Poorly installed bike racks in renovated Bancorp Tower plaza

bancorp tower parking

Can you spot the errors with this installation?
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

If we want to become a virtuoso cycling city, we must first master the fundamentals.

It’s one thing when poorly installed bicycle parking happens in front of a convenience store, but it’s a much bigger deal when it’s done as part of a multi-million dollar project for the 2nd tallest building in Portland and the largest office building (in terms of volume) in the entire state of Oregon.

The other day I noticed the renovation of the plaza on the south end of the U.S. Bancorp Tower was completed and re-opened. I am a huge fan of public plazas. They have a major impact on the quality of place and they’re an essential part of any great city.

Given that, I was extremely disappointed when I saw the bike parking was installed. As you can see from the image above, the potential utility of these racks is extremely diminished because they are placed so close to the wall and so close together.

Compare the racks in the image above to the City of Portland’s official guidelines on “minimum required area” for a bicycle rack as published in Administrative Rule TRN-10.09:

bancorp-min-requ-areaImage47

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These racks in the Bancorp Tower plaza are too close to the wall, do not allow for proper bicycle alignment, and they encourage users to lock up in a way that will constrict the flow of walking traffic (the Administrative Rule clearly states that, “The minimum sidewalk corridor for placement of a bike rack is ten (10) feet”). It’s also worth noting that these racks are just a few yards away from a major light rail and bus transit stop.

On paper, these racks have capacity for 12 bicycles. But in reality, depending on how people use them, I could see three or four bikes taking up the entire area.

I’m not sure how plans like this slip through the regulatory process. Projects like this are required to get a permit and I’d expect that at some point along the line PBOT would have to sign off on the vehicle parking plans. A sketch of the plaza (below) on the GBD Architects website doesn’t even show the racks at all, so perhaps they were an afterthought.

US-Bancorp-Plaza-Renovation-web-1

Can you spot the errors with this installation?
The new Bancorp Tower plaza.
(Graphic: GBD Architects)

This is unfortunately a very common mistake. Even New Seasons โ€” one of the most bike-friendly businesses in Portland โ€” installed 30 new bike racks at their Williams Avenue store too close to the wall. In that case, after BikePortland commenters pointed out the error, they unbolted each one and moved them back.

Hopefully, given that this plaza renovation was estimated to cost between $12 and $14 million, the architects in charge of this project can afford to move these racks away from the wall, re-oriented them 90-degrees, and/or move them to another location entirely. If they do, I’d suggest they contact a bicycle parking expert at PBOT before doing so.

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Jim Labbe
Jim Labbe
7 years ago

Great article! I have gotten too accustomed to bad bike parking.

Dweendaddy
Dweendaddy
7 years ago

Not only are they poorly placed, but as that diagram shows, staple-style racks aren’t even that great, especially if you have wide/tall/short handlebars, baskets, or other things that don’t go well smushed up next to another bike.
Two better designed racks:
http://www.creativepipe.com/lightning_bolt_LR_series_racks.htm
http://www.parkabike.com/varsity-bike-dock

Jessica Roberts
Jessica Roberts
7 years ago
Reply to  Dweendaddy

There are lots of bad racks in the world, but staples aren’t one of them. They offer two points of contact (to hold the bike up), are relatively cheap, are easy to install. Let’s fight the ribbon rack battle and leave the poor staple racks alone.

Dweendaddy
Dweendaddy
7 years ago

I don’t lump racks into “bad” or “good,” but some are better than others. When there is a big construction project with new bike racks, I always hope for “better!” And cover from rain.

eli bishop
eli bishop
7 years ago
Reply to  Dweendaddy

“And cover from rain.” THIS!

David McCabe
David McCabe
7 years ago
Reply to  Dweendaddy

Neither of these designs appear to allow the rear wheel to be locked.

Anne
Anne
6 years ago
Reply to  David McCabe

I just use a heavy cable or 2nd U-lock and lock rear wheel to frame.

Ted Buehler
7 years ago
Reply to  Dweendaddy

“Two better designed racks:”

Nope.

I’ve locked at “lightning blot racks” hundreds of times in Davis, CA. They’re just not up to the job. Single point of contact, no way position your lock so its above the top tube of the bike. Bikes are always flopping around and falling down to the ground, making them vulnerable to all sorts of stuff, and looking abandoned.

I agree with Jessica — two thumbs up for staples. They have none of these problems. Portland is very lucky to have a pro-staple staff at PBOT.

Ted Buehler

Ted Buehler
7 years ago
Reply to  Ted Buehler

*lightning BOLT racks*

hat
hat
7 years ago

We have heard your culture uses these devices for a special ritual.

Reza
Reza
7 years ago

*Checks box*

All done here!

Mitch
7 years ago

Did you ask GBD to comment? Sometimes they just have to do what the client wants. Or maybe this was a mistake by the contractor.

joebobpdx
joebobpdx
7 years ago
Reply to  Mitch

Yes, please, a comment from GBD or the owner!

Craig Harlow
Craig Harlow
7 years ago

Also a comment from the city would be informative, how in multiple cases approved projects were completed in this manner.

Editz
Editz
7 years ago

Are those bolts exposed? Looks like you could remove them with a socket wrench or just saw them off.

Todd Hudson
Todd Hudson
7 years ago

Contractors seem to often put these as close to the building as possible.

Daniel L
Daniel L
7 years ago

It appears they are installed with regular nuts too, not security bolts though I guess it’s possible they are welded.

Almost as if they are deliberately meant to keep anybody from wanting to park their bike there except as a last resort, but still count on-paper as bike parking spots. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that it’s just inexperience in dealing with bike racks though.

Alan 1.0
Alan 1.0
7 years ago

“Can you spot the errors with this installation?”
“The new Bancorp Tower plaza.”

Oh, now that’s a bit harsh, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

don arambula
don arambula
7 years ago

What they should have done is drop one of the suburban-styled, tarted up planter beds and replaced it with covered bike parking. By the way, I believe a sub-consultant for the project, Walker Macy landscape architects may have been the responsible party.

Scott
Scott
7 years ago

Welcome to every bike rack installed at Albertsons in Washington & Multnomah County. It’s almost as if they’re doing it so they can claim a tax credit from Metro and don’t actually care about their employees or customers who don’t arrive by automobile or SUV. Almost.

Ben Schonberger (@SchonbergerBen)
Ben Schonberger (@SchonbergerBen)
7 years ago

If these were installed to fulfill the city’s requirements, they are in violation. If you get no response from Unico, call BDS zoning.

33.266.220 Bicycle Parking Standards
A. Short-term bicycle parking.
2. Standards. Required short-term bicycle parking must meet the following
standards:
a. Short-term bicycle parking must be provided in lockers or racks that meet the standards of Subsection 33.266.220.C.

and, therefore…

C. Standards for all bicycle parking.
4. Parking and maneuvering areas.
a. Each required bicycle parking space must be accessible without moving
another bicycle;
b. There must be an aisle at least 5 feet wide behind all required bicycle
parking to allow room for bicycle maneuvering.

http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=28197&a=53320

Craig Harlow
Craig Harlow
7 years ago

Nice.

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger
7 years ago

In addition to the question of “theft resistant” fittings…how secure is the surface in which these racks are bolted to?

Is the sidewalk wearing surface made up of traditional bricks, tile/ brick veneer, or solid concrete? Bolting a rack to anything other than solid concrete should be avoided for secure or long term parking.

If you bolt the rack to something that is movable/ removable then the rack is defeated by a ‘wobble attack’ or ‘pull attack’.

[I have not been on site yet, so I cannot determine how secure the installation is.]

I hope this building has better long term employee bike parking…

Anne Hawley
Anne Hawley
7 years ago

Yet another place where my integrated AXA wheel lock and long chain would come in handy. I encounter instances around town all the time. Unfortunately, my big Dutch bike, though securely locked up here, would still stick out into the pedestrian right off way.

Dwaine Dibbly
Dwaine Dibbly
7 years ago

At least it isn’t in a part of town where there is a lot of bike theft….

Agree with Ben: call Zoning

SW
SW
7 years ago

if you’d like to see some smartly placed parking staples … and don’t laugh….check the Goodwill on 82nd (just south of Johnson Creek Blvd.) ..they are angled at a 45 to the wall of the store and have plenty of space.
Guess 10 or 12 bike capacity.

Buzz
Buzz
7 years ago

This has been a problem in Portland for over two decades. This is what happens when bike racks are designed, installed and approved by architects, engineers, contractors and city inspectors who don’t ride bicycles and don’t have any clue about what a usable bike rack installation consists of.

SW
SW
7 years ago

And the bike parking at the GW in Gresham is near the front door and they made a glass roofed shelter over the bikes. Nice when they are dry after shopping.

smithers
smithers
7 years ago

Dwaine Dibbly
At least it isnโ€™t in a part of town where there is a lot of bike theftโ€ฆ.
Agree with Ben: call Zoning
Recommended 1

My seatpost and seat were stolen today at this spot (west side of building). Not a quick release either…so that persuasion is around.

ac
ac
7 years ago

Jonathan, you should go talk to planning and the plans examiners for what they review in the permit process — I suspect your expectations of what they can do is not quite matched with what they actually can do. Also, you should check in with the architect before assuming (& writing) that they directed the specific installation of the bike racks (maybe they did but somehow i’m doubtful)

scott
scott
7 years ago

This redesign most likely had an element in it to prevent people from sitting up against the walls. It is a huge bank. They can afford to be assholes.

A Designer
A Designer
7 years ago

Agree with other comments about implied responsibility for the bike rack installation. Jonathan, please follow up with GBD as they are unlikely responsible for the bike rack installation. In order of likelihood of responsibility it would be contractor first, then the landscape architect who designed the plaza (Walker Macy from what I understand and not GBD), and then GBD. Some journalistic due diligence is needed here.

Brooke
Brooke
7 years ago

It sounds like an article on well designed bike parking in Portland area would be of interest. Who knew the goodwill could be a possible top of that list. Nice article. I always struggle with the bike racks on the north side of the interstate/rosa parks New Seasons.

Tim Davis
Tim Davis
7 years ago

I wrote gbd@gbdarchitects.com, and I encourage you to write them (and many other architecture firms), as well! Be very professional and grammatical, though, so that they take your suggestions seriously. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m always encouraged by the great responses I get; we really CAN make individual differences! And it all starts with these great articles that hopefully inspire many of us to take action to make a positive difference.

Anyway, regarding this unforgivable bike parking installation, it’s so unbelievably frustrating (and downright depressing) that despite the fact that 1) it’s 2015 and not 1955, and 2) this is PORTLAND, nearly every developer and architect *still* designs almost exclusively for the 1950s-style suburb and CARS, rather than PEOPLE. Architectural renderings always, always show *people* in front of their buildings, but beyond these unrealistic renderings, people are ever actually considered. The designs and resultant buildings are all about cars, blank walls, cheap materials, short-term profits, and ZERO imagination when it comes to any kind of urban or out-of-the-box thinking.

I told GBD that in the 6 issues to consider regarding bike parking, they batted 0 for 6. I asked them to do the following: 1) no exposed bolts , 2) increase the distance from the wall, 3) put them at a proper ANGLE, 4) include proper spacing between bikes, 5) put them at the proper location to encourage visibility and more cycling, and, finally, 6) just THINK about modes other than single-occupancy vehicles (for once).

Granted, I didn’t put it quite that way. But I DID tell them that it’s honestly depressing that nearly every architect and developer (in 2015 and in Portland!) still designs as if it’s the suburbs and it’s still 1955. And then I apologized for the “tough love” email and thanked them heartily for their consideration. ๐Ÿ™‚

Beate
Beate
7 years ago

Between that and the useless bike wheel gutters on the waud bluff I wonder not only about the planners, but also the crew/supervisor that installs it. Just a tad of common sense and “thinking” before doing would help greatly. Even just asking a nearby bike rider to “test” the intended installationg before mounting/cementing it, would enhance the chance that things are done right.

oliver
oliver
7 years ago
Reply to  Beate

Since I grew up in a blue collar family in a redneck town, and (or for this reason) I’m exceptionally cynical, my gut instinct tells me that it’s on purpose.

“I may not like cyclists, but they told me I had to put these here, and no one told me I had to like it”

“What? You wanted a bike rack, there it is. Man you people are whiners, always looking for something to complain about…grumble grumble, what’s wrong with america today”

Vanessa Renwick
7 years ago

I emailed this article to management at Holladay Park Plaza, which also had a rack installed almost up on the wall. I had already complained about it a year or so ago, they moved the rack to another location, still had it up against the wall and pretty much useless. Emailing your article to them last week got the job done. They repositioned the rack 36″ (I told them about cargo bikes as well) away from the wall!

Craig Harlow
Craig Harlow
7 years ago

Excellent!

Tim Davis
Tim Davis
7 years ago

That is GREAT to hear, Vanessa; thanks for letting us know! It seems like all great progress starts with BikePortland articles. ๐Ÿ™‚ And writing letters (that incorporate many great ideas people share here) to folks who have the authority to implement our desired changes really does make a huge, tangible difference. Thanks again, Vanessa!

joel
joel
7 years ago

ok lets think how many work at usbancorp. now how many racks are outside the building……who is the client in this situation paying for the work. its awesome to point fingers but perhaps another story will come along about what happened in this situation. before this story did someone call usbancorp and talk to them? maybe the bigger story here is city code on how close bike racks may be placed to walls, or the clearances for firecode and exits are. Lets ask a comment first from one of the parties actually involved with the placement.

there is no owner for GBD. they are an incorporated business with shareholders, partners etc. I used to work there a few years and grew up there in a sense. the parking outside their office is horrible and close to the walls, but due to firecode (which peets coffee somehow got past). firecode and clearance sometimes do not make sense- 1120 nw couch- the brewey blocks they designed. of course there is a little more to it, but the architect is bound by the client and city, then the contractor is watched over.. Lets hope for the best. for such a large building the bike racks outside are pretty much empty on the west entrance (lucky for me my favorite entrance)- im also a vendor to one of the tenants.