Human protected bike lane, safety forum planned as response to SE Powell Blvd tragedy

(Background image: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland / Flyer graphic: Bike Loud PDX)

Portland-based nonprofit Bike Loud PDX is not taking the death of Sarah Pliner lightly. The group has been working nonstop since last Tuesday’s tragic collision to make sure something is done to make the intersection where she died safer.

On Wednesday, they are asking everyone to join them for a demonstration on SE 26th and Powell Blvd. The plan, hatched by Bike Loud along with fellow nonprofits The Street Trust and Oregon Walks is for event attendees to stand in the street to make a point about the vulnerability of bicycle riders and the need for more safe space. They also want to increase pressure on the Oregon Department of Transportation to add back cycling infrastructure they removed in 2018.

“Gather in solidarity with us to demand that ODOT restore the bicycle facilities on SE 26th to the state they were (or better) prior to their forced removal in 2018,” a Bike Loud statement sent out this afternoon reads. “We need hundreds of you to come together and stand arm in arm to reclaim this street space for its most vulnerable users. In solidarity, we will demand that ODOT immediately restore the safety infrastructure they forced out.”

Human protected bike lane on Naito Parkway in 2017. (Photo: Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

This won’t be the first human-protected bike lane Portlanders have seen. In September 2017 over 100 people showed up on Naito Parkway as part of a protest against the removal of a protected bike lane that was first only a seasonal installation. It was made permanent three years later.

Wednesday’s event will start at 3:30. Interested participants are being asked to sign up ahead of time.

In related news, two Oregon State Representatives and one State Senator have organized a forum on Powell Blvd October 20th. Representatives Rob Nosse and Karin Power, along with Senator Kathleen Taylor will host the Community Safety Forum at the Cleveland High School Auditorium at 6:00 pm. According to an event flyer that’s been shared with neighborhood groups, the event will be a, “a community discussion with state and local agencies focusing on solutions for improving safety.”

Representatives from ODOT, PBOT, TriMet and Portland Public Schools are slated to attend. See more information on our calendar.

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J_R
J_R
1 month ago

It would certainly be nice to know more about the cause of Sarah’s death before expending lots of energy on a visible protest.

I’ve stated on this forum more times than I can count that we need more (ANY?) enforcement.

I’ve also explained that I attended the public open houses for the Powell project several years ago and that I advocated for a school speed zone and for red light cameras in connection with the project. I also objected to the removal of the bike lane on 26th Ave. I also objected to the failure to replace the standard drainage grates with curb inlet designs. (Not necessary if it’s not on a bike route according to both PBOT and ODOT staffers.)

We (at least I) don’t know much about the crash. Did someone blow a red light? Was someone turning? Which direction were Sarah and the truck going?
If we don’t know anything about the circumstances of this tragedy why are we advocating for a specific countermeasure?

If, after this visible demonstration, we learn that Sarah’s death had nothing to do with our perceived cause and our preferred countermeasure, will we lose credibility and set back the cause of vulnerable road users?

Don’t interpret my comments and questions as a statement that I believe the system is good or even adequate. It needs lots of work. Let’s be strategic about our actions and advocacy.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
1 month ago
Reply to  J_R

Here’s what we do know:

SE Powell is a High Crash Network street, with six fatal crashes since 2017 just between 24th and 37th. ODOT’s own urban design blueprint says highways in “urban mix” areas like SE Powell should prioritize walking, biking, & transit with “wide and comfortable” bike/ped facilities, including separated bike lanes. ODOT has already started reconfiguring outer Powell to match these guidelines. This has not happened on inner Powell, which ODOT has neglected for years along with many other orphan highways throughout the Portland Metro. Inner Powell would need around $31 million in repairs just to meet the city’s standards for a jurisdictional transfer to PBOT. Conflict between vulnerable road users and freight trucks is a recipe for disaster regardless of the exact circumstances of this one crash.

Nick
Nick
1 month ago
Reply to  J_R

I understand your point and appreciate all the work your done, however even if both parties or either party did something wrong someone is now dead. The infrastructure should prevent stuff like this.

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick

How? Given how little we know about what happened, how would the infrastructure prevent this from happening, you don’t even know what you are solving for? Regardless, given what we do know, it sure looks like a semi ran a red light, what is the infrastructure improvement prescription for that?

pigs
pigs
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

Slower vehicles. A pedestrian is twice as likely to die at 30mph than 20mph. Creating roads and infrastructure that prioritize low speeds is a problem that has already been solved.

Regardless who is at fault, slower speeds is the difference between minor injuries and lethal fatalities. To suggest that this was an “accident” with no possible avoidance is why these “accidents” continually happen.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  pigs

In this particular case, the truck was turning very slowly. This specific problem will not be solved by slowing down cars.

That does need to happen on Powell, however. Many have been injured or killed on Powell over the years because of speeding vehicles.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

Reducing death and injury is good even if it doesn’t prevent all deaths and injuries.

danielc
danielc
1 month ago
Reply to  J_R

I agree. I would like to know more about the crash. That is my preferred route to cross Powell heading north over the last 16 years, and I will have kids attending Cleveland High School in a few years. I really want these changes to be the most effective. We need a school zone speed limit, automatic cameras, and better infrastructure.

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  J_R

It appears the Jonathan Maus may know more about the details of this violent death than he has published here:

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Maus/status/1578138845392306176

Aaron Brown
1 month ago
Reply to  J_R

I just wanna say I’m uncomfortable with the notion that this event isn’t worthy of protest depending on the specific actions of the parties involved. Even *if* it was determined that the victim made a traffic mistake – doing so shouldn’t cost her her life! Blaming the victim puts an individualist spin on what is a social, collective problem – ODOT’s streets are dangerous, polluting, unhealthy spaces that are capable of inflicting a ton of harm on anyone near them, especially those most vulnerable. We need to create a transportation system that has built-in protections so that the slightest deviance from adherence to the most by-the-letter following of traffic law doesn’t lead to a fatality. If we design our streets with the premise that they shouldn’t kill somebody, it takes into account the possibility of human error. ODOT has the resources for fixing up this arterial – instead they spend all their money on freeway expansions, including the $1.4 billion proposed Rose Quarter Freeway Expansion which hasn’t had a single traffic fatality in over a decade.

Sequoia
Sequoia
1 month ago
Reply to  J_R

The event was a silent vigil from 3:30 to 4:15 to call attention to Sarah Pliner’s death and for motorists to slow down and drive carefully in a busy, dangerous intersection.

We all make mistakes on the road, the problem with American roads everywhere is that they’re not designed in a way that people’s mistakes don’t result in death or serious injury.

This Systematic Safety video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aNtsWvNYKE , talks about 2 aspects of human error. 1. Forgiveness. 2 Restrictiveness.

Forgiveness means road design that allows for small mistakes without serious injury. Restrictiveness means preventing people from making mistakes.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
1 month ago

These kinds of “community forums” seem like a delaying tactic when a street is as obviously unsafe as inner SE Powell. ODOT’s own urban design blueprint says wide & comfortable bike/ped facilities should be prioritized where there is a mix of urban uses like residences, businesses, & schools. They already know how to fix the street, they’ve just decided to spend the money on widening freeways instead.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago

I find it odd that with so many witnesses at the lunchtime crash followed crowds of investigators afterwards, that no one has leaked the result of the investigation yet. The relatives have already been informed of the crash, why the secrecy?

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

If the bicyclist were at fault you can bet PPB would have made that known immediately.

Ben
Ben
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

My brother is a Cleveland student and saw part of it from inside the school. I don’t feel comfortable repeating the unconfirmed stuff he told me, but the story from him and other school kids seems a bit different than what I’ve seen from news sources. I hope students who saw are talking to investigators, I should perhaps encourage him to reach out to them…

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

How did this get past moderation?

Will
Will
1 month ago
Reply to  cc_rider

For real, what gives?

Mary
Mary
1 month ago

Let me get this straight: Bike Loud wants to rally a bunch of people to go stand on SE 26th to form a “human bike lane” for 30 minutes while putting themselves and every other road user at risk, and that’s OK because it’s a “direct action” aka rules don’t apply? Then they wonder why nobody is taking these bike/ped advocacy groups seriously anymore…

Very curious to hear if the “human bike lane” full of green-shirted activists plan to block Powell during rush hour and how that will help rally the community around their cause.

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  Mary

if the “human bike lane” full of green-shirted activists plan to block Powell during rush hour and how that will help rally the community around their cause.

Blocking traffic on Powell would be a good thing. The transformative changes needed to stop drivers from killing so many of their neighbors won’t happen without conflict (political or otherwise).

Mary
Mary
1 month ago
Reply to  soren

I think it’s the smugness of this comment that really stands out. Schoolkids standing around waiting for their late parents to arrive, missed doctor appointments, people losing pay because they’re late to work, nonzero potential for vehicular road rage violence all pale in comparison to the righteousness of a direct action, huh? You’re 100% convinced that this is the proper way to effect change? Please clarify if the genius scheme is to block Powell, because that was not at all clear from the flyer. You’re really going to teach those uppity 9-Powell bus riders a lesson, aren’t you?

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  Mary

How do you plan on advocating for safety improvements to protect our kids at CHS from dangerous drivers on Powell and 26th?

You clearly don’t support this approach, so I’m sure you have a different, more effective strategy in mind.

Mary
Mary
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

Ooo, the Uno reverse card, my old friend. Suddenly it’s my responsibility to come up with a better plan than recklessly blockading a major US highway, presumably with high school-aged activist cannon fodder. How about…literally anything?

If something horrible happens, which is not hard to imagine, these organizations who advocated for/organized this “direct action” will have blood on their hands.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  Mary

Keep clutching those pearls.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  Mary

https://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/2022/10/transit-activists-form-human-bike-lane-to-demand-safety-on-powell-boulevard-after-bicyclists-death.html

These pictures must make your blood boil.

No one was killed during the protest, as far as I can tell.

John
John
1 month ago
Reply to  Mary

A protest is intended to inconvenience people. Otherwise it gets ignored. This has been known for the entire history of protests, and 100% of the time we get people making comments like yours complaining about the tone or how it’s going to make people mad. But the only protests that ever had any effect were inconvenient ones.

Mary
Mary
1 month ago
Reply to  John

Hey John and Chris, what do you imagine is going to happen when the 900 cars who would normally pass through Powell/26th at that hour are stopped for more than 10 minutes? Wil they A) whip out their phones to donate to your grifty nonprofits or B) turn off onto neighboring side streets, right when schools are letting out. Pissed off commuters ripping down Clinton, great job everybody.

I predict exactly zero bikers utilize your Kermit Karen “bike lane”, as there is a perfectly acceptable and well designed Powell crossing two blocks east on 28th.

Interested to see if JoAnn shows up for the DA photo op/sound bite.

John
John
1 month ago
Reply to  Mary

Hey Mary, I imagine the 900 cars who normally pass through there are not the ones who get to decide what kind of bike infrastructure gets built, for one. Law and policy makers make law and policy, and they respond to events that make their voters want to change who the law and policy makers are.

A protest like this isn’t permanent infrastructure, so it’s fine that they take alternate routes and clog up other streets with traffic. The goal isn’t to get donations, it’s to affect change. Again, see historical examples. This isn’t made up.

Clearly at least one (now deceased) person used that area to bike on, so your assertion is nonsense. Of course people will bike through there or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Mary
Mary
1 month ago
Reply to  John

Hey John, did you ask Jessica Pliner if she was OK with Street Trust/Bike Loud using her sister’s name as justification for placing high schoolers in rush hour traffic at the exact spot where Sarah was tragically killed?

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  Mary

Gross.

soren
soren
1 month ago

In 2015 we shut down traffic on Powell. In 2022 the “action” is to wear green shirts.

Will
Will
1 month ago
Reply to  soren

The action is to form a human protected bike lane

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  Will

And before you participate we ask that you should sign up and provide your personal information on a democratic party-affiliated web-form (NGP Van):

comment image

https://www.everyaction.com/privacy-policy-2/

(Nonprofit gatekeeping of a diversity of tactics.)

Will
Will
1 month ago
Reply to  soren

So we’re agreed. The direct action isn’t wearing t-shirts, it’s forming a human protected bike lane. Excellent.

Sequoia
Sequoia
1 month ago

It’s my hope that there will be time for and sincere interest in hearing from community members who’ve been hit on SE Powell.