During an online meeting hosted by the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association this morning, the Portland Bureau of Transportation revealed some very good news: Bike lanes are among the alternatives being considered for their Hawthorne Pave and Paint project.
As we first hinted at back in January, the project — which will repave the street between 24th and 50th — is an opportunity to do something special on this marquee commercial corridor.
Given the historic relationship between bike lanes and main streets in Portland, it was no surprise that PBOT was initially reluctant to utter the words “bike lane” anywhere near this project. Over the years the City has battled business interests who think free car parking is better for their bottom line that thousands of people on bikes. But now it appears that they’ve warmed to the idea.
Could the robust advocacy effort behind Healthier Hawthorne help explain PBOT’s newfound confidence? That seems very likely. Let’s also recall that PBOT’s in-house design guidelines call for protected bike lanes as a default treatment. In 2018, PBOT Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller said when they approach a project, “We’re going to start with a protected bike lane and you better have a really good reason why can’t do it.”
At the meeting this morning, PBOT Project Manager Karla Kingsley kept that promise when she her presentation (PDF) revealed the three design alternatives they’re considering. She also explained how the various alternatives will be analyzed.
The three alternatives are:
1) Put everything back the same way it is today…
2) Extend the three lane cross-section that currently exists east of Cesar Chavez (39th) all the way to 24th (one lane each direction with a center turn lane)…
3a) Buffered, door-zone bike lanes (where the bike lane would narrow at intersections)…
3b) Parking protected bike lanes. These would be 5-feet wide with a 2.5-foot buffer. During the presentation, Kingsley said this option is a “fairly constrained design to fit on Hawthorne” and it requires more car parking removal than other options. Also notice how the bike lane would have to curve around existing curb extensions because PBOT says this project doesn’t have the budget to remove them. (Note: This is the design favored by Healthier Hawthorne and supported by The Street Trust, nearly 60 businesses, and so on)…
When it comes to how these alternatives will be evaluated, PBOT says there are four main criteria: It must fit within the scope of the project (meaning this is just a near-term paving project with limited budget, not a full-on rebuild/redesign); It must improve safety (speeding is a major concern); It must “support the main street function” (meaning all types of users must be able to access businesses); and it must improve connections in the network overall. PBOT also says no matter which alternative is chosen, bus priority treatments and better crossings will be a given.
Asked for his reaction to the bike lane idea, Hawthorne Blvd Business Association Treasurer Roger Jones said, “Within the lens of safety, bikes are always welcome on Hawthorne. Time will tell where the community lands.”
Healthier Hawthorne founder Zach Katz is looking forward to working with PBOT in the coming weeks and months. Reached for comment about today’s meeting he said, “I’m thrilled protected bike lanes are on the table now. I hope this project is showing PBOT just how much demand there is for better bike infrastructure and that they can use this momentum to be even more bold going forward.”
This is early in the process and as one PBOT staffer in this morning’s meeting pointed out, “Just because you see a picture of something, doesn’t mean it’s going to work.”
If all goes according to plan, PBOT would choose an option by this fall and construct the project in spring of 2021.
The Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association will host another public discussion about this project with PBOT on Wednesday May 27th at 5:30 pm. You can pre-register via Zoom here. Learn more at PBOT’s official project page and stay tuned for more coverage.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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