On the evening of December 7, 2016, two pedestrians were hit and killed within hours of one another crossing Division Street in Southeast Portland. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims, and we offer our condolences for their loss. Both pedestrians were members of the Asian Pacific Islander immigrant community, and their absence is felt deeply.
Southeast Division Street is a high crash corridor and is home to seven of the city’s top 30 high crash intersections. As we end 2016, we have seen five deaths along this stretch of road in this year alone. Walking along Division in the Jade District is particularly dangerous. In the past 3 years, 2 Chinese community elders were tragically killed within blocks of each other between SE 84th and 87th Ave. These deaths are devastating for our community and are completely preventable.
Mr. RongZhao Zhang was a 65 year old immigrant who came to the United States to make a better life for his family in China. He worked at Wong’s King Seafood Restaurant and was walking home from work that night. Mr. Zhang is survived by his wife, who also lives in the Jade District, and his son is hoping to come to the United States in time for the funeral. This event has been absolutely devastating for the family and broader community.
Over the past several years, APANO (Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon) has been working on urban planning and traffic issues as a part of its Jade District Program. Through multi-lingual community charette, door-to-door canvasses, and other outreach efforts, our community consistently identified traffic safety and walkability as a top issue. We have advocated for slower speeds, public lighting, additional crosswalks, and multi-lingual signage for years.
In response to this most recent tragedy, we continue to demand the necessary investments in our infrastructure be made to ensure the safety of our community. We also want to ensure that solutions to this crisis are rooted in and led by community. As such, in the past week we’ve had a number of preliminary community conversations. Action items that have risen to the top include:
- Immediate implementation of culturally responsive street signage and neighborhood conversations. We believe a jointly designed education and outreach process between the community and our public agencies would be most impactful in helping our community members navigate these high crash corridors.
- Mid term changes and investments in improving our streetscape such as street lighting, crosswalk at 87th and Division, and slower speeds.
- Longer term planning and implementation of a corridor wide strategy for Division St., including the exploration of a road diet.
APANO and the Jade District were active supporters and contributors to the City’s recently adopted Vision Zero Plan. We too believe that one death on our city streets is too many. Our families deserve safe streets on which to walk, bike, operate mobility devices, access transit, and drive. This vision cannot be reached until our most vulnerable community members living in our most diverse and vibrant neighborhoods are safe walking on our streets.
For questions, contact Associate Director Duncan Hwang at duncan[at]apano.org