Portland's livability hinges on safety issue

I felt encouraged seeing Eric Bartels' column 'Law's not a lifeline when drivers err' (Life with Children, May 29) on walking. He brought pedestrian issues to the forefront.

As the director of the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, I would like make a few comments. Mr. Bartels is right: The motor-driven lifestyle is deeply entrenched in our culture. Many pedestrians and cyclists who navigate our highly walkable and bikeable city have stories similar to the near-fatal crash Mr. Bartels shared in his column.

We would like to suggest another option: Let's evolve into a culture where the car is not king, where all users are respected and vehicle drivers know and follow the rules we have in place to protect 'vulnerable users.'

• Motorists stop at intersections and remain stopped while pedestrians are in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

• When a car is stopped at a crosswalk or intersection, drivers traveling in the same direction stop even when they do not see the person who is crossing the street.

• Travel at lower speeds (25 mph or less) in neighborhoods, around schools and when pedestrians are present.

• Right on red, only after pedestrians and cyclists have crossed a full lane width from the lane they are turning into.

Willamette Pedestrian Coalition encourages people to take responsibility for their own safety, but we also encourage drivers to remember that - at some point during our day - we are all pedestrians.

In a city known for valuing civic responsibility, we encourage everyone to look out for the other guy. We also encourage those who access our city on foot to band together, to know their rights and walk safely.

Mr. Bartels recommended that pedestrians cross only at signalized crosswalks. While that may be possible in downtown Portland, crossing at a signalized intersection may require walking a quarter-mile or more out of the way just to get to the other side of the street.

Think of 82nd Avenue and many of the major roads in Southwest Portland. Some may think the solution is to add more signals, but at around $250,000 per intersection, new signals are few and far between.

Pedestrian safety also affects those who live outside the Portland metro area: Residents and visitors in towns from Lincoln City to Ontario may not have access to signalized crossings. This shouldn't impede their ability to safely access their city on foot.

It is vital that drivers recognize that the four rules listed above also apply to rural and small-town Oregon. The simple act of stopping when a car in the adjacent lane is stopped at an intersection or crosswalk increases the safety and livability of that town and can save a life.

While Portland is a great city for walking and cycling, we all can work to make it be better. People walking in our neighborhoods and town centers are one of the hallmarks of Portland's livability.

Safe and comfortable passage on foot will encourage more people to walk: to the store, to school, to work, for leisure, for exercise or to catch a bus or train.

Improving safety is something we all care about. Like other aspects of raising our children, this one will take the village, a commitment to safety that comes from every driver and every pedestrian who navigates our city streets.

To educate and empower pedestrians, Willamette Pedestrian Coalition is offering Pedestrian Legal Clinics. The next clinic will be at 6 p.m. July 21 at Hillsdale Library. For details, visit

Lynn Lindgren-Schreuder is the director of Willamette Pedestrian Coalition. Her favorite time of day is walking with her kids home from school.

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