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City of Portland will deploy ‘Be Seen Be Safe’ street teams as dark season begins

Posted by on November 7th, 2016 at 4:17 pm

PBOT's 'Street Team.'(Photo: City of Portland)

PBOT’s ‘Street Team.’
(Photo: City of Portland)

With the sun now setting well before the evening rush-hour, the City of Portland wants everyone to step-up their vigilance and visibility while using the roads.

In a statement released today the bureau of transportation (PBOT) shared tips about how to safely operate a motor vehicle and how to increase your chance of being seen if you are walking or rolling. They also announced that all this week “street teams” made up of PBOT volunteers and staff will be stationed at danger hot-spots throughout the city. These teams will pass out lights and reflective stickers to people who walk and roll by.

PR efforts like this are typical for transportation agencies this time of year, and they often put most of the onus of responsibility for being seen on vulnerable users. But PBOT is not your typical city transportation agency. They know better.

Notice the amount of space and detail PBOT devoted to motor vehicle safety in their statement:

pbot-safetymesg

PBOT’s statement focused mostly on things auto users should do to keep themselves and others safe. Here’s their advice:

People driving [notice they don’t use “motorists”] can increase visibility by using their headlights, leaving a safe distance between vehicles to increase your cone of vision, and continuously scanning the environment looking for people walking and bicycling. Always be alert and practice extra caution during winter’s rain and low light. Depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision can be compromised in the dark, and the glare of headlights from an oncoming vehicle can significantly impact a driver’s vision. Even with high-beam headlights on, visibility is limited creating less time to react to something in the road, especially when driving at higher speeds.

People driving need to:
— Remember to practice patience and slow down
— Stay in your lane and beware of drivers who dart from lane to lane
— Even though the route may be familiar, don’t go on autopilot; stay alert and ALWAYS watch for vulnerable road users such as people walking, biking and rolling
— Don’t touch your phone, eat, drink or do other things that are distracting

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They also mentioned how older drivers need to: drive more slowly, make sure their vision is adequate, try to drive only in the daytime, double-check prescription drug side-effects, and even take a driving course to make sure they know the latest laws.

When it comes to walking and biking, PBOT says people should wear reflective gear and use lights.

It’s refreshing to see that PBOT has targeted most of this messaging to motorized vehicle users. After all, when we drive we have the potential to do the most harm.

If you want to grab some safety swag on your way home this week, check out the Be Safe Be Seen Street Team locations, times, and days below:

Monday, Nov. 7, 4:30 – 6:00 PM – N Williams Ave/NE Morris to NE Going
Monday, Nov. 7, 4:30 – 6:00 PM – SE Foster/SE 80th
Monday, Nov. 7, 4:30 – 6:00 PM – Providence Park MAX Station at SW 18/SE Morrison
Tuesday, Nov. 8, 7:00 – 8:30 AM – E Burnside/NE 16
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 4:30 – 6:00 PM – SE Division/SE 82
Thursday, Nov. 10, 4:30 – 6:00 PM – Rosa Parks/Delaware/Greeley
Friday, Nov. 11, 4:30 – 6:00 PM – Greeley/Bryant/Lombard

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

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D
Guest
D

This is just more PR BS from PBOT. How many more cyclists and pedestrians need get killed before they do something useful?

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

I definitely appreciate the amount of movement from their previous messaging.

I hope they’ll continue to move that direction. For example, they’re spending money to hand out lights and reflectors; that does nothing to take dangerous drivers off the road or remove driver distractions. I’d prefer to see teams on commute routes identifying distracted drivers and getting their attention back on their task. Put up a counter with a timer and “drivers on the phone,” and call them out on a bullhorn. “HANG UP NOW AND NEVER PICK THAT UP AGAIN UNTIL YOU’RE PARKED.”

Just spitballing. Which could also work but would be rude, and gross.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

As a critic of the critics of “Be Seen”, I agree… it’s good they’re putting the emphasis on drivers, where it belongs.

jayson
Guest
jayson

How about encouraging drivers to “Be Seeing”?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Another element to add to this initiative would be to:
– FYI this initiative to Multnomah County judges (traffic court etc); and
– invite these judges out to participate…

…since often the missing “E” in the 5 “Es” is enforcement in the courts…too many judges and juries still think of themselves as motorists first and foremost…

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Handing out lights and reflector seems like a decent way to help cyclists who are too stubborn to obseve minimal common sense safety practices at least comply with minimal night time legal riding requirements.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I’d like to see those street teams change their focus (ahem) and perform complete vision testing to help motorists understand that they just can’t see like they could when they were young.

joel
Guest
joel

oh, so thats who was standing at the corner of n williams/morris flashing blinkies at approaching cyclists, fooling us into thinking they were peds waiting at the crosswalk (for us few that actually bother to stop or slow for peds on williams), and getting people to stop in an already crowded bike lane. great choice of handout location and strategy.

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

But the “Be Safe, Be Seen” campaign remains and that campaign title puts ALL of the onus on vulnerable road users. How about a clever slogan referencing rain and darkness and slowing down.

How about some enforcements, ANY enforcements, at actual, for real unmarked crosswalks, and no, PBOT’s favorite “unmarked” crosswalk at Southeast 82nd Avenue and Cooper St., with its 6 signs and a painted median does not count.

Kristi Finney
Subscriber
Kristi Finney

Thanks for the information. I appreciate their efforts in trying to improve safety, and encouraging responsibility, for all road users.

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

The free blinkie lights make decent spares for those times when your battery management breaks down, or your generator powered light fails (guess that’s rare w/ LED models.) Once you pull the little strip out they go downhill fast though.

q
Guest
q

Several other recent articles here discussed “victim blaming”, and described cases where police had no criticisms of drivers who hit pedestrians or cyclists. Several of those happened in darkness, when night vision ability is relevant, or darkness plus rain, when people with poor night vision are especially challenged. But drivers’ night vision was never mentioned as a possible factor in any of the cases, nor were drivers’ ages, which correlate with night vision ability.

It’s a huge but rarely mentioned hole in drivers’ performance. Someone who can easily pass the licensing eye test could be virtually blind at night. I’d guess that any time an older driver hits someone in the dark, chances are good that poor night vision was at least a factor.

soren
Guest
soren

Suggesting that people walking in an urban area have some culpability for being hit, injured, or killed because they are not wearing hi-viz reflective gear and/or pedestrian blinky lights is reprehensible. If PBOT genuinely believes that people walking are so “invisible” that they need to wear day-glo vests and lights in order to walk safely in this city then perhaps they should campaign to make jaywalking a felony (as in Florida).

Moreover, PBOT’s language and imagery in this statement is remarkably similar to campaigns by Trimet that were strongly criticized by Bike Portland. Why is there a double standard?

Adam
Subscriber

Victim-blaming season has begun!

Peter Hass
Guest
Peter Hass

Good for PBOT. IMO it’s a wise decision to “be seen” when it’s dark and/or rainy out. Heck, even when it’s not dark and/or rainy out. I’d like to believe it lowers the risk of being hit even though the reality may be that it just makes me feel safer versus me actually being safer. Either way, it seems like an action I can do that might help erode the “I didn’t see him/her” line of defense careless drivers so often use.

Doug Rosser
Guest
Doug Rosser

Were these folks out on Williams on Monday night? They were standing right at the end of a crosswalk, causing all sorts of havoc, as lots of cyclist were stopping to let them cross…

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

wsbob
To me, culpability certainly does not seem to be the central area of importance whether it regards people walking, biking, or driving motor vehicles.

It seems some people apparently misinterpret the intent of safety campaigns encouraging selective use of visibility gear by people walking and biking…coming to the conclusion that the suggestion is for people walking, biking, etc, everywhere on the road at night, regardless of lighting conditions at hand. I don’t think that’s at all the intended suggestion.
Nor do I think the intent of such campaigns is to relieve people that drive, of their responsibility to be aware of and on the watch for vulnerable road users that for various reasons not associated with health or actions of the person driving…may be very difficult to see.

Being reasonable will get you nowhere here.

If you don’t think drivers should be eviscerated for hooking a ninja cyclist passing from behind on the right, you’re obviously just victim blaming.

Spiffy
Subscriber

what annoyed me when I read their statement in my email was why they didn’t state that drivers needed to slow down in the dark, AND again slow down even more when it’s also wet, AND slow even more in dense urban areas…

one thing known to save lives is slower speed of motor vehicles and it’s not even recommended to the general public…

James
Guest
James

Well the responsibility is on people to ride and walk in a safe manner, that means not wearing dark clothing and using a combo of lights and reflectors if your gonna be using multi-use paths and roadways at night. Just seems like common sense to me.

Big fan of the reflector triangle lights up really well.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

The city of Portland needs to deploy the “We’re going to cite you for failing to keep your vehicle within your lane” team.

And the “We’re going to cite you for driving 35 mph on residential streets” team.

Greg Spencer
Guest

Is there any evidence that these awareness campaigns do any good? Lowering traffic speeds does achieve results: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road_traffic/world_report/speed_en.pdf

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Jonathan, maybe you could help shed some light on this endless debate. Could you find out how much PBOT spends on this program, and what they think the benefit is?

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

Dan A
I wonder if anyone could find one single story where the presence of someone in dark clothing caused the death of somebody else.

Hmmm, actual ninjas?

chris
Guest
chris

So when is the last time you ran into a neon orange reflective traffic cone because you didn’t see it? I’m guessing never…

RowerNotBiker
Guest
RowerNotBiker

I was driving after dark last night and there were 1/2 dozen pedestrians walking with completely dark clothing. Another individual was riding down the center turn lane on a bike with zero lights or reflectors.
Anything the city (or any organization) does to promote being seen is a good thing.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Slow Down, Look Around.

I love this. Would make for a great sign campaign in my neighborhood.

Jason
Guest
Jason

I was riding on Water Avenue the other morning. Just as I was going around the curve by OMSI and approaching the entry to the parking lot, a car passed me and cut in front of me. I had to stop in order to you know… not die.

I was wearing a red Enduro jacket with 3M all over it, with helmet lights (front and back) and bike lights (front and back). I very calmly approached the driver and in a level tone asked, “did you see me back there?”

Her reply was, “my blind spot detection didn’t tell indicate there was anything there”.

So, I says, “I’m doing everything I can to be visible. You still have to look.”

That whole visibility shtick and just go die. Because I’m telling you, you could be dressed in a string of Christmas lights and some motorist will still cream you.