A few days ago while biking on Southeast Division just past 82nd Avenue, something caught my eye. As I glanced onto the campus of Portland Community College Southeast I saw a big blue bike and a bunch of racks so I swung my bike around and took a closer look.
Turned out that blue bike was a sculptural element of a large bike parking facility. I’ve been on this campus in the past, but I don’t recall ever seeing this impressive outlay of bike parking goodness.
There were dozens of staple racks both inside and outside of an iron-gated area. Toward the back where 24 bike lockers and a workstand with tools dangling from it. As a nice bonus there was a vending machine which when class is in session will held tubes and patch kits. Overall it looked really good!
I got in touch with PCC Active Transportation Specialist John Carter to learn more about it. He said it’s been in place for a few years and was part of a wider investment by the school in cycling infrastructure that ties into other transportation demand management initiatives like their student bike rental program. That program allows students to receive a bike, helmet, lock and free maintenance services for just $15 per term.
But having a bike is worthless without a good place to park it. And what makes bike parking “good”?
Below is a list we’ve created to judge bike parking, followed by our grades for this facility at PCC Southeast:
Protection from the elements: Are the racks covered or in an area where users won’t get wet in the rain? Obviously this will be a slam dunk element for all indoor parking.
Lighting: People on bikes need illumination in parking areas even more than car users because bikes don’t come with interior lights. Folks need lights to find their lock keys, rifle through cargo, and so on. Lighting is also related to security.
Rack spacing: Often overlooked, this element has to do with how much breathing room each rack is given. Especially important due to the popularity of larger cargo bikes and heavier electric bikes that are harder to maneuver.
Quantity: Self-explanatory. But keep in mind this will depend a lot on context.
Quality: Ribbon racks are automatic failure. Standard staple racks like the blue ones issued by City of Portland are the gold-standard. Art racks beware.
Location: Right up front near the main entrance is usually the best, but there can be exceptions. Strongly related to security.
Accessibility: One curb can be deal-breaker. Related to spacing.
Electrical charging access: This element has become a much bigger deal lately with the e-bike boom.
Security: Many factors go into this and it might be the single most important element these days — given how many people don’t even use bikes out of fears about getting them stolen.
Promotion/Signage: You can build the best bike parking in the world, but if you don’t make it drop-dead easy to find it’s a waste.
Now onto the judging:
PCC Southeast (SE Division and 82nd) – Score: 8/10
Lighting: ✅ I wasn’t there at night, but there are lights ringing the parking area.
Rack spacing: ✅ Plenty of room at the entrances for multiple and/or large bikes. If this facility was full or nearly full, it would be hard to access inner racks, but not enough of a problem to warrant a point off.
Quantity: ✅ 40 racks inside the gate and 24 racks outside the gate = 128 spaces. Plus the 24 bike lockers gives this one facility capacity for 152 bikes. That’s excellent! And this isn’t even the only bike parking on campus (there are 68 other spots relatively close nearby).
Quality: ✅ While not the standard, simple staple we love, these are close enough. And they look beautiful.
Location: ✅ These are centrally located and most importantly, closer to campus than car parking.
Accessibility: ✅ Excellent. There are no curbs or impediments to entry and there are ADA curb ramps at the street nearby.
Electrical charging access: ❌ I didn’t see any outlets. So even if there was one, it lacked adequate signing.
Security: ✅ The front-and-center location is great and will minimize thievery. The locker option is also nice. There is a security camera on a nearby wall, but I didn’t confirm if it’s actually used or monitored. Also worth noting is that the racks themselves are buried into the concrete which means there are no screws that could be loosened in order to uproot the rack and steal a bike (yes this actually happens).
Promotion/Signage: ✅ I love the big blue bike sculptures! They are eye-catching and immediately communicate what these odd circular things are for.
Protection from the elements: ❌ No coverage at all.
Awesome work PCC! Given the changes coming with TriMet’s Division Transit Project and a complementary PBOT project, these racks are likely to get a lot more use in the future.
What do you think? Have you used this facility before? What could make it better? And remember, if you have a bike parking area you want us to judge, please let us know.