Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Mayor Adams launches traffic safety campaign near SE Foster ‘freeway’

Posted by on November 19th, 2010 at 10:50 am

High Crash Corridors campaign launch-8

Adams and the banner at this
morning’s event.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Portland Mayor Sam Adams led a press conference today to officially launch the Bureau of Transportation’s new High Crash Corridor Safety campaign. Standing under a newly unveiled banner that stretches all the way across SE Foster Road (one of the city’s most dangerous), Adams said, “This street functions in many ways like a freeway, but it’s not.”

The new “See Kids” banner, with the eyes of a small child staring down on traffic, is PBOT’s educational component of the new safety campaign that focuses on high speed arterials where there are a higher than average rate of fatal and injury crashes. “There are reasons why businesses use banners on busy streets like this,” Adams told the crowd, “Because it draws attention… and it works.”

High Crash Corridors campaign launch-10

The banner strung over SE Foster Road near 108th.

Adams said the goal of the campaign is to reign in some of the freeway-like driving that occurs on roads like Foster. “We want people to slow down and remember that there are schools and senior centers nearby.”

High Crash Corridors campaign launch-5

ODOT Region 1 Manager Jason Tell.

Jason Tell, ODOT’s Regional 1 manager, announced that they’ve committed $14 million over the next 3-4 years specifically focused on high crash corridors. Adams added that PBOT is upping their investment in improvements that make biking and walking safer, saying that over the next three years, he’ll allocate $20 million to infrastructure improvements and other programs.

High Crash Corridors campaign launch-7

Captain Wyatt

To show that enforcement is a big piece of the safety puzzle, Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Captain Todd Wyatt also spoke at the event. He showed a bit of passion and told the crowd, “Two people were killed this week on Portland’s roads… And that’s two too many!” He shared the story of two kids walking to school in North Portland this month who were hit by a motor vehicle operator while crossing NE 15th at Rosa Parks.

“That driver isn’t a bad person,” Wyatt said, “But the driver has room for improvement and that’s what we’re here to talk about.”

“This is the kind of thing we need out here… It makes people more aware of the crisis.”
— Nick Christensen, neighborhood resident

During a Q & A session that followed the formal remarks, I asked ODOT’s Jason Tell if his agency plans a policy or programmatic response to the dramatic uptick in fatal crashes involving people walking on Oregon roads this year (up 80% over 2009). Tell said that “Everyone should be concerned” about those statistics and added that they are “obviously tragic and avoidable.”

Tell referenced the $14 million ODOT will invest in intersections and pedestrian crossings. But, Tell said, the “educational aspects” of the effort might be even more important:

“We are doing a lot We really are pleading with the public and those who use the system — and that means everybody, whether you’re in a car, on your bike, or walking — everyone has to pay attention and be seen and look out for each other. We’re really going to be on that message as much as we can, but in the end we really need the people who are using the transportation system to do their part as well.”

As for specific things ODOT plans to do in response to the pedestrian fatality uptick, Tell told me they still need to get back all the crash analysis and investigations to see how the fatalities occurred and who/what was at fault before they can put together a targeted response in terms of investments and programs.

Lents Neighborhood activist Nick Christensen also came out this morning. He was excited to see this happening in his neighborhood. “This is the kind of thing we need out here… It makes people more aware of the crisis. And it is a crisis. 33,000 people dying [in traffic crashes in America], that’s a crisis! And people are dying unnecessarily.”

PBOT plans to install a total of 10 banners on roads they’ve identified as the most dangerous corridors. The total cost of the banner program is $75,000 over two years.

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  • MeghanH November 19, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Wish they could use our handmade banner from a previous Foster pedestrian safety awareness action last year: it fits with the Mayor’s message perfectly. http://www.portlandmercury.com/images/blogimages/2010/05/03/1272923600-1257914683-dscn0713.jpg

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    • matt picio November 19, 2010 at 11:54 am

      Awesome banner, Meghan! One thing is for sure, I will not be crossing Foster anywhere near this new banner. If sure that it will catch the attention of drivers, but that means in those couple of blocks, their attention is on the banner and not on the road. At least the banner you and Dutch were holding was at street level, at the road edge, where a driver’s eyes should be to see folks trying to cross.

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  • West Cougar November 19, 2010 at 11:04 am

    “That driver isn’t a bad person,” Wyatt said, “But the driver has room for improvement and that’s what we’re here to talk about.”

    This is a crock! If we can’t even muster a little social opprobrium, then let’s not even bother.

    Say it like it is:
    “The driver isn’t an evil person, but he is a bad person. And those closest to him that did nothing to stop him from driving well past his faculties’ prime are equally culpable. Our culture needs to change, and that change starts today!”

    Now that statement would send a message. An expensive banner campaign funded with other people’s money, not so much.

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    • q`Tzal November 19, 2010 at 12:45 pm

      I agree.
      It is too easy to excuse because American drivers feel pressure (over-scheduling, social pressure and the urge to conform) to drive too fast for conditions everywhere. Even this officer knows that he might be going too fast one day because everyone else is.

      How does America as a culture remove the stigma of driving slow enough to be safe?

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    • wsbob November 19, 2010 at 4:09 pm

      “… stop him from driving well past his faculties’ prime …” West Cougar

      Perhaps you also believe that people whose faculties haven’t reached their prime should be stopped from driving. It seems there’s plenty people like that in their ‘teens and twenties driving around.

      Maybe better education and more frequent testing for certain high incident prone age groups would be more practical and fair. Also, as some people commenting further down the thread note, compelling motor vehicle operators to reduce the speed of their vehicles, and learn to generally pay better attention to what’s going on around their vehicles, is desperately needed.

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    • Aaron November 20, 2010 at 10:09 pm

      AMEN! Publicly ostracizing illegal or deadly drivers is a very important part of traffic safety.
      And enforcing speed limits is another very important part.

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  • Spiffy November 19, 2010 at 11:05 am

    if you’re not familiar with Foster it’s full of power/telephone poles, street lights, traffic signals, and lots of signs…

    a banner is just taking people’s eyes off the road when they need to be paying attention to their driving…

    I can’t see how this banner program could be effective at all…

    if they were serious about calming the streets they would lower the speed limit to 25 and put in speed bumps… or instead of bumps they could redesign the street so that is goes in a gentle curve back and forth instead of straight…

    people are not going to pay attention and slow down by choice… you have to force them…

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    • matt picio November 19, 2010 at 11:58 am

      Unfortunately speed bumps aren’t an option, due to Foster’s road classification. Ditto for the 25mph. The problem with Foster is that, like Sandy it is one of the few diagonal boulevards – so it collects more traffic than it might otherwise. There are no parallel routes to either road. At least on SW Barbur the freeway sucks away much of the traffic. (though Barbur still has the same issues for peds due to its ginormous width and high traffic speeds)

      Right on with the attention issue. Also, there are so many distracting objects on the side of the road that the human brain starts to edit them all out – along with pedestrians who may “look” like signs or poles to someone’s peripheral vision.

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  • Martha R November 19, 2010 at 11:18 am

    What about those of us who are no longer kids? I’m so sick and tired of road safety campaigns that tell drivers to “see kids” or slow down “for kids’ sake.” What about us ADULTS who are walking and biking? Why aren’t people of ALL ages worthy of attention?

    The “I brake for humans” campaign a couple of years back was so much more compassionate and on-target that it gave me hope for future awareness campaigns. But now it’s back to puppy dogs and babies ’cause they’re so much cuter than I am.

    Putting a message like this on a busy street makes me wonder whether it’ll have any effect at times when kids aren’t normally around (like when school’s in session or well after dark). Yep, drivers, pay attention when you might expect to see kids around, but feel free to give in to distractions at all other times. And we wonder why there are so many deaths on our roads.

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    • BURR November 19, 2010 at 11:56 am

      My thoughts exactly. They claim there will be other banners, but where are they and exactly what are their messages?

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  • jram November 19, 2010 at 11:35 am

    i am definitely glad the powers that be are acting on this, but how do we get 10 banners for $75K? I really hope there is a lot more to the program than just the banners for that price tag.

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    • matt picio November 19, 2010 at 12:05 pm

      Most of that is installation costs. The banner itself is likely a couple hundred dollars. Stringing it across Foster requires two or more trucks, at least 4 men, and 2 hours. That’s not counting the costs of the lane closure, a police officer or 3 on-scene to stop traffic when the banner is hoisted over the road, etc. Probably a couple dozen man-hours total, at a cost to the city of (guessing here) $50-$100 per man-hour. That’s about $2,000 in labor costs. Not sure how $2,500 per sign becomes $7,500 per sign – likely I’m missing some costs or underestimating the crew size.

      Oh, figure another $2,000 when the sign comes down.

      There’s also paying the company that designed the banner and the marketing campaign, and the staff time of the traffic engineer and others for planning the work and assessing the impact, plus follow-up afterwards.

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  • mabsf November 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Too bad that creators of the banner don’t do as they preach… I have the suspicion it will be literally invisible after dusk…

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  • resopmok November 19, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Let’s be fair, Foster isn’t unsafe for pedestrians entirely because people aren’t paying attention (though they could do better). Foster serves a lot of traffic from both 205 and people coming into and out of downtown from their homes in deeper SE. Since the Mt Hood freeway was never built (not that it should’ve been) the city did not provide an alternate route or method of transportation for the people who live there to move around, so Powell, Foster and 82nd become their defacto highways. RYG signals and pedestrian overpasses would help keep pedestrians safe, but since the city doesn’t have that kind of money to spend, they will put up a few pretty banners and pat themselves on the back for the educational words they speak. Don’t get me wrong, education and PR are important to road safety (just as important as infrastructure) but this is really just a tool to try making Adams look good than effect any real change. $75k is a pretty cheap price to pay to be able to say “we did something” rather than doing anything that actually _helps_.

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    • lothar November 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm

      Agreed. Ever since the explosive sprawl into Happy Valley and out to Gresham and Damascus, Foster and Sunnyside Rd. have become major arteries into these areas.

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      • matt picio November 19, 2010 at 3:32 pm

        To a certain extent. Most of that traffic funnels through Hwy 224 and McLoughlin. Northern Happy Valley and the unclaimed area between HV, PDX, Gresham and Damascus are the main users of Foster E. of 102nd Ave. West of the freeway, traffic divides based on time of day and destination.

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  • Jeff November 19, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    A banner? this is the best they can come up with?
    How ’bout lowering traffic speed limits (with enforcement), installing islands, traffic calming devices, and well indicated cross walk signals? A bit more like MLK. Businesses would be attracted, people will feel safer. Safety fail.

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  • Nick V November 19, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Designing signage is one of the things I do for a living, yet I’d like to take this opportunity to say that the banner(s) won’t do squat. In one eye and out the other, so to speak, for drivers who are listening to radios, talking on cell phones (ahem), eating sandwiches, or whatever.

    It’s a shame that Oregon doesn’t have the money or the courage to simply increase the penalties for irresponsible driving.

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  • Jessica Roberts November 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Researchers found that a poster of eyes made people more honest. I wonder if we could hope for it to make them less likely to exceed the speed limit?

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  • Ely November 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    A few well-placed crosswalk stings, the city could make back its $75k in a day or two. AND have a larger impact on actual behavior.

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    • matt picio November 19, 2010 at 3:34 pm

      300 tickets would gross $75k, and cost about $2,000 in police time. That’s about 6-8 enforcement actions in one location.

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  • VIE November 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    What a waste of effort. Typical ineffectual, feel-good BS from the City and Adams. Just enforce the damn speed limit and pedestrian laws.

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  • John Mulvey November 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Only two months ago many of us in the neighborhood organized something called the Foster Summit, which was a neighborhood town hall dedicated to creating a dialogue about traffic safety in the Foster corridor. It was attended by the Mayor and various other electeds.

    At that time, Nick Christenson spoke in favor of maintaining high speeds on Foster because he claimed that economic development in the area required it.

    Which is it, Nick?

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    • Nick Christensen November 21, 2010 at 9:57 am

      Thanks, John, for bringing up this important point. There is a lot that can be done to improve pedestrian safety on Foster, including more street lights, better crossings and driver awareness. Speed reduction from 35 mph is one of many possible solutions.

      A day after the Foster Road Safety Summit, I was at a Damascus City Council meeting, focused on planning. And one of their biggest complaints is how *slow* Foster is as a commuting option for their residents. We need to be aware of the impacts of speed reductions have beyond our business districts.

      Safe roads help neighborhoods and help small businesses. Slow roads don’t necessarily equate to safe roads, especially when myriad other safety options exist.

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  • Fred November 19, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I saw the new banner while riding through Hillsdale this morning. The colors are so dark that I had a hard time making out the picture of the eyes.

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  • lothar November 19, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Not too sure about the fatalities in this area but isn’t the most occurrences of injuries or death on Foster between Powell and 82nd? Did they put this banner here because just a few blocks down is where the Springwater Trail crosses Foster?

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  • Whyat November 19, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    How about some motorcycle officers handing out citations 2 random days a week? I lived in FoPo for four years and never once saw speed enforcement on Foster.

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    • BURR November 19, 2010 at 1:32 pm

      I’ve lived between Hawthorne and Division in the 20s for 20 + years and I’ve never once seen PPB enforceing the speed limit on these streets, either.

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  • mabsf November 19, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    In general I am surprised that the police is not all behind the added revenue of ‘sting’ operations and perhaps some warnings would do it without pissing drivers utterly off…

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    • matt picio November 19, 2010 at 3:37 pm

      There aren’t enough officers. Enforcement actions are great until they affect response times – people would rather have an officer show up for a burglary before the criminal has left than having them writing tickets. To do a proper enforcement action, you need 4-6 police units. That’s 4-6 units that ordinarily would be out on patrol.

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      • VIE November 19, 2010 at 4:28 pm

        So, solving burglaries quickly is more important than preventing people who are driving from killing other people?

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  • BURR November 19, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    On the positive side, this is an educational program, rather than an engineering one.

    On the other hand, it seems PBOT applies the same low standards to their educational efforts as they do on their engineering efforts.

    Do it better, PBOT!

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    • matt picio November 19, 2010 at 3:38 pm

      BURR, what would you suggest they do? Don’t just complain, suggest a solution.

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      • BURR November 19, 2010 at 5:32 pm

        there are already several solutions posted here, including using a better graphic designer, better color combinations, and language that includes all vulnerable users and not just kids.

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  • mmann November 19, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    They’re correct about many drivers treating Foster like a Freeway. I cross it every day on the Springwater. There’s a traffic signal that is tripped automatically or manually. Drivers are often resentful, and in the last 2 weeks I’ve seen three people blow the signal here or nearby where the trail crosses 122nd. The one who almost hit me Tuesday night had come to a stop first, then decided to go. The banners are a start, but I’m all for traffic stings and some kind of permanent traffic calming – maybe am ODOT re-designation of Foster? – that sends a more serious message to slow down and share.

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    • NF November 19, 2010 at 2:28 pm

      Foster Road is not an ODOT facility. PBOT has the authority to reconfigure it as it sees fit. A downsizing to 3 lanes would slow traffic and provide space for added bicycle facilities, but that idea isn’t on the table.

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      • matt picio November 19, 2010 at 3:45 pm

        No, they don’t have the authority to reconfigure it as they see fit. They are required to follow the plan the City Council adopted in 2003:

        If they want to deviate from that, the Council needs to approve a new plan. Presumably there would be a public process and comment period.

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  • suburban November 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm


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  • david...no the other one! November 19, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I drove through here this morning, sorry driving is my job now. Traffic closest to the curb lane was merging into the inside lane due to the crowd and news crews. I was to busy looking out for the traffic to notice what the banner said. Leaving work, going through a school zone I did notice one installed there though. Although in the school zone they have auto flashing lights to warn drivers to reduce their speed to twenty. I don’t know how much those cost, and to install and also study, but what do we feel a life is worth?

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    • jim November 20, 2010 at 11:43 am

      I think most people do slow down to 20 when they see that blinking yellow light in the school zone because they know that fines double. The problem is that there aren’t very many of those lights in the school zones. On Alberta you go past Humboldt elementary with no yellow untill you get to Lincoln high school. There is a bigger need to have that yellow light at the elementary school than the high school. Their solution is to give little kids flags and tell them to go stand in the street to stop cars.
      Why is it that for elementary schools they have kids with flags, High schools they make an overpass, universities they close the whole street?

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  • Tony Columbo November 20, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Banner has already caused one accident.

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  • Duncan November 20, 2010 at 11:45 am

    I agree that the city could make pretty steady money by enforcing the speed limit on foster and powell. I try and drive the speed limit (or within a few miles of it anyway) and always have to speed up to 40-45 to get in the left lane to make a left turn.

    Also I have seen the photo radar guys there in front of Morland Plumbing but not in awhile.

    The ceapest solution is to time the traffic lights so traffic is limited to 30MPH.

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  • Stig10 November 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Imagine crossing Foster on the Springwater with just those ridiculous flashing yellow warning lights that the city has been obsessed with recently.

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  • Merckxrider November 22, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Mayor Sam should keep his mouth shut about it and just saturate high-hazard streets with cops, and set up some good old-fashioned speed traps. Crank up the enfocement and raise the fines to a painful level.

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  • Duncan November 22, 2010 at 8:29 am

    I think that this is a bigger safety issue than Bikes in Ladds Addition for sure.

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  • eenie November 23, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I drive frequently, and ride occasionally, from inner SE to Foster/122nd. If I ride I’m usually only on Foster from 112th to 122nd, and while I’m generally very comfortable riding I don’t feel safe on that stretch of Foster.

    The banner on Foster has folded itself in half and gotten stuck. Until I read this I had no idea what it said.

    I regularly see drivers blow through the blinky crosswalk on Foster by the Fred Meyer just west of 82nd. I’ve done it at least once myself–there’s so much going on in that spot that it can be hard to focus on the crosswalk signal if traffic’s not already slowing down. I’ve seen people blow the red light where the Springwater crosses Foster, too, but at least the signal there is easier to see.

    It would be great to see more enforcement. I drove up to Seattle a couple of weeks ago and I felt like I was seeing speed traps all over the place, on and off I-5–it made me realize how rarely I see them here.

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  • Hot Rod November 24, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    When I’m driving a car, many times there are so many signs that it distracts me – finally you tune them out so you can pay attention – and that includes signs that you SHOULD read.

    Fewer signs please; fewer distractions for drivers – we’ve got enough to do without frivilous crap.

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  • jim November 24, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    It would really suck if someone hit a kid because they were looking up in the air at a banner

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