Traffic calming installed outside violence-plagued high school

The City of Portland has installed a novel set of traffic calming tools on North Commercial Avenue outside of Jefferson High School. The move comes in response to a spate of violence on the street that involved students.

In October we reported on an alleged hit-and-run at Commercial and Killingsworth that left a student injured and in the hospital. Later that same week, on October 18th, two students were injured in a shooting on the same street right outside the school. Then on November 14th, another student was injured in a shooting. In all three of these cases, the aggressors were driving a car on Commercial Avenue.

In what appears to be an attempt to calm violence by drivers, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has installed five sets of plastic curbs and wands between North Killingsworth and Alberta streets. They are rectangular in shape and vary in size. In three locations on the south end of the block, they are installed on both sides of the streets and create such a narrow opening that drivers can pass in only one direction at a time. The idea is that the fear of hitting these flexible plastic posts and curbs will make it less likely that drivers will speed to and from the school’s main entrance.

Stepping back a bit, this is another example of Portland using street designs to tamp down vehicle-based violence. Last summer Mayor Ted Wheeler announced a Safer Summer PDX program that included $2.4 million for, “place-based investments… to address environmental factors conducive to gun violence.” Wheeler’s emergency declaration on gun violence stated, “We will be expanding place-based interventions in neighborhoods that are caught in the crossfire of gun violence… interventions could include increased lighting, traffic diversion…”

Wheeler’s embrace of traffic-related interventions was in many ways a validation of former Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s efforts to find alternatives to armed police officers. Back in September, Hardesty helped usher in this new era of enforcement with the opening of a large public plaza in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood that was built on a former slip lane that had a notorious history of vehicle-based violence.

In a statement shared Friday, January 6th PBOT said the request to do the project came from Portland Public Schools. “These street improvements are a step towards centering the safety of Jefferson students and community,” said PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero. “I’m grateful that the Portland Bureau of Transportation listened to our students and worked with us to develop a solution that helps address a community need.” They also shared the graphic below:

A map that shows the locations of the newly installed reflective posts on North Commercial Avenue, adjacent to Jefferson High School, between North Killingsworth and Alberta streets. (Source: PBOT)
Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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EP
EP
1 year ago

Needs more big round concrete planters so the wands aren’t just an idle threat to the average pickup/SUV! Or put Jersey barriers perpendicular to the curb, sticking out into the middle of the bollard zones.

dw
dw
1 year ago
Reply to  EP

I was thinking the same thing. Planters would be nice for aesthetics too.

Will
Will
1 year ago
Reply to  dw

Perfect size for tree wells imo

hamiramani
1 year ago

Good idea. Reasonable *pilot* implementation. Needs to be eventually (hopefully soon) be changed to permanent structures; would use concrete planters and actually use them as garden space for students and neighbors to dabble in.

Any chance we get to (re)introduce people to Nature is a step toward furthering compassion and Love; and that’s what we really need.

joan
1 year ago

Seems like Jefferson students have been the victims of traffic violence, and I fear that the headline unintentionally suggests that students have been the cause, and at the high school itself. It seems that the streets are violence-plagued, rather than Jeff. The language in stories about Powell emphasized the problems with the roads and traffic violence, not Cleveland.

Mauri Rocco
Mauri Rocco
1 year ago

This is just more absurdity by the city of Portland, its failed leaders such as Joanne Hardesty and an out of touch, clueless leadership at PPS (Gudalupe Guerrero) that only cares about virtue signaling racial and social justice. How are plastic wands going to stop bullets? There were SIX shootings at/near Portland public schools in 2022 and all we get is plastic sticks? Kids of ALL colors and backgrounds cannot reach their potential if they are unsafe in our schools.

What a terrible joke this city had become. Remember Jefferson is not the only school where shootings have occurred.

We need to have School Resource Officers (SRO’s) returned to our schools. Criminals now know that there will no longer be consequences for violence involving our children. Without an adequately staffed and functioning police department our community will never be safe. Our kids, teachers and school staff deserve to be protected. Plastic sticks ain’t the answer.

https://www.wweek.com/news/schools/2022/12/13/school-shootings-are-on-the-rise-in-portland/

dw
dw
1 year ago
Reply to  Mauri Rocco

When have SROs ever stopped school shootings? Maybe we could invest half our city budget in the police force so they can stand by idly when the next school shooting happens.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  dw

It’s happened a few times:
https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/20/us/maryland-school-shooting-resource-officer-response-trnd/index.html

Definitely not a perfect solution, as there are cases where SROs did not act, but we should consider all options when trying to combat this horrible trend.

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

The incident began in a school hallway at 7:55 a.m., just before classes started. Authorities say Austin, armed with a handgun, shot a female student, with whom he had a prior relationship, and another male student.

It’s so darkly funny that ‘success’ for Americans is when a school shooter only shoots two people.

SROs are only useful for feeding the school to prison pipeline.

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
1 year ago
Reply to  cc_rider

Nothing feeds the school-to-prison and school-to-funeral pipelines like spiraling violence.

Bike-advocate
Bike-advocate
1 year ago
Reply to  cc_rider

Since the shooting at their school, my kid feels safer with the police presence and therefore does better throughout the day. I know this may not mean that the SRO actually stops crime, but psychologically it helps my student. I also wonder if the police presence helps dissuade other smaller in-building crimes (vaping, other drug use, theft).

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 year ago

if shooters are driving stolen cars, or destroyed meth zombie cars, why would they care if they run over some plastic wands?

Champs
Champs
1 year ago

Unless I’m misremembering, and I’m not, armed police presence was very much a part of the Mt. Scott intervention. When we asked—twice—for the same at my neighborhood park, where people are being killed, JoAnn Hardesty told Willamette Week that she never got the letter. She didn’t respond afterward, either.

I don’t know how anything gets done in this city but at least they’re doing something for someone’s kids.

Scott Kocher
1 year ago

Curious about the specifics of the calming design. It looks like the primary calming remains unchanged: speed bumps breaking the 1,300-foot straightaway into chunks of about 430 feet. That’s still a lot longer than the 250-foot bump spacing to achieve 25 mph. (Last I heard PBOT had no design for closer spacing or taller bumps to achieve 20 mph. Their bump engineering is unchanged from the 25 mph bad old days.) And the wanded rectangles don’t appear to achieve any horizontal calming (aka a chicane or meander). The “yield street” bottleneck point achieves some narrowing but does it do much if there aren’t cars approaching from both directions? Maybe PBOT would comment on their design thinking and what the community can hope for in terms of a permanent installation that is less ugly and promotes placemaking?

nic.cota
1 year ago

I think this is a great start. Im proud of the ingenuity to use traffic-calming instead of armed police presence to tamper traffic and gun violence in this City. The tie between wide-roads and violence is not a coincidence, especially in North and East Portland. Most shootings are achieved by someone with a vehicle who can flee the scene quickly. If we limit that ability, we limit that opportunity.

steve scarich
steve scarich
1 year ago

Maybe it’s obvious, but not to me…who has the right of way?

steve scarich
steve scarich
1 year ago
Reply to  steve scarich

I’ll answer my own question. I read details, and it says drivers will take turns. Seriously? That is clearly in violation of all guidelines for traffic control, and a recipe for disaster.