Bike parking gets a boost from Planning Commission

Posted by on October 28th, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Bike parking at the Gallery
Condominiums in NW Portland.
(Photo © Dan Liu)

While the Bicycle Plan for 2030 got most of the attention at last night’s Planning Commission meeting, there was another bike-related issue that was discussed.

Also on the agenda was a proposal to amend the City’s zoning code to increase the minimum amount of long-term bike parking that must be provided by developers of multi-family dwellings (condos and apartments). Currently that number is 0.25 bike spaces per dwelling unit, but the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) recommended that the Commission bump that number up to 1.5 bike spaces per dwelling unit.

Earlier this month the Commission tentatively agreed to that boost but did not officially vote in favor of it. They had second thoughts after developer John Carroll questioned how PBOT arrived at the 1.5 number.

Last night, the Commission reached a compromise and voted to recommend that City Council amend the zoning code to increase the long-term bike parking ratio from 0.25 spaces per unit to 1.1 spaces per unit. Not quite the 1.5 that PBOT wanted, but a significant increase nonetheless.

(Incidentally, the 1.1 number was reached by multiplying the average number of people per unit (1.64) with the percentage of Portlanders that own at least one bicycle (69%).)

In explaining his decision to compromise on the lower number, Commissioner Chris Smith cited several reasons. He said that, “from a sustainability and affordability point of view” he did not want the minimum standard to increase building size and cost. Smith also acknowledged that, while 1.5 bike spaces reflects the fact that many people own more than one bicycle, he didn’t think the code should accomodate that. “Living compactly involves some trade-offs!” he wrote on his blog.

Sarah Figliozzi, who heads up PBOT’s bike parking program, still thinks the 1.5 number should have been approved (based on their research and the fact that the buildings have to “meet bike storage demands for 30+ years”), but says PBOT is “happy” with the Commission’s recommendation (they also agreed to strike language which forced residents to carry bikes into their unit).

In an emailed statement about last night’s hearing, Figliozzi wrote:

“The Planning Commission’s recommendations last night on bike parking will provide a significant step forward in ensuring adequate bike storage for future apartment buildings. We are looking forward to working with the Commission in the future to bring the remaining bike parking requirements up to current and future demand levels.”

The Commission will forward this recommendation to City Council, where it is scheduled for a vote on December 9th.

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I think it’s just as important that they struck the language allowing the parking space to be allocated inside the dwelling – as we’re currently parking 4 bikes in the living room of our flat, I can attest to how nice it would be to be able to park at least one or two of those elsewhere. Parking inside the unit isn’t really a solution (especially when it’s rainy and you come in dripping and your bike tracks dirt and debris in).

Of course it doesn’t matter for existing buildings, but it’s nice to see things moving this direction at least. Seeing as the number of people using bicycles for transportation doesn’t seem to be going anywhere but up, I can’t help but think they’ll be glad they did this in a year’s time, and I have a feeling we’ll start to see developers choosing to offer parking to some degree on their own anyway, especially in certain areas of town, as time goes by.