Join us 10/12: Portland City Council Hearing on Vision Zero Action Plan

Through the Vision Zero program, the City of Portland and partners are working to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on our streets by 2025.

The Vision Zero Task Force has overseen the creation of a draft Vision Zero Action Plan with specific steps to make streets safe. Kari Schlosshauer, the regional policy manager in the Pacific Northwest, together with numerous community groups, have called for Vision Zero policy for our city; for the past year she has helped create the Vision Zero Action Plan, ensuring it would tackle the biggest and smallest risks, be community based and data driven, and that would work to fix rather than exacerbate inequities for Portlanders.

3 p.m. on Wednesday, October 12 – City Council Hearing on Vision Zero Action Plan

Portland City Council will discuss and vote for adoption of the 5-year action plan developed by community organizations, partner agencies, and the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Walktober with us to the hearing from the Eastbank Esplanade (Vera Katz Statue) to City Hall for the hearing. Meet at 2:00pm for the walk – we will arrive 15 minutes early to sign up to testify. Help us pack the house in support of safe streets for all Portlanders and zero traffic deaths and injuries on our streets.

Read Kari’s prepared testimony here.

On safety and driving…

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is shocked and saddened by the news that, across the nation, traffic crash injuries and fatalities are up significantly this year. By disturbing comparison, in the first half of 2016, the number of people killed by traffic crashes in the US equals

  • Half the population of Keizer, OR; or
  • All but 1,000 people who make Milwaukie, OR their home; or
  • Every single person living in Battleground, WA; or
  • Full capacity Portland Timbers’ Providence Park stadium.
Pedestrian-Risk-by-Vehicle-Speed_bikePGH

source: Bike PGH

In the Pacific Northwest region, our hearts are broken and we stand with the families and communities that have recently felt this too close to home, with several youth involved in serious and fatal traffic crashes this month alone.

It is critical that our communities provide students in all communities with safe routes to walk and bicycle to school. This means creating safe environments and teaching safety skills to people who walk, bicycle, and drive.

The National Partnership, together with our community partners, recommends the following improvements and policy changes to increase safety for students walking and bicycling, both short and long term:

  • Sidewalks and bicycle-paths that connect homes with schools
  • Student-friendly opportunities to cross streets – such as the presence of adult crossing guards, raised medians, traffic and pedestrian signals, and/or pathways that are safe, convenient, and accessible for students of all abilities
  • Slow vehicle speeds and yielding to pedestrians and bicyclists, accomplished through roadway safety measures (traffic calming), speed limit reductions, and/or police enforcement operations

Every day, millions of people and children safely walk and bike to school or other destinations in communities across the country. Walking and biking are important activities that bring countless benefits to individuals and communities as a whole — through increased physical activity, better health, longer lifespans, and stronger economies. Our work and the work of our community partners brings an urgent and immediate need to address conditions that can put students at risk as they are walking or rolling to school.

We are committed to continuing to work with the City of Portland and Safe Routes to School advocates in the region, through Vision Zero and other important policy, funding, and community-building work, to ensure safety for people bicycling and walking, everywhere and especially on the streets known to be dangerous and at high risk for crashes.

Vision Zero + Safe Routes to School – Stronger Together

Vision Zero shares many goals with Safe Routes to School. Vision Zero originated from Sweden in 1997 with the assertion that all traffic deaths and severe injuries are preventable. Sweden’s Vision Zero work was based on an old philosophy with a new twist: “it should no longer be the child that should adapt to traffic conditions, but the traffic conditions that should be adapted – as far as possible – to children.”

At their core, each one is a comprehensive campaign using a mix of education, improved engineering and targeted enforcement tailored to its specific environment to improve the safety of transportation users. These two efforts share goals and should work in harmony to enhance the safety for transportation users, particularly with one of the more vulnerable demographics – our youth.

Children are considered vulnerable transportation users as they are disproportionately injured or killed in traffic-related crashes:

  • Being struck by a vehicle is the leading cause of injury-related deaths for youth under 14[1]
  • In 2013, children under 15 accounted for seven percent of bicycle fatalities and 11 percent of injuries[2]
  • Youth under 15 accounted for five percent of all pedestrian fatalities and nearly 15 percent of injuries in 2013[3]

The statistics are even worse for disadvantaged communities. Nationally, pedestrian fatality rates in low-income metro areas are almost twice that of more affluent neighborhoods[4]. Safe Routes to School and Vision Zero have important roles in improving these statistics.

SR2S_INFOGRAPHIC_children_killed_walking2

As the number of small and large towns and cities pursuing Vision Zero policy grows, it becomes clear that Vision Zero and Safe Routes to School are stronger together. Kari Schlosshauer, PNW Regional Policy Manager, holds a seat on the City of Portland’s Vision Zero Task Force, where she’s been participating in the process to create a set of actions for the city and its partners. The Oregon Safe Routes to School Conference held in June in Eugene, provided insight from Seattle, Portland & Eugene on how Safe Routes to School and Vision Zero efforts are working in tandem to boost successes. Here are some takeaways from the conference, and updates on what’s happening from our perspective on Portland’s Vision Zero Task Force.

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Portlanders unite around safer streets for everyone

In the wake of a series of tragic crashes, injuries, and fatalities to people on foot and bike in the Portland region, now is the time to act. The unfortunate reality is that serious injuries and fatalities are happening on our roads on a regular basis. This is impacting vulnerable users at a much higher rate, with pedestrians making up over half of the fatalities on our roads last year. There is no one fix to our unsafe roads, but there are many things that we can, and must, do now. In 2014, there were 28 deaths in Portland due to traffic crashes and there have been 10 so far this year.

On June 2, Kari Schlosshauer, the National Partnership’s Pacific Northwest regional policy manager, joined our partners Oregon Walks, Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and Community Cycling Center, for a meeting with Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick, and other stakeholders, where we called on the City of Portland to embrace Vision Zero, broadly, publicly, and immediately. Immediately following the meeting, Mayor Hales did so during a press conference and in a media release.

source: Bike PGH

source: Bike PGH

Here’s a great primer on what Vision Zero is, from the Vision Zero Network.

Our community-based organizations called for action on immediate steps the City can take to improve safety on our streets, including:

  • Reduce speed limits citywide – Transportation Director Treat recently made a formal request to the Oregon Speed Zone Control Board seeking to expedite the process for setting speeds on city streets, allowing the city to take into account how and when pedestrians and cyclists use the road.
    • Speed matters: at 40mph, only 1 out of 10 pedestrians survive, but at 30mph half do, and when speed limits drop to 20mph, 9 out of 10 pedestrians survive.
    • Other innovative ideas could include “neighborhood slow zones” or “play streets” such as those recently piloted in Seattle. Play Streets include both school-organized and community-led play streets, and offer an opportunity to expand the use of our streets and provide more places for people.
  • Launch a broad-based public education campaign on Vision Zero
    • We must frame speeding in the same context as drunk driving and seat belt use. A sustained public dialogue is necessary, via signs on buildings, in buses, on our computers and televisions, enclosed in our utility bills, and more, that stresses the danger of what driving even five mph over the posted speed limit can do to a struck pedestrian or person riding a bicycle.
  • Ensure greater enforcement of laws that protect people walking and riding bicycles – we were pleased to see the Portland Police Bureau at the table, and look forward to their continued engagement both at the table and on the streets.
    • Examine and document all crashes and injuries on our roads, and work to determine a root cause analysis of what goes wrong on our streets and intersections, and why these crashes are happening.
    • Ensure that enforcement is equitable and does not disproportionately impact communities of color, the demographic most likely to be injured while walking or bicycling.
  •  Prioritize our limited safety funding on engineering improvements 
    • Fix our highest crash locations and ensure routes to high-use destinations, such as schools and transit stops, are truly safe. We must focus our limited safety funding on engineering improvements along High Crash Corridors, our most dangerous intersections, and high-use destinations, especially in those areas that are historically under-served or that serve our most vulnerable populations, such as older adults and youth.
    • Implement Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) and Leading Bicycle Interval (LBI) signals near schools, on high-use bikeways and pedestrian crossings, and in any location with vulnerable users, such as older adults and children. These signals allow pedestrians and bicyclists to get out in front of vehicle traffic, be more visible to drivers, and reduce turning movement conflicts.
    • Other innovative ideas could include “daylighting” intersection corners. State law (http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.550) prohibits parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection, yet this law is not enforced in Portland. Vehicles parked at intersections block sight lines for pedestrians as well as turning vehicles, including cars and bicycles, and contribute to unsafe intersection situations.

      “And what’s not to like about providing parking for 10 customers where there used to be parking for just one?” – Joseph Rose, Oregonian

Most fatal crashes in Portland happen on just 10 streets, which the Portland Bureau of Transportation have designated High Crash Corridors. Though they represent only 3 percent of the roads in Portland, they account for 51 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.

Students from 36 elementary schools in Portland, in PPS, David Douglas, Centennial, Reynolds & Parkrose School Districts, must cross or travel along a “High Crash Corridor” to get to their school.

Vision Zero has the goal of providing a safe, multi-modal transportation system where no one is killed or seriously injured on our streets. We are pleased that the City of Portland has embraced the concept of Vision Zero, but like so many multifaceted problems, it’s not clear how it will be implemented. While there is no one fix to our unsafe roads, there are many things that we must start to do now.

We look forward to long term and sustained support for safety for everyone on our streets.

Download our full media release here (pdf).

Take Action: Help Reduce Speeding on Portland’s High Crash Corridors

Students from 36 elementary schools in Portland, in PPS, David Douglas, Centennial, Reynolds & Parkrose School Districts, must cross or travel along a “High Crash Corridor” to get to their school.

These roadways, just 3% of Portland’s road network, account for more than 50% of the city’s pedestrian fatalities. This is unacceptable.

Speeding and aggressive driving are the top contributing factors to serious crashes. Currently in the Oregon Legislature, HB 2621 would authorize piloting fixed speed cameras on Portland’s most dangerous roads. Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggest that over the eight year pilot period HB 2621 would:

  • prevent the loss of 16 lives
  • prevent more than 2,000 people from being injured in traffic crashes
  • save ~$71 million in wage and productivity losses, damage, and medical expenses

Please join us in supporting HB 2621 in the Oregon Legislature. This bill will allow the installation of clearly marked speeding traffic cameras on high crash corridors — making it safer for our children to walk, bike, and roll to school. Whether you live in Portland or elsewhere in the state, this bill provides an opportunity to make our streets safer.

Please write or call your state senator and representative today and urge them to support HB 2621.

The Oregonian Editorial Board supports HB 2621: “It’s clear that speeders continue to pose unaccountable risk to other drivers, and most of all pedestrians… Unmanned photo radar would simply be a cost-efficient, not to mention racial-profiling-proof, method of detecting and punishing drivers whose indifference to life poses threat.”

One death on our streets is too many. Traffic fatalities and injuries are not inevitable, and can be prevented through smart policy and system design. Read more about Vision Zero initiatives in Portland and Oregon.

Support expansion of Safe Routes to School in Portland budget: Public Hearing 5/20

City of Portland will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, May 20th at 6:00pm at City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Ave., to consider items for the 2015-16 Budget. The City of Portland is considering the Mayor’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year (FY15-16), including $41 million in additional revenue one-time considerations. Numerous requests in the budget will support Safe Routes to School expansion as well as pedestrian safety improvements and access to transit for all Portlanders. Your support of these important budget items in the City of Portland’s budget needs to be heard. Please write the Mayor and City Council about the budget (sample email below), and plan to attend the Public Hearing on 5/20 if you’re able. kids crossing street Funding requests in the FY15-16 budget will support pedestrian safety and access to transit, including:

  • Expansion of the City’s nationally-acclaimed Safe Routes to School program, into middle and high schools and better serving the needs of lower-income schools;
  • Safety improvements on 122nd Ave in East Portland, and other known high crash corridors;
  • Funding for Youth Bus Pass for Portland Public High School students;
  • Improvements for completion of bicycle and pedestrian networks and neighborhood greenways; and
  • Support of Vision Zero outreach and education work in Portland.

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Bringing healthy, safe transport to the greater-Portland region

Safe routes to everywhere.

There are a number of things going on in and around Portland of late that point towards an increased focus on safety in our transportation system.

Those who wonder, how do we make our streets safer for kids walking to school; people running errands by bicycle on busy streets; those who wish to age in place and need to get around, without a car, safely? Those who have thought, if we create a more walkable city (region, state, world), where everybody walks, can we create a place where people are safer the minute they walk out the door? Those who hope we can bring the vision of zero deaths-by-transportation to reality?

Do Not Walk - Figure 2

OR

kids crossing street

The bad news: In Portland there were two pedestrian deaths in one weekend caused by the simple act of crossing a street; 10 of the last 11 pedestrian deaths occurred in the same part of the city, in neighborhoods with disproportionately large low-income communities, elderly communities, youth populations and communities of color.

The good news?

  • The conversation has already started, and the people who make transportation decisions in the city are listening. Oregon Walks has called for Vision Zero in Portland — meaning zero deaths from transportation — and the Director and Commissioner of Transportation, as well as Mayor Hales have stated their support.
  • There are many other places that have or are starting to implement Vision Zero, and many good examples that can be drawn upon.
  • The City of Portland is already talking with Portlanders about increasing funding for transportation, and when they did a poll, safety bubbled up to the top.

What next? Continue reading