Mayor Hales is rolling up his sleeves on road safety

Mayor Hales is rolling up his sleeves on road safety

Mayor Hales crossing enforcement action-9

Mayor Hales has had traffic safety on his mind for months
— now he’s starting to do something about it.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

In light of a spate of serious injury and fatal roadway collisions, Mayor Charlie Hales held a top-level meeting in his City Hall office yesterday.

Billed as, “An urgent/time sensitive meeting request to discuss recent incidents and fatalities involving vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists,” the meeting featured a full table of city staffers, road safety advocates and other stakeholders. According to Hales’ Policy Director Josh Alpert, representatives from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Oregon Walks, Oregon Trucking Associations, and the NW Skate Coalition were in attendance. Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick joined Mayor Hales as did several staffers from the Bureau of Transportation. (I was invited but I’m not in Portland this week and was unable to attend.)

As a former commissioner in charge of PBOT in the 1990s, it’s not surprising to see Hales so engaged in transportation issues. In his first six months in office he has also had to face more tragedies and carnage than he expected. Just a few months into his mayoral term Hales faced scrutiny over how to balance maintenance and safety funding when a five-year-old girl was struck and killed while trying cross a street in east Portland. Then just two months ago, Hales acted as a decoy in a crosswalk safety mission on East Burnside. During an interview with BikePortland at that event, he said transportation safety is, “a serious community problem, and I’ve become more fervent about it than I was even six months ago.”

“Nobody’s got all the answers, but there are things we should be trying and things we are doing and need more of. This is a good starting point to ensure that our streets are safe for all users.”
— Josh Alpert, Mayor Hales’ policy director

Since that crosswalk safety event in May, several more people have been killed and seriously wounded on our streets. There have been 23 fatalities in Portland so far this year, compared to 17 at this time last year.

Yesterday’s meeting was a chance for Hales to get the pulse of advocates and community leaders. Alpert said the group discussed short and long-term solutions, brainstormed new ideas like the creation of “neighborhood toolkits” and talked about new legislation and enforcement tools.

The exact outline of Hales’ plan to attack the road safety issue isn’t clear yet; but as he shared with us in May, more enforcement is very likely to be a top priority. Of course, we all know simply calling for more enforcement means nothing unless it’s coupled with funding, so Hales will have to find money for it. Public outreach campaigns are also something the City has done in the past and we’re likely to see more of that in the future (PBOT Commish Novick has proven to be anything but shy on the topic thus far).

“Nobody’s got all the answers,” Alpert shared with us via email last night, “but there are things we should be trying and things we are doing and need more of. This is a good starting point to ensure that our streets are safe for all users.”

“This will be an ongoing and iterative discussion until there’s no longer a need and our streets are safe.”

I am sure the BikePortland community will play an important role in that discussion. Stay tuned for more developments and ways you can offer feedback and input.

If you were at that meeting, what advice would you have given Mayor Hales?

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