City Commissioner flirts with death in East Portland

This ‘crosswalk enforcement action’ got Steve Novick’s attention. Also, learn the three reasons East Portland News keeps covering these missions …

Even with the warning sign, flag, and traffic cone, all signaling that a Pedestrian Crosswalk Enforcement Action is taking place on outer SE Division Street, drivers buzzing by “designated walkers” are still ticketed at a rate of one every four minutes.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In our story about the September 25 Pedestrian Crosswalk Enforcement Action held in the Centennial neighborhood of outer East Portland, a City of Portland Department of Transportation (PDOT) “decoy” had to duck, dodge, and jump out of the way, to avoid cars, trucks – and even government-owned vehicles – and keep from becoming a traffic accident victim.

> Read about this mission; and the story that contains
valuable safety information: CLICK HERE.

Although PDOT Project Specialist Sharon White – she’s worked these missions for years – came out of that mission unscathed, she watched members of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Traffic Division pull over one driver after another along SE 148th Avenue at Main Street.

The City’s Traffic Commissioner, Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick, eyes SE Division at the SE 156th Avenue crosswalk before stepping out to cross the street.

Late in the afternoon of December 9, White briefed Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees PDOT, before he stepped out to experience a Pedestrian Crosswalk Enforcement Action for himself.

The location for this mission was SE Division Street at 156th Avenue. There is a marked crosswalk there – where a previous collision between a car and a pedestrian had cost the pedestrian his life.

As Commissioner Novick starts across the street, this giant pickup truck swerves to change lanes, and to blast past him – instead of stopping.

“Safety is the top priority for our transportation system, and there’s a lot that the public can do to help prevent crashes,” Novick said, as he patted himself to keep warm. “As we enter wintertime, it is darker earlier in the evening, so it’s more important than ever for drivers to keep an eye out for pedestrians.”

There is also an important message for pedestrians, Novick told East Portland News.  “Particularly in the winter months, when it’s dark it is hard for people to see you. I am a bad example right now; I’m wearing a black winter coat – it’s the only heavy coat I have. If wearing dark-colored clothing, pedestrians must be extra careful.”

Even though the daylight was fading, Novick wore bright, red flashing buttons on either side of his jacket. He was clearly visible, as he let drivers know his intention to cross the street.

Other drivers stopped to let Commissioner Novick cross – but the big pickup truck was clearly bent on speeding past him – mere feet away.

On seven occasions during a 30 minute observation period, Novick stepped out of the way of speeding cars and trucks that showed no intention of stopping for him, even though he was well within the crosswalk.

Ever optimistic, Novick rated the drivers as “Generally, pretty good; most people were stopping. But, every once in awhile a car whizzed by.”

The driver of this car clearly shows no concern for the pedestrian in the crosswalk, as she zooms past.

He seemed pleased to participate. “It’s important to be reminding people that you do need to be cognizant of crosswalks. It is the State law that, at either a marked crosswalk or any intersection, motorists need to stop for pedestrians who show they are intending to cross, or may actually be crossing the road.”

Where there are two lanes of traffic in each direction, Novick reminded, “Pedestrians need to be aware that, even if the car closest to you does stop, a vehicle in the next lane may not know that you’re there.  So, make sure that there is not a car coming that could hit you in the next lane.”

This driver is one of fifteen who is stopped by police, and ticketed, during the crosswalk action.

Due to the below-freezing temperature, the this mission ran for 60 minutes – between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. “During the brief mission, 15 motor vehicles were stopped by police and issued a citation for ‘Oregon Revised Statue 811.028, Failing to Stop and Remain Stopped for a Pedestrian’,” reported PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.

Records show that police officers are seeing an increase of fatal vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

Fewer roadside shrines,
greater driver attention needed

These are family photos of 23-year-old Rochelle Ariana Riffe, who died in the Lents neighborhood while walking during the early-morning hours.

Within a month, three pedestrians lost their lives after being struck by vehicles.

23-year-old Rochelle Ariana Riffe died while walking her dog along SE 111th Avenue, a narrow stretch of road with no shoulders, between SE Foster Road and Harold Street.

“The driver, 59-year-old Dorothy Anne Monte, remained at the scene and cooperated with the investigation,” Simpson said. “Monte did not show any signs of impairment.

“The crash occurred during the darkness of morning and heavy rain, both of which may be contributing factors,” Simpson noted. “The case remains under investigation, and no citations or arrests have occurred.”

Police block off SE Powell Boulevard near SE 133rd Avenue where a pedestrian crossing the street was struck by a SUV in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood.

At 6:24 p.m. on December 13, emergency responders rushed to the aid of a pedestrian nstruck by an eastbound SUV while crossing the street from south to north, in the 13300 block SE Powell Boulevard.

“There is no marked crosswalk at this location,” said Sgt. Simpson.

“67-year-old Charles McBride, the driver GMC Yukon, remained at the scene, and was found not to be impaired by drugs or alcohol,” Simpson added.

“The driver’s estimated speed was between 25-30 miles per hour. Investigators believe darkness, dense fog, and the dark clothing worn by the woman, were contributing factors in this crash. No citations have been issued, and upon completion of the investigation, it will be sent to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.

Oregon District 51 Representative Shemia Fagan (D) organized a candlelight vigil for the evening of December 20, at 13320 SE Powell Boulevard, to commemorate the life of the victim, 70-year-old Valentine Khubeyeva – and to again call for “long-overdue” improvements to basic pedestrian safety infrastructure in outer East Portland.

At the scene of another fatal pedestrian accident – this one on NE Glisan Street – a roadside shrine has been created by friends and family. The vase of roses were placed there by the victim’s husband, Scott Dalton.

Four days later, just after 3:00 p.m. on December 17, emergency first responders went to a call at NE 117th Avenue and Glisan Street where a pedestrian was struck – while in a crosswalk. Witnesses told PPB Traffic Bureau investigators knocked the woman “out of her shoes” before she landed on the street.

“59-year-old ViJay Dalton-Gibson was struck by a vehicle,” Simpson said. “Medical personnel provided treatment at the scene, but the victim did not survive her injuries.”

ViJay Dalton-Gibson’s dog-walk abruptly ends, when she is struck by a car while crossing a Mill Park neighborhood street. The dog was not harmed.

The victim’s husband, Scott Dalton, told reporters that the accident happened a half-block from their home. He said his wife had retired from providing care for developmentally disabled people, and enjoyed walking their Jack Russell terrier, “Cassie” – and was out for a walk with the dog when the accident occurred.

The driver, later identified as 80-year-old JeanAnn Thompson, remained at the scene, Simpson reported. “No citations have been issued and the investigation is continuing,” Simpson said.

Will putting a “rapid-flashing beacon” at nearly every crosswalk prevent pedestrian deaths?

Perhaps they could do so, some day, if they are installed. But, enhanced alertness on the part of both drivers and pedestrians could end these tragic deaths today.

Learn more about pedestrian rights and responsibilities by reading this PDOT brochure, in the PDF format: CLICK HERE.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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