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:
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.
The new Bancorp Tower plaza.
(Graphic: GBD Architects)
This is unfortunately a very common mistake. Even New Seasons — one of the most bike-friendly businesses in Portland — 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.