News Release: PBOT prepares to install 24 pedestrian safety beacons in East Portland; Educational brochures being distributed in multiple languages

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(July 9, 2015) -  To improve safety for pedestrians crossing busy East Portland streets, the Portland Bureau of Transportation will install 24 new Rapid Flash Beacons later this summer and fall at key crossings and is leading a new effort to raise community awareness about the beacons and their use.

RFB on 80th and Foster

Over the next several weeks, the Bureau will distribute multi-lingual flyers about the flashing beacons to community locations including libraries, social service agencies, health centers, and community centers.  In addition, the Bureau has placed multi-lingual ads in neighborhood newspapers.

“A driver is far more likely to stop for a pedestrian at crossings with beacons than without. These flashing lights can be a matter of life and death on busy, wide streets where the beacons will be installed,” said Commissioner Steve Novick. “These beacons are a great example of the types of safety improvements that are needed to advance our Vision Zero strategy— certainly in East Portland, but also throughout the entire city.”    

The solar-powered LED beacons flash yellow when a pedestrian pushes a button, signaling drivers to stop and stay stopped to allow people to cross safely.  They are being installed on streets that PBOT has designated as High Crash Corridors because of their safety needs. (See map and listing of the beacons.)

The exact dates for activation will vary and the first beacons to come on line will be near two schools: NE 102nd Avenue and Skidmore near Prescott Elementary School and the west side of SE 122nd Avenue and Lincoln Street, near Mill Park. 

“These flashing beacons deliver a needed safety improvement to East Portland and allow residents of all ages and abilities to travel safely to their destinations.  Shopping, going to work, taking transit, going to the park should not be a dangerous experience. These flashing beacons will make our East Portland streets safer,” said Leah Treat, director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

While EVERY intersection is a legal crosswalk that requires motorists to stop for pedestrians, compliance levels vary and can be especially low on busy multi-lane streets such as those in East Portland.  Another hazard on multi-lane streets occurs when a vehicle in one lane stops, but a vehicle in an adjacent lane doesn’t. Such “double threat” incidents have led to several pedestrian deaths over the years.

The Federal Highway Administration has found that these flashing beacons are highly effective at increasing driver yielding rates to pedestrians in crosswalks. An FHWA study showed that four out of five drivers stop at crossings when flashing beacons are triggered, versus one out of five at marked crosswalks without flashing beacons.

The new beacons and related communications are part of PBOT's Vision Zero initiative to eliminate deaths and serious injuries from Portland’s roadways.  Building enhanced pedestrian crossings on busy roadways is a key strategy to achieving this vision. 

PBOT first installed the devices as an experiment in 2010 on two High Crash Corridors - at SE Foster at SE 80th and SE 82nd Ave south of SE Francis - and quickly found them to be effective. When the 24 installations are complete in 2016, Portland will have 55 beacons throughout the city.

For more information: View Flashing beacon flyers in multiple languages describe how pedestrians should use and drivers should respond to flashing beacons, and a  Beacon Buddies short video about how pedestrians use the flashing beacons.

Photo credit: David Ashton; Photo caption: Flashing beacons, such as this one on SE Foster Road, helps improve pedestrian safety


Find out more about PBOT’s safety work and Vision Zero, PBOT’s goal of making our transportation system the safest possible and moving towards zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2025.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is the steward of the City’s transportation system, and a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides access and mobility.