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Neighborhood association demands immediate investment in Cully Blvd after latest fatality

Posted by on March 23rd, 2016 at 5:05 pm

cully-mas-lead
Cully Blvd is about 85 feet wide at the intersection of NE Mason.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Residents are calling for the City of Portland to improve safety on what they call a “hazardous” stretch of Cully Boulevard after a man was struck and killed while trying to cross at Mason Street on Saturday night.

In a letter sent to Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick today, the Cully Association of Neighbors Chair Tristan Markwell wrote that the “needless” tragic death of 58-year-old Patrick Curry highlights the need for safety improvements at Mason and elsewhere. The neighborhood group has reason to be frustrated. As we reported on Monday a Cully resident made a formal request to PBOT back in 2013 to install a new crossing treatment at Mason and Cully. In a report back to the resident a PBOT engineering acknowledged the safety issues on Cully and said a project to install a median refuge island and a new signal would be moved to the top of the city’s Capital Improvement Project list. However, “Due to the lack of funding at the city,” the engineer said, “it has been difficult to find money for these types of crossings.”

In today’s letter, Markwell wrote, “We are aware that a lack of funding hampers PBOT in making safety improvements citywide. Still, this tragedy highlights the need. In view of the Council’s commitment to Vision Zero, is it not time to find the funds to make our streets safe?”


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The stretch neighbors want safer is from Prescott to Fremont.

Here’s more from the letter:

This stretch of Cully Boulevard, between Fremont and Prescott Streets, is particularly hazardous. It is quite wide, encouraging speeds well above the posted 30 MPH, and a blind curve just south of Mason Street invites crashes like this one. Sidewalks are narrow or nonexistent, and safe crossings can’t be found. Safety improvements for this area are on the major projects list in the Transportation System Plan (TSP ID 40037). However, the latest amendments to that list pushed that project back to an 11-20 year timeframe. Safety for Cully Boulevard cannot wait!

The neighbors want a of safety projects known as Cully “Boulevard Safety Improvements Phase 2” to start immediately by redirecting funds from other places. Specifically, they’re asking for the existing center turn lane to be replaced with median islands, crosswalks with rapid-flash beacons, and new sidewalks and protected bike lanes on both sides of Cully from Fremont to Prescott.

Given their previous efforts to raise awareness of this dangerous part of Cully, the neighbors say they won’t take no for answer this time around. “Those of us who knew how hazardous this intersection was and is are wracked with guilt that we did not do more, talk louder, push harder. We plan to push harder starting today and continuing until Cully Boulevard is made safe for all users. Let’s act now to prevent the next tragedy.”

A copy of the letter was also sent to Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioners Nick Fish, Dan Saltzman, and Amanda Fritz as well as PBOT Director Leah Treat, Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives Tina Kotek, and state representatives Lew Frederick, Barbara Smith Warner, Michael Dembrow and Chip Shields.

We’ll update this post if/when any of these elected officials respond.

UPDATE, 3/25: A commenter has pointed out that PBOT Commissioner Novick entered an amendment into the Comprehensive Plan (on page 103 of PDF) on 3/18 (before this recent crash) that moves the Cully Blvd Safety Safety Improvements Phase 2 project back up to a 1-10 year timeframe.

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

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26 Comments
  • Jim Lee March 23, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    According to the VZ web-site there are 70 people involved with the project, including 18 from PBOT.

    Jules Bailey sits on the Executive Committee, along with Steve Novick. Ask them about preventable deaths during candidate forums.

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  • Pat Franz March 23, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    How about we increase the gas tax by $0.01 for every vulnerable road user death? I know it sounds crass, a penny per life, but it would point out the incredible crassness of how we don’t pay for things, even when there is a clear need. The tax might eventually get so high that there could be effective social scorn for the killers, who knows?

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    • K'Tesh March 23, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Imagine if it was $0.01 for every road user death.

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  • Beeblebrox March 23, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Jonathan, I just want to point out that the Draft City Council Amendments list for the Comp Plan, released last Friday the 18th (before this crash), actually does contain a Commissioner Novick sponsored amendment to move the Cully project to the earlier 1 to 10 year timeframe. It’s on page 102 of this document on the City’s website: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/569929

    You may want to update the article to reflect this.

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    • Beeblebrox March 23, 2016 at 7:39 pm

      Whoops, it’s actually on the bottom of page 103.

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    • Anon March 24, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Additionally, the photo of Cully is not at Mason. I feel it is a little misleading to show the photo of Cully/Prescott and not where the accident occurred. There are buffered bike lanes at Mason.

      I ride the full length of Cully pretty often and I am almost always the only one within sight. It’s just not a place where many people will bike no matter how many ‘improvements’ we throw at it. I am sad to hear about this death, but I would rather spend the money keeping more people safe, not dump it into medians and see transportation money go to landscape maintenance. My 2 cents and a fan of BikePortland!

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 25, 2016 at 3:37 pm

        Hi Anon. Did not intend to mislead at all. I’ve swapped out the photo because of your comment. Thanks for sharing your concern.

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      • paikiala March 25, 2016 at 5:00 pm

        PBOT does not build medians with landscape anymore.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 25, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Thanks for pointing that out Beeblebrox. That’s pretty amazing coincidence. I noticed the document said some “minor corrections” were made 3/25. Can you possibly confirm when Novick made this change?

      And thanks. I’ve updated the story with a note and a link to that PDF.

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  • Adam H. March 23, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    Can we at least get real protected bike lanes instead of the not-quite-so-raised cycle tracks next to 40 MPH traffic with no protection at intersections, like the rest of Cully?

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    • Dan March 23, 2016 at 10:46 pm

      What, with jersey barriers or something?

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      • Adam H. March 24, 2016 at 7:48 am

        Yeah or just a curb with bioswales. Those raised cycle tracks are nice but not along streets with high volumes and speeds. Plus, many of the “raised” cycle tracks in Portland are not raised at all. SW Multnomah is a prime example. The cycle tracks there are just sidewalks level with the street.

        On high volume high speed streets like Cully, there needs to be a hard curb separating the cycleway from the roadway. Also, please make them out of asphalt instead of concrete with bumpy expansion joints.

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        • J_R March 24, 2016 at 11:47 am

          Don’t you think it should be a bioswale and a Jersey barrier? Amanda Fritz’s husband was killed in a crash on I-5 where a truck spun all the way across a 40-foot wide grass median. Maybe two barriers and a roof?

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          • paikiala March 24, 2016 at 3:55 pm

            Not the same speed environment.

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  • Eric Leifsdad March 23, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Moving safety projects around in the queue can help, but not nearly as much as changing the approach. Instead of a slow pace of very expensive safety projects which are all compromised by a lack of willingness to slow auto traffic, we could very cheaply slow auto traffic with paint, signs, and simple barriers. Narrow lane widths and heavy immovable objects in the roadway should eliminate the vehicles of drunk and incompetent drivers. If the trimet bus is 10mph over the posted speed, we obviously need narrower lanes.

    The studies on fatality rates as a function of vehicle speed don’t say “or add 10mph if the driver is white” at the bottom. Steel bollards don’t care. Leaning more heavily on the “don’t hit stuff with your car” rule would allow us to spend less time reciting the “don’t hit people with your car” rule.

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    • AJ_Bikes March 24, 2016 at 8:19 am

      With Janette Sadik-Khan in town speaking on her experience doing just this in NYC, this is a perfect opportunity for PBOT to take a page from her book and immediately go out and narrow the roadway and crossings with paint, flexposts, and other cheap materials, while we continue to push for funding to implement long-term solutions. Really, PBOT should be doing this on EVERY high-crash corridor, and at EVERY location where there is on-street parking but no current curb extensions, to at least shorten the distance people need to cross and help make them more visible to oncoming traffic.

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  • Jesse Boudart March 24, 2016 at 8:38 am

    If funding can be obtained, the City should extend the Cully Blvd. connection to the Airport!

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    • rick March 24, 2016 at 9:12 am

      for a trail?

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  • rick March 24, 2016 at 9:11 am

    Cully is getting a community center at either 72nd or Killingsworth.

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  • ethan March 24, 2016 at 10:15 am

    I have a feeling this will be addressed right around the same time Lombard near 42nd is fixed… so probably never unfortunately :(

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  • Huey Lewis March 24, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Cully is a mess. The cycle track is full of debris and partially parked in all the time. Cars fly up and down the street. In the evening if you are south of Prescott and trying to cross during rush hour it can take an incredibly long time to find a gap you feel safe darting through. I take it in the morning to work when traffic is much lighter but avoid it on the way home. Theres a small SUV parked on the sidewalk north of Prescott that hasn’t moved in close to two weeks despite the owners living in a home with a garage and free on street parking immediately in front of their house. And finally, cars fly up and down the street.

    Far too often in my life have I decided, “well, fuck this street, I’m not riding this one anymore”. If you drive you never do this unless it’s because traffic sucks.

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  • Caitlin March 24, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    I cross Cully at Mason every day on my way to work. I continue to be appalled at the lack of even one safe ped/bike crossing between Fremont and Prescott on Cully. The Roseway Neighborhood Association sent the city an excellent letter outlining their support for a Mason greenway last year and rallied neighbors to comment on the TSP proposal. Unfortunately, this little pocket of outer NE seems to be often overlooked.

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    • paikiala March 24, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      Define safe, just so we know what you mean.

      2005-2014:
      Cully at Skidmore: 2 reported crashes, 1 ped
      Cully at Mason: 5 reported crashes, 2 ped
      at Shaver, 3, all autos
      at Failing, 4, 1 bike
      S/Failing no west side sidewalk:
      at Alton, 2, all autos
      at Beech, zero
      at Milton, one auto

      Cully has about 11,000 trips per day with 85% going 38 or less in a posted 35 (2011 data).

      The data driven analysis would indicate a lower than usual crash rate.

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      • Adam H. March 24, 2016 at 4:26 pm

        85% of drivers going at most 38 mph does not sound very safe to me. Correlation does not imply causation, and in fact, could even be a reverse causation. Maybe Cully has such a low injury rate because it feels so unsafe that so few people want to walk there.

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        • paikiala March 25, 2016 at 2:09 pm

          so much for correlation does not imply causation.

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  • Opus the Poet March 24, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    The pictures I have seen show a street that at some point was designed to highway standards with lots of width and clear space for “safety”. Obviously if the 85 percentile is only 38 MPH this can’t be true for the entire length so there must be some sections that are dicey enough to scare the $h!4 out of drivers, but probably because they scare the $h!4 out of everyone else, too.

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