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Five ways Vision Zero should address race and income injustice

Posted by on February 25th, 2016 at 11:29 am

noel 320
Oregon Walks Executive Director Noel
Mickelberry.
(Photo courtesy Oregon Walks)

This is a guest post by Noel Mickelberry, executive director of Oregon Walks and a member of the City of Portland’s Vision Zero Task Force.

Transportation advocacy doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Our city’s new goal to eliminate traffic fatalities doesn’t, either.

It’s something that shouldn’t need saying, but I feel it needs constant reiteration. It is entirely too easy, and too common, for us to look at our streets as a series of connections, people divided by mode, unattached to the other issues surrounding us or how our lives are inherently impacted by transportation decisions on a daily basis. The ease by which many of us working in transportation advocacy are able to view our streets — of course a bike lane should go here, of course a crosswalk is the answer there — is in itself a privilege.

As we develop Portland’s Vision Zero policies, I’m asking us to go further. And I’ve got five specific suggestions for how to do so.

vz5points

In 2014, around the time I started working on Vision Zero, two people lost their lives in one weekend simply trying to walk across the street here in Portland. It felt so urgent to demand that no family go through what these two families had to endure. This is the most visceral of the impacts transportation has on our lives: the loss of human life. Every single person deserves to get to where they need to go without risking their life doing so.

“We can’t work on Vision Zero without prioritizing the intersection between the transportation justice movement and the social and environmental justice movements.”

But another thing that happened in 2014 has shaped my thinking, too.

When Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, MO, it brought into mainstream consciousness the reality that a lack of traffic fatalities does not ensure safety on our streets. Racial profiling exists. Biases perpetuated by society and within our institutions result in direct violence based on the color of one’s skin and the assumption of character. These things are often amplified when someone is walking on our sidewalks or crossing the street — a vulnerable position on roadways in more ways than one.

Walking is the most accessible form of transportation, meaning that many people who walk (or roll) are doing so out of necessity, when there are absolutely no other options. The glaring infrastructure disparities in our city most directly impact low income people and communities of color. The same people are also the most likely to be targeted as threats or criminals.

This reality can’t be ignored. We can’t work on Vision Zero without prioritizing the intersection between the transportation justice movement and the social and environmental justice movements on the issues of racism, police brutality and criminal justice reform.

People on Bikes - East Portland-2
Just getting around East Portland.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Active transportation advocates around the country have begun articulating this intersection (please listen to the locally produced, nationally focused podcast covering this over at Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About This?). Here’s my question to Portland transportation advocates and to the community at large: What can we do here in Portland to craft a Vision Zero policy and movement that protects all residents from traffic violence and builds a movement that creates the types of communities we all deserve to live in?

I’ll add that I am new to this and still learning. When Oregon Walks developed the policy recommendations in our Vision Zero for Oregon report with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance last year, we focused heavily on working with partners like OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, APANO, Coalition for a Livable Future and the Center for Intercultural Organizing to ensure our recommendations did not perpetuate racial profiling while also ensuring that increased and unchecked enforcement wasn’t the emphasized strategy pursued in our work toward Vision Zero.

The success of a Vision Zero policy will depend on the community that creates it. We have a chance in Portland to propose the right actions that meet our unique needs. This takes time and thoughtful discussion, as well as implementation and accountability. There are new faces and leadership around the Vision Zero table. That’s a testament to the importance of this work. It also shows that there are times when, for some of us, stepping back is more important to a movement’s success than leading.

Joey Harrington school bike safety event-12
Everyone must feel safe on our streets.

It’s time for us all to lead with these notions front and center. We’re doing a disservice to our shared goals if we don’t start pushing on this in unity. To make the question of what to do here in Portland a little less theoretical and a little more practical, I’ve compiled some avenues to explore this as we work together toward achieving Vision Zero:

1) Our data must track law enforcement patterns by race and income

When we talk about being data-driven, we have to include all data. Of course this includes crash data; who is getting killed, where and how. But does it include police data? If we recommend changes in enforcement, we must also monitor who that enforcement falls upon. Where is this enforcement taking place and what are the actual traffic violations being given out? The Portland Police Bureau’s recent report shows a clear disparity in police stops, with African Americans receiving a disproportionate rate of tickets in almost every category (patrol vs. traffic, pedestrian vs. driver) in 2015. Vision Zero strategies that call for an increase in enforcement shouldn’t take effect until the PPB addresses why this disparity exists and takes steps to mitigate it.

2) Education must be used before penalty whenever possible

Education is less invasive than enforcement, and it also changes behavior. One of the City of Portland’s amazing assets is our ‘Share the Road’ class, an option that is available to people as an alternative to paying speeding tickets – and is chock full of powerful safety information. But referrals to this class are currently up to the police officer issuing the ticket. A more systematic referral system along with with crosswalk-education based campaigns to ensure people know where to legally stop for pedestrians can fill a huge gap in public knowledge of traffic laws without relying on police discretion or the use of enforcement at all. And no organization in Oregon is better positioned to educate new and renewing drivers than the DMV. It should be enlisted in any statewide effort.

SE Foster Road-6
Waiting to cross SE Foster Road.

3) If we’re not careful, traffic safety cameras will selectively enforce laws too

Traffic safety cameras are a newly available option for speed enforcement here in Portland. However, low income people and people of color are most likely to live along the most dangerous stretches of road — exactly where these cameras will be placed. This is one reason we need a better referral process for the Share the Road class. Ensuring robust community outreach to the people who travel near cameras will help these cameras to do the job they are created to do: not give people tickets, but slow people down. And maybe cameras aren’t right for certain places. The public process to choose camera locations should also acknowledge that other safety options might fit a community’s needs better, as identified by the community itself.

4) We need to organize and turn out on connected social justice issues

Many policies fall outside the transportation wheelhouse but make tangible impacts on livability and the disparities between low-income and middle-to-high income neighborhoods. This one is on us, advocates. Why are our busiest and most underinvested areas the places where low income and communities of color live? Because we don’t have the housing tools to ensure people can live in any neighborhood regardless of income. (Support inclusionary zoning NOW.) Why are many pedestrian fatalities people who are houseless or struggling with mental illness? (These are the ones you don’t see vigils for, news stories about, or outrage on social media.) Because people who are the most vulnerable are not currently supported by our local government or by our community as a whole. Why are migrant workers unable to access insurance or driver’s education when required to drive for their jobs? Because Oregon didn’t show up to support Measure 88 to ensure all people driving on our roads have the opportunity for education, licensing and insurance. These things matter to undoing racist and unjust policies and behaviors that are deeply ingrained here in Oregon. And they also matter to Vision Zero.

5) We must all take personal actions to resist exclusive decision-making

Show up, listen, and speak up if voices aren’t at the table that should be. Many tables are already set, and it’s up to those of those of us already sitting at them to change how decisions are made and what the table looks like in the future.

Just like Vision Zero, the work to end police brutality and gun violence are also addressing the visceral reality of needlessly lost life. Families are grieving that should never have to be. We need to support the overarching notion that no family deserves this type of harsh, violent and painful loss of a loved one.

Getting that done depends on both movements. We depend on each other to make Portland a community where all families thrive.

What else can we be doing as transportation advocates to be more intersectional and more intentional – to unseal the vacuum? Let’s turn these ideas into action – in policy conversations, in grassroots efforts and in our day-to-day interactions on the street. I’ll continue working toward that with Oregon Walks, and I look forward to more ideas and partnerships that are necessary to accomplish the big and important goal of safe streets for everyone.

— Noel Mickelberry – noel@oregonwalks.org

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67 Comments
  • soren February 25, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    What a thought-provoking and important essay. In particular, I strongly support the conclusion that we should focus on education instead of penalty. A streamlined process where a citing officer could direct someone towards education without a court date would also allow the PPB to dedicate more resources to enforcement (and likely save money).

    The PPB report on traffic stops cited above was eye opening and disgraceful

    18% of pedestrians/cyclists who were stopped and arrested were african american.This rate is ~315% higher that the population representation of african americans in the portland metro area. This degree of racial/ethnic bias is simply inexcusable.

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  • Ray Atkinson February 25, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Here is another point of view on how Vision Zero can be improved. http://www.urbanadonia.com/2015/09/unsolicited-advice-for-vision-zero.html

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  • Peter February 25, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    “1) Our data must track law enforcement patterns by race and income”
    I’d add ‘and by mode’ – the way enforcement actions are taken against cyclists vs. motorists is beyond the pale (cars get ‘enforcement action ahead’ signs and media mentions; bikes get fines for rolling stop signs with no one around)

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    • David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC February 25, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      Interpreting the meaning of Noel’s letter is a bit like interpreting the meaning of the Bible – it can be what ever you like.

      My interpretation is that the Portland bike advocacy community needs to have an honest discussion about institutional racism (and to a lesser extent sexism, nativism, and party politics) in transportation decisions taken since at least 1980. It’s not just about what got built and where, and how long it took, etc. It’s also about what didn’t get built, or even planned.

      If you happen to be white, well-educated, healthy, and bike-oriented, most likely you live in one of the inner Portland neighborhoods towards downtown, an area that PBOT systematically made every effort to recruit and foster active transportation advocacy groups since at least the 90s. If you are black, you used to live in north central Portland, but after the bike lanes were put in on Interstate Ave and on the Vancouver/Williams couplet, you most likely could no longer afford the rent, and moved either to East Portland or out of the city altogether. If you are Somali, Iraqi, Russian, Karen, or any other of the 75+ different immigrant groups in Portland, you most likely live in East Portland, the area with the worst bike infrastructure and the lowest rates of bike usage, and incidentally, the greatest poverty, poor transit connections, and greatest auto-dependence.

      So, the statement “Vision Zero is a pragmatic start required to enact your dream of car-free streets.”, which I think reflects many of our mutual opinions, essentially creates a geographic reservation exclusively for liberal middle-class, well-educated healthy white people. Meanwhile, the draconian penalties involving speed cameras, high traffic fines, eliminating parking (and raising its cost), and more traffic enforcement, will make life for poor residents in East Portland, the area with most of the remaining blacks, immigrants, the obese, and working-class folks, that much harder to endure, on top of the already too-high rents. How is this not discriminatory?

      Which then begs the question: If any community supports policies that are racist, is that community itself racist? And are its members, intentionally or unintentionally, also racist?

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      • 37Dennis February 26, 2016 at 1:54 am

        Praise be to Jesus! Infrastructure is racist. Pavement, my bicycle, my car, the crosswalk. All racist.

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      • soren February 26, 2016 at 8:10 am

        ” If any community supports policies that are racist, is that community itself racist?”

        Yes.

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      • Rex Burkholder February 26, 2016 at 2:33 pm

        Just a historical note: Inner city Portland was racially diverse, mostly renters and low income in the 80s and early 90s. And PBOT didn’t recruit active transportation advocates…we (the infant BTA) had to sue the City in order to get them to put in ANY bicycle infrastructure. Remember, this wasn’t long after the destruction and depopulation of the Albina district by means of the Minnesota Expressway (I-5).

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  • Endo February 25, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Vision Zero is a joke until we start getting serious about car-free streets. All this other nonsense just acts as a distraction from the real issue that is important to us.

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    • Daniel February 25, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      Vision Zero is a pragmatic start required to enact your dream of car-free streets. It’s my dream too. I support Vision Zero because it’s a well thought out theoretical lens to guide the end of traffic fatalities, even with cars on the road. We could wait 100 years to have car free cities, or we could start doing something now, in the conditions we currently have. Since most people still support the use of cars, an immediate end to them would be unpopular and draconian because the social support isn’t there. Vision Zero helps change minds from “deaths on our streets will happen” to “deaths on our streets don’t have to happen.” You already believe that deaths on our streets don’t have to happen, so you’re comfortable with the notion of no cars. A lot of other people don’t feel that way, you have to be convincing enough to change minds. Calling Vision Zero a joke is inflammatory. If you’re inflammatory in other areas, good luck helping people to your point of view.

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      • Steve B. February 25, 2016 at 2:42 pm

        Great points in here. Well said, thank you.

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    • Aaron February 25, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Look, I’d love to make Portland easier for every citizen to get by without a car, and I agree that doing so is a pretty great idea we should be working towards, but saying that your goal of car-free streets supersedes the importance of making it so that our current transportation system doesn’t needlessly maim and kill vulnerable community members is exactly why Noel wrote this piece

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      • JeffSnavely February 25, 2016 at 8:22 pm

        Is it? Her piece had little to nothing to do with street safety.

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      • Endo February 26, 2016 at 4:11 pm

        She wrote this article so that she could hijack and politicize the conversation and distract from the real issue: cars killing people on our streets.

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        • daniel February 26, 2016 at 11:06 pm

          Do you honestly think the intention of the author is to hijack and politicize the “real issue”? It’s possible to care about more than one issue in Portland’s active transportation community. The point of this article is that they all intersect. It’s a very fair, and important, topic of discussion. If you want to discuss enforcement, YOU HAVE TO TALK SOCIAL JUSTICE. If that’s challenging for you, I suggest looking inward.

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  • Random February 25, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    “Traffic safety cameras are a newly available option for speed enforcement here in Portland. However, low income people and people of color are most likely to live along the most dangerous stretches of road — exactly where these cameras will be placed.”

    Why not simply mandate that only rich, white people will get traffic and speed camera tickets?

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    • Adam H. February 25, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      Or instead, why not make the fine based on the offender’s income level? Sending a millionaire a $100 fine is just as ineffective as fining someone that the state knows won’t be able to pay.

      This is why the education punishment is a good idea. The punishment takes the form of time and hassle, rather than money. Additionally, reminding drivers of the laws is always welcome.

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      • Random February 25, 2016 at 1:30 pm

        “Or instead, why not make the fine based on the offender’s income level? Sending a millionaire a $100 fine is just as ineffective as fining someone that the state knows won’t be able to pay.”

        One suspects you aren’t going to catch a lot of millionaires speeding on the E 122nd high-crash corridor.

        The issue Nickelberry is confronting is that if you make a point of catching speeders, they are going to skew young, male, and minority, even before you consider where the high-crash corridors are located. (Drunken drivers are more diverse in age and income, but focusing on drunk drivers is a lot more labor-intensive than installing speeding cameras or having speed traps.)

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        • Adam H. February 25, 2016 at 1:54 pm

          Absolutely. The poorer, minority neighborhoods also tend to have the most dangerous streets. However, this issue goes both ways. While the people living in the neighborhood may be the majority of the offenders caught by the speed cameras, they will also be the primary beneficiaries of the benefits of the speed cameras. This is why it is important that the punishment not be an undue and unreasonable burden on someone who may not be able to pay a speeding ticket. However, it should be at least enough to serve as a deterrent. Education classes seem like a good solution to this problem.

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        • Adam H. February 25, 2016 at 1:56 pm

          Formatting messed up. Really missing that edit button. 😉

          Absolutely. The poorer, minority neighborhoods also tend to have the most dangerous streets. However, this issue goes both ways. While the people living in the neighborhood may be the majority of the offenders caught by the speed cameras, they will also be the primary beneficiaries of the benefits of the speed cameras. This is why it is important that the punishment not be an undue and unreasonable burden on someone who may not be able to pay a speeding ticket. However, it should be at least enough to serve as a deterrent. Education classes seem like a good solution to this problem.

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          • Tyler February 27, 2016 at 7:31 pm

            Remember to recommend education classes next time a cyclist is hit by a car. We’ll be watching to remind you.

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      • BeavertonCommuter February 25, 2016 at 2:04 pm

        What? So much for equality under the law. It’s funny how the most ardent equality proponents so easily demand unequal treatment based on race, income, etc.

        Can this be posted, please?

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    • Dave February 26, 2016 at 11:38 am

      I completely agree. Make sure that at least one wealthy, white Range Rover driver per month gets the Michael Brown treatment. The officer just needs to show a short video clip of the driver texting while driving. No humor or irony meant here.

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      • Tyler February 26, 2016 at 9:05 pm

        Texting would not qualify you for the MB treatment. That treatment requires a higher standard: strong-arm robbery of a convenience store, assaulting a police office in his car and trying to grab his gun.

        See the difference?

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  • Anne Hawley
    Anne Hawley February 25, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    The five suggestions seem well-thought out. If people involved in transportation advocacy can embrace them, good. It will probably begin to make a difference.

    BUT I have a hard time grasping what you really mean here, and I think that fact is important enough to explore.

    After listening to a couple episodes of the Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About This podcast, I tried to imagine myself participating in a discussion like it, and decided that I wasn’t smart enough…that I’d sound uninformed and ignorant. The topics clearly weren’t for me, because the language used by everyone on the panel was too abstract and too “insider”. The layer of society where policy wonks talk to each other was above my head.

    I wonder how alienated a citizen who is poorer, less educated, more stressed, and busier than I am might feel reading this article or listening to that podcast. Could that person ever feel that they could communicate with you, or you with them? I don’t know, I don’t speak for them. I just wonder.

    As an analogy: City Council meetings are public, and anyone can claim a time slot and be heard, but the barriers are awfully high: getting downtown on a weekday morning, speaking English well enough, having a well-articulated message, feeling brave enough and smart enough to speak up to insiders, politicians, leaders; having the nerve to risk looking stupid in public. The people on the dais probably feel that they get a good earful of citizen reality, but they’re only hearing from people who have overcome those barriers.

    I don’t mean this comment as a critique of anyone’s writing or speaking style. Every profession has its insider language, and all of them have trouble overcoming the Curse of Knowledge to communicate with outsiders. I just mean to ask whether you have more concrete ways of talking about these important ideas, so that unheard people might begin to feel like they understand the issues enough to speak up.

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    • Noel Mickelberry February 25, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Anne. I agree that language can be a huge barrier to participation. I certainly wrote this article with the BikePortland audience in mind, not the general public. I will add that I was inspired today by the efforts at the City of Portland to conduct ‘non traditional’ outreach around Vision Zero over the next few months through pop-up open houses, more visual ways to interact with the info and meeting people where they are physically at instead of scheduled meetings (bus stops, etc.).

      I guess my overall point in this piece is: ‘Safe streets’ don’t mean the same thing to all people, and the impact of enforcement on people of color is something we have to incorporate while we advocate for eliminating traffic deaths.

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  • Random February 25, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    “Because Oregon didn’t show up to support Measure 88 to ensure all people driving on our roads have the opportunity for education, licensing and insurance.”

    Oregon showed up, all right – Measure 88 lost 66% to 34%.

    Not a small margin.

    (Multnomah County did support it 54% – 46%, which indicates how wildly unpopular Measure 88 was in the rest of the state.)

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  • dan February 25, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    “Because we don’t have the housing tools to ensure people can live in any neighborhood regardless of income.”

    I’m sorry, but why should people be able to live in any neighborhood regardless of income? I could understand if you were to say “regardless of protected status (race, etc.)” but why income?

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    • Adam H. February 25, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      Because segregating cities based on income is bad for everyone.

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      • dan February 25, 2016 at 1:59 pm

        Often times, more expensive neighborhoods see proportionately more expensive support such as grocery stores etc. How would you address the lack of buying power the lower income families would have? The Safeway in the Pearl is more expensive then the one in Gresham.

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        • Adam H. February 25, 2016 at 2:02 pm

          Curious to see the numbers on this, actually. A low-income person living in the Pearl vs living in East Portland would spend less money on transportation, so more expensive food and services might be a wash. I also imagine that there could be some way to base a person’s SNAP benefits on the median income of their neighborhood.

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          • da February 25, 2016 at 2:16 pm

            Yes, I can only provide anecdotal data, as I’ve shopped in both stores. It would be interesting to see something more objective.

            Your premise that low income families living in the Pearl would spend less on transportation might be true if the income earner had a steady, secure job, also in the Pearl. Low wage jobs are notoriously neither. Jobs with income growth potential, such as entry level jobs in the construction industry almost certainly require a car (not always, there are some that can take mass transit, but that can be very difficult to orchestrate when you’re moving from site to site and can have rotating shifts- with few exceptions, entry level workers with out cars don’t last long on the job). Car ownership in the Pearl has got to be more expensive than living further out (purely opinion there.)

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          • JeffSnavely February 25, 2016 at 8:58 pm

            Are you assuming they would work in the inner west side or are you referring to the vastly superior transit options available to them there?

            i’d agree with the later, but I don’t really know how you’re going to make housing there affordable. If you did, you would do so at the expense of displacing someone else from that area, and every subsequent area until you pushed a different person to the edge of town.

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            • Alex Reed February 26, 2016 at 9:06 am

              If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find that the Pearl has a pretty high percentage (30%?) of Affordable Housing (I use caps to denote housing that is part of government programs to rent at below-market prices to people making less than some percentage of median income).

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        • charlietso February 25, 2016 at 3:30 pm

          The benefit of living in a “nice”/higher income (for a lack of better word) neighborhood is not just access to grocery store. It’s also better sidewalks, better schools, etc. But most significantly, lots of research has shown that low income people tend to do better economically when they live in mixed income neighborhoods.

          Why should people be able to live in any neighborhood they want? It’s not about living wherever I want, but about having access to necessary services and amenities and having a decent quality of life. From a broader point, segregating people based on income or race has very high social and economic costs of the entire community. So really, besides a person’s own selfish desire of not wanting to be close poor people, there is no good reason to not make neighborhoods more inclusionary.

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      • BeavertonCommuter February 25, 2016 at 2:12 pm

        This might be important if the State (ie governmental institution) were actively segregating neighborhoods.

        But the State is not engaged in this, hence there is no segregation here that requires State action.

        Contemporary segregation is not the intended or unintended consequence of laws or institutional action.

        So who or what do you think is the cause for this evil income segregation?

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    • Adam H. February 25, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Not to mention, in America, income and race are very closely related, so segregating by income level is effectively segregating by race.

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    • Dave February 29, 2016 at 7:36 am

      Because travel distance to a job affects fossil fuel use, big time. Serious about climate change? Even semi-serious? Then time to question our whole system of land development, sales and speculation in housing stock, everything else that goes with that.

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  • William Henderson February 25, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    So many great points here.

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  • B. Carfree February 25, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    I guess I’m the outlier here. I disagree with most of the essay. I’m fine with sending scofflaw motorists to class for their first or even their second offense, but they should still receive those points towards license suspension. Other than that, I think the author is undermining the cause of safe streets by distraction.

    Do our police departments have problems with racism, classism and unmerited use of violence? Of course they do. That doesn’t mean we should hold up on issuing as many traffic citations as possible until those historic, systemic problems are finally fixed. Citations are the primary ways motorists get educated and we already to WAY too little of this. It’s well documented that the size of the penalty isn’t nearly as important in changing behavior as is having a high likelihood of the penalty being imposed. Let’s get with it and start imposing some penalties, even if they are merely a half-day of class or $100 fine, with enough frequency that motorists perceive a sense of certainty.

    I was shocked when the author proposed that using automated equipment to cite speeders was also problematic because more minorities live where the equipment would be. Sure, that may mean that the automated fines will find disproportionately more minorities, but it will also mean that those minorities will have safer streets on which they live, walk and cycle. Frankly, I don’t see how that’s not a win. It strikes me as faux-concern for people of color to hide a real concern with inconveniencing motorists.

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    • Eric Leifsdad February 25, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      If exceeding the speed limit by 1mph meant you were very likely to get at least a stop and chat rather than blown past by a cruiser at 30 in a 20…

      It seems to complicate things that a person driving a car is “faceless” due to glare or tint on the windows most of the time, where a person outside of a car is more exposed. And a car is an obvious indicator of wealth (or is perceived as one.) So, the “social safety” reaction of getting in a car as soon as you’re able to afford it places a burden on low-income people on both sides of that “decision” — those who can barely pay to play and those who can’t. I don’t know what we can do to help with that decision besides making it generally less convenient (in an equitable way) to drive a car everywhere.

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    • charlietso February 25, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      B. Carfree, The point on emphasizing education over fines is also a more popular approach to implement Vision Zero. If people hear that Vision Zero is basically euphemism for increasing traffic ticket fines, most people will be more likely to oppose Vision Zero. The goal is to change behavior, not to collect more fines.

      The issue with safety camera on high-crash corridors and streets is that you are more likely to give out citations to drivers who are low-income and/or racial minority. But every other drivers who are conducting risky behaviors on other streets are not subject to the same level of enforcement. There is no evidence that low-income people and people of color living near by these dangerous streets are also more likely to be responsible for crashes. So while the original intention is to place safety cameras on these high crash streets, low-income people and people of color will inevitably bear more traffic safety scrutiny. In other cities, like London and D.C. safety cameras are deployed more ubiquitously on more streets. This approach can address some concerns of equity.

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      • JeffSnavely February 25, 2016 at 8:12 pm

        If all you’re really concerned about are the high-crash corridors, what’s the point of throwing a few cameras on the white side streets?

        How would you claim this as equity with a straight face? Is artificially manufactured equity still equity?

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    • Noel Mickelberry February 25, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      Hey B Carfree – to your points on both education and traffic cameras: I am absolutely in favor of educational classes as a form of penalty (I go into some detail on the merits of Share the Road), and think that actually goes much further than a fine. As I argued in this essay, I think there should be a more systematic approach rather than a subjective approach by the police officer doing the ticketing. In addition, I mention the potential problems traffic cameras can have, but don’t argue that they shouldn’t be used – we supported the legislation to legalize their use. I just think community outreach is an extremely important measure when it comes to these – and that they aren’t the answer everywhere. Without community input and assuming the best solution from the top down can increase these problems, and decrease trust.

      I would, however, disagree that we should give out as many traffic citations as possible without pairing that with a commitment to restructuring and evaluation of our criminal justice system. Maintaining the status quo of how enforcement operates when it comes to ticketing is exactly what I am urging us to move away from, and toward thinking of creative measures that we can do right now, not ignore the institutional racism that we all know exists and keep that at the forefront whenever we suggest that ‘more enforcement’ is a part of any solution.

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      • B. Carfree February 25, 2016 at 7:39 pm

        I am also arguing that we move away from our status quo regarding traffic citations. We currently cite such a small percentage of the violations that occur that when someone actually receives one it feels like they were singled out and fined for doing exactly what every other motorist around them is doing. I frankly don’t see any way to change that paradigm of motorists expecting to be able to get away with negligent dangerous driving without dramatically increasing the number of citations that are issued. If you think that a dramatic increase in citations is somehow status quo, I admit I don’t understand what you mean.

        If PPB officers were mandated to cite every violation they witness without discretion, then there would be much less room for race-based and class-based enforcement. By allowing them the discretion to only cite a vanishingly small percentage, we achieve both fatally dangerous roads and a racial and class bias in the citations issued.

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        • soren February 25, 2016 at 10:27 pm

          “If PPB officers were mandated to cite every violation they witness without discretion”

          They would then spend fat too much time citing people for trivial violations, such as, rolling stop signs, riding outside of a bike lane or not riding as far right as possible.

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        • Alex Reed February 26, 2016 at 9:12 am

          The problem is not discretion. It’s budget, priorities, local politics, and state restrictions on automated enforcement that together add up to make it impossible to enforce any more than a vanishingly small percentage of serious, dangerous traffic violations. That could change, but it will take strong, grassroots political organizing and influence on elections, not just changing the method by which the small number of current Traffic Division officers do their job.

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      • JeffSnavely February 25, 2016 at 7:50 pm

        It sounds like you’re looking for unequal policing and/or enforcement of existing laws. Which is also the thing you’re calling out as a problem.

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  • Steve B. February 25, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    B. Carfree
    Do our police departments have problems with racism, classism and unmerited use of violence? Of course they do. That doesn’t mean we should hold up on issuing as many traffic citations as possible until those historic, systemic problems are finally fixed.

    Not sure I understand this logic. How do we fix those systemic problems if we maintain the status quo and carry on as usual?

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  • Craig Harlow February 25, 2016 at 3:41 pm


    The glaring infrastructure disparities in our city most directly impact low income people and communities of color.


    – above, Noel Mickelberry

    I’m wondering whether city counsel’s Vision Zero efforts and PDC’s Transit-Oriented Development intersect when the city decides to site a massive new auto parking facility for the convention center hotel in a location that appears to be one of thecity’s most heavily foot-traffick’ed by transit-dependent people.

    It seems to me illogical to induce an increase in auto intrusion into a ped-heavy transit hub while simultaneously pursuing both Vision Zero goals as well as sustainable long-term mode-split goals.

    The result will very probably be a negative safety impact that disproportionately affects transit-dependent groups.

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  • BeavertonCommuter February 25, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Several reactions that I hope can be posted here:

    “When Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, MO, it brought into mainstream consciousness the reality that a lack of traffic fatalities does not ensure safety on our streets. Racial profiling exists. Biases perpetuated by society and within our institutions result in direct violence based on the color of one’s skin and the assumption of character.”

    Wait, what? While the initial, knee-jerk reaction was to blame racial profiling and smear cops, it turns out that the Brown was not at all about police brutality, profiling, or amy other problem with the police. Blacks are incredibly far more likely to be killed by another black than by a cop, yet, wwr perpetuate this myth of cop-on-black violence. And to what end… Well, not the myth is being co-opted for Visitors n Zero.

    “We have a chance in Portland to propose the right actions that meet our unique needs.”

    We do, however, the “right” actions must be in response to a real problem and true “needs”. Here we have a writer that creates a context for Vision Zero that is not unique, but rather characterized by the same alleged conditions throughout the nation, eg, racial inequality in justice system, police brutality, etc. So which is it? Does Portland have unique needs or are we just another US city beset by the same police, justice system, and correctional systrm problems as all other US cities?

    This doesnt even begin to address the misconception of any intersection between Vision Zero and police conduct or the justice and correctional systems.

    “If we’re not careful, traffic safety cameras will selectively enforce laws too”

    No. Cameras do no such thing. So what if more poor people or minorities live along corridors more apt to have cameras placed there? It’s quite irrelevant if theyre following the law. Also, the cameras detect what they detect and do not discriminate based on any variable other than signal adherence or speed.

    Maybe the author is supposing that there is selective placement of cameras based on race, income, whatever… Then prove the supposition rather than smearing whoever it is that determines camera placement.

    Meanwhile, notice what’s happening here… Cameras are intended as a deterrant to unsafe driving, but the the author wants to seemingly neuter their use. Will that not inherently destroy the deterrence and lead to more unsafe driving? Is that not directly contrary to Vision Zero?

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  • BeavertonCommuter February 25, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Proposing and then attempting to act on the presumed intersection of Vision Zero and social justice issues will only result in an unrealized Vision Zero success. It will unnecessarily divert attention from accomplishing Vision Zero actions and will attract opposition, resentment, and hostility.

    This is not the direction to go not matter how well it strokes the innate guilt and ego of a few people.

    Eye on the ball, people.

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    • Steve B. February 26, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      If Vision Zero is deemed a “success” while continuing to prop up the criminal justice system’s disproportionate negative treatment of people of color, it will be anything but.

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    • Dave March 1, 2016 at 8:33 am

      First post of yours I’ve agreed with! Vision Zero is a triage operation. The mandate has to be–stop the bleeding first.

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  • JeffSnavely February 25, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Some people feel the need to inject their priority into every single discussion they touch. This is very much one of those cases.

    I came to portland as a liberal, but the white guilt that so many here display is tiresome. Excruciatingly so.

    Please… give me some more statistics, with implied meanings. I wouldn’t tell you that more black people are stopped because they’re breaking the law more, but you’re perfectly happy to say that more black people are stopped because of racism. The numbers, by themselves, don’t prove either.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) February 25, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      One thing I may never understand: why so many people seem to think “guilt” (referenced here and in the previous comment) would be the only reason that a white person could possibly object to the DEEP AND OBVIOUS RACISM that exists all over our society.

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      • Random February 25, 2016 at 9:42 pm

        “DEEP AND OBVIOUS RACISM that exists all over our society.”

        But what is being proposed is the essence of color-blind criteria. One assumes that PBOT has defined high-crash corridors according to objective crash data and standards – you install traffic cameras on these routes, and send a ticket to everyone caught speeding on these corridors. No profiling involved.

        Mickleberry objects to this, because given where the high-crash corridors are, you are going to be issuing a lot of tickets to poor and minorities, even under a perfectly objective standard.

        I don’t think the traffic cameras are a particularly good idea – my impressionistic opinion is that generally speaking, drunks kill people, rather than speeders. However, there is not an easy technological fix to catch drunk drivers. I can only imagine the horrified reaction if it was suggested that we change Oregon law to allow sobriety checkpoints on high-crash corridors in Portland.

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        • David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC February 25, 2016 at 11:45 pm

          Why do we have “high-crash corridors” in the first place? And why do they tend to be in the poorest, most racially divided sections of town?

          I think the implication is that had PBOT actually invested in safety features on the high-crash corridors over the last 25 years to the same degree they did for bike infrastructure in inner Portland, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation about race versus traffic issues. PBOT, TriMet, and ODOT, and ultimately all of us white over-educated middle-class voters and taxpayers are collectively responsible for 25 years of neglect in East Portland (annexed 1986-1992).

          “Vision Zero” tends to work best in societies that are more or less homogeneous with excellent basic infrastructure, such as the Netherlands and Denmark. It tends to be messier in areas that lack basic infrastructure, such as SW & East Portland. I think that PBOT, to its credit, now recognizes this.

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          • Dave February 26, 2016 at 11:40 am

            How can we get the city to, geographically speaking, work from the outside (eastside) inward? No car free streets for the Pearl until every meter of road east of Mt. Tabor has first-class sidewalks, for starters.

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    • Random February 25, 2016 at 9:57 pm

      “Some people feel the need to inject their priority into every single discussion they touch. This is very much one of those cases.”

      Yeah, the trendy leftist trope of “intersectionality” has the potential of doing real damage to otherwise good works.

      If you are going to imply that you can’t care about traffic safety unless you accept the leftist narrative regarding Michael Brown, unless you support Measure 88, etc., you are going to be turning a lot of people off.

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    • Tyler February 27, 2016 at 7:29 pm

      It’s always whites who are oppressing the minorities. Yeah, right. One more example:

      http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/02/the_great_racial_hoax_of_albany.html

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  • Tyler February 25, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    I’d be in favor of applying Vision Zero without regard to race – seems like we should all be safe – not just people of certain skin colors. What was that comment a famous black man said about …..the content of their character……and not the color of their skin?

    This is leftist feel-good tripe that will accomplish nothing useful.

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    • Steve B. February 26, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      More on colorblindness here: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/02/colorblindness-adds-to-racism/

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    • Adam H. February 26, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      Equality vs equity. Giving everyone the exact same resources isn’t enough to overcome hundreds of years of institutionalized racism and sexism.

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      • Tyler February 26, 2016 at 9:12 pm

        More leftist feel-good tripe that will not only not accomplish anything useful, but will probably result in making the problems that the left perceives to exist even worse.

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