“Slow the Flock Down” read signs all across town.
That’s an official warning from the Portland Bureau of Transportation, which is hoping to reduce traffic fatalities. The city is also “redesigning streets, lowering speed limits, expanding its speed safety camera program, and educating drivers,” says Hannah Schafer, who’s now interim director of communications for PBOT.
I asked Schafer about the notable signs.
Portland has put a bird on their effort to slow cars down. (Courtesy PBOT)
What made the city think these are the signs that could get people to slow down?
“1) Its catchy, tongue-in-cheek style is an attention grabber, 2) It has a very clear and focused message, and 3) [The Seattle Department of Transportation, which brought Portland the idea] had tested the message and found that it resonated with a wide range of participants, but particularly younger men. [And according to federal data from 2020,] 16- to 29-year-old males had the highest traffic fatality rate of any demographic group.”
Is there any evidence that the signs are working?
“It’s really hard to draw a direct correlation between a traffic PSA and how it impacts people’s travel behavior. We have seen a high level of interest and appreciation for this campaign and that tells us it is resonating with Portlanders. This is just one piece of the larger education and engineering work PBOT is doing.”
Why should people slow (the flock) down in Portland?
“At the end of the day, it comes down to basic physics. By slowing down you are reducing the risk of hurting yourself and others on the road. Nationally, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, speeding is involved in about 30% of all traffic deaths. In Portland, it’s closer to 50%.”