New ‘Pedestrian Safety Beacons’ help kids cross streets to school

And, learn how drivers reacted to these new specially-marked crosswalks, during a ‘Pedestrian Crossing Mission’ near Ventura Park School …

Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat welcomes dignitaries to an event highlighting a new “Pedestrian Safety Beacon” near Ventura Park Elementary School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Just as kids were heading back to outer East Portland schools, five new “Pedestrian Safety Beacons” were activated at five busy crossings.

“We’re here to celebrate the installation of a beacon that will help schoolchildren, as they cross SE Stark Street to Ventura Park. and Ventura Elementary School,” proclaimed Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) Director Leah Treat, at a media event staged on September 2, just east of SE 113th Avenue in Ventura Park.

The rapid-flashing “Pedestrian Safety Beacons” warn motor vehicle drivers that someone on foot is about to cross a busy street.

“The beacons rapidly flash yellow lights when a pedestrian pushes an activating button, and give a needed safety boost to the intersections, all of which cross multi-lane busy streets in East Portland,” Treat added.

These pedestrian safety improvements, Treat observed, are part of a package of 18 new beacons, made possible by state funding secured last spring by East Portland Legislators.

Pedestrian crossing safety improvements are a good investment in safety, assures United States Representative Earl Blumenauer.

“I’m happy to be here, not just because I represent this area, but because I grew up here,” said US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D). “I lived just a couple miles away, when I went to grade school and high school.

“We’ve struggled with how to deal with the challenges of growth in outer East Portland,” Blumenauer went on. “SE Stark St is wide enough to land a 727 [jetliner]; it was not designed to deal with the challenges we now have for bicycle and pedestrian safety. The crosswalk may look like a small symbol, but this kind of upgrade to our pedestrian crossing safety is long overdue.”

David Douglas School District Superintendent Don Grotting said he was thankful for the work of federal, state and local legislators for “making sure the children of our district that have much-needed school crossing improvements.

“This will make a positive difference for all the children of outer East Portland,” Grotting added. “We’re talking about kids’ safety here; but this will also have a positive safety impact for all residents here.”

Oregon State Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson thanks the “partners” who made the addition of pedestrian crossing signals possible.

“It’s a strong step forward for East Portland to have more ways for kids to travel safely to school,” said Oregon State Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D). “There’s more work to be done, but this is a great example of a partnership that should and must continue.”

Far from being a “sting”, these signs and flags warn approaching motorists that a “Pedestrian Crosswalk Mission” is taking place.

Pedestrian Crosswalk Mission ‘educates’ drivers
While the politicians and officials waxed on, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Traffic Division Sergeant Robert Voepel kept his eye on PBOT’s Sharon White, from the Bureau’s Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership program, as she used the new intersection.

“One driver almost ran down White, the decoy pedestrian walker,” Voepel reported. “That driver turned out to have a suspended license, and no insurance.”

A driver stops short of hitting “designated walker” Sharon White.

“I do see these beacons making a difference,” Voepel told East Portland News about the signals. “They are especially effective for drivers who are sober, not distracted, and are paying attention. These drivers see the lights flashing, and they stop.”

From the perspective of a traffic officer, the question is, “How many of these can be installed?” Voepel rhetorically asked. “But, it’s good that they’re focused on the busy locations where there’s a lot of pedestrians crossing.

“Hopefully the pedestrians will use that beacon to cross, rather than a non-marked crosswalk, or just jaywalking across the street between blocks,” Voepel added.

A PPB Traffic Division officers goes after a car that passed a vehicle that had been stopped at the crosswalk, waiting for a pedestrian to cross.

The sergeant reminded that every crosswalk, whether or not it is marked with stripes or crosswalk “hatch markings”, is considered a legal crosswalk in the state of Oregon.

“Drivers need to watch for pedestrians about to cross the street, and yield right-of-way to allow them to cross,” Voepel instructed. “At the same time, pedestrians need to let vehicle drivers know that they intend to cross a street. And, it’s also good for them to make eye contact with the driver to make sure they’re being recognized as being about to step into the street in front of their vehicle.”

The result of this particular mission:

  • 6 Failed to Stop and Remain Stopped for the Pedestrian
  • 3 Warning citations
  • 1 Passed a Stopped Vehicle at a Crosswalk
  • 1 No Operator’s License and Failure to Carry Proof of Insurance

 

This driver gets an expensive lesson about Oregon crosswalk laws from a PPB Traffic Division officer.

‘Twenty is Plenty’ campaign in force
As part of their “Twenty is Plenty” safety effort, PBOT and the PPB have dispatched dozens of officers, including Photo Radar Units, to enforce traffic laws in zones to reduce the number of crashes in school zones and to create a safe environment for students returning to school.

Hours of enhanced patrol will vary, but generally will be between 7:45 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., and then again from 2:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m.

The Bureau offer these safety tips:

  • If you’re driving, obey the 20 mph speed limit in school zones
  • Be vigilant and courteous to children crossing the street.
  • If you’re a parent, consider walking or biking to school with your students when possible to reduce congestion, improve safety, and provide young people with needed physical activity.

 

As school starts up for the year, be sure to keep a sharp lookout for kids near or crossing the street.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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