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City has authority to impound privately-owned bikes parked at Biketown racks

Posted by on July 11th, 2016 at 2:42 pm

This is how a Biketown station should look when it's empty.(Photo: M Andersen/BikePortland)

This is how a Biketown station should look when it’s empty.
(Photo: Peter Koonce)

In case you haven’t heard: Don’t lock your bike to one of the orange Biketown racks. If you do the City might cut your lock and impound your bike. Why? Because those racks are only for Biketown bikes.

After docking stations were installed last week they were almost immediately used by people looking for a place to park their own bikes. The issue forced the City to post a relatively aggressive tweet that was picked up by the local media. After that dust-up we asked the city if there was any city code that specifically covered this issue. There is.

PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said they will continue to use social media and signage at the stations to educate people about the parking rules. “We don’t want to have to remove anyone’s bicycle!” he said. “Our hope is that with education and warnings we can reduce the incidents of people locking private bikes to Biketown racks.”

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But if the education doesn’t work, Rivera says the city will lean on ordinance number 16.70.330 of the Portland City Code. That ordinance — the same one that allows them to confiscate bicycles left in the same spot for over 72 hours — gives the city the right to immediately impound a bicycle if it, “obstructs or impedes… vehicular traffic.”

“In this case,” Rivera tells us, “the vehicle is a bicycle.”

The ordinance also gives the city the right to charge a fee for retrieval of impounded bicycles but Rivera says, “We do not plan to charge fines at this time.”

Even if your bike gets removed and confiscated by the city, you’ll very likely get it back. The ordinance requires the city to make “reasonable efforts” to find the owner and Rivera says they’d hold it for several weeks to give the owner time to claim it.

Biketown is set to launch with 100 stations and 1000 bikes on July 19th.

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

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bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Perhaps a large number of regular bikes locked to one of these orange racks should be taken as a sign by the city that more regular bike racks are needed in that location.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Exactly! When the city put in the parking meter kiosks downtown and removed the physical parking meters, 90% + of the bike parking downtown went away. The City claimed they would replace the removed meters with other bike parking but there are still large bike parking deficiencies in many parts of downtown, not to mention other parts of town as well.

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

Bike parking is still a second-tier priority in Portland. They took out four well-used staple racks at the Central Library to put in newspaper boxes??? It was so hard to buy the Oregonian before!

+1, I miss parking meters

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

perhaps cyclists shouldn’t assume they can store their personal property just anywhere for free.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I happily pay for secure parking. Unfortunately there is very little available.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

That “obstructs or impedes… vehicular traffic” is pretty thin, especially with zero orange bikes in sight. I sure hope they’re not out cutting locks without some very clear signage and orange bikes waiting to fill the dock (this is what these reports sound like to me and unfortunately, that doesn’t seem out of character for City of Portland these days.)

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

It seems to me that if a regular bike impedes traffic at those locations, so will the Biketown bikes.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

plus some of these racks are being installed on sidewalks, how does that not block and impede pedestrian traffic???

Beeblebrox
Guest
Beeblebrox

They’re being put in the furnishing zone, not the pedestrian zone. Just like normal bike racks.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

Beeblebrox,
on many, if not most, Portland sidewalks, the furnishing zone is 4 feet wide, and that is often measured from the outside of the curb. These bike stations are being stalled with bikes parked perpendicular to the curb. The one I saw on 7th, just south of E Burnside, was 12-18 inches behind the curb. When bikes are in there, they will definitely impede the through zone. I am going to measure on my lunch break today to see if the through zone will be reduced to less than 5 feet.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

I think their claim is that the traffic being impeded is the parking of a Biketown bike. Since that facility is designated for that particular traffic, other use impedes it.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

By the way, I think it’s dubious, just guessing on their reasoning. I think it’s a reasonable policy IF there are appropriate signs AND they aren’t removing public parking to install these corrals. Which certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Try complaining about a motor vehicle parked in a bike lane and see the result is – nothing. How about motor vehicles DRIVING in a bike lane? Has there EVER been a citation for that dangerous activity?

Random
Guest
Random

Think of it as a new revenue source to fund active transportation improvements.

Portland could charge $100 to get your bike back after the bike has been impounded.

Adam
Subscriber

This is an inherent problem with the smart bike system that BIKETOWN uses. I don’t see this problem going away, even after PBOT (hopefully) installs signs telling people not to lock their bikes. Was this factored into the cost savings of the “dumb” dock system?

At any rate, I don’t think this will be a huge deal since it will be more obvious once the racks are full of orange bikes that the racks are not for private use. The people who rebalance the bikes could always just leave a passive-aggressive note on the person’s bike. 😉

Spiffy
Subscriber

if there’s no sign on the rack or a giant one for the entire rack area then people will lock there bikes there… they certainly can’t remove people’s bikes without clear signs that you can’t park your personal bike there… that’s just asking for a lawsuit…

and since no such image of a sign was supplied for this article I’m assuming they’re still scrambling to get those installed…

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I predict continuing rapid growth of the Portland bike theft and chop-shop industry. I can imagine thieves going specifically for illegally parked personal bikes at these bike share racks. If confronted, they’ll claim they work for the city. Who’s to know? Interesting that PBOT is doubly contributing to the problem by making it illegal to park at their bike share racks AND by removing existing staple racks.

Perhaps PBOT is trying to induce an artificial demand for bike share by removing the convenience of riding and parking your personal bike? A bit like restricting car parking and pricing it using pay stations and parking meters. If you reduce the supply of free bike parking, demand for bike share will go up.

Or perhaps PBOT is try to lower the convenience of personal bike parking in and around downtown to the level of East Portland, where there are fewer than 10 blue staple racks, in the name of equity by omission?

The City of Portland, working towards an ambition of “bronze” bicycle city status, one stupid idea at a time.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Paint your bike orange – better parking, thieves will overlook it, and you’ll get a wider berth in traffic.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

so don’t park there. simple.

Paul
Guest
Paul

There’s no signage now, so how would one know until they do? They just look like bike racks to anyone else.

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

Points well taken. But, seems to me it’s not so much a conspiracy, but rather a case of one-step thinking, like a beginner chess player. Let’s put bikeshare racks where other bikes are to be seen, because those must be the hot spots. So put the fish farm in a trout stream, right? Bikeshare could be complementary with privately owned bikes but bike parking is part of the habitat.

The Niketown station is one place that I have not seen many bikes parked. It will be interesting to see if there’s any induced demand.

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

Here’s a conspiracy theory for the aficionados: Putting a bikeshare stop at a tourist destination like Niketown is actually a clandestine Level IV traffic calming measure for NE 7th Av. and NE Knott St. Of which I say, not a moment too soon 😉

RH
Guest
RH

Anyone else notice regular bike racks are being taken out and replaced by bikeshare ones? I think I noticed this at Widmer brewing.

PDXFixed
Guest
PDXFixed

Yep, saw some racks get torn out down on Naito next to a station and they ripped out a whole bike corral on NW 21st

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

At Dragon Fly coffee shop on NW Thurmond at 24th is one where 10 bike staples were removed for room for Bikeshare. Now if the city would put back the staples across the street or something else close it would be fine. I told the worker pulling out the staples that a far better place for the Bikeshare staples would be on the next block but he said the city wanted it in place of the free staples. The next week business was off by over 60% at DF. There is no bike parking now within 2 blocks except one across the street at the pot shop.:-(

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

So the city is replacing the popular, successful, business-boosting-and-coveted bike corrals with unproven Biketowing racks? Whoopsy!

Inaky
Guest
Inaky

This is really messed up, it is not like there is not plenty of space where they could be placed instead of replacing.

Keviniano
Subscriber
Keviniano

This seems like the bigger story.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

I agree, this is a really big story! Last night I noticed that 9 staples had been replaced with Biketown station at Skidmore and Mississippi. Why not keep the staples and add the Biketown station one spot south? How does the City determine when it is ok to remove parking for all bikes? How does the City justify obstructing the sidewalk with Biketown parking that is intended to be used, as part of the vehicular transportation system and on the street? Why not simply place them in free, un-metered parking spaces (such as those along Mississippi)? Why not remove/replace a metered parking space; how do the costs/revenues compare? What are the expected benefits of having a 10-bike Biketown station compared to having a single car parking space in front of or near a business? What is the PBA saying about this? (If they are not pressuring the City, who is?) From my perspective (bike commuter, frequent pedestrian, occasional driver), the City is making a bunch of foolish, short-sighted decisions (blocking sidewalks that could be used for walking, tables, sales racks, many other things that contribute more to the quality of life on the street than parked orange bikes), removing bike corrals, blocking future protected bike lanes (Skidmore at Williams); what is the City’s rational for these decisions? Who are they aiming to please, what metrics are they using to decide placement? I, for one, would love to read a follow-up BIkePortland story.

lop
Guest
lop

The locations aren’t really permanent. The biketown racks can be moved easily enough if a location is really a problem. Just like bike staples can. And not just for biketown. There used to be a couple staples on 10th by Stark.

http://i.imgur.com/67iHvWP.jpg

The sidewalk was crowded and people kept walking in the street whenever someone parked their bike there. So the city took them out. Fortunately there was already a bike corral nearby for people to use instead.

How would a biketown rack at Skidmore and Williams block a skidmore bike lane more than the already placed bike corral at skidmore and williams?

Problem locations won’t be fixed if nobody complains. If a business wants their bike corral back, they need to tell the city. If cyclists want some staples back, they need to tell the city. If walkers are being crowded out by biketown (or private bike) parking on the sidewalk, they need to tell the city. If drivers want a parking spot back, or a business wants a loading zone back, they need to tell the city. If issues are legitimate, they’ll probably get resolved. Maybe it would be better if issues were resolved without a complaint based system. But it is what it is.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

The BIketown station is placed in the parking lane of Skidmore, just west of Williams. If these parking lanes were converted to buffered bike lanes like the ones west of N Michigan, there would be a buffered bike lane with controlled crossings at all major arterials and commercial streets connecting Vancouver/Williams, Interstate, Concord, Michigan, 7th and Going. Creating a safe, direct east/west connection that links so many bike routes and the commercial districts along Alberta, Williams, Mississippi, Interstate and North Killingsworth would go a long way toward developing a network from isolated routes. The safe, traffic-controlled crossings at MLK, Williams, Vancouver, Mississippi and Interstate make this route ideal for completing the buffered bike lanes. Having Biketown in the way is a step backward, IMO.

Also, saying that citizens need to step up and complain to get this right is taking all the pressure from highly paid professionals at PBOT who should definitely be able to review existing plans and policies and avoid these pitfalls.

Spiffy
Subscriber

I wonder if they ran this parking removal by the business owners…

“are you ok with us removing 12-18 parking spots on your block?”

since the answer to even removing a couple spots is usually NO then I’m assuming that the majority of businesses did not have a say in this parking removal…

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

“are you okay with having up to 18x more business from this one parking space?”

Karl
Guest
Karl

Yep, I saw that up on Mississippi at Skidmore. A bunch of parking removed in front of Prost. It’s making nutso!

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

This seems like a good opportunity for some entry-level civil disobedience. Call me interested but concerned about bikeshare in Portland. I was about ready to subscribe just because it has the word ‘bike’ in there. It’s a good thing right? And $12/month, that’s like one growler fill.

Now that I’ve seen the footprint of the docking stations and the Biketowing story has come out it’s like I have a giant orange boot on my neck! (Clutches pearls)

Adam
Subscriber

Bike share is a good thing. Can we please not mess up something that will invariably make cycling in Portland better because of some holier-than-thou attitude? We don’t even know what PBOT is planning on doing with the bike staples yet.

Scott Mizée
Guest
Scott Mizée

That is a valid comment, AdamH. I think this all can be rectified or at least keep the claims from escalating if PBOT were to comment on this thread.

Is anyone at motivate or PBOT available to comment?

I am particularly interested to know the future plans for the existing private bicycle and corrals that are being removed and replaced with BIKETOWN.

Again, I think bike share is a fantastic mood for Portland. I just think we need a little bit more communication right now.

Scott Mizée
Guest
Scott Mizée

Wow, I wish “speech to text” feature on my phone worked a little better. Please excuse the typos. And hopefully, you can get the idea of what I was saying. Apologies to Adam H. And other readers.

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

Point: A potentially good thing, strangely implemented. Does this seem familiar? Wrong head bike infrastructure is a drum anyone can beat. And, who is holier than thou?

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

I would join if I could share the experience/transportation option with people under the age of 18. Big fail, IMO

Al Dimond
Guest

Basically everywhere in America that general private car-parking is restricted in any way cities essentially have to post signs indicating the restriction near the curb — otherwise the drivers will beat the ticket. Surely the first time someone challenges such a ticket (or sues the city in small-claims court for the value of their broken lock or whatever) the same precedent will be established for bikes, right? It would be absurd to assume everyone riding a bike in town keeps up with the news and understands that these are docking stations if there’s not clear signage!

lop
Guest
lop

Has the city installed no parking signs for every curbside bike lane?

Al Dimond
Guest

Surely not! I don’t know how these sorts of things go in Portland specifically, but if something like what happened on Mississippi the other day (covered on this blog) happened in many US cities, any driver that fought the ticket could beat it easily. Portland or Oregon probably has a law against parking in bike lanes or something (?), and Mississippi does actually have a few bike lane stencils, so maybe the law would stand a chance in this case.

On some level it really should be obvious to any driver from anywhere in the world that a lane with a bike (or pedestrian) stencil in it isn’t actually a parking space, and if it isn’t they probably shouldn’t be driving. I don’t believe for a second most of the people that park across bike lanes, sidewalks, and crosswalks don’t know they’re doing something wrong. But a bunch of orange bike racks with no explanation at all? I know a dude that’s biking from Kentucky to Portland. Suppose he sees a line of gleaming orange racks… suppose it even has a few gleaming orange bikes parked at it… maybe he just thinks people in the PNW are sort of conformist.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

ignorance of the law is no excuse, right?

Spiffy
Subscriber

cities essentially have to post signs indicating the restriction near the curb

there are lots of restrictions that are never posted…

you have to park parallel to the curb… you can’t park further than 12″ from the curb… you can’t park longer than 24 hours… etc…

you will rarely find signs for laws that are city and/or state wide because those are assumed knowledge… only when there’s an exception to those basic rules is there a sign posted…

m
Guest
m

The interpretation of that statute to say they can remove a bike after less than 72 hours is super sketchy.

Steve B.
Guest
Steve B.

Interesting that PBOT is keen on enforcing this rule for bikes parked over 72 hours, but will not do anything about vehicles left for weeks/months in violation of the 24 hour limit for vehicles parked on city streets.

Keviniano
Subscriber
Keviniano

A tangent, but I actually just asked a parking enforcement person about this point of law this morning. The 24-hour rule is indeed in the city code, but it’s not a violation to leave your car longer. Apparently there’s long list of things in city code for which there is no associated violation. So as long as the car appears to be driveable (good tags, not flat tires, etc) there’s no fine.

This comes into play when temporary no parking zones go up, e.g., for construction. They are supposed to have at least 24 hours notice to give folks a chance to move their cars. If you don’t move your car, hey, it’s in the code that you’re supposed to move it every 24 hours, so it’s on you if it gets towed.

This middle ground makes sense to me. Why encourage folks to leave their cars at home and at the same time require that they move them every single day or face a fine?

Matt
Guest
Matt

I was with you until you implied that the street is the usual place to park one’s car at home. What about your garage, or driveway at least?

Spiffy
Subscriber

Can I park my car on the street for longer than 24 hours at a time?

No. All vehicles must be driven off the block face daily. Private, legal parking must be obtained if a vehicle is not driven daily.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/319887#allday

Adam
Subscriber

Hah! That’s a funny joke.

Keviniano
Subscriber
Keviniano

Right, that’s the city code. The next question is, is there a penalty if I violate that code. The answer is no.

Keviniano
Subscriber
Keviniano

Er, that question is not in the FAQ, but if they asked it, that’s what the answer would be.

GAry
Guest

WHAT? they installed bike rack that you cant use? with no Signage, then they impound your bike? thoe ones in front of the Nike oulet on MLK seem to obstruct and or impedes… vehicular traffic= bicycles and pedestrians..
hopefully they can be impounded..another example of a good idea gone wrong.. PLEASE, at least put a sticker on eah one explaiing your bike will be taken if you use it..Why on eaerth would you think you can lock your bike to a bike rack?>

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

I just got back to town and saw my first racks: just south of E Burnside on SE 7th. There is never enough bike parking here, and the sidewalks are very crowded. Unfortunately the City placed The orange racks right in the middle of the sidewalk. When bikes are using it, I am pretty sure it will block the through-zone (5 feet clear is required by ADA guidlelines). Why on earth would they not place this in the street along the curb where all the parking goes? It is ludicrous for PBOT to claim this vehicular traffic when they want to clip your bike lock but it is also a pedestrian amenity when they want to clog the sidewalk to conserve one measly parking spot! Ugh!

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

FWIW, I visited the station on SE 7th at Burnside (pic to follow). It is over 40 long and is completely within the through zone and out of the furnishing zone. From the edge of rack to building face there is approx 5.5 feet. Already that is questionable interns of meeting ADA- with bikes parked there, this will be less than 5′ and not in compliance with ADA

Spiffy
Subscriber

new sidewalks have to be 5′ but existing ones only have to be more than 3’… although sidewalk cafes can’t constrain the space to less than 5’6″…

but it’s certainly odd to install new street furnishings with less than 5′ of clearance…

JNE
Guest
JNE

Wine, wine, wine.

Adam
Subscriber

Red or white?

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

*whine, whine, whine

if you are going to snarky, rude and nonconstructive, please check your spelling

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

This bikeshare rollout is not going well so far… too many racks on sidewalks, and tearing out existing parking is going to leave a bad taste with a lot of potential users.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

There was nothing really aggressive about that tweet and so what if it was?

Scott Mizée
Guest

I have not read all of the comments above, but I noticed on my way into the office this morning that the private bicycle parking corral in front of Widmer Bros. Gastro Pub has been replaced with BIKETOWN racks. Where does the city intend folks to park their private bicycles. Are they planning to relocate the private bike corral to an adjacent parking spot? Did they already do that and I missed it?

I’m very curious about this.

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

In the future, no one will own bikes. Also, free food will be available in large green bins behind commercial buildings.

catbot
Guest
catbot

I was in Santa Monica over the weekend where they are using a similar system. Private bikes weren’t using the bikeshare bike parking that I saw — seemed like once the bikeshare bikes were out and about, it was pretty obvious as non-private bike parking. (as a side note, there were a ton of bike rentals and bikeshare bikes out on the boardwalk — it was pretty cool)

And I hope we get the removed bike parking back… Eeesh.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

This makes me so angry. Just think of all the dangerous intersections that could be improved with a bike corral or Biketown rack dropped in place of the parking spots closest to the corner. Many intersections in Portland are made much more dangerous because of taller vehicles parked right up to the stop sign. Sight lines are absolutely terrible.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

Excellent point Chris I!

Spiffy
Subscriber

illegal to park a vehicle taller than 6′ within 50′ of a corner needed for street-crossing sight-lines… Portland City Code 16.20.130…

the code is luckily vague and can apply to lots of vehicles…

call parking enforcement and report them…

chris
Guest
chris

Weird. I wonder why they are removing staples only in some places? On Belmont they just put the orange racks across the street from the existing corral. Do local businesses have input on this?

Adam
Subscriber

Does anyone know if PBOT plans on reusing the removed racks nearby? We could all be getting upset over nothing.

Scott Mizée
Guest
Scott Mizée

That is my question as well, Adam.

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

This is approximately a real estate question and the answer is still, they aren’t making any more. Some of the bikeshare docks are now in the exact spot where a bike corral was before. Prime real estate near pubs, restaurants, markets, etc. Unless bikeshare fails completely those locations just aren’t available for private bike parking anymore. You can only put so many staples on a sidewalk. Unless we convert streets to carfree zones there will be resistance to converting more car spaces for bike parking, since, look! There’s all that bike parking right there!

Will businesses demand bike corrals be returned? In all the discussion of siting bikeshare docks I’m not aware that anyone said that existing bike parking would be displaced. I confess that I didn’t pay much attention to the siting process because I already had bikes and parking was rarely a problem. Guess that was a mistake.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

If I were a business owner that just lost a bike corral out front, I would be very upset. That’s a loss parking for 20 potential customers that aren’t bike share users. Does the city really expect that many cyclists to stop riding their personal bikes in the city?

still riding after all that
Guest
still riding after all that

It’s easy to get excited about riding bikes during the summer. Remember the yellow-bike program several years ago? No? Don’t feel bad – they were all gone or destroyed within a few weeks. Like a small town, if you blinked, you missed it.

Just wait – by the end of October, half the Nike bikes will be lost, missing, or cut to pieces in our many open-air chop shops. Those still available will be permanently locked to the new orange “don’t you dare lock your own bike here” racks, blocking sidewalks or taking up space that people would prefer to use for cars.

Am I the only one who sees that MONEY – Nike, city government – is the real reason for this bike share program? Hales-Fritz-Novick et al are too busy enabling the druggie “campers” on the Springwater Corridor to give a … I guess I better say darn … about what citizens actually need and want.