Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on February 17th, 2014 at 9:14 am
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.