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Portland’s first bioswale bike corral and more bike parking on Williams

Posted by on January 11th, 2011 at 11:07 am

BES has taken an on-street bike corral…
(Photo © J. Maus)

And integrated it with a bioswale!
(Photo: PBOT)

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) continues to lead the way when it comes to bike parking. From artistic collaborations, to “bike shelters” at schools, to the numerous on-street bike corrals that dot the city, there’s always something new being cooked up.

Today, I’ve got two more bits of bike parking news to share: a brand new innovation and a new off-street bike corral I just noticed yesterday.

As part of their ongoing collaboration with the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) to create stormwater retention-friendly street infrastructure, PBOT is currently building the city’s first bioswale bike corral. See the plan rendering below:

When a reader tipped us off that the existing bike corral on NE Glisan at 28th had been removed for the installation of a bioswale, we asked PBOT’s bike parking manager Sarah Figliozzi and she confirmed the news. According to Ivy Dunlap with BES, the main construction of the bioswale is complete and the bike racks are slated to go in soon.

More new bike parking on N. Williams!
(Photo © J. Maus)

PBOT has also finished up installation of an off-street bike corral in front of Pizza A Go Go at the corner of N. Williams and Cook. The new facility consists of four staple racks placed at an angle (which not only looks better, but also lessens the footprint of bikes on the sidewalk) and it is located on a newly constructed curb extension.

This bike parking corral further enshrines Williams as Portland’s best bike street (in my opinion!). The street also has four on-street bike corrals and numerous other racks outside of businesses.

— For more bike parking coverage, check out our archives.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Rebecca January 11, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Very inspiring to see such a creative, efficient use of space. The swales also offer the bikes a little more protection from cars on either end of the corral as well. Nice, PBOT!

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  • wsbob January 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

    From the pictures and illustration above, it looks as though the swales are taking up space in which more bikes could be parked. Other than that, more foliage on the street is nice.

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    • Elliot January 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      I count 9 staples in the illustration… I think capacity for 18 bikes is plenty at that location (28th & Glisan). If more capacity is eventually needed in the area, it should be distributed to other corners of the intersection.

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    • are January 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      the swales also function to protect the bike parking from motorists. this had been a particular problem on this corner. i might actually be willing to use this corral now.

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      • A.K. January 12, 2011 at 9:59 am

        Yeah, I’ve always had reservations about locking my bike up in the street, only to have it potentially be hit by a motorist. Up on the sidewalk or protected by real curbs seems a lot better.

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  • David January 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    I can’t tell from the photo, but is the bike parking area still flush with the bike lane, or is it at curb-level now that there are swales on either side? It would be a shame if the improvements forced folks to dismount and carry their bikes up onto a curbed bike parking platform.

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    • wsbob January 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      Look very closely again at the photo; the curb for the swale at the other end of the bike corral rises above the grade for the bike corral.

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  • JM January 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Too bad it’s in front of a nasty restaurant.

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    • Lance P January 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm

      I’m going to have to disagree. This is one of my favorite restaurants in town. But then again, no one is going to agree on good food 🙂

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      • rigormrtis January 12, 2011 at 11:53 am

        Nope. And when it’s pretty much the only one of it’s type, everyone thinks it’s the best.

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  • JM January 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    David, skilled bikers can jump a curb. On any bike.

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    • David January 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      Cool! What about children, the elderly, and people hauling 50+ lbs of dirty clothes to the laundromat on the corner?

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    • Jackattak January 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      What about unskilled “bikers”?

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  • Sarah Figliozzi January 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    The new corral has designed the bike racks up on a concrete pad using a mountable curb. The intent is to keep the parking easily accessible for all bikes, especially heavier bikes with cargo or kids on the back.

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    • David January 11, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks Sarah, can you send some of those up to Seattle, please…

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    • wsbob January 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      That’s funny… . I just posted a comment saying the pictures and illustration above have it looking as though the bike corral isn’t on a pad. I guess I’m still not understanding why the pad is necessary. Seems kind of a waste of concrete.

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  • Jackattak January 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    This looks great! I’m sure I’ll get some use out of these once Spring/Summer hits and I’m out riding more often in that area. Pambiche mmmm!!!

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  • Anne Hawley January 11, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    The bike-o-swale strikes me as a very clever innovation. What surprises me in this article is that Sarah Figliozzi and PBOT aren’t contacting you proactively, Jonathan, with news of this kind.

    In fact, I find it completely mystifying.

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  • Steve B January 11, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I think PBOT’s bike parking team is the best in the world, and perhaps Portland’s finest achievement to date in its ongoing efforts to be bike friendly. I am constantly surprised by the whirlwind pace of Sarah & crew to outfit this city with proper bike accommodations at people’s destinations. Nicely done, PBOT!

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  • Rob January 11, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Pambiche happy hour here I come…

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  • Jim Labbe January 11, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Very nice. I have always been a green street fan but after spending a 9 months in Europe last year, I came to more fully appreciate how ahead of the curve Portland really is in designing and installing greenstreets. They treat stormwater in the a very cost-effective and esthetically pleasing fashion, closest to the biggest source pollution: the hydrocarbons and heavy metals from motor vehicles. The integration with bike infrastructure is a compound three-fer because it calms the street while encouraging more people to bike and thus produce less toxic stormwater in the first place.

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    • BURR January 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      I live in one of the neighborhoods they just built a bunch of those stormwater swales in and let me tell you they don’t do squat to calm traffic or slow drivers down, and curb extensions are a crash hazard for cyclists.

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      • CaptainKarma January 11, 2011 at 7:46 pm

        You mean to say, “the emperor has no clothes”? I agree.

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      • Hart Noecker January 12, 2011 at 12:31 am

        I live in a neighborhood where we enjoy the benefits of the bioswales, it’s called Portland, Oregon.

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      • Jim Labbe January 12, 2011 at 4:44 pm

        Not every greenstreet has been or will be successful at calming or improving the pedestrian environment. Many earlier designs did not adequately consider pedestrians or the traffic calming benefits. I have seen some of the earlier designs the City put in that failed pretty bad in this regard and can stand to be improved or enhanced. But the City should be supported (and credited) for experimenting with different designs and locations and learning by doing. The designs are definitely improving as we get more experience with what works and what does not for people and watershed health.

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  • Michelle January 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I nominate Jim Labbe for Comment of the Month.

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  • Stripess January 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    It’s very, very hard to tell from the tiny PBOT photo above, so I could be really, really wrong here. But it almost looks like the raised concrete pad supporting the bike racks is necessary, to avoid having stormwater swishing violently around your poor little feet as it makes its way off the trillion square feet of Portland’s finest gross asphalt road surfaces, and down into the bioswale, as you stood there in the downpour, unlocking your bike!

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  • Doug Klotz January 11, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Swales are an economical answer to Portland’s combined sewer problem, and their proliferation is driven by a Federal court order to clean up the Willamette River to help salmon. So, their use is understandable. Many people find them attractive. However, BES, in an attempt to to piggyback on other street projects, and I believe to bring publicity to their use and encourage public acceptance, is putting them on the wrong streets, in my opinion.

    With all the miles of residential streets in the city, where Right of Way space is in less demand, why is BES putting them on commercial streets,where bike parking, auto parking, cafe tables, and indeed room to walk and talk with your neighbors are much more necessary and desired in the Right of Way? Not only do swales on commercial streets take up valuable space that could be used for other purposes, they also limit the number of species, and indeed the locations, of street trees. Why not put the swale around the corner on a residential street? In many cases the same stormwater can be captured (it must run downhill, though). If it can’t, is it really that important to capture stormwater on commercial streets when there are so many other places that so much more stormwater could be captured?

    The best form of greenery on commercial streets are street trees, as they form a green canopy without taking up much surface on the ground. Swales are nice, but belong on residential streets, not commercial ones.

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    • el timito January 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm

      I’m curious about your objection to swales on commercial streets, also known as arterials. Arterials generally have more impervious surface (they’re wider) and more source pollution (lots of auto traffic leaving behind heavy metals and chemical leaks). It seems like this would be the exact location to capture the most stormwater and filter the most gunk.
      I don’t argue with the value of street trees, but in this location you would have none without the swale – the sidewalk is covered by the building’s second floor.
      In addition, by putting a raised, vegetated (or bike-parked) buffer between the sidewalk and the street the sidewalk is more pleasant to walk on and to set cafe tables on. The only loss I see here is an auto parking space or two, which is offset many times by the high capacity (non-motorized) vehicle parking.

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  • fredlf January 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I think the “traffic-calming” aspect of swales depends a lot on the implementation. The one on Skidmore just west of MLK does little to slow traffic and forces bikes into the lane. I don’t want to be an involuntary traffic calming device!

    I’m not arguing against bio-swales, just for their thoughtful, careful implementation.

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  • JR January 13, 2011 at 1:23 am

    I was standing at the bus stop at 28th and Glisan just a couple nights ago and noticed this work. It’s a great location for such an improvement, particularly given the sidewalk restaurant next door that is commonly packed with people.

    Glad to see it go in here. Tired of all the usual comments from a couple people who poo poo bioswales… This is a great improvement at this corner and for any corner in Portland!

    The mountable curbs don’t both me either. This is a narrow street where the separation is very welcome. PBOT thought about it, obviously. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion of course..

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  • Doug Klotz January 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

    @El Timito:

    Yes, some arterials are wider than neighborhood streets. I was involved in the Division Streetscape plan. Division Street is the same width as many adjoining neighborhood streets (36′ in 60′ ROW). And yes, there is more traffic and hence more pollutants on arterials.

    I’m not arguing against swales on all arterials. Those that are residential have less need of the sidewalk space (Burnside and Glisan through Laurelhurst, much of Cesar Chavez, etc.). I didn’t argue against swales on the parts of Division that were residential (13th to 18th, e.g.).

    The difference is where there are commercial concentrations. These are the places, ideally, where you would get the most pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks, not only from people traveling along them, but from people window shopping, entering businesses, and just hanging out talking to their neighbors. (Not to mention cafe tables) The streets are mostly all we have for “public squares” in American cities. (Pioneer Courthouse Square notwithstanding).

    If we as a city want to encourage this sort of places within walking and biking distances of every residence, we should maximize the space for this type of activity. NW 23rd Ave., for instance, has so much congestion on its 12 foot walks that it’s hard to walk there. Taking away parking spaces for a wider sidewalk, especially at corners, can help alleviate that congestion. Sidewalk space for all uses is more important in these locations than swales are. On Division, however, the plan would narrow several sidewalks in the commercial area between 35th and 38th from the current 12 feet to 8 feet, and in other areas from 10 feet to 6 feet, for swales.

    Certainly bike parking should be expanded, and gets you more spaces per sq. ft. than auto parking. And, for now, auto parking is also desired by many businesses.

    (At Glisan and 28th, you could put tree wells in a widened sidewalk that also has cafe table room, unlike the swale. And, bring the extended sidewalk all the way to the corner, if funds allow)

    So, put street trees in where possible on commercial streets in tree wells, and capture as much stormwater and pollutants as possible on all streets other than commercial downtown and “main street” areas. This way, the polluted arterial runoff that isn’t captured will go to the treatment plant, as long as volumes are kept low by the rest of the swales. And, public space is maximized in commercial nodes.

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