Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Airport bike parking “for employees only”

Posted by on December 13th, 2005 at 9:58 am


A few months ago I was smitten with PDX airport because of their new and vastly improved bike access. After reading my post, several folks were inspired to ride to the airport to take advantage of the new bike lane and enclosed long-term bike parking facility.

However now all that has changed. A few riders scoped out the facility in advance of a recent flight and were dismayed to find it is now locked with a sign that says it’s only for airport employees. I went and read the original press release (PDF) and sure enough, this was the plan all along. I must have used the facility before it was finished being built.

I’m not sure why the airport folks would reserve hundreds of bike parking spaces just for their employees, when thousands of potential bikers are left with this as the only solution for long-term bike parking.

Just look at this friendly sign they put up back when the new bike lanes were first completed. They can’t honestly think anyone will actually consider riding to the airport when the only parking they offer are unsecure, generic staple racks…can they?!

If the Portland Airport wants to be truly “accessible” by bike, they must offer covered, secure parking for everyone…not just airport employees.

I just emailed their customer service department to let them know how I feel. I’ll let you know what sort of response I get*.

*I’ve just heard from someone at the Airport:

“If people feel strongly about this, I encourage them to make it known by either contacting me, Port management, and/or attending a Port Commission mtg. and expressing their interest in that public forum.”

Read all the details in this comment.

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  • Janis December 13, 2005 at 10:11 am

    Jason A. Gately is the man you want to talk to about parking. I have spoken with him before. His information and title are below:

    Aviation Planner III
    7000 NE Airport Way, 3rd Flr.
    Portland, OR 97218
    Work: 503.460.4570

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  • dayaram December 13, 2005 at 10:39 am

    maybe you are only supposed to ride to pdx if you are flying with your bike?

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  • Jonathan Maus December 13, 2005 at 10:45 am

    I’ve already gotten a response from someone at the airport (thanks Janis). Here it is:


    Thanks for mentioning the new secure employee bike parking area and new bike and pedestrian facilities in and around Portland International Airport (PDX). The facilities are available to all 10,000+ employees that work at PDX. I was the project manager for the PDX Bike and Pedestrian Plan as well as the project manager for development of the new facilities you have mentioned. You can access this plan, as well as information on other Port related transportation planning efforts, at: http://www.portofportland.com/Trade_Trans_Studies.aspx

    The facilities that were finished this past summer are part of a larger effort to make PDX and the surrounding area more accessible to bikes and pedestrians. As you probably know, these facilities are expensive to build and at times difficult to implement for political, economic and/or other reasons. However, the Port has made a long-term commitment to make the airport a true multi-modal facility.

    I think the Port would be every interested in providing a secure bike parking area for outbound passengers if the demand is there. If people feel strongly about this, I encourage them to make it known by either contacting me, Port management, and/or attending a Port Commission mtg. and expressing their interest in that public forum. Port Commission meetings occur the 2nd Wednesday of every month at the Port of Portland Building across the street from the Chinese Classical Garden. These meetings are open to the public. Here is a link: http://www.portofportland.com/Comm_Info.aspx

    We hope to complete a connection from Cascades Station to the Marine Dr. multi-use path next summer, perhaps a passenger bike parking area could be part of that project? Thanks!

    Jason A. Gately
    Aviation Planner III
    7000 NE Airport Way, 3rd Flr.
    Portland, OR 97218
    Work: 503.460.4570
    Fax: 503.460.4124

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  • Jessica Roberts December 13, 2005 at 11:15 am

    I have sent a letter from the BTA supporting bike parking for passengers.

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  • Jessica Roberts December 13, 2005 at 11:28 am

    Here is the letter, in case anyone wants to take a look:

    December 13, 2005

    Jason A. Gately
    Aviation Planner III
    7000 NE Airport Way, 3rd Flr.
    Portland, OR 97218

    Dear Jason,

    On behalf of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, I’m writing about bicycle facilities at Portland International Airport. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is a non-profit organization working to promote bicycling and improve bicycling conditions in Oregon. Most of our 4000 members live, work and bicycle in the metro area.

    Portland is known nationally as a cycling-friendly city. Every year more and more citizens choose to get where they’re going by bicycle—over the last decade, the number of trips made by cycling in Portland has tripled.

    We couldn’t be more pleased to see the wonderful new facilities that PDX has installed for bicyclists. The wonderful new path coupled with the new secure, high-quality parking for employees will help many employees bike to work, which will reduce parking demand as well as helping employees choose an active commute—which is well documented to reduce employee sick days, absenteeism, and health care costs. In short, we are confident that both employees and employers at PDX will benefit from your investments. PDX is to be commended for their commitment and vision.

    The path has the potential to help another group of people as well: travelers arriving to and leaving from PDX. I have often wanted to bike to the airport, and would have done so, but I cannot find a safe place to leave my bike. In my role as the BTA’s Metro-Area Advocate, I have heard from many other people who would do the same.

    In addition, I call your attention to the fact that Oregon, and particularly the Portland area, is emerging as a center for cycling tourism, both nationally and internationally. We expect to see more and more visitors every year who are specifically interested in cycle tourism, and many of them would benefit from outstanding bicycle facilities.

    Again, we thank and commend Portland International Airport and the Port of Portland for their commitment to making Portland a great place for people who ride a bike. Customer parking facilities will only enhance the investments that have already been made. I look to a point in the future when I can park my bike at the airport for a weekend trip.


    Jessica Roberts
    Metro-Area Advocate

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  • Aaron December 13, 2005 at 12:16 pm

    Thanks for posting this Jonathan. And thanks to Jessica for her (very diplomatic) letter.
    One thing that caught my eye was the EXCUSE which Mr. Gately used to justify the lack of secure parking. “these facilities are expensive to build and at times difficult to implement for political, economic and/or other reasons.”
    I wonder how difficult it was to put a vast 10+ acre ground parking facility in a marshland (think environmental assessment). The answer is that both the Port and the regional government still bend over backwards to support cars (even when driving to PDX is so frustrating) yet fail to find the same drive when it comes to bikes.

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  • Jason Gately December 13, 2005 at 12:46 pm

    We could use a portion of the current employee bike parking area for passenger parking and we have looked into it. The issue is how to administer it and liability. The current parking area requires an employee badge to get in – so there is essentially no administration and you park at your own risk.

    We could carve out a portion of the current area for passengers and put a separate access gate on it. Administering a key or code system is probably not something the Port would want to engage in. It would probably be best if it was self administering like the current employee area. Perhaps you or others have a suggestion on how to administer it? One suggestion would be to have the BTA or other group be responsible for a code or key dissemination, but I’m not sure they are interested either. The problem with a code is that it’s easy to get (someone could write it on the lock). Keys are a possibility. Other ideas?

    Perhaps we could form a group to look at ideas? We have worked with an internal group of airport employees in the past (they too are travelers like yourself), as well as the BTA, City of Portland, Metro and Willamette Ped Coalition. I would be willing to support and organize a brainstorming meeting if people are truly interested.

    If we could generate a list of alternatives, evaluate them and then pick the one that works best (based on users, cost, security, etc.) then it could perhaps become part of next years capital project efforts.

    Lockers are another idea. We could place these in the parking garage so they are outside of the “300 ft TSA buffer” and are not a security concern. They tend to be expensive per use and can only be used by one or two at a time.

    Again, I still suggest making your interest known directly to “decision makers” – such as the Port Commission.

    Jason Gately
    Long Range Planning
    Port of Portland

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  • Jessica Roberts December 13, 2005 at 1:37 pm

    If there are keys, I’m afraid there will be a significant barrier to entry for people, especially ones who don’t know about it. For long-term employee parking it might make sense, but I don’t think it does for one-time users. I’d be interested in some kind of a disposable magnetic card, maybe? I’m not the expert, but I know there are technology solutions using Smart Cards, key fobs, and the like. Might be worth looking into.

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  • Austin December 13, 2005 at 1:58 pm


    Thanks for taking the time to chime in, and for helping to facilitate the process for making LTBP (Long Term Bike Parking) more workable and secure. I for one would gladly participate in these discussions, as any solution would need to be reasonably secure and would also need to accommodate Burleys, Bobs, etc.

    As for the security issue, I am sure that people would be comfortable locking down their own bikes as long as the area was visible from the passenger pick-up area and fenced off (to prevent collisions with runaway baggage carts).

    In any event, thanks for being open to the idea. I think that PDX would be one of very few airports in the country with real LTBP if implemented. (Does the Davis, CA airport have bike parking? Does Davis even have an airport?) In the end, I think that a simple solution would probably work best. Low cost, easy to implement, security by proximity, and don’t forget to bring your own lock.


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  • Jonathan Maus December 13, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    As someone who used the existing enclosed structure (before the locked gate was installed) I can say that it felt very secure without any additional high-tech security.

    I think an enclosed area in a visible location that is regularly patroled by security and/or video cameras would be more than sufficient…I mean we’re talking about an airport here, not an alley behind a pub downtown!

    As for liability, wouldn’t a sign that says, “Use this facility at your own risk” be sufficient?

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  • benschon December 13, 2005 at 5:43 pm


    I agree with Jonathan. There is no need for an elaborate security entry system as long as there is some kind of regular human or video surveillance to keep tabs on the area. Cyclists are accustomed to being responsible for their own theft protection. Liability is a non-issue: it’s no different from the parking garage, or the staple rack.

    Given the amount of money recently spent on automobile parking (and MAX for that matter) at the airport, finding a few thousand dollars and a few hundred square feet for decent bike parking hardly seems like an unreasonable request.

    Are you saying that your gracious participation in this discussion is not sufficient to get something done? Do we need to copy everything to the Commissioners in order to get this project moving? I am very appreciative of your cooperative spirit and speedy response. Let’s make it happen.

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  • Jason Gately December 14, 2005 at 11:51 am

    The airport does have two additional ribbon racks for public use. They are near the MAX lightrail platform on the south side of the lower roadway. They are covered and adjacent to the window wall just outside of the MAX waiting area and baggage claim – a pretty visible spot and very handy for MAX riders with their bikes. I rarely see more than three or four bikes locked to this rack, even in the summer months. I sent some photos to Jonathan – perhaps he can post them?

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  • Jonathan Maus December 14, 2005 at 12:00 pm

    Here are the photos Jason is referring to.

    I wasn’t aware of these, thanks for sending them over. My only question is will airport personnel confiscate bikes that are left for several days?

    The man I talked to on the phone at Public Affairs seemed to think this would be an issue.

    Also, I’m not sure if most cyclists would trust an open set of staple racks with their beloved bikes in long-term parking situations. Perhaps this area would work if there were a sign that said, “Long term bike parking area. Under 24HR surveillance.”

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  • benschon December 14, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    I will have to admit, that looks like pretty good real estate. Covered, clean, well lit, high-visibility, and right next to the terminal.

    If that location is (as it appears to be) between the baggage claim area and the MAX platform, it should be at least as well-policed by airport security as everywhere else on that level.

    A really big question is making this area well known: Is there coordinated signage that leads people to this bike parking area from the bike routes?

    I don’t think it’s always necessary to segregate long-term and short-term bike parkers if security is good for both. I can’t understand why the Port would care about how long bikes are parked, unless there is a capacity problem, which currently there isn’t. If that ever becomes an issue, the Port could post a 30-day limit after which they could declare the bike abandoned and “tow” it. Isn’t that what they do with cars?

    Jason, my final word of advice is to encourage PDX and the Port to work out these issues with the city’s bike advisory committee. No need to establish a new group of people to hash out these issues when there is already a brain trust/community outreach group working on them.

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  • lianagan December 14, 2005 at 10:24 pm

    A well publicized “public input” meeting and tour of the facility would be cool during this process. Security has different meanings to different people. For example, if it will take a potential thief a half hour to blow-torch or otherwise hack through a heavy chain, cable and U-lock system and the area is patrolled at least once every twenty minutes, then I would consider it reasonably secure.

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  • Houston December 14, 2005 at 10:35 pm

    I have parked my shiny 7 speed KHS cruiser Pee Wee Herman bike most people laugh at but secretly crave on the wavy staple rack at the west end of the airport baggage claim concourse for 3-5 days at a time and nobody bugged it.

    If PDX can’t do the public fenced lot, my strong suggestion to PDX is to add more racks soon since the secret’s out you can bike to there. Newsflash: The 205 trail to the new bike path, nicely marked to PDX, is awesome, especially for an early morning flight.

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  • andrew morton December 15, 2005 at 4:34 am

    i’m suprised people didn’t know about those racks. i used them just last tuesday. if you’re taking the max out of the airport they’re hard to miss.

    they’re fine if you ride your beater out, or are just going to be gone overnight. for longer trips i’d love some lockers. i’d be willing to to some kind of longterm pay by the day type of thing provided they were secure.

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  • Houston December 15, 2005 at 9:34 am

    I heard on the radio today that the new parking garage will have 3,500 spaces. Come on, Port of Portland, how about a little respect for bikes? Maybe 350 places to park? What’s the plan?

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  • […] In response to your feedback from my post, Airport bike parking “for employees only”, I have just learned that the Portland Airport has re-designed the employee bike parking area to accomodate the general public. Here’s the scoop from Aviation Planner Jason Gately: We recently modified our employee bike parking area to include an area for the general public. It is now split 50/50 between the general public and airprot employees (about 40 spaces each side). The employee side is still behind a secure gate, while the general public side is open (for now). We are looking into ways to secure this area, but still make it easy for the public to access at any tme of the day. It is located in a somewhat visible area near the terminal across from administrative offices below the E Concourse. It is located at the end (or beginning) of the new off-street multi-use path that parallels Airport Way into and out of the terminal. […]

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