Behind Portland’s bike corral backlog

Posted by on April 13th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

PBOT graphic: Portland’s bicycle corrals: Installations by year
Click to enlarge

The City of Portland’s on-street bike corral program has been a runaway success. The corrals are so popular that there’s currently an estimated two-year backlog and 75 businesses waiting to receive one.

Widmer Bike Corral Celebration-11

Not surprising that businesses love bike corrals.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Since they renewed their push for corrals in November of 2006, PBOT has installed 64 of them throughout the city. As word has spread about the program, businesses — who some planners might think would abhor the idea of replacing two auto parking spots for bike racks — are now clamoring for the corrals.

In fact, PBOT has been overwhelmed by applications for bike corrals. PBOT bike parking program manager Sarah Figliozzi has a stack of applications from 75 Portland businesses that want corrals (see the full list below). At the current rate of installation (30 in 2009 and 21 in 2010), Figliozzi estimates it would take two years just to work through the list.

Why can’t they install more of them? Figliozzi says it’s not as easy as you might think because each location has different issues to deal with and PBOT approaches each one on a case-by-case basis.

“We have a groundswell of enthusiasm from the private sector… We need to be able to give businesses with the money and the interest to do them the ability to this on their own.”
— Sarah Figliozzi, PBOT

That being said, if you own a business and want a corral (or if you’re already on the list), you might get one before you expect it — or you might not get one at all.

PBOT doesn’t tackle the list in chronological order and not everyone who applies will receive a corral. Figliozzi says top priority is given to locations with a high unmet need for bike parking (“We put out fires first,” is how she put it). They also work on a geographic strategy, taking on a specific commercial district all at once (they’re working on the Central Eastside now).

As for why on-street corrals might not be suitable for all the businesses on the list? Figliozzi says some of them simply don’t have the bike parking demand and other requirements the city looks for before installing a corral. And, since PBOT currently foots the bill for the corrals (about $2-3,000 a piece), they have a right to be selective.

For businesses that don’t meet the requirements for an on-street corral, Figliozzi works with them on other options. Standard sidewalk staples can be installed in about 4-5 weeks and are often a feasible solution. In other cases, businesses have plenty of off-street space where they could install whatever bike racks they want; but since PBOT has made bike corrals free (and easy to apply for), many of them simply opt for that option.

Ultimately, Figliozzi says she hopes PBOT has a policy in place to allow private business owners to install and/or pay for the bike corrals themselves.

“We have a groundswell of enthusiasm from the private sector… We need to be able to give businesses with the money and the interest to do them the ability to do this on their own… That’s the direction we want to go.”

Below is the list of Portland businesses that have filled out an application for an on-street bike corral:

    Good Food Here Belmont
    NightLight Lounge
    Pure Heart Yoga
    Produce Row Cafe
    Bread & Ink/Waffle Window
    Gold Dust Meridian
    Olympic Provisions
    Blend Coffee House
    Lucky Labrador Tap Room
    Hop & Vine
    An Hao Clinic
    Coffeehouse Northwest
    City Market NW
    World Cup Coffee & Tea
    Clever Cycles
    Rogue Brewery
    Art Institute Culinary School
    Gino’s pizza
    Bridgeport Brewery
    Red and Black Café
    Barista/Hunt & Gather
    Childpeace Montessori School
    Corepower Yoga
    Oblique Coffee
    Alibi Restaurant & Lounge
    Corkscrew Wine Bar & More
    Coalition Brewing
    Side Door, My Fathers Place, Slow Bar
    East Burn
    Triple Nickel Pub
    Posies’ Cafe
    West Coast Fitness
    West Coast Fitness and Videorama
    Landmark Saloon
    Baker Apartments
    The Hilt
    Sol Pops
    Beauty Bar
    Alameda Brewing
    The Globe Bar/Café
    Café Nell
    Mio Sushi
    Hair of the Dog Brewing Co
    East Side Delicatessen Inc
    Candy Korner
    Hungry Tiger
    Riyadh’s Lebanese Restaurant
    Vincente’s Gourmet Pizza
    Meat Cheese Bread
    Lovejoy Bakers
    Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches
    Hawthorne HopHouse
    Peoples Food
    Hazelton Strong LLC
    Fuel Café
    Montessori Institute NW
    Slappy Cakes/Vmt. tabor veterinary care
    Southeast Grind

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    skodt April 13, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Pretty amazing that our city is this generous and responsive. I use corrals frequently as well as sidewalk staples; you just don’t see this kind of dedication to bikes in other parts of the country.

    However…as a person who is in the business of selling bike parking racks, this presents a unique challenge. Many business owners & managers in Portland have been trained by the city that bike parking is free. Slippery slope!

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    adamdoug2011 April 13, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I think this is great! it is just one example of people wanting what is good for them(and their business/customers) and the government being completely unable to meet the demand. We went through the same thing when it became known that businesses could request single bike staple parking.

    Has anyone done a useful study on the “value” of a parking space versus other potential uses of the same space for other uses? could be an interesting economic viability study.

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      Neil April 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm

      > Has anyone done a useful study on the “value” of a parking space versus other potential uses of the same space for other uses? could be an interesting economic viability study.

      Yes — there is a definitive book on this very subject: _The High Cost of Free Parking_ by Donald C. Shoup (2005). Well worth reading. Did you know that a “free” parking space generally costs more than the car parked in it?

      Other post> It should continue to be free because the City provides free motor vehicle parking in most neighborhoods. It’s only appropriate that they do the same for bikes.

      The book cited above seriously questions whether parking should be free for cars. Supplying something for free vastly increases the demand for it, so shortages of parking spaces in high-demand business districts is directly created by providing them either free or below cost.

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    Ethan April 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Tipping point reached. When Sam pointed out the sea change in business owners’ attitudes regarding Sunday Parkways I thought of this. I had no idea how big the numbers were though. Thanks.

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    PomPilot April 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    I used the corral at the Widmer Brewing Gasthaus during a recent trip to Portland. The gentleman seated next to me (who also was from out of town) was amazed that a business would give up 1 or 2 car places for 9 bike staple racks. Until, that is, he did the math and realized how many MORE customers that provided parking for.

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    Mork April 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    I’m so delighted to see this list! Many of the businesses with pending requests are places where I frequently have challenges finding a safe, well-lit parking spot. Particularly Produce Row, East Burn, Holocene and the Slow Bar/MFP/Side Door trio are great candidates for corrals.

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    DP April 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Awesome to see!

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    dwainedibbly April 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    It’s really great to see how the local business community has embraced this! It’s one more way that Advocates in other cities can point skeptical business owners to the Portland experience as an example. Any time I see a bike corral I think to myself that the business(es) there must truly “get it”.

    I really hope Clever Cycles gets one soon. They really need it.

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    Alex Reed April 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you for starting this program, Portland! Please expand it and keep it free.

    It should continue to be free because the City provides free motor vehicle parking in most neighborhoods. It’s only appropriate that they do the same for bikes.

    It would be a great next step to start a program to make it free for homeowners and residential property owners to get parking-strip staple racks installed. People visit each others’ homes by bike and need a place to park!

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    John Russell (jr98664) April 13, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Any way we could see a map of all of these locations? That would be helpful to visualize all of these requests.

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    maxadders April 13, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Can I request a bike corral in front of my house? I’m not a business, but I do own like, ten bikes.

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    Greg April 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    I really hope Clever Cycles gets one soon. They really need it.


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    jason April 13, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I often wonder (especially when riding by Pambiche) if, for restaurants with tables on the sidewalk, the corrals are more about improving their outdoor seating areas than providing bicycling facilities.

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    sabernar April 13, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Doesn’t REI have a parking deck that they could put bike racks in? A company like that shouldn’t mooch off the city while possibly preventing smaller businesses from getting one. Just spend a couple bucks and install one in your parking deck. Sheesh. That leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

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      matt picio April 14, 2011 at 8:16 am

      They do, but REI already has a bike theft issue with the existing racks, which were installed in a cement alcove with no windows to the store. (raspberry award to the designer for that one) A bike corral would be open and easily visible, curtailing the theft issue.

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    Matt M. April 13, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    I’m curious how the city is doing on requests to install single staple racks? A few years ago the wait list was almost a year, and I gave up because their response was SO SLOW, and installed on myself which cost me approx $200 plust half a day of wrangling the permit, tools, and parts. Maybe business should have to pay some portion (half?) to have a corral installed. This might make those business who really believe in the idea put there money where their mouths are.

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    Charley April 13, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    This is a list of smart businesses. They’ll get more business from 5 cyclists parked right in front than they’d ever get from one driver parked in front! I support!

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    JimJim April 13, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Silly question, but what is a “staple”? In regards to bikes a staple to me has always been something to keep out of your tires!

    But serious question, what exactly is a staple and where did this term originate? The term is new to me, and apparently new to the web, because searches just turn me around to this site.

    And if it’s new to me it probably new to others. I’ve been riding bikes since about ’62. So a little explanation might go a long ways.

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    Ted Buehler April 14, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Good for the city for putting in 30 per year, but I’d like to see them increase the budget and get them in faster. It would payoff in many other areas — increased bicycle amenities results in more bicyclists and fewer drivers, and cleaner air, less crowded streets, better car-parking availability, etc. Less wear and tear on the roads from studded tires.

    If you like the corrals and want to send out a “thank you,” drop a line to Sarah Figliozzi at PBOT. Her email is at the bottom of this page —

    And to nominate a location for a bike corral, use this form —

    Ted Buehler

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      Sarah Figliozzi April 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      Ted thank you for pointing folks to more information.

      One clarification, if a business is asking the City for an on-street bicycle corral they need to fill out this form – found here:

      A corral request requires the support by the adjacent business and property owner(s) as well as some photo documentation of the existing bike parking demand.

      They can also call me directly on 503-823-0805 so that I can talk to them about their location and what other immediate solutions we can suggest due to the long backlog. Thank you,

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    Ted Buehler April 14, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Two thumbs up to
    * Produce Row
    * The Alibi

    You’ll know bicycles are standard transportation for the masses when one goes in at The Alibi…

    I’m surprised to see that Ground Kontrol isn’t on the list…

    Ted Buehler

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    Steve B April 14, 2011 at 1:38 am

    This makes for a nice cheat-sheet of bike-friendly businesses. Thanks to all the business owners who see the process through and get corrals out in front of their stores, your customers are stoked!

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    IanO April 14, 2011 at 8:11 am

    The Slappy Cakes on Belmont would be a GREAT location because it would also serve as parking for the adjacent pod of food carts.

    I hope the city is doing follow-up studies on these racks, to see which of the requests actually do get used. For example, several were installed on a stretch of SE 28th from Pambiche on Glisan to Crema on Ankeny. Most are heavily used (esp. the one in front of Beulahland), but the one by Tabla/Bishops is usually empty.

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    Silkyslim April 14, 2011 at 8:34 am

    I think one of the biggest bonuses for businesses is that their storefront is way more exposed with a bunch 4′ bikes in front than an 8′ suv.

    Bike parking and neighborhood greenways are totally my two Portland biking “bragging” points.

    And to jimjim above: a “staple” is the standard, blue bike parking dealie in town. Think of a giant staple being pushed into the ground (but not going all the way in).

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    Rico April 14, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Claudia’s needs some racks. They have two staples and get at least 20 bike riders for bigger games. They need to tear out that horrible overgrown ground cover on the 30th side and put in 10 more staples.

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    Mike April 14, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Just so I am clear:
    Not only does the city lose the revenue for the auto parking, they also pay for the bike rack and installation?
    I see how this benefits the businesses, but it seems to cost the city quite a bit of money (75 x $2500 = $187,500 + lost parking revenue).

    Perhaps the backlog wouldn’t be as bad if the businesses paid for half the installed cost? It seems probably the best $1200 spent and tax deductible?

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 14, 2011 at 11:48 am

      Yes. It’s a silly situation that needs to be remedied. The City should not be footing the entire bill for something that is clearly in high demand from businesses. The revenue formula you have laid out also I would think could be fodder for critics.

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      ilikeyournewhaircut April 14, 2011 at 11:54 am

      Ha. What about the parking revenue the city loses when you park your car for free outside your house. Maybe we should put meters on every street? Wouldn’t bother me, I would still lock to a bike rack.

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      J.R. (Dir. Keeping Lights On) April 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      Not necessarily. Many of the auto parking locations replaced by corrals are not metered and therefore earn no revenue.

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      Allison April 15, 2011 at 5:45 pm

      Most of the spots that are good for corrals are not in areas that Portland meters. The truth is parking in Portland is free on the vast majority of streets.

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    ilikeyournewhaircut April 14, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I don’t think you need a corral @Slappycakes, AND the Vet office, AND The food carts on Belmont, seeing as how they are next door to each other. I’m sure a lot of these will be combined as needed. Reduce/Reuse, right?

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    Ethan April 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Interesting that Breakside Brewery is not on the list. is that corral/art installation totally separate?

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    CaptainKarma April 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Plaid Pantrys need SOMEthing to lock to. I wonder what their deal is.

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      jim April 16, 2011 at 11:22 am

      Have you contacted them about your concern? Perhaps they hadn’t thought about it ? A properly addressed e-mail might conjure up something. I see they are placing posts to prevent drive through crashes into the register area, perhaps they have some money for this?

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    jim April 16, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Don’t forget that Portland likes the revenue from the meters, and especially the revenue from parking tickets. They don’t get any of this from bike corals, actually they lose it.

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      ilikeyournewhaircut April 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm

      Holocene, Good Food Here Belmont, NightLight Lounge, Savoy, Pure Heart Yoga, Bread & Ink/Waffle Window, Red and Black Café, Side Door, My Fathers Place, Slow Bar, East Burn, Triple Nickel Pub, Mio Sushi, East Side Delicatessen Inc, Hungry Tiger
      Riyadh’s Lebanese Restaurant, Vincente’s Gourmet Pizza, Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches, Hawthorne HopHouse, Peoples Food, Slappy Cakes/Vmt. tabor veterinary care, Southeast Grind are all meter-less, and that’s just the list off the top of my head.

      If the city loves meters so much, why aren’t they outside these businesses?

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