Archive | Crosswalks

Is it Time for Our Own “Grand Bargain”?

No, not between the Democrats and Republicans…

Between the City and ODOT.

A little background – a week and a half ago, I took a tour with some ODOT folks of 82nd Ave and outer Powell to talk about what might be in store for these areas as part of our Comprehensive Plan update.

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Valentine Khubeyev’s daughter speaking at the vigil in her honor

A few hours later, Valentine Khubeyev was struck by an SUV on the stretch of Powell I had toured, and died of her injuries a hours later. This past Friday evening, I attended a vigil commemorating this tragedy. A lot of frustration (link not working at the moment) was directed at the state of the street and at ODOT.

Now I don’t want to point fingers specifically at ODOT. There are certainly safety issues on City of Portland streets in East Portland as well, and there was a pedestrian fatality recently on Division. Lack of funds for safety improvements is a problem for all jurisdictions in Oregon. But I can’t help wondering if City policies that treat streets as places, not as highways, may ultimately create a better context for investments in safety. The Mayor has posed a similar question.

I recently raised the same point about Barbur Boulevard, where it’s clear to me that it would be much better off as a City street.

So here’s my “grand bargain”. Instead of dealing with these corridors one-by-one, should the City and ODOT negotiate the transfer of all the “orphan highways” in Portland, perhaps as part of the Comp Plan? The obstacle is probably not ownership, but rather funding. In the past, the City has been unwilling to accept these roads until they have been brought up to a certain standard. Maybe it’s time to look past this, and as the first order of business, get these corridors under a better set of policies?

 

A Walktober Tour of Portland’s Crosswalks

I’m joined in assembling this post by Kirk Paulsen, who took the photos within and contributed many great ideas.

It’s October, or as your local walking advocacy group Oregon Walks has branded it for the last two years, “Walktober.” I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment—there really isn’t a better time to go for a stroll than right now, at the peak of the spectacular northwestern autumn.

Of course, life in the motor vehicle age means that one cannot walk far in the city without soon needing a path across the vehicular part of the road. Hence, crosswalks. Playing the role of the forgettable sidekick to sidewalks, they’re an underappreciated part of the pedestrian infrastructure—the part of the walking trip that is to merely be tolerated, not enjoyed. In turn, crosswalks have come to be one of the most misunderstood pieces of transportation infrastructure.

None of these things is what a crosswalk is.

None of these things are what a crosswalk is.

In celebration of Walktober, we thought it might be fun and worthwhile to take a tour of Portland’s crosswalks, looking at the relationships between location, treatment, and quality. Click through to be whisked away to the best crosswalk in Portland, where we’ll start.

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Not PBOT Issue

Some entrepreneur has painted their own crosswalk on E Burnside at 8th. It happened on or around Christmas, according to the reader who tipped us to this.

The straight-line-challenged person responsible has not stepped forward to take credit yet.

City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield is quoted on Bike Portland about what will happen to this improvement in the future…

Personally I did not feel any safer crossing the street there. Four lanes of fast-moving traffic is still four lanes of fast-moving traffic.

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Feeling Empowered

I must say I am pleasantly surprised by the personal impact (on me) of the new crosswalks on NW 23rd.

Now I’m a fairly assertive pedestrian. I’ll walk out into a crosswalk if there is a reasonable gap and hold out my hand to stop the cars (as is my right under Oregon law if they are more than 50 feet from the intersection). Interestingly that gesture is now in the process of being encapsulated in Oregon law.

Anyway, what I find with the new crosswalks is that I’m doing this more frequently, and with the cars perhaps a little closer. It’s as though the crosswalks have shifted the balance of power between me and the cars.