Featured Class Presentation – 2009 Edition


Each year I like to single out one class presentation from the PSU/PBOT Traffic and Transportation class. This year David Sweet’s presentation (PDF, 800K) stands out.

David’s neighborhood (David is the land use/planning committee chair) wants crosswalks at several points along NE Fremont. When PBOT told them that existing policies did not support crosswalks, they didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Instead they leveraged Bureau of Environmental Services resources, matched with some private fundraising to create and fund a design using bioswale curb extensions to anchor their crosswalks. The result, fewer puddles during storms, cleaner storm water AND safer pedestrian crossings.

One location is in the pipeline and a second location is being planned!

The key lessons here:

  1. Don’t accept ‘NO’!
  2. Look for “twofers” – solve multiple problems with one expenditure
  3. Think outside the box, especially when looking for funding

Good work!

26 responses to “Featured Class Presentation – 2009 Edition”

  1. It would be nice if details of the plan were included in the PDF in vector form (which can be blown up and made legible by zooming in), rather than low-resolution raster imagery (which pixelates worse than a bystander in COPS) so we could get a proper visual without wading through the whole document. Insult to injury, the same low-resolution raster graphic appears an Flickr (which one would intuitively expect might have a higher resolution version available), so it serves only as a timewaste.

    I will give ’em credit for taking more pride in the city than pride in their own paperwork, though…

  2. What does the safety data show about crosswalks?

    Who can point us to quality studies as to their effect on safety?

    BTW: Where can we find the safety data for those extended curbs? Quality studies only please.


  3. Looks good to me. Since TriMet gutted the Fremont bus route and information people have told me about ridership of the new route 24 looks like TriMet will probably cut the route faster than a pack of wild wolves could devour a horse, I’m sure there’s a lot more pedestrians on Fremont that would benefit from sidewalk and crosswalk improvements.

  4. Paul, what you’re looking at are PDFs of the Powerpoint presentations delivered by the students. They aren’t intended to be detailed design documents.

    The class is about problem identification, learning how to access City information and resources, and creating support around solutions.

  5. I wasn’t expecting a detailed design document. I was expecting to be able to read the labels on the diagrams, which isn’t possible in the PDF.

  6. Wow, this is a great project. As a nearby resident of the King neighborhood, I can appreciate the obstacle Fremont represents for people trying to safely access the park.

    Can we get more detailed information about exactly what is funded and what is planned? Does “one location” mean “Phase 1” or just one of the intersections?

  7. There is already a refuge crossing at 18th; these two additional ones are welcome additions. Need to continue to slow and/or divert commute traffic on/off Fremont, but this is a start. Streets should first serve residents and businesses on or adjacent to them; commute traffic should be a secondary use. PBOT has lowered the speed limit on upper Fremont to 20MPH; needs to do the same between 7th and 15th which has Irving Park and a small commercial district.

  8. Its a shame the DMV and ODOT don’t raise more awareness of this. PBOT made that great little film but the only place I’ve seen it shown in public is at Flicks on the Bricks.

  9. If that’s the case, Chris, then the average driver needs to have their license revoked. Knowing where implied traffic controls are is a basic licensing requirement.

  10. The wide zebra-striped crosswalks added to NW 23rd, Belmont and other business districts are having a positive impact according to observers in those areas (including me).

    I would be happy to improve driver education, but if a little paint makes a difference, I’m all for the paint! (thermoplastic)

  11. I think the consensus opinion of drivers is that someone crossing outside of a marked crosswalk or intersection is called “jaywalking.”

    The whole cross wherever you want, whenever you want concept is relatively new and I am pretty sure it only exists in Oregon. In most states, Jaywalking is an infraction and incredibly dangerous.

  12. So, Anthony, would you support changing the law to have stricter penalties for “jaywalking” but in exchange the government would fund painting and maintenance every possible legal crossing opportunity?

  13. Jaywalking is actually safer as there are no turns mid block, and one usually takes extra care. The most dangerous place for a ped is clossing with the Walk signal at a corner. I watch for cars, not for lights, signals, etc., and everyone corner does belong to pedestrians if we just seize them.

  14. I’m with Lenny up to a point–I don’t cross mid-block but I am hyperaware when I use a crosswalk. After 25 years or so of ducking cars, we finally got a blinking yellow walk signal in front of work, but even that only increases my odds of crossing safely. Yesterday, I was carrying a huge umbrella with plenty of white panels, the light was blinking against a dark sky and a driver still blew right past me at 40 mph, yapping on a cell phone the whole time. She didn’t even glance at me, partway out into the intersection.

    I’d like the law changed so that it was legal for me to carry a baseball bat — and use it — when I was in a crosswalk.

    This comment is definitely my own creation and not sanctioned, condoned or reflective of TriMet policy.

  15. Aaron W. Says: JK, I’ll let you determine if this is a quality study or not but here you go: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TD/TP_RES/docs/Reports/PedestrainSafetyCurbExt.pdf
    JK: Thanks

    That reports seems to keep coming up when I ask about safety.

    Unfortunately, the only mention that I found about safety was this:
    One near “multiple-threat” crash was observed when a school bus yielded in the near lane and a vehicle in the far lane nearly collided with the crossing pedestrian Page 17

    It goes on to say:

    The findings of this research suggest that curb extensions contribute to a significant reduction in the average number of vehicles that pass a waiting pedestrian before yielding to the pedestrian. Basically pedestrians approaching from the curb extension side experienced a vehicle yielding sooner than those coming from the non-improved side of the crosswalk. This reduction in the average number of passing vehicles yielding is best explained by the increased visibility offered by the curb extension. page 21

    I answer by saying yes, when you put people closer to fast moving cars, you would expect more drivers to see them and stop. However you would also expect a few more people to get killed by drugged / stoned / drunk drivers because they are closer to fast moving heavy machinery.

    I have yet to see any data on this.

    I have heard that there was one accident caused by a curb extension where kids were playing and one pushed another who ended up in front of a car. Again, it is standard practice in industry to keep fast moving heavy equipment and people separated, not to put them closer together!

    Lenny Anderson: Jaywalking is actually safer as there are no turns mid block, and one usually takes extra care.
    JK: This is consistent with the few studies I have seen. If I recall correctly:

    1. Marking a crosswalk NEVER improves safety.
    2. In some situations, marked crosswalks are LESS SAFE.
    3. Jaywaking is safe because people look before the walk out into the street.
    4. Marking a crosswalk IN ADDITION to other things can be safer. No one mentioned which of the multiple simultaneous changes contributed to the safety improvement.


  16. Here’s a question:

    If a motorist strikes a pedestrian in a crosswalk, in a situation where the motorist doesn’t have clear right of way (i.e. a green facing the motorist)–

    is it an automatic citation for the motorist? Or does some other aggravating factor (ie speed, drinking) have to be present for a charge?

    And if there is an automatic charge for failure to yield to a pedestrian (where an injury occurs)–is it an infraction (like speeding), or a traffic crime (like DUI or reckless driving?)

  17. All I know is that in cities where Jaywalking is illegal, people still do it but do it with care (look both ways, wait for traffic to clear, wait in the center lane to do the same, etc)

    In Portland, I experience on an almost daily basis very brave pedestrians who will step right in front of a moving vehicle, confidently striding with no regard to the vehicles speed or braking ability.

    I would argue that this behavior is directly linked to the fact that Jaywalking has been “decriminalized” in Oregon.

    In a similar observation, I have also noticed many more bicyclists blowing stop signs and weaving around cars lately since Portland announced that it would no longer enforce established traffic codes for bicyclists.

  18. I don’t really like the zebra crossings installed where there is no school nearby. The zebra crossings have a specific meaning, as do the standard crossings.

  19. Anthony: “since Portland announced that it would no longer enforce established traffic codes for bicyclists.”

    That isn’t _quite_ exactly what was announced.

  20. I don’t recall jaywalking ever being a crime (i.e. a misdemeanor or felony offense); it’s always, to my knowledge, been an infraction (at least in the legal terminology used in Oregon). Given that the primary risk is to the jaywalker, and given that running red lights is an infraction and not a crime, making jaywalking a crime would be a rather stupid thing to do.

    At any rate, the topic of whether legal crossing places (crosswalks) or illegal ones (middle of block) are safer, brings to mind the old (and somewhat sexist) joke–the man is the head of the house, and the pedestrian has the right of way. And both are safe until they try to prove it. :)

  21. JK: This is consistent with the few studies I have seen. If I recall correctly:

    There’s a pretty thorough study from the FHA that agrees that crosswalks alone are essentially useless (my characterization), which has been my own personal experience over too many decades. I lost my best friend 25 years ago in just this manner. http://tinyurl.com/ykaocsj

    Pedestrian crashes are relatively rare at uncontrolled pedestrian crossings (1 crash every 43.7 years per site in this study); however, the certainty of injury to the pedestrian and the high likelihood of a severe or fatal injury in a high-speed crash make it critical to provide a pedestrian-friendly transportation network.

    Marked crosswalks alone (i.e., without traffic-calming treatments, traffic signals with pedestrian signals when warranted, or other substantial improvement) are not recommended at uncontrolled crossing locations on multilane roads (i.e., four or more lanes) where traffic volume exceeds approximately 12,000 vehicles per day (with no raised medians) or approximately 15,000 ADT (with raised medians that serve as refuge areas). This recommendation is based on the analysis of pedestrian crash experience, as well as exposure data and site conditions described earlier. To add a margin of safety and/or to account for future increases in traffic volume, the authors recommend against installing marked crosswalks alone on two-lane roads with ADTs greater than 12,000 or on multilane roads with ADTs greater than 9,000 (with no raised median). This study also recommends against installing marked crosswalks alone on roadways with speed limits higher than 64.4 km/h (40 mi/h) based on the expected increase in driver stopping distance at higher speeds. (Few sites were found for this study having marked crosswalks where speed limits exceeded 64.4 km/h (40 mi/h).) Instead, enhanced crossing treatments (e.g., traffic-calming treatments, traffic and pedestrian signals when warranted, or other substantial improvement) are recommended. Specific recommendations are given in table 11 regarding installation of marked crosswalks and other crossing measures. It is important for motorists to understand their legal responsibility to yield to pedestrians at marked and unmarked crosswalks, which may vary from State to State. Also, pedestrians should use caution when crossing streets, regardless of who has the legal right-of-way, since it is the pedestrian who suffers the most physical injury in a collision with a motor vehicle.

    On two-lane roads and lower volume multilane roads (ADTs less than 12,000), marked crosswalks were not found to have any positive or negative effect on pedestrian crash rates at the study sites. Marked crosswalks may encourage pedestrians to cross the street at such sites. However, it is recommended that crosswalks alone (without other crossing enhancements) not be installed at locations that may pose unusual safety risks to pedestrians. Pedestrians should not be encouraged to cross the street at sites with limited sight distance, complex or confusing designs, or at sites with certain vehicle mixes (many heavy trucks) or other dangers unless adequate design features and/or traffic control devices are in place.

    At uncontrolled pedestrian crossing locations, installing marked crosswalks should not be regarded as a magic cure for pedestrian safety problems. However, marked crosswalks also should not be considered as a negative measure that will necessarily increase pedestrian crashes. Marked crosswalks are appropriate at some locations (e.g., at selected low-speed, two-lane streets at downtown crossing locations) to help channel pedestrians to preferred crossing locations, but other roadway improvements are also necessary (e.g., raised medians, traffic-calming treatments, traffic and pedestrian signals when warranted, or other substantial crossing improvement) when used at other locations. The guidelines presented in table 11 are intended to provide guidance for installing marked crosswalks and other pedestrian crossing facilities.

    Apologies if this is too lengthy a quotation.

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