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Vision 0.08: Why any major safe-streets effort must tackle alcohol

Posted by on October 31st, 2014 at 9:15 am

Scene of fatal crash on SW Barbur Blvd-6

SW Barbur Boulevard: a bad street to
be drunk on by any mode.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

This is a guest opinion piece by A.J. Zelada, a longtime biking and walking advocate who chaired the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee from 2011 to 2013.

Intoxicating amounts of alcohol are at the death scene of 36 percent of walking fatalities and 32 percent of biking deaths.

So why does today’s street safety movement seem to trivialize it?

Last year, I listened to Oregon’s Safe Routes to School manager proclaim new safety issues to protect pedestrians. The ideas were great, but one was missing: She did not mention alcohol at death scenes. Vision Zero is being considered by many cities, including Portland and New York City, as a backbone policy for reducing road deaths. New York City’s new Vision Zero policy has one paragraph about alcohol.

Last year, the US Department of Transportation reported alcohol blood level was 0.08 grams per deciliter or greater:

  • in the blood of 14 percent of the drivers involved in walking fatalities
  • in the blood of 36 percent of people who died while walking, including more than 45 percent of people aged 21 to 54
  • in the blood of 24 percent of people who died while biking

I don’t want to blame victims here. The circumstances of these deaths were all complicated. But alcohol was part of far too many of those circumstances.

deaths with alcohol

What we spend ‘safety’ money on

The last comprehensive federal transportation budget, known as MAP-21, included $32 million for safety programs that address intoxicated driving, young drivers, use of safety belts and child safety. It also included $5.4 million to research in-vehicle technology to prevent alcohol-impaired operation of the vehicle.

Meanwhile, General Motors has spent $75 million in their recall of 2.6 million cars associated with 13 deaths due to faulty ignition switches. A year ago, I would have applauded this and felt smugly that they deserved it. Now, I look at these numbers and I’m not so sure.

gm spending

Consider this: If Alcohol, Inc., were a publicly traded corporation and associated with more than 10,000 deaths in 2012 (about a quarter of them among people biking and walking) why would money not be thrown that direction?

Why is there no public outrage? Why is there no greater accountability expected, as we have with GM?

Advertise with BikePortland.

External problems vs. internal problems

I divide alcohol-related deaths into two camps: external and internal. We in this society are always looking for external reasons to fix things: recall the cars; blame the drivers; blame the road conditions. And yet we only provide $32 million for 10,000 alcohol-related deaths.

There are external issues here: Late, dark-night deaths are often low-income workers at the end of restaurant shifts. Deadly environments may have poor lighting or no sidewalks. There may be an absence of public transportation. Our own Barbur Boulevard is known as “Alcohol Alley” by some Portland police.

Oregon Bike Summit afternoon sessions-17.jpg

A.J. Zelada at the 2008 National Bike Summit.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

But even eliminating the 14 out of 100 drivers who are drunk in fatal walking crashes would not eliminate the problem of alcohol. For every 100 people killed while walking, 36 would still have been drunk themselves. Let’s analyze the reasons.

When 36 percent of people who die while walking have high levels of blood alcohol, it means that internal choices and issues of self-responsibility are not being addressed. Again, this is not victim-bashing. And it’s not anti-alcohol, either. But internal issues need a very different approach than redesigning the landscape, having special driver-key ignition systems in place, etc.

The heart of the issue: how do we teach self-responsibility? We need a cooperative blend of professionals from health, sociology, educators, philosophers, humanists. Perhaps we should adopt a stance similar to cigarette taxes, which are used for chronic obstructive lung disease costs. Consider a percent of alcohol taxation that would go to invest in safety solutions that are about behavior, not about landscape. We need more than a feel-good “let’s get the bad apples off the road.”

If Portland or Oregon adopts Vision Zero, I hope it will include a Vision 0.08 paragraph: one that includes a serious analysis of alcohol. We need real mechanisms to measure and analyze data from our alcohol-related deaths, which would include direct programs on external issues like road design, but a major focus on the internal factors behind more than a third of vulnerable road users’ deaths.

Earlier this month, A.J. Zelada wrote for us that Portland needs to invoke the “lifeboat rule” when it comes to bikeway design.

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153 Comments
  • Daniel L October 31, 2014 at 9:34 am

    So, what was present at nearly 100% of those fatalities?

    Also, how many of those fatalities occur in the evening when people are more likely to be intoxicated but also other factors like visibility likely play a larger role?

    What is the overall number of people walking around while intoxicated? Is there any evidence at all that they are any more likely to be involved in a fatality if they aren’t the one driving?

    Alcohol is an easy demon to blame things on, but is a smoke screen that masks some of the much larger dangers posed by poor roadway design and inherently from cars themselves.

    P.S. You say you don’t want to blame the victim, but that is exactly what you’re doing. If we don’t want people to drive while drunk we should at least make it safe for them to walk home.

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    • Buzz October 31, 2014 at 9:39 am

      “So, what was present at nearly 100% of those fatalities?”

      A – A motor vehicle, with or without alcohol.

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    • PJ Souders October 31, 2014 at 9:43 am

      This. So much. This whole article is a 1000 words of victim blaming. How do we propose people get home when they’re drunk? Prohibition?

      When there’s no cars, the odds of dying a car crash while drunk plunge to zero because MATH.

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) October 31, 2014 at 11:11 am

        As I told Dr. Z while I was editing his piece, I don’t entirely agree with his argument here myself.

        That said: PJ, what’s your policy route to completely eliminating cars from streets? If that’s not something that you think can happen immediately, how many alcohol-related deaths are acceptable while we complete the transition you envision?

        To me, the reason this is more than victim-blaming is that he is calling, earnestly and clearly, for reduction of alcohol-related fatalities across the board. As somebody who 10 years ago biked home through Northeast Washington DC so drunk that I wiped out by biking directly into a six-inch curb, I can’t deny that I was greatly increasing the chance of my own death.

        There are lots of policies available for reducing the danger of drunk transportation in general: night-owl buses, cheaper/better taxi services and automatic braking systems in cars are a few. The argument for all of those is weaker if the only alcohol we’re willing to talk about is in the blood of folks driving.

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        • 9watts October 31, 2014 at 11:50 am

          “The argument for all of those is weaker if the only alcohol we’re willing to talk about is in the blood of folks driving.”

          True.
          I think the argument Dr. Z is making is, in theory, a good one. I just would have gone farther to clarify that this effort is meant as a complement to the need to crack down on the chief source of the problem which I take to be the danger from automobiles.
          (1) automobility plus the habit of drinking alcohol by anyone = a particularly bad combination.
          (1a) take away or significantly reduce the drinking: automobility still kills what 20,000 people each year?
          (1b) take away the impunity that people piloting vehicles currently enjoy, the easy licensing requirements, the sensory-limiting properties of their vehicles, the asymmetric deference extended them by law enforcement and in the courts, etc. and how many people die on our roads each year? A paltry number I’d venture.

          Let’s come to grips with the basic math, the asymmetries that characterize our roads today, and then propose a package of remedies that reflects this understanding.

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      • meh October 31, 2014 at 1:04 pm

        We should become nomadic by your logic, since the majority of deaths occur at home.

        Bathtubs should go, to many people die in bath tubs.

        Ladders, they kill tons of people.

        Electricity, people are electrocuted all the time.

        The commonality is people.

        People do stupid things and they die.

        We can eliminate cars and ladders and bathtubs and all the things that we think cause the deaths and we’ll still have people dieing by falling out of trees.

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    • meh October 31, 2014 at 11:28 am

      A human. Without human intervention automobiles are inanimate objects incapable if inflicting harm.

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      • 9watts October 31, 2014 at 1:31 pm

        you are being ridiculous.

        Cars, much like guns and nuclear power plants, suggest we are capable of handling things that it turns out we’re not very good at handling. Saying this is all about people is reductionist and unhelpful. Why, if it is people that we should be interested in, does our use of bicycles or pencils or potatoes not result in comparable numbers of deaths?

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    • wsbob October 31, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      “…If we don’t want people to drive while drunk we should at least make it safe for them to walk home. …” Daniel L

      People that want to drink to the point of drunkenness, can, and should, stay off the road until they’re sufficiently sober to be able to be aware whether they’re in the path of an oncoming motor vehicle.

      I don’t think babying people that want to go on a drunken binge, encourages personal responsibility.

      Improvements to highway design for safer use by legitimate road users is a great idea, but to pander after drunks, I don’t think so. Enhancing visibility of vulnerable road users, with lights and reflective material, is another great idea for legitimate road users. For people who’ve obliterated their senses with alcohol, those means of visibility may be unable to help much.

      Technically, if there isn’t a law on the books prohibiting doing so, I suppose drunks walking along the road, may be legitimate road users. Definitely though, being drunk and using the road, seems a violation of basic road use responsibility.

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      • Daniel L October 31, 2014 at 1:29 pm

        0.08 isn’t a drunken binge, it is a couple drinks during an evening out.

        There’s a very large gap between having alcohol in your system and being impaired to the point where you’re not aware of your surroundings.

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        • wsbob October 31, 2014 at 2:31 pm

          “…0.08 isn’t a drunken binge, …” Daniel L

          I didn’t write that 0.08 BAC was a drunken binge, though of course, it is too much alcohol to be driving. And of course, many people drinking, apparently are arriving at far higher BAC before heading out on the road.

          In an earlier comment to this story, I mentioned a guy riding drunk, involved in a collision, sustaining critical, most likely permanently devastating injuries. That person was Eric Davidson. Bikeportland did three or four stories on the collision. In one of them, in a comment rather than the story itself, Davidson’s BAC was noted. In a quick search and browse, I didn’t find that particular comment, but I recall his BAC being, I think, reported as 0.16-0.18. Link to one of the stories:

          http://bikeportland.org/2009/09/04/from-prison-jeremy-jordan-tries-to-tell-his-story-and-the-da-responds-23179

          The question arose, in my mind at least, whether a sober, or far less intoxicated person riding a bike in the bike lane would have been better prepared and more able to be aware of a person driving drunk and approaching them.

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          • are November 1, 2014 at 12:59 pm

            in the abstract, your application of jerry’s larger point is correct. in the particular case, the car that struck eric was flying off a parking lot at high speed. you might have been able to avoid it, maybe not. i might have been able to avoid it, maybe not. eric might have been able to avoid it if he were sober, but maybe not.

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          • Bjorn November 3, 2014 at 4:22 pm

            It is absolutely unconsionable to blame Eric for what happened. Jeremy Jordan who is once again on the street now got extremely drunk, robbed our local supermarket and in the course of attempting to make his getaway severely injured someone who was riding in a straight line near the curb according to witnesses and security camera footage when he peeled out of the parking lot with his lights off trying to get away without being caught. Jeremy Jordan is 100% responsible for what happened that night, and by the way is the kind of psychopath who then left Eric in the street because getting away with it was more important to him than checking on the person who he nearly killed. I still can’t believe he is back on the street. The good news is he is not supposed to be driving at all, if anyone sees him driving I hope they will report it to the police.

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            • wsbob November 3, 2014 at 10:06 pm

              “It is absolutely unconsionable to blame Eric for what happened. …” Bjorn

              So don’t blame him.

              I believe it may be a documented fact though, that Eric had been drinking that night, and not just a little, but a lot. Fact also, is that people drink to excess and then go driving.

              Another fact of survival for anyone taking to the road as vulnerable road user, is that help survive consequences in meeting up with people that drive drunk, it’s best to have one’s senses at as close to optimum ability. With some exceptions of course, and maybe being drunk has been one of those exceptions. Maybe the time for condoning that type of behavior is past, or should be.

              No guarantee that being sober would have allowed Eric to be sufficiently alert to sense Jordan tearing out of the Safeway parking lot driveway, and avoid the collision. If he’d been sober, or at least not quite so drunk, that may have been enough to allow him to hear Jordan coming and avoid his path. That’s a precious possibility that’s expired for Eric.

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          • 9watts November 4, 2014 at 10:05 pm

            “The question arose, in my mind at least, whether a sober, or far less intoxicated person riding a bike in the bike lane would have been better prepared and more able to be aware of a person driving drunk and approaching them.”

            wsbob, back then you posted several comments on that story, including this one:

            wsbob
            Under the circumstances, a cold sober person may not have been able to avoid being hit by a lunatic such as Jordan.

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    • esther2 November 7, 2014 at 11:12 am

      Drunk walking is statistically more dangerous for the drunk than drunk driving. But drunk walking is safer for the rest of us on the road.

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  • Bjorn October 31, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Pedestrian fatalities often happen at night, and people often drink at night. The statistic that 36% of people who died while walking had been drinking doesn’t mean much unless we know the % of people who had been drinking in a control group of people who did not die but were also walking in a similar location at a similar time. If for example 36% of all people who are walking at 11pm have been drinking then the fact that 36% of people who die while walking at that time would actually tend to indicate that alcohol was not a factor.

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  • Justin October 31, 2014 at 10:15 am

    It’s not the drinking that’s dangerous. It’s the driving.

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    • 9watts October 31, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      * Drunk people biking do, occasionally kill themselves or another person. Rare but nonzero.
      * Drunk people walking probably also occasionally cause their own deaths, though I’m having difficulty imagining their inebriated state precipitating the injury or death of another person.
      * Adding cars to the mix, everything changes. Suddenly we have tens of thousands of people who have had some interaction with alcohol–and also not–dying all around us every year. Hm.

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    • pruss2ny October 31, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      i’m thinking this was a bit of a joke?
      quick google search for US data:
      drunk driving kills ~ 10k people per year (nhtsa via madd website)
      excessive alcohol consumption kills 80k per year (cdc)

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  • paikiala October 31, 2014 at 10:17 am

    The Safe Systems approach to roadway safety looks holistically at the problem. The responsibility does not rest with one facet of the problem. The road users (knowledge base and skills), the vehicles they are permitted to drive (safety standards), the road design (speeds, widths, warnings, illumination, roadsides), the law enforcement (quantity, quality, training, knowledge), the legislators (laws passed, or not; evidence based law), all play a part. Putting all blame on only one aspect, and even making one aspect 100% improved, will not eliminate fatal and serious injury crashes.
    One reason I dislike the Vision Zero meme is that it can so easily be mocked.

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    • 9watts October 31, 2014 at 10:32 am

      “Putting all blame on only one aspect, and even making one aspect 100% improved, will not eliminate fatal and serious injury crashes.”

      Actually I think, as several folks have already suggested here, the one factor that is associated with very close to 100% of these injuries and deaths is the automobile. We are unlikely to eliminate it by fiat, but when it does dry up and blow away you, paikiala, might be surprised to see the fatalities we’re talking about also all but disappearing.

      I think Mr. Zelada’s statistics bear this out. He’s not including deaths from alcohol in people’s backyards, or from drunk people falling off ladders, but only those where someone in a metal box took out another person, some of whom had drunk alcohol and many of whom had not.

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      • paikiala October 31, 2014 at 2:27 pm

        I would welcome the end to auto related fatalities, but in the interest of reality, as Michael asked of PJ, do you have any policies or pathways identified to cause autos to disappear?

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        • 9watts October 31, 2014 at 3:14 pm

          “do you have any policies or pathways identified to cause autos to disappear?”

          policies:
          (a) acknowledge the important work being done right now by those who don’t own or use cars, who are figuring it out, have figure out how to get around, live full lives without constant recourse to the automobile. Render their efforts visible, reward them, and in so doing elevate the standing of the carfree, not to stroke their egos but to give permission to others who might be willing to follow their lead but who are unaware of what is being done right now, who may need a nudge, or simply could use the social approval the campaign above could bequeath to this approach.
          (b) acknowledge that spending money to expand, maintain, shore up the autos-only portions of our transport infrastructure is money down the drain. A reprioritization around complete streets, active transportation, locomotion, whatever you want to call it, is the only way forward. This shift, too, could have many salutary effects on people’s thinking.

          Right now there is a vacuum when it comes to imagining our mobility post auto. So most of us prefer not to think about it at all. But our transportation cheeses (ODOT, PBOT, etc.) could do an end run around this denial by simply acknowledging where we are *not* heading, and beginning to take corrective actions.

          pathways:
          (a) read writing on wall.
          (b) ignore writing on wall and wait till it is much too late for a smooth landing.

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        • spare_wheel November 2, 2014 at 11:35 am
  • Will P October 31, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I like the idea of directing some portion of the sin tax back towards alcohol education in Oregon. The only message I get regarding alcohol now is that if I was 25 years old again, and drank a lot if it, I would have a bunch of beautiful friends to party with.

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    • paikiala October 31, 2014 at 2:29 pm

      Or maybe, having alcohol producers support a $0.05 tax per bottle/can for such education? OLCC has a truly diffulct time getting any traction for such a worthy cause.

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  • Walter October 31, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Two things to add to the discussion:
    1 – comparing GM vehicle recall to alcohol related injuries does not make sense. GM selling a flawed car with a known fix is very objective – the car is broken, spend money, car now fixed. Spending money to affect peoples behavior is very subjective – you could spend a fortune and peoples behavior might not change, or you could argue that they shouldn’t have to, or blame the car that killed them, or ….

    2 – bicycles can kill: http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Bicyclist-sentenced-for-fatal-S-F-crash-4736312.php. But of course mostly cars do…

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    • meh October 31, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      Neither bicycles or cars kill. Stop blaming inanimate objects and put the blame where it belongs, people kill.

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  • Merlin R Rainwater October 31, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Even if drunk walking and biking puts people at greater risk of being struck by people driving cars, I don’t quite see what advice we would give people regarding alcohol use while walking or biking. Stay home and drink alone? Here’s a horrific local example: two best friends on their way home from a birthday party late at night. One chose to drive home drunk. He struck and killed his friend, who chose to ride his bike. Who made the wrong choice? http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2012885412_enumclaw14m.html?prmid=obinsource

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    • El Biciclero October 31, 2014 at 11:41 am

      “Who made the wrong choice?”

      The answer to that question, in the context of the story you cite, reveals much about the attitude of the person, agency, or society answering it. Sadly, in the U.S., the prevailing attitude seems to be that the bicyclist would be the one who made the wrong choice, since look what it got him. We could say that both made the wrong choice, because operating any vehicle, motorized or otherwise, while drunk, is a “bad” choice. We could say that the driver made the wrong choice, because he could have killed anyone, not just a drunk bicyclist who “deserved” it.

      Really, the only reason the answer is important at all, is because it tends to influence the actions (or lack thereof) we take to reduce such incidents. If we blame the driver, we take actions that hold drivers accountable or build an environment to protect people from drivers and cars. If we blame the victim, we either take actions to limit the freedoms of other potential victims, or do nothing.

      Say this same scenario played out in two different cities. One city lowered the speed limit and added a bike lane on the street where it happened. The other city did nothing. Which city made the wrong choice?

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      • are November 1, 2014 at 1:06 pm

        the lower posted limit and the presence of a bike lane would likely have no effect on this particular scenario, except possibly to lower the cyclist’s vigilance.

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        • El Biciclero November 2, 2014 at 2:37 pm

          Well, OK, automated speed camera and increased penalties for drunk or unsafe driving, or whatever measures might actually increase safety, which is hard to tell when we are talking about drunk judgment. But the main point is deciding whether we deem cyclists to be “asking for it” by “choosing” to “play with toys in traffic”, or whether we hold motorists responsible for choosing to put a speeding 4500-lb. missile on mental auto-pilot, regardless of level of impairment.

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    • paikiala October 31, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      Both of them. Attempting to operate a vehicle while intoxicated is an error. Road users have and will always made/make mistakes. Every day. Most such mistakes do not result in poor outcomes. That does not mean no mistakes were made, only that the outcomes were benign.

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    • esther2 November 7, 2014 at 11:14 am

      we do have the choice to drink in moderation.

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  • redhippie October 31, 2014 at 10:41 am

    We need to be careful that we don’t turn alcohol related driving programs into just another sin tax. Already, a DWI cost upwards of $25K with much of the funds going to the courts, police dept.s and affiliated organizations. In some states you literally can have one drink and an hour later still be over a legal limits. My concern is that we are making an industry where it is almost impossible (short of abstinence) to drink responsibly and be in compliance. I’m all for smart policy, but not at the expense of creating a criminal class and a new source of revenue.

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    • Scott Kocher October 31, 2014 at 10:58 am

      I disagree. Generating revenue to do good things by taxing bad things is the one of the best things government can do.

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    • El Biciclero October 31, 2014 at 11:23 am

      “… In some states you literally can have one drink and an hour later still be over a legal limits.”

      And if you’re sitting on a bar stool or at a table, watching a show, sitting in your own living room, walking through the park, dancing naked around a hotel room—anything other than driving a car, I’m guessing it’s not a [legal] problem. Drinking isn’t the safety issue; driving while drunk is the safety issue. Granted some states may have a pretty strict definition of “drunk” for driving purposes, but then if you live in such a state you can plan accordingly.

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    • J_R October 31, 2014 at 11:39 am

      Which state has a BAC level so low that you could be over the limit with one drink? I couldn’t find any with a BAC less than 0.08. That is not the equivalent of one drink in an hour.

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      • Peter October 31, 2014 at 1:58 pm

        The limit is .04 in CA if you have a commercial vehicle license and are driving for work. For a 150lb male that is about one 16oz IPA (typically 7% alcohol).

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        • are November 1, 2014 at 1:08 pm

          and a person in that situation should not drive

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        • lyle w. November 3, 2014 at 9:13 am

          That’s the government rule. I think a lot of private companies have a zero BAC rule, and if you ever blow even a .001 while at work you’re immediately terminated.

          I don’t have a problem with that, either.

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  • Dave October 31, 2014 at 10:53 am

    What about a Saudi-like solution–legal consequences for DUI that are frightening enough to get habitual drinking drivers’ attention. Immediate car forfeiture, 1st offense, police beating on second offense, bullet through the head on third offense.

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  • Steve B October 31, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I would love to see businesses that serve alcohol in Oregon pay into a collective fund to provide free or low-cost transportation for the late night set. If you profit off the serving of alcohol, you should have some responsibility for making sure your patrons don’t drive home after they are inebriated. Many college towns seem to have shuttle vans for this purpose, subsidized by the schools. Would be great to see something like that here.

    As for other alternatives, sadly RideOn appears to be no longer operating. There is a ‘Johnny Cab’ service that does look promising, anyone have experience with it? http://johnnycab.net

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    • esther2 November 7, 2014 at 11:16 am

      A tax on alcohol served in bars and restaurants to pay for this. Easily accomplished. Of course, easy to abuse to. If I’m in Portland visiting and want a ride home to scapoose I go to a bar, order a $2 papst and demand a ride home.

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  • Scott Kocher October 31, 2014 at 11:00 am

    The massive DUI problem shows how important it is to include OLCC, DMV, law enforcement and the legislators who influence those agencies in safety advocacy.

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  • El Biciclero October 31, 2014 at 11:13 am

    There’s a certain degree of impairment that no amount of road design can mitigate, e.g., if I’m so drunk I fall off the curb into the path of a car that’s right there. Short of eliminating cars altogether, there will always be some risks involved in WUII. However, providing signals at more crossings might reduce or eliminate the need to accurately judge speed and distance of approaching vehicles (a drunk pedestrian would still have to recognize when they had the signal) when crossing a street. having sidewalks set back as far away from the road as possible (with appropriate “bump-outs” at crossings) could reduce incidents of stumbling into the road. Better lighting, reduced speeds, median islands—all these could reduce the risk of being run over while walking drunk.

    There is a fine line between victim-blaming and promoting personal responsibility; there will always be a line beyond which it is hard to protect someone from themselves. But I do think we need to promote a little more responsibility for those who can and routinely cause harm, not just for those who could be harmed. As a society, we tend to focus obsessively on the latter, while nearly ignoring the former.

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  • Brian K Smith October 31, 2014 at 11:22 am

    It is a fact that BAC above .08 reduces reaction times and impairs judgement. Could we engineer a world where people travelling via any mode of travel are protected from collision with solid objects at speeds high enough to kill them no matter how impaired they are? (Let’s keep in mind that stumbling, falling, and hitting one’s head on a cement sidewalk or metal handrail is a potentially fatal collision.) With an infinite budget and a willingness to compromise all other goals of the transportation system such as travel time, cargo capacity, and ease of use, yes, we could create a transportation system that would be fatality-free even if every user of the system had a BAC above .08.

    What the author is saying is that there are two complementary approaches to a fatality-free transportation system. The first approach is to improve the safety of the infrastructure. Nowhere in this piece does the author say we should stop working on that approach. The second approach is to reduce the number of impaired users of the transportation system. (The author focuses on BAC, but I would suggest that sleep deprivation is an important impairing factor worth addressing as well.) Given that many individuals choose to have a BAC above .08, isn’t it worth spending some time/money/energy figuring out creative ways that everyone who wants to imbibe can do so without using the shared space of our transportation system while impaired?

    Alcohol use, like smoking and fossil fuel use, is an individual action that has societal impacts. As with any activity with large externalities, society must eventually pay the cost, whether that is in the emergency room/cancer ward/funeral home/rising sea levels, the limitation of individual freedom to use a substance, engineering/medical interventions to repair or prevent the damage, or education that leads to the voluntary reduction in usage. Just as trying to tackle climate change without at least considering the reduction of carbon emissions would be a poor attempt, trying to produce a world with zero transportation-related deaths without considering ways to reduce the number of impaired users of the system is missing an important piece of the puzzle.

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  • 9watts October 31, 2014 at 11:56 am

    …Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Traffic Safety Division manager Troy Costales is Vice Chairman of the GHSA (we did a Q & A with him back in November). He offered this statement in their press release:

    “It is definitely a concern. Looking at our data, we are seeing pedestrians crossing mid-block instead of at crosswalks, pedestrians walking in the roadway, and even some walking in the travel lanes of the interstate. We are familiar with aggressive drivers; we now have aggressive pedestrians.“

    http://bikeportland.org/2011/01/20/highway-group-walkable-communities-aggressive-pedestrians-to-blame-for-road-deaths-46344

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  • pruss2ny October 31, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    given some of the comments, i’d like to know if the author has any followup responses.
    that so many comments turned this into a car v bike story i think suggests what he was trying to tackle might not truly fit this forum…thats not a slam, its just this immediately hits me as an individual rights v. the state discussion…and the fine line borders on (as mentioned above) personal responsibility vs. legal liability.

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    • 9watts October 31, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      This is very similar I think to the conversations we’ve had here about ODOT/Trimet/The Bike Gallery’s campaigns exhorting people not in cars to dress up in fluorescent garb. On the face of it this seems perfectly sensible, until you peel back the layers and notice that this set of behaviors is
      (a) not required or expected of people in cars, and
      (b) that, again, can be traced to the exigencies of our auto-drenched society, in which cars careening through our streets is just how we do things, and if pedestrians are not visible-enough-at-speed, well then they should do something about it.

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      • pruss2ny October 31, 2014 at 12:20 pm

        ok…i wasnt thinking about it that way…but i get it…and V0 and this forum are uniquely transportation related…i just thot what the author was connecting on was much bigger than where some of the comments were taking it (ie who’s more dangerous when drunk..bike car or pedestrian)…like el biciclero mentioned, this is about personal responsibility and how far we can go to promote/enforce it….

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        • wsbob October 31, 2014 at 1:02 pm

          “… (ie who’s more dangerous when drunk..bike car or pedestrian)…” pruss2ny

          Central message of the opinion piece is, I think, that persons drunk and on the road are a danger to themselves and other road users, and in being so, are violating their personal responsibility to use the road safely.

          Most people share the feeling that they want to have a good time, and are willing to offer consideration to other people wanting to have a good time as well, to a point. Drunks wobbling down the sidewalk, entering onto streets without looking or stopping exceeds that point, I think. Responsible people are resigned to putting up with this behavior, perhaps too much.

          I’m not sure what positive results to counter drunkenness on the road can be expected from people that seem to think drunks are something funny to see. Gets so bad, people sober, walking down the sidewalk, have to jump out of the way to avoid drunks falling on them, throwing up on them. Some longtime readers of bikeportland will remember the tragic collision of two drunks in Portland, one driving, one riding. The person riding, a young father, critically injured and never really recovered, last I read about it. Plenty people commenting to that story, seemed to think it was just fine that the guy riding was super drunk.

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      • meh October 31, 2014 at 1:20 pm

        No we don’t expect cars to dress up in bright colors, they only by law have to have headlights, taillights, signal lights all in working order. So we do expect the vehicles the people drive to be visible.

        This I don’t have to make myself visible is really cutting off your nose to spite your face.

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        • 9watts October 31, 2014 at 1:39 pm

          “No we don’t expect cars to dress up in bright colors…”
          I’ll just quote El Biciclero who was discussing the Fox Point village code that was being amended to require pedestrians to wear reflective bits or face jailtime:

          El Biciclero
          Between two groups of law-abiding citizens–pedestrians and drivers–which group, by continuing it’s current behavior will now be a group of scofflaws?
          On whom is the onus placed to improve safety? Everybody was subject to applicable laws, but now pedestrians are subject to more laws. 100% of new laws apply only to pedestrians. I think that’s what folks are trying to say.
          Why weren’t speed limits reduced (change to laws applying to drivers)? Why weren’t sidewalks or street lighting mandated (change to laws applying to transpo agencies)? Instead, the new responsibilities are placed on the weakest player in the game by only changing the laws that apply to pedestrians.
          Recommended 3

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          • meh October 31, 2014 at 2:38 pm

            So maybe we are bringing the laws into alignment. When the laws for road users were being created they were overwhelmingly geared towards automobiles. Was that unfair?? No it’s just how the laws came about.

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            • 9watts October 31, 2014 at 2:42 pm

              “When the laws for road users were being created they were overwhelmingly geared towards automobiles.”

              Have you read Peter Norton’s Fighting Traffic? It appears not.

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      • wsbob October 31, 2014 at 11:11 pm

        Bike Gallery’s campaign encouraging vulnerable road users to enhance their visibility with lights and reflective material, to road users operating vehicles, is sensible, and reasonable. Apart from what speed people operating vehicles are traveling.

        The ability of visibility gear to be effective, is compromised, if the wearer, on foot or bike, is wobbling abruptly out into traffic. I think the ‘aggressive pedestrian’ phrase was conceived to refer to people on foot in their use of the street, that throw caution to the wind, so to speak. In simple words, not responsible road users.

        No road safety measures can be optimally effective, where people using the road aren’t doing so responsibly.

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        • 9watts November 1, 2014 at 7:16 am

          “I think the ‘aggressive pedestrian’ phrase was conceived to refer to people on foot in their use of the street, that throw caution to the wind, so to speak. In simple words, not responsible road users.”

          The funny thing is if you look at how municipalities that take vision zero to heart articulate their priorities, this sort of thing is never mentioned. The Swedes, the New Yorkers, the San Franciscans, none of them grouse about aggressive pedestrians. They are quite content to acknowledge that the dangers arise once cars are involved, and that it is the cars (=drivers, meh) who we need to focus our attentions on. How to slow them down, keep them from smashing into others, etc.

          We discussed this earlier, here:
          http://bikeportland.org/2014/06/20/pbot-ad-campaign-drivers-slow-107630#comment-5247325

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          • wsbob November 1, 2014 at 11:07 am

            “…and that it is the cars (=drivers, meh) who we need to focus our attentions on. …” 9watts

            Primarily, the focus should be on all aggressive and irresponsible road users, irrespective of their mode of transportation.

            People choosing modes of road use other than driving, should not be allowed to feel entitled to shift consequences of their irresponsible road use onto responsible road users. Their irresponsible behavior should not be used to excessively impinge on reasonable, legitimate use of the road by people driving motor vehicles or riding bikes in a responsible manner on the road.

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            • Paul in The 'Couve November 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm

              WSBOB

              There is a point here that I agree with, but this is also, I think, the central point where you and I have been at odds on many occasions. The factor you don’t include in you statement vastly different scales of destruction possible by different road users. Motorists take out telephone poles, crash through houses and businesses, cause tens of thousands of dollars of property damage in single incidents and end up killing, maiming and destroying the lives of victims in an out of cars every single day. So regularly, and commonly that it is barely even news worthy, certainly only at the local level and even then only a blip on a slow news day.

              Simply look at yesterday. How many pedestrians, safely and lawfully fulfilling their ‘responsibility’ as road users by walking on the sidewalk were struck and severely injured or killed by motorists in the PDX area alone? It was on the news, briefly without any real shock or outrage, last night.

              An how much cumulative damage is called by all other road users combined in a year in the PDX metro area?

              Motorists have the greatest potential to cause damage by 1000 times at least. Motorists are the ones who need to be more responsible and that society needs to focus on reigning in and making them take more responsibility.

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              • wsbob November 1, 2014 at 12:59 pm

                Paul, the basic subject of the guest opinion piece, as I understand, is consequences of irresponsible road use by people drinking. That is, whether they’re walking, skateboarding, riding a bike, driving, etc. Efforts to condone or excuse drunken road use while walking or biking, or shift responsibility for avoiding consequences of that behavior, onto people driving, seem very irresponsible to me. I don’t think focus on one form of bad road use should be made with little or complete lack of focus on other bad road use.

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              • 9watts November 1, 2014 at 3:23 pm

                wsbob,

                what you are missing—what you consistently block out every time this general topic of safety on our streets for different groups of people comes up—is that by themselves drunk people out on the streets are unlikely to cause themselves or others much harm. The harm arises when, in addition to their drunk selves, people driving automobiles also come into the picture. Then, and for the most part only then, do we see drunk people being killed while engaged in the use (you would probably say misuse) of our transportation infrastructure.

                I’m not condoning or excusing excessive drinking—I think all this drinking is a dreadful state of affairs—but I think it is important to be clear about the fact that death on our streets is very hard to produce without the presence of people driving cars.

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              • Paul in The 'Couve November 1, 2014 at 5:34 pm

                WsBob,
                You seem to be assuming that a large portion of these deaths of pedestrians who have been drinking or who are intoxicated is due to irresponsible road use on their part. I don’t think that assumption can be supported from the statistics cited.

                There are aspects of this that are difficult to clarify due to lack of good statistics. We don’t have fine distinctions. The relevant data isn’t always collected and often the accidents occur at night with few witnesses. I can’t make a statistical case for the alternative interpretations I am about to suggest, but neither can you prove that my interpretation is less fitting with the data than the one you seem to be presenting.

                My interpretation is that there probably is a slight increase in unsafe and irresponsible behavior by pedestrians and cyclists who have been drinking. Not looking carefully while crossing, stumbling into the street and such. But I doubt that is the whole reason for the entire statistical increased risk.

                My guess is the bulk of this bump is simply the much greater likelihood of being out walking at night at all in combination with being in neighborhoods or along road corridors with relatively high night time traffic. Proportionally to trips and miles driven, more automobile accidents happen at night. Proportionally to number of people out and about and traffic, far, far more pedestrians are hit at night. Some of the most likely reasons to be out walking after dark and late into the night are eating out (quite likely with drinks) and going to bars and taverns. After that walking to convenience stores (quite often for cigarettes or beer) Bars, taverns and restaurants, and convenience stores are nearly always located on the busier trafficked streets and also are the very same places people are most likely to drive after dark.

                So to sum up, my statistical hunch is that 75% of this increased risk is attributable to factors that are not directly the product of the pedestrian drinking, and simply the circumstances of people walking (to drink, eat and socialize) at the time (evening) when most people drink to the same places a lot of people drive to the same places to do the exact same activities.

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              • Paul in The 'Couve November 1, 2014 at 5:47 pm

                And final tag to my last thought above: All of those walking and driving trips occurring in conjunction with the times when auto accidents also increase proportionally.

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              • wsbob November 2, 2014 at 1:07 am

                9watts at:

                http://bikeportland.org/2014/10/31/vision-0-08-major-safe-streets-effort-must-tackle-alcohol-112928#comment-5733827

                “…without the presence of people driving cars.” 9watts

                Watts…wait! In case you’ve still got your Harry Potter outfit for Halloween at your fingertips, you may as well wave that magic wand and try create the fantasy world you seem to desire, where people wanting to be blotto to the world drunks, can stumble out into or along the street with abandon, not having to give the slightest concern at all to people using the street for travel with a motor vehicle.

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              • 9watts November 2, 2014 at 5:49 am

                “can stumble out into or along the street with abandon, not having to give the slightest concern at all to people using the street for travel with a motor vehicle.”

                You don’t seem to be hearing what paul and I are saying.

                (a) Why is concern for someone driving so high on your list? Are they endangered? Can you show me an example where a drunk, stumbling pedestrian caused someone in a car to be injured or killed? What are the odds? Has it ever happened?
                (b) I asked you earlier in this thread to give me a for instance, and you haven’t.

                I said above: “death on our streets is very hard to produce without the presence of people driving cars.” I stand by that. Please articulate how you disagree with this statement.

                It is basically the same as with the pedestrians who you are always exhorting to reflectorize themselves. Now you wish them to only appear on the sidewalks sober. All fine, up to a point, but at the end of the day the problem we’re talking about here only arises when someone drives a car at speed down that same street, or onto the shoulder or sidewalk, and kills this pedestrian we’re talking about. And let’s remember those same people driving these cars also kill people who *are* reflectorized and sober every day. I submit that in both sets of cases they just weren’t paying enough attention or were going a little too fast to react in time.

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              • 9watts November 2, 2014 at 5:54 am

                “you may as well wave that magic wand and try create the fantasy world you seem to desire”

                Sure. But aren’t you waving a magic wand trying to create the fantasy world where people only drink at home or take taxis? I’d like that too, but that seems no more likely to occur than what I’m suggesting which is that people driving take (much) more responsibility for what carnage they can visit on those around them: drive slower and with greater attention.

                Borrowing from Smokey the Bear: It is only you, person piloting a motor vehicle, who can prevent death by automobile.

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              • Opus the Poet November 1, 2014 at 1:32 pm

                I don’t know about PDX, but NYC averages 50 pedestrian deaths from motor vehicles driving on the sidewalks every year, with the majority having no tickets or criminal charges issued.

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              • wsbob November 2, 2014 at 11:09 am

                “…But aren’t you waving a magic wand trying to create the fantasy world where people only drink at home or take taxis? …” 9watts

                I make no pretense of creating any such world, fantasy or otherwise, as you describe. People have minds of their own. They have the ability and the right to do what they want, to choose to be responsible, or irresponsible.

                Motor vehicle use being a fundamental component of modern civilization, and individual human behavior that can have that use be hazardous to people, is just a reality of modern society. If you think you can change that paradigm, good luck.

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            • 9watts November 1, 2014 at 3:26 pm

              “People choosing modes of road use other than driving, should not be allowed to feel entitled to shift consequences of their irresponsible road use onto responsible road users.”

              That is funny, wsbob.
              How would this work, exactly?
              Can you give an example? I’m not following at all.

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  • A.J. Zelada
    A.J. Zelada October 31, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Yes, I will respond later tonight or tomorrow…this is a great discussion and I really appreciate people saying these comments. Z

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  • Paul in the 'Couve October 31, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    I am always on the side of pointing out that automobiles and the dangerous road users. I very much am against victim blaming, and even if the drunk is walking down the middle of the lane in dark clothing I think drivers should be held to the standard of driving within the limits of visibility. It doesn’t matter how dark it was, if you didn’t see a person, a dog, a cow, a pothole, a blown tire casing, or a log that fell off a truck, you were driving too fast for conditions and/or not paying enough attention.

    However, alcohol makes other problems worse and creates its own problems. Drunks aren’t just more likely to have accidents on the roads whether in or out of cars. Drunks are more likely to accidentally: cause a fire, discharge a firearm, fall from a deck or window, trip, fall off a cliff. Beyond that people who have been drinking are more likely to be both victims and perpetrators of violence.

    Most people can use alcohol safely, and many people use alcohol safely their entire lives without ever over indulging or having a problem. On the other hand many people abuse alcohol and over indulge at times especially during their 20s and a small but significant percentage of people at some point lose the ability to drink safely.

    This conversation would benefit from distinguishing binge drinking and chronic alcoholism from normal, socially appropriate drinking (which may include a blood alcohol level too high for driving).

    Statistics are not easily available but I’ve paid attention to these issues for a long time, and have significant personal experience around these issues both from personal experience and from personal interviews. I am confident that roughly 90% of the pedestrian fatalities where the victim was drinking involve blood alcohol levels of 0.15 or higher, and roughly 2/3 of the victims are chronic alcoholics.

    It is my observation that chronic alcoholics have a lot of accidents of various kinds. Way more accidents than a normal adult.

    Here are some stat’s I culled quickly:

    Accidents at home. Alcohol is the single biggest cause of accidents at home. Of the 4,000 fatal accidents that happen in homes in the UK every year, 400 are alcohol-related (5).
    Accidents at work. Alcohol is a factor in up to one in four workplace accidents.
    Fires. In 2008, the London Fire Brigade estimated that almost a third of accidental fire deaths in the capital were alcohol related. (6).
    https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/check-the-facts/effects-on-your-safety/alcohol-related-accidents

    There are some more related stats regarding college age students at this link: http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/statssummaries/snapshot.aspx

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  • spare_wheel October 31, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    “But even eliminating the 14 out of 100 drivers who are drunk in fatal walking crashes would not eliminate the problem of alcohol.”

    “I don’t want to blame victims here…”

    Too late.

    Driving while drunk is dangerous but driving is *ALWAYS* a dangerous activity. Casually inattentive motorists hit and kill far more human beings than drunk pedestrians. When someone drives at high speeds in an urban environment because they are stressed out, worried, late, sick, distracted or simply inattentive they are placing their personal convenience above the life of other human beings. Reduce the casual narcissism that causes people to treat driving as a ho-hum everyday activity and pedestrian deaths would plummet — even drunk pedestrian deaths.

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    • spare_wheel October 31, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      20 is plenty!

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      • paikiala October 31, 2014 at 2:40 pm

        Sure, on SW 4th, but what about 122nd? Barbur? Powell? Blanket statements rarely cover everything.

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        • Opus the Poet October 31, 2014 at 9:31 pm

          Inside city limits not on a limited-access highway 20 MPH is plenty, inside a residential area with children playing then 20 km/hr (12 MPH) is fast enough, bordering on too fast.

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          • El Biciclero November 1, 2014 at 11:05 am

            Last night (Halloween) I was driving home from work (I know—but sometimes I drive), and when I got to my street, 15 mph felt fast, with all the kids out running around. Yet I had my neighbors (I assume, since they were heading into the neighborhood) backed up behind me, seemingly wishing I would go faster. If kids were out riding bikes and running around like that every night, I’ll bet 15 mph would eventually start to feel fast to everybody. Unfortunately the focus of “safety” efforts in this country amounts to clearing the decks on an aircraft carrier; getting everything and everyone out of the way so we can launch as fast as possible.

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          • Rob Chapman November 2, 2014 at 10:17 pm

            Thanks for this Opus. I was driving through my neighborhood tonight to return a Zipcar with cars parked along both sides of the street further limiting visibility. I was driving at a speed that felt appropriate which turned out to be 15mph when I glanced at the speedometer. Funny how that works. I have no doubt that I could have safely stopped for any person or critter who just “came out of nowhere” at that speed.

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        • spare_wheel November 1, 2014 at 9:29 am

          If motorists want to drive fast they can pay for limited access roads via user fees.

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  • Merlin R Rainwater October 31, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    There’s another reason not related to alcohol why advocates for walking and biking safety focus on the behavior of people who are driving. Enforcement of laws related to walking and biking safety currently falls disproportionately on people walking and biking, even though people driving are much more likely to have failed to follow the law in collisions (http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2014/09/24/thoughts-on-spd-bike-enforcement-focus-on-safety-also-king-5-gets-bike-laws-wrong/). This data is from Seattle, but I imagine it is not atypical.

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  • jeff bernards October 31, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I quit drinking 12 years or more ago? so my opinion is somewhat biased. Portland can’t seem to have an event, a meeting, a get together, nothing without beer being the most important part that brings people together. It’s time to raise the awareness about how alcohol is affecting all parts of society, Thanks Mr. Zalada for bringing this into the conversation about how it potentially affects biking and walking.
    If you want safer biking and walking, everything has to be on the table and talked about, including Portland’s sacred beer.

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  • Ben Waterhouse October 31, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    What portion of the 24% were riding bicycles because they’d had their drivers licenses revoked? I suspect the numbers are as high as they are because we’ve pushed a lot of alcoholics from driving to other means of transportation, in which case lecturing folks who bike home after three beers isn’t going to do any good. What we need to address this problem is more comprehensive, compassionate treatment for alcohol abuse and dependency.

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  • Adam H. October 31, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    All victim-blaming BS. Fix the real problem, which is people driving cars. Drunk walking/biking is a red herring.

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    • wsbob November 1, 2014 at 10:52 am

      “All victim-blaming BS. Fix the real problem, which is people driving cars. Drunk walking/biking is a red herring.” Adam H.

      BS. The real problem, is people imposing the consequences of their irresponsible, drunken choices on people using the road responsibly.

      For a long, long time, many people have had it with the completely self indulgent ‘party on’ mentality. Notions to the effect that drunk walking or biking is a problem that people driving should be primarily responsible for avoiding the consequences of, are entirely irresponsible.

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      • Chris Anderson November 1, 2014 at 11:12 am

        I agree with you to the extent that I also think it’s not reasonable to expect to take a heavy vehicle much more than walking pace through areas you’d like walkers to feel comfortable using. Personally I’d like to see more walking and playing in the streets.

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        • wsbob November 1, 2014 at 1:06 pm

          “…I also think it’s not reasonable to expect to take a heavy vehicle much more than walking pace through areas you’d like walkers to feel comfortable using. …” Chris Anderson

          Specific examples of situations, circumstances?

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          • Chris Anderson November 1, 2014 at 3:54 pm

            “Specific examples of situations, circumstances?”

            Neighborhood streets, for play. Commercial areas, for walking on (not the sidewalk).

            What I lament is the possibility of community that nearly all cities have sacrificed for the sake of automobile “right-of-way.” Imagine if kids grew up perfectly safe without ever being told to “look both ways”?

            Maybe I’m an idealist but there was a time before careless walking was a death sentence. Is it wrong to think we are missing something valuable?

            A historical account of when the social contract changed around this: http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/episode-76-the-modern-moloch/

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            • wsbob November 2, 2014 at 11:26 am

              “…What I lament is the possibility of community that nearly all cities have sacrificed for the sake of automobile “right-of-way.” …” Chris Anderson

              There’s not really much in the way of true ‘automobile right of way’, at least in a general sense. There are many motor vehicles in use on the road, because that’s the mode of travel most people choose. Were more people to choose bikes for road use, than motor vehicles, most likely, roads would be reconfigured for that preference.

              It’s not as though government is saying: ‘You will drive or ride in motor vehicle. Let your bicycle get unused and dusty in the garage.’. Modern communities are what they are because that’s what people have chosen. That’s not going to change until they choose differently.

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              • Rob Chapman November 2, 2014 at 10:26 pm

                Bob refresh my memory please, what Portland neighborhood do you live in? I’m in Overlook.

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              • wsbob November 3, 2014 at 11:53 am

                Why do you ask?

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              • 9watts November 2, 2014 at 10:50 pm

                “It’s not as though government is saying: ‘You will drive or ride in motor vehicle. Let your bicycle get unused and dusty in the garage.’. Modern communities are what they are because that’s what people have chosen.”

                Books and articles and dissertations have been written refuting this claim. Although it is a familiar fantasy to imagine our economies working like that where everyone chooses (votes with their wallet) and the result is Panglossian perfection, it isn’t so. Some fraction 30%? 60%? of the public buy cars, own them, drive them, not because this is their fondest wish, how they want to spend their hard earned cash, but because the circumstances in which they find themselves (land use patterns, transportation priorities, lack of alternatives, subsidies, bias, etc. ) suggest or require an automobile. Fortunately this is beginning to change, but to look at the history of automobility in this or any country and conclude that all we need to know is that consumers here in Amerika are free to choose doesn’t pass the laugh test. Here’s just one book I recommend:
                Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect on Our Lives by Catherine Lutz
                http://www.amazon.com/Carjacked-Culture-Automobile-Effect-Lives/dp/0230618138

                and here’s an article by her I excerpted in another discussion:
                http://bikeportland.org/2014/07/02/angry-guest-essay-107952#comment-5150936

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              • wsbob November 3, 2014 at 12:19 pm

                Thirty percent, maybe. That number is somewhat close to the fifteen or twenty percent of people on the road in some areas, it’s suggested are riding a bike rather than driving. Higher percentages of people not wanting to have and use motor vehicles, I don’t think so.

                In some types of neighborhoods, there likely will be higher percentages of people that would rather not have a car to deal with, and can actually get by without one. Even in such neighborhoods, there likely are many people that want and need to have a car for at least occasional use.

                I think neighborhoods where people can walk and play on the street are great. I’m fairly sure Portland has a lot of such neighborhoods. I’ve walked in some of them. So does Beaverton, where I live. Though it seems often true in many neighborhoods, that people have gotten away from using the street for much else besides driving and parking cars there. Streets with sidewalks encourage such use.

                People could resume using their streets for walking and biking, as it’s said they once did, many decades ago. Mere presence of considerable numbers of people in the street, walking, playing, etc, is all it really takes to divert streets’ function to a wider range of use that includes those activities. If that’s really something wide support exists for, which doesn’t seem to be the case.

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              • Chris Anderson November 3, 2014 at 11:19 am

                It’s important to distinguish between political conversations (“the art of the possible”), and values conversations. There is a lot of back and forth here about what is practical / possible / fantasy. I’ll save my take on that for another time. Let’s talk about values.

                There is a sea-change in values happening right now in America. The post-boomer generations are waking up to the fact that the boomers, for all their political and artistic engagement, mostly acquiesced to their elders in terms of value — eg as much as they protested, they are still in the “bigger, faster, more, mine” camp.

                My generation and younger folks are showing again and again that they question those premises. And so it is important to ask (and answer) values questions from an entirely impolitic standpoint. Impractical thinking is the only way out of local-minima traps.

                If the answers makes us feel frustrated and as though our built environment does not correspond to our values, and even that fixing our built environment is impossible / intractable, at least we aren’t pulling the wool over our eyes.

                Viva careless walking! (I’ll see your drunken strawman and raise you one innocent child — if you let go me deep on the topic I’ll convince you the modern epidemic of “stranger danger” aka childhood obesity is sublimated parental fear of our last remaining apex predator, the car.)

                One last thought on our current experience being a poor way to judge the prevailing values — it takes less than one speeding car per hour, to make it seem like good advice to keep your children out of the street. So the people enforcing our shared experience can be a tiny minority, but our current lax enforcement and permissive laws empowers them to drive everyone else out of the street.

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              • wsbob November 3, 2014 at 12:34 pm

                Chris…think I may have touched on some ideas you’ve raised here. Comment in moderation. No bad words, or mean stuff. Just stuck in mod screen.

                The biggest obstacle to streets open to walking and playing, as well as travel by motor vehicle and bike, may be a kind of collective opposition on the part of the public. There’s plenty of streets in town where use with motor vehicles is low enough that at least some people could walk or play in the street if they wanted to. They don’t, not necessarily because the speed of vehicle traffic is too fast, because in plenty of areas it’s not.

                They don’t, because, who wants to have their game or play interrupted by having to get out of the way to let traffic pass? People can walk in the street through many quiet neighborhoods, but often the sidewalk is easier and better.

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  • jeffb October 31, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Yes on 91?

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  • Paul in The 'Couve November 1, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    I’ve made some comments above that do appear to contradict each other. I stated my belief that probably the large majority (even 90%) of the pedestrians and cyclists hit by motorists while having been drinking were probably actually intoxicated rather than having just had a beer or two, and further that a majority of those were probably chronic alcoholics. Then, tonight, I replied to WsBob that I think about 75% of the increased incidence of being hit by cars while having been drinking is not directly a result of alcohol consumption.

    I think those two statements are compatible; even more than just compatible, I think they reinforce one another. Intoxicated people make poor judgments, and don’t assess risks as well as sober people. Also, intoxicated people don’t pay as much attention to surroundings and have slower reactions and diminished coordination. Both of these factors can be at play without the drunks actually “using the roadway in an irresponsible manner” as WsBob puts it.

    I think drunks are quite likely to choose to walk along roads that most people would wisely avoid especially in the dark. Poorly or unlit roads, high speed traffic, intermittent or lacking sidewalks. They aren’t ‘irresponsible’ to do so. Their only offense is just being a pedestrian on a road poorly suited for walking. Still, sober people would be likely decide it was too scary to walk and find another route, or a ride, or call a cab. Further, chronic alcoholics are much more likely to be that determined to go drinking.

    Additionally, drunk won’t have the reaction time or coordination of a sober person to get out the way. They will not be paying as close attention to listening or watching for danger. Really, this is no different than someone who is handicapped or elderly, or a child. The “irresponsible” part is just being near traffic and not prepared to jump out of the way to save your life.

    I think WsBob supposes that the drunks are jumping into traffic or falling into the road. I won’t say that that never happens, but I don’t think it is the majority case.

    Rather, I think of a man who was hit in Salem a few years ago. He was walking something like 1/2 mile along a highway shoulder to get home from a bar at 1:00 AM or so and was hit. No indication he jumped or stumbled in front of the car. But a sober (no drinker) would likely have not gone out at that time, probably would think 3 times hard about walking along that road, and would stand a better chance of hearing a car coming, or seeing the danger and jumping out of the way.

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    • wsbob November 2, 2014 at 12:59 am

      Sheez. Drunks don’t think. They’re too drunk to think, at least too drunk to think clearly enough to be on the road. Make all the excuses you want, rationalize the statistics, etc, etc. We all have to put up with that nonsense from them. If you’re happy with that, fine.

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      • Paul in The 'Couve November 2, 2014 at 9:31 am

        WsBob, thanks for proving my point. The problem with our roads today is cars and the demands they place on everyone else. The auto-domination of our roadways demands, as a driver-motorist entitlement, that every other mode must be sufficiently mentally competent, physically fit, alert, paying attention, and following “the rules” in order to stay out of the way of motorists – despite the fact that it is the speed and damaging potential of cars that should place the responsibility for safety on drivers much more than pedestrians.

        So elderly, mentally impaired, younger than 12 or 14, physically disabled and slow? You are out of luck in our transportation system and you have no place on the public roads. Because cars must not be slowed down.

        The drunk is just a good scapegoat.

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        • wsbob November 2, 2014 at 10:39 am

          “…auto-domination…” Paul in The ‘Couve

          An essential component of modern civilization, is what auto-domination is. For the foreseeable future, this is a reality that very few countries relying on heavy use of motor vehicles, could, or would want to give up. Most people, I think, generally accept this relationship modern society has with the motor vehicle, and the resulting character of traffic on the roads.

          Even people that like to drink to oblivion, although once having their senses effectively cancelled by whatever intoxicant, to the point they’re unable to be aware of and prepare against routine road hazards, they and other road users become casualties of their behavior.

          Sure, it’s likely as well, that most people would enjoy roads being places where fewer people driving excessively fast, intoxicated, and so on. Unfortunately, that’s something that’s likely to not be easily or soon accomplished. Almost certainly, people would not choose to make big sacrifices with regards to the extent of motor vehicle use on the road, so the road could become a safe haven for irresponsibly intoxicated people to amble about with little concern for their welfare or anyone elses.

          You don’t explain what you mean in saying “…The drunk is just a good scapegoat.”. People are rarely forced to drink, particularly to stupefaction. Being drunk or otherwise excessively intoxicated, is something they make a choice to do. They should be the ones paying the bad consequences of their behavior, rather than people not intoxicated and using the road responsibly.

          So all you excessively intoxicated people, please just stay off the road, off the sidewalks, and instead stay in your bar of choice, in your house or room, etc, until you’re sufficiently sober to control and watch out for yourself where you could come into dangerous situations common to modern civilization.

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          • 9watts November 2, 2014 at 6:42 pm

            “Sure, it’s likely as well, that most people would enjoy roads being places where fewer people driving excessively fast, intoxicated, and so on. Unfortunately, that’s something that’s likely to not be easily or soon accomplished. Almost certainly, people would not choose to make big sacrifices with regards to the extent of motor vehicle use on the road, so the road could become a safe haven for irresponsibly intoxicated people to amble about with little concern for their welfare or anyone elses.”

            ?!
            You still haven’t answered my question about how someone who is walking on the sidewalk drunk is endangering someone in a car who is not drunk. You obviously feel that drunk people walking and bicycling are a danger to others but I am not aware of this being a problem, generally, and have asked you I think three times now to give an example.

            “Being drunk or otherwise excessively intoxicated, is something they make a choice to do. They should be the ones paying the bad consequences of their behavior, rather than people not intoxicated and using the road responsibly.”

            Again, how are others—and not the drunk people—paying the bad consequences of their behavior? And I don’t mean for you to concoct an imaginary scenario but to tell us what you know of actual situations where this has transpired. Because if you keep refusing to do so I’m going to have to conclude that you just made this inversion up, that drunk pedestrians are endangering responsible motorists.

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            • wsbob November 3, 2014 at 10:13 pm

              In earlier comments, I’ve answered your question, but what’s the point if you don’t read or think about what I write? If the answers I’m offering are just going in one ear and out the other, then you may as well not bother asking.

              Really, I think you’re smart enough to envision scenarios that answer your question, but I doubt you’ll be willing to do so, since it seems you and some other people would much rather have people that drive entirely bear responsibility for irresponsible behavior common to some vulnerable road users.

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              • 9watts November 4, 2014 at 7:21 am

                “In earlier comments, I’ve answered your question”

                I’m sorry I missed that answer. Perhaps you could help me find it? Point me thither?

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              • wsbob November 4, 2014 at 5:19 pm

                Do your own legwork, watts. You’re getting lazy.

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              • 9watts November 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm

                And you’re getting grumpy.

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              • 9watts November 4, 2014 at 5:38 pm

                I went through all your comments here. All I could find was:
                “Drunks wobbling down the sidewalk, entering onto streets without looking or stopping exceeds that point.”

                I may have missed it, but this isn’t answering my question, which, for the record was derived from something you wrote:
                how are others—and not the drunk people—paying the bad consequences of their behavior?
                I don’t get how stumbling drunks are shifting any responsibility onto others. That part of your reasoning still isn’t clear to me.

                In our society the person in the car who was driving too fast to see or anticipate the drunk in time to avoid hitting him is almost never punished, and I don’t think all the drunk pedestrians who are hit are even in the street. Your example of Eric Davidson above was not in the street, yet you chose him as your example. I’m pretty sure the drunk person who is hit (and now injured or dead) is the one who’s going to bear the consequences of that situation. Do you know otherwise?

                I’m not the least bit interested in condoning any dimension of public drunkenness, despite the fact that you keep characterizing my comments that way. What I am arguing should be pretty clear by now. Without a car driven at speed, public drunkenness by people under their own power isn’t very often going to lead to injury or death on our streets. So fingering the victims here seems a misplaced emphasis until we’ve caught up with the *cause* of death, which as many have noted in these comments very nearly 100% of the time involves an automobile.

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              • wsbob November 4, 2014 at 11:47 pm

                watts at: http://bikeportland.org/2014/10/31/vision-0-08-major-safe-streets-effort-must-tackle-alcohol-112928#comment-5752739

                “…In our society the person in the car who was driving too fast to see or anticipate the drunk in time to avoid hitting him…” 9watts

                You’ll have to think a little harder than that to realize situations that people driving responsibly, have to deal with from people on foot or bike, intoxicated and using the road. Maybe someone else will volunteer to help you with that.

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              • Chris Anderson November 6, 2014 at 8:59 am

                “people driving responsibly” — wsbob

                I think part of what’s raising ire here, is your assumption that driving an automobile is often done responsibly. There are a few edge cases where it can be responsible (emergency vehicles, handicapped mobility, or when done with extreme caution.) In my opinion very rarely is driving done responsibly. When one is not numbed to the danger through everyday exposure to it, it’s quite clear that driving a car is terrifying in its potential consequences. Anyone who is behind the wheel and not white-knuckled with fear, is not driving responsibly. Sure, most people get lucky most of the time, that a drunk or a child doesn’t jump out in front of them, but that’s luck, not responsibility.

                Anytime a driver contributes to the normalization of the idea that our streets are the type of places one should expect to die if one isn’t on top of one’s game, that is an anti-social act. Just because all your friends are doing it, doesn’t make it OK.

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              • wsbob November 6, 2014 at 9:26 am

                Chris Anderson at: 2http://bikeportland.org/014/10/31/vision-0-08-major-safe-streets-effort-must-tackle-alcohol-112928#comment-5765362

                Chris, share your opinion of what constitutes ‘driving responsibly’, with people, especially those that drive regularly, outside of bikeportland’s readers. Note whether and to what they believe they can hold your views about that, as their own.

                Driving responsibly requires being alert, rested and relaxed so that the person driving can focus their senses of tasks involved in operating the motor vehicle safely. Same applies, or should apply, to road use by other travel means such as walking, biking, skateboarding, etc.

                The Vision Zero concept and effort, of which I’m gradually coming to learn more about, may be a fine idea to bring into effect. My sense, is that if the responsibilities it calls for to achieve the concepts goals, aren’t shared by all road users, it will not succeed.

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              • 9watts November 6, 2014 at 9:39 am

                “The Vision Zero concept and effort, of which I’m gradually coming to learn more about, may be a fine idea to bring into effect. My sense, is that if the responsibilities it calls for to achieve the concepts goals, aren’t shared by all road users, it will not succeed.

                FINALLY something you’ve written I can understand and respond to. Thank you, wsbob!

                Now we’ve got something to argue about rather than my guessing at what you are trying to say and you sniping at me. Perhaps you will agree that the bold clause above differs from the conventional interpretation of Vision Zero? Can you elaborate on your thinking? You are very focused on responsibility, on the need for symmetry between people skateboarding and walking and driving when it comes to safety, and now the success of Vision Zero US. But why? From everything I’ve read about how Sweden did this, is implementing this, I don’t get that sense, don’t think they take this view, and by just about any measure I can think of they are succeeding.

                The problem is how to contain the menace driving has become in just about every society we can think of, not to persuade skateboarders or drunk pedestrians that they too need to get their act together just like car drivers.

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              • Chris Anderson November 6, 2014 at 10:00 am

                I don’t think for a second that my views are mainstream or would be accepted by the driving public. I know this because when eg I’m feeling terrified because every corner is a crosswalk, so I’m driving ~20 on NE Prescott where it is signed for 25 or 30, I get passed, honked at, etc. Most people assume that because they’ve been lucky in the past, they’ll be lucky in the future. And if they are unlucky enough to hit someone, they’ll likely be lucky enough to encounter police and judges who identify more with the driver than the victim, so they’ll get limited or no official consequences.

                Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s OK. A rational approach from a neutral perspective would hold drivers accountable by default, in essence saying “well that’s the risk they took getting behind the wheel.” Today we have the opposite, where the official line is “well that’s the risk they took by crossing the street.”

                I didn’t used to think this way — it took some time as a carfree parent to come to grips with the degree to which my viewpoint had been warped by the status quo.

                If an open-carry protestor’s gun accidentally went off, and a bystander was shot, we’d have no trouble pointing a finger at the gun-toter. But an automobile going at 20 or 30 miles per hour is just as deadly, we are just inured to the danger, and accept it as a culture. You can argue that we accept the danger rationally, fully aware of it, and I can argue that most people are so desensitized they’ve forgotten it could be any other way.

                Settling that point isn’t something that we can do in this thread (I don’t even know how we’d settle it given infinite resources — people are notoriously bad at knowing what they want.) For evidence on my side I might point out the sharp increase in property values that accompanies any taming of the automobile monster.

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              • wsbob November 6, 2014 at 10:36 am

                Both of you two at:

                http://bikeportland.org/2014/10/31/vision-0-08-major-safe-streets-effort-must-tackle-alcohol-112928#comment-5765629

                http://bikeportland.org/2014/10/31/vision-0-08-major-safe-streets-effort-must-tackle-alcohol-112928#comment-5765792

                watts, you say Sweden has accomplished VZ, but you don’t explain how they were able to do so.

                Chris, you offer some info on how you as individual, elect to drive at lower rates of speed on the street you feel are safer for conditions than streets are posted for. You write that you don’t consider your views to be mainstream or that they would be accepted by the driving public.

                Without major support from the driving public, or let’s say the general public at large, for changes in road use that can have the roads be safer to use by walking and biking, the chance of actually bringing about such change doesn’t seem strong.

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              • 9watts November 6, 2014 at 10:47 am

                “watts, you say Sweden has accomplished VZ, but you don’t explain how they were able to do so.”

                Who’s being lazy now?
                http://bikeportland.org/2014/10/31/vision-0-08-major-safe-streets-effort-must-tackle-alcohol-112928#comment-5753697

                9watts

                Sweden’s Vision Zero has made incredible progress toward reducing carnage on the nation’s roads since 1997(see Economist article for great summary: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/02/economist-explains-16 ) but to my knowledge this has been done without fingering pedestrian or cycling. My impression of the thinking behind Vision Zero aligns with this: people walking and biking (and driving for that matter) are injured and killed the world over because they had the misfortune of being in the path of someone piloting an automobile. The Swedes and others seeking to put Vision Zero into practice understand this. This is why their focus is on containing the cars through modal separation, slowing cars down with lower speed limits in towns, excluding cars from expanded pedestrian zones, and, let’s not forget, protecting people in oncoming cars from each other.

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              • El Biciclero November 6, 2014 at 11:46 am

                “Without major support from the driving public, or let’s say the general public at large, for changes in road use that can have the roads be safer to use by walking and biking, the chance of actually bringing about such change doesn’t seem strong.”

                This is called “The Tyranny of the Majority”. If, for example, a majority of citizens thought it was OK to have people who tested below a certain IQ level euthanized (or at least sterilized), would that make it right? What we have is a majority of people who think regularly intimidating, threatening, injuring, and even killing a few from the minority is acceptable to maintain convenience. Does that make it right? At what point do leaders step in to correct imbalances in the system without blindly following strict majority rule?

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              • wsbob November 6, 2014 at 4:06 pm

                el bic at: http://bikeportland.org/2014/10/31/vision-0-08-major-safe-streets-effort-must-tackle-alcohol-112928#comment-5766507

                I don’t think those things mentioned in the excerpt 9watts posted above, that Sweden did as part of Visionzero, will be happening very soon in the Metro area. You can attribute this to the ‘tyranny of the majority’, if that’s what you think the current conditions of roads for vulnerable road users is due to. I think a majority of the general public just isn’t much interested in, nor would they be supportive infrastructure for vulnerable road users that could result in travel by motor vehicle being a lot more difficult, and that would cost them as taxpayers, a lot more money.

                Whether some local elected officials would be prepared to go ahead and get the ball rolling on Sweden type Visionzero measures here, without the go ahead from people that voted them, is something to speculate on, I suppose.

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              • 9watts November 6, 2014 at 6:29 pm

                wsbob,
                I appreciate your taking the time to articulate your perspectives here on bikeportland, but fairly often one or another aspect of what you’re trying to say is not clear to me, seems worth exploring a bit more. I ask you to clarify, but nine times out of ten you give some weird non-answer, change the subject, or lob a petty insult at me. This makes our back-and-forth difficult. If you would trouble yourself to answer forthrightly it would expedite our conversation immensely.

                Thanks for your consideration.

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              • wsbob November 6, 2014 at 11:15 pm

                “…If you would trouble yourself to answer forthrightly it would expedite our conversation immensely. “9watts

                I go to considerable effort to carefully express my thoughts, and to answer serious, civil questions when asked. Far more so, I think, than some other people posting comments to bikeportland. I think I do a fair job of it, though I’m always working to improve. If you’re not understanding what I write, you’ll just have to be patient and try accept that I’m following the example of other people I respect, in doing the best I can.

                I mentioned that you didn’t explain how Sweden was able to bring about the Vision Zero measures and accomplishments it did. If you’re looking for clarification on this, I was thinking that you’d mention whether you thought or had found in your reading, that those those measures came to be in place through a majority support of them from Swedish citizens, or whether they came about primarily by way of governmental or court degree.

                Easy to talk about the virtues of a major objective. Much more difficult to bring them about and be accepted without broad, major support from the general public. The courts of a nation like the U.S., can make decisions on some questions, leading certain issues not supported by a majority of the public, to become the law of the land. I don’t what A.J. Zelada’s thoughts are about this, relative to Vision Zero here in the U.S.

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              • Chris Anderson November 7, 2014 at 1:32 pm

                I think this comment section is a richer place for having alternative viewpoints. I’d love to have more folks like wsbob who question our assumptions (civilly).

                Sometimes’s I get frustrated when I want to have a philisophical discussion and the response is a how-is-that-practical? one, but having more questioning voices in here is something I’d be happy to see.

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              • wsbob November 8, 2014 at 12:09 am

                Chris…thanks! Here at bikeportland, it seems for the most part, you’re the exception in terms of willingness to hear out points of view that may not unequivocally support biking, infrastructure for biking, and so forth. Incisive questioning, especially with regards to rote, popularly embraced assumptions, is essential to the evolution of solid plans for any truly good, new idea.

                With something like Vision Zero, if a concept consisting of what this one seeks to accomplish, is to have a chance to succeed, in a place like Portland or the Metro area, it likely will be essential to carefully scrutinize all assumptions the nature of the concept may be inclined to bring forth.

                In our area, what is necessary to have the implementation of Vision Zero begun, and what’s necessary to have it actually work and achieve objectives people want from it, are questions that must be addressed. Some people commenting to this story, didn’t like that I raised the point that people excessively intoxicated and using the road on foot or biking are not responsible road users. Perhaps to them, a seemingly radical, or extremist idea, because the thought goes contrary to assumptions some people have clung to, that excessively intoxicated use of the street is responsible behavior, as long as it’s not happening as part of operation of a motor vehicle on the road.

                Outside of bikeportland readers commenting to this story, I’m not sure how the broader public would fall on this question, but it is one, I think, that may turn out to be important to consider, if Vision Zero is to proceed here. And, most likely there will be other, controversial questions the concept will bring forth. Again, thanks for reading.

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              • 9watts November 8, 2014 at 6:25 am

                “Here at bikeportland, it seems for the most part, you’re the exception in terms of willingness to hear out points of view that may not unequivocally support biking, infrastructure for biking, and so forth.”

                wsbob,
                I appreciate the perspective you bring to these discussions very much. Without a doubt I spend more time engaging with you than with any other poster here. The issue I was raising wasn’t your perspective, it was your subsequent refusal to jointly home in on points of disagreement or on matters I was asking for clarification. Your style is not the easiest to follow, and I hope it is clear that my followups to you are my way of taking your posts seriously. Sometimes I get frustrated, but for the most part I think that has to do with your conversational stubbornness rather than your contrariness.

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              • 9watts November 8, 2014 at 6:38 am

                Here’s an example.
                On November 6, 2014 at 9:39 am I asked you:
                “…Perhaps you will agree that the bold clause above differs from the conventional interpretation of Vision Zero? Can you elaborate on your thinking? You are very focused on responsibility, on the need for symmetry between people skateboarding and walking and driving when it comes to safety, and now the success of Vision Zero US. But why? From everything I’ve read about how Sweden did this, is implementing this, I don’t get that sense, don’t think they take this view, and by just about any measure I can think of they are succeeding.”

                Your next post, an hour later, includes the following: “watts, you say Sweden has accomplished VZ, but you don’t explain how they were able to do so,” but nothing whatsoever in response to my questions. I immediately replied, pointing you to a passage I’d written that I felt addressed your question to me. To which you responded: “I don’t think those things mentioned in the excerpt 9watts posted above, that Sweden did as part of Visionzero, will be happening very soon in the Metro area.”

                Next post from you in this conversation on November 6, 2014 at 11:15 pm includes:
                “I mentioned that you didn’t explain how Sweden was able to bring about the Vision Zero measures and accomplishments it did. If you’re looking for clarification on this, I was thinking that you’d mention whether you thought or had found in your reading, that those those measures came to be in place through a majority support of them from Swedish citizens, or whether they came about primarily by way of governmental or court degree.”

                Now you’re suggesting I was looking for clarification of Sweden’s Vision Zero! No, I was asking you in very concise language to speak to, clarify why your interpretation was so different from Sweden’s (and New York’s and how they approach this in Australia, etc.).

                See what I mean?

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  • A, J, Zelada
    A, J, Zelada November 2, 2014 at 1:49 am

    Thank you for all the comments and also thanks to Michael Anderson who helped challenge my words and thinking. It is fascinating to see the immediate polarized world we live in. We need to move on to analyze the details of death scenes. Not to label or blame but to discover what primes the death pump. I see alcohol not completely the cause of deaths but a symptom in not getting enough attention by us or the new kid on the block, Vision Zero.

    Sources and Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
    The sources for my concerns can be found at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811743.pdf and http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811748.pdf. These were published April 2013. These present information about gender, time of day, age range and alcohol. There are numerous sites and products for breathalyzers which also discuss what does it take to get a 100 lb to 300 lb people with BAC counts of 0.04 or greater. Wikipedia also has great information about drunk driver laws by country; drunk levels ascribed by countries. But these two pdfs are the source for my surprise that having alcohol involvement at more than 37% of fatal bicycle crashes and 48% of all pedestrian crashes of either the driver or pedestrian. It further surprised me that 70% of deaths occurred at non-intersections. 88% occurred in normal weather. 70% of pedestrian deaths were male. And the factoid that really got to me was of the drivers in the pedestrian fatalities -only 13% had BAC of 0.08 or more.

    Metaphor for Illness
    I challenge the Blame the Victim status. I think those who think the dead are victims need to move on. I think those who think, when there are “no cars, there will be no deaths” or when we fix our deathly landscapes are very similar to the people who thought tuberculosis was because of slums or personality traits. Sontag in her book, Illness as Metaphor (1979) points to Victorian rich people blaming the poor for causing TB; she also began to question that cancer attacked only certain personalities. People finally began to see how spitting up blood (symptom) may not have to be due to economic status but was caused by ‘something X’ (mycobacteria) in the lungs, spine, etc.

    We still have these mal-diagnoses though out our transportation system. “Fix the real problem, which is people driving cars” doesn’t solve much. We need better analysis, better historical understanding if we really want to change things and improve our human condition. One more example.

    I drive to a nursing facilities to see patients 4 to 6 times a month. I go to Burnside & 181st for one and 137th and Glisan for another. I see pedestrians cross midblock every time I drive. It is easy to get mad at PDX or ODOT for creating these ghettos of subdivisions that empty out in the middle of very long blocks segregated by 5 traffic lanes & two bike lanes. People still want to take the cowpath hypotenuse to get where they are going. The intersections are so far from the entrance to arterial cross streets or bus/Max stops, why not just dodge the car traffic/rails? Yes, we can argue for midblock self actuated pedestrian islands, but look deeper. The arterials are a history of several vectors: Eisenhower and the creation of the interstates, the car companies creating a whole new way of loaning money to the WW2 veterans who could also buy suburban houses on the GI bill outside the city and drive to work; the sabotaging of street cars to make way for all these car owners; the exodus of cities from the riots of the late 60s, the consequent decline of city economics centers. And the major issue of ‘capacity.’ Until recently Capacity of roads was the silent sputum of transportation. This doctrine trumped all arguments for safety first. Slowly, painfully-slowly people are we understanding that we need to change this paradigm. The older engineers are retiring; the new politicians understand that our thriving inner city people want safety first not a faster Barbur Boulevard which can cut 30 seconds off the commute from Lake O to downtown. There are many reasons, we are what we are. There are many reasons why people take risks or that deaths occur, not just that driving that is dangerous.

    Circle back to our nearsighted view of attacking cars; blaming poor intersections, bad walking conditions, inattentive courts systems; and simply ignoring behavior of all aspects of a person’s death. Another example of thinking outside the box: “Tourism, for instance, plays a small role in determining the excess fatality rate across ‘Florida’ (only 0.05% for that whole state), but it accounts for nearly 26% of Orlando’s excess pedestrian death rate.” When one digs deeper, a big chunk of these deaths are attributable to drivers from other states not respecting/knowing local laws (e.g. speed limits and no right on red) and from car breakdowns. So a driver whose car breaks down and gets run over outside the car is pigeon holed as a pedestrian fatality. (http://www.dot.state.fl.us/research-center/Completed_Proj/Summary_PL/FDOT_BC354_44_Ped_rpt.pdf).

    Cause vs. Symptom
    Again, alcohol related pedestrian and bicyclists deaths needs serious analysis within the Vision Zero. We can’t just create a Designated Walker/Biker program. Or a ‘blame it on the cars’ solutions. We really need a deeper analysis than playing the blame game for high BAC levels or automobile drivers. And we need to put our money into this analysis at a policy level investigation simply because nearly half of the pedestrian deaths have alcohol as one of several grim reapers at the scene.

    I hope I haven’t fed the flames… And yes I have read parts of Norton’s Fighting Traffic…but suggest reading Jane Jacobs. She did say, “Not TV or illegal drugs but the automobile has been the chief destroyer of American communities” in her Dark Age Ahead. But I think this is a more relevant Jacobs: “Automobiles are often conveniently tagged as the villains responsible for the ills of cities and the disappointments and futilities of city planning. But the destructive effect of automobiles are much less a cause than a symptom of our incompetence at city building.” -jane jacobs The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961.

    Z

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    • 9watts November 2, 2014 at 7:22 am

      Good to see that you, too, get moderated 🙂
      5 hours is about average.

      Thanks A,J,Zelada for those follow up thoughts. I agree with a lot of what you say, but not everything.
      You wrote: “I think those who think, when there are ‘no cars, there will be no deaths’ or when we fix our deathly landscapes are very similar to the people who thought tuberculosis was because of slums or personality traits.”

      This seems like a poorly chosen simile. But taking your example, what in the case of drunk pedestrians are the mycobacteria?
      In the case you highlight: drinking and death on our streets we have two primary factors: the consumption of alcohol and the driving of automobiles. The combination is as you laid out, highly problematic. Can you elaborate the parallel with Tuberculosis?

      “We still have these mal-diagnoses though out our transportation system. ‘Fix the real problem, which is people driving cars’ doesn’t solve much. We need better analysis, better historical understanding if we really want to change things and improve our human condition.”

      I’m all for paying more attention to subtleties, to history, doing better analysis, but since you’re focusing on drinking here, why is that any more likely to get us where we want to go than problematizing driving? Both drinking and automobility are huge problems, but in the case you’re focused on, drunk cyclists and drunk pedestrians getting creamed, I think you would agree that the problem arises when you add cars-driven-at-speed to the mix. Drinking and walking isn’t, per se, a problem.

      “People still want to take the cowpath hypotenuse to get where they are going.”

      Exactly! And the only reason this is a problem is because of the (superimposed) demands of the automobile for speed and exclusive rights to the streets (cf. Peter Norton).

      “There are many reasons, we are what we are. There are many reasons why people take risks or that deaths occur, not just that driving that is dangerous.”

      Yes, but you were focused, as we here are generally, on our transportation infrastructure. Within that realm it is not nearly as pluralistic as you are suggesting. Within that realm I will submit that driving is responsible for in excess of 95% of deaths and injuries that occur.

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    • 9watts November 2, 2014 at 7:26 am

      “But the destructive effect of automobiles are much less a cause than a symptom of our incompetence at city building.”

      Sure. But starting from where we stand, which should be easier to tackle first? Rebuilding our cities, or holding drivers to higher standards of conduct?

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      • are November 2, 2014 at 8:17 am

        changing human behavior can be surprisingly easy or surprisingly difficult depending what reinforcements you are using. moral exhortations can be very ineffective. the occasional conviction of a drunk driver for vehicular manslaughter seems to operate mostly as a moral exhortation. until the private automobile begins to fade from the scene, what we need is to set the threshold for obtaining and keeping the privilege much higher. in other words, be much more reluctant to issue licenses and much more ready to take them away. and then have a mechanism in place that actually makes it very difficult for someone whose license has been suspended or revoked to have access to a car. unfortunately, the effects of such a strategy would likely be felt disproportionately by the working class, so we need to also put in place a robust system of public transportation. oh and also we need to create an environment in which people feel much less need to self-medicate.

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      • wsbob November 2, 2014 at 10:51 am

        Answer: Rebuilding our cities. That is, the hardscape. Streets, buildings, stores, services, and so on, don’t have a mind of their own that can decide to disregard common sense, because they can.

        The hardscape, physical parts of cities (because culture, spirit and soul, values are also parts of cities.) can be designed to reduce hazardous aspects of vehicular travel, as the need for travel by motor vehicle. If the accompanying type of city or community design is something people really desire. So far, in the U.S. there doesn’t seem to be much demand for this type city and community design.

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    • spare_wheel November 2, 2014 at 7:46 pm

      “I think those who think, when there are “no cars, there will be no deaths”

      Strawman.

      I believe you recently visited a nation with plenty of cars where pedestrians fatality rates are a fraction of those in the USA. Education, stricter licensing requirement, enforcement, and legal liability are all lower hanging fruit than finding billions of dollars to fund fully-separated cycle paths.

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      • spare_wheel November 3, 2014 at 12:02 pm

        and i should note that i support building some fully-separated paths too.

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      • Alan 1.0 November 3, 2014 at 12:29 pm

        …a nation with plenty of cars where pedestrians fatality rates are a fraction of those in the USA…

        Measurement of pedestrian alcohol use in that country would provide another evaluation of Zalada’s hypothesis.

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  • Rob Chapman November 3, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    wsbob
    Why do you ask?
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    I’m asking because I’m trying to understand your point of view. Why don’t you answer?

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    • pruss2ny November 3, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      he did…beaverton.

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      • Rob Chapman November 3, 2014 at 4:19 pm

        Thanks. I missed his answer. His location begins to explain his opinions.

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        • wsbob November 3, 2014 at 9:53 pm

          I didn’t tell you where I lived, in response toyour question about where that is, because you didn’t bother to explain why you wanted to know, or thought that was relevant to this discussion. If you really wanted to understand opinions I share with bikeportland readers, you’d read and think about what I write and post in comments to this weblog.

          Really, the only thing it appears you’re capable of in your comments posted to this story, is being a smart alec.

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          • Rob Chapman November 3, 2014 at 11:09 pm

            Thanks for the name calling Bob.

            I do believe that a significant part of our worldview is colored by the part of the world in which we live. I agree with the posters here pointing out that the automobile is the biggest obstacle in the way of Vision Zero. Fussing over the BAC of pedestrians is waaaaay down on the list of things we should be concerned about when discussing road safety.

            You’ve been expending a ton of energy here defending “car head” which makes sense given that you live in a place where your quality of life most likely depends on driving far more than mine does. That’s why I asked. It wasn’t to be a “smart alec”.

            I’ll wait for your apology.

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            • wsbob November 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm

              You’ll get an apology from me, when you deserve one, which you don’t.

              “…given that you live in a place where your quality of life most likely depends on driving far more than mine does. …” Rob Chapman

              Your remark suggests you know very little about to what degree the quality of life residents of Beaverton are able to have, depends on driving. As a matter of fact, just as in other places in throughout the Metro area, including different neighborhoods in Portland, the extent to which the quality of life people there have, depends on the individual. Some need to drive a lot to have the quality of life they seek, some don’t. I’m in the latter category, as are other people living in Beaverton.

              Comments you’ve left to this discussion don’t reflect that you’ve bothered to consider that some neighborhoods other than those in Portland have people living in them, that do as much walking or biking than they do driving, or more. Sounds like you’ve just taken the old sneering attitude that anyone living in Beaverton, or not living in your neighborhood, just isn’t as ‘cool’, or something, as you. I’m glad to read you saying that you didn’t intend to sound like a smart alec, but that’s what your comment came across as. Take a little more care in reading over what you want to say, before you post it in a comment to a weblog open to the public, and you’ll most likely be able to avoid leaving an impression of yourself you’d rather not.

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              • Rob Chapman November 4, 2014 at 6:06 pm

                Your putting a lot of words in my mouth and I don’t appreciate it Bob. I’d be happy to give you an opportunity to insult me face-to-face. Otherwise you know where to stick that attitude of yours.

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              • Rob Chapman November 4, 2014 at 6:47 pm

                It’s also important to point out that this is not BikeBeaverton. It’s reasonable to expect that residents of two completely separate cities would have differing perspectives regarding the importance of BAC versus the far larger danger of the automobile. When you try to ram your opinion down the throats of people who live in Portland it comes across very poorly.

                Being able to disagree without resorting to name calling and insults is a good skill to have. I’m always working on it.

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              • wsbob November 4, 2014 at 11:16 pm

                “Your putting a lot of words in my mouth and I don’t appreciate it Bob. …” chapman

                No, I don’t think so. Instead of looking to be insulted or inviting insult, you could be looking for information to explore your ideas about similarities and differences between your neighborhood, Portsmouth in Portland, and Central Beaverton, in Beaverton. That’s something you don’t even need my participation for. Then, you could go on to write something that suggests you’ve made and effort to understand a situation you’re writing about.

                The City of Beaverton website has a map of neighborhoods across the city. I believe in a number of ways, particularly some of the centrally located parts of Central Beaverton (because it’s quite a large neighborhood reaching north, to across Hwy 26 at Cedar Hills.) have some similarities with Portsmouth. How you may find that relates to questions about drunks on the streets, I do not know. Good luck.

                As far as I know, bikeportland’s staff does not oblige visitors to this weblog, to read what I or anyone else writes, or pay any attention whatsoever to opinions I or anyone else expresses here. So rest easy Rob, and enjoy reading whatever you wish. Nobody here is forcing you to accept the beliefs of someone else, expressed in an opinion, as your own.

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            • wsbob November 4, 2014 at 5:32 pm

              “…Fussing over the BAC of pedestrians is waaaaay down on the list of things we should be concerned about when discussing road safety. …” Rob Chapman

              As might be expected, you don’t offer any ideas you have about what list, and how long it is, hypothetically or otherwise.

              As to whether BAC of pedestrians is a matter of concern relative to road safety, Bikeportland guest opinion writer A.J. Zelada seems to think so. I do, and almost certain many other people do as well. One of the strongest admonitions any parent or loved one will tell another, is to be careful in going out on the street where motor vehicles are in use.

              I think it goes without saying they would be very concerned about someone they care about, going out walking or biking in a level of intoxication so great it seriously diminished the ability of their senses to alert them to routine dangers there.

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  • Rob Chapman November 4, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Rob Chapman
    Thanks for the name calling Bob.
    I agree with the posters here pointing out that the automobile is the biggest obstacle in the way of Vision Zero.

    I hate to quote myself but it seems as though you like to pick and choose your quotes Bob. Again, if you’d like to continue to insult me on a public forum I’ll have to insist that you have the decency to do so to my face.

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  • 9watts November 4, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    I appreciate the effort Dr. Zelada’s put into this article, but the more I think about his argument the more I think he’s mistaken.
    Sweden’s Vision Zero has made incredible progress toward reducing carnage on the nation’s roads since 1997(see Economist article for great summary: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/02/economist-explains-16 ) but to my knowledge this has been done without fingering pedestrian or cycling. My impression of the thinking behind Vision Zero aligns with this: people walking and biking (and driving for that matter) are injured and killed the world over because they had the misfortune of being in the path of someone piloting an automobile. The Swedes and others seeking to put Vision Zero into practice understand this. This is why their focus is on containing the cars through modal separation, slowing cars down with lower speed limits in towns, excluding cars from expanded pedestrian zones, and, let’s not forget, protecting people in oncoming cars from each other.

    The silence within Vision Zero around pedestrian & cyclist behaviors (e.g., drinking) that A,J,Zelada finds troubling to me is of a piece with this approach. He wrote: “The circumstances of these deaths were all complicated. But alcohol was part of far too many of those circumstances.”

    As Paul in the ‘Couve suggested here http://bikeportland.org/2014/10/31/vision-0-08-major-safe-streets-effort-must-tackle-alcohol-112928#comment-5734507, this statistical fact can be read different ways, with divergent implications for policy. Finding that people who have been hit had alcohol in their blood tells us nothing about the circumstances that led to their being hit, much less whether their drinking had anything to do with the collision. wsbob seems determined to assume that they stumbled into the street; that it was their fault, and Zelada’s perspective, though phrased more tentatively seems to point in this direction as well: “how do we teach self-responsibility?” Was that Eric Davidson’s failing?* But Paul’s interpretation seems equally plausible.

    I don’t think that the silence around alcohol consumption by victims of the overwhelming presence of cars driven at speed among Vision Zero advocates is a failing; I think Dr. Zelada failed to allow for another interpretation of the statistics on which he sought to build his case.

    *apparently not, according to keithwwalker’s post to the bikeportland story about that dreadful collision. http://bikeportland.org/2008/10/24/drunk-hit-and-run-driver-pleads-guilty-9894#comment-1013847

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  • Rob Chapman November 5, 2014 at 8:46 am

    wsbob
    “Your putting a lot of words in my mouth and I don’t appreciate it Bob. …” chapman
    No, I don’t think so. Instead of looking to be insulted or inviting insult, you could be looking for information to explore your ideas about similarities and differences between your neighborhood, Portsmouth in Portland, and Central Beaverton, in Beaverton. That’s something you don’t even need my participation for. Then, you could go on to write something that suggests you’ve made and effort to understand a situation you’re writing about.
    The City of Beaverton website has a map of neighborhoods across the city. I believe in a number of ways, particularly some of the centrally located parts of Central Beaverton (because it’s quite a large neighborhood reaching north, to across Hwy 26 at Cedar Hills.) have some similarities with Portsmouth. How you may find that relates to questions about drunks on the streets, I do not know. Good luck.
    As far as I know, bikeportland’s staff does not oblige visitors to this weblog, to read what I or anyone else writes, or pay any attention whatsoever to opinions I or anyone else expresses here. So rest easy Rob, and enjoy reading whatever you wish. Nobody here is forcing you to accept the beliefs of someone else, expressed in an opinion, as your own.
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    What does any bit of your rant have to do with Vision Zero and the city of Portland Bob? Hint : absolutely nothing. As usual you miss the plot with your suggestions that our vulnerable road users should be teetotalers covered in neon and reflectors if they don’t want to get run over. You would not do well in my part of town with that attitude.

    My offer still stands. I’ve had enough of your tr0lling and your personal attacks. I’ll read BikeBeaverton if I ever start caring about how things are done there. Maybe they will let you be the moderator you so desperately want to be.

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  • A. J. Zelada
    A. J. Zelada November 5, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    I am sorry that some of this discussion has devolved into hurt feelings and personal attacks.

    But I am also grateful for many of the comments. I think they have helped me better understand my own thinking about the perception of alcohol and pedestrian/bicycle deaths.

    Part of my difficulty is perhaps thinking too much. I see laws that prescribe reduced speed school zones as recognizing the car at high speeds as dangerous. But I would also add to this formula, that reducing the speed is not aimed at teachers in the zone but children. I would go the next level and say it is children’s impulsivity to run into the street or play in leaves or just be in a vulnerable place that is a factor in why we have school zone speeds.

    And in the same breath, I see alcohol lowering inhibitions and perhaps increasing impulsiveness as well that truly makes us/them a vulnerable user. And I would say, let’s take a hard look at where, how, who alcohol & drivers produce the deaths. Perhaps we need tavern zones (I think there is a humor sign somewhere that shows “slow down & stop, tavern ahead”). Perhaps we need to plot our school speed zones around taverns (& please don’t take this literally). I think Vision Zero can take detailed issues into account. 9watts’ article from the Economist is great in that it details out some exact issues to reduce speed/increase protection. And their ability to reduce deaths to only three of every 100,000 Swedes dying on the roads each year, compared with 5.5 per 100,000 across the European Union, 11.4 in America and 40.0 in the Dominican Republic is something I would love to see enacted. I still see the heart of this is protection for vulnerable users, intoxicated adult or impulsive kid. Neither vulnerable user is to be blamed but needs recognition as a significant component of the death scene.

    But I still worry that Vision Zero, American style, won’t have the money or teeth and will end up a feel good aspect rather than real execution with Swedish krona to back it up. Case in point: When the BTA had their management transition many years ago, they wanted to have a campaign to increase the safety around schools and parks. But when we looked at the crash maps in PDX, one realizes that those areas are much safer than many other places. That was a feel good campaign.

    Most of the interpretation by 9watts is fairly correct about my criticism of VZ. But when society is willing to spend 75 million dollars on 13 deaths due to a bad ignition switch and not willing to spend an equivalent amount where thousands of deaths having alcohol involved (or should I say vulnerable users with lessened inhibitions or more impulses) then perhaps it is not about an interpretation of stats. Perhaps it is about the willfulness of the society to include all factors & spend money. Holding up that mirror to decision makers will help.

    Facing today’s Republican dominated senate spells decreased spending for Active Transportation. All of us need to pull together in collaboration in ways we are not used to doing. Getting teeth and money for a strong VZ is going to be a tough road. Having every member contributing is ultra important and that may include Health folks or analytic folks who are not so car focused. There is enough room in the tent.

    Z

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    • wsbob November 5, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      “…Perhaps we need tavern zones (I think there is a humor sign somewhere that shows “slow down & stop, tavern ahead”). Perhaps we need to plot our school speed zones around taverns (& please don’t take this literally). …” A. J. Zelada

      A. J. …”tavern zones”. That’s funny, glad you added a note not to take the suggestion seriously. People drinking to excess, are vulnerable road users, aggravated by their choice to drink to excess. Using the road excessively intoxicated on foot or otherwise, they’re irresponsible road users.

      As adults, they should not be accorded even close to the consideration granted to children are as vulnerable road users. Responsible members of communities should not be in any way, encouraging or enabling people choosing to be excessively intoxicated and then proceeding to use the road.

      Thanks for offering more of your thoughts on Vision Zero.

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      • Opus the Poet November 5, 2014 at 9:10 pm

        I’m wondering why the animosity towards people who consume alcoholic beverages. Granted that I loathe drunk drivers with a black hate that burns like a million suns because they are literally shooting a cannon at random in random directions (destructive power of a moving motor vehicle), I can see hating drunk drivers. All other drunks, too? Seriously that does not make good sense. They wobble, they fall down, but drunk pedestrians and cyclists are for the most part harmless unless armed.

        So why the hate?

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        • wsbob November 5, 2014 at 10:12 pm

          Animosity or hate towards people who consume alcoholic beverages, is neither what I feel towards those that do, or what most people commenting here, have been discussing.

          The issue is people that get very intoxicated, and then take to the road driving, walking,or biking, and whether that use of the road is or isn’t responsible.

          People walking or biking, intoxicated, on occasion, do get into collisions with people driving motor vehicles, and get injured or killed. Related to the extent their intoxication contributed to the occurrence of the collision, I don’t think they’re harmless.

          Drinking can be a fine, enjoyable activity that I’m glad people are able to enjoy as long as they do so safely. Let’s keep at this, and try not have the discussion go to extremes not represented in people’s comments.

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          • wsbob November 5, 2014 at 10:15 pm

            Slight correction: “Let’s keep the discussion at this level and try not have it go to extremes not represented in certain people’s comments.

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  • A, J, Zelada
    A, J, Zelada November 6, 2014 at 5:53 am

    Tomorrow, NYC starts 25 mph street speed limits. This something to rally around and rubber stamp here in Portland. http://www.nyc.gov/html/visionzero/pages/home/actions.html
    z

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  • wsbob November 8, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Here’s links to a couple stories I rounded up and read, yesterday and today:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/13/nyregion/de-blasio-looks-toward-sweden-for-road-safety.html?_r=1

    http://hejsweden.com/en/the-swedes-and-alcohol-about-drinking-in-sweden/

    Both seem to be fairly good, informative stories. Excerpt from the first one:

    “…In a departure from most American traffic safety approaches, including New York City’s, Swedish authorities have generally dismissed the effects of education or enforcement on pedestrian safety. They were critical of the blitz of jaywalking tickets during Mr. de Blasio’s early months in office and efforts by the New York Police Department to distribute cards with safety tips in areas with a recent history of fatal crashes.

    “Design around the human as we are,” said Claes Tingvall, the director of traffic safety at the Swedish Transport Administration and a godfather of the Vision Zero plan. …” NYtimes.

    Just go to and read the entire second article about Sweden and alcohol.

    It was good of A.J. Zelada to write about and express concerns he has with alcohol and the effect it may have on the potential for success people hope Vision Zero could have in the U.S. If I’m understanding the article correctly, Sweden tolerates only an 0.02 BAC in people that drive. Conversely, for people not driving, though still using the street by walking, biking, etc, the article suggests Swedes in general tolerate any level of alcohol intoxication people there choose…but only on weekends, not during the week. Maybe designing road infrastructure to accommodate this kind of behavior is part of what Claes Tingvall has in mind when he says: “Design around the human as we are,”.

    A.J., you haven’t said so yet, but maybe the 0.02 BAC limit for people driving, is one of the things you believe is essential for the success of VZ. And that the high intoxication level of people walking and involved in collision as indicated in your article, demands the BAC limit for people driving.

    The hejsweden article mentions some other things about alcohol in Sweden, one of which, is how expensive it is relative to the cost in nearby Germany.

    Let’s watch and see how well some of developments that may have been essential to the success of Vision Zero in Sweden, will go here in the U.S., NYC and the Portland Metro area.

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