We are not moving fast enough to make 122nd Avenue safer.
“Didn’t know that living in outer SE would mean saying a prayer every time you cross the street. What’s going on in this city?”
— Ana del Rocío, nearby resident
Portland Police say a man and a young child have sustained “critical, life-threatening injuries” and are being treated at a hospital following a collision that happened outside Midland Library just after 5:30 pm tonight.
According to photos we’ve seen via Twitter user @splindlypete (see below), the victims were crossing at the marked crosswalk and rapid flashing beacon just outside of the library south of Morrison Street. A large white van can be seen in the lane adjacent to the median, fully blocking the painted crosswalk striping. It’s too early to know for sure, but it appears like this could have been a classic “double-threat” situation where one driver stops, but another driver doesn’t.
The Twitter user who was on the scene said the young person looked to be about nine years old and was responsive prior to being loaded into the ambulance. The dad was unresponsive.
“Lot of of folks wondering how this could have happened,” wrote @splindlypete on Twitter tonight. “Those crosswalks are really unsafe. it’s not too hard for a driver in one lane to not see pedestrians that are in front of and slightly to the side of another car, and sometimes the lights go off when people are still crossing.”
This is heartbreaking — not only because these two innocent people are clinging to life; but because we know how dangerous 122nd is and we’ve endured these tragedies far too many times. According to crash statistics (which don’t begin to tell the tale) 122nd has four of the top ten most dangerous intersections and it’s one of only 13 streets citywide that’s earned a “high crash” designation for bikers, walkers, and drivers.
For years now, advocates and city planners have been aware of the dangers posed by this neighborhood highway. In 2014, following his participation in a Pedalpalooza ride that took a closer look at its pitfalls, reporter Michael Andersen wrote an article titled, “What would it take to make 122nd Avenue great?”
It’s not that PBOT doesn’t have plans to make 122nd better, it’s that the threat is growing faster than our efforts to mitigate it.
Just a few weeks ago I reported on a press conference a few miles north of tonight’s collision. Electeds and agency staff from the City of Portland, Multnomah County and TriMet made speeches and cut a ribbon on an early phase of the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s 122nd Avenue Plan.
At that event, I could only shake my head with concern as I watched all sorts of dangerous driving behaviors unfold around a newly installed crosswalk with a beacon. After the event I spoke with a PBOT staff person and shared my thoughts that, while these incremental improvements are nice, it will take much more than a few flashing lights to tame drivers on 122nd. To make a real impact, we must encourage people to drive less by making transit and cycling more competitive and we need to directly constrain auto use by lowering speed limits and making dramatic changes to the profile and design of the road itself.
PBOT has millions set aside for 122nd and their goal to make it a more human, multimodal street is admirable. But I’m afraid it won’t be enough, soon enough.
For people who live, work, and play on and around the 122nd Avenue corridor, every day that passes is another day of hoping something terrible doesn’t happen to them. No one should have to live like that — especially when the solutions to the problem are so obvious.
“Didn’t know that living in outer SE would mean saying a prayer every time you cross the street,” wrote local resident Ana del Rocío on Twitter tonight in response to hearing the news. “What’s going on in this city?”
If you want to help PBOT make 122nd Avenue safer, they’re hosting an open house at Midland Library (805 SE 122nd Ave) on November 7th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. More info at their 122nd Avenue Plan website.
UPDATE, 12:06pm: According to Portland Police Bureau Sgt. Christopher Burley, the man who was driving the van has been cited for Careless Driving with Injury to Vulnerable Roadway User. The two victims’ injuries are now described as being, “serious but non-life-threatening.”
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