Hawthorne Bridge performer poses safety quandary

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.

Looking east. The ramp on the right is for pedestrians.
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.

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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