Fourth Person to Die While Walking on Outer SE Division This Year

10 of the 24 people killed using Portland streets so far this year were walking, a percentage that is nearly five times the national average. Five people were killed in traffic-related fatalities in March alone. Late last Wednesday night, on October 10th, 54-year-old Loan T. Diep was killed while crossing outer SE Division near 138th ave when she was hit by two reckless drivers. Only one stayed to face the consequences. While that section of Division was closed for investigation of this horrific act, a third reckless driver swerved around the road closure and into the crime scene, narrowly missing one of the investigators.

 

That this happened on our Portland streets, in a neighborhood dense with homes, businesses, a college campus and numerous social service providers, is unacceptable - though, at this point, hardly surprising. Outer Division has long been Portland’s deadliest corridor for pedestrians, with 19 people killed and 129 seriously injured on Division in the last decade. Loan T. Diep was the fourth pedestrian who lost their life on outer Division this year. Less than three months ago, James F. Deery, 69, was hit 20 blocks away, and later died in hospital from injuries sustained in the crash.

Through our work with Oregon & SW Washington Families for Safe Streets, we have seen first-hand how these deaths devastate the victims’ families and how their loved ones are impacted by traffic violence on our streets. It is unacceptable.

At Oregon Walks, we believe that every person has the right to access their community by walking – and should not be afraid to do so. Creating safe, walkable communities where people can thrive is at at the heart of our work - and the best way to achieve this is through investment in improved safety and road design for everyone, regardless of income, age, background, ability, or housing situation. We must do more to protect our most vulnerable residents from preventable crashes - particularly those who reside in low-income neighborhoods that bear the brunt of our most dangerous streets, and are 3.7 times more likely to be hit and killed while walking than residents of Portland’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Last year, a record 18 people were killed while walking in Portland, making 2017 the deadliest year on record for pedestrians since 2003. Today, we have an opportunity to change the bleak numbers we saw last year by investing in the safety improvements that will save lives.

The speed limit on outer Division has been lowered from 35 to 30 mph, yet we know that the road is still designed to allow for high speeds, with 5 wide travel lanes, limited crosswalks, and less than adequate lighting, so using the street on foot is still dangerous. It’s clear that while lower speeds will move us closer to achieving our Vision Zero goal, these changes alone are not enough to make our roads truly safe. The way we design our streets and public spaces may be the most critical element, and better street design does not happen overnight. We need to get serious about creating road designs that are meant for pedestrians, which will result in safer driving habits. Prioritizing those who are not in a vehicle when we design these spaces is better for everyone. It creates more usable and accessible space but most importantly it creates spaces that are safe.

For this reason, we support the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s bold plans for improvements on this stretch of outer SE Division. These plans include safety measures like slower speeds, more sidewalks, safer crossings, and buffered bike lanes. The most significant upgrade will be a raised median that will provide pedestrians crossing this 5 lane road on foot or in a mobility device a much-needed midway point at which to safely wait for a break in traffic. Even though every intersection is a legal crosswalk, and vehicles are legally required to stop for pedestrians, we know from experience that crossing a 30 mph road is literally taking your life in your hands because these traffic laws are far too often ignored. Traversing these high-speed, high-volume expanses is exponentially safer with the presence of a median; Portland crash data shows that crash rates are 40% lower on streets with medians than those without.

This is exciting news for pedestrian safety - but work isn’t set to break ground until 2019. And change can’t come soon enough to this deadly road. Because of dangerous street design, high speeds, and infrequent safe crossings, we will continue to see deaths on outer Division until major improvements are made. The City adopted the Vision Zero Action Plan two years ago, and street design - the most critical element - takes a long time to go into effect. If we intend to reach our goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2025, we have to move much faster.

 

Tragedies like the one on Wednesday remind us that our work is far from done, and, as a community, we still have a long way to go before we can expect to use our roads safely. Oregon Walks won’t stop working to make our streets safer for everyone and ensure that this work is centered around those that are the most vulnerable. We urge you to join us.

 

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