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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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Vision Zero Guide for Portland

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Many people, one Vision Zero

Vision Zero is a Portland citywide initiative involving a variety of partner agencies and organizations. This guide will help everyone talk about Vision Zero clearly and consistently.

The first sections describe Vision Zero and offer advice for talking about traffic violence. The latter sections provide visual materials that help link the city’s work on street safety with our Vision Zero goal. Refer to the Vision Zero Action Plan to learn how Portland is implementing Vision Zero.

Vision Zero is ambitious but attainable. Thank you for helping to make it happen.

City of Portland contacts:

Vision Zero content
Clay Veka

Vision Zero communications
Hannah Schafer


Jump to a topic:
1. What is Vision Zero? 6. Commonly asked questions
2. Quick facts about traffic safety 7. Glossary and map
3. Top four causes of deadly crashes in Portland 8. Social media
4. Words to use when talking about Vision Zero 9. Visual elements
5. Discussing the behavior of people 10. Acknowledgments

1. What is Vision Zero? (back to top)

Vision Zero is the goal to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries from Portland streets.

Portland is pursuing Vision Zero through 32 data-driven actions that address the top contributors to deadly and serious injury crashes: street design, speed, impairment, and dangerous behaviors. The actions prioritize engagement with and investing in traditionally under-served communities.

Portland City Council approved the 32 actions through adoption of the Portland Vision Zero Action Plan in 2016. A 26-member task force made up of agency and community leaders created the Action Plan. 

2. How Vision Zero works (back to top)

In designing streets, we can eliminate deaths and serious injuries by:

  1. Setting speeds that are safe for all people using the street, including people driving, walking and biking. This is what Portland does through its Neighborhood Greenways program, which mixes people who are traveling in different ways at low speeds.
  2. For streets with higher speeds, separate people who are traveling in different ways to provide buffers.

Vision Zero strategies also include policy change, education, and enforcement.

Why speed matters

As people travel faster, the risk of death or serious injury rises dramatically:

3. Quick facts about traffic safety (back to top)

Portland needs Vision Zero

  • Traffic kills more people than homicides in Portland. From 2011 to 2015, there were 34 traffic-related deaths and 23 homicides each year, on average.
  • People walking legally in Portland, and hit by a person driving who fails to stop for them, is the number one cause of pedestrian crashes resulting in death and serious injury.
  • Choices by people traveling in Portland—going too fast, being impaired, turning in front of oncoming traffic and other dangerous behaviors—are the primary or a contributing cause of 91% of Portland traffic deaths.
  • People walking in East Portland die in traffic at twice the rate of people walking elsewhere in Portland, on a per-person basis.
  • Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for young people (ages 1-24) who suffer unintentional injuries in Multnomah County.
  • Older adults (ages 75+) die from traffic crashes at nearly twice the rate of Multnomah County’s population as a whole.

Street design matters

  • Crashes decreased 40 percent on NE Sandy Blvd. after PBOT added pedestrian crossing treatments, widened sidewalks, planted street trees and repaved the roadway.
  • Crashes decreased 49 percent on SE Division St. after PBOT converted the 4-lane street to one motor vehicle lane in each direction with a dedicated center turn lane and bike lanes.

Automated enforcement works

  • Red light safety cameras have reduced crashes by one-third at Portland intersections where they have been installed. All crash types—including rear-end crashes—have declined at these locations.
  • Speed safety cameras, currently being installed across Portland, have resulted in a 19% reduction in the risk of a deadly or serious crash in U.S. cities where they have been installed.

4. Top four causes of deadly crashes in Portland (back to top)

Street design: Portland’s most deadly streets generally have multiple auto lanes and speeds of 35 mph or higher. Just 8% of Portland’s streets—the High Crash Network—account for 57% of traffic deaths.

SpeedNearly half of Portland’s deadly crashes involve people driving at unsafe speeds.

Impairment: More than half of deadly crashes in Portland involve people who are intoxicated—usually by alcohol.

Dangerous behaviorsThe majority of deadly crashes involve people driving who do not stop for people walking, do not stop for stop signs, or exhibit other dangerous behaviors.

5. Words to use when talking about Vision Zero (back to top)

Use: Instead of:
Crash: Reminds us that collisions are preventable Accident: Implies that no one could have prevented the collision
Death: Emphasizes the human impact of traffic violence Fatality: De-humanizes the loss of life
Street: A public space for connecting people Road: Suggests that travel speed is always the priority
People driving: Reminds us that we are all people, regardless of how we travel at any moment Drivers: Encourages "us-versus-them" thinking; obscures the fact that all people travel in different ways at different times
People walking: See above Pedestrians: see above
People biking: See above Cyclists/Bicyclists: see above
Speed safety camera: Reminds us that the purpose of the tool is to improve safety Fixed speed camera, etc.: Overly technical, missing safety element
Red light safety camera: See above Red light camera: Missing safety element

6. Discussing the behavior of people (back to top)

All Portlanders want to see themselves as part of the solution to traffic violence, not as a problem to be fixed. When people feel scolded or singled out, they stop listening.

As the City and other government agencies, we have a responsibility to design a street system and set policies that keep people safe when using Portland streets. As individuals, we also have personal responsibility to use our streets in ways that keep all people safe.

Help us encourage people to participate in Vision Zero by using the following language to describe the behavior of people walking, biking and driving.

People walking

People walking are the most vulnerable travelers in Portland. The majority of people who are killed or seriously injured while walking in Portland have the right of way. Unlike motor vehicle users, people walking present little risk to other street users. People walking can improve their own safety by (1) doing what they can to make themselves visible and (2) by crossing streets where people driving expect to see them.

People biking

People biking are more vulnerable to serious injury or death relative to motor vehicle users. As with motor vehicle users, people biking should always stop for people crossing at intersections or at marked crosswalks.

Helmets, reflective clothing, lights and predictable riding behavior can reduce the consequences or risk of a serious bike crash. However, even helmeted, highly visible and careful riders remain vulnerable to the actions of people driving. Street design also plays a large role in helping people stay safe while biking.

People driving

People have the greatest impact on street safety when driving. This is because motor vehicles are heavy and can travel quickly. People driving should expect to go slowly while traveling in Portland; speed is a factor in 47% of deadly crashes in Portland. All people driving should be sober; impairment is a factor in 56% of deadly crashes in Portland.

Dangerous behaviors contribute to nearly half of deadly crashes in Portland. The top three dangerous behaviors are failing to yield, ignoring traffic signs or signals, and following another vehicle too closely.

7. Commonly asked questions

What is Vision Zero?

Vision Zero is the goal to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries from Portland streets. Portland is pursuing Vision Zero through 32 data-driven actions that address the top contributors to deadly and serious injury crashes: street design, speed, impairment, and dangerous behaviors. The actions prioritize engagement with and investing in traditionally under-served communities. Portland City Council approved the 32 actions through adoption of the Portland Vision Zero Action Plan in 2016. A 26-member task force made up of agency and community leaders created the Action Plan. 

Who decides the Vision Zero initiatives?

The City of Portland brought together 26 diverse partners to create the Vision Zero Action Plan. These partners created this plan by analyzing the latest crash data and transportation safety interventions.

Who is involved with Vision Zero?

Portland’s Vision Zero Action Plan and its implementation represent the work of:
AAA, AARP, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Black Parent Initiative, Cambridge Systematics, Inc., Disability Rights Oregon, Elders in Action, Federal Highway Administration, Legacy Emanuel Trauma Services, Multnomah County Circuit Court, Metro, Multnomah County Health Department, Multnomah County Land Use & Transportation Planning, ODOT Region 1, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Oregon AFSCME, Oregon & SW Washington Families for Safe Streets, Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Trucking Association, Oregon Walks, Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, Portland Bureau of Transportation, PBOT Pedestrian Advisory Committee and Bicycle Advisory Committee, Portland Fire & Rescue, Portland Police Bureau, Portland Public Schools, Portland State University, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, TREC Research, TriMet and Verde/Living Cully.

Why is Vision Zero targeting people driving? Why isn’t there more focus on people biking who run red lights, roll through stop signs, etc.?

Vision Zero uses data and research to make streets safe for everybody. This information indicates that driving behavior has the greatest impact on the safety of street users. In addition to focusing on driving behavior, Vision Zero will use education to help people make safe choices while biking and walking.

How long will Vision Zero last?

Portland’s Vision Zero Action Plan calls for the elimination of traffic deaths and serious injuries. The City of Portland and its partners are committed to reaching this goal.

What areas of Portland will Vision Zero focus on? Why not at “XYZ” location?

Crash and equity data guide Portland’s investments in street safety. In general, streets seeing the most crashes will receive priority for fixes, with a focus on investing in low-income communities and communities of color. You can view Portland’s most dangerous streets, low-income communities and communities of color by looking at the Vision Zero Crash Map.

How is the public involved in Vision Zero?

The public has supported Vision Zero from its start in Portland. Portland’s elected officials endorsed Vision Zero with the backing of a variety of local groups. Members of the public helped craft Portland’s Vision Zero Action Plan. The Action Plan calls for expanded education and outreach opportunities that will leverage the Portland public’s strong support for street safety. Learn more, request materials and sign up for email updates on the Vision Zero website.

How do I report a street safety problem?

You can report non-emergency problems (e.g. intersection safety, speeding, and visibility issues) by calling the Portland Bureau of Transportation at 503-823-SAFE or completing the online form.

If Vision Zero is such a priority, why does it take so long to get a traffic light or speed bump after a request to PBOT?

Vision Zero directs investments to street locations experiencing high rates of deadly and serious crashes, with a focus on low-income communities and communities of color. While Portland will continue to make safety investments across the city, locations on the High Crash Network will receive priority.

What is being done for people with disabilities?

In general, safety improvements make streets safer for everybody, including people with disabilities. For example, curb extensions reduce the distance that people must walk to cross a street; this change makes people safer regardless of whether they use a mobility device or other tools to assist with movement and navigation. Portland has programs in place, independent of Vision Zero, to retrofit streets with curb ramps, signals with audio instructions, and other elements that help people with disabilities use Portland streets safely.

Glossary and map (back to top)

General terms related to safety

  • Distractions: anything that takes attention away from the task of driving. It is illegal in Oregon to use a mobile device—unless it is hands-free—while operating a motor vehicle.
  • Driving while intoxicated / impaired: alcohol and certain drugs significantly increase the risk of people crashing while driving. Alcohol is the most common, and among the most dangerous, sources of impairment.
  • Failure to yield: when people do not share space with another street user when required to do so by law. Failure to yield is especially dangerous when people driving turn left and collide with people walking or biking.
  • Serious injury: as defined by the Oregon Department of Transportation, which sets crash data standards: “A non-fatal injury which prevents the injured person from walking, driving or normally continuing the activities the person was capable of performing before the injury occurred.” Examples of serious injuries include broken bones, severe bleeding and unconsciousness.
  • Victim-blaming: placing undue attention, often before all facts are known, on the behavior of a person leading up to a crash in which that person was killed or seriously injured.
  • Vulnerable street users: all people using streets outside of a motor vehicle, especially children and older adults.

Selected street safety elements

  • Bike box: street markings (forming a box shape, usually green in color) located at some intersections that help people driving avoid turning into people biking. 
  • Bike lanes
    Conventional: single painted stripe that separates people driving and biking
    Buffered: double painted stripes that provide extra space between people driving and biking
    Protected: physically separated lanes, exclusively for people on bikes, on or next to a street
  • Crossbikes: crosswalks for bikes. The green stripes help provide greater visibility to people biking.
  • Crosswalks: they exist at every intersection, whether marked or unmarked, and at marked midblock locations. Oregon law requires people biking and driving to stop for people in crosswalks.
  • Curb extensions: sidewalk segments at intersections that shorten the crossing distance for people walking and biking.
  • Green street markings, generally: highlight street locations where people driving and biking may conflict.
  • Rapid flashing beacons (RFBs): strobe lights that people can activate at crosswalks to alert people driving of their presence.
  • Sharrow: a combination of the words “share” and “arrow.” The white pavement markings let people driving know that they will likely encounter people biking in an area. Sharrows also help people biking follow recommended bike routes.
  • Street reorganization: a change in how space is divided on a street, usually to improve safety. For example, PBOT may reorganize a street with four motor vehicle lanes to create a center turn lane for motor vehicles (which improves safety), two travel lanes for motor vehicles, and bike facilities.

Vision Zero High Crash Network

8. Social media (back to top)

Within existing social media, City of Portland bureaus and partnering organizations should:

The City of Portland does not have social media channels for the exclusive use of Vision Zero messaging.

9. Visual elements (back to top)

Primary logos (CMYK, best for print): Use the orange, grey, or black logo, or the white logo with an orange background.

Alternative logos (CMYK, best for print): The alternative logo, available in orange, grey, black, and white, is designed to be legible at small sizes. Use the alternative logo only when you have little space available.

Typography: Use Futura Standard Medium and Futura Standard Bold for Vision Zero materials. Use Arial if you do not have Futura available.


Examples of Vision Zero materials:

Brochure: Our choices matter on Portland streets
Small flier: Traffic laws
Small flier: We take care of each other

Large flier: Slow down
Bumper sticker: Safe speeds save lives

10. Acknowledgments (back to top)

The City of Portland thanks New York City’s Department of Transportation for providing the framework for this guide, and members of Portland’s Vision Zero Executive Committee, Task Force and Technical Advisory Committee for their work on our Vision Zero program.

Portland learned about New York’s Vision Zero guide through the Vision Zero Network, an organization helping U.S. cities work together to provide safe and healthy travel options for all people.