Weekender Ride

After two deaths this month, advocates want stronger Vision Zero commitment from City Hall

Posted by on June 16th, 2015 at 11:59 am

Portland based walking advocacy group Oregon Walks has just released a statement following the death of two innocent people in the past two weeks — Thomas Gazzola and George Carlson — who were killed while walking on local streets.

Their statement, which is co-signed by 10 partner organizations and one individual (see full list below*), directly calls out Portland Mayor Charlie Hales saying, “We need action now… we must take bold steps immediately to protect those who walk on our street.”

Here’s more:

“We call on our elected leaders to ensure we have a city where you can jog safely in your neighborhood, where you can walk across our beautiful bridges on a sunny day, and where you can be guaranteed to still have your life when you get to the other side.”


Oregon Walks’ is asking Mayor Hales and City Council is to set a date to meet the goal of “Vision Zero” by 2025. Oregon Walks co-authored a report on Vision Zero with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance that was published back in March.

As we reported yesterday, tomorrow City Council is set to adopt a goal to achieve Vision Zero — but the text of the current resolution lacks a date. Oregon Walks wants Hales and his four Council colleagues to commit to, “a goal of reaching zero road deaths by 2025,” a promise the non-profit says would match what Portland’s Bureau of Transportation has already put in writing.

In their two-year workplan released back in February, here’s how PBOT described their commitment to Vision Zero:

“PBOT aims to make our transportation system the safest possible and to move toward zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries in the next 10 years.”

To “move toward” a goal isn’t exactly a firm commitment; but at least it sets a timeline for actions.

Oregon Walks says that if Portland City Council makes a firm commitment to zero road deaths and injuries by 2025 it would be “huge” and would give them and other advocates a way to hold the city accountable.

“Through setting a date and commitment to meeting Vision Zero along with treating this epidemic with urgency,” Oregon Walks wrote in today’s statement, “this goal is possible.”

*Below is the list of the coalition joining Oregon Walks in calling for a firmer commitment to Vision Zero:

  • Bicycle Transportation Alliance
  • AARP Oregon
  • Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon
  • Upstream Public Health
  • Safe Routes to School National Partnership – Pacific Northwest Community Cycling Center
  • Oregon Public Health Institute
  • SW Trails
  • Oregon Environmental Council
  • OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon
  • Kristi Finney-Dunn (mother of Dustin Finney, who was killed by a drunk driver while biking on SE Division in 2011).

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  • 9watts June 16, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    I’m sort of mixed on the 2025 goal. Of course setting an ambitious deadline is in many ways welcome, but given the utterly lackluster commitment to anything substantive to date by Council a ten year horizon seems a setup for disappointment. I’d think lots of interim milestones (Sweden?) would be a better way to proceed.

    “following the death of two innocent people in the past two weeks… ”

    Whew. Glad they weren’t guilty…

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    • KYouell June 16, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      I agree. I’m concerned that 10 years out will equal yet another wonderful plan with no action.

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    • Scott H June 16, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      If not 2025, then when? What would be a an ideal year to no longer have traffic deaths?

      The point of the deadline is to light a fire under PBOT and city hall and get things done sooner, not aim low and celebrate lackluster achievements. Otherwise it would have been called Vision 100.

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      • Anne Hawley June 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm

        Agree. With political will, including (and this is important) creating new City Code that mandates it so that it’s not easily subject to changes in City Hall, major strides toward Vision Zero are quite possible.

        The City is a little like the military: the civil servants will continue to carry out their duties under code, even as elected officials come and go. They have their orders and, in my experience, are pretty darn dogged in carrying them out.

        So design a program that includes milestones and a frequent public review requirement. Build in go/no-go points where officials publicly explain why any deadline is missed and what remedial steps are in place to catch up.

        If the 2025 deadline begins to look impossible, make a great big deal out of why we have to push it to 2026. Let elected officials lose their jobs over missing a second deadline. Heck, make compliance with the plan a fundamental performance criterion for all relevant directors and managers.

        It’s not easy, but it’s basic project management. Mind you, the City’s history with managing big, cross-silo projects is pretty abysmal.

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        • paikiala June 17, 2015 at 11:20 am

          Maybe even a required budget set-aside for specific bureaus that can affect change. PBOT, PPB, City Attorney. Others?

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      • 9watts June 16, 2015 at 2:03 pm

        “If not 2025, then when? What would be a an ideal year to no longer have traffic deaths?”

        Let’s walk before we run.
        I don’t think you read my post very carefully. I’m o.k. with any looming date, as long as we have reason to think that our efforts will match the goal. If we had reason to believe that Choo-Choo Charlie & Company were seriously committed, were poised to pull out all the stops, sweep all obstacles out of the way, then I’d be o.k. with a near goal, but my guess is that there were some pretty good reasons why Sweden set out a more modest ten year timetable (1997) and stepwise progress toward the ultimate goal of zero:

        “With a population of about 9.6 million, Sweden has a long tradition in setting quantitative road traffic safety targets. In the mid-1990s a 10-year target was set at a 50% reduction for 2007. This target was not met; the actual ten-year reduction was 13% to 471 deaths. The target was revised to 50% by 2020 and to 0 deaths by 2050. In 2009 the reduction from 1997 totals was 34.5% to 355 deaths.”


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    • Anne Hawley June 16, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      Thank you. That last point in particular needs to be made over and over.

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  • RH June 16, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Portland moves so slow to get any real change done. They should have very precise yearly targets to reach this 10 year goal.

    Just think of it as if you had a goal to save $10K in 10 years. What would you need to save/cut back/invest each month/year to reach that goal. You would have to watch many things very closely to make sure it happens and hold yourself accountable.

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    • Anne Hawley June 16, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Exactly. This is so straightforward, so obvious, and yet somehow so elusive for government to achieve. Certainly I might not be able to meet my savings goals each month or year – things happen – but maybe if I miss one month, I can make it up a little later, or adjust my goal. Maybe at the five-year mark I have to concede that I need six more years. So I build that in and keep going.

      Without a clear, structured plan, though, the months will slip by and become years, and there I’ll be in 2025, with an inventory of stupid purchases and bad choices, and no savings, and a sad heart.

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      • Scott H June 16, 2015 at 1:47 pm

        I love this analogy so much.

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    • canuck June 16, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      The one thing you missed in the analogy is that everyone on your street has an equal part in saving that $10K and you have to come up with a way to get them all to contribute to the success of the goal or it is not successful. You can’t have one person save the $10K.

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  • Mark P. June 16, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    The Portland Plan and Comp Plan update emphasize healthy connected communities. Pedestrian safety is critical to this concept. Mayor Hales called it the orange juice test during his campaign. Would you be comfortable sending your child down the street to get a container of orange juice? Let’s prioritize safety and healthy connected communities.

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  • Doug Klotz June 16, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Committing to “move toward” the goal in 10 years means next to nothing. As long as crash deaths don’t increase, and maybe decrease by one per year, you’re “moving toward” the goal. Who knows when you’ll ever reach it. If the statement were to “reach” that goal in 10 years, then I’d think they were serious. Of course that would take a radical redirecting of resources, and maybe generating new revenue to do it.

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  • Tom Hardy June 16, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    The 2025 date is not soon enough really, as long as the plans that The council do not get mixed up with the zero independence groups that insist that no child will ever be unescorted outside their front door until they turn 18. I have been stopping and talking to people in different neighborhoods in SW and I have been finding a lot of real fear in the questions and answers I have found. A large number of the parents are afraid of bicycles, because the children might get in the street. They abhore the idea of a “Free range child” under any circumstances. They load their obiese kids in their SUV in the garage, start the vehicle while the door is going up and back out to take their kids to the school and drop them off at the front door, waiting until the child is inside the door.
    Others are actively training their kids in bicycle safety in first grade, but the adults do not ride themselves and are hoping that the kids stay on the sidewalk until “Next year”. At least these parents have learned that they are to ride with traffic (in the same) direction and not like a pedestrian walks, against the traffic.
    It will take a lot of little steps to retreat from the ultra safe mindsets that are certain to get a lot of them killed.

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  • LC June 16, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    A perfect amount of time for today’s politicians to have been voted out and forgotten about. We’ll still be living under this cloud in a decade, politicians will drag their feet indefinitely so that the only thing that will actually create change is moving to a completely different major mode of transportation. The personal private automobile is both too ingrained and too flawed to ever be safe enough for a civilized society. Say ten years to do away with cars or twenty, but don’t kid yourself and think that we’ll have invented some magical way to prevent selfish entitled assholes from continuing to kill with cars in a decade.

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  • Lester Burnham June 16, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    I hate to say this and I would never say it to my wife but I always bike commute in this city with the deep, sad feeling that there is a day I might not come back home. Getting from Parkrose to Swan Island and back actually makes me feel this way…it
    s that unsafe. And I’ve been cycling for more than 25 years here. How on earth do you make new riders feel safe with the carnage that’s been going on lately? Hales? Novick? How do you convince people to ride in this town anymore?

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  • Tony T
    Tony T June 16, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    What is the goal by the end of Charlie Hales first term?

    What is his goal by the end of a second term, if he should choose to run?

    Don’t just give me a timeframe that falls on someone else’s shoulders.

    Look closely at PBOT’s quote. It actually means next to nothing.

    “PBOT aims to . . . move toward zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries in the next 10 years.”

    What does that even mean? They could reduce fatalities by 1/year and meet this mushy, feel good nothing of a quote.

    Enforcement now!

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    • hat June 16, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Exactly. What MEASURABLE goals are they proposing? Otherwise, it is meaningless.

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    • Chris Anderson June 16, 2015 at 5:19 pm

      I think it would be super fun to show the city what we mean by “now”. We are a hackathon away from an app that lets you use your old iPhone to monitor a nearby intersection (anywhere you can get a charger) and maybe do some measure of automated counts. If we collect the evidence ourselves we can show them how easy it is.

      Anyone down for some video API programming (Elemental to keep it local?) I can help with the data/network/server stuff. Anyone want to build a stop sign compliance counter? I’m thinking hack party in October. Could do a pre party meetup.

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    • Glenn June 16, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      I’m on the bandwagon guys! I’m here to report that I fully and resolutely aim to move toward considering adoption of a strategy that intends to implement of a safety-related program activity working group sometime beginning in the next 10 years!

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  • J_R June 16, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Instead of a stronger commitment to safety, Portland’s leaders could just celebrate Portland’s Platinum status by having Sunday Parkways events.

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    • Eric June 16, 2015 at 5:34 pm

      Every Sunday.

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  • MaxD June 16, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Since I read about it here, I have reported a couple of close calls to this website. I think it could provide the City with the information it needs to start implementing safety projects. I encourage people to use it and to spread the word about it: https://nearlykilled.me/

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  • Amy Subach June 16, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    All maintenance work needs to be safety work. Any street repair must trigger safety upgrades that prioritize pedestrians and the Green Hierarchy.

    We can enact this right now. Tell PBOT engineers that this is how it’s done. Start in East Portland.

    Problem solved.

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    • paikiala June 17, 2015 at 11:29 am

      You confuse the engineers with the elected officials.

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  • Catie June 17, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I would like to see an app or website that lets people describe close calls and specify the exact location. We need to be able to identify our more dangerous intersections before anyone gets into a serious accident. Its frustrating when there is a fatality and people know it was a dangerous intersection but didnt have an easy way to provide that feedback to the city.

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  • wkw June 17, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    “PBOT aims to make our transportation system the safest possible and to move toward zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries in the next 10 years.”
    This definition of success is met with a 0.0001% decrease in injuries and fatalities.

    It would be great if there was a design driven triage approach that fixes existing flaws when an accident happens – translation, emergency ordinances to design and construct safety improvements within 2 years of a fatal accident.

    Yes it is a band aid approach, but a linkage of immediate action is required for a vision zero plan.

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