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Widmer Bros. Brewery goes big for bike parking

Posted by on December 15th, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Bike parking at Widmer Brewing-2

Rob Widmer in his company’s new
bike parking facility.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Widmer Brothers Brewing is well-known for their Hefeweizen beer and for being one of the nation’s pioneering craft brewers. But perhaps less well known is their commitment to the growing number of their 150 Portland employees who ride their bikes to work.

At their North Portland headquarters (on Russell Street off of N. Interstate Ave), Widmer just finished up a major expansion project. Along with more beer storage space, offices, and keg-filling capacity, they also added an entire building devoted to bike parking.

Bike parking at Widmer Brewing-3

The facility includes lockers.

When I asked about the building in the main office, the man behind the desk said, “Talk to Rob (as in, co-founder Rob Widmer), he’s the bike guy.” So I met Rob at the facility today for a chat and a tour.

Rob told me he rides his bike to work about “100 times a year” from Johns Landing (five miles away). You might remember when he and his brother Kurt dueled for modal supremacy during Bike Month back in April.

As Rob keyed his way into the spacious, secured facility he said they added it because they had, “outgrown” their other racks. “We’ve got a great bike culture here.”

During their last commuting survey, Widmer counted 26 employees who biked three or more days to work.

The new facility — which cost Widmer about $25,000 and can hold 50-60 bikes– was created in an existing building directly across from their newly built offices. Rob said the building used to be used for storage. “This room just had a bunch of junk in it, so we got rid of the junk and made this space just for bikes.”

In addition to racks, the room has plenty of lockers. Widmer also provides showers in a separate building.

Bike parking at Widmer Brewing-8

Outside the building.

Rob said the company is a regular participant in the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge and he’s looking forward to taking advantage of the new bike commuter tax benefit that was recently passed by Congress. “That’s huge,” he said (he knew about it without me even bringing it up). Rob plans to sit down with his CFO and make sure the company takes full advantage.

Widmer employees aren’t the only ones who will benefit from better bike facilities. In the next few months, Rob says the City of Portland plans to install a new, on-street bike corral in front of their Gasthaus brewpub near the corner of N Russell and Interstate.

Rob said the managers at their restaurant, “were pumped up” about the idea of on-street bike parking. He also added that he’ll plan to do a food/beer special for anyone who shows up by bike once the corral is installed.

That would be a great idea, I told him, because the Widmer Gausthas is right at the base of the dreaded Interstate Ave. hill that many bike commuters tackle with reluctance every day. What better place to stop in for a bite to eat?

— Check out more photos of the new employee bike parking facility at Widmer Brewery in the BikePortland Photo Gallery.

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  • Natty December 15, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    A wonderful, and proper, thing to do for your employees. Having to go to a separate building for showers is only a small inconvenience.

    I would flag the decision to use serpentine racks is about the only real flaw in the plan … nasty bit of work those things.

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  • Jeremy R. December 15, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I appreciate companies who take measures to accommodate alt. transportation participants. My current employer has tolerated me storing my bike near my desk and using a previously unused shower in the building.

    I would encourage companies like Widmer to post jobs on the job listing area of this site. I am currently looking for a solid local companies to make a career change/transition with, and knowing that Widmer takes these measures puts them on my list of prospective companies.

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  • joeb December 15, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    I’ve kind of thought Widmer was a little short on customer bike parking. A bike corral would be most excellent. I’ve just started going to Widmer in the past couple of months so I missed the summer season, but I sit there and watch a steady stream of bikes run up Interstate and don’t see many stopping in. I image a bike corral would be a magnet and a significant uptick in business.

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  • Opus the Poet December 15, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I was listening to our local NPR outlet (KERA) in Dallas and there was someone from Portland talking about bicycle infrastructure and bike lockers and showers in offices, while one of our locals was also talking about the Veloweb (a joke that has been played on local bicycle riders since the first Arab Oil Embargo and still isn’t close to being finished), and the difficulty in making a bike route system in a county where everything is so far apart and connected by arterials with 45 to 60 MPH speed limits.

    Anyway I didn’t catch the name of the person from PDX, but I did catch her mentioning BikePortland as a valuable resource.

    Sorry to drop this on this thread, but I didn’t see anything better, and this was a thread on infrastructure.

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  • joe adamski December 15, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    I wonder if Widmer Brewing knows of the planned npGreenway trail that actually would come out onto Interstate close to their HQ.. and how it would direct cyclists off Interstate/Greeley to a river level trail that would connect St Johns and North Portland to Swan Island and downtown Portland.

    And if maybe they might want to be supporters of that same trail? It would be some great community work that people would actually benefit from. I would want MY name on it..

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  • aljee December 15, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    that might have been Mia Birk from Alta Planning? i remember her mentioning something about working on the bike masterplan for the big D. i lived there for a few and tried to find something on the plan, but couldn’t after about 5 minutes so i gave up. i did run across some shabby jpg maps on the city’s site.

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  • Opus the Poet December 15, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    Yes that’s her. I found the podcast on the KERA website.

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  • Steven Vance December 15, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I hope they’re not fooling themselves with their stated bike rack capacity. With narrow width wave racks like those, it’s difficult to park as many bikes as designed for.

    Go for wide width waves!

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  • Moo December 16, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Being that the lack of such facilities at a company can be a deterrant to those employees who would love to ride everyday, this gesture will most likely increase the ridership among their employees.

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  • Lazlo December 16, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Widmer, we want wide width waves! Seriously, this is great to hear. I love Gasthaus and ride by on my commute home. Discount? Hmm, might be time to extend my commute time.

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  • Michael R December 16, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Part of the site selection for the Widmer brewery was having it close enough to Rob’s home for him to bike commute. Rob’s been bike commuting for years and years.

    As a company they’ve always supported bike commuting.

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  • matt picio December 17, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Awesome job – I love it when employers “get it”, especially when they realize that there is a need and that they have unused space that can fill that need. It’d be great if other employers follow Widmer’s example.

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  • BURR December 17, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Not only do the manufacturers of these wave racks overestimate their capacity by up to half, but it looks from the picture that this is yet another example of a wave rack in PDX improperly installed too close to a wall or other barrier.

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  • joel June 28, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Nice racks Rob! -joel domreis

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