Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Portland’s “pedestrian problem” is not going away

Posted by on March 30th, 2016 at 1:13 pm


Crosswalk on Division between 142nd and 143rd.

There’s been yet another crash in Portland involving a vulnerable road user. It marks a very troubling start to 2016 that should force the city to do a gut-check about its commitment to Vision Zero.

Back in 2014 they did one of their crosswalk enforcement actions at this crosswalk. In just 1.5 hours, the PPB issued 20 citations — six of them for “failure to stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian” and three for “passing stopped vehicle at a crosswalk.”

The latest tragedy on our streets happened yesterday at around 6:40 pm. According to the Portland Police Bureau, 36-year-old Evan Agrella was walking southbound when he entered the marked, mid-block crosswalk on SE Division between 142nd and 143rd. There are two standard vehicle lanes in this location. Argrella stepped into the first lane after drivers slowed and stopped for him. Unfortunately someone in the next lane failed to stop their car in time and struck him. As a result of this illegal and unsafe driving behavior, Argrella remains in the hospital with “traumatic, life-threatening injuries.”

Police say officers who responded to the crash believe one of the contributing factors was, “the bright, setting sun that was directly in front of Lovric [the driver] as she drove westbound on Division Street.” Unfortunately, in their official media statement about the crash, the PPB didn’t mention that failure to stop for someone in a crosswalk is a clear violation of Oregon law. Sun glare is a serious safety issue, but it should never be referred to in the context of absolving a person from the responsibility to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. There were many factors present that should have resulted in this driver either stopping or slowing to a crawl: the sun glare; the presence of a crosswalk, median island and caution signage; and the fact that vehicles in the adjacent lane had stopped and their brake lights would have been on.

This stretch of Division is well-known to the City of Portland. Back in 2014 they did one of their crosswalk enforcement actions at this crosswalk. In just 1.5 hours, the PPB issued 20 citations — six of them for “failure to stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian” and three for “passing stopped vehicle at a crosswalk.”



A recent screenshot of my inbox shows a troubling frequency of injury and death.

This latest crash should bring even more urgency to PBOT and City Hall to redouble their safety efforts. Despite City Council’s adoption of Vision Zero last summer and considerable institutional focus on achieving it since then, Portland has had nearly double the fatal crashes compared to this time last year. So far five people have been killed while walking compared to 10 for all of 2015.

Activists are using this unfortunate spike to call attention to the need to pass a local gas tax to help pay for more infrastructure. In the Portland Tribune today, Kristi Finney Dunn of Families for Safe Streets said, “We’re supporting the measure because we believe these safety improvements need to be made. A lot of people don’t realize how much we need them until it is too late.” Finney Dunn’s son Dustin was killed by a drunk driver on Division in 2011 just up the road from where yesterday’s collision happened.

At the Oregon Active Transportation Summit earlier this month the head of PBOT’s Active Transportation Division Margi Bradway acknowledged that the city is struggling to improve safety for people on foot — despite continued investments in things like crosswalks, flashing beacons, and caution signs. Speaking on a panel about Vision Zero, Bradway said, “We have a pedestrian problem in Portland… They make up 9 percent of road users but are 31 percent of deaths. We are a leader of a lot of things; but we are not a leader on traffic safety.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

BikePortland can’t survive without subscribers. It’s just $10 per month and you can sign up in a few minutes.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

107 thoughts on “Portland’s “pedestrian problem” is not going away”

  1. Avatar alankessler says:

    The HAWK they installed after the last tragedy is a sick joke. This infrastructure kills people. PBOT needs to fix it now (i.e. Road Diet) or close it off.

    1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      Why are HAWKs bad?

      1. Adam H. Adam H. says:

        I think Alan may have confused a RRFB with a HAWK.

      2. Avatar paikiala says:

        There also may be a misunderstanding of what a road diet is.

        1. Avatar Eric Leifsdad says:

          Eliminating the extra lane seems like a good response. Making the lanes much narrower could help too, since drivers tend not to drive as fast close to hard things. If the road diet doesn’t work, road stapling.

  2. Adam H. Adam H. says:

    Time for Mayor Hales to declare a transportation state of emergency.

  3. Avatar Adam says:

    There’s an incredibly simple solution to this.

    Put in a road diet.

    Replace two lanes each direction with one lane each direction and a center then lane.

    This eliminates the double threat, it eliminates dangerous lane-weaving, abd wibf cause traffic to back up, because the center turn lane eliminates stopped traffic behind turning cars.

    Four lane highways in an urban area teeming with two million people is SO Robert Moses. We can do better.

    1. Avatar eawrist says:

      While I agree with a road diet on Division, I have to compare. Living in DC has made me appreciate the FAIRLY common protected medians and extended sidewalks in Pland. East Portland is worse of course. A typical street in DC has 4 lanes and no pedestrian median or crosswalk extensions. Walking here truly sucks. Again, I’m talking about RELATIVE safety. Keep in mind these are supposed to be the most walkable cities in the US.

    2. Avatar Adam L. says:

      PBOT’s normal road diet won’t work here. Division already has a center turn lane in this area. Really the only way to do a true road diet on this section is to remove the outside lanes and create either large protected bike lanes or put in bus only lanes. The bus only lanes would have to be physically protected, you know people driving would use them without protection or camera enforcement.

      This is where the Powell-Division bus project was supposed to happen, so obliviously high quality bus service is a priority for this area.

      1. Avatar Adam says:

        Perfect! Let’s remove the outer lanes :-)/

      2. Avatar spencer says:

        BUS only lane, bike only lane, and medians, slows everyone down to human speeds. This traffic violence has got to stop.

    3. Avatar paikiala says:

      Look again at the picture. It already has a center turn lane.

  4. Adam H. Adam H. says:

    investments in things like crosswalks, flashing beacons, and caution signs

    No wonder PBOT’s efforts are ineffective. None of those things listed actually work. What does work is greatly slowing down or eliminating motor vehicles from the space. Stop putting band-aids on our roads and address the bull in the china shop.

    1. Avatar paikiala says:

      Any factual data to back up your claim?
      Try looking at the crash modification clearinghouse.
      Again you don’t know what you’re talking about.

      1. Avatar matheas michaels says:

        If you need to be shown that the more motor vehicles on the road directly leads to more traffic collisions and therefore more danger you probably can’t be helped. Less cars = less car crashes.

        1. Avatar are says:

          i think the point was the interventions adam describes as useless are in fact not useless. i have no doubt paikiala would agree if there were no automobiles there would be no automobile crashes.

      2. Adam H. Adam H. says:

        Look, I’m on your side. I think that it’s great that PBOT is willing to make changes to dangerous intersections. I just don’t personally think PBOT is doing enough. Sure, the data show that RRFB’s and crosswalk increase driver compliance. But what do they do to change the culture of driving? People still feel entitled to travel by car as fast as possible at all times.

        What we need to do – and what PBOT can certainly help with – is to change the culture around driving. That’s what Vision Zero is all about. We need to make it clear that driving is a privilege and must be handled with care at all times. Much of this can be accomplished with infrastructure. Narrower streets, parking removal, traffic-calming measures such as diverters and movable bollards, car-free streets, protected bike lanes, etc. can all change this culture.

        RRFB’s, zebra crossings, HAWK signals, etc. are all good tools, but are still just band-aids to be applied to selected wounds. We need radical and city-wide change to solve this crisis. I sincerely hope PBOT can help us.

        1. Avatar Dan says:

          Just protect all the crosswalks with Jersey barriers. easy-peasy. 😉

          1. Adam H. Adam H. says:

            Or raised crosswalks that force drivers to slow down well in advance of the crossing.

        2. Avatar Gary B says:

          Adam H.
          But what do they do to change the culture of driving? … RRFB’s, zebra crossings, HAWK signals, etc. are all good tools, but are still just band-aids to be applied to selected wounds. …
          Recommended 5

          Actually, I’m going to disagree with your implication Adam. I think RRFB’s do a GREAT DEAL to change the culture of driving.

          What they do–in my opinion–is train drivers that if there aren’t flashing lights, it’s not a crosswalk they need to worry about. This is purely anecdotal, but my experience is drivers seem to be getting trained to focus on those RRFBs and largely ignore normal crosswalks. That is, I watch cars studiously heed the moment a flashing beacon activates, then a few blocks up not even bother to slow down when a pedestrian enters the crosswalk.

          Would a flashing light at this intersection have prevented this collision? Quite possibly, as the driver might have seen flashing lights even with “sun glare.” But that same driver should be driving extremely carefully because of the sun glare, probably well below the speed limit, in case there is a pedestrian crossing. If the driver knows they can see flashing lights, why bother to slow down?

          1. Adam H. Adam H. says:

            I agree with you; perhaps I should have specified that they don’t change the culture of driving in a positive way. They just train drivers to look for flashing lights, not to look for people. This coddling of drivers (they can’t possibly see a person, so install some flashing lights so they do!) greatly contrasts with how we treat people walking (it’s their sole responsibility to watch for drivers that are too distracted to notice them) is completely backwards.

  5. Avatar Eric says:

    “crosswalks, flashing beacons, and caution signs” don’t mean jack shit when the road is engineered for 30MPH+ speeds.

    I mean, just look at it: no trees, no parked cars, low buildings. It’s pretty much designed for this sort of violence.

    I see this as well on Barbur–the road has a POSTED speed limit of 45MPH. I suppose someone wanting to cross the road at one of those wonderful marked crosswalks will be seen by a driver by magic?

    We can pass all the laws we want. We can slap up all the signs and flashing lights we want. It won’t make any difference as long as the actual design of the street doesn’t change.

    We’re trying to slap a band-aid on a broken back and wondering why the patient can’t get up and walk again.

  6. Avatar J_R says:

    It’s really good that the PPB was able to so quickly come up with a well-reasoned, excuse (I mean, explanation) for this “accident.” The occurrence of sunshine! Damn, somebody should have anticipated that sun glare would have happened sometime during the 21st century.

    Now that we’ve discovered it for the very first time, maybe we can do something about it or at least pass some legislation to have a task force look at whether there is any mitigation that could conceivably be acted upon by motorists.

    Until there has been a thorough study and determine whether there is anything that a driver could do, I guess we just have to warn pedestrians that drivers might experience an unexpected event for which they are not to blame.

    Oh, I know, the motorist was able to justify running down a pedestrian with the “I didn’t see that object in the sky” excuse.

    1. Avatar paikiala says:

      The ‘sun’ thing doesn’t work for me either. Apart from the law cited in the story, there is another law that the sun glare would have little effect on.
      Drivers approaching a crosswalk where an adjacent vehicle is stopped are required to stop also.

  7. Avatar Jon says:

    Until the city can show us (Portland taxpayers) that they can spend the money they have responsibly they won’t get any more yes votes from me on taxes. For 20 years the city council has siphoned away money from PDOT to pay for the arts, expensive buildings (the BES palace and fire stations that look like they belong in a high end architecture magazine), pet projects like patented street toilets and things like demonstration water houses.
    The lack of maintenance on our streets and poor pedestrian safety is due to our irresponsible city council. If we give them more money they will just find more ways to waste what they have and kick the can down the road instead of making difficult decisions.
    Now the city says we need to pay a gas tax to pay for what they should have been spending money on for the last 20 years? Why is it we only get to vote on taxes to pay for things the average taxpayer wants like good roads, good schools, parks, the library, and support for arts education? How about letting us vote on a new tax to pay for homeless housing, the office of equity, additional PERS benefits, or refurbishing the Portland Building?

    1. Avatar paikiala says:

      labor union bias. You want to be involved in negotiating contracts?

  8. Avatar soren says:

    When will PBOT learn that the reactive approach of installing a flashing light after another person is killed is not working. It’s time for PBOT to live up to it’s vision zero pledge by taking proactive steps.

    Some suggestions:

    1. Automated enforcement. PBOT should carpet high crash corridors with speed cameras and vociferously support expansion of this program elsewhere. (Equity concerns can be mitigated by offering education as an alternative to low-income drivers.)
    2. Speed bumps should be installed anywhere there is a history of or potential for conflict.
    3. Raised bed crosswalks should be the default on conflict-prone arterials.
    4. Signals should be timed to emphasize safety, not vehicle throughput.
    5. And last but not least: 20 is plenty!

    1. Avatar paikiala says:

      Ignorance is bliss.
      You should look up the definition of a high crash corridor. It’s not even every street with high numbers of crashes.
      The State legislature determines where automated enforcement can occur, not PBOT. PBOT decides where to put it based on legal limitations.
      apart from your ‘bumps everywhere’ proposal and impacts to emergency response, how do you propose to pay for all that?
      BTW, the legislature determines statutory speed limit law and ODOT approves variations from statutory.

      1. Avatar soren says:

        i am aware of the location of each of the current high crash corridors and i am also aware that PBOT has created a draft update to these designations as part of the VZ process (using a multi-modal approach). and while you have a point about ODOT setting speed limits, i sense no urgency on this issue from city or pbot leadership. in fact, it’s my impression that ODOT us used an excuse for inaction. i would love to have you dispel this impression.

        1. Avatar paikiala says:

          The fixed photo radar law was just passed. Installations are expected to start soon with enforcement sometime in July.
          The perception that once a law change occurs that changes to enforcement can also immediately happen is naïve. In the case of fixed photo enforcement there is also the contracts, equipment, installation, etc.

    2. Avatar Kristi Finney says:

      There is a City Council hearing on May 4 regarding the fixed speed cameras approved by the Legislature last year for the High Crash Corridors.

  9. Avatar J_R says:

    Active Transportation Manager Margi Bradway stated:

    “We have a pedestrian problem in Portland…”

    If the Active Transportation Manager cannot even bring herself to put the blame on the DRIVER, where it so clearly belongs, why do we even bother with an Active Transportation program? If it hadn’t been for that pedestrian, that poor driver wouldn’t have suffered so.

    “The City that Will Try Any Half-Measure”

    1. Avatar Todd Hudson says:

      Maybe since the city isn’t really committed to steps to make Vision Zero happen, they could call it Vision Twenty. With a few years of platitudes and good intentions, we might be able to negotiate it down to Vision Fifteen!

    2. To be super duper clear, NOBODY should interpret Margi’s comment as anti-pedestrian. To the contrary, she appropriately is talking about the epidemic of deaths and injuries suffered by people while walking.

    3. J_R,

      She was referring to the fatality statistics, not making a general statement about who’s to blame for crashes.

      1. Avatar J_R says:

        If that’s not what she meant, she should check it with the Communications Director, another newly hired middle manager.

      2. Avatar 9watts says:

        The same mindset that thinks of this as a pedestrian problem dreamed up Gang Enforcement Team. Civil servants, if not everyone, really should start paying more attention to the quality of their communications.

  10. Avatar PNP says:

    A “pedestrian” problem????? This, from the manager of the Active Transportation Division.


    1. Avatar soren says:

      In Margi’s defense she was referring to fatalities, not the mode itself.

      1. Avatar PNP says:

        Of course, you’re right. Language is interesting, isn’t it? But if I have mice in my garage, I’d call it a mouse problem, not a garage problem. (I know; it’s not a good example, but it’s the best I can think of at the moment.)

        I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that what she meant was that conditions are difficult and occasionally impossible for pedestrians, and not that the pedestrians are the problem.

        1. Avatar J_R says:

          Sure, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, too, but the world’s communication today is based on sound bites.

          The main stream media spoons the sound bites to the general audience. All they will hear about is the “pedestrian problem.” With a few exceptions, the people on this site know what the problem is, but 90 percent of the public are not cyclists. Their believe is reinforced by Margi’s “pedestrian problem” sound bite.

          Margi MUST get it right!

          1. Avatar El Biciclero says:

            This is a very good point. Look at some past examples: the $600-million bike plan, where that amount was anticipated (not committed or budgeted) and would have been spread out over 20 years. It was presented in media as though $600-million of driver’s hard-earned gas taxes would be sucked away from other projects in a single year and wasted on “those bikers”. Or the example from today’s Monday Roundup: “78% of pedestrian injuries are caused by distracted walking” (talking or texting on phones by pedestrians). Turns out the real story is that among injured pedestrians who were using phones at the time they were hit, 78% of them were using their phones specifically to talk or text; not that 78% of injured pedestrians were “distracted” by using phones. But what does the public hear? “It’s those damn pedestrians and their confounded phones!”

            Unfortunately it seems that some media outlets will craft their own sound bites for the biggest sensation/controversy, rather than take even carefully worded statements as they were intended.

  11. Avatar Hazel says:

    I am a regular walker and on more occasions than I can count, I have had someone swerve out of the way rather than stop at a crosswalk that I was in. I have also had many people give me gestures that imply “why the heck are you forcing me to stop for you to cross the street”. One time I had a car completely fail to stop at a crosswalk with a police officer right behind them. The officer did nothing. The situation in Portland is dismal and only seems to be getting worse.

    1. Avatar BB says:

      This morning in Seattle I crossed a downtown street in a marked crosswalk. More than half way across, the driver in the car in the middle lane (who was way down the block for most of the time I was crossing the street) yelled at me through open windows “What the f*** are you doing?” as though I was doing something crazy and outrageous for crossing the street. In a crosswalk. In full daylight. With no car traffic particularly close to me at the time. It is not just a portland problem, this is a problem with American culture in general.

      1. Avatar B. Carfree says:

        A couple years ago I was crossing a four lane road with a concrete median/refuge in Berkeley. As I reached the median, the car approaching the intersection in the next lane stopped prior to entering the intersection. (He was northbound and I was on the north side of the intersection proceeding east). As I stepped out, he began honking his horn. It turns out he was honking at the car approaching in the lane to his right who appeared unlikely to stop. The second car did stop, but only after crossing halfway across the intersection (by which time they could see me glaring at them and probably hear the other motorist cursing at them).

        I think it may indeed be an “everywhere” problem, but it’s not an “everyone” problem. Unfortunately, it only takes one dangerous driver to ruin your day.

      2. Avatar eawrist says:

        It’s a problem with american culture, yes. But it can be mediated with good design and enforcement. I lived in NY many years ago and recently returned. The atmosphere has changed a lot since the early 00s. Whereas in DC people consistently block the crosswalk on most streets, and consistently run reds on most intersections (50% is a conservative estimate), NY was mainly devoid of these. It very much was unexpected, night and day. Given good design and enforcement in Portland, this too can happen. We know how to do it. Political will is our only problem. Choose wisely Portland.

  12. Avatar are says:

    the motorists who did stop to allow the pedestrian to cross. did they put on their hazard lights? or is everyone just relying on the weakest link?

    1. Avatar Dan A says:

      Now we’re blaming the drivers who DID stop?

      1. Avatar Pete says:

        I do see are’s point. I’ve been in situations – especially when speeds are low and one lane is more congested than the other – where the stopping drivers are obscuring pedestrians and you can’t really tell that they’re stopping for the crosswalk instead of just braking to slow.

        The Heights in Hood River is a good example, where every block is a marked crosswalk, traffic congests for people turning, parking on-street, etc., and cars (and SUVs and the ever-popular sprinters and other sports vans) are allowed to park right up to the crosswalks. Pedestrians are frequently hit here, and I’ve even had a close call while driving, and I consider myself an exceptionally cautious driver (but then again, doesn’t everyone? ;).

        Anyway, very best wishes to Evan for a speedy and full recovery.

        1. Avatar paikiala says:

          Portland has a standard to address this issue – it’s called the ‘double threat’. That is what the advance stop bars on the road are for with the signs that say STOP HERE FOR PEDS. The retrofit going on recently is to add the double white solid lines to indicate a no passing zone as well. If you see a multi-lane crossing without the double white, let PBOT know so it can be updated.

          1. Avatar Mike says:

            PBOT just added the rapid flash last spring at on NE 102nd (at NE Davis). They have failed to add the double white, and yes, I did let them know last fall and still waiting.

          2. Avatar El Biciclero says:

            Only the nerdiest of traffic nerds seems to even know what a double white line even means; how is that going to be effective?

            1. Avatar Mike says:

              It will be effective in nearly all cases where the driver does know the rules of the road and follows them. For drivers who do not know the rules, and cause injury or death by changing lanes, the existence of the lines will help prove negligence in both criminal charges and possible civil lawsuit(s).

      2. Avatar are says:

        yes, actually, anyone out on the roads operating one of these machines has an obligation to make the situation as safe for everyone as possible. stopping in the middle of moving traffic without signaling what the hell you are doing does nothing for the safety of others.

        1. Avatar Dan A says:

          The photo shows a painted crosswalk on the ground and two crosswalk signs at that location. Presumably the other cars’ brake lights were working. If you drive up to such a location, and have no idea why the other cars are stopped, you should not be driving.

  13. Perhaps the most specifically-applicable statute to what reportedly happened here and happens frequently:

    ORS 811.020 prohibits drivers from passing another vehicle that is stopped at a marked or unmarked crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross.

    How many officers or lawyers… or drivers know that?

    1. Avatar Kristi Finney says:

      DMV is strikingly absent from Vision Zero and I don’t get it. At the Vision Zero Cities Conference, I asked where the DMV representative was and was told by NYC Families For Safe Streets and other groups members that they have not been able to get anywhere with DMV. A very publicized case a couple years ago where a little girl died after being ripped out of her grandmother’s hand in a crosswalk, which was definitely the driver’s fault and was caught on tape, resulted in no criminal charges or even traffic citations. The DMV held a hearing of 40 some seconds and dismissed all citations.

      I want to see required education for new drivers and continuing education for already licensed drivers at each certification. A food handler needs to retest every 3-5 years but drivers only test once?!?! Laws and even infrastructure change so much. I’m pretty sure more often than the elements of food safety.

      In addition to education, I believe drivers need to see the consequences of poor driving. It is UNBELIEVABLE the number of drivers in the High Risk Driver and DUII classes who say “I didn’t know. I didn’t get it.” (I particularly appreciate the ones crying who say, “It could have been me. I could have killed your son.”) I feel perfectly fine with people having to pay to see gruesome pictures. Better they be uncomfortable watching a short video than living with the reality of death and loss like I will for the rest of my life.

      Where is the DMV? Why is it silent? Why is it unconcerned?

      1. Avatar El Biciclero says:

        I really want to give this several more thumbs ups. I called it “Fleet Competence” before; it needs to be raised.

      2. Avatar Dan A says:

        Is their funding tied to the number of drivers who are licensed?

  14. Avatar SD says:

    Has there been any official rhetoric calling out careless drivers? Is careless driving considered to be so very normal and inevitable that we can’t publicly state that it is a huge problem. The closest I have heard from the city is “we all need to do better.”

    I was crossing in a highly visible cross walk a couple of weeks ago after a car had stopped to let me cross. When I was half way across the street, the car coming from the other direction sped up once they saw me crossing the road. It was threatening enough that the person walking with me ran to the sidewalk. When they drove by, they continued with threatening gestures making it clear that they were acting intentionally.

    I would love to replace all of the “see and be seen” signage with “don’t drive like an A**hat.”

  15. Avatar Buzz says:

    Maybe PBOT should stop replacing existing crosswalk curb ramps with new crosswalk curb ramps, for what exact reason I have no idea, and use that money for other more important safety projects.

    1. Avatar MaxD says:

      This bugs me, too. THey replaced perfectly functional ramps on SE Ankeny between 6th and 12th and now many of them drain so poorly they have puddles or mud piles! They are also replacing ramps along Sandy between Burnside and Belmont: despite pouring all new curbs (12″ below grade) they did not create any curb extensions. The angle of Sandy crossing creates very long pedestrian crossing distances and dangerous cornering by drivers- curb extensions would be very useful here! These are not best practices and NOT appropriate uses of money.

    2. Avatar J_R says:

      Last year they replaced hundreds of feet of perfectly serviceable sidewalks along Brentwood Park in SE Portland with new sidewalks. Well, there really were some places where the vertical displacement exceeded 1/2 inch, but not by much. Meanwhile some of the street frontage at the very same park did not have sidewalks and still don’t. There is no one looking critically at the way the city spends money!

    3. Avatar paikiala says:

      Federal Civil Rights Law, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, requires all pedestrian facilities to accommodate all abilities of user. Ramp installation and replacement is mandated by the Department of Justice and most cities are required to have a transition plan in place to meet these requirements. The ramps also have to meet specific design guides for slope.

  16. Avatar El Biciclero says:

    Pedestrian problem???? More like a Sun problem. I mean, people move to the NW to get away from The Sun, yet here he is, probably up from California—and he obviously doesn’t know Oregon laws!

    I want to know whether The Sun will be issued a citation for this crash. How long are we going to persist in letting good ol’ Mr. Sun get away with blinding drivers? The Sun ought to know by now that drivers do not—indeed, cannot—slow down for any reason, including, but not limited to presence of pedestrians, speed limits, poor visibility, poor traction, heavy traffic, presence of children, yellow lights, red lights, making turns, making turns on red lights, or sun glare?????? The fact that we continue to let The Sun off the hook like this flies in the face of any feigned commitment to “vision zero”!! Let The Sun do some jail time and see if he doesn’t think twice about wantonly blinding people who are just trying to drive fast, come-what-may. This victim-blaming attitude that the driver “could have done something”, or “should have known the law”, or “should have slowed down”, or—my favorite—“should have kept his windshield clean”. Pffftt! How nit-picky can we get in blaming the poor driver for things like not cleaning his windshield, when clearly, The Sun, out of nowhere and completely unpredictably, decided to surprise the driver by blinding him! And what is The Sun now, like, 5 billion years old? He should be taken off the streets permanently!

    And while we’re at it, why do we offer the same apparent immunity to Mr. Sun’s little buddy, Shadows? Between the two of them, The Sun and Shadows have conspired to cause so many traffic deaths it’s ridiculous! I’ll bet not a single person here can find a single incident in which either of them have been issued so much as a warning for causing so much injury and death on our streets!


    Here’s a follow-up quiz:

    Which of the following is a force of nature:
    a) Light emitted by the nuclear fusion from a G-type main-sequence star that is older than the earth
    b) A car driven by a human person

    Which of the following is able to make conscious choices:
    a) A person who happens to be driving a car
    b) A G-type main-sequence star that is older than the earth

    1. Avatar Dan A says:

      Without a doubt, you’re my favorite.

    2. Avatar soren says:

      I would love to see OR adopt CA pedestrian law. There is no such thing as jaywalking in CA.

      1. Avatar Pete says:

        I’m guessing your /sarcasm tag is on, but unfortunately driver behavior in California is just as bad if not worse. Police also have to apply and wait for grants before they do stings, and our city’s (brave!) officer responsible for them brings his ‘war stories’ to our BPAC meetings.

        I think having fluorescent flags in buckets for pedestrians to pick up and wave would help tremendously.

        Just kidding… that was indeed sarcasm! 🙂

      2. Avatar Mao says:

        Fun fact: Jaywalking is a crime in the city of Portland, not the state of Oregon.

        Fun factx2: Bus Driver’s still don’t like it when you jaywalk in Corvallis even when it’s not a crime.

    3. Avatar David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC says:

      How about a median island with lots of leafy trees, to keep Mr. Sun in the shade? To make the median extra wide, to not kill the trees so soon and let them grow a bit, how about a road diet of narrowing the lanes to 10.5 feet and putting a buffered bike lane along the curb? For an extra measure of randomness, how about a Jersey barrier in the buffer every 100 feet or so?

      By the way, a pedestrian died here in 2012 or so, as well. Again, Mr. Sun was blamed for that one too. Poor Mr. Sun.

    4. Avatar rachel b says:

      Fabulous, El Biciclero. What a great read! 🙂

      A redhead, I blame The Sun for everything already. Down with The Sun!
      (I can’t hate Shadows)

  17. Avatar Bb says:

    Well it’s very clear.

    Motorists should be banned when the sun is low. If that can’t stop running humans.

  18. Avatar Martha says:

    Yesterday, shortly before 7 PM, I hopped on my bike and headed west on SE Woodstock. I observed that my vision was impaired by the bright, setting sun and adjusted my behavior accordingly. I paid extra attention to potential pedestrians wanting to cross and indeed noticed and stopped for a woman and her dog. Three or four people driving cars whizzed right by before one decided to stop (perhaps inspired by my rapid hand waving?). What is so hard about being a responsible, observant road user? Why the senseless carelessness? Why the, “Oh, they didn’t mean to plow into that human, they just were beset with unfortunate conditions” attitude of our society? That, in a nutshell, is our barrier to vision zero.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      “What is so hard about being a responsible, observant road user?”

      When we sit in cars, drive them, we are made to feel (and do often feel) protected, isolated, invincible. We are prevented from using our senses all that well. This feeling of being cut off from what is going on outside is both subconscious (by the individual) and well understood (by those who study this), but when we design roads and traffic laws and driver’s tests and train cops we tend to forget this dynamic.

  19. Avatar B. Carfree says:

    All the concrete in the world won’t make Portland safe for pedestrians. What is needed is a change in social infrastructure, beginning with the police. Portland needs to start paying extensive overtime and do some serious hiring and create a traffic law enforcement team that enforces the vehicle code with zero tolerance. Each citation will not only modify the offending (and offensive) driver but will influence his/her contacts as they find out.

    Will some people lose their licenses? Will some poor people feel burdened? Sure, but what’s more important, the convenience of people who are too selfish. lazy or stupid to learn and follow the vehicle code or safe streets for all users? Today, we are answering that question in a way that guarantees more bloodshed each and every year until we all give up and stop walking and cycling.

    1. Avatar rachel b says:

      Thank you, B. Carfree! Enforcement, enforcement, enforcement. It works! And the cheaper, unmanned photo radar works great, too!

    2. Avatar paikiala says:

      It is a fact that enforcement, due to systemic problems, falls disproportionately on non-white road users. Simply increasing enforcement without also attacking the problem – too many people dying on our roadways – from other directions as well will fail, or be very slow to achieve our goal of zero fatal and serious crashes.
      Enforcement is expensive and temporal. It only works while the enforcer is present and for a short time afterwards.
      It is not a fact that people of color are any more [insert your favorite derogatory label here] than anyone else, but they are disproportionately represented in our justice system.

      1. Avatar rachel b says:

        So…no enforcement? Ever? Why does it seem to have done such wonders for such famous speed traps as Entering Milwaukie and Entering L.O? I want more speed traps. We in Portland seem to have a real knack for reasoning ourselves into complete inertia, anymore.

        This site (link below) has typos so I’m already suspicious of the data, but have you ever read anything about this, paikiala? Curious to hear your thoughts. They do refer to a survey, and link to it (the hypertext didn’t translate in the copy and paste here), and also a Texas transportation study.

        “….In a recent survey, traffic engineers and other safety professionals ranked driver feedback signs [radar speed reader signs] as the most effective traffic calming method for neighborhoods and school zones. Researchers suggest that the sign’s effectiveness is due to the fact that, unlike static speed signs that are often ignored, feedback signs refocus driver attention on their own speed rather than on their personal evaluation of driving conditions.”

        “They have greatest effect on those who are traveling significantly over the speed limit. Interestingly, research results also indicate that these traffic calming devices have a long-lasting effect. They continue to calm traffic even after they become long-standing fixtures at a location. A study conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute showed that almost the same speed reduction was being achieved four months after installation.”

  20. Avatar Andy says:

    This is tragic and I only hope the pedestrian recovers. This incident clearly highlights the appropriateness of making distinctions among the various pedestrians deaths/serious injuries that have occurred recently. Based on what we know, this is a clear case of the motorist being at fault. It is our responsibility to adjust to driving conditions and bright sun impairing visibility is no excuse.

    In our area, flashing LED lights have been installed at crosswalks near the high school that students can use to indicate that they are in the crosswalk. In a crosswalk like this one that seems incident-prone, that might help.

    We seem to be in the midst of an epidemic of pedestrian fatalities/injuries. I would like to know how we compare on a per capita basis to other metropolitan areas. I am not suggesting that this would be a reason for accepting the status quo. Perhaps we could look at metropolitan areas that do better to see what we can learn.

    I visited Germany a few years ago and was absolutely amazed at how all the pedestrians and cars coexisted so well. Pedestrians and small children on bikes crossed busy streets with no problem at all.

    Where I live, the busy streets are maintained by ODOT and, for reasons that I can’t understand, they won’t paint crosswalks at the intersections. You absolutely cannot cross Highway 43, which means you can’t take the bus. There are no bike lanes either, so you are virtually forced to drive everywhere.

  21. Ovid Boyd Ovid Boyd says:

    No one should die when getting around. I was upset and made this tonight:

    If this was in your car, wouldn’t you want to drive a bit slower?

    1. Avatar Kristi Finney says:

      I LOVE this! I hope you don’t mind, I shared it on Oregon and SW Washington Families For Safe Streets page.

      1. Ovid Boyd Ovid Boyd says:

        Cool! Don’t mind at all

  22. Avatar Jim Lee says:

    Traffic crashes and the maiming and death accompanying them are subject to statistical analysis. The statistical model best suited is the Poission distribution, statistics of infrequent events, which does not admit of predictions with a certain confidence level. “Vision Zero” or no, the recent increase was not predictable.

    The only hard data on “VZ” is that from Sweden since 1997, when it was initiated. They did not come close to zero deaths in 2007, as proposed, nor even in 2011; in 14 years the annual road deaths dropped from about 600 to about 300; not bad at all, but nowhere near zero. This represents an annual decline of about 5%. Sweden has 9.5 million inhabitants.

    The longest data set on road fatalities is from the United States, from 1900 to the present. From 1900 until 1950 there were wild swings, plus and minus, corresponding to wars, the great depression, and other causes. After 1950 the annual changes average a few percent: upward until 1980, at 51,000 deaths; downward from then to 32,000 now. It seems to have leveled out.

    The appalling fact is that no one on Council bothered to perform due diligence on these basic facts. Because the Poission distribution predicates an exponential, not linear decrease, one never can get to zero. Causally, there is no way to stop a pedestrian trying to run across a busy freeway.

    “Vision Zero” has 70 participants doing various things. Even with 700 or 7,000 participants the one thing “VZ” never will be able to do is get anywhere near zero fatalities. A reduction of 5% per year might be possible; 3% or 4% is more likely. If we are able to emulate the history in Sweden in 14 years we could cut fatalities in half.

  23. Avatar AndyCE says:

    Maybe PBOT should stop replacing existing crosswalk curb ramps with new crosswalk curb ramps, for what exact reason I have no idea, and use that money for other more important safety projects.
    Recommended 4

    Does the term Americans With Disabilities Act mean anything to you? Heaven forbid you ever end up in a mobility device. If you do someday, then maybe you can talk.

  24. Avatar Doug Klotz says:

    Changes have been made to the ADA requirements for curb ramps every couple of years, it seems. Redoing an existing ramp to reflect these can be “triggered” by a repaving project on the road. If a road is ground and paved (or lately I believe, just repaved) the curb ramps must be brought up to the current ADA standards. (decided in “Kinney vs. Yerusalem”) Many older ramps don’t have the currently required “Detectable warning” (those yellow raised dots) that tell the vision impaired that they’re about to enter the street. Or are too steep, or don’t have a “landing area” at the top. So when you see this replacement, it’s likely a paving project did or will happen on the street.

  25. Avatar PDXBaker says:

    I really feel for this guy. I got nailed at 42nd by a TriMet Maintenance van on Tuesday morning as he headed East on Powell. He claimed that he blew the red light (after almost 6 seconds) because the sun was in his eyes. He hit my rear triangle at about 30 mph and threw me a good 30 feet by the time I stopped rolling. Had I been in the saddle rather than on the cranks, it would have been more than my bike being destroyed. Please, take your time during sunrise and sunset. It is incredibly dangerous at this time of year because of the sun rising and setting due East/West.

    1. Avatar rachel b says:

      Yikes! How awful! And frightening! Glad you’re ok (if you’re ok–be sure to go get checked out if you start hurting).

  26. Avatar Dan A says:

    Someone in my neighborhood complained yesterday that there are so many kids using the crosswalk to get to school that he can’t drive down the road to drop his kid off at the front door. ‘Pedestrian problem’ indeed. He wants us to retrain the crossing guard to hold kids back until there is a large enough group that it’s worth it to stop the cars.

  27. Avatar AndyCE says:

    Last year they replaced hundreds of feet of perfectly serviceable sidewalks along Brentwood Park in SE Portland with new sidewalks. Well, there really were some places where the vertical displacement exceeded 1/2 inch, but not by much. Meanwhile some of the street frontage at the very same park did not have sidewalks and still don’t. There is no one looking critically at the way the city spends money!
    Recommended 1

    It’s that kind of apathetic attitude toward federal law that got the City of Los Angeles in all sorts of hot water to the tune of a $1.4 Billion lawsuit:

    Perhaps an example from a bit closer to home? How about our own state DOT:

    1. Avatar paikiala says:

      This is a misunderstanding of the law, a common mistake. The law, as interpreted by the DOJ, is what I call the ‘all or nothing’ rule.
      If you build a pedestrian facility, it has to be accessible for everyone.
      On the contrary, if no pedestrian facility exists, then the law is not triggered. The ADA law isn’t about provision of facilities, it is about making sure any facility provided is accessible.

  28. Avatar SE says:

    I ride to the Midland Library a couple of times a week. That same problem of traffic in the 3rd lane away from me stopping, but the 4th flying right through was a constant worry. It’s happened more than once.

    Now I hold off on hitting the “beg button” until it is fairly clear in both directions. yes, I wait a little longer, but have less anxiety.

    If you hit the button when cars are approaching at speed, they will most likely not stop.

    1. Avatar Dan A says:

      Why is that? Can they not see you approaching the cross walk?

    2. Avatar paikiala says:

      Another common misperception of law. the traffic on the other side of a median island (lane 3 and 4) is not required to stop for you while you cross the first half of the street (lane 1 and 2). It is only when you reach the median that lane 3 and 4 are required to stop (and then lane 1 and 2 can begin moving again – the lane + 1 rule).

  29. Avatar RV says:

    Does anyone but myself notice that Portland pedestrians have a sense of entitlement and cross indiscriminately without looking expecting traffic to automatically stop?

    1. Avatar paikiala says:

      Canary in the coal mine? One of the highly touted metrics of a ‘safe’ biking environment is the number of riders not wearing a helmet. Implying they feel comfortable enough to not take reasonable precautions.
      Might one metric of a ‘safer’ pedestrian environment be a lack of concern about adjacent/approaching auto traffic?
      Of course, it could be argued (as you have) that these pedestrians are just distracted, or self important, but then the analogy would have to also be extended to those ‘unaware’ cyclists.
      broad strokes often miss nuance.

    2. Ovid Boyd Ovid Boyd says:

      You realize that cars ARE required to “automatically” stop because the law says pedestrians are “entitled” to be able to cross at every crosswalk. Which in Oregon, means every intersection, regardless of whether there is paint or not?

      1. Avatar paikiala says:

        Car drivers, for now, cars in a few years.
        The law also states pedestrians are to cross when safe for the vehicle operator to stop.

    3. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

      Assuming you drive sometimes here –

      When you drive on an arterial, do you slow to a crawl at each and every intersection for fear that someone else driving will break the law and barrel through the intersection without have right of way? No? So why do you expect people to do something similar when walking on a facility (a crosswalk, marked or unmarked) where they have right of way?

  30. Avatar CO says:

    I was driving a vehicle going East Bound who had just come to a complete stop at the crosswalk when the impact occurred.

    The driver of the SUV had the sun directly in their eyes. The pedestrians (there were three) were running down the sidewalk, hooked a hard left and crossed without looking or slowing. The driver wasn’t speeding from what I could tell and didn’t appear to be under the influence of anything. I spoke with her at the scene.

    This was a terrible accident. Please don’t vilify this driver. She’s going to have to live with this for the rest of her life. All of us witnesses are struggling with the images and sounds that came from this accident. And a man is fighting for his life with serious injuries while a family grieves this process. I’m praying he pulls through.

    1. Avatar Gary B says:

      The law required her to stop when you did. Period.

      1. Avatar CO says:

        You cannot stop a vehicle moving at 35-40 mph in the distance she had to stop. The pedestrians did not show signs they were heading to the crosswalk until they ran into it. I had a greater ability to stop because I was two lanes over, call it 20 feet, further away from them. The other driver also had the sun in her eyes.

    2. Ovid Boyd Ovid Boyd says:

      You absolutely should not be driving at 35-40mph when there are people around. Especially when you can’t see clearly. The driver DECIDED to drive 35-40 mph, despite the fact that doing so leads to a 50% chance of killing someone if you hit them. No one made the driver do that. The driver decided getting to their destination quickly was more important than ensuring the safety of those around them. The decision the driver made, to prioritize their speed over other people’s safety, may have killed someone. Being in a hurry should NEVER be an excuse to put other people’s lives in danger, and that is exactly what speeds like that when you are around people do.

  31. Avatar Jim Lee says:

    Margi Bradway’s comment that 1 in 3 vehicle crash deaths are pedestrians and cyclists deserves close attention.

    Nationally, that figure is 1 in 10. (A cynic would note that as motorists are killing themselves off much faster than they are killing us we should just let them continue.)

    “Vision Zero” is a very blunt instrument developed to reduce ALL road deaths. Leah Shahum of “Vision Zero Network” and Leah Treat of our Bureau of Transportation thoughtlessly have appropriated its public relations bling as synonymous with “protecting vulnerable users.” “VZ,” to the extent it is marginally feasible, primarily protects motorists.

    Protecting cyclists and pedestrians in our City requires careful and expert traffic engineering devoted to just that. Our Bureau of Transportation has proven to be woefully deficient in design skills for protecting vulnerable users. The rational course of action would be for PBOT to hire a traffic design professional from Holland or Denmark and let them have at it.

    “Vision Zero” in Portland is a PR flim-flam, an ideology that generates surcease–at a safe distance–from emotional trauma of traffic deaths and injuries. Noel MIckleberry, a member of the “Vision Zero Task Force,” endorsed that point of view in her recent essay for BP.

    Unfortunately for cyclists and pedestrians, the emotional surcease “VZ” provides to a small fraction of our populace does nothing to obviate the real dangers we all face in our daily use of roads and streets.

  32. Avatar KristenT says:

    First, “pedestrian problem” isn’t the right terminology to use; I came into this article expecting BP to lambast some politician playing fast and loose with the language. It sounded like the article was going to be about how some see pedestrians as the problem. In fact, the problem is with the drivers, the infrastructure, and society’s penchant for excusing certain behaviors.

    Second, when will the police, DA, judges, etc get some common sense and figure out that “I didn’t see them” is tantamount to confessing to dangerous driving? When will drivers start taking responsibility for driving to the conditions?

    If the sun is in your eyes, SLOW DOWN. If your windshield is a smeary, blurry mess, PULL OVER AND CLEAN IT OFF. More lug nuts equals more responsibility to drive cautiously and carefully.

    1. Avatar rachel b says:

      Hear, hear! “If the sun is in your eyes, SLOW DOWN. If your windshield is a smeary, blurry mess, PULL OVER AND CLEAN IT OFF.”

  33. Avatar Tom says:

    Nobody involved really expects zero. It’s a name that expresses a mentality that we are taking the issue seriously. A name like “Vision maybe slightly better than last year” just doesn’t indicate we are serious.

  34. I’m so frustrated with taking my life into my own hands every time I step into an intersection. I’ve decided to video every intersection, and post video of drivers breaking the law. Send me your videos. It’s time to start documenting this terrible behavior.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *