BikePortland

Opinion: The crisis continues as 6-year-old injured by driver


The driver sped around stopped cars and struck the girl in the bike lane on the left. (Note that the westbound bike lane on the right is protected.)

Another person has been hit trying to walk across a notoriously dangerous street in Portland. This time it was a six-year-old girl who was walking with her mom on Southeast Division Avenue.

According to the Portland Police Bureau it happened yesterday evening just after 6:00 pm at the intersection of 107th and Division:

Preliminary information suggests the child and her mother had activated the lights for the marked cross walk in the intersection and cars had stopped. As they started crossing in the cross walk, the suspect vehicle passed the stopped vehicles on the right hand side, in the bike lane, then struck the child. The vehicle continued without stopping. The mother was not hit.

The girl was transported to a hospital with what PPB describes as “non life-threatening injuries”. If you have any information about this collision, and/or if you’ve seen the white sedan that committed this crime, please call the police non-emergency line at (503) 823-3333.

The opposite side of the street has a protected bike lane that might have prevented the driver from swerving around stopped cars.

As the police statement suggests, this collision took place at a crosswalk that has a rapid flashing beacon. The crossing at SE 107th and Division was upgraded by the Portland Bureau of Transportation in 2015 with median islands, caution signage, a flashing beacon, and a protected bike lane. The project was part of PBOT’s East Portland Rapid Flash Beacon initiative that added similar crossings at 17 intersections.

The flashing beacons are not enough. When placed on untamed arterials with high driving volumes and high speeds, they can offer a false sense of security. Last October a man and young child were hit in a similar type of crossing on SE 122nd outside Midland Library. Less than one month before that collision, we reported that, “It will take much more than flashing lights to tame 122nd.”

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From the photo you can see that last night’s collision might not have happened if the bike lane was protected on both sides of the street. Police say the suspect driver was headed eastbound and that the two general traffic lanes were occupied by other drivers. If the driver was going westbound, a concrete median would have prevented them from zooming around the stopped traffic.

This dangerous behavior of using bike lanes to swerve around stopped traffic is rampant across Portland. I see it almost every day on North Willamette Blvd and Rosa Parks Way. It happens because we’ve made our bike lanes wider in recent years (a good thing), but we’ve failed to do anything to protect them (a bad thing). Making it possible for people to use bike lanes to go around stopped traffic is dangerous, illegal, and it forms bad habits that — as we saw with last night’s tragedy — can and will lead to serious injuries and deaths.

We must build more protected bike lanes and implement more aggressive measures to control driving behavior and rein in the inherent deadly power of automobiles.

Last night’s crash is just the latest illustration of Portland’s transportation crisis.

Signs being made for a protest and memorial march in St. Johns on Friday.
(Photo: Citizens for a Safe Fessenden)

While electeds and bureaucrats try to justify their support of $500 million for an unnecessary freeway expansion at the Rose Quarter, Portlanders continue to pay with our lives for the lack of progress on road safety.

Last week PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly stood on the corner of Northeast Broadway and Grand — another notorious high-crash arterial where safety upgrades have languished and just feet away from where Lori Woodard was killed in a crosswalk — and said, “These recent tragedies show us it’s time to do more of this work and to do it faster.”

This Friday, St. Johns residents will march to demand safety updates on North Fessenden where there have been two people killed and three others seriously injured while walking in the past three years. Other north Portland residents are so desperate for safer streets they’ve resorted to placing plastic cups on unprotected bike lanes.

Commissioner Eudaly’s sense of urgency is a good sign. It’s unfortunate however, that Mayor Ted Wheeler didn’t even mention transportation safety during his (invite only, and BikePortland was not invited) State of the City speech last night.

We need to defend our streets from the menace of people driving dangerous vehicles.

When a six-year-old is hit in a crossing with flashing lights that PBOT touts as “safety improvement,” we need to stop and look at ourselves in the mirror. Are we doing enough? Who will die next? Could we have done something to prevent it?

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

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