Demanding Action on a Deadly Road in Portland

It’s sad that sometimes it takes the loss of a life to motivate officials to fix a dangerous road. In the case of Barbur Boulevard in Portland, it took two.

A candlelight vigil was held last night to honor 26-year-old Angela Burke, who was killed trying to cross the road last week. She was the second pedestrian to die on Barbur Boulevard in two months.

Neighborhood activists met by the roadside wearing orange vests and carrying signs. According to Jonathan Maus at Network blog Bike Portland, conditions on Barbur Boulevard made holding the vigil hazardous, but those who gathered are determined to see that the tragedy won’t be repeated a third time.

Vigil participants donned orange vests and carried cautionary signs to ensure their safety on Portland's deadly Barbur Blvd. Bike Portland

Barbur in this stretch (especially during rush hour) is nearly uncrossable to all but the most daring individuals. At one point a group of Burke’s co-workers who wanted to pay their respects stood across the street and looked at the gathering vigil crowd. Unable to cross, they walked a few tenths of a mile south to a signed crossing near a TriMet bus stop (even that was “scary,” said one woman in the group) and then walked north in the bike lane against traffic to get to the vigil location.

[Neighborhood activist Marianne Fitzgerald] said the time has come for ODOT and the City of Portland to make Barbur safer. “We’ve been doing too much talking and not enough doing.” Fitzgerald helped the city develop the Barbur Streetscape Plan back in 1999 but it has remained largely unfunded ever since.

After the vigil, Fitzgerald will join ODOT and PBOT staff at a neighborhood meeting to discuss safety issues on Barbur. The meeting was planned two months ago — after a man was struck by a car and killed while trying to walk across Barbur about a mile south of where Burke was hit. “It’s just a tragic coincidence,” she said, that another life has been lost just before that meeting.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Biking Toronto reports that city’s first ever bike count statistics show that almost 20,000 people commute downtown by bicycle on a typical day. And Systemic Failure points out the privileged position highways still occupy in the funding landscape of California’s Sonoma County, where cost overruns for the high-speed rail project are being balanced by reductions in biking infrastructure. Meanwhile, highway expansions continue unfettered.

With that, the Streetsblog Network will be signing off until 2011. Happy and safe holidays to all of our readers!