It’s time for Portland businesses to step up and demand safe, walkable and bikable streets
PICOC is a coalition of business and community leaders who believe Portland can do better. We want the city to hear loud and clear that our business community shares Portland’s values of affordability, sustainability, and equity. We call on our city to eliminate traffic deaths and achieve Vision Zero.
There’s a disturbing trend in Portland. Over the past 25 years the city has steadily been lowering traffic deaths, but the past two years this progress has reversed. In 2015, 37 people died, the highest count for the past 12 years. This year has been even more grim: as of September 18th, 35 people have died, including 10 pedestrians and four cyclists. If the current trend holds traffic deaths will be back at 1990’s levels.
These traffic deaths represent an equity crisis. They disproportionately occur in neighborhoods with larger minority and low-income populations. Residents of low-income neighborhoods in Multnomah County are 2.3 times more likely to be killed walking. Oregonians aged 65 or older are four times more likely to be killed while walking. We are failing to protect our most vulnerable citizens, and in doing so we are failing to uphold our values as Portlanders.
Portland has long had a reputation for being a walkable, bikeable city with great public transportation. However, this reputation is only deserved by our close-in neighborhoods. These inner neighborhoods have seen marked increases in rents and home prices. Portland’s remaining affordable neighborhoods lack basic amenities like sidewalks, bike lanes and frequent bus service. Without safe alternatives, residents of these outer neighborhoods are being pushed into auto dependence.
Portland has a vision to fix this. Last year, our City Council formally adopted an audacious goal to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries. This policy, called Vision Zero, states that all traffic deaths are preventable, and that no traffic deaths are acceptable. The idea started in Sweden and has spread around the world. Vision Zero has been endorsed by Portland’s current and incoming mayors, our transportation commission and the head of the Bureau of Transportation.
Despite official support achieving Vision Zero will be difficult. We need the courage to pursue policies and projects that decrease our auto dependence and reach our goal of a sustainable, low-carbon city. We must make biking and walking safe throughout Portland. We must continue to aggressively invest in our transit infrastructure. We must move towards a downtown where few ever feel the need to drive.
Portland has a reputation for being a city that is affordable, sustainable, and equitable. If we fail to eliminate traffic deaths, we fail to uphold these values. Failing would mean more high-traffic roads, fewer walkable neighborhoods, and no affordable neighborhoods where biking is safe and family-friendly. It would mean a Portland that is increasingly divided.
PICOC encourages all Portland businesses to join us in supporting the Vision Zero movement. Let’s remember why we started our businesses here, why we can attract top talent to live here, and how our businesses benefit from the halo of Portland’s reputation as a great American city. Let’s remind elected leaders of their commitment to decreasing auto dependence, and support them when progress inevitably leads to controversy.
Our City Council votes on October 12th on whether to adopt an action plan to pursue Vision Zero. We are calling on members of the business community to sign this testimony urging City Council to adopt the Vision Zero action plan.
Owner, Azunga Marketing
General Manager, Know Thy Food Cooperative
Owner, Cellar Door Coffee Roasters
B Grace Henricks
Owner, Artemis Foods
Benjamin A Cerezo
Principal Creative, Clearform
Owner, Truck Trike
Program Manager, Walker Tracker
Owner, Reading Frenzy
General Manager, Western Bikeworks
David James Robinson
Owner, EJP Events
President, Read the Docs
Owner, Woodsong Property Renovation Partners
Owner, Excited Pixel
Owner, Jam on Hawthorne
Vice President, Gateway to College
Owner, Factory Publishing Co
John A. Bennett
CEO, BrightWork Inc.
Principal, Fat Pencil Studio
Principle, Catalyst Law
Vice President, Alta Planning + Design
Owner, Go By Bike Valet and Repair
Owner, Gladys Bikes
Investor, Tavern Owner
Co-owner, Roots Realty
Melissa Berry, N.D.
Owner, Missionary Chocolates
Account Manager, Brink Communications
Owner, Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider
Owner, Occam Advisors
General Manager, PIE
Chiropractic Physician, Ridgeline Clinic
Robert Thomas Achor
President, Revolution Accounting and Advisory
Principal, UrbanLens Planning
Marketing Director, Showers Pass
Steve & Lynn Hanrahan
Owners, Mirador Kitchen & Home
President, Habitate Property Management
Owner, Webwork for Good
CEO, Knock Software