Support for pedestrian safety, like motherhood, is de regueur for politicians. Last month, Mayor Charlie Hales literally walked his talk on the subject.
Hales acted as a “decoy” in a “pedestrian action” on East Burnside at 16th Avenue. Together with Sharon White of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Buckman School counselor Kristin Lasher and Sunnyside neighborhood activist Mary Ann Schwab, the mayor repeatedly crossed Burnside at the intersection, which has a marked crosswalk and a center pedestrian island. Motorcycle police officers lurking on nearby parking lots were ready to pull over motorists and give them warnings for failure to yield or other violations – or citations in more serious cases. A fine for a motorist failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk is $250.
Police have been known to issue as many as 50 warnings or citations during a pedestrian action. On this occasion, according to PBOT spokesperson Dylan Rivera, the count was eight warnings, three tickets. Rivera speculated that the high visibility of the action may have warned motorists and induced them to be careful and law-abiding.
Hales made clear he took other driving violations seriously. “When you’re driving is not the time to use your sell phone,” he said, “and pedestrians need to be alert when they are crossing the street as well.”
Some traffic engineers feel crosswalks are dangerous because they are too often ignored by motorists, and give pedestrians a false sense of security. Hales said that in this case the combination of stripping and a traffic island made the crossing visible enough to be effective.
Buckman School officials, community activists and neighbors had been seeking a crossing at this location for years. Brendon Haggerty of the Kerns Neighborhood Association said he was glad to see it finally installed. A neighbor said it made a huge difference in being able to cross the street. Schwab exclaimed, “It really works.”