Portland’s “pedestrian problem” is not going away

Portland’s “pedestrian problem” is not going away

division-streetview

Crosswalk on Division between 142nd and 143rd.

There’s been yet another crash in Portland involving a vulnerable road user. It marks a very troubling start to 2016 that should force the city to do a gut-check about its commitment to Vision Zero.

Back in 2014 they did one of their crosswalk enforcement actions at this crosswalk. In just 1.5 hours, the PPB issued 20 citations — six of them for “failure to stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian” and three for “passing stopped vehicle at a crosswalk.”

The latest tragedy on our streets happened yesterday at around 6:40 pm. According to the Portland Police Bureau, 36-year-old Evan Agrella was walking southbound when he entered the marked, mid-block crosswalk on SE Division between 142nd and 143rd. There are two standard vehicle lanes in this location. Argrella stepped into the first lane after drivers slowed and stopped for him. Unfortunately someone in the next lane failed to stop their car in time and struck him. As a result of this illegal and unsafe driving behavior, Argrella remains in the hospital with “traumatic, life-threatening injuries.”

Police say officers who responded to the crash believe one of the contributing factors was, “the bright, setting sun that was directly in front of Lovric [the driver] as she drove westbound on Division Street.” Unfortunately, in their official media statement about the crash, the PPB didn’t mention that failure to stop for someone in a crosswalk is a clear violation of Oregon law. Sun glare is a serious safety issue, but it should never be referred to in the context of absolving a person from the responsibility to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. There were many factors present that should have resulted in this driver either stopping or slowing to a crawl: the sun glare; the presence of a crosswalk, median island and caution signage; and the fact that vehicles in the adjacent lane had stopped and their brake lights would have been on.

This stretch of Division is well-known to the City of Portland. Back in 2014 they did one of their crosswalk enforcement actions at this crosswalk. In just 1.5 hours, the PPB issued 20 citations — six of them for “failure to stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian” and three for “passing stopped vehicle at a crosswalk.”






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A recent screenshot of my inbox shows a troubling frequency of injury and death.

This latest crash should bring even more urgency to PBOT and City Hall to redouble their safety efforts. Despite City Council’s adoption of Vision Zero last summer and considerable institutional focus on achieving it since then, Portland has had nearly double the fatal crashes compared to this time last year. So far five people have been killed while walking compared to 10 for all of 2015.

Activists are using this unfortunate spike to call attention to the need to pass a local gas tax to help pay for more infrastructure. In the Portland Tribune today, Kristi Finney Dunn of Families for Safe Streets said, “We’re supporting the measure because we believe these safety improvements need to be made. A lot of people don’t realize how much we need them until it is too late.” Finney Dunn’s son Dustin was killed by a drunk driver on Division in 2011 just up the road from where yesterday’s collision happened.

At the Oregon Active Transportation Summit earlier this month the head of PBOT’s Active Transportation Division Margi Bradway acknowledged that the city is struggling to improve safety for people on foot — despite continued investments in things like crosswalks, flashing beacons, and caution signs. Speaking on a panel about Vision Zero, Bradway said, “We have a pedestrian problem in Portland… They make up 9 percent of road users but are 31 percent of deaths. We are a leader of a lot of things; but we are not a leader on traffic safety.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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