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[Updated] Safety advocates will try (again) for new hand signal law in 2009

Posted by on December 2nd, 2008 at 2:05 pm

An elderly couple crosses NW
Lovejoy at 9th.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition are teaming up on a new bill that will seek to improve public safety by rewriting and expanding on Oregon’s crosswalk laws.

The new law proposal will amend ORS 811.028 (Failure to stop and remain stopped for pedestrian) to create a new violation for motor vehicle operators that fail to stop for a pedestrian (or someone on a bicycle) that extends their hand toward oncoming traffic with intent to cross.

The impetus for the change is this: Currently, to legally cross a crosswalk in Oregon, pedestrians must step out into traffic before approaching traffic is required to stop. This, advocates feel, is dangerous for pedestrians, confusing for drivers, and unclear for law enforcement professionals.

In 2007, the BTA worked on a similar pedestrian hand signal bill (SB 573). It passed the Senate, but failed to make it through the House despite a last-minute rallying cry.

This time around, advocates and legal experts feel like key changes have been made that will make it much more likely to garner the support needed for it to become law.

Story continues below


According to noted bike lawyer and member of the BTA’s Legislative Committee Ray Thomas, the last time the proposal came before lawmakers, several of them objected. Some worried about how the hand signal would impact congestion during rush-hour, others worried the proposed law would “create driver confusion” and that it was too vague on how and where the signal would be given.

Former BTA lobbyist and now
executive director, Scott Bricker
demonstrating the hand signal at
a workshop in 2007.

Thomas says they’ve learned from their efforts in 2007 and that the new law will solve those problems.

I got a hold of Thomas this morning (he’s in Washington D.C. fighting with Phillip Morris in front of the Supreme Court) and he gave me the latest details on the new proposal.

The major difference with the new proposal is that it makes the hand signal violation applicable only to locations with marked crosswalks (the 2007 version included even unmarked crosswalks). Traffic safety advocates might not be happy with this change, but Thomas sees it as a necessary compromise to ensure success of the bill.

UPDATE, 12/5: I misunderstood Thomas when I first reported this. The proposed law will include unmarked crosswalks as well. I apologize for any confusion this has caused.

Another key provision of the new bill is how bicycles figure into the equation. Currently, Oregon law says that someone on a bike has the same rights as a pedestrian in a crosswalk (as long as they’re riding slowly).

But what about when you’re on your bike, on the sidewalk, waiting to cross?

“In Norway, someone can simply walk up to a curb and cars stop for them about 95% of the time.”
Ray Thomas

Thomas says the new bill doesn’t specifically name bicyclists, but it includes language that increases the size of what is considered the “crosswalk”. Therefore, since existing law already says bicyclists have equal rights as pedestrians in a crosswalk, bicyclists can also raise their hand and benefit from the hand signal bill.

“The proposal moves back the official right-of-way to the curb as you’re about to enter. So, as a bike rider, you can also put your hand up and motorists would be in violation if they did not stop.”

To thwart hand signal fakers and to pre-empt potential opposition to the proposal among lawmakers, Thomas also told me a late addition to the bill is the creation of a new violation that would dole out a traffic citation to anyone who raises their hand without the intention to cross.

Thomas, who has written a manual on pedestrian legal rights, said he was inspired to fight for improvements to Oregon’s pedestrian laws after a trip to Norway. “In Norway,” he said, where they have a hand signal law in place, “someone can simply walk up to a curb and cars stop for them about 95% of the time.”

So far, Thomas says he has the enthusiastic support of former Traffic Division captain and now Assistant Chief of the Portland Police Bureau Larry O’Dea and at least one Republican lawmaker — State Senator Ted Ferrioli, who was almost hit while walking in a crosswalk.

It will be interesting to see the reaction to this bill, both by lawmakers and by the community. Commenting on a related story on BikePortland.org this morning, one reader doesn’t think a hand signal is the right direction.

Reader “Shawna” wrote:

“Drivers need to obey the laws that exist, and we need to better enforce those laws. Adding a little hand-jive to the duties of pedestrians isn’t going to improve the situation.

…We could pass a law that says “if you want to show your intent to cross the street, you should: find a crosswalk, use a hand signal, wear a red t-shirt that says “I’m crossing the street now!”, and put a safety cone on your head.

This is not the fix we are looking for.”

Reader “Scott G.” writes in the comments below that:

“I like the idea of sanctioning an action that gives the pedestrian some authority to assert themselves, and it seems like it would help encourage eye contact, too.”

The pedestrian hand signal bill will be added to the BTA’s legislative agenda for 2009. You can read more about this bill in an article by Ray Thomas published by Oregon Cycling Magazine.

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  • dsaxena December 2, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    So if this law is passed, is there a plan to educate the public about it? Passing laws that the public does not know about and thus cannot follow does not mean more safety.

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  • Scott G. December 2, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Isn’t this proposed hand signal ambiguously close to how someone hails a cab? If so, that seems like it could cause some legitimate confusion.

    I do like the idea of sanctioning an action that gives the pedestrian some authority to assert themselves, and it seems like it would help encourage eye contact, too.

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  • Daniel (teknotus) Johnson December 2, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I don’t like the idea that I could be penalized for making a hand gesture that might have nothing to do with wanting to cross the street. That feels like an attack on my freedom of expression.

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  • Icarus Falling December 2, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    It is very sad that a person does not even have the right of way even in a crosswalk.

    To have to signal to cars that you are using a crosswalk is ludicrous.

    A proper law on this note would give right of way 100 percent to anyone standing on the corner in the position indicating the crosswalk is to be used.

    Any proposed law other than right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks is a step in the wrong direction. (pedestrians, when using a crosswalk, would include cyclists)

    Once again, another misguided effort from the BTA.

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  • Coyote December 2, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    As as a vehicle operator and a pedestrian, I welcome this change in the law. Clear communication of intent, is key to road safety. I never understood how just launching pedestrians into traffic is a good thing for drivers or pedestrians.

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  • RyNO Dan December 2, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    What, prey tell, is a “marked” crosswalk ?

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    • John Lascurettes August 29, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      There are two types of crosswalks in Oregon, marked (either with two parallel stripes or with perpendicular zebra markings) and unmarked crosswalks. Unmarked crosswalks are at any intersection extending from one corner to the other (there are some specifics in the law about how wide it is when unmarked). All this is to say, every intersection in Oregon (unless explicitly marked as prohibited) has crosswalks whether marked or unmarked.

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  • encephalopath December 2, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Is a law like this currently in effect anywhere in the world?

    And if there is how well does it work? Is there any data on its efficacy?
    Before… after…

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 2, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    “What, prey tell, is a “marked” crosswalk ?”

    one with painted lines or hash marks.

    “It is very sad that a person does not even have the right of way even in a crosswalk.

    To have to signal to cars that you are using a crosswalk is ludicrous.”

    This bill has nothing to do with changing the right of way in a crosswalk. A person does not have to make the signal to cross. The new law would just give them another option.

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  • Icarus Falling December 2, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    I understand that, Jonathan.

    My point is that the crosswalk laws we have are not the ones that should be in place. And adding this hand signal is like putting a Hello Kitty band aid on a gaping head wound.

    Anything other than 100% right of way in a crosswalk, depending of course on walk/don’t walk signals, is insufficient.

    Think of the elderly, the children, and the handicapped, at the least.

    Crosswalk violations run rampant in our city. Not only by citizens, but also by the police, and definitely Tri Met drivers.

    A crosswalk should be considered almost a sacred place, where one can feel safe.

    This ordinance change will add nothing to the safety of crosswalks whatsoever.

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  • peejay December 2, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Drivers need to obey the laws that exist, and we need to better enforce those laws.

    This is the type of simple-minded view of laws and enforcement that prevents real improvement. Not arguing the specifics of this case (although the hand signal idea looks like it makes sense), most — not all — laws that are not complied with have some actual problem that inhibits compliance. Greater enforcement rarely does anything but antipathy towards the police, who are viewed as capricious and out for the money.

    As for this law, why would anybody prefer to place their body in harm’s way as a method to make a vehicle stop, rather than make the hand signal? In my experience (mostly as a cyclist, but occasionally as a driver), it seems like a little more advance notice is safer all around, and the hand signal would provide that.

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  • bjorn December 2, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    I urge people to read Ray Thomas’s Oregon Cycling article that is linked in the story. An important thing to note is that this is currently in use in Norway, and that even though people there walk more they are half as likely to be killed by a car as in Oregon. I don’t think that the pedestrian hand signal is the only reason for that, but having been to Oslo I think it is one piece of the puzzle.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 2, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    thanks for the clarification of your views Icarus. I now have a better understanding of what you think about think about this.

    I agree with you that crosswalks should be sacred and I hear you about this being a band-aid (I agree to a certain extent) to a larger problem.

    however, I think it will create more awareness for traffic safety and, if enforced and educated around, it will have a positive impact.

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  • toddistic December 2, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Just remember now the police have an excuse to detain/ticket you if you do not extend your hand in a crosswalk. 1984 here we come!

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  • Matthew Denton December 2, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    So opponents are worried that people are going to stand on the side of the road with their hand raised just to stop traffic even though they don’t intend to cross?

    Why would someone do that in the first place? Couldn’t they just as easily step off the curb if they wanted to stop traffic now? And yet, I see no signs that they do do that, probably because people have better things to do with their life…

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  • Snowflake Seven December 2, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    This makes sense for pedestrians.

    It does not make sense for people riding bicycles. Why are the on the sidewalk? Why are they not waiting for normal traffic yields (traffic signal, four-way stop, etc.) to proceed as a normal vehicle?

    And why are would a cyclist be riding in a crosswalk?

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  • bjorn December 2, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    #13 The proposed law does not require the pedestrian to use the hand signal, it provides a second option besides stepping into moving traffic to assert the right of way. Anyone who doesn’t want to use the PHS can continue doing what they currently do now without violating the law.

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  • Andrew December 2, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    I can attest to this. I visited Norway when I was 19, and I now live in Portland.

    Even in a much smaller municipality, such as Molde, I was quite surprised to see drivers patiently waiting for me when I was at the curb.

    At the time, I was living in Orlando, FL, which has one of the highest counts of pedestrian fatalities in the country.

    The difference could not have been more clear.

    Portland has done a much better job than Orlando, but sometimes I still have to jockey for right-of-way, even on marked crosswalks, in the most pedestrian-dense areas (like the park blocks near PSU).

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  • Pete December 2, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    dsaxena (#1) makes the first point that came to my mind. Ray discussed the history of the Idaho stop law in a recent Oregon Cycling and noted the budget included education for children for many years. Oregon has gone back and forth on this particular section in recent years; now nobody seems to know if you have 6′, wait until the walker reaches the other side, whether a crosswalk needs to be marked, or if an unmarked crosswalk is actually considered ‘marked’ in certain circumstances.

    Let alone the number of drivers who misunderstand bike laws, I think the Oregon educational system needs an overhaul (in oh so many ways). We can’t keep introducing ‘progressive’ laws, regardless of their intention, and rely on the public to educate themselves on the details via mainstream media. This is great work to be sure, but it comes from idealogical foundations and has to be carried through to change that the public can digest. My perception, incidentally, is that the public doesn’t generally like change…

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  • Pete December 2, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    On another note, I live in a town that tourists invade all summer, and it’s difficult to tell what people are doing as they stand on corners looking in all directions, often one stepping out and then back to a group while decisions are contemplated. With all the out-of-staters and sting operations people drive extra cautiously in this downtown area. I’ve learned that if I want to cross the street *behind* a car and not provoke them to stop, I position my body at least 45 degrees away from the street and look away from the driver. I even walked into the side of a car once trying to time traffic and the person panicked to a stop (already over the crosswalk, but around the time of heavily publicized stings).

    There’s definitely an unspoken protocol our society has in this traffic dance (like, if I hold up my middle finger when you drive too close you get to drive around with me on your hood… :). Maybe defining a language for it would actually help?

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  • Pete December 2, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    #3: I can just see it now. You wave to your friend riding in the bike lane across the street and suddenly there’s the screeching of brakes, crash, bang, boom… six car pileup!

    You’re going to jail, buddy…

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  • Brian December 2, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Seems to me this hand jive is a little confrontational. Seriously. This is like saying ‘hey you stop’. Seems like most drivers will take this an insult.

    I do agree that clarifying pedestrian intent to cross the street is a nice thing. But there is no reason to codify the technique.

    I think the reason things are better in other countries has to do with better law enforcement. Not better laws. We have the laws, they are just not enforced. And the consequences for violating traffic laws are pathetic.

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  • Joshua Cohen December 2, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I was in West Seattle last weekend, and noticed several small flags placed a metal bucket, mounted near a crosswalk on either side of a busy intersection.

    (Google “crossing flags admiral street” for details)

    This strikes me as a good solution to get around the “ambiguous hand gesture” problem. And while you can’t place flags at every intersection, you could allow folks who do a lot of walking to carry a flag with them, and use it at any intersection.

    This solution also has the benefit of having been tried in several cities, so there is data available that could guide Oregon cities toward smart implementation.

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  • Brian December 2, 2008 at 4:15 pm


    My antipathy toward the police is caused by the fact that they continuously ignore obvious traffic violations. I think they are underfunded and doing an all round bad job wrt traffic safety.

    Seems like if I do see a cop out here in Washington county they are just driving around with one hand talking on their cell phone. Or getting coffee and bagels. I can name ten different intersections where I see VERY frequent traffic violations. And NEVER any enforcement.

    I want enforcement to be about going after the money. Then maybe people would think about following the rules.

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  • Anonymous December 2, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I don’t mean to stir conflict, but I think cyclists need to note that pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks from both cars and cyclists. There are many times I see cars stop for a pedestrian to cross an intersection, but the bikes don’t. This is very obvious on Broadway.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know cars are no angels, but I’ve been hit twice by bikes as a pedestrian so it’s kind of an issue for me.

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  • beth h December 2, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    I am confused about where the BTA is headed on its legislative work. This bill is an example that leaves me scratching my head.

    I am not convinced that an “optional” hand signal will make pedestrians any safer than they are now. I am not convinced that there will be enough funding allocated to effectively enforce such a law. And how would you enforce the obeying of a signal that is not required of pedestrians but only optional? I feel this legislation serves no real purpose.

    Instead, I would prefer to see the BTA take the more radical — and more meaningful — stance of re-shaping our infrastructure to make cities less car-friendly and more HUMAN-friendly. Let’s make driving more expensive and more inconvenient. Let’s create some real car-free streets. Failing that, let’s put in more traffic calming devices and lower speed limits in our neighborhoods. Let’s increase funding for public transit and rebuild our nation’s rail system. THOSE are real solutions, the kind I’d like to see the BTA and other advocacy organizations aggressively push for. These too-small, too-careful measures we’re seeing now are ineffective at best and empty posturing at worst.

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  • Bill Stites December 2, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    I tend to wave ‘thanks’ when I am accommodated at a crosswalk, and I do find myself holding my hand up if there is non-compliance leading to my frustration.

    It’s obvious that one of the main sticking points to this legislation might be the specific action of waving itself. I read Ray Thomas’ article, including the proposed amendments, and didn’t see a clear description of what would constitute a proper gesture, aside from raising one’s hand.

    As a suggestion towards clarity, perhaps the ‘crosswalk wave’ can be easily and specifically defined by “holding the entire arm horizontally [from the shoulder] in the direction one intends to cross”. Maybe even include some flexing at the elbow for more-noticeable motion??

    And by all means, make sure you are seen and accommodated before stepping in front of vehicles … there’s no sense in being ‘right’ and having a couple of busted legs.

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  • Natty December 2, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Though I am not aware any pedestrian “hand signal law”, anywhere in Canada, school children, in several places where I have lived are taught to hold their arm our horizontal in the direction they intent to cross and wait for all traffic to come to a complete stop before stepping from the curb.

    {Not} Surprisingly, even this readily discernible pantomime of little johnny as bird dog, fails to slow traffic at the crossing at the end of my street. This is an intersection at the bottom of a log descent, and next to a grammar school, where even the lollipop lady receives no respect.

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  • John December 2, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Who cares? I don’t want police to write tickets when I can’t cross the street, I want to cross the freakin’ street.
    Why is this so hard?

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  • justa December 2, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    i have a housemate who grew up in quebec, and apparently the the hand-signal for cars to yield right-of-way is de riguer there. it pisses her off when she signals oncoming traffic and they don’t slow down. and i don’t blame her–stepping in front of an oncoming car makes me more than just a little uncomfortable, and for good reason.

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  • justa December 2, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    p.s. um…i accidentally misspelled ‘rigeur’, and i’m a little neurotic about spelling. 🙂

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  • John Mulvey December 2, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I agree with Brian. The issue is the complete and total lack of enforcement of the law, however it’s written. I could stand on the side of the road doing jumping jacks and there would still be at least 3 of 4 cars that would cruise on through without a thought of stopping.


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  • G.A.R. December 3, 2008 at 12:06 am

    I hope they are rewriting ORS 801.220 to provide the protection of crosswalks where they are not painted. Under current law an intersection with no paint has four crosswalks, but an intersection with *some* paint lacks the unpainted ones. And wheelchair ramps don’t cause the crosswalks to exist either–they just lure people into traffic. Consider 34th and SE Salmon, an intersection that is probably familiar to plenty of us. It is a four-way stop next to Sunnyside School. It has crosswalks along the east and south sides of the intersection. A pedestrian on the NW corner must yield to motor vehicles when crossing either street! Furthermore, this being a four-way stop, cars approaching from W and N do not have to stop before the extended sidewalks, but may proceed to the extended curbs. Not safe for peds, and pretty much useless to everyone. Very few motorists really know that they need not yield to peds in these unmarked non-crosswalks. Is that good or bad?

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  • Natty December 3, 2008 at 4:06 am


    Québec is one of those provinces where school children have been taught, for at least a generation, to use signal traffic from the curb.

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  • Jeff December 3, 2008 at 7:18 am

    I predict no increase in compliance. Drivers don’t want to stop and many feel it is their birthright not to stop. Period.

    I have personally put myself into significant harm’s way trying to get cars to stop, stepping off the curb and way out into traffic with plenty of room for a driver to see and recognize me. Usually I get the bird and the horn.

    Additionally, the police DO NOT want to enforce this law. They have no plans to set up enforcement zones and really don’t want to. Even if you call the traffic division and complain vociferously, they will grudgingly take a look.

    Expect no change. Take your risks.

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  • Rich December 3, 2008 at 8:26 am

    I’ve come to the conclusion that if a law isn’t enforced (perhaps because it really can’t be enforced) then it’s meaningless. I’m in CA, and people are already back to yacking on the cell phone while driving (illegal since July 1).

    Last night a car failed to yield my right of way. I was pushing a stroller and shining my 110 lumen bike light in his direction. He was too busy on the phone. I ended up waving the light, and he finally started looking around to see where the flashing was coming from, but I’m not sure if he ever did ‘see’ me.

    And of course, if you ever actually touch a car in an intersection, well…

    (cop’ car almost hits pedestrian, pedestrian hits cop’s car, cop puts pedestrian in the hospital for 3 days)

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  • Carice December 3, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Salt Lake City has the little flags in buckets to hold and wave as you cross the street, I personally felt like they were silly, but it was a solution. In Boston/ Cambridge, drivers are actually pretty good about yielding to pedestrians, but I think that’s a critical mass thing- so many pedestrians and the drivers are used to them, therefore “see” them.
    I think that the bottom line is that if the driver is inclined to respect pedestrian rights, they’ll yield to any obvious inclination to cross- walking to the curb, waving your hand etc. If they’re not inclined to respect those rights, you could dress up in a flashing neon lit suit and do the conga across the cross walk and they’ll still run you down.
    Enforcement and shaping driver attitudes is much more important than some subtle legal change.

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  • Coyote December 3, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Brian (#21), it should be a little confrontational. Not just “hey you stop”, but more Ratso Rizzo “I’m walk’n here!”

    This is a battle for public space. Cars have become the defacto winners because of an unconscionable ability to kill and maim with impunity. Making people think is always going to be a little confrontational.

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  • a.O December 3, 2008 at 8:50 am

    What Coyote said (@ #37).

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  • naess December 3, 2008 at 8:59 am

    my only question is how this will effect signalled crosswalks, like the ones along powell, or even the four way ones downtown (see picture above)? will they remove the signals, add language to the bill requiring pedestrians to wait for the signal or will pedestrians and cyclists be able to choose to either wait for the signal or just wave their hand and walk on through?

    if there is no clarification on these types of crosswalks then i see the bill failing much like the attempted “school zone speed limit” one did. (where they tried to make all school zones 20mph, yet didn’t want to remove/change any of the signage around the schools.)

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  • vanessa December 3, 2008 at 9:11 am

    I was told by a cop that I have to dismount my bike and walk across intersections for cars to stop. I frequently cross MLK, both walking and with dismounted bicycle, and cars hardly ever stop to let me cross unless I walk into the street and hold my hand up in a halt fashion. I usually get yelled at that I am some crazy bitch, (might be true) and I am going to get killed- by some car that refuses to stop and zips by me.
    I just do not understand why cars do not stop when it is obvious that a pedestrian is waiting to cross.
    Obviosly, we need more education as to the law, and more ticketing for people who ignore it.
    I admit that sometimes when I am driving I do not see a pedestrian in time and zip by them, feeling horribly guilty in the process.Often when I do stop for someone to cross, cars behind me honk at me like I am an asshole.
    Also, trying to cross Fremont to Irving Park as a pedestrian, cars hardly ever stop. I have lived near the park for 20 years now. Do you think a marked cross walk could go down on the street there?
    I mean, thousands of kids go there to play soccer, etc. People play basketball, tennis, ultimate frisbee, and walk their dogs. The occasional metal hound scans the dirt for lost items of value.Shouldnt there be a marked safe crosswalk to enter a park?

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  • toddistic December 3, 2008 at 9:39 am

    I can’t believe people are actually suggesting everyone carry little flags around, I mean, hands down the dumbest thing I have EVER heard.

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  • Kt December 3, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Jeff #34, as a driver, I am insulted by your characterization of me. I don’t think it’s my “birthright” to not have to stop. I think if I talked to 100 drivers, 0 of them would think it’s their birthright to not stop.

    I think the bigger problem that you really should have used is that drivers just don’t see peds and cyclists. Drivers get distracted with all the input that needs processing, and unfortunately, people’s brains seem to have devolved to not be able to process everything. Or there’s way more than our brains can handle right now, and most of it we’re responsible for: cell phones, gps, cd player/radio, food, make-up, shaving the face, looking in a bag for a certain file folder full of info needed at the next appointment, reading directions, reading the newspaper… I could go on, but you get it.

    It’s sad that we seem to need a law like this one just to walk across the street. And it’s because drivers either don’t know the law, or they don’t see the pedestrian trying to cross.

    No one should have to put their bodies on the line to get to their destination.

    The onus is not solely on the drivers, though; pedestrians and other road users need to make sure the way is safe and clear before stepping out into traffic. Whatever happened to looking left-right-left, before getting out into traffic?? Nowadays, it’s just step off the curb into traffic and then maybe check to make sure– but too often, just step off the curb and go and make everyone else stop for you.

    It’s also sad that the lawmakers are so concerned about making sure traffic doesn’t back up when someone stops for a ped to get across the road. Um, hello? Traffic already backs up, the problem is TOO MANY CARS.

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  • Shawna December 3, 2008 at 11:35 am

    It’s a little unfortunate that the most flippant part of my original post was excerpted in this article, since my overall point was more focused on how a hand signal won’t help a lot of the pedestrians who need the most protection when they’re using crosswalks (disabled, the elderly who may need their hands on a walker, people carrying children, etc.).

    Another part of this I didn’t mention came full-circle for me this morning, when I was nearly hit in a crosswalk on Powell by a car doing about 40. I had no real problem entering the crosswalk. The car in the first lane stopped well behind the “stop here” line (which is really generous at that crosswalk), and the cars behind that one all slowed appropriately. As usual, it was the car barreling through in the fast lane, completely ignoring the fact that all of the cars in the lane next to him were stopped, that nearly took me out. I’ve never smelled so much burnt rubber in my life. The Volvo’s bumper stopped about two feet from me. It was so scary and shocking that EVERY car in both directions stopped for a few moments. I’ve been shaking all morning.

    So while I know full well it can be difficult to enter a crosswalk as a pedestrian or cyclist, what terrifies me and has almost killed me a few times is when I am already in the crosswalk, using it safely and legally, and drivers are simply ignorant of what is happening directly around them. The last time this happened at the same intersection, it was raining really hard and the street was full of water. I had time to stop in front of the first lane of cars, and the truck that was skidding to a stop actually barrelled through the crosswalk going about 30. He came to a fish-tailed stop in the middle of both lanes about 25 feet past the crosswalk. If I had asserted myself in that situation, there would have been little of me left to pick up off the street.

    So yeah, I have a hard time seeing how raising my hand at the curb is going to save me from getting killed by people who just don’t freaking pay attention. This is a real problem and it need a real, driver-based solution. And before anyone asks, yes, I am ridiculously visible in my bright green peacoat.

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  • eileen December 3, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Hold on! Did I just read that if this law passes, vehicles will only be required to yield to pedestrians in “marked” crosswalks??? Please, please, tell me I misread that.

    Otherwise I would say this law is an improvement because the whole stepping out into traffic thing is silly. However, I did believe that if the driver could see that the pedestrian intended to cross that they should stop anyway. I mean, there are some streets where stepping off the curb would result in death.

    I think this law needs publicity though – many people who recently moved here from other states are not even aware they’re supposed to stop for pedestrians. And this long-time Oregon tradition of pedestrians having the right of way has become light in practice. By the way, cars really DID used to stop. I swear.

    To Shawna, this law is for the cars, not the pedestrians. It is still highly recommended that you make sure cars are actually stopping before stepping off the curb or pulling into traffic. Are we going to have to post this warning at intersections? “Warning, cars are deadly, do not cross in front of moving vehicles.”

    One more thing, i have to confess, I thought that if you were riding your bike, you were meant to follow the same laws as cars and that bikes only got pedestrian treatment when walking their bike. So I apologize if I didn’t give you the right of way in the past.

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  • jim December 3, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Why is it that for grade schools they send little kids out into the street to stop traffic so the other little kids can cross, then when they get into high school they build them a bridge over the street, when they get into higher education they close the whole street?

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  • E December 4, 2008 at 8:15 am

    I waited at a marked crosswalk with one foot in the road as 10 cars zipped by without slowing. Getting impatient, I raised my hand in the “stop” gesture – the next car stopped and I was FINALLY able to cross. So dis if you want, but it seems to work.

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  • jami December 4, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I like where this is coming from, but if we want to be like Norway (weather aside, I do!), we need to do what Norway does. I bet it’s strong enforcement of existing laws. I don’t mind if some people would rather wave to stop a car than step in front of it (makes sense), but I agree with #3 that fining people for waving is completely unacceptable.

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  • Anonymous December 4, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I agree with #24

    As someone who walks to work each day, I’ve seen my fair share of cars that don’t stop for marked sidewalks and seem bent on getting to their destination as fast as humanly possible. I’ve also had numerous occasions where drivers stop instantly. I’ve found that the closer in to downtown you are increases the chances of stopping. I pity all of you in the suburbs who walk anywhere.

    That said, bicycles are worse than drivers when I encounter them. I did a little survey, and for the past month, when I am in a crosswalk, a bike has never stopped for me. They all whiz by, some glaring, others oblivious to my existence.

    I do have a question though. I see quite a few bikes jumping up on sidewalks and then entering crosswalks so that they don’t have to change lanes through traffic or stop. I was under the assumption that they do have to stop and walk their bike across. Does anyone have more clarification as to the laws on this?

    This area isn’t bad when you compare it to other parts of the US, but we have a ways to go before we’re all existing harmoniously. Stay safe.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 5, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Hi everyone,

    Just an FYI that I’ve added an important update to this story. here it is….

    UPDATE, 12/5: I misunderstood Thomas when I first reported this. The proposed law will include unmarked crosswalks as well. I apologize for any confusion this has caused.

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  • Anonymous December 7, 2008 at 11:40 am

    I was crossing stark on the short bike path near NE 201st. I never Pushed the crosswalk button just stopped when the cars passed I move to the centrer of the road to wait for the cars going the other way when a Gresham motorcycle cop stopped and told me in a pissed off way that (you know cars don.t have to stop if you don’t get off your bike don’t you) I said I was just waiting for them to pass and he said (I just want you to know they don’t have to stop)
    In stead of having him give me a ticket when I did not do anything wrong I did not say anything more. I think he is just a power happy cop.

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  • TS December 13, 2008 at 3:15 am

    Late comment, but I would hope the proposed law only requires motorists to stop if it’s safe to do so. I’d not want to risk skidding or getting rear-ended (especially in weather like we’re getting now) just because some pedestrian can’t adequately judge when it’s safe for the driver to stop and sticks their hand up anyway. Pedestrians seem to underestimate (grossly, in the case of large heavy vehicles) the required stopping distance.

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