It happened again.
Here’s the email sent out by Tubman Middle School Principal Natasha Butler on Friday afternoon:
“I want to inform you about a recent incident involving student safety.
On the morning of Friday, January 4, on the way to school a student riding a bike collided with a car at the NE corner of Vancouver and Russell streets. According to a witness the student was crossing with the traffic light and that the driver stopped and talked with the student. The student was not seriously injured and is back in school.
I want all our students to be safe whether they walk, bike or ride the school bus. The middle school years are a time when our young adolescent students are maturing and learning valuable skills towards independence. Here are some bike riding safety tips for students as well as bike riding and driving tips for adults for families to review from our partners at Safe Routes to School.”
The intersection of Russell and Vancouver is slightly offset, very wide-open, and dominated by the presence of drivers and their cars. The crossing distances are vast and it’s not hard to imagine someone being hit at this location.
As you may recall, back in October a student was hit by a driver while walking across North Flint just outside Tubman. Friday’s collision was just one block away.
After the last collision, I met with two concerned parents outside the school during the chaotic morning drop-off. One of them, Jillian Wieseneck, told me, “Everyone’s afraid their kid is going to get hit.” There were plans to do more community outreach and education about road safety. We haven’t confirmed if those things ever happened.
One Tubman parent posted Butler’s message on Twitter and expressed frustration about the existing conditions: “Harriet Tubman Middle School has been open six months, and already two students, one on foot and one on bike, have been hit by cars. Both kids were following traffic laws. What’s it going to take to make this area safer, @PBOTinfo?”
Safety concerns were paramount at the start of this year as Tubman re-opened as a Portland public school. It turns out those concerns were very warranted.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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When I lived in Salem the cops clustered around the school zones like moths to a flame. They laid down such a barrage of citations on scofflaws and traffic villians that even distracted 16 year knew their fate if they went even 5 miles per hour over the limit . I would guess they paid for a fair portion of the city of Salem’s budget in the process. Its high time to change our laws so enforcement can take place and the revenue harvested from law breakers can pay for the needed officers.
And ticket anyone going over the posted speed limit, not just those going more than 10 mph over that limit. No wonder we don’t understand the meanings of words.
Police officers can also make people feel unsafe to be so exposed as a pedestrian or person riding a bike. As Tubman has a large population of students of color I think this kind of solution could backfire or create a route where students feel unsafe.
Or maybe it could have the opposite effect, with people seeing that the police are looking out for their well-being. There has to be a better solution to police-community relations than just keeping the police away from the community… which sort of defeats the purpose of having police. Perhaps public demonstrations of protective behavior would help.
Yeah, that’s not how this works. The issue isn’t that black folks are irrationally scared of police and they just need to learn to feel comfortable about them. Black people don’t have a phobia about police. Rather, the problem is that cops, many cops, are racist. They may not want to be, but those biases are hard to overcome, but especially when white folks think that the problem is black people’s attitudes towards cops and not the opposite.
Some of the police are indeed racist. Maybe it would help humanize people to the police, too, if they were put in a more proactive, protective role, interacting with good people doing good things like taking their kids to school.
These are middle school kids, so most are getting to school on their own. Also… my kid should be the guinea pig who teaches the cop that not all black kids are hoodlums? Police brutality is a systemic problem, not a problem that will be resolved by cops as crossing guards. I mean, is your point really that cops should learn not to be racist by spending time with “good” black people? I hope not.
No, my point is we have to start somewhere. And kids need to get to school safely. And what we are doing doesn’t seem to be working, so maybe let’s try something different.
It’s really cool that you are able to assign behaviors to entire groups of people like that. I think there is a word for it…
“Can” also means “might not”.
How about we let the individuals decide of cops make them feel unsafe?
It’s usually the parents. Maybe if the parents drove safer…or didn’t drive.
Two things no one will touch in this country: cars and parents.
A great fix we’ve got ourselves into.
This. I live near one elementary school and work near another. Running or biking near them around dropoff time is ridiculous. Sometimes terrifying.
Also, if the student was crossing with the light – isn’t the driver at fault? Regardless, safe driving tips should have gone out with the letter home to families. Safer driving would improve the safety of students getting to school on foot/bike and those who ride in cars with parents etc.
Yes. While probably not intentional, the wording of the school’s statement seems to imply that the student did something wrong. By emphasizing “bike safety tips” it inadvertently gives the impression that the victim should have been doing more, thereby deflecting responsibility from the driver.
this is completely unacceptable. kids getting safely to school should be our number one transportation priority. the area around Tubman is in desperate need of some modern safety features. If anyone is interested in joining me to do something about this send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ban all cars within 2 blocks of all K-8 schools.
We can just do it from an hour before school starts to half an hour after it starts and then again in the afternoon from half an hour before it lets out to an hour after it lets out, and include the high schools. It’s going to be real fun where there are different level schools near each other with staggered schedules.
Just think of the increase in classroom performance and health benefits of the kids having to walk or ride a bit every day as well as not getting clobbered on their way to/from the schools.
This only pushes the conflict zone out two or more blocks from the school and into the surrounding neighborhood where sight lines and crossing infrastructure are probably even worse.
This should also be extended to include high schools.
There is no traffic enforcement and there are virtually no consequences for failure to abide by the traffic laws.
Every motorist knows that “I didn’t see them,” is a valid excuse for any violation of the traffic laws. If, by chance the driver forgets to utter this phrase, they can hide behind “it was just an accident (aka I didn’t intend for it to happen)” and be absolved of all responsibility.
This morning’s driver will be “so relieved and thankful that no one was hurt” that he/she will change behavior for about two days and revert to careless or inattentive driving within 48 hours. By Thursday morning he/she will be doing exactly what he/she was doing today.
>>> “it was just an accident (aka I didn’t intend for it to happen)” and be absolved of all responsibility. <<<
Until someone calls your insurance company, and they jack up your rates after determining you were responsible.
Approach to safety for vulnerable road users including children.
1. Assume that everyone will be driven to the door of their destination by a car. (This may be difficult in the case of a school, but you will manage.)
2. When people walk or ride bikes, pretend like you don’t see people using the road without a car.
3. When confronted with the fact that people do indeed travel without a car, dismiss them as a small fringe minority.
4. Provide meaningless safety advice as if people outside of cars are prone to high risk behavior.
5. When people walking or on bikes ask for acknowledgement, improved facilities or support equivalent to car drivers, inform them that because there are fewer of them than car drivers they do not need improved safety conditions.
6. Invest resources in discouraging or controlling walking and biking. And repeat #4.
7. When a walker or bike rider is inevitably injured or killed due to unsafe conditions that could have been fixed prior to the “accident,” repeat #4, and #5. Use the unfortunate event as evidence that cars are part of the natural order of things and not using them causes bad things to happen. Closely examine the behavior of the walker or biker until a suspicious detail emerges that reveals why they were hurt.
8. At this point it is very important not to make any changes to improve safety. However, if it seems like people are not going to stop complaining you may use the magic paint and repeat #4 and #5.
9. From this point onward it is pretty much 7 and 8 over and over again, which allows for some soul searching statements like “non-motorized travel has plateaued,” “not using a car is a fad that is against human nature,” “you would be crazy or worse to risk your life or the life of your child to travel without 4 walls around you” and “think of the drivers, the poor drivers, the rich drivers, the old drivers and the young drivers with their whole lives of driving ahead of them.”
I knew I should have spent more time reviewing the Zero Vision plan.
Don’t forget “the driver stayed at the scene and cooperated”.
We’re at the point where DUI and hit-and-run are the only frowned-upon behaviors for drivers. Bravo, dude. You hit someone with your car and didn’t flee the scene.
“… a student riding a bike collided with a car …” This is wrong on so many levels. First, notice that both the bicycle rider and the mode of transport were identified. Meanwhile, the collision occurred with a “car”, with no apparent driver involvement.
Secondly, bicycle did not collide with the car (as if the car was stationary). The driver hit a child on a bike
And don’t forget, “Here are some bike riding safety tips for students as well as…” Again, the onus is on the bike riding student who, in this case, sounds like they did everything right.
I am confused. A large part of a cyclist safety is their responsibility. I would imagine someone that does not take that responsibility seriously is more likely to get injured.
And I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that people who take their safety seriously are killed all the time.
Of course, people die tragically every day for a multitude of reasons. That will never change.
I’m glad you are not in charge of public health.
Thankfully not everyone is as unempowered to effect change as your comment suggests you are.
Sounds like we are talking about different things.
There is risk in anything/everything we do, and no amount of policy, legislation, education or infrastructure can prevent death and injury from happening in our everyday lives.
Hmm, I don’t think you’re cut out for commenting in these kinds of articles. The general idea is to figure out the problem and attempt to seek solutions. Since you’ve decided that the problem cannot be fixed, you may as well spare yourself the effort.
“There is risk in anything/everything we do, and no amount of policy, legislation, education or infrastructure can prevent death and injury from happening in our everyday lives.”
Absurd, fact-free assertion.
I take it you are unfamiliar with Vision Zero? Something the Swedish version of our ODOT came up with twenty one years ago and has implemented with extremely impressive results that flatly contradicts your statement.
Just one example of hundreds.
We don’t need to travel to Sweden to see what’s possible (which is, of course, a completely different context) — we have our own Vision Zero program right here in Portland. A quick look at the stats will demonstrate its efficacy when pursued with the zeal of a Platinum city.
I don’t dispute that things can be done to reduce risk. I am saying it never fully goes away. The only fact I could provide to support that is I am not aware of a place where death or injury have been eliminated and everyone dies of old age….even Sweden! 20 years of VZ in Sweden and traffic deaths have g from. 500+ to 270 in 2016, which was an increase from 259 in 2015. That is an exceptional result, but the data suggests that risk remains.
I believe that being able to assses risk in any given situation is one of the most important life skills a person can develop. To suggest risk can be eliminated means people may feel they don’t need to asses their risk, and I think that is very dangerous.
With cycling, as with most activities that require skills, the more you do it the better you get, and, if you pay attention, the better you become at assessing risk…thereby becoming safer.
I am done here. If you, or anyone else wishes to discuss further, I am sure Jonathan could put us in touch.
Tedg 1/16 – “Of course, people die tragically every day for a multitude of reasons. That will never change.”
Tedg 1/17 – “I don’t dispute that things can be done to reduce risk. I am saying it never fully goes away.”
That is much better, but hardly the same thing you said yesterday; and focusing on the impossible distracts from the very real gains that could be achieved by focusing on the things that are possible, that represent real, measurable gains over where we find ourselves today.
Reducing by two-thirds the number of deaths is nothing to sniff at, wave away.
“To suggest risk can be eliminated means people may feel they don’t need to asses their risk, and I think that is very dangerous.”
I recommend, again, Judith Green’s excellent book: Risk and Misfortune: the Social Construction of Accidents. It will clear up lots of these misunderstandings, and add a few new ones. 😉
Here is a link to a link of a review of the book:
To be fair, it’s entirely possible that the car was blocking the intersection and the kid rode into the side of the car, which would make the statement factually accurate. Our neighborhood has an intersection that is pretty crazy during school arrival/departure, and the crossing guards frequently have to step in front of cars to prevent them from blocking the intersections. The kids ride/walk in a swirling mass, and visibility for them is not very good.
Unless you have additional information on what happened, I am not seeing where it says what happened. To suggest that the principals message is “wrong” seems a bit unfair.
I wish that someday, somewhere a governmental agency will realize that there is no “right” to drive and that the US Constitution and Bill of Rights don’t contain the word “automobile” anywhere.
Based on my meager understanding of the law, unless a government agency makes it illegal a person has every right to drive a car.
It’s actually a privilege, and can be revoked, although that doesn’t happen often enough.
It’s a privilege that anyone can get and can only be revoked by a legal process, similar to gun ownership. It really feels more like a qualified right.
Terrible location for a school. And the parents are largely responsible for the car-centric hell if the daily traffic jams there are any indication.
It is not a ‘vast’ distance, and it is signal controlled. If, as stated, the cyclists was moving with the light, what mistakes were made and by whom?
There is insufficient information to draw any conclusions except those assumed based on your personal world view. Such conclusions are not factual.
With a few exceptions, PPS is unequipped and incapable of making travel to and from schools safe for children, and they should have minimal influence in the way that these areas are managed unless they become serious about the safety of children walking and biking to school.
“PPS is unequipped and incapable of making travel to and from schools safe for children….” I absolutely agree. The transportation authorities (i.e. PBOT and ODOT) have control over the facilities and PPB is the enforcer of traffic laws.
Look at ODOT’s stand on transportation safety near Cleveland High School. They mandated that the bike lane on 26th Avenue be removed at Powell Boulevard and they refuse to consider a lower posted speed (i.e. a school zone) on Powell. Every day I see cars (most frequently westbound on Powell) blow through the red at 26th/Powell. Why not a red light camera and PPB enforcement actions at this location.
The green bike boxes on SE 26th at Powell are gone now too.
And that seems to be inviting even more drivers to ignore the “No Right Turn on Red” signs on 26th. I come down that way on my bike on days I take the bus and there were already a few people who didn’t see/ignored those signs when turning west onto Powell, but at least if I was able to be more in front because of the bike box it would give them pause and give them a chance to see it. Now, it seems more of a rarity for cars to wait for the light.
Since it’s not a bike box anymore, perhaps PBOT would paint it red.
This is a problem all over the country, not just in Portland. You should see the insanity at some of the suburban schools where nearly 100% of the students are driven by their parents.
Neigh of these reports contains any information about what actuall happened. In the first report the student was said to have “scratches.” In the second there is no mention of the child being struck in any way, and that the student collided with a car, yet the headline says the student was “Hit by a driver.”
In order to address a problem, I think it would be best to know what happened.
I’d be curious to know what passes for ‘bike riding safety tips for students’, referenced at the end of the Principal’s quote above, but not included with the quote.
The army could set these streets up to be safe in about an hour make it like the green zone. Solved.
Thanks so much for covering this. One of the big challenges is that this intersection is pretty far from the front door or school, yet many kids travel through it to get to Tubman. But people aren’t treating it like a school zone because it’s not a school zone. It’s filled with folks zipping down Vancouver to I5 or zipping down Russell to Interstate. People in cars aren’t as alert to people on foot and in cars as they should be. Perhaps there should be a light for pedestrians and cyclists to cross first, ahead of cars? Or signaled turns only?
Here’s a possible approach: Look at the routes that pupils are using to approach the school, left to their own devices, and work to make those routes safer. There have been at least two incidents but no lives lost, thankfully. We know that after a death it suddenly becomes important to fix things. Why not fix them before? It’s not just about the school either. In the vicinity there is also a large hospital, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, bars and restaurants, various businesses, a residence for people with limited mobility, and of course marked bike routes.
At NE Russell and Vancouver I’d be in favor of signal priority for pedestrians, a narrowing of the approaches to the intersection to reduce speeds, no right on red, and possibly a “Barnes Dance” signal phase. I disagree with paikiala, this intersection IS kind of vast, at least from the perspective of a child on foot. It’s a large open space to seems to favor fast sweeping turns by motor vehicle operators, especially those stretching the green signal into the yellow and beyond. It’s optimized for motor vehicle throughput.
This is an intersection on my route to work so I use it several times a week.