Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Those interesting bike racks at Portland’s newest park

Posted by on May 13th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Bike parking at The Fields park-2

Believe it or not, those are bike racks!
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Yesterday I finally got a chance to visit The Fields, Portland’s newest neighborhood park. Situated on NW Overton between 10th and 11th at the northern end of the Pearl District, The Fields is a beautiful addition to our city. It’s got fantastic views of old industrial areas, a panorama of the Fremont Bridge, and lots of green grass to lay and play on. Whenever Portland opens a new public space, I’m always interested to see how they deal with bicycle access. In the case of The Fields, they’ve created a nice area for bicycle parking; but it took me a while to 1) realize it was there and 2) figure out how to use it.

When I first rolled up to the park with my family and our four bikes, we locked up in front of the adjacent Encore condos (see background of photos below). It wasn’t until I walked into the park near the play area that I noticed six strange poles sticking up out of the ground. Are these bike racks? I wondered. A few seconds later I realized that, yes indeed, they are (the bike symbol on the side, though hard to see, confirmed that for me). I hadn’t seen anything like them before. Just a square pole with a slit in the middle.

Bike parking at The Fields park-3

Bike parking at The Fields park-1

The square edge didn’t seem very u-lock or bike frame friendly so at first I assumed front wheels were meant to go into the hole. Before we left, I moved our bikes over to the new racks to try them out. I had my wife Juli lift her wheel into the hole…

Bike parking at The Fields park-5

That didn’t work. Next I tried to lean our bikes against the flat poles and figure out a way to get a u-lock through the hole and the bike’s frame. After some puzzling, I figured it out! The u-lock slid into the hole and around the frame quite nicely once I found the right angle…

Bike parking at The Fields park-9

Bike parking at The Fields park-7

Bike parking at The Fields park-10

When I got home I found the website for maker of these racks — Forms + Surfaces — and confirmed the locking method. Maybe it was just me; but sometimes I like things that are simple and standardized. While I appreciate the design and aesthetics of these racks, I’m partial to the regular old City-issued staple racks.

In the end, these odd racks did nothing to diminish my opinion of The Fields. It’s a stellar new destination and they get major props for putting bike parking right near the front of the main play area. Have any of you used these racks yet? I’d be curious to hear what you think…

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

  • andy May 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    I tried those out last friday. I’ve got a standard-sized U-lock, and it worked just fine for me to lock my front wheel and frame. I hear they don’t work if you’ve got a smaller U-lock, though.

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  • Kris May 13, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Hmm… I’m pretty sure my U-lock would not work with that rack. It probably also wouldn’t work well for people with any kind of U-lock without locking skewers. I guess they’re kind of pretty, but they seem to lose big on functionality.

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  • Anne Hawley May 13, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    “…sometimes I like things that are simple and standardized. While I appreciate the design and aesthetics of these racks, I’m partial to the regular old City-issued staple racks.”

    Hear hear. But thanks for the instructions. I’ve have been flummoxed by these racks.

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  • John Lascurettes May 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Yes, I have a tight U-Lock for the express interest in keeping pry-ability of the lock to a minimum. These would never work for me. Also, I’m wondering, how easily are these “racks” foiled? Looks like they can just be unscrewed and lifted off of their mounts.

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    • John Lascurettes May 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm

      Confirmed from the product page: “overall depth” is 5 inches. My U-Lock is 5 inches. Would not work. That is a bummer.

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      • John Lascurettes May 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm

        Also confirmed: does not appear that difficult (if the screws can be compromised) to lift the whole thing off its mount. I love beautiful designs, but not at the cost of functionality. I’ve seen street signs more secured than this thing.

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        • 9watts May 13, 2013 at 5:39 pm

          Maybe. Though from the looks of it I’d guess those potentially unscrewable pieces were cast iron. There might be easier/less ridiculous looking ways to steal a bike than lugging a cast iron post around with you locked to the stolen bike.
          pole = round; post = square

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  • Champs May 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Unless you’ve got something truly innovative… staples. Even wave racks stink, especially if you’re trying to double up two bikes on one lock, or just not have a bike flop all over the place if it isn’t perfectly balanced/evenly loaded.

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  • Jeff May 13, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I wonder why architects and planners aren’t constantly trying to come up with funky, “innovative” designs for parking spaces?

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    • Elliot May 14, 2013 at 6:53 am


      Please, don’t lump architects and planners together like that.

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  • Jim Lee May 13, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    What size are the wheels & tires on that fancy steed?

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  • dwainedibbly May 13, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Form doesn’t always follow function, does it? I hate it when function loses out. These would be a lot better if they were 3 inches “deep” instead of 5.

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  • OnTheRoad May 13, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Doesn’t look like it would work if you’re trying to lock frame and one of the wheels to it. Unless you have one of those long u-locks which are compromisable on standard staples and posts.

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    • are May 13, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      this is the only way i would be willing to lock my bike, and it appears these racks would not accommodate

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      • dan May 14, 2013 at 12:16 pm

        I’ve seen that pic referenced a couple of times, and still don’t understand it. Might be my poor grasp of topology, but don’t you just have to clip the back rim to walk off with the bike? Why bother with a u-lock if the back rim is the weak link?

        I always shoot to get the lock around the seatstays so both the frame and the wheel are locked…am I being paranoid?

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        • John Lascurettes May 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm

          Yes, “all you have to do” is “clip” the back rim. But that means destroying the wheel. Easier said than done. It would be quicker and easier to take a grinder to the U-Lock itself.

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          • dan May 14, 2013 at 2:33 pm

            Hmm, that made me curious, so I Googled around and found a Cyclelicious post on this topic. I guess I’ll stick with locking the frame and the rim.

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            • GlowBoy May 14, 2013 at 8:58 pm

              I’ve never heard of any actual, documented instances of a bike frame being stolen by someone hacksawing through a Sheldon-locked rim, not even in Manhattan. Until there are actual occurrences of this I’m not too worried about it.

              Taking a look at the photos at the top of the thread and the technique Jonathan was forced to use, I’m not sure I could even lock my frame to these racks with my Evolution Mini. I think the beam of this rack might almost be wider than the length of my lock’s shackle. Sheesh.

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            • Chris May 15, 2013 at 9:25 am

              Even if it is really that easy, part of Sheldon’s logic is that the rear wheel is often the second most valuable chunk of the bike (after the frame). If the thief has to severely damage or destroy it, the risk/reward proposition changes significantly and encourages him to move along.

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        • are May 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm

          i guess my question is, why bother with a u-lock if you are going to just give the thief both your rims? which is how most people are locking their bikes.

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          • dan May 15, 2013 at 2:51 pm

            Heh, I’ve been leaving my front wheel (with quick-release!) unlocked for months because it’s at end of life and needs to be replaced. So far, no one has taken me up on it.

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  • Joe Adamski May 13, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    I’m waiting for someone to slip a cozy on them to protect the frame.

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    • Kristen May 15, 2013 at 11:36 am

      Don’t give me any ideas… I’ve got a lot of scrap yarn and the dimensions of the post.

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  • Adam May 13, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Wow, those racks are terrible. They look like they could be unbolted with an allen key. Also – how are you supposed to lock through your wheels with them? I would never, never, never, never just lock my bike up through the frame.

    Sure, they are somewhat avant-garde looking or whatever, but they are about as functionally obsolete as the terrible bike corral racks outside Pambiche.

    Major design fail.

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  • Spiffy May 13, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    looks like if you tried to lock 2 bikes at the same pole they’d be too close to each other for one of them to be able to reach the post without some severe wrangling… if you had another identical Ahearne I don’t think they’d fit on one post… front racks and seats would bump into each other… maybe if you offset them a few feet it’d work…

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  • GlowBoy May 13, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    If you can Sheldon-lock to them, they’re good.

    If you can’t Sheldon-lock to them, FAIL. End of analysis.

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  • Doug Klotz May 13, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Once again architects have let form overwhelm function. I don’t see how you can fit a u-lock to lock the center post and the rear wheel both at once, as i do. The things too wide and too thick. The vertical post on a staple rack is as big as I can reach over.

    Is someone in PBOT checking all these new types of racks, and approving them? (And I mean the sharp blade transit mall ones too!) We need a broader user committee to vet these things.

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    • Spiffy May 14, 2013 at 7:35 am

      it would be Portland Park, not PBOT…

      also, I thought the sharp blade transit mall ones were leaning posts for waiting transit riders, not bike racks…

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  • Doug Klotz May 13, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    Plus, because they don’t look like bike racks, many people will miss them unless there’s an actual bike locked to them. Stay with the staple racks. People know what they are, what they look like, and most people have learned how to use their locks in many different ways on them. These should be replaced with staples.

    By the way, the Forms + Surfaces website shows a bike locked to them with a lightweight cable. I guess that’s a small u-lock in the background of the picture, but you can hardly see it. The designers don’t seem to understand how the real world of bike racks works.

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  • Scott Batchelar May 14, 2013 at 1:18 am

    As a resident (My apartment can be walked to in 2 minutes) these contraptions are completely useless and I would never use them.

    Easier to just take my bike to my Apartment’s Racks and walk back to the park.

    Who was the ***** at PP&R who approved these?

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  • bendite May 14, 2013 at 7:38 am

    I like ’em.

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  • D Christian Harrison May 14, 2013 at 8:00 am

    I’m not a fan of the uprights — but I’m keen on the pad. It looks like it’s on a slight grade and comprised of tamped, decomposed granite. I bet it drains like a dream.

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  • Anne May 14, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I took a lot at their web site. Their designs *look* nice, but the designers don’t seem to get the concept of *secure* locking. How unfortunate.

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  • Dmitriy Zasyatkin May 14, 2013 at 9:03 am

    It seems like they need just a little bit of retrofitting to be useful, like a couple of thick steel rings that float inside of the center. That would allow the mini u-locks to be utilized and more room between bikes when needed.

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  • Kristen May 14, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Portland Parks should have gone with these, from the same company:


    These look like you can Sheldon-lock your bike, or at least use a smaller u-lock if you choose.

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  • maxadders May 14, 2013 at 9:39 am

    That’s just because your bikes are using the “old” style wheel, not this slick new re-invented version.

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  • Jim Lee May 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    No one has remarked that the great oval greensward might be Portland’s first purpose-built cricket pitch!

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  • Scott May 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    I don’t see how these racks meet city bike parking code.

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  • Scott May 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    33.266.220 Bicycle Parking Standards
    C. Standards for all bicycle parking
    3. Bicycle racks.
    […] the racks must meet the following
    a. The bicycle frame and one wheel can be locked to the rack with a high
    security, U-shaped shackle lock if both wheels are left on the bicycle;

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    • Sho May 14, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      Was thinking the same thing, you need two points of contact when installing bike racks within portland (well unless you are portland).

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  • Ted Buehler May 14, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Should have a bar through the middle about 6″ down from the top — that would let your lock keep your frame from sliding down to the ground if someone bumps into it. Ted Buehler

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  • Scott Batchelar May 15, 2013 at 1:58 am

    As I mentioned – sadly these bike stands are worthless but that’s very much par for the course when it comes to how the Fields Park has been handled by Portland Parks & Recreation.

    As one of the people who gave input on the layout of these parks way back in 2006/2007 then heard every single excuse for why a Park slated for development in 2008 was postponed until 2013 it’s not surprising at all that they would put something so artistic and useless in their place.

    I wonder if these things are the reason that they kept postponing the soft opening that was planned for January?

    The real losers here sadly is the neighborhood that these parks were built for – with bike stands like these people will have NO CHOICE but to use bike racks at the Encore and the Sitka Apartments which hurts both those places as the racks there are meant to be used by residents.

    Hey PP&R little bit of advice on your bike racks at the Fields – why didn’t you walk down and check out our WONDERFUL BIKE RACKS at the Sitka?

    They look really nice and you could have staggered them so you could have had 10 racks for a total of 20 bike spaces.

    Hopefully PP&R will remove these bike stands and replace them with something better – otherwise I can already here the court cases brewing from Hoyt Street Properties and Turtle Bay Development.

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  • Mitch Lomacz May 15, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I was recently relaxing in the new park, needing to lock my bike. My OnGuard Bulldog Mini would not fit. Other normal length locks would work, as long as they aren’t too narrow, like some Abus locks for example. I hope this help some folks. Plan ahead!

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