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At die-in, ODOT says it’s already doing its best to improve street safety

Posted by on May 13th, 2015 at 6:52 pm


The protest was organized after a man biking across Powell Boulevard lost a leg in a collision with a turning pickup truck.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland unless noted)

About two dozen people lay in the one-way street outside the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Portland regional headquarters Wednesday afternoon in a mostly silent demonstration in support of safety improvements on Portland’s urban highways.

Most had biked to the spot; some lay their bicycles beside them. Others had walked; one said he’d walked downtown from North Portland.

Some were children. Some wore fake blood made from ketchup. One had brought a stack of signs: “Oregon Department of Traumatic Injury.”


“The objective is to bring changes to ODOT’s highways in Portland, where there are high-crash corridors, where too many Portlanders have been killed,” said Soren Impey, the Oregon Health and Science University professor and BikeLoudPDX organizer who called for the event on Monday morning. “The focus, we believe, is too much on speed and getting people through Portland as fast as possible.”


Impey said ODOT “has been dragging their feet” on what he called “inexpensive safety improvements” such as speed reduction, traffic signals and restriping lanes to make them narrower or fewer.


Standing on the sidewalk nearby, ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said the agency was “already putting a lot of money into a lot of safety projects” on Portland’s high-crash corridors.

“There are 10 of them in the city and three of them are ODOT’s,” Hamilton said: Southeast Powell, Southwest Barbur and 82nd Avenue. The worst of the three, he said, was actually 82nd.

“We’ve got fairly aggressive safety projects going in on them all right now,” he said.



Hamilton said the projects included improved visibility, better lighting, new traffic signals and left-turn arrows, and that “tens of millions” would be spent on them in the next few years.

“The next thing you’re going to ask me is why does it take so freakin’ long,” Hamilton said. “We have a lot of people involved in these projects. We need the input from people.”


Not everyone was there to protest. Ted, a local truck driver who wouldn’t give his last name, said he’d taken half the day off so he could come and see the event, which he called “Portland out of control.”

“These people, they go — they just go,” said Ted. “They’re too unpredictable. Their bikes are like this all the time.” Ted moved his hands forward in a wavy line.

rowe standing

Ted said that if Powell were reduced to one lane in each direction the way Division Street recently was, it’d double the amount of time it takes him to drive hsi truck across the city.

“I’m not paid for that,” he said. “I’m paid by the trip.”

(Over at the Mercury, news editor Dirk VanderHart has a nicely written piece focusing on Ted and the people who agree with him.)


(Photo: Caesar Ursic)

Back on the Flanders Street pavement, Impey said the protest was intended to be in support of people in cars and trucks, too.

“We’re here to represent everyone,” he said. “These high-crash corridors are dangerous for all Portlanders, not just people who are walking or biking.”


Correction 9:30 pm: A previous version of this post said the event happened on Tuesday. Today is Wednesday. It’s been a strange week.

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buildwithjoeDanDJ MooreBlue HeronJeg Recent comment authors
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“I’m not paid for that,” he said. “I’m paid by the trip.”

Exactly. The capitalists know how to keep their hegemony and their hands viced on the balls of transportation in Oregon. They will even make people who are simple blue collar wish to have things expedited that would make their own community WORSE. We need to stop bending over to the desire of landowners to turn Portland into a highway city with peripheral sprawl. We need to keep doing diets REGION wide. We need to also cut highway/road spending and put it for bikes and transit. Maintain our infrastructure, but give us a subway and worldclass pedestrian and biking infrastructure.

We have the clout, as a city (metro region) that plans, to be doing this. Why are we still viced by conservative business interests that even manipulate their workers into hating our cause? People and urbanity are important to protect culture in our city and allow more income diversity through inclusionary zoning; we should go a step further and lock our Urban Growth Boundary in place to make true to our mission.

Road funding should be going to bikes and transit! We should be maintaining or putting our city roads on diets. We need protected bike lanes. Any increase in demand can be eaten up by a city that walks, bikes, subways, MAXes, streetcars, and busses.


The number of acceptable traffic deaths is ZERO. As long as ODOT keeps prioritizing speed over human lives, people will continue to die.

Alex Reed
Alex Reed

The BTA hit the nail on the head with their statement – ODOT is not allocating the funding that fixing these urban highways warrants. Additionally, the small amount they are spending on safety for these highways is not being used effectively because ODOT has put tight strictures around safety projects’ impact on traffic flow.

Their 2013-15 biennial budget includes $824 million for highway capacity expansion (“modernization”).

I wasn’t able to dig up the bike/ped and safety funding quickly, but bike/ped comes from the $224 for “special programs” (which also includes a number of other things.)

I don’t see why we should be expanding highways in today’s tight fiscal climate. Safety and maintenance should come first. Imagine what an extra $824 million could do for bike/ped infrastructure, safety projects such as road diets, and our state’s extensive, and growing, road maintenance backlog!

In addition to tightfisted safety funding, ODOT does not seem open to even low-cost safety solutions like a Barbur road diet due to its prioritization of highway travel times.

These urban highways should have been made calmer and safe years ago. ODOT spent millions on road expansion instead.


Speaking of trucking, it should be heavily re-regulated with fixed salaries (not hourly wages, salaries) and pay for drivers divorced from productivity.
Incentivizing our fetish object called “efficiency” in driving jobs is a recipe for homicidally hurried driving. This is one place where our “free market” fairy tale is a stone f-ing failure.


“Ted” took the day off to be a bystander at a die-in?!


I want a full size highway billboard that says “The price of a quick commute shouldn’t be a human life. BUT IT IS.”

Some times I want a gruesome image of human carnage on the billboard with the words; some times I think maybe we could get away with one of those daily update boards that shows the number of automotive fatalities and injuries in Oregon since the beginning of the week, month and year.

Put them on the Banfield, I-5 North & South and the Sunset just outside the I-405 loop so the maximum number of stuck in traffic zombies can look and feel some small piece of shame for how they contribute to this problem.

Kenji Sugahara

So I’d like to explain to Ted that Powell is a high crash corridor that is dangerous not only for people on bikes and people who bike but also for motorists. When there is a crash there is delay- and if you look at the crash data- most of the crashes are motor vehicles. That delay causes more problems for freight rather than this trumped up idea that people on bicycles are the cause of congestion and delay.

Adam H.
Adam H.

Well, ODOT’s best isn’t good enough. Try harder.

Joe Rowe

Posted 9:20PM May 13

This is the most incomplete journalism I have seen on BikePortland, and some of the worst I’ve seen in Oregon.

Why do I say this?:

a) Too much text given to ODOT staff who distort the issues of the protesters. ODOT is simply out to build more pavement, and not concerned about the safety of existing roads. If the NTSA ran air safety the way ODOT builds roads we would have reporters not allowing the NTSA to just use propaganda with no facts to back it up.

b) Only one protester quoted, Soren, nice guy. One voice.

c) Then you quote a truck driver who blames cyclists. Would you report on the earth being flat to say you did an unbiased story on the earth?

d) Your only 2 links right now is anti bike journalism at the Mercury, and bike loud, which anyone could google, and would most likely better boost the cause

e) No links to all the data that myself and other protesters cited. This data shows that cars are subsidized by non car drivers, and even more. Just look at the data links from any one of 3 dozen bike activists like @bikesnobnyc

f) The pro corporate media spent their time taking recordings of most of the cyclists laying on the ground. I spoke and was laying their quietly for 20 min, and the BP staff failed to walk to me or anyone. Links tbd Better off reading them than BP.

g) Several people did street theater. (not mentioned) and BP staff were there to see it. The street artists (me & others) noted all the reasons dead cyclists are blamed
1) People 17 or older not wearing helmets
2) People without rear lights hit from behind
3) Blaming parents for cycling with kids Oregon Rep GreenLickMe
4) Blaming cyclists for not enough reflective clothing, 2015 law proposed
5) Blaming cyclists for bad roads, cause bike lanes cost too much
6) Blaming Alistair for speeding into a pickup that took his leg, when really the driver had several piors of reckless driving

h) A photo of people making out. Whatever. The photos are limited. None of the many cute babies and kids and moms there. There was a scene where over 2 dozen journalists cameras were clicking 3 times a second as I self immolated myself head to toe in blood in silence. I started by saying hey “do you see us now?”

i) cops on the scene were bad mouthing people for not having jobs. None of the media took up my offer to confront Sgt Jeremy Price who admitted he said it, but not towards Joe Rowe.

j) ODOT staff badgered me about using chalk. Then the highly paid communications division Don Hamilton of ODOT mentioned it being illegal. So fine, I told Don I would gladly take the citation all the way to the highest courts. Why? Because at least in court my voice would be on record about all the related data as to why I put 5 words on 5 bricks. Then Dan Hamilton, ODOT, refused to talk to the media about this. He refused to talk to me because he said he did not want his comments being made public. I said ODOT is a public agency, and it should be public. He demanded my name, and I demanded his card. Which he handed over with a big old frown.

I’d like to hear from some of the others who worked very hard to get our diverse messages out, and were heard by other professionals, but so typically, censored by the BikePortland mantra of not being radical.

If there are radical reporters and publishers out there contact me, and I’ll put you in touch with Soren and 20 other activists.

I dare bikePortland staff to approve this comment and respond. Joe

Scott H
Scott H

“Ted said that if Powell were reduced to one lane in each direction the way Division Street recently was, it’d double the amount of time it takes him to drive [his] truck across the city.”

No freight delivery or work commute is so important that it takes precedence over the lives of everyone else.

Alan 1.0
Alan 1.0

Is ODOT “already doing its best to improve street safety” when:

…its contractors paved a ridge down the center of the Coast bikeway?
…it used 15 year old standards on a major upgrade to outer Sandy?
…it rumble-cut the fog line on Marine Drive?
…declined to make Barbur safer during construction on that road?


Ooooh! Evil thought!
For every automotive related death in a state an annual insurance tax gets incremented 0.01%.
Not only a direct economic motivation but a social pressure not to be the #$&@%! that adds more cost everyone’s insurance plan.


To be fair to ODOT, ODOT is making a shorter crosswalk at SW BH Highway at Western Ave in 2015. However, that part of BH Highway lacks bike lanes. So much money is currently going to by-pass freeways and more car lanes on ODOT projects now, though.


So tell it to the man: Here is the email for the director of ODOT


ODOT’s defensive point by point response to the bike bill and associated court cases is, IMO, good evidence of their institutional reluctance to treat active transport equitably:

And like Alex I tried to find a detailed breakdown of ODOT spending on ped/bike infrastructure and failed. (I did find lots of detail about spending on salmon habitat restoration, however.)

Kevin Wagoner
Kevin Wagoner

This is nice but I don’t understand how it will be material in saving lives or injury.

1. Improved visibility
2. Better lighting
3. New traffic signals
4. Left-turn arrows

I would like to propose a more immediate action that will save lives.

1. Lower the speed limit tomorrow (or as long as it takes to put up new signs).
2. More protected cross walks (there are bus stops on barber with no cross walk and no sidewalk…not sure how that works).
3. Automate the enforcement of the speed limit.
4. Increase enforcement.

DJ Moore
DJ Moore

The problem is not all drivers, nor is it all riders. The problem is the small percentage of both. I am a bike rider myself (I don’t ride enough to call myself a cyclist). My wife is a cyclist(She rides with a team and rides everywhere). She normally keeps me on an even keel with foolish riders, but yesterday afternoon she wasn’t there. A rider was riding on the opposite side of the road in the bike lane, riding against the flow of traffic. He then pulled out into the opposite lane, without looking, of course the traffic should have been in front of him at that point. He then pulled into the center turning lane, without looking. After a few seconds he pulled into the lane of traffic I was in, again without looking. He then as he got into the lane looked over and finally saw me, and pointed into the lane. Did I fail to mention that he was not wearing any helmet, or reflective equipment.

At this time I got upset, here was a person riding a bike with no regard to any rules of the road, was flaunting the rules of the road as both a bicycle rider, and a pedestrian. As I pulled along side him, I did lose my cool, and inform him he had broken all sorts of rules, and was not helping the riding community at all, with his attitude. Words were exchanged. No I didnt rn him over, no one was hurt, but it got me to thinking.

The issue isn’t with the cycling or driving community as a whole, the issue is with the small percentage of both that can’t seem to follow the rules of either.

Please, if you are riding a bike, follow a single set of rules, either you are a pedestrian, and can walk against the flow of traffic and on sidewalks, and use crosswalks, or you are a cyclist and following the rules of the road, stopping with traffic, traffic signals, and signs. That doesn’t mean when you get to a stop sign or light and the walk signal turns you suddenly become a pedestrian.

Just something to think about, and for the guy yesterday, sorry about my attitude, and the fact that you cant follow any rules of the road, or care about how you represent the large body of riders who do follow the rules. Maybe they can be you example for future riding.