Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Lo and behold: An American city just focused their “be seen” message on drivers

Posted by on November 6th, 2017 at 3:53 pm

The lack of people dressed like traffic cones is a nice touch.

I’m sure your inbox and timelines are full of well-meaning organizations urging you to “be safe and be seen” this time of year.

These are important messages, but it’s annoying how they usually focus on vulnerable road users. It makes sense intuitively, but that paternalistic approach fails to address the elephant in the room — or should I say the huge, powerful steel vehicles in our streets.

“Dress up like a traffic cone if you want to survive winter!” these campaigns too often say.

That’s why I was very pleased to see the latest statement from the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “‘Be Seen. Be Safe.’ Traffic safety during the darker days of the year,” the headline reads.

The full text is below. Notice how the focus — first and foremost — is on people who drive cars and trucks (after a solid first sentence that’s generalized to all road users):

Daylight savings time ended on Sunday, so it’s time to step up your visibility and make sure you’re doing your part to travel with care.

People driving can increase visibility by using their headlights, leaving a safe distance between vehicles to increase your cone of vision, and continuously scanning the environment looking for people walking and bicycling. Always be alert and practice extra caution during winter’s rain and low light.

Drivers need to:

– Remember to practice patience and slow down
– Stay in your lane and beware of drivers who dart from lane to lane
– Even though the route may be familiar, don’t go on autopilot; stay alert and ALWAYS watch for vulnerable road users such as people walking, biking and rolling
– Don’t touch your phone, eat, drink or do other things that are distracting. Remember, as of October 1, 2017 it is illegal to drive while holding or using an electronic device (i.e. a cell phone or tablet).
– Slow down at crosswalks and take care when making turns – even at a signal.

Advertise with BikePortland.

Did you know that as we age we have greater difficulty seeing at night? Night vision is the ability to see well in low-light conditions. A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old.

Depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision can be compromised in the dark for all drivers, and the glare of headlights from an oncoming vehicle can significantly impact a driver’s vision. Even with high-beam headlights on, visibility is limited creating less time to react to something in the road, especially when driving at higher speeds.

People walking and biking can increase their visibility during low-light hours by wearing reflective gear and using safety lights. When walking, keeping a small flashlight or using the feature on your phone is another helpful way to make sure you can see at night.

Did you know that you’re first visible to people driving from 500 feet away when you’re wearing reflective clothing? Compare this to just 55 feet away when wearing dark colors with no reflective gear or lights.

Nearly the entire statement is directed at motor vehicle users. That’s noteworthy. The words and messages agencies prioritized are windows into their values — and building blocks of the type of culture they hope to create.

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

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123 Comments
  • Michael Andersen November 6, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Nice catch! This is a breath of fresh air.

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  • Paul Atkinson November 6, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    That’s a vast improvement. I’m really happy to see PBOT making this shift; language matters and this message shows huge progress over prior versions of this program.

    Here’s hoping PPB hears this and adopts similar principles when describing crashes.

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    • 9watts November 7, 2017 at 6:28 am

      I saw this missive in my inbox too, and was delighted!

      What I’d like to know is what changed internally at PBOT that produced this change. We here on bikeportland have been clamoring about the previous approach and phrasing for years.

      Unfortunately Toadslick is right that the headline is a holdover and poorly matches the thrust we’ve all noticed. Maybe next year?

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      • Paul Atkinson November 7, 2017 at 4:31 pm

        Baby steps. 🙂

        We can celebrate intermediate successes while still pushing for continuing improvement. Next up, we get them to drop the passive voice next year and go with “See, be safe!”

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        • Gary B November 8, 2017 at 7:44 am

          BE SEEIN’, BE SAFE!

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  • Dave November 6, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    A city is TELLING DRIVERS WHAT TO DO????!!!!! Holy smoke, glad I’m sittin’ down as I read it!

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 6, 2017 at 11:51 pm

      Driving?

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  • Michael Neubert November 6, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    You are fortunate. Where I live, in Arlington VA, the county government (Arlington is a county, but really a small city) has several bike coordinator personnel that try to sell PAL – predictable, attentive, law-abiding – the notion is that this is equally intended for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians, but it sure feels like the attention is heavily focused on the cyclists. (For one thing, they were paying some poor young person to ride a bike on the trails towing a trailer with a “PAL” sign! Not too many motorists saw that!)

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  • bikeninja November 6, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    They fear the wrath of Bike Portland.

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  • Racer X November 6, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Yes…its a good start…but the proof will be if such is communicated to a larger audience (drivers) via TV PSAs / transit ads and then finally in PPB crash reports…

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  • John Lascurettes November 6, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    This is a long way from the Look Both Ways campaign — thankfully.

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  • Toadslick November 6, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    I appreciate that the small print is directed at drivers, but they should update the slogan to match. Too many drivers assume that ambiguous platitudes such as “Share the Road” and “Be Seen, Be Safe” are directed at vulnerable road users.

    I’d prefer phrases such as “Slow Down when it’s Dark”, “Always Yield to People”, or “All Intersections are Crosswalks.”

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    • B. Carfree November 6, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      Yeah, there is a conflict between JM’s glowing praise of the fine print and the headline PBoT uses. One group of road users is literally killing people, and it’s high time we directed attention at stopping them from continuing to do so.

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    • Pete November 7, 2017 at 11:16 am

      Or simply, “Hang Up and Slow TF Down!!”.

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  • soren November 6, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    “People walking and biking can increase their visibility during low-light hours by wearing reflective gear and using safety lights.”

    More Vision Zero denial from PBOT.

    Not only does this kind of fear mongering discourage people from walking but there is little (if any) empirical evidence that these kind of campaigns work. Despite decades of PBOT pedestrian shaming, I have seen no increase in people walking around with front and back blinkies in my neighborhood.

    Mikael Colville Andersen addresses this kind of regressive fearmongering in this recent blog post:

    Campaigns for reflective clothing are also increasing in The Culture of Fear, despite a limited amount of science on the subject. No corresponding campaigns are in place for cars, even though black cars are more likely to be involved in accidents.
    All the negative campaigns blaming cyclists and pedestrians for not equipping themselves with body armour and christmas tree lights would be more credible if the same effort was placed on motorists and cars.

    http://www.copenhagenize.com/2017/11/traffic-safety-orgs-speak-for.html

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 6, 2017 at 11:55 pm

      >>> “People walking and biking can increase their visibility during low-light hours by wearing reflective gear and using safety lights.” <<<

      That's fear mongering?

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      • Middle of the Road Guy November 7, 2017 at 7:52 am

        I am constantly perplexed by Soren’s conclusions.

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        • q November 7, 2017 at 9:14 pm

          They often make sense upon reflection.

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      • soren November 7, 2017 at 8:26 am

        Yes, I vehemently believe that urging people walking in their neighborhood to wear pedestrian blinky lights and special reflective pedestrian clothing (PBOT often uses a day glo hi viz vest in its images) is fear mongering. It’s also implicitly victim blaming in that people who dare to walk around their neighborhood in normal clothing are painted as deficient risk-takers.

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        • KristenT November 7, 2017 at 9:40 am

          Besides, what’s the point of wearing all that when I still almost get hit by drivers who can’t be bothered to slow down and give room on streets with no sidewalks, shoulders, or bike lanes?

          I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been buzzed, while wearing a high-viz vest over my all-reflective jacket with all-reflective leggings and high-viz shoelaces on my reflective shoes, and wearing a very bright headlamp with fresh batteries and my brightest red blinkie light on the back of my head.

          Where is the responsibility and shame heaped on drivers? I’ve done my part, why don’t we expect drivers to do theirs? Why is the onus always on me the pedestrian, even when I’ve gone above and beyond to be visible?

          (Seriously– if you drive in Tigard around Gaarde and Walnut in the early dawn hours, you’ve probably seen me. I’m not subtle.)

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty November 7, 2017 at 9:57 am

            Perhaps if those drivers had not seen you, they would have hit you rather than not.

            I’m not sure it is wise to conclude that being invisible on a road with no shoulder is safe just because people exhibit the same sort of jerky behavior at night as they do during the day.

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          • wsbob November 7, 2017 at 6:30 pm

            “Besides, what’s the point of wearing all that when I still almost get hit by drivers who can’t be bothered to slow down and give room on streets with no sidewalks, shoulders, or bike lanes?

            I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been buzzed, while wearing a high-viz vest over my all-reflective jacket with all-reflective leggings and high-viz shoelaces on my reflective shoes, and wearing a very bright headlamp with fresh batteries and my brightest red blinkie light on the back of my head.

            Where is the responsibility and shame heaped on drivers? I’ve done my part, why don’t we expect drivers to do theirs? Why is the onus always on me the pedestrian, even when I’ve gone above and beyond to be visible?

            (Seriously– if you drive in Tigard around Gaarde and Walnut in the early dawn hours, you’ve probably seen me. I’m not subtle.)” Kristen T

            If you think there’s no point in using hi-vis gear, why do you continue to use it? Your use of hi-viz gear helps many people driving on the road, see you more readily. Is this not a worthwhile reason for you to be using hi-vis gear?

            You allude to it seems, vulnerable road users having “…responsibility and shame heaped…” on them, I suppose in reference to safety campaigns in which vulnerable road users are encouraged to enhance their safety on the road through the use of various means of gear helping people that drive see them more readily.

            None of those campaigns say that vulnerable road users are bad people, or shame them. The campaign messages are simple: If you’re on foot or bike in a traffic environment where motor vehicles are in use, you’re at danger from a collision with someone driving. Do your part to help counter that danger through personal awareness of traffic, and the use of at least some visibility gear.

            As I’m writing, I see at the top of the comment section, that 69 comments have been published. Prior to this comment, I posted two comments, one of them yesterday at 6:27pm, both still in moderation as I write. Why is that?

            Yes, in those comments, I note and speak favorably of the fact that the current safety message from PBOT, opening up with encouragement to people driving to take care to look out for vulnerable road users, closes with encouragement to vulnerable road users to do their part in guarding their own safety by increasing their visibility on the road to people driving.

            I think it’s important to emphasize that safe road use is not solely the responsibility of one type of road user mode exclusively. Everyone using the road, has a role in helping to enhance their own safety on the road, and that of other road users as well.

            Kristen…thanks for doing your part with hi-vis gear, to enhance your safe use of the road, even if frustration with some people driving, leaves you doubting the point of doing so. As someone that bikes and drives, and walks, I feel confident in saying use of hi-vis gear helps! Again…Thank You!

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      • q November 7, 2017 at 9:13 pm

        It’s fear mongering for sure.

        And I can easily see the many campaigns urging people to wear special clothing and lights for walking leading to police reports of pedestrian fatalities saying, “The driver stayed at the scene and cooperated with police officers. The pedestrian was not wearing high-visibility gear and had no lights.” The fact the victim was walking in a crosswalk and the driver also missed seeing the crosswalk markings and the red light he blew through will be countered with the failings of the pedestrian–“They were both at fault”.

        Then people reading those reports will think, “Totally preventable. If only the pedestrian had been dressing responsibly.”

        Then a lawmaker will propose a law requiring special gear and light for pedestrians–“If it saves one life, it will be worth it”.

        Along the way, people will start thinking they shouldn’t walk because they don’t have their gear…People will think of pedestrians as a different group, not just people who happen to walk. “Oh, I heard you’ve become a pedestrian. My cousin does that.”

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    • Kyle Banerjee November 7, 2017 at 5:31 am

      Do you expect greater success with a multiparagraph message directed at motorists — a group consistently depicted here as selfishly unconcerned about the welfare of others?

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    • Kyle Banerjee November 7, 2017 at 5:31 am

      Do you expect greater success with a multiparagraph message directed at motorists — a group consistently depicted here as selfishly unconcerned about the welfare of others?

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      • Kyle Banerjee November 7, 2017 at 5:32 am

        This was a reply to soren — reply function is not working properly

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      • soren November 7, 2017 at 8:40 am

        To the best of my knowledge, there is virtually no evidence that these kinds of safety PSAs have any significant and/or lasting effect on road user behavior. If PBOT were genuinely committed to vision zero it would focus its pathetically limited traffic safety resources on evidence-based reforms that are likely to decrease serious injury and/or death on our roadway.

        Moreover, the knee jerk manner in which many active transportation advocates applaud safety PSAs directed at moto vehicles is, IMO, an example of anti-car bike subculture confirmation bias. I’m as anti-car as anyone but I’m exclusively interested in evidence-based campaigns that are genuinely associated with increased active transportation (walking, rolling, and transit) mode share.

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        • Kyle Banerjee November 7, 2017 at 12:23 pm

          I thought your position is that PSAs aimed at peds are fear mongering that discourage active transportation.

          Frankly, people too scared to walk or cycle for such a reason probably shouldn’t do these things. Fear is your spidey sense telling you that you’re in a situation you’re not equipped to handle.

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          • soren November 7, 2017 at 1:09 pm

            I’d love to see you explain why my my opposition to PSAs that shame pedestrians (for not wearing lights and specific reflective materials) is inconsistent with my skepticism about the effectiveness of PSAs in general.

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            • Kyle Banerjee November 7, 2017 at 2:38 pm

              If they have no effect, what do you care what they say?

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              • soren November 7, 2017 at 3:53 pm

                I don’t care much about the PSA itself and only addressed it in response to your comment. I do care about the fact that PBOT believes people walking around their neighborhood should wear blinky lights and special reflective pedestrian safety gear.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 7, 2017 at 4:04 pm

                Doesn’t VZ recommend redundancy when it comes to safety?

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          • q November 7, 2017 at 9:37 pm

            The fear generated isn’t instant. It builds over years.

            Do any of the millions of people who won’t swim within an hour of eating do so because they actually knew someone who drowned doing that? Has ANYONE ever drowned from that? Yet it’s still viewed as foolhardy by many people, few of whom could identify when or from whom they learned that warning.

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    • Gary B November 8, 2017 at 7:50 am

      I think context is important. A “high viz campaign” I’d agree is fear mongering. In the context of a statement that’s predominantly directed to car users, a “oh by the way” two-liner about ped/bike visibility seems acceptable to me. It frames it as something above and beyond, but the primary responsibility is on the driver to improve their visibility (of others).

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      • wsbob November 8, 2017 at 8:58 am

        “…but the primary responsibility is on the driver to improve their visibility (of others).” gary b

        That’s the point of recommendations to vulnerabler road users to equip themselves with at least some bit of his vis gear:

        People driving have limited control over their level of visibility of vulnerable road users…a level which vulnerable road users themselves can significantly aid by equipping themselves with a flashlight, a jacket or some other gear with at least a strip or two of retroflective tape.

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        • q November 8, 2017 at 12:06 pm

          Isn’t that backwards? Your idea that because (correctly) the main responsibility is on the driver, then everyone else should change their own behavior?

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        • 9watts November 8, 2017 at 12:49 pm

          “People driving have limited control over their level of visibility of vulnerable road users”

          This is the heart of our disagreement here going back years.

          The degree to which seeing out of a car is difficult under adverse conditions is not the responsibility of the rest of us. The responsibility lies squarely with those who choose to get around inside the mode of transport that is both the most dangerous and the hardest to operate safely.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty November 8, 2017 at 2:15 pm

            We agree where the ultimate responsibility lies, but you have to agree that pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers all have an interest in making their presence known.

            The basic truth is that humans have limitations, and cars let us (even require us to) move beyond them.

            You are arguing from a theoretical standpoint. I see the issue primarily as a practical one. When I am in a crosswalk, drivers absolutely must stop for me. But if they don’t (whether it’s because they don’t register my presence, or because they’re intentionally flouting the law), I will pay the price. The law flouters we can deal with, but the human cognition issue is more difficult. I can take steps as a pedestrian to better my odds, but the only absolutely safe solution is to limit speeds to 15mph. Doing that would impose other costs that need to be weighed against safety (which is a compelling, but not overriding interest), just as is done in other areas.

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            • q November 8, 2017 at 2:37 pm

              Of course people should do what they can to protect themselves, and even your 15 mph solution wouldn’t create total safety.

              The issue to me is that we are so far from doing what can be done from the standpoint of improving drivers’ behavior. Look at this article–the fact that there’s a safety campaign aimed at drivers instead of the people they run over makes it newsworthy. It shouldn’t be newsworthy at all.

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  • wsbob November 6, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    Fortunately, as a closing note, the following was included in the PBOT statement cited and posted to this story:

    “…People walking and biking can increase their visibility during low-light hours by wearing reflective gear and using safety lights. When walking, keeping a small flashlight or using the feature on your phone is another helpful way to make sure you can see at night.

    Did you know that you’re first visible to people driving from 500 feet away when you’re wearing reflective clothing? Compare this to just 55 feet away when wearing dark colors with no reflective gear or lights.” PBOT

    Vulnerable road users watching for traffic before setting out across roads and streets, walking along them, and generally looking out for themselves, is their first best line of defense against collisions with motor vehicles.

    If it satisfies active transportation activists to have encouragement to operators of motor vehicles mentioned first in public safety visibility messages, that’s fine, as long as encouragement to vulnerable road users of the importance of their being watchful of their own safety is not omitted from such public safety messages.

    If you’re a vulnerable road user, keep in mind what your relative visibility to people driving may be. To bikeportland, I would request that you please not take cheap shots at people as vulnerable road users, by implying they’re “…dressed like traffic cones…” when they opt through the use of a bright colored garment, or simply one with some retro-reflective trim, or even just carrying a flashlight, to enhance their visibility to people driving.

    Vulnerable road users need all the good help they can get. Any suggestions made or implied that safety of vulnerable road users is the exclusive responsibility of people that drive, and none at all for vulnerable road users themselves, does not represent an adequate effort to help vulnerable road users avoid collisions.

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    • q November 10, 2017 at 10:37 am

      Nobody here is “taking cheap shots” at anyone with comments about “dressed like traffic cones”, etc. Those are criticisms of the safety campaigns that focus on having pedestrians wear lights and bright clothing.

      Nobody is claiming that safety is the exclusive responsibility of one group, either.

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  • Pat Franz November 6, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    While reflectives and lights are certainly helpful in getting noticed, imagine these two endpoint scenarios:

    o A dark rainy night with lots of pedestrians, all with blinking lights and reflective things on their jackets and shoes. As an auto driver, would you be more or less able to pick out the people you’re most endangering?

    o It’s gotten to the point where 90% of pedestrians have lights and reflectives. As an auto driver, do you relax into thinking “no lights, no pedestrian, no problem?”.

    Things like lights and reflectives help you stand out when most people don’t have them. Their effectiveness changes the more people use them. It’s like an arms race. What’s good for you may not be the most desirable societal policy.

    If you want fewer deaths and injuries, everyone needs to be more careful, especially the people presenting the most danger to others. Our policies don’t adequately encourage this. And unfortunately, the people most in need of “encouragement” don’t pay attention to nice PSAs like this.

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    • soren November 7, 2017 at 8:55 am

      And unfortunately, the people most in need of “encouragement” don’t pay attention to nice PSAs like this.

      In fact, vision zero de-emphasizes these kind of 1950s era “3E” education campaigns because there is virtually no evidence that they work.

      Vision Zero takes the focus away from education and enforcement and focuses it on roadway design:

      The fundamental causes of the traffic safety problem can be found in shortfalls in the design and function of the present road transport system, which thereby to a large extent contributes to the risk of road users being subjected to a form of external violence that significantly exceeds what a human-being, purely physiologically, is capable of withstanding.

      Vision Zero – a road safety policy innovation
      Matts-Åke Belin , Per Tillgren & Evert Vedung
      https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Evert_Vedung/publication/51875286_Vision_Zero_-_a_road_safety_policy_innovation/links/56b578ca08ae3c1b79ab2451/Vision-Zero-a-road-safety-policy-innovation.pdf

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    • Kyle Banerjee November 7, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      I wouldn’t worry about an arms race.

      Very few peds and cyclists are out and about in the dark — I frequently ride for miles without seeing any, most recently last night. Even downtown, the numbers are minuscule. So getting confused by too many blinky lights is a nonissue.

      Pat Franz
      If you want fewer deaths and injuries, everyone needs to be more careful, especially the people presenting the most danger to others.

      This is what it boils down to on a societal level. On an individual level (i.e. if you don’t want to be one of the dead or injured), you want to make sure you’re doing your part.

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      • Alex Reedin November 7, 2017 at 5:12 pm

        Your response highlights my problem with Vision Zero. It takes the status quo as the default, and highly values further reducing direct deaths from traffic, without considering other values. Health impacts are the obvious first step (the studies I’ve seen place the positive health impacts on the order of 10x as large as the negative impacts from injuries from cycling). Once you add climate change, financial impact, social connectedness, local noise and air pollution impacts, etc., it’s clear that the policy changes that make things better the most for the most people are those that encourage people to drive less and bike and walk more.

        I haven’t seen peer-reviewed research on it, but I am, like Soren, quite concerned that placing any visibility onus on bikers and walkers in an urban area likely has unintended negative consequences from discouraging biking and walking that are far larger than any positive safety impact.

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        • soren November 7, 2017 at 6:09 pm

          i also am concerned about a tendency (by some) to view vision zero as a replacement for active transportation improvements/infrastructure.

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        • Kyle Banerjee November 9, 2017 at 5:41 am

          I agree with most of your perceived benefits of active transportation* and see it as a quality of life thing. However, relative to other factors that discourage active transportation, advocacy of safety would be a very minor one. Time, distance, effort, comfort, and convenience all probably play much greater roles.

          In any case, that some people might be dissuaded is not a good reason not to encourage safe behaviors. We should take reasonable safety measures at all times. Just because we’re sharing space with rapidly moving chunks of metal weighing a couple tons doesn’t mean being safe isn’t a good idea.

          *I am not so certain of the climate change argument that people find so compelling. Private transportation is only one way that people contribute to global warming, and active people live considerably longer than inactive people. Years worth of food, energy, and everything else they use to live are going to be enormous and could easily overtake the difference between using active/public transportation and the alternatives.

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  • Matthew in Portsmouth November 7, 2017 at 8:13 am

    One message I’d really like to emphasize is for drivers to come to a complete stop at stop signs, then start looking for pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers. Too often we treat stop signs like yield signs and roll through them. After I had to stop abruptly after seeing a cyclist coming, I have made a conscious effort to stop then look. Last night I was stopped at a stop sign on N Portsmouth and was looking left then right, and when I looked straight ahead, there was a pedestrian crossing a couple of feet in front of my car – he was wearing darkish clothes and it was dark out, so he wasn’t easy to see, but because I came to a complete stop and looked, everyone’s journey home was uneventful.

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    • Chris I November 7, 2017 at 8:58 am

      And stop AT the stop sign, not 5ft past it.

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      • John Lascurettes November 7, 2017 at 9:27 am

        Stop behind the crosswalk — marked or unmarked — and check for pedestrians before inching forward for better visibility.

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    • wsbob November 7, 2017 at 9:20 am

      “…Last night I was stopped at a stop sign on N Portsmouth and was looking left then right, and when I looked straight ahead, there was a pedestrian crossing a couple of feet in front of my car – he was wearing darkish clothes and it was dark out, so he wasn’t easy to see, but because I came to a complete stop and looked, everyone’s journey home was uneventful.” Matthew in Portsmouth

      Matthew…your anecdote is a classic example of a number of aspects of safe road use for vehicle operators, both bike and motor vehicles, and for vulnerable road users. Not stopping at stop signs, diminishes opportunity for vehicle operators to notice people on foot, bike, etc, vulnerable road users…trying to cross the road.

      Vulnerable road users not taking the opportunity of equipping themselves with at least some visibility gear to help vehicle operators see them on the road more readily, diminishes the opportunity for vehicle road users to see them…whether they’re a person on foot, bike, etc approaching the street from the sidewalk, preparing to cross, or walking or riding along the street.

      It’s very important that vulnerable road users be encouraged to be aware of their relative visibility to people operating vehicles. And to accordingly enhance that visibility to some reasonable extent.

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    • B. Carfree November 7, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      This gets to how human vision works. We see objects moving against a field much better than objects that are stationary. However, if we are ourselves moving, our ability to see things is compromised. This is why coaches in many sports emphasize the need for athletes to keep their heads steady.

      There is a huge difference in one’s ability to see a pedestrian or cyclist while rolling a stop sign compared to one’s ability to see them while completely stopped. Unfortunately, few people understand this. If cops understood it, they would be aggressive about issuing citations for running stop signs and red lights (right on red AFTER stop).

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  • Bald One November 7, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Cyclists on Bike Paths and 2-way MUPs: point down or turn off your high-powered headlamp!

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    • Dan A November 7, 2017 at 9:31 am

      No doubt. I don’t know why this is even difficult. When I enter the Hwy 26 MUP I turn off my helmet light and rear blinky, and push a couple of buttons on my handlebar light to drop it from 400 lumens to 15 lumens.

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      • Brian November 7, 2017 at 11:15 am

        What kinda bike you on? We may cross paths.

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        • Dan A November 7, 2017 at 1:18 pm

          Red LeMond.

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    • Kyle Banerjee November 7, 2017 at 11:05 am

      The only thing worse than an improperly aimed high power lamp is a daytime strobe because there is no way for peoples’ pupils to adjust.

      Blinding oncoming cyclists/traffic so they can’t figure out where you are or see where they’re going undermines safety. If you don’t have a night time pulse option on your light, run a steady beam.

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    • Captain Karma November 7, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      Yes Please.

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    • I wear many hats November 7, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Word, stop the epilepsy setting and point it down when in a car free zone, or in extreme darkness

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  • Phil Richman November 7, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Thank you PBOT for addressing driver behavior. I wish crosswalk and stop sign violations were enforced. Vision Zero cities would be wise to take action.

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    • soren November 7, 2017 at 10:02 am

      With all due respect, vision zero de-emphasizes both education and enforcement because there is little evidence that these approaches are the most effective way to significantly reduce serious injury/death.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty November 7, 2017 at 10:38 am

        A lack of evidence, or evidence that it doesn’t work? I credit education to the huge cultural shift towards wearing seat belts, which probably saved more lives than just about any other change to our transportation system.

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        • soren November 7, 2017 at 12:31 pm

          traditional traffic safety approaches gave education, engineering, and enforcement roughly equal weight. vision zero places education in a secondary position to infrastructure design/policy that reduces the risk of death/serious injury when a road user makes a mistake.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty November 7, 2017 at 12:51 pm

            You are shifting away from evidence towards policy.

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            • soren November 7, 2017 at 1:06 pm

              do you have a concrete criticism of vision zero or are you merely throwing darts because this new-fangled policy is too much change for you?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 7, 2017 at 2:01 pm

                Not at all — I think Vision Zero is a great goal, and I agree that engineering is the most effective “E”. I also realize some problems can’t be engineered away.

                Education can be effective. You say there is no evidence it is (without clarifying if there is evidence that education is ineffective), but I think the seat belt example demonstrates education can work. Drunk driving might be another example, though that was more tightly coupled with enforcement, which you also dismiss.

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              • soren November 7, 2017 at 2:46 pm

                This is what you claim I wrote:

                “Education can be effective. You say there is no evidence it is

                “enforcement, which you also dismiss.

                This is what I actually wrote:

                Vision zero de-emphasizes both education and enforcement because there is little evidence that these approaches are the most effective way to significantly reduce serious injury/death.

                vision zero places education in a secondary position to infrastructure design/policy

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 7, 2017 at 2:50 pm

                In dollar terms, both education and enforcement have always taken a distant back seat to engineering. We could 10x our efforts on each of these fronts and they would still be secondary to engineering.

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              • soren November 7, 2017 at 4:07 pm

                HK, engineering traffic safety, not engineering billions in highway infrastructure.

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  • John B November 7, 2017 at 9:37 am

    I’d also like to see some enforcement of vehicles with lights that are out. There are a good number of car with only one working headlight. And I’ve frequently been behind cars(& trucks) with malfunctioning brake light or burned out brake lights. Privately owned vehicles should be held to the same standards as commercial vehicles.

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    • B. Carfree November 7, 2017 at 7:48 pm

      When I was bored while waiting for my spouse outside some store (often better to leave one of us outside to make sure the bikes are still there when we finish shopping, sadly), I used to count the percentage of motor vehicles being driven with improper lights. Granted, I’m counting those who are driving with high beams or fog lamps on illegally as well as defective head, tail and brake lights, but it was usually in the 15% range.

      Sometimes when I catch up to someone with a burned out tail or brake light, I politely inform them. Some folks were truly appreciative. However, many times, they respond that they are aware of it. Sometimes the issue is the cost factor, since the days of buying a bulb for fifty cents and putting it in are gone; some of those rear end light fixtures are $400. Sometimes they just don’t care, even when they started with a brake light on each side and a fifteen LED fixture in the center and are down to three LEDs.

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    • X November 8, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      Or, hooked up wrong, as in brakes wired to backup lights and vice versa

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  • Joe November 7, 2017 at 10:31 am

    handing out blinky lights at park n ride seems the motorist love taking handful of lights,
    does this mean the will wear the inside the car.. 😛

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  • Dan A November 7, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Saw a jogger this morning without lighting or reflective gear from about 200 yards away on a sparsely lit street. Seriously, if you can’t see people in ordinary clothing from behind your windshield when it’s dark out you are driving too fast for your abilities.

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    • Kyle Banerjee November 7, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Good for you.

      Try spotting one even at short range in the dark and rain while trying to keep track of everything else out there. Throw shadows, obstructions to vision such as parked cars or branches, multiple oncoming light sources (even a cyclist running poorly aimed headlamp or a strobe), movement of any of the things mentioned, and see how things work out.

      Even as a ped, I sometimes can’t make people out who are pretty close. There’s nothing wrong with my vision, and my level of awareness of what’s going around me is considerably higher than most people.

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      • B. Carfree November 7, 2017 at 8:01 pm

        You may think there’s nothing wrong with your vision, but you can’t see what you can’t see, if you see my meaning. Very few people actually have their vision rigorously tested over the years, but we all lose our ability to detect and focus light as we age. I know you’re not a spring chicken, so you’re likely somewhere along the way towards the sixty-year-old who needs that oft-quoted three times as much light as the twenty-something.

        Our population is aging. That means we are less able to see in the dark. Rather than deal with this rationally by slowing traffic at night, we have been driving ever-faster over the years. Methinks it’s not just the fact that people are playing with their vibrating toys while driving that has led to our huge increase in roadway deaths, 58% in Oregon since 2013.

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      • Dan A November 8, 2017 at 6:46 am

        You’re making a good case for not putting other people in jeopardy by driving in the dark and rain when you’re unable to drive slow enough to see people outside of the vehicle.

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    • colton November 7, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Yeah, you said something similar last week. For me, it all depends on the conditions whether I can “easily” spot someone or not. I easily see most people every day (from my bike), but I also am frequently surprised by the walker/jogger who is so hard to see that I don’t have any time to reach down and dim my light.

      I personally have the hardest time seeing folks when they are coming out of the shadows and shrubbery at the edge of the area flooded by a streetlight. Walkers, joggers and bicyclists wearing something other than black/navy or carrying some kind of light sure allow me more time to slow down a bit and not blind them with my lights.

      Oh, and I’m not really riding that fast, about 14 MPH. I want to at least pretend I’m getting some exercise out of the ride, since that’s one of the factors that compels me to ride.

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  • BB November 7, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Kyle Banerjee
    There’s nothing wrong with my vision, and my level of awareness of what’s going around me is considerably higher than most people.

    Except that part of the problem is everyone thinks the same thing and you’re all wrong.

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  • Merlin November 7, 2017 at 11:46 am

    As a retired senior, I find driving at night mostly unnecessary and avoid it after winter comes with rain, fog, and the continued absence af adequate street lighting in Portland.
    I also only ride in the daytime.
    That said, I have the upmost respect for those who need to ride for transportation year round. Be safe out there!

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  • Lars Skaug November 7, 2017 at 11:59 am

    “People driving…” Even the wording used is a big step forward.

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  • Paul H November 7, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    > A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old.

    Sadly, I can vouch that this assessment is not only true, but that it impacts people who cycle as much as those who drive automobiles.

    I used to ride two-lane roads to work all year long, but nowadays I avoid them in the dark winter commutes, especially when the road surface is wet. It’s just too hard for me to see obstacles in the light of oncoming automotive traffic.

    On winter commutes, you’ll find me on four-lane roads whenever possible: oncoming traffic is farther from my center of vision and the wider roads typically have better lighting.

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    • Kyle Banerjee November 7, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      I personally believe that what makes night riding/driving hard isn’t so much the need for light, but rather the need to see things at very different levels of brightness in the dark.

      Some of the easiest night riding is in rural areas with no traffic where there is no artificial ambient lighting to confuse your pupils. Riding quiet remote areas in the dark by only the light of the stars and the moon is simply awesome. Those of you who’ve never had the chance to totally get away from light and noise pollution are really missing something.

      On the other hand, the 2 lane roads with oncoming traffic you refer to are really hard even if you have super bright lights. The wetness causes all sorts of problems — additional glare, water in the air absorbs light, and grime/mist obscures the lenses on your glasses and on your light.

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      • Paul H November 7, 2017 at 3:01 pm

        > Riding … in the dark by only the light of the stars and the moon is simply awesome.

        I certainly enjoy riding under a nice moon, all four or five days during the Willamette Valley winter when the clouds part.

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        • Kyle Banerjee November 9, 2017 at 5:52 am

          However, it is common in the summer though you must ride much earlier/later.

          Even overcast at in the dark is very nice riding provided wind and rain aren’t issues. Something about riding in the dark in the middle of nowhere makes me feel like it’s all mine.

          I ride much slower in the dark and wet. I have bright lights, but spotting debris, cracks, etc is much harder.

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      • El Biciclero November 7, 2017 at 4:28 pm

        “The wetness causes all sorts of problems — additional glare, water in the air absorbs light, and grime/mist obscures the lenses on your glasses and on your light.”

        Also, black, wet pavement doesn’t light up as well as dry, light gray pavement. Darkness slows me down a little, wet darkness slows me down a lot.

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  • Paul Atkinson November 7, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Kyle Banerjee
    Good for you.
    Try spotting one even at short range in the dark and rain while trying to keep track of everything else out there. Throw shadows, obstructions to vision such as parked cars or branches, multiple oncoming light sources (even a cyclist running poorly aimed headlamp or a strobe), movement of any of the things mentioned, and see how things work out.
    Even as a ped, I sometimes can’t make people out who are pretty close. There’s nothing wrong with my vision, and my level of awareness of what’s going around me is considerably higher than most people.
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    This may help:
    https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.100

    If you’re overwhelmed by visual stimuli as you describe then perhaps you should be either driving more slowly or else using transportation that doesn’t put people at risk of death or injury due to your inability to process.

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    • Kyle Banerjee November 7, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      For starters, I get around almost exclusively by bike, and I seriously doubt you’ve ridden the nighttime conditions I regularly did for many years, so spare me the death machine blather.

      Are you seriously trying to pretend you can see in conditions no one else can see in? I call ВS.

      Why don’t you share your wisdom with us, starting how great you can see with oncoming lights in the wet and dark on two lane roads and easily spot out black things in dark shadows along the sides?

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      • Paul Atkinson November 7, 2017 at 3:53 pm

        For continuation, chill. I’ve been bike commuting on and off — about half the years, I’d estimate — since…1988, I think. So lay off the “I’ve ridden in rougher conditions than you” line, okay? We’re all trying to help here. Specifically, we’re all in Portland, and I do ride year round, and have for the vast majority of my 20+ years of living here. I’m pretty familiar with conditions.

        I get around almost exclusively by bike, but I also choose to drive sometimes (for example, I have a date tonight and I’ll be picking her up in my car). Biking definitely has made me a safer driver.

        I wear glasses and I’m nearing 50 years old. My vision is far from perfect, though I have no specific problems outside what’s easily corrected with lenses. At night I can get dazzled by oncoming lights, or by rain, or fog, or what have you. I don’t have superpowers that allow me to see what’s beyond a truck parked too close to a corner. And yet, those are not things that I’d say excuse me for running over an innocent person. I suspect we agree on that, right? That my being human doesn’t mean it’s perfectly okay to hurt someone?

        There’s a simple mantra one can easily remember and repeat to help engage in this safety witchcraft: prioritize safety over speed. I choose not to hurt people, and I have a pretty good method. No magic is involved; I’m still human. Here’s my secret.

        I follow the Basic Speed Rule.

        If I can’t actively see that it’s safe, I slow down enough that if there’s something unknown beyond my field of vision I’ll have time to react. Sometimes that’s kind of slow.

        One interesting facet of that habit is that it’s literally, explicitly, clearly mandated by law. Doing exactly that is a bare-minimum legal requirement to drive.

        Is that revolutionary or threatening for some reason? If so, why?

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      • soren November 7, 2017 at 3:55 pm

        the absolute horror of driving as slowly as conditions warrant.

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      • Kyle Banerjee November 7, 2017 at 5:13 pm

        Why can’t you guys admit that there are things you can’t see? There are things you can’t see at 10mph or less. It just takes the right set of circumstances.

        What we are agree on is that the basic speed rule is very important and too many people drive too fast for conditions. They go too fast, they follow too closely, and Portlanders in particular are especially bad at adopting to conditions. They don’t look far enough ahead and can’t even drive in the rain so the piddliest “snowstorm” causes a disaster.

        We also agree that you need to be able to respond to things that could be hidden — such as a child in front of a vehicle.

        Good drivers look to what they can do to prevent things from happening. Bad drivers blame circumstances. I would say the same of cyclists.

        I’ve heard cyclists are statistically better drivers. Makes sense because they have another perspective on the roads. I think it wouldn’t hurt some peds and cyclists to pay more attention the next time they have a chance to look out a windshield.

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        • Alex Reedin November 7, 2017 at 5:20 pm

          A plus is that you are far less likely to kill someone, or even seriously injure them, while traveling at 10-20 mph than at higher speeds. In Portland’s long, rainy winter nights, when you are absolutely right that I may not see someone, I find 10-20 mph to generally be the right speed to drive on all non-freeway roads.

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        • 9watts November 7, 2017 at 5:53 pm

          “Why can’t you guys admit that there are things you can’t see? ”

          Let me ask you, Why can’t you admit/concede/accept that others here have experiences that differ from your *vast* experience, and their contributions here are at least as helpful to these discussions as yours.

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        • Dan A November 8, 2017 at 6:49 am

          “can’t even drive in the rain”

          What do you mean by this, exactly?

          Most people in the NW use this as a euphemism for “drive too slow in the rain”.

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          • Kyle Banerjee November 8, 2017 at 2:33 pm

            They don’t make adequate allowances for things that degrade ability to perceive and respond to situations — especially after a dry spell when oil and dirt gets initially loosened up and especially in the dark.

            Rain not only interferes with stopping distances, but it also affects handling, visibility, and a whole host of other things.

            One thing I’ve noticed with many drivers out here is they drive with tunnel vision and don’t look nearly far enough ahead. This leads to a reactive driving style that results in unnecessarily heavy acceleration/braking and abrupt steering maneuvers which cause control issues and increase the chances of conflict.

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            • Dan A November 8, 2017 at 3:45 pm

              Yeah, you’re using this phrase quite differently than the people I hear using this phrase at work.

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        • Paul Atkinson November 8, 2017 at 10:03 am

          Sounds like we’re mostly on the same page. 🙂

          But I have a question about what you mean, right there in the beginning. About things we can’t see.

          Because…well, on the ridiculously obvious level, of course there are. I’m not Heimdallr; can’t see the whole universe. Can’t even see my whole planet, or city, or even the block surrounding me. Which wasn’t your point but I’m coming to it in my own way.

          When I’m driving I’m responsible to yield to certain traffic, and — more broadly — to avoid hurting anyone. In order to do that it’s important to stay alert for the presence of anyone to whom I must yield. If they’re not obscured by an object then the only reason I might not see them is if I’m not looking, so let’s get that out of the way first: if they’re in my line of sight then I don’t get to claim “I couldn’t see them” just because I wasn’t looking. It’s my job to look.

          But sure, there are places I can’t see. There may be lights in my eyes from some direction, or a truck on the corner blocking my view of a perpendicular sidewalk. I might have some fog on my car windows or cargo that blocks certain view angles (like a suit coat hanging from the hook above a rear side window). And it’s my job to know where those obscured areas are, and to drive such that I’m not a danger to whatever might be hidden in one of those areas.

          In a sense it’s about time and distance. I can’t hit something that doesn’t appear in my path, and in my path I can definitely always see it. So at some point before contact I can see the person if I’m looking. Starting then, I need to try to stop or avoid. How long will that take, and how long do I have? I can manage that danger by controlling my speed.

          It’s *possible* for someone to hide behind a car then fling their body under a car’s wheels at the last moment. I’d not blame a driver if that happened, but it’s not bloody common is it?

          There was a driver in Beaverton who, some months ago, hit a kid who stepped off the curb into the street near a MAX station. Lots of folks said, in the comments-that-you-should-not-read, that it was completely forgivable because there was no crosswalk and the kid moved suddenly. And yet…kids are known to be a bit unpredictable and that one was close to the road, so…if I’m the driver, I’m driving so that I don’t hurt that kid. Kids physically close to the roadway are a hazard even if they have no reason to enter it. Basic rule: slow down for that hazard.

          I don’t claim to always have been that alert. I’ve said before that I was young and stupid for a long time, and now I’m old and stupid but I’m still learning. I’m just hoping to help.

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          • Kyle Banerjee November 8, 2017 at 3:03 pm

            I think we are mostly on the same page. I take driving very seriously, and despite the fact that everyone complains that I drive like an old man, they also often ask me to drive them in their own cars when I’m with them.

            Whether you’re a driver, ped, or cyclist, you need to look out for everyone. As a driver, you owe this more to others than yourself. But as a ped or cyclist, you need to be ready to respond to circumstances that threaten you. In a real life scenario, you may only get a fraction of a second to react to something that will change your future forever. Not all things that vehicles do that could kill you is because the driver was irresponsible. Catastrophic equipment failure, rocks/trees/whatever suddenly coming down on the road, or a number of other things could send a vehicle careening into you.

            The reason I take such objection to criticisms of what is described as victim blaming is that it distracts away from the fact that nothing affects the odds of what happens to you more than what you do. The path that’s going to lead to the lowest number of fatalities and injuries is if we have the best infrastructure, drivers, peds, and cyclists possible — all of which have plenty of room for improvement. That better driving and infrastructure are needed should not be used as reasons for failing to help peds and cyclists navigate more safely.

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            • Paul Atkinson November 8, 2017 at 4:25 pm

              I don’t think anyone has seriously suggested that wearing bright colors or extra lights or whatever doesn’t make you any more safe. That’s never been a point I’ve seen made in earnest.

              Victim-blaming is meaninglessly easy because it’s rooted in a tautology (which is, logically, meaningless): the victim didn’t do enough to not be hurt. That’s true of literally every victim of every act of violence ever; if you were hurt, you didn’t keep yourself safe enough to not be hurt. A=A and we’ve gotten nowhere except that now it’s somehow the victim’s fault.

              Because it’s a driver’s job not to hit anyone (let’s even stay within the realm of “anyone who’s not breaking any laws related to road safety” just to stay clear of spurious arguments), and because some pedestrians dress in muted colors, it’s explicitly a driver’s job not to hit someone who’s wearing muted colors. So when there’s a crash wherein the driver did something illegal (failure to yield, often enough) and the pedestrian did nothing illegal (gave the driver plenty of room to stop, was in the crosswalk), assigning partial blame to the pedestrian due to fashion choices is just flat wrong.

              Because, again, the number of crash victims who were careful enough to avoid being crash victims is zero and will never not be zero. So the fact the victim wasn’t careful enough not to be hit is not a sign that the victim did not take reasonable care; it only means they were a crash victim. To determine the share of fault we need to look at whether everyone did all we require of them as a society and, well…we have these laws that enumerate that list.

              If everyone was clearly obeying all the laws, maybe then we can look at some second-tier optional actions that might have prevented the crash. But while one person has done all they’re legally required to do and one has not, the fault lies with the second one.

              As soon as it’s mandatory that all pedestrians wear a certain amount of high-viz, or carry lights of a specified brightness, or wave a brightly-lit flag around 3 feet in front of them for 10 seconds before entering the roadway or whatever other thing we demand…once it’s in the law we can find fault with them for failing to do it. I’m not going to sponsor that legislation though.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 8, 2017 at 4:29 pm

                There are many cases where all parties are doing everything the law requires, and still a tragedy unfolds.

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              • 9watts November 8, 2017 at 5:14 pm

                You say these things, but to me this penchant amounts to a(n unhelpful) shrug. My hunch is there actually aren’t nearly as many of those as you are suggesting.

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              • q November 8, 2017 at 5:57 pm

                I think there are many tragic cases where people THINK everyone was doing everything the law requires, but a large number of those would have been prevented by people not driving faster than was safe for the conditions, which means they were NOT doing everything the law requires.

                Try driving a bit under the speed limit when it’s dark, rainy, foggy, on a road with blind spots or no shoulders, slippery, or any of a number of things that make driving the posted speed unsafe, and see how few other drivers are going slower than 5 miles ABOVE the posted limit.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 8, 2017 at 8:51 pm

                How do you know? It’s awfully hard to judge many of these situations from a distance.

                I drove down to Wilsonville a few weeks ago (first time driving in about a month), and I was surprised that even on an overcast but dry day I was doing 60 in a 65 zone, and no one passed me.

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              • 9watts November 8, 2017 at 8:53 pm

                for how long? 😉

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              • Kyle Banerjee November 9, 2017 at 5:24 am

                Encouraging people to be smart is not victim blaming. That there are knuckleheads out there who engage in victim blaming is not a reason to not be smart — or even worse, encourage people not to be smart.

                Despite how motorists are depicted on this blog, it simply isn’t true. If it were, there would be far more deaths and injuries. I am confident I could stand in dark clothing in the middle of the street and the vast majority of motorists would avoid me. However, if I were to do that, it’s only a matter of time before someone would hit me. If I stand in the middle of the street all lit up, it is also only a matter of time before I get hit. But odds are, it’s going to take much longer. The lighting doesn’t make me safe, it only makes me safer. I still have to use some judgment unless I want to leave my fate to luck.

                You only get one life, so who is legally at fault is an unproductive concept here. Even if peds were required to be lit up (something that has zero chance of happening), there will never be 100% compliance with laws and no set of laws is perfect anyway. You take reasonable measures to make yourself safe given the totality of circumstances. It is totally reasonable to dress in all black at night and a lot of people do this. But you need to not step in front of moving cars when you know some people won’t see you.

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              • 9watts November 9, 2017 at 6:10 am

                You spend so much time and energy determined not to hear what people here are saying. You should read a bit about Hans Monderman some time.

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              • Kyle Banerjee November 9, 2017 at 10:25 am

                Pot, meet kettle.

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              • Dan A November 9, 2017 at 11:44 am

                “But you need to not step in front of moving cars when you know some people won’t see you.”

                Why do you keep suggesting that this is a common occurrence? Is it? Is ‘ninjas leaping directly in front of cars’ the main cause for pedestrian fatalities at night?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 9, 2017 at 2:30 pm

                Luckily, ninjas are agile, and are mostly able to dodge vehicles.

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              • Paul Atkinson November 9, 2017 at 4:48 pm

                “That there are knuckleheads out there who engage in victim blaming is not a reason to not be smart — or even worse, encourage people not to be smart.”

                I would agree, Kyle, in any context where that encouragement does not directly lead to victim-blaming.

                When police reports stop implying that pedestrians are at fault for wearing dark clothing, or that bicyclists share blame for not wearing helmets, I’ll be way happier to engage in the kind of encouragement you’re talking about. But while our legal system aggressively excuses illegal actions by people driving cars and justifies that by holding vulnerable users to extralegal standards…? Because of those reports, people learn that driving at a safe speed means driving such that they can see people who are lit up, and if someone’s not lit up then that person is at fault. Couldn’t be expected to see them, right? Dumb ninjas think they have a right to use our crosswalks…

                Once we stop actively holding people legally accountable when they fail to heed those extralegal suggestions, especially when that’s used to excuse driving illegally, then I’ll be right next to you encouraging folks to wear bright colors and lights and basically do the whole Burning Man cover-your-entire-rig-in-LEDs thing if you want. Until then I fear that kind of encouragement actively makes us less safe by implying that drivers aren’t responsible to avoid normal people.

                Remember, it’s only a slippery-slope fallacy if you can’t show the link from the action to the bottom of the slope. Here we do have a connection.

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  • wsbob November 8, 2017 at 9:17 am

    The emphasis to people as vulnerable road users, to use some level of visibility gear while walking, biking, and so on, in low light conditions, probably should be stronger than it is.

    Just last week, again, and for a couple months preceding, off and on this weblog, people have been discussing a collision over in southeast Portland, in the dark, very early morning hours, involving someone driving a truck and someone riding a bike. Traveling towards the same intersection from opposite directions.

    It’s not been reported that the truck didn’t have its front driving lights on, so most likely, the person driving did have them on. Unfortunately, it seems he didn’t have his turn signal light activated to warn of the turn he eventually made across the direction of travel of the person riding.

    The person riding, reportedly had no front light on the bike, and wasn’t wearing on their person, anything that could help distinguish them from the surroundings in which they were riding. To what degree each of the two road users erred in safe road use, continues to be debate able.

    What I think, and likely many other people do too, is indisputable, is that the visibility of the person riding to the person driving, was vastly diminished by the fact that the safety of the person riding was not aided by at least some visibility gear that the person driving the truck would have been able to see more readily than they would, a person on a bike with no front light.

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    • q November 10, 2017 at 10:50 am

      That’s an ironic example. In the police report, the victim was described as not doing things that are not required by law. And actions of the driver that were illegal and relevant to the crash were not mentioned. And additional things about the driver’s actions or his vehicle that are not legally required, but may have prevented the death, were not mentioned.

      So it’s actually a great example of the opposite of what you’re using it to illustrate.

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      • 9watts November 10, 2017 at 11:14 am

        so much good stuff showing up in the comments here lately. Thanks, q and others. El Biciclero was I think the first here years ago to point this asymmetry out (extralegal expectations of the unmotorized vs illegal motorized behaviors that are not sanctioned/enforced/mentioned).

        I think this is the essence or one of the essences of what Alan Durning has called Carhead.

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  • caesar November 8, 2017 at 11:35 am

    John Lascurettes
    Stop behind the crosswalk — marked or unmarked — and check for pedestrians before inching forward for better visibility.
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    Since every intersection is a crosswalk (whether marked as such or not) then motorists should stop at every intersection?

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    • Paul Atkinson November 8, 2017 at 11:39 am

      I read that as [when stopping at an intersection] stop behind the crosswalk…
      Drivers needn’t stop at every crosswalk, but when we do stop the correct place is where we leave the crosswalk clear. After that it’s legal to inch forward as needed, if there’s no one in the crosswalk, until we can see that it’s clear to proceed.

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      • John Lascurettes November 8, 2017 at 2:59 pm

        Exactly. People were talking about needing to stop behind the stop sign. The proper place to stop when there is a stop sign is behind the crosswalk, not at the stop sign. And yes, ever corner is a crosswalk — so if there’s a stop sign or a pedestrian at an uncontrolled intersection (or any other reason to stop), stop behind the crosswalk first.

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        • q November 9, 2017 at 9:58 am

          The sad thing is that for a lot of drivers, the proper place to stop is to continue past the stop sign and block the crosswalk, and only stop at the point where their front fender would be hit by oncoming cars if they went out any further, all the while looking to their left with no idea who’s in front of them or stepping off the curb on their right.

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  • Justin November 8, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    I love this. I’m constantly getting in trouble with other cyclists by saying I believe you ought to wear more visible clothing when it’s dark out. People are so quick to make it all about the motorists, which makes sense. Ultimately they should be responsible for not killing people, but we live in the real world and especially when it’s dark and rainy it’s a good idea that all road users make an effort to see and be seen. We shouldn’t be putting all this on motorists, but I like the fact that we are now putting the primary responsibility where it belongs.

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    • Dan A November 8, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      There’s a HUGE difference in you personally giving other people advice on how to dress themselves for traveling in the dark, and having the majority of our tax-funded PSAs being directed towards vulnerable road users. They are not the same thing, though there are a few black-and-white folks here who seem to believe they are.

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  • q November 8, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Of course people should do what they can to protect themselves, and even your 15 mph solution wouldn’t create total safety.

    The issue to me is that we are so far from doing what can be done from the standpoint of improving drivers’ behavior. Look at this article–the fact that there’s a safety campaign aimed at drivers instead of the people they run over makes it newsworthy. It shouldn’t be newsworthy at all.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 8, 2017 at 3:28 pm

      So what can be done? This PBOT campaign will have, probably, no measurable effect on anyone or anything. My ideas pretty much stop at greater enforcement of traffic laws, which seems obvious, and also impossible given PPB staffing issues, building safer facilities, which are very expensive, controversial, and limited in scope, or robot cars, which looks to me to be a major paradigm shift coming whether we like it or not. I know which option I’d bet on.

      I’d love it if, rather than crying “woe is us”, people would make concrete, vaguely feasible suggestions for how to actually get us to a better place. Arguing whether PBOT telling pedestrians to be visible is victim blaming or common sense is like counting angels on a pin head. In the end it just doesn’t matter. At all.

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      • Dan A November 8, 2017 at 3:51 pm
      • q November 8, 2017 at 9:26 pm

        Since you asked for some examples, here’s one–better design decisions by the Parks Bureau on its bike/walking paths. They’d hardly be world-changing, but on the other hand, small decisions add up.

        Examples in just one park over just the last few months–in Willamette Park, Parks just installed a path-identification pylon that blocks views between pedestrians entering a crosswalk and approaching vehicles, and another that blocks views between cyclists and pedestrians right where two paths intersect. That one has a south-facing stainless steel face that adds glare to the mix. Both locations were safer pre-pylon, which probably cost a few thousand dollars. If Parks had consulted for 20 minutes with PBOT, I doubt these mistakes would have happened (PBOT doesn’t control roads in parks).

        Same park–a new 18′ wide curb cut where a path enters a street, with tactile warning ADA dots on only 6′ of it, so the dots are worthless except by chance. Doing it right would have cost almost nothing.

        Same park–building a new path at a park entrance, then tearing it out because it wasn’t ADA compliant (too steep). Rebuilding it, then having the entrance it serves shut down by ODOT because the park entrance illegally crosses train tracks, and nobody ever checked that. Several thousand dollars down the drain.

        Same park–instead of using a standard painted metal mechanical equipment enclosure, Parks used polished stainless steel at probably several times the cost. The glare blinds people on the adjacent trails when the sun hits it. The cheap painted version wouldn’t do that.

        Same park–a small widened area where people could step off the path where it enters the park was removed. Now the only convenient place to stop there is in the path, which clogs the entrance and reduces safety.

        Each of these is trivial in the big picture, but magnify that by hundreds of small design mistakes and missed opportunities that happen in our infrastructure–mistakes that sometimes cost much MORE than doing it right, per examples above–and it’s not trivial at all. I’m sure everyone here could think of similar examples from areas they’re familiar with.

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