On-street bike parking stalled by design issues

Posted by on August 7th, 2008 at 11:36 am

New on-street bike parking-59.jpg

Ethos Music Center in North Portland is
awaiting an on-street bike corral
(notice the paint marks on the road).
(Photos © J. Maus)

PDOT crews have prepped the road for the new on-street bike racks (known as a “bike corral”) in front of the non-profit Ethos Music Center on the corner of N. Killingsworth and N. Williams.

Ethos’ founder and City Commissioner candidate, Charles Lewis requested the bike corral at this location two years ago and has worked hard to make it a reality. “We have had a big problem with the lack of bike parking here,” he said, “and it will be great to get this new corral.”

But the new parking is stalled while PDOT comes up with an improved design for the structure.

PDOT has installed five bike corrals throughout the city (two on SE Belmont and three on/near N. Mississippi Ave.) since September of 2004, but according to Sarah Figliozzi, a bike parking specialist for PDOT, no more will be completed until a new design is completed.

Fresh Pot bike parking

The Fresh Pot bike corral on
N. Shaver and Mississippi.

The problem with the current design is the curb and border around the staple racks. Current corrals feature a border made up of a rubber curb and flexible, reflective, “candlestick” bollards placed every six 24 inches or so (see photo at right). PDOT is searching for a new material for that rubber curb that meets their engineering, function, and safety standards.

The current configuration also leaves a lot to be desired aesthetically, not just from PDOT’s point of view, but from business owners as well.

Bryan Steelman, owner of Por Que No Taqueria on N. Mississippi, took it upon himself to remove several of the flexible bollards from the bike corral in front of his business (which hasn’t won him any friends at PDOT). Steelman says he hopes to decorate the remaining bollards to help ease the visual pain.

Belmont neighborhood activist Greg Raisman (also former bike parking czar for PDOT) has launched a bike corral beautification plan of his own. He is collaborating with local artists to embellish the existing staple racks and hopes they take the form of flowers.

bike corral on Mississippi and Beech-59.jpg

The Amnesia Brewery bike corral
at N. Beech and Mississippi.

Back in April, Figliozzi attended a design conference where attendees tried to figure out the corral problem. Their ideas included integrating plants and other organic materials into the corrals, various artistic approaches to the bollards, raising the corrals up off the street level, and using lighting to improve aesthetics and security.

Figliozzi says she’s also collaborated with the Art Institute of Portland on a five-week design course focused on the bike corrals.

She says PDOT is seeking a solution that has “a cleaner design” for the border and yet still meets all engineering and safety requirements. Their efforts have focused on using immovable bollards, but those present problems of their own. Placing immovable objects in the public right-of-way that could cause serious harm in a collision is something PDOT obviously wants to avoid.

bike racks in waiting-1.jpg

Bike racks welded together (like those used in corrals)
lie in wait at a PDOT facilities yard
(photographed through a chain-link fence).

Other issues that complicate the corrals are access and maintenance. The corrals must be easily accessible by bike parkers (which can be tough when entering from the roadway is not allowed due to safety concerns and when cafes have tables on the sidewalk), and they must be relatively easy to maintain (a responsibility that falls on the adjacent businesses).

According to a map provided by PDOT, at least 24 other businesses and neighborhood groups have requested bike corrals, but Figliozzi says only the one in front of Ethos is being hung up by this design issue.

As for the paint marks on the ground? “They’re just getting ready,” says Figliozzi, “so once we get the design figured out [which she said should be very soon] they can get it installed right away.”

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

36 Comments
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    Laura August 7, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Jonathan – can you share the list of \”at least 24 other businesses and neighborhood groups (that) have requested corrals\”?

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 7, 2008 at 11:54 am

    \”can you share the list of ”at least 24 other businesses and neighborhood groups (that) have requested corrals”?\”

    Laura,

    I don\’t have the list by name, only by dots on a map. Here is a PDF of that map (1.0MB)

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    Tony Fuentes August 7, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    On a somewhat related note, we have a side yard next to our shop that we want to convert to a community space for craft fairs and have some additional bike parking.

    Any recommendations on resources for the bike parking part of the equation? Ideally something cool but affordable (free would rock of course)

    Post it here or email me directly through our website.

    All the best,

    Tony

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    Cøyøte August 7, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    How is placing an immovable object in the right of way any more dangerous than having a parked car in the right of way?

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    Jessica Roberts August 7, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Did PDOT give you a time frame on resolving the design issues? Looking at that map, I see so many of my favorite hangouts that currently have major bike parking shortages. If we only have to wait a few months, no big deal, but are we talking a year? More? I hope not.

    Demand for bike parking is far outstripping supply everywhere I go, and this is a great solution. I\’d hate to have design hold up dozens of great projects.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 7, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    jessica,
    no timeline was given from PDOT.. .although she said it would be \”soon\”.

    \”How is placing an immovable object in the right of way any more dangerous than having a parked car in the right of way?\”

    a parked car isn\’t the city\’s responsibility. this is an issue of liability.

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    Metal Cowboy August 7, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Is there anything, as citizens, we can do to help show support or get PDOT to give more of a deadline than \”soon\” I\’m not initmating that they are dragging feet or not trying to do this in a timely fashion, but when a public agency gets feedback from the community, specifically asking for a deadline, things tend to move along.

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    9watts August 7, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    \”The current configuration also leaves a lot to be desired aesthetically, not just from PDOT’s point of view, but from business owners as well.\”

    I\’m not a big fan of the yellow floppy pokers either. I think they are spaced much too close together. The City of Berkeley, CA installed onstreet bike parking around 2002 I\’d guess, and though perhaps not perfect are much more attractive and feature very hard and widely spaced columns instead of yellow plastic bollards. They also skipped the rubber-on-the-road bits altogether. I took some photos but can\’t find them just now. Looking at how others have solved this issue is always a good idea.

    Reuben Deumling

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    OnTheRoad August 7, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    \”Immovable object in the right of way\” was the criticism opponents had of traffic calming islands when they were first introduced (like the ones on SE Gladstone and Ladd Ave.) Apparently someone thought up some justification for the city to have those built.

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    Chris B August 7, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Metal Cowboy,

    This may be more than what you\’re looking for, but there is a petition website called Care2 that makes it pretty easy to start a petition and make it entirely user friendly for adding signatures. You can word it any number of ways, from \”pledge to call your local representative\” to \”sign here and we\’ll deliver it.\”

    The site is http://www.care2.com. It\’s free too!

    Once you have the petition ready to roll, you could begin sending it to friends and family and let your social network kick in, or post the link to your social networks (facebook, myspace, etc), and finally, post it to the forums here at Bikeportland as well as this very page. I bet within a few days you would have more than enough signatures to encourage PDOT to act. Maybe Jonathon would even post an update to include the link in the main article above, or give you your very own write-up 🙂

    You may even want to do some preliminary footwork and call PDOT and ask if there is an estimated number of signatures on a petition that would cause them to take action. I\’m not sure if that\’s something that would be wortwhile or not, so maybe setting it up and making a go of it is best.

    Good luck!

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    Zaphod August 7, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Metal Cowboy has an excellent question. I\’d love to show support. We\’re probably at the point culturally to be able to demand certain infrastructure such as these relatively inexpensive devices.

    While I don\’t think that businesses yet suffer because we cyclists cannot find a parking spot, that may change. If I were equidistant between Mississippi Pizza with known bike facilities and another pizza place that I liked just as much but with problematic parking, I\’m heading to Mississippi no doubt. Same for coffee shops and any other place where I spend money/support the economy.

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    Bill Stites August 7, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Sometimes the design is so simple and straightforward, that it can be difficult to improve upon. I\’m not saying there\’s no room for improvement, but the moniker KISS should apply, especially since keeping costs down is so important for proliferation.

    While we wanted art in the Belmont corrals from the get-go, we decided to do it in two phases – go with a basic installation first, then exchange some of the racks for Art Racks.

    We offered some minor changes to PDOT\’s prescribed design, and those were accepted. The main one was going up to 34\” on center for the staple spacing. This has proven very successful in achieving real capacity of 2 bikes per rack.

    The bollards seem to be a sticking point for many folks – and if they could be \’beautified\’ we\’d be on our way. The fact is that safety concerns trump aesthetics, although a good design marries both. Jonathan, you mentioned 6\” spacing, I think that\’s an error. We have 24\” spacing on Belmont, and it appears to achieve it\’s function – discouraging people from entering/exiting streetside on a crazy-busy street like Belmont [something like 10,000 vehicles per day??].

    One of our unexpected issues was standing water along teh curb in the 33rd ave. corral. I cleaned it out this Spring and it was naaaaasty.

    Anyway, I\’ve been happy that the City is actively seeking input and help on this program – we\’ll see lots more bike corrals soon enough.

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    Rithy August 7, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Why can\’t they be modeled after bioswales? Of course the strip would be smaller maybe just a boarder of swale and concrete.

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    Tony P August 7, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Good to hear that the corral program is expanding. I love them. I just got back from Laughing Planet on Belmont and to corral there was full! I frequent that area and have always had a bit of trouble maneuvering past the telephone pole and the numerous pedestrians in order to park my bike from the sidewalk side. The placement of curbing and bollards seems to be well-intentioned, but I have wondered if they are completely necessary. It would be far easier to park from the street side. If visibility is the problem it seems that just painting the staples bright yellow would help. Surely there are traffic engineering issues at work, but dropping the border still seems the best solution to me.

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    Elisabeth August 7, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I concur with Jessica though… there is a LOT of demand for bike parking! It\’s becoming hard to find a place to park anywhere by bike lately! Albeit a \”problem\” most cities would kill to have.

    I feel bad having to lock up to streetlights, benches, trees, people\’s fences… but if there\’s no alternative…

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    Sodapop Johnson August 7, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Looks like one of those potential bike corrals will be in front of the Blue Moose Cafe on NE Fremont.

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    Graham August 7, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    The current configuration also leaves a lot to be desired aesthetically, not just from PDOT’s point of view, but from business owners as well.

    I don\’t get this. I think they\’re beautiful. Not for superficial aesthetic prettiness reasons, but for what they signify.

    The sight of those corrals on Belmont – stuffed full of bikes, always – makes me happy every time I see them. They embody the surge of bikes as transport in this town. It\’s all the better that they\’re loud and attention-grabbing.

    On an aesthetic level, it\’s not like they\’re any uglier than traffic lights, sign posts, pavement, concrete or any other homely thing that make up our transportation infrastructure. It\’s that we\’ve become inured to those other things, just like we\’ve become inured to the things that are functionally wrong with that infrastructure.

    Trust me on this, I went to art school. I\’ve got a PhD in beautifulness.

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    Zaphod August 7, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Graham has an important point to note on aesthetics. We\’ve come to accept lots of really ugly things but since we are used to them, we no longer even see them. How many photos have you taken that, upon closer inspection, look bad because you failed to notice the overhead wires, phone pole plastered with event posters, traffic signals, etc.

    I wouldn\’t suggest that we abandon the pursuit of beauty but lets hold these facilities to the *same* standards as other infrastructure, not higher ones.

    I, personally, like how they look. Sure if we were infinitely funded, I\’ll take furniture grade hand crafted mission-style oak racks under a rain/sun canopy designed in the style of Timberline lodge. Oh, and 24 hour free valet service while we\’re at it.

    In the meantime, the simple functional devices I see on Mississippi and Belmont are a beautiful sign of the times.

    I am curious about the part of the design that precludes entering/exiting from the street side. \”when entering from the roadway is not allowed due to safety concerns\” – is that a PDOT mandate? If so, I respectfully disagree with the premise. Cyclists need to be able to enter/exit a parking spot from the street in the same manner that a car does. This drives at the issue of bicycle legitimacy. It\’s common practice for an auto to block traffic while parallel parking on a busy street. Societally, we accept that a driver has a right to take a minute to pull into or back into a parking space. It seems reasonable for cyclists to be able to do the same.

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    Ethan August 7, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    I have been pondering these corrals ever since our family bought a Bakfiets. These heavier bikes, bikes with trailers, and tandems all run afoul of the raised border/bumper. I cannot honestly understand why a couple of feet could not be added in length and a simple concrete bollard or planter be used to book-end the area, with a strip instead of the raised border. You could even cast some bikey thing in the end-pieces (a-la Davis, CA)

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    Charles Lewis August 7, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Jonathan,

    Thank you for your article. We are very excited to be on the verge of having a bike corral in front of Ethos Music Center\’s headquarters. Many of our students, staff members, and parents commute by bike, so this will be a wonderful addition to our community.

    In terms of the design — we\’re not picky at all. We\’ve been trying to get something installed for the past two years, so anything at all will be a great improvement for our neighborhood. I\’m really hopeful that these projects can be pushed through much, much faster in other locations so as to really encourage bicycle use throughout Portland. Projects like these bike corrals can help Portland continue to be one of the most bike friendly communities in the country.

    Take care,

    Charles Lewis
    Founder & Executive Director
    Ethos Music Center
    (and Portland City Council Candidate)

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    Suburban August 7, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    I\’m all for more bike parking…but…can someone explain why the prevalence of the use of Staples. This shape requires a bicycle frame to be either padded or scratched up to use properly. It is an old and clunky design. Imagine a parking structure that necessitated automobiles to have their paint in contact with a steel pole to park. Does this bother any one else, or am I just a paint ninny?

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    Steven M. August 7, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    It use to bother me, but now I just wrapp parts of my frame with electrical tape. Not the classiest solution, but still a solution. Function over fashion for the time being 🙂

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    Sarah Figliozzi August 7, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Thanks Jonathan for the article and highlighting some of the issues we are grappling with as we work to improve the design as well as expand our ability to install more of the corrals across the city. I have heard overwhelming support for and desire for more corrals from all stakeholders: pedestrians, cyclists, retail shops, as well building developers. We are working very hard to quickly increase the quantity as well as improve the quality of these installations.

    While I understand the attractiveness of a petition in demonstrating community support, I promise you it’s not necessary. We know that corrals could benefit many, many locations of the city:
    • They provide ample, effective, easily recognized bike parking.
    • They validate the message that cycling is a legitimate and valuable means of transportation.
    • Corrals improve the quality of the sidewalk.
    • They support small retail shops.
    • Corrals improve visibility at intersections by eliminating the opportunity for larger vehicles to park at street corners.
    • And we know that shop owners appreciate them – the higher ratio of bikes to vehicle capacity that corrals afford equates to a higher potential customer turnover. Shop owners also tell us that decluttering the sidewalk improves the aesthetics of their retail façades and allows for more room for things like outdoor seating.
    We hope to have many more projects hitting the ground as soon as we possibly can!

    Sarah Figliozzi
    Bicycle Program Specialist
    sarah.figliozzi@pdxtrans.org

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    inwe August 7, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    I\’m surprised no one has mentioned it yet, but what about the bike parking on Hawthorne? These take the space that might otherwise be a parking spot or bike corral, but they\’re at sidewalk grade. They look fine, there\’s no need for the yellow plastic bollards (that make the corrals look temporary), and they\’re friendly to use. Plus, they\’re covered! Why can\’t this design be used elsewhere?

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    Jeff August 7, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Yes, those giant parking lots and parking spaces up and down every road are beautiful! But these things… ew. That\’s the lamest excuse ever… it would take a hundred of these things to equal the hideousness of one concrete parking garage.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 7, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    \”I\’m surprised no one has mentioned it yet, but what about the bike parking on Hawthorne?… Why can\’t this design be used elsewhere?\”

    cost.

    those bike oases are very very expensive compared to the bike corrals. corrals are a few thousand bucks and those oases like on Hawthorne and on Sandy in Hollywood are I think $40,000 a piece or so.

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    Graham August 7, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    corrals are a few thousand bucks and those oases like on Hawthorne and on Sandy in Hollywood are I think $40,000 a piece or so.

    Dang, that\’s a lot of money.

    I was at the Cinemagic the other night and noticed the oasis across the street was totally empty (probably owing to the fact that it was across a hyperactive part of Hawthorne from the theater and restaurants) while lots of bikes were locked to poles on the theater side of the street. It seemed to me like a bad choice of oasis placement (next to the 7-11, and that\’s about it), and maybe a bit of a waste. Reading that $40k figure, though… Ouch. That hurts.

    Maybe it gets more use in the rainy season? I really hope so, because I think those oases are aesthetically pleasing and a great idea to boot.

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    Toby August 7, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Yes #21, you are a paint ninny;-) What is your suggested alternative? Staples are very functional and the most secure fixture to lock to that I know of. Personally, I think chipped paint is sexy, on a bike.

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    matt picio August 7, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    One of the businesses still waiting is Good Neighbor Pizza on NE Dekum. They currently have NO bike parking of any kind, and the owner has been very patient waiting for the city to get up there and install it, while fielding innumerable questions from his customers asking when the parking is coming.

    It would be awesome if the city would (or could) expedite the process for some of these businesses that have been waiting 6 months or more for bike racks.

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    jimbo August 8, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Whats wrong with just a plain old fashioned bike rack? Are they just not cool anymore? You can still put some posts up around it to make it more safe. The current bike coral just dosn\’t look very eficiant.

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    Toby August 8, 2008 at 7:19 am

    By plain old fashioned bike rack do you mean the grade school kind where you can only lock the front wheel with a single u-lock encouraging the use of cable locks? Jonathan has a nice picture hanging on the wall of his blog somewhere showing why they suck. The wheel was still u-locked to the rack while the cable to the bike was cut and bike stolen. hey, at least they didn\’t have to buy another front wheel.

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    Ethan August 8, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Ditto the comment Matt made about Good Neighbor Pizza, that small business district is just now coming alive again after decades of being boarded up, and it sure would be nice to see the City assist in efforts to revitalize this neighborhood by improving it\’s bike infrastructure.

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    BURR August 8, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    I was at the Cinemagic the other night and noticed the oasis across the street was totally empty (probably owing to the fact that it was across a hyperactive part of Hawthorne from the theater and restaurants) while lots of bikes were locked to poles on the theater side of the street. It seemed to me like a bad choice of oasis placement (next to the 7-11, and that\’s about it)

    I\’d be surprised if that oasis has been used even once since it was installed. PDOT was told that this Oasis should be located on the north side of the street by the theater and the bike shop (doh!), but their BS response was that the north side location did not meet the Hawthorne project\’s \’design guidelines\’.

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    Metal Cowboy August 8, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Susan – thanks for elaborating a bit on the benefits of these corrals and desire to get these out there as soon as possible. Thanks for your hard work. No petitions at present but any updates on the progress would be great.
    Cheers,
    Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie
    Politely holding feet to fires for better Portland bike infrastructure since 1999

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    amanda August 8, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    yay, more bike parking!

    I think the linked sunflower idea is very cute. How about a really tall thing so that you can see where the corral is from down the street. Plus, if there was a very tall, maybe a sunflower, waving up in the air, drivers would note it early and not go crashing in to things. Bless their hearts, those drivers are precious.

    By the by, there is going to be more development going on on Hawthorne at that area so maybe the oasis will get more and better use. I\’ve never noticed it before!

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    jimbo August 9, 2008 at 1:05 am

    Thanks Toby-
    I didn\’t realize that cable locks were not so secure

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