We’re Among the Top 10 Safest Cities

But we can do better!

The following is from the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition:

MONDAY, NOV. 9, 2009

Stephanie Routh
Willamette Pedestrian Coalition

Portland ranked 44 in Nation for Preventable Pedestrian Deaths, Report Shows

Willamette Pedestrian Coalition Urges Members of Congress to Support Increased Focus on Pedestrian Safety in Upcoming Federal Legislation

Portland, Ore. — A newly released national report shows that, while Portland is ranked among the 10 least dangerous metropolitan area for pedestrians, transportation design and funding priorities continues to disenfranchise walking.

The report, Dangerous by Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods), ranks America’s major metropolitan areas and states according to a Pedestrian Danger Index that assesses how safe they are for walking. An update of the 2004 Mean Streets report, Dangerous by Design was released by Transportation for America (T4America.org) and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership.

The report authors note that most pedestrian deaths are preventable, because they occur on streets that are designed to encourage speeding traffic and lack safe sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals and other protections. Fixing these problems is a matter of will on the part of state departments of transportation and local communities, and of shifting spending priorities, the report concludes.

The report also examined how states and localities are spending federal money that could be used to make the most dangerous streets safer. Findings show that Oregon spends less than 2% – only $1.28 per person – on pedestrian facilities and safety.

“Although Portland is considered safer for pedestrians than most metropolitan regions in the country, the spate of recent collisions in Portland between pedestrians and motorists prove that we are still clearly not investing enough to protect our citizens from speeding traffic,” said Steph Routh.

On Oct. 31, Benjamin Story was struck in a hit and run collision when on Highway 99E just north of Aurora. On Nov. 1, John Thomas Nelson was hit and critically injured on Highway 217, Lindsay Leonard was killed and Jessica Finlay suffered serious injuries while crossing in a marked crosswalk on 80th and SE Foster. On Nov. 2, Susan Ogilvy was struck while crossing Scholls Ferry Road near Beaverton Hillsdale Highway.

The intersection at Scholls Ferry Rd. and Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, where Ms. Ogilvy was recently hit, is both congested and unsafe. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway is one of SW Portland’s primary transportation corridors along with I-5 and Sunset Highway. The “Dangerous by Design” study reflects the danger inherent in walking along or crossing these types of major roads. More than 56 percent of the 6,367 pedestrian deaths in the urban areas studied occurred on major roads, like Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy.

While walking conditions remain perilous across the country, many communities are working to make their streets safe and welcoming for people on foot or bicycle, the report shows. Communities across the country are beginning to reverse the dangerous legacy of 50 years of anti-pedestrian policies by retrofitting or building new roads as “complete streets” that are safer for walking and bicycling as well as motorists.

Earlier this spring, the Portland Bureau of Transportation and TriMet worked with the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, SE Uplift, Elders in Action, and Impact Northwest to approve a crosswalk at 46th & Belmont near a bus stop and facilities used by senior citizens. The intersection had previously played host to pedestrian enforcement actions and served as an ongoing neighborhood priority for improvement.

“Here in the Portland area, we could be saving lives and encouraging more residents to engage in healthy levels of activity by investing in sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming and other safety measures,” said Routh. “However, in many cases we are hampered by state and federal policies that continue to promote dangerous conditions.”

“As Congress prepares to rewrite the nation’s transportation law, this report is yet another wake-up call showing why it is so urgent to update our policies and spending priorities,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America.

The Willamette Pedestrian Coalition applauds Congressman Earl Blumenauer for his continued leadership in prioritizing funding for walking, cycling and mass transit as transportation modes.

Under the current federal transportation bill, less than 1.5 percent of available funds nationally are directed toward pedestrian safety, although pedestrians account for nearly 12 percent of all traffic deaths and 9 percent of total trips. Between 2007 and 2008, more than 700 children under the age of 15 were killed walking.

Seven organizations served on the steering committee for this report, working closely with T4 America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership. These organizations include the American Public Health Association, AARP, Smart Growth America, America Bikes, America Walks, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the National Complete Streets Coalition.


24 responses to “We’re Among the Top 10 Safest Cities”

  1. That’s awesome.

    Good to know we’re safe. I think one of the reasons is our more “human” streets. It helps tremendously. As it is we seem to have much more observance from motorists for pedestrians. Really, the key all boils down to behavior in the automobiles really.

  2. On Nov. 1, John Thomas Nelson was hit and critically injured on Highway 217

    Wasn’t he walking across a freeway, instead of using an allowed crossing? I’m glad to see Portland’s a safe city to walk in (it feels so to me), but… Well, road design doesn’t seem to be the issue in that case, the user does.

  3. Portland – Safe? Then god forbid what a lot of these other places must be like. I do a LOT of walking in Portland Metro, and I have to be VERY CAREFUL in a lot of places.

    I’ll remember all this next time I’m out walking in West Hills, for example.

  4. Isn’t this for the entire Vancouver, Portland,
    Beaverton area?

    Which makes the connection to Portland “policies” pretty lame.

  5. Right near downtown:

    Crossing over I405 on Couch and Glisan Streets.
    SW 13th and Alder, right side, esp. when traffic is coming from behind.
    SW Broadway Drive

    All 4 are hoary in varying degrees for a pedestrian.

    That’s just 4 I can think of off the top my head. Like I said, I do a lot of walking – everywhere in Portland Metro.

  6. No. Metro hasn’t accomplished what this notion sugggesta either.

    Portland and Metro planned the Cascade Station ped/bike/transit mini-city that is now a auto oriented big box strip mall.

    The Beaverton round another huge flop.
    There are plenty more.

    But where are the big saftey improvements?

    In their minds.

  7. “John E.” wrote: Portland and Metro planned the Cascade Station ped/bike/transit mini-city that is now a auto oriented big box strip mall.

    Nope, not quite.

    Granted, Cascade Station has changed from the original plan. But it has only two big-box retailers, Ikea and Target. Both retailers have less parking and a smaller footprint than contemporary installations of either brand. In fact, Ikea has touted the fact that it has less parking per square foot at Cascade Station and light rail access. I know you know this, because you’ve been told t his before, complete with sources, and scoffed at the notion.

    Although the vast majority of the establishments at Cascade Station are national chains, the fundamental character of the place is far more pedestrian-oriented than most “strip mall” (as you say) developments. I visit there often and see that the parallel parking spaces are usually full (how many strip malls have parallel street parking, like a downtown, and a grassy landscaped park to break up the main boulevard?).

    Just today I was attempting to book incoming guests at a hotel near transit. Not only is every downtown and inner-eastside mid-priced-and-up hotel along MAX _fully_ _booked_ for next week, but the Cascade Station properties (Marriott Suites and Aloft) are fully booked, and even the Holiday Inn Suites a couple of blocks from the Green Line by Mall-205 is fully booked.

    The only hotels available within 5 miles of downtown right now are those rated two (out of five) stars or less on popular booking sites, or are not anywhere near high-capacity transit.

    It seems that the marketplace has spoken and walkable (even if many people drive there initially) urban development, close to transit, is highly in-demand.

    How many boarded-up vacancies do you see at Cascade Station? None. In fact, construction of new properties is still ongoing.

  8. (You may argue that Best Buy is “Big Box” as well, but compared to the footprint of Ikea and Target, it is much smaller.)

  9. And if you can find me a mid-range or better hotel along MAX between the airport and downtown for November 16-20, I’d be delighted to be proven wrong! Very delighted!

  10. (You may argue that Best Buy is “Big Box” as well, but compared to the footprint of Ikea and Target, it is much smaller.)
    I would also argue that Staples is a big box as well. Granted, big boxes have their place and Cascade Station is located along transit for us window shoppers and those who have nothing better to do on a given day. :)
    I’ve even been inside wally world… O_O FTR I didn’t find anything I wanted or needed. So I left.

    Yes this post had a point… I attended the WPC event last night. IMO, there was a general consensus, and that is that traffic just plain goes too fast on Foster Rd. and too many drivers don’t pay attention or have any respect for driving laws.

  11. Bob,
    That was a staggering display of obfuscation and spin. Propaganda really.
    Cascade Station is a tremendous failure of planning and spending of tax dollars, period.

    It has become precisely what it was planned to prohibit. A heavily car oriented strip mall with BIG BOX stores included. Yet you parrot the parking for Ikea as preferrable to a slightly larger ratio of spaces????
    What a dance.
    And light rail?
    The transit share for Cascade Station is pitiful compared to the car use.
    It’s like any other auto oriented mall area such as gateway where light rail also serves.

    The details of that public land giveaway at Cascade Station make the plan even worse.

    But then light rail fans are never bothered by any cost level or outcome.

    Among others The Beaverton Round and SoWa have followed suit.

    Big public giveaways without regard for cost or outcome. Nice planning.
    We need more of the same is the message from the loyal.

  12. That was a staggering display of obfuscation and spin.

    Please continue to stagger all you like. When you are finished, try to have a civil conversation sometime. Your constant and pointless derisiveness is not appreciated around here.

    I can take it ’cause I’m a moderator and I’ve seen plenty worse flame wars than the ones you troll to instigate in my 23+ years on the Internet, but you do it to everyone. Drop the tone a couple of notches or go away.

  13. Without commenting on anyone’s rudeness, it seems that John is railing against a caricature of urbanist design, rather than anything actually practiced by urbanists. He seems to assume that planners have strong anti-corporate biases, which have been foiled by the presence of large chain merchants such as Target and Best Buy.

    While certainly there are numerous in the urbanist school of thought who hold leftist political beliefs on other subjects (including opposition to big business), and/or who might disdain stores like Target, K-Mart, or WalMart for reasons of class prejudice–the problem with the typical big box store, from an urbanist point of view, is not that it sells crap, engages in unsavory business practices, or simply makes money. The problem is that these stores typically are pedestrian- and transit- unfriendly, with acres of parking, a long way from the sidewalk or bus stop to the front door, and numerous other hazards for the pedestrian.

    (Whether a small local merchant charging higher prices, or a Target or other out-of-town chain discounter charging lower prices, is better for the the economy, I’ll punt on).

    CascadeStation shops, while it has a parking lot, are easily reachable by transit users. Most of the shops are probably secondary destinations–you probably have one of everything other than Ikea closer to your home. The idea that it represents a repudiation of urbanist design, is nonsense.

  14. Scotty –

    Thanks for mentioning the newly-opened Target… It completely slipped my mind to talk about that store in my first post. It is indeed a major-scale “big box” and it has urban design issues.

    In my opinion, if there is one store you can point to at Cascade Station that violates “new urbanist” design principles, it is the Target.

    This new Target (and I’ve shopped at that very location, I’m not bashing the chain in this comment) is single-story, very spread out. One or two other large, newer Target stores in our region, such as the Mall-205 store, feature two-story development with special escalators to handle shopping carts and large elevators. I think such a form factor would have been more appropriate for Cascade Station.

    Further, the original developments between the current Best Buy location and the Ikea featured smaller retailers and restaurants in separate buildings at the sidewalk, buffering and hiding the parking and creating an active retail space along the street.

    But at the Target, the parking appears to be configured to prevent future development of streetside buildings, or at least limits them to a much smaller size.

    So at the present time we have a very typical big-box store in this one example, even though the chain has developed in more compact footprints in the past.

    I’d also like to point out a potential safety hazard. When traveling westbound on Cascades Parkway toward the new Marriott, it isn’t immediately clear that the property is accessed via the Target parking entrance. I can foresee a motorist unfamiliar with the area taking a turn right _after_ the Marriott sign, which is not a driveway but is in fact the light rail tracks, and they are not embedded in pavement.

    A few brightly-painted bollards here would do a lot to prevent that sort of accident.

    I’d show a Google Maps pic but the aerial imagery is a year or so behind the present-day — the area is developing very fast.

  15. And just eyeballing it from Google Maps, it appears that the land area consumed by the Best Buy structure is less than 1/3 that of the Ikea, and the Staples is 1/2 that of the Best Buy, so no, I’m not willing to characterize these particular installations as “Big Box” compared to the Ikea and Target.

  16. Interestingly, there’s now a pretty high percentage of Target stores accessible by Light Rail.

    The Green Line ends close to the Clackamas Promenade location (a bit of a walk, but not too far), Mall-205 is right across the street — I’ve taken the Green Line to that one for shopping. And now the Cascade Station location on the Red Line, with the stop directly adjacent to the parking lot.

    If the Yellow Line is ever extended to Hayden Island, there’s a Target there.

    So we have three, maybe 4 within a decade. How about on the west side?

  17. There’s a store right next to the Washington Square TC (unfortunately, the rear of the store faces the depot, so you have to walk around to the front). Not served by rail yet, unless you count WES plus a brisk walk from the Nimbus stop.

    Can’t think of any that are terribly close to westside MAX–there’s one at Tanasbourne, but that’s almost a mile north of MAX, and another on Beaverton Hillsdale–a short ride on the 54 from BTC, but a nasty walk from the train.

  18. Speaking about stores being along rail lines, I find it interesting that we have not one, but two, Safeways between the streetcar tracks. Looking at some pictures of their older stores in San Fransisco, I often see tracks or at least trolley wires in them.

  19. John E: Cascade Station is a tremendous failure of planning and spending of tax dollars, period.

    I disagree. It’s easily accessible by car (from WA or OR) or rail (from eastern Portland areas), the private funding for transportation improvements also helped PDX auto access as well as Cascade Station auto access, and brought a developing brand to Portland early in it’s evolution. Having an aloft open here was something that put Portland on the map for travel professionals in many other markets.

    I’d love to see Portland say that mixing a ballpark into the area would be a good idea, but I’m a soccer fan who likes easily accessing minor league baseball, and won’t bother going if it’s too much of a pain to get to. There’s a lot of open space by the MAX/St Helens/Alderwood area, and would allow for a lot of people to easily access baseball (which is finished before the ski season, the next-busiest time in Portland’s airport by statistics I can easily find.)

    With a parking garage or two the Expo Center could handle a ballpark, but that seems to be outside the goals of the quest for a ballpark.

    It looks like (from aerial photos) that you could fit 2-3 garages and a ballpark in that area easily. If the Hayden Island interchanges are rebuilt there’s even more options in the northern edges of Portland.

    The Boise-Cascade site between the Columbia and Downtown Vancouver would make sense for such a development, if they wanted to make it a ballpark district like San Diego did with their East Village (as an example). I’m not sure it would work so well there without a people mover and MAX connection, but it might be worth looking at.

    SoWa is the last area with open space that could easily fit a ballpark, and it might be a cool place to have one. I’m not sure the access is good enough though.

    Why did I bring up a ballpark? Because that’s one of the more transportation-intensive land uses that an area can be given. Thousands of people arriving and departing at the same location is quite an accomplishment. If we’re going to build a transportation network, let’s make sure it serves where people go.

  20. And that Aloft is completely booked up!

    *psst* It’s aloft, I read their style guide. They don’t capitalize the A. It’s cool to avoid capitals.

  21. Interesting comments on Cascade Station. I visited the new Target today. I also wondered why it didn’t have the two story configuration like Mall 205. It is crazy how large it is inside.

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