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ODOT to distribute reflective arm bands to keep people safe – UPDATED

Posted by on October 25th, 2011 at 11:46 am

New arm bands being given away by
ODOT to help remedy uptick
in fatalities.
(Photo: ODOT)

As reported by The Oregonian this morning, the Oregon Department of Transportation has launched a traffic safety campaign. Under the ‘See and be seen’ banner, ODOT’s effort is aimed squarely at what they see as a major problem on Oregon’s roads — people who walk in the evening and at night while wearing dark clothing.

“Dark colored clothing and coats may look chic, but at night or on cloudy days, they can make pedestrians almost invisible,” reads the opening paragraph of the ODOT statement, “Every year in Oregon, the majority of pedestrian fatalities occur at night or in low-light hours. In 2010, 74 percent of the fatal pedestrian crashes occurred during low-light conditions. More than half of the pedestrians killed were wearing dark clothing and were not visible.”

To help people stay safe, ODOT’s Transportation Safety Division (a division with a $48.7 million annual budget) is giving away “reflective safety sashes and arm bands that people can wear over their clothes.” ODOT has teamed up with community groups to distribute the new safety accessories.

On their website, ODOT shares these tips for people to keep in mind while walking:

  • Wear bright or reflective clothing or shoes when walking at night. Avoid dark clothes; drivers can’t avoid what they can’t see.
  • Stay sober; walking while impaired increases your chance of being struck.
  • Don’t wear headphones or talk on a cell phone while crossing the street.
  • Watch out for motorists’ blind spots.
  • Remain alert! Don’t assume that cars are going to stop.
  • Be aware of vehicles around you. Make eye contact with motorists before crossing paths.
  • Use crosswalks and sidewalks whenever possible.
  • Look left, right and left again before crossing. Watch for turning cars.

And they also offer tips for “motorists”:

  • Watch for pedestrians especially at night.
  • Expect and slow for pedestrians in popular walking areas and near crosswalks.
  • Drive at cautious speeds in rainy weather and in low-light areas.

ODOT’s focus on non-vehicle road users comes from statistics that show, while the total number of fatal traffic crashes is trending downward, those involving people on foot are not. In 2010, 60 people were killed while walking on Oregon roads (after a low of 37 in 2009) making it the deadliest year for non-vehicle road users in over half a century.

This campaign also continues the trend at ODOT of hinting toward blame in these fatalities on the non-vehicle road users.

Back in January, the manager of ODOT’s Traffic Safety Division, Troy Costales signed onto a press release by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and blamed “aggressive pedestrians” for the uptick. “We are familiar with aggressive drivers; we now have aggressive pedestrians,” was his exact quote. The GHSA also insinuated that the success of the active transportation movement sweeping the country was to blame. Getting more people out of their houses and cars and into the streets, they said, “may cause pedestrian exposure, and thus risk, to increase.”

In their statement about the See and be Seen effort, ODOT piles on a long list of statistics to make the case that when people are killed while walking in Oregon, it is usually their own fault. Here are the stats ODOT presented to the media:

  • 12 of the 62 pedestrians killed (19.4%) were not coded as having contributed to the crash that killed them. [meaning, over 80% were to blame for their own death]
  • 46 of the 62 crashes (74%) involving a pedestrian fatality occurred at night or in low light hours.
  • 49 of the 62 pedestrians killed (79%) were not in an intersection: (45 were walking along a road, crossing the street at a location other than an intersection or crosswalk, etc.)
  • 44 of the 62 pedestrians killed (71%) were illegally in the roadway. This is an increase from the average of 35 percent over the last five years.
  • 13 of the 62 pedestrians killed (21%) were at an intersection when they were struck. (8 of the 13 (61.5%) were coded with an error (i.e. failed to yield right-of-way, disregarded traffic control device, etc.)
  • 33 of the 62 pedestrians killed (53%) were wearing dark clothing (not visible). This is up from an average of 23% over the last five years.
  • 28 of the 62 pedestrians killed (45%) had a positive BAC result. This is an increase from the average of 41% over the last five years.

From the tone and content of the statement, and the statistics presented, it’s clear that ODOT sees the uptick in fatalities of people on foot as being primarily their own fault. Not only is this the agency’s perspective, they are also launching a public relations campaign to promote it throughout the state.

While encouraging good safety habits is great, I feel like the tone of this campaign is a slippery slope toward blaming the victims and favoring the dominant, status-quo user group (people in cars). I hope ODOT will begin to adopt the perspective that non-vehicle road users are a welcome addition to our transportation mix — not just insolent scofflaws who need to arm themselves for battle or suffer tragic consequences.

UPDATE, 10/26 at 9:22 am:
Yesterday I asked Julie Yip with ODOT’s Transportation Safety Division to react to concerns about the tone of this campaign. Read my question and her response below:

J. Maus: What you make of my comments and the reaction from many in the community who think that that campaign goes too far in blaming the victims of those collisions? Do you think that’s a fair concern?

J. Yip:

Jonathan, thanks for asking about the “Be Visible” campaign.

The “Be Visible” campaign is simply encouraging pedestrians to add visibility to their daily routine during the shorter daylight months. It’s significant that the data showed that 74% of the 62 fatal pedestrian-involved crashes in 2010 occurred during low-light conditions and the data was instrumental in directing the focus and timing of the Be Visible campaign.

In past campaigns we’ve focused on driver behavior (e.g., providing an insert in DMV registrations with explanation of the Oregon Crosswalk Law; distributing flyers on Oregon Crosswalk law and Driver Tip brochures), and on sharing the road (e.g., “Whatever your mode, share the road” transit and bus shelter posters). With the waning daylight hours, and using the 2010 pedestrian crash data, it was time to put our efforts towards pedestrians. According to the number of requests received for armbands across the state, this is an effort whose time is right.

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  • woogie October 25, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I expect that all comments regarding this will match the negative response Bike Gallery got here regarding their advertisement selling reflective clothing and lights.

    How dare ODOT infringe on my right to be unsafe.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 25, 2011 at 11:54 am

      It’s not that simple to me woogie. This is about trying to understanding where ODOT is coming from in their approach to traffic safety. Their traffic safety division alone has $48 million to spend every year… So understanding their perspective about why fatal crashes happen and what is to blame for them is very important IMO.

      Their stats are also suspect IMO because you can’t interview a dead person and the people they rely on (cops, the person operating the car) for the information often have their own personal biases to maintain.

      This is also a classic example of when we can all agree that a problem exists (too many people on foot dying), but surely we can come up with a better way to deal with it than simply wagging a finger at vulnerable road users and telling them they need to have silly reflective strips on before they leave the house at night.

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      • K'Tesh October 25, 2011 at 8:30 pm

        One of the things that sticks out from my Boy Scout days was the cover of the Safety Merit Badge book…


        If you can’t see it, it shows a boy from the 50’s or 60’s standing in front of a mirror with a sign that says:
        “The one in the mirror is responsible for

        It can’t hurt to take a little step to improve your chances of being seen.

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        • 9watts October 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm

          Of course, no argument with a nod to being a bit more visible as a pedestrian, but agreeing with that is not the same thing as supporting the supremely unhelpful message ODOC has cooked up.

          I am reminded of the photo someone (Jonathan perhaps) posted here not so long ago of a full bike rack in front of ODOT headquarters in Salem from the mid-seventies. It strikes me that if those who are putting together these campaigns biked in greater numbers, or walked more, or didn’t identify so fully with the automotive world we’d never have such misguided nonsense masquerading as policy.

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          • wsbob October 26, 2011 at 2:12 am

            “…the supremely unhelpful message ODOC has cooked up…” 9watts

            And what ‘supremely unhelpful message’ do you imagine that to be?

            I say ‘imagine’, because despite maus’s and some other people’s efforts as expressed in comments to this story, to divine some kind of inclination on the part of ODOT to falsely blame pedestrians for collisions involving motor vehicles and people on foot, there is no such message.

            ODOT makes a good spirited effort to have the public be more conscious of difficulties road users commonly have in seeing people on foot crossing and walking along the street. …To explain to the public, ODOT’s findings that a significant number of collisions involving motor vehicles and people on foot are due to certain of the pedestrians not taking appropriate care in seeing the way is clear before stepping into traffic. …To offer tips, and suggestions to the public, even ‘free stuff’, to help people that walk, and motorists that must see them, travel the streets without injury resulting to anyone.

            Maybe maus and you, 9watts, and some of the other people taking your line of criticism aren’t intending to, but what you’re writing sounds a whole lot like the words of someone that can’t resist trying to kick someone in the teeth despite their best efforts to do a good turn.

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          • 9watts October 26, 2011 at 7:17 am

            supremely unhelpful? (see the link http://www.copenhagenize.com/2009/10/sacred-bull-in-societys-china-shop.html supplied yesterday by Joseph E)
            I’m not arguing now, nor did I in the case of the Bike Gallery’s recent campaign, that some responsibility for avoiding nighttime collisions isn’t borne by all, shouldn’t be distributed across the various modes. What I’m taking issue with in this case is something else. I am offended–incensed–that ODOT thinks it can get away with framing the problem in this manner. Jonathan I think picked up on exactly that in his concluding paragraph. My bet is that if we were to look at how, say, German transportation authorities look at this issue, or Austrian, or Dutch, we would find that instead of singling out pedestrians and asserting that the majority of them are illegally in the roadway at night, they’d find a way to more dispassionately finger those in cars as culpable. Let’s face it. A 19mph speed limit (30km/h) in towns–something increasingly common in European cities–goes a whole lot further toward reducing pedestrian deaths and injuries than pieces of reflective plastic. Or would you disagree? If ODOT even offered both, suggested in its campaign that it is committed to doing something about all facets of this issue–I’d be o.k. with it, but they aren’t. The only physical change (never mind the paternalistic language) they propose is to have pedestrians adorn themselves with bits of plastic. Who and who alone is being asked to ‘be more responsible’ here?

            Perhaps our disagreement, Bob, is that the majority of pedestrians are in fact at fault in these collisions. I don’t buy it, not for a minute. ODOT’s framing and language is far too transparently biased toward absolving those who sit in cars from any culpability for me to accept their statistics as supplied.

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          • 9watts October 26, 2011 at 7:54 am

            case in point – BMW http://tinyurl.com/3slngkw
            my translation of their description follows:
            “Directed Light-beam for more Safety
            Experiments show: a pedestrian wearing dark clothes can only be seen at 29 meters distance in the dark. If the rule ‘always drive safely’ were followed, one wouldn’t even be allowed to drive Tempo 80[km/h], as at that speed the stopping distance would be 63 meters. With night sight assistance such as Night Vision from BMW, pedestrians and deer can already be seen at several hundred meters distance. However drivers would have to occasionally look at their Night-Vision-Display. With the Dynamic Light Spot the pedestrian will be recognized by the night sight assistant’s infrared sensors and can be directly illuminated by a spot light.”

            Note that in BMW’s case this innovation seems to be for use outside of towns, and to permit drivers to continue to drive fast. But it puts the responsibility for recognizing and avoiding invisible pedestrians squarely on the driver/auto manufacturer. Interesting.

            case in point II – automotive research:
            Dittmar, G.; Nolting, J.; Wärmebildgeräte im Kraftfahrzeug zur verbesserten Nachtsicht, Thermografie-Kolloquium 2003, Universität Stuttgart 25.9.2003 [Thermographic devices in automobiles for improved night vision]

            “Why is improved night vision necessary?
            Every year 3,000 people are killed and 150,000 are injured. Although only 28% of trips occur at night time, 50% of all traffic deaths occur after dark. With pedestrians, the numbers are even more dramatic: 60% of all fatal accidents with pedestrians occur at night. The causes are to be found in the impaired sight distance car drivers have, and the much too long stopping distances at high speeds. Low beam headlights on a car have a medium illumination distance of 50 meters. Older drivers, with diminished ability to adapt their eyesight to conditions can recognize a pedestrian wearing dark clothes only at a distance of 30-50m [1]. Lab experiments with forty-two alert test persons of different ages show that recognition distances improve to 58m if xenon headlights are used for low beam [2].
            … Many pedestrians and bicyclists could still be alive or wouldn’t have been injured if the drivers had recognized/seen them in time. Improving the recognizability of pedestrians and obstacles on public streets is the motivation of the so-called „Night Vision Enhancement Systems“ (NVES).
            German automobile manufacturers and suppliers have been researching active and passive improvements of night vision for approximately ten years.”

            ODOT, are you listening?

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          • wsbob October 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm

            Can’t right now, but later in the day, I’ll take a look at the article, link provided by Joseph E, that you suggested reading.

            I noticed maus updated his story today with a response from an ODOT spokesperson, to a question he posted to the department. That response confirms ODOT’s awareness of motor vehicle hazards to people obliged to travel the street on foot, and ODOT’s ongoing efforts to address the situation.

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          • 9watts October 26, 2011 at 12:38 pm

            more food for thought:
            This link takes you to a summary of court cases in which someone in a car or on a motorcycle drove into someone or something at night posted by an insurance company. I just highlight two summaries for illustrative purposes:
            “Bei einer Kollision mit einem Fußgänger,
            der zwischen parkenden
            Autos hervor auf die Fahrbahn
            trat, haftete der Autofahrer zu 50
            Prozent, weil er nicht sofort durch
            Bremsen oder Ausweichen reagiert
            hatte (KG Berlin, Urteil vom
            3.6.1985, 12 U 379/84; VersR 1986,
            “In a collision with a pedestrian who stepped into the roadway between parked cars, the driver of the car was found to be 50% liable because he did not immediately react by braking or swerving.”

            The ‘between parked cars’ bit is particularly interesting. To me that sounds like a situation which our friends at ODOT might be inclined to classify as ‘illegal’ because the pedestrian is not (does not appear to be) crossing at the end of a block.

            “In einem Fall, bei dem ein Autofahrer
            morgens um kurz nach vier
            Uhr bei Nebel einen auf der Straße
            sitzenden Betrunkenen überfahren
            hatte, haftete der Fahrer laut
            Gerichtsurteil zu 30 Prozent (OLG
            Hamm, Urteil vom 4.10.1995, 13 U
            58/95; NJWE-VHR 1996, 1).”

            “In one case, the driver of a car ran over a drunk sitting in the street shortly past 4 am in the fog. The judge found the driver to be 30% at fault.”

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  • Will Radik October 25, 2011 at 11:52 am

    This is a great idea. I think the state should also distribute trench coats to women with skimpy clothes so that they don’t get raped. “That hot red dress might look cool, but you’re asking for it, you slut!”

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    • Dave October 25, 2011 at 11:59 am

      To be fair, this isn’t quite like rape, since I think we can agree that MOST people driving automobiles don’t intentionally go after people to run over (not too many rapists rape someone unintentionally because they weren’t paying attention).

      That being said, I agree with you that this campaign has completely the wrong focus, and is giving the lion’s share of the responsibility for safety to the wrong group of people.

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      • Will Radik October 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm

        I figured someone might say this. I wasn’t comparing the act so much as the response on the part of the authority, which should be to not put the burden of guilt on the victim.

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        • Dave October 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm

          I just think it’s important to be careful about language in these discussions, and casually linking the average citizen driving a car to a rapist, even if you don’t really mean it or didn’t really intend to imply that much, can really send the wrong message.

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          • Will Radik October 25, 2011 at 1:42 pm

            Oh, I didn’t do it casually. I thought about it first. I decided most people would be able to figure it out. I’d hazard that even you had a pretty good idea I wasn’t trying to compare drivers to rapists at all, and if someone does think that, oh well. They didn’t get it!

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          • Dave October 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm

            Yeah, we get it, but language like that just flares up emotions, rather than communicating useful ideas. Certain other personages are fond of relating anything they don’t agree with to Nazis or Communists, for the same reason. It incites an emotional response both from people who agree with them, and those who feel insulted at the insinuation.

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        • middle of the road guy October 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm

          unless they were legitimately at fault.

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    • mabsf October 26, 2011 at 10:30 am

      I think I know what you mean Will: it’s a shift in perception/thinking that we need similar to that in the feministic discussion in the 80’s…
      But as I know from my own experience in the helmet discussion (where I used the women’s right analogy) and as Dave pointed out, phrasing is important because people tend to scan rather than read…
      But I get your point!

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  • Chris I October 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have drivers that out-drive their headlights, don’t check their blind spots, don’t talk on the phone, etc; but this is not the case. I practice defensive walking, as in I always have an “out”, but I will not hesitate to make cars stop at crosswalks. This is a good program, as it will probably help prevent injuries, but I cringe to read the first Oregonlive comment asking “was the pedestrian wearing the proper ODOT reflective arm band when he was hit?”

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    • naess October 25, 2011 at 6:59 pm

      you forgot that in an ideal world we also wouldn’t have people walking blindly into the street.

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      • K'Tesh October 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm

        I have to agree with that one… I nearly hit a lady who was walking on the sidewalk next to my bike lane who all of a sudden just turned and stepped in my lane. I gave her quite a start for pulling such a stupid stunt.

        Peds are responsible to yield to vehicles according to ORS 814.040¹ Failure to yield to vehicle

        A pedestrian commits the offense of pedestrian failure to yield to a vehicle if the pedestrian does any of the following:
        (a) Suddenly leaves a curb or other place of safety and moves into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. (snip)

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      • mabsf October 26, 2011 at 10:36 am

        Well, people do that… but here is the point: In a neighborhood with sidewalks and parked cars, it is something a person in a car should expect. Henceforth he/she should go at a speed that allows them to break in time. Their speed needs to be appropriate to their environment – so by night they might have to be go slower…
        I know total foreign concept that it is not always smart to go speed limit, that there are those pesty environmental conditions and that not all our street are closed race tracks…

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        • caesar November 5, 2014 at 11:40 am

          I disagree with your premise. No driver, no matter how alert and anticipatory , will be able to brake in time to avoid hitting a pedestrian suddenly walking into the path of her car from between parked cars. Not unless you expect the driver to be moving no faster than, say, 10 mph and paying attention only to the parked cars and who might be lurking in between them and about to jump step into the street. The biomechanics and physics of it make it impossible. Maybe soon with smarter cars and forward facing infrared sensors and split-second automatic braking it will get better, but that day isn’t here yet.

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          • 9watts November 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm

            ” a pedestrian suddenly walking into the path of her car from between parked cars.”

            The Swiss have studied the incidence of this kind of behavior and find it to be a very small fraction of pedestrian fatalities.

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          • Paul in The 'Couve November 5, 2014 at 3:02 pm

            As 9Watts said…

            Also, msbaf originally stated it “in a neighborhood with parked cars and sidewalks…” I think street and geographical context is important. A multi-lane, high traffic, high speed corridor like MLK or Sandy is one thing, but on nearly all the residential streets in the city it is another. Drivers on side streets really should be going slowly enough to stop for pedestrians coming out between cars and this is a reasonable expectation. [Obviously there is a limit, no one can stop if some one jumps in front of the car at the last moment.] How many times does anyone go to the corner to cross their own neighborhood street? Obviously, the crosswalk and jaywalking laws have never been enforced on low traffic streets and probably were never intended to apply in low density residential neighborhoods.

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  • BURR October 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    blame the victim and absolve motorists from the responsibility to operate their vehicles safely, nice!

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    • middle of the road guy October 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm

      sometimes victims are to blame.

      if i get drunk and sleep on the railroad tracks, it’s not the train’s fault.

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  • Stretchy October 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I think you’re being a little bit over the top with your blameshifting and slippery slope talk. The statistics listed seemed to be fairly dry and to the point. You were right to point out the poor phrasing of the first statistic but, in pointing it out, you made a snarky, defensive comment that contributed little to the conversation.

    Perhaps instead of being overly clever, you could have pointed out that having contributed to the conditions of a crash doesn’t mean one is responsible for the crash. Therefore, while 80% may have contributed to the crash, the statistic does not tell us anything about the degree of contribution. And, I doubt the the author intended to “blame” all of the victims for their own deaths.

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    • Alex Reed October 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm

      The statistics may have been “dry and to the point” but the point they were making was biased and suspect in my opinion. There were a grand total of ZERO statistics presented that dealt with the culpability of motorists in these crashes.

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      • middle of the road guy October 25, 2011 at 2:03 pm

        well, this was just about pedestrians.

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        • Alex Reed October 25, 2011 at 2:41 pm

          None of the crashes the advisory cited were “just about pedestrians”; a person drove a vehicle in every one. That’s why I think this topic deserves at least as much attention by people preparing to drive as people preparing to walk.

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  • Jim October 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Rapha kit for free. I’m in.

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  • Jack October 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Every traffic related death looks bad for ODOT. This campaign strikes me as an attempt to sidestep some of that blame; “That pedestrian probably wouldn’t have been hit if they had been wearing our free reflective arm bands.”

    Their data shows that in many cases the pedestrian is less than vigilant regarding their own safety. There is no way ODOT could expect the same demographic to take the initiative to acquire AND wear the arm bands.

    Take all the money spent on this campaign and spend it on arresting/citing drunk/distracted drivers. It will assuredly save more lives.

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  • Jim October 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    I’d like to see ODOT give a bunch of these to tourism boards who in turn give them to touring cyclists.

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  • Stig October 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    What percentage of motorists were not paying attention to where they were going?

    ‘Make eye contact with motorists before crossing paths’= bad advice that will get you killed. Eye contact means nothing.

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    • Joe October 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm

      Very true.

      Yesterday (in broad daylight) I was halfway across a two lane street and made eye contact with the driver of a car in the far lane. Apparently to her it meant, “Ok time to speed up so that he cannot cross”. I had to step back as she sped by me barely missing me.

      Don’t worry, I gave the car a nice hard smack! Serves her right. She will have a hand print on the car until she washes it. Pretty terrible, I know.

      Had I legally crossed, I would have been in the hospital. She willfully breaks law and there is no recourse.

      And I finish with the same thought I had on the red light running issue: “shouldn’t the people who are controlling something with the power to kill be held to a higher standard?”

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      • q`Tzal October 25, 2011 at 5:40 pm

        Don’t worry, I gave the car a nice hard smack! Serves her right. She will have a hand print on the car until she washes it. Pretty terrible, I know.</p

        Ever since eBay seller ratings came out I’ve always though it would be cool if there was some sort of plainly visible “driver safety rating”.
        All the perfectly optimal (computerized) implementations are no way near as satisfying an simplistic as car slapping or paintball buildup.

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  • Stig October 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    How many lives would have been saved if those pedestrians had been wearing helmets?

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    • El Biciclero October 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm

      Amen! If it saves just one life, helmets should be worn by all pedestrians!

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  • Ryno Dan October 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Just make pedestrians illegal.

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  • Schrauf October 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    There should be little confusion from statistics that show pedestrian deaths are increasing while motorist/passenger deaths are decreasing.

    Vehicles are becoming more advanced and safer (for the occupants) all the time. The leap in technology is the result of convincing the majority of people they need to spend $20k on a new vehicle every five years – that money can fund a lot of research, and competition further encourages more research. That’s one major reason vehicle occupant deaths are decreasing.

    There are more factors affecting the pedestrian fatality rate, but one is that drivers now feel safer in their high-tech cages, and drive faster and more recklessly as a result. “I’m safe – everyone else can simply get out of my way if they don’t want to get hurt” – is the mantra of a few too many people in this society.

    Stay tuned next week when ODOT rolls out their “helmets for pedestrians” campaign. I’m shocked the bike helmet manufacturers have not yet gotten in bed with local governments to help them tap this next great “blame the victim” market.

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  • mikeybikey October 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Well, where do I get me one of these magical happy armbands? I sure could use one. I mean all those folks drivin’ by who don’t see or ignore that HAWK signal on NE Killingsworth every night will surely stop for me once I adorn myself with such a powerful talisman!

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  • Arem October 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    -Remain alert! Don’t assume that cars are going to stop.

    This. Your “right of way” means nothing if you’re flying over a hood and into a windshield.

    -Look left, right and left again before crossing. Watch for turning cars.

    Major +1,000,000 to this.
    This is pre-school level stuff! “Take my hand and let’s look both ways before crossing the street!”
    Everyday I see folks just step into the roadway without even bothering to glance one way or another…do they think they can rely on their hearing to notice approaching vehicles? Do they assume entitlement to right-of-way when crossing the road as if traffic will automatically stop for them, removing all danger?
    Augh! Same goes for motor-vehicle drivers, never looking! I don’t know how many times I’ve seen somebody approach an interesection and tried to mentally will them to at least glance my direction, ready on the brakes in case they never do.
    Almost got creamed on SW 4th and Market this morning just walking on the crosswalk when a truck pulled right into the middle of the crosswalk just a couple feet in front of me. Our driver’s test is a joke compared to other countries and when did we stop teaching people that it’s smart to look both ways before crossing the street?!
    Okay, done venting.

    And now for something completely different…shiny stuff is good.

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    • middle of the road guy October 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      I see way too many pedestrians strolling across the street, not looking either way but completely fixated on an electronic device.

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      • PedInPDX October 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm

        And I see an equal number of people driving who are the same way.

        Which one is more dangerous?

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  • cycler October 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I agree that blaming the victim isn’t helping the underlying problem.
    Moreover this is a pretty useless fix, in that what’s the chance that the 45 % who were drunk, are going to responsibly pull out a pair of snappy retroreflective armbands before they stagger across the street?

    “Dark clothing may be chic, but should only be worn by those who get around in a car- everyone else has to wear screaming retroreflective neon head to toe so that we can determine their mode of transportation”

    I do wish that the technical fabric- reflective accents and professional looking venn diagram had a larger overlap..

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  • rootbeerguy October 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    TriMet gave me lousy blinking lights. I lost them because of lousy fasteners. Are arm bands good quality???

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    • Kristen October 26, 2011 at 9:28 am

      If they’re anything like the test ones I saw, the quality is fair to middlin’. It fastens with velcro, and isn’t adjustable. Sized to fit over an average arm in an average coat.

      Very bright and shiny, though… The sashes I’m less impressed with, but that’s just me I think.

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  • wsbob October 25, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    “…While encouraging good safety habits is great, I feel like the tone of this campaign is a slippery slope toward blaming the victims and favoring the dominant, status-quo user group (people in cars). …” maus/bikeportland

    The campaign probably isn’t doing anything more than placing the blame where it lies. We have a motor vehicle dominated road infrastructure that, just guessing, is probably supported by 80 percent of U.S. Citizens.

    That’s just the way it is, and until it’s improved for walking through public demand…which it gradually is…. pedestrians (if that is still terminology approved at bikeportland.) are probably well advised to make adaptations and take precautions that will improve their level of safety as the walk and cross streets.

    I think ODOT’s encouraging people that walk to make themselves more visible is great. I think it would be a welcome change for more people on foot to be wearing or carrying something reflective to make themselves more visible to headlight equipped vehicles.

    Actually, for traveling some streets and roads on foot, carrying a light of some kind would be a great idea. In my own neighborhood in fact, which is Central Beaverton, and not the boonies…there are streets on a route to the mall/grocery store that are dark because they aren’t equipped with street lights.

    Lots of people walk this street many hours of the day, because it doesn’t have sidewalks. Some of the people on foot actually do carry lights, making them far, far easier to see. I think the reflective strips will be very popular with my neighbors that walk this street.

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    • PedInPDX October 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      Hey wsbob, I fixed that for ya:

      “In my own neighborhood in fact, which is Central Beaverton, and not the boonies…there are streets on a route to the mall/grocery store that are dark because they aren’t equipped with street lights.

      Lots of people walk this street many hours of the day, because it doesn’t have sidewalks. [It’s clear that instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on marketing campaigns and giving out frivolous ‘safety’ gewgaws, we ought to add sidewalk and lighting to this street to make it usable for all the people who are forced daily into dangerous situations.]”

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      • wsbob October 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm

        “Hey wsbob, I fixed that for ya:

        [It’s clear that instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on marketing campaigns and giving out frivolous ‘safety’ gewgaws, we ought to add sidewalk and lighting to this street to make it usable for all the people who are forced daily into dangerous situations.]” PedInPDX

        So you fixed it? Fixed what? A little wishful thinking on your part perhaps? If only fixing infrastructure were that easy.

        Do you seriously think the neighborhood I spoke of, or ones in a similiar situation anywhere, have a chance to get sidewalks and lighting sooner than their residents might be able to equip themselves with visibility gear, either the DOT complimentary stuff, or things they could buy themselves?

        Again, I think the DOT campaign to encourage people on foot traveling streets and roads is a good idea. The schwag is nice, but this stuff doesn’t cost a lot of money for people to buy on their own either. Much, much cheaper that sidewalks and street lights. And fact is, except for the need to be extra careful to watch for cars on narrow neighborhood streets, it’s nice to be able to walk on such streets in the dark, , especially under moonlight, without the ugly lighting that is typical of so many streetlight designs.

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  • GAR October 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    When there is a vehicle/pedestrian accident in low-light conditions and the pedestrian is in the street with dark clothes, no lights and no reflectors — it is the VEHICLE DRIVER that is the victim.

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    • Psyfalcon October 25, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      Uhh no.

      Cars have those things called lights, and if you’re driving so fast you cant see humans at the side of the road, you’re going too fast.

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    • Paul in the 'couve October 25, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      No there is a vehicle operator that is driving too fast for conditions. Yes, everyone does it and that is the problem. Everyone driving a car at night, in the rain, on fogging mornings or around blind curves who is traveling at a speed too fast to stop within the visibility including reaction times is driving too fast for conditions. The fact that everyone has just gotten used to the idea that there aren’t supposed to be any hazards in the road and is comfortable to the point of total complacency with taking the seemingly small risk that there will be a stalled car, debris, or a person in the road.

      I see this almost every day in my neighborhood with cars rounding corners on residential streets at 25mph or better with views obstructed by parked vehicle and landscaping. I saw it this morning in the fog with people driving 40+ mph in a 35 approaching a school zone at start time and not slowing down. I see it on the faces of 1/2 the drivers approaching me as I cross in a crosswalk – shock that there might actually be something in the road to avoid.

      It doesn’t matter that everyone is complacent and nearly everyone who drives a car does it constantly. Driving beyond your ability to see obstacles and people in the road makes the driver at fault. Period. Rocks, debris dropped off a truck, tire debris, potholes, and rusted mufflers don’t come decked out in reflective yellow either.

      And if you think I am at all disingenuous just wait for the next news story about an 80 car pile up in a fog bank or dust storm. People don’t slow down and the absolutely think they can get away with driving faster than conditions allow. Unfortunately the more we make urban areas unsafe and unappealing for pedestrians and convince the public that walkers and cyclists and just kids playing are the perpetrators victimizing the people driving 4000 pound death machines who need to save 20seconds on their commute and build roads designed to minimize any possible hindrance to drivers, the more we reinforce the idea that obliviously driving 5mph over the speed limit regardless of conditions isn’t the problem and not covering oneself from head to to in reflective tape and blinking lights is victimizing motorists.

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  • esther c October 25, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I don’t think telling someone not to assume a car is going to stop is any different than telling someone to lock their doors to keep out burglars. That’s not “blaming the victim.” Its using precautions to protect yourself from criminals.

    You might have the right of way in a crosswalk. You don’t have a force field.

    Making yourself visible is common sense. A driver cannot stop for you if they cannot see you. If you’re on your bike don’t you like to be able to see pedestrians? I don’t like it when people all in black pop out in front of me.

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    • Dave October 25, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      But I also take responsibility for going slow enough given my environment that I can reasonably see a person without them wearing lights or a reflective band, and if I were to hit someone, unless they just jumped out from behind a bush or something, I would first think about what I did wrong, and not whether they were wearing enough reflective clothing.

      I think it’s like with helmets – whether you choose to wear one or not isn’t so much the issue – it’s that overly aggressive advocacy for protecting yourself (especially from the organizations that are more or less controlling our traffic law and infrastructure) has the tendency to lead to a shift of blame. If you didn’t protect yourself well enough, then it’s your fault, no matter the circumstances.

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    • AG November 5, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      I agree. I’m not riding too fast for the conditions when I come upon a runner going my direction in my lane, in the dark who can’t hear me as I approach. Its a surprise for both of us and I’d much rather have a little bit of a heads up.

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  • rain bike October 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    These seem like reasonable, safety conscious precautions that any pedestrian could consider. I hope a few of the joggers I frequently encounter during my dark morning commute on the springwater trail grab one of these arm bands. Might help me see them earlier in the rain.

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  • cw October 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Earlier this week I was driving down SE Powell at 5am and there was a cyclist wearing all black (or all very dark colors) and no lights. As a regular bike commuter myself, I try to pay extra attention to cyclists when I’m driving, but this guy was nearly invisible. Perhaps distributing free reflecty arm bands isn’t such a bad idea. I can afford to buy cycling stuff that has reflectors all over it, but many people can’t.

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  • jeremy October 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Whether the article is blaming the victim or not, I see the bigger problem that the solution doesn’t address the actual problem. How is distributing armbands going to help stop people from walking into traffic? Especially drunk people. This is a great example of ODOT feeling like they need to do “something” even if the something is unrelated to the problem they are trying to solve. They are working on making pedestrians more visible, but only those that will have and wear the armbands—likely the same people that already wear reflective clothing and cross the street at crosswalks. How about using that money to structurally fix troublesome areas?

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    • Spiffy October 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm

      this is the best response of the bunch…

      the problem will not be resolved as long as there remains an ability for people in automobiles and people walking to be in the same space…

      people in automobiles are simply not going to slow themselves down to 5mph for some stranger’s safety…

      you either need to get the automobiles off the road or force them to slow down…

      I have reflective stickers on my bike, wear a reflective jacket, and have multi-colored xmas lights on my bike, in addition to front white and rear red blinking lights, and some people still don’t see me…

      how are you going to make us safe from those people? only by getting them out of the automobile and getting the automobile off the road…

      until we have 0 deaths then nobody is safe…

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  • A.K. October 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I know, ODOT should equip every pedestrian crossing with reflective orange hand flags, like they have down in Salt Lake City. Then you can wave your orange flag all about while crossing the street, hoping that any driver that sees you actually stops.

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    • Paul in the 'couve October 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      I’m thinking we should get a bunch of old baseball bats at goodwill, tie reflective orange flags to them and wrap them in reflective tape. Then if the cars don’t stop you can take a decent whack at them ….

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  • Rian Murnen October 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    How about we ban the use of motor vehicles after dusk. (not serious, just annoyed).

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    • mabsf October 26, 2011 at 10:42 am

      Or they could have an automatic environment light speed control… can’t go faster than 20 after dark

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  • GlowBoy October 25, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    If ODOT were doing more to make their roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists I’d be fully behind this. I’m all about conspicuity (as one might guess from my nickname).

    But given ODOT’s history with nonmotorized user safety, it does seem like just blaming the victim.

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  • Randall S. October 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Cool, but I’d rather they gave out free airhorns to blow at the staggering number of drivers I see yapping on their cell phones.

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  • Rol October 25, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    The reason ODOT is doing this (meddling in behavioristic solutions) is because distributing a few armbands is much cheaper than the more obvious (to me anyway) infrastructure-based solutions. Those would fall much more clearly within the bounds of their actual mission IMO, namely to build & maintain transportation infrastructure that serves all modes. If any element of the transportation system puts people at risk or leads people to take risks, that piece of infrastructure is poorly serving the people, and should be re-designed in such a way as to either remove the risk or discourage (i.e. obviate, make unnecessary) the risk-taking behavior. Up to that, you’ve done your job fully. Beyond that, you’re not responsible; the user is 100% responsible.

    Obvious things: Street lights for those 74% of night-time accidents. More mid-block crosswalks for those 79% who were not in an intersection (though it’s not clear here whether crosswalks are included in the definition of “an intersection.”)

    Less obvious things: If someone is in the roadway “illegally,” it’s because there are too many laws. HA! I’m serious though… relying on the law is often a clumsy solution in the absence of a simple, elegant one that could be built right into the environment. It just takes imagination to find that solution.

    Meanwhile people will (and have a right to) wear what they want, go out at night, and drink alcohol. Until fascists take over and establish prohibition, a curfew, and a dress code, those are the conditions ODOT is dealing with; get to work folks.

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  • 9watts October 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    I wonder if we might take a look at other countries – and ask how this matter is handled/framed/addressed there? The armbands trick may seem common sense at first blush, but it is silly. Why is it that everyone outside of a car is expected to wear all this stuff? Be on alert? Cower in anticipation of bodily harm?
    This part is predictable. No spikes in steering wheels, but airbags. No helmets for people in cars, but for those outside who might get creamed by one. No armbands for people in cars, but for those who are trying to cross the street against the almighty car!

    The (long) list of admonitions for pedestrians is just dripping with paternalism. And the (short) list for car drivers? Not so much.

    How about looking at this from the perspective of a pedestrian, ODOC?

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    • El Biciclero October 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      I noticed this, too:

      Pedestrians–wear special clothes! Don’t drink! stay alert! Assume cars are going to run over you! Don’t listen to headphones or talk on your cell! Look, look, look! Stick to the sidewalk! Don’t be where drivers aren’t looking!

      Motorists–watch for peds and slow down.

      Where are the specifics? How about:

      – Don’t turn right while you’re looking left!
      – Check your blind spots before changing lanes or turning!
      – Hang up and drive; ALL phone conversations are dangerous, hands-free or not!
      – Don’t drink and drive!
      – Stay on the road and stick to your lane!
      – Don’t drive if you’re too tired!
      – Don’t assume the road ahead is clear!
      – Expect pedestrians and assume they will step in front of you!
      – When leaving a driveway STOP BEFORE entering the sidewalk!
      – Don’t overtake other vehicles that might be stopped at a crosswalk!
      – Keep a lid on road rage; don’t try to “teach lessons” to other motorists, pedestrians, or cyclists!
      – Slow down, especially around blind curves and at hill crests!
      – Slow down around parks, playgrounds, and schools–even if school isn’t in session!
      – Headlight out? Get it fixed ASAP!
      – Signal BEFORE turning so pedestrians can anticipate what you are going to do!
      – Watch for white “WALK” signals–it may mean someone has pressed a signal button and is about to step into the crosswalk, even if you can’t see them!
      – Slow down when it is raining; it makes everything harder to see!

      I think that’s a good start.

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      • Caesar November 5, 2014 at 3:27 pm

        and let’s not forget:

        * do not participate in a conversation with other car occupants while driving.
        * do not listen to music / audio in the car while driving.
        * do not use hands-free telephone while driving (or any other phone, for that matter)

        Because I’m pretty sure that recent research has shown that the simple act of having a conversation while driving, or of listening to the radio, creates as much distraction in the driver as texting or speaking on the phone. And even hands-free phones are distracting.

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  • 9watts October 25, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    “drivers can’t avoid what they can’t see.”

    I think this deserves it’s own response.
    Let’s think for a moment about what this says about who has rights to be in the road at a given moment.
    No doubt there are situations when someone jumps out into the street and the driver of the car has no ability to respond in time. But it seems to me that that (I am going to assume fairly rare) situation is being expanded to the whole category of unfortunate car-person encounters in the street.
    Illegally in the roadway? Excuse me. Have the folks at ODOC read Peter Norton’s Fighting Traffic? Have they no sense of historical perspective. Who gets to decide who is in the road legally? Who owns the roads? Why is the BAC of the driver who runs over these people tallied? Why do we in fact learn nothing at all about those who run over the people in the street? Oh, right, because it is their right to be there.
    The language in the statistical tally above reeks of auto-privilege.

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  • 9watts October 25, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I of course meant to write “Why is the BAC of the driver who runs over these people NOT tallied?”

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  • bumblebee October 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    People have been walking the streets of Oregon for many, many years, I’m guessing. People have been driving those streets for many, many years, too. The question we ought to ask, then, is what has changed in the past few years that we suddenly need special reflective armbands and a list of precautions for both pedestrians and motorists?

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    • 9watts October 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      “what has changed in the past few years that we suddenly need …”
      gas prices have shot up.

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  • Joseph E October 25, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    “New arm bands being given away by ODOT to help remedy uptick in fatalities.”

    This is classic IGNORING THE BULL:


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    • lisa smillie October 26, 2011 at 10:08 am

      Love it, a perfect analogy for the decades long, systematic brainwashing to convince us all that broken china is acceptable collateral damaged and the bull must not be impeded or inconvenienced in any way.

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  • are October 25, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    pretty sure there was a moving motor vehicle involved in one hundred percent of these fatalities

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  • Jacob October 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    To curb bicycle deaths we need a real action for better bike infrastructure, better education about how to drive with bicycles on the road, and better enforcement of existing laws, not armbands.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson October 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    ODOT should give over its urban highways to the cities and towns they sever (they do rip through the fabric of a place) along with the funds necessary to make them safe for all residents. Safety in the public right of way is a matter of design with speed the key variable. Targets should be 15 mph on residential streets, 25 on arterials; 35 on highways in urban areas with better lighting, crosswalks at every bus stop and bike lanes or cycle tracks. $48M/year would get things started.

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  • q`Tzal October 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    (A) How much will it cost ODOT to retest all drivers every time a driver’s renewal is due and any traffic law has changed?
    (B) How many drivers annually require driver’s license renewal?
    (C) ODOT’s Transportation Safety Division annual budget of $48.7 million

    How much a driver’s license (initial and renewal) should cost =
    current cost + ((A/B)-C)

    Roads, like guns, aren’t dangerous by themselves; it takes careless users.

    Since ODOT is in the business of licensing drivers ODOT is the entity that ultimately makes our road dangerous.
    ODOT has an ethical obligation to clean up the mess they make:
    () by not licensing people that are not safe,
    () by properly educating people that are licensed,
    () and revoking licensed drivers that have been proven to be dangerous.

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  • Hugh Johnson October 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    We’ve already forgotten about the great bike lane tack conspiracy. I knew it!

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    • q`Tzal October 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      Don’t underestimate the attention span of the average homo sapiens.
      What were we talking about?

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  • q`Tzal October 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I am a pedestrian.
    We all have a basic right to life.
    The right to walk unharmed to any destination.
    The right to expect that drivers will follow the law.
    The right to expect that the law will protect us from bad drivers.
    The right to expect that the law will punish bad drivers.
    We all have the basic right not to be road kill for the sake of automotive expediency.

    We are pedestrians and we are the 100%.

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  • esther c October 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Isn’t the mantra “share the road.” Drivers are required to have lights on their vehicles from dusk to dawn so they can see and be seen. Is it asking too much that other roadway users make some sort of effort to be seen too.

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  • GAR October 25, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    This morning at the corner of Stark and 248th I observed an interesting scenario. There was a bike commuter with a bright green jacket and lights waiting for his signal to change. As he waited, a rider on a BMX bike with a dark gray hoody and matching sweat pants with no reflectors or lights went zipping past him and threaded the needle between cars. He was damn near invisible. But, apparently there are many here who would blame the victim — the driver of a vehicle — if they had been so unlucky as to hit the punk as he blasted the intersection. And you wonder why there is blowback against cyclists in the general community. Go figure.

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    • Paul in the 'Couve October 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm


      First he clearly wasn’t totally invisible because obviously you saw everything he did clear enough. I actually agree he should have a) had reflectors and even lights and that dark clothing isn’t the best choice and b) that he shouldn’t have ridden into cross traffic against a light. STILL IF and only IF he literally rode directly into the path of a car do I agree that the car driver becomes an innocent victim.

      Drivers need to watch for dogs, kids, cats, and whatever and be prepared to avoid a collision. The fact the 98% of drivers on the rode feel like they have a divine right to not be impeded and don’t look for anything outside of a narrow cone in front of their headlights doesn’t make whatever or who ever happens to cross their path a perpetrator.

      This whole discussion will be a lot easier when people start remembering that driving 4,000 pounds of useless steel down the middle of city full of people is INHERENTLY an accident waiting to happen and that drivers SHOULD be nervous and on edge afraid of running someone over.

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  • Kevin Wagoner October 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    Hey drivers….

    * Wear bright or reflective….I mean make sure your lights are in good working order.
    * Stay sober…don’t drink and drive.
    * Don’t wear headphones or talk on a cell phone while driving….it is illegal.
    * Watch out for your blind spots….be responsible.
    * Remain alert! Don’t assume that people or pets are going to stop.
    * Be aware of people around you. Make eye contact with people before proceeding.
    * Don’t fly into crosswalks and sidewalks until you know there is no one there or about to be there..
    * Look left, right and left again before proceeding. Watch for PEOPLE!

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    • Hugh Johnson October 25, 2011 at 8:39 pm

      gee that doesn’t apply to cyclists too?

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  • Mike October 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    The vibe here is that every motorist is out to get you. I contend that the vast majority of drivers are courteous and safe but some of you make it sound like there are cars cruising on the sidewalk. Does everyone here have such bad interactions with cars? Do any of you drive? Good god people, you can scream until you are blue in the face in attempting to change the majority but how about taking some precaution on your end, it may be easier. Is that too much to ask? I know when I go out walking I am not constantly waiting for some idiot in a car to swerve into me. It must suck to have so much fear and anger towards a group of people. I just look both ways before crossing and so far I have not had any close calls. If someone suggests on how to make your environment safer don’t automatically poo poo it just because it doesn’t demonize the evil car. If wearing a reflective arm band increases your visability is that a terrible thing? According to the authority here it must be.

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    • Arem October 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm

      Motorcyclists have another saying for your topic:
      Ride like you are invisible. It does not matter if the motor vehicle operators actually ARE out to harm you…for self-preservation it is best to expect they will do something to possibly endanger you because they will not “see” you. It’s naive and to a certain extent, selfish to think otherwise.

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      • rain bike October 26, 2011 at 12:53 pm

        This is sound advice. When in pedestrian mode, I often make the decision to yield to a motor vehicle, rather than aggressively assert my right-of-way and risk becoming a martyr for the cause. This usually involves the “every intersection a crosswalk” thing at rush hour. Call me a wuss, but I think my family appreciates my selective aggressiveness.

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    • Hugh Johnson October 26, 2011 at 6:39 am

      Mike, I agree with you. I hope your post doesn’t get deleted.

      There are real idiots out there driving for sure, but there are far more courteous people (yes those are people just like us in those cars). I manage to bike commute across the city a fair amount and don’t encounter any real problems. I have to assume a certain level responsibility for my own safety and unfortunately have to accept a bit of risk with this activity. I don’t ride with a chip on my shoulder because of it.

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    • Paul in the 'couve October 26, 2011 at 10:22 am

      The problem I have is not with wearing a reflective arm band or doing my part to be visible. If you saw me biking at night (and you would SEE me) you’d know I want to live to get home to my wife and kids.

      The problem is with the continued pandering to the automotive mentality and essentially saying “the streets are dangerous for pedestrians – you are responsible for you own safety – if you choose (or are forced) to take your life in you hands as a pedestrian, here are some cheap reflective bits to help you out. Oh, and yes, drivers should look for pedestrians.

      The arm bands aren’t the problem, the problem I have this initiative from ODOT department of Safety is that they have correctly identified a problem that we have all known about for at least a decade and instead of actually suggesting avenues for serious improvement – necessarily including infrastructure as well as behavioral changes on the part of drivers and enforcement they decide to hand out some cheap reflective plastic.

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    • mabsf October 26, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Hey Mike,
      care to take a walk with me in my neighborhood after dark?
      I don’t assume that people in cars are bad, but often they seemed to have forgotten how it feels to walk in the dark or to be a person that walks at all and that they are thoughtless… it doesn’t even seem to occur to them that there could be pedestrians out there in a residential neighborhood…
      That is actually what gets me: I do feel invisible to them – I have taken to wearing my strong bike head light when I walk to classes after dark – I still have to wait several cars though each time I cross Stark at a marked crosswalk with streetlight and blinkers…

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  • Joe Rowe October 25, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Was that house wearing an armband?

    I bet the number of cars that hit buildings is bigger than pedestrian victims. People can jump out of the way.

    People wore black armbands as a psychological reminder of the dead in Vietnam. We should all put on armbands until we wake up and solve the significant problem exists, and no level of reflective wear would prevent most victims from being mowed down.

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  • Joe Rowe October 25, 2011 at 10:13 pm


    Perhaps the bike gallery and ODOT should have a set of game cards for people at parties. It would help start a dialog that friends don’t let friends drive while texting, drinking, or holding a cell phone.

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    • wsbob October 25, 2011 at 10:58 pm

      Some people like card games. Would you also include in your suggestion for a deck of cards, some cards suggesting ‘friends don’t let friends go riding bikes in traffic at night wearing all black clothes without lights on their bikes’?

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  • esther c October 25, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    ODOT and the police already have programs to stop people from texting and drunk driving. Its not 100% successful. Its not an either or. Why do they have to be 100% successful at getting drivers to uphold their end of the bargain before trying to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety compliance.

    Acting like a victim because someone suggests that it might be a good idea to be more visible when on the roadway at night makes people look silly.

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  • jim October 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    If you really want to be seen, I wouldn’t be wearing a black coat (like in the picture)

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  • Mercier October 26, 2011 at 12:12 am

    I walk and bike a lot in the Hawthorne District, between Chavez Blvd and SE MLK. When I cross, I do yield to cars but I do also take the opportunity to begin to cross when I believe that the cars coming my way have ample time to stop. In the past 4 weeks, I have had 3 close calls while walking across Hawthorne, in daylight, at marked crosswalks. Each time I was well on my way to cross the 3rd of the 4 lanes when a car came hauling ass in the 4th and last lane (one time it was a TriMet bus). In one instance, the driver parked right after he turned and I walked over to talk to him. He got out of his car and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you until after I had committed to my turn. I have a lot on my mind”. I responded by saying that when you’re driving, driving safely has to be first and second on your mind. He apologized again.

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  • Jeff October 26, 2011 at 8:31 am

    OK – Admittedly I didn’t read detail of every back and forth comment on the car v pediestrian v bike debate because what I’d really like to know is where to get the armbands. I saw maybe two similar requests, but no answers.

    Where can someone who wants one get one?

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  • Kevin October 26, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Let’s face it. A 19mph speed limit (30km/h) in towns–something increasingly common in European cities–goes a whole lot further toward reducing pedestrian deaths and injuries than pieces of reflective plastic. Or would you disagree?

    Would cyclists agree to also mind a 19mph speed limit? Do you think for the case of sanity we might bump that up to the screamingly fast speed of 20mph? Being as how we never switched to metric like the super advanced pan-europan paradise.

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    • Dave October 26, 2011 at 10:13 am

      I’d be perfectly happy to mind a 20mph (or 19mph) speed limit in a car or on a bike, or walking, for that matter. I’d be much happier if other people did, as well.

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    • Kevin October 26, 2011 at 10:15 am

      Incidently a website for pedestrian safety in england features people wearing bright arm and chest bands in rule #3. How regressive.


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      • Paul in the 'couve October 26, 2011 at 10:56 am

        Yes and there has been a bit of action on the UK pedestrian / biking blogs about how people are still being killed by cars even when they are wearing reflective vests and that not enough is being done to improve driving behavior and infrastructure because Reflective Tape doesn’t actually fix anything.

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  • 9watts October 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    “According to the number of requests received for armbands across the state, this is an effort whose time is right.”

    If you offer free flak jackets to civilians in a war zone they’ll probably take you up on your offer, too. But that doesn’t persuade me that disarming the soldiers, or training them according to manuals other than the one they use in the School of the Americas would represent a strategy better suited to the situation.

    Note that in my quick perusal of German and Austrian traffic policy and law on this matter this morning I found that reflective clothing by pedestrians is way down on the list of targeted behaviors, after technical improvements to headlights, driver training, law enforcement, increased penalties for drivers who endanger pedestrians, etc. My conclusion, tentative though it may be, is that culpability in car+pedestrian deaths or injuries is not understood the way ODOT’s statistics suggest in the European countries I’ve looked at so far.

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  • RonC October 26, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    And now for an entirely different perspective. Thank you ODOT for taking this one small step to try and make streets safer for pedestrians. (I bet you didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.)

    Where do I get my arm bands?

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  • Jeff October 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Agreed. Where are the armbands?

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  • beth h October 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    This is like putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. Whether or not it’s truly well-intentioned or an ODOT employee’s attempt at wry cynicism doesn’t really matter here. Massive Fail.

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  • RonC October 26, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    beth h
    This is like putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. Whether or not it’s truly well-intentioned or an ODOT employee’s attempt at wry cynicism doesn’t really matter here. Massive Fail.

    Wow. I usually enjoy reading your perspective, but this time I have to respectfully disagree. If even a single person’s life is saved by this program, it would be very difficult for me to characterize it as a “Massive Fail”. It’s like if someone sponsored a bike light give-away, and we then crucified the folks giving away the lights because the “real” problem is the cars that collide with unlit cyclists, not the unlit cyclists. Sure ODOT can and should do more, but let’s just accept it for what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

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  • wsbob October 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Just tonight on Fairmount Blvd (that’s the highly popular walk-bike-roller ski loop around Council Crest’s mountain top.) at 6:15pm…it’s already dark there this time of year, so vehicle lights are on. I had to be driving there tonight. I’m about 1000′ or so from the intersection with Talbot where people often park to travel the loop.

    Approaching me from the opposite direction are people on foot spaced 150′ apart from each other…a person alone, a couple, and another couple, one of them pushing a baby in a stroller.

    All of these people were wearing mostly dark clothes (one had a long sleeve shirt, the sleeves were lighter color…much more visible than the dark clothes.), no lights, no reflective gear. All of them were barely visible, and that’s at a driving speed of 15mph.

    It would sure help everyone needing to travel this road, if people walking Fairmount and other such streets in the dark took up ODOT’s suggestion to make themselves more visible to vehicle road users. Fairmount isn’t going to be getting sidewalks, bike lanes or more and brighter streetlights anytime soon.

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    • PedInPDX October 27, 2011 at 10:09 am

      If asking them to wear armbands isn’t such an inconvenience, how about asking you to drive slower than 15mph so you can actually see them?

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      • wsbob October 27, 2011 at 11:00 am

        It’s not an unreasonable request of people that travel on foot to make some effort to allow themselves to be more visible to vehicle road users. If they don’t want to wear reflective armbands…fine…they can figure out something else they’d like to wear or carry that would make themselves more visible. That they’re traveling the road on foot doesn’t relieve pedestrians of their responsibility for being safe road users.

        If the people are visible, sure…whatever speed is necessary to avoid running into them is fine. Given the level of personal visibility these people were displaying, speeds even slower than 15mph couldn’t really be safe. The intended function of the road is thus severely reduced.

        The people were just barely visible…not because my vehicle speed at 15mph was too fast to enable me to see them, but because it was dark on this section of the road, and their dark clothes had them blending into the dark shrubbery growing along the road.

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        • Paul in the 'Couve October 27, 2011 at 11:25 am

          Sounds to me like you need to get your headlights checked out. Are they aimed properly? Are the lenses clean? Is your car pre-1992 and not yet using halogen lights? Something is wrong. If there is no oncoming traffic you can use your brights.

          It could be your night vision as well.

          If you can’t see a person in your headligts far enough ahead to drive over 15mph then it is unsafe to drive.

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          • 9watts October 27, 2011 at 11:27 am

            I think this is a case of someone urging the use of reflective armbands so as to see the person *sooner*. I mean, wsbob obviously saw them. He described them in some detail.

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          • wsbob October 27, 2011 at 12:14 pm

            With all the suggestions you’ve offered, you’re attempting to rationalize away, the fact that many people walking along or across the road are often barely visible, because they are making virtually no effort whatsoever to enable themselves to be visible. That was the situation on Fairmount Blvd I described.

            9watts…I’ve noted that if people don’t care to wear reflective armbands or other reflective gear, they’re welcome to choose another means to have themselves be visible to road users. When using the road, regardless of their mode of travel, all people have a certain responsibility to equip themselves to travel the road safely.

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          • 9watts October 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

            I’m not here disagreeing with you wsbob. Just noting that more often than not when people say ‘they were basically invisible’ we are also often treated to detailed descriptions of what they were wearing. Better visibility is a good thing. I wear all sorts of bright getup in addition to having bike lights. No quibble with that from me–as I’ve already said many times.

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          • wsbob October 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm

            Here’s the other thing about the traffic situation I described using the Fairmount Blvd experience as an example. From my original description:

            “…Approaching me from the opposite direction are people on foot spaced 150′ apart from each other…a person alone, a couple, and another couple, one of them pushing a baby in a stroller. …” wsbob


            My vehicle’s headlights weren’t on these people because they were traveling the opposite direction I was, in the opposite lane of this two lane road, one lane in each direction. That’s why they didn’t show up in my headlights.

            As people are reading this, some might be thinking, ‘If the people on foot, aren’t walking along the lane you’re traveling, why is their not being visible, a problem?’. More than one reason I think, but one is, that often on roads like Fairmount…basically, a neighborhood street…there will be people on foot, traveling in the same direction, same lane as you’re traveling by vehicle. Seeing them…often…vehicle operators are willing to swing wide to offer the people on foot or bike an extra margin of safety clearance.

            Should the same thing be happening on the opposite lane of travel…more people on foot and vehicles preparing to pass them…a serious congestion problem and potential for a dangerous outcome arises. If people on foot on the opposite side of the are somewhat visible to vehicle operators…lighter colored and or reflective gear picks up stray light much better than dark gear…there’s a good chance vehicle operators will not attempt to pass people on foot on their side of the road until the congestion point passes.

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  • deborah October 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I have to admit when i first read this article i was upset about the thought of wearing something reflective when walking. Then yesterday on my ride home last night (after dark) I was making a left hand turn and did not see a pedestrian that had just started crossing the street. Though I was able to slow and move around her it made me think about my reaction to this article again.

    Bikes are particularly apt to not see pedestrians because although we have lights, they are rarely very useful for lighting the street and surrounding area. They’re used to make US visible. The woman walking across the street was wearing all black, and could not have been more invisible if she had supernatural power. It really would have helped if she had anything reflective on.

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    • 9watts October 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm

      “although we have lights, they are rarely very useful for lighting the street and surrounding area. They’re used to make US visible.”
      I will admit I’ve never understood that part. I mean being visible is better than not being visible, but what is with all the piddly lights that don’t let the rider see much detail of where they/we’re headed?!
      Once upon a time (incandescent light bulbs, C-cell batteries, tire-rubbing generators) it was tough to coax much light out of those contraptions, but now that we have LEDs and high capacity AAs it is hard not to want more.

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    • wsbob October 27, 2011 at 5:31 pm

      deborah….I presume your were riding a bike with a modestly bright head light? Something that cost maybe $15-$25?

      Lights sufficiently bright for people that ride bikes to see the road and people on foot, obstacle, hazards and whatnot, aren’t probably marketed effectively to general consumers.

      Even bike shops don’t seem to have a very easily understandable means of conveying to customers, what level of visibility the lights they offer will provide buyers with. Standing in the store looking over the different light models, it’s very difficult to get a good indication of the difference in actual illumination of the road between one model and another.

      All the lights look basically the same, but some are much weaker in light power than others. Because they can’t tell just by looking at the lights, how much illumination they need or how much illumination the different lights will give them, I think customers get led to buy the lower priced item. People don’t want to spend any more than they think they have to.

      Maybe the best time to compare bike light models, would be after dark; if the store is still open when it’s dark, have a salesperson go out with the lights to the parking lot, a street or something like that.

      There’s ways to go really cheap and get decent bright lights for bikes, but most general riding people aren’t going to be willing to fiddle with that route. It seems to me that right now, at a bike shop, about $60-$80 is low end for what people probably would have to spend for a light they can see the road with. Rechargeable battery…just plug it into the computer. It’s worth it.

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  • Doug Klotz October 28, 2011 at 1:01 am

    I have long felt that the more ODOT, PBOT, and other agencies promote bright and/or reflective clothing, the more drivers will use this as an excuse for ignoring and/or hitting pedestrians who don’t wear such clothing. This does in fact lead to more injuries and deaths, as drivers don’t slow down enough to see a person in dark clothing crossing the street, which the law requires them to see and stop for. ODOT”s program may well not save lives, but cost lives, in the long run.

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    • Dave October 28, 2011 at 8:37 am

      This is why the “if it saves even one life, it’s worth it!” argument is just nonsense. Yes, it might save one life in the immediate term, but it might cost many lives long-term, and we have to think about how our social norms and policies will effect that. You might save one life by banning babies from bicycles, for instance, but you’re going to cost a lot more lives, because the more cars on the road, the more dangerous it is, and the more the accepted point of view shifts towards “only cars should be in the road” – making things both culturally and legally difficult for anyone who chooses not to drive, or cannot drive by necessity.

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    • wsbob October 28, 2011 at 11:39 am

      “…drivers don’t slow down enough to see a person in dark clothing crossing the street, …” Doug Klotz

      People traveling the street on foot have to be visible to indicate to road users, their presence on the road. People on foot that, by their own dereliction of personal responsibility, are not visible to other road users, do provide substance to the ‘I didn’t see them’ claim.

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      • 9watts November 3, 2014 at 8:08 pm

        “People traveling the street on foot have to be visible to indicate to road users, their presence on the road. People on foot that, by their own dereliction of personal responsibility, are not visible to other road users, do provide substance to the ‘I didn’t see them’ claim.”

        It’s all about the speed, bob. At 15mph or 20mph the person in the car’s reaction time and ability to brake are brought much closer to what is required to see things–anything: rocks, deer, unreflectorized pedestrians, in time.

        I’m realizing that this dereliction of responsibility idea of yours isn’t a new thing with you after all. You’ve been saying it for years.

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  • RonC October 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

    This is why the “if it saves even one life, it’s worth it!” argument is just nonsense.

    It’s not nonsense, it’s common sense. The notion that the world would be a safer place filled with ninja pedestrians gave me a good chuckle. Your ODOT safety program would distribute black jumpsuits perhaps? People will drive cars or ride bike at whatever speed they feel they can, and it has little to do with what someone is wearing as a pedestrian. If pedestrians arm themselves with visible clothing, it at least gives them a fighting chance. It’s all about being seen before it’s too late for a person driving a car (or a person riding a bike) to react.

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    • Dave October 28, 2011 at 10:16 am

      No, my ODOT effort would focus on getting people to operate their vehicles (whichever vehicles they may be) within their ability to control them properly. The basic issue here is not that people don’t wear enough reflective clothing, it’s that people operate vehicles beyond their ability to control them. Passing out armbands is just prolonging that problem by not dealing with it.

      People operating vehicles irresponsibly is NOT a given, it is that way because we’ve allowed it to be that way. We can make an effort to change it, and we should.

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    • Dave October 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

      Again, like I commented earlier, whether you wear reflective clothing or not isn’t the issue here – the issue is that *heavy promotion* of protecting oneself by padding or glaring lights or reflective clothing tends to have the effect of shifting blame in the event of a collision. It happens all the time.

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    • 9watts October 28, 2011 at 10:36 am

      you’re not hearing Dave, or a bunch of the rest of us. Focusing on pedestrian clothing colors the way ODOT is in this campaign is a partial–and in the view of some mistaken–focus given the panoply of other possible tacks to take to curb the dangers that accompany nighttime driving.
      Improved visibility of pedestrians about at night is sensible and worth discussing, but as many have eloquently noted in these pages, driving slower, passing laws that discourage driving behaviors at crosswalks that many have here reported and enforcing them, revisiting the questions of when a pedestrian is in the road illegally, etc. are as important or perhaps more important–at least that is how this issue seems to be handled in other jurisdictions.

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      • RonC October 28, 2011 at 11:19 am

        Oh I’m hearing them alright. I was just a kid when the late John F. Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Wonderful words, deeply moving both then and now. So when I hear people attacking ODOT for making this one little gesture, one I’m sure has the capacity to save lives, it rankles me. “Let the drivers fix THEIR problems” is what I’m hearing, loud and clear. What I’m not hearing is “we are all in this together, let’s ALL do our part.” It’s not us vs. them. It’s all of us working together to make the world a better place.

        I sincerely hope I have not offended anyone with my comments. I do believe one person at a time we can make a difference.

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        • 9watts October 28, 2011 at 11:45 am

          I’m with you on the ‘let’s all do our part’ bit. But the criticism of ODOT’s campaign I’m hearing here and making is about how they frame the problem. Their statistics are to me suspiciously worded. They do not symmetrically analyze driver behavior/legality but argue this to be a pedestrian problem mostly.
          My counterexample is that this very same set of circumstances (cars run over or into poorly visible pedestrians at night) happens in Germany and Austria too, and the authorities there do not approach this as a problem for pedestrians and their clothing choices.
          The let’s all do our part approach, when filtered through this ODOT campaign becomes ‘let pedestrians grow up, deal with their drinking problems, learn the rules, wear the right clothes, and then we’ll see if there’s still a problem.’ I reject that, not because I don’t think we all need to do our part, work together, watch out for one another in traffic, but because this is not a good faith effort on ODOT’s part to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries across the board but a skewed view of where fault lies.

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  • RonC October 28, 2011 at 10:40 am

    No, my ODOT effort would focus on getting people to operate their vehicles (whichever vehicles they may be) within their ability to control them properly. The basic issue here is not that people don’t wear enough reflective clothing, it’s that people operate vehicles beyond their ability to control them. Passing out armbands is just prolonging that problem by not dealing with it.
    People operating vehicles irresponsibly is NOT a given, it is that way because we’ve allowed it to be that way. We can make an effort to change it, and we should.

    It’s an admirable goal and one that we should all encourage ODOT to pursue, but people operating vehicles irresponsibly most definitely IS a given. Not all mind you, but at least some people will always put their own interests ahead of others. Just look at all the people speeding, distracted by cell phones, not signaling. I could go on and on. These are all serious problems. I’m not sure what ODOT can realistically do to increase compliance. But at the same time, I believe it is reasonable to at least suggest pedestrians take steps to make themselves more visible. I would postulate that it’s more likely a person operating a vehicle would slow for a visible pedestrian than one that is nearly invisible.

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    • wsbob October 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm

      “…I’m not sure what ODOT can realistically do to increase compliance. …” RonC

      A common objection is the influence of government in people’s personal life choices to the point of our society becoming a ‘nanny state’. ODOT has initiated a simple opportunity for people to take responsibility for their own safety. Here’ then, is a simple opportunity for people to take some responsibility for their own lives, their own safety…and it would seem some people just don’t want to do that little bit to resist the onset of a nanny state situation.

      Based on certain peoples comments to this story…they’d choose not to do so, theorizing that some vehicle road users will use the presence of people on foot traveling the road, that have become more visible in part due to ODOT’s recommendation…as an excuse to evade responsibility for colliding with people on foot that weren’t visible by virtue of the simple fact that they failed to make themselves sufficiently visible to travel the street on foot…i.e., not wearing ODOT’s complimentary reflective armbands.

      There may be some validity to that theory, but if so, it’s weak, and on such a weak theory, it would be a bad choice to deliberately not dress to be visible to vehicle road users.

      I don’t get the impression that ODOT’s expectation was that everyone on foot necessarily start wearing reflective armbands or any other kinds of reflective gear. Reflective armbands were just a suggestion, not an order. There’s plenty other less utilitarian ways people can dress and still be more visible as they travel the road on foot.

      Also don’t believe that the department’s campaign will give bad driver’s a stronger excuse to run into people on foot that are traveling the road.

      ODOT’s hoping that maybe it can coax people to be a bit more conscious of the inevitable hazards associated with using roads, and to take advantage of simple precautions to make oneself more visible when traveling the road on foot.

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  • 9watts October 28, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Here is ODOT speaking to this issue of pedestrian safety with a different voice: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TS/docs/pedestrian/Ped_Brochure.pdf

    “When you choose to drive, you are
    responsible for a lethal machine.”

    Although I was delighted to find this–buried on their webpage though it was–when it comes to darkness, ODOT loses its nerve

    “Step four: Make sure you’re seen.
    Many motorists are distracted and not looking
    for pedestrians. Improve your safety by
    choosing bright-colored clothing for daytime
    walks and wear something retroreflective for
    low-light or nighttime conditions. Carrying
    a bright flashlight can also help.
    See the chart on the back panel for more
    information about what to wear for maximum
    nighttime visibility.”

    “Stay bright at night!
    Studies show that pedestrians wearing dark
    colors at night are first seen by motorists at
    about 55 feet away—but a driver going
    only 20 M.P.H. needs at least 64 feet to stop,
    even on dry pavement! A pedestrian wearing
    white is first seen at around 180 feet. But a
    pedestrian wearing something retroreflective
    is first seen from 500 feet away, allowing a
    motorist going even 60 M.P.H. more than
    enough time to stop.”

    You see how in the phrasing here–bright colors worn by pedestrians–is translated into higher nighttime driving speeds that are considered safe. “If you wear those bright clothes, motorists can go 60mph and everything will still be o.k.!” Hm.

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    • Paul in the 'Couve October 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm

      Yes my essential point in this whole conversation.

      IT is the cars and drivers who are dangerous, not pedestrians, and the bottom line of the written law, unenforced, is that drivers are responsible for driving within the safety of the vehicle and the conditions.

      ODOT keeps falling back on making it the responsibility of pedestrians to make it easier for drivers to speed along too fast for conditions. Wehn pedestrians should and do have a right to safe transport on the public right of way and who are endangering no body.

      That said, when it comes to my life and my family, I wear bright clothes.

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  • RonC October 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    9watts, that’s interesting when taken in context of the ORS requirements for vehicle headlights:

    ORS 816.050 (8) The intensity of the light of single beam headlights shall be sufficient to reveal persons and vehicles upon a street or highway at a distance of at least 200 feet ahead of the vehicle to which they are attached.

    Curiously, the ORS standard for bike headlites is a “be seen” only standard (500 ft.), not a standard for seeing potential hazards in the road ahead. If a ninja pedestrian enters a crosswalk in front of a legal but minimally lit person riding a bike and there is a resultant accident, lets say it injures both parties, who is at fault?

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  • jim October 29, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Perhaps it might be a good idea to make it mandatory for cyclists to wear something reflective at night time, arm bands seam like the easiest thing to wear, perhaps reflective helmets… This would no doubt help improve bicycle safety.
    The other thing is runners. There are sidewalks made just for people on foot, why should a motorist have to drive on the wrong side of the road to go aroung a runner? Some of them even have the poor judgement of taking baby strollers out in their street runs.

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  • wsbob October 30, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    “…There are sidewalks made just for people on foot, why should a motorist have to drive on the wrong side of the road to go aroung a runner? …” jim

    Lots of streets don’t have sidewalks, or, the sidewalks aren’t suitable for running. People using the road for running can be o.k., if runners take precautions to make themselves visible.

    On many streets, often it’s not a big problem for people driving to use the the opposing lane of travel to give people on foot in the lane they’re traveling, extra clearance. Use of streets for a wide range of travel modes seems exactly the antidote called for to achieve a reduction in the domination motor vehicle travel has acquired over so many streets an roads, by default in so many situations.

    Tonight on the neighborhood streets near my house, I saw a couple people walking together, wearing well fitting orange vests with some reflective stripes applied in a very appealing, stylistic manner. Not the common construction style vests. Don’t think I’ve seen vests quite like these before. Too far away to get a really good look. Wished I would have stopped, waited for them to pass by the vehicle so I could have asked for info on the vests.

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  • Paul in the 'couve October 31, 2011 at 10:09 am


    People are ALLOWED to drive cars. It is a privilege not a right. What we need is for all car drivers to be re-educated in the basic idea that they do not have a right to an unimpeded lane of travel, and that particularly in dense urban and residential areas they need to EXPECT to have pedestrians and cyclists in the roadway at any time.

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  • RonC October 31, 2011 at 11:32 am

    And just to further the discussion, lets consider this variation as well:

    People are ALLOWED to ride bikes. It is a privilege not a right. What we need is for all bike riders to be re-educated in the basic idea that they do not have a right to an unimpeded lane of travel, and that particularly in dense urban and residential areas they need to EXPECT to have darkly clothed pedestrians in the roadway at any time.

    At least cars have headlight standards that require sufficient illumination to reveal people in the road ahead. Bikes do not. And yes, I’m well aware of the greater destructive potential and size of a car vs. a bike. But in bike/pedestrian collisions both parties are capable of injuring the other.

    Not sure what my point is, other than looking out for one another, making oneself visible, and having good lights that illuminate the road ahead is not a bad idea, whether legally required or not.

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    • wsbob October 31, 2011 at 10:01 pm

      Also worth keeping in mind, and thinking about the reasons that Oregon law requires motorcycles to have their lights on during the day and at night (ORS 814-something). To enable motorcycles to be more visible, is I think the main reason that requirement was made into law, decades ago.

      If I’ve got this right, to prep their bikes for sale here, manufacturers just wire the headlights into the ignition switch so riders don’t have a problem forgetting to turn them on. Having the headlights always be on in turn helps people riding motorcycles be able to see people on foot, walking the road during daytime low light conditions.

      In my brief web search, I couldn’t quite determine for sure whether, with their motorcycles, people can meet the legal requirement for running lights during the day by using auxiliary daytime running lights in front, rather than headlights.

      At any rate, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if people start to consider writing laws to require daytime lighting for bicycles, at least for bikes used in areas where traffic is particularly heavy.

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      • wsbob October 31, 2011 at 10:06 pm

        Just a minor error, but I probably should correct it. Also adding what probably is ORS relating to motorcycle headlight use:

        “…Also worth keeping in mind, and thinking about, are the reasons that Oregon law requires motorcycles to have their lights on during the day and at night (ORS 814.320 Failure to display lighted headlights; exceptions; penalty). …” wsbob

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    • 9watts October 4, 2013 at 8:20 am

      “People are ALLOWED to ride bikes. It is a privilege not a right.”

      RonC, are you sure about that? Got a reference?
      How about
      People are ALLOWED to walk. It is a privilege not a right?

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  • Paul in the 'couve October 31, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Most of the discussion in the thread was about Pedestrians and Reflective arm bands all of my comments were directed primarily in regards to pedestrians.

    As far as I am concerned, and I believe in the Letter of the Law in the US and the US Constitution, Pedestrians have the right to travel in any public right of way except in the very few places where they are specifically prohibited. I don’t believe that there is any law in the US that requires pedestrians to carry a light or wear reflective clothing and I would oppose such a law, and I honestly believe it might well be unconstitutional.

    Bicycles are different and are actually vehicles.

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  • esther2 November 4, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Personally I’m not offended by calls for pedestrians to be more visible. It does help to not be wearing all black while walking at night. I wear a light coat when going out at night on my bike or walking. Its just common sense.

    I did find this article offensive in the Oregonian though.


    I did not understand how out of control and impaired drivers mowing down innocent pedestrians on the sidewalk should remind us to wear reflective gear. Shouldn’t that just make us all wonder why our society can’t figure out a way to keep these menaces off our roads?

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    • 9watts November 4, 2014 at 3:48 pm

      Yes, a dreadful piece of trash masquerading as a newspaper article.
      Particularly noteworthy is that the guy who plowed into the little trick-or-treaters on the sidewalk was drunk, yet the second admonition on the list of actions PEDESTRIANS were to take is ‘stay sober!’ 15 bullet points all for pedestrians and not a single one for the ones holding the steering wheels. Curious to see how wsbob spins this as an example of pedestrians shifting responsibility onto drivers?

      This has to stand as a particularly egregious example of the skewed handling of this dynamic. Of a piece with ODOT, Trimet, PBOT, the Bike Gallery, and the rest of ’em in its handling of this, just worse.

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  • spare_wheel November 4, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    “Personally I’m not offended by calls for pedestrians to be more visible. It does help to not be wearing all black while walking at night.”

    Personally I’m not offended by calls for motorists to drive slowly because their vehicles could easily injure, maim, or kill a pedestrian wearing black.

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