Story by Chris Smith, a member of the Portland Planning & Sustainability Commission. He previously wrote about how bicycles and streetcars can co-exist.
After a supportive vote from the Portland Planning & Sustainability Commission (PSC) at their meeting last month, the first full overhaul of Portland’s Bicycle Parking zoning code in two decades is now headed to City Council.
The package is largely similar to the output of a stakeholder committee last year, as refined in the proposed draft (PDF) sent to the PSC, with one big exception: something we’re calling “bike nooks”.
Our current parking code (from last century) allowed bike parking to be located in an apartment or condo, something no other major city allows. Despite efforts to refine this code in 2010, we still saw horror stories like bike racks above beds or couches (see photo).
The proposal for our new code limited in-unit bike parking to 20 percent of all required bike parking in a multi-family building. But the PSC heard from developers — particularly affordable housing developers — who wanted the flexibility to use in-unit parking to keep housing costs lower. We also heard concerns about theft from large bike rooms to which many people have access (even though the new code tightens bike room security standards). We also heard some community members who expressed a preference for storing their bike(s) in their units.
Bike rooms (outside of dwelling units) are still important: the code requires 30 percent of bike spaces to be horizontal (for folks who can’t or don’t want to lift a bike onto a wall rack) and 5 percent of the spaces have to be large enough to accommodate a “bakfiets”-style cargo bike or a bike with a trailers.
But in response to what we heard, the PSC recommended allowing 50 percent of parking to be allowed in-unit — with a twist. It has to meet new usability standards. Specifically, the in-unit parking must be in “a closet or alcove” (i.e., it can’t be in the living room, bedroom or kitchen) and must be within 15-feet of the front door of the unit. In stipulating this requirement we’ve created a new type of apartment feature: the bike nook.
We have existing examples in Portland, the Osprey apartments in South Waterfront features well-designed bike nooks. We think this is a good compromise: It will allow housing builders more flexibility while also improving the quality of in-unit bike parking.
We’re not exactly sure how bike nooks will be implemented. Will they be the next Portland innovation that will sweep the nation? Or an experiment that doesn’t pay off? What do you think?
The Portland Bureau of Transportation is currently revising their code update draft with the PSC’s recommendations and they expect to bring the final update to City Council this summer. For more details, see the list of PSC amendments to PBOT’s draft proposal here (PDF).
— Chris Smith, @chrissmithus on Twitter
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