rack on NW 5th Ave. last Friday.
(Photo: Michael O’Leary)
Staffers at the Bicycle Transportation Alliance offices on NW 5th Avenue were surprised when they noticed work crews removing the bike racks outside their offices on Friday morning of last week.
When I rode by later that evening, all that was left of three staple racks were holes in the bricks (see photo below). With a lack of bike parking capacity already an issue on the new Portland Mall, why would existing racks be removed?
The answer has to do with design standards — the same standards that I reported on back in January.
According to Roger Geller in the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), the racks were removed because the blue staple racks don’t meet the strict design standards that were adopted years ago when the project was first started. Now, work crews need to replace the bricks the racks are bolted to, so the racks had to go.
(Photo © J. Maus)
Both Geller and Bob Hastings, the TriMet architect working on the Portland Mall project, told me that the standard blue staple racks were placed on the mall early on in the project to meet demand but were only installed on temporary basis.
“We were hoping to get [federal] stimulus dollars to replace them and to fill in gaps where we need more, but that didn’t come through. So basically, we’re scrambling around trying to find money.”
— Roger Geller, PBOT
“We were hoping,” Geller told me on Friday, “to get stimulus dollars to replace them and to fill in gaps where we need more, but that didn’t come through. So basically, we’re scrambling around trying to find money.” (Geller was referring to a $200,000 request made by PBOT for federal stimulus funds that was not granted.)
Finding that money has been made even more challenging because the racks that meet the new design standards cost well over $400 each — compared to the $80 for the standard blue ones.
I asked TriMet’s Hastings if there were immediate plans to replace the racks that were removed on Friday. He said, “Yes,” but added that the ball is now in PBOT’s court to find the money and install them (which so far, they haven’t been able to do). TriMet, Hastings said, has already installed all the staple racks required of them by federal regulations.
However, federal regulations don’t require nearly as many racks as are needed, so a lack of capacity remains an issue. That lack of bike parking, combined with the prohibitively high cost to add more, has put PBOT in a challenging position.
When I presented this conundrum to Hastings, he blamed “the perfect storm of bad economic news” that has “thrown a money wrench into things”. “Obviously,” he said, “there is a budget challenge that hit everybody between the eyes.”
Hastings also feels like there are still funding avenues PBOT has not explored. “I don’t know that they’ve exhausted all the other funding alternatives.” But according to PBOT’s bike coordinator Roger Geller, “There’s no source [of funding] that has been identified.”
How does the BTA feel now that the bike racks in front of their downtown headquarters have been removed and will not be replaced in the foreseeable future?
Staffer Michelle Poyourow told me today that, “I appreciate the desire to have a really good looking transit mall,” and then added, “but if we’re at the point where we’re discouraging biking to Mall destinations in favor of the “look” of the Mall, we don’t support that.”
Poyourow said that the BTA hopes the city can get the supply and quality of bike parking on the mall back up to pre-construction levels, “even if it means messing up the color scheme with blue racks.”
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um… if they can’t afford to put the new ones in, why did they take the old ones out? wouldn’t it have made more sense to wait?
Form over function wins again.
How exactly did we get platinum level with this kind of thinking?
My office is on the transit mall, there are more staple racks on the mall now than there were before the remodel. I agree there could be more, but it’s important to keep in mind that the transit mall remodel has *added* capacity, not removed it.
Couldn’t they just move all the existing blue racks onto the intersecting streets? So, for the BTA, they could put a bunch of cheap racks along Everett. I’m pretty sure I’d rather use the blue racks anyway.
Seriously what is happening to all the racks that were removed, hopefully they are getting a bit of touch up paint and being placed at new locations around town where they are needed.
I guess I don’t understand new math.
They had old and new racks on the mall at the same time. They removed the old racks. That’s reducing capacity isn’t it?
I’m sure what they have now is more than what was there before the remodel, but it is still a reduction from the high capacity they had post remodel.
ralphie, what cyclist *actually* said is correct.
And what do they do with the old racks since they don’t meet design standards? Recycle the metal? If this isn’t bureaucracy at its finest.
The blue staple racks don’t meet design standards for the Portland transit mall, they do meet design standards for elsewhere in the city. It’s highly probable that those racks will be installed elsewhere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were installed downtown.
foote: there’s not as much room on the non-mall streets for rack installation, so they probably couldn’t get all the racks on just one street, but I do agree they should do their best to install them in the vicinity of where they were removed.
It’s rather ironic, of course, that the supply of racks right around the BTA office is reduced, but it’s not really about the BTA.
BTA staff have long term bike parking in an indoor garage in our building, so we’re ok. Our visitors are somewhat annoyed, but we’re not a retail storefront so that’s not a disaster either.
We are more worried about other businesses that get heavy bike traffic and also have the bad luck to be located on a bus- or MAX-stop block (that’s why there can’t be any racks on our block face). Their customers will be more discouraged when they can’t find parking within sight of the store.
The City of Portland staff working on Mall bike parking really get this, and my understanding is that they’re working hard to figure out a solution.
The old racks are the standard City style rack. They just don’t meet the special requirements for the transit mall. They will be removed, stock piled by City Maintenance and reused some where else. Rest assured they wont go to waste or get recycled. The City is actually pretty good at reusing stuff like that. Believe it or not.
Wait a sec, did you just say that Portland’s preeminent bicycle advocacy group, essentially the self-proclaimed canon of all things cycling in Oregon, doesn’t have a place to park a bike in front of their own headquarters; and that they didn’t know a thing about it until some one noticed the racks were being removed? Okay, just checking.
If they did not have the money to install new racks, where did they get the money to pull the old racks?
What are the special requirements for the transit mall bike racks?
I’m glad stimulas money didn’t get spent on these fancy racks. Hopefully Trimet will pull thier head out the thier butt before they find financing.
Perhaps a guerrilla bike rack planting is in order?
No, Vance, it wasn’t a surprise. We knew it was coming.
When “design standards” specify bike racks that make it harder to lock one’s bike to, or a paving surface that’s less durable, requires more upkeep, and is more dangerous than concrete, it’s time to hire a new designer. The whole idea of brick is just dumb. It’s a design element that comes from all those awful “urban revitalization” projects that helped empty downtowns of retail and people in the 70’s. Brick is a great building material, but it’s a terrible paving surface. It’s very slippery, the bricks come loose and break, it’s very labor-intensive to install, and it’s “olde timey” aesthetics are just nauseating. I say: tear it all up, replace it with regular sidewalks, sell all the brick to some suckers at another city, and with the money we save, we could have thousands of bike racks (normal round tubing, please!).
Oops: that last “it’s” should be an “its”!
Does anyone know if business groups such as the Portland Business Alliance have been approached for fund raising?
Or, how about some sort of fundraising contest that is combined with the annual bike commute challenge?
There’s a law against riding on the sidewalks downtown, so the brick sidewalks don’t (theoretically) affect cyclists. I’d also imagine that whatever money we might recoup selling the bricks we tear out of the sidewalk would be lost on all the money we spend tearing them out and installing concrete sidewalks.
“It’s a design element that comes from all those awful “urban revitalization” projects that helped empty downtowns of retail and people in the 70’s.”
Are you sure you are not confusing “urban revitalization” with “white flight”? I don’t think exclusive concrete “Gothom” is a good look for a city.
Let’s not forget the $20,000 worth of sharrows they now can’t afford — much more important to me, in terms of a visible gesture reminding drivers that they have to share the business community’s “auto lane” with bicyclists, than designer racks.
I’m an avid cyclist/racer/triathlete.
These expensive bike racks are ridiculous. In a time we’re all financially hurting who gives a hoot if we lock our bikes to a bent piece of pipe? Even in good times, these fancy racks would be foolishly expensive. We should be spending this money on more important things than bling.
Obviously designed by a non-biker, those racks have square edges – no way am I putting my bike against those.
Reposted from another thread, just for Michelle.
“Is the BTA completely inept?
Let’s ask ourselves the question based on the current crop of BikePortland stories.
1. The Idaho law outreach. Inarguably poor outreach. Eugene is the state’s second largest city. Moreover it enjoys a strong reputation as a bike-friendly city. Not getting Eugene to neutral is a political disaster for this cause. You have to feel bad for Kopel-Bailey, though he will shrug this off politically. It’s the BTA that takes the hit in Salem for being poorly organized. But if you’re Jules, it’s a ‘fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me’ situation.
2. The Idaho law merits. Get 10 cyclists together and they’re not all going to agree on anything. That said, 10 Oregon cyclists might all agree that rolling through stop signs isn’t the highest and best use of limited political capital in Salem. Who decided this was a legislative priority?
How about moving from 1% of highway funds earmarked for bikes to 2%? when Democrats are in charge top to bottom. I bet we could all agree that would be a good use of political capital. Even Republican gubernatorial candidate Jason Atkinson would likely support this.
3. Opposing the CRC now. Are you kidding? Where was the BTA when its opinion on this issue actually mattered? It’s one thing for individuals to do their fun skits after the fact, but the state’s most influential bicycle organization can’t get away with being a day late and a dollar short. This ship has sailed, folks.
The entire environmental community, BTA included, left the mayor, city council, Bragdon, and Metro high and dry. They provided no cover whatsoever.
It’s one thing to be incapable of getting your constituents motivated on a particular viewpoint. It’s quite another to johnny-come-lately after the votes. That’s just embarrassing.
4. Without revealing sources, the fact is it’s the mayor’s office pushing for cycle tracks and innovations generally, not the BTA. A general observation: taking credit where credit is not deserved is tacky at best and a proven way of undermining credibility among those who know.
5. And the final thing that comes to mind (at the moment): the BTA works to host the national Safe Routes to School conference in Portland the same year its local transportation bureau proposes to gut funding for the very program.
That’s right: PBOT proposes to kill funding for its Safe Routes to School program, which is an extremely lucrative contract for the BTA, incidentally. Look at their budget. What does that tell you about the BTA’s pull with the bureau’s leadership?
Imagine hosting that conference and having to stand up before hundreds of attendees from around the country and admit your program is gone because it was defunded. Adams will no doubt bail out the program, and by extension, the BTA with it before the final budget is completed. He won’t embarrass himself politically like that. But the fact that the bureau’s leadership can even propose to gut the program – the same year Portland hosts the national conference (!) – says BTA has no sway with Sue Keil or the leadership generally.
What happened to the scrappy non-profit that sued the city for bike lanes and kicked ass? Please redirect my annual membership dues to those people.”
How about a bike rack that pops tires in addition to scratching frames!
Can we get those $400 racks jewel-encrusted as well? Surely, bikers in this town DEMAND well-designed, jewel-encrusted, frame-chafing racks.
Which leg of the bicycle lobby signed off on this design, anyway?
Can’t we just strip the blue paint to reveal what I presume would be a silvery innard?
a) Pedestrians can slip and fall on wet bricks, and Portland can be sued. That’s a lot of risk we’re exposing ourselves to.
b) I was being a tad facetious with my figures on whether the city could make money ripping out the brick.
a) The “urban revitalization” projects were in reaction to the “white flight” that happened in the 70’s. They generally did nothing, because they did not address the fundamental reasons why people who could afford to were abandoning cities at that time. They wasted a lot of money, though.
b) De gustibus non est disputandum. But, really, I know plenty of nice places in the city of Portland, places where people like to be, and many of them have lots of concrete. I just used it as the basic alternative, but one thing it has going for it in that location is that it’s brighter than brick, and wouldn’t make the Mall quite so gloomy looking. Brick is the kind of material that appeals to those people who also like “Victorian-style” black pseudo-wrought iron streetlights.
If it were up to me, I’d say let’s have more greenery incorporated in the Mall – perhaps a row of well-maintained trees right down the middle of the street, right where you’re not supposed to cross anyway. The bottom line is that there are plenty of design choices that involve materials that, you know, are actually meant for paving, and work way better than brick.
So ridiculous. Is this really happening in Portland?
Do the new racks share the same mounting footprint as the old blue staples? If so, put them back ASAP until funding comes in to buy the new ones. Then just swap them out.
Quite frankly, fuck the design standards if they are not prepared to fill it. If they hate the blue staples so much, replace them as soon as they have enough cash in the piggy bank – but don’t make others suffer because they had poor planning (and don’t use the economy as a scapegoat).
I guess the look of bikes locked up to parking signs fits the “look” of the new transit mall better than having them bound to the old blue staples.
ah Sarah (#25) why is it that almost every triathlete I’ve ever met opens a dialogue that includes a first, direct statement that they are, in deed, a triathlete…even when the conversation is about something totally unrelated?
I’m a Cat 3 road racer….I don’t begin conversations with the fact however…
One key point is that are more racks now than there were before the construction. Let’s not forget this.
Anyone know what kind of occupancy the racks had, with both the old and new in place? I’m sure the occupancy was high, but does the removal of the racks leave us with too little capacity, or is it the lack of racks for whole block faces that is the issue?
Having MAX stops rack-free makes sense, nothing worse than walking into a handlebar or a pedal in a crowd. Racks opposite MAX stops should be adequate for such blocks. Bus stops are different because they don’t fill a whole block face.
Peejay: So what you’re saying is:
a) your comment had nothing to do with cycling downtown
b) not helpful, as it would cost the city more money to tear out the bricks that have been there for 30 years than it would to leave them as they are.
I don’t see how this helps get us additional staples on the mall.
But there are fewer racks than there were post construction.
We are at a net loss. There was more bike parking last week than there is now. And while the old racks don’t fit the design, they were usable.
There is not plan to replace them because of cost, so why not just leave them until they can be replaced? The cost is zero. Instead you have the cost to remove them and most likely further cost to fix the holes they left in the sidewalk which poses a hazard.
What a waste of money!!!
Have they identified racks that meet the design standard and are also narrow enough to lock a wheel, frame, and the rack with a U-lock? Seems like that needs to be addressed before anything new is implemented.
The present racks are narrow enough to lock a wheel, frame and rack with a U-lock, there are a couple of bikes outside my building that are locked that way right now.
And those racks cost five times what a standard rack costs. On the plus side, they do create some business for powder coaters in town, to repair the ruined paint jobs.
My point about the bricks, as I have already said, is that they chose a very expensive and flawed material, and had they not done so, we’d have more money for bike racks, of either type. Now that the bricks are in, we have to live with them, I guess, at least until the next big riot, in which case many of the bricks will be used to smash shop windows.
“Next big riot”? Please, Portland doesn’t riot, East Lansing, Michigan riots.
It seems to me that the design guidelines for the transit mall are attempting to ensure a “clean and sterile” downtown. These guidelines discourage not only cyclists from using the space.Note the matching stainless steel trashcan holders that are locked closed, no doubt engineered to discourage less fortunate folks from digging through to find cans or food.Note the matching benches with the arm rest plumb in the middle, no doubt designed to make sleeping or lying down impossible.Note the stainless steel throughout the design elements that discourages stickers and graffiti.That very same mindset of keeping things “clean and sterile” most likely resulted in less useful and less plentiful racks and road space for bicyclists.
I’m a back-of-the-pack “C” ‘cross racer (and former top amateur triathlete) – and I completely agree with your assessment of triathletes.
I’m also a lifetime professional designer (web/interface/UX/graphic/you name it) and I find these staple racks completely unacceptable. You would think a designer would appreciate the fine lines and brushed steel – but the first time I had to lock my Kogswell (my pride and joy) up to the serrated edges of one of those fancy-shamnsy staple racks downtown, I just about had a heart attack. If somebody… had bumped… my bike… (*gasp*) she could have GOTTEN A SCRATCH!!!
Actually, it wouldn’t be that hard. Those racks seem designed to scratch bikes. I echo greenkrypto: is this Really happening in Portland?
I’ll take the old ugly blue racks thank you.
The bricks on the sidewalk were installed in the 1970s. There were sections of the sidewalks that were repaired, but most of the bricks on sidewalks on the mall remained in place. I’d put money on the repair costs being cheaper than ripping out all of the sidewalks on the entire length of the bus mall and installing concrete sidewalks instead.
In essence, the city saved money by not replacing the brick sidewalks with concrete.
The remodel of the transit mall resulted in a *net addition* of staple racks on the mall. There are *more* plentiful racks on the mall, and more plentiful road spaces for that matter, as there is now a through lane the entire length of the mall, whereas before you were forced to turn off of the mall every couple of blocks between Burnside and somewhere near Salmon.
John Lascurettes in #31 summed it up nicely. Perhaps the people who thought such rigid design standards (regardless of cost) were such a great idea can have it taken out of their salaries.
I can’t believe I pay taxes for crap like this.
John #31 may sum it up nicely for some,but not me. Design standards are often the only thing that keeps poor design from being implemented. As for bike racks, its a temporary inconvenience,and I have no doubt it will soon be resolved.
My suggestion… a bike corral right where the new Max is to go. complete with Jersey barriers and bollards at each end. How badly does the Max want to go through?
Maybe it’s a temporary inconvenience for you, Joe, but it’s a major problem where I work here on SW 6th Avenue. Most of the clients in my office are mandated by the criminal justice system to come to treatment either because of a DUII or their probation officer wants them to. A good number of them get where they need to go by bicycle. There already wasn’t enough rack space before they took the blue staples out so I’d let the ones who couldn’t find parking to bring their bikes upstairs. I just don’t have the office space to fit all of their bikes when they come in for groups in the evening.
What harm could it have caused to leave them in and replace them as they got the money to purchase the hugely expensive ones?
Tempest in a teapot folks.
If they do not like the blue racks, why don’t they paint them silver? Its a hell of a lot cheaper than buying stainless steel. If they want solid bar racks, why don’t they make them out of mild steel and powder coat them. Its their choice of stainless steel material here that is driving the cost. That new style bike rack would not cost anymore money if they just bought regular steel and painted it silver.
blue painted pipe looks nicer, is friendlier to the top tube and more recognizable than stainless skinny bar stock.
Here’s the math I’m using with some made up numbers.
Old blue racks on street 10
New nifty stainless steel racks added as part of remodel 20.
Total racks 30.
Remove old blue racks.
Total racks 20.
So while we have more racks than we started with before the remodel, we are at a LOSS from the number of racks that were present just after the remodel.
At one point there were 30 racks there are now 20.
It’s not like once the new racks went in the blue ones were ignored. They were usable infrastructure and were being used.
They’ve been removed. The available number of racks has gone down.