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After 20 years, Portland’s bike parking code set for major update

Posted by on September 20th, 2018 at 10:08 am

Among the proposals are requirements for larger spaces (to fit cargo bikes) and outlets for e-bikes.
(Photo: PBOT)

1996 was a long time ago. I imagine some of you reading this weren’t even born yet. Did you know the City of Portland is using a bike parking code that was adopted way back then?

It’s true. Even though our bicycling rates have septupled since then and we have about 100,000 more residents, we’re still using a playbook that’s 20 years old. If we want to meet our goal of 25% bicycle mode split by 2030, we’ve got to bring our parking policies into the modern era. Thankfully, a major update is in the works.

Portland’s Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) have spent the last two years putting the pieces of the new code together. (You might recall how it was a BikePortland Wonk Night in 2013 that helped kick off this process!).

So, what exactly is this all about?

Cover of the discussion draft. Read it here.

It’s a batch of amendments to section 33.266 of the City of Portland Zoning Code that’s titled, Parking, Loading, And Transportation And Parking Demand Management.

That chapter is what dictates the quality and quantity of bike parking in Portland — whether you’re pulling up to your favorite store, pulling into work, or parking in your apartment building (keep in mind that zoning code only applies to new developments or major renovations to existing buildings). It matters for a lot of reasons: Lack of secure, accessible, and convenient parking is a real barrier to people who want to ride bikes (or ride more).

In their groundbreaking work in 2015 that explored the barriers to bicycling for people of color and people who live in low-income areas, the Community Cycling Center discovered that fear of theft was a major impediment to bike use. You might recall how residents of Cully’s Hacienda CDC housing development were ecstatic to finally get bike lockers after years of advocacy.

If we get this code update right, great bike parking would have been be baked-in.

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The recipe book so far is a 91-page discussion draft created by PBOT and BPS (with help from public input and a stakeholder advisory committee). Among the changes are:

  • Better weather protection: The code would require 100% of long-term spaces to have a roof so your bike doesn’t get wet (that’s up from the current 50% requirement).
  • Space for bigger bikes: In 1996, no one had long and wide cargo bikes. The draft code proposes that at least 5% of long-term spaces have room for a large bike (current code has no size footprint language).
  • Outlets for e-bikes: If a building has more than 20 long-term spaces, at least 5% of them must have a usable power outlet nearby.

Those are just some of the possibilities.

As you know, there are a lot of issues that rise to the surface when you consider changes to zoning codes. Will developers support it? How would the new requirements impact housing prices? How can we make sure the benefits of great bike parking spread to affordable housing residents and service industry workers?

There’s a lot to talk about. And we want to hear from you. That’s why we’ve teamed up with PBOT for a Wonk Night! It’s been way too long since we did one of these and we can’t wait.

Do ribbon racks make your blood boil? Tired of having to bring your wet and dirty bike into your apartment? Do you think a single hook high up on a wall is an ableist abomination?

If you have bike parking experience that you want to share — or if you have ideas that could help make our new code great, please join us this Monday (9/24) at 6:00pm. We’ve got a great venue lined up thanks to our friends at Fat Pencil Studio (541 NE 20th Ave #115). We’ll have PBOT staff on-hand for questions and there will be snacks and drinks. Special thanks to sponsors Hopworks Urban Brewery and Cascadia Ciderworks United for supplying the adult beverages!

Here’s the event listing and the Facebook link for more details.

Delve further into this topic by checking out the discussion draft. At a minimum, please take a few minutes to share your insights via the city’s online bike parking survey.

Disclaimer: The City of Portland has hired BikePortland to help build awareness for this project and host the Wonk Night event.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

15 Comments
  • CaptainKarma September 20, 2018 at 11:47 am

    I can never get to these things because I don’t exist in the nine to five world. I appreciate the outreach for online input. I do hope my online input carries as much weight as those who can show up in real time.

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  • David Hampsten September 20, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    The population in 1996 was a hair over 500,000; now it’s about 656,000, so the growth is much closer to 150,000 people.

    The 1996 code was probably written a year or two before then but passed by council by the later date, so your code is more like 24 years out of date and will be 25 years old by the time council approves the changes.

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  • Scott Kocher September 20, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    NYTimes came out with this timely piece yesterday arguing for better (and higher) pricing for parking
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/19/opinion/primus_nyc-traffic-congestion-parking.html

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  • Scott Kocher September 20, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    As for bike parking, they need to do away with the requirements to get the tenant and property owner approval to put a staple in the furnishings zone. It’s public ROW, and it’s just a staple.

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  • Zeppo September 20, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    Can’t make it to your event (only five days’ notice?) but I’ll fill out the online survey. Thanks.

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  • Dan A September 20, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    That TV works?? I’ve never seen anyone use it.

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  • Bald One September 20, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Indoor bike parking? That’s so 1996… why not just dump it on the sidewalk out front and grab a new one next time you need to ride somewhere? That’s where we are today.

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  • Todd Boulanger September 20, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Jonathan, “oh great!?”…as someone who volunteered to work on this code…I hope your choice of lead photos does not unleash the trolls more than the “B” word draws out already.

    BP readers…let me know if you hear the trolls shouting at public meetings about City required TV lounges for bike commuters. ;-/

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  • B. Carfree September 20, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    I had to laugh at the statement that no one had long and widecargo bikes in 1996. Many of us had them, and many other useful bikes like rear-steer tandems (and central-steer triples) and used them extensively, but very few of us were in Portland at the time. It’s still the case that a lot is happening in the cycling world far afield from PDX and Portland’s being passed by.

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  • John Liu September 21, 2018 at 7:27 am

    Just a comment on wall hooks. A narrow ramp under the wall hook allows you to roll the rear wheel up the ramp to lift the front wheel to the hook. Then move the rear wheel sideways off the ramp so the bike hangs freely.

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  • Barbara September 21, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Gee does that make me feel old! I began commuting in 1981. Bike parking was where you could find a post. After being punched by a pedestrian who initially had grabbed my bike to push it off the then shared bike path sidewalk on the Burnside Bridge and writing the commissioners I along with many others were invited to participate in Summits and advisory groups initiated by Gail Shibley. Talking about bicycle infastructure was a new idea ad challenge to educated engineers. Surprised to see it hasn’t been updated at all since then.

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  • OhYongHao September 21, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    Perhaps basic requirements of how racks should be installed and a ban on serpentine racks, which ironically are the staple go to used at most businesses to say they have bike parking. Any rack not properly installed with enough distance between it and any obstacles around should be fined until torn out and replaced with an actual useful bike rack, like a staple.

    It would be nice if it’s incorporated into the same code that governs parking lots and disabled parking spaces, to give some percentage to bicycle parking with canopy, and a minimum standard of how they should be built. Imagine artsy car parking spaces, or parking spaces that were only 3′ long, or located in an area where one would have to jump a curb with their car, or lift it over an obstacle.

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  • setha September 24, 2018 at 11:28 am

    A few points: the discussion draft is 91 pages. If you find that intimidating, understand you can probably get through it faster than you think because at least some of those pages are updates to the code that’s struck out (that is, deleted.) There’s also commentary pages that repeat points made in the introduction, and there’s a lot of white space.

    The code won’t be any good without enforcement. That means, for example, that the building inspectors have to take it seriously and call out property owners who are not in compliance during remodels.

    The code needs to explicitly state that racks must accommodate bicycles with fenders.

    I am going to try to be at the Wonk Night.

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  • Evan Manvel September 25, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Glad to see they’re looking to improve an already pretty good situation. Whenever I travel to other cities, I’m struck at the dearth of good, convenient bike parking. When I travel in Portland, I’m struck by how many places have good, convenient racks close to the main entrance.

    It’s particularly frustrating in other cities when I show up to a big government building for a meeting about transportation and I’m told “oh, it’s on the other side” (away from the main entrance, with no signage directing one to where it is). Would it be so hard to have a couple decent staple racks?

    Always room for improvement!

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