Esplanade closure begins February 1st

PDOT makes the case for new on-street bike parking

Posted by on September 19th, 2008 at 4:49 pm

“On-street bicycle parking can provide many advantages… These advantages, which accrue to businesses and citizens, also support several city policies and objectives.”
— from a PDOT press release

Since some folks seem determined to find something negative about the new on-street bike parking facilities, I thought I would share the PDOT perspective.

Yesterday afternoon they issued a press release that stated their case for the new bike corrals.

With the title of the release, Downtown Business Owners Support Swapping Auto Parking for Bicycle Parking, it’s clear that PDOT is trying to flip an old controversy on its head.

Alberta needs on-street bike parking

This photo (on NE Alberta St.) shows why
PDOT wants to install more on-street
bike corrals.
(Photo © J. Maus)

In days of yore, business owners shrieked at the thought of losing even one space of car parking. But now, especially since the advent and success of existing on-street bike parking in Northeast and Southeast Portland, they’re practically busting down PDOT’s door to get more bike parking.

The City is now proud of the fact that all the businesses adjacent to the four new bike corrals, “advocated for this increased bicycle parking and were integral in the decision to swap the auto parking spaces for bicycle parking.”

“We believe it helps us support the Portland lifestyle.”
— GM of a restaurant adjacent to new bike corral

In the PDOT press release the general manager of Southpark Seafood Grill & Wine Bar (a high-end restaurant that serves upscale clientele) said,

“We feel that the installation of a bike corral in front of our restaurant will be an asset to our guests and our employees. We believe it helps us support the Portland lifestyle.”

According to PDOT’s bike parking manager, the city has pending requests for 30 more bike corrals across the city. PDOT writes,

“Many businesses are recognizing that an increasing number of their clientele are arriving by bike and the infrastructure to serve them is lacking. Not only businesses, but property owners and developers as well, are requesting these facilities.”

And to drive home the point that this new bicycle parking, “supports several city policies and objectives” PDOT lists its advantages (emphasis mine):

  • Providing adequate, effective, easily recognized bike parking.
  • Validating the message that cycling is a legitimate and valuable means of transportation in a manner that encourages bicycling as a convenient and popular mode, especially for short trips.
  • Improving the pedestrian environment by reducing sidewalk clutter.
  • Providing an economic stimulus for small retail shops that are partly dependent on a cycling customer base.
  • Improving visibility at intersections by eliminating the opportunity for larger vehicles to park at street corners.
  • Supporting increased commercial activity. Testimonials from local retail shops with existing on-street bike parking corrals affirm that they are appreciated by the business community. The higher ratio of bikes to vehicle capacity that corrals afford equates to a higher potential customer turnover. They also tell us that de-cluttering the sidewalk improves the aesthetics of their retail façades and allows for activities such as café seating.

This is big stuff everyone! This is not typical bureaucratic boilerplate. Reread that list above and realize how important and exciting it is that PDOT is making those statements. This new bike parking signals a great step forward for our city and it’s nice to see PDOT so clearly state their reasons for making it happen.

Now, let’s move forward. What’s next (besides more bike corrals!)?

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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

  • Adam September 19, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    That\’s great to see PDOT saying that.

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  • Heather September 19, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    This is AWESOME!..more…more…more

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  • a.O September 19, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Awesome. I love South Park and I\’ll be taking my clients and business associates there more now.

    And they forgot one of the greatest benefits to motorists: Adding bike parking makes people more likely to bike and less likely to drive and therefore makes it easier for drivers to find parking spots!

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  • Todd Boulanger September 19, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    I will love to use all four of these new bike parking spaces.

    When I go to Southpark, Powells, Ace, and Stumptown – I usually am on a bike.

    Bike racks at Powells and Stumptown are almost always greater than 85% full with bikes – the typical parking measure for deciding to increase supply.

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  • TS September 19, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks Jonathan. The emotional reaction to this story is much better than the reaction to the KATU story, even though they\’re both covering the same thing. This makes me excited about Portland\’s progress and future, which is a striking counterbalance to the approach KATU took. (And this is probably a better response to the KATU story than your \”KATU\’s trolling\” post.)

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  • Mike September 19, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    I\’ll be sure to put forth an effort to financially support these businesses who chose to ask for the corrals.

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  • Elly Blue September 19, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    What\’s next — good question. I wonder if it will be more plaza-style retail streets, where people can walk, but not drive (and maybe even not bike, if they get busy enough).

    The only permanently carfree street in Portland that I know of with retail facing it is NW Kearney just north of Jameson Square Park. It has a restaurant and coffeshop facing it, both of which seem to be doing pretty well.

    It would be interesting to hear about the experiences of businesses on Alberta during carfree Last Thursdays, or any of the businesses near the Sunday Parkways area. I bet they do really well.

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  • Stripes September 19, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    This is awesome!

    It\’s also worth mentioning the whole \”spending power\” thing. Cyclists who are car-free generally save between three thousand and seven thousand dollars a year, not needing to pay for insurance, gas, etc etc.

    That\’s a LOT of disposable income that if I owned a business, I would be trying very, very, very darn hard to court. I know I couldn\’t afford to get my daily fix of Stumptown coffee if I had to pay for things like auto-insurance.

    So really, it\’s in these businesses interests to provide bike parking! You provide bike parking, we spend money.

    Now if only the City can jump in and provide \”on-street newspaper box corrals\” !!

    Those newspaper boxes with the endless free publications are everywhere cluttering up the sidewalk.

    Why do they have to be on the sidewalk, where you can barely squeeze past with a stroller or wheelchair? Let\’s dump them all in one car parking space, and be done with it!

    (Hey, I can dream).

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  • ME 2 September 19, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Yes, this is great news and Jonathan that pic on NE Alberta really drives home the issue. I live close enough to there that whenever my wife and I go out to eat with our 2 kids we always bike.

    The least pleasant part of our trip is the parking, which is ironic to me because one of the big reasons I bike places is that I hate searching for a place to park my car.

    Anyhow I can attest to what a pain it can be. We went to Bella Focacia not too long ago and between all the sidewalk tables and bikes locked up to that bus stop rack, it was pretty crazy trying to keep my kids clear of the foot and auto traffic, while getting the bikes out.

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  • toddistic September 19, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    I was talking with the owner of Swoon on Alberta while my wife was trying some stuff on and she said she loves the atmosphere of the car-free Last Thursdays / Saturday Art Fair and said her business does alot better with foot traffic than people who soley drive. She previously had her shop somewhere else that was only really accessible by car and she said it was no where nearly as profitable compared to foot traffic.


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  • BURR September 19, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Now, let’s move forward. What’s next (besides more bike corrals!)?


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  • Icarus Falling September 20, 2008 at 12:42 am

    Sharrow Schmarrow.

    There must be a better idea than Sharrows.

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  • BURR September 20, 2008 at 12:47 am

    OK, how about licenses for bike messengers?


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  • brettoo September 20, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Next: separated cycle tracks along some major commuting routes. And an Idaho style law that lets bicyclists treat stop signs as yield signs.

    I go to all those places with the new corrals, and I promise to go to them more often now. Maybe when we have bike oriented meetings and gatherings, we could choose one of these if appropriate.

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  • joel September 20, 2008 at 6:16 am

    awesome. way to spin this, pdot.

    never mind that complaining about downtown parking here in portland just sounds silly to anyone whos ever lived in a city with a real parking problem. i have to take one for the team on a regular basis, and hop off the bike and into the car to run tags, and never once have i had anything approaching real difficulty finding on-street parking anywhere in downtown portland, within a block of my destination, at any time of day.

    its very heartening to see that at least some downtown merchants are getting it – that less car-biased facilities in a downtown shopping area, contrary to their typical beliefs, mean an increase in foot traffic and business. less traffic in the streets = more traffic in their businesses.

    now if only that concept could have been taken into account when running max tracks along 5th and 6th, we couldve had those streets closed to everything but bus, max, ped and bike, non-weavy max tracks, and a lack of the bus-max leapfrogging thats going to go on there… ah, hindsight…

    i foresee that given another summer, at least the rack outside stumptown/bijou will need to be doubled in size. its been in there only a couple of days, and already ive seen it almost full on several occasions.

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  • Paul Tay September 20, 2008 at 7:34 am

    But, hey, how \’bout a few spots for the bike/trailer combo without unhitching?

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  • bArbaroo September 20, 2008 at 9:42 am

    I arrived at South Park on THursady to meet a friend and was delighted to park in the new corral. It sure is nice to have a soace that doesn;t clog the sidewalk and provides more room for pedestrians and outdoor dining. Kudos to South Park for advocating for advocating for the bike corral in front of their business.

    Paul – I agree, there\’s a growning need to address parking with trailers/utility bikes. I never quite know how to arrange my trailer when I park my bike -in some locations either you block the bike parking or blokc the sidewalk and neither is a good choice.

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  • John Reinhold September 20, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    The only permanently carfree street in Portland that I know of with retail facing it is NW Kearney just north of Jameson Square Park.

    A few of the sidewalks in the area around Petteygrove Park and Lovejoy Fountain, like SW 2nd, are still officially \”streets\”. (South end of downtown, between PSU and Front Ave. (oh, sorry Naito Parkway)) Although they really don\’t look like it…

    One thing that never gets mentioned when people complain about the lack of parking downtown, is that there are many parking garages downtown which NEVER FILL UP. And the \”smart park\” ones are cheaper than the on-street parking (except for Sundays and holidays, when I think the parking garages should be free just like the street parking).

    Studies have shown that as much as 30% of the traffic in downtown areas is people circling around looking for parking, while parking garages go under-utilized. This is why PDOT and the city are working on their real-time information boards to help direct people to the closest open parking garages. The faster people park, and start walking around the less traffic is on the street and the more money is in the shops…

    I for one think that it just makes good economic sense if you can fit 25 bikes in a spot made for 2 cars. 25 bikes = at least 25 people. 2 cars = at best, 10 people? Lets assume three people per car, which would be 6 people. The bike racks only need to be 25% full to match that capacity. Each car would have to carry 12 or 13 people to beat the capacity of the bike racks.

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  • Mark Allyn September 20, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    I wonder if any of the businesses that want bike parking are any of those who advertise on ktvu?

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  • bike messenger September 20, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    how about licencing commuters who can\’t ride their bikes in traffic.

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  • Jeff September 21, 2008 at 8:25 am

    I agree that there\’s no real shortage of parking in downtown for cars if a person is willing to actually look for it and walk a couple blocks. And we have short block faces in downtown compared to many cities so the walking should be easy.

    If you\’re looking for the biggest reason that on-street parking is \”missing\” in downtown, look no further than the massive, unabated construction taking place downtown. That and the city\’s \”carte blanche-ist\” attitude towards doling out parking permits to construction companies. Multiple block faces can be snatched up at a whim with no consideration for adjacent users and frequently those spaces are marked as exclusive 24/7, meaning even when no one is working a project at night or on the weekends, you still can\’t park there. I don\’t really care myself but if the upset car drivers are looking for a direction to point fingers, look no further than city hall….

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  • BURR September 21, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Jeff – all those spots \’removed\’ for construction have been replaced by other spots along the south park blocks, along 5th and 6th avenues themselves, and by angle parking on SW 10th by Safeway and SW 1st south of the Marriot among other places.

    There actually used to be a \’cap\’ on the number of downtown parking spaces, back when Portland was out of compliance with federal air quality regs.

    Since the cap was removed 5 or 10 years ago, a huge amount of new downtown parking has been added, mostly as \’structured\’ parking associated with all the new residential and commercial buildings built in recent years, which have multiple levels of underground parking.

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  • BURR September 21, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    I would add that the Building Owners and Managers Assoc. (BOMA) and the Portland Business Alliance screamed bloody murder when asked to add proportional amounts of bike parking curbside or in the structured parking lots of their new buildings, making all sorts of spurious claims such as they couldn\’t get loans for construction if they had to provide bike parking.

    Most new buildings abrogate their responsibilities to provide bike parking, opting instead to pay into a city fund and letting the city provide alternative bike parking in the right of way. Although I haven\’t seen where the city has established the link, I would guess that the new downtown on-street bike parking corrals are paid for from this fund, and are meant to provide bike parking for nearby new or remodeled buildings that haven\’t provided the required bike parking on-site.

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  • Jeff September 21, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    BURR, are you trying to tell me that those spaces were created to offset construction related usages specifically? I call total BS on that and will wait for your proof.

    They were created to offset population increases. 6th avenue is still a mess and the city is putting zero pressure on contractors to finish. How many times can the same workers and companies redo the granite blocks or rework the bricks in the same spots over and over??? Ridiculous waste if you ask me.

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  • BURR September 21, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Jeff – yes, I stand behind my statement that the additional parking spaces were created to offset construction related losses. Proof? I don\’t have it, just a hunch, why don\’t you call Tom Miller in Sam Adams office and ask him?

    btw, there was no parking on SW 5th and 6th at all, under the former bus mall configuration.

    And my guess is that the construction on SW 5th and 6th is ahead of schedule, not behind, you could ask Tom Miller that too, while you have him on the phone.

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  • BURR September 21, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Getting back to Sharrows, I really don\’t see what the objection is, as this can only be a positive thing for cyclists.

    Take East 28th as an example – used by many cyclists but too narrow for bike lanes or for a bike and car to operate safely side by side. I can\’t say how many times I\’ve been harassed by motorists for taking the lane of E 28th, but it\’s been significantly more than once.

    Sharrows send a clear message to motorists that bikes belong on the road and are allowed to take the full lane, plus they guide cyclists to ride outside of the \’door zone\’ if painted in the proper position on the road. That\’s a win-win situation as far as I can tell.

    If you think there\’s a valid reason you think sharrows won\’t work as intended, I\’d like to hear it, instead of the juvenile \’sharrow schmarrow\’ statement presented above by dabby.

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  • Brian September 21, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    \”Next: separated cycle tracks along some major commuting routes. And an Idaho style law that lets bicyclists treat stop signs as yield signs.\”

    Motor vehicle licensing fees, taxes on fuel, income & property pay for roads and maintenence. Special roads for only bicyles cost money. This kind or request could lead to fees and taxes for cyclists. Do you really want that?

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  • wsbob September 21, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Could bike symbols indicating a \’sharrow\’ on main traffic lanes have the unintended effect of confusing some road users into thinking that bikes aren\’t permitted on main traffic lanes lacking those symbols?

    As I understand it, all lanes of traffic downtown, except those designated for buses exclusively, are shared lanes. Maybe the symbols help impress this upon other road users, i.e., motor vehicles, if that\’s really necessary.

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  • BURR September 21, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    I wouldn\’t propose that sharrows be used on any of the major downtown streets where the signals are timed to cycling speed, they are unnecessary there, but I think they are appropriate on East 28th, SE 11th and 12, SE Hawthorne east of SE 11th, and to close gaps in the bikeway network like on SE Clinton between SE Taggart and SE Division.

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  • Icarus Falling September 21, 2008 at 11:19 pm


    Sharrows Schmarrows is totally third grade, and fully epitomizes my feelings on them. That is why I referenced them in such a juvenile manner.

    The majority of drivers will have no idea what a Sharrow means, let alone even really notice it on the street.

    We know, because as aware cyclists we hear about them too much. It is obvious to us what they mean.

    If what is spoken, and sometimes yelled out of car windows, is any indication, a percentage of drivers still believe bikes are not allowed on the street, and belong on the sidewalk. And these same drivers are supposed to figure out what a sharrow means?

    Drivers are certainly and obviously not as well informed. Plus, due to the licensing/renewal system for drivers, education on new street signs and markings is woefully ineffective.

    We cannot expect them to understand what new markings mean, when the State does not even go to the lengths to educate drivers properly.

    If there is one thing I know, as well or better than most any cyclist/driver, it is how things work on the street, and Sharrows are a joke, and truly ineffective. IMO. Especially the small ones.

    I also call BS on your claim that new parking in the bus mall is either an attempt to, or is actually offsetting the parking lost to construction permits.
    This could not be farther from the truth.

    You must not have a grasp at all on the amount of parking closed daily due to construction permits.

    It is of course quite possible that you were told this in a conversation with someone from City Hall, or informed this in a letter. It is the practice, it appears, to tell people what they want to hear, whether it is the case or not.

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  • Icarus Falling September 21, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    I will say that it is obvious that the parking spots in the bus mall are replacing some missing spots due to construction, but certainly not compensating as you say for all, or even close to all, of them.

    I will also venture to say that when the new bus mall opens, and the mistakes made in designing or in even making it in the first place become apparent, many of those parking spots will disappear.

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  • BURR September 22, 2008 at 12:29 am

    1. true sharrows markings are big, something like 3\’ X 9\’ in size, not like those stupid little circles on the bike boulevards. Maybe we\’re not talking about the same thing, check the link below for the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices recommendation and design drawing:

    2. I agree that the new bus mall w/ light rail is going to be an epic nightmare when it starts operating, for this you can thank the Portland Business Alliance. IMO, the trains should have been routed underground, or elevated, like in almost all other major metropolitan cities with rail systems.

    3. really, who is counting parking spaces and why do you care? there was no parking on the bus mall previously, but there has been during almost all construction, except for the segments that they are actively working on. they also doubled the amount of on-street parking in the north park blocks and added all that angle parking coinciding with the light rail construction. sure, most of this parking isn\’t quite as convenient as what it\’s replacing, but it\’s still there and I\’m willing to bet the number of spaces added are pretty close to the number of spaces closed for construction.

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  • Icarus Falling September 22, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    I truly believe that the big Sharrow markings are also ineffective.

    And I only referred to the amount of parking spaces based on your claim that the loss of spaces due to construction permits was counterbalanced by them.

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  • BURR September 22, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    I truly believe that the big Sharrow markings are also ineffective.

    why, because motorists won’t ‘understand’ them?

    gimme a break…


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  • Icarus Falling September 22, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    I f motorists cannot understand them, than the whole meaning
    is lost….

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  • brettoo September 23, 2008 at 12:04 am

    Brian @27:
    Motor vehicle licensing fees, taxes on fuel, income & property pay for roads and maintenence. Special roads for only bicyles cost money. This kind or request could lead to fees and taxes for cyclists. Do you really want that?

    Nope. But don’t you think the case has been made here and elsewhere more than sufficiently that bike infrastructure benefits everyone — including drivers? The more cars we take off the road by providing safe alternatives (and history shows that there’s nothing that will encourage biking more than separated cycle tracks), the less gridlock and the more parking available for those who still drive. Plus road maintenance costs are reduced (fewer cars = less wear and tear), carbon footprint is lowered, health care costs are reduced (less obesity, more exercise), etc. etc.

    I honestly don’t know whether the other countries that have experienced massive increases in biking after installing safe separated bike tracks charge bikers special fees (anyone want to weigh in?). But the case has long been established by John Pucher and others that boosting biking benefits everyone. In fact, we bike riders should be getting tax breaks to reward and incentivize our contributions to global health and reduced road maintenance.

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  • BURR September 23, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    If motorists cannot understand them, than the whole meaning is lost….

    IMO, like bike lanes or the green bike boxes, or anything else new, the understanding will come with time and experience.

    How else would you propose to improve a street like E 28th so that motorists recieve a clear message that bikes belong and are allowed to take the lane?

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  • Loaf September 23, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    +1 to Sharrows on East 28th (Stark to Sandy) and any other proposals for making it less stressful to share this crucial N-S connection.

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