Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 7th, 2018 at 10:40 am
We received this open letter to Mayor Ted Wheeler via email yesterday. The source is a longtime Portlander and former land-use planner who requested to remain anonymous.
Mayor Wheeler, Commissioner Eudaly and Director Warner,
I am about as Portlandy as it gets so my comments come from love for my city. I got my Masters in Planning in the ‘90s, worked on planning dense urban centers and greeted visitors from around the world who came on pilgrimages to see “the Portland Way”. I bike to work and play — and I nearly got smeared across the pavement recently while crossing Sandy Boulevard on NE Alameda, one of our wonderful bikeways.
The details of the near-miss are not important. Suffice it to say that there are now people who will disobey any traffic law in order to get somewhere faster with zero regard for anyone else. This was rarely the case in what we nostalgically refer to as Old Portland. But they are here now and we all see them everyday.
We have always planned bike facilities with citizen’s safety contingent upon drivers being what I call the “Best Portlander”. The Best Portlander is a mythical person who has been in all of our heads for decades. We each know hundreds of them and we are that Best Portlander ourselves. We care about following the law as best we can. We try to learn and understand new rules when they come up. We read local articles and newsletters, we’ll go to a website to learn more. We talk to our friends and neighbors because we want to do the right thing.
Here’s the problem: In the past we could design bike lanes and infrastructure with the Best Portlander in mind. They read the signs, and pretty much obey the guidelines. While that worked for decades, the time for that is sadly in the past now. We need to provide safety for people’s lives and bodies by planning with the very Worst Portlander in mind. The Worst Portlander has their eyes down on the phone, they are racing to the 205 bridge and would do anything to shave a couple minutes off their trip, they are inebriated or they just got off an airplane and into a rental car 15 minutes ago and have no clue what the heck all that green paint and those crazy lines on the road mean.
Our streets need to provide safe passage for bikes from that Worst Portlander. Picture your loved one on a bike and the Worst Portlander approaching from behind. Have we provided adequate protection? We need to be physically separated and protected from distracted drivers with real bollards or curbs – not flimsy pieces of plastic and the copious lines of paint which will not stop anyone from ruining my life or ending it. If that is not our priority – ensuring that we can preserve life and limb – then we might as well pack it all up and go home.
A concerned Portlander
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