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135 ghostly memorials of traffic victims now haunt our region’s streets

Posted by on November 16th, 2015 at 4:37 pm

safestreetsfoster5:2:10
(Photos: Oregon Walks)

Yesterday local advocates for safer streets joined with family members of traffic victims for a somber ceremony: they placed white silhouettes of their loved ones on our area’s most dangerous roadways.

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In all, 135 life-sized cut-outs of men, women and children went up to serve as a reminder of what’s at stake when we get behind our wheels. They represent people who were killed while walking, riding, and driving. Emblazoned across the figures is the date of the collision that took their life and the #saferstreetspdx hashtag.

Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets founder Kristi Finney put up a memorial for her son Dustin. “Before my son was killed by a drunk driver, I thought, ‘Accidents happen’” Finney said, “But what happened to Dustin was no accident… I hope people will learn from our tragedies and change their risky driving, so they don’t cause the kind of devastation our families have suffered.”

These deaths represent the tragic toll these major streets (what the City of Portland calls “High Crash Corridors”) have had on our community in the past 10 years alone.

Volunteers who helped make yesterday’s event happen broke up into groups and were given a grim set of maps to follow. I asked to see the maps and just looking at them really drove home the senseless loss and magnitude of the problem these streets represent:

fatals8
fatals4

fatals3
fatals10
fatalstvhwy
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fatals5
fatals9
fatals1
fatals7
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What’s really frustrating is that there are well-known solutions to fixing this problem. On that note, here’s one last passage from the Our Healthy Streets coalition press release: “These families are crying out for urgent, crucial safety improvements that will save lives like complete sidewalks, protected bike lanes, guardrails, safe crossings, and speed reduction corrections that can accomplish this.”

135 ghostly memorials of traffic victims now haunt our region’s streets… But will they haunt enough people’s conscience to actually change behaviors and the status quo? We’ve still got a lot of work to do.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

46 Comments
  • Noel November 16, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for covering this, Jonathan! A couple corrections/additions:

    The event was coordinated, planned, and executed by Oregon & SW Families for Safe Streets, I noticed they were not credited for that or linked to at all in the article. Please follow and support and spread the word about this amazing group of family members impacted directly by traffic violence: https://www.facebook.com/ORSafeStreets/?fref=ts

    This was a part of World Remembrance Day for Road Traffic Victims, an international day of memorial on November 15th – with events happening across the country. Read more here:
    http://visionzeronetwork.org/media-advisory-world-day-of-remembrance-unites-millions-to-end-traffic-deaths/

    It was an incredibly somber reminder of how many lives traffic violence impacts – and this was only on 11 roads.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 16, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      thanks Noel. I added the facebook link.

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    • Kristi Finney Dunn November 17, 2015 at 10:19 am

      We couldn’t have done it without you and Stephanie especially! And Sarah! I STILL feel like crying (with gratitude)!

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  • Buzz November 16, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Maybe this is a minor point in the bigger picture, but I am a bit confused why only pedestrians are actually identified as people on their maps, and others are only identified by their vehicle types; it seems much more appropriate to use the terms ‘motor vehicle operator’ ‘bicyclist’ and “motorcyclist’, than the terms ‘vehicle’, ‘bicycle’ and ‘motorcycle’.

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    • Kristi Finney Dunn November 16, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      This was how information was given to us. Volunteers actually had to research the sexes and ages of everyone not in a car. I’m not sure if that data was not collected by PBOT and/or ODOT, or if they just didn’t give it. I thank every single person behind the scenes (and in front) for all the hard work that went into this. I hardly did anything!

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    • mh November 16, 2015 at 9:50 pm

      And I’m always irritated when “vehicle” is only used to refer to a four wheeled motor vehicle. A motorcycle isn’t a vehicle? And a bike? I’m a vehicular cyclist as much as I can be. If I’m not a vehicle, I’m likely to be road kill.

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      • soren November 17, 2015 at 10:16 am

        mh, I respectfully disagree. I very strongly believe that people who bike are vulnerable road users and that a bike is nothing more than an accessory (like a shoe). I also believe that the societal view that bikes are vehicles is one of the reason our legal and law enforcement system treats people who cycle like second class citizens.

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  • Mark November 16, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    Didn’t see the “soda choke” fatality that happened on the sidewalk of the Burnside Bridge.

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    • Dan Kaufman November 16, 2015 at 6:04 pm

      That’s because burnside was not on the list of high-crash corridors covered – it may not actually be a high-crash corridor.

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    • Noel November 16, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      The only complete data set we had was from 2004-2014, so that is what was covered. Burnside is a high crash corridor.

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    • buildwithjoe November 16, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      Doug (SodaChoke ) James Walker killed Pedestrain Ben Carlson in 2015 and has been given no ticket!! This is insane.

      I installed 2 white vigil memorials on Burnside, and there were 8 others on Burnside. The data did not include 2015.

      I’m going to create a custom yellow sign for Ben. I was overloaded Sunday and Monday. Please print and share this PDF from this tweet:

      Link:
      https://twitter.com/buildwithjoe/status/666466399854854144

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  • Kristi Finney Dunn November 16, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you, Jonathan! This was a big endeavor which has brought some learning experiences and a whole lot of gratitude. One of the stations incorrectly said the memorials were for pedestrians and that brought many comments from pedestrian blamers. It also said I said “driver” error instead of “human” as the major cause of collisions. Good thing I’ve learned already that not everybody agrees with me or likes what I do. Well, you know.

    With the help of many people, this event was brought together in about a month or less. I’ve met and worked with other amazing families and advocates now, and I’m super excited about our future. World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims was an important day I wanted to participate in -the victims are why this whole thing is important and people do not understand how these dead and severely injured people really are forgotten by most so easily. But now we can focus on other things. We understand that urgency is needed to prevent continuing tragedies. We look forward to reducing the needless suffering.

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  • El Biciclero November 16, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    “Risky driving”.

    More everyday, common driving behaviors need to be explicitly called out and codified in law as “risky”, starting with speeding. Then, if you want to engage in “risky driving”, go on ahead, but know that if your “risky driving” causes any kind of accident, from a fender-bender to a fatality, your consequences are going to be swift and severe. Our attitude ought to be “how dare you endanger people with risky driving—you deserve any punishment you get!” Currently the attitude seems to be “everybody does it, so it must not be that bad”—and current consequences bolster that attitude when they are token minimums (or nothing at all) due to interpretations of current laws such as “perceive a need to yield”, and “couldn’t ‘objectively’ be seen”.

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    • El Biciclero November 17, 2015 at 9:51 am

      Oops.

      s/accident/crash

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      • Kristi Finney Dunn November 17, 2015 at 10:16 am

        Great catch. I STILL sometimes find myself saying it. And I did address this in the press conference but they can’t cover everything.

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    • Brad November 17, 2015 at 10:10 am

      Meanwhile, in the last week, drivers have plowed into two different buildings in Portland…

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    • B. Carfree November 17, 2015 at 7:51 pm

      We really need to change our law to deal with scofflaw driving the way several SoCal DA’s are dealing with repeat drunk drivers. Each convicted drunk driver signs a document that pretty much guarantees s/he will be convicted of second degree murder if they ever kill someone while driving drunk.

      We should go two steps further and have motorists sign a document when they get/renew their license that makes anything that happens while they are not following the vehicle code the same as being done with criminal intent. For example, if someone is speeding and kills someone with their car, it’s considered to have been a willful killing.

      I highly doubt we will be imprisoning many people if we make this change. After the first twenty or so, everyone will know that they can’t get away with motorized terrorism or murder any longer and will respond accordingly. Sure, it will be tough on the example cases, but literally millions of lives will be saved as our roads become safe.

      I can dream, can’t I?

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  • 9watts November 16, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    “What’s really frustrating is that there are well-known solutions to fixing this problem”

    Yes!
    (a) 20mph speed limit city wide: posted, enforced, zero tolerance;
    (b) change in ODOT mgmt who think they somehow are smarter than the folks behind Vision Zero… fatality free days and all that;
    (c) stop prioritizing cars when it comes to spending, infrastructure design, don’t back down when ODOT picks fights, insisting on removing bike lanes on 26th, etc.;
    (d) revamp DMV rules and procedures, make driving tests a regular feature and rediscover driving-as-privilege;
    (e) serious worthy-of-the-name gas tax, ramping up to several dollars a gallon which are plwed back into infrastructure for all those who decided driving wasn’t really worth the expense and hassle (see other countries).

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    • 9watts November 16, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      link:
      http://bikeportland.org/2014/11/12/vision-zero-coming-focus-portland-113313
      At the same conference last month where PBOT Director Treat called for a “culture change” to put safety “above [auto] access, [Level of Service] LOS, above everything,” ODOT’s Traffic Safety Division Manager Troy Costales put a new spin on Vision Zero.

      “We don’t use that moniker,” he said, “Our goal is a little different. Our goal is to increase the number of zero fatality days.” Costales added that he wants to “Turn this conversation of talking positively about a negative situation and start talking positively about a positive situation.”

      ODOT’s goal is to achieve 175 fatality free days in one year. Last year they had 170.

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      • MadKnowledge November 16, 2015 at 11:01 pm

        “ODOT’s goal is to achieve 175 fatality free days in one year. Last year they had 170.”

        Very sad and telling that their goal is to have fatalities on less than 50% of the days per year. Way to aim high! Some one should get 365 ODOT employees in a room and ask which 190 of them are ok losing their loved ones that year.

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      • Dan A November 17, 2015 at 8:59 am

        Their goal is to get lucky?

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      • paikiala November 17, 2015 at 12:55 pm

        9,
        have you asked your state legislator to propose changing the residential district statutory speed limit to 20 mph?

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  • Kittens November 16, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Why do we need a “#” in front of every word now?

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    • 9watts November 16, 2015 at 11:39 pm

      Better utilization rates.
      The department which oversees keystrokes noticed that over the past century the ampersands and pound signs and asterisks were not getting as much use as the other keys. The @ key pulled even with the average for letters sometime in the late nineties, but no similar trend was noticeable for the other forlorn keys until #Occupy….

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    • Spiffy November 17, 2015 at 8:00 am

      #stayoffmylawn

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  • buildwithjoe November 16, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    The # symbol seems wrong, but it helps everyone search more easily for related articles and breaking news from outside the mainstream media.

    Google this: #crashnotaccident

    For example: In June we had the SodaChoke crash that killed a pedestrian on the sidewalk. You can easily print fylers. We should all spread these flyers until we get the killer at least one ticket.

    link:
    https://twitter.com/buildwithjoe/status/666466399854854144

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  • rick November 16, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    Just one month after a woman was killed in December, 2012 on SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, Harley Rocher was killed in a hit-and-run crash while walking on nearby SW Laurelwood Ave (roughly the 82nd block of the westside) and the driver just took off. Unsolved crime.

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    • Kristi Finney Dunn November 17, 2015 at 10:11 am

      Harley’s picture and crash info is held by the child in blue above. The press was told of his story but it wasn’t mentioned by them.

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  • longgone November 17, 2015 at 1:33 am

    We’ll.. I’m just gonna say this is a cool idea. Thanks to all who did the work to make this happen.

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  • eddie November 17, 2015 at 7:29 am

    Those statues should be permanent. If they’re brought down, they should be put back up until there are lines of ghostly figures everywhere someone has been killed, or madly injured. Like the white bikes. Maybe that would put the idea in people’s heads that cars are responsible for killing masses of people all over the city.

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    • Kristi Finney Dunn November 17, 2015 at 10:12 am

      ODOT was busy taking them down on their streets yesterday. They didn’t even get to stay through rush hour.

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      • Dan A November 17, 2015 at 10:20 am

        Wow, can’t imagine how it would feel to be the ODOT employee responsible for removing these. Gross.

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      • Opus the Poet November 18, 2015 at 8:02 pm

        ODOT does not like to get reminders of their incompetence.

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  • Spiffy November 17, 2015 at 8:05 am

    “But will they haunt enough people’s conscience to actually change behaviors and the status quo?”

    nope, won’t make any difference… back when I was a bad driver those roadside memorials brought up two thoughts… 1) some idiot crashed and deserved what they got, and 2) stop littering the landscape…

    drivers don’t connect with each other and thus don’t associate anything to themselves… a driver thinks they are a better driver than most and those things won’t happen to them unless it’s somebody else’s fault…

    the only way to get drivers to think about safety is to get them out of their protective cages… you can educate and slow them all you want but they will never care until they are directly affected by being out on the streets themselves…

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    • El Biciclero November 17, 2015 at 9:48 am

      Lake Slowbegone, where all the cars are fast, and all the drivers are above average…

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    • Psyfalcon November 17, 2015 at 9:56 am

      I liked this, but I think you mentioned you were an exceptionally bad driver. You were much deeper into your cocoon of “I’m a good driver” than most people.

      It will probably be more effective as politics than individual behavior changing. A lot of people like the idea of safe streets even if they don’t think they’re the problem.

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      • Spiffy November 17, 2015 at 10:43 am

        yes, you don’t like it that I was a bad driver, nobody should… but like that I’m able to see from my old perspective on what drivers still think… I sped a lot and didn’t respect vulnerable road users… yet I thought I was an awesome driver… you can’t see beyond the cage bubble…

        I was able to escape the cage… I wanted stress relief from all those other bad drivers… thanks to TriMet for building a MAX station 5 blocks from my house and my employer offering half price monthly passes…

        if we could offer those same great options to other drivers then we can get them to see the safety side of the issue… but it’s an incredibly hard task and people will have to be forced out of their vehicles by making driving difficult and making enforcement effective…

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        • Dan A November 17, 2015 at 11:53 am

          I relate to your POV, Spiffy. Hopefully someday there will be many more ‘formerly bad drivers’.

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    • soren November 17, 2015 at 10:20 am

      the only way to get drivers to think about safety is to get them out of their protective cages…

      making drivers strictly liable for their carnage would also help.

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  • Keviniano November 17, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Many thanks to Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets for putting this together. I can only imagine the emotional impact of seeing all 135 cut-outs stacked up before they went out. Each one is just the merest representation of the loss from a life cut short.

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    • Kristi Finney Dunn November 17, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Thank you! It was very moving.

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  • Amanda Judkins November 17, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Thank you for the coverage, Jonathan. This is really important stuff.

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  • eli bishop November 17, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    I passed one by car on Powell and I only knew what it was because of this story. I couldn’t read it at all. 🙁

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  • Nichole November 18, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Don’t you think that this is going to cause more accidents? They are bad roadways and your asking drivers to look at these signs.

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