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Mayor Hales is rolling up his sleeves on road safety

Posted by on July 18th, 2013 at 8:05 am

Mayor Hales crossing enforcement action-9

Mayor Hales has had traffic safety on his mind for months
— now he’s starting to do something about it.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

In light of a spate of serious injury and fatal roadway collisions, Mayor Charlie Hales held a top-level meeting in his City Hall office yesterday.

Billed as, “An urgent/time sensitive meeting request to discuss recent incidents and fatalities involving vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists,” the meeting featured a full table of city staffers, road safety advocates and other stakeholders. According to Hales’ Policy Director Josh Alpert, representatives from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Oregon Walks, Oregon Trucking Associations, and the NW Skate Coalition were in attendance. Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick joined Mayor Hales as did several staffers from the Bureau of Transportation. (I was invited but I’m not in Portland this week and was unable to attend.)

As a former commissioner in charge of PBOT in the 1990s, it’s not surprising to see Hales so engaged in transportation issues. In his first six months in office he has also had to face more tragedies and carnage than he expected. Just a few months into his mayoral term Hales faced scrutiny over how to balance maintenance and safety funding when a five-year-old girl was struck and killed while trying cross a street in east Portland. Then just two months ago, Hales acted as a decoy in a crosswalk safety mission on East Burnside. During an interview with BikePortland at that event, he said transportation safety is, “a serious community problem, and I’ve become more fervent about it than I was even six months ago.”

“Nobody’s got all the answers, but there are things we should be trying and things we are doing and need more of. This is a good starting point to ensure that our streets are safe for all users.”
— Josh Alpert, Mayor Hales’ policy director

Since that crosswalk safety event in May, several more people have been killed and seriously wounded on our streets. There have been 23 fatalities in Portland so far this year, compared to 17 at this time last year.

Yesterday’s meeting was a chance for Hales to get the pulse of advocates and community leaders. Alpert said the group discussed short and long-term solutions, brainstormed new ideas like the creation of “neighborhood toolkits” and talked about new legislation and enforcement tools.

The exact outline of Hales’ plan to attack the road safety issue isn’t clear yet; but as he shared with us in May, more enforcement is very likely to be a top priority. Of course, we all know simply calling for more enforcement means nothing unless it’s coupled with funding, so Hales will have to find money for it. Public outreach campaigns are also something the City has done in the past and we’re likely to see more of that in the future (PBOT Commish Novick has proven to be anything but shy on the topic thus far).

“Nobody’s got all the answers,” Alpert shared with us via email last night, “but there are things we should be trying and things we are doing and need more of. This is a good starting point to ensure that our streets are safe for all users.”

“This will be an ongoing and iterative discussion until there’s no longer a need and our streets are safe.”

I am sure the BikePortland community will play an important role in that discussion. Stay tuned for more developments and ways you can offer feedback and input.

If you were at that meeting, what advice would you have given Mayor Hales?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Dave July 18, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Something we probably all experienced as schoolchildren–a whole class was punished for the offenses of one or a few kids. Mayor Hales should reassign all PDX Police officers who work auto theft to other duties until there is one full calendar year of ZERO pedestrian deaths and ZERO hit-and-run collisions. Society should not show any more regard for the property of drivers than drivers show for other road users.

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    • rwl1776 July 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      ALL road users need to follow the rules, and be ticketed accordingly for their offenses. On Tuesday July 15th, at 8:55 am, while approaching the Broadway Bridge westbound, on NE Broadway at Ross, (where a few bicyclists have been right hooked), I witnessed the following: There is a marked crosswalk there for the new Streetcar stop. A pedestrian was waiting at the crosswalk, on the right side of the road, right NEXT to the bike lane. I was in the center lane and stopped to allow the pedestrian to cross, as did the other vehicles in the right and left hand lanes. Well guess what, NOT ONE BICYCLIST STOPPED. 5-6 bicyclists continued right thru the crosswalk while the cars patiently waited as the law requires.

      I see this kind of behavior all the time in this area! Just last week, on this same NE Broadway, I was driving westbound near the Safeway. While ALL of the cars STOPPED at each red light, a bicyclist (no helmet of course) slowed for each red light. Upon seeing no cross traffic, he cruised right thru each light for the next 8 or so red lights, all the way to the bridge. The light was red for at least 5 or more seconds at each intersection. I do not see cars continually blowing red lights in this manner, if so, there would be car crashes every minute in this town.

      I think we are lucky there are not MORE bicyclists getting hit every day due to their lack of following the rules of the road that all vehicles are supposed to follow.

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      • John Lascurettes July 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm

        Give the “cyclists are a bunch of scofflaws” a rest. I could say the same thing in reverse but it would be pointless. This is not about Cyclists v. Drivers. On my bike or in my car, I routinely stop for pedestrians standing in or actively crossing a crosswalk, only to have both drivers OR cyclists pass me and not yield to the pedestrians – it’s the character of the operator, not the mode of transportation. Sometimes everyone yields to the pedestrians. The point is, enforcement should happen regardless of who is making the offense.

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        • wsbob July 19, 2013 at 12:07 am

          “…it’s the character of the operator, not the mode of transportation. …” John Lascurettes

          That’s not exactly true. It’s been fairly common in comments to bikeportland, for people to argue that bikes, due to certain of the characteristics differentiating them from motor vehicles, ex.: size and weight, should be relieved from some of the basic traffic regulations people driving motor vehicles in traffic are subject to.

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          • Jessie July 19, 2013 at 10:29 am

            Actually thats the law in Oregon. Read section (a).

            814.400 Application of vehicle laws to bicycles. (1) Every person riding a bicycle upon a public way is subject to the provisions applicable to and has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle concerning operating on highways, vehicle equipment and abandoned vehicles, except:
            (a) Those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.
            (b) When otherwise specifically provided under the vehicle code.
            (2) Subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section:
            (a) A bicycle is a vehicle for purposes of the vehicle code; and
            (b) When the term “vehicle” is used the term shall be deemed to be applicable to bicycles.
            (3) The provisions of the vehicle code relating to the operation of bicycles do not relieve a bicyclist or motorist from the duty to exercise due care. [1983 c.338 §697; 1985 c.16 §335]

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      • Sigma July 18, 2013 at 2:10 pm

        I was stopped (on a bike) at a red light yesterday at 11th and Madison. While I and several people in cars waited for the light to turn, another guy on a bike (no helmet, with earphones in) rode right through the light without even slowing down. The light was red for probably about 10 more seconds. I flipped him off to demonstrate my displeasure to anyone watching (we’re not all a$$hats).

        I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone thinks this type of behavior is acceptable. Can someone who does please enlighten me?

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        • spare_wheel July 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm

          and what’s the worse thing that could happen due to the flagrant violation of this helmentless scofflaw?

          now contrast that with what could happen when a motorist guns their dangerous heavy machine through an early red light phase (something i see just about every commute).

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          • Joseph July 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm

            I was waiting to cross W Burnside @ 17th the other day on foot. A cyclist EB blew through a stale red light after my NB ‘Walk’ signal turned in my favor. If I hadn’t seen him coming, we would have had a nasty, *relatively* high-speed collision. He likely would not have been able to maneuver around me nor use his brakes to prevent the collision. Both of us likely would have been hurt, but probably not killed.

            I would have been pissed.

            In this case, the “worst thing” that could have happened would be me in the hospital footing my own medical bills due to somebody running a red light – that he was on a human-powered two-wheeler wouldn’t have made a difference, other than probably not killing me.

            Don’t you tell me I need to put up with this crap from anybody.

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          • Sigma July 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm

            The “worse” thing that could happen is a person driving a car at or below the speed limit legally proceeds through the intersection, striking and killing this Darwin Award nominee, an event that would have a cascading effect on the motorist, his/her family, and the family of the deceased, possibly affecting them for decades. I answered your question; would you care to answer mine? (preferably without saying “but look over there!”)

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            • wsbob July 18, 2013 at 11:49 pm

              Similar to what nearly happened at the recent Killingsworth collision, in which the guy on the bike reportedly rolled his bike through a stop sign, into thoroughfare traffic, only to get nailed by someone driving a motor vehicle.

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          • Alli July 18, 2013 at 8:29 pm

            The worst? I was riding through the sw 24th and Burnside intersection last Sunday. I had the light, cars were all stopped. I was halfway through the intersection when a guy (dark skinned, flat bar bike, long hair) ran the red light going east on Burnside (downhill) and literally missed me by a couple of inches. If he would have hit me he would have SEVERELY injured me or killed me I’ve been riding more than 20 years. This is in my top 5 of near death experiences on the bike. Now granted–if it had been a car that would have blasted through that intersection at the same speed (about 40mph is my guess) I definitely would have been dead. Either way–there are stop lights for a reason.

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            • Dan July 18, 2013 at 10:24 pm

              I would do my damndest to catch up and have a friendly conversation with someone who had threatened my life like that, regardless of their mode of conveyance.

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            • Dan Kaufman July 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm

              Yes there are stop lights for a reason. So cars can move faster. Stops signs and traffic signals do not exist for safety reasons. Its all about traffic flow and increasing speed for motorists. Is it any wonder why many bike riders are scofflaws when the playing field actually punishes them?

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              • wsbob July 19, 2013 at 12:36 am

                “…Stops signs and traffic signals do not exist for safety reasons. …” Dan Kaufman

                If you were a politician or a transportation dept official, that would be quotable in a large setting than here at bikeportland. Hope it’s not your advice to Hales to remove the city’s stop signs and traffic signals.

                Thank heavens you’re not a traffic engineer. If you were, you’d perhaps take out all those aggravating, time consuming stop signs on NE Broadway and its side street. There, due to the large amount of vehicle usage that street is obliged to carry, if traffic travels at 20 mph during commute hours, that’s lucky. Doesn’t seem likely that removing the traffic controls would allow traffic at that speed or even lower, to move more smoothly or safer than it does with them.

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              • Dan Kaufman July 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm

                wsbob, maybe we need to rethink our obligations and our engineering solutions.

                Believe it or not, Bob, the concepts I am professing are neither original nor crazy. Check out this article and video about a town in England successfully reengineered/deengeered their streets:

                or I suppose we can continue trying to engineer high-speed roads to be less dangerous to human beings. Check out this hilarious feat of engineering in Missouri:

                Call me crazy but I know where I’d rather be AND I stand by my assertions.

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              • wsbob July 19, 2013 at 11:28 pm

                Dan…pick a type of location in Portland, where you think Shared Space (subject of the article the top link in your comment, accesses.) would be a workable, practical means of improving safety and congestion issues on Portland streets. In that article, is a link to a Hembrow article on Shared Space, explaining the concepts’ shortcomings in actual use, and also, that the Netherlands, once apparently intrigued with it, no longer favors the concept.

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              • Peter Koonce July 23, 2013 at 10:46 pm

                I respectfully disagree with you on the topic of traffic signals and support the dialogue on speed limits. There are 1,070 traffic signals in Portland and not all are designed for cars to “move faster”. A good number of them (250) are in downtown and are used to manage traffic carefully to insure speeds are safe for all users (especially pedestrians crossing right turning traffic and people on bikes sharing the lane or in a bike lane). Our policies in downtown prioritize multimodal movement and safety and have for thirty years. We have been extending that concept to recent projects like the Burnside-Couch couplet which are set up to progress all traffic at 20 miles per hour. Granted, cars can move faster then that, but our intent is to manage the traffic so the traffic signals are a positive influence on the safety of the street. This is not a one sized fits all proposition. The adjacent buildings and activity of pedestrian and bicycle travel play a significant role. What works in downtown doesn’t on 82nd Avenue.

                Traffic signals aren’t a panacea for safety either. In situations with two way traffic, we can’t manage the speeds like we do in a grid of streets with nearby signals. There are a number of corridors where the signals are so distant that they do move cars faster than if they weren’t there, but any intersection treatment would have the propensity to do that.

                I can’t stress enough that context is important, but there is also difficulty in changing the status quo with only a change to the traffic signals. There has to be the right context and other supportive efforts to make change happen. Just as the concepts of Missouri aren’t likely to show up in Portland any time soon, the ideas of one intersection in England would have to be used with the right context and community support.

                Your later comment on lower speed limits and the resulting dialogue should be considered further in a Vision Zero type effort. Reducing speed limits, combined with effective enforcement, including working with the judicial system, would only be effective with a comprehensive focus on the problem. That’s what leadership looks like.

                If there are traffic signals that you think encourage speeding, ask City staff to take a look at them. If there are streets that seem to have speed limits that are set unreasonably high, call the 503-823-SAFE hotline. The City uses good feedback to make change happen, sometimes incrementally but it all adds up.

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              • Dan Kaufman July 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm

                Peter, first let me say I appreciate your thoughtful response and all the great work you do making Portland safer. I agree with much of what you say especially about context. We do have to work with what we already have for better and worse.

                My point about signals and signs was to a counter to this tired old cyclists are the worst scofflaws so they don’t deserve safety (or some such poppycock).

                If we take cars out of the equation then I really don’t see a much, if any, need for all these devices and, more importantly, these tools are typically used to give advantage to faster moving motor vehicles – (there are exceptions especially on Portland streets, thanks to folks like you, but I am going to stick to my guns on this one – especially if you take our transportation system as a whole).

                Let’s take two almost identical areas in Westmoreland, for example. One area has stop signs and the other doesn’t. I would rather ride my bike through the area with no stop signs. Cars there travel at about 17 mph so they can be prepared to yield AND not (maybe more importantly) not be hit by another car or bike. I roll through this area never have to stop.

                Not so in the other area. The cars go faster and I have to stop every other block. At rush hour both sections get cut through traffic. And people still blow the stop signs.

                For some reason conventional wisdom tells us the area with stops signs is safer. I doubt it.

                Now, take this once step further. Since we are in Westmoreland let’s take the entire Milwuakie Ave arterial from Powell Blvd to the County line. What is it an arterial for? Cars and car parking. From Holgate to the commercial district it’s 35 mph with double yellow lines. Parked cars are smashed quite frequently by speeders. You must be very careful to cross the street and cycling and walking is not comfortable in that section. Of course, this is NOTHING compared to our urban highways 99, 26, 30, 213. Not sure how much PBOT can do here, though.

                Anyway, let’s say cars are given no more precedence on Milwaukie than any other mode, take away the double yellow lines and free parking. Strip away all the signage off Milwaukie in the Brooklyn, Westmoreland and Sellwood commercial districts.

                Each cross street would have to be treated by all users as potential yield which would automatically reduce car speeds to 15-20mph. Driving 25 mph would be careless and any faster would be reckless. Let the police and the law of self-preservation enforce that.

                I think these neighborhoods would become safer and more vibrant.

                Unfortunately, it’s getting past conventional wisdom that stop signs, etc, are really there to protect us and that we need free parking.

                Perhaps we can continue this over a beer sometime. I really appreciate your involvement. – WSbob this goes for you to but I don’t know who you really are.

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          • Mike July 18, 2013 at 10:10 pm

            Could you please stop using that as a justification for a cyclist not following basic rules of the road. It is a tired argument. Why is it so hard to ride responsibly? Just curious because someone on a bike can do some serious damage to my kids while they are on foot.

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            • El Biciclero July 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm

              I don’t think anyone is using relative damage potential as a “justification”. Breaking the law is breaking the law. But just as there are lower penalties for simple assault and more severe penalties for assault with a deadly weapon, motor vehicle violations and bicycle violations might be appropriately addressed in different ways.

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  • David July 18, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Enforcement might help short-term, but it’s not a long-term solution. We need safer infrastructure focusing on calming and slowing auto and truck traffic. This is the only way that people will continue to be attentive once the police are gone again.

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    • Dave July 18, 2013 at 9:43 am

      Keep fines high enough to maintain a steady revenue stream to the city. To me that’s a win/win–make $ and keep the roads safer. The fines could maintain a traffic-controlling police force in perpetuity.

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    • q`Tzal July 18, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      Enforcement is only a short term solution if the enforcement effort is short term; just like discipline to with small children enforcement needs to be fair but most importantly consistent.
      An unenforced rule or law is the same as no law, an inconsistently enforced law begs to be broken.
      If the police cannot muster the manpower to do the job assigned to them then they should find a way to do the job cheaper (unmanned red light & speed cameras) or we should remove useless laws from the books.

      And index all fine amounts starting at current amounts at the poverty level and you multiply the fine by the violator’s gross annual income divided by the poverty level.

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  • John R. July 18, 2013 at 9:47 am

    I supported Charlie, but starting to be very unimpressed by his term so far. Talk is cheap?

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    • Todd Hudson July 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

      He was the better of two bad choices – many of us couldn’t bring ourselves to vote for Jefferson Smith the sociopath.

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  • Craig Harlow July 18, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Is there any tracking of outcomes from prior “Transportation Safety Summit”s?

    Is there another annual event scheduled?

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  • Dan Kaufman July 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

    “Nobody’s got all the answers, but there are things we should be trying and things we are doing and need more of. This is a good starting point to ensure that our streets are safe for all users.”
    — Josh Alpert, Mayor Hales’ policy director

    Here’s an answer. Make all residential and commercial area speed limits 20mph. Enforce it through extensive photo radar or an electronic governor. And to the naysayers, please tell why me arriving a few minutes early to your destination is worth putting all our lives a serious risk and wrecking our neighborhoods.

    Anyway, I am glad to see road safety on our Council’s radar. Once we admit that cars are the problem the real solutions won’t be far behind. To paraphrase Enrique Peñalosa, you can’t make a city that is both good for cars and good for people. Check out his presentation ‘Planning Cities for People’:

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    • gutterbunnybikes July 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

      I agree whole haeartedly with the speed limit drop. Couple that with bannning turns on red lights. Both right turns and lefts onto one ways.

      For money for enforcement. It would take some work. But here’s an rough idea. Make tickets profitable.

      As it stands now moving violations don’t cover the cost of the time of the officer and the courts and clerks involved with processing them. Triple the cost of all moving violations, 1/3 of the funds cover the administration/court costs, one third of the funds goes towards enforcement costs (more traffic cops photo radar untis), and the last 1/3 goes to the PDOT for road and safety infrastructure improvements.

      As an added insentive treat all infractions within 100′ of a crosswalk (in the inner pdx area that’s pretty much every block since each block in the grid is 1/20th of a mile or 264 feet) the same as construction zones and double the cost of the (already boosted ticket cost).

      We’d get more cops, more infrastructure, and last but not least road users obeying the law because just about every moving violation would be around $500.

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      • gutterbunnybikes July 18, 2013 at 10:14 am

        many that’s bad, spell check died on me I guess….Sorry, but you all should get the idea

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      • El Biciclero July 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm

        Of course, they would charge cyclists the same amount as motorists for violations. That would make the next Flint or Ladd’s STOP sign “enforcement action” pretty lucrative.

        Also, I’ve read (and noticed with my kids) that it is the certainty of punishment, not the severity that serves as the real deterrent. If we had photo radar installations at enough places that only resulted in $25 fines–but guaranteed you’d get fined every time? Those would be the places you’d find drivers toeing the line on speed.

        Regarding turns on red: Hey-oh yah. Ban, ban, ban them. Besides speeding and unwillingness to yield, they are the biggest danger to pedestrians (and cyclists unfortunate enough to find themselves on MUPs that are positioned like sidewalks) at roadway crossings. It is the biggest enticement for drivers to just roll on through a crosswalk without stopping beforehand. It also lures drivers illegally into bike lanes to squeeze past other cars stopped at a red. If there were nowhere to go until the light tuned green anyway, there would be no incentive to blast–or even creep–through a crosswalk, or swerve into a bike lane on a red phase.

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    • Sigma July 18, 2013 at 10:20 am

      “Electronic governor.”

      Yes. Let’s require a governor to be installed on every car registered in the city. It will be activated whenever the companion GPS-linked tracking device detects a car on one of the 20 mph streets. Let’s tack the cost of these devices onto the vehicle registration fee (along with the sellwood bridge fee). That’s a great idea. Let’s do that.

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    • Reza July 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

      I agree wholeheartedly with making local streets 20 mph standard (maybe 25 mph for collectors and arterials), but wow, a mandatory electronic governor on all cars? What a breathtakingly bad idea.

      So let’s say a GPS system that is supposed to detect what street you are on stops working. Oops, now you’re on I-5 and can go no faster than 20 mph. Good luck surviving.

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      • Paikikala July 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm

        Only the State Legislature can change statutory speed limits.

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    • Craig Harlow July 18, 2013 at 11:45 am

      Arriving early shouldn’t be an issue. As Steph Routh observed, “one of the best traffic safety devices is an alarm clock.”

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      • Craig Harlow July 18, 2013 at 11:48 am

        Also, Dan, for your plan to be do-able, the state will have to either (a) set this law at the state level (awesome), or else (b) cede speed limit setting to local municipalities (scary).

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  • Dan July 18, 2013 at 10:12 am

    The city should ticket crosswalk infractions based on video submitted online. Ticket the registered owner tied to each license plate, regardless of whether or not they admit to have been driving the car. Maybe over time the program could be expanded to target other unsafe behaviors too – illegal turns, etc.

    An army of snitches could succeed where a temporary law enforcement effort would have limited and brief impact.

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    • El Biciclero July 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      Little brother FTW! (Is “FTW” still a thing?)

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  • wsbob July 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

    I’m not sure I’d present it as advice, but maybe would ask Hales if he might consider looking into possibilities for reducing posted speed limits on sections of thoroughfares in locations where people are apt to be crossing or traveling along by foot, bike, etc.

    A reduction of typical posted thoroughfare speeds of 35-40 mph to 20-25 mph on roads that pass through neighborhoods in which for example, destination shopping lies across the thoroughfare from much of the neighborhood, could be one of the easiest, lowest cost ways to enhance safety on the street for people walking and biking.

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  • Chris I July 18, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Lowering of speed limits all over town, and a massive increase in the number of radar vans. Hales needs to aggressively promote this as a massive safety campaign.

    “The speed limits will be lowered, and enforcement will increase. If you break the law, you will get a ticket. We will do this until people stop dying on our streets.”

    We have allowed cars to control our lives. For many drivers, a 5 second inconvenience to go around a cyclist, or stop for a pedestrian is enraging. How did we allow this to happen? We can’t control the suburbs, but we can control our city. Drivers need to know that the culture is different here.

    20mph on all neighborhood streets; a maximum of 30 on arterials, and 50 on the freeways. Step up enforcement and use it to fund PBOT. If enforcement is strong, people will change their habits.

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    • spare_wheel July 18, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Radar vans are expensive and must be staffed by law enforcement personnel. We need to legalize automated photo-radar enforcement. This has a proven track record in Europe and is remarkably inexpensive.

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      • Alan 1.0 July 18, 2013 at 11:26 am

        The Netherlands uses photo-radar that way but it also uses automatically timed detections. License plates are recorded at a known point along a freeway and then checked at subsequent exits. If the plate arrives at the exit sooner than the permissible speed would allow, bingo, ticket-in-the-mail.

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        • Joseph July 18, 2013 at 1:49 pm

          Germany also uses this method on the autobahn (where speeds are enforced, at least). Have heard stories before of “smarter” (ahem) drivers pulling over to shoulder to kill some time after having a little fun in a speed-enforced stretch to avoid arriving to a checkpoint too early.

          Same thing happens in NASCAR on pit road, since they use timing loops instead of radar to enforce safety speed limits: drivers exceed the limit to gain an advantage when they know they can get away with it.

          The key takeaway is that some people will try to get away with things where they think they can. Any enforcement system we put in place needs to consider to where it’s “moving” the problem.

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      • q`Tzal July 19, 2013 at 12:05 am

        To all that distrust cameras over live police officers :
        Yes cameras can be misused.
        Also testimony from a live police officer can be biased or just plain false and will be accepted as The Word of God in a court of law.

        I have a strong sense of paranoia and generally despise everything the gubment has been up to spying on us all as a prelude to this Prism mess.
        But don’t delude yourself: if your local municipality has a budget of X that will pay for 30 traffic officers
        25 traffic officers and 100 red light and speed cameras
        and you choose the prior option you aren’t just choosing privacy, you are also choosing to allow known hazards to be unchecked on our public roads. That price is paid in lives and body parts.
        In this situation there is no high road.

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  • PNP July 18, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Definitely drop speed limits and increase enforcement. The only truly observed speed limit I know of is a stretch of Cedar Hills Blvd., where the Beaverton police department intermittently parks a van with a speed limit monitor and a camera. Of course, everyone speeds until they get near the van and then they speed up after they’ve passed it, but for that stretch covered by the camera, everyone behaves. There’s not one single good reason for speed limits on surface streets higher than 30 or 35 mph. Why are we all in such a hurry, anyway?

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    • Joseph July 18, 2013 at 11:04 am

      Same story on 99E in downtown Milwaukie. Everybody goes 45+ on either end, but once you hit the 30mph zone, just about everybody slows to 30. Most repeat travelers are aware of the frequent presence of the photo radar van and don’t test their luck.

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      • Chris I July 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

        Exactly. If we get speed cameras on the majority of our streets, the bad behavior will stop.

        Arguing against speed cameras is like arguing against security cameras in stores. Only the criminals should be afraid of them.

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        • A.K. July 18, 2013 at 1:32 pm

          “Arguing against speed cameras is like arguing against security cameras in stores. Only the criminals should be afraid of them.”

          Bzzzzzzt, wrong. Stop. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

          We SHOULD be worrying about the ever-present creep of invasion of privacy by the government.

          On the surface I have no problem with speed cameras (or security cameras either), but what is stopping that data from being used for other purposes?

          The issue with cameras EVERYWHERE is that suddenly it becomes rather easy to compile a profile on someone, where they are going, at what times, etc.

          The idea of a pervasive security-state like that bother me, and they should bother everyone who enjoys the idea of living in a free society. I’d rather not have something like the TSA everywhere… “for your own safety, of course!” We can argue all day if America is really free or not, but I don’t think we should take up issues that could make privacy even more scare so simply.

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          • Joseph July 18, 2013 at 1:37 pm

            “what is stopping that data from being used for other purposes?”


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            • captainkarma July 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm

              That’s risible.

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              • Joseph July 18, 2013 at 2:06 pm

                That’s literally all we have protecting us from many flavors of civil rights violations, risible or not.

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          • Dave July 19, 2013 at 8:48 am

            Pure nonsense. Automobiles do so much human, social, and environmental damage that we should not have a full set of legal and civil rights when we drive them. I look forward to the day when a bike manufacturer advertises their wares not as “this one won Le Tour” but as “the vehicle where the Constitution still protects you.”

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  • anon1q2w3e4r5t July 18, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Can we have more details on these “neighborhood toolkits”, new legislation, and enforcement tools?

    My advice to Mayor Hales:

    Don’t waste resources/taxpayer money on Portland’s bike sharing program that is set to launch in Spring 2014. Instead, focus all of those resources/taxpayer money on making Portland’s streets safer. Bike sharing primarily serves only as a convenience and does little in its contribution to safer streets.

    My thoughts on this issue can be found here:

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    • Todd Hudson July 18, 2013 at 11:58 am

      I have been a little skeptical of bringing a bike-sharing program here, and have been a little reticent to express this sentiment. I guess I’m not the only person that thinks that it would be a drain on the cyclist/pedestrian improvements that are needed all over the city.

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      • Chris Anderson July 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm

        I can’t wait for bike share, because I think it will be the best way for the city to see where people are actually riding. The GPS data collected by bike share bikes is much higher resolution than a few bridge counters.

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        • anon1q2w3e4r5t July 18, 2013 at 6:42 pm

          Great, we can use this high-resolution GPS data to make the streets frequented by bike share users safer, never mind the bicyclists who will never use the bike sharing program.

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          • lazyofay July 19, 2013 at 10:07 am

            “anon1q2w3e4r5t” should be allowed a one time, no holds barred three page rant on concerning bike share.
            Comments to his/her editorial should then be opened, with no further discussion from the author allowed.

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            • anon1q2w3e4r5t July 19, 2013 at 10:44 am

              So that the conversation will become biased towards bike share afterwords?

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  • Tom Shillock July 18, 2013 at 10:48 am

    What is the ratio of the number of pedestrian and bicycle accidents in the Portland metro area to the number of motor vehicles on the road over, say, the past two decades?

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  • Todd Boulanger July 18, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Yes it is critical for the Mayor and the Commissioners in charge of Transportation and Police to move swiftly in institutionalizing the Vision Zero…it has been a long time coming. Start to enforce vehicular safety infractions again would be a start since there is a strong correlation between driver safety and how well a vehicle is maintained (broken / missing safety lamps, cracked windshields, missing insurance/ title/ tabs, etc.).

    Mayor Hales will have to also communicate this shift and focus to the County so that judges and the court system will be ready and willing to carryout any tickets issued (as permitted by case law). Too often it seems that vulnerable roadway users get little legal protection after a collision due to police incident reporting process and the long delay in restitution from insurance companies.

    It may also take a move away from some cherished 1970s initiatives…like doing away with most right-on-red movement at intersections and the existing no-fault system (perhaps only keep it for MV on MV crashes).

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    • Craig Harlow July 18, 2013 at 11:56 am

      Can someone from BTA weigh in here on what is the BTA’s current stance in relation to Vision Zero?

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      • Gerik July 19, 2013 at 10:10 am

        Howdy Craig. I was in this meeting with Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick and several city staff. The BTA is strongly in support of Vision Zero and I reminded everyone in the room of our position.

        We would like to see Vision Zero policy serve as the guiding light for every decision PBOT makes, and while safety is one of their top priorities, clearly we need to do more.

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  • Todd Boulanger July 18, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Yes – there is a lot of roadway reconstruction that is needed to reform our present speed centric roadways, though this will take time and mucho money given the slow growth and lack of reconstruction funds under current system.

    Mayor Hales can show strong leadership by supporting PBoTs plans to redesign and right size many of the east to west arterials so they become multimodal (typically a road diet layout from 4 to 3 lane layout). This would make Division, Hawthorne, etc. into roads that cyclists AND driver would enjoy using vs. dreading to use, as they currently are laid out.

    Then there is the function of our roadways…for moving traffic and not vehicle storage…removing on-street parking for bike lanes or sidewalks is often the most affordable option if the existing lane configuration will not support multi-modalism and traffic safety.

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  • MaxD July 18, 2013 at 11:08 am

    I completely agree that speed reduction and enforcement, and not movements on a red light, would be simple and effective measures to take immediately. I would add 3 other suggestions:
    1. Get rid of ped-activated signals in the central city. Why do we have green lights without walk signals? Maybe the ped-buttons could be used after 11 pm or something, but it seems ridiculous in the middle of the day.
    2. Start striping auto lanes in addition to bike lanes. There are a few spots in town with a skimpy 5-foor bike lane adjacent to an auto lane that varies from 10.5′ to 16’+ (think Interstate). That buffer needs to be striped so that it is visible to autos to keep them in their lane, keep speeds down, and reveal to bikes and autos where the dangerous, unbuffered areas are.
    3. fix the bridges! Reduce and enforce speed limits, add crosswalks (why is there no crosswalk on the west side of teh Morrison bridge??!!) and get rid of those stupid ramps. Traffic should just go around the block, and the blocks where the ramps are should be developed or used as parks.

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    • Anne Hawley July 18, 2013 at 11:29 am

      I think it’s Jeff Speck in Walkable City who calls those things “beg buttons”. I’ve learned to hate them.

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  • Help July 18, 2013 at 11:18 am

    2 words: Timed lights.

    Improving traffic flow will improve safety.

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    • Paikikala July 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      1 word, where?

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    • Chris I July 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Timing is impossible on our bi-directional arterials, which make up the majority of our most dangerous roads. Downtown and most of the couplets are already timed for safe speeds.

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      • Craig Harlow July 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        You might be surprised–even amazed–at what the city’s signals division is *already* doing with signal timing–along individual roadways, as well as coordinating among signals around a given traffic movement area…

        …such as around the NE 12th Ave overcrossing of I-84, which I believe now moves more vehicles with less delay than it did two years ago, while using *reduced* auto capacity (ingress) over the bridges, all thanks to coordination of signal timing around the bridge itself, and on nearby Lloyd Blvd, on NE 13th Ave., and the I-84 westbound Lloyd offramp.

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  • AndyC of Linnton July 18, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I will echo everyone’s sentiments here. I feel all speed limits everywhere in the city, regardless of where, should be dropped ten miles per hour. Thus, calmer at every spot.

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  • Anne Hawley July 18, 2013 at 11:25 am


    While speed is the most dangerous problem, my own close calls on the city’s streets are overwhelmingly caused by distracted driving. I can be about 90% sure that when I look in the window of a car going slower than normal but erratically, I’ll see the driver using a mobile device. The one who almost clipped me this morning on Naito Parkway didn’t even notice that she’d done it. Too busy reading her email, I guess.

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    • Art Fuldodger July 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      Anne, I’m with you – but an initial step might be to broadcast that texting/phoning (without hands-free device ) while driving is AGAINST THE LAW. I really wonder how many drivers are aware that this is the case? ODoT publicity that i’ve seen to date seems to be along the lines of “Hang up and drive” , i.e., it’s a bad idea to use your smartphone while driving.

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    • PorterStout July 18, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Yes! You beat me to this one. It seems I see a driver on their phone EVERY DAY, and almost always when there’s a near miss like you described. A nearly identical story happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Is this the law or not?! Enforce it!!!

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      • Joseph July 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm

        *A* driver everyday? I see about one a minute.

        That’s true whether I’m driving in rush hour traffic on I-5 or riding the streetcar on 10th Ave. If I allow myself to pay that close of attention to what people are doing inside their cars, I am very quickly filled with rage because this behavior has become so ubiquitous.

        Distracted driving needs to be treated the same as driving while intoxicated. There should be no legal distinction between a driver who is drunk and a driver who is texting or talking on a phone. We have data to back up why this is sound policy, there are no valid excuses to this approach. We also need to start a (guerilla, initially) campaign of public humiliation and ostracization of people who talk or text while driving.

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  • Anne Hawley July 18, 2013 at 11:43 am

    What about enlisting the local media? I don’t have a TV or a car radio (or a car) anymore, so maybe this is an out-of-touch suggestion, but I was thinking about the sun-glare problem ( “There’s a lot of late-day glare out there, folks, so if you’re driving west, slow down and use your visor.” Or whatever–kind of like when other weather conditions crop up.

    What about in the schools? Not only teach kids to “look both ways before crossing” but convey the idea of driver responsibility and sharing the road at the same time? The civic responsibility lessons I learned as a little kid in school are still vividly impressed on my mind, and to this day (for example) I still believe that “every litter bit hurts”.

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    • mas July 18, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      I agree whole-heartedly. I see countless people texting/talking while driven and think it is just as an important factor as speed in causing collisions.

      I’d thought I’d seen (or maybe I am imagining this?) that there is (or could be) technology that would render it impossible to use cellphones while cars are running. so, if you need to call or text someone, then pull off to the side of the road, turn off the ignition and make your call or text.

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  • Chris Sanderson July 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    I sent him a letter last week, asking if I can be on a committee to address the issue. That said, I am not sure if sitting on a committee is the solution. Nonetheless, it takes engaged citizens to make a difference. Agreed that our aging infrastructure is a huge issue, and that there are simple more people getting around by foot and bike. Our solutions are for the long term, because more people are going to quit driving as the cost of automobile ownership increases and wages remain steady.

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    • Jessie July 19, 2013 at 11:03 am

      I would be interested in this committee. I have been trying to form a citizens action group to increase awareness and safety, especially at crosswalks. I just created a facebook group today before work, because I think there are a lot of concerned citizens in this comment thread that aren’t afraid of a little activism to make safer streets.

      Here is a link to that group, if you are interested:

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  • Psyfalcon July 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    We can’t focus solely on speed (many comments are). Speed does make collisions worse, but if I had to guess speed is not the primary factor in most collisions.

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  • Peter W July 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Great news.

    I suggest looking at Metro’s “state of safety report”, covered by BikePortland last year –

    The link is currently broken to the report though, so here’s a copy (25MB PDF):

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  • Hart Noecker July 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Hales won’t be doing anything the PBA won’t let him. We know who truly rules the roads here.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu July 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    My advice to the mayor:
    1. Aggressive enforcement of speed laws, using photoradar vans on the roads where speeding is the worst. The vans need not all be actual operating photoradar, decoys work too.
    2. Accelerate re-design of the worst “problem intersections”. Especially on arterial roads, better pedestrian crossings are needed, in addition to bike facilities.
    3. Enforce the laws for cyclists, particularly red light violations and night-time riding without lights.

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  • feralcow July 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    we really need more enforcement, especially on local neighborhood streets. I know some of the recent tragedies have been on high-speed corridors, but the close-in neighborhoods get so much cut through traffic that i often don’t even feel comfortable on the “bike blvds” like Clinton during rush hour.

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  • Pete July 18, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    We’ve made huge strides in traffic safety over the last 20 years but we can do more.

    It’s been years since a driver screamed at me, flipped me off, or intentionally intimidated me. Every day I’m amazed at drivers who extend unexpected and unnecessary courtesies to me. On the other hand, it’s been less than a day since an unobservant driver put me at risk. It’s been two days since I negligently put a pedestrian at risk.

    We can all do better. Government can help with better road design, signalling, and enforcement. I can help by being a more attentive cyclist and driver.

    What can you do?

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  • JebJeb July 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Yes, yes , yes, yes to most of the above. It is also time to make drivers less anonymous. Make the DMV records available online again. Sorry if that scares you but people have to feel that their actions can have repercussions, even if it’s an email telling them to slow down in my neighborhood.

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    • q`Tzal July 18, 2013 at 11:46 pm

      Absolutely, GREAT IDEA!
      Just make domestic violence a snap for that ex-boyfriend or ex-husband.
      And that hot chick, that the creepy guy was following at the parking garage, will find all manner of genetic rejects showing up at her house with less than honorable intentions.

      That was sarcasm in case you haven’t figured it out.
      You may have a happy go lucky existence but I have a violent thug in my family. I’ve gone to every effort and used every LEGAL option I have to hide myself and the rest of my family and blood relatives from him. Tenuous grasping at random measures to solve road carnage have consequences.
      Remember that.

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      • Joseph July 19, 2013 at 10:03 am

        “I’ve gone to every effort and used every LEGAL option I have to hide myself and the rest of my family”

        Technically, “every effort” and “every LEGAL option” would probably include explicitly choosing not to make an effort opting to apply with a public agency for a purely voluntary legal instrument granting an unnecessary privilege.

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        • q`Tzal July 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm

          I concur.
          And aside from all arguments that a driver’s license is a practical requirement if not strictly a legal one there is the bigger issue of the information you can’t control.
          Since about 1980~1982 it has been a requirement that anyone claimed as a dependent on a federal tax form have a social security number. If you were born after that you are screwed: you are in the system and The Man has your number.
          The only way to not have been tracked all your life was to have been born before then and have never interacted in any way with: government (duh), schools (private too), hospitals, property ownership, paying taxes, using banks or other financial institutions. There are so many others it is difficult to list them all.

          So when you say that the solution to drivers not following the rules is to open up the vast treasure trove of government information stored on us for everyone to see understand that that places my life and my loved ones in DIRECT PHYSICAL DANGER and I will do whatever is necessary to stop it.
          Skynet & Sarah Connor levels of seriousness here so back down because this is about to get ugly.

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          • Joseph July 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm

            I did not offer a solution to anything.

            I merely acknowledged that the very specific claim of doing “everything” to keep below the radar is in direct conflict with the act of applying for a voluntary document from a public agency.

            I do not subscribe to the assertion that possession of a license to drive is a practical requirement to anything other than legally operating a vehicle on a public roadway. Said activity is not necessary to your survival nor is it a requirement of law (such as filing for a SSN).

            This is no different from being issued a permit to release deadly pollutants into the air or water and then claiming that your identity should not be publicly accessible. The activity in question is not essential, it is dangerous to citizens who have no input to the issuance of the permit, and it is an activity rife with permitted scofflaws who don’t appreciate the gravity of the effects their rule-breaking has upon society.

            A lack of anonymity – which is not the same as having your location tracked – may very well serve as a deterrent for people who might otherwise feel secure making very poor choices because they feel that their anonymity protects them from retribution.

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      • JebJeb July 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm

        take the bus

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        • q`Tzal July 20, 2013 at 12:46 pm

          Live under a rock.

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  • chasingbackon July 18, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    While I agree with all the comments above regarding reduced speed limits and more enforcement, I am currently most worried about people driving and texting. Every single day, I see people operating motor vehicles while risking my life and the lives of pedestrians and other vulnerable roadway users. I see a bill in the legislature in Salem to increase the fine to $500 and think this is fantastic.
    Dear Mayor, please put real teeth and enforcement into reducing distracted driving.

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    • Dave July 22, 2013 at 7:29 am

      There need to be periodic public beatings of phoning and texting drivers by police with no repercussions to the cops involved–the mayor should just shrug and say “Well, they shouldn’t have been driving and phoning.”
      I intend absolutely no humor or irony in this–drivers need to feel a strong fear of police every time they get behind the wheel.

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  • j.rob July 18, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Kinda the most creepy Mayoral photo I’ve ever seen.

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    • q`Tzal July 19, 2013 at 9:45 am

      I get the impression that he doesn’t photograph well outside a professional studio.

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  • jd July 19, 2013 at 2:31 am

    Apply the Vulnerable Roadway User law. It feels harsh, because our culture tells drivers that if the limit is 35, they’d better not dip below 50. But ”I didn’t see him” needs to end as an excuse for killing or seriously injuring someone for the lowlow price of a minor traffic infraction.

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  • Jessie July 19, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I ride with a GoPro and record all my rides, mostly for safety purposes. I ride an average of 15-20 miles daily and try to use shared lane roads like Clinton, Steele, Lincoln etc for most of my commute.

    You would be shocked at the amount of drivers that I catch running stop signs, red lights, illegal turns, failure to yield at a crosswalk, you name it the list goes on and on. I do catch the occasional jack*** cyclist out there weaving traffic and running lights, but that is probably less than 1% of the infractions I witness on a daily basis. Yea, it gives us a bad name, and yea it can be dangerous to pedestrians, but this article is about vehicle to pedestrian incidents/deaths that have occurred recently. Perhaps Jonathan can find the amount of bicycle to pedestrian related deaths (if any) or serious injuries, so that we have a real comparison, instead of all the assumptions I am reading in these comments.

    I have actually spoken to a few other bike commuters / activist and plan of starting a citizen’s action group to set up on dangerous crosswalks (I really hate the crosswalk just east of the Ross Island, several close calls there). In Oregon a citizen can issue a traffic citation. We plan of doing this and also providing the city with very important data on some of the worse intersections and crossings for pedestrians. Hopefully be able to educate some drivers that there are pedestrians out there and the five seconds it takes to let them cross is not going to make you late to where you are going.

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  • Hillson July 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Hales, immediately lower all of the ridiculously high speed limits. And if anyone tells you it’s a bad idea, tell them they’re sadistic and corrupt.

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  • Peter James July 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    How about they fund it with fines for talking or texting on a cell phone while driving, something I see multiple times a day on my commutes. These people put my life at risk on a daily basis so I hope it doesn’t take more people getting hurt or killed before this is taken seriously.

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  • Granpa July 20, 2013 at 9:55 am

    New, more harsh speed limits will not address the carnage. Even if they were followed, which I expect they would not be, we would have bad drivers driving badly at slower speeds. With slower speeds drivers would feel even less need to pay attention. I would rather have a highly skilled driver paying attention while passing me at excessive speed, than a distracted driver driving the speed limit.

    Serious license requirements for drivers, serious driver training, serious enforcement of existing laws and painful punishment for breaking existing laws are my solution. The idea that all traffic should crawl disregards reality.

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    • Hillson July 22, 2013 at 9:40 am

      You would rather have bad drivers driving badly at higher speeds? That doesn’t make very much sense.

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  • Alexis July 24, 2013 at 6:26 am

    I don’t understand all this focus on regulation of speeds by law. We don’t currently have statutory authority for that except on Greenways, and setting speeds based on how fast you wish people would go doesn’t work very well. Redesigning roads is what works (see city comments on outer E Glisan). I suggest a comprehensive inventory of known dangerous spots and higher speed roads and developing plans to restripe or rebuild those roads based on the known safety principles such as lower design speeds, fewer lanes, better bike facilities, fewer conflict points, and better intersection visibility. The only regulation I think is critical is the turn on red limitations.

    I honestly won’t believe in safety as a top priority until I see the city undertaking the simple fixes that this type of inventory would reveal in a systematic way.

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    • wsbob July 24, 2013 at 8:47 am

      For example, on a neighborhood street, how would your suggestion of “lower design speeds” be able to achieve a sought after speed limit of 20mph, 15mph, or 10mph, if one of those speeds were thought to be a speed limit that was necessary to sustain a desired level of safety and livability in the neighborhood, and functionality of the street?

      Do you favor elimination of all regulation by law, of vehicle speed, or just some of it?

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