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PBOT staff face Bicycle Advisory Committee hours after saying ‘no’ to bike lanes on Hawthorne

Posted by on February 10th, 2021 at 12:23 pm

Looking east on Hawthorne near 35th.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Portland’s Bicycle Advisory Committee was supposed to discuss which type of bike lanes would work best on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard at their monthly meeting Tuesday night. Instead of an optimistic strategy session that might have ended with a letter from the group with a bike lane recommendation, the discussion was punctuated by frustration and anger as news sunk in that there would be no bike lanes on Hawthorne at all.

“This whole process has been the object lesson in how not to engage with a modal committee.”
— Iain Mackenzie, BAC member

Last week, BAC Chair David Stein added an agenda item to the meeting to give members time to debate the merits of Alternative 3A and 3B, options for PBOT’s Hawthorne Pave & Paint project that would have added buffered or parking-protected bike lanes to the street. Then over the weekend, Stein was notified that the agenda item would have to change because PBOT had already made up their minds. The BAC didn’t see the report and was unaware of PBOT’s decision until it was made public Tuesday morning.

This lack of respect from PBOT, mixed with the lost opportunity to create space for cycling on Hawthorne Blvd, let to a pointed discussion.

To share the bad news and mollify the bike advocates, PBOT called on Senior Transportation Planner Karla Kingsley and Planning Division Manager Kristin Hull.

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“The easy option would have been to just let the repaving happen as planned and let it fly under the radar and change nothing.”
— Karla Kingsley, PBOT

Kingsley said (from a prepared statement) that she used to live a few blocks off Hawthorne and often uses her bike for shopping and other errands. “So I understand the desire for bike lanes. But this decision isn’t about me,” Kingsley continued. “It’s about leveraging a maintenance paving project that has to be done this summer to make the street better and figuring out how we can do it best to best serve the multiple, and varied needs of our community.”

It’s true PBOT went above-and-beyond usual protocol when they opened up this repaving project to the possibility of a new lane configuration. “The easy option would have been to just let the repaving happen as planned and let it fly under the radar and change nothing,” Kingsley said. But PBOT didn’t do that, she added, because they wanted to make the street safer for walkers and bicycle riders. In large part due to earlier feedback from the BAC, Kingsley said PBOT analyzed bike lanes but that, in the end, the option, “Just doesn’t rise above the other trade-offs on the street when you consider the whole system.”

As we pointed out yesterday, Kingsley leaned heavily on the fact that Hawthorne is listed in the all-powerful Transportation System Plan as a “Major City Walkway”, “Major Transit Priority” street and “Major Emergency Response Route”. It’s also a “Truck Access Street” and a “Civic Main Street”. All those designations, Kingsley pointed out, were additional hurdles facing bicycle access. (Those classifications also led to PBOT’s decision to use the repaving as an opportunity to increase the width of general lanes from nine feet, to 11-12 feet wide.)

Then it was time for BAC members to respond.

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“I have a hard time reconciling how any of this really makes an improvement.”
— Clint Culpepper, BAC member

“I live a block from Hawthorne and this is heartbreaking!”
— Caroline Crisp, BAC member

“I have a hard time reconciling how any of this really makes an improvement,” said BAC member Clint Culpepper. “I know that a nine-foot lane width is difficult for transit; But I don’t understand how increasing that lane width to 12 feet is going to make traffic slow down at all. You have four pedestrian islands through this whole stretch. I think that’s absolutely insufficient.”

Culpepper is worried people will drive faster on the new, wider lanes. Kingsley replied by pointing out that going from four general lanes to three is expected to improve safety; but she didn’t address the width issue, saying she’d ask an engineer and follow-up later.

“I firmly believe that bike lanes would be a benefit to pedestrian safety.”
— Ben Manker, Hawthorne business owner during public comment

BAC member Catie Gould wanted to know results of PBOT’s analysis of a bus/bike/car mixing zone design at Cesar Chavez. That intersection was the sole cause of the estimated 8-16 minute transit delay that led to PBOT’s dismissal of bike lanes after the initial evaluation and many bike advocates pinned their hopes on the mixing zone’s ability to reduce that delay and make bike lanes more feasible. PBOT’s Hull said the mixing zone design reduced that delay, but didn’t eliminate it entirely. She did not share any specific numbers from the analysis and PBOT’s 10-page “final decision” report also does not include that detail.

Iain Mackenzie was frustrated that the BAC was sidelined on the project and echoed remarks made earlier in the meeting by Clint Culpepper who said, “We are oftentimes informed, but we very rarely get to actually play an active role in making improvements.” “I think this whole process has been the object lesson in how not to engage with a modal committee,” Mackenzie said. He used the issue of transit delay as an example: “There’s not a single person on this committee who thinks that creating significant delays to [TriMet] Line 14 is an acceptable trade-off, none of us wants to see that. But what we would have liked is the chance to be able to work out what was causing these impacts and how they can be mitigated… But instead what’s happened is the second time in a row… we have people on staff coming here and telling us what decision has been made, rather than trying to get the advice of an advisory [committee].”

BAC Member Caroline Crisp said, “I live a block from Hawthorne and this is heartbreaking!” She called for more transparency and wanted to know who signed-off on the decision.

“The decision was made, apparently, by [PBOT] Director Warner and Commissioner Hardesty,” replied PBOT’s Hull. “In this context, in this corridor, we think this is the right choice… There were a couple of choices that were relatively close… and in this corridor, this was the right thing to do; but not an easy choice by any stretch of the imagination.”

Hawthorne Pave & Paint project feedback boards filled out by BAC members and the general public during the meeting Tuesday night.

When it was time for public comment, business owner Ben Manker of Focus Group Vintage on SE 34th and Hawthorne spoke up. “One thing that I am a super-proponent for is bike lanes… I firmly believe that bike lanes would be a benefit to pedestrian safety,” he said. “And I do not see a reason why that was swept under the rug.” Manker said he felt many businesses on Hawthorne want bike lanes, but their voices are, “Kind of being, quieted compared to the Hawthorne Business Association (who wrote a letter to PBOT in October opposing the bike lanes).”

The public and BAC members used a new feedback tool at the meeting Tuesday night. Google “Jamboards” that allow participants to create digital sticky notes (shown above). Nearly all the comments spoke to the frustration and disappointment PBOT staff faced throughout the meeting.

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

What does The Street Trust and BikeLoudPDX have to say about this. Have they made any official comments?

DW
Guest
DW

The Street Trust has diminished from what it once was. After their recent hire in leadership, I expect a lot of talking about themselves and little else. It was a much more effective body when it was the BTA IMO.

marisheba
Guest
marisheba

It seems to me that if people really care about bike lanes on Hawthorne, then instead of trying to shoehorn bike lanes into a paint and pave project in which they just aren’t working, folks should lobby to get a full redesign on Hawthorne some day that can move curb lines, and create high-quality protected bike lanes, in which there is much more flexibility to create a design that will add bike lanes and work well for transit. This was just not the right battle, and folks need to set their sights on a longer game and hope for a far better project.

It would also help if bike advocates would try to understand what PBOT is doing: balancing the needs of multiple transportation modes in a system. Maybe they get some calls wrong or you disagree with particular decisions, but I don’t see bike advocates here particularly even acknowledging that that is a legitimate goal, or willing to look in the face the equity and transit implications of the bike lanes they want. You can’t wish those implications away by downplaying them.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Transit can easily be a priority given diversion to SOV traffic. This exact PBL design is proposed on SE 7th. The idea that PBLs cannot exist on Hawthorne because “balancing the needs of transportation modes” is a red herring. This is not about balancing needs. This is about maintaining car capacity and parking, a very easy political decision by PBoT and Hardesty, as it only alienates the BAC and people who care about safe street design (admittedly a minority).

IF safe street design were a priority at PBoT and at the commissioner’s office, SOV through traffic could easily be diverted via bus/bike only signs at main intersections (eg 39th, 20th). This allows local car traffic and delivery, but limits people commuting through the neighborhood in cars. Unfortunately, safe street design is NOT a priority for the commissioner’s office or PBoT. That is why I voted against Eudaly and that is why I will be voting against Hardesty.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

“The easy option would have been to just let the repaving happen as planned and let it fly under the radar and change nothing.”
— Karla Kingsley, PBOT

No, the easy option was what PBoT decided: to prioritize car capacity and parking over other modes. That is always the easy option because you only alienate safety advocates.

Stephan
Guest
Stephan

Did PBOT ever consider widening the sidewalks? As a Major City Walkway, Hawthorne is currently absolutely inadequate. There is simply not enough space for people to walk comfortably on that street. I can see the pros and cons about adding bikelanes, but in general, there is way too much space devoted to cars and way too little space devoted to other modes on that street.

SD
Guest
SD

Sometimes it seems like the broad diverse collection of people who bike gives a lot of energy to advocates, orgs and elected officials, but receives very little in return. Especially when those empowered groups put biking in the rearview.
Every elected official, community organizer, panel member, etc. is a “cyclist” until people who bike ask them for something. Then they are happy to scold cyclists for caring about safe bike infrastructure, being too demanding, or not being full time activists or insiders.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Kind of makes you wonder if you were a member of the BAC whether it would make sense to simply resign in an act of no confidence? Their efforts and time are indispensable, and the mayor, council and PBoT have made no significant changes in prioritizing safety despite decades of planning and advocacy. Portland has had an unprecedented modal share decline from 8 to 5% and an equally historical record of road deaths at 57 last year.

marisheba
Guest
marisheba

They’re expending that energy in order to advocate for their own interests (as they should!); that’s their choice, and no one owes them anything for that time and energy they choose to spend, beyond a thank you and basic respect. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a cyclist and I’m very pro bike infrastructure, but this attitude of entitlement is puzzling to me, and isn’t going to be an effective way to have the community’s voice heard. Make the argument on the merits, not on “you owe us”.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

The merits of the PBL design were based on research, not “you owe us.” PBoT and Hardesty chose the option that was politically expedient, not based on safe design.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Sorry, folks, but once again Portlanders have been conned by THE ILLUSION OF INCLUSION©. The supposedly robust public-involvement processes fail again and again, and people feel used. Whoever wrote on the jamboard that the BAC is all about satisfying some superficial requirement for public involvement got it 100% correct.

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

Literally watched the neighbors on Lincoln dispute the diverter at 50th/Lincoln at an open house. What happened next? The diverter arrived. I later read about the neighbors on Glisan tell PBOT that they didn’t want to lose and driving lanes. The result? Loss of lanes. “Portland, the city that works, for a few.”

Nadia Maxim
Guest
Nadia Maxim

Good motto alteration.
I also like:
“Portland, the city that enables”

dan
Guest
dan

“Portland, the city with good intentions”

Nadia Maxim
Guest
Nadia Maxim

Yeah, PBOT just plain doesn’t listen, They think they are smarter and more well intentioned than the people they serve.
Look at the abandoned care program they suspended, We now have derelict automobiles littered all over the city. But they won’t listen to the public outcry to restore enforcement of laws preventing abandoned vehicles from being left all over the city, Some of our neighborhoods look like a 3rd world war zone,

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

I used to call PBOT and ask project managers about different aspects of their projects and felt the same way. IT’s probably their way of indirectly pointing the uneducated to a PSU chat about road safety or a TREC presentation where they say something about ending cars and everyone rides the bus or the bike to ensure we hit zero traffic deaths. Thankfully, I bypassed on those ideas and just peruse the comments on this feed for info to be able to chat back and forth.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Ha, after the they installed the enhanced sidewalk on Greeley they sent out an email blast talking about this amazing route that would take you from the Rose Quarter to St. Johns. I was curious about route PBOT recommended to get from the Rose Quarter to St. Johns that passed through Greeley. They wouldn’t tell me what the route was. They were proud enough of the route to champion it in a press release but they couldn’t even tell me how to ride it.

I’m not going to lie and pretend I actually thought they had successfully created a route between downtown Portland and St. Johns, but it’s still amusing that they know N Interstate is so dangerous that they don’t want to go on the record as recommending it for use.

draw2build architecture
Member

The amazing route that is supposed to take you from the Rose Quarter to St Johns is called the North Portland Greenway. If we just had the political will in this city to get after it and build it, we would have that route by now. ‍♂️

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

Just for giggles I searched for the first reference on BikePortland to “North Portland Greenway.” The earliest I can find is November 22nd, 2005, over 15 years ago. By comparison “I-5 was designated in 1957” and “the last segment of I-5, on the Marquam Bridge in Portland, was opened in October 1966…” (wikipedia “Interstate 5”).

draw2build architecture
Member

Thanks for doing that, Alan 1.0. That certainly puts it into perspective, doesn’t it. …and wow. I look a lot younger and trimmer in that photo from over 15 years ago!

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

As Leonard Cohen sang, ” Everybody knows the dice are loaded, everybody rolls with their fingers crossed, everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost, everybody knows the fight was fixed.

CR
Guest
CR

This is very disappointing. Thank you to the good people who volunteered their precious time to the BAC in behalf of the greater community. I respect PBOT Director Warner and Commissioner Hardesty as leaders and hope they are able to give some mending public words as to why they have chosen this trade-off.

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

SE Foster from 122-136 paint and pave project last summer didn’t get any public input if it makes anyone feel better. Also the highly celebrated 136th project from Powell to Holgate still looks like a construction site after months of nothing happening. Could it be the this Hawthorne project got more attention because of privilege? Funny and yet sad how this all works. Meanwhile in the outer reaches of town we get blessed by the “alternative walkway” team and I can’s help but laugh at them for thinking that some plastic wands in the street is somehow an upgrade to what we are already doing. I cant help to think about how much money was spent on this privilege ask and corresponding think tank that derived from it because every dime counts in other parts of town.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Hey Doug. Possibly. Or it may be that Hawthorne would be an integral part of a network of protected bike lanes that would affect levels of magnitudes more people. I’m from that area you’re talking about, and I appreciate the work on those E Portland streets. We need PBLs on 122nd desperately. But I understand what impact a network of protected bike lanes in the central city would have.

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

You appreciate not being involved with the Foster Paint and Pave? As for 122nd, it’ll be dieted by a rose lane.

mran1984
Guest

Lincoln, already a mess for residents, Main & Salmon are far better routes than Hawthorne. PBOT,THANK YOU! This was once a livable city. Now it’s not in the top fifty, uh. I WOULD RATHER HAVE ALL THE BIKE PATHS THAT ARE COVERED IN GARBAGE AND TARPS RETURNED TO THEIR TAX PAYING USERS THAN THIS WASTE OF TIME AND EFFORT.

rain panther
Guest
rain panther

I like Lincoln.

 
Guest
 

(I had commented here but I’m going to move it to its own comment outside of this thread)

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

If the BAC had any teeth or influence PBOT would disband it. Governmental advisory committees exist just to pretend you’ve done outreach.

If you didn’t buy your seat on an AC like the freight industry does, I promise you that your voice doesn’t mean anything.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

The BAC should have the power to sign off on any street project. I can’t imagine how members feel right now.

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

MMMHHMM more committees and money please.

 
Guest
 

Despite all the hullaballoo on this blog, I think that this Hawthorne project should be an extremely low priority for the bicycling community in Portland, and frankly think that the amount of coverage it’s been getting here is ridiculous. Just off the top of my head I can think of at least like 20 projects that should be higher priority for us than Hawthorne (e.g. path along 26 from the zoo to downtown, outer Stark bike lane, outer Division bike lane, Red Electric Trail, 136th Avenue as someone else here mentioned, Naito south of downtown). It really is shortsighted and not a good look to be focusing so much energy on Hawthorne when it’s already in an area that’s extremely well-served in terms of bike infrastructure for Portland standards while there’s so many areas that lack any semblance of bike infrastructure whatsoever.

Opus the Poet
Guest

Why even have a BAC if decisions are made without even allowing them time to meet and formulate input on the issue? Talk about a waste of money!

Keith
Guest
Keith

This is just the latest example of PBOT staff deciding on a course and setting priorities without being bothered by community suggestions and preferences. Certainly public process can get messy, but this example of shutting out the public and advisory committees will prove to be significantly messier in the long run by yielding greater distrust and skepticism. We need to be working together – not being adversarial and doing end runs. We have enough of that nonsense going on in Salem and DC. Finally, this method of “involving” a key city advisory committee is disrespectful to the members who are dedicating their time to improve their city.

SolarEclipse
Guest
SolarEclipse

This is standard inside the City bureaus for them to make a decision BEFORE getting any outside input.
My neighborhood got a new park a number of years ago. My roommate was all excited about going to the meetings so that they could have input. I said “it won’t make a difference, but let’s go.” We went, participated in their dog-and-pony show, their focus groups, and surprise surprise, when the park was finished none of the suggestions made were used. Even the name of the park was pulled out of thin air since Parks likely knew the neighbors wanted to call it something else.
I highly doubt this behavior is going to change for any of the bureaus anytime soon. Many of these kinds of projects are run by people with egos and they know best for the community. One manager I knew with the City when asked why doesn’t he advertise meetings on the internet and the response was “then members of the community would come and I don’t want that.” He isn’t the only one with that kind of mindset.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

This message is to everyone on the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee:

You are a Useful Idiot.

Please understand, I am not name-calling here. This is a political term of art: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot

What I’m saying is that you think you are doing something good for your community, but you are really being used by people with a political agenda you do not support. It’s time for you to wake up and realize that.

Your service on the BAC legitimizes decisions like the one at issue here, by making it seem that the community has given its opinion, been heard, and a democratic decision has been made. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This was the reason I stopped serving on these committees, and participating in the public process: It’s rigged. It is used to “mollify” right-thinking and good-hearted people like you.

Please take a moment to step back from this harsh rhetoric and think about what I’ve said.

When you realize it’s true, it’s time for you to stop being manipulated by the powers-that-be and start finding a different way to create a safe community.

I don’t have all the answers. And I don’t mean any ill-will to you. I just think you deserve to know the truth.

X
Guest
X

1. Can anyone explain how one intersection could delay a bus for 8 minutes, much less 16 minutes, when there is no such delay predicted anywhere else in the project?

2. Since the street is to receive new pavement, how many years will pass before wider sidewalks or other projects involving curb movement are possible?

3. Since Hawthorne is a motor vehicle priority street, what steps will be taken to speed people biking on parallel routes?

4. Will we see ‘Fast cars use Hawthorne’ signs?

Ok, #4 is a little sarcastic because we know that sign is totally a bike thing.

Parking Bureau
Guest
Parking Bureau

PBOT=Parking Bureau of Timidity
So much for fighting climate change!