PBOT Vision Zero October 2023 Newsletter


In this newsletter...

  • SE Hawthorne Boulevard projects made streets safer and buses faster
  • Safety camera program is expanding
  • Negative safety consequences linked to increasing vehicle size trends
  • New BIKETOWN station at Cleveland High School
  • White Cane Awareness Day is Sunday, Oct. 15
  • Daylight savings time is Sunday, Nov. 5
  • World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims is Sunday, Nov. 19
  • Personal safety on our streets
  • Share your budget comments to support important transportation services
  • Featured safety tip: De-escalate in instances of roadway conflict
  • Remember to say crash — not accident!
  • Free Vision Zero pins, stickers, brochures, fliers, and yard signs
  • What we're reading

SE Hawthorne Boulevard projects made streets safer and buses faster

A person bicycling in the green protected bike lane, adjacent to a yellow and black bus platform and red Rose Lane for buses on SE Hawthorne Boulevard, east of Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard.

A person bicycling in the green protected bike lane, adjacent to a yellow and black bus platform and red Rose Lane for buses on SE Hawthorne Boulevard, east of Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) completed its safety evaluation of the SE Hawthorne Boulevard multimodal improvements and pave and paint projects. Results indicate that the projects led to lower vehicle speeds, faster buses, and better facilities for pedestrians and people biking and taking transit, while minimally impacting people who drive.

PBOT staff evaluate safety projects that significantly change our most dangerous streets and intersections. We evaluate projects based on individual project goals. We also usually measure key indicators such as:

  • Speed
  • Transit and vehicle travel time
  • Impact to neighborhood streets
  • Pedestrian, bicycle, and transit infrastructure improvements
  • Crash data* 

* Included in evaluation updates once the Oregon Department of Transportation releases the crash data, usually 18 months after the end of the year.

Hawthorne and Madison Multimodal Improvements project, between the Hawthorne Bridge and 12th Avenue (solid blue line to the left) will upgrade pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, and bus lanes. The Hawthorne Pave & Paint project, between 24th and 50th avenues (solid orange line to the right), includes 180 ADA-compliant curb ramps, repaving, and restriping to new lane configuration.

The evaluation shows the SE Hawthorne Boulevard projects reduced speeding and improved bus times

Vehicle speeds are lower, and top-end speeding, when a driver goes 10 mph or more over the speed limit, is much lower. Top-end speeding creates the greatest safety risk and went down as much as 72% on SE Hawthorne Boulevard at 6th Avenue. There were also 3,500 fewer people driving over 30 mph every day at SE 31st Avenue. At higher speeds, crashes can cause more injury, which is why PBOT projects aim to slow speeders down. 

Bus times are faster, and buses experience fewer delays than they did before the project. This is especially true between SE Grand and 12th avenues where the project added a Rose Lane, a painted red transit priority late. Bus travel times also improved between SE 22nd and 44th avenues.

Active transportation infrastructure helped to align the corridor with bureau policy guidelines

The projects added 10 new crossings between SE 22nd and 50th avenues. This brings 95% of the corridor in accordance with PedPDX, Portland's citywide pedestrian plan. All but one of the bus stops on SE Hawthorne Boulevard now have crossings within 100 feet.

PBOT upgraded the bike lane between SE Grand and 12th avenues from a traditional bike lane to parking protected bike lane that follows National Association of Citywide Transportation Officials' guidance for an all ages and abilities bike facility.

Despite all these changes, there were small impacts to vehicle travel time, which matched our forecasts.

Read the full SE Hawthorne Boulevard Evaluation Report to review the details and graphs representing the data. Stay tuned for more evaluations coming soon!

Safety camera program is expanding

A PBOT contractor installs new speed camera on a utility pole on high crash corridor

The Portland Bureau of Transportation, in partnership with the Portland Police Bureau, is expanding the city’s use of cameras in traffic enforcement as part of the Vision Zero program to end traffic deaths and serious injuries. Today there are 20 cameras operating and issuing citations (or warnings) in Portland. By the end of 2023, the city’s contractor expects to have at least eight additional cameras operational. Up to 12 more cameras are in design and should be constructed next year.

Read the full press release to learn more about the safety camera program expansion.

Negative safety consequences linked to increasing vehicle size trends

A large GMC pickup truck dwarfs the size of a 5' 10" adult in a parking lot at night.

More large vehicles are on our streets despite their disproportionate likelihood to kill and seriously injure people

The market share of large vehicles — including SUVs, light-duty trucks, and vans — grew from about half of the country's market share to three-quarters between 2012 and 2021. At the same time, traffic deaths on U.S. streets are increasing. People driving vehicles killed 12 people for every 100,000 vehicles in 2012; a decade later in 2021 that number rose to 14 people for every 100,000 vehicles.

Vehicle size and weight is a contributing factor to this trend in increasing severity of crashes. The impact force of a crash increases at greater travel speed as the vehicle increases in size, i.e., the impact force of a pickup truck at 45 mph is greater than the impact force of a sedan at the same speed. 

Line graph showing that the impact force increases at greater travel speed as the vehicle increases in size.

Large vehicles are more dangerous for people

Research tells us that crashes that involve large vehicles (compared to cars, i.e., sedans) are more severe:

  • At speeds greater than 20 mph, larger vehicles have an exponentially greater impact force compared to smaller vehicles.
  • The taller front end of large vehicles increases the likelihood of striking a person's torso, causing more injury than striking a person in their legs.
  • If a person driving a SUV hits a pedestrian at 40 mph or above, they will likely kill that pedestrian. If a person driving a car hits a pedestrian at the same speed, there’s about a 50% chance they will kill the pedestrian.
Diagram comparing the size of a Ford F-150 pickup truck, an average adult, and a child; it can be challenging to see a small child from the driver seat of a Ford F-150.

Safe vehicle design is critical to protecting all road users  

Safe System approach recognizes the need to address speeding, street design, and vehicle size and technology to achieve Vision Zero. The following are some national efforts to encourage people to purchase safer vehicles:

  • PBOT joined national partners in calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to update new car safety ratings to include crash risks for people outside of the vehicle
  • The USDOT proposed requiring automatic emergency braking in all new vehicles to dramatically reduce crashes with pedestrians and people bicycling as well as rear-end crashes
  • Washington, D.C. raised the annual registration fee for heavier vehicles

Large vehicle drivers can help keep people safe by slowing down

Slower driving speeds save lives — and especially when drivers are behind the wheel of bigger, heavier vehicles. It is particularly critical that people driving large vehicles drive at or below the speed limit, and drive alert and ready to brake for people.

Learn more about the safety impacts of large vehicles in traffic crashes online.

New BIKETOWN station at Cleveland High School

A new BIKETOWN station on the east-facing sidewalk of Cleveland High School.

BIKETOWN recently installed a new station on the Cleveland High School campus. This bikeshare infrastructure — near one of Portland's highest crash streets — helps us grow our active transportation infrastructure, especially for youth.

High school students (ages 16 and up) and students receiving Federal Student Aid may be eligible for BIKETOWN for All. This discounted membership program costs $0 per month and offers unlimited 60-minute trips. 

Learn more about BIKETOWN for All online

White Cane Awareness Day is Sunday, Oct. 15

An older woman wearing a reflective safety vest holding a black and white 8.5x11 sign that reads "State law stop for the blind."

Since 1964, people across the country recognize White Cane Day on Oct. 15 to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired — as well as the important symbol of blindness and tool of independence, the white cane.

When you see someone using a white cane, remember that the cane is a tool for people who are blind to navigate the environment safely and independently. There's no need to shout warnings or try to physically steer so that canes don't bump into things. Remember that people are using their canes to explore what is around them. If they need any help or direction, they will ask. If you are driving or cycling and see someone using a white cane, you must follow the law and stop to give that person the right of way. Take this opportunity to review Oregon crosswalk laws as they relate to the visually impaired.

Daylight savings time is Sunday, Nov. 5

A blue "Slow the Flock Down" billboard sign above a Portland street at sunset.

In less than one month, many Portlanders will be heading home after sunset during the evening commute. As we prepare for these changes ahead, it is important that people driving slow down, use caution, and look out for people walking, biking, and rolling on the street. 

We all have a responsibility to help make our streets safe

  • Slow down and travel at or below the speed limit
  • Take care when making turns and approaching crosswalks
  • Always turn on headlights
  • Maintain a safe distance between vehicles 
  • Keep windshields clean
  • Stay alert and avoid distractions — no eating, drinking, or using your phone
  • Dress as visibly as possible when traveling outside of a motor vehicle — pedestrians wearing reflective clothing are visible from 500 feet away to people driving compared to just 55 feet away when wearing dark colors with no reflective gear or lights

Drivers kill more pedestrians at night

As reported in the annual deadly traffic crash report, 74% of traffic deaths last year occurred during nighttime hours (dusk to dawn). Of all pedestrian deaths last year, 93% occurred in darker conditions. These trends are consistent with traffic safety research

When possible, avoid driving at night — especially if you're older

As we age, we have greater difficulty seeing at night. A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old. Research indicates that people over age 60 may have a hard time driving safely at night and may want to consider limiting themselves to daytime driving. 

Street lighting investments save lives

Our lighting guidelines call for consistent illumination across and along major streets. Infill lighting combined with a transition to LED lights support safety while conserving energy. Portland Bureau of Transportation is investing $16.5 million from the LED cost savings and the voter-approved Fixing Our Streets program to add lighting to Portland’s wide, high crash corridors. As we work to improve lighting on Portland streets, please take extra care when traveling in dark conditions.

Learn more about how to stay safe during changing weather conditions online.

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims is Sunday, Nov. 19

A floral memorial for a fatal traffic victim in the medium of a two-way street in front of a crosswalk.

Each year, the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims honors those who have been killed and injured on roads around the globe – 1.35 million people each year worldwide. 

On Sunday, Nov. 19, crash victims, street safety organizations, community members, faith leaders, elected officials, and dignitaries from across the country and globe will remember, support, and act.

To learn more and participate in Portland's remembrance event, check back in the coming weeks as details are finalized. 

Personal safety on our streets

A student is smiling mid-jump while playing double-dutch jump rope as seven of their peers watch with their backpacks on.

Often overlooked, personal safety is core to making our streets safe. It's part of our Vision Zero and Safe Routes to School programs. To realize a safe transportation system that provides all people access and mobility to where they need to go, we must proactively take care of each other.

Check out the personal safety on our streets webpage to access resources to help us all create streets that make us feel safe. 

Share your budget comments to support important transportation services

This image shows a group of adults and kids riding bicycles including some recumbent bikes at a Sunday Parkways event, where streets are car free.

Parking and state fuels tax revenues continue to come in below projections, while expenses continue to rise. Portland Bureau of Transportation's (PBOT) fiscal year 2024-25 budget will require up to $32 million in additional service reductions. Unless we find a solution, dramatic and visible transportation service reductions are likely. 

In last month's city council work session, PBOT leadership identified projects, programs, and positions that could be cut, including: 

There are several ways to provide budget comments to city council:

Learn more about the PBOT budget online.

Featured safety tip: De-escalate in instances of roadway conflict

A group of people walking next to one another on a sidewalk.

Observe, breathe, and connect

Conflict de-escalation aims to prevent the escalation of violence. Right To Be, a nonprofit with the mission of ending harassment in all forms, recommends a simple set of actions to de-escalate conflict you may witness on our streets: 

  1. First observe and take note of peoples' behavior from a safe distance. Ask yourself if you are the right person to step in.
  2. Next step, breathe. Attempt to de-escalate your own emotions before engaging with other people. This may mean you name your emotion, talk to someone you trust, or recite affirmations to yourself.
  3. Finally, connect with the person or people in conflict. Connection will create an opportunity for empathy, validation, and hopefully de-escalation. 

Right To Be says that "conflict de-escalation is not about acting as a mediator and coming to some sort of peaceful resolution. Instead, our goal when de-escalating a conflict is to give that person the feeling that they are heard."

Check out Right To Be's resources to learn more about conflict de-escalation. 

Remember to say crash — not accident!

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

We’re inviting our community to change the way we talk about crashes. We want to shift the broad cultural perception that crashes are inevitable and remind each other that they are predictable and preventable. A Vision Zero approach refuses to accept traffic violence as a byproduct of “just the way things are.” So, will you join us?

Read the full blog post to learn more about why we use the word "crash" rather than "accident."

Free Vision Zero pins, stickers, brochures, fliers, and yard signs

A pile of white and orange Vision Zero pins.

Help educate family, friends, neighbors, your school, or your organization about Vision Zero — Portland's commitment to eliminate serious and fatal traffic injuries.

These materials are available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Vietnamese, Somali, and Lao. 

If you're interested in making a bulk request, please email us.

What we're reading

  • American streets may soon get their first accessible design standards from the feds (Streetsblog)
  • How I turned my errands into exercise (New York Times)
  • Unsafe streets: The dangers facing pedestrians (CBS News)
  • As downtowns struggle, businesses learn to love bike lanes (Bloomberg CityLab)
  • Why doesn’t Oregon make cyclists register their bikes and get a license plate? (Willamette Week)
  • This Spanish city has been restricting cars for 24 years. Here’s what we can learn from it. (Fast Company)
  • What a week without driving can teach (Bloomberg CityLab)
  • US traffic deaths fall in 2023 but remain above pre-pandemic levels (Reuters)
  • New cars are supposed to be getting safer. So why are fatalities on the rise? (ABC News)
  • "People feel scared about walking": the cost of car culture in Birmingham (The Guardian)
  • David Zipper on the problems with vehicular obesity - episode 217 (Automotive News)
  • Transportation officials hope limiting truck speeds will reduce deaths (Governing)
  • Regulation: trapped under trucks (ProPublica)