.)

          On that previous NHTSA link, no matter which estimate you choose from that page, a 5mph increase gives a crash fatality risk increase that is well larger than 50% (and again, these seem to be fatality given that a crash occurs, so any effects from crashes avoided altogether do not appear there). That’s relative risk increase, but because per-trip bicycle and pedestrian risk rates are very similar (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23618122 for details for BC; US is in the same ballpark) the absolute risk increases are also similar.

          If the 20mph=5%, 30mph=45% fatality rates are the correct ones, and if we fit an exponential curve in that range, then a 2% increase in speed compounds the risk by 55% (i.e., 22mph = 5% x 1.55 = 7.8%). And again, to get an overall risk, we must also combine the crash-fatality risk with the crash-at-all risk.

          It is my opinion that though we do have many nanny-state laws, it is more important to have laws that inhibit harm to others, since we are in fact pretty good at self-perservation, especially in the short-term (i.e., we may eat stupidly over the years, but we will not knowingly step in front of a moving auto). We should rationally react with more shock/horror/dismay at the prospect of someone exceeding a (low, including 20mph) speed limit by a mere 2mph than we do at the sight of a cyclist riding unhelmeted — speeding like that is an equally large increase in fatality risk, but it is an other-people risk, not a self-risk.

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          • 9watts February 17, 2014 at 8:36 pm

            dr2chase –
            you win!

            brilliant.

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          • Opus the Poet February 17, 2014 at 11:18 pm

            You’re greatly overstating the protection factor of a bike helmet, but since you’re just hypothesizing I’ll let it pass.

            There are many factors involved with fatality reduction from wearing a bicycle helmet, not the least of which is the number of people that died from head trauma who would have died from another injury had they worn a magic helmet that prevented 100% of all head trauma. That’s not a small fraction of the total, and of course there is also the fraction that died from other causes with not a scratch on their noggins… and I’m not going to converse any more about it, because this is a discussion of infrastructure. Infrastructure will save more people than helmets.

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            • dr2chase February 18, 2014 at 5:47 am

              Opus, I know full well that I gave an extremely optimistic estimate for the protective power of a helmet — that is necessary to make the argument.

              If the best a helmet can do is still smaller than the harm reduction you get from speed control with 2mph, that means that rationality and consistency require any helmet advocate of any sort (like the strangers who will talk up to you if they see you on a bike without a helmet — I usually wear a helmet, but when I don’t, that happens, even on car-free paths) must be an even more enthusiastic advocate for low speed limits with very small fudge factors on enforcement.

              Note that in both cases there may be better ways to obtain the desired goal — infrastructure clearly works better than helmets, and is also the recommended approach to reducing speeds, since drivers hate traffic law enforcement unless it is applied to Other People.

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        • wsbob February 18, 2014 at 1:56 am

          “…One reason for…” dr2chase

          Re-read the comment. Try recognize the questions in it, then try answer them.

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          • dr2chase February 18, 2014 at 5:35 am

            Wsbob, you’re imagining problems. We have accurate speed measurement devices, we are certainly technically able to automatically give tickets to cars exceeding speed limits. Enforcement need not be token. There are no laws of physics hindering us here.

            It is true that drivers (who are a majority) may object in numbers that makes this politically infeasible; however, this would reveal the majority to be largely ignorant of actual risk and/or (at best) inconsistent in their approach to risk, and (this would be utterly no surprise, and consistent with many studies of human behavior) each overconfident in their own ability to avoid crashing into people and thus a special butterfly to whom the speed limit should not apply so strictly. (And I’m being kind; this casual trading of the statistical lives of others for our own time and calling it “fair” verges on the sociopathic.) We could perhaps undertake a thorough campaign of education, through PSAs, modifications to driver licensing, and slightly higher hurdles at driver relicensing. But beyond that, this is purely a matter of political power, and given the determined ignorance and/or indifference to the welfare of others that it reflects, not something that is good or needs preserving.

            Those driving old cars (like mine) that lack accurate and/or precise speedometers will simply drive somewhat conservatively (given that my speedometer is actually completely broken, I already do this — not sure a broken speedo passes inspection in all states.)

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            • wsbob February 18, 2014 at 10:54 am

              “Wsbob, you’re imagining problems. We have accurate speed measurement devices, we are certainly technically able to automatically give tickets to cars exceeding speed limits. Enforcement need not be token. There are no laws of physics hindering us here. …” dr2chase

              You’re not answering the questions I raised in the comment the following link leads to:

              http://bikeportland.org/2014/02/17/qa-on-vision-zero-three-fatalities-put-citys-new-safety-promise-to-the-test-101457#comment-4500712

              If those basic questions about driving motor vehicles, enforcing traffic laws, and affecting changes in the habits of people that drive, cannot be answered, there’s likely little chance of accomplishing the “…not-one-mile-over…” objective suggested by some people in comments responding to this story.

              “…drivers…” dr2chase

              This is people you’re referring to. And from them, apparently you’re hoping for some acquiescence to the idea of not exceeding posted speed limits by even as much as one mph over posted. Using the manner in which you in your remarks, refer to, and seem to think of people driving motor vehicles, I would say it’s doubtful that any such acquiescence, co-operation, and support for “…not-one-mile-over…”, can be expected from them.

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              • 9watts February 18, 2014 at 11:02 am

                wsbob,
                what is the practical/administrative/technical difference when it comes to enforcement of a not-one-mile-over-posted vs a not-twelve-miles-over-posted rule? I don’t see your point. Psychologically I think it would be vastly preferable. You know, the old yes-means-yes; 25-means-25 (not-36) mph.

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                • 9watts February 18, 2014 at 3:02 pm

                  wsbob,
                  you keep telling us to re-read your comment. Have you considered that the problem may not be with our comprehension but with your thinking, or articulation?

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                • wsbob February 18, 2014 at 11:01 pm

                  9watts
                  wsbob,
                  you keep telling us to re-read your comment. Have you considered that the problem may not be with our comprehension but with your thinking, or articulation?
                  Recommended 2

                  I’ve said nothing about your comprehension. You asked me a question. Having thought about what you asked, my feeling about what might best help you answer your question…rather than me attempt to recompose what I asked earlier…was for you to re-read and think more about questions I raised in the earlier comment.

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              • dr2chase February 18, 2014 at 11:44 am

                “what means you think people driving would use to avoid exceeding posted speed limit by as little as one mph over posted.”

                The same means that they currently use to avoid exceeding posted speed limits by whatever fudge factor happens to locally apply. It should be easier, since the limit will be explicit.

                “means you believe the city, state, county, etc, could realistically apply to have people keep their vehicle speed within the limit you suggest”

                Automated issuance of tickets from speed cameras. The technology exists and has even been deployed in some places. Some drivers don’t like it, but it is clearly realistic — the devices exist, they work.

                “how the means and ideas you have would bring about actual change in road user habits that would have them no longer exceed posted speed limits by even as little as 1 mph over”

                Either the negative reinforcement of receiving (many) tickets would change their behavior, or they would accumulate so many points on their license that it would eventually be yanked, and thus those drivers unable to control the speed of their automobiles would be removed from the population of drivers.

                You might claim that these answers are increasingly not realistic because drivers (a majority, that can vote for or against these measures) value their own time and convenience over the safety, comfort, and convenience of cyclists and pedestrians, and that may be the case, but *if* that is the case, we know how much respect drivers (as a majority and voting class) actually deserve. The point of my comparison with proposed helmet laws was to make it clear that the risks involved are of a magnitude that many people claim is important. This is apparently a real risk, and it’s worse because it is directed at others, not self, so if drivers choose not to take it seriously, it makes them (as a class, that votes and exerts political power) as a bunch of hypocrites, perhaps even sociopaths. This is not a matter of a few bad apples making the rest look bad — if the majority exercises political power, they own that result.

                One might similarly ask, with such “realistic” constraints, if you would ever get any cyclist or pedestrian to take you or any other driver seriously when lecturing cyclists or pedestrians on “safety” or the importance of obeying traffic laws, helmets, etc.

                And yes, I am very much taking the rhetoric applied to cyclists, twisting it with facts (or stats, as the case may be), and tossing it right back at the sloppy-driving status quo. My aim is to discredit the rhetoric, and make the status quo look as bad as it is. We get zero-tolerance whining about all those law-breaking cyclists — so by all means, let’s have zero tolerance for everyone. And suddenly, we find that “we have to be realistic”. Funny, that.

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                • wsbob February 18, 2014 at 2:53 pm

                  “…You might claim that these answers are increasingly not realistic because drivers (a majority, that can vote for or against these measures) …” dr2chase

                  The answers you’ve provided may not be realistic, because, as you’ve noted, people can vote against, or withhold their support of measures and things such as proposals for road use laws they don’t believe are tenable.

                  Enforcement devices to monitor vehicle speed, such as speed violation cameras installed onto road infrastructure, could possibly help to achieve ‘Vision zero’ objectives. Depending upon how extensively they’d need to be installed in order to get desired results, and again…on whether the public, in sufficient numbers, would support their use.

                  Eventually, cars may commonly come to have on-board, automated systems to regulate maximum vehicle speed in co-ordination with road infrastructure systems that prompt vehicles to not exceed given mph speeds. Such systems not yet being standard equipment today, leaves enthusiasts of the “…not-one-mile-over…” idea with the continuing challenge of devising realistic ways to have people driving, universally confine their vehicle speeds to no faster than the posted speed.

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                • dr2chase February 18, 2014 at 3:28 pm

                  wsbob, I think we agree about the political limitations, but I noticed you skipped right over the obvious implication for respect, safety, and public relations. Nobody on a bike is going to take any “cyclists break traffic laws” whining seriously when the driving majority chooses to exempt themselves from proper law enforcement, especially given the safety-to-others consequences of that exemption.

                  If drivers want respect, they’re going to have to remember, same roads, same rules.

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                • wsbob February 18, 2014 at 10:49 pm

                  “…I noticed you skipped right over the obvious implication for respect, safety, and public relations. Nobody on a bike is going to take any “cyclists break traffic laws” whining seriously when the driving majority chooses to exempt themselves from proper law enforcement, especially given the safety-to-others consequences of that exemption.

                  If drivers want respect, they’re going to have to remember, same roads, same rules. …” dr2chase http://bikeportland.org/2014/02/17/qa-on-vision-zero-three-fatalities-put-citys-new-safety-promise-to-the-test-101457#comment-4502896

                  Your remarks here suggest you’re attempting to construct and rely upon and ‘Us vs Them’ construct, in this instance, apparently to help justify the “…not-one-mile-over…” idea, without further consideration of complications associated with practical application of that idea.

                  Part of that, again, is what may be an effort on your part to dehumanize people that drive, by referring to them simply as drivers. That kind of tactic is likely to doom the potential for success of a campaign like ‘Vision Zero.

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                • dr2chase February 19, 2014 at 4:29 am

                  Ha-ha, wsbob, you forget I am a driver myself. I am Us and Them. Those other guys (the majority) are making us other drivers all look bad. I am an Effective Motorist; I’ve been trying to get other people driving to learn how to do it safely and stress the importance of the rules, but for some reason they keep ignoring me.

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            • paikikala February 18, 2014 at 11:33 am

              I agree that the risk of injury increases with energy of the impact, but can you cite any strong correlation to speed and the probabilty of a collision? good luck. Most crashes don’t happen on our highest speed facilities.

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      • 9watts February 17, 2014 at 8:03 pm

        I figured you’d pipe up in defense of speeding, wsbob.

        I don’t follow your ‘it isn’t practical’ counteroffensive.

        They’re just numbers – what the hell difference does it make (to the enforcer) if he references the posted number as the cutoff, or rounds it up? Either way there is a cutoff and above that you get a ticket. I say go with the number on the sign! :-)

        This habit of rounding up is antiquated BS, and is just one more example of carhead (we don’t need and can’t afford anymore).

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  • GlowBoy February 17, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Here are a couple ideas that Oregon could begin implementing almost immediately to improve the safety of our streets:

    1. Begin replacing all “SPEED” signs with ones that say “SPEED LIMIT“. You know, like in every other state. How can we expect people to treat the speed limit as a maximum if the signs don’t even say so?

    2. Begin requiring formal driver education of all new underage drivers. You know, like in every other state. Oregon will give a teenager a driver’s license after 100 hours of “supervised” driving – and the supervisor can be any driver over 21, not even a parent. I will give Oregonians points for being less inconsiderate drivers than in other places, but I’m often astounded by the ignorance of the law that exists here.

    3. Since we can’t wait for older untrained drivers to die, immediately begin a PSA campaign to teach everyone about the implied crosswalk law.

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    • paikikala February 18, 2014 at 11:39 am

      1. already doing in Portland
      2. Oregon has a graduated drivers license
      http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/TEEN/Pages/license.aspx
      3. PBOT does monthly crosswalk enforcements with media invites.

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      • GlowBoy February 19, 2014 at 2:06 pm

        1. Where? I have never seen a SPEED LIMIT sign in Oregon. Are we finally using the standard language on the newly max-20MPH bike boulevards? If so great, but that’s not enough. It needs to be done on every road in the state. Oregon’s nonstandard “SPEED” signs send an unacceptable message.

        2. Like I said, Oregon doesn’t require Drivers Ed. Read the fine print on the page you yourself linked: 100 hours of “supervised” instruction (by any 21 year old who’s been driving for 3 years) waives the formal training requirement.

        3. I see motorists fail to yield to pedestrians in implied crosswalks EVERY DAY, and in 17 years I have NEVER seen a cop here pull someone over for it (BTW, I have seen it in other cities). It’s clear that most drivers haven’t gotten the message (kind of the point of my post), and once a month is not sufficient.

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  • JEFF BERNARDS February 17, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Enforcement of DUII suspended licensees, hit and run? Drunk? Flee! Seems like 50% of fatalities involve alcohol. Raise the alcohol tax to fund enforcement of all driving infractions. Spineless Salem couldn’t raise the beer tax 3 cents without the beverage lobby protesting. Like studded tires, business and lobbyist run the government, not the people. Widmere was one of the loudest voices, they charge $3.50 for a pint, 3 cents would put them out of business! Really?

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    • kww February 18, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      I am an advocate of DUII/hit & run drivers losing license for life

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    • GlowBoy February 20, 2014 at 11:26 am

      I believe DUIIs are down into the 30-35% range now as a share of MV fatalities, down from over 50% back in the 80s when we finally started to get more serious about drunk driving. Still too many, of course.

      I remember the Widmers’ twisted logic about the 3c beer tax. They came out and said that because of markups along the way the price to consumers would increase by several times that.

      Sorry guys, but that’s not now tax incidence works, something that is taught in about the second or third week of any introductory microeconomics course. Additional costs are NEVER fully borne by the consumer when substitute goods are available and/or demand is elastic (which it always is). As a result, only part of the tax is passed to the consumer; part of it is paid by the producer (reducing their profit margin – and there’s the real reason producers always oppose excise and sales taxes) and part of it is paid by the middlemen along the way (reducing their markup). Widmer is a big enough company to have a paid economist or two on staff, and they know this. To exaggerate the impact to consumers so grossly was shameful.

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  • Kristi Finney-Dunn February 17, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    I attend the Governor’s Advisory Committee on DUII once a month and it has been a real learning experience. This large group of members and liaisons who obviously care about people safety talk about many different ideas, strategies, goals around DUII and with nearly every topic there is the conversation about how to word things, how to frame it so that there is not an immediate rejection. It just has been a real shock to uninformed and novice advocate me that everything has to be so precise.

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  • Dan February 18, 2014 at 7:08 am

    “Newton’s laws dictate that a doubling in vehicle speed results in a stopping distance four times as long and four times as much kinetic energy absorbed during an impact. Driver response times further increase stopping distances. As a result, a small increase in roadway traffic speeds results in a disproportionately large increase in pedestrian fatalities.”

    “Travelling at 40 mph, the average driver who sights a pedestrian in the road 100 feet ahead will still be travelling 38 mph on impact: driving at 25 mph, the driver will have stopped before the pedestrian is struck.”

    http://humantransport.org/sidewalks/SpeedKills.htm

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  • Cora Potter February 18, 2014 at 10:10 am

    While I agree with the policy direction, what frustrates me about this interview is that Rob Sadowsky uses examples exclusively from the west side.

    It does no good to have a policy direction if the people applying it aren’t actually doing the work where it’s most needed.

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    • wsbob February 18, 2014 at 11:22 am

      I browsed again over the interview, and believe Sadowsky just gives two location examples, maybe three, one of which is Barbur Blvd, and the other two, mentioned in the following excerpt.

      “…BP: What’s a specific example you could imagine of Vision Zero in action in Portland?

      RS: When the city makes decisions about temporarily adjusting traffic – around Timbers games, for example. [Former city Transportation Director] Tom Miller had this idea that you would take Burnside and bring it down to one lane near the park in order to accommodate the swells of pedestrians that are coming out of the park. …” bikeportland

      “…It does no good to have a policy direction if the people applying it aren’t actually doing the work where it’s most needed.” cora potter

      If you don’t believe location examples Sadowsky uses, are areas where you think the work is most needed, perhaps you ought to name the areas you think the work is most needed.

      On Barbur, Burnside, and near the coliseum/convention center area, there’ve been collisions, injuries and fatalities that have upset people. Indicated in comments to bikeportland stories about such incidents in those areas, quite a number of people seem to feel they’d favor efforts to reduce those kinds of things from happening. In areas elsewhere around town as well, so it would seem that prioritization of areas that should get the focus of efforts to achieve the ‘Vision Zero’ objectives is due some discussion.

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  • nuovorecord February 18, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    NYC has just unveiled their, or rather, the Mayor’s VZ plan. The last paragraph below represents a good strategy, I think.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/19/nyregion/de-blasio-unveils-plans-to-eliminate-traffic-deaths.html?hp&_r=0

    “Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday presented a range of policing and transportation plans intended to eliminate traffic deaths in New York City, including increasing precinct-level enforcement of speeding and redesigning dozens of major street intersections and corridors each year.

    Other new plans include the formation of an “enforcement squad” at the Taxi and Limousine Commission, with a focus on dangerous cabdrivers, and a potential partnership with state officials to lower the citywide speed limit to 25 miles per hour, from 30 m.p.h.

    [snip]

    The mayor has also expressed support for two Bloomberg administration initiatives: the expansion of “slow zones,” designated areas where the speed limit is reduced to 20 m.p.h., from 30, and the installation of more ticket-issuing speed cameras. Some cameras have been installed near schools, under a plan passed past year by the State Legislature, and the use of more would also require approval in Albany.

    Street safety was considered a priority under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and traffic fatalities fell by about 30 percent during his administration. But policies like the expansion of bike lanes and pedestrian plazas were often framed, at least initially, in terms of environmental friendliness and a decreased reliance on car travel.

    Many residents of car-dependent neighborhoods, as well as groups like AAA New York, were often sharply critical of the reallocation of street space under Mr. Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan.

    While Mr. de Blasio has pledged to continue or expand many of his predecessor’s transportation policies — including the creation of bike lanes and the extension of the city’s fledgling bike share program beyond stretches of Manhattan and Brooklyn — his positions, now couched in Vision Zero, have thus far attracted few opponents.”

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  • kww February 18, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Powell, Division, SW Barbur – all these roads should of been built as limited access highways, along with Sandy – ie Mt Hood Hwy. It’s a double edged sword, highways promote surburbanism, but they also reduce pedestrian deaths.

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    • 9watts February 18, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      “It’s a double edged sword, highways promote surburbanism, but they also reduce pedestrian deaths.”

      A sword that prevents death? Is this the 14th century version of the NRA?

      I think I’m missing several somethings.

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    • Andrew Seger February 19, 2014 at 3:43 am

      But we already built plenty of limited access highways. I-5 and 84 are perfectly good interstates. If the problem is too many people using them there are other solutions for that. Now it’s time to turn these dangerous roads into something safer and better than this terrible halfway state.

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    • GlowBoy February 19, 2014 at 8:23 am

      I don’t agree that Powell and Barbur should have been built that way. Even as it is, these “highways” are major barriers between neighborhoods, and to pedestrian and bicycle travel. If anything, these roads should have easier non-motorized access across them (something I’m reminded of every day when get myself across Powell to enter and leave my Brooklyn neighborhood).

      I especially disagree on Division. it is not a highway at all, merely an arterial. Keeping Division as a city street was one of the reasons Portlanders fought the Mt Hood Freeway – and won.

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  • El Biciclero February 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I’ve stated my suggestion for removing bad drivers from the roads before, but again, my “Vision Zero” includes zero suspended/revoked drivers driving around:
    * If you get your license suspended, keep your car in the garage/driveway and DONT’ FREAKIN’ DRIVE IT!
    * If you get caught driving on a suspended license, whatever car you are driving is immediately confiscated. Not impounded, confiscated and sold at auction with proceeds going toward whatever traffic safety cause the local government wants.
    * If you lend your car to someone with a suspended license, don’t cry when your car gets confiscated and sold.
    * If you knowingly sell a car to someone with a suspended license at the time of sale, you have to forfeit the sale price AND the car is confiscated and sold again at auction.
    * If you are a car dealership and you knowingly sell a car to someone with a suspended license, you forfeit the car, the purchase price, and have your business sanctioned in additional ways (additional fines? Suspension/revocation of business license?)
    * If you fraudulently use the driver’s license of someone else, or a fake DL to buy/rent a car, you forfeit any payment made for the car, the car is returned to the owner/previous owner, and standard penalties for identity fraud apply.
    * If you underwrite insurance on a car with a listed driver who has a suspended license (you will know, because DMV will inform you), you will face sanctions. Alternatively, if you underwrite insurance for a car driven by someone who lives in the same household as a suspended driver, you may triple the premiums on such cars on the off chance that the suspended driver might “borrow” the car.

    Treat cars driven by suspended drivers the same way we would treat guns in the hands of convicted felons.

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    • wsbob February 20, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      Take the relatively few words of animosity and histrionics out of your list of suggestions for keeping bad drivers off the road, and you may have something people could give some serious consideration for implementing into law.

      Still, as a group together, the items on the list would probably be a very agenda to take on all at once. Maybe just one item chosen from that list, could be something more workable to start with.

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      • wsbob February 20, 2014 at 12:29 pm

        Edit: “….a very big agenda…”

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  • Zaphod February 20, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Reading the vision zero text is inspiring. As a bike-based business, parent and citizen, I support this ethos/philosophy 100%

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