The death of Fallon Smart has torn our community apart. A potent mixture of how she was killed (run over by a dangerous man who used his car as a deadly weapon while she legally walked across a street), where she was killed (a stretch of Hawthorne you might see in a tourism brochure), and who she was (by all accounts a bright, giving and creative 15-year-old who attended a nearby high school), has led to multiple protests, heated online debates, an outpouring of support for her grieving family, and a much-needed dose of reality on Portland’s back-patting path to “Vision Zero.”
Whenever someone dies in a traffc collision, it has an impact on the community; but every once in a while a fatality will spark something larger. Smart’s death appears to have done that. But strangely, while citizens and grassroots activists have mobilized, there’s a deafening silence from City Hall.
The day after Smart was killed, volunteers with BikeLoud PDX spearheaded an occupation of the intersection at 43rd and Hawthorne. They put up signs on traffic poles and in the intersection and some people even stood in the road to make sure the messages got to people driving by. Activists also painted two unsanctioned crosswalks — reacting not just to Smart’s death but to the fact that she was hit in the middle of a seven-block stretch that is notorious for speeding and where there are no marked places to cross.
From reports we read, Smart’s friends and classmates came to the site throughout the day to leave flowers, sing, and just hold the space. Many tears were shed from strangers and those who knew her. All day long people came and went to pay their respects. And it even lasted into the evening.
I wasn’t able to get over there until Saturday night. When I did I was surprised to see two people sitting in chairs adjacent to the new guerilla crosswalk. They weren’t eating or drinking, they were sitting toward the street. Then I realized they were there to act as a sort of citizen police force. Every few minutes one or both of them would suddenly spring out of the chairs while waving their arms and yelling “Slow down!! A girl was killed her yesterday!”
The two people were Brian Burch and Catie Griesdorn. They didn’t know Smart or each other before Saturday.
Burch was there because he heard about it on the news. Now in his 50s, he was born and raised in the neighborhood. Smart’s death hit him especially hard because his own big brother was hit and killed when he was just 10 (and his brother was 14). They were riding bikes together and Burch saw the whole thing happen. He teared up telling me about it. Then I understood why he was jumping into the street yelling at people to slow down. Burch was out on that street all day and well into the night.
Catie Griesdorn is a local school teacher (formerly at Sunnyside a few blocks away and not at Arleta). She’s not a traffic safety activist and had no personal connection to what happen Friday night. She just happened to be in the area and felt compelled to be there. It seemed like she was doing this as a penance, letting the emotion and sadness of what happened wash over her so that she would be a better person on the other side. “I’m a driver. I need this.” she said. As I talked to her, I realized that she was also there to try and build a connection where one was so violently and tragically broken. She stayed at that intersection for over three hours before going home just before midnight.
Employees from Ranger Station, a cafe on the corner that closed it doors after the collision to provide a space for the Smart family to grieve (they were with her when it happened), also came out to talk with us. They fully supported the guerilla crosswalks and loved the citizen patrol of Burch and Griesdorn. They told us people always drive dangerously and speed on this stretch of Hawthorne. One employee even offered to give us eggs to throw at people who were driving too fast.
The connection Smart had to those who knew her is clearly evident in the outpouring of support for her family. A fundraising site set up for funeral expenses has raised nearly $38,000 in just two days.
While her family and friends go through unfathomable pain, activists are expressing theirs through demonstrations and more protests. On Friday (8/26) two volunteer activists have organized, “We demand safe streets – A call to action,” an event and ride that will be a show of solidarity and remembrance. Here’s more from the organizers:
“This is another senseless and completely preventable death here on our streets. Our city doesn’t seem to have any plan other than talk of ‘Goal Zero’. Let’s challenge them to do better, lets create ways as a community in which we can make our own roads safe for us once again…. We can make our voices heard by showing up in mass. let’s not be silent anymore.”
The ride will begin at City Hall and will visit 43rd and Hawthorne where they will lay down a crosswalk made of flowers (bring some if you can).
The stop at City Hall is important because we haven’t heard much yet about this tragedy from the people who work there. It doesn’t appear that Mayor Charlie Hales or three of the other five city council members have publicly acknowledged Smart’s death. Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick has offered condolences.
Despite this lack of official recognition, most Portlanders won’t soon forget what happened to Fallon Smart. Her death — on a day when Portland was touting its leadership in “open streets” at an international conference — has forced us to acknowledge the vast gap between what we say we want and what reality provides for us.
Read more about Fallon Smart via The Oregonian.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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I visited again last night. There was another news crew out for a bit. There are a lot more flowers. There are still some speeding cars- a very fast-moving Safeway semi truck was notable.
There’s a ton of sidewalk chalk art. There are some protest signs, some memorial signs and notes, a jar of jam(?), and more.
I was there pre-protest on Saturday, it’s been inspiring to watch it grow.
Note New Seasons donated a good amount of flowers, and the nearby art shop helped with signboards too. It’s no surprise (to me) that the majority of locals consider it a problem. Certainly not all, though.
I’m with the protesters. I fear, however, Newton’s laws coming into effect. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I fear some knucklehead drivers taking this as a direct challenge to their car culture, and reacting badly, and dangerously. Pray I’m wrong.
Silence from city hall is not surprising. We are city governed by exceptionally poor leaders.
I wonder who elects, and then re-elects, these exceptionally poor leaders?
Could have just as easily been my 15 year old daughter. My heart goes out to everyone. How do we ramp up the PDX Transformation?
You can tweet @pbotrans to get involved in projects they have in the works, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can do a project yourself, they will publicize it if you want.
(no, I’m not pdxtransformation, but I play one on TV)
This weekend, Portland Parks closed Kelley Point Park indefinitely after two people drowned, one 21 years old and one just 10. They plan on keeping it closed while research is done on why the drownings occurred, and until a solution is implemented to prevent them in the future. Portland Fire and Rescue supported this decision, citing claims that there is not much they can do once a tragedy like this happens, and that we need to be relying more on preventing them to begin with.
PBOT must take this approach to our roads. If a road design is killing people, close it until it can be fixed. If there is no funding for fixing it, then find the money or keep the road closed until the money can be found. It’s high time the city starts treating road deaths the same way as any other preventable death.
***This portion of your comment has been deleted because of a mocking tone toward another commenter. — Jonathan. *** Most everybody seems to use the road just fine. Let’s focus on the jerk driving 60 mph where he shouldn’t have been.
Yes, the driver takes the blame for this crash, but let’s not let that fact distract us from discussing safety improvements to the road. Because there are plenty of easy infrastructure changes that can prevent a “jεrk driving 60 mph where he shouldn’t have been”.
There will never be a shortage of sociopaths driving cars. If this street had concrete medians every 1-2 blocks, this death would not have happened. Every 4 -> 3 road diet needs to include solid medians to prevent this behavior.
Sadly, more run-of-the-mill types than sociopaths. Just increasingly self-absorbed, careless people. And a whole lot of them (us). Doesn’t help that cars are designed now to be everyone’s rolling living room. I like the medians idea.
Exactly. There is NO REASON you should be able to drive 15 blocks non-stop in a median turn lane. Concrete raised curbs every block on these things would prevent that, AND allow for safe pedestrian crossings.
A motorist only needs to be in a median turn lane for what, 100 feet? If that. It’s not meant to function as an extra arterial lane for the impatient speeding lane-weaver.
Most everybody seems to be able to use Kelley Point Park without drowning too.
What say you?
Most everybody seems to speed, flaunt stop signs and red lights, and all with impunity.
I understand the point you are trying to make Adam. However FWIW, Kelly Point is only going to be closed a few days while they put up some signs.
how long will that stretch of Hawthorne be closed? and how many signs are they putting up?
As long as people are willing to support it. What a few of us started on Saturday has truly mobilized a lot of people. As the center lane memorial has grown, it becomes harder for the city to come clear road obstacles – there is strong emotion out there now, in the middle of the street.
This is good as it is highly visible that a tragedy has occurred here. Everytime I have been out there, someone has come up, starting talking with me, and picked up a sign.
Yes wouldnt that be awesome! If people were impacted for longer and in a bigger way when someone was hurt or killed, such as road and park closures, then maybe we’d realize the immense impact of our actions on the world around us. Instead it’s often just a quick inconvience and back to regular programming-so to speak
I’m all for this, actually. If everyone knew that killing speed resulted in consequent road closures they might think twice about speeding. I would also like to see 25mph speed limits on all road within the city limits.
It is posted (25) on my street (SE 26th) and it matters not a whit if it’s not enforced.
You don’t think it would make a difference if the posted speed was 45?
What matters far more than the speed limit is the design speed of the roadway. Changing a number on a sign can have value, but is mostly symbolic.
It did help on our street. The old posted limit was 30mph. They reduced it to 25 and I have noticed a big changed in driving speeds. We still get the occasional jerk doing 40 down it but the vast majority of people are obeying the new speed.
Of course it would make a difference if the posted speed was higher (banish the thought!). My point is that we need enforcement–not that lower speed signs should not be posted. I don’t see the drivers on SE 26th respecting the 25mph signs at all, and if they read 45, I’ve no doubt they’d be going 60 and up. A handful already do, mostly in the wee hours.
Speeders rule on SE 26th now, and they just keep getting faster. It is a very slippery slope, absent enforcement of any kind. Monkey see, monkey do. The driver in front of you drives 15 miles over the limit? So do you. And the driver behind you. And so on and so on and so on. It’s like watching a daily display of human suggestibility out my window.
SE 52nd is getting bad too. I wish PBOT would install more traffic slowing devices such as chicanes and neck-downs.
Sure, but a driver can choose to drive the speed limit without worrying about being menaced from behind (as much). If the speed was 45, even cautious drivers would feel coerced to drive 45.
I’d like our speed limit lowered from 25 to 20 just so more drivers feel like they CAN drive 20, and slow the drivers behind them. I know many people will still go over whatever the posted limit is by 10mph regardless, but 30 is better than 35.
We don’t disagree, Dan–I just want enforcement, and that was more the point of my original comment.
Me too. Enforcement is sorely lacking. I just don’t agree with the notion that lowering the speed limit is worthless. I hear it from traffic engineers and from safety advocates, but I’m not convinced that lowering the speed limit has no value whatsoever.
I too am totally for this approach of closing the road until the reason or design failure is fixed for a fatality. In the case of a neighborhood business district like Hawthorne. close the middle lane at each intersection and at least stripe crosswalks at each cross street. Then enforce it for 30 days until the regular users finally get the Idea.
Freeways, block the lane until the offending drivers, if they survive, are cited and are sentenced to jail time. This would be assuming that the victims survive. If they do not drop the prevailing speed limit 5+ MPH.
Pouring concrete does not take very long either. There should be a
Not sure what happened with my previous comment…
There should be a book of standard design and approaches so that PBOT does not have to spend months designing medians and can roll out safety improvements immediately after a crash like this. And no, a rapid-flash beacon isn’t enough here.
I don’t like the idea of responding to the most recent incident or tragedy. Instead, I want to see a systematic plan for improving safety across the city.
There should be that, too. No reason we can’t tackle this problem from both ends.
They’re on the shelf just to the left of Vision Zero…
If there is a tragic death to a pedestrian or cyclist on section of road due to a careless or reckless driver that section of road should be immediatly converted in to a car-free bike and pedestrian parkway with concrete diverters at both ends permanetly. This will guarantee that a similer tragic death will never be repeated on that section of road. Perhaps losing a chunk of motorway will make the driving public think about their carelessness, and if not, the problem will be solved one chunk of road at a time.
We would have an entirely car-free state within a couple of years if we did that.
Extremist? Are you inferring political/religious views based on the driver’s name?
nope. not at all. I’m referring to the type of driving behavior he displayed. Going 55-60mph on that stretch of hawthorne is extreme behavior.
I’d love to know how many times you have used that term on this site to describe someone.
***This comment has been deleted. Your comments will not be published unless you change your tone and treat others with respect. Thank you. – Jonathan ***
Geez, Jonathan! You have no sense of humor any longer. Goodbye to your self-important little bike blog.
Perhaps there are better places for “humor” than this post?
How about describing Heath Evans’ tweet yesterday?
I wouldn’t think for a second that Jonathon was making a racial comment referring to the driver here as extremist, but maybe another word would have been a better choice.
I see the PC Police are out in full force already.
this might the first… but I know where you going with this and you’re just wrong. Before I even knew who hit Fallon Smart I started using the word “extremist” in the past week or so… it’s part of a way I want to change the framing and dialogue of this type of behavior. see my @jonathan_maus twitter stream for more about it.
“Extremist” is used to describe an extreme (usually violent/militant) belief system. It doesn’t really apply to driving, unless there was an extreme belief system that motivated the driver’s actions. To date, there has been no suggestion that this is the case.
I understand you used the word to try to get people to look at this situation in a different light, but I just think it confuses. The driver’s actions clearly were extreme, and this is evident to all. It is not necessary to appropriate the word extremist to denote reckless behavior.
Would you call a drunk driver an “extremist”? How about someone evading the police? Or a drag racer? Or someone trying to impress a friend in their sports car?
There are people who believe that people not in cars or on motorcycles do NOT belong on the road. There are people who advocate driving in such a way as to intimidate those people out of public space. There are people who believe speeding is their right. I have had conversations with these people. More of them exist than you might think.
That said, I do think that Jonathan should include the qualifier of “vehicular” before the word “extremist.” “Extremist” on its own, and especially in light of the ethnicity of the person to whom he’s referring, is simply too loaded.
Is there even an iota of evidence that the driver felt this way?
I do not agree that the word is racially “loaded”. The extremist label can be, and often is, applied to people of all races and genders. One example is Marine Le Pen. There are many, many more.
If you take the word literally, sure. But given the current political climate, people will definitely make the connection in their minds.
Actions speak louder than words. How he was driving tells me all I need to know about what he thinks about public space.
Do you think his driving was a response to a well considered position on the appropriate role of public space within the urban form? Or is it more likely the question never entered his mind and he was just driving recklessly?
“Extremist” was an ususual word choice since it sually denotes intent to cause harm or disrupt. You got my attention because I was looking for an explanation of a sociopathic driver. “Dangerous” is somewhat too general since it is possible to be dangerous through ignorance. “Reckless” may be the most appropriate word since it denotes a conscious disregard for safety. There’s a reason why traffic laws refer to reckless driving more than dangerous or extreme driving.
While, I believe that was your intent, given the current context around the word and the fact that the driver was a person born in Saudi Arabia, and I know you don’t mean to draw any connection there, I’d just suggest that it might be worth choosing a different word.
Hi Kevin, you and others are right. I deleted the word “extremist”. I should know better to understand and react to the broader context of this type of situation even when I can make an intellectual argument in favor of it. Thanks commenters/community editors!
Jonathan, I know you did not mean it this way, but referring to a person of Arab heritage as “extremist” was perhaps a bit insensitive. Even if his individual actions were extreme. Not that I feel the need to defend this man at all, but it’s important to consider the broader context.
Yes, you and others are right. I deleted the word “extremist”. I should know better to understand and react to the broader context of this type of situation even when I can make an intellectual argument in favor of it. Thanks commenters/community editors!
Thank you! That’s what we’re here for.
I don’t post often, but I gotta say I’m really grateful for this site’s appreciation and respect for the power of words. This level of carefulness is evident in the stories themselves and in the comment moderation. I swear, there are only a couple of comments sections left that I haven’t sworn off of completely.
Some people will call it “political correctness” but it’s closer to just plain old “correctness”. One unintentionally loaded word can skew an entire story and send it off course. And an abusive or inconsiderate comment can poison the waters, not only ruining the current thread, but discouraging future participation.
thank you for saying that Rain. I’m fully aware that quality comment sections are becoming a dying breed (even NPR just closed theirs down), but I still believe in them. I do not see you and others as “commenters” or merely “readers”… I see you as just important to the story and the conversation as anything we write in a post. Also, we have extremely limited capacity to moderate so I need help from everyone to keep things in check. Please try and help others comment well and if it doesn’t work out, contact me and I will address it ASAP. Thanks.
Better, but I think “dangerous man who used his car as a deadly weapon” still distracts from the things we can actually do about the street and makes it sound like some random intentional violence. I don’t know if he was dangerous outside of doing something so foolish and criminally reckless. Many, many people drive like this in Portland with little to no consequence most of the time. He was speeding rather extremely, but 0-60 is not far removed from 0-35 with a 150-200hp engine.
When people think “that won’t happen to me”, they’ll forget about it. Really, it’s no different than what happened to Andrzej Kurkowski or even Martin Greenough: somebody was going somewhere and a reckless or careless speeding driver killed them with a car.
This same kind of racing nonsense kills innocent people in cars too, like 26-year-old Alexander Keppinger
Nobody was killed in these three recent getaway attempts on I5, Barbur, or Barbur but that’s only because a lot of people got lucky and/or not many were outside of a vehicle (this is ODOT keeping us safe!)
At least the carjacker had the decency to get on the interstate instead of Multnomah Blvd. I’m sure the drunk repeat-offending streetracer is or will soon be out and at it again. That stolen truck in April (with a gun in it) was wrecked off of a narrow residential roadway onto a stairway which connects the walking route to Barbur. And both of those high-speed chases could have been the end for someone in the painted bike lane on the Brier Pl curve or crossing to Fulton Park. Which was more dangerous, the truck or the gun?
Driving fast cannot accurately be described as extremist, if if the speeds involved were extreme.
That’s what I thought too, J. Take a small amount of solace in the fact that this guy will very likely serve prison time. If he were a white lacrosse player named Taylor, he’d already be out on a much smaller bail.
once he’s deported back to his home country he may face death… Saudi Arabia isn’t known for being lenient and forgiving…
What good would that do?
The entire point (for me) of harsher punishment is to serve as a deterrent, not to exact some kind of vengeance.
Absolutely! In Saudi Arabia, te fastest way to be executed is to be driving a car and hitting a pedestrian laying his prayer mat out in the middle of the street. There are no appeals.
I’ve said as much, though my example was the well off housewife.
While I’m all for greatly increased criminal penalties for negligent motorists, the knowledge that this guy will be a one off “example” instead of a permanent change is further proof of how broken our justice system is.
City Hall hasn’t exactly been silent. They did scold activists for painting the crosswalk in the intersection.
They mentioned Vision Zero too. Even time they mention Vision Zero, countless lives are saved!
I wonder what it takes for the city to paint a cross walk. Even though there are crossing signs and brand new lane makings at Vancouver and Ivy, somehow the pedestrian zebra got over looked. I regularly have to cross there with two small children and am amazed by the F__kery of drivers as they compete to get to the Freemont bridge. I have never seen a Police operation to try to tame this dangerous intersection.
I’ve been fighting city staff in Eugene in a futile attempt to get a few key crosswalks in. The interim head of traffic engineering insists that the cost of putting them in and maintaining them is prohibitive. He even kept a straight face when he said this (as he headed off to Denmark on a junket).
And to think he’s supposed to be a step up from our prior unlicensed traffic engineer.
Thanks for your efforts.
How does marking a legal crosswalk increase your safety?
Drivers will be able to see it is a crosswalk easier. Not everyone knows the law.
You state it is ignorance. What about requiring testing every four years to keep a license?
How does the marking increase safety?
Paikiala, do you think removing marked crosswalks would increase pedestrian safety, decrease it, or cause no change?
It would depend on the street width, speed and traffic volume, based on the studies I’ve seen. The Zegeer report quantified where risk increased or was neutral. For multilane roads at 35 mph and most any road posted 40 mph, marking a crosswalk resulted in more pedestrian crashes. When traffic volumes get to 15k per day only 2 land roads posted 25 mph or less were considered candidates for marking the crosswalk. The Zegeer report included review of crossings with refuge islands. NCHRP 562 is the more current research that identifies crossing treatments for different levels of interaction.
So putting crosswalks on SE 26th would be a pretty obvious safety improvement, right? Single lane road, posted 25MPH, volumes under 15K/day… it seems an easy case.
it fits the criteria.
A wonderful idea.
Reading about Fallon Smart on the Oregonian site, and she was a very bright, engaged, talented young person. It is gut-wrenching to read more about this story, and sad that a brilliant person’s life can be ended so suddenly by someone driving and behaving so recklessly. I hope there is justice. Undoubtedly, Abdulrahman Noorah will bear the burden of her death for the rest of his life.
Abdulrahman Noorah will bear the burden of initially being in trouble for killing her, but will be “bear the burden” of her death? More likely, he’ll get the typical wrist slap assigned to situations like this while allowed to return to his home country to live the rest of his life without repercussion. I doubt someone who would operate a vehicle in such a manner knowing full well the possible outcome would have much personal remorse.
“Bear the burden” ? Let’s see… he had 17 parking tickets, didn’t seem too broken up about that. Got cited in April for driving with a suspended license, which means he had previously done something very wrong, been stopped and cited, had his license suspended, THEN continued to drive badly and got stopped again, leading to the “driving with a suspended license” charge, and he kept right on driving until he killed someone. It was totally predictable.
I doubt that he feels bad about the girl he killed, just annoyed that he has this temporary inconvenience of being in jail for a while until his family bails him out and flies him home.
His passport will be confiscated. He may get bailed out, but he won’t be leaving the country before trial.
John where did you get the info his passport was confiscated? It is probably diplomatic.
One of the news broadcasts said his lawyer offered to surrender his passport (presumably in exchange for a more sane bail).
is every non-resident alien of middle eastern descent a diplomat to you?
I think he has deep regret and remorse.
More likely he will take it as a justification for his behavior.
Hang on here…if it were one of the many homeless folks we have here in Portland would it be less gut-wrenching?
It shouldn’t matter, but it’s easier to identify or sympathize with a bright teenager than a homeless person or a Lester or a Ted.
Yes. It absolutely would.
Surely you’re not going to pretend otherwise. You’re going to compare a person with a name and a story to a hypothetical. Expecting another answer would be foolish.
There is nothing hypothetical about all the people living outside in this city.
Feigned ignorance of my point does nothing to bolster your case.
Nobody should die using our streets. Nobody. Every loss of life due to traffic violence is a tragedy.
I have faith in the city’s Vision Zero strategy. They have really good intentions. The mention it press releases and police bulletins. They repeatedly pat themselves on the back for their efforts, and have lots of splashy banners that say “Vision Zero”. Any day now, they’ll do some traffic enforcement and build infrastructure that keeps safe all transportation modes. Any day now. My faith in their good intentions in unwavering!
Ignoring, or course, what has already been done…
Hey, it’s fine to debate stuff, but the best thing you can do is be out there at the site if you live nearby. My schedule prevents me from being there there during the day on weekdays, or tonight specifically, but I’ll be back tomorrow evening. If you want, there are extra signs inside of the “LANE CLOSED UNTIL KILLING STOPS” sign. Feel free to wave them at the cars.
This isn’t about just Fallon, or Hawthorne, but about the gaping chasm between City Hall’s pretty words and their actions THROUGHOUT the city. There are worse streets that should be fixed first, but here is a symbol that has held together for four days now. Let’s keep it going, as a focus for what’s wrong all across Portland.
Thanks to everyone who has donated their time, their money, given soda and water to the watchers, or even just waved support as they safely drove by. Please keep up the momentum.
Waving with support from afar. This is heart-wrenching. My sincere condolences to her family, and thanks for your efforts at change.
I came home from a vacation two days ago to this horrible news and I still haven’t been able to really process it. It has been on my mind almost non-stop. As a high school teacher I see my students’ faces when I look at her photo. As a parent of a seven year old, who I visit this area with regularly, I think of him when I see her photo. I cannot imagine what her family and friends are going through. My only hope is that this senseless tragedy can be a catalyst for positive change, as I know many of you do. Personally, I am committed to doing some things to help with this change the best I can. Thinking about the necessary changes in infrastructure is overwhelming to me, but I’m not going to allow that to discourage me. First, I am going to stay more informed with bikeloud and get involved when I can. I also plan to support the BTA again. Secondly, I will forcefully exercise my rights as a pedestrian and cyclist so that drivers become more aware of the existence of peds/cyclists and our rights. I will also continue to encourage people to put the car keys away as the more people walking and cycling the better. My hope is that this will raise the level of concern of drivers. People should drive with a certain level of fear, and act accordingly. Next, as an occasional driver I will help to create a culture of kindness and respect, and encourage others to do the same, regardless of the angry reaction of other drivers. At this point I really don’t give a damn what they are thinking. Lastly, I will do my damndest to pass this on to my son.
When I was back home on vacation last week my brother told me a story. A week before I arrived he came upon two young girls trying to cross the street at a marked crosswalk. He stopped and couldn’t believe it when three oncoming cars passed through without so much as slowing down. He got so pissed off that he got out of his bigass truck and put his hand up to the next car. He was blown away when the man passed right through! This time he had had enough and stepped fully into the oncoming lane to stop the next car, and waved the girls through. A small group of people on the sidewalk gave him a round of applause. His actions didn’t lead to the passing of any new state laws, but he made a difference for those two girls and I’m willing to bet he gave all of those people who saw this take place something to think (and perhaps talk) about.
Regarding your desire to pass on your careful driving habits to your son: I read an article in NewScientist fifteen or so years ago that concluded that people have already established their driving habits by age twelve. They learn what they will do from their same-gender parent while being a passenger. Good on you for teaching him well.
I guess that’s why my son never did get a license. I almost never took him for drives, so he learned by doing what I do, walking and cycling.
Good point. I hope to pass on my non-driving habits, too. I wasn’t very clear when I wrote that. I often explain why we aren’t driving. He gets it, though it does take some reminders.
The thing that I keep coming back to is the challenge of protesting institutional apathy. It’s not a dictatorship we’re trying to overthrow. It’s not legalized segregation. It’s a city government that just doesn’t care, in a culture that values speed over life. What can we even protest for? The sadness of this murder, combined with the feeling of impotence over making real change, is desperately infuriating.
I’ve seen a lot of people say that Vision Zero can’t do anything about drivers (killers) like this one. I would argue that Vision Zero is PRECISELY meant to handle situations like this. For cities that are serious about Vision Zero, they are pursuing solutions in infrastructure that would make it impossible for anyone to drive and kill in this way. It’s not Vision Zero (Accidents), it’s Vision Zero (Deaths). That’s the whole reason that Vision Zero is audacious. And not just a slogan.
Just as with a bicycle, it is much harder to start from a standstill than it is to keep momentum going.
NYC is aggressively installing concrete medians and refuge islands that would have likely prevented this unnecessary death as part of their vision zero reforms:
Institutional apathy definitely isn’t any of the things you described in this case, but man it is deeply ingrained. We can fight for small changes now, but the big payoff is the next generation. And the next. And so on. This is why I am going to forego doing the entire protest ride this Friday in favor of taking my son to Hawthorne to join for that portion. Sadly, I don’t feel comfortable taking him on the entire ride.
Low hanging fruit? We’ve been trying to get the yellow light timing extended here on a few large intersections where cyclists frequently get caught on an opposing green. In one of these particular intersections, an elderly man was killed riding his bike through a left turn last year, and the police report and witnesses all said he ran the red light. As a fairly fit and fast cyclist I’ve been caught in that (wide) intersection on a fresh green myself, so I doubt he even risked a stale yellow or red.
Anyway, in my experience, “Vision Zero” describes the actual level of road cycling or walking insight of the administrators who latch onto the term.
There is no evidence for your opinions regarding institutional apathy, or for the claim that the city government doesn’t care. The claim is as valid as right wing commentators suggesting there is a war on cars.
And murder involves intent, and you have no evidence the driver intended to kill anyone, in fact it is likely very rare anyone driving actually intends to kill another while driving.
As others have pointed out, those that run the city are elected by popular vote. If you don’t like the way the city is being run, convince enough of your fellow voters to remove the decision makers from office so that your priorities can be implemented.
College student charged in hit-and-run that killed teen on Hawthorne Blvd.
Unfortunately, many of us know what it is like to lose a close family member to traffic violence. Keep this all in mind the next time you see someone driving recklessly. Speak up. Get involved. Call 911 if necessary. You might be saving a life.
How about some real penalties for driving without a valid license? I’m willing to bet that when he got cited in April, he was allowed to continue driving to his destination, instead of being arrested on the spot and having his car impounded. Killing someone while driving suspended should be a murder charge.
Vehicular Manslaughter, definitely.
Until I see enforcement go after low hanging fruit, I have zero faith in the powers that be and their dedication to Vision Zero.
I need to see:
Random and relentless speed enforcement in neighborhoods. Until the public fears that a cop could be around any corner, there will not be change in the behavior of most drivers. The lack of fatalities in most neighborhoods cannot be seen as a sign of success and an excuse to not do anything. More people aren’t being killed because people have been conditioned to give deference to people in cars and discourage children from playing in neighborhood streets. We have handed over our public space out of fear and that fear makes them look safer than they are.
Enforcements at UNMARKED/marked crosswalks that are proportional to how many of those crosswalks exist. My guess is that 95% of crosswalks are unmarked. Therefore 95% percent of enforcements should be at unmarked crosswalks. Currently this ratio is swapped. I have been diligently tracking PBOT’s crosswalk enforcement announcements over the last few years and not one has been at a truly unmarked crosswalk. One time when I challenged them on this with a particular enforcement, PBOT tried to claim that a signed (at least 4 signs) crosswalk with a median was “unmarked.” They are not being honest about what is needed and when pressed, it was once admitted that enforcements are unmarked crosswalks are too dangerous. Obviously all the more reason that they need to be done.
Obviously more is needed to change the culture of motor vehicle centeredness, but look at the shift that happened with drunk driving. Massive enforcement was the bite that went along with the media bark that changed drunk driving from being a sitcom punchline to something that few people will tolerate.
I don’t want to see a line of motorcycles doing enforcement on highways where most everyone is in a protective shell. https://twitter.com/PortlandPolice/status/754804186018177024
I want enforcement where people live.
Let’s have more stop sign stings in Ladd’s Addition. Maybe with five motorcycle cops!
If Vision Zero is to be maybe the City could hold a press conference and announce they are retiring the stop-sign-stings-on-bikeways and stop pre-announcing the crosswalk enforcements with signs a quarter mile on either side.
realizing, of course, that PBOT does not enforce traffic laws.
We should push for changes on Hawthorne immediatly so if they are opposed by the Hawthorne Business Association ( or whatever they call themselves) they can be shamed in to submission and forced to abandon their greedy car-centric ways.
Oh, and I like and support BikeLoudPDX but do not act within their umbrella. The center lane closing and ride were not a BikeLoudPDX direct activity. Just to clarify – thanks so much for sharing this story.
One of the more beautiful and useful and affordable guerilla “instant” refuge islands…is a circular (or two oblong) galvanized livestock trough filled with bagged sand and potted plants…plus some appropriate object markers. Perhaps a local retailer will assist with partial donation(s)?
Wilco and Coastal Farm stores generally carry these larger stock tanks (though their web sites do not list them…I saw them up at the Battle Ground Wilco…so call ahead). The 8 ft diameter is likely the maximum that you want in the center lane.
“jumping into the street yelling at people to slow down.”
My wife regularly yells at me for doing this.
She has a fairly good reason:
20 mph on Hawthorne, yes. And why seven blocks with no crosswalks?
Yes! Make it 20 mph already! It’s clearly a business district, and Oregon law prescribes 20 mph speed limits in business districts.
In fact, the equivalent segment of Division Street, a few blocks away, is posted 20 (even outside the Richmond school zone), despite being less business-ey than Hawthorne beyond 39th.
each block has an (unmarked) crosswalk. Important to remember. I really think we should think twice before we naturalize inattention or poor understanding of the laws by buying hundreds of thousands of gallons of additional paint to highlight what is already the law. This is a risky and expensive path to go down.
Let’s say we take your (implied) advice and paint all four crossings at every intersection in close-in Portland. Next thing you know someone is killed in Gresham on an unpainted crosswalk, or in Downtown on a painted one. These are not fixes; because the problem isn’t with the crosswalks but with Car head. The immunity that driving in a car imparts.
how does marking a legal crossing make it safer?
I own courier coffee roasters at 40th and hawthorne-
This is terrible. and way more than terrible. every life is precious and wonderful and there is a ton of reasons to take care of each other. im pretty upset (always).
cars almost never give pedestrians the right of way on upper hawthorne. i cross hawthorne maybe 4 times a day and look drivers dead in the eye. mostly they speed and do not stop for people. not jumping into the road but standing in it with intent. this is a problem everywhere but what kills me is that the police are the people who ive never seen stop (role models..)
trimet on the other hand has been awesome lately- there is a big difference in the training of these two parties.
until i read this article i had no idea of what was happening up the street- figured it was something like bikeloud. the signage is very effective.- shoot im trying to slow down on my bike when i saw all that.
i want this all up and down hawthorne- lets not forget the 35mph between 30th and 12th on hawthorne- zero enforcement and everyone does it. This is my neighborhood and i want to feel safe. ive glazed through the responses but it seems pbot doesnt care and ppp doesnt care because ive called them both and they told me to call state leg. who do i call- how do i get active.
much love- joel
Joel, if I knew you were that close, I would have requested some coffee deliveries 🙂
This is the article that has finally pushed me to remove BikePortland from my news feed. I’ve been a reader for years, and have donated to support this site. I’ve been willing to ignore the editorial view of the site because I enjoy the stories on local bike happenings and developments.
I have no interest in – and want no play no part in supporting – the faction of Portland cyclists who believe this sort of hyperbolic and paranoid worldview. Or its echo chamber of self-righteous commenters.
What? Are you sure you commented on the right article?
“the faction of Portland cyclists who believe this sort of hyperbolic and paranoid worldview. Or its echo chamber of self-righteous commenters”
Care to elaborate? What are you responding to? We have here a comment nesting system that allows us to target our responses, identify the party we’re agreeing/disagreeing with. Maybe that would help?
I think ac dislikes the sentiment that an innocent human life is more important than commerce and money and keeping the flow of traffic moving so motorists can get home quickly and watch Wheel of Fortune. Ac wants us to get on the bandwagon and consider such tragedies as the cost of doing business ,and stop complaining about some collateral damage.
Well ac, as MLK said, the arc of history curves toward justice, we will not go quietly in to the good night, the days of the tyranny of the automobile are coming, get used to it.
If you take an absolutist position on this, you end up saying nothing is safe enough, and we all need to stay home. There is always risk, and life is always a question of tradeoffs.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it’s the projection of malicious intent on drivers (particularly those involved in crashes with peds/cyclists) and indifference on those who are hesitant to contribute to a media circus. I gotta admit, I’m with him on that.
The driver needs to be held responsible and we should always be looking for ways to make the roads safer. But purposely whipping people up and encouraging vigilante action sets progress back. Devoting enormous resources to a single area when there is so much to be done everywhere shows misplaced priorities.
Even if you don’t like car culture, you need to work with it to change it. Otherwise, it’s like going to a gun show with the idea that you’ll convince everyone to ban guns. Simply ain’t gonna happen. What you can do is build areas of common interest/understand to change consciousness.
I disagree, ODOT and PBOT are so indifferent to the safety of vulnerable road users that one of the few ways that anything gets done is with the leverage that comes from tragedies such as this. It makes my heart hurt to list the noteable cycling deaths and the infrastructure changes that have come from them, so I won’t, but it is a sad fact. Your right, we should not just fix Hawthorne, this incident should cause us to fix everyplace in town that is like this stretch of Hawthorne.
When I work with engineers or other staff from PBOT, I don’t get the sense they are indifferent to safety. Same is even true (albeit, honestly, a tad less so) when I work with folks from ODOT. I think instead they are trying to balance a whole collection of priorities, among them safety, mobility, feasibility, legality, and cost. You (and I) may not like where they strike the balance, but it’s hard to dispute that there is a balance to be struck.
In a world unconstrained by resources, this problem would be easy. But we’re not in that world, so we need to figure out how we’re going to pay for it. I’d vote for a carbon tax, but that doesn’t seem to be a realistic option in today’s political climate.
though you’re completely wrong about indifference, you are correct about the roadway form that contributed to the crash. 3 and 5 lane sections of roadway exist throughout the city. The abhorrent behavior that led to this tragedy could have occurred and resulted in the same outcome at numerous locations throughout the city, there’s really no way to predict where. A typical median refuge is about $15,000 per crossing, so the problem is determining where to spend very limited funding, apart from the logistical hurdles of design (small), contracting and construction.
How would you go about implementing such a large infrastructure change, including the public involvement portion, and how would you pay for it?
Definitely a tough call for retrofitting. Short term, how much are those concrete planters? Again, anything to break these contiguous incentives for those selfish people who insist that is their space to use as they please.
About $200 each ring, installed.
That’s all? Cool.
Do you know what the bureaucracy would be around even doing this? Intrigued even more given we could have 75 instances in the place of 1 $15K island.
Small. Better Blocks is the model, but the proposal would be for a temporary refuge until permanent install could be funded.
Any group that wanted could present a proposal to PBOT. Running the NCHRP 562 analysis takes a half hour to an hour, if all the data is available. Private funding has been accepted for other small scale projects in the past. The marking and signing might cost more than the temporary rings.
For a start, implement a policy that any new construction, repaving, repainting, or repair, from patching a pothole on up, include a block in a median strip such as the one on Hawthorn, on an adjoining block. The budget impact would be spread out and PBOT would have at least a bit of raised consciousness. Yes it’s going to cost $5000 to fill that pothole. That happens to be well under current estimates of the value of a life. It’s also less than a cent from every person in Portland.
I get the feeling that PBOT would really like to fix these issues, but they don’t have the resources. The problem is that the public itself is indifferent. Traffic deaths are rare enough that most citizens don’t think about them until it affects them directly. It is important to publicize events like this because it is our only hope to get the general public to start paying attention. Only then will they be willing to possibly increase the tax burden and forego expensive roadway expansion projects in the name of safety improvements.
I am looking forward to the upcoming VZ presentation to Council.
It will be interesting to see how they treat the motorist-pedestrian dichotomy.
My kids went to school with Fallon. She was such a great kid. I’m just heartbroken. Also, I’m very proud of our community in Portland for their passionate, supportive, and loving response.
Perhaps the guerilla cross walks should be marked with skulls and cross bones? It would likely get even more attention.
Some concepts already implemented, now PDX go and ‘talk amongst yooselves.’
Though I was surprised no one has really done a skull and cross bones crosswalk yet (and put the image on line).
Why is it so damn hard for such sophisticated people to simply match the digital readout on their dashboard to the number regularly provided along the road on all those signs?
It couldn’t be that sophisticated people think they’re just too good to agree with such an obvious consensus.
QUIT SPEEDING! Even your precious “5 over” BS is SPEEDING. ITS 2016 TOO CROWDED LEAVING NO EXCUSE FOR YOUR PERSONAL LIBERATION TO CONSIST OF 10 OVER.
I think the answer to “why” questions on human behavior is usually “entitlement.” How we all came to feel so important is beyond me.
There is something that people who are neither driving a car nor part of a transportation bureaucracy can do. If you live near a problematic intersection, make a dozen flags with orange plastic or fabric, fasten buckets to sign posts or power poles near the corner. Grab a flag and cross the street. Repeat.
Start a culture of active pedestrian signaling in Portland. This isn’t radical and isn’t my idea either–I first saw it in Sisters, Oregon. Maybe PBOT and ODOT will hate it. Who cares? Let them fill a warehouse with buckets full of little flags.
Please do not do this. “Pedestrian safety flags” are demeaning and a concession to car culture. I will absolutely not wave a bloody flag to exercise my right to the street.
It’s totally fine with me if you use your hand, hat, bike you happen to be pushing, bouquet of flowers you might have, etc., to signal your intention to cross. The presence of flags is a suggestion to people who might feel less assertive than you or me. It’s also a clear sign to drivers confused about their role. Lastly, it’s a message upstream to a bureaucracy that can’t decide how to keep people safe.
Robert, I understand your thinking but I am concerned that this is not a prudent strategy. We need to take a broader view.
We could all wear flak jackets and carry howitzers every time we step into the street, While this would probably increase our chances of getting home alive, I ask At what cost? We absolutely must stop normalizing driver inattention through these absurd gestures. The costs are too high.
I’m not normalizing anything. If I wait, standing in the gutter at NE 47th and Going, while 15 cars go by at 8 mph over the speed limit, that’s normalizing it. If I put a bucket of flags out there so people trying to cross with their small children can stop the madness for a bit, that’s changing something. (There is a school there, and 8 mph over is my guess at the 85th percentile.) Is waiting on the city to paint zebra stripes, or do crosswalk enforcement, a “prudent strategy?” Or possibly after the second coming all the stranded vehicles will slow things a bit. I wonder which will happen first? (Religious references from me = humor-ish)
The only reason some people don’t run over bikes in Portland is, there are so many of them and it would take so long. Same with pedestrians. If more people were legally crossing the street in more places, driving would be less ‘safe’, less ‘normal’. A flag is just a tool, much like a ball-peen hammer. Which, if you need to cross a street, would make a fine way to signal your intentions.
42nd and Going?
I’d rather fix the street than fix the pedestrian.
Peds of course do not need fixing. They’re doing fine. It’s the consensus behavior of the human, in charge of an automobile, that we’re after here. One notable human cultural trait is obedience to a vestige of authority. Average bougie people who can ignore mere pedestrians all day long will pull up for somebody with a flag. With 85% compliance it shouldn’t take long to get things stopped both ways. People who will not notice ‘sometimes peds cross here,’ or who even actively resent it, will certainly take note that ‘other cars slow down here, and sometimes they stop? Oh look, a nursery school!’
Okay, but doesn’t that just train drivers to look for orange flags instead of people? What happens when I leave home without my pedestrian safety flag?
No more than painted crosswalks train people to ignore unmarked ones.
Are you being facetious? Your humor is so XX arid it is hard to tell sometimes.
In this case, I was being serious.
Well that is funny. I thought it was widely understood/agreed that painted crosswalks corresponded to higher compliance with the law on the part of drivers. Don’t we hear about this everywhere and isn’t this the chief reason we hear calls for painting more of them? Many drivers (even some bikeportland commenters) erroneously believe that the only crosswalk they are required to stop for a pedestrian at are the painted ones. You tell me.
I’m all for more painted crosswalks. But you’re essentially arguing against them down below! (“Let’s run this backwards…”)
National studies indicate this is only true for lower volume and lower speed streets below 9,000 vehicles per day.
Yes. We are creating a hierarchy: Hawk signals, orange flags, zebra paint; all of those are just fancier, or more expensive versions of the unmarked crosswalk. While the pedestrian has the same rights in all cases, when you start differentiating like this what are you doing for the pedestrian who can rely on none of the above? Have you made his or her situation better or worse? You tell me.
If you are arguing that orange flags at a crossing on Powell will make things worse for someone using an unmarked crosswalk on Burnside, well… I’d be skeptical. Your reduction would suggest marking no crosswalks, using no HAWK signals, and no special signage anywhere unless we did them everywhere. I’m not sure I agree.
No, the difference is marking a crosswalk trains drivers that there might be people crossing there, whereas flags train drivers to look for people holding flags. The crosswalk is always there, whereas not everyone crossing will be holding an orange flag.
Yes, but when the driver arrives at the unmarked crosswalk, they see it isn’t marked, so there won’t be people there. It’s the same argument you’re making against flags, just at the intersection level, not the person level.
Well, I happen to fall under the camp that all crosswalks should be marked. The fact that “unmarked” crosswalks even exist is simply laziness and shows budgeting and car-centric priorities of city and state DOTs.
“Your reduction would suggest marking no crosswalks, using no HAWK signals, and no special signage anywhere unless we did them everywhere. I’m not sure I agree.”
Well, lets run this backwards. Why is there the perceived need to engage in this visibility arms race for people trying to cross streets with car traffic upon them? When we do the predictable and start inventing and deploying all kinds of increasingly expensive street theater to ‘protect pedestrians’ we are pointedly NOT spending that money, that political capital, on holding more crosswalk enforcements (at UNMARKED) crossing, or increasing the fines levied on those who violate the law. As El Biciclero has reminded us here many times, we are putting the onus on pedestrians (to hold flags, look for HAWK signals, lose hope that a mere unmarked crosswalk will ‘protect’ them, all the while asking for no change, not even insisting on a higher rate of compliance with existing laws from drivers.
I’m all for stepped up enforcement and education. I’m also a pragmatist, and don’t see that happening. I would LOVE to be proved wrong, but until then, I think safety at the individual level trumps making a point at the system level.
So, is the proper strategy to wait for things to get better? Call TAD-SAFE? Email a council person who represents 650,000 people? What? People put a punk-rock traffic diverter on Clinton Street. Interestingly, later the City of Portland put a diverter on Clinton St. It’s still there. Doing it yourself sends the message, we’re tired of inaction Right Here Where There Is A Problem. If flags, however lame they may be, start popping up everywhere it’s a message to the city that folks are having trouble just crossing that street and it is a problem.
I honor the various memorials but on the whole I prefer putting out flags to more of those. I’ve been unable to think of anything adequate to say about recent events. I’m sorry for them and for all of us.
Robert, I agree with everything you are saying here, except the flags part. I’d rather illegal crosswalks be painted than people be told to hold flags when crossing the street.
The hierarchy is (descending order):
Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon – PHB (formerly called HAWK)
Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon – RRFB
Signing and Marking.
Depending on the cross-section, since the addition of curb extensions or median refuge islands, can alter the need for enhancement beyond marking and signing.
How much cash do you need for paint? I’m in!
Are you willing to assume the liability should someone be struck while crossing your ad-hoc marking? There is research on such things – when to mark crosswalks and when marking them with no other enhancements increases pedestrian risk. What you’ll end up doing is forcing the city to spend precious resources removing the illegal markings.
If you want to run the NCHRP 562 analysis and come to the city with a proposal to fund an improvement based on that criteria (even a temporary install), the city is unlikely to turn you away.
Other cities I have been to mark each and every pedestrian crossing. Why doesn’t Portland do this? Do they have some secret research on walking safety that walkers paradises such as New York City do not possess?
Which other city has marked each and every pedestrian crossing? Name the city, and I will find you an unmarked crossing.
“Let me find a single counter-example to disprove your entire point.”
Even if it’s 99% of crossings, my point is still valid. PBOT needs to make an effort to mark every single crosswalk in the city – if they miss a few, they can be forgiven. However, the current status quo of pretending invisible crosswalks function the same as actual ones isn’t working.
“PBOT needs to make an effort to mark every single crosswalk in the city”
What could possibly be the point of this? (Unless we have an excess of paint and staff time).
This is the definition of an arms race. Nobody wins.
Let’s spend those millions on *unmarked* crosswalk enforcement actions, however many of those that amount of money will buy us.
paikiala, I will assume full liability for this and any other rogue traffic control devices installed under cover of darkness by nocturnal underground traffic engineer wannabes.
Send any claims to me at: Attn: Hello, Kitty, Sanrio Rogue Traffic Control Device Blanket Liability Group, 1-11-1, Osaki, Shinagawa-Ku, Tokyo 141-8603 Japan.
Thanks for getting my back, HK! I was speaking tongue in cheek when I offered to financially support Adam’s guerilla painting scheme. Though I have often considered painting a huge STOP in the street as it approaches the two way stop. I have seen way too many people blow right through that stop sign.
Hello, Kitty… Getting your back since 2016.
That long already? Seems like it was just yesterday.
This is the same excuse the city uses every time: “We know there’s an unsafe condition, but we won’t change it because we are more concerned with a ridiculous amount of safety regulations and documentation required to make that change.
It’s like forbidding the rescue of a drowning person because the rope may contain allergens.
Spray chalk is protected under free speech?
It’s right there in the first amendment!