Improved pedestrian safety is goal of special Gateway day

Here’s why Multnomah County officials came out to stroll with outer East Portland neighbors during their annual ‘Take Back the Block’ …

At the Gateway Discovery Park in the Hazelwood neighborhood, people start to gather for this pedestrian-centric event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

To promote walking safety and traffic safety during National Public Health Week and National Walking Day, officials from Multnomah County met with residents for what they called ‘Take Back the Block’, on Sunday evening, March 6, in the plaza of Gateway Discovery Park.

“As we celebrate National Public Health Week, we’ve come to point out the good it does for people be physically active, and move,” Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines M.D. told East Portland News.

Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County’s Health Officer, says she’s quite concerned about pedestrian safety.

“Walking is especially good when people are doing things with others,” Vines continued. “And, we want people to know that part of that pleasure is having safe streets, and safe sidewalks on which to walk – having a built-up environment. like here in this area of the Gateway District, that can minimize pedestrian fatalities.

“We’re also here because there have been more traffic fatalities here than in other parts of the county,” informed Vines. “We’re out calling attention to the racial and ethnic minorities who live here and deserve the same access to safe sidewalks, and areas to walk.”

Providing information are the Oregon Walks staff, and kids: Zachary Lauritzen, Izzy Armenta, Ashton Simpson, with Ashton Simpson Junior, and Danielle Maillard.

“We’re so glad to be here – first of all, because it’s National Walking Day,” smiled Oregon Walks Executive Director Ashton Simpson.

“This observance is important, because we are explaining about being safe as a both a pedestrian and a driver,” Simpson continued. “For pedestrians, it’s being more cognizant of the environment that you’re in; and not ‘walking distracted’ – looking a ‘smart phone’, for example.

“And for motorists, it’s looking out – and not at your phone! – when you’re behind the wheel,” Simpson continued. “Whether the pedestrian is in the right or the wrong, a driver’s life will be forever changed for the worse, if they hit a pedestrian.”

Speaking with a group of TV news reporters at the observance is Jessica Guernsey, Public Health Director of Multnomah County.

Reinforcing the themes of physical activity; and how distracted driving affects walker safety, was Multnomah County Public Health Director Jessica Guernsey.

“Traffic crashes and deaths have increased dramatically over the past several years: in Multnomah County. Traffic crash deaths increased to 67 in 2019, a 44% increase over the average of the previous five years,” Guernsey told a phalanx of reporters. “Deaths in the County continued to rise in 2020, and remained high in 2021 — each year h ad over 80 deaths.

“That’s why we’re highlighting the things that people can do to prevent those terrible fatal crashes,” Guernsey said.

She supports the effort, confirms Multnomah County Commissioner District 3 Jessica Vega Pederson.

Also on hand was Multnomah County Commissioner of District 3, Jessica Vega Pederson.

“I’m here supporting this event, because this is my district,” Vega Pederson told us. “This is the first time we’ve had a gathering here [at Gateway Discovery Park] in a while. “This is an important message that’s being shared here, on a beautiful day, and in a community space.”

After the speakers had made their points, this group started their walk through the new “built environment” of the Gateway district.

With that, off they went on foot, east on NE Halsey Street, for their stroll.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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