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PBOT Pedestrian Advisory Committee member steps down, cites city’s lack of progress


Evelyn Amara Ferreira

A member of the Portland Bureau of Transportation Pedestrian Advisory Committee (PAC) has decided to resign from the committee for what she says is the agency’s, “inability to respond swiftly and proactively to the crises we are facing, the lack of creative thinking and solutions, and reasons why we need to see more action from the agency.”

Evelyn Amara Ferreira, a walking and sustainability advocate who’s also CEO and founder Earthen Exchange, has served three years of her four-year term on the PAC. In a letter sent Tuesday to other members of the committee (read it below), Amara Ferreira said, “This wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I’m finding it difficult to be an active participant on the committee and bring my full and generally optimistic self to the table.”

The move comes one week after members of the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee excoriated the agency for its handling of a recent project where BAC members did not feel respectfully engaged in the decision-making process.

“What I see right now is a lot of people being really burned out… because they just get tired of hitting these brick walls,” BAC member Clint Culpepper said last week. And member Iain Mackenzie added, “I think we really need to have a conversation with PBOT about how to engage with this committee because they don’t take it seriously. They don’t.”

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“Walkability and public space are essential to democracy and community building… Pedestrian-centered infrastructure has not kept to pace.”
— Evelyn Amara Ferreira

For her part, Amara Ferreira says she’s dismayed by PBOT’s slow rate of progress when it comes to creating a more walkable city. “Pedestrian-centered infrastructure has not kept to pace with increases to the number of Portland drivers, vehicles on the road, public safety concerns, cultural shifts, environmental emergencies, and public health crises,” she wrote in her announcement.

Last year Portland’s traffic death toll reached a 24-year high and the proportion of people who were killed while walking has increased. In the past three years, the number of walking deaths has accounted for more than one-third of the total fatalities.

Amara Ferreira added that when she joined the PAC she wanted to have some influence over projects that would “center pedestrians” and “have a noticeable impact on Portland’s walkability and pedestrian experience.”

“Walkability and public space are essential to democracy and community building,” she said about the dire need for more carfree spaces and public plazas in Portland. “Public places have traditionally served as places where anyone, regardless of income or position, can meet, discuss, demonstrate and publicise their causes. The extent to which these spaces are disappearing and the effect on civic life deserves more attention, particularly as part of PBOT’s commitment to equity and social justice.”

One specific policy that seems to have been the last straw for Amara Ferreira was a recent decision by PBOT to reduce the width of crosswalk striping installations to save money. In her letter she says the decision to reduce the width of new crosswalk stripes by 25% to save money was done with a “lack of conversation” with the PAC. “This raises questions regarding our role as the PAC.”

I’ve asked for clarification about this crosswalk policy from both Amara Ferreira and PBOT and will update this post when I hear back (see updated below).

You can read her full letter below:
Evelyn’s PAC Announcement (For February 16, 2021)

UPDATE, 2:20 pm: Here’s what PBOT says about the crosswalk policy Amara Ferreira referenced in her letter:

We have adopted the ladder bar crosswalk, also referred to as the continental crosswalk, as the new standard crosswalk design in Portland. This replaces the old parallel line design. We’ve made this change because there is a robust body of research that shows that continental crosswalks are much more visible and in this way contribute to a safer transportation system.

We have three standard crosswalk widths in Portland: 10′, 12′ and 15′. The material we use to install the crosswalks comes in 3′ lengths. Practically this has meant that those crosswalks that were 10′ wide are now, or will be, 9′ wide. The other crosswalks, their widths divisible by three, have not been affected.

Some pedestrian advocates have expressed concern regarding the loss of the one foot on the 10′ crosswalks. In response to this, we are exploring the possibility of simply converting those 10′ crosswalks to 12′ crosswalks.

It should also be noted that continental crosswalks use more materials and thus cost more to install. In other words, by adopting this new design we have actually increased our investment in crosswalks.

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