September 22, 2010
Are We the Safest Traffic (major) City in U.S.?
At least one source quoted by the Mercury says so.
September 22, 2010 4:13 AM
Absolutely not! I have never felt more unsafe driving than I do in Portland. I've lived in a handful of major cities, including Los Angeles, and Portland drivers are, without a doubt, the worst. I love this city, and I'm not one to say bad things about it, but I think everyone needs to pay a LOT more attention when they drive here.
September 22, 2010 8:06 AM
John Reinhold Says:
"Feeling" unsafe does not make you so.
In fact - studies have shown the opposite. When drivers perceive risk, they tend to drive safer. When drivers get too comfortable, they tend to be less safe.
One of the best ways to increase safety and calm traffic is to have narrow streets which share right of way with many modes (busses, bicycles, pedestrians, streetcars). That mix forces people to pay more attention and take things a little slower.
I have a friend who visited Portland and she felt the streets were crazy and it scared the bejeezus out of her. But Portland has significantly fewer accidents and fatalities than her home city which has lots of large wide high speed streets everywhere, and no bicycles or pedestrians and very little transit...
September 22, 2010 9:45 PM
Cameron Johnson Says:
Balderdash! Poppycock! Maybe!
September 22, 2010 10:19 PM
Dave H Says:
Having driven and been a passenger around most areas of the US (other than the Northern Midwest), Portland is by far the safest and most courteous city I've driven or walked in. People will actually stop in a crosswalk, and while we have some psychos on our roads it's a lot better than anywhere else on the west coast that I've been to. (And that would include I-5 from the Canadian to the Mexican border.)
September 22, 2010 11:26 PM
Bob R. Says:
September 23, 2010 10:14 AM
Cameron Johnson Says:
...I walked right into that one.
Anyway, it's mostly my neighborhood that has traffic issues. Lents, right by the freeway, is one of those neighborhoods where you seem to hear a crash at least once a day from your living room.
September 23, 2010 12:16 PM
There's a difference between narrowing streets to absolute minimums and having overly-wide streets. My stance is somewhere in the middle. Same with super-wide bulb-outs. Bulb-outs are good for some streets, but many are just too far out into the street that it hurts turning radius' of even small cars -- which is actually a hazard to pedestrians rather a safety design measure imo.
Additionally, the world won't come to an end if a major arterial has 13 foot wide lanes compared to 10 or 11 feet wide lanes. That extra foot makes it just a bit easier on larger trucks, which I think is more than okay. You don't know how difficult it is until you actually have to drive a big truck and the shortcomings of some architect/planner/progressive engineer's vision of what a street should look like rather than what is practical.
The best way to make sure vehicles are going a road's given speed imo is enclsoure through street trees and building frontages, not so much hair-raising skinny lanes for car drivers. Obsessing over staying in your "skinny" lane takes away from actually checking vital mirrors for people getting out of their cars, bikes, pedestrians, etc., etc.
Unfortunately, in the US it seems, we expect our roads be designed for our vehicles versus the more logical solution of having our vehicles designed for our roads. That's probably the most salient point of all.
I also find the one-lane streets in Portland's older neighborhoods to be taking the "skinny streets" approach to an extreme. I wouldn't advocate building those unless absolutely necessary.
I don't think there's anything proven that more modes/things on streets equates to safer driving habits. If so, I'd like to see the data. I would doubt that light rail mixed with auto traffic on Portland's local streets has done very little to reduce accidents.
I would argue it has only increased accidents to a reasonable degree.
September 23, 2010 12:20 PM
Chris Smith Says:
Additionally, the world won't come to an end if a major arterial has 13 foot wide lanes compared to 10 or 11 feet wide lanes.
Well, I might debate that, but here in Portland since we're not really building new arterial streets, wider lanes mean taking away from something else: sidewalks, bike lanes or travel lanes.
I might trade you one less travel lane for widening the remaining ones and adding a bike lane :-)
September 23, 2010 1:28 PM
I actually do agree with some lane reductions along certain routes (we're talking local streets here).
I've argued before that reducing Burnside's two-way lanes (NW area of Burnside) into one lane (albeit a larger one-lane) while increasing the sidewalk width would be a worthy project endeavor not only from a pedestrian standpoint but also from a car mobility standpoint (assuming more protected left hand turns were added for cars).
I ain't no civil engineer, but the lack of consistent flow along Burnside (no left hand turns, people doing lane changes to avoid the illegal left-hand turners, speedsters, people riding their bikes instead of going along a safer side street, etc.) is more of an issue than capacity.
Capacity is worthless if there's constant fluctuations in driver speed, which actually causes congestion.
To your point, I'm not advocating doing lane width increases -- just arguing against the oft-repeated New Urbanism/Duany points that extremely small lanes are better for drivers and pedestrians. Not always, it isn't.
Regarding bicycle lanes:
I think it's safer for bikes to be mixed inside auto traffic on some streets. The driver can see the bike and won't get hooked on turns. I don't mind going a bit slower to know that I can actually see an object in front of me. Others streets need the bike lanes, however.
Portland's a-typical block system and narrow 12' wide (and smaller) sidewalks could use the extra 4 to 5 feet used for bike lanes to maybe make a decent sized sidewalk.
Most of the sidewalks in Portland don't even allow for the planting of a reasonably sized tree w/o severely cracking the concrete. 4 feet would do wonders for creating a quality pedestrian experience with more street tree plantings, space for cafes, etc.
Portland needs to also look at two-waying some of the one-way arterial streets. Better access for local businesses and it creates more "friction" for cars to not speed if they know an opposing car is coming their way.
Design of streets needs to incorporate modesty and sensibility. The pave-it-all civil engineers want the super-wide streets because their number one design goal is autos and the anti-car extremists want to make it incredibly punitive to even drive a car in the city.
Portlanders need to arrive somewhere in the middle of those mind-sets. We need transportation options, not transportation ideologies.
A bit long, sorry.