Pedestrians dodge whizzing cars, on SE 82nd Avenue

It was jaw-dropping to watch, as cars and trucks bullied the people trying to cross the street – at a marked crosswalk!

Even though “Pedestrian Decoy” Sharon White, of the Portland High Crash Corridor Safety Program, is here already crossing the street in the crosswalk, the driver of this car only taps the brakes while speeding past.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Of all the “Crosswalk Enforcement Action” missions East Portland News has covered, the one that took place on March 25 was the most harrowing for us to watch.

During this mission, on SE 82nd Avenue of Roses at SE Cooper Street, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PDOT) and the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) again teamed up to keep an eye on this crosswalk – the site of a number of pedestrian injuries and deaths.

After the auto zipped past PDOT’s Sharon White, a PPB Traffic Division officer stops the car and tickets the driver.

A crosswalk enforcement action involves a pedestrian decoy positioned at marked or unmarked crosswalks.

In this case, the PPB Traffic Division motorcycle and patrol car officers were monitoring an crosswalk installed by the Oregon Department of Transportation, with signs and a traffic island, but no “pedestrian walkway stripes” painted on the highway.

Drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk are ticketed or issued a warning by the officers.

It’s not a “trap”; these missions never are. A red cone, sign, and flag posted for oncoming drivers make it clear that the mission is underway.

Even with her considerable experience serving as the pedestrian decoy on these missions, PDOT’s Sharon White had to hastily step out of the way of speeding vehicles to keep from being struck.

After looking for a break in traffic, White signaled her intention to walk by moving toward the street. Many cars and trucks stopped to let her and other civilians walk. But one vehicle after another whizzed past her, some just inches away, apparently oblivious to her presence.

The driver of this SUV ignores the warning signs, the presence of police officers – and PDOT’s Sharon White – and quickly drives past her

… And will soon be cited by a PPB Traffic Division motorcycle officer.

In just 90 minutes, Traffic Division officers wrote an astounding 27 citations for “Failure to stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian”, five citations for “Passing stopped vehicle at crosswalk”, and one for “Careless driving”.

Drivers earned yet other citations that day:

  • Cell phone use: 17
  • Driving while suspended: 6
  • Failure to display license plates: 3
  • Driving while uninsured: 1
  • Driving without seatbelt: 1

“According to Oregon State law, every road intersection – whether or not marked – is a pedestrian crosswalk,” White reminded East Portland News. “The pedestrian has the right-of-way there.”

At the same time, pedestrians do also have responsibilities, White observed. “They have to take due care when starting to cross the street. They can’t just jump in front of a vehicle and expect them to stop safely.

“Once a pedestrian shows the intention of crossing a street,” White added, “cars and trucks need to identify that, recognize that, and stop – so pedestrians can safely cross.”

Pedestrian decoy White is challenged again and again, while trying to cross SE 82nd Avenue of Roses.

Another driver is “educated” about stopping for pedestrians, during this mission, by a PPB Traffic Division officer.

Vehicles must stop, and remained stopped, until the pedestrian has cleared the vehicle’s driving lane – and the lane next to it, she said.

“Please remember,” White said, “every street intersection, marked or unmarked, is a crosswalk!”
The good news, though, clearly was that White survived – to decoy again another day. But you might not, unless you’re extra watchful crossing busy streets.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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