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Woman killed on NE Sandy Blvd is 20th traffic death while walking this year

Posted by on December 20th, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Looking southwest on Sandy Blvd from NE 79th.

Something is wrong with Portland’s traffic safety efforts. While ostensibility dedicated to a Vision Zero Action Plan with a clear goal of zero traffic deaths by 2025, the fatality statistics are going in the wrong direction.

This morning just after 7:00 am, a woman was killed while walking across NE Sandy Blvd. It happened between NE 78th and 79th Avenues. The Portland Police Bureau hasn’t released details of the crash and is currently doing an investigation.

This woman was the 20th person to die while walking in 2017 — that’s the highest toll in over 20 years. The furthest back our immediately available data goes is 1996. That year 17 people died while walking.

In 2015, 10 walkers died in traffic crashes. Last year the number was 13. This year’s total of 20 fatalities involving people on foot is over eight more than the average annual toll since 1996.

In total, 52 people have died on Portland streets this year. The Portland Bureau of Transportation has officially recorded 47 of those as traffic deaths (*see footnote for explanation) which is the most we’ve had since 2003.

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NE Sandy Blvd has been on PBOT’s radar for safety reasons for many years. It’s on the official High Crash Network and the rate of walking collisions is twice the citywide average. The crossing at 79th was recently upgraded with a push-button activated beacon.

Esther Harlow lives in the area and helped advocate for that crossing treatment. Today on Twitter she wrote, “Cars go really fast on this stretch of Sandy. The next closest ‘safe’ crossings are the intersection at 82nd, and the light at the Neighborhood Greenway at 77th.”

The street profile here is very wide. It’s a 60-foot cross-section with two wide standard lanes in each direction. From a photo taken by KATU News you can see there’s a TriMet bus stop near where the collision occurred.

Another nearby resident, Bjorn Warloe, shared with us via Facebook that the block between 78th and 79th is “too wide and poorly lit at night” and that driving speeds are “far too high for safety.” “It would benefit heavily from reducing through SOV [single-occupancy vehicle] lanes to one in either direction with a center turn lane,” he continued, “which would leave room for a bikeway, or dedicated transit lanes, or just a narrower street generally.”

(*Note: The official death tally recorded by PBOT is 47 because they use national criteria which excludes suicides, deaths that happen in parking lots, incidents that don’t involve a motor vehicle, and deaths that happen over 30 days following the collision. See this link for more details.)

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

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Toadslick
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If a natural disaster killed 52 people in a year in Portland, it would be declared a state of emergency.

If a different consumer product killed 52 people in a year in Portland, the product would be outlawed and the company sued into bankruptcy.

If a murderer killed 52 people in a year in Portland, the city would be locked down while a federal manhunt occurred.

But when drivers in their cars kill 52 people in a year in Portland, the agencies with the power to stop this tragedy hide behind “funding”, “more traffic studies are required”, and “community outreach.”

Every day I think about the people I love who bike, walk, or take transit to get around the city. I think about them crossing 82nd or Sandy or Powell or Cesar Chavez or MLK, and I fear that they’ll be the next headline, that they’ll be the next body crumpled under an SUV because a driver was texting on their phone or drinking their coffee or grumpy or didn’t feel like yielding at a crosswalk. And it makes my heart ache.

We live in a time of amazing change, where more and more cities are installing protected bike lanes and car-free streets and sweeping redesigns that prioritize the safety of the most vulnerable road users. And Portland, of all cities, has fallen embarrassingly behind.

The only study we need, the only community outreach we need, is this: 52 lives were cut tragically, violently short, and PBOT and ODOT could have prevented all of them.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Its not just the infrastructure and the enforcement ( those things need improvement too), but the behavior of drivers has deteriorated markedly in the last few years, which corresponds to this tragic increase in pedestrian deaths. Just last week, I witnessed three different motorists drive up three different one way streets on purpose. It is not all distraction by cell phones, it is a kind of mania that has taken over the minds of many of those trapped in congestion on a daily basis, desperate to get where they are going at any cost.

9watts
Guest
9watts

That photo of Sandy Blvd is hilariously off – maybe that is what Sandy Blvd looks like during the Super Bowl? but not on a normal day, to be sure. The very thing we’re talking about here is glaringly absent.

9watts
Guest
9watts

(1) distracted driving is I think on the rise;
(2) when people in cars kill someone not in a car the legal consequences for the person typically responsible are laughable;
(3) I believe that PBOT staff or brass or whoever is championing this would like to do the Vision Zero thing, as much as I believe that they would like to implement the Bicycle Master Plan, but isn’t the problem with the implementation? With chutzpah? With prioritizing funding, staff time, and, of course, making what we all know to be necessary – rein in the automobile and the vast, inherited set of excuses that absolve most anyone behind the wheel from responsibility.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Vision Zero is not a failure. We have a task force, a new logo, and the promise of an annual report. There will also be numerous trips to other places to witness and learn how they do it.

Sickening.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Perhaps the Portland citizens need a Vision Zero LED billboard sign of ped / bike / vehicular annual deaths in some prominent location…like the National Debt clock.

Any property owners out there with a permitted sign that could be [regulatory] easily converted?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

I have not seen the crash report yet – but from the description of the location (press) and Google Streetview – this pedestrian may have been crossing at at the intersection between 58th and 59th, the Failing Street “T” intersection…thus an unmarked crosswalk.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

We’re getting to the point where deploying explosive-laden pedestrian robots that go off on contact is beginning to sound reasonable.

SD
Guest
SD

Wheeler and city council are sitting on their hands. One of the most valuable tools a mayor in a “weak mayor” system has is their voice. It allows them to speak with authority directly to Portlanders. Our last two mayors have been silent and thus ineffective in moving Portland closer to vision zero.

Randy
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Randy
Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

A question for those who may know better…”How is a healthy pedestrian supposed to safely cross NE Sandy at 79th with the odd overlapping intersections creating ‘super high’ number of vehicle movements / potential conflict points…even with the pedestrian refuge on one leg of the intersection?!”

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

A 2017 PBOT traffic count recorded only 8,790 ADT (motor vehicles) at the 7800 block of NE Sandy for all 4 lanes and …so one must ask the technical / engineering question …

“WHY NOT A ROAD DIET TO TO SIMPLIFY [and likely make safer] THIS CORRIDOR SEGMENT?! as the volumes support such a conversion since the 2003 traffic counts.

https://pdx.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=7ce8d1f5053141f1bc0f5bd7905351e6

Smarty Pants
Guest
Smarty Pants

I’ll withhold all judgment until we get some details about the accident. Many appear to be blaming the car driver. That’s not fair to the driver unless you have some facts about exactly what happened in this case. May be 100% the fault of the driver, or of the pedestrian, or it could be a mix of fault among both.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

Vision Zero is a make-work program for over educated liberals who pretend to care but are clueless about how to solve the transportation problems facing our city. Putting HAWK signals everywhere, nominally lowering speed limits and an aggressive PR front are turning out to be just as silly and ineffective as the stated goal of VZ.

Zero deaths is not a realistic goal and is an unproductive answer to the larger problem of how can we move more people more effectively and more safely using our existing networks.

People these days are so frustrated and angry at traffic congestion that all rational behavior goes out the window. I live on a popular cut-through and during rush hour my street becomes a mini race course for Uber and every Tom Dick and Harry trying to get home or whatever.

Hint: way to move more people more efficiently in a given amount of space: t r a n s i t. Bikes, walk for shorter distance and in areas of high density. Design around THIS and not childish, feel-good nonsense like VZ and you might do something meaningful.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Not even Vision Zero will prevent a homeless person dressed in dark clothing, wandering the streets at night, from suddenly stepping out in front of you. It has happened to me.

Barbara L
Guest
Barbara L

Enforcement of traffic speed limits is necessary and until it’s uses more people will die or continue to be seriously injured. Doesn’t matter how many safety beacons you install if drivers don’t pay attention to them. It’s common for the drivers in the other lane or approaching at a high speed to just go around the stopped car when it’s 2 lanes in each direction.
NE Sandy Blvd between 205 & NE 37th is used by WA drivers as their freeway & they drive at very fast speeds all the time. When I come back from 6 am swim pool up NE Sandy these drivers swerve around me as if I’m standing still at 37 mph. Then when traffic backs up 5 blocks from NE 57th to NE 62 or more they cut off into our neighborhood.

Even though they made “improvement as NE 57th & NE Sandy it’s still very dangerous for pedestrian crossing NE Sandy on the west side of the intersection due to the drivers who turn south onto NE Sandy from NE 57th even on a red ignoring the No Turn On Red at the 3 way intersection.

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

Cue broken record.

Enforcement in this city is a joke. A cruel, deadly joke. If I were so inclined, I could drive through this city regularly doing 15mph over the speed limit and I would never get busted.

Enforcement communicates driving culture and here in Portland it is “we’re all talk and the occasional PR enforcement.”

Michael Whitesel
Guest
Michael Whitesel

I cross regularly on foot at NE 70th and Sandy (adjacent to the Safeway). There is a light just for crossing at that location. It is a cross walk in regular use, so the wait is generally long and when traffic is slow, the way usually clears to cross before the crossing light goes into effect. Also, even with the right of way engaged, one has to watch for cars, as I’ve witnessed many cars just blast on through against the light…

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

And of course Portland decided that the best was to stay out of the news regarding racial profiling isn’t by actually doing something about racial profiling, which is very real. It’s to NOT do more enforcement.

“The enforcement action in this plan are limited in order to reduce the possibility of racial profiling and disparate economic impacts.”

https://bikeportland.org/2016/09/14/city-releases-draft-of-vision-zero-action-plan-191456

That’s right, part of the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan is to specifically limit enforcement.

Gee, I wonder if the obvious racial disparities present in the War on Drugs™ are causing Ted Wheeler and the PPB to limit the misguided enforcement for other crimes. Who wants to bet that traffic enforcement is somehow, inexplicably, the only enforcement to get this restriction?

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

People are so good at commenting on this blog about safety, yet how many actually email the city mayor or commissioners asking for change?

Jon
Guest
Jon

For 2016 in Multnomah county there were 5,683 deaths. 5,154 were from natural causes, 120 were suicide, 31 homicide, 355 unintended injury, 21 undetermined intent, and 1 legal intervention. I would guess 2017 is not radically different from 2016. I would guess that the 355 number is the one that covers bicycle and pedestrian deaths. So, around 15% of all unintended injury deaths are traffic related (I would have guessed more) and almost 50% of those are pedestrian or bike (I would have guess more would be automobile drivers or passengers).

Shoupian
Subscriber
Shoupian

If only there was a freeway cutting across Sandy like I-5, PBOT and ODOT then could spend half a billion dollars widening that and also “improve safety” for local streets.
https://bikeportland.org/2017/10/06/here-are-the-streetscape-changes-the-city-and-state-want-with-an-i-5-expansion-244633

Bobcycle
Guest
Bobcycle

I drove Sandy Blvd from 82nd heading west this morning after dropping someone off at the airport. I was surprised how lit up that section was at 5:30 AM. Perhaps it was afoggy morning the day the woman was hit? If not it seems the driver may have been distracted. Side streets I drove after leaving Sandy were very dark and I think it would be difficult to spot pedestrians but Sandy Blvd had very good visibility sight lines that appeared well lit to me.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber
X
Guest
X

“Smarty Pants”:
. . .In this case we have no facts yet. . .

It’s a fact that a person in charge of a motor vehicle failed to avoid contact between their moving car and a person on foot. I will maintain, as a fact, that another person’s life is not a worthwhile sacrifice for anyone’s pleasure, time or joyful driving experience.

X
Guest
X

“9watts”:
. . .As for t r a n s i t, this is not and has never been a perfect substitute for point-to-point travel currently overwhelmingly served by the private automobile. Transit has a place, but we would be fooling ourselves if we thought it could take over a significantly larger share of travel needs. . .

I would like to see Portland city government put its entire weight of public policy, street design and available budgets behind forwarding transit operation to the highest pitch possible. What if Hawthorne between SE 60th and SW 5th, and Cesar Chavez between I-84 and the Hollywood TC, were pre-emptively optimized for transit with signal cycles and lanes restricted for buses and bikes? As a test?

This isn’t going to happen because the city just doesn’t have the brass, but if it did: The buses would suddenly start running on time, and TriMet would find that they could, magically, do more with less. There would be induced demand for transit ridership. MV traffic would be calmed, necessarily. Transit connections would be improved (that’s a problem mentioned by most people I talk to about transit in Portland, the bus is fine until you have to change lines.)

Hawthorne merchants would find that transit passengers and people using bicycles increasingly frequent their stores and spend money. A person on a bus is way more likely to hop off for shopping or entertainment if the bus interval is predictably 7 minutes or less.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

The conclusion at the beginning of the op ed is inaccurate, at best.
In 1992 there were 11 fatal pedestrian deaths in Portland, in 1993 there were 20.
In 1995 there were 8. In 1996, 17. In 1997, 9. In 1999 it was 15, while in 2006 it was 6. (BTW, in 1940 it was 51)
VZ is no more failing for a commonly variable high number of single year deaths than it could be credited for a single year low number.
It is the trend that matters in such analysis. The trend has a negative slope (good).