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Portland’s Vision Zero kickoff brings new faces to the table

Posted by on August 18th, 2015 at 3:26 pm


Portland’s Vision Zero Task Force and partners.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Usually when we talk about preventing road injuries and deaths we have the usual suspects around the table — biking and walking advocates and transportation agency staffers. The power of Vision Zero lies in its ability to broaden the circle of concern about traffic safety.


Joseph Santos-Lyons of APANO.

Yesterday at the kickoff of Portland’s Vision Zero Task Force, we saw that power in action. The event was hosted by the non-profit Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), a group that advocates for the rights and interests of Asian and Pacific Islanders. APANO’s Executive Director, Joseph Santos-Lyons, kicked off the event by saying that improving traffic safety is important to the people and the neighborhoods he represents.

APANO is headquartered in Portland’s “Jade District” — a moniker given to the commercial area around SE 82nd and Division. It’s an area full of renewed optimism, thanks in large part to APANO’s Jade Night Market (happening again this Saturday 8/22), but it’s also one of the most dangerous areas in the city to walk, bike, or drive a car. Last night there were two families in attendance who had lost a loved one in a traffic crash just a few blocks away.

“I’m in. We’re all in. We can make a difference.”
— Mayor Hales

“Vision Zero is a priority for us,” Santos-Lyons said before introducing Mayor Charlie Hales, “Our Jade community has been directly affected. These crashes are not only tragic, they are preventable.”

The fact that we can do something about traffic crashes was a strong theme throughout the event (and thankfully got picked up in media coverage).

Mayor Hales spoke about Vision Zero with more strength and conviction than I’ve seen from him in the past. Standing in front of an impressive group of electeds, agency leaders, and other Task Force members, he made the case that — despite all the shootings in the news each week — traffic fatalities and injuries have a higher “human cost” in Portland (statistically-speaking) than gang violence. To make things better, Hales said we shouldn’t drive unless we have to and when we do, we should, “give deference to pedestrians and cyclists,” because, “they’re the vulnerable ones.”

“For Vision Zero to work, we’re not going to get there alone.”
— Margi Bradway, PBOT Active Transportation Division Manager

And his final line made it clear he’s ready to take at least some responsibility to make things better: “I’m in. We’re all in. We can make a difference.”

After opening speeches, Hales was asked by a reporter how he’ll get people to change behaviors. “The language we use is important,” was his reply. That’s a good answer. A major rally in New York City last month was focused on getting people to use the word crash, not “accident” when talking about collisions. Hales then encouraged the reporter to, “Spread the message that this is a social responsibility for each of us.” “Having a driver’s license is a privilege,” he continued, “No one has the right to drive a car.”

After opening speeches, leaders from agencies partnering on the Vision Zero effort sat down for their first meeting. Around the table were TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, Deputy Fire Chief Leo Krick, Commissioner Steve Novick, Police Chief Larry O’Dea, PBOT Director Leah Treat, Oregon State Senators Michael Dembrow and Diane Rosenbaum, Oregon State Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer, and ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer.

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(This may seem like just another meeting, but this was the first time all of these leaders came together for Vision Zero. Not only are they now getting educated about what it means, they are also feeling the peer pressure to support the initiative from a broad cross-section of community leaders, bureaus, and advocacy groups. And for what it’s worth, everyone pledged their full support for Vision Zero yesterday. There were no hair-splitters or fence-sitters.)

“Where do families stand on this Task Force? Are we going to be asked to be on the Task Force? Are you going to ask for our opinions? It’s going to be us with our quivering and grieving voices — not politicians — who will touch people’s hearts.”
— Kristi Finney, mother of Dustin Finney

Metro’s role in Vision Zero will have more to do with funding than anything else, since they control federal pursestrings to the tune of about $16 million for Portland each year. Councilor Stacey said that money needs to be allocated “through a Vision Zero lens.” On a related funding note, Senator Dembrow said, “We’ll need to pass a transportation package in order to really bring Vision Zero to fruition.”

I was curious to hear how Windsheimer at ODOT would frame his support of Vision Zero. So far the most powerful road agency in the region (and the one whose roads claim the most victims), hasn’t committed to achieving zero road deaths and injuries. Instead, ODOT’s top traffic safety official said back in November that there approach is to increase the number of individual days when no one dies.

Yesterday Windsheimer made it seem like ODOT has supported the idea all along. “We’ve had a goal for a number of years,” he said, “to have zero injuries and fatalities.” Was that peer pressure in action? Either way, it appears we can now add ODOT to list of agencies committed to Vision Zero. Windsheimer also shared a phrase that irks some activists because it’s too soft on motor vehicle operators. “It doesn’t matter what mode you travel, safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

It will also be everyone’s responsibility to find funding to pay for new safety efforts — whether they include marketing and PSAs and/or projects on the ground. On that note, Novick fearlessly brought up his controversial (and “paused”) street fee effort. “At some point,” he said, “we’re going to have another discussion about raising revenue for transportation.” He acknowledged that one mistake made in pushing for the street fee last year was that the city didn’t do more to soothe feelings between the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and the Portland Business Alliance. Instead of working together, those two groups’ advocacy devolved into a fight over how the money should be split up (the BTA wanted 50/50 safety/maintenance and the PBA wanted 25/75). “We should have gotten them into a room together to make that argument not so vehement.”

If we rely on funding to make progress on Vision Zero, it might never happen. Much of this effort is about created a movement and upping the public urgency that the way we use our roads needs to change.


Kristi Finney addressing Task Force members.

Kristi Finney took the day off work to be at yesterday’s event. Finney lost her son Dustin four years ago when a drunk driver hit him while he biked Division just four blocks away. She stood up and addressed the electeds and agency leaders: “Where do families stand on this?” she wondered. “Are we going to be asked to be on the Task Force? Are you going to ask for our opinions? It’s going to be us with our quivering and grieving voices — not politicians — who will touch people’s hearts.”

While Finney’s words made an impact, Portland’s official efforts at the moment are more about amassing the institutional and political support it will take to find funding and change policies. And on that note, Margi Bradway, leader of PBOT’s Active Transportation Division and a former advisor for ODOT Director Matt Garrett, deemed yesterday a success.

Bradway was pleased to see all the partners who showed up and pledged support to the effort. “For Vision Zero to work, we’re not going to get there alone,” she said. “Vision Zero provides a framework for the discussion, and it’s that framework that comes into play when major decisions have to be made and everyone thinks of Vision Zero.”

See the full membership list and meeting schedule of Portland’s Vision Zero Task Force here.

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  • ethan August 18, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    This event achieved the exact goals I was expecting them to: they made a fancy banner.

    “we can now add ODOT to list of agencies committed to Vision Zero” – hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha – oh that wasn’t supposed to be funny? I thought it was hilarious.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 18, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      I hear you Ethan, and I plan on a separate post to share some thoughts about this.

      Just one quick thing for now to keep in mind. To bureau staff working on this, it’s actually very important to get these kind of verbal commitments from staffers and leaders at other agencies. Mock it all you want (and it often deserves some mocking), but peer pressure and promises are an important piece of the puzzle. Actually, they are only important to the extent which the public and advocates hold them to their promises. So, I’m sure we can count on you to email Mr. Windsheimer at ODOT and remind him that he said he was committed to Vision Zero.

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      • ethan August 18, 2015 at 4:26 pm

        What’s his email address? I can hound him daily until people stop dying.

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    • WAR August 19, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      Yep and we need more taxes to print more flyers and banners. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

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  • PaulaF August 18, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    I am not jumping up and down quite, yet. What are the individual commitments/actions from these folk. Will they commit to driving slower? Will they commit to educating their respective staff to stop driving through yellow lights, LOOKING and stopping for people crossing the street, will they commit to staying on the arterials and not try and bypass rush hour traffic on arterials?

    Seems like a lot more could have been communicated as a key participant that would have immediate change while the big plan is put together. A key component no one seems to want to take on is the auto culture change that must occur – that is a big money battle there. Marketing has taught people to Love their car, to close off in their moving, private office, zipping through an empty downtown, drifting into that parking space right in front of the restaurant.

    I do hope this group is creative and effective . . .

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    • 9watts August 18, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      “A key component no one seems to want to take on is the auto culture change that must occur… ”

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    • Bobcycle August 19, 2015 at 8:45 am

      All the things you mention can be remedied with good street design. Slower speed limits, traffic diverters, crossing signals, etc. What needs to change are priorities. As long as the number 1 priority is to move traffic as fast as possible through the city via local streets there will be problems. Design local streets and traffic controls as if safety is priority 1 and put thru traffic on freeways where they belong.

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      • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 9:01 am

        your list is a bit short.

        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/standards, better road standards, better laws.

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      • wsbob August 19, 2015 at 1:19 pm

        “… Slower speed limits, traffic diverters, crossing signals, etc. What needs to change are priorities. As long as the number 1 priority is to move traffic as fast as possible through the city via local streets there will be problems. Design local streets and traffic controls as if safety is priority 1 and put thru traffic on freeways where they belong.” Bobcycle

        Within the city, lowering posted speed limits of 35 and 25 mph (by 5010 mph.), may be one of the easiest and most economical means of having street become safer to use. And doing so would likely contribute to restoring some of the livability the neighborhoods they pass through once had before increased commercialization and accommodation of greater amount of travel by motor vehicle.

        Within a reasonably modest radius from city centers, the silver lining is that lowering posted speed limits may not affect road users overall travel time that much. There’s likely more to be gained by keeping road user traffic moving smoothly and consistently, and above all, safely…than there is by posting for relatively high speeds for traffic situations allowing those high speeds to be maintained or easily exceeded.

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  • 9watts August 18, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    “To make things better, Hales said we shouldn’t drive unless we have to”

    O.K. Charlie, here’s your chance to shine: How did you get to the press conference? I hope you took the bus.

    Rian Windsheimer: “It doesn’t matter what mode you travel, safety is everyone’s responsibility.”
    Unfortunately I’m not so sanguine about ODOT’s about face. This was a litmus test and I’d rank that statement a qualified failure. How hard can it be?! Every other jurisdiction that I know of that has embraced Vision Zero gets it: the problem is the automobile, and the solution is to rein it in. Once we get into the weeds, we can talk about everyone’s responsibility, but at this early, 30,000 foot level it has no place.

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    • ethan August 18, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      “O.K. Charlie, here’s your chance to shine: How did you get to the press conference? I hope you took the bus.”

      According to the person I spoke to, Charlie carpooled to the event. I asked why he didn’t take the bus. I don’t think I will get a reply.

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      • MaxD August 19, 2015 at 9:17 am

        Maybe he didn’t take the bus because the bus pretty much sucks. It comes infrequently, you have to pay the driver with cash, and they are stuck in the same traffic as everyone else. On top of that, parking is nearly free and plentiful and enforcement is basically non-existent. One would ONLY take the bus if they had no other choice.

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        • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 9:31 am

          “One would ONLY take the bus if they had no other choice.”

          That is a static view.
          If more people (with clout) rode the bus, perhaps some of those problems would be more likely addressed. All the problems I encounter when riding public buses out to the ends of the lines could benefit from more ridership and importantly more patronage by those who in our society tend to sit in their cars, or get chauffeured around.

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        • ethan August 19, 2015 at 11:35 am

          Two of the meetings Charlie went to on Monday were directly off of high-frequency bus routes. #4 for the meeting on Division and #6 for the meeting on MLK.

          They come every 15 minutes or so, and even more often during rush hour. You don’t have to pay with cash (there’s an app, and you can use a card to buy a pass at a train station).

          So, rather than taking a frequent bus line, they (him and his entourage) decided to carpool, which is less space efficient, more harmful to the environment and more likely to cause bodily harm to someone else than taking the bus would.

          He’s the one who said we shouldn’t drive unless we have to. I don’t think “have to” includes when both your destination and point of origin are on the same, high frequency bus line. If he were going to Salem or something like that, I could understand the carpool. But not to get from downtown to somewhere else in the city.

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          • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 12:11 pm

            How do you know it was more harmful? Many of the city vehicles are hybrid, some are electric.

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            • ethan August 19, 2015 at 12:18 pm

              Buses run regardless if you’re on them. They drove a prius, which is a hybrid, and uses more energy than it would if it wasn’t used. Plus, the road system had an extra vehicle on it due to them.

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              • paikiala August 20, 2015 at 11:45 am

                I don’t see any insights as to how you know what you implied you knew.

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              • ethan August 20, 2015 at 2:25 pm

                Buses are scheduled – I don’t really think this part needs any explaining.

                For the rest of my comment, that information was found by contacting the mayor. I sent an email and someone who went to the meeting with him (carpooled) told me how they got there. They carpooled in a prius. I don’t think I need to explain that a car uses more energy when running than when not running, nor should I have to explain that an additional vehicle can cause congestion.

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          • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 12:59 pm

            “He’s the one who said we shouldn’t drive unless we have to. I don’t think “have to” includes when both your destination and point of origin are on the same, high frequency bus line. If he were going to Salem or something like that, I could understand the carpool.”

            Ethan’s spot on. And I’d go even further. If people like Charlie Hales took the public buses to Salem (yes you can) those services would stand a chance of improving. Like maybe if Charlie Hales (rather than little old me) asked Trimet cheeses why they refuse to run the #96 to the Wilsonville WES station (a Trimet facility, after all) rather than end it two miles shy in the middle of a business park no-mans-land and instruct their drivers to answer patrons’ questions about this by blaming the Wilsonville Transit folks, he might actually get a real answer rather than the run-around I get.

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  • Adam H. August 18, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    While it’s nice that everyone is gathering in one room to talk about Vision Zero and get on the same page, what I am still not hearing is proposals for reducing car dependency and making walking and riding a bike safe and comfortable. We need projects on the ground. We need to put every arterial in East Portland on a road diet and add cycle tracks and expanded sidewalks. We need cycle tracks on close-in arterials (Hawthorne, Burnside, N/NE Broadway, etc.) We need to charge for parking city-wide and quadruple vehicle registration fees and gas taxes. And what ever happened to bike share?

    Mayor Hales needs to actually announce plans for these things instead of repeating “hey slow down everyone” over and over. Until he stops lauding all the repaving projects that have lacked even basic cycling infra, until he actually admits that it is the people driving causing all the problems, until he commits to ride a bike once a week so he can see the issues first-hand; it’s all just wasted breath.

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    • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 9:03 am

      Before or after every home in Portland has a sidewalk or safe path out front to get to the bus, train or bike route?

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    • MaxD August 19, 2015 at 9:19 am

      I think bus lanes may take preference over bike lanes on most arterials. Maybe these could be shared with bikes, but that could be sketchy. I also think a gas tax and dramatically increase parking fees should be considered important safety features as they would reduce SOV trip and could raise capital for safety investments

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      • Buzz August 19, 2015 at 11:36 am

        They manage to build shared bus-bike lanes in several large cities internationally, including Paris France.

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    • TJ August 19, 2015 at 11:47 am

      Not just infrastructure in East Portland. It’s currently faster to travel via Tri-Met from Milwaukee to Pioneer Square than it is from St. Johns.

      St. Johns also suffers in safe bike access. Even Willamette Blvd doesn’t have complete bike lanes and sections of the road (notably without bike lanes) are 35 mph.

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      • Adam H. August 19, 2015 at 12:30 pm

        Also, why isn’t there MAX service to St. Johns?

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        • ethan August 19, 2015 at 1:23 pm

          Good point. However, rather than extending the Yellow line West, I’d rather see a “75” MAX line – one that replaces service on line 75. It wouldn’t connect to downtown at all (which could be very politically difficult), but it would allow faster connections for people who live in between MAX lines.

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          • Adam H. August 19, 2015 at 1:54 pm

            Agreed. I think a St. John’s – Airport line with a transfer point to the Yellow Line makes sense.

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            • ethan August 19, 2015 at 2:05 pm

              I don’t think a St. Johns to the airport line would get as much use as a “75” line. The 75 bus connects to all of the current MAX lines.

              I do think that some form of transport needs to link the St. Johns area with the airport area and outer Sandy, but I don’t think they should have direct acccess to the airport, as it would duplicate service and wouldn’t connect as well to other places.

              And I’m saying this as someone who would greatly benefit from a St. Johns > Airport line (as I live between the Yellow and Red lines) a few times a year. I just think the connections to places further East, or in Southeast would be way more useful.

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              • Adam H. August 19, 2015 at 2:15 pm

                Oh, so you meant a line along the full 75 route (not just in North Portland)? That’s a great idea, and 39th isn’t an ODOT street, so that makes it a bit easier. While we’re at it, why not include an Orange/75 line extension to Oregon City?

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              • Thom Batty August 19, 2015 at 2:50 pm

                I wish they had continued the orange line to OC, but the Clackamas County commissioners (two in particular) are so vehemently anti-Trimet that I am surprised it runs as far as it does.

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              • ethan August 19, 2015 at 3:30 pm

                Yep, full 75 line! The 75 is extremely long and takes a long time. There are a lot of people who live along one part and work in another, or have friends that live right off of it. I would use a 75 line a lot more than I would use the current 75. It’s kind of the “missing link” connecting all of the lines on the east side. Plus, it would look nice on a map 😉

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          • lop August 19, 2015 at 4:56 pm

            If you normalize ridership by bus hours or route miles where does the 75 rank? If there’s money to upgrade a route, whether to a better bus, streetcar, max etc…do you get more for your money with a route that goes downtown? Is that why it would be very politically difficult to build elsewhere?

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            • Adam H. August 20, 2015 at 9:19 am

              I personally think that TriMet focuses a bit too much on bringing people from the suburbs into downtown. That absolutely has value and takes cars off the road; but inside the city (outside of downtown), MAX coverage isn’t great. We need to focus more on transportation within Portland a bit more. Whether that’s another MAX line, Streetcar (with dedicated lanes, please!), or BRT. I’m hoping that the Powell-Division BRT project will work towards this goal.

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  • Eric Leifsdad August 18, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    How are we doing on that safety pledge from government employees? Maybe PPB could set the pace, even make some stops for all these hurried drivers at 1-11mph over and spread the word that drivers need to obey the posted speed, use turn signals, and come to a full stop before the stop bar? Even the speeding trimet bus drivers need to get “in”.

    *First*, show the commitment, *then* get the support and money to build shiny stuff — seems obvious to me. How many meetings before we take this first step?

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  • mran1984 August 18, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Wow! Now we have a slogan and a banner to go along with green paint. This is a joke. I am not laughing with it. I am laughing at it. Trimet drivers will NEVER stop speeding Eric.

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  • Dwaine Dibbly August 18, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Kristi Finney is an amazing woman!

    My concern with a big group like this is that things get diluted and goals get sidetracked. They also make it harder for opponents to be effectve, so I’m going to try to stay positive…..

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  • Tony T
    Tony T August 18, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    “It doesn’t matter what mode you travel, safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

    Who’s doing the killing? Do we speak that way about other forms of violence?

    And remember that ODOT doesn’t really believe that road design can alter behavior.


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    • John R. August 19, 2015 at 4:08 am

      Replace “auto violence” with “gun violence” and the answer is no. Should the person shot have been wearing high viz clothing? Should they not have gone into certain areas? Should they have been wearing a bullet proof vest?

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      • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 9:04 am

        Most of the victims in a car crash are also inside cars.

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        • John R. August 19, 2015 at 12:47 pm

          Your point is?

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          • paikiala August 20, 2015 at 11:43 am

            The greatest gains in reaching vision zero are likely to be achieved focusing on vehicle occupant crashes first and pedestrian crashes second.

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  • Andrew August 18, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    I’d like to see congestion pricing figured into the mix somehow. It was discussed and proposed as a pilot project a few years ago and that’s as far as it got. Charging drivers to enter the city core at peak hours would go a long way towards calming traffic and eliminating needless trips. This may not directly help vision zero but it could help, it would go further towards the city’s goal of 25% of all commutes made by bike. That in and of itself would put a lot more pressure to ramp up safety.
    The ‘orego’ pilot project charges far too little per mile to actually help reduce traffic, but that isn’t its goal. Ultimately it is a flat tax that penalizes owners of efficient vehicles and gives breaks to gas guzzlers. Raising the gas tax and setting aside a specific percentage for bike infrastructure would be much more effective IMHO.
    A cheap and effective safety measure that could go into effect tomorrow if the political will existed would be speed limit reductions and photo radar enforcement of them throughout the city. If anything it would create a huge revenue stream!
    Speed is the number one cause of roadway fatalities regardless of mode.

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    • Chris I August 19, 2015 at 8:07 am

      Congestion pricing systems are very complicated and would be extremely unpopular here, due to our city’s size. I think the City can raise a lot of revenue by using a smarter parking system. Smart meters in all commercial districts that charge variable rates at all hours. Paid residential permits for the entire city, priced based on neighborhood parking demand. Aggressive speeding and red light enforcement with unmanned cameras. These programs will discourage driving in the central city, and will be easier to implement.

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      • Adam H. August 19, 2015 at 9:29 am

        Agreed. High prices for parking downtown and popular business districts can effectively act as a congestion charge. Drive and pay $20 an hour for parking, or pay $5 for the entire day and take MAX or bus.

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      • Craig Harlow August 19, 2015 at 11:26 am

        Yes, Chris — this. Also driver re-education, again and again.

        This was my input on to one of the delegates to the Mayor’s “emergency meeting” back on June 2nd.


        In my view a strong combination of enforcement and education is vital to improving safety and comfort for all Portland-area road users, particularly those most vulnerable. In both cases, the great challenge is working with state agencies and the legislature to pave the way…

        The city should move fast and hard on implementing radar/photo enforcement along all high-crash corridors; and all roads with speeds above 30 MPH. I realize this is complex to implement, including acquisition, installation, P.R., solid legal footing, prosecution, penalty collection, etc. But without it, what hope is there for meaningful improvement? I think this is worth a significant financial sacrifice on the city’s part.

        The city should combine forces with BTA, Oregon Walks, OPAL, etc., lobbying state legislators for a change to driver licensing :

        (1) nobody passes without getting correct EVERY item related to vulnerable road users (prompt re-takes should be permit);

        (2) enhance driver license testing to more massively represent vulnerable road user laws;

        (3) shorten the license expiry period to three years with MANDATORY re-testing for all;

        (4) there must be some provision for reliably educating/certifying interstate freight haulers not licensed in Oregon.

        Of course there is great cost to this as well, not only for the ongoing and probably long-term lobbying effort; but for the state and for taxpayers for implementation. I think this too is worth a significant financial sacrifice on the city’s part, and should be enshrined as a permanent strategy for the city until it succeeds. We have to stop treating auto driving as an easily-invoked right and start treating it as a uniquely special privilege to which we assign grave responsibility.

        None of this is necessarily coupled to infrastructure strategies, nor need it be. Unless we create an environment in which every license holder drives more safely because we systemically indoctrinate this mentality, then no amount of infrastructure changes will move us closer to achievement of vision zero.

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  • gutterbunnybikes August 18, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    It all means nothing until the money hits the table.

    If taken like NYC could be a good thing, unfortunately that’s the one of the only places in the US where it has really taken off.

    However, I suspect we’re going to get a lot more garbage youtube videos on how to use a flashing crosswalk beacon as a bicycle rider or pedestrian, before anything that actually makes sense kicks in.

    Just a year (right before the elections – though I’m willing to bet it gets stalled to after the elections) before we know.

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  • Michael August 18, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    it doesn’t mean anything yet.

    A few weeks ago I emailed PBOT about crosswalks at two intersections (18th and Fremont and 14th and Fremont) where the paint is pealing badly (18th) and line of sight is bad for drivers due to parking, congestion and overgrown trees (14th). The crosswalk at 18th leads right to Sabin Elementary, so it is used by many children. I got no response; not even an acknowledgement that they received my email. Until the culture of the agency changes (and their sense of accountability), ODOT, PBOT, and Mayor Hales can print any / all banners they want, but it won’t get us closer to Vision Zero.

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    • Beeblebrox August 18, 2015 at 11:12 pm

      What email did you use? If you email safe@portlandoregon.gov, your concern will get routed to a traffic engineer, who will then go out to do a field check to see what the issue is and what can be done. If maintenance is needed, it will go on the list of maintenance needs. Because staffing is limited, it can take up to four months or so to get a response. While it would be nice to get an individual response right away, that’s not very realistic when there are thousands of concerns and only a handful of staff to respond to them. Don’t be deterred, though! I’ve reported all kinds of issues using this email or 823-SAFE, and a few months later they have always been addressed.

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      • Bobcycle August 19, 2015 at 8:54 am

        You nailed it…. “Thousands of concerns” indicates the current state of our streets, not enough staff speaks to the priority it has in our city.

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      • wsbob August 19, 2015 at 12:38 pm

        “…and only a handful of staff to respond to them. …” Beeblebrox

        Among the first steps to meeting Vision Zero objectives, might be to tackle increasing the budget so as to be able to hire more staff to respond to problems reported.

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    • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 9:10 am

      823-SAFE is to investigate safety concerns that are new. An acknowledgement only takes up to a week, an investigation is currently estimated to take 16 weeks. Maintenance items can go through that number, but there is only one person to process the calls. Visibility complaints should go here also, since the property owner will be notified of their responsibilities.

      Maintenance of existing facilities is the Bureau of Maintenance, and a more direct number is to dispatch at 823-1700.

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    • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Many people have an inaccurate perception of the goal of vision zero. It is not to maintain crosswalks. It is not to eliminate visibility issues. The goal of vision zero is to eliminate serious and fatal injuries from crashes on our roadways.
      Maintenance will always be with us – everything wears out. But worn out does not always equal unsafe.

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      • Michael August 19, 2015 at 12:45 pm

        I’m not sure why you presume I have an inaccurate perception of the goal of vision zero.

        I understand the goal of vision zero. I think there was a stat posted here on bikeportland from last year or two years ago that showed a large percentage of the fatalities were when pedestrians were hit while using a crosswalk. if we want people not to be killed, then I think crosswalk maintenance or improvements are very much a part of VZ.

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        • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 2:38 pm

          For 2003-2012, pedestrians were 32% of all fatal crashes, cyclist were 6%, and motor vehicle occupants were 62%.
          46% of the pedestrians were in crosswalks. So (.45*.32 =) 14% of the fatals over that time period were pedestrians in crosswalks.
          I don’t see more marked crosswalks, especially on 2-lane roads, contributing much toward vision zero.

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          • Michael August 19, 2015 at 3:06 pm

            I don’t think your stats disprove my point, actually. it can be hard for drivers to see people crossing some crosswalks (at 14th and Fremont, as I mentioned in my first message), so pedestrians start to cross and get hit by a driver who may not see the person crossing. Better lines of sight, flashing lights, cutting back tree branches, disallowing cars from parking next to the crosswalk since they obstruct line of sight, etc. are all measures that can and should be done to reduce the likelihood that someone gets hit while crossing a crosswalk.

            I’m not suggesting this is the only step needed to reach vision zero (not by any stretch), but a vision zero plan that does not include measures to improve crosswalk safety would be short-sighted.

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  • inwe August 18, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    “The language we use is important…”

    Yes, Mayor Hales, it is. Please stop talking about “vulnerable” road users and focus on the dangerous and reckless ones. Walking and biking does not make one vulnerable; it is the selfish, careless drivers we have to accommodate on our roads that do that.

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  • David Lewis August 19, 2015 at 12:02 am

    I agree in principle with Vision Zero, and I endorse wholeheartedly making automobile ownership unnecessary in the city. We (as a city) get that way through looking beyond neighborhood squabbles and individual streets and their problems, and focusing on why people commute to downtown via automobile in the first place, and making that unnecessary.

    Today, activists demand small victories like diverters on Clinton St., and ignore Division – the real problem. It’s NIMBY in reverse.; Portland does not need more reasons to never leave one’s own quadrant… Just saying!

    Severely restricting parking, and eliminating free parking altogether, is the first step. There is no other first step.

    Then, rather than a few token trams, replace most bus lines with actual light rail, on the tracks that our great grandparents laid and which probably still lay beneath the macadam.

    Third, stop talking about taking ownership of state roads and take ownership already. Obviously, the state is too busy giving handjobs to petrol interests to care about actual road users, so they need to exit through the gift shop.

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    • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 7:42 am

      If you buy a bauble in downtown Portland you can apparently still get your (auto) parking costs credited/waived by the business you patronized. I didn’t realize this still existed, but my in-laws insisted on driving into downtown and proudly reported this on their return.

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    • soren August 19, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      Today, activists demand small victories like diverters on Clinton St., and ignore Division

      Not true. BikeLoudPDX views facilities on arterials/commercial streets as a top priority as you can see in the TSP endorsements on our Front Page:

      Protected bikeways on commercial corridors prioritizing the most dangerous and cost effective sections that have local support (Barbur, Broadway-Sandy, Belmont-Burnside).


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  • Chris I August 19, 2015 at 8:04 am

    I thought about Vision Zero yesterday, riding along San Rafael east of 122nd, after being passed by two sports cars going about 50mph down the neighborhood street, near a park and a school.

    We need action. We need more speed bumps, diverters, traffic circles, and speed cameras. These people need to pay for the dangerous situations they are creating.

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    • ethan August 19, 2015 at 9:11 am

      Agreed! I used to walk that way occasionally since it seemed like it would be safer than other alternatives, but drivers have found that it can be quicker to drive down this street when others are backed up (due to drivers).

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    • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 9:17 am

      You could not have known how fast they were going without a radar device. The perception of speed changes depending on where you sit, and even engineers have difficulty with such estimates.
      Hyperbole only reduces your credibility to me.

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      • Chris I August 19, 2015 at 9:29 am

        Give me a break. I ride this route every day, and 90% of the cars go roughly the speed limit (35mph, which is way too high, IMO). It is pretty easy to tell if someone is going 50% faster than everyone else. When I hear a sports car revving at 6k behind me, it’s a good guess that they are going at least 10mph over the speed limit.

        You know that people go way over the speed limit all over this city. Why challenge those that experience this reckless driving? Accept it as evidence that something needs to change.

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        • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 10:05 am

          Well, in 2007 (most recent data) 90% of the drivers were going 38 mph or less in a 30 mph speed zone. So your memory of the posted speed is incorrect.
          At that time only 14 of the nearly 5,000 trips got to 50 mph, the supermajority occurring before 5 AM and after 6 PM.

          Whose perception of reality is the most valid that you suggest we ‘accept’, the bike rider’s or the car driver’s?

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          • ethan August 19, 2015 at 11:41 am

            What are you on about?

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            • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 12:02 pm

              The decision makers you are trying to influence use logic and data to support outcomes. Hyperbole and emotionally charged language (language matters) do nothing but delay the conversation moving toward the desired outcomes.

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              • ethan August 19, 2015 at 12:21 pm

                That’s not true at all. Was the left-turn light on 26th added due to data? No, it was added due to people (with all of their emotions) demanding it.

                Many times, plans for bike infrastructure is derailed, not due to data, but do to the whiny emotions of people who drive cars.

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              • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 1:47 pm

                “The decision makers you are trying to influence use logic and data to support outcomes.”

                That was a good laugh, paikiala. Since when?

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              • paikiala August 20, 2015 at 8:40 am

                You ridicule the very people you want help from and wonder why some of them are reluctant to get behind your vision, perhaps assuming their goals do not align with yours. You seem to imply the state of things is entirely the fault of decision makers, and constituents like you play no part (citizen activism is essential, talk is cheap). You appear to want faster progress, as do most, but the frequent contributors here (as a reflection of society in general) can’t even agree on how to fund the change. The negativity reflected in this echo chamber, often haphazardly and with a very broad brush, does not help change our world for the better. It’s just sound and fury, amounting to nothing.

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              • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 9:04 am

                “The negativity reflected in this echo chamber, often haphazardly and with a very broad brush, does not help change our world for the better. ”

                I agree. And this is why I have several times now (and to PBOT staff in person) suggested PBOT deputize one of their own to show up here regularly to answer questions, to defuse some of the ire that builds in the vacuum left by PBOT’s silence on questions of interest to this group. I accept some of your criticisms, but feel this is only going to work if more of us come to the table, join the conversation. Perhaps you can explain why PBOT, with rare exceptions by Roger Geller and Peter Koonce, doesn’t send anyone over here to talk to us. How about Margi Bradway?

                A caricature of my style is that I tend to identify what seems wildly off the mark, lament the thoughtlessness that (seems to me to have) led to this; a caricature of yours is that you often tend toward platitudes, humorless, exonerative phrases of your colleagues. It would be better if we both tried harder to talk to each other rather than past. And I accept that I sometimes do a rather poor job of that.

                “wonder why some of them are reluctant to get behind your vision”

                A fair point. Except that personalizing this, treating it as *my* vision, as if no one else has or could independently arrive at these conclusions, seems odd and, frankly, a copout. I don’t own any of the pieces of this vision. Whether someone at PBOT embraces it or not has nothing—should have nothing—to do with me.
                I keep waiting for a vision from PBOT, some sign that the people who work there are allowed to act not just on the mandates of the Bicycle Master Plan but on their own convictions, their own (individual but preferably collective) insights about what we need in this town. I’m not ignorant of the fact that we, as individuals, all have different ideas about how to get there from here. But I’d like to think that the conceptions of ‘there’ are not so far apart, or at least are worth articulating from time to time.

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              • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 9:29 am

                “You seem to imply the state of things is entirely the fault of decision makers, and constituents like you play no part”

                I can see how that might appear that way and I regret giving that impression.
                However… I do believe that PBOT and Council are in a position to act on principle (as I’ve said here countless times). While they do frequently act on principle, when they do that it is always on the Car head principle. The asymmetrical nature of this is what gets my dander up. Can you speak to that? Why does auto-infrastructure get expanded, upgraded without any bake sales, any special efforts by those who might benefit, when the most modest bike-infrastructure interventions are at risk if not enough bikey-inclined citizens don’t show up to meetings?

                I’m happy to play a part as a citizen, but not if the playing field is ridiculously lopsided.

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              • paikiala August 20, 2015 at 11:40 am

                PBOT is not an independent entity and no matter what many inside may think regarding the best path to follow (little pbot), PBOT and it’s directors serve at the pleasure of City Council, who serve at the pleasure of the citizens of Portland. Advocacy is easy when even half of everyone is behind you, but when those in charge are more concerned with remaining there, and many of the ones most responsible for getting those in charge in charge disagree with BP goals, ‘what we get is what we’ve got’.

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              • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 11:50 am

                “PBOT and it’s directors serve at the pleasure of City Council, who serve at the pleasure of the citizens of Portland.”

                Sure. But this is true for probably pretty much any agency that is part of any government. And if leadership, vision, spine is missing at the top, this can be a problem all the way down the line. But before we get too far down this buck-passing line, it is worth remembering I think that we have a hard-won Bicycle Master Plan on the shelves. Not to mention a Peak Oil Task Force Report. And a Climate Action Plan. What is the point of having anyone at City Government if these hard-fought documents are not implemented. Whose responsibility is it to implement those? And please don’t keep saying the citizens of Portland.

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              • Chris I August 19, 2015 at 2:19 pm

                The data shows us that east Portland is very dangerous for everyone, but especially for those of us that walk and bike. Speed limits are high, and speeding is very common. Anyone that lives or walks/bikes east of 82nd can tell you first-hand. We want to know that our city is doing something about it. I’d like to continue riding my bike to work without becoming another statistic.

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              • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 2:20 pm

                What data? A reference or source would be helpful.

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              • soren August 19, 2015 at 3:09 pm

                First “free speech” and now “logic and data”. These euphemisms for money crack me up.

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      • Chris I August 19, 2015 at 9:31 am

        Case in point: the driver on Prescott last night that killed himself (fortunately only himself) by hitting a garbage truck. Do you think he was speeding? Is that also a hyperbolic example?

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        • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 9:55 am

          Probably, but speculating how fast would be wrong. I simply don’t have enough details. If not wearing a seat belt, 35-45 mph could have killed the driver – garbage trucks are heavy and an impact would have been similar to striking a power pole.
          It would not surprise me if the driver were also intoxicated at 3 AM.

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    • wsbob August 19, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      I don’t know the kind of street San Rafael is. Is it a thoroughfare, heavily used for motor vehicle travel, something like Powell or Foster? Stands to reason that moderating to minimize abusive road use (and by that, among other examples, I mean the speed freaks to which you refer.) on such thoroughfares is likely to be much tougher than on neighborhood streets.

      It’s a worthy effort though, because to me, and I think in general to many other people, questionable management of big thoroughfares has frequently reduced them to wastelands of a sort. Aside from certain functionality objectives they do meet, they have a host unhealthy characteristics that make them nasty and dangerous to be on or near, whether in an automobile or not.

      On a thoroughfare posted for 35 or 40 mph, some of the people using the road and upping their motor vehicle speed to 50 is no stretch of the imagination. I wouldn’t be surprised if occasionally, there are road users clocked at 60 on such roads.

      On thoroughfares, reliably being able to bring down those extreme speeds traveled, seems to be very difficult. I know that out in Beaverton regarding Canyon Rd (runs the length of Beaverton east-west, also, I think, a county highway.), one of the ways the city had sought to moderate traffic speed, was to plan for a treatment something like West Burnside: traffic signals at more intersections to try break up the length of road distance between red and green lights. Redesign hasn’t happened yet.

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      • Chris I August 19, 2015 at 2:52 pm

        San Rafael is not a thoroughfare. It is a neighborhood street with moderate traffic. For most of its length it has no shoulders or sidewalks. The traffic speeds should be low, but it is straight and flat with few stop signs, so many of the people that use it drive fast.

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  • Sr_Esteban August 19, 2015 at 8:13 am

    It’s true ODOT has had the goal of zero deaths for a while.

    However, the distinction many Vision Zero advocates make is that there’s no date on that (e.g. zero deaths by 2025) – so they assert it’s not an actual Vision Zero pledge.

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  • drew August 19, 2015 at 10:19 am

    I can imagine Mr Windsheimer from ODOT barreling down a fire road on a mountain bike yelling at hikers that safety is everybodys responsibility.

    The public understands that with greater kinetic energy comes greater responsibility. Sounds like ODOT is finally behind vision zero? Less days when people die on the road was terrible policy.

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  • Jayson August 19, 2015 at 10:49 am

    “the BTA wanted 50/50 safety/maintenance and the PBA wanted 75/25”

    I think the PBA wanted 75% maintenance and 25% safety. It currently reads the reverse in the article.

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  • Jayson August 19, 2015 at 10:51 am

    I think Kristi Finney made a very good point. There should be a citizens advisory group that makes recommendations and pushes the policy makers, funding entities and other entrenched bureaucracies to make changes.

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  • AndyC of Linnton August 19, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Hey ODOT. Traffic fatalities in Oregon are up 59% this year compared to last year.
    It would be nice if you didn’t have to be dragged to the table begrudgingly, but it’s not surprising.


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    • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      A one year change is not a pattern. It is no more a significant increase than a 50% drop in one year would be a significant decrease.

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      • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 7:27 pm

        “A one year change is not a pattern.”
        Sure but there are plenty of other things that such a jump does signal, even if not a pattern.

        I doubt very much that Sweden has seen a 59% increase in fatalities (in any recent year). And if for some reason, by some fluke, they had, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be issuing milquetoast press releases about fatality free days, and shrugging.

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  • Noel Mickelberry August 19, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks for this article, Jonathan. It is an important first step to have agency heads talking about Vision Zero and committing to that goal, and bringing diverse voices to the table for the conversation on what happens next. That is definitely just the first step.

    A clarification – this meeting was the Vision Zero Executive Committee – which supports the work that the Vision Zero Task Force will do. That is where the action oriented work of a cross-jurisdictional, community supported plan that takes the work PBOT wants to accomplish and partners it with PPB, the fire department, Multnomah County & ODOT – with input from groups representing those likely to be affected by these decisions – to truly address the broad needs of our streets. PBOT can only do so much, so this table is incredibly important to set if we really want to see Vision Zero become a reality.

    And one more clarification: The street funding conversation had more to do with what type of funding mechanism it was than the maintenance/safety split. Of course 75/25 was not acceptable – but that was never really the tipping point, and it was really fairly arbitrary anyways what projects fell into what bucket. The progressive income tax model was what was supported by a large coalition of organizations (not just BTA), and was what the PBA opposed – they were less concerned about the split, more on who was going to pay for it.


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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 19, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks for sharing that Noel.

      RE: the “executive committee”… Funny you mentioned that. I was trying to figure out what was what so I figured, to the public, it’s really not that important.Seriously, teasing out between who’s on the “Task Force” vs. the “executive committee” vs “partner agencies” really is why the community loses faith and feels removed from initiatives like this. So process-y and bureaucratic!

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    • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      “The progressive income tax model was what was supported by a large coalition of organizations (not just BTA)”

      I hope we never see that again. Talk about a short cut to undoing much of the good happening in other parts of city government! Whether we are talking about safety (as here), or the future habitability of our planet (Climate Action Plan, etc.), it is *always* the overwhelming presence of cars (=Car head) that are/is the problem, the source of the weeping and gnashing of teeth. Any funding mechanism that is premised on papering over this extreme modal asymmetry is not only a huge missed pedagogic opportunity, but a willful disregard of the important work others are doing.

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    • Gerik August 21, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Thanks, Noel, for pointing out the broad and diverse range of organizations supporting a progressive income tax-based transportation funding measure in Portland. There is much more involvement than simply from BTA & PBA.

      The full list is available here: https://btaoregon.org/2014/10/coalition-speaks-out-regarding-transportation-fee/

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      • soren August 21, 2015 at 4:39 pm

        It’s very sad that these organizations endorsed a fee that caps contributions from upper income earners to $16 a month. How are we going to sustainably fund infrastructure if we do not require those who have been increasingly profiting from our shared productivity to pay a fair share?

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  • El Biciclero August 19, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    My favorite quote from the Mayor:

    “Having a driver’s license is a privilege. No one has the right to drive a car.”

    The notion of driving as a privilege has to sink in with the general public. It sometimes seems as though a lot of folks think the right to drive is guaranteed in the Constitution.

    I know when I was a kid, if I acted irresponsibly, I would lose privileges. We need to raise the bar of responsibility for those with the driving privilege and stop being so afraid to suspend or revoke it.

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    • WAR August 19, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      You know what would fix this complex social issue?

      More taxes! Yay StreetFee!

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  • WAR August 19, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Re: Street Fee:
    I would like to remind you all that the guerrilla diverters were free.
    Community effort can be utilized to solve deadly streets.

    No amount of taxation will help to change the opinions of those who are carelessly causing these fatalities. They should be held accountable.
    The infrastructure is not to blame.

    Don’t let them sucker you into more taxes.

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  • Chris I August 20, 2015 at 8:13 am

    What data? A reference or source would be helpful.Recommended 0


    “East Portland: As East Portland is bisected by 6 of Portland’s 10 High Crash Corridors, it comes as little surprise that this region of the city is home to a disproportionate number of fatal crashes. In 2014, over half (15) of the city’s traffic fatalities were on or east of 82nd Avenue. The trend of the majority of pedestrian fatalities occurring in East Portland continued in 2014 as well, with 9 of the 15 pedestrian deaths occurring on or east of 82nd Avenue.”

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