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After feedback, PBOT will consider bike lane hybrid option on Hawthorne Blvd

Posted by on September 30th, 2020 at 1:33 pm

A mixing zone like this one on SE Foster at 82nd could be the key to fitting bike lanes on Hawthorne Blvd.

“I’ll admit if we could go back and do it over, I wish I’d included a middle option and evaluated it along with the others.”
— Zef Wagner, PBOT

When the Portland Bureau of Transportation came out with its evaluation of options for a redesign of Hawthorne Boulevard earlier this month, cycling advocates were crestfallen to say the least.

Bike lanes on this marquee commercial corridor have been a dream for years — not just to improve convenience for bicycle users, but to add some humanity to the beloved street and begin to create the conditions our climate and transportation plans envision.

Unfortunately, PBOT’s analysis (PDF) clearly favored an option without bike lanes. The way they presented the two options seemed to be, “intentionally stacking the deck in favor of a design that deprives Hawthorne of much-wanted, much-needed—and long-planned-for bike lanes,” is how one activist described it to me. Adding salt to the wound was the claim that the addition of bike lanes would be bad on climate change and racial equity grounds.

How? PBOT models showed that bike lanes on the street would lead to bus and auto user delays of 8 to 16 minutes. One PBOT project manager said the bike lanes would lead to a “pretty major traffic breakdown with queues stretching several blocks.” That added trip time wouldn’t be fair to transit users from east Portland (an equity focus area for PBOT) and it would cause some of them to drive instead.

Many people were concerned that PBOT’s framing was unfair and that it pitted bike lanes against climate change and racial equity.

Something didn’t add up.

In follow-up conversations with PBOT project staff at meetings of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and Bike Loud PDX, we learned the source of this delay was a single intersection. Speaking at the Bike Loud meeting on September 16th, PBOT Project Manager Zef Wagner said, “The primary reason for the delay in the traffic analysis was the reduction of capacity at Cesar Chavez.”

In other words, a single intersection between SE 24th and 50th would cause the transit delays that made the bike lane option score so poorly in PBOT’s evaluation.

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Perhaps not the death knell many of us feared.

“If you present a new option that’s good for equity and climate with improved transit times, and the only compromise is a mixing zone where the conditions for crossing will be better than currently exists — I think that’s a really great compromise that a lot of people will be happy with.”
— Zach Katz, Healthier Hawthorne

Activists wondered why PBOT didn’t consider a mixing zone at that intersection which would likely eliminate the transit delay. A mixing zone is something PBOT does at busy intersections where the dedicated bike lane ends and bicycle users share the space with others (see lead image for example).

Turns out PBOT didn’t evaluate the mixing zone option because it’s considered a substandard cycling treatment. “We wanted to look at carrying a bike lane all the way through with no mixing zone or anything like that, because we thought it was important to evaluate sort of a pure option that actually meets our design guidelines. Mixing bikes and cars and buses is not a preferred option,” Wagner said.

After hearing feedback, PBOT now says they’re willing to consider a hybrid option that would include bike lanes on most of the street and a mixing zone at Cesar Chavez.

“Very often in a planning process, you present these sort of idealized alternatives, and then you see if there’s a way to kind of combine elements of them together. So there might be something in between,” Wagner shared. “I’ll admit if we could go back and do it over, I wish I’d included a middle option and evaluated it along with the others,” he continued. “At the time we it would seem like we were pre-compromising and the criticism would be, ‘Why are you doing that?’ But I can see the concern and frustration.”

Zach Katz with Healthier Hawthorne is among the local activists who pushed for this option and is happy that PBOT will be more flexible than their evaluation report suggests. “I think a lot of people were misled,” Katz said to Wagner at the Bike Loud meeting, “because they don’t want to rank something higher, that says that it’s gonna be bad for equity and climate. But if you present a new option that’s good for equity and climate with improved transit times, and the only compromise is a mixing zone where the conditions for crossing will be better than currently exists — I think that’s a really great compromise that a lot of people will be happy with.”

Keep in mind that even if this hybrid bike lane/mixing zone option alleviates transit delay concerns, tough conversations about tradeoffs likely remain. PBOT has made it clear that the myriad demands on Hawthorne — based on its classification in city plans as a Major Transit Priority Street, a Civic Collector, a Civic Main Street, and a City Bikeway — make compromises inevitable.

If you haven’t shared your feedback yet, please take the online survey which closes today (Wednesday 9/30). You can also email HawthorneRepave@portlandoregon.gov.

PBOT plans to come out with a recommendation in December.

To learn more, see the project website and check out this detailed Q & A on the project (PDF) between PBOT and the Bike Advisory Committee.

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

A mixing zone is something PBOT does at busy intersections

Ah, yes, my favorite place to mix with traffic.

Ricky Bruce
Guest
Ricky Bruce

How to manufacture consent to progressive Portlanders- tell them something is bad for equity and climate and hope they don’t interrogate those claims.

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

This entire conversation around whether or not we should even consider other modes (eg walking, biking) relies on a very big assumption: car capacity and speed are a given priority. What is an “appropriate” car capacity and speed? Why does that necessarily preclude other modes?

“The primary reason for the delay in the traffic analysis was the reduction of capacity at Cesar Chavez.”

Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello, Kitty

Equity is now job #1 at PBOT, and for the purposes of this project, PBOT defined equity as motorized vehicle speed throughput in order to facilitate transit between Lents and downtown (which, for the purposes of this project was constrained to using Hawthorne, despite other, likely faster and “more equitable” routes being available).

By defining the problem the way they did, our newly “enlightened” PBOT prioritized capacity and speed, just like “dark ages” PDOT used to do.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

Yes, indeed. Could not have said it better. Combination of pseudoscience, good intention and zero political will.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

The solution set under consideration originally is also suspect. In addition to excluding this option, the solution set also didn’t include a bus lane in any of the options despite transit and equity purportedly being such high priorities.

Matt
Guest
Matt

“Mixing bikes and cars and buses is not a preferred option.”

So, instead of mixing traffic modes at one intersection… they would rather mix traffic modes for the ENTIRE length of Hawthorne? Because that’s what cyclists have to do if you don’t give us our own lane.

rick
Guest
rick

So PBOT built a street buffet on the Foster stroad yet refuses to take away car parking or car lanes on Hawthorne which has way more nearby bicycle greenways?

rick
Guest
rick

Greeenways, in the context that Hawthorne has more support for real bike lanes than the Foster project. One businesses went ape furious about the Foster road diet.

Tom
Guest
Tom

One thing they tend to not disclose in these plans are the crosswalk closures. Automobile right-of-way is never taken away without substantial chances for stakeholder input allowed, but 140 year old unmarked crosswalks are being removed overnight without input from the community, and without any prior notice. Closing intersections to peds is a technique used in car centric suburbs to discourage pedestrians as much as possible, and has no place in an urban environment. PBOT should not be in the business of closing 140 year old crosswalks. Its just embarrassing.

Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello, Kitty

Which crosswalks are being closed?

maxD
Guest
maxD

They closed the 12th/Madison intersection a couple of years ago, right AFTER building an accessible ramp!

Tom
Guest
Tom

On previous projects PBOT closed unmarked crosswalks in the weeks after the ribbon cutting ceremony, and called it a “final touchup” or some such wording. The project discloser never included the closings. The automotive equivalent of this would be adding a few unannounced diverters to a new greenway in the weeks after the ribbon cutting, as a “final touchup”. Some people might like that technique, but it cheapens the process and creates mistrust.

Capacity
Guest
Capacity

How does PDOT define “capacity.” Any street can fit far more people on bikes than in cars. Is it human capacity, human transportation or just about moving smoking hunks of metal?

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

Pbot often uses the numbers from traffic counts at intersections to inform their decisions:

https://pdx.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=7ce8d1f5053141f1bc0f5bd7905351e6

Pbot also counts bike trips on limited streets often via visual count (someone correct me if I’m wrong). It is perhaps a little too obvious to point out, but on stroads such as Hawthorne, pedestrian and bicycle trips are an afterthought at best. Count the number of people walking on I-5 or cars on a hiking path and you might get similar numbers.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Having taken some classes in transportation planning, I can tell you that traditionally “capacity” means moving car-sized chunks of metal, period.

9watts
Subscriber

“Turns out PBOT didn’t evaluate the mixing zone option because it’s considered a substandard cycling treatment.“

But isn’t this the job we pay PBOT to do? Iterate until they arrive at a solution that makes sense? Why why why couldn’t PBOT have arrived at this brilliant compromise/insight without external pressure?

no treatment, throwing up our hands, is surely even more substandard than this initially discarded compromise.

clowns.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Why why why couldn’t PBOT have arrived at this brilliant compromise/insight without external pressure?

I’ll go out on a limb and guess it’s because they’d get precisely the reaction you’re seeing here.

When the people providing the lion’s share of feedback are ideologues, anyone seeking sensible steps forward is guaranteed to be eviscerated — not much incentive to be practical.

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

Evaluating a street based on a single mode parking+capacity+speed does not strike me as sensible. Reactions to this are quite appropriate. If PBOT decided to design streets based on movement of people, not cars, the results and corresponding reactions would be different.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Just out of curiosity, how far do you actually need to travel and under what conditions?

My personal experience is that Portland is crazy easy. I know Hawthorne well. Certainly not optimal but not so bad.

Providing better lanes will noticeably increase the number of people willing to cycle that street. But if you think huge numbers of people will dump their vehicles to cycle distance in the dark and wet, you’re just kidding yourself.

If you really want to advance cycling in this town, you need to work with the drivers — many of whom are of limited means and who can’t afford to live close to where they work at low paying jobs.

There’s a reason why cycling infrastructure is associated with gentrification, and I’d go so far as to say that the vast majority that insist on it have no idea what cycling would mean for the vast majority of people.

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

Personally I prefer the older greenways adjacent to commercial streets. I still like Rodney better than vancouver/williams in most cases.

I wish Hawthorne bike lanes were more than just an excuse to make Hawthorne more pedestrian friendly. Cyclists take all the blame from drivers in that case, and we don’t even get very good cycling infrastructure.

Also, we can’t do it because of climate change and uh, oh yeah, equity! Hilarious. You just want a safe place to ride your bike? Do not oppose us or you will be cancelled! Racist.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Incredible. I hate mixing zones as much as anyone, not least because the bike-haters argue that bike lanes vastly reduce car capacity, when in fact these mixing zones pretty much minimize that. Meanwhile, while the congestion at these intersections is what makes these zones advantageous, it is also what makes them most dangerous to us. In other words, it is a blatant tradeoff of bike safety vs. car expediency.

Tell me: does that pedestrian-heavy intersections still have beg buttons that force pedestrians to wait an extra cycle to cross? Another sacrifice on the altar of car expediency.

All this said, I understand that sometimes it’s the tradeoff that has to be made. If mixing zones are what it takes to get bike lanes down Hawthorne, so be it. But still think about getting rid of the unconstitutional beg buttons.

Momo
Guest
Momo

I’m pretty sure that none of the signals on Hawthorne have “beg buttons.” They’re fixed-time just like downtown, where the pedestrian signal automatically comes up.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I specifically meant Chavez and Hawthorne. At least as of a year or two ago it still had beg buttons, and did not automatically give pedestrians a WALK.

Dave
Guest
Dave

I don’t know why Hawthorners have resisted this. It’s NOT a functional four lane street and hasn’t been for many years. Know how there’s places where you unconsciously pull your elbows in cycling, like riding in a pack or in the woods? Driving Hawthorne makes me do that in a car! The street should be one car lane each way, a left turn lane in the middle, and bike lanes.

soren
Guest
soren

Hawthorners did not resist this. It was the Hawthorne Blvd Business Association that engaged in a dirty and corrupt (back-room) fight to block safety improvements described in the 1997 Hawthorne Blvs Transportation Plan:

A copy of the plan (which can no longer be found on city sites):
https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/36681262.pdf