Hawthorne Bridge performer poses safety quandary

Posted by on June 5th, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Street performer on Hawthorne-3.jpg

A women in a car struggles to see
oncoming traffic around performer Kirk Reeves.
(Photos © J. Maus)

A street performer who plays trumpet and works the evening rush-hour commute crowd on the Hawthorne Bridge has drawn attention for something other than his talents.

In a white suit, shoes, and cap, the man performs gags and tricks and bellows tunes on his trumpet while seated on a median island positioned between SW Madison Street and an onramp to the bridge from Naito Parkway (map of location).

While many people smile, slap high fives, and give him tips, his location has raised safety concerns. After receiving several emails and noticing a thread on the Portland Bike Forums about it, I decided to take a closer look at the situation.

Street performer on Hawthorne-1.jpg

Looking east. The ramp on the right is for pedestrians.
Street performer on Hawthorne-7.jpg

Looking west.

At issue is how the performer — whose name is Kirk Reeves — sets up directly in the line of sight for people in cars attempting to pull onto the bridge after stopping at a stop sign. As you can see from the photos, people in cars have a lot to worry about at that location.

They have to not only watch for a gap in the motor vehicle traffic before merging onto the bridge, but they must also be aware of pedestrians in a crosswalk just before the stop sign, and a steady stream of people on bikes that roll onto the bridge path just a few feet past the stop sign.

When I shared with Reeves that some folks are worried about visibility because of where he sits (it was difficult to have a conversation as he was performing as we spoke) he didn’t seem to think there was a problem (either that or he just didn’t stop performing long enough to hear what I was saying). “Most people just smile,” he said.

Street performer on Hawthorne-6.jpg

Reeves also produces a TV show
on a local cable access channel.

In a post to the Portland Bike Forums, a user named “brock” posed the question:

“What’s up with the guy who sits on the west end of the Hawthorne bridge every afternoon?… The one who sits exactly in the line of sight of vehicles merging onto the bridge, forcing them to inch forward into the path of all of the cyclists trying to get on the path? Pretty dangerous if you ask me.”

Another member of the forums addressed the quandary of the situation:

“I can’t really blame the guy for being where he is — it’s the place most likely to get some cash from motorists. I’d love to see him move but I can’t bring myself to ask him to.”

A friend of mine who regularly drives her car through that intersection says:

“I always stop behind the stop sign but with the performer there it’s impossible to see anything… I’m always paranoid of hitting someone and therefore wait a really long time until I’m certain no one is coming…”

And yet another perspective is that the daily smile Reeves brings is worth the potential dangers. A forum poster named, “beelnite” wrote that “He’s become part of the intersection” and that, “We can slow down and enjoy it!”.

Do you drive, walk, or ride a bike through this intersection? What has been your experience?

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Dabby
Guest
Dabby

I am amazed that he has been allowed to stay at this location for so long myself.

I think it is time that he finds a new one.

Plenty of good available corners in town.

Blake
Guest
Blake

I drive and ride through that intersection most everyday and it\’s come to be that I totally expect to see kirk their. I understand the safety concern with that being a horrible intersection in the first place but by having such a noticeable landmark ( proformer ) their everyone seems to pay attention to their surroundings a little bit more which by I mean pay attention I mean slowing down. I agree with the phrase he\’s part of the intersection. Prime location & just another way were keeping portland weird. Thats my 2 cents

a.O
Guest
a.O

Mark it down: I agree with Dabby!

As I said in the forums, he is right in the line of sight of merging motorists who look to their left to see what\’s coming in the bike lane. Bad news. Great guy.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

Agree with Dabby. It was cool for a while, but he\’s been there foreeeeeeeeeever. Time to move on.

And crossing there IS made a bit trickier by his presence. Cars have to move further up and get really close to where bikes have to get onto the sidewalk.

Bridger
Guest

I understand the safety concerns here, but you\’d have to be pretty uptight to give this guy a hard time. There must be thousands of Portland locations where bushes or buildings make merging difficult and cause drivers to inch out into the interesection. What\’s so special about this case.

The Taco Bell drive-through exit on W. Burside and NW 21st is a serious hazard to all that use that intersection — far worse, I would argue, than the trumpet guy. There, exiting vehicles routinly stop accross the sidewalk. Moreover Taco Bell won\’t serve customers without a vehicle at the drive-though. What the car-free demographic in the neightborhood gets from Taco Bell them is danger and hassle but no Tacos!

(I didn\’t want taco anyway.)

Chris Leonardo
Guest

I ride across the bridge all the time and haven\’t once felt like it was a problem.

Specner
Guest
Specner

All the discussion will be a moot point once the first injury or fatality occurs.

BURR
Guest
BURR

when and if he leaves some less entertaining dirty homeless person will start begging there; I say let him be, his presence forces the motorists to be extra careful.

drew
Guest
drew

I thoroughly enjoy his presence there when I pass by. I hope he stays right where he is. If anything it forces people to slow down and be more careful.

The solution, if you ask me, is to simply close the on-ramp entirely and make cars go around the block to go eastbound on the bridge. I\’m only being half-facetious. It\’s a dangerous merge with or without Kirk.

jeff
Guest
jeff

\”If anything it forces people to slow down and be more careful.\”

I disagree, I think he serves as a distraction to cars and bikes at an already dangerous intersection, not to mention blocking the view for motorists merging onto the bridge and cyclist merging onto the bridge walkway.

I like the guy, good fun, but I wish he\’d pick another spot.

Tbird
Guest
Tbird

just ban all cars on the Hawthorne…problem solved

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

I\’ve driven past him (in a car) many times (as well as on bike) and you have to ease out to thoroughly check for cars/pedestrians whether he is there or not. He also tends to be there during very busy times where slowly easing out without double and triple checking traffic (cars, bikes, peds) would result in a crash anyway. I hardly think he\’s a problem and I\’d hate to think that people would suggest he\’d move. He isn\’t covering the whole intersection and he\’s a cool Portland character. Everyone needs to use extra caution (cyclists and drivers) on any bridge on/off ramp anyway so spend an extra two seconds to allow this guy to keep doing what he\’s doing. I think he\’s cool.

toddistic
Guest
toddistic

keep portland weird!

patrik
Guest
patrik

Maybe he can take up camp on the parade route.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I don\’t drive or ride that route, so I don\’t have to deal with the possible visibility issue he represents. I have listened to him and talked with him. He\’s not my favorite performer by a long shot, but I respect that he\’s trying to make an honest buck in a creative way.

I don\’t know what to think about this situation. He probably shouldn\’t be there, but again, he\’s trying to make a living. He\’s got to be pretty desperate to expose himself to those conditions.

He\’s played in other locations too; Powell\’s West Burnside, Salmon Springs at the Waterfront, and others probably.

I can imagine the pressure will build against him, and he\’ll eventually have to scat. Sooner or later, citizens will complain enough so that some bureaucrat or cop will get the job of coming out to roust him. Then everyone will once again have an unobstructed view of all the ugly gray concrete and cars.

Martha R
Guest
Martha R

I\’ve been riding by there every day for years now. Cars have always crept forward into the bike route, though I have been wondering to myself whether they\’re creeping further into the bike route because of the trumpet dude or whether it just seems like they\’re creeping more…I haven\’t really decided.

However, I do hate that little part of my commute because those drivers are so antsy. I wish that that intersection were better designed. Then again, I also wish that Mr. Reeves was a better musician (you\’d think that all those months of blowing his horn would have paid off by now). I wouldn\’t mind him obstructing drivers\’ sightlines if he produced good music.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

while he does hinder my view a little bit, I love the guy. I say we be thankful that we have people that will sit out there with a smile on his face and wave at just about every person that goes by.

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

I\’ve driven past him (in a car) many times (as well as on bike) and you have to ease out to thoroughly check for cars/pedestrians whether he is there or not. He also tends to be there during very busy times where slowly easing out without double and triple checking traffic (cars, bikes, peds) would result in a crash anyway. He isn\’t covering the whole intersection and he\’s a cool Portland character. Quite frankly there are a few areas by my house where I have to watch carefully in order to not get run down by a cyclist but I just make sure to double check (bottom of SW Jefferson where cyclists ride extremely fast to put it mildly or the corner of SW 14th and Clay where NO ONE bothers to stop and so on). Safety is important but so is diversity and creativity. I think it\’s important that everything not become about cyclists–what a way to turn people off–but about compromise when possible. There are so many dangerous areas in Portland for peds and cyclists and maybe we could tackle some of them, not just zero in on a street performer that many people love.

BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com
Guest

The man is doing PDX a GREAT public service. He\’s making EVERYBODY pay ATTENTION, instead of rolling COMPLACENT.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

ah yes, yet another scapegoat for inattention and potential danger while riding a bicycle…blame the street performer who\’s not even asking people for money…by his own admission, he\’s just there to make people smile on a daily basis, rain or shine.

when\’s the last time anyone here took the time to do that?

tao
Guest
tao

I knew you are working on this.

I consider him being there has the traffic calming effect. As others mentioned, I notice that the cars slow down a bit.

It would be nice to get some perspectives from the motorists. Some of us thought he is blocking the view. Is he really the problem? Is he conviently blamed because of bad engineering by simply being there? Or both?

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

he\’s no visual impediment whatsoever..I ride and drive that route all the time..merging onto the bridge has always been an issue with the angle of the onramp…

less bitching. more riding.

a.O
Guest
a.O

This isn\’t about whether you like the guy, respect him, or enjoy his performances. It\’s about safety. He can to the same schtick 10 feet in virtually any direction and the problem is solved. How can you be so callous about the fact that he\’s creating a risk that could get someone hurt?

And for those of you who don\’t ride there, or have never even been to Portland, etc., he isn\’t causing people to be more safe. He\’s causing drivers to block the bike lane and to pull out assuming nothing is coming (because they can\’t see through him).

Please get some perspective on what\’s important in life.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

BikeBillboards,

Don\’t you live in Texas or something?

He is, and has been, in the way. Sad but true.

Doing a great public service would be to place yourself in a position that does not hinder views.

Hillsons
Guest
Hillsons

Now way, let him stay.

SyntaxPolice
Guest

I\’ve been going through this intersection on bike every day for a few years. They used to have a flagger at this intersection, which was very helpful, and the paper did an article about how difficult a job that is.

I actually wondered whether he was there with permission from the city once they decided to stop paying for the flagger.

In my experience, with no flagger and no Kirk, cars often don\’t stop there. They roll through without looking for bikes, and you could _never_ tell if they noticed you. I\’d guess that since it\’s an on-ramp-like entrance, people feel like it\’s a yield sign and not a stop sign.

I think Kirk does actually force people to stop and creep forward and look. My unscientific experience report is that the cars stop more often with him there, but I admit that other people\’s experience might be different.

peace,

isaac

Mike M
Guest
Mike M

I like the guy. I tend to avoid the dangerous intersection altogether by going into waterfront park and taking the ramp up to the bridge. It\’s only a couple hundred feet out of the way, and you don\’t have to avoid cars or stop at stop signs. Plus it\’s safer!

BikingViking
Guest
BikingViking

I\’ve found drivers who merge onto the Hawthorne bridge to be amazingly considerate. Granted, a few of them pull further forward to see around Kirk then I would like, which forces me to slow a little to access the ramp.

Still, I would hate to think of the city backlash if we cyclists force Kirk off of his perch. In my (uninformed) opinion his presence is a minimal hazard at best. Let\’s let him stay.

Steve Pappert
Guest
Steve Pappert

bridger I know damb well you eat those tacos

Moo
Guest
Moo

I think with or without him there, that intersection will always be unsafe. I think that the position of the sidewalk bike/ped ramp has a lot to do with the problem. Bikes and peds. are steered hard to the right towards the very edge of the vehicle stop line while crossing the intersection, and if a motorist even moves forward three inches, they\’ll be encroaching into the bike lane.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

\”He can to the same schtick 10 feet in virtually any direction and the problem is solved.\” a.O.

Are you serious? Look at the pictures; it wouldn\’t be intelligent or safer for him to move 10\’ to the right, left, or forward, from the place the pictures show him to be located. Maybe he could move to the east beyond the sign, but it\’s not clear from the pictures that such a location would be better.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Live and let live.
Life is dangerous! Kirk is not responsible for your safety. ..Nor is the city. You, and you alone, are. Adjust your ride accordingly.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

a.o…yes, perspective is called for.. by you.
you have to pull out past him to see oncoming traffic anyway. life, driving, and traveling are not risk free..should we also forcefully remove all panhandlers from every onramp and how \’bout the homeless kids on Hawthorne…I mean they really are blocking my view…

what we need are a few less contingency fee lawyers and more personal accountability..

Spanky
Guest
Spanky

I drive by him on the approach and also use the ramp very frequently and he is just not an issue. It is important to note that it is not a merge. There\’s a stop sign there. and a crosswalk and a bike lane. So there are a ton of cues to motorists to be very watchful. The timing of the ligh for the approach is such that there are significant breaks in traffic. And he does not block the line of sight that badly. All that said, even my six year old is tired of seeing him there. But I sympathisize with the guy and do not begrudge him taking the option to perform and earn. He has been in place a long time and anyone using that bridge on any kind of regular basis expects him to be there and takes account of his presence. And I agree that were it not him, it\’d be someone else, in all likelihood. Although I wonder if the city would tolerate anyone else there other than him.

Mike
Guest
Mike

I, too, drive or ride the bridge every working day, and he has never been in my line of sight such that I can not see bikes or cars approaching.
People here seem to be mostly upset about the inconvenience of slowing down for that crossing. I have never seen nor heard of a cyclist being hit there, but rather, the vehicle being hit by a cyclist.
Slow down a little for the crossing and it\’s no big deal.

true
Guest
true

I haven\’t noticed a difference in car-inching-up behavior whether he\’s there or not.

RyNO Dan
Guest
RyNO Dan

I have definitely noticed the safety
issue since the day the guy started camping there.
It\’s a hazard. It is obviously very difficult for the
motorized drivers to safely see around
the guy. And he doesn\’t listen, as J
found out. The situation is much more
dangerous with him there than whatever
benefit is derived. IMO that is a bad
spot for his performance. Is it legal ?

snapper
Guest
snapper

My vote goes towards leaving Kirk alone! He RULES! I bike by him every work-day and haven\’t had one problem.

Vance
Guest

What if I wanted to set up a bike-stand there, and sell tune-ups? Would that make a difference in some folks\’ appraisal of the sitch? In spirit, how can you not enjoy the guy being there? In reality, how can you justify singling him out for benefits that others like him won\’t get? Add to this that there is a noticeable change in the traffic dynamic when he is there, and I don\’t think it\’s all that kool.

Alas, Portland has a history of making first amendment cases out of this sort of thing. Artistic expression and what-not. Tough call. It\’d be just like this fella\’s luck to discover that that\’s technically within the Port Authority\’s jurisdiction, and find himself arm-wrestling the Homeland Security Junta. Mole-hills and mountains, and the American tax-payer. Sheesh.

BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com
Guest

Dave
June 5th, 2008 15:04
31

Live and let live.
Life is dangerous! Kirk is not responsible for your safety. ..Nor is the city. You, and you alone, are. Adjust your ride accordingly.

Oh, fo\’ shure. Complaining about this guy causing a safety issue is like motorists complaining about bikes in the road causing a safety issue.

If you want the solution to all the safety PROBLEMS on the roadway, look in the mirror FIRST.

Garin
Guest
Garin

Oh god get over yourselves Portland , lets be real . I ride by the guy all the time I juist use extra caution . If you have a problem with it go drink a freeking pbr and wear socks with your Birkenstocks Quit your whining. Just use some extra caution when passing him.

Adam C
Guest
Adam C

I\’ve bike through the intersection almost every day for about two and a half years. Kirk causes people to be a little more cautious there and I\’ve had problems considerably less frequently since Kirk has been there.

Sarah Bott
Guest
Sarah Bott

I absolutely positively agree that this fellow\’s position is a hazard for all traffic – cars, bikes, walking.

As a driver, it\’s hard to ease onto the bridge anyway, with traffic, and his position blocks a critical view.

As a cyclist, I am never sure if the drivers are looking at him or me (or talking on their cell phone).

I am extremely glad this issue is being discussed.

For those who don\’t think it\’s a hazard while biking, I think that\’s not necessarily reflective of the motorist on the other side of you. They simply may not see you and hit you.

shoemaker
Guest
shoemaker

One the one hand, Kirk is the poster child for distracting a driver: horn, mouse ears, twirly things, etc., if he was *in* your car, you\’d probably be dead by now. Sadly unable to read or reply to this story.

It would be interesting to check the collision rate for that intersection. I always think I would explode as a driver waiting there for all the cars, then bikes, then another bike, a pedestrian, more cars and then there\’s this guy with the mouse ears..but the people who posted about their experience driving that intersection seem chill with the guy.

He\’s not the size of an SUV, so he can\’t block the line of sight so much. If he\’s keeping the drivers paying attention to what\’s going on *outside* the car, he\’s doing the bikes and peds a big service.

chris
Guest
chris

(snarkon)
Just put another stop sign at the intersection so everyone gets a chance to stop and donate to Mr. Reeves performances.
(snarkoff)

Specner
Guest
Specner

1. Kirk\’s job is to distract the driver and passenger of the cars waiting at the stop sign. If it wasn\’t, he would not get any money sitting there.

2. Kirk has positioned himself within reach of the drivers side window as a car is stopped at the stop sign.

3. The sight of a driver inching out and leaning over the steering wheel is very common, indicating that they are having to look around Kirk to see the on-coming traffic and cyclists.

4. Kirk is sitting on a fold up stool, actually increasing his profile and further impairing the line of sight, especially from a car. Those of you driving who say there is not a line of sight issue, must be driving a truck, SUV or Hummer.

Kirk is a good guy and brings joy to people. There are just more appropriate places for him to do it. Should I be allowed to bring in an ice cream chest or hot dog wagon complete with a big umbrella and set up in the same spot? No, but where do you draw that line? Should he bear financial responsibility if an accident results that he contibutes too?

Ariana
Guest
Ariana

I drive and bike over the Hawthorne bridge regularly , I have to say that I have never felt his presence to be a safety issue. If anything he makes people smile and inspires us all to be a little more courteous, thus making it safer.

If you want to complain about something causing safety issues, how about the current construction of the utterly pointless and redundant light rail. It makes downtown far more dangerous for bikes than a performer who is situated on the sidewalk trying to brighten our day.

Paul Cone
Guest
Paul Cone

I\’m pretty sure the flagger was part of the Naito Blvd redo… he went away when that project ended.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Ariana,

Sadly there is nothing that came be done about the atrocious and redundant light rail fiasco. It is already going forward.

We can do something about where Kirk is allowed to perform though.

Keeping Portland Weird, as it is way too often put, should not be done within the line of sight that keeps Portlander\’s safe.

Jon
Guest
Jon

I agree with BURR (8) – better than depressing homeless cardboard guy.

And, I agree with drew (9) and close the Hawthorne on ramp entirely. While we\’re at it close the off ramp on the East end going down to Milwaukie too. That would totally solve all the problems!!!

Spanky (34) makes an excellent argument against Kirk, \”even my six year old is tired of seeing him there.\”

To me kirk is not the least bit entertaining, but I\’m a curmudgeon. So boo hoo.

I think the Political supporters (really sad and ridiculous) who show up the few days before an election and stand at various places on the bridge Right in the line of bike/ped traffic Are the most dangerous and useless things on the bridges. Idiots like that should be pushed into the Willamette or BANNED!