Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 4th, 2018 at 10:15 am
Kate Walker lives in the Montavilla neighborhood and wants to make its main commercial street safer. Her focus: Reduce the speed limit on SE Stark from 30 to 20 miles per hour.
We first heard about Kate’s efforts at a meeting of Bike Loud PDX last month; but she’s been working on this issue since last year. Kate is a former staffer at The Street Trust how now works at local carbon bicycle repair company Ruckus Composites.
To help strengthen the case, Kate made this issue the focus of her project when she took the 10-week Traffic and Transportation Course at Portland State University (for more on that excellent course, see our 2016 profile).
According to Kate’s research and presentation, fast driving is a big problem on Stark between SE 76th and 82nd — the bustling core of the Montavilla Business District. “People who live and work in the area complain about speeding and unsafe intersections,” she says, “I’m suggesting to ODOT that they consider reducing the speed limit.”
Stark in this stretch has a five-lane, one-way (westbound) cross-section. There are two standard lanes, an unprotected bicycle lane, and two curbside lanes used for parking cars.
As she learned in the PSU class, Kate has already taken the right steps to make this happen. While the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) sets speed limits statewide, a request to change them must originate from the local jurisdiction — which in this case is the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). And she’s done her homework. “My big idea isn’t that big; in fact, it’s entirely achievable and necessary.” Kate has learned that to qualify for a 20 mph speed limit, a street must be legally “in a business district”. This stretch of Stark straddles two such districts and according to PBOT it is indeed eligible for a speed limit reduction.
To get the process started, Kate submitted a request through the 823-SAFE system. She included the percentage of street frontage used for business and the latest crash data. And then there’s the public pressure aspect. Kate will pen a formal letter to PBOT Director Leah Treat and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman asking for the change. She’s started an online petition to garner as many names of support as she can in hopes of adding them to her letter. Kate has also curried support from local neighborhood and business associations.
This weekend Kate will put together her support letters and other documentation and send it all into PBOT. Then it will be time to wait for a response.
If you want safer streets in your neighborhood, “The best way to make change is to show up, do a little research, and be persistent,” Kate says. “Also,” she adds, “everything takes more time than you think it should.”
Thanks for sharing Kate! Good luck and let us know what you hear back.
In the meantime folks, please add your name to the petition to increase Kate’s chances of hearing good news.
UPDATE, June 9th: She did it! Congrats to Kate and the City of Portland.
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