Tour de Lab September 1st

LEED apartment building lacks cargo bike parking, so family rents an auto space

Posted by on October 17th, 2014 at 11:07 am

The apartment building where the DeLaneys live was designed with lots of parking for small bikes but none for the sort that lets families with children live car-free.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

When their name came up this year on the waiting list for a rare below-market two-bedroom apartment in one of Williams Avenue’s new apartment buildings, the DeLaney family was thrilled.

It had enough room for their growing family — Bijou, their second daughter, is four months old — and was a short walk to the 35 bus that carries Chris DeLaney to his job at the Bike Gallery in Lake Oswego.

But it lacked something else: a place to park the cargo bike that lets them avoid car ownership and thus afford to live where they do. So, after some negotiation, the DeLaneys are paying $40 a month to park their cargo bike in one of the building’s auto parking spaces.

The standard price for a covered parking unit is $80 per space. But the space they use, right next to the garage exit, was already the building’s least popular for cars, and the DeLaneys think that two or more cargo bikes could fit in the space if a pair of low staples were installed.

As Portland discusses a reform of its bike parking code and the city grapples with the question of whether it can make car-free life a mainstream choice for young families as well as singles and seniors, the DeLaneys’ experience (not to mention the revenue being sacrificed by the underuse of the building’s garage space) is a lesson in the details of modern Portland architecture.

The DeLaneys don’t feel wronged by the situation, and say their apartment management company has been helpful and understanding. Instead, they hope that talking about their situation might help green architects start thinking about the relatively minor changes that’d be required to design buildings for family biking.

“In older buildings there’s nothing,” Chris DeLaney said of bike parking in Portland’s multifamily units. “It’s such a first-world problem, you know. But if you’re choosing to be bike friendly, how are you going to get families on their bikes?”

Erin DeLaney said the cargo bike is the main way she can take her and their daughters Bijou and Octave, 2, to parks, friends’ houses and grocery stores.

“I feel like that’s our happy place where nobody’s screaming,” Erin DeLaney said. “Sometimes it’s like, ‘If we can just get to the bike, everything’s going to be OK.'”

But the building’s bike parking, designed to conform to the LEED Gold green building standard, doesn’t have any room for a cargo bike. All the horizontal bike parking is on an eight-inch curb, which is larger than the 100-pound cargo bike can easily be hauled onto by a smaller person. Even if the family did claim the one space at the end of the wave rack, their bakfiets would be blocking every other bike user in the parking area.

As it is, because their bike parking space lacks staples, their bike is secured in the private garage only by being locked to itself.

Parking is only one issue; it’s also hard to get the bike out of the building. Because the cargo bike isn’t large enough to activate the pressure pad that opens the garage exit, they have to either haul their cargo bike up this curb, load it with the children, and then somehow get it through the large swinging door…

…or use their garage door opener to go out through the in door, hoping not to run into conflicts with cars that are entering.

Another car-free family recently moved into the DeLaneys’ hallway and started building a long-tail cargo bike to move their child around. Chris DeLaney said Friday that he hopes that’ll persuade the apartment managers to install staples in the car parking space to permanently convert it to paid cargo bike parking.

Erin DeLaney, who with her husband moved the family from Wyoming to Portland last year in part because they wanted to live car-free in one of the country’s best cities for biking, said all the hassles of the problem have made her appreciate the simplicities of buying a car and living on the edge of the city instead.

“You totally see why that suburban dream has so much appeal,” she said. “And it’s not for me! I don’t want that. But maybe half those people don’t want to do that either.”

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46 Comments
  • Avatar
    JJJJ October 17, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Ive never heard of a pressure activated garage door. Are they sure its not an inductive loop? If it is, they usually can be tuned to be more sensitive by management. It also helps if they know the exact place to position their bike to be sensed.

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      Max October 17, 2014 at 1:20 pm

      Or don’t adjust sensitivity and just use more metal to trigger it (plate mounted underneath or maybe the u lock?)

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        El Biciclero October 20, 2014 at 10:28 am

        Are you talking about modifying an already-very-heavy cargo bike by adding (welding on?) another (heavy) metal plate somewhere? Or possibly dragging a U-Lock along the ground to trigger the door and then…doing what with it? Dangling it from the handlebars? Stopping outside to stow it in a bag or re-secure it to it’s bracket? That’s the first thing I’d think of if the door didn’t work for me in my car—“Honey—remember today’s the day I’m dropping the car off at the shop so they can attach that new metal plate; I’m thinking that will make the garage door open for us. So can you come pick me up after work?”

        If they really wanted a secured garage, they’d put a key-card-activated door in place where everyone had to swipe to go. Why make it super-convenient for auto drivers and non-functional for cyclists (unless they modify their vehicle)?

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      Al Dimond September 26, 2018 at 11:36 am

      I’ve worked in a place whose parking garage had a pressure-pad activated garage door for egress. In my case the pad was on top of the pavement (probably glued down or something well after the garage was constructed), and if you hit it just right with a bike it would activate. Unfortunately it was a risky maneuver — if you hit it just wrong with wet wheels you could fall over. The safe way was to go press a button.

      I’m pretty sure a building I lived in used some sort of motion sensor… not sure whether it was an infrared source/detector pair or something else.

      So there are lots of different ways to do it.

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    Chris Smith October 17, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Working hard to get the bike parking zoning code effort into the workplan for Comp Plan implementation projects. Hoping for results sooner than later. This kind of situation is one we explicitly want to address!

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      Bella Bici October 20, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      Great work, Chris!

      Could you also implement a wave bike rack ban? Gawd I despise those things!! Staples, or staple-like, please.

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        Sho October 20, 2014 at 12:21 pm

        If that bike parking is meant to count towards the PBOT requirement they cant use wave parking already since you need 2 points to lock up/rest against.

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    dan October 17, 2014 at 11:39 am

    $40/month doesn’t sound too bad if they get a staple in there. I’ve been hauling a trailer with a 75 pound dog lately, and I would kill for a drive-in parking spot at work — as it is, I have to get through two sets of doors, neither of which has a wheelchair button for auto opening. Pretty hard to hold that door open and get the bike through without the door swinging back and hitting the trailer.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) October 17, 2014 at 11:48 am

      Yeah, and again, I think they’re just fine with $40 a month, especially if their bike can actually be secured. The problem isn’t the price but the need for a retrofit. The DeLaneys are an unusually passionate family. Other families wouldn’t bother to navigate these hurdles.

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        El Biciclero October 17, 2014 at 12:21 pm

        “Other families wouldn’t bother to navigate these hurdles.”

        Sadly, I think in many ways that’s what a lot of folks are counting on. If we don’t accommodate, they’ll go away. The need to navigate “hurdles”—that shouldn’t be there in the first place—keeps a lot of people from using even a regular bike to do anything other than putter around on “bike paths” a couple times a year. My hope is that I’m more wrong than right about this and there is merely just an extreme lack of awareness—such as at one of my local grocery stores, where a giant 12-slot “wave” rack is installed under a convenient covered area a mere 15 feet from the entrance….and about 8 inches away from the wall. So if I ever shop there with my cargo bike, I have to park at the next closest rack—200 feet away in front of another business, out in the weather. I don’t go there very often.

        Again, the question is why do we continue to make using a car “simple”, and using a bike a major hassle?

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    Kat October 17, 2014 at 11:45 am

    This is such an interesting post, and relevant to me!! I currently live with my partner in one of the only three current residential units in the Lloyd District.

    It is a new building (built 2005 I think), with something like 180 units. Yet, the bike parking is terrible. The only bike parking available is wall or staple rack parking in the parking garage.

    Bikes and bike components are constantly being stolen from those staple racks, so much so that the police actually came to the building and held a community meeting about the issue. All a thief has to do is follow a car into the parking garage when the gates open. Easy peasy.

    There are no security cameras.

    My other beef is, the apartment managers refuse to give us a remote garage door opener. So, in order to get our bikes INTO the garage, we have to lug them through THREE sets of double doors, none of which have a disabled push-bar to keep the door open while you are hauling your bike with 50 lbs of groceries into the building.

    It might seem like a tiny thing, but when you have to deal with it every day, it becomes eventually intolerable.

    The building managers tell us they are planning to turn one of the ground floor storage locker rooms (each floor has a storage locker room where residents can rent a 6’x3′ space for an extra $50/mo) into a secure bike parking room. They always tell us conveniently when our lease is up for renewal. As soon as the lease is renewed, the issue mysteriously gets dropped again!

    My partner and I live in a studio apartment (at $1050/mo for 450 square feet, it’s all we can afford). We currently have SIX bikes in that studio apt – a mountain bike, a cyclocross bike, two road bikes, and two commuter bikes. It’s ridiculous.

    We finally snapped, and will be giving our notice in a week or so.

    I really think apartment buildings need to do more than the tokenistic to retain customers. I am curious how our apartment building will fair once all the new apt units currently under construction in the Lloyd District open. I hear Hassalo on 8th will have something like 600 bike parking spaces!!

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      RH October 17, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      Holy smokes….6 bikes in a studio. Wow. If they offered secured bike storage, would you be willing to pay for it since 6 bikes is a pretty significant number.

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        Adam October 17, 2014 at 3:17 pm

        If it really was secure (keyfob entry, or, even better, actual keyed entry), yes, we would probably be willing to pay extra. The frustrating thing is, it’s not even an option.

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    Allan October 17, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I hope their bike doesn’t get stolen because of this article

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) October 17, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Me, too. I cleared the amount of detail here with them. They felt the problems were worth illustrating. (And without meaning to condone theft, it’s insured.)

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    Jeff October 17, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Several architect friends who are LEED certified have a pretty LOW opinion with LEED certification. Tells you something.

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      Chris I October 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      It is a bit of a joke for people that are knowledgeable in the field. Overall, I think it is a good thing, at least for folks that have no green building knowledge.

      The two biggest drawbacks I see: transportation modal choice is not considered enough, and there is not enough credit for re-using buildings vs. new construction.

      They also don’t factor in what type of business will be going on inside the structure. For example, Intel can build a fab that is LEED Gold certified, but contains enough toxic chemicals to kill the entire metro area population.

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      BIKELEPTIC October 19, 2014 at 10:45 am

      I work in a LEED certified building that was just built 3 years ago. I adore getting up every 15 minutes to flail my arms at the auto light sensor because of where I sit in my shared office space. If I’m alone in my office it doesn’t notice I’m there and turns off the lights. You know what? I’m an adult and can remember to turn the lights off. It’s more professional than having them turn off randomly when I’m meeting with clients.

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    Tom October 17, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Are there any national, state, or local minimum standards for bike parking?

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      maccoinnich October 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      For the most part parking (whether for bikes or cars) isn’t addressed in state or federal regulations. Section 33.266.200 of the Portland Zoning covers the minimum number and size of required bicycle parking spaces for new development. There’s nothing in there requiring parking for cargo bikes. A developer is of course always able to go beyond the minimum required number, as they do all the time for car parking.

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        Sho October 20, 2014 at 12:24 pm

        From the pics in this article the provided bike parking doesn’t meet the Portland zoning code for a multitude of reasons, so hopefully this case (apartment) was going above and beyond with these stalls opposed to what is required.

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    • TonyT
      TonyT October 17, 2014 at 5:01 pm

      National? One can dream I suppose.

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    daisy October 17, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    See now I’m worried about their bike. Could they temporarily put a couple of concrete blocks in their spot and cable lock their bike to it (like maybe with four or five cable locks they keep locked to the block), at least to try to slow down anyone who now knows exactly where this is because the photos give a lot of information?

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    Jocey October 17, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Big kudos to the DeLaneys! They are a lovely family and truly illustrate how graceful parneting and life can be carfree.

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    K'Tesh October 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    I’d be so nervous about my bike parked outside (of my apartment). Despite insurance, I’d still STRONGLY advise them to get one of those bulletproof lock/chain setups (OnGuard’s The Beast comes to mind).

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    METROFIETS October 17, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Great article, great family and Metrofiets® clients too! Just to be clear their Metrofiets® weighs 68lbs without the rear rack and child seat. 🙂

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      spare_wheel October 17, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      sure…but imagine how sweet ultegra/alfine di2 and XTR hydros would look on a monocoque carbon fiber metrofiets. not joking.

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        METROFIETS October 17, 2014 at 5:53 pm

        Wellllllllll – except for the carbon – we’ve built up a bike with all of that PLUS a belt drive. The Alfine di2 is super sweet. 🙂

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    Beth October 17, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    I am struck by one statement in this article, one that is worth a deeper look. The Delaneys chose to move from [more affordable] Wyoming to much more expensive Portland, OR in order to live car-free. In fact, they said that they could not afford to live here unless they went car-free. So in some ways, Portland has created a liveable city FILLED with “first world” issues that fewer and fewer families can afford to live with.

    Watch what happens when human-scale amenities become commonplace in outer eastside Portland: it, too, will become less affordable for people to live in, and certain demographics will be chased out by the rise in the cost of living, just as they have been by the last fifteen years of gentrification happening in inner eastside.

    In the end, I fear that Portland will become an across-the-board expensive and less diversse city. All of this infrastructure improvement means ignorance of minorities whoses cultures still hold the car in high esteem. Would really like to see more being done to avoid such UNdiversification of our lovely city, but not sure how it can be done, or by whom.

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      J4son October 17, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      Beth, Portland will likely become more expensive across the board, but accommodating a denser population does not mean you WILL create a less diverse population. Check the wikipedia page on San Fransisco.

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      9watts October 17, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      Well, now. They could sublet that $40 space, or rather a cargo bike’s worth of it, to that other family we read about above. Every little bit helps, right? Soon the place will be crawling with cargo bikes and there will be no more room to park those nasty automobiles (offstreet). Hahahaha.

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      Christopher October 17, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      Just for clarification, my wife and I moved back to Portland to be with family and put down roots. We were in Wyoming for just two years following a job in aviation.

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) October 18, 2014 at 3:38 pm

        Thanks, Christopher. My sentence above was based on months-old conversations with you and I may have misremembered. For the moment I’ve added “in part” to this sentence in the post above. Let me know if it should be further changed.

        Beth, I see two basic ways to deal with the fact that people are willing to pay more to live in neighborhoods with nice stuff:
        1) Increase the supply of neighborhoods with nice stuff by building more nice stuff.
        2) Increase the supply of housing and destinations in neighborhoods that already have nice stuff.

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          Christopher October 21, 2014 at 2:11 pm

          It’s all good. That sounds a little more accurate. 🙂

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    KYouell October 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Lovely story about a lovely family. Hope if they think of a way that the community can help them get better-secured parking that they’ll reach out. That goes for the couple in the studio apartment too! The PDX Cargo Bike Gang is not only on Facebook but Twitter now too. Tell us how we can help.

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    Spiffy October 17, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    But the building’s bike parking, designed to conform to the LEED Gold green building standard

    there’s nothing gold-standard about an open wave rack up on a curb in what looks like a repurposed auto parking space…

    that’s the kind of bike parking I would expect in a vintage building that had to find a spot to put an old discarded wave rack somebody gave them after updating their own racks…

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    • TonyT
      TonyT October 17, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Absolutely. Wave racks are terrible, and that curb is substandard access for sure. There should be some standards for the kind of bike racks for LEED certification.

      Pretty much zero thought went into that bike parking area.

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      was carless October 18, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      I doubt LEED has anything to say at all about the type of bike racks. Its probably just a check mark: bike rack? 1 point.

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    Doug Klotz October 18, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Is there even a standard that you shouldn’t have to lift your bike up a curb to get to the racks? Chris is that something that is included in the proposals you’re working on? I don’t have a cargo bike, but even loaded panniers/bags make it difficult to navigate a tall curb.

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    wsbob October 18, 2014 at 11:43 am

    The $40 a month to park a bike, at home, seems like a lot. That price, for a bare parking space, still leaves the bike out in the cold and damp air, vulnerable to thieves. If the management would allow it, setting an easily assembled, take down shed type structure over the full area of the parking spot could offer better security, maybe a little room to work on the bike, storage, lights, etc.

    Seems to me also, that the building’s purpose built parking facility for tenant’s bikes, is very close to lousy. Embarrassing, really. It’s frequently noted that Portland has some great designers. Developers having an entirely new building designed from the ground up, with the expense that represents, could fairly easily I would think, with the help of some of those designers, devote a modest percent of the buildings’ budget to produce some first class bike parking innovation.

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    Kyle Andersen October 18, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    The city requires 1.5 long term bike stalls per residential unit. It has to be covered and secured..either by enclosure, CCTV or concierge/guard. I am an architect and I would be curious what the readers think is a good ratio for cargo bikes versus other bikes – perhaps by sales? Certainly with families you might have a different bike setup or at a minimum a few more bikes when providing apartments for small families. I think if there were some targets then they could be worked into the design solution. Thanks.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) October 18, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      Kyle, great to hear from you. I’ll share one thought that Chris DeLaney shared in our interview but that didn’t make it into the post above: Even the phrase “long-term” bike parking to refer to secure bike parking is actually part of the problem. For a lot of car-free families in central Portland, biking is probably as regular an activity as driving is for other families, but some “long-term” parking is really more like “long term storage.” Stash your bike and grab it a few times a year for a camping trip or the naked ride. So although the current city code defines “long-term” to some extent and provides very clear ratios, part of the DeLaneys’ issue here is usability.

      Side note: the city minimum is 1.5 long-term stalls in the central city (including the Lloyd) but isn’t it 1.1 long-term stalls elsewhere (including on N. Williams)?

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      Chris Smith October 20, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      Kyle, I suspect you’re going to help define the practice here. If I were you I would look at apartments and condos with a similar mix of unit sizes and see what’s parked…

      I would second the comment about low-to-the-ground bars being a great way to distinguish bakfiets parking. But let’s not forget about longtails as well.

      In an ideal world you’d be able make some allowance to have the parking be reconfigurable and adjust to your market as it develops. Please also keep in mind that some of with ‘regular’ bikes have trouble lifting bikes onto vertical racks.

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    Rithy Khut October 20, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Just saw this picture in Malmo from Copenhagenize — That low bar would be a fantastic add to their parking spot so their can lock their bike.

    http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3680/12521685194_9096313743_z.jpg

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      Ron October 20, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Brilliant! I want those!!!!

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