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Comment of the Week: ‘Distracted walking’ is the ‘all lives matter’ of transportation

Posted by on June 28th, 2019 at 7:45 am

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s be too long since we put the spotlight on one of your great comments. Let’s try to do this more often shall we? If you see a great comment, just hit “reply” and write “comment of the week”. If you do that, I can find the best comments in a quick search.

OK, onto the comment…

Last week (or so) we highlighted a noteworthy exchange at Portland city council during a discussion about the bureau of transportation’s vision zero program. As city staff outlined their approach of “shared responsibility” and made it clear that people using cars have to do a better job not running into people outside of cars, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty expressed discomfort. She said some of PBOT’s vision zero work is making roads “confusing” and is “making people lose their minds”. Hardesty also instructed PBOT to spend more time on people who walk around with their heads buried in their phones, saying people who are distracted by electronic devices are a “huge issue.”


Reader Glenn II wasn’t having it. Here’s his response to Hardesty’s comments:

“Look, I feel disgust and pity for people glued to their phones as much as anybody, but ‘distracted walking’ is not a thing as far as I’m concerned. ‘Distracted walking’ is the ‘all lives matter’ of transportation — true in principle, but too often twisted around and used by members of an entrenched and powerful majority, who are responsible for most of the problems — to minimize and shut down the concerns of the minority.

Distracted walking collision: “Oh excuse me,” and get on with your day.

Distracted driving collision: “She is survived by her husband Chad and sons Chad Jr. and Jeremy. Services will be at Johnson’s Funeral Home.”

So no, f— me very much, I’m not falling for that one.”

We have yet to hear a clarification or follow-up from Commissioner Hardesty.

Thank you Glenn and everyone else who chimed in here and on Facebook. As Portland struggles to stem a spate of serious and fatal crashes, how we talk about this problem matters. Whether you agree or disagree with Commissioner Hardesty, her comment spurred an important dialogue that should make our policies and actions more effective.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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We need more Leah Treat side-eye for drivers creeping up on people .

I wear many hats
I wear many hats

Well said Glenn II !


at this point, it disheartens me utterly how motorists continue to win, and their encroachment upon our literal survival looms larger month after month.

Best of luck to you with those distracted walkers out there, Hardesty! Looks like you have a real handle on the source of all our problems. /s


It seems like this “distracted walker” trope is just another way for the happy motoring crew to say, ” we don’t like it when the non-auto’ed folk fail to show us the proper respect and subservience. Like when the peasants fail to bow their head when the knight rides by.


I don’t know if this story was mentioned on BP — it happened in England, not Portland — but here’s a link, nonetheless:


Comparing Hardesty’s statement to someone saying “All Lives Matter” doesn’t feel right to me. What you’re implying is that cyclists have it as bad as African Americans in this city, and that’s just not so. The most distributing aspect of this blog is that there’s a been a long-standing insensitivity and myopia around race-related matters.

Jonathan: I hope you think long and hard about why this comparison is problematic, and how it would come off to African Americans in this town.


From the earlier article linked to the one Rivelo introduced us to above:
“Even where a motorist or cyclist had the right of way, pedestrians who are established on the road have right of way.”

If people violating multiple laws are found to nevetheless also, by virtue of being pedestrians, have the right if way—as do those operating legally—then I think we have crossed into fairyland, into territory where culpability and justice are impossible to establish.


Commissioner Hardesty needs to realize that, in the absence of enforcement actions to control driver behavior, black and brown citizens will also be victims of those under regulated, under punished drivers.