Portland Century - August 18th

Traffic Division officers star in new PPB ‘Talking Beat’ podcast

Posted by on May 8th, 2019 at 1:05 pm

Traffic Division Sgt. Ty Engstrom is featured in the new podcast.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Everyone’s podcasting these days… including your local police officers.

The Portland Police Bureau launched a new podcast today. The ‘Talking Beat’ aims to provide, “Thoughtful conversations that… will inform and provide you with a small glimpse of the work performed by Portland police officers as well as issues affecting public safety in our city.” Among the first three episodes unveiled today included a discussion about transportation issues.

Traffic Division Sgt. Ty Engstrom and Ofc. Chris Johnson joined the host for a wide-ranging chat that included topics like distracted driving, visibility of walkers (or lack thereof), why people are allowed to speed without being cited, and more. (You might recall that Sgt. Engstrom was recently featured in our story about stop sign enforcement at Ladd Circle.)

Below are a few salient excerpts:

“Everybody’s driving over the speed limit. And so the majority of traffic officers give quite a bit of leeway when it comes to speeding.”

On people not being visible enough when outside of a car…

Host: I think people wear all black, they have the choice to wear all black, but then they dart across the street. And they may have the walk signal and they may have the right to wear all black, but the bottom line is, I can’t see you. So I guess you can be right, but you can also be dead right.

Ofc. Johnson:.. my feeling is pedestrians need to have a role of making themselves more visible because the driver as they’re driving, what they’re picking up on is going to be movement or some sort of visibility, being able to identify something out there in the road. And they’re scanning and sometimes the wipers are going, it’s raining, it’s dark. Sometimes the dash lights are there so they can’t see as well as a pedestrian often thinks they’re being seen.

On distracted driving…

Host: What’s the top worst behavior you see?

Sgt. Engstrom: I think there is quite a bit of distracted driving out there. Our current laws talk about electronic device use that is specifically prohibited. However, there’s a lot of other distractions out there. It’s not just those things. Maybe those are the ones that are specifically included in the laws… So I think distractions play a large role and then also speed. Many studies have gone to look at speed and that’s a high contributor to crashes. And if we reduce the speeds, the amount of safety that is a result of that is exponential.

Host: We focus on the texting and the talking on our phones, but I’ve seen people shaving, reading their paper, eating a hamburger. You can cite them for that too?

Sgt. Engstrom: Not under that particular law, but we have other laws that can take into account those types of behaviors. Careless driving is a pretty all-encompassing type of law where if they’re doing anything that can put other people in danger, then depending on the level of that danger and the level of their actions, it could either be a violation of careless driving or it can be a crime of reckless driving, which a crime they can actually go to jail for.

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On vulnerable road users…

Host: We focus a lot on driving behavior, but there’s also the vulnerable road users. There’s bicyclists, there’s scooters, there’s pedestrians. And last year we had a significant number that were either injured or killed. They play a role as well. What can they do to stay safe?

Sgt. Engstrom: So anybody that’s not in a car, they’re not protected by that steel and metal all wrapped around them, and airbags and such. So they’re pretty vulnerable. I’m not going to say that it’s all the car’s fault, all the bicyclist’s fault, all the pedestrian’s fault. It’s everybody together. Everyone needs to take an effort and take a step towards making our roads more safe, and everyone needs to take their safety into their hands as well.

On officers’ discretion on when to cite…

Host: How do you decide whether to give a citation versus a warning?

Sgt. Engstrom: I can’t speak for all officers, but I will say that the majority of traffic officers probably feel the same way as me, that we give a lot of leeway. If we wanted to go out and write tickets for a five miles an hour over the speed limit, we could do that all day long. Everybody’s driving over the speed limit. And so the majority of traffic officers give quite a bit of leeway when it comes to speeding. I’m not going to say a specific number because I don’t want to give a magic number out to everybody and say, “Oh, it’s okay to go this fast because you’re not going to get a ticket.” But we give a lot of leeway. So if we stop you, that means you’ve pushed it real far.

And same thing with a lot of violations. Running red lights or things like that, I have a certain guideline for myself when the light turns red, where the position of the car is kind of a thing, and we give people a lot of leeway.

My goal is not to punish people and impact their lives and their livelihood with a bunch of fines and things like that.

What do you think? Full episode below:

You can learn more about the podcast on their website. If you have feedback or suggestions for future shows, call and leave a message at (971) 339-8868 or email talkingbeat@portlandoregon.gov.

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

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87 Comments
  • Avatar
    turnips May 8, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    gross.

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    Jay Dedd May 8, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks for the time saver, Jonathan. Seems like absolutely no reason to listen. Modern medium, but 1970s content.

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    John Lascurettes May 8, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    tl;dr: It’s vulnerable people’s problems that they get hurt. Also, everybody speeds. We can’t pull everybody over. Same with red light runners.

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      Middle of the Road Guy May 8, 2019 at 3:51 pm

      It’s almost like vulnerable people can’t do a thing to lessen their risk.

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        John Lascurettes May 8, 2019 at 4:07 pm

        They. Shouldn’t. Have. To.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty May 8, 2019 at 5:27 pm

          They shouldn’t have to, but they do. Both can be true.

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            John Lascurettes May 9, 2019 at 10:05 am

            Vulnerable people can dress like traffic cones and they’ll still keep getting hit as long as we keep excusing bad driving and looking only for the “really bad ones” (as well as engineering surface roads for convenient speed).

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty May 9, 2019 at 10:53 am

              This is true. And as long as most people feel a certain level of collateral damage is an acceptable price to pay for our transportation system, this will not change.

              The real challenge is to create a political imperative for change. This is happening, slowly, in fits and starts, and we need to find ways to accelerate it.

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        soren May 10, 2019 at 7:06 am

        “lessen their risk.”

        translation: attaching some arbitrary behavior to people walking so that we can justify automobile slaughter as “normal”.

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          El Biciclero May 10, 2019 at 12:09 pm

          Exactly. If I get run over, I guess I didn’t “lessen my risk” enough. How about if we start thinking about how I can lessen the risk of my behavior to other people? Is it just an American thing? An American Traffic thing? A universal traffic thing? What is it that says, “driving around is hard, therefore no one can expect me to do it well, and they’d all better watch out for themselves and do everything conceivable to make it easier for me.”? If I am presenting the danger, why do you have to take all the responsibility?

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    Steve B May 8, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    Yikes

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    Dan A May 8, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    I can’t even bring myself to listen to it. Those quotes were cringe-worthy.

    Platinum!

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      Moleskin May 8, 2019 at 2:50 pm

      Yeah, I really don’t think there should be much or any leeway on red-light running. You are either driving recklessly or you are dangerously inattentive if you manage to do this. This is pretty disappointing to hear.

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    Dan A May 8, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    “Ofc. Johnson:.. my feeling is pedestrians need to have a role of making themselves more visible because the driver as they’re driving, what they’re picking up on is going to be movement or some sort of visibility, being able to identify something out there in the road. And they’re scanning and sometimes the wipers are going, it’s raining, it’s dark. Sometimes the dash lights are there so they can’t see as well as a pedestrian often thinks they’re being seen.”

    It’s good to know that Officer Johnson is unaware of the Basic Speed Rule, which is, like, RULE NUMBER ONE for operating any kind of vehicle safely.

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    Middle of the Road Guy May 8, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    His responses seem fairly reasonable to a reasonable person.

    BTW, Engstrom pulled me over on my bicycle several years ago. He was pretty professional and fair.

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      Jay Dedd May 8, 2019 at 4:53 pm

      That comment is pretty much the definition of “tautology.” Look it up, along with Oregon’s Basic Speed Rule mentioned upthread: https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.100

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      SD May 9, 2019 at 9:08 am

      That was clearly the intention of his responses. Although, I think you could more accurately replace “reasonable” with “normal,” and it would have the same meaning. As a presumed expert in traffic safety and prevention of traffic related harm, he could use his position to say something meaningful or information-rich. Instead, he chooses to make statements that are intended to be friendly and reassuring to large number of people that are responsible for traffic related harm.
      His responses are more PR for PPB rather than anything related to traffic safety. The unfortunate result is reinforcement of the status quo, which should not be acceptable for people in his position.

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        stephan May 9, 2019 at 9:30 am

        Actually, I think that’s a useful comment because it shows that it is the culture, and not just this particular person, that is the problem.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty May 9, 2019 at 9:31 am

        Why should the police be responsible for challenging the status quo when the vast majority of people seem satisfied with it?

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          Jay Dedd May 9, 2019 at 9:45 am

          Well, maybe because they’re sworn to _uphold the law_. The actual law. Not the status-quo misinterpretation of the law.

          Oath: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/Citycode/28447

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty May 9, 2019 at 10:22 am

            Upholding the law does not mean zealously enforcing every infringement. The police have, and need, discretion.

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            • Avatar
              Jay Dedd May 9, 2019 at 10:30 am

              You must be super-buff from moving those goalposts.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty May 9, 2019 at 10:49 am

                I am!

                But, speaking of which, if you want to address why the police should be responsible for changing the status quo, please feel free.

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                Jay Dedd May 9, 2019 at 10:59 am

                Already did that; simply look upthread.

                That will be all from me on this thread.

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                Rain Panther May 9, 2019 at 11:46 am

                I do find it troubling that this guy seems more interested in ingratiating himself to the average (i.e., motorist) citizen than in protecting the citizenry as a whole.

                To drivers, the message is: “Hey, we get it – everybody speeds and runs red lights, everyone’s distracted sometimes. Don’t worry – we’re not gonna pull you over for every little thing.”

                To walkers and bikers: “You better make damn sure drivers see you, since they’re likely to be speeding and/or distracted. If only there was something we could do about that.”

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty May 9, 2019 at 12:02 pm

                I think your description of the “messages” is pretty much spot on. To change them, we need to change the political environment that the police are responding to. If the mayor starts saying “We need a speeding crackdown — top priority, zero tolerance!”, then we might start getting more zealous enforcement of speed.

                Instead, the message the police are getting from the mayor is “we’re not going to fund traffic enforcement” and from activists “traffic enforcement is racist.” No wonder they only focus on the most egregious cases.

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          Dan A May 9, 2019 at 10:16 am

          PPD: “Sworn to Protect, Dedicated to Serve The Majority”

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          SD May 9, 2019 at 1:54 pm

          I am guessing that your comment was meant mostly as a joke, but if it wasn’t my response would be that it’s his job to challenge the status quo because the evidence on how to make streets safer challenges the status quo, and this police officer is providing his opinions as an expert. We expect honesty from physicians on what is harmful to our health regardless of whether it challenges the status quo. We should expect this from other experts as well.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty May 9, 2019 at 2:21 pm

            Not really. I would not expect the police to go beyond what they’re asked to do by their bosses, and, ultimately, the mayor. That’s where responsibility for setting priorities lies, not with workers on the front line.

            Our mayor has not made traffic enforcement a priority.

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              Dan A May 10, 2019 at 12:16 pm

              I don’t know how we can infer that this lack of priority is on their bosses or the mayor. It seems to me that the officers are taking credit for this leeway.

              “I can’t speak for all officers, but I will say that the majority of traffic officers probably feel the same way as me, that we give a lot of leeway. If we wanted to go out and write tickets for a five miles an hour over the speed limit, we could do that all day long. Everybody’s driving over the speed limit. And so the majority of traffic officers give quite a bit of leeway when it comes to speeding. I’m not going to say a specific number because I don’t want to give a magic number out to everybody and say, “Oh, it’s okay to go this fast because you’re not going to get a ticket.” But we give a lot of leeway. So if we stop you, that means you’ve pushed it real far.”

              This is pretty sad state of affairs. I manage a team of people at my job. I wonder what would happen if I told my department head that all of my employees fail to do their jobs regularly, and that nothing can be done about it because if I had to intervene with them to put them on the right path, I would be spending all of my time managing.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty May 10, 2019 at 12:24 pm

                You seem to be assuming that the department head is telling officers to crack down on speeding, and they’re not doing the job. I question that assumption.

                What if the job was keeping things from getting too far out of hand?

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          SD May 11, 2019 at 11:19 pm

          When the status quo is recognized as unacceptable to the extent that laws are created to change it, i.e. distracted driving and speeding, the police should enforce those laws. Of course this is not absolute, so no need to go down that road. But with regards to this podcast, when someone is recognized as an authority on traffic safety, they have the responsibility to communicate a message that is beneficial and is intended to improve improve traffic safety. The culture of the police appears to be that too often that they embrace their authority, and do not embrace the responsibility that goes with it.

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        El Biciclero May 10, 2019 at 12:14 pm

        I’d be more harsh than that. I see these responses as “biased so as to appeal to a majority who have similar biases.”

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    David May 8, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    Comments such as the ones highlighted in this article is why lower speed limits are absolutely necessary. If PBOT is aiming for cars to travel, say, 30 MPH on a particular road then it seems the speed limit needs to be 25 MPH or more likely 20 MPH to achieve this behavior.

    We can’t depend on enforcement so social psychology will have to do the work for us. A lot of people have been conditioned that’s it’s acceptable to go 5-10 MPH above the speed limit but not above that point. Without support from PPB to keep the roads safer in a meaningful way we need to utilize alternatives.

    Also victim blaming is never a good look. If a pedestrian is “darting out” while wearing all black and having right-of-way then it’s on drivers to pay attention. We never hear about cars with dark paint having visibility issues and people suggesting a new paint job would be appropriate.

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      Middle of the Road Guy May 8, 2019 at 3:57 pm

      A pedestrian wearing all black and voluntarily darting into traffic is an idiot, plain and simple. People have agency – if they choose not to use it and increase their own risk of injury, they have some ownership over that result.

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        Chris I May 8, 2019 at 7:42 pm

        This rarely happens. In most cases, driver inattentiveness leads them to believe that the person is darting into traffic. I rarely see this while driving. I do see a lot of pedestrians trying to cross in heavy traffic, with no one stopping for them. I’ve also seen people run across quickly when there are gaps, something that an inattentive driver might perceive as darting.

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        Dan A May 8, 2019 at 8:08 pm

        Most importantly, pedestrians should do their best to not be children, elderly, disabled, minorities or poor, as those people seem to be more likely to be run down while trying to exist in their own neighborhoods.

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        turnips May 9, 2019 at 10:21 am

        as it happens, that pedestrian is also a straw man.

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        El Biciclero May 9, 2019 at 10:31 am

        Two problems here:
        1) define “dart” — as mentioned already, just because you saw me at the last second doesn’t mean I jumped in front of you at the last second.

        2) quantify the appropriate level of “agency” a pedestrian—especially a really young, really old, or less able pedestrian—should take to avoid being responsible for getting themselves run over.

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        JP May 9, 2019 at 10:36 am

        Floating the idea that vulnerable road users need to take even more precautions than most already do by dressing like human traffic cones makes it easier and easier to write off tragic and preventable deaths as the fault of the victim. It’s gross.

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        El Biciclero May 9, 2019 at 10:58 am

        “…everyone needs to take their safety into their hands as well.”

        This “it’s a team effort” garbage drives me nuts. Yes, self-preservation instincts will heighten my awareness of what’s going on around me, but I think there is too much emphasis on watching out for one’s own safety, screw everybody else. Under that rubric, drivers have done everything they need to do by…driving the biggest car they can afford—they’ve taken their own safety into their hands. Meanwhile, those of us on foot or other non-enclosed, slower-than-average vehicle apparently have tons of additional “agency” we need to exert, no quantity of which is ever “enough”. There’s a whole checklist:

        – Helmet? (not a legal requirement).
        – Front light? (legal requirement at night).
        – Rear light? (not a legal requirement).
        – Rear reflector? (legal requirement at night).
        – Reflective clothing? (not a legal requirement).
        – Riding at a “high rate of speed”? (huh?).
        – Riding too slowly
        – Broke some law just before getting hit? (this is usually based on the sole testimony of the driver, and as mentioned in the podcast quote, the driver was probably speeding or distracted)
        – Riding outside the bike lane? (was there a bike lane? Was it clear?)
        – Riding “in the middle of the road” (often legal, with or without a bike lane)
        – Swerving into traffic? (the bike equivalent of “darting”)
        – Riding in the driver’s “blind spot”? (I got your blind spot right heah).
        And the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free passphrase:
        – Came out of nowhere.

        If a bicyclist (or to a lesser extent a pedestrian) fails any of the above points, welp, they had it coming—and there is almost always some point of “failure” noted on the part of the VRU.

        Without witness testimony to egregious driver behavior prior to a collision, the only thing we care to mention about drivers is whether or not they “stay at the scene and cooperate”, or are drunk. Because again, they’ve taken all the necessary safety steps by choosing to drive a car.

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          El Biciclero May 9, 2019 at 10:59 am

          Sheesh. Not intended as a reply.

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          David May 9, 2019 at 11:02 am

          Nominating for Comment of the Week.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty May 8, 2019 at 5:41 pm

      >>> We never hear about cars with dark paint having visibility issues and people suggesting a new paint job would be appropriate. <<<

      When I was learning to drive, I was told, repeatedly, not to get a black car for just this reason. Also, I think everyone would agree it's dangerous to drive around at night without lights, or to pull out of a driveway or parking space without making sure the way is clear. So maybe this victim-blaming stuff is not as clear-cut as you suggest.

      But I agree with you on the speed limits.

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      • Avatar
        Chris I May 9, 2019 at 9:25 am

        While this may have been your experience, it clearly isn’t commonly taught, or is widely ignored, as black and dark blue/green/grey make up about 25% of all cars sold in 2018:

        https://www.kbb.com/car-news/what-are-the-best-car-colors-to-buy-/2100006449/

        While white is the most common color, a good percentage of those are fleet vehicles. Actual consumer choice for dark colors is likely in the 30%+ range. It is also common to see modifications that tint the front windows, and modify lights to use darker plastics (the “smoked” look).

        I find the black, dark blue, and dark grey to be the most hazardous during heavy rain and/or fog. If these vehicles don’t have their running lights on, they will seemingly come out of nowhere during adverse weather.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty May 9, 2019 at 9:38 am

          >>> they will seemingly come out of nowhere during adverse weather. <<<

          Victim blaming. As a driver of a dark gray car, it's not my responsibility to be seen.

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            Chris I May 9, 2019 at 4:23 pm

            They aren’t a victim since they have not been injured in a crash, but they are in violation of ORS 811.515.1 if they are driving without lights on during limited visibility conditions:

            https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.515

            Dark grey, huh? I guess you didn’t listed to that advice?

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      SERider May 9, 2019 at 10:37 am

      David
      We never hear about cars with dark paint having visibility issues and people suggesting a new paint job would be appropriate.Recommended 6

      Because cars are legally required to have working front and rear lights, 3 brake lights, and reflectors on all sides of the vehicle.

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        David May 9, 2019 at 10:57 am

        Those same cars are also required to be driven by people that follow the rules of the road, which happen to include not hitting people and things (i.e. trees, traffic signal control boxes, utility poles, other cars, etc.).

        Also it seems to be pretty common to see cars with at least one of those required lights not functioning properly, or for the lights to be turned off because the driver is either careless or unaware of their car’s (lack of) visibility to others.

        We should really have cars decked out in hi-viz color schemes for cars. It’s amazing that with all of this technology no one has managed to implement a hi-viz and high contrast color scheme for these multi-ton steel cages.

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    • Avatar
      PS May 9, 2019 at 11:04 am

      Regardless of vehicle color, cars have literally been made to be more visible for many many years. Requirements for reflectors go back nearly 50 years and lights, for daytime and night, go back 15 or so.

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    PDXCyclist May 8, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    This interview pretty much makes the case for safety cameras at all downtown Central City and close-In East side intersections, average speed cameras on our arterials, and bus cameras for current and future bus lanes.

    PPB tacitly endorsed speeding and pretty much don’t want to enforce red light running. They obviously didn’t intend it like this but my takeaway is: better let the computer that doesn’t have subjectivity do the ticketing

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    Oregon Walks May 8, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    In a growing, dense city, there are many factors that result in pedestrian injury and death — from poor lighting, unsafe speeds, roads designed for the convenience of multi-ton vehicles and drivers. We need a culture shift that stops blaming vulnerable road users when our road design is the problem.

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      soren May 10, 2019 at 6:53 am

      There is one overarching factor: the 4-8 ton automobile.

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    Dan A May 8, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Who is the nameless host?

    “I think people wear all black, they have the choice to wear all black, but then they dart across the street. And they may have the walk signal and they may have the right to wear all black, but the bottom line is, I can’t see you. So I guess you can be right, but you can also be dead right.”

    This is just a collection of worn out tropes that have little bearing on the truth, and should have been addressed with a rebuttal, not with agreement. I wonder what percentage of dead pedestrians were killed because they were ‘wearing all black and darting out across the street’. Could anyone even cite ONE example of this happening in Portland?

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    Jim May 9, 2019 at 8:56 am

    PPB Traffic Division = foxes guarding the hen house.

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    Daniel Amoni May 9, 2019 at 9:52 am

    The fact that unarmored road users can do a lot of things to reduce their risk is irrelevant to the fact that many drivers are extremely negligent in their driving, increasing the odds of hitting a pedestrian, cyclist, or other unarmored road user.

    I walk and bike a lot, and daily witness drivers speeding, not fully stopping at stop signs, and failing to properly scan the road for unarmored road users. There needs to be a heavy handed campaign by PPB to stop the reckless driving in the city. I’d leave the pedestrian and cycling education to groups like the Street Trust and Oregon Walks.

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    pdx2wheeler May 9, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    “My goal is not to punish people and impact their lives and their livelihood with a bunch of fines and things like that.” [So I let them continue with their negligent driving behavior until that same person later impacts the lives and livelihoods of the victims they mow down …]

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      Q May 9, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      Absurd. We could save a lot of money by sending all the cops home, since they won’t want to impact peoples lives and whatnot.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty May 9, 2019 at 2:58 pm

        I think you and they disagree about what “impacting people’s lives” means. To them, issuing fines is a negative impact, to you it’s a positive.

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    MantraPDX May 9, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    I’ve never fully understood the dark clothing complaint.

    At first glance I find myself sympathetic to automobile drivers. Then I apply any modicum of thought and always reach the same conclusion: Automobiles have 10s of thousands of lumens shooting out of from of them. It’s legally required. Why does it matter what color someone’s clothes are when you have mini-suns shooting blinding beams of light out the front of your vehicle?

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty May 10, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      Have you really never experienced having trouble seeing someone when driving at night?

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        Dan A May 10, 2019 at 2:11 pm

        Your frequent comments about how difficult you find it to see people at night suggests it’s time for you to stop driving at night.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty May 10, 2019 at 2:24 pm

          You’ve never experienced it?

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            Dan A May 10, 2019 at 3:09 pm

            We have spotty lighting in my neighborhood, and a very high number of early morning joggers in the road. I typically encounter 2-5 of them every time I drive out around 5:30am, some of them with lights, some of them without, usually in the center of the lane. I don’t find them any harder to spot than anything else in the road, like garbage cans, piles of leaves, cars or trailers. In most cases they are more visible because they are moving.

            But, I also drive and bike following the basic speed rule, and I actively look for potential obstacles in the road.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty May 10, 2019 at 3:33 pm

              I will note that you did not directly answer the question about whether you’ve ever experienced difficulty seeing a pedestrian at night. Instead, you described a situation you find easy to navigate (people jogging in the center of the traffic lane, on what sounds to be a low-volume suburban residential street) that is pretty much totally unlike driving along streets like Powell that function both as highways and as urban streets with lots of vehicles, people (who occasionally behave erratically), visual noise, and obstructions.

              Sorry to sound like a broken record, but reality is a lot less black-and-white than you (and others here) portray it.

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                John Lascurettes May 10, 2019 at 4:01 pm

                It really is that black and white though. If you are ever surprised by an object in the street at night (especially those that are not moving), you are outrunning your headlights or not paying close enough attention. Either way, if you experience that, the general speed law says to slow the eff down. But like speeding in the day, or running yellow/red lights, it’s not a priority to penalize people that do it. To answer your question directly, sure, I’ve been surprised by something in the road at night — and I slowed the hell down after that.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty May 10, 2019 at 5:10 pm

                That’s how I respond as well. The point is understanding that it is sometimes hard to see people rather than dismissing that concept as absurd just because you have mini-suns blazing out of the front of your vehicle. Once you understand people can be hard to see, you can adjust your behavior accordingly.

                This will be my final post in this thread.

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                Dan A May 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

                Yes you can and you should. But many people do NOT adjust their driving accordingly, and run people over as a result, and are given a pass because driving well is more than many humans can handle, and ‘enforcement’ is done after the fact with a heavy dose of officer discretion from a position of bias against those who are not in cages.

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    MantraPDX May 11, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    I personally don’t think it matters whether I’ve experienced that or not. At the end of the day the onus is on the person piloting the vehicle to not hit stuff.

    In my nearly 25 years of driving and 30 something years of cycling I have never even come close to striking a pedestrian. I’d like to believe that has something to do with my driving habits and respect for the hunk of steel I’m responsible for. I’m sure we could all come up with 1001 quibbles for any scenario, but on a legal/moral level it’s black and white to me. You can split hairs about clothing colors all you want; in the mean time I’ll be driving around with the understanding that it’s my responsibility to not mow people over and acting accordingly… regardless of what everyone is wearing.

    I’m as much of a bleeding heart as the next person, but I believe we’ve reached a point where our overzealous attempts at empathizing with and rationalizing every little thing are creating more problems than they’re solving. We debate laws, come to terms, and implement them for this very reason. The legal system is supposed to create a level playing field for all no matter how nice someone’s excuse sounds when they get caught afoul of the law.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty May 11, 2019 at 2:28 pm

      I’ve never come close to hitting someone in my car either, but I have on my bike, a couple of times, at night, in Ladd’s where the streets are extra dark, and, recently, another cyclist who was invisible. Of course the moral and legal onus is clear, but I approach safety on a practical level, that suggests defensive driving/biking/walking/scooting, to be cautious even when it’s not strictly my responsibility to do so. I believe that, despite their protestations, most people here do the same.

      The real goal is not to assert responsibility or assign “onus”; the real goal is for everyone to arrive home safely, even if someone makes a mistake, has a lapse of attention, or incorrectly asserts a right-of-way. Blaming, caricaturing, and othering doesn’t really help.

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        turnips May 11, 2019 at 3:34 pm

        it is, I hope obviously, good advice for everybody to take reasonable actions that make them and others safer. I don’t believe anybody here has argued otherwise.

        it is an entirely different thing for a person in a position of power and authority to publicly suggest that the most vulnerable and least dangerous road users are responsible for their own deaths and injuries and that unsafe (and illegal) actions by the least vulnerable and most dangerous road users are perfectly acceptable.

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          El Biciclero May 11, 2019 at 4:17 pm

          This is the trouble. As long as those who get run over also get the blame, those who are posing the danger get the message that they’ve done all they can do, were “doing everything right”, and, wow, that guy just came out of nowhere! I hope he’s more careful next time! (if there is a next time). There is no (or very weak) messaging that drivers should be more careful all the time.

          Now, I’m sure that most drivers don’t set out to be careless, and don’t believe they are being careless or inattentive when they are driving just like everybody else, but how many are truly constantly scanning—not just casually glancing—for all conceivable hazards? That’s what we expect bicyclists to do. But when we talk about “being seen”, we’re assuming that drivers are not doing this, that they are merely waiting for whatever is eye-catching enough to capture their attention, rather than paying the attention they should be. Further, we assume that’s normal, and it is incumbent on VRUs to go to greater and greater lengths to compete for the attention of drivers.

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    MantraPDX May 11, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    Hello, Kitty
    I’ve never come close to hitting someone in my car either, but I have on my bike, a couple of times, at night, in Ladd’s where the streets are extra dark, and, recently, another cyclist who was invisible. Of course the moral and legal onus is clear, but I approach safety on a practical level, that suggests defensive driving/biking/walking/scooting, to be cautious even when it’s not strictly my responsibility to do so. I believe that, despite their protestations, most people here do the same.The real goal is not to assert responsibility or assign “onus”; the real goal is for everyone to arrive home safely, even if someone makes a mistake, has a lapse of attention, or incorrectly asserts a right-of-way. Blaming, caricaturing, and othering doesn’t really help.Recommended 0

    Huh. I guess I’m just not as willing to excuse poor driver behavior and I’m not so sure why you are. I’m not othering or caricaturing anyone; If a someone hits another person with their vehicle due to negligence or carelessness they’ve already created a pretty clear picture of their character for us. I believe that increasing enforcement on this kind of behavior and holding folks accountable in the legal system would go a long way towards creating safer streets. You’d like to split hairs and debate, I’m advocating more a results oriented approach.

    This is my last reply in this thread. I’ve read a sufficient amount of your communication on this forum to know I don’t want to get caught up in a game of semantics and lose sight of the actual subject.. I get it, you like to debate. Please consider honing your knife in a different venue so some of us others can get a word in.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty May 11, 2019 at 6:17 pm

      Perhaps I have some tolerance for driver error because I think it is inevitable. Driving is a complex cognitive task for which humans are fundamentally ill suited (though some of us do better than others), and is an activity which we allow, and even expect, a huge swath of the population to engage in. People are going to screw it up, and the consequences are often tragic. We need to get people out of the driving business.

      Until we do that, I support increased enforcement, and have done so consistently. The impetus for that has to come from our political leaders (and ultimately from us), not from the police on the front line.

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      Q May 13, 2019 at 1:19 pm

      There are definitely a couple of people who spend their entire day camped out on this blog doing nothing but bickering with anyone, grammar griping, making false equivalencies just to get a rise, and “playing devils advocate”. They’re clearly sad and lonely individuals and it does a lot to bring down the level of discourse on the topics at hand.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty May 13, 2019 at 1:34 pm

        Clearly.

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          donttreadonme May 13, 2019 at 3:43 pm

          You don’t even own a bicycle.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty May 13, 2019 at 4:11 pm

            That’s why I’m sad and lonely!

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    MantraPDX May 12, 2019 at 9:50 am

    How can we create that impetus when we are so quick to defend the people tasked with enforcing the law stating that they aren’t actually going to enforce it?

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty May 12, 2019 at 10:03 am

      Call the mayor’s office. Convince him to direct the police to make strict enforcement a priority.

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    X May 12, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Today I started up at a stop sign and realized that a person on a bike, moving at a good pace with the right of way, was closer than I would have liked. They were close enough that I apologized to them. I didn’t think ‘they’re going too fast’ or critique their clothing or whatever. I did remind myself that not everyone uses a car and to look twice next time. Daylight or dark, and especially in between.

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