Valentine Khubeyeva was killed this weekend on the streets of Portland by a GMC Yukon driven by Charles McBride. The lethal act of traffic violence took place on a section of Powell boulevard that doesn’t even have sidewalks. Sgt. Pete Simpson of the Portland Police Bureau stated Valentine was crossing near 133rd ave where there is also no crosswalk. Sgt. Simpson then layed the blame on her dark clothes, and not on Charles McBride, who Simpson praised for his cooperation with authorities. Police claimed McBride was driving the speed limit, but also cited fog as a factor in the collision. However, nowhere in his statement did Sgt. Simpson make any mention of Oregon’s basic speed law, which states “a person commits a violation when driving on a highway faster than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for weather and visibility.”
As outrageously common as it is to blame clothing for the violence inflicted upon women, it’s also typical for authorities to blame the victim when a motorist kills a person walking or cycling. The very institutions tasked with protecting us instead protect the status quo, and those we elect to build the city we need instead throw away our tax dollars on corporate welfare.
We suffer austerity budget cuts to essential services only to be told to go crowd-source fund the next big improvement project. This is a disturbing trend in a city of supposed progressive values. They tell us there’s no money for the infrastructure people need to walk safely. Yet Mayor Hales was scrambling to give $80 million dollars to NIKE to build them a parking garage downtown.
The bullshit doesn’t stop at city hall. Democrat state rep. Shamia Fagan hasn’t been able to stop talking about how necessary pedestrian improvements are in her east Portland district. Recently, Fagan took a reporter from the Oregonian to the corner of Powell and Southeast 136th during rush hour. There, she soapboxed about the dangerous intersection, “This is where I bring people when I want to show them what’s wrong in east Portland. Look around and what do you see? No sidewalks, sparse crosswalks, gravel shoulders, poor lighting. This is what happens when you ignore a place. You wind up with a parent knowing her kid has to has to choose between walking to school in the road and walking to school through a parking lot.”
Sounds legit. The problem is that Shamia Fagan and virtually the entire rest of the Democrats in the Oregon legislature voted in favor of the $4 BILLION+ dollar Columbia River Crossing freeway mega-expansion. Try and fathom how many new sidewalks and pedestrian crossings could be built with that much cash. I can’t, but likely some transit wonk out there who’s good with numbers can.
Portlanders are tired of being told there’s no money in the pot to build safe streets. This is a flat out lie. There is always money. What’s truly lacking is the political will to do the right thing. While the bureaucrats tack up a veneer of creating ‘new visions’, people are being killed.
As was done in Amsterdam decades ago, today, people are again taking matters into their own hands in places like New York and Mexico City. While these actions are illegal, they help remind how irrelevant government agencies become when they choose to reward billionaires at the expense of common citizens. If cities and states won’t fix our roads, somebody else will.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation is planning a public relations revamp to help figure out how to better communicate its goals while it searches for that ‘new vision‘ I mentioned earlier. If it’s vision PBOT needs, I suggest adopting a zero tolerance policy for traffic fatalities. If a person walking or cycling is killed by a driver, there should be an automatic funding trigger of $6 million dollars ready to fix the area of the fatality. If the Police Bureau cares about lives lost, it can start charging lethal motorists with criminal negligence. If state politicians want their cries for pedestrian safety to be taken seriously, they can put their money where their mouths are and vote against boondoggle freeway expansions that drain transportation budgets. If Charlie Hales wants to shake his reputation as an uncaring capitalist, he can start by making the most vulnerable in our communities his top priority, instead of subsidizing his millionaire developer pals.
I’m not holding my breath for any of the above ever happening. In all likelihood, Portlanders will keep dying while trying to cross the street. So long as the NYTimes continues lauding what a ProgressiveSustainable™ brand our city has, politicians will contently rest on those laurels. In short, don’t expect any top-down solutions in the near future.
Check the video below chronicaling how children helped solve a deadly car crisis in Amsterdam. As the saying goes, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
See you in the streets.
Children living in the Amsterdam neighbourhood De Pijp fight for a play street without cars in 1972. More info: http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/amsterdam-children-fighting-cars-in-1972