Be aware: This text comprises opinions.
Final evening dozens of individuals gathered on Southeast Stark close to 133rd to recollect Ashlee McGill. The 26-year-old was standing on the sidewalk, ready for the Line 20 bus round 5:30 am this previous Saturday when she was hit and killed by somebody driving a automotive.
Police initially assumed the deceased particular person they discovered on the scene was the driving force. However in an up to date assertion launched Thursday they shared that upon additional investigation, McGill was simply an “harmless bystander…. struck by an out-of-control car.” Native information tales affirm that McGill was simply ready for a bus to take her residence. PPB additionally says the driving force who hit her was racing one other driver previous to the crash that killed McGill.
It’s simply the newest tragedy attributable to the tragic mixture of unlawful avenue racing and lethal street designs that make it doable.
SE Stark is a drag strip. It’s tailored for doing one factor: going quick in a automotive. Nothing excuses what these felony drivers do, however we’re fooling ourselves if we predict street design doesn’t play a consider these horrible outcomes.
Since 2016, 13 individuals have died in visitors crashes on SE Stark in only a 1.8 mile part between SE 122nd and SE a hundred and sixtieth. 13 individuals. Lifeless. On the identical stretch of street. And these weren’t drivers simply making a mistake on a tough stretch of street. The profile of Stark on this location is huge, straight, and the visibility is superb. Studying by means of the causes of those deaths virtually all of them had been some mixture of felony negligence, hit-and-run, or drunk and reckless driving. Or on this newest case, avenue racing.
The Metropolis of Portland is properly conscious of those risks. In line with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Stark is a chosen excessive crash hall the place excessive speeds are widespread. If the 13 deaths talked about above, seven of them had been individuals strolling. PBOT says velocity was about 3 times extra widespread a consider pedestrian crashes on SE Stark Avenue as it’s citywide.
PBOT lowered the velocity restrict on this part of Stark to 30 mph in April 2018. Additionally they deployed picture radar vans after the modifications and labored with Portland Police Bureau to implement the decrease speeds. But it surely hasn’t been practically sufficient. 9 individuals have died because the velocity was lowered.
In April of this 12 months PBOT put in it’s first-ever “intersection security digicam” at Stark and SE 122nd. However that’s only one intersection, and it’s 11 blocks from the place these drivers selected to race their vehicles.
These had been simply PBOT’s first strikes to tame Stark. They’ve obtained $20 million lined as much as do extra. Their plan is to spend half the cash on new pavement and the opposite half so as to add bike lanes, sign upgrades, ADA ramps, two protected intersections, higher crossings, extra avenue lights, and so forth. The Outer Stark Security Challenge will go from SE 102nd to Portland’s jap border with Gresham at SE 162nd. Open homes for the venture had been held in 2019 and PBOT had deliberate to put in among the preliminary parts this previous spring.
However in a telephone name with PBOT Interim Communications Director Hannah Schafer this morning, I realized that the venture hasn’t began but. PBOT remains to be finalizing the venture scope with their marketing consultant and the design section of the venture will start this fall. Schafer mentioned development gained’t start till 2024.
9 individuals have died prior to now 4 years on this part of Stark. We’re on tempo to see 5 extra individuals killed by the point this venture wraps up.
And can the modifications even do something? The brand new cross-section proposed by PBOT appears to be like lots like the present one. There’ll nonetheless be 5 lanes for driving. Sure they’ll be narrower and we’ll have protected bike lanes as an alternative of parking lanes, however the total house for driving gained’t change that a lot. It should nonetheless be very simple to hurry — even to race — on the brand new SE Stark we may have waited over six years for and spent $20 million on.
I fear that though PBOT means properly, their designs for these east Portland arterials are a lot too timid. Regardless of all of the back-patting at ribbon cuttings, the aggressive, harmful, felony, dysfunctional driving behaviors will stay. I’ve been saying this for a few years, however I nonetheless see the identical strategy the place we focus efforts on bettering circumstances for walkers and bikers, however we fail to seize the bull (drivers) by the horns. The politics to “enhance bike and ped security” are simple. The politics to make it tougher for individuals to drive like they’re in a automotive industrial, are usually not.
We design streets to be secure for politicians, and to be unsafe for individuals. This should change.