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It’s official: PBOT considering bike lanes on Hawthorne Blvd

Posted by on May 20th, 2020 at 2:37 pm

PBOT drawing shows one of two bikeway options under consideration.

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.

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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)…

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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 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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9watts
Subscriber

I hope and expect that whatever happens, Alternative 1 is quickly retired, shelved, scrapped.

Adam
Guest
Adam

This overhead looks about what I would have imagined. Keep the pedestrian/bus stop bump-outs and just trace the bike lanes around them. Keeping the parking is fine as it will probably ameliorate the predictable gripe about loss of parking. Hopefully the Hawthorne business district could get behind metered parking. My ideal vision would be to eliminate most of the parking and expand the sidewalk widths, but that would definitely be very expensive. Reducing to two car lanes would definitely make the street experience a lot friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists. If only there were enough street space to accommodate bike lanes and rose lanes for buses the whole length of the boulevard. Alas.

Shimran George
Guest
Shimran George

I thought they were always “considering” bike lanes? It just seemed like an unlikely scenario.

If there’s been greater weight given to putting bike lanes in…then kudos (I’d like to see alternative 3b worked out)! But I think they were. learning towards mimicing Hawthorne from 39th to 50th (alternative 2).

Just wanted to clarify whether there’s been a meaningful shift to include bike lanes or if this is just lip service.

I can see alternative 2 being the compromise option, but as 9watts. said, let alternative 1 be a configuration of the past!

Momo
Guest
Momo

Good point. This is the first time any alternatives have even been introduced, so it’s not true that bike lanes weren’t being considered. There was just a general expectation out there that the three-lane cross-section was the most likely. Which let’s be honest, is amazing in itself. Only a few years ago the idea of reducing the number of car lanes on Hawthorne was not even up for discussion. Now it’s the “centrist” option. We’re making progress as a city!

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Bike lanes would be fantastic here. The Hawthorne corridor is one of the highest-demand in the city, and the parallel alternatives (Salmon, Harrison/Lincoln) are multiple blocks away (in contrast to Clinton, for example, which is just two short blocks from Division).

Hawthorne should never have gotten the death-road striping that it has now. It has the narrowest traffic lanes of any street in the city (9.5 feet for some stretches IIRC from my Portland Traffic & Transportation class), and even below the speed limit many people seem to have difficulty staying within their lanes. I myself have personally witnessed at least two incidents in which opposite direction vehicles’ mirrors hit each other, scattering debris across the street.

I know there’s some benefit in narrower lanes in keeping traffic speeds down, but I don’t think this happens on Hawthorne. If that principle still worked below 10′ wide lanes, you’d see everyone going under 20mph, and you don’t. People still go 25 mph (or more), often straddling the line between lanes rather than fully staying in the right lane. The current configuration just doesn’t work, and we’ve known that for a long time.

Multiple lanes also inherently make pedestrian crossings more difficult, because two lanes of drivers in one direction are about 10-20% as likely to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk as one lane of drivers in each direction. Even Alternative 1 (basically making it the same as Hawthorne beyond Chavez) would be huge improvement over the current situation, but bike lanes would bring a lot more value than a center two-way turn lane.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

I agree–I probably wouldn’t bike Hawthorne too much (even though I’d love to have the bike lanes to have the option), but mny desire to even visit the corridor is greatly hindered by the difficulty crossing as a pedestrian, doubly with a small child. This should be a no brainer for the biz community to get behind some kind of lane reduction.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

No more soft center lanes!

Center lanes need to be hard curb, not paint. Put in a small turn lane at the appropriate end, but that’s it. Anything less encourages abuse of the lane as happens daily on the upper part of Hawthorne with a center lane.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

They need a hard median at least every other block or so. That is sufficient to prevent most dangerous driving. Allowing 10+ blocks of unobstructed center lane is asking for dangerous passing. I see it all the time on Glisan east of NE 47th.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Nothing like taking the lane on a single lane roadway separated by a hard median. Only to have someone blast past you when the soft median takes over. But I’m with you, hard median is best.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

PBOT: One of your problems is that you think that doing the exact same thing again is an alternative.

Momo
Guest
Momo

Every planner is taught to have the “no-build” version of a project as one of the alternatives. Otherwise you have nothing to compare the “build” alternatives to. It doesn’t mean PBOT is seriously thinking about putting it back the way it was…they’ve already said that is highly unlikely. But it’s always good to remind people that it is technically an option, and this way when you do an evaluation process you are showing how each option measures up to the “do nothing” option.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

No cars is also technically an option, maybe they should always start with that. Even just no-through-traffic.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

PBOT is required to do this, to present a series of alternatives, including one that is “leave as is but make slight improvements to meet current standards.”

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

Yes, as a trained transportation planner, option 1 could theoretically be labelled as “No Build” but I would challenge that in this case since retaining ANY 4 lane configuration is such a deficient layout for this corridor for ALL user groups in terms of traffic safety and capacity, etc…its got to go…like leaving a sink hole in the middle of a community that just gets worse. It really should not have been labelled as “Option 1” even with minor rearranging of the deck chairs.

[I am very happy PBoT is discussing other options, as I thought this might be another regional arterial project that I might not live long enough to see fixed and use…kinda like upper Columbia Street in Vancouver WA, I fear.]

John. D.
Guest
John. D.

The bike lanes in alternative 3a are going to be treated as pick-up/drop-off spots by cars. It’s going to be double parked cars the entire length of the project, especially on evening and weekends. Bad choice.

The center turn lane for alternative 2 needs physical protections to prevent people from cutting around stopped traffic and hitting someone (as has tragically happened on Hawthorne). PBOT is saying that’s out of the scope of this project, therefore it’s a bad choice.

Alternative 1 maintains the existing four-lane design. Four lane roads like that have no place in a dense urban setting, even more so in a commercial/residential district. Worst choice.

That leaves alternative 3b. While I worry about people parking in the bike lane, I feel like it won’t be nearly as frequent as in 3a. It really should be the only choice, especially if it’s only done with paint. Bill it as a five year trial run. If for some reason it turns out to be terrible, PBOT can go through and change it to something else.

rain panther
Guest
rain panther

I agree – 3a looks like a total fiasco to me. I suppose it’s marginally better than no bike lane at all, but I think it’d be too stressful for most less experienced riders, families, etc.

Still, just going to three car lanes would be a huge improvement on its own.

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

Jonathan: I tried the link to the PBoT presentation PDF and it did not take me anywhere.

PS. It would be helpful if articles on this type of project had a foundation table: ADT for each direction, etc. Just so we can visualize the details compared to the design options. (I went to the PBoT presentation to see it.)

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

Unless there is a real barrier between the road and the sidewalk, cars/trucks/semis are just going to mosey up to the curb. So, you need something substantial. A $1000 parking ticket for parking in the bike lane would be nice too.

Zach
Guest
Zach

Agreed. I hope we can find funding for concrete planters that are both robust and beautiful.

BeeBee
Guest
BeeBee

The problem with the planters is, although they make the street more beautiful, pedestrians often do not make themselves visible to drivers and perceive the area a safe place to wait, then step out when it actually is not safe. Happens often on Woodstock.

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

PBOT needs to throw away their design guide and just borrow one from the Netherlands. Why have a protected bike lane without protected intersections?

Matt Meskill
Subscriber
Matt Meskill

Exactly. All these options are sub-standard. They’re garbage. Why should we even pretend to be excited about this? (I’m feeling snarky.)

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

Another way of doing this would be to say here is the gold standard and show a picture of a PBL with protected intersections. Here is how we get to that design. Are there any reasons why we should deviate from this and why? Then talk about the limitations. Don’t shoot for garbage at the outset.

BeeBee
Guest
BeeBee

Hawthorne is already terrifying due to parked car doors being opened by drivers who don’t look before they throw their door open, or standing in a lane while they get in their car with their purchases. 3b would be the best option with protection for the biker. Is that configuration successful on SW Broadway? The other options offer a scary prospect that bikers will have to put even more thought in to avoiding doors with traffic coming up behind them. Diminished parking of any amount is unfortunate, but folks love their cars – even in Portland – so moving Hawthorne to any sort of bike / ped preference will be detrimental to the small businesses.

Mark Linehan
Guest
Mark Linehan

The concern I have with both alternatives 3 is that, without a center turn lane, traffic will back up behind left-turning vehicles. (Just the opposite of a rose lane for buses!) Combine that with the reduction from 2 traffic lanes in each direction to just 1, and we may get a public reaction that prevents any change at all.

One alternative not proposed so far is replacing a parking lane on one side with a two-way cycle track. That configuration allocates 2 lanes for traffic (1 in each direction), 1 lane for turning, 1 lane for parking, and 1 lane for bicycles.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

They don’t have to allow left turns.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

3a would be the fastest bikeway option, but double-parking would be rampant, and would make it a nightmare during business hours. The curbside bike lanes are probably the best option here (3b) for an “unobstructed” bikeway, but I can see a lot of business opposition, due to the lost street parking spots. Right-hook risk is going to be high, too.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

3B. And close it on weekends between Mid-May and End of September.

Tom
Guest
Tom

I happened upon a car crash once on Hawthorne near 21st while walking around. The entire roof of the car had been sheered completely off, with a debris field that went for two blocks. There was not much left of the car. It looked more like a plane crash. A large area was tapped off while the investigators were working in the debris field. I asked an officer standing at the tape line what had happened and he said “speed may have been a factor”. Ya think? Sadly the improvements will end at 24th. Wish they would consider 12th through 24th in the project also.

Jordan
Guest

As much as I would love to see a bike lane on Hawthorne, I don’t see how that would work with delivery vehicles. Bars and restaurants require pallet loads of meat, produce beer Etc. which are all delivered by trucks that require a place to park while there drivers use pallet-jacks to haul the products from truck to business. Reducing the parking available and not providing any alternative loading areas doesn’t seem like the best idea to me.

I’m sure if the changes were made delivery companies and businesses would just have to adjust, but I’m curious at what cost. As delivering products in smaller vehicles is less efficient (requires more vehicle trips) I’m assuming it would make operating a business in this corridor more expensive.

Visiting Amsterdam it was interesting to see that their solution was just to have delivery trucks park on the sidewalk! It made walking around town in the mornings fairly unpleasant as you had to constantly squeeze by delivery trucks that reduce the sidewalk down to about 2ft wide.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

Options 3a and 3b have two parking lanes and two vehicle lanes, which is the same as what most other inner Portland business districts have (i.e. NW 23rd, SE Division, NE Alberta, N Mississippi, etc, etc). Looking at Hawthorne on streetview there are a number of spaces that are designated as loading only at certain hours of the day, and available for general purpose parking at others. There’s no reason that can’t continue under any of the options above.

Jordan
Guest

I think my brain is fixating on 3B which would be more of the issue… given the reduction in number of parking spaces. But good point on pretty much every other major commercial street being arranged that way. If it functions there, I suppose it would work here as well.

Dirk McGee
Guest
Dirk McGee

I wonder how alternatives 3a and 3b will affect the bus – bikes are great, but the city should serve all who travel on the corridor

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

They would slow it down quite a bit, especially if they are still going to allow left turns. The only way 3a/b would work for traffic flows would be to ban all left turns for the entire corridor.

Momo
Guest
Momo

Left turns are already prohibited at all signals other than Cesar Chavez, and signals are where most people want to turn. I’m very doubtful that enough people are turning left at the unsignalized local intersections for a ban to make any significant difference. Division doesn’t have a center turn lane, and it seems like people avoid turning left at unsignalized intersections most of the time, because they know it’s going to be very difficult to find a gap.

Even if banning left turns was determined to be a good idea, there’s a practical challenge in terms of where to put the sign. No left turn signs usually go on signal mast-arms, or on an island. If you don’t have one of those, there’s nowhere to put it.

JP
Guest
JP

3a looks confusing and dangerous for all parties, although much less dangerous than the status quo. 3b for the win.

Amy
Guest
Amy

On its face this is a great project but I question how much it will be safer for bicyclists than it is now. The 14-Hawthorne bus (a frequent service) will still weave in and out of the proposed bike lane every 10-15 minutes, and in Alternative 3a, I can see a disaster in the making. Short of outright banning all on-street parking between 12th and 50th, it will still be dangerous for bicyclists even with the bike lanes.

Madison Street, just a block north of Hawthorne, is a low-traffic street that also happens to be wide and flat. Officially designating Madison (Salmon between 30th and 34th) as a neighborhood greenway makes a better sense to me.

Zach
Guest
Zach

3A is definitely a disaster; it should have never been proposed. There are design elements—like protected intersections and modular bus stops—that will prevent conflicts with 3B and make it an extremely safe option: https://www.facebook.com/groups/betterhawthorne/permalink/2743707632525647/