Comments of the Week: Perspectives on more law enforcement

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

As our community continues to grapple with a spate of deadly and serious injury collisions, much of the discussion in the past few days has focused on enforcement.

It’s an important topic that deserves a productive debate.

Out of around 260 comments in this shortened week (I was out of town Monday-Tuesday), here are three that stood out:

Reader MTW had this to say in response to our story about North Fessenden:

“Even if I thought a city could “enforce” their way to road safety, Portland quite clearly can’t. We’re broke (currently proposing to close parks and community centers) and already under-staffed at PPB. Designing unsafe road conditions and then trying to use police man hours to ticket their way out of the problem is ineffective, wasteful and almost certainly inequitable.

The streets need to be re-designed in a way that forces compliance (with or without agents of the state being there to drive compliance rates.) Unfortunately, people will drive as fast as THEY feel safe and that high threshold for personal safety (particularly in an SUV) is incompatible with a safe and welcoming environment for VRUs [vulnerable roadway users].

2 people have died in 24 hours, treat this like the emergency it is. Until we can afford to re-engineer these streets properly (with concrete, diverters, re-painting, etc.,) break out the orange cones and take some lanes out. Tactical urbanism and traffic calming.”

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Scott Kocher added this comment to our story about Police Chief Outlaw’s calls for more enforcement:

“In the past PPB has not supported automated enforcement. A PPB Sergeant once told me we didn’t have enough officers but he opposed automated enforcement because it ‘lacks the human touch.’ I hope in the current climate we can free up officers so they’re not doing tasks a camera can do, placement can be reviewed for equity and safety need, fines can be graduated based on income as elsewhere, and revenue (if there is any) can go to infrastructure.”

And reader SD had an opinion about the PPB’s communications:

“One immediate improvement would be for all communications from the Portland Police and all other city agencies to stop “both-siding” their street safety message. Across the board, the data show that driver behavior contributes to pedestrian injury and fatality far more than that of pedestrians. Despite this, many people as well as many media outlets believe that the cause is distracted pedestrians. If there is any point to making a public statement like the one from Outlaw, it is to give drivers pause to consider if they are driving in a way that is more dangerous than it needs to be. When the PPB calls out pedestrian behavior, it is interpreted by many drivers to mean that their windshield-biased notion that it’s the victim’s fault is true. And, since they already consider their driving habits safe, regardless of whether they speed or drive while looking at their cell phones, this message just reinforces their idea that every thing they do is fine, because nothing bad has happened to them yet, or if it has it was just once or twice.

Statements like these show that very few in Portland government have taken the very first baby steps of understanding Vision Zero that include, at the least, making statements that target the most harmful factors in road safety.”

I’m grateful for these perspectives. Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts. And remember, I rely on you to nominate great comments by leaving a reply that includes “comment of the week” so I can more easily find them via search.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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