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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Slow turning

Ten years ago, when I moved into Portland's Buckman neighborhood, I was aghast at how dangerous it was to cross Hawthorne Boulevard as it traversed the avenues numbered in the 20's, 30's and 40's. You took your life into your hands. The traffic was way too fast, and the drivers drove with blinders on. Trying to get from, say, the Cat's Meow on the south side to Noah's Bagels on the north was a death-defying act. I saw many a close call, heard many a screech of slammed-on brakes.

About a year later, the City Council passed some sort of plan or other that was supposed to help the situation. That was nine years ago. While we all waited around, a few neighbors started wondering why the city couldn't at least paint some crosswalks at the most dangerous intersections. With a straight face, the city traffic experts told us that that would be too dangerous because it would give pedestrians a false sense of security. More than once it was stated that the city was concerned about its own liability if someone was struck in a crosswalk.

All of which sounded supremely stupid to me. Meanwhile, the hazards continued unabated for nine long years. Last summer, an older gent was hit by a van and killed one afternoon.

Anyway, finally something is going to happen. Beginning this Sunday, Hawthorne -- formerly known as Asylum Street (you could look it up) -- is going to get a pedestrian safety facelift. The details are here. You can quibble with the specifics -- I'm sure we'll hear from you-know-who about the curb extensions -- but all I can say is, it's about darn time that something was done over there. We've built an entire faux city in the Pearl District and gotten our second one well under way in SoWhat while the residents of, and visitors to, Buckman and Sunnyside have risked their necks crossing Hawthorne.

Although Hawthorne's the center of attention in this project, it's not just about that main thoroughfare. There are also some speed bumps and other traffic "calming" devices going in south of Hawthorne -- most notably on Lincoln Street. Mount Tabor and Colonial Heights residents will learn to love 'em or hate 'em over time.

Of course, the big "improvement" that the city would like to add to Hawthorne is parking meters. The p.r. push to get the merchants there to sign off on that change will no doubt come on hot and heavy once the upcoming construction starts showing results. I hope they're smart enough to fight it. I know I'll think twice about going down there to shop if it's going to cost me a buck or more to park.

But that story's for another day. If you're in the mood this week, take a ride along Hawthorne to get the "before" picture. They have a little Second Thursday thing that's kind of nice. The place may never feel quite the same again after Sunday. And in some respects, that's a good thing.

Comments (1)

It might be called Hawthorne now, but in our hearts it will always be Asylum Boulevard.

Posted by: Bill McDonald at July 11, 2006 01:00 AM

And yet the most desperate inmates are on SW Fourth Avenue.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 11, 2006 01:10 AM

With a straight face, the city traffic experts told us that (marked crosswalks) would be too dangerous because it would give pedestrians a false sense of security.

That's still PDOT's party line, and still true on Hawthorne. There will be no marked crosswalks between 20th and the Safeway at 27th. (PDOT will only be restriping marked crosswalks where they already exist further east.) Cars will continue to race through, and where I cross --at 22nd or 23rd-- despite that busy intersection of neighborhood bakery, pizza joint, restaurants, bar, dry-cleaner, chocolatier, fruit stand, we will get nothing to slow down traffic in our part of the neighborhood. Nothing. Even the bulb-outs nominally intended to give us a shorter distance to run across Hawthorne...we're left with unmarked crosswalks blocked by parked cars --PDOT refuses to remove any parking spaces-- as these "unmarked crosswalks" have always been blocked. For my part of Hawthorne, the lack of pedestrian improvements are a major disappointment after all these years, and all those meetings, and all the neighborhood demands for safe ways to cross Hawthorne in this very busy area.

There are two lies at work here: one, that marked crosswalks "provide a false sense of security." Two recent Federal Department of Transportation studies show that isn't true at all. The second --and worse lie, in my personal opinion-- is that all these "unmarked crosswalks" are crosswalks in the first place, where pedestrians have the right of way. No one believes that, no drivers understand that, and certainly no Tri-Met bus has ever yielded to me in my invisible crosswalk in 18 years of crossing at 23rd & Hawthorne.

Posted by: Frank Dufay at July 11, 2006 03:55 AM

Hmmmm, maybe I was too quick to praise.

This map shows some yellow bulby things at 23rd that look like at least slight sidewalk extensions -- no painted crosswalks, though. Overall it does appear to remain a Wild West scene between 20th and 27th.

Eastbound traffic is particularly vicious in that stretch. Once drivers sit for that infernal light at 20th (no matter which direction they're going), they're frustrated and want to get where they're going. Pity the poor pedestrian in their path. Regular westbound drivers probably also speed up there to try to beat that light.

At 35th, 35th Place and 36th, it looks like legitimate crosswalks are going in. Particularly at 35th Place, I know that's not been the case previously.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 11, 2006 04:14 AM

Eastbound traffic is particularly vicious in that stretch. Once drivers sit for that infernal light at 20th (no matter which direction they're going), they're frustrated and want to get where they're going.

The irony, too, is that while we're getting a redo of that intersection, it will do nothing to improve the traffic flow, either on Hawthorne or 20th. And I still won't be able to turn on red onto 20th (I'm being very parochial about my interests here.)

Westbound, though, during the morning commute is and will remain awful for pedestrians through our stretch of Hawthorne...its downhill after the light on 27th, which naturally speeds folks up, and drivers don't want to get caught at the light on 20th.

I'm hoping we see some real, substantive improvements up in the Bagdad commercial area, and you're right to point to that. But in my part of Hawthorne there's more that needs to be done then what's currently on the drawing board.

Posted by: Frank Dufay at July 11, 2006 04:45 AM

Apparently, the reason that crosswalks provide a "false sense of security" is because cars don't stop at them. Why? Because there is no enforcement. Paint some crosswalks on Hawthorne, stick 5-6 cops there for a couple weeks with no duty but to give tickets to drivers who don't yield at crosswalks, get some news crews out there to publicize it, and drivers will get the picture. Not all, obviously, but most.

Posted by: Dave J. at July 11, 2006 08:47 AM

We had similar if not more problematic issue on SE Powell immediately west of the railroad tracks underpass. There had been a painted crosswalk there for some time, but it was way too dangerous to even contemplate using it. The problem was if you lived south of Powell, you couldn't really get to this wonderful little 24-hour coffee place without crossing Powell on the west side of the Powell-Milwaukie intersection (no crosswalk across Powell on the east side of that intersection). And, if you worked in that busy commercial area north of Powell, you had the same problem trying to get to any of the lunch businesses on the south side of Powell.

Our stumbling block was ODOT and not PDOT since Powell since the state is in charge of highway 26. As a neighborhood, we wanted a lighted crosswalk. ODOT's excuse for refusing was it would slow commercial truck traffic.

I'm not sure who said what to whom, but there is now a lighted crosswalk (turns red to allow peds to cross) at that intersection.

A lighted crosswalk would eliminate any excuse PDOT had on liability. Throw that at them. And get the businesses around there to get behind it.

Posted by: hilsy at July 11, 2006 09:00 AM

bojack wrote:

>>I'm sure we'll hear from you-know-who about the >>curb extensions

Yeah, we'll hear from lots of folks, cyclists and drivers, because curb extensions force bike traffic out into the lane. All this hoohah about drivers perceiving a narrowed lane so they slow down might work once or twice. Take a drive down Division at 41st and you'll see how stupid curb extensions are.

Adding curb extensions to Hawthorne just makes it that much harder to cycle there. Is that the point?

Posted by: Houston at July 11, 2006 09:13 AM

Adding curb extensions to Hawthorne just makes it that much harder to cycle there.

Save a cyclist, whack a pedestrian. Very nice.

I would have a lot more sympathy for cyclists on Hawthorne if I didn't have to keep moving out of their way on the sidewalk.

Posted by: Chris Snethen at July 11, 2006 09:25 AM

Maybe Hawthorne should be closed to all vehicular traffic between about SE 28th and SE 39th. Make it a pedestrian mall. The added benefit would be the thinning out of traffic on Hawthorne west and east of those blocks as well.

I'm betting it would be an easy sale to the City Council. They love ideas that including banning automobiles.

Posted by: Rusty at July 11, 2006 09:27 AM

Adding curb extensions to Hawthorne just makes it that much harder to cycle there. Is that the point?

As someone who cycles quite a bit in the area, I have no idea why anyone cycles down Hawthorne. Look at the streets running parallel to it: Salmon, Lincoln, Division, Clinton--any and all of those are much better for cycling. Hell, even Belmont and Stark are better. Yeah, you don't have 15 blocks in a row w/ no stops, but you also don't have two lanes each way with practically no space for cyclists. I'll ride Hawthorne really early in the a.m. when I'm out for exercise, but consider it too dangerous and busy at all other times.

Posted by: Dave J. at July 11, 2006 09:34 AM

Dave J wrote:
>>I have no idea why anyone cycles down Hawthorne

There are a lot of reasons to cycle down Hawthorne. Where to start? Really Good Stuff, The Barley Mill, the Outdoor Market, Artichoke Music, Crossroads Music, Voloce Cycles, Taco Del Mar, to piss of and slow down drivers, Raventa Pizza, to see the beautiful people, Showcase Music, Nick's Coney Island, Powell's, the Bagdad, because I can, Noah's Bagels, Red Light, because it's more fun than Salmon Lincoln or Clinton, Hollywood Video, No Fish Go Fish, because there are two liquor stores, Ben and Jerry's...

Posted by: Houston at July 11, 2006 09:59 AM

No, in its current state there is no reason to bike Hawthorne. If you do, you're either an a**hole or plainly stupid. Take a look at Division... Clinton St (two blocks over) serves as the bike thoroughfare. If you need to get to a biz on Division, you simply cut over at the appropriate numbered street. Simple, and nobody gets hurt.

Hawthorne needs a Clinton St!

Posted by: TKrueg at July 11, 2006 11:01 AM

Sorry, meant to say Clinton is one block over from Division. Some stretches it's two.

Posted by: TKrueg at July 11, 2006 11:02 AM

TKrueg wrote: you're either an a**hole or plainly stupid.

Can't there be a third option, please?

Posted by: Houston at July 11, 2006 11:38 AM

Salmon is the option designed to serve as Hawthorne's Clinton (bike-friendly alternative). Sadly, PDOT put in a stop sign at 23rd and Salmon, in the midst of a downhill run, so it doesn't function as well as it should. It's also too far away from Hawthorne, but that's somewhat the function of the street pattern. I often choose Madison instead.

And yes, sometimes, biking on Hawthorne is the best choice -- direct, fast, and gets me to where I want to go. For those who want to bash it as unsafe, you could also argue that driving next to buses in narrow lanes is unsafe. And that anyone who walks there is stupid, et cetera.

Most bicyclists generally have a good sense of their abilities and how cars are acting around them. Which is why most bicyclists don't use Hawthorne regularly, and want a well-designed alternative. But for some, it works.

Posted by: Evan Manvel at July 11, 2006 01:21 PM

Ok, the third option is 'strangely defiant'

Posted by: TKrueg at July 11, 2006 01:52 PM

Re parking meters on Hawthorne...seems it would free up some spots for shopping. I don't go there now because there is NEVER an open spot. Backyard Birds moved out in part I think to not being acessible and my favorite the Coffee Merchant does not see me much unless I'm on my bike - I live in NE PDX

Posted by: Don Bevington at July 11, 2006 03:03 PM

Yes, Evan, I honk my bike's horn at that stop sign on 23rd and Salmon nearly every time I stop for it...even early in the morning. It's my strangely defiant comment to the neighbor who convinced a bonehead city transportation engineer to place the sign there. Bicycle boulevards are great, but staying off Hawthorne reminds me of staying put in the back of the bus. I'll ride there if and when I like.

Posted by: Houston at July 11, 2006 03:12 PM

...seems it would free up some spots for shopping.

I liked the Phil Stanford solution this morning. How about just enforcing the existing 30 min and 1 hr zones? That'll keep people moving along just fine with a minimum of hassle to both merchants and shoppers.

But on the other hand, CoP has a new streetcar to pay for and can't draw any funds from existing "pots", thus the need for a new one. I believe I shall label this new pot "Hawthorne Underpants" and put it on the shelf next to the ones labeled "Central Eastside Underpants" and "Trammel Crow Underpants".

Posted by: Chris Snethen at July 11, 2006 04:06 PM

I liked the Phil Stanford solution this morning. How about just enforcing the existing 30 min and 1 hr zones? That'll keep people moving along just fine with a minimum of hassle to both merchants and shoppers.

That's that thing called, oh, what's the phrase, "common sense." In other words, something that will never happen. No, Tram Adams is going to figure out how to claim that he's got the consent of the Hawthorne business establishment, and will put parking meters in there, thus driving people who used to park on Hawthorne several blocks into the neighborhood, thus eliminating any chance I have of parking in front of my own house.

I swear, it's like being in a nightmare where I'm the captain of a ship headed for an iceberg, but I can't steer the ship away from it. I see this decision far off on the horizon, and I know it's a bad one, but there's nothing that can be done. The magical Portland "process" will happen, wherein a bad decision goes from the "it's just an idea" stage to the "it's happening next week" stage seemingly overnight.

Posted by: Dave J. at July 11, 2006 04:29 PM

Okay... As a neighbor in the neighborhood to the south, I've watched this whole process with some amusement.

First, I opposed the installation of any additional traffic control signals along Hawthorne. The reason why? Because installing such signals drivers that the street is a through street and increases the traffic volume, and usually the speed, as well, through the residential community. Prior to the "traffic calming" efforts which came to fruition in 1990 along Clinton Street, Clinton was exactly such an animal.

Then, pedestrian safety is poor in crosswalks exactly because enforcement is so poor. I was in Cambridge, England, and when I stepped into a "zebra walk" there, traffic in both directions came to a screeching halt until I crossed. A native informed me that the reason for this was that it was strictly enforced with a steep fine of 250 pounds (about $400 US, at the time).

If the objective is to make Hawthorne into a "pedestrian-friendly" commercial district, then I think they should widen the sidewalks and reduce Hawthorne Blvd. to one lane each direction and a turning lane in the center, and free parking on both sides, at least where the major commercial constrictions are. This would also act to slow traffic down when volume was up.

As a neighbor, I would vociferously object to placing parking meters along Hawthorne. The reason? Because those driving to Hawthorne will then avail themselves of on-street parking in the surrounding neighborhood. This would be considerable problem for those residences in the neighborhood which have NO off-street parking. (Mine is one of those, but thankfully I live a good 10-15 walk from Hawthorne.)

Lastly, when it comes to enforcement, bicycles should be added. The number of dumbshit things I've seen bicyclists do along Hawthorne Blvd. is legion. I see bicyclists regularly blow stop signs, push traffic lights, veer across four lanes, weave in and out, and even grab on to moving vehicles. Bicyclists should be required to acquaint themselves with the rules of the road as required in the state of Oregon. They should then be expected to follow those rules or be cited. Just because you're riding a bicycle doesn't exempt you from the rules of the road and the applicable laws.

Posted by: godfry at July 11, 2006 04:38 PM

Oh... and I just remembered.

If you want to improve pedestrian safety along Hawthorne, pass a state law that makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle while talking on a mobile phone (unless, of course, you're an emergency vehicle).

At the corner of 39th & Hawthorne, I have nearly been hit thrice by brainless drivers so engaged in their phone conversations that they've nearly run me down. I also watched an idiot with a stick shift try to make a right turn from 39th to Hawthorne while juggling a cellphone. And, the most egegregious was the driver of a brand new Suzuki 4x4 (complete with DMV sticker and no plates) I observed driving eastbound in the south lane on Hawthorne Blvd., talking on her cellphone and eating a burger she'd just picked up at Burgerville. I didn't see the newspaper, her cigarette, nor her compact, but she must have thought she was the bee's knees at multi-tasking, because she was driving that new car at 30 mph on crowded Hawthorne Blvd. with her knee. I held back and waited to see if any parked car would throw open a door...

Posted by: godfry at July 11, 2006 04:48 PM

Nice to see SE 23rd getting some mention. I lived there for something like 16 years, so I've dodged a thousand cars on Hawthorne and seen untold bikes running the stop sign on Salmon. There used to be a sax player living on the block next to mine. I'd be walking to the store at night in the soothing rain and these soulful jazz licks would fill the air. It was everything an atmosphere could offer - a beautiful drizzle with an unknown alto jamming for the gods. SE 23rd Street forever.

Posted by: Bill McDonald at July 11, 2006 06:34 PM

Jack Bog: With a straight face, the city traffic experts told us that (marked crosswalks) would be too dangerous because it would give pedestrians a false sense of security.

As a neighborhood association president a few years ago, I heard the same kind of brain dead logic from PDOT over two safety issues we had brought to their attention:

(1) Regarding enforcing existing laws regulating construction trucks' use of compression brakes on Skyline Boulevard.: "It might affect their stopping distance." (We countered this with arguments that it won't if they stayed within the speed limits, that emergency use of these brakes is excepted anyway, and finally that the lack of enforcement, combined with drivers being paid by the ton-mile, was raising average speeds up to the point where compression brakes were required most of the time.)

(2) Regarding putting a traffic slowing chicane on a steep downhill portion of NW Hazeltine: "The straight downhill section above it will lead to increased downhill speeds coming in to it, thus making drivers lose control" (the obvious solution of forcing the developer to lay things out differently was apparently not allowed, as they had claimed in a hearing that it would be too expensive for them to redo it).

Posted by: John Rettig at July 11, 2006 06:52 PM

You couldn't pay me to ride my bike ON Hawthorne Street- way too dangerous. And I slow down at every intersection- whether or not I have the right-of-way. I've had three friends hit by cars (by drivers talking on cell phones,coincidently) and I'd rather be safe than sorry. Yes, it takes me longer to get where I'm going, but I arrive alive.

Posted by: Lily at July 11, 2006 11:34 PM

The area residents should host some Traffic Geese. They're fearless, and they won't care about crosswalks. If someone smacks one they should lose their drivers license, or bike, for a month. When word gets out then the through traffic will seek an alternative route.

Posted by: Ron Ledbury at July 12, 2006 12:06 AM

Yeah...That and 39th between I-84 and Holgate. I've seen riders on 39th that make me cringe at the thought of the potential trauma. The sidewalks are fine for bikes, if they, in turn, pay attention to the pedestrians.

Posted by: godfry at July 12, 2006 12:29 AM

no Tri-Met bus has ever yielded to me in my invisible crosswalk in 18 years of crossing at 23rd & Hawthorne.

Nor did my #14 stop for the crazy old coot yesterday who, dragging his bum leg behind him, was left standing in the middle of Hawthorne, cars whizzing by on his right, while my bus went passing on his left. As I got off at 23rd, at least I could look back and see eastbound traffic had FINALLY stopped to let him complete his way across the street.

Walking, without fear, should be a fundamental right.

Posted by: Frank Dufay at July 12, 2006 06:19 AM

John Rettig: Jack Bog: With a straight face, the city traffic experts told us that (marked crosswalks) would be too dangerous because it would give pedestrians a false sense of security.

As a neighborhood association president a few years ago, I heard the same kind of brain dead logic from PDOT over two safety issues we had brought to their attention:

JK: Here is a link to report that has a section with some details about the crosswalk safety problem:


Posted by: jim karlock at July 13, 2006 05:56 AM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]


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Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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