Harvest Century September 22nd

Busy section of Hawthorne gets a wider bike lane

Posted by on October 21st, 2010 at 4:18 pm

New, wider bike lane on SE Hawthorne.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The bike lane on SE Hawthorne Blvd between SE Grand and 12th was widened to six feet as part of a recent repaving project by the Bureau of Transportation.

“The goal is to get to a post-modal approach where we’re looking at uses, context, and the best design on a particular street.”
— Catherine Ciarlo, Transportation Police Director for Mayor Adams

This stretch of Hawthorne is a bike thoroughfare (especially during the evening commute) with thousands of people riding it as they come off the Hawthorne Bridge headed to points east. The new width, along with a similar bike lane widening on N. Williams during a recent re-pave got me thinking: Are these wider lanes the result of a new PBOT policy to make all bike lanes a minimum of six-feet wide? Is this a direct result of the new design policy guidelines included in the 2030 Bike Plan?

To help with those questions, I called Mayor Adams’ Transportation Policy Director Catherine Ciarlo. Ciarlo called the widening, and how it came about, a “perfect example of what we’re trying to do as a city.”

“I think what you’re seeing is an opportunistic approach. We’re looking at places in the city where bike ridership is high and we can reasonably accommodate a wider bike lane without impeding freight and bus travel and without widening the road.”

Hawthorne bike lane -3

From SE 7th looking west.

Ciarlo said the wider lane reflects an understanding within the Bureau of Transportation that, when possible, they’d like people on bikes to be able to comfortably pass slower riders and in some cases ride side-by-side.

Hawthorne in the location is a high-volume arterial street with four travel lanes (three standard lanes and a bicycle-only lane) and two lanes for parking. Ciarlo says a six-foot bike lane was the appropriate facility to design in this context (remember, this was a repaving project, not a bikeway design project).

Ciarlo added that the policies adopted in the 2030 Bike Plan, while not binding law, are helping to push them in the direction of accommodating bikes “as a matter of course.”

“What you see is a real shift in the way the city sees modes… The goal is to get to a post-modal approach where we’re looking at uses, context, and the best design on a particular street.”

This wider bike lane marks an approach by the City to design high demand bikeways beyond the bare minimum. It also shows how, when given the chance, they are allocating more road space to bicycles.

“You take those opportunities and you run with them,” she said, “This thinking is woven into the fabric of the way the transportation bureau thinks.”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

30 Comments
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    dan October 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Love the wider bike lane there – good work PBOT!

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    Paul Cone October 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Now if they can just fix the problem with crossing Grand before you get to that new fancy lane — right now it’s so rutted because of the heavy (truck) traffic on Grand (aka 99E) that you have to be careful not to go too fast lest you lose control, or lose a piece of your bike.

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    Alex Reed October 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    I like it, I can ride to the outside of the lane and not be in the door zone!

    One difficulty: When buses let off passengers, they often encroach out into the bike lane. This is partly unavoidable, partly due to operator choice/error, and partly because the right-side parking lane seems to be narrower now.

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    BURR October 21, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    It’s still in the door zone and not really wide enough for one cyclist to pass another without moving left into the adjacent lane.

    8 to 10 feet wide would have been much better, and I don’t think the traffic volume on lower Hawthorne really requires three lanes for motor vehicles.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 21, 2010 at 4:49 pm

      BURR,

      I agree that this bike lane – both in width and in placement – isn’t ideal. But as I mentioned in the story, this was just a repaving project and I don’t think PBOT had the ability to go in and design their ideal bikeway. I know that Rob Burchfield and Roger Geller would much rather have something wider and more substantial…. but I think the neat thing is that instead of just putting the bikeway back as it was (which is usual protocal for repaving), PBOT was able to (relatively easily) widen the lane. Not perfect, but better than what was there before.

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    cyclist October 21, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Burr #4: The bike lane is 6 feet wide, you can easily ride in the left portion of the lane and not be in the door zone. Take a look at the picture above, it’s obvious that the rider in the photo isn’t in the door zone.

    Paul Cone #2: PBOT’s resurfacing Grand as part of the streetcar project, but that won’t happen until the tracks go in (for obvious reasons). It might not happen until next year, but it’s on the schedule.

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    Lady Fuschia October 21, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Cyclist #6: Burr #4: The bike lane is 6 feet wide, you can easily ride in the left portion of the lane and not be in the door zone. Take a look at the picture above, it’s obvious that the rider in the photo isn’t in the door zone.

    Yes, but. As PBOT states, slower riders will be expected to ride in the door zone so faster riders can pass without moving into the next lane…kind of like the attitude drivers have towards cyclists. If slower riders ride to the left of the lane, they will get passed on the right. How about keeping the lane 5 feet wide, by taking a foot away from the right side of the bike lane.

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    matt picio October 21, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    I like it. As BURR points out, it still has its flaws, but it’s far better than what we had. That said, I’m not riding in the door zone, no matter how fast people behind me want to go. I respect that other people have somewhere to be, but their convenience does not trump my safety. (and my convenience does not trump their safety)

    Someday, it’s entirely possible that gas will be expensive enough that we’ll have another lane or two on Hawthorne. The status quo isn’t necessarily always so.

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    cyclist October 21, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I’m with matt picio on this one. I don’t see a problem with passing people in the auto lane either (that’s how I do it now on Hawthorne, Williams, etc).

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    BURR October 21, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    What I’ve found is that there are fast cyclists who will pass in the parking lane on the right, west of SE 7th, because there aren’t usually a lot of cars parked on these two blocks.

    That’s a real hazard for me, since I usually turn off Hawthorne to the right at either SE 6th of SE 7th, and I can’t see them in my mirror or with a shoulder check to the left.

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    sabernar October 21, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    What do the commenters do when presented with a unexpectedly widened bike lane? They bitch and complain about how it’s not enough! Way to go! Thanks for not letting me down.

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    Charley October 21, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    I’d like to point out that they widened the lanes on North Denver (from Kenton down the hill to I-5 ramps). Those new lanes are awesome, considering that a good bit of the traffic there is trucks, and there’s a big hill in the southbound direction. The new lanes are something like 10 feet. They’re super comfy.

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    BURR October 21, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    @ #11: I’m not bitching about the fact that the lanes are wider, I’m bitching about PDOT’s fantasy that they are actually wide enough for two cyclists to ride side by side in now. Lower Hawthorne deserves better.

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    Steve B October 21, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Digging the extra width! But please, don’t pass me inside the bike lane.

    Here’s how to pass someone safely in this situation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXmwTghij5s

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    Zaphod October 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Never pass on the right. Ever.

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    wsbob October 22, 2010 at 1:10 am

    “… I don’t see a problem with passing people in the auto lane …” cyclist #9

    That would be the best way for faster cyclists to pass slower cyclists in even a bike lane as wide as this one. Question, is whether they’ll regularly do an adequate job of it; clearly signaling sufficiently in advance of the person to be passed before carefully transitioning into the main travel lane, and then signaling again before returning to the bike lane sufficiently ahead of the person on the bike they passed.

    This 6′ bike lane is wide enough that some fast cyclists…to avoid the signaling effort…are likely to ride the solid white line to pass a slower cyclist. That’ll probably work if the slower cyclist rides right down the center of the bike lane, but it’ll be close.

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    Mike Fish October 22, 2010 at 8:33 am

    wsbob – a quick observation of bicycle practices led me to conclude that most people don’t go through the signalling effort when passing someone in a different lane of traffic. I believe that’s legal if you need both hands to keep control of the bicycle, and when going fast a lot of people feel they need both hands on the bike to stay safe. I pass on the left in other traffic lanes all the time, and I only do the hand signal if when I look over my shoulder I see there’s uncoming traffic I might need to merge with.

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    middle of the road guy October 22, 2010 at 8:42 am

    @11…

    you beat me to it.

    Nothing is ever good enough for some people.

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    Elliot October 22, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I really do appreciate the improvement, but I’m not inclined to fawn over it.

    6 feet is the standard width for a bike lane in Oregon, set with the 1995 Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. Think about it… it’s taken us 15 years to bring one of our busiest, signature bicycling streets into accordance with a state standard. I’m sure Roger, et al, had to put some work in just to get it restriped this way, and I appreciate the effort it took. But this is an interesting case that speaks to just how “world-class” Portland we can expect to become without getting a new process in place to expedite bicycling improvements on a citywide scale.

    Ciarlo said […] they’d like people on bikes to be able to comfortably pass slower riders and in some cased ride side-by-side.”

    Really? I don’t consider 6 feet wide enough to safely ride two abreast. 7 feet, yes. At 6 feet, I’d expect to see it occassionally but wouldn’t want to endorse it. And passing someone in the same lane is a jerk move, it’s dangerous and, oh, yeah… illegal? If you want to pass someone, pass on the left and switch lanes first. Given these issues, that seems like a dubious statement by Ciarlo, at least in the context of this story where it seems to refer specifically to the Hawthorne bike lane. Jonathan, can you clarify?

    Lastly, +1 to #8, 10, 13 and 15.

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    Ethan October 22, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I was trying to pull out of a parking spot @Clever a few weeks ago and noticed that the car/bicycle waves arrive (because of the nice downslope) at that area will little gap. I finally got a good-sized window to pull out (I had been signaling for over a minute) and was greeted by outright hostility from the leading cyclists, who swerved out into the roadway (I was merging over a couple of lanes so that worked poorly). Gestures and swear words followed. They should have just slowed down in the bike lane, just like a car would do when faced with a someone (i.e. another human being) pulling out. Poor form wins no points.

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    deborah October 22, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Noticed this immediately when they were finished with the most recent Hawthorne repaving. Feels SO nice to have a bit more room to accommodate passing and/or being passed as well as the occasional opening of a car door! Seems like the extra width of the lane will also aide in better viability both for the bikes and cars that are accessing the arterial streets and businesses.

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    Dabby October 22, 2010 at 10:40 am

    When coming off of the Hawthorne here, I tend to slow down early, lollygag, and wait for the light cycle to change.

    This can put me at speed by the time I approach Grand.

    This also puts me (gladly) outside of the bike lane, and many times flying past many cyclists. (who sit a the bottom of the ramp waiting)
    It also gives me enough momentum to make the light at 12th at a good clip.

    I do think the widening of the bike lane here is very good. Every bike lane should be widened.

    But as far as dealing with congestion in this stretch, the real answer is to abandon the bike lane, unless you are going fairly slow.

    And legally, abandoning the bike lane would be allowed, as congestion in the bike lane, slower cyclists, you being faster cyclist, etc. could be considered a hazard as such.

    And since you have forseen a hazard in the bike lane, you may legally abandon it.

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    Dabby October 22, 2010 at 10:42 am

    “I believe that’s legal if you need both hands to keep control of the bicycle, and when going fast a lot of people feel they need both hands on the bike to stay safe.”

    I do not remember exact details on the case, but many years ago a cyclist in PDX won a signaling case by arguing that it was safer to keep your hands on the bars than to take them off and signal.

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    Jack October 22, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Its unfortunate to hear that more people are passing in the parking lane (on the right). I make a point of calling out anyone who ever does this to me and I hope other people do too. Its unexpected and therefore dangerous. I most often see it at intersections when I’m waiting for a red, there are cars to my left and another cyclist sees it as an opportunity to pass me.

    These are typically the same people who not only roll through stop signs (I think most of us do to some degree) but do so even when they don’t have right-of-way (how do they stay alive!)

    I think the cycling community needs to do more to discourage this behavior. When talking with people who are generally anti-cyclist, this always is the first reason they cite as the basis of their opinions. Its one thing to encounter a driver who’s behavior makes the roads unpleasant for cyclists, but to know there are cyclists out there who are doing more harm is just intolerable.

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    wsbob October 22, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    “wsbob – a quick observation of bicycle practices led me to conclude that most people don’t go through the signalling effort when passing someone in a different lane of traffic. I believe that’s legal if you need both hands to keep control of the bicycle, and when going fast a lot of people feel they need both hands on the bike to stay safe. I pass on the left in other traffic lanes all the time, and I only do the hand signal if when I look over my shoulder I see there’s uncoming traffic I might need to merge with.” Mike Fish #17

    Mike…bikes are vehicles. People operating bikes are legally required to signal when making lane changes. Someone cited for not signaling a turn while riding a bike on the road, might, under certain specific circumstances, be able to make a solid argument that they didn’t do so because taking their hands off the handlebars would have been unsafe, such as on a steep descending hill approaching a stop sign.

    Generally though, it should be possible for most people to figure out how to safely use hand signals to indicate turns while riding a bike. It might take some practice to learn how to do it, but it can definitely be done safely. On the bike I ride, it works best to put the free hand on the horns…(thumb and index finger around brake hoods, palm resting on the handle bar).

    Far too many people on the road aren’t adequately signaling their direction of travel. Adequately signaling direction of travel is one the best self defenses a cyclist can have for themselves.

    East bound off the Hawthorne Bridge onto Hawthorne up to about 16th, as Dabby notes, can be very fast traveling for strong cyclists…20mph-25mph, easy. If that type cyclist was hit by a 10mph-15mph am/pm bike traffic jam, I think they’d certainly be entitled to take the main lane, at least long enough to reach an unobstructed stretch in the bike lane.

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    Todd Boulanger October 22, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    I loved it too while helping escort Railvolution guest riders. Though I really do not know why PBoT did not road diet the section of Hawthorne by Clever Cycles / Lucky Lab – with either bike lanes along each curb (helps buffer dtivers exiting parked cars) or a buffered bikelane. There never seems to be congestion there given this section is a couplet.

    And I also liked the wider bike lane on north Denver by Smeer RD. (Though the bike lane still needs a lift of asphalt and pothole fixin’. )

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    BURR October 22, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    There never seems to be congestion there given this section is a couplet

    Eastbound lower Hawthorne is almost always under capacity and there is absolutely no demonstrated need for three motor vehicle lanes. There are only two motor vehicle lanes on the Madison half of the couplet and it flows just fine. PBOT has removed lanes from under capacity roads in a number of other places, so why not here???

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    cyclist October 23, 2010 at 2:25 am

    BURR #27: The left lane on Hawthorne is not a through lane, it ends at 12th because it would otherwise run into oncoming traffic where Hawthorne is a two-way street. If you take the right lane away headed eastbound it becomes a defacto one lane street (one through lane, one forced left turn). Madison (westbound) is two through lanes the whole way to the bridge.

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    BURR October 23, 2010 at 10:29 am

    It’s still one motor vehicle lane more than necessary for those seven blocks.

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    spare_wheel October 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    i can’t think of a better place for a buffered bike lane.

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