How rampant is illegal and dangerous driving in Portland?
In just two hours last night the Portland Police Bureau wrote 43 citations (for 61 separate violations) and handed out 23 written warnings*. The ‘Vision Zero traffic safety mission’ was carried out between 6:00 and 8:00 pm on Southeast Hawthorne Blvd between 12th and Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.
In a press statement, the police said, “This area was selected due to numerous community complaints and it is a high traffic area for all road users.”
This section of Hawthorne area is also full of shops, eateries and popular destinations. Despite a motor-vehicle oriented road design that hasn’t changed in decades, inner Hawthorne is one of the most iconic commercial districts in Portland. Just a few blocks east of where this enforcement action took place is the location where 15-year-old Fallon Smart was hit and killed last August while trying to cross at SE 43rd.
After Smart died we heard from many local residents and business owners that they’ve wanted more crosswalks and slower speeds on the street for many years.
And it’s not just this location. Police across the region do these enforcement missions and the result is always the same: a mind-boggling display of disregard for the law and safety of others by people behind the wheel of motor vehicles. On the same night we rode to remember Mitch York on the St. Johns Bridge police nabbed 43 people; an enforcement action on 82nd Avenue in 2015 netted 61 citations in four hours; and the list goes on and on and on.
Until we stop normalizing dangerous behaviors, introduce more safety regulations on car owners and redesign our streets to encourage safer behavior, this game of cat-and-mouse between the police and road users will continue.
We’ve requested the breakdown of specific traffic violations from the PPB and will update this post when we receive it. Our hunch is that the vast majority of them were given to people using motor vehicles because very few people ride on Hawthorne. Even though it’s a popular main street, Hawthorne has no dedicated bicycle access and the bike route diverts away from it to sidestreets at SE 12th.
This police mission is part of a long-running partnership between the Bureau of Transportation and the PPB.
(Note: We’re curious about the racial breakdown of the people being pulled over. Profiling is a major point of concern of the City’s Vision Zero Task Force and it’s why they decided to minimize enforcement in their Action Plan. The PPB tracks the race of traffic violators and we’ve requested a breakdown. We will share any information we obtain.)