Bicyclists demand safety updates to deadly Powell Blvd intersection

Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 10:19 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Dozens from the bike-riding community gathered Wednesday afternoon at Southeast 26th and Powell Boulevard in Portland to protest and demand the intersection be made safer for cyclists.

A memorial has been set up at the intersection for Sarah Pliner, a prominent local chef who was hit by a truck and killed while riding her bike to work on Oct. 4.

Kiel Johnson, Chair of BikeLoud PDX, said there used to be more protections for bicyclists at that intersection.

“People are really upset about this,” Johnson said. “We had a bike box here, which increases visibility and makes people aware that people with bikes use this. It was removed in 2018.”

Andre Lightsey-Walker, Street Trust Policy Transformation Manager, said Pliner’s death was a preventable tragedy.

“I think that’s the thing we are all so charged up about,” Lightsey-Walker said. “We are organizing a human bike lane, basically to create a protected section along this intersection at 26th and Powell in honor of Sarah Pliner and recognizing that this isn’t a safe intersection. We want to show an example of what people need here to be protected.”

The protest was organized by The Street Trust, Oregon Walks, and Bike Loud PDX. Dozens came to demand changes to make the intersection safer for cyclists.

“We want to see a protected bike lane along this section here,” said Lightsey-Walker. “We want to have pedestrian right of ways, so a section where there is actually a head start for people crossing and turning. The Street Trust did send a letter to Kris Strickler of the Oregon Department of Transportation today requesting those investments. We would also like to see an intersection sign that says this is a deadly intersection because people need to know that as well.”

On Monday, ODOT Director Kris Strickler issued a statement saying that he had directed his staff to look into transforming Powell into a safer roadway.

“Powell Boulevard (U.S. 26) was originally established and designed as a highway to move freight and people through Portland quickly and efficiently. Recent incidents on Powell, including a tragic death on Oct. 4, are evidence that this road cannot, and should not, function as a traditional highway anymore. It’s time to make changes to ensure the safety of all users,” Strickler wrote.

In recent years ODOT has reduced the speed limit on Powell to 30 but it hasn’t proven as effective as they hoped.

Strickler said there will be a community forum on Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. at Cleveland High School. Representatives from the Portland Bureau of Transportation, ODOT, Portland Public Schools, and TriMet will be there as well as Strickler to talk about ways Powell can be improved. Organizations at Wednesday’s protest planned on being there as well.

The public is encouraged to attend.

“We have the information to prevent this from ever happening again, we just need to make sure we have the infrastructural investments to ensure that’s the case,” said Lightsey-Walker.

“The main message is that we have to have this intersection safe immediately,” said Johnson. “There are things that can be done quickly and should be done quickly so something like this doesn’t happen again.”

On Wednesday, Tigard Mayor made a statement regarding the intersection.