Closer Look: S-Curve at SE Woodstock and 69th

Back in June I received an email from a reader named Craig Doerty. He needed help with a problem. A big problem: Car drivers routinely fail to negotiate the s-curve intersection in front of his house and he lives in fear that they’ll slam into him and/or his home.

His concerns are very reasonable because it has already happened.

Late on a Saturday might in October 2021, the driver of a small hatchback lost control in the turn and managed to run right up into his front yard and struck his house. “My house just shook like a bomb had gone off,” he shared with me on Thursday. The driver took chunks off Craig’s garage and destroyed he and his neighbor’s fence before it came to rest nearly in the yard next door. And that was just one of several incidents where a driver slammed into a house in this neighborhood.

Craig said he’s witnessed about a dozen collisions. Houses on each corner have been struck. The fence and wall of one house, which was heavily damaged and draped with a tarp when I was out there from a crash just a few weeks ago, has been hit at least five times in recent memory. Parked cars have been totaled. Traffic poles and trees have been uprooted.

Craig’s neighbor, Brendan Bishop, has also been rattled by the omnipresent threat of the street.

“It’s kind of like developing PTSD a little bit… It’s like you hear you hear a noise and you almost always think it’s an accident or crash,” Brendan shared. After his house was hit in 2021, he filed a report with the City of Portland’s 823-SAFE Traffic Safety & Neighborhood Livability Hotline. He warned about speeding drivers, curbs that aren’t ADA-compliant, a spate of crashes, people doing donuts on the wide expanses of pavement left over from the break in the street grid. PBOT responded a few weeks later. They would put the request for an engineering investigation in the queue and could expect to hear something in three months. Brendan was relieved.

Seven months later he hadn’t heard back, so he emailed PBOT’s 823-SAFE staff person again.

“Since the time I first called, another accident occurred early this morning, a car going west bound, hit a telephone pole, arrow sign and stop sign and slammed into a home. I know these things take time, but I highly recommend sending someone to the corner sooner than later… It’s extremely scary… Something has to be done soon or another accident will occur.”

The PBOT staffer said an engineering analysis had been completed and the agency was will to update some curve advisory signs and add a painted bike lane in one direction. But that was it. Brendan and Craig want to see something much more substantial, like a concrete median island and/or some sort of traffic control and calming device.

Neither of these folks are well-versed in transportation advocacy. They just want to stop being scared.

“I want to say I feel let down by the city but I don’t think that’s the case,” Craig shared. “I just think we haven’t been loud enough about it yet.”

I encouraged them to get involved with their neighborhood association, to plug into PBOT’s Lower SE Rising Area Plan project, email their elected representatives, and do whatever they can to keep their concerns in the news.

There are a lot of dangerous intersections in Portland that need urgent changes. This one seems especially egregious. For eastbound traffic, there are no stop signs or signals on Woodstock for about one mile between 52nd and 69th. That means drivers have a perfect straightaway to gather speed with very little warning that a sharp corner is coming up. Craig and Brendan said drivers love to “drift” around the corners for fun.

We’ve covered several recent projects where PBOT has used a combination of painted pavement and plastic wands and curbs to narrow intersections. It feels like that would be a minimum here.

What do you think? Do you ride or drive or walk in this area? What is your experience with this s-curve or similarly designed intersections?

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Buster
Buster
5 days ago

Some “paint and post” curb extensions to realign the intersection would do wonders, similar to the stuff around 7th & Sandy in the Central Eastside.

Betsy Reese
Betsy Reese
4 days ago

Drawing shows squared off streets and crosswalks. Add stop signs, painted bike lanes, parking/no parking etc., as needed. Install concrete raised curbs, landscaping, ADA curb cuts. No plastic wands, mild little raised bumps, or pavement-painted “suggestions”, please.

All Photos - 1 of 1.jpeg
EP
EP
4 days ago
Reply to  Betsy Reese

I like how this looks. Reminds me of Tillamook and 21st a little.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
6 days ago

Ban S-curves and put in concrete Jersey barriers to make two 3-way intersections?

squareman
squareman
6 days ago

Look at all those drivers in the video staying below the speed limit and obeying paint marks and staying in their lanes. /s

Charley
Charley
6 days ago

Holy crap.

drivers love to “drift” around the corners for fun

The City needs to be more responsive on this. Whether it is a long-standing issue or a new issue that is a post-Covid development, this is unacceptable.

As a property owner, I’d be looking into concrete walls.

squareman
squareman
6 days ago
Reply to  Charley

Right. Is there any law against installing concrete bollards all around the edges of your property (inside your property line, off of the public ROW)? I mean, a brick wall serves the same purpose, but the bollards might drive home the point better.

Me
Me
6 days ago
Reply to  squareman

I think the house that would be a straight direct hit for cars driving west has big boulders along its front yard now…

qqq
qqq
5 days ago
Reply to  squareman

No, it seems the fence regulations would apply. You can put up a 3.5′ fence in your front yard and 8′ elsewhere (or up to 7′ with no permit). So you could line bollards up, or for that matter put in jersey barriers up to the fence ht. limits, with no permit.

It seems like the real solution (or part of one) might be for the City to install curb extensions at the SW and NE corners along the curves, and do trees and bollards or rails on them. Cars would hit those before they could hit the houses beyond them.

But your idea allows the property owners to do something in the meantime. Personally I’d like to see the City being interviewed in front of houses whose owners had put up jersey barriers, explaining why the City’s inaction has forced people into that solution.

Serenity
Serenity
5 days ago
Reply to  qqq

Wall mount with me one option… But I hate to see Portland go the same route as Southern California- mostly just a maze of wide streets and cinderblock fences.

was carless
was carless
5 days ago
Reply to  qqq

I think a cheaper option would be to just dump a load of gravel in the street to form a berm. If the city won’t deal with the issue, that would be the cheapest fix.

Aubi
Aubi
2 days ago
Reply to  Charley

This has been a problem for decades. I used to live their 20 years ago, same thing different decade.

Me
Me
6 days ago

I live nearby and I don’t understand why there aren’t any painted crosswalks on Woodstock between 52nd & 72nd. And as mentioned, before the curve the stretch is straight and the street wide so cars drive fast. At minimum there should be some painted & signed crosswalks plus 20 mph speed limit like there is between 52nd & Cesar Chavez.

squareman
squareman
5 days ago
Reply to  Me

There is a similar S-chicane on SE Division at SE 41st where the city put in effective traffic calming. They should do something like that here.

Potatoman
Potatoman
5 days ago
Reply to  Me

Agreed. I live in this stretch of Woodstock and basically just go up to 52nd if I want to be guaranteed a safe crossing. Sightlines are also kind of rough pulling off of side streets, because of the on-street parking right up to the corners. A stop sign somewhere around 62nd would be welcome.

ES
ES
2 days ago
Reply to  Me

Seriously, this makes me so mad! I have emailed the SAFE email requesting a crosswalk a couple of years ago and got a response that they sent someone out on a Monday at 11 am and that person observed that there is not a lot of traffic therefore a crosswalk is not needed. That was pre-pandemic, so of course more folks were at work at that time. Try crossing it at rush hour or weekend! As is there are no crosswalks or stop signs between 52nd and 72nd, and the speed on Woodstock has NOT been reduced from 30 to 25 mph like they did on neighboring Duke and Flavel. (I also wonder if more people started driving on Woodstock since the speed reductions and speed bumps were done on Duke and Flavel.)

I live nearby and bike or walk across Woodstock often, and it is very often an issue that drivers will be speeding and refuse to stop even when you are already in the street and visibly preparing to cross. At least I believe one intersection with SE 67th will be getting some kind of traffic calming because it is part of the 60s greenway that is slated for construction in the last fixing our streets round of projects. Not sure what that would actually mean, but I hope it means a stop sign on Woodstock!

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
6 days ago

I lived a few blocks from that section around 15 years ago and it was an issue then. Saw lots of damage to the houses and yards around there.
Seems like some big cement barrels to “skinny” the street so only a lane each way so that can’t “drift” into the big expanse of asphalt might get people to slow down.

dw
dw
6 days ago

I ride through there once every couple weeks or so. Drivers do indeed blow through. I hope PBOT listens to the residents and installs some real traffic calming. You would think after so much property damage they’d go for something other than paint, plastic, and politely asking drivers not to run in to houses. I think a treatment similar to the one on the curve at Division & 42nd would be a good solution.

Granpa
Granpa
6 days ago

Obviously this is an intractable problem like homelessness, crime, and graffiti that are beyond solutions, even for a capable and accomplished governance like Portland’s.

9watts
9watts
6 days ago

Reading this story it really drives home the point that driving asks a lot (maybe too much) of us. We apparently just aren’t wired to keep track of all the parameters that would be important to track at these modest speeds.
Concrete… Or better yet, lots of concrete + a very large sign announcing the well known relationship between airbags deploying and totaling your car.
It used to be MADD would display wrecked cars at dangerous intersections, as a warning….

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 days ago
Reply to  9watts

How about adding a pair of white-painted “ghost cars” on each of the triangular parts of the street not being used?

steve scarich
steve scarich
5 days ago
Reply to  9watts

It occurred to me yesterday after almost getting right-hooked by a jacked-up pickup, that many (most?) drivers do not exist in the same world as everyone else. What I mean is that they are functioning inside their vehicle, and that is their frame of reference. They do not exist in the ‘neighborhood’ or ‘pedestrian’ or ‘high school’ etc etc environment that is outside their vehicle. Therefore, they have little concern for those other environments, and act accordingly (speed, hit us, make too much noise, etc.). I’m not sure how you restore empathy to the human race; maybe every car should have a GPS always on that says ‘you are now passing a school full of little kids’ or ‘there is a bike rider next to you and he/she is very vulnerable’, etc.

X
X
4 days ago
Reply to  steve scarich

It interests me that navigation apps can provide guidance to routes with fewer traffic impediments but give no notice of obstacles like stop signs which I guess are not a thing in the metaverse.

John
John
3 days ago
Reply to  9watts

This (your comment) to me is one of the most important takeaways. Any time people make rumblings of needing better education or training or licensing to drive, I just think this. I believe certain education could help to a small extent, but I just don’t think driving is something humans can be expected to get right all the time. The solutions need to be engineered into road (transportation) design.

I also ride a motorcycle, and in that community there is always talk about precautions to take, ways to be safe, things to practice, etc. Motorcycle riders are well aware of the dangers and what they should do to be safe, yet still most motorcycle injuries and deaths are self inflicted user error. So you can’t even blame it on not caring about other people, humans are just error prone in general and at speeds the errors are more dangerous. People can’t pay the constant unwavering attention that it would require to actually be safe all the time.

Cyclists also makes dangerous mistakes all the time (as drivers in internet threads are gleeful to spend all their time talking about), but the dangers are just less severe. You’re going around at a human speed with a human weight, and you just can’t do nearly as much damage to yourself or others.

Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley
5 days ago

Rural road corners are also becoming a challenge for drivers. I notice a lot more cars in ditches and upside down in fields with their windows punched out and surrounded with police tape. Some get their wheels removed overnight!

dw
dw
5 days ago
Reply to  Mike Quigley

I guess using the brake pedal and steering wheel at the same time is really difficult. Those poor drivers being forced to go 20 over the speed limit on curves.

carrythebanner
carrythebanner
5 days ago

Strange how PBOT will completely over-engineer hardscaping for bike projects (see traffic circle at Oaks Bottom entrance, SE Milwaukie Ave & Mitchell) but when faced with a demonstrable, repeated, serious safety issue like this they suggest slapping down a little paint and hoping for the best.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor

Contact the city again about speed cushions, they started up a traffic calming program last year: https://bikeportland.org/2022/10/10/traffic-calming-is-coming-to-these-portland-streets-365089

Jeff Forbes
Jeff Forbes
4 days ago

I live near Foster and 67 and travel frequently to the business area in the 40s, New Seasons, Safeway, the laundromat, etc. Driving home East on Woodstock I sometimes miss the left turn at 67th, and my next possible left is 69th. Which is always a risk because you just can’t see what might be coming around that curve towards you. So you clench your sphincter and hope no one’s coming. Or drive on to 72nd. I should mention that I also ride my bike that way frequently and almost never miss 67th.

Frank Perillo
Frank Perillo
4 days ago

The orange barrels are the apparent solution everywhere else. Why not just a stick a few of them on this curve?

Maria
Maria
3 days ago

I live near there and it’s a curve cars take FAST. The bike lane paint is worn to show the way drivers cut the corners.
I’d like to see PBOT:

  • lower the speed limit to 20mph on Woodstock from 82nd – 52nd
  • add arrow signs for drivers who can’t pay attention
  • add those “kill zone” limiting black and yellow strips to protect the bike lane
  • make all personal vehicle use illegal

Ok that last one might not happen…

Jrdpdx
Jrdpdx
2 days ago

I empathize w both of those guys and their families (BTW super nice glasses Craig) but also think that this a a situation where there is some personal responsibility at play. This is a known problem why does the government need to fix it. Caveat emptor is a time tested doctrine that applies here. Similar to buying a house on a cliff, there are known risks that we should take into account before complaining and asking for outside help.

Aubi
Aubi
2 days ago

I used to live just around the corner on 69th, I can attest to almost being hit while pushing my baby in a stroller on the sidewalk from a driver who entered the curve at way to high a speed. This was 20 years ago. The community has been trying to get this changed in a meaningful way for decades. People just keep getting hurt. Homes and property keep getting damaged. The city has not proposed an actual fix. What they plan on doing will do nothing to actually improve saftey.