My impressions and photos of changes to SE Hawthorne

Looking northeast from 37th onto Hawthorne.
(Photos: Taylor Griggs/BikePortland)

Thanks to a recently-completed project to Hawthorne Blvd, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) says the busy southeast Portland street should be a safe haven for people to walk and window shop in relative peace from drivers and their cars.

I can practically catch the music from the Hawthorne Theatre if I stand on my front porch, so I took a stroll down the street this morning to check things out. Here’s what I saw:

This project has been controversial because even though it includes elements that should be beneficial to people on foot, PBOT decided against adding a bike lane. Clearly, some bikers still use the street anyway, but since there’s parking on both sides of the street, it’s a little chaotic during busy hours. But one thing I’ve already noticed is that bicycle users benefit from the improved crosswalk visibility just as much as people walking.

During the busy afternoon and early evening, crowds of people walking on the street seem to encourage drivers to make sure they’re paying attention to crosswalks. Solo walkers probably still have to be more alert to make sure they’re visible, since some drivers are used to breezing through crosswalks if they don’t immediately see someone wanting to cross.


Biketown station at 34th and Hawthorne.

Hawthorne is populated with Biketown racks, and I can imagine someone visiting from out of town or doing holiday shopping wanting to rent one of the bikes so they can move up and down the street a little faster than they would be going on foot. This is a scenario in which Hawthorne could really benefit from a bike lane — people who aren’t hearty Portland cyclists might not be familiar with the greenway system, and could miss out on some of the shops and restaurants if they’re not seeing them while they ride by.

At 33rd and Hawthorne.

One area that concerned me is on 33rd Ave, where there are curb ramps leading onto the street but no crosswalk. I saw people crossing there anyway, but without big yellow pedestrian crossing signs and a concrete island, it seemed like a bit of a risky move.

And crosswalks are a lot less useful if there’s a car idling right on top of them! Like this shot at 36th…

Please don’t be this person.

I think we’ll have a better sense of how it all works as everyone gets used to the updated crosswalks on Hawthorne, but most people seem pretty comfortable crossing already. This is a street with a lot of stop-and-start car traffic, especially during rush hour, so it’s harder for drivers to speed even if they wanted to — although certainly not impossible.

That being said, all the on-street car parking makes it pretty difficult for cyclists to get through, even though they can take advantage of the improved crosswalk visibility that makes it safer to cross the street on bike and foot. The only time I feel comfortable biking on Hawthorne is during quiet hours when I don’t have to worry about being tailed by an annoyed driver in a hurry to get to the Fred Meyer.

Since those quiet moments are few and far between, I’ll stick to the nearby greenways when I’m cycling. But when I’m out walking, the street definitely feels like a better place to take a leisurely stroll. Thanks for all your feedback on my last article. I hope these photos help give folks who haven’t been out there yet a better sense of what it’s like.

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