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“Slow down!” Neighbors fight back against speeders with signs and cheers

Posted by on September 26th, 2019 at 4:27 pm

City staff, advocates and nearby residents made themselves seen and heard on SE Stark this morning.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“I’m sick and tired of people speeding around here.”
— Collin Ferguson, SE Stark resident

Collin Ferguson lives in an apartment on Southeast Stark near 113th. He’s so fed up with people driving dangerously that he spent part of his morning on Thursday holding a sign and yelling in hopes of grabbing the attention of drivers.

“I’m sick and tired of people speeding around here,” he shared, as he held a sign in one hand and his dog in the other. Ferguson said he hears drag racing on the street outside his apartment almost nightly and that he fears for the safety of the kids who live in his building. While he appreciates a police presence, Ferguson said law enforcement sets a different tone and that when the message comes from “regular people” it can have a greater impact. When I told him some people criticized this event after we wrote about it on Tuesday, he said, “I’m proud of my city for doing this. My grandma moved to this neighborhood in 1952 and if she were alive today she’d be out here too.”

Ferguson was one of about a dozen or so people who took part in the event. Some cheered and smiled at passing drivers, others yelled “Slow down!” Many people in cars honked in approval and/or slowed down as they went by (and a few rebellious ones revved their engines). PBOT had signs available for people to take home printed with a number of different slogans including: “It’s time to slow down, Portland,” and “Safe driving saves lives.”

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Neighbors grabbed yard signs to keep the campaign going.

It was one of two Vision Zero Thank You Crew events being organized by the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Hannah Schafer, from the bureau’s communications division, said this marketing effort is a continuation of the “Struck” campaign they launched in April 2018. “We’re trying different messages to find out what resonates with people,” she said. Schafer hopes positive events like this can boost awareness of the problem (there were several local media outlets there) and build support for safer neighborhoods.

Kristine Bates has at least one very good reason to want slower speeds.

PBOT Traffic Safety Section Manager Dana Dickman said the novel event is just another way to reinforce expectations. “When I see the drivers going by — even the ones scowling at us — they can’t unsee this. They can’t unsee the messages on these signs. They know they should be driving safer.” Dickman also knows this is just one piece of the safety puzzle: “We have to do it all. We need design change and we need culture change. We have to try everything.”

Talking to folks at the event I got the sense that for some of them it was cathartic — even enjoyable — to take action on such a frustrating and pervasive issue they deal with every day.

Kristine Bates had a babe in arms as she sat on the bleachers and urged people to let off the gas pedal. “We live right on Holgate just a few blocks over and we watch people speeding outside our window every night,” she said, “So I wanted to come out and do something about it.”

If you’d like to get involved, stay tuned for announcement of the next event. PBOT says it will be held during rush-hour on a major arterial.

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

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13 Comments
  • Avatar
    Fred September 27, 2019 at 7:46 am

    *sigh*

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    bikeninja September 27, 2019 at 8:54 am

    I think they would be more effective if they were each holding one of Elon Musk’s Flamethrowers.

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      X September 29, 2019 at 2:42 pm

      Or swearing out citizen’s arrest warrants.

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    cmh89 September 27, 2019 at 9:18 am

    I’m not sure I could dream up an event that so perfectly epitomizes PBOT’s complete lack of ability to create safe streets.

    They would rather do nonsense like this than create infrastructure that forces motorist to slow down.

    I would love to poll management and PBOT about how they get to work. I’m guessing 95% are drive-alone.

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      Ken S September 27, 2019 at 10:23 am

      It’s important to note that all the infrastructure improvements in the Netherlands that made it the cycling Eden it is didn’t happen until AFTER “stop de kindermoord”.

      You need the right conversations and public perception to build political will to get the projects done that are currently “too expensive” or “not as important as [thing that isn’t as critical as it seems] ”

      Making it visible to every passerby that regular, average residents want you to slow the hell down is very different than a government body ordering people to do stuff or building infrastructure “that nobody wants”.
      If people are lining the streets to say “slow down and drive safely” then the infrastructure improvements will be perceived as being wanted.

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        John Lascurettes September 27, 2019 at 12:59 pm

        Let’s put that in historical context. The protesters in The Netherlands were IN the streets and putting up barricades. I’ve watched archival video of some of the fights that broke out over it.

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    Ken S September 27, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    It would be inciting violence to recommend taking over the streets and starting fights, so…

    The roadside sign holding, trying to shift the conversation, and changing public perceptions of public spaces is a good alternative.
    Hopefully, positive change can be made before people start saying ‘enough is enough’ and start taking desperate, confrontational actions like barricading off streets, etc.

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      John Lascurettes September 27, 2019 at 2:47 pm

      To be clear, it wasn’t the Netherland protesters that started the violence. They were simply trying to control the traffic. It was a delivery guy in the video that got out of his van and started throwing punches in the old video I saw (search as I did, I couldn’t find it again).

      The counter-sitters in the American south didn’t incite violence either, but they were the recipients of it.

      I respect and appreciate the people that were out there holding up signs, but I’m 85% cynical that it will have any lasting change.

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    SD September 28, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    I’m all for it and appreciative of the people who put their time into this. If only this message could be encountered as frequently as the messages that promote speeding and reckless driving without consequences.

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    Mark smith September 28, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    This is what we are relegated to given that the law basically allows you to kill a fellow human and never do a day In jail.

    Or you can literally almost sever ones head, ruin their life forever and be released from the scene.

    So yeah, we just tell from the sidewalks.

    https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/woman-struck-by-car-on-aurora-avenue-near-green-lake-seriously-injured/

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    Craig Giffen September 28, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    If only there were a means to cause the speeding driver’s bank account to be reduced, perhaps they will see an immediate negative consequence of their driving behavior, one that affects them personally, and they will change their habits going forward. Driving is a privilege, not a right.

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    The Dude October 1, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    The Dude might be willing to help these nice folks to issue a few citizen-initiated citations for speeding if they’re interested….

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