The curb extension installed at Spring and High streets is apparently causing confusion, and has left some fed up with the city’s efforts to calm traffic. We urge Portland residents to keep an open mind.

Traffic-calming and “complete streets” projects are not simply aesthetic endeavors. The Federal Highway Administration and other leading agencies and institutions have produced a compelling body of research that indicates that curb extensions, among other traffic-calming tools, can significantly improve pedestrian safety.

Properly implemented, they have been shown to reduce pedestrian crossing times, increase pedestrian visibility and, most critically, to significantly reduce motor vehicle speeds. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 40 mph is 3½ to 5½ times more likely to die than a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph.

For every problematic curb extension, there are scores of them successfully installed throughout the city to which we have grown accustomed. There is not a single block on Congress Street between Monument Square and State Street that does not have a curb extension.

Congress Street, voted one of the 10 greatest streets in America by the American Planning Association in 2014, likely has as much, if not more, pedestrian traffic than motor vehicle traffic. Any reasonable person can agree that no small part of the success of Congress Street is attributable to the fact that it is a pleasant, comfortable and palpably safer place to walk than many of Portland’s other major streets.

As for the contentious curb extension at Spring and High, design is often an iterative process; the finishing touches and thoughtful alterations will ameliorate the concerns that have been raised. Revisiting one project shortly after its construction is a small price to pay toward saving the lives of pedestrians and creating vibrant thoroughfares in the long run.

Thomas Nosal

secretary, Portland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee