Safety measure was planned for crosswalk where woman killed by car

PORTLAND, Ore. - Scott Dalton stands at his front door, explaining that he always bought his wife flowers every couple of weeks. On Wednesday, he placed the flowers he bought her near the intersection of Northeast 117th and Glisan where she was struck and killed by a car on Tuesday afternoon.

"They said it knocked her right out of her shoes," he says, breaking down.

Vijay Dalton-Gibson, 59, was a wife, a mother of a two, and a former caregiver at a facility for developmentally disabled people. On Tuesday, while walking her Jack Russell terrier "Cassie" half a block from her home, she became the eleventh pedestrian killed on the streets of Portland this year.

Diane Dulken, a spokeswoman for the city's Bureau of Transportation says a key safety measure was in the works for the very crosswalk in which Dalton-Gibson died. It's one of four crosswalks the bureau has targeted for safety improvements because they cross major streets.

They include: Northeast 117th and Glisan; Northeast 85th and Sandy; Northeast 88th and Halsey; Northwest 20th Place and West Burnside.

Portland is known as one of the most walkable cities in the country, so why does it seem to have an epidemic of people dying while crossing the street? Fourteen pedestrians died last year.

Ron Soesbe has lived just one house away from Glisan Street for the last 45 years. He says he sees a lot of people use the crosswalk who have gotten stuck in the middle of the four-lane street.

"They'll go halfway then the cars stop from the other direction. Cars whiz by. There's nothing between 102nd and 122nd slowing them down, and they think [Glisan] is a freeway," he says.
Aaron Brown, board president of the Oregon Walks, a pedestrian advocacy group, says, "if the city of Portland wants safe streets for people ages 8 to 80, we have to prioritize it and make it happen."

Brown praises efforts by Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick. Both have taken part in crosswalk awareness events. But Brown believes rapid-flashing beacons alerting drivers to someone wanting to use a crosswalk ought to be throughout the city. Such beacons have been installed on a different section of Glisan at Northeast 78th, just 40 blocks away from where Dalton-Gibson was hit.

Safety measures have also been added to crosswalks at Northeast 3rd and Multnomah and Southeast 68th and Division. Dulken says on Division, a pedestrian island has been added and beacons are set to go in February 2014.

Chris Monsere, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Portland State, says PSU students have conducted studies on Portland intersections where beacons have gone in, including Barbur Boulevard and on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.

He says they found 90 percent of drivers actually stop when the beacons flash.

He says multiple factors play into the Portland's pedestrian death toll: distracted or intoxicated drivers or pedestrians and speed.

"If a driver is going more than 30 mph, the probability is greater than 90 percent that an accident with a pedestrian will be fatal."

He says statistics from the Oregon Department of Transportation show that of the 31 car crashes that involved fatalities in 2012, nearly half (14) involved pedestrian deaths.

"When a mistake occurs, it is the pedestrian who is vulnerable," says Monsere.

Ron Soesbe hopes city leaders take account of how funds are being used. The scene on Glisan on Tuesday shook everyone up. He wound up caring for Dalton-Gibson's dog immediately after the crash.

Thing is, it didn't surprise him this happened.

He's somewhat surprised it hadn't happened at that crosswalk on Glisan until now.

"Forget this other stuff they're doing. Worry about the people that are crossing the streets. That's what I would tell the mayor," said Soesbe.

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