Aarian Marshall is a transportation reporter at WIRED and former CityLab contributor. She lives in San Francisco.
Plastic silhouettes pay tribute to 135 Portlanders killed on the roads between 2004 and 2014.
Now, a ghostly white silhouette marks the spot where Dustin was hit. Finney-Dunn’s son is one of 135 traffic road victims memorialized in a week-long project by the Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets, of which Finney-Dunn is a member.
“Initially, I was just thinking [it would be good] if people could just see how often it was happening…if we could mark each site and make people see,” Finney-Dunn says.
The white, plastic cut-outs have been placed on sites where traffic has killed pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers on the 10 deadliest roads in Portland. Fifty-one percent of the city’s traffic deaths take place on just 3 percent of its roads, Finney-Dunn says.
Each marker—cut into the shape of a man, woman, or child—is only distinguishable by the victim’s date of death.
Volunteers built and erected the memorials for the World Day of Remembrance for Traffic Victims, which took place last Sunday, November 15. Response has been so positive, Finney-Dunn says, that her organization has decided to keep the memorials up for the week. The dozens of volunteers—mostly victims’ friends and family—did not ask permission to put up the memorials, but only four have been taken down by the Oregon Department of Transportation, on the grounds that they are a distraction to drivers.
Finney-Dunn hopes the project will make everyone who uses the roads more aware of their dangers. “[S]imple changes will make a huge difference,” she says. “It's simple to consciously look twice for other cars or people walking or biking. It's simple to not follow too closely. It's simple to not use your phone whether driving, walking, or biking. We asked people to drive like they want others to drive around their loved ones.”