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How not to do bike parking

Posted by on September 21st, 2018 at 11:24 am

Looks OK from far away.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Like some sort of riddle.

The other day I pulled up to an event at a Kaiser Permanente location in north Portland and was pleased to see a covered bike parking area. Then as I got closer all I could do was scratch my head.

As I pulled my bike in, I couldn’t figure how I was supposed to use it. The fact that a bike was locked awkwardly — as if someone had given up on it — was a red flag. There two different metal loops and a big ramp thing and none of it really seemed to fit together.

Another person was there with me (who happens to be one of the most senior leaders of the Portland Bureau of Transportation) said something like, “I think I’ve figured it out.” I looked over and he had rolled his front wheel up the ramp, which placed his bike fully under the canopy. That’s nice, I thought. But my bike has a very heavy and wide front end and there was no way I could do that.

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The intended use — which only works for 1) people who can figure it out and 2) people with a very narrowly-defined type of bicycle.

After a bunch of maneuvering, I was able to fit by backing in and clasping my lock around a bar.

I tweeted a few pictures of the rack and our friend Liz Shuster replied:

“I work in that building, we were all so surprised when that went in. Had to google the company to figure out how it was meant to be used. The staples were added later so people would actually park there.”

Oh! So the staples (which I ended up using) were added after-the-fact! Oh boy.

I appreciate the effort. But there’s no reason to recreate the wheel. Bike parking is not complicated. All you need are staple racks (preferably smaller ones with tube diameter narrow enough for a lock to go around a bike frame and wheel) with ample spacing and some sort of covering. If you need help, PBOT has a handbook of approved racks and more information on their website. Two excellent examples are Green Zebra Grocery on Lombard and Roosevelt High School in St. Johns.

As for Kaiser. I received a phone call from a customer support person who saw the tweet. They said they’d pass along the feedback to management.

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

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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

  • JJJ September 21, 2018 at 11:30 am

    The intention makes sense, cover the entire bike using less space. It also makes more sense than a vertical rack, which can be prohibitive for people to use since it requires lifting.

    Does look super confusing though. You shouldnt need a youtube tutorial to understand a bike rack

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    • TonyT
      TonyT September 21, 2018 at 11:37 am

      +1 “which can be prohibitive for people to use since it requires lifting”

      And it doesn’t recognize that there are more and more people using cargo bikes.

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    • Bald One September 21, 2018 at 1:33 pm

      The youtube tutorial is supposed to be viewed in the TV lounge…. This bike parking area definitely needs a TV Lounge.

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  • TonyT
    TonyT September 21, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Speaking of bad bike parking, Coalition Brewing added bike parking (Yea!), but it is so arty and sculptural that it’s damn near useless (boo!). They probably spent 2-3x what staples would have cost.

    I understand the temptation to beautify bike parking and thinking that that’s how to show respect for people riding bikes, but for me, respect is shown by how well the parking works.

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    • Andrew Kreps September 21, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Put it up on one of the huge chairs. 😀

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    • Chris I September 21, 2018 at 12:27 pm

      I’d like to see more “artsy” car parking. Weird angles, platforms for some of the wheels to ride up onto, obstructions so only certain doors can be used… let’s get creative people!

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      • Scott Mizée September 21, 2018 at 7:20 pm

        That wins comment of the week, right there! Well said.

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      • B. Carfree September 21, 2018 at 9:57 pm

        Now, now, if motorists had to put up with even 10% of the poor implementations cyclists do then no one would drive. Oh, wait…

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    • Glenn September 21, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      I wonder what portion of the “arty bike rack” phenomenon is attributable to the psychology of “more” and “progress.” Like the bike parking is an “addition,” because first we had car parking, and now we’re “adding” bike parking because we’re luxurious. Therefore let’s show just how fancy and progress-ive we are!

      Whereas most people who ride bikes recognize biking as a subtraction. It costs less, uses less, weighs less, is less complicated, was invented earlier, and requires less. In the eyes of the progress crowd, it’s going backward. In fact it reflects a certain skepticism about what they’re calling progress. It’s the thing everybody might scale back to when “more” stops being an option.

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      • 9watts September 22, 2018 at 7:46 am

        I’m kind of surprised we have no arty horse rings in our vintage curbs. You know, square and hexagonal and wavy rings….

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  • Carter September 21, 2018 at 11:40 am

    “preferably smaller ones with tube diameter narrow enough for a lock to go around a bike frame and wheel”

    This. 100 times this.

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  • rick September 21, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Kaiser leaves a lot to be desired. They’ve closed a sidewalk on SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway for almost two years due to construction of a doctor’s office. They still could have made a different design.

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  • Buzz September 21, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    It looks to me like there are bike racks already integrated into the canopy supports and the staples are redundant, unnecessary, confusing, and interfere with using the integrated bike racks in the manner intended.

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    • Chris I September 21, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      If I biked with my kids to this Kaiser location, how would I lock up my 7ft long Big Dummy? Those staples look like the only way I could get something to work.

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    • Johnny Bye Carter September 25, 2018 at 9:54 am

      You’re right. And that’s the point. The built-in racks were so confusing that they had to add standard staple racks so people would actually use the bike parking.

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  • John Lascurettes September 21, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    I’m still going to call that lede photo a better installation than this one I saw on East 82nd:

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    • 9watts September 22, 2018 at 7:49 am

      Can’t argue with that. I think that has to be the all-time most idiotic installation, waste of money. The person responsible should be fired.

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    • Gary B September 24, 2018 at 7:58 am

      Yikes. That seems cynical. They couldn’t have really thought it was a useful installation, right? Like, they were protesting that they had to install staples or something?

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      • John Lascurettes September 24, 2018 at 10:40 am

        Who knows. You could be right. It was in a tight, little Asian strip mall with a really weird interior courtyard parking lot. They didn’t have much option for rack space from what I recall. I was going to “Good Taste Noodle House” (good food by the way!) at SE Harrison and 82nd and just laughed my butt off when I saw this.

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  • Eyewitness Inaction News September 21, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    The bike parking pictured has been a fiasco from its inception a few years ago. The style was chosen by non-cyclists based on aesthetics. There had been a completely functional set of 4 staples covered by a wall-less big-top tent nearby. KP would have been better served to adding to those and putting up a real roof. At first, the new set-up had a cover that was too short. Bike seats got soaked anyway. Plus, standard u-locks couldn’t reach the frame of your bike much less frame and a one wheel, among other problems. If you commuted on a heavy clunker, getting your bike on the rack and keeping it stable while trying to lock it up by the back wheel (only place reachable with a standard u-lock) was a Herculean task. The slap-dash extended cover and over-sized staples were installed later to ‘fix’ the situation. This barely improved the functionality while destroying any aesthetic appeal the rack may have had. (I was never a fan).

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    • OhYongHao September 21, 2018 at 11:14 pm

      If I recall correctly, I believe Kaiser also installed bike parking at the Hillsboro Main Library. The canopy looks awfully familiar. I bonk my head on it just about every time I park there. Bike parking really should be a no brainer and this article put it quite succinctly, staples with a canopy that has supports that are unobtrusive to the use of the staples, properly spaced and distanced from other objects. If I had a dime for every time I encountered a serpentine bike rack located too close to the building…

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  • Jim Lee September 21, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Bromptons for all!

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    • TonyT
      TonyT September 24, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      Because everyone wants to carry around a bike.

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  • Matt S. September 21, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    This is why our healthcare is so expensive!

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  • q September 22, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Besides their duty to create things that function for their users, and to not waste their clients’ money, designers have an obligation to the people building what they draw to not waste their time and effort. Several actual people spent hours outside doing the concrete work, inside fabricating the curved metal pieces….and at the end, the craftsman have built something that barely works. Sad. They should be able to come see what they built and see people appreciating it.

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  • Sam Churchill September 23, 2018 at 10:18 am

    What a bunch of whiners. I haven’t used the Kaiser bike rack, but I LIKE the aesthetics. Maybe somebody didn’t have their morning coffee.

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    • q September 23, 2018 at 1:51 pm

      Had your coffee yet?

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    • Gary B September 24, 2018 at 8:00 am

      It’s a very cool design. I definitely appreciate the cleverness and aesthetics of it. Clearly it only works for a segment of bikes and bicyclists. Perhaps that could be ok if there are other good options for other segments?

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    • TonyT
      TonyT September 24, 2018 at 12:14 pm

      Let’s see, you haven’t tried to use it, but you like the aesthetics. Thank you for highlighting the mindset that delivers these parking fails to us.

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    • John Lascurettes September 24, 2018 at 1:09 pm

      Whoever said they liked the aesthetics of an auto’s parking space? I’ll wait.

      Bike parking needs to be functional before anything else. This aesthetically-pleasing rack is demonstrably non-functional and barely accessible. Go build a sculpture elsewhere, but don’t call it a bike rack.

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  • Mike Quigley September 24, 2018 at 7:07 am

    For a moment I thought your “how not to do bike parking” referred to the bike parked perpendicular to the bike rack.

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    • Eyewitness Inaction News September 24, 2018 at 10:54 am

      That too. Some people just don’t get it. When the four staples were there, in a square, at least one person thought it was best lock-up perpendicular to a staple when their bike in the center effectively taking up 5 of the possible 8 ‘spaces’.

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    • Johnny Bye Carter September 25, 2018 at 10:08 am

      When I first started using staple racks I thought this was how they were supposed to be used so that you could lock 4 perpendicular bikes to them: 2 on the inside and 2 on the outside. I moved many bikes locked up to staples to this position so that a friend and I could lock another 2 bikes to it.

      Don’t assume it’s use is obvious.

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      • TonyT
        TonyT September 25, 2018 at 11:08 am

        This is why PBot used to have “Park Parallel” stickers on the staple racks. And of course, we then have people parking on wave racks like they’re staple racks.

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  • StephenJ September 26, 2018 at 1:15 am

    I have seen this design before. It is common all over Amsterdam. And the average bike there weighs 50 lbs!

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