A group of bike advocates have been working with Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) for over a year to improve conditions for bike commuters at the hilltop campus. However, despite clear evidence of the problem they have been “systematically rebuffed” by management and the former head of their Bike Commuters Group calls OHSU’s actions and policies regarding bike commuters “irresponsible.”
They cite OHSU’s inability to provide secure, long-term bike parking as a major problem that deters bike commuters, encourages bike theft, and runs counter to school’s mission as a health institution. Hannah Cross, the former head of OHSU’s Bike Commuter program, recently left her post in part because of her extreme frustration with management over these issues. According to Cross:
“OHSU reports that 5 to 7% of employees bike to work, which means that parking is needed for over 600 bicycles, yet the number of spaces that qualify as “secure, long-term” is only about 100. Those 100 secure parking spaces are full to overflowing on a daily basis.”
Cross conducted a survey and found that because of inadequate parking facilities, 23% of OHSU bike commuters disobey campus policy and park their bikes in their offices. She also found that 28% park in other “weird places” like bathrooms, closets or at the Veterans hospital, “because they have better facilities.”
She has complained and lobbied to the OHSU Parking and Transportation Office for three and a half years and has seen, “almost no progress.”
Also joining the fight has been architect and bike parking expert Rick Browning. Browning visited a friend in the hospital and was appalled at the bike parking conditions. He initiated the advocacy effort and helped organize Cross and her colleagues. But after trying to meet with decision makers, Cross says they were “ignored, and told to talk with middle managers.” Frustrated and making no progress, Browning wrote a letter to Congressman Earl Blumenauer hoping to put the issue on his radar screen.
One bright spot are the 32 bike lockers OHSU installed last year. However, Cross and others are quick to point out that these lockers were only installed because the Oregon Nurse’s Association (the strongest union on the Hill) wrote the lockers into their labor contract. According to Browning, “It was due to union bargaining power, not OHSU being nice.”
In a letter published in yesterday’s Portland Tribune, Cross and her colleagues estimate that for about $100,000, “quality bicycle storage could be provided for all bicyclists.” Cross thinks that in light of recent cost estimates surrounding the aerial tram project, this amount seems like a drop in the bucket.
I have contacted OHSU Parking Manager Angela Timmen but have yet to hear back from her. I will post her comments as soon as I can. UPDATE: 7/15/06. I went on a tour of bike parking facilities with OHSU reps. Report coming soon.