Special gravel coverage

City Council hears Yoana Molina’s powerful testimony for a safer SE Stark

Posted by on April 11th, 2018 at 1:27 pm

She told them exactly what they needed to hear.

An emergency speed limit reduction for outer Southeast Stark Street was unanimously approved by Portland City Council this morning (see the ordinance here).

The move comes as no surprise, given the priority for traffic safety shown by our current Mayor Ted Wheeler and city commissioners and the commitment to Vision Zero by our Bureau of Transportation. As we reported last week, this action on Stark comes after a spate of deadly collisions and its continued ranking atop PBOT’s “high crash corridor” charts for biking, walking and driving. In addition to lowering the speed limit, PBOT has set aside $10 million for infrastructure upgrades.

During this morning’s hearing, two staff members of the nonprofit community development organization, The Rosewood Initiative, were invited to testify. One of them was Yoana Molina. Molina is the director of operations for the group and has been an active volunteer in the neighoborhood for over 15 years. During her testimony she spoke without notes and her words came straight from the heart.

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Here’s what she said

“Thank you for the oppoprtunity to be here and to speak up. I think you need to hear from somebody who lives in that neighborhood. And that’s me.

I want to thank everybody who’s behind this emergency ordinance. With this ordinance you guys give the opportunity to mothers to go back to their sons at home – and for sons to go back to their mothers at home. Five miles maybe it’s not a big deal for everybody; but it makes a huge difference in people’s lives… on the people who live there. [unfortunately the recording skipped for a few seconds]… It’s scandalous I found it safer to drive my car to work just five minutes [away] because I want to go back to my house with my kids [crying]. So I want you guys to keep that in mind [and] put in place this emergency ordinance.

The last time I was corssing 166th… I waited in the middle. And I almost get hit. The car, it touched my clothes and I stopped to check if I was fine. I was scared. But I can bet you the guy who was driving the car was scared too since he stopped like 30 or 40 feet away. Again, five miles, it’s not a big deal, but it will make a huge difference in my life and in the life of everybody who lives in that neighborhood. Thank you.”

You can watch Molina’s testimony below (and rewind the video a few more minutes to see the excellent comments from fellow neighborhood advocate Kem Marks):

We’re lucky to have a City Council that supports traffic safety measures and they all “get it” when it comes to the need to lower speeds. But none of them live beyond 82nd Avenue. And short of living there, they’ll never understand the urgency of these issues unless they continue to hear from people like Ms. Molina.

It’s great to see PBOT taking action on Stark. We wish it didn’t come after so many people had to be hurt and killed and held hostage by the daily traffic violence — but at least something is finally being done.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • J_R April 11, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Until there is some enforcement, it’s not going to change a thing.

    I regularly have other motorists “riding my bumper” when I drive the speed limit. When I turn off the major street, they show their displeasure at my having slowed them down by stomping on the accelerator and quickly achieve a speed of 10 mph over the speed limit.

    Sorry, but I think the change of speed limit on Stark from 35 to 30 will not alter safety by any measurement. Vison Zero. Ha!

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    • Mike Quigley April 11, 2018 at 2:32 pm

      Yeah. Enforcement. Give Portland cops something to do other than gun down people with problems. PLUS, generate some much needed cash for the city.

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      • rainbike April 11, 2018 at 2:46 pm

        Portland cops put their a$$es on the line every day to keep citizens of this city safe. What do you do every day for the community?

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      • paikiala April 12, 2018 at 1:25 pm

        Have you looked into how much a citation actually goes back to Portland?

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    • Ryan April 11, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      If they can just add cameras like they did on Division, I think it would achieve this. I have driven/ridden down Division both before and after the change and, from my perspective at least, it has made a significant difference.

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      • soren April 12, 2018 at 7:45 am

        PBOT added one camera, not multiple ones. Moreover, the Division project lead communicated to me that PBOT’s speed data suggests that the camera has not been particularly effective (people slow down momentarily and then speed up again).

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        • Ryan April 12, 2018 at 12:58 pm

          I’ll guess I’ll take your word for it – that seems like quite a complex setup for a single camera, but after being in the military that doesn’t really surprise me when a government (even local) is paying for it. And yes, I do see that people slow down and then speed up again, but it seems like there are less cars in that area now (maybe moved to Stark). Though, that could possibly be a coincidence of the times I’ve been there. Did the project lead communicate anything about a difference in the #’s of cars? Regardless, the fact that people slow down at all in that section means that camera(s) being there do offer some deterrent (justification for adding more), and during the busiest times it could have a ripple effect where cars slowing down for that section could force cars further back to slow down as well.

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    • soren April 12, 2018 at 7:54 am

      PBOT has substantial evidence that speed limit reductions decrease vehicle speeds and serious collisions. Speed limit reduction is also the primary safety tool for Vision Zero in Sweden.

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      • Dave April 12, 2018 at 8:49 am

        Context and cultural norms matters. I would happily trade the drivers on my street in North Portland for a bunch of Swedish drivers.

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        • soren April 12, 2018 at 1:28 pm

          did you miss my reference of the Portland Bureau of Transportation?

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          • J_R April 12, 2018 at 4:12 pm

            How about a specific citation for studies in Portland and a few other agencies, please?

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  • Ken S April 11, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    Maybe, but if people keep driving 40-45mph after the speed limit drops to 30mph, that’s still a $160-220 ticket. That’s not a slap on the wrist.

    Perhaps we should also lobby for all roads in the high crash network to be classified as “safety zones” (like much of hwy 26 from sandy to government camp). Double the fines for all driving offenses and use the ticket revenue to fund safer pedestrian facilities.

    That would be a one-two punch of disincentivizing bad driving and funding safer street design.

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    • Alan Love April 11, 2018 at 2:48 pm

      Sounds great, but as BP reported recently, there aren’t nearly enough traffic enforcement officers at present. The number of speeding/traffic citations is something like 1/3rd of what they were a few years ago. You could make the ticket $1000 (which of course would disproportionately doom low income folks), but speeding will still be the norm because no one fears actually being ticketed. Until PPB’s structural problems are remedied, I welcome our robot overlord speed cameras! Every high crash corridor needs a few. If the city council made that part of the recent proclamation, it would signal true commitment.

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      • Belynda April 15, 2018 at 9:18 am

        They could free up 28 more cops for traffic by disbanding the worthless gang task force.

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    • BB April 12, 2018 at 10:17 am

      A slap on the wrist is exactly what that is.

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    • paikiala April 12, 2018 at 1:27 pm

      Portland only gets a fraction of any final fine a judge decides.

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  • Dave April 11, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    We need enforcement, now. While I applaud efforts by the City and activists to reduce speed limits – as this is certainly part of the solution – without effective punitive action for law-breaking drivers, we will not achieve Vision Zero goals. No threat of real consequences = more tragic and preventable crashes.

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    • soren April 12, 2018 at 7:52 am

      Can you provide a single example of an effective implementation of Vision Zero that *emphasized* enforcement.

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      • J_R April 12, 2018 at 8:04 am

        Can you provide an example of Vision Zero, other than Portland, that has excluded enforcement and has been effective?

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        • paikiala April 12, 2018 at 1:32 pm

          No one said exclude, just not exclusive focus. VZ is a multi-legged table, and no table stands on one leg.
          see page 12 of this guideline:

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          • Dan A April 13, 2018 at 8:09 am

            Our table is missing the leg for removing illegal parking spaces in Portland.

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        • soren April 12, 2018 at 1:32 pm

          “excluded” is your language, not mine.

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      • Dave April 12, 2018 at 8:47 am

        Effective implementation? Perhaps too early to tell in the US, but every Vision Zero policy I’ve seen, including Portland’s, includes enforcement as one of the key strategies. I’m not saying street design and lower speed limits are not important – I’m saying that we need enforcement and real consequences for egregious driver behaviors such as speeding and driving while distracted and/or under the influence.

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        • soren April 12, 2018 at 1:27 pm

          “as one of the key strategies”

          you say this and, somehow, fail to provide a link. why is that?

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          • Dave April 12, 2018 at 3:41 pm

            Cause it’s easy enough to Google – why don’t you show me a Vision Zero strategy in the US that doesn’t “emphasize” enforcement as one of the key pillars?

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            • soren April 12, 2018 at 5:35 pm

              See the link paikiala posted above.

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              • J_R April 13, 2018 at 11:35 am

                I looked through the entire Vision Zero materials. Most of the enforcement activities appeared to be for speed cameras with a little more for DUI.

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              • soren April 13, 2018 at 1:46 pm

                exactly. enforcement is a minor component of vision zero — with an emphasis on speed cameras as a temporary mitigation until the system can be redesigned.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 11, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    A few thoughts.

    First, listen to the testimony from Kem Marks right before Yoana speaks. He explains why enforcement isn’t the only answer. He wants roads designed in a way that enforce themselves.

    Second… enforcement is never going to fix this. Culture is way more powerful in the long run. And IMO what PBOT is doing with speed limits, those “20 is Plenty” signs that are everywhere, and with their PSA is a great start to changing culture (at the meeting this morning Fritz compared how many people used to let their dogs poop in her yard years ago…and how now everyone cleans it up).

    Third… When you call for enforcement, please don’t forget that many people are (rightfully) afraid of police and the idea of more police on the roads isn’t as comforting to them as it is to you.

    Fourth.. like many issues we discuss here… the answer isn’t either/or, it’s both! We need to use all the tools we have and I think PBOT is doing a relatively good job in making some progress. Let’s push them to do more, more quickly!

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    • Kem Marks April 11, 2018 at 3:48 pm

      Could not agree more.

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    • SafeStreetsPlease April 11, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      I don’t think a single person is asking for just enforcement. 100% agree that these roads need to be engineered, and that will factor better than either a long term cultural shift or enforcement, but which one is the more realistic short-term solution? Right now, in East Portland, there is no re-engineering, no immediate culture change and zero enforcement. That is a recipe for lethal streets. In a perfect world, we don’t need enforcement and the policing issues that come with it. But East Portland is not a perfect world. Far from it.

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      • Eric Leifsdad April 14, 2018 at 9:28 am

        Immediate engineering changes are possible if pbot would treat safety and speed reduction as maintenance responsibilities. Temporary barriers in medians at crossings and protecting bike lanes would put drivers on notice and induce some claustrophobia. No need to wait for huge unfundable capital projects.

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    • B. Carfree April 11, 2018 at 11:21 pm

      I believe you have never lived in a city that prioritized traffic law enforcement. I have and it simply works. Once motorists become convinced that their every violation will result in a citation, they dramatically change the culture throughout the city. The only accessory necessary, and this will also hit on the issue of fear of cops, is to require the cops to live where they work.

      Let’s face it, cities across Oregon have been changing their streetscapes as quickly as funding allows, and the result around here is Portland’s decade-long flat-line of cycling modal share and Eugene’s 43% decline. I feel like we’re discussing the merchant who loses money on every sale but insists he will make up for that in volume.

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      • David Hampsten April 12, 2018 at 10:34 am

        “The only accessory necessary, and this will also hit on the issue of fear of cops, is to require the cops to live where they work.”

        I agree with you in theory, but such a situation is rare in the US, especially in bigger cities other than NYC. In many places, including where I live and in Portland, up to 80% of the local police live outside of the community they work in. The reasons vary, but low pay is usually one of them, the cops simply can’t afford to live in the city they patrol. Low morale in another – they often feel loathed by their community, as they meet only two kinds of people, victims and perpetrators. So they live elsewhere, in what they feel are safer and less expensive communities or even rural areas, often oblivious to local crime rates and the costs (in time, if not money) of driving a very long way to their jobs.

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      • paikiala April 12, 2018 at 1:33 pm

        What city?

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  • Kem Marks April 11, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Thank you Jonathan. To everyone who pointed out the need for enforcement, PBOT is looking at putting speed cameras at 122nd and 148th. Originally it was only 148th but we pointed out the need for more. We are going to push for one closer to 162nd as well. But as I said at the hearing, these are only parts of the solution. Redesigning Stark and other East Portland streets a big part of the solution. If we redesign Stark to 3 vehicle lanes and add protected bike lanes, we will have made this nightmare of a street much safer for all modes.

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  • SafeStreetsPlease April 11, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    This means nothing without enforcement. I understand the concern over low income residents being targeted and receiving harsh penalties, but I think there is a way to find compromise rather than take the current approach (near zero enforcement in East Portland). The current approach is leaving people dead on our streets.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 12, 2018 at 7:33 am

    Another thing I’m seeing in these responses that dismiss the speed limit reduction… I think it’s pretty insensitive to read a story and hear testimony from people who live in this neighborhood who say they are very supportive and grateful and hopeful for the speed limit reduction… And then respond by saying essentially,… “It means nothing!”

    I assume activists with Rosewood Initiative will read these comments. How do you think they will feel by seeing their words be so unsupported?

    Just something to think about.

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    • J_R April 12, 2018 at 8:14 am

      So, where’s the evidence that changing some signs improves safety or even results in lower speeds?

      Here’s the conclusion of a study by Spack Consulting about the difference between a 25 mph statutory speed limit (Wisconsin) and 30 mph (Minnesota) for local streets:

      “So does the speed limit of the road matter? At this point, our answer is a decisive “maybe” due primarily to an admittedly small sample of data from only two cities. The small size could also mean the data is susceptible to factors like enforcement, surrounding geometry (horizontal or vertical curves), landscaping, and parking to name a few potential concerns.”

      Read the summary at:


      Note that this study was on local residential streets. When the width increased, the speed increased.

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    • David Hampsten April 12, 2018 at 10:43 am

      The people and activists of Rosewood, working in one of the densest and highest-crime neighborhoods in all of Portland, have the advantage of living and working on the borders of two very different cities. They can see the improvements and experiments going on in Rockwood/Gresham (pop 104,000) and see the long-ago-implemented bike lanes on Stark, lowered speed limits, and the buffered bike lanes on Division, and ask themselves, why isn’t richer “progressive” Portland doing this too?

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      • soren April 12, 2018 at 1:30 pm

        I often breathe a bit of a sigh of relief when I bike out of East Portland into Gresham or Clackamas county. East Portland’s arterial bike infrastructure sucks that much.

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        • Ryan April 13, 2018 at 3:10 pm


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