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With bike shop and valet service, OHSU extends its bike-friendly lead

Posted by on April 26th, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Go By Bike shop in South Waterfront-18
Amsterdam? Nope. That’s the new bike parking area
in the South Waterfront District as seen
from the Aerial Tram.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) is often featured on this blog for their bike-sensitive projects and programs. We’ve shared OHSU’s sophisticated encouragement methods used in their Bike Incentive Program, how they are incorporating bicycle use into new buildings, how they’ve contributed important academic research about bicycling, and so on. But it wasn’t always that way.

A scan of our archives show that the institution has taken an awesome trajectory from our first report on them in 2006 when we shared rumblings from staff and students that school brass didn’t respect bicycling.

My how things have changed (at least for folks who use the tram).

In their latest effort to do everything they can to make biking easy and convenient for their thousands of faculty and staff, OHSU (which has a “Gold Bike Friendly Business” rating from the League of American Bicyclists) has renewed a lease with a bike shop that is open for business under the west side of the Aerial Tram, they’ve added even more bike parking, and they’ve expanded their bike valet service. I paid the shop a visit last week to find out more…

The “Go By Bike” shop that launched last summer is back with a vengeance: the shop is up and running from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm every weekday; they offer full repair services and have basic accessories for sale; and they are now operating a new and improved bike valet service.

Go By Bike shop in South Waterfront-16
Go By Bike shop in South Waterfront-3
Go By Bike shop in South Waterfront-23

Go By Bike owner Kiel Johnson (yes that Kiel Johnson) said about 20 new people sign up for the bike valet each day. They are currently hitting capacity at about 100 spaces and OHSU Transportation Options coordinator (and winner of an Alice Award this year) John Landolfe confirmed yesterday that they are expanding the service to 150 spaces with the goal to, “never turn anyone away.”

The valet service itself is pretty nifty. Johnson has used his knack for resourcefulness to come up with a high-tech yet simple way of managing the system. Once someone signs up, their bike is photographed and they are given a sticker on the back of their OHSU ID card with a QR code. The QR code pulls up the customer’s contact info, the photo of their bike, and it tells the attendants what space to park the bike in. Each bike is given a plastic seat cover, which not only keeps seats dry during the rain, but also has the space number written on it to make retrieval easier.

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Each customer has a unique QR code. The plastic covers are placed on seats to help identify bikes and protect from rain.
Go By Bike shop in South Waterfront-13
Service with a smile is a key part of the valet experience.

Since all bikes must be picked up by 6:45 pm, Johnson says if a bike is left in the valet area, they simply move it to one of the nearby public racks, lock it with a loaner combination U-lock, and then text the combination to the bike’s owner.

Johnson says at first he wasn’t sold on the necessity of a bike valet; but now he’s a believer. “It’s just a nicer experience overall,” he says. And it’s very quick and easy. “People can just roll their bikes up to the valet the same way they would roll up a luxury sedan to a five star hotel and the valet, professional and fully-insured, takes it from there,” adds OHSU’s Landolfe, “The customer doesn’t need to worry about locking, removing lights, etc.” Ah, so civilized.

Another new service this year is free rental (for OHSU staff and students) of two Breezer city bikes, a CETMA, front-loading cargo bike (made in Eugene), and a Brompton folding bike.

The result of OHSU’s efforts to promote bike use have paid off. On any given day, you’ll see hundreds of bikes parked at the base of the Tram. Landolfe says they currently have capacity for 382 bikes in the Tram’s west plaza (150 in valet and 232 self-park). There is also room for 149 bikes in three secured cages below the Center for Health & Healing building.

What’s next for this fantastic partnership between OHSU and Go By Bike — and this great ongoing example of the “Build it and they will come” mantra? Landolfe says they’re considering a larger modular structure for the shop (it’s currently housed in a tiny old RV trailer).

Check out GoByBikePDX.com for more on the shop and scroll down for a few more photos…

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Tram reflected off Center for Health & Healing building.
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A multi-modal delight: The Tram, the Gibbs Street Pedestrian Bridge, bike parking and streetcar all in one!

Thanks to this partnership and investment by the City in the Moody Cycle Track, Gibbs bridge, and other things, there is something really amazing going on with transportation in the South Waterfront District. Just imagine what this area will look like in five years.

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Comments
  • Steve B April 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Amazing how much progress has been made on GBB since last year. Way to go Kiel!

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  • Dave April 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    This is a part of my everyday experience – glad they’re there to say hello every morning after a usually very pleasant ride to work! The 30-35 minutes just before work are usually one of the best parts of my day.

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  • seeshellbike April 26, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks for OHSU-John and Kiel for not resting in their initial success but continuing to find efficiencies and improvements. A model for so many!

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  • BURR April 26, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    I could see the utility of the valet service, as I’ve missed the tram while I was locking my bike. Of course the tram comes every 5 or 10 minutes so it’s not that big of a deal unless you are late for work or an appointment.

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    • Dave April 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      I actually think the value of the valet is almost more aesthetic/perception than the simple time value. It’s a show that peoples’ vehicles (whatever they are) matter, that riding a bicycle to OHSU is a normal and valid thing to do, whether an employee, student, or patient, and it’s just a visual display that people do in fact choose to ride their bicycles for transportation when given a real choice – and not just a few, but hundreds. I’ve often heard people getting on/off the tram saying “I’ve never seen so many bicycles in one place before in my life.” I don’t think the value of all of that impression should be underestimated.

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  • spare_wheel April 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    I think these improvements are great but they are targeted at those who use the Tram.The situation for bike commuters who do not take the tram is largely unchanged since 2006. In particular, there is inadequate bike storage space and too few facilities for showering/changing on the hill.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      thanks for that sentiment spare_wheel. I’ll edit the story to reflect it and I’ll let someone else answer your contention that conditions/policies up on the hill are still subpar. Landolfe? Care to comment?

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    • Dave April 26, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      There definitely is much less bike parking on the hill, or at least, it’s much more scattered. It has certainly increased since 2006 (new parking by the student center, Doernbecher, Kohler Pavilion, etc), but in many areas it can still be pretty difficult to find a spot to park nearby, depending on the day and how nice it is outside :) Also, some of the older racks that are still hanging around are placed awkwardly, making it difficult to use them (such as the wavy rack outside the front of the Dental School that is too close to the wall). I’m not really sure about shower facilities, as I don’t make use of them personally.

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    • John Landolfe April 27, 2012 at 11:13 am

      You bring up a great point spare_wheel. Scuse me if this is a little inside baseball. We’ve added parking at all the areas requested in the past surveys: Kohler Pavilion, Hatfield, Child Development, a Fix-It stand at the Student Center (their shower program is open to employees), and covered parking next to a manned booth at Casey Eye. HOWEVER, Marquam Hill is definitely where we’ll need to be adding more cages in the future. It’s a bit of a challenge due to the tight space use, topography and competing facility projects (the South Waterfront valet was able to go up at a fantastic speed because there was no construction). Showers are tricky since that is outside Transportation’s realm of influence and requires buy in from departments managing showers (which is why showers will be IN the biking facility at CLSB). We have a detailed map of current facilities on the hill here: http://g.co/maps/2bmnw and if you have specific suggestions, email us at bike at ohsu.edu. We’ll announce identified locations for new secure facilities before construction begins.

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      • John Landolfe April 27, 2012 at 11:18 am

        Instead of “department buy in”, I should say “department ability.” Many departments, for reasons of restricted access, research needs, confidentiality, etc. are unable to extend shower access outside of their unit.

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        • Barbara April 27, 2012 at 12:31 pm

          I appreciate the added bike parking capacity at the Casey Eye garage – it’s covered, semi-supervised and I don’t have to bike up that last bit of steep hill.

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  • A.K. April 26, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Very cool! What an awesome model for other large employers to follow.

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  • Patrick Croasdaile April 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Go Kiel GO!

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  • deborah April 26, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    What amazing facilities and services! If this type of facility were anywhere near my downtown office I’d utilize the hell out of it. (hint hint!)

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  • Richard April 26, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I’m confused. The commenters over at OLive insist that bicyclists are unemployed and don’t pay taxes. What are all those bicyclists doing at OHSU? Are they all there for free treatment? ;-)
    Seriously, great facility and services. The new Collaborative Life Sciences Building will add over 400 new bike spaces, so with the tram bike parking and the Center for Health and Healing, there will be over 900 bike spaces.
    And I love the multi-modal photo!

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  • Patrick H April 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    It is April and the racks are nearly full on a sunny day. When June comes around is OHSU going to add more outdoor racks (in addition to the increase in valet spaces)?

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    • John Landolfe April 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

      Yes, we’ll keep adding both valet and self-park racks as needed. This is, in fact, why valet has become somewhat of a necessity. There simply won’t be space without an option of high capacity parking.

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  • Albert April 26, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    OHSU’s bike attitude really has improved since 2006. That year they offered free automobile parking in the lots the week between Christmas and New Years when they are somewhat empty. But OHSU refused to punch the Bike Incentive cards during that same week. The notion being “You don’t need to ride your bike, you can just drive your car for free!”

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  • Allan Folz April 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Wow. Those photos are semi-reminiscent of Beijing.

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  • veloman April 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Has Kiel been nominated for an Alice award yet? I’m just sayin’…

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  • matt w April 26, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I love this! I love almost everything about it, but I have one concern: my roommate is a CNA at OHSU and works 7a-7p. This service does not accommodate these hours. Many, many other 12 hour shift workers on the Hill could benefit from longer service. This would serve many hundreds of other OHSU workers as well. Like I said, this is an excellent service. It’s just weird that OHSU RN’s, CNA’s, and other 12hr shift workers cannot take advantage of this service.

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    • Patrick H April 26, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      There is after hours pick up in the chh garage.

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  • dwainedibbly April 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    I haven’t used the valet, yet, so I don’t know this for sure, but when I asked if the valet was for OHSU staff only, I was told that anyone can use it. Can someone confirm that? If a cyclist doesn’t have an OHSU badge can they put the sticker on their Drivers License, or something else?

    I have to wonder if, as the valet space grows, is OHSU going to usurp more of the space at the lower tram station, leaving non-OHSU employees with nowhere to park? All of the racks that were on the east side of the tram station have been moved to the west side (the area in the photos).

    Last year, when the valet was first initiated, it was much less formal, no photos, etc. This seems much more secure.

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    • Patrick H April 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Yes. It is for everybody. They have a modified system for none OHSU ID holders.

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      • dwainedibbly April 27, 2012 at 9:00 am

        Great! Thanks! My ride home involves something of a climb. It’ll be nice not having to lug a u-lock with me.

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    • Over and Doubt April 27, 2012 at 9:53 am

      “Usurp”? From whom, dwaine? There was no parking of any kind on the west side of the Tram landing. Rather, there was a grassy, unused area—occasionally with mowing goats. (See http://www.kgw.com/video/yahoo-video/Goats-mow-OHSU-124573424.html)

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      • dwainedibbly April 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm

        All of the bike parking that is there now used to be on the other side of the tram building. Now there is none there. I do think more self-park racks have been installed, but it is hard to tell. My concern at the time of posting was if the valet was going to expand (and wrongly assuming that it was for OHSU employees only) it would have to take up some of the self-parking area and there might not eventually be enough parking for non-OHSU people.

        It has since been clarified that my “OHSU-only” assumption was wrong, so it’s a moot point.

        Eventually, I think that parking is going to have to be re-installed where it was before. The formerly grassy area is nearly maxed out as it is, and it isn’t even May. OTOH, I have seen long-term plans that show the Zidell land re-platted and redeveloped and the streetcar continuing northward east of the tram station through the former bike parking area, so perhaps that isn’t an option.

        At the end of it all, OHSU is doing a really great job with the valet.

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  • BikeEverywhere April 26, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Just wondering if anyone knows what the fee is to use the valet service? I clicked on the Go By Bike link and couldn’t find any mention of fees there either.

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    • Dave April 26, 2012 at 7:52 pm

      That’s because it doesn’t cost anything :)

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  • wsbob April 26, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Here in Oregon, that many bikes parked together at a place where people depart from to work is very impressive. Adding together the numbers in the story works out to be about 900. Not to rain on the parade, but I’m wondering what were the numbers on the not so bright and sunny days of fall and winter.

    Though it involves hiring staff to do the checking in, the valet service owner documentation system, pick-up, is very intriguing. This could maybe work out at supermarkets and malls too. So many more bikes can be parked in the space required to park most average sized motor vehicles (unless all cars eventually go Smart sized), the space efficiency could offset the cost of hiring valet staff.

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    • Chris Shaffer April 27, 2012 at 9:32 am

      John Landolfe has said that the biggest determiner of number of bikes is temperature. There are a small but significant number of people who bike to OHSU year round. Wet weather doesn’t seem to deter many people, but cold weather definitely reduces the numbers.

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    • John Landolfe April 27, 2012 at 11:26 am

      I do a coldest day of the year count when I can. Last year, it was a little over 200 people by my estimate (I counted 150ish and added the % who report placing their bikes in their own office or building). The racks by the tram were at least 50% full and the online numbers for that day matched my estimate within my margin of error.

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    • spare_wheel April 27, 2012 at 11:33 am

      According to the 2011 OHSU bike program there were 7,519 and 6,990 commuters in Jan and Feb respectively. This is only a drop of 34-44% from the sunniest months (July-October) . It should also be noted that South Waterfront construction during Jan and Feb 2011 made bike commuting a hassle.

      Interestingly, the OHSU Bike report also suggests that the majority of bike commuters (52% based on 130K trip sample) do not use the tram.

      “There are a small but significant number of people who bike to OHSU year round.”

      I disagree. In my experience, bike cages and bike parking on the hill are crowded year round. And IMO most of these cyclists do not use the tram.

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  • Chris Shaffer April 27, 2012 at 9:30 am

    The free valet is *great*. It’s so nice to be able to leave all my gear – rain jacket, gloves, helmet, etc. – in my panniers and not worry about them being stolen. Ride up, drop stuff in my panniers, check in the bike, and head to the tram and I’m ready for work.

    The convenience of being able to leave things in and on the bike is one of the best aspects of the valet service.

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  • Editz April 27, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Probably not a cheaper alternative, but higher neato factor:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=yIHrmN_ptJc#t=14s

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  • Loran April 27, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Nice shot from the tram, Jonathan! Great story!

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  • Owen Walz April 27, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Congrats Kiel! (And many kudos OHSU for leading the way). Glad I could help.

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  • John Landolfe April 27, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Beautiful pictures, Mr. Maus! It’s not easy to put the whole space in perspective without actually standing in the middle of it but you seem to have pulled it off.

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  • Mike April 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Another HUGE incentive to ride you bike as an OHSU employee is that parking costs $11/day up on the hill.

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  • Gabriel Andeen April 30, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Bike valet has been great – the service, in particular, continues to impress me in surprising new ways. Kudos (and thanks) to Kiel and pals.

    One signanificant opportunity as yet un-tapped: the bike racks (including valet) at the tram should be covered! This is Oregon – leaving all those bikes out in the rain all day long is causing untold harm to their gears and chains. If OHSU really wants to demonstrate some affection for its bicycle commuters, it ought to erect a simple cover for our bikes – and help keep our non-autos in good shape.

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