How we are making streets safe through Vision Zero

Cover of Portland's Vision Zero Action Plan; a partially transparent map of a Portland street map is superimposed over an image of a person crossing the street in front of a stopped sedan
Portland’s Vision Zero Action Plan sets out specific, measurable actions to move toward zero traffic deaths or serious injuries on Portland streets.

Portland's Vision Zero Commitment

No person should die or be incapacitated in the everyday act of moving about. But each year dozens of Portlanders lose their lives doing just that.

In 2015, Portland made a commitment to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries on city streets. The 2016 Vision Zero Action Plan mapped out actions to make that commitment a reality.

Portland's Vision Zero 2-Year Update report describes lessons learned during Portland’s first two years as a Vision Zero city and sets the stage for the next phase of work. We describe commitments from this report below.

Strategic Commitments to Achieve the Vision

Strategy: Protect Pedestrians

Out of 34 traffic deaths in 2018, 16 were people walking. This reflects a continuing trend: during the past five years, on average 39% of traffic deaths have been pedestrians.

What the data tells us about pedestrian crashes:

  • 71% of all pedestrian crashes occur at intersections, with 44% at signalized intersections.
  • 20% of pedestrian crashes result from left-turning drivers failing to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk at signalized intersections.
  • 25% of all pedestrian crashes occur mid-block, due in part to long distances between marked crossings.
  • 49% of all pedestrian crashes occur in low-light conditions

Many actions to make walking safer are set out in PedPDX, Portland’s pedestrian plan. PedPDX prioritizes sidewalk and crossing improvements to make walking safer and more comfortable across the city.

Change signal timing and operations to make it safer to cross the street
Improve visibility at pedestrian crossings by removing parking and overgrown vegetation
  • Include a pedestrian safety visibility review as part of all PBOT capital projects, paving projects, and development review
  • Remove parking and vegetation as needed for safe crossings as part of capital and paving projects
  • Remove parking at priority crosswalk approaches for uncontrolled crossings on at least three High Crash Network streets each year
Prioritize street lighting investment where the High Crash Network, pedestrian districts, low-income populations and communities of color overlap
  • In 2019, add street lighting to SE Division Street, including pedestrian scale lighting at certain marked crossings
  • In 2020, add street lighting to SE Stark Street, including pedestrian scale lighting at certain marked crossings
  • By 2021, develop functional lighting layouts for wide High Crash Network streets in East Portland. Develop a funding strategy to advance these lighting plans
Fill crossing gaps to reduce mid-block crashes
Protect people from heavy truck injuries by installing side guards and other safety measures on City-owned and City-contracted trucks
  • In 2019, retrofit eligible City heavy truck fleet with side guards
  • In 2020, advance a policy requiring all City-owned and City-contracted trucks to have safety measures in place (side guards, mirrors, cameras and training)

Strategy: Reduce Speeds Citywide

Slower speeds reduce the number and severity of crashes. Slower moving drivers can stop more quickly to avoid a crash—and when a collision does occur, lower speeds reduce the chance of injury or death.

Following international best practices, Portland is lowering speeds where people walking, bicycling and driving mix. Slower speeds help prevent death or serious injury when mistakes happen and crashes occur. Where there is separate and protected space for people walking and bicycling, speeds can be somewhat higher.

Lowering speeds requires a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach. Specific strategies include:

  • Set safe speed limits
  • Redesign dangerous streets to encourage safe speeds
  • Educate Portlanders about the impact of speed
  • Enforce the speed limit

Each of these is a cornerstone of Portland’s work to prevent fatal crashes.

Set safe speed limits
  • Consistently and aggressively reduce speeds on city-owned streets until safe speed limits are established citywide
  • Gain local authority for setting speed limits on City of Portland streets
Redesign dangerous streets to encourage safe speeds
Educate Portlanders about the impact of speed
  • Re-run the citywide Struck speed campaign in 2019 and 2020 to remind people of the life-changing impact of crashes
  • In 2019 and 2020, work with agency and community partners to create location-based, community-oriented safe speed campaigns that leverage Struck messaging
Enforce the speed limit
  • In 2020, add at least four speed safety cameras or dual red-light running /speed safety cameras to Portland streets
  • Add to City’s legislative agenda a change in type of citation issued for automated enforcement tickets from moving violations to civil fines, which can reduce the burden of a citation while still supporting safe travel behaviors

Strategy: Design Streets to Protect Human Lives

A “safe systems” approach means designing streets to protect people even when they make mistakes. Street improvements that slow traffic and provide separation between modes give visual cues that people in cars, trucks, on bikes, and pedestrians are expected to share the streets. These environmental cues lead people to make safer choices.

Transforming Portland's Most Dangerous Streets

In the last two years, 65% of Portland’s traffic deaths occurred on 8% of Portland streets. Many of these wide, fast streets need transformative changes that only major projects can provide. These projects can often take years to fund, design and build—but PBOT is doubling down on them, delivering the corridor-wide projects that are the backbone of Vision Zero actions.

Transform wide, fast streets into streets that are safer for all modes

In 2019, deliver corridor-wide safety projects on the following High Crash Network streets:

In 2020, deliver corridor-wide safety projects on the following High Crash Network streets:

In 2021, complete concept design plans for all High Crash Network streets

Pilot rapid-response installations to slow left turns and prevent pedestrian crashes
  • In 2019, pilot left turn calming treatments at 40 signalized intersections and evaluate their effectiveness in slowing speeds to reduce the number and severity of crashes
  • In 2020, expand left turn calming treatments if evaluation shows they are effective
  • In 2020, identify the next rapid-response treatment to systemically address pedestrian crashes
Evaluate deadly crash sites to identify rapid response opportunities
  • After every fatal crash, evaluate crash factors, determine whether immediate safety improvements are needed, and identify whether a plan (and/or funding) is in place to address the site
  • Where feasible, put swift, temporary traffic and operational changes in place

Strategy: Create a Culture of Shared Responsibility

Education and outreach are critical to achieving safe streets in Portland. In a safe system City-led infrastructure and enforcement complement programs that engage people in making their streets safer. The responsibility for safe streets is shared between transportation system designers/operators and users of the system.

As we lower speeds and deliver safety projects, PBOT’s engagement and education programs will raise awareness about dangerous behavior and help shape community expectations around speed and other crash factors.

Over the next three years, actions to create a culture of shared responsibility will include:

  • Offering neighborhood-specific and culturally-specific traffic safety education in a range of different languages
  • Re-running the citywide Struck education campaign along with localized programs reinforcing the message that unsafe driving impacts many lives
  • Starting every PBOT Budget Advisory Committee meeting by reading the name of every person who has died in a traffic crash that year to emphasize the importance of investing in safety
  • Using PBOT’s Safe Routes to School program to remind parents that safe driving around schools is critical for student and neighborhood well-being

These actions are woven into the fabric of PBOT’s safety and community engagement work. Other specific commitments are listed below.

Mark the locations of tragic deadly crashes and raise public awareness of the importance of driving safely
  • After every deadly crash, PBOT will install prominent electronic Variable Message Signs (VMS) at the crash location on City streets
Deploy community-based Street Teams to share safe travel tips and engage with people on Portland’s High Crash Network streets
  • In coordination with community partners, conduct at least six Street Team events each year on the High Crash Network to educate Portlanders about safe travel
  • Focus Street Team events in communities of color and low-income communities

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