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Over the last 20 years, an average of 36 people died in traffic crashes annually on Portland streets. These people aren’t just statistics. They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, kids, and friends. They lost their lives in the course of the everyday act of moving from place to place. The impact on their families, friends and communities is immense and permanent.
These traffic deaths tell a story at odds with Portland’s reputation as a walkable, bikeable, livable city. Thanks to seatbelts and vehicle improvements, driving is getting safer. Walking and bicycling on our streets, however, is not.
In fact, while the overall number of traffic deaths in Portland has dropped over the past 20 years, the percentage of bicycle deaths has held steady and the percentage of pedestrian deaths has continued to rise.
People walking in Portland streets are at the greatest risk. While about 10% of people identify walking as their primary way to travel in Portland, pedestrians make up nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths.
Portland traffic deaths outnumber homicides year after year. All too often, we as a community have accepted this as an unfortunate but inevitable cost of moving around the city. Vision Zero rejects that assumption. With this action plan, Portland makes a clear statement that the cost is too high—and directs attention, commitment and resources to ending traffic violence in the city.
Vision Zero is the bold goal to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries on Portland streets. Vision Zero reaches beyond traditional transportation agency safety programs. It is a multi-agency, multi-partner initiative that requires cooperation, commitment, urgency, and action across the community.
For decades, Portland has defined itself as a city for people. We are a leader in walking, bicycling, and public transit—and we are known nationally and internationally for our livable neighborhoods.
But a livable city must be a safe city, and as Portland grows it is clear that protecting the health of our residents means addressing behaviors and infrastructure gaps that put people’s lives at risk. The need is ever more acute as gentrification and changing demographics force low-income, transit-dependent residents into neighborhoods where walking is especially dangerous.
In the context of traffic safety, equity means creating streets that are safe for all Portlanders, in all areas of the city, to move by all modes. This is no small undertaking: East Portland has twice the number of pedestrian fatalities per capita compared to the city overall.
In areas of Portland where streets were built to move cars efficiently, they must be redesigned to move people safely. Vision Zero's guiding principles and actions prioritize infrastructure investment on our most dangerous streets in traditionally under-invested communities. The enforcement actions in this plan are limited in order to reduce the possibility of racial profiling and disparate economic impacts.
Achieving Vision Zero takes all of us. Portlanders played an important role in creating the goals, principles, and actions in the Plan—and will be integral to realizing safe streets in Portland.
Over the course of developing the plan, we asked people at listening sessions, safety fairs, and community events about their Vision Zero priorities. Here’s what we heard:
Moving forward, community members will continue to play a critical role in taking the plan to the streets. From community-based grants to project-level engagement and education campaigns, Portlanders will shape Vision Zero actions and priorities. An initial set of engagement actions and strategies are described in the “Taking Action” section of this report.