Stop Chicken Little: The Truth about Traffic Calming  in Portland, Maine



 Stevens Avenue

Stevens Summary



Public Concern

Air Quality

Curbs, Medians, Tables

Pedestrian Accidents

Vehicle Accidents



Muskie Institute

Legal Aspects


MDOT data

SAP Lies


Opponent Petition

ATC Brochure

 Kane letters

Deering Oaks

Brighton Avenue

Capisic  Street


Stop Signs


             Stevens Avenue Project :
             Speeding and  Pedestrian

"The common thread with accidents seems to be the turning, therefore, slowing driver OR the stopping driver (usually to turn; in a few cases, stopping for pedestrians)." : Paula Craighead

            Where to start is the big problem. For simplicity's sake, let's say that the supporters lied. They did. 

            Supposedly, speeding was causing a lot of accidents and pedestrians accidents on Stevens Avenue. “This is why the SAP was started, and needed”. 

           This is false: What got the whole project started was the statement: “The common thread with accidents seems to be the turning, therefore, slowing driver OR the stopping driver (usually to turn; in a few cases, stopping for pedestrians).”; this in a letter from Paula Craighead, the initiator of the SAP, in a letter to George Flaherty, head of Portland DPW, on Feb. 6, 1992,  published in the 1994 PACTS Phase I Report Technical Supplement, page 2.

            About a year later, speeding was somehow the alleged cause, but how that radical change came about has never been explained by the city. Something had to be changed to make sure the project made sense to the public somehow, and then got funded. 

Speeding sounds good ....and dangerous.

            Just 2 ½ % of all the vehicle accidents presented for the years 1988-1993 were caused by “excessive” speed. This is 2 accidents out of 62, as determined by the city, and 7 accidents out of 275 (still 2 ½%) for the years 1993-1997. One of those involved an ambulance, so its "usefulness" to support this project is sketchy.

            The other 97.5% of accidents involved driver inattention mostly, failure to yield, and turning incidents. BUT, those don't sound as dangerous and sexy as speeding, so supporters ignored those.


            Five pedestrian accidents (average one per year) were presented as “speeding” evidence. Four of those took place at under 5 MPH; the fifth took place at under 20 MPH. This is not speeding. This alleged  “speeding problem” doesn’t get mentioned anymore.

             None of what the City presented as "evidence" supported an "accident problem". 
            None of them took place at Longfellow school and none involved speeding:

           Pedestrian accidents: from 1993 PACTS Phase I Report Technical Supplement
                                                                  Click on page for enlarged version

12/18/87 2/8/90 12/20/91 10/6/89 2/24/90

12/18/87  : At 740am a car turned right onto New St., and brushed a pedestrian. It stopped,
                  asked for injuries, and hearing of none, continued on.

02/08/90  : At 315pm a crossing guard (age 66) was struck at the intersection of Woodfords
                  and Stevens. No injuries.

12/20/91:  At 540pm in the dark a car turning right onto Ludlow St. struck a pedestrian
                  dressed in black at a lower grade and hidden by a snow bank.  Pedestrian wound
                  up on hood, but with no injuries.

10/06/89:   At 306pm an 8-year-old boy ran across Stevens in front of Deering HS to avoid a
                   bully that was chasing him. He was struck, thrown onto the hood, and thence to the
                   ground, suffering scrapes and bruises. Driver was going 15-20 mph.

02/04/90:    At 429pm on a very slippery snowy day, a policeman was struck while attending to
                   an accident across from Video Jam in Deering Cemter. A woman stepped on her
                   brakes coming up to the first accident, and slid into Officer Coons, brushing him,
 and pushing the second car into the first car. Total damage to all three cars was
                   $200.00 .



   PLEASE NOTICE:  This is the officially presented "evidence" of a speeding problem in
            the 1993 Phase I Report, and maintained for the 1998 Final Monitoring Report.


            These accidents all took place early or late in the day, and all but one took place at slow speeds on slippery roads. The little boy ran into the road. Traffic calming does not prevent any of this .   

             I took my son to Longfellow every school day morning  for 5 years, and picked him up every afternoon, so I think I have some idea of what the situation was.           

            Vehicles were supposedly speeding in front of Longfellow School, doing an average of 28 MPH, while children were going to and from the school.

             No, they weren’t . What the PACTS Phase 1 Report said was that cars were doing an average of 28 MPH in the Longfellow School zone. That includes both ends of the zone....


            There was also a bit of hoopla about speeding at the time too: some disinformation:
Supposedly there were cars doing 55MPH on Stevens, threatening children on their way to school!  This had to be researched, and the critics were right! - to an extent.

             Way back in the supplement to the Phase I Report, a whole separate volume, there was a record of a vehicle doing 55 on Stevens.  At 2:30 AM.
              School at the time started at 9 AM, so it seems a bit unlikely that parents were sending their kids to school at 2:30 in the morning to hang out in the dark for 6-1/2 hours.
Sounds bad though doesn't it?

              The next question I had was one of wondering who would be going that fast at that time of night? Police? Ambulances?  And why not? Does anybody want a slow emergency response?




            VEHICLE ACCIDENTS 1998 


              MDOT ACCIDENT DATA