February Safe Routes News and Resources

This image shows the bureau's Safe Routes to School Logo

Dear parents, caregivers, and community,

We love recognizing and honoring Black communities all year round – and, in honor of this last day of Black History Month, we want to share a few things that celebrate Black culture, people, and accomplishments and made us smile:

With gratitude,
Safe Routes to School Team | Dana, Janis, Abra, Lale, Meaghan, and Brittany  

A sepia tone AI image depicting Kittie Knox, a Black teenager who helped bring bicycling to the working class. Credit: @mogofree_art and @monicagodfreyphotography.

In this email:

New elementary pedestrian safety pilot curriculum

Sitton Elementary School students in P.E. class are learning how to safely cross streets using vinyl mock streets.

Over here at Portland Bureau of Transportation, we're experiencing a flurry of change from anticipating a new form of government to having a new bureau director. One thing we're thrilled to share with you is our new elementary pedestrian safety curriculum we're piloting this school year!

This P.E. classroom unit draws heavily from a program currently in use in Tacoma, WA and employs games and movement to teach kindergarten through fifth grade students essential skills for getting around safely in Portland. This winter and spring, educators will teach the program in four Parkrose School District elementary schools and at least five Portland Public School elementary schools.

Check out this video of the curriculum in action at Sitton Elementary School in St. Johns. We're gathering teacher feedback to continue improving it. If your school is interested in learning more about our pedestrian safety classroom materials, please contact Meaghan Russell at Meaghan.Russell@portlandoregon.gov.

The power of language: why we say “crash” rather than “accident”

“CRASH” in a stylized handwritten, yellow marker font type above “ACCIDENT” in a light, strikethrough yellow font type.

When it comes to language, innocent mistakes can lead to embarrassing moments, poor impressions, and misunderstandings. We've all been there. Although these experiences can be quite mortifying to look back on, they often lead to a newfound appreciation of the power of language. 

Safe Routes to School's companion program, Vision Zero, knows just how much words matter because what they're trying to communicate is of the utmost importance. Portland’s goal is to eliminate both traffic deaths and serious injuries – but we haven’t reached it yet. In 2022, 63 people died in traffic crashes in Portland, which matches 2021’s three-decade high – a trend that is consistent across the country. The people who died are children, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends. Their lives were cut short. Their loss has left gaping holes in the hearts of those who loved them and knew them. And their deaths were no accident. But too often our vernacular has us using that exact word.

Three people outside holding signs that read "safe driving saves lives" and "it's time to slow down, Portland."

When we use the word “accident” rather than “crash,” we’re implying that a collision was somehow inevitable. We’re not only absolving the person driving from responsibility but also the local transportation agency. But that doesn't align with Portland Bureau of Transportation's goal of making Portland streets safe for everyone. PBOT has strategic commitments to realize Vision Zero, including protecting pedestrians, reducing speeds citywide, designing streets to protect human lives, and creating a culture of shared responsibility. Part of the latter strategy is reminding ourselves and our communities that crashes are preventable and predictable. Portland’s high-crash network makes up 8% of streets but accounts for more than half of traffic deaths. Further, these streets are disproportionately in low-income communities and communities of color. As parents, caregivers, and community members, it’s imperative that we use language that is accurate because, as cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky says, “we can drastically change someone’s perspective by how we choose to talk about and frame something.”

We’re inviting our Safe Routes to School community to change the way we talk about crashes, and in doing so, change the broad cultural perception that crashes are inevitable. A Vision Zero approach refuses to accept traffic violence as a byproduct of “just the way things are.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration committed to no longer using the word “accident” way back in the 90s. Many other state and local agencies have made the pledge as well. Author and journalist Jessie Singer wrote a 352-page book last year titled There Are No Accidents detailing “what we call accidents are hardly random.” The AP Stylebook even weighed in and made a proclamation to avoid accident “when negligence is claimed or proven.” So, will you join us?

Fixing Our Streets and Safe Routes to School

The Fixing Our Streets "Your Dime at Work" white project logo against a salmon pink backdrop interlaced with a full color wrench and roses.

When Portland voters approved a 10-cent gas tax in 2016 and 2020, they created the Fixing Our Streets program and a major new funding source for Safe Routes to School. Fixing Our Streets designated $13 million to build transportation projects that are helping to connect families to schools across Portland.

Since the need for street improvements is greater than the funds available, Safe Routes to School developed a process to prioritize investments. We engaged with families and students about how they travel to school and how we could help make their journeys safer and more convenient. The community identified over 1,200 projects to create a network connecting schools in every high school cluster. Across Portland, the top concern was unsafe crossings. Missing sidewalks and traffic speed were also major safety issues. We also considered equity, safety and student/route density to determine which projects to start building first.

We've already built 96 projects with the $13 million in funding from Fixing Our Streets, and we continue to make progress on the 60 other funded projects. In the meantime, we are working hard to identify more local, state and federal funding to build out the rest of the network. 

A street view image of NE Shaver Street, between 115th Avenue and Parkrose Middle School campus, before construction.

NE Shaver Sidewalk Project: NE 115th to Parkrose Middle School

One Fixing Our Streets project breaking ground this summer is a new sidewalk with four ADA curb ramps on the south side of NE Shaver Street between 115th Avenue and Parkrose Middle School. Portland Bureau of Transportation is expecting to start construction this year after school is dismissed for the summer. 

We narrowed in on this segment of NE Shaver Street after Parkrose school communities highlighted walking routes and challenging connections during a Safe Routes to School outreach process in 2017. 

And it gets better: thanks to a $2 million grant awarded by the Oregon Department of Transportation in 2021, the sidewalk will continue west on NE Shaver Street to 102nd Avenue, with planned crossings at 105th, 109th, 112th, and 115th avenues. This project is still in design, but will eventually make a huge impact along this important connection for students attending Parkrose Middle and High Schools.

To learn more about Fixing Our Streets and Safe Routes to School projects and progress, please visit SafeRoutesProjects.com.

Fix-It Fair: Parkrose High School, March 4

A Fix-It Fair "Healthy Families, Healthy Homes" flier promoting the free events on Saturday, January 28 and March 4 from 9:30am to 2:30pm at George Michael School and Parkrose High School respectively.

Save the date! Fix-It Fair returns in-person on Saturday, March 4 at Parkrose High School from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm. You won't want to miss the return of this one-stop event for hands-on resources to stay healthy and safe while also saving money.

Make sure to check out the Portland Bureau of Transportation's booth during your visit! We will be sharing bike repair tips and providing a luminous activity, so make sure to bring a personal item (e.g., article of clothing, a helmet, a favorite bag/backpack, etc.) that you want to bling out in the new year!

What we're reading

  • Livable streets for schoolchildren: a human-centered understanding of the cognitive benefits of Safe Routes to School (Journal of Urban Design)
  • Moving from cars to people: a comic about transportation and land use (PSU TREC)
  • Oregon’s e-bike rebate bill set for first legislative hearing (BikePortland)
  • Kids’ psychology affects how they behave around cars (Streetsblog)
  • U.S. Traffic Safety Push Delivers $800 Million for Street Fixes (Bloomberg CityLab)
  • The middle schoolers are not alright (The Oregonian)
  • The city is ablaze with brightly colored murals (Willamette Week)
  • Thousands of kids are missing from school. Where did they go? (The Associated Press)
  • Throughout the rich world, the young are falling out of love with cars (The Economist)
  • Federal grant to help improve Southeast 122nd Avenue, target ongoing dangers (KATU)
  • To build a healthier city, begin at the sidewalk (Bloomberg CityLab)

Job and volunteer postings

1. Graduate Research Advisor: The Safe Routes Partnership seeks a part-time (approximately 10 hours per month) Graduate Research Advisor to ensure that the Partnership has current information on scholarly research related to Safe Routes to School. This fully remote, contract position pays $25 per hour through December 2023 (with the possibility of extending for additional months). Closing 3/3/2023. Job posting here.

2. Community Use Permitting Technician: Portland in the Streets is seeking a new, temporary team member to support community driven permit programs, including Play Streets, Block Parties, and Outdoor Dining that encourage Portlanders to get outside, build community and enjoy the street space. This position has the primary goal of delivering excellent customer service to community members. Closing 3/6/2023. Job posting here.

3. Capital Project Manager: This position is in the PBOT Capital Delivery Division and will provide direction and coordination on a variety of transportation capital projects. Responsibilities include public involvement, technical research/analysis, funding and cost analysis, project scheduling, grant reporting, and project budgeting. This position is responsible for moderately complex design and construction projects. Closing 3/13/2023. Job posting here.

4. Senior City Transportation Planner: PBOT seeks a highly motivated team leader, project manager and top-level technical expert to join the planning team. This position will lead complex and politically sensitive projects, implement initiatives that advance city values, represent the bureau, exercise independent judgement, and establish and maintain relationships with a variety of stakeholders. Closing 6/26/2023. Job posting here.

The City of Portland updates it's job opportunities list weekly. Make sure to check out those new positions every Monday!