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Portlanders move from grief and shock, to activism following horrific hit-and-run

Looking east toward PSU Urban Plaza from SW Montgomery.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

Portlanders are still coming to grips with the traffic violence experienced downtown on Friday. While details about 61-year-old Greg Porter continue to trickle out and the women he hit still recover at an area hospital, leaders in the transportation reform community are moving from grief and shock into action.

Kiel Johnson and Sarah Iannarone (both familiar names to BikePortland readers) are organizing an event next Tuesday (June 5th) that aims to promote an inclusive Portland. Here’s the event description:

“An inclusive city is one that values all people and their needs equally. It is one in which all residents—including the most marginalized of poor workers—have a representative voice in governance, planning, and budgeting processes, and have access to sustainable livelihoods, legal housing and affordable basic services such as water/sanitation and an electricity supply.” — Rhonda Douglas

As we head toward summer, many in our community are filled with hope and joy. For others, this has also been a challenging time, including friends and family of the women injured by vehicular violence at PSU on 5/25 alongside the critical injuries sustained by PSU student Aaron Salazar on 5/15.

For this event, we will reclaim the portion of Montgomery Street between SW 6th and Broadway as an impromptu public plaza for Portlanders– free from hate or violence of any kind. We will gather to share in joy and to support each other in sorrow. We will encourage speakers who are interested in stepping up to the mic to share what an “Inclusive Portland” looks and feels like to them.

Invite your friends, bring your lunch,and join us for an old-fashioned sit-in as we shut down this block of Montgomery Street for this “Inclusive Portland Lunch-In” for a couple of hours.”

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“We believe that every person has the right to access their community by walking – and should not be afraid to do so.”
— Oregon Walks

The location of this event — across the street from where the three women were seriously injured after Porter drove his car into them — is strategic. Just last fall we shared an effort to make the block of SW Montgomery between 6th and Broadway carfree. A new Portland State University building spurred redevelopment of half the blockface and it was a golden opportunity to create a carfree corridor that would have stretched from SW 5th to I-405. Friday’s hit-and-run has reignited talk of banning cars on SW Montgomery.

Johnson and Iannarone hope to create a temporary carfree zone on Tuesday. They’re asking for bicycle users to help cork both ends of the relatively low-traffic street during the event in order to improve the safety of everyone.

On a related note, KATU reporter Reed Andrews posted on Twitter yesterday that PSU will consider adding bollards to better protect the Urban Plaza from errant drivers.

And yesterday, two local groups that work to make walking safer issued statements about the state of walking in Portland.

Eight people who have died while walking so far this year*.
(Graphic from PedPDX Community Advisory Committee)

The nonprofit Oregon Walks issued a statement on their blog saying, “We believe that every person has the right to access their community by walking – and should not be afraid to do so.” OW pointed out one witness from a news report that said she might take her classes online due to fears of walking. “The fact that a student feels so unsafe walking through a public space that she’s considering avoiding it all together is unacceptable. What does it say about Portland as a community when we can no longer have the reasonable expectation of personal safety when we inhabit our shared spaces?”

The 25-member Community Advisory Committee that’s working on the City of Portland’s PedPDX citywide walking plan issued a statement today honoring eight* people, “who have lost their lives in traffic violence while walking on our Portland streets this year.” “By honoring and acknowledging each person, the CAC wishes to center the gravity of safety and Vision Zero in the PedPDX planning process.”

(*You’ll note that while the City of Portland counts eight walking fatalities so far this year, we only count seven on our official tracker. This is because one of the deaths, 42-year-old Eric Griffen, occurred after he intentionally jumped from an I-5 overpass. By their own policy, PBOT excludes intentional deaths.)

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

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