Splendid Cycles

2017 Year-in-review: More driving, more dying

Posted by on January 18th, 2018 at 1:12 pm

Traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This story is by Joe Cortright. It first appeared on City Observatory.

Four days before Christmas, on a Wednesday morning just after dawn, Elizabeth Meyers was crossing Sandy Boulevard in Portland, near 78th Avenue, just about a block from her neighborhood library. She was struck and killed, becoming Portland’s 50th traffic fatality of 2017.

If we’re serious about Vision Zero, we ought to be doing more to design places where people can easily live while driving less, and where people can walk without regularly confronting speeding automobiles.
— Joe Cortright, City Observatory

Vision Zero, a bold road-safety campaign with its origins in Scandinavia has been sweeping through the US for the past decades, prompting all kinds of tough-talking, goal-setting traffic safety campaigns. And admirably, Vision Zero is designed to be a results-oriented, no-nonsense, and data-driven effort. Fair enough.

But judge by the grisly traffic statistics of 2017, we’re failing. Almost everywhere you look, traffic injuries and crashes are increasing. The final national numbers aren’t in, but the trend is clearly toward higher road deaths. To focus on Portland for a moment, where Elizabeth Meyers was killed, the 50 traffic deaths recorded in 2017 were the highest number in two decades. After years of declines, traffic deaths in Portland have spiked in the past three years:

After averaging 31 traffic deaths per year between 2005 and 2014, traffic deaths have jumped 60% over the past three years.

There’s a lot of finger-pointing about distracted driving (and red herrings, like distracted pedestrians), but there’s a simpler explanation for what’s at work here. Americans are driving more, and as a result, more people are dying on the roads. As the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute’s Todd Litman noted, international comparisons make it clear that miles driven are an significant and independent risk factor that’s much higher in the US than in other developed countries. As Litman puts it:

…don’t blame high traffic death rates on inadequate traffic safety efforts, blame them on higher per capita vehicle travel, and therefore automobile-dependent transportation planning and sprawl-inducing development policies; those are the true culprits.


The effects are big enough to show up in mortality statistics: American children are twice as likely to die in automobile crashes as are children in other advanced countries, which is a major contributor to the higher child mortality rate in the US.

After more than a decade of moderation in driving (motivated largely by high gas prices), driving in the US started increasing again when oil prices collapsed in 2014. Data from the US Department of Transportation trace a clear uptick in driving in the past three years.

The result, inevitably has been increased carnage on the highways.

There’s some good news out of the Oregon Legislature in the past year. The legislature gave the city permission to set lower speed limits on city streets, and the city has just authorized a new speed limit of 20 miles per hour that will apply to many of the city’s residential neighborhoods.

As important as this move is–excessive speed is a key contributor to fatalities–it does nothing to address the conditions that led to the death of Elizabeth Meyers. Sandy Boulevard is a multi-lane arterial street, the kind that the region’s safety analysis has determined to be the deadliest part of the roadway system. The city has been working on pedestrian improvements, and efforts to reduce speeding and red-light running. But in the area just east of where Meyers died, a section of roadway controlled by the Oregon Department of Transportation, the state agency rejected city efforts to lower posted speeds:

In response to a community request to reduce the posted 35 MPH speed on the east end of NE Sandy Blvd, traffic speed counts were taken east of 85th Avenue in early 2014 as part of the High Crash Corridor evaluation. 85th percentile speeds were 40.3 MPH. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) reviews and makes decisions on posted speed reduction requests. ODOT will not consider speed reductions that are 10 MPH or more below the 85th percentile speed. Therefore, ODOT would not approve a speed reduction on outer NE Sandy Blvd near 85th Ave.

(City of Portland, Bureau of Transportation, NE Sandy Blvd High Crash Corridor Safety Plan, 2014, page 5)

The grisly trend indicated by the traffic death data of the past three years tells us that as hard as we’re trying to achieve Vision Zero, we’re not trying hard enough. The biggest risk factor is just the sheer amount of driving we do, and with the boost to driving in recent years from lower fuel prices, it was predictable that deaths would increase. If we’re serious about Vision Zero, we ought to be doing more to design places where people can easily live while driving less, and where people can walk without regularly confronting speeding automobiles.

We clearly have a lot of work to do.

— Joe Cortright, City Observatory

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  • Shoupian January 18, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    Joe, thanks for posting this article. There is a cognitive dissonance in most people on the issue of traffic safety and mobility. Most people would agree (at least I hope) that as a society we should reduce traffic fatalities and injuries as much as possible and no one thinks it’d be a good trade-off under any circumstances for themselves to be killed or injured on the road. Yet, most people also consider mobility, especially auto-mobility as a right, and oppose any safety program that would impede speed and convenience in order to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities.

    The most disappointing fact is that our elected officials and public agency leaders understand this contradiction very well. But driving is still very easy and cheap in Portland, and our elected officials and transportation bureau are leading the charge to induce even more driving by supporting the I-5 Freeway Expansion. Based on the data and trends in your article, this is a $450 million project that goes directly against the City’s Vision Zero goal.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy January 18, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      Very easy, cheap…and what the majority of people want. A politician that says “FU” to the majority of the populace does not have a job for long.

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      • Shoupian January 18, 2018 at 2:25 pm

        Never said I want our elected officials to say “FU”. We elected them to lead the city and implement policies and programs that improve the well-being and quality of life for our citizens. Sometimes that means they need to take bold actions and create change in order to address serious issues (e.g. traffic fatalities). Many people will be unhappy about change, the city as a whole will be safer and better off. This is the responsibility of our elected leaders. They are supposed to make informed and accountable decisions for us and not just giving in to some people’s emotional and irrational instincts.

        If we all adopt your attitude, progress will never be made.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty January 18, 2018 at 10:19 pm

          >>> Sometimes that means they need to take bold actions and create change in order to address serious issues (e.g. traffic fatalities). Many people will be unhappy about change, the city as a whole will be safer and better off. <<<

          Like expanding I-5 through the Rose Quarter? Be careful what you wish for.

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          • Chris I January 19, 2018 at 8:45 am

            That project does not address traffic fatalities.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty January 19, 2018 at 11:43 am

              No, but it is being presented as a safety project. My point is that if you support the “just do it” attitude towards governance, you’ve got to live with that when ideas you disagree with are “just done”.

              Personally, I don’t trust the government (or anyone else) to “just do” anything.

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            • Wells January 20, 2018 at 10:44 am

              It does in that it addresses the high I-5 accident rate, surface street traffic congestion and provides new routes for pedestrians/bicyclists to avoid the Broadway/Weidler heavy traffic corridor. Currently, southbound I-5 exiting traffic merges with Broadway traffic headed to the I-5 southbound entrance. The situation at this intersection imperils pedestrians/bicyclists in contact with long lines of frustrated, aggressive motorists. In addition, the two new crossings over I-5 make the Rose Quarter I-5 upgrade much more pedestrian-friendly. It’s amazing how some political activists misconstrue these obvious facts. It reminds me of the year Greenpeace opposed building a light rail extension mistakenly fearing environmental impact. After the particular line was built, the natural ecosystem in question is healthier than ever.

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      • B. Carfree January 18, 2018 at 5:31 pm

        I disagree. A politician who has the courage to tell people that they are wrong when they are provably wrong can become very popular, though it comes at a cost. When Sacramento’s Mayor Anne Rudin forced a light rail system back into Sacramento, she was practically crucified for her efforts. The business community was outraged that streets could be closed for months at a time while the tracks were put in and accused the mayor of killing the local economy. Once the system went on-line, those same businessmen all wanted to claim to have been in favor from day one because the project was so successful. It brought a dying downtown back to life in one swoop.

        None of that would have happened if the mayor had simply taken a poll or put her wetted finger up to test the political winds. While we are sorely lacking in political leaders today, I wouldn’t discount the possibility that we can find a few who will be willing to tell the 75% of the population who are addicted to their cars that the times will be a changin’. (We know the car era will end, the only question is whether it ends forcefully or with some proper preparation.)

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      • Dan A January 18, 2018 at 5:37 pm

        Thank goodness kids don’t vote, because our leaders are currently saying “FU” to them.

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      • Brian January 19, 2018 at 8:01 am

        Good point. Maybe we need more elected leaders who are doing it because they believe in it and not necessarily because they need the job. I am eligible to retire at 54, so maybe I need to start prepping for my four years in City Council after that?

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty January 18, 2018 at 10:14 pm

      >>> Yet, most people also consider mobility, especially auto-mobility as a right, and oppose any safety program that would impede speed and convenience in order to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities. <<<

      I disagree with you, but we're about to find out. PBOT is taking a huge step in lowering the speed limit on a great many streets across the city (directly impeding speed and convenience to reduce traffic casualties). I have yet to hear a chorus of objection (or any at all). Maybe that will come, but I'm guessing it won't.

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  • soren January 18, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    The increase in driving in Portland is probably not only about lower fuel cost. The cost of housing and the lack of tenant protections is displacing many who walk, bike, or bus. Anecdotally, I know multiple people who previously lived a largely car-free lifestyle in the inner city who are now car-dependent because they were forced to move to the periphery or outside of Portland

    More on how housing stress is likely decreasing transit mode share in the Portland area:


    As Portland increasingly becomes an exclusive playground for rentiers and the rich it will also increasingly become a car-centric city.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy January 18, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      I completely agree with you about the consequences of the increasing costs of housing.

      I guess the question is (and this is really just something to initiate a discussion), how far do we go to “fix” what we feel is a social inequity? I think we could literally spend the entire City of Portland budget on social issues and still not resolve them.

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    • bikeninja January 18, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      Every great empire becomes a rentier economy just before it collapses. It achieves greatness by trading, agriculture and manufacturing and eventually becomes a tollbooth economy based on asset appreciation, rent collection and monopoly fee extraction. This period does not last long, and neither do the Rentier’s who usually meet a gristly end.

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    • Kyle Banerjee January 18, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      There are a lot of reasons people drive, but I suspect that one is that’s simply what works best for most people.

      As you get further out, cycling requires considerably better fitness and comfort in traffic as well as better gear. Speeds are way higher, infrastructure more lacking, and drivers less friendly than near the core. Public transit is too slow and unreliable to depend on.

      Being a rentier is not an advantage — you spend loads before you can spend dollar one on anything else. This city won’t be affordable until a lot more single family units are replaced with something that allows considerably more density which in turn allows greater density of services reducing the need to travel longer distances.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy January 18, 2018 at 4:28 pm

        I would add…and allows ownership. It seems that when a house gets torn down, rental units go in. That is great for density, but there is less and less opportunity to actually own a place and get a return on the appreciation.

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      • B. Carfree January 18, 2018 at 5:43 pm

        You explain why driving appears to work best for people right in your comment. As long as we continue to build whatever it takes to keep people in cars and skimp on facilities to allow them to safely and quickly move about by other means (incomplete transit, nearly nonexistent allowances for cycling on the road from the suburbs and so on), then the majority will default to this most harmful of modes. We’re building this problem; it’s not a natural consequence of modern life.

        By the way, the fitness thing falls apart under the harsh light of today’s e-bikes. One needn’t be fit at all to ride forty miles one way on a modern e-bike. They’re actually kind of fun and make me wish I once again had a hundred mile round-trip commute so I could rationalize getting one.

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        • El Biciclero January 20, 2018 at 2:36 pm

          “We’re building this problem; it’s not a natural consequence of modern life.”

          Truuu-uth! Truth, here! Get your truth right here!

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      • Bikeninja January 18, 2018 at 6:05 pm

        Kyle there are renters( people who rent) and Rentiers, which is a term in economics used to describe the practice of monopolization of access to any (physical, financial, intellectual, etc.) kind of property, and gaining significant amounts of profit without contribution to society.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty January 18, 2018 at 10:26 pm

          There’s also Raniers, of which I have a six-pack.

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          • turnips January 18, 2018 at 11:20 pm

            I think that’s Rainiers. or Ra Near Beers/Vitamin R.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty January 19, 2018 at 11:39 am

              You caught me in my filthy lie. I was drinking Hamms. I offer my deepest apologies. I am ashamed.

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          • Middle of the Road Guy January 19, 2018 at 9:33 am

            I really expected more from you.

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            • Brian January 19, 2018 at 9:44 am

              Agreed. At least a 12 pack of PBR, eh?

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        • Buzz January 19, 2018 at 8:35 am

          plural: rentiers
          a person living on income from property or investments.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty January 18, 2018 at 10:23 pm

        That density won’t be affordable.

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        • John Liu
          John Liu January 18, 2018 at 11:08 pm

          If only the inner core of a city is allowed to be “desirable”, then that inner core will become more and more expensive as higher income people crowd out lower income people, and expensive housing is built where less expensive housing used to stand.

          Sound familiar? This is exactly what is happening in Portland. The city is pretty much ignoring east of 82nd, taking decades to build ped/bike infrastructure and better transit, compared to the much more active infrastructure programs in the inner core. Development is also pretty much ignoring east of 82nd, with only a handful of larger housing projects underway or proposed compared to the forest of cranes and infill housing in the inner core.

          To make East Portland viewed as “desirable”, it needs investment in infrastructure, in development, in transit (not running MAX right down 82nd was an incredible lost opportunity, but we can still run rapid, articulated, comfortable buses there and on Powell, Stark, etc).

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          • maxD January 19, 2018 at 9:44 am

            have been out to 92/Foster recently? NE Halsey and 106th?

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        • GlowBoy January 19, 2018 at 8:57 am

          That density won’t be affordable until it’s had a couple decades to depreciate, true. This is the price Portland is now paying for fifty years of overly restrictive zoning that essentially prevented apartments from being being built. Apartments that would be more affordable today if they were 20 or 30 years old.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty January 19, 2018 at 11:48 am

            Where are these 20 year old buildings that are so inexpensive? What I see is that older buildings like the crapbox I used to live in are being spiffed up and the rents raised. I don’t see older buildings in desirable areas getting cheaper.

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            • GlowBoy January 22, 2018 at 3:44 pm

              Because demand still exceeds supply. As much new supply has come online, it hasn’t been enough.

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              • GlowBoy January 22, 2018 at 3:46 pm

                They’re still substitute goods, as economists would put it. Depreciated housing costs less to provide than new housing, so rentiers (to use the recent Word of the Week) are able to charge less for it and still make money. But they only will do so if there isn’t a shortage of housing. Which I think we all can agree there is.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty January 22, 2018 at 7:29 pm

                There are multiple geographically overlapping housing markets. There is plenty of supply in the most profitable tiers (which tend to be where rents/sales prices are highest). There has been much less new supply at the bottom end. Who wants to build something difficult to make a profit on when you could do much better with other investments?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty January 22, 2018 at 7:29 pm

                That is, there is no shortage of top-end housing.

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              • GlowBoy January 23, 2018 at 10:09 am

                That’s my point, Kitty. You’re never going to get new supply (that is, in new construction) at the low and middle tiers. Developers don’t make a profit on new construction that way. You have to wait until the units have aged, then they become more affordable. Part of the “missing middle” story is with respect to age: very few units between 20 and 50 years of age, which can be the sweet spot for affordability.

                Portland is now feeling the pain of bad zoning decisions made decades ago, but it is a pain that only time (or an economic collapse) will heal. This problem is far from unique to Portland: after the housing collapse 10 years ago there is simply much more demand for rentals, compared to owned units, than there used to be.

                We have the same problem in Minneapolis, one of the tightest rental markets in the country: although traditional houses are far cheaper than in Portland, rentals are very nearly as expensive, because of exactly the same bad history of restrictive zoning. As in Portland, there are a ton of new units coming online in the city, but they are in the same price range of $1000-1500 for studios and going up from there. I just spent the weekend in Seattle, which has had an even stronger history than Portland of mom-and-pop rentals, and they appear to have exactly the same problem.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty January 23, 2018 at 11:14 am

                So you’re plan is to hope owners don’t maintain their new buildings so they become a source of cheap housing in 2038? Color me skeptical. Geographic trends will dictate what happens; the inner city was popular, then it wasn’t, and now it is. Portland itself wasn’t popular, and now it is.

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    • Huey Lewis January 18, 2018 at 4:02 pm

      This is us. We had to move to outer SE to buy a place, all we could afford was east of 205. What was formerly a 2 mile ride to beer, pizza and Blazers with a friend is now closer to 8. Meeting someone on Alberta was maybe 3 miles. That same meeting is now a little over 9. A ride to Kelley Point park and home was 25, now that’s just over 40 round trip. It kinda sucks. More miles riding my bike is usually great. But not dark, rainy, miles surrounded by aggro drivers, crossing busy arterials and being crowded on side streets by people trying to beat the traffic.

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      • Joe Adamski January 18, 2018 at 4:52 pm

        I recently moved to East Portland. I cannot replicate North Portland in East Portland. I can start working on building community and connections in East County. There was a time in my life where North and inner NE were less desirable to many. Good things can happen in East Portland. They just need a little nudge from us.

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  • igor January 18, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    I’m not following the math on Sandy. If the 85th percentile speed was 40.5, then wouldn’t ODOT allow the speed to be lowered by up to 9.9mpg (i.e. 30.6 mph)?

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    • cold brew raktajino January 18, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      Especially since the speed limit is still 35 mph until at least 60th! It’s not like it’s a highway–once you pass 30th you’re already going 30.

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    • Chris I January 18, 2018 at 3:41 pm

      The quote is either wrong, or the author and/or ODOT failed basic math.

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    • John Lascurettes January 18, 2018 at 3:56 pm

      The 80th percentile speed means that 85% of drivers were doing 40.3 MPH or less. ODOT won’t approve speeds more than 10 MPH less than the 85% speed.

      Since 30 mph is more than 10 mph different than 40.3 mph (by 3/10), ODOT won’t lower more than 35.

      The whole 85 percentile rule is a very old, outdated mode for assessing “safe” speeds and only leads to more speeding over time. https://usa.streetsblog.org/2012/11/16/one-for-the-dustbin-the-85th-percentile-rule-in-traffic-engineering/

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      • John Lascurettes January 18, 2018 at 3:57 pm

        Sorry, that first reference saying 80th percentile should have been 85.

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      • B. Carfree January 18, 2018 at 5:47 pm

        It really gets my goat that ODOT actually states in one of their many manuals that drivers WILL choose a safe speed for the environment. Sure, that’s why we have seen a 58% increase in roadway deaths since 2013 and why our roadway deaths are so shockingly high compared to nations that don’t set policy on such a provably false claim.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty January 18, 2018 at 10:30 pm

      30.6 does the tricks! Or something.

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    • El Biciclero January 20, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      I think you’re exactly right, but I also think that speed limits must be whole number multiples of 5 mph. Therefore, lowering the speed from 35 to 30 would be a reduction that was 10.3 mph below the 85th %-tile, which is disallowed.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty January 21, 2018 at 12:15 pm

        I say smash the tyranny of round numbers!

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  • Buzz January 18, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Maybe more enforcement isn’t the answer and we need a culture change, but it isn’t going to happen by itself. IMO, here’s what needs to happen, I’m sure y’all will have additions to this list:

    -Motor vehicle advertising on TV and in print needs to be banned or severely restricted; at a minimum, advertisements depicting dangerous driving behavior need to be eliminated (remember ‘Truth in Advertising’?).

    -Gas taxes need to be increased exponentially, and used to cover both the direct and indirect/external costs of excessive motor vehicle use, including environmental and health impacts of fossil fuel consumption, and funding of infrastructure for transit, walking and cycling. Making ‘cyclists pay there own way’ is complete BS when not a single motorist pays their own way.

    -Congestion pricing needs to be implemented immediately on all major local ‘freeways’.

    -A weight limit needs to be placed on personal vehicles sold for use or operated in urban environments, so that the most dangerous large trucks and SUVs are prohibited from operating in these environments.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy January 18, 2018 at 4:32 pm

      The fun starts when people want those things implemented, but in a progressive manner (with regards to economic impact).

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      • KTaylor January 18, 2018 at 6:01 pm

        It always amazes me how quickly things can change, and with how little regard for the inconvenience or outright suffering of most people when someone with a lot of money wants it. Offshoring for example, or AI – – the loss of zillions of livelihoods with absolutely no plan to help people weather it is just something we are supposed to suck up and deal with because, you know, progress. But the same rules don’t apply when a city looks at climate data, adverse health impacts and the huge economic loss tied up in enabling driving and the obvious conclusion is that people have to be discouraged from driving. When a discovery like this is made, suddenly we have to be really gentle with people. We can’t even tell them they can’t drive an SUV on the crumbling asphalt streets we can’t afford to repair. At some point, doesn’t it have to stop mattering what people like if what they like is expensive and destructive and requires a lot of other people’s money or they wouldn’t be able to afford it?

        I guess what it boils down to is that people with a lot of money don’t want people to stop driving. If they did, it would stop, whether we like it or not. We really need money on our side. Can we start a PAC or something?

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    • B. Carfree January 18, 2018 at 5:49 pm

      How about registration fees that go up dramatically with the weight of the vehicle. Perhaps a fee that goes up with the fourth power of weight, just like road damage.

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      • GlowBoy January 19, 2018 at 9:00 am

        Weight-weighted registration fees could be limited to vehicles capable of carrying passengers. You want to make sure to include all the pickups used as passenger vehicles, at least those with two rows of seats.

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    • Doug Hecker January 18, 2018 at 6:00 pm

      Are you prepared to pay significantly more for goods and services? Nothing just arrives from the air to our stores.

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      • Buzz January 18, 2018 at 10:03 pm

        So what? More than half of what they sell us (and we buy willingly) is worthless and unnecessary anyway, and comes with its own environmental cost. I don’t see any reason why propping up the current dysfunctional system is desirable in the long term.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty January 18, 2018 at 10:33 pm


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      • B. Carfree January 18, 2018 at 10:42 pm

        The calculations that I have seen regarding the percentage of the final price that is the transportation portion show it to be too small to deter most purchases and to get swamped in normal price swings.

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      • Chris I January 19, 2018 at 8:48 am

        *citation needed

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  • bikeninja January 18, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    Good News ( for cyclists and pedestrians anyway). U.S. crude oil inventories are being drawn down steeply in the last 6 weeks, leading to predicted price increases for gasoline in the coming months.


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  • Doug Hecker January 18, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    Much like the city wants greenways to be “bike highways” so should streets like Sandy and Foster be reserved for people who drive into the city from the outer reaches. I imagine most of the people on this board are white males who are used to changing most things once they are force to move to east portland, much like myself. The bus services and bike facilities will not and do not get the same attention as the 20’s. It seems like we are only focused on transportation but I would argue that it goes much deeper. People get pushed out of their place for various reasons and they simply can’t drop their vehicles and begin to ride their bike around town or take a 75 minute bus ride. It simply doesn’t work that way. People have lives and they must go on. The strong white presence on this blog will find many hurdles when reaching out to people who aren’t white if the entire reasons as to why people drive isn’t understood. The great white hope hasn’t always turned out well. There’s plenty of examples of you would like for me to provide them. And yes, I bike daily. It’s easy to have tunnel vision, I get it.

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    • Buzz January 18, 2018 at 10:05 pm

      Completely ass-backwards, the arterial streets should be the main bike highways!

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      • Doug Hecker January 19, 2018 at 7:18 am

        Sounds like a great idea, let’s turn all of the neighborhood streets into car only then? Because that makes sense. Also, I enjoyed reading your typical non-response when it comes to talking about things that don’t involve white people. Your message and hopes won’t go very far if I you sound like is an angry white cyclelist. Especially in East Portland. So good luck.

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        • Brian January 19, 2018 at 8:10 am

          What if one lane in each direction became an efficient bike lane? The change to one lane on East Burnside seems to be doing okay.

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        • Buzz January 21, 2018 at 12:47 pm

          Nice straw man argument, but motor vehicles aren’t currently banned from neighborhood streets, nor are bicycles banned from arterial streets.

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  • just one skip remount January 18, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    We slacked on keeping our awesome places close in. People who can afford to drive and park swooped in on the ideal real estate that allowed those convenient, care free bike rides.
    We are now on the fringes of town and that clip on fender and rain jacket isnt enough.
    Covered transportation is beginning to make sense to us because of the distance. As we try to hold on to those tight jean bike rides, we are scared because we are now the small fish in that high consequence commuter pond.
    Portland had a good thing 10 years ago and social media heard our bragging about it loud and clear.

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  • B. Carfree January 18, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    Considering that our roadway deaths are up much more than our miles driven, I’m not sure the case for increased driving being the cause of our increased CARnage is solid. I think the increased miles driven in Oregon as a percentage isn’t far off the nation as a whole, but our roadway deaths are up by a much greater amount.

    Maybe we just don’t deal as well with increased traffic as other locales. Maybe adding cars in California just extends the number of hours everyone is sitting in stop-and-go traffic, but increasing traffic here is increasing the number of cars traveling at deadly speeds. I just don’t know, but perhaps someone here does.

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    • Chris I January 19, 2018 at 8:50 am

      The theory I have read in a few places is that the poorest drivers tend to also be the ones at higher risk of crashing. These people couldn’t afford to drive during the recession, so they were off the roads. Now they are back on the roads with old, unsafe vehicles. We’ve all seen these vehicles out there. Do you think they would be driving around if gas were $5/gallon?

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    • GlowBoy January 19, 2018 at 11:13 am

      Miles driven is one of the reasons deaths are up, but there are two other big reasons. Average speeds (maybe not in central Portland, but nationwide) are up, as people are driving faster than ever, partly due to risk compensation as vehicles have become ever “safer”.

      And let’s not forget the effects of distraction. Now almost EVERYONE has a smartphone, most states still allow handheld phone use (which makes it almost impossible to enforce anti-texting laws), and in-car electronics have gotten more distracting than ever with more functions and a big shift to touchscreens.

      Don’t believe the stats that show distracted driving accounts for only a small slice of fatalities. In most cases, investigators have no easy way of really knowing when electronic distractions contributed to a crash. We do not have good hard data on the actual relationship between distractions and incidents, but just because we can’t measure it doesn’t mean it isn’t a huge part of the problem. Possibly exceeding substance-impaired driving in many states.

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  • chris m January 19, 2018 at 7:19 am

    It is kind of sad that economic growth in this country literally relies on increasing the amount of death. https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2016/september/shocking-new-study-shows-recessions-may-save-lives

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  • Bjorn January 19, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Normalizing injury and fatality data by VMT is a convenient way to make it look like we aren’t doing so bad when VMT is trending up. If vision zero is the real goal then it shouldn’t matter what the denominator is.

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  • stephan January 19, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Thank you for Joe this pointed contribution. As a parent with two little kids, it serves as a good reminder that the best I can do for them is to reduce the amount I travel with them; good point to bring up in discussions where other parents raise their concern about me biking around with the kids.

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  • Jonathan Radmacher January 19, 2018 at 9:36 am

    Joe (or anyone, for that matter), I’m curious if there is any basis for concluding that lowering the speed from 25 to 20 can or will make any difference in traffic deaths; at the very least, there should be some statistics about how many people going 25 mph killed someone. For example, Fallon Smart was not killed by someone going 25 mph on Hawthorne. If, instead, the argument is that it might get people going 35 to go 30 mph instead, why not just more aggressively enforce existing speed rules?

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    • Dan A January 19, 2018 at 1:27 pm

      On single-lane roads (where these changes are taking place), it will result in law-abiding drivers going 20mph, and other drivers behind them going 20mph as well. The chance of dying at a 5mph differential is, I would guess, reduced significantly for children and the elderly, two groups who travel by foot frequently. The noise pollution is reduced. A driver’s ‘cone of vision’ will increase, allowing them to take in more information about the people using the road around them:


      And research on the vision of primary-aged children has shown that they are unable to judge the speed of vehicles moving faster than 20mph. Children are heavy users of our neighborhood streets.

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  • joe Fortino January 19, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Anyone know I-5 boons bridge? only way to cross river to get to Camby is shoulder of I-5
    and this bridge is high crash zone with shoulder being dirty to ride on now… oh and Wilsonville trying to get another expansion project.. * wish they get french praie bridge going as ped and bike bridge * ODOT 🙁

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    • GlowBoy January 19, 2018 at 10:55 am

      I agree, the French Prairie bridge would be a good development. Last I heard they were trying to secure funding by designing it with the capability to carry emergency vehicles – any progress?

      I’ve never dared to ride the Boone Bridge. When I’ve had to cross the Willamette in that neck of the woods, I’ve used the OR 219 bridge. It’s not great – still a 55MPH road with a fairly narrow shoulder – but slower and far lighter traffic, and overall a lot safer than I-5 for sure.

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      • joe Fortino January 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

        so they put rumble strip on both side and all the rocks and debre end up in the path its so scary and never used to be bad was a straight shot to get over river.. most speed in the left lane.. yes the bridge is on hold because of the ppl live on other side 🙁

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  • Andrew Kreps January 19, 2018 at 11:39 am

    Let’s lower the speed limit on East Sandy to 31mph, problem solved.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty January 19, 2018 at 11:54 am

      I’m holding out hopes for 30.6. It does the tricks. Or something.

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  • Jim Lee January 19, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    Nice piece, Joe.

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