The father of a teenager who was hit and killed by a driver as she walked across Hawthorne Boulevard says the City of Portland erred by not seizing an opportunity to add bike lanes and make the street safer.
Tigard resident Seth Smart is the father of Fallon Smart, the 15-year-old who was hit by a reckless driver on Hawthorne and 43rd on August 19th, 2016. The tragedy sparked community outcry and led to a new crossing treatment at the intersection. One year ago the Portland Bureau of Transportation paid $395,000 to settle a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit brought by Fallon’s family.
In his letter dated May 3rd, Smart addressed PBOT and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty as a “grieving father.” His letter comes in response to PBOT’s controversial decision in February to maintain all driving and parking lanes, but add no dedicated cycling access to Hawthorne as part of the “Pave and Paint” project.
Here’s the text of Smart’s letter:
“On August 19, 2016 my eldest daughter Fallon Smart was struck and killed by a car while legally crossing Hawthorne Boulevard at 43rd. In the days, weeks and months that followed by family received tremendous support from local pedestrian and bicycle enthusiasts and the Portland community at large. It is now that we ask for your support.
When the Portland Bureau of Transportation announced the paving paint project in February of 2020 many in the community, myself included, were hopeful. This was a real opportunity to take steps to make Hawthorne safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. However, as this process has developed and the redesign solidified, it has become clear that the changes do not address the safety needs for a street like Hawthorne. A redesign plan that does not include clearly marked protected bike lanes is doomed to repeat the mistakes and the hazards of the past. The current plan forces me to ask the question, does PBOT truly believe in “Vision Zero” or is this simply a catchy slogan and utopian platitude?
Fallon Smart was killed when a speeding driver swerved into the center turn lane to avoid a stopped driver. The lane striping plan chosen by PBOT maintains a center turn lane, while the protected bike lane design option would remove it.
Reached by phone today, Smart said a teacher of Fallon’s reached out to him about the project. After doing some research online, he decided to write a letter. It was posted to the Healthier Hawthorne Facebook page yesterday. Smart added that he hasn’t received a response from PBOT or Commissioner Hardesty’s office yet.
In related news, a fundraising campaign by Healthier Hawthorne founder Zach Katz has raised over $12,000 in the past month. The campaign is meant to fund legal fees and a potential lawsuit against PBOT for the decision. Katz says he’s engaged with a lawyer about the issue but hasn’t yet made a decision about a lawsuit. “We’re still researching legal options,” he shared today.
According to PBOT, the repaving of Hawthorne will begin June 15th. So far, the agency has shown no signs they plan to change course. The commissioner-in-charge of PBOT, Jo Ann Hardesty is scheduled to speak at the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday (May 11th). That committee has described PBOT’s Hawthorne decision as “profoundly disappointing.” In an interview with BikePortland in February, Hardesty acknowledged that not striping bike lanes on Hawthorne might have been a missed opportunity.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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