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Pedestrian-bullying drivers nabbed once again on Powell Blvd.

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - This driver speeds past Sharon White, as she tries to cross S.E. Powell Boulevard in a clearly-marked crosswalk.Even though the crosswalk on S.E. Powell Boulevard at S.E. 28th Place is well-marked – and provides a mid-street refuge – crossing the street there can be a harrowing experience.

After using the crossing, which is located near Cleveland High School, Becky Lu told THE BEE, “Sometimes it seems like the cars actually speed up when they see you step off the curb. I’ve come so close to being hit many, many times.”

Pedestrian Missions have been conducted there before, and documented by THE BEE. But, because neighbors continue to complain to the city about this crosswalk, the Portland Bureau of Transportation and Portland Police Bureau again teamed up for what they call a “Crosswalk Enforcement Action” around noon on Tuesday, March 19.

“S.E. Powell Boulevard has been designated as a ‘High Crash Corridor’,” explained Portland Bureau of Transportation Program Specialist Sharon White, who also serves as the “designated walker” during the actions.

“We do this to raise awareness about Oregon Crosswalk laws,” White told THE BEE between crossings. “We remind drivers about their responsibility to stop for the pedestrians in crosswalks who are walking in the motor lane and the adjacent lane.”

Even if the pavement isn’t painted with wide white stripes, “Every intersection is designated as a crosswalk,” White reminded.

Pedestrians also play a role in staying safe while crossing the street, she added. “Pedestrians should always look before walking, and make sure drivers see you. This is especially important in an urban environment like this one, with many visual distractions.”

And those who cross the street on foot need to “signal” drivers, she said, by putting a foot off the curb into the crosswalk, extending a hand – breaking the “invisible barrier dance between myself and the curb, showing my intent to cross,” as White put it.

Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Sergeant Robert Voepel supervised this particular mission for the Bureau. He’s been a Traffic Division sergeant since 2006, and he points out that it’s these officers who are sent to investigate fatal encounters between pedestrians and vehicles.

“When investigating fatal incidents, we have to ‘put our emotions in the back of our minds’ to make sure we make a professional assessment of what transpired,” Voepel observed. “That being said, we’d sure prefer to see fewer of this kind of accident.”

With many years of being assigned to the task of providing roadway safety, Voepel said, he could boil down safety advice into one message: “Even though you have the right-of-way, be patient. If somebody isn’t yielding the right-of-way – for any reason – the resulting accident could result in serious injury or even death.”

This applies to any modality of transportation, the sergeant added. “Vehicle drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians, keep this in mind: It’s far better to be safe, than to demand the right-of-way that might not be given you!”

Even with signs, cones, and red flags announcing the Crosswalk Enforcement Action zone, as usual it was alarming to watch White as cars and trucks made her dodge, weave, and step back – while crossing the traffic lanes – to keep from getting hit.

In just 90 minutes, officers wrote thirteen citations and eight warnings for “Fail to Stop and Remain Stopped for Pedestrian in Crosswalk”.

“Stopping for pedestrians is more than a good idea,” White concluded, having survived another harrowing Pedestrian Mission. “It’s the law.”