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Support builds for bike lanes on Hawthorne as community awaits key report from PBOT

Posted by on February 2nd, 2021 at 11:06 am

Healthier Hawthorne has taken over the windows of Starbucks at SE 37th.
(Photo: Zach Katz/Healthier Hawthorne)

A grassroots campaign to build support for protected bike lanes on Southeast Hawthorne Blvd has reached a fever pitch ahead of an expected release of a design recommendation by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

The vision.
(Rendering by Healthier Hawthorne)

It’s been just over a year since we first shared how PBOT’s Hawthorne Pave and Paint project was a golden opportunity to reconfigure and restripe lanes on this key commercial corridor in one of the most bike-centric parts of the city. SE Hawthorne between 24th and 50th has a history of crashes and is designed solely for people in cars, trucks and buses. Only the bravest bike there and it’s an act of faith to cross on foot. There are lanes for parking cars, but there’s zero dedicated space for bicycling.

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Sensing the opportunity, activists organized under the Healthier Hawthorne umbrella to urge PBOT to create space for cycling. Much to their chagrin, PBOT released a report in September that did not support bike lanes. Their surprising analysis said a configuration with bike lanes would necessitate other changes that would lead to a 8-16 minute transit delay and would be harmful to climate change and racial equity goals.

But it soon became clear PBOT’s analysis was misleading: The source of transit delay was a single intersection (Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard), and PBOT staff acknowledged they didn’t evaluate a design (where bike riders would mix with other users) that would alleviate the delay and allow for bike lanes.

A month after releasing their initial evaluation, PBOT agreed to take a second look. PBOT expected to release the new recommendation in November. Then it was December.

Asked for an update today, PBOT Communications Director John Brady said, “We are still evaluating the design options, and we hope to release our recommendations soon.”

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Meanwhile, Zach Katz of Healthier Hawthorne has been working overtime to push protected bike lanes. He’s engaged city council staffers on the issue, posted about why PBOT’s evaluation report is misleading and has led a charge with volunteers to build support. They’ve created a video (above) with interviews from Hawthorne business owners in full support of protected bike lanes. A petition for the cause — boosted by coverage from KATU-TV — has garnered over 1,600 signatures. Flyers have been posted up and down Hawthorne, and the Starbucks at SE 37th has been plastered with quotes from neighbors and business owners.

Flyer spotted on Hawthorne.
(Photo: Hami Rahmani)

PBOT has heard the message.

But they’ve also heard different messages and consternation in City Hall is likely building as release of the evaluation nears. If PBOT doesn’t recommend a protected bike lane option, they’ll go against many of their own adopted planning goals and disappoint thousands of people who want them (including dozens of business owners). If they do recommend bike lanes, they might kick up the ire of other voices like neighborhood groups and others who sometimes fear change — especially when it’s coupled with a loss of auto parking and space for driving.

In October, the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association came out against the bike lanes. Their letter detailed fears of losing “valuable parking spaces” which they claimed would “hamper visitor willingness to shop” and would “impact livability” if visitors parked on side streets.

For their part, PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and her colleagues will stay mum on the topic until the report comes out.

Matt Glazewski, a policy advisor for Commissioner Mingus Mapps (who was speaking on his own behalf and not as a representative of the commissioner), said in a interview yesterday he thinks now is the time for bike lanes on Hawthorne. “I’m supportive of option 3-B [parking-protected bike lanes],” he said. “I think people are discounting that now [during Covid] is a good time to make those kind of changes.” He sees the bike lanes not only to serve cycling demand, but as a way to create valuable space for humans and business functions. “Providing that extra buffer from traffic gives people space to step off the curb safely and partnering with the Healthy Streets program gives space to outdoor dining and shopping.”

Stay tuned.

CORRECTION, 2/3: This post was edited to reflect that Matt Glazewski’s comments were made on his own behalf and not as a representative for Commissioner Mapps’ office. We regret any confusion caused by this 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 welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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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hamiramani
Subscriber

There is much excitement and anxiety building. Thanks to the work of folks like Zach Katz and others (including some on the BAC and Bike Loud PDX) – who have questioned PBOT’s assumptions made in their analyses – we are likely close to seeing a revitalization of Hawthorne. If PBOT decides to go against the will of so many folks in favor of a few entrenched voices that advocate for continued ‘car culture’ there ought to be a reevaluation of who is running that bureau. We need courageous leadership NOW.

Let’s make Hawthorne the example upon which we model (very near) future changes to Belmont, Division, Powell, Sandy…

squareman
Subscriber

I like this development.

I'll Show Up
Guest
I'll Show Up

Love the video and show of support. Equally, or more so, I love seeing all of the BIPOC business owners along Hawthorne!

was carless
Guest
was carless

How about they build a parking garage for cars, and let the streets be used for people.

They could start by knocking down the Bagdad Theater for a nice 3-story parking garage. That should make everyone happy!

mh
Subscriber

I love

    the repeated cuts to oversized motor vehicles putting out visible (and audible) exhaust. I wish an interviewee would have explicitly said they don’t care about loss of auto parking. Several suggested it, but no short, pithy statement. I’m impressed by Zach’s tenacity and the very well done video.

ivan
Guest
ivan

I take it this isn’t the moment to pressure PBOT directly or this post or Healthier Hawthorne would advocate for it?

Brian
Guest
Brian

Upper Hawthorne has been my favorite urban place to hang out in the city since moving here 23 years ago. I recently moved to SE 52nd, just off of Hawthorne, and spend a considerable time walking and biking on the street. In addition to having lanes for cycling, a strong case can be made for increasing the enjoyment of the area by decreasing the auto-centric nature of the street. It’s just so much less enjoyable to walk the street, dine outside, have a beer outside at the Bagdad with cars flying by. When I’m with my son I constantly have one eye on the street for safety. Not to mention the noise, exhaust, horns blaring out of anger.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

‘fever pitch’ journalism at its best.

soren
Guest
soren

I live two blocks off Hawthorne and would stand to benefit immensely from pedestrian and cycling improvements. However, I don’t support this project because it improves a predominantly well-off area (and one that is gentrifying into a very wealthy area) that has better infrastructure than most of Portland’s marginalized communities. The climate argument is, of course, garbage but PBOT’s equity lens is good to see and desperately needed:

One way that structural racism has been present in the planning profession has been the tendency to focus on aggregate benefits and impacts rather than looking at disparate benefits and impacts for different races. We also have not always considered the effect on lower-income households who may be forced to live further out from a corridor study area but do travel through it. Using the PBOT Equity Matrix, we can see that the areas immediately surrounding the Hawthorne Blvd project area have higher-income households and lower-percentage people of color than the city as a whole Given the need to invest in areas with lower incomes and more people of color, this supports our overall approach of limiting the cost of this safety project and leveraging the paving project.

source: www[dot]portland[dot]gov/sites/default/files/2020-08/hawthorne-pave-and-paint-evaluation-report[dot]pdf

We live in a thoroughly racist and classist socioeconomic system and people in well-off inner neighborhoods who ignore this to their benefit often help perpetuate inequity

Sadly, I believe that the Portland political pendulum is swinging back towards the “wants” of wealthy people so I would not be surprised to see a renewed focus on inner Portland (e.g. more “Carbon Gentrification”).

NM
Guest
NM

Safety for peds is significantly increased with the addition of a center turn lane in Alternative 2 while keeping the option available to widen the sidewalks in the future. Creating a potentially unsafe mixing zone at Chavez for bikes in order to not decimate transit reliability, eliminating the ability to extend the sidewalks into the future, and limiting the safety improvements of marked and unmarked crosswalks (of which there are many, and heavily used) by not having a center turn lane all in a neighborhood with lovely greenways and connections to/bike parking for the business district – I’m just not sold that *this* is the protected bike lane project to demand and keep PBOT staff time and political energy focused on.

Ted Labbe
Guest
Ted Labbe

I’d like to suggest to the Healthier Hawthorne folks (and to PBOT) that they reconsider and rework the paint and pave alternatives to consider how we can boost protected space for bikes AND large-form trees in the Hawthorne St right-of-way. If you look at PBOT’s original design alternatives they show only skinny green street planters but there is no enhanced widths for planting medium- or large-form trees. We need Portland bike/ped activists to partner with urban tree advocates to make both of these things happen. The parking lobby is loud and strong in Portland.

Tree advocates have been saying to PBOT for years that we need better designs that integrate medium- and large-form trees. They have ignored us! Maybe we should get together on this one thing! Let’s talk!

I'll Show Up
Guest
I'll Show Up

I hate to put a fly in the ointment. If the poster above shows what was shared with the business owners, they were not given accurate information. I’m all for bike lanes on Hawthorne! But, the road is not that wide. The depiction shows bike riders being side by side and then shows parking next to it. Hawthorne is simply not wide enough for that. The bikes lanes would be substandard, 5 foot wide lanes and most parking would be removed from the street on both sides. This would definitely cause more neighborhood cars as they search for limited parking on the side streets. None of which causes me to be against the idea! But, I do think that it’s quite possible that the businesses did not get the whole picture before signing up as advocates. I hope I’m wrong.

Pete
Guest
Pete

There are lots of good bike routes north and south of Hawthorne. If I’m doing something on Hawthorne, I usually lock my bike up and walk. I’m certainly not opposed to bike lanes on Hawthorne but I’d much rather see more bike infrastructure being focussed on East Portland before inner SE at this point.