The decision by the Portland Bureau of Transportation to not install bike lanes on a popular commercial section of Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard continues to reverberate.
Since the decision on their Hawthorne Pave & Paint project was made one month ago, PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has acknowledged that it might have been a “missed opportunity” and the Portland Planning & Sustainability Commission (PSC) has leveled concerns that the move will make it harder for Portland to reach its mode share and climate change goals.
“There exists a continued chasm between our publicly-stated goals and the outcomes that are achieved.”
Now PBOT’s own Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) is set to decide just how pointed they want their criticisms of the decision to be. The agenda for their meeting on Tuesday (3/9) includes discussion of a letter committee leaders will send to PBOT Director Chris Warner.
BAC members already expressed dismay at their February meeting that PBOT didn’t meaningfully engage them about the project (PSC Member Smith called it a “process fail”). At that meeting they decided to draft a letter outlining their concerns.
The draft letter (PDF) says the BAC is “profoundly disappointed” not just at the lack of engagement but at the narrative set by PBOT staff on the road to their choice of Alternative 2 (which doesn’t include a bike lane). Early in the process an incomplete PBOT analysis alleged that protected bike lanes on Hawthorne would hurt climate and equity goals. The BAC rejects that framing.
“We need to be clear that single occupancy vehicles are at the root of these impacts,” the letter states. “While transportation demand and parking management should be at the forefront of these decisions, all too often it is the most efficient modes that must compete for leftover right of way space. We are disappointed that no plan for future bike facilities, not even a long-term one, was identified through this work.”
While the BAC makes it clear they fully support improvements for walkers and transit users, they are concerned that PBOT has decided to re-stripe Hawthorne with significantly wider lanes (from nine to 12-feet).
The tendency for PBOT to think backstreets are sufficient and that bicycle users don’t need direct access to commercial streets is another red flag for the BAC:
“A major theme of the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 is that the City must ‘plan and design for people who are not yet riding, and must create conditions that make bicycling more attractive than driving for short trips.’ The strategy adopted by the City in this repaving project fails to create any new facilities for people not yet biking… The greenway network is not a substitute…”
“It is confounding that with a ‘blank slate’ PBOT ended up with a design that fails to reliably speed up transit or provide any safe access for bicycling,” the letter continues, “There exists a continued chasm between our publicly-stated goals and the outcomes that are achieved.”
The BAC meets Tuesday (3/9) via Zoom. More details here.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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What is the argument that a PBL on Hawthorne is better than making Salmon and Lincoln harder to drive on for more than a few blocks at a time? Between the bus, tons of parking/turning cars (including suburban drivers), and pedestrians, how comfortable would Hawthorne be to bike on even with a PBL.
What is the argument that cars and parking are better on Hawthorne than on parallel streets?
(double-posted see below)
Hawthorne already has to be paved with bus and cargo traffic in mind so it would make sense to keep the heavy vehicle traffic on that road than make the parallel streets endure more stress.
Your assumption is that comfortable, safe, separated bike lanes/intersections and bus/freight cannot coexist. I assert that they can and often do.
The problem you are framing is pitting freight/buses vs cyclists vs pedestrians. The actual problem resides in PBoT’s resistance to limiting commuter, cut-through, SOV traffic. Such a thing is easily done with Bus/freight only signs at major intersections (eg 39th, 12th, 20th, 30th).
My framing and assumptions were about relative effort/reward between improving what already exists (two largely bike-centric roads) and fighting to add another mode of transit on an already-busy road.
Curious of the examples in Portland or elsewhere you consider to be comfortable, safe, and separated that have the usage of Hawthorne. My experience with PBLs on high streets is mostly stress to be mindful of every pedestrian crossing or turn.
Regarding diverting SOV traffic, are you arguing that Hawthorne be decommissioned as a thoroughfare? Which street in a mile in either direction would be equipped to take on that traffic? Of course it would be nice if there were no cars but I’m not seeing a sensible alternative.
Salmon and Lincoln have a total of 4 diverters total, sometimes exceeding 1k vehicle counts.
That Portland has virtually no well-designed separated bike lanes, does not make PBLs antithetical to Portland. It simply means that PBoT hasn’t built them well yet (see protected intersection). There is a reason why they are the gold standard in several cities in the US and most European countries.
Diverting SOV traffic would limit the behavior of commuters who tend to use Hawthorne from downtown through 50th, leaving Powell, I-84, etc. as the next best option for long distance commuting. It would not limit any other kind of traffic, local or otherwise. There is nothing “natural” about having a street designed for car capacity and parking. A similar effect happens during congestion pricing times in cities. People tend to use other times/routes, eliminating gridlock.
I like the idea of diverting commuter traffic down 11th to Powell.
Powell will see it’s own diet coming soon enough as well.
I completely agree with your points. I live between Alberta and Going and periodically hear voices clamoring for “better” biking on Alberta. But having lived here since Going became an early ‘bike boulevard’ I’m convinced greenways parallel to commercial districts are a huge win for neighborhood residents. The separation is measured by a couple blocks, not a couple plastic bollards, and the bike traffic helps emphasize the delineation between residential and commercial space. In my experience ‘backstreets’ are a sufficient and desirable way to get to commercial districts. Going, Lincoln, Ankeny, and Clinton are all examples that seem to work well.
And if the greenways had frequent, effective diversion, I’d be happy to just have Hawthorne pedestrianized. The worst possible thing they could and plan to do is widen the lanes. The narrow lanes make drivers nervous and probably save lives.
Alberta needs to be car-free because protected bike lanes, while removing parking (which is fine), would also remove street seating. So to keep street seating while making it safer to walk and bike on Alberta, car-free is the only option.
Alberta is probably the best candidate I can think of for some car-free blocks, assuming most of the businesses are on board with it and TriMet is okay with re-routing the bus to Killingsworth. Would be cool to see that tried out as a Better Block project.
Not all roads are constructed the same. Hawthorne has a heavier-load roadbed that makes it more suitable for trucks, buses, and higher volumes of cars than any of the other nearby parallel streets.
I believe the former trolly tracks were the original impetus for this. That is why I propose prioritizing buses/freight via signs that divert SOV traffic at major intersections. Traffic counts are approximately 6% freight and are fairly constant, likely because most SOV traffic is commuter, not local. Imagine how fast buses would run with only local traffic and freight.
Your idea of using diverters along major streets is an interesting one and worth exploring, but it would require major policy changes. Before the Neighborhood Greenway Assessment Report, there wasn’t clear city policy around the use of diverters on greenways. There would need to be something similar saying that it’s okay to divert traffic periodically on major streets. I think if the BAC pushed something like that, they would get more traction because it offers a real long-term solution.
What about all the humans who need to access things on Hawthorne? Hawthorne is a not fun street to access by really any mode of transportation. Crossing it is even worse.
I think pedestrian use should be prioritized and space for bicyclists is less space for pedestrians.
All of the Hawthorne proposals have the same amount of space for pedestrians.
I agree, it’s dangerous to cross Hawthorne. I think PBOT’s re-striping and crosswalk treatments will make it a lot safer, not just for those who need to cross it but for all users.
Alternative 2 does not make it safer for pedestrians east of Cesar Chavez. It maintains the exact same deadly, outdated configuration that led to Fallon Smart’s death (which PBOT is sick enough to argue was an “anomaly”).
1. Biking on Salmon or Harrison/Lincoln/Ladd to get to Hawthorne business district would require substantial out of direction travel depending on the point of origin, compared to a bike lane on Hawthorne. This issue is probably greatest for people coming from the West side, across the Hawthorne bridge, but it could apply to a variety of potential routes.
2. Diverters on neighborhood green ways are massive hot button, third rail-type issues that would in almost all circumstances be even more controversial and difficult to accomplish than bike lanes on major arterials are.
There are no proposals on the books to put new diverters on Lincoln or Salmon, and given the fact that pbot just got done with a multi year project to add diverters to Lincoln (which ended up getting scaled way back due to opposition from a handful of local residents), it is unlikely that additional diverters are in the cards anytime I’m the next decade.
This is not an either or proposition. No new east/west bike infrastructure is ever going to go in in the inner Southeast in our lifetimes if it doesn’t happen in an opportunistic fashion unless we see a massive change in the priorities of public officials.
It’s 3 blocks from Salmon or 6 from Lincoln. Not sure I’d call it substantial for the range of travel where biking is best suited. Fair point about diverters also being a pain to achieve.
Imagine saying the same to people who drive cars.
I’m imagining it and it’d be ridiculous because it’d be increasing the places that deadly vehicles roam.
Median bike trip length is about 2.8 miles. Distance to travel between Salmon and Hawthorne is 0.25 miles. Distance to travel between Harrison and Hawthorne is 0.30 miles. That’s about 10% of a median bike trip being occupied by out of direction travel between the parallel side street and the destination. Also, if you’re coming from the Hawthorne bridge (or traveling toward it), there’s another 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile of out of direction travel to get to the parallel side street. Now you’re talking about 1/2 mile or 2/3 mile of out of direction travel.
I’m a strong cyclist. If I have to bike an extra mile or two to get where I’m going, it’s no big deal. But if the goal is to create an all ages and abilities bike network, it’s a
very very very big deal. That amount of extra travel would likely deter a large portion of the population that Portland is trying to incentivize to ditch their cars.
It’s not out-of-direction travel on a euclidean grid unless you’re travelling from one spot on Hawthorne to another. It’s also travelling on calm roads without as many cars turning and people crossing. I am not convinced the extra travel is more of a deterrent than asking new riders to bike among cars, busses, and pedestrians.
The Hawthorne bridge is one of the most popular bike routes in the United States. If you are coming from the west side of the Willamette River to the Hawthorne business district, it is extremely likely that you will be traveling from one spot on Hawthorne to another. Are the majority of trips to that area coming from west of the Willamette? Probably not. But many are.
At that distance you’re back down to a <10% distance diversion to jog up to Salmon at 7th or down to Harrison via Ladd's.
You also have to know exactly what cross street is closest to your destination on Hawthorne. That’s a big burden for cyclists.
Great point. I don’t follow gps routes in the city, so using parallel streets and indirect neighborhood boulevards to end at my destination almost always means riding planned x extra miles plus x unplanned extra blocks often on the sidewalk. If we had safe, direct, commercial routes I could simply ride until I see my destination (plus all the other places I would stop and patron that I never see).
A big burden to take a good guess and walk a few blocks if you’re off? When are you going somewhere you don’t know the address or have the ability to ask someone the address if you don’t have a phone?
When you’re shopping or looking for a place to eat, for one. Contrary to popular belief, these activities are quite enjoyable while cycling at a slow, relaxed pace.
This sternly worded letter will be replied to with a carefully worded letter promising more consideration for safe bicycling given to future projects.
In 2031, Hawthorne’s wider lanes will be re-painted as part of a “huge and exciting” sprucing up agenda to make it safer and more friendly for drivers of electric vehicles. I have accepted that I will be dead and cremated (Oops! That will create carbon emissions.) long before Portland realizes anything resembling a truly bike friendly city. Bike Plan 2040? 2050? 2070?
You know what will solve this problem? More strongly worded letters and committee discussions.
good luck with that, LOL!
Should we not also write letters of protest to the Times and the Oregonian? Perhaps organize a citizens working group or task force?
The cycling community is such a small minority yet you expect huge changes on your behalf. The majority has spoken and they don’t want bike lanes for a couple of cyclists to putt around in. It’s just too disruptive to Hawthorne.
The majority? There was strong community support for a bike lane and minimal opposition. The proposed alignment that pbot decided on was a top down decision, not something that came from any kind of democratic process.
A bike lane on a commercial street in the heart of bike commuting routes is a “huge change” requested by a “small minority”? This is such a tired trope.
The question you should be asking is why the government completely shut out building infrastructure that would clearly be used, addresses several important social issues, and was popular with the people in the area. The answer is that they are beholden to the freight industry lobby. They are corrupt.
And you seem oblivious and happy to follow them down the path to hell. In other words, you seem to be part of the problem too.
As Net-Zero continues to gain momentum in this country as it is the world over, EV’s will be adopted by the automobile-buying public at an exponential rate. You can bet those people are going to claim their fair share of the road and if this city’s leaders can’t envision this, they’ll inevitably be replaced by others that might actually have a plan that works for the majority (and maybe they’ll even have some idea of how to manage a city). Either that or Portland will eventually become a city full of bike lanes everywhere you look, destined to be overrun with homeless campers.
How disappointing to see all the thumbs up this comment got. You know what’s really disruptive, Marvin? When a pedestrian or cyclist gets hit, potentially ruining a nice car’s paint job, and slowing down traffic while everyone has to wait in their idling automobile for an ambulance to come scrape that “minority” human off the pavement.
If everything we’re going to do as a society is only to cater to those who are not in a minority, what sort of world are we creating for our kids (who, by the way, are a minority of the population and we see fit to spend money on schools)
The problem with the BAC, PAC and Planning Commission is that they are only reactionary when it comes to PBOT decisions. Both need to be pro-active.
Both groups need to get (cajole, steal, bribe, ask) the lists of upcoming repavement/resurfacing projects; understand and give input to the transportation modeling scenarios and TAZs; regularly discuss upcoming capital projects with PBOT engineers (preferably without the planners and PR people in the room); and engage in the process of campaigning for funding. They need to become partners in the process, rather than advisors, rubber-stamps, and/or passive/aggressive community groups.
Love it David. I agree wholeheartedly. The BAC, PAC and Planning commission should assume PBoT’s priorities (ie traffic counts/parking) and what they will suggest in any new project. They can easily have alternative, ready-made, interim designs that have cheap design elements that prioritize safety, and ask PBoT to trial these with volunteers (there are plenty of advocates waiting for something better).
One could even go far as to catalog all the existing bike facilities that PBOT has implemented in the past 40 years, create street profiles and diagrams for each, then show on a spreadsheet street widths, lane configurations, average daily (car) traffic/ADT, etc. Then create a matrix or chart of the result: if a street is going to be resurfaced and it’s 40 feet wide curb-to-curb, and its ADT is 9,560 vehicles/day, then with parking it should be laid out thus, but without parking it should be laid out that other way.
Most communities know which streets are getting resurfaced by February or March for the coming resurfacing season (April through October) so they can get it out for bid by contractors. PBOT does much resurfacing in-house, but larger projects are typically contracted out.
I’m right now doing much the same here in Greensboro NC for my advocacy.
My two cents: I believe that because the proposed improvement was a huge expensive separate bike lane, it set up the project to fail. If there had been a request for simple bike lane striping, it seems more likely to have been approved as less “disruptive” to cars and less commitment & funds to set up. I know there are lots of folks who believe separate bike lanes are the only answer to our bike infrastructure needs, but I think we can all agree that bike lane paint is a big improvement over no bike lane paint. I’m sharing this here with the ardent hope that we can start requesting plain old bike lanes on streets that had none before. Then, one day, maybe that would soften things up to transition to a buffered lane, and then one day finally, a bike lane between parked cars and the curb (which I personally find dangerous and avoid but I know that’s what many cyclists want)
Alternative 3a was the “simple bike lane striping” you’re referring to, and it still wasn’t chosen (thankfully, because door zone bike lanes are incredibly dangerous, offer a false sense of security, and do nothing to attract new riders).
It’s easier (politically) to upgrade an existing facility like a useless painted bike lane to a fully-protected bike lane, than it is to put in a new expensive bit of infrastructure where none existed before.
“We need to be clear that single occupancy vehicles are at the root of these impacts…”
A family economically displaced from N/NE Portland to the numbers is supposed to ride a bike to work, school, childcare, healthcare, or the grocery store? That section of the letter is some grade A inner PDX bougie privilege.
Soren, you comment makes very little sense. Here is the quote:
“First, we are very concerned about the narrative put forth by the survey and alternatives analysis that bike lanes negatively impact equity and climate change and are responsible for traffic delays. We need to be clear that single occupancy vehicles are at the root of these impacts, “as the least efficient use of valuable road capacity.”
That PBoT prioritizes car parking and car capacity rather than safety on its projects does not mean economically displaced families are “supposed to bike to work, school, childcare, healthcare, or the grocery store.” I think you fundamentally misunderstood the purpose of the letter.
I believe I understood the purpose of the letter and my point specifically references the stated objection to PBOT’s “equity” scoring of this project. IMO, PBOT got the equity metric right and the climate metric wrong.
Yes, families in East Portland are supposed to travel by bike or walk for the majority of their trips. I think that is the clear intention of the tsp and comprehensive plan, is it not? Increase density in centers and corridors around the city and provide more connectivity, jobs and services in the neighborhood centers as density increases over time. If you buy into the thinking of Portland’s master plan, all neighborhoods should be walkable abd bikable by 2035. This is just as true in East Portland as it is in the Central City.
Is Portland on track to get there? Probably not. But don’t think that shooting down projects that modeling shows will increase the connectivity of the bike network with minimal impacts to the overall motor vehicle capacity of the street or overall system is going to get Portland anywhere close to the goals that are codified in the tsp. Not putting a bike lane on Hawthorne is not going to do anything to fix Portland’s equity problems.
I view the “centers and corridors” model as classist so from my perspective your comment doubles down on the tone I was criticizing.
IMO, one the best ways to rapidly adopt the transportation goals of the CAP, TSP, and comp plan is to make it difficult for inner Portlanders to drive (including car share/TNCs) and to tax the living fudge out of inners (especially smug car-light ones) so that we can build alternatives for people who do not have the privilege of living in such resource rich areas.
“that modeling shows will increase the connectivity of the bike network”
First of all, I’d like to see the “modeling” you reference. Secondly, Hawthorne is one of the least well-connected arterials in the inner SE because it essentially terminates at 50th. Given that you are quoting the TSP and comp plan you may want to revisit the decisions to not classify Hawthorne as a major bikeway.
I was referring to PBOT’s own modeling, which demonstrated that bike lanes on Hawthorne would pose no significant impediment to motor vehicle or mass transit traffic flow along the corridor other than at the intersection of Hawthorne and Cesar Chavez. PBOT’s original reasoning for rejecting bike lanes on Hawthorne was that the inclusion of bike lanes at that intersection, and the resulting loss of motor vehicle lanes, would lead to large delays for east/west bus lines.
Pressure from transportation advocates got PBOT to go back and look at the idea of dumping traffic from the bike lanes into mixing lanes on Hawthorne at the Cesar Chavez intersection, which was something that was not considered when PBOT first analyzed the idea of including bike lanes in the restriping project.
I don’t know if PBOT made their modeling data public, but I believe that a PBOT representative referenced it when justifying PBOT’s decision to not select a lane alignment that included a bike lane when being questioned by the Bicycle Advisory Committee about the Hawthorne project last fall.
I’m all for taxing the wealthy to build infrastructure in less affluent portions of the city. I personally opt to purchase gas at expensive Portland gas stations whenever possible to put more money in the Fixing Our Streets budget, rather than at less expensive gas stations in the burbs, where I would not be subject to the Portland Gas Tax. But a more aggressive revenue scheme, such as cordon pricing and fees for TNC use would obviously be a more lucrative solution, as would charging for vehicle storage in the public right of way in all inner neighborhoods.
Great points. The modeling data is not yet public. One of the many questionable decisions around the design process of this project. When we look at research in general, in order to independently peer review, make the process transparent, and make sure the hypothesis has something worth looking at, the author always releases the data. That is how/why we have the CDC approving vaccines, for example. When PBoT does not release their modeling data, it makes PBoT administration design decisions even more suspect.
Even without knowing their model, it’s pretty clear that 3b would pose a ridiculously marginal—if any—delay to transit. According to PBOT’s Decision Report, these are the factors affecting transit times:
1) The mixing zone at Cesar Chavez. While the Mid-project Report estimated Alternative 3b’s transit delay to be 8 to 16 minutes “primarily” due to the Cesar Chavez approach, the Decision Report states that adding a mixing zone to the Cesar Chavez approach “significantly reduces, but does not eliminate, the added transit delay we found in the earlier evaluation of Alternative 3.” But PBOT does not specify by how many minutes this mixing zone would reduce the transit delay—and even so, since it works for both Alternative 2 and Alternative 3b, it isn’t a deciding factor.
2) Buses pulling in and out of bus stops. The decision report states “Alternative 3 would require buses to pull partially out of the travel lane and into the bike lane at bus stops,” and “in some locations, buses would then have to re-enter the stream of traffic when pulling away from stops. This adds new delay and conflicts.” However, it’s not clear exactly how much time this adds. More importantly, this delay could be completely eliminated with prefabricated bus boarding islands like those in use on NW 18th, NW 19th, and NW Broadway. While these may be outside the scope of this project, they can easily and relatively affordably be added when funding is available, eliminating any additional stop-related bus delay as soon as they go in.
3) Left-turning vehicles. The only remaining cause of potential transit delay is buses “delayed by turning vehicles at side streets and driveways along the corridor, with the most significant delay caused by left turning vehicles blocking the through lane in Alternative 3. We expect some additional delay caused by right-turning vehicles yielding to bicyclists.” But in a Q&A with the Bicycle Advisory Committee (see Question 2), PBOT says that “the issue of left turns is relatively minor and doesn’t factor into the traffic analysis in a significant way.” They also say that left turning vehicles are “not the cause of the very high increase in travel time predicted by the traffic analysis. There just aren’t enough people turning left onto local streets to make that much of a difference.” In addition to this contradiction, they don’t quantify what the delay would be.
1) The mixing zone at Chavez significantly reduces the transit delay for all alternatives
2) The delay caused by buses pulling in and out of stops is unquantified and can be easily resolved by prefab bus boarding islands
3) The delay caused by left-turning vehicles is so minor that it doesn’t even significantly factor into the analysis.
Given this information, it seems essentially conclusive that Alternative 3b would not pose any significant transit delay compared to Alternative 2. Note that their modeling is based on pre-Covid numbers, too.
PBOT’s traffic modeling suggested that the absence of a turn lane (a requirement for BLs) would substantially slow bus transit and this also played a role in their equity ranking (#14 is the most efficient transit route to central pdx from lents and powellhurst-gilbert). This is one of the reasons that I reluctantly supported the chosen alternative.
“Portland Gas Tax”
A progressive income tax would have been a far more equitable way to fund transformation of our transportation system. I’m still very bitter that Novick capitulated to PBA pressure.
Didn’t the mixing lane alternative provide the needed turn lane?
I wonder what an additional income tax for Portland would do. Seems like there’s a chance that it would make Portland a less desirable place to reside for the tax averse, and thereby drive development further into the suburbs and increase the flight to Clark County. Unless we start taxing the freeways and Columbia River crossings, all of the progressive policies in the world will be for naught.
The mixing lane alternative at Chavez only addressed one intersection. A turn lane reduced transit delays by preventing left-turning vehicles from blocking the main travel lane (between 25th and 38th).
“Seems like there’s a chance that it would make Portland a less desirable place to reside for the tax averse”
I strongly support anything than makes Portland a less desirable place for the rich (e.g. decreases property value — real or nominal). Cheaper housing is, by far, the best way to decrease rampant inequality in this city.
Maybe a progressive fee structure for SDCs that would be scaled to the relative affluence of the neighborhood or tied to the cost per unit would be a good revenue generator. But that could have problematic distortionary effects on an already highly constrained housing market.
Is there any evidence whatsoever that a high percentage of the cars on Hawthorne are making journeys that start or end in East Portland? I can’t think of a single time I’ve made a journey in a car to East Portland from the Central City that involved Hawthorne (other maybe Hawthorne approaching the bridge) as opposed to 84/Division/Powell/Burnside/Glisan/Stark/Holgate/Halsey/etc. Using Google Maps, even if I put the Multnomah County Building (on Hawthorne!) as a destination I can’t get it to can create any routes in a car that go along Hawthorne.