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Update on OHSU bike parking and tram design

Posted by on May 16th, 2006 at 6:46 am

A few days ago I received an email from Rachel MacKnight, the Media Relations person for Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU). She got in touch because of a post made last week that brought their bike parking facilities into question. She also included more information about how the new tram will handle bicycles.

According to MacKnight, bicyclists are encouraged to use the tram and it was actually designed with cyclists in mind. She adds:

“…at the tram’s upper station, cyclists will be able to exit by way of an exterior walkway from the 9th floor terrace of the OHSU Hospital expansion down to a staircase at the 7th floor terrace, and out on to Sam Jackson Park Road. The stair case has been designed with a special bike gutter on both sides to allow for up and down bike traffic. The tram’s lower station in the South Waterfront will include 18 bike rack spaces.”

She then goes on to defend OHSU’s number of bike parking spaces and explain that they are adding more in the future:

“When surveyed, between two and five percent of OHSU employees say they ride their bikes to work. That translates into between 176 to 440 employees who are bicycle commuters. Not including bike parking at its three new buildings and the tram, OHSU has 263 bike lockers and racks as well as six bike banks for its bicycle commuters. New spaces for bicycles are being added as OHSU expands. All told, OHSU will have about more than 420 bike lockers and racks as well as six bike banks for cyclists.”

And here’s some new information about how bikes figure into the upcoming South Waterfront development:

“Also in the South Waterfront, a total of 83 new bicycle parking spaces will be available at the OHSU Center for Health & Healing when it opens later this year. Twenty-one bike rack spaces are planned on the ground floor and two locked bike parking facilities will provide 62 spaces on the first and second levels of OHSU’s new parking garage underneath the building.”

“OHSU’s new wellness center in the South Waterfront will offer a special membership category similar to the one now offered by the OHSU Sports and Fitness Center on Marquam Hill for OHSU employees who commute to work by bike. Cyclists with this membership will be able to use showers and locker rooms in the wellness center. ”

And apparently they have a few perks for bike commuters:

“OHSU offers a cash incentive to folks who bike to work – $50 for every 35 rides to OHSU. The university also offers free tube and tire repair for OHSU employees who are bicycle commuters.”

And about bike theft:

“In 2006, there have been no reported thefts of bikes or items from bikes on OHSU property.”

So now we have the the official word from an OHSU spokesperson. Somewhere between this and the information from a former employee lies the truth about OHSU’s bike friendliness.

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Well, I’m very pleased to hear that the tram was designed with bicyclists in mind. I look forward to using the tram with my bicycle!

However, I’m curious — will it have hooks, ala MAX?

I sure hope so. Going vertical seems to be the smartest solution to accommodating bikes on transit.


Jonathan Maus

I just spoke with Art Pearce, PDOT’s Asst. Project Manager for the tram. He said the tram car will not have special hooks or specific areas for bikes. He said:

“Since the ride is less than 3 minutes, we figure bikes can just roll on and roll off.”

The have capacity for 9,000 people a day and they don’t anticipate crowding to be a problem.


Who says the truth is in the middle?

There are two types of companies when it comes to bicycle infrastructure. Those who just want to barely meet demand so as they don’t “overspend” on unused resources, and those who try to proactively meet future demand estimates as well as promote bicycle use by expending capital. OHSU is clearly the former. Maybe they are concerned that PETA members trying to sneak into their labs will use the bike racks. No one wants to lose their bike while they are exposing the man.

A daily commuter
A daily commuter

The “cash incentive” is great, but they add it to your paycheck and must tax it as a gift as it ends up being about $30. As far as tube/tire repair, I once was having difficulty changing a flat and as a last resort went to public safety for help. They did not have any bike tubes (which I didn’t need anyway) and had no clue as how to get a road tire back on the wheel. Not complaining about any of it, it is our own responsibility, but I don’t want people to get the wrong impression about OHSU’s bike friendliness. As far a parking goes, I choose to violate the “no bikes in buildings” rule and park it in my office, of which most are not fortunate to have. Keep biking folks!!!!


It’s cool that the tram has considered cyclists in its design, but the point about bike parking seems to be going right over everybody’s head up there. Even MacKnight admits that up to 440 people ride in to work, but there are spots for roughly half of them.

Can you imagine the outcry if there were only spaces for half the cars?

I hope they keep working on the issue, but they’ll have to stop patting themselves on the back before they make further progress.


I bike commute to OHSU every day that I work. The racks are always so full that I am often unable to find a spot to lock my bike and must lock it to a steam pipe in the parking garage. It is so crowded that last year 3 pairs of fenders were broken off of my bike due to the overcrowding. This has been communicated to the parking office by letter twice in the last year and I have received no response.


“…at the tram’s upper station, cyclists will be able to exit by way of an exterior walkway from the 9th floor terrace of the OHSU Hospital expansion down to a staircase at the 7th floor terrace, and out on to Sam Jackson Park Road.”

Somebody please tell me I’m reading this wrong: bikes don’t have to go up and down seven flights of stairs, do they? Is there an elevator option for the trailer-inclined?

Hannah Cross
Hannah Cross

“OHSU has 263 bike lockers and racks as well as six bike banks for its bicycle commuters.”

Uh, OHSU had 14 bike lockers before 2005. They installed 32 last year. I have a hard time believing that they installed more than 200 bike lockers since March 2006. I believe she means that they have 263 bike parking *spaces* – which is also inaccurate.

If you look at their map on the Bike Commuter Group’s website ( you will see that there are about that many spaces indicated on the map.

However, at least 15 of these are hanging racks that do not allow the bicyclist to lock their frame to anything except a cable that can be cut with a small pair of cable cutters. In fact, when the BTA visited the campus, a cut cable was found on the ground and none of these racks have ever been used (except for the 20 that are in a key-card access room).

Furthermore, dozens of the racks are so poorly placed that they cannot hold as many bikes as expected. In fact, two 6-bike racks are so poorly placed, they can only accommodate 4 bikes. Another rack, near the Dental School, which could hold 6 bikes, is so old that it is falling apart and can only safely accommodate 2 or 3 bikes. And 12 of the spots are a wheel-bender in front of the CDRC, and we all know how well those work.

And the best part is that 6 spaces were removed 2 years ago to accommodate a smoking booth in front of the BICC Library – and as far as I know that racked disappeared.

“When surveyed, between two and five percent of OHSU employees say they ride their bikes to work. That translates into between 176 to 440 employees who are bicycle commuters.”

It is interesting how this estimate changes! OHSU’s lawyer testified that they claim a 5-7% bike commute mode split during public hearings regarding parking issues related to the Waterfront development.

Also, Rachel’s presentation of the Bike Commuters Incentive Program is not explained in full.

If you bike to work 35 times instead of driving your car, you get a credit on your parking permit in the following month.

If you bike to work 35 times and have a subsidized TriMet pass (and no parking permit), you get $25 added to your paycheck.

If you bike to work 35 times, and you don’t have a parking permit or a TriMet pass then you get the $50 cash incentive. (See the policy written by Angela Timmen, the parking manager here:

Frankly, I was the only person I know who was getting $50 in my paycheck. Most people have a TriMet pass. Coincidentally, they still haven’t paid me for the last commuter card I turned in.


hannah, thanks for fighting for us up here — i’ve seen your name on bike emails since i first started working here several years ago. but i park in the parking garage near the dental school and it seems fine, with space for about twenty bikes. it was crowded but not full today, and most days there’s plenty of room.

doing the math on macknight’s letter does suggest that ohsu is doing the bare minimum when it comes to bike parking, which is strange considering how much money they save on buying waterfront land for car parking spots and on health care for employees who stay healthy by riding bikes. there should certainly be a surplus of bike parking up here, not barely enough.

it seems like ohsu does care about bikes — the new biological research building has some pretty luxurious showers. so i wonder why they’re so tight on parking specifically.


I ride to work 2-3 times a week. I think a ridership of 2-5% is an underestimate, and if OHSU were to actually encourage this as a healthy lifestyle and a solution to gasoline prices, they would see a rise from the 7% figure quoted earlier. Where do these numbers come from anyway? Polls? That’s not scientific. Why are all the bike lockers and racks full all the time, if OHSU is doing such a great job of providing bike parking? I got a good laugh over the tram having 18 bike parking spots.