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Local product designer hopes to solve bike parking shortage

Posted by on March 10th, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Start-up company BikeRacker will look to supply its temporary bike racks to local events and businesses.


BikeRacker founder Jeff Castro.
(Photo: Jeff Castro)

Nearly every Portlander who goes by bike has experienced it: You get to an event (sometimes even a bike-related event) and there are not enough places to park. Or, the spaces that are provided are inadequate and/or not secure.

Mechanical engineer/product designer and Portland resident Jeff Castro wants to change that.

Castro has launched BikeRacker, a new company that will specialize in providing bike parking services and expertise to events and organizations in the Portland metro area.

A BikeRacker rack in action.
More photos below
(Photo: Jeff Castro)

Currently a product designer at Leatherman Tool Group, Castro has put his mechanical engineering degree to work at various positions including Cannondale Bicycle’s testing labs and motorcycle division, at Harley-Davidson, and at Yakima, the company that eventually brought him to Portland when they moved here from Arcata, California three years ago.

Bike Commute Challenge Party-2.jpg

Lack of good bike parking is a
headache at many local events.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Castro is busy building up his fleet of racks for the upcoming event season. He plans to initially have 8-10 racks, each with a capacity to hold eight bikes. His service will be available on a per-hour basis and he’s already gotten interest from the Portland Office of Transportation; they plan to hire BikeRacker to provide parking at their upcoming Sunday Parkways event.

At last month’s North American Handmade Bike Show, the lack of adequate bike parking made headlines. With not enough available racks, show-goers locked to anything they could find, forcing Convention Center security staff to cut the locks, much to the disdain of many two-wheeled attendees.

Castro, who worked that event’s valet bike parking area the next day as part of his ongoing research, said, “the idea was definitely validated by that situation.”

Castro says the BikeRacker service is intended to be “non-valet based.” Instead, he has designed the racks to easily accept standard U-locks and other locking methods. “In a nutshell,” Castro explains, “I would deliver my self contained, secure bicycle rack(s) to the event site for the duration of the event, then breakdown and clear the racks after the event has concluded.”

(Photo: Jeff Castro)

(Photo: Jeff Castro)

In addition to renting his racks for events, Castro also hopes to become a full-service bike parking resource. He says, “I hope to become a design and development resource for unique applications that require more specific parking solutions in commercial and residential applications.”

Castro says this is something he’s always wanted to do, and that he’s realized that, “in Portland the energy for bikes and the timing is right.” He also sees his services as playing a role in bike advocacy, “I hope to make an impact on getting more people on bikes in some way. My overarching mission is to not only the product and service but to hopefully grow cycling participation and overall cycling consciousness.”

Stay tuned to BikeRacker.com for more information (the website is still under construction). You can contact Jeff Castro at info [at] bikeracker [dot] com.

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17 Comments
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    John March 10, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    In the picture with the red schwinn, is there anything preventing you from just tipping the rack backwards and slipping the lock off the bottom of the leg?

    Aside from decreasing the chance of someone accidentally knocking over your bike, is this any better than free-locking?

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    sh March 10, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Wow. Simple, mundane and entirely genius. If this venture is even a fraction as successful as the local concrete barrier rental service, Bikeracker will rule the world!

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    Scott Mizée March 10, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Very nicely done, Mr.Castro. I look forward to seeing you succeed at this and to see your bikes at the next event. Are you going to have some at the Alice awards? That would be a great debut venue.

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    Marion rice March 10, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    We went to Cirque du Soleil yesterday.. and they sure could have used bike parking.. they had none, we locked up to a fence.. not the most secure. It would have been great had they promoted folks to ride their bike to shows and had temporary bike parking from bikeracker!

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    Andy B from Jersey March 10, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Great idea.

    The Bike Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and the local bike co-op provide a similar service but they do it as a valet service and deliver the rack with a long \”Bikes at Work\” trailer.

    The pictured racks are great but from what I can see I would feel very uncomfortable about using them without a valet attendant keeping watch.

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    KT March 10, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Question:

    On your statement regarding 8-10 bike racks, how many does each rack hold?

    Your statement makes it sound like they hold one bike apiece… but it looks like each open segment could handle 2, maybe even 3.

    What constitutes \”a rack\”?

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    Metal Cowboy March 10, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    After reading John\’s post #1 I have the same question? It\’s probably going to be followed by a very solid answer as to why the bicycle can\’t and won\’t be able to just come off with the lock if someone turns the rack over or lifts the seat off the bar then slips the lock and bike down and off by sliding it down? A bit more explanation about how it works for those among us who don\’t design stuff for a living.

    BTW, once my tech questions are answered, whoohoo! This is awesome!

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    Randy March 10, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    We have plenty of parking structures in Portland that could easily be retro fitted for bikes. It goes like this: only bikes can use the first 3 floors of any parking structure. Any new underground parking is for bikes only, otherwise the underground car parking/pollution invariably gets into the buildings above. One day LEED will figure this out.

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    Jeff Castro March 10, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Hello Everyone,
    Thanks for the great feedback and strong support for the bike parking effort.

    We\’ve got some very observant folks tuning in, and the photos show a first prototype rack lacking an extra tube feature welded to each support leg. This essentially creates a closed loop that prohibits the bikes to be disconnected in the \”tipping the rack\” scenario. This second parallel tube defines a \”lock zone\” on the leg and will accommodate various sizes of frames and respective lock locations.

    Each rack is designed to hold 8 bikes in a staggered configuration, and modular/expandable depending on event requirements.

    We are currently lining up events for the upcoming season, and appreciate your continued support.

    Much Thanks,
    BikeRacker

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    RyNO Dan March 10, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    There is obviously a huge vacuum for a decent answer to this problem. Plenty of room
    for creativity. Good Luck !

    (New ZooBomB rack coming soon, designed and
    built in portland OR)

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    joe adamski March 11, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Jeff, have you considered designing or modifying your rack for use in bike corrals? Corrals are taking hold here in Portland. Undoubtedly, they will start showing up in other cities. It might be a ground-floor opportunity.

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    BURR March 11, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    this rack requires extra space because you need clear access from both sides to alternate/stagger the bikes.

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    Dabby March 11, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Burr has a good point.

    If sidewalk space was used for such a rack system, it would pretty much violate ordinance requiring pedestrian passage, not to mention getting in the way. And make for even more difficulty in placing bikes.

    This would probably not be the case at a bigger venue, where private property would be used for rack space.

    Also, the last thing I am going to do is hang my bike from my fine Italian seat, and even finer American seatpost, against a metal tube.

    Other than that, I am sure all issues will be addressed, and this will continue to be a good idea.

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    Michelle March 11, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Nicely done Jeff. Looking forward to using them at summer events this year!

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    Jeff Castro March 11, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Great thoughts on the potential application in a bike corral. This has been under consideration and more research needs to be put into understanding all the respective constraints and requirements.

    Regarding the concern about damage to bicycles during use, I completely understand and have incorporated foam pads along the crossbar to address saddle and seatpost to crossbar interference. The pictures do show the black pads, but unfortunately I didn\’t allude to this feature in the initial review with Jonathan.

    Great feedback again, and keep it coming!

    BikeRacker

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    Scott Mizée March 12, 2008 at 5:02 am

    We are currently lining up events for the upcoming season, and appreciate your continued support.

    So… Does this mean you are going to have some racks at the Alice awards? …or not?

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    Jeff Castro March 12, 2008 at 5:39 am

    Scott,
    Unfortunately, we won\’t be able to properly support the Alice Awards this year, but would love to be there in years to come. Tough timing as we are currently building our fleet of racks. We anticipate our first large event to be the Sunday Parkways in early June.

    Thanks again for following up,

    BikeRacker

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