Big sale at Community Cycling Center

Silver lining to Bike Republic snub; Bike rentals coming to Waterfront Park

Posted by on February 25th, 2009 at 8:17 am

Scenes like this might become
common in Waterfront Park
by this spring.
(Photo: Wheel Fun Rentals)

Back in August we reported that the former McCall’s restaurant site in Waterfront Park would become Portland’s first-ever, full-service bike commuter facility. The concept, proposed by Ken Nichols of Bike Republic, would have brought showers and lockers, a small retail bike shop, secure, long-term bike parking and a cafe to the site.

Unfortunately we were a bit premature on that story, and soon reported that the Parks Bureau cooled on Nichols’ idea and the whole thing fell through at the last minute.

Story continues below

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Concept drawing of new rose sign.
(Graphic: Randy Leonard’s office)

Then along came the Rose Festival Foundation and City Commissioner Randy Leonard. The Rose Festival needed a new home office and Leonard offered them the site with a $1 a year lease (that will include an iconic neon Rose sign on the roof). The Rose Fest folks (obviously) jumped at the offer and the deal was sealed in no time.

Nichols wasn’t exactly thrilled with that turn of events.

Nichols is understandably a bit perturbed that his plan for the space wasn’t as eagerly embraced by the city as Leonard’s Rose Fest idea — especially since Nichols’ plan would have actually paid the city at least $1,000 in monthly rent.

Ken Nichols of Bike Republic.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Last month, Nichols told the Willamette Week:

“My proposal was a better option for the people of Portland…I’d like to see the park used for something other than festivals.”

And just last week The Oregonian reported that Nichols,

“understands the benefits that the Rose Festival provides to the city but thinks that using the building for office space doesn’t best serve the public.”

At this point, the deal is done and Nichols has moved on to other projects. The good news is that the Parks Bureau has leased a kiosk at the McCall’s site that will be used as a bike rental service.

According to Parks’ Business Development Coordinator Todd Lofgren, they’ve signed an agreement with the non-profit Albertina Kerr Centers to launch Kerr Bikes, LLC that is set to open this spring.

On the Parks Bureau website yesterday, Lofgren wrote:

“Kerr Bikes will offer a fleet of unique bikes for unparalleled outdoor recreation, sightseeing, people watching and a touch of exercise that will enhance any leisure time experience in the park. There will be a variety of bikes to rent, such as tandem bikes, deuce coupes and surreys, offered in sizes for couples or for the entire family to share.”

In a statement about the deal, CEO and President of Albertina Kerr Centers, Chris Krenk said,

“Kerr Bikes will be a win-win for the community. Meaningful jobs will be created for people with developmental disabilities, and the Portland community will have access to an exciting new family-friendly bike-oriented experience.”

A bike rental kiosk in Waterfront Park will be a welcome attraction (although I’m sure hardcore racer/commuter types won’t love dodging between tourists on their way to/from work), but whenever I see that big neon rose on the roof of the building, I will always think that it was a missed opportunity to finally get our long-awaited “Go by Bike” sign.

Also, in an interesting twist of irony, it was the Rose Festival who, back in June of 2007, prohibited pedicab operators from riding in their Waterfront Village. I wonder if they’ll pursue a similar policy against these rental bikes, or if their $1 a year lease deal will change their attitude?

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19 Comments
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    Bjorn February 25, 2009 at 9:06 am

    I’ve been to places that had those types of rentals and it is a neat way for visitors to experience the waterfront, but in general those types of rentals seem to be situated on much wider boardwalk areas. The city will hopefully be looking at widening the paths on both sides of the river as they are too narrow for the current user base.

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    David February 25, 2009 at 9:11 am

    I agree. While I think that this type of rental is a great thing in general, my first reaction was imagining myself having to navigate around them. Especially in the spring and summer when there are already tons of people out.

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    wsbob February 25, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I agree with the questions raised about whether there’s going to be enough room for the surreys on waterfront next to the sea wall. It already gets so crowded that walking can be difficult. In off-season though, there’s usually lots of room, and the surrey canopys would keep people dry.

    I hate to spoil the Rose Festival Association’s party, but the proposed ‘iconic rose’ sign on top of that modern style building is about the stupidest looking thing I’ve ever seen. Given though, that the Rose Fest is responsible for the annual uglification of the waterfront brought about with its ‘pepsi, campbell’s, united airlines, highest bidder named carny village’, I suppose it’s no surprise it would approve of such a sign idea.

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    3-speeder February 25, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Regarding Jonathan’s comment “hardcore racer/commuter types won’t love dodging between tourists on their way to/from work”:

    Keep in mind that in order to get more bicycle facilities (for example, paths suitable for safe bicycling), current facilities need to become overused. This is the rationale when motor vehicle paths are built (for example, the CRC – not an endorsement, just an obervation of how decisions are made). Those of us who ride bikes can make the same argument.

    For this reason, we should all welcome more bicycle traffic out there. Yes, I understand that the waterfront/esplanade route is already overused at times – I avoid riding there on weekends in the summer for exactly this reason. But we need to leverage this into demands for more safe bike routes – whether that means bike boulevards, bike lanes, new multiuse paths, or whatever.

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    Kt February 25, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Wow.

    When I think of those type of rental bikes, I think of Seaside.

    99% of that town is slow-traffic streets (except of course for the Highway that runs through the middle), with the boardwalk along the oceanside and minimal opportunities for the tourists on those rentals to get into trouble with locals.

    Portland does not seem to be the proper place for that kind of thing. There’s too much motorized traffic, too much of commuters trying to get to work or home on time… the mindset in Portland is vastly different from the one in Seaside.

    Are they going to limit where you can ride those things? I mean, can you see a double-surrey cruising down Naito? Pedaling up to the Park Blocks? Yeah, that’s a great idea.

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    Marie February 25, 2009 at 9:57 am

    The idea of renting out surrey’s & deuce coupes to the general public seems interesting. Maybe i’m just a realist or overly frugal, but to ride alongside runners, bikers, dogs, cats, strollers, wheel-chairs, large slow-moving groups of tourists and such seems sorta silly given how wide the pathway along the waterfront currently is.

    I suppose you could take your surrey for a tour around downtown, but then you’re taking away from other *local* “family-friendly” pedi-cab businesses.

    Basic bike rentals would make more sense, even if they are only for “a touch of exercise”

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 25, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I just added another paragraph at the end of this story. I had forgotten the interesting irony that in 2007 the Rose Fest prohibited pedicab operators from working in Waterfront Village.

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    peejay February 25, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Seems to me that the Rose Festival bears a lot of similarities with major sports teams. Both have found a way to socialize costs and privatize profits, and both have found a way to promise huge economic benefits to the surrounding area, which usually fail to materialize, while providing entertainment to out-of-town visitors and residents of Gresham, while inconveniencing actual Portland residents.

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    q`Ztal February 25, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    I usually avoid the Waterfront Park Pedestrian Fubar. As an impatient & overweight cyclist I find that even in times of low pedestrian use walkers will stop and change directions suddenly.
    The times when it will be most profitable for the Rose Festival Foundation to allow bicycle rentals are the times when the park will be most full of pedestrians. If these unskilled bicycle rental users get up to any speed on a heavy bike injury accidents will occur.

    I think however that getting people out cycling who would not ordinarily is a great idea.
    I also believe that the only place their will be room to drive these will be in the streets. With a HPV this large some people might actually feel safe on the roads.
    Let em know that they can legally use the roads as vehicles and maybe the general public will become aware or the utility of bicycles, and other HPVs, in a dense urban area.

    If these surry riders are allowed to ride out of the park area, by the Rose Festival Foundation, then other vendors will pop up in the blocks surrounding the festival. With enough of these flooding downtown it will make Critical Mass look like a bunch of well behaved law abiding cyclists.

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    Ethan February 25, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Ah the back-room deals that benefit the few . . .

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    alex February 25, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    john yeon is already rolling in his grave over that horrible colour they painted his building. the neon rose might prompt him to return to the land of the living and right what is so wrong…

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    Andrew February 25, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Yuck.

    I’m sure Randy is patting himself on the back right now. He can add this to his list of idiotic achievements: Randy’s Hole (where the Oak Tower would have been, supplying our moribund downtown with a bunch of market-rate high-density residences), threatening to rip the tram out himself, insisting on a 12-lane mega-bridge over the Columbia, and now giving this cool building to the over-the-hill Rose Festival instead of Bike Republic. For $1.

    Yuck.

    Who’s getting recalled again?

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    Max February 26, 2009 at 12:18 am

    Offices? Really?

    Couldn’t we get something that is at least open to the public for _some_ purpose? Even an espresso cart would be a better use for this prime real estate. (groan)

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    Schrauf February 26, 2009 at 7:11 am

    The article does not say zero single-person bikes will be available. Most likely there will be some offered.

    Also, I hesitate to rant against surrey (or other slow ambulating vehicle) use on downtown streets because that is not so far off from motorists complaining about everyday cyclists being allowed “in such busy areas where people (drivers) are simply trying to get to where they are going as quickly as possible”. Heck, I see some commuters riding about the same speed as the average surrey.

    But yes, I understand surreys are a lot wider and take up much more space.

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    R. February 26, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Sounds like we’ll be turning Forest Park into a Mountain Bike Amusement Park.

    Again, what does bombing downhill or running jumps on a machine have to do with communing with nature or respecting the experience of folks who enjoy quiet recreation?

    Perhaps, if single track is built in Forest Park the track will have NO top access. That way when I see a rider blowing down the hill I will know that they earned the experience by riding to the top of the hill first.

    The last thing I look forward to in Forest Park is mountain bikers supported by drivers who continuously drive their asses to the top of the hill (53rd Ave Speedway?). No doubt such drives add to the wilderness-like, park-like, nature-like, quiet recreation-like experience that is mountain biking. Why be “like” when you can get off the machine and respect nature and the park quietly?

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    Marc in PDX February 26, 2009 at 11:16 am

    i would hope that the ‘hard cores’ and ‘commuters’ would stick to front/naito parkway and avoid the peds altogether. since the street construction finished last year the bike lane is nice and wide and the pavement is smooth.

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    eric February 26, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I suspect hardcore commuters and racers probably already ride in the street, because the esplanade and the west bank are already choked with idiot ipod-wearing joggers, slow bikers, and 4-abreast old lady walkers. I’ll ride in the street any day rather than risk broken bones because someone can’t hear and interpret a bell/shouting.

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    yoterryh February 26, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    My first thought is about the existing Waterfront Bicycles http://waterfrontbikes.net/. How is this city-subsidized competition going to affect their bike rental business?

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    007 February 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    i agree with peejay. the rose festival is just a tacky affair for suburbanites.

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