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.
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.)
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