There’s (at least) one hotel on Broadway that embraces the bike lane and those who use it

Bike lane outside the Heathman Hotel on SW Broadway and Salmon. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)
Heathman GM Laura Maldonado.

The historic Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland is in the midst of a comeback. After suffering major losses through the pandemic, it was purchased by a new owner in April and its restaurant just re-opened in June.

Among the changes at the Heathman is a new general manager and she wants to set the record straight: She and her team love the Broadway bike lane. Not only that, they want the hotel to be a welcome spot for bike lovers — be they tourists or locals.

Why should you care about a hotel? Because the Heathman is located on Southwest Broadway, where the City of Portland installed a protected bike lane in 2022 that has been the source of controversy ever since. In fact, less than two months after the new bike lane went in, the former general manager of the Heathman went to the local media with concerns about the bike lane and said she planned to install security cameras to monitor what she felt were inherently hazardous conditions.

But that was then, and this is now.

View of the bike lane and valet zone from a booth in the Heathman Tavern.

Amidst the Broadway bike lane scandal a few weeks ago, I received an email from someone at the Heathman saying their new general manager, Laura Maldonado, wanted to meet. Turns out, Maldonado was aware of the Heathman’s previously icy relationship with cycling and wanted to set the record straight.

I met Maldonado at their tavern Tuesday afternoon. We sat in a booth overlooking the valets and the Broadway bike lane.

“I don’t want to be misrepresented,” Maldonado said, behind a clear excitement for her role in bringing back the Hotel and the streetscape around it. “It’s a beautiful amenity for our guests and our associates, and it’s right in front of our hotel.”

To be clear, Maldonado and I both agreed that the current design of the bike lane leaves a lot to be desired. The Portland Bureau of Transportation did itself no favors when they built a bikeway on the most high-profile street in Portland on-the-cheap. The lack of quality materials and design has only fueled hoteliers’ ire and certainly contributes to poor behaviors by some people who use it.

On that note, Maldonado is hopeful that a forthcoming loading zone platform promised by PBOT will improve not just how people behave around the bike lane, but the general aesthetics of the street as well.

Despite design quibbles and a slight reduction in valet parking zone spaces, Maldonado cannot fathom why any hotel owner would want to get rid of the bike lane. Looking out onto the street as a mix of bike riders and drivers rolled by, she said, “I can’t put two and two together about why some people think it has to be one or the other — it can be both.”

Maldonado wants to make the Heathman a very bike-friendly hotel, a place that doesn’t just have a few bikes for guests to use; but where guests can have fun experiences on them. She asked me to help create a biking guide for their website and wants to create maps with fun and safe local routes. (Since the Heathman is so historic (it opened in 1927), I encouraged Maldonado to display one of our vintage bike maps somewhere in the lobby.)

The Heathman has much more than business to gain by making sure downtown streets are safe. Maldonado was eager to introduce me to their Head Chef Andrew Shedden. “He loves the bike lane!” she promised before he walked over in his apron.

“They can’t take that away,” Shedden said, nodding to the bike lane. “I use it every day to get to work.” Shedden rides from Jantzen Beach into downtown and understands the value of having a protected lane.

Shedden is also a big fan and customer of the nearby Farmer’s Market at the South Park Blocks. The Heathman has an event where Shedden walks to the market with hotel guests for a culinary tour. Hearing that, I invited Shedden to the weekly Farmer’s Market Ride. He’s looking forward to meeting more people in the local bike scene.

On that note, I have a feeling last night’s meeting was the start of a nice connection between the Heathman Hotel and Portland’s bike community. Maldonado told me she doesn’t want her establishment to be filled with only tourists and that having locals spend time in their iconic library room, tavern, and restaurant, is a key part of their future success. She even said the Heathman’s doors are wide open a BikePortland gathering of some sort in the future.

Stay tuned! And next time you ride by the Heathman, give the valets a ring of your bell and a nod.


— In related news, get ready to spend your morning at Bike Broadway Day on Friday. BikeLoud PDX will have free coffee and donuts to rally support and remind Portlanders that protected bike lanes are a public safety measure. Event details here.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Jack s
Jack s
7 months ago

Wow that was a pleasant read. Love the positivity.

Lois Leveen
Lois Leveen
7 months ago

This reminds me (pleasantly) of when Portland put in bike parking corrals in front of local businesses, years back. Although there was some expectation that business owners would begrudge the loss of motor vehicle parking immediately outside their establishments, owners actually discovered that the bike parking corrals meant that their businesses were no longer obscured by large SUVs, minivans, or “light trucks” parked in front of the establishments. And, of course, far more potential customers/clients can park in one bike corral than if the same length of street is given over to motor vehicle parking. Heck, when you read this article and think about that history, it’s as if appreciating rather than opposing bicycling is a stance even our over -the-top ‘pro-business’ City Council should embrace!

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor

Great article, great hotel which I had been avoiding the past few years for political reasons. But maybe I’ll stop in this Saturday after symphony!

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor

Stopped in last night for an after-symphony burger—it was good. After 10:00 (when I was looking) it seemed that there was a row of perma-parked cars in the passenger loading zone. I didn’t investigate to see if the loading zone is only for certain hours.

Colleen
Colleen
7 months ago

Thumbs up to Lois Leveen’s comment: An amenity a “bike-friendly” business could offer is secure parking for bikes. As a new owner of an e-bike, that is the primary concern I have about riding many places now. I would even be willing to pay a small charge…like car parking.

SE 34th
SE 34th
7 months ago

Thank you for your expansive and inclusive way of thinking, Heathman Hotel staff. I will be recommending my out of town guests that they should stay at the hotel regularly.

Max S (Wren)
Max S (Wren)
7 months ago

Well, if they want to go really hog-wild, they could do what this hostel I stayed at in Barcelona did and have a fleet of bikes that guests can use. Or maybe make a deal with Biketown where guests have free membership during their stay.

Matt Eyman
7 months ago
Reply to  Max S (Wren)

Hey Max! Matt Eyman here, Director of Lifestyle at Heathman Hotel.

Good news: We actually already do! We loan out Public Bikes to any guest who wants one. They’re very popular during the sunny months, but it’s a program we’re proud to offer year-round.

Max S (Wren)
Max S (Wren)
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt Eyman

Aweome!

Charley
Charley
7 months ago

Nice!

I ride by there on my commute, and I’ve never had a problem. That said, I usually take one of the car lanes (partly because I usually take a left a few blocks later).

I don’t know how Copenhagen engineers treat this kind of high-pedestrian-use automotive drop-off area, but I think it’s got to be tough to come up with a design that would allow someone on a bike to ride through, at speed, after a concert at the Schnitz, or during a complicated hotel drop off with a lot of people.

So I’m glad to hear Maldonado say it hasn’t been a problem!

PS- that library room *is* fantastic!

Del Wayne Carlson
Del Wayne Carlson
7 months ago
Reply to  Charley

I also take the lane here and have found that the “protected lane” makes the right hook hazard worse. No idea who came up with this thing but it does not work

Mark Linehan
Mark Linehan
7 months ago

I understand that PBOT will put in car right-turn red arrows and bike-specific signals at Clay and similar spots on the Broadway bike lane. Apparently they cheaped-out on those, too, in the first go-round of the bike lane.

eawriste
eawriste
7 months ago
Reply to  Charley

“I don’t know how Copenhagen engineers treat this kind of high-pedestrian-use automotive drop-off area, but I think it’s got to be tough to come up with a design that would allow someone on a bike to ride through, at speed, after a concert at the Schnitz, or during a complicated hotel drop off with a lot of people.”

Some fence treatments like in Midtown NY that discourage pedestrians from using the bike path may work. I’m skeptical that’s necessary here. Going “at speed” through a large group of people is akin to weighing a ~30 second delay against the safety of a bunch of people as well as your own.

Most of the time in mixed use areas in Copenhagen where a lot of pedestrians and cyclists mix people simply slow down and yield regardless of mode.

Aaron
7 months ago
Reply to  Charley

I just slow down to slightly faster than a walking pace if pedestrians are present when going through the loading areas, it’s honestly never really bothered me. I don’t feel like I need to be able to travel “at speed” through a bike lane any more than a car deserves to travel at the speed limit at all times when driving through a city street.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
7 months ago

This is a great story, bravo to the team at Heathman. They will definitely be on my list of hotels to recommend to out of town guests moving forward. Also it’s great that they acknowledge that some of their own staff relies on the protected bike lane to commute to work.

Let's Active
Let's Active
7 months ago

Really like to hear this. Good for the Heathman and especially Maldonado and Shedden.

Zach A
Zach A
7 months ago

I’m very happy to read this! A few weeks ago, no less than a week after Jonathan broke the first news about the Broadway Scandal, I attended the Winter Waters dinner at The Heathman (which we had bought tickets too well in advance). I was unsure about whether I should attend and support what I thought was a business fighting against good street design. I ultimately did (and had a great dinner) but also brought it up to the host that night that I, and very likely others, might avoid their business because of the scandal. I’m very gratified that the GM met with Jonathan and expressed support for the bike lane. It has removed what I thought was a blemish on an otherwise wonderful evening.

Vans
Vans
7 months ago

Wow, great news, hopefully there are others that will chime in, pile on and make this work like it should.

Seemingly, hopeful, cautionary tale for other managers who may think they run the street/sidewalk/parking/bike lane to their detriment.

Dom
Dom
7 months ago

If Hotels are concerned about guests access to parking and convenience then the first question to the hotel should be do you provide private parking and if so do you require the guest to pay a fee? The linked article is insane!

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago

Glad they’re at least trying to look friendly to active transportation. But public feel-good statements are one thing, backroom deals (which evidently got us into this whole mess) are another. I just hope downtown hotel owners are aware that their bar & restaurant sales actually benefit from increased bike and foot traffic:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-12-05/cyclists-and-pedestrians-can-end-up-spending-more-each-month-than-drivers

BikingPaul
BikingPaul
7 months ago

Some of my bike friends headed over to their bar for drinks tonight, to celebrate this article and her enthusiasm for biking!

SD
SD
7 months ago

It’s great that the Heathman staff reached out to let people know that they support a vibrant people-centered downtown. It makes sense.

It is also amazing how out of touch Mapps and Williams are with downtown businesses. Sometimes it seems like they are only listening to panicked real estate speculators who promise to bankroll their campaigns.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago

The Heathman was purchased by the Aparium Hotel Group on March 2023. The CEO of the Aparium Group is a Chicago attorney and long-time democratic party donor.

Perhaps the change in ownership from fascist red-team gazillionaire to corporate-fascist blue-team gazillionaire has something to do Hotel management’s new position on this hyper-partisan duopolist wedge issue.

Fred
Fred
7 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

pierre, you always have the inside scoop.

John
John
7 months ago

Glad to see the change of heart. My wife and I spent our wedding night at the Heathman 35 years ago. We visited in October 2022 and used their house single speed bikes. We weren’t sure how that would go but we rode over 10 miles, crossed 6 different bridges over the river plus the Blumenauer. Had so much fun we stayed again in April. Stayed at the Eastlund by the convention center for a conference in August. Their staff was so nice checking our bikes from behind the desk about twice a day! We rode bikes to a half dozen meals plus shopping, coffee & ice cream. We also used house bikes at a hotel in Palm Springs last Christmas. Bike friendliness of the area and the hotel is playing a big part of our hotel decisions from here on out.