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On night of protest, police stop 43 people for driving violations on St. Johns Bridge

Posted by on November 4th, 2016 at 9:57 am

Portland Police Sgt. Ty Engstrom on the St. Johns Bridge last night.(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Police Sgt. Ty Engstrom on the St. Johns Bridge last night.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

On the same night hundreds of community members took over the lanes on the St. Johns Bridge for a solemn memorial and protest event, the Portland Police Bureau was doing their part to raise awareness of safety issues.

The Traffic Division is stationed right at the eastern end of the bridge and they took advantage of their presence on last night’s ride to conduct an enforcement action — a.k.a. “traffic safety mission”. The bureau also said the recent death of Mitch York was a key motivator of this action.

The result: According to a police bureau statement they made 43 stops in just two hours. 30 citations were written and they made 13 warnings. The violations were “numerous” but predominantly for speeding. One person was arrested for driving on a suspended license.

Imagine if we did more enforcement like this and Joel Schrantz — the man driving with a suspended license who lost control of his vehicle and killed Mitch York on Saturday — was arrested before he had a chance to commit that tragic act of violence?

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And imagine if we designed our roads in such a way that we needed less enforcement. Despite the fact that nearly everyone drives over the speed limit on the St. Johns Bridge, so far the Oregon Department of Transportation has done nothing to address it. This past week I’ve been researching the fateful decisions they made in 2002 to maintain the four, 10-foot standard vehicle lane configuration we have today. As early as 2001 local planners and engineers were pointing out that the bridge was a dangerous thoroughfare where illegal speeding was rampant.

Chart from 2002 PBOT document showing 85th percentile speeds over St. Johns Bridge.

Chart from 2002 PBOT document showing 85th percentile speeds over St. Johns Bridge.

One document that presented several different lane configuration options included a chart of the 85th percentile speeds in 2002. The 85th percentile speed is what engineers use to set speed limits (an absurd practice that should be abolished, but that’s a different conversation). It means that 85 percent of people drive at or below the speed and 15 percent go faster.

As you can see in the chart, in 2002 all most of the traffic was going above the posted speed limit — with people in cars choosing to drive 9-12 miles above the limit.

Perhaps it’s time for ODOT to consider taking measures to reduce speeds on the bridge? Photo radar cameras would help, as would reconfiguring the lanes or perhaps adding rumble strips on the span.

Expecting the police to enforce speeding 24/7 is ridiculous. We must begin to change driving behaviors and more humane road design is a great place to start.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Champs
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Champs

Rest assured it was back to the status quo by the time I rode the bridge around 10.

Dan A
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Dan A

And 15% of drivers were going faster than the 85th percentile speed.

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

How out of your mind must you be to get caught (which almost surely indicates speeding) driving with a suspended license past a protest of terrible tragedy caused by somebody driving recklessly with a suspended license???

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Well from the 2002 ODoT data, it looks like the posted speed limit needs to be raised and not lowered…assuming one were an old school traffic engineer…and the rate of crashes / injuries on the bridge were acceptable…

Yes the 85th percentile speed as a tool for setting posted speeds on urban arterials is an outdated tool (only makes sense for limited access highways, where it came from).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_limit
“The theory behind the 85th percentile rules is, that as a policy, most citizens should be deemed reasonable and prudent, and limits must be practical to enforce.[49][50] However, there are some circumstances where motorists do not tend to process all the risks involved, and as a mass choose a poor 85th percentile speed[citation needed]. This rule in substance is a process for voting the speed limit by driving; and in contrast to delegating the speed limit to an engineering expert.[51][52]” Wikipedia

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Speed cameras.

bikeninja
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bikeninja

I still don’t understand why there is not a massive revenue opportunity for the police and the city in these enforcements. Scofflaw Portland drives have become such low hanging fruit that it seems the revenue obtained for the time spent would be enourmous. Maybe we need to modfy the financial flows from citations to reinforce the manpower needed to carry out more of them. This could be a win/win for everyone ( except driving scofflaws, boo hoo).

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

…and thank you PPB Traffic Division for getting out on the streets and enforcing the traffic laws last night.

Adam
Subscriber

Everyone speeds not because of a lack of enforcement by cops, but because the bridge is designed for fast traffic. Adding passive speed control measures would be a better approach. Solutions such as flexible bollards on the centerline, flashing “your speed” signs, narrow lanes, automated speed cameras, and – most needed of all – a 4-2 road diet with protected cycleways all would be far more effective (and less susceptible to racial bias and ebbs and flows of police funding) than sending a few cops on the bridge a few times a year.

wsbob
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wsbob

Consistently confining mph speeds traveled by motor vehicles across the bridge, to about 25 or 35 mph, may be one of the easiest and most economical means of enhancing the safety of everyone using the St Johns Bridge.

Could a photo speed camera array work on this bridge?…exceed the speed limit by 6 mph, you get your picture taken, and a citation in the mail.

I wrote in comment to an earlier story this week, that it seems to me that the St Johns Bridge is abused, with people in cars driving at mph speed levels in the mid to high 40’s.

Truck drivers that do, deserve some commendation for keeping their top mph speed no more than 40 mph, but honestly, for this relatively short span and the type of bridge it is, architecturally and from an engineering standpoint, as well as to its function to the neighborhood and the city…40 seems too high. 25 would be far better (speeds cited, going by the ’02 PBOT document page posted in this story.).

The St Johns Bridge is not a heavy duty rugged style bridge like the Fremont Bridge, closer to Downtown, specifically built for today’s high volume of traffic, including many heavy trucks. It’s an old, comparatively delicately constructed suspension bridge. Bounces around a lot, I’ve heard. It would be a big expense, but the best option might be to take a much more serious look at constructing an additional bridge to handle the heavy, fast traffic. Allow the burden on the St Johns to be eased up a bit, by diverting the heavy, fast traffic to a new bridge.

mikeybikey
Guest
mikeybikey

at the height of the polio epidemic in the USA, 3K people died and over 21K became permanently disabled. motoring in the USA today causes btw 30-40K+ deaths and over 2 million injuries, many of them permanent disabilities, each year. these are all classified by the CDC as preventable deaths and injuries. its time that we consider people who accept and advocate for the status quo in motoring culture and law as being just as anti-science/modernity as climate change deniers, anti-vax, etc.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I don’t know what is best for SJB, but I’d definitely be against rumble strips as they represent a greater safety threat to cyclists than traffic moving a few mph faster than it should.

One thing I do wonder though, is whether SJB is a good place to focus a lot of attention right now? Sure, it’s not great to ride, but it’s hardly a major cycling route. Ignoring that many cyclists who use it are headed for the hills or other destinations that require dealing with traffic — i.e. the sort of riders can handle the bridge traffic — the sidewalk is rideable for people who want more separation.

In any case, I believe the emphasis on speeding is misplaced — you’re dead whether the vehicle that hit you is going 35mph or 50mph. Rather, it is more about encouraging safer passing.

rick
Guest
rick

Attaboy and attagirl ! Justice ! Still we ride.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

The cost of enforcement needs to come from ticket revenue, auto user fees, or at least pavement budgets. Otherwise, I have a much simpler suggestion with zero moving parts for how we can keep auto users from imposing costs on everyone around them.

Spiffy
Subscriber

“Imagine if we did more enforcement like this and Joel Schrantz was arrested before he had a chance to commit that tragic act of violence?”

he likely was… then the next day you see a judge, tell him you’ve learned your lesson, and they let you go… every time… then you get back in your car and keep driving… been there, done that…

we need to be keeping their cars…

we need background checks before you’re allowed to buy a car, similar to buying a gun… sell a car to somebody without a background check? you should lose your license and any car you own…

that’s are the only way we’ll get control of the issue…

Spiffy
Subscriber

“Despite the fact that nearly everyone drives over the speed limit on the St. Johns Bridge”

it’s not just the bridge, it’s everywhere… everywhere people speed and it’s not being addressed… they continue to make roads where it’s easy to go twice the posted speed limit and don’t properly punish those that break the laws…

we need roads that are more difficult to drive on and fines that will make people stop breaking motor vehicle laws…

Allan
Guest
Allan

As on Williams, going to a single lane will have a dramatic effect on speeding when multiple vehicles are around

q
Guest
q

There are lots of drivers who’d also appreciate crackdowns on speeding and other forms of bad driving. It’s nerve-wracking to drive the speed limit with people constantly tailgating, swerving around you…actually dangerous.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Drove home yesterday on Hwy 26 at 4:30pm. Next to me I noticed a woman texting with both hands, while presumably steering the car with her knees. I watched her do this for at least a minute, wondering how long it would go on. Finally she put her phone away, and then proceeded to place a bong on the steering wheel and take a hit. Green Pontiac, OR license plate 038 JML. The world has gone crazy.

paul h
Guest
paul h

One statistical nitpick. You say “As you can see in the chart, in 2002 all the traffic was going above the posted speed limit”. But you can’t make that assertion. You can only say that all traffic at the 85th percentile and above was higher than the posted speed limit.

We don’t have enough information to speculate on the shape of the distribution of speeds for each class of vehicle.

Kevin Wagoner
Subscriber
Kevin Wagoner

We need to automate enforcement in this town. It is inefficient to not do this.