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Vision Zero in Portland


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Photo shows Interstate Avenue in Portland where pedestrians are crossing the street at a crosswalk.

Interstate Avenue, Portland. Source: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/59277.


Portland's traffic fatality rate is among the lowest of the 50 largest American cities, yet the number of pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers killed on city roads has remained almost unchanged over the past 20 years. The annual average number of traffic fatalities breaks down to 11 pedestrian, 2 bicycle, and 24 vehicle collision deaths. This lack of progress prompted Portland to adopt the Vision Zero approach and develop a plan of action to end traffic related deaths and serious injuries.


The impetus behind Portland adopting Vision Zero came largely from concerned grassroots organizations and elected leadership. Walking and biking advocacy groups came together in 2014 to push Portland to adopt Vision Zero. About the same time, the city hired a new Director for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) who made Vision Zero one of the bureau's top priorities.

Photo shows a road with pavement markings.

Source: Getty Images

In response, the Portland City Council voted unanimously in 2015 to adopt Vision Zero. The council also gave PBOT a directive to assemble a diverse task force to craft a Vision Zero Action Plan. The 26-member task force included representatives from the traditional "4E's" of road safety (education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical services) as well as a fifth "E"—equity—for the purpose of addressing the needs of diverse groups.

In December 2016, the city adopted the final plan and committed to ending traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2025.

Portland's Vision Zero Principles

Portland's Vision Zero Plan incorporates the following three principles:

1) Equity. Addresses the disproportionate impact of traffic crashes on communities of concern (defined as areas of the city with identified equity-related issues, such as large numbers of low-income households, minorities, or older adults), ensuring the transportation system is safe for all.

2) Accountability. Demonstrates success through transparent performance measures that will be tracked and publicly reported over time.

3) Data-driven analysis. Uses crash and other data to identify the locations of and factors contributing to severe traffic crashes and then prioritizes solutions.

Portland also relies heavily on data to guide project prioritization. The High Crash Network (HCN) is based on safety data gathered from the Oregon Department of Transportation. It identifies the location, behaviors, and circumstances related to serious and deadly crashes. Streets listed in the HCN represent 8 percent of streets in Portland, yet account for a disproportionate 57 percent of deadly crashes. The HCN includes the 30 streets and intersections that have the highest number of people killed or seriously injured in crashes among people driving, walking, and bicycling.

Focus Areas of Vision Zero Plan

In the Vision Zero Plan, Portland is focusing on several areas that will improve roadway safety: street design, driver impairment, speed, education and enforcement, and engagement and accountability.

Street Design

Top drawing of a road before vision zero redsign: anatomy of a dangerous street, with no street lighting, fast moving traffic, wide street, unprotected bike lanes and crossings, and long distance between signals. Bottom drawing shows after Vision Zero redesign: examples of street safety design elements, including speed safety cameras, complete sidewalks, more street lights, safer crosswalks, raised center median, shorter crossings at crosswalks, bufered bike lanes, and safer speed limits.

Source: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/54892.
This sketch identifies select attributes and is for illustrative purposes only.

Portland plans to:


Impairment is a factor in 56 percent of traffic deaths in Portland. To address this, the city:


Speed is a factor in nearly half (47 percent) of Portland's traffic deaths, and PBOT has been working with the Oregon Department of Transportation to explore innovative ways to reduce speed limits on city streets, such as:

Education and Enforcement

Community Engagement

Early Successes

Portland adopted its Vision Zero Action Plan in December 2016. From the start, public and political support for Vision Zero has been strong, and subsequently the Portland City Council recently voted to fund Vision Zero as an ongoing budget item.

1 Naderi, J.R. 2003. "Landscape Design in the Clear Zone: Effect of Landscape Variables on Pedestrian Health and Driver Safety." Transportation Research Record 1851:119–130. [ Return to note 1. ]

Page last modified on September 24, 2019
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