Two of Portland’s most vital bikeways are on the cusp of big changes.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation has projects in the queue that will reconfigure lanes on Northwest Broadway and Southeast Hawthorne. These are just two of the five projects PBOT plans to build in 2020 and 2021 as part of their Central City in Motion plan that began last year. Broadway will get bikeway additions and upgrades while Hawthorne (and its couplet Madison) will get a dedicated bus lane and bikeway updates between SE 12th and Grand. PBOT is also planning to repave Hawthorne from 24th to 50th. By linking with a sewer pipe repair project, PBOT is studying the potential of a new, safer cross-section for Hawthorne from 12th to 50th.
The implications of these changes could be huge. Here’s what you need to know…
On Broadway, PBOT plans to add a northbound bike lane between West Burnside and Hoyt and more space for cycling in the southbound direction between SW Oak and Hoyt. In a presentation to the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) January 14th, PBOT Project Manager Timur Ender laid out the details of the currently proposed design.
Ender said the $200,000 project includes: “paint and post” bike lanes in both directions, a roundabout south of Burnside, a right turn ban from Broadway to westbound Hoyt (sight of many right hooks), a beefed up crossing at SW Pine (near Mary’s Club), and rebuilt signals at Flanders and Glisan (to come in 2021 and 2022 as part of separate projects). To give the street a more “bicycle-centered approach” Ender said they’ll move the TriMet Line 17 bus off Broadway and onto the Transit Mall (SW 5th and 6th).
To get space for cycling, PBOT will prohibit on-street parking on the east (northbound) side of Broadway. Southbound, parking will only be allowed during off-peak hours and it will float in the street to protect the curbside bike lane.
“We’re trying to do something now. And we’re trying to do it with the resources we have.”
— Timur Ender, PBOT
Advocates have pushed for years for better bicycling on Broadway. Our first-ever parking-protected bike lane on Broadway near Portland State University was installed as a pilot project in 2009 — and has yet to be expanded. Despite being one of the busiest bikeways in the city and a gateway into downtown, most of Broadway’s bikeway is rife with substandard conditions — a door-zone bike lane and numerous right-hook hazards — and hasn’t changed much since the 1990s. BAC members hoping for a design that matches Broadway’s potential were unimpressed at PBOT’s plans. Ender acknowledged that the relatively small budget meant the project had to end at Oak (to connect with an existing bikeway, but leaving a 12-block gap to SW Clay) and that it allowed for only “paint and posts”, a reference to a lack of concrete features and use of those ubiquitous white posts that have become PBOT’s default “protection” for bike lanes.
Ender promised that once PBOT gets funding to upgrade the bikeway from Oak to Clay, they’ll go back to “harden” the design of this section. “We just want to repaint the street now while we work on a more permanent, longer-term solution,” he said. PBOT is in a holding pattern while they wait for the Metro Transportation Funding Measure vote. If that passes, it would fund the entire Central City in Motion plan to the tune of $80 million.
“This is egregious. This is our signature route and we should not have bikes sharing a roundabout with buses.”
— Iain MacKenzie, Bicycle Advisory Committee member
BAC member David Stein doubted the effectiveness of paint and plastic posts on a busy street like Broadway. Member Catie Gould asked whether PBOT could install a curb to add physical protection to the bike lane. PBOT Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller said no because curbs would quadruple the cost of the project.
Member Iain MacKenzie was animated in his disapproval. He feels if PBOT is doing it on-the-cheap, the project scope should be larger. “If we’re not doing it well, why aren’t we doing the entire length of Broadway? We should at least build a network and at the least have Broadway be something that’s not a door-zone bike lane.” As for a proposed painted roundabout south of Burnside (where the bikeway will be shared with the bus lane), MacKenzie said, “This is egregious. This is our signature route and we should not have bikes sharing a roundabout with buses… If there’s not room to do a roundabout that includes protected bike lanes then there isn’t room to do a roundabout,” he added.
Ender explained that another challenge is that if the project costs are over $200,000, PBOT cannot deliver it in-house. “We’re trying to do something now,” he said, “And we’re trying to do it with the resources we have.”
Ender defended the project, saying, “From our point of view this makes a lot of connections and I expect it to increase ridership.” He also made it clear he could either do this “quick-build” now or do nothing and work on a larger project to be delivered in the future. “Should we not do this and the project on the shelf?” he asked BAC members, “We could, in theory, do that.”
The answer from the BAC was essentially, “No. We need stuff on the ground now. We just want a promise that this will get improved in the near future.”
This project is expected to begin construction in fall of this year. See the conceptual design and learn more at the project website.
Also set to begin construction this fall are a host of updates to the all-important SE Hawthorne/Madison couplet.
SE Hawthorne eastbound from the viaduct to SE 12th will get a new cross-section that includes a curbside bike lane with a buffer zone adjacent to a bus-only lane. The road currently has three lanes where people can drive. PBOT will reduce that to two lanes to make room for an 11-foot wide bus-only lane that will morph into a parking lane during off-peak hours (between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am). The bike lane will be eight feet wide with a 2 foot buffer zone, but it will pinch down to five feet wide at the intersections. At the TriMet bus stop at SE 6th Avenue, PBOT’s current design calls for the bike lane to go up-and-over the bus loading zone (see graphic).
BAC members were very concerned about the reduced width of the bike lane at intersections — especially because PBOT has decided to retain all the on-street auto parking on the north side of the street. Member Clint Culpepper said, “With biking speeds of 18-19 mph going downhill, the bike lanes should be as wide as possible with limited pinch-points. I’m very concerned about right hooks.”
What’s interesting about this design is how PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s Rose Lane Project has been added to it. When the Central City in Motion projects were adopted by council in November 2018, the bus-focused Rose Lane Project wasn’t on anyone’s radar. The design for Hawthorne passed by council (right) included a parking-protected bike lane that didn’t narrow at intersections and that went behind a floating bus island at 6th. The new design includes the bus lane at the expense of bikeway quality, because PBOT says they don’t have authority from council to remove the parking lane on the north side of the street. (*UPDATE: PBOT has changed the design based on BAC member feedback. Scroll down for more information.)
BAC member MacKenzie wasn’t happy about that. “The reason this [bikeway] is being pinched is because of the choice to add in an extra lane of traffic beyond what council approved. As for the bus,” he continued, “I wholly support that, but that is a change to what council approved and I don’t think it should be coming at the expense of the bikeway. It should come at the expense of the parking on the other side of the street.” PBOT’s Ender said they will consider removing some parking west of 6th to create more room for the bikeway.
On Madison, the bus lane will start on 10th. Ender said the bike lane will be curbside starting at 12th and then there will be a bus/bike weave between 7th and 6th with a bike box at 6th. The bus will then have a curbside lane all the way to SE Grand. Learn more at the project website.
In addition to these changes, PBOT is in the early outreach stages of a repaint and repave of Hawthorne between 24th and 50th.
With a priority on safety, the current plan is to change the current profile of four lanes for drivers and two parking lanes to three lanes for driving — one in each direction and a center turn lane (Correction: This is just one possible scenario and not the “current plan”. Sorry for the error). With increasing demands for bus lanes and bikeways, there will be pressure on PBOT to do even more. Given Hawthorne’s importance in our road network, this is a golden opportunity to do something big and bold.
UPDATE, 2:25: “We are looking to improve safety and better serve businesses on Hawthorne,” PBOT’s Hannah Schafer said today. “We know how important Hawthorne is in our road network and we think this is an opportunity to do something big and bold.”
PBOT has scheduled six outreach events to discuss Hawthorne starting February 10th.
PBOT will share the latest designs, take feedback, and answer your questions on all five of their 2020-2021 Central City in Motion projects at two upcoming open houses:
Tuesday, February 18
4:00 to 6:00 pm
White Stag Building (70 NW Couch St)
Wednesday, February 26
5:00 to 7:00 pm
Revolution Hall – Astoria Room (1300 SE Stark St.)
UPDATE, 1/30 at 2:16 pm: In the two weeks since the BAC meeting, PBOT has responded to member concerns about SE Hawthorne and has changed the design. Below is an email from PBOT Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller explaining the changes and rationale:
“It was clear to us that adding a bus lane that comes at the expense of the bicycling environment is contrary to city policy. More specifically, the reason the CCIM plan showed [permanent] parking on the south side of the street was to: (a) protect the bike lane, (b) provide pedestrian refuges and reduce crossing distance, and (c) allow bikes to use this space to pivot for two-stage left. With the introduction of a bus lane, the east bound bike lane gets pinched at the intersections and prevents the ability for future protected intersections and two-stage lefts & pedestrian refuges.
As a result, PBOT is proposing to adjust the cross section to an 8-9’ bike lane, a permanent south-side parking lane, a full-time 24 hr bus and turn lane, 1 full-time general purpose lane, and a pro-time parking lane on the north curb (which would be a travel lane between 2-7 PM).”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.