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Portland commissioner cites ‘vehicular violence’ in response to spate of crashes

Posted by on February 9th, 2021 at 4:39 pm

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Portland’s commissioner-in-charge of transportation has responded strongly to a spate of crashes and fatalities on the streets she oversees.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty published a statement on Twitter Tuesday afternoon that comes in direct response to the past week of violent carnage in our streets.

Here’s the statement:


Three days. Four deaths. All from vehicular violence. I can assure you that myself and @PBOTinfo are digging deep into both immediate and long-term solutions to keep all Portlanders safe as they move around our city.

We have a lot of work ahead to realize our Vision Zero goals, but I am committed to that work.

We can mitigate danger on our roads by improving street design and developing infrastructure that protects people from the potential damage cars are capable of inflicting.

While we double down on that work, I ask all that drive to acknowledge the outsized potential cars have to inflict violence on our streets. I say this as someone who didn’t always see it this way. Please drive slowly & carefully. No matter the circumstances, lives are at stake.

It’s highly notable that a city commissioner in Portland has used the term “vehicular violence”. To my knowledge it’s the first time the term has used by a Portland city official.


We first used the term here on BikePortland in November 2017 following an intentional vehicular assault in Lower Manhattan. In the past year, the phrase took on new urgency and relevance in light of people driving through protestors over the summer, or more recently when a man intentionally rammed his car into several people and killed one of them in southeast Portland.

If we want to stem this dangerous tide of death and destruction on our streets, we must acknowledge that the mere act of driving has immense potential for violence (defined as, “intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force”). Whether intentional or not, when we decide to drive a multi-ton steel vehicle through spaces where vulnerable bodies exist, we create the possibility of a violent outcome. Resistance to that word or framing is partly responsible for the widespread desensitization and normalization of traffic deaths and injuries in America.

It is a good sign that Commissioner Hardesty has not only come around to this understanding and necessity of this term and the, “outsized potential cars have to inflict violence on our streets;” but that she has chosen to state it publicly.

Now comes the difficult task of matching actions to words.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and
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Hello, KittyJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)sorenGlowBoyNadia Maxim Recent comment authors
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Notice she does not mention enforcement at all. She is opposed to any (even traffic cameras) enforcement. Until all the roads are somehow transformed to make sure nobody can speed or drive drunk we need to enforce the laws and enforce them now. Traffic cameras can be color blind as long as they are placed in all neighborhoods.


I remember hoping Wheeler would be a safety advocate when Hales was Mayor. Now I remember hoping Hardesty was a safety advocate. If she wanted to make an impression on people who advocate for safe streets, I think she made a pretty clear one in her decision to prioritize parking over PBLs.

Phil M
Phil M

All talk.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty

I’ll judge Hardesty by the results she gets.


Traffic law enforcement is the issue here. Ive lived all across the country and this is, by far, the worst group of drivers Ive ever encountered.

Everyone acts like there are no rules, because those rules aren’t being enforced. I used to drive like an idiot when I was younger. But I did it in a state that enforces their traffic laws. So I had to drive normal unless I wanted a ticket. If I drove like an idiot, I knew full well I could lose my license. The penalty wasn’t worth the reward.

If people actually got ticketed for running red lights or not waiting for pedestrians, we wouldn’t have so much chaos on Portland roads. But because the mentality here seems to be ” screw your neighbor” while simultaneously FEIGNING inclusion and progressiveness, its a free for all out there.

Until everyone realizes they have a responsibility to their fellow road goers (bicycles and peds included) nothing will change.

Boundaries without consequences are suggestions…Portland needs to grow up when it comes to driving, you all act like trash fires on the road.




We wont let an 18yo buy a firearm to defend themselves but we’ll give a 16yo a 7000lb semi automatic V8 SUV on the assumption their parents taught them how to drive properly….

Driving is a privilege, not a right.

Rant over,


Thoughts and prayers! Good thing PBOT is going to fix the road Fallon Smart was murdered on! /s


I accept that road design influences how motorists drive, but I do not accept that we can reengineer and rebuild our streets to significantly reduce the number of crashes or fatalities.

Every day I see motorists blowing through neighborhood stop signs at 10 mph and hitting speeds of 30 mph on local residential streets. Some of them are my neighbors!

On arterial and collector streets speeding by 5 to 10 mph is common.

Pick a signalized intersection such as Powell Boulevard at 26th adjacent to Cleveland HS and watch motorists (especially westbound) blow through the red. I guarantee you won’t have to wait long to see that.

What’s your design and rebuild solution to these moving violations? Angle diverters every two blocks in residential neighborhoods? Speed bumps on every block? Crossing gates that come down to block red-light-runners? How many millions of dollars are you prepared to spend to implement these solutions?

Sorry, but I don’t see road design as a viable solution to mitigate a city-wide or region-wide problem. Spot problems, yes. Corridor problems, maybe.

We’ve got to change behavior. We should at least try enforcement and much of it should be automated enforcement including speed cameras and red light cameras.