Harvest Century September 22nd

New development to include major bike facility

Posted by on May 12th, 2006 at 12:40 pm

Today’s Oregonian has the story of a major new downtown development that will include, “a regional bike facility grander than anything Portland has ever seen.”

It’s a very exciting proposition. Not only would this 3,000 square foot “bike hub” be the centerpiece of Portland’s commitment to sustainable transportation, but something like this could inspire other developers to consider similar facilities. This hub would likely include a ton of bike parking, showers, and some retail space (similar to a BikeStation)

However one problem with this proposal remains. Last Wednesday, I saw the drawings of the proposed building with Jessica Roberts of the BTA and Sam Adams staffer Jesse Beason. The issue is with how cyclists coming off the Hawthorne Bridge would safely access the entrance of the facility, which is planned for the western side of the building, on SW 2nd Ave.

Check out the graphic below. You’ll see that because of one-way directional streets, the only way to access the proposed bike facility would be to somehow get onto the sidewalk on SW 2nd Street. Sidewalk riding is not only illegal downtown, but If you are in the bike lane, coming off the Hawthorne Bridge, you would be on the right side of the street. Therefore, to get to the facility you would have to cross two travel lanes.

In light of this situation, we discussed the possibility of a bike only traffic signal, like the one currently in use at NE Oregon and Interstate near the Rose Quarter. This would allow cyclists to safely cross SW 1st and Main but would still put them on the sidewalk for one block along Main. The City would then have to grant a sidewalk riding exemption.

I don’t think this is a deal-breaker by any stretch, but it will be interesting to see the final outcome.

[Click to enlarge]

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    Janis May 12, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    sounds good. but if it going to be such a great thing for cyclists how come they didn’t make the access easier?

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    John May 12, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    How about a modified signal at First ave that allows bikes to go before cars by maybe 10 seconds to allow bikes to get over to the left. And then a curb cut or turn in to keep you from having to stop in the lane at 2nd… saw a signal like this on the recent biking in Copenahgen video.
    Links to the proposed bike hub anyone? Public or private..?

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    Randy May 12, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    I always see a fair amount of cyclists merging left to turn left onto SW First at this location; I continue straight but merge left before SW 2nd to avoid the right turning traffic and bus stops at SW 2nd and SW 4th, in preparation for a left turn at SW 5th. And unless a curb cut is placed directly in front of the entrance, there is always going to be a short distance of sidewalk to traverse.

    I guess I really don’t see a problem here, even with the current street design and layout.

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    Jonathan Maus May 12, 2006 at 1:04 pm


    We have to consider new and novice cyclists that might be less comfortable in city traffic than yourself.

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    the serrach May 12, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    you portlanders don’t know how good you’ve got it.

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    Michael May 12, 2006 at 1:08 pm

    I am confused about this. Just what the heck is a “bike hub?” Is it a bike parking lot? If so, why there? This is quite a ways from many downtown workers and students final destinations. If we loose Fareless Square then there is a cost to bus from the hub to work. Even then, the busses at this point are often very crowded and it may be a problem to accommodate the concentration of bike transfers.

    We already have many motor garages throughout downtown. What is wrong with doing some excellent remodeling on them to accommodate more bikes?

    As much as I love supporting more and more and more bikes, I am skeptical about some of the brilliant ideas the urban planners present us.

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    Jonathan Maus May 12, 2006 at 1:14 pm


    Sorry about not explaining the hub. I assumed you would read the Oregonian article. Here’s what I just added to the post:

    “This hub would likely include a ton of bike parking, showers, and some retail space (similar to a BikeStation)”

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    Michael May 12, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks for clarifying. I am still skeptical. This is a nice bonus for the government workers nearby, but not much use for others at the further reaches of downtown. I would rather see the investment be more broadly distributed. Bikers don’t need/want to be treated like motorists with transit centers. Bikes need to be seen more like natural appendages of a human body.

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    Jonathan Maus May 12, 2006 at 1:30 pm


    This is a private project funded by the owners of the building. They have no obligation to spread the investment around.

    And I agree with you, I think we need both “hubs” and spokes!

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    el timito May 12, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    Michael, I appreciate your hope for bike facilities all over. But there is a piece to this that you may have overlooked (“As much as I love supporting more and more and more bikes, I am skeptical about some of the brilliant ideas the urban planners present us.”) –
    the urban planners didn’t present this to us, the developers did. As the Oregonian notes,


    I too would like to have superior bike facilities all over Portland (I’m sure our friends east of, say, 39th would also appreciate some bike love).
    But in this case the horse’s mouth is part of the gift.

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    el timito May 12, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    (%&*@%$# computers)…
    The Oregonian had more than > to say…

    ” It also represents a rare private-sector bet — without any city or urban renewal financial help — on the idea that businesses might be attracted to buildings that offer substantial bicycle amenities.”

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    Jessica Roberts May 12, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    I am intrigued by this concept because I’ve been hearing more and more that downtown is intimidating for novice cyclists.

    We’ve been successful at getting “normal” (sorry, fellow bike geeks) on to bikes in increasing numbers, which is great. The growing Willamette River multi-use paths are a big part of that. Our counterparts in most cities would love to have that problem.

    But I kind of feel like we (that is, the bike community) have a responsibility to reach out to these folks and help them both feel good about where they are, and become more confident and comfortable.

    I hope everyone will eventually acquire the skills to take the lane downtown, but I think this facility might be a real service to less-experienced cyclists who just aren’t there yet.

    There’s a lot of other work to be done to make downtown welcoming and comfortable to cyclists of all abilities, but this seems like one concrete step.

    Of course, most of those folks probably don’t read Bikeportland, so we don’t hear from them. Still, maybe they’ll read about this in the Oregonian and get excited about it.

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    Randy May 12, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    I do agree that an advance bike green signal would be a useful improvement at SW First and Main.

    My next question is: what are the developers receiving in exchange for providing space for this facility in their building? Some kind of variance from City code on floor area ratios and building height?

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    crankers May 12, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    I’m confused why bicyclists would need to get on the sidewalk for a block to enter here the hub. From your map, it looks like there could be access points on both 2nd and on Main. Could you expand on what the issue with having a left hand turn option from Main into the facility is?

    Is the hub planned for only the Southwest corner or south side of the building as outlined in the picture (or the south parking lot)? If 2nd is the only possible entry point, do you think that bicycles having to come at the building like a car would legally have to (left on third, left on Madison, left on 2nd in a circle) would hurt the concept enough that bicyclists wouldn’t use it?

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    Jody May 12, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    It does appear to be a big ‘ole pain to get in there… you’d have to go a block or two out of your way to get going the right direction if you were a conservative biker.

    This will be largely worthless for a majority of the 5000 bikers they mention because most will not work within a couple of blocks.

    BUT…. if it encourages more people to commute by bike (particularly if they get rid of fareless square) then that is good for all of us. The more bikers, the more we have to be paid attention to in term of laws, funding, etc.

    It is refreshing for the biking community to be a consideration in a new building development. Hopefully it will spark more riders, more facilities for riders, and more respect!!!

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    benschon May 12, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    This part of the building is terrible from a retail standpoint, so this is a good way for the developer to activate the first floor and meet the city’s design requirements, without giving away that much.

    This project will have to go through Design Review, and the two (of many) relevant guidelines the they will have to meet are:

    C8–“Differentiate the sidewalk-level of the building from the middle and top by using elements including, but not limited to, different exterior materials, awnings, signs,
    and large windows.”

    C9–“Develop flexible spaces at the sidewalk-level of buildings to accommodate a variety of active uses.”

    I think a bike hub would get them through this for that side of the building, not to mention all the free P.R. and positive feeling generated by The Oregonian and BikePortland.org. Win-win, as they say.

    Very important to think about access early in the design process, though. Good work, BTA.

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    Garlynn May 12, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    This bike hub seems like a great idea. Yeah, access doesn’t like like it’d be perfect, but on the other hand, it’s doable. Worst-case scenario is, a bicyclist pulls to the curb at 2nd, hops off the bike, and walks across the crosswalk with the signal, and then continues walking into the bike hub.

    And yeah, this hub will likely only serve cyclists in the building or within a 3-block radius.

    But, that’s all you can really hope for, isn’t it? Aside from the benefit to folks who will work in the building or within 3 blocks of it, the biggest benefit this hub will offer is this:


    Once this hub has been established, and assuming that it works out, then the heat will be on other developers to one-up themselves and offer similar or better amenities in their own new/renovated buildings.

    With no public subsidy.

    And finally, if it offers a small bicycle shop that serves everybody, it’s RIGHT on the path to/from the Hawthorne, so if you get a flat, or have another mechanical problem on your commute, this makes it very easy to get it fixed.

    What could possibly be wrong with that?

    Win-win, indeed!!


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    Tom Tom May 12, 2006 at 8:59 pm

    To those making petulantly unpleasant noises, or whining, about this hub being unhappily distant from one’s final destination…

    You complain like a motorist would about what a sweat it would be to bike to the grocery store.

    I can walk to most places in downtown Portland within 10-15 minutes.

    What matters most to me is having a secured, off-street location for my bike at long-term durations in such a proposed hub. I am able-bodied enough to reach other parts of the city without being completely addicted to my wheels.

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    Matt P. May 12, 2006 at 9:20 pm

    I think it’s great – it might solve the one big problem I have in the summer:

    shower facilities.

    Almost all my effort is expended by the time I get to the Hawthorne bridge. If I could stop there, park the bike, and use the showers, that’d be great. I work at the US Bancorp tower, so it’s nowhere near my *final* destination, but I’m not going to break a new sweat in 10 blocks.

    I agree that the biggest thing this does is set a precedent. It may only directly benefit those within 3-5 blocks of the structure, but that includes a good-sized chunk of the workforce, and anyone who needs to go to the court buildings.

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    Ethan May 13, 2006 at 6:08 am

    Private developers actively getting on board . . . has always seemed a major piece of the puzzle. Public infrastructure is great, but that usually ends at the sidewalk. This is a good omen.

    This may be a crazy question, but could bikes use the path cloverleafs (that lead to the waterfront) and then access a tunnel or something under the bridge’s west approach ramp, coming out aimed directly at the new building, with there own bike/car intersection mid-block? . . . just trying to figure ways to eliminate the traffic issues.

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    beth hamon May 13, 2006 at 9:38 am

    Jessica Roberts wrote:

    “…I’ve been hearing more and more that downtown is intimidating for novice cyclists…

    …I kind of feel like we (that is, the bike community) have a responsibility to reach out to these folks and help them both feel good about where they are, and become more confident and comfortable.”

    Jessica — I agree! And perhaps this bike “hub” project will help with that if access is properly planned and constructed. But the larger truth is that bicyclists are forced every day to ride in landscapes that were designed for cars. Period.

    I consider myself an experienced-but-timid cyclist, even after 30-plus years of bike commuting. The fact is that car traffic is intimidating no matter what your age or experience. Cars go fast and weigh a lot, and my bicycle does neither. This “hub” design is a beginning, but it is only a beginning.

    What is really needed is a whole-scale tear-down and re-design of large chunks of our cityscape to make it more welcoming to bicyclists and pedestrians. Since that’s not going to happen, I will have to make choices based on my perceptions of personal safety. As a bicyclist, I won’t always get to take the most direct route in a car-centric landscape. Therefore, I have to do what I can, and if that means occasionally breaking the law by bringing my bike up on a sidewalk, so be it. Car-centric planning has forced me to improvise and will continue to do so for years to come. Anyone who suggests otherwise is deluding themselves.

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    C3PNo May 14, 2006 at 12:34 am

    Ok… the route: you dismount on the nw corner of 1st and Main. You walk all of less than a block to reach the storefront. Ta Da!

    Bicyclists can instantly become pedestrians. Let’s use that to our advantage, people.

    It also makes for a good stretch-down-shake-out time after the ride.

    Sip the goodness,

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    Ian May 15, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    My current route has me turn from Hawthorne south onto First here. I have two options:

    1) low traffic: merge left through two lanes of traffic to use the left turn cutout. Unless I’m running very late, I usually don’t get to use this option.

    2) rush hours: stop on NW corner and proceed south when the light changes. Fortunately, I am usually the only biker going this way, otherwise there would be no room to turn my bike around.

    If this plan goes forward, we’d get clusters of bicyclists trying to make this maneuver in not enough space. Perhaps the planners should look into restrict the parking space at that corner to later hours of the day to adapt the increased bike traffic.

    A bike-first signal there would be awesome! Dutch cities have this kind of signal at lots of intersections where bike traffic is heavy. (I regularly use the bike-first signal at the exit off the Steel Bridge towards the Rose Quarter. It is heaven sent.)

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  • […] In light of last week’s post about the new downtown development that will include a 3,000 square foot “bike hub”, I have obtained a drawing of the proposed ground floor layout. […]

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    Todd of Bikestation March 16, 2007 at 1:01 am

    In response to Reply 13, I read that the developer was offering ~1000 ft2 for locker room/ bike parking station area (amenity) and receiving 40,000 ft2 in additional building height (1 floor). This 40:1 ratio is on Portland’s books. 1000 ft2 is not a lot of space for a lot of parking or services with a locker room. I hope they will include additional space in their parking garage for expansion of bike parking – this could be accessed through a membership fob. But the location none-the-less would be a good site for a future network.

    The bike access to this site has bothered me from early on…it will take a lot of work to make it seamless and convenient and safe for daily commuters to use. Already many good ideas have been mentioned before and on BikePortland about access. Walking is always an option…but let us have an over wide crosswalk and sidewalk out by its front door at a minimum.

    How about two more: a downhill contraflow bike lane to the front door or a bike-box at the traffic signal.

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