My impressions and photos of changes to SE Hawthorne

Posted by on December 1st, 2021 at 1:34 pm

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.

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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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Alex
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Alex

wow. looks like shit

ActualPractical
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ActualPractical

Looks like a dumpy stroad when I lived in Charlotte (2nd least walkable big city).

The left/right turn lanes are absolute eyesores… and proof there’s space for protected bike lanes (the islands wouldn’t be needed if shorter crossing distance).

Clem Fandango
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Clem Fandango

COMMENT DELETED BY MODERATOR.

zuckerdog
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zuckerdog

I still feel like it was a missed opportunity to include bike lanes along Hawthorne, but as a “hearty” cyclist, I have to admit that it feels a little less nerve racking riding in the street in the new lane configuration. Definitely not for everybody and doesn’t achieve the aspirational “8 to 80” goal.

ChadwickF
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ChadwickF

Totally. It’s a tad bit better with this configuration for those of us who will bike kinda everywhere. For me it’s, “now it’s just as bad as Woodstock.”

Steve C
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Steve C

comment image
comment image

The islands need bollards sunk into the ground to protect people crossing. Cars can, and do, mount those crossing island curbs. The pole on this crossing at NE Glisan and 78th was shared off TWICE now. PBOT is aware enough of the issue that they cantilever out their crossing sign/beacons now. If they don’t trust motorist to not destroy a metal post, they shouldn’t consider them safe enough for pedestrians either.

https://montavilla.net/2021/04/27/crossing-beacon-destroyed-again/

Bjorn
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Bjorn

Geez that island has a curb cut to help cars drive right up onto it!!!

D2
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D2

If you hit that side of the island you’ve already screwed up pretty hard. I imagine they cut that side for cargo trucks that botch the turn.

FDUP
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FDUP

And you certainly wouldn’t want to hit it on a bicycle! Sorry, but as a cyclist willing to use the full road as necessary, I really do not like all the new hardscape.

Suburban
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Suburban

If you choose to not “take” a lane of traffic on your bicycle, you just “gave away” quite a huge amount of high quality pavement to others who are happy to use it.
If there are particular thresholds of perceived safety you need to overcome to operate your bicycle on a city street, you just added layers of blockage your regular use of that street: blockages you require groups of others to understand and then address to your satisfaction before using your street!
True, My argument could be seen as “victim blaming”. If you need flatness, pavement, paint, quiet, logic, bollards or blinking lights to confirm use of your vehicle, perhaps vulnerability has been trained into you by the bullying and rudeness of others. Age eight thru eighty, the bollards are between your ears.

eawriste
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eawriste

Right, people in Amsterdam or a hundred other cities with protected infrastructure just concentrated more on believing it’s safe.

Chris I
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Adam
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Adam

I really think if it is OK for campers to block a sidewalk off a major main street for weeks or months at a time, it ought to be OK for them to block a street. Right? It’s all part of the public right of way after all. More space for the campers to spread out, build a large covered area with tarps and maybe a campfire and a large area to store bike parts and shopping carts. It’s just the campers know no one will force them off the sidewalk for a good while. The campers and the city probably both rationalize it by pointing to the sidewalk across the street. Campers and city bureaucrats by and large seem to be very considerate and resourceful people. :/

Rain Waters
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Rain Waters

do people camp on the sidewalk continuously ?

D2
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D2

There did seem to be a higher level of cars driving on Lincoln tonight, so that’s something?

Matt Kelly
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Matt Kelly

Something….bad?

Bill Stites
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Overall, much safer vibe on Hawthorne.
I do agree it was a missed opportunity to put in bike lanes, but I’m optimistic that prevailing winds will eventually blow away the parked cars and usher in curbside bike lanes. Reminds me of their Street Fair, where it took them a long time to go carfree – as obvious as it seems now.

mark
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mark

I would love it if the city would prioritize using our streets to move people, instead of for storage of cars. Implementing curbside bike lanes will be difficult with all the curb extensions already in place.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

Does it have that “new street” smell?

JaredO
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JaredO

I usually say “no marked crosswalk” or “only an unmarked crosswalk” instead of “no crosswalk” to empahsize every interesection is a crosswalk under ORS 801.220. doc

Todd/Boulanger
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Todd/Boulanger

JaredO – Yes good point of education / information for the article author per the mention of the ADA ramp without a “marked” crosswalk. Yes pedestrians can still legally cross there and drivers should still expect them. These “offset” intersections need something “more” since all too often drivers dont drive expecting them to be approved crossing locations.

qqq
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qqq

I really appreciate this article. Lots of photos, descriptions of what seems to work and what doesn’t…perfect.

I agree the mid-block curb ramp unaccompanied by a marked crosswalk seems bad. At least this one is associated with a corner across the street, so (as I understand) that makes it an unmarked crosswalk that requires yielding to people crossing. But without any pavement markings or signs, I bet more drivers view people using it as mid-block “jaywalkers” than would be true of people crossing at a corner.

Is there any reason mid-block curb ramps should EVER be provided without at least a sign? To me, mid-block curb ramps without a marked crosswalk or sign are telling pedestrians “Here’s a safe place where we want you to cross” while telling drivers “Don’t expect anyone to be crossing here”–especially in this case, where it looks like there’s curb parking on each side of the ramp, meaning drivers won’t even see the ramp, just a person squeezing between cars to cross mid-block.

soren
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soren

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.

There should be a marked crosswalk here; however, this is at an intersection with SE 23rd so new curb ramps on the other side of the intersection were required by a Judge-mandated settlement with wheelchair user plaintiffs*. A single curb ramp with no connecting curb ramp on the other side of the roadway would have been far more concerning.

*https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2018/05/portland_to_settle_with_wheelc.html

Portland does the right thing only after exhausting all alternatives and being successfully sued by activists/advocates.

qqq
Guest
qqq

I agree about those single curb ramps with no corresponding one at the other side are worse than the 33rd example. Also worse than nothing, since they send you into the street with no way out at the other end.

Another bad one is two mid-block ones with no crosswalk markings or signs, since they encourage crossing without establishing it as a legal crossing.

Another are a pair of curb ramps with no marked crosswalk, with a marked crosswalk but no curb ramps crossing the same street at the other side of the intersection.

Curb ramps and tactile warnings are regularly installed incorrectly on City projects.

ActualPractical
Guest
ActualPractical

It’s beyond me how a vision zero city refuses to stripe crosswalks in NEW builds! It’s criminally negligent.

Compared to other cities I’ve lived in, drivers here really don’t like to stop. Striping and a “media blitz” of striping/signs/beacons/islands seems to get the point across a bit more.

Stephan
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Stephan

Thank you Taylor for your article!

I am a bit late to the party, but I just rode my bike from the Hawthorne bridge eastbound. Hawthorne has a pretty good bike lane / infrastructure starting with the bridge and going all the way to SE 12th Ave; then: nothing. You are essentially dumped out on an arterial road. There is an option to take a left turn on 12th, but the protected bike lane on that street ends after about a block.

This is the broken bike network Zack has been writing about, and I think it is good to experience it. You realize just what a big missed opportunity this is. PBOT staffers, if you are reading these comments, please factor in the consequences of you timid actions on our bike network. I felt pretty sad and left alone seeing the abrupt ending of the bike lane at 12th; I could find my way to Salmon and then continue my way home, but someone who does not know the area well might and continue on Hawthorne would experience a much more stressful, and dangerous, ride.

soren
Guest
soren

The lack of a connection to the Salmon NG has been a chronic problem but the project we are discussing here was limited to a repaving project from 20th-Chavez. A dedicated left turn bike signal phase at SE 7th so that people on bikes can connect to the Salmon NG has been badly needed for many decades. It’s very disappointing that PBOT did not make this change when they upgraded the signaling at SE Hawthorne and SE 7th.