Story by Patrick Rafferty
Dozens gathered on the cramped corner of SE Taylor Street and Water Avenue to mourn the loss of Tamar Monhait on Friday evening.
Vans full of Hood-to-Coast runners breezed through the intersection throughout the vigil, which only further hammered home the recurring theme of the evening: infrastructure pushed past its limits in a growing city.
“Water Avenue is currently classified as a city bikeway, but the road design does not meet the needs of this changing part of the city.”
— Emily Guise, Bike Loud PDX
Emily Guise, co-chair of Bike Loud PDX, spoke at length about how the City of Portland should improve its cycling infrastructure, specifically calling attention to the Central Eastside Industrial District.
“Water Avenue is currently classified as a city bikeway, but the road design does not meet the needs of this changing part of the city,” Guise sad. “There are more people biking, walking and living here and they need a safe and protected street.”
Building on Guise’s comments, Matt Milletto, owner of Water Avenue Coffee (who we met earlier this week), spoke with emotion and called on the City of Portland to accelerate its goal of Vision Zero before there are any more deaths in our streets.
“This is too late to start thinking about what to do on this street,” said Milletto. “Moving forward, it’s true negligence on the city’s behalf not to take action.”
Tamar Monhait’s stepmother, Sue Monhait, focused more on family when speaking to the crowd. Tamar worked as a bike messenger for some time back home in Chicago, and Sue never understood the draw of Portland until this week.
“This is too late to start thinking about what to do on this street. Moving forward, it’s true negligence on the city’s behalf not to take action.”
— Matt Milletto, owner of Water Avenue Coffee
“Something just kept her here always, and now I see what it is,” Sue Monhait began. “A lot of friends have come out who we didn’t even know, and for that I thank you because it helps us understand how much she was loved here so far away from Chicago, but now we know that she had a really really wonderful life here.”
As the train crossing on Taylor Street backed up automobile traffic all the way up to the vigil, the crossing bell ringing out, Sue Monhait continued: “We lost someone really really really special, and heaven gained a really beautiful angel on Monday.”
Just a few hours before the event, Portland Bureau of Transportation Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera released a statement to BikePortland. “We are aware of the freight conflict with growing bicycle and pedestrian traffic in the Central Eastside and we’re working closely with the community on improvements that could address those safety needs,” he said. “In light of the fatal crash that took the life of Tamar Monhait earlier this week, are going to review our design for the intersection to see if there are any adjustments that should be made based on the Police investigation.”
An existing PBOT project will bring new crosswalks, curb extensions and signage to the intersection later this fall.
— Patrick Rafferty
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