by Portland Police to crack down
on people who use a cell
phone while driving (or biking).
(Photo © J. Maus)
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) will kick off a new ‘summer safety campaign’ later today.
Mayor Sam Adams — who has consistently said safety is his number one priority in leading PBOT (which he has done for six years now) — will be on hand to launch the effort. In addition to a focus on safety, what’s notable about this campaign is that it’s not just biking and walking advocates doing all the talking.
In what PBOT bills as the “first time these interests have team up,” the Safe Summer Streets campaigns boasts a broad coalition of partners including AAA Oregon/Idaho, the Oregon Trucking Association, the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, TriMet, and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Today’s press conference will take place in the parking lot of AAA Oregon/Idaho in southwest Portland.
Yes. Illegal? Not exactly.
What exact role each group will play, and what the details of the effort will be, remain to be seen.
PBOT says it will focus on, “distracted travel, whether while driving, bicycling or walking; running red lights; and speeding.”
As part of today’s announcement, PBOT will launch two new types of “enforcement actions” to their existing crosswalk enforcement program. That program, which we highlighted back in January, has resulted in 904 citations over five years.
It’s interesting to see PBOT move away from the term “distracted driving” and use “distracted travel” instead — so as to include people walking and biking. I’m all for mode-neutral language, but have mixed feelings about diluting the message for something that hasn’t been shown to actually be a problem and that’s not illegal to begin with.
While people using cell phones while biking and walking is surely not a good idea, I’m not aware of any statistics that show that the behavior has caused anywhere near the over 5,400 fatalities on U.S. roads that cell phone use while driving has. It’s also not clear whether using a cell phone while biking or walking is actually illegal. Oregon’s cell phone law clearly states that it applies to a “person operating a motor vehicle.”
It’s not hard to understand the thinking behind PBOT and City Hall’s use of this term. Neither of them want to be perceived as being too hard on motor vehicle operators, especially on a campaign that includes partners from AAA and ODOT. As we shared back in May, ODOT’s head of traffic safety Troy Costales, publicly blamed part of Oregon’ major uptick in fatal crashes on “aggressive pedestrians” and signed onto a press release by a highway interest group that blamed fatalities on people “stepping out in the street and getting hit.”
(For more on the ‘distracted travel’ enforcement actions, read The Oregonian’s coverage.)
Stay tuned for more coverage of this campaign.