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PBOT Strategic Plan - Goal 1: Safety

Section of Portland Bureau of Transportation's (PBOT) Strategic Plan "Moving to Our Future" (2019-2024). Goal 1 - Safety: Make Portland streets safe for everyone. Originally published 2019. Revised 2023.
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What's New

Clearly defined performance outcomes and measures

When adopted in 2019, the Strategic Plan included example outcomes and measures for each goal area. In 2021, as part of a midway progress report, staff refined these outcomes and analyzed data for key performance measures related to each goal.

The following outcomes and measures are being tracked for the Safety goal:

Table listing the 2 outcome statements and associated performance measures for safety

Prioritized Initiatives

We analyzed trends for our safety outcomes and measures. Despite significant investment and progress implementing the Vision Zero Action Plan, including measurable improvements along specific corridors and from a project level, we still saw crashes increase in the years 2019, 2020, and 2021.

To prioritize our work where it is needed the most and to get these performance measures on track, PBOT's Safety goal leads urged a focus on reducing and ensuring safe speeds. This includes:

  • Investing in smart signals, automated enforcement, and other technology to address dangerous driving behavior.
  • Building a bureau-wide understanding and operationalization of the Safe Systems approach through a comprehensive approach to safe speeds.
  • Leveraging investment from multiple sources to accelerate and augment multimodal safety improvements.
  • Ensuring safety improvements are evaluated and maintained to sustain their benefit.

We also understand there is no single solution. There are complex, persistent social factors that have contributed to the spike in traffic deaths since the onset of the pandemic, including lack of shelter and social services for Portland's most vulnerable community members. We recognize the need to work collaboratively with partners across the Portland metro region to urgently invest in basic human needs, which will help our community and put safety first.

Our safety objectives and initiatives have been revised to reflect the work that has been completed as well as resource and capacity realities in 2023.

Overview of Goal 1 - Safety

Make Portland streets safe for everyone.

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. 

Objective 1: Invest in community engagement and education around safety

Strategic Initiative

Develop proactive and ongoing public engagement about safety measures, including new infrastructure designs, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and speed enforcement.

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.
  • Expand the use of speed safety cameras for enforcement along the High Crash Network and other key locations

Objective 3: Fully implement signal and street lighting improvements that make streets safer for pedestrians and people biking

Strategic Initiatives

  • Improve street lighting conditions to increase the visibility of pedestrians on Portland streets.
  • Identify and fund improvements to signal timing at key intersections to allow more time and separation between people crossing and vehicles turning.

Objective 4: Use data and technology to evaluate safety improvements.

Strategic Initiative

Complete before-and-after studies on safety projects to evaluate success

Download the full plan: