Activist wants to sue PBOT over Hawthorne Blvd bike lane decision

Posted by on April 6th, 2021 at 10:06 am

“PBOT lied about racial equity and climate justice to manufacture consent for that decision.”
— Zach Katz, Healthier Hawthorne

Nearly one year ago, southeast Portland resident Zach Katz launched a grassroots campaign to convince the city to add protected bike lanes on a key commercial stretch of Hawthorne Boulevard.

It didn’t work. But Katz isn’t done yet.

In February, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) decided to restripe Hawthorne without bike lanes as part of their Hawthorne Pave and Paint project. The decision and process taken to reach it, were controversial. They sparked serious concerns from PBOT’s own Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Portland Planning & Sustainability Commission. The city’s decision also went against the wishes of dozens of Hawthorne business owners and thousands of Portlanders who want the street and its popular shops and cafes to be safer and more accessible by bike.

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Much of the support for bike lanes on Hawthorne was galvanized by Katz and his Healthier Hawthorne campaign. Two months after PBOT said “no,” Katz hasn’t moved on. On March 24th he published a nearly 9,000 word article on his blog that attempts to make his case. It’s titled, Debunking the Hawthorne Decision Report: How PBOT Lied About Bike Lanes — And Got Away With It.

Zach Katz.
(Photo: Zach Katz)

The way Katz sees it, PBOT’s process and framing of the project go beyond simple errors. He thinks the agency lied and was intentionally deceptive in order to reach a particular, non-bike-lane outcome.

A key point in his analysis is PBOT’s initial evaluation of striping alternatives that came to a surprising conclusion: Adding protected bike lanes to Hawthorne between SE 24th and 50th would have negative outcomes for climate change and equity. “One might assume that these claims were supported by nuanced, in-depth analysis,” Katz’s essay reads. “But they weren’t. ​Not even a little bit… The sole justification for these claims was a projected transit delay at Cesar Chavez Boulevard — a delay PBOT later admitted would have been resolved by simply including a bus/bike ‘mixing zone’ (a common design tool for PBOT) at that one intersection. Neither the Evaluation Report nor the public survey were ever updated to reflect this.”

Despite PBOT’s acknowledgment of that planning error, the damage of that finding was set in stone. Public opinions were formed.

That point is just one of many Katz attempts to debunk in his essay. And now he’s taken his campaign one step further.

On Monday, Katz launched a GoFundMe to raise $50,000 in legal fees that would be required to file a formal lawsuit against the City of Portland.

“There was an opportunity to build protected bike lanes and make dramatic safety improvements for pedestrians, but PBOT instead chose to keep the same deadly design that killed 15-year-old Fallon Smart in 2016 — and lied about racial equity and climate justice to manufacture consent for that decision,” Katz writes on the GoFundMe page.

Specifically, he wants to sue PBOT for failure to comply with adopted plans and policies like the Bicycle Plan for 2030, the Transportation System Plan, Climate Action Plan, and so on.

“All we’re seeking is for them to reverse their decision and build the safer design with protected bike lanes that they unjustly scrapped,” Katz says, “By holding PBOT accountable… we’ll ensure they don’t use the same deceptive tactics to avoid making essential safety improvements on other streets in the future.”

We’ve reached out to PBOT for a response and will update the story when we hear back.

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

Keep up the awesome work Zach!

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

Thank you Eawriste!

one
Guest

Way to go Zack! Changes that Zack and I want to see will make the streets safer, and would be a role model of what COULD happen in the rest of the city.

Every time I ride (Or drive) on NE or N Rosa Parks, I think “Why can’t we do the on 82nd, or other wider streets where many people need to travel?” Right now when I travel Hawthorne, I think “The is so stressful and scary. I hate this street.”

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

Thanks! Yeah, imagine if there were protected bike lanes on East Burnside, Glisan, Sandy…it would be transformative. It seems that a lot of people (myself included) want to give PBOT the benefit of the doubt and say “well, they’ll get it right next time.” That attitude might have made more sense in the early 2000s—when even New York City didn’t have any protected bike lanes yet—but things have changed a lot. It’s time to get serious about protected bike lanes on main streets.

 
Guest
 

… There’s so many more important places to direct energy than this. Like anywhere in Southwest, outer East, or North Portland that has no semblance of adequate bike infrastructure. Or even projects in nearby areas that don’t have great alternate routes a measly three blocks away. This is why the majority of Portlanders don’t support the “bike community” and will vote for motor vehicle capacity expansion instead of bike lanes.

We should be putting effort towards projects like the Red Electric Trail, a Highway 26 path, 122nd/Division/Stark/etc. bike projects, getting trucks off Lombard, etcetera. Rather than projects like Hawthorne bike lanes that really should be at the lowest of low priority.

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

I actually initially attempted to answer this question on the GoFundMe page, but took it out for brevity. Maybe I should put it back, because it does seem like an important question to answer. Here’s what I wrote:

Q: Aren’t there streets in underserved neighborhoods (like in East Portland) that need this more than Hawthorne? 

A: Absolutely. But this particular repaving project is already funded (with or without bike lanes), and the money cannot easily be reallocated to other projects. 

Additionally, Hawthorne is not a silo; it’s a vital corridor in our city’s transportation network. It offers a direct link from outer Southeast Portland to jobs and destinations downtown and along Hawthorne itself, serves as a flagship destination that attracts millions of tourists and is vital to the region’s economy, and is home to hundreds of residents and small local businesses (many of which are owned by people who live in underserved communities in East Portland).

Most importantly, the result of this decision will certainly impact many other future street projects, including those in underserved communities. If PBOT is willing to lie about racial equity and climate justice to justify not building protected bike lanes on a street like Hawthorne—with strong support from local advocates able and willing to make petitions and do vast business outreach—what’s to stop them from using the same deceptive tactics for street projects in East Portland, where that strong activist support may not exist? This is about more than Hawthorne; it’s about holding PBOT accountable for building streets with future generations in mind.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

What project are you working on?

idlebytes
Guest
idlebytes

This is why the majority of Portlanders don’t support the “bike community” and will vote for motor vehicle capacity expansion instead of bike lanes

My neighbors on Nextdoor regularly complain about the recent improvements on 102nd, Glisan, and Halsey. They also don’t like the bus islands on Division and oppose any changes to 122nd unless it’s to add more lanes. I’m not sure they’re being swayed one way or the other by advocates like Zach.

I think they mostly don’t like the idea of seeing empty bike lanes when they’re stuck in traffic. If you point out to them that the changes were made for safety and bike lanes were just a bonus they unironically claim it’s less safe because we’re frustrating drivers so they drive even more poorly. I doubt those Portlanders will ever support safety improvements and I don’t think bicycle advocates are changing their minds one way or another.

EP
Guest
EP

To be fair, a lot of those complaints start out with “I’ve lived here for X decades, and…” I think it’s a lot of angry old people. Change takes time. Maybe if they’d had bike lanes available when they were younger, they’d “get it” now. So I always look at these incremental changes as being the nudge in the right direction that has to happen, and should have already happened.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Yeah idlebytes, pretty good point. I’m from out there. But let’s be clear. The idea of designing multimodal streets for safety is foreign to the vast majority of people, regardless of where they live. My parents wouldn’t have any clue about how dangerous Portland is until I was hit by two distracted drivers and was forced through the insurance/legal system.

This is also likely the reason why PBoT designs streets primarily to maintain car capacity, shoehorns any safety improvements that fit, and avoids any publicity. And that is why it becomes so clear how futile any effort to improve design safety is, and how these efforts will generally fail unless there is a legal (or legislative) impetus to back it up. Portland has been spinning its wheels with very little result for decades with a historic decline in bike modal share no other city has seen. Zach is at the forefront of change, and he is going to get a lot of advocates who disagree because they see PBoT as willing to change because of good will/reason.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I disagree, this is glaring enough that it presents a good opportunity to prevent this from happening again in the future. Waiting until the city makes a similar attempt in one of these other areas you mention helps no one. Wish someone had sued over the dangerous restriping on the st John’s bridge.

Tabor
Guest
Tabor

I half agree, but the gofundme says that:

We’re going to sue PBOT for failure to comply with multiple Council-adopted city plans and policies (the 2030 Bicycle Plan, the Transportation System Plan, the 2015 Climate Action Plan, the Climate Action Through Equity Plan, and the Vision Zero Action Plan) and their failure to make our community’s main street more safe, equitable, and climate-resilient.

Compelling the city to live up to the 2030 Bicycle Plan would benefit every neighborhood.

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

Since it was adopted by a Resolution (as opposed to an Ordinance) the 2030 Bike Plan is not legally enforceable. In fact, of all the plans you mentioned, only the Transportation System Plan was adopted via an Ordinance, since it is part of the Comprehensive Plan. I’m no lawyer but if one agrees to take on this case, it is likely to have a very narrow focus.

marisheba
Guest
marisheba

Yes, and the TSP classifies Hawthorne as a civic main street and a major transit corridor, giving modal priority to pedestrians, transit, and curbside uses (ie parking, but also bike parking, loading, bike share, parklets, etc) over bikes.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Do you think Hawthorne should be used as a commuter corridor with 10k car counts? If not there is plenty of space for all modes. You are assuming that car capacity is a given and we should make no effort to reduce it. Framing this problem as a pedestrian vs transit vs cycling is completely missing the point, and ends with every project prioritizing cars.

soren
Guest
soren

“You are assuming that car capacity is a given…”

Huh?

Both alternatives 2 and 3 both decrease motorized cage travel lanes from four two four. Your claim that people who prioritized proven pedestrian safety infrastructure and who sought to limit the negative impact of this project on transit are car culture proponents is in really bad faith.

“Framing this problem as a pedestrian vs transit vs cycling “

IMO, some of this framing comes Healthier Hawthorne’s repeated dismissal of proven pedestrian safety infrastructure (high-quality median islands) and the negative impact of removal of a turn lane on transit reliability. In fact, I’ve never seen you or Zach address these concerns in a good faith manner. (Typically, those who bring up these concerns are patronized or accused of being shills for car culture.)

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

Soren, I’ve addressed these concerns multiple times in comments to you and in my article debunking PBOT’s claims (see sections 1, 2, and 3—Overall Safety, Pedestrians, and Transit): https://www.healthierhawthorne.com/blog/debunking-the-hawthorne-decision-report-how-pbot-lied-about-bike-lanes-and-got-away-with-it

There is no patronization or accusations here—only facts and data, to which I have yet to hear any data-based rebuttal.

soren
Guest
soren

In your blog post you actually quote PBOT suggesting that transit delays and reliability issues (bus stop pull ins and left turns respectively) could very well impact transit but in public you patronizingly dismiss these concerns.

“But Alternative 2 is the exact same design that currently exists east of Cesar Chavez Boulevard, which is a High Crash Street#. This stretch of Hawthorne has seen dozens of crashes in 2013-2017 alone*, and its deadly road configuration led to Fallon Smart’s murder in 2016@.”

#This is like saying that Broadway east of 82nd if a High Crash Corridor. It’s lower Hawthorne that is, by far, the primary contributor to its High Crash Network designation.

*The vision zero serious injury/death map clearly illustrates your dishonesty on this point.

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=5385b143768c445db915a9c7fad32ebe

@One of the primary asks of the family and those who organized the protest was a lane-wide median island crosswalk. To claim that a 14 block stretch with 4 high-quality median island crosswalks is the same as Hawthorne east of Chavez is simply absurd.

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

Yes, Hawthorne west of Chavez sees more crashes than Hawthorne east of Chavez. And Alternative 2 would certainly *slightly* increase safety on it.

However…

– Alternative 2 does NOTHING to improve safety east of Chavez—which is still a dangerous stretch (if not quite as dangerous as lower Hawthorne)

– Alternative 2 does NOTHING to improve safety for people biking, scootering, skateboarding, rollerblading, etc.

– Alternative 2 does NOTHING to get bikes, scooters, skateboards, etc. off the sidewalk (which PBOT *somehow* completely fails to mention anywhere in their reports)

– Alternative 2 does NOTHING to bring more people to businesses, which protected bike lanes are proven to do

– Alternative 2 does NOTHING to create a mode shift to biking, which, in the long run, will take cars off the road and increase transit speeds

– Alternative 3b does all of these things—and STILL offers pedestrian median islands, which are slightly narrower—but there’s no evidence 6-foot median islands are less safe than 10-foot ones.

soren
Guest
soren

“*slightly* increase safety”

High quality median-island crosswalks are associated with large reductions in VRU risk.

“Alternative 2 does NOTHING to improve safety east of Chavez—which is still a dangerous stretch (if not quite as dangerous as lower Hawthorne)”

And neither does Alternative 3.

Alternative 2 does NOTHING to create a mode shift to biking, which, in the long run, will take cars off the road and increase transit speeds

Cycling mode share has been cratering in Portland for many years (in part due to the capitalist housing policies so beloved by influential cycling advocates/activists). One of the reasons I now prioritize transit is because I have little hope that cycling will significantly reduce PDX’s transportation-associated GHG emissions.

Moreover, anyone genuinely concerned about GHG emissions you would have advocated for removal of parking (as I did). Alternative 2 and 3 have the same number of motorized cage lanes.

“which are slightly narrower—but there’s no evidence 6-foot median islands are less safe than 10-foot ones.”

A 40% reduction in width is “slight” — give me a break.

Under alternative 3, mid-block median islands are difficult to implement. Moreover, PBOT was skeptical of the utility of narrow islands and made no committment to install them under alternative 3.

This is a pave and paint project with very limited funding — a zero sum game. Transportation and housing equity in Portland has always been a racist and classist zero-sum game and this is why funding for projects in my neighborhood must be shifted towards marginalized communities.

The immense energy and focus some advocates have for projects in their inner PDX backyards when people continue to disproportionately die on outer Portland’s streets is incredibly disappointing.

Tom
Guest
Tom

The SE Madison at Grand intersection changes seem like a downgrade. The green bike box was removed and the bike lane discontinued right before the intersection. It looks like they want you merge from the bike lane into the through traffic lane right before the intersection, then merge back into the bike lane on the other side of the intersection after the bus passes. The bus now pulls so far forward there is no room in front of the bus…it looked they were actually encroaching on the crosswalk they were pulled so far forward.

This seems to create conflicts that did not exist before. In heavier traffic its not always easy to merge into the traffic lane right before the intersection as the designer seems to be implying. When the light turns you now need to wait on the bus to cross back over into the traffic lane, meanwhile the driver behind me seemed super irritated and tailgated me through the intersection.

So what I did the next time is just stay behind the bus in the now unofficial bike lane space between the turn lane and the through lane. My concern is if there was a collision I might be blamed for being in this no-mans land between the auto lanes. It just seems like an odd design.

dan
Guest
dan

I haven’t biked through there recently, but I drove eastbound over the Hawthorne yesterday and the changes are pretty confusing for motor vehicles. Head on a swivel through here for sure because drivers will be trying to figure out the paint and not looking for bikes.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

PBOT frequently lies. Can we sue over that?

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

We can sue over anything. Whether we win or not is another story (I’m optimistic), but we’re guaranteed to lose if we don’t try.

Allan Rudwick
Subscriber

It is interesting to me that he’s trying to raise more money than No More Freeways needed to sue ODOT

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

Good question. That was a ballpark figure that one lawyer gave me. It might end up costing a lot less than that (hopefully it does!), but I figured it would be best to aim high. I’ll stop the GoFundMe as soon as we have a lawyer on board who is satisfied working for the amount raised.

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

Did you talk to a lawyer about the merits of the case and what specific points of law would be contested?

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

Yes, and I think you’re right in your other comment that the case would likely center around the TSP. There might be some other possible angles too, like land use. I still need to talk to some more lawyers.

Chris
Guest
Chris

My concern would be that it pause the project indefinitely until it is settled in the courts or it gets repaved in its existing format and money moved to other projects in the city.

marisheba
Guest
marisheba

And delays the pedestrian safety improvements, which aren’t a panacea, but which are still important improvements!

soren
Guest
soren

“The sole justification for these claims was a projected transit delay”

Accusing PBOT of lying when using absolutist language that can be falsified is poor strategy.

Hawthorne Paint and Pave Evaluation Report: https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2020-08/hawthorne-pave-and-paint-evaluation-report.pdf

(Note: my fact checks are very firmly tongue in cheek.)

Additional justification 1:
“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…”

Fact check: True. (Even better would have been to redirect this project’s funding to other areas.)

Additional justification 2:
“While Alternative 3 would add bike lanes, it is likely that the bike lanes would offer a mostly localized benefit to access destinations on the corridor rather than benefiting people further away in the Foster and Lents areas. Therefore, our conclusion is that Alternative 2 is more consistent with the goal of advancing equity and addressing structural racism with this project.”

Fact check: True. (Hawthorne is not a Comp Plam/TSP major bikeway and does not continue past the Mount Tabor neighborhood. The established line 14 bus route is a TSP major transit route. Bus >> Bikes according to Comp/TSP plans.)

Additional justification 3:
“Alternative 3 could also significantly impact bus reliability, since
turning vehicles would be blocking the through lane.”

Fact check: True. (Left and right-turning vehicles on Hawthorne already cause traffic slowdowns during peak hours and this impact will only increase when Hawthorne has a single Bus[good]/SUV[bad] through lane.)

Additional justification 4:
“This seems especially true in this situation, since adding one stretch of bike lane in an area of Portland with among the highest bicycle mode shares in the city is likely to have less marginal benefit than improving one of the most frequent and highest-ridership bus lines in the area.”

Fact check: Unclear. (The impact of multiple transit stop improvements is unclear given that total lane traffic volume is expected to increase.)

The lie by omission that Healthier Hawthorne and other activists rightly took PBOT to task on:
“Alternative 2 offers the most benefit for bus travel time and reliability,
resulting from bus priority improvements at Cesar E Chavez Blvd.”

Fact check: False. (Bus priority at this one intersection is possible with Alternative 2.)

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

“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…”

How much more money would Alternative 3b cost than Alternative 2, given that no physical protection (aside from parked cars) was included? The only difference is how the street would be painted. PBOT never provided any actual figures, but there’s no reason I can see why Alternative 3b would cost significantly more. Plus, the city would likely save money in the long run—because if even one person on a bike or e-scooter is killed four years from now, they could be subject to another pricey settlement (Fallon’s family settled for $400k due to PBOT’s negligence—nearly the cost of the entire Pave and Paint Project). Safety is the best investment you can make.

“While Alternative 3 would add bike lanes, it is likely that the bike lanes would offer a mostly localized benefit to access destinations on the corridor rather than benefiting people further away in the Foster and Lents areas. Therefore, our conclusion is that Alternative 2 is more consistent with the goal of advancing equity and addressing structural racism with this project.”

Here, PBOT makes a LOT of assumptions about who would benefit from bike lanes on Hawthorne. If you spend even just a couple hours talking to people or observing people who are currently biking on Hawthorne (which I did—many times!), you’ll find that there are lots of people of color, delivery cyclists, kids, and business owners who live in East Portland who would benefit from bike lanes tremendously. It’s also one of the most popular tourist streets and contributes to the entire city’s economy. Plus, it absolutely connects to Foster and Lents via 50th Ave. PBOT’s implication that Hawthorne exists in some kind of ivory tower silo is simply untrue and unfair to all the surrounding communities who would, in fact, benefit from this.

“Alternative 3 could also significantly impact bus reliability, since
turning vehicles would be blocking the through lane.”

PBOT’s own words: “The lack of a center turn lane does not have much of an effect on transit delay.”comment image

soren
Guest
soren

“it absolutely connects to Foster and Lents via 50th Ave”

Trimet line 14 runs on 50th and this is one of the main reasons that Hawthorne is designated a major transit corridor.. 50th is hell for cycling but_Lincoln-Harrison-52nd is a decent route to Center/Foster and eventually Lents.

“because if even one person on a bike or e-scooter is killed four years from now, they could be subject to another pricey settlement (Fallon’s family settled for $400k due to PBOT’s negligence—nearly the cost of the entire Pave and Paint Project)”

One of the main demands of the protests following this tragedy was the installation of a median-island-protected crosswalk at that intersection. This is what PBOT is proposing to do at 4 locations in the Hawthorne project area.

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

“50th is hell for cycling”—so let’s make it better! Plenty of room for protected bike lanes.

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

One of the main demands of the protests following this tragedy was the installation of a median-island-protected crosswalk at that intersection. This is what PBOT is proposing to do at 4 locations in the Hawthorne project area.

The median island was a much-needed stopgap solution, but it’s just a bandaid. The real problem is that the street’s width causes people to speed, which creates the need for a large crossing island in the first place.

Alternative 3b narrows Hawthorne to two lanes, which will make it safer and faster to cross, just like inner Division or Alberta Street. Plus, since Hawthorne is slightly wider than those streets, there’s still room for crossing islands—which PBOT even shows in their plans!
comment image

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

Hawthorne may no longer be considered a major bike route in the current ‘bike plan’, but it certainly was in the previous one. PBOT caved on Hawthorne in the late 90s transportation plan and they did so again this past year.

Steven Smith
Guest
Steven Smith

“Bus >> Bikes according to Comp/TSP plans”

FWIW, Peds >> Bikes >> Bus in Comp Plan. Policy 9.6

soren
Guest
soren

The “alternative 2” median-crossing-island turn lane configuration is expected to reduce risk of injury/death for people walking. There should be more median islands but there is little question that alternative 2 — with it’s lane-wide islands would be a better alternative than the bike lane configuration.

https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/ped_medians/

marisheba
Guest
marisheba

“The city’s decision also went against the wishes of dozens of Hawthorne business owners and thousands of Portlanders who want the street and its popular shops and cafes to be safer and more accessible by bike.”

This is such a dishonest framing. Yes, many locals and business owners wanted bike lanes. But in the public involvement process, even MORE locals, and an equal number of business owners, wanted the alternative without bike lanes that is moving forward. You can see the results here: https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2021/pi-summary-summer-fall-2020_2.18.21.pdf

As a pro-bike person that lives a few blocks off Hawthorne, (virtually) attended a public meeting on the project, and gave feedback, this feels personal–you’re essentially lying (by implication) about what people like me said. You can criticize the process and say that flaws in the process led to the public engagement results (I disagree, but it’s a valid argument), but you can’t just make up things about what the neighborhood wants!

I support a robust, well-built bike network, and I think maybe someday there will be a good project for bike lanes on Hawthorne. This wasn’t the right project, and people are choosing the wrong hill to die on.

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

In my view, the “flaws in the process” *absolutely* led to the public engagement results. Who in their right mind (aside from a very small group of people who attend BikeLoud meetings and understand the misleading technical nuances of how PBOT came to its conclusions) would vote for bike lanes if PBOT is telling them they’re bad for climate and equity?

Plus, just a few hundred people responded to PBOT’s survey, while nearly 3,000 people signed our change.org petition for Alternative 3b: https://www.change.org/p/pbot-commissioner-jo-ann-hardesty-build-protected-bike-lanes-on-hawthorne-boulevard

I want a robust, well-built bike network too. “Maybe someday” is not going to get us there.

buildwithjoe
Member

So what is your real name? Why not put your energy into your own goals rather than attack people who are fighting to save lives. The city goals for safety are in writing, and a spit vote of 51/49 of neighbors does not mean the city can perpetuate their deadly designs. No ratio of popularity should veto lives.

joan
Guest
joan

This seems like an unfair attack. BP doesn’t require real names, and many people use pseudonyms for a range of reasons. It’s disingenuous to criticize someone for using a pseudonym, which many people do for safety reasons.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

For sure joan. There are many legitimate reasons to be able to post with anonymity, perhaps not the least of which are people who have been systemically marginalized/targeted such as trans and/or BIPOC folk. Jonathan has taken a lot of effort to keep ad hominem and racially motivated comments out of BP.

zuckerdog
Subscriber
zuckerdog

Marisheba – your comment actually highlights the flaw in City’s decision making process: Sure 41% of businesses selected Alt 2 but 38% selected Alt 3A or 3B. What’s the margin of error and why does the City frame this as an either/or option? Clearly folks value BOTH pedestrian safety AND Bike lanes. We’ve got smart people working for the City who can take this feedback and integrate the findings into a new alternative that serves the values of the public. Why is the public/decision process set up as a zero sum game?

It’s not like playgrounds only have swings or slides or monkey bars or merry-go-rounds…but if you surveyed folks, I am sure a majority would choose slides over swings.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Fantastic point Zucker. I appreciate that marisheba was involved, but it’s clear what marisheba is overlooking concerns the assumption that x# of cars is a given on Hawthorne. When we talk about prioritizing space for cyclists, pedestrian safety and transit, often PBoT and a lot of people including nmarisheba assume these 3 must fit around the existing number of traffic counts.

No project will be successful in this light. No amount of community feedback, advocacy or funding will solve this problem.

That is why most projects from PBoT have limited benefit to transit, pedestrians and cyclists. Hawthorne is 6 lanes wide in most places, a huge space. Do you think we should ignore how many people use it as a commuter route? Prioritizing other modes means reducing capacity for cars. That means, among other possibilities, diverting cut-through SOV traffic along the corridor.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

@marisheba, apologies for misspelling your name.

soren
Guest
soren

Alternative 2 prioritizes pedestrians and more or less preserved existing transit access while reducing automobile travel lanes from 4 to 2. Given that removing existing bulb outs and eliminating parking were non-starters for PBOT, it’s no surprise that rose lanes (my preference) or bike lanes weren’t seriously considered.

Erin M.
Guest
Erin M.

Responding late to this, but: the reason PBOT isn’t removing curbs is that this is a paint and pave project, which is meant to redesign roadways on the cheap. My position this whole time is that bike lanes shouldn’t be put on Hawthorne “on the cheap”, they should be put in on a properly-funded redesign project those goes back to the drawing board and does the whole thing right. I think that people want this project so badly, that they are trying to pigeonhole something that won’t actually work well into this project.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Erin, we agree that bike space belongs on Hawthorne. Why do you think PBoT will voluntarily revisit Hawthorne? It is very likely it will remain the status quo for a decade following the pave and paint. This is not really about Hawthorne. It is primarily about holding PBoT to the the 2030 Bicycle Plan, the Transportation System Plan, the 2015 Climate Action Plan, the Climate Action Through Equity Plan, and the Vision Zero Action Plan. The vast majority of projects planned and built by PBoT prioritize parking and car capacity, with utter disregard of all the above.

soren
Guest
soren

It is annoying how you name drop these “plans” while intentionally obfuscating the fact that they support a focus on transit on Hawthorne and a cycling focus on other nearby collector/arterials (e.g. Burnside, Division, and Sandy).

PS: I was one of the few cycling activists strongly advocating for bike lanes on lower Division years ago when PBOT began design of its Division Streetscape Project. After all, unlike Hawthorne, Division is a major city bikeway according to the 2030 bike plan (and Comp Plan). Moreover, Hawthorne is the best central city route for a dedicate bus rapid transit lane that continues on Division past 50th.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

I hope that we can someday reach the point where we recognize that it’s absurd to let property owners and businesses dictate how safe our transportation network is.

NM
Guest
NM

No lawyer identified, no clear legal strategy, no organizational structure whatsoever to be held accountable for follow up on how this money was spent, or even a partner organization willing to vet this effort. Uhhh…

Not to mention claiming this is a climate justice/equity effort (?) and invoking the horrific death of Fallon Smart as reason to stall building more of the very infrastructure that could have saved her life (robust median islands) makes the ongoing saga of this campaign just a disappointing thing to watch take up so much space and now unfortunately take up some folks money too.

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

Hey NM, instead of criticizing, maybe you’d like to offer help? I would love to work with other smart, driven, passionate people on this. I could certainly use help with contacting lawyers, identifying legal strategies, and partnering with organizations for accountability (and other benefits like more publicity and credibility). But I’m just one guy with a finite amount of time and skills. Honestly, I don’t know that many people here in Portland, and meeting other advocates and people who’d be able to help has been especially difficult during the pandemic.

The big picture here is that the city is about to redo a street in my neighborhood that I care deeply about—and have visualized its potential since I moved here years ago—and even after putting my all over the past year into making sure it gets the safety improvements it needs, they’re still planning to keep it unsafe for biking and pedestrians. I’m doing everything I can with the skills I possess and the resources I have available to make sure this project has the best possible outcome, but I have weak spots and could absolutely use help.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at zzachkatzz [at] gmail if you want to offer help or advice!

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

NM I would love for there to be an organization in Portland that was willing and able to provide a lawyer, strategy, objectives toward long term goals and progress monitoring for funding sources. My hope is that Bikeloud will fill that some day. We have plenty of advocates and zero organizations for this.

The median islands proposed are 4 along the entire length of the project, presenting a problem for the remaining intersections which will look exactly like Hawthorne above 39th. The effect on safety will be negligible at best.

What safety project are you working on currently that we might help you?

soren
Guest
soren

“What safety project are you working on currently that we might help you?”

“Hey NM, instead of criticizing, maybe you’d like to offer help?”

NM has a long history of active transportation advocacy in Portland. When your cycling advocacy ends up annoying many active transportation advocates, you are doing something wrong.

Carrie
Subscriber

I rarely agree with Soren on BP, but I am here. From the launch of Healthier Hawthorne, I have been both impressed and incredibly dismayed at Zach’s approach to this topic. One one hand impressed at his work to envision what this space could look like, to take advantage of a planned city project, and to do all the outreach given that is new to Portland. On the other hand he is consistent in his dismissal of those who’s vision do not align with his — impressively consistent from the original Facebook page to the comments section of BP. Zach says “come join me rather than criticize” but when activists have shown interest in joing but have critiqued he has also said “if you don’t want protected bike lanes, then I don’t want you”.

I agree that PBOT is not working to it’s directives, plans, and published design standards. I agree that the current system is not holding them accountable to that. And yet I am appalled (!) at the arrogance to raise an issue on equity and climate justice and not have the inclusion of any of the community groups who have been tackling this issue with lived experiences. The fact that they have not screams loud in my ears.

The glaring difference between what I see in this space and in the Rose Quarter advocacy space is that in both we see our government agencies acting in bad faith and resulting terrible decision making. However, in the Rose Quarter space I see many more people less fixated on the outcome (other than not putting a freeway in the backyard of a middle school and increasing our regional GHG emissions) – the vision of what could be is mostly driven by better equity and climate justice goals. Some of the vision, I suspect, is not what many of us White transportation advocates would ‘prefer’. But that’s not my place — and if I don’t understand it it’s also not my place to roll over the community that’s been hurt! In the Hawthorne situation the organizer is so dedicated to the final product he wants that’s he’s unable to build coalition to justify the marketing of this effort as one built on equity. It’s his version of equity (quote “Black folks are safer in PBLs too”), but it’s not really equity.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Hey Carrie, thanks for pointing this out. I also usually ignore Soren’s comments since they often make little sense. Join us! This is much bigger than Hawthorne as you have surmised. PBoT has evaluated streets for years in isolation, meaning every traffic count on every intersection within a given project boundary can preclude safe design. It’s one of the reasons why we have seen a decline from 8 to 5% in bike modal share and record road deaths since 1996.

I haven’t been following Zach’s work for the majority of his efforts (forgive my ignorance), but I am intimately familiar with PBoT’s inherently flawed design process. Zach and I may not agree on some things concerning the end project (I’m not actually sure), but I think the process is more important. What community groups should he/we reach out to? How can we get more people involved?

soren
Guest
soren

“I also usually ignore Soren’s comments since they often make little sense”

Is an ad hominem a sensible argument?

And to do this when you weren’t even replying to me is even more rude.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Hey soren, I’m not questioning your character, simply saying it’s frequently difficult to follow the thread of logic in your posts.

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

Hi Carrie,

I want to clarify that in the conceptual stages of this project, protected bike lanes were not something I was willing to compromise on, because they’re truly the only way to keep people riding bikes safe (which is why I undertook this project in the first place). In the Facebook group, we had many discussions about the specific *design* of the protected bike lanes—should they be two-way on one side of the street? what should the intersections look like?—but safety was always a #1 priority for me with this project, and I’m not ashamed of my unwillingness to compromise on that. I could have never put my heart and soul (and sweat) into this project if the proposal was to add sharrows instead, which was what some activists were suggesting.

In your last paragraph, where you compare Hawthorne with the Rose Quarter freeway expansion, that “other than” in your parenthetical is lifting a lot of weight. In my view, No More Freeways *is*, in fact, fixated on the outcome (which is great!): No more freeways, including this one. I have a hard time believing anyone who currently supports the projects would still support it if they decided that it would be okay to expand the freeway—even if it were to supposedly aligned with some kind of equitable and climate-friendly vision (which is the exact lie ODOT is trying to peddle).

But I also think it’s unfair to compare the two projects because, in my view, stopping something bad from happening (i.e. expanding the freeway) requires a different approach than creating something new (i.e. adding protected bike lanes).

I won’t mince words: The main reason No More Freeways had an easier time building a coalition is simply because Aaron is infinitely better experienced and better organized than me. This was my first time doing any sort of activism at all, ever, and if I could do this project over again, I would have done some things differently.

But another reason is because—and I do *not* intend to trivialize Aaron’s incredibly hard work—in a sense, opposing something bad is easier, because you can use fear—in a positive way—to bring people to your side. Or, put another way: It’s easier to tear something down (whether it be a freeway, or a project to expand a freeway) than to build something up. With Healthier Hawthorne, one of the reasons I had a hard time getting some people and organizations on my side is simply because they either had a hard time imagining it or recognizing why it’s necessary in the first place. “Why can’t bikers just use Lincoln,” “Isn’t the street too narrow,” etc.

A good thought experiment to illustrate my point: If, hypothetically, protected bike lanes *already existed* on Hawthorne—and PBOT was proposing *tearing them out* to add a center turn lane—would that not be a *much* more obviously egregious act? I can imagine climate and racial justice organizations would be a lot more eager to get on board if that happened.

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

In referencing the Rose Quarter advocacy, I specifically did not call out NMF. Because at least one of the coalition of groups does not necessary oppose the freeway project – the group that has been most impacted by the freeway itself. I give NMF credit for joining this coalition even with the differences, rather than being absolutist, and/but I think the whole coalition has been potentially more effective because of this. That you only see Aaron as the leader and driver of the RQ advocacy realm also speaks volumes.

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

What??? I’m brand new to the advocacy world, haven’t been paying close attention to that project, and genuinely didn’t know there were other groups in the RQ advocacy realm besides Aaron’s NMF. Please don’t assume things about me.

Brighton
Guest
Brighton

Zach – when the businesses declared that they supported parking protected bike lanes, were they told the trade off was approximately 50% loss of parking spaces? (Mainly due to the fact that there are pedestrian bulb outs and the bike lane would need to zig zag around them, and the need for clear views at driveways.)

If businesses really supported bikes over parking spaces then that is impressive.

However I know when you first started talking to businesses, you didn’t mention parking loss.

I’d love to know if you followed up to make it clear exactly what they were choosing.

I want to know where these businesses *really* stand.

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

Hey Brighton,

That’s true—when I first did business outreach, PBOT hadn’t released their Alternatives yet, so I had no way of knowing or telling them that ~50% of parking would need to be removed.

I did not go back and tell them that, and here’s my frank answer why: It’s not actually that important. While business support is a very good thing to have—both for ethical reasons and to make a project “politically easy”—the safety of people walking and biking should *not* hinge on the ability of business owners to recognize why that’s a necessary tradeoff for parking spaces. If it did, we’d never be able to build protected bike lanes ever, anywhere (see: the NE 28th situation from a few years ago).

Nearly all of the business owners I talked to did, however, recognize that protected bike lanes are good for business (the rest—like the auto clinic on 43rd—supported them purely for safety reasons). Parking removal did come up in some conversations, and I was honest that some spaces would need to be removed for sightlines. What I found interesting is that many of them were simply unsure about the tradeoff, and asked me to send them data about why bike lanes are more valuable than parking spaces, which I did. This perfectly exemplifies why this sort of decision should ultimately be left to the professionals, rather than the hunches/assumptions of people who haven’t studied this stuff for a living.

I did email all of the business owners the link to PBOT’s public survey when it came out, which did include the information about parking loss. It looks like only about 40 total businesses replied to it, and I talked to nearly 100 businesses in my outreach. So ultimately, a lot of people just didn’t take a stance.

soren
Guest
soren

“I did not go back and tell them that, and here’s my frank answer why: It’s not actually that important.

Do you really think this public comment is not going to be seen by the business owners you misled by omission?

However, I do agree with you that corps/businesses and other profit-oriented special interests should not have favored role in government decision making (e.g. PBOT’s appallingly sycophantic relationship with “stakeholders”). After all, owners, investors, equity holders, lenders, business associations, and neighborhood associations already have a voice as individuals.

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

Yes, I can see how that quote would look bad when taken completely out of context.

Jared French
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Jared French

Not sure I agree with a lawsuit but Zach I admire your chutzpah! Your blog post on the issue is really quite impressive. Some have said it is biased but hey it’s not supposed to be an impartial article. Follow your passion Zach!

https://www.healthierhawthorne.com/blog/debunking-the-hawthorne-decision-report-how-pbot-lied-about-bike-lanes-and-got-away-with-it

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

Thank you Jared!

Fred
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Fred

I have to agree with Jared. Zach’s blog post uses the blog architecture most impressively to create a compelling argument. It’s a model that should be held up in rhetoric and design classes at colleges and universities. And if it helps hold PBOT to account, all the better.

It’s obvious to anyone who has ever been burned by one of Portland’s vaunted “public involvement” processes that decision-makers always find a way to do exactly what they wanted to do all along – public process be damned (look at ODOT’s Rose Quarter decision, their CRC project, and PBOT’s many debacles over the years). I don’t have the energy to dig into their dishonesty, but I’m so glad that someone else has. Go get ’em, Zach!

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

This is a really great compliment Fred. I put a LOT of work into that, so it means a whole lot for you to say that. Thank you!!