By Don MacGillivray
In 2016 Portland adopted the Vision Zero program. The accomplishments in its first year are impressive.
Vision Zero’s intent is to end all roads related deaths and serious injuries in Portland by 2025.
Reaching zero will take a concerted, aggressive, creative, and collaborative action.
It is a fact that slower driving speeds help prevent crashes, and when crashes occur, the harm that results will be less. The correlation between excessive speed and serious injury or death is clear.
The strategy of Portland’s Vision Zero Action Plan is to lower posted speed limits, improve design of the streets, to post reader boards, increase automated enforcement, and to provide multi-cultural traffic safety education.
Redesigning streets to achieve safe driving speeds is the core action of Vision Zero. The plan calls for street design changes paired with posted speed reductions on four to six streets each year.
The first annual report says that despite initial efforts, 2017 was the most deadly traffic year since 2003. Even with the good beginning progress it will take a while to see positive results. In 2017, the Oregon State legislature passed a $5.3 billion statewide transportation funding package that will include investments in safety for Portland’s High Crash Network.
There will be a strong focus on investing in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
A pedestrian is twice as likely to die when hit by a car moving at 25 mph as compared with 20 mph. Almost 600 people are killed or severely injured each year in the Metro area. It is obvious that slower driving speeds will help prevent crashes and reduce injuries.
By changing posted speeds, hopefully driver’s behavior will improve. In 2017 you may have noticed changes such as the reduction of the residential speed limit from 25 to 20 miles per hour on over 70 percent of Portland’s streets. Posted speeds were reduced on 26 residential streets and eight arterials. The City will continue to make speed reductions where it is appropriate.
A two-year pilot program is underway for automated speed and safety cameras on four high crash corridors. There has been a decrease in speeding by 59 percent averaged over the SE corridors.
Speed safety cameras are important part of advancing equity goals because they enforce the speeding laws without any racial profiling. There are now pole mounted automated camera technology at red lights and elsewhere so citations can be issued for both speeding and running red lights.
A two-year test program is in place on Marine Drive. The City of Portland typically sees about a 30 percent crash reduction from such projects. It will be evaluated in 2018 and expanded in 2019 by using a data-driven process to reorganize and expand the red light safety camera system.
Portland’s Safe Routes to School program explores a partnership with youth leadership at one or two middle or high schools. The idea is to promote safe transportation in communities with a focus on engaging schools that have a racially and economically diverse student body.
There is the Safe Ride Home program, a prevention program for those who Drive Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII). The program provides discounts for safe travel alternatives on holidays when drivers have been drinking and has distributed 4,000 coupons to potential drivers who may become inebriated and need help getting home.
The professional driver safety-training program is developing partnerships among PBOT and the private taxis and transportation network companies to launch a program that includes easy-access driver safety tips, training, and testing in multiple languages.
Vision Zero content will be included in driver training for public agencies and contractors with private companies.
Portland’s first citywide traffic safety education campaign will focus on the significant impact of unsafe speeds on local streets.
Launching this year, a fleet of over 1,000 passenger vehicles and light trucks will have bumper stickers that say “Safe Speeds Save Lives.”
In 2016, Portland voters approved a 3 percent local tax on cannabis revenue being used for Vision Zero street and road safety projects. The voter approved Fixing Our Streets initiative that levied a local 10-cent per gallon gas tax, is part of the funding being invested in Vision Zero projects.
SE Foster Road is an example of the work to be done on one of Portland’s most dangerous streets. The safety project will reorganize travel on the street, add enhanced pedestrian crossings, provide protected bike lanes, add a center turn lane, reduce motor vehicle travel speeds, support local businesses, and provide a community main street.
The City of Portland typically sees about a 30% rate of crash reduction from such projects.
There are street team collaborations between PBOT, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) and community organizations that educate Portlanders about Vision Zero so that they will make safer choices while moving about the city.
The staff and community volunteers select a location on the High Crash Network and spend two hours during the evening commute talking to people in their parked cars, waiting for the bus, or when walking.
In conjunction, PPB may run a Vision Zero enforcement mission, pulling over drivers when they behave dangerously.
Over the last few years, Vision Zero has grown to become one of the most popular new polices within local government.
Portland’s streets remain challenging, especially for older adults, who are at a higher risk of dying in a crash.
To learn more go to portlandoregon.gov/transportation.