A woman was killed by a driver Saturday evening while waiting at a bus stop in the Sunnyside neighborhood.
Police say Jean “Jeanie” Diaz was at the bus stop on the west side of Southeast Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard at Taylor Street around 6:20 pm. At the same time, 48-year-old Kevin Michael Scott was driving southbound and failed to control his vehicle. When police responded, they found Scott’s car had rolled over and slammed into the bus stop on the sidewalk. Scott showed signs of impairment and was ultimately arrested for Manslaughter in the First Degree, Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants, and Reckless Driving.
According to a GoFundMe set up by her family, Diaz was a loving mother to two young girls ages 5 and 8. She worked as a youth librarian for Multnomah County for nearly eight years. She was currently employed at the Belmont Library branch, just across the street from where she was hit.
This is the seventh traffic death in Portland so far this month, and the fifth in the last 10 days. According to the BikePortland Fatality Tracker, we are at the same level of traffic deaths so far this year as in 2022.
This crash is especially troubling for many of our readers because it happened at a major cycling intersection. SE Taylor is a popular neighborhood greenway route that crosses Cesar Chavez right where this happened. And as vulnerable road users, many people in the community have reasonable fears of drivers on Cesar Chavez due to its inherently dangerous design.
The cross-section of Cesar Chavez is very driving-centric: Four lanes, no center median, no shoulder, very narrow sidewalks, and a 30 mph speed limit. Drivers come just inches away from people on foot and bike. There is no room for error. But despite the stressful profile of the street, it is smack-dab in a neighborhood full of homes and destinations. The Belmont Library is just across the street.
“I always hated waiting along Cesar E Chavez. Always seemed like just a matter of time before some driver jumped the curb,” one person shared online in reaction to a BikePortland tweet this morning. “That stretch of Chavez is a death trap for pedestrians. I hate driving it and refuse to ever walk it,” said another. “I bike there… and always have a knot in my stomach about the drivers on Chavez not stopping,” shared someone else.
As drivers have gotten ever more selfish and reckless in recent months and years, we seem to have more rollover crashes in places where they should never occur. The amount of speeding and dangerous driving is, anecdotally at least, at an all-time high. That means we are all at risk, not just when we are driving (even police officers are getting slammed into!) but when we are anywhere near cars.
It hasn’t even been one year since another person was killed by a reckless driver while standing at a bus stop. The location where 26-year-old Ashlee McGill was killed by a speeding driving on SE Stark has as similar design and context as the section of Cesar Chavez Blvd where Diaz was killed: little to no shoulder, no buffer between sidewalk and high-speed drivers, and a well-known pattern of dangerous driving.
It’s almost as if we know exactly which roads are ticking tragedy time-bombs, yet we are unable and/or unwilling to defuse them.
According to the Oregon Library Association (OLA), Diaz was born and raised in Portland and has been working in public libraries since 2008. In October 2022, OLA Quarterly noted that Diaz, “Especially enjoys providing storytime, working with her amazing colleagues, and encouraging kids to be creative. When she’s not at the library, she can be found petting her cat, loving on her family, poking fun at life, making art, taking naps, and reading.”
If anyone has information about this crash, please e-mail email@example.com attn: Traffic Investigations Unit and reference case number 23-186008.