Safety goes dark as intersection daylighting lags in Portland

The corner of SE Ellis and 48th where Melissa Kostelecky saw an elementary student on a bike get hit by the driver of that grey Subaru Monday afternoon. The child rolled out of the curb cut right behind that maroon SUV that is parked too close to the corner. (Photo: Melissa Kostelecky)

“Just saw a kid get hit by a car right across from Woodstock Elementary,” read a message from Portlander Melissa Kostelecky posted to a local advocacy forum on Monday. “This is exactly why we need to get on the city to enforce daylighting.”

Daylighting, or what the City of Portland refers to as “vision clearance at intersections” is a way to improve visibility by prohibiting on-street auto parking all the way up to the curb. It’s a well-known concept to local road safety advocates and one that should be well-known to local elected officials and policymakers.

Over the years we’ve seen lots of attention on the issue in the form of advocacy campaigns, promises from leaders, even a lawsuit from a bereaved family of a man killed as a result of poor intersection visibility. Despite all that, Portland has still not made enough progress on ridding corners of the scourge of parked cars.

Kostelecky was shaken-up after watching that crash on Monday. Luckily the child on the bike and the driver were going slowly and the driver was able to react before serious damage could be done. Kostelecky has since filed a report with police and with PBOT’s 823-SAFE system just to make sure it’s accounted for.

Another local advocate, Peter Kokopeli, used his three-minute testimony in front of Portland City Council this morning (watch it here) to raise awareness of daylighting. “This kind of situation is not safe for drivers or for anybody else,” Kokopeli said as he held up a printed sheet of paper showing a car parked over the corner on SE Belmont and 68th. He urged Mayor Ted Wheeler, PBOT Commissioner Mingus Mapps, and other council members to direct more funding to daylight intersections on all school routes, neighborhood greenways, bus routes, and all streets where pedestrians are prioritized. “They cost only $800 per intersection. It’s a really good deal,” he said.

“It’s truly one of the rare low-hanging fruits in the transportation space and I hope that we can work together to make this more widespread practice.”

– Mingus Mapps, PBOT Commissioner

Wheeler beamed at Kokopeli and he and Mapps said they appreciated his presentation. While they talked about funding, no promises were made. “It’s relatively cheap fix and it would be great to make progress in this area,” Mapps said. Then he added, “It’s truly one of the rare low-hanging fruits in the transportation space and I hope that we can work together to make this more widespread practice.”

If it’s “low-hanging fruit” and relatively cheap to implement, it’s surprising PBOT hasn’t done more of it. And of course, even if they took the step of painting curbs or adding “No Parking” signage — given the extreme entitlement of many Portland drivers who feel they can park wherever and however they want — it would only be effective if it were implemented with robust and impenetrable infrastructure and/or strong enforcement.

Speaking of enforcement, there’s already a state law (ORS 811.550) that prohibits cars from parking within 20-feet of a corner (with some exceptions), but it is rarely enforced.

One way to compel the City of Portland to take daylighting more seriously is to sue them, and that’s what local lawyer Scott Kocher is doing on behalf of the family of Elijah Coe, a man who was hit and killed by a driver while riding his motorcycle on E Burnside in 2019. In that case, a driver attempted to make a left turn onto Burnside (from SE 17th) and collided with Coe. “Mr. Coe’s death in the resulting collision, could have been prevented if the City complied with the law,” reads a statement from the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Attorneys for PBOT have leaned very heavily on discretionary immunity (a legal concept backed up by state law that says cities are immune from liability, even if they made decisions that led to less safe infrastructure) to argue they should not be liable for crashes that result from a lack of visibility at intersections.

On the ground, PBOT is slowly working to daylight thousands of intersections citywide that need it. After former PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty dedicated $200,000 toward the effort in 2021, PBOT says they completed 350 daylighting treatments on high crash streets. But current city guidelines only call carfree corners if a street is repaved or if it’s part of a large capital project — a policy that leads to far fewer installations than Kokopeli asked for at council this morning. The only way to get more of them done is to request specific locations one-at-a-time.

Meanwhile, Portland parents like Kostelecky and advocates like Kokopeli will have to hope drivers learn about the issue and simply stop parking so close to corners. But for some drivers, even awareness of the law doesn’t stop the dangerous behavior.

Kostelecky told BikePortland she’s discussed the issue near the school with leaders of the nearby neighborhood association. They’ve told her that many parents intentionally ignore the daylighting law and tell her things like, “I’m just trying to get my kid to school.”

With attitudes like that from some drivers, no amount of paint or “pretty please” will work.

Kocher says his lawsuit is pending a decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals and he expects a decision within the next year.

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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Peter S
Peter S
5 months ago

Mapps is out here talking as if he’s not the person directly responsible for whether progress is able to be made.

Sir, you are the PBOT commissioner!

MontyP
MontyP
5 months ago

The bad thing about a properly daylit corner is that it looks like a great “open”parking spot, and people wedge themselves in and block the corner. Something needs to be added to the space, besides paint and/or a sign. Maybe this would actually be a good use for plastic delineator wands? I like the approach PBOT has done around town at busy crosswalks.

IMG_2546
Brandon
5 months ago
Reply to  MontyP

What about those big concrete planter boxes? The ones near schools could be painted by the students and used as school gardens. They are relatively cheap, provide protection from moving vehicles, and are short enough to allow visibility of pedestrians. It’s easy to ignore a sign and some yellow paint, it takes a lot of effort to move a 500lb concrete cylinder filled with dirt. Best part, they are mostly self enforcing, so they require even less effort than our hard-working peace officers are currently providing.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 months ago
Reply to  Brandon

Maybe the city is worried about liability? The unauthorized use of the planters as trash receptacles and public toilets? The city already has issues about keeping their bioswales maintained (PBOT versus BES), how are they going to maintain planters? Neighborhood adopt-a-planter programs?

dw
dw
5 months ago
Reply to  MontyP

Yes, this is a great way to use ‘quick-build’ infrastructure.

City Slicker
City Slicker
5 months ago
Reply to  MontyP

A pricey option, but economic in its use of space, would be to use a bike parking box to daylight the intersections. It would be such a benefit to those without in-unit bike parking. Living in an apartment, I’d even pay for such a spot if it was secure.

Will
Will
5 months ago
Reply to  City Slicker

Even just regular bike racks at the intersections would do the job.

John A
John A
5 months ago
Reply to  MontyP

Unfortunately this intersection has been getting upgraded for the past year and no longer has that blocked curb nor any zebra crossing at Stark which were both removed last summer.

idlebytes
idlebytes
5 months ago

given the extreme entitlement of many Portland drivers who feel they can park wherever and however they want — it would only be effective if it were implemented with robust and impenetrable infrastructure and/or strong enforcement.

I’ve found it to be effective without those things at least in neighborhoods where parking isn’t too restricted. For instance the new daylighting on Burnside between 80th and 71st and continuing down the Davis/Everett greenway is mostly effective.

I agree harder infrastructure is needed in more constricted neighborhoods. The Salmon/Taylor greenway through Sunnyside is a bit of a nightmare to bike and walk in especially at night when most people are home from work.

Andrew S
Andrew S
5 months ago

Daylighting is good, but why the heck is there only a crosswalk on the north side of Ellis? Portland has this kind of thing all over the place – one side of the street has a crosswalk, the other does not, even though there are curb ramps on both sides. Also, looking at google street view, the gap in the fence to access the playground lines up with the south side of Ellis! It is clearly expected that people will cross here. Why don’t we treat it as such? Same situation on the other side of the school. So many other elementary schools have the same thing. Why on earth can’t we provide our kids crosswalks on both sides of the street?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 months ago

When I see a statement on Bike Portland such as:

…it would only be effective if it were implemented with robust and impenetrable infrastructure and/or strong enforcement.

What I hear is something along the lines of:

…just as soon as we get married everything will be fine…

Or more accurately:

… Just as soon as Portland no longer acts weird but instead is boring just like the rest of the country and taxes itself so much to pay for Gestapo policing and expensive infrastructure…

Or more simply:

…only in our dreams…

Damien
Damien
5 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

…only in our dreams…

I gotta disagree on this one – parking enforcement seems like a relatively very easy thing to do when it comes to enforcement, and I suspect could pay for itself and then some. You could probably pay for several people just having one person full-time wander around NW and the Pearl dishing out tickets (even without any paint or signs designating the 20-foot buffer – you’ll find plenty of folks straight-up parked in the crosswalk blocking wheelchair ramps).

No cops needed. Minimal infrastructure (paint the curbs like with fire hydrants. Done). This seems very much in the realm of possibility, even for Portland.

dw
dw
5 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

You usually leave really good comments but this is a dumb take. What do you propose? Just not doing anything because apparently children getting hit on their way to school “keeps Portland weird?”

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 months ago
Reply to  dw

It’s a comment on the fact that you will collectively no absolutely nothing to fix this and many other pressing issues – because they cost money – and Oregonians in general and Portlanders in particular are averse about raising the taxes needed to pay for infrastructure. Or for more police.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Typo: …collectively do absolutely nothing…

BP editing feature unfortunately cut out on me for some unknown reason…

Hotswap
Hotswap
5 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

The citizens of Multnomah County are the most taxed of all the counties in the country…

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Hotswap

Yes, but many of those taxes are paid only by high earners to support pre-school and homeless services. Taxes are not being paid by everyone evenly. Many high earners are leaving MultCo for ClackCo and WashCo, and taking their businesses with them – sad to say.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

pre-school and homeless services

500 new preschool spots and no apparent improvement in homelessness services… We don’t really have much to show for all that tax money we’re collecting.

Solar Eclipse
Solar Eclipse
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

If my partner didn’t have ties to our local community we’d be out of Portland (Multnomah County) in a heartbeat!
I’ve grown so tired of the taxes that keep getting piled on every year.

🚲
🚲
5 months ago
Reply to  Hotswap

citation

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
5 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Oh, we are good at raising taxes. We are terrible at implementation of programs and policies. It’s generally just a platitude about something and then the hope that citizens change their behavior without any other pressure.

J_R
J_R
5 months ago

The city has made me, the adjacent property owner, responsible for maintaining the sidewalk and maintaining the city’s street trees (between the sidewalk and curb). Over the last 25 years I estimate I’ve spent $10,000 on sidewalk replacement and tree trimming.

Maybe the city should simply make me responsible for parking prohibitions and enforcement and for placing speed bumps on my street. Now that’s something I could get behind to go with my sidewalk and tree expenses.

Racer X
Racer X
5 months ago
Reply to  J_R

Install a parking meter at the curb or a toll pike for pedestrians

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Racer X

We don’t see enough toll pikes these days.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
5 months ago

It costs 800 to paint a curb red to indicate no parking? Why can’t we do that now?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Are red curbs legal on public curbs in Portland? I never recalled seeing them on public streets in Portland, just in private parking lots at malls and such – I thought the city used yellow to indicate “no parking” in public areas. Even in places with either the yellow or red curb markings, delivery vehicles would regularly park there, as well as regular folks dropping off people, and really, just about everyone else too.

qqq
qqq
5 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

If I’m recalling correctly, red curbs are reserved for designating fire lanes–marked to guarantee that nobody blocks fire truck access to buildings. Fire Marshals I’ve talked to aren’t particularly concerned about people parking in them temporarily if the driver is there to move the vehicle right away, but they’ll come down hard if a property owner is allowing anything other than that.

It just means marking to prevent parking at daylit intersections has to be yellow, not red.

dw
dw
5 months ago

They’ve told her that many parents intentionally ignore the daylighting law and tell her things like, “I’m just trying to get my kid to school.”

With attitudes like that from some drivers, no amount of paint or “pretty please” will work.

This is so true it hurts. I work in an elementary school and part of my job is doing arrival/drop off duty. It’s a good thing I have good health insurance because the insane and entitled behavior I see drivers exhibit on a daily basis is raising my blood pressure.

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  dw

Getting your kids to school on time pretty much justifies every kind of antisocial behavior you could imagine: speeding, tailgating, illegal parking – not to mention the horrible toll it takes on the climate and our health (the morbid externalities of driving). I’ve heard so many parents justify practically anything that allows them to drive their kids to school, and it’s a price that the rest of us have to pay, apparently.

Brandon
5 months ago
Reply to  dw

I don’t understand why so many parents feel the need to drive their kids to school. I’m not that old, but when I was in school it was pretty rare for parents to drive their kid to school. Most of us either took the bus or walked, at least until we were old enough to drive ourselves, which I wish they didn’t allow. Is it just too many helicopter parents, or have there been structural changes to the bussing programs? I was in Arizona recently and berated my buddy for driving his daughter to her school that was a 10min walk away, his excuse was that it was too cold(60 degrees). Due to the layout of the neighborhood the drive actually took longer than walking, and there was a giant line of cars filled with other parents, such a waste of time and resources.

Resopmok
Resopmok
5 months ago

Parking enforcement also requires citizen participation – even if there are enough personnel to issue citations they simply can’t be everywhere enough to provide sufficient enforcement. Luckily there is a phone number to call and report cars which are parked illegally: +1 (503) 823-5195
Regardless of the law, it may be unenforceable as written (the 20 foot rule) simply because people can’t be expected to measure the distance to the corner crosswalk, and the difficulty of producing such evidence by the ticketing agent is probably process prohibitive for every single violation.
Not a fan of the term “daylighting” though as it sounds a bit too close to “gaslighting” even though the two are completely unrelated. I don’t really have a good alternative suggestion though..

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Resopmok

There are some really good alternatives (like planters) at the top of this comment thread. Please go back and read them.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
5 months ago
Reply to  Resopmok

Hire some of our unhoused neighbors to write and document the tickets and give them a portion of the proceeds to lift them out of poverty. They’d certainly be incentivized.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago

For-profit law enforcement… what could possibly go wrong?

Solar Eclipse
Solar Eclipse
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

What are red-light and speed cameras? Profit for the outsourced companies that usually operate them.

Steven
Steven
5 months ago
Reply to  Solar Eclipse

Are those better or worse than private prisons, bail bonds agencies, or probation companies? How about civil asset forfeiture?

Matt
Matt
5 months ago

Unless I’m misinterpreting the photo caption, what you called a “driveway” is actually a curb cut.

Betsy Reese
Betsy Reese
5 months ago

So California passed a Daylighting law recently – and they are actually going to start enforcing it right away. When was Oregon’s passed? A LONG time ago. Time to enforce it! We don’t need to spend money on No-Parking signs and yellow curb paint. We need to start an education and enforcement campaign on the law that has long been on our books.

https://www.sfchronicle.com/sf/article/new-california-parking-law-18588065.php?utm_content=cta&sid=5e85e88d283d8e66c1086ea8&ss=A&st_rid=bdda579e-22d2-4c6d-945f-5990520deaa2&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=headlines&utm_campaign=sfc_morningfix

Betsy Reese
Betsy Reese
5 months ago

Start calling in to Parking Patrol violations of the 20-foot-from-the-crosswalk rule, AND violations of the 50-foot from the crosswalk for vehicles over 6 feet tall local Portland Ordinance. Quote them the ordinance over the phone, and follow up to make sure they enforced it. They keep track via your phone number, all you have to do is ask.

506-foot-rule-parking-near-intersections-2018
Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Reese

I’ve not had great experiences with the parking enforcement line. If you are out for a ride and you stop to call the number, you will NOT speak with a human but instead with the slowest recorded-prompt system I’ve ever seen. They ask first for your ID info and make you tell them you want to remain confidential, which is stupid – ask that at the end! If you want to say, “Please send someone now to the corner of Broadway and 4th!” you can’t do that – you have to stand there for 7-8 minutes, waiting on the stupid system to go thru its prompts.

Yet another way in which our city services never fail to disappoint.

John A
John A
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

It’s this very reason I only use the line for persistent issues that make it more worth the time to sit and go through the endless prompts which cannot be sped up. If it’s a one off, I can’t be bothered. But if someone blocks that crosswalk every day, than I’m more inclined to report.

qqq
qqq
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

I’ve had pretty poor results. I did get an apology call back, though. It was a business repeatedly parking on sidewalk at end of day. Supervisor said the time of day, and location in SW made sending limited staff out difficult.

I’ve also had some great, immediate results, too.

My biggest issue recently is I was going to use the reporting app, but there was a disclaimer that it could be possible for the person I was reporting to be able to access who made the complaint, which made it too risky for me. A reporting system that doesn’t have bulletproof anonymity is badly flawed.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
5 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Reese

I admire your faith in our local governments’ ability to be effective.

Racer X
Racer X
5 months ago

May be PBOT / COP needs a action for good vigilante group – like the friends of treeees – to go out and install city grade no parking signs on poles fulfilling the ORS 20FT set back. The slogan would be: ‘At midnight, we sign off!’ (Sorry Ayleen. 😉

IMHO 20FT is not enough if you use most cities sight distance calculations for anything but parking. – Just sayin’

Dawn
Dawn
5 months ago

I think it’s common for people to park too close to a corner. I also have noticed when I look out the window at my house on the corner that many of the pedestrians who go by are wearing black. In bad weather, they sometimes have their black hood up, too. And at night, the few who come along the sidewalk are wearing dark colors generally.

qqq
qqq
5 months ago
Reply to  Dawn

Yes, dark clothes and hoodies are popular pretty much everywhere now.

Solar Eclipse
Solar Eclipse
5 months ago
Reply to  qqq

I purposely bought a light tan colored hoodie a number of years ago and it’s my main one.
I’ve also invested in a safety vest that I can put over any jacket when I’m walking (rare anymore) when dark out.

Matt
Matt
5 months ago
Reply to  Dawn

If you can’t see somebody and you hit them with your car, you’re the problem, not your victim. Fix your headlights, get corrective lenses, or stop driving at night (or altogether). What a disgusting, entitled attitude.

maxD
maxD
5 months ago

Mapps, “This traffic violence is horrible, you have my thoughts and prayers” (paraphrase). Mapps, Wheeler, and every legislator and PBOT bureaucrat and engineer KNOWS full well that cars are killing people. But they will do nothing about them because business interests support car culture. This is not as bad as ignoring gun violence in favor of kickbacks and political power, but considering climate change and record-breaking traffic violence, it is a close second

SD
SD
5 months ago

This would be an easy win for automated enforcement. The cars and trucks are just sitting there in a place where no one should park. Not much grey area.

In the mean time, I would like to see schools put up parking signs like “This Space Reserved for Entitled Jerks,” and give awards for most selfish parker of the week. Put a sign up with their picture at the entrance of the school so that the kids can know who the the threats are. Most parents trade their moral compass for google maps when they get behind the wheel, but their kids won’t let them embarrass them by having their picture up.

School drop off is the microcosm of car culture- car use creates danger, which in turn justifies more car use, which in turn creates more danger and the elimination of non-dangerous modes of drop off. Then everyone looks around and assumes that this is the way that is has to be and has always been. Everyone is too timid to disrupt the cycle and people in charge only make a few tiny tweaks that have no impact and they throw up their hands and walk away.

Lois Leveen
Lois Leveen
5 months ago

Does Metro paint come inspected sunshine yellow? Maybe we can just start daylighting the intersections ourselves. #kidding/notkidding/notwantingkidstodiebecausePBOTleaderscan’tlead

anti-PBOT extremist
anti-PBOT extremist
5 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

This has been attempted many times by anti-PBOT extremists but PBOT responded with highly unusual speed by sandblasting the paint off within hours/days.

chris
chris
5 months ago

I hope the city will also works on ridding corners of the scourge of tall fences and bushes. SE 62nd and Woodward would be a good place to start, you really can’t see if someone is approaching from the north until you’re almost in the intersection.