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Traffic enforcement action uncovers rampant law-breaking on SE Powell

Posted by on June 3rd, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Powell protest ride-50.jpg

Police wrote up 60 violations in less than four hours at this location last week.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Illegal and dangerous behaviors are rampant on the streets of Portland. Most of us who use the streets are keenly aware of this, but every time the Bureau of Transportation does a crosswalk enforcement action we see the problem even more clearly.

On May 27th, PBOT and the Portland Police Bureau teamed up for an enforcement action at the marked crosswalk that runs across SE Powell Blvd at 24th. Like always, the event was publicized ahead of time both in the media and via signs on the street. What’s interesting about this location is that it’s the same crosswalk that protesters used on May 11th to bring awareness to safety issues on this corridor. At that event, dozens of people took turns using the crosswalk during rush-hour with the explicit intent of making people using Powell stop and wait for them.

When PBOT sent their human decoys out for this latest enforcement action (they’ve been doing them consistently for the past 10 years), police officers issued 60 violations in under four hours (10:00 am to 1:45 pm).

Here’s the breakdown:

    – 18 Failure to stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian
    – 14 Operating a vehicle while using a mobile communication device
    – 7 Passing a stopped vehicle at a marked crosswalk
    – 2 DWS [Driving While Suspended] (violation)
    – 1 DWS (Misdemeanor)
    – 1 Careless Driving
    – 2 Failure to obey a traffic control device,
    – 3 No operator’s license
    – 1 No proof of insurance
    – 4 Driving uninsured
    – 1 Failure to drive within lane
    – 1 Operating without proper fenders or mudguards
    – 1 Expired registration tags, 1 Obstruction of vehicle windows
    – 1 Speeding
    – 2 Failure to register vehicle
    – 2 warnings

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If that scary tally doesn’t convince everyone that we are dealing with a public health crisis, I don’t know what will. And for what it’s worth, this is not an aberration. Back in April, the police issued 61 citations in four hours at a similar crosswalk on 82nd Ave.

As the City of Portland and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance ramp up their efforts to implement a vision zero policy (based on the idea that we should not accept any traffic injuries or deaths), I’m glad to know that enforcement will play a key role. At yesterday’s traffic safety meeting, PBOT Director Leah Treat and her boss, Commissioner Steve Novick, both said they are eager to start using fixed speed radar cameras on Portland’s high crash corridors. And the City’s two-year transportation work plan calls for more red light cameras.

But engineering and enforcement will only get us so far. Education and cultural change must happen too.

Mayor Hales began to find his traffic safety education and marketing voice at yesterday’s press conference. He told reporters that, “It’s not OK to put other people at risk for our own convenience… It will take years and millions of dollars to re-engineer the city the way we believe we need to. It will take a huge effort by the police bureau with enforcement to make sure we penalize drivers who don’t do the right thing. But today, this afternoon we can all drive differently. We can all look around, slow down, pay attention, get rid of the telephone and follow the law. That’s common sense. And those are things we can do today.”

Amen.

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9wattsPaul in the 'CouvegrumpcyclistTaitChris Anderson Recent comment authors
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9watts
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9watts

And, let’s not forget, these actions are done with plenty of advanced warning (unlike the Ladd’s stings where no decoys are used in the crosswalks at Ladd’s circle; the question is stop sign compliance in the absence of any humans(.

dave
Guest
dave

This is missing a couple critical datapoints if we want to draw any kind of conclusion from it.
How many vehicles could be expected to travel this section of Powell normally over that period? Presumably some drivers received more than one citation – how many drivers were stopped and sited? How many vehicles stopped properly for the crossing and were not pulled over or sited for anything?

Justin Carinci
Guest
Justin Carinci

How did they cite two for failure to obey a traffic control device? I can’t picture any device at this crossing, if it’s where I think it is.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

The scariest part of this is that assuming that some of these folks probably got multiple tickets but even if it was only one ticket per stop 4 of 60 tickets were for driving uninsured. Being hurt is bad enough, but being disabled by someone’s incompetence or inattention and then having no chance to recover the massive costs associated with your recovery is far worse. We have to figure out some way to increase the insurance compliance rate.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I have a proposal for the Mayor and the PPB: you do this every day in multiple places around the city, and we will fund your PERS.

That list of infractions is insane considering the short amount of time they were present. The next time someone talks about “scofflaw cyclists”, I’m going to laugh in their faces.

Paul Hanrahan
Guest
Paul Hanrahan

I agree with Chris. Milwaukie has come down hard with speeders over the last couple of years and the result is very few speeders on Mcloughlin going through that part of town. The tickets will pay for themselves and encourage safe driving habits.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

These stings are good. But, they are uncommon and rather publicized in advance. Do they actually change driver behavior (all the other drivers who were not ticketed or warned or in the area that day)?

Secondly, it’s my theory that these stings actually dilute the PPB’s everyday enforcement activities for this type of traffic law breaking. I think the PPB have learned that traffic policing is only done 4 times per year, and only when the mayor and the news crews are there to document it. The other 361 days per year, it’s business as usual for traffic enforcement: DUI late night near downtown, speed traps on I-5, and hassling minorities and teenagers in East Portland. Is there any incentive for police to be monitoring cross walks and speeding in residential neighborhoods, around schools, and on bike arterials during the day other than these few large scale events? I have seen the response of 823-SAFE requests for police action enforcement for unsafe activities: the police officer will park their cruiser in a conspicuous spot at the requested area for a couple of hours and do nothing else. Perhaps they are catching up on paper work. But, no speed guns, no going after people, no talking or outreach – just sitting there. Citizen request has now been satisfied.

When will city of Portland figure out how to actually enforce traffic laws in a way that is not a media circus event?

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

They need to put these up on Youtube. How in the world do you manage to get a careless driving ticket at a crosswalk enforcement. (which are usually announced!)

How are more people driving suspended or w/o licences than driving uninsured? Someone else’s car? Can we ticket them for letting someone drive their car without a license?

younggods
Guest
younggods

I’m curious how these enforcements work… when I’m standing in a crosswalk, waiting for traffic to stop, often a long string of a dozen or more cars will pass. Would PPB have pulled over all dozen of these drivers in this situation? Honestly over a 4 hour period I would expect hundreds of violations, if they were able to be caught.

Rob
Guest
Rob

60 in 4 hours is probably about how many tickets they can issue(1 every 4 minutes), not how many ticketable offenses occurred.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Hey Jonathan, do you have any idea what happened after the tickets for driving without a license or insurance were written? Were the cars towed? It seems like the right answer would not be to allow the person to continue driving if they don’t have a license and/or insurance.

paul g.
Guest
paul g.

How many of these were multiple violations for one person (e.g. failure to stop, also while talking on a cell phone, and hey you have a suspended license!)

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

Unsignalized crosswalk stings are BS because 99%+ of Oregon drivers do not know the full definition of crosswalk (801.220) or when someone has indicated they want to cross. (811.028)

How many drivers know that you don’t have to stop for a ped who simply pushes the button at a passive, marked crossing (RRFB)? The ped still has to move a body part or ‘thing’ into the roadway.

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

I would prefer to see pedestrian safety stings at signalized intersections where peds are most vulnerable and in low-light or dark conditions, where they are hardest to see.

spencer
Guest
spencer

This is not new behavior, its consistent with what we all know. Infrastructure needs to change to minimize the effects of human error. It’s farcical to believe that we can change human behavior. We need to design infrastructure to accommodate human errors into the equation, while still keeping our roads safe for all people.

jeg
Guest
jeg

” It will take years and millions of dollars to re-engineer the city the way we believe we need to. It will take a huge effort by the police bureau with enforcement to make sure we penalize drivers who don’t do the right thing. But today, this afternoon we can all drive differently. We can all look around, slow down, pay attention, get rid of the telephone and follow the law. That’s common sense. And those are things we can do today.” -Hales

And it only took people dying and lots of people annoying me for me to even say this, and tomorrow I’ll probably go back to not caring.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

No drivers license, No Insurance, suspended license, DUI?. I thought these were impoundment violations. I know they used to be when I graduated from Benson in 62. A couple of years ago a DUI was an automatic loss of driving priviledges for a year for the first. Oh I get it! A drunk driver is not responsible for what he/she is doing! Give me a break judge.

wkw
Guest
wkw

Enforcement is nice, but unless constant, like a stop light camera; will not have a lasting effect. Rather have more engineering for safety.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Drivers cited for failure to yield should be required to serve as the pedestrian decoy for the next enforcement action. THAT would cause a change in behavior.

Tomas LaPalella
Guest
Tomas LaPalella

Yes, if anything is going to convince poor working class people who can’t afford insurance or plate renewal, it’s a $240 ticket for improper mudflaps

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

The BTA is not the only organization working on Vision Zero. Oregon Walks has been a huge part of this conversation, and they deserve mountains of support for the work they do around these issues.

Chris "Clodhopper" Balduc
Guest
Chris "Clodhopper" Balduc

What about tinted windows? Aren’t they illegal in Oregon? It’s bad enough when I cannot make eye contact with a driver or I don’t know if they see me or not.

Dave Hogan
Guest
Dave Hogan

So how do we get the city to do more of these?

Or if the city won’t do more, what would it take for a few people with halfway decent cameras to run their own sting?

David Lewis
Guest

I ride a high performance BMW motorcycle (same model as cop bikes), and just for fun I ride the speed limit. I am passed by every Tom, Dick & Harry and their grandmothers on every single road in Portland with room to pass. I have made a game out of it; if I’m in the pole position at a light, I’ll use all 1200cc to zoom out in front until I get to 35mph or whatever the speed limit is, and then see how long it takes before I am overtaken, which is never very long at all.

Let’s face it: motor vehicle operator permits are a joke, traffic laws are not enforced and fuel is cheap. We are 0 for 3.

The state is responsible for licenses. The city, county and state are responsible for law enforcement, which they save for special occasions, and wars and fracking have saved us from expensive pickled dinosaur blood as fuel. We have our bases covered!

This story was a report on a dog and pony show, and it’s clear how much government serves the people it is supposed to, which is only during crises. How about when things are going well?

jason a driver
Guest
jason a driver

okay so I kind of stand on all sides of this topic I think everybody needs to be held accountable when we deal with the road correctly. as a driver I respect the bicycles I stop for people crossing the roads I stopped to let other Cars enter the road. as a driver here is my issue I have witnessed time and time again multiple times a day irresponsible pedestrians and bicyclists not using crosswalks jumping out in front of traffic causing rearend accidents , pile ups, multiple times a day do I witness people of all ages gray hair, parents with their children(badbadlesson)crossing one block away from an intersection where there’s a crosswalk I am all for putting more crosswalks in that stopped traffic lights that stop traffic to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to Cross, safer, no excuses to not stopt. Everybody stops first. what I don’t get is why the cops put so much effort into pulling drivers over and raking them for their money when do we hold the pedestrians and bicyclists accountable to do the right thing also they’re the ones jumping in front of traffic and getting themselves ran over majority of the time we cannot excuse the impaired drivers that swerve off the road and hit people or impatient ones that go around cars that are turning and run somebody’s kid over there is nothing we can do to change that thoughtless careless person but I just don’t see y police always hammering on the drivers when it’s the pedestrians a bicyclist jumping in front of traffic a lot, all day long because their in a hurry also. I be glad to stop for anybody anytime but I’m also about the little process of – walk/bike to a crosswalk, use button to activate stop lights, stopping traffic, that makes sense to me, more of those and enforcing pedestrians and bicyclists to use them and forcing drivers to stop at them make sense to me

inwe
Guest
inwe

Do undercover DEA officers advertise impending drug busts in the media? Maybe bank robbers should post notices outside the bank, too: “Robbery in progress, please have your valuables ready.”

Tom
Guest
Tom

I think its time to realize that the current method of enforcement can never be sufficient with any feasible amount of manual labor. Its time for a 2nd generation approach that utilizes technology and automation, beyond just speed cameras and red light cameras.

Using a continuous collection and automated analysis of accelerometer, gyro, GPS and mapping data, a very accurate overall safety rating for a driver can be generated and tracked over time. This would allow a driver to be compared to their peers, and the worst of the worst identified for retraining and license suspension. By weighting the degree of acceleration, breaking, cornering speed, rate of lane changes, red light running, and many other parameter by their known risks, a probability of collision can be calculated for each driver and society can set a upper limit for acceptable collision risk.

This sensor technology is already present in your phone, in most newer cars, and can be easily added to those add on toll tracking devices or other add on devices such as dashboard cams. The analysis technology is also well established and already used for fleet telematics and by certain insurance companies as special programs. Its time for pilot program to collect data and work out the bugs for wider use in personal vehicles, in preparation for a future larger roll-out. Specifically we need legislation to require behavioral telematics data to be collected as a condition for reinstatement of a suspended license, and to incentivize and loosen restriction for insurance companies to start collecting this data and using it to give rebates.

It can’t be done as a moonshot, but will need multiple incremental steps, but can be done and would result very safe streets and a dramatic lowering of collision rates, as well as saving cities huge sums in traffic enforcement.

For so long now we have pleaded for drivers to slow down and drive safer, or for cities to beef up traffic enforcement. Its time to realize that this approach will never ever result in the kind of safety improvements that we need for our streets. The technology is already established for a 2nd generation approach based on identifying the worst drivers then applying carrots, education, and re-evaluation…..we just need to start phasing it in.

Chris Anderson
Guest

Chicago automobile crosswalk percentage of legal yielders is lower than some Portland neighborhood’s bike mode share. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/hilkevitch/ct-crosswalk-survey-getting-around-met-0908-20140907-column.html

Tait
Guest
Tait

60 sounds like a lot of violations, but things like expired tags and improper fenders don’t mean much for pedestrian safety. How do the number of safety-relevant citations compare to other enforcements?