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Bike parking exam: Planet Granite in the Pearl District

Posted by on December 21st, 2015 at 2:15 pm

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Bikes parked outside Planet Granite on NW 14th and Pettygrove.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

I have a thing for bike parking.

As I move through our city I an constantly scanning the streetscape for bike parking. I enjoy seeing the different ways businesses handle the task of providing a place for customers to park their bikes — or how they can completely ignore it. To me, bike parking isn’t just a place to park bikes, it’s a symbol that shows how much a business understands, and more importantly, respects its customers.

Every once in a while I see an example that deserves a closer look. On Friday while biking up NW 14th I came across Planet Granite, a new bouldering gym. Given its size (over 30,000 square feet of climbing walls and fitness equipment) location in the Pearl District (a dense area that’s home to lots of high-rise condo and apartment buildings) and a customer demographic that matches up well with cycling, Planet Granite was smart to be proactive with bike parking provisions.

Here’s what they’ve got…


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Up front near the main entrance are six staple racks which are made to fit two bikes each. The design of Planet Granite’s racks are new to me. They’re not the standard u-shaped racks supplied by the Bureau of Transportation. They have an elliptical shape that comes to a point at the top. I’m all for variety, but more often then not when people veer from the standard staple rack, they get it wrong (there’s are good reasons why PBOT uses the racks they use).

The racks at Planet Granite have a locking surface of flat, bare metal. It’s not clear from the design which way you’re supposed to position a bike on them. Bikes were locked both parallel and perpendicular to the racks. I suppose either way works, although in the parallel orientation the bare metal is sharp and could scratch frames easily.

The main racks at Planet Granite get high marks. They’re easy-to-use, spaced out away from each other, and they’re right up front (this is not rocket science). But what really caught my eye is that they offer overflow bike parking.

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Follow the signs and you see this…

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Advertise with BikePortland.
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Planet Granite has a large covered bike parking area behind the front entrance. They get major kudos for this! I love covered racks. They should be a given, especially in rainy places like Portland. I also appreciated that the area is monitored by security cameras — a fact that’s publicized by a large sign.

But unfortunately, the design of the parking itself was way off. All they offer is a long cross-bar to lock your bike to. Was I missing something here? Do they think people will lift their front tire over this and hang bikes over the bar? I wasn’t surprised to see that the only bike parked in the structure was locked to a piece of the structure itself rather than the crossbar.

Overall Planet Granite should be commended for putting thought and resources into their bike parking. They went above and beyond. It’s too bad the covered parking has such an odd design. Overall score: 7/10.

Have you parked your bike here? What do you think?

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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  • Allan December 21, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    the cover just needs some staples under it and they’ll be good to go. So close

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 21, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      exactly Allan! Great bike parking is really not hard to do. It’s when people try to get creative they often miss the mark.

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  • Rob Erickson December 21, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    There’s one more reason to hate these racks – notice in the last picture that the lighting is on the ground pointing upwards. This looks great, but if you go to unlock you bike and look straight down it’s annoyingly blinding.

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  • Rithy Khut December 21, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    For the racks in the front, I’m not sure which way you’re suppose to orient your bike. I usually lock my bike the other way so there are two points of contact instead of one.

    As for the covered bike parking, yes you have to lift your front wheel so it sits on the bar. While it works, it isn’t ideal and I don’t like it. I use it because bike parking is generally full at night.

    I would say 7 for thinking about it and a 5 for execution.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 21, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      Thanks for the input Rithy. OK, so it’s not just me. That is really how they expect people to use the covered racks. Wow. That is really bad. Not only is lifting up a bike not something everyone can do, but it would damage your frame. I wonder if they can do some sort of retrofit to make it better for everyone.

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      • John Lascurettes December 21, 2015 at 3:49 pm

        Not to mention, I’ve got pitlocks on my front axel and head, so it’s the back wheel that I usually want to secure best. Not everyone is looking to lock that front wheel. And I’m not hanging my bike by the back wheel! 🙂

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      • Buzz December 21, 2015 at 3:50 pm

        not so hot for bikes equipped with fenders, either.

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      • davemess December 21, 2015 at 3:52 pm

        I think the idea is that most people riding bikes to a climbing gym probably won’t have a problem lifting their bikes onto the bar. Given that they have a number of other racks, I don’t find that very crazy.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 21, 2015 at 4:36 pm

          I still find it crazy, regardless of the relative strength of their customer base.

          To require lifting your vehicle off the ground and hanging it on a pipe is pretty bad form IMO… Especially when there are much nicer and easier options readily available at no extra expense.

          And I hope everyone gets where this post and my comments are coming from. I am not trying to bash them or complain at at all… Just sharing feedback!

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          • 9watts December 21, 2015 at 4:55 pm

            That pipe design is, what, thirty or forty years old? I remember that is how most bike parking was set up when I was a kid. I think for whatever bikes may have made up the fleet then perhaps it worked, but a well appointed bike for transportational cycling is not I don’t think going to physically work very well on that bar. I’m not even sure it would fit between front wheel and downtube, unless they are assuming you would turn the front wheel 90 degrees, and then I’m not sure how you’d secure the bike to the structure. Perhaps someone should ask them what they had in mind, demonstrate proper locking procedure under those nice roofs?

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            • eddie December 22, 2015 at 7:42 am

              That kind of rack can mess up fenders, dent braze ons, scratch up the paint and encourage rust on the downtube, pull on / crush cable housing, it’s hard to get a heavy cruiser bike up on it, if you have a cargo bike with a basket or flat cargo rack in front it is extremely unwieldy to put up there, good luck getting an xtra cycle or other longtail type bikes without causing them to flop around and cause more damage, city bikes with a spring between the fork and the downtube can’t go on them at all.. they would have been better off putting Tri Met Max style hooks up there. Or as everyone has pointed out, ordinary staple racks. Which maybe they’ll do!

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          • davemess December 21, 2015 at 6:51 pm

            there are many different types of storage racks that require someone to lift their bike. I know we have 7 of our 8 bikes hanging on some type of rack in our garage right now.
            and again, they have other racks for people who don’t want to use this one.

            I do think this: “Wow. That is really bad.” is a bit complain-y.
            But to each his own.

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        • Andrew Kreps December 21, 2015 at 6:43 pm

          My bike weighs 70lbs wet, and all three of my cables run under the downtube. If I put it on a bar like that, the crush weight would ruin my bike. There’s no way I’d use that crossbar.

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          • mark December 21, 2015 at 9:19 pm

            What does this bike look like?

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    • Brad December 21, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      Interesting to see they finally put up signs to show people that they are actually supposed to park their bikes under the overflow awnings. People were locking their biked to everything in sight by the corner entrance and not a soul used the overflow area when I walked by there this last summer. Probably because nobody recognized the overflow area as bike parking.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. December 21, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Nice covered bike parking. Just looks like they forgot to add the staple racks underneath. 😉

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  • Bret December 21, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    I appreciate that there is bike parking. I work right next door and this is the bike parking we are encouraged to use.

    That being said, I think you nailed the parking issues on the head:

    1. The oval parking columns work great for two bikes… if the person parking there first understands how to lock to it correctly. If they decide to go parallel to the rack, it makes it really hard to park a second bike.

    2. The cover over the racks mostly serve as shade as it is not effective against the rain at all. Soggy seats and bars ahoy. Shade is good though in the summer!

    3. The idea is that you put your wheel over the bar. No bueno.

    4. The cameras don’t seem to stop bike thieves at night. DO NOT PARK HERE OVERNIGHT. Despite being next to an active gym, its very quiet at night in this part of town. Theft seems to occur between 7PM and the early morning. I’ve seen at least 3 bikes stripped of parts parked here.

    I think 7/10 is a fair rating.

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  • gutterbunnybikes December 21, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Granted some might not be able to lift the bike up over the bar, but for those that can, you won’t damage the frame using the over the bar rack – unless you really try to do so.

    Your body weight (let alone the rattling of riding which can equate to 100’s, if not 1000’s (jumps) of lbs of extra stress ) on the bike puts more pressure on the frame than the bike sitting on a piece of tube steel will.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 21, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      I was thinking more in terms of superficial damage.

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    • Andrew Kreps December 21, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      That bar would easily destroy my ability to shift either derailleur and use my rear brake. If a car parking space so much as scratched a door, we’d have a very different opinion of this particular vehicular storage.

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    • soren December 22, 2015 at 11:52 am

      That bar could cause my sunlight-weakened carbon fiber to fail catastrophically without any warning!

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  • Brett Luelling December 21, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    I ride to the gym when the weather is tolerable (I’ve grown lazy in my old age). The downside for me is that I’m typically on my cargo bike with my daughter. The only place that I really fit is in the additional parking along the center rail. It’s typically open, even when the front racks are packed, so it works out. In general, I wish more thought was also given to longer bikes when designing parking.

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  • Social Engineer December 21, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    BikePortland should spend more time discussing the deficiencies in the bike network around the location of Planet Granite than about one establishment’s bike parking layout. Like how the bike lane on NW 14th is a death trap.

    Plenty of places are worse than this or provide no parking at all.

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    • Matt Meskill December 22, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      I agree somewhat. But can’t BP cover both? It’s not either/or. I’ve written the city before about 14th and it’s apparently a “commercial street” or some such thing. I was crazy enough to ask for stop signs. Motorists hit the stop sign at Northrup then gun it cuz there’s no more stop signs as far as the eye can see. The city said no can do. 🙁

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    • Lizzy December 23, 2015 at 5:30 am

      Feedback, however, helps businesses get bike parking right. More often than not, they are not the ones that will be using the racks and do not cycle.

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  • davemess December 21, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Just a correction. Planet Granite is a climbing gym (i.e. they have lots of rope routes and not just bouldering (lower climbs which require no ropes).
    As much as I dislike a California company coming in and strong arming our local gyms, they have done a lot of things right.

    And yes, I’ve seen that bar covered section pretty full of bikes. And yes most lift the front wheel over the bar.

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    • Chris I December 21, 2015 at 10:06 pm

      The local gyms needed a kick in the pants. They were getting complacent, sitting back and raking in the money without expanding their jam-packed spaces. Honestly, I wonder how much money PG is making. They have invested a ton of money, and their memberships are cheaper.

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    • eddie December 22, 2015 at 6:15 am

      That’s not too good for the frame. I guess if you’re talking about bike parking for a climbing gym you can assume a fair level of upper body strength 🙂

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  • Carrie December 21, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    I would actually hook the front of my saddle over the bar, ala triathlon transition area. Though it still would be hard to lock unless you had a long-ish U-lock. Bad design.

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  • Spiffy December 21, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I walk by here a lot on my way to work and am always impressed with how packed the racks out front always are early in the morning…

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  • Todd Boulanger December 21, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    My understanding of PBoT’s bike parking code requires two points of contact/ support for a bike parking rack. The overflow does not seem to meet this. Perhaps the overflow parking is “extra” supply in and above code, so there is more flexibility in design(?).

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    • Buzz December 21, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      The primary bike parking may not be achieving this either…

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  • chris December 21, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    Stop trying to reinvent the wheel and just install what we know what works: staple racks that are narrow enough to fit a mini u-lock around the rack, bike frame and rear wheel.

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  • kittens December 21, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    It would be fun to see BP hold an annual contest for of “best” bike parking

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    • Andrew Kreps December 21, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      I have yet to see any bike parking in Portland that differentiates itself, save for bike parking within the office it supports.

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  • eddie December 22, 2015 at 6:13 am

    The flat steel racks look like they could easily scratch a bike frame, especially if used repeatedly. For the overflow I’d put my bike on a kickstand then use a cable lock behind the head tube and around the bar.

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  • Steve Scarich December 22, 2015 at 7:48 am

    The bike racks sure mess up the aesthetics of the building. Architects must cringe when they see what happens to their designs.

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    • Eric Leifsdad December 22, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      Good architects see what is going to happen and design accordingly.

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  • Joshman! December 22, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Since it was mostly empty, why couldn’t you lock your bike up parallel to the bar? I know it’s not the most efficient use of space, but it looks like there is currently a good amount of space to use. And why not go in and try to interview someone from the company?

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  • mark December 22, 2015 at 10:02 am

    When I was a wee kid, we had hooks we hung our handlebars in. Every bike has handle bars..right? SUV bikes aside (which are a minority..even in stumptown), the hooks worked well. I think they took them out because the hooks eventually broke off..and what not. But still…you could improve the hook parts and it would last a long time. Every bike has a seat..I like the race setup where you just hang the bike off the seat.

    Instead we make overly complicated setups that every has to fiddle with balancing the bike, locking it in just the right way..blah blah. If a thief wants your bike..he is getting your bike. No matter the amazing lock method that makes you feel better.

    I just want fast locking and unlocking. Bring back the handlebar hooks.

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  • maccoinnich December 22, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    The covered bike parking sits in front of a research office for Jaguar Land Rover, which has no dedicated car parking for its employees. They are expanding their Portland presence to another building a few blocks away, which also wont have any car parking. I think it’s interesting that even a car company is choosing to locate in a walkable / bikeable area, rather than an area with free and easy car parking.

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