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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pedestrian Decoys: Coming to an Intersection Near You!

Posted on Wed, Jul 22, 2009 at 4:47 PM

The Avenue of Roses (or 82nd as those less romantically inclined call it) is known as one of Portland’s most dangerous streets. Those wishing to avoid 205 use it as a freeway, even though the speed limit is only 35 mph, and those wishing to cross it usually say a little prayer before stepping onto the blacktop.

For this reason, Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Sharon White has been assigned the duty of “pedestrian decoy.” Her duty as decoy is to walk back and forth across the street and not get hit. For every close call, there’s a police officer waiting nearby to “handle the situation,” which often includes a nearly $300 ticket or the opportunity to take a safe driver class to have the ticket dropped.

I’m not going to lie, this sounded like a crack version of a speeding trap to me. Hide a police car, seek out cars not following the law, give ‘em a huge ticket. Repeat several dozen times for a few hours. But as I watched for a few minutes this afternoon, I quickly realized this wasn’t the case. There were four yellow signs with the pedestrian icon (one for each lane in each direction), the pedestrian median marked with white paint, and orange cones with sandwich boards a block in each direction warning of “pedestrian crosswalk enforcement” ahead…not to mention the seven police cars and motorcycles visibly stopped just off the main street. Everything about this intersection screamed, “Open your goddamn eyes, people are crossing the street!”

a287/1248306196-ped_decoy.jpg

Sharon White of PBOT, not getting hit by drivers.

Yet, 45 minutes into the hour-and-a-half “action,” about 14 cars had already been stopped. Sergeant Matt Stimmel said stopped drivers usually make one of two arguments:

1. “I didn’t know what she was going to do!”
To that I say: Did you think she was going to stop in the middle of the street and have a picnic?

2. “I didn’t see the signs!”
I repeat: four yellow signs, orange cones and sandwich boards, pedestrian median, and seven police vehicles.

So kids, there are only two things to remember: if a pedestrian has even a foot in the intersection, cars must stop. And second, every corner is an intersection, marked or unmarked. And as PBOT likes to say, “in collisions with cars, pedestrians are always the losers.” Got that? Losers!

Aside from the very sad people who got big tickets, the other loser I saw today was the little hatchback who did stop for the pedestrian decoy but got rear-ended by the slightly bigger hatchback who didn’t. Que triste.

-Rachael Marcus

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