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It’s a big week for Vision Zero: Here’s why

Posted by on February 13th, 2017 at 5:39 pm

Safe Streets Rally Part 2 at City Hall -1.jpg

Expect to hear a lot more about Vision Zero in 2017.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland and the State of Oregon are both coming off a terrible year when it comes to traffic safety.

492 people died while using Oregon roads in 2016. That’s a 10 percent increase over the 2015 total and a whopping 57 percent jump from 2013 (when we lost 313 people to traffic crashes). In Portland 45 people died, marking just the second time since 1998 that we’ve had over 40 deaths in one year.

The combination of those grim statistics and the maturity of Vision Zero as a rallying cry and policy concept could make 2017 a watershed year for traffic safety. Or, it could just be more of the same: a bunch of plans, proclamations, protests and meetings. It’s up to all of us to make sure we move the needle.

This week there are four events that show how activists, a nonprofit organization, the State of Oregon, and lawmakers are responding to this urgent issue.

Tuesday (2/14) – Oregon Transportation Safety Committee Meeting

The Oregon Transporation Safety Committee is a governor-appointed tasked with advising the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Oregon Transportation Commission on all matters regarding traffic safety. They meet monthly in Salem. This month’s agenda includes reports from various ODOT liaisons, a discussion about a new speed program, an update from the head of ODOT’s Traffic Division Division, and the drafting of a proclamation to declare May “Transportation Safety Month”. Take a look at the agenda here (PDF).

Wednesday (2/15) – Hearing for House Bill 2667 (creation of Vision Zero Task Force) and a Vision Zero ride

Vision Zero bill public hearing
The Street Trust (formerly the Bicycle Transportation Alliance) issued an action alert this morning for a bill currently in the legislature that will create an official State of Oregon Vision Zero Task Force. The bill, HB 2667, will receive its first committee hearing at 8:00 am in Hearing Room D in the State Capitol. If the bill passes, it would mandate the creation of a 17-person task force. 12 members will be appointed by Governor Kate Brown (and must include representatives from each major mode of travel) and five others will be appointed by various state agencies.


According to the text of the bill (read it here) the Task Force, “shall examine strategies to reduce and eliminate traffic crashes, particularly serious injury and fatal crashes and those involving bicycles and pedestrians, by a specific target date; and review the draft policy strategies and actions of the 2016 Oregon Transportation Safety Action Plan.” Check out our event page for full details.

Vision Zero Ride
Portland activist group BikeLoudPDX is holding a protest ride following the death of Alan Marsan last week. Marsan was the first bicycle fatality of 2017 and was the victim of a right-hook collision with a large box truck while biking on North Interstate Avenue on February 6th. This ride begins at Dawson Park (N Williams and Morris) at 4:30pm. BikeLoud says right-hooks have plagued City of Portland traffic engineers for decades. They will bike to the location of Marsan’s death to bring attention to, “the city’s inaction” and they will “demand that it fund its commitment to Vizion Zero.” Check out our event page for full details.

Thursday (2/16) – Vision Zero Implementation Task Force

The City of Portland is moving from planning to implementation of their Vision Zero efforts. To reflect that, they have a new Vision Zero Implementation Task Force that will meet for the first time on Thursday in City Hall at 9:30am. With just eight years remaining to reach zero traffic deaths, PBOT and this Task Force have their work cut out. We haven’t seen a detailed agenda yet but will update this post when/if its released. See PBOT’s website for more details.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Andrew N February 13, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Yawn. Show me bold, decisive action on the ground. I wish I didn’t feel so negative but this is what the city (the state barely even warrants mentioning) does best: talk, study, pay expensive consultants, talk, study, ad infinitum. Will they fix the Williams Ave “safety corridor” as part of this magical Vision Zero project, the same dangerous/confusing/poorly-designed “safety corridor” where I came upon a woman last week who had been t-boned while riding with her baby, the baby stuck in the overturned trailer, so terrified that she wasn’t even crying? Do any of our elected officials have the guts and/or vision to make the hard choices necessary to implement the actual changes in street design necessary to get even close to zero deaths? Speaking of such delicate issues, that 25% mode split for bicycling called for in the Bike Plan for 2030, how is that coming along?

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    • paikiala February 14, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      Do you have children? I ask because I’m curious how you read the baby’s mind, since it appears you did not witness the collision.

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  • In Trump We Trust February 13, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    “It’s up to all of us to make sure we move the needle.”

    What are YOU going to do to help move the needle other than whine and complain?

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    • Andrew N February 13, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      LOL. Is that a serious question? Hard to tell with your troll-like (indeed, unpresidented) handle.

      Answer: a lot. For many years. And I won’t shut up until I can ride around “platinum” Portland with my 2-year-old, who already loves bicycling, without being legitimately scared of one or both of us dying or being seriously injured. Reasonable expectations.

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      • wsbob February 14, 2017 at 5:53 pm

        “…What are YOU going to do to help move the needle other than whine and complain?” in trump, etc

        “LOL. Is that a serious question? Hard to tell with your troll-like (indeed, unpresidented) handle.

        Answer: a lot. For many years. …” andrew n

        Mr/Mrs, in trump, etc, seems to have hit the mark in response to your great lament, in their saying that you whine and complain, perhaps a lot…but very likely have done ‘nothing but’, for many years. If you had actually done something other, it seems you would have given a little thumbnail summary of some of the constructive efforts you’ve made, to have streets become safer for everyone to use.

        If you want to do something constructive, first thing you might consider, is stop calling people names or referring to their comment in disparaging terms, simply because you don’t happen to like their weblog name. Personally, as you can see by the way I’ve summarized Mr/Mrs, in trump, etc, I don’t like the name either, but it doesn’t help constructive discussion to use bad choice names like that to lob insults.

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        • Andrew N February 14, 2017 at 9:48 pm

          Thumbnail summary includes being on the board of my neighborhood association, being the Land Use Chair of that NA, being actively involved in the ongoing NE 7th Greenway efforts, advocating for the 7th I-84 bike/ped for around 10 years…those are the things that I’m currently focused on. This on top of running two intertwined, complex businesses almost solo while raising a toddler. Does this give me the right in your esteemed eyes to “whine and complain, perhaps a lot”?

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          • Andrew N February 14, 2017 at 9:53 pm

            …7th I-84 bike/ped *bridge*…

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          • wsbob February 15, 2017 at 10:27 am

            Thank you for the summary of your efforts being involved in the community, towards having streets becoming safer for everyone to use. Hard to know really, why you didn’t supply at least that brief info in response to ‘in trump, etc’s’ initial question to you.

            “…Does this give me the right in your esteemed eyes to “whine and complain, perhaps a lot?” andrew n

            Anyone has the right to observe, be concerned about and comment, hopefully in a constructive way, about the safe usability and functionality of streets in their neighborhood and city. Also to criticize and complain if warranted, about insufficient efforts of city officials to make efforts to remedy bad situations. And, to disagree with people having a different point of view of their own.

            Off the table because they don’t really help at all to get good things accomplished, should be…whining…and being rude and insulting to people because they’ve caught you failing to express yourself in anything more than a dismissive rant, about what you feel your city is neglecting to do.

            How about instead, making an effort to offer some ideas on this weblog, about how to remedy problems you see with street infrastructure, in response to people with questions like that of ‘in trump, etc’ when they ask you?

            Successful accomplishment of streets that are more functional and safe to use than most of what exists now, in Portland and surrounding cities and counties, is delayed and derailed by the bickering and insults…which there really isn’t the time for if people really are serious about coming up with solid ideas that may help their city streets eventually become safer and more functional to use components that sustain neighborhood livability throughout the city.

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    • Brian February 14, 2017 at 9:42 am

      You first.

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      • David Hampsten February 14, 2017 at 10:18 am

        Hey, wanna get something funded and maybe implemented? The city has over $20 million in uncommitted (unspent) Transportation SDC funds. YOU need to get more bike/ped projects onto the city’s list of eligible projects. They are updating the eligibility list THIS YEAR!

        TONIGHT – Go to the City Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting at 6 pm, usually in the Lovejoy Room of City Hall. Roger Geller or Jonathan can give you more details.

        NEXT WEEK – On Tuesday Feb 21st, the city’s pedestrian committee will be meeting to discuss the same, 6-8 pm in the Broadway Room of the Portlandia Building. (9th floor?)

        Don’t sit on your butts, do something!

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        • paikiala February 14, 2017 at 4:51 pm

          SDC is required to be spent to increase capacity of the roadway. A redefining of bike and sidewalk as part of capacity improvements would be needed.

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          • Beeblebrox February 14, 2017 at 6:36 pm

            Sidewalks and bike lanes are already eligible. Read the 2007 rate study on PBOT’s website.

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          • David Hampsten February 15, 2017 at 7:28 am

            … and in fact PBOT has already applied it to SE 136th about 2 years ago, for the sidewalk and unfinished bike lane improvements. They have even offered TSDC funding for outer Powell, for the same reasons.

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  • In Trump We Trust February 13, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Margaret Mead quote:

    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.


    Maybe that group of thoughtful, committed citizens are those reading this website. Don’t wait for the politicians to fix it – do what you can yourself. Be seen, be safe.

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  • buildwithjoe February 13, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    The city should call their plan #allVisionNoAction

    The Portland Transportation managers heve crews spending days to replace a $30,000 guard rail and can’t seem to grab a broom and sweep up the inch deep gravel in the bike lane just feet away.

    For almost zero cost Portland could lower speed limits citywide just like Seattle did a short time ago.

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    • Spiffy February 14, 2017 at 7:27 am

      why is a guardrail needed there? if the train wants it make them pay for it… otherwise it’s a straight section of road with barely any drop…

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      • David Hampsten February 14, 2017 at 10:07 am

        Did you notice the oil cars in the video, next to the highway? Let’s imagine a drunk driver (probably with multiple previous violations) running their car off the road because PBOT/ODOT didn’t replace the required guardrails. I’m not particularly concerned with the drunk driver dying, but I am concerned about the poor railroad workers in the yards burned to death, the ensuing inferno burning for days, toxic chemicals, and thousands of local residents breathing in the fumes and smoke, including bicyclists riding nearby. So $30,000 for a guardrail, however much it costs, is worth it, I’d say.

        I’d also say that PBOT is waiting until the last snowfall to remove the gravel, probably after March 15th. If it’s a crying nuisance, use the car lanes.

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        • Spiffy February 14, 2017 at 10:28 am

          and yet there are thousands of places where we let both cars and trains cross paths… an automobile collision isn’t a concern here…

          but I agree that we need to put way more than a guardrail on that road to get the speed down to 20 mph in order to control future catastrophes…

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    • MaxD February 14, 2017 at 10:22 am

      Is that Greeley? I would add that the City now appears to be allowing the Hazelnut Grove campers to store a small pickup on their camp and to use the bike path between Interstate and Greeley as a driveway. This shanty town is a total disgrace- it is unsafe for people living there, unsafe for people using the adjacent path, and unsafe for neighbors (fire danger is real adjacent to the bluffs). There is no access for emergency personal and trash/portapotty pickup is on a narrow bike path! People have constructed all kinds of precarious shelters with rigged up power- nothing to code. So much for equal protection under the law.

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    • In Trump We Trust February 14, 2017 at 11:38 am

      Make a machine with a roller that sweeps the gravel out toward the street. Power it with a chain/sprockets/gasoline motor and pull it behind your bicycle. 🙂 Be sure to put some guards on it so no hands/feet/paws get into the moving chain/sprockets.

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    • paikiala February 14, 2017 at 4:52 pm

      your definition of zero and mine are not the same.

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    • paikiala February 14, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      BTW, the State controls all speed limits in Oregon. If the street has a speed order, ODOT gets to say yes or no to any changes. And if a City wants something different from statutory, ODOT also gets to say yes or no.

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  • Spiffy February 14, 2017 at 7:34 am

    have they taken action to prevent any recurring deaths other than the 2 pending for Martin Greenough and Fallon Smart?

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    • Adam
      Adam February 14, 2017 at 8:46 am

      They haven’t even taken action on those two. We are still waiting on construction of the crosswalk on Hawthorne.

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      • Spiffy February 14, 2017 at 10:30 am

        yes, only “pending” action so far… but as far as I know they’ve committed to those 2… but we’ll see…

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  • Adam
    Adam February 14, 2017 at 7:51 am

    Are the city and state prepared to move ahead with Vision Zero when federal funding dries up? Are we prepared to create local sources of safety funding? Or will we simply cave to pressure to build more highways nobody needs? Only time will tell if we can actually put our money where our mouths are. Task Forces don’t mean anything if we never act on their recommendations.

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  • RH February 14, 2017 at 9:36 am

    I’ve actually stopped biking in Portland after 10+ years. The nail in the coffin was when the bike lanes disappeared during the last snow storm from being sanded away due to the gravel. Hopefully Vision Zero will start to happen. Doesn’t the city council understand that for every dollar you spend on bike infrastructure, it can save $6-$24 due to less pollution, traffic, and health care costs. We need a billboard around town that reminds folks of this.

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    • Lester Burnham February 14, 2017 at 9:43 am

      All Portland city council understands is that they don’t want unsightly homeless camps in *their* neighborhoods.

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      • dwk February 14, 2017 at 10:02 am

        Yeah, well, the camps are back and are everywhere again. Trash and garbage everywhere.
        Gravel all over the roads, paint gone, potholes galore.
        Is it too soon to call Wheeler a disaster?

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        • Brian February 14, 2017 at 10:09 am

          The camps seem to be more concentrated in the downtown area again, which I think may be a good thing.

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          • Adam
            Adam February 14, 2017 at 10:31 am

            I have also noticed more tents popping up downtown which usually happens after the city does a sweep. Anyone have any information about this? Are Wheeler and Eudaly working to help this vulnerable community or just caving to neighborhood complaints — business as usual?

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty February 14, 2017 at 10:52 am

              I’m not sure there’s a lot they can do about the issue without some sort of consensus about how to solve the problem.

              Do we increase taxes on the general population (somehow — income, property, and sales taxes are all pretty much out) to pay for new housing for the homeless (which opens more questions such as would it be housing-first, where would it go, who would qualify, etc.)? Do we designate areas (where?) that we tolerate long-term camping (and all the attendant problems that brings — sanitation, safety, policing, etc.)?

              I’m not surprised Wheeler and Eudaly have yet to fix the homeless problem. I don’t think they can. Doing so will require far more inspiration and leadership than either of them has ever demonstrated.

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              • Adam
                Adam February 14, 2017 at 10:59 am

                Obviously, I’m not expecting them to fix the problem in 45 days. However, they should be working on a solution. At least one that goes part of the way, as admittedly most of the causes are out of our control – good ol’ neoliberalism is the primary culprit here. I was impressed with Eudaly’s rent-relocation bill (even though it was significantly watered-down after Fritz got her hands on it), so I’m hoping to see more of these kind of things in the future. I imagine we will have a large pushback from the “neighborhood integrity” representing Commissioner Fritz, though.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 14, 2017 at 11:07 am

                I’m sure they’re working on the issue in some sense, but, as you say, the causes are largely out of our control and the solutions require resources we don’t have, and probably don’t have the stomach to acquire (as it would probably mean some form of tax increases).

                If there were an easy or obvious solution, the problem would have been tackled long ago.

                Blaming “neoliberalism” is great, but does that suggest a solution? Or are we stuck with this problem until we change the fundamental organization of our society?

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              • Adam
                Adam February 14, 2017 at 11:10 am

                Blaming “neoliberalism” is great, but does that suggest a solution? Or are we stuck with this problem until we change the fundamental organization of our society?

                Unfortunately, I fear it is the latter. Our system thrives by preying on the weak and vulnerable and I don’t see that going away until we devise a new economic system to replace our inherently corrupt one.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 14, 2017 at 11:14 am

                If you’re right, Wheeler and Eudaly will be unable to address the issue, and it would be unfair to expect them to do so.

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              • Adam
                Adam February 14, 2017 at 11:23 am

                Agreed, they may not be able to fix the problem, but there are things they can do to improve the situation.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 14, 2017 at 11:28 am

                What would you like to see them do?

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              • Adam
                Adam February 14, 2017 at 12:39 pm

                Sanctioned camps throughout the city (not just in “undesirable” areas) with facilities to support everyday life (showers, bathrooms, garbage facilities, etc.).

                A full Renters Bill of Rights that shifts the protection from the landlords to the renters. It should cover things like imposing a maximum rent increase, eliminating no-cause evictions, etc. Chicago has similar protections in their RLTO, so there is precedent for this.

                City-funded social services that offer protection for those in danger of becoming homeless – or at least funding and supporting existing services.

                This city has their priorities all backwards. We are pouring millions into building new parking facilities and repairing slightly damaged bricks in Pioneer Courthouse Square, while thousands are forced to sleep outside.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 14, 2017 at 3:03 pm

                I hope they don’t disappoint you.

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              • Jim February 14, 2017 at 11:46 am

                Tax the hell out of property owned that one does not live in. Why should anyone profit from owning more than one property in this city?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 14, 2017 at 11:48 am

                A punishing tax on rental properties?

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        • Adam
          Adam February 14, 2017 at 10:27 am

          He’s been mayor for a month and a half. It’s not as if he can just wave his hands and make problems go away that quickly.

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          • dwk February 14, 2017 at 10:30 am

            He was in charge during the snowstorm, about as incompetent as it gets.
            The homeless camps are getting worse not better. What exactly do you like about the job he is doing?

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            • Adam
              Adam February 14, 2017 at 10:35 am

              The mayor is not an autocrat. We still live in a bureaucracy and that has not changed under the new mayor. There are definitely things the city has f-ed up since the new year but we can’t just blame everything on the mayor. He’s not even in charge of PBOT. I do however have legitimate complaints about how he handled the protests and Joan authorization of excessive force.

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              • dwk February 14, 2017 at 10:44 am

                Basic services are being totally neglected. The Trash all along the waterfront paths that is not being cleaned up. Camps are lining the Hawthorne bike ramps.
                Basic street cleaning NOT being done.
                This is more than a bureaucracy problem…..

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              • Adam
                Adam February 14, 2017 at 10:52 am

                I’m not disagreeing with you on that one. I just don’t think it’s fair to blame everything on a mayor that has been in office for 45 days and who lacks the authority to even fix most of those issues in the first place. If we have issues with street maintenance, we should be contacting the commissioner who is actually in charge of that.

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            • Chris I February 14, 2017 at 11:51 am

              Oh, right. The 40-year snow storm. If that is your standard for judgement, you are going to be disappointed.

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              • dwk February 14, 2017 at 12:01 pm

                If the mayor or the transportation department or whoever was not smart enough to realize that dumping TONS of rocks all over the roads is a stupid idea, they deserve blame, 40 year storm or not.
                Not cleaning the rocks up immediately so they have caused all kinds of damage to the roads (paint, etc.), is irresponsible.
                The rocks are now washing into the drainage system which will cause a lot of problems down the road.
                Shear incompetence….

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  • MaxD February 14, 2017 at 9:48 am

    I am afraid that Vision Zero is just another complicated layer of administration. We already had the tools and adopted goals, to improve safety, we simply lack the spine and the will to make the tough choices. I hope Vision Zero provides enough reason to promote safety, but I am pretty skeptical. If our electeds, planners, engineers simply valued safety and prioritized walking, transit and biking over some outdated notion of SOV needing status quo, we would making safety gains instead of losses.
    Brent Toderian says it better than I can:

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    • wsbob February 14, 2017 at 6:14 pm

      I’m not a big fan, so far, of the Vision Zero movement here in the U.S., but I’m not willing to cynically dismiss it outright either, as some people seem willing to do, simply because strategies for accomplishing the VZ objectives aren’t gelling together with a snap of the fingers.

      As I gradually get a better grasp of the means that accomplishing VZ objectives may imply, I think I’m realizing that the effort may be a long process, a very long process. And one that’s not likely to be successful by simply cutting off support for the travel mode of one road user group to spite the travel mode of another, whether intentionally or unintentionally. VZ objectives can only be successfully accomplished by multi-lateral support from people representing the full range of road mode use travel.

      For a long time, I’ve felt that safer streets and VZ objectives accordingly, being successfully accomplished, may effectively depend upon a revolution of sorts, in community design planning, more extensive than changes limited to road and street infrastructure.

      The long distance day to day commuting many people must do every day, is I think to large degree, the bane of current society’s existence, and leads to the inclination on the part of some people, to hurry and drive far in excess of speeds that are necessary for streets to be safe and comfortable for people to use by the full range of travel modes.

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  • SD February 14, 2017 at 10:37 am

    I would like to see vision zero be fully imagined with numbers. What is the infrastructure/ enforcement plan where vision zero is accomplished and sacrifices are made that keep deadly forces on the road in check? The required changes may appear intolerable or too expensive, but it would offer an opposing mirror image of what we have now, and it would provide a starting point for illustrating what is possible.

    The current approach of incrementalism is not keeping up with changes in traffic, distracted driving and population growth in a manner that decreases fatalities.

    Put something bold out for people to imagine: 20-15 mph city wide = zero deaths if everyone participates. Spend the PSA budget on something meaningful.

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  • Bald One February 14, 2017 at 11:48 am

    There is also this in Salem, tomorrow:

    Lobby Day for Clean Air at the state capitol this Wednesday, Feb. 15th from 10:30 AM till 1 PM (or 4 PM if you stay for the hearing). Join us to let our lawmakers know that #WeLoveCleanAir and expect them to take steps to make Oregon’s air healthier during the 2017 state legislative session.

    Neighbors for Clean Air

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  • buildwithjoe February 14, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Please when you post lobby days for Salem add a paragraph for people who can’t attend but want to write email to key committee members. Add to the event page…Hey BTA I am talking to you!!! Come on. Not everyone can take weekdays off BTA. Engage your volunteers

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