New Seasons makes bike access a top priority at new Williams Ave location

bike parking at New Seasons -2
The phalanx of bike racks at
the New Seasons on Williams Ave at Fremont.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

A long row of bike racks has been installed on the east side of the New Seasons Market currently under construction on North Williams Avenue. While they take up only a small footprint of the overall site, the 30 staple racks have space for 60 bicycles — that’s three more spaces than they’ve allocated for auto parking.

The new New Seasons, set to open on August 28th of this year, is located on the block bound by Williams, Vancouver, Fremont and Cook. Both Williams and Vancouver (which run north/south) are among the busiest bike corridors in the entire city, so New Seasons is smart to make sure bike access is easy and pleasant. This morning I spoke to the store’s Director of Development Don Forrest to learn more about what we can expect in terms of bike access.

“It should be harder to find a vehicle parking stall than a bicycle parking stall. That’s our goal.”
— Don Forrest, New Seasons Market Director of Development

Forrest acknowledged that the 57 vehicle stalls is a “pretty low” amount of auto parking. “But given the unique location along the bicycling corridors,” he said, “we thought it was prudent.” Then he added that, “It should be harder to find a vehicle parking stall than a bicycle parking stall. That’s our goal.” (Note: The New Seasons on Hawthorne also has more bike parking than car parking.)

Currently, traffic on Williams is a mess whether you’re in a car or on a bike, but if all goes according to plan, we will see an entirely new road design by spring of 2014. The bike racks have been installed on the Williams side of the store and can be accessed via a driveway into the New Seasons parking lot. An overhang from the roof covers the racks and will keep folks dry(er) in the rain. They’ve also built a ramp that connects the bike parking to the front (main entrance) to the store.

It’s worth noting that the staple racks have been installed perpendicular to the wall. This is better than what we see at many businesses where racks are installed parallel (or too close) to walls because it allows you to pull right in and it makes parking two bikes at each staple much easier. The sidewalk adjacent to the bike racks is also very wide, which means people with larger, cargo bikes and/or kids and such will have plenty of breathing room. One last notable thing about the racks is that New Seasons has anchored them into the ground with theft-proof bolts with smooth heads. This is important because thieves in Portland have been known to take bikes simply by unscrewing the staples from the ground.

Here are a few more photos…

Ample space from the wall:

Theft-proof bolts:

A ramp leads to and from the bike parking:

Looking north:

Note the overhang:

Wide sidewalk next to the racks:

Forrest says New Seasons staff will have their own bicycle parking on the west side of the building. In addition, he said if the 60 spaces for customers isn’t enough, they’ll add more racks in the future. He said they’re also considering a bicycle service station on the site where you can work on your bike, put some air in your tires, and so on.

Another cool idea the store is working on is providing storage lockers for people who bike to the store. This is an idea I pitched to New Seasons several months ago and I was glad to hear it’s still on the table. The idea is that people on bikes lack a backseat or secure place to put their gear/jackets/panniers and so on. Instead of seeing people lug their bike panniers into the store, I thought it would be cool for businesses to start providing gear lockers. It makes even more sense for a grocery store because people who are lugging around less of their own stuff, are more likely to load up with more groceries. Forrest said the bike rider lockers would be located right inside the main doors near the deli. They’re currently looking for locker vendor and working through this idea. I’ll keep you posted.

One major issue that arose during PBOT’s N Williams Traffic Operations and Safety Project was the need for a traffic signal at N. Cook, the street on the southern boundary of the market. PBOT’s final project design includes a city-funded signal at Williams and Cook; but another signal is needed at Vancouver and Cook. Given the expense of signals — about $250,000 — the City asked New Seasons to lead a private effort to raise the money for the second signal

Forrest said today that, “New Seasons took that on as a challenge and the effort has taken a life of its own.” Forrest reported that a coalition of businesses has come together to raise the money for the Cook/Vancouver signal. The coalition includes New Seasons, Ivy Street Partners (a developer), Legacy Emanuel Hospital, and The Kaiser Group (a developer working on vacant parcel just north of New Seasons).

The signals on N. Cook are essential to the traffic safety and flow issues around this block. They have even more urgency given the news that a 196-unit residential development is likely coming to Cook (on the same block as New Seasons). Forrest said the development will have ground floor commercial along the north side of Cook and underground parking.

With so much change in this area, and such mixed traffic demand on the streets, it will be very interesting to see how this all plays out. The New Seasons will be open for 6-10 months before the PBOT project is complete, so there will be a time gap and biking/driving behavior learning curve for everyone.

“We plan to monitor the traffic situation closely,” says Forrest. He said New Seasons will do a traffic analysis a few weeks after their grand opening. If any problems arise, he said they’ll work with the City to remedy them.

Stay tuned.

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