Bhikku Bodhi, an ordained monk of the Theravada tradition wrote an essay titled "Arahants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas". This essay describes his view on the relationship between these three and how the bodhisattva ideal emerged from the early Buddhist sects and how they are viewed within his tradition.
In summary, based on the earliest records of the the Buddha's teachings, he never discussed the bodhisattva path or the arahant path. But through considering the amount of karma that would be necessary to become someone as exalted as the Buddha, the bodhisattva path was envisioned. Although this path was never discussed in the early Buddhist scriptures, it was accepted as a logical extension of the teachings.
During the age of Sectarian Buddhism, the Early Buddhist schools came to admit three "vehicles" to enlightenment: the vehicle of the disciple arahant, the śrāvaka-yāna, to be taken by the greatest number of disciples; the vehicle of the "solitary enlightened one" who attains realization without a teacher but does not teach, the pratyekabuddha-yāna, which is still more difficult; and the vehicle of the aspirant to Buddhahood, the bodhisattva-yāna. Once it became widespread in mainstream Indian Buddhism, the idea of the three vehicles was not only taken up by the Mahāyāna but was eventually also absorbed into conservative Theravāda Buddhism.
However, although the bodhisattva-yana is recognized in the Theravada tradition, the sravaka-yana is still the path that they advocate for most in accordance with the Buddha's advice. In this sense, it could be called Hinayana, but when you talk about a "lesser" path it's important to realize what it is less than and what it is greater than.
The bodhisattva-yana is truly a difficult path. It's like running into a burning house over and over again to save as many people as can be saved even though you will be burned. Or guarding the mouth of a cave full of demons day and night so that you can warn people away from entering, even though you will get bitten. It's not something that most people are capable of.
The sravaka-yana is far greater than the path followed by an ordinary person, a foolish person, or an animal. It's like being in a burning house and helping as many people as possible to safety, before saving yourself as well. It's like guarding the mouth of a cave full of demons during the day to warn as many people as possible, but retreating to safety at night.