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First look at PBOT’s new crossing of Hawthorne at 43rd – UPDATED

Posted by on March 31st, 2017 at 10:35 am

What if this was in place on August 19th 2016 when Fallon Smart tried to cross here?
(Photos: Paul Jeffery)

As promised last fall, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has updated Southeast Hawthorne Blvd with a new painted crosswalk and median island at the intsersection of 43rd Avenue. In addition to the new crossing, PBOT has received permission from the Oregon Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit on Hawthorne between 29th and 50th to 20 miles per hour (down from 25).

These much-needed improvements come seven months after 15-year-old Fallon Smart was hit and killed by a man driving recklessly as she tried to walk cross Hawthorne. This location has been a concern of local residents and business owners for years because of its lack of marked crosswalks (eight blocks without one, despite a growing number of destinations on boths sides of the street) and frequency of high-speed driving.

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After Smart died, the community painted its own crosswalk and filled the center turn lane with flowers and memorial items — effectively creating a temporary median. After some back-and-forth between PBOT and neighbors, the project to make permanent changes moved forward.

Here are a few more photos of the completed work (taken by local resident Paul Jeffery):

View looking north across Hawthorne from 43rd.

View from median looking west on Hawthorne.

View from median looking east on Hawthorne.

The final piece of this project will be a restriping of the existing lane markings on Hawthorne. The new 20 mph speed limit signs should be going up shortly.

We are so glad to see this design update and hope to see much more of this type of thing on commercial main streets throughout Portland.

UPDATE, 1:30 pm: We have two new statements on this project. PBOT has issued a press release: “This is another important step towards making Portland safe for all,” said Transportation Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “I appreciate the Hawthorne business community’s support for this project and look forward to working with other business districts to create safer conditions for people walking, biking, rolling and driving.”

And nearby business owner Katherine White emailed us to say, “I know some people are unhappy that the money was dedicated to this project on this side of town. It is really unfortunate that we are all scrambling for a limited amount of dollars. It never is really a victory if, by getting something, you feel you have taken something from someone else. But it is a huge improvement. It will increase safety. And I hope all Portlanders can appreciate that. It means a lot to us in this neighborhood.”

— 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

  • rick March 31, 2017 at 10:56 am
  • J_R March 31, 2017 at 10:59 am

    It took about two years for motorists to pretty consistently yield to pedestrians after marked crosswalks were installed on Woodstock at 41st; between 44th and 45th; and at 49th (adjacent to the library). Maybe the PPB could do some aggressive crosswalk enforcement at the new crosswalk on Hawthorne to start getting compliance immediately. Citations, not warnings. Just do it! Vision Zero!

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  • buildwithjoe March 31, 2017 at 11:01 am

    This is barely an improvement.

    2 of the 3 crosswalks are blocked by parked cars. 30mph remains deadly. The left turns there are too risky.

    Fallon was my student in 9th grade, and I’ve been attending vigils for 20 years. She was killed by a deadly design that beckoned bad driving. The only bad driving prevented by this new design is center lane passing for a short segment.

    For the same cost we could have put planters in 8 blocks of the center lane. We could have lowered the limit to 20mph. We could have removed more of the risky left turns, and more of the parking that blocks visibility. We could have (and should have) painted EVERY crosswalk.

    PBOT talks vision Zero but their actions clearly care more about trip times for motor vehicles.

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    • Spiffy March 31, 2017 at 11:47 am

      yes, they effectively retired the other 2 crosswalks by painting one, which you’re now required to use instead if the 2 unmarked ones…

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      • J.E. March 31, 2017 at 8:15 pm

        They want to do this all along Outer Division (82nd to City limits) as part of that safety project too. Email PBOT and let them know we don’t appreciate having legal pedestrian movement curtailed in the name of safety! Sends the wrong message about modal priorities. Especially on a street where the obvious solution of converting one motor vehicle lane in each direction to a bus-only lane–a solution would make every crosswalk safer, even the unmarked ones, while also supporting the busiest bus line in the metro region–is not on the table as an option.

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    • TonyT
      TonyT March 31, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      It was 25mph there and HAS been lowered to 20mph.

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    • paikiala March 31, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      The two outside crosswalks were closed by signing them as such.

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      • Eric Leifsdad April 1, 2017 at 8:06 am

        That will keep us safely inside of our cars right up to the end.

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  • Michael Andersen (Contributor)
    Michael Andersen (Contributor) March 31, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Fallon’s death was awful and senseless and this is at least a partial monument to her memory, improving safety for the area. And I’m all for having this safer crossing near my neighborhood.

    But it’s really frustrating to me that one person dies in this well-off part of town and we get a top-notch crosswalk immediately, while equally hideous deaths a few miles to the east prompt no changes. This is *exactly* how inequality and disinvestment happen, isn’t it? Seems like the same price could have bought two improved crosswalks with cheaper materials (like planters, as Joe mentions) instead of sweet new curbs at one crosswalk.

    I think we as a city might be better off embracing more of a “buy one, give one” type practice when it comes to street improvements after horrible and needless deaths. One at the location in question, one at a statistically more dangerous crossing elsewhere.

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    • Travis March 31, 2017 at 11:17 am

      Think you for writing this. PBOT’s reporting and outcry based targeting approach inherently discriminate.

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      • Travis March 31, 2017 at 11:17 am


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    • Eawrist March 31, 2017 at 11:19 am

      Excellent idea. If there is a cheaper design w planters that has the same functional outcome, split the funds to PREVENT a kid from being killed in E pland.

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    • TonyJ March 31, 2017 at 11:39 am

      And I think it is further worth noting that the request of the neighborhood (Sunnyside) after this tragedy was for an immediate interim solution (barrels or planters).

      I further, unsuccessfully, tried to get the SNA to remind the city about this when they asked us about this installation.

      One big problem here is that the city is fairly bound to update these intersections with MUTCD compliant designs. Those designs often seem more concerned with keeping traffic flowing than actually providing safe walkable spaces.

      I wish that PBOT had put up 3-4 “temporary” fixes around the city, including at this intersection.

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      • paikiala March 31, 2017 at 3:28 pm

        The MUTCD covers signing striping and signals, not geometric road design, nor materials.

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        • TonyJ April 3, 2017 at 10:33 am

          I was told by a traffic engineer two scenarios where the MUTCD requires more expensive stuff.

          1) on Hawthorne I proposed using crash barrels or planters to build the center medians. I was told that this wouldn’t work because buses and trucks would hit the barrels too often, they can go over curbs. I proposed moving them in few inches so there would be room. I was told that this wouldn’t be allowed because then the space between the curb and the median would be too far to be MUTCD compliant. So basically the rules require a median which can be infringed upon rather than one a few inches or a foot away which is truly protected (and cheaper).

          2) At this same meeting I proposed that the money saved be used to construct a similar refuge on SE Division and 84th (upon consultation with APANO). I was informed that this would also not be possible. The rules say to cross two lanes of traffic and a parking lane you need to have a curb extension, a median, and a flashing beacon.

          So old folks trying to cross that street are left with nothing until we can do something perfect.

          I think the reasoning is that the city is open to more liability if they make a change that isn’t by the book than if they leave a deadly intersection the way it is. This must change.

          We need to apply cost effective “interim” safety solutions all over the city, yesterday.

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          • paikiala April 10, 2017 at 10:07 am

            The MUTCD does not cover geometric design.
            NCHRP 562 is the adopted standard for how to enhance a crosswalk, and it has multiple solutions depending on traffic volume, pedestrian use, posted speed and crossing distance.
            Neither of these protocols cover construction material choices or geometric design.

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    • Spiffy March 31, 2017 at 11:50 am

      to be fair there were some high profile cases that sparked action… they weren’t going to invest in sidewalks until a girl was killed…

      they weren’t going to slow down Division until multiple people were killed…

      but I think the reason the close-in locations get more attention is due to their density and the amount of people outraged nearby… in E-PDX there aren’t as many people living close to the incident…

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    • peejay March 31, 2017 at 11:57 am

      I couldn’t agree more. We tried to do it with this project, in fact suggesting the area east of Division/82nd, but were told that this was off the table. That changed only later when more people died on Division St. and the neighbors there rose up and protested. I don’t blame anyone at PBOT, but I do blame the nature of PDX politics, that seems to require blood sacrifice to get anything done. Too often, even that is not enough.

      So, let’s celebrate that a good thing got done, but let’s lean on the city to:
      1) do much more;
      2) do it equitably;
      3) do it BEFORE people die.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. March 31, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      Unfortunately this problem does not go away until we do away with Portland’s racist and inequitable commission form of government.

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    • Evan March 31, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      Re planters: Isn’t it true that MUTCD (or other applicable standards) do not allow planters in the median, due to the “danger” they may pose to drivers? I believe this is part of the reason that we get curbs (that can be jumped by drivers) rather than bollards or planters (that are effective barriers) in median refuges.

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      • paikiala March 31, 2017 at 3:30 pm

        The MUTCD defines how to mark and sign a roadway and provides warrants for signals.
        AASHTO is the national geometric design policy. It is much more varied than most think.

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    • Mark smith April 3, 2017 at 1:15 am

      You left out the protests and media attention. It has little to do with the social strata of the area.

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  • buildwithjoe March 31, 2017 at 11:05 am

    I see that the 20 zone is part of the plan.

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  • Todd Hudson March 31, 2017 at 11:33 am

    That curbed median island and street sign post will be a very effective barrier to stop folks barreling down the left turn lane.

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  • chris March 31, 2017 at 11:42 am

    I’ve noticed that Portland has built many new pedestrian islands on main streets in the past 10 years or so. This would ordinarily improve the experience of walking and driving, but given the increasingly chaotic nature of motor vehicle traffic, they’re necessary to allow us to even stay afloat.

    Why not build these every five blocks on all main streets? Seems like a fairly inexpensive investment that won’t require regular maintenance or frequent repair.

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    • chris March 31, 2017 at 11:46 am

      BTW, the island is more important than the crosswalk itself. The crosswalk is just paint, but the island allows one to cross a busy bidirectional street incrementally. Even if cars don’t stop for you, the benefit of not having to wait until both directions are clear is pretty huge.

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      • buildwithjoe March 31, 2017 at 7:41 pm

        Try telling your view to a younger mind, or the person who loves that younger person and hopes the young person has the full attention to stop and put out a body part ( 801.220) In fact even people with more birthdays might not agree that the island feels safer.

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        • paikiala April 10, 2017 at 10:10 am

          you’re inaccurately describing the law. the ‘body part’ only applies to the curb side of the road, not the middle island. Stop and stay stopped, lane plus one, applies. The island is a break in that law, but once the person reaches the island the stop and stay stopped law triggers again without the requirement to step into the vehicle lane.

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  • Spiffy March 31, 2017 at 11:53 am

    a couple things to remember with this design…

    1) the other 2 unmarked crosswalks at this intersection are now off-limits due to there being a marked one… you must use any marked crosswalk if you’re crossing within 150′ of it…

    2) you have to re-establish your intent to cross once you’re in the median… drivers don’t have to stop for you in the far lane until you get to the median… so be careful crossing the 2nd half of the street…

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    • Greg Haun March 31, 2017 at 12:11 pm

      I did not know until today, you are correct, the other two crosswalks are now not “lawful”, but my reading is that this is due to being at the same intersection per “Whenever marked crosswalks have been indicated, such crosswalks and no other shall be deemed lawful across such roadway at that intersection” from Where does your 150′ number come from?

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    • paikiala March 31, 2017 at 3:36 pm

      A common misperception.

      Your interpretation is the most severe, and not common. Legal crossings exist without marking. The law is interpreted to mean, when another path is marked different from the nearby statutory crossing, the marked crossing is the one to use.
      An example would be a crosswalk perpendicular to the curb when the legal crossing is at an angle due to the two halves of an intersection being slightly offset.

      The only closed crosswalks are those signed as such, or with the NO PED symbol.

      The 150′ thing is city ordinance.

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    • buildwithjoe March 31, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      I agree that Spiffy and Greg H have read the law correctly. It means PBOT downgraded 43rd and Hawthorne.

      a) It went from 3 crosswalks to just one.

      b) BPOT adding a median gives freedom for the the car in the opposite lane to not stop.

      c) The pedestrian has a dangerous burden to get both directions to stop. If you are crossing the closer lane, or in the median the law states that the car on the other side of the island has the green light. The pedestrian on the island must move a hand or foot or BODY PART into the roadway for the car to stop. Even orange flags do not make it legal to leave the island. !!!

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      • Eric Leifsdad April 1, 2017 at 3:15 pm

        The “including, but not limited to” in (4) would permit a sledge hammer and other things which are far more insistent than a “wheelchair, cane, crutch, or bicycle” to indicate your intent to cross with the right of way.

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      • soren April 1, 2017 at 7:16 pm

        from the statute: “any part of the pedestrian’s body, wheelchair, cane, crutch or bicycle, moves onto the roadway in a crosswalk with the intent to proceed.”

        i believe this means that anything that a pedestrian is carrying functions as an extension of their body.

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  • J_R March 31, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Since we’re discussing pedestrian safety stuff, I thought I’d bring this to everyone’s attention:

    I just received this notice from ODOT.

    Open House for ODOT Safety Project: US26 (Powell Boulevard) between SE 20th and SE 34th Avenues

    WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5, 2017 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Stop by anytime) Catholic Charities * 1st Floor, Café 2740 SE Powell Blvd. (southwest corner of Powell Blvd. and 28th Ave.) Portland, OR 97202

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  • TonyT
    TonyT March 31, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Just went by there and it looked good. Was tailgated the whole way as I did the posted 20mph limit. Would be nice to get some enforcement for that behavior. And then as Hawthorne turns south and changes to SE 50th, the legal limit change from 20mph to 35mph was especially jarring. There is just no reason for that speed on such a narrow street. I couldn’t even bring myself to do 30mph.

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    • paikiala March 31, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      50th is proposed to become 30 mph. it’s 36 feet wide, similar to most collectors in Portland.

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      • TonyT
        TonyT April 1, 2017 at 8:44 am

        Chavez is 30mph. That 50th is still 35mph is ridiculous.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu March 31, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Can someone let us know the cost of this raised median? It looks like it should be quite inexpensive . . . right?

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    • paikiala March 31, 2017 at 3:38 pm

      about $5-8K for an island, with signs and marking.
      Corner rebuilds are estimated at $4k

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      • Doug Klotz April 3, 2017 at 7:34 am

        Paikiala: is thsy $4k per corner?

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        • paikiala April 10, 2017 at 10:13 am

          each corner rebuild is $4k.

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    • rick March 31, 2017 at 5:11 pm

      A young girl ? Human lives?

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  • Todd Boulanger March 31, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Should the PBoT quote.”This is another important step towards making Portland safe for all.” be written instead , “This [investment] is [an] important step towards making Portland safe[r] for all [roadway users].”

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  • bikeninja March 31, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    The way bad drivers in this town are multiplying I would be in favor of installing a steel refuge cage in the center island to protect pedestrians at the halfway point. Last month I saw a motorist take out the big flashing yellow yield-to-pedestrians sign and run right over the center island where Going Street splits in to Basin and Lagoon on Swan Island. Trashed their car and blew the airbags ,but they kept on driving for a couple of more blocks.

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  • buildwithjoe March 31, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Amen as Michael Anderson said..

    Lower income areas have no squeaky wheel, and that’s how PBOT has operated. No safety.

    PBOT should be giving the 99 neighborhood associations equitable and direct control in selecting where to spend safety money. Based on deaths/injury data, not on political connections or squeakiness.

    This will sound radical but every dollar spent by PBOT should be ONLY for safety.

    Yup. Just safety. That includes grants. (( You should see the PBOT wish list for computer signal networks. Massive dollars for trip times. That’s a costly system to keep working forever… )) VisionZero should receive all the budget, and most of that budget given to locals to decide. Zero dollars for wider roads. Zero dollars to make trip times faster for cars. Zero dollars for single passenger motor vehicles.

    My most deadly hot spots:
    SE Stark from 70th to 182nd is
    SE Division from 70th to 238th
    SE 122nd
    SE 181st/182nd
    The vanishing Bike Lane at the West End of the Hawthorne Bridge

    Over 1,500 Grant High Students will be spending 2 years commuting from 40th and Knott in NE to 92nd and Powell. And suddenly 1700 Franklin High Students will be swarming back to the area of 52nd and Powell. Given that TriMet had not added capacity for the women’s rally, I can only guess that SE and NE Pdx are going to be a mess for most of 2017, 2018 and 2019. Even if Trimet adds bus capacity, the roads are designed to block buses with single passenger cars.

    If you fix streets for safety, you also wind up fixing them for transit.

    Our leaders are not helping people who want to drive less. Our leaders force people to drive. I know they force me to drive my car often. Oregon Walks posted a slide that should change PBOT.

    Only 1/3 of people who drive to OHSU prefer that as their 1st mode. >

    My grief for the loss of Fallon is huge, beyond words. I could rant on forever. I can only imagine the deeper grief of every family member and person connected to every road death. I was feeling this grief before Fallon was killed, I’ve been turning that grief in to action for most of my life.

    Call Dan Saltzman and demand a PBOT rep come to your neighborhood association (503) 823-4151

    Put Dan in your cell and call him after every call you place to 823-SAFE…

    PS: Ben Carlson was a pedestrian on the sidewalk. The driver who jumped the curb and killed him on June 14th, 2015 was never given a ticket. Next time you get a cop trying to ticket or lecture you bring that up.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu April 1, 2017 at 5:11 am

    about $5-8K for an island, with signs and marking.
    Corner rebuilds are estimated at $4k
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    Why, then, is it so difficult to get PBOT to install these islands?

    I think they are a good idea. I frequently drive on a part of NE Glisan where these
    islands have been installed.

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  • Steve Scarich April 1, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Crosswalks are probably the ultimate false sense of security. As an avid walker, I know that the ONLY thing keeping me safe is my own senses and abilities to avoid danger. Example: in Bend, one of those fancy crosswalks with ped-activated flashing lights and island were installed a few years ago on our main East-West arterial. I ride my bike through it at least once or twice a week, and notice that drivers mostly ignore, or just slow down when the lights are activated. This week, just for fun, I decided to try it; pushed the button, and the lights started flashing, and then a speaker voiced ‘caution, drivers will not necessarily stop for these lights’. I’m sure this fixture cost ten’s of thousands of dollars, and has done almost nothing to make street safer.

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    • soren April 1, 2017 at 9:27 am

      “I know that the ONLY thing keeping me safe is my own senses and abilities to avoid danger.”

      I know that the ONLY thing killing people on our roads is the automobile and that it takes just one moment of narcissistic distraction for a driver to punch my or your ticket permanently.

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        • soren April 2, 2017 at 5:04 pm

          the fact that you used a 3 year-old piece from a city 2,900 miles away with 13x portland’s population kinda reinforces my point.

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        • dwk April 2, 2017 at 6:46 pm

          You seriously posted a “bike hits pedestrian” article here?
          WTF is wrong with you? Such a huge problem isn’t it?
          Maybe if you search the intertrons long enough you can find more examples to post on a bike advocacy website just to irritate everyone.

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        • X April 2, 2017 at 9:25 pm

          People also get killed by falling tree branches in Central Park, perhaps one or two in a year? Meanwhile, in 2015, 133 pedestrians died in “traffic crashes” in New York City. The Times did not mention what kind of traffic for some reason.

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    • Chris I April 1, 2017 at 2:12 pm

      You could say the exact same thing about driving, eating out, or basically any human interaction.

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  • OregonJelly April 1, 2017 at 10:01 am

    The biggest danger to drivers, pedestrians and cyclists along that road are the cars that block visibility and prevent anyone from seeing oncoming traffic until both parties are fully in the roadway. Obviously, we’re going to pretend that problem does not exist.

    As a ped, this is a slight improvement.
    As a cyclist, you have created a pinch point that puts me at risk if a car is passing me in this area. It is something i will have to be aware of and watch overtaking traffic as I approach it.

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    • paikiala April 10, 2017 at 10:17 am

      people driving cars should not be passing a person operating a bike in a travel lane by using a center turn lane.

      The greatest danger to pedestrians and cyclists in the event of a crash is the energy transferred to their bodies due to the speed of the vehicle.

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  • Matt April 1, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    It could really use some bollards on both ends.

    If another person does 50 in the median and hits the curb, a kid would still be dead in the crosswalk. Some bollards there though and the kid would be safe. Ridic scared and freaked out, but safe. And instead the driver would be the one facing the consequences of their own poor decisions.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu April 2, 2017 at 1:12 am

      How often do drivers do 50 mph into raised median islands, though? Is this really an issue we’re having?

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  • X April 2, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    50 mph is kind of rare, but islands aren’t totally safe. I’ve traffic light poles taken out by turning movements of big trucks (this is one thing that’s wrong with the NE Broadway/Williams corner–a waiting cyclist is teed up on the inside corner of a street where heavy traffic goes through each light cycle?). Also, check out the massive concrete curb where bikes stop at top of the Lovejoy ramp, it’s being chewed away by MV grinding the inside of the corner. You know, their apex.

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  • joel domries April 6, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    the 20mph signs have really helped. there is a big difference in the feel of the street. overall traffic is slower.

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