Advocates Demand City Hall Response to East Portland Walking Deaths

The deaths of two people crossing streets in East Portland this weekend have sparked a renewed campaign pressuring City Hall to spend more money on walking safety.

Pedestrian advocacy group Oregon Walks launched a petition this morning demanding Portland leaders, including Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick, commit to "Vision Zero"—a policy of street-safety investments designed to eliminate walking deaths.

"I want this petition to show that there is dramatic and vast support for this," says Aaron Brown, president of Oregon Walks. "We want a firm commitment to building a transportation system that results in zero fatalities."

The two deaths over the weekend mark the fifth and sixth people killed walking on Portland streets in the past three months.

Yan Huang, 78, was killed Friday morning crossing Southeast Division Street at 84th Avenue with her husband, Zhi Hu. The next day, Douglas Norman Miller, 60, was killed in a hit-and-run at Southeast 124th Avenue and Powell Boulevard.

Neither intersection has a crosswalk. (A pedestrian bridge crosses over Division Street one block east.)

The lack of sidewalks and crosswalks in East Portland has sparked an outcry since last February, when 5-year-old Morgan Maynard-Cook was killed on Southeast 136th Avenue.

Brown says the first step Oregon Walks wants the city to take is committing to funding the $1 million request by Novick for 15 sets of flashing beacons at crosswalks at the city's most dangerous intersections—two in Southwest Portland and 13 in East Portland.

UPDATE, 2:10 pm: City Commissioner Steve Novick says he supports the "Vision Zero" policy.

"I think it's a great vision that should help guide our choices in a variety of ways," Novick says, "in addition to the obvious safety measures like flashing beacons at dangerous intersections."

Novick tells WW he sees several ways to change government policy to reduce walking deaths—including raising alcohol taxes, making traffic enforcement a higher priority in the police budget, and investing in public transit.

WW recently examined Novick's request to help fund the study of a mass transit line running to Tualatin.

"I know that increased reliance on transit reduces overall traffic deaths—one of the reasons New York City has less than half the national average of traffic deaths," Novick says. "I'm not certain about the breakdown of pedestrian versus vehicular or cyclist deaths in that calculus, though. But traffic safety generally is definitely a major reason to support transit."

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