Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on January 4th, 2021 at 3:22 pm
Arterial streets in east Portland continued to claim lives over the holiday break. Five people died while using streets east of Interstate 205 between December 12th and New Year’s Day, pushing our annual total to 56*, the highest number since 1996.
According to our preliminary numbers (yet to be verified with the Portland Police Bureau or Portland Bureau of Transportation), automobile users were involved in 50 of the 56 crashes. The 2020 toll included 2 people killed while sleeping (one on a sidewalk, the other in a parking lot), 5 people killed while bicycling, 8 people killed while riding a motorcycle, 22 killed while driving an automobile, and 19 killed while walking.
Two days before Christmas, Portland Police say a 41-year-old man was walking in the bike lane on Northeast Halsey near 119th when he was hit and killed by someone driving a car. The driver didn’t stop. The location is just a few blocks east of the city’s recently completed Halsey-Weidler Streetscape project that brought protected bike lanes to the Gateway commercial couplet — but left a dangerous gap between 112th and 122nd.
In a KOIN-TV story on the crash, a local man says a lack of street lighting might have been to blame. According to PBOT, the location fails to meet the city’s street lighting guidelines which call for every street wider than 48-feet to have lights on both sides.
On New Year’s Eve, just two-a-half miles south of that location a man driving drunk hit and killed 51-year-old Catherine Randolph as she tried to walk across SE 122nd near Tibbetts.
And less than 12 hours later on New Year’s Day, just a dozen blocks away on SE Division and 112th, 19-year-old Daniel Martinez died after he crashed his car into a pole.
We need to do much more than hope that 2021 has less bloodshed in store.
Of particular concern in 2020 was how the number of deaths continued an upward trend — especially for people not inside cars and trucks. The number of vulnerable road users killed in 2020 was 34 (compared to 22 car users), that’s the largest number since at least 1996 (the earliest year we have numbers for at this time). Another troubling statistic is that 19 people died while walking (not including two people who were run over and killed while sleeping). This continues a trend of higher walking fatality numbers that began in 2017. In that year we also had 19 walking deaths, which was the highest since at least 1996. Since 2017 the number has remained high with 16, 17, and 19 deaths respectively.
In one of her final interviews before leaving office, former Portland transportation commissioner Chloe Eudaly was asked by Oregon Public Broadcasting whether there was anything she left undone at PBOT. Eudaly repeated her claim that the State of Oregon is largely to blame: “I know people like to criticize Vision Zero and think that it’s a failed program because we haven’t seen a dramatic reduction in traffic fatalities. And I’ve said this many times, but half of our fatalities are happening on ODOT facilities.” (Note: We are working to fact-check that claim, but an initial analysis of recent deaths does not appear to back it up.)
And 12 days prior to that story, Eudaly spread more blame around in a story from Willamette Week:
Eudaly points to a persistent problem, what she terms the “glacial pace” of the city procurement process.
“Despite significant investments from PBOT in traffic safety improvements, without a commitment from other bureaus and the Oregon Department of Transportation, and inadequate enforcement from PPB, traffic fatalities continue to rise,” Eudaly tells WW. “Radar cameras are an effective, nonbiased and safe approach to traffic enforcement.”
Whatever the cause, these deaths are likely to continue unless we change course. Hopefully new PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty will accept responsibility for this public health crisis and make it a higher priority at City Hall.
*The Portland Police Bureau says 58 people died in 2020. I’m working to confirm the numbers and will clarify everything once our records request is fulfilled.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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