Tuesday: Two serious collisions, two crosswalks, one half-mile apart

KATU screenshot (note crosswalk behind the SUV) on the left. Nicole Funke tweet on the right.

Tuesday was another day that illustrated how Portland has a long way to go to make its streets — even one with a much-heralded recent investment — safe for people not inside cars. Even on Southeast Hawthorne, where the Portland Bureau of Transportation recently completed a major project billed by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty as a significant upgrade in pedestrian safety, we see that the consequences of car-dominance are no match for a few median islands, signs and paint.

Portlander Nicole Funke shared on Twitter that she was “pretty beat up” after being hit while walking in the new crosswalk on Hawthorne at 38th. “Been a pedestrian for 38 years and finally got got by a Volkswagen while crossing Hawthorne. The driver took PBOT’s fancy new zebra crossing as a suggestion, I guess.”

As BikePortlanders know, PBOT completed a major renovation of Hawthorne billed in large part as an upgrade to pedestrian safety in November 2021. While I think the new street design (in photos below) has tamed drivers significantly, it’s clear that risks remain. I don’t have more details on what led up to Nicole’s collision, but I’ll update the post if/when I hear more.

Also yesterday, just a half-mile south of Hawthorne on SE Powell Blvd, we learned from local news coverage that a 15-year-old person riding a bicycle was hit and very seriously injured while crossing SE Powell at 45th. KATU says the victim has “life-threatening” injuries. We can see from KATU’s photos that the car driver was operated a large SUV and headed eastbound when the collision occurred. There’s significant front-end damage to the vehicle so the person must have either been driving at a high rate of speed and/or slammed into a curb.

SE 45th Ave in 2007 City of Portland plan.

The location is adjacent to Creston Park. There’s a neighborhood greenway route just one block west at 43rd. A BikePortland reader heard about Tuesday’s crash and told us they filed an official complaint about the 43rd Ave crossing in January 2021. Their main concern was “lack of visibility of cyclists at the intersection”. The complaint has worked its way through PBOT’s process and they plan to install bike boxes on 43rd and 42nd (its an offset crossing) sometime this summer. It’s unclear if our readers concerns are directly related to what happened to the bicycle rider yesterday.

SE Powell is a state highway and is and owned/managed by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

We hope the victim will make a full recovery, but in my experience when the Portland Police Bureau says “life-threatening” they really mean it.

These are just some of the collisions that have happened recently as Portland remains a hostage to dangerous drivers and street designs that don’t do enough to rein them in.


CORRECTION, 8/29: This story originally said PBOT owns and manages a section of SE Powell from 99th west. That is wrong. Powell is all under ODOT jurisdiction. I regret the error and any confusion it might have caused.

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Joe Rowe
Joe Rowe
1 month ago

Crosswalks by PBOT are deadly designs.. these two videos are me crossing on foot in clear light, and I’m six feet tall walking a bike in the last 2 days..I send PBOT hundreds of videos like this and they change very little.

https://youtu.be/ss6e2jFuFkw

https://youtu.be/J9oEEXsYqLc

Emails them as much as possible

safe@portlandoregon.gov

Call 311 and ask to speak with Chris Warner , head of PBOT

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Rowe

Hey, all that interesection needs is a ‘Slow the Flock Down” sign and its all good! This is obviously an education issue /s

Further down Willamette, you just literally wont get motorists to stop for you. Of course, no safety infrastructure exists.

I want PBOT to install speed bumps before and after every crosswalk.

Brandon
Brandon
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Rowe

This is terrible. I used to live directly in front of a crosswalk on Belmont and would see drivers plow through all day when people were in the crosswalk. I’ve seen kids taking every precaution when crossing by themselves and still come with inches of being struck.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago

Question–Once you start to step off the curb at a typical crosswalk (marked or not) you’re crossing and cars have to stop for you until you get all the way across to the other side. But when a median island is installed, as in the Hawthorne case, once you get to that, are cars legally free to not stop until you step out from the median island?

I don’t know the answer, but in my experience (and in Joe’s videos) it seems like that’s what many drivers think (and of course some don’t stop even after you step out). The law SHOULD be that the median island doesn’t make the pedestrian go through the process of stepping into the roadway twice.

Also, there are “Stop here for pedestrians” signs at the curbs of the Hawthorne crossing. Maybe those should be added at the median as well.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago

Thanks, Jonathan. That answers my question completely about whether the law refreshes itself at a median island. It’s unfortunate in a way–if there’s no median island, everyone has to stop for you once you step off the curb at the corner, but with the median island, you have to go through that twice, meaning in heavy traffic you might get stuck on the island for some time. I’d still take the added safety provided by the island, though.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

The island doesn’t add much safety, qqq. Any car or truck could plow through it, esp those useless plastic wands that PBOT is installing everywhere. What it does is give you the illusion of safety. That’s what governance in Portland is all about – giving the impression of doing things. Real motto: “Portland: The city that talks [not works].”

Vans
Vans
1 month ago

Isn’t the entire crosswalk “protected”, once occupied then completely occupied within the +1 lane in front of and behind the occupant with the median included in the crosswalk?

David Binnig
1 month ago

Thanks for covering this. The article says that SE Powell will “soon be officially transferred to PBOT’s jurisdiction”, but I believe jurisdictional transfer is currently in the works only for Powell from I-205 east to the city limits, not for the section west of 205 where this crash was.

idlebytes
idlebytes
1 month ago

Wait that’s confusing if PBOT manages Powell west of 99th why would ODOT have had a say about removing the bike lane from 26th in exchange for a crossing and light at 28th and why is it still listed as ODOT maintained by PBOT?

https://pdx.maps.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=322fb44af46e48de9345dd491f5dc437

Johninpdx
Johninpdx
1 month ago
Reply to  idlebytes

I believe it’s an inter-governmental agreement between ODOT and the city. Powell is considered a state highway (although it bears the description as a US highway), which is technically under ODOT’s jurisdiction

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  Johninpdx

It’s not the full explanation – 82nd is also a state highway (212 I think) but it’s now under both city ownership and city maintenance. In fact any stroad can become a state highway – ODOT has already discussed removing the US 26 designation on parts of outer Powell and transferring the designation to parts of outer Division and 181st/182nd. A more likely explanation is that PBOT staff haven’t updated all their maps yet.

maxD
maxD
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

There is a project that is about to kick-off to complete designs and construction documents to upgrade 82nd. Once the upgrades are complete, it will be transferred to PBOT but that has not happened yet.

pigs
pigs
1 month ago

Proof that paint and plastic wands aren’t enough. Sad that these people suffered and many more will too.

Matt
Matt
1 month ago
Reply to  pigs

maybe some orange barrels would do the trick?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt

How about some random piles of gravel and a selection of detour signs while we are about it? Periodically reduce traffic lanes to one total, sometimes on the right, sometimes on the left? Maybe, gasp!, make traffic lanes so narrow that you have to drive 20 mph or else you’ll hit a curb or other concrete impediment? Maybe add Roman crosswalks, a chain of large flagstones raised 8″ (concrete squares will work just as well) spaced such that a driver has to go 5 mph through the crosswalk without hitting their tires/axles? I’m sure there’s a way to make it ADA.

Pockets the Coyote
Pockets the Coyote
1 month ago

Powell has proven itself a consistent issue, there was the hit and run very close to 45th, and I don’t believe it’s been a full year since the last 2 fatalities (that I recall) between 39th and Milwaukie. The apparent requirement for action to hinge on a complaint is a sickening disappointment.

Bikey Bike
Bikey Bike
1 month ago

No part of Powell Boulevard is currently owned or managed by Portland.

Getting “pretty beat up” and suffering “life-threatening injuries” are both bad. I think it would be fair to say one is less bad than the other. The differences in street design between Hawthorne and Powell could reasonably be said to account for one crash nearly killing someone and the other apparently not.

Instead the article suggests Hawthorne and Powell have comparable “dangerous street design,” which glosses over significant differences that may have made a tremendous difference in outcomes for the folks who suffered these crashes.

Certainly true that both streets could, and should, be better.

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  Bikey Bike

Instead the article suggests Hawthorne and Powell have comparable “dangerous street design,” which glosses over significant differences that may have made a tremendous difference in outcomes for the folks who suffered these crashes.

Vision Zero does not seek to eliminate all crashes rather it focuses on using infrastructure and policy to eliminate crashes that cause serious injury or death. Perhaps we should wait to see how severe the Hawthorne crash was before condemning bog-standard median island crosswalks as examples of PBOT’s “dangerous street design” or “deadly” infrastructure [in comments].

PS: And before anyone @s me please know that I posted extensive details here about how other nations with low traffic deaths have safer crosswalk designs than those use on Hawthorne.

Mark Remy
Mark Remy
1 month ago

Hawthorne can be harrowing. Every time I bike there I have to remind myself to take the lane, because when I don’t—and sometimes even when I do—drivers creep past me, sometimes within inches. This despite the fact that I am almost always going 20mph, the posted speed limit, or a bit over it. It’s maddening.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Remy

That’s the downside of the single-lane treatment. When there are two lanes, cars can pass you with plenty of distance by changing lanes, and taking the lane is psychologically easier. The upside is it’s a lot safer for pedestrians.

Jay Reese
Jay Reese
1 month ago

Such a sad situation, one that strikes fear in all of us given our daily exposure. To me this seems to be a glaring example of poor automobile design. As we all know these types of vehicles don’t mix well with pedestrians

EP
EP
1 month ago

Eastport plaza has raised crossings where the road ramps up to the sidewalk/crossing level. It seems like speed bumps plus these ramps would make for a good combo to keep speeds down, and pedestrians visible.
https://goo.gl/maps/iWdRifPkcAen9vEA7

RipCityBassWorks
RipCityBassWorks
1 month ago

It is crazy to me that there isn’t any sort of push for a maximum vehicle size for non-commercial drivers. Vehicles are getting larger and more dangerous for pedestrians, yet there isn’t any sort of alarm about the trend.

EP
EP
1 month ago

Just look at all the efforts for gun control & reform, and the lack of political action, and you’ll realize how uphill this battle is, despite all the obvious benefits of reducing the size/power/availability of these things that can so easily maim and kill.

Zoe
Zoe
1 month ago

Angie Schmitt’s Right of Way does sound the alarm on this topic, but I’m not sure many are listening outside of the ped/bike advocacy community, unfortunately.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  Zoe

Also the book High and Mighty: The Dangerous Rise of the SUV came out almost 20 years ago. You can still buy it on Amazon, but the gov’t has done nothing to curb these dangerous designs. The free market rules – whatever makes rich people more money is apparently what we have to do.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago

I had to move some very long roofing panels a few years back, and I realized that the cheapest option was to rent a 26ft Uhaul truck for an hour. After my experience driving one of these things on narrow east Portland streets, I still can’t believe that they let anyone rent one. Every corner of the truck was smashed in from people who had clipped buildings, other cars, etc.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

Editing note:

We want to REIN in drivers, not “reign” them in.

The expression comes from the days of horse-drawn carriages, when pulling on the reins (the “rein in” position) caused a horse to slow down.

EP
EP
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

We need to rein in the SUV/Pickup reign of terror.

Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley
1 month ago

This is one reason I never (well, almost never) use crosswalks. Cross in block center when the coast is clear, and run for it. That way you only have to be concerned with traffic in two directions rather than four directions with turns.

J_R
J_R
1 month ago

My children attended Cleveland High School. I spent lots of time there, too, attending and helping with afterschool activities and sporting events. Almost very time I was there, I saw motorists (usually westbound on Powell Boulevard) blow the red signal at 26th Avenue.

I’ve suggested it before: install red light cameras at every new signal installation. Or we could try enforcement by police, but, unfortunately, we don’t do that any more because it might negatively effect non-privileged drivers.

As long as there are no negative consequences for blatant disregard of traffic laws, we will keep losing a disproportionate number of pedestrians and cyclists.

MC
MC
1 month ago

I’ve zero faith nor trust in in vision zero and PBOT to make the roads less dangerous because all the roadway safety improvements are mostly uncoordinated, inconsistent and piecemeal at best.

And that’s just the reality of trying to overlay roadway safety features for other users for which the roads were never designed in consideration of.

“Engineers around the world know how to design for high speeds (and volume) but the Dutch have mastered how to design to prevent high speeds.”

The biggest new thing to me is the idea of building infrastructure based on the idea of “forgiveness & restrictiveness.”

“Forgiveness means a simple mistake won’t result in serious injury & restrictiveness prevents people from making mistakes.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aNtsWvNYKE

MC
MC
1 month ago

My heart goes out to the parents and family of the 15 yr. old and the driver of the car. This might be something they’ll have to live with for the rest of their life.

I’ve a friend who tells me he treats all motorists as homicidal maniacs and doesn’t trust any one of them one iota.

I’ve adopted this. I don’t assume they’ll see me, I don’t assume they’re going to stop. I don’t rely on the infrastructure to save me either. It’s inconsistent and confusing for all users and I avoid it whenever possible especially now with all other manner of fast e-vehicles using it too who seem to be clueless & careless and just want to go faster than the bikes using it.

It’s a fucking shit show as the kids like to say.

I was about to step off the curb the other day and I heard a car coming from behind me. I just stopped and then a car with 3 young girls in it swung around right in front of me as they were talking & laughing with each other.

Had I just stepped of the curb and made an assumption about that car, I would’ve got hit for sure.