At memorial rally for Lori Woodard, PBOT releases new crash response protocol

Posted by on April 24th, 2019 at 10:51 pm

Broadway and Grand earlier tonight.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

We’ve done this too many times before. Someone is killed. We grieve. We pressure the city to do more. We show up on the street with signs and candles and flowers. Speeches are made.

But this time there was something different. The City of Portland acted before we even showed up.

On Friday, Lori Woodard was killed as she walked across Northeast Broadway on Grand. A delivery truck driver turning left failed to see her and/or failed to prevent the collision (police are still investigating). It happened in a very unforgiving place where drivers dominate and stress runs high for everyone — especially people not protected by a steel cage.


We’ve seen the City of Portland react to deaths like this with infrastructure changes in the past; but never this quickly. This morning, just five days after Woodard’s death, the Bureau of Transportation installed plastic wands and temporary traffic cones to narrow the intersection. They also plugged in a message board sign that flashed the words: “Traffic Death April 19 – Travel With Care”.

As dozens of people gathered for a rally and memorial event at the scene of this tragedy Wednesday evening, PBOT announced signs like this would be the new normal.

“This was a priority before this horrible thing happened. But it underlines how urgent this is. It feels like the climate change issue. We just have to take our work to a different level.”
— Marshall Runkel, Chief of Staff to Commissioner Eudaly

In a directive released today (PDF), interim PBOT Director Chris Warner introduced a “crash response protocol.” “After every fatal crash,” reads the directive, “PBOT will provide an immediate update with all available information to the Commissioner of Transportation. The bureau will then install prominent electronic Variable Message Signs (VMS) at the crash location to mark the tragic crash sites and raise awareness of the traveling public about specific dangers and the overall importance of driving safely in our city.”

The changes installed at the crash location were already vetted and planned through the Central City in Motion plan. PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly signed off on them and Director Warner says he’s pushing PBOT to finish the project “on an expedited timeline.”

Commissioner Eudaly’s Chief of Staff Marshall Runkel lives near the area. He rolled up to the event today on his bicycle. “It’s just such a tragedy,” he shared with me. “We’ve got to respond at some point. It’s too bad it takes something so horrible to happen to get our stuff together. But I’m hoping we can make our actions match our rhetoric. Make our budget match our rhetoric. Make the way we organize our work match our rhetoric.”

“This was a priority before this horrible thing happened,” Runkel continued. “But it underlines how urgent this is. It feels like the climate change issue. We just have to take our work to a different level.”

Runkel’s words come at a time when Portlanders are reeling from a spate of traffic fatalities. Commissioner Eudaly spoke to that in a speech on the street corner at tonight’s event. “This has been a brutal, heartbreaking month on Portland streets. Nine people have died in crashes in less than two weeks.”

So far this year, Portland is averaging about one fatal traffic crash per week.

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Commissioner Eudaly speaking at the event.

Eudaly oversees a bureau that is committed to Vision Zero, an initiative that aims to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2025. “These recent tragedies show us it’s time to do more of this work and to do it faster,” she said. (Read her full statement on her Facebook page.)

While PBOT works on systemic fixes and safety projects citywide, Interim Director Warner said they will “accelerate” the following measures citywide:

Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) will become our default practice at new or upgraded traffic signals on High Crash Network streets. A proven tool to improve pedestrian safety, LPIs give people crossing the street a head start at a crosswalk, making them more visible to drivers and reducing potential conflicts. PBOT will add at least ten LPIs each year to existing signals citywide. (*Note: An LPI has already been implemented at Broadway and Grand)

Protected left turns will become PBOT’s default practice at new or upgraded traffic signals on High Crash Network streets. We will install at least three protected left turns each year at existing signals.

Left turn traffic calming, originally slated to begin this summer, will start immediately. This treatment slows vehicle speeds through large intersections and protects pedestrians at high-conflict turns. It has shown promise in New York and we are excited to evaluate its impact here in Portland.

And when fatal crashes occur, Warner says he will instruct PBOT to do an emergency assessment of the site and, “deploy a range of possible ‘rapid response’ safety improvements that include: interim design changes; signal improvements; and public education. PBOT will apply this protocol to fatal crashes that have happened in the past 12 months.

These are positive measures; but we know it will take much more substantive changes — like reconfiguring lanes, reducing driving space, and creating physical separation between drivers and walkers/bicycle riders — to prevent more deaths.

Below are more images from the event.

Oregon Walks Executive Director Jess Thompson.

Catie Gould from Bike Loud PDX.

Thanks to Bike Loud PDX for pulling this event together and to The Street Trust, Oregon Walks and Community Cycling Center for showing up and offering support.

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

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51 Comments
  • Avatar
    Ted Buehler April 25, 2019 at 1:41 am

    Jonathan — thanks much for covering this event — Classic BikePortland — great photos, good reporting, good commentary.

    Everyone — if you weren’t able to come, but would like to voice your concerns about safety on Broadway and elsewhere, and support PBOT’s safety-oriented policy changes introduced at this memorial, please send an email to Commissioner Eudaly. Something like this:

    “Dear Commissioner Eudaly,
    “Thank you for making immediate safety improvements to Broadway and Grand, and pledging to address safety issues more proactively in the future. Please prioritize funding on fixing Portland’s most dangerous streets, especially Broadway!”

    email: chloe@portlandoregon.gov
    Phone, twitter, Facebook, etc. at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/eudaly/

    Commissioner Eudaly’s office is supportive of our causes. Let’s build momentum.

    Ted Buehler
    BikeLoudPDX

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    Mike Quigley April 25, 2019 at 5:13 am

    There’s been a noticeable uptick in cars plowing through crowds gathered for one reason or another. Watch your back. Always be aware.

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      Middle of The Road Guy April 25, 2019 at 12:06 pm

      Distraction, Impatience and Indifference.

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        Tim April 25, 2019 at 1:15 pm

        + entitlement

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    Eawriste April 25, 2019 at 6:18 am

    PBOTs decision to immediately respond with a potentially temporary redesign and signs is a huge leap forward. I hope they continue to do this at every collision, death or no death. Thanks PBOT!

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    Champs April 25, 2019 at 6:34 am

    The crash protocol is something I argued for a while back. I hope this is inclusive of all city roads irrespective of county or state maintenance.

    This protocol does nothing for a single incident but it might get drivers and the bureau fed up just enough to take Vision Zero from policy to practice in their day to day.

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    billyjo April 25, 2019 at 7:50 am

    So glad that the elected officials had a chance for another photo op in front of the cameras. Since they haven’t been able to fix the problem, maybe they shouldn’t be the one speaking, maybe they should show up to these and just do some listening.

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      Roberta M Robles April 26, 2019 at 11:37 am

      I reject the claim that this is another photo opportunity for a politician. She is a SHERO!!! I support her and want her to dwell in the happy safe place of grassroots community fellowship. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself in the front lines of media and direct action. I want her to be a leader. I want BikeLoudPDX to be media leaders. Some of us don’t want media coverage for other personal reasons. We prefer to organize behind the scenes and step aside when we need a break and there are more effective speakers. She is doing awesome.

      Her active timely response and involvement should be noted to all other politicians. We want you to be successful if you are truly protecting the most valuable community members. We will continue to support you in the background organizing tables. It takes a village and Commission Eudaly is fighting fare and square for our community. WE LOVE COMMISSIONER EUDALY . We recommend she take the weekend off and rest with her family knowing she is a SHERO and we stand in solidarity for a just transit alliance.

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    dwk April 25, 2019 at 7:58 am

    Another pedestrian run over last night…

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      Chris I April 25, 2019 at 9:32 am

      Somewhat ironically, this one was a beer truck driver, who had entered the roadway (Columbia: a very dangerous one) to close a gate. I wonder if it was also Columbia Distributing?

      https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2019/04/pedestrian-dies-after-being-hit-by-taxi-driver-in-ne-portland-police-say.html

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      Chris I April 25, 2019 at 9:36 am

      Why aren’t they considering an all-walk phase for this, instead of LPI? An all-walk with no turn on red would be safer, and more convenient for pedestrians. The north/south crossing isn’t the only problem here. Being able to cross diagonally would save time and reduce conflicts.

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        MTW April 25, 2019 at 1:45 pm

        Quick question, is left turn on red allowed in Portland?

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          idlebytes April 25, 2019 at 1:57 pm

          Yes.
          Make a right or left turn into a one-way street in the direction of traffic upon the one-way street.

          https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/2013/811.360

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            Dan A April 25, 2019 at 9:19 pm

            It’s kind of a well-kept secret. Very few people know about it.

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              Jeff S(egundo) April 26, 2019 at 8:21 am

              Follow-up question : is a left turn on red permitted when you have a red arrow?

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                John Lascurettes April 26, 2019 at 10:32 am

                In Oregon, yes (provided there is no “no turn on red” regulatory sign)

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                Dan A April 26, 2019 at 11:44 am

                I have one of these just outside of my neighborhood, at an intersection where the left turn goes onto the highway onramp. It’s nice to be able to turn left at the red arrow here. All you have to do is check for oncoming traffic straight ahead and to your right. Visibility is better than when making a right on red.

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          Chris I April 26, 2019 at 7:59 am

          It is. This particular intersection has a no turn on red sign, but that doesn’t really stop people.

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    Gary B April 25, 2019 at 8:08 am

    I was on Fessenden yesterday. Finally, finally, workers were cutting asphalt for the first ped island, and every other forthcoming treatment was marked for them to move onto after that. The timing may be coincidence (I know it was scheduled to start soon regardless), but this of course also comes immediately after a recent death and the new policy.

    I’d much rather these tragedies never occur in the first place, but a quick and meaningful response is certainly an improvement.

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      Joe Adamski April 25, 2019 at 8:19 am

      quick and meaningful does not apply to the City re: Fessenden. This project has been kicked down the road for years and would probably still be in review were it not for local SJ activists.

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        Stephen Keller April 25, 2019 at 5:55 pm

        By the look of it, the bike lanes on Fessenden are going to be forced into traffic every few blocks. I hope that is just an artifact of construction and not a promise of the final desi6gn.

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    Jim Lee April 25, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Two more since then.

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    SD April 25, 2019 at 8:43 am

    This is a welcome change from the silence of city hall that has surrounded VRU fatalities. Moving the needle on public opinion and perception is key to making progress. Electeds getting out in front of local news cameras and creating urgency is one of the most effective ways to counter misperceptions and encourage better driving behavior and support for safe infrastructure.
    On the other hand, Wheeler doesn’t understand that his repeated silence and bland statements have been an endorsement of the status quo, in which a large number of people will assume that the victim is at fault, road design doesn’t influence behavior and risky driving practices like speeding and distraction are ok for them because they haven’t killed anyone yet.

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      soren April 25, 2019 at 9:21 am

      Sadly, many transportation wonks/activists championed Wheeler. And many of these same active transportation wonks/activists opposed Eudaly.

      I would like to, again, remind everyone that progressive/left governments led the transportation revolutions in Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Cities that have successfully weaned themselves from socially and environmentally-destructive automobility had one thing in common: progressive leadership.

      It’s time for Portland’s transportation advocates/wonks to recognize which side their bread is buttered on.

      Neoliberal new urbanism is not working.

      Support for corporate democrats has contributed to an environment where 1 person is killed every week.

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        pixie April 25, 2019 at 9:24 am

        comment of the week

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        Middle of The Road Guy April 25, 2019 at 12:08 pm

        Believe it or not I completely agree with you. It’s just that Portland continues to elect inept Progressives.

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          Middle of the Road Guy April 25, 2019 at 3:50 pm

          And I should clarify, I’d have no issues with an “ept” progressive. I just want effective administrators regardless.

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    Scott Kocher April 25, 2019 at 8:51 am

    Thank you BikeLoud, Commissioner Eudaly, PBOT Staff, Jonathan and everyone who spoke and showed up.

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    Scott Kocher April 25, 2019 at 8:55 am

    it will take much more substantive changes — like reconfiguring lanes, reducing driving space, and creating physical AND SIGNAL PHASE SEPARATION between drivers and walkers/bicycle riders — to prevent more deaths.

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    soren April 25, 2019 at 8:55 am

    “PBOT will add at least ten LPIs each year to existing signals citywide. ”

    This is no where near enough.

    Installing an LPI is as simple as reprogramming a traffic control box at many intersections. In NYC, the average cost of the many hundreds of LPIs installed was a paltry $1200 — this is nothing.

    PBOT rolled out LED street lights with remarkable speed once it became clear that the cost-benefit made financial.

    Why are human lives so cheap in Portland?

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      soren April 25, 2019 at 8:57 am

      A GIF showing installations of LPIs over time in NYC:

      https://media.giphy.com/media/3o7WIpO8hkHPLwcAXC/giphy.gif

      If NYC can do this, then so can Portland.

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        eawriste April 25, 2019 at 4:03 pm

        NY is also experimenting with allowing people on bikes to use the LPI instead of the green signal at some intersections, which is a little confusing. LPIs are hard to underestimate. Once there’s a group of people crossing an intersection a driver really has to be persistent and negligent to want to go through them. I like to wave jovially, which often defuses even the most dangerous drivers. Most yield, which has made a lot of intersections in NY a lot safer. A lot of progress has been made in everything by the cops. If only NY could get the NYPD to stop confiscating bikes because a person forgot their bell, or tackling people on bikes because… who knows. Believe it or not the police are still the biggest barrier to safety in NY.

        https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2019/04/24/cops-who-confiscated-bikes-dont-even-know-the-law-they-cited/
        https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2019/02/07/cop-tackles-cyclist-in-midtown-and-its-all-caught-on-camera/

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          soren April 25, 2019 at 7:57 pm

          DC allows all people cycling to use leading pedestrian intervals:

          https://dc.curbed.com/2018/10/31/18048616/dc-vision-zero-leading-pedestrian-intervals-traffic

          Portland has a few leading pedestrian intervals that are signed for people cycling but PBOT staff have been resistant to allowing people cycling to use all LPIs.

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            eawriste April 26, 2019 at 6:23 am

            Awesome. I was hoping this would happen. Nice to see it’s mostly in Ward 7 and 8 where it is sorely needed. I used to wait through a full count on a crosswalk in DC on New York Ave, plus 30 seconds. Two digits only go to 99 seconds, plus another 30. Plus the 10 seconds of red light runners. It gave me a great reason to move away. DC, like Portland, still has a loooong way to go.

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              soren April 26, 2019 at 11:33 am

              Correction: I had thought it was all LPIs but in DC it’s also a subset of LPIs that will be legally useable by people cycling.

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      mh April 25, 2019 at 12:51 pm

      I want scatter crossings or scrambles or whatever we’re calling a VRU free-for-all at every signalized intersection where a VRU has been hit. Program THAT in: nothing powered by anything but muscle power is allowed to move. Then resume the usual intersection motorized death-dance.

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      David Burns April 25, 2019 at 2:43 pm

      “Nowhere near enough” is, I think, quite an understatement.

      10% per year seems approximately reasonable.

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    igor April 25, 2019 at 9:21 am

    What is a “protected left turn”?

    Do any of PBOTs options include a separate phase for pedestrians, so they’re not trying to cross the street when cars are in motion?

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      Gary B April 25, 2019 at 10:43 am

      It means a green arrow for the vehicle turning. It’s technically “protecting” the driver, but means they don’t have to try to squeeze in a left in between oncoming vehicles and crossing pedestrians. The result–as long as there’s not also a “permissive” left (green light but not a green arrow) that follows the protected one–is a separate phase for the pedestrian, because they have a “no crossing” during the protected left phase.

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    Tom April 25, 2019 at 9:46 am

    At 10 LPIs per year, how many years will it take to finish all the LPIs in the city ?

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    J_R April 25, 2019 at 10:02 am

    We could try E N F O R C E M E N T.

    We could also try getting rid of the “I didn’t see him/her defense.”

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    Jim Lee April 25, 2019 at 10:05 am

    Three in one week…extrapolates to 156 in a year…where is LT when we need her?

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    Scott Kocher April 25, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Coming from the agency responsible for the infrastructure “travel with care” feels like finger pointing after a crash. Don’t tell others what they should do. Tell us what you are going to do.

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    Scott Kocher April 25, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    “Emergency assessment of the site.” Good. Then fix it and every other place like it, too. Not just Broadway and Grand. Not just Columbia at 64th.

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    Matt April 26, 2019 at 8:56 am

    It’s great to see the rapid response, but there are so many cheap options that they could do now to make Broadway much safer and avoid the next fatality – prohibit turns on red, get rid of beg buttons so peds always get a walk signal, prohibit parking within 10 feet of an intersection. These are things that many other cities do in downtown/high density neighborhoods.

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    Ted Buehler April 28, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    BTW, for the record. The steps leading to this tragedy did not wander the path of “we don’t have funds to fix this problem.” But rather the “we have funds, but won’t build it.”

    Sources:
    * Funding put in place for Central City Protected Bike Lanes:
    Sept 2013
    https://bikeportland.org/2013/09/18/city-council-backs-21-million-for-better-walking-and-biking-citing-boost-to-economy-94178

    * Staffer hired to implement protected bike lanes
    May 2015 (PBOT was not in a hurry…)
    https://bikeportland.org/2015/05/28/qa-rick-browning-protected-bike-lanes-downtown-portlands-future-143632

    * Council approves plan for protected bike lanes
    Nov 2018
    https://bikeportland.org/2015/05/28/qa-rick-browning-protected-bike-lanes-downtown-portlands-future-143632

    This type of problem is unusual. Most of the time PBOT says “funds are not available” to fix any given problem.

    That PBOT had funds, and was unwilling to make improvements, suggests that the problem of fixing Portland’s streets is much more complex than simply getting more funding.

    It also suggests that there are opportunities to ask for improvements that the bicycling constituency is not taking advantage of, by allowing ourselves to get brushed off with the “not enough funds” reply, and not digging around the edges looking for other ways of asking for improvements to be made.

    This “digging” is a whole range of possibilities. Simply asking for something is one way. Talking to someone other than the project manager, and trying to spur things along, get upgrades, is another. Getting a PBOT staffer to come to your neighborhood meeting, then peppering them with other problems, and asking for a written response is another.

    Other ideas?

    Ted Buehler

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