For the second time this year, an automobile collision has destroyed the center pedestrian crossing beacon on NE Glisan Street at NE 78th Ave. The curbside flashing indicators continue to function at the crosswalk, alerting motorists of the need to stop. The number of crashes involving this highly visible sign indicates the necessity for pedestrian protections on Glisan.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) plans to repair the broken beacon soon. However, city engineers have no design changes pending for this intersection. Hannah Schafer, a Communications Coordinator with PBOT, explained, “there are no substantive changes planned to the existing rapid flashing beacon equipment. This type of damage is unfortunate but not uncommon.”
PBOT changed the design for newer beacons in certain conditions similar to this intersection. Up the street from this crossing, at NE 87th Ave, crews installed overhead beacons that extend out above the traffic lanes. This design avoids installing an electrified center column in the median, reducing the repair costs for damages but does not prevent vehicles from colliding with the standard sign poles used instead.
Despite continued damage at this intersection, the effect of visible crossings is still positive. Designers of crossing infrastructure seek to protect people, not PBOT property. The attention pedestrians receive from flashing lights likely saves lives. Unquestionably more work is needed to reduce the impact of distracted and impaired drivers. However, these repeated crashes are not proof of design failure. They instead indicate that PBOT has more work to do in keeping Portlanders safe on the streets.