A Terrible Tragedy, a Dire Need

5-year-old Morgan Maynard-Cook was struck and killed last night on 136th & Ellis. Our thoughts and prayers go with her family in their grief of this horrific event.

The majority of this stretch is without a safe place for people to walk or wheel. A sidewalk project from 136th between Powell and Holgate - just north of the place where Morgan died - has been slated for sidewalk on one side of the road. Safe walking conditions are critical to Portlanders. It does not get more basic than that.

Last week, Portland Bureau of Transportation's Interim Director Toby Widmer unveiled a proposal to cut $1.2 million in sidewalk funding in East Portland and $500,000 from the city's ADA curb ramp program. Proposing to cut a long-awaited basic sidewalk project in Portland's poorest neighborhood and severely cutting funding for ADA access is not in keeping with the city's stated commitment to equity and as a member of WHO's Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities. Repaving streets is absolutely important for this city, but let's not fix potholes on the backs of children's safety and accessibility for people with disabilities.
 
Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and its Business Plan are guided by a number of goals through the budgetary process. The number one goal is to "Improve Transportation Safety," by reducing conflicts within and between travel modes. The City of Portland has a great deal of work before it in improving basic safety for walking. Reducing conflicts between people walking and people driving hinges on constructing over 350 miles of sidewalks on both sides where they are currently lacking on the city's own arterials and collectors - roads with higher car volumes and speeds. Portland’s residents, such as those who live along 136th, have waited too long for this basic infrastructure. We need to work now to meet this need over the years ahead. The implication of these choices affects all Portlanders. Fourteen people have been killed in Portland while trying to walk across the street in 2012 alone. The number of pedestrians injured in Oregon during 2010-2011 was higher than the national figure (Oregon 21% increase, U.S. 19% increase). Safety for our most vulnerable road users is critical in improving safety for all modes. Cutting sidewalk funding now is not a responsible answer, even to PBOT's significant budget constraints.
 
“The first duty of society is justice.” – Alexander Hamilton
 
Curb ramps provide access for people who use wheelchairs, who would otherwise be excluded from the sidewalk because of the barrier created by the curb. Maintaining independence for all community members should be a central consideration in transportation infrastructure design and design of the built environment. As our population ages, its mobility options change. Portland's ADA curb ramp program already took a significant financial hit in the 2012-2013 budget: curb ramp funding was cut by $1 million, or 30% of the entire program. Now it is one year later, and Portlanders are again being asked to accept another 30% cut to a program that provides basic access to residents with disabilities. 
 
The Portland Plan calls for the city to "Complete and begin to implement the City of Portland’s ADA Title II Transition Plan to remove barriers and conditions that prevent people with disabilities from accessing, participating and benefiting from city programs, services and activities." The proposed cuts to one sidewalk construction and ADA curb ramps does not help us move forward as an equitable place.
 
Oregon Walks looks forward to being involved in the weeks ahead to develop budgetary solutions that allow all Portland's residents and guests to get where they need to go safely. Our commitment to this city is to an equitable, accessible city for all Portlanders. We look forward to working with Mayor Hales and City Council to make that a reality.