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Protest on SE Powell slows traffic, draws big crowd

Posted by on May 11th, 2015 at 6:25 pm

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Portlanders who want safer streets showed up in force today at the busy intersection of 26th and Powell in southeast Portland. They were spurred into action after a gruesome collision on Sunday severed a man’s leg off. Alistair Corkett was bicycling south on Powell when a man driving a truck in the opposite direction turned left. The collision sent Corkett to the hospital where he’s undergone multiple surgeries.

Corkett is a 22-year old budding bicycle racer who’s life has been forever altered — and he’s one of dozens of people who have been victims of traffic violence at this intersection. City data shows this is the most dangerous intersection on Powell between SE 7th and SE Cesar Chavez, with 73 injuries from 2004 to 2013.

At tonight’s event upwards of 100 people actively took part in the protest by biking and walking repeatedly, and legally, through the intersection. The goal was to slow down traffic and the event was strategically held during rush hour to have the most impact. At times there were dozens of walkers and bikers using the intersection at the same time. Some in the lane and filling the bike boxes, and others in the crosswalks and on the adjacent sidewalks. Many held up signs and there was a large presence of local TV and print media.

Here’s how it looked…

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This was a heated exchanged that thankfully fizzled out in just a few minutes.
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There was also a simultaneous protest at the unsignalized intersection of 25th and Powell where people repeatedly walked in the marked crosswalk and forced cross traffic to wait for them. While people stopped traffic, others stood on the sidewalk and called out license plate numbers of drivers who they felt drove dangerously or illegally.

While I never saw any physical contact between people or vehicles, there were several shouting matches throughout the protest. On two separate occasions a person got out of their car as arguments escalated into shouting and finger-pointing. Once at 26th, a man in a tow-truck nearly got into a fight with a bicycle rider. A large crowd gathered around but eventually cooler heads prevailed. In another incident, a woman got out of her car after people at 25th yelled at her for talking on her phone while people crossed in the crosswalk. A reporter from The Oregonian caught it on camera:

Sellwood resident Dan Kaufman organized the event. He has a son enrolled in Cleveland High School, which is adjacent to the intersection, and he’s worried about his safety. Kaufman is fed up and tired of waiting for Powell to be safer while people continue to get injured. Throughout the event Kaufman, who was there with his three sons and wife Kirsten, spoke into a mic hooked up to an amp on his trike.

“We are absolutely devastated by what happened here yesterday,” he shouted, “It was a horrible tragedy, and it happens here on Powell Boulevard, all the time.”

Kaufman has succeeded in garnering attention to his cause. Portland Mayor Charlie Hales mentioned the protest in a press statement today and tonight’s event was attended by Shelli Romero, the Oregon Department of Transportation’s interim area manager for Region 1. In an interview, Romero told me ODOT is in the early stages of development and design on a safety project that will invest $3.8 million on Powell Blvd between 20th and 34th. Romero said the project would include improved crossings, as well as ADA and transit enhancements funded by TriMet.

At 26th, Romero said ODOT wants to update the traffic signal. “We want to redo this signal so there will be not more permissive lefts — it’s going to be signalized so it will prevent the kind of accident that just happened.”

“We all agree that there are fatals and serious injuries on this corridor that need to be addressed,” Romero continued. “We’re moving forward and we’re going to get safety improvements on the ground as soon as we can… But those improvements won’t be on the ground until 2017.”

Kaufman overheard our conversation and soon he and Romero were having a spirited discussion.

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Dan Kaufman and ODOT’s Shelli Romero.

“What you need to do first is put safety first and that’s not happening,” Kaufman said, “And that has historically not happened. We’ve had enough!… I talked to the vice president of the school [Cleveland High] and he’s telling me a kid just got put in the hospital 10 days ago, and a few months ago another kid got hit-and-run by a Cleveland parent if you can believe that. He’s surprised it doesn’t happen more often. Talk to anyone who has gone to Cleveland and they’ll tell you this is a disaster and it’s on your doorstep and needs to be fixed, not sometime down the road. It needs to be fixed now! 2017 isn’t soon enough and your changes will be highway-centric. I have to worry about my son every day.”

Romero replied, “We agree. And we’re working as hard as we can to get it done as fast as we can, but it’s a very complex corridor with the geometry of the roadway and the visibility and the way it curves makes it a very complicated project.”

While Romero didn’t have the answers Kaufman was looking for, the two kept things respectful and shook hands after their conversation.

And that was a large part of tonight’s event. It brought many people together to talk about road safety. Some people disagreed with each other and hashed out their differences — others supported each other and made plans to take action.

One woman held up a sign that read, “Mom Against Bikes on Road: Honk if you agree.” While you might think a sign like that would lead to a hostile reaction, I was pleased to see several people engaging her in discussion.

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I also met Alyssa Hadley, a 16-year old sophomore at Cleveland High School. I asked why she came to the protest. “I don’t want to get hit!” she replied. The biggest issue? Speeding. “Cars don’t follow the speed limit and it’s not enforced,” she said.

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Alyssa Hadley.

Taizz Medalia was holding up a sign that read, “ODOT, Do Your Job.” She’s a mother of two who came down for north Portland to show her support. “I can just imagine if I was that mom,” she told me, “hearing that news.” “I think when streets are safe for bicyclists they’re actually safer for everybody, including cars. I asked about her impressions of Powell after standing beside for a while. “It’s horrible, it’s absolutely dangerous. Now I know why my kids have told me this is a death trap.”

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Taizz Medalia.

I also noticed another mom in the crowd. Someone who knows tragedy all too well. Kristi Finney’s son Dustin was killed by a drunk driver while bicycling on SE Division back in 2011 and she held his photo in her arms as she walked down Powell hoping to find Kaufman and learn how she could support his calls for change.

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Kristi Finney.

Alistair Corkett was lucky he wasn’t killed on Sunday. His mom Julia Corkett was at tonight’s event and was smiling as she received hugs from supportive friends and took to the microphone to say a few words.

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“I appreciate you all for coming out and supporting Alistair and to fix this problem that needs to be fixed.” Corkett told the crowd that Alistair is “doing well” and that while he had a “terrible thing happen to him” he’s alive and it could have been much worse.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Chris Anderson
Guest

I had a few drivers roll down the window and ask why the slowdown. Once they heard about yesterday’s collision they were very supportive. One man even parked and joined in.

Of course most drivers had no idea why, as the backup was long enough you couldn’t see the signs much until you got to the intersection.

Lesson learned: shutting down Powell or other arterials is very effective, and could even be done by just a handful of people. Today the people of Portland took Powell back from ODOT for a few hours, and there’s no reason we couldn’t do this everyday until they transfer jurisdiction.

Eli
Guest

BikeLoudPDX is hosting a second protest two days from now:

Wed, May 13, 4pm
123 NW Flanders (ODOT Region 1 Headquarters)

This time it’ll be a die-in, complete with fake blood.

Joe Rowe
Guest

The Oregonian said I did not move for several signals while in my car. They should have reported that I was following the law and avoiding a $360 fine by not turning right. 811.260 http://www.stc-law.com/bike_right_turn.html

Here’s the picture:
http://s.oregonlive.com/SHxZ6Qc

I really wanted to ride my bike today. I did not feel safe, so I drove. I think a lot of people think like me. I even took video in case any crazy bikes attacked my car, or cops gave me tickets for missing “several” signals.

If you could not make the protest the best things you can do

a) put your Oregon State lawmakers in your cell phone. Then call them and demand they write you a response!

https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/FindYourLegislator/leg-districts.html

b) Cut down your donations to the useless Oregon BTA and send the money to the PAC at Cascade Cycling. They are the best bang for your buck until Portland creates PAC to fight deadly cars.

c) Come to meetings of Bike Loud PDX
http://bikeloudpdx.org/index.php/Calendar

GB
Guest
GB

From a driver’s perspective. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFQbwNsf8KA

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
kiel johnson

Glad to see ODOT engaged in the conversation. Didn’t see any kind of bike access included in list of what to do on Powell. Maybe next 20 years?

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

House district 42: Rep.RobNosse@state.or.us
Senate district 21: Sen.DianeRosenbaum@state.or.us

ethan
Guest
ethan

2017??

2000 mother trucking 17?
What in the gosh darn heck is this bull excrement!?

I hope I live long enough to make it to the die-in.

Charley
Guest
Charley

This strikes me as a really, really big deal. There was nothing like this for Sparling or Jarolimek, which suggests to me that something has changed. I think this is wonderful.

peejay
Guest

Sorry I couldn’t make it, but I noticed two of my signs did! Looks like we made our point, though I think we need to keep making it.

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

If the choice is between a good solution in 2017 and a crappy one now, I’m tempted to suggest that waiting is ok. What worries me is that we’ll wait 2 years and the solution will still be crappy.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Dad Against Misplaced Apostrophes.

Andrew Bu
Guest
Andrew Bu

I thought the protest was spectacular. What a wonderful display of civic pride with just a tinge of civil disobedience.

I am coming from the viewpoint of a cyclist who moved to Portland because it is bike friendly. The grass isn’t as green as it could be, but it is still doing a pretty fantastic job. I do not live around Powell, so I don’t have the tie of it being my neighborhood.

I don’t think the bike protest and the people walking in the crosswalk should have been at the same time. Here’s why:

There is already enough bad blood towards cyclist. The bike portion of the protest did not actually slow down traffic too much. It led traffic to be at a speed which maybe it should always be for that part of Powell.

The protesters walking back and forth in the crosswalk was what made it a crawl for cars. It was effective, we’re all talking about how great the protest was. And likely no one’s opinion on the issue of bikes, road safety, and Powell Boulevard was going to change because of the protest, people feel how they feel. But the people backed up at Powell will blame cyclists.

(I acknowledge that for safety reasons it was smart to have the occasional person go over the crosswalk to slow cars down further and make it safer for cyclist as they were biking during the protest.)

Tom SEPDX
Guest
Tom SEPDX

As a bike and car commuter to work, I’m pretty disappointed in this protest. There are already plenty of people in this city that have a negative outlook towards cyclists and agitating them in an already irritating situation (rush hour) is only taking a step backward. Stand on the sidewalks with signs to protest – this would’ve drawn plenty of attention to get ODOT to act, as they did. It’s pretty shameful to see heated arguments go down in the middle of Powell. By souring the reputation of the common cyclist, you put more people at danger than you are trying to keep safe. We want an environment where the road is willingly shared – this was a bad approach.

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

I jogged through the event on my commute home and even made a few crosswalk traverses further up Powell to reemphasize the point. I think this was a really simple, quick, and effective demonstration. I bet doing this once every few months would have better results than the millions of dollars of road adjustments coming soon (errr, I mean 2017 at earliest).

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I am not surprised to hear that a student was hit by a another student’s parent, although the fact that they would flee the scene points to them probably being intoxicated, why else would they leave. I remember seeing a safe routes to school statistic that more than half of injuries to kids walking or biking to school are caused by a classmates parent. Reducing the number of parents who drive their kids to school makes all the kids at that school safer.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Like all of you, I am so horrified about this. I’ve also given what money I can to the fund. Many place the blame of this event on reckless driving, or ODOT’s mismangement, or a dangerous intersection. Like many of you, I also live near to this intersection.

The problem isn’t any of these things. Those are symptoms of the problem. The problem is that we live in a car-centric society which places life and limb beneath convenience. It isn’t a given that cars exists, and the multitude of problems in our society which stem from them aren’t a fact of life. It’s important to remember that is possible to stop contributing to this problem.

I don’t feel this event addresses the correct problem.

Since I gave up driving, I see more and more what a menace cars are to us, animals and the planet. It’s a dirty game which I could no longer ethically contribute to. As Portland grows over the next few years, the only way for it to cope with that amount of additional cars on the streets is for more streets to become like Powell Blvd.

They nailed it with this article: http://bikeportland.org/2014/02/24/editorial-a-pro-bike-lane-argument-that-seems-to-work-23-powell-boulevards-101922

No one wants that.
Drive less.
Ride More.

It’s a win win for everyone. Thanks to Bike Portland for covering these important issues in our city.

Ryan

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

I was amused that (a pretty convincing replica of) the General Lee from The Dukes Of Hazzard drove by and honked its Dixie horn.

barb lin
Guest
barb lin

My friend Moss wrote of the SE bike lock incident that driving is an experience surrounded by armor and biking is an experience of being totally vulnerable. We naturally have to have our defensiveness raised whenever we enter traffic, we don’t get to approach it as a right or an entitlement, or a mindless daily chore – its a challenge, a puzzle, an adrenaline rush, a battle. Greeways, bikeways and side streets for me whenever possible, life is too short for all that anger. http://mxmossman.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-encounter.html

RM Hampel
Guest
RM Hampel

Scott H
Some of that probably has to do with this happening in front of a school.I’d like to think that everyone is tired of ODOT employees collecting a paycheck while (seemingly) not caring that people are killed and injured on our roads. I know I am.Recommended 5

That’s not at all a fair comment. I met and spoke with Shelli Romero a couple of months ago in a social situation. She really cares about this exact issue on Powell. In fact, she asked me, as a regular cyclist and resident of the area about what I thought should be done about Powell. ODOT has been working on this issue for some time. It’s not a simple one. And this is not, and hasn’t been a project on the back burner. They’re actively working on it. They’re not just “collecting a paycheck”. Sadly, a driver with a long history of bad road behavior gravely injured a cyclist. And now we’re all (rightly) outraged.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

From what I can tell, the narrowest parts of Powell west of I-205 are 58 feet curb to curb. That’s probably allocated to 12’/11’/12’/11’/12′ based on historical ODOT lane allocation. It’s a major freight route, so space for those mirrors when two trucks are next to each other is a limiting factor.
Add to this it is posted for 35 mph.

If Powell is to remain as a major city traffic street with the primary function to move auto traffic between the west side and far east side of Portland (big if), do we really need the center turn lane? It would be safer to remove those left turns, and half or more of the center turn lane space could be reallocated for roadside users like pedestrians or cyclists. This could focus widening projects (and limited funding) on only the major crossings.

What alternative east-west streets could serve the same function? Should we funnel traffic to one street or spread it out (even if it means more traffic on a Holgate type of street?).

Michael
Guest
Michael

two quick thoughts:

first, I was not there – but this reminded me of the campaign that was highlighted a few weeks ago on BP – where one of the slogans was:

“Stop killing us” (or something similar ). the directness and simplicity of that message is powerful

Second, every time I see the photo of that woman with the sign that reads “mom against bikes on the road: honk if you agree” it makes me cringe – that is so offensive and inappropriate given the circumstances. For crying out loud, someone just had a serious injury and people are upset and grieving and have a right to express their anger and grief. While I understand the first amendment and all, there is a time and place.

Aside from the callousness of her timing, of course, I have issue with her message. She is essentially saying Alistair had no right to ride his bike. This is blaming the victim. Moreover, the message is based on a false premise. cars have no inherent right to own roads. Roads carried pedestrians and bikes existed before cars; and people who drive need to respect that.

Sho
Guest
Sho

So what were the directions of travel for each party? This post states Alistair was travelling south on Powell however the previous post states the incident occurred from both parties on 26th. If one was on 26th and one on Powell with a left hand turn that would mean someone ran a red opposed to turning into oncoming traffic. However it is kind of ironic that the protest took place targeting Powell when the incident was due to 26th ave traffic, none the less Powell crosswalks around there are pretty treacherous.

“Alistair Corkett was bicycling south on Powell when a man driving a truck in the opposite direction turned left”

5/10 BP post – “A collision involving a pickup truck and a bicycle critically injured a man biking southbound on 26th Avenue just before 10 a.m. Sunday morning.

Police said the injured man’s leg was severed after the northbound truck turned left onto Powell in front of him”

alynn
Guest
alynn

I totally get the importance of the situation, but please also respect that I have to pick up kids at daycare and that it costs A LOT of money to be late…being stuck in traffic jam caused by protesters trying to make a (valid) point to lawmakers. Who was affected? The hundreds of people stuck in their cars, stressed out about being late for work, late to pick up kids, etc. PLEASE GIVE US DUE WARNING NEXT TIME.

Don’t get me wrong – I have three kids and I don’t let them walk near the street – I support the cause. BUT….rawr.

davemess
Guest
davemess

“Alistair Corkett was bicycling south on Powell when a man driving a truck in the opposite direction turned left.”

Jonathan, you guys have had a few postings and comments of witnesses of the accident. Do we (or you) have a better idea of what actually happened? As a few reports had the cyclists running a yellow light and then crashing into the back end of the truck that was already turning.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

It takes till 2017 to put in a couple signals? Government proving once again they are good at only one thing…taking your money. That is always done with great speed.

Oregon Mamacita
Guest
Oregon Mamacita

The photos paint a much less successful protest than the prose. One picture- of white traffic vigilantes fighting a with a female African American driver, is quite ugly. Also, the conflict with the tow tuck driver suggests that the protest could be generating some bad publicity with the general public.

Trapping people in cars to protest X is a Hart Noecker-style tactic and it should come out of the playbook. One of these days it is going to end really badly, either by creating a confusing situation for a driver who hits the wrong pedal, or because you have stopped some Gypsy Jokers or someone with a gun.

There is a real sense of being above the law on this blog, and a tolerance for vigilante justice. Good luck with that. If we had a mayor with cajones
the gal with the big tats on her thighs would be arrested.