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BTA statement on 26th and Powell collision questions state priorities

Posted by on May 13th, 2015 at 11:22 am

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(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Rob Sadowsky, the executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance has issued a public statement about the serious injury collision that happened in southeast Portland on Sunday.

The statement lists five things Sadowsky feels need to happen in order to, “move from injuring, maiming, and killing people on the road to a place where traffic fatalities are few and far between.” The statement will be sent to BTA members later today.

I’ve shared it below in its entirety:

Imagine being a young athlete, 22 years old, on your way to visit your mother. In the blink of an eye, you get in a crash, nearly die, and lose your leg. That’s what happened to Alistair Corkett on Sunday and what sparked protests this week. Corkett’s life is changed forever, the driver who hit him will certainly carry this with him and Alistair’s mother will never think of Mothers Day in the same way.

On Monday, in response to this crash, nearly 100 people on SE 26th and Powell performed some “radical acts” as part of a protest: they rode bicycles on the street, stood next to it chatting, and walked across it confidently with their kids. These are activities that would be normal on a typical, healthy Portland street but Powell is not one of those. Despite the fact that a school and a park are along this street, we have become so used to it being dangerous that these perfectly legal activities, along with some signs, attracted police, two Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) staffers, and news helicopters.

That’s a sign that something is seriously wrong at this intersection. That’s a sign that we need to do something to allow people to walk, bike, and drive safely. It’s a sign that we must put our resources and efforts into fixing the city’s “high crash corridors” and dangerous intersections.

The fact is that this crash was entirely preventable. In fact, we believe that most crashes are preventable. Here’s what needs to be done to move from injuring, maiming, and killing people on the road to a place where traffic fatalities are few and far between:

CREATE PROTECTED BIKEWAYS AND SIGNALIZED CROSSINGS.
Sharing space works on slow, low-traffic streets like neighborhood greenways but Monday’s protest perfectly illustrated the need for separate, protected bikeways and signalized crossings on our big streets. It was remarkable to see how inefficient a busy street becomes when pedestrians cross at an unsignalized intersection and just a few bikes mix with a lot of cars in the same lane. Anyone frustrated by being stuck behind bicycles in their car should be quick to see the value of protected bikeways and signalized crossings.

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FIX HIGH CRASH CORRIDORS THAT CAUSE CONGESTION.
High Crash Corridors like Powell are streets that are disproportionately dangerous to their users. These streets essentially force people into cars. For many, the only way to cross them safely is in a car. The only way to move along them is in a car. Want to get to Cleveland High School? Get in the car. Little league practice at Powell City Park? Get in the car. The result? Lots of cars and a dangerous focus on moving those cars as quickly as possible to accommodate even more cars. If walking, biking, or taking transit were safer and more realistic options, there would be far fewer cars on the road competing for space.

BUILD POWELL-DIVISION HIGH CAPACITY TRANSIT.
We have an opportunity to fix Powell. Metro and Trimet are in the early stages of planning a high capacity transit route along inner Powell. It will likely run as far east as 82nd before turning north to run along Division. This project will include millions of dollars of improvements for walking and biking along its path but the current question is: is it worth the effort and expense to make improvements along the route itself or will improving parallel routes suffice? In other words: bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Powell…or a few blocks over? It is clear to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance that this project presents a perfect opportunity to finally make Powell safe for walking and biking.

EMBRACE VISION ZERO NOW.
We cannot wait for High Capacity Transit to addresses the current concerns at SE Powell and 26th, or on the SW Barbur Bridges, on 82nd Avenue, or any number of other High Crash Corridors. These are all places where the Oregon Department of Transportation has failed to make safety their top priority. The City of Portland is currently waiting for ODOT’s approval for a signal on SE Powell at SE 28th — two blocks west of Sunday’s crash — as part of their 20’s Bikeway project.

BUDGETS SHOULD REFLECT OUR VALUES: SAFETY AND HEALTH.
The Oregon Department of Transportation routinely states that safety is their top priority but the agency’s budget suggests otherwise. Every year, millions are spent on roadway expansion projects while high crash corridors like Powell continue to claim lives. For the amount already spent on new roadway projects like the Sunrise Corridor or planning for the failed Columbia River Crossing — projects with comparatively minimal safety benefit — ODOT could have made massive safety improvements to their most dangerous streets.  

Let’s be clear and intentional. As a city, the lesson of this one crash and this one intersection is important. The lesson is that Portland needs to be safe for kids, families, pets, people walking, people using wheelchairs, people bicycling, and people driving. And safe means you don’t take your life in your hands when you cross the street.  It is time for Vision Zero today, and that means real effort on the ground on intersections and roads like this one all across the city.

Sincerely,

Rob Sadowsky
Executive Director

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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9wattsBill WaltersEl BiciclerowsbobAlan 1.0 Recent comment authors
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Guest

BTA brand of activism…

1. Don’t ruffle any feathers, just observe what others do to make change
2. See groups actually making things happen/ getting things done
3. Chime in- I’m sure a letter to our members and a mention on BikePortland will do
4. Reflect back on how the BTA is the greatest and take credit for other peoples’ work
5. Go back to not ruffling feathers (More fundraising happening soon)

9watts
Guest
9watts

Safety is high on ODOT’s list – if the risk it to people in cars. Matt Garrett found $7M within a month of Steve Fritz’s death on I-5 to extend those cable barriers in the median.

ODOT needs to stop waffling with its curious metric of fatality free days
“ODOT’s goal is to achieve 175 fatality free days in one year. Last year they had 170.” http://bikeportland.org/2014/11/12/vision-zero-coming-focus-portland-113313
and embrace the full Vision Zero thing already.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

ODOT cares about your safety but only while you’re in a car.

PeeJay
Guest
PeeJay

I didn’t see any BTA involvement with Monday’s action until it was all over. But now they get to claim it as their own?

9watts
Guest
9watts

ODOT:
“In 2010, we had 175 fatality-free days, and we expect the number to be very close to that for 2011,” said Troy E. Costales, division administrator. “Our strategy is to do what we can to make that single fatality free day become a weekend, then a week and eventually a month – and more.”

next paragraph:
“Bicycle fatalities did not go down in 2011; in fact, bicycle fatalities resulting from car crashes more than doubled from 2010 to 2011 (from 7 to 15*), and local governments are already doing more to improve safety, such as adding dedicated, green-painted bicycle lanes. Still, increased awareness on the parts of both drivers and riders is critical. ODOT’s Safety Division is supporting a “Lighten Up… And Be Seen At Night” campaign to remind bicyclists how important it is to use lights and wear bright, reflective clothing.”

http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/GOVREL/pages/news/031912a.aspx

TonyT
Guest
Tony T

ODOD – Oregon Department Of Driving

RM Hampel
Guest
RM Hampel

Be careful what you wish for on SE Powell. If you make it perceptively slower for automobile traffic by whatever means, drivers will divert to other routes from outer SE to inner SE/Downtown. Look at what has and is happening on Division and Clinton streets: the city made Division less desirable/slower for inbound auto traffic (in the morning rush hour) resulting in many drivers switching to coming in on the Clinton St bikeway. Drivers will ALWAYS take the fastest route (or what they perceive as fastest) and cyclists and other vulnerable road users may suffer.

Andyc of Linnton
Guest
Andyc of Linnton

BTA, are you ready to take on ODOT over the St. John’s Bridge again or was that one attempt 10 years ago all we’ll ever see? I’d honestly like to know if this is also still on your radar. Thanks.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

“Sharing space works on slow, low-traffic streets like neighborhood greenways”

I can’t think of a greenway in Portland that would seriously qualify as low-traffic anymore. Especially in inner SE and NE Portland, where I’m constantly dodging not only cut-through traffic but speeding and distracted cross traffic as well. I witness hurried drivers crossing SE Ankeny, for example, failing to look both ways and cutting in front of bicyclists 5-10 times TWICE DAILY on my commutes. This is unacceptable. I feel like cyclists are being herded off to side streets so we don’t “slow down” car traffic, and then the car traffic is overrunning the side streets.

Kelly Francois
Guest
Kelly Francois

Are NE Broadway and NE Weidler ODOT operated roads? There is no way anyone can say those thoroughfares are safe for vulnerable road users. Living in Sullivan’s Gulch, I frequently see my elderly neighbors scurrying across these multi-lane highways. The speeding is insane, and just try crossing at an unmarked crosswalk. It is ridiculous.

CaptainKarma
Guest

How could you possibly have high speed/high capacity transit on Division now?

Michael
Guest
Michael

It feels like a nice and very safe statement from Mr.Sadowsky. Unfortunately it is not very specific when it comes to actual asks or demands.

For just one example – the paragraph on “build powell-division high capacity transit.” As he points out, this is already being looked at. What specific features does BTA want to see in light of the crash that just happened “to make Powell safe for walking and biking”? Unfortunately, we don’t know because they are not provided. it seems a missed opportunity – which is in line with people’s frustration about BTA.

Andyc of Linnton
Guest
Andyc of Linnton

I’m going to volunteer with the BTA next week to meet some folks in person. Maybe this is an avenue to discuss things with the organization.

https://btaoregon.org/join/#volunteer

Paul
Guest
Paul

I’m not sure what is meant by “signalized” crossings. In this instance, a red light/green light left turn arrow may have prevented the collision. However, more left turn arrows are going to flashing yellow, so that wouldn’t have necessarily made any difference.

Mark
Guest
Mark

I would like to see the BTA pressure legislators to provide *real* penalties for driving with a suspended license and for driving without insurance. The jackhole that severed Alistair’s leg was driving without insurance, something he’s been cited for previously.

How about that DUI driver, Jonathan Flesey, that had his license revoked *for life* ? He gets out of prison, and what does he do? DUI again. The judge went super easy on him because it wasn’t clear if he’d had the necessary diversion treatment, but the fact that he was driving at all was apparently no big deal.

Cervelo
Guest
Cervelo

Haven’t read all of the articles on the 26th/Powell collision, but did it say anywhere if the truck hit the bike; or did the truck turn in front of the bike resulting in the bike hitting the truck? If the bike hit the truck, where did the bike contact the truck – front half, back half, head on, etc. If the truck hit the bike, what part of the truck contacted the bike? Just trying to get a better picture of what actually occurred.
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One other thing, were they both in the intersection when the collision occurred? The truck must have had one of those “green ball” left turn signals that doesn’t have a green arrow? Those are extremely dangerous because when a distracted driver sees a green light they think “It’s green, I can go” but for a left turn that isn’t the case – they must yield to opposing traffic.
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Did the cyclist say why he thought the collision occurred? Was his bike not very visible because, for example, he was being passed by a southbound car on his left, making him invisible to the truck driver?
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Also, did it say anywhere if the cyclist was wearing high visibility clothing? And did it say if he was wearing a helmet? Just trying to figure out HIS attitude toward his own safety.
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A person running for office was quoted in the May 10th BP article as saying: “…….. Fragile human bodies stand no chance when they come in contact with metal machines weighing in at thousands of pounds and moving fast. Helmets and reflective clothing won’t change this reality….”
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Once the collision is under way that quote is correct, but the FACT is that high visibility clothing can help prevent the collision from happening in the first place. Any attempt at achieving VISION ZERO must address this or it cannot be taken seriously. Protective infrastructure is great when it is FINALLY installed, but in the mean time, those who value their own safety will decide to do everything they can to be seen by drivers of motor vehicles.

paul g.
Guest
paul g.

I just got back into town and read about this tragic incident. Sadly, I’m not surprised, and I hope this can finally spur the city and state into action.

I have crossed this intersection a LOT over the years as a cyclist and driver, as a SE resident and parent of now my third child at Cleveland. I don’t want to quibble with the BTA but they are missing the boat on a lot of the problems with this intersection, in my view. This is not about high capacity transit (there are already multiple bus lines that cross the intersection) nor about making *Powell* safe for biking.

This is about making 26th safe for biking and walking while acknowledging that this will be a very congested multi-modal crossing, and the cure for this intersection goes far beyond the ODOT and PDOT.

There are many moving parts in this intersection, and the problems are created by more than just Powell and 26th.

Among the other agencies, policies, and institutions that need to be considered:

1) PPS. Because we do not provide school buses at the HS level in Portland, 1200 high schoolers arrive from 7:30-8:15 and depart from 2:45-3:15. I don’t have statistics on this, but my experience over 8 years is that well over half, maybe 75% do so by single occupancy vehicles.

Cleveland is very poorly situated for this kind of drop off and pickup, as anyone who has tried to bicycle along 26th around those times of day knows (many cars stop right in the bike lanes; the TriMet buses block the bus lanes going south on 26th).

2) Fred Meyer. There is a major FM corporate office and warehouse facility on this street.

3) Freight. There are only two river crossings for large vehicles from the SE: Holgate and Powell. Only Powell provides direct access to I-5 going south.

4) SEIU: has a building just to the south on 26th with a driveway on 26th.

Among the various things I would suggest:

– Ban large trucks from 26th street between Gladstone and Division. Divert large trucks down Gladstone around 22nd. Signalize 22nd. Ban street parking on 22nd between Bush and Powell to allow space for the large trucks to maneuver.

– Expand the left turn lanes going both north and south on 26th. Consider lengthening the left turn signals at keys times of day when there is heavy traffic on N/S 26th.

– Work with the principal and PTA at Cleveland to enforce the ban on parking in the bike lane in front of Cleveland on 26th. Put school administrators out there every morning and afternoon is necessary to enforce the ban. There is “5 minute” parking allowed about 200 feet beyond the intersection this is routinely ignored by parents.
Relatedly, remove some of the street parking along Franklin Street–this should be the “kiss and go” zone but it is far too narrow to accommodate cars parked on both sides and two lanes of traffic.

– Ask SEIU to close off the 26th driveway; all traffic can enter on 25th.

paul g.
Guest
paul g.

Holgate crosses the train tracks–sorry thats the barrier, not the river.