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The Monday Roundup: Transit’s tech gap, changing speeds, virtual racing, and more

Posted by on March 12th, 2018 at 9:46 am

Welcome to the week. Here are the best stories we came across in the past seven days…

Stop killing kids: A horrible and preventable traffic tragedy on a street in Park Slope, Brooklyn has spurred outrage that some are comparing to the “Kindermoord” movement in Amsterdam. Thousands are expected at the Kids March for Safe Streets today.

Density done right: Too many detached, single-family houses and inner-rung suburbs are possibly the largest barrier to more bike-friendly cities. Minneapolis could alter this common American land-use pattern with a new law that would allow fourplexes citywide.

Signals are the new widening: With a very relevant connection to the I-5 Rose Quarter project, The Urbanist explains why things like “operational changes” “auxiliary lanes” and “signal optimization” often have the same intention — and therefore the same outcomes — as good, old-fashioned highway widening.

Transit tech gap: At event held at a Jaguar dealership hosted by Oregon EV trade group Forth, the leader of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon warned attendees that low-income people are being left behind by the “mobility services revolution”.

An equitable revolution: Transit expert Jarrett Walker heaps high praise on a set of “shared mobility principles” that he thinks will result in the future we all need — not just the one that tech companies and entrepreneurs want.

Bias and bike ticketing: Community advocates are pressuring politicians over what they say is a clear racial bias in bicycle ticketing by the Chicago PD.


Not your average speed survey: The very powerful National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) has done two things that are quite unexpected: First, they appear to be finally questioning the flawed 85th percentile method of setting speed limits; and second, they want to hear what you think about it.

Paris will pay you to bike: Seeking to reduce congestion and improve the health of their city, Paris has decided to subside e-bike and cargo bike purchases for its residents.

An ‘overlooked’ advocate: The NY Times paid proper homage to one of America’s first cycling advocates: Lillias Campbell Davidson started biking in the early 1880s and shared her expertise and love for riding in numerous novels and short stories.

Car culture files: An interesting look at America’s widening wealth gap via a high-school that has run out of room to park students’ luxury cars.

The war on cars: A UK man frustrated by people parking on sidewalks created a device to flatten car tires when they mount curbs.

Virtual bike racing: Don’t avert your eyes, online bike racing is a thing and it’s likely to get much bigger.

Keep riding: A new study shows cycling keeps your immune system young and is an overall wonder drug for your body.

Good reason for wider tires: Data from England’s Department of Transport shows that nearly 400 bicycle users were hurt or killed due to potholes. Now there’s a push to fix them more quickly.

Thanks to everyone who suggested links this week!

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

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79 thoughts on “The Monday Roundup: Transit’s tech gap, changing speeds, virtual racing, and more”

    1. Avatar David Hampsten says:

      I wonder if the driver was impaired?

    2. Avatar BradWagon says:

      I haven’t found additional context for this crash… (I assume driver says ped was in road and “he came out of nowhere”?). Truly incredible…

      1. Avatar BradWagon says:

        Looking at this intersection there are curb cuts on both sides of Hull across 99 and the south crossing has a center island refuge-ish. So a guy is killed while legally crossing a street while the driver is uninsured and fails to yield to a pedestrian… and no charges?

        1. Avatar Dan A says:

          I think they cited him for driving w/o insurance.

          1. Avatar BradWagon says:

            Correct, I meant that they didn’t charge him with anything for the whole “killing a guy” part.

        2. Avatar Chris I says:

          “It was just a horrible accident”.

        3. Avatar Spiffy says:

          no CRIMINAL charges… they charged him with driving without insurance… sensationalist headline is misleading…

          1. Avatar BradWagon says:

            Thanks, I too can read articles. I was referring to the whole “killing someone” part of his actions more than the citation anyone would receive without insurance.

            1. Avatar Dan A says:

              Just like in every single article you or I have ever read about a driver killing a pedestrian, as long as the driver wasn’t driving recklessly, going WAY over the speed limit, intentionally trying to murder the victim, under the influence, or drove off intentionally afterwards, there are no criminal charges.

              1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                The drivere’s probably guilty of something, so maybe we can streamline things a bit by making him prove his innocence, and perhaps withholding a lawyer.

              2. Avatar Dan A says:

                In case it isn’t obvious, I wouldn’t go that far. However, I do think there ought to be some sort of legal penalty for killing somebody, by any means, whether accidental or intentional.

              3. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                There is. Traffic fines for violating minor rules, the potential for prison for egregious violations (like driving drunk), and civil liability for just about everything.

                I don’t think we’ll ever be at the point where the judge says “She was going 5 over the limit. Lock her up!”, nor would I want to be.

              4. Avatar Dan A says:

                Hyperbole? Strawman? Maybe Soren can help me determine.

                How are you getting to that from what I said? If you accidentally kill someone while driving 5mph over the speed limit, there should be legal consequences outside of civil action.

              5. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                I think the word “accidentally” is hugely important. This is a different word than “negligently”.

                In the case we’re discussing, aside from the insurance issue (which I think should have more severe ramifications, possibly confiscation of the vehicle, but which is not relevant to the crash), we don’t even know if any laws were broken at all. I, and I suspect most people, wouldn’t be willing to imprison someone for engaging in a sanctioned activity, following the rules, that had a bad outcome that we all know is statistically inevitable.

                Driving is dangerous. Being around traffic is dangerous. Humans are fallible and have known cognitive limitations. Bad outcomes are inevitable. Criminal punishment is not a just solution unless a person’s behavior falls outside the norms society has agreed to. In this case, or the hypothetical I was suggesting, there is no evidence it did.

                The only solution I see is to keep chipping away at the problem, and hope the robot car revolution is not all hype. Other than that, we need to change the norms and systems that allow tragedies to occur.

              6. Avatar 9watts says:

                “Driving is dangerous. Being around traffic is dangerous. Humans are fallible and have known cognitive limitations. Bad outcomes are inevitable.”

                Unfortunately, you are here drifting into territory I’ve in the past referred to as a collective shrug. Responsibility is still distributed unevenly, or should be. Why pretend otherwise?
                How is this different from saying people get lynched – get used to it, or people get shot in schools – deal with it?

                As usual, I’d run this backwards from how you’ve chosen to look at this. Make drivers responsible (incrementally, but setting ambitious, long term standards) and see how driving improves, DMV steps up, etc.
                For that matter your, dare I say, glib characterization quoted above is fortunately NOT how the Swedes and others have conceptualized this. And they have something to show for it.

                You then, incongruously, conclude with this:
                “Other than that, we need to change the norms and systems that allow tragedies to occur.”
                Uh, yeah. So how do you square the rest of your post (shrug) with this recognized need? How are we to tackle this if we take your ho-hum, no one is responsible attitude?

              7. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                I’m mostly saying we can’t just start prosecuting people for what most would regard as an accident. You need to start elsewhere, and perhaps, towards the end of our collective journey, the situation will be different enough that prosecution will be the next logical step.

                We are a long, long way from there; I believe technology will solve this problem for us before society does, but I’m prepared to take the next steps, which is probably increased driver training and reduced speeds/better engineering of urban arterials.

              8. Avatar 9watts says:

                “I believe technology will solve this problem for us”

                Are you forgetting that ‘technology’ got us into this mess?

                “for what most would regard as an accident.”

                Social construct.
                We could set about changing that; undo this glib excuse.

        4. Avatar paikiala says:

          Did you witness the crash? Because nothing in the article describes the path of the person killed.

      2. Avatar Spiffy says:

        “Investigators said 54-year-old Cory L. Philpott of Milwaukie was in the roadway with his dog when they were struck”

        probably crossing the street, but not at Hull… using Google Street View I can’t see a marked crosswalk at all in either direction…

        1. Avatar paikiala says:

          making stuff up to fill in the blanks of the story…

  1. Avatar Dave says:

    Vive la France!

    1. Avatar B. Carfree says:

      I think I finally understand our new bike tax. It’s just a ploy so that some legislators can justify a junket to Paris to contrast our approach to what the French are doing. We’ve got some darned clever legislators.

  2. Avatar 9watts says:

    Regarding the Paris bike subsidy – I find it noteworthy that at least as I read this to qualify you have to buy an electric-assist version, reinforcing the unfortunate notion that ‘real bikes’ are the electric kind, the kind that wealthy people afford; and that the good ol’ human powered ones get you no subsidy. In the US we have our own versions of this kind of subsidize-the-rich, with tax breaks for EVs, EnergyStar refrigerators, etc. but not for giving up your car altogether, or for simple, energy-miserly fridges.

    1. Avatar turnips says:

      looked like any cargo bike qualified, with or without an electric motor. and there was another incentive for getting rid of personal cars.

      1. Avatar turnips says:

        Jusqu’à 600€ pour l’achat d’un vélo cargo (électrique ou non), une aide par personne.

        En échange de l’abandon d’un véhicule personnel, un bouquet de mobilités plafonné à 600€ est proposé (Navigo, Velib’, Autolib’…), une fois par personne.

      2. Avatar 9watts says:

        You’re totally right; I read it again and realized the ‘get rid of your car’ subsidy was not as I’d first read tied to ‘buy expensive bike.’

        1. Avatar q says:

          Nevertheless, your point is valid, and your examples are perfect. You can expand on those, too–energy programs that at least make you feel good (and maybe give you a tax benefit) for buying a new condo with floor-to-ceiling energy-efficient glass, even though the typical decades-old, wood-stud-with-standard-size windows walls of any crappy 60s or 70s apartment perform better.

  3. Avatar KTaylor says:

    Yay Cat Claw!

    1. Avatar bikeninja says:

      I kind think of thousands of good and righteous locations for those all over portland.

    2. Avatar rachel b says:

      I, too, yay for the Cat Claw! Me-OW!

    3. Avatar Spiffy says:

      I cringe at the thought of them wearing out and allowing only a little weight to push them in and expose the stabbing portion…

      1. Avatar B. Carfree says:

        I don’t. I’d love to see them put in on every bike lane stripe, particularly the ones on roads curving to the right. Even if they wear out and present a sharp object, it’s not like cyclists are likely to roll over them. There appear to be far fewer blind cyclists than blind motorists.

    4. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      I scratch.

  4. Avatar Phil Richman says:

    I think Minneapolis is onto something with the 4-plex thing.

    1. Avatar GlowBoy says:

      I hope it passes here. Although still more affordable than the coasts, rents have skyrocketed in the three years I’ve lived in Minneapolis. Although homes to purchase are still a lot cheaper than Portland, rents suddenly are not. There’s lots of demand (lowest unemployment in the country), and not enough supply. The supply hasn’t kept up for the same reasons as in Portland: overly restrictive zoning.

      It’s especially bad in the suburbs, where fear of renters has kept most cities from allowing any apartment construction at all in the past 20+ years, but it’s a problem in the two core cities as well. And the core could absorb a 50% increase in population without terrible difficulty IMO.

      Opponents make the point that most homeowners couldn’t afford the construction costs of tearing down their houses and rebuilding as 4-plexes (which BTW are much more familiar here than in Portland, because we have a lot of 80-100 year old ones), but the language says “up to.” You don’t have to do a full 4-plex to take advantage of this. Many homeowners could also convert their homes to duplexes, or carve out one or in a large house two or three ADUs, without running afoul of zoning rules or having to fully rebuild, putting the option within many homeowners’ means. This could actually give the stereotypical grandma or retired couple who needs less space, but own their home and don’t want to cash in their investment and start paying today’s high rents, a really great win-win option.

      It’s hard to tell what kind of a chance this proposal has. It was headline news in the Sunday paper, but it sounds like a trial balloon being floated while the city finalizes its 2040 plan. We just elected a starkly more forward-looking city council last November, and from what I know of each of them, they would lean strongly towards doing this unless the public outcry is really strong. What will matter, unfortunately, will be the strength of the complaints from the NIMBYs, who as everywhere hold a lot of power.

      1. Avatar X says:

        Yes to all that. If two or more households can live on a city lot rather than one, for a similar investment of materials, is that not a good thing? They have to be more energy efficient, isnt that one of our goals? And plexes / row houses are no less visually appealing than the minimum-setback mushroom mini mansions we get now.

        Next up: a design contest to turn a parking garage into affordable housing.

        1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

          If you’re going to do that analysis properly, you have to consider the embedded energy of the existing structure, which, while less energy efficient to operate, requires no energy and no materials to build, because it’s already there. At some point, the existing structure is going to lose out, but is that 5, 10, 50, or 100 years from now? If it’s 50 years from now, it might be better to wait, and build a new structure in 30 years, when materials and standards are better yet and would permit a shorter payback period. Also, perhaps a much smaller investment could be made to increase building efficiency (more insulation, more efficient furnace, etc.) that would push the break-even point even further into the future.

          There is a real cost to demolishing existing structures that are still serviceable, and doing something now isn’t always the best move. And, like much in our society, those costs are not internalized by the project, but rather are paid by others.

          1. Avatar X says:

            Did I say demolish? It might seem outrageous to convert a parking garage but as you note, they have a huge amount of embodied energy. People find a way to live under bridges with cardboard and tarps. It seems like we could do a lot better than that, once parking subsidies are abolished and we move a little closer to the social cost of burning carbon.

            1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

              I was responding to the first part of your comment (two dwellings are better than one).
              Many of the concerns I’ve heard of about development in Portland are centered around demolishing serviceable structures, so in a greenfield development you may be right. In Portland there aren’t so many of those, so demolition is usually a prerequisite for development.

              I think most people with concerns about “livability” would support duplex/triplex development in single family zones if demolitions were sufficiently discouraged (and if we could do something about the third-rate architecture of so many new buildings in Portland). I oppose the RIP almost entirely because I believe it will incentivize demolition. Remove that threat, and I would be a supporter.

              1. Avatar GlowBoy says:

                There are a number of ways this could be handled: charge more for a demolition permit, for example. To avoid the problem in cities like Detroit of making it difficult to tear down derelict buildings, the charge could be based on the value of the building being torn down. This would discourage the practice of tearing down perfectly good buildings.

                Or increase systems development charges on replacement buildings after demolition. And charge the same for a SFH redevelopment as a fourplex: this is somewhat analogous to the urbanist proposal to tax land more than buildings.

              2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                Those are great ideas.

      2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        Is it really “fear of renters”?

        1. Avatar GlowBoy says:

          Yes, and it’s not exactly news that in many places dominated by SFH owners, there’s a widespread perception that renters have lower incomes, more problems and less commitment to the neighborhood than homeowners, and that allowing “too many” rentals (whatever that means) is bad for the neighborhood – and for property values.

          And that concern has been widely written about in the papers here: the Metro Council here (local equivalent off Metro in the Portland area) has been pressuring suburbs to increase density and allow more development; some (like St. Louis Park) have adopted this approach enthusiastically, while many others have pushed back. In city council meetings of several municipalities, people have been quoted saying they don’t want more apartments, lest their burg become “another Brooklyn Park” (referring to an inner-ring suburb with a lot of apartments).

          It’s worth pointing out that for some (but not all) people this may be code for race: Brooklyn Park is 50% nonwhite. This is partly due to the large number of apartments, many of which are fairly affordable and attract many lower-income residents (who are more likely to be nonwhite).

          By the way: regarding the perennial debate about whether new apartments are a good things because they are (inherently) expensive. Here’s what you get if supply doesn’t keep up with demand: those older, depreciated apartment complexes here are being renovated and converted to luxury units to cater to the people who would rent the new units – if they existed – leaving lower income residents nowhere to go. In the suburbs here, this is a major part of the story:

          1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

            It is undeniable that changing from a city pattern dominated by houses to one with many apartment buildings and larger structures is a huge change in character. It may be that people living in an particular area don’t want it to become something completely different than where they chose to live.

            You don’t need to assume racism, or even disliking people with less money, to explain why people might resist such a change. It could just be that people love their neighborhood the way it is.

            1. Avatar 9watts says:

              That is a valid point.

              We should be very careful offering the benefit of the doubt too freely or across the board, since redlining is alive and well in this country,* and in lately I’ve found it safer to assume racism isn’t dead, as tempting as it sometimes is to want to do the opposite.


              1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                I may be old school, but I don’t like accusing people of being terrible without at least some actual, you know, evidence. Especially when there is an equally (if not more) plausible explanation that works just as well.

                Are the people in your neighborhood motivated by racism when they want to preserve the historic feel of the neighborhood or get traffic enforcement or whatever? They’re not in mine.

              2. Avatar 9watts says:

                You either didn’t read my post or I failed to get my point across. I was basically agreeing with you. But with a large caveat.

                “Are the people in your neighborhood motivated by racism when they want to preserve the historic feel of the neighborhood or get traffic enforcement or whatever?”
                Many possible answers are conceivable to that question, and there is no reason to think that the salutary reasons and the ones that aren’t couldn’t be all mixed up. In fact I’d assume that in many instances some of both are in play.

                “They’re not in mine.”

                How do you know that?

              3. Avatar 9watts says:

                “without at least some actual, you know, evidence.”

                Unfortunately there is plenty of evidence. It is everywhere. We just have to look for it. Did you look at the link I included above?

              4. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                I’d say your post was ambiguous at best. I don’t believe racism is dead (far from it), but it has become the explanation de jour for people who oppose a speaker’s point of view, and relying on it often creates the impression of an intractable problem. Sometimes focusing on other aspects of a problem (even if there is a racial component in there somewhere) will offer solutions that are actually workable.

                I know many of the people who are engaged in my community, and I know what motivates them, and what resonates with them. I can’t say none have any racist feelings (who could say that?) but I can say that if we can deal with the non-racist objections to an idea, any remaining racist ones will not be an obstacle.

              5. Avatar 9watts says:

                “I can say that if we can deal with the non-racist objections to an idea, any remaining racist ones will not be an obstacle.”

                I rest my case.

              6. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                RE Your link… how are racially disparate lending practices related to people opposing redevelopment of their neighborhood near Minneapolis? Or mine or yours here in Portland?

              7. Avatar 9watts says:

                This little side conversation we’re having started with Glowboy’s salient observation that antipathy to renters can have and has had racial underpinnings –

                The sentiment that leads to redlining and the sentiment that leads people to disdain renters are first cousins. Racism instantiated.

            2. Avatar GlowBoy says:

              In the case of Brooklyn Park, the major change that happened wasn’t the mix of housing. It has had lots of apartments for decades. The change that happened over the last 30-40 years has been the racial mix of who lived in Brooklyn Park, as many nonwhite people migrated out from the core cities.

            3. Avatar soren says:

              Many neighborhoods where there is the most resistance to new apartment buildings are literally carpeted with apartment buildings and plexes that were made nonconforming (e.g. illegal) by exclusionary zoning.

              Apartment building and plexes are the “character” of your neighborhood.

              1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                New buildings tend to be much bigger than the old apartments, and much uglier than what they replace. If Portland could attract competent architects, and developers didn’t always go for the biggest possible thing they could build, perhaps the dynamic would be different.

              2. Avatar 9watts says:

                “and much uglier than what they replace”

                Interesting you would pick on apartment buildings. Perhaps this is personal preference, but to me the *houses* that are being built today are bigger and uglier and fakier than the houses of yore, whereas I find (most of) the new apartment buildings to be somewhere between OK and attractive. There are of course exceptions on both sides of the SF/MF division.

              3. Avatar q says:

                Portland has plenty of competent architects, and in fact the ones who have some of the best reputations are the ones whose buildings are most disliked by the public.

                Also, much of what people don’t like about new apartments isn’t within the control of their architects–using the whole available building envelope, lack of parking, cheap materials, even colors.

              4. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                >>> to me the *houses* that are being built today are bigger and uglier and fakier than the houses of yore <<<

                I couldn't agree more (though there are a few good ones here and there). Most people I know feel likewise.

      3. Avatar q says:

        “It’s especially bad in the suburbs, where fear of renters has kept most cities from allowing any apartment construction at all in the past 20+ years”?

        I see acres and acres of new and recently built apartments in the suburbs (Beaverton, Gresham, Vancouver…) around here.

        1. Avatar GlowBoy says:

          Yes, Portland’s suburbs have allowed quite a bit of apartment construction compared to here. That’s been an important relief valve as the lack of apartments in core Portland have caused rents to skyrocket.

          The lack of this relief valve in the Twin Cities suburbs is partly why apartment rents have skyrocketed proportionally even faster. Lower income people are running out of places in the suburbs to move to, as lots of people with higher incomes move into the core cities:

          1. Avatar q says:

            I forgot you’re there, not here. That’s reassuring–now I can go back to agreeing with pretty much everything you write…

  5. Avatar X says:

    About the signal optimization in Seattle (and the state throttling the city’s actions!): I was skeptical about Portland’s MLK “signal optimization” even before I read this. Folks, NE MLK is already set to favor car passage over every other mode. Light cycles are long and they progress in the prevailing commute direction at about 20 mph. For a sample of this, go to NE MLK and Tillamook and hit the beg button. Watch 50 cars pass. Optimize that.

    I cross NE MLK at least twice a day, sometimes four or six times a day. I’d like to hear exactly how this is supposed to be made better.

    1. Avatar Spiffy says:

      I have no patience for beg buttons… I wait maybe 30 seconds and if I don’t see the cross street ped signal flashing or counting down then I go a block down and walk across… I can walk across any street without a light almost immediately, which is much better than sitting there waiting for permission to cross because the local transportation authority thinks drivers should never wait 1 minute just for a ped…

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        It is clear that with smarter algorithms, buttons could be designed to provide better service to pedestrians without degrading throughput for cars in all but high-usage situations. I blame antiquated equipment rather than malicious traffic bureaus.

        1. Avatar X says:

          I don’t think that PBOT harbors malice for pedestrians, that’s humorous, but I can’t think of any point on MLK where a signal would make you think “Wow somebody really wants to help me across this street.” If you’re active, confident, and assertive you can get across more quickly at a random corner than at a signal. If you’re not any of those things, good luck.

          1. Avatar q says:

            It wasn’t that long ago (70s) that ODOT destroyed the heart of the NE commercial district by removing all the parking and much of the ability to turn so that cars could pass through the area faster. Businesses were devastated, but that also probably wasn’t due to malice on the part of ODOT or the City, just an obliviousness to the negative impacts to the businesses and residents who needed MLK to be their Main Street.

            Making the street work better for pedestrians and people who live and work in the area is the next step that needs to happen.

            1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

              I wonder if that project might have had a different outcome if the agencies involved had worked with NIMBY neighborhood groups to better understand what the impacts of the proposal would be.

              1. Avatar q says:

                Good point. You can bet those NIMBYs would have been opposed to progress like they always are!

                Ironically, one of the ways the City and ODOT cleaned up the appearance of MLK/Union for the benefit of people driving to and from Vancouver was to move all the utility poles and lines about 100′ west. So instead of being on the street, they all got put literally into the backyards of people living west of MLK.

          2. Avatar soren says:

            sounds like malice to me.

    2. Avatar GlowBoy says:

      That can be true, if (as on Seattle’s famed Mercer Mess) optimization is intended to optimize one mode over another. But it’s not a zero-sum game, as HK alludes to below: good signal optimization can also be used to improve the pedestrian experience significantly without reducing vehicle throughput, or to improve it even further, at some expense to vehicle throughput. Improving the efficiency of an intersection gives us more room to make the classic tradeoffs with fewer negative impacts.

      I wouldn’t blame it all on antiquated equipment. Most intersections with beg buttons have essentially the same technology, but they can be tuned vastly differently. One of the things I learned in my Signal Timing class is that timing plans need to be revised every few years based on the latest traffic counts, or performance degrades. Most transportation agencies can’t – or don’t – have the resources to do this. Also, most agencies make conscious decisions to optimize traffic flow over pedestrian flow. I would say indifferent (probably a more accurate adjective than “malicious”) traffic bureaus actually bear most of the blame.

      1. Avatar GlowBoy says:

        I also agree about beg buttons: they should be banned in central cities, outright.

        This deprecation of pedestrians, forcing them to take time and significant steps out of their way to be recognized, while vehicles get automatically detected and automatically given benefits, is an outrage. We spend tons of money on automated vehicle detectors (in-pavement, or overhead optical) to make sure that not only do we minimize vehicle queues, but vehicles reaching an intersection are automatically detected and get the green sooner, and vehicles approaching late in the green phase get it extended – again, automatically.

        It’s bad enough that I often reach an intersection, hitting the button just at the moment the signal was changing, and don’t get the WALK, forcing me to wait an entire extra cycle to cross safely. I believe this has happened sometimes along busy roads at busy times, even when the timing program was probably specifying a longer minimum green than the WALK phase. This should never happen, but often does if the controller hasn’t been set up right.

        Worse, there are also many times I’ve walked up to an intersection, pressed the beg button and didn’t get the signal – even though there were cars streaming by next to me, automatically extending the green phase more than long enough to have given me a WALK phase. I could have been given a WALK signal without delaying traffic by even one second. I would propose that signals should always allow a late-arriving WALK phase if it wouldn’t extend the adjacent green beyond its programmed maximum. My understanding is most signal controllers are capable of this, but are rarely programmed to do so.

        The whole thing is a major injustice. Until we can deploy automated pedestrian detection*, we should abolish the use of beg buttons where vehicle detection is being used, at least in areas or at times with any kind of pedestrian traffic at all. That might mean most of the city, at least during daylight and early evening hours. Fine with me.

        * As far as I know this isn’t currently a thing in the world of transportation management, but should be. Some cars already have it, and it should be proportionally cheaper to deploy in fixed locations. It wouldn’t take very much will to make the investment in this technology happen and bring it into existence.

        1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

          What you are describing here are poor implementations, not flaws with the fundamental concept.

          In the absence of a better means of detecting pedestrians, a properly implemented button can be a big improvement for pedestrians over old-school timed cycles.

          We could probably eliminate them if people contained more metal.

      2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        In low volume intersections, signals can stay green for cars until the button is pushed, then, if it hasn’t changed for more than a certain time, the cycle could go immediately to yellow-red and start the pedestrian crossing. At low volume periods, the minimum green time could be reduced or eliminated making the crossing truly on-demand.

        This could be implemented at 16th & Hawthorne, for example, to improve the crossing experience. I assume it isn’t possible with existing hardware, and that a 30-second boundary needs to be crossed before the signal can respond. If it is currently possible, then there is a problem at PBOT because that crossing is not operating efficiently.

  6. Avatar wsbob says:

    Re; explain the suggestion made in today’s roundup, that the subject of the Urbanist article about the I-5 to Mercer traffic situation example up in Seattle’s is relevant to auxiliary lanes planned for a short section of I-5 here in Portland to improve vehicle flow to and from the Rose Quarter.

    Regarding the RQ planned design, there’s been no indication that the transportation departments are going to reduce priority of walking and biking infrastructure as part of this project. In fact, as design for this project is ongoing and not yet finalized, entirely new infrastructure for walking and biking is being designed to be provided for as part of the project. The I-5/RQ project has been conceived, I believe, because of the traffic snarl on I-5 in the area of the RQ, that the city’s efforts to increase activity in the Rose Quarter and the Lloyd District has unfortunately helped to create.

  7. Avatar Dan A says:

    Another pedestrian killed on Division, at SE 115th:

    Closest crosswalks are 1/6th of a mile away in either direction.

  8. Avatar GlowBoy says:

    “and much uglier than what they replace”Interesting you would pick on apartment buildings. Perhaps this is personal preference, but to me the *houses* that are being built today are bigger and uglier and fakier than the houses of yore, whereas I find (most of) the new apartment buildings to be somewhere between OK and attractive. There are of course exceptions on both sides of the SF/MF division.Recommended 0

    I have to agree with 9w … I find the ostentatious architecture of a lot of the new SFHs to be more objectionable than that of new apartment buildings.

    It is funny how the universal objection to newer buildings (both in Minneapolis and in Portland, and the architectural style of new apartments is essentially the same in both places) is that they are ugly. I hear the exact same complaint here. But when, since 1930, has it ever *not* been the case that people found the current style of apartment construction to be “ugly”?

    Besides, if you ask me the current crop of apartments is less unattractive than most of what was built in the 60s and 70s. Portland doesn’t have a ton of 1965-1985 apartments, but you can get an idea from the Auditorium District and some of the condos built in the John’s Landing area, as well as quite a few suburban areas. Between that and the Brutalism of a lot of commercial and institutional buildings, it was not a great time for architecture.

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