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Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee to discuss ‘profoundly disappointing’ Hawthorne decision

Hawthorne Boulevard East of Calle Cesar Chavez.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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
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