Armed with data, plans, and support from city council, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is moving forward with a pilot program to install “left turn calming” at 29 intersections.
Using a mix of rubber speed bumps and centerline delineator wands, PBOT’s aim is to slow drivers down, prevent them from “cutting corners”, and make it easier for them to see people crossing the street.
(Photo: Terry Dublinski-Milton)
This type of basic and relatively cheap infrastructure might have saved the life of Charles McCarthy. In October 2018 McCarthy was walking across East Burnside at 55th when he was struck and killed by someone driving a truck. The truck operator was turning left from 55th onto Burnside. (See animated GIF below the jump.)
With the the safety of walkers a top priority in their Vision Zero program and in the recently adopted PedPDX Plan, PBOT has installed rubber speed bumps at the intersection where McCarthy died. The move is also part of PBOT’s new “crash response protocol” released by PBOT back in April. That directive, spearheaded by new Bureau Director Chris Warner, says that PBOT will evaluate fatal crashes and implement, “targeted rapid response safety fixes” whenever possible.
GIF by PBOT
PBOT says they hope to address 40 intersections with the new left-turn treatments this year and expand the program in 2020 if it has a positive impact. In their 2-Year Vision Zero update adopted by city council last week, PBOT cited a similar program in New York City (who has implemented them at 300 intersections so far) that has resulted in a decrease in average speeds of left-turning drivers from 7.7 mph to 4.3 mph.
Funding for this program comes from the local sales tax on recreational cannabis. That tax amounted to $4.6 million in Fiscal Year 2019, 79% of which was spent on “public safety” programs including Vision Zero safety projects.
According to State of Oregon data, 20% of crashes involving walkers (between 2006 and 2015) were the result of left-turning drivers failing to yield to people in crosswalks at signalized intersections.
Learn more about the type of intersections that qualify for this treatment and see the list of the first 29 locations on PBOT’s website.
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