Pedestrian deaths high despite slow Portland streets
Portlanders tend to drive more slowly on major pedestrian roads than other cities' drivers, which should make those streets safer for people on foot.
Yes, but: Portland's pedestrian deaths rose significantly in the past two years.
Why it matters: Cars are safer than ever for passengers thanks to new assisted driving technologies, but people outside vehicles are increasingly being hit and killed, Axios' Joann Muller reports.
Driving the news: The average speed findings are based on a report covering September and October 2022 from StreetLight Data, which tracks mobility trends using anonymized cellphone data and other sources.
- 42% of Portland's major pedestrian roads had average vehicle speeds under 25 mph, a higher percentage than most big American cities.
- 51% saw average speeds between 25 and 35 mph.
- On 7% of our pedestrian-heavy roads, drivers averaged over 35 mph.
Details: The group's objective was to understand how fast vehicles are actually going — not posted speed limits — and the impact on pedestrian safety, creating what it calls a "Safe Speed Index."
- Major pedestrian roads are streets with more than 200 pedestrians per day, per the study.
The intrigue: Pedestrian deaths in Portland increased from an average of 16 per year between 2018 and 2020, to 27 in 2021 and 28 in 2022, according to a report issued in March by Portland's Bureau of Transportation.
- A police count puts last year's numbers even higher, at 32 pedestrian fatalities — the highest since 1948. Police numbers include suicides, medical deaths and deaths more than 30 days after the crash, while PBOT's do not, police spokesperson Terri Wallo Strauss tells Axios.
- The increased deaths are despite the city lowering posted speed limits in residential neighborhoods five years ago, from 25 to 20 mph.
What they're saying: The March PBOT report notes that areas with higher speed limits account for a disproportionate amount of the 2022 traffic deaths, underscoring "the need to build safety improvements and reduce posted speeds."
Pedestrians are twice as likely to be killed in a collision when a car is traveling at 30 mph compared to 20 mph, and over five times more likely when the car is driving 40 mph, according to data from the AAA Foundation.
- Time of day matters too. Most pedestrian deaths occur at night; in Portland, 93% of pedestrian deaths last year happened under "darker conditions," according to PBOT.
- Over a third of pedestrians killed by vehicles in Portland last year were experiencing homelessness, the bureau said.
Zoom out: Oregon had 3.09 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents in 2022 — up from 2.12 the previous year, according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.
- That number puts Oregon among the deadliest states for pedestrians.
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