Early Monday morning at about 1:30 a.m., a person driving a vehicle struck and killed 34-year-old Michael L. Bute while he was walking on NE 33rd Drive, just west of the Portland International Airport and in front of the Oregon National Guard building, according to the Portland Police.
BikePortland readers may be familiar with NE 33rd Drive as a key north-south connection between NE Columbia Blvd and the bike lane on NE Marine Drive. The Portland Bureau of Transportation has plans for major changes at the intersection of 33rd and Columbia as part of their Columbia Lombard Mobility Corridor Plan.
The preliminary investigation reports that the driver was heading north on NE 33rd Drive, and that Bute was in the street when struck. The PPB did not provide a crash diagram, nor did they make clear whether Bute was crossing the road or walking along it. The road does not have a sidewalk. This is the 33rd person to die while using Portland roads so far this year, and the 10th pedestrian. The driver stayed at the scene and is cooperating with the police.
BikePortland has contacted the Portland Police for more information.
— Lisa Caballero, email@example.com
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Lisa Caballero has lived in SW Portland for over 20 years. She is on the Transportation Committee of her neighborhood association, the Southwest Hills Residential League (SWHRL) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This area as of 5-17-21 (when I was there last) was an encampment. PBOT’s operation of the street did not reflect that reality. People were (and I assume still are) living in the undeveloped areas and in vehicles parked for the better part of a mile on both sides. No accommodations (reduced speed, water-filled barriers or wands to demarcate walkways, crossings of any sort, lighting, etc) were in place to reflect that use. The only usable thru lanes had significant volumes of people driving motor vehicles at high speed. People were left to walk, roll and bike in those lanes. This was not one tent popping up unexpectedly next to a freeway. It was dozens—perhaps several hundred (?) people living semi-permanently along the street. We won’t likely get much more information about this crash for months, or years, if ever. That means we can only speculate about why or how this particular person, Mr. Bute, was using the street, or what the particular driver was or wasn’t doing. However, we know a lot about the systems. It was is palpably dangerous at this location, with high speed, no facilities, and lots of extremely vulnerable folks. People experiencing houselessness are overrepresented among Portland pedestrian fatality victims by 10x to up to 20x, depending what estimate you use for this part of our population. Do we include them (and others at encampments) in our reckoning of a “residence district”? Do camps get 20 MPH posted speeds? Why not?
If speeds were reduced to 20mph at camps that would effectively make speeds 20mph for all of the East side of Portland. :(. Of course with Portland’s approach of near zero enforcement, the speed limits don’t matter. 🙁
Why not make it 10MPH? Or 5? Everyone driving routinely violates the speed limit, so make it whatever you want!
Scott & Chris I: thanks for the update on the current conditions [camp zone] helpful for proposing a more context sensitive treatment.
Lisa: to clarify…the police report statement that the pedestrian was in the roadway could mean this human was walking in the bike lane (per lack of sidewalks)? OR they were crossing at the intersection of NE Sutherland in an unmarked crosswalk?
Jonathan is away and, for better or worse, (ok worse) I’m minding the store. There was very little information in the PPB press release, I emailed and requested a diagram. The PPB major crash response team will investigate further.
You make a good point, I should have mentioned the lack of sidewalk. Thank you, I’ll edit.
Hi Lisa, I realized that after I sent it. [Thanks for keeping the wheels spinning during JM’s annual summer vacation leave.]
This roadway is a prime “poster child” for some creative re-striping…reallocate the long stretches of center turn lane into a shoulder / walk space…until ADA or other urban updates can be made. Some might say that the current layout is “freight friendly” but I would say that ANY urban arterial without sidewalks or marked walkways (and safe pedestrian crossings) is not truck operator friendly especially with a posted speed limit of 45 mph. [More stressful than it needs to be, etc., as I used to drive dump trucks and other construction equipment.] The City’s TSP has more information: this roadway segment serves as: City Walkway, City Bikeway, Local Service Transit Street, Freight District Street, Community Corridor, Neighborhood Collector Street, etc…so its striping needs to be updated to reflect such…in addition to the current bike lanes….and speeds managed where safety concerns need it…as a 45 mph community corridor / neighborhood collector without sidewalks it too high, even without speeding and poor lighting.
I tried to pull up the the recent traffic counts for the segment on PBoTs Traffic County GIS page but there are none. [Like I used to tell my traffic engineer coworkers – the priority of any agency is selected in the data they collect, its frequency of collection and maintain.]
…the City’ (or Port’s) Columbia Multimodal Corridor Study  has some older 2005 data for NE 33rd: ~5k ADT (12% trucks)…so very manageable for most traffic calming and other access management tools. The report stated: “Recent speed and travel time data (2008-2010) indicates that vehicles on the road experience minimal congestion with speeds of 75% of greater than free flow speed.” The next opportunity for nexus triggered improvements may be with the development of the SW Quad.
Something definitely needs to be done, because as it sits now, the bike lane cannot be used in either direction here. The campers spill out into the the bike lane for the entire stretch. Thankfully, drivers seem to understand this, and most of them will move over to the median when they see a cyclist hugging the line or riding in the motor vehicle lane. I suppose the city could come in and stripe a walking zone, but that zone will immediately be filled with broken down vehicles.
Condolences to the friends and family of the deceased.
31st traffic fatality this year. Portland is on track to surpass last year’s traffic death record of 54 which was the worst year ever.
We are also on track to surpass the murder record for Portland as well. 37 murders in 2021 so far.
All this death is a communal trauma for all Portlanders. Important to reflect and support each other.
Stay safe and ride on!
This area is an ever changing landscape of immobile RV’s that are being used for shelter. 33rd itself is not bike friendly even without that hazard. It’s not so much the Columbia interchange or the Lombard crossing as the high speed of commercial vehicles whose drivers have a tendency to pull out on to 33rd without stopping as they scan the road for other commercial vehicles their size and bikes might as well be invisible to them.
The main problem is SPEED! As in many many accidents, even if speeding wasn’t cited as an issue, SPEED is always an issue. This means that even if drivers are obeying the speed limit, few do, but even when they are, the speed is set too high for the road.
Without enforcement, the speed limit doesn’t matter regardless of what it is. The good news is that there is a solution that can be deployed 24/7 just like on Marine not far away. The automated camera enforcement of speed on Marine works. Speeds dropped significantly since it went into effect and I feel much safer riding there. I believe Portland has a mobile unit which can be deployed quickly to areas in need without waiting for a permanent camera installation. Portland should invest more in these. I’m sure they will pay for themselves.