This post is part of a contractual partnership between BikePortland and Portland Bureau of Transportation.
Last night we hosted a special Wonk Night event to bolster the City of Portland’s bicycle parking code update project.
As we shared last week, the bike parking chapter of the Zoning Code (33.266.200) was written in 1996. That means it doesn’t address today’s volume of riders, the types of bikes people ride, or best practices for the design, security, and location of bike parking. And it’s certainly not strong enough to handle projected growth — in terms of our bicycle ridership goals or the population overall.
That’s a problem.
If people don’t have an accessible and secure place to park their bikes, they’ll be less likely to ride. And for those who don’t bike yet, seeing bikes neatly lined up at high-quality parking spaces can be an inspirational nudge toward giving it a try.
With just one week left in the official comment period, last night’s gathering was a chance to inform and inspire people who care about making this important code as effective as possible. The event was also a nice bookend to BikePortland’s effort to raise the profile of this issue since we helped kick it off with a similar event back in 2013.
As per usual with Wonk Nights, one of the main goals was to hang out and socialize. It’s amazing what can happen when smart and curious people gather in the same room around yummy snacks and drinks. Thanks to our venue host Fat Pencil Studio we had a cool place to enjoy each other’s company and our drink sponsors Hopworks Urban Brewery and Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider kept everyone hydrated.
I love when people who are new to town — and/or new to bike advocacy — come out to events like this. Last night I met Ariel, who recently moved to Portland from Orange County, California. She said she rarely rode in her old town, but now she’s biking all the time. Ariel was excited to know Portlanders care so much about cycling that we have events like Wonk Night. I have a hunch we’ll be seeing her more in the future (I was thrilled when she met Bike Loud PDX Co-chair Emily Guise!). Another person I met was Josh Hetrick. Josh is a new board member of the Brooklyn Action Corps (a neighborhood association) and transportation is his one of his main interests.
Make your voice heard
The comment period ends at 5:00 pm on Monday, October 1st.
The PBOT project page has the email to send it to and a
link to the survey.
Other faces at Wonk Night included: Bureau of Transportation staffers Sarah Figliozzi, Joey Posada and Liz Hormann; Portland Planning & Sustainability Commission member Chris Smith; and members of the bike parking update project stakeholder advisory committee Hannah Silver (an architect) and Tom Kilbane (with Urban Renaissance Group, representing the developer’s perspective).
With a goal to arm advocates with enough information to make great comments and testimony at future hearings, we spent most of the night staring at handouts and asking PBOT staff questions about it. We alternated between one-on-one conversations and Q & A sessions with the entire group.
People spoke up with a variety of priorities and concerns. Among them was a desire to make bike parking areas accessible for people with disabilities and to make sure e-bikes and recumbent/cargo bikes are accommodated (they are). One person was curious how — or if — the new code would be enforced (answer: like all code violations they’d be reported to and handled by Bureau of Development Services).
While Portland’s proposed code is in line with peer cities who’ve updated theirs in the past 3-5 years, because it’s 20-years old the changes seem extreme to some observers — especially developers. They’re very concerned about how the new requirements will impact their ability to build and sell new units.
I asked project advisory committee member Tom Kilbane to share the developer’s perspective. While he encourages cycling and appreciates great bike parking as a daily rider himself, Kilbane said the new code doesn’t allow for enough flexibility. “Every building is different,” he said. “I know many builders who have have a bike room that’s not being utilized.” Kilbane also said that bike parking requirements are just another thing — along with new inclusionary zoning laws and excise taxes — that are being piled onto developers.
Kilbane’s comments sparked some healthy disagreement and questioning. I asked if those empty bike rooms might get more use if they were built to the new code standards. Someone else wondered if the money spent to provide quality bike parking is offset by the increase in tenants who find it attractive. Sarah Figliozzi from PBOT cautioned against an assumption that the free market will provide what’s needed. “Do we only want good bike parking at places where a company can afford it?,” she shared. “This is about raising the bar citywide.”
Figliozzi is confident the new code will bring the benefits of quality bike parking to service workers and lower-income Portlanders. But affordable housing advocates are another group that has raised concerns about how the code will increase the cost of projects. Asked how to respond to that concern, Planning Commissioner Chris Smith said, “I’d encourage them to look a the bigger picture. We know housing and transportation are the two biggest expenses… this [bike parking] can be a tool to lower overall costs and make transportation more affordable.”
If you want in on these conversations, there’s still time to make your voice heard. We need your help to make this code great! You’ll find the email to send comments (by 5:00 pm October 1st!) and a link to the online survey at PBOT’s website. It will be crucial to have strong testimony at the Planning & Sustainability Commission hearing in November and then again when it comes up for official adoption at City Council.
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