Accident fatalities in 2008 lowest in Portland history

These two articles just released noting that Portland’s traffic fatality rates are at an all time low. Bike lane infrastructure, and multi-modal planning is considered major contributing factor.

“Most other U.S. cities are not seeing the same decline. But European cities are.”

Greg Raisman, with Portland’s Department of Transportation notes, “By really thinking about having a multi-modal system where people are walking and biking and taking transit. What that means is that car drivers really have to operate their vehicles as lot more defensively. Be a lot more aware and cognizant of what is happening around them. And it results in them driving more safely and as a result it becomes safer for the people in the cars as well.”

All of which confirms everything we’ve championed here at BFOC:

Bicycle infrastructure increases ridership.
Ridership increases awareness.
Awareness increases safety.

It’s as simple as that.


  1. A single year of local fatality statistics proves little, regardless of one’s views about bike lanes versus other approaches. Portland had a bad year in 2007 and a good year in 2008. Why? I think there was little overall change in approach or in awareness. My own theory – Portland got lucky in 2008. Maybe they were due.

    If 2009 turns out to be another bad year, does that mean Portland has failed and contradicts everything you champion at BFOC? I think it merely proves that they got unlucky in 2009. Now if they get lucky five years in a row, that might mean something.

    It might be a pipe dream, but I think we’d do more to help cyclist (and motorist) safety by getting the worst 1% of drivers off the road than by all other means combined. At least an idiot cyclist usually only kills himself.

  2. One other item – I took another look. Click on the NY Times link above and you’ll note the drop is a nationwide phenomenon attributed to high gas prices and the recession. The Times claims that New England had the biggest drops. That might mean Portland MAINE, not Portland OREGON.

    I wasn’t able to find out if Fort Worth fatalities dropped as much as Portland. Either Portland.

  3. The drop you’re citing was in car trips. Bicycling and public transit ridership increased due to gas prices. The “lucky year” argument you are proposing still doesn’t prove your logic. You’re stating that bike lanes bring out inexperienced riders, and increase accidents at intersections. Yes, Portland may have experienced a drop in car trips due to gas, but it made up for this in an increase in bicycling. In other words, more inexperienced people crossing more intersections. You’d actually anticipate an increase in bicycling accidents. This did not occur. Also, though 2007 had 6 cycling fatalities in Portland, you MUST remember…THEY HAVE AN 8% RIDERSHIP. We have 0.2% and 7 accidents in the Dallas area last year. That means our accident ratio is far beyond a city like Portland which has 170+ miles of bike lanes.

  4. Steve A · ·

    Actually, the Portland article IS about total fatalities – including motorists, and doesn’t really try to make a case that somehow Portland’s cycling infrastructure efforts were somehow dramatically more effective in 2008 than in 2007.

    I made no statement about bike lanes and inexperienced riders, just that local statistics for a single year don’t prove much. I’ve never ridden in Portland, but I’ve ridden a LOT in Seattle and I feel safer in Tarrant County. It’s got nothing to do with bike lanes, or experience, or cycling share. Frankly, Im not exactly sure WHY it’s that way unless people are just less caffinated around here. Drivers just give me less trouble here. Maybe it’s different back east in Dallas County…

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