In response to a month of tragedy on our streets

This last month has been debilitating for us at Oregon Walks. We have received many calls and emails from concerned community members who are processing the horrifying details of Oregonians being killed and seriously injured on our streets. There has been Fallon Smart, 15, crossing the street in a vibrant business district with her family, who was killed by a careless driver who took to the center lane to speed past Hawthorne Boulevard traffic. Larnell Bruce, 19, was chased and run over by a couple with white supremacist affiliations who used their car as a deadly weapon. Larnell was African American, and was killed while attempting to escape. Today, an incoming freshman at Roosevelt High School, also 15, was critically injured while crossing Columbia Boulevard on his first day of high school - a four lane arterial that leads to two Title I schools. Students and families are forced to cross this treacherous road to get to school and services each day. And these aren’t even the whole story - there have been eight deaths and even more serious injuries in just the past month.

 

None of these crashes look like one another. Yet each crash reminds us that a true change to the status quo on our streets is required to provide solutions. Each person injured or killed on our roadways demands attention and action from our city’s leadership and from everyone traveling through our streets. We need innovation, we need political leadership, we need money on the ground to make needed street safety fixes, and we need meaningful community input and support. We are talking about hate crimes, about devastated families, about historic underinvestment, about kids not knowing if they will get to school safely. This is not easy work, and we don’t have all of the answers.

 

What I can promise:

We are working hard with the City of Portland to deliver a Vision Zero Action Plan next month that pushes us quickly and steadily toward safer streets for all. Oregon Walks is determined to ensure the Vision Zero Action Plan is equitable in its distribution of benefits and cognisant of the dangers increased enforcement presents to communities of color. We will continue to push for that plan to reflect what all of our diverse communities need to thrive.

We must go further when it comes to speed. We commend the city for pushing for safer speed limits, but the speed at which people travel is responsive to the environment, and even with a 20mph school zone on Columbia, it is not designed for that behavior. We need road designs that are meant for people.

We will continue to support families impacted by traffic violence on our streets, and urge you to support them as well. Follow Oregon & SW Washington Families for Safe Streets and support their efforts for World Day of Remembrance on November 20th this year (more details to come).

 

And lastly - be good to yourself and to others. Learning about a life lost on our streets is traumatic, and there are individuals behind every statement and every news story, and every person experiences our streets in different ways. A reminder that walking is one of the best things we can do for our health (mental and physical) and for our communities. Travel with care, and travel with compassion.
 

Noel Mickelberry

Executive Director