The Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS) announced that they’ll propose a change to the City’s administrative rules that would require all garbage and recycling contractors to fill gaps in the sides of their trucks by 2022. The new mandate would apply to about 195 vehicles that currently don’t meet federal safety standards.
Commonly referred to as side guards, the goal is to close the gaps on the side of trucks between the front and rear axles where vulnerable road users often end up in collisions. US Department of Transportation research has found that nearly half of bicycle riders killed by large trucks first come in contact with its side. With side guards in place, people and their vehicles are pushed away from the truck’s undercarriage and wheels.
Portland first pushed for side guards in 2007 following the deaths of Tracey Sparling and Brett Jarolimek. But progress has been painfully slow. Our Vision Zero Action Plan, passed in 2016, lists the installation of side guards as one of its five-year actions. In February 2017, after yet another Portlander died in a right-hook collision with a truck operator, the Portland Bureau of Transportation said there was simply no funding for side guard installations.
But Portland Planning and Sustainability Commissioner Chris Smith never stopped pushing for them. Smith brought the issue to the table at every opportunity. The PSC advises Portland City Council on annual garbage and recycling rates, so Smith used that as a lever to keep the issue alive.
Last month BPS published a report on their Side Guard Pilot Project. The agency installed side guards on 18 garbage and recycling trucks and worked with 11 different contractors. Based on their findings, BPS Solid Waste and Recycling Program Coordinator Pete Chism-Winfield says they will propose that side guards be mandatory on all garbage and recycling trucks by January 2022.