City-wide street safety banner campaign debuts in Lents Neighborhood

Is this new program really going to help reduce the number of car-versus-pedestrian accidents? Find out why City officials think so. We’ve got the details, and photos, right here …

A group gathers along SE Foster Road as Portland Mayor Sam Adams introduces the “See Kids” banner campaign.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Elected officials and transportation staffers from both the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PDOT) and Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) gathered with neighbors on November 19 as the new “See Kids” highway banner campaign was unveiled on SE Foster Road – just east of SE 108th Avenue.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams told those who had gathered in the crisp morning air his thoughts, regarding this novel program.

“Sometimes it really does take nearly a village to get good, on the ground, grassroots transportation safety work done,” Adams began. “The banner you see behind us is an expression of neighborhood districts, working with advocacy groups and government, to improve safety along the most dangerous routes in the city of Portland.

Decrying that some drivers use SE Foster Road as a freeway, Mayor Adams says it’s a dangerous street along which to walk – or cross.

“This street behind us was built long before there were modern design strategies around safety,” Adams continued. “It is a dangerous street; in many ways it functions as a freeway. But it is not. It runs through a business district, and a neighborhood; along it are schools. And it’s also used by folks in their senior years, and by other vulnerable populations. It is difficult to get across.”

Adams proposed a question – and answered it: “Why a banner?  It is the same reason why businesses advertise on busy streets – because it gets people’s attention. And it works, in terms of helping people change their choices. In this case, we want people to slow down. To be vigilant, to be careful – especially in the winter, when it gets dark early.”

Jason Tell, Region One manager at the Oregon Department of Transportation, he’s glad the State agency can partner with the City on highway safety projects.

Oregon Department of Transportation Region One manager, Jason Tell was up next.

“ODOT’s part in this effort was paying for the banners,” Tell said. “This is yet another example of the strong partnership that ODOT has with the City of Portland for transportation safety.”

The state agency has also been running an “I brake for people” campaign, Tell continued – and helped provide “Safe Routes to School” programs. “Because of our partnership with the City, we’re leveraging more projects from federal and the state programs; so, the City is getting a great bang for its buck on these efforts”

Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Captain Todd Wyatt imparts startling statistics and praises the campaign.

Next up, Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Captain Todd Wyatt: “I’d like to give you a couple of statistics. The first statistic is that we have had two people killed on the roads in the City of Portland this week. That is two too many. That is why we’re here. We’re here to talk about safety, to talk about saving lives.”

If a motor vehicle strikes a child at 20 miles an hour, Wyatt explained, the child has a 95% chance of surviving. “That’s pretty good; I like those odds. If a motor vehicle strikes a child at 40 miles an hour, the survival chance of that child drops down to 10%. I do not like those odds.”

Drivers who collide with kids aren’t “bad people’, Wyatt opined, “But they have room for improvement in some cases. This is about saving lives, children’s lives.”

Elders in Action’s Civic Involvement Coordinator, Tara Krugel, says highway safety is even more important as Oregon’s population ages.

Tara Krugel, Civic Involvement Coordinator at Elders in Action, arose next to present more statistics. “In the next several years, one in five Oregon drivers will be over age 65. By the same token, we can assume that Portland pedestrians are aging as well. Like kids, seniors can be vulnerable members of our community. 61% of accident-rate-related fatalities for seniors are as result of auto accidents.”

While the newly posted banners urge drivers to watch out for kids in the streets, Krugel added, “Please also look for seniors who are using mobility devices, or who are pedestrians, and may take a little longer to cross the road.  Be aware of them around senior centers and bus stops, where they tend to be found more frequently.”

After seeing the carnage caused by auto vs. pedestrian accidents, Michael F. Morrison RN, from the “Trauma Nurses Talk Tough” program at Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center, urges careful driving.

Michael F. Morrison, RN, of the “Trauma Nurses Talk Tough” program, spoke next – saying that the Legacy Emanuel program has been providing safety education for over 20 years.”

“We also try to prevent injuries from occurring,” Morrison explained. “Unfortunately we still see a large number of injuries coming through the trauma centers. We’re looking at about 600 a year, in this region. 10% of those victims are the most vulnerable users of the road – children under the age of 16, pedestrians, and bicycle riders.

Nurse Morrison continued, “The message that I would like to share this morning is that when parents send their kids to school, by bicycle or walking or on scooters, helmets can help decrease injuries dramatically. We also urge those who choose to drive cars to slow down and pay attention to everyone who is using the roads, especially the most vulnerable users.”

Charity Sturgeon, from the Alliance for Community Traffic Safety, says the child safety and booster seats help save young lives – and urges people to make sure these are properly installed and used.

Banners abound
Six banners are already up around the city, and there will be 10 of them, Adams said. Asked the cost, including the expense of changing banners and moving them around,  The Mayor revealed, “About $75,000. It’s a very modest cost. We’re going to judge the results, before we go citywide.”

When asked, Mark Leer of PDOT said that their cost to install the two utility poles and wires across the road to support the banners is about $4,000 per location.

On the east side, banners can be seen on NE Sandy Boulevard NE 76th Avenue, on 82nd Avenue south of SE Ash Street, on NE 122nd Avenue, on the pedestrian overpass at NE Sacramento Street, on SE Division Street on a pedestrian overpass at SE 85th Avenue, and in inner SE Portland on Powell Boulevard, on a pedestrian overpass at SE 9th Avenue.

A ‘preventable crisis’, neighborhood leader says
Lents Neighborhood Association Chair Nick Christensen commented, “It’s great to see the city paying attention to the outer east side. What struck me was when Mayor Sam said there were about 150 Portland traffic deaths in the last couple of years.  If we’d had 150 murders or kidnappings – we’d call that a ‘crisis’.

Christensen continued, “This is a crisis; but it is a preventable crisis. Walkable neighborhoods are successful neighborhoods. I understand that some people might be frustrated that other funding priorities won’t be met, like filling potholes. But it sucks a lot more to see kids die in car crashes.”

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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