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Agencies distance themselves from “Pedestrian Safety Trials” PSA as outrage grows

Posted by on August 9th, 2017 at 10:49 am

Still from video, which was filmed at the Woodburn Dragstrip.

A public service ad video and safety campaign released yesterday has been met with a strong negative reaction and agencies involved in its creation want to minimize their assocation with it.

It started just hours after we published a story about the “Look First. Walk Second” campaign. The Portland Bureau of Transportation appears to have asked 3 Thirds, the Portland-based marketing agency that created the campaign, to remove all references to them from the website. When LookFirstWalkSecond.com first went live a PBOT webpage about walking safety was linked to from the bottom of every page. But later in the day those links were gone.

Asked to confirm this, PBOT Communications Director John Brady offered this statement:

“Representative Reardon [Jeff Reardon, the Oregon House representative that inspired the project] has been a very strong supporter of Vision Zero and he asked us if we would help fund the Clackamas Community College’s public service announcement. The PSA represents the vision of Clackamas Community College and the filmmakers. As just a funder, we wanted to step back and not play a central role in the campaign. We’re very grateful for Representative Reardon’s support for traffic safety.”

Here’s Facebook post from Clackamas County:

“Clackamas County did not release the video. It was provided to us. Commissioners had no role in the production of the video.”
— Tim Heider, Clackamas County Commission public affairs manager

Despite being “just a funder” (I’ve confirmed with Brady that the City of Portland spent $12,000 on the project) PBOT was listed as a partner on the project and is also listed as “Prod” — short for producer — on a still image on the campaign website.

After we published Brady’s statement, he was contacted by Lori Hall, a public information officer with Clackamas Community College (CCC). Brady then followed-up with BikePortland to say his initial statement overstated the role of Clackamas Community College. As stated on the website, CCC students were only, “placed… alongside the crew during the shoot for a hands-on learning opportunity.” Hall then emailed us to make sure we updated Brady’s statement. “The quote still states that this is a CCC video, which it is not,” Hall said, “We would like that line removed, please.”

I’ve since asked Brady from PBOT why they waited until yesterday to request removal of their link from the campaign website and whether or not PBOT endorses the content of the campaign (it seems very odd that a government agency would not want credit for something they funded). We have yet to hear back.*

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The video shows a reckless driver squeal their tires and run a red light prior to running over a “drunk guy” who is legally occupying a marked crosswalk.

CCC is listed as a “presenter” of the campaign in the video credits. I asked Hall whether the college endorses its contents and have yet to hear back.

Clackamas County launched the campaign with three tweets in the past two days that included the video. They also posted the video to their Facebook page with the message, “We are promoting the importance of being a safe pedestrian. Every time you cross a street, you are entering yourself into a pedestrian safety trial.” Clackamas County is also listed as one of the campaigns presenters. We reached out to County Chair Jim Bernard to ask if he’d like to comment about the negative reactions to the video and whether or not Clackamas County endorses the campaign. Bernard was unavailable but the County’s Public Affairs Manager Tim Heider gave us this statement, which he said he was authorized by Chair Bernard:

“Clackamas County and others such as the City of Portland, contributed funding to this PSA. The video was independently produced and Clackamas County had no creative control over the project. We supported the video to show our commitment to Representative Reardon’s campaign to make our roadways and our crosswalks safer which is a message on which we can all agree.”

Heider also added one “important clarification”: “Clackamas County did not release the video,” he wrote, “It was provided to us. Commissioners had no role in the production of the video and were credited – as were other parties – for providing support.”

I asked Heider whether or not the County Commission endorses the content of the campaign and have yet to hear back.

“This video shows extreme insensitivity to the thousands of people walking or rolling who were hit by drivers even in their right of way.”
— Kristi Finney-Dunn, Oregon/SW Washington Families for Safe Streets

I’ve also reached out to the 3 Thirds marketing agency and to Represenative Jeff Reardon’s office for comment and haven’t heard from them.

Portland comedian Ted Douglass (who plays one of the sportscasters in the video) is listed as the writer of the campaign copy. I’ve asked him for comment but have yet to hear back.

Meanwhile, advocates and people who care about road safety are emailing and calling Reardon’s office to express their disapproval.

Kristi Finney-Dunn, a volunteer with Oregon/SW Washington Families for Safe Streets whose son Dustin Finney was killed by a drunk driver in 2011 while he biked on SE Division, said in a BikePortland comment that the campaign made her “livid”. “This video shows extreme insensitivity to the thousands of people walking or rolling who were hit by drivers even in their right of way,” she wrote. “Our loved ones are already lambasted unmercifully and the promotion and justification of this attitude in this way by people and governments who should know better makes me livid.”

In an email to Rep. Reardon, Portland resident Michael Andersen wrote: “Instead of reinforcing the norm that people who dare to travel their community on foot should be everywhere and always frightened for their lives, these thousands of tax dollars might have been better spent undermining the norm that it is okay to risk the lives of others because you want to get to the next red light several seconds sooner… What an embarrassment.”

Portland resident Alan Kessler wrote Rep. Reardon to say he’s, “Angry and sickened by the victim-shaming website you released today.”

The creators of this video and campaign did not consult Oregon’s walking advocacy group Oregon Walks. That group’s executive director, Noel Mickelberry, said it “completely misrepresents” the issue. In an email to BikePortland she wrote, “It shows completely legal behavior by pedestrians, and reckless driving – it shows the walk sign go ‘on’, and the ‘drunk guy’ in a perfectly legal position in the crosswalk when the car comes roaring through. It might get people’s attention, but doesn’t do anything to tackle the two largest contributors to pedestrian deaths: drunk driving, and speed. Pretty disappointing use of funds, when professional videography could go a long way in creating meaningful communication efforts around Vision Zero.”

*UPDATE, 11:27am: I heard back from PBOT Communications Director John Brady. He says they requested to be removed from the website yesterday because that’s when the site when live (which means PBOT wasn’t shown the site prior to launch). As for whether or not PBOT endorses the content of the campaign, Brady declined to give a straight answer. “I’d point to what we said yesterday. We participated as a funder and our participation doesn’t go beyond that.”

UPDATE, 12:34pm: Roger Averbeck, Co-chair of the City of Portland’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee and the PAC’s rep on the City’s Vision Zero Task Force, says the video is not aligned with Vision Zero goals:

“In my opinion the video obviously promotes stereotypes; leans heavily to victim blaming; is very insensitive to vulnerable road users, especially to families of victims of pedestrian crashes; and does not adequately address vehicle driver responsibility. Instead, it seems to accept illegal driver behavior as the norm that vulnerable road users must protect themselves from by solely changing pedestrian behavior. This is an unacceptable solution; promotes the “us vs them” narrative; and is not at all in alignment with Portland’s Vision Zero Plan.”

UPDATE, 8/15 at 2:30 pm: Reardon will pull down the campaign.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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Donovan Caylor
Guest
Donovan Caylor

The speed in which people and organizations are attempting to distance themselves from this abomination is truely comment-worthy.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

That is such a lame response from PBOT! “we just gave them $12,000, we had NOTHING to do with it” Why not just own it and apologize?

BB
Guest
BB

Any and all public money used for this should be returned and earmarked for safety improvements to roads.

billyjo
Guest
billyjo

I’m confused. After seeing the video I want to know why was Noorah arrested for running over a teenager on Hawthorn? Wasn’t it her fault for not getting out of his way? Shouldn’t he be suing her family for damaging his car instead of running from the law?

glennfee
Subscriber

The disturbing fact that $12,000 apparently only represents a fraction of the overall production budget for this garbage means that a substantial number of people had the opportunity to put a halt to this. Yet, they didn’t.

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

“I’d point to what we said yesterday. We participated as a funder and our participation doesn’t go beyond that.”

This is NOT how one is an effective steward of tax dollars.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

From the 3/thirds website:
We PROMISE To…

Be your expert, your advocate and your source of inspiration.
Never settle when it comes to you.
Be honest, open and authentic.
Not make assumptions.
Listen – to you, and your opinions.
Be considerate, passionate and imaginative.
Challenge you; to make you better.
Keep you as involved in the creative process as you want.
Not shy away from having the tough conversation.
Continually nurture our relationship and always be excited by it.

Based on their own claims, I would have expected them to jump in and have the “tough conversation”. I hope they will publicly address the content they produced or admit that they are just talent-less hacks trying for a cheap laugh (and failing).

Jason VH
Guest

This campaign nails it on the head in regards to what the problem is with the entitlement associated with modern car culture.

There should to be a cycling requirement in order to be licensed to drive a car.

J Chris Anderson
Guest
J Chris Anderson

This is a great opportunity for Reardon’s political challengers to raise
$12k

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

As a funder, could PBOT ask for the website to be taken down?

Greg Spencer
Guest
Greg Spencer

It’s ironic that credits take up more than 50 percent of the video, and then as soon as it goes public, no one wants credit. Tells you that the whole thing was conceived and executed in a bubble, with no outside feedback. Amateurish and irresponsible.

J_R
Guest
J_R

What does the PBOT Director of Communications actually do? Shouldn’t the job include making sure that the activities funded by PBOT are consistent with PBOT’s charge and message?

PBOT has multiple spokespersons and a director. Looks like too much overhead with no accountability.

Helping to fund the project with apparently no input into the message seems like fraud to me. It’s worse than a waste money because it sends the wrong message.

Asking that links to PBOT be removed is the proverbial locking the barn door after the horse has left.

ethan
Guest
ethan

$12,000… For a video.

Yet, there’s no money for crosswalks.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

What’s that old proverb about success having a thousand fathers but failure being an orphan. That certainly seems to apply here.

When the video was being produced, everyone wanted credit because surely such a star producer would succeed. Now it’s paternity tests all around and no one to change the diapers.

rick
Guest
rick

Human life needs to win.

grrlpup
Guest
grrlpup

Since PBOT more or less admits they didn’t care about the actual PSA and its content, not even to the extent of seeing it before launch, what political favor or goodwill was the $12k actually meant to buy?

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

What is most striking to me about this video is the obviously high production values but ridiculously over-wrought premise.

Not to mention, it is unfunny, tries WAY to hard and carries a disgusting message. Bravo!

Also love that almost half of the 6min running time is end credits. Wow

SD
Guest
SD

It is really no surprise that “vision zero” isn’t moving forward fast enough when PBOT considers someone like Reardon a strong supporter. If he is a strong supporter, he will take a stance against this video and ask that it and the website be taken down. Otherwise, I imagine that he, like many OR legislators, rarely looks at the urban environment from the other side of the windshield. And, he is hoping that drivers, who see pedestrians and cyclists as annoying unpredictable obstacles, will have his back. Instances like this are extremely frustrating, but they are useful in revealing the ignorance of the people that are supposed to be making us safer.

This is really just another version of the bike tax; a thin veil of “good for vulnerable road users” covering a steaming pile of contempt for vulnerable road users.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Maybe we can get PBOT to fund a new protected bike lane by claiming it is a safe pedestrian video. Then we can use private contractors to build the protected bike lane using money from PBOT. They clearly don’t seem to exercise any oversight with regards to where there funding goes so it should be a cakewalk.

JR'eh
Guest
JR'eh

Dear PBOT, Please consider funding my enclosed pedestrian and traffic safety project plan. My bank routing # is at the bottom. Once my auto and concrete lobby checks clear, your investment will be returned three-fold. Kind regards. – P.T. Horschitt.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

This article from Strong Towns today seems highly relevant. We don’t need our local governments paying for PSA’s to convince people that when drivers hurt vulnerable road users they were asking for it, that is already what most people including the cops believe: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2017/8/9/bike-friendly-crash-attack-sam-goater?utm_content=bufferf5d29&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Since no one else seems to take any credit for this awful PSA, we must assume that it was created from whole cloth by the production company 3/THIRDS . If this is the kind of operation that is filling up the creative office space around town, then my worries about future traffic congestion and high rents are overblown. Once all these characters are outed as posers, empty buildings will abound and traffic will be like the 90’s once again.

Josh G
Guest
Josh G

Perhaps we should be contacting Representative Reardon to request the web site be taken down due to the victim blaming message of the content.

Capitol & District Phone: 503-986-1448
Email: Rep.JeffReardon@oregonlegislature.gov

joan
Subscriber

I don’t know if this is new to the website, but there seems to be some defensiveness and backpedaling on the “About” page: https://www.lookfirstwalksecond.com/about/

“The PSA goal: reduce pedestrian-car crashes.

The primary goal of this PSA was to reduce pedestrian-car collisions by raising awareness about the problem and changing unsafe behaviors of today’s pedestrians.

Led by Oregon State Representative Jeff Reardon, a coalition was formed between the Clackamas Community College, marketing agency 3/Thirds and the Portland filmmaking community to create a Pedestrian Safety campaign.

Focus on Pedestrians

Many similar safety campaigns have focused on distracted drivers, and while this is unquestionably a problem, the focus here was on the pedestrian. To accomplish this, the team set out to reach pedestrians with a funny, sharable and visceral message that puts crosswalk safety top-of-mind.”

It also explains the roles of the three partners, Clackamas CC, David Cress, and 3/Thirds, in “Supporting the pedestrian safety cause of Representative Reardon.”

So either Reardon is totally retrograde with this stuff, or 3/Thirds and writer Ted Douglass were out of their depth.

Getting feedback from experts seems a basic part of running a PR campaign. It may be that 3/Thirds really blew it.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Here’s my email to Mr. Reardon.

Hi Rep. Reardon!

I’m a voter in your district (in Lents, near 100th & Foster). I was sent the video that you commissioned and am frankly appalled by it. I would also be appalled by a video that mocked people riding or driving in motor vehicles who were involved in crashes that presumably led to their horrific deaths or injuries. So many folks have had their lives and lives of their loved ones changed forever like this. I wouldn’t want any of them to see this video.

You’re right that something needs to get through to people – but this video is not the way to do it. I greatly appreciate your sponsorship of speed camera legislation. I would have loved to see your efforts go into extensions to that. Did you know that automated cameras can enforce other dangerous behaviors, like not obeying crosswalk laws or stop signs?
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/news/city-desk/blog/13068030/new-traffic-cameras-will-ticket-cars-for-endangering-pedestrians-and-bikers-blocking-intersections

I know you, your creative team, and the CCC students were trying for the best. However, it just didn’t work out that way. There’s something fundamentally disrespectful about this video to the families of traffic victims – too many of which live in your district – and I think it should be taken down.

Best,
Alex

drew
Guest
drew

“We found it best to heighten the situations using humor.”

not humorous to me Mr Reardon. Your logic implies we should start telling hikers to get the hell out of the way of mountain bikers flying down hiking trails. With massive kinetic energy comes greater responsibility in out public spaces. Think about it.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“As shown in the PSA, drivers are increasingly distracted in many ways. To help educate drivers, I worked closely with the city of Portland in the 2015 legislative session and sponsored a bill to allow the use of fixed photo radar in Portland’s high-crash corridors. These have worked better than expected to make drivers aware of their speed and to observe the speed limit more closely.”

This makes exactly no sense. Distraction is a pervasive problem, so we’ll crack down on speeding…?

“At other times, pedestrians make unwise choices and jeopardize their own safety. […]when accidents do occur, the outcome unfortunately always favors the car. Always.”

So you set up a ridiculous scenario… on a racetrack… which surely emphasizes exactly the kind of speeding you say you are trying to penalize to show that PHYSICS wins… ?!

I feel dirty even dissecting this.
Why can’t we trouble ourselves to come up with meaningful, pedagogically valid scenarios that cut to the chase, clarify the problem, instead of demeaning and frankly disturbingly juvenile attempts at humor?

SD
Guest
SD

On the bright side: If I kill someone with my car, I won! Come to think of it, this is pretty accurate. How else do you get to kill or injure somebody without being punished by society?

Seth D. Alford
Guest
Seth D. Alford

This is one more reason why we need a pro-bicycle 501(c)(4) advocacy group. In this case, that group would be used to funnel campaign contributions to Reardon’s primary opponent.

Clarence Eckerson
Guest
Clarence Eckerson

Running time 6:24. Actual film: 3:11. End credits: 3:13. How much money did they spend on this crap?

Clarence Eckerson
Guest
Clarence Eckerson

I’ve NEVER seen a film-to-credits ratio like that in any short film in my life!!!

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

The more I think about this video, the more pissed I get. This is akin to the NRA putting out a video tsk tsking the Sandy Hook students for not wearing kevlar vests. “Because bullets always win.”

I hope someone is mounting a primary challenge to Reardon.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Better users of the public rights of way is one tenet of Vision Zero.
Though it seems to me that if you wanted this outcome, focusing on those that pose the greatest danger would provide the greatest benefit. And as a legislator, a new law to require all motor vehicle operators to pass a written and driving test at least every four years, would be the true Vision Zero place to start.

billyjo
Guest
billyjo

Let’s create a PSA that picks up where this one leaves off. The driver of that shiny car that ran a red light and hit a pedestrian is being taken away in handcuffs, the pedestrian’s family takes possession of that shiny car and his house. His wife leaves him and then there can be a scene of him after spending many years in prison for manslaughter, crossing in a marked crosswalk and getting run down by a driver just like himself.

Matthew in Portsmouth
Guest
Matthew in Portsmouth

I’ve seen many great PSA videos promoting safe driving and safe pedestrian behavior, not many in this country however. What is common to all great road safety PSA videos is that they highlight the importance of all road users obeying the law. So, when I was a kid we had Hector the Cat showing us how to cross the street (in Australia) “Look to the left, look to the right, look to the left again.” That PSA video would show a car driving at or below the posted speed limit, the pedestrian waiting for the car to stop, then crossing the street. Good PSA videos are professionally produced in close consultation with the sponsoring organization to ensure that inappropriate messages are not sent. Then they would screen them to test audiences to ensure that nothing gets overlooked.

The video that we are discussing is a perfect model for how not to produce a PSA. Don’t throw cash at someone and hope they do a good job – make sure they do a good job. If you want to be credited as a producer, make sure you’re part of the production team.

X
Guest
X

Ok, the PSA was simple minded at best, but there’s a useful message in there somewhere: MV operators are often unreliable. As a lifetime pedestrian, I score that True. And a corollary: Sometimes pedestrians behave, I don’t know, strangely? As a frequent vehicle user I find that also True.

The crawfishing by PDOT makes me embarrassed for humanity. The pearl-clutching in these comments makes me wonder why I read them.

(_nobody_ thinks Fallon was to blame)

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“…we are pleased that it is furthering the dialogue needed to help improve our community safety.”

“I am pleased that this public service ad has captured people’s attention.”

Just trying to start a conversation, eh? Is this like punching someone in the face just to say “whassup!!?”

Joe Hand
Guest
Joe Hand

PBOT is still in title over at vimeo: https://vimeo.com/218542389

I’m reporting the video at Vimeo as a violation of their guidelines. I’d recommend others do that as well.

> No videos that are hateful, harass others, violate someone’s privacy, or include defamatory or discriminatory speech.

> No videos that depict or promote violent activity, extreme or real-life violence, self-harm, or cruelty toward animals.

> No videos that “Depicts unlawful acts or extreme violence”

Reporting information here: https://help.vimeo.com/hc/en-us/articles/224969908. However, there is no “flag” on the video (which seems to mean it was approved). So I’ll be contacting them to report it.