Drivers - Stop for pedestrians or else the wrath of the law!
In Portland they may even shoot you!
www.registerguard.com | © The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon
June 17, 2003
New law for motorists gives pedestrians a brake
By Diane Dietz
The next human rights cause reaches Oregon today when Gov. Ted Kulongoski picks up a ceremonial pen and signs a deceptively minor traffic revision into law.
The new law says that drivers crossing intersections without signals must stop and remain stopped until pedestrians crossing the street clear the driver's lane and the adjacent lane.
No more rolling pauses followed by flooring the gas pedal the instant a walker clears the fender; no more ambiguous yield-for-pedestrian laws.
Illustration: TOM PENIX / The Register-Guard
"Stop and stay stopped. It's that simple," said a jubilant Ellen Vanderslice of Portland, president of the national America Walks advocacy group.
She finally got the Legislature's approval after three attempts over the past decade.
It's another step forward for a movement that's quietly gained speed and muscle through the 1990s and is now poised to assert what supporters consider a basic right: to walk across a city unhindered by traffic or other barriers.
In seven years, Vanderslice's national coalition of walking advocacy groups mushroomed from four to 51 and now boasts 10,000 members spread across 18 states and the District of Columbia.
Walking advocates have started dozens of Web sites and at least one television program, "Perils for Pedestrians."
The coalition's declaration of intention says: "(We) envision an America where every city street has sidewalks, where drivers always respect pedestrians, and where a 10-year-old can safely walk to buy a loaf of bread."
So what do walkers want? Money, for one thing, Vanderslice said. Of all the people who die on the nation's roads each year, 12 percent are on foot, yet 1 percent of federal highway safety spending goes to pedestrian improvements.
They seek political power to inch the public infrastructure into a more pedestrian-friendly space, for instance, adding sidewalks, crosswalks, speed humps, curb bulges and designated walking paths.
They want governments to adopt zoning laws, traffic laws, development standards and design plans all with pedestrians in mind. Vanderslice wants walking advocates on every council, board and commission saying: "Yes, but what about walking? What about pedestrians?"
Passage of the Oregon law is the movement's first clear statewide win - and it's big, said Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who introduced the bill.
"When you use a word like `yield,' that could mean many things to many people. When it says `stop' and remain stopped, it's clear," she said.
Only three lawmakers in the 90-member Legislature opposed the bill, and their arguments centered on a reluctance to delay traffic, Burdick said. The new law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2004.
Eugene has long-standing efforts to improve the lot of city pedestrians:
• A 1993 Sidewalk Priority Project identified 46 miles of missing sidewalks inside the city limits; 6.3 miles deemed most crucial (near schools or on busy streets) were completed before the city ran out of money for the project in 1997. "Boy, what would have been built if we had the program continue," said Diane Bishop, the city bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.
• In 1999, the Eugene City Council adopted an Arterial and Collector Street Plan that requires new streets be designed to reflect pedestrians' interests. For instance, it requires that sidewalks be set back from the curb because that's most comfortable for walkers. Bulb outs, a kind of curb that narrows roads at intersections, will be designed into the streets as they're built. New streets will look like the section of Broadway that was constructed last year in the heart of town.
• In 2001, the Center for Appropriate Transport launched a Safer Route to Schools program that's trying to give the children at Adams/Hillside Elementary School - and then all other schools - a safe means of walking. By fall, the organization hopes to start a "walking school bus" that brings groups of kids on foot to school with an adult guide.
• This summer, the city will put in four pedestrian refuge islands in the middle of multi-lane streets: at Willagillespie Road where it becomes Country Club Road; at 24th Avenue near the intersection with Amazon Parkway; at 30th Avenue and Alder Street; and at Franklin Boulevard and Alder.
Additionally, the police department's traffic enforcement unit has participated in a state program to remind drivers to stop for pedestrians. Since last year, city officers have so far issued 72 tickets ($135 each) for failing to yield to pedestrians.
Eugene resident Norma Driscoll-Gilmore, who was clipped crossing the intersection at 16th Avenue and Willamette Street a couple of years ago, said she's all for pedestrian rights.
"We were here first, right?" the 76-year-old walking enthusiast said. "There ought to be a place for pedestrians."
WALK THIS WAY
• America Walks: National pedestrian rights coalition, http://www.americawalks.org
• Perils for Pedestrians, the Web site: Delves into issues of walker safety and includes an extensive set of pedestrian links, http://www.pedestrians.org
• "Perils for Pedestrians," the TV show: Airs on Metro Television (cable channel 11) at 8:30 p.m. Sundays, 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Mondays and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. New episodes weekly.
• New pedestrian law: http://pub.das.state.or.us/LEG_BILLS/PDFs/ESB315.pdf
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