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All talk? Here are the actions the City of Portland is taking toward Vision Zero

Posted by on June 17th, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Mayor Hales just asked his 8,000 employees to sign it.

The Vision Zero ball is officially rolling in Portland.

Thanks to the passage of a resolution at City Council this morning, there should be no more confusion or excuses when it comes to doing what it take to make our streets so safe that injuries and deaths are shocking and impossible.

For the past several weeks I have been poking various local leaders for not putting enough ooomph behind their claims of commitment to Vision Zero. I will remain mostly unimpressed until I see bold projects, big investments, tough decisions, and a re-thinking of our existing street designs, culture and the policies that dictate them.

That being said, I am also eager and willing (as I always have been!) to share news about progress when it happens. On that note, it’s time to update you on several things the Bureau of Transportation and Mayor Charlie Hales’ office have done recently that show they are taking some actions. I don’t want to debate whether it’s the right action or enough action (at least not in this post), I just want you to know what they’re doing.

After leading council in this morning’s unanimous passage of the Vision Zero resolution, Mayor Charlie Hales went up to his office for lunch and sent out an email. That might not sound like a big deal, but that email went out to 8,000 city employees and it urged them to sign the Vision Zero Pledge.

I think we all know where a pledge fits on the spectrum of bold actions we could take and it’s quite easy to ridicule it as mere political window-dressing; but the fact is that education and awareness are a huge piece of the road safety puzzle. To have the CEO of the city send out a thoughtful email with a call-to-action is a very positive thing.

I’ve pasted the email below. Notice how he refers to Vision Zero as a “common-sense” idea? This is a huge improvement! I had expressed concerns on Twitter a few days ago that PBOT was referring to it as an “audacious” goal which I thought was not a good choice of words.

Here’s the email:

Dear City Employees,

On Wednesday at Council, Commissioner Steve Novick introduced and Council approved a common-sense Vision Zero resolution, signifying our commitment zero traffic fatalities; they are preventable, and no life should be lost on our city streets. We can all take steps to be better drivers — slow down; don’t drive distracted by cellphone calls or texting; never drive impaired — and to be more responsible cyclists and pedestrians.

As an employer, the City wants to have a role in creating safer roadways for all users. Studies have shown that when people sign a pledge to do something, they are more likely to change their behavior. So, Commissioner Novick and I have taken this Vision Zero Pledge (found a, and we encourage all City employees to sign on to contribute to a safer, healthier Portland.

The pledge states:

Vision Zero Pledge

  • I will behave safely and courteously at all times on public streets, respecting and empathizing with other people’s need to get where they’re going and to get there safely.
  • I acknowledge that traveling on public streets can be risky, and I resolve to be alert to the surroundings.
  • I also recognize the role of the roadways, paths, and sidewalks as public space in the community, not only a means for travel, and resolve to share the road with all users, whether they are traveling to a destination or enjoying the street appropriately as public space.
  • I will be a good example, and I want my neighbors to slow down, say hi, and join me in spreading the word.

To show my commitment to this goal:

  • I will never drive my car or bike impaired or distracted. I will not travel while excessively sleepy; after drinking more than the legal limit; using recreational marijuana; or while using a cell phone to talk or text.
  • I will travel at a safe and legal speed for conditions at all times. Regardless of mode, I will travel slowly and cautiously on neighborhood streets, and adjust my speed when it is dark, wet, or windy.
  • I will always yield the right of way to my fellow travelers when I am required to do so, including when turning at intersections and at stop signs, yield signs, and crosswalks. I will cross the street safely after looking for any traffic traveling on or turning onto the street, preferring to cross at corners and crosswalks.
  • I will obey all traffic signals and markings, including stopping on a yellow signal when it’s safe rather than trying to “make it.”
  • I will pass other people carefully and when there is enough room to safely.

Click here to sign the pledge now!

Thank you,

Mayor, City of Portland

Now, if we can get every Portlander to actually read through that and have it sink in, then combine it with “common sense” road designs, we just might move the needle.


The other updates I want to share came in the form of a press release sent out last night by PBOT in advance of today’s council meeting. In it, agency spokesperson Dylan Rivera shared a list of “recent and upcoming actions to improve transportation safety and implement Vision Zero”.

I’ve pasted each item followed by my thoughts below…

In East Portland, PBOT plans to install 24 rapid flash beacons in 2015, more than double the 20 beacons operational there as of 2014.

These beacons have become PBOT’s go-to tool for taming unsafe crossings. At about $35,000 a piece, they’re much more affordable than a signal (not to mention way easier to install both from an engineering and political perspective). They consist of signage and a flashing light that makes the crosswalk much more visible. Last year the Oregon Department of Transportation gave Portland $1.9 million to spend on beacons east of 82nd Ave.

On Wednesday afternoon, PBOT officials will seek permission from the Oregon Speed Zone Board to expedite the process for setting speeds on city streets, taking into account how and when pedestrians and cyclists use the road. While that request is pending, the City recently successfully reduced speeds on SE Division and Burnside, which are both classified as High Crash Corridors.

As we reported earlier this week, PBOT is asking the State to approve an alternative methodology to expedite speed zone change requests that go through ODOT’s state traffic engineer. “In other words,” spokeswoman Diane Dulken shared with us earlier this week, “we would be able to submit multiple requests at one time and hopefully get faster approval.” Anything that gives PBOT more control over local speed limits is a very good thing.

PBOT has been supporting House Bill 2621, which would allow Portland to install fixed photo radar safety cameras to reduce speeding on the City’s High Crash Corridors. The 10 designated High Crash Corridors make up just 3 percent of the City’s road network, but they account for more than 50 percent of pedestrian fatalities in Portland. The bill is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Room H-174 of the State Capitol Building in Salem.

I listened in on this hearing today. Unfortunately the future for this bill does not look good. The end of the legislative session is near and it’s still stuck in a House committee awaiting a vote. The big sticking point is its “fiscal impact” and the unknown impacts it will have on our court system. The Oregon Judicial Department expressed concerns about that issue during today’s hearing and said the bill could lead to a “significant workload for the courts” and that “the revenue stream anticipated by the bill depends on courts being able to process that workload.” We’ll keep you posted.

The City Council recently approved the City’s biggest investment in the High Crash Corridor Program. The 2015-16 Budget approved on May 27 includes $8 million for maintenance and safety improvements on 122nd Avenue in East Portland and $2.8 million for safety improvements on East and West Burnside.

This is fantastic news that would have happened regardless of the city’s commitment to Vision Zero. 122nd is a huge arterial and a key north-south corridor in dire need of a redesign. As we reported last week, better bus service and safer crossings are in the works. It remains to be seen how/if a protected bike lane fits into the project but it seems to me it’d be a huge missed opportunity if it doesn’t.

The budget also includes $300,000 to begin to expand Portland’s Safe Routes to School programs to middle and high schools. Council adoption of the 2015-16 Budget is scheduled for Thursday.

This also isn’t connected to Vision Zero, but it’s a nice boost for a tried-and-true program that deserves all the funding we can muster.

PBOT recently launched a new web site,, which includes the Vision Zero Crash Map, an interactive map that displays 10 years of injury and fatality data for people walking, biking and driving. It also includes maps showing locations of existing and funded East Portland rapid flash beacons. On Wednesday, it will include the Vision Zero Pledge, so all Portlanders can sign on.

Like I said regarding Hales’ email about the Vision Zero pledge, communications and marketing will be a big part of this effort.

Stay tuned for (hopefully) more updates about the concrete steps our city is taking on their path toward Vision Zero.

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  • Tom Hardy June 17, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Good progress. It looked like pretty good response today from a Sheriff’s deputy or maybe the Sheriff on SW Vista today at the top of the bridge, when a friend and encountered a BMW that was making a left turn in front of us as we were approaching trying to beat out a car coming up the hill. The BMW may have been totaled by the cyclist. Everything in front of the pedals was destroyed on the bike. Fortunately The cyclist survived. Headed to the hospital.

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    • rick June 17, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      What is on the police scanner? It is shown on #pdxtraffic on twitter.

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    • Tom Hardy June 17, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Good news. The cyclist only had broken wrist and ankle. Tossup that the BMW is close to being totaled.

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  • Adam H. June 17, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    I’m hoping City Council decides to implement protected bike lanes on 122nd; like you said, it would be a huge wasted opportunity. Adding cycle tracks would be a great way for Mayor Hales to simultaneously show support for safer cycling and for a safer East Portland.

    Additionally, adding protection to the Burnside Bridge was mentioned at today’s meeting. Seems like it could garner Council support fairly easily. Now is the time to push forward on that, while the thoughts of last Sunday are still lingering.

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  • 9watts June 17, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    The long version of the pledge you quoted strikes me as much better than the false equivalency in the graphic at the top: to be a safe and responsible driver, cyclist and pedestrian.

    I’ve looked for and so far not found any exhortations to people not in cars by other jurisdictions who are committed to Vision Zero. This is, I think, really the big mental hurdle, the big shift that VZ represents.

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    • Chris I June 18, 2015 at 6:29 am

      To be fair, while extremely rare, cyclists do sometimes kill pedestrians. We all have a responsibility, cyclists more than pedestrians, and motor vehicle drivers more than cyclists.

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      • gutterbunnybikes June 18, 2015 at 7:50 am

        In a typical year nationwide, the number of bike riders who are responsible for fatal collisions with pedestrians and other bicyclist can be counted on one hand, a bad year you need another finger or two from the other hand. It’s only slightly more likely to happen by being killed by alien abduction or big foot.

        Yes, while on a bicycle you have a responsibility to look out for other road users, but over all as a rider you are much more a danger to yourself on a bicycle than another road/sidewalk user. After collisions with automobiles, the most dangerous incident for bicyclists are collisions with stationary object -which includes potholes, bollards, curb, and train tracks.

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      • 9watts June 18, 2015 at 8:06 am

        “We all have a responsibility, cyclists more than pedestrians, and motor vehicle drivers more than cyclists.”

        If you take a comprehensive view of the matter, sure. But my point was we should consider why other jurisdictions which have pioneered or embraced Vision Zero focus their outreach and attention on containing those piloting automobiles, and at least in my reading pretty much skip over admonishing people who use their own muscles to get around to change their behavior.
        The statement in the graphic makes no distinction, fails to capture the order of magnitude difference in violence that the car represents. But luckily the text of the pledge does a better job of acknowledging this.

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  • The Duke June 17, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    [In East Portland, PBOT plans to install 24 rapid flash beacons in 2015, more than double the 20 beacons operational there as of 2014.]

    This reminds me of a confusing intersection question someone here might be able to answer:
    If a cross walk has a “hawk eye” (i think is what this is) and is signalized to stop car traffic and signalized for the crosswalk traffic (red, yellow, green in 4 directions) Does this mean that as a pedestrian at the crosswalk I have to wait for my signal to turn even if cars stop to let me cross while they have a green?
    Or are they obligated to stop once I have initiated the (controversial) “move to step off the curb” that I want them to stop so I can cross. Since the “hawk eye Ped sign” starts blinking when I approach?

    Here is a link to the image of the intersection in question on Springwater and SE 82nd ave,-122.579031,3a,75y,224.07h,80.11t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sBBZUtDCjstRXARFDTFjVTA!2e0!!7i13312!8i6656

    I’ve been there waiting for the light to change under heavy traffic and have had drivers in 2 of the 4 lanes stop to let me cross while under green.

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    • david hampsten June 17, 2015 at 11:07 pm

      Ironically, 7 of the existing flash beacons were put in by ODOT: 4 on Powell, 1 at the 205 path at Division, one on Sandy, and one on 82nd. More are expected from ODOT, over and above the PBOT 24. Also, several more are expected related to PBOT projects for the 100s, 130s, and 150s bikeways, by 2017/18.

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      • paikiala June 18, 2015 at 2:37 pm

        82nd where? South of Francis was by PBOT.

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    • paikiala June 18, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Your link is for a signalized intersection. The MUP has a signal for bikes and peds, while the road has a signal for vehicles. Crossing against the signal could result in a fine.

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  • B. Carfree June 17, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    A better email to city staff would have been one that informs them of an employment policy change wherein any city employee who receives a moving violation shall be suspended without pay for three months for a first offense and fired for any subsequent offense. If the violation involves a city-owned vehicle, then termination is immediate upon conviction.

    Of course, this would only work if the Portland police were required to write citations for all moving violations they see. And that gets to the crux of the matter. We’re not going to change motorist behavior without much better traffic enforcement. Rather than spend millions on stutter-flash devices, it would probably be more effective to employ traffic cops (and only retain the ones that really work it).

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    • Anne Hawley June 17, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      I suspect that would be a non-starter under the labor agreements that cover almost all non-management City employees. Unsafe use of an actual City fleet vehicle, however, I think already carries some consequences.

      You’re right that enforcement is the missing link. But I can remember at least a few instances where an employee was hand-slapped when a citizen reported bad behavior on the road in a City car. No, it’s not suspension without pay, but that sort of thing resonated throughout whatever bureau the employee represented. Most employees using fleet cars were keenly aware of consequences for screwups while representing the City in a fleet vehicle.

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    • JMak June 18, 2015 at 1:12 am

      Uh, no. Not sure why you want to penalize people simply for driving and having an accident. Creepy, though.

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      • Dan June 18, 2015 at 7:58 am

        Pooping in their pants?

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      • 9watts June 18, 2015 at 8:13 am

        “Not sure why you want to penalize people simply for driving and having an accident. Creepy, though.”

        You think it is creepy to increase the severity of the consequences for killing someone with your automobile? I’m curious what you would propose be done instead? I think it is pretty well known that if we make it clear that certain behaviors (and not paying sufficient attention to avoid smashing into things with your automobile is a behavior that can be altered) will not be tolerated, are too dangerous for society to keep shrugging off, the frequency with which people engage in those behaviors will start to go down. But it is a process. It will take time. People will need to get used to reading about their peers experiencing these consequences before it will start to sink in. How do you think they do it in Sweden, or is that of no interest to you?

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        • davemess June 18, 2015 at 12:57 pm

          moving violation =/= killing someone

          It may occasionally, but definitely not even a substantial fraction of the time.

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          • 9watts June 18, 2015 at 1:41 pm

            I didn’t read carefully. You are correct. But I think the basic point remains that in our current system the consequences for doing anything dangerous with your automobile are pretty paltry.

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  • Anne Hawley June 17, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    I’m not as cynical about pledges as some people seem to be. I signed immediately and felt good about it. I thought over what the pledge said and considered my adverse reaction to certain parts of it (annoyance and discomfort and a bit of self-righteousness) and decided that the pledge wasn’t asking anything of me that I’m not asking of myself on a good day, or wishing FOR myself every day.

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  • Buzz June 17, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Everybody wants to talk about enforcement, as if it is much more than a just a joke when it comes to changing motorist behavior.

    What I feel is really missing, and PBOT and ODOT continue to drag their feet on, is a well thought out and thoroughly vetted education campaign aimed at getting motorists to change their behavior.

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    • JBone June 17, 2015 at 7:01 pm

      Agree regarding the education campaign, billboards and signage everywhere…maybe even a catchy jingle like Melbourne’s “Dumb Ways to Die”.

      One point of disagreement regarding the emphasis “getting motorists”. Many of us are motorists, cyclists, and peds. No matter the mode, I think we should always practice awareness (head on a swivel) and ‘flow’ (basically, safely and legally allowing others to keep momentum).

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    • gutterbunnybikes June 18, 2015 at 8:06 am

      Sorry but enforcement isn’t a joke, it’s a key factor. All you people say it doesn’t work, but it does.

      I remember back to when I went to college in PA. I lived in Detroit, took the Ohio/PA turnpike to travel between the two. Speed limit in Ohio 65, everyone traveled at 70+. Once you hit the Pennsylvania border, speed limit dropped to 55, everyone drove 55. Why? because the state police did their job, and it was well known that you didn’t speed in PA unless you wanted a ticket.

      Look further up I-5 around Centralia. Some call it a speed trap, but the speed limit drops as does most the vehicles travel speed through there. Why, because there is a good chance there is a cop somewhere on that stretch waiting for you.

      And I forget where, but I recall some place similar to Centralia here in Oregon, and it was working. But the “powers that be” caved into the complaints of the people getting tickets and removed the slower speed corridor.

      Ignoring enforcement is silly. It works, and without it. You might as well throw all that infrastructure and education away. Unfortunately, you really can not trust most people to do the right thing, if you could there would be no Vision Zero, no new infrastructure, no need for education – because it would be happening naturally.

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    • paikiala June 18, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      The best safe systems/vision zero program attacks the problem from multiple points (see Haddon matrix). Some of the factors we can influence locally and some are state issues, while some are Federal.

      Local: better roads, better system users, better enforcement and better adjudication.

      State: better road standards, better laws, better road users, directed safety funding based on risk.

      Federal: better vehicles, better road standards, better laws.

      “When the infrastructure cannot be upgraded, at reasonable costs, to the standard required for the existing speed limit, the appropriate action is to reduce the speed limit.” Page 83, “Speed Management”, OECD, 2006.

      What I see missing is a holistic effort.

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  • Dwaine Dibbly June 17, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    The pledge is about as useful as an abstinence pledge. Hopefully there will be other actions that result in actual meaningful change.

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  • Eric Iverson June 17, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    It’s hard for me to ask others to sign this pledge when there’s no way I can, considering this clause

    “I will never bike impaired or distracted. I will not travel while excessively sleepy; after drinking more than the legal limit; using recreational marijuana; or while using a cell phone to talk or text.”

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    • 9watts June 18, 2015 at 8:37 am

      Say more, Eric. I’m not clear on which of these strikes you as unrealistic or asking too much.

      “I will never bike impaired or distracted.”

      That one doesn’t seem particularly difficult to me. And as we know, if you have micro-lapses when no one else is around you’re probably going to be o.k., but with traffic around you can be pretty sure this is how I bike now. Or am I missing something?

      “I will not travel while excessively sleepy”

      Biking while sleepy? I can’t recall a situation that resembles this one. You?

      “after drinking more than the legal limit”

      For me perhaps the easiest one.

      “using recreational marijuana”

      Ditto. I have no interest in pot in any form.

      “or while using a cell phone to talk or text.”

      Don’t own one.

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    • paikiala June 18, 2015 at 2:43 pm


      your position is part of the problem. The problem involves everyone changing their notion of what is acceptable.
      Better road users, better road design, better road operation, better enforcement, better laws, better adjudication, better trauma response.

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  • q`Tzal June 17, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Potential Vision Zero stumbling block to be aware of and plan for from NYC:
    City Bus Drivers Protest Vision Zero Law By Driving More Carefully
    Bus Drivers’ Union: De Blasio “Talking Out His A$$” On Fatalities

    The NYC public bus drivers union seems to think that they should be exempt from equal punishment for fatalities and injuries caused by their own driving.
    They are making an incredible stink about obeying traffic laws, portraying over a century of mandatory yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks as some BRAND NEW liberal/progressive authoritarian over reach.

    I’m definitely pro-union but this needs to be nipped in the bud before it grows here.
    The ONLY drivers I can think might deserve an exemption is EMS responding to a critical life or death emergency… BUT I’d still require an after action review panel to review any incidents and determine how they can be avoided in the future.

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    • Chris Anderson June 18, 2015 at 7:19 am

      Vision Zero USA wants to buy each of the co sponsors of that bill, thier name on the side of a bus. And then wait for the photo ops to roll in. 🙁

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      • q`Tzal June 18, 2015 at 12:05 pm

        I like the phrasing of the question:
        “Who should be exempt from consequences if they kill or injure someone while driving?”

        Or the more prejudicial:
        “Who should be allowed to kill people with their automobile and get away scott free?”
        If you are playing real dirty pool change out the word “people” for “children” in the last question.

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        • gutterbunnybikes June 18, 2015 at 3:15 pm

          That’s not dirty pool, that’s exactly how it all started in Denmark 40 -50 years ago.

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  • dr2chase June 17, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    I agree on the false-equivalence points. When I drive, I try to be as aware and careful and safe for others as I am on my bike, and it is just plain impossible. I can’t see as well, I can’t hear as well, I’m wearing a giant metal fat suit, and about 5 feet of that sticks out in front of me where I’d really rather have my ears and eyeballs, and the car is noisy. The car seems virtually designed to speed, too.

    And do I take special care to be a responsible cyclist? You bet, but I can almost guarantee it doesn’t mean what drivers think it means. It has a whole heck of a lot to do with moderating my speed around pedestrians (especially multiple children and dogs), and passing with truly adequate clearance, and not passing other bikes and pedestrians unsafely, and communicating with the people around me (using my words, almost never my bell, almost never “on your left”, usually “it’s fine, I can wait” or “you go ahead”).

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    • Chris I June 18, 2015 at 6:33 am

      In a perfect world, all cars would have a “city mode” and “highway mode”. City mode would greatly reduce available power and disable potential distractions. Speed would be limited.

      Unfortunately, no driver would voluntarily drive a car like this. It would need to be mandated, and that’s not going to happen.

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    • davemess June 18, 2015 at 12:59 pm

      It also has to do with riding predictably (which means following the laws/signs), so others (cars, peds, and other bikes) know what you’re going to do.

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  • 9watts June 17, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Is that a new PBOT logo?
    The O looks like an electrical outlet to me. What does it mean?

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  • soren June 17, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    “I will obey all traffic signals and markings”

    Please correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t recall anyone rolling stop signs in Ladd’s Addition smashing into other people and killing them.

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    • :add Ave. pedestrian June 18, 2015 at 3:15 am

      Maybe because we’ve gotten good at jumping out of your way?

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    • paul g. June 18, 2015 at 7:55 am

      That misreads Vision Zero. The pledge, the second bullet point in particular, applies to ALL users.

      If you roll through the stop signs in Ladd without giving yourself–or approaching drivers–sufficient time to see one another, you are violating the pledge. I’m not saying you need to fully stop–I don’t–but you should slow, hands on brakes, look fully at the roadway and the sidewalks on both sides. You can’t do this if you roll through at 15 mph.

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      • 9watts June 18, 2015 at 8:48 am

        (1) everyone obeying signs is a good idea, prudent, hard to go wrong if we all did it, out of principle if not for other reasons.

        (2) what (& whose) behaviors are responsible for the maiming and deaths on our streets?
        Well that one starts to open up a very sizable gulf here between those on foot or bike and those piloting automobiles, as we have discussed here in these pages for years now. I think El Biciclero has probably stated this asymmetry most eloquently, whereby *the danger* emanates disproportionately from those in automobiles who fail to devote sufficient attention to their surroundings and to throttling their speed accordingly.

        Our current crop of elected officials have made it pretty clear that they are loath to putting too fine a point on the disproportionate responsibility of those in cars to solve this nested set of problems (infrastructure deterioration, safety, fiscal responsibility, etc.), so the false equivalency that sneaks in is probably not going away anytime soon.

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      • soren June 18, 2015 at 9:36 am

        This pledge suggests that vulnerable road users are equally a part of the problem when it comes to the killing, maiming, and injury on our roads. This is tone deaf and factually wrong.

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        • paikiala June 18, 2015 at 2:47 pm

          How so?
          Everyone using the public right of way should be vigilant to their own safety and the behavior of other users.
          Who should be exempt from paying attention while crossing the road?

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          • soren June 19, 2015 at 4:06 pm

            And our neighboring states illustrate that jaywalkers and idaho stoppers are vigilant. Vision zero should focus on illegality that actually results in injury and death — illegality by people driving motorvehicles. The reference to vulnerable road users (“drive my…bike”, “all modes”) in that pledge makes no sense to me from a public safety perspective.

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  • Champs June 18, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    1. Take a pledge
    2. Ask ODOT for money
    3. Lobby state to change the law
    4. Build a website

    These measures, with the weight of Portland’s big dogs behind them, are about as formidable as a tired pug.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu June 18, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Bill 2621 would permit Portland to use unmanned speed cameras on some major roads. Hopefully it will pass.

    As an additional measure, I’d like to see mobile speed displays on key roads. These would show drivers their speed and remind them of the speed limit. These displays could be moved around as needed, e.g. to N Williams, SE Clinton, Burnside Bridge, etc.

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