Under a bill due for its first reading in Salem this afternoon, the state of Oregon would create a new task force to “examine strategies to reduce and eliminate traffic crashes … by a specific target date.”
House Bill 2736 would be “kind of the first step in the conversation” about a statewide Vision Zero policy, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Director Rob Sadowsky said in an interview Wednesday.
In addition to the Oregon Department of Transportation, the task force will include representatives of the Oregon Health Authority and State Police.
“It’s not completely bypassing, but it’s taking the step of getting the legislature actively engaged on Vision Zero, not waiting for ODOT to come up with a policy,” Sadowsky added, referring to the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Sadowsky said his biking advocacy group, working in partnership with its counterparts at Oregon Walks, have been pursuing such a bill for a while.
“We didn’t know until this morning whether ODOT was going to stand aside,” Sadowsky said. “If it’s gotten this far, we believe that they’re at least standing and letting it pass.”
The task force would prepare a report to an interim committee of the state legislature by September 2016.
Other groups and interests to be represented on the committee: people with disabilities, seniors, freight carriers, passenger cars, transit providers, people walking, people biking, people of color, the Federal Highway Administration, the governor and two people “who have knowledge of Vision Zero policies.”
HB 2736 wasn’t always intended to cover Vision Zero; when it was first introduced it was intended to study speed bump height and markings. But because the deadline for introducing a bill has passed, the Vision Zero text was inserted using a method referred to as “gut-and-replace.”
Sadowsky said that ODOT’s top safety executive Troy Costales, who has in the past “been reluctant to use the words Vision Zero,” seemed to be more open to the concept.
“Instead of deaths, he’d rather talk about the number of days where they don’t have fatalities,” Sadowsky said. “In return, we’ve said ‘OK, give us Vision 365.'”
But a meeting this morning, Sadowsky said, “was the first time I ever heard [ODOT Director] Matt Garrett and Troy Costales openly talking about vision zero as inevitable.”
The BTA has more information on its website.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.