Do you live in an apartment? If so, where and how do you park your bike?
The Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is refining and updating the portion of our city code that regulates bicycle parking in residential buildings and they want your input. Because this is Portland, they’ve also assembled a stakeholder advisory committee that’s grappling with code revisions that could dictate a new number of new policies such as: whether or not a fee should be charged for bike parking rooms; how high bike racks should be installed; what type of security and signage should be used in bike rooms; the quality of access routes to bike rooms, and more.
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Our current bike parking code was written over 20 years ago and, while it has been updated a few times, it hasn’t kept pace with development or with the growing number of Portlanders who live a low-car lifestyle. During recent years of Portland’s apartment boom the free market has dictated whether or not bike parking exists — but the quality and accessibility of that parking is still up to each individual building owner. Because of Portland’s reputation as a bike-oriented city and market demand, we’ve seen all types of bike parking amenities in new buildings.
The Milano Apartments near the Moda Center have a ground-floor bike room with space for 91 bikes. That seems bike-friendly, but the racks are spartan — just a single hook on a wall requiring a difficult lift not everyone can manage. The Central Eastside lofts just a few blocks away have much more user-friendly bike parking amenities. They offer racks a variety of rack types and their bike room comes with lockers, a repair workstation, and even a bike shower! Then of course there’s the king of all bike parking facilities — the 600 space “cycle station” and bike valet at the Hassalo on Eighth apartments in the Lloyd District.
How do those compare to the bike parking facilities in your building? If you could create your ideal bike room, what would it include?
To help get feedback that will inform their advisory committee, PBOT has just released a survey. Along with questions about your current facilities, the survey asks questions like, “Would you like to see a requirement where bicycle parking for apartment buildings had to be provided in dedicated bike rooms?” and, “Does your apartment charge for use of the bike room or other bike parking facilities?” (Yes, some apartment buildings in Portland charge for use of the bike parking room.)
PBOT says they specifically want input on how and where to provide long-term, secure bicycle parking for residents.
This is an important issue. Easy to use and attractive bike parking encourages more people to ride. And it also reduces housing costs because the comparitavely high price auto parking is passed onto tenants, some of whom pay $100-$200 a month just to store their cars. As we reported last year, the average cost to build an apartment fell sharply between 2011 and 2013 when there was a boom in buildings that didn’t include auto parking.
If you live in an apartment, condominium, or other multi-family dwelling, please share your input with PBOT via the survey. And keep in mind, any changes ultimately passed at city council would only apply to new buildings or to buildings that undergo major renovation. For more information on the bike parking code update, check out the official city website.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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Interestingly, none of that bike parking in the headline image would fit my daily ride, a cargo bike.
nor does it look like it would work well for my tandem…
How to accomodate different types of of bikes is something that PBOT is definitely considering in this code update. Hopefully you take the survey to share that feedback!
Andrew – I can assure you that secure parking for cargo bikes is a very frequent subtopic on this stakeholder committee, stated as an advisory member (and the first consumer to import a new Workcycles Bakfiets into Portland region…and perhaps even nationwide).
Imagine if each apartment had to include a parking space. Imagine further, if you will, that that parking space could be used for a car or one or more bikes, including the possibility of a locker, cage, or other securable facility. It would be large enough to hold a cargo bike, as well as several conventional bikes. That might work out pretty well for most cyclists.
General admission type bike parking facilities in apartment buildings are theft magnets, used for storage of unused/unwanted bikes and overlook all but the typical road/”hybrid” style of bike in their design. I have never gotten the impression that these types of bike storage cages are designed by or for anyone who actually uses a bike. Overnight I only keep my bikes inside, where I live, not in a garage or some kind of public access facility or chained up on the street outside. Build apartments large enough to allow this, anything else is glad handing lip service. The idea of charging money or even disallowing bikes in apartments because of something like this would be insulting.
Why not have lockers, rented or included with the unit, either in the garage or in the hallways adjacent to the units themselves?
Because I can’t work on my bike when it’s in a locker in the parking garage. As for in the hallways next to the units, that makes no sense, just design the units with an extra eight square feet and don’t bother with special lockers. Really, special separate bike parking just screams “useless amenity” of which new overpriced apartments have many while skimping on actual livablilty.
I don’t live in an apartment any more, but if I did, I would expect to park my bike in the same location that I do in my house: hanging on a wall rack in the living room.
Being of the same mind, I wonder if there’s some kind of modular solution that lets you trade hall closet space for bike parking. It’s not like I *need* to hang my snow pants.
Alternatively, get rid of the in-unit washer and dryer . I know what new construction amenities are supposed to be like, but at today’s rents that’s a $30/mo. footprint. Your refrigerator works hard for that money, but these are appliances that mostly sit idle.
While they may be idle they can be idle with a wet load of washing or a finished load of drying in them, while I am out of my apartment. Using common washing facilities ties me down to that load of laundry, twice, once with the wash and again with the drying.
Whenever you see a bike on a balcony, you know that building’s bike parking has failed.
When I lived on the second floor of a two-story walk-up in Chicago, I kept my bike behind the living room couch. Every time I wanted to ride, I had to wheel my bike through a narrow hallway and carry it down a steep set of stairs. It was definitely a barrier, as I always dreaded that walk up/down the stairs, and therefore did not ride as often as I would have liked to. Quality bicycle parking is absolutely key!
No more wall hooks, please!
My ideal “bike room” is a push upstairs and into my apartment. Unless you have a trailer full of groceries, it’s pretty convenient (I’m headed there anyway). Security-wise, only six people have keys to the outside door, and only four to the inside: the people who live there, and the people who own it.
An indoor space might keep your bike dry, but otherwise you might as well lock it outside if dozens or even hundreds of people have 24/7 access to it (check BikeIndex Portland last weekend). It’s fish in a barrel for bike thieves, and cheap LEED points keeps the coopers busy.
And oh look:
Personally, I always preferred to have my bike in my apartment, too. A) I have a number of bikes, B) some of them are actually valuable, only get ridden a couple times week/month (Free Forest Park!) and C) I have no intention of leaving them in any sort of public space for all the reasons Champs mentions. I would have loved to have some sort of dedicated space for bikes (a mudroom of sorts) – and if I didn’t have bikes, I could have easily used it for other storage.
This would be my close second choice over a locker outside my unit.
My old building in NW had two old floor racks in the basement laundry room. The basement was street level from the apartment’s rear entrance, though you did have to down and up a set of 4 random stairs between the entrance and laundry room (like a sunken living room, but in the hallway).
Anyhow, I would keep my nicer road bike and mountain bike up in my apartment, but for my cheap, crappier commuter bike that I used for nearly all my commuting and transportation needs — I was so happy to have a spot to keep it that was street level. It was the opposite of a fancy set-up, but it was utilitarian and i was happy for it. You did need an apartment key to get in the building since it was an interior room, but I wouldn’t say security was remotely tight.
I’ll also add that the racks were almost universally full the whole 4+ years I lived in the building.That was a bit frustrating as it was pretty clear there were only 4 or so bikes that were moved/used with any regularity, so some folks were definitely using it for bike storage. That made me realize that I would have been willing to pay a nominal amount to park there because it probably would have dissuaded those using it as backup storage for bikes sitting unused for years.
My building has an excellent key access bike parking facility but everyone would just park outside because it’s additional $20/month to the already too expensive rent. Then the building decided to put signs up that the outside parking is for visitor parking 4 hours or less. :-/
I’m torn on this. I love the idea, but I’m not sure how adding these as “dictates” (JM’s word) fits in the quest to create affordable housing. JM says that forcing rules on developers like this will result in cost savings, but this seems to be true only if the choice is between car garages or bike parking. Is that really the case? My initial feeling is to come up with guidelines, but don’t give owners/developers an additional excuse why rents have to be so high. “Look we have to charge $1250 for studio — we were forced to put in special bike facilities.” But, my opinion could be swayed if shown that this could be done in such a way that didn’t result in pricing families out.
Rents of units are not based on construction cost. They are set by the market, which, at the moment, is full of people willing to pay insane rates for tiny units.
Families aren’t getting priced out so much as they’re getting built out. How many of the thousands of new units being built are suitable for a family? What will happen when all the people living in the new studios decide to start a family?
Exactly. Both market (mostly). AND we’re barely increasing family house.
Not only that, the majority of new units are rentals. So we lose houses that could have been purchased for families to smaller rental units.
Rent of units would be based on construction cost if we didn’t limit the supply of densely buildable land so tightly.
Not true — landlords will always have an incentive to charge as much as they can, and that value is independent of construction cost. Rents might well be lower with different rules (no UGB, for example), but they would still float independently from construction costs.
They would vary around construction costs in the short term based on credit availability, the speed at which the construction sector can grow in boom times, etc., not rise freely beyond construction costs in the mid-to-long-term like they do now. If builders can just build more as long as rents are greater than the annualized cost of construction, then increases in supply from new construction will drive down rents to the annualized cost of construction (or less, for older/otherwise less desirable units).
I think you’ve created a testable hypothesis. In places where there are weak zoning regulations and solid but not booming economies, we would expect to see housing prices be at the cost of construction plus some standard margin. Is that what you are predicting?
Would you go further and predict that those conditions would create livable, attractive communities?
There’s an extensive economic literature on this. E.g. Glaeser/Gyourko, 2002: https://www.law.yale.edu/system/files/documents/pdf/hier1948.pdf
“[In] much of America the price of housing is quite close to the marginal, physical costs of new construction. The price of housing is significantly higher than construction costs only in a limited number of areas, such as California and some eastern cities.”
Yep, I would predict that (based on the economic literature a paper from which is cited above, that seems to in fact be the case). I think those conditions help create livable communities (personally, I count “affordable” as part of livable) but are certainly not sufficient to ensure livability. Attractive, who knows? Are we talking about “unrestrictive” suburban sprawl or “unrestrictive” dense urban? I find most dense urban areas to be attractive and livable, and most suburban sprawl to be unattractive and unlivable, but that’s in the eye of the beholder.
What sorts of communities get built where the cost of housing matches the cost of construction? I’m guessing not dense, urban areas, but I can’t be sure by from the quote “much of America”. I have my suspicions based on what areas were booming prior to 2002 (if the paper you cited was published then, much of the data would have been a fair bit older), but I can’t be sure. The densest areas I have experience with are in California and the east coast.
It sounds like you are asserting that communities with fewer zoning restrictions are better to live in when you include factors such as the cost of housing.
And you have to also look at the value for money: would a developer rather meet their customer’s parking demand with a $300 to $1000 investment (rack + access control + amenities + etc.) or a $30,000 investment? (Not including all the space that car parking takes – 15 fold increase over bikes.)
While I don’t see myself keeping my bikes outside of my apartment, I do see this as an issue for others. What I’d really like to see are more spots to wash/clean my bikes. After muddy cx and mtb rides I’m searching town for a carwash to clean my bikes before bringing them inside.
Please, no Serpentine bike racks, those are horrible for parking and locking a bike and businesses seem to not understand how to properly install them by usually putting them too close to a wall that they become useless.
I notice that every single multi-story building that applies for permits downtown, in the Pearl, etc., asks for an exemption to the required 2′ wide parking space per bike. They ask for 18″, and say they have racks that this works with. And every single time, they’re granted the “adjustment” to only have an 18″ wide space. I’m told that the PBOT bike program is okay with this, so BDS just grants every one. I think most of the racks are wall mount. The 18″ spacing is, I believe, on the wall mount racks that “stagger” the bikes (one higher, one lower), making it even harder for some people to access them.
These exemptions are BS. In my office we have at least a 2ft rack spacing, and even then it gets tight trying to get my lock on.
The new code is working to address the important point you bring up…with the current discussion range of minimum accessible* rack types (staple racks, ground attachment points, etc.) The viewpoints and experiences of the committee are quiet diverse as to bike parking.
To your point: In my professional experience – speaking only for myself – using and designing bike parking spaces, some 24 inch un-staggered wall rack layouts operate worse than some 18 inch staggered wall rack layouts. This point was one of the main issues that those of us in the business who use the code and have had to design under the current code always brought up with PBoT in the past (precommittee formation). Some of us also design bike parking layouts in other cities using a wide range of code elements. The diversity of bike design (especially handlebars) in the last 10 if not 30 years has made parking layout AND code development a more challenging exercise since I started focusing on this question in the early 90s…one that can no longer only assume two users types (like having only two ice cream flavours of old) back during the bike boom of the 1970s/ 80s. You too have seen this evolution of bikes and users.
Speaking for myself – The size of projects also effect the supply of rack options: small projects are often the most difficult to provide a user with rack choice…so it may be best to have a higher proportion of “more accessible racks” but this is constrained by total space (small projects often have small budgets and less control of site design). Large projects may be able to provide more rack accessibility with lower percent of “accessible” racks since there should be more opportunity for an open rack space of this type.
Then once all this is done…speaking for myself again…then I assume there will be the visual instructions of these code design elements once adopted. (Doug: I loved your drawings for the “PDoT” Pedestrian Manual in the 90s…those were very helpful in my past work on pedestrian design issues…back before the internet was full of resources.)
PS. Not every project does seek the variance you mentioned. I have worked on some Portland projects that wanted to seek the variance you mention (18 inch spacing) BUT did not since they did not want to take a chance and “open up” other project design issues for this space saving change…even one that would affect 150 to 300 bike spaces.
*accessible as in serving heavy bikes, wider/ longer bikes, wider handlebars etc.
Rents are climbing very fast in the Perl. A friend and a cyclist is paying $1600 per month for a studio and the rent is being raised after 1 year to $2000. His car parking this last year has been an extra $400 per month. He keeps his bike in the apartment behind the couch. He does have to pay an extra $100 per month for it. His option for bike storage is in the basement garage for another $20 a month. The garage bike parking has been cleaned out by twice this last year by thieves.
Man I wish I would have bought something there a few years ago.
He has to pay $100/month to store his bike in his apartment? What do they charge for his couch?
And don’t ask about the “bed fee”, its way higher!
(In the Philippines, in addition to renting a room you can also rent a lower priced “bed space”…often a cot thrown up in a hall way or kitchen…perhaps the future of affordable “housing” for the new West Coast!)
Any idea if the garage parking is just a chainlink cage or open area in main garage? (What is the building’s name?)
All y’all saying you keep your bikes in your apartment (and implying this is a good universal solution) – can you ask yourselves if the additional cyclists we’re going to need to get ourselves to 10%, 15%, 20%, 25% mode share are going to want to do this? Or are they just not going to bike if they have to schlep their bike up to their apartment and clutter up their living space with a dirty bike?
This is a valid concern, but the thief-magnet of communal parking outweighs it for me.
I stopped parking my bikes in the garage when thieves (or a thief) walked off with one. The infrequently used bikes (kids) went into the basement and the frequently used ones went on the wall in the living room. Reporting the theft (many years ago) was a virtually useless operation. Yes, schlepping a bike down a flight of stairs to ground-level is a drag, but it’s not as much a drag as losing one to some unknown stranger with a poor sense of personal boundaries.
Btw, we’ve not had any issues since moving the bikes inside. Apparently breaking into a house is still a bigger deal than breaking into a garage.
What about the 99% of people who will not live under the new code? How can we scale bike parking up to meet mode share goals for people who are not able to carry a bike up multiple flights of stairs. It would be nice to see the city strategically locate some of the new secure elockers in areas with older apartments that do not have onsite bike parking, in place of one or two car street parking spots. For some this might make the difference between bike commuting or not.
I thought it was lousy the survey doesn’t allow comments unless you currently live in an apartment.
It’s important to distinguish between what might be desirable and what should be minimally required of new projects. The City tends to take things that seem desirable and make them requirements forced on every project (in everything, not just bike parking). Instead, the City should ask itself, “If this item/size/provision is not provided, should it be illegal to build this project”?
My preference when living in apartments (and my home for that matter) was to keep my daily-use bike in the living room. I’d rather not be forced to pay for separate bike facilities that I wouldn’t use.
But if the facilities were properly designed, you might use them.
Certainly, and certainly everyone wants rules that will result in facilities that function well. But I’d also be having to pay for them, whether I wanted to or not. And each thing that gets added to the code as a requirement a new project must provide, the more expensive housing gets.
So let’s eliminate car parking requirements, then.
Exactly the type of thing I was thinking of.
I’m sick and tired of paying for fire escapes. Who among us has ever even used one for its intended purpose?
the apartment we lived in last year charged a small fee for the parking in the keycard accessed bike room. neither of our bikes really worked well (or at all) with the bike parking. my spouse’s cargo bike wouldn’t even fit into the room and my bike (city bike w/ yepp seats) was far too heavy to lift on to racks. so we were left in a situation where we were paying for “secure bike parking” but had one bike sitting in the middle of the car garage locked only to itself and the other bike likewise locked only to itself (though in the bike parking room). i would have just locked outside but of course, yea, you’d get a nasty gram from the management about how the outside racks were for short-term parking and visitors only. i’d like to see a lot more long term on-street bike parking in the dense residential areas. its the norm in many of the world’s cycling cities and they all get rain/snow/etc, have significant bike theft, and all the usual suspects.
Be SURE to fill out the survey that Jonathan provided! I filled it out and provided long comments. PBOT needs to hear about the importance of providing abundant, safe cycling facilities! My condo building (Harrison East) doesn’t allow storing bikes on balconies, and it has the usual crappy cycling facilities: one small barely locked room (for a building with 200 units) and a couple of bike racks that never have any room (and at least one guy who takes up nearly 10 spaces thanks to his Spinlister operation).
Even at 3AM, nearly half of all the car parking spaces are empty, especially during winter, when some folks are gone. Bike parking takes up a tiny fraction of the space per unit that car parking does. Also, forcing people to lug their muddy bikes into small elevators or up multiple flights of stairs is definitely NOT a way to greatly increase our bike mode share.
Sweden’s Bicycle apartment model should be applied in the US
We should be making Bicycle Apartments like Sweden is. https://www.fastcoexist.com/3063204/world-changing-ideas/these-swedish-bike-apartments-are-designed-for-life-without-cars