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Portland’s first residential bike parking shelter raises questions

Posted by on July 31st, 2009 at 10:59 am

A new residential bike parking shelter on SE Washington near Laurelhurst Park.
(Photos © J. Maus)

We’ve closely documented the City of Portland’s efforts to create new bike parking in business districts — but what about bike parking in residential areas? A Southeast Portland couple wondered the same thing, and now their home boasts the city’s first ever, open-to-the-public, residential bike parking shelter.

residential bike parking shelter in SE Portland-5

The staples will be painted
purple this weekend.

The project not only creates a new community amenity, it also brings up a question that more and more Portlanders are having these days: As the number of people riding bikes in Portland continues to skyrocket, does the City of Portland have a policy in place to increase bike parking in single-family residential neighborhoods? We’ll get to that later.

Three years ago, Jane Clugston and Phillip Johnson — who live in an old house at the corner of SE 37th and Washington near Laurelhurst Park — had an idea. They are hobbyist puppeteers who regularly do free shows from their garage (featured recently in The Oregonian). After a few shows, they noticed that all the people that showed up on bikes had nowhere to park. They’d lock to trees, sign poles, porch railings, and so on.

residential bike parking shelter in SE Portland-12

Phillip Johnson

Clugston and Johnson had worked with local non-profit group, City Repair to help build their puppet stage so they approached them again to think about installing staple racks on their median strip. At first it was going to be just the racks, but then the idea for a roof surfaced.

“Those damn Linden trees,” said Johnson as I chatted with him about the project this morning, “they are very messy. Lots of pollen in the spring, residue in summer, and leaves in the fall. We figured it’d be better to cover the bikes.”

In April of 2008, City Repair filed a project permit with the City of Portland. 13 months later, with permit (finally) in hand, City Repair’s Mark Lakeman and a team of volunteers finished the project in three days earlier this month.

The new shelter features four staple racks and, as with all of City Repair’s projects, it was built with nearly all recycled or scrap materials. The roof shingles are locally harvested cedar and much of the concrete is recycled.

residential bike parking shelter in SE Portland-4

Made with love by City Repair.

Johnson says engineering requirements made the final design “a lot less appealingly funky” than he had hoped, but he’s pleased nonetheless. He said they’ve still got to paint the metal staples (they’ll be purple, to match his house) and they’ll need to cure for 2-3 weeks before it will be ready for use (a party is planned once it’s done, we’ll keep you posted on that).

This new shelter comes at a time when many Portland residents want more bike parking capacity near their homes (I have two emails asking about this from just the past week or so).

A rack on SE Salmon.

Cars park all over neighborhoods, with free parking along nearly every block in town. But there’s no equitable accommodation for bicycles. Take a ride through any neighborhood and you’ll see bikes parked to porches, trees, telephone poles, sign posts, and so on. This raises some questions: Does the City have a residential bike parking policy? Can bikes legally use the same street space as cars use? Does the City have a set policy for installing staple racks in front of houses?

I put those questions to Sarah Figliozzi, who’s in charge of bike parking for the City’s Bureau of Transportation.

Figliozzi said cars can park on residential streets, not because the City is actively accommodating the practice (they don’t, for instance, build a new parking lot if someone has a lot of parties), but because that’s just how roads happen to be built and cars just so happen to be able to park securely without any additional “furnishings” (that’s what planners call bike racks, bus benches, etc…).

Another residential rack in Southeast.

Why not just put staples on the street, like PBOT does with their bike corrals? According to Figliozzi, it has to do with short vs. long-term parking, and how the staples would be used. Figliozzi says the bike corrals are for parking a bike for two hours or less and they’re placed in areas with a high demand. In single-family residential areas, the demand is not concentrated at a particular location, and residents prefer to have bikes locked inside a garage or in their homes for security. She also noted that they’ve found short term parking has to be 50 feet or less from a destination in order to be effective.

For bikes, the median strip between the curb and the sidewalk, is the preferred place to park. Figliozzi said upkeep of medians is the homeowner’s responsibility, but the City owns the property; “The City would encourage residents to install racks on their private property or purchase a rack and apply for a permit to install it in the furnishing zone [median].”

The permit will set you back about $30 and Figliozzi says there are other limitations you should be aware of; like maintaining a six-foot pedestrian clearance and specific set-back distances from the curbline.

Figliozzi added that racks can only be installed into concrete (no grass or dirt) and you’ll have to pour it yourself, because the City doesn’t have a budget for residential installations.

So, what if someone locked their bike to itself and parked it in the street? Would that be legal? According to City of Portland Parking Enforcement Division Manager Nolan Mackrill, bicycles are not allowed to be parked on the street. That space, he says, is only for motorized and licensed vehicles. If someone wants to park their bike on the street, they would need to reserve the space and go through the permit process.

As for the bike parking shelter, City Repair hopes it’s just the first of many.

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  • Gerik July 31, 2009 at 11:09 am

    The small residential rack in this post is anchored in concrete, if I remember correctly. Topsoil and grass seed went in after the concrete set up.

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  • Esther July 31, 2009 at 11:09 am

    re: parking on the street: What is the reservation and permitting process like? Does it result in a marked/signed area, like disability-accessible parking in front of residential homes where it’s been requested; or does it just make it “legal” for your bike to be hanging out in front of your house?

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  • Pfeif July 31, 2009 at 11:15 am

    This is great thanks for the story. My wife runs a music school out of our house and has been wondering how to accomidate the kids who ride their bikes to piano lessons. We have wondered if we can set up staple racks out front. I will let her know about the permit process

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  • John Lascurettes July 31, 2009 at 11:16 am

    So, what if someone locked their bike to itself and parked it in the street? Would that be legal? According to City of Portland Parking Control Manager Ramon Corona, bicycles are not allowed to be parked on the street. That space is only for motorized and licensed vehicles. If someone wants to park their bike on the street, they would need to reserve the space and go through the permit process.

    Hmm. I don’t get that. What about all the homeowners that pile their leaves at the curb in the fall. Do they apply for a permit for that? Same goes for all the piles of dirt and gravel and paver deliveries I’m often going around. I do know that PODs and containers such as that need permits.

    And what if I parked a large bakfiets in the the road in a commercial district and payed the meter? I’m assuming that’s still illegal, but so would blocking the sidewalk.

    Interesting conundrum. Car culture strikes again.

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  • Esta Nevando Aqui July 31, 2009 at 11:17 am

    13 months for a permit to put in a bike rack?! Obscene. “The City that Works VERY SLOWLY.”

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  • Racer X July 31, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Perhaps there is an opportunity for some bike parking art to push this conversation along…

    …how about outfitting licensed trailers with staple racks to park them in the street parking lane until the City wraps this policy up.

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  • nuovorecord July 31, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I’m all for more bike parking in residential areas, but maybe not in the streets. Residential streets serve different purposes than do arterials such as Belmont or SE 28th. As an example, kids play in res. streets – bike racks could interfere with soccer games and what have you. I’d prefer to see racks in parking strips in these areas.

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  • eljefe July 31, 2009 at 11:36 am

    I regularly park my bakfiets on the street where a parallel parked car would usually be. Since it has a wheel lock and kickstand, it parks anywhere. Parking bikes and motorcycles in a traditional car space sends a good message: this is our space too.

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  • Dave July 31, 2009 at 11:43 am

    So, if someone took their bakfiets out and parked it somewhere on the street (they don’t fit too well on staple racks, and they take up a lot of sidewalk space), they could get fined for it? (assuming a parking attendant happened to see them do it)

    Seems like something that should change at some point.

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  • tbird July 31, 2009 at 11:44 am

    This is awesome.
    The only question it raises for me is: why not more?
    I’ve wanted to put my own coral in front of my house for a while. No storage, lots of bikes, most friends who visit come by bike. Now I’m even more motivated.

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  • mabsf July 31, 2009 at 11:45 am

    I would love to have a bike corral in front of my house.
    We are car-free family, but why shouldn’t I be allowed to park my vehicles in front of my door?
    Interfering with kids playing: Unfortunately too many cars use our street as a speedy detour for a street with speed bumps… A structural bike corral in combination with the new rainwater curbs would do our street would only good.

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  • michael downes July 31, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Just like eljefe I park my Bakfeits outside my house by the curb(no garage and it’s too heavy to haul up on the porch). I had no idea I was breaking the law. This seems rather unfair to say the least.

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  • Elliot July 31, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Esta Nevando, the bulk of the 13 months permitting time was probably due to vetting the design and engineering of the shelter. If you wanted to just stick a staple rack in concrete footings, I’d guess it would be much simpler and faster.

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  • Joe Blow July 31, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Yeah, Smart. Lock your bike to itself and leave it in the street. Come back to it ten minutes later and it probably won’t be there. It’s not a motorcycle dude. It’s a bicycle. I will still lock my bicycle to a fixed and permentant object.

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  • lothar July 31, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Being devils advocate : You can’t ticket a parking violation without the identity of the owner is my conclusion. In the end, it is the owner and not the bike that has to make the restitution. I guess if they had some kind of coin operated bike-parking -meter-lock in the pay to park areas but as it is that is free at the sidewalk staple.

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  • lothar July 31, 2009 at 11:51 am

    In regards to on street bike parking..

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  • Stochelo July 31, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Sounds like a good foot in the door.

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  • Anonymous July 31, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Congrats to Jane and Phillip for such a neighborly and cozy (and very practical) contribution to their barrio. And also for contributing to the start of a timely issue, as evidenced by the reactions. We’re making progress, guys.
    Stay cool, ride safely

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  • Matt Picio July 31, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Dave (#9) – They could be fined, yes, and the owner could then fight it in court, because the City Code and state law say “vehicle”, and nothing about “motorized”. City department officials have interpreted the law to mean motorized vehicles, but the actual interpretation would be up to a judge.

    Steph Routh ran into this problem when taking over a downtown parking space on PARKing day to repurpose it as temporary lounging. There needs to be a vehicle present in the space to occupy it, and the police interpret that as “car” – but the law as written does not specifically define it as such.

    There’s some room for interpretation should a canny attorney bring the issue up before a receptive judge.

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  • Esta Nevando Aqui July 31, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Elliot (#13), does it make you feel better that it took the City’s experts 13 months to review the “design and engineering” of a bike shelter? LOL!

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  • q`Tzal July 31, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Find old, large, dead car or van.
    Park where you need bike parking.
    Make it safe:
    >Have all fluids removed.
    >Set breaks (mostly) permanently.
    >Have seats removed.
    >Have bottom of passenger area cut out.

    Park bike inside car. Voila, car shaped bike locker.

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  • lothar July 31, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    If said van is there for more than 24 hours and doesn’t appear that it is drivable it is considered abandoned and subject to tow..I think.

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  • E July 31, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    #21 love it!
    However it is technically illegal to leave a vehicle in a public parking space for more than 24 hrs straight. You’re good only unless and until the neighbors complain.

    and we know how neighbors can be.

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  • q`Tzal July 31, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    In all seriousness my suggestion was not serious.
    I mean you could try this angle if you wanted to go the “legal test case” avenue but I’m more inclined to try and have a chicane put in on secondary and tertiary residential streets. These chicanes would just happen to have bike parking.

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  • Todd Boulanger July 31, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    [I am resending this earlier post that Word Press accepted but failed to post after several hours.]

    To follow up on other posts…Division Manager Mackrill’s interpretation of the code may be incomplete* not only by the City’s misunderstanding of state vehicle law about what is a vehicle…but also for the cases when a legally licensed bicycle from outside the state (Wisconsin, Hawaii, etc.) parks on the said residential street. What now?

    Additionally, this interpretation of city code misses the point of who actually pays for the O&M of residential/ local streets…the adjoining property owners’ property taxes typically do.

    PS. * I hope he was misquoted or was misunderstood.

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  • Steve Bozz July 31, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    City Repair = Super Awesome!

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  • Todd Boulanger July 31, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Following up on Esta’s comment…

    In my experience working for another city on similar community based transportation projects…13 months for processing a permit is a ‘long time’…but this not unusual when a city supports the intent of the new practice…but does not know how to approach it within its current policy or procedures.

    This becomes even more complex when dealing with engineers, risk assessment staf, and street maintenance crews plus a City Repair type construction proposal (vs. off the shelf parks or DOT design).

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  • beth h July 31, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    “So, what if someone locked their bike to itself and parked it in the street? Would that be legal? According to City of Portland Parking Enforcement Division Manager Nolan Mackrill, bicycles are not allowed to be parked on the street. That space, he says, is only for motorized and licensed vehicles.”


    This should be a cautionary tale to those who want vehicle “equality” for bicycles.

    Remember that we’re talking about bike racks on city-owned sidewalks or median strips IN FRONT OF private property. That’s a very different thing from installing a bike rack ON one’s private property, which is perfectly legal without a permit.

    If you want your bike to be regarded as a “real” vehicle, you will likely be asked to license and insure it at some point. I’d rather give up my “right” to “vehicle equality” — a hollow promise as long as cars rule the roads — in exchange for not having to license my bike, or myself as a bike rider.

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  • mark August 1, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    well there is a van parked a quarter of a block away from my house that’s been there for at least two years that appears to actually be inhabited by someone who usually locks his bike up to the back of the van.

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  • JR August 2, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Businesses are required to place their required bike parking on-site, as opposed to the public right-of-way. When it’s completely not feasible (building takes up every square foot of property), businesses pay into a bike parking fund that goes toward the placement of staple racks and bike corrals in the public domain.

    Residential districts, on the other hand, almost always have plenty of land available in the form of front yards. Most of these yards are wasted spaces with chemical-supported lawns or no care at all. Seems like bike parking in residential areas is most appropriate on private property. After all, if you’re visiting someone, you’re going to a private property. Just doesn’t seem like a big problem and if it does become a problem, the solution is pretty simple…

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  • travis August 2, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    way to go! that is rad.

    maybe my question is already answered in the comment section or article, cause i read this pretty quick, but the sidewalk outside my house has no median strip. i live around the corner from a main road and have been wanting to get a bike corral put in on the street next to my house. is there some other process for that?

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  • Anonymous August 3, 2009 at 9:59 am

    “that’s just how roads happen to be built.” did the city flip a coin when deciding how wide to make streets? i don’t think so. not many things “just happen” a certain way for no reason.

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  • saybon August 3, 2009 at 10:19 am

    The small, stainless rack is cast in concrete then I added the topsoil and grass later. It is not set in the dirt alone. Also, some scrappers have thought it was free for the taking. Not so.

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  • Chris Shaffer August 17, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I found the actual code describing the permit process and required dimensions.

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  • Chris Shaffer August 21, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    So, at this point, I’ve called and left voicemail, I’ve sent email and I’ve filled out a web form. Nobody will return my messages. I figure I’ll either have to visit in person or escalate to the city council.

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  • […] three bike corrals this summer. Portland has even done a bike corral in a neighborhood, however that corral was done in the “planter strip” between the sidewalk and the roadway.  This corral […]

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