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PBOT splits with Portland Police Bureau on crosswalk law enforcement program

Posted by on July 22nd, 2020 at 12:12 pm

Former Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and a PBOT staffer stand with former PPB Traffic Division Captain David Hendrie at a crosswalk enforcement mission in 2013.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has ended a 15-year partnership with the Portland Police Bureau that centered around the enforcement of Oregon’s crosswalk law.

Since 2005 PBOT has conducted “pedestrian crosswalk education and enforcement actions” with the PPB. But in recent years conversations around the enforcement of traffic laws and concerns about racial profiling by police officers have intensified.

At a meeting of the City of Portland Pedestrian Advisory Committee last night, PBOT Traffic Safety Section Manager Dana Dickman said City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly asked the bureau to stop working with police.

“There had been concerns about secondary violations,” Dickman told the committee. “People were being pulled over for failure-to-yield, but during the stop they are cited for lack of insurance or a suspended license. And then the citations rack up… There was a concern we are potentially bringing people into a much more serious situation, impacting them financially, and bringing them into a legal situation in a way we didn’t intend… Our commissioner and community members felt that was potentially punitive.”

Dickman said discussions with the PPB began in fall 2019 on how to change protocol during crosswalk enforcement missions to make them educational and without legal or other punitive consequences. Ideas included only citing for warnings or moving violations and ignoring those “secondary violations” like suspended licenses or other more serious infractions. But police didn’t feel comfortable with turning a blind eye to some offenses. “Police felt strongly that it was a huge liability for them… and that it would be abdicating their duty around public safety.”

Commissioner Eudaly’s office confirmed this morning that PBOT will no longer work with police on this program. References to crosswalk enforcement actions have been deleted from PBOT’s Traffic Safety Resources webpage.

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“Commissioner Eudaly decided that it was best to end these collaborations until we can establish a mutual agreement about the purpose and scope of these events that lead with equity.”
— Margaux Weeke, Commissioner Eudaly’s office

Eudaly’s Communications Director Margaux Weeke shared with us that the partnership between the PPB and PBOT came to light during an examination of how to make enforcement aspects of the City’s Vision Zero more equitable. “Commissioner Eudaly decided that it was best to end these collaborations until we can establish a mutual agreement about the purpose and scope of these events that lead with equity,” Weeke said. “There were several attempts to find equitable solutions that everyone could agree on, but those discussions are no longer taking place.”

This decision marks a shift for Eudaly, who has in the past been an advocate for more police funding of traffic enforcement over the objections of fellow Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. Hardesty was the lone “no” vote on a Vision Zero report brought to council by Eudaly last year. “I continue to have the concern that we are over-criminalizing one segment of our community and using them as the reason why people are dying rather than the poor conditions of our roads,” Hardesty said before casting her vote.

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This renewed conversation between Portland’s transportation and police bureaus is ongoing and is sure to heat up in the months and years ahead. Calls for the end of racist policies and police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, fueled by persistent protests, have sparked a widespread re-examination of traffic law enforcement. Portland has already acted to remove police officers from schools and transit and Commissioner Hardesty is pushing for more reforms.

Sign in front of Vernon school on Northeast Killingsworth at a crosswalk enforcement action in 2014.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

At the meeting last night, PBOT’s Dickman said, “I’d say the conversation isn’t over. I believe there is a way to have conversations with folks without citing them that could have an impact as well. There might be a way to do that without police, or maybe police need to be directed from their leadership to engage differently with the community.”

“It might be groundbreaking to assume there is no police force at this point,” Pedestrian Advisory Committee member Evelyn Amara added, while calling for stronger educational efforts instead of enforcement. “Thinking ahead it’s very important to assume that the police officers are not intended to do that job. And they may not be around in their current form much longer.”

The PPB is still conducting “pedestrian safety crossing missions” on their own. On May 13th a five-hour mission at NE Halsey and 106th resulted in 25 citations, 27 written warnings, and one arrest.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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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Todd/Boulanger
Guest

These things need to be fully thought out…vs. muddling in the middle. (Even if it is done for all the right reasons.)

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

So now its a bad thing to find people who are driving around without insurance or a suspended license?

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

Find them: yes. Correct the problem: yes. Condemn them to an ever-increasing stack of fines and punitive penalties from which they will have difficulty recovering: no.

We need some imagination and new ideas on how to accomplish the former without the latter. (edit: reflecting on my own comment below, maybe income-scaled fines have a role to play here.)

bendite
Guest
bendite

I have a new idea: no fines, they just lose their license and get a free bus pass.

Scu
Guest
Scu

Some of these already have no license. Rewarding them with a bus pass, especially one that they could sell, doesn’t feel like the right set of consequences. How about vehicle impounding, if there’s a way to do this without racking up onerous storage fees.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

The only fair thing to do is to impound the car and crush it into a cube. Since the cost of cars typically scales with income, this plan would be progressive.

2Na
Guest
2Na

Would you care to be removed from your house and watch it be demolished because you came up short on your property taxes or failed to pay your “protection racket” money to the Neighborhood Association mafia?
No, wrong answer as well.
The answer is twofold: #1 Driver re-education. If courts can make uninsured motorists and DUI violators take the Victims Impact Panel course, aka Blood on the Highway 2.0, they can make suspended drivers attend drivers ed and be retested
#2 Money. Driving is a Money game. You pay the DMV, you pay at the pump, you pay the dealers, you pay the Insurance Industry. And that industry has gone bonkers. The people who make the least money (the young) pay the most money. And we know cops target the cars that scream “that kid obviously can’t afford insurance”
This being Bike Portland, everyone will naturally say “find alternative means” like bus or bike, but we all know that doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, it works for too few of them. When you and your 3 roomies in a 2 bedroom apartment need to pay your exhorbitant rent, you drive dirty so you can earn enough to live and fight another day. Because it’s that or starve and live on the 205 path in a tent.
Zealotry and “tough love” is not the answer to questions of risky choices made to survive. Because that “tough love” always has a funny way of turning into “take their money and assets” compounding the problem.

Jon
Guest
Jon

So you can’t punish someone that was going to run over a pedestrian? The driver just gets a stern “talking to” and drives away. I think that drivers will learn pretty quickly that there is not consequence for breaking the law and endangering the lives of pedestrians.

oliver
Guest
oliver

The rampant speeding on our neighborhood streets, and the inability for drivers to keep their cars between the lines on the road is evidence that drivers are already well aware the there is no consequences for not following traffic laws.

oliver
Guest
oliver

“are” 😐

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

Driving a vehicle is a privilege not a right. Compliance with the law at crosswalks is already dangerously low and decreasing enforcement only makes it less safe for pedestrians. What is wrong with secondary violations? If someone is driving with a suspended license or does not carry insurance they absolutely should not be driving a vehicle. Vision Zero without enforcement is wishful thinking at best.

CourtneyCyclez
Guest
CourtneyCyclez

Is enforcement via the police really the solution though?
I’d much rather streets be built in such a way there’s no need to have a person or perhaps even a camera “enforce” the law.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I agree — I would absolutely support phasing out traffic policing where we have rebuilt streets and automated camera enforcement.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

I hear this “driving is a privilege” all the time, but it’s dispassionate and unrealistic for many people — perhaps even a majority. A person’s got to have a shelter and put food on the table somehow, and the options to do that today without ever touching a motor vehicle are limited, especially if you can’t afford $1500/mo to live in the right place.

We still need enforcement, but we need a different kind of enforcement than what we’ve used in the past. I’m closely watching Davis, because they’re breaking new ground in this area. Whether it goes well or poorly, we’ll learn something from them.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

40,000+ people die and hundreds of thousands are critically injured in this country each year because of motor vehicle operator carelessness and recklessness, precisely because we don’t treat driving as a privilege. Which is the greater tragedy?

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

It’s not a choice…? But if we’re going to put things on scales, then absolutely the poor state of transit is the greater tragedy. One thing is putting all of humanity’s survival at risk, and one is within the noise, on the scale of things we’re talking about. Neither of them should be ignored.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

PBOT should do crosswalk actions on their own, focused on educating drivers. With unarmed employees and no enforcement powers, there would be little concern about the inequity of citing drivers for more serious offences.

J_R
Guest
J_R

And there would be no incentive whatsoever for the motorist to even pull over to receive the educational message. WTF.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Wouldn’t you be just a little bit curious if you were being chased by a PBOT parking-mobile, and stop to see what it was they wanted?

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

From PBOT’s front page:
“The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides people and businesses access and mobility. We keep Portland moving.”

But it should be:
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is a bureaucratic partner in shaping a city for gasoline-powered vehicles. We plan, design, manage and maintain an effective and safe automobile-oriented transportation system that provides access and mobility exclusively for people who drive cars and for businesses parking. We keep Portland moving by car.

https://www.portland.gov/transportation

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

Why have any laws at all of we aren’t going to enforce them? Everyone can drive a giant SUV as fast as they want and mow down pedestrians at crosswalks without consequence. Distracted driving (which is a huge part of crosswalk yield violations) is a problem that is only getting much worse and will continue leaving bodies in the streets of Portland unless we are willing to enforce it. Let’s be reasonable – we can find ways to make enforcement fair without abandoning it all together.

maxD
Guest
maxD

I am alarmed that they are treating driving without insurance as a an offense that can be overlooked.Being hit by an uninsured driver can ruin a life!I appreciate the sentiment behind not hassling people unnecessarily, but I do not think PBOT’s approach is quite right

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

This is insane. I guess licenses and insurance are no longer required to operate a 6000lb vehicle in Portland.

Dooely
Guest
Dooely

As always, Portland’s favorite “solution” is to stop enforcing a law. Remember how tolerating illegal camping solved homelessness?

Ernie A
Guest
Ernie A

I get it. The enforcement is not equitable, so we need to find a better way forward. I don’t see this as a permanent waiver for drivers, but a shift in approach on how to achieve the goal of safely shared streets. It’s the action of being in a hole and stopping digging. This is the first step, not the final posture. Most of these comments seem very posturing to me, and miss the point.

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

Basically I’m the tenth person shaking my head at this… How about: “We will only do cross walk enforcement w/ a newly formed un-armed division of the police?” Win win right? Still enforce laws, reduce escalation that comes from weaponized cop/pigs.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

It’s not just about escalating use of force. It’s that someone living hand-to-mouth will have their life derailed by the unexpected cost(s) of a traffic fine(s). Meanwhile, to that distracted Escalade driver the fine is pocket change and ignorable.

The more we run into issues of economic inequality in everything we do, including traffic enforcement, the more it begins to sound like income-scaled fines might be a good idea.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

If the penalty for going without insurance is less than the cost of getting coverage, people will simply take the risk and pay the penalty if they get caught (as a disturbing number of folks already do).

Given that, what would an appropriate deterrent be for someone living hand-to-mouth from driving without insurance? Or is the whole concept of requiring poor drivers to have insurance just fundamentally unfair?

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

Two answers come to mind. First, if one can’t afford insurance then they can’t afford a car. So one answer is to remove the necessity of having a car (and remove the requirement for that insurance along with it). Some people can do without a car. What would it take to make that a feasible choice for everybody? How long would it take? (Ryan describes this in his comment below better than I have.)

Second is the harm reduction approach. If someone needs a car but can’t afford insurance, maybe we need to help them get insurance. That’s what we do today for health care, to varying level of success. There probably needs to be an automated insurance verification tied in to vehicle registration renewal, and insurance enforcement would be tied into that. I’ll admit that pushes the problem to enforcing vehicle registration and I have no brilliant ideas for that at the moment.

The other half of that second approach is reducing harm from uninsured motorists. If we admit that there will be holes and there will be uninsured drivers, how can we reduce the harm they cause? One approach is to shift the burden to the public. Basically, the State insures everyone to some minimal level and then public policy goals can control how the State manages cost recovery from those at fault for crashes. (Again, this starts to look a little like proposals for risk sharing in health care.) The problem with this approach is it puts the State in the position of subsidizing cars (more), and that may not be a desirable policy.

I don’t like the choice between the status quo of inequality and unfair bearing of costs*, fixing big systemic problems before we can progress, or making the public absorb the risk. Maybe someone sees another way.

* By this, I mean crash victims of an uninsured basically get screwed.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I guess it comes down to whether you think that driving is a “right” (in which case it might make sense for other tax-payers to subsidize your insurance, and maybe gas and vehicle too), or a private decision with costs/benefits that must be weighed against other options.

Either way, imposing the costs of your lack of insurance onto involuntary and essentially randomly chosen victims creates huge inequities, and deterring people for doing that raises no moral issues for me, at least until the deterrent becomes disproportional to the crime. I would argue that our current fines are in fact disproportional — they are far smaller than the cost that driving uninsured imposes on others.

So when I hear people lamenting that the system is too punitive, I would agree. It allows random people to be “punished” arbitrarily and without process by people who choose not to follow the rules we’ve created to protect everyone.

I guess that puts me in agreement with your first approach — if you can’t afford insurance, you can’t afford to drive. Please choose an alternative.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Please choose an alternative.

What if there is no reasonable alternative to choose?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I guess it depends; for most people, there are alternatives available. The obvious ones work for many: transit, bike, walk, etc. For others, perhaps less obvious options would work: e-bike, motor scooter, carpool, family/friends, borrow an insured vehicle, etc.

I’m sure there is still a small pool of folks for whom none of these options will work, but driving without insurance is simply not a valid choice, and should be considered among the options in the “do not work” category.

What do people do who end up in the “none of the above work for me” bucket who don’t happen to have a car, and so for whom driving without insurance is a physical impossibility?

PTB
Guest
PTB

Disarm the police that work in crosswalk enforcement operations. Call those officers something else, I dunno. But if you fail to yield to a ped, ticket. If you fail to yield to a ped and have no insurance, another ticket. If you fail to you yield to a ped and…

qqq
Guest
qqq

The only people being stopped are people who’ve already established that they don’t drive safely. Those are the people that it’s most important to make sure have insurance, for the protection of others, especially people walking across the street in front of them.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

It’s probably worth examining Eudaly’s central thesis: Citing people for offences such as driving without insurance or not having a valid license when they’ve been stopped for failure to yield to a pedestrian is inequitable.

Discuss.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

After careful analysis, I’ve decided that I’m not voting for her.

No One
Guest
No One

How to make the consequences equitable…

Lose your vehicle for 2 weeks, whether an Escalade or an Escort. City-owned lot and NOT private towing, so no “storage fees”. You get to pick it up after 2 weeks, but only with proof of insurance, or anyone can pick it up with transfer of title to that person, with proof of insurance. If no pick-up after 2 months, it goes to auction. Proceeds could even go to the title-holder after cost-of-sale, so they can afford a bus pass or bike.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

I like the creative thinking, but I don’t like the specific proposal. If you need your Escort to get to work every day, and you lose it on 24 hours’ notice, are you still going to have a job the day after tomorrow?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Maybe not. But that’s the stick part. Clearly, carrots aren’t working here, and people are dying and getting injured in record numbers.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-traffic-fatalities/pedestrian-fatalities-on-u-s-roads-hit-almost-30-year-high-idUSKBN1X11E1

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

What carrots have we used to address pervasive traffic violence? Removal or lighter use of a stick does not qualify as a carrot.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Coercion via enforcement and infrastructure have been our tools to control behavior because we’ve failed (did we try?) to create a healthy social conscience where our desires for rapid conveyance are tempered by an empathy and concern for one another’s well-being. Creating such a widespread social consciousness could fill holes in our safety system that even the most invasive and pervasive enforcement and design would never be able to fill.

We should be reminded that this is possible and is even frequently achieved (with our existing infrastructure and existing level of enforcement) every time we have a large Pedalpalooza ride or Sunday Parkways or even street fairs or street seats; while the last three examples usually involve some kind of signage or barriers or even enforcement, they still require substantial cooperation from people operating vehicles to behave differently than they normally do to be as successful as they are. In these instances, the culture of the space is temporarily transformed as are the expectations for how it is acceptable to use that space (though there are sometimes violators).

I elevate these examples to suggest there might be much more we can do (though I’m not sure precisely what) to move toward a city where different social expectations about how street space is to be used can be more in line with the goals we have for safety and multimodality; to suggest that there is a multivariate equation for safety with entries for design, enforcement, and culture and that leaning more heavily on culture change can make up for deficiency in design and enforcement; to suggest that enforcement and infrastructure don’t have to carry loads they never have been able to bear. Because without a cultural change, how do you stop pervasive distracted driving? DUI? Plowing into and killing legally crossing pedestrians?

We’ve changed street culture to both allow for and expect mass carnage in the course of traveling—and to be relatively indifferent about it—from Jaywalking to today’s design practices that are measured in their propensity to gain compliance from drivers for others to use the street who already have full legal and moral standing to do so, and so rely on increasingly expensive treatments, because full compliance is something that isn’t expected. Can’t we change that culture back?

I see the multiple contradictions in my reasoning above. But how can cultural change help us fill the gap that enforcement and design cannot (or are not because of official actions as mentioned in the article) right now?

rain panther
Guest
rain panther

Thumbs up for offering a uniquely thoughtful response to this story. Given the degree of care you’ve clearly put into articulating your perspective with honesty and humility, it’s a drag to see people reflexively downvoting.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Thank you, rain panther.

I don’t even disagree with the frustration we are seeing throughout this article’s comment section; people who can’t or won’t operate a vehicle safely should not be operating a vehicle. I just don’t think we can or should take on a crisis that exists because of a toxic culture (one aided and abetted by the expensive but required “drive til you qualify” lifestyle Ryan dissects below) by combatting it with an even more toxic punitive law and order approach.

Zach
Guest
Zach

Ah, so this is what PBOT will be working on instead of not building safe bike infrastructure.

rick
Guest
rick

Portland city government is taking the “easy way” out of the situation.

J_R
Guest
J_R

No. PBOT will:
– reassign some existing staff to transportation user equity evaluation program (TUEER),
– establish another new task force,
– develop a comprehensive work program,
– develop some goals and objectives,
– visit other cities and countries to see how they are doing it (very important)
– adopt some performance metrics,
– write a report calling for an annual report on progress,
– attend conferences to present Portland’s unique approach to solving the problem.

dan
Guest
dan

I am with the crowd on this one – let’s take away the cop’s ability to exercise power abusively except for when it comes to traffic offenses: I want them to drop the hammer there. Of course, the one realm in which it might be welcomed is also the area in which they have the least interest in enforcing the law. Let’s just have signalized crosswalks with cameras everywhere then and mail offenders a ticket.

rick
Guest
rick

What if that costs more to do than using officers?

dan
Guest
dan

There would be a delta at which I would say it’s no longer worth it, but the cost of an officer+benefits+pension commitments is no small thing. I seem to remember that signalized crosswalks cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range, but even so, that’s just a few years of an officer’s salary, and unlike the officer, the signalized crosswalk doesn’t need a pension, won’t selectively enforce the law, and is pretty much guaranteed not to perpetrate police brutality. So…unless the cost difference is staggering, I’m pretty on board with automated enforcement.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Heck… it would add almost nothing to the cost to have the camera look the license plate up and see if the vehicle is insured (something that, unlike a moving violation, is reasonably attached to the vehicle owner rather than the driver). It could work even when there were no pedestrians in the crossing, and due to the lack of needing to see who the driver was, could be fully automated.

You could even have an app on your phone that showed you total fines accrued during your trip.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

I — as a person — am insured no matter what vehicle I drive (as long as I didn’t steal it or something). And anybody driving my car with permission is likewise insured. So insurance is not as tied to a license plate as you suggest.

Accruing a massive database of time+location data also presents privacy concerns that would have to be addressed.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I totally share your concerns about privacy; the amassing of vast databases of travel data by government officials (that could be used, for example, by federal agents monitoring people participating in protests, even after-the-fact) is the downside of automated enforcement. (I know it’s happening anyway, but that’s a different story.) People in this forum have generally been dismissive of that concern when I’ve raised it in the past. Perhaps recent events involving unidentified federal police hauling off random protesters using unidentified and unmarked vehicles will cause them to be more sympathetic.

As a side note, in trying to verify your first claim, I did some reading on auto insurance. It appears you are rightish, but it’s very complicated, varies by location and carrier, and there are exceptions to every rule. But I did see a lot of tales of woe involving people who were in crashes with or injured by uninsured drivers. Please don’t put anyone in that position.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

To me, this just highlights how far away we are from multi-modal equality. If there were good, consistent, reliable alternatives for the majority of people living/working in the area, this could be avoided.

Taks a person who’s already struggling financially. They go into debt to get a car that societal pressures deem “essential” for getting/keeping a job or having any type of life. They struggle to make regular payments and/or keep up with maintenance. So they miss insurance payments and it gets revoked. They get pulled over for expired tags (because they can’t afford to fix the issues that will get the car to pass DEQ), and get extra fines for no insurance. They can’t afford to pay the fines, but they see no other option than to keep driving, and so it continues to spiral.

I’m torn because I want bad drivers to get punished for not taking their responsibility seriously, but I can also see how it can disproportionately hurt those with less means/privilege. But if we had infrastructure designed to actually support multi-modal options and not create the pressure to drive everywhere, the person described above may have never felt the need to take on the debt of getting a car to begin with, freeing up the funds to cover things that actually are “essential” (food, housing, etc). At the very least, even if they got a car initially, having viable options would make the potential cost of continuing to drive with no insurance/license not seem worth it. The city is trying to deal with the symptoms while still largely ignoring the disease.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

Here here, well said.

I think we’re judging PBOT a little prematurely though. As Ernie A described above, this is the “stop digging the hole deeper” step, not the “mission accomplished”.

Amanda
Guest
Amanda

I will say that in my younger years. while making minimum wage, I was in the group referenced in the article. A lot of times I needed to put food on my table instead of paying my car insurance. I worked part time at $12/hr more than a 35 min drive (3 hours on a bus) from my grandma’s house. (where I was living with my young child) My insurance would lapse and cause I drove a crappy car I got pulled over often. I have no speeding or driving infractions on my record ever. I would get my car towed and loose my license. My aunt would bail my car out and I would pay LARGE fees to get my license back with HUGE insurance rates.
It finally came to an end for me when I drove a passable vehicle and without a license for 3 years. I could finally afford insurance again and have never had a lapse since. I now work a job full time and I’m paid a middle class wage.
The constant insurance/license battle helped keep me in poverty for an extra year than it should have. Insurance is very important and I know that, but those on housing and food instability don’t always have the choice you do riding your bike as we pay for your protected lanes.

Fred
Guest
Fred

You don’t pay for the protected lanes – all taxpayers pay for them, just as they pay for the rest of transportation infrastructure.

Sorry, Amanda – can’t let you get away with spreading the old canard that “drivers pay for bike lanes.”

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

It might be more accurate to say “all gas-tax payers pay for them”.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

During the phase you write about, if you had been struck by another driver, how far would it have set you back if they had no insurance or ability to compensate you for your destroyed vehicle and medical bills?

Driving without insurance ruins lives; overlooking it is not treating other members of society equitably.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Thank you for sharing your experiences, Amanda. I’m sorry you were held down by the lack of travel options and opportunities available to you. Hopefully this helps folks understand the ways some of us become trapped in a drive til you qualify situation and have to make tough decisions between looking out for you and yours and being 100% socially responsible.

And she does pay for the protected lanes, as does everyone here who pays taxes. And if she drives and pays taxes, she likely pays for a larger share of them than she would if she didn’t drive—at least in Portland where gas taxes do pay for street infrastructure projects. Let’s retire the canard that drivers don’t pay more than pretty much anyone else for bike lanes—as well they should given their frequent hostility (and ability to back that hostility up with a credible and immediate threat) to sharing shared road space with anyone else, including others of their own ilk.

Driving w/o insurance can ruin lives. But going w/o food and shelter definitely does. Some people don’t have the time/money/capacity to prioritize the well-being of others, which is very different than saying they don’t care about others as is the case here given Amanda’s behavior while driving (even when not able to do it legally) and work to procure insurance.

This is a systemic hole that should not be expected to be addressed mostly by individuals struggling to make ends meet.

James S
Guest
James S

My initial reaction was “this is dumb” but thinking it over, it makes sense.

So much of enforcement is left up to “officer discretion”. So if you’re a 19 year old blonde woman with a low-cut shirt, there’s a good chance the officer will “let you off with a warning hun” but if youre a 24 year old black male, well, laws are laws and you get the entire book thrown at you. So its not so much that multiple laws are being broken, its that the officer will only dig deep if they dont like how you look.

The best enforcement is with cameras. Driver doesnt stop for the ped? Photo of license plate and a ticket to the registered address. Only drivers who are acting especially aggressively (ie swerving towards a ped) would be pulled over.

Adam
Guest
Adam

What was the goal of these occasional enforcement events? Was it even accomplishing that result? Could there be a more efficacious solution with fewer collateral issues?

For all I know it could have been a very effective tool. Maybe just unaccountable theatrics? Certainly made for easy PR “Transportation Commissioner Tries To Cross An Actual Street, News at 11”. Was that the real goal?

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Your and others cynicism isn’t misplaced. I’m quite guilty of helping to organize and encourage some of those stings in EP 2010-15. The goals were many, vague and often conflicting.

For us community organizers, some of the PBOT staff, and local beat cops, there was a genuine concern for pedestrian safety at the crosswalks. We already knew that crossing at a signalized intersection was the most dangerous place to cross, and we honestly thought that a sting would catch the worst drivers and gradually end the problem. What we didn’t know (but suspected) was that the signalized intersections themselves were designed, built, and operated wrong and that the signals for pedestrians need to be timed for up to 30 seconds before cars could move, plus the corners needed to be sharpened to force cars to turn more slowly, and the turn lanes eliminated (think 122nd & Division versus a downtown intersection).

For the upper management staff at PBOT, the city council, and do-gooder associations like the City Club, the point of the stings was to look like they were doing something good in a poor part of town, but without the commitment and/or expense of doing something effective. It was good PR with the press and their supporters/donors. They already knew from research and from contacting other cities that such stings would more proportionally catch visible minorities than local speeders, especially with all the warning signs put out. Only an idiot would get caught, and there are apparently a lot of idiots driving out there.

For some of the police, and especially for the upper management at the PPB and their commissioner (usually the mayor, but it was Saltzman at the time), the stings were designed to catch-and-release most drivers, but also catch-and-arrest suspects with outstanding warrants for their arrest – a tried and true tool. Except now they would get local citizens and PBOT involved, a total win-win from their point of view.

There were other goals, but those are the main ones I remember.

And no, it never accomplished the result that the community wanted, a safer signalized intersection for pedestrians. But it did accomplish a brief bit of good PR for the higher-ups and it did catch several minority criminals. And we all got suckered into helping out and felt good about it.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Thank you for your reply, David. It is helpful to know more background.

FWIW, when I talk to pedestrians waiting to cross (we live on the corner of a busy street) probably half are unaware of their right-of-way. How many drivers are don’t even know they are meant to stop?

Do you have any notion of the cost to put on an enforcement event? Wondering if it would be less expensive and potentially more effective to do the yard sign thing, like the “20 Is Plenty” signs.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

The point is for pedestrians to cross safely, effectively, and when they want to; the acts and misdeeds of drivers and cyclists are secondary, neither here nor there.

IMO, after long thought, it might be a better long-term strategy to train (or re-educate) American pedestrians on how to safely and effectively cross busy multi-lane streets at any time, normally by jay-walking or crossing at the midblock, rather than try to train drivers to obey the law, which has pretty much failed us so far. (No doubt we’d have to change some laws too.) There’s what I call the Anglo-American Method of Look-Left, cross to the median, then Look-Right and cross to the other side, versus the Global Method of crossing with the flow of traffic. When I lived in EP (and now living here in NC) I used the Anglo-American Method as that’s what I’m used to, what my parents taught me. But I often saw in EP (and often see here in NC) immigrants effectively using the other method, even with kids in tow (it’s not a good idea doing it with a dog though, the dog freaks out.)

I’ve seen the signs you’re talking about, plus some humerus variations, but I don’t think they work very well because they are not usually within the driver’s very narrow scope of vision (a scope that gets narrower the faster they drive.) A more effective solution along those lines would be a holographic virtual sign right in front of their windshield, but we’re still a few years away from that.

Ricky Bruce
Guest
Ricky Bruce

Inequity touches every aspect of our society. Whether it is access to food, housing, healthcare, education, childcare, jobs, or transportation, all of these things depend on your social and economic situation. We strive to have laws that can balance out these inequalities, but they are not equally enforced. Our physical cities have inequality built into them by design or because of past errors. We lack a transportation infrastructure that serves all of us. That said, traffic violence is a very real concern that literally is a life or death issue. We do need some way to make people comply with the crosswalk laws, laws that try to protect those who are (in the immediate sense) most vulnerable- pedestrians, from those who are (in the immediate sense) more privileged- drivers. We need to do this while at the same time ensuring that those who are (in the general sense) most vulnerable/marginalized are protected from being further marginalized. Cars are not going away soon and careless drivers aren’t either. If we are not going to use the stick approach with things like income-based fines or stricter point systems, we need to find an efficient carrot that incentivizes safe driving. We might be able to do that if auto insurance were socialized or driving privileges were gradual and more safe driving came with greater ability. These are politically unfeasible and our justice system is based on punishment, not reward. All of this to say that I have no idea how we can have people stop killing people with their vehicles without some kind of enforcement.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Ricky, I appreciate your expression of nuance, uncertainty, frustration, and even a sense of defeat, rather than just outrage. I’m similarly uncertain about the details of how we address this in a different way, or if it is even meaningfully possible given our context.

Bike Guy
Guest
Bike Guy

I live on a residential street (speed limit 20 mph) with no speed bumps in E Portland.

A Black mother and her young daughter just peacefully pedaled by on their bike, taking in the fresh air or on a quick errand.

However, 4 minutes prior, some aggro driver in a BMW convertible zoomed past going at least 40 mph, turned around at the end of the street, and gunned back.

Thankfully, their paths did not cross.

Car violence can affect us all. Enforce the law. Punish scofflaws. End of story.