Portland’s bike lockers are a dying breed.
First installed in the mid 1980s, the Portland Bureau of Transportation once managed a fleet of nearly 200 fully-enclosed and secured bicycle lockers. Today about 80 lockers remain. They’re installed at seven downtown locations (mostly inside Smart Park garages) and are available to rent on a first-come, first-served basis. People who use them pay $50 or $95 for three or six month rentals.
As these lockers become damaged and unusable, they’re decommissioned and not replaced.
Portlander Derrak Richard works in the 17-story Pioneer Tower on Southwest 5th Avenue and has rented a bike locker at the parking garage across the street from his building for several years. “For me, I feel it’s worth the $190 a year to rent a locker with private access,” he shared recently. For Richard, it’s all about security. He doesn’t like walking into the depths of the parking garage where an enclosed bike cage is located. “I’ve never really felt physically safe down there, in the darkest part of the garage, nor do I feel like leaving my bike down there.” With his own private locker, Richard can leave everything on his bike without worrying that other bike cage users might swipe his lights or GoPro.
Richard recently reported to PBOT that one of the lockers near his was damaged. When the staffer told him it had already been flagged as un-rentable and wouldn’t be replaced, Richard contacted us.
According to PBOT, the cost of maintenance on the old, plastic lockers just doesn’t pencil out. Some of their lockers have also been taken out of commission because private property owners didn’t want them on their property.
There’s strong demand for high security, long-term bicycle parking downtown. Bike theft is rampant in Portland and there’s a strong perception that anyone who leaves a bike unattended for more than a few minutes is the next potential victim. The 80 lockers PBOT operates have an occupancy rate of 95-98%. (Note that TriMet, Portland State University, and private building owners also offer rentable bike lockers.)
PBOT will continue to manage existing lockers; but their new strategy for long-term bike parking downtown are bike rooms that are being added as parking garages are upgraded. PBOT has partnered with Prosper Portland on a $25 million renovation of the Smart Park garage at SW 10th and Yamhill. That project comes with a room that will have parking for up to 42 bicycles. I rolled over to see it yesterday but wasn’t able to get in for a photo. What I could see from the sidewalk on SW 9th is that it will be ground-floor accessible and have a double-decker rack. There will also be a free bike tool stand for basic adjustments and repairs. It’s unclear what type of security measures the room will have; but these type of facilities have been a very popular target of bike thieves recently.
Bike rooms will be much cheaper for PBOT to maintain on a per-spot basis than individual lockers and they’ll create more long-term parking spaces overall. But will people trust them?
“I would miss my bike locker if it were gone,” Richard shared with us. “Although I appreciate that more and more buildings are incorporating bike parking options, I don’t think they’re a direct alternative to bike lockers.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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