After the two deaths on Southeast Division Street Tuesday night, family members who have lost loved ones due to traffic violence want Portland City Council to take action.
As we reported earlier this week, Kim Stone and Krisy Finney-Dunney — two of the founding members of the local chapter of Families for Safe Streets — are feeling Wednesday’s deaths with a particularly heavy heart. That’s because the two fatalities happened in the same intersections on Division that claimed the lives of their sons.
Led by Stone and Finney-Dunn, seven other women who have lost a family member have stepped forward with a demand that the City of Portland, “expedite major changes in order to slow speeds and increase safety for all on outer SE Division St.”
Here’s the full text of the letter (emphases theirs):
Action Needed on SE Division St. Now
December 9, 2016
Dear Portland City Council,
As families who know intimately the pain and suffering of losing family members to traffic violence, we call on the City of Portland to expedite major changes in order to slow speeds and increase safety for all on outer SE Division St.
Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets is comprised of families who have lost loved ones to fatal traffic crashes that were preventable. Yes, we call on all road users to own their responsibility for safety on our streets. We call on all drivers to choose to travel as they would have others drive around their loved ones–to drive at safe speeds, to not drive impaired, and to look for the other precious humans sharing the road. But when crashes happen again and again on the same corridor, we know the road design itself is part of the problem, and we also call on government to act swiftly to make the necessary changes to protect future families from the senseless loss of cherished loved ones.
OR Families for Safe Streets came out in numbers to support the passage of the City of Portland’s Vision Zero Action Plan. We applauded PBOT staff for developing the plan with a robust community stakeholder engagement process, and we celebrated City Council members for voting unanimously to pass the plan. However, we are left feeling like the City’s commitment “to eliminate deaths and serious injuries for all who share Portland streets” is false when we stand by and watch repeated fatalities take place on the same corridor without executing the kind of road re-engineering that our Portland Bureau of Transportation knows can save lives.
Two of our founding members lost their sons, young men filled with promise, joy, and love for family and friends, to crashes on outer SE Division. On the 2015 World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, we placed 13 memorials along SE Division St. where people had been killed. Since then, five people have died on SE Division in 2016 alone. This week two people were killed on the same day at the exact same locations where we lost our own children, Joe and Dustin. As families that know the pain that two more families are now experiencing, we cannot stand by and wait any longer for changes. We demand action now.
We call on the City of Portland to re-engineer SE Division St. immediately and to demand the ability to lower posted speeds from the State Speed Board or Oregon legislature.
The City of Portland’s Vision Zero Action Plan states:
“We are committed to ending traffic violence in our communities. Portland traffic deaths outnumber homicides year after year. All too often, we as a community have accepted this as an unfortunate but inevitable cost of moving around the city. Vision Zero rejects that assumption. With this action plan, Portland makes a clear statement that the cost is too high—and directs attention, commitment and resources to ending traffic violence in the city.”
As those most impacted by traffic violence, we call on the City of Portland to direct their attention and the necessary resources to our high crash corridors and especially outer SE Division now. Don’t let the commitment to Vision Zero sit on the shelf as a broken promise to all who share Portland’s streets.
Tammi Rocher Beers
These family members are not the only ones calling on the City of Portland to take immediate action on Division. The non-profit Oregon Walks has taken to Twitter several times in the last few days urging people to contact City Council members. “This is devastating. Outer Division is one of most dangerous roads and 4 people have died at this intersection,” read one of their Tweets. “Drastic change needed NOW.”
Bike Loud PDX has put together a “citizen-led emergency traffic calming” event on SE Division that will take place tomorrow (Saturday 12/10) at 2:00 pm. They plan to “takeover” the wide, nine-lane thoroughfare by occupying the outermost lanes while holding signs and interacting with passersby.
Just last month Families for Safe Streets held a “Remembrance Day” for victims of traffic where they released their first-ever policy platform. Focusing on road user education, the group wants more frequent driver testing, changes to the Oregon driving and cycling manuals, mandatory driver education classes, and more.
With city offices closed due to weather today, it’s unlikely we’ll hear any response from Mayor Charlie Hales and the other commissioners until next week.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org