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News Release: Mayor Hales, Commissioner Novick underscore their support for Vision Zero as Portlanders unite for safer streets for all

(June 2, 2015) Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick underscored their support on Tuesday for Vision Zero, the goal of providing a safe, multimodal transportation system where no one is killed on our streets.

In light of recent crashes in Portland, Hales committed a citywide effort, including the Portland Police Bureau and Portland Fire & Rescue, to improve safety for all Portlanders, whether they are biking, walking or driving.

“It has been difficult to witness the death and injuries that occurred on our streets over the past several weeks,” Mayor Hales said. “My thoughts go out to the families and friends of those impacted, and the survivors of those crashes. No person should have to go through the traumatic experience of a serious crash, as Alistair Corkett suffered last month.”

The announcement came at a news conference immediately following an afternoon meeting at City Hall with stakeholders, fire and police officials and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick called for the public’s help in reducing crashes.

“We are busy people and we all rush through our days – I get that, I am busy too.  But no meeting, no appointment, no event is worth a life,” Mayor Hales said. “That person next to you in a car, or on a bike, or crossing the street, is someone’s sister, mother, aunt or neighbor. Let’s take care of each other.  Let’s look every direction before making a turn. A simple act – looking before you turn – could save a life.”

In 2014, there were 28 deaths in Portland due to traffic crashes and there have been 10 so far this year.

“We lost 28 of our own last year,” said Commissioner Novick, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “As the Mayor said, these deaths are tragic and they are preventable.”

Many fatal crashes happen on just 10 streets, which PBOT has designated as High Crash Corridors. Though they represent only 3 percent of the roads in Portland, they account for 51 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.

“These streets often run through the main thoroughfares in low-income communities,” Novick said. “People in low-income neighborhoods are 2.3 times more likely to be struck and killed while walking than the average person. We must embrace Vision Zero to make Portland a more equitable place.”

Novick thanked the Mayor for including $4 million in safety improvements for 122nd Avenue, one of the High Crash Corridors, in the proposed budget that was approved by Council last week. TriMet has said that because these safety improvements improve access to transit, they make it much more likely that TriMet will upgrade to frequent bus service on 122nd Avenue, which has long been a community priority.

Transportation Director Leah Treat said PBOT is committed to Vision Zero and the Bureau has numerous new pedestrian crossing beacons and other safety improvements scheduled to be installed in the coming months.

“It’s been over a year since I took this job and I announced my commitment to Vision Zero – the concept that deaths are not inevitable,” Treat said. “Traffic deaths have huge health and economic costs to our society. I am tremendously proud of the work that we have accomplished to date in working towards Vision Zero. But we can do more. We can do it better. I have laid out a path forward, articulated in PBOT’s 2-Year Workplan, called Portland Progress.”

The City has introduced House Bill 2621 in the state Legislature that would allow Portland to place safety cameras on High Crash Corridors, a proven way of reducing fatal crashes. In addition, Treat recently made a formal request to the Oregon Speed Zone Control Board seeking to expedite the process for setting speeds on city streets, taking into account how and when pedestrians and cyclists use the road. While that request is pending, the City recently successfully reduced speeds on SE Division and Burnside, two high crash corridors.

“We are working with our partners at ODOT to invest federal dollars in places where the worst crashes occur,” Treat said. “More is on the horizon. We’re going to follow the data. We are going to experiment and find out what works. And where we see problem areas, that’s where we’re going to apply safety tools most intensely, and keep driving down these numbers, and keep saving peoples’ lives.”