(Image: Google Street View)
In Oregon and Washington as in many states, every corner is a legal crosswalk, and all vehicles are supposed to stop for someone trying to use it.
But good luck getting people to stop for you at corners like Southeast 82nd Avenue and Cooper Street.
A preannounced police enforcement action at the crosswalk on March 25 resulted in 61 citations and four warnings, the most ever issued during one of Portland’s periodic crosswalk enforcement events.
“My guess is people just didn’t see me. That’s just my guess. But I don’t really know.”
— city employee Sharon White, who walked back and forth for two hours as part of enforcement action
“Sometimes they go in the lane in front of me and sometimes they go in the lane behind me,” said Sharon White, the Portland Bureau of Transportation employee who has, for 10 years, served as one of the people crossing in more than 80 such enforcement actions. “My guess is people just didn’t see me. That’s just my guess. But I don’t really know.”
Cooper Street is close to Portland’s southern border, south of Duke and north of Flavel. Though 82nd Avenue long ago ceased to be Portland’s eastern border, it remains a state highway, so infrastructure there is the responsibility of the Oregon Department of Transportation.
The previous record, set last June, had been 55 citations in 3.5 hours at Southeast Powell and 31st Avenue. (Powell, too, is a state highway inside city limits.) The city has been conducting the exercises at various locations since at least 2005.
Third place: last August, when police issued 52 citations in four hours at NE 82nd Avenue and Pacific Street. Like the recent March 25 action, that one was unusual because it was one of the few times the city has chosen to enforce the law at an unmarked crosswalk.
In all such actions, the number of citations depends not just on the number of violations but on the number of police officers available that day to participate. There are often more violations than the available officers can keep up with.
Many of the citations issued by police during these actions aren’t about the crosswalk itself. On March 25, the tally included 27 counts of failure to stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian, 17 people talking with a phone handset, six people driving with suspended licenses, five people passing a stopped vehicle at a crosswalk, three people failing to display license plates, one person driving uninsured, one seatbelt, and one simply cited for “careless driving.”
People are required to yield at crosswalks while using bikes as well as cars. (And yes, it’s also legal for someone on a bike to choose to cross the street using a crosswalk, and they have the right of way while doing so as long as they enter it at the speed of someone walking.) During these actions, police have regularly issued citations to people for failing to yield while riding a bicycle.
Gabe Graff, operations and safety manager with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said that on a four-lane road like 82nd Avenue, a button-activated crosswalk beacon would be an effective way to improve crosswalk compliance — at the crosswalks where such beacons are installed, at least.
“The rapid-flashing beacon is a good tool for those multi-lane roadways,” Graff said. “Not everyone’s aware of Oregon law that if you see a car stopped at a crosswalk then you also have to stop. But if there’s a flashing light there, then that’s more of an indication.”
ODOT has been putting substantial money into 82nd Avenue in the last decade, and more work is planned, including rapid-flash beacons at Division and pedestrian islands at Salmon/Harrison and Ash as well as various traffic signal replacements, sidewalk work and federally mandated curb ramps. The pedestrian island at Cooper was installed between 2007 and 2009. ODOT doesn’t have any current plans to further upgrade the intersection.