Posted by Michael Andersen (Contributor) on May 10th, 2016 at 11:56 am
An impressive array of local officials heard from grieving relatives and others Monday in a “listening session” about the costs of traffic violence.
“We need to face the fact that quick, convenient personal auto travel in a city has unacceptable social costs.”
— Damian Miller, Friends of Barbur
Monday night’s panel at a Legacy Emanuel Medical Center conference room included Portland’s mayor, transportation commissioner, transportation director and chief of police; a Metro councilor; a state senator; and representatives of TriMet, the city fire bureau and state transportation department. Two dozen other local residents attended, telling stories about loss and calling for safety to be a higher priority than speed on city streets.
Ginger Edwards of the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association rose to tell the story of Brian Duncan, immediate past president of their neighborhood association, who one month ago was biking across Rosa Parks Way with his wife and two-year-old. Edwards said an “84-year-old driver” who was headed toward the sun ran a red light and collided with Duncan as his family watched, breaking Duncan’s neck and paralyzing him from the neck down.
“Brian was acting safely,” Edwards said. “The driver was not.”
Edwards said her association is organizing a bicycle Ride of Silence next week, May 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Arbor Lodge Park, to commemorate victims of unsafe streets.
Fixes are within reach, attendees say
As other attendees spoke, some proposed possible solutions.
“Money helps a lot,” said Jessica Engelman of BikeLoudPDX. “But please stop hiding behind the money. There are so many things you can do without money.”
Engelman applauded the city’s choice to restripe Southeast Foster Road for safer pedestrian crossing by replacing two passing lanes with a center turn lane. She called for more restriping of four-lane streets such as Hawthorne Boulevard or outer Division Street.
“Money helps a lot, but please stop hiding behind the money. There are so many things you can do without money.”
— Jessica Engelman, BikeLoudPDX
“We need to face the fact that quick, convenient personal auto travel in a city has unacceptable social costs,” said Damian Miller of Friends of Barbur. “I would urge you to reconsider what it means to be a successful city. … Often times, successful cities are congested.”
Miller said he was disappointed that the state’s regional transportation manager, Rian Windsheimer, had chosen not to attend. In Windsheimer’s absence, Miller directed his remarks to ODOT’s regional policy and development manager Kelly Brooks, who came instead — and also to state Sen. Michael Dembrow.
Duane Anderson of AARP Oregon rose to point out that people over 65 represent 13 percent of Oregonians but 22 percent of traffic fatalities.
“The older population is more vulnerable to traffic accidents,” he said.
Keep evangelizing for safety, Novick says
For his part, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick acknowledged the need for change. He called on attendees to spread the word to their peers as well as to leaders.
“We need to hear from you, but your fellow citizens need to hear from you too,” he said.
Novick said that when he had attended a meeting of people who oppose the Foster Road redesign, he was grateful that people who live in the area and support the redesign had shown up, too. He urged attendees to step into conversations they overhear to talk about the importance of safety. And he also asked them to send emails to Oregonian editorial writer Erik Lukens, whose newspaper last month opposed a local gas tax on the grounds that 44 percent of its revenues would go to safety improvements.
“Tell him to get with the program or get the hell out of town,” Novick said.
Proposal for re-licensing tests draws interest
But of all the ideas floated Monday for improving streets, one new one seemed to catch the attention of politicians present: the fact that Oregon lets people renew their driver’s licenses without demonstrating that they still know the traffic laws.
“You could drive for 60, 70 years and never have new education. And things have changed a lot in 60 years.”
— Judge Steve Todd, Multnomah County Circuit Court
“You could drive for 60, 70 years and never have new education,” said Steve Todd, a traffic judge with Multnomah County Circuit Court. “And things have changed a lot in 60 years, I can tell you that.”
Steve Vitolo, a former Polk County deputy sheriff and ODOT safety official who now runs a company offering driver education for Oregonians convicted of traffic crimes, said it wouldn’t be hard for the state to tally up the handful of changes to the vehicle code each year and require people who have state driver’s licenses to complete an online quiz about them.
To renew a driver’s license after eight years, Vitolo said, you might have to prove that you’ve taken the quizzes at some point.
Mayor Charlie Hales called Vitolo’s suggestion “fascinating.” Sen. Dembrow agreed.
“I’m really intrigued by that and it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “I would be happy to work with the city on that.”
Novick was also interested.
“That’s the kind of interaction between citizens and their government that we should have,” he said.
— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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