Another person hit and killed while crossing North Fessenden

Posted by on April 11th, 2019 at 11:28 am

Crisis.

Another person has been killed by a driver while trying to walk across North Fessenden Street.

Commissioner Eudaly expedited installation of new speed limit signs last month.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

According to the Portland Police Bureau a woman was hit while crossing near North Polk Street at around 10:30 pm last night. The driver of a red sedan sped away and is still on the loose.

This brings the toll to two deaths and two serious injuries in the past 15 months.

Just over one month ago we reported that Fessenden was in crisis. Five days later, on March 1st, Portland Bureau of Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly stepped in. “This latest tragedy has shaken the community,” she wrote on Facebook, “and I understand why.”

Eudaly took action by expediting a change to the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph. She had city crews install the signs immediately. Speed reader boards have also popped up on the street.

But it’s clearly not enough.

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PBOT knows this. They’ve been harangued by local residents and activists like Donna Cohen, leader of the Citizens for a Safe and Attractive Fessenden/St Louis/Lombard Facebook page.

Cohen and others have clamored for long-promised safety upgrades like median islands, flashing beacons, curbs extensions, a new lane configuration, and more. PBOT’s St. Johns Truck Strategy Phase 2 project will deliver these upgrades; but it has taken what feels like an eternity to materialize. The plan itself was adopted by council in 2001. The grant to build Phase 2 was accepted in 2010 2013 and engineering and design recommendations were completed in 2013.

PBOT finally received FHWA approval to proceed with the $5 million project in October of last year and construction is finally underway.

From, St. Johns Transportation Concept Development Project, 2013 prepared by T-Y-Lin International for PBOT. North Polk is on the left.

For Cohen and other residents, it didn’t come soon enough. On her group’s Facebook page today, Cohen pointed out that PBOT’s plans call for a new median island and crossing on N Tioga Street — just one block from where the woman was killed last night (see graphic above). “If PBOT had not dragged their feet on this project this is what would be at Tioga now – a 16′-wide median island. You cannot go nearly as fast around a 16′ median island as on a narrow island or a straight-away.”

This is the third traffic fatality in Portland in less than 24 hours and the sixth in the past four days. So far this year 14 people have died on our roads, eight of them were walking.

UPDATE, 5:01 pm:

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

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35 Comments
  • Avatar
    James April 11, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Lower speed limits don’t mean squat if the bloody city doesn’t enforce them! I’ve had cars blow past me in a 30mph zone while they were in the bike lane doing close to 50mph. Nobody stops at stops signs, especially those turning right. I rarely see cars pulled over for traffic violations. All in all, this town really sucks and I can’t wait to move away!

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      Lester Burnham April 11, 2019 at 12:00 pm

      The police department is understaffed here. Add to that police don’t want to pull over folks from certain demographics for fear of being accused of profiling.

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        Shamus April 12, 2019 at 2:20 pm

        Are you suggesting the Portland Police are taking it easy on people of color? Ho boy. Yeah, no.

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      Chris I April 11, 2019 at 12:07 pm

      Are you moving to Europe? It’s as bad or worse in most of America.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty April 11, 2019 at 12:27 pm

        Other places in the US do, in fact, enforce traffic laws.

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          John Lascurettes April 11, 2019 at 1:17 pm

          Other places in our state enforce traffic laws (some famously so). It’s a Portland problem.

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          Chris I April 11, 2019 at 2:03 pm

          But that doesn’t make them safer to walk or bike in, because most have very little pedestrian/bike infrastructure, and very high vehicle speeds. Oregon is close to the top of the list in road safety. My point is that moving away from Portland probably won’t improve his experience with drivers behaving dangerously, enforcement or not.

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            David Hampsten April 11, 2019 at 10:29 pm

            Amen. I live in a city with a much higher police to resident ratio and our speed enforcement is also virtually nil. 20% of our street crash fatalities are pedestrians getting hit by cars at signalized intersections, which typically lack crosswalk lines, pedestrian signals, and drivers who are looking out for anyone but themselves.

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        Middle of the Road Guy April 11, 2019 at 1:14 pm

        I’ve ridden my bike in Spain, Italy and France. I’ve always felt safer on the roads there both as a pedestrian and a cyclist than here. That does not mean both continents are not on a similar path – they just may be at different points of progression.

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        Paul J Atkinson April 12, 2019 at 1:50 am

        Chris I
        Are you moving to Europe? It’s as bad or worse in most of America.Recommended 4

        Hi! Portlander living in Dublin, Ireland for a year. Not sure what you’re referring to in the context of speeding drivers.

        Know what’s fascinating? People don’t speed here. Really almost never. When we take weekend excursions to explore the rest of the island we often rent a car (trains only hit the major cities and we often want to tour around), and when you set the cruise at exactly the speed limit you’re the fastest car on the roads. No kidding. Driving to Cork the weekend before last, my partner commented how on the entire 2.5 hour trip we never exceeded the speed limit and were only passed twice. That includes the stretch of interstate-equivalent where construction caused a drop from 120KPH to 60KPH for about 15K; everyone dropped to 60 *or less* for the whole stretch, no questions.

        There are issues; Dublin cycle lanes are relatively plentiful but often either a) blocked by parked cars, or b) shared with bus / taxi lanes. I appreciate there are dedicated bus lanes, but I don’t love sharing them when I’m riding.

        But yeah, American speeding culture really is not a thing here.

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    Middle of The Road Guy April 11, 2019 at 11:46 am

    I just cannot wrap my head around a hit and run. I get that they are a car-specific incident but I also think they are symptomatic of other societal trends such as a sense of not being part of a community or the responsibilities that come with that.

    Traditional urban planning is certainly to partially to blame – the way our communities are designed results in a minimization of human contact. Zoning certain uses (housing) in one area and other uses in another (commercial), we get into cars in a garage, drive around in an isolated barrier, arrive at a location and often pay no attention whatsoever to those around us.

    Technology isn’t helping either – people get their entertainment and information from little devices instead of interaction and have virtual instead of real communities. We’re seeing a gradual reduction in social skills (less control over anger and impatience) and adherence to the unwritten social contract.

    I don’t think there is a solution – just an acknowledgment that it’s only trending worse.

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  • Avatar
    Chris I April 11, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    We need legislative authority to install speed cameras all over the city. Not just on the high-crash corridors.

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    dwk April 11, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    How many drunk drivers are out there?
    It is only surprising now that anyone stops.

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    • Avatar
      David Hampsten April 11, 2019 at 10:32 pm

      Or stoned? On medications? Being entertained? Too old to drive?

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    Jim Lee April 11, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    We should just do all our own traffic stuff and let ODOT sue if they do not approve.

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    • Avatar
      Dan A April 12, 2019 at 8:56 am

      Like allowing parking that is otherwise illegal in Oregon? I’m not sure I trust PBOT much more than I trust ODOT.

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    MTW April 11, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Even if I thought a city could “enforce” their way to road safety, Portland quite clearly can’t. We’re broke (currently proposing to close parks and community centers) and already under-staffed at PPB. Designing unsafe road conditions and then trying to use police man hours to ticket their way out of the problem is ineffective, wasteful and almost certainly inequitable.

    The streets need to be re-designed in a way that forces compliance (with or without agents of the state being there to drive compliance rates.) Unfortunately, people will drive as fast as THEY feel safe and that high threshold for personal safety (particularly in an SUV) is incompatible with a safe and welcoming environment for VRUs.

    2 people have died in 24 hours, treat this like the emergency it is. Until we can afford to re-engineer these streets properly (with concrete, diverters, re-painting, etc.,) break out the orange cones and take some lanes out. Tactical urbanism and traffic calming.

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    • Avatar
      John Lascurettes April 11, 2019 at 2:32 pm

      Nominee: comment of the week

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty April 11, 2019 at 3:40 pm

      It’s hard for me to understand the city pleading poverty during a period of rapid growth, a building boom, and an influx of highly paid tech jobs.

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      • Avatar
        John Lascurettes April 11, 2019 at 4:17 pm

        Makes one wonder.

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      • Avatar
        dwk April 11, 2019 at 7:22 pm

        I have only lived here 30 years.. Wheeler is the worst mayor since I have lived here.
        Just doesn’t seem to care and no else in this ridiculous form of government we have, does either.

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    • Avatar
      Scott Kocher April 11, 2019 at 8:49 pm

      What MTW said.

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      Scott Kocher April 11, 2019 at 9:00 pm

      Please join me in urging Commissioner Eudaly to re-establish the Traffic Calming Division at PBOT. Her e-mail is chloe{at}portlandoregon.gov.

      It could read something like this:

      Tue 12/4/2018, 3:09 PM

      Dear Commissioner Eudaly and Interim Director Warner,

      Thank you for your stewardship and leadership for PBOT.

      Traffic calming is one of the most important things that Portland needs, city-wide. And yet, for all of the traffic engineers that we have, PBOT has no “traffic calming engineers” and no traffic calming division. People can request traffic-calming through safe[at]portlandoregon.gov and although the requests are many, they are not dealt with on any systematic or programmatic basis. Most people don’t even know how to try to get traffic calming for their street or their neighborhood, or what the options are. If a Portlander searches online for traffic calming they get to this page

      https://www.portlandoregon.gov/inr_view.cfm?id=139

      It says:

      Traffic calming:
      > Potential project streets referred to Traffic Calming Coordinator from various public involvement processes including the police traffic Division (Current funding non-existent)

      Would you please create a Traffic Calming Division at PBOT?

      Thank you,
      Scott

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        David Hampsten April 11, 2019 at 10:39 pm

        The city has no money, and PBOT is the worst off agency, even with the cuts for Police and Parks. But the biggest issue is that Oregonians live in Oregon to avoid paying the sort of taxes that other communities pay – high sales taxes and high property taxes – that typically pay for transportation infrastructure. With vehicles becoming more efficient and even electric, gas tax just doesn’t cut it any more, anywhere in the USA.

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    donttreadonme April 11, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Clearly it is past time to close this road to automotive traffic. There isn’t much question of what the problem is here.

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      Chris I April 11, 2019 at 2:51 pm

      This personal motor vehicle trial period has gone on long enough, given the documented carnage.

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        David Hampsten April 11, 2019 at 10:42 pm

        Yes, we need to do what we already do for bicycle routing and move all car traffic to the next parallel street one block away. That should fix the problem on Fesseden.

        Brilliant!

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    fed up. April 11, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    The systems and institutions we have in place are clearly insufficient and the people running them are apparently uninterested in implementing actual solutions and seem to be content with saying “we’re working on it” each time another person is killed. Why does this continue to be an acceptable situation? Why do we continue to put up with this? Why do these “leaders” and elected officials refuse to do what is asked of them–to protect the people who live and work in this city? What in the hell will it take for this to stop? I’m fed up, angry, and devastated.

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      David Hampsten April 11, 2019 at 10:46 pm

      What have you, yourself, done so far? As a “fed up, angry, and devastated” city resident, do you not see yourself as part of the “systems and institutions” you have allowed to be in place? What are you doing to effect change?

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    bikeninja April 11, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    Why does everyone always think more and more people are going to move to Portland. If we keep on going on in a descent towards lawlessness on the roads and encampment clogged bike paths we will quickly become a cross between Mad Max and “The Warriors.”

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      David Hampsten April 11, 2019 at 10:58 pm

      Everything is relative. Out here in North Carolina, Portland is seen as this west-coast utopian cascade paradise with cheap rental housing, good-paying artistic jobs on every corner, fluoride-free mountain tapwater, excellent public transit, no sales taxes, harmonious racial relations, people biking everywhere, and the best-planned city in America. I kid you not.

      People will continue to come. You will continue to grow at the rate you have since 1990. You will likely top 1 million people by 2040 just in the city.

      Or as local Portland artist Matt Groening put it, Life is Hell. Cowabunga, Dude!

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    J_R April 11, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    On one day 18 years ago, 3000 people were killed. That resulted in an extra hour of delay for every airline passenger and and a $5 fee for every flight and a whole lot of inconvenience.

    Every month, 1500 people are killed by drunk drivers, but there is no political will to do anything! We don’t allow random sobriety stops; we only require “proof of insurance” once every two years.

    It’s absolutely disgusting!

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      Middle of the Road Guy April 11, 2019 at 7:27 pm

      It’s human nature to react quickly (often emotional decisions) to big events/tragedies than react logically to incremental trends such climate or an uptick in vehicular related deaths.

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    Stephen Keller April 12, 2019 at 10:29 am

    I sure wish those stripped buffers between bicycle and motor-vehicle lanes were actually six-foot tall walls like the drawings suggest. I live over there and cars routinely exceed the 25 mph limit along this stretch by a lot.

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