PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Portland Bureau of Transportation says its working towards safety improvements to the city’s streets after the Portland Police Bureau reported a 70-year high in pedestrian deaths and more than 60 traffic-related deaths in 2022.

While officials emphasize the need for pedestrians to be mindful of their surroundings and to follow the rules of the road, PBOT spokesperson Dylan Rivera reminds drivers to also be aware of others on the road.

“Most pedestrian fatalities happen where the pedestrian is legally crossing at a crosswalk, so that indicates to us we need drivers to take responsibility,” Rivera said. “The best thing is to do is slow down and be mindful of other travelers on our streets.”

Rivera explained that PBOT is taking steps towards safer streets by adding more speed reductions in problem areas and is fighting for authority for the city to control speed limits, which Rivera said are under the Oregon Department of Transportation’s control.

This comes as out-going city commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, in October, called for street safety improvements — including control of Southeast Powell Boulevard to be transferred from ODOT to PBOT after a cyclist, Portland chef Sarah Pliner, was struck and killed by a semi on the road.

Rivera also pointed out “counterintuitive” trends during the pandemic which saw an increase in traffic deaths.

“In a recession, we normally see traffic deaths decline because there’s less travel. But in 2020, 2021, we saw a dramatic increase even though we had this sort of pandemic-related, economic hardship,” Rivera explained. “We’re up against these national factors that are driving up pedestrian fatalities and traffic fatalities across Oregon and across the nation.”

Rivera added “what we know is that if we make our streets safer through design, we reduce the severity of traffic crashes.”