“With just cones and a touch of paint, we can quickly and cheaply build a much safer, healthier, and happier Hawthorne,” reads the text of a website at HealthierHawthorne.com that just launched yesterday.
“If enough people ask for it, it’s very likely that the project will get done… I’m extremely optimistic we can make this happen!”
— Zach Katz, Healthier Hawthorne
Portlander Zach Katz started a grassroots campaign on Facebook back in February to build what he called the “Hawthorne Promenade”. It was his response to the Portland Bureau of Transportation “Paint and Pave” project. As we covered in January, PBOT was set to launch the outreach process to redesign Hawthorne’s bustling commercial corridor between SE 24th and 50th. One of the initial ideas on the table was to change the cross-section from four standard lanes to three lanes and a center turn lane.
PBOT was coy about the project, as they often are before they’ve had the requisite open houses and committee meetings. Given Hawthorne’s prominence and planning history, the agency isn’t eager to bump the hornet’s nest prematurely. Even so, a PBOT spokesperson told us back in January, “We know how important Hawthorne is in our road network and we think this is an opportunity to do something big and bold.” And open house materials shared in March offered even more teasing words, “After the repave we will have a new, blank pavement surface. A repaving project cannot do everything, but it provides an opportunity to consider changes to improve safety, comfort, and function for people and businesses.”
Katz, an entrepreneur famous for being that, “23-Year-Old Dude in Portland Making a Living Selling Framed Tweets,” saw an opportunity. “Hawthorne deserves so much better,” he wrote on Hawthorne Promenade Facebook page on February 29th. “We’re going to design plans to make Hawthorne (from SE 32nd to Cesar Chavez) a beautiful, car-free promenade with bus-only lanes.” Katz found lots of local support for the idea, enlisted an illustrator to design some mock-ups, and was building the proposal.
Then the pandemic hit and Katz — along with the 80 or so members of the Facebook group — decided to pivot.
“While the Hawthorne Promenade will still happen someday, suddenly, now doesn’t seem like quite the right time to focus on it,” wrote Katz earlier this week. The new plan? A temporary, parking-protected, curbside bike lane built with traffic cones and paint that would extend from the Hawthorne Bridge viaduct to SE 50th.
Katz and his supporters have been posting feverishly online about the idea all week. It’s classic open-source activism in the Facebook age. When I started this story an hour ago the effort was known as “Better Hawthorne”. The name has now changed to “Healthier Hawthorne”.
The group is now seeking business owner feedback and support and encouraging everyone who likes the idea to email Mayor Ted Wheeler, PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and PBOT Director Chris Warner.
Katz, who moved to Portland from New York City in January of this year, is extremely confident. “If enough people ask for it, it’s very likely that the project will get done… I’m extremely optimistic we can make this happen!” he wrote on the Facebook page.
The idea of bike lanes on Hawthorne has been debated for years. The 1997 Hawthorne Blvd Transportation Plan considered bike lanes, but the advisory committee ultimately decided against them, citing concerns about loss of auto parking, potential for transit delay, and diversion of drivers onto neighborhood streets.
PBOT’s Hawthorne Paint and Pave project was on the agenda of the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association meeting last month. MTNA Board Member John Laursen used the occasion to write a 1,400 word essay explaining why he’s opposed to any major changes to Hawthorne and already skeptical of PBOT’s motives. Laursen, it should be noted, was also on the citizen’s advisory committee for that 1997 Hawthorne Blvd plan.
“The representatives from the bicycle and pedestrian organizations [on the 1997 plan’s CAC] openly stated their desire to use the Hawthorne Transportation Plan for social engineering,” Laursen wrote, “their intent was to remove automobile traffic lanes from Hawthorne in order to make it so unpleasant for drivers that it would force people out of their cars.” Here’s more from Laursen’s editorial:
“… The current effort is not about increasing safety. It’s about social engineering, trying to force people out of their cars, and using a stick instead of a carrot, which rarely turns out well. And here’s the kicker. By flying this scheme [the Paint and Pave project] under the radar with such negligible public participation, PBOT is expecting to make the change before the public has had a chance to understand the implications of what is being done, and to ask for a more thoughtful approach. Once PBOT has accomplished this, and regardless of whether there’s a public outcry from citizens who find themselves negatively affected, there will be no going back… Will that force people out of their cars? Or will it just send more cars onto the neighboring streets? I think we know the answer.”
The pandemic has pushed PBOT’s paving project into the shadows and this story is the first major publicity for the “Healthier Hawthorne” vision. While many people think Covid-19 is cause for a new approach to our streets, a change of this magnitude to a street like Hawthorne — temporary or not — will not be easy to pull off.
But who knows? How many of us thought someone could create a thriving business selling framed Tweets?
— Learn more at HealhtierHawthorne.com, and on Facebook.
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The question of the day/decade is how and why this street has been skipped over. This is practically one of the flagships of Portland ..and it’s a car Haven.
There are dozens of commercial main streets in Portland that should have access for bicycle users and qualify as “car havens”
just do it already
Remove the parking. Keep the lanes. Maybe one from each direction becomes a rose lane in the future. Even better if the rose lane was open to all traffic at calmer hours. As for cycling options, I would call this area rush with opportunities in the surrounding area with SE Lincoln being some sort of crown jewel. Why is it sort of, because the inconsistencies are plenty which makes it difficult for all to navigate.
This approach would not work, because of the bulb-outs. You can’t fit 4 narrow lanes and two bike lanes in a 36ft space between the crosswalk bulb-outs (dozens along this street).
OF COURSE the plan is social engineering. Any infrastructure that shapes behavior is social engineering, including the current design/use. Unlike the current use, the plan being discussed shapes behavior to increase safety. Time to turn that worn paranoid argument back at the accuser
Because we all know that paint increases rider and pedestrian safety, especially on Hawthorne.
The world after the “Rona” may be very different. We could see the power, effectiveness and reach of all forms government decrease as we go in to a period of shrinking budgets, shrinking staff and shrinking ambitions. It may be up to us to reconfigure our streets and neighborhoods to our needs cooperatively. Quick and cheap and by the people may become the new normal in the world ahead.
Suggestion of going around government and working cooperatively is laughable in the context of this website. I mean, it probably sounds really nice to you here in this space, but the frequent commenters on this site are so out of touch with the general populace that I can’t help but feel a cooperative would not lead to your desired outcome. The average person considers their transportation options about as often as they consider where their water comes from. The average person is invested in driving and isn’t looking for a savior to show them the True Way. The average person, in a vote, would choose to add more car lanes because the average person doesn’t know there are better options, and if your response is that they just need to be told about the options, I would ask why 15 years of Bikeportland coupled with an impressive coalition of grassroots activism hasn’t moved the needle past 6% bike mode share. Government isn’t what’s holding back your utopia from reality; it’s the very people frequent commenters on this site simultaneously loathe and desperately wish to court. But I suppose Eudaly makes a much better punching bag than the vast majority of the population of our city, state, and country. I’m on your side, and if I had to drive to work I would shrivel up and die, but I don’t ride with a chip on my shoulder like many here choose to do. I will continue to do my part to make this city into what I want it to be, but it will be without disdain, condescension, or willful ignorance.
“Suggestion of going around government and working cooperatively is laughable in the context of this website. I mean, it probably sounds really nice to you here in this space, but the frequent commenters on this site are so out of touch with the general populace that I can’t help but feel a cooperative would not lead to your desired outcome.”
You mean you can’t imagine a Hello,Kitty and me using a backhoe to build a bioswale together on Hawthorne? You might be surprised.
“The average person considers their transportation options…….. The average person is invested in driving…….. The average person, in a vote, would choose to add more car…”
You seem to know a heck of a lot about the average person. And deny the rest of us the possibility that we know something about them.
“and if your response is that they just need to be told about the options, ,,,”
Even Republican voters turn out to like Medicare For All, once it has been explained to them.
“Government isn’t what’s holding back your utopia from reality; it’s the very people frequent commenters on this site simultaneously loathe and desperately wish to court.”
Why can’t it be both?
But I suppose Eudaly makes a much better punching bag than the vast majority of the population of our city, state, and country.”
I agree with you on this point, kicking Eudaly (even if she seems unsure of the year she was born) seems gratuitous and unhelpful.
“…but I don’t ride with a chip on my shoulder like many here choose to do.”
That seems like an awfully disdainful attitude.
“I will continue to do my part to make this city into what I want it to be, but it will be without disdain, condescension, or willful ignorance.”
What your missing squeeky is that the paradigm of happy motoring depends on the active involvement of centralizing authorities to make it practical. Without the likes of ODOT, PBOT or the feds insuring the connectivity of the highway and road system it becomes much less useful. As we ride in to the post-corona world, this connectivity may fall apart and cars may be viewed as bringers of disease and banditry. Local efforts to insure the safety and health of their neighborhoods may make driving about less than desirable. Then no matter how bad the moto-addicted want it , it just won’t be practical. What seemed like a good idea in the salad days of Disney World, Drive thu Coffee and Pro Football won’t work so well in a possible future of oscillating epidemics, climate change, and citizen patrol roadblocks.
“citizen patrol roadblocks”…are you talking like pitchforks and torches, or 1930’s Germany, or what?
You don’t have to go back that far for examples, on the dead end rural road I grew up on in Washington County in the 70’s a big gravel pile was built up by the locals to allow only a narrow passage to discourage auto racers. Then if street racers didn’t heed the warning one of the local farmers would pull a truck across the gap to trap the scofflaws. A call would go out and folks would show up and strongly encourage the scofflaws to change their ways.
There have been pandemics and recessions before and the pendulum continues to swing back to “happy motoring”. If history is an indicator, this time will likely be no different than last time.
If PBOT continues to ignore this opportunity, you may turn out to be right.
A very nice, objective summary.
“Government isn’t what’s holding back your utopia from reality; it’s the very people frequent commenters on this site simultaneously loathe and desperately wish to court.”
Not to mention that many people here own cars themselves and are actually in that demographic, and trying to serve two masters, and being shrill about it like someone who’s been vegan for a month. It’s themselves they’re trying to convince.
I think the concept of dividing people into “drivers” and “cyclists” is fundamentally unhelpful. Transportation is non-binary, tribalism is destructive.
Not to mention that according to PBOT, 60% of the city are potential cyclists (“interested but concerned”). That’s almost 400,000 people: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/44597?a=237507
I believe that number to be utterly baseless. It may well be true that some portion of the population says they might ride their bike to do something under some set of hypothetical circumstances, but how is that really helpful?
I am a proponent of “build it and they will come”, but I acknowledge that’s principally a religious belief, largely contradicted by available evidence. We’ve been building it, and they haven’t started coming yet.
Maybe next year.
Much of our public policy is driven by baseless numbers. For example:
– The number of people infected by Covid-19 versus those tested and confirmed
– The under-reporting of certain crimes
– The number of people who will likely vote for a certain candidate in an opinion poll, when over half of those eligible to go to the voting polls never will do so in the next election
– Rates of those having drivers insurance
– Metro projections of Portland’s future growth
And so on
Oh, so it’s your desire for unity with all humanity and your rejection of tribalism that makes you drive a car.
Yeah yeah I know, I have no idea whether you drive a car, but in Portland I’ve got an 85.3% chance of being right, according to one source (governing.com), so “great job guys.”
What do you mean “drive a car”? Does that mean I’ve ever driven, that I have driven within the past year? That I drive on a weekly basis? Daily? That I own a car? Likewise what makes me a “cyclist”? What if I drive and cycle with equal frequency?
How do I determine which tribe I belong to?
I’m not naive about how the world works, but I generally find the urge to categorize and generalize about people by their supposed “identity” problematic on a number of levels.
PS You’re arguing against making distinctions, and in favor of mashing dissimilar things up together, which I would say is anti-cognitive. When the giant oil-filled supertanker is headed the wrong way, you steer the helm in the direction you want it to go; you don’t compromise and take the average of all conceivable positions.
“Dividing people” into “tribes” has sort of an empty nursery-school morality kind of flavor about it. Anyway I never mentioned tribes, and I don’t care if you go out and join a tribe. I don’t think there’s a tribe you join for this anyway. IF ONLY. That is precisely my complaint. If only there were a tribe where everyone understands what it’s like to depend only on walking or biking to do everything, and therefore can advocate strongly and clearly for those systems with a unified mind that isn’t fighting itself. I’m making a distinction between that kind of person and someone who is… not like that.
>>> You’re arguing against making distinctions, and in favor of mashing dissimilar things up together… <<<
My point is that "drivers" and "bike riders" are not dissimilar things. There are huge overlaps in these two categories, and very few people who ride bikes are never drivers (and that small number probably drops close to 0 if you widen the definition of "driver" to include people who occasionally ride in cars with others).
There are other distinctions that might be important, such as those who want to spend more money on increasing highway capacity vs those who want to focus on non-automotive transportation, but I think the "driver/cyclist" dichotomy, while easy, is not helpful.
Hello, Kitty, categorization does seem problematic if certain “tiny” communities (including the ones cities claim to wish to grow) are being left out of the identification process. Traffic planners/engineers spend much of their time poring over Census, ACS, traffic count data, etc, working to justify road widening projects to add car capacity.
But when I’ve asked if their traffic counts include active transportation—by bicycles, skateboards, people walking to the bus—I’ve gotten, “hmm, I don’t know, I’ll check.” Then on followup: “Uh, no, sorry. We only counted cars & trucks.”
Thus, car-free/car-less road users often don’t exist to DOTs. Therefore they can offer no answers to the questions you posed about what driving a car even is. If well-to-do Uber users who own five cars, but just don’t like the hassle of parking, go out in a car, their drives ARE being counted. If a financially constrained person has their 15-yr old car in the shop for a timing belt replacement, & is doing bicycle transportation for two weeks, they’re NOT being counted for those two weeks. People walking to the bus? Not being counted. People stepping into a grocery store for a Luna bar while on a recreational bike ride from the city to the suburbs? They don’t count either.
Once a traffic planning engineer threw up his hands & said, “OK, you tell us, what roads do YOU think cyclists want to use?” Which again, reveals a DOT that is distinguishing between “people as drivers of cars” & “people.” And the funding goes to… “Cars!”
It seems for government equity policies to work, policy makers need & rely on data that divides us into many different categories & identities (& yes, dividing us up does shrink our “communities”) to learn, or presume, our needs. Even Portland’s bicycle coordinator kind of does this in his twitter moniker, which is “Why Not Bikes”. The top answer to that is no doubt a divisive, “Because of street dominance by the car community.” The next question after that for the uncounted, “non-existent” road users soon becomes, “Why Not Cars After All.” But really, what’s the transportation goal behind this particular line of discourse & rhetoric? Seems like it is simply about whether city governments & DOTs need more precise data or less precise data to meet climate & transportation policy mandates.
Dividing trips into different categories (which I agree is critical to understanding the way our transportation network is used) is very different than dividing people into different categories, especially when the next step is to make generalizations about people you’ve assigned to those different categories (as you did in your post). That just leads to stereotyping and pitting “groups” against each other, something I strongly oppose.
Until DOTs make finer distinctions about road use, people are left more or less powerless in transportation. So we make generalizations. Or we say we’re opposed to making generalizations & try not to. We say closed or we say open. But as long as I don’t exist to a DOT, they’ll keep unwittingly or wittingly pitting me & other uncounted groups/modes against the one they do count. That’s not good for the health of cities or people.
Agreed with HK here.
I have as good an idea of what it’s like to get around exclusively on bike or foot as anyone. This “unified mind” you imagine does not exist except outside a tiny community.
There is legitimate room for disagreement on how to best advance cycling and active transport. When I see some of these ideas (for example this Hawthorne plan) all I can wonder is where do the people who support this stuff ride, and have they ridden that actual area?
I believe what much of people fight for and how they do it has is largely responsible for the marginalization of active transport and directly contributes to the absolutely miserable uptake of cycling and walking in PDX.
Some fair points but off target with respect to the action-oriented approach of http://www.healthierhawthorne.com. Unlike a lot of the website chatter, Zach Katz and crew are getting organized and have a plan. That will have an impact. How much so? That depends on how many of us do the same instead of nitpicking from the peanut gallery.
It is inconceivable to me that Hawthorne will be restored to the current lane configuration after repaving. I take it as a given that it will be two travel lanes, two parking lanes, and a center turn lane. There will almost certainly be more enhanced crossings such as the one installed on upper Hawthorne. I can’t imagine bike lanes being added.
If we take that as a starting point, what else do we want?
It’s unacceptable to trade bike lanes (cyclist lives) for a turn lane (saves motorists a few minutes).
Is that tradeoff being discussed? Maybe a good starting point would be to look at how many cyclists have been killed on Hawthorne in, say, the past decade, due to the lack of bike lanes, to better understand the magnitude of the problem.
How many lives do you expect will be “saved” in the next decade if Hawthorne had bike lanes? With that number, we can properly compare that against other societal values and make a proper analysis of the tradeoffs.
It seems a little much to equate bike lanes and cyclist lives. Especially in this case: according to the safety data put out by PBOT for this project, people are not losing their lives biking on Hawthorne. And this isn’t in an area where no one bikes; this part of SE has achieved some of the highest biking mode share in the city on the back of the Bicycle Boulevard/Neighborhood Greenway network, entirely without the aid of bike lanes on Hawthorne. People biking are not dying on Hawthorne and they also aren’t necessarily clamoring for bike lanes; the existing network clearly already meets the needs of so many.
And center turn lanes can save the lives and limbs of people walking and biking; giving a dedicated and calmer place for people driving to wait to make left turns gives them time to account for the movement of all road users—because they only have to turn across one lane of vehicle traffic and no other drivers are stuck waiting behind them, they can lavish some of their attention on people walking across side streets before making a decision to turn.
The center turn lane also doubles as a refuge for people crossing the street.
The calculation is not as simple as “no bike lanes” = “bad”.
” a change of this magnitude to a street like Hawthorne — temporary or not — will not be easy to pull off.”
What makes “a street like Hawthorne”? Is it the residents, businesses, and the streets that connect to it? If so, how does our Transportation Systems Plan classify it as a City Bikeway and Major City Walkway? + (Pedestrian District)? It would seem that the nature of the street would be counter to those uses. Surely, maintaining a fast-moving river of cars through the middle of a Pedestrian District must be counter to our Vision Zero plans at least.
Or, is the car traffic we see on Hawthorne a result of the induced demand created by the design and affordances of the street? If this is the case, we can simply change it and it will change. If however, the very nature of the street’s “essential being” (or something) demands that people cross multiple lanes of bi-directional fast-moving car traffic at unmarked crosswalks (and periodically get killed with cars in doing so), then our comprehensive plan is based on impossible goals and perhaps the city is vulnerable to a lawsuit or state review.
Yes, please! I have dreamed of this for years.
Please sign the petition! 🙂
Hawthorne Blvd really needs to be converted to one lane each direction with a center turn lane.
Thst would eliminate narrow lanes; dangerous lane weaving; provide left turn space for vehicles without stopping traffic behind them (something which causes even more dangerous lane weaving); AND peovide space for bike lanes from the single eliminated traffic lane.
They did it on SE 7th Ave like 2 decades ago. Why is Hawthorne still stuck in the 80s???
It would also preserve street parking, keeping everybody happy.
“Hawthorne Blvd really needs to be converted to one lane each direction with a center turn lane.”
While I am sympathetic to what I think you are suggesting, this language unhelpfully reifies that the only counted traffic is the kind with four wheels. The road diet I think you are suggesting was done on a large section of Division some years ago. It actually changes four car lanes to five lanes total: those you list plus two bike lanes.
Parking “protected” bike lanes? No thanks. I don’t want to be trapped between the curb and parked cars, hidden from drivers who can hook me at the intersections.
Reducing travel to two lanes won’t work because of the buses, which currently straddle both lanes to give adequate clearance to parked cars.
We will daylight intersections to prevent right hooks.
Look at the Streetmix; it’s based on accurate widths provided by PBOT. There is plenty of room for buses.
You’ll daylight every intersection and driveway to ensure safety for cyclists at speeds easily attained on the long downhill? That will result in near total parking removal, something residents and businesses there have ever expressed support for.
Parking obscured bike lanes are dangerous except in certain circumstances.
Hawthorne also has pretty narrow sidewalks and (in more normal times) a ton of pedestrian traffic. You’re going to get a LOT of pedestrian “spill over” in to a curb side bike lane).
Anyone can drive, bike and park on Hawthorne Blvd. any time, all days, all hours. It’s not Better, or Healthier, or clever; it just lies there and the citizenry who paid for it roll tires their over it. What ever the 1997 Plan or PBOT or Neighborhood Associations have to say matters very little. Where the paint and cones and diverters and electric traffic control lights are also matter very little. If you don’t operate your vehicle on it, you have given it to those who will.
It’s true. Hawthorne is easy to ride now that the speed limit has been reduced to 20mph, the same as on the side streets.
And the cars all or almost all disappeared,
Just clock the speeds anywhere and any time it’s not congested. It’s signed at 20, but drive 20mph and you will get passed closely at speed, honked at, or both. And that’s in a car.
No one drives 20 on Hawthorne.
The accident statistics from the “Hawthorne Paint and Pave” presentation that I saw clearly showed that Hawthorne as it is today has major safety issues. For example, the number of TriMet bus mirror accidents along lower Hawthorne is far greater than elsewhere. So the question is: how should Hawthorne be changed, not whether.
As a car traffic corridor, two lanes in each direction plus a turning lane makes a lot of sense. The turning lane will eliminate the largest source of backups, and pedestrian crossing safety will be greatly improved.
Either the turning lane or car parking is the tradeoff for bike lanes. While there’s less traffic, it would be great to try temporary bike lanes. The sidewalks were intentionally narrowed years ago in favor of space for cars. Flipping that choice the other way will provide room for walkers as well as bicyclists. This virus lockdown may last for a while, so let’s try it!
I’m laughing at the thought of biking in the curb lane and having to swerve at every intersection because of the bulb-outs. You’ll want to put a lot of cones at every corner or drivers will be cutting into those lanes while you’re swerving into them, both of you with no visibility to the other.
No, that won’t work. Maybe before they installed all the bulb-outs, but not now.
You have to leave parking where it is and give the current right lane over to bicycles.
Unprotected door-zone bike lanes are way more dangerous—and will attract WAY less inexperienced cyclists—than weaving around some bulb-outs.
Generously buffered bike lanes seem to be a pretty good alternative to both of those options. Those keep you out of the door zone and the right-hook zone.
Study after study shows that bike lanes that aren’t physically seperated from cars don’t get the “interested but concerned” riders out. PBOT estimates 60% of our city (400,000 people) fall into this category . We need protected lanes.
Why do you think that bike lanes on Hawthorne would be so inviting that new riders would flock to them? Hawthorne will always be fast, loud, and scary, with faster cyclists passing and pedestrians/car passengers intruding into a curbside bike lane. I’d expect that few new/timid cyclists would ride on Hawthorne no matter what, preferring instead the quieter, leafier parallel routes. Which we already have, and which have so far failed to draw out the invented 60% of would-be cyclists who are waiting for the right conditions.
And even if you were right, creating infrastructure that provides the illusion of safety while increasing the actual danger, as I believe most parking-protected bike lanes do, especially where cycling speeds are high, is a non-starter for me.
> Why do you think that bike lanes on Hawthorne would be so inviting that new riders would flock to them?
> Hawthorne will always be fast, loud, and scary
The pedestrian situation for the 12th to 24th section continues to degrade and it continues to be overlooked for improvements. The city encouraged a steady increase in apartment density in this area, and dinning options continue to expand leading to more and more pedestrians but the road situation is stuck in the 1970s. The contrast is becoming more obvious all the time, so its sad to see the city push off 12th to 24th improvements to the distant future. The recent 30% increase in speeds, record speeding by total count, and the 87% increase in so called super-speeding are making it seem like they are building apartments adjacent to a freeway. Speeds along this stretch are now reaching freeway speeds and crossing has been become much more difficult. It just seem very incompatible.
This is part of the city’s larger problem of encouraging density without making commensurate improvements to infrastructure.
The fact that you CAN’T EVEN CROSS Hawthorne on the north side at 12th is INSANE. It blows my mind how anti-pedestrian that intersection is. It’s like suburban Atlanta.
“Katz, who moved to Portland from New York City in January of this year, is extremely confident.”
I feel like there’s a powerful causal relationship between the first part of this sentence and the second.
PBOT has a program to test such ideas: