Goal 1: Safety

Make Portland streets safe for everyone.
On this page

In 2015 Portland became one of the first cities in the country to adopt Vision Zero—an ambitious plan to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injury crashes on our roadways. Since then, PBOT has worked to:

  • Strengthen a culture of safety within PBOT and across the city;
  • Protect the most vulnerable people on Portland streets regardless of race, language, age, income, or physical ability;
  • Prioritize investment in designing safer streets and installing what is needed for safety—technology and infrastructure where it is needed most.
  • Identify safe speeds and use education, enforcement, and engineering to achieve those speeds on Portland streets; and
  • Test new concepts like protected bike lanes and launch innovative safety programs like our Safe Ride Home initiative.

The alarming numbers of fatalities that have already occurred on our roads in 2019 is a reminder about how much work we still need to do to achieve our Vision Zero goals.

As our city continues to grow, so too does the number of cars on our roads. National and international research clearly shows that an increase in driving reduces safety for everyone on our streets—drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. Simply put, as Portland grows, and more cars take to the roads, our transportation system becomes less safe.

Moving to Our Future takes two major steps to reverse this trend. First, it continues our aggressive implementation of our Vision Zero Action Plan. Adopted in 2015, the Action Plan aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injury crashes from Portland streets. To do this, we focus our efforts on our city’s most deadly streets, called the High Crash Network, and we do this with proven Vision Zero strategies—building safer streets, encouraging safer behavior, and deploying effective and equitable enforcement. The High Crash Network represents only a fraction of the total streets in Portland, but this is where the majority of fatal and serious crashes occur. If we can make these streets safer, we will make Portland safer.

Of course, traffic safety is a citywide issue. Not every fatality and serious crash occurs on the High Crash Network. For this reason, Moving to Our Future adopts a citywide approach known as Safe Systems which prioritizes safety in everything we do. Safe Systems means we design and build streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, and infrastructure safe enough to compensate for the inevitable mistakes that people make. 

What measurable outcomes do we want from this goal?

  • The number of fatal and serious injury crashes declines annually until there are zero
  • All Portlanders are safe and free from threat or fear of personal harm in the right of way
  • All PBOT programs and projects incorporate a Safe Systems approach

How does making Portland streets safe for everyone advance equity?

  • Addressing hate in streets. Safe spaces mean different things in different neighborhoods. Our public streets and sidewalks belong to everyone and should be safe and welcoming for everyone. This begins with treating each other well and combating hate in our public spaces. How people experience safety and inclusion in our streets is fundamental to every decision they make.
  • Strengthening relationships with our community and within communities themselves. Specific decisions we make resonate differently in different parts of the city. More streetlights are needed in some areas, while lighting is insufficient in others. As we work to create safer, more livable communities throughout Portland, we also must recognize the impact of displacement. Only through deep engagement and partnership with the community and other agencies can we prioritize the safety projects each community needs. By listening and building connections, we ensure that our work allows people to remain in their communities, and that everyone can enjoy the benefits of safer streets

How does making Portland street’s safe for everyone reduce pollution?

  • Less driving, fewer crashes. Building a safe transportation system shares some of the same fundamental goals and measures of climate action. Every additional mile driven in Portland increases the risk of serious injury or fatality on our roads. To increase safety and reduce carbon emissions, we must reduce the number of trips made by people driving.
  • Feeling safe inspires more active travel. There is a strong correlation between safe conditions on the street and the ability of residents to use more sustainable transportation modes. Working through our Vision Zero plans and our Safe Systems approach, we will measure how our projects provide safety and how much of a shift to different modes of travel we see as a result. 

Pedestrians and bicyclists are the most vulnerable people on our roads. To better protect them, we will focus investments on our dangerous High Crash Network as well as pedestrian-priority streets.

Objective 1: Make Portland’s High Crash Network safer, especially for pedestrians and people biking

Strategic Initiatives

Speed up delivery of small-scale safety improvements that help complete our multimodal networks.

  • Gain community support and improve our ability to deliver large-scale, transformational safety projects and “complete street” projects on arterial and collector streets. 
  • Assess the impact of new development differently, identifying the public and private funding needed to fill gaps in our crosswalk infrastructure.
  • Implement new development impact standards that increase what is allowed and encouraged on the part of developers, residents, and property owners to increase the rate at which we build and maintain safety infrastructure. 
  • Improve street lighting conditions to increase the visibility of pedestrians on Portland streets.
  • Expand campaigns that educate the public about pedestrian and bicycle safety.
  • Identify and fund improvements to signal timing at key intersections in order to allow more time and separation between people crossing and vehicles turning. >
  • Influence adoption of statewide policy supporting safer speeds and design, and implement these on streets throughout the city.

Indicators and Sample Measures

  1. Crash Risk 
    a. Fatalities and serious injuries  
    b. Pedestrian and bicycle crashes 
  2. Connectivity  
    a. Percent of sidewalk coverage in pedestrian districts 
    b. Percent of network that meets crosswalk spacing guidelines 
    c. Percent of investment in historically underserved communities
  3. Infrastructure Safety
    a. Percentage of network that meets lighting guidelines 
    b. Number of safety improvements to signals
    c. Number of safe crossings installed or improved

Objective 2: Get drivers to slow down

Speed kills. The faster drivers involved in a crash are going, the higher the likelihood of fatalities and serious injuries. For this reason, we must focus on reducing speeds on Portland streets. We will use policy, education, enforcement, as well as design and engineering to achieve this objective.

Strategic Initiatives

  • Implement traffic-calming programs targeted along Safe Routes to School, neighborhood greenways, and other shared spaces and walkways.
  • Develop a comprehensive strategy for how PBOT sets speed limits, designs infrastructure for safer speeds, promotes safer speeds, and enforces speeding on city roads. 
  • Develop an education and communications strategy so the public better understands the purpose of speed enforcement. 
  • Expand the use of speed safety cameras for enforcement along the High Crash Network and other key locations.
  • Establish an approach to monitor speeds citywide and track our speed reduction work.

Indicators and Sample Measures

  1. Awareness  
    a. Percent of residents who report a change in behavior as a result of PBOT campaigns and education
  2. Driver Behavior 
    a. Percent of drivers who exceed posted speeds on High Crash Network streets  
    b. Percent of drivers who reduce speed after changes to street design

Objective 3: Use data and technology to make our transportation system safer

Gather data to better understand safety risks, prioritize safety improvements, and evaluate safety outcomes. Identify technologies that can improve safety citywide. 

Strategic Initiatives

  • With the aid of robust data, develop a more comprehensive approach to evaluating safety projects.
  • Pilot new and emerging technology that can provide additional data and improve our understanding of how people move through our transportation system, where conflicts arise, and how we can reduce risk.

Indicators and Sample Measures

  1. Quality of Analysis 
    a. Percent of projects with before and after data and evaluation 
    b. Percent of the roadway network that has completed evaluations for safety and risk

Objective 4: Make safety a core priority in everything we do

Make Safe Systems a fundamental part of how we measure our transportation system. 

Strategic Initiatives

  • Incorporate the concept of getting people where they need to go safely—safe, completed trips—as a core measure for all PBOT operations. 
  • Prioritize a multimodal Safe Systems approach in all bureau guidelines for the model, scope, design, and ongoing maintenance of our assets. 
  • Train and empower staff, and provide them with a Safe Systems toolkit that allows for building safety improvements into every phase of project delivery.

Indicators and Sample Measures

  1. Commitment  
    a. Percent of capital projects that design, deliver, and measure for safety