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Nearly 60 Hawthorne Blvd businesses support protected bike lane

Posted by on May 19th, 2020 at 3:57 pm

The proposal calls for a reduction of driving access to make room for a curbside bike lane separated from moving traffic by a parking lane. (Illustration by Scott Mason)


“Adding bicycles to Hawthorne will add shoppers and neighbors and make it resemble the rest of the city.”
— Amanda Doimas, Backstory Books

For the past month Zach Katz has been relentlessly promoting the idea of bike lanes on one of Portland’s most high-profile commercial main streets. His Healthier Hawthorne project has taken flight, going from one person’s idea, to a petition (signed by 455 people so far), to a Facebook page (now with 158 members), to a website with slick illustrations (like the one above) — all at breakneck speeds.

We’ve seen many of these lone wolf activism efforts over the years, but few can rival Katz’s energy, execution and focus. His latest move was to waltz into Hawthorne businesses and introduce himself: “Hi, I’m Zach,” the pitch went. “I started a campaign to build protected bike lanes on Hawthorne, is that something you’d be supportive of?”

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And despite the popular narrative that business owners abhor the idea of bike lanes “taking away” parking spots, Katz has been overwhelmed with support. Of the 70 business owners and managers he’s heard from so far, 57 have pledged support and only 13 have said no. That’s a big flip-flop from where we were in 2014 when 60 business owners on NE 28th signed a petition in opposition to a “commercial greenway” concept that was proposed as part of the 20s Bikeway project.

Katz thinks it’s a mistake that bicycle users are relegated to backstreets. “Businesses are struggling because there’s no foot traffic, and all the cycling traffic is on neighborhood streets two blocks over,” he shared with us. “Protected bike lanes — especially now, in a world where transit’s future is uncertain — are essential for revitalizing our commercial districts.”

“Now is our chance to transform our neighborhood’s main street into a vibrant place for people — not cars. It’s now or never for Hawthorne Boulevard.”
— Zach Katz, Healthier Hawthorne

The owner of Backstory Books at 32nd and Hawthorne, Amanda Doimas, said in a press release that, “Once there is a degree of calming on Hawthorne, it will be safe for bikes and safer for pedestrians. Adding bicycles to Hawthorne will add shoppers and neighbors and make it resemble the rest of the city.”

As we reported last month, Katz sees an opportunity to make major changes on Hawthorne as part of the Portland Bureau of Transportation Hawthorne Pave and Paint project that’s gathering steam. PBOT has been careful not to promise too much in the way of bike-specific infrastructure when they re-stripe Hawthorne, but a spokesperson told us back in January that, “This is an opportunity to do something big and bold.”

Even the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association appears to be open to changes. They haven’t officially supported Healthier Hawthorne yet (we’ve reached out to them for comment but haven’t heard back), but in a recent email to members they said the Pave and Paint project, “Is much more than just resurfacing a road,” and that, “The potential for traffic reconfiguration could have an impact on Hawthorne for decades.”

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With a pending PBOT project, decrease in driving volumes due to the pandemic, a boom in bicycle use, brighter bike politics at City Hall of late, and an acute need for small businesses to attract as many customers as possible, we might be headed for a perfect confluence of conditions that could lead to change.

Current conditions on Hawthorne. (Photo: Healthier Hawthorne)

But we’ve seen this movie before. Activism projects led by one person — especially someone like Zach Katz; a young, white man of privilege — can be blind to pitfalls these projects can present. In his short activism stint so far, Katz has already hit a speed bump. Members of his Facebook page vehemently disagreed with him about the design, so he banned them and then deleted the entire comment thread. That set off angry messages and claims he wasn’t open to feedback.

Katz’s idea is also in that honeymoon phase when it’s not yet real enough to attract any serious opposition. Once PBOT says they’re actually considering a bikeway that will reduce access for car drivers, business owners (or the lobby groups that represent them) might change their tune. If/when that happens, given what we’ve seen from Katz so far, I’d say he won’t be deterred easily.

“Now is our chance to transform our neighborhood’s main street into a vibrant place for people — not cars,” Katz said in a statement to BikePortland. “It’s now or never for Hawthorne Boulevard.”

In fact, Katz is so confident and ambitious he’s already added more projects to his portfolio: He’s launched a similar effort to create two “Portland Promenades” on 28th and on Belmont.

— If you’d like to learn more about Healthier Hawthorne, join the Bike Loud PDX general meeting tomorrow (5/20) at 6:00 pm. To find out more about PBOT’s Hawthorne Pave and Paint project, the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association is hosting two public discussions via Zoom: May 20th at 9:00 am and May 27th at 5:30 pm (links to Zoom registration).

CORRECTION, 5:09 pm: This post originally stated that Zach Katz had lived in Portland less than a year. That’s not true. He first moved here in December 2016, moved to New York City in 2018, then moved back to Portland in September 2018. I regret the error.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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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

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Joseph E
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Joseph E

> “Once PBOT says they’re actually considering a bikeway that will reduce access for car drivers…”

But this plan would not reduce access for car drivers. There will still be 3 or 4 lanes devoted to cars (and the bus line), including parking on both sides of the road, if the illustration is correct. Drivers will have access to the whole road.

What might be reduced is the speed at which drivers can zip through this area at certain hours, but that’s not limiting access.

Zach
Guest
Zach

If you have any suggestions for conveying this fact to people (and reassuring them that this will not result in a traffic apocalypse!), I’m genuinely all ears.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

One lane of road can move about 1,300 vehicles per hour. There are counts on Divsion that have this level of volume. If the peak hour volumes on Hawthorne are less than 1,300, it only needs one lane in that direction. Also, a center turn lane moves left turning cars out of the way of through traffic. Those inside lanes do not, so create safety and friction for existing through traffic.
Lastly, the lanes are not wide enough for safe bus operation in the current configuration.
https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/

Beware, facts don’t change people’s minds as much as compelling stories.
3-lane roadways are SAFER – less turn friction, space for pedestrian islands.
more efficient roads are CLEANER for the air.
multi-purpose streets that serve all users are more FAIR.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

From what I see in the images is that traffic lanes will be reduced by one lane in each direction, from 2 to one.

Removing curb extensions is gonna cost a lot, however.

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

This is why I rarely like the permanent curb extensions PBOT typically designs. Often times in NYC curb extensions are paint, bollards and rocks or planters. The safe space is created, but it doesn’t preclude future bike designs.

rella
Guest
rella

as it is, both nike bikes and ‘normal’ riders can be seen biking up, as well flying down – hawthorne and it’s sidewalks on the regular…

I like this idea.

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

I would actually enjoy returning to Hawthorne, as a choice retail & entertainment customer, if the City made any holistic safety & accessibility upgrades to this corridor. It has too long been ‘politically’ stuck in its 4 lane deficient mid century layout (1990s)…an arterial that I neither like to drive/ park along nor bike, walk or wait for transit at.

Jason
Guest

us as well. I never visit Hawthorne now that we no longer live close enough for walking. worst street for riding… but love the Bagdad.

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

Imagine if the city actually made physical protection instead of free private storage a priority. Instead of the Springwater being the only safe commuter route into the city, people on bikes could take a protected bike lane on Foster, 52nd and Hawthorne into the city. Imagine how much more business those streets would get with that many people commuting.

Zach
Guest
Zach

I discovered so many new businesses I had no idea I existed while doing outreach on my bike!

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Member

Those graphics are so awesome. Wouldn’t it be great if PBOT hired bikeportland or bikeloud to handle the outreach for a project? Amazing what passionate people are able to come up with on shoe strings. I just hope PBOT takes this opportunity.

If not now, when?

Douglas Kelso
Guest
Douglas Kelso

I like the idea of taking Hawthorne from four traffic lanes down to two, and not just for better bike access. I hope there will someday be a streetcar on Hawthorne, but currently the city is looking at Belmont for a future streetcar line. I’ve heard that’s in part because the traffic lanes on Hawthorne are too narrow for streetcars (and something of a challenge for buses and other large vehicles). If that’s true, then a two-lane Hawthorne Boulevard could support a streetcar plus protected bike lanes plus parking … and perhaps even wider sidewalks and larger street trees. Turn it into a “boulevard” in more than just name.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Hawthorne used to have a streetcar/auto combo lane, auto lane, and parking lane. They tore out the streetcar and it became another dedicated auto lane. You can’t claim there’s no room on Hawthorne for a streetcar. Belmont also had a streetcar and it’s much narrower than Hawthorne.

Edit: Hawthorne used to have wider sidewalks. They decided cars were more important and cut them back.

Pat Smith
Guest
Pat Smith

Yet again the pictures only show the “lane” mid-block and don’t show all the people crossing to get to their cars. Please show all the manufactured intersection conflicts where most collisions happen and how this greatly reduces the visibility of cyclists to turning motorists.

Zach
Guest
Zach

Hey Pat, I’ve been working with a transportation designer on some extremely safe, super exciting protected intersection designs. They should be ready soon—stay tuned in the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/betterhawthorne/

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

Yep, protected bike lanes are only as good as their intersections.

Suburban
Guest
Suburban

I went to check conditions on Hawthorne Blvd today at 4 to 5 pm on my safety bicycle. East bound and west bound,between SE 7th and SE 60th: very smooth modern pavement, super gentle grade, good sight lines, plenty of room for passing slower vehicles, loads of cars, bikes, walking people, wheel chair operators, skateboards..
It’s very easy to ride as it sits. Very easy to park and spend money. It could do with some severe speed bumps. As bicycles are part traffic, separated modes sends entirely the wrong message to local businesses and motorized vehicle operators.
Cycle tracks in the suburbs and country make sense, but this street is good to go. Are we not?

Joseph E
Guest
Joseph E

Right now it’s fine if you are comfortable riding in the same lanes as a moderately high number of cars, but most people in Portland are not so comfortable riding in traffic. And when offices and businesses reopen fully, with traffic back to normal, it will be uncomfortable for even more people.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

The notion that there are thousands of bikists waiting for protected bike lanes to be built on streets like Hawthorne to start riding, while quite, leafy, parallel routes like Lincoln and Salmon are just too intimidating is… to be kind… untested.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

People bike on both Rosa Parks and N Williams/ N Vancouver despite N Rodney and N Bryant being chiller streets.

People of all modes like direct, fast routes. Because PBOT does not build bike infrastructure on greenways or build cohesive routes, they really aren’t appealing to new riders. The direct routes they are already familiar with are.

In my opinion, bike lanes on streets like Hawthorne are what we should be building after we’ve built a real and fully-fleshed out greenway/bike highway system, but I definitely see the appeal on adding bike infrastructure to thoroughfares. I shouldn’t have to look at my phone to navigate greenways and for most people, including me in parts of town I have never lived in, that’s the case.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I rather like the idea of bikes on thoroughfares, most especially on streets like Foster and Sandy where the parallel routes are decidedly inferior. Hawthorne needs local commercial district bike circulation more than long-distance through-ways.

But regardless, my comment wasn’t about the merits of the idea, rather the underlying premise that it would somehow unlock a massive wave of cycling that is waiting for this project.

I know Zach believes this, but I don’t. Do you?

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

To some extent, it depends on how its implemented. Fully above grade protected bike track with safe intersections? Yeah, I think it would be a destination with cyclist going out of their way to ride it.

Now if we do PBOTs usual “compromise” unprotected bike lane that disappears every four blocks to turn into a turn lane for cars and is entirely in the door zone? No, that wont bring a single new rider out.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Now way are we going back to the VC days, as you seem to be proposing here in saying “I rather like the idea of bikes on thoroughfares.”

I don’t. I lived near Hawthorne for many years. I don’t think I ever once was crazy enough to try riding it uphill, and only on rare occasions did I ride it downhill. Just felt too dangerous, and I’m a fairly confident rider. If I was going a few blocks on Hawthorne I would ride over to Lincoln to cover the east-west distance, and then backtrack, even if it tripled the length of the trip.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

When it comes to the VC wars, I am a non-combatant. I meant making room for bikes on diagonal streets (however you choose to implement that) is important because there are no parallel routes. With Hawthorne, there are, and good ones.

Joseph E
Guest
Joseph E

I didn’t say that people are not riding bikes, I said that they are not comfortable riding on Hawthorne. For example, I myself will almost always choose the parallel routes and avoid Hawthorne. This means that I don’t see the business on that street and don’t think about stopping there to shop or eat. Hence the problem for businesses, and potential benefit from changes.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

There’s one living in my house.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

We are not.

If I’m biking down the 4-lane section of Hawthorne doing the speed limit and I’m getting honked at and cut off then the street is not good. You will not solve that with anything other than a completely physically separated lane.

Yes, it also happens when I drive, but I’m not as fearful for my life when surrounded by a protective cage.

Shimran George
Guest
Shimran George

Based on what I see on the website, the idea is to run the bike lane to 50th. That sounds great but I generally don’t like protected bikelanes that dead end–especially for cyclists looking to continue east from 50th. Is there width/will to put lanes on 50th, or link it up with 52nd so it connects with Foster?

I went to the PBOT workshop on this and I’ll admit: getting a bikelane on this road will be difficult, but I signed the petition anyway…anything to help put pressure on PBOT to not maintain the status quo on Hawthorne!

Zach
Guest
Zach

Thank you for signing! They should definitely continue to 50th. That’s unfortunately outside the scope of this project, but there’s definitely width to do it. Once we have bike lanes on Hawthorne, that’ll help build political will to expand the network to 50th, 30th, 20th, etc.

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

How about 50th and 52nd one-way couplet with PBL to Foster Rd?

Momo
Guest
Momo

Hawthorne becomes a pretty quiet local street east of 50th, so it could just be sharrows in that section from 50th to 52nd.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Given how many pedestrians use the sidewalks and access all the businesses in the area and other similar areas in and around Portland, I’m constantly surprised that we get so many “enlightened” proposals to make such streets more bicycle-friendly without making them any more pedestrian-friendly. True, this proposal is an improvement on what is there, but from a pedestrian viewpoint, it’s still a street where traffic is expected to pass through, much like NW 23rd, rather than be a destination in of itself.

If the Hawthorne District was a destination rather than a traffic conduit, I would expect to see no yellow lines down the middle, but rather an open street plan with trees, shrubbery, public art, odd seemingly random places to park cars, traffic moving no faster than 13 mph (20 km/h), outdoor seating and cafes out in the street, and people walking, scooting, and bicycling every which way.

 
Guest
 

I 100% agree with you. I don’t think it’s feasible on Hawthorne, but I could see turning a road like NW 21st into something akin to Denver’s 16th Street Mall or Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall. Those two are such huge successes there and I’d love to see that replicated here.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

So true. If I could make one change to Hawthorne that might in fact bring more customers, it would be to make the sidewalks 10 ft wider.

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

Hello, Kitty, so your proposal would change the sidewalks from the existing 10FT (12FT?) to 20FT? …I forgot to bring my tape measure the last time I went shopping on Hawthorne. 😉

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I would basically take any extra space that could be spared and convert it to sidewalk. I think wide sidewalks provide opportunities to bring life out onto the street.

ProTip: Clip your tape measure to a helmet strap so you always have it with you.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Someone mentioned the (future) Hawthorne streetcar, which comes up periodically. What if PBOT created several “stations” along Hawthorne, but instead of rail lines, they would use Rose Lanes with bike sharrows? At each of those “stations”, could they create temporary stops in the center 12-22 feet, and have 10-foot pedestrian zones beyond the sidewalks, marked with pavement markings and potted planters, to encourage outdoor social-distancing cafes? At the end of Hawthorne just before these plaza stations, post regulatory black-and-white signs “All Traffic Must Turn Right Except Buses And Bicycles”? Technically, would not all business access still be preserved while increasing safety and transit throughput?

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

My narrow street has no center line. It’s got parking on each side, and enough room for 1 car to get by in-between (or 1 car and 1 bike passing each other).

It’s got the same traffic classification as Division St.

My street is not a destination, it’s a traffic shortcut.

The city does not have the willpower to give the streets back to the people.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

49th?

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

When the NYC DOT adds a PBL to an avenue, what often happens is pedestrian spillover into the bike lanes. This makes sense when most of the street space is for cars and inadequate space is left for people walking. PBLs become the de facto sidewalk. Hawthorne might have a similar scenario play out. If cars are limited from 4 to 2 lanes, a massive change in expected behavior will happen. When people start walking in the bike lane, it is an indicator that sidewalk space is inadequate and parking space should be converted into sidewalk space. Unfortunately, in none of the scenarios considered by PBOT is parking significantly reduced.

Carrie
Subscriber

As a person who has been advocating for better/more/legit road space for cyclists of all ages and abilities for a long time, I’m very excited about this possibility. And I’m glad that Zach is taking advantage of the timing of the project and the great political and social upheaval and the gaps that is exposing to get this closer to reality when many lesser impact projects can’t ever get the light of day.

But I also can’t help but be very troubled by the methodology. As far as I know, Zach is running this as a one-man show. Has he engaged Oregon Walks on the Promenade idea? How about BikeLoud on the Hawthorne plan? Again, maybe he doesn’t need to to push this thing through. However his dismissive, reductive, and paternalistic response when people commented on potential flaws in the design and where there might be conflicts indicates, to me, that listening and accommodating the ideas of others is not his strong suit. Again, maybe that’s not what’s needed to push this thing through. Has he engaged with any potential users who are not-white? Asked what they would want for this corridor? Why might they might prefer something else. Again maybe that’s not what’s needed to get non-car infrastructure to happen and we’ve been going about it all wrong. Maybe he rest of us need to pay attention to this methodology, but I can’t help but feel there’s a downside.

And it’s entirely possible that what troubles me about this project is the influence a loud, passionate white man can have on our bureaucracy in such a short period of time as opposed to those who have been working/living/riding in this arena for years but do not fit that demographic. And how quickly some of us were cut out of the conversation. It felt like dealing with ODOT, but from someone on the same ‘side’. Maybe I finally got a taste of what it must be like to wear Tamika Butler’s shoes.

If someone ‘official’ asks for my support for this project, I’ll give it because a bike-way on a major commercial district — heck yeah! But wow do I feel ambivalent about the process.

Zach
Guest
Zach

Hi Carrie,

Lots to address here! I hope you don’t mind if keep it relatively brief:

– Glad you’re excited about this!
– I’ve engaged Oregon Walks, and for some reason, they haven’t been supportive of the idea so far. BikeLoud is supportive of it, and I’m presenting at their meeting tonight in hopes of a more formal endorsement. The Street Trust has formally endorsed the plan, as has Better Block.
– I admit that I was rude and dismissive to one or two people in the Facebook group who were basically advocating that a sharrowed Hawthorne would be a better design than protected bike lanes, and I lost my patience a few times. That was a few weeks ago (which feels like months ago) and I’ve since learned a lot about how to civilly, productively engage with disagreements. This is my first time doing anything like this, and I’m still learning!
– A surprising number of business owners I talked to—and who love the idea—are non-white. Almost 25% of them, in fact. I have no idea what color skin the people who are signing the petition are, but I can only imagine that they’re not all white. (Also, I used to live in NYC, and shared protected bike lanes all the time with tens of thousands of non-white cyclists. Maybe this isn’t PC, but I believe that safe, AAA infrastructure is more or less colorblind).

Finally—and this is great news—PBOT gave a presentation this morning, and protected bike lanes are now officially a design option for the project! Stay tuned on our Facebook group for how you can show your support for the protected bike lane option (3B!).

Daniel Amoni
Subscriber

AAA bicycle infrastructure that makes it more difficult for people who have been priced out of living in the central city to commute by bus or car is not colorblind. Building great bike lanes only in the central city is exactly what is meant by “bike lanes are white lanes”. Please consider committing to making cycling more of a real option for east Portlanders by working for better bicycle infrastructure for them and better transit connections that make multi-modal trips possible. Since you like alliteration, you could call it Equity East Portland.

Megan Van Woodward
Guest
Megan Van Woodward

I’m going to reply to this in Zach’s place (I don’t know him, and first heard of this effort today). Let’s let the guy win one victory at a time, yeah? Hawthorne bike lanes are a HUGE lift all on their own. I’ll join in your criticism when there’s been time for his coalition to rest on their laurels. As someone who plans to move to the outskirts of East Portland shortly, believe me, I’ll be keeping an eye on efforts like the ones you outline in this comment (and joining them)!

Momo
Guest
Momo

Oregon Walks “for some reason” doesn’t support it? Why not ask them?

I suspect they may support a three-lane cross-section because it’s more pedestrian friendly as it allows for median islands at regular intervals. They are also pretty equity-focused, and this proposal potentially negatively impacts bus riders from Lents who are just trying to get through to jobs in the Central City. These are real trade-offs that shouldn’t be dismissed.

Also, please don’t say infrastructure is colorblind. We all know and have experience that tells us that’s not true. Ask anyone who worked on the Williams project if that bike lane project was considered “colorblind” by people of color in that neighborhood.

Zach
Guest
Zach

I did ask them, and they haven’t responded to my follow-up email.

Megan Van Woodward
Guest
Megan Van Woodward

Hi Carrie,

I completely hear you, but at the same time… bike lanes on Hawthorne are such an amazing boon to all. Maybe sometimes it takes someone brash and dedicated (and, for better or worse, white and male and young) to push it over the top. I don’t think that Zach’s identity should be held against him, as the world is what it is and bike lanes on Hawthorne (or not) isn’t going to change THAT issue one bit. I would hope that as Zach continues his advocacy, he will be wise enough to pull allies to his side to help guard against his own weak points and blind spots (we all have them). But I also want him to continue his advocacy! I want to see results! And one or two Facebook scuffles aren’t enough to outweigh the upside of what has been accomplished, in my book.

Zach, keep on fighting the good fight – just remember to keep learning, and wherever possible, to be kind. People can and will support a good idea whose time has come!

Best,
Megan

Zach
Guest
Zach

Thank you Megan! <3

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

I can be equally happy that the idea of true non-car infrastructure is getting a serious look on Hawthorne and also appalled that the way it has done so was by using our societal biases and structures. That the system is recognizing a project advocated by an individual who has cut off the input of potential allies while years of advocacy by others who don’t fit the power mold (looking at you Naomi out in Beaverton) have received pats on the head & business as usual. And not calling out this leverage/advantage, you’re right, will not change who gets heard at City Hall one bit. But if we don’t point it out when we see it happening, when is the right time?

Zach
Guest
Zach

I don’t understand why you think me being white has anything to do with my success here. It seems like you’re both writing off the hard work and creativity I’ve put into this project, and implying that I couldn’t have done it if I were black. Is that what you’re saying?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

How do we know that Zach is making headway because of his race, and not because of his persuasiveness, or because recent events haven’t changed receptiveness for this idea? That someone in a different city did not make progress on a different project at a different time is not strong evidence. It’s probably worth noting that other white people have failed with similar ideas for bike lanes on Hawthorne in the past.

I’m not ready to write off Zach’s persistence and hard work as an artifact of “societal bias”.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Very thoughtful comments Carrie. I love that you are trying to hold two things that are true and that you care about but are in clear tension. I love this nuance and uncertainty and curiosity that is so often absent in these conversations. I think this might be Comment of the Week fodder.

There are some specific things that enable Zach (and white people in general) to advocate more effectively than might a person of color that we should be clear-eyed about; this isn’t some nebulous thing. In general, white people have:

More money
to bankroll such an effort

More time

The ability to take time not working right now and instead perform this advocacy work because they either have enough money socked away or their job allows for that level of flexibility.

The positionality
to connect with other business owners (or bike advocates or commissioners) who share or respect that positionality (e.g. he’s white + they are more likely than not to be white (and even when they are not, white people are societally viewed as the people who are trustworthy and who hold power) = they are more comfortable interacting and trusting one another)

The connections and education
(and time) to stand up multiple websites with good-quality content that can connect with an audience that he is a member of (important because that is often the only audience that needs to be connected with to galvanize political action)

The disparities also are wider when we consider the white person we are talking about is a man (even more money, more time, more education, more common to be seen in position of power and defacto trusted)

This is not to discount the effectiveness of Zach advocacy. This is to point out that that effectiveness is due in large part a set of circumstances he has nothing to do with. This same set of circumstances makes it difficult for voices that are not like his to be heard, like those concerned about what some of these options for Hawthorne will do for pedestrian safety or transit speed and reliability. For example, transit is twice as useful to Portlanders for commuting (12% transit commute mode share vs 6% for biking). But PoC’s are overrepresented as transit riders, a demographic that is even less likely to be able to advocate for improvements that might benefit them right now. And it’s not just that these voices aren’t speaking up; those who are able to speak up just do not have access to the same resources (time, money, energy, positionality, connections, education) to amplify their messages. Zach’s ideas are getting more consideration than they would otherwise because of his ability to stir up a demographic that designed and is ensconced in the structures of power, to the detriment of the ideas and needs of other less well-connected voices.

In an exchange I had with Jonathan a few weeks ago, I talked about white people making space vs taking space. White people in transportation advocacy have to know the history of transportation in Portland to avoid doing harm—to understand the ways advocates have and have not shown up throughout history and to what effect and to whom (e.g. many celebrate the revolt against the Mt. Hood freeway but what about their failure to show up to revolt against the Minnesota Freeway/Rose Quarter that primarily impacted Black Portlanders?). Understanding that history, white people have to know they’ve always had most of the seats at the table, they’ve always had access to the bullhorn, have always gotten to define what the problem to solve is, and that the institutions that supposedly serve us all are designed around serving their wants and needs. If white people want everyone to get the utopia they dream of, they need to make space at the table for other voices, both by quieting down but also by providing platforms, capacity, and power to voices and perspectives that have been speaking but not heard.

Zach
Guest
Zach

I don’t disagree with 99% of what you said, but I do wonder about your conclusion. What does “quieting down and making space” mean in practical, actionable terms?”

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Great question. Use your resources (time, money, talent) to identify and amplify the thoughts and needs of people and perspectives that are not being considered, people who will be harmed if their needs are not part of the conversation. Who isn’t part of this conversation? Find out why and talk (actually mostly listen) to them. Ask them what they want and need and help them. Be patient and gentle and don’t expect neat and tidy answers. You have a proclivity for connection and action; that is crucial in this work.

It’s clear from PBOT’s reporting they’ve heard many people and businesses expressing the same thoughts and aspirations as you about what Hawthorne street could be.

To the extent your goal was to get PBOT to consider looking at bike lanes on Hawthorne, they are doing that.

Zach
Guest
Zach

Yup, I’m very excited they’ve added PBLs as a design option!

There are 650,000 people in the city, and I’ve probably talked to 500 or 600 people about this—people of many different economic and racial backgrounds. Who exactly are you suggesting I talk to out of the remaining ~649,500 people? Even with the most extensive public outreach, there are always going to be a ton of people who aren’t part of the conversation. Half of the city didn’t even vote this month.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

I do not mean to be offensive here: I can’t tell if you’re being naive or obtuse; if most of the people you’ve spoken to have been supportive of protected bike lanes on Hawthorne, you have not actually spoken to a broadly diverse swath of the city and/or have not been honest about the implications of such a measure. Because if a majority of people were actually down with bike lanes that take parking, slow transit, and slow general traffic on major streets, we would have them yesterday.

Zach
Guest
Zach

Sorry, I guess I was being a bit obtuse on purpose, to attempt to illustrate a point. I’ve spoken to a TON of people who are concerned about taking away parking, congestion, all of the above.

Are you familiar with the term bikelash? There are always going to be a ton of people who oppose bike lanes for all sorts of reasons, some legit…many not: https://www.streetfilms.org/bikelash-2019-whats-the-most-ridiculous-comment-youve-heard-in-opposition-to-a-bike-lane/

The reason I’m not prioritizing talking to more people who disagree with me is because I’ve decided it’s more productive to spend my time and energy rallying all the people who DO want protected bike lanes—many of who are low-income, POC, etc. Lots of people who *want* PBLs have voices that haven’t been heard, either! 🙂

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Based on the level of disingenuity I’ve heard you’ve conducted yourself with in communicating and advocating on behalf of Healthier Hawthorne, I am not inclined to believe your claim about the intersection of who is well informed and who is on board with your ideas.

We then disagree about what is productive and for whom it is productive.

Zach
Guest
Zach

There are lots of rumors about my conduct that have been taken wildly out of context—such is the nature of online. A few weeks ago, I blocked a guy because I was stressed out and he was disagreeing with me about everything. I realized I made a mistake and apologized to him and the group, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t hear about that part.

Yes, we’ll have to agree to disagree about what’s productive.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

And that disagreement brings us to this last point I feel is important to make: those who are white and male shouldn’t be begrudged their privilege, as many are wont to begrudge them—that is the system we all had no choice but be born into and inherit; however, people enjoying the privileges of whiteness and maleness should be judged on what they choose to do with their privilege to erase said privilege—by sharing power and elevating others who don’t have it.

Want to make a difference to people with perspectives you’re not hearing because they are busy dealing with things farther down the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs than “it’d be nice if I could bike down Hawthorne”?

Here’s what they need.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/oehr/article/761358

Consider putting energy into addressing these community needs so you can one day soon have a more comprehensive view of how people would like to see their streets transformed.

Zach
Guest
Zach

I appreciate you for not begrudging me for the color of my skin. I still don’t know exactly what you’re saying I should do though; I’ve talked to many POC and women about this project—probably even more women than men.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Judged by whom? [see Matthew 7:1-3]

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Zach—whiteness at this point has only a tangential relationship to skin color; there are folks I know with skin as dark or darker than mine that are considered white, while I am never mistaken as such. I only bring this up because whiteness is actually about who access to power (a definition that has grown and grown over time to accommodate people of more ethnicities but always excluded certain people) and the preconceived notions that we all have about the people who were raised to believe they are white.

Hello, Kitty—I was hoping you would find us down here.

Judged by the same group of folks the gentleman was imploring when he uttered this.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

My comment on judgement was mostly pushing back against those who demonize white men simply for their inheritance (unhelpful, unproductive, and alienating, no matter how cathartic) rather than their deeds and their impacts (which lives up to King’s dream, our dream), which have also often been quite deplorable. Shouldn’t the way you wield your power and influence and how you treat those less powerful than you influence judgement more than who you are? The extent to which you don’t work to mend disparities (especially if you are aware of them and especially if you are on the benefiting side), call your character into question?

Personally, I am happy to be measured by the same ruler I apply to others. And I have removed the beam from mine own eye. Which is why I bother writing lengthy missives to well-meaning white men who are doing damage by amplifying the voices everyone can already hear; in my own ignorance, I have also done damage (and I probably still do), and realizing that has made me empathetic toward other people who are similarly passionate but not aware of the damage they may do.

We are getting a little far afield now, aren’t we.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

>>> whiteness at this point has only a tangential relationship to skin color <<<

I believe this is true. I think if we chose a different word than "white" to describe this new expanded concept, it would reduce much of the petty argument that a racial term does and let people focus on the main idea of cultural normativeness.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

I’m always up for exploring more nuanced ways of talking about complex topics, just as long as we don’t lose track of the fact that whiteness (in all its nebulousness) is an important explanatory factor in the disparities we see yesteryear, today, and likely tomorrow.

I appreciate that you try to escape the gravity of loaded terms, to invite others out into that field beyond concepts that come pre-freighted with connotations that lead people to close ranks around their cause (often for good reason). My knee-jerk is to resist that escape, as marginalized communities have done a lot of work to define and own terms in the realms of racial equity work. But if we can create reasons for those communities to trust those who often control framing and conversations, we can have more of these conversations where nuance can creep in without defenses coming up.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I don’t want to control the framing of the conversation; I’m only suggesting a way that it can be more productive, and perhaps apply more universally.

By focusing on “white” and not on “with financial means”, the conversation has already escaped one if its fundamental, and quite powerful, explanatory factors. I understand these are not completely orthogonal concepts, but in many (but hardly all) situations, money seems to overpower race as an explanatory mechanism (a Minneapolis cop kneeling on your neck may not care about your wealth, but OJ Simpson was protected by his millions).

I know that this conversation will ultimately be argued about in racial terms, because, like that onion on your belt, it is the style at this time.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

(I have migrated what I felt were the pertinent parts of this thread to the BP forums if you’d like to continue this more indepth chat there. If not, just as well.)

I agree such an expansion might make the conversation useful to more people, but it might make it less productive for the specific populations I think we need to care more about.

It depends on the discussion we want to have. Are we wanting to look for ways to alleviate the parts of black and brown poverty and disenfranchisement that are distinct and impact their ability to engage with issues beyond securing the basics, or are we wanting to look for ways to alleviate poverty and disenfranchisement of people with fewer financial resources? I know I appear stubborn for drawing a clear line between those two (and any other approach which results in taking focus away from race even though more universal approaches/discussions also seek to address race-based disparities), but there are good reasons for this etching.

We can address disparities based on race and we can address disparities based on level of financial resources (and more!), but we should be aware that addressing one is not addressing the other. For decades we’ve had programs guided by the ”rising tide lifts all boats” mentality, yet these have done little to alleviate the plight of people of color; we still see significant disparities between outcomes for Portlanders of color and white Portlanders that keep people of color from being able to engage with many of the issues that are discussed here.

So it’s not either or, but I (and other equity advocates) am wary of moving the focus away from discussion of and solutions to race-based disparities because we’ve had the rising tide conversation and continue to have the rising tide conversation and it isn’t addressing the scale and type of problems our constituents are facing.

At the same time, toward the end of his short life, ML King worked to expand the civil rights tent to bring in other disenfranchised populations (laborers, the poor); he recognized what you recognize about the intersectionality of disenfranchisement under capitalism—to a significant extent, income is predictive of many unfortunate outcomes in the same way race is and there is substantial collinearity between race and income levels.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I may (or may not) join you in the forums, but let me just add a final point here as a clarification. I did not mean to suggest that economic condition is the sole determinant of social power, only that using the term “white” as a shorthand encompassing several important factors tends to derail the conversation; rather than work on solutions, we fight over terminology.

We can address disparities based on race and we can address disparities based on level of financial resources (and more!), but we should be aware that addressing one is not addressing the other.

This is exactly my point. We need different words.

(And the reason that our programs largely haven’t worked is that “programs” probably isn’t the answer.)

Kcommentee
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Kcommentee

Great comment and insight. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

Carrie
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Carrie

Kana — thank you for so taking the extensive time to outline and articulate all of the reasoning behind my discomfort with the process of this project. Zach’s responses to you below, even though he can’t see it, illustrate the point — from my perspective the reason there was ‘only one’ negative interaction on the project’s Facebook page was due to his shutting down all comments that included valid questions and concerns about the proposal. This has effectively stifled all conversation other than those that agree with what he is promoting. And again, it plays right into the dominant system and I can be upset about that while equally glad to see infrastructure like this have a legitimate seat at the table.

Zach
Guest
Zach

> from my perspective the reason there was ‘only one’ negative interaction on the project’s Facebook page was due to his shutting down all comments that included valid questions and concerns about the proposal

That’s not true. Most people joined the Facebook group because they like the project and want to see it succeed—there literally was only one or two negative interactions there, and aside from one incident, I absolutely was not actively censoring anyone, preventing them from joining the group, or shutting down conversations (nor am I doing so now).

9watts
Subscriber

Kana O.’s comments are some of the best I’ve read here in ages. Thank you! I hope you stick around.

But I really don’t understand all the downvotes.

Someone finally shows up here and speaks eloquently about race and privilege and how it relates to a very bikey issue….. and mostly receives downvotes?!
Weird. Who are all you disagreeers? What do you find so problematic about these utterances that you are moved to deep six them? What point is served by doing that? Are you trying to make someone new feel welcome?

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

I appreciate it 9watts—and Kcommentee and Carrie that have also been supportive. My fight to find a voice at the intersection of equity and transportation has been hard won; I am not likely to let downvotes scare me off, especially when I don’t imagine they are reflective of what most readers of BP think and feel; I imagine the only folks left trawling this thread are those in Zach’s camp—those that have settled on a particular solution to a problem and want to see others who raise questions of it discouraged. If there are those who are downvoting for other reasons (as 9watts spelled out), I would like to hear about what is objectionable to you:

The points about white people having a leg up when it comes to shaping the world around them?

The sense that this leg up diminishes the work and achievements of white people to further the causes they care about?

Asking people to consider the history of white advocacy and for what and for whom it has and hasn’t shown up?

The request that white people lend their privilege, resources, and capacity to elevate needs and voices that might not be their own?

That white men should be judged by their actions and impacts, not by their identity as white men?

Let’s talk about it.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Though you probably weren’t referring to me, I wanted to clarify that I am not in anyone’s “camp” (comments elsewhere on this forum should clarify my skepticism about Zach’s project, though I do have a certain admiration for his having pushed it as far as he has, given how heavily past attempts, all by other white people, have flopped). I have not (intentionally) downvoted any messages in this conversation — I rarely downvote well reasoned and well intentioned comments simply because I disagree with them.

I’m deleting the rest of my comment because it’s long and academic sounding. I enjoy debate, but probably overindulge. Y’all have better things to do than listen to this kitty’s mewing.

Enjoy your Saturday!

Kana O.
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Kana O.

Another time then! Long form discussion on the above themes feel much needed.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

Why not turn a few of these popular streets into “Las Ramblas”-type areas on weekends, especially during the spring and summer? Have some pop-up shops in the street, etc.

Just make them pedestrian areas for certain windows of time and see what happens.

Joseph E
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Joseph E

Hawthorne has a somewhat busy Trimet bus line. It would be best to try your idea on other commercial / retail streets which currently lack a bus route.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

Buses can temporarily detour to another route on a parallel street. Metro Transit does this in Minneapolis for our Open Streets events.

Zach
Guest
Zach
GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

That’s actually how our Open Streets summer events are done in Minneapolis. Rather than closing off a route of quiet side streets, as Portland does with Summer Parkways, 8-10 times a year we close a major commercial street (like Hawthorne) off to traffic for a day.

Families still come and walk with their toddlers – and all of the other heartening things you only see at these types of events – but one of the big differences is that there’s a lot more participation from local businesses. Almost everyone with a storefront along the street sets up a table or tent and hands out info, schwag, samples, discounted stuff, what have you. That was the vision I always had for SE Sunday Parkways (which, I think, one year coincided with the Hawthorne Street Fair, which closed the street to traffic – anyone remember?)

I'll Show Up
Guest
I'll Show Up

Has anyone figured out how wide the street is and if the parking protected bike lane, two vehicle lanes, and a center turn lane will fit? I’ve ridden and driven on Hawthorne and it doesn’t seem to have space for all of that.

Zach
Guest
Zach

It’s 52′ curb-to-curb—here’s a streetmix: https://streetmix.net/z_a_c_h_k_a_t_z/13/healthier-hawthorne-3 (ignore the random design I have in there)

PBLs and center turn lane won’t both fit. You can’t even fit buffered bike lanes (not a safe option, to be clear!) without removing the center turn lane.

I'll Show Up
Guest
I'll Show Up

That shows a center turn lane with no parking. Hawthorne businesses are saying get rid of all the parking? That would be amazing!

Zach
Guest
Zach

No, like I said, that’s just a random design I was toying with—it’s not the actual proposal.

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

How about this instead?

Mark Linehan
Guest
Mark Linehan

PBOT is currently discussing a Hawthorne Pave and Paint project scheduled for 2021.The project will repave Hawthorne from SE 24th to SE 50th, and they are considering whether to take the opportunity to change the lane allocations.

West of Cesar Chavez, the current 4 traffic + 2 parking lane setup has lanes that are narrower (at 9 feet) than normal. These lanes are actually narrower than TriMet buses, which are 10.5 feet wide. This is likely the reason why this section of Hawthorne has far more bus “mirror strikes” than the section of Hawthorne east of Cesar Chavez, which has 2 wider traffic lanes, 1 turning lane, and 2 parking lanes. The western section has far more crashes than the eastern section, though the only recent death was at SE 43rd.

It seems clear that converting the section west of Cesar Chavez to the 2 traffic + 1 turning + 2 parking lanes is a realistic option. The HAND neighborhood association voted last night to support it. My own observation is that traffic on that section does not back up, except maybe for a limited period at rush hour.

Assuming the 2 + 1 + 2 configuration, there is no room for bike lanes. Getting rid of the parking may be opposed by the business community, and certainly will put more parking pressure on the side streets. HAND has already heard some concerns about that. A compromise could be to replace parking on one side of the street with a two-way bike track. I wonder how that would go over with all the interested parties.

FYI, PBOT’s SE Hawthorne Pave and Paint Mid-project report, draft of May 2020, has lots of useful information about Hawthorne. I particularly noticed that traffic on the road is down from 24,000 daily vehicles in 1997 to 18,000 today.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Regarding a bi-directional cycletrack, imagine huffing up that long hill as people are bombing down it souting “hoooooot piiizzzzzzaaaaaaa!!!!”.

Not good.

Dirk McGee
Guest
Dirk McGee

How does this concept affect the bus delay along Hawthorne?

D2
Guest
D2

I don’t know about delay but it would solve the super awkward straddle both lanes with the bus strategy.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Hawthorne has historically been so car centric, they don’t even close the street for their own annual street fair!!

As far as I am aware, they are the only street in Pdx that doesn’t close down the street, for a freaking STREET FAIR.

Alberta, Belmont, Mississippi, and even 82nd Avenue all shut down for their annual street fairs, but not Hawthorne, oh no!

It would be amazing to see a more traffic calmed street. I don’t currently shop on Hawthorne much at all. It’s currently just an unpleasant four lane highway.

9watts
Subscriber

Your sources are outdated. That used to be the case but not for some years.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

I’m so mesmerized by the image I can’t read the article. The promise of grayer skies with more sun (very Portland) and the entire street flipped so the sun shines from the north. The poor person on the left caught in the original photo does not benefit from the new sun.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Haha, good catch! Any chance Portland could move itself north of the Arctic Circle so those southerly shadows could become reality?

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

The absolute key to getting Hawthorne businesses on board, as we’ve seen every other rodeo we’ve been through, is if we can minimize the loss of welfare parking.

Maybe a parking-protected bike lane could do that, though I suspect that having good sightlines at intersections will require that we lose a few.